March 2017

image from Bad Moms Movie

Being a “Good Enough” Mom

So I watched the movie Bad Moms last night.  I howled with laughter at the ridiculous but somehow accurate portrayal of what it feels and looks like to be a “good” mom in this day and age.  The running around from school event to sports practice to grocery store, always just a few minutes late for everything and always feeling like you are falling short of the perfection that you are striving towards.  Or, more importantly, failing to create that happy and loving relationship with your kids that is your top priority and the reason you are doing all of this running around and volunteering and packing healthy food and watching ball games to begin with.  Because, otherwise, what is the point of it all?  But sometimes we lose sight of that original goal and we start working towards perfection in each individual endeavor instead. 


Signing up for every volunteer opportunity that we can squeeze into our calendar.  Making the best gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan treat that has ever been served at the school bake sale.  And printing out cute little labels to adorn the packaging of the treats, just so everyone will know what ingredients you used and can verify its gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, vegan-ness.  [I’ve actually done this.  If you know me at all, I’m sure it’s not hard to imagine!]  Signing your kids up for every extracurricular activity that they are either mildly interested in or that you think would be good for their academic, athletic or emotional development.


I know that I am guilty of this behavior.  I see a program at the library or at a local park and I think, “Wow, that sounds so interesting and my kids would really enjoy that topic and look…there is nothing else scheduled on the calendar for that two hour block of time.  What luck!  I’m going to sign up and they will be so excited!”  And then I wonder why my kids aren’t more grateful for all the things that I feel like I’m doing to enrich their lives.  But the truth is that these aren’t the things they are looking for from me.  All they want is my love and my time and attention.  Love is not a question.  But time and attention?  There’s not a lot of that left after trying to fit in all of the other stuff.   And I’m not sure that they feel my love in the same way that it feels to me inside.  Sometimes it gets lost in translation.  Here are two examples to illustrate my point.


Example 1:

We recently signed up our 8-yr old for an evening chess club at the library.  He had expressed an interest in learning to play chess and I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to learn chess and for the two of us to have some bonding time together without the other two boys around.  When we showed up to the first club meeting, all of the boys (there were no girls that signed up for the club) paired off with each other and started setting up their chess pieces.  Over the course of my son’s first two games against a neighbor of ours, I occasionally leaned forward and casually offered some advice about what options were available to him.  He seemed irritated by my interruptions and wanted nothing to do with my sage words of advice.  A little bit later, one of the younger boys who had never played chess before found himself without a suitable partner and the librarian asked if any of the parents would be willing to play with him and help him learn how the pieces move around the chess board.  Since no one else jumped at the chance, I offered to play against him.  My son did not say much to me for the rest of the night.  By the time we got to the car afterwards, he was in tears and I could not understand what went wrong.  After talking it out with him, I realized that he was expecting to show up to chess club and play against me the whole time.  He was upset that this didn’t happen and even more upset that I ended up playing with someone else’s child instead of with him.  I was frustrated that I had set aside this time to be with him and do something that I thought he enjoyed and it wasn’t enough to make him happy.  (Sometimes it feels like nothing I do is enough.)  Later, I realized that all he wanted was me – my time and attention.  I would have been better off setting aside some alone time with him at home and playing a game of chess together.  But somehow the days and weeks go by without me ever stopping to pull the chess board off the shelf and offer to play with him.  In my world, it needs to be scheduled on the calendar if it is going to happen. 


Example 2:

Last month, I made several phone calls to get our 7-yr old son accepted into an after-school science club that was meant for older kids because he had recently told us, “I don’t think I’m meant to be a sports guy.  I’m really more of a science guy.”  I was so excited for him to be involved in this science club and thought it would be such a great opportunity for him.  But his reaction to the first few classes was remarkably neutral and not at all what I was expecting.  I was disappointed again and felt frustrated that I was trying so hard and not making my kids happy.  After a long phone call and some great advice from my sister, I tried a different approach.  I searched through all of his at-home science experiment books and tabbed several pages of experiments that seemed manageable and did not require any special ingredients or supplies.  When he got home from school that day, I was able to light up his day by spending an hour with him explaining and performing fun science experiments together.  This made him so much happier than the school science club ever could. 


Maybe this all seems obvious from the outside but it doesn’t stop me from thinking that I need to sign my kids up for everything that comes into my email inbox that is related to their interests. 


In the movie, the main character gets tired of trying to do it all and feeling so stressed out and exhausted at the end of each day.  So she decides to be a “bad mom” instead.  She sleeps in later, no longer prepares breakfast for her middle-school aged kids, no longer does their homework projects for them, stops packing homemade lunches, stops showing up for every PTA meeting, brings in packaged donuts for the bake sale, and generally does what makes her happy instead of what all the other moms think she should be doing.  And, because this is a movie and it has a happy ending, both the mom and the kids find that they are happier when she lets loose a little bit and focuses on what makes her and her kids happier. 


Now, I’m certainly not advocating a completely hands-off, do whatever you feel like sort of mothering.  And I’m not saying that you should never sign your kids up for a sports team or extracurricular activity.  But I do think there might be a lesson to be learned here.  That maybe it’s okay to cut ourselves a break and “do” less but “be” more. 


Or to trust in ourselves and our connection with our children enough to realize that, even though we may not be an expert in outer space exploration or amphibian life cycles, we can still find ways to teach our kids (or learn along with them) instead of feeling like we need to find a workshop or class for them to attend to learn more about the subject.


So, in my own non-movie life, maybe there is some middle ground that I can find for myself and my family where I still support my kids in their interests but I stay focused on what truly makes them happy.   The trick at this age is keeping up with their ever-changing interests and knowing when they need more stimulation and interaction and when they just need to chill out and reconnect with you. 


And when even my best intentions feel like they are not enough, I will remember this quote:

“Sometimes when we’re beating ourselves up, we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside – Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now!” 


And that is always enough. 

Coconut Milk Biscuits

Coconut Milk Biscuits


I recently found myself with an almost full can of coconut milk leftover in the fridge and no intended use for it.  Rather than let it go to waste (gasp!), I set out to find a fun, new way to use coconut milk.  We also happened to be running low on our stock of muffins in the freezer.  


(I like to keep lots of muffins on hand in the freezer as an easy snack to grab on the go, to pack for the kids to eat at school, or as an early breakfast option on weekends to hold off the hungry munchkins until the real breakfast can be prepared and served.  But I digress…)


So, with a can of coconut milk in hand and a hankering for muffins, I cobbled together a recipe that turned out to be more biscuit than muffin but equally pleasing to eat and still serving the intended purpose of quick snack or breakfast item.  Yay!


One of the best parts of this recipe is that there are only a few ingredients and it’s one of those dump and stir sort of recipes that does not require a mixer or even a second bowl to clean.  (Okay, that’s actually two best parts.)


Now, when you look at the list of ingredients, and probably again when you stir them together, you might be skeptical of this creation of mine. 

batter for homemade coconut milk biscuits

But trust me…it’s going to be good!  Like I said before, just think of it more as a biscuit than a muffin and you will not be disappointed by its flaky texture and buttery flavor (even though it contains no butter!).  Also, you can easily make them into a sweet snack by adding dried cranberries to the batter as shown in the recipe below.  We’ve tried them with and without the cranberries and love them both ways!


Anytime that I am baking muffins or biscuits (which is just about every week in our household), I love to use these muffin tins (see below) that are half silicone and half stainless steel and 100% awesome!  I think that my grandmother originally found them on some “As Seen On TV” promotion and ordered them for my mom, who quickly realized their awesomeness and ordered a set for me.  (Thanks, Mom!)  I have since procured a second set.  So that I can make two dozen muffins or biscuits at a time.  And because two is always better than one when you find something that you know will become one of your go-to kitchen gadgets. 

food-grade silicone and stainless steel muffin tin

Let’s count the reasons why these muffin tins are awesome…

1.       they require no greasing of each individual muffin cup (that was always one of my least favorite parts of baking muffins and I honestly make way more muffins now than I used to because of these pans!)

2.       there is no waste created by disposable paper muffin cups

3.       the stainless steel frame provides a sturdy pan structure (unlike the all-silicone muffin pans) and still allows you to easily pop the muffins out to cool

4.       they can be cleaned in the dishwasher (!)

5.       it is not necessary to hand wash individual silicone muffin cups that always come with these little tiny creases that are impossible to get baked muffin batter out of them! 


(In case you can’t tell, I tried out the individual silicone muffin cups first and was impressed with their baking ability but not happy when it came time to clean up!  If you’ve ever cleaned one before, you know what I’m talking about!  Now we only use those ones for snack cups in the kids’ school lunches.)


I searched everywhere online to find these muffin tins and I could not find the exact ones that I have in my kitchen.  But these are the closest thing I could find and sound like the exact same idea.  I would highly recommend adding these to your wish list as soon as possible!


[NOTE: If you are going to shop around, make sure that you purchase “food grade silicone” for any silicone bakeware because it is designed to withstand higher temperatures.]


Coconut Milk Biscuits
  1. 2 ½ cups coconut milk
  2. 1 ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  3. 2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. [½ cup dried cranberries, optional]
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Add all ingredients [except cranberries] in order to a mixing bowl. (I found it helpful to pause and whisk after adding the coconut milk because I use the full fat version, which tends to separate in the can. Then proceed with the remaining ingredients.)
  3. Stir to combine. Batter will be thick and doughy. [If using, fold in cranberries.]
  4. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crusty on top.
Life From Scratch