It’s Only a Matter of Time Before He’s on the Food Network

One of the first things I wanted to do after I finished my marathon was to take a nap. But then I wanted to eat sopapillas and drink margaritas. See, the last time I was in Texas, we went to eat Tex Mex food and there were sopapillas and they were delicious and Quinn ate some and he fell in love with them and now every time I go to Texas I have to eat sopapillas (and drink margaritas—but Quinn doesn’t do that part yet).

See?

Photo of me eating a sopapilla in front of a large plate full of sopapillas.

Not pictured: My margarita

I have yet to find a place in Maryland that serves sopapillas, which is why it is so important to eat them when in Texas (or New Mexico, where they originated). Quinn, yearning for them upon our return from Texas forced me to help him make some, making our home the place in Maryland that serves sopapillas. That was nearly two years ago.

This year for his school’s international night, Quinn was offered the option of creating a cooking video as his project. He volunteered to make sopapillas. In case you would also like to know how to make sopapillas, I asked for Quinn’s permission to post his video here.

He did all the cooking and I did all the shooting and editing, which was quick and utilitarian, but solid. Although when he got home from turning in his flash drive he very matter-of-factly said, “I told them I edited it.”

(I think they might have known he was lying through his teeth.)

For your viewing and cooking pleasure:

I highly recommend you make and eat them. Enjoy!

Dinner, Team Stimey Junior Style

Although this looks like a pretty ordinary photo, there is not a single thing that I don’t love about it:

Photo of my three kids at the dinner table. The situation will be described in the post below.

(Click to embiggen.)

It so perfectly describes my family. Now I’ll use a thousand words* to tell you exactly how it describes my family.

First of all, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there on the left sits Starfire in a chair. She sat there nearly completely still for a solid 15 minutes all like, “What in the actual fuck? Where is MY plate of spaghetti?”)

I don’t know that we need to go too deeply into our food choices, but there IS a green salad on the table, so maybe that makes up for the canned crescent rolls there on the lazy Susan.

Speaking of that green salad, you might notice that Sam and Jack each have ONE piece of lettuce on their plates. Neither of them was able to finish it. In his defense, however, Jack did lick his. Barely.

You might notice that Sam is ingesting nourishment when I took this photo. That is because he never stops putting food in his mouth. He ate four helpings of the spaghetti. (And then said he was too full to eat his tiny scrap of lettuce.)

You should now move your attention over to Quinn, who looks completely disgruntled. Let the record show that he, in fact, was completely disgruntled. His reasons were twofold: (1) Quinn does not care for spaghetti. Or apparently salad with “cream,” a.k.a. salad dressing. (2) Jack was eating his spaghetti with his fingers, which makes Quinn gag—and scream, apparently.

My house is a riot of conflicting access needs.

Jack tried really hard to eat his spaghetti with his fork, but, c’mon, it’s spaghetti.

Also, you can rest assured that I didn’t actually give Jack poison to drink for dinner.

All in all, a pretty accurate representation of our family dinners. At least no one burst into tears when they arrived at the table and saw what I was serving. That has happened in the past. Often.

Lest you think Team Stimey dinners are all screaming fights and food refusal, I offer the next two photos, which show the end of dinner when Jack spent a good five minutes scripting a joke that *I* didn’t get, but that Sam and Quinn found HILARIOUS.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn has his head back and is laughing uproariously.

You can’t tell, but Sam was laughing too.

Photo of Quinn and Jack. There eyes are locked and they are both smiling. There is a box of double chocolate Krave cereal on the counter behind them.

Jack and Quinn have a really tight connection. This photo totally captures that. I love it.

Also, please don’t judge me for my terribly sugary and non-nutritious cereal choice visible in the background.

* Actual word count: 387

The Day After Hersheypark, We Went to a Place Known Only as…Chocolate World

Maybe I’ll start this post with what some members of Team Stimey (Okay, fine. Me.) chanted on our way from the car to the building that houses Chocolate World.

“Chocolate World! Chocolate World! We’re going to Chocolate World!”

Repeat.

It’s too bad no one was excited.

Chocolate World! Chocolate World! We're going to Chocolate World!

Chocolate World! Chocolate World! We’re going to Chocolate World!

I just learned about Chocolate World within the last few months. It immediately went to the top of my “must visit” list. Because…Chocolate. World.

Chocolate World! Chocolate World! We're going to Chocolate World!

Chocolate World! Chocolate World! We’re going to Chocolate World!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect there. I knew the basics because I’d talked to a friend who had been there before, but all I really knew was that there was chocolate—like, free samples of chocolate.

Where to find that chocolate, however, was not immediately apparent.

We walked into the building and I didn’t even know what to do. All I could see was people. There was no chocolate. There was no obvious place to go. There was just a mass of people and big signs with pictures and dollar amounts next to them.

That’s when I stopped chanting. My eyes widened and I may have turned around and around in tiny circles until Alex assessed the situation and determined that we had to stand in the long line and decide how much money we wanted to give the people at the front desk based on the icons that represented Chocolate World’s various attractions.

This was the most coherent sign in the whole place.

This was the most coherent sign in the whole place.

I ended up leaving Alex to decide what we should do and took my kids over to an empty queue that claimed to be a free attraction. Kids could pretend to be assembly line workers, then you had the option of buying a box of Hershey’s Kisses that theoretically came off the assembly line.

Only in America will you find small children standing in line to pretend to work on a factory assembly line.

Foreshadowing: Quinn is not wearing his hat.

Only in America will you find small children standing in line to pretend to work on a factory assembly line.

I was all, “We are just doing the assembly line. I am NOT buying you any Hershey’s Kisses.”

Guess how many boxes of Hershey’s Kisses I bought? (That’s rhetorical. We all know that I bought three.)

After our short but expensive excursion to the pretend factory floor, I forced all my children to sit down against a wall as we waited for Alex. I don’t remember what I did to annoy Alex when he showed back up. Maybe I rolled my eyes at one of the attractions he’d chosen for us or I complained about having to corral the munchkins by myself.

He promptly put me in my place with a disbelieving look and the response of, “Yeah, I just stood in the longest line for the worst ride ever.”

He was right. I immediately readjusted my attitude.

He was right. I immediately readjusted my attitude.

Chocolate World has one truly free attraction, which is a little ride that takes you through how Hershey’s chocolate is made. Said ride ends with free chocolate. Said ride, however, starts with a long line in a packed hallway. Eventually we made it to the ride and were able to break loose from the masses of humanity.

Don't they all look happy and relaxed?

Don’t they all look happy and relaxed?

Fortunately, the ride calmed everyone down and we followed it up with the 4D movie they have, which calmed everyone down even more. There is nothing like an hour in a couple of dark rooms to chill out my family. Phew.

I'm not saying the movie is going to win any Oscars, but it made my kids laugh and that is all I ask.

I’m not saying the movie is going to win any Oscars, but it made my kids laugh and that is all I ask.

We exited the theater through the gift shop (of course), where we found the world’s biggest Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Peanut butter cups are Quinn’s favorites. I don’t think even he could manage to eat two half-pound versions of them though.

Sadly, we will never know if he could consume a pound of peanut butter cups, as we left the package in the store.

Sadly, we will never know if he could consume a pound of peanut butter cups, as even we decided not to buy them.

From there, we took another trip through the free ride and then headed to the chocolate tasting experience. It probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that we tasted chocolates there. It also probably doesn’t surprise you to hear that all five of us had fun tasting chocolate. Chocolate World was starting to look like a great choice for my family.

We just had one more activity before we headed back to the hotel. We were going to do the make-your-own-chocolate-bar activity where you decide what you want in a chocolate bar, watch the Hershey’s machines actually make it, decorate the wrapper yourself, then go home with your very own candy bar.

This particular activity is the main reason we went to Chocolate World. Sam has a teacher who really loves chocolate and he wanted to make a chocolate bar for her. (She also gave us discount coupons for Hersheypark that saved us a ton of money, so it seemed like an excellent trade to buy her a candy bar.) Everybody was excited to make their candy bar. All three of my kids had been talking about it all weekend.

There was one snag. (There is always a snag.) I knew this was coming and I had talked to Quinn about it ahead of time. He’d seemed okay with it in theory, but when it came down to go-time, he freaked out completely.

That snag? Because there was actual food being produced in front of us, we all had to wear aprons and hairnets.

Happily Sam and Jack were more than happy to wear their hairnets.

Happily Sam and Jack were more than happy to wear their hairnets. I was more than happy to take their photograph in said hairnets.

The screaming. Oh, God, the screaming. I still hear it in my dreams.

Quinn could not handle the hairnet. He tried. He tried so hard. He completely lost it. It was rough. I managed to help him calm down enough to watch his chocolate bar get made (he didn’t have to wear the hairnet when making his recipe or designing his package) and we skipped out on the last part of the production process, choosing instead to play Minecraft on the iPad and let Alex, Sam, and Jack pick up our chocolate bars.

Then we were done. We’d pushed everyone far enough. We had a bag full of chocolate. We had just enough time to squeeze in a quick swim at the hotel before our late checkout. It was time to leave the land of chocolate.

We wandered back to the car, Jack telling random people on the way, “You can make your own chocolate bar in there!”

So. Chocolate World. I would call it a success. My kids really enjoyed being there. You know, with the exception of Quinn and the hair nets. We won’t be visiting any other food production facilities in the next several years, that is for sure.

This brings us to the conclusion of Team Stimey’s Memorial Day visit to the Land of Chocolate and Screaming. Although if I’m going to be honest, most of our outings involve chocolate and screaming, so perhaps I should say that this is the end of our visit to the Land of Chocolate and Screaming in Pennsylvania.

I guess if there were one thing I wanted to impart about our weekend, which was both fantastic and extremely challenging, is that I love going on adventures with my family. It is never smooth sailing, but it is always rewarding.

My family exasperates me like nothing else, but those moments when they make me laugh (and there are a lot of them), those moments when they laugh (and there are a lot of them), those moments when they overcome things that are difficult for them, those moments when we experience something new together, those moments when we get to be ourselves with each other—those moments are what make my life worthwhile.

So, yes, our trip to the Land of Chocolate and Screaming in Pennsylvania (a.k.a. Hersheypark and Chocolate World), were not perfect. But I wouldn’t trade those two day for anything in the world.

March Was Project Lazy

So I am just a big ol’ basket of failure this month. I spent the beginning of March not running because it was cold and I was whiny and then I started running again and almost immediately tweaked my hip to where it even hurt to walk. Then spring break rolled around and I iced my hip and sat around with my kids. My food tracking goal has gone extremely poorly and I’ve completely fallen off the quitting soda wagon.

March has been rough in terms of health goals. On the other hand, March has been tremendous in terms of rodent population growth.

I’m still fighting though. I’m going to go running Saturday and Sunday this weekend and I’m going to try to get my food and water back on track. Along those lines, I am looking to make Team Stimey’s food healthier. I want to get less of our food from boxes and bags and jars. I like the idea of fresh food and think it will be good for everyone, but I’m not quite sure where to start.

Does anyone have any good suggestions for where to get some recipes or meal plans for fresh, simple food from scratch? I have some criteria though:

1. The recipes have to be easy, because I am not a good cook.

2. The recipes have to be simple, because I am a lazy cook.

3. The recipes have to be not fancy, because my kids are extremely picky and won’t eat food that has a lot of ingredients.

4. I’m happy to look at blogs and websites, but actual paper cookbooks tend to work better for me.

Help? Also wishes of good luck for getting back on the health bandwagon are welcome.

The Loudest Voice

Team Stimey went out to dinner at a Chinese food restaurant tonight. The waiter brought us a second plate of fortune cookies because my kids were so excited about them. The best was Quinn’s very first (of four!) fortunes.

"There are times when silence has the loudest voice."

“There are times when silence has the loudest voice.”

This kid has never been silent in his life.

*****

Alex has been traveling for work a lot this month, which totally gave me a topic to write about over at White Knuckle Parenting: Solo Parenting.

Disney, Algernon, the FLOTUS, and Healthy Eating

Proving that I am brave enough to risk being pinned to the ground by the secret service for an inadvertent gaffe, I accepted an invitation to go to the Disney Magic of Healthy Eating event that was held on Tuesday.

Why would the secret service care about this event? Well, Michelle Obama was one of the speakers. And what could I do to attract secret service attention, you ask?

I’m not threatening, just…odd.

I don’t quite know how I got a seat so close to the podium, but it was awesome. Actually, I do know. I took a chair from another table and jammed it between two of my friends who had awesome seats. That’s how I got that seat.

The whole reason for the event was to publicize Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living (auto-play video with sound at that link) efforts. They told us that, starting in 2015, they will not be accepting ads for junk food on its media programs. They also shared information about the “Mickey Check,” a new logo that they will put on products that meet certain specific nutritional standards, thereby making it easier for parents to make healthy choices at the grocery store.

This is all part of Disney’s efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity seem more appealing. Disney chairman Robert Iger told us that it turns out that what is good for kids is good for Disney, which is one of the reasons they are taking these steps.

That seems to be the gist of what Iger said, although I was too busy taking photographs of Algernon with Disney-shaped props to take notes.

He felt naked without his Mickey ears. I thought he
should have felt naked because he doesn’t have pants.

You could actually probably ask one of the people from the real press that were there, lurking behind Scrappin’ Michele and TeachMama Amy.

Nothing like real press to make you feel like an idiot
with your stuffed mouse and wasted master’s degree in journalism.

No, I’m kidding. I really did pay attention. Then I came home and actually did some thinking about what to say about it. Because it’s really easy to get swept up in the excitement of an event and be all MICKEY MOUSE WANTS TO HELP YOUR CHILD BE SUPER HEALTHY THEY ARE AWESOME BUY OUT THE DISNEY STORE NOW!!!!!!! But that maybe isn’t the message I need to pass on here.

My first instinct is always to mistrust large corporations, of which Disney is unarguably one. But when I think about corporations who go out of their way to create good things for kids, Disney is one of them. And, as Iger said, what is good for kids is ultimately good for Disney.

I really like what they’re going to be doing with advertising. I can’t tell you how many cereals my kids have wanted to try because they’ve seen them advertised ad nauseum on television. And, trust me, they’re not the low sugar cereals.

I’ve read some criticism that the nutritional standards aren’t strict enough and so on, but I’d say that these nutritional standards are better than none. Are these ideas perfect? No. But it is a start and they seem to be trying. I can get on board with that. And no other corporations seem to be doing it on this scale either. Good for Disney. Thumbs up/happy face.

I assume this cookie meets Mickey Check standards.

I never cared much about Disney before I went to Disney World last December. But after experiencing it and also hearing about how good they are to individuals with special needs, I’ve jumped fully on board. There was a panel discussion after the speakers, and one of the things they addressed was how the chefs at Disney will go out of their way to make sure guests with allergies or special dietary needs are accommodated. I think that is pretty cool.

I also liked what the panel said about making sure the food at their parks was healthier. However, if I were the kind of person who was able to raise her hand and ask questions at these sorts of things, I would have asked why there wasn’t an apple anywhere to be found within 20 minutes of Star Tours when I needed one last December (item #10 in that post). But I’m not that person, so we might never know.

I am, however, the person who will ask Sous Chef Mickey to pose with Algernon.

After a while, you get used to being obtrusive.

But enough about healthy eating and Disney and Algernon. I know what you really care about. Did I get to meet Michelle Obama?

Sadly, no. But I was within about 30 feet of her. It was really exciting. I think she might have noticed I exist. In fact, I’m pretty sure she gave me a secret BFF wink.

Or she gazed over my head as she spoke. One of the two.

Well, even if I didn’t get a photo op with the first lady, I got a second one with Mickey. His security was a little less stringent.

Thanks for a nice morning, Mr. Mouse!

Disclosure: I was provided with breakfast (although I used most of my food as mouse photo props) as well as a tote bag when I left. Also, because I hung around until the bitter end, the hosts gave me one of the extra Edible Arrangement fruit centerpieces with Mickey-shaped pineapple slices. I never claimed to be proud. I wasn’t asked to nor compensated for writing this post. All of the opinions expressed here are (clearly) my own.

Overcoming Adversity

Jack doesn’t eat fruits or vegetables.

Let me be clear: JACK DOES NOT EAT FRUITS OR VEGETABLES.

Caveat: As of last summer he agreed to start eating corn, but only if it is on the cob; he will eat spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce; and he will drink apple juice, but with those three exceptions, Jack DOES NOT eat fruits or vegetables.

Honestly, it is a miracle that he has not yet contracted scurvy.

When he was a baby, he ate everything. I mean, he wouldn’t let me put a spoon in his mouth for the first year of his life (seriously; it made feeding him difficult), but he ate everything. Then he stopped.

I have this vivid memory of us eating out at a restaurant when he was probably two years old. There was one piece of asparagus on his plate. He honed in on it immediately and very deftly and gently placed it on a plate that the waitress was removing from the table as if to say, “I won’t be needing this, thank you.” At this point in time, I consider it a success if he will tolerate a green bean on the veeeery edge of his plate. We haven’t gotten to “no thank you” bites yet.

When he was little, if I tried to sneak a raisin into him within a cookie, he would sense the fruit and spit out that part of the cookie. For a while, he refused all cookies—I assume because he was nervous that we would try to sneak an offensive healthy snack into it.

And I would have. I used to make brownies made out of carrot juice and pureed spinach. I was not to be trusted.

To this day, if you give him a food, he will carefully inspect it before he eats it. Try it some time. It’s amusing.

In my defense, Jack isn’t malnourished. I took him to a nutritionist at Children’s Hospital and everything and they say that he seems to be fine what with his vitamins and steady diet of chicken nuggets and peanut butter. We continue to put beans on the edge of his plate.

I tell you all this so you can fully appreciate the essay that he wrote at school that came home with his report card today. The best part is that it is a totally true and accurate story.

As far as I can tell from the paper, Jack had read a story about someone who survived an “ordeal on the mountain because of his courage and strength.”  His assignment was to write a story about a girl or boy who is able to do something difficult by receiving encouragement from somebody else.

Here is his essay (in the quotes):

How would you describe this boy or girl? “The boy has autism and brown hair. He is very fast. He is 8 years old.”

If I had to guess, I would suppose he looks something like this.

What must he or she do? Why? “He had to eat an apple even though he didn’t like apples. His father told him to eat it and he would get a reward. His mother dipped the apple in peanut butter and he was brave enough to eat it. He ate it—but threw up.”

Everything about that story is true except that it was Alex who dipped it into peanut butter. I think he added me to the story because the next question was “Who gives the encouragement?” and he wanted to answer, “His mother gave encouragement,” instead of letting Alex get credit for anything.

There is nothing I don’t love about that kid. Well, except for the probable scurvy.

*****

Thank you so much to Jodi and Susan for donating to the Cheetahs. Thank you to EVERYONE who has donated. I added it up today. You guys have raised more than $1000. I did math for you. You guys make my heart siiiiiiiing.