An open letter to my minions

Dear children,

Let me preface this by saying how much I love you. My life got a little better on the days each of you were born. I have relished every moment with you so far; every nose-bleed and poopey diaper and science project. You are my whole world.

Got it?

Good.

Stay the fuck out of my room, already. I know that you ache for me when we're apart, and I miss your precious little faces, too. But dears, from 9 pm until 7:30 am I am not momma. I am donut-eating-tea-drinking-tv-watching woman. My shift ENDS at 9.

I realize that I have created this problem by allowing you to sleep with me when you were little. But you're old enough to know something...I did that for me. I am totally incapable of walking anywhere at 4 in the morning, let alone into a nursery to pick up a 7 pound human. You slept with me so that I could nurse you at any hour without stubbing/breaking/decapitating something. And none of you did it past age 1. I can't remember what I did a year ago, let alone 9 years ago. There's no WAY you remember sleeping with me.

I know that I have a nice, big, cozy new bed and that no mortal can resist a little nappy-poo in it, but I slept on a concrete slab with the same bedding set on top of it for 9 1/2 years straight so that you could have legos and happy meals and skateboards and nice, cushy mattresses with soft, fluffy blankets. It's momma's turn now. And I spent a small chuck of your college money on that new bed and the one and only thing that seems to assuage my guilt over that is a good nights' sleep.

And remember that tall guy who smells good and pays the bills? Yeah, he sleeps in the bed with me. You know that drawer in the desk in my room that you're not allowed to go into because daddy's things are in it, cleverly hidden under some burnable CD's and a few cables? The same reason you can't see that stuff is the very same reason you cannot come into my room at 2:43 in the morning when the door is closed. I promise you, whatever nightmare you were having will be greatly increased if you open that door. Besides, that door is only closed every second full moon following 3 1/2 days exactly of rain showers when the moon is in the second house before a golf tournament. Isn't not all the time. You'll manage.

The thing here, kids, is that momma cannot sleep if you are anywhere near her. Jesus Christ could drive a Mack truck into my room blasting Kanye West and momma would keep on dreaming of unicorns and Johnny Depp, but if you so much as scratch your nose, I am wide awake and googling leprosy. Momma needs her sleep. Momma is a very, very ugly woman when she is tired. And you people sleep like you're auditioning for Cirque De Soleil. It's not gymnastics class; it's rest.

No, little darlings, not just one of you can climb into my bed. If 1of3 gets in, 2of3 senses that his monster-guard is missing and wakes up and climbs in. 3of3 then senses that someone in the world is being paid attention to instead of her, and then it's with the screaming and the kicking and the popsicle requests.

I love you guys, I really do, but the getting into bed with mom has to stop. You have your own beds. They're nice beds. They smell like you. You also have a very comfortable couch with an exquisite blanket your grandmother knitted on it. Sleep there. Or learn how to brew a pot of coffee.

Your lovin',

Mom.

Yep. Pretty sure I still love'm.

Right behind me, right now, is this:He's been like that since 6. At dinner, he said he didn't feel well which, in 9 year old, translates into, "I had my first sleepover in Canada last night and ate my body weight in candies and Dr. Peppers and slept exactly three whole minutes last night".

Poor thing, he's tired.

You know how, when you first get them, how you stare at them while they're sleeping and you just want to die because they're so sweet and chubby and yummy? Yeah, that doesn't ever go away.

Rate the Hate Operation Get You Laid

Once upon a time, Mr Lady worked at a little Italian restaurant. It was kitchy and cheesy but every single thing in the place was made from scratch, fresh, every day. From the ravioli to the pizza crust to the salad dressing, it was all homemade. Now, some of it was average, some of it could've used some improvement, but some of it rocked. Hard. Of course, that place changed a lot shortly after Olive Garden waged full-out warfare on America's suburbs; they started ordering in pastas and cutting corners and then one day they closed shop and left Denver and I think that place is now a very depressing Mexican joint. There are still two locations in Nebraska. If you're ever there, check it out and let me know how it goes.

One of the cooks from there ended up staying my friend long after we left the restaurant. Many years ago I asked him if he knew the recipe for one of their signature dishes, the one that I can blame 20 pounds and the cottage cheese thighs on. He didn't remember the quantities of the ingredients, but he did recall the gist of what went in it. He gave me a shopping list and I went to work. Two years later I got it all right. And now, I share it with you.

If you ever come over to my house, and I am hoping to sleep with you, this is what I'm going to cook. If you have a date night coming up soon, print this recipe. You'll thank me in the morning.

I need to warn you that the amount of sauce you will make is grossly disproportionate to the amount of pasta you will have. The good news is that the sauce is almost better on day two, so save the leftovers.

First, boil some penne pasta.

While that's going, you need to make a Mornay sauce. Here's how you do that. Melt 2 1/2 tbsp butter on med-high heat. Add 3 tbsp flour to make a roux, stirring until the roux is pale yellow and frothy (about a minute). Grab a whisk and slowly whisk in 2 1/2 cups of warm milk. Continue whisking it until it comes to a boil (about 2-3 minutes). You use warm milk so it won't clump and you have to continually whisk it or, well, if you don't believe me, try it. You'll see. Once it boils, bring the heat down and add 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper and a decent pinch of nutmeg. Let that simmer for 2-3 minutes and them add your cheese. Add 1 ounce (about 6tsp I think) grated Parmesan. And then you add 8 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese. Add it 4 ounces at a time, and taste it before you add more. It doesn't matter, really, if you get the crumbles or the wedge. It melts beautifully. Stir it, don't whisk it anymore, until the cheese melts. Cover it and keep it on a simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick.

Now that you've got the base of the sauce, you have to make the chicken. Melt 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 stick margarine in a saute pan (trust me on this). Once melted, add EITHER one small red onion, finely chopped, or 5 large cloves of garlic chopped with your handy-dandy chopper thingy your friend Hannah got you 10 years ago that you can never, ever live without. (I don't need to tell you the 'smack the garlic with the side of a wide knife to get the peels off' trick, do I? We all already know that one, yes?) I think the original recipe called for onion, but I've done it both ways and both are just as good. I go garlic, because I ALWAYS go garlic, but the onion does compliment the cheese well and looks really pretty in the sauce. Your choice. Either way, add that to the butter and saute until fragrant. To that, add a good pinch of parsley and around 3 tsps fresh rosemary. One stalk is about 1 1/2 tsps, so just chop up two stalks. (I don't have to tell you the 'pinch the top of the stalk and slide your fingers down to get all the herb and none of the stalk off' trick, do I? We all already know that, yes?) Be careful with the rosemary; if you add to much, you'll be eating a Christmas tree for dinner. Add the herbs to the butter and then add Worcester sauce. Usually, about 10 good shakes from the bottle will do the trick. Taste it after 10, and if you want more add it 2 shakes at a time. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Once it's a bit cool, whisk it up and then pour 2/3 of the pan into your Mornay sauce. Stir it up really well and re-cover the sauce. You want this to sit for a little bit so the flavors mesh. In the saute pan, add a pound of chicken breasts , sliced into strips (I buy them already in strips), to the remaining 1/3 rosemary butter. Toss the chicken around to coat with the butter and the saute that until the chicken is just done. In a mixing bowl, toss the penne pasta with enough of the sauce to generously coat it. Spoon the pasta onto a plate, top it with the chicken strips, top that with fresh diced tomatoes and garnish the whole thing with a bit of Parmesan. If you're going for pretty, throw a rosemary sprig on the plate. If you're going for 7 year old, you can skip it. This goes really well with steamed broccoli or sauteed green beans or even a thick, rustic, and perhaps rosemary bread. It sounds like a lot of work, but I timed it and the whole thing takes less than 30 minutes, start to finish.

Do not under any circumstances surprise your brother in law with this dinner until you've checked to make sure he is not deathly allergic to rosemary. You'll waste your time and annoy the pig brother in law.

The question is: Do you think they ate it? Or, to make it easier, on a scale of 1-10, how much do you think they hated it? 1 being Best. Dinner. Ever. and 10 being We're Called Child Services and the Food Network to tell on you, you horrible, horrible woman.

Democracy in action!

I'm taking a vote. What the hell should I do with these?

Your choices are:

A) Move into the 21st century. I mean, who really has VHS tapes anymore? I could easily toss them or donate them to Children's Hospital or something. But then, of course, Children's Hospital would be stuck with VHS tapes. Maybe I could throw in some sweet 8-tracks while I'm at it.

B) Accept that I am an old fuddy-duddy and buy a VCR. They're, like, $5.99 at Walmart and one of my favorite movies is in that pile. 22 tapes at $30/dvd is around $500 dollars. That's almost my grocery budget for a month. But then, of course, I would have to own a VCR.

So, which is it? You vote, I do. And if you'd like to vote for "Mail them to me", that could be option C. Maybe two of you could fight for them. In Jello. Or MUD.

Perhaps I've said too much. Vote away, people!

Ok, Bye!

My daughter has never gone to bed without milk. For her first 14 months, it came from her portable keg* and since she's taken it in bottle form. My sons were...well, crap; they still take a mug of warm milk before bed every now & again. Anyone have a dairy farm that needs investors?

Anyway...bottle, bedtime. It's her thing. Anyone who would like to tell me not to do this can piss off take a flying leap kindly keep their very valuable, educated opinions to themselves. And besides, all my kids did it; none of them have rotten, bucked out teeth. That bottle lasts 3.67 seconds anyway, I'm sure. My kids find something they like and they finish it as fast as humanly possible.

Their poor, poor wives.

And hell, the bottle thing works. She actually goes down without a fight. This, coming from a kid who fights everything.

(A quick aside: I've changed my share of Huggies in 32 years, and I know one thing....normal children enjoy diaper changes. My kids? It takes both arms, a knee, the opposing foot and a Ouija board to change her butt. I kid you not; I had to call her father in to help me the other day. Who fights a fucking diaper change? My kid, that's who. I keep trying to tape a change to show you how awful she is about it, but I can't quite figure out how to operate a camera with my left ear. I'm working on it.)

So, tonight it was time to put her down and I had NO MILK. Jesus M*%^$#F@#$^$NG Christ. Me? Screwed. We'd had the day from hell and she's two there was no nap and she's two and it was getting really late and she's TWO. What did I do? I gave her potato chips instead. We cuddled on the couch, watched some tv, I brushed her hair and we read a few books. And then I just told her it was bedtime. She said, "Ok", and walked upstairs.

She. Said. Ok.

We said goodnight to the moon and the pretty bowies** and then I put her in her bed and kissed her and gave her a baby and walked out. Really, really quietly. I got almost out the door and she said, "Momma?" to which I answered, "Uuuuuh...huhhhh?" and she repied, "Ok, bye!"

Of course, all of this happened at 12:30 in the morning, 3 1/2 hours after using the last of the milk and trying to get her to bed. Hey, we can't win'm all.

*Yeah, that would be ME.
**Bonus Points to the first correct guess as to what the hell a Pretty Bowie is.