How to Fail at Parenting: Slice Off Your Finger

On Friday, we purchased a kitchen utensil that I’ve been eyeballing for MONTHS now…a mandoline.


This…with an “e.”

Not this.

Not this.

We watch an unhealthy amount of Food Network in our house.  Our fave shows are Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Food Network Star.  Sometimes we’ll catch Iron Chef.  I love Alton Brown so much, I’d consider naming our fifth son after him.  One of the tools they use frequently on these shows is a mandoline.  It slices, it juliennes, it cuts with ridges, it even folds your laundry.  It’s awesome.  I’ve never used one before, but I knew we needed one.  I wanted to make zucchini noodles and sweet potato chips.

I decided to try our new toy on Saturday night, which is pizza night in our house.  I just knew the mandoline would make it super easy to slice the bell pepper, tomato and onion.  Also, my fingers.  You saw this coming, right?

We spent a few minutes figuring out how to change the blades and adjust the slicing width.  While changing blades, I cut myself.  TWICE.  Some of you may call this foreshadowing; I called it a teachable moment, and continued.

First up: bell pepper.  Slowly and carefully I sliced.   I used the hand tool designed to hold your fruit or veggie, so you can avoid injury.  This hand tool was frustrating me, so I tossed it to the side…hello, they do it on Chopped all the time.  I continued slicing, talking to Evan and Miles as we prepped dinner, when something went wrong.  And by something going wrong, I mean I sliced the tip of my middle finger off.

I knew what had happened before I felt what had happened.  My words sounded something like, “fingerfingerfinger” and I ran to the sink to rinse it in warm water (BAD IDEA).  Then, the bleeding started.  I looked at my finger, now missing four layers of skin and gushing blood, and I started to feel lightheaded.  I sat on the kitchen floor.  Evan gave me a towel, told me to apply pressure, reminded me to keep my finger above my heartbeat and put my head between my knees.  And Miles laughed.  I looked up at him, sitting in his highchair, oblivious to the murder scene that was my kitchen sink, and I just lost it.

No one brought me post-injury ice cream.

Too dramatic?

I cried tears of anger and sadness, because in the course of a few minutes, I’d managed to mangle myself in such a fashion that would make it difficult to do things like change a poopie diaper, bathe my son, and wash dishes.  I was mad that I had been so careless.  I was also glad that I hadn’t managed to injure myself more severely.  Yes, sitting on the kitchen floor, finger throbbing, I felt like I’d failed as a parent through my careless behavior.  What if I’d lost an arm?  What would I do then?  I am responsible for this tiny person’s life, and holy cow, that’s a big damn responsibility.

I’ve sworn off the mandoline, mostly out of sheer terror.  That tool is the spawn of the Devil.  Have you seen how often they lose fingertips on Chopped?  But those chefs, highly trained and the best in their field, put on a latex glove and keep right on cooking.  Probably because there’s $10,000 on the line.  But still; I couldn’t even stand up after lopping off my finger(tip).

We still ate the pizza.  We didn’t find the fingertip…so, extra protein?  Evan is in charge of slicing the sweet potatoes for tonight’s dinner.  And I’m working on my lefty skills.

For funsies.

For funsies.

The Pizza That (FINALLY) Broke My Water

For me, being pregnant was all kinds of awesome.  From the moment we found out we were expecting we were completely in love with the tiny little miracle that had just checked into a womb at the Coke Four Seasons.   In addition to that, I had also fallen in love with choosing names, creating our dream nursery, visiting Dairy Queen once a week, never having to suck in my stomach, and living in yoga pants and flip-flops the final three months (along with the first six).  I never had morning sickness, never had to stop wearing my rings, never grew a moustache and didn’t turn into a complete hormonal mess (well, no more of a mess than my usual state).  Yes, for me, pregnancy was *super* awesome.

The days, weeks and months ticked by; April 16th was fast approaching.  We were beyond excited.  The only thing more awesome and exciting than being pregnant is being unpregnant.
At our March 25th appointment, we found out we were one centimeter dilated – hooray!  Right on schedule.  We were past our “weekly appointment” stage, and our midwife decided we should come back in a few days.  We were eager to see what progress had been made.  Our next few appointments went something like this:

         April 1st: one centimeter.
         April 5th: one centimeter.
         April 8th: one centimeter.
         April 10th: one centimeter.
         April 15th: one centimeter.

Yes, the day before D-Day, and we were still at one centimeter.  I was having serious, lengthy discussions with then-named Baby C about the importance of arriving on time (this, from a woman who was perpetually 10 minutes late for everything before having children).  I explained to Baby C that mama is notoriously challenged in the punctuality department.  I started thinking that this was God’s way of impressing the importance of timeliness upon me.  Nice one, Big Guy.
At our appointment on April 18th, our midwife let us know she was perfectly fine with us going one week past our due date, but then they would induce.  I was completely and adamantly against induction; not because I’m some hippy who just wanted things to happen on their own (although that was part of it), but because I absolutely terrified of being induced.  I had learned enough from friends, birthing class and horrifying mommy blogs to know that the last thing I wanted was someone cramming a knitting needle up my hoo-ha to break my water, then “kick-starting” labor with an IV bag full of the worst contractions ever, thankyouverymuch.
So we left the appointment, scheduled to come back the next day to see if we were any further dilated.  I had another very serious conversation with Baby C.  Something along the lines of, “You have seven days to get here or you’re grounded until you’re 30.”
Friday’s appointment rolled around.  We were now three days past our due date.  I remember my midwife asking me if it would make me feel better if she just lied and said we were dilated 2 centimeters, wink-wink nod-nod.  I said yes.  And with that, the induction was “tentatively” scheduled for the 24th.

I started maternity leave.  I waddled miles and miles around the block.  I bounced on an exercise ball.  I ate spicy food.  I tried dancing in my living room.  I attempted some maternity yoga that ended with me ass-over-tea kettle and laughed at by three of our four cats.  I’m pretty sure I even heard my husband’s stupid parrot laughing at me.  Yes, we did everything (and I mean everything) we could think of to encourage labor.  Baby C’s response was always a series of kicks to my ribcage, followed by an elbow to the bladder and some wicked heartburn.    
Saturday, April 20th.  Still plenty of time.  We went to Publix to pick up the ingredients for our pizza, which we make every Saturday night.  When we were checking out, our regular cashier (with her endearing Bostonian accent) asked us the same question she asked every week, “When ah yah due?!”  Tonight, my response was, “LAST TUESDAY.”  She smiled and said, “Take the bumpy road home tonight and pack yah hospital bag, that baby’s comin’.”
So we took the bumpy road.  We made pizza, extra red pepper flakes.  I poured a glass of red wine (at four days late, the kid was done baking).  We stuffed our faces, and watched an old horror movie.
At 2:30am, I got up for the 47th time that night to pee.  I sat down, and started thinking, “Good grief, how much water did I drink?”  Then I realized what had happened…
I quietly and calmly awoke Evan, and told him my water broke.  Then I did what I’m sure most women going into labor do: I took a shower, shaved my legs, mopped the house and emptied the dishwasher.  I also called the maternity ward (I never wanted to be one of those women who goes to the hospital umpteen times thinking she’s in labor) and just like a Verona Beach retiree, I could hear Rod Roddy’s voice telling us to COME ON DOOOOOOWN!  We were the next contestants on, “Guess How Dilated You Are!”

We arrived around 4:30am, and were taken to maternity triage.  Another girl, probably 30ish weeks along with the most horrific morning sickness ever, came in right behind us.  There, in the 30×30 room, separated only by little curtains, we got to listen to her chorus of vomiting for half an hour before the triage nurse came in to see if I needed to stay.  Yes, even though I was sitting in a puddle of amniotic fluid (on a pee pad; yes, all dignity is out the window when you embark on the adventure of having children) we still needed to decide if Baby C was really on the way.
The nurse decided we’d start the first round of “Guess How Dilated You Are!”  By now, Baby C had dropped so low that it was nearly impossible to get to my cervix (don’t worry; this is about as TMI as it gets today).  When the nurse finally found it, the pain was so intense that I had one of those Linda Blair in The Exorcist moments.  I apologized, knowing the nurse had probably heard and seen much worse.  She just smiled and said, “Don’t worry honey, you’re three centimeters dilated!”  Now, that might not seem like much, but after holding steady at one centimeter for what felt like six weeks, we were excited.
Unfortunately, the poor girl across the curtain got to hear my momentary possession.  I could almost see her second thoughts about childbirth.  Here I was, not even really in labor, practically climbing the walls and wailing in pain.
6:30am – Contractions start.  Not too bad, but not something I’d want to experience on the reg.  All back labor, thanks to Baby C’s headfirst plunge into the birth canal.
8:00am – Still three centimeters.  Contractions getting stronger.

9:00am – Still three centimeters.  Pitocin started.  Extreme terror sets in.

9:15am – Triage nurse comes in, increases pitocin to 3mL.

9:30am – STILL. THREE. CENTIMETERS.  Pitocin increased to 5mL.

10:00am – Sigh.  Still three.  Pitocin increased to 7mL.

10:15am – Contractions getting super strong.  The last four hours have been spent bouncing on an exercise ball between bouts of what I’m certain sounds like a pelican squawk.  Women with children, you know what I’m talking about.  The nurse comes in – again – and increases the pitocin to 9mL.

10:30am – Nurse comes in.  I give her the death stare.  Evan laughs at me.  Pitocin goes to 11mL.

11:00am – More death stares, more pitocin.  Evan may also have a few fractured fingers.

11:30am – Sadistic nurse sent by the Anti-Christ comes in.  Sees my face.  Wisely decides against more pitocin.

Noon – Time for round two…FOUR CENTIMETERS DILATED!  Now I’m allowed to lay down, hallelujah.  We’re officially in “active” labor (I don’t know what they called the last three hours of pitocin hell…) and we can “expect” to dilate one centimeter every hour until we hit the big 1-0.
Here’s the thing about contractions…they are completely unexplainable.  There’s no way I could put into words what the feeling is like; it’s painful, but not like any pain you’ve experienced.  I think because it’s pain with a purpose.  Oh yes, it hurts, but once the contraction is over you enter a brief (very, very brief) state of euphoria.  You’re hooked up to the monitor, and you can watch your contraction lines going…you can see how long they are, and how strong they are.  The monitor picks up the strength just seconds before you really feel it.  I remember lying on my side, watching that stupid green line as it would dramatically jump into Mount Everest territory.  I would prepare myself for what was coming next.  And then it was over, and you could recover, even if it was only a few seconds.

We had decided against the epidural long ago, after watching a terrifying video during birthing class and reading some horrific posts on a few mommy blogs (stay away from the too-serious mommy blogs, ladies…)  Those few seconds of recovery helped to reaffirm that I could do this; it wasn’t that bad.

Around the time of The Green Line of Torture, my midwife came in for the third round of “Guess How Dilated You Are!”  It was 1:00p.  She sat down at the table to do some of our paperwork, and listen to me during the contractions.  One contraction later, and she decided it was time to play.  It had been an hour since active labor began; I was expecting to be at five, if we were lucky, six.  In my mind, I kept thinking that I had six more hours of this before sweet Baby C would arrive.  I was feeling t-i-r-e-d.
My widwife checked, and her face lit up like we’d hit the $10,000 slot on Plinko…

Holy cow.  All I could think was, “That was fast, that was fast, that was fast!”  I also wanted to throw confetti and spray champagne on people.  It was time.  Like really, REALLY, time, to start The Big Show.

The next hour was a blur, except for the end.  We were in the homestretch.  Baby C’s gigantic noggin was out; shoulders were out, just one more push and…STOP.  My midwife asked me to stop.  You want me to what?!  You spent the last 45 minutes asking me to push, push, push, push some more, breathe and push again, and now…just stop?

She asked me to stop so that Evan could be the person to deliver Baby C; so that he would be the first to hold our sweet baby, the first to know what our baby was.  Here we go…
One.  Last.  Push. 

I will never, ever forget Evan’s face when he erupted with, “It’s a BOY!”  I will never forget that instant feeling of love, of accomplishment, of pride, of joy, of peace, of family.  My goodness, your heart will literally explode.
Miles Clark Coke, 7lbs. 11oz., born April 21st, 2013

Love at first sight!
April 23, 2013 — The two men who melt my heart.
People will tell you throughout the journey of starting a family that you will never feel another love like this; that you never knew you could love like this.  I used to chuckle at the whole sap-fest of it all…the Lifetime movie stories my mom friends would tell me.  And then, we became parents.  Everything you’ve ever heard is absolutely, positively, 110% true.  There is no love like this.  It will overwhelmingly consume you.  You will know God in a new and amazing and incredible way, because you have experienced a miracle unlike any other.  There aren’t enough words in the world to express how becoming a parent changes you, for the better.  No, it isn’t always easy, but it is completely worth it.  Because for every long night of rocking in a chair with your sick baby, every hour of crying when teething begins, every ounce of spit-up dripping down the back of your shirt (again!), there are ten thousand moments of giggles, smiles, new discoveries, snuggles and love.  Your child will look at you in a way that will fill you with fear, with the realization that you are responsible for this tiny person – for their well being, their safety, their life.  But, you will also fill with complete joy, unconditional love, overwhelming thankfulness, and gratitude at the blessing you were given.
To say, “a love like no other” is really just the beginning of the adventure.
PS – Here’s the link to our pizza recipe: Makin’ a Pizza!
Thanks for hanging in there!

Nap Time and Pound Cake

Like many soon-to-be new moms, I had lots of plans for my maternity leave.  Days of snuggling with our little bundle, then while he napped, I would have a chance to organize the linen closet, finish painting our bathroom, put together his fabulous baby book, and most certainly prepare delicious meals and bake oodles of goodies.  Yes, these 10-12 weeks would be just like a Lifetime movie.  Right?  Right…
During the first few weeks, I was thankful and blessed to have meals we’d frozen ahead, and wonderful friends and neighbors who kindly brought over food for us as well.  The linen closet remains a disaster.  Our bathroom will never be finished (to be fair, it’s been in this state of limbo for about 10 months).  Much like showering daily, I didn’t actually begin cooking until the near the end of week two.
Once I had gotten the hang of cooking in stages (starting dinner at 4pm, knowing when Miles would probably be up to eat next, so I could manage to get dinner on the table at a somewhat reasonable time) I decided to attempt baking.
Knowing that my sweet little boy can have a somewhat unpredictable sleeping/feeding schedule when he hits a growth spurt, I thought that cookies would be a fairly safe choice for my first baking attempt post-baby.  Seems easy enough; mix a few ingredients, pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes a batch.  Simple.  Until I realized that baking four or five batches of cookies (or attempting to) actually belongs on the “ways to wake up your newborn” list.  Putting cookies in the oven inevitably calls for a diaper change, feeding, or general fussy time.  And so, you’ll spend the next hour or two running around like a crazed woman: checking the oven, checking diapers, burping a baby, yelling at the dog (why does she follow us everywhere?!)  And you’ll probably burn your cookies, too.  It will not be the relaxing baking experience you had imagined.
The key to baking and parenting a newborn simultaneously (besides waiting until you’re husband is home so you can have a few glasses of wine while baking…) is to choose a baked good that requires a longer baking time; and something you only need to remove from the oven once.  Preferably while baby is sleeping.  I know this for a fact, after my attempts to remove dinner while hauling Miles around the BabyBjorn ended with a pulled back muscle (but the kid didn’t fall in the oven, so we’ll call that a win). 
My two favorite desserts with lengthy bake times and little follow-up needed once popped in the oven are cheesecake and pound cake.  I have yet to bake a cheesecake while on leave; those require more prep, so we’ll save that for week eight.  But a pound cake is a great choice…pretty simple to throw together, and one of those “no fail” recipes that everyone loves.
Sour Cream Pound Cake
3 cups cake flower, plus a little extra for flouring the pan
2 ½ cups white sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter, softened
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 oz. sour cream
*You’ll also need a bundt pan.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Butter your bundt pan, then sprinkle with flour and set aside.  Sift together all dry ingredients and set aside.  On medium speed, cream your butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, then add your vanilla extract.  Sift half of your dry mixture over your butter and egg mixture, then gently fold with a spatula.  Add your sour cream, and continue stirring gently.  Add the remaining dry mixture, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated.  Pour batter into your bundt pan, then gently tap on the counter to remove air bubbles.  Bake for one hour, or until the top is golden brown and a knife or skewer inserted comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes on a rack before removing.
Tip for removing your cake: once flipped onto your plate or dish, gently tap the bottom of the bundt pan with a spoon or knife handle before lifting.
Marbled Sour Cream Pound Cake: I love a good marbled pound cake, and that’s easy to make with this recipe.  Melt four or five semi-sweet chocolate baking squares in a double boiler (or in the microwave; just set your power to medium, and stir every 30 seconds until melted).  Take about half the cake batter, and in a separate bowl, combine it with the chocolate.  Alternate vanilla and chocolate cake batter in your bundt pan, swirl with a butter knife, bake as usual.
We like to serve our pound cake with fresh berries, and a decent amount of Reddi Whip or sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar.
While I cannot become the Super Suzy Homemaker I’d envisioned while on leave, I have found that enjoying every minute that I can with Miles far trumps testing out a fancy new recipe or organizing towels by size and color (although I have managed to put together an impressive baby book; that was very important to us, as Miles will need to know all about the first time he peed on me, and I’ll need to show all his embarrassing bathtub photos to his future girlfriend).   

In reality, just getting a hot meal on the table is accomplishment enough in a hectic day.  Maternity leave has given me a newfound respect for stay at home moms…you ladies are forces to be reckoned with, for sure.  Happy baking!

Meatless Mondays

Over the past 9+ years, I’ve found ways to improve the way we eat in the Coke House.  I’ve replaced ground beef with ground turkey,white pasta with whole wheat pasta, white bread with whole grain, and white potatoes with sweet potatoes.  I add vegetables to things like my turkey meat loaf, to sneak in extra servings of those wonderful vitamins and minerals.  We don’t buy potato chips, candy or cookies; we don’t drink soda or caffeine (save for my daily cup of joe), and I no longer sweeten our iced tea.  Instead of ice cream, it’s frozen yogurt…and instead of regular, fruit on the bottom yogurt, it’s Greek.
Right now, you’re probably thinking there’s no possible way I could make this any more fun than it already is.  Well, guess what you’ve forgotten about?
That’s right…nearly every Monday, dinner is meat-free.  And, because it’s been such a success (seriously), I thought I’d share two of my all-time fave Meatless Monday recipes with you.  Both are delicious, easy to prepare, and will leave you with enough leftovers for a second meal.  Perfect, right?
Before I share these coveted recipes, let me preface with this statement: we are not vegan, vegetarian, or ovo-lacto-whateverarians.  This is one meal a week with no meat.  Trust me; if Publix puts New York strips on sale, I’m going to by an 18oz. package and we’re going to spend Saturday night eating delicious, grilled cow flesh, which I’ll most likely pair with a giant baked potato loaded with butter, Colby Jack cheese, sour cream and bacon bits.  Oh, and a salad.  You see, it’s okay to splurge…if it’s just that, an occasional treat.  Besides, Meatless Monday makes it totally okay for me to have a steak, or make a pizza, or eat an Oreo Brownie Explosion Sundae from Dairy Queen over the weekend.
The Cokes could never, ever, ever give up meat entirely.  As my wise cousin Wally once said, “If God didn’t want us to eat cows, why would He make them so delicious?!”  And so, with that in mind, here are my top two meatless meals…enjoy!
Roasted Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
One 3lb.+ spaghetti squash
2+ cups tomato sauce
Ricotta cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
*Yes, I realize there are missing “measurements” in my ingredients.  I don’t conform to The Man’s request of tablespoons and cups all the time.

Directions: Roast your spaghetti squash.  Oh, how do you do that, you ask?  Cut the squash in half lengthwise (tip: it’ll be really hilarious and challenging the first time you try it) brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, then roast it face up at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes.  Once your squash is roasted, let it cool a few minutes, then remove the flesh with a fork.  You’ll find the flesh pulls apart in spaghetti-like strings; hence the name.
In an 8×8 baking dish, place your first layer of spaghetti squash.  Pour some tomato sauce over it, sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese, dollop some ricotta, and repeat the process one more time.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and voila – dinner is served!  
Mozzarella: I buy Sargento whole milk mozzarella in the block, because it’s gooey and delicious.  But you can use pre-shredded out of a bag, too.  I normally shred half the block (16oz.) and end up shredding more, to completely cover the top of the lasagna.  I also top the lasagna with some chopped, fresh parsley.
Sauce: If I haven’t had time to make my own sauce (see earlier post on sauces), I buy Barilla Arrabiatta.  It’s a spicy marinara, and it’s awesome in this dish.  It lends well to the sweetness of the spaghetti squash.  If I’m using jarred sauce, I’ll use the entire jar.
Polenta and Bean Casserole
This is a modified Weight Watchers recipe.
One can black beans, rinsed and drained
One can Ro-Tel tomatoes
16 oz. frozen corn kernals
16 oz. frozen lima beans
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 zucchini squash, chopped
1 cup salsa
Chili Powder
Ground Cumin
16 oz. tube polenta, sliced (available in produce section)
Shredded cheese (we prefer Colby Jack)
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine all ingredients except the polenta and cheese in a large Dutch oven, bringing to a low boil.  Reduce heat to low, and simmer while covered 10 minutes.  Transfer to a large baking dish (9×13 pan) then arrange polenta slices on top.  Bake 25 minutes; remove, sprinkle with cheese, bake an additional 3 minutes.  Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.
We add sour cream and chopped green onion to ours.  It’s like a Tex-Mex Bean Fiesta in a bowl!  Really yummy, easy to put together, and perfect for a busy weeknight.