Friday, December 30, 2011


2011 was a challenging year. It was a year where we saw a great deal of joy, and we were blessed in many ways. But damn it was hard. We had a lot of change. I was pregnant and sick, we moved to Oakland, had a baby and the boys changed schools. I quit my job, lost the nanny and went down to a single income.

Change can be wonderful, as in the form of a bouncing baby boy, but it can also be difficult as you navigate how to function under new circumstances. Moving from two children to two plus a baby has not been easy. It has pushed me to a whole new level of exhaustion and stress. There are days where even when I can see just how good I have it, I don't feel like getting out of bed and starting all over again. I'm tired.

And it isn't over yet. Julian is seven months. I figure I have at least another six to twelve hard months ahead, yet I am happy because we have started something. The Three Musketeers. Our family. We are now complete and we will hopefully have a lifetime of happiness before us. I expect that the years ahead will all have unique challenges, some of them more difficult then the ones we have faced this year. This has been a year of happiness where we have been blessed with good fortune, for that I am grateful.

2011 is a year that I am going to remember. For the birth of my son. For the sleepless nights, the fighting brothers, the stroller pushing, backaches and spit up. For the beginning of our journey as a family of five.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Screw you Santa

Santa sucks. You know what he brought the Kargas family for Christmas this year?

No, not a hamster, we worked that one out in advance.

It isn't anything you can purchase at a store or even put a ribbon on.

No Lexus, no diamonds, no Ipad II, no smart phone.

The stomach flu. That's what that fat SOB left under the dying tree of holiday joy. It came on fast and furious. I can tell you that at it's height I was contemplating calling an ambulance or a funeral home, it was that bad. Thus far Zack had it, which lead to no less than six loads of laundry because he has yet to master the art of puking in the potty. I have had it, Evan has had it and now, my father-in-law. My husband is a ticking time bomb. Tick-tock-tick-tock. If he comes down with it soon we could possibly still enjoy the New Year holiday and his birthday.

Sadly it has really put a damper to our festivities. This was the first year in many that we celebrated Christmas at our house with the extended family and I am afraid that it will be remembered as the most dreadful holiday on record. Bummer.

Thanks Mr. C, see you next year buddy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Santa, Call me a Grinch

We had a list. For Santa that is. We worked on it, solidified it, confirmed it and sent it off to the North Pole. We agreed on this list. A smart list. A reasonable list. A fun list.

A Globe

Sponge Bob Legos

Star Wars Pajamas



Razor (scooter)

Lightning McQueen stuffed animal

Star Wars books

Check, Check and Check. Holiday Shopping done. Budget managed. Ho. Ho. Ho!

And then what? Yesterday the kid informs us he asked Santa for a hamster. A HAMSTER? A live hamster? One that needs to be fed? One that poops in his cage? One that might run away and get lost under our sofa before being eaten by our cat? Oye Vey. I had to nip this one in the bud. There will be no hamster. We have three boys. A dog. Two cats. We have enough living beings to care for and clean up after.

But he asked Santa for this. Directly. If Santa doesn't come through what does that mean for my little boy? An end to the magic? Dashed dreams? A future expectation for disappointment? This could be life changing.

How do I deal with this? What the hell do I know? I'm Jewish. As a kid, all I expected for Hanukkah was a Star of David stationary set purchased from the temple gift shop. So I put on my Santa/thinking cap and quickly told my son that I had personally written Santa and let him know that we could not accept any pets, and to please not send any.

Yup, I will take the heat for this one. I'll be the Grinch. Expectations managed. No hamsters.


Dinner Dilemmas: Chicken & Vegetables

Okay, long overdue Dinner Dilemma post. I actually made this dish early last week, but I have had zero time to post. Zero time to post and a piece of garbage computer that crashes every 2.5 seconds, which makes it quite difficult to get anything completed.

I have to note that one of of our beloved critics (Mr. Evan Kargas) was so offended by my meal that he refused to participate. No, he stuck to his moral high-ground and did not let a morsel pass between his lips to his highly refined palate. Therefor, I have only one rating for this weeks recipe: Chicken & Vegetables from Better Baby Food by Diana Kalins and Joanne Saab.


1lb carrots, peeled and sliced
2 sweet potatoes, sliced
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 black pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp thyme

1. Place carrots on bottom of casserole. Arrange potatoes on top of carrots. Pour half of stock over vegetables. Cover with foil and bake in pre-heated oven (400 degrees) for 20 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Stir vegetables. Add salt and pepper to remaining stock. Add mustard and thyme. Pour over chicken mixture and bake for 45 minutes until chicken is no longer pink inside.

Zachary's rating:

Zachary is clearly falling victim to an inflated rating system. He awarded the dish 7 stars. (Out of five, don't ask). Although he was very enthusiastic about the meal, he didn't eat more than half of it. Perhaps this judge is learning that dessert comes to those who give their mothers compliments.

It was an easy dinner to prepare and I liked the flavor of the chicken and the carrots. Next time I think I might add some additional veggies, like bell peppers and onions.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Gift

Those commercials. A December To Remember, which of course involves a Lexus with a big red bow. The couple at the skating rink, they slip, fall, laugh, and he presents her with a diamond pendant. Kay Jewelers. An enormous flat screen TV, and a very happy husband. Best Buy. Who actually gets those gifts for Christmas? Not the Kargas family. I imagine not most families. Our Christmas is going to be a tad more shall we say modest?

Do I wish I was getting something sparkly for the holidays? Would I like to get my boys their very own Ipads? Sure, who wouldn't?

However, I have already received an amazing, special present, one that I don't think I would trade for any Prada bag. What was it? It's glass. It glitters in red and gold. It is one of a kind and handmade by a local artist. My 3 year old son. Yesterday I attended the only holiday party that I was invited to this year. It was from 11-11:45am at the Lake School preschool. There was apple juice. There were cupcakes. A crazy, rockin time. Parents were presented with gifts that the children had created just for them. Evan could not have been more proud when I was handed the gift that he had made. It was packaged in gift wrap that he had painted himself and was accompanied by a card he had made with shiny paper and glue. He could not wait until we got home for me to open it, he insisted that I open the present right then and there. The smile on his face, the little bouncy dance he was doing while he waited for me to unwrap his gift, was priceless. With a twinkle in his eye he told me "I made this for the whole family! It's glass, we can't break it."

Indeed it was a glass votive painted in sloppy red and gold strokes. I hugged him hard and told him how much I loved it. He wanted to light the candle as soon as we arrived home. Instead we waited until evening came so we could turn out the lights and enjoy the glow of his creation.

When I was a child I used to roll my eyes when my parents would tell me that there was no gift they wanted or cherished more than the ones that I made them. Surely, they wanted a new TV, or pretty jewelery. But now I understand exactly where they were coming from. And perhaps once again, I am a cliche, but this time in a very good way.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I am not going through an identity crisis. I know who I am. I am just not sure I like her.

When I started this blog, I knew it would be in part about my role as a mommy, however, I also thought it would encompass other parts of who I am. Right now, I am simply Rachel The Mom. Friends warned me of this. I was advised to create a life outside of my children, because kids are not kids forever. At first I adhered to the warnings. I kept up with my career, my friendships and my workout routine, however as time has gone on and we have moved from one, than two, than three children, it's kind of fallen apart.

I am a stay at home mom. My blog is about my kids. All day long I am with human beings ages six and under. I cart them from place to place. I facilitate play dates, oversee homework, pack lunches, coordinate doctor appointments, grocery shop, and worry about their quirks, pains and behavior. That's pretty much it.

I wish I was writing about more. My marathon training, my trip to Kenya, the volunteer work I am doing at the woman's shelter, the Spanish and yoga lessons I am taking. But truth be told, I almost never purposefully exercise anymore (double stroller pushing seems to zap my energy), I don't have a valid passport, don't have the wherewithal to volunteer or the time for downward dog. I suppose if I gave up time on the weekends I could carve out a hobby, but I actually love my spouse, want to spend time with him, and don't feel it is fair to abandon him on Saturdays and Sundays.

It's a lot of excuses I know. It bothers me. I should have more energy. I should be doing more. I should be more interesting.

But I'm not. I'm a mom. Changing diapers. Doing laundry. Whining. Feeling a little isolated.

I'm a housewife. I'm a stereotype.

I'm a cliche.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Letter/Bless His Heart

I told him not to touch the Christmas ornaments. I warned him several times. These are special. These are fragile. They are a holiday legacy. I want my boys to enjoy the choo-choo train, Santa Fire Fighter and Elmo ornaments for years and years to come. I want my kids to show them to their own babies. They need to last.

We hung the shiny beauties on the tree just one day ago. There are sweet decorations stamped with "David 1977", there are the kitty cat ornaments David has purchased for me over the years. There are Zachary and Evan's ornaments, the ones that I have carefully picked out for my boys. Fragile, fun, sparkly, precious!

And broken. At least one of them. It happened this morning. The morning after we decorated the tree. Zachary was admiring and playing with the tree before breakfast and then I heard a little crack, and then "OH NO! SOMETHING HAPPENED!"

I didn't have to wonder what happened, I just had to wonder how bad was it? I ran downstairs to discover Zack standing over Pirate Santa Claus , 2010. Damn it. I was pissed. That was one of the expensive super pretty ornaments. It was Evan's. Zachary knew better. He did. Damn it. I let him know that I was upset. I glared at him. I yelled for his father to bring the broom. "Why?" I asked Zack. "Why?" "I told you not to touch the ornaments. Now you broke it! Forever!"

There were a few tears. (Zachary's.) Some angry stomping (also Zachary's.) Zachary yelled at me. "You hate me. You don't like me at all!" I answered between clenched teeth. "I do like you, but I DO NOT like your behavior! I am mad."

I went back upstairs to finish getting dressed. 10 minutes later it was too quite. Where was Zachary? It took a minute or two for us to find him, huddled in the basement, over construction paper, concentrating. He presented me with The Letter. The letter photographed above. It needs translation. This is the best that I can do.

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I am sorry for touching the ornaments. I didn't mean to. I hope it is o.k. I feel bad for ??? I am really sorry. Love Zack.

Okay. Enough said. Tears. Love that kid.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

So that's how it works....

What did I do today?

Let's see.....

I dragged your sleeping baby brother out of bed, so we could get you to school on time. No tardy slips allowed!

I braved Target with a six month old and a 3.5 year old to get your buddy a birthday gift. Can't go to a party without a present.

I woke up your sleeping brother (again, but this time only 15 minutes into his long awaited nap) so I could pick you up from school on time.

I made you orange smoothies for snack.

I took you and your brothers to karate. I wore your baby brother in the bjorn, and crossed my fingers that Evan would behave. He did not. I dragged a naughty boy off the mats while still holding a baby in my arms. I entertained them both so that you could learn your martial arts.

I drove you across town so you could get a hip new haircut at the cool salon that plays Spongebob while the stylist snips your hair.

I took the long way home so we could look at Christmas lights. I doubled back to allow you to see the giant tree your brother pointed out, which you missed and thus started balling about.

I made you hamburgers and tater tots for dinner while the baby screamed in the bouncy chair. I endured your insults about my cooking.

I called your friend's mom to arrange a play date at our house... again.

For that, did I get a hug? A kiss? A thank you?


However when daddy walked in the door at 6:30 announcing he had stopped at the library and checked out the latest disgusting Captain Underpants book, you flung yourself in his arms and declared that he was "The best daddy ever!"

Awesome. Just awesome.

Dinner Dilemmas: Mac & Cheese With Beans

I'm all for eating healthy, but come on Jessica Seinfeld, skim milk and no butter for mac & cheese? Help a girl out. What the heck is wrong with you? Kid's need fat. Kid's like to eat food with a little butter. Cream. Half & Half. Bacon. For the love of God, give them the butter.

But that is not Ms. Jessica's style. No sir. She is hard core. I actually have enjoyed her cook book in the past, which provides recipes with a secret pureed healthy ingredient. Think sweet potatoes, spinach and beans. It is a bit of work, making the purees before you even start the actual dinner, but it gets the kid's to eat their veggies. (Without knowing it, so I ask, is it really teaching healthy eating habits?)

The Seinfeld's are not overweight, their children look fantastic and healthy, so what is all the fuss? Do they really need to be drinking fat-free milk? I for one, do not believe in putting my children on a low-fat diet. Have you seen Zack? He is all skin and bones and runs about a million miles a day. He needs his creamy mac & cheese.

I'm getting off track. Today's Dinner Dilemma is Macaroni and Cheese with Beans, adapted from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook Deceptively Delicious. In addition to the main course I made Carrot Ribbons, a recipe suggested by a friend. I will tell you now, the dinner went down well. Hallelujah.


Macaroni & Cheese (with beans):

1.5 cups elbow macaroni

1 cup skim milk (I used 2 percent, that is what we have on hand)

Half cup canned white beans

Nonstick cooking spray (I used a tablespoon of BUTTER)

1.5 cups shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese. (I used full fat cheese, because why the heck not?)

Half tsp salt

1/8 tsp garlic powder (I used a clove of real garlic)

1/8 tsp paprika, didn't have it, didn't use it.

1/8 tsp pepper.

Cook macaroni al dente. Drain.

While macaroni is cooking, combine the milk and beans in a food processor and process until pureed.

Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray. (nix that, melted butter in pan and sauteed garlic.) Add the bean mixture to pan and cook over medium heat stirring until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the cheese and cook until melted and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Add in salt and pepper. Stir in macaroni and serve warm.

Carrot Ribbons:

2 Carrots peeled into ribbons with a carrot peeler.

1-2 Tablespoons Butter.

Boil a pot of water

Place ribbons in water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain.

Toss carrots with butter.

Zachary gave the dish an unprecedented double five stars! He said he loved it the whole thing. He did a happy dance. That's about it.

Evan did not want to be generous with his stars. He was waving two fingers in the air with one hand, but shoveling mac & cheese in his mouth with the other, so I didn't believe the low score. I eventually convinced him to award the meal.... FOUR STARS. Evan liked it! He really liked it!

And me? Well, I thought that the macaroni and cheese was quiet good. I did not notice the beans, it was plenty creamy and tasty, quick and easy. The carrots were pretty and would make a nice side dish to any meal.

Hurray for me, a success at last. Note to Jessica. Butter baby.

Just butter.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Yup, I've thought of that.

Yes, I have actually thought about....

Checking into a posh hotel in the middle of the day by myself. To sleep. For five hours.

Getting a tummy tuck.

Getting botox.

Taking a giant garbage bag and collecting each and everyone of my kid's toys, then donating them to charity when they tell me that they are bored.

Selling my wedding ring, wedding pearls and crystal and using the money to pay for a giant European vacation.

Driving my dog and two cats into the "country" and letting them run "free."

Keeping Wiggum's ashes by my bedside for the rest of my life.

Serving my children mac & cheese for dinner every single night for the next month.

Taking all of the money that I would spend on holiday gifts and donating it to a needy family instead.

Creating a public service announcement regarding the risks of having three children. (Maternal insanity is number one on the list.)

Going to McDonald's and ordering a size large egg nog shake and drinking the whole thing.

Dressing Julian in one of those super cute Gymboree GIRL outfits, because the little dude doesn't know the difference.

Making a bonfire with each and every Cars, Spongebob and other ugly licensed tshirt my boys own.

Sporting a wig, I want to see what I would like to have long hair again.

Renewing my vows, just so that I can have a second chance at looking beautiful. I didn't feel like a princess on my wedding day, and I have always wanted to do it again.

Giving up on this blog.

Just kidding. Sort of.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dinner Dilemmas: Italian Not-Alphebet Soup and Cheesy Bread Dippers/Safeway's O Organic Vegetable Chicken Dinner

I decided to give Rachael Ray another shot. This week's Dinner Dilemmas is her recipe for

Italian Alphabet Soup & Cheesy Soup Dippers. Unfortunately, it was actually Italian Not-Alphabet Soup. Safeway apparently does not sell alphabet pasta, so I substituted orzo. I think this took away from the fun-for-kids-factor, and also made the soup very pasta heavy, thus I can't hold Rachael 100% accountable for the results.

The recipe:

1 Wedge Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with the rind on

2 Cloves garlic

2 T olive oil

1 Small onion chopped

1 Cup marinara sauce

5 Cups chicken stock

1 Cup alphabet pasta (I used orzo)

2 English muffins

2 T butter

Garlic powder

Dried Italian seasoning blend

1 Cup frozen mixed vegetables

Salt and pepper to taste

Shred 1-1.5 cups parmigiano reggiano, this is for topping your bread dippers and your soup. Trim off the rind and save it, you will put it in the soup. Rachael calls this the "secret ingredient"

Put pot over medium heat, add olive oil, and whole garlic cloves and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the marinara sauce and stir. Pour in chicken stock. Put lid on pot, turn heat to high and bring to boil. Once soup comes to a boil add pasta and cheese rind. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 minutes.

While the soup cooks, make the cheesy dippers. Spread melted butter on English muffin halves, then top with cheese a sprinkle of garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Toast English muffins until cheese melts, then cut them into 2 inch strips.

When the pasta is tender add the vegetables to the soup, season with salt & pepper. Serve in bowls with cheese sprinkled on top.

What did the judges think? As usual mixed results.

Zachary went back and forth, but ultimately gave the meal 4 stars. He indicated that he liked the soup, but he didn't care for the bread as much. He ate a good portion of dinner, so I was happy.

Evan took one look at the soup and started to cry. At first he wouldn't take a bite of the soup, however the threat of no dessert convinced him otherwise. After a few tastes he decided that the meal was worthy of two stars. He liked the bread, but did not care for the soup. Figures.

I thought the whole thing was pretty darn tasty.

Now, so as not to leave out my youngest son, he rated his own dinner. Safeways O Organics Vegetable Chicken Dinner. Judging by the empty baby food jar, I believe he would give this dish 5 stars. I am pretty sure that he felt that the food was rather one dimensional in it's flavor profile, and that the presentation was lacking, however that happens to suit a baby just fine. It looks pretty good on him too doesn't it?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sad Snow

I grew up in Wisconsin, where the winters were cold and produced real, honest-to-God snow. Snow, white and fluffy when it first fell softly under the warm glow of the street lamps. I would watch the winter wonderland come to life from my frosted bedroom window. Sitting tucked cozy in bed I could see the snowflakes fall in dizzy circles to the ground, accumulating into soft mounds, which of course would later produce treacherous frozen roads and sidewalks. There is just something fabulous about real life snow. We have all heard "White Christmas" a million times too many, but there is a reason that the song became so popular. The image of snow on Christmas evokes a lot of lovely romanticized images. Woollen hats and mittens, red noses, hot chocolate and children sledding.

There is no white Christmas in Oakland. For the most part I appreciate the lack of ice and sub-zero weather, but on Christmas, I want a little cozy. It's just not Christmas in 60 degrees with green grass.

Oakland tries, sort of. There are some holiday decorations coming up, but it all seems a little ...silly. Take for example Rockridge Snow Day. Perhaps they should have named it, Sad Day. Or Lame Day. We didn't know what to expect when we arrived to the Rockridge neighborhood. I read that there would be snow, entertainment and food. What was it? A slab of melting ice covered snow in the parking lot underneath the Bart station. The kids were milling about on the ice/snow trying to figure out what they were suppose to do. Growing up in a land where snow was plentiful, this little display was PATHETIC. Not to mention it also seemed silly to be drinking hot apple cider on an ice-tea kind of day. I also have to note that Rockridge Snow Day was home to the saddest little Santa that I have ever laid my eyes on. Not only did he lack charisma, he also looked terrible. His wig was falling off, his tummy was lumpy, it was awful. Zachary and Evan looked confused and asked me if this was the real Mr. C, and I assured them that it wasn't.

I know that I should be grateful that I no longer have to worry about the inside of my nose freezing, and I am, but I do miss my chilly holiday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The trip was fantastic. It could not have been better. I'm not just saying that. Believe me, when we embarked on our little adventure I was skeptical. Our last "vacations" have not gone all that smoothly. This past May we travelled to Monterrey over Mother's Day. I was very pregnant, but I thought we could have a relaxing trip to the aquarium and beach. I was wrong. The kids behaved terribly, fighting, crying, complaining. It was exhausting. Then in August we travelled to Denver for a long weekend. While it was great to visit with friends and family, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants was just a lot of work.

But this trip was exactly what the doctor ordered. We drove to Yosemite. We packed the van as full as possible for a three night get away. It is amazing how much gear one requires when traveling with a baby and two little kids. On the way to the park we stopped in Jamestown, a little state park and an old gold mining town. We purchased candy in an old fashioned sweet shop, dressed up in miners clothing at the museum and made our own candles.

We then drove on to our "cabin" which was about an hour outside of the park. It was a spacious house with a full kitchen. Full kitchen is the key element here. As much as I love eating out, especially on vacation, with the little ones, eating in is far more relaxing.

We spent our days hiking the easiest hikes in the park, and they provided plenty of beauty and fun. The boys loved scrambling over rocks and seeing the impressive waterfalls. The fall colors were lovely, the weather was chilly yet sunny. At the highest altitude we a saw snow, spectacular sparkling white snow winking at us in the sun from the tops of the evergreens.

The evenings were spent at the cabin, grilling under a million twinkling stars. We made smores after dinner, although since we didn't have a working fireplace, they were cooked on the stove top, but melty marshmallow and chocolate? The boys didn't care how they were made. We listened to music, played cards and dealt with an occasional meltdown (yes, those happened.)

This trip could not have come at a better time on this eve of Thanksgiving. Life has been a bit trying lately, adding baby Julian to the chaos of two crazy boys, has not been easy. But getting away from the day to day helped me to focus and enjoy my family. My wonderful family. I am so thankful for all four of my boys. I am a happy lady.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Road Trip/Happy Thanksgiving!

Our Thanksgiving plans were turned upside down this year. My father and stepmother were going to visit us for the holiday, however as it turned out, dad needed back surgery and their trip was cancelled. That left us with a whole week of no plans. My husband is required to take mandatory vacation time so we decided that we might as well do something. The result? A last minute three night road trip to Yosemite. The kids are thrilled. I am looking forward to the next few days myself, but as I packed for our "get away" I was struck by the volume of STUFF we are shoving into our mini van. HOLY HELL. It takes a lot to make a "vacation" happen these days. I became aware of the sharp contrast between what a holiday meant in 2004 versus what it translates to today.

In 2004 the destination might have required a passport and our accommodations would have included a wrist band and a swim up bar. Today, we are driving 2 hours away and staying in a vacation rental where we are required to bring our own linens. Details, details.

Our packing lists are also very different.

My 2004 Suitcase:

3 Adorable bikinis.

3 brand new sundresses, purchased for the vacation.

2 little black dresses for those fancy dinners out

At least five pairs of shoes, four of which had heels

A full make up bag

1-2 new novels

A stack of trashy magazines

Tylenol (oh, the hangover!)

And today?

Fuzzy slippers

Warm jacket. (not going anyplace tropical afterall)

Flannel pants

3 Sweatshirts

Tennis shoes (no heels needed)

2 Pairs of mom jeans

10 Jars baby food

5 Bibs

Stack of coloring books.

5 Bags of groceries (No dining out. Except maybe a McDonald's run.)

2 Suitcases full of kids clothing

Dog food


Pack & Play

Double Stroller

Bag O' Hot Wheels

Bag O' Diapers

First aid kit

Portable highchair

Bouncy seat

Baseball bat, baseballs, soccer ball, football

Rain jackets and umbrellas

Tylenol (oh, the whining!)

Two very different lists, two very different trips. Do I miss my 2004 version of vacation? YES! YES! Do I hope to experience it again someday before I am 100? YES! YES!

Will this trip be awesome (if not exhausting)? I am so thankful to say-YES! Of course! I will be with my family. I am the luckiest woman in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, Gobble!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dinner Dilemmas: Pizza Burgers

It's only week three and already, I'm losing steam with dinner dilemmas. Here is the problem. One of my critics just isn't interested. No matter what I prepare, he takes only one or two small bites before leaving the table. It's more then a little bit discouraging. I am beginning to think that the only meal he would consume a reasonable tasting portion of involves ice cream.

In any case this weeks dinner was Pizza Burgers. It is actually a variation on a dish my mom used to call Formage Burgers.


1lb ground beef

1 tsp oregano

salt & pepper

shredded mozzarella cheese


marinara sauce

Mix ground beef oregano, salt and pepper.

Form a flat hamburger patty and then place a small handful of cheese and a slice of peperoni on top, cover with another small flat patty and smoosh together. Repeat to make as many patties as you want.

Fry burgers on stove top. Top burgers with warm marinara sauce.

Zachary gave the dish 5 Stars and joined the ranks of the clean plate club.

Evan gave the dish zero stars. Surprise, surprise. I asked him why. He explained that the food was "yucky" then he asked for dessert. You can guess what happened next.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Aging

None of us live forever, certainly this is why the passing of time is such a popular topic among writers. We all marvel at how quickly the years pass, particularly after we become parents. We watch newborns turn into toddlers and then children in the blink of an eye. We see the lines appear on our own faces and wonder, when did that happen? We witness our own parents age, their bodies change, their hair grey. Unstoppable. Unstoppable. Julian is now almost six months. His first little baby tooth is pushing through. Unstoppable. Unstoppable.

It's inevitable, and perhaps that is the hardest part. Certainly for those who can afford it plastic surgery can mask the evidence, but even for them, it doesn't stop the passage of time, it doesn't truly keep one young.

Growing up in a youth obsessed culture, I admit that at age 37, I already miss my younger self. The tone in my skin and my calves. The brightness of my eyes, the whitness of my teeth, the tightness of my tummy. Aging has already left it's physical mark.

Recently I was telling a friend about my 1997 trip to London. I lived there for six months on a student visa. I lived in a one bedroom flat with my boyfriend and two other people. I was a waitress. I often spent my mornings wandering the streets, parks and museums of the city on my own. I took my time, and reported to nobody. I drank tea in cafes, had a pint in a pub, and read a book in Hyde Park on my own time. Tonight I looked back at my photo album from that time (see above pictures) and became quite nostalgic. I miss that woman. Young, free, ambitious, pretty, hard working. My whole life ahead of me.

That isn't to say that things did not turn out well. Of course they did. I married that boyfriend. We found careers, traveled, and created a beautiful family. I love my life, but I am afraid that it is passing too quickly, and my growing children remind me of that every single day.

Lately there are times when I wish that I could not only press "pause" on life, but that I could also rewind, and go back to my younger self. It's hard to see that person fade and to know that I can never, ever go back.

We all get older. If we choose to have children we proudly watch them take our places amongst the ranks of the youth. For me it brings great happiness, but also some sorrow as I begin to fully acknowledge our circle of life.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Best Email. Ever.

I just received this email from a dear friend, who like me has two little boy terrors at home. I just had to share.

Subject: Pee

Are you cleaning pee of your floor and walls daily because your boys don't have aim? Do you cry because you just scrubbed the floors and 5 minutes later there is pee surrounding the toilet? I do.

Fucking Pee.

Miss you.

God I love this woman.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dinner Dilemmas-Pasta & Trees: Meh

It's time for Dinner Dilemmas once again. Before I dive into the recipe, let me first say that today was one of those days. A day when I tried really hard, and yet my efforts just did not yield the results I hoped for.

Wednesday is a "minimum day" in Oakland public schools, this means the bell rings at 1:30 instead of 2:45. I planned a play date with one of Zack's classmates as a way to pass the time. My hope was that the boys could at least partially entertain themselves.

I picked the boys up at school and served them snack once we arrived home. As soon as the last morsel of brownie was consumed the kids were looking at me as if to say "what's next?" Crud. Luckily I had prepared a holiday inspired craft, hand print turkeys. A simple project. We painted hands and left our imprints on foam. From there the idea was to decorate with markers, glitter, googly eyes and the like. The result? Zack had several meltdowns due to "mess ups," I was holding Captain No Nap, and trying to clean up paint spills with one hand. The pictures were cute, but not worth the tears...or the mess.

Now to the dinner. The recipe:

Pasta & Trees (Rachael Ray, Cooking Rocks! Rachel Ray 30-Minute Meals For Kids)

1 pound broccoli tops

1 pound pasta (corkscrew)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp butter

3 cloves garlic

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan

Separate broccoli into small trees by pulling them apart. Put broccoli florets into a pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and add 4 pinches of salt. Cook broccoli about 5 minutes. Drain.

Boil pasta water add 4 pinches of salt, add pasta. Cook until al dente.

Pour oil and butter into frying pan and heat over low heat. When butter melts add garlic and cook 5 minutes. Add broccoli to garlic.

Drain pasta and add to broccoli. Add ricotta and grated cheese and stir. Add salt and pepper.

My comments:

Just like the rest of my day... Meh. It was fine. Easy to prepare. Tasted fine. Rather bland. Perhaps perfectly kiddo-bland.

The Judges:


Three Stars. "It was okay mom" was about all I got out of my critic. He ate a good portion of it, but was not exactly licking his lips.


Evan seems a bit confused by our rating system. Like his brother he gave the dish three stars, but his comments were that "it wasn't good", and he really didn't eat much of anything. (Surprise, surprise!)

The result? Oh Rachael Ray, how I want to like you. We share the same name, you are cute and bubbly and believe in simple cooking, however this recipe was just so-so.... I spent $16.95 on your cookbook, so I will give you another shot.

So here is to a more spunky day tomorrow-better food, happier artists and a baby who naps!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No Thanks

Dear Universe,

I am sure you thought you were doing me a giant favor by turning back the clocks and giving me an extra hour today. I can see why you might think that, however quite frankly I do not wish to accept this gift. I know, I know I should be grateful for every blessed second I get to spend with my beautiful boys, so an extra hour today should be welcomed with open arms. The problem is, I feel like I have plenty of time with my princes. To be honest, I don't need a second more of playing referee in the battle of "that's mine," "he got more," or "my super powers are stronger than your super powers."

Furthermore, by setting back the clocks you are now ensuring a week of rising before the sun, most likely around 5:30am, while the boys "adjust" to the time difference. And the afternoons? They just got longer. Now that darkness will fall during my go-to 4:00 activity (playing at the park), I will be forced to come up with a whole host of creative activities to do at home. I was strained to come up with the paper plate jack-o-lantern craft, if that tells you anything about my artistic abilities.

So great Universe, you can take back your extra hour today, I just simply have no use for it.

Best Regards,


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Kargas Inc?

Dear Kargas Inc. Team,

I know that some of you have been inspired by Occupy Oakland & Wallstreet. We understand your enthusiasm for this effort, however we have heard rumors about "Occupy Kargas Inc" and this concerns us.

As CEO of Kargas Inc, I want to make sure that you are fully informed about our financials. For starters, we are not a profitable organization, furthermore unlike most CEO's in our country I do not receive a salary, nor any bonus what-so-ever. That is correct. NO BONUS!

I also want to insure you that the senior leadership of this organization works incredibly hard. Vacation days? Zero. Sick days? Zero. Holidays? None.

And the hours? Just yesterday I was called into meetings at 12, 2 and 4:30 am. I am not afraid of hard work. Around the clock.

So please, consider the facts before you protest.

But if you must protest please follow the following guidelines:

  • Inside voices.

  • If vandalizing, please use only the Crayola washable markers.

  • Remember to practice non-violence. Usually protesters do not hit each other. There is typically no biting at rallies.

Thank you for your cooperation in these matters.

Warm Regards,


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dinner Dilemma: Sweet & Sour Baked Chicken

The boys were quite excited when I told them of their new role as official food critics. I let them know that one day a week they can tell me exactly what they think about my cooking (but they still have to eat their dinner before any dessert!)

First recipe:

Sweet & Sour Baked Chicken with Brown Rice. (recipe adapted from Better Baby Food by Daina Kalinins and Joanne Saab)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup tomato sauce

3 tbsp brown sugar

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice

1 clove garlic, minced

cooked rice

1. Place chicken breasts in prepared casserole.

2. In small bowl, combine tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, pineapple (with juice) and garlic; spoon over chicken. Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

3. Serve chicken and rice over cooked rice.

My Remarks:

Super, super easy, literally about five minutes of work. I actually liked the taste, it is a bit sweet, but it reminded me of the sweet and sour stuffed peppers my mom made for me as a kid. I would eat it again.

But now..... THE JUDGES.


Zachary gave the recipe FIVE STARS! He almost cleaned his plate.

Zack's comments: "I liked the chicken because of the sweet pinnapple." The heavens sing.


Evan was not so enthusiastic. He gave the dish two stars. I asked him what he liked about the dinner and he said the rice. I asked him what he didn't like about the dinner and he said the chicken, which was obvious since he ate only about two bites of it.

Evan's comments: "I didn't like the chicken. It wasn't good."

Success? Only if I am trying to feed just one child...

Dinner Dilemmas: Meet My Critics

Zachary Kargas

Food Favorites: Peperoni pizza, peanut butter and jelly, bean & cheese burritos, cheeseburgers (hold the bun), fruit, all sweets.

Dislikes: Most casseroles, pigs in a blanket, spicy food, Chinese food, pizza without peperoni, bananas, eggs, salad.


Do you think that mommy is a good cook? Sort of.

What is the best thing she ever cooked for you? Bean and cheese burrito.

What is the worst thing she ever cooked for you? Those roll up things with the ham.

What do you wish mommy would cook more of? Bean and cheese burritos.

What is your favorite restaurant? Subway.

Why? Because they have good sandwiches and Cheetos.

Evan Kargas

Food Favorites: Macaroni & Cheese, fruit, macaroni & cheese, PB&J, goldfish crackers, cereal, macaroni & cheese, milk, yogurt covered raisins and did I mention macaroni & cheese?

Dislikes: Eggs, meat, the crust part of pizza (which means anything under the cheese), pickles, tomatoes, bananas, burritos, chicken, fried rice.


Do you think that mommy is a good cook? Um..... yeah.

What is the best thing that she ever made for you? A corn dog.

What is the worst thing that she ever made for you? Spaghetti.

What do you wish she would cook more of? Subway.

What is your favorite restaurant? Subway.

Why? They have prizes and cookies.

So there you have it folks. I have some tough cookies to impress.

How I will be rated:

We will use a star rating system.

* Yuck!

** Not very good

*** OK

**** Pretty darn good

***** AWESOME!

First recipe is coming up tomorrow, stay tuned!

Monday, October 31, 2011


HAPPY HALLOWEEN! This year I have two Darth Vaders and a baby Yoda. The Yoda hats are courtesy of my talented mama who knit them!

Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dinner Dilemmas

Remember those commercials for Life Cereal in the 80's? "Mikey likes it!" the kids cheered as the picky eater gobbled up his breakfast, apparently this was a miracle.

I feel like that with my own kids, particularly around dinner time. With the exception of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and occasionally chicken nuggets they seem to turn up their noses at everything I serve them.

Exasperated, I sent out and SOS on Facebook asking for meal ideas. I received a few good ones and eagerly tried them out. I stuffed crescent rolls with ham and cheese. "Disgusting" was all my boys said. I served up tacos in giant shell pasta and topped them with grated cheese and tortilla chips. Totally disgusting, they said. A pound of hamburger meat wasted. Since then I have been on a mission to make a meal that my kids will eat. It isn't even about getting them to consume their veggies anymore, it's about me....winning. I had one small victory the other day when I made tuna patties. I didn't think there was a chance in hell they would like tuna patties of all things, particularly when they had called pigs in a blanket disgusting, yet they gobbled them up. Cleaned their plates. "Mikey likes it!" I thought to myself.

So I am continuing my quest to cook up meals my kid's will call delicious. I am committing to preparing one new recipe per week and chronicling it on this blog. I will post the recipe, pictures and my kid's review of the dinner. I will happily take suggestions from my lovely readers. I am looking for meals that take under 20 minutes to prepare (not including baking time),and call for ingredients that can be purchased at the local Safeway. PLEASE email me your ideas.

Up this week-sweet and sour baked chicken with crushed pineapple.....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

For you, my dear.

I walk in the front door and see him. He is sitting on the sofa, fixated. I know better than to interrupt.

"Hello" I mutter softly and take our dinner into the kitchen. I emerge a few minutes later with my plate. He hasn't moved, his brow is furrowed, and beads of sweat are accumulating on his forehead. He hasn't eaten, a beer is clutched tightly in his left hand. Liquid comfort.

The air is thick. I say nothing. So much tension.

He starts to pace and runs his free hand through his hair. I don't understand what is happening anymore, but I know that it is close to the end. I just want it to be over already, I have had enough.

Then it happens. The moment of truth. His eyes widen. "No!" he shouts, "No! No! No!". He hurls the remote control at the sofa.

"It's just a game." I laugh.

I'll know better next time.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The earth moved.

I felt the earth move. No, I mean I really did...twice. That is because two years ago my husband dragged us across the the map to earthquake country, and I finally experienced my first quake.

In all honesty it was totally uneventful, in fact when the first one hit, it took me a minute to realize what had happened. I was parking the car in front of Zack's school at pick up time. I felt a couple strange bumps, and worried at first that I may have accidentally run over a neighborhood pet. It wasn't until I got out of the vehicle and started talking to some of the other parents that I realized we had just experienced a real-life earthquake.

I was surprised but none of the kids seemed to be frightened, even though they had been herded out onto the playground. We went on about our day as usual. Later that evening the second one hit, a light jolt of the baker's rack in the kitchen is how we knew.

No big deal right?



Except that it got me thinking. Earthquakes are entirely unpredictable. I grew up in the Midwest, the land of tornadoes. Tornadoes can be scary, but at least you can usually see them coming. The sky grows dark. Thunder, lightening. Predictable. But an earthquake? Sunny 75 degrees, or rainy and cold-BAM an earthquake can hit. Bam! What do you do? There is no time. Bam! Hopefully your not on a bridge. That falls.

So what can you do? Buy an earthquake kit. I went to Target today and purchased Zachary a kit as requested by his school. 2 juice boxes, 2 cans of tuna, a package of tissues, a flashlight, fruit leather, granola bars, a pair of socks. Seriously? That was the list. An earthquake hits that is big enough to keep me from son, and a pair of socks and two cans of juice are going to be enough?

I feel a bit helpless. The world is bigger than us. There are dangers we cannot control.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011


According to my son I am one heck of a terrible mommy. The worst mom in the world in fact. At least that was what he told me this afternoon, just after I hosted a 3.5 hour post kindergarten play-date at our house and made the kids chocolate chip cookies from scratch.

I suppose I sound like a cliche, but will he ever realize just how good he has it? How freaking awesome I am? Hello, if I hadn't taken the initative he would have had zero play-dates with his kindergarten pals, as I seem to be the only mom willing to invite the munchkins over. Does he remember the baseball/Penguins of Madagascar themed birthday I threw for him and twenty of his buddies? That's right. He insisted on a dual themed party. Baseball. Penguins of Madagascar. Of course! But we did it, and it was fantastic.

Do I get him no less than three types of cereal and two types of berries for his daily "berry blast" breakfast? Why yes I do.

Do I wash his dirty bed linens every single day, because he wets through his pull ups at six years old? You bet!

Do I go to every single crappy animated-rated G movie that comes out? Uh-huh. I even buy the over-priced "kids" pack.

Do I engage in a power struggle over the hideous "graphic T-shirts" he insists on wearing instead of my mother's hand-knit sweaters? Nope. I let him wear what he wants to.

Maybe we should forget about Friday's "Spaghetti Night" at the elementary school. Personally I would prefer sushi. And Sunday's Harvest Festival? Yeah, I'm thinking lattes and The New York Times. How does that sound kid? You want bad? Damn, I can show you bad.

But I'm a good mommy and I love you. Even if you don't yet quite get it.


Monday, October 17, 2011


My Dear Old Friend,

It has been such a long time, and yet I still long for you. We spent some lovely times together, you and I, do your remember those days?

You would come to me in the evening hours and wrap your loving arms around me until morning. Our weekends together were even better. On Saturdays and Sundays you would stay with me until long after the sun came up, perhaps even rendezvousing again in the mid afternoon.

I am so sorry that I have had to leave you so often. My life has grown complicated, so many distractions. To be honest, most of my family does not care for you. I know, it pains me too. If it gives any comfort I spend much of my time trying to persuade my stubborn kin and help them to see your beauty and benefit. Alas, I have a long road ahead of me.

Please stay with me. Know that one day our relationship will return to the way it was. It has to.

Much Love,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

To Julian

Today we had a baby naming ceremony and celebration for Julian. Any Jews out there would know that you do not do a "baby naming" ceremony for a boy. A boy should get a bris eight days after birth. But I'm a bad Jew, and I opted for something a little different.

The ceremony was at our home and lead by my stepfather. We said a few traditional prayers, and I read a little something about why Julian was given his name. We then celebrated with cocktails and cake! It was simple, intimate and lovely.

Below is what I read to Julian today.

Julian, today we celebrate your birth and welcome you to our family and community. Although this event is pretty nontraditional in Judaism we have made it a family tradition, and each of your older brothers had a similar celebration.

Your Hebrew name is for your great grandfather. It would have meant a lot to him to know that you were given a Hebrew name and that we were raising you in a loving home, exposing you to your Jewish heritage.

We named you Julian for no other reason than I love the way that it sounds. To me your name is lovely, masculine, but still soft. The name came to me before I knew for sure that you existed and I felt that it was meant to be.

Your middle name Michael is in honor of your uncle. Your uncle Michael is an amazing man, he has so many qualities that I wish for you. More than anything I find your uncle to be incredibly warm, compassionate and generous. He is a loyal friend and brother and he is happiest when he is helping others. He is also very silly, laughs easily and has a terrific sense of humor.

Julian we feel so incredibly lucky that you are here and that you are ours. With you our family is complete.