Calvin is Three Years Old

Posted by Carly Morgan

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Calvin turns 3 years old today. If you count that very first birthday three years ago, I’ve been with him on his birthday only half the time. Yes for delivery day (I played a pretty big part there), no for one, yes for two, and now he turns three in Oregon and I’m at home cleaning his room and getting his toys organized before he comes back.

Three years. Man alive, if you think the last three years have gone by slowly you are just plain nuts. At the same time, is there a time before Calvin or has he just been here forever?

Confession: there were times during my pregnancy with Calvin where I had some serious doubts about what we had done. Life seemed so simple with Eva, even with her allergy diagnosis, and here I was bringing in this whole other person who would disrupt everything and demand that we split the toys and the house and ourselves right down the middle. I spent a fair chunk of that pregnancy in regret.

And now? He’s just…oh my heavens. That boy. He wears me out and runs us around all day but I adore him. He’s the funniest, quirkiest, cuddliest kid ever. And now, when I have moments of “what in the world did we do why are we doing this again oh no this was a horrible decision”, he’s my touchstone that I probably can’t even imagine how good this is going to be.

Happy birthday, little wild thing. We love you so.

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Silly Monkey Cake: Banana Chocolate Fudge Deliciousness

Posted by Carly Morgan

Silly monkey cake (banana fudge chocolate birthday cake made with cake mix and brownie mix)

This really is a silly little cake because it’s so easy. It was born from necessity one late night during law school when my roommate and I were desperate for something chocolatey but couldn’t decide between cake or brownies and we were also a little short on eggs. Voila! Banana brownie cake!

We used to call it monkey cake but that makes it sound like the cinnamon pull-apart treat people serve at brunch sometimes so I’ve changed it to silly monkey cake. It was the perfect choice for our silly monkey’s faux 3rd birthday! He’ll turn three next week while my family is out of town so we had a little pre-celebration to let him open his gifts early. And also so I could be there for some epic toddler-spit-all-over-the-cake candle blowing. Is he still a toddler at three years old??

Easy birthday cake for a family party

Anyway, this cake is dense like cake brownies and it’s got a double dose of chocolateness so I still cut it with bananas even when we have eggs in the house. In fact, you can double the bananas and cut the eggs completely if you really want to get that chocolate covered banana taste but I like the chocolateness with just a hint of something else.

Silly Monkey Cake

/// box of chocolate cake mix
/// box of brownie mix
/// 1 cup of oil
/// 2 eggs
/// 2 ripe bananas
/// 1 1/2 cups of water
/// chocolate icing (homemade or store bought)
/// butter and flour to dust the bundt pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mash the bananas. Add the cake mix, brownie mix, oil, eggs, and water and mix completely. Use the butter and flour to dust the bundt pan and pour the batter in. Bake for an hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Set out to cool a bit and then pop the cake onto a plate while it’s still a little warm. Heat the chocolate icing up in the microwave for about 20 seconds and use a spoon to pour it over the cake. Some of it should melt into the cake but a lot of it will run off so do it slowly or you’ll overflow the plate! Make sure to put a lot in the center of the cake – that fudgey middle is so good when it cools! When you’ve frosted the cake, put it in the fridge to set.

Chocolate cake made with brownie mix

Fair warning – this is a sweet, sweet cake! (Literally, not in the adolescent vernacular way.) Although my roommate and I managed to polish off half of it in one night, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it. This is a party cake for sure – thin slices are best!

How to Make Tough Calls When Getting Rid of Toys

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s de-cluttering season!

Just kidding. It’s always de-cluttering season around here. Living in a small house with two kids (and counting!) means that stuff goes out as fast as it comes in. It’s kind of like living in a retail store. Or maybe a vending machine.

Anyway.

Last summer, I took the kids’ dress up collection out of the big plastic bin it was living in and gave it a home in the walk-in closet in their room. I installed four small curtain rods and a bunch of curtain rings with clips, and made a wall of costumes (two rods full) and a wall of accessories like hats, wigs, and wings (two rods full). For everything that couldn’t be hung up, we added a big rubber bin. It was all lovely and organized and there was still enough room to get dressed and see yourself in the mirror. Mom win!

Dress up closet

Alas.

We kept it just like that for about a month. At month 3, more of the costumes were being put in the bin than back on the curtain rings, but you could still see everything when you went in there. Month 6 was when we started to lose stuff, like the back of the closet was actually leading to Narnia and costumes were falling out into the snow. And sometime during the last month I realized that the large pile of costumes on the floor of the closet was containing a dangerous amount of broken glass and plastic thanks to all the wands, bracelets, glasses, and mirrors that had been stepped on accidentally by little feet searching for the right outfit.

I was tempted to put it all back, to tell myself that the kids were a year older now and that would make the difference, or to just shut the door to the closet and not think about it until next summer, but it was obvious that the dress up situation needed wrangling. At the end of the day, there were just too many things in there. Too many for a bin. Too many for a closet. Too many for anyone who doesn’t have a separate wing of their house dedicated to pretend play.

The tough thing was that I had already made the kids weed out the costumes that they didn’t want anymore last summer. We had cut the costume collection in half, but it had been a struggle to remove those bags because the kids had begged to keep the random too-small dresses and cheap costume jewelry. A few more cheap pieces snuck in this year, but for the most part their dress up collection was still nice costumes that fit, weren’t ruined, and most of which were gifts. This was going to be a fight.

Aaaaand it was.

Calvin cried himself right into an extra afternoon nap after he watched me put his favorite pair of musical gloves in the go-away pile, so I was spared most of his pleading but Eva sat and sadly watched me put dress after dress in the bags, commenting on how she remembered wearing that on such and such day and how fun that had been. Before you pull out the pitchforks, I have to defend myself by saying that the gloves, gowns, and everything else that went into the bags hadn’t been worn in months because everything was inaccessible AND we did keep a decent collection after all was said and done AND the “go away” bags are currently being held at my mother’s house just in case anyone has a panic attack and suddenly needs to dress up like a storm trooper.

It was sad and I felt like a mean old mom all afternoon, but when it was said and done the closet was more manageable and the kids were actually able to dress up, play, and put everything back on their own:

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Getting rid of stuff they didn’t want to get rid of let us get the space back and meant that they could start playing in there again so it was a good decision. I do feel a few twinges of guilt over the particularly expensive and new-ish things that were bagged up (especially the ones my kids had only every played with once or twice) but I’m trying to keep the big picture in my mind.

Clutter = stress because clutter = mess and broken toys and not being able to find anything. We had a rough afternoon, but the kids were happier today getting reacquainted with long lost costumes and nobody cried over that bagged cowboy hat they just couldn’t live without.

Since the kids couldn’t separate out their favorites (i.e. EVERYTHING was their favorite yesterday), I had to make the tough calls. Here were the guidelines I used in case you’re stuck in the same bind:

/// How new is it? We had some costumes that were received recently and a few buried costumes the kids didn’t remember they had gotten for Christmas. They were kept for the most part to give the kids a chance at enjoying them.

/// How ruined is it? Some very beloved costumes had to be bagged because they were ripped, stretched out, bent, etc. Even though I might have been able to mend a few, given our situation it didn’t make any sense to add them to a “mend” pile (which would have sat around for at least a week if not a month) so we said goodbye.

/// How practical for play is it? Costumes in general are pretty useful (compared to one-hit-wonder toys that don’t do much) but I bagged the costumes that required tons of separate pieces, a lot of lacing or buttons, or which didn’t let the kids move much once they had them on. Same went for the ones that left glitter trails around the house and the flimsy costume jewelry that never seems to last long.

/// How many of that type of toy do we have? The kids had an epic collection of bracelets. And glasses. And gloves. And purses. And hats. It would have been a ton of fun to keep them all, but they only have so much space on their little bodies. We kept a few of the best and bagged the rest.

/// How even is everything? Eva had far more costumes than Calvin, but they like to dress up equally (and usually at the same time) so that wasn’t very fair. I deliberately kept more of the costumes that were close to his size and bagged the ones that were borderline too big for Eva just to make it more even. Side note – I don’t worry about gender with costumes or any toys yet because the kids aren’t old enough to be choosy in that way (Calvin makes a fierce princess fairy) but I could see that being a factor later if they start to show preferences.

/// How different are the things I’m keeping? Our costume collection was princess heavy thanks in part to all of our Disney trips and while gowns are still the leading choice for both kids, I bagged more gowns than anything and kept unrelated costumes like doctor scrubs, the firefighter jacket, and a few animal costumes. This is me being a little pushy because I’d like if if they occasionally played those roles, so that’s a parenting call you’d have to make.

None of these rules were things I could explain to the kids very well but they did help me make the tough calls. For example, Calvin’s musical gloves were (1) well-played with so he’d been able to enjoy them, (2) starting to get a little fritzy with the sound because he’d gotten them wet, (3) usually not together as a pair so more time was spent looking for the lost glove than actually wearing them, (4) one pair out of about a dozen dress-up gloves, (5) a little too small for Eva, and (6) Disney brand princess gloves so they didn’t leave a ton to the imagination. I felt bad for his sad little face, but I stand by my call.

Do you let your kids make the call to get rid of toys or do you step in to be the mean parent?

Calvin’s 3 Year Old Photos

Posted by Carly Morgan

Little man turns 3 in just a couple of weeks so I took him out to the aquarium to try to get some photos. Worst idea ever – low light, active toddler, and a slow pregnant photographer means a ton of blurry photos after hours of shooting. He’s also in this super fun phase where he doesn’t like getting his photo taken or smiling or holding still or listening in any sense of the word. Luckily he’s cute and I was able to salvage a few clear shots from the wreckage:

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I Don’t Know How to Talk to My Kids About Race

Posted by Carly Morgan

If you’re waiting for this to be one of those profound truths that gets shared and re-shared on Facebook, it’s not here. Lots of people in my parent and lifestyle blogging circle have written touching posts about everything that’s happened this week with the people of color in America. It’s been heartbreaking and lovely to read through them.

This is not that. This is flailing.

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Kyle and Calvin got back last night after being in Ohio for a week, so Eva and I have enjoyed a lot of mama-daughter time. We’ve had great conversations on everything from Kindergarten to her allergies to why there aren’t plants in space that we know of (and why we don’t know everything about space). We did not, however, have an effective talk about race. I can’t give you the exact word for word conversation but it went something like this:

Me: Eva, you know how some people have different skin colors from you?

Eva: Yes.

Me: What do you think about that?

Eva: I think they have different skin colors than me. And sometimes their hair is different.

Me: You mean like it’s a different texture?

Eva: Like it’s yellow sometimes. Or red.

Me: Ok. Um, did you know there are people who think one kind of skin color is better?

Eva: Yes.

Me: You do?

Eva: Yes. Everyone thinks their own skin color is the best skin color.

Me: (amazed at her insight) Well, do you think that’s ok?

Eva: Yes because you’re supposed to love yourself just as you are and not be jealous because of how someone else looks different. We’re all beautiful in our own way.

Me: (derailed) Ok…but would you like someone more because they had your skin color?

Eva: Like in a crayon?

Me: No. Like, if there were two friends and one had your skin color and one was different, would you want to play with one more than the other?

Eva: Why aren’t we all playing together?

Me: I don’t know. (long pause) Don’t be mean to people who have different skin colors than you.

Eva: I’m not mean to anyone.

Me: I’m just saying. I don’t want you to think someone is weird or going to hurt you because they look different than you.

Eva: (another long pause) Well, it would only be weird if they looked like me. Like if another Eva showed up somewhere and started chasing me. That would really freak me out.

Me: That’s not going to happen.

Eva: What are we talking about?

Me: I don’t know.

Obvious maternal fail. Not only did I fail to get my point across, I think I might win the award for being the person to point out that potentially one could think someone was weird if their skin was a different color. I’m actually the person who introduced racism to Eva. Not a win.

During a culling of baby dolls (we had more than thirty), Eva summarily got rid of all of the minorities, then the redheads, and then the baby boy dolls until we had nothing but Caucasian girls left. I pointed out that she lacked diversity and she proclaimed that the discarded dolls weren’t as good which is either horrifying or literal since the dolls she got rid of were from IKEA or other inexpensive impulse purchases and the ones she kept were white baby girl dolls from Madame Alexander and American Girl. Which, you know, my fault again.

We don’t have any black friends in Utah. I was trying to think if the kids had ever met and spoken to a black person and this is all I could come up with:

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FAIL.

Honestly don’t know what I’m doing here. Should I buy more dolls? Start intentionally looking for characters of color in the picture books? Should I seek out more diverse playmates (NOT an easy task here in Salt Lake City) or is that crossing some line where I turn things into a racial scavenger hunt and fall ass-backward into being part of the larger problem anyway? Is it enough to just keep having the fumbling conversations or do I need to wait until they’re older so we can actually talk about this?

I get that it’s a privilege to decide when we want to introduce racism to the kids. I get that lots of parents have to have those conversations early whether they want to or not. I also get that, unless some recessive genes take a stand with this baby, all three of my kids will go through life with no hint that they’re racially mixed. My kids are white.

I got to enjoy the perks of being a minority (yay, minority scholarships!) who doesn’t look like a minority (hey look, I have to GOOGLE racism for good examples) but there aren’t going to be any minority scholarships on the horizon for my kids because of how white they are. I also get that this whole mom problem isn’t a “problem” as much as it is an exercise in not letting the Morgan kids grow up to be problems for someone else.

I don’t know. I hope we keep this larger conversation going because I need help here.

 

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