Crazed In the Kitchen: October 2012   

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Women's Biggest Cancer Enemy--Not What You Might Think

As you were probably aware, October was Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was impossible to miss; pink was everywhere. On social media, in the newspaper, on TV—I even saw our local firefighters wearing pink shirts while they cleaned their trucks recently. Breast cancer is a real threat to women, and increasing awareness, improving screening, and funding research of this disease should continue to be a priority.

But it shouldn’t be the ONLY priority, as far as women-killing cancers go. And it’s possible that it shouldn’t even be our biggest priority. Did you know that there is another cancer that kills roughly twice as many women each year as breast cancer?

It’s lung cancer.

In fact, lung cancer kills more women each year than breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers combined. And, 20 percent of its female victims—like Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana—were never smokers. So why doesn’t lung cancer receive the attention that breast cancer does?

The main reason is that most people associate lung cancer with smoking and assume, in some way, that lung cancer victims are in part to blame for their disease. I admit, I felt this way for a long time. Until, that is, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer four years ago. Yes, she had been a smoker in her lifetime, though she wasn’t at the time of her diagnosis and hadn’t been for some time.

My mom and her 1st grandson. He was 7 months old when she died.
But the thing is, I had watched my mom try to quit smoking more than once, and I believed her when she told me that it was the hardest thing she had ever done. The truth is that nicotine—the substance in tobacco that makes smokers feel both relaxed AND alert simultaneously—is extremely addictive. (According to a 2010 Time magazine article, ex-heroin users have said that it’s harder to quit smoking than heroin.) Not only that, but between 1998 and 2004 tobacco companies increased the nicotine content of cigarettes by 10 percent. And, while they were making cigarettes MORE addicting, they were also aggressively targeting women in their advertising.

I just learned that November is lung cancer awareness month. Even now, almost four years after my mother’s death, I never knew that. I’m guessing that most people don’t know what lung cancer’s “color” is (white). And I’m guessing that most people don’t know it kills so many women each year. This needs to change. Lung cancer awareness should be on everyone’s minds in November, like breast cancer is in October.

But that’s not enough. The tobacco industry needs to be held accountable for the deadly effects its products have on women. And women of all ages—but especially teens and younger women, who are especially targeted by tobacco companies’ advertising—need to know that they are being preyed upon. Smokers who want to quit should be given the help that they need, rather than being expected to do it on their own, as many do. Economically speaking, our country needs to take further steps toward becoming independent of “Big Tobacco.” (I wish I had suggestions here, but I think I’d need another college degree to fully understand that!)

 My mom had no idea back in the ‘70s and ‘80s that smoking would keep her from knowing her grandkids. She had no idea that it would make her miss her only son’s wedding. She only knew that she felt powerless to stop, even though she wanted to. In her memory, I’ll be wearing a white ribbon this November. I hope, in time, that more people will wear them each November, as well. 

**UPDATED 11/11/12** On December 1, 2012, my 4-year-old son, Matthew, and I will be walking a 5K for lung cancer awareness in honor of my mom, his Grandma GG. If you'd like to donate to this important cause, please go here: 

Thank you!

This article was originally posted as my fifth weekly entry as a contestant in Blogger Idol. To see the judges' comments, read it again here. And be sure to follow me on facebook and Twitter to find out about the next round of Blogger Idol, coming up next Wednesday!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Just-Us League

So, I’ve been hiding something, but I’m ready to come clean now.

My family is special.

No, not special in an our-kids-listen-to-Creedence-Clearwater-Revival-instead-of-Raffi kind of way, though that is true.

Nope. We are even more special than that. Because we are…

Not us. Not even close.

Now, don’t get too excited. While it’s true that we each have super powers, we’re no Superfriends or Justice League. More like the Just-Us League or, if I’m being honest, the Jackass League. Don’t call us when that Ahmadinejad guy in Iran finally goes batshit or when the Mayan calendar ends and all hell breaks loose. You all are on your own then. No, our super powers, while definitely super, are a bit more, um, subtle than climbing walls or leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

First off, there’s me: Molly, aka Mommy, aka The Vaginator. Remember that idiotic politician who made news a few months ago by saying that a woman’s reproductive system can “shut down” at will? That guy is a dumbass nutball, but MAN he made me nervous, because he almost exposed my secret super power. See, when I’m faced with an unpleasant situation—an epic poopy diaper, for example, or a horribly boring Back to School Night presentation—my supervagina takes over and “shuts that whole thing down.” Not just my reproductive organs—ALL of me. One minute I’m filled with rage, annoyance, an urge to vomit, whatever…then, SHUT ‘ER DOWN!—and The Vaginator takes over with her vacant eyes, plastic smile, and pleasant demeanor. Regular Mommy checks out while The Vaginator maintains the social norms and rules of decorum that I sometimes find so challenging.
Regular Mommy

The Vaginator

Here’s an example:

Last week, I took my boys to the Y for 4-year-old Matthew’s swimming lesson. Two-year-old William and I sat in the lobby with a gossip magazine (for me) and my ipod (for him). Within minutes, I was accosted by one of THOSE moms. She came at me with a chirpy, “Your little guy is just SO cute with his little i-thingy! My little Maximus isn’t interested in electronics at all! He positively INSISTS that I read to him constantly! I WISH I could get a break like you, but parenting such an intelligent child really IS a full-time job!”

At this point, Regular Mommy was starting to lose her cool. I was getting sweaty, my heart was racing, I was about to say something we’ll all regret…


The Vaginator took over and smiled politely, murmured “How nice for you,” and stuck her nose back in the gossip mag. My nemesis drifted away to find another victim, and Regular Mommy slowly regained control of my body. Another momfight successfully avoided.

WhereDaddy doesn't like having his picture taken
But I’m not the only special one around here. My husband also has superpowers. He’s what we call a “WhereDaddy.” Not a “WereDaddy,” like werewolf. A “WhereDaddy.” Here’s what I mean:

Later that same day, the whole Super Family headed out to the car to go to the park. But we soon realized we had a problem. A disgusting, smelly, and, well, stiff problem. In the middle of the driveway, between our car and the street, was a dead squirrel that I swear was the size of a horse. I turned to my husband, but…he was gone. “Where Daddy?” asked William. We checked the house, the garage, the backyard—no Daddy. He was nowhere to be found. He had completely disappeared. “Where Daddy?” William asked again.


Once The Vaginator had taken care of the squirrel (NO WAY was Regular Mommy doing that), WhereDaddy reappeared and we made our way to the park. As we watched the boys climb, slide, and scream at the other kids, another mom approached me—the president of Matthew’s preschool’s PTA.

“Molly! I was just going to call you!” she said brightly. “Cedric’s Boy Scout troop is selling popcorn, and we’re hoping you’ll buy some! Of course, if popcorn’s not your thing, I could just put you down as the organizer of the school’s Halloween Party Raffle? LOTS of work but LOTS of reward, I always say! So, which is it?”

What I WANTED to say was, “Are you freakin’ crazy? I’d rather spend the next two weeks listening to ukulele jazz every day than planning your raffle or eating your popcorn.” But saying that would make future school pick-ups and drop-offs really awkward. Fortunately, Matthew had joined us so I just turned to him, nodded once, and his super alter ego—The Inquisitor—took over.

Do you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?
“What’s a raffle, lady? And what does ‘reward’ mean? What’s your name, lady? Do you have a mommy? What’s her name? Is she old like MY mommy? Why do you let your boy be a Boy Scout, lady? My mommy says they exclude gay people, so I can never be a Boy Scout or buy popcorn from you people. Do you hate gay people, lady? Are you growing a baby, or are you just fat? How do babies get IN your tummy, lady? How? How, lady? How?”

And, just like that, The Inquisitor froze the PTA lady in place with his questions. She couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t even blink. WhereDaddy and I grabbed the boys and ran for the car before his powers could wear off. 

By the time we got home, I was exhausted and frazzled. I sat down at my computer to check facebook search for recipes while WhereDaddy played with the kids. But when Matthew pulled out Chutes and Ladders, WhereDaddy disappeared. The boys started eyeing me, because nothing screams “BOTHER ME!” like a mommy at her computer. William approached me, and I tried not to make eye contact. I tried to remember the reason his super alter ego is called “Ole Blue Eyes.” But he got me again, as he always does. Fixing me with his stare, he whispered plaintively, “Play with me?” I tried to say no, but those eyes….The next thing I knew, I found myself on the floor playing a rousing game of Chutes of Ladders. I don’t even know how I got there.
Look into my eyes...
(OK, that’s not all true. The Vaginator played Chutes and Ladders. I can’t stand that game.)

So, there it is. Our secret is finally out. Like I said, we’re not going to be toppling dictatorships or stopping global warming. But, in our own little way, we are making life better for ourselves and the people around us. And that, my friends, is super.

This story was originally posted as my fourth weekly entry as a contestant on Blogger Idol. To see the judges' comments, read it again here. And be sure to follow me on facebook and Twitter to find out about the next round of Blogger Idol, coming up on Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blogger Idol: I'm Out! No, I'm Back In! VOTE FOR ME!!

You can click here to vote for Crazed in the Kitchen
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Click on Bono to vote for me--that's fun, right?

Well, that may be exaggerating a bit. But my last week in Blogger Idol has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, and now I NEED YOUR HELP!

Our last assignment was to work with another contestant and interview each other. I was lucky enough to be paired with Jenn from "Random Thoughts n' Lotsa Coffee." We had a good time getting to know each other and working on the post together. We burned up facebook and gmail chats, and came up with a great post that you can read here.

Best of times, right?

But, alas, it wasn't enough. Fate and the Blogger Idol judges are fickle, and last Friday I learned that we had been eliminated.

Worst of times.

But the Powers That Be of Blogger Idol had a trick up their sleeves, and on Saturday I learned that I had been...SAVED! THAT'S RIGHT--I'M BACK IN BLOGGER IDOL!!!


Oh, wait. Except now I have to bring it. And by bring it, I mean BRING IT. Because now I have to prove that they didn't make a mistake in bringing me back.
You could also click here to vote for me


Of course, this week's assignment just HAD to be a doozy: Write about a day in the life of your family as if you were superheroes (click here if you'd like to play at home). Well, I did my best, and as of NOON CST on Wednesday, my post is live at Blogger Idol. You'll have to click over to read it, but let me give you a tease:

My superfamily's super alter egos are called "The Vaginator," "WhereDaddy," "The Inquisitor," and "Ole Blue Eyes." 

Intrigued? Head over there, read it, and vote! (Um, vote for Crazed in the Kitchen, that is.)

That's right--votes make a huge difference every week! And like I said, I need to bring it this week--with my post and with the votes. So please, let's show those Blogger Idol head honchos that they made the right decision in bringing me back. VOTE FOR CRAZED IN THE KITCHEN!!

Clicking here to vote for me is by far the most fun, don't you think?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Having a Knott's-So-Scary Halloween at Camp Spooky

So, Halloween is here.

Of course, it’s not ACTUALLY here—the day itself is still a few weeks away—but Halloween decorations are everywhere and my kids have taken to wearing their costumes around the house, so in a way every day is Halloween for now.

Last year, we had our first Halloween in our new house. On one of our evening walks, my kids and I discovered a house about a block away that goes all-out with Halloween decorations. I’m talking about a 6-foot spider with light-up eyes on the roof, about 15 life-size scary figures on the lawn, and maybe 30 different strands of Halloween-themed lights strung up on the fence and trees. Every night for weeks my kids and I walked past the “Wicked Witch House,” as they called it, to check on the progress of the decorations.

Like this, only bloodier.
But then one night it all went too far. The vaguely scary vampires and witches had been joined by some horribly gory and bloody baby dolls who were holding equally gory and bloody decapitated heads. I took one look and knew I’d have to choose a new route for our evening walks, at least until Halloween was over. Those babies were just too much for my little guys.

And that aspect of Halloween—the blood and guts and terror—remains a problem to me, as a parent of young children. They love the costumes and the candy, but I feel no need to mess with their already-iffy sleep patterns by introducing nightmare-inducing images of murderous monsters. Please. Less sleep is the LAST thing I need right now.

So I was thrilled to be invited to bring my family to check out Camp Spooky at Knott’s Berry Farm last week. Knott’s has a yearly Halloween celebration called Knott’s Scary Farm’s Halloween Haunt, which is aimed at much-older kids and adults. Camp Spooky (normally “Camp Snoopy”), however, is an area of the park with rides and non-scary Halloween thrills for 3-11 year olds.

And, boy did my boys have a blast at Camp Spooky.

Of course, the first thing they wanted to do was to decorate Halloween cookies at the “Kooky Cookie Painting” area at the Grizzly Lodge. They got comfy at the kid-sized tables and dug into the colored frostings and decorative sprinkles. As a bonus, we were there during “Scary Stories at the Lodge,” which, thankfully, were more silly than scary.

They went for the "Modern Art" look with their cookies.
More decorations = More YUM
Once the boys heard that there was trick or treating throughout Camp Spooky, that was the end of cookie decorating. (Who am I kidding? The cookies were long gone at that point.) The “Spooky Ookie Scavanger Hunt” led them to five different treat stations with five different treats. I appreciated that Knott’s limited the amount of sweets given out through the scavenger hunt (you know, pacing ourselves), and I was thrilled to see this cart with fresh fruit for sale. (OK, we didn’t buy any, but I was glad to know it was an option.)

Many of the kids at Camp Spooky that day were dressed in costumes, and I’m sure many were planning to participate in Snoopy’s Costume Contest and Parade later in the day. My boys ditched their costumes early on and headed straight for the rides—including a toddler-friendly roller coaster. (Um, who knew that a 2.5-year-old who deemed the mall train ride “too scary” would find a roller coaster delightful? And who knew that his 30-something mom would need a good 20 minutes to recover her balance after that same roller coaster ride? Looks like it’s just the mall train for me from now on.) The Ferris Wheel and the The Great Pumpkin Hay Bale Maze were also favorites.

After about 4 straight hours of fun, we had to call it a day and headed for the napmobile, er, car. Parking, unfortunately, was the one part of our day that didn’t bring us joy or candy. The attendants who were directing traffic when we arrived gave us conflicting instructions about where to park, and we ended up walking much farther than we needed to.

But, other than that, it was a great day—perfect for younger kids who aren’t ready for the scary and gory parts of Halloween. If you live in Southern California or plan to visit here in the month of October, you should definitely set aside a day for Knott’s and Camp Spooky. You can find all the details here.

Disclaimer: Yep, Knott’s gave me free tickets to check out Camp Spooky, for which I am truly grateful. But all the opinions above are strictly mine. What can I say? We loved the place. You should definitely go.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Make Sure Your Mommy Is the Best She Can Be

Are you a little boy? Do you love your mommy? Do you want to make her everyday experiences more enriching while you help propel her growth and development? Well, I am here to help. I’m Matthew, I’m four years old, and I have dedicated my life to improving my mommy. Now I’d like to help you help your mommy. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Before we get started on all the ways you can help your mommy throughout the day, you have to understand one thing: Mommies have a weird and mysterious body part that you don’t have. It’s called a “vagina.” Mommies like to be frequently reminded of this physical abnormality, so tell or ask them about it incessantly. Also, mommies like using cute little terms of endearment like “Honey Bunny” and “Sweetpea.” Use your knowledge of your mommy’s strange anatomy to come up with a cute little term of endearment for her. I like to call my mommy “Vagina Person.” She loves this special little joke that only we share (well, us and everyone at Target after that one day). Take a moment now and think of your mommy’s new special nickname….

Are you done? Great! Now let’s talk about all the learning opportunities your mommy has throughout her day. Don’t forget to throw in your special nickname for her as you go!

Mommies LOVE coffee!
Your mommy wakes up in the morning needing a little mental and physical stimulation. Help her out. I like to use music to ease my mommy into her day. Choose your favorite song and sing it repeatedly as you dance around her while she tries to drink hot coffee. Mommies appreciate loud volume at this time to help them become more alert and awake. If you really want your mommy to wake up and face the day, substitute one or more words of your song with your favorite potty words. One of my favorites goes like this: “Old McPoopy had a poop. Poop poop poop poop VAGINA!”

Lots of days, after breakfast mommy has to do errands like grocery shopping. If you get to go with her, you have an amazing opportunity to enrich her day and stimulate her senses. First of all, and as always, remember your potty words. I’ll never forget the look on my sweet Vagina Person’s face when I declared in a crowded checkout line, “It smells like a PENIS in here!” Her bright red face and stammering voice were a sure sign of brain cells growing and synapses being formed. 

Mommies love grocery shopping!
Mommy is busy at the grocery store, so this is not the best time to ask her questions directly. Instead, ask the other grocery store patrons your questions. Let mommy learn from their responses when you ask that lady, “Why are you so fat?” or that man in the wheelchair, “Why don’t your legs work? Did your big fat Vagina Person sit on them?”

When you get home from the grocery store, it will probably be time for lunch. Lunch should always be eaten naked or, if that’s not possible, wearing just underpants. Did you know that underpants have a little hole in the front so you can check that your penis is still there? It’s important to check—you just never know. Mommy thinks lunchtime is a great time for me to check my penis, so I try to do it often while I eat. I aim to please, after all.

Speaking of aim, keep mommy’s brain working hard by declaring a potty “emergency” just as she sits down to eat. This makes my mommy nervous and excited, as she knows that every trip to the potty for me is another opportunity for her to practice her cleaning skills. See, Vagina Person says it’s important to get all the pee in the toilet, but I say it’s important to see if you can hit that little fly on the wall. She likes to play little games with me like “Float a Cheerio in the Toilet and Hit it With Pee,” but somehow it always turns into “Hit the Fly on the Wall With Pee.” She may act mad, but she needs these learning experiences to grow and develop. Keep it up!

Mommies love facebook!
After lunch, my Vagina Person likes us all to have what she calls “Quiet Time.” She used to call it “Nap Time,” but my little brother Poopy Stinky Butt and I had a meeting and decided that watching an hour of TV is much preferable to sleeping. Sometimes during Quiet Time your mommy won’t have enough to do. You’ll know this is true if you see her on the phone or sitting in front of the computer. Your mommy needs to be stimulated if she’s going to grow, so don’t allow this idleness. I like this mental challenge in particular: Start crying for no reason. When your mommy asks you what’s wrong, cry harder. When she asks again, scream, “YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU STINKY HEAD!!!” It may result in a time-out, but it’s worth it. We’re helping here, right?

Remember, mommies don’t like to be alone. Their least favorite parts of the day are when they have to go to the bathroom or take a shower. Don’t let them be sad and lonely. Find a way to be with them during these troubled times. If you can’t actually physically join her in the bathroom (um, what happened to the whole we-don’t-lock-the-bathroom-door-young-man thing?), find a way to lure her out. The quickest and easiest way to do this is through Little Brother Torture. Poopy Stinky Butt’s screams of distress always bring my Vagina Person running, dripping wet and naked, to the rescue. Be sure to laugh and scream “NIPPLES!” at these times. Again, red face and stammering voice = growth and development. And that’s a good thing!

Finally, since poor mommy doesn’t have a penis like everyone else in the family, try to share yours with her. Pull it out at unexpected times (again, Target is good) and scream “PENIS!!” so she knows it’s out. I also like to put my mommy’s little things in my underpants then run around the house screaming, “Your Chapstik is touching my penis!!!” This has the added benefit of giving your mommy the physical exercise that facebook and Twitter just don’t provide as she chases you around the house.

So, there you have it. As you can see, it’s easy to use your everyday daily activities to stimulate and enrich your mommy’s brain, body, and senses. Next week we’ll discuss sleeping and bedtime with a post called “How to Make Sure Your Mommy Doesn’t Get Too Much Sleep.” Until then, keep your volume up and your penis out!

This story was originally posted as my second weekly entry as a contestant on Blogger Idol. To see the judges' comments, read it again here. And be sure to follow me on facebook and Twitter to find out about the next round of Blogger Idol, coming up on Wednesday!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Arizona Memories, or How I Learned my Grandma is a Stone-Cold Killer

Yes, it’s true. My Grandma is a stone-cold killer. I learned this 25 years ago, when my brother, Alex, my mom and I were visiting my grandparents at their home in Arizona. My mom found a scorpion in her room, and Alex and I watched wide-eyed as Grandma beat the venomous pest to death with a fly swatter. Didn’t flinch, didn’t even blink an eye.

And, at almost 93, the woman is badass to this day. In my opinion, pretty much all you have to do to be badass at 93 is to be 93. But my grandma does even more than that. Not only does she get around, run errands, and visit family in the area, but every year for the past 6 years or so, she has welcomed our large extended family to her retirement home for a noisy party in celebration of her birthday.

And every year as I get ready to shepherd my own growing family to Arizona for the festivities, I am bombarded with bittersweet memories of parties past.

The first year we celebrated Grandma’s birthday, I showed up at the airport giddy with a secret: I was 13 weeks pregnant with my first baby. Only my mom knew, and she and I spent hours together that weekend going over baby names, analyzing my pregnancy symptoms, and talking about my own babyhood. It was one of the times in our turbulent relationship that I felt closest to my mom. At the end of the birthday dinner that Saturday night, we told Grandma my good news. Three generations shared a hug and happy tears.

Mom and newborn Matthew, before she got sick
At the next year’s party, life was both wonderful and awful. My husband and I had a healthy 5-month-old baby. My aunts, uncles, cousins, and Grandma passed Matthew around from lap to lap, giving him as much love as he could take and then some. But when they passed my infant son to my mom, my heart nearly broke. She was two months in to a devastating and failing fight with lung cancer. She laughed and chatted with the group, but she wasn’t quite herself. She wore a wig to cover a head made bald by chemo, and she spent a good deal of time resting. I’ll never forget tiptoeing into the hotel room she shared with Alex to see her and Matthew napping together, their matching bald heads stark against the white hotel bed linens. I didn’t know it then, but I would see her just one more time after that weekend before she died.

Over 20 people from my family made it to Phoenix for my Grandma’s next birthday, but to me, my mom’s absence was even bigger than the crowd of well-wishers who gathered at the party. I was pregnant with my second son, and still not quite able to believe that he would never know his grandma. I sobbed as I hugged my aunts and uncle goodbye at the end of the weekend.  My mom had been dead for nine months, but somehow being surrounded by the love of her family made me miss her more than ever.

My grandma has had more birthday celebrations since then, and each year my family and I were there making new Arizona memories. One year, my younger son, William, learned to crawl on my Aunt Nancy’s living room rug. The next year, I watched Matthew’s face light up with joy as he played with my Uncle Rick in his pool, just as Alex and I did in our grandparents’ pool 30 years earlier. All the time, I missed my mom. I wanted her to see my boys as they grew. I wanted to tell her about my blog, squeal with delight with her about Alex’s upcoming wedding, and share with her my newest journey as a stay at home mom. I wanted her.

Mom and Matthew, 3 months old
This week, we’re getting ready for our yearly trip to Arizona. Both boys are old enough now to swim with my Uncle Rick, and both are eager to spend time playing with their Uncle Alex. Once again, my Aunt Nancy will fill her pantry with apple juice and cookies for the boys, and ice cream and chardonnay for me. My Aunt Martha is planning pedicures for the aunts and girl cousins, who range in age from 14 to 40. I’ll spend the weekend making lots of joyful new Arizona memories with my mom’s family. But most of all, I’ll spend the weekend missing my mom. 

This story was originally posted as my first weekly entry as a contestant on Blogger Idol. To see the judges' comments, read it again here. And be sure to follow me on facebook and Twitter to find out about the next round of Blogger Idol, coming up this Wednesday!