Welcome To The Cradle Chronicles!

These are the crazy confessions of a first time mommy, and her adventures in world "mom-ination." If you are coming to this blogsite by way of People.com, chances are you’re already familiar with my writing style and “Mommy-centric” blog fodder. If not, I'll introduce myself with this brief summary: Suffice it to say, I had a baby in May. Now, I’m not suggesting this defines me entirely, but it certainly goes a long way toward explaining my daily trials and tribulations with spit-up and dirty diapers. Which brings me to… Welcome to The Cradle Chronicles! I hope you’ll continue coming back again and again for more of my motherhood anecdotes, and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to follow me on Twitter too!

--Photos in Welcome section courtesy of Mimosa Arts Photography--

September 12, 2014
Funny Girl

Funny Girl

 

 

Maybe my kid is getting more comedic as the days go by, or maybe pregnancy is overzealously tickling my funny bone. (Actually, I suspect that particular sensation can be blamed on the baby who’s hanging onto my ribs, but still…) Some pretty hilarious quips have escaped my 2-year-old’s lips in the last month or so, and I thought you might get a kick out of hearing a few.

 

  1. Taking Creative License with Sandwich-making: Gray is a fairly solid eater, and she doesn’t discriminate. My husband and I have done our best to introduce her palate to a variety of foods, so her tastes tend to run the gamut. That said, a recent lunch had me wondering if her appetite had begun bordering on the severely eccentric.

 

Me: “Gray, I’m making some lunch. Would you like a turkey sandwich?”

Gray: “ Yes please, Mommy. With gray pecans & bandaids.”

(A moment transpires while I attempt to translate this response from Toddler-ese into something resembling a sensible meal request)

Me: “Sure, no problem. One turkey sandwich with Gray Poupon and mayonnaise coming right up!”

 

At least she said “please.”

 

  1. Coffee Talk: By now, I suspect you are well aware of my affinity for caffeine—more specifically, for Starbucks coffee. These days, in fairness to my pregnancy, I’ve mostly switched to unleaded brew. Nonetheless, my errands often revolve around acquiring a cup of Joe before anything else can be accomplished. Apparently, I’m already passing along my enthusiasm…

 

Gray and I recently set out on a full day of errands. I generally try to reserve this type of activity for a time when Gray is in daycare but, alas, it was a necessary evil. With a list of 6 or 7 stops in our near future, I knew we were in for a long and exhausting afternoon. Which is why my sudden diversion to a giant toy store makes it clear that logic had momentarily left the building. Without thinking it through, I turned to Gray and asked, “Would you like to check out a toy store with me?” Once the question had escaped my lips, and I’d received her enthusiastic “Oh, yes!” in response, I realized my mistake. Every parent knows not to bring a child to a toy store or playground BEFORE the rest of the errands are done, right? But I’d already made my bed. We were toy store-bound.

 

Upon entering the shop, Gray immediately discovered the “kitchen” area, complete with elaborate kid-compatible supplies, and wooden grocery items. My little foodie was in heaven, and began busying herself with pots and pans. I commenced searching for the perfect gift for a one-year old boy, which I’m mostly clueless about. Thankfully, this particular place wasn’t your generic, run-of-the-mill, dollhouse extravaganza. It offered innovative and educational items, rather than every Disney princess figurine and Sesame Street character one could possibly need or want. Consequently, the perfect gift found its way into my hands in no time flat. As the cashier was wrapping the present, and I watched my daughter playing happily and soundlessly, I started contemplating how to avoid the meltdown of mythic proportions that was bound to ensue when I said, “Ok, let’s put the toys away now. It’s time to leave.” And that’s when my child surprised the heck out of me…

 

Gray: “Mommy, are we ready to go yet? I’m hungry, and I need to go to Starbucks to get a cheese Danish.”

(Insert my jaw dropping, and scattered laughter from my fellow toy store patrons here.)

 

Only my kid.

 

  1. Muscle Memory: One of the things I love most about my husband is his propensity to respond to very kid-like questions, with very non kid-like answers. I often find him launching into history or science lessons, while Gray looks on with sheer bewilderment. Or perhaps it’s mild amusement. So it was no surprise when Gray looked at me one afternoon and said, “Mommy do you have pectoral muscles?” I immediately recognized the source of her inquiry. “Have you been discussing Anatomy with your dad again?” I asked. “Yep,” she answered. “I do, in fact, have pectoral muscles,” I told her. “No you don’t, Mommy,” she replied confidently, “Daddy has pectoral muscles. You have boobies.”

 

And there you have it. Who can argue that kind of logic?

 

  1. Pointing the Proverbial Finger: My daughter was on a Skype video chat with my mother the other day, and they were discussing all of the preparations we are making for the arrival of her new baby sister. Apparently Gray is planning to be a very influential and loving big sis. But just in case, she has already chosen a scapegoat if she needs one…

 

My Mom: “Are you going to give your baby sister hugs and kisses?”

Gray: Yep.

My Mom: “Are you going to show her what a big girl you are, and share your toys?”

Gray: “Yep.”

My Mom: “Are you going to teach her good things?”

Gray: “Nope. Blame Daddy”

 

 

  1. Party Fouls: One Saturday, as we were getting ready to leave for a friend’s birthday celebration, I discovered that my daughter is learning some valuable life lessons of the social sort…

 

Gray: “We’re going to a party, Mommy?”

Me: “Yes, ma’am. We’re going to a birthday BBQ.”

Gray: “I’m not going to cry, Mommy”

Me: “Oh good, I’m glad to hear that.”

Gray: “I’m not going to pick my nose either.”

Me: “I’m even happier to hear that.”

 

Lo’ and behold, kids really DO say the darnedest things! Gray’s innate sense of comic timing is often surprising and impressive, and it certainly keeps me on my toes. If you feel like sweetening my day with an additional dose of laughter, please feel free to send along any funny stories you have as well! I love hearing from you…

 

Laughter is the best medicine

Laughter is the best medicine

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my website too!

  • Kim Q says:

    I keep a list of the funny things that come out of my daughters’ mouths so as not to forget. One of the funniest- when I was pregnant with my second daughter, my first daughter was at her gymnastics class (she had just turned 4 years old at the time). One of the other moms had to take her daughter to the bathroom and she was holding her baby at the time. I volunteered to hold the baby. My daughter saw me holding the baby and her eyes got as big as saucers. I saw her mouth, “Is that YOURS???” through the viewing window. I just about died laughing. If only having a baby could be so easy! Ha!

September 5, 2014
Whatever Floats Your Boat (Left: 10-year-old me in 1987, on a ferry ride down the Connecticut River/ Right: 2-year-old Gray on her 1st ferry ride on the Long Island Sound)

Whatever Floats Your Boat (Left: 10-year-old me in 1987, on a ferry ride down the Connecticut River/ Right: 2-year-old Gray on her 1st ferry ride on the Long Island Sound)

 

 

I don’t recall the first time I climbed aboard a boat and set sail. According to my mom, my inaugural “boating excursion” was on the little doohickeys that take you through “It’s A Small World” at Disney World, Florida. Which, I suppose, may go a long way toward explaining why I’ve never really relished the idea of owning my own seafaring vessel.

On the other hand, I can easily recall the first time Gray stepped foot on a boat. Since it was last month, even my crazy pregnancy brain can’t steal the memory from me! The event transpired during our trip to the East Coast, and it was an adventure that was mildly more seaworthy than the one my own childhood had to offer. In an effort to get from Connecticut to Long Island, we opted to take the ferry across. Somehow, the thought of driving through the traffic in Queens was slightly less enthralling than being tarred and feathered (In a windstorm. In the Arctic.), so the ferry seemed like a sound choice. Our fun little trek had the side benefit of giving Gray an opportunity to experience something new and memorable.

In advance of our travel day, Gray was looking forward to the ride with bated breath. “I’m so excited!” she’d exclaimed for several hours before our trip began. But lo’ and behold, the voyage itself fell short of what any of us might call “fun.” Having had her naptime cut short (which can make for a no good, very bad day where a two-year-old is concerned), Gray was bawling the whole ride out. Even French fries couldn’t calm her inner naptime monster. You think the Loch Ness is intimidating? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, folks. It didn’t help that we were traveling on a very crowded Saturday during the summer, and couldn’t find a seat away from the bright sunshine. I’ll admit my mood was less than stellar by the end of the trip too. Pregnancy + relentless heat + hunger = one mildly unhappy mama.

Fortunately, our return trip was less…um… feisty. Contentious. Disastrous. Emotionally exacting. (And every other word my inner dictionary might be able to come up with.) At long last, our much-anticipated boat ride was as exciting and enjoyable as we’d hoped it would be…

We came, we saw, we photographed.

A Happier Return Trip!

A Happier Return Trip!

Before I go, a giant congrats to Christy of Jacksonville, Florida, who won my August Dr. BBQ book giveaway contest! Wishing you many happy and healthy meals…

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my website too!

 

August 29, 2014

 

7 Months & Counting!

7 Months & Counting!

 

It’s always amusing to juxtapose pre-Gray life with our current status as the parents (aka “wranglers”) of a sassy little firecracker of a two-year-old. I think back fondly on the last true vacation Brad and I took prior to expanding our family: our honeymoon. The memories from those blissful two weeks are laced with romantic images of champagne toasts and impromptu outings to open air markets. There were bike rides along the river’s edge, unbelievable cooking classes, and elegant dinners overlooking scenic views. We took leisurely drives across the countryside without anyone asking, “Are we there yet?” and if anyone was cranky about being in the car for too long, it was merely our GPS chastising us for detouring to a charming little antique shop or two. Boy, do those gals get testy when you don’t follow their instructions! I think “Recalculating” is really just a polite way of saying, “Screw you and your directionally dysfunctional incompetence.”

But I digress.

 

Venice

We’ll always have Venice…

 

Although Brad and I certainly wouldn’t trade our honeymoon for anything in the world, as evidenced by the photo I’ve included above, we reflect on our voyage with that strange and empty ache of something missing. Sometimes it’s hard to remember our life without Gray in it! We adore our time together even more now that she’s sharing it with us, and the BC (Before Children) years are often a distant memory. Sure, every now and then we crave a bit of alone time over a leisurely and long lunch, but we also cherish the newer memories we are making with our daughter (soon-to-be daughters). Even if they involve a slightly less serene eating experience.

In February, Brad, Gray, and I took a trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and visited the Biltmore Estate for a few days. For those who aren’t familiar with the Biltmore, it is the site of George Vanderbilt’s infamous home (read: freaking huge mansion!!) that almost has one convinced he is visiting a French chateau, in lieu of a Southern tourist destination. It measures a whopping 178,926 square feet. There are 65 fireplaces if that gives you any idea! Since the grounds boast a little village full of shops, restaurants, wine tastings, playgrounds, and plenty of other available activities for grown ups and children alike, it seemed to be a good choice for us. The goal was to take a mini-vacation within driving distance, and to indulge in a bit of relaxation. Which, admittedly, can be an oxymoron when you’re traveling with children. It was the first real vacation the three of us have taken together, unless you count visiting family for the holidays… which I don’t, since it is generally a bit more on the chaotic side. Let’s just say “calm” and “restful” aren’t always the best words to describe one of our reunions or gatherings. And that’s putting it mildly! So when my husband unexpectedly wound up with a month off between jobs, we took advantage of the opportunity. We hired a dog sitter, packed everything but the kitchen sink into my car (more on that below), and hit the highway. Can you say road trip?

 

The Arrival: Dude, What’s In My Car?

Believe it or not, the car ride to Asheville was uneventful, and Gray was a trooper. She fell asleep for the majority of the five-hour drive (two points for planning the voyage during nap time!), and even our chatty GPS couldn’t keep our little Rip Van Winkle from snoozing. Hence, tranquility reigned. That is, of course, until we descended upon the Biltmore Inn like a three-ring circus pitching tents in a small-town field.

 

Lovin' the vacation life...with her Elmo sidekick

Lovin’ the vacation life…with her Elmo sidekick

 

In pre-Gray life, Brad and I traveled subtly and under the radar. (Example: we’ve never globe-trotted in matching Mickey Mouse T-shirts and Bermuda shorts, with cameras slung around our necks.) However, I can officially tell you that subtlety has left the building. And the airport. And the hotel room.

After preemptively planning for every situation and catastrophe just shy of the zombie apocalypse, we’d stuffed our vehicle with enough gear to build our own hotel in Asheville. My car essentially became one giant diaper bag. Truthfully, the over-packing was inadvertent; we didn’t realize just how much we’d managed to cram in there until we were forced to see it all on display. But at least it added to the entertainment value! There’s nothing quite like strolling through an upscale hotel lobby with a cart full of toys and food coolers, while depositing a trail of Cheerios behind you like Hansel and Gretel (Not to worry, we cleaned up after ourselves). We brought along so much paraphernalia in fact, it looked like we were expecting a remote, third-world facility lacking in amenities such as running water and electricity. I don’t imagine the Biltmore employees would have been terribly surprised if we’d unloaded a camping stove or an outhouse. Which, I suppose, sort of occurred when we added Gray’s travel potty to the luggage rack. It was the cherry on top of our wacky little spectacle. (And it was clean, I swear!) Two giant carts later, complete with Gray’s favorite stuffed Elmo swinging from the rafters and accompanied by several bemused bellhops, we trekked up to our room whistling The Beverly Hillbillies theme song.

 

The Dining: Eat, Drink, Man, Woman… and Kid

 

The dining experience formerly known as romantic!

The dining experience formerly known as romantic! (From our honeymoon in 2010)

 

Restaurant outings used to signify intimate moments spent sharing several-course meals, wine, and adult conversation. You know, back when discussions didn’t involve spelling every other word, lest they fall upon innocent ears. Those dinners even included dessert from time to time, since no one was crying or in desperate need of naptime. Or both. Restaurant tables used to sport candles that could actually remain lit through an entire meal (safety first these days!) and platters weren’t perilously teetering on the edge of destruction, courtesy of little fingers. We could eat our food in peaceful quietude, without having our bread commandeered by someone who insists, “That’s mine now, Mommy,” then proceeds to eat the doughy portion and hand back the crust. Presently, meals together mean endlessly rescuing crayons from the restaurant floor, toting travel cups of apple juice, and immediately locating the nearest restroom with a changing table. They mean insulated snack packs of apple slices and cheese wedges, in case the chef is taking his sweet time that day, and finding that said cheese has somehow wound up plastered to the hotel room mirror by mid-afternoon. (So yeah, that happened!) But all of those crazy antics just add to the amusement of an outing, don’t they? I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Why are they taking their kid out to nice restaurants instead of hiring a babysitter and going on a date night?” And the short answer is: we are. Once a week, my husband and I have a special evening out together, and it often revolves around food. When we bring Gray along for meals outside of our own home, we do our best to choose family-friendly restaurants where kids are welcome. But the point of a family vacation is to spend time together, no? That’s part of the adventure! And since Elmo refused to babysit Gray in our hotel room (those Muppets can be so darn irresponsible!), she dined along with us. Thankfully, the Biltmore is all about family fun, so they are more than prepared for pint-sized diners… Even in their upscale eateries. We also happen to have a kid who thoroughly adores going out to eat so, to her credit, she’s exceptionally well behaved. I’d love to be able to chalk that up to our parenting skills, but I suspect it has more to do with her affinity for people watching! And when all else fails, at least going out to eat gives Gray the opportunity to enlighten the wait staff. During one Biltmore breakfast, she made sure to inform our waitress, “My Mommy has boobies.” You know, in case there was any confusion.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Which I translate to: Sometimes the fun is in how you manage to make it through a dinner with kids, rather than the dinner itself.

 

The Main Attractions: Gray in Wonderland, aka All’s Quiet On The Vacation Front

As you can imagine, we did not while away our vacation hours reading juicy novels by the pool or frolicking in the vineyards. (In fact, if I remember correctly, the only book I made it through on our trip was “Llama Llama Red Pajama.”) But to be fair, it was February, so we weren’t planning on a whole lot of sunbathing or pool-time anyway. Nonetheless, we weren’t lacking for entertaining activities to keep us busy, and our visit was more tranquil than you might imagine. Touring the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, we were in awe of the architecture and history. Well, most of us were in awe… One of us fell asleep by the time we hit the second floor, and wound up having her stroller carted up and down the narrow stairwells until the tour was over. It may have qualified as the fanciest naptime ever.

Much to Gray’s jungle gym-loving pleasure, we located the on-site playground. A great deal of running, jumping, and playing in the sandbox ensued, followed by some ice cream. And what 2-year-old could turn that down? For February, our weather was miraculously pleasant, despite the snow they’d had dumped on them not two weeks prior. God bless Mother Nature, because we totally lucked out!

The estate farm offered another diversion, as Gray inspected the livestock and played in the mud. It was quite the beautiful mess. We admired the distinguished horses, laughed at the goofy goats, and chased the squawking fowl. Gray collected stalks of hay, foraged for pebbles, and leapt into puddles with abandon. She even added to her extensive vocabulary, by learning noteworthy new phrases like “chicken poopie.” Thank you, Farmer John. It was quite the education! We were taught about the egg hatchery, and made a game out of narrowly escaping animal landmines. (Which was somewhat akin to a real-life, warped version of Frogger or Pitfall, only without the bonus points for avoiding peril.) And, as if I haven’t already written enough on the unseemly subject, Gray was particularly fascinated by the drastically diverse sizes of animal manure, which was a lesson in and of itself. For argument’s sake, we’ll call it “Waste management 101.” As you can imagine, such an extended conversation about feces with a 2-year-old was a mommy’s dream come true. Yikes. At least it gave us plenty to talk about on our drive back home! (Thankfully, the fascination has since dissipated…)

 

Bid farewell to chicken poopie

Bid farewell to chicken poopie

 

The Moral of The Story: It’s A Wonderful Life

I sincerely hope you haven’t mistaken any of the aforementioned observations for complaints. They are far from it! As with all my posts, I fancy recounting our parenting adventures with a sense of humor. I have no doubt that Gray’s childhood will feel like it passed us by in a blink, so we’re all for enjoying it while we can! Needless to say, our vacation to Asheville greatly differed from our honeymoon to Europe. Still, that isn’t to suggest it wasn’t equally satisfying. Embracing some quality family time was much needed, and exposing Gray to new experiences was incredibly heart-warming for Brad and I. There’s nothing better than watching a child explore the world around them. We tend to be of the opinion that exotic vacations spent on a beachfront Riviera are overrated. Who needs drinks with little green umbrellas perched on the rim, when we can be intoxicated by making memories with our child instead? Not to mention I’m pregnant, so I think we can all agree that Mai Tais were out of the question anyway!

If you have any hilarious vacation stories you wish to share, I’d love to hear from you…

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my new website too!

 

  • Laura says:

    So glad you are back to your writing, I love the way you write and describe your adventures with Gray and Brad and the occasional doggie story. Good luck with your second daughter, and I can’t wait to hear all about her arrival and how Gray is coping with a new baby in the home.
    Take care and be well. I wish I had Chronicles of my two daughter’s when they were growing up, guess I’ll have to do that for my newly arriving in October grandson.

  • Laura says:

    “newly arriving grandson in October”
    gramma brain, lol

August 22, 2014
A Beachside Stroll

A Beachside Stroll

 

In the world according to Gray, summer has had some stand-out features… read on to discover them in “her words!”

 

  1. The 4th of July is supremely awesome. It means celebrating with fun picnic foods, planting patriotic flags in the yard, and getting to stay up late for fireworks! Sadly, the 4th of July isn’t as thrilling for my doggie siblings. Fireworks = puppy PTSD.

 

Celebrating the 4th of July

Celebrating the 4th of July

 

  1. While the 5th of July is a happier day for the canine brood, it’s a serious let down for me. I still don’t understand why there are so many fireworks one day, and none the next! C’mon people, you think stealing candy from a baby is bad?

 

The 5th of July let down...

The 5th of July let down…

 

3. Watermelon is a delicious and refreshing summertime treat. It’s also messy. I think I doubled my mommy’s laundry load because I ate so much of it!

 

  1. Cancelled flights = more time with our loved ones. It turns out that bad summer storms can leave you stranded, and make most travelers cranky. I heard some seriously not-so-nice words being shouted across the airport! But for me, a cancelled flight meant another day with my grandparents, “Gigi” and “Opah,” in Connecticut. And that was fine by me!

 

  1. The beach offers endless amusement. Sun, sand, and water. What else can you ask for? The only yucky part about going to the beach is having to say goodbye…

 

Sun & Sand

Sun & Sand

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my new website too!

August 15, 2014

“Caught Red-Handed”

When we visited the East Coast last month, Gray and I spent a few days at my mom and dad’s house in Connecticut. Aside from the fact that I adore being back in my hometown whenever possible, it is always a treat to watch Gray enjoy her time with “Gigi” and “Opah.” The love between grandparents and their grandchildren is stunning and unparalleled! As always, I try to take a bit of a back seat when they are spending quality time together. I think it’s important for them to develop their bond and, let’s be honest, it’s damn funny to watch the chaos ensue! I like to relax, put my feet up, and enjoy the show. Oh yeah, and take as many photos as possible…

My parents have a wooden arbor covering a portion of their patio, from which they’ve suspended numerous bird feeders. They get a kick out of watching the little guys swoop down for a snack, and I get a kick out of watching my dad spring to his feet every time a squirrel dares to intrude upon the “aviary.” I haven’t seen him move that fast since I was a teenager!

Caught Red- Handed!

Caught Red- Handed

 

In this particular “photo of the month,” my mom had asked if Gray wanted to assist her in putting out seeds and popcorn for the birds. Thankfully, I was there to capture the feeding frenzy… And I’m clearly not referring to the one created by our fine feathered friends.

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my new website too!

August 8, 2014
(L-R) Me, Dr. BBQ, & JD Roberto. Photo Courtesy of The Better Show

(L-R) Me, Dr. BBQ, & JD Roberto. Photo Courtesy of The Better Show

 

At our house, summer + hunger = grill time. It means hosing down our patio furniture, and dusting off my recipes for Bourbon-glazed salmon and flank steak with Chimichurri. It means making a colossal batch of homemade barbecue sauce, then slathering it on racks of ribs that fall right off of the bone… As proper ribs should! It’s my cue to soak the cedar planks, pick the first heirloom tomatoes of the season, take advantage of my prolific basil plants, and locate the kabob skewers that have wedged themselves into the darkest recesses of our kitchen junk drawer. Because let’s be honest, there’s nothing quite like having friends over to feast on summertime savories! And since I’m a foodie through and through (which is only exacerbated by the fact that I’m six months pregnant) I was thrilled to be introduced to Dr. BBQ himself, Ray Lampe, when I co-hosted The Better Show in June of this year. He was kind enough to give me a few tips on grilling (it’s okay if pork is pink in the middle, as long as the temperature is at least 145 degrees and rests for 3 minutes!) and he even sweet-talked me with some charming praise for my former Blossom days. I know the way to someone’s heart is through his or her stomach, but accompanying it with some flattery certainly doesn’t hurt!

 

Aside from his generous compliments, Dr. BBQ agreed to help me out with this week’s recipe blog, and I’m eternally grateful for it. As with most busy moms, I am in constant search of new recipes that are family-friendly. Well, this one more than fits the bill… Upon merely hearing the name of the recipe, my husband began buzzing with more excitement than a drag queen at a sequin factory. And that’s some SERIOUS excitement, let me tell you. Even cooler, Chef has provided a copy of his book, “Pork Chop,” to give away to one lucky winner! All you have to do is send an email to Jenna@cradlechronicles.com, telling me what you’re looking forward to grilling this summer. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate explanation if you’re pressed for time. That said, if you’re feeling exceptionally sassy, and wish to include a recipe for me to try at home, I wouldn’t turn it down! Most importantly, please be sure to write “Dr.BBQ Giveaway” in the subject line, so I know to enter you into the contest. I will be picking one lucky winner at the end of this month, and mailing the book out along with a personalized thank you note from me! The giveaway deadline is August 22nd, so make sure you send that email soon!

 

Here is Dr. BBQ’s fabulous recipe, in his own words…

 

Tater Tot Pork Chop Casserole (Photo Credit: Jody Hornton)

Tater Tot Pork Chop Casserole (Photo Credit: Jody Hornton)

 

Tater Tot Pork Chop Casserole

Serves 6

My brother-in-law Dino knows how to make only one dish for dinner. If Dino is cooking dinner, the family is having Tater Tot Casserole. But his version doesn’t have pork chops in it and this one does, so this recipe is for him. Dino is going to love it, and once he tries this he won’t make that ground meat version ever again (I hope). Dino serves this all by itself, but I like to serve it with a side of steamed carrots. ~Dr. BBQ

 

6 boneless pork chops, about 1⁄2 in/12 mm thick

Salt

Black pepper

Paprika

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp butter

1⁄2 red onion, finely chopped

8 oz/225 g sliced baby portobella mushrooms

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cups/480 ml milk

One 32-oz/910-g bag frozen Tater Tots

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Coat a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm baking pan with vegetable spray. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable oil and 1 tbsp of the butter. Stir until melted and blended. Add the chops to the skillet three at a time and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer the chops to the baking pan and arrange them in a single layer. Repeat for the second batch of chops, adding 1 tbsp butter.

When the last chops are out of the skillet, add the remaining 1 tbsp butter. When the butter is melted, add the onion and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and garlic and mix well. Add the soy sauce, season with 1⁄2 tsp salt and 1⁄4 tsp pepper, and mix well.

Cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft. Add the flour and mix well. The mixture will tighten up, but that’s normal. Continue stirring and cooking for 1 minute. Add the milk and mix well. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a simmer and everything is incorporated.

With a slotted spoon, spread the mushrooms over the chops evenly. Pour the sauce over all of the chops. Top with the Tater Tots, lining them up in a nice pattern. Bake for about 1 hour, until the mushroom mixture is bubbling and the tops of the Tater Tots are golden brown. Remove the casserole from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading this week’s blog, and don’t forget to enter the book giveaway!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Happy Barbecuing,

Jenna von Oy

 

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my new website too!

August 1, 2014

 

Life's A Beach!

Life’s A Beach!

 

There’s nothing quite like watching your child dip his or her toes in the sand for the first time. Sure, you might have seen your kid play in a park sandbox a time or two, but the beach is a different beast altogether! There’s just something unequivocally alluring about the smell of that sea air, the sound of the waves hitting the shoreline, the seagulls pelting you with kamikaze excrement.

Okay, so maybe it’s not all fun and games. (Not to mention, finding a bathing suit to fit my ever-growing baby belly was a chore and a half!)

Nonetheless, I will never forget the beauty of observing Gray’s inaugural introduction to the ocean. What a stunning scene to witness! Her curls sprang up in the dew of the marine layer, as her cheeks flushed from the sun and saltwater spray. I watched as she waded into the crest of the waves, and knelt down to run sand through her tiny fingers. She inspected carefully chosen shells, shoveled stray seaweed into a plastic bucket, and gazed out at the horizon. Her excitement over the marine life made her giggle with wonder and glee, and the joy was utterly contagious. Truth be told, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much appreciation for the beach in my life… Despite the fact that I lived so close to the Pacific Ocean for most of my adolescence! Viewing it all through the eyes of a child gave it a new sense of marvel and majesty. I was in awe because she was in awe.

 

Sun & Sand

Sun & Sand

 

I spent my afternoon being one content mama, and documenting our beach adventure. I just couldn’t resist! Sadly, my husband was unable to join us on our trip, due to his work schedule, so I wanted to make sure I came home with as many memories as possible. I couldn’t imagine depriving him of the enjoyment, so I took videos galore! My personal favorite? One of Gray bidding farewell to the waves, the ocean, and the “flamingos.” You know, because flamingos are such a common sighting off the coast of Hampton Bay. (They were actually geese, but why spoil her wonderful imagination?)

The beach trip was a blessing, and a very unexpected one at that. Our trip came about when Jill Zarin (of the original Real Housewives of New York) invited us to spend a week in The Hamptons with she and her family. We planned our travel to coincide with the airdate of our Celebrity Wife Swap episode, so we could combine the playtime with some work. Yes, Jill and I did our share of press, created a flurry of social media in advance of our show, and attended numerous high-profile events that week. But the fact remains that it was a vacation for Gray and I. I mean, who goes to stay at a beach house and doesn’t savor the dazzling scenery?! More importantly, it was an opportunity to open my daughter’s eyes to an impressive and regal landscape, one that Nashville doesn’t offer. Unless, of course, you count the catfish ponds. Which I don’t.

 

A Poolside Selfie

A Poolside Selfie

 

Wishing you and your family a beautiful and fun-filled summer!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

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July 25, 2014
Ginger vs Jenna: The Showdown

Ginger vs Jenna: The Showdown (Photo credits L-R: K.J./Mimosa Arts Photography)

 

 

Even if you watched my July 15th episode of Celebrity Wife Swap, you’re probably still in the dark about the Ginger vs. Jenna showdown. There were so many funny and fantastic moments captured on camera, the real behind-the-scenes boxing match is somewhere on the cutting room floor. Editing is everything! So who is Ginger, you ask? She’s that gal in the photo above. No, not the one sitting on the steps with a look of dismay; that’s me, though I can see where there could be some confusion. I’m referring to the cheeky rascal in the brown fur coat, who stuck her tongue out when asked to pose for a photo.

Meet Ginger Zarin. (Her mommy is Jill Zarin, of The Real Housewives of New York!) She’s sassy, she’s wily, and she isn’t a big fan of yours truly. Which makes me mildly crazy, if I’m being perfectly honest. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t expect everyone in the world to love me; I’m not quite that ignorant or vain. But I never thought I’d cross paths with a DOG I couldn’t charm! (Until Ginger, that is.) And as a mom with five canine-kids of her own, I have a constant desire to express my nurturing, loving parental side… yes, even with honorary Chihuahua-children.

Now we all know that sometimes the “real” in reality television can be a bit of a misnomer, but believe me when I tell you there was nothing fake about my contentious interactions with that furry little spitfire. Ginger is no animal actor, and her aversion toward her new “swap mom” was authentic. Who knew I’d find my arch nemesis in a pint sized, pork chop-eating, vet-visiting canine? It turns out she’s my doggie adversary. She’s my pooch rival, if you will. A.k.a. she’s hell on paws.

For the most part, as evidenced by the episode itself, my Celebrity Wife Swap experience was flawless. We all enjoyed the adventure tremendously, which is shocking when you consider how awry it could have easily gone! I say this, despite any initial acerbic comments that you may have overheard in the episode. I mean, what’s a reality show with no drama? A boring one, I suppose. The truth is that we made friends for life in the whole Zarin family… The whole Zarin family that is, except for the puppy princess herself. I’m still not sure I can put a finger (paw?) on my misstep. Perhaps Ginger wasn’t fond of my staunch “Kobe beef isn’t dog food” stance, or my skepticism over dressing her in frou-frou costumes. Maybe she was irked by my own lack of swanky, fancy-pants attire, disillusioned by the fact that I boycotted taking her to lunch in a designer, leather handbag, or ruffled by my refusal to build her a life-sized shrine in the living room. Perhaps it’s because this “hillbilly” actually likes to wash her own dogs instead of sending them to a professional groomer, or maybe she simply felt I was too unsophisticated and unrefined for the posh social scene of The Hamptons. And she might actually have a point there. (FUN FACT: Ginger has more stamps in her passport than I do! She even has more Twitter followers. No joke! Check her out: @realgingerzarin) It’s possible that Ginger is doggedly proud to be a one-woman pup, or that she’s just a difficult broad to get along with in general. Some might call her affliction a Napoleon complex of mythic proportions, but I wouldn’t say that. No, I would never say that… You know, since it might just be perceived as the pot calling the kettle black (I’m only 5 feet tall).

Regardless of the reason, my time at Camp Zarin was somewhat of a hostile takeover of the canine kind. I envisioned Cujo-like scenarios in my sleep, while the Jaws soundtrack played on repeat in my head for dramatic effect. I was living in an Alfred Hitchcock fantasy, complete with black and white images of sharp fangs in dark, cobweb-filled corners. Which, if I may toot my own horn for a moment, takes a pretty damn good imagination to accomplish in a pristine, spacious beach house!

The fact is that Ginger and I have what some of you might perceive as a love/hate relationship. Evidently, hell hath no fury like a Chihuahua scorned (Or at least a Chihuahua whose mommy left to go to Nashville to play with five other doggies instead!). Even a dog biscuit couldn’t curry favor, despite several attempts to offer the proverbial olive branch. Or, in my case, the offertory kibble.

Oh, Ginger, can’t we all just get along? Rest assured, there’s zero love lost on my end, sweet girl. I will continue to bribe you with treats and vie for your affections with squeaky toy incentives.

And one day I’ll make you like me; just you wait. Sometimes I’m an acquired taste.

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Pawprints,

 

Jenna von Oy

PS. This blog was written in good fun; it is entirely intended to be an exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek narrative. I don’t think Ginger Zarin is the devil incarnate, nor do I think she’s a snobby Hamptons socialite! (Though it could be argued that her upscale tastes would give Paris Hilton a run for her money.) Nevertheless, I mostly think Ginger is a misunderstood soul, trapped in the body of a Chihuahua, who has every right to dislike whomever she pleases. Even if that someone is me. After all, I have been known to get a wee bit snarky from time to time. I know that’s hard to fathom.

****DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post. The same may not be said for certain animal egos, however.

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July 18, 2014

 

Photo Credit: Mimosa Arts Photography

 

 

My June blog was a whopper, so I hope you all had time to read it! If you need a brief recap, it goes a little something like this: I’m pregnant (it’s a girl and she’s due in early November), Blossom is back on television after 15 years of being MIA (the floppy, flowered hat trend could possibly be being resurrected across the globe as we speak, God forbid.), and I was in an episode of ABC’s Celebrity Wife Swap, which just aired on July 15th. (If you missed it, make a mad dash for ABC.com to view it!)

How’s that for some concise Cliff’s Notes?

Now that the show has finally been broadcast, and I’m allowed to discuss it without giving away any super classified, hush-hush secrets, I want to talk a bit more about my Celebrity Wife Swap experience; it was quite the grand adventure! I’ll begin by saying it has surprised some folks that I agreed to participate in a reality show in the first place. I’ll admit it isn’t customarily my style, and I’ve turned down offers to do so in the past, as I didn’t want to expose my family life to that sort of scrutiny. That said, this one made me rethink my outlook. (Mind you, I also blog about my personal life these days, so I figure I’m an open book at this point anyway!) But why did I choose to do Celebrity Wife Swap, you ask? As I mentioned in my last post, “Curiosity got the better of me. The challenge of being in someone else’s home, living in their (as it happens, very fancy) shoes for a week, and walking away with a dose of self-reflection and inspiration, was just too intriguing to pass up. The fact is it wound up being a once in a lifetime adventure, and a bizarre/refreshing/thought-provoking social experiment, to say the least. It was a brilliant reminder of just how much my husband and I love one another and how perfectly we fit. There’s always more to learn in this lifetime, and I don’t expect my parenting or marriage education to end any time soon. I embrace being a work in progress.”

In short, we all had a blast and we have no regrets!

 

My "Wife Swap Family"

My “Wife Swap Family”

 

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting the whole affair was easy breezy. There were some exceedingly difficult aspects to filming the show, predominantly that it was the first time I’ve ever been away from Gray. Other than her twice-a-week attendance at a local daycare, we’ve been attached at the hip for the last two years. And we like it that way! A week without my sweet little sidekick was a complicated and challenging pill for this mommy to swallow.

That subject is really what I wanted to focus on this month, as I imagine many of you have had to deal with similar circumstances. Of course that’s not to suggest you’ve had to leave your child and husband behind while you spent a week trading places with one of the Real Housewives of New York (how surreal does THAT sound?!), but you get the gist. I know a lot of you are working parents, and I have the utmost respect for you. The Wife Swap journey boosted that level of appreciation even more, as I experienced a small percentage of what you must go through on a daily basis. It’s hard to split time between work and family life, and it’s always painful to bid farewell to your child as you head off to work… No matter how passionate you might be about your career! Admittedly, it’s also tough to avoid letting a little guilt creep in every now and then; sometimes our heads and hearts just can’t quite reconcile that matter. I certainly sympathize with those of you who dream of crawling back into bed to snuggle with your baby each morning, but pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and don your office clothes instead.

My husband and I spent a considerable amount of time deciding whether or not Celebrity Wife Swap was the right thing for us to do–not because we were against the idea of the show itself, but because it meant my traveling away from Gray for a whole week. Obviously, our priority was how Gray might adapt to the time without her mommy. Ultimately, we knew she would be surrounded by love and support, since both Brad and my own mom were at the house with her the entire time. (Not to mention, who can refuse the golden opportunity to put one’s husband in close quarters with his mother-in-law for a week, in the presence of a camera crew? Not this girl, that’s for sure!) We felt secure in the fact that our daughter is as well-adjusted as one might expect of a two-year-old, and that she feels unconditionally safe and loved. Though it hurt my heart to leave everyone, I’m extremely thankful for a husband who embraced the process as wholeheartedly as I did. Otherwise it would have been impossible.

I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend every day of the last two years at home with my little girl, without interruption. I know that isn’t feasible for many of you out there and, as I touched upon earlier, I feel for those of you who work full-time and/or who had to go back to work immediately following the birth of your child. It’s taxing to be away from your children under any circumstances, even when you know they are in the most capable of hands! I can safely say that Gray handled the separation with far more grace than I did. Which, if you knew her, probably wouldn’t surprise you in the least.

 

With Gray, Bailey, & The Baby In My Belly! (At 21 weeks)

With Gray, Bailey, & The Baby In My Belly! (At 21 weeks)

 

Although the growing baby in my belly kept me constant company, I’ll admit I was homesick from time to time. As a preemptive strike against allowing those feelings to make me fall apart at the seams, I approached the Wife Swap filming with as much positivity as I could muster. I acknowledged any grief I felt over leaving Gray, but I also tried to see the learning experience for what it was. Not that it was always an easy task! As if it weren’t hard enough to be away from my family for a week, throwing pregnancy into the mix made for an interesting, hormonal “cocktail.” Yes, there were tears galore—you all know by now that I’m sappy, right? But there wound up being a sweet lesson in it for me too… that missing my loved ones and enjoying my alone time aren’t mutually exclusive; I’m perfectly capable of doing both at the same time. Believe it or not, I made a point to appreciate the seclusion that the trip offered. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right? In the rare, quiet moments when we weren’t filming, I chose to accept the “me-time” as a blessing. I let myself live in the moment without guilt. I read a few books and savored sipping my coffee out on the patio. I enjoyed tranquil breakfasts and watched the ocean waves lap at the shore. I felt at peace during a week I feared would be too agonizing to be thankful for. And I’m so glad I did; it wound up being very cathartic. While I missed my husband, daughter, and pups terribly, I also look back on the event with a full and happy heart. That’s all I could have asked for! More importantly, Gray seems to have taken the experience in stride, and unquestionably proved that her growing independence is healthy and strong. (And that’s putting it mildly; I have a pretty tenacious girl on my hands!)

Despite finding some gratification in the journey, my reunion with Brad and Gray was emotionally charged and a huge relief. Our first post-filming family embrace is a memory I will hold onto forever; there is no doubt in my mind that we are better together than we are apart! As lovely as those silent moments of solitude were, I was eager to get back to the chaos and fun of my home life. It’s what my heart is meant for.

Before I go, a quick update on both of my girls: Gray is doing wonderfully, and keeps us in stitches all day long. Who knew our two-year-old would already possess such a sense of comedic timing? She often comes out with words and phrases that momentarily fast forward us to her teenage years… Which we are in no rush for, thank you very much. Even the eye-rolling has already begun! But it’s her expressions that make us laugh the hardest. The other day she declared herself “unique,” (I guess I can thank Sesame Street for that vocabulary word of the day?) just before arguing that she needed to wear her “fancy pink shoes” to Costco, in lieu of a more sensible pair of sneakers. There are also quips that can be directly attributed to my husband or I. A few nights ago she looked at our Basset Hound (who was wreaking havoc, per usual) and exclaimed, “C’mon, Dude, that’s enough!” That particular colloquialism was courtesy of her Dad. One morning, as I set out the appropriate accoutrements for her requested breakfast tea party, I asked if she wanted some fruit to go along with everything. She responded, ”That sounds like a plan, Mommy.” In that instance, it was definitely one of my typical expressions shining through. If I thought we had to watch what we said before, now we’re on DEFCON 1!

Not to be overshadowed by her big sister, the little girl in my belly is getting on well too. She is a mover and shaker, constantly flipping and readjusting. I’m not sure if she’s practicing for her future stint on Dancing With The Stars 2039, or if she’s already searching for a way out. I hope it’s not the latter, as I don’t have the heart to tell her the exit is under lock and key for a little while longer. We sing to the baby daily, and Gray has taken to sticking her tummy out and announcing, “My little sister is in my belly, but she’s not ready to come out yet.” That statement seems to be fairly amusing to the random strangers she tells, so at least we are providing folks with some entertainment. I’m so looking forward to seeing Gray’s excitement when the new little one arrives! There’s nothing quite like sisterly love, and the new baby is in for a wealth of it.

As a reminder for all of you Blossom fans, don’t forget the old gang and I are back in syndication again! The 90’s has returned in all of its “whoa!”-ful glory, so dust off that crazy hat collection and put on your dancing shoes. Check us out for an hour each weeknight, on the Hub Network!

I also just launched a new and improved website, if you feel like taking a look… it was long overdue, and even has some brand new photos to peruse!

 

***A SPECIAL NOTE: Thank you, Jill Zarin, for being so wonderful to my family while I was away. I couldn’t have asked for a more generous and nurturing woman to fill my shoes for the week. You will ALWAYS , as you so aptly phrased it, be Gray’s Jewish fairy Godmother. We adore you!!

 

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen!

PPS. Don’t forget to join my Twitter  and check out my new website too!

 

 

 

July 11, 2014

 

Are you ready for the hilarity to ensue?!

I hope by now you’ve heard mention of my upcoming July 15th appearance on Celebrity Wife Swap. Lord knows I haven’t been shy about plugging it, and I’m certainly not going to start now, so set those TIVO/VCR/DVR/Miscellaneous Recording devices RIGHT AWAY! I mean, if your brain is functioning better than my own (thank you baby brain for returning with a vengeance during this pregnancy), then I suppose you can peruse the rest of this post first… but I’m just saying. Write a Post-it note. Or tie a string around your finger. Or set an iPhone alarm. I promise it’ll be worth watching!

Since I wouldn’t want to give away any of the episode secrets or ruin any of the comedic surprises for you, I will be writing a much more lengthy and in depth blog about my Celebrity Wife Swap adventure next week. In keeping with my blog, I’ll even discuss how it affected my parenting! In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with this teaser I found on Youtube…

 

Celebrity Wife Swap Preview for July 15th!!

Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,

Jenna von Oy

PS. To join my blog, please subscribe to the RSS feed at the top of your screen, and don’t forget to join my Twitter too!

  • Desiree says:

    Best Wife Swap, EVER! Okay, I’ve only watched a few episodes in all its years but yours was my favorite. What I really loved about it is that each of you took home the most valuable lessons. You and Jill truly learned a little something that helped to enrich your lives and better your family. Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your life and sharing your family with us. I really kind of wish we were neighbors because I think that we would get along famously!

  • Phyllis says:

    I just watched your episode of Celebrity Wife Swap and was so glad I did. I think both you and Jill brought very different ideas to the “table” and that you both really took to heart what the other had to say. You seem to have a very happy life that works for you, as does Jill. It was nice to see both families take to the new “wife” in such a positive way. All the best!