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--

Archive for 'The Anecdote Apothecary'

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 4, 2014

 

Happy 4th of July!! I hope you are all having a safe and festive one! At the risk of sounding unpatriotic, that’s really all I’m mentioning of the holiday today. Instead, I’m going for a little stroll down memory lane, and I hope you’ll join me…

You may or may not have read my official “I’m Back” blog two weeks ago, so I suppose I should recap. It essentially goes a little something like this: I’m pregnant (it’s a girl and she’s due in early November), I’m going to be on Celebrity Wife Swap (tune in July 15th on ABC and get ready for the chaotic adventure), and Blossom is about to be back on television after 15 years of being MIA (time to resurrect that floppy, flowered hat!). I mean that’s enough news to make you say, “Whoa!” even if you’re not Joey Lawrence. Right?

As a side benefit, all of these long-kept secrets have given me fun and funny blog fodder for a while to come. Not that I’ve ever lacked for things to say, as you well know!

Since there’s plenty of time to divulge pregnancy anecdotes and Wife Swap details, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about the return of Blossom. Though Blossom aired in syndication for several years following our completion of the series back in 1995, it wound up being tucked away in the dark recesses of a vault somewhere, never to be seen again. Or so we thought. Lo’ and behold, the good folks at the Hub Network set out to change the fate of former Blossom addicts across the globe. We are joining the ranks of Hub Network’s other family-friendly programming such as Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, Step By Step, Sister, Sister, and of course, Alf. And who doesn’t love Alf? Blossom is airing for the first time on cable, beginning July 7th at 10pm ET/7pm PT. The episodes will air in their original order, and there will even be a three-hour Blossom marathon on Friday, July 11th, from 9pm -12 am ET/ 6pm-9pm PT!

BqRIgvPCQAAYep0.jpg-large

 

 

To sweeten the pot a little, the Hub Network created a mini Blossom reunion, complete with a wall of hats, some very special reminiscing about very special episodes, and plenty of “Whoa!”s to go around. If THAT doesn’t stir your 90’s nostalgia, I don’t know what will. (Do we need to force-feed you Saved By The Bell and Debbie Gibson songs? Say it ain’t so! ) Anyway, the reunion isn’t to be missed. Because it turns out, even 20 years later, Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Michael Stoyanov and I have Chemistry with a capital “C.” It was as if no time had passed at all. I guess there’s a reason why our show lasted five seasons, huh? Beyond, of course, the rockin’ dancing we delivered in those opening credits, which was a sight to behold. If you’ve managed to forget about our sassy, mind-blowing moves, I encourage you to watch on July 7th. You won’t regret it.

 

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Mayim, Joey, Michael and I spent the whole reunion day laughing… about jokes we used to play on one another, particularly silly episodes, the incredible guest stars we had, and even our past wardrobe decisions, in all of their illustrious, show-stopping glory. Good times. It was like jumping into a time capsule and being beamed back to 1993, only we have more fashion sense now. Well, mostly.

Our day was a busy one– we filmed a segment for Entertainment Tonight, did a photo shoot together (when we could stop chatting and giggling long enough to smile), and even took the obligatory cast selfie to share with all of you.

 

IMAG1067-Blossom Reunion

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it yet again: long live the “Whoa!,” the flannel shirts, the fast-talking, and all of my acne-ridden awkward phases. Not to mention, the aforementioned dancing. Oh, that dancing! All of those wonderful memories (and embarrassing moments too) are back with a vengeance, for your TV-watching pleasure. So the Hub Network is undoubtedly the place to be on July 7th!

I suppose, in keeping with my Cradle Chronicles theme, I should tie all of this back to motherhood. It may not seem that a Blossom reunion has much to do with raising a 2 year-old, but you’d be surprised. My daughters may be a few years away from appreciating the show I was in, but it’s nice to know it isn’t lost forever. And not just because it’s Mommy’s gawky wonder years captured on tape! Being the mom of a little girl (with another on the way), I’m thrilled to see that there are still some networks out there that are concerned about offering true family programming. Even if one of those programs might involve five years worth of scary hair and costume decisions on my part. In my opinion, there are just too many shows on the air right now that encourage bad behavior. There is an abundance of “kid-friendly” shows that lack in moral integrity, and suggest that children should act like adults by the age of 10. Too many of them promote sexuality and insubordination, defy our attempts to preserve our children’s innocence, and suggest that parents are too stupid and ignorant to lead the way. I’m not living in the dark ages; I know kids are privy to things long before we were at their age, given the surge of social media and easy access to information. Regardless, I’m sick of young characters that talk back to their parents with no consequence. I rather miss the moral at the end of the story… even if it was cheesy. So, thank you Hub Network for advocating the right thing!

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting Blossom was entirely pure or faultless. I recall a few episodes with bikini-clad women parading around for ratings-sake, and we definitely tackled some difficult subject matters that were groundbreaking at the time, causing quite a stir among the more old-fashioned parents. But Blossom was about a REAL teenage girl, with a REAL family dynamic– a perfectly imperfect one. And that’s what made for such good television. We weren’t 30 year-olds playing teenagers, and we weren’t pretending that life is devoid of flaws and pitfalls. I can’t wait to eventually use the show as a teaching tool with my own girls. At its core, our series stressed the importance of respect, humility, and love. What better way to do that, than through comedy! Not to mention, who can resist bestowing the era of flowered hats and “very special episodes” upon a whole new generation? I rest my case.

 

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

Jenna von Oy

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  • Drew Zuhosky says:

    I agree with your points regarding present-day family TV programming. Back in the day, the line between family-friendly and adults-only television was established and distinct. You knew that TGIF, Fresh Prince, and the other family shows were for the family. Now, you have adults-only sitcoms, especially on the animated side, being watched by children. What happened?

March 28, 2014

 

 

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.”
― Plato

I suppose I was predestined to be a musician in some fashion or another. If asked, my parents would tell you I came out of the womb singing… Well, and talking, but that’s another story altogether. Even as a child, I heard the world through song. All of the poignant moments, and even some of the inconsequential ones, were vividly and dramatically laced with accompanying symphonies or ditties. Endless loops of made up melodies (which, God bless the 80’s, probably sounded vaguely similar to something by Duran Duran or Whitney Houston) danced in my head as I rode the bus to school and spent my recesses scaling the jungle gym. And when the movie soundtracks for Flashdance and Beaches came out? Forget about it. I was putty in their musical hands.

I sometimes feel my life has been a never-ending Broadway show. Every now and then, there has even been an impromptu tap routine to go along with it. I’m just that kind of gal. Perhaps I was meant to be raised in the Vaudeville era, or to lend my artistic talents to the theatrically satirical world of cabaret. Can’t you just envision me strutting my stuff in fishnets and a flapper costume, and entertaining the masses on the Orpheum Circuit? If you need additional assistance picturing that, check out my second album, Coffee & Men: An EP For Childish Adults. You might be left wondering if you’ve been beamed back to a 1920’s speakeasy. But I digress. The point is that music has always been in my life, and that’s putting it mildly.

 

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”
― Victor Hugo

In many ways, music has spoken for me. It has been my mouthpiece and my sounding board. It has also been my therapist, my saving grace, my catharsis, and my drug.  It has served as a refuge, a wastebasket, a punching bag, and a holy grail… often all at once. So it is with a happy heart that I recognize this same passion in my daughter, Gray.

While she’s only 22 months old, Gray’s love of music is undeniable. In fact, for the most part, our days begin and end with song. Gray rocks out to her “Bath Time Jam” playlist while in the tub, is frequently found strumming my guitar or tinkering away on her mini piano, and unconsciously hums when she’s in her happy place. She even makes up random little tunes about Elmo, and diapers, and broccoli. (Though not all at the same time, thankfully…) We have kitchen dance parties to Frank Sinatra, and nary a car ride is had without her lengthy list of special requests. Oh! And God forbid I watch an episode of The Voice without her. That girl has some serious opinions about who deserves a four-chair turn! Anyway, I have no doubt there’s music running through Gray’s veins, which is why my husband and I decided to enroll her in a class called Music Together. A friend brought us along for a demo session about a year ago, and we were immediately hooked. Now I won’t lie, I’ve always been a bit skeptical of “Mommy & Me” type classes…  or maybe it’s just that I feel so darn out of place at most of them. But there’s something about Music Together that drew me in, even in all of my cynical glory. Our fabulous teacher, Miss Kym, always manages to be equally encouraging to parents and children alike, which I thoroughly appreciate. I asked her to explain the philosophy behind that, and here’s what she said: “I think if parents are having fun, then their children will have fun too! Our kids usually know how we are feeling. If you are relaxed and having fun singing and dancing, so will your child; our kids are wired to absorb and learn from the adult role models in their lives.“ For some background, Music Together is an international research-based parent/child music program, developed at Princeton’s Center for Music and Young Children. And as Miss Kym puts it, “It has been helping children and their grown ups find their inner ability to create music for 26 years. Classes are designed to get parents involved in the nurturing of their child’s musical growth, while their young brains are developing. We learn the most from the people we love the most in our lives, and that includes parents, grandparents, caregivers, and older siblings. So with all of that in mind, you will find a nice mix of children in class, ages birth to 5, who are at different stages of development. We sing, dance, and create a multivitamin of musicality!“ The way I see it, it’s the perfect opportunity for Gray and I to indulge our inner songstresses.  I know, I know… for some of you, this notion makes your stage fright heebie jeebies work overtime. Perhaps the thought of singing publicly is right up there with wanting to streak naked through Dodger stadium, or be covered from head to toe in tarantulas. But I think you’d be surprised at just how informal and relaxed these classes are. Nobody calls on you to belt out the Star Spangled Banner by yourself, or to dance the Hokey Pokey while all of the other parents point and laugh. The fact is we’re all there to encourage our own children, so nobody cares about what anyone else is doing. (Otherwise known as: If you’re being goofy and making a fool of yourself, it means I am too! All for the love of our kids, right?) Miss Kym often tells us, “No performance anxiety is necessary here. We are just going to share our love of making music with our kids in a musically rich environment. You don’t need to sound like Carrie Underwood to be a good role model.” And in a music-driven town like Nashville, that’s always nice to hear!

Letting Her Musical Spirit Fly!

Letting Her Musical Spirit Fly!

 

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

In class, my little Gray is an observer; she takes it all in and files it away for future use. She may not be the first to vocalize or boogie down in front of her peers, but rest assured she’s singing her heart out in the car on the way home. I’ve come to realize the lessons are sinking in, whether or not it’s reflected in class. Miss Kym is good about reminding us that our children are free to move around and respond to music in their own unique way, a mindset I whole-heartedly respect. I’m glad my child can feel free to participate in a manner that makes her comfortable. None of the children are being prepped for infant American Idol try-outs, or to become the next Shirley Temple. And no Honey Boo Boo mamas (or papas, for that matter) allowed! Each child gets to set their own pace, and if that means they spend the entire class walking in circles, so be it.  The truth is, the students are never completely ignoring the music, even when they aren’t interested in directly taking part. Sometimes Gray never even leaves my lap, and that’s okay too. I simply want to nurture a passion I know is in already in her heart, without putting pressure on her to “perform.” I want to give Gray the encouragement she needs to explore how music can feed her soul. Who knows, maybe she’ll wind up pursuing opera, or becoming a boy band groupie (if that’s the case, you’ll likely find her dad off crying in a corner somewhere), or playing tuba in the marching band. Regardless of the genre of music she embraces, or her method of articulating it, I’m certain she’ll continue to make music an integral part of her life. This is helping to lay the foundation.

 

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
― Albert Einstein

I acknowledge that not every child is destined to “think in music” as Einstein did, but I feel they all deserve the opportunity to try it on for size. I’ve been somewhat discouraged by the number of art and music programs that have been cut from schools across the country in recent years. I believe that a crucial part of providing our children with an education is teaching them to communicate their artistic passions as well as their academic ones. There’s merit in learning to follow cadence and rhythm, to experience the satisfaction of accomplishing something through self-expression. Yes, I agree that children need to learn how to solve algebraic equations and conduct science experiments too… But what’s life without art?  And what happens to those children who aren’t fulfilled by a history lesson, or a math problem, or a French class? Where do they go to be challenged and satisfied? I recently saw a Youtube video of a four-year-old boy riding in the car with his father. The kid was in his car seat bawling his eyes out, and my first thought was, “Ok, what prompted this kid’s tears? Is he tired? Hungry? Did he lose his favorite binkie?” The truth is, the little boy was overcome with emotion over a song his dad was listening to on the radio (“Say Something,” by A Great Big World). That sweet little soul couldn’t possibly have understood the literal meaning of the song, but the intention of it certainly resonated with him. The song prompted a feeling so inexplicable that he wept, even at four years old. Incredible, right? And that’s the beauty of music.  It deeply moves us in a way nothing else can.

Anyway, the point is—and I swear I do have one—I’m challenging you to really put some thought into your child’s music education. March is technically Music In Our Schools Month, but let’s bring it home too! There’s no wrong way to introduce music to a child; it doesn’t matter if your kids are two or ten, and it doesn’t have to be through a Music Together class (though if you’re interested, here’s the link: www.musictogether.com. It’s an international program, so you’re likely to find a class near you, regardless of where you live!). Moreover, it isn’t just about providing your youngsters with children’s music—Disney tunes are fantastic, but open their ears and minds. I strongly support playing anything and everything, so I challenge you to go outside of your comfort zone! My husband and I listen to a variety of music, from The Beatles, to Willie Nelson, to Dixieland Jazz. The idea is to give Gray a well-rounded selection, so she can decide what does and doesn’t light a fire in her belly. The rest is up to her.

A Special thanks to Miss Kym Johnson of Music City Music Together! (Photo credit: Andi Zack)

A Special thanks to Miss Kym Johnson of Music City Music Together! (Photo credit: Andi Zack)

 

Happy listening to you and yours!

 

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

 

Jenna von Oy

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  • Kelly says:

    We love our Music Together class as well here in Florida. My daughter has been going since she was 11 months old. I love the CD’s and always seem to be humming those tunes that I cannot get out of my head.

    I love too that the music choices and genres are not any that are played on the radio today or a few decades past. Not that there’s anything wrong with top 40 music but it is refreshing that most of the songs are old school kids standards and even better that I already know most of the words.

March 7, 2014

 

 

               Sundays are a sacred day of the week in our house. Yes, there’s the obvious role our faith plays in that sanctity, but it has also become a day of family tradition for us. We have begun to bust our tails to get any necessary projects done on Saturdays, so that Sundays can be a day of relaxation and togetherness. I typically make Brad and I a huge breakfast of mimosas, bacon, and bourbon-soaked French toast (Gray can’t wait until she’s old enough to participate in that ritual). We watch old school Sesame Street episodes, catch up on shows we’ve missed during the week, play with our puppies, cuddle, and enjoy the outdoors whenever possible. But one of the neatest elements of our Sunday routine has become our weekly family Skype session. At noon, my side of the brood gets together via the Internet, and we play catch up across the miles. Since we are all spread out these days (Arizona, California, Tennessee, and Connecticut), I cherish these weekly, hour-long chats, which are always filled with comedy and chaos. More often than not, my Basset Hound is howling in the background, Gray is tearing my office apart, my sister’s dog is snoring loudly, my parent’s doorbell is ringing, and boisterous laughing can be heard from every household represented on the call. We all have our roles to play: Brad generally pops his head in to say “hello,” but leaves us to our antics. My parents customarily speak too close to the microphone, distrustful of technology and its advancements. My sister, Alyssa, is generally being goofy and affectionate with her new husband, Tony. My littlest brother, Tyler, can be found telling long-winded stories, demonstrating sign language (which he’s fluent in), and tinkering with strange, MacGyver-esque things like challenging himself to pick a lock in under thirty seconds… You know, just to see if he can. And my brother, Pete, is the voice of calm in all of it, inserting dry comments whenever appropriate. He never fails to make the wittiest joke of the day. As for me, I always show up with a cup of strong coffee, my sarcasm, Gray perched happily on my lap, and tales of our most recent adventures together. Lately I can’t seem to squeeze a shower in before our call, so I’m typically in sweatpants or PJs, hair askew like some 80’s Aquanet commercial. I often sport maple syrup on my T-shirt, dog hair on my pants, and bits of Gray’s oatmeal in my hair. I’m fairly certain my family has forgotten what I look like in makeup and real clothes, but I’m okay with that. If anyone should be able to witness me in all of my harried motherhood glory, it’s my family.  I love that we don’t have to arrive gift-wrapped or sugarcoated. We come as we are, and that’s the way it should be.

I guess I should get to the point…  I have motherhood to thank for resurrecting all of this treasured time together. After decades of only getting to see each other at holidays, using weddings as a family reunion platform, and trying to find time for monthly calls to fill each other in, Gray has become the perfect excuse to congregate more often. I couldn’t be more grateful. Since children change so quickly, developing fun new characteristics on a daily basis, no one wants to miss seeing her grow up– hence, the introduction of our Skype sessions. I wish I could say it was my idea in the first place, but alas, it was not. No matter, I love the opportunity to share each and every bit of news with my parents and siblings, and to hear about theirs in return. As a result, a close-knit family has been brought even closer, and Gray gets to spend extra time with her grandparents, aunts, and uncles… even if we can’t exactly reach out and touch someone!

I am forever indebted to you, Skype!

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

 

Jenna von Oy

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  • Desiree says:

    What a beautiful tradition! Skype has been a savior in my household as my husband frequently travels for work. Sometimes, technology gets the better of us; it causes us to forget to watch the orld around us. Others, it rekindles excitement and connection. It brings us back together in a way that the telephone often cannot. I love to read your stories and I love that your family is using whatever possible means to stay connected and watch her grow together.

January 17, 2014
Sneaking A Taste!

Gray & Auntie Alyssa… Sneaking a taste!

 

Our Christmas was beautifully chaotic. All of my siblings and I, as well as our loved ones (significant others and Gray), flocked to my parents’ house in Connecticut for some family fun and festive traditions. As always, there was an abundance of cookie baking, tree decorating, caroling, and gift exchanging. But this year, a new and unique tradition took hold.

Cue the figgy pudding. No, this isn’t a joke.

What is figgy pudding, exactly? I’m so glad you’ve asked. I’ve spent years singing the dangerously catchy tune, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” and cursing its infectious melody. You know the one…

 

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas

And a happy New Year

 

Now bring us some figgy pudding

Now bring us some figgy pudding

Now bring us some figgy pudding

Now bring some out here

 

We won’t go until we get some… I imagine you can fill in the rest.

 

Despite the absurd number of times I’ve sung this song in my lifetime, it seems I’d never really thought to ask the most crucial of questions: “What the hell is figgy Pudding and why is it so special??!!” Thanks to my sister, that changed over Christmas. It then lead me to ask another crucial question: “Am I missing out on something so life-changing and delicious that I shouldn’t experience another December without it?” Believe it or not, I actually have an answer for you on both counts, and I think you might find the story somewhat interesting. Maybe.

The Illustrious Figgy Pudding

 

Part One: Why the figgy pudding recipe was attempted in the first place.

(Aka: are we crazy?)

Oh, how I wish the inquiry (and subsequent adventure) had been my idea! But alas, it was not. I give full credit to my sister, Alyssa, who has apparently been pondering the existence of said figgy pudding for quite some time now. As she so aptly phrased it, “What is this thing that’s so delightful, it’s causing people to sing and freakishly refuse to leave until they’ve had some? Also, if it’s that tasty, why can’t I seem to find anyone who’s tried it?” Evidently, once the thought of attempting the confounding confection entered her consciousness, it just wouldn’t leave again. I always love it when folks get neurotically needful of baked goods, don’t you? Anyway, given my dad’s propensity for being creative in the kitchen, my sister knew he was the right sous-chef for the job. And thus began the quixotic quest.

Operation Figgy Pudding commenced on night one of our Connecticut trip. As we gathered around the dinner table, feasting on roast pork and discussing the intricacies of the half-completed jigsaw puzzle on a nearby poker table, Alyssa happened to mention her proposed baking plans. I immediately jumped on it. After all, why on earth have I never thought to make this heavenly thing called figgy pudding?  I’m clearly losing my touch. It launched me into an immediate figgy fog… fig-uratively speaking, of course. I’m not much of a baker myself, so I was content to be the innocently bystanding figgy groupie, while my sister and father forged ahead. My dad found a recipe online and, in true von Oy fashion, he tweaked it until it only vaguely resembled the recipe it once was. He even added brandy to the ingredient list, God bless him.

 

Part Two: The pudding itself…

I’ll start by saying this: figgy Pudding is not quite as glamorous or regal as one might expect, given it is still being sung about so enthusiastically. It’s wonderfully fun and British, but not exactly the picture of magnificence I was hoping for. (Mind you, I’m not sure what I was anticipating. It’s just a dessert, for Pete’s sake.) My understanding is that figgy pudding is described as a “pudding containing figs” (as if that weren’t obvious by the name alone), and dates back to 16th century England. There seems to be some variation of thought concerning the cooking methods and ingredients. (For example: to employ alcohol or not to employ alcohol? Of course, the answer to that should always be a resounding “yes.”). Suffice it to say it’s a sort of custardy cake with figs. The rest is essentially up to the baker to mess around with, though I admit that assessment might cause an uprising amongst the British.

 

Part Three: The Taste Test

It should be known that there was a brief period of time in the figgy pudding baking process, during which the stench of boiling ingredients made us all want to vomit. And we aren’t weak of stomach, to say the least. Seriously, it smelled to high heaven. No joke, Oscar the Grouch’s garbage can is less putrid, and he’s been living in that thing since the inception of Sesame Street, in 1969. Imagine what’s in there now! But I digress. Once we were over that stinky hurdle, it was smooth sailing. By the time my dad and sister were through, the figgy pudding was resting snugly in his cute bundt pan and the icing was ready to be drizzled over his head.

We sat down to taste the figgy pudding with a mixture of anticipation and curiosity. Gray was the first to take a bite… My child, the brave little guinea pig! We all watched as she started chewing, then waited for her reaction. A giant smile crept onto her face. “Yum!” she declared gleefully, “More?”  The rest of us dove in, and the dessert was gone in no time. I found it to be a moist (Lord, I despise that word!), nutty cake, with a toffee pudding-like quality. In short, it was delicious. There’s really no need to say more than that.

 

Messy, But Good!

Messy, But Good!

 

The moral of this story:

I’m thoroughly addicted to figgy pudding now, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since we returned from Connecticut. (Thanks a lot, Alyssa!) I can’t believe I’ve spent so many years deprived of its yummy goodness, and I’m vowing to make it every Christmas from here on in. Consider it a new holiday tradition at our house! Maybe I’ll even hide something inside of it next year, like the classic Spanish cake, Rosca de Reyes (that’s the one with the little plastic baby Jesus miniatures baked in). Perhaps I can hide an itty bitty Richard Simmons figurine, and whoever gets it will have luck bestowed upon them all year long. Or at least be reminded to start working out again in the New Year. Clearly, this is all a work in progress. Anyway, the point is this: if the inspiration strikes, you should try making figgy pudding. I wish I could give you the recipe we used, but it was partly copied from a major food website, and I wouldn’t want to plagiarize. Guess you’ll just have to sing about it fanatically, until you can locate a decent recipe to follow… welcome to my world!

 

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

 

Jenna von Oy

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  • NW Mamma says:

    Thank you! Finally an american you decifered the Figgy Pudding mystery, I’ve always wondered what exactly it was. I love to bake and after reading your great review of the dessert, I will now attempt my own figgy pudding next year.
    Keep on blogging, I love your stories.
    I think I enjoy the Gray photos even more, reminds me of my daughter’s when they were young. Now at 25 and 20 I am anxiously awaiting grandchildren to come in the distant future.

  • Desiree says:

    UGH! “Moist” is the WORST word in the English language! I have a friend, that used to be my teacher, many moons ago, that has an ever-expanding list of evil words that should be abolished! After 17+ years of teaching, she has quite the list! Do you have any other words that you simply cannot bear?

January 10, 2014

Gray-snowLet it snow, let it snow, let it snow… except during our travel plans, pretty please.

 

This has always been my not-so-secret Christmas wish when I’ve traveled back East to visit my parents over the holidays. After all, what’s Christmas in Connecticut without the obligatory wintery wonderland? This year was certainly no exception, as it was Gray’s first opportunity to experience the true fun of bundling up and frolicking in the snow. Nashville gets a few flurries a year, but it rarely even sticks to the ground. Alternately, I grew up with oodles of it. Snow was a welcome visitor in my childhood, one that kept us home from school and gave us permission to spend our days making snow angels instead. I recall waking up to the wonderful world of white outside of my bedroom window, mounds of powdery goodness just waiting for me to dive in. The smile on my face could have melted all of it. (But thankfully, didn’t.) Winter meant catching snowflakes on my tongue, building snowmen, ice skating on the pond behind our house, and sipping hot chocolate by the fire. So it made me downright giddy to introduce Gray to the joys of an East Coast snowfall.

Let It Snow

The storm had blown in a few nights prior to our arrival, so the sun was already taking its toll. Consequently, sledding wasn’t quite as easy as it should have been! The sweet little vintage toboggan my mom had set aside for Gray to use was getting stuck in the dense, slushy mess. Cut to: my brother suggests an amusing sled alternative.

I thought you’d appreciate the following mini photo series, which I fondly refer to as, “We’re Going On A Sleigh (er…shovel?) Ride.”

Happy snowy trails to you!

 We're Going On A Sleigh (er...shovel?) Ride

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

Jenna von Oy

 

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Christmas In Connecticut

December 13, 2013

 

This is my last Thanksgiving-related post. I swear.

I know we are well into December now, but last week I promised you the story about our delayed Thanksgiving celebration, so here it goes…

 

Thanksgiving was a bit of a bust for us, and that’s putting it mildly. There was no turkey or chestnut stuffing; there were no pumpkin pies or Tryptophan-induced stupors. There wasn’t even the distraction of a noisy football game or the joy of putting up the Christmas tree. There was just Pneumonia. And while I scoff at a cold, and gingerly push through the flu, Pneumonia had me face down on the floor of the boxing ring (actually it was the bathroom floor…) with an invisible elfin referee on my shoulder screaming, “We’ve got a TKO, Ladies & Gentleman!” I was officially down for the count.

 

It’s never fun to be under the weather, but if I thought being sick before having kids was bad, I was in for a rude awakening as a parent. Gone are the days of sleeping it off during the afternoon, and sipping 7-Up while watching Andy Griffith reruns until one feels better again. Gone are the days of having coughing fits without scaring anyone, since mini-me has no idea why you sound like a Gremlin and your body is contorting like something out of The Exorcist (not that mini-me is old enough to know what those movies even are, but you get the point). Gone too, it seems, is the ease of effortlessly bouncing back to health. But it’s so much more than that. Aside from the obvious fear of giving your child whatever illness you’ve contracted, it’s the mundane stuff that makes getting sick so impossibly difficult as a parent. Because let’s be honest– trying to chase after a walking, talking ball of energy, when you have the balance of a drunken sailor, is an abysmally draining task. It’s hard to explain why you can’t handle playing hide and go seek, or why the thermometer isn’t something the doggies are allowed to play with. It’s difficult to offer up the words, “Don’t stand up on the couch!” with any kind of authority, when you’re weakly muttering it through feverish delirium. Likewise, chattering teeth can make the phrase, “Please don’t draw on the wall with cheese,” slightly more lackluster than you intended for it to be. And let’s not get started on the puking.  Oh, the puking. In my particular case, and worst of all, I was instructed to wear a protective facemask in front of my child for 48 hours. It nearly did me in. There’s something terribly pitiful about having your 18-month old tug your mask down so she can make sure Mommy is still under there. Thank God that was short-lived.

 

And so my Pneumonia made me tough to be around for about ten days. I was running a high fever for six of them, which rendered me horribly dazed and confused, and meant that I was virtually incapable of doing anything for myself. This included walking to the bathroom without passing out; I’ll spare you the rest of the gruesome details. I’m eternally grateful for my husband, who wound up taking four days off from work to nurse me back to health. He essentially spent every waking moment trying to juggle two needy babies. (For the record, one of us tried to spare him as much whining as humanly possible… thank you, Gray!) Now, more than ever before, I have serious respect for the single moms out there. Because I’m not gonna lie, I couldn’t have hacked it on my own. You guys are rock stars.

 

Courtesy of some heavy-duty antibiotics and much-needed rest, I was (am) finally on the mend. And with the “better late than never” cliché in mind, we decided to celebrate a very belated feast of thanks at our house about ten days after the fact. In December. Suffice it to say I was more than a little excited to get a turkey in that oven! So fear not, friends, Pneumonia hasn’t gotten the better of me, and the Thanksgiving-that-nearly-wasn’t has finally come to pass.

 

Now bring on a HEALTHIER Christmas, please!  Wishing you all a safe and healthy holiday season…

 

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

Jenna von Oy

 

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December 6, 2013

In honor of our Thanksgiving that wasn’t (check back next week for my blog post on how our holiday was overshadowed), I thought I would proffer a funny little anecdote, along with an equally funny photo of my daughter’s school project…

When I went to pick Gray up from daycare the week before Thanksgiving, I was reminded of one of the reasons I adore her school so much: they really stress creative expression. For a mom who’s kid already loves to color on walls and sing at the top of her lungs in the bathtub, that’s both heart-warming and a relief. (It also gives me hope that, sooner rather than later, she’ll be focusing her artistic attentions on canvas and paper instead of our refrigerator and front door. But I digress.) As I passed by each classroom, I stopped to appreciate all of the various Thanksgiving-inspired artwork: cornucopia’s overflowing with hand drawn fruits, and fall colors splashed across white construction paper like a pile of fiery autumn leaves.

When I got to the toddler room, which is Gray’s class, there was a perfect lineup of handprint turkeys. How wonderfully nostalgic! I was struck by the delicacy of them all, and they made me smile while simultaneously tugging at my sentimental heartstrings. The handprints were transformed into silly painted turkeys, yes, but they were still an indication of how beautifully and quickly our children are growing. Boasting bright feathers and whimsical little wattles, each one had a child’s name printed in the corner. As I scanned the flock for my own daughter’s masterpiece, my eyes passed over pristine handprint turkey after pristine little handprint turkey. And that’s when I got to Gray’s fine-feathered friend… A macabre fellow, who somehow managed to be the one guy looking as though he’d already been executed. It was the equivalent of Quentin Tarantino directing a Disney flick.

 

I’m so proud.

 

Here’s hoping you and yours had a happy Thanksgiving holiday, and that everyone fared better than this guy!

(And in case you’re curious, Mr. Morbid Turkey is totally staying up on our fridge…)

The Perfect Turkey

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

Jenna von Oy

 

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  • Morgan says:

    Jenna, this picture made me laugh out loud! I love your blog, and look forward to it each week. I have a 19 month old (also my first), and she and Gray are often involved in similar escapades. I hope you and your family enjoy the holidays; I know they will be especially magical this year!

November 15, 2013

Gray & Gigi

Grandma’s Hugs are Made of Love

Everything my grandma does
is something special made with love.
She takes time to add the extra touch
that says, “I love you very much.”

She fixes hurts with a kiss and smile
and tells good stories grandma-style.
It’s warm and cozy on her lap
for secret telling or a nap.

And when I say my prayers at night,
I ask God to bless and hold her tight.
Cause when it comes to giving hugs
my grandma’s arms are filled with love!

Author Unknown

 

Gray & Grandma 2

My mom came to visit this month, and watching her with my daughter made me downright gleeful. I laughed out loud, cried with tears of joy, and even inadvertently snorted during a few particularly hilarious moments. But most of all, I treasured observing the two of them interact… A grandmother and her granddaughter have a special bond that no one can deny. A visit from Grandma this month meant having another helping hand at music class, stitched up holes in Gray’s favorite pajamas, sharing yummy ice cream at our favorite shop, assistance in picking out pumpkins at the farmer’s market, a trick or treating chaperone, extra cuddles and hugs, reading books before bed, and homemade blueberry muffins in the morning (Which means I totally lucked out too!). In honor of their time together, I thought I’d proffer a few photos of a trip we took to the local park, where Gray and her “Gigi” strolled hand in hand, slid down the “big girl” slides, and swung to their hearts content. Which, ironically, made my heart content too! God bless Grandmas!!

 

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

 

Jenna von Oy

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October 11, 2013

us

 

My daughter recently had school photos taken at daycare. It was my first experience having her photographed without me around, and I can’t wait to see how they turned out. (The fact that someone else is willing to make ridiculously silly faces and noises, on the off chance it will make my child smile for a picture for our fridge, is the bee’s knees in my book!) But, in all honesty, I can’t say I’m holding my breath. I’ll admit Gray tends to be fairly photogenic, but Lord knows I never wound up with any particularly cute school photos. If history dictates anything at all, I might be leaning more toward a “glass half empty” stance on this one.  Also, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s one thing to take advantage of your kid’s happy-go-lucky mood by whipping out a camera and snapping a few candid shots; it’s a whole different story when you want her to smile on cue. I imagine Honey Boo Boo’s mama could have given me some pointers on how to better prepare my daughter for her moment in said “spotlight,” but I think I prefer my slightly less overzealous approach instead. There will be no dancing on the sidelines at the “Toddlers and Tiaras” pageant for me! In case you’re curious, my only preparatory process essentially entailed dressing Gray up in an adorable outfit and praying she would proffer a toothy grin when the time was right. Which may be why I so eagerly await the results.

 

I can tell you the day didn’t start off well. Actually, let me rephrase that; the day started off great! I awakened Gray at 8 am (my daughter is quite the sleeper), after a restless night of molar melodrama, and she was actually in a good mood despite her teething woes. We enjoyed an extended cuddle session on the couch before sharing a breakfast of Cheerios, fresh blueberries, and almond milk. Consequently, we were full and happy when we headed to school. Before taking off, we even snapped some spur-of-the-moment photos on my iPhone so we could practice her “cheese.” (Okay, okay, AND so we’d have at least a few solid memories of the day, in case those school photos end up being awful. I try to think ahead when I’ve had enough caffeine to allow for it.) On our way across town, traffic was minimal–hallelujah!– and Gray bopped around to her favorite children’s music, while I hummed along. Everything was going splendidly. Arriving at her classroom, the teachers were all smiles and so was Gray (where’s the photographer when you need him?). She looked spiffy in her little fashion ensemble, and she was in great spirits… That is, until I kissed her and said the dreaded drop-off word, “goodbye.” That’s when a torrent of tears and snot began flowing like a wayward test tube experiment. I cringed as I ducked out of the classroom anyway, knowing her teacher isn’t fond of parents lingering around to console the theatrics. They feel it makes the impending exit that much tougher, and I don’t disagree. I shouldn’t admit this, but while my first thought was “God, it hurts to see my daughter cry like that,” my second was, “Crap. I hope she stops bawling before photo-time.” That’s about as much of a stage mom comment as you’ll ever hear me make. I hope.

Gray's Pre-Preschool Photos

 

Needless to say, I’ll be thrilled if Gray has something vaguely resembling a smirk on her face in those photos. It would be nice if the teachers were able to wipe away the snot and tear residue long enough to snap something good. Scratch that, I’ll even settle for something decent. I know it’s too much to ask for her hair not to do that wonderfully untamed Einstein-like thing it enjoys doing when I most need it to cooperate. I know there was no hair stylist or wardrobe consultant standing by, and I’m not expecting an Annie Leibovitz-style portrait. Not to mention, isn’t it always those days when your kid loses a shoe or spills yellow paint down his/her shirt? Murphy’s law seems to kick into overdrive during the moments I most want him to hide in a corner. Inevitably, I’ll be the parent whose baby is facing the wrong direction in the class photo, or whose daughter has a grumpy, sour expression in a sea of otherwise smiling tots. But you know what else I’ll be? I’ll be the parent who thought to take BEFORE photo day photos, so she’d have some for the fridge regardless :) . Crisis averted.

 

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

 

Jenna von Oy

 

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Pre-photos