I Hate Your Kid's Made Up Name!

I know that I am going to offend some people here, but I just feel like it needs to be said. And I'm not trying to be mean, only realistic, I swear. I understand that every parent wants to be original and that choosing a name for their child is a big deal. Parents want their child's name to be unique and special. I get it, really. But I absolutely hate this new trend of people "making up" new that are just downright horrible.

It's like a bunch of white parents decided that their names weren't keeping up with the creativity of our black counterparts and so they tried to stack up and failed miserably. Like the time they tried to take over the Harlem Shake.

Or there is the scenario that you want to take your name and your husband's name and combine them to make a whole new name. Why? Whoever thought that was a good idea? Don't you think if it were, it would already be a name? Does it say anything more about you and your husband besides that you are self-centered and grasping at straws to feign creativity?

It. Has. Got. To. Stop. 

If I hear one more kid named something ridiculous like "Brinlee" or "Maston" or "Wyler" I'm going to screeeeeeeeeam. These aren't real names. They don't sound cool, and these little kids are going to grow up and have to live with their names in a professional world where everyone is going to have to do a double take to understand what the heck they introduced themselves as. I can just hear someone reading a resume from a "Maston Jones" while wondering if this person is, in fact, a human and not someone's dog (or as my husband said, "a pre-homosapian human species").

I'm not a teacher, but I did go to school for teaching once for about three years, and I can tell you definitively that teachers are NOT paid enough to try and decipher your creative child's name while calling role in class.

And while I am on it, can people also stop misspelling otherwise perfectly good names?! I'm not talking about exchanging a "c" for a "k," but more so parents taking it over the top and changing a sensible "Madeline" into "Madellyne." Suddenly "Emerson" is "Emersynn" and I, for the love of god, cannot understand why! It makes me wonder if parents are making these letter swaps because they really don't know how to spell their own kid's name. And when it comes time to learn basic spelling and grammar, I think they really run the risk of their kid calling them out and being like, "Did you know there is a much easier way to spell my name?"

When you are naming your children, please, think about their futures. Think about the fact that they will have to spell their names out hundreds and hundreds of times to admissions officers, bosses, bill companies and lots of other people. Think that this whole made up name thing could be a fad and that an entire generation is going to have to suffer with these "unique" names. Think about the fact that this is the name that will make their way in the world with and they may, at some point, want to be taken seriously. And it might be hard to to take a "Rylan" seriously. 

Bossy Italian Book Review: Ember Island by Kimberly Freeman

It's been such a long time since a book really held my interest that I was beginning to lose all hope... ever since I got pregnant, I just haven't found anything that sucked me in completely or compelled me to read. So when I got this book in the mail, I was hoping against hope that maybe it would be the book that brought me back from the brink. IT WAS!

This was a great read, and just what I needed. First of all, I loved the entire concept of the book. It's about Nina, a writer, who owns a house on Ember Island. She's searching for inspiration from her great-grandmother, Nell (Eleanor) who used to live in the house on Ember Island. Sometimes Nina finds Nell's writings hidden in the walls of the old home...but there is another story at play here as well, and that is the story of Tilly, who also lived on Ember Island at one time.

Without giving too much away (because the stories become intwined and it's a bit of an unfolding mystery), Tilly has secrets that she wants to stay buried and so does Nina. As their tales unfold across time, the story just flows seamlessly and it drew me in so completely. I loved reading about both women, and I found myself practically shouting into the pages at the characters! That's a good book that can get that response from me.

The characters were vivid; their inner monologues very real and three dimensional. Their tales were not necessarily remarkable except that they are the sorts of things that do happen in life and make for precisely these types of tales. As I always say, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction...and that is how I very much imagine this book. Of course, it's not a true story, but a person could see how it could true. And that just melted my heart and made me fall in love.

This book is a breath of fresh air, really. There are so many books out there these days chocked full of sex (and hey, there is nothing wrong with that!) but sometimes you just want something that leaves a bit more to the imagination and is more simple. This book delivered. Great read. Great concept. Great writing.

For more from Kimberly Freeman, CLICK HERE! 

Everyone Has a Spirit Animal Except Me!

I don't know if this is one of those quirky problems reserved just for weirdos like me, but I have been having an ongoing spirit animal crisis. It's not new...in fact it's one of those things that has been creeping up on me gradually and has reached higher proportions in the last six months. In a nutshell, it seems like everyone in the world knows what their spirit animal would be, and I just haven't got a clue.

I just don't feel cosmically connected to any animals, I guess. I mean, I like animals. Heck, I love animals...all kinds of animals. I have three dogs, a cat, and seven chickens for gosh's sakes. But when it comes to feeling like there is an animal that encapsulates who I am (or whatever) I continually come up short.

I took one of those online tests to help me determine mine, and it said a bear. A freaking bear. There is no way I am a bear...except for maybe the part about hibernation in the winter. So I took a different one and it came up with a rabbit. And I thought to myself, what a load of garbage. I am soooo not a rabbit. They seems a little skittish, don't you think? So I figured that I would take a more hands-on approach adn see what I felt about it and the best I could come up with was a llama.

Then I told my mom about my spirit animal crisis and how maybe my spirit animal could be a llama. So, she asks me why. Oh shit. This was where the crisis deepened because I really didn't have an answer. Well, I do have an answer, but it's sort of stupid. But since I'm into stupid these days, I'm gonna share with you the fake reason I gave my mom and the real reason I actually chose llama. The fake reason I told my mom was that it was because they have fur that can be used as clothing, so they are "multi-taskers." That was pretty dumb, but my real reason is because I love that movie "The Emperor's New Groove" where the main character is turned into a llama....which somehow I feel is dumber than my "multi-tasker" reason.

The fact, either way, remains that my deep spiritual connection to any of the above mentioned animals is pretty nonexistent. However, I was glad that I shared with my mom about my spirit animal criss because she made a suggestion I hadn't yet thought of. It's sort of one of those you have to tell the story to get the full effect, so here goes:

Once my mom was at this conference, and they were doing a drum-circle style meditation. (I hope that's accurate to what she told me, and not just what I heard in my head). Anyway, the instructor told everyone to envision their spirit animal walking through either a jungle or a forrest. And my mom says to me, "I pictured my spirit animal as this very tall, very muscular black man. He was primitive with a loin cloth. So, your spirit animal doesn't necessarily have to be an animal."

Oh. My. God. Could it be true?! Could my spirit animal be a man?! Before you laugh this off, I swear to god, this is the ONLY time a spirit animal has made sense to me. Because I have a very masculine side and in the moment my mom said that to me, it was as though the spirit animal light went off inside of me. At the very least, it made me more comfortable that notions about spirit animals don't have to be as fixed as I once thought they were...perhaps my spirit animal is just a little more humanoid than some others might be.

What do you think? Do you have a spirit animal or do you find that it's hard to connect, like me? Leave it for me in the comment section below! 

Questions About Your Reproduction

The other day I ran into a girlfriend at the grocery store and she lamented to me how people are always asking her when she and her husband are going to have kids. Oh, how I could relate to her! My husband and I have waited a full decade to have our daughter, and so I was all too familiar with people asking when, when, WHEN were we going to have children already?!

I have a hard time understanding why people are so invasive about wanting to know what in the heck is up with other people's reproductive systems, but that doesn't change the fact that it exists. And I felt a little bad in that moment because my advice to my friend in that moment wasn't all that cheerful. In fact, I find those many years of being asked when I was going to have children was only the warm-up for what would happen when I became pregnant...because even the bump under my shirt didn't stop the questions!!

Now that I am about to pop, people always ask me, "Is this your first?" and then there is generally some kind of conversation about whether or we plan on having more children. More children. It blows my mind. I am still coming into the realization of having a single child. There is no room for me to think about more children...but it doesn't much matter because all those years when I didn't want to talk about whether or not I wanted children at all, the conversation was going on.

The thing is, whether or not it's polite, or welcome at all, people are judging you about your choices surrounding children. When I casually said to someone in the beginning of my pregnancy that we might just have one, she literally shot back to me, "That's really selfish!" Not that I was offended. I'm not. I know that people are extremely attached to their personal beliefs, and my being angry or not isn't going to change that.

Here's what I have gotten so far from my experience on both sides of the baby-having fence:

If you are married and you aren't having babies, you should be.
If you are pregnant, you are automatically expected to have more babies, not just one because (obviously) that is the most selfish thing you can do; you might as well have had none at all.
If you have two, you are god's gift to society.
If you have three, you are boarding on crazy, and then people start asking you "are you guys done yet?"
If you have more than three, then you are living some kind of alternative lifestyle.

There is literally no winning in this game. Whatever you are doing, it's going to somehow be wrong to someone out there. People can be judgmental assholes. And for whatever reason, babies make people giddy, over-the-top excited and they just can't stop themselves from asking those invasive questions that make us cringe, feel judged, or just drop our jaws. It's the nature of the beast. If you act too closed off about it, people will assume that you are defensive because you maybe can't have children or there is trouble in your marriage. If you are too open, you basically invite people to make shitty and weird comments to you about your personal choices.

I also want to add that it's hard for modern women. We have so many choices and there is a lot of pressure to be all things. This expectation not only for a life that is diversified but also gives an air of perfection is not only unattainable, but roots a fierce competition within women and unfortunately, against one another. A lot of the judgment that we feel coming from others is really just a means to justify their own personal choices as definitively "the best." There is no right answer, of course. Having no children is no better than having nine children. It's all in what makes you the happiest, personally.

As for those who question our decisions or constantly want to know our plans for reproduction, chalk it up to excitement, being nosey and societal pressure. And remember: it never really goes away.

Happy Chicken-Versary

I love this chicken with an attitude! 
Time flies when you are having fun, and I guess we have been having more than our fair share because time is going by at warp speed. It seems like just yesterday my husband and I brought home our lovely little flock of chickens, and now they have been here an entire year! It's our Chicken anniversary and we couldn't be happier together! 

It's been quite a learning experience for us. From bringing our bright eyed pullets home, to getting our first eggs, to adding chickens to the flock, and then losing some chickens in the flock, and now being steady with our happy eight. Yes, it's been a roller coaster this first year. 

Here are some things that we have learned from our first year raising chickens! I hope that you will help us add to the list if you raise chickens, or just enjoy the post if you are thinking of getting your own (which we HIGHLY recommend!)

Chickens are highly adaptable
These ladies know how to bob and weave! They have hung in there with this cold weather beautifully and they were the same way last summer in the heat. We have always been surprised wit their ability to be adaptable, which, I think is what makes them such great farm starter animals.

Chickens are kind of mean
At first when we got them, they seemed so sweet and weak and stuff...but that lasted about a week and then they showed their true colors. Chickens are flock animals, and there is a pecking order. They will be mean to other chickens, but also to other animals. Like my dog, Oscar. They discovered pretty quickly that they could gang up on the dog and boy do they! Mean ladies, I tell ya!

All three of these Amrocks became fox food!
You will lose chickens
At the risk of sounding heartless, you just can't cry over a dead chicken. Sure you love them, but you will also lose them. It happens and it's part of owning your own flock. If you let them out, they might get eaten by a hawk or a fox. If you name one and have a favorite, she'll be the first to get picked off. One might hurt itself beyond repair and you have to call your father-in-law to assist you because it's got to be killed. And then he comes over and chops her head off. You'll lose some, plain and simple. So get over that fast and you'll be fine.

Integrating new chickens just isn't that hard
We got new chickens last summer to add to our existing flock and people were extremely pessimistic about our adding them. It wasn't that hard. Seriously. Sure, it's not a tip-toe through the tulips, but it's completely possible and not the horror that some people make it out to be. Simply put the chickens side by side for a day, then begin by letting them "fight" a little (with your strict supervision) for about 10 minutes twice a day for two days. Then up that to 30 minutes twice a day. Then let them roam the yard together for a day. Then stick those new chickens on the roost at night and VIOLA, you've integrated your flock.

There is nothing better than your own eggs
No better egg exists than the one that comes from your very own chickens. I can't imagine buying my own eggs. I always have eggs when I need them, they are always fresh and they are delicious. I love the fact that a fresh breakfast is always just a few steps away.

Well, that's what we learned so far this first year of owning chickens. What have you learned from your flock?? Leave it for me in the comments section below! 

Real Men Take Paternity Leave

This past week baseball player Daniel Murphy took paternity leave and (oh my gawd) missed a game or two while he bonded with his wife and child. The guy took major heat for this decision at the hands of two jackass sports radio men who went as far as to say that his wife should have had a c-section so that he can "get back to the team."And I'm left sighing a big, "What the fuck!?" It makes my blood boil.

One would think that in a day and age where we're all so bent on having equal rights, that men could also be treated equally. Though I will say I also feel that we are completely out of touch for both women and men when it comes to parenting leave in this country. That issue aside, many other countries have PAID paternity leave for new fathers, and the US is lagging severely behind these 60-some odd countries.

But it's more than just paternity leave that leaves me angry in this situation...I really feel like the United States has a masculinity issue that bleeds into these other areas and colors the way that we perceive issues like paternity leave.

I'm so endlessly tired of hearing phrases like "man up" and seeing instances where a man clearly has his priorities in check as in the case of Daniel Murphy (hello, family should ALWAYS come before ambition!) being raked over the coals. What type of men do we want in our society, exactly? I don't want or need a man who is built on a foundation of macho at the expense of my family life. I want to be with someone who is strong of heart and is there for me and my family when we are in need, regardless of what those needs are.

The bond between fathers and their children are extremely important, and those first days are paramount for the entire family in finding a new groove. You will never get them back. Not to mention that moms who have been through nine full months of growing a baby and then delivering that baby are tired, vulnerable, and in need of their husbands during that time. Fathers who take paternity leave are real men who love their families and it should be celebrated, not criticized.

Granted, not all men are going ot be able to take time off for whatever reason. Certainly, that doesn't make them less than. But I also argue that those men should be able to take time, just like moms. I would love to see more companies who offer it. As for us? My husband will not get paid leave, but he will be taking time off. There is no price we could put on having him here once our baby arrives. By him taking that time, it sends me the message that I am important and so is our new family, and that means the world to me. 

Easy Apple Dump Cake

I looooove making dump cakes. I've made a peach version, and a pear version, and other versions I haven't even posted on here. Whenever I find myself in need of a sweet fix, which admittedly, seems to be pretty frequently these days, and I have some leftover fruit, this is a go-to that never disappoints! The best part is that the ingredients are minimal, and it's just soooo freaking easy.

People always love this dessert, too. Obviously an added bonus. Now, the versions I made before are made in big pans, but I have been scaling back and making smaller versions lately. This is good if you, like me, are planning on eating the whole thing. My husband and I will eat it over a number of days, of course, but still, in this case, less is more.

In the case of this apple cake, I had some lovely organic apples that I just wasn't able to get to in time and I didn't want them to go bad.

Here are my apples. Pretty obvious, I know. You can use five, or you could use six. Or use seven if you're feeling crazy. My point? Use 'em what you got 'em. 

Then, throw them in a greased 8 by 11 pan. 

Then, dump half a box of cake mix on it. (If you double the recipe, use a whole box.) If you're like me, you make your own cake mix. I use THIS RECIPE, which I love, and use half and bag half for later use. 

Then you can sprinkle a whole bunch of cinnamon on top. YUM! 

Next melt down half a stick of butter and pour it over the whole dang thing. Don't feel guilty. There's a lot of fruit in there! 

And finally, three heaping tablespoons of yummy in my tummy brown sugar goes over the whole thing. Then you bake it for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees. 

And it comes out all delicious and lovely! 
I really feel like it's not a cake at all, but hey, what do I know? Not that I really care, honestly because it just tastes great. I serve mine hot with whipped cream because why not? It's a dessert that just warms my heart and soul. 

Easy Apple Dump Cake 

Time: 1 hour | Serves 4-6 | Difficulty: Super Easy 

You Will Need:

5 or so apples, peeled, cored and sliced 
1/2 box of yellow cake mix (I use THIS RECIPE and half it
Cinnamon (to sprinkle) 
1/2 stick of butter, melted 
3 tablespoons brown sugar 
Whipped cream for serving (optional) 

8 x 11 casserole dish 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease your casserole dish. 

Place your sliced apples in your greased dish. 

Pour your cake mix over the apples. Don't stir it. I know you'll want to because how could anything so good be so easy? But it can be. Don't stir it. 

Liberally sprinkle cinnamon over the cake mix. Inhale the wonderful scent. It's great! 

Drizzle the melted butter over the whole thing. 

Sprinkle the brown sugar over the whole thing. No stirring. I know

Put the dessert into the preheated oven and bake for 40-50 minutes or until it looks all yummy and done and stuff. 

Serve hot with whipped cream. Life is good.