Graduation Wreaths

I’m usually not this crafty, but for our recent big dual graduation party, I wasn’t all that impressed with the generic “Congrats Grad!” balloons and paper cutouts.

Enter the wonder of the Internet.

I watched this Youtube video, and made a couple in each of my boys’ school colors and then personalized them with their initials, pictures, and extra touches to make it look like I overpaid for them on Etsy.

Permission granted to use this for graduation, birthdays, or anytime you need some fun.

Personalize them for your own event.
Personalize them for your own event.

IMG_2981

©2014 Tracey Henry

Happy Mother’s Day. For real.

My discomfort for Mother’s Day is well-documented. Over the years, I’ve explained that since my own mom passed away 13 years ago, ownership of this day has not been possible for me. This has eased slightly in recent years, or at the very least, worn the edges of the day down enough so that pain isn’t as sharp as it used to be, but it still remained one of my least favorite days.

This year, I thought it could be approached differently. When I realized that our oldest son’s high school graduation was scheduled for the same day, I thought, good, it will shift the focus to this bigger milestone.

Which it did.

Startlingly, suddenly, with a huge lump in my throat, here was the day my little boy grew up.

I know this is the moment that we parents work so hard for. We want nothing more than to watch our child on a graduation stage, cap and gown clad marching toward their bright future. The recognition of this incredible occasion is important and I did in fact graduate from high school and college, so I’m not sure why this epiphany is falling out on the keyboard in such a tangled incoherent mess, but I’d be lying if I denied that beneath the joy, there is grief. Not a wringing of the hands doubting yourself grief, or even the hapless wishing to turn the clock back grief, but one of the quiet knowledge that you’re going to miss something that has been so beautiful in your life every day for the last 18 years.

And that you’re also missing that other beautiful someone who felt this way about you on graduation day so many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve begged for her haunting. I’ve waited for her signs. I know they are there, but perhaps because I’m watching so insistently, I think I often miss them. That whole watched pot thing, I suppose.

But I know she will be there on Sunday. For me, and for him. Because she wouldn’t have missed this in life, I know she wouldn’t miss it now. It’s almost sacrilege to even doubt her presence there.

And when I realized that she would be there then, something else finally came into focus. She was there on his first day of Kindergarten, his hockey games, our vacations, and every day in between. She is in his face, Matty’s laugh, Amy’s eyes and Jessie’s spirit. She is in my mirror. She boils that pot over every night at dinner.

And so I think after all of this time, after all of the homemade cards and flower pots received with white knuckles, I can at long last welcome Mother’s Day.

The one the calendar says is Sunday, and the all of the real ones in between.

See you Sunday, Mom. I’ll be the one smiling looking up into the trees.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Public Health Alert–Senioritis

As two of my children approach graduations—one 8th grader leaving middle school and one high school senior about to enter college—I can attest to the very real, very serious condition of Senioritis.

The first symptom is a noticeable lack of interest and energy. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to the expected school-related assignments, but with most normal human activities. In fact, it may appear that the only thing your child will graduate from is higher levels of apathy.

Victims of Senioritis may appear to have some yellowing of the eyes. You may suspect jaundice, but don’t worry, it’s just that they’ve used up all of their bathroom hall passes weeks ago.

You may also notice a severe and rapid decline in cognitive skills. While it could be attributed to long and late studying for final exams, unfortunately the only math your student is doing is the computation of how many days, hours and minutes are left in the school year and how many cubic yards of garbage will come home from their lockers.

Difficulties with hearing may also result. You can ask them what time the athletic banquet is or when they get their yearbooks and they simply stare at you as if the words were spoken in Spanish—a language they just spent the last decade studying in school so even then it shouldn’t be that incomprehensible—but nonetheless they will mumble they think their teacher said something about that last week, but lately her words are coming out all muffled and monotone, to which you’ll laugh and say, “Like Charlie Brown’s teacher?” and they’ll say, “Who’s that?” which you’ll then wonder what you just wasted the last 12 years educating them on when they can’t recognize a simple pop culture reference but then it will make sense why every time you’ve called them “Pigpen,” in the past it never seemed to register and then you’ll really start feeling guilty that you’ve raised a mess maker who will never win Jeopardy! and then you won’t hear anything either above your heaving sobs of failure.

Nausea can also occur. While it can be due to anxiety or excitement, the more likely culprit is they’ve resorted to eating the old snacks at the bottom of their backpacks.

Other psychological disorders and behaviors are common. Like spending hundreds of dollars on Prom night food, flowers, clothes and cars to spend exactly 12 minutes at the actual dance. The obsessive compulsive use of car window paint and Sharpies. Amnesia regarding uniform and attendance policies.

Be advised that Senioritis is not limited to graduating students. It is very common among parents of said pupils. They can be easily identified as the babbling adults standing helplessly in school offices with open checkbooks. Pale, with elevated blood pressures and profuse sweating issues, they are usually chanting from the fetal position in the corner, “Are you sure you turned that in?” or “But the Evite said 7:00, not six.”

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Senioritis. The condition seems to be exacerbated by long banquets, presentations and ceremonies where its contagion level is at its highest. The only treatments currently are radical and random in their efficacy. For student patients, hours spent with other sufferers, laughter poring over yearbooks, new country music, Doritos and long summer days seem to bring relief.

For afflicted parents, it is not so simple. Common methods are lame and last-minute attempts at scrapbooking, wine coolers, old country music and sappy reminiscing. Unfortunately, these are mere placebos, and those exhausted parents of seniors rarely take their medicine as directed, and all end up hoping for reinfection.

Because it’s the one disease that you beg for recurrence if it means your kid can be quarantined at home just a little while longer.

Good luck boys, you’ve us proud every day.

©2014 Tracey Henry

The 9 nonsensical lessons I learned at DisneySMMoms and 1 important one

Last week I was lucky enough to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. I attended with a friend and my two daughters, and it is truly an experience I will never forget.

I had a wonderful time, met amazing people and learned a lot. To summarize a trip of this size and scope is almost a disservice, so I have attempted to compile the top 10 lessons I learned.

1.) Remember to bring the Fit Bit next trip. The massive step count will justify another Dole Whip.

2.) Never trash-talk a 7 year-old about who is going to puke first on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. There are no winners in that game.

3.) Buzzfeed needs to issue a quiz on “What kind of Ride Line Person are you?” Answers will range from Personal-Space-Ignorer to Huge-Gap-Leaver. I will probably score, Why Yes, I am the Line Police, since both of the previous profiles seem to haunt me at every attraction.

4.) Finding Hidden Mickeys does not constitute make-up homework in Geometry. (But it should.)

5.) Those huge mylar balloons that they sell on Main Street will out-last the stand-by line at Peter Pan, a week’s hotel stay, hundreds of miles stuffed in a trunk, several seasons of “Good Luck, Charlie,” a forwarded power-point slideshow entitled, “FW: FWD: RE: FWD: YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS KID!” from your grandmother and an Oscar acceptance speech.

6.) No one who hasn’t had their face on a jar of Smucker’s with Willard Scott on the Today Show knows who Mr. Toad is but everyone agrees his ride is little more disturbing than wild.

7.) Even though you may feel the same effects the next morning, “park-hopping” and “bar-hopping” are not interchangeable activities.

8.) Restraining orders signed with big overstuffed costume gloves are still legally valid. (Sorry again, Hercules.)

9.) Turn on the flash for selfies on Space Mountain.

10.) Just because parenthood can be serious business, childhood isn’t. There is this modern tendency for us to be so wrapped up in the responsibilities, expectations and journey of motherhood, that we can easily overlook the happy fact that a childhood is occurring in tandem.

Don’t miss it.

We can’t go to Disneyland everyday, but magic can be a daily event. Find it. Point it out. Laugh with it. Create, make, build, feed, read, appreciate, praise, worship, sing, breathe, adore, photograph, grow, enjoy, write, cry, memorize and wonder at it.

Share it.

The memories will last even longer than that mylar balloon.

The best hosts ever.
The best hosts ever.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Stuffed Leg of Lamb wrapped in Pastry

I’ve never been a ham person. In fact, I really dislike it. The only time this is ever an issue is Easter Dinner because somehow, this has become the go-to protein for spring because sodium pairs so nicely with tulips. Or something.

Despite this culinary expectation, Easter Dinner has become one of my favorites to make and eat because of my main dish alternative to ham—a stuffed leg of lamb wrapped in pastry.

This recipe is original—it’s inspired by a recipe from a torn Xeroxed copy from an unknown cookbook that’s so old I just used the word Xeroxed. That page was lost decades ago, and the recipe below has morphed into the beautiful dish it is today. This will render the words, “But I don’t like lamb,” a bold-faced lie by anyone who has even spoken such nonsense.

Stuffed Leg of Lamb in Pastry

1 boneless leg of lamb, 5-6 pounds, butterflied (you can have your butcher remove the bone or cut it out yourself—it’s not particularly difficult.)

Salt, pepper and olive oil

Stuffing:

2 lbs ground sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg, slightly beaten

Kitchen twine

2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg
Kosher salt

1.) Preheat oven to 450℉. Prepare lamb by opening up, trimming and pounding if necessary to make a somewhat flat, butterflied surface. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

2.) Make stuffing by browning the sausage in a skillet until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before adding the next 5 ingredients, then mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Open the leg of lamb like a book. A delicious, mouth-watering book
Open the leg of lamb like a book. A delicious, mouth-watering book

3.) Place stuffing in an even layer across the entire surface of the butterflied lamb. Press firmly into the meat, but don’t worry if some spills out. Cut 4 large pieces of kitchen twine, and then get someone to help you tie—you’ll need a couple of hands for this step.

Proper stuffing placement: lots and everywhere.
Proper stuffing placement: lots and everywhere.

4.) Starting at the narrowest end, roll the lamb and stuffing up jelly-roll style. It doesn’t have to be too tightly rolled, and don’t worry about loose stuffing that falls out. Tie 3 pieces of string across the sides, and 1 lengthwise to hold the ends in place. Trim the excess pieces of string and discard.

5.) Smear a thin layer of olive oil on the tied lamb and place on a rack in the 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes to get a nice sear on the top. Remove from oven and let cool about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350℉.

tied leg of lamb

6.) Unwrap and slightly roll out the seams of the puff pastry sheets. Place the slightly cooled lamb on top of 1 to 1 1/2 sheets depending on the size. With remaining sheets, wrap top and sides, pressing seams together with your fingers until it looks like a wrapped present with all surfaces covered. Trim off any excess dough and reserve.

7.) You can make any fancy adornments with the extra dough like you would a pie—I make a long braid down the center—or just make a few air vents in the pastry with a small knife. Make a simple egg wash with a beaten egg and water and brush over the entire thing. Sprinkle generously with the kosher salt and put back on the rack of the roasting pan.

That gasp of goodness you just emitted is called silence before the lamb.
That gasp of goodness you just emitted is called silence before the lamb.

8.) Bake in the 350℉ oven for another hour and a half. Check the internal temperature of the lamb often with a meat thermometer a few different places until it reaches medium rare at about 140-145 degrees. Cooking time will depend largely on the size and amount of fat, so it really is important to check the temperature because nothing is tougher than overcooked lamb. This takes approximately 25 minutes per pound, but again, keep checking after 90 minutes. There will be some carry-over cook time when removed from the oven and rested.

9.) When desired internal temperature is reached, remove from oven and let stand 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Stuffed and wrapped lamb, deconstructed
Stuffed and wrapped lamb, deconstructed

10.) No mint jelly required. Happy Easter or whatever special occasion you are celebrating.

©2014 Tracey Henry

Your Conference Packing List

I’m about to embark upon a really wonderful trip. Disney has once again pulled their magic strings and I find myself invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. This year, it is in Anaheim at Disneyland, so I am completely out of my element.

Pair this with the fact that the other women coming are all very organized, helpful, professional bloggers who have made businesses giving lifestyle tips. My contribution to the blogosphere is passive aggressive cookie selling and the worst cost-analysis ever of Thanksgiving Dinner. I provide the before content to their after.

And as I read their posts and see their pictures as they prepare for this trip, I realize how grossly unprepared I am for this, and really, most things. Most of the women have really lofty goals that I should probably emulate, but mine is simply to avoid public humiliation and arrest.

So in the spirit of earning my place, I present my—totally inadequate but realistic for me— packing list. I hope it helps. Someone.

1.) Clothes. In some form and combination. I have no idea what’s in your closet, and you have no idea what’s balled up in the corner of mine, so there you go.

2.) Camera. But I’ll forget to charge the battery and the SD card will be full, so I’ll pack an extra $80 to buy new ones at the airport gift shop.

3.) Some stock catch tech phrases. So when people start talking about things that I don’t understand, I can just drop some random sentence about who’s behind Bitcoin in a fake accent and then we’ll laugh and laugh.

4.) Corkscrew. Because when the Bitcoin bit fails miserably, I’ll have something to cuddle up to back in the room.

5.) Eyeliner. First see #4, then I can write notes with it because I will have lost all pens to character autograph sessions and restraining orders.

6.) Chargers. I will actually remember to take these, but because there’s no repacking list, I will leave them all plugged into desk outlets at the hotel as I leave.

7.) Scissors. Because let’s face it, I’ll forget the rain ponchos and even the large trash bags people use in a pinch, so I’ll end up cutting holes the small draw string laundry bags in the hotel closet. You’ll know it’s me because I’ll be wearing the plastic vest with the upside “Marriott” across the front and the shower cap from the bathroom.

8.) Photoshopped images on my phone of really awesome and clever things I didn’t make but pretend to blog about.

9.) Phone number for a really good copyright infringement attorney when one of the other attendees recognizes that I’m taking credit for her hand-forged Mickey pickle fork set as my own.

10.) My children’s Birth Certificates. Documented proof they’re mine since no one ever believes I’m legally allowed to care for other human beings let alone cross state lines unsupervised.

Now after I Instagram my shampoo and file off my fingerprints, I’m ready to go.

See ya real soon!

©2014 Tracey Henry

If you want to celebrate with me with a chance to win a $50 gift card from Kohl’s, see this post.