Merry “Mad Lib” Christmas

For those here wanting our version of the Mad Lib Christmas Greeting: Here ya go!







It has been one crazy year in the Brewer household, filled with many ups and downs. We spent many hours together exploring different parts of the world.

In April, Jen dragged everyone to Italy to fulfill her dream of seeing all things Michelangelo. The littles chased lots of pigeons and we all ate our body weight in pizza and gelato.

In the summer, we drove to Utah and played with cousins. After a full day at the lake, we all ended up with sunburns! (much to derm daddy’s chagrin)

This school year, we added another school to the mix as the twins started high school. Between school, sports, and music lessons, Jen pretty much lives in the car.

This year we also entered the world of Taekwando. You know what they say, a family that kicks together, stays together.

Jen still likes to write books, and Jerry still likes to cut cancer.

Seth loves tennis, Sarah just discovered cross country and choir (Bella Voce choir – loves it!).

Ben caught the acting bug and Joshua became quite the lego master. Liz just started 1st grade and took up violin. Adam and Anna use the buddy system to gang up on mom during the day and can successfully un-clean any room in 30 seconds or less.

We hope this holiday season finds you healthy and happy. We love you!

The Brewers

Who are these people??!

You know, the new wave of the perfect pintrest picture people: the 30 second ‘make food mixed with beauty’ people. The Martha Stewart meets Julia Child meets tommy the tech guy.

You’ve seen the super snippets of food video that have taken the internet by storm. Those 30 seconds that lead to a fully cooked and decorated Thanksgiving meal, complete with homemade turkey name plates to greet each loving guest.

Usually I just bypass those with a smile. I truly am glad that some people have the talent to pull all of those off.

Usually I am not foolish enough to think that I can even play in the same city, let alone the same park at these folks.


But this Halloween simply snuck up on me. In a desperate attempt to find some sort of ‘my mom is so Halloween Cool!’ check mark in the kiddos eyes, I got lured into one of the ‘look how easy this is!’ video snippets. The one that made worms in the straws. Made form gooey gelatin that somehow magically pours itself into the straws, leaving no mess behind, then slithered out of it’s own accord, to mix gleefully with perfectly crunched oreos to create the perfect ‘ewwww, this is so creepy cool!’ reaction.

In trying to reenact this grand affair in real time, the only ‘quick’ thing about this endeavor was the realization that they left a few things on the editing floor.

Like, for starters, when pouring the jello mixture into the straws, how did they actually get it to stay IN the straw?? They left THAT little detail on the editing floor. Something that I realized, right about the time I remembered, ‘oh yeah, straws are made for liquid to PASS THROUGH… not magically fill up!’

Enter impromptu edit #1: the frosting fix!

thumbnail_img_7003Yep – that’s exactly what I did – opened the frosting and just dunked all the straws in there. You won’t see THAT on the pinterest board!

Next was the actual pouring. I don’t know how they did it so perfectly in the video, but I had gelatin goo EVERYWHERE. Between the straws, pooling in the jar. Even running down my arms! There is a reason why I moved away from the Jell-o state, and this brought it all vividly to my memory.

As the concoction sat in the fridge, I actually let my long-subdued wanna be crafty self submerge for a season of hope. This really could be the time it works! I really could be sending my kiddos to school with super cool halloween snacks after all! I went to bed last night with visions of wormy treats dancing in my head.


Which quickly turned to dreams about snakes eating my children. No joke. That probably had more to do with us taking our kiddos to the jungle over Christmas (a post for an entirely different day!), but I should have taken it as an omen nonetheless.

I got up this morning, pulled the straws out, and laughably thought this would be just like the video – the saintly fingers gently coaxing the perfectly formed worms from their hibernation.

Not so.
thumbnail_img_7005See these blood-red fingers?? That is NOT jello stain people. Those ridges on the flex straws HURT! Even as I type this, my fingers are still missing a few layers of skin on them.

Speaking of the straws – what they forgot to mention in the video was that this project is NOT conducive to the cheap-o walmart ‘extended flex!’ crap. They meant for you to use INDUSTRIAL strength, non-stick polymer-filled straws (probably available by special order from martha…). thumbnail_img_7006

these ones had worm gust squirting out from all sides. I got so desperate, I even tried my hubby’s (trying not to giggle while he offered) advice to ‘run them under hot water then just blow them out. Yep tried that. Nope. Doesn’t work. Great, now I have raw fingers, AND a ginormous trying-to-blow-up-way-too-small-of-balloon headache!

Son #3 comes down the stairs, so I’m desperate to get SOMETHING in the bowl (the kids have been anticipating this since they saw the crazy contraption in the fridge! Plus, I have NO plan B for Halloween food-fedishness, so I have to make it work somehow!)

I squeeze, I tug, I rub my fingers raw.

and from the huge bundle of straws, THIS is what I end up with:thumbnail_img_7007

So, I do what any dietitian-mom would do:

Add Oreos.









Because, at the end of the day, oreos really DO make things better!

And THAT, my dear friends, is how NOT to follow a ‘oh, this is super easy, even a non-crafter can do it!’ video.

Happy Halloween…

If you need me, I’ll be munching on some worms.

that I purchased from the store.

for .99.

To the well meaning empty nesters who warn me to cherish EVERY moment…

I encounter you at the grocery store.  At the gym.  At the park.  On random sidewalks.  Typically places and times I am trying to calm a toddler temper tantrum while hanging on to a baby who is trying desperately to spread her wings and leave my arms, while I try to answer the 5 year olds nonstop questions, mixed with yelling at 8 yo to not run into the street.  You laughingly comment, “wow, you have your hands full!” … just when I was thinking I was running a little light because I only had 4 out of my 7 kiddos with me at the moment.  Then you give me the tender smile laced with the reminiscent look and say, “Cherish EVERY moment you have with them, they will be grown and gone before you know it!”

I truly do appreciate your concern. I smile at your wise counsel. I nod in that serious matter that lets you know that I really am listening and acknowledging your insightful words.

But secretly, right below the surface of my sweet smile, is a silent scream and a vigilant holding my hand back from punching you in the mouth. Or the nose. Or poking you in the eye. Anything to make you jog your memory. Your TRUE memory of what it’s like in the trenches surrounded by wee ones.

Don’t get me wrong. I know you mean well. I really do try to cherish the memorable moments of motherhood. But there are many… MANY moments that I would much MUCH rather leave on the editing floor of the ‘remember when’s’ of bygone years. Those memories that I have absolutely no doubt have long left your memory of once upon a time also living life in the trenches, surrounded by wee ones.


You see, when you solemnly declare that EVERY moment with them is ever so precious, (while you groom your ever-so-perfectly coifed hair and straighten your matching, ironed, dry-clean-only pant suit) you may not have taken into account that I (with my greasy bean smattered, ponytailed hair and stretched, stained yoga pants that haven’t been washed in i don’t know how long because they are the only pants that fit this no longer maternity needing, yet not able to breath in my regular pants IMG_9400body.  Not to mention the black eye I am sporting from being in the line of fire from 2 yo’s experiment with turning the remote into a projectile missile) am running on fumes. Fumes that have been born of a night laced with finally getting the colicky baby to sleep, only to be poked-in-the-eye-awake by the toddler needing yet another drink, which he only half drinks and then thinks it’s a fun time to begin the game of ‘spit out the rest on mom’… which I have to admit is a lot better than some other bodily substances that have been spit out at various hours of the night when whatever random child needed to throw up, but felt the deep desire not to b-line it for the toilet, but instead detour long enough to inform me of their activities, only to realize that they misjudged the time before their stomach contents would indeed need to be expunged from their mouth, and land on whatever body part of mine that happened to be exposed to the elements.

Fumes that have been exhausted by a way too early wake up call from a middle schooler, telling me that she forgot she needed  two bags of candy for some sort of object lesson in her speech in english and could I make a quick run to the store before car pool showed up… oh and could I also help her make cold lunch because she just checked the menu and lunch today was eeww.

Fumes that were mixed with the smell of a new york subway entrance as I realize one of the children didn’t quite hold it in through the night.  (but at least this time it was in their own bed and not on your back… another memory for the editing floor, right along with the times I have sat on the toilet myself, only to feel that eerily wet sensation on the the seat and realize it’s not water squishing the back of my legs.)

I am absolutely positive that when you think back to the memories of your own young family days, you are looking at the edited version.  A version that has, through the years, undergone a rigorous cut and paste process, until you have successfully remembered the tender moments (and believe me, there are many tender moments.  Moments that my heart seems to burst with love for my children and I really do wish I could hit the pause button and relish this moment in time forever!), and have forgotten the, well, not so great times (or at least can now look back on those with the humor that time and distance provide).

Please, please before you tell me that EVERY moment is precious, think back.  Way back.  Into the catacombs of the hate days.  You remember.  Those days where you watched your husband leaving the house, all pressed and clean and ready to spend the day having adult conversations, knowing full well that he would return in the same clean outfit unmarred by mashed bananas and spit-out-squash and you wanted to grab onto his pant legs along with the kiddos, kicking and screaming for him to not leave you alone.  That just for this one day, could you do your own version of ‘freaky friday’ and get to go have just a taste of the adult-only world??! (you would trade back right after… promise!)

Please reach down to the days when your newborn cried to eat and you started crying also, because you were not yet accustomed to nursing, and each and every suck sent shockwaves of pain throughout your body and it took every ounce of nurturing instinct to not shove that little pain-inflicting bundle of joy away from you.  Reach back and remember when dawn brought the dread of knowing that though you just got to sleep 45 minutes before, you had a whole gackle of littles who got great sleep and have already started placing their orders for the morning meal, followed by the long list of games they just can’t wait to play with you.  Those times when you decided that popcorn made a perfectly acceptable breakfast option, because the thought of loading the car, then the cart with all of the littles in order to replenish the milk supply that got depleted yesterday when the toddler decided to test the laws of gravity by pouring out the almost-full gallon, was just too much for you to bear.

In telling me to cherish every moment, you are heaping a load of guilt onto my already guilt-ridden soul.  I already feel guilty for moments when I daydream about having just a few, precious seconds (okay, hours) of sensational silent alone time.  I feel guilty about letting them watch yet another episode of super Y on the tablet just so I can clean the kitchen in peace.  Guilty for being a helicopter parent, followed by the guilt of just shoving them outside to play so I can let the walls muffle their sounds and I can pretend, just for a little bit, that I am once again in the care-free days of college, where my main decision was whether to study for the test or invite the apartment of cute guys over for dinner. Guilt for doing too much, or too little.  For being overly cautious, then not cautious enough.  Guilt for willing the clock on the wall to have some sort of hyper-speed motion, followed by guilt for wanting them to stay just this size forever so I never have to say goodbye and send them off into the big, bad world.

Yes, I have guilt.  guilt enough to fill the titanic.  And you telling me that every second with them is worthy of my cherishing and holding onto does not help.

In the moments of the trenches.  Deep down in the dug out, when I am trying so desperately to simultaneously shield my darlings from the whiles of the world, and fight the urge to run out on my own into the big bad world, I remember back to a time of receiving wise council from a mission mentor and dear friend.

In my younger years – before the momentous mommy hood times, I lived as a missionary in a foreign country.  Up to that point in life, I had heard people speak of such missions in terms of “It was the best time of my life!”  “I loved every minute of it!”

What I found when I was in the trenches of the mission life was quite different then those rosy tails, and I struggled.  It was HARD.  It was sweaty, and frustrating, and tiring, and many more emotions all rolled into one.  As we were walking down yet another dusty road, getting doors slammed in our faces, my dear mentor made a comment that has since resonated with me on many levels.  She said, “The bad moments will out number the good ones.  But the good ones far outweigh the bad.  When all is said and done, those are the ones that will remain.”
Oh how prophetic was that statement, both as a missionary, and now as a mommy.  When I am in the gulf of dirty diapers and hungry bellies with the phone ringing, the dog barking, and the baby screaming, instead of ‘cherishing the moment,’ I simply say to myself, “this is a lightweight memory.  It will fade with time and giveaway to a weightier moment, worthy of cherishing.” This thought is what gets me through the gulf.  Not the thought of, ‘why am I not in love with this very second of motherhood??  Don’t I know that time will pass very quickly??’  If that were the case, then why has it taken 3 hours for the second hand to make one revolution around the clock??!

You see, I have to give myself a bye at times.  A time out from cherishing.  A reminder that I will be able to look back on these moment with the filter that sifts the never ending afternoon hours and clings onto the snuggling infant, or the beaming preschooler, or the just-learned-to-share toddler.  Those are the weighted moments.  Those are the cherishable moments.  It’s okay to let some go.  It’s okay to not try to snatch up every second.

It’s okay to use your own personal sieve and let some things fall through the memory cracks… like the gum smooched into the carpet – that’s probably an ‘editing moment’  The time the whaling baby gets handed to you and she instantly calms down, and IMG_9846you have a little light bulb moment of realizing that you are her person.  That to her, you are the world.   That feeling of awestruck that you feel?  That’s a keeper.  You lock it up and keep it safe because you will need it soon (like for the later time she wants you to drop her off a block away so she won’t be ‘seen’ with her mother!).  Or the moment that you all have a spontaneous dance party… even your uber self-conscious tween boy joining in the shaking and shimmying?  Definitely a keeper.  The time when the son drops and beaks the way-too-expensive cello, and then simply shrugs it off as if you can just skip out the back and harvest the money tree to fix it and you have to count to 10… about 10 times to keep from slapping that smug smile off his face?  That’s one you can let sail through the sieve.



You get the picture.  Motherhood.  There are many moments.  some are keepers,

some are… well.. not.


How about we change that all-too-often dished out advice?  Just a slight shift?  How about we tell each other, “grab the great, and let the rest go.”  (or better yet, grab the great, and for the rest, grab a camera!)  Let’s fIMG_8976ace it, there are forgettable moments in motherhood.  It’s okay to just make it through those. Then, when the really heavy moments come, we have open brain power to grasp it, package it, and truly cherish it forever.


Why I love 50 shades

shades of gray

I am not one to get tangled in the current social media buzz.  I usually tend to sit back and let it pass.  Because it always passes.  Today’s “hot topics” inevitably become tomorrows past news.  And on we march, to embrace the next trending story.

This is how I have viewed all of the hub-bub surrounding the book 50 Shades of Grey (or as I like to call it… gray).  As something that would just pass by and go away.  But then they made it into a movie.  Seriously.  A movie that highlights the go-directly-to-black-do-not-pass-anything-resembling-any-shades-of-gray portrayal of sex.

Let me back up a bit.  I have not read the book (unless you count that a talk show I happened to turn to read the first paragraph out loud, which made my toes curl and sent shivers down my spine.  No, not the good kind of shivers.  The “I don’t want to have anything to do with this, and I think I’ll be turning the channel now, thank you very much” shivers).  I do not intend to see the movie.  I have allowed others their own choices in life regarding such matters, so I have never put my opinion out there.

Until now.

With the impending release of the movie, it seems like the social media had been lit on fire with seemingly everyone calling for a ban/boycott/renunciation of the movie, the book, and on pornography in general.

And I agree.  Wholeheartedly.

At first, when I saw the articles and blog posts, I thought of the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” and worried that though people were shouting about the wrongfulness of the book and movie, the mere fact that they were shouting about it was indeed helping to publicize it.

And then it hit me.  In a society that has been creeping and crawling down the slippery slope of what-is-immoral-vs-what-is-art-vs-what-is-‘innocent’-fun-vs-what-is-just-a-little-bit-of-bad line of books, articles, and media, it has seemed to be easier and easier to simply ‘look away’ during the ‘bad parts’ and give a report that “oh, it’s a good book/movie/article… just this one tiny indecent part… but the work on a whole is good.”  In fact, to call out the immoral parts of any work have instead resulted in the whistle blower to come across as a ‘prude’ or ‘out of touch’ with the hip and the new age of ‘maturity.’

Enter 50 shades.  In just one work of literature, the author took us not one shade deeper into the amoral abyss, but she took us leaps and bounds across many shades – 50 to be exact – to enter deep in the black zone.  We can no longer just shift uncomfortably in our seats and pretend to be hip.  We have to admit that someone has finally gone too far.  That perhaps we have all gone a few steps too far and she has just brought our own slippery slope to the forefront of our conscience, and is forcing us to realize that given a few more years of swimming in the heat, we, too, just may be duped into the ‘storyline’ that she tried to slip in-between the sexual exploits of the book.

A line has been drawn.  And it’s time for us to stand up for good old fashioned virtue.

Yet, it’s even more than that.  It’s time for us to turn the line into the starting point for a new platform.  A platform of morals, decency, and courage to stand up for the good in the world, and to truly stand up against the corrupt.  To teach our children that we refuse to slide even one shade deeper into the gray, the black, or whatever other gradation that popular culture sees fit to thrust in front of our faces.

As I have been reading the opposition to the movie, the book, and the blatant pornography that is becoming increasingly streamlined and passed off to the masses as ‘modern thinking,’ I have cheered to see that I am not alone in my sentiments that we have somehow gone too far, and that it’s time to reclaim the good in the world.  It’s time to request – no, Demand more.  More from ourselves, and certainly more from the media.  It’s time to recant the phrase “sex sells” and replace it with the long forgotten attribute of TALENT.  It’s time to put our attention and support on things that truly enrich and uplift, not degrade and embarrass (seriously, if the stars of the movie – who got PAID to act in it- can’t even seem to find one good thing to say about it, why would any of us PAY money to patronize it??!)

For this reason, I am truly grateful for 50 shades.  For helping us to stop, back up, and finally find our footing in the slippery world.  For helping these conversations to come to the forefront.  For helping us get a glimpse into the direction that our media and society have been heading for quite some time, albeit at a much slower pace.

Thank you for being so over-the-top that you have zapped us out of our zombie like march into the apocalyptic abyss of the hyper-sexualization of society.

And most of all, thank you, 50 shades, for helping me climb out of my quiet, conservative bubble and join in the media blitz that has come out AGAINST your attempt at throttling us into the throws of blatant pornography.  I will not be attending your premier, but I truly thank you for helping me stand up and stand out in this fight to call for something better, something cleaner, and something much more worthy of my praise.

Ratatouille… it’s more than just a movie!

warning:  when starting your own venture of kids cooking in the kitchen… it might be a good idea to time it when they are on a movie kick of something other than the famous “Ratatouille”

If not, when it comes time for your 7 yo to make his menu decision,

His eyes might get super duper wide,

Light up like a christmas tree,

and may even send sparks that turn on the light bulb that just appeared above his head

as he shouts (yes, SHOUTS!)  RATATOUILLE!  that’s what I want to make, mom, RATATOUILLE!!

… and for about half a second you will second guess your whole venture into this kids in the kitchen program of yours and offer to send out for McDonalds on his night, just to back down.

But you don’t.  Because you are the mother and you are instilling so much more than meals with this little venture, and you know you can’t stop now.

So you get onto the internet (because, let’s be honest, the only version of ratatouille that you have seen was, indeed cooked by a  cartoon rat on the disney movie).

You see that it’s a summer dish, so you try the logical approach…

“hey honey, how about we try this in the summer when we have all of the yummy vegetables from the garden to cook it?”

“No!  I want to make it this week.”

“but honey, all of the directions say that it doesn’t taste as good in the winter – it uses a lot of vegetables from the garden, so it would be hard to find ones right now that taste very good.”

“But I really want to make it this week.  pleeeeeeeeeease????”

Put that together with his puppy dog eyes, that you know that he knows that you are a sucker for,

and you suddenly find yourself making a shopping list for ‘ratatouille’

which has eggplant.

yes, eggplant.








lots and lots of eggplant…

(which, though you have taught about the many health benefits found in this odd-looking vegetable, truth be told, you have never actually used it in your own kitchen.  And even more truth be told, it scares you to do it now).

… and chopping










lots and lots of chopping









which, I learned is a benefit of having a menu ahead of time.  When you know there will be lots of pre-prep, you can do it ahead of time (i.e. on Sunday afternoon, we did all the chopping, so come Monday – our crazy day – all we had to do was throw everything in the pot!)








wouldn’t you know it, we all loved the ratatouille!








… of course in an effort of self-disclosure, we did change up the recipe a bit (as we almost always do when cooking!). Some of the eggplant was bad, so to help us save time, I substituted potatoes for half of the eggplant called for.  Of course I had to throw in some of my Idaho roots!  I may be a bit biased, but I think it worked out even better than having the whole eggplant portion (or maybe I’m still a little bit scared of said eggplant???).

Just in case you are dying to try this great *summer* dish:

(adapted from food network and

1/4-1/3 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cup diced yellow onion (1-2 onions)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups egg plant (we did 1 1/2 cup potato and 1 cup egg plant) chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 cup diced green bell peppers

1 cup diced red bell peppers

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced yellow squash (we couldn’t find this, so we just did 1 cups zucchini)

1 1/2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes

15 oz diced tomatoes in can, undrained

1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, sliced

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

salt and pepper as needed

sauté onions and garlic in the oil until slightly caramelized. Add eggplant (or potatoes) and thyme until slightly cooked (about 5 min if only using eggplant… about 10 if using potatoes).  Add all peppers, zucchini and squash.  Cook another 5 min.  Add tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper.  If using potatoes, need to boil for a while until potatoes are soft.  If just using eggplant, just need to cook for about 5 more minutes.

Can serve warm or cold.  We liked it warm, served with french bread.  Yummy!!

(my other son even asked to take it for school lunch a couple of days later – true sign of success!!)