Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Groundhog Week and Braised Short Ribs

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TimeHop. The app that slays mothers daily. Just when you thought you saw a glimmer of baby face in your toddler, TimeHop shows you how bitty they were just one, two, three years ago!

There is this crazy idea that stay-at-home parents have all this free time. I'm sure by now you've read the Apology To Stay At Home Moms. It is funny, if not wildly exaggerated. I hope. We do time differently. My "break" comes if I successfully get both kids to have some sort of overlapping quiet time or nap, which is rough, when you don't turn on the t.v. during the day. So if that magical moment shines down on me, I check my phone. I go racing through Instagram, Facebook, and TimeHop as fast as I can, lest someone wake up or poop or need water. All at once.

Yesterday, TimeHop informed me, after an hour of yelling at fabric until it willed itself into capes, that on that day last year, I was making capes for Halloween.

Today, I have just been informed that last year I made braised short ribs for dinner.

Guess what I'm making for dinner tonight.

I don't plan meals. I tried, and it was torture. So much goes into a meal, I can't just slap it down on paper on Sunday and go with it on Thursday. What if the weather is not as hot/cold/rainy/dry as predicted? What if the just-in vegetables over there look better than the ones my dish calls for? I need to go into a store and look at the produce, imagine us sitting down, and think about the feeling around the table. Typing that out makes it seem a bit crazy. Either you will completely understand or you won't get it at all. I would thrive in a fresh market society.

Today, I walked into the store. I had just dashed through the sheet rain carrying a squirmy toddler who refused to wear any sort of shoes. I walked around the produce department - fresh, beautiful shiitake mushrooms, earthy russet potatoes, new crop apples. I knew what we'd be eating the rest of the day. Gala apples with cheddar to hold the girls (and me) over for the reward of oh-so-slowly-braised short ribs over mashed potatoes.

The meat, and therefore the name of the dish, is the same as last year, but I've taken a different approach this year. This is worth the time. If you could smell my home right now, you'd be making this for dinner, too.

A word on pan cooking in general:
This dish is one made up of deep, bold flavors that take time to create. Those flavors are developed through every stage of cooking. If you are someone who can not leave a pot or pan alone, meaning you must stir it all the time, get some laundry or Candy Crush or something ready in another room. You must be able to leave these things to cook without stirring for minutes at a time, or you will miss out on a lot of flavor later. Then find a way to break that habit, because most food needs to be allowed to sit and cook for a few minutes at a time. If your food is burning if left undisturbed for a few minutes, your heat is too high.

A word on braising:
Julia Child says you should braise meats at 350°F, generally. I always found that to produce tough meat. Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, believes a quality braise should start at 200°F, raising the temperature to 250°F after two hours. This allows for the collagen of the connective tissues to melt without drying out the muscle fibers. I braised these at 250°F, to save on time without drying the dish out. 

For the low-down on braising, check out Bon Apetit's wonderful article

Braised Beef Short Ribs

This dish takes about an hour of hands on-and-off time, and at least 2.5 hours to cook after that. It feeds 6 hungry people.


4 lbs bone-in short ribs (our butcher was really feeling autumn when he cut these - the ribs in the picture are each about 1lbs)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 medium sized shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into strips (about 45g)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 cup high-quality chicken stock
1 - 750mL bottle of dry red wine, preferably Cabernet Sauvignon

Preheat the oven to 250°F.

Generously salt and pepper the meat. Allow the ribs to come to room temperature. In a dutch oven large enough to hold all of the short ribs without crowding, heat 1 TBS olive oil over medium heat. Once it is hot, lower the heat to medium-low and place the short ribs in the pan bone-side down, working in batches if the pan gets crowded. You want them to brown, not steam. Leave the short ribs to brown for 3-4 minutes undisturbed. Flip the short ribs and repeat for all four sides, until each side has a nice crust. Remove the meat to a plate. Drain all but a tablespoon of drippings from the pan, reserving the rest.

Add the onions and mushrooms into the hot pan. Give them a good stir to coat with drippings, then let them sweat over low heat until translucent, stirring once every 2-3 minutes. If they are burning, lower your heat. To caramelize, they need to be left to sit for a few minutes, undisturbed. Do not be afraid of browning on the pan, either! If you need more grease, add some of the reserved drippings.

After 5 minutes, toss in the carrots and celery. Sautee for another 2 minutes before making a well in the middle of the vegetables. Pour a teaspoon(ish) of grease in the well and let it heat for a few seconds before putting in the garlic. Let the garlic cook for about 45 seconds before stirring it all up again and letting the mirepoix cook for a few more minutes. Scoop the veggies out of the pan.

Pour in a little wine (enough to cover the bottom) and deglaze the pan. Once all the bits are scraped up, pour in the remainder of the wine, the chicken stock, and toss in the rosemary sprig. Bring the liquid to a simmer and let it reduce for 5 minutes. Place the meat and vegetables back into the pot. If the liquid reaches higher than half-way up the meat, remove some from the pot. Keep this liquid, incase your levels get low later, or for gravy. It is worth having extra, flavorful liquid than to add less at the beginning and need to supplement with water or something less delicious later on.

Clap a lid onto the dutch oven and put it in the oven, not to be seen for another 2 hours. Check the liquid level. If it is lower than an inch, add more.

After 2 hours, take the lid off and braise for another 30-45 minutes with the lid off. If you need more time, return the lid, turn off the oven, and let it sit for up to one more hour.

Scoop everything out of the pan. Pour the gravy into a fat separator. Pour the separated jus back into the pan and reduce until the gravy is thick. (You can also add the extra liquid back in now, if you like. If you don't have a fat separator, just skim the fat from the surface.)

I like to serve short ribs two ways. One is over fresh tagliatelle. The second is over mashed potatoes. Add a parsnip or horseradish for an excellent twist on the classic spuds.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Kid Who Cried Poop

Pin It Here at the A Family Home, every day is National Coffee Day. But, for those of you who don't require a cup of coffee to jumpstart your brain every single morning, instead enjoying coffee as a treat or occasional thing you do, I will never understand how you exist Happy Coffee Day!

Today was a productive day. I (with some help) baked bread, baked cookies, ran errands, cut and sewed two capes, kept everyone fed, only yelled once when a child jumped into (literally, into) my face, and set the chickens up for a stormy few days, cleaned up all the messes from all the baking and eating, all around the PK pick-up, drop-off schedule. I even drank hot coffee and showered. Some days I win.

But on these days where my normal chaos almost seems like a beautiful, intentional flow of projects (Let's not kid ourselves. I have no time management skills.), my kids seem to kick it into overdrive. For example, in the 5 minutes I carved out to shower, Toddler Raptor came out to play. She figured out how to open the doors (two) from the house to the garage and found an old bag of theater popcorn (like, at least a month old) sitting atop a giant construction garbage bag my forgetful husband has not yet put a sticker on and tossed to the curb. Well, a toddler does not care that the popcorn is old, had been picked up off the car floor and driveway, or that it is the top layer in a bag of junk. When I realized about 4 minutes into my shower that it was all too quiet and flew out of the shower, she showed me her fistful of popcorn and offered to share. How kind. I took the popcorn away.

This was maybe 7:45am. 

For about a month, I lived in a world of that crazy anxiety where you are thinking of having more kids and trying to figure out if it is a fantastic idea or the worst idea ever. Even though it wasn't something we were even considering for months at the earliest, my rash of pregnant friends (three of which gave birth in the past week, and three more of which will in the next 10 days!) collided with a visit to my doctor, and so there it was, annoying the heck out of me. The moment V. was born we knew she needed a sibling. She needed someone close in this world besides us. At just shy of 2.5 years apart, these girls are best friends. Even though when you have two, somehow time is divided by six and the stuff you need to carry triples (we flew across the country with both girls once. Only for my BFF would I do that again while they still need carseats or diapers or anything that isn't a hand to hold) and good luck trying to just leave your kid with someone for the night without bargaining away your life.  Despite all that, two-under-three was the best decision we have made so far. They are so close and have so much in common. My day is liberally sprinkled with moments like this:

Seriously, how could you not want more of that? In the end, we decided we all needed at the very least another year before thinking about adding more members to our awesome family, if anything so that the girls really have a chance to solidify their relationship and J. has a chance to go to school and become herself outside the home. And although I was at peace with this decision, it was a bit sad.

Until today.

Today I realized why we need more time to reevaluate if we want a third. Because today I was considering figuring out a time-share situation with anyone willing so that my kids wouldn't cross paths for at least a month. Probably longer.

Here are just a few of the things my kids said to each other today, with the sole purpose of making their sister scream like she is on fire:

"I'm taking all the crayons and throwing them in the toilet and flush them down and then you will never color again, EVER."

"I put you in the toilet and FL-USH! Bye-bye!"

"If you sniff those cookies, they will get stuck in your nose and you will have to go to the hospital."

"I take all the squares (magformers) and hide them and you have no cubes!"

"Yeah, well, you're a cube. And your face and your butt is a cube, too."

"That MY Mommy. You have Daddy."

"I not looking at you."

"I'm a dragon and I'm going to eat your bones. I got all your bones out and I'm grinding them up for soup. Now your bones are powder. Now I ate them."

"I going to have gas on your batgirl mask!"

No child their dinner, so I was the only one rewarded with a cookie. (Hubsy is at a meeting. He brought a plate of cookies, so he gets one, too. He also ate his dinner.) Because I'm not a short-order cook, dinner went into the refrigerator and there was much crying when graham crackers weren't provided. V. has come out of her room four times to tell me about her bug bites. J. spent a good 15 minutes yelling every excuse in the book to get out of her room, which she thinks leads to cookies, including "I licking books!" and "I have poop for you!"

This is all to say that today I ruled the Stay At Home Mom world, including a trip to Target that cost under $15. But, I also had to tell my preschooler at least four times that her sister was just trying to get her to screech, so she should not react that way while telling her that threatening to tickle or chase or force her sister into the roll of baby or Anna or a cat when she didn't want to be was disrespectful. I'm going to record this next time, so that I can save my breath. It'll happen before school drop-off tomorrow.

And that is parenting more than one. So in moments like right now, listening to J shoving diapers under her door and V rearranging the furniture in her room, I choose to remember those moments that shone today, despite the trash popcorn and the threats of mask-farting. Even those will be funny tomorrow. Eating gooey, warm, amazing chocolate chip oatmeal cookies helps tint the glasses to rose, too.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Never Have I Ever ...

Pin It ... Made a noodle kugel. Until now.


Although my great aunt Florence was the first to introduce me to Jewish cuisine, I didn't know what a kugel was until I met my husband. I will admit that at first I was very leery. Italians don't put pasta into custard and bake it, generally. But after trying a few kugels, I found that they were actually quite delicious, if you can get over the expectation of this being a savory dish. Really, kugel is an excuse to eat custard at the dinner table. And I love custard.

Yom Kippur 2015: My mother-in-law asked me to make a kugel. I love being asked to make something new. I get to research and plan and craft a recipe from the expectations and ideas of others. I interviewed a few choice family members who know their way around the kugel world for what makes a perfect kugel. My husband was very, very clear: kugels should have cinnamon and should absolutely not have raisins, even if those raisins are drunk. Others said raisins were okay, but given my husband's staunch opinion, I left them out. No reason to start the new year with raisin-in-the-kugel drama.

My kugel did not disappoint. Somewhere in our fasting hunger, with the smell of kugel and toasting bagels in the air, I mentioned to my cousin that this has enough butter in it that you could slice it like bread and reheat it in a pan, frying it in its own butter, to make a crispy kugel toast. She added that a fried egg should be tossed in for good measure, because what doesn't a fried egg improve. My smart foodie cousin was absolutely correct.

Behold, the new breakfast of champions:

There are no words to describe how heart-stoppingly good this was.

Kugel For A Crowd

This makes one generous 9x13 glass pan of kugel. This is a very decadent kugel, but don't downgrade the fat content in the cheeses. It just won't taste as good, and this isn't something you eat every day!


8 eggs
1lb cottage cheese (whole milk)
1lb cream cheese, room temperature (whole fat)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 lb (16 oz) wide egg noodles
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
cinnamon sugar for dusting (optional)
handful of raisins, soaked in calvados overnight and strained (optional, but how could it be bad?)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In well-salted, boiling water, parboil the noodles. I added mine in 2 batches, so they cooked for 5 and 7 minutes. This gives a bit more texture to the dish, but is not necessary. Drain the noodles and set aside.

In a medium bowl or stand mixer, whip the cream cheese and cottage cheese until smooth. Add in the eggs, sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract, and cinnamon. Blend well.

Using the wrapper from the butter, grease a 9x13 glass baking dish. Pour the noodles into the pan, and add in the raisins, if using them.

Pour the egg mixture over the top of the noodles and give the dish a little shake to help the liquid spread. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.

Bake until set, for approximately 1 hour. Serve hot or at room temperature. For added flair to a room temperature kugel, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.


Kugel for breakfast?! Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Pin It I love coming home. I love when we've been away for a day or two and we walk through the door to home. There is a pattern to my homecoming, and I know I must not be alone in this.

We had a lovely weekend away, and kid-free to boot, thanks to my amazing inlaws. We drank some lavish bottles of wine to celebrate six years of marriage. We slept in, until 7:20am both mornings. It was glorious. After a gorgeous drive through the White Mountains, we gathered our babies and drove home.

Opening the door is great when you have a big, happy doggy who can't wait to see you. She generally beats out the kids for being genuinely glad to just see us again. We unload our arms and, because we have honed this over the years to time our homecoming with nap, put the girls to bed. I immediately rush upstairs for yoga pants and fuzzy socks. Then I remember that we have no food and end up at the grocery store in my yoga pants. Every time.

But I don't feel like I'm home after a weekend of eating our way through another place until I'm in my kitchen again. The stuff I grab at the store is generally something that is simple to prepare and makes my home smell just like it should: savory and from scratch. This afternoon, I grabbed the makings for goulash and the vegetables for my chicken stock, which will be chicken soup tomorrow.

Welcome home, family.

Goulash, or American Chop Suey, or One Pot Pasta, or whatever else they are calling it now:

1 box Barilla or Wegman's Italian Classics elbows (I like these brands because their elbows are bigger, with a twist and shallow ridges) 
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 - 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1- 28 oz can/jar tomato sauce 
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced (or chopped, if you aren't into garlic slices)
1 bay leaf
1 TBS dried basil
1/2 TBS dried oregano
1 tsp white sugar (this is what makes goulash so different. I used to leave this our or use carrots. My family noticed.)
1/2 tsp salt to start, then add to taste in the last minutes of cooking
1 lb ground beef
3/4 - 1 lb mozzarella cheese, cubed 
Fresh basil, cut into strips, for garnish

Brown beef in a large dutch oven and drain off fat. Remove beef and add 2 tsp of olive oil to the pot. Sautee the onion and garlic over medium heat until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the beef back to the pot along with every other ingredient except the cheese and fresh basil. 

This dish doesn't turn out saucy. What makes goulash so good is that the pasta is cooked in all that tomato juice. Check to be sure there is a little liquid on the bottom to prevent burning (add water if needed), but otherwise let it go for about 30 minutes. 

5 minutes before serving, stir in the cheese. Cover and be sure to stir well before serving. Adding the whole pound of cheese will result in an amazingly cheesy dish, as in strings of cheese hanging from every bite. If you just want a bit of cheesiness, add less. Adjust the salt and pepper after adding cheese. 
(I have made this without cheese and served it with heaps of parmesan, making it dairy free for those who need it, and still having a cheese option for those who like cheese. It is delicious in its own right.) 

I serve this topped with strips of fresh basil and put red pepper flakes on the table, for those who like a little more spice in their life. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Every Living Thing

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Just yesterday, I heard about Finish The Sentence Fridays. Every week, bloggers are given a different writing prompt, a sentence to complete in their post. I thought maybe this would give me more inspiration to write regularly.

But I have kids, and when you think something like this, they can read it on your face and are willing to provide their own prompts. Without warning.

Tomorrow is Yom Kippur. This is the first time I'll be fasting in six years, so I took this opportunity to finish up the buffalo wings for lunch. I didn't want to have to think about them tomorrow. Just as I sunk my teeth into my first delicious wing, my preschooler looked at me with serious concern on her face.

"So two people can get married and decide they want a baby because they are really responsible and want kids. Then a baby grows in a mom's stomach. But how does the baby get there?"

Now. Hubsy and I have discussed at length how we will be honest with our children without over explaining. I'm sure if you are a parent of a kid under 10 and have internet access, you too have waded through the myriad of parenting articles on how to address this specific question. I'm not here to add to the pile. I am here to tell you that despite having a definite stance on addressing questions in childhood, having fielded questions from students about everything under the sun, and having even taught gender, puberty and reproductive education to children, at that moment, hunched over my wings, I froze. Maybe if I don't move she won't see me. 

"Well, a baby develops from an egg so small that you need a microscope to see it. Then it grows until it is a baby that can survive outside a mom's uterus, not stomach. Until then, the baby needs to stay inside so that its body can develop organs like the baby's lungs, heart, and brain." Good job. Eat your wings faster.

"I know, but how does the egg get there?"

"Women are born with many, many eggs. They are always there."

"So I have eggs? All girls have eggs? Then why do I look like Daddy?"

This is why some people drink wine at lunch. I get it now. 

This conversation went on, with talks of seeds and family structure and genetics, turning into how every living thing has a form of a seed, so that it can make more of its kind, like the apples she studied at school today. Don't you want to talk about apple day?! She sat there and stared at me with the same intensity she took to the two 100-piece puzzles she completed this weekend, both within an hour and both completely independently. She knows I'm sitting on the missing piece. She can see where it fits, but she doesn't know what it is, so she can't quite shape the questions to get it.

And now I'm stuck in this odd place where I'm relieved I could have this honest conversation with my child without telling her how sex plays into reproduction, and proud that I have a child who thinks of these kinds of obscure questions along with the fear that maybe she could sense my hesitation or that she'll start searching for avocado pits and apple pips because she is tired of me eschewing her pleas for another sibling and has some crazy idea of seeds from a talk that may have derailed a bit.

In the end, I'm glad she thinks this is normal table conversation and that she should ask us her questions, because kids will ask questions to anyone who will listen. I much prefer they hear it from me.

Disclaimer: If you read this and hoped the conversation was spurred because of recent household events, I'm sorry to disappoint. I discovered the aforementioned writing prompt idea while waiting to decline my invite to what my doctor cutely referred to as "the baby race." Let someone else win while I figure out if I can handle these questions a second time, let alone a third go-around. No, no. These are the thoughts my kids pull out of the blue. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Science! In the kitchen!

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Before I start this post, you should know I'm not cool enough (yet) to have earned any swag in exchange for a review, so not only is this review my 100% honest opinion, but I paid for the subscription. 

My kids love to cook. Some of my earliest memories are of helping my dad or stepmom in the kitchen, on this ancient green stove and oven contraption that looked more like a robot than a kitchen appliance. When I nannied, I had beautiful kitchens to teach my little loves how to whisk and fold. I started my own girls in the kitchen incredibly young, and mostly out of necessity. I wore them as I cooked, set them in highchairs at the counter as I baked, gave them tastes of ingredients and talked at them about the processes and products until they were old enough to narrate themselves. These days, it is rare when I don't have a kid in the kitchen helping. That's how I like it. 

When V. was three, my friend told me about a monthly cooking club for kids. I took a chance on one box and our first Raddish box arrived two weeks later. Inside were three recipe cards, a paper chef hat (which caused many arguments, even though J. was only one) and a badge for an apron we didn't have.  V. loved it. The cooking technique featured was knife safety, which lead to us purchasing a very sharp and purple paring knife small enough for a preschooler's hands. (V. had been cutting with butter knives and lettuce knives for a while. Nearing her fourth birthday, she had almost two solid years of chopping stuff up before we handed her an actual knife.) 

Although we really enjoyed that box, and one other box we ordered with a holiday theme, I wasn't quite certain the girls were old enough to appreciate this on a monthly basis, especially given the cost. 

Last month, the theme was chemistry. That was enough to sell me. I had watched too many great monthly themes go by without ordering, and the STEM tie-in was just too cool to pass up. 

Our box arrived Friday. 

I ordered the sibling kit to avoid drama, and good thing. I can't imagine what would happen if only one pair of goggles were available. Wars have been waged over less. 

These recipes and the language involved are really designed for older kids, but the pictures are clear enough that reading isn't necessary. The cards are laminated, so when J. dumped milk on them, they cleaned right off.

Because of the goggles and Odd Squad, the girls were pretty sure the chemical reaction was going to be dramatic in an explosion sense. Sorry, kids. 

Although her prediction of what would happen to the milk was off, and the slightly disappointing lack of explosions, V. was pretty pleased with the end result: ricotta cheese. 

While everyone taste-tested the experiment, we had a great talk about proteins and acid.

Obviously this is something you could do without a box showing up at the door. However, the box provides sophisticated language in kid-friendly format, which isn't innate for many parents. Each kit contains a skill used in all three recipes, adding structure and reinforcement. There is also the fact that now it is all packaged and paid for, so I feel I should make good use of what we got.

I'd recommend this for any family, but particularly those looking for a non-intimidating way to introduce cooking to their kids, homeschoolers who would benefit from the structured lessons, and anyone looking to boost math skills.

We all had a good deal of fun making cheese. I'm glad we went for a subscription this time because, even though they are usually cooking with me, it was nice to have a recipe that was kid-directed and, had we completely burned it, would have been of little consequence if ruined. We'll make good use of each monthly kit, I'm sure.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Parenting Milestone: Hoarders

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Have you ever randomly smiled and not quite been sure why? I've heard that fleeting, unexplained giggles, sighs, smiles, and sadnesses are attributed to someone, somewhere thinking of us. 

Wherever my father is right now, he just laughed. Not a small chuckle. He is having a good side-splitter. I'll tell you why, in hopes that progress is made while my back is turned. 

Cheers, Daddy.
I worked at a summer camp in my teens. The staff all had "bird names" and my chosen name was Magpie. I even have the little bird tattoo to commemorate many happy years spent as Magpie. When I chose the name, I didn't quite realize that magpies were more than just collectors, they can be downright hoarders. As a child, I collected all sorts of oddities. I had a marble collection, rock collection, original Cabbage Patch Kid collection (actually, they are still in the basement...), sticker collection, coin collection, and, eventually, I collected enough Beanie Babies to fill a pool. And those are just the ones I remember.

My room was generally a mess. I actively work every single day to try and keep the clutter at bay, but now the clutter is random bits of games my toddler has dumped out that morning, kid art, errant socks, and opened mail that belongs to my husband so I really don't know what to do with it and I hate being a nag. He knows it is there. (Right, Husband?!)

So after years of existing as an adult in a house of my own that has a system I can generally maintain to a level that if someone that wasn't a close friend were to call and tell me they were stopping by in 20 minutes, the visible rooms would look respectable. If they don't, you are either a close friend or someone needs to send in reinforcements.

My older daughter's room is generally a little crazy. Just like when I was a kid, it will be clean one second and a disaster the next. Many of my friends have assured me this is how kids exist. Then, one day, my daughter did something that warranted us scooping all the toys, books, stray socks, everything that was on the floor or shelves or in the toy drawer were unceremoniously dumped into a box by my husband and moved into the spare room. I don't remember the when or what of the crime. All I know is we have friends visiting this weekend and the monstrosity of a box (thanks, Amazon!) needs to vacate the space. This coincides nicely with my daughter's recent desire to find a doll I was pretty sure was somewhere in that box.

I told my dear 4.5-year-old that she could search the box for her doll, but before she could play with her, every last thing had to be emptied from the box, sorted, and put away properly.

And then I watched in silent horror at the things she unearthed. Meanwhile, she acted like this was Christmas morning. "Look! I found..." started every high-pitched exclamation."

"... my Merida doll!"
"... my box of pirate gold!"
"... a can of Play-Do!" (what?!)
"... my hairbrush, so you don't need to yank out my hair with your brush!"
"... this very important book I know is important because it has tiny writing!" (a guide to wine)
"... my sister's (insert half of the toddler's worldly possessions)!"
"... a glue stick that doesn't work anymore!" (Kid, we need to talk.)

And it just kept going. And going. Game pieces, scraps of paper, Valentine's... at some point I zoned out. But the whole time she was happy. Impressively, she chucked a bunch of junk without prompting. She was certain to report every last item to me, enthusiastically, and then place it in its proper place. Two hours later, the time came for her to collect her doll and play.

I know some will read this and shake their heads, wondering how any parent could let stuff amass. These people either don't have kids, are gifted the rare, meticulous child, or clean the room for their child. As much as I had a propensity for collecting, my mother frequently just bagged everything up when it overwhelmed and pushed it into the attic, using the threat that it had been pitched. I knew how to get into the attic, unfortunately for her, and never learned how to maintain or cull any sort of collection. My hope is that my daughter learned something this afternoon*. And that my father enjoyed his laugh. He's only been waiting 25 years.

(For the record, my parents are divorced. My father and my ever-patient stepmother, with my home I spent less time at, would actually make me clean my room. I gnashed my terrible teeth and rolled my terrible eyes, but they persisted. Cheers.)

*If not, next time I'm calling the team from Hoarders before the cat gets flattened and we find cans of beans from 1947.