out came the mama bear

It finally happened. Someone made fun of Claire because of her disability. | erniebufflo.com

It finally happened. Someone made fun of Claire because of her disability.

I was sitting on the couch, drinking wine, folding laundry, enjoying some quiet while Jon supervised the kids out biking and scooting with some of the kids on our block, all of whom are older than our girls, but are generally quite sweet to them. Then Claire and Jon came in the door. “Why don’t you tell your mama what they said?” Jon said.

“Those big girls said my diaper isn’t cool and that they don’t want to hang out with me because they don’t want to hang out with babies who wear diapers. Can I please wear some undies? I want them to hang out with me.”

My face got hot. Claire wasn’t crying. She seemed very matter of fact. “Just a second, baby. Mama’s going to get some shoes and go talk to them.”

I slipped on my wicked good slippers, and in my pjs strode down the street. The two older girls saw me and started running. They knew what they said had been unkind. They ran into their yard. I kept walking calmly down to their house. They hadn’t made it into their houses yet.

“Can I talk to you for a second?”

“We’re so sorry, we got carried away, we know what we said was rude, and we’re sorry,” one said.

“It was unkind,” I said, “But I want to tell you something you don’t know about Claire. Claire was born with a disability called spina bifida. She had a great big hole in her back, and she had to have surgery when she was only one day old. Claire is actually amazing. Claire is one of the strongest people I know. People said she wouldn’t be able to walk and now she walks, and runs, and ride bikes out here with you. Claire is AMAZING. And she wears diapers because of her spina bifida, and NO ONE should ever make fun of her for that, because Claire is amazing.”

“We’re so sorry.”

“Thank you. Can you tell her that when she comes back out here?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you. Have a good night.”

And then I walked back down the street. Claire had sat on the potty and changed out of her diaper when I got home. Jon talked to her about how she can wear undies some day, but she’s got to get better about sitting on the potty, which is something she currently refuses to do a lot of the time.

I sent her back down the street on her bike. “I’m going to go talk to those girls and tell them I didn’t like what they said,” she said. She is still one of the strongest people I know. She stands up for herself. And I will always stand up for her too.

denver food reviews: brider

I love food, as you may have guessed from my plate-heavy Instagram feed. As we explore Denver one bite at a time, I thought it would be fun to post short reviews of the places we check out. Many food blogs do similar things, but how many are dragging two four-year-olds along for their culinary adventures? While I’ll occasionally be able to get a sitter and check out a cool joint sans kids, most of these reviews will be places we’ve taken our very well-behaved foodie four-year-olds.

Saturday night we headed to LoHi to check out Brider. We enjoyed great food in a somewhat incongruously casual (but hip) atmosphere, which is often described as “fast casual.” To me, “fast casual” conjures images of places like Pei Wei and Chipotle, and the food and vibe at Brider is definitely nicer than either of those.

We were there for dinner which features rotisserie chicken, porchetta, and lamb served four different ways each. We had the lamb with kale and potatoes and the chicken with fried rice and kimchi (which was my favorite of the two). The chicken was juicy with crispy, flavorful skin (if you don’t eat chicken skin, you’re missing the best part), and I loved dipping bites in the sesame soy sauce that accompanied my plate. Unfortunately, my lovely sunny-side-up egg was stolen by fried-egg-lover Etta. I cleaned my plate. If I hadn’t tried the chicken first, I would have also loved the lamb with kale and potatoes, however after the kimchi/sesame/soy flavor explosion going on with my chicken, it tasted just a bit bland by comparison. The lamb was juicy and tender, and the kale and potatoes were tasty, but I felt they needed just a hit of something special to take it to the next level. Next time I might try their madras curry or feta/harissa/taziki take on the lamb. The kale and potatoes might be better with a slightly more flavorful meat like their porchetta.

Denver Restaurant Reviews: Brider | erniebufflo.com

They have a kids menu and high chairs, and the girls both enjoyed meatballs over polenta, as well as bites from our plates. They use counter service, which is part of why it felt oddly casual, since the $18 plate of chicken was as nice as I’ve had in any white tablecloth restaurant. This is actually a perk! I love finding a place where my kids are welcome and I can still enjoy a great meal. We were pretty hungry, but the rotisserie dishes could likely be shared along with an appetizer and a dessert. Brider also features a coffee bar, a selection of pastries, a large sandwich menu, and beer and wine on tap as well as cocktails (and a happy hour every day from 3-6). They are open all day, and serve breakfast sandwiches and oatmeal in the mornings, along with coffees and house-made kombucha.

After our meal, we enjoyed strolling along the river, and both girls ended up IN the river. We will be back. Next time, I’ll pack the kids a change of clothes for the post-dinner water play, and I hope it will be cool enough to enjoy their awesome patio.

Denver Restaurant Reviews: Brider | erniebufflo.com

bet you miss your friends

It finally caught up with me. I’ve been so busy setting up house, getting the girls into school, volunteering for the Clinton campaign, and hanging out with family that I haven’t actually had a chance to realize I’m really effing lonely.

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Until Saturday. There was a cool kid event going on, so I took the girls. It was a “pop-up free-range playground” event where tons of boxes, tape, tubes, fabric, wheels, ropes, and other recycled materials were out on a playground and no parents were allowed in while kids played and obeyed the only rules “have as much fun as you can and try not to hurt yourself or others.” Volunteers supervised and helped with scissors, but NO PARENTS ALLOWED. There was free coffee nearby in the area for parents to hang out.

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If I were still in Little Rock, I would have rounded up my parent-friends and we would have been drinking coffee and chatting while our kids played. In fact, that’s what all the other parents there seemed to have done. They were chatting in groups, rocking younger siblings on hips. I got myself a coffee, sat down, and tried to figure out how to make friends. The longer I sat there, the more I felt like the odd kid out at a middle school dance. I wanted to burst into tears.

I miss my friends. I am so lonely.

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When I got home and finally did let the tears flow, Jon reminded me of my freshman year self, bounding up and down the halls of my dorm, basically insisting people be my friend. I don’t know where that girl went, but I am not her anymore. I certainly wish I had her energy. I know I’m good enough, smart enough, and gosh darnit, people like me, but I just don’t have it in me to walk up to a group of people already engrossed in conversation and attempt to say hi. Hi. I am so very new here. Hi. I am desperate to make some friends. Hi. Can you please talk to me? Hi. Can you see me over here just wishing you would break the ice and let me into your circle? You seem really cool with your rad glasses and your star-embroidered Ergo. You said you’re from Birmingham and I’m eavesdropping but I’m a displaced Southerner too. Oh, wow, you have twin boys and I have twin girls, and OMG your new baby is so cute and please let’s be friends.

I know eventually, we will have friends. It’s going to happen somehow. But it really sucks in the meantime.

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Update: after I wrote this mopey post, we visited a church, and I really liked it. I also found out they have a moms group that meets on Fridays, and the one this coming Friday is about tapping into your creativity. So I’m going to go and try to be brave and try to make some friends.

we tried hello fresh and blue apron. the winner is?

I mentioned a while back that we were considering trying some meal delivery services so Jon could cook dinner once a week or so. He’s a good cook, but busy ER docs don’t have a ton of time to research recipes, grocery shop, and prep. Services that send all the ingredients and recipe all ready to go sounded really ideal. I got a Hello Fresh coupon included in a box of stuff I ordered from Zulily, and a friend sent me a code for a free box of Blue Apron, so we decided to give them each a shot and see which one we preferred. I should note that this is not a sponsored post– Zulily frequently includes coupons and samples when they ship orders, and both services let users send friends discounts and free meals to try the services.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Hello Fresh

Hello Fresh was up first. One thing I didn’t like right off the bat was there was no plan that fit our diet preferences perfectly. We’re mostly vegetarian, but not entirely– we eat meat about once a week, and also enjoy eating seafood. Hello Fresh offers a Classic Box, a Veggie Box, and a Family Box. My ideal box would have a pescatarian option to get vegetarian and seafood recipes, but that’s not an option. So we did one week with a Family Box and one week with a Veggie Box. With a Veggie Box, you HAVE to get 3 meals per week, but the Family Box lets you choose 2 or 3 meals a week.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

Things we liked about Hello Fresh:

  • The recipes were delicious, easy to execute, and full of variety. Out of six meals, there was only one dish I didn’t care for, a portobello and orechiette primavera that kind of had a muddy flavor to this not-exactly-a-mushroom lover (I don’t hate them, but I don’t love them either).
  • The organization of the boxes. Each meal’s ingredients, minus meat or seafood, comes in its own individual box within the shipping box. It’s super easy to just stash the meal boxes in the fridge, and pull one out at mealtime. This prevents having to hunt for the various ingredients and gather them together. You just pull out the box and get cooking.
  • Jamie Oliver contributes some of the recipes. One of his recipes, a Brazillian black bean and rice bowl, was one of my favorites out of the six meals we tried.
  • All of the meals were balanced, healthy, fresh, and about 550-800 calories per plate. Every meal was enough for our family of 4, plus leftovers.
  • They sent us locally-raised meat!

Things we didn’t like about Hello Fresh:

  • Lack of a great option for our family’s diet, which is somewhere in between Veggie Box and Family Box. The Family Box was too meat-heavy for us, and we’d like to get vegetarian and seafood recipes.
  • Lack of a 2-meals-per-week option on the Veggie Box. I am a proficient cook, read a lot of food blogs and cookbooks, and enjoy cooking. I would prefer to just get 2 meals per week, one for Jon to cook, and one for me to cook, and leave me to my own devices the rest of the week.
  • Most of the recipes seemed to dirty a lot more dishes than our average meals. Multiple pans and bowls were often required, which makes cleanup a bummer.
  • Most meals take longer to cook than the estimated time.

Overall, our experience with Hello Fresh was super positive, and we enjoyed the meals we got from them.

Blue Apron

Next we tried Blue Apron. Blue Apron offers 2 basic plans, the Two Person Plan and the Family Plan. With each plan, you can choose 2 or 4 meals per week. Pricing is the same as Hello Fresh. Hello Fresh’s Family Box meals are $8.75 per serving, Blue Apron’s are $8.74. Also: we had leftovers with both services, lowering the actual price per serving further. One major perk to both of Blue Apron’s plans is the ability to choose your actual meals from a set of options. Another perk is the ability to input dietary preferences. I was able to select no beef, pork, or lamb, so our default options are vegetarian, seafood, or poultry, and I am able to further choose from among a few of those options for the 2 we are delivered. This way, we’ve managed to get entirely vegetarian or seafood meals, with no poultry.

Blue Apron vs. Hello Fresh, which comes out on top? | erniebufflo.com

If I were basing my opinion solely on the first meal we cooked from Blue Apron, it would have been a total failure. We were sent a Teriyaki-Glazed Salmon with Brown Rice, Bell Pepper, and Cucumber. How was it? I don’t know, because we ended up getting fast food after a failure. To start with, a small bottle of sesame oil had leaked all over our box, and I was missing the bell pepper somehow. Then, they expected me to somehow cook brown rice on the stovetop in 30 minutes. After that allotted time, the rice was still crunchy and I was wishing I had thrown it into my Instant Pot instead of dutifully following the recipe. Finally, I was cooking the salmon in a skillet at medium-high heat as directed, added the teriyaki sauce as directed, and immediately the sauce smoked up to the point that my smoke alarm went off. And that’s when we decided to give up on that meal. I emailed customer service about the leaky sesame oil and missing pepper, and they gave me $10 off my next box to make up for it.

All of the other 5 meals we tried, however, went off without a hitch, so I’m ready to call our first meal-fail a fluke.

Things we liked about Blue Apron:

  • Customization of the plans to suit our family’s diet, as well as to choose recipes from among several choices each week.
  • The option of 2 meals per week on every plan.
  • The meals were all delicious, and with one exception, easy to execute.
  • The meals were all balanced and healthy, mostly in the 500-600 calories per serving range, with one pizza night in the 800 calories per serving range.
  • Every meal was enough food for all four of us with some leftovers.
  • Jon and I enjoyed cooking some of the meals together, which was really fun.
  • All of the seafood they send is certified sustainable by Seafood Watch.
  • Responsive customer service when we had an issue.

Things we didn’t like about Blue Apron:

  • One meal was a total failure, though I’m willing to call it a fluke.
  • The packaging is slightly less convenient than Hello Fresh’s system– you have to hunt for all the ingredients that you’ve put away and gather them together to cook instead of just pulling one box out of the fridge.
  • Most of the time the meals take slightly longer to cook than estimated.

You may be able to guess that Blue Apron was the winner for our family, and we are continuing with their service. It just suits our individual needs the best. However, if you don’t have specific dietary needs, I don’t think you could go wrong with Hello Fresh, either.

Have you tried a meal delivery service, or are you interested in trying one? Is there another one you love that you think I might like better?

our new home in Denver: main floor

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My friend Lauren recently commented on Facebook, “Give the people what they want: a house tour!” So, Lauren, your wish is my command. I’m working on cleaning small segments of my house so I can take pictures of them and share them with my interwebz friends. This weekend I tackled the main living space on the first floor.

Our home is located in East Denver and is a 1911 bungalow. We didn’t do any of the renovations– the previous owners had a remodeler brother, and he did all the renovations for them in 2010. We didn’t even paint before moving in. Luckily they did an amazing job creating a space that seemed perfect for us from the moment we walked in, and that we love even more now that we’ve been living here since the end of June.

The first floor was opened up and the stairs relocated to make a great open living space. Seriously, the first time we walked in, I said to Jon, “We could totally host Meatballs in here.” We decided to keep this floor TV free, to make it a place where we could focus on spending quality time with family and friends. Though the movers didn’t think it was possible, Jon the homebrewer’s beloved kegerator managed to make it into the space. Also, the plate wall (which you may remember from our last home) didn’t go up until this week, and I swear I didn’t feel fully moved in until that moment.

Today, I’ve got pictures of what I consider the main living space of the house on the first floor. Also on this level are two bedrooms, one belonging to Etta and Claire, and one we use as an office/craft room, and a bathroom located between the two bedrooms.

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I love the entryway bench, because it lifts up for storage. Some day I’ll make it a cute cushion.

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I believe in letting sleeping dogs lie, so a napping Bessie dog appears in these pics. Love ya, old girl!

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I love this little beverage area. The previous owners were wine nuts, so they had a wine fridge put in. I’m more of a cocktail girl, so mine is full of mixers and syrups along with some wine. To the right is the fridge, and the pantry is to the right of that. I kind of love these giant drawers. The middle one has become the girls’ drawer, with all their plates and cups and snacks easily accessible to them.

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And there you have the first floor of our new home, minus bedrooms! I promise to share the rest of the house soon.

do one thing every day that scares you

Or in my case, do it twice a week.

If I call my family or best friends on the phone, they usually answer with a panicky “IS EVERYTHING OK?” This is because I do not like talking on the phone. I hate it. Once, my voicemail was borked for like 6 months, and I didn’t realize it. I was just delighted that everyone had finally realized that texting is my love language and stopped calling me.

But, my kids recently started preschool, and I signed up to volunteer for the Hillary Clinton campaign in my newfound free time. And you know what they needed me to do? Phone bank. Yep. I go in, and they hand me a flip phone and a list of names to call. Thank God they’re at least people who have supported Democrats in the past, because getting yelled at by Trump supporters on the phone isn’t something I want to deal with– seeing them pop up in my Twitter mentions is bad enough.

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This is me, awkwardly making calls on a flip phone.

So yeah, twice a week, I go do a thing I utterly hate. I actively dread it before I go. But I push through the awkwardness and anxiety because I think winning this election (and electing Democrats to the House and Senate) is SO IMPORTANT. I want to be able to tell my kids one day that I did everything I could to stop Donald Trump and elect our first woman president. The idea of a Trump presidency gives me actual nightmares. Knowing that I’m helping stop it helps me sleep at night.

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Channeling RBG helps me be brave.

Do you have any free time at all? Does the idea of a Trump presidency scare you? Then push through the awkwardness with me and sign up to volunteer. Go to hillaryclinton.com, click ACT up top, and sign up. An organizer will contact you (mine’s an awesome guy named Cortrell) and get you signed up to do whatever you can in whatever time you have. You might end up phone banking. You might register voters. You might canvass your neighbors. You might do data entry. But you’ll be helping America avoid a Trump presidency, and that is a BIG FREAKING DEAL. It’s worth doing, even if the idea of calling strangers on the phone makes you break out into a cold sweat. We can do this. After all, we’re #StrongerTogether.

oh to preschool they went!

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This week, Claire and Etta Jane started school for the first time. We found them the school of our dreams– a Montessori in an old house in a historic neighborhood. The classroom is calm and airy. The staff is warm and caring. There’s a giant outdoor classroom where the kids spend a lot of time. It’s homey, sweet, and peaceful, and we’re really excited to have found it and gotten in despite our late-summer move. I had been convinced there would be mile long waiting lists at any school we actually liked, but we ended up finding 3 good options to choose from.

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Purchasing uniforms with Claire, who is not a ham at all, why do you ask?

One thing I really liked was they allowed us to choose if the girls were in the same classroom or not. I know people have lots of opinions about separating twins in school or keeping them together, but I think it’s one of those decisions individual twin parents should be able to make for their unique kids. Etta and Claire have a special relationship. They are best friends (they not only share a room but sleep in the same bed), but not overly dependent on each other, so we didn’t think them being together would be a disruption, nor did we think separating them would be particularly traumatic. It’s just…they’ve always existed together. And when they embarked on their own into school for the first time, it felt natural and right that they would do it together. I love, for example, that they can look out for each other. Etta’s had a rougher transition than Claire has, but Claire has assured us that Etta does just fine at school and has a great time. They were scheming in the car today to get all the girls to sit at the same table for lunch. Another upside? This scatterbrained mama only has to keep up with one class’s crap.

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It feels pretty strange to suddenly have 4 hours a day to myself after 4 years of 24/7 twins. I’m really glad we skipped preschool for their 3 year old year. We had a really wonderful year together going to the zoo, library, and children’s museum each week. And yet this summer I think we were all feeling that we were ready for some space from each other. They were bored with me, and I was frustrated with them, more than before. If I had any doubts that they were ready, the Open House at their school alleviated them. They happily entered their new classroom, pulled out some Works (it’s a Montessori thing), and got busy. They didn’t want to see the playground, they didn’t want to leave, they just wanted to work. On the first day of actual school, Etta was ready to leave us at the curb, and Claire, our sensitive little heart, shocked us by not even crying (EVERYTHING makes Claire cry). When it came time for pickup, Claire didn’t want to go home!

It has also been amazing for my mental health (more on the anxiety thing in a future post) to have some time of my own. I can grocery shop by myself! I can run errands at super speed because I don’t have to constantly put kids in and out of car seats. I can blog! I can read! I can sew! (I’ve already been whipping up headbands and am thinking about selling them.) I can get lunches packed for the next day, dinner prepped, and even do some actual housework (if you think my floors like, ever, got swept with those two underfoot, think again)! I can even volunteer for the Clinton campaign! (More on that later, too)

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Now I think I know why my dad always sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as we shopped for school supplies. School is wonderful. The girls are thriving, learning, and making new friends, and I GET TO HAVE SOME SEMBLANCE OF MY OWN LIFE.