*Such* a granola mom …

4 Feb


So – joining our local CSA inspired me to go even more “granola” in establishing a healthy SoCal lifestyle. I decided to buy a dehydrator to make sure none of our fruits/veggies/herbs go to waste. Turns out, it’s good for a lot of other things, too. Case in point: homemade granola. This is a recipe we use loosely to create our own way-better-than-store-bought granola cereal. One of the best parts of the recipe is that you can change it up to fit whatever you have in the cupboard or fridge.

5 cups rolled outs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 – 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 wheat germ (I substituted baby oatmeal b/c I had it on-hand)
1 stick butter, melted
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 chopped apples (fresh, optional)
Handful of nuts (we had walnuts on-hand, but almonds are great, too)
Handful of sesame seeds

Super mama tip: The first time I made this, I waited and waited (days!) for the granola to dry. Rookie mistake. Turns out it’s only necessary to dry it partially; it actually gets crunchy in the fridge during storage. Now I run it about 18 hours (usually starting at lunch time), and it’s ready the next morning. Warm and delicious goodness.

Besides this granola, we love making turkey jerky and fruit roll ups (just mix up some apple sauce and yogurt and spread it on the tray!). Super easy. Super tasty. And I love knowing *exactly* what’s going into my kids’ tummies every day.

granola mama


Monster Trucks Redux

30 Jan


So – it wouldn’t be winter without Monster Jam. We went for the first time last year, and given Blake Dean’s over-the-top response, we decided to go again with both of our own monsters in tow. (It didn’t hurt that both Captain America and Iron Man monster trucks were both scheduled to compete at this meet – *swoon*.)

Monster Tire Ear Covers - a must at any Monster Jam event.

Monster Tire Ear Covers – a must at any Monster Jam event.

One of my fave parts about Monster Jam, as a mama, is how well the entire franchise seems to treat its fans. Drivers are constantly going out into the crowd – as in, *way* out into the crowd – to give away tshirts or even trophies to adoring spectators. There are tons of give-a-ways. And there is never a moment where screaming at the top of your lungs seems like a bad idea.

There was high drama at this Monster Jam. One truck lost its tire – another caught on fire. And this one – The Legend of Grave Digger – actually lost his entire truck body after a tough landing (check around min 1:04 below). It was monster madness – just what my own little monsters love most.

Because Rhett is at an anti-containment stage (20 months), we weren’t sure how well he would do at a lengthy (and seated) public outing. Turns out loud crashing monster trucks are just what a toddler needs to stay focused for 3 hours straight. I’m pretty sure he didn’t take his eyes off the trucks once the entire night … except for this quick pic :)


FYI – this mama loves Monster Jam – almost as much as my kids. I never thought I’d say it. But there it is.

Monster Mama

Speaking of Christian rock …

9 Dec


Last Sunday Blake Dean had his very first Sunday School class. I’ve been feeling like my spiritual self needed a bit of attention so we headed up to Redondo Beach Center for Spiritual Living, where I’d been a member before moving to Long Beach. It’s been years since I’ve visited (again – time passes quickly with kids!) but I was glad I made the trip.

For one – it was more emotional than I expected to see Blake attend his very first Sunday School class. He was so mature and independent – creating this interpretation of “Footprints on the Sand.” I was so proud of him for trying something new – spreading his little wings and meeting new people. I’m not sure I would have been willing to do that at his age.

For another thing – it always amazes me that no matter how long it is between trips to the church, the message they discuss always seems to be just what I need to hear at that time. Talk about spirituality that rocks. I always come away feeling like a better, stronger person for the experience.



Pedro the … Daddy

9 Dec


Oh, my lord. I can’t believe it’s been more than three months since my last post. Life passes quickly as parents. It’s been just about the same amount of time since we’ve gone out sans monsters, but last night we had a chance to see Dave Bazan/Pedro the Lion at the Constellation Room at the Observatory. Pedro is one of the first bands I saw live when I first moved to California. They’re a mainstay on our playlist, so I’m always happy to get a chance to see them play.

Dave announced that he’d be playing the entire “Control” album as part of this tour, mainly to help folks connect the dots that he and Pedro the Lion are the same band. With that in mind, we had anticipated an older crowd but we couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d guess about 75 percent of the folks attending were under 20 years old. We were basically the only ones who didn’t need to wear a bracelet to prove we were old enough to drink. (Check out these laugh lines, friend! I’ve got at least 15 years on most of these kids!)

One of the best parts of this show was Dave’s banter, and his tradition of asking the audience if they have any questions throughout. He gave some very heartfelt thoughts on raising children (he has two), which I’ve never heard him discuss before. It made leaving early to pick up our own kids feel kind of … special. Who knew – at midnight at a punk rock show in Orange County – we’d get a simple reminder of what we’re really here for.

sleepy rockin’ mama

And – that’s why my son’s name is Rhett

31 Aug

Rhett Miller, Old 97s

I’ve been loving the Old 97s since 2006-ish, and we *finally* had a chance to see them live last night at Observatory OC. Marking the 15th Anniversary of their album Too Far to Care, the band played the entire album cover to cover, and followed that up with tons of other Old 9-7 hits. It was hands-down, the absolute best show of the summer.

Rhett opened for himself, offering up a killer acoustic set including his newest song “Lost Without You” and his smashing rendition of “Wreck of the Old 97” (recently featured in a special Johnny Cash Tribute.)

Per my husband: “I like their … outfits.”

Not only was the performance amazing, it also set up his “real” opening band, Those Darlins, with a full house of fans who may not normally show up for the opening performer. (FYI: *Girl crush alert* – Those Darlins kicked *ass.* Part Hank III/part L7 – these girls tore it up! Check out “Waste Away” to fall in love with them like I did.)

Surprise! Exene Cervenka joins the Old 97s onstage

About halfway through the show, Rhett introduced a surprise guest – none other than Exene Cervenka  of the legendary 1970’s punk band X, who originally performed the song “Four Leaf Clover” with him on Too Far to Care back in the day. She played two songs before heading offstage. Coolest. Moment. Ever.

A security guard was sweet enough to nab the set list for us – and this is the rundown.

The Rhett-list. Er, Set-list.

As if that weren’t awesome enough, on our way out we picked up a show poster … and woke up (in the light of day) to realize it’s personally signed by all the band members. Those guys literally signed each poster (ours was no. 61 in the batch of 350) just because it’s what they do – they give it up for their fans.

I cannot say enough how much I love those guys. Awesome music – awesome people – and a ridiculously awesome end to the summer.


[Emo] music is my boyfriend

12 Aug

Davey Von Bohlen, Promise Ring

So – I saw The Promise Ring for the first time in 1997. They were playing in Oakland, California, and I was living in Berkeley (just north of the OAK). Throw in a boy I was madly in love with, and there are tons of reasons I’ve been in love with TPR ever since that day. There’s a huge part of my heart that feels forever connected to them.

Suck it up, Davey! We love you. Even if you don’t want to play anymore.

Alas, time goes by. People break up. Bands break up. Life rearranges itself. And although I wasn’t incredibly surprised when I saw that TPR was doing a string of reunion dates (Davey von Bohlen’s emo-esque predecessor, Cap ‘n Jazz, played a reunion show at Echoplex in 2010), I was incredibly psyched. I haven’t seen them play since 2002-ish … and there were even a few years of broken-hearted-ness that kept me from listening to them at all.

The only thing is – as happy as I was to see The Promise Ring play, I’m pretty sure Davey was just the opposite. He still put 100 percent of his heart and charm and … ridiculously cute dance moves … into the show. But he was quick to share that he really didn’t want to be on the stage. At all. In fact, he mentioned – numerous times – that he’d pretty much rather be doing anything but singing.

Fan: “Dude, stop complaining and do your job!”
Davey: “That’s the thing – I have a job. And this ain’t it!”

Fan: “We paid $25 a ticket! We own you tonight!”
Davey: “I’m not saying I’m going to walk out … I’m just saying I don’t want to be here.”

In that sense, the atmosphere on stage (from Davey at least) was less “reunion-shows-rock!” and more “kill-me-now.” I get it. He’s married. With kids. And has 1,000 more important things to stress about than Avalon’s lousy sound-system, or songs that made me cry when I was 20. Still, it made me sad to think I was virtually “forcing” him to play when he definitely did. not. want to.

“Say what? I actually have to finish this show? Agh.”

Granted, I understand the boys have been doing this reunion “circuit” since February-ish, so maybe the high of reuniting has simply worn off. Regardless, Davey still (begrudgingly) rocked his heart out. The guys played a huge range of songs, from oldies like “E. Texas Ave.” and “A Picture Postcard” to quite a few songs from “Nothing Feels Good” and “Very Emergency.” Most surprising: The crowd was full of young’uns. I was expecting to see a bunch of 30-ish “kids” re-living their youth, but there were tons of late teen/early 20s folks rocking out, as well.

Despite the sadness (I guess it wouldn’t be an emo show without a little emotional over-sharing), Davey is still the cutest dancing guitar boy ever, and his voice and songs still hit me like they always have – and no other band ever will. Yeah, we’re definitely older (it was actually Davey’s 37th birthday the night of the show) and in different stages of our lives. But just being there was like being reunited with a piece of my heart.

One of my faves, awesome as evah:


Taking on Tankland

30 Jul

This weekend, we finally had a chance to hit the American Military Museum in El Monte, California – a.k.a. “Tankland.” We’ve passed this spot a number of times en route to Pasadena, and it always seemed to scream “The boys will love me!” It was right.

The place was packed with about 180 different military vehicles, including tanks, boats, trucks, and even a helicopter straight out of M*A*S*H days. (Most of the items were from the WWII era, including a boat similar to those used in the opening minutes of Saving Private Ryan. (I got chills as soon as I saw it.)

Blake had never seen a tank before, and I think he may now have a new obsession. We spent the afternoon checking out videos of tanks crushing cars on YouTube … and then re-enacting the videos with B’s own car collection.

Newsflash: Boys like tanks.

All in all, a super fun morning. Total cost: $10 for the whole fam. Love. Button.


G is for Good Guy

24 Jul

At Comic Con last week, one of my most favorite memories was seeing B go up to uber Bad Guys like The Joker, Loki, and Red Skull, and tell them – with all the confidence that a 3-year-old could muster – that he was going to take them down. He pulled out his shield … batted some crazy ninja moves … and in every case, the Bad Guy let him win. The shootings in Aurora were a jarring reminder that doesn’t always happen.

At one point while walking around the Comic Con show, Blake asked me why someone would want to be a Bad Guy. In that instant, I admit I felt pretty proud of the job I’d been doing as a parent. One of the first (and ongoing) things we do as mamas is try to teach our children the difference between good and bad – wrong and right. How they should treat people, and how people should treat them. In a house with two sons, super heroes have offered a simple way to incorporate good/bad discussion into our daily lives.

What would Spiderman do in this situation?
Would Captain America be disappointed if he saw you acting this way?
What would a Good Guy do if his little brother needed him?

When Blake asked why someone would even want to be a Bad Guy, it reassured me that I had done a good job stating the case for being good. Yet being good is only part of the story. One also needs to be able to recognize evil when he sees it. These days (at least outside of comic book conventions) that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

Each night before bed, my son and I go over the letters of the alphabet. A is for Apple. D is for Daddy. G is for Good Guy. The shootings in Aurora have forced me to realize that outside of the letter G – or a red cape – or a patriotic shield – I have absolutely no idea how to teach my son how to spot the *real* Good Guys – or Bad Guys – among us. As a parent, that’s one of the most frightening things I’ll ever have to accept. I don’t want to teach him to be afraid of everyone he meets – but I struggle with how to teach him that a healthy bit of fear/skepticism/distance is a often good thing. Bad Guys don’t always wear black, or have scary skeleton faces. The truth is that most of us are “good” until we reach the point where we no longer can be. Until the burden becomes too much – the weight too heavy to carry. In truth, the Bad Guys are all around us.

Prayers to the victims and families of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting. Prayers that it really is true that good is stronger than evil – that good will always win out in the end.


Our Comic-Con bag gets SACKED

22 Jul

The thing about the bags given away at Comic-Con is that they’re super cool – but they’re so freaking gigantic that they’re barely useful outside of the convention center walls. Being that this was Blake’s first official convention, I didn’t want to throw the bag away, but I wasn’t sure how to fit it into our everyday lifestyle – until I found a rad article about the cool stuff people do with their bags outside of actual … bagging. Purposefully inspired, I decided to turn their show bag into an array of lightweight, re-useable sack lunch bags. Perfect for the summer-camp-going monster, and even better for a mama on a budget.

There are tons of simple lunch sack patterns available online. After finding what might be the most simple pattern EVER, I got started. About 30 minutes later, I had a few super-cute lunch sacks to my name. And I’m pretty sure they’re destined to be my son’s favorite lunch bags in the universe.


Comic Con 2012!!!

16 Jul

So – we’ve been waiting long and hard for Comic Con 2012 (a.k.a. the “BIG Super Hero Party,” as we call it in the Fantin household), and this weekend we finally had the chance to head down to San Diego for the full SDCC experience.

Though we did visit Comic Con in 2011, we didn’t actually have tickets, so we got to experience lots of people-watching and other cool stuff outside — but none of the craziness that happens inside the conference center walls. We did attend WonderCon and Long Beach Comic Con this year, but we weren’t quite sure how SDCC would hold up … or more precisely, how we’d hold up against it as a mama/monster team. (If you have a 3-year-old son, you know the anxiety that comes along with trying to “plan” pretty much anything … let alone something as massive as this event.)

Once we arrived, the goodness was overwhelming. B had the chance to meet lots of (hot) super heroes, fight some bad guys, and see his favorite toys come to life. He even got lots of cool giveaways (like – LOTS), which I’ll be shelling out slowly over the next few months.

Take that, Red Skull!

Still, my favorite part of the show (as with the others we’ve been to) is simply seeing the smile on people’s faces when they see B in his Captain America uniform, and when he does his “super hero pose” for those who ask to take his picture. Life truly is about the simple things. Bringing just one spark of happiness to someone’s face can warm my heart into eternity.

With Cat Woman. And he didn’t even need a pick-up line :)

Some of my fave memories from this weekend:

  • Seeing Blake fight Red Skull and his evil Hydra army
  • Seeing my usually shy monster go up to his favorite heroes and ask them – all by himself – if he would get a picture with them. (Imagine a young Captain America gently tugging Batman’s cape to get his attention. *heartmelt*)
  • Hitting the Speed Racer booth … and getting a free comic when I told them that Speed was my boyfriend when I was about 5 years old.
  • Making the list of Best Cosplay of Comic Con” for thetwistgossip.com
  • Having folks ask where they can get Captain America outfits like ours (“Um … ask your mommy to make it for you?”)
  • Having someone ask if I made the family’s costumes … and telling me that I’m doing an awesome job as a parent when I told them ‘yes.’

As a mama, I cherished every minute of this Comic Con experience. I know my son is at a special age. That he won’t be willing (or wanting) to dress up like a super hero forever – let alone in a costume that I make for him (with my incredibly mediocre sewing skills!). I know there will come a day (sooner than I like) when dressing up like Captain America with mommy isn’t cool. When hanging out with mommy, in general, isn’t cool. When spending time with the family feels like torture instead of a special treat to count down to months and months in advance. (“Mommy, is it time yet? Is it time?!?!?!?”)

A young Cap’ reaches for the sky as his proud mama looks on.

Meanwhile … outside the convention center, tons of other cool stuff was happening, from the WB’s Extra event to film and TV set experiences from Frankenweenie and Grimm, the latter of which allowed you to walk inside an Airstream featuring relics from the show, as well as walk through a replicated forest. Another huge outdoor presence was The Walking Dead Escape, which allowed people to participate in a real-live zombie attack. A little too scary for my little guy, but intriguing none the less.

Caution: Scary!

My most favorite of the outdoor experiences was the Batmobile display, which brought in all six Batmobiles from movies past and allowed fans to get up close and personal with each and every one.

Some planning notes for mamas considering the trip next year …
Though it’s a kid-focused industry, Comic-Con itself (and the “business” of pop culture) is not necessarily 100% kid-friendly. The floor is *super*crowded … and overwhelmingly gigantic. If you’ve never attended the event before, the following are a few tips to keep in mind when hitting Comic Con with your own monsters.

  • Be prepared to skip the panels … and lots of other cool stuff. Most panels and giveaways have incredibly long lines (as in HOURS long) … and most young children have incredibly short attention spans. There were tons of panels and workshops I would have loved to catch, but it just wasn’t going to happen with my 3-year-old in tow.
  • Make a plan … and be prepared for it to fall apart. Select three to five top spots you know you want to hit, and leave plenty of time to meander in between.
  • Split up your day. If your child has a regular nap time, try to make time to fit one in. We left around noon after just a few hours on the floor … but it meant we could return in the afternoon for another few strong hours (rather than 1 or two more cranky ones).
  • Remember: kids will be kids. And not everyone is a fan of them. Most attendees at Comic Con are adults, and a few intense attendees didn’t seem too keen on sharing the floor with children. If your child can deal with a little pushing and shoving, he or she should be OK.
  • Go off the beaten path. Our hotel (The Holiday Inn on the Bay) was located about a mile from the Convention Center. Luckily, thanks to Showtime, there were numerous free shuttle routes running 24-hours a day (every 15 mins!) from our locale (and tons of others throughout the city) to the event. Super easy and convenient, and it was nice to have a quiet retreat to return to at the end of the day. (Oh, and we totally got to be in a video about how to use the shuttle, which will be used as a promo for next year. :)

So – to recap:

Thank god for my boys.
Thank god for make-believe.
Thank god for super heroes.
Thank god for Comic Con.