How Having a Toxic Parent Can Help Shape You as a Parent

I have been debating what my next blog post for awhile now.  I have decided to write on something that has been on my mind, and be a bit transparent.  As my oldest child is about to embark on his journey into adulthood as he graduates high school in less than two months and starts his college career, I am starkly reminded of the terrible experience with my mother at that same tender time in my own life.  It lead me to the topic of my toxic mother.

You see, I was a smart kid, but I HATED high school.  I didn’t really fit in.  I wanted out, and an opportunity to graduate a year early was presented to me.  I was excited!  I couldn’t wait to be done, and all I needed to do to graduate a year early was to take a class through another high school via independent study.  After a summer school class the summer in between junior and senior year, I was done!  I was also super excited to go to Judson Christian college (about an hour drive from home, if that).  This was a great start to my college experience, step one to my goal of becoming a lawyer.

I visited the college campus numerous times, was in contact with the admissions office, and had my test scores sent over; I even stayed over in a girls dorm with a few students.

I was ready to go, ready to start my adventure, when I got the news from my mother at the last minute.  She wasn’t going to let me go.  That’s right, LET me go.  Why?  Because no 17 year old daughter of hers was going to go live on a college campus.  Those were her exact words.  Since I had graduated early and all, I was still 17 during what would be my freshman year of college.  Instead, she told me, I would be going to our local junior college.  But SURPRISE, there was more!  I had to pay for it myself because she wasn’t going to, which is fine if I could get a grant or a loan.  No grants she says, she and Dad make too much.  How about a loan?  No loans, after all, I was ONLY 17, and not able to legally get one in my name, and she was not going to sign one.

I was to work to pay for college myself.  No loans, no grants, all out of pocket.  At 17.  Problem is, she had controlled me for so long, she took all my money I made from working for “car insurance” and “gas” for her car that I was allowed to use, mostly to run errands for her (I did all the grocery shopping and child care errands for my three younger siblings).  So, get a second job I did, to try and help save for tuition, books, and supplies.

Oh, I almost forgot the cherry on top!  I happened to learn sign language throughout my childhood.  Just on my own, since I once upon a time wanted to be a lawyer who helped the hearing impaired.  One weekend the hospital my mother worked at needed an interpreter for a blind, deaf, mute patient.  I was called to come in and help for a few hours while they worked on getting someone there.  Well, they couldn’t find someone on short notice and I was offered $25 an hour to stay and miss work for the weekend to interpret.  A $725.00 check was sent to me.  That check, at that time, would have covered a full semester of classes.  She took it all.  Every last dollar.

And so, I ended up working two jobs, trying to go to school full time, and trying to balance any kind of social life I was allowed to have.  I ended up dropping out of college the semester I turned 18.  I decided to work and save up and re-enroll in the fall, which she ended up kicking me out of the house during the middle of.  The end of my college career right after high school.

That is but one story of how my childhood was.  It took me some time to realize I had a toxic parent, but it took no time at all to decide that I would NEVER be a toxic parent to my children.  Having that type of childhood has shaped my parenting, and even though I suffered and struggled, I am so grateful I know how NOT to raise my kids.  Here’s a few things I have learned about what a toxic parent is and how to be a loving parent:

A toxic parent will never let you feel secure.

Tough love is important sometimes.  There are times where I have been really hard on my kids because they needed it at that moment.  And I hope that one day they will see why I did it and why it was necessary.  In fact, my oldest has already thanked me for being hard on him about school.  However, when your child does not feel like they can come to you and talk, when they feel like there is no soft love, no compassion, they are left feeling like they are not worthy of that kind of love.  My mother never hugged me.  She hugged my younger brother, and really no one else.  It is very easy for a child to ask herself why mommy never hugs her.  What’s wrong with her?

I vowed to never let my children feel unloved, because I felt unloved.  They all get hugs; they all get told I love you; they all get support.  I try to make them all feel secure, home is their safe place.  But, they also all get the tough love that they need when they need it because it can work, in moderation.

A toxic parent is overly critical.

It is one thing to criticize a child over lessons they need to learn (such as a poor job on a chore or laundry), but to criticize everything the child does, or how they look is too much.  For me, I can’t remember so much the criticizing of what I did around the house, as we were taught to do things correctly within an inch of our lives, but the criticisms of what I looked like or my personality stand out.  I remember one elementary school homework assignment where our parents were supposed to take our names and write a word for every letter.  Every word she put down was negative.  It was so embarrassing to turn in, and I remember how I felt when my teacher looked at the paper and looked back at me.  I can not imagine making my children feel that way.  There was also the constant criticism of how my hair looked or how big my hips looked.

Instead, I give my kids compliments.  I actually did the same thing in my kids’ scrapbooks on a page with their names that my mother did in that assignment.  I wrote their names out vertically and wrote out words like “joyful” and “silly” and other cute little kid words for each letter.  Not negative words.  This is not to say I do not tell my children when they are being ugly (in their actions, NOT in their looks), because I do.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent.  I try to be very aware of not just WHAT but HOW I say things that could effect them the way I was effected as a child.  Of course, sometimes I fail at saying things in a nice way, but when I cross that line I do something my mother would never do…I (GASP) APOLOGIZE!

A toxic parent is controlling.

In my reading of what a toxic parent is, I came across that toxic parents try to control you with guilt or money.  I have to say I disagree it needs to be that specific.  In my case, it was just control in general.  Here’s a little example: when I was in my first college semester at the junior college (remember I was 17 at the time), my college friends wanted me to meet them out for pizza the night before Thanksgiving.  I asked my mom if I could go, and was asked “what are you going to do for me?”  I was told I could not go unless I cleaned her master bathroom.  That’s right, a bathroom inside a bedroom I was not allowed to enter.  A bathroom I never used.  And that’s how it was for me.  Another example, a friend of mine was over and wanted me to go over to her house for a sleepover.  I had to paint the fence…I’ll say that again…PAINT THE FREAKING GIANT ASS FENCE before I could go.  No, I’m not joking.

Now I won’t say I haven’t exercised my right to control my kids when needed, or that when they were younger that they were able to do everything they wanted to do.  Why?  Because that is not life!  But as my kids get older, even though I DO expect my kids to ask permission before making plans or tell me where they are going if they would like to leave the house, I usually say yes if there is no family plans or groundings in place.

A toxic parent does not allow you to express negative feelings.

I can’t say much about this as far as my childhood goes.  I know that I spent many hours in my room avoiding people because I was not allowed to show my emotions.  I spent so much time away from the people in my house I was grounded FROM my bedroom as punishment.

I CAN tell you I have been a huge supporter of my children and their negative feelings.  I tell them all the time they are allowed to have bad days, and be in a bad mood.  It is human.  It is allowed.  They are reminded it is not allowed to treat people like crap even if they are in a bad mood.  My hope is to show them it is okay to have negative emotions, and to spend time away from us only when they feel they need the space and not all the time like I wanted to do.

A toxic parent will always put himself/herself first

This statement right here just about sums up my childhood.  I have always described my mother as selfish.  She always put herself first.  When my older sister was set to graduate high school. my mother decided she was going to go away to college with her.  Not like “live on campus” kind of college, but stay in a hotel 4 nights a week and not be there for her other children kind of college.  While she was gone doing what was “best for her,” I was stuck doing all of her motherly duties (running the other kids around, grocery shopping, cooking, bill paying, household errands), and my younger siblings…well they dropped out of school.  Oh, she will tell you my youngest brother was “homeschooled” (that’s a joke, but also a completely different topic), and my other brother did get a degree through a BD school.  Eventually my younger sister got a GED when she was in her 20’s.  But this is the time frame of her life that she put herself first more than anyone.  What kind of mother puts her own education above that of her children at the very pivotal time of junior high and high school?

This point has especially hit home with me lately.  What I went through in that time of my life has shaped so much of my parenting style, especially with my kids’ education.  As my oldest is about to graduate in less than two months.  I have spent hours and hours trying to get everything ready for him to have a successful transition into his college career, as I will do for all of my children.  I have extremely high expectations for ALL my children when it comes to education.  Had my mother done the same, perhaps all of our lives would have turned out differently.

A toxic parent will co-opt your goals

Well, this didn’t happen to me, but it DID happen to my sister.  When my sister decided on her college, my mother decided she would go there as well.  Like I stated earlier, my mother stayed in a hotel near a college that was around a 45 to 50 minute drive one way.  She thought that would be better than driving to and from, so she pretty much was gone all week.  My sister stayed at the hotel with her instead of staying on campus.  I would be lying if I said I was not bitter about this situation.  It was essentially what stole my teen years away as I played her role at home so she could go and live her strange college years with my sister.

My whole life could have turned out differently had my mother been there to mother me when I needed her to.  Clearly, I am aware of this type of situation, so I try to allow my kids much autonomy, especially in their goals.  My oldest will be going to a major Chicago University and is going to travel a completely different road than I did, and I hope each of my other children get to have that opportunity for themselves.  I will do everything I can to help them reach THEIR goals, not hijack them as my own.

A toxic parent will use the silent treatment

If this doesn’t describe how my mother reacts to ANYTHING!  The silent treatment, my mother’s quintessential way to deal with ANY situation she did not like or agree with.  And that was to anyone:  her children, her parents, her brothers, her cousins, my dad’s entire family.  It’s ridiculous and childish really.

Listen, I understand that we all have people in our lives that we can do without (as in people who we would be better off without them in our lives).  There are people that I have stopped talking to because we needed to part ways, but I don’t use the silent treatment.  As far as my parenting style, I could NEVER treat my kids like that.  If I have an issue with them, I will talk to them directly.  I could not imagine ever making my children feel like they weren’t worth talking to or worth the time to fix issues, which I was made to feel for as long as I can remember.

A toxic parent refuses to let you grow up

Lord knows this was the exact situation at the start of this post.  “No 17 year old daughter is going to go live on a college campus.”  I often wonder if it was more about my not being able to experience things she hadn’t experienced than anything.  A parent is supposed to want more for their kids, for them to be better or do better.  My mom didn’t see it that way.  She thought about her goals first, and we weren’t ever supposed to grow up or reach our goals.

It just doesn’t make sense to me, as I could never hold my kids down like that.  Don’t get me wrong, I am terrified about them growing up and not having my little babies any more, but I could never purposely hold them back from their goals like that!  Kids will grow up, and it is our job as parents to set them up on roads for success.  Once on those roads, it’s up to them to travel it, but I can lead them there.  Me? I was not lead to a road of success.  And because of how I was parented, I decided how to NOT parent.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I hope you got something out of my story.  I hope you can see that you can break the cycle, and give your children a better future if you did not have the best childhood.  No matter what your past was, it is your job as a parent to give your kids the brightest future that you can.

For more reading on toxic parents, you can visit these sites:

https://www.lifehack.org/350678/13-signs-toxic-parent-that-many-people-dont-realize

https://www.bustle.com/articles/109435-9-signs-you-have-a-toxic-parent

My kid is not perfect, and neither is yours

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I am not sure about anyone else, but I feel in this day and age I need to make sure I am not raising ass holes.  My biggest fear is to unleash little jerks onto the world, knowing I could have done something differently.  It is MY job as a parent to correct my children when they are doing something wrong.  My kids are far from perfect, but they know my expectations.  And when I see them correcting not just each other, but also their friends, I know they are getting it!

But what happens when you run into the situation that you are in public and you see kids who are doing things that parents should be correcting?  And instead of correcting it, they are too busy staring at their phones or engaged in conversation to teach their kids?  Do you say something?  Do you parent other people’s children?

I do.

Here’s an example.  I took my six year old out for one of his Christmas presents this past weekend.  He got a day at the Legoland Discovery Center; he had so much fun there last year he wanted to go back!  Well, there we were, in line for the ride with guns and such, when this child behind me (about 8 or 9 I would guess) kept bumping into me.  Now, having five children of my own, I get that some do not understand the idea of “personal space.”  I frequently had to let my kids know they needed to back up when we’ve gone to places such as this.  They don’t get it.  So when I see my child climbing up the butt of the person in front of them, I pull them back, apologize to the person, and correct their actions.  After all, you aren’t going to get on the ride any faster standing on top of the person in front of you.

So here’s what happened….having been bumped by this child numerous times, I finally turn around and say to him “can you please stop bumping into me like that?”  I wasn’t rude, and I most definitely had to choke down my impatience for this child.  His mother was standing there the whole time, saying nothing, with her nose on her phone.  She looks up and sneers, growling out the words “what did you just say to my kid?” So I tell her, “he’s bumped me in the butt around eight times, so I asked him to stop.”

Her reply was “well then you tell it to me!” Well, heaven for bid I speak directly to the kid, especially since you haven’t!  I didn’t realize I was speaking to a prince!  Not only was she NOT approachable, but she was already not paying attention as a parent.  Here’s the thing, your child is touching me, and I didn’t really want to be touched (innocent or not).  I get it, he was a kid, but not everyone in public (adults included) is going to understand that your kid is just not paying attention.  Let’s say he keeps bumping into a person with autism who has an outburst because of it.  There are plenty of scenarios that you as a parent need to be sure YOUR kid understands we give people their personal space.

So as I stood there deciding what to do after his mother had her little fit, I took about 5 seconds staring directly into her eyes and just turned around, (she was the kind of person that would ruin her kid’s fun to be petty).  But here were my thoughts:

Lady, I shouldn’t have to tell you to tell your kid to stop touching me.  You should have already done that yourself. And if you didn’t notice, that’s fine, but when I told you he had bumped me eight times you apologize and TEACH the damn kid to give people their personal space.  Your kid IS NOT perfect.  And if you don’t correct mistakes, they will continue to make them.  At eight or nine years old your child should understand the idea of not touching other people.  And your kid isn’t a prince.  I am allowed to speak to a child that is touching ME.  If you won’t parent your child, I will. 

Believe me when I say my kids are NOT perfect.  But I use every opportunity I can to teach them when they are in public how to act.  I’ve even gone as far as to tell them I would cancel their meals at a restaurant if they didn’t use “please” and “thank you” to our server.  They are still an adult (or at least older than you), and you use respect.  Why am I so hard on them?  Because I don’t want to unleash ass holes into the world!!!   So ladies and gentlemen, please parent your own children, so other people do not feel the need to do so!

When you just don’t like your teen

I love my children.  But there are times I just don’t like them.  Especially teenagers!  What’s the deal with teenagers?

Well,  let me tell you. They are mouthy, rude, disrespectful,  selfish,  and sometimes just plain nasty.

I had worked with other people’s teenagers for around 9 years before having one of my own. Other people’s teens love me!  My own…I definitely wonder.

Now that I have two in my house I can tell you my theory on teens seems to be true. My theory is they turn into demon spawns around 12 or 13, and start turning into humans again after they turn 17.  It was most certainly true for my oldest,  and my 14 year old is knee deep in his demon transformation.  In fact,  I’ve resorted to calling him a cactus (code word for prick since my oldest has been calling him that lately).

This is why I say its ok to not like your child.  After all,  who likes a person who is rude,  disrespectful,  and downright nasty?

Here’s a few ways to handle those demon spawns.

1. Let them know they are still loved.

 Trust me when I say I understand how difficult it is to love someone you don’t really like at the moment. But teens need to know you still love them regardless of their behavior and attitude issues.  This is one of the hardest times for them and they need to know you’re going to be on their side.

2. Let them know home is a safe place to be themselves.

 I want my kids to be able to come home from school and have a safe place to be who they are.  In my house this is more an issue of the older kids constantly picking on the younger kids for being “annoying” or  “talking to much.”  But it also comes in the form of letting your teens be demon spawns if they need to be.  Which leads me to my third point…

3. Let them know it’s ok to be in a bad mood.  

Right now my 14 year old’s every day persona is a mean and grumpy jerk.  To everyone.  All the time.  Its nonstop.  And I completely understand how that feels. It’s called hormones.  I know I, myself, can feel like I hate everyone around me when hormones are high, and his hormones are high.  All. The. Time.

This week I needed to let him know it’s ok to be in a bad mood once in awhile,  that’s human nature. And I drew a comparison of myself when I know hormones are changing my moods.  I let him know, however,  that he needs to talk about being in a bad mood and not just lash out at every one he sees.  Let us know he’s grumpy so we give him his space. We aren’t mind readers, and honestly his every day attitude and his grumpy attitude have been the same lately.

 4. Let them know they still need to be respectful to authority, no matter their mood. 

 This one is important.  About three days ago my teen popped off pretty bad at dinner time.  It was to the point it was a full blown screaming match before he left the kitchen in tears, after yelling at me a command to stop talking to him.

You see,  he was completely out of line with his tone and attitude towards his younger sister. His words were mean and unnecessary, and it’s been how he is acting lately.  When I pointed out he was crossing the line, he turned to yelling at me.  My response to this is a life lesson.

We are all human and will all have bad days,  but you can’t just go around treating people, especially people in authority,  like that.  I pointed if he had a job and talked to a customer or his boss like that he would be fired.  In MY house I AM his authority, and let him know he is to NEVER speak to me in that manner again.

Be understanding,  but don’t lay down to these outbursts.

5. Continue to ask them how their life is going,  even if they don’t seem to want to talk to you.  

 Not going to lie,  this one is hard.  It’s hard to be nice to a kid you’d rather punch in the face sometimes (figuratively speaking, mostly).  I’ve definitely had an issue trying to get through to the teens when they are going through this stage.  But I continue to do it because it shows I still care. And beyond that,  I actually DO want to know how his day went.

6. They will come out of this stage.  Just be patient. 

I promise,  if you continue to show your teens love they will come out of their demon spawn stage.  Around 17 or so they should start to mature a little, the hormones calm down a bit (not all the way but the bulk of puberty is done so they aren’t quite as bad), and the human side starts to come back.

Like I said, I worked with teens for 9 years prior to having one in my house.  I’ve seen the change in other people’s kids,  and I’ve seen it in my own.  My oldest has come such a long way from his “cactus”
 years.  And even though my 14 year old is hard to like sometimes,  I have no doubt he’ll come out of this stage and be better because of it.

How to get your kids to do chores

I have spent years trying to create a streamlined and stress-free way to get my kids to do chores. Is it still stressful? Yeah, pretty much every day we do them. Has it gotten easier? Yes. Definitely.

We have gone through numerous different strategies over the years. The one I landed on is a color coded list that rotates between 4 weeks, weeks A, B, C, and D. It looks like this:

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To make it easier for them to have everything they need in one place, I went to the dollar store and bought plastic baskets. I labeled each one with the room they correspond to: Bath up, Bath down, Family room, Living room, Stairs and Landing. The kitchen supplies stay under the kitchen sink.

I loaded each basket with every cleaning supply needed to clean each room. For example, the bathroom baskets have toilet bowl cleaner, glass cleaner, antibacterial wipes, tub cleaner, a sponge, a roll of paper towels, and rubber gloves. Yes, there are TWO bathroom baskets, with the same supplies. I found that when there two kids trying to clean two bathrooms at the same time, they fight. Same thing with the supplies for the living room and family room.

Yes, you WILL have to remind them to put the baskets away, and yes you WILL have to check all the supplies yourself to make sure they aren’t empty, because as many times as you tell them to put the empty ones on the grocery list, they won’t.

So the list is part one, the basket is part two, part three? The dreaded check list. Yes I have created an extensive check list for EVERY room. Each room, even the bathrooms, have different needs. This chore day is meant to be a thorough cleaning of the house, not just a clean up day. An example of the kitchen list is:

Kitchen
□ Dishes are completely washed
□ Sinks are both emptied and bleached
□ Counters are completely cleared off and cleaned. This includes cleaning under blender, bread box, knives, can opener, and behind faucet by sink
□ Stove is cleaned, including top and oven door front
□ Dishwasher is properly cleaned with stainless steel cleaner
□ Front of fridge is wiped down
□ Cabinet fronts are wiped down
□ Microwave front is cleaned and inside checked for cleaning
□ Table top is clean
□ Floor is swept and mopped
□ Cabinet separating kitchen and living room is cleared and wiped off
□ Take out garbage and recycling

Does this seem like a lot? Maybe. But here is the thing, there are SEVEN people in this house, and I don’t make this mess alone. I’m not gonna clean it alone. And because there are four of the five doing this, this breaks down to each kid cleaning each room in the house ONE time each month. And, obviously, these lists are age appropriate. My six year old does NOT do the kitchen, just cleans the kitchen table.

The thing about the check list is getting them to actually FOLLOW it, which is still a work in progress. But, they are getting better. And it’s really easy to hand them the list when it’s time to clean. And just as easy to use it when I check (and I do need to check) to see if it is done correctly. If it isn’t done, they go back in. I wouldn’t say I use a white glove to check them, but it’s close. Why I do this is I’m trying to instill a good work ethic in my kids. Right now, this is their job at home. Half of the time, if they were at a paid job for these chores, they’d be fired for poor work.

I’m trying to ready them for real life, for both future jobs and future adult life. I have heard from numerous people in their 20s that they didn’t have chores, or that their parents did everything for them. Um, no. It is my job to raise kids who can be adults who can take care of themselves. Yes, you need to know how to clean a toilet. Yes, you need to know how to do your own laundry (they start here at age 10). Yes, you need to know how to cook a meal (or twenty).

Eventually, once my kids are out on their own, they will appreciate the fact they are able to do these things on their own, even if right now they dread chore day as much as I do!

I don’t buy my kids stuff for Christmas

I have 5 children, and a house that can’t handle 20 new presents every year for Christmas. Between the presents they receive from my husband and I, Santa (obviously also my husband and I), grandparents on both sides, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, it can be overwhelming for the household to get “stuff.”

Last year I decided that any tangible items they asked for would be doled out to family members, and the more expensive ones would come from Santa. (We still had two believers last year, so we do ALL still go see Santa for pictures, where even my 17 year old plays along with asking for what he wants.) Instead of stuff, we would try to get the kids “experiences.”

I grew up in a house with five children. Some of us felt lost in the mix, not getting individual attention from both parents. I didn’t want my kids to feel that way. So I started to brainstorm what we could take the kids to do that would become a date night with my husband and I.

What I ended up with was a great amount of memories, a ton of pictures, and scrapbook pages for their books! Instead of wasting money of things they didn’t really want just to fill the amount of presents for each child, I created individual certificates to wrap and put under the tree for each child’s experience. The other presents the kids received were tied into these date nights, as much as they could be.

My daughter went to the Signature room, an upscale restaurant in the John Hancock building downtown Chicago, and a new dress to match. Plus a trip to the salon to get her hair done.

My oldest got a ticket for not just him, but also his girlfriend, to see Phantom of the Oprah in downtown Chicago. He couldn’t wear his typical jeans and hoodie, so I bought him a brand new suit, one he’ll have for years. He also got a fancy dinner in an upscale restaurant before hand.

My youngest got a day at the Legoland Discovery Center for him and a friend of his choice. He also got a dinner at the Rainforest Cafe. He was five at the time, so yes, he did have toys he wanted, but this year I’ve been asking for what he wants and his reply was to go back to Legoland!

During the summer, Great America was handing out coupon sheets for Medieval Times. I thought this would be perfect for my then 11 year old. It was! He enjoyed himself very much, and ended up with a sword and a sheild that hang on his bedroom door.

The present for my then 13 year old is actually what created this idea. He didn’t want to go to his 8th grade Washington D.C. trip with his class. Instead, he wanted to go with us. So, I planned for him to take a friend (my nephew) and go over the same weekend as his school. It cost us the same amount of money for all 4 of us as it would have for just him to go because we drove. This single child excursion is what created the new Sanneman family Christmas tradition!

This year, I’ve been asking the kids what they want for Christmas, as the requests from family have now started, and I am at a loss. Aside from a few items (literally like 2 or 3 each), I am finding myself once again racking my brains to find ideas to give out. I just don’t know!

What I DO know is they are all getting experiences again. Why? Because when I asked my youngest what he wanted, his gave that answer, “to go back to Legoland!” I guarantee he doesn’t recall ANY of the things he opened last year, but he remembers that. Memories. Isn’t that what’s most important after all?

If this is something you want to try, and you aren’t sure what to do for these experiences, I suggest starting to look on apps like Groupon. They have a great number of things to do that I wouldn’t do on my own (horseback riding, music lessons, glass blowing classes, etc.). I also found one of the kids night out on Facebook this year. Be creative with this, it can be so much fun. It is pretty easy to make it age appropriate. Even if it’s a movie night with just you, or bowling, or a day downtown. Try going ice skating, or to Dave and Buster’s. It creates a great bond between you and your children, and nothing is better than hearing “remember when we went to….” come out of their mouths. After all, that is what it’s all about.

Asian Steak Skewers

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I am always looking for ways to change up typical meat.  Steak can be a difficult one to change up because it can be more on the expensive side, so chopping up and marinating steak may be difficult for some steak purists.  However, these steak skewers did not disappoint!  I tend to buy only rib-eye, as I like the marblization, but you could use sirloin steak as well for these tasty little steak morsels!

I, as well as my family, am a fan of Asian flavors.  I tend to do a lot of Asian marinades. Of course you can buy store bought ones, but I like to adjust flavors to fit my taste buds!

You could do a quick marinade with this instead of creating the steak skewers, but I like to make things a bit fancier and these bite sized steaks made it easy to not have to cut up food for the kids!  I used metal skewers, and would not recommend using wood ones as they tend to burn and make it difficult to keep the skewers together.  However, if you do use wooden ones just make sure you soak them in water first for about an hour.  This helps the food not stick to them and will lessen the likelihood they will catch fire.

For this recipe, you’ll want to cut the steak into cubes, as uniform as possible, about an inch by an inch.  Once the steak is cut, marinate it for at least an hour, longer if possible.  I like to reserve a bit of the marinade to baste the meat with and have a bit extra as a “steak sauce” to use if you are a condiments person like me!

Once the steak is done marinading, skewer it up and ready the grill!  Be sure to cook these on all sides for a uniform sear, but not too long or you’ll have jerky!  The length of time on the grill depends on how you like your steak.  We are medium well eaters in this house!

Asian Steak Skewers:

  • 2 pounds sirloin or ribeye steak diced into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons diced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • sesame seeds and green onion for garnish

Combine all ingredients (minus the steak and garnish) in a bowl and stir until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Then you can can either transfer the marinade to a ziplock bag to add the steak to (how I do it) or add the steak to the bowl.  REMINDER- if you are taking any of the marinade out to baste with be sure to do it before adding the meat.

Let meat marinade at least an hour and then skewer the cubes.  Place on grill and turn every few minutes to hit each side.  Remember don’t cook them too long on any one side or you will over cook them.  If you are basting, be sure to add a little sauce every time you turn them.

Once the steak is done to your liking, pull the skewers off and garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.  I served these with a rice pilaf made with Jasmine rice and sauteed onions, mushrooms, celery, and garlic.  Add in a veggie and your dish is complete!

Why I don’t give my kids allowance

I grew up in a house where Friday was chore day.  We took turns in each room and never got an allowance for that work.  At 16 I got a job,  and started paying for things myself.  At 18, I lived on my own,  with my own car payment,  apartment rent,  and credit cards.  

What I learned from that is how to appreciate what I had,  what I bought,  and it instilled a good work ethic in me. 

Today with my own five kids, Friday is chore day, or deep cleaning day if you will. They each have assigned rooms,  and in any given month they only clean each room once.  

Now you might be thinking,  “if they have chores shouldn’t they be getting a  allowance?”  My answer is no. These are chores they have to contribute to the family. The bathrooms,  the kitchen,  the living room — all rooms they make messes in.  

Now,  this is not to say my kids can’t EARN money by doing things around the house not included in weekly chores.   My fourteen-year-old regularly helps me in the yard and earns money that way. Yesterday my ten-year-old wanted extra money to buy a case for the tablet that I purchased for her. So she decided to help bleach the grout in the kitchen that needed to be done desperately.

My thoughts are not giving them allowance for these weekly chores comes from the fact that it is still a weekly battle to get them to do things and do them correctly.  It is my job as a parent to prepare my kids for adult life.  If a manager had to reprimand my children like I do…THEY WOULD BE FIRED!  

While yes, I take into consideration their ages with what my expectations are,  a 7th grader and freshman in high school should be able to complete tasks correctly.  As should my senior in high school, as he is actually old enough to HAVE a job.  

Now, my two older boys do a good job at this point.  However, even for these weekly chores I still do not give them monetary allowance. Rather they get allowance in cell phones,  rides to friends’ houses, and trips to numerous places for fun…all at my expense. 

I feel if they want more,  they should DO more. Pull some weeds,  paint the deck,  scrub the kitchen fan which has started growing things.  Earn it.  Learn a new task.  Grow your work ethic.  Become more productive.  Life doesn’t have hand outs.  

And that is why my kids do not get an allowance! 

Cherry Wood Smoked Chicken

I’m not one to eat meat on bones, so to make a whole chicken was a new experience for me.  But, with this smoker my husband bought for me this past Christmas, it was my goal to smoke at least one meal a week.

I was hosting a quiet Saturday night bonfire with a few family and friends and decided to throw dinner together as well.  I figured whole chicken would not only be delicious, but affordable.  These chickens were around $5.00 a piece at Aldi, and that wasn’t even on sale!  Perfect for a large group without breaking the bank.

So here’s the trick to making the perfect smoked chicken — Brine it first!  I brined both of these chickens in a cooler with water, garlic powder, sugar, and salt.  This step is great for any poultry.  I have brined turkeys and it makes for the best and most tender meat.  One thing to be sure to add is ice, I didn’t have the ability to put this in the fridge so I added the ice to keep the correct temperature.

After the chicken brines over night, take it out and pat it down with paper towels to dry it off.  I did A LOT of research on how to smoke a chicken and what I found is that the skin tends to become rubbery.  I found a way around this…butter. For that crispy skin I achieved in the picture, I melted butter and then added my spices to create a wet rub.  I added a lot of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, and pepper.  That was it.  I wish I could tell you the amounts but to be honest, I have been cooking long enough I don’t measure.  I do it by eye balling and we like our seasoning so I tend to be heavy handed.  I can tell you I did about the same amount of paprika as the rest of the spices combined.

Now, as far as the smoker…I have found that my electric smoker tends to cook whatever I put in there faster than the recommended time.  Instead of cooking the chicken at 225 degrees as recommended, I set it at 195 for the first few hours.  The trick to a smoker is low and slow so I lowered the temp a little.  I used cherry wood, which gave a great flavor.  After the internal temp hit 140 I turned the smoker up to 205 for an hour and then 225 for the final hour.  This is because the meat hit a plateau, which means it gets “stuck” at the same temp for longer than any other temp.  Raising that temp up allowed it to get past that in time for my guests!  The changing of temps may not be necessary for you or your smoker, but because my smoker tends to cook faster than it should I have adjusted for it.

Once the meat got to it’s correct internal temp of 165 I pulled it out and let it rest (as you should do for pretty much all meat) for 15 minutes.  Now I will tell you I pulled those chickens out and put them on a cookie sheet.  The skin on the top was nice and crispy but the bottom was soggy.  So, I will put a cookie cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet to keep that more crisp next time.

After you let it rest…DIG IN!!!  This was so tender, juicy, and gone in a few minutes!

One trick I can tell you is to use the carcasses (gosh that sounds gross) to make your own chicken stock.  I took both and threw them in the crock pot with a little water, a chopped onion, and that was it.  The flavor of the smoke comes through really well into the stock. I actually used my stock tonight to make a goat cheese risotto and you could really taste that smoke!  It paired really well with the smoked pork tenderloin that was for dinner tonight!

Hopefully this will encourage you to go out and try some new recipes yourself!

All About My Blog

Hello blog readers!  This is my new blog about life.  Why about life?  Well, let me tell you a little about myself.  I am a wife, the mother of five children, a certified teacher, an actress and model, and a bartender.  I also love to cook, grill, and smoke (in a smoker only–just to be clear!) new recipes.  I am an avid gardener, I spend a ton of time scrapbooking my children’s lives, and I am a DIY queen (for both hosting parties and redoing things in my house).  I Pinterest all the time, and turn those pins into NAILED IT successes.  

Now you see the problem!  I couldn’t decide WHAT to blog about, so I will blog about numerous topics, for people with kids, for people without kids, for people who love to cook, and those who want to but don’t know where to start, for those who want to garden, and those who want to host parties.  

So thank you for being a part of my new blog!