Life Lessons and Evil Quinoa—My Messy Beautiful Life

I have a complicated relationship with my son’s food.

It started with not being able to breastfeed.  It was upsetting, but amazing site like Fearless Formula Feeder helped me come to grips with it.  My kid was fed, that’s the important part.  Then Tater had infant acid reflux, which led to MANY different formulas being tried and rejected until we found one that fit.

Then, when he was ready for solids, I had visions of feeding him lovely vats of freshly pureed baby food, made with organic vegetables and love.

Guess how well that went.  (Awww, you think I was able to do it?  You’re so sweet, you must be new.)

At nearly two (OH GOD) we’re just grateful for the variety we can con him to eat.  We still keep him pretty healthy, though we slip.  He outed me to my mom when, as I was on speaker phone telling her about his preference for hummus and green vegetables, he starts screaming ” ‘OT DAWG! ‘OT DAWG!” from the backseat.  (They’re turkey hot dogs, OKAY??)


Could YOU deny this dinosaur a ‘ot dawg?

SO.  One Sunday, armed with love, a full fridge and the link to my favorite kid food blog one-handed cooks, I decided to make Quinoa, Chicken & Broccoli Nuggets.  Now, quinoa and I are not friends.  We don’t talk, we don’t hang out, and if we’re at a party together, we just make awkward small-talk over our wine glasses until the person we really wanted to talk to gets out of the bathroom.  Quinoa is weirdly chewy and looks like bugs.  But, 1) it’s a healthy super food and 2) I don’t have to eat it, the ankle-biter would.  Score.

I cooked and then shreaded and chopped chicken and added it to the broccoli, quinoa with breadcrumbs, egg and cheese, I felt oddly powerful.  A full-time job plus grad school keeps me busy, so I don’t get to be the Pinterest worthy mom I’d like to be.  And I’m generally okay with that; hell, my blog is named “Kind of a Mess.”   But this was easy.  This was healthy chicken nuggets.  I could do this.

While putting the nugget blobs (well, what would YOU call them??) on the parchment paper in preparation for cooking, I noticed that they were a bit…crumbly.  Which was fine, I’m sure.  The egg would bind it all together and Tater would spontaneously learn to make sentences and sing the praises of my culinary prowess.  It was fine.IMG_1412


Except when it wasn’t.  Taking the nuggets out of the oven, I noticed that they didn’t bind together like in the recipe.  In fact, they were even more crumbly, yet hard, like a fancy cookie from Strbucks that you forgot in the pocket of of your purse for a week. (That totally never happened.  Nope.)


Greenish balls of sadness

They tasted okay, I guess, but were not holding together at ALL.  I searched the recipe to see what I had forgotten.  Did I miss an vital ingredient?  Did I not bake them long enough?  It’s an Australian site, maybe it’s an hemisphere issue, like how their toilets flush weird, maybe—

It’s an Australian site.

Some of you savvy types have probably already clicked on the recipe and realized this, but Quinoa, Chicken & Broccoli Nuggets call for “chicken mince”.  In my mind, chicken mince is is cooked chicken that has been chopped up all nice into bits, you know, minced up chicken.  But no.  Oh, no.  Chicken mince is actually GROUND CHICKEN in places that are not overly hot kitchens in North America.  Friggin’. Ground. Chicken.

In my defense, it also says you can use “finely chopped chicken.”  And says nothing about not being cooked beforehand.  But still.  Time, effort and food. Wasted.

Well, mostly.  I figured that if they weren’t nuggets, I could still feed the kid quinoa, chicken and broccoli salad or something.  Or I could eat it.  I’d put some Ranch on it.  I’m Texan, everything goes better with Ranch.

This mildly buoyant thought kept me happy almost all the way over to the counter when disaster struck.  My elbow caught the corner of the open fridge door and the sudden jarring sent the (not) nuggets and parchment paper sliding off the tray.  Onto the damn floor.


Don’t look at me, I’m not eating that crap.

Most of the (not) nuggets stayed on the paper, but a few escaped and tried to make a break for it under the fridge.  And regardless, all of them exploded onto floor in a firework of protein and greens and mockery.

The situation was so ridiculous, that I took that picture before cleaning it up.  And as I was going to grab a broom, I kept thinking how typical this was.  The usual blog fodder, Alyssa made an effort and screwed something up.  Tee-hee, isn’t she silly?  But, for some reason, this thought made me SO ANGRY.  This wasn’t just about the almost-nugget mess.  Things at work and school have kept me crazy busy and less likely to accomplish what I’d like to in a day.  We bought a house in September and still aren’t all the way unpacked.  I just found two Christmas presents I didn’t send my sister-in-law and cards that I was supposed to send MONTHS ago.  Somehow, possibly drugged by the quinoa fumes (it could be a thing, you don’t know…) I turned into a seething ball of self-pity.

“Why?  WHY?  Why was this SO me?  Why couldn’t I just do something nice for my kid?  Why didn’t I think to look up chicken mince?  Why was I so dumb that I spilled things even when they weren’t in any remote danger of being spilled?  Why couldn’t I just make something and have it turn out well?  I didn’t need anymore friggin’ stories of my screw-ups, I needed a damn win on occasion.  WHY COULDN’T I HAVE NICE THINGS?!?”

I have learned that the one good thing about age is that your indignant self-pity tantrums tend to end just as quickly as they flare up.  By the time I had the quinoa, chicken, broccoli explosion cleaned up, reason had a talk with emotion and made it go have a lie-down while it made it a nice cup of tea.  Things do not ALWAYS go wrong for me, I just tend to not pay as much attention to the wins.  Focusing on the negative, I tend to define myself not by what I can do, but what I cannot.

And even then, it’s not an actual cannot, it’s a DIDnot.  This DID not go well, therefore everything blows.  I DIDnot do that thing I said I wanted to do, so therefore I’m a failure, even though the lack of DID in this particular instance has no bearing on the rest of my life.  GOD, Alyssa, you SUCK.

I need to remember more often that I do not actually suck.  My son is beautiful and well fed, as is my husband.  Things in my house are weird and messy (figuratively and literally) and real.  I keep telling myself that I don’t compare to other women, other families, but I think I’m deluding myself a bit.  For every chore I don’t get done, every plan that does not get met, I put it in my Shame Hat and wear that crap around with me all day.  Which is counter-intuitive, because they weigh me down and keep me from doing more, being better.  Failure is something you should step on to lift you up, not crawl under to keep you down.

So much angst, all about some stinkin’ quinoa.

So I’m trying.  I’m not doing so great, but I’m trying to give myself some slack.  Lighten up and use my fails for blog fodder and not commentary on my performance as an adult.  My kid is fed.  My kid is happy.  That’s what matters.  I’m Alyssa and I’m kind of a mess.  Apparently, I’m still coming to grips with it.

Quinoa is still gross, though.

messy-beautiful-450bThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!  There will be a giveaway next week!  YAY!!  Everyone loves a giveaway!!!



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