Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

With Little Bee, author Chris Cleave has created a character that no reader will easily forget.  Wry, funny, scarred, proud, hopeful, Little Bee is a refugee with a new name but an old story.  I almost do not know how to describe this book.  After a chance and nightmarish encounter on a beach, the lives of a vacationing British couple and a hunted Nigerian girl are forever linked.  

While the couple, Andrew and Sarah, return to England and try to reclaim their lives, Little Bee escapes to England to try and build a life.  Yet, things thought buried have a way of returning and Little Bee and Sarah find themselves working together to form a life in the aftermath of horror. 

This book is tragic, it is beautiful, it is funny and it is frustrating.  It is not what I expected but I very much enjoyed it.  Through the tragedy, there are glimmers of hope for the future, particularly in the form of a 4 year-old superhero.  You will have to read the book to figure that one out!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Time is Library Time

Yes, I know that there are a lot (a lot, a lot, a lot) of fun things to do during the summer...not to mention the mandatory do-nothing time!  But, do not forget your local library.  Chance are, you grew up doing summer reading at your local library.  Well, we are still going strong!

This morning we went to the annual kick-off parade at one of our nearby hometown library.  We have gone every year since my daughter was born and every year I am amazed by the excitement, the creativity, and the FUN of these librarians.  What child does not want to be part of a parade?  Incidentally, hauling a wagon with 70lbs of children is a pretty good calf work-out as well!  After the parade, it was inside for henna tattoos, fan making, snow cones, Native American dancing, and sign-up time.  The theme this year is One World, Many Stories.  Your local library should have lots and lots of fun and (shhh...) educational activities for kids all summer long.  If it doesn't, you might want to ask why.  Start with your librarian and move you way up to your legislator.  And if you do like your library, then GO!  Libraries receive part of their funding based on things like door counts and "stats."  That is what tell the decision-makers that their money is being used and appreciated, and maybe they should send even more!
Waiting for Fancy Dancing

Here is an incomplete list of some of the fun things we have done at our local libraries:  Philharmonic string quartet, bug festival, music education classes, magician shows, trick roping, science experiments, craft time, story time, tea parties, cello story time, and the petting, exploring, touching, and learning about many, many wild and unusual animals.  And that is just what ONE library does for children.  They also have great programs for teens and adults, even services for home-bound residents.

So, that's my advocacy for the day.  Go to your library.  Sign up for summer reading.  Find fun and free ways to keep your child entertained and educated until school starts again!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Let's Talk Coupons...

I've always couponed.  To a degree.  I like to do the "girl math" and think: "Well I saved $20, so now I can buy something fun for myself!" 

So, I haven't watched that show, Extreme Couponing.  I try to limit my intake of "reality" shows and right now I'm full up on Celebrity Apprentice..shhh...don't tell anyone!  I truly do not understand how someone can walk away with $600 worth of groceries for like $0.23.  When I save $40, I get really excited.  At Homeland, if you use too many coupons, a manager has to come over and push an "okay" key...I love that!  Of course, my husband complains that he has a "lifetime" supply of deodorant, but if that's the biggest problem he has, then so be it.  I mean, I paid practically nothing for it and I'm pretty sure it doesn't expire!

A few weeks ago in the grocery store, I was in line behind an extreme couponer.  She literally had 4 children hanging off her cart.  When her cart-load of groceries was totaled it was over $200.  When the coupons were totaled, it was $96.  That's over 50% savings people!  She had a binder and I just had to ask to see it.  I try to not get too "extreme" about anything, but the binder definitely seemed more logical than my wad of crumpled coupons in my pocket.  So, I've been on the lookout for baseball card sleeves (which is what those couponing mom use), but I haven't had much luck with it.  For now, I'll stick with the wadded up pieces of paper in my pocket.

If you are interested in getting into coupons or free deals, here are some places I like (besides the Sunday paper):

Magazines: Lots of magazines have great coupons.  For example, Everyday with Rachael Ray often has either a 20% or $5 off coupon for Merona clothing (a Target brand).

Groupon and LivingSocial:These are flash-sale type "deal a day" sites.  You have to be careful and not buy something just because it's cheap, but if you have some self-control you can get really good deals. This is sort of a clearinghouse where you can print grocery store coupons and browse specials by store. They have printable coupons on their website.  Again, you have to be careful because a lot of their coupons are for clothing, household goods and other things that maybe you weren't intending on buying.  But they also have great deals on food and drug/beauty items.  Plus, you can combine their coupons with manufacturer coupons.  Back to the deodorant as an example:  Men's Degree deodorant is $2.24/each.  I have a buy 1 get one free coupon, a $.75 manufacturer coupon, and a $2.00 Target coupon.  What this means is that I score two deodorants for $0.24.  Great deal but I'll warn you, if you do that too many times your  husband starts to think you're crazy! 

I've signed up for, which is where you register a store rewards card and instead of money off certain products, you get that money deposited into a 529 plan.  I'll admit, I haven't taken the time to do much with it yet, it still sounds a little complicated, but I'll let  you know if it works out.  I would love to be able to shop my kids to college!

So, coupons.  Great, handy tool but probably not something to get too carried away with.  I mean, I don't want to become one of those people who has turned their shower into storage for toilet paper and tuna cans! 

One last thing, it never fails when you are in line with $200 worth of groceries and a fistful of coupons, some tanned college girl is going to be in line behind you with her vitamin water and English cucumber, huffing noisily that it is taking you approximately 30 minutes to check out.  Just smile politely at her and know that in just a few more years, she will BE you!  Happy couponing!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mama's Taking Us to the Zoo Today, Zoo Today...

Sorry, once you let Raffi in, he never leaves!

So, yesteday Hubby was off work and by gosh we were going to the zoo.  It didn't matter that the rain was pouring down and had been all night.  It's not like the weather cared about our plans so why should I care about it?  We spent the morning watching DVR'd kids shows and staring at the water pooling in various spots of our backyard. 

By 11, I was ready to pop!  I tossed a bunch of crackers, cheese, fruit, wet wipes, and other zoo "supplies" into a bag, sent everyone off to potty, and declared that we were by gosh going to the zoo!  Off we went in downpour rain, with my three-year-old singing "Rain, rain go away.  So WE can go to the ZOO!"  After a few other stops, in which we purchased a zoo pass from the local furniture monolith and gave away half of our packed lunch to a "homeless" man dressed better than us, we were finally at the zoo.  And miraculously, it was no longer raining. 

We parked on the second row, strolled right in, and marveled at the wide open walkways and relative peace of the place.  Instead of shouting children and over-stressed moms, we heard monkeys whooping and birds trilling.  We stared face to face with two sleeping black bears, their rain slicked bodies pressed tightly against the glass.  We joined a line of roaming ducks, practicing our best waddles.  We sat on a bench and watched the current pride of Oklahoma City, baby Malee, play and cuddle with her mama and aunt.  We slid down the slide in the Children's Zoo again and again.  We saw animals that I have never seen before there.  It was probably the best zoo experience I have ever had.  I can't wait for another rainy day; we're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Braised Cabbage and Leeks with Sausage

I love red cabbage.  It's so pretty, it's crazy cheap, and you can do a lot with it.  I make this dish several different ways, but here's the latest:

1 package all-beef skinless smoked sausage, halved, sliced, browned and removed onto paper towels to drain. 
Drain any remaining fat from pan.  It's not exactly going to make this recipe "lean" but it will make you feel better!  The turkey smoked sausage is great too, I just didn't have it this time.

In the same skillet on medium, add 1-2T extra virgin olive oil and:
1/2 medium head of red cabbage, halved (as in quartered I guess) and sliced. 
1 medium leek, halved, sliced, soaked in water (to remove grit), patted dry
1 clove garlic, minced

Let veggies cook until tender-crisp (10-15 minutes), then add:
1 heaping T  Dijon mustard and orange marmalade, 1/2 C (again, I don't usually measure...a couple of swirls around the pan) unsalted beef stock,
Cracked black pepper
Turn heat to medium-low, add sausage back in, stir all ingredients to incorporate sauce and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Garnish with flat-leaf parsley and a squeeze of fresh orange.

I also really like this with the chicken apple sausage and sliced Granny Smith apples cooked with the veggies.  It should also cut the calories and fat.  Although, when I do that, I add apple juice and real maple syrup and omit the orange marmalade/juice.  I have to use that recipe sparingly though because Hubby is weird about fruit and meat being in the same dish.  But, if  you don't have those same hang-ups, the chicken sausage is really the way to go! 


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Toddlers and Tutus

My daughter takes dance.  She loves it and I think it is fun, simple activity for her.  That is, until recital.   First it was the costume with matching accessories, then it was the "site fee", then it was the special tights, then the photography session, then the extra practices, the dress rehearsal, the stage decorating, the actual recital, and the reception afterwords in which parents are supposed to bring snacks.  And, from polling my mommy friends, this is a pretty "simple" recital, no multiple costume changes, no super-late performances, etc.  Still, I can't help but think, isn't this all a bit much for three year-olds?  Can't we just put them on the stage at the church where they take their lessons, invite family, and watch them dance their little blessed hearts out? 

Trust me when I say that on recital night, I will be there, tears in my eyes, blissfully thrilled to see her get up and dance...if she does, I mean, she's THREE, anything could trigger an urge to not cooperate.  I just think that as parents we sometimes make our kid's activities a bigger deal than they need to be.  They have years to stress about proms and cheer leading tryouts and things like that. 

Sometimes I just think we have lost our balance as parents.  There are the moms who are "un-schooling" and letting their children roam the planet without a shoe to their name (I mean, we wouldn't want to conform by protecting our children from tetanus), and then there are the moms who are treating every t-ball game and play date like its a measuring stick for life (win, learn, shine, make me the envy of every suburban housewife within hearing distance). 

So, I will go and watch this dance recital with my husband and my family.  I will cheer and clap (if that's allowed) and hug her proudly when she's finished, regardless of her "performance."  And, I will even sign her up for next year because I do think it's a good program.  But, I will also think "We could have had a cute recital in the church basement."  That's just how I roll, call me the "free range mama!"

Monday, May 16, 2011

Just Another Meatless Monday...

So I don't exactly do it every Monday but I am trying to reduce the amount of meat my family eats.  For one thing, my daughter does not really like most meats anyway and I've never been a huge meat person myself.  I mean, I love a good filet or some bacon as much as the next person, but there are plenty of just lovely veggie meals that I enjoy (pasta primavera, veggie pizza, caprese salad, etc.).  Just don't take away my cheese, that's just wrong!

Anyway, I heard about Meatless Monday a while back and thought it sounded like a  great concept.  Basically you can reduce your environmental impact by eating less meat, not to mention the money and fat/calories you will likely save.  So, here's my Meatless Monday recipe:

Slow-cooker black beans

1 lb dried black beans, picked through (I found 2 rocks in mine this time), rinsed, and soaked overnight

This is all I start with.  My grandma (who was an amazing cook and knew a thing or two about cooking beans, growing up in the Depression and all) told me that if you salt the beans right from the beginning, it makes them mealy and they don't get as tender.  So, set your slow cooker on high and cook the bare beans, covered about an inch deep in water, for about two hours.  After beans have cooked by themselves for a while, turn slow cooker to low and add the seasonings:

2-3 small red or 4-6 green onions with some green tops (I reserve some of the green tops for avocado/tomato topping), sliced or chopped
2-3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 chili pepper, chopped.  I used a banana pepper, just because the jalapenos looked like the had seen better days. 

1t cumin
1t chili powder
1t coriander
1t sea salt
1t black pepper
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

Saute veggies in a bit of olive oil until they have some color, then toss them in the pot with the other seasonings.   Stir, check seasoning if you like (I don't really measure so these are approximate), and cook on low for another 3-5 hours.  Because this is meatless, you can let it sit on your counter after it is finished cooking through and then just turn on low again when it's almost time to serve.  I top it with shredded cheese and a salad/guacamole mix of diced tomato, avocado, green onion tops, shredded romaine, parsley, and salt and pepper.  A squeeze of lime would be spectacular but not worth going to the store for!

Here's the final product served bowl-style: 
Hubby has his on a tortilla as a burrito.  My daughter prefers "tiny taco salads" with a spoonful in a few Tostitos Multi-grain Scoops.  You know, 'cuz she's high maintenance like that.  My son really just wants the chips, but I manage to sneak a bean onto his spoon every so often.  Any way you want to eat it is alright by me!  Enjoy. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Book Review: Friendship Bread by Darien Gee

I love "foodie fiction."  Love it!  Probably because I love food and I love to read.  Hmmm....deep explanation!  Either way, I checked this book out the minute I saw it.  Then I checked it out again, because I just knew that I would love it and therefore, have to share it with my mother.  Okay, I think that particular tangent is over!

This is a pretty typical "women's lives and relationships" style book.  There are several seemingly unrelated woman, each dealing with personal conflict or tragedy, each feeling isolated and guilty with what their life has become.  One woman is trapped in mourning for the death of a child.  One has recently been abandoned by her husband.  One is mired in guilt for a single, life-changing mistake. 

Then, a baggie of mysterious gooey stuff randomly appears, in a mailbox, passed to a child at school, on a desk at work.  Each is irritated, confused, put off by this new complication in life.  And yet, they start tending the starter, following the simple instruction, baking the bread, and something magical happens.  Suddenly, they are sharing their extra bags of starter with others and forging new friendships or mending relationships over a slice of warm bread.  Through the sharing of starter and recipes, these wounded women become stronger, learning to be more creative, forgiving, and empathic.  As the friendships develop, the women's lives become interwoven in ways both expected and surprising.

I enjoyed this book.  With that being said, it is not going to win any literary awards and I think that there were at times too many characters and subplots, making it a bit hard to follow.  Overall though, it was a cute and fun read about the importance of friendship and forgiveness. 

This book made me interested in Amish Friendship Bread.  I was given a bag of starter a few years ago and remember it being pretty good.  I also remember it being sort of a pain to unload the bags of "offspring" onto people though!  But, after reading about the wonders of this bread and its many variations, I may give it a try again.  I couldn't find a recipe for one that called for pudding mix (which was an ingredient in the book recipe) but I did find one that listed lots of yummy variations:

Also, if you do love "foodie fiction" or think you might, here are some other especially yummy titles:
Pomegranate Soup, and the sequel Rosewater and Soda Bread by Marsha Mehran
Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
The Food of Love by Anthony Capella
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

This isn't a complete list at all, but it will whet your appetite!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grown-Up Time...It's Important!

When my daughter was born, I was new to the area.  I had just finished my graduate degree and was working very part-time at a public library.  It felt like everyone I knew was either a single-gal type college student, or a much older co-worker.  Or, an overly needy, TMI-type neighbor, but that's another story.  Add to this mix that my daughter cried about 92% of the time and slept about 2% of the time (or so it felt).  I remember my sister once asking about "quiet alert" time and me thinking "What the bleep is that???"  Clearly, this was a bad mix! 

When she was six months old, we moved to our current home in a neighboring town.  I started to become more involved in my church, I met neighbors young and old whom I have grown to love like family, I made some amazing girlfriends, and my daughter started sleeping long enough for my husband and I to actually share a meal and some conversation together from time to time.  Eureka!!!!  I didn't know how insanely depressed and psychotic I had actually become until I realized that I wasn't depressed and psychotic anymore.  So, here's my advice of the day for all of you desperate housewives out there: get thee some alone time, or some friend time, or some husband time, just get the heck away from those beautiful and wonderful little piranhas sometimes!  I'm not saying you need to be in the "club" four times a week; that is an entirely different type of problem.  Just take a few minutes a day or a night a week, whatever, to spend time by yourself or with a fellow grown-up who's company you actually enjoy.  Here is a quick list of some of my favorite "for me" activities:

Reading.  Simple, free, relaxing.  I try to take a few minutes every day and read a grown-up book.  It makes me feel like I still have a brain that isn't constantly rattling the Micky Mouse Clubhouse theme song. 

Exercise.  I don't need to tell you about the benefits of exercise; I need to tell myself more but I'm sure I'll get it sometime!  My favorite is an evening walk with a friend.  Much more enjoyable and feels a lot less like "work."  So, it's not gonna get me on the cover of any fitness magazines, but it is movement and I like it.  That's enough for now.

Book clubs.  Goes back to the reading thing, but it also gives you an excuse to hang with your girlfriends, and maybe flex your brain a little bit.  Or, just chat about your day.  Either way. 

Date nights.  Most of us don't have them nearly often enough, but it is important to look at that guy you call "Daddy" these days and remember "Oh, yeah.  We used to talk about other things!"

Volunteer work.  Yes, it is work but doing something that is meaningful to you or that supports a cause that is close to your heart is helpful if making you feel fulfilled as a person, outside of  your children.  If it makes you feel better, I don't do as much of this as I would like to.  But, I am an underpaid non-profit employee.  So, that's sort of its own form of volunteer work, right?

And of course, there is never anything wrong with a massage/pedicure/salon visit for an exhausted, hassled mommy!  I don't do this often enough myself but I never regret spending some time "primping" when I do.  

I love my children dearly.  I love snuggling them, brushing their silky hair, reading them stories, and so on.  But, I can honestly see why moms snap sometimes and do things that they regret.  It's a monotonous, stressful, under-appreciated, marathon of a job.  And, if you don't have a good support system, or stress-management skills, it can easily turn into a pressure-cooker of a situation.  So, think of some mommy time as letting a little steam out of the pot.  It's good for the family to have a happy mama! 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pancake Man

My husband makes pancakes.  All different kinds: blueberry, buckwheat, banana, bacon...English majors love alliteration by the way!  They are all wonderful, and this is saying a lot because I'm not exactly a pancake fan.  But, I had learned to appreciate his griddle skilz and even really love a few of the pancake variations.  My favorite is lemon spongy, creamy, flavorful!  You don't even need syrup with these little cakes of happiness.  I am just not a dessert or syrupy-sweet type of gal; give me some stinky cheese and a glass of wine any day over sticky cobblers and cakes!  So, the lemon ricotta pancakes are right up my alley.  For Mother's Day, Hubby made lemon ricotta pancakes, bacon (meat candy to some of you) and his ubiquitous strawberry fan.  The man loves a strawberry fan, don't tell him I told you!  So, here is his recipe for basic pancake batter, along with the lemon ricotta variation:

Basic Batter

2 C of flour (you can use half white and half whole wheat/buckwheat if you want to make it healthier)
3/4 C of granulated sugar
2 1/2 T baking powder
1 t salt
Whisk dry ingredients well in large bowl

2 C milk
1 egg
1/4 C vegetable oil or 3T melted butter
2-6 T honey (to taste I guess.  For basic batter only, not lemon ricotta)

Whisk well until all ingredients are incorporated.  For lemon ricotta, zest 1 lemon into bowl.  Squeeze lemon, cut in half and squeeze juice into bowl.  Whisk well again.  Crumble about 1/3 C of ricotta cheese and fold gently into batter.  This is is slightly different than a traditional ricotta pancake recipe where the cheese is whipped fully into the batter.  I like the consistency of the cheese making an appearance in the pancake! 

Cook pancakes at 350-375 on a griddle or large non-stick skillet.  Flip when bubbles form (I'm told you flip pancakes only once for what it's worth).  This is a sticky batter so it helps to have both griddle and spatula well oiled.   I wish I had a picture of these little bauties but I'm always too busy scarfing them up before my children get them all...I'm a good mom like that!

Serve on plate with strawberry fan for maximum authenticity!  And syrup if you want, but try it without it first, you will be surprised at the natural lemony, creamy flavor!  Serve to your special someone, or yourself, whenever possible for a sunny start to the day.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: Water For Elephants

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Honestly, I didn't want to read this book.  A friend had told me about it years ago, and many more since, but I kept thinking: "A circus, during the depression?  That can't be good!"  Well, let me say, I was wrong!  It is about a circus.  It is set during the depression.  And it is very, very good! 

Jacob Jankowski has his entire life laid out.  Finish veterinary school at Cornell, go back home, and work with his father in their small-town vet clinic.  Then, tragedy strikes and his entire life is taken away from him.  Suddenly faced with no family, no home, and no money, Jacob starts walking.  And walking.  And walking.  When a train comes by, he takes a literal leap into an entire new world. 

The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth is a rag-tag group of misfits, runaways, freaks, and talents.  When the show's ringmaster discovers that an ivy-league veterinarian has just hopped the train, he cannot believe his luck.  Jacob is immediately put to work caring for the menagerie of sad-eyed traveling animals.  As Jacob falls further under the spell of the animals and their beautiful mistress, he also begins to realize the sinister cycle of terror and neglect in which they are all trapped.  Under deepening suspicion and hostility, Jacob must form a plan to save himself, his lover, and his animals from the destruction of an increasingly volatile situation.

This book is so layered with amazingly interesting and quirky characters, many of whom have four legs rather than two.  It has a great balance of social commentary, romance, action, and fantasy.  It is a beautifully told story that will stay with you long after you finish the last page.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moms are a Girl's Best Friend

My mother is wonderful and I should really do more to celebrate her every day.  As a mother myself now, I appreciate even more the love and wisdom she put into my life.  For Mother's Day I thought I would share some of the things that she taught me.  Most of them are not original, as a matter of fact I would sometimes roll my eyes at the cliches that she would rattle off.  But, one thing I've learned is that the best advice is usually the simpliest.  More importantly than that, my mom practiced what she preached!  She actually meant, and lived by, those little pearls of wisdom, teaching and loving by example.  Here are just a few:

Do unto others as you would do unto you.  Yep, the Golden Rule.  Doesn't get any simpler than that, does it?

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.  Also, simple and classic, but darn hard to follow sometimes.  My mom did, and does.  You would be hard pressed to get that woman to say something bad about someone else. 

Laugh at yourself.  Have a sense of humor.  Don't take yourself too seriously. 

Do what you can to help others.  And, don't worry about what you are getting in return. 

Forgive easily.  Life is too short to hold grudges.

Those are just a few, but they are pretty good ones I think.  Love to all of the mothers out there (and you don't have to have given birth to be a mother).  It's a tough job but chances are you are doing an amazing job and one day, your children might even thank you for it!


Thursday, May 5, 2011


It is, of course Cinco de Mayo today.  For most of us here in the US, that means it is a day to drink Mexican beer and eat Mexican food.  This is actually what I plan on doing today, but I did feel the need to read up on it a little bit.  I did know that it was not actually Mexican Independence Day, as is commonly assumed, but I also did not really know the specifics of why they celebrate this day South of the Border.  If you are curious like me, here is a great site that gives a thorough and yet understandable history lesson:

So, back to the food and beer:

Black Bean and Chicken Burritos
(these actually were going to be enchiladas but I got lazy...all that dipping, filling, rolling,...)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups of water
Sprinkle of whole peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
A pinch of red pepper flakes or chipotle chili flakes

Rinse chicken and pick off any fatty bits.  Poach gently on medium in a saucepan with other ingredients, about 15 minutes.  Shred chicken with two forks in large bowl, set aside.

While chicken is poaching, gather ingredients for the rest of filling:

Disregard the tomato sauce, I was still thinking enchiladas at the time!

2 Small red onions with tops (reserve some green tops for salsa), chopped or sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1T extra virgin olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1-ish cup of frozen white and yellow kernel corn (a good shake of the bag)
Mexican seasonings of your choice

I've got chunky salsa verde, oregano, chipotle pepper flakes, cumin, and coriander.

Cook onion and garlic on medium in olive oil.  When softened, add beans, corn, and spices.  Simmer low and slow for 20-30 minutes.  Add shredded chicken and heat through.
Wrap up in a tortilla, pop open a Negra Modelo and enjoy!  I serve these with shredded Monterrey jack cheese and a simple salsa of the green onion tops, diced tomato, avocado, and chopped parsley (Hubby doesn't dig the cilantro). 

Muy Bueno!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Pick up your Little People, and put them in the bin!"

Strange title, right?

But, since I have said this exact sentence approximately 17,000 times in the last three days, it happens to be permanently trapped in my head.

My son is not quite two.  He is gorgeous, sweet and full of life.  He is, unfortunately, the most stubborn human I have ever met.  Ever.  Ever, ever, ever. 
It's not as though we expect him to be folding his own laundry and mowing the lawn, but we are working to teach him the basic skill of picking up after himself, at least a little.  I know I should not compare, but I can tell you for a fact that his sister was doing this by his age.  Him, not so much!  Every day, he takes the giant plastic tub full of Fisher Price Little People (and their dogs, swings, helicopters, picnic tables, grocery carts, etc.) and dumps them onto his floor.  Often, the dumping of the bin is clearly more of the point than the actual playing with the toys.  Then, at the end of the evening, there is the nightmarish fight to get him to put even a few of them back into the bin with lots and lots of "help" from the rest of us.  Truly, for the effort it takes the entire family to get him to do it, and the effort he goes to to not do it, we could have carved our own collection of little people out of firewood!  So, here's what we've tried:

Repetition, repetition, repetition.  Repeating that exact same sentence over and over and over and over (you get the drift) in a neutral but firm tone.  Nothing!

Threatening with (and then following through with) time-outs for not listening to Mommy/Daddy.  Did this for over an hour today.  Nothing.

Putting in crib by self with no toys for a few minutes, then coming back and saying "Are you ready to help clean up now?"  Nothing.

Leaving room, saying "Tell me when you are finished picking up."  Nothing.

Physically picking the child up and dipping him down to pick up toy, then turning so he can drop it into the bin.  Great fun for him, hooray, new game!  Murder on an already troublesome back.

Making it a race "Who can pick up the most toys the fastest?"  Nothing.

Finally, after several nightmarish evenings in a row of this, hubby declared enough is enough.  Now, every Little Person, accessory, car, house, zoo, or anything that has the misfortune to resemble a Little Person product is packed away and on the top shelf of the kid's closet.  He has already asked to play with them at least once.  Apparently, the toys are now in "time out" and can reappear in a few months when baby boy can be more cooperative in their day-to-day maintenance.  Maybe we are terrible, monster parents.  Maybe we are the smartest parents in the world.  I really don't care at this point, my brain needs a break from that sentence!