Ask Amanda: My Monster of a Mother In Law


My mother-in-law can be pushy, aggressive, and kind of a bully. She always talks about how she is better and holds things over our heads. She has been less than welcoming to me over the years. My husband agrees that she is not a nice person. And, I know saying anything would just be a waste of energy. I don't even know how to respond and am doing my best just to control my tongue.

It's unfortunate when relatives, either biological or by marriage, behave in a way that is below even the most reasonable expectations. Hopefully, the following points can help you feel better about a feel-bad situation.

Draw the Line Somewhere

You're exactly right that speaking up likely won't result in your MIL making any desired changes. You've realized that telling her where to go won't get you anywhere.

But, you don't have to be a doormat either. We often feel like we are supposed to bite our tongues out of respect or to avoid confrontation.

Don't feel obligated to tolerate such toxic behavior just because of the role somebody has in your life.


A title does not demand more respect than that which is earned.

If you feel the need to respond when others push their opinions or agendas, channel your inner politician and give some of these comments could be:

I appreciate your concern, but we have it under control.

Thanks, I'll make note of that.

Thanks for thinking of us. I'll let you know if we need anything else in the future.

I feel differently, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

I'm comfortable with the direction we're headed. 

If the Shoe Fits

We usually get upset by such toxic behavior because we expect someone in that type of role to behave differently. We expect, or at least hope, that a mother would be supportive, loving, and caring.

I lucked out with my own mother-in-law, but I know that many just don't live up to even the most mediocre of expectations.

One way to take the sting out, is to have more realistic expectations. Unfortunately, if you continue to expect her to behave like a "normal mother-in-law", you are just setting yourself up for failure.

It's just the reality of the situation. Don't feel guilty about calling a spade a spade. You didn't make her that way. She has probably been this way for years; long before you married her son.

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Less Offended

It's not always an option to completely cut toxic people from our lives, especially when grandchildren are involved. Just try to do what you can to expose yourself (and your kiddos) to her as little as possible, both in person and online.

There are going to be times when you absolutely cannot avoid being around this person. When that happens, just remember to have realistic expectations and try to care less about what she thinks or says.

Her opinion only has as much value as you give it.

Be A Role Model

Even if they are pushy and aggressive first, we don't want to stoop to their level.

Instead of feeling bad for them, feel better about yourself.

Just the fact that her behavior bothers you already means that you are more caring of others' feelings. Hold your head up and take pride in the fact that you're not so heartless!

What's the worst thing your mother-in-law ever said? Share your misery in the comments below!

Have a question you'd like Amanda to answer? Click HERE to submit to Ask Amanda: theCityMoms Edition.

Thanks for taking the time,


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Gnocchi with Corn & Arugula: Recipe of the Week
Easy, easy, easy… Sometimes we show our super mommy powers and chop fresh vegetables and create homemade masterpieces.  Then, there are other days when we want healthy food that takes minimal effort.  Since the latter is my wheelhouse, I will dazzle you with this recipe that uses pre-made gnocchi, canned or frozen corn, and pre-cut arugula.  
You will need
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
1 pound shelf stable gnocchi  (an example is shown, no dried pasta).
3/4 cup half-and-half or light cream
3 oz cream cheese, cut up
1/2 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, and dried oregano
3 cups arugula
and pepper or crushed red pepper to taste.
Follow the directions on the gnocchi for cooking, you’ll know it’s done when the gnocchi floats to the top.  Add corn when the first few start floating up and cook for 5 more minutes.  Drain reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.  Do not rinse. Put directly in a big bowl.
Meanwhile in a medium saucepan over medium heat combine the dairy and spices cook stirring frequently for 10 minutes.  Add the pasta water and voila.
Add the cream sauce and arugula to the bowl with the pasta and corn and mix thoroughly.
My picky four year old won't eat the greens but everyone else gobbles it up.  I often double the recipe for my family of six.


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Mom of the Month: Laura




Laura Centeno-Diaz is a CityMom O.G. She has been with the group since the beginning, attending the very first event at the greening of the canal downtown, where she met the group’s founder Jeanine Bobenmoyer. Laura was new to the area, a recent transplant from Iowa, and was eager to meet other moms. Fast forward three years later and Laura is an active member, a former playgroup coordinator, and a working momma who says that theCityMoms has been “fantastic” to meet lots of moms from different walks of life.

Laura spends most of her time balancing a career in higher education and enjoying her almost six-year-old daughter, Amelia. Laura and her husband Mike don’t have family nearby, so the support network she has built within theCityMoms has been invaluable for Laura. She really enjoys the cultural and family-focused activities the group offers.


During the day, you can find Laura serving as an Academic Advisor to students at IUPUI. Her background is in instructional design and education, and she has nearly a decade of experience in student affairs. She also teaches two first year seminars which focus on a variety of topics, including service learning. Laura has never known anything other than being a working mother and embraces the challenges and advantages it brings. She was raised in Puerto Rico by a working single mother of four children. She appreciates the example her mother set for her and wishes to demonstrate the same for her own daughter. Laura loves working and the identity and sense of accomplishment it gives her.


When she isn’t working, Laura’s favorite place to be is in the kitchen with her daughter. She loves eating, cooking, and supporting local restaurants. She was also determined to raise an adventurous eater, and so far has been very successful on this front. Laura dreamed of being a chef and owning her own restaurant. She jokes, “I am classically trained by the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.” Her latest adventure involved picking strawberries with her daughter and then figuring out what to do with their harvest. They have been enjoying homemade strawberry shortcake, strawberry popsicles, and strawberry ice cream. They might be strawberry-ed out for the time being.


Given her level of devotion to her family and the joy on her face when she talks about her daughter, you would probably never guess that Laura never planned to have children. She always enjoyed children but simply never imagined having one of her own. Life, however, sometimes takes us in different directions. She took three pregnancy tests and a blood test with her doctor before she believed the news. Now, Laura says she can’t imagine her life any other way.


What 5 items would you bring to a desert island?

  1. Water

  2. Sunscreen

  3. A bag full of good books

  4. An infinite amount of food

  5. A box of cast iron pans for cooking

*This question, although silly, reveals so much about Laura’s personality: her love of food as well as her fundamentally pragmatic nature.

What is currently playing on your iTunes?

I am currently hooked on La Oreja de Van Gogh (Spanish band) and Jesse and Joy (band out of Mexico/Southern California). I have been listening nonstop for the last three weeks.

What are you currently reading?

Picture books for my daughter, haha. I am more of an Audio book gal and have been listening to Room and the latest book by Mindy Kaling.

What is a recent fond mom memory?

I have loved watching the improvement my daughter has shown with her reading. She reads to me now.

Any cringe-worthy moments lately?

Well, nobody heard or saw this, but I was in a public restroom with my daughter and she loudly asked me “Mommy, are you going poopy?”

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

Binge watching Netflix. I am currently watching Velvet, it’s a Spanish show but has English subtitles. It’s very Mad Men-esque but focuses on high fashion.



Stay tuned next month to see which CityMom Laura thinks you ought to know!


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Summer On A Schedule

School’s out! Now what?

If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself asking that question right about now. I have been blessed to be able to stay home with my kids since they were babies. This past school year was the first time all three of them were in school full-time, so I am really going to cherish our time together this Summer. However, it is a big adjustment having them home all day again, and I did not want to fall into the habit of letting them waste half the day staring at a screen. I am a very organized person who thrives on routine so I created a weekly summer schedule for us to follow. It ensures that we DO something every day and also lets us explore the greater Indianapolis area, a still new-to-us city.


Our weekly summer schedule looks like this:

Make Something Monday – This could be anything from crafts to cooking. One week my youngest son decided to create a Power Rangers costume out of cardboard and we all helped with it. This week we are making homemade lemonade. I love that we are starting out the week by getting our creative juices flowing!


Take a Hike Tuesday – So far we have literally gone hiking on Tuesdays, but this will also be our day to just take a quick day trip. One of the great things about living in Indiana, “The Crossroads of America,” is that there are so many fun places to visit on a tank of gas. So far we have explored Brown County State Park and the Nashville, IN area, as well as Eagle Creek Park. We plan to visit Chicago, Cincinnati and the Indiana Dunes as well.


Water Wednesday – Wednesdays we’ll do anything from swimming at the pool at the Y, to visiting the water park at the Monon Center, to just running around outside with water guns or playing on the slip n slide. Luckily, it’s been blazing hot this summer so Water Wednesday has been very welcome (say that 5 times fast!)

Thinking Thursday – Thursdays we visit the library to stock up on new books, and then we head to piano lessons. We plan to do some fun science experiments on Thinking Thursday as well. Requests so far are for the exploding watermelon and the Mentos/Coke experiment (I see an explosion theme here.)

Fun Friday – Fridays could be anything…just playing with friends outside or doing something fun in the Indy area. Last week we headed downtown and had lunch at Bazbeaux’s and then climbed to the top of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.


I recognize that we all need our down time (mama included), so I also set up some ground rules for access to screens. Every day, they have a checklist of tasks they must accomplish before they can have screen time. I wanted to be sure that they didn’t experience too much of that summer slide in knowledge, so I included things like reading, math worksheets, and musical instrument practice. They also have a daily small chore to do so that we stay on top of housework since having three boys at home all day can equal chaos.

I hope these ideas will help you organize a fun and fruitful summer with your kiddos. Make like Phineas and Ferb and find a good way to spend those 104-ish days of summer vacation, before school comes along to end it!

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Short Rib Wrap & Asian Slaw: Recipe of the Week



My husband is an RN and works 12-hr night shifts. He works all weekend, has one night off, and is back at it for two nights. For me, this means a lot of meals for just me and my three year-old. On Friday night I felt inspired to take our leftovers and mix it up. I had made tortillas so my husband would have a bread product for packing dinners and leftover short ribs. When combined with random ingredients from the fridge, they became some pretty tasty Asian-inspired wraps.

This isn’t the first time I have made something like this, but I did try a few new ingredients since it wasn’t a part of my shopping plan. That’s the great thing about wraps – versatility. I encourage you to try a variety of proteins and veggies! I ended up using Brussels sprouts in the slaw and it was pretty good, although I must say I prefer, and recommend, green or purple cabbage. I also never need an excuse to eat hoisin sauce, one of the few processed foods I just can’t relinquish.

I served the slaw on the side for my daughter, and she didn’t touch it, but at least I tried!





Makes 2 servings

2 6 to 8-inch tortillas

1 cup of shredded short ribs (or chicken, pork, mini shrimp)

2 Tbsp hoisin sauce


For the slaw:

6 Brussels sprouts, shredded (or 1 cup of shredded cabbage)

2 radishes finely chopped

1 large carrot, shredded

2 tablespoons cilantro, minced


For the dressing:

¼ cup rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ tablespoon soy sauce

1 small clove of garlic, mined

1 inch of ginger grated or a dash of dried

½ lime, juiced

Salt and pepper to taste



Assemble and toss your veggies. Whisk together dressing ingredients and toss with slaw. Mix beef with hoisin sauce. Spoon half into each tortilla and top with slaw. Garnish with chopped peanuts or cashews.

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Cats Meet Kid

“Jack! Let go of Kit Kat!” That is my rather exhausted and exasperated statement as I wonder why the cats don’t run away when he starts heading for them. How in the world do you teach a 1-year-old to be gentle with animals? As a first time mother I was determined when Jack was born that I was not going to let him pinch, grab, ride, step on, or do anything else that my dogs and cats wouldn’t enjoy. Turns out that is easier said than done. So now the question is how do I maintain my own sanity while preventing my cats from being tortured by a one-year-old.


I admit that with a background in behavior, I was sure we would all live in peaceful harmony with me blissfully teaching Jack gentle touches (haha, yeah right). When Jack was a baby and immobile we were fine. I just had to keep the animals away from him. Now that he is walking, running, and grabbing, it is a whole other ball game. He is also very independent and doesn’t want help. He likes to do things his own way and in his own time. The cats are his new favorite toy and pinching and pulling is his new favorite activity.

We moved to a new house recently and even though the cats now have an upstairs and a basement, they prefer to remain on the main floor where us humans also spend most of our time. I admit I was lax in watching Jack with the cats because they are able to leave the room whereas the dogs can’t. The problem I discovered is the cats don’t leave the room. In fact, they do the exact opposite. They flop helplessly on the floor and meow for me to intervene.

Jack has also decided that pinching, squishing, and tail pulling are fun ways to spend his time. I decided quickly that I needed to change tactics when I heard my cat meowing and turned around to see that Jack had managed to get his hands on her tail and had no plans to let go. As I quickly pried Jacks fingers off of her, and pushed away visions of tail amputations that danced in my head, I decided to try something else.


  1. Give the cats an escape route. Since the cats actually refuse to move when Jack is headed toward them, we set up the cat tree on the main floor so at least they could escape upward. I reward them with treats when they are up on the cat tree periodically.
  2. Polite behavior applies to everyone. I am more likely than anyone else to tolerate Jack jumping on me, pinching, and playing rough with me because I know he is a toddler and is simply behaving like one. I have had to adjust my response to him. If he bites, pinches, or hits, I immediately walk away. So far that has been working, he doesn’t do those things as often any more.
  3. Practice “gentle”. We started this when he was an infant and he started grabbing my favorite neckless and yanking on it. I would hold his hand and let him touch it with one finger. Somewhere in his little baby brain this seems to have stuck because he will approach the cats with one finger Then, if he lets me help, he gets to pet the kitty (or puppy). Often though that one finger quickly becomes a hand grab so I have to watch carefully. We also practice this with touch and feel books on the rare occasion he sits down with me to look at a book.
  4. Give Jack another outlet. Stuffed animals are great for him to squish and drag around the house, so I keep a lot of those scattered around to redirect him when he starts acting like he might grab a kitty.
  5. Give yourself a break. This is the most important rule. If I need a break from being referee, then I take one. The cats can hang out in another room for a while, or Jack and I can head out for a walk. I am pretty sure I put this in every post involving pets that I write because it is that important!


I use the same guidelines with my dogs, but I admit I was much less watchful with the cats due to their ability to leave the room. My cats are really very tolerant and good with Jack, and I want to keep it that way. As a veterinarian with a special interest in behavior, helping families build positive relationships with their pets is an important part of what I do. I am reminded with Jack, that there’s not a one size fits all approach to this and I need to adjust my plan as Jack grows. 

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What He Meant To Say


Summer, for us, is a changing of the guard.

I spend the summer at home with the girls and my husband goes back to work. After ten months of being the main caretaker for our two daughters, Daddy heads off to kill bugs for about sixty hours a week.

We are ships passing in the night more often than not.

I keep the girls busy with gym trips, pool time, bike rides, and the occasional movie-and-PJ day. It’s during these two months that I get caught up on all the things that get neglected during the school year: heavy duty house cleaning, closet clean-outs, DIY projects, and home improvements. It sometimes feels like a mad dash to get as much done as possible before I get that return-to-school letter.

On the first day of my summer break and the last day before Chris headed back to work, he mentioned how he thought the transition for the girls might be rough. Going from Daddy-all-the-time to full-time-Mommy. I said he was being dramatic and that it’s not like the girls haven’t seen me for the past ten months. I might have even been a little insulted that he thought they’d miss him and not be okay with me.

Fast-forward a week and Chris has only seen the girls two nights in the past five. With late nights at work and practices with the band for weekend worship, he was gone. A lot.

Saturday night rolls around, Chris is at church and I’m at home. The girls and I spend about four hours outside, playing with every toy in the garage while Harper works up a really nice sidewalk chalk/snot mixture on her face. Chris called to say hi in between church services and Harper wanted to talk to him.

Right now, Harper has this really cute, high-pitched, baby voice. She speaks softly most of the time and I would describe her voice as what a really cute mouse would sound like if it could talk. It’s precious and helps her get away with lots of things she shouldn’t. I know tht later this will come back to bite us in the butt.

So she gets on the phone with her Daddy and tells him three things: “outside playin’,” “miss you, Dada,” and “I love you too.”

And then I hear it.

Chris’ voice cracking as he tells her he misses her too and he loves her so much.

And what I don’t hear, but I know from the tone of his voice is what Chris meant about transitions was about him. About a daddy that was going to miss his girls so much he wanted to tell me, but he didn’t know the right words. That he was dreading going back to work because he knew it would take him away from them for most of the summer. And he knew it would be hard on him.

Maybe he would have been able to tell me that if I didn’t respond immediately with sarcasm and thoughts about myself.

And I’m amazed that, in spite of myself, I was able to pick such a good one.


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Broccoli and Kale Slaw: Recipe of the Week




I fell in love after trying a sample at Trader Joe’s.  We love getting fresh produce at farmer markets and now in our own garden!  This is a tasty and healthy side dish or main meal!  Enjoy.



1 to 2 Broccoli crowns

1 to 2 bunches of Kale

1 bunch of Radicchio

1 – 2 Carrots

Sunflower Seeds

Dried Cranberry

Slaw dressing

Granny Smith Apple (optional)

Wasabi mayo (optional)




Chop up your broccoli, kale, and radicchio into bite sizes. Shred the carrot.  Add all the ingredients together.  If you like a kick add some wasabi mayo.  I like adding apple for a crunch.  You can always add whatever you like to it.  Eat right away or let it sit in the fridge to set the flavors in.

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Checking Off the List: Office Makeover

I don’t know about you, but I have a LIST…

A list of all major things that should be happening around my home and probably should have happened five years ago when we moved in…

This list includes paint kitchen and bathroom cabinets, fix trim in all rooms, new carpet upstairs, redo pantry/office, fix landscaping, etc… You get the idea… I could go on forever probably!  

But I recently finished one of those tasks on the list and let me tell you it feels sooooo good!

Which one?!  Well, I finally made the little office space we use in our pantry into an actual office space!  Yay!  And the best part?  It only cost me about $150 TOTAL.  I consider myself a queen of Craigslist and pride myself on not paying full price often; however, in this case I used a lot of what I already had.  

Let’s start with our before…

This spot is right off of our garage and used to be more like a dropping spot/mudroom/desk area.  It’s not a huge spot, but it’s where a washer and dryer would have gone had we not put them upstairs.  Anyways, this is what it looked like in there when we started:



First task for the office pantry: Paint.

(already had) $0.



Second Task: Fix up desk.

Desk & Spray Paint - had

Marble Contact Paper - 2 rolls



Third Task: Hang Shelves

Around $75

6 white brackets - $4.95 each

2 pieces of wood cut to size $19 each

Stain - had



And that’s all!  While it did take most of the weekend due to painting, I’m really happy with how it turned out!  It feels so good to have a calm place to work where I can shut the door if I need to AND I’ve finally checked something off our to do list!  I think I am more productive because of it, and it was a great way to express my love for decor!  I love how it turned out!







There’s even a spot for Ells, her bags & artwork!



Until next time!  Wonder what trouble my “nesting” will get me into next?





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Chicken and Avocado Salad: Recipe of the Week



Chicken and Avocado Salad with Lime and Cilantro: {Pinterest}

With the official start of Summer just around the corner, we’ve already had a few hot days, with lots more to come! I love salads all year round, but when it’s hot outside, a cool salad makes a perfect lunch. Leftover rotisserie chicken is one ingredient that is versatile in many recipes. It also keeps the cooking time to a minimum so I can spend more time with my family!

This recipe I’ve made time and time again since my bestie, Lisa, made it for me years ago! It’s quick. It’s healthy. It’s SIMPLE!!! And, it’s always a crowd pleaser!


Total Time: 20 min. Cooking Time: None
Yield: 4 servings


2 cups cooked chicken {I used a rotisserie chicken}, shredded into large pieces
2 medium avocados, diced
2 Tbsp fresh-squeezed lime juice, separated
Salt, to taste {I didn't use too much salt because you can always add more at the table}
¼ cup thinly sliced green onion
½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro {or chop it more coarsely if you prefer}
2 Tbsp light mayo {use an approved mayo if you’re Paleo}




Shred the chicken apart until you have 2 cups of chicken shredded into fairly large chunks.   Dice the avocados into medium-sized pieces; mix with 1 Tbsp of the lime juice, and season avocado with salt to taste.  Thinly slice the green onion and finely chop the cilantro.  Mix mayo and 1 Tbsp lime juice to make the dressing.


Put the chicken into a bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients.  Add the sliced green onions and dressing and toss until all the chicken is coated with dressing.  Add the avocado and any lime juice in the bottom of the bowl and gently combine with the chicken.  Then add the chopped cilantro and gently mix into the salad, just until it is barely combined.


Serve right away or chill for a while before serving.  This could be served inside pita bread or sandwich bread, or inside crisp lettuce cups, but I prefer it simply as a salad. 



Nutritional Information:

Calories: 137 • Total Fat: 4.6 g • Saturated Fat: 1 g • Cholesterol: 56 mg • Sodium: 98 mg • Total Carbohydrate: 2.3 g • Protein: 20.5 g • Calcium 2% • Iron 4%

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