Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Cotton Balls!


Inspired by a number of talented writers in the blogosphere, I'm trying to creative-up this blog with some weekly themes. Fast on the heels of Tuesday Do-Little Dinners, I present What-to-Do Wednesdays.

You know how, taking care of small children all day, you run out of things to do at about, oh, 9:30 a.m.? And then you want to bang your head against the wall for several hours on end? Yeah, me too.

But every now and then another mom mentions some activity she thought of to keep her wee ones busy one day, and I'm always slapping my forehead with my palm at the obviousness of it all. Like, why didn't I think of that? Well, we all have our own caches of ideas, and sometimes they're overflowing and sometimes they're almost empty and what's left inside are old crusty socks of ideas, things you've done over and over again and that leave your children as impressed as a moody fourteen-year-old faced with a family car trip. But the thing is, YOUR crusty-sock ideas might be my brilliant, never-tried gems. And vice versa. So, every Wednesday--at least during the winter--I'm going to post one indoor, small-children activity. And maybe you'll post in the comments with your own ideas, too.

Oh, but there's one major caveat, folks. Are you expecting fancy, exciting, ingenious, complicated, impressive activities? Activities you'd expect to witness at the local private preschool, the one with the two-year waiting list? Well, you'll be disappointed for sure, then. What-to-Do Wednesdays is NOT about that. It's more about, um, a lazier approach to keeping one's children occupied, shall we say? You know, the basics--but maybe some basics that have never occurred to you.

I will point you in the direction of a great blog I recently discovered, however, for more impressive activity ideas--the fabulous What Do We Do All Day? Yeah, she's good. She also seems to not have a fierce one-year-old running around wrecking all the preschooler's complicated activities, so, well....you go ahead and use what works for your situation.

Here's something more along the lines of what works for mine--the first What-do-Do Wednesdays suggestion:

Cotton Ball Fun

Take out a bag of cotton balls. Dump them into an empty plastic bin on the floor. Put out big plastic cooking utensils like spoons and soup ladles, as well as real or toy bowls, skillets, etc. Lead baby and preschooler to this array. Suggest scooping, dumping, counting, "cooking", carrying, stirring, etc. (Note: this would have been a lot more fun with more cotton balls. I only had half a bag in the house.)

My kids (3-1/2 years and 17 months) loved this. They did all sorts of pretend play with the cotton balls, and occupied themselves for a good 15 or 20 minutes WITHOUT ME, which is saying a lot in my house. After Julia got tired of it, Genevieve still busily toddled around the playroom depositing cotton balls here and there for quite awhile. Later, I found a bunch of them stuffed inside an empty baking-cocoa can the girls have in their play kitchen.

My Coffee Breaks Involve Changing Diapers, How About Yours?

This morning, when I failed to react quickly enough to one of Julia's elaborate playtime requests ("How about if you go over to the front door and then walk from over there to here, and as you walk you hum a little song, and then when you get by the couch this is my house, and you knock on the door, and when I say hello how about if you say, 'Oh, I just stopped over for some cake'?"), she asked me, in her patented tone of concern and accusing, "Mama, are you TIRED?!"

"Yes, very," I responded.

"But WHY?" she asked.

So I said something about taking care of babies all day long and not getting enough sleep at night and doing all the cleaning and cooking and how it is all very TIRING.

"But how come Daddy is never tired?" she persisted.

I told her it was because Daddy's job is a total breeze compared to mine.

Not really. But I thought it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Do-Little Dinners


I'm the mom of two children under the age of four; by definition, that makes me busy--dare I say harried? I think I do. I'm also in charge of running the household and doing the cooking and, with two wee ones who nap for about, oh, thirty seconds a day and then melt down most afternoons around 4:30, I find that one of my biggest challenges is putting a quick, nutritious, home-cooked dinner on the table every night. Add a tight budget (living on one salary for now) to the time crunch and you've got a situation calling for some serious creativity--not to mention a fair amount of kitchen savvy. I'm not talking about gourmet-cooking skills here, but the ability to throw tasty meals together in little time and with simple ingredients, with or without a recipe.

I always enjoy finding new family-dinner ideas that fit into my often-chaotic, always-exhausting life, and I bet I'm not the only one. Therefore, I'm adding something new to Mama in Wonderland this week. Every Tuesday I'm going to offer "Do-Little Dinners," a weekly feature devoted to fast, easy, and economical dinner ideas. They may be formal recipes, or they may be instructions for throwing something together from your pantry ingredients, but they'll always be something my family likes to eat. They'll often be vegetarian, because that's also how my family eats, but chicken, turkey, and fish will be represented as well. And don't let the vegetarian thing scare you off, if you (or your family members) are in love with real-deal burgers and roasts. Vegetarian options are cheap, healthy, and--believe me--just as delicious as meat-based dinners.

One last thing: Do-Little Dinners is about a fast but healthy and satisfactory result (without resorting to pizza delivery or the drive-thru every night). It's about getting done what needs to be done. In other words, though I feel strongly about feeding my family healthy, natural foods, and enjoy doing things like, say, baking corn muffins or biscuits from scratch to accompany a bowl of soup for a winter supper, in Do-Little Dinners I may advocate making biscuits with the help of a convenient box of Bisquick. For example. I'm also a big fan of frozen vegetables--a staple in our house, and just as nutritious as fresh--and, at times, canned fruit (in light syrup, which I drain/rinse off anyway). Would I prefer to stick exclusively to fresh, seasonal produce? Sure. I'd also prefer to cook without a crying baby climbing up my shins. In an ideal world, blah blah blah. I'm not the World's Greatest Cook; these meals aren't necessarily fancy. But they are fast, and they taste good, and you can cook them--usually--with a baby on one hip. So, let's go!

I'll start off easy, with what we had for dinner tonight:

Baked Salmon, Butternut Squash, Broccoli, and Biscuits

About 45-60 minutes before dinner, put a whole butternut squash (in a baking dish, with a few slits cut into the squash to prevent it from exploding in the oven) into a 425-degree oven.

Cut a fresh (or frozen, thawed) salmon fillet into four pieces. Place in oiled baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with salt, pepper, and dill. If you've got some Parmesan cheese around, sprinkle some of that on as well (the kind in a can is fine). At 15 minutes before dinner, put the salmon in the oven with the squash. It should be done in 12-15 minutes, or when it flakes easily with a fork.

While the salmon and squash are baking, steam or nuke some frozen broccoli and stir up some biscuits from a mix. (I do the drop-biscuit option on the Bisquick box when I'm in a real hurry.) You can turn up the oven if/when needed and bake these with the other things just before dinner; they typically only bake for 6-7 minutes and the temperature change won't hurt the squash or the fish.

When the squash comes out of the oven, carefully cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds/strings. It should be delectably soft and very easy to handle--though use potholders. Slice each half into wedges to serve--good plain or with butter, salt, and pepper.

How easy was that? And, if you want, you can skip the biscuits and use the squash as your starch. Even easier!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Trip to the DMV

This morning I took the girls with me to the DMV so I could renew my driver's license. I could end this post right now and half my readership would be clutching their heads, shrieking, "She did what?!", no doubt imagining a DMV trip like all my past DMV trips, the ones before I moved to a SMALL TOWN, when I would go and wait in line for literally hours, people dropping like flies all around me, dehydration setting in, everyone waiting for someone to truly lose it and pull out a weapon. Yes, I used to live in a very large city.

But that's not what this post is about.

On my way out of City Hall, one-year-old on my hip, three-year-old by the hand, juggling my handbag and car keys and errant hats and mittens, eyeing snowbanks and traffic and the best way to deposit the girls in their carseats without landing us all in a pile of slush, an elderly gentleman came walking toward us, grinning the whole way. "I bet there's never a dull moment in your house!" he said kindly. "You know it!" I laughed. He paused, shaking his head as he smiled down at my girls. "But you know, these years--it's just the best time of life, just the most wonderful time."

I assured him that I knew, and then I walked away, smiling too. It's so sweet how this kind of exchange happens to me all the time in this town, when I'm out with my daughters. It's like there are sweet grandmas and grandpas around every corner, just waiting to remind me how blessed I am.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

And Then Some Days You Sort of Get it Right

I thought I was going to die this week, or else lose my mind: locked inside the house with a precocious, easily-bored three-year-old and a naughty-oops-I-mean-mischievous one-year-old while the weather outside went from frightful (five below zero) to downright ridiculous (thirty below zero). Oh, and who can forget the morning spent cleaning the preschool that, given the circumstances, felt quite a bit like a luxurious break from my regularly-scheduled, stay-at-home-mom duties?

But then it warmed up a bit, and we rallied, and, with the help of a couple of videos checked out from the library, the kiddos and I had a very respectable day on Friday. And I say that despite the fact that, at naptime, the baby cried (and I really mean screamed, wailed, gnashed her teeth, no doubt worried the neighbors) for 40 minutes before conking out for her requisite hour. Oh, and the preschooler didn't nap at all.

But still! We did kids' yoga! Twice! We made homemade peppermint play-doh! We went to open-playtime at the library! We built with blocks--actually built, not just tossed blocks around listlessly saying things like, "But I don't WAAAAAANT to play with blocks" while the baby wrecked everything! And in between all that, I got a ton of housecleaning done so no one has to spend all weekend doing it.

Then I gave myself the night off from cooking a homemade, nourishing dinner, and sent Christopher through the Wendy's drive-thru at five o'clock.

Gotta love Fridays.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Note to Baby

If, for the second afternoon in a row, you wake up from your (one and only) nap after an hour or less of total sleeping but will not go back to sleep despite my ever-hopeful (and desperate) attempts, and then you immediately proceed to FALL ASLEEP during your after-nap nursing, PERHAPS YOU SHOULD BE TAKING LONGER NAPS. Just a suggestion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

January Wednesday

Spent all morning yesterday volunteering at Julia's co-op nursery school, cleaning the classrooms while the preschoolers had the day off (and Christopher took off from work to stay with the girls). Discovered that several hours in a row conversing with other adults while scrubbing down cabinets and window frames felt like a "break". Ruminated for the next 24 hours on what it means about my life that CLEANING A SCHOOL felt like a break.

Am wondering what in the world needs to happen around here to make it so that the after-nap afternoons don't make all three of us want to poke our own eyes out. Especially me. If I love my girls so much, if my three-year-old is so clever and good-hearted and my one-year-old is so adorable and apple-cheeked, then why, when they wake up already between two and two-thirty every afternoon and I realize that we still have two or more hours to fill until Daddy comes home and good LORD what are we going to do for two and a half hours and why in the world does my baby only nap for 60 to 90 minutes total for the entire day when she's a BABY for God's sake?--why am I filled with a mixture of boredom and agitation so intense that I have been known to say things like, "Do you want to get in the car and....drive around?"

Told my preschooler today that what I want for my upcoming birthday is "a book [a specific book I'm hoping for] and a relaxing morning." When she asked what a relaxing morning is, I refrained from answering, "Something I will never again experience in my entire life" even though that is exactly how I felt at the time.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Been Busy Dealing with Crying Babies

I wish I could say that my relative absence from blogging last week was because I was busy jetting off to warmer climes. You know, since for a few days now the afternoon high has been somewhere in the neighborhood of five below, with a twenty-below windchill. It's like the Minnesota Januarys of my youth! Yikes. We're talking hibernation-worthy cold, people--when even going out to get the mail requires an internal debate: Do I really want the mail today? How badly do I want the mail?

Instead, I was busy this past week doing things like night-nursing and subsequently feeling very, very tired, checking out the Juno soundtrack, and cooking a ham dinner for extended family--if, by "cooking a ham dinner," you actually mean "accidentally letting a baked potato explode in the oven while gabbing way too long on the phone with your best friend from psychology residency ten trillion lifetimes ago and letting your visiting mother handle the ham AND provide the homemade dessert, so, in other words, you didn't really cook the ham dinner at all." Yeah, that.

Anyway, since today is once again life-threateningly cold, my Sunday plans include things like making oatmeal-applesauce-raisin muffins and washing everyone's sheets, blankies, and teddy bears. I've heard that the upcoming week's forecast calls for more of this bone-chilling weather, so I'm thinking I'd better give serious thought to finding myself a major cabin-fever project for these dark and frozen winter months. I'm thinking a.) finally get working on my longtime goal of turning some of my mama-writing into a book proposal, or b.) train for a 10K run. What do you think? Cast your vote in the comments. Oh, and stay warm--or else get yourself to a tropical beach somewhere.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm Tired, Y'All

I realize that I have been writing an awful lot about Genevieve on this blog lately, to the neglect of sweet Julia, which is a shame because Julia is on a no-meltdown streak that I believe is on at least its third, if not fourth, day. Although of course I have now guaranteed the end of said streak by even mentioning it.

Truth be told, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, doesn't it?, and Genevieve is most definitely squeaky these days. If by "squeaky" you actually mean "naughty." And "screamy." And "SO FUSSY YOU'D LIKE TO HAND HER OFF TO AN UNSUSPECTING GRANDPARENT FOR A DAY OR TWO OR TEN." Ahem.

Last night, for the second night in a row, Genevieve woke up at 2 a.m. and proceeded with all sorts of ridiculous carryings-on that were alleviated only by nursing her. Did you get that? I nursed my 17-month-old baby, in the middle of the night, two nights in a row. Yep. Did I mention the RIDICULOUSNESS?

At one point she was standing up in her bed, screaming "MAMA, MAMA, MAMA, MAMA!" at the volume you would expect if I were down at the end of the block and she was trying to get my attention. I am not exaggerating. I have never heard a baby yell that loudly before. She woke up Julia and startled everyone half to death.

And that, of course, was when I nursed her. Because I knew from the night before that it was the only thing that would even halfway guarantee that she would go back to sleep anytime soon. Not that she'd fall asleep nursing, but that if I let her nurse, and then re-created the rest of her normal bedtime routine (nursing, singing "Rock-a-bye Baby" while walking her to her bed, laying her down and saying "Have a good night-night now, with your Silky and your PJ Bear", and making Bear give her a kiss on her cheek), she'd acquiesce and grumblingly go back to sleep. And she did.

During the daytime, she's crabby and naughty and fierce. She throws bowls of oatmeal when she doesn't get her way. She flings herself backward onto the floor, writhes around there like a dog, wailing with rage. She trips on the toys and then yells about it to a degree far disproportionate to the actual indignity. She throws crayons into my bathtub.

Maybe she's frustrated because try as she might, she can't get anything much to come out of her mouth other than "sioldhgil" and "emkljsh" and bldukhgm". That would bother me too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seventeen Months Old Today


Genevieve Rose is 17 months old today. In one more month, we'll have to go back to the pediatrician for her next well-visit and say, "Nope, still won't drink milk of any sort, and oh, she's pretty much off cheese, too" and see what Dr. K. has to say about THAT.

Yep, she's still stubborn, and still nursing. In recent weeks I've contemplated starting the weaning process, feeling frustrated and depleted, but right now I'm back to feeling fine about it once more (maybe because we got to go out to that movie! again, we love you, Connie and Todd!), and I don't really know how long I'll keep nursing. Maybe to 18 months, maybe to two? Not sure. Regardless, it's clear that we have to make peace with the fact that Genevieve might never drink milk of any sort. The nutritional factors concern me (lack of calcium, protein, etc.), but what can I do about it? Nothing.

Genevieve geared up for her 17-month "birthday" by sleeping 14 hours on Sunday night. She had skipped her nap that day--I guess all the better to test the sitter--and conked out cold by 6 p.m., which was not surprising. But she ended up sleeping until 8 the next morning, which was just insane--but, you know, fabulous (especially since she still napped yesterday afternoon). But then she got us back last night by inexplicably waking up and crying from 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. Sneaky, that one.

The biggest news is that yesterday Genevieve finally added two new words to her repertoire: "Nonna" and "Boppa", her maternal grandparents, who are coming to visit on Thursday. We weren't even coaching her to say them; Julia and I were discussing the visit and, on her own, Genevieve piped up from across the playroom, with perfect enunciation: "Nonna! Boppa!" Probably what will happen is, one day she'll just open her mouth and start reciting the Gettysburg Address. Or, you know, the text of The Going to Bed Book. One or the other.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Afternoon at the Movies

There should be a special form of sainthood for bestowing on friends who, upon discovering that the movie you're dying to see is actually coming to your tiny small-town cinema, call you up and say, "You're going to the 2:35 on Sunday afternoon, and we're coming over with our girls to watch your kids so you can do so." (Thanks, Connie and Todd!)

Which is to say, Christopher and I went on a date today! Only 15 months after our last one!

People, this movie "Juno": so, so sweet, with such a satisfying ending. And so engrossing that I didn't even think about our babies until the movie was almost over, which is saying a lot considering: a.) the movie is actually ABOUT babies--well, a pregnancy, actually; and b.) so unfamiliar are my girls with being left with someone that I can count on one hand the number of times we have done so, and still have fingers left for typing. In other words, you would have expected me to be nervously preoccupied with thoughts of how everything was going at home. I was not. I was totally and completely wrapped up in this movie. I'd read the New Yorker's piece about the film a few weeks back, and at the movie's climactic turn, a key line from the review kept popping into my head: "Where are love and constancy to be found?" For a bit there, you can't help but wonder.

And that moment when Juno's labor begins, and suddenly the whole family is rushing into the car, and the music starts behind all the action, and despite the circumstances involved, everyone is still exhilarated and excited and right there in it, 100%? Well, how can anyone watch that scene and not be riveted and, come on now and admit it, teary-eyed? You know you were.

Diablo Cody wrote this movie, as everyone knows by now, and she's a hometown girl, too, so it's especially fun to go and listen for the references to Ridgedale and Stillwater and St. Cloud. Unfortunately, though, it was filmed in Vancouver, and is therefore peppered with the kind of jarring inconsistencies only noticeable to the natives: there just aren't towering, dark pine trees ringing the running track at St. Louis Park High School; we just don't have those kinds of trees around here. And when it says "Spring", but outside there are not only clumps of leftover snow, but bushes lush with green leaves too? Um, no.

But those are minor flaws. I loved this movie. I'm so glad we went. Christopher says that at our rate, Julia will be in kindergarten before we see another one. Guess that's probably about right.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Staying True to Your Inner Values is Exhausting. Plus You Never Get Anything Done.

My spouse and I--for some 13 years now, if you can believe that--have always maintained a one-car household.

First, we were extremely poor graduate students living in a very large city amidst a huge public transportation system; back then, we went 5+ years with no car at all. Then, we were newly-graduated Ph.D.s with massive student-loan debt, living in a different large city; this one had poor public transportation, but we haphazardly made do with one vehicle, a nearby bus line, and a heck of a lot of scheduling craziness. Later on, when we theoretically could have afforded a second car (two incomes, no kids yet), there was no need--I took the car on my commute to a job in the suburbs, Christopher walked a half-block to a bus line that took him straight to his downtown high-rise cubicle--and we felt strongly about maintaining our one-car status for environmental, economic, and anti-consumerism values.

Later still, we had babies, gave up one salary and over half our household income so I could stay home to raise them, and moved to a small town where work is so close for Christopher that his commute is ten minutes on a bike. This allows us to still remain a one-car household, despite the logistics involved in having one parent away at work and one parent at home with two small children and their attendant pediatrician appointments, playdates, Target necessities, and early-childhood classes.

But tonight I had a revelation.

It feels like we are always, always busy. Yes, I know everyone feels that way, but hear me out.

It seems our weekends, even when nothing is planned, are one long rat-race of chores and errands and to-do lists. It seems like we never get anything done. The smallest chores--open a safety-deposit box at the bank for the will; cash that old birthday check; return that stuff to the store--take weeks and months to get done. We never have free time, not even during our "free" time. There is always, always something forgotten, that still needs doing: pick up the girls' prescriptions, get another gallon of milk, drop off that library DVD. We never have time enough to let a weekend go by in a pleasurable blur of pajama-wearing, book-reading, pancake-eating, DVD-watching bliss: there are always ten million things to do, and it's always some sort of superhuman feat to get even a handful of them done in any one week. Why?

What's wrong with us? Our kids are only three and one; surely life isn't nearly as busy as it one day will be. Surely we're not actually supposed to feel this unorganized and time-crunched. We've got nothing much going on--"just" raising babies, like the rest of the country--so what's up?

Ah, but you see. We've only got the one car. That means that no one ever, ever gets anything done while the other is taking care of something else. If I drive up to the suburbs tomorrow to return the curtain rods--even if I were to take the children with me!--Christopher can't, at the same time, run to the bank and the grocery store. If he takes the girls for some fun at the library's open-playtime, there will be no Target-shopping or dry-cleaning pick-up or coffee-bean-buying for me. We can't ever divide and conquer on those long weekend mornings: you take the baby and get the groceries; I'll take the preschooler to try on new shoes. Or even: you take the baby to run errands while I take the preschooler on her playdate. Or even still: you take both kids to the park and I'll do all the unpleasant errand-running-around-town.

There is no simultaneous, time-efficient errand-running going on in our household. We are caught in one big relay race of you go-then I go, a car-hand-off marathon whose end result is a lot of lost time and a lot of things left undone.

I have major mixed feelings about this. I still feel strongly--for all those reasons listed above--about having only one car. I'm proud of us for doing it, for having done it all this time. I disapprove highly of our culture of get-more-buy-more-waste-more-want-more. I'm glad that our family of four is doing our share to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by limiting the amount that we drive, and the number of gas-consuming vehicles we own. We don't have the income, right now, to add a second car payment and insurance premium to our monthly bills. But this was a serious aha! moment for me, the moment I realized that a major contributor to my constant feelings of busy-ness and disorganization and lack of unscheduled time is the fact that we only have one car (and do not live in an area where public transportation is an option, anymore). As "green" and health-conscious as you are, you cannot take your bike to go grocery shopping with a 1-year-old during January in Minnesota.

And there you have it. Stress and exhaustion: revelation: shock and unhappiness: determination to stay true to inner values: and yet, frustration: and--oh yes--stress and exhaustion. Huh.

Maybe I shouldn't do so much thinking. It only gets me into trouble.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rant

I must be old. Because lately I have actually been uttering things like, "Whatever happened to customer service?!" and "It used to be that businesses actually tried to be helpful and responsive to their customers!" Um, yeah. I guess I'm on my way to geezerhood.

But seriously, I have good reason to be saying these things. Recent experiences:

1. When I finally haul out the curtains and curtain rods I ordered for the guest room window last November, I find that the rods are too big around to fit in the curtain/valance pole pockets. This despite the fact that nowhere in the company catalog or website copy was there any information about the diameter of the rods, or about any size specifications for the curtain pole pockets. I end up having to go to Target to buy replacement rods there, and set aside the mail-ordered rods for eventual (extremely inconvenient) return.

2. I order a glossy fruit basket from a reputable mail-order gourmet food company, to be delivered to my parents for their anniversary. They charge an arm and a leg for shipping, but hey: a.) everyone charges an arm and a leg for shipping; and b.) this company is supposed to have fantastic products, so I figure it's worth it. The basket arrives with the fruit frozen solid and ruined. When I call the company to complain, they assure me that an "expedited" replacement order will be delivered the following Monday, guaranteed. It does not arrive on Monday. When I call the company, AGAIN, at the end of the day on TUESDAY, they try to tell me that the promise had been delivery by that day, not Monday. This is a lie. (It was finally delivered, unfrozen, that evening, more than a week after my parents' anniversary.)

3. I register for an ECFE class for Genevieve. When I receive an e-mail registration-confirmation, it lists the class for a different time than was described in the class catalog (and, therefore, different from what I recorded on my mailed-in registration form). No one contacts me about this discrepancy. When I call the office myself, I am told, "Oh yes, there was an error in the catalog. Hope it still works for you!" Um, was anyone planning on informing the paying class registrants of which time was the correct one? (Or alerting those folks who didn't even notice the discrepancy, of which I'm sure there are some?) Or might I have simply shown up on the first day of class, baby in tow, to find the classroom closed and locked?

4. I try on jeans all day at the mall 40 minutes away from my town, only to find that the size I want in one particular style isn't available in the store in the inseam-length I need. I decide to order them from home, online. When I do so, I find that, even though the jeans online sport the same "model name," description, etc., as the ones I tried on at the mall, the online store is charging me double the price of the in-store jeans (the store had those jeans on sale half-price). I order them anyway, so desperate am I for jeans. When they arrive in the mail (five days late), not only do they look nothing like the pair I saw at the store (wash color is darker, pocket embroidery is different), but the inseam is a full inch shorter than advertised on the website, so they're too short for me.

5. I decide I hate everyone and everything, and am never buying anything ever again.

The End.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Does Scooping Ice Cream Count as a Biceps Workout?

I had all sorts of things I was going to write about today. But then the whole family spent half the day on a trip up to the city for a specialty pediatric medical appointment, the girls only napped until 2:15, and Christopher had to work an hour and a half late today, which meant I had to feed the girls dinner by myself. Somewhere in the middle of all that, I missed my usual Wednesday (pre-dinner) run, lost my resolve to do anything about it, and ate too many chocolates. I am so, so sad to say that it appears that gorging oneself on sweets over the holidays, skipping many a too-cold, too-dark, too-busy workout, and having the baby begin losing interest in her previous four-a-day nursings all adds up to winter weight gain. Dang! I knew there was a good reason for all that breastfeeding. I could eat cookies, skip runs, and suffer no consequences.

But hey! Remember how I wanted a project? Turns out that the college Christopher works for sponsors a wellness contest each winter, wherein staff and spouses can form teams and sign up to earn points by working out and staying active from January to March. You get points for different activities, and you log it all on an official online tracking sheet. The team to earn the most points by mid-March wins. First prize is $100! And second prize is a massage! All good, people. Christopher and I are going to sign up as a team. What better incentive to stop skipping runs in favor of drinking cocoa and eating Oreos on the sofa in front of "What Not to Wear"? Seriously, people, this is the perfect project for me. Competition (of a solo, no-embarrassment nature)! Points! Organized on a log! Ah, I love it.

OK, so maybe I would also benefit from, say, some kind of writing goal, or a new self-nourishing hobby. But in the meantime I'm looking forward to logging some points in the name of healthy competition. Believe me, I could really use that massage. (And that, my friends, is a topic for another day.)

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Worst Parenting Moments Ever?

As you all know, I don't often write a post simply to point out someone else's blog post, even though I read many, many fantastic mama-blog posts every week. But sometimes I come across something so good, I can't resist. Thus, you just might want to check out Finslippy right now, where blogger Alice Bradley asked her readers to write her with their very worst parenting stories--those moments when anger, frustration, spite, or flat-out temporary insanity took over and caused them to, um....act rather unmotherly.

If you need a (horror-tinged?) laugh, or just an opportunity to shake your head and think, "Whew boy, thank the Lord in heaven I've never done anything THAT bad," read this. But only if you have a parenting sense of humor. Because it's not always pretty. But it is true to life, and sort of HILARIOUS. Haven't we all been there, people? Or somewhere that very much resembles there? I thought so.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Looking Ahead

Over the weekend I took the girls for a playdate at the home of an old friend who has a nearly-five-year-old daughter. This friend swore to me that, at nearly five, these children become much, much easier to care for. That you can leave them with grandparents overnight, even, maybe, and get an evening alone with your spouse. Sleep in the next morning and when you go to fetch them, they're sitting at their Nana's kitchen table, elbow-deep in Play-Doh, doing just fine.

Also that crazy-making obsession with clothes not being right? The way they will have complete and total meltdowns every morning because THERE IS SOMETHING UNSPOKEN, UNKNOWABLE, UNNAMEABLE, WRONG WITH THAT SHIRT, or overnight the once-acceptable socks have now become instruments of torture, anyone can see, how dare you expect me to put on such socks? You know, that whole thing? It goes away.

Oh, and of course, when you have a four-almost-five-year-old (assuming you're done making any more babies), of course there is no more of this four-times-a-day nursing, and has not been for years. Years! That means you can sleep past six a.m. sometimes. And you can go to a movie in the evening because you aren't required to be home at bedtime, for the twilight nursing.

In other words, parenting seems to get a heck of a lot easier after the toddler/preschooler years (but, I'm assuming--as a psychologist who used to specialize in teens and families--BEFORE the adolescent years).

This is the second friend who has said as much in the past week. It must be true.

I was momentarily envious, bedazzled, wistful. My friend's house seemed so calm, so cooperative. As if weekend days weren't a ragtag rat-race of naps and nursings and tantrums and diapers and picking discarded pasta up off the floor around the highchair. As if running errands could actually, relatively feasibly, be accomplished with child(ren) in tow. As if everyone in the house were a little more well-rested. Ahhhhh....

But then later, in the infant-and-toddler section at Target, I started thinking about certain items on my list, and do you know that I was sort of glad for the particular totems of babyhood I could still throw into my cart, those items unique to households with under-twos: the biter biscuits, the toddler training toothpaste? It won't be much longer, will it, that you'll be able to find a yellow bottle of baby wash in our upstairs bath?

Do you remember it, those of you parents whose children have grown past toddlerhood? Do you remember those iconic baby products that lived in your house for months, years on end? Do you ever miss buying them? The teething biscuits, the sippy cups? The amber-colored no-tears shampoo? That pink lotion that smells only, always, of babies?

Maybe not. Maybe I won't either. But, knowing me, I'm probably missing it a little bit already. Am I? I sort of am.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Strong, "Silent" Type

We continue to wait for 16-month-old Genevieve to really start talking. Her main form of communication is a relentless, HIGHLY-ANNOYING "uh! uh! uh!" sound, generally accompanied by pointing at whatever it is she wants you to get for her. Her words--overused in a big way, since they're the only ones she has--are basically just "mama", "dada", "Boo-wah" (for "Julia"), and her forms of "yes" and "no" which are "uh-huh" (or "mmm-hmmm") and "uh-uh" (or "hmmm-mmm"). She also says "dat!" for "what's that?"

Genevieve "talks" the best for Julia, so every night at dinner Julia quizzes her from across the table:

"Vivi, say 'Mama'."
"Mama!"
"Say 'Dada'."
"Dada!"
"Say 'Boo-wah'."
"Boo-WAH!"
"Say Genna."
....."Mama!"

And it starts all over again. We're trying to get her to say her less-used nickname "Genna", because it seems to be easier for her than "Vivi". She's made a couple of garbled attempts at "Genna" in the past, but generally keeps her mouth shut when we try to prompt a "Vivi" from her.

What really cracks me up is when we ask her to say something we know she can't (yet) say, and she responds with some appropriately-inflected, but TOTALLY gibberish reply. Not anything remotely resembling the word in question, as if she were actually trying to make the right sounds. But just some nonsense, ANYTHING, to make it look like she's, you know, working on it. Such as:

[Genevieve screeches for more food at the dinner table]
Christopher: Genevieve, you need to say, "MORE, PLEASE."
Genevieve: slkeuns ghasxlk!
Christopher: Say, "More, Daddy."
Genevieve: pofmren lgiths.

Okaaaaaay.

Unlike some parents, I don't worry a bit about Genevieve's lack of speech, just like I don't worry about her wasting away to ill-health because all she eats is bread. She's fine. She's a crazy madcap baby with an attitude, but she's fine. In the end it's all just mainly highly entertaining to me, because Julia talked at eight months (and hasn't stopped since)--having over 130 words at 18 months old, when, out of curiosity, I followed her around one day with a notebook and pencil, writing them all down--and ate a complex, varied, and extremely well-balanced diet from the moment she tasted solid food. Vivi--oops, I mean Genna--is her own baby, for sure. She just doesn't want to do a whole lot of talking about it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A for Effort

Resolutions or no, it probably wasn't the most auspicious move to start 2008 by SKIPPING A WORKOUT on New Year's Day. Ahem. Who does that?

Anyway. Here it is Jan. 2, which means Christopher is back at work and I am once again the only parent available to entertain two small children, one of whom has a terrible cold and consequently seems to be possessed by an alternate personality which could accurately be dubbed "Crabby McCrabberton, the crankiest baby in the universe", for the entire day.

So far I have made a valiant effort. I put them in their swimsuits and told them we were going swimming in the bathtub. Oh joy! How crazy! What fun!

That was good for about 25 minutes (including the dressing and undressing part).

My other brilliant ideas--including tying "leashes" onto their toy puppies and taking them for a walk around the house, playing basketball inside the house with soft balls and empty buckets, and taping a giant sheet of unrolled wrapping paper, white side up, onto the lineoleum so we can color on the "floor"--have fallen flat.

People! Aren't these great ideas? Sheesh!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Study in Contrasts

List of foods in our household that Genevieve will not eat:

pasta
potatoes (including fries)
sweet potatoes
squash (all varieties)
hummus
green beans
lima beans
cooked carrots
mushrooms
onions
cucumber
green bell pepper
red bell pepper (off and on)
string cheese (off and on)
plain yogurt
(cow's) milk
soy milk
salsa
deli turkey
deli ham
chicken breast, no matter how prepared
turkey meatloaf
turkey burgers
veggie burgers
roasted beets
roasted leeks
roasted parsnips
beet greens
Swiss chard
spinach
whole-grain brown-rice cakes
mango
brown rice
edamame
lentil soup
fish

List of foods that Julia will not eat:

mushrooms

Have I mentioned that my daughters are complete opposites in every way?