Monday, March 31, 2008

Thank You, Amoxicillin

Genevieve's antibiotics must have fully kicked in today. At ten a.m. I suddenly realized she had been up for four hours but HAD NOT CRIED ONCE. No whining, no screaming, no blazing toddler meltdowns. No following me around the house with her arms upstretched, sobbing "Mama, Mama, Mama" until I picked her up and attempted to carry her on my hip during all my activities. I can't tell you how amazing this morning has felt. It's exactly like being terribly sick, yourself, for days, and then suddenly feeling better: you can't believe how good you feel, how fantastic life is. It's as if you had totally forgotten, beforehand, what things are normally like. That's how I feel today.

Oh--and there's a snowstorm outside today. Can I just say: THANK GOD Genevieve's illness, and thus her temperament, is improved? Because can you imagine what I would do if I had to deal with a cranky sick baby for one more day, AND it was snowing outside once again? I don't even want to think about it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

No More Nursing

About a week and a half ago, I stopped nursing Genevieve. She is 19 months old, and was nursed exclusively throughout her babyhood, as was her sister before her, until 16 months. I became pregnant with Genevieve just two months after weaning Julia, so it's pretty much been more than 4-1/2 years that my body has been busy nourishing and growing other human beings. I wasn't planning on weaning Genevieve when I did; she got really sick, too stuffed up to breathe while nursing, and then I got really sick, so sick that I didn't have the energy to keep trying anymore. I let it go.

I haven't really allowed myself to dwell too much on this major life change yet. We've been so busy, and so sick, and life in our household has been very chaotic lately, so that I haven't had time to muse on weaning, which maybe is a good thing. I love my girls, and I love them at every single age, and the thought of going back and suffering childbirth and all-night nursing again sends a shiver down my spine, but I am still wildly ambivalent about never again being a nursing mom. I really loved it, which is saying a lot because you really have to read between the lines there; when I gave birth to my first, she had so many newborn problems and minor crises, and I developed so many long-lasting breastfeeding infections, that nursing was an act of sheer will on my part, involving lots of physical pain that I simply fought through and overcame, because I knew in the end it would be worth it, which it was. Luckily, the second time around, despite colic and reflux and my caffeine-dairy-chocolate fast, nursing was a total breeze, with zero complications and an overabundance of milk. Easy as pie. Plus, by then I was a total pro and thought nothing of nursing that baby while running around the house one-armedly putting in laundry and stirring pasta sauce.

At any rate, nursing one's baby is a big job; for me it was hard and wonderful, exhausting but rewarding. To be done with it after three years, combined, of doing it feels like a milestone deserving of my respect and a solemn goodbye. I'm sad about it, but I've got to tell you, I am excited about two things I can now do that I could not before: wear a dress again (not that I have one, but that can be solved), and Crest-White-Strips my teeth. Have you ever used those things?! They are FANTASTIC. I used them once, during those two fleeting months. And I have been waiting ever since to do it again. Seriously, people: BLINDINGLY WHITE TEETH.

Sad and Regretful

Finding out that your baby actually has not just a ridiculously persistent cold, but a SINUS INFECTION, just like you had--remember? those ten days when you were in constant agony?--is just the thing for making you feel very, very guilty for being so impatient and short-tempered with her during her nonstop crying and whining and "MAMA!"- screaming all week long. Insert very sad face here.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

S.O.S.

1. Sick baby (again).

2. Spring break (so no preschool this week).

3. Spouse super-busy at work, going in early and staying late every day.

4. Spouse taking the car every day (in order to save commuting time, and squeeze a bit more work into the day), so we're stranded at home.

5. After being stranded at home for the entire first three weeks of March due to multiple illnesses.

6. Decreed that TV/videos/DVDs are off limits this week in reaction to the last two weeks during which I let the girls watch 2-3 hours a day because I was so sick I was unable to properly parent them. Made that decree late last week before I realized this week was spring break (see # 2). Kicking myself.

7. Sick baby crashing for a nap every day around 10 a.m., meaning that she then will not sleep in the afternoon, when the three-year-old is napping (and the baby should be napping as well). Translates into: no breaks for Mama during the day.

8. Some kind of crazy mystery neck/shoulder pain that appeared out of nowhere, keeps me awake at night, and prevents me from turning my head.

9. Sick baby = TOTALLY CRABBY, UNPLEASANT BABY who spends her days scream-whining the word "MAMA!" nonstop for hours at a time, including when she is put to bed. I have been known to exaggerate. I am not exaggerating right now. I can see how people sometimes end up snapping, and physically abusing their kids. Not that I would ever excuse it. But I can see how it could happen.

10. Saying a little prayer.

This Family is Falling Apart

Out of curiosity over the insane household schedule of this family recently--not to mention our ill health--I just checked the calendar. During the months of February and March, between the four of us, we have had a total of FIFTEEN doctor and dentist appointments. This does not include three appointments that were cancelled or rescheduled for next month due to lack of time to fit them all in.

This strikes me as as a bad sign.

Will Blog for Food


Oh, the blessed Internet. Twice now, it has indirectly brought yummy treats to my door. First, a loyal Wonderland reader and Internet friend showed up on my doorstep with homemade bread during a particularly bleak parenting week. Now, dear "Question", of Questionable, has mailed me a stash of Cadbury Creme Eggs, with a note wishing me improved health so I can enjoy my favorite Easter candy before the season is long gone. (Yes, I knew it was you. And thanks for feeling sorry for me that I had been so sick this year that I had not yet sampled even ONE Creme Egg.) But now guess what was waiting for me last evening, when I returned from my first run since March 1st (ouch)? Such a nice little surprise treat. You're the best, Question!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Plastic Eggs


Sure, I know, Easter is over. But those hinged plastic eggs, used to hide jelly beans and adorn Easter baskets, are pretty interesting to a kid (or two). Today we staged a post-Easter egg hunt in our living room, pretended we were farmers collecting eggs on our farm, and sold the eggs--in an old empty egg carton--at a pretend supermarket. Oh, and of course, plastic eggs can be counted, sorted by color, rolled, tossed into buckets or bowls from afar, or coddled in imaginary nests so they will hatch into baby birds. (Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss, would be a great companion storybook for that last activity, by the way!) The possibilities are endless. Maybe I should run out quickly and hunt down all the after-holiday clearance bags of plastic eggs at the grocery store!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Seriously?

I would like to know who's in charge here, anyway. Because sweet spunky baby, fully well for only four days following a THREE-WEEK bout with a cold virus so severe we used up three entire boxes of Kleenex in ONE DAY, is sick again. Back to the store for more Kleenex, I guess.

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: Chicken Moutarde

It's Tuesday, so you know what that means: it's time to talk about dinner. I don't know about you, but I love dinner ideas for which I don't even need a recipe. This week's meal is so simple I feel like everyone probably makes it already; but, having just returned from four days out of town and being two weeks' behind on housework and grocery shopping, it's about all I can wrap my brain around right now. Plus, it's really good! It's from a cookbook I owned years ago; can't even remember the book's title. But this recipe stuck with me.

Put some potatoes in the oven 30 minutes before the chicken goes in, cook some veggies or make a salad as the chicken and potatoes bake, and you'll have a complete, homemade, healthy meal in an hour. Or if you don't have an hour to spare, make some couscous while the chicken cooks; that way, the whole thing will only take a half-hour. Quick note about the sauce: you may prefer more or less honey-mustard sauce on your chicken. Feel free to experiment; just use roughly equal amounts of honey and mustard.

Chicken Moutarde
4 Servings

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (thawed)
salt and pepper
1-2 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in an oiled baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice. In a small bowl, combine honey and dijon mustard. Pour evenly over chicken. Sprinkle with paprika to garnish. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until inside is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Dressed Up or Not, We Made It

Well! As it turns out, morning temps of 12 degrees plus 7-1/2 inches of new snow are not conducive to the wearing of sleeveless spring dresses and new heels for Easter, anyway. See? Seriously, can you believe this snow?



So, in the end, I did not feel too regretful about being ultimately unable, due to a raging sinus infection, to go shopping for a dressy outfit to wear on Easter, even if I had resolved that it was called for. Which, by the end of all that rah-rah discussion about dressing nicely on occasion , I certainly had. (Next year, Susan, I swear I am going to dress up. Especially if Easter falls in April, when perhaps there won't be any snowstorms involved. Although April snowstorms are not unheard of in northern Minnesota.)

Having said all that, and despite the usual photo-taking challenges ("Girls, look here! Smile! No fingers in the mouth, just for ten seconds! Over here! Look HERE. Genevieve, stay there just for a minute. Julia, look here! Hold still! SMILE!"), I think we girls cleaned up pretty well for Easter church at the grandparents'. You know, for having been sick for the past three weeks (all four of us) and currently teething (Genevieve) and refusing all naps despite utter exhaustion (Julia) and under the influence of multiple medications (me). In the end, I was pretty proud of myself simply for rustling up the black trousers and ironed blouse and dark-red flats.


After all, a few days ago I was in pj's, with a ponytail and no make-up, wondering if I could stuff ibuprofen directly into my sinus cavities. Which is to say, I'm feeling a LOT better. And little girls in coordinating lavender Easter dresses are very fortifying.


Even if they never, ever sleep in the car, not even on 300-mile road trips that end up taking more than six hours.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More Medicine = Good

Yesterday I saw a very kind, sympathetic nurse practitioner who took me seriously when I said, "I've been really, really sick and very miserable for ten days; I'm home full-time with a three-year-old and a one-year-old with no one else to help with childcare; my husband can't take any more days off from work; and I am desperate. You have to help me."

I walked away with a confirmed diagnosis of a very severe, particularly intractable sinus infection on top of a cold virus and conjunctivitis, and a treatment plan involving continued use of hard-core antibiotics and a second medication to help the first medication start working. The NP assured me I would feel better soon, and I almost hugged her with relief. Although nothing had really kicked in yet, when I got home from the clinic and Christopher went back to work, I did three giant loads of laundry, returned two phone calls, cooked an actual dinner that did not involve bread and peanut butter, cleaned the catbox, located some bins of packed-away toddler clothes in the garage for Genevieve and sorted through them, completed some necessary correspondence, ironed a blouse, and created packing lists for our trip this weekend, in addition to tending the babies---I think because even the prospect of recovery after the last ten days of illness was such a psychological boost that the placebo effect put my body on overdrive.

Today I took my three medications (the first two plus ibuprofen for my head/face pain), put on make-up, real clothes, and cute shoes, and took the girls to Julia's nursery school. I felt like I've been on another planet for the past three weeks. I hadn't seen the other moms in ages; I missed preschool events and baby classes and playdates for days. While I was sick (and, the weeks before that, both girls were sick and we were stuck at home then too), a whole season changed. The last time I went running, it was through snow. Now, the grass outside is tinged green. It's an odd feeling to be so out of the loop with the outside world for so long.

Because I am determined to deliver a much-anticipated family-holiday experience to my three-year-old, and because I am optimistic that in another day I will be feeling even better, our trip up north for Easter is still on. However, it turns out that a major snowstorm is predicted for tomorrow, our travel day. So what to wear on Easter may turn out to be a non-issue in the end. Ha.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Hurdles




Sometime later, I'll fill you in--I'm sure you're dying to know--on my ongoing battle with my immune system, now going on 11 days, and my THIRD consultation with a medical professional, and how being alone with the girls these past three days when feeling so sick was one of the hardest things I've done in recent years. Oh, and how I haven't yet made any plans for our trip on Friday.

But for now, let's move on to cheerier things: it's What-to-Do Wednesday!

This week's activity was Julia's idea. All on her own, she took out our collection of Genevieve's big pop-together baby beads, which we had fashioned into one long rope the day before, and laid it on the floor in a line, saying, "I'm going to do hurdles, Mama!" Then she and Genevieve ran back and forth across the room, jumping (or, in Genevieve's case, pseudo-jumping) over the makeshift hurdle each time. I can see expanding on this idea to make an indoor track-and-field course with stations for running, jumping, crawling, weaving around obstacles, etc. You could even include some throwing if you had lightweight Nerf-type or inflatable beach balls.

Construction-paper princess crowns optional. But you did know they help your hurdling, right?

Yeah. What She Said.

Remember that one time when I got all doped up on cold medicine and started analyzing department-store Easter clothes commercials, only nobody really got what I was trying to say, and I just went on talking and talking about it, commenting and commenting into oblivion, while everyone else went on with their lives and I was just left in my Benadryl haze, musing sickly on things like moms and holidays and style as my fever rose and my sinuses swelled? Ah, good times.

Well, guess who I roped into the discussion, dear Internets? None other than the mama-style guru herself, Ms. Susan Wagner, of Friday Style and Friday Playdate and BlogHer and The Working Closet and Fashion Find and AisleDash and Chatterbox. You know Susan. She's the hard-working online style-writer who attempted to redeem my mom-of-two-children-under-four wardrobe last August. Gotta love her.

Anyway, as I just knew she would, Susan has a lot to say on this topic. Read on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: I Got Nothing.

Sorry, folks. Tuesday is normally the day I pass along a new, quick dinner idea, but I've been too sick to cook, or even think about cooking. I will give you this, though: French toast for supper is always welcome. And have you ever made French toast with English muffins? (How multi-national!) I know, I know--that one smooth side doesn't soak up much eggy goodness, but do your best. The other side more than makes up for it. Yum! Try it. You'll like it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day Eight

There are few things sadder than weaning your last baby by default, merely because you've been too sick, for too long, to nurse--especially when you really hoped you wouldn't end up weaning just because everyone was sick. But then Genevieve started losing interest and I was too tired, and by the time she changed her mind, I was done. Dang this ridiculous virus. Once again, I weaned a baby by accident and didn't get to know that the last nursing session was the last. Oh, by the way--I forgot to mention it, but Genevieve turned 19 months old on Saturday. To me, she seems younger, because she doesn't talk much and she's small--but there you have it: 19 months!

(Are you wondering why I'm up at 1:30 a.m.? Well, it's because I am too sick to sleep. Clearly, I angered a god somewhere along the line. Because this is just RIDICULOUS. And yes, I am seeking additional medical care in the morning.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Day Six

I feel like I'm live-blogging the Virus From Hell. How long can this possibly go on? Believe it or not, on this sixth day of being sick, I am still sporting a fever, double-pinkeye, aching head and ears, and a fine case of all-encompassing congestion. My sore throat has finally abated, however, so things are looking up.

This morning as I was stuffing germ-laden sheets and towels into the washing machine and attempting to break up a baby-toddler argument over who was taking whose toys away from whom, it occurred to me that the last time I was this sick for this long was probably spring 1999, during the end stages of my graduate studies--when, come to think of it, I had the same sort of virus I have now, complete with pinkeye, which, if memory serves, actually recurred--TWICE! GAH. Back then, I was taking a full load of doctoral-level courses, working the equivalent of three part-time jobs, preparing for my upcoming psychology residency, and frantically analyzing data for my June 1 dissertation defense deadline. I didn't have time to rest in bed all day, which--coincidence?--I also don't have time to do now. Hmmm..... There may be a frustrating lesson in there somewhere.

At any rate, I am starting to get worried about Christopher's trip tomorrow. Back when I started feeling sick nearly a week ago, I thought to myself, Well surely there is no way I'll still be sick by the time Christopher leaves, so all will be well. Don't ever think things like that, people. Clearly I cursed myself when I did so. And was I concerned that, only two days after Christopher returns from his business trip, we are leaving on a four-day out-of-town trip to visit family for Easter? And that sometime during the next week I need to start getting organized for going away, planning the girls' Easter outfits and making packing lists and remembering to bring the Easter baskets along, in addition to just running the household and doing all the usual stuff with the girls on my own? No, of course not. Because I did not think that I would be ON MY DEATHBED FROM THIS VIRUS FROM HELL.

Which--not the deathbed part, but the Easter part--brings me to a question. I keep seeing these TV commercials for Burlington Coat Factory, advertising all sorts of dressy Easter clothes: the girls in pastel ribbon-tied dresses with white patent Mary Janes, the little boys in miniature suits. And the glamorous moms in lovely spring dresses, stockings, and heels.

Putting aside the obvious issue of these moms being superhumanly beautiful models, and so not really like normal people you or I would see in the mirror or at Easter church, I couldn't help but think: Why don't I ever dress like that for Easter? I mean, my first reaction was, Oh, pretty, but not me--I'll just be wearing my black Ann Taylor Loft trousers with a blouse and some flats [BOR-ING], because I don't have any clothes like that and I'm not going to go out and buy a new dress and heels just to wear one time at Easter church. But that got me thinking; why not? I mean, if you're not going to dress up in a pretty dress and heels on a holiday, when are you? And don't those commercials--annoying marketing propaganda as they may be--encompass at least part of what you think a certain type of mom should look like on Easter? And are you that mom? And if you hope your daughters grow up thinking of you as not just a good person and a loving mom but also as someone who values HER OWN SELF enough to look nice and take care of herself and even spend some money on herself in order to dress up now and then--to be that pulled-together, pretty mom when the occasion calls for it--well, shouldn't you start being that mom, now? And if not, when are you going to start?

Of course, I'm under the influence of cold medicine and it may be that I've watched too much "What Not to Wear." And clearly, the Virus From Hell is going to prevent me, this year, from going shopping for a new Easter outfit even if I wanted to.

But tell me, fellow Internet moms: what do YOU look like on Easter? Just wondering.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Correction

I take it back. Now that I've gotten up, cleaned up after breakfast, dressed two children and myself (if you can call yoga pants and a camisole "dressed"), and wiped Vivi's horrific runny nose ten times, I don't feel better after all. I feel like taking two Benadryls and a fistful of ibuprofen and crawling into bed. Argh! (P.S. How much PBS Kids can two small girls watch in one week before their brains fall right out of their heads?)

Still Sick

Although I currently have a 101.3 fever, was up all night long coughing, and woke up this morning with both eyes crusted shut, I still feel better than the last three days. I find that fact a little bit scary.

No other news.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Update

So. Incredibly. Sick. Cannot remember ever being this sick before. Now have pinkeye in both eyes. Prescription eyedrops not working. Feel like I'm going to die. Oh, and Christopher is leaving on a three-day work trip this weekend. Who's taking care of the children, the house, and the cooking during all of this? Good question.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Homemade Soft Pretzels


The only reason I am able to post this today is because I wrote it in advance, before I was struck down from the Virus From Hell, which is currently making me wish that I were dead.

Back before we got sick, Julia and I tried a fun kitchen activity: making homemade soft pretzels. This is a great toddler/preschooler activity, but Genevieve was a bit too young, so unfortunately she was relegated to the audience. True to her independent self, after a few minutes she wandered off and played with her Mirror Pound-A-Ball toy by herself in the living room. (Poor Genevieve.) But Julia had a fantastic time and the pretzels turned out great. See for yourself!


Here's the recipe:

Soft Pretzels

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, then spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

1. Sprinkle 1 package of yeast onto 3/4 cup WARM water in a small bowl. Add 1 T. sugar and stir. Let stand until mixture foams.

2. Put 2 cups flour and 1/2 tsp. salt in large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and stir.

3. Spread a handful of flour onto the counter or a large cutting board. Knead the dough until smooth.

4. Roll pieces of dough into ropes and make different shapes: circles, letters, spirals, etc. Julia loved this part! (Note the "J" and "G" below for Julia and Genevieve.)


5. Beat 1 egg with fork, then brush onto pretzels with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with salt (coarse is best, but any type will work).

6. Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: Quick and Easy Huevos Rancheros

OK, I'm even sicker today. I woke up at three a.m. with a throat so sore I could not swallow--at all. At six a.m. I called the clinic. At seven a.m. I went to walk-in Urgent Care, where I stayed for the next two hours (I guess everyone else in town is sick too). My strep throat culture was negative but apparently I have a terrible cold virus and also, as a bonus, pinkeye. Lovely! Now I'm back at home, downing ibuprofen, putting in prescription eyedrops, drinking tea, and trying to dodge everyone else's germs, too. Yeah, we're a cozy family of invalids these days.

But you didn't think I'd skip Do-Little Dinners, did you? Sure, I may be unable to swallow, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying a good meal.

As a mostly lacto-ovo-vegetarian household, we eat a lot of egg dishes. I found this recipe years ago and have made it regularly ever since. I'm sure it's not even remotely authentic, but it's easy, quick, healthy, and everyone loves it. It takes less than 15 minutes start to finish. As a bonus, it works as breakfast, brunch, lunch, OR supper, so....have at it! (Do you sense a salsa theme in our house?)

Quick and Easy Huevos Rancheros
Serves 4

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/4 cups jarred salsa
1/4 cup water
4 eggs (can add more if desired; as many as you can fit in your skillet)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
4 large soft flour tortillas (we prefer wheat; Target has a yummy Archer Farms brand)
sour cream and avocado for topping (optional)

Combine beans, salsa, and water in a large skillet. Heat until mixture just begins to boil. Working quickly, crack the eggs ONE AT A TIME into a small custard cup and carefully slip each one onto the top of the simmering bean/salsa mixture. Cover the pan (a round metal pizza pan works well if your skillet doesn't have a matching lid) and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook approximately 5 minutes or until eggs reach desired doneness (check now and then). Sprinkle cheese over entire mixture; let melt.

Heat tortillas briefly in microwave. Place one on each plate; top with 1/4 of the beans/egg mixture. Top with sour cream, avocado, additional salsa, etc.

As with most of my favorite dishes, this one combines protein, starch, dairy, and vegetables (in the form of tomato salsa), so an easy green salad or some cut-up fresh fruit is just about all you need as an accompaniment. Though far be it from me to discourage the occasional side of Tostitos and guacamole, if that's your thing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Poor Decisions

I'm having a bad day. I'm totally sick, for one thing, just like every other person in this household, and I feel terrible. We all have this awful cough/fever/sore throat/headache/runny nose bonanza that seems impervious to any and all medication. As you can imagine, we're not really very helpful to one another, since everyone feels sick enough to need to be taken care of, and yet there's no healthy person around to do the caretaking. Blech. Maybe I could train the cat to bring mugs of hot tea and pawfuls of ibuprofen?

Then, do you remember my cutest of all birthday shoes? Do you? The ones that were a bit too big, and that I returned for the next half-size down? And that I waited AN ENTIRE MONTH to receive? Well, they arrived today, and you guessed it: they are tiny little miniscule elf shoes. Seriously, a mouse could wear these shoes. OK, maybe not. But they are way smaller than one would guess given the fact that they are only a half size smaller than the original too-big pair! Also, I OWN ANOTHER, VERY SIMILAR PAIR OF KEENS IN SIZE 7-1/2, AND THEY FIT PERFECTLY WELL. So, can you blame me for assuming I would take a 7-1/2 in this pair as well? If you know me or have read this site at all, you know that Internet shopping is going to drive me to drink one day. This is just the latest in a long string of mail-order-shopping sizing misadventures. Curse living in a tiny town with no shopping! (The truth: I love this town. But I hate having to do all my shopping over the Internet, by which I waste many dollars on fruitless shipping charges. Dang! Grumble! Curse, curse, cough, cough, argggh!)

I broke my crockpot tonight! Oh, people: the horror! And since I just spent all our money on doctor bills, cold medication, and a new children's humidifier, I don't think I can run right out and replace it immediately. You know what this means, don't you? NO SALSA CHICKEN IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. Help!

You might be wondering how I broke my crockpot. Let me tell you. Learn from me. If, at the very last minute before supper, you are trying to determine the best way to heat up leftover Slow-Cooker Pinto Bean-Sweet Potato Chili, still in the slow-cooker stoneware pot from last night, and you are under the influence of Benadryl and have not slept in several nights due to various family members' nonstop coughing plus that pesky middle-of-the-night raging fever, and you gaze at your slow-cooker pot and think to yourself, "This looks like a Le Creuset Dutch oven, sort of, and you can put THAT on the stovetop or in the oven or whatever, and I'm sure it's just a regular old cooking pot like any other when it's out of the metal crockpot piece, and even though I can't find my crockpot instruction manual to check and see if this is stovetop-safe, I'm sure it would be fine to just put this on the burner and quick heat up the chili," well, STOP RIGHT THERE.

Enough said? I think so.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I'm sure of it. Give me my damn tiny elf shoes and leave me alone with my leftover chili.

Monday Morning Blues (and Hacking Coughs and Pounding Headaches and Scratchy Throats)

Apparently there is something worse than being home alone all day with a sick child. It's called being home alone all day with TWO sick children, while you yourself are ALSO sick. After being up seemingly all night listening to coughing and coping with fevers.

Remember when you were working and childless? When, upon catching a nasty winter virus, you could call in sick to your day job and spend your miserable hours in bed reading magazines and drinking tea and watching daytime TV through your feverish naps? Taking care of no one but yourself? Right about now that sounds as heavenly as it can get. Ouch, groan, hack hack.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Update: Vivi Missed the Party; Weaning; Three is the New Two

So sad, people: Vivi missed the annual mother-daughter tea party my friend Laura throws each spring. It was this morning (an aside: it's not spring yet. not even close. it was 8 below zero when I woke up today. hate.), and Genevieve was too sick to go. She stayed home with Daddy while Julia and I dressed up (read: Julia dressed up; I spilled coffee on my white sweater moments after donning it--and moments before leaving for the party--and thus changed into a different sweater) and went to a lovely soiree involving tea (mamas), chocolate milk (daughters), all manner of dainty sandwiches, homemade scones, and muffins, and, most fabulous of all, a couple of hired college girls to entertain the children in the basement playroom while the moms actually conversed! ate! drank tea! in relative peace! while the girls played Pin the Crown on the Princess! what joy!

Do you remember last year's mother-daughter tea party? That was the morning Julia accidentally locked me outside on the patio, with the two of them alone inside the house, while I had a minor heart attack. So not relaxing! So much better this year!

Well, anyway. Genevieve is still sick, and that means she's been too stuffed up to really nurse. She was down to one nursing a day, at bedtime, but she can't do it right now: she can't breathe. I've tried to nurse her upon wake-up as a substitute, because she's less stuffed up in the morning, but even that has been brief. This would therefore be an ideal time to wean her completely, except I really don't want to. I'm not yet ready to say goodbye completely to my longstanding, comfortable, familiar identity of nursing mom, and I really want the very last nursing to be planned for and understood for what it is ahead of time, unlike Julia's last nursing, which happened by accident. This is my last baby; it would break my heart a little bit to be done with nursing, forever, without knowing beforehand that the last time is the last. So, I'm forging ahead and, unless Vivi protests, will try to resume a normal bedtime nursing schedule as soon as she can breathe again. I just hope my reduced milk production doesn't discourage Genevieve from being interested in doing the work required to up it again. Sometime soon, we'll wean completely. But I hope it's not now, because of a nasty annoying cold.

Speaking of last babies (or not-so-last, as the case may be), at the party today I heard that yet another mom I know is expecting her third child. It's happening like crazy; several preschool families we know now have kindergartners, preschoolers, and new babies born this year. That seems to be the most common pattern: five years old, three years old, infant. Didn't you know that three is the new two? A friend of mine told me that a year ago, when I was having my hormonal postpartum crisis over no more babies, and I laughed and gasped and said to her, Is it really? And now look: apparently it is! But don't start getting any ideas. I'm all for peer pressure and everything, but I'm over my postpartum sentiment. I kind of like the idea of never nursing every two hours all night long again. Never sleep training again. Never walking around with stitches and constipation and milk letdown and pain pain pain in those early, joyful-but-desperate new days home from the hospital. Yikes! The thought gives me the shivers.

But in the end, some friends of ours phoned today with news of the arrival of their first baby, and all you can do is cry with joy and shriek and shout and grin and wish them strength and love, because it's all so wonderful really, isn't it? Whether we're talking about one, two, or three. Though really: three is the new two. You heard it here first.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Week of Misery

I just got back from preschool conferences and a quick stop at the grocery store, which was the first time I've left the house all week, not counting the day we spent getting up at 3 a.m. in order to take our preschooler out of town for surgery, which wasn't exactly a jolly outing full of carefree fun, if you know what I mean. The fact that preschool conferences was the highlight of my week and the source of my only contact with the outside world other than my morning in the pediatric surgery ward should tell you something.

Genevieve is ragingly sick. Her nose is running like nothing I've ever seen; she's all but lost her voice; her cheeks are chapped pink from all the nose and face wiping; she only napped an hour today, probably due to her torturous cough; and just now, at bedtime, she was too stuffed up (eh? how can that be, with the nose running like a river all day long, causing me to use up all the Kleenex in the house?) to nurse--her one remaining little nursing of the entire day, because I happened to wean her off the wake-up nursing after she didn't miss it when we were gone on Monday! So sad. Can't even have her one little daily nursing, amidst all her sick sadness! Now she's in her bed hacking up a lung and I'm sure I have a long, interrupted night in store, tending to Baby Misery. I feel so terrible for her.

And I feel terrible for me, too, because did you know I have the world's least self-reliant three-year-old on the planet? Who apparently cannot play by herself for five minutes? Who believes she requires constant adult interaction all day long, someone to play with her, someone to figure out what she should do for fun, or else she will apparently dissolve into a puddle of oozing discontent? Did you know that asking her to entertain herself for ten minutes at the end of the day so you can dust the living room and cut up the raw vegetables for dinner--after a day during which you MADE SOFT PRETZELS TOGETHER and colored and read books and had music time and played Princess House and pretend-cooked with cotton balls and let her watch "Dragon Tales" on PBS--is cruel and inhumane torture, because CLEARLY she will DIE if she has to play by herself for ten minutes? Did you know that? Of course, I've been fighting this battle since she was four months old, so this is nothing new to me. But, people: GAH. I'M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Pasta!


I admit this week's activity isn't exactly super-original. But sometimes the old basics are some of the best. And who doesn't have dry pasta in the pantry?

In our house, we like to dump dry pasta into Tupperwares and mixing bowls and use wooden spoons and plastic measuring cups for stirring and scooping. We have also done sorting and counting by placing little pieces of rotini in the cups of an empty egg carton. I'm thinking a toy dump truck would be great fun for loading and transporting piles of pasta, although we don't have one in our house. And, of course, you can always take out the glue and do some macaroni art!

Of course, over here in Wonderland, we are suffering mightily with the worst baby cold I have EVER SEEN, so no one is engaging in creative playtime activities. It's snowing, one us is still in pajamas, and much crying and watching PBS Kids is going on this week. Ack! It's a bad scene, one of those times you really, really wish you had grandma next door. Or even across town. Yes, I know I just HAD the grandparents here for 2-1/2 days. That's not long enough.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Tuesday Do-Little Dinners: Easy Minestrone

I bet you thought I was going to skip Do-Little Dinners this week, didn't you? On account of being sleep-deprived and having one sick kid and one recovering from surgery? Well, I almost did, because I forgot all about it until now. But lucky for you, I've been making the following recipe for almost 15 years, so it's a cinch to pass along. Enjoy.

Easy Minestrone

4 servings

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1 15-oz. can diced or stewed tomatoes, with juice
4-5 cups water, with the corresponding number of vegetable boullion cubes (I use 2 of the Knorr extra-large vegetable boullion cubes with about 4-1/2 cups water)
1 15-oz. can white northern (cannellini) beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen green beans
1 cup dried pasta--either small shells, penne, or rotini (I use whole-wheat pasta)
1-1/2 tsp. dried basil
ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in stockpot and add garlic. Saute garlic for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant (do not let brown). Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, until pasta is done.

Notes: Feel free to add other frozen veggies (corn, carrots), use cubed, peeled sweet potatoes instead of the pasta, add fresh spinach leaves at the end....the variations are limitless. Also, sometimes I like to stir in a tablespoon of balsamic or red wine vinegar at the very end for a zippy tang. Serve with bread and a green salad. This soup lends itself well to making ahead of time, and leftovers are delicious.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I've Been Up for 19 Hours

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who (here and elsewhere, and even in real, non-Internet-based, life!) wished us well today as we traveled to a very large, very impressive, urban university medical center for Julia's outpatient surgery. We were back home by noon, but since we had left our house at 4 a.m., that already made for a long day. Can I just say: getting up at three in the morning is possibly my least favorite thing to do.

Julia did great. But still, I was amazed at how involved even a minor surgery really is. As long as it involves general anesthesia, we're talking pre-procedure fasting rules; long waits while everything and everyone is prepped; surgical ward playrooms full of scared, sick kids; IVs; and that awful post-anesthesia crying and disorientation. But Julia really was very brave. And in the end, everything was fine.

I was reminded, though, on the drive home to our town, of a Great Truism of Parenting: At some point, someone WILL vomit in the car. They just will. It's better to get used to the idea now.