Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Life Alphabetically

I'm stealing this idea from Rob.

A - Awesome - I am about the luckiest person I know, and I am grateful every day for all of the wonderful people who make my life so rich.
B - B.J. - Few people are able to find and spend their life with their true soulmate. B.J. is the most fantastic husband and father. I am really fortunate to have found him and talked him into marrying me.
C - Claire - My little puddin'. Her smile is bigger than she is.
D - Department of Defense - Everyone's favorite government agency, that makes it possible for us to pursue BJ's career and live our dream of being self-employed and staying in Indiana.
E - Everyone who Reads this Blog - I am continually amazed at how many people care what's going on in our little life.
F - Family - We've got a lot of it, and they are all crazy and wonderful.
G - Guilt - I am the queen thereof.
H - Home - I love our home, and I do my best every day to fill it with love and laughter.
I - Indiana - My beloved home state.
J - Job - I don't necessarily love my job, but my boss is HOT!
K - Karma - The reason my kids don't sleep.
L - Laughter - It's good for you! Have a dose every day.
M - Mary Grace - My little Cuppycake, who has taught me more since August of 2005 than I've taught her.
N - Nursing - I have been nursing one kid, or both, since August of 2005. That's a little excessive, don't you think?
O - Organic Milk - My God, we spend the earth on organic milk.
P - Polka Dots - When I change the girls' diapers, we blow bubbles on their beauty marks (MG has one on her hip and C has one on her ribs) and say, "Where's your polka dot? Where's your polka dot?"
Q - Questions - Mary Grace often will randomly ask, "Do you have any questions?"
R - Remodel - When will we figure out that it would be cheaper and easier to just buy a new house??
S - School - I can't believe MG is starting school this fall.
T - Trains - Never really cared about them until I had kids. What is it with kids and trains?
U - Umbrella - I never have one when I need it.
V - V-8 - I coulda had a...
W - WFMW - Works for me Wednesday. My favorite Bloggy Activity.
X - XX - The chromosomes of 71.428% of the household residents at Chez Prettybaby.
Y - Yawn - I do a little too much yawning these days.
Z - Zoo - The next place I'm taking the kids on an outing.

Want to play? Copy and paste the list onto your blog, or e-mail your answers to me.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JENNY!!!

Hey, it's Jenny's birthday! Go over and leave a comment to wish her an awesome day at Untrained Monkeys.

WFMW: Save Money on Gas

Gas prices are stupid high, but I've been rocking the discounts at Speedway to save a bunch, and I wanted to share my method with you.

First, you need to join AAA. I know, I know. But it's really reasonable, and you get a lot of benefits. We saved $15 yesterday on the flowers we sent to BJ's grandma for her birthday. I've already paid for my membership with the savings, blah blah, I sound like a commercial.

When you join, you become eligible for one of these. It's a card that you pre-pay, and then you save 4% on gas at Speedway.

Then you need to join the Speedway Rewards program.

You get a 20 points per dollar you spend both when you load your card and when you buy gas. So, you go into the store and you load your AAA card with $50. It only costs you $48. You get a thousand points. You fill up for about 15 cents less per gallon than the posted price. Then after you've accumulated 4,375 points (which is just over two fill-ups for me), you can get a coupon for 25 cents off per gallon. That brings your per-gallon price down by about 40 cents. For a 15 gallon tank, that's a savings of $6.00, and I get it every third time I fill up, or so.

If I were willing to get a Speedway credit card, I could save even more, but we have enough credit cards in our lives at this point.

So, I know it's not a ton of money, but if you fill up once a week you'll save over $100 a year.

Hey, every little bit counts, right?

Here for Works for me Wednesday? Check out some of my greatest hits...

How to create fun family memories.
How to save time and water when you're doing dishes.
How to save a fortune on your groceries without clipping coupons.
How to teach your baby to use a straw.
How to make money with Daytipper.
How to have fun with your kids in the snow.
How to save money when shopping online.
How to prevent frozen hands when sledding.
How to prevent disease with a handy new product (update, it worked - we never got sick!)
How to easily feed a crowd.
How to pack a smaller diaper bag.
How to make Mush McPuna.
How to organize your Christmas list.
How to breathe new life into your lamps with spray paint.
How to use calling cards to give the illusion that you have it all together.
How to use GCal (again) for menu planning.
How to save yourself time in the kitchen with a hot water tap.
How to tie your shoes if you have lollypop thumbs like me.
How to feel good about spending insane money at Christmas.
How to prevent dryer fires.
How to use Google Calendar to organize your family.
How to save a zillion dollars with the Magic Bullet.
How to quickly cool Mac & Cheese.
How to soothe a teething baby without whiskey - oops! I mean Tylenol.
How to do Time Outs correctly.
How to improvise a changing table.
How to get a baby and a toddler into the car.
How to keep your house decluttered with an old waitressing mantra.
How to find a great baby sling.
How to manage your grocery list online.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again soon!

Visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for more WFMW tips!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Which I Apologize to the Entire Midwest

Remember how last week it was 75 and sunny and gorgeous? Yeah. And now it's freezing?

Sorry. Totally my fault. I planted flowers before Mother's Day, and called down the wrath of the weather gods.

Oops.

Here's a picture of the girlies at the park, so that we're all clear on what we're missing:

Don't let the long sleeves fool you. We were roasting. MG was teaching C how to roll down the hill. It was too funny.

So, sorry Midwest. All my fault.


And now we know why I live with crushing, debilitating guilt. Because everything, even the weather, is my fault.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Senor Loco

So, my friend Julie's husband, Glen, is on a business trip in Mexico, but his luggage didn't make it. Consequently, Glen has business meetings and no business clothes to wear (and no toothbrush, and no deodorant...)

Being the helpful soul that I am, I used FotoFlexer and this photo of him:

...to offer shopping suggestions. After all, when in Rome...
...live La Vida Loca!

Then Julie sent the picture to his Blackberry. Apparently he was at dinner with the clients and his boss! They passed the picture around and all had a big laugh.

Aye-yi-yi! I think it's a good thing that Senor Glen lives several hundred miles away from me, or I might be in trouble.

Crushing Disappointment

Dad just brought the mail in. Among the political ads and credit card offers was a hand-addressed envelope. It looked like a wedding invitation. It felt like a wedding invitation. I don't know anyone other than my sister who's engaged and getting married this year, though, so for a moment before I opened it I savored the mystery of what the envelope might contain, trying to guess who could be surprising me with an invite to a wedding, or a swanky party.

I turned the expensive feeling envelope over, and saw a return address in Salt Lake City, Utah. "Who do we know in Utah?" I thought. The only person I could come up with was Alan, a college friend who was getting his Ph.D. in Utah when we spoke to him last, several years ago.

Then, it dawned on me... Dooce is in Salt Lake City! Dooce likes pretty things. Her personal stationary is probably exquisite, something far, far out of my price range. After all, girlfriend makes more on her ads in an hour than I make in a year. I recently sent her an e-mail. Could she be sending me a note? Maybe an invitation to an exclusive blogger event, like Bossy's visit only more formal, and probably with less karaoke?

My palms began to sweat. I tore open the envelope, heedless of the expensive linen, dying to see what was inside, convinced that Dooce was going to be my new BFF. "Oh my God," I thought, "Maybe it's an invitation to screen her appearance on GMA with her and Leta and her husband! Maybe it's something so cool I can't even guess..."

My heart raced. I pulled the tissue and the invitation out, flipped it over, and, and....

It was an "invitation" to get a Discover card.

*sigh*

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Welcome!

So, this is what you see as you enter my house, now. Those hanging baskets are Lobella "techno blue." I tried to keep everything in blues and purples, with accents of pinks and whites. I thought that would look nice with that flowering tree (I can't remember what it's called, desert sage or something?) and the dogwood below it. We're going to work on that corner, next. We have a lot of evergreen removal to do - there are these really low, prickly, creepy evergreens there, that are just ugly. They need to go. Then I'll plant stuff. But first thing's first... Let's look at what I've already done...
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Mary Mary, quite contrary...


Aren't those cute? Wish I could pronounce their name...


This is the bed right between the porch and the walkway. More of everything, plus two "artist blue ageratum." They kind of look like purple pompoms, and I thought they'd add a nice texture. Plus, they'll get 8 - 12 inches tall (assuming I don't kill them), so they'll add a bit of height and maybe, hopefully, cover up some of the ugly concrete.


We used to have a candlestick pine here, but it got overgrown and made it darn near impossible to back out of the driveway safely, especially in a minivan, so we took it out a year (two?) ago, and I tried to plant mums one year, but they all died and didn't come back. So this year it's impatiens and mystery plants (Mom says they're verbena), and some herbs in the pot that I had seeds for. We'll see if they survive.

If they survive, we'll see if I can identify them enough to cook with them!

I think I have one more picture or two to add... But that's the general idea.

So, all this stuff is going to grow and fill in, right? It shouldn't take long, unless it snows. I planted them the distances apart that the little labels recommended, so here's hoping... Otherwise, if it looks like this all summer, I think I'll go back to ignoring my yard.

BJ needs to get out there and mow. That'll go a long way toward improving the yard situation, too. He also got some boxwood stumps out that we've been living with, in stump form, for a couple years now. That's big progress. I think I'm going to do hydrangeas or lilacs there, on the left side of our house, facing the cul-de-sac. We'll see what I can find (and afford!).

Does anyone have opinions on rocks vs. mulch? How about edging options? We found these really cool purpley-blue rocks, that were 20 cents a pound, but it's going to take lots and lots of pounds to fill all that in. Of course, we wouldn't have to do it again for several years. Decisions decisions!
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How does your garden grow

So, this is what I've been doing.... Planting. I still need to decide between mulch and rocks (rocks are more expensive but don't need to be re-done as often) and, from there, pick an edging that isn't that awful black plastic stuff that's been there more than 5 years, but this is MAJOR progress compared to previous years when I have done nothing in the yard.

This is the area in front that I'm focused on this year. I figure we'll improve one area at a time, and by the time I die, I'll have a nice yard like my mom's.



And since you can't see a thing in those pictures... here are some close ups...
Those big ones are creeping phlox. I don't know if they'll grow there. The tag said that they'd grow anywhere (sun to shade) but the soil is really acidic because of that pine tree (blue spruce). I'm saving some space there for Mom's hostas, which she's going to split and bring down for me. Those will grow in shade for sure, but I may have to add something to the soil to get them to grow in the acidic environment under there. I'm also going to see if I can find a shade loving hydrangea, because the acid in the soil will make it flower blue.

Don't I sound like I know what I'm doing? Yeah, I really don't.



Those cute little white, viney guys in the front are called "Snowstorm, giant snowflake." They're cute little white flowers with yellow centers, and I'm hoping that they'll spread out and kind of spill over into the grass. That'll make it real fun for BJ to mow, don't you think? The small green ones on the right are impatiens. I did pink, white, and a dark pink. They're supposed to be easy. I like easy. Then I did a big group of dianthus in the back, there, the larger white ones by the sidewalk. And that's another bunch of creeping phlox behind the rock. I want everything to creep and fill in and vine and take over. Right now it looks pretty sparse and anemic.

Those white ones there, in two bunches, are so cute. They're like daisies with purple centers. Soprano white osteospermum and Soprano light purple osteospermum hybrid are the two sorts I planted. The tag says they'll be 8 - 14 inches tall and 12 - 14 inches across, so I hope they'll really look cool once they take off. There's more phlox there... creep and grow, phlox! Take over the world so I don't have to mulch!! And those tallish ones behind the phlox? I haven't got a clue. I bought them. I planted a whole bunch. I can't remember what they're called. We'll call them Mystery Plant.

Stay tuned for more about my garden...
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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Blogroll

Holy carp.

I finally got around to doing my blogroll (mainly because I don't want to plant flowers in the yard today). It's over there and down a bit.

If there was ever a question of why my house looks the way it does, I think I've just answered it. Sheesh. Is there anybody I don't read? Seriously.

It reminds me of a recent conversation I had with my step-sister, Saundra, who is pregnant. She asked me how long I was on bedrest. "A week," I replied. "I would lose my mind," she said. "What did you do?" "Well, you know the internet?" I said, "I was the first person to finish reading it."


(picture of the holy carp from www.fishandfly.com)

Love Song for Indiana

I wrote this in 2000, and I still think it's true. After my post about the upcoming primaries, I decided to track it down... We were talking about the state quarters, and why Indiana couldn't come up with one that didn't suck...

Ok, I'll go out on a limb here and say it. I like Indiana. I like
having big cities like Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Chicago within
day-trip range. I like knowing that there are still places in the
world where people know all of their neighbors. I like knowing my
neighbors. I like it that when we got 3 ft. of snow last year, a man
who lived down the street dug me out, even though we'd never met
before. I like it that it's ok for strangers to say hi to each other
here. I like it that we have cheesy harvest festivals in the fall. I
like the museums in Indy. I like the 500. I like the Murat and their
Broadway shows. I like Deer Creek and their first rate concerts. I
like the Colts. They may not win all the time, but at least they're
out there trying, and they're not selling their souls to Nike in the
process. I like corn. I like the smell of corn. I like knowing that
I can drive 45 minutes in any direction and see a farm, it reminds me
of the foundations that this country was built on. I like steel and
limestone and medical research. I like knowing that Indiana played a
part in building the machines that won every war we've fought since
1900. I like knowing that the buildings in Washington D.C. have a
connection to the limestone quarries that the local kids swim in. I
like knowing that if I get sick or hurt I can be flown or driven to
Methodist and be taken care of by first rate physicians and nurses. I
like the space program. I like knowing that less than a mile from
where I live sits the institution that has produced more astronauts
than any other non-military institution. I like driving over the
famous, if polluted, Wabash river every day. I like seasons. I like
having scorching heat and blinding snow, and not having to leave my
front porch to experience it. I like water. I like the lake, the
rivers, and the streams that have fed this state's growth, especially
the lake.

I like DIVERSITY. And Indiana has plenty of it. And that's why when
people ask us to design a license plate or a coin that can sum up
Indiana in one convenient picture, the submissions never measure up.
Because you can't encompass all that Indiana is in one picture or in
one sound byte. Indiana is made up of every human endeavor, from
farming to industry to computers to cutting edge research. It is made
up of every kind of people, all races, all creeds, all colors, all
nations. It is made up of every kind of place, urban, rural, and
everything in between. It is a state that cares about people, because
the people of the state care about people. It is uniquely Midwestern
and campy, and even stuck in a by-gone era sometimes, but it is my
home. And I wouldn't want to have grown up anywhere else.
And that's all I have to say about that...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Popcorn Winner!

Congratulations JNM! The random number generator at random.org picked you to win the popcorn gift card...

I'm e-mailing you right now. Thanks for stopping by!

I Like My Lawn Completely The Way It Is

Trugreen has sent sales people to our house four times this spring.

Four. Times.

I have to admire their persistence, but people, please. I have two small napping kids and a big barky dog who loses her mind if anything with a heartbeat sets foot on our property. Can we please, please end it, already?

(Yes, I called them, and yes they said they'd take me off the list, and yes I expect to see them again Monday).

***

I had my first snarky drive-by comment today. That makes me feel like a real blogger!!

***

I have a confession to make. I live in Indiana. That narrows the field of possible Amys (Amies?) down from 300 million to about 6-1/2 million, but I'm ok with that, because I want to talk about the election.

Indiana's primary is not until May 6. This means that we typically matter about as much as Guam in the whole presidential primary game. But not this year. This year we matter! We matter a lot!!

And we are not rising to the occasion.

Don't get me wrong, I love my state. I've lived here all my life and can't imagine living anywhere else. One of these days (soon?) I'm going to find the essay I wrote in another forum about the state of Indiana, and post it here.

But we Hoosiers are not used to the national spotlight. We're really not. We are the quintessential flyover state. We make Iowans, what with their fancy caucuses (cauci?) look downright cosmopolitan.

So, inevitably, when the glare of the national spotlight falls on this great state, we are either driving way too fast, or looking like complete idiots (sometimes both at the same time). Seriously, I cringe every time I hear Jon Stewart mention Indiana, because I know it's coming again. The mocking! Oh, the mocking!

But I maintain that some of the smartest people I know live and work and think in Indiana. We just aren't used to living, working, and thinking on camera. We are used to being ignored by the national media, and we like it that way. So, when you turn a camera on us and start asking us questions (or, God forbid, letting us ask questions), we tend to make asses of ourselves. We really don't mean to do it. We're actually, for the most part, very kind, friendly, and respectful folks. But the cameras, they make us kinda twitchy.

So as the nation focuses its attention on us, if we happen to make the whole Florida-during-the -2000-election thing look like a Mensa meeting, go easy on us, ok? Eventually things will return to normal, we'll have a nominee, and you can go back to ignoring us, unless it's Memorial Day weekend. Then we'll let you park on our beautiful lawns.

(See how I brought that full circle there? That's the kind of excellent writing that you keep coming back for. I know.)

What Beer and Free Appetizers do to Amy

Warning, embarrassing pictures here.

***

An anonymous friend of mine is having trouble with her 12 year old, and is worried that when she sends her out of state to spend time with her dad this summer, one of the neighborhood boys in the Big City will have impregnated her daughter. Apparently daughter's dad isn't real down with the whole supervising thing.

So, we were talking about the situation, and she said that they were thinking of putting her on Depo Provera but telling her it was something else.

I chimed in, "I was just reading that kids don't learn anything from being told no. You have to catch them doing what you want them to do, and tell them 'yes' to teach them. So maybe every day after school you need to say, 'Hey, kiddo! Way to not come home pregnant!!'"

I'm here to help.

Name this Blog

So, back when this blog was just for friends and family, "pretty babies" made sense. It was easy to remember, didn't reveal any overly personal information, and was available on Blogger.com.

Now? Well, not so much...

First of all, it sounds arrogant (even though they totally are, it's not the kind of thing one should throw around like that). Second, they aren't going to be babies forever much longer (sob!!) so, it won't make sense in about a week. Finally, we're about a lot more than "pretty" here at PB's, and I want my address to reflect that.

I want to move to a new URL (of course I want to take all of you with me). But I don't want to commit to a URL until I have a snazzy new name. What do you think it should be? Bonus points if (suggestion).com is available. Names that are a word or two or three work best. More than three (and only if one of those is "a" or "or" or "and" or "if" or "of" or something else tiny) and it's just too clunky for a blog name.

Leave me your best suggestions in the comments. And if you know me in real life, try not to give away any info that would reveal our super secret identities to the rest of the universe. Because the mommyblogosphere is a scary place. I don't want a bunch of women with milk stains on their shirts and graham cracker crumbs in their hair showing up in my front yard, right? (Not that I know anyone with milk stains on her shirt and crumbs in her hair. Not that I'm sitting here with milk stains and crumbs right now, or anything... Ahem...)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

14 years and counting

I just went to Indy to meet Bossy and a bunch of really cool bloggers (and Kevin).

It was really cool and surreal to meet people in person and match faces with stories I've read. But it left me wondering...

How far out of high school do I have to get before I stop feeling like the awkward dorky loser in every group?

(Closing the comments because this isn't a fishing expedition so you all to tell me how great I am, honest. I'm just keepin' it real.)

Anyway, everyone was really cool and nice and I've added them to my feed reader. I hope they'll have more coherent things to write about our "date," as I have had too many beers and am now going to sleep.

I think I may be an unfeeling bitch

(How's that for an attention grabbing headline?)

So, there's this story about a 10 year old girl with terminal brain cancer who is at death's door and her dying wish is for her father, who has been in prison for 4 years for using meth, to be at her side when she dies.

I feel really, really awful for the kid. Her disease is tragic. The fact that her dad has been in prison since she was six just makes it worse. She got a raw deal, all the way around.

But when he did the crime, he chose the consequences, good and bad, of his actions (just as all of us do with all of our choices every day). His sentence was what it was. Not, "Five years, unless your kid is terminally ill, and then you can get out early..." or "Five years unless you have a death in the family..." or "Five years unless something else happens." It was five years. Period.

What's the point of incarceration (where your rights and your freedoms are removed as a punishment for doing something that society has decided, for whatever reason, is unacceptable) if exceptions are made? When he did meth, he chose to not be available to his family for four years. He chose this. Sure, he didn't choose to have a terminally ill child, and she sure as hell didn't choose to have a meth using father, but tough. I'm glad he says he isn't going to commit crimes anymore, because learning that is supposed to be the entire point of putting people in prison - to teach them that it's better to follow the rules that we've all agreed on than it is to break those rules and lose privileges.

This line in the article really pissed me off:

"Yes, I've made some mistakes, but I've always been a good father."

Bullcrap. Good fathers don't do drugs. He hasn't been there since she was six. That's a hell of a bad father, in my opinion. He doesn't deserve to sit there and think that he's a "good father" when he has been absent for almost 1/2 of his child's life because he made a stupid, selfish choice. Good fathers are there, and he hasn't been there, and it is no one's fault but his own. He is not a good father.

He did end up being allowed to see her, and she died the next day. And I'm actually disappointed that he was allowed out early. And it sucks when what's best for the kid (having the people she wants by her side as she dies) conflicts with what's right (that he serve his sentence) but life sucks sometimes. Plenty of peoples' kids die in accidents every year, and they don't get the option of saying goodbye at all.

I feel terrible that this poor kid had cancer, don't get me wrong, but I don't feel sorry at all for the father. I think that knowing that he wasn't there for his daughter in her greatest time of need and having to live with that for the rest of his life would've been better punishment than any prison sentence could ever be.

And that's, again, the entire point of prison. In fact, I think they allow the visitation and phone calls that they allow to drive the point home that life out here is going on without you in there, Mr. Felon, so you might want to think twice before you do stupid things in the future.

Am I a cold, heartless, compassionless bitch? What do you think about this story? Should he have been allowed out, or should he have been denied his request to see his dying kid?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hoarding?

So BJ and Dad and I are sitting at the table talking about how Sam's and Costco are limiting the amount of rice you can buy at a time because people are hoarding food.

BJ said that it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, because if the stores say, "You can't buy this," everyone will want to buy it...

I compared it to a run on the bank, but then said... "So should we be hoarding food?"

BJ and Dad were quick to say, "No," to that idea. I said, "Ok, but if it turns out we should have hoarded food, I'm coming to you guys, because you said no."

Dad said, "If worse comes to worst, you can always eat Max."

"I don't know, Dad," I said, "Max has been with us for eight years, and you've only been here a few months......."

WFMW: Food on the Floor

When I was a kid, we didn't have a lot of money for vacations and dinners out and stuff. Of course, I never realized, then, that things were tight. Kids don't notice such things, no matter what the TV commercials try to tell you. Anyway, Mom had to get creative to keep three kids entertained.

We had this old rectangular dining room table that she had cut the legs short on, to make it coffee table height. Every once in a while, Mom would make an ethnic dinner (Mexican, Chinese, etc.) and we'd eat around the coffee table. She would decorate (my mom makes Martha Stewart look like an amateur) with stuff we had lying around the house - a big hat for a sombrero, some interesting multicolored fabric for the table cloth, candles in wine bottles for Italian night - and we would have a fancy dinner in. Sometimes she even played music from the country the food was from - I remember opera on Italian night.

It was so much fun. We used to laugh and laugh. The extra effort she put into the meal and the decorations made it feel like a party. Sitting on the floor, instead of at the table, made it feel sillier than a regular meal. Of course, there was always dessert. I particularly remember Spumoni on Italian night.

I guess this isn't really about Food on the Floor, although it's a great idea and you should totally try it with your kids. I think my real point is that kids don't need to spend tons of money to have fun. Every day meals can be a party if you shake things up a bit and make it special. Be creative, and include your kids in the things you enjoy. Mom enjoyed food and cooking, and so she found a way to make it fun for all of us.

You have to make dinner, anyway, right, so why not make it Food on the Floor?

(That coffee table was great for kids, by the way. We had plenty of room to draw and build Lego masterpieces. It took up a lot of space, but we played on it (under it, around it) all the time. I have one, too, but it is living in the garage under the old couch for now.)

Here for Works for me Wednesday? Check out some of my greatest hits...

How to save time and water when you're doing dishes.
How to save a fortune on your groceries without clipping coupons.
How to teach your baby to use a straw.
How to make money with Daytipper.
How to have fun with your kids in the snow.
How to save money when shopping online.
How to prevent frozen hands when sledding.
How to prevent disease with a handy new product (update, it worked - we never got sick!)
How to easily feed a crowd.
How to pack a smaller diaper bag.
How to make Mush McPuna.
How to organize your Christmas list.
How to breathe new life into your lamps with spray paint.
How to use calling cards to give the illusion that you have it all together.
How to use GCal (again) for menu planning.
How to save yourself time in the kitchen with a hot water tap.
How to tie your shoes if you have lollypop thumbs like me.
How to feel good about spending insane money at Christmas.
How to prevent dryer fires.
How to use Google Calendar to organize your family.
How to save a zillion dollars with the Magic Bullet.
How to quickly cool Mac & Cheese.
How to soothe a teething baby without whiskey - oops! I mean Tylenol.
How to do Time Outs correctly.
How to improvise a changing table.
How to get a baby and a toddler into the car.
How to keep your house decluttered with an old waitressing mantra.
How to find a great baby sling.
How to manage your grocery list online.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again soon!

Visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for more WFMW tips!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Claire

It seems that Our Claire has been reading The Onion.
Did you know that babies and kids become holy terrors when they reach big developmental milestones? I'm not even kidding. It's not uncommon for babies to stop sleeping through the night (not that I know anything about babies who sleep through the night) when they're about to start crawling, for example. It's normal for their behavior to take a nosedive right before they start having a "language explosion" (where they suddenly learn a whole bunch of new words at once). Often parent bloggers will post one day that their little Muffin is driving them completely insane, and the very next day they will say, "Muffin is walking!" It is so common, known, and predictable, in fact, that whenever you see a "Muffin is acting so badly that I'm seriously going to just pad the walls of the house and go insane..." post, someone (often I) will suggest, "Is he teething, or is he about to bust out with something new?" in the comments.

So, it comes as no surprise that as Claire learns to walk, she has become quite the little dictator. She has cried a lot these past few days. I'm sure it's frustration. She knows she can get from here to there, but her wobbly little legs just won't cooperate. It's got to be maddening, and I'm trying to have empathy, but for the love of God, Claire, will you please just stop shouting?
BJ, the professor of patience, even said to her tonight, "You know, if you're going to cry over everything, I'm just not going to listen," or something along those lines. I couldn't really hear him over the shrieking.

Even the things that she normally loves, like bath, cause her to freak right out. I tried giving her a little baby massage tonight, because I figure that growing must hurt (it did when I was a teenager) and so maybe she'd be happier with a little back and leg rub. Nope, she cried and nearly arched herself right off of the changing table. She cried in the car today. She cried at the park. She cried. She cried. She cried.

And I wasn't even here for a good part of the day - I worked today and the girls stayed here with Grandpa Bob!

It's heartbreaking because she's normally such a happy little puddin', and I know that something really disruptive must be going on with her little nervous system if she's acting this way. This is when being a second-time mom is sooooo nice, because I know that This Too Shall Pass, and that she will be back to her sweet self in a few days, and that she hasn't become possessed or anything. Meanwhile, it's my job to ride it out with her, and to love her anyway, even though she has blown out both of my eardrums. It's my job to do what I can to keep her comfortable and safe, and to give her the space to learn what she needs to learn so she can move through this little phase and on to the next one.
Keep telling me that, okay?

(Thanks List of the Day for the pointer to the Onion story)

Save Second Base!

Please go here to sign a petition called the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act.

Apparently insurance companies are trying to make mastectomies an outpatient procedure.

I would make a comment about how if men were having their penises removed due to penile cancer, they'd be kept in the hospital for two weeks, but BJ gets all upset (defensive?) when I talk about the patriarchy, so I'll just say, go there, sign it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bloggy Giveaways Carnival!! Popcorn

What fun is a carnival without popcorn?

Popcorn is my favorite vegetable. I really think it's the world's most perfect food. It's a whole grain. It tastes good sweet or salty. You can pair it with chocolate. It really has everything.

I have a $20 gift certificate for Dale and Thomas Popcorn. Want it? Leave a comment!

If you're here for the carnival, please click around and get to know me. Don't forget to add me to your RSS reader if you like what you read!

(I wish I could figure out how to make a link to add me to your feed reader. Oh well. Click the little orange doohickey...)

Edited to add: Try clicking here to add me to your feedreader, and let me know if it works (thanks Brandon!!)

There are tons of giveaways at the Bloggy Giveaway Carnival. Have fun!

A Musical Interlude

(To the tune of Everybody Hurts, by REM)



When the breakfast's done
'Bout the time that Handy Manny's on
When you're just sitting down
To relax
Hang on...

Don't let yourself go
Cause somebody sure stinks.
Everybody poops
At nine.

Something really smells so wrong...

Now it's time to sing along...

When your day has just begun
(hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go
(hold on, hold on)
When you've just sat down to blog
'Bout this life, hang on...

Cause somebody sure stinks.
You need to change some pants.
Everybody poops.

Don't blow out the back...
Ooooooohhhh no! No!
Don't blow out the back!
If you feel like you're gonna go
No no no, don't go alone.

If you're on your own
And your pants
Your pants are hanging low.
If you're sure you have too much
In your drawers
To move on...

Everybody poops.
Sometimes, everybody stinks
Sometimes, everybody poops
At nine.

Everybody poops
At nine!

So hold on, hold on,
Hold on, hold on,
Everybody poops!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bringing Valley Back

We went to the park again today (who wouldn't, when it's 73 and gorgeous outside??). Last year, MG was terrified of the swings. Actually, she has always been afraid of the swings at the park, which makes about as much sense as you would expect her to make, considering that she slept in her infant swing, exclusively, until she outgrew it and we had to replace the batteries three times in a night to keep it rocking*.

She wanted to try the Big Kid swings - not the little buckets for the babies, but the actual swings. The kind that can cause you to fly off and eat mulch. Gulp.

I figured she'd stay on it for 0.00042 seconds and then freak out, and I'd have to buy her ice cream and a pony to get her to stop screaming about the Swing Trauma. Nope. She loved it.

"Look, Mommy!" she said, "I'm totally swinging!"

When BJ got home this evening I told him that she had said she was "totally" swinging, and he laughed and suggested that she had picked this up from me. Then he was telling me a story about work, and he said, "...totally..." and I snickered. Then Claire said, "toe-tall."

"Yeah, Mary Grace picked that up from me," I said, grinning. "Claire, can you say 'guys**'?"



* I know there are going to be people who say, "Sweet sneezing Jebus, you let her sleep in her swing!? That causes (choose one) a) dizziness, b) warts, c) SIDS, d) mumps, or e) all of the above, but you know what? She lived, she's fine, and that was the only way I got sleep for the first 8 months of her life, so chill.

** "Guys." The original BJism, that he didn't even know he used all the time until MG started using it to refer to her stuffed animals.

Big Girl!

Claire took her first real steps about 20 minutes ago!!!

I set her down after a diaper change, and she felt really steady on her feet so I let go, and she just took off. BJ was nearby, and I yelled to him that she was walking, and he came out and we passed her back and forth for a bit. MG was really excited.

I can't believe my baby is walking. Jeez.

It was the best of nights, it was the worst of nights...

Mary Grace slept from 9 pm to 7:30 am last night in her own bed!

One would think that after over two and a half years of intense sleep deprivation - sleep deprivation which technically would put MG out of compliance with the Geneva Convention if I were a prisoner of war - that I would have had the best night of sleep I've had in a long, long time last night.

Nope. Forces conspired against me. We stayed up until 1 am watching movies (I Am Legend, which was interesting except for the part with the dog. I can't deal with bad things happening to dogs. And Enchanted which was very cute and much needed after I Am Legend). Yes, we're foolish, but do you have any idea how far behind we are on movies? Almost 3 years, actually. And when people start talking about movies, which happens often, we are completely lost. It's embarrassing. So, the movies were homework. Yeah. Homework.

Anyway, the kids still have a little cold from the Musuem on Tuesday (note to self: NEVER forget the hand sanitizer!), and Claire was coughing and coughing, and I kept expecting her to cry, so I couldn't sleep until 2 am when she finally cried and wanted to come in our room. Then she wanted to nurse, etc. I fell asleep some time after 2:15. Then she was wide awake at 7 am.

Of course, since BJ let me sleep yesterday, it was my turn to get up. So here I am. Awake. And I missed the best night of sleep I'm likely to have for a while.

Is it nap time yet?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Great Day

We've had such a fun day. I slept in with Claire until about 10 am (BJ, the saint, got up with Mary Grace). When we got up, I made breakfast. Then I checked the local paper's website to see what was going on today. I found a free band concert at the University, so we got everyone dressed and dropped BJ off at the lab, and the girls and I went to the concert. Claire fell asleep on the way there and didn't wake up again until I was putting her in the car to leave. Mary Grace liked part of it, but was asleep for about half of what we stayed to see. When she was awake, she was terrific and quiet and extremely well behaved.

When we left we called BJ and he wasn't ready to leave, yet, so we went to a new restaurant for lunch (called Noodles), which Mary Grace pronounced it "the best restaurant in the whole wide world." She kind of likes noodles. The owner was really sweet when I told him what she'd said, too. Again, stellar behavior. I didn't have to tell MG to sit still or remind her to eat or correct her at all while we were there. Claire was a monkey, and climbed on me a bit, but in a very non-annoying way.

After lunch we went to the library and played for a while, until they closed. We went and got BJ, then grabbed a sandwich for him, and went to Coldstone for ice cream. MG had a little bit of a spaz when we were that close to Chuck E. Cheese and we didn't go in, but she got over it really quickly.

The best thing happened at Coldstone. We didn't get anything for Claire, because even their smallest size is about 10 times more ice cream than she can eat. BJ and I just planned to share with her. We got her a spoon of her own. Well, at one point MG took Claire's spoon from her, and we had one of those moments when, thank goodness, we decided to wait and see what happened first before we said, "Don't take things from your sister." Thank goodness we waited. Mary Grace took Claire's spoon and fed a little bite of her ice cream to her. It was so sweet.

She didn't say a word about Chuck E. Cheese on the way out, either.

We were going to come back and ride bikes, but MG is pretty beat, so we decided to watch Finding Nemo instead. I have a feeling we're going to have an early bedtime tonight.

Friday, April 18, 2008

At the Museum with Allison on Tuesday




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Today at the Park




Who, me? Eating mulch? Why would you say that??


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Today at Tar-jhay

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Did you feel it?

I woke up a little after 5:30 this morning because I heard rattling and it felt like someone was shaking the bed. I didn't realize until it was over that it was an earthquake. I told BJ when his alarm went off at 6 am (I was still too jazzed to go back to sleep), and when he came back up he reported that, sure enough, there had been an earthquake.

Sleeeeeepy... (and random thoughts)

I have GOT to stop falling asleep when I'm putting the kids to bed. For one thing, it makes it really hard to go back to sleep when I wake up at 11:30 and I've had a two hour nap. For another, I end up missing dessert.

I got myself a bowl of ice cream, turned on the laptop, and found the best news. Hooray for Susan! Hooray for totally being a fighter and beating the odds! Hooray for never giving up!

***
I am in a cooking slump. Does this ever happen to you? Yesterday I made a roast in the crock pot and I thought, "Hey, crock pots simmer forever, rice simmers forever, why not put the rice in the crock pot?" and I did and it was greasy and horrible. Whole grains aside, I think I may need to switch back to Minute Rice. This brown rice stuff is just complicated. Maybe I will invest in a dedicated rice cooker. I really don't want any more kitchen appliances, but I screw rice up on the stove, I screw it up in the crock pot, I'm not sure what else to do. And you can use some of those rice cookers to steam things, too, so it wouldn't just be for rice, right? We don't eat enough rice to necessitate a dedicated appliance. Can you make Rice A Roni in a rice cooker?

Then tonight I made fish from some frozen salmon fillets that were terrible. I tried to redeem myself by making an Alessi rice mix, but I used the burner that the oven vents through, and my rice ended up tasting fishy. Ugh.

Maybe I need to just give up rice in general. Or cooking. I always have a hard time transitioning from winter cooking (casseroles, soups, stews) to summer cooking (burgers on the grill, hot dogs on the grill, steaks on the grill, salads, pasta salads, etc.). It's a real attitude shift for me, and it changes the way I shop. Right now my pantry is set up for winter cooking instead of summer cooking, which is a bit of a problem when it's 75 and gorgeous outside.

***
I think I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome. My right hand has been numb for a while, since like January, off and on, and it seems to be getting worse. I really noticed it when we were painting the kitchen - my hand went so numb that I had trouble holding the paint brush. I looked up a little info on it today while I was avoiding the big horrible ICE project at work. What I read seems consistent with what's going on. I need to look tomorrow for some exercises I can do, because I don't have time for surgery.

***
I sent off the big annoying ICE project today. I wrote to our auditor, "Remember in college when you could turn in an assignment really early and get feedback from the professor, then polish it up and get a really good grade? That's what this is. It is my very rough draft. Please do not fine me, put me in jail, or call me names based on the attached ICE. Take a look at it, give me extra credit for getting it in two and a half months early*, and give me a chance to fix it before we start talking about whether I look better in horizontal or vertical stripes."

* Yeah, two and a half months early, because I haven't ever gotten this thing in on time, so it seemed like the thing to do, and now it won't be hanging over my head all summer. Yay.

Maybe that's why I was so sleepy - the stress let-down of having the stupid ICE done.

***
I didn't win the haiku contest. Bummer.

***
I'm sure there were a hundred other things I wanted to tell you today, but I sure can't think of any of them now. Don't expect much from me over the next couple of days, because Claire has discovered the slide at the park, and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous.

Oh, she just woke up. Night night!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News too big to ignore

You all know about Rocks in My Dryer because Shannon over there hosts Works For Me Wednesday.

Well, today she's giving away $1000.

Seriously.

Go! Go now and win!!

And while you're there, see if you can find mine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Men and Childbirth

Michael Odent is apparently a famous obstetrician, and apparently he has opinions about having fathers in the delivery room when their children are born. I just read the whole article, and I have opinions.

I suppose it's possible that there are couples for whom the experience of going through childbirth together could interfere with their future sexual relationship. I mean, there are lots of different kinds of people in the world, and if someone's husband is going to get all weirded out when he sees his wife's body doing what nature designed it to do, and have post-traumatic sex disorder, well, ok. I don't understand it, but I can see how it's possible.

I can also imagine that there are women who would feel inhibited by the presence of their husband in the delivery room. I am not one of these women. I have never had an inhibited moment in my life. There are a lot of women who have a bowel movement when they're pushing. This is so normal and so routine, and even if you're like me, so embarrassing, and I can imagine that there are women out there who wouldn't be able to let go and do what they need to do (because pushing out a baby feels an awful lot like pushing for other purposes). So, yeah, for these ladies, I can imagine that the presence of the husband could, possibly, slow things down.

But then I realized that, like with all things related to pregnancy and birth and childrearing and family and nearly everything else in life... There isn't a one-size-fits-all answer.

Personally, I can't imagine going through labor without BJ. He is the World's Greatest Labor Coach. If I had sat down and designed a perfect script for him to follow during labor and delivery, I couldn't have done any better than he did all on his own. When Claire was born, he and I were so "in the zone" together that we didn't even see the lights or hear the sirens that went off (because she came really fast, and no one was ready - my dad, step-mom, and sister, who were also in the room - told us about it later) (yes, I gave birth in front of my dad, step-mom, and sister. I told you "inhibited" wasn't in my vocabulary). He was, quite literally, everything I wanted him and needed him to be and more. In my opinion, that's what partners do for each other. That kind of support is the cornerstone of our marriage. But that's us.

I recognize that not everyone is married to BJ. My friend Julie calls him a "pod person" and is convinced that he is an alien. Not everyone has the same sort of relationship that he and I have, and so I guess it's possible that the new (relatively... dads weren't just beginning to be "allowed" in the delivery room when I was born (and I'm sorry, but if I'm the one doing the pushing, I am the one who gets to decide who is and is not present, thank you very much, it's a good thing I didn't have to try to navigate the 50s and 60s, and I wasn't paying much attention in the 70s. It wouldn't have gone well for anyone.)) expectation that dads should be there could be uncomfortable for some couples, and could, in fact, cause a stall in labor.

With c-section rates where they are (right around 35%, depending on where you live, last time I checked), I think it's worth examining all possible causes of the increase. Maybe, maybe, dads are causing labor to stall in some situations.

(I would like to pause here and point out that this is a very different point of view than the first reaction I had to this article which was, basically, "Baloney..." See? I'm getting so mature in my old age. I posted a comment at Strollerderby that said, "Baloney," then thought about it for a while and toned down my own opinion. This is progress.)

I guess, if other doctors and medical professionals think this may be true, the answer would be to counsel couples on what to expect during labor, and how their own personalities might cause them to react to the experience. Questions like, "Do you feel comfortable going to the bathroom in front of your husband?" and "Does blood make you faint?" would be worth asking. Maybe we shouldn't assume that a father should be in the delivery room, any more than people should have assumed that fathers shouldn't be in the delivery room a generation ago.

My grandfather actually got special permission to be in the delivery room when my mom was born (in 1951) by saying that he was writing an article or a paper or some crazy thing, and it was "research." He was not allowed in the room when my uncle was born in 1954, and I remember hearing it told (is any of this true?) that there was a nurse at the door with a hypodermic needle, waiting to knock him out if he tried to come in (my uncle was 12 pounds, 2 ounces, and the hospital told my grandfather that my grandmother was going to die, and she very nearly did, I guess, and that's why there were threats and stuff, because Papa didn't like that prognosis, but anyway they all lived happily ever after for a long time after that, and someone who remembers the rest of the details can fill them in). My dad wasn't present for my birth, but he was there for my brother and sister's homebirths. I was there for my brother's too, actually, but they didn't let me in for my sister's because the cord was around her neck. (She's fine, too). BJ's dad wasn't there for BJ's birth, or for BJ's brother's birth. He doesn't do well with medical stuff. I had to convince him that it was ok to watch my ultrasound video - and that it looked more like a black and white weather map than the inside of my body.

I guess my point is that there are a lot of different kinds of people, a lot of different kinds of relationships, and a lot of different kinds of marriages. All of these different folks have different comfort levels, expectations, feelings, preferences, and so on, and all of the above should really be respected by the people who decide these things. If a mother doesn't feel like she can get comfortable enough to have a baby if her husband is present, then she should have the right to decide that he doesn't get to be there. If a husband doesn't feel that he'd ever be able to look at his wife the same way again after watching her give birth, or if he doesn't think he could handle the blood and guts and stuff, he shouldn't be expected to be there. (However, he and the mom should definitely work together to make sure that the mom has enough support, whether that's her mother or her sister or a doula or the neighbor or whoever. I'll even loan BJ to you if you find yourself in that situation).

I'm really grateful that I live in a time when the cultural norm (dads are present) was consistent with what I wanted and needed when I was in labor, and that I chose a dad for my kids who rose to the occasion so beautifully. I hope that as we evolve as a culture, we can move away from rigid expectations ("Dad WILL be there!" or "Dad WON'T be there!") and toward a more flexible model - not just in birth, but in lots of areas.

What were your birth experiences? Who was there? Would you do it the same way, or differently?

WFMW: The Soapy Washer

Everyone needs one of these:


I don't know how anyone survives without it, I truly don't. We forgot to get refills for ours, and we didn't have it for like a day, and my entire house fell apart. There were dishes everywhere, the laundry piled up, the bathrooms were filthy, the yard needed to be mowed, the kids got sick, the dog had fleas, the cat puked in the bed, the taxes were due, and the bills were all late. It was a housekeeping disaster. But as soon as we got our refills, all was right with the world.

You don't have to get the Libman one. We actually prefer the generic ones that are our grocery store's brand. It doesn't matter. But you need one. Stat. Trust me. It's in the cleaning aisle, with the laundry soap and the mops and whatnot. Thank me later.

Here for Works for me Wednesday? Check out some of my greatest hits...

How to save a fortune on your groceries without clipping coupons.
How to teach your baby to use a straw.
How to make money with Daytipper.
How to have fun with your kids in the snow.
How to save money when shopping online.
How to prevent frozen hands when sledding.
How to prevent disease with a handy new product (update, it worked - we never got sick!)
How to easily feed a crowd.
How to pack a smaller diaper bag.
How to make Mush McPuna.
How to organize your Christmas list.
How to breathe new life into your lamps with spray paint.
How to use calling cards to give the illusion that you have it all together.
How to use GCal (again) for menu planning.
How to save yourself time in the kitchen with a hot water tap.
How to tie your shoes if you have lollypop thumbs like me.
How to feel good about spending insane money at Christmas.
How to prevent dryer fires.
How to use Google Calendar to organize your family.
How to save a zillion dollars with the Magic Bullet.
How to quickly cool Mac & Cheese.
How to soothe a teething baby without whiskey - oops! I mean Tylenol.
How to do Time Outs correctly.
How to improvise a changing table.
How to get a baby and a toddler into the car.
How to keep your house decluttered with an old waitressing mantra.
How to find a great baby sling.
How to manage your grocery list online.

Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you again soon!

Visit Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer for more WFMW tips!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Fought the Children's Museum and the Museum Won

The best part of going to the Children's Museum is that the little weirdos sleep like *normal* *babies* after a day there.

Claire is going to walk any minute now. Seriously. She was pushing a little plastic lawnmower around at the museum, and it provided very little in the way of balance and stability, yet she was tearing it up. She just needs to forget that she can't walk and take off across the room. She has all the raw materials - the balance, coordination, and strength. She just needs to put it all together.

Her speech is so funny lately. She's working on the "ow" words. First it was "wow," and everything was, "Woooowww..." It was a lot like college, actually, and hanging out with a stoned friend. You know, the one who falls for the "imagine you're running through the forest..." routine. I just keep waiting for her to say, "duuuuuude..." Then today she said "cow," which might have been because I have a really annoying habit of pointing out all the four-legged creatures on the prairie as we drive around. It's especially annoying when the kids aren't in the car. Anyway, so she said "cow," and then she babbled some, and I really think it sounded like, "What's up with that?" but I'm sure it was just a coincidence.

I love this age because the speech thing is just hilarious. I love how they'll just up and use a new word out of nowhere (like "civilization" - Mary Grace's latest 5 syllable vocabulary word du jour). I hate this age, though, because they can move a lot more than they should be able to. Claire will heave herself around with no regard for Newton's laws... and other important things, like gravity. Mary Grace had a bruise in the center of her forehead from the time she could walk until about 20 minutes ago. Claire is just entering that phase. I guess no one called Child Protective Services on me with her, so I can probably stop worrying. But nothing makes me feel like a worse mother than walking around Walmart with my bruised, beaten looking children who are looking at the ceiling and going, "Woooooowww..." like they're stoned.

Google Finance - Recipe For Depression

So, you know I'm a Google addict, right? I have Gmail, Google Reader, 11 Google Calendars (I am running out of colors!) , I use Google Documents, my photos are in Picasa which is a Google partner or something, I recently got all excited about Google Books.... Anyway, I discovered Google Finance recently, and so, with the help of Grandpa Bob, I put in all of our Roth IRAs and SIMPLE IRAs and the kids' 529 college accounts....

And now every day I check to see "how we're doing" and we've lost like $300 since I put them in on Thursday night. Friday was a really bad day. We only lost $15 yesterday, and that was a good day.

How depressing is that?? It's not like we had a whole heck of a lot to begin with, but come on!

BJ takes the long view - he says it'll be at least 16 years before we have to pull anything out, and the market will go up and down and up and down and (hopefully) up again before then. I'm sure that's true. However, I'm starting to wish that we'd put the 529s in Euros or something.

It just proves my theory, that the stock market is a way for very wealthy people to separate the rest of us from our money. Much more of this and the kids are going to have to go to DeVry instead of DePauw, or Lincoln Tech instead of Lincoln University.

How's the economy affecting you?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Two Under Two and Food

This topic isn't necessarily specific to the issue of having two kids under two, but it seems to keep coming up and I really believe that I must address it. I'm pretty sure I can bring it around to the two under two issue, here...

If you're pregnant, and your right-around-one year old has been happily cruising around, eating his body weight in food every day like some sort of deranged hummingbird, are you in for a surprise when the baby comes! Because, you see, nature has a sense of humor. Nature is not to be messed with. It will get you. In fact, nature is probably trying to kill you right now... but in the meantime it wants to have a good laugh at your expense.

Enter the new baby. Your old baby is going to go through a host of rapid lifestyle changes, which will include (but not be limited to) not being the center of the universe anymore. Right around the same time, his little metabolism is going to take a serious nosedive, and he will stop eating.

If you are like me, and if you keep coming back I assume that you are at least a little bit like me, otherwise you wouldn't "get" me at all... you will blame yourself for this new development and become convinced that you have ruined his little life by having another baby, and that he has gone all Gandhi on you and will hunger-strike himself to death.

I know. I have been there. And let me tell you, Sister, all those post-partum hormones don't do you a bit of good when it comes to the guilt.

Which brings me back around to my actual point, which is so crucial to all parental happiness everywhere that I don't feel the slightest bit silly about putting it in bold text:

People, we need to Let It Go when it comes to our kids and food.

"Amy," I hear you say, "that's easy for you to say. Mary Grace thinks that tomatoes are a snack food."

Yes, I am blessed with two good eaters, but I'll tell you this. I think if you have a picky eater, you need to Let It Go Even More when it comes to your picky kid and food.

Let me back up and qualify this with the following self-reflective explanations. I have thought long and hard about food because I have a totally unhealthy relationship with it, myself. This unhealthy relationship has absolutely nothing to do with anything that my mother, father, or any other well meaning relative has ever said or done to me, so just relax. However, I am a really good cook, I come from a really long line of really good cooks, and I like food. A lot. And food likes me. And we are very fat and happy together.

I like fattening things, too, like chocolate and butter and cream cheese and every other cheese. I would vote for Ben and Jerry if they ran for president. I have had creme brulee that was more moan inducing than, well, this is a family blog, but you get the idea. If I were any more passionate about food, I'd be Italian.

BJ will nod and laugh when he reads this - I show people that I love them by feeding them. There is something very primal and satisfying, for me, about preparing a meal for my family and watching them enjoy it. The first Christmas gift I ever gave BJ had a strong chocolate and coffee theme. I cooked for him for our first Valentine's day (Hawaiian chicken). One of our best early dates was the picnic we took to Columbian Park (chicken and ranch pasta salad). Who else remembers meals that they ate 11 years ago?

Food figures prominently in all my memories of family and happiness and love and togetherness and closeness (deviled eggs, shrimp with cocktail sauce, grandma's coffee, heart-attack potatoes, Kathy's crescent rolls, peanut butter cookies, Welsh cookies, orange bowknots...). I can not imagine a family get together without food (and, more recently, wine, which makes family get togethers even more fun than they used to be).

Because I love my kids an awful lot, my natural tendency is to feed them an awful lot. This is fine when they're in the hummingbird phases, but it's not so good when they're in the photosynthesizing phases that all kids go through - the ones where they can happily live on Ovaltine and sunshine for three months, and still maintain their growth chart percentiles.

Therefore, I knew early on that I was going to have to rope it in, when it comes to food, if I didn't want to have to roll my kids to preschool. I remember discussing it with BJ before we even had kids - I think he was mad at me for giving Max too many scraps, and he said, "Our kids are going to be enormous if you feed them like this..."

He was right. I can't throw pieces of bacon under the table for the kids at breakfast. And since Purina doesn't make Human Baby Chow (yet), I needed to figure out a way to have a healthy relationship with food for my kids.

MG and C are clearly healthy, so I think I've done a very good job, so far, even though I tend to say, "Want a cookie?" more often than I probably should.

Here's what I have learned, and that is important when it comes to Letting It Go. 1) Toddlers generally eat one "good" meal a day, and they graze the rest of the day. 2) Even though they may have entire days where they refuse to eat anything but (fill in the blank), left to their own devices, toddlers will actually self-select a reasonably healthy diet over the course of a week or so.

I have compiled a list of Dos and Don'ts for toddler eating, which I will present to you now. Picture me as Moses, coming down from the mountain...

1. Thou shalt not force thy child to eat.
2. Thou shalt provide nutritious food for thine offspring.
3. Thou shalt not require that thy child clean his plate.
4. Thou shalt request that thy child try one bite of each offering (because it takes like 700 exposures before kids realize that they like some things... I'm still at 632 for a few things, myself, like Brussels sprouts... Ugh!)
5. Thou shalt not make a federal case of it if thy child refuses to try one bite.
6. Thou shalt allow thy child to have a peanut butter sandwich if he pronounces thy dinner "yucky."
7. Thou shalt not take it personally, even if thou hast slavethed all day.
8. Thou shalt serve one thing at every meal that thou knowest thy child will eat.
9. Thou shalt remember that no child has ever starvethed himself to death.
10. Thou shalt Let It Go.

Supernanny can go jump. That authoritarian little limey has some serious power issues going on. I think she only became a Nanny so that she would be the tallest person in the room, personally. And is there a University of Nanny anywhere? I don't think so. If you want to raise a mutant army of little robots who can't think for themselves and talk funny, be my guest. If you want your kids to speak to you after they leave the house, tell Supernanny to bugger off, and follow my advice. After all, I went to college and studied child development, applied behavioral analysis, etc. etc. etc. I am Supermommy, hear me roar.

And seriously... Little Gandhi is not going to starve himself in protest of his new sibling. He's fine. It's just a coincidence. Let It Go.

$1

We are getting a tax refund for the first time in 5 years (since we've been self-employed)! We're going to receive a refund of $188 from the feds.

We owe $187 to the state. Hahahaa...

Do you think we could get the IRS to just forward our refund to the state?

Where are these fairy tale economy boosting checks we're supposed to be getting? I think we're going to do something wacky and pay down some debt with ours. BJ says that that defeats the purpose, and if everyone pays down debt then the boost to the economy won't help. I say that I'm not going to let a government that's a squjillion dollars in debt tell me how to manage our family's finances.

Oh, how I hate April.


Even with the day of taxes looming, though, I had a very nice birthday yesterday. Thank you to all of you who made it so nice. If I can get my laptop to come back to life, I'm going to spend my iTunes gift card. Anyone have a 19.5 V - 6.15 A laptop charger lying around?

My family wants dinner - gotta run...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Things I suck at (or, things at which I suck for all you grammar nerds)

I cannot choose colors. There's a reason why I always wear jeans - it's because everything matches!

I went to Sherwin Williams today and got paint for the living room and kitchen. I got "willow tree" for the kitchen walls, "silvermist" for the living room walls, and "portrait tone" for the trim.

I would link to SW's color visualizer so that you could see this combination, but you have to look them up for yourself and apply them to a room. Go on, I'll wait.

So, I really like the "portrait tone" on the backsplash, near the cabinets (our cabinets are a dark walnutish color). It looks super. And the tile we have is going to tie it all together, if we ever get it installed, but I think I hate the "portrait tone" (which turned out a lot more orange than expected) on the trim around the doors.

I wanted something bold. I wanted something in the "Arts & Crafts" style. I wanted something eye catching and interesting, and most of all, not the off-white that we've lived with for the last 5 years while I've tried to pick a color (yes, it has taken me 5 years to pick a paint color. I need help). I managed to find a color that was all of those things, but it's so wrong on one side of the room...

The good news is that my painting skills have vastly improved since my last attempt at painting a room. Mom would be proud of the way I cut in the ceilings without tape! They look great. Except for the color. I'm pretty sure the color sucks.

It's better than it was. The green ("willow tree") is a big improvement. I just really, really need help with the trim. Thoughts?

Here's the Before:


And here's the After:


Doesn't the "portrait tone" look great there? It really warms it up and brightens it up, not to mention the fact that it's going to be a lot easier to keep clean. Obviously we didn't get all the way around with the green ("willow tree") - we had some patching to do, so we're going to finish it tomorrow.

But here's the other side of the room:


Note the color schizophrenia going on on the right there - what color room is this? Green? Orange? Blue? White? Who knows? Let's just slap all of those up there...

What do I need to do? Does anyone think that painting the door the orangey color would help? Or is that just going to make it worse? We had planned to go with the "portrait tone" orangey thing on all the trim in the living room and the dining room, but you know what, I'm not going to do all that work if it is going to look hideous.

Maybe I'll just paint the baseboards the same color as the walls, and Sherwin Williams and their perfect paint chips with three "coordinating" colors can see me in hell. I don't know. Bring your opinions and your color fans that you've liberated from paint stores (Mom) with you tomorrow.