Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Food Coma Is Lifting

Hi again, Internet. The fog of the carb coma is beginning to lift, and we're planning on getting out our Christmas decorations today. I think we may have to put the tree in the middle of the living room, because there's really nowhere else for it to go.

Hey, it works for Marshall Fields. We'll just start calling the living room the Walnut Room. We'll serve cocoa. I can make this work.

On the other hand, I've never seen a dog at Marshall Fields. Maybe not.

The toyroom is an unholy mess. We're probably going to have to tackle that before much longer. The stuffed toys are in there having litters of stuffed toys of their own, I'm sure of it.

Claire's eye looks awful. She wouldn't let us clean it off, so the scab is about twice as big as it needs to be. It doesn't seem to be hurting her anymore, though, thank goodness.

BJ's cousin's wife, Pam, had a dream that I was pregnant with a boy. As far as I know, I'm not pregnant. I wanted to write it down though, in case she's right and I have a boy next August. How strange would that be? She says she's never been wrong before when she has dreams about pregnant people. I'm just thankful that she didn't dream twins - I think that twins would send me right over the edge. For one thing, my baby strategy is to wear it in a sling until it's old enough to get up and walk away. That would be tough with twins. I think it can be done, but it would be a lot of babies to haul around.

We went out shopping for a little while yesterday. We only bought one Christmas gift, though. I got Mary Grace some jeans (hers were way too small on Thanksgiving - I didn't realize she'd grown so much!). They were on MAJOR sale at Penney's, so I got her a pair of brown and a pair of black cords. I think they were $4.88 each. Claire's jeans were $3.88. She only got one pair because she has a lot of pants, and because I couldn't find the cute cords for her. Then I got them each a fleece shirt for $6.99 or something. I got out of there with 4 pair of pants and two shirts for about $37, not bad!

People are freaking crazy on black Friday, though, and after Claire got hit in the face with the fifth giant bag full of bargains wielded by someone walking the opposite direction and not paying one bit of attention, I snapped. Looking back, we would've done better if we'd had the stroller. We played in the germ area play area for a little while, after meeting up with BJ's dad and his wife, and then we headed back here for some leftovers.

What are you doing with your long weekend?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful

I am thankful for you - that you take a moment out of your busy life to peek into mine once in a while. I'm thankful for your comments - your kind thoughts, your good advice, and your humor.

I hope that all of your travels were safe, all of your meals were festive, and all of your leftovers are safely stored in sealed containers where they will grow neither mold nor bacteria.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Claire's Eye

Urgent Care

Claire fell and hit the marker tray of the whiteboard on her way down with her eye. No stitches, thank goodness. The centerpiece may be delayed though.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holy Feedback, Batman!

Mamapedia published my article on Time Outs on November, 3, and I just now found it! Whoops!!

I get a time out.

A LOT of the (65!!!) commenters left questions, and I'm going to try to answer them here. Expect to see a lot about discipline in this space over the next little while.

Yes, of course I'm hosting Thanksgiving in two days. And doing most of the cooking, sure. And I finally started writing my sitcom today, and why wouldn't I take on one more project? Hahaha...

I was stumped on the very first comment...
My son has a low language level, and doesn't usually understand most of what I'm trying to tell him. So putting him in timeouts has been very frustrating, I can't help him understand why he's in timeout. Do you have any suggestions?
I wish you had mentioned your son's age. If you happen to be reading, please comment with more details.

My first suggestion is to act it out for him. Put yourself on the step or the rug and say, "Mommy is in time out. This is how we take a time out. Can you take a time out?" I think if you repeat the phrase "time out" over and over again, he might pick it up, depending on what his specific delay is.

Also, be very careful that you're not giving him time outs when he hasn't understood your instructions/expectations. You don't want to punish him for his low language level, right? In your situation, I would only give time outs (or any consequences/punishment) when you're sure that he has understood you and willfully disobeyed.

Is his expressive language delayed, or his receptive language, or both? Does he have hearing or speech difficulties? Could you draw a picture of what you expect him to do in time out and show it to him? Maybe could you find an illustrated book where a child takes a time out, and read it to him? Could you have other children demonstrate time outs for him? Make up a time out song? (I know that sounds crazy, but the "clean up" song from preschool does amazing things for my kids' motivation to clean!) How do you teach him other things? Remember that you have to teach him how to do a time out (just like you teach him how to eat with a spoon or drink from a cup) in order for the time out to then become a teaching tool. That's why I started so early with my kids (at 12 months old). When they were that little, it was more for practice than anything else!

It has been a long time since I worked with kids with special needs, so I'm pretty rusty. I know that even the children that I worked with who were institutionalized got time outs. Time outs are supposed to work with extremely low-IQ children. Although, what's the point if they don't understand, right?

I have some of the smartest readers in the world, many of whom are educators. Please, guys, leave comments (on the blog, not on Facebook!!) if you have suggestions for this mom.

I may not sleep until January...

Lazy Bloggers Make Bulletted Lists

  • Claire's down for nap and I totally scammed my neighbor Chelsea into taking MG for a little while. It's nice and quiet on a Tuesday... That never happens!
  • Every single day Mary Grace saves part of her snack at school for Claire. Every day. Awwww...
  • I should be making cranberry sauce right now.
  • I went to grab the link to the cranberry sauce I'm making, and is running soooooo slooooowww! I guess I'm not the only one who doesn't use real cookbooks anymore.
  • Except for the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, which is a classic...
  • The waffle recipe in there, with the egg whites beaten to soft peaks, is awesome.
  • I don't eat waffles anymore.
  • Have you ever made your own cranberry sauce? It's fun, you should try it. Totally easy, too. Do it a couple days ahead of time... As in, today.
  • Mary Grace filled up her sticker row at school today and got to choose a toy. She chose a woolly mammoth, probably the one from Ice Age, Happy Meal toy. She hasn't put it down since.
  • It occurs to me that when parents don't give their children the opportunity to earn something, they deny them a great experience.
  • We have star charts at home, too, but I suck at remembering to use them.
  • All of Mary Grace's stars are red - gold - red - gold etc. and she freaks right out if I suggest we should deviate from the pattern.
  • Four year olds are weird.
  • Claire's weird too, I just can't think of any specific examples.
  • So my sister and I saw New Moon the other night. When Edward dumped Bella, I handed Megan my pocket pack of Kleenex. We laughed. Then, when Jacob took off his shirt, I handed her my pocket pack of Kleenex. We really laughed. I did this several more times throughout the movie - it was fun.
  • Speaking of Twilight - I just want to note for the record that pale boys in skinny jeans do not do anything for me.
  • Plus, I don't like the whole undertone of the movie. Pick the broody stalker who will kill you! Your boyfriend is more important than your soul! No, pick the werewolf who can't control his temper and will probably maim you! Jeez... How about pick the sweet, human friend who asks you to the movies, Bella. Oh he's too boring? Yuck.
  • Teenaged girls would be well-served if they would go for the boring guys more often.
  • I wrote a brilliant essay in college about how bad guys are sexy because the fear of death makes you feel alive, and feeling that alive is sexy, and blah blah blah but it has been lost to the winds of time.
  • I wish I could access my college e-mail account and read what I used to think.
  • It worries me that my next of kin will be able to request access to my Gmail account and read everything that's in there after I die.
  • I'm just going to have to outlive everyone.
  • This is also why I can't write a book.
  • I do, however, have a great idea for a sitcom.
  • Ok, that cranberry sauce isn't going to make itself.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tips to Deep Fry a Turkey

Hey, kids, it's almost Thanksgiving and a friend of mine on teh Facebooks asked me if I had any turkey frying wisdom to share.

Since she can't be the only one frying turkey for the first time, I thought I'd share it here, too.

Turkey Frying Wisdom -

1) The person responsible for frying the turkey shall have no responsibilities/distractions other than watching the turkey for the entire time the oil is heating and the bird is in. In other words, don't expect your husband to also be able to peel potatoes - you don't want to leave it unattended from the time you turn on the gas to heat the oil until you pull the bird out.

2) Follow ALL directions, including the part where you put the turkey in the pot with water instead of oil to see how much water/oil it's going to displace. The last thing you want to have is the oil running over.

3) Make sure the turkey is THOROUGHLY thawed. If it's frozen it's not dinner - it's an explosive device. I'm not kidding. Note - check your turkey the night before because we've had ours in the fridge for the correct number of days, before, and it hasn't been thawed when we've gone to take it out. You want to feel around and make sure that you don't feel any frozen pieces, inside or out. If you do, lukewarm water (running through and over it) is the best way to ensure a good thaw. And this takes time - don't do it at the last minute. You'll get in a rush and you'll miss a spot and KABOOM!

4) Keep the kids and pets away from the turkey frying area. Do it on a level driveway or patio, not over dry leaves or in the grass or anywhere where it could tip over. Try to stay out of the wind, if you can, to help keep the heat even. Stay at least 10 feet from any structure, especially the house, and be aware of what's above you (tree limbs, overhangs, etc.)

5) Have everything that you're going to need washed and ready to go - including whatever tools you're going to use to get the turkey out (the scariest part, except for putting it in, IMHO). You'll need a big roaster pan to put the turkey into when it's done. Don't forget that you'll need gloves (BJ uses work gloves) to protect your hands when you remove it.

6) Don't stuff it! LOL

7) Watch a couple of videos (YouTube) to see what you're getting into.

8) Make sure you've got enough propane.

9) If the temperature gets too high, your oil could boil. If that happens it's going to bubble up over the sides of the pot, and then you're going to have boiling oil meeting the fire. It's pretty much all over at that point. That's why it's imperative that you watch the temperature of the oil very carefully. No football! No distractions!

10) Read all the directions twice. Consider doing a dry run before The Big Day so that you know what you're doing. We did a practice turkey the weekend before our first Thanksgiving. Oh, and be sure to pat the skin of the turkey dry before you put it in the oil - oil and water don't mix.

That said, it tastes really good (not at all oily - it's like fried chicken, all the oil stays on the skin), the inside isn't any worse for you than baked turkey, and your oven is free to heat up everything else (and the men are all outside bonding over the flames and barking like Tim Allen). We think it's worth it. But then again, BJ's used to working with rocket fuel, so it's kind of a walk in the park for him. :)

(I'm feeling a lot better than I was earlier when I posted that psychotic rant thing. Thanks for all the support, both here and on Facebook. You are the wind beneath my wings.)

Doomed Diet Day 8 - To Hell With This

I've gained a pound. I've been eating 1743 calories (actual mathematical average) a day, for a week, and I've gained a pound.

It's taking every ounce of self-loathing I have to not go on a bender and eat my way through every fast food restaurant in town.

Yes, you read that right.

This friggin' sucks.

In my next life I get to be naturally thin, ok? Rather than this:

...except Shamu doesn't have zits and stretch marks. Oh God, sometimes the weight of my own self-hatred is literally crushing. I can actually feel it pressing down on me right now.

So I called Laser Concepts today, because I know 6 people who have gone there and for $300 have had some voodoo done to their ears and they have quit smoking. One person had a stroke and continued to smoke afterward, but the laser thing worked. Another had a heart attack and continued to smoke afterward, but the laser thing worked. I don't understand it, but it really seems to do something.

...and they offer a treatment for weight loss, too.

It's not nearby, but I could get there twice a week for 5 weeks (to the tune of $400) to do the weight loss treatment. But after talking to the guy about what I've tried (breastfeeding MG for 28 months and C for 22 months and BOTH OF THEM AT THE SAME TIME through my pregnancy with C and for 9 months afterwards - - and not losing an ounce. Restricting myself to 1800 calories (or less!) a day for a week, and GAINING a pound) he said, "Something's really wrong with you!" and refused to take my money until I've seen a doctor.

But the thing is, I've seen my doctor. And he says, "Diet and exercise." Well, I'm dieting. And exercise is not my friend. I need to lose some weight first. Exercise is phase two. It takes a month to make a habit. Well, I need a month of eating better before I make another change, you know? October was quit smoking. November was eat better. December is exercise. Or hang myself with a string of Christmas lights. Whichever comes first.

I guess if I diet for a month and then start exercising and do both for a month, and I'm still gaining weight, then I'll go to the doctor.

If I last that long. Because right now, honestly, all I want to do is dive, head first, into a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

(And if you think this was bleak, you should read the parts I deleted!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wanted: Salty, Crunchy, Healthy Snack

The Doomed Diet is going surprisingly well. I've lost two pounds. I even had pot roast and rice with gravy yesterday at my father-in-law's house without going too far over (50 calories over for the day - not bad when you're limited to about 1800!) by practicing portion control.

I'm also finding that it helps to stay upstairs (where there is no ice cream) after we put the kids to bed. BJ and I have been turning on the "toaster" (it's an electric mattress pad, and it's the best thing ever! You need one) and watching movies or TV in bed. I don't eat upstairs. Well, ok, one night we had popcorn...

Anyway, I need a healthy, crunchy, preferably salty snack that's healthy. Has anyone got anything? Is there some kind of puffed vegetable chip I don't know about? They were sampling these snap pea snacks at the store yesterday that were the consistency of a Cheeto, but green and apparently made (somehow) from a snap pea.

That's a little too weird for me.

Nuts are good, but a serving is like three nuts. I need something I can mindlessly, guiltlessly snack on, particularly in the afternoon. Popcorn's not bad, but I'm getting a little sick of it.

Mimi and I are going to see New Moon today. I looked up the calorie info for a small movie popcorn - 400! In a small!!! I don't even know how they get that many calories in there. That's without butter! Raisinettes are only 330, and they have chocolate.

BJ's going to take the kids to a women's basketball game. I hope Claire makes it, she says she doesn't feel good. She might have a low grade fever (hard to say if she's got a fever or it's just her jammies making her warm). Her nose has been runny since October, but so has mine. It's so hard when they can't quite express what's going on.

Speaking of Claire, there's a little girl at school named Lexi. She and Claire don't get along. I've already talked to the teacher (who happens to be Lexi's mom) about it, and I don't think it's actually a big deal, but Claire talks, often, about how Lexi "hurted" her. (Lexi probably "hurted" her once, and we're just hearing the same story over and over...) Well, we've been watching Phineas and Ferb a lot (BJ and I like it almost as much as the kids do), and one of the songs is "My Nemesis" (you can hear a sample here). So anyway, we asked Claire, "Is Lexi your nemesis?"


Poor Claire. Two years old, and already a nemesis!

Well, yesterday on the way to Grandpa Ben's, BJ and I had a good laugh when she started talking about "Lexi, my nemesis," again. And I said, "Lexi Luthor?" Of course that makes Claire, "Claire Kent."


I feel a story coming on...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fun with Technology

Yesterday I decided to transfer all of the photos from my computer onto the big computer (it's got like a terabyte of memory - oh, sorry, I'm being corrected by BJ who says it has 1.5 t of capacity but only 3 g of memory... Whatever.). Then I put Picasa on the big computer (sorry BJ) so that I could use the facial recognition feature (New! And super cool!) to sort the photos and help me choose good shots for our holiday card (which may or may not happen - I am in full pre-holiday panic mode).

Our family completely flummoxed the face recognition software. It's very good at recognizing men, but it's a mess with women and especially the girlies! Mary Grace kept getting in the Claire folder, Claire kept getting into Mary Grace's folder. I kind of expected that, especially with the really old baby pictures. But then Claire got into Mimi's folder, and I thought, "Well, yeah, she does really look like Mimi..." and then Mimi got into Gramma Denna's folder, and Gramma Denna got into Mimi's folder (Mom and Mimi and Grandma Betty once won a look-alike contest), and pictures of me from when I was younger (read: thinner) got into Mimi's folder, and pictures of me started showing up in the kids' folders...

It was a disaster. I don't know if it's just limited software, or if we're all clones of each other, but (my second cousin or first cousin once removed or something) Dayton ended up in (his own first cousin my uncle) Doug's folder at one point. Kelly, Curtis, Craig, and Jill (all my first cousins) were all stirred up.

It was kind of fun, looking at all the old pictures and realizing how much we all resemble each other. If you're working on your holiday card, too, you should download Picasa (for free!) and play with the facial recognition software, too. Now that I've finally got this posted (after starting at about 10 am today!) I'm going to go play.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Honestly Didn't Even Know She Was A Big Deal

Last spring, before I went to BlogHer, I started participating more on Twitter. There was this really funny woman who also happened to be tweeting about BlogHer around the same time of night that I was usually on (post-kids-bedtime until about midnight, Eastern time). I friended her on Facebook. I met her at BlogHer. I yelled her name across the entire lobby of the Sheraton, and I think I scared her a little but she immediately put this big smile on her face and acted like we were long lost best friends.

Until she had a stroke yesterday, I didn't even know that Anissa was a big deal. (I don't check other peoples' stats. I don't check my own stats). But the entire internet (at least, the corner of it that I read) is buzzing with prayers for Anissa, and has been for the last 24 hours.

Anissa is a big deal, and not just to the internet that loves her. Anissa is a very big deal to her three young kids and her husband.

And she just has to get better, because people who can make you feel like an old friend from the moment they meet you are too special to let go. And because kids need their moms. And husbands need their wives. And 35 is too young for this shit.

I didn't know she was a big deal. She's just my friend. Someone who has been hilarious and blunt and risque and awesome as long as I've known her. Someone I'm not ready to say goodbye to, not yet.

I love you, girlfriend. Keep fighting.

Updates on Anissa's condition are here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Doomed Diet Day 3 - I Hit The Wall

I started posting desperate things on Facebook around 3 pm, after a cranky hour of yelling and hating life.

We have reached the point of the diet where I usually say, "Fork it," and dive, face first, into a cheesecake.

I had popcorn (cooked with 2 T oil on the stove, with salt and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter) and a banana (an hour later) instead. Then I made dinner (turkey meatloaf and baked potatoes) so it'll be (nearly) done when we get home from gymnastics. No excuse for pizza.

It's times like these when I wish I were a little better at the whole religion thing, because it would be nice to be able to ask God for strength. But it's just me. Me and a house full of food, two kids who are driving me nuts, and a cold rainy day that really can only be saved with the liberal application of homemade cookies.

God wants me to eat cookies.

Let's distract ourselves with babies, shall we?

We got new hats and gloves for winter, since I couldn't find anything that matched anything else.

Mary Grace picked hers out. The beret is probably not the most practical choice, but one must admit that it is most fashionable.

Ok, blog, thank you for distracting me long enough that I didn't go on a total binge. It's time to leave.

(I know it's boring to read about what someone else did and didn't eat. I'll try to rope it in...)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Doomed Diet Day 2 - Kill It With Fiber!

I ran my tail off today. I had MOPS this morning (craft committee, where we cut stuff out and then we talk while other people watch our kids. Awesome!), then we went to Chick-Fil-A with Casey and her kids, then we went to the office to do a couple things (Allison's sick, and I'm sure it's our fault), then we went to the grocery store and got the stuff to make the muffins, and then we came home and made about 5 dozen muffins, which is hilarious when you only have ONE muffin tin, and then I made dinner and then I sat down for like 10 minutes (for the first time all day) and then it was bath and now it's bedtime and I'm blogging.


So anyway, these muffins. When I was a kid my mom made these all the time. There are probably still some in the back of her freezer. They are the bomb.

When I was doing Weight Watchers there was some rule where you take the calories and the fat and divide by the fiber and multiply by the square root of pi and I don't remember how it worked and the WW people would probably be mad at me if I told you, anyway, you having not, presumably, paid for the weight watching, but the point is that if you had two things with the same number of calories - like an apple and a popsicle that are both 100 calories - the one with more fiber (the apple, dur) would be fewer points because fiber is good for you.

These muffins have so much fiber, they've probably got negative points*.

* I haven't actually calculated the points because, as you might have noticed, I totally forgot the magic formula. I think it has something to do with Bernoulli's equation...

Anyway, it doesn't matter because the entire point of all these run on sentences is to bestow upon you The Recipe for the Horkin' Fiber Chunks Bran Muffins.

Get it while it's hot, folks, because Mom didn't actually give me permission to post the State Secrets that I am about to reveal, and there is a better than 50/50 chance that she's going to see this in the morning, call me, and demand that it be removed from Ye Ol' Blog. There are recipes like that in my family. We don't even speak about Grandma Shank's Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe in a voice above a whisper.

So here you go. Now you can't say I never gave you anything. Go forth, and do things that Dr. Oz would be proud of... (The parenthetical remarks are Mom's unless I signed them ~Amy).


2 cups boiling water and 2 cups 100% Bran Buds or All Bran cereal (Pro tip - freeze the cereal after you've gotten out what you need because no amount of sugar or starvation will ever be enough to make anyone in your house eat any of the cereals involved in these muffins in any form other than muffin form. Trust me. ~Amy)

1 cup oil or Crisco

2 ½ cups sugar

Mix all the above together and let it cool (so you don’t cook the eggs!)

Then stir in 4 eggs one at a time

In a separate bowl combine and set aside:

5 cups of flour

5 teasp. of baking soda

1 teasp. salt

To put it all together, put 4 cups of bran flakes in a large bowl (a REALLY large bowl!) and pour 1 quart of buttermilk over the flakes (this is what makes them moist)

Add the Bran Bud mixture to this, and any extras you want to add, mashed banana, nuts, raisins, orange rind, craisins, chopped apple and some cinnamon, whatever. (I used a regular size bag of walnuts - it was one or two cups, one bag of craisins which was about 1-1/3 C, and 1 C raisins, and a big old dash of cinnamon ~Amy).

Then add the flour mixture. Once you stir in the flour mixture don’t stir any more than necessary to combine.

Bake in muffin pans that have been sprayed with Pam. Or you can also bake them in cupcake liners in the pan if you don’t want to spray the pans.

Bake at 400 for about 12 to 14 minutes till the tops are not moist. Don’t over bake them. The time is kind of arbitrary. Sometimes they take a little longer depending on what all you put in them. (Mine took 14 minutes and I used exactly 1/4 cup because I'm anal and it really annoyed me that they didn't all come out exactly the same size ~Amy)

This makes 5 or 6 dozen depending on how full you fill the cups (5.5 dozen ~Amy). They can be frozen, and will keep in the fridge for a couple weeks wrapped in plastic.

There you go. Make some today!

I came in exactly 6 calories below my daily allowance, which is as close to perfect as I am ever likely to get.

Two days of watching what I eat - that's got to be some kind of record.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Doomed Diet Day 1 - Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Well, kids, it's hard to feel deprived when you start your day with something called Pumpkin Pie.

This was so good, I had to share the recipe:

2 cups old fashioned oats
3-1/2 cups water
dash salt
1 cup pumpkin puree (the stuff for pies that's just pumpkin, no added sugar or spices)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

Spices and toppings - see below.

Boil the water and the dash of salt. When boiling, add the oats, reduce heat, and cook for four minutes (out of 5 for the old fashioned oats) stirring often. One minute before the oatmeal is done, add 1 cup of pumpkin puree. Stir. Just before it's finished, add brown sugar and spices to taste. I used cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.

Top with 2 tbsp craisins (if you have them) or mixed dried fruit (which is what I had) or raisins or whatever. It would also be good with granola on top, to give it a little crunch, or even a broken up graham cracker to simulate the crust! I also put a dab of fat free half and half on top of ours (to simulate the whipped cream).

This is really filling and healthy! How else are you going to get a serving of vegetables and a serving of fruit into breakfast? It's loaded with Vitamin A and fiber, too. The recipe made enough for BJ and I each to have one cup today and tomorrow. I used a recipe calculator program, and it's only about 300 calories and 3 grams of fat.

I always start off really strong with diets, and after about 3 days it all falls apart. We'll see...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's Oh So Quiet

BJ and the girlies are over at Brandon's. BJ won't be home until late, and the girlies won't be home until morning. So I've got the first verse of this song stuck in my head:

...except the Bjork version (embedding disabled by request). I had no idea it was a remake. Ha! Learn something new every day.

Love Bjork, she's nuts. I like that in people.

Speaking of nuts, there's me. I got another wrong number text on my cell last night that said, "You know anything yet?" so, of course I write back, "Yeah, I'm pregnant." (I'm not pregnant, I'm just mean.) It turned out that the person thought I was his girlfriend's (wife's?) mom! HAHAH... I let him off the hook, after about half an hour (also after telling him I was going to name the baby after him, and, most importantly, told him not to tell anyone. Heee!).

All of this was chronicled on Facebook.

What's funny is that the guy was holding a phone in his hand the entire time we were talking about this (fake) pregnancy, and he never thought to call me for clarification's sake. I love technology.

Speaking of FB, I've had way too much fun this week posting pictures from high school on FB. Pictures like this:

I'm the one in the red coat. I showed this picture to Karen and Tammy - both of whom I've known for 5 years - and they didn't recognize me. "That's YOU?" they both said.

Hellllloooo, diet!

'Cause, you know, two weeks before Thanksgiving is the perfect time to start a diet. I'm not self-defeating at all. In fact, I think if you look in the archives I started a diet last November, too.


I did make it to the grocery store to stock up on fruits and vegetables for the doomed diet. And I didn't forget anything, because, it's oh so quiet... shhhh! Shhhh!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Make Mine a Double - Parents Magazine Strikes Again

I didn't find anything in the current issue of Parents Magazine to get annoyed about!

HAHAHA! Yeah, right.

There is a whole article about Playdates with Cocktails. Dun dun dun!

Apparently I'm a bad mother because I've had a glass of wine with another mother while our kids played. Karen? Jen? The sanctimommies are coming for us! Run!!

The author cites an example of a woman who had the equivalent of 10 shots of alcohol in her system when she crashed her car in New York and killed herself and seven other people (including her two year old). Tragic? Of course. But there is a world of difference between a glass of wine at a two hour playdate, and ten shots of alcohol.

Most adult women are intelligent enough to see the world of difference between a glass of wine (or a mojito, which is the first example in the article) and ten shots of alcohol. In fact, most people who aren't in a coma can tell the difference between ONE drink and TEN.

I would like to point out that I have never, ever, ever read an article about dads who get together with other dads and watch sports and drink beer. I know these things happen, so where are all the alarmist articles? Oh - hold the crickets, there are two whole paragraphs about dads in an inset at the end of the 3 page article. The inset can't tell the difference between appropriate social drinking and alcoholism either, though. According to Parents, it's wise for dads to "watch their (alcohol) intake when they're around the kids." And apparently it's necessary for mom to be sober as a judge until the kids are well through college.

"Even if you aren't driving," one mother in the article says, "your kids could wander out of the house, fall into the pool, or stick their finger in a socket."

I'm not going to quote the whole article, but it's insulting. It's insulting to insinuate that women can't responsibly enjoy a drink or two in the company of their friends, without compromising the care of their children.

It's annoying that we have this idea that kids must be vigilantly supervised by a sober, responsible adult every second of every day or they are going to DIE (or, my favorite, they're going to be molested - because there are roving bands of child molesters out there, lurking, just waiting for Mom to turn her back on her 5 year old boy in the public restroom). You know what? It's bullshit. Your kids are going to die of heart disease, and so are mine, and so are most of us reading this, statistically. Let's dial down the hysteria, already.

Here is the truth - I am still able to call 911 after I've had a glass of wine. I am still able to count to two (which is the number of kids I have) after I've had a glass of wine. If I drink so much that I can't count to two anymore, then perhaps I should stop. Or if I have so many kids that I can't count that high after a glass of wine, then perhaps I should stop both having kids and drinking. It's possible that the two are related.

I hereby give all of you, mommies and daddies alike, permission to drink and playdate. Find another parent in your neighborhood (so everyone can walk home) and have one of those Smirnoff things - my neighbor Chelle and I call 'em Koolaid for Grownups. Or spend the night at your sister's house so that after the kids go to bed you can split a bottle of wine and talk about all the fun you used to have. Or go to a friend's house as a family, let Mommy have a cocktail, and have Dad drive everyone safely home. I promise, your kids aren't going to stop breathing because you're drinking. Really. They might even learn a responsible attitude toward alcohol if they're exposed to a parent who drinks socially and in moderation!

I think the biggest danger to our children is having a mother who carries The Weight of Her Maternal Responsibilities so heavily that she can't unwind and have a drink like a grown up once in a while. Or maybe it's our culture, which has us convinced that our kids are going to spontaneously combust if we aren't hypervigilant at all times. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the biggest risk.

But a glass of wine? Totally fine. In fact, I'm going to go find one right now...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Barnes & Noble

Mary Grace had a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble from her birthday. When we went out shopping the other night, we told her that she could choose a book.

She brought back a paperback Barbie Princess book that was only $3.99.

"Honey, this is only four dollars - you have ten! You can afford to get two books like this!" I said, and she scampered off.

A few moments later she came back to BJ and I with a Disney Princess book in her hand. "I chose this book for Claire."

We didn't prompt her. We would've bought Claire a book, anyway, so she didn't go home empty-handed (books are the one thing with which I don't mind spoiling the kids). But Mary Grace noticed that Claire didn't have a gift card, and she got her little sister a book, all on her own.

She has such a kind heart.

(I post this here not to boast, but to record and to remember. Sometimes it's easy to get overwhelmed with the difficult moments, and the sweet gestures are so easily forgotten. Why is it that our minds remember the hard days so much more easily than we remember the good days? Is it part of being a mother, or is it just part of life?)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's My Special Birthday!

My kids are so weird.

One of their favorite games to play, when I leave them alone to play by themselves and make it up as they go along, is "It's Your Special Birthday!" This game, as far as I can tell, consists of making a Lego "cake" (using the lid of the Lego bin as a "cake plate"), and presenting it to each other, while saying, "It's your special birthday!" enthusiastically. Sometimes the cake-maker presents the honoree with her "special birthday" cake, and the honoree ignores the cake-bearer, in which case the "It's your special birthday!" refrain is presented over, and over, and over until the honoree finally blows out her "candles" which are just Lego that are built higher than the level of the cake. Sometimes there's singing.

Well, I guess Claire wants MG to make her a "cake," because right now she's in the toyroom pouting, and saying, "'s mah speshul birfday!" but Mary Grace isn't doing anything about it. Instead I think she's playing, "Let's fill boxes with random assortments of toys, carry them out of the toyroom, and dump them on the floor." Narg.

Mary Grace just said, "Claire, it's not your special birthday, I don't want to play that anymore."

Claire took it surprisingly well.

Princess Turkey

Finally got a picture of the finished project when I dropped the kids off at school today! Awesome, right?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Homeownership Sucks

There are some people who love yard work. My father-in-law loves to mow grass (he has a riding mower. I might love it with a riding mower, too). My mom loves to garden.

I love neither.

But we spent all day yesterday getting the yard ready for winter. Hooray for Grandmother Diana who came down and played with the kids!

Why hasn't anyone invented a leaf-sucker (opposite of leaf blower) that sucks the leaves directly into a garbage bag? I could poke a couple vent holes in the garbage bag, so that I wouldn't just blow it across the yard.

See, we couldn't just blow the leaves to the street because the big leaf sucking truck has already come by this month, and won't be back until early December. So, we had to suck them up and bag them. Yuck.

I have a runny nose and a sore throat from all the dust and (probably) leaf mold. Ugh. No wonder I hate gardening - it literally makes me sick.

But I have to admit, the yard looks a lot better. We have this huge pin oak tree that drops a squajillion leaves every year. And every year I kick myself for wanting an "established" neighborhood with "mature" trees 6 years ago when we bought the house. We could've had a brand new house in what was recently a corn field if I'd been less of a pain in the butt. It would've been a lot easier to care for. And we probably wouldn't have spiders as big as our heads, there, either.

Oh well.

It's a beautiful, unseasonably warm weekend here. BJ's out mowing the back yard (he can suck up the remaining leaves that way - we got most of them a week ago) for the last time this year. It'll be nice to have everything cleaned up and finished.

It's like my mom said, right after we closed on the house. "You know all those people you see at the park on weekends, playing frisbee and relaxing. Those people are called 'renters.'"

You could've told me a little sooner, Mom!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Holiday Gift Idea - Constellation Night Light

Once upon a time, there was a queen. At first she was kind and pleasant, but her two princesses were afraid of the dark. They forced the king and queen to sleep with the bathroom light on, and the queen became wicked because she didn't sleep well and woke up with a headache. The queen was desperate, and so on a trip to the Children's Museum, she purchased one of these:

...a ladybug that projects stars onto the ceiling of the princesses' room. She told the princesses that the stars wouldn't work if they turned on the bathroom light. The princesses totally bought it, and they stopped screaming at the queen to turn the bathroom light on, and fighting over how wide the door's opening should be. Instead they fell asleep peacefully, gazing upon stars of blue, red, and green, and they all slept peacefully ever after.

It also comes in land and sea turtle styles, and seriously, folks, this was the best $30 I ever spent. It times off after 45 minutes. The buttons are big and easy, so if the kids wake up in the middle of the night they can turn him back on without waking me up! I wish we'd gotten this years ago.

You can buy him here. He'd make a great gift for any kid. Or any sleep deprived parent!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I am annoyed about something.

I know you're thinking, "REALLY?" in that sarcastic tone of... thought. Just hush. I know you really come here to read my rants of impotent rage.

Anyway, I've noticed a trend in the marketing that has been directed my way lately that is annoying the snot out of me.

The False Sense of Urgency is a powerful marketing tool. "Act Now!" or "Supplies are Limited!" are familiar refrains. But this new trend I'm seeing is the False Sense of Urgency combined with the Implied Irresponsibility of the Consumer (me).

BJ gave money to McCain's campaign last year. (And can I just mention on the side how lovely it was to have an election day come and go without a bunch of shrill screaming and nasty ads and fighting and partisan bulloney? I didn't even notice that it was the first Tuesday in November until the first Wednesday in November, and it was delightful). Ever since, we get weekly mailings from the Republican Party asking for "just" $50. Snort, whatever. Fifty bucks is only "just" anything to Republicans! But the most recent mailing was in a blue, windowed envelope that looked just like a bill, and it had "PAST DUE" stamped on it in red.

Like I'm some kind of flagrant bill ignorer! I ripped it open (yes, it was addressed to BJ but I do the bills in this house, and he hasn't touched mail that wasn't a magazine or something from Amazon in months - and if the postal police come after me for that, they're probably going to have to go after half of every other married or partnered couple in the country) without looking at the return address. I saw the figure ($50) and my heart-rate skyrocketed. "How did I miss a bill for fifty bucks??" I chastised myself, as I flipped it over to see who it was from.

The Republicans.

So I chat BJ, "Did you promise the clucking Republicans money??" I asked. I may or may not have used a word that rhymes with one of those words...


Then I started ranting about how seriously sneaky and dirty and underhanded it is to send a "past due" notice asking for a contribution, and how there are probably old people with poor eyesight who pay these things without reading the fine print (that you don't actually owe them money, nothing is due, past or otherwise). Dirty pool, folks, dirty pool.

I called the 800 number listed on the "bill" and no one answered. I was not surprised.

And then I got an e-mail from an appliance parts distributor to the blog's e-mail address, that included the words "FINAL OFFER" in the subject line.

I just wrote back to that one and said, "I don't think the scope of my blog includes appliance parts," even though they were offering me money.

Let's just be clear, I am completely for sale, but it has to be at least tertiarily related to kids or parenting or school or toys or something that has something to do with Pretty Babies. I mean, if Scholastic or Toys R Us or Disney or The Children's Place or Kohl's or any number of fine retailers wants to come along and offer me product and/or cash to pimp their wares to you, I will start dressing like this guy (Weird Al?). I will sell right out for free clothes, Beloved Readers, because these kids are growing faster than I can keep clothes on their butts, and I mean that quite literally. Mary Grace has already outgrown the jeans I bought her a month ago!

I feel like we're close enough, like we have an honest and open enough relationship that I can tell you that and you'll still respect me. I mean, you'd do the same to me, right? Come on, if someone offered you $100 worth of cute kids' clothes, you'd throw me under the bus.

But appliance parts?

Maybe I'll start a spin off blog - Stuff You Should Purchase - and I'll throw all the appliance parts and whatnot up there. That way I can maintain my "integrity" as a blogger, and still get money. Best of both worlds.

In other commerce-related news, I've opened an Amazon Affiliates account, which means that if I link to something... Like, oh, this Kindle right here, and you click on my link and buy it, I get a little bit of money.

I can even make fancy pictures, like this:

So, um, ACT NOW! Supplies are Limited! You are Past Due for buying your favorite reading enthusiast a Kindle! (Actually, I have one and it would make a fantastic Christmas gift for anyone who loves to read).

Kids love to read. See how I sewed that all up, there? Related to kids? Check. Disclosure? Check. Integrity? In tact. Hooray!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

War and Peace

(... so titled because this post is really long...)

I feel like I should rename this blog "Pretty Viruses" or "Infectious Babies" or something with all the H1N1 talk. But I had to share this article about research from Purdue University with you, which suggests that the H1N1 pandemic has already peaked.

I'm not going to tempt fate by saying "neener neener."

Meanwhile, Claire is sick. She's got a fever, a slightly runny nose, and a cough. The cough has made her hoarse, so she sounds like Kathleen Turner, which is really funny coming out of a 2 year old. Her fever topped out at about 102, so I don't think it's anything more serious than a cold. I've kept her home from "school" (which is actually the Mommy's time out program at the church where MG goes to school, but Claire thinks it's school) and all our activities have come to a screeching halt. I did get eight loads of laundry put away yesterday, though, so that was kind of awesome (once it was done).

A couple of you asked questions instead of just leaving one word in your comments on this post.

ChicagoGoebel wrote:
BTW - Any more toddler discipline nuggets of wisdom to share? We JUST started time-outs last weekend due to a rash of braining his cousins with wooden toys (sigh). I've been thinking a lot about a comment I heard "most people forget that the word discipline truly means to create a disciple," so I'm trying to approach discipline in a teaching/leading mindset, as opposed to punishment. Your thoughts??
...and I was all ready to write, "Dude, I gots nothin'..." because it has been neither peaceful nor easy around here lately, when I ran across something in the book NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children which I've been reading in between Mary Roach books. I'm going to paraphrase this, because I don't feel like typing it all out, but basically it said that if you tell a kid to stand still, they'll stand still for like a minute. But if you tell them that you're going to "play soldier" and that they need to stand still for as long as they can, they'll stay put for like ten minutes.

I tried it with MG, and she stood still for one minute, as predicted, when I just told her to stand still. She stood there for like 2 minutes and 30 seconds when I told her it was a game. I have a feeling that if I'd made her a princess or a ballerina instead of a soldier it would've worked better - she doesn't know or care about soldiers very much, because they don't wear much pink or tulle.

So I got to thinking about how we could use this as parents. The cleaning up game? The standing still in the parking lot so that you don't get hit by a Mack Truck game? I'm still working on it, but I think it's clear that making things a game, making them fun, is a powerful tool with children that we should exploit.

Plus, if you're constantly playing silly games, imagine how much more fun your house's atmosphere is going to be than if you're constantly barking orders, right? (Not that you are barking orders, CG, I'm using the universal "you.") I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that an atmosphere of play and fun is better for kids.

Also, get the book, 'cause it's good.

Along a similar vein, Anonymous writes:
Oh yea, btw, when are you going to post your comments on that article you put up about time outs meaning we don't love our children??
...which made me feel guilty because I promised you that over a month ago and I never followed up! If you'd made it a game I might've done better...

Basically, the article said, "Sure, time outs work, but if you use them your kid won't like you." My first reaction was, "Well, I didn't become a parent to be liked. I am trying to raise future adults, here, and if they don't like me sometimes, I think that means I'm doing something right! Pushovers aren't good parents! I don't want to be my kids' friend, I'm their mom!"

But then something really interesting happened. A couple weeks after I posted that article, Mary Grace started crying and saying, plaintively, "Mommy, do you still love me?" whenever I sent her to time out.

"Holy carp," I thought, "Did she read the article??"

It turns out that she thought we were going to sell her to Egypt... but it got me to thinking that I might be missing something. So, I went back and re-read the article I wrote back when I was smarter about Time Outs and how to do them right, and I realized something crucial.

I've been skipping a step.

I've been asking her, when it's over, "Why'd you get a time out?" but I've forgotten the part where you hug and say, "I love you, let's do something else."

I think maybe after four years of telling her, it's tempting to assume that she knows I love her. It's certainly faster to get back to whatever I'm doing if I yell, "Why'd you get a time out?" over my shoulder at her, but in order for Time Outs to be effective, you have to process the kid out correctly. In order to avoid the effects that article suggests are inevitable, I think we need to be mindful about how we're removing kids from time out, and to make sure that we're doing all the steps. Perhaps the most important one is where you hug the kid and say, "Hey, I love you, let's move forward now."

Now, CG, I'm not sure how you're going to make not hitting into a game ("Let's see if you guys can get along for 5 whole minutes... Ready? Go!"), but certainly make sure that you're doing time outs right. (I'll make all the mistakes so you don't have to!)

The hitting thing is usually frustration. Your kid is 18 months old or so, right? How's his language? Could it be that he's getting mad because he can't express himself? If so, know that it'll pass as he gets older and can speak English. Consider teaching him a few, basic signs for things that seem to annoy him (or you!) the most. Remember that his receptive language is better than his expressive language - he understands a lot more than he can say back to you. Explain to him why he's not allowed to hit. "No hitting, that hurts Cousin and Cousin won't want to play anymore!" might be effective things to say after the time out.

18 months is prime time for behavior problems, which is why I suggest starting time outs at the relatively-compliant age of 12 months! I remember feeling like my kids were possessed at that age. They're big enough to really hurt themselves (or others) but they have no common sense at all, and they want to be able to communicate but they don't quite have the motor skills, yet, to form the words. It's got to be hard on them, too! But I know it's hard on us. I remember clearly, thinking, "Oh my God, if it's this bad now, what are the 'terrible twos' going to be like??"

At least they know how to talk when they're two. Not that we always want to hear it, or that we always listen, but some of that frustration at being unable to communicate wanes as they get bigger and better at speaking.

18 months is kind of the border between baby and toddler, too. We start having greater expectations at that age. It's tough on everyone. And I had Claire when MG was 19 months old, so I don't remember much else about it, other than that it was really, really hard and I was really, really tired.

In other news, we finished all of our homework yesterday and made our turkey into a princess.

This is only half the finished product - BJ brought home glitter glue, and we made her sleeves purple glitter and her hat pink glitter and the towers' caps silver glitter and the flags blue glitter... Then, after the glitter dried overnight, MG colored in the sky and the towers and the turkey's head this morning. And of course I forgot to take a picture before she took it back to school this morning. I'll get one later once they post them at school.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Can't I Just Teach Her To Type, Instead?

Ok, y'all, thanks so much for leaving comments on yesterday's post. Making my day! If you haven't yet, be sure to leave me a comment, ok?

Meanwhile, I have a confession.

Mary Grace gets homework. One handwriting worksheet per week. No big deal. They're not even "due" (which is probably part of the problem - I do much better with a deadline).

She's been in school for a long time now, right? At least eight weeks? Guess how many worksheets we've turned in...


I so totally suck.

The first week I was all, "We're going to start with good habits! We're going to do her homework right after lunch on Tuesdays, and have it done for the week, and we're going to set up good habits that will last all the way through college!!" Instead, I procrastinated, because we didn't have glue. And then someone needed a nap. And then something else happened. And then we went to Florida. And then we had company. And jeez, here we are like two months in and I'm pretty sure that she's going to be flipping burgers until retirement because I never taught her how to do her homework.

The guilt... The crushing, crushing guilt!

What makes it worse, guys? I was a teacher. Well, I went to school to be one, anyway, and I did my student teaching, but I never had my own classroom. Anyway, I was sanctifreakinmonious about parental involvement and how crappy some of the students' parents were for not having a schedule and a routine and being consistent and it would be so much easier and the world would be a better place if these parents could just get their acts together....

I didn't have kids, then, can you tell?

And here I am a few years down the road, and I can't even sit my own kid down to get her to do one stinkin' worksheet a week.

Her handwriting sucks, too. We were supposed to be working on this stuff since birth, right? We were going to have her reading by now. She's certainly smart enough, but I haven't sat her down to make her do it. *I* am the person in this house who lacks discipline, and who would rather turn on the TV and have the kids leave me alone than sit down and do a workbook or a project with them. Consequently, she can't do much more than scribble - forget drawing little people (something that Jen's daughter has been doing for MONTHS, and she's a little younger than MG) or coloring inside the lines.

Oh my God, if she ends up on drugs it's totally going to be my fault.

I'll tell you what, this has cured me of any inclinations I might have ever had toward homeschooling. There is no way I'd do it. No way. I'm flunking preschool for God's sake!

So, we're up to our nostrils in self-loathing at the house of Prettybabies today, and we're working hard to get her homework all caught up. She brought home a fun worksheet ("disguising" a turkey so that the farmer doesn't get him on Thanksgiving) that she's excited about (we're going to make a princess), so I told her if she got the other four worksheets (the ones that I can find) done, I'd help her with the Princess Turkey.

(The really entertaining thing is that MG's teacher is going to read this on Facebook... Hahaha!)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Who are you?


I don't check stats very often, because I'm not in this to become a "big" blogger (whatever that means... I guess an appearance on Oprah? Ugh, I would be too nervous and would make an ass of myself, anyway). I am not a social climber. No, really. I'm not. I know that it seems like someone who blogs would be a totally narcissistic person, putting the minutia of her life out there for the whole world to read for attention, fame, and fortune. I know there are people who blog because they want the recognition, but I'm not one of them.

Honestly? I just really like to write. And I like the idea of having a record of my kids' childhood.

Occasionally, I get curious, though. I just looked at my feed stats and my Sitemeter stats, and it seems that when I threaten to put my kids on eBay, there are 300-500 of you out there reading about it, which makes me say...


I mean, Dooce farts and gets more traffic than that in a nanosecond, but for me, that's a lot of people.

I'm pretty sure I'm related to 299 of you.

Can we play a game? Just for fun? If you're reading this, will you just leave a one word comment? I don't even make you do that annoying "Captcha" thing. Just leave one word. It can be anything... How you're feeling, what your dog's mood is, your favorite word, your favorite color... It doesn't even have to be English (Hello recent Peruvian visitor! You so totally rock!!).

Even if you're related to me, leave a comment. One word (or more if you feel like it).

And hey, if you link to your blog, I promise to drop by and say hi. Ok?

I'll start...

Any Bidders?

We're having another eBay day*.

The kids were up at 3 am crying for no apparent reason. I went in and got C back to sleep, then MG wanted me to snuggle with her, and after I had been in there for an hour (total, between the two of them) I told her it was time for her to go to sleep, then went back to bed.

Just as I drifted off to sleep again, MG was in the hallway, crying and "scared." I told BJ that he needed to deal with her, because I was about to strangle her lose my cool.

The hardest part of parenting, for me, is the lack of sleep and the interrupted sleep and the energetic kids bouncing me out of bed at 7 am and the kids in my bed pinning me in whatever position they found me in so that I wake up stiff and sore and oh for the love of GOD will you two little cretins just let me SLEEP already?????


Needless to say, today has been a horrible day - they're both fussy from missing about an hour of sleep, and I have no patience because I'm tired and I have a headache.

We skipped a tea party this morning because they're stuffy - there were going to be babies at the tea party and I didn't want to get the babies sick.

All I can say is, thank God for Allison. She's already been exposed to whatever random cold we're incubating, and she'll be here in about 5 minutes.

Is it bad form if I cackle, "SUCKER!" and run when she pulls up?

* eBay Day - (n) - the sort of day where I'm writing the ad copy and looking for pictures to sell them on eBay.

I Was Wrong

Thanks to Aunt Kathryn's comment, I've spent most of the day reading (when I haven't been doing battle with my kids - is there a brattiness vaccine I can get them? Srsly! WTF?).

I was wrong. Squalene is not in the current swine flu vaccine. There are thimerosal-free vaccines available, if you are concerned about thimerosal. See this article on Flu Myths for more information.

I'm not sure how this is going to change things for us. I still don't think that H1N1 is going to be a big deal. The vaccine is still unavailable in our area. I'm still waiting-and-seeing. If I get a call from our doctor's office saying, "Hey, we've got the shot," and meanwhile there have been a dozen deaths in our town from H1N1, or they've closed the schools or something, I'll probably get it for myself and the kids. On the other hand, if I get a call saying, "We've got the shot," and none of the schools have closed and no one's died, it's going to be a harder decision.

I probably ought to call the doctor's office and see if they've got vaccine available. When we saw Dr. MWMH a couple of weeks ago, he said that they'd have the shots in a couple of weeks. I'm not sure how they're notifying patients.

All of this almost makes me wish for a mandatory vaccination program - it would be easier to decide what to do if someone else would decide for me!

I'm going to copy and paste this to the bottom of my last post about H1N1.