Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food Baby Recipe.

Step One. Develop an atmosphere of guilt. A food baby requires angst and lost expectations to grow and thrive. Set an impossible weight loss goal. Tell yourself you'll lose twenty pounds in two weeks. Other suggestions: book a trip to Hawaii one month from now and buy a bikini intended for someone no bigger than Kelly Ripa; announce to all your Facebook friends (i.e., people that vaguely remember you from high school) that you're training for a 1/2 marathon this spring.

Step Two. Start your diet in late November. Hang tight for one week, than indulge to reap the benefits of tryptophan. Let the good times roll through New Years with drinks made with eggs, cream and whiskey.  Oyster stew can't hurt.

Step Three: Make minimal effort in early January to choke the baby of nutrients. Make big black "X's" on your calendar to mark the days you avoided sweets. Build guilt atmosphere lamenting over dearth of X's.

Step Four: One week before girls' trip, start training for increased food consumption on said trip. Opt for chips at the Mexican restaurant, accept all alcohol when offered, and insist on bread with every meal. Pick up chalky Valentine conversation hearts to keep in the car to bribe kids to buckle up.  Eat hearts by the handful.

Step Five. Go hog wild on girls' trip.

Step Six. Upon your return, while Hub is away on his own trip, immediately buy all frozen food you can stuff in and around the children riding in your grocery cart. Some options include: Asian Sensations Eggrolls and Great Gourmet Buffalo Clam Strips.

Step Seven. Alone at night, while children blissfully snooze, make a half batch of easy chewy vanilla cookie dough. Eat half the dough with wine and American Idol. Bake the rest for when Project Runway airs.

Step Eight. Lay down to sleep, fat and happy. Vow never to set foot on a scale again. Pat your food baby and count empire waist tops in your closet as blessings.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Unsolicited advice.

There are a few reasons why I am a Very Important Person Around Here. Indispensible really. And as I prepare for a no precious ones, is that my cell phone ringing, no it must be yours, GIRLS ONLY trip away this weekend plus Monday, I've made a survival list of sorts for Hub. No need to put it on note paper, something so vulnerable to crumpling or becoming a sticker medium. No, best to bark my insights at Hub in the days preceding my departure. In the end, I'm sure he'll appreciate the lack of formality. Below are my thoughts for the beginning of the day:

     1) Try to wake up 30 minutes later than you really should for preschool pick-up. Then use the time crunch to motivate precious foot dragger to HURRY and get dressed because HURRY eat your dry cereal and HURRY, the van's already here! GO! GO! GO!

     2) Never allow the children to venture beyond the bedroom/bathroom region of the home until after they have shed their pajamas and put on their real clothes. Bonus points for teeth and hair brushing. Otherwise, it might as well be a Night at the Museum and you won't be able rally to get out of the house until past noon.

     3) While the skin and bones two year old enjoys his tall warm one in the morning (I know, I know - kill me - T still gets a bottle a day), try to encourage him to enjoy the comforts of his crib - bars and all - until he has a "poo poo."  One huge diaper with coffee and the paper is plenty.

     4) On the way out to the car to begin the day's activities, threaten to withhold, douse with dishwashing soap, and SOAK all treats the children hoped of receiving that day if they even think about stomping in the three inch lake of a puddle in front of the garage door.

     5) After escorting the children to the car, but before going back to the house for your three additional loads, buckle all children securely in their car seats. I repeat, BUCKLE ALL CHILDREN in their car seats. This will prevent the random alley get away, tissue snow storm in the car, and will provide for a slice of accomplishment for you to enjoy as you walk back to the house for the baby. Oh, and don't forget the BABY!

When I return home from my weekend of wining, whining, dining and mostly SLEEPING, I'll be sure to reward him by accidentally cutting his pork chop into toddler portions because this hand with a knife is LIGHTNING fast. He might also have to watch the kids a little bit because I'll be suffering from withdrawal from my new found blog addiction.

If you're worrying about Hub right now, please don't. The marriage is intact and he's leaving for his own LA LA LA LA I can't hear you, I'm skiing in Colorado two days LONGER than yours trip, next Wednesday. So nanny nanny boo boo. He should say boo hoo. Five days and nights by myself with the kids? Yikes! Cry me a river, I know.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Star gazing.

Haiti's apocalypse. I hear the updates on NPR and I see flashes of pictures on TV, but mostly it's tuned out of my daily life. We still went to the pool today with the kids. We still made fajitas for dinner like I planned last Wednesday.

Still, I do think about what the people of Haiti are experiencing. I try to picture and feel what it is like to have your world and the people in it crumble to dust, but I can't really even conjure up that image. Not to an extent that changes what I am doing today (beyond clicking a PayPal button), and presumably, not what I'll be doing a year from now.

I have never personally experienced a large scale tragedy.  I do not know the pull of survival, the adrenaline the pushes a person to work day and night, seemingly without end, to actually save another's life. The kind of necessity that would require use of all the moral judgment that my parents instilled in me, brick by brick, one highly dramatic, but not earth shattering, life experience at a time. The kind of necessity that would force me to gather all my moxie, all that "potential" teachers talked about, and really get my hands dirty to dig one person, but maybe not another, out of a concrete grave.

Really, at this point in my life, contemplating my role in Haiti's trajedy is like contemplating the universe. There are zillions of  lights out there, both sparkling and dusty, and I don't know where it begins, or where it ends.

While I have lived in Louisiana, I was long gone before Katrina. While attending college in the Midwest, I never helped place sand bags to hold back a bulging river in South Dakota, even though I could have joined a student group who hopped on a bus to do it. I did not feel the heavy weight of the ashes of buildings and lost souls float over me as I made the long road home on 9-11, nor have I have ever been to Ground Zero.

Even without those experiences, a catastrophe like Haiti's earthquake likely causes many of us to consider, at least for a little while, about what is lost, what was missing in the first place, and what we know to be ours. Unfortunately, however, every crisis I've witnessed from the boob tube has not motivated me much beyond that. Sometimes I give money. And generally I think I've been a little nicer to strangers in the immediate term thereafter. Like waving more people into my merge lane.

This time I did give some money, and maybe you did too. It was a drop in the bucket relative to my household income and arguably, my last Hanna Andersson clothing purchase. I feel okay about that and I think it is because, short of my humanity, I am not personally connected to Haiti.

But there is a big difference this time, one that motivated me to give at all:  A grounded friendship here at home with a woman and her daughter who are forever tied to a tiny place that rests over tenuous fault lines and blazes with poverty. I am lucky enough to know and care for Any Mommy, the adoptive mother of her Haitian born child, Ess. Giving to the relief efforts in Haiti somehow makes me feel like I am doing something for Stacey and Ess.  Somehow, with these real live, all mine, lovely people in mind, I can see the constellations among the stars and draw lines from dot to dot to form a picture that makes sense. I see it now - the Seven Sisters that any of us can be - Stacey, Ess, Haitians, you...and me (and two more).  (:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

20 minutes a day.

Signs you really should screen your child's reading material:

Questions from 3 year old while listening to the story range from "why is the monkey in the snake's head?" to "why is the man holding a leash next to the red alligator?  Where is the dog?"

This, from "Natures Monsters:  Lizards and Endangered Reptiles," a present to my son and a book I really should have cracked before placing on my children's bookshelf for their unsuspecting babysitter to find.

Picture, if you will, my favorite teaching moment, in three acts:

THE STAGE:  A man relaxes in his lounger watching T.V. while his pet iguana sits uncaged on an overhead shelf in the entertainment center.  A decorative plant completes the scene.  A Mutual of Omaha voiceover describes the action:

ACT I:  For the iguana, this room is his territory, and his owner looks like a rival.

ACT II:  The green iguana moves his head up and down as a warning, but the owner does not notice.

ACT III:  The iguana becomes angry and attacks his owner, who tries to protect himself.  The iguana gives him several painful bites and scratches. 

Ouch.  And there's blood to show it was painful.  My babysitter was traumatized.  Dee wants to see some more.  Ouch again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A wink and a smile.

I promised no more holiday posts.  I lied.  This past weekend, while making the big transition from loads of dusty boxes to neat and tidy clear plastic bins for storing holiday ware, I came across yet another box from my parents, this one full of the not-so-memorable remnants of Christmases past. 

For the past five years or so, my perfectly organized and frugal parents have been in the process of unloading all that they deem unnecessary in their lives.  My brother and I serve as both the grateful children and the Goodwill intermediaries in this process, depending on the item.  Let's just say a trip to Goodwill is often among the "bunch of errands" I'm running.

At one point, while Hub and I still lived in Denver, every visit my parents made in their mid-sized sedan included a trunk full of stuff, mostly toys and room decor left over from my childhood.  When Hub and I packed to move north, busy Hub and perpetually pregnant me were too weary to sort through the disintegrating boxes, held together with the same tape that once secured the original contents, like the first microwave ever sold to the masses.  So we put the whole lot on the moving truck and hauled it to our rental where it sat for another two years, and then finally, here, lovingly known as:  Casa Does Anything Work Around Here?  But that's another story. 

I'm only now getting through things.  Please, don't get me wrong, many items are truly cherished and I can't believe I have them.  Like photo albums of my babyhood, or the plastic play dishes I used for mud pies, or the hand-embroidered advent calendar that caused me to almost eat my daughter alive when she casually tossed the pieces around the living room. This most recently opened box, however, contained at least 20 battery operated candlesticks that my mom picked up cheap at Walmart, some figurines from her former hairdressing clients, and at the very bottom, a felt cozy. 

One thing for certain about my mom:  the lady can sew.  She made my prom dresses in high school, sewed dolls from scratch (complete with day and evening wear) and upholstered any number of chairs in my parents' home.  Most recently, she made a carpenter's apron for T for when he's fixin' things, and sewed a Little House on the Prarie-style nightgown for Dee, that she is gaga over. 

Mom also specializes in cozies.  For the uninitiated, a cozy is a fitted fabric covering, most often found on tissue boxes.  My mom always travels with her book cozy (leather with built in book mark) and I always travel with the faux leather jewelry cozy she made for me (featuring six separate jewelry compartments).  Mom has made a customized trash can to match the beige carpet in her car and I recall a navy blue cozy with tiny white flowers for our video cassette recorder with a window for the digital clock.  Ahhh, to live in a seemingly dust free, tailored world....

Anyhoo, when I reached the bottom of the box, I found a serious blast from the past:  a form fitting toilet seat cozy.  For the guest bathroom only, mind you, and note the zipper:

Hub, who must go through some medically directed counting ritual to resist wearing surgical gloves before changing a diaper, cannot stand to look at this particular Secret Santa.  The germs!  The horror!  If Hub had his way, we would have torched the cozy on the spot.

I can't think about those things.  It was a different era, right?  Plus, I genuinely have a little more affection for this particular Secret Santa.  My mom put some serious time into making it.  Did you see the silver accent thread?  And the holly berry sequins?!  While I didn't remember the cozy until I saw it, I seem to recall thinking it was cute, like free-Scholastic-book-order-posters-of-tumbling-kittens, cute.  Also, I have faith that the cozy, while meticulously embroidered, was washed since it's hey day in the 1980's and again before its latest storage spot in the microwave box.  Still, we won't use it, and I can't think of any reason to keep it beyond some strange sentimental attachment on my part.  Perhaps I'll keep it around to treat Hub's borderline OCD...and zip it up for his 40th birthday.  Just so he knows he's hit the stage of cozies and middle-age.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Kitchen Sink Revelations.

I started working on this post on Monday. Since some things have temporal relevance - especially when we're addressing all the accoutrements of the new year - here's a slightly older post for later reflection:

I feel today like I'm coming out of a fog. The sugar induced headache I've had for two days is clearing as the Christmas ornaments come off the tree. Over the past week, we have hosted my in-laws for their first introduction to Baby N and Christmas celebrations. They arrived last Monday, and as the week progressed, I slowly surrendered my house to my out of town guests and a return - to some extent - to the rhythm of my husband's childhood.

This involved reestablishing roles for parents and son. Hub's mom took over, in that way expected and endeared by her husband and three sons, and quickly set up the menu of Chinese-American delights to be enjoyed over the week. Next, she organized a shopping party to obtain the necessary ingredients. In line at the grocery store, she engaged her trademark personable manner to learn that the Kokanee Salmon were running and that Bald Eagles could be viewed at the lake. That became our activity for the day following Christmas. Walking every day in 20 degree weather also became a necessary routine while the kitchen bubbled with sticky rice, won ton soup and an apple pie baked in a paper bag. I searched long and hard for that bag. We're a plastic only, except for the rare occasion we remember recyclables, family.

I experienced a moment of sharp home sicknesses on Christmas Eve while flipping through my recipes to find my recipe for croissant bread pudding. Behind the "holidays" tab, I happened upon my dad's recipe for Manhattan clam chowder, a dreamy tomato based soup with shrimp that I have enjoyed every Christmas Eve since, well, forever. Of course, the soup was only one of many things missing from the day, so I hunkered down and got to making my bread pudding and just for kicks, my mom's cardamom cake. By the end of Christmas, my kitchen island looked like a regular wake buffet. The pie, the bread pudding, the cake, cinnamon buns for present opening, the cookies from earlier in the week, all sat waiting for post holiday snacking. Homesickness is a great motivator for eating. Also, no wonder I've gained back every pound lost since I started paying attention in early October. Groan.

For the past few days, I've also been surrounded by all my mother in-law's projects, remnants of Hub's dad's help taping plastic over the basement windows, cast off gift boxes, toys galore and other Christmas clutter. Goodness came of all this mess too. I think it made my in-laws feel comfortable. Hub's dad commanded the T.V. remote with gusto, and Hub's mom, between abandoning gelatinous bowls of failed sticky rice and starting anew, played "picnic" with Dee and cut out adorable paper doll chains for Dee all while watching her beloved Broncos play football. With each new rhyming song plucked from grandma's 25 plus year repertoire of teaching and directing preschool, Dee and T were in heaven.  Always impressed by her magic with preschoolers, I beamed at every compliment she had for the kids.

On the last day of the trip, the day after our eagle and Red Robin for lunch adventure (we're into themes), I was exhausted (apparently, the borderline introvert took over) and elected to roll up into a ball and read as much as possible. I emerged from my daze only to feed the baby, eat twelve cookies and a piece of cake, and in an effort to save face, fold some laundry. Fortunately, football was on so everyone else was otherwise occupied.

Today, after saying our goodbyes, I was left with an empty house and kids without scheduled activities. After reading some more, I gathered myself together and got to scrubbing. It was amazingly cathartic to scrape the sticky rice as super glue from its various outposts.  I then moved on to putting away the decorations and dumping all those dang desserts into the trash.

While it was a good trip, a great visit, really, I never before so clearly related to the promise of a new year and the "fresh start" I can find if I just get back to my old life, the one where I think I'm in control.  After this visit, I've noticed too, that the year can also be peppered with new agenda items.  New ways to engage with the kids, new comfort food recipes that help Hub know that he's important to me, and upon reflection, new opportunities to get to know and appreciate the people that I didn't exactly choose to be in my life, like my mother in-law. 

May you have a lovely New Year's day.  I promise I'll stop now with the holiday posts.