Please, if you haven't done it already today and you have a minute, please go vote for Detroit Children's Hospital to get a fabulous new fun center donated. If you voted yesterday, THANK YOU. And -- please vote again today. Today is the LAST day. See directions and link in sidebar.
Also: LatteMommy rocks my world for so many reasons, but this particular shout-out is for teaching me how to use Google Reader. I may be the last person in the blogosphere to learn about this, so if your eyes are glazing over, please just go on to the real content for today in the post below. If you actually don't use Google reader yourself, log onto your gmail account, click on "More" in the tool bar at the top, choose "Even More" and then pick "Reader." BAM! You now can use the little "Subscribe" button on the left to add all the blogs you love to read. Just type in their names, and Google will find their actual addresses, so you can click "subscribe" to the right ones. And if you think this is a pain, try adding your three favorite blogs to the list, and then see what magic happens. I guarantee you'll be hooked. BAM! Just like that.
Ok, Emeril out... And now, back to our regularly scheduled program, Milestone Week...
Friday, February 29, 2008
Please, if you haven't done it already today and you have a minute, please go vote for Detroit Children's Hospital to get a fabulous new fun center donated. If you voted yesterday, THANK YOU. And -- please vote again today. Today is the LAST day. See directions and link in sidebar.
The big news around our homestead this week is: no more bottles! I feel a little tug at my heart when I say that. The baby is now all about the sippy cup. All the time. Not just during the day, at lunch, and for snacks, but even first thing in the morning and as we rock her before bed at night. Milk in cups. Even cups without lids. Sometimes they spill. Occasionally they get stirred with a knife. But mostly, they get used for drinking -- just like a big girl. In seven weeks, she'll turn two. She still wears bibs to eat yogurt, needs cuddles after loud noises, sleeps with a binkie. But she drinks her milk from her cup. In the last ten days, we've had just a few heartfelt cries, "ba-da...milk...ba-da" -- but none of us caved, and the moment passed quickly. And she went on to the cup. I'm so proud.
Also? So delighted that I don't have to find stinky bottles under the couch, don't have to take up half the dishwasher's top rack with that basket that holds bottle parts, don't have to search for nipples bigger than a size 1 when Husband has forgotten to run the wash, don't have to buy more nipples to replace the ones she's bitten through in the process of teething.
As much as six months ago, I was eager to get her onto cups during the day. But this second child may be it for us. This week, we may just have passed a milestone. We may be a house that, after four continuous years of use, no longer needs a colander of bottle parts drying on the counter 24/7. It feels good, if unfamiliar. Although getting my colander back might revolutionize my cooking, I still feel sentimental about losing the name-brand silicone and plastics because that loss means my baby girl is growing up. And yet I have to toast her incredible progress (I get a martini, she gets milk.) Here's to the first of many milestones for you, Daughter. As Son would say, "Cheers, clink!"
Thursday, February 28, 2008
I love reading. I love books. These aren't synonymous. If you believe the naysayers, it may soon be possible to do all the reading you'll ever need to do without ever cracking a book or leaving the comfort of your armchair with a built-in laptop. But for me, the book's the thing. That smell, when you open them, that tells you if the book is new or old, printed on paper or ragstock. With really old books, the scent of dust--of glacially slow disintegration--mixed with the scent of climate-controlled moisture in archives. The ink, heady and acrid. The feel of the paper--glossy and smooth, or rough like a cat's tongue. Heavy pages indicate care and seriousness in production, tissue-weights cover fragile pictures. The covers, those new style ones with the waxy paper, neither dull nor glossy, so tempting under the fingers. Old leather covers, wrinkled like a grandmother's face, with corners buffed round by time. Reading in an armchair while it snows outside...bliss...
All my senses come alive when I am in a room full of books. And this is something I want to pass on to my children. So I read to them. A lot. (But it's never enough.) There are lots of books it's easy to know about for children, lots of obvious authors. Who can resist Dr. Seuss's Fox in Socks or Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? But in my quest for more, better, perfect, glorious books, I keep seeking out others, new ones I've never heard of, and old ones--really old--that I can't wait to go back to once my kids get older. And I've found that the best way to discover new books and authors is to ask around.
So, without further ado, here's a list, in no particular order of some more-or-less off the beaten path books and authors I love for kids. I'd love it if in the comments, you'd add your favorites to the list and increase everyone's exploring pleasure!
1. Peggy Rathman. For picture books, she's just about unmatched. Both of my kids have been utterly fascinated with Goodnight Gorilla from the time they were babies. The illustrations are luminous, the board book perfect for clumsy chubby fingers. More recently, MultiplesMommy gave us The Day the Babies Crawled Away, which is a great adventure story told in wonderful silhouettes about a little boy in a firehat (Son thinks it's himself) who corrals a passel of babies that crawl away. One little one with a bow in her ponytail is upside down in every picture. That's Daughter, no question.
2. Hip Cat by Jonathan London and Woodleigh Hubbard. An incredible jazz journey through the ups and downs of an actual cat who plays the sax. The jazz poetry moves with just the right rhythms. The illustrations will knock your socks off. Who knew it was possible to paint jazz? (Well, Matisse did, but last time I checked, he didn't write any children's books.)
3. The Complete Fairy Tales of George MacDonald. Originally written in the 1870s and 1880s, the language of these tales is slow and glorious. And if you think of Victorian stories as ponderous, you'll be pleasantly surprised by George. The tales are long and delightful, appropriate for kindergarten-elementary school kids. He's got, for example, a "Light Princess" who has been cursed by the fairy who was accidentally not invited to her christening with a "lack of gravity"--the poor child can neither be serious nor walk on the ground. She floats and laughs all day long. Read this book to find out what the kingdom can possibly do about that.
4. The Gaspard and Lisa stories by Anne Gutman. With fabulous guache illustrations by Georg Hallensleben, these books are a feast for the eyes. The stories are imaginative and fun, about travel, friendship, what to do on a rainy day. The pictures appeal to toddlers; the stories are great up through pre-K or a bit beyond perhaps if the book has already become beloved by then. Hallensleben has illustrated for other authors too, and every time I come across one of his books, I have to stop and look some more.
5. Graeme Base. He is both author and illustrator of a number of books with an astonishing level of detail. Our favorite for now is his alphabet book, Animalia. With huge double-page spreads for most letters, he offers dozens and dozens of objects that start, for example, with P on the P page. This book has saved us more than once in an airport, since it can take hours to play various levels of hunt the object on each page. You can spot objects and ask pre-readers to find them. Or you can ask early readers to locate all the things that begin with B. Or, you can just get lost in the incredible art work.
6. Poetry. This may sound nuts, but kids love poetry. And it doesn't have to be the rhymed, one-step-better-than-limerick poetry either. Though if you want that, Edward Lear is the limerick master, hilarious, and totally worth a gander. Your kids will be in stitches, and so will you. (Be sure to get a copy of his Book of Nonsense with his original illustrations.) Or try Shel Silverstein for lilting, rhyming, ridiculously wonderful poems that are completely kid appropriate. But I also like to read real, actual adult poetry to my kids. They are at an age where the magic of language delights them. I don't think it matters a lot what you read, as long as the words resonate with you. There is nothing worse than a poem read aloud by someone who loathes it or is simply confused by it. There is nothing better than a poem read aloud by someone who feels the words, whose voice explains them even without definitions. So pick a poet you like, and try it. I adore Elizabeth Bishop and keep hoping they'll come to love her too. I have also chosen several children's books written in slightly more sophisticated poetry, the kind that relies on plays on words and doesn't always rhyme, and these have been a big hit. The best of these, with clever short poems about animals and great illustrations, is Douglas Florian's Mammalabilia.
So, what do you love to read to your kids? What should we be picking up next?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
As it turns out, Son doesn't read this blog. That's probably a good thing, in general, given that I love to write about his bathroom break booty shaking air guitar and about the crazy rules he invents surrounding major holidays. However, in the case of his table manners, which you may recall are not precisely what one might identify as absolute perfection, it might have been good for him to read the little missive I penned a few weeks ago. Then again, sarcasm is typically beyond a four-year-old.
In desperation last week, I worked with him to concoct a list of Table Rules that he could strive to abide by and that might go some way towards alleviating the rising feeling that I want to pull my hair out and run screaming from every meal. Here is the chart we now have laminated and posted on our kitchen cabinet. (Click the picture to enlarge it if you want to read the words or see the finer detail in the particularly artistic rendering of green beans. *snort*)
Thus far, it seems to be working. In part, I think this is because it was a team effort. We had a long talk about what would constitute "good manners" at the table, about the things one should and should not do, and we came to mutual agreement about what ought to be listed here. Although I drew the pictures, he dictated the descriptions. He also got a big kick out of drawing the red circles with strong slashes through them around all the bad behaviors. Suggesting that a mutually-derived picture chart can be a good way to shape pre-schooler behavior is perhaps the closest I'll come on this blog to giving parenting advice. I do think the key to its success is his participation. Also, incessant repetition. We look at this chart several times a day. We talk about it. I offer reference to it when a bad behavior begins to rear its ugly head. (Which, if you have a pre-schooler, you know is synonymous with repetition, since such references need to happen approximately 2 times per minute during mealtime.)
We have certainly NOT, in just a few days, managed to curb completely the bopping in and out of his chair, the use of salt-and-pepper shakers as dancing, speaking creatures who love to cavort with the ketchup and pancake people, or the ticklish urge in his fingers to bring actual toys to the table. On Monday, he made a pewer* out of the crust of his grilled cheese sandwich, a move Daughter immediately copied, so that I wanted to bang my head repeatedly, hard, and often on the table in utter agony of ever having children I could allow to eat anywhere--besides a corral--outside of our home again. And we had a conversation two days ago that went like this:
ME: How are you doing with those carrots?
HIM: Well, I like the strawberries.
ME: Yes, but you need to eat the carrots too.
HIM: Well, can I have an orange?
ME: You may have an orange if you eat the carrots.
HIM: [starts eating carrot; I begin peeling orange; one baby carrot later, mouth full of orange, he smiles at me] Fruit is good. I like fruit better than vegetables.
Yes, he's not completely following all the rules. HOWEVER. In place of calling vegetables "yukky," he did manage to construct a rational sentence in a pleasant voice expressing a preference for fruit, after having consumed a carrot. Progress. And he did go on to eat all eight baby carrots after finishing the orange. Also, we have had no knives in milk incidents in over a week. (If you're still wondering about that list item, here's the backstory.)
So I count this little work-in-progress successful enough to continue. At least until I lose my mind over his utter incapacity to keep his buns in contact with his chair seat for two consecutive minutes...
* For the uninitiated: A pewer is a gun. Before he knew the word gun, he referred to them as pewers because that's the sound they make when you point them... pew -- pew pew -- pew. Now pewer is his semantic work-around, since we don't allow gun toys in our house.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
This letter is to inform you that you are in breach of contract. Prior to the conception of our Offspring (heretofore referred to as Version 1, Version 2.1 and Version 2.2), you promised me the following:
Article 1, Section 1:
“There will be no toys in the family room. All toys will remain in the Versions’ bedrooms or the playroom.”
I am here to tell you that the plastic hammer, 6 giant puzzle pieces and 3 Thomas trains I tripped over on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night, almost causing me severe bodily harm, are, in fact, toys.
Article 2, Section 3:
“All Offspring will remain asleep, for the duration of the night, every night, beginning no later than their first birthday.”
And while you did an admirable job of ensuring this with Version 1, you have failed several times with Version 2.1, and pretty continuously for 2-1/2 years with Version 2.2. THIS is why people go postal. Consider it a warning.
Article 5, Section 5:
“There shall be no simultaneous sickness amongst Offspring. Mommy will not be expected to cater to, hold, cuddle, caress, or soothe multiple sick Offspring at any given moment.”
Article 5, Section 6:
“Only one visit to the Pediatrician shall be required per month.”
Ok, so far in the last 30 days we’ve experienced…
- 5 family members down for a week with food poisoning
- 4 down for a week with the flu
- 1 case of viral pink eye
- 1 thrown back
- 3 sinus infections
- 1 ear infection
And a partridge in a pear tree. ‘nough said?
And so, since you have violated our agreement, I have elected to utilize all of the vacation and sick days I have rolled over for the previous 5-1/2 years. Based on my calculations, I have 9 weeks of vacation and 27 sick days coming to me. My plane leaves tonight for Tahiti.
Your Loving Wife
P.S. The only thing the kids haven’t had this year is a virulent, pus-filled rash of some kind, so they’re due for that next. Good luck with that.
I consider myself a feminist. I think women should be paid the same as men for the same work. They should have equal opportunities to achieve their dreams. They shouldn’t get condescended to because it’s just too much for their pretty little heads to understand what it really takes to lay tile, so their contractor can just ignore them and do whatever shoddy work he pleases, even though they’ve done the research and know what he’s doing is idiocy. (And, of course, the improperly installed tile will have to be replaced within a year…but I digress, and that’s a topic for another post…) Anyway, my education, my sensibilities, my very core of being always told me that feminine and masculine are constructs. Social norms. Not inherent sets of qualities, but biases we internalize that make us think girls are bad at science or boys don’t cry.
Then I had children. And now, with a four year old, I am stunned nearly every day at what he is teaching me about what it means to be a boy.
Son’s Favorite Things
Clothing with pictures of “Something Bad” on it, which can be “Bad Guys” or ferocious animals. As long as it looks fierce, dangerous, angry, scary, mean, or wields weapons, it’s all good. I mean, bad.
“Pewers” because “we don’t shoot guns, mama.” In fact, we have no guns in our house. We do have two swords – one made from pipe insulation (soft and flexible) with a pirate handle, and one of molded Chinese plastic that could bonk you good but couldn’t cut you and is probably most dangerous because it will turn out to contain toxic amounts of lead. It came with the Knight in Shining Armor costume. Despite the utter lack of guns, and the many many admonitions that “we don’t sword people,” Son manages to be a fierce weapon wielding warrior on a daily basis. He makes pewers out of legos, straws, half-eaten French toast, the soft stand made to hold the soft stacking rings, toy hammers, and the whisk from the kids’ kitchen set. But he is always very careful to tell me, when I look askance and open my mouth to tell him “no guns,” that “it’s not a gun mama. It can’t hurt people. It’s just a pewer that shoots water.” Ahhh…the fine semantics of a four-year-old.
Are you sensing a theme here? Me too. And before you go all “see that’s what comes of letting kids watch too much TV” on me, let me just say that while he begs, BEGS, to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers, it’s not clear to me how he even know those shows exist. Not only have we never watched them, we don’t even watch the channels that run them, so he’s never to my knowledge even seen a commercial extolling their virtues. Besides, he similarly BEGS to watch Barney, who, while quite possibly having the capacity to annoy you to death, can hardly be termed violent. He watches TV, but of the Maisy, Little Bear, HBO Classical Baby variety. Lately he’s gotten more interested in plot, so we’ve moved towards the Big Kid shows like Clifford the Big Red Dog. No pewers there.
And yet. He climbs everything, and has since he was 10 months old. Now, he also leaps off everything he can climb. And he can climb everything. He uses ridiculously small wobbly things as step stools to reach precariously high stuff he’s not supposed to have. He runs around the house shouting inarticulate growly noises that are occasionally punctuated with words such as “I’m bad! I’m a bad guy!” He makes space-ship shooter noises, though we’ve never watched any space ship or shooter movies. He plays “beat up the bad guy and rescue the other guy” with his Transformer robot (he’s never seen Transformers on tv or in a movie).
Lest you think my son is incredibly violent, I should note that he loves to read, can draw and color for hours on end, and races to his little sister’s room the minute he hears her call out from her crib every morning, and then insists she give him a kiss. He is creative, a little shy, and pretty sensitive. But lately that sensitivity has shifted from the old worry that the “big kids are too fast for me to play with” (he’s in size 5 clothes and just turned 4 and is taller than nearly everyone in his class who is older than he is). Now the worry is that “they won’t think I’m cool.”
Yes, you read that right. They won’t think I’m cool is his main worry. That, and whether there will be enough Bad Guys for everyone to play with. I’d like to say this is all nurture of the sort that isn’t happening at home. That is, I’d like to blame his daycare/preschool and all the little hoodlums there who obviously have older brothers, are allowed to watch all manner of violent tv, and fall asleep to iPods playing dangerous dialogue and starcraft shoot-outs. Only I’ve met some of these kids, and they seem pretty nice. And when they come play at our house they’re more fascinated with the train table than anything else.
So where does all this come from? Aggression in a kid who seems to have violent tendencies is disturbing. But in one who is clearly not of a bad or dangerous bent, it’s bizarre and disconcerting. How do I reconcile the loving little boy who wants to snuggle in my lap with the growling pewer-wielder running through my front hall? Where does he get these ideas? Not at home. Perhaps at school. But also, I’m beginning to think more and more, from somewhere deep in his DNA. Hard as it is for me to admit this, I am beginning to conclude that apparently there are traits of masculinity that are as close to innate as we might get. He wants to show off his strength, to assert his prowess, to climb and conquer. He wants to be the rescuing hero, the fighter of evil. He wants to play Bad Guy to defeat bad. Though this sounds counter-intuitive, it’s exactly how he dealt with his fear of monsters. He wants, in short, to be powerful and manly.
I am muddling along trying to figure out how to deal with this. It’s a revelation—and a humbling one at that. Bundle of contradictions though he may be, he’s my little pirate-pewer-chef (yes, he loves to cook). And it’s my job to figure out how to help him be strong without enabling him to turn into one of those condescending, patriarchal, just don’t worry your pretty little head about the tile, ma’am kinds of men. I didn’t know, when the doctor proclaimed, “It’s a boy!” what I was in for. Now I just hope I can raise him to be smart, confident, strong, and sensitive. In short, I want him to have all the qualities I want Daughter to have. And if he wants to wear Bad Guy shirts in the bargain, that’s going to have to be okay too.
He is boy.
Hear him roar.
Monday, February 25, 2008
To paraphrase James Joyce, "yes oh yes oh dearie me yes and hair so much hair oh yes so much product oh yes and yes and yes on purpose yes."
When I tell you this photo is circa 1989, you will not doubt that the hair is both real and on purpose. Which makes the title of this post rhetorical rather than a quiz. My questions for you, then, are: Who is this 80s girl band? And What's the name of the album for which this was the cover? (And, parenthetically, you may like to add some info on why they felt the need to be so darn serious in that album cover photo.)
I'm hoping the hair and the expressions are funny enough for this to count some way towards my Make Me Laugh Monday obligations. And I hope you'll add to the mirth by entering the first ever Mommy's Martini Contest for Fun and Prizes. The prize in this case is a phenomenal collection of 80s memorabilia, including a velvet hair scrunchy, a color copy (suitable for framing) of a 1986 yearbook page of unbridled hilarity identifying all the details of the truly fashionable outfit--directions you will no doubt want to begin following immediately and continue following every single day, and a mix-tape out of my very own collection of actual 1980s cassette tapes [cassette player not included]. Trust me, these are nearly invaluable prizes not to be missed. As motivation for serious effort on your part, I include the following detail of the astonishingly useful and high-quality yearbook page scan you will receive. Tantalizing, no?
Since I know you can't wait to win these enviable items for your very own self, here's what to do: enter by leaving a comment on this post by this Friday (Feb 29) with your answers. You have to name the band and the album; feel free to add anything else you like by way of explaining their seriousness, their identities, or whatever you'd like to contribute about this fabulous trio. The Grand Prize Re-Live the 80s Collection will be awarded for your cleverness and ability to make us all laugh; runners-up will receive a shout-out of epic proportions of some as-yet-undetermined sort.* Be sure to check back next Monday for announcement of the winners.
And just in case you are unsure: you need to name the band. In much the same way you named your own children. This band is just crying out for a name. So is their first album. Be glad you've never heard them sing, even if they look familiar.
* There will be no free sets of Ginsu steak knives with this offer, no matter how much you beg.
For chuckles (can't promise any larger hair than this), check out Absolute Bananas today.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
One. When someone comes to replace a third of the kitchen floor that your incompetent tile guy put down a few years ago, don’t expect that those 12” porcelain tiles will just pop off the floor with a little bit of leverage from a screwdriver or something. Oh no. Expect that it will take several sharp instruments to peck out the grout, a miniature version of a jack hammer to bust up the porcelain into shards, and many many trips to empty the heavy glass-like chunks and shards into the trash bin. Also? Expect dust. Lots and lots of it. On the plus side, it turns out that competent tile guys clean up after themselves. So even though it takes 7 hours to remove and replace 28 square feet of tile, the floor you scrubbed before the tile guy arrived will be totally clean when he’s done. The counters? They’re not his job to wipe down.
Two. As funny as it is when four-year-olds burst into spontaneous air guitar rockin’ out, it’s even funnier when the music is a slightly up-tempo country song, piped into the bathroom of a family-style restaurant, and the four-year-old is facing the commode with his pants around his knees when the song starts, and it’s your job to keep the stall door closed. You'll be glad to know, as I was, that there is in fact enough room for some serious half-nekkid shake-n-move and complex guitar technique in these quarters.
Three. When you are baking an extra-large cake, so you decide to make a 1.5 recipe of your favorite batter, and the original recipe calls for 1 ¾ cups flour, it’s really worth your while to dig around a little bit more for the 1 cup measure rather than using the orange 2/3 cup one to measure out 1.5 times 1 ¾ cups of flour. That is, if you care at all about accuracy or the chemistry of baking or the taste of the birthday cake you’re making. Unless, of course, you really need a little mental gymnastics in the form of fractions practice.
Four. If you offer a project involving glue, scissors, and construction paper to a preschooler, and you suggest making monster faces, and you pass out the blank typing paper as a base on which to glue facial parts, but you give only vague directions like “and we can cut out eyes and mouths and things from the colored paper to glue on,” you may be delighted to find that the boundaries of 8 ½ x 11 are ignored entirely. And this is why children should not always be given too many instructions.
(In case you're wondering about scale the red paper is a whole sheet of 8 1/2 x 11, and I did nothing to this project except photograph it.)
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It's 5:49am. I've been up since 4:51. At that time, I made both kids get into the bed with me in the spare room so Daddy could sleep. Son was already in our bed--awake--when Daughter started crying for me from the crib. Husband argued he'd been up with her in the middle of the night, so it was my turn. Fair enough. Though it should be noted that I didn't get to bed till 1:30am. Hence the enormously grumptious look on my face right now. Here's what I've been hearing:
"Mama, I'm so boring, I can't sleep."
use me as a pillow
fight over which part of me will be their pillow
one ends up draped over my face
one has an elbow planted deep in my gut
"I smell wine." How does he know it's wine?! We drink pretty rarely. And, sad thing? Though the early part of my evening involved a couple of glasses of wine and a home pedicure while laughing with friends, the reason I went to bed so late was NOT high-jinks and hilarity but work. So I'm not exactly in that still-tipsy, hee hee hee mode that would otherwise make 5:30am more fun.
Gertrude Stein once wrote that the only way one should ever approach a sunrise is from the night before. I'm here to set the record straight. Gertrude, great, nutty writer, infamous partier, friend of Ernest Hemingway and all that Paris ex-pat set, Gertrude, dear lady, sometimes a sunrise should not even be approached from the night before.
Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little. But not much. This is a Banyan Tree on The Big Island of Hawaii. I took this picture from within a grove of banyans somewhere on the road between Waikiki and Hilo. The photo looks a little murky because I was standing in the middle of a huge circle of trees whose branches were all entangled overhead. The filtered light was dim and greenish, and the shade was quite cool, even on this very bright and sunny day. Although it looks like it has lots of slim stems, branches, and trunks, this is actually one single tree. Its branches send out shoots that point down towards the earth and eventually become slender trunks that in turn sprout branches that send out shoots that point down towards the earth and eventually become slender trunks that in turn sprout branches... and so on. A banyan is a kind of fig. A single specimen can live hundreds of years. In fact, banyans can grow much larger than the one in the picture above. There is one in Hawaii that covers 2/3 of an acre. (Read more about them here.)
For all the scofflaws who would want to argue that the banyan doesn't really count as the biggest tree in the world because it's just a whole bunch of littler trees all clumped together, I give you this. The majestic Sequoia or California Redwood. It can live up to 2200 years, and get nearly 380 feet tall and 23 feet in diameter at the base. This picture was taken in 1998 in a grove at the Sequoia National Forest in California. There are certainly redwoods bigger than these particular trees, since there are some with tunnels in them for roads to go through (I'm not making this up). But these here are pretty darn big.
For a sense of scale, I'm including the next picture, which is of the surface roots of a toppled one of these incredible trees. Though it may not be literally the biggest tree in the world, it certainly qualifies as an awful lot of wood. (And yes, for those who are wondering, that is Mr. MommyTime posing for us all.)
Friday, February 22, 2008
Apparently, I am not capable of counting more than one thing at once. You probably aren't either. QUICK! Count the keys on the piano while counting the kids in your daughter's class. Can't do it, can you? But that's all too literal. I just wanted to count calories and count the number of steps I took each day. And the step counting part didn't involve my fingers and an abacus; it just involved a pedometer. I'm pretty good at remembering to clip it to my waistband each morning. But apparently the counting energy, or the counting brain cells, or whatever bit of me is supposed to be responsible for keeping track of some number of things in my life cannot possibly both remember to attach the pedometer AND muster the energy to log onto my-calorie-counter dot com and enter the day's food intake.
So I'm giving up on the calories part. I've been counting them since January 1. I currently weigh 7.2 pounds less than I did on New Year's Day. I still have a few more to lose, but I think I've figured out the whole stop eating the kids' leftovers thing and the candy isn't a meal thing and the my 200+ pound husband should eat more than me, so why am I so anxious that he got more of that tasty chicken dish than I did (gimme' some back, it's MINE) thing... I get that I need to hover in the 1400 calorie range to lose weight gradually; I'm pretty good now at stopping the eating when I'm not longer hungry. -gasp!- What a concept! I have a decent sense of what I can eat and stay within my range. And, frankly, counting calories is a really boring way to spend 20 minutes. So as long as I continue to lay off the chocolate bars and refrain from eating thirds at Mexican restaurants, I think I can keep up my good habits.
And I'm turning my attention now to steps. Which is a baby step (ha ha) on the way to actual exercise of a kind that results in sweat and sports bras. Don't worry, I'm taking this nice and slow. So I've been tracking my steps for the last eight days, and here are the stats. Not too exciting, I know, but there's a point to all this, so quickly skim your eyes past these numbers, and move on...: 3609, 3451, 4478, 2588, 2970, 2187, 4164, 3825, 3600. The average of these number is 3430. Their standard deviation is... just kidding. Are your eyebrows raised? Just wondered if you were still with me.
Anyway. (By the way, that pedometer over there totally rocks the house for accuracy and all the stuff you want it to do, and if you want one you can buy it here. I'm not related to their company in any way, just a fan. Though I can't swear it can actually count to 10,258, as you'll see below.) More to the point, here's the thing about my stats.
A few days ago I did seven loads of laundry, including folding them and shuttling them around the house to put them all away. I tidied the downstairs of the house. I vacuumed the whole place. I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and put away loads of clean dishes. I played with the kids all day long (admittedly this did involve sitting and reading books for a while). I did not have time to blog. I had, in short, a pretty active day. Know how many steps I logged? 4,478.
Know how many steps the professionals (professional whats? you might ask. I don’t know) recommend logging daily? 10,000! Based on the other day, I can safely say that I would only log 10,000 steps per day if I were a kindergarten teacher, a doctor on rounds at a hospital, a construction worker, or an aerobics instructor. I am none of these things. If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you aren’t either.
So how am I supposed to set a reasonable step-walking goal for myself?
Creative accounting did come to mind. Do steps logged while carrying something count as more than one step? For example: one load of laundry = about 20 pounds. Perhaps that’s really 1.5 steps per step. One toddler = 31 pounds. Perhaps that’s really 2 steps per step. But then, how do I program the pedometer to track that? And how do I push the button to shift to the other step counting mode when my hands are full of 20 pounds of laundry and a toddler?
Or am I supposed to walk for three miles after the kids are asleep to get up to 10,000 steps? If so, how many laps of my house kitchen-dining room-living room-hall-kitchen make a mile, if one lap is 60 steps? (Because it’s dark here, and 11 degrees after 8:30pm, so I’m not really doing that walking outdoors.) Actually, I'm such a dork that I did that math. It's 44 laps. So three miles is 132 laps. So here's what I want to know: how in the world do normal people with day jobs and kids to chase after log 10,000 steps per day? Seriously. And, secondly, if I die of boredom from walking those laps past my kitchen counters every night, will I at least die healthier from having walked so much?
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Just in case you've been keeping up on the tally of me vs. Murphy's Law (though why on earth you'd want to keep track is beyond me...I don't even want to keep track...), I just thought I'd let you know that Murphy scored another one.
Yesterday morning I woke up feeling *gasp* almost ok. I had a relatively good night's sleep, the kids all slept thru the night, and we're all (mostly) recovered from the flu. "Hurrah!" I thought, "we can finally get on with our lives!"
I had big plans for the day. It's school vacation week here, so I was going to take all 3 kids to the music and story hour at the library, and then out for some extended OUTDOOR fun. I know, I know, it was ambitious to think we might be able to take a step outside without our noses freezing off, but it was in the HIGH 30's yesterday, and even sunny.
I lounged in bed later than usual since I didn't have to do the normal me-against-the-clock rush to get Big Sis onto the bus on time. No one was crying. The sun was shining. All was right with the world. Enter Husband, stage left.
"I thought you left for work," I said.
"I. Tried. To." he said through gritted teeth.
"What's wrong?" I ask, not really wanting to know the answer.
"My. Back." he says, "Can't. Move. Help. Me."
Turns out that as he bent to tie his shoes, he threw his back out. It was one of those ridiculous things, only slightly less ignoble than the story on the medical site I consulted about the guy who threw his out reaching for some toilet paper. So I eased my poor husband to the floor, plied him with my prescription muscle relaxants, and handed him his Blackberry ('cause heaven forbid life at the office should go on without him).
'Course, just as I got him settled, the cleaning people showed up, which sent me into a blind panic. If you're anything like me, you have to clean up before the cleaning people arrive. It's not that I'm embarrassed by the state of my house (though I am), it's that I have to straighten up before they clean, or everything ends up in random, indistinguishable piles. So my quiet morning turns into chaos as I race around pulling out clean sheets and putting away bits of stuff while the kids scream for breakfast and the husband calls me on his cell phone from the bedroom to ask me if I can bring him more Motrin. "By the way," he mentions, "Big Sis was complaining about her eye this morning. You should take a look at it."
"Sure," I say, promptly forgetting.
2 hours later, he's sufficiently drugged, the cleaning people are well under way, the kids are fed, and we're all (finally!) dressed. "Mind if I take them to the library?" I ask. "That's fine," he says, so off we go.
50 cabin-fevered (yes, it is a verb) children and 200 germ-covered toys later, and we head home for lunch and a nap. At which point I finally take a good look at Big Sis' face. And realize her eyes are red and bruised looking underneath. "Oops," I think, "I was supposed to look at her eyes this morning." So I take a closer look. And realize that the child I just exposed to half the town has highly contagious pink eye. RATS!
The one benefit of being an experienced mom with multiple kids is that you have all sorts of half finished prescriptions hanging out in the medicine cabinet. Lucky for me, one was the eye drops for pink eye. So I lube her up, wash her hands, tuck her comfortably onto the couch to play cards, and go to give Husband the update.
"Do you think you should take her to the doctor?" he asks.
"What's the point?" I sigh, "They'll just charge me $100 to tell me what I already know and give me a prescription I already have."
And so, instead of more fun stuff today, like a trip to that new indoor playground we've been dying to see, I'm spending the morning doing laundry in my PJ's and blogging, 'cause it really doesn't seem fair to expose the REST of the vacationing children in my town to gooey, infected eyes. See, I can show some restraint. Is it too early for a martini?
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
For today, here's how it stands.
(1) The guy who leaned on his horn for a prolonged and angry outburst behind me when I was stopped dead on a 50 mile per hour road. The reason I thought I was in the right? Before I stopped, I turned on my blinker, moved slowly towards the center line, and when I stopped I was in a position that--to most people--would indicate that I was preparing to turn left into my subdivision as soon as I was clear of oncoming traffic. Apparently he's blind in his left eye and therefore couldn't see the road I was patiently waiting to turn onto. Either that or he thinks rules of the road indicate NO TURNS of any kind are acceptable. In any case, as he barreled towards me, then swung around past (yes, there is ample room to pass someone who is sitting in the turn lane at this particular point), he found it necessary to express his displeasure at my having chosen this particular street on which to purchase a house, this particular afternoon on which to grocery shop with my children, and this particular second to be returning home just as he desperately needed to drive as fast as possible along a road that is the primary entrance for seven subdivisions and three churches.
(2) "Show me" -whine...whine...whine- "Show me" -whine...whine...whine- all through dinner. What did the toddler want to show me? I have no idea. Neither did she, as far as I could tell. But she was adamant about trying to drag me away from the table, about whining, grousing, grumbling, and generally "pitching a fit," as we say in our house. Which made dinner taste soooo much better.
(3) "Being that..." This is a phrase that drives me completely over the edge the way some people can't stand nails on chalkboard. And here in the midwest, you hear it a lot. It's okay in conversation (not preferable, but I can keep from grimacing) -- but when I find it in papers written by college seniors that they have turned in to me for credit in my advanced literature course, I just want to scream. Or else write in the comments, "Being that you cannot distinguish between idioms that are (barely) acceptable to speak and those that are reasonable to include in a formal paper, I have seen fit to reduce your grade by one letter." But I'm always too nice to do that.
(or a Padded Room in which to Vent)
(1) The following conversation coming from the backseat as we drove home from grocery shopping and the sun was low on the horizon.
Daughter: [with rising panic] Too bight. Too bight. Turn it off, mama. Turn it off. Too bight. Too bight. Turn it off, mama. Too bight. Turn it off, mama. Too bight. Too bight. Too bight. Turn it off, mama. Too bight. Turn it off, mama. Too bight. TURN IT OFF.
Son: [matter of factly] No one can turn off the sun. Not anyone.
And then actually she dropped the "too bight -- turn it off" mantra!
(2) Home made dumplings for dinner. Filled with pork and portobella mushrooms and all sorts of savory goodness.
(3) This morning, when I was trying to tidy up, I heard Son say to Daughter, "Want me to read you a story?" "Yes!" she replied. So they climbed onto his bed, leaned back on his pillows, and he proceeded to "read" her Go, Dog. Go! Mind you, he can't actually read. But he has dozens of books memorized, or very nearly so. Daughter's version of reading Go, Dog. Go! is to flip the pages around and say, "Like it hat? I no like it hat. Like it hat? I like it hat. Good bye. Good bye." This typically takes several pages, and not necessarily the ones with the actual dogs in hats on them -- though she does prefer that page at the end. Son is a far more capable "reader" and managed to make it through most of the book snuggled up with her. I tried to sneak in and snap a photo of the adorableness, but of course as soon as I walked in with a camera, the moment was broken and they got all silly -- so all I have to show for it is this:
And, when I told him to sit back closer to her so they would both be in the picture, this:
By my accounting (note the handy numbered list) that's three steps towards lunacy and three of "back away slowly." So we might call today a draw. Except that I got even less housework done than usual, despite the reading reprieve, because (of course) I had to lurk out of sight in the hall and eavesdrop. And I've been unable to stop eating. I've eaten many many banana oat muffins (we ostensibly made them for breakfast, but I think they taste nice all day long), a gazillion dumplings for dinner, and untold quantities of nibbley noshy things in between. And I don't know whether to count that on the negative side (BAD calorie counter!) or the positive side (YUM!). And the lack of housework? Well, it sure made me smile.
So perhaps I'm a bit confused. And certainly overstuffed. But that's better by far than a downright bad day. Right? I'll take it. With a side of muffin, please.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
“Pink socks,” Minnie 1 requests.
“Honey, I don’t have any clean pink socks,” I reply.
“Me want pink socks!” she says.
“How ‘bout purple socks?”
“NO MAMA! Me want pink socks NOW!” she insists.
Minnie 1 is all about the pink these days. Not unlike her older sister, who was ALL about purple for quite a long time, and still shows a marked preference for grape-hued things, Minnie 1 has decided that if it’s pink, it’s got to be good.
Now Husband has proclaimed on more than one occasion that their girliness can be laid solely at my doorstep. I am, after all, a girly-girl myself. I admit this. I don’t like dirt, or getting hurt, or too much strenuous activity. As my sisters will attest, I never have. So Husband swears that Big Sis, who is admittedly even more of a princess than I am, would be a tree climbing, soccer playing, rough and tumble, I-can-burp-the-alphabet kinda’ gal if it weren’t for me. I think he’s wrong, but I could never prove it until the twins.
I like to believe I’ve treated all of my children equally. They’ve certainly all been raised with the same outside influences (read: tv, books and my sparkling personality) to shape them. And somehow, I’ve ended up with two princesses and one wood sprite. Big Sis and Minnie 1 do NOT like to be dirty. They cry at the drop of a hat. Their preferred uniform is a party dress. Minnie 1 is already standing up for her fashion sense, and as the sock conversation illustrates, the pinker and girlier the outfit, the happier she is. I think it’s in her nature. For Valentine’s Day this year, I got them all play shoes from the Disney Store; Big Sis and Minnie 1 got high-heeled ones with feathers on the toes—a la 1940’s boudoir shoes—and Minnie 2 got Pirates of the Caribbean brocade flats. They LOVE LOVE LOVE their shoes. Minnie 2 has barely taken hers off for the last week, flu and all.
Minnie 2 is the closest thing to a fairy changeling I’ve ever seen outside of a fairy tale. She’s impish and a daredevil. She only cries when really hurt, and spends most of her day climbing and tumbling and falling off of everything she can get into. She could care less what she wears, as long as it keeps her warm.
We were in temple recently when the Rabbi invoked the traditional blessing over children. Parents were requested to put their hands first on the tops of their daughters’ heads and recite the blessing for girls. Then they put their hands on their sons’ heads for the blessing for boys. What did my husband do? He placed his hand on Minnie 2’s head for the blessing for sons. I about smacked him. He jokes that he’s raising her as a boy, because he can’t have a WHOLE HOUSE of just women. And of the 3 kids, she’s the closest thing to a boy without being a boy that he’ll get. Which brings us back to the main question. How can you argue that my princesses are because of my nurturing, when my “boy” clearly is not?? It all has to do with inborn nature, if you ask me. Well, that, and pink socks.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Here's the thing: if you're like me, you periodically look in the fridge and think that there's not much that looks too appetizing, but there sure is a goodly handful of sad-looking, limp, wilty, slightly shriveled, or otherwise unsightly vegetables. Or else, the veggies are reasonably fresh, but you only have 8 green beans, 3 florets of broccoli, 1/2 a crookneck squash, and other similarly puny amounts of various things--and you just made stir fry the night before so that's not an option. I'm here to tell you that the recipe for the night doesn't have to be take-out. Instead, you can make one of the following. The first is a soup that will use up your green or pale yellow veggies. The second is a better choice if you've got dark orange or red veggies, or a combination of greens and reds, to use up. (And, yes, in our house, we ate the first soup last night for dinner. It was yummy.)
Please note that neither of these is a super-gourmand recipe. But both are tasty, filling, healthy, forgiving of substitutions, and (best of all) handy for cleaning out those veggie drawers.
Leek and Potato (and Mystery Veg) Soup
2-3 leeks (depending on size)
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb. potatoes of any type
1 cup white wine (optional)
vegetable stock (can be made from stock cubes)
2-4 cups mystery veg -- any combination of the following: zucchini, summer squash, spinach*, celery*, asparagus*, broccoli*, sugar peas*, parsnip*, dark leafy greens such as collards* or swiss chard
salt and pepper
*These vegetables have a fairly strong flavor that will take over from the leek/potato combination if you use 4 cups of them, so that you will be eating something more like Cream of Broccoli if you go with 4 cups of broccoli. But, if you just have a smidgen left of any of these, you can toss it in along with some zucchini or other more mild veg, or with several smidges of different kinds even of the strong-flavored ones, and still end up with a recognizably Leek and Potato soup. Or, just tell your family you've made Cream of Broccoli, and don't bother mentioning that your recipe includes a few potatoes and a sad little leek or two. They'll never know the difference.
I probably don't have to tell you that if any of these veggies are fresh and lovely, you might as well save them for something more impressive, like a stir fry or al dente pasta with fresh greenery. But I'll say it anyway. Choose the wiltiest things you've got that are green--the ones that are so much NOT lookers that really they can only be served pureed, and go with those. I've even used zucchini whose skin was starting to get those pre-molding pock-marks on it, and just peeled them and thrown them in. It's amazing how much useable vegetable you can find under a slightly icky skin, if you just bother to look.
Chop onion, leeks (be sure to clean them carefully), and garlic, and sautee briefly in the olive oil. Once they're softened a bit, toss in potatoes and all the other vegetables, the wine (if you choose), and just enough water to barely cover the vegetables. Then add enough stock cubes for the amount of water you've used (probably something like three cubes). Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until all veggies and potatoes are very soft. Use your immersion blender (if you don't have one, read below) to puree the whole pot full. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you like very thick soup, you can stop now. If you prefer it a bit thinner or creamier, add up to two cups of milk (add 1/2 cup at a time, and stir thoroughly to reach desired flavor/consistency). If you want to make this soup ahead of time, do everything up through the puree part, and then set aside or chill (depending on how long you need to keep it). Add milk (if desired) and heat through--but do NOT boil again once milk is added--just before serving.
Vegetable Noodle Soup
1 onion, minced fine
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup any type small pasta (orzo, rings, alphabet letters, macaroni)
1 cup white wine (optional)
1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
vegetable stock (can be made from stock cubes)
4-6 cups assorted veg, neatly chopped -- any combination of the following: carrots, celery, green beans, red or green peppers, asparagus, corn, sugar snap peas, lima beans, okra, etc.
1 can navy or garbanzo beans, if you don't have that much assorted veg available
any random bits of cooked chicken, beef, or sausage that are leftover in the fridge (optional)
salt and pepper
Sautee onion and garlic briefly in the olive oil. Once they're softened a bit, toss in all the other vegetables, the pasta, the wine and meat (if you choose), and the crushed tomatoes. Then add enough water to cover everything in the pot plus two cups (the pasta will absorb some of this), and about three stock cubes (or whatever is appropriate for the amount of water you've used). Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through and the veggies are not yet mushy. It is important to stir this soup a few times as it's cooking, so that the pasta doesn't just cook to the bottom of the pan. If you want to get all fancy with this one, and you have vegetables that take different amounts of time to cook to that al dente stage you love, you can put the pasta in first for a couple of minutes, and stagger your additions of veg according to how long they'll take to cook. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with crusty bread.
A note on the immersion blender: Buy One. It will change your life. I promise. I got the Cuisinart Smart Stick for Christmas, and I have made pureed soups and sauces every week since. It's heaven. I had no idea how empty my kitchen had once been until I owned this gadget. But if you don't have one and need to make a pureed soup tonight, you can always do the pureeing part in a food processor or blender. Just be very careful not to fill the blender more than 1/2 full, so that the boiling soup doesn't blow everywhere. Also, you'll need a large bowl or pan to put the pureed stuff into, since you'll have to puree in batches. And THIS is why I love the immersion blender -- because instead of taking apart the whole blender to wash it, AND washing the second bowl/pan that I'm using to hold the pureed soup while I continue to work in batches on the rest, with an immersion blender, I just pop the stick into the cooking pot, puree the whole thing, and I'm done.
Happy Soup Eating!
You know that feeling? The one where you've lost a little bit of weight, say five or seven pounds, and you put on your pants in the morning, and you suddenly think "Hold the phone! These are easier to button than they used to be!" -- so you smile at your self in the bathroom mirror, and all day long you walk around with a little bit more spring in your step. And then the next day, the same thing happens, with different pants. And by the end of the week, you're all **hApPy DaNcInG** around the house because it really is true, all of your pants are a little bit looser. Not enough looser that you can justify a shopping spree or anything, but enough looser that YOU can feel the difference. So the weekend comes around and you get a little crazy and think, "today, I'm not just going to do five loads of kid laundry and sheets and daycare blankets; I'm going to do my clothes too." Nutty. But you think you deserve to wear something that's actually freshly washed instead of something that came out of the heap of not-just-out-of-the-drier but not-dirty-enough-to-need-washing stuff that sits on your closet floor. Because once you've worn them once, the corduroys [how do you spell that word? I had to ask spell check] aren't clean enough to hang on a nice wooden hanger next to your work slacks, but they aren't exactly dirty, so why waste natural resources washing them? So you make a neat stack of mom clothes like this, and you rotate through them, until they become a towering mountain, and then you think you've probably worn all of them enough to justify washing them even if they don't have visible yogurt handprints on them. Obviously those pants are already in the laundry basket; you DO have standards. So you do two extra loads of laundry, humming all the while in the one pair of looser blue jeans that you've kept out of the pile to wear today, feeling practically skinny. And you are so motivated that you even fold or hang up everything. And the next day, you weigh yourself and -- yep. still true. still down six pounds -- and you go to get dressed. And you smile again as you stand in front of rows of clean, hip mom pants--because when you are suddenly feeling thin, mommy pants instantly become hip mom pants--neatly hanging on their hangers, just waiting for you to choose which pair will make you feel the most trim today at the playplace. So you pick the khaki green ones that you swear look just like something you saw Jennifer Aniston wearing once in that photo in US Weekly where she was striding through the airport all cool in her chunky black sunglasses, and you pull them on, still humming, and -- Hold the phone! They feel a little snug. And you button them. But not with effortless ease. And you look around you in a panic, and there's no one there to explain. And you look at the mute row of jeans and cords, meekly hanging on their wooden hangers. And then it hits you: they are CLEAN. Freshly laundered. Dried in the dryer. Shrunk back to their original size rather than the all stretched out and comfy size they get when they've been worn 3 or 4 or 29 times since the last washing. You know that feeling? That crushing feeling of realization: "OH. My ass isn't smaller. My pants are just stretched out." That feeling? I've given that feeling a name, and it is The Monday After Laundry Day.
But then you remember it's supposed to be a Make Me Laugh Monday. A cheerful sort of morning. And you don't want that ass in the graphic laughing AT your ass. So you take off the pants again and run to the scale and -- yep. still true. still down six pounds -- so you laugh, you LAUGH, you laugh at those pants. And you put them back on. And you do five deep knee bends--the kind with your butt sticking way out behind to loosen up the fabric. And you stick your hands into your waistband and pull out as hard as you can. And you wiggle and bend and stretch...and then...ahhhhh....could it be true? Are these pants a little looser than they were a few weeks ago? Yes, you think they could be. So you unbutton them and button them again to make sure. Yep, the buttoning is easier. And you smile a little to yourself in the mirror, and you go on downstairs to make yourself some coffee. Laughing all the way.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
$27 in gas and 3.5 hours in exhausted patience
Walk over enormous sand dunes from parking lot to beach:
25 minutes of burning legs
Stroll on a beach with wind in your hair, your shadow for company, and the waterline as the only limit to your exploration:
priceless and completely free
Sometimes, the best things in life are free.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I was awakened this morning to two wiggly bodies both trying to use me as a pillow. The older one said, "Mama, Mama, we should call her mice on John."
Confused by such a strange wake-up call, without opening my eyes, I responded, "Whaaa?"
"MICE on JOHN," he enunciated slowly. "We should call Daughter mice on John."
"Whyyyyy?" slurred sleepy mama.
"Because she only has one slipper on."
Son: Mama, what is that big orange truck?
Me: A salt truck.
Son: A salt truck? What does it do?
Me: It spreads salt on the roads when it snows, so the roads aren't so slippery.
Son: Where does it get the salt?
Me: Well, you see that it looks like a giant dump truck. That whole back is full of salt. And it has a sprinkler on the back to sprinkle all that salt on the roads.
Son: No, I mean where does the salt come from?
Me: Oh. From the ocean, I guess. There is a lot of salt in the ocean...
Son: [cutting short the lecture on salinity and processes of extraction, which was going to be followed by lots of facts about salt deposits in rock] But in the ocean there are giant sharks and big big whales...
Me: Yes [thinking perhaps I have a budding environmentalist on my hands here, one who worries about what we're doing to the world's oceans and the habitats of their largest creatures]
Son: [quickly disabusing me of this pride with his practical follow-up]...and they would EAT UP the fishing poles.
Me: Eat up the fishing poles? [confused yet? wait for it...here it comes...here it comes]
Son: Yes, the fishing poles. Because they have to use fishing poles to catch the salt out of the ocean. But the sharks and whales would chomp them with their sharp teeth and eat them up. So. It's not a good idea to get salt out of the ocean.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Well, it's Valentine's Day. I don't have anything profound to write, no romance tips to offer, no great presents to suggest for your beloved, no original poetry you can rip off to put on the card you're making at the last minute. And lately "getting hot in the bedroom" has elicited the cranky comment, "Can you please turn down your side of the electric blanket?! I'm frying over here!"
But then I got to thinking about my favorite Valentine's Day -- the one where the man I was madly in love with made me a heart-shaped chocolate cake from scratch. After an hour of kitchen clattering, he came up to tell me, "Don't come downstairs for a while; it's a surprise!" As he turned to walk away, I saw two perfect hand prints in flour on his dark jeans, one for each side of his adorable butt. We were snowed in, built a huge fire in the fireplace, took a bubble bath, ate cake on a futon in front of the fire wearing nothing but a sheet...
That was love. This is still love, but now it's also marriage. While the stability and longevity are wonderful, the "why are the dirty clothes on the floor clinging to the legs of the empty laundry hamper?" can sometimes dull the passion that came with living in a borrowed house on a grad student salary. And we've got the baby carriage. Which means fire + nudity + futon + chocolate cake ain't happenin' around here right now.
So in the spirit of reaching out to all of you who adore your spouses (except momentarily when they forget it's their night to pick up the kids at daycare), and who have found yourselves in the Baby Carriage part of that nursery rhyme, I offer the following tips. They aren't too Valentine-y, but they are certainly good ones. And if you've been home all day with the kids, and need to bust on past the stress of those poking fights in order to get your romance on with your honey later tonight, maybe the following will do the trick and lighten the load.
Valentine's Day and Every Day
For more excellent baby care advice you certainly can't live without, read on...
I've seen this several places lately, all of which I forgot to bookmark. So this site is getting credit for this (though it's only an archive), since I have no idea who the genius is who originally created these fabulous and useful drawings. Happy Valentine's Day!