Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's My Son's Christmas Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

This past Thursday my goal was to make it from Charlie's preschool to the car without breaking out into the ugly cry in the school parking lot. Why the tears you ask? I missed Charlie's Christmas party at school. I didn't just miss it. I had no idea it was even going on. I went to pick up Charlie from school and his teachers met me at the door, their arms overflowing with Christmas presents. I should've known something was up right away. "There she is!" they exclaimed when they saw me. I was a few minutes late, but nothing major, not late enough for the halls to be deserted and Charlie to be the only kid left. He was already in his coat, his school bag in hand. Wait a second. The teachers were meeting me at the main door of the school. Usually I pick up Charlie at his classroom door. What was going on? "We tried to call you," the teachers said. "Charlie's Christmas party was today." Apparently there was an email sent to an email address that was one dot off from my email address. I had managed to slip in and out of Charlie's school every Monday and Thursday without hearing one word about a party. I kissed Charlie's head about a million times and hugged him over and over and said I was sorry. He seemed perfectly happy. I don't think he really cared too much that I wasn't there. He said, "Mommy" with a big smile on his face each time I hugged him. I carried him out to the car and bit my lip to keep from crying. As soon as I buckled him into his seat and closed my car door, I burst into tears. Not just any old tears either, big loud sobs. Toddler-style crying. Charlie was perfectly fine. Why was I so upset?

I felt like the worst mom on earth in that moment. I tried to imagine what might have gone on at a two-and-a-half- year-old's Christmas party. Were there cookies? Was there singing? Maybe there was some kind of dance party that broke out? I will never know. Charlie's not exactly helpful when it comes to recalling details. His teacher kept reassuring me that she took lots and lots of pictures. Somehow, that does not make me feel any better. It's like if my best friend didn't invite me to her wedding, but she said it was okay, she'd taken lots and lots of pictures. I know, I know...a preschool Christmas party is not exactly a wedding, but still. I felt horrible. I felt angry at the teachers for not telling me about the party except through email and I felt angry at my email address for having a stupid dot in it. Really, though, it wasn't anger I was feeling. It was guilt. I tortured myself by imagining what the other moms must have thought of poor, little orphan Charlie. What kind of mom doesn't come to their two-year-old's Christimas party? The worst mom on earth. And that's me.

I picked up Emma from school and the sobbing continued. She pleaded with me to stop crying. I told her why I was crying and she said, "it's okay, Mommy. We can have our own party." Don't you just love that? I called my mom and my sister and they both assured me that I am not the worst mom on earth and that the beauty of two-year-olds is they don't remember stuff like this. Thanks to the wisdom of these fabulous women, I'm slowly getting over it. Now, I can look at it as a learning experience. I think the guilt was not a completely irrational emotion. I should have been more involved in what was going on at Charlie's school. I should have been more proactive about communicating with the teacher. Charlie had to wait until November to start school because of some weird rule the school has about not having too many kids under 2.5 years in school at once. Something about a building code? I guess if too many kids under 2.5 are in the building at the same time the building could explode or something. Probably a good rule come to think of it. Anyway, Charlie started school after all the other kids and so we have been sort of out of the loop about things. I didn't realize the teacher was communicating with me by using the wrong email address this whole time. It would've been nice if the teacher at some point had said, by the way, I've been sending out emails...have you gotten them? But really I blame myself. So, the lesson I'm taking away from this is, when it comes to schools and teachers ask lots of questions, be involved, and don't wait around for them to tell me stuff.

Later that night Brandon and I attended his office Christmas party. This was my third year to attend the party and I am always impressed by the effort they put into the party planning. This year the theme was "Candy Land" and so the main ballroom was all decked out with 7-foot candy canes and giant peppermints. This was a much more normal theme than last year's "Christmas in Space" theme. Last year I remember hanging out with Brandon in one of the lounges, staring at a giant holiday spaceship and calculating how much each minute was costing us in babysitting. Are these themes really necessary? Isn't "Christmas" sort of a theme in and of itself? It's nice that they try with the themes. I do appreciate the effort. The other constant with these parties is the band. The band sings all those wedding favorites like "I Will Survive" and "Holiday" complete with hand motions. This year I noticed the hand motions lacked a little joi de vive. They seemed more like sign language than dancing. Speaking of dancing...there was also a DJ at the party. I noticed something very interesting. When the DJ first started playing, a few people immediately lined up and started doing what I think must have been the Electric Slide. Within seconds more and more people crowded the dance floor. People of all creeds, ages and ethnicities lined up to do this dance beneath the glow of a giant red and white striped peppermint. Have I missed something? Is this a thing? It must be. Yet more proof that I am totally out of it.

The office party also involved lots of standing around in high heels (which I have not done since the last Christmas party) and talking to strangers that my husband works with. I am so bad at this. That's one of the many reasons I married Brandon. He is good at talking to people in these situations. Me? Not so much. Do I really have to come up with something we have in common and try to yell it to you over "Let's Stay Together," guy that works two doors down from my husband? Can't I just watch the people doing the electric slide and daydream about how I will write about them later in peace please? But at least there was a chocolate fountain. I am sort of a klutz and I'm always afraid I'm going to stick the marshmallow or whatever I'm dousing in chocolate into the chocolate fountain in such a way that it will cause chocolate to spray all over me and my fancy Christmas Party dress. Still, I can't resist sticking something in the chocolate fountain. The chocolate flows so freely and so endlessly. It really is a beautiful thing.

The next day was Friday and we were stuck at home waiting for various repair people to come to our house. I was hobbling around because I was actually SORE from wearing high heels the night before. How sad is that? And I call myself a lady. But I did redeem myself, sort of. I read the kids the Christmas story from their kids' Bible and we put together this Playmobil nativity that my mom sent us (thanks mom!) and talked about baby Jesus and the "fairy" (aka angel), and the donkey. (The fairy and the donkey figure prominently into Emma's telling of the story, I'm afraid.) We also painted our own wrapping paper. I cut shapes out of a potato, envisioning that we would stamp Christmas trees and ornaments all over our white paper and it would be too adorable and crafty for words. Instead, Emma felt inspired to strip down to underwear (except for fairy wings) and paint her entire hand and then sort of used the wrapping paper like a big paper towel. Charlie (who was wearing a green frog costume) kept painting big blobs of paint and then sitting on them for good measure. You can't get in the way of the creative process I always say. I let all this happen and even sort of encouraged it. Not bad for the worst mom on earth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

So, how was your day?

Today it has just been one thing after another... as usual, Emma woke us up by getting in our faces and demanding things at 7 a.m. Emma loves two things in life: getting up at 7 a.m. and eating cereal for breakfast. The day that Emma can go downstairs and successfully help herself to cereal and milk without waking us will be a glorious day in our household. Today was not that day. Silly me left her back turned and the Special K out in plain sight and turned around to a mountain of Special K poured out on the kids' table. It was already absorbing some of the milk that Charlie had spilled earlier and so it was turning into Special K papier mache. Super. $4 worth of Special K into the trash.

Cut to about thirty minutes later...Emma has been dropped off at school. Charlie doesn't have school today, so he gets to go Christmas shopping with me (lucky guy). Well, really, there wasn't much Christmas shopping going on today. Really it was me walking around the mall with Charlie in a backpack (accidentally left stroller at home of course) while the backpack pushes my jeans dangerously lower and lower. Here I am hiking my jeans up, walking into Banana Republic. Here I am walking out of Banana Republic with a screaming child. (Hike.) Here I am walking into Nordstrom's. "NO NO NO NONO NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!" howls Charlie. And now we're leaving Nordstrom's (Hike.) Here I am bribing Charlie with Hot Wheels cars from KB Toys. (Hike.) There we are riding the holiday train that goes around the mall. See us waving merrily? I think we might actually both be happy at this moment. Hello, stores that my son will not allow me to go into. Look at you with your Christmas presents just waiting to be purchased. (Choo choo.) Here we are in Macy's. Charlie announces, "Mommy, I'm not crying!" I almost start crying as we wait in line for about 15 minutes while the person in front of us seems to be buying things and returning them and buying them again. (Hike).

Now we are in the car. It's time to pick up Emma and our car is not cooperating. The parking brake is angry and it won't let me turn it off. There are all sorts of exclamation marks on the dashboard. There is also a "P" inside a circle with a line through it. Apparently our dashboard is now anti-parking brakes. To make matters worse there is a "DING! DING! DING! DING!" sound which is constant and makes my teeth hurt it is such an ugly, persistent sound. Amazingly, the car still works despite all of this commotion. I drive to Emma's preschool (DING! DING! DING! DING!), call the car dealership on the way and tell them what's going on (DING! DING! DING! DING!), pick up Emma (DING! DING! DING! DING!). Guess what she studied in school today? Bells! (DING! DING! DING!). I have an appointment at 2:00 to get the car looked at. It will take at least 2 hours. (DING! DING! DING!) Charlie will miss his nap. (DING! DING! DING!) I will be stuck in the dealership waiting room all afternoon with 2 non-napping kids. (DING! DING! DING! DING!)

We are home eating a quick lunch of pb & j before heading to prison, I mean the car dealership. I go upstairs to brush my teeth and put on lipstick (apparently I'm still trying to give the impression that I have my act together) and come downstairs to a huge mess in the playroom. Charlie thinks it's a great idea to run his new Hot Wheels through the pb & j and then run them along the white toy box. He is shouting, "Oh no! Cars in the jelly!! Cars in the jelly!!" like this is not something he intended to do, but we know better. Emma is playing a game called "Make a big mess." I'm not kidding that is really what she's calling it. I try to get upset that she has dumped every bucket of legos, blocks, clicks, wedgits, every puzzle piece and doll accessory out into a big pile on the playroom floor, but she objects. The whole point of "Make a big mess," she argues, is to...yeah, you already figured this out... make a big mess.

Now we are in the car dealership playroom. I am feeling pretty confident about our 2-hour stay at the dealership because I (being an experienced Mom of two) have brought my secret weapon: the portable DVD player. I get it all set up and realize two out of three of the DVDs I brought are empty boxes. The only box with an actual DVD inside is a Bob the Builder DVD that only Charlie likes and he sits still for TV for about 5 minutes. So much for my secret weapon. I am huddled in the corner of the playroom floor of the Volkswagen dealership. It is all I can do not to hug myself and rock back in forth, muttering incoherent things under my breath. My kids keep taking sneaky steps outside the glass partition that sections off the playroom from normal society. There is a plastic Wiggles character singing a song over and over again. He is obviously in need of some assistance, but I don't have it in me to care anymore. Charlie stuffs the Wiggles man into a toy firetruck and he is silenced. One hour goes by... Miraculously, the Volkswagen man comes in to tell me that they have to order a part and they are giving us a rental car and we can go home. (!!!!) We are saved!

Now we are home and I am making the kids watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" while I write this. I feel a little like the Grinch who stole something today. I have been short and impatient with everyone today. My body aches from the tension I've been carrying around all day like a heavy coat (or a heavy 2.5 year-old in a backpack). I saw this lady on Oprah the other day who has created a little sanctuary in her closet in order to escape from her kids. She lights candles in there and drinks a glass of wine and reads magazines. My closet is stuffed with Christmas presents. The shoes are strewn all over the place because the kids like to go in there and try on my shoes. There's hardly room in there for my skinny jeans, let alone candles and a glass of wine. Plus, I feel like if were to go in there for more than 30 seconds, I would be greeted by jelly car, Special K mountain and "Make a big mess" as soon as I opened the door.

Now the movie is over. Emma just walked up to me and asked, "Mommy, do you work?" "Yes," I say. "Yes, I do."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Only connect

Now, that I've gotten over myself and started telling people that I have a blog, I have started wondering, why do I have a blog? It's not like I'm unique...every other townhouse on my street probably houses a nerdy person like me, typing away in the wee hours of the morning about their favorite meal or their favorite movie star or what someone said to them at the mall that day. The more people that have blogs the more grain-of-sand-ish your blog feels and it's easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are writing in a void, that your writing might as well be corked up in a bottle and tossed out to sea. The Internet can feel like this vast ocean--your thoughts and words exist somewhere out there, but they are so tiny and there is so much ocean that they can easily be swallowed up. But, somehow, miraculously, they aren't being swallowed up. People I have never met are reading about what goes on in my tiny little life. Maybe you are one of those people? If you are, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am honored and amazed and humbled that you would read this.

I just read this article about bloggers in Japan and how different they are from bloggers in America. For starters there are many more bloggers in Japan and they write much more often. Their blogs are the opposite of the American style of ranting and pontificating in the hopes of landing a book deal. "Bloggers here shy away from politics and barbed language," the article says, "They rarely trumpet their expertise. While Americans blog to stand out, the Japanese do it to fit in, blogging about small stuff: cats and flowers, bicycles and breakfast, gadgets and TV stars."

The article goes on to describe one Japanese blog that is called "I Had My Lunch." The writer of "I Had My Lunch" writes daily about, well, her lunch. She is careful never to criticize the food or the service at the restaurant where she eats. She always finds something positive to say because she would not want to cause the restaurant to receive any negative attention. I wish I could understand Japanese because I would love to read about her lunch every day. Granted, I am a little bit weird, but for some reason even the most mundane details about a stranger's life are intriguing and reassuring to me. According to the article, Japanese people have all the latest technology and can (and do) blog while walking down the street. I think that is fascinating. All these anonymous people brushing past one another on a street or sitting next to each other on a train, not saying a word to each other because they are busy communicating anonymously with an imagined audience. (She said, communicating anonymously with her imagined audience).

So, why do I blog then? Whether I like it or not, I have always been a writer. My brain is happiest when I am using it to put words together on a page (or a screen). I am not good at talking. I dread talking on the phone because my words come out all wrong. I find myself saying things like, "I don't know what I'm trying to say" or "I know I'm not saying this very well, but..." a lot on the phone. My brain shuts down when my thoughts have to be filtered through my mouth. Give me a keyboard and I can suddenly say exactly what I mean to say. The thoughts come out and show themselves to me as though someone else came up with them.

So, why not just keep a journal then? I don't know. The truth is, I have tried to keep a journal and I have never been very good at it. I don't like the feeling of writing for my eyes only. My writing changes when I know I'm the only one who is going to read it. I get whiny, I complain a lot. I become a very glass-is-half-empty sort of person. Blogging is like praying in that you polish up your thoughts in order to send them on a journey. It's a conversation--mostly a one-way conversation, but there is the presumption that someone is there on the receiving end.

At the end of the Japanese blogging article the reporter talks to a man who blogs anonymously about his five-year-old son. He was flabbergasted when a reporter called him for an interview after seeing his blog. "I hadn't told anyone else that I blog," the father said. I can totally relate to this. As soon as you hit "publish post" and send your little thoughts out to sea, you never expect that someone else will find them. It's much easier to believe they will drift out there forever in their little bottle. I am trying to write with the faith that my words will wash ashore and someone will open them, and for just a brief moment there will be a an imaginary line connecting me to that person. I think that's why I blog.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Let it snow

We awoke this morning to Emma throwing open the bedroom door and announcing, "It's snowing! It's snowing!" She pulled the blinds open to reveal that in fact a light dusting of snow had fallen over all the corporate headquarters that we can see from our window. The buildings looked less greedy and powerful. They looked more cute and innocent, like Santa's corporate headquarters. It's funny how snow can do that to a place.

I went downstairs, had my coffee and came to terms with the fact that school would be cancelled today. Don't get me wrong, I love snow. As a displaced Texan, I still think of snow as this miraculous event, a rare occurrence that is God's way of telling you to slow down, watch movies and drink hot chocolate. But I also think preschool is God's way of helping me not lose my mind. So, I was slightly bummed about the thought of school being cancelled and instead spending the day gently persuading the kids that they had to wear shirts and shoes if they were going to go outside (not to mention zipping them up into those puffy snow suits, shoving their fingers into gloves and their feet into boots only to discover that they need to go to the bathroom). So much for my plans to work on my novel, do some Christmas shopping and take a shower without Charlie constantly opening the shower door to chat. (Sigh...)

But as I look outside at the pine trees covered with snow and the constant flurry of white falling noiselessly from the sky, I can't help but feel it's a small miracle. Everything is transformed. The energy around us feels different, like the electrons or something are charged differently. Our house feels like a sanctuary with its heat and it's blankets and envelopes of Swiss Miss. When you walk outside into the cold, the sounds are different, quieter, holier. It's like reading a really good poem, looking at everything under a blanket of snow. Even the most mundane thing like your own front yard is made new and beautiful.

The forecast tomorrow calls for clear skies...I have to admit, I'm kind of disappointed.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree

Yesterday, I made the executive decision for my poor, unsuspecting family that we would get into the Christmas spirit and we'd have a good time doing it. My plan was that we attend Christmas-related festivities (ideally involving Santa), purchase a Christmas tree and decorate said tree. I can be really forceful when I want to be (I know, hard to believe, but it's true) and I quickly had everyone on board with this plan. I studied the newspaper for Christmassy activities we could do and found something involving Santa and a barge that was happening within walking distance of us. Supposedly, Santa was going to cruise up Lake Anne and de-barge at Lake Anne Plaza so that kids could hang out with him and do Christmas crafts, etc. I thought that sounded like something we needed to be a part of, so we put on coats and hats and gloves and then set out. Then we realized we forgot Charlie's hat, so we went back and then set out again. And then we realized that it was 30 degrees and windy and we never made it farther than La Madeline's (where there was a warm fire and muffins for the kids).

After La Madeline's it was time for Charlie's nap, so we scrapped the Santa/Barge plans and headed home. We then were very sad to discover that Charlie had no intention of taking a nap. While Charlie howled upstairs in his crib, I decided that it might be a good time to leave Brandon with the kids and get some Christmas shopping done. He thought it might be a good idea to check out our financial situation before I actually spent any money. (What a scrooge, right?) Have you ever tried making a budget while the screams of the non-napping are echoing in your brain? It does not make you want to go out and buy a Christmas tree in the 30 degree weather with two preschoolers, I can tell you that much.

In an effort to detach from the crying and the budget talk I started looking at the millions of catalogs that have made a nice little home on my dining room table. My eyes fell on an ad in the Bed, Bath and Beyond catalog for a fake, pre-lit Christmas tree on sale for $19.99. The ad showed a girl about Emma's age standing next to the tree. She wasn't having to stand on tippy toes or anything to put the star on top of the tree. The tree seemed to call out to me and it was saying, Buy me. I won't shed all over the place. You won't have to water me or spend hours untangling old lights, only to realize that your old lights don't even work because they are old. You won't have to rearrange furniture to accommodate me. I am tiny and cute and I will make your life easier. Plus, I thought, there won't be that super depressing dead tree carcass to come home to when we return from our holiday travels. Right, said the little fake tree. Now go get Charlie up from his nap. That crying is making me crazy. So I went and got a very relieved Charlie up from his nap and announced to the family that the little fake tree was the way to go.

I have to say I love our tiny fake tree. I love how perfectly triangular it is and how you can bend the branches up at the ends like little pipe cleaners so that the ornaments stay on. I love that the lights are perfectly distributed and all I had to do was plug them in. We put only our most treasured ornaments on--a porcelain pink pacifier for Emma's first Christmas, a bear in an exersaucer for Charlie's. There's the dump truck ornament that Charlie keeps taking off the tree to play with and there's the ornament from the place where Brandon and I had our wedding reception. My favorite is a beautiful Brooklyn Bridge ornament that was given to us the Christmas after he proposed to me there. The ornaments fill our 4-foot tree perfectly, like it was made for us. Our life as a family can be summed up on that little tree. I'm so glad we (and by "we" I mean "I") decided to buy it.

Did I mention we also made Christmas cookies and listened to the Charlie Brown Christmas CD? We had to move fast before Charlie ate all the dough. He is a boy after my own heart. Is there anything better than smelling sugar cookies baking while listening to "Christmas Time Is Here?" (You know that really sad jazz song with the words, Christmas time is here, Happiness and cheer, Fun for all, That children call their favorite time of year. The music sounds like the opposite of fun for all--it's like the music knows that the fun is going to end at some point and it's already imagined the sadness after the Christmas tree is taken down and the gifts are unwrapped. The music knows the fun is fleeting and you have to enjoy it while it lasts.) Try and top that, Santa on a barge.

Then I actually whipped out a needle and thread and got all crafty and started making my own cranberry/popcorn garland. Once again we had to work fast, while there was still popcorn. I'm not sure which Christmas activity the kids liked best. If I had to guess, I would say it was putting the red and green sprinkles on the cookies. Or maybe it was the muffins from La Madeline. They had no idea they were supposed to want to see Santa on a barge. They are simple folk who appreciate the little pleasures in life.

So, it turned out that we had a pretty successful Christmas-fest on Saturday. Here I thought I was being crazy to try to cram so much Christmassing into one day, but the funny thing is, I would say the whole Christmas cookie/garland-making/fake-tree-decorating extravaganza happened in the span of about one hour... just in time for a quick bath, two books and bed time. I think everything happened on Saturday exactly the way it was supposed to.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Calling All Citizens of Mommy Town!

Dear Mommy Town Reader,

Hi, it's me. I am writing to ask you for your family holiday traditions. Every year of our family's short, but happy existence we have lived in a new house, in a new city (yes, I know, we are crazy) and it feels like every holiday we are spending all of December figuring out where to buy a tree, where to buy gifts, where to go see lights, etc. Every Christmas is like a blank slate that we try to fill with memories, but it's hard to feel like all of these Christmases in different houses are part of the same chain. We need some traditions. Some things that we do no matter if we happen to be camping out that year or living in a high-rise apartment building. (Please, God, don't ever let it come to camping out on Christmas).

Back when I was an English teacher, I used to have certain days where all I did to prepare for class was come up with questions about whatever book we were reading and let the students split up into small groups to discuss. This is the oldest teacher trick in the book. All you have to do is walk around and listen to the groups teach themselves and nod thoughtfully.

So here's today's question: How do you celebrate the holidays? What traditions have you created that help bring you together as a family? I'm looking for crafts, recipes, decorating, gift-giving traditions, anything you can think of. Everyone move their chairs into groups of five or six. You have 30 minutes to discuss. Go! (You don't really have to move your chairs, just click the "Comments" button below.) This is your big chance to share your ideas with everyone in Mommy Town! Don't be shy!

Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Giving, Princess-Style

Lately Emma is all about being a princess. Is there some sort of latent princess chip that gets activated in every little girl as soon as she turns four? If so, I think it was probably installed by Disney. It is a chicken or the egg thing: did the Disney Princess marketing machine create this passion for princesses or are they just tapping into something that is innate in little girls? Is it nature or nurture that results in a full-on case of princess obsession? These are the things I think about.

A few days ago we were getting ready to visit a friend of Emma and Charlie’s who was in the hospital. It was cold and rainy outside and already starting to get dark at 3:45. I was happily working away in my kitchen on a meal to take to the hospital with us. Emma was carefully gluing plastic jewels on a card to take to her friend. Charlie was upstairs having one of his all-time best naps. Since we were at home doing all this stuff, it can be assumed that Emma was wearing a princess costume. She puts on her princess costume in the morning, before breakfast, before school clothes. When she gets home from school or ballet class or whatever outing we’ve done that morning, she peels off her clothes and immediately puts on a princess costume as soon as we walk in the door.

I told Emma that we needed to think of a present that we could take her friend to help her feel better. Emma disappeared for a while and then came back with her favorite princess crown—a sparkly marabou number that’s a little bit boudoir and a little bit princess. She said that she was sure the princess crown would help her friend feel better. “That’s your favorite crown,” I said. “Are you sure you want to give it away?” I was like the little devil on Emma’s shoulder saying, come on, you don’t want to give away something you love! Think of yourself first! Emma simply replied, “That’s what God wants.” Well, how can you argue with that?

So, this got me thinking about giving and holiday shopping and what makes something a good gift. Does God want me to buy things on sale? To buy things until I can’t afford to pay my rent? To give away my favorite things Oprah-style? When it comes to Christmas presents, what does God want?

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…Emma has not perfected this giving thing. Just yesterday we were out shopping for her cousin, but she had no interest in picking out other people's gifts. She had her eye on a rolling princess suitcase. She was rolling it all over the store while I was busy trying to keep an eye on her and Charlie and actually try to do some shopping. We had quite the showdown when I made it clear to her that we would not be taking home a princess suitcase that day. Somehow I won. Emma surrendered the suitcase and I did not have to do the walk of shame out of the store with a screaming kid under my arm. The suitcase is one of those really tacky pink and purple guys with the major Disney princesses displayed coquettishly on the front. It really does offend my sense of good taste and decency. It is definitely not what I want her to have for Christmas. But you know what? I can’t wait to buy that princess suitcase for her. The look of pure joy on her face will be better than any gift I can imagine receiving this Christmas. I will try to remember that every time I see those princesses go rolling by. I think that's what God wants.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am the crazy person who feels bad for the lamp.

"Many of you feel bad for this lamp. That is because you're crazy. It has no feelings."—Ikea ad (click link to view ad.)

So, yesterday we spent most of the day in our jammies because we were motivated to get stuff done and we didn’t want to stop the getting-stuff-done-train in order to change into real clothes. For some reason I always find that I get my best work done in my pajamas (right now is no exception).

Anyway, yesterday Brandon and I were both in a let’s-get-things-done kind of mood. It is rare that we are both in this same mood at the same time, so we rolled up the sleeves on our robes and dug in.

My project yesterday was to somehow pare down our mammoth toy collection. Before yesterday it was like we were running a toy community college. Anyone could get in. McDonald’s happy meal toy? No problem. We have a place for you right next to this bendy plastic horse we got at the doctor’s office. You two will have a blast hanging out in the broken Little People preschool that can only moan in discomfort instead of singing the ABC’s. I don’t consider myself particularly attached to things. I have no problem getting rid of clothes I’m no longer wearing or old furniture that’s falling apart. For some reason I have not been able to use these powers on the toys in my house. I want our toy collection to be more like a small liberal arts school—stimulating, refined, quirky, but interesting. These toys may not have as good of parties, but they’ll be the kind of toys you’ll want to hang on to forever. We definitely had some weeding out to do.

I started by bringing every toy we owned downstairs to the kid’s play area. I felt pretty disgusted with myself. When you see all the toys in a big pile like that you can't help but feel you’re a little like this lady. So then I proceeded to make some piles. The first one was stuff that was broken or missing pieces. At first I really had to convince myself that it was okay to get rid of something that was broken. Then once I got over myself it got kind of fun finding stuff that was broken because I could just immediately put it in the trash pile without thinking about it too much. The next pile was for toys that we either had two of or that the kids have had for a while but never really played with for whatever reason. These things are in perfectly good shape, but they just need to move on to a less, ahem, exclusive playroom.

I won’t bore you with all my toy-cleaning-out details, but I did have at least one revelation while cleaning stuff out. I realized that we have about a million artsy-craftsy kits that we didn’t really think to do because they were buried under coloring books and art smocks and other art supplies. I rescued the artsy-craftsy kits from the bottom of the craft drawer, and put them in my new “rainy day box.” I wish I could say that the rainy day box was my idea, but it’s not. I read about it somewhere. Probably here. Basically, the rainy day box is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a box full of fun things to do when it’s…you guessed it…raining. So, now we have a rainy day box. Wonderful. I didn’t technically have to get rid of something, but it still feels like I have eliminated some of the toy chaos.

While I was doing all of this, Brandon was busy transferring all of our 8 mm video tapes to our computer so that we can make them into DVDs and actually watch them. (What a husband!) It was nostalgia city in here yesterday. While I was taking each stuffed animal for a stroll down memory lane, in the background were the sounds and images of our short, but very full life as a family so far.

We first got the video camera from my parents for Christmas the year before Emma was born. I took a lot of footage that first Christmas. I am mostly behind the camera. I think the only time you can see me is when I do a really artsy shot where I’m filming myself looking the mirror. You can hear me talking a lot, though, and I shudder every time I hear my voice. Is that really what I sound like? It’s a wonder people can listen to me without puking or throwing something at me. Yuck. Anyway, that is the Christmas before we had a baby and it is like looking at old pictures of George Bush before he became president. He looks cute and affable, happily clueless, like, “what’s the big deal with this presidency thing?” When we see our pre-parenting selves on the video I think Brandon and I both want to shout, “life as you know it is about to change. You have no idea, but you will never be this person again so enjoy it while you can!” I also want to shout to my former self, “never, never do that short bangs haircut ever again!”

The tapes progress and so do the years. The next year we have a shiny new Emma who squeals with delight as we film her doing thrilling stuff like crawling across the floor and pulling up on the coffee table. It is mind-boggling to see her juxtaposed to our present-day four-year-old Emma. Tape from just three years ago has the feeling of ancient history. A time before Charlie? How could such a world even exist? If Emma has changed from a wriggly little baby who couldn’t speak into her chatty little self, then how have I changed? How am I going to change in just three more years? You see your life stretching out before you and wonder what’s in store. Maybe at some point you will look back on this current moment as the time of innocence and blissful ignorance.

So, now the playroom is all cute and organized. I feel sort of like Mary Poppins when I walk in there, like I could sing a little song and all the toys would hop back into their appointed spots. My work is not done though. I have a few (several) baskets of toys in toy limbo (dining room). They have been wait listed. They still get played with on a semi-regular basis. There is nothing wrong with them exactly. I can remember like yesterday when they joined our household. One of the kids opened them for Christmas or a birthday or as a special present when a grandparent came to visit. There was the look of surprise and then delight when the wrapping paper was finally peeled off by chubby toddler fingers and the new toy revealed. And then there was a moment when each toy was the only toy in the world—when it was the star of the playroom. I probably have the video tape somewhere if you want to see for yourself.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All By Myself

About two weeks ago, Charlie (my youngest) started going to preschool two mornings a week. On the mornings that he and Emma are both going to school, it is a frenzied dash to get cereal into both of them, clean the cereal off of them, brush their teeth, comb their hair, get them into clothes, shoes, coats, etc. and out the door. It puts me in a bad mood, all this running around to get somewhere in the morning.

Somehow they both end up at their respective schools with shoes on and school bags in hand and I drive away by myself. It is the craziest feeling driving away by myself. I feel a little like I did when I was a teenager and I got the keys to the car. Even if I was just going to the grocery store or to return a video, I got to go by myself--a new and exhilarating feeling. Since Charlie started school, I have been making my self drive my self to a Barnes and Noble with a Starbucks attached to it so that I can write during those precious kid-free hours. In our family we call this Barnes and Noble "the Train Thomas store" because it has an awesome train table for the kids. On rainy days you can find a whole crew of mommies there and the children's section looks like a stroller parking lot. The floors are paved with Dora books and there's a Train Thomas for everyone. When Charlie imagines Heaven, it probably looks a lot like the Train Thomas Store.

But on preschool mornings, I bypass the train table completely and head straight for the coffee. There is always a line of people waiting for coffee at this time of day. I am immediately struck by the fact that I am waiting in line and no one is trying to run away from me. I can just stand here and move forward gradually as the line moves without having to count 1....2....3 and make time-out threats to get someone to stand there with me. Waiting in line, I also realize I am fighting the urge to talk to myself. Hmmm....those scones sure look yummy! I think it would be better for me to get a reduced fat turkey bacon thingy....oh, whoops! The line is moving forward. Let's go, everybody! I had no idea how much I think out loud when I'm with the kids.

Once I have my coffee and my reduced fat thingy, I carry everything awkwardly over to find a table where I can work--not always an easy task because there are only about nine tables and I live in the land of the corporate headquarters. There are about a million big office buildings that are home to some of your favorite corporations located a stone's throw from where I'm sitting, but apparently, these buildings just aren't as fun to have meetings in as the Train Thomas Starbucks. So, finding a table is not easy. This is my least favorite part about preschool mornings. It almost keeps me from going to the Train Thomas Starbucks because I hate this part so much. It is the high school cafeteria all over again. For shy people like me, kids are a nice buffer between you and the world. You're invisible when you walk around behind a stroller. I feel naked without someone else to tend to, someone else to guide through the perils of the parking lot or the Starbucks Holiday display. To all these people in the Starbucks, I am not someone's mommy, I'm just me. Little old me with her decaf and her reduced fat breakfast who is trying to write a novel. A novel? I imagine all of the Starbucks customers spitting out their coffee at the hilariousness of that notion.

So, I find a seat eventually and then it is like, whew! What a relief. (I almost say that out loud, but catch myself.) This is the part that I love about preschool mornings. I get my computer all set up and dive back into whatever part of the story I was working on last. I lose myself in the characters and their problems. I'm no longer in Starbucks, I'm at Violet's job, where she is failing miserably. I'm in her bedroom as she cries herself to sleep. Then, without warning, I am jarred out of my novel as someone with one of those scary cyborg ear-piece cell phone things on their head leans over from the table next to me and asks how long does it take my PC to boot up. You'd think this would annoy me, but it doesn't. It turns out there's a group of cyborg-looking guys who are having some sort of meeting about PCs booting up and they want to know my opinion on the matter. I stumble through an answer that probably gives them more information than they really wanted about my computer choices, but to my surprise they nod thoughtfully and then go back to their cyborg PC booting up meeting.

For some reason I get a little thrill out of this. It is just so exciting to be able to pass myself off as a normal person in my own right. A normal person with opinions about something other than organic milk or double strollers. Sometimes I feel like I will never be a "normal" person again. Intellectually I know that my kids will get older and they will need me less. They will go to school for longer days. They will go to summer camp and to slumber parties and I won't be invited. They will also go to college and get married and have their own children. I know this in theory, but sometimes it's hard to believe. They need me so much right now. They need me to rock them before they go to sleep, to massage shampoo in their hair and then pour a bucket of water over their head as they scream in a combination of delight and surprise. They need to hold my hand to walk anywhere, for me to buckle them into a car seat in order to drive anywhere. They need me to get just as excited as they do when a firetruck's siren screams in the distance, to read Things That Go twice a day, every day. They still need to sit on my lap a good portion of the day. Lately Emma and I have been playing a game where we talk about what will happen when she is a mommy and I am a grandma. I play the part of a feeble little old lady and say "Emma? Will you take me for a walk? Emma will you bring me some milky? Emma, read me a book, please." Really, I am less old lady as I am an infant. And Emma plays along, pantomiming tending to all my needs saying, "Yes, mommy. I will take care of you."

Just when I think I have everyone in Starbucks fooled, a little girl walks in with her daddy. They are holding hands and he is navigating the way through the tables and chairs so they can take their place in line. I catch the little girl's eye and she gives me a long, hard look. I can see it in her eyes that she has discovered my secret. She can see the mommy in me. What gave it away? Was it the yogurt smeared on my shoulder? Was it the telltale sweatpants/pony-tail/under-eye circles combo that I am usually sporting? Whatever it is, I'm glad she can see it. It is time to pick up my kids and I can hardly drive there fast enough.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Need help turning off the TV?

What? Your kids' dolls don't like to kick back and watch the zebra & Thomas show every now and then? Even dolls need a break sometimes. (Please note Emma's genius use of the cell phone as remote control.)
I have been trying to limit Emma's TV-watching lately and so the above scenario was one of those necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention situations. Emma loves TV. She talks eagerly back to the characters when they ask her questions. "The rote! The rote!" She'll scream when Dora is wondering which item in her backpack would come in handy for climbing a rock to rescue baby jaguar. When Super Why asks her what her name is before they go on a reading adventure, she confidently says, "I'm Emma, and this is my brother, Charlie" as though she just met Super Why at a corporate happy hour.
I admit, I am just as much of a TV junkie as Emma. Sometimes a little Super Why in the afternoon is what gets me through my post-lunch malaise. It's really hard keeping a non-napping 4-year-old busy all day long. Especially when your other kid who still needs a solid two-hour nap in the afternoon keeps you chained to the house from lunch until at least 3:30. And now it's starting to get dark at 4:45, so going to the playground after nap time is really difficult. Waaa waaa waaa...
In an effort to remind myself that there are other fun things to do when you're stuck at home (besides flip on Noggin) I have devised a list:
Things to do with your kids when it is raining/someone is napping/someone is sick and you are a prisoner in your own home:
1) Have them cut stuff out. There's something about those chubby little fingers working those round scissors that makes my heart happy. And kids love to cut just about anything, anytime, anywhere. But they forget this. So, you have to give them some paper and some round scissors and remind them how much they like it. Today I had Emma cut out pictures of foods from the coupon pages in the newspaper. It was a nice opportunity to talk about the foods she likes and whether or not they are "grow" foods. FYI, marshmallows are not grow foods.
2) Play grocery store. You know the drill. Put out pretend foods. One person is the shopper, another is the cashier. Use your imagination--if you don't have a toy cash register and shopping cart, use grocery bags and a calculator or adding machine. You can be a slacker cashier like me and read a newspaper while you check customers out.
3) Make an exciting snack. Popcorn is always a big hit at my house. Hot chocolate is also a major treat. Emma likes to drink it very slowly with a spoon. It buys me like 20 minutes of free time (almost as long as Dora).
4) Have a lively debate. The other day Charlie and Emma were having a very spirited conversation about whether or not it was "hum-back whale" or "come-back whale." I was able to carry on as though kid-free for a good ten minutes while this was going on. Here's a list of questions that might spark some good-natured discussion:
  • What was your favorite day?
  • What are you most afraid of?
  • Which is your favorite stuffed animal?
  • If you could only have two foods for every meal for forever, what two foods would they be?
  • Which is better: your birthday or Halloween?
  • What would you like to be when you grow up?
  • If you had a baby what would you name him or her?
  • Who is your best friend? What is it about him or her that you like?

5) Have a clothing-optional tea party. (Clothing is not optional for the grown-up). The other day Emma wanted to have a "real" tea party where she poured real water from her teapot into the cups. That was fun for about two minutes before she couldn't help herself and had to see what would happen if she poured the entire contents of the teapot into one little teacup. So we decided to move the party upstairs into the bathtub. She got to pour tea to her heart's content and I got to read a magazine. Everybody's happy.

6) Think of your child's play area as a display window at a department store. The display window only features a few outfits that are in season and in style. They don't put the whole contents of the store out there just so that passersby won't miss anything. Kids can't see what there is to play with if all their toys are out at the same time, screaming for their attention. I've learned this from seeing how my kids' preschool teachers "market" certain activities to the children. When you enter a preschool classroom there will be one table with painting supplies, another table with a few balls of play dough, and then another area with blocks and that's it. The kids walk into the classroom and know just what they want to play with and then they go to town. If only it were so easy in a department store...

So, those are my ideas, folks. I am going to tape this list to my TV and try to remember to do these things when I'm tired and just want Dora to come on over and do my job for me. It's going to be a long road though...Emma and I both love a little Dora in the afternoon.

****Please add your ideas in the comments section of this post! I know I'm not the only one with ideas out there...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Animal, Vegetable.....zzzzzzzzzzzz

I have to confess, I am making slow progress on the Barbara Kingsolver book. Generally my first chance to read something that is not Knuffle Bunny or Cars and Trucks and Things that Go is at about 10:45 p.m., and as much as I like reading about food and farming, it is not exactly page-turning kind of stuff. Generally, by about 11:15, Brandon finds me asleep with the lights on, the book propped open to a recipe for swiss chard. I was excited to find a CliffsNotes version of the book on . If you are not willing to sign on for 300 pages of farming and recipes and you are more the type to cruise on over to a website on your lunch break, then you might enjoy clicking on -- if for no other reason then because it will give you recipe ideas for cooking seasonally (not with season-ing, although that is important too). Here's a link to Kingsolver's fall menu. Yum. Kingsolver also has resources for finding food locally here. If you got all fired up after seeing an Inconvenient Truth and then got bummed because you could not afford a Prius, don't give up! Buying locally grown food or growing your own food is a very important way to decrease the size of your carbon footprint.

I'm not suggesting a return to pioneer days here, people. Stay with me... nobody's suggesting that you start sewing your own frocks or churning your own butter. Seriously, it's really easy. Just click over here. Do it. Have you clicked there yet? Are you just being stubborn? Okay, now just put in your zip code where it says "where?" and then it will tell you where you can go buy locally produced food near you. See? That wasn't so hard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What's a Mom to Wear?

Have you seen those Mom makeover shows where the mom starts out wearing high-water khakis and a giant sweatshirt with her husband's gym socks and 30 year-old reeboks and then she is whisked backstage where she undergoes a fashion transformation and reappears with a new hairstyle, make up, five-inch heels and some ultra fashion-forward outfit that makes her look like an extra from Devil Wears Prada? Everyone cheers and then the camera finds her husband who cannot believe his luck. Who is this glamorous woman? He's thinking. And where are my gym socks?

I love these Mom makeover shows as much as the next girl. They tap into the part of my psyche that still enjoys a good Cinderella story or Julia Roberts movie. But, here is my question: What does the made-over Mom do after the hair product is washed out, the contouring shadow has been cold-creamed away, and the kicky outfit is put back on a hanger? I mean, the whole reason she looked like Urkel in the first place was because she didn't have the time (or the cosmetology degree) to put all that junk on her hair and her face to begin with. And the thing that bugs me the most about these shows is that they don't seem to have a clue as to what moms do all day. Can you imagine how hard it would be to clean peanut butter off the bottom of the toilet wearing heels and mini-skirt? (Yes, that's right, I said peanut butter on the bottom of the toilet.)

I need a realistic mom makeover show. I need ideas for looking cute while I chip crusty oatmeal off of my dining room chairs with a butter knife. I need to know how to wear my hair so that it looks feminine, modern and won't get in my way when I'm digging through the trash looking for Charlie's favorite "Train Thomas," which sometimes, just to shake things up, he likes to throw away in his favorite trash can. I can definitely see how the Urkel transformation happens. If you could see me as I write this post then you could make the argument that it has already happened.

So, what's a mom to wear? I've decided these people at Athleta have gotten it right. Judging from the pictures in the catalog, their target audience seems to be yoga instructors and professional surfers--people who spend all day working out and playing touch football on the beach, but I think secretly they are marketing to normal moms. It's just that catalog pictures of a mom hosing down a pukey car seat would probably not sell many clothes. Or would they?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver's latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and boy am I in the mood for asparagus. Kingsolver's book recounts a year of her family's life in which they vow to eat only food that has been raised in their neighborhood or grown by them personally. If this passage doesn't make you want to eat a salad then I don't know what will:

In April I'm happiest with mud on the knees of my jeans, sitting down to the year's most intoxicating lunch: a plate of greens both crisp and still sun-warmed from thegarden, with a handful of walnuts and some crumbly goat cheese. This is the opening act of real live food.

And just FYI, she didn't pick up the goat cheese at the Whole Foods. She knows that goat. I love it. It's so crazy and extreme what Kingsolver does--picking up her family and moving cross-country to rural Virginia.. But is it so crazy? If you knew the journey that most of your food has taken to get to your plate you might just lose your appetite. It is completely ridiculous the amount of fuel we burn so that we can eat asparagus in December, or lettuce, or strawberries or tomatoes. I've never eaten asparagus straight from the garden, but to hear Kingsolver tell it, it is an ecstatic experience, one worth waiting for until spring comes again.

I really have an urge to grow something, but it seems unlikely in my townhouse with no yard and only a sliver of a balcony. I saw on Martha Stewart the other day that you can grow things in these cold frames all winter long. I would love to try something like that. Martha made it seem like it was really easy--just tap tap tap a few nails into place and you're done. I think it probably involves some sawing and some measuring (probably not in that order) and I am really bad at both of these things. These Chia Pet herb gardens seem like they might be more my speed. That's probably not what Barbara Kingsolver had in mind. The Chia Pet manufacturer does not exactly live in my neighborhood, but it would be a start.

We used to have a plot in a community garden when we lived in DC. It was our foray into gardening and we loved it. The first thing we grew that we were able to eat was a strawberry. One day the kids and I went to the garden and strawberries had magically appeared. We had to lift the leaves of the strawberry plant and look underneath to see them. I felt like I'd stumbled across someone else's birth, seeing those first little ripe berries. I picked the best strawberry--the only one not mushy from where it touched the dirt--carefully tucked it in my diaper bag and pushed my three babies home (Emma, Charlie and the strawberry) in the stroller. I presented it to Brandon on a paper towel when he got home. "Look," I said. "We made this." I ate half in one bite and he ate the rest. I think it will always be the best strawberry I have ever tasted.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Healthy Are Your Kids?

I just took the The Healthy Kids Test. I could only do one kid at a time, so I picked Emma. I'm not trying to show favoritism, but like I said in an earlier post, she gives me the most trouble when it comes to eating. So anyway, here's what it said:

"Emma is lucky to have such a knowledgeable role model. It will really pay off when she gets older. In fact, her RealAge, or biological age, could be as much as 2 years younger by the time she's in her 30s. That means she will look and feel like she's 38 when she's really 40. "

And here I thought I was doing a terrible job. Thank you, Dr. Oz, for giving me such a nice ego boost. I needed it! (I'm sorry about what I said about your scrubs earlier.)

I cannot even fathom a 40-year-old Emma (who looks and feels like she's 38). What will she be like? The other day she told us that she wanted to be a bulldozer driver when she grows up. I can totally see Emma in the cab of a bulldozer and Charlie right next to her, each one taking turns working the controls...then getting really excited when they see a school bus or an airplane and accidentally plowing into some building. I'm sure they'll probably have different interests by then. I just hope they still like to hang out with me when I'm 99 with the body of a 98.4-year-old.

The results are in!

Folks, I am proud to announce that, though I am 32.5 years old, I have the body of a.............
31.4 year-old!!! My body thinks it is still living the life it lived back in my glory days of last September!

Okay, that's not really much of a difference. But at least my Real Age isn't any older than my actual age. Here are some things Dr. Oz says I should do to achieve a younger me:

  • DO MORE STRENGTH-BUILDING EXERCISES AND TRY TO KEEP YOUR OVERALL WORKOUT PLAN WELL BALANCED. (Need advice on how to fit this in with no gym membership and two small, crazy people in my face all the time.)
  • ADD FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES TO YOUR ROUTINE. (Need advice here too. Is Yoga the best way to do this?)
  • FLOSS EVERY DAY. (I know, I know. Dr. Oz knows me so well.)
  • SPEND MORE TIME BUILDING AND MAINTAINING STRONG, CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS. (Hmmm.... I guess I really am a slacker in this department come to think of it.)
  • OWN A DOG IF POSSIBLE. (not going to happen right now, Dr. Oz. I need to get all the humans in my house potty trained before I take on a dog.)

Lastly, Dr. Oz said I needed to become a healthier role model for my kids. Here is a test to take to see how healthy your kids are. Yikes! I'm nervous to take this one. Emma is a very, shall we say, discerning eater. It is really hard to get her to eat new things and I admit to giving into her demands for grilled cheese on too many occasions. Charlie will eat just about anything, but too often I let Emma dictate what they will be eating, so Charlie pretty much eats the same limited diet as Emma. I definitely have lots of room for improvement in this department. I will take the healthy kids test soon, I promise. Right now I have to do an "I Spy" puzzle with my kids.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What is your Real Age?

I generally catch up on my Oprah after the kids go to bed thanks to our beloved Tivo. Tivo's Oprah file is all Dr. Oz right now: Dr. Oz does medical interventions, Dr. Oz--A Younger YOU: Parts 1 & 2. Dr. Oz even chimes in on the Jessica Seinfeld sneaky puree cookbook episode. I was excited to see that he wore a pink shirt that day in honor of Jessica who I guess is known for loving shoes, pink stuff and purees. Dr. Oz, I love you, but why do you have to wear your scrubs on Oprah? According to Grey's Anatomy, surgeons have locker rooms where they can change into their street clothes when it's time to go home or on syndicated talk shoes. Anyway, I digress...Tonight's Oprah had lots of valuable info about things you can do to add years to your life. Dr. Oz wants us all to try to live to 100+, which sort of sounds miserable to me. That would mean I would have at least 68 more years of feeling awkward at parties and doing laundry. I don't know if I have it in me. BUT, I would like to stay cute well into my 70s, so maybe I will give Dr. Oz's tips a try. I took the Real Age test tonight and I'll post my results as soon as I know them (I know all 2 of you reading this are dying to know). Why don't you take the test too and tell me what you get? I want to know who I'll be hanging out with at the assisted living facility for 30 years!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fall Back

Lately I have been thinking about how I need to make more time in my day for me stuff like exercise, writing, reading, etc. The only solution I have been able to come up with is to get up earlier in the morning (before the kids) to have a little time to myself before they wake up. This morning I was the first one up and I realized that it was really 6:30 thanks to my new best friend, Daylights Savings Time. Ooops...I mean, Daylight Saving Time. I have never been very good at math, but doesn't this mean I get my "extra" hour now?

Well, apparently no one told Emma that it was really 6:30. She just came downstairs with her new best friend "Bunny Fafalle." (I have no idea how she came up with that one.) So, it looks like now I'm going to have to start getting up at 5:30 instead of 6:30 in order to get some of my stuff done. How do you carve out time for yourself? Do you wake up at 3:30 a.m.? Hire a babysitter? I need some advice because my novel isn't writing itself and my abs think they are on permanent vacation. How do you accomplish your personal goals? As I write this, Emma is about 2 inches from my face singing the months of the year song. I need some me time, people. Help!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What's for dinner?

I have realized that life runs a lot more smoothly if I figure out what we're having for dinner before say, 5:30 p.m. I had to learn this the hard way...there have been many days where I have taken a hungry toddler to the grocery store sans list, cruising the aisles for inspiration. Not a good plan. So, on the weeks that I'm feeling like I've got my best mom foot forward, I actually come up with a menu for the week and do one mega shopping trip while B is home to watch the kids. Sometimes I even post the menu on the refrigerator, so that we can see what's for dinner on any given day. B loves that for some reason. I guess he likes to look forward to his favorite meals (and know which nights to work late).

So, I am new at this blogging stuff, but I'm going to try to link my menu to recipes and a grocery list to help all my imaginary friends out there do their shopping.

Happy cooking! Let me know if you have any great recipes/menu planning tips to share. I am always in the market for new ideas (no pun intended).

Here's the menu for this week:

Sunday: Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cheese Quesadillas and Guacamole
Monday: Salmon and Couscous with Fruit and Sauteed Spinach (This spinach recipe serves about 3--you might need to double it.)
Tuesday: Talapia Fish Sticks with Sweet Potato Fries and Veggies with Dip
Wednesday: "Butterflies and Trees" with Grilled Chicken (You could save time by picking up a rotisserie chicken, but that will mean an extra trip to the store since you can't buy this ahead of time.)
Thursday: Salmon Croquettes with Cauliflower Mock Mashed Potatoes and peas
Friday: Pizza and movie night! Here's a recipe for easy pizza dough...or call your favorite pizza man and take the night off!
Saturday: Indian Summer Turkey Chili FWIW, I always tweak this recipe a little...I don't do the barbecue sauce because it just seems wrong to me. Instead, I add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and about a quarter cup of chicken stock to loosen up the tomato paste.

Click here for the Grocery List--Chances are you already have things like salt and olive oil in your pantry, but I'm putting it all on the list just in case...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

It's Saturday! Here's what we're doing today....

After a looooong night of inexplicable tag-team crying by my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, we are all awake, slightly grumpy and puffy, but happy that it is Saturday (aka, the-day-daddy-stays-home). Here's some fun stuff that we want to do today...

Make Applesauce Pancakes for breakfast. They are a fun Saturday morning treat and with the oats, flax seed and yogurt, I think they are not the worst things for you.
Since it is kind of gloomy and rainy out today, I am thinking it might be a good day to carve some pumpkins (the kids can paint them and B and I can do the actual "carving") and roast some pumpkin seeds. Maybe later we can watch It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and eat popcorn (the kids think they have won the lottery when they get to eat popcorn AND watch a movie with Mommy and Daddy). I think in keeping with the "pumpkin" theme, I'll try this Rachael Ray recipe for Pumpkin Penne. If you make this, let me know what you think...I haven't tried it, but the reviews on Food Network are good!

Have a great day with your favorite pumpkins! Do you have any pumpkin-related recipes or activities to share? Please do tell! Happy Saturday!