Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Extreme Parenting

Today I went to the grocery store with all three kids and I was feeling pretty hardcore. The guys stocking the produce were looking at me, standing there with one baby in a sling and two in a rocket cart, with horror and asking if I needed any help. "Just need to get to the leeks!" I said cheerfully. Yep. Not only am I shopping with three kids. I'm cooking things that require leeks. Hardcore. There were no major tantrums and Teddy slept through the whole experience. The only moments where I was a little worried about potential meltdowns came at the very end when we were in the checkout line. Charlie did not like my choice of checkout lanes. He does not choose which lane to go to based on how short the line is like I do. He chooses based on what Mylar balloon is floating above the magazine/candy rack. So, I moved our giant rocket ship cart to the lane with the race car balloon after some pretty loud protesting from Charlie.

Then the other potential meltdown came when Emma insisted I buy her a Paula Dean cooking magazine. Suddenly the girl who only will eat pizza, spaghetti, quesadillas and Dora yogurt, LOVES Paula Dean. She can't get enough of watching Paula make her recipes, but has no desire to actually eat any of it. I can kind of relate. There is something very comforting about watching Paula cook. I love how she takes off her mammoth diamond rings in order to mix a mountain of ground beef for her bacon covered meat loaf. She is fearless when it comes to using butter, cream cheese and mayonnaise. And she tosses Velveeta into just about anything without even a hint of irony. The thought of eating that stuff though...I can feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it.

I almost didn't buy Emma the magazine because I was feeling all hardcore, like I said earlier. Hardcore moms don't buy magazines in the checkout lane just because of a few tears. I took the magazine away and there was some crying, but eventually Emma got over it. Then I ended up reconsidering and buying the magazine anyway. If it had been candy or a race car balloon Emma wanted to buy, I would've stood my ground, but this was Paula Dean. I handed her the magazine and told her I'd changed my mind. She hugged the magazine to her chest like it was a long-lost bitty twin. All those holiday decorating tips and cookie recipes would be hers now, hers all hers! She positively beamed.

For the most part life with three kids has been a lot like life with two kids, just more extreme. We pretty much are back to our normal routine where the kids are constantly "playing" in that weird way of theirs: by giving the princesses a joy ride in their Kitchen Little refrigerator or by having tea parties on the stairs, right where you need to be walking so that you can change your six-week-old baby's diaper. I was never a huge fan of changing diapers, but Emma and Charlie have managed to make this chore that much more annoying. Every time I climb the stairs to change Teddy, they run to get their little stool so that they can be at a proper height to properly view the diaper change. This is annoying because they only have one step stool, so whoever does not run fast enough to get the stool is out of luck and totally not going to get to see the exciting diaper change. The stooless child invariably cries indignantly and attempts to push the child on the stool off of said stool. Totally annoying. If Charlie happens to be the one to get the stool first, then you have to be prepared to lift one foot up because he loves to plant a leg of the stool right in the middle of your foot. Six weeks in, I have mastered the art of the quick diaper change while standing on one foot.

Just when you get the baby down for his morning nap and have the selfish thought that it might be nice to have a shower and brush your teeth with this delicious bit of free time, Charlie throws open the door and makes his usual loud Charlie entrance to inquire what you're doing, waking not only your baby, but probably all the babies within a five mile radius.

It's definitely a challenge having three kids and it does keep things interesting. Bath time can get a little crazy if Teddy is crying in his bouncy seat and Emma and Charlie are both in need of a rinse or a towel. Who do you help first? On Thanksgiving morning Charlie got into bed to cuddle. Teddy had just finished eating and was sleeping in between me and Charlie. Charlie sat up and proceeded to puke all over Teddy and the bed. I just sat there screaming for a few seconds. I was in a total panic. Should I help Charlie or Teddy first? The puker or the pukee? Luckily it was a holiday and Brandon was home. I yelled for him and we managed to bathe both the baby and Charlie, strip the bed and watch Charlie puke a few more times in the span of about five minutes.

As I write this, Charlie is sitting on my lap and he keeps trying to type over my fingers. Emma is yelling for help upstairs and so I keep having to stop what I'm doing and go help her. My brain feels like a tree with a million branches that don't go anywhere. I feel like every thought I have is a fragment, like every attempt I make at cleaning my house or taking a shower is foiled. I'll put on one of my two shirts that fit right now and are breastfeeding friendly and it gets spit up on. All of these things would've driven me to the loony bin a few years ago...maybe even last year, but I have been in training for this level of parenting. I have been tested and honed by Emma and Charlie and now I am ready for anything Teddy can dish out. (Or spit out as the case may be).

It's hard to imagine Teddy being anything but the angelic little dear who is sweetly snoring in the swing right now. But I know better at this point. He won't always sleep our shopping trips away in a sling. He will have opinions about balloons and magazines and what I should make for dinner. He will most likely balk if puked on. Emma keeps asking me why we don't have hundreds of babies. Having hundreds of babies is sort of like a Paula Dean recipe: too much of a good thing. I'll stick with the three I have. They are definitely all I need for now.

I better go...I've got at least two baby blanket forts to clean up. Charlie has just exclaimed that he needs to go potty "the stand-up way" (which he is not proficient at) and dinner time is in 2 hours, so I better get cracking on those leeks. Probably what will happen though is that Teddy will wake up any second and I will end up sitting in the glider breastfeeding for a nice long stretch, staring at the huge mess all around me, thinking of all the things that need to be done and cleaned and taken care of. And I will sigh with the realization that though no one else probably would, I love my life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's not easy being green

So, I just have 8 minutes until I have to pick up the kids, from preschool but I have a question for you cloth diapering mommies out there. Through various means (i.e., my friend Raegan, my mom, dc urban moms) I have amassed quite an array of cloth diapers, all of them with cutesie names, usually involving some play on the word "bum." So, for not too much of an investment, I have quite a collection of diapering options to try out on my official cloth diaper tester, Teddy. Right now Teddy is wearing a Bum Genius (an all-in-one diaper that adjusts to fit a newborn to a toddler) and it is HUGE on him. Poor guy looks like his legs are about 2 inches long. He is all crotch at the moment. Earlier today I tried a Lite Wrap with an old school Gerber pre-fold and it worked pretty well, albeit slightly messy to change. It did leak a bit, forcing me to change his onesie. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, you don't want to hear about me changing diapers and now I have 2 minutes until I have to pick up the kids.

I'll cut to the chase. Here is my question: How green is cloth diapering really?

This article makes me really confused. Read it for yourself, but basically there was a big study and it said that cloth diapering is just as bad for the environment as disposable diapering. Hard to believe, but they did do a study and everything, so maybe it's true. Here's a quote from the article in case you're not in a link-clicking mood...

"To reduce the impact of cloth nappies on climate change parents would have to hang wet nappies out to dry all year round, keep them for years for use on younger children, and make sure the water in their washing machines does not exceed 60C."

(Sigh...just when I was getting all excited about cloth nappies.)
How about these G Diapers? These are the ones that are a cloth/disposable hybrid. Sort of the Prius of the diaper world. The thing with these is you use a reusable (super cute) cover and a flushable insert. In theory, there's no washing anything yucky and no filling up landfills. Win win! They are too cute and they sell them at Whole Foods, a place that makes me feel environmentally superior right when I walk in the door. Do you think these are the greenest diapers of all? They are not the cheapest, but seem to be comparable to disposable diapers.

Anyone have any thoughts on the subject? Let me know!

Gotta go for now!

Hi, I'm back. I had to revisit this topic. I have washed the few diapers I used today about a zillion times and I still doubt they're actually clean. In fact I think I'll be running the washing machine again with a big vat of bleach and nothing else. I'm more than a little grossed out by the yellow baby poo in my washing machine. Who knew being green would involve so much yellow? Sorry, that was so lame.

Also, Teddy, while wearing various configurations of cloth diapers, did not have a decent nap all afternoon. He kept falling asleep in the sling and then I would put him down and he'd sleep for about 15 minutes and then he would wake up again. I kept having to check his diaper every time to see if he was wet and it was a huge pain. Once I finally put a disposable diaper on him he went to sleep and has been asleep now for a few hours. Coincidence? Hmmmmm.....

Help! I want to do the best thing for the environment, my pocketbook, the washing machine and my baby. What's the answer?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sleep Like a Mommy

Two weeks of missing key hours of sleep have left me feeling a little punchy. I have that feeling I always used to get during finals week in college when my procrastinating would catch up with me and I'd stay up four nights in a row reading about 10 books and writing papers on them. Amazingly, I got pretty good grades in college. I think it's because lack of sleep makes me weirdly hyper and sort of wired...until it doesn't anymore. And then I slip into an abyss of exhaustion, where navigating the world feels like slogging my way through a big ocean of jello, as though everything in my life is sort of suspended in a big, giant jiggler of slow motion. But thankfully that hasn't happened yet! I'm still in the hyper stage of things! Jello salad anyone???

Right now I want to bake bread, clean the bathrooms, write thank you notes, and organize my closet. I actually bought ingredients to make a mini pre-Thanksgiving dinner the other day. Just for fun!! Yep, it's crazy town over here.

I have ideas for writing, things I want to read, exercises I want to do once I can exercise again. I wish I could bottle this baby-induced euphoria and bring it out later when I am in the jello stage of things, which will hit probably around the time I need to get serious about Christmas shopping.

This blog entry would be a lot better, except I keep having to stop every two seconds to tell Emma how to spell "crayon" or how to make a "2." She is manically drawing pictures at the moment and cannot be stopped. She has these creative bursts almost daily where she simply must draw pictures and "write." I guess I can relate to that.

I must admit, despite all this energy I seem to have at the moment, I still fantasize about naps. That's the thing about having three kids...there's really no napping going on around here (except for Teddy). Life has resumed it's normal routine and that routine does not include kids who nap unfortunately. I keep trying to imagine ways I could somehow occupy the kids so that I might close my eyes for a few minutes. Maybe I could paint some open eyes onto my closed eyelids? Start wearing dark sunglasses indoors? Heading to my room for some shut-eye just isn't in the cards right now. We're not at the point yet where Mommy can be unconscious for more than say, five minutes, while the kids roam freely. I envision Charlie bouncing balls into my wedding china and Emma ordering speedboats and diamond rings online while I blissfully snooze upstairs.

Well, I better go wake up Teddy so he can eat and have a little awake time before retiring to bed again. What a life he has! I hope he realizes how lucky he is.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Man Party

Well, it's just Teddy and me at the house for a few hours. Emma's at school and Brandon has taken Charlie to have a "man party." I think the man party involves stopping by Brandon's office and then going to Barnes and Noble for some train table action. Poor Brandon, that's as much of a man party as he gets these days.

Teddy has the funniest receding hairline. His hair is also very dark brown, almost black, so the bald spots really show up. He reminds me of a very tiny, very cute Tony Soprano sometimes, although the similarities stop at the hairline. He is nothing like Tony Soprano temperament-wise. He is the sweetest, most laid-back little guy. He sleeps and sleeps and sleeps (over 6 hours in a row last night!) and then he eats and eats and eats (sometimes for two hours!),then for the few hours he's awake he'll tolerate sitting in the swing or being carried around in the sling while I attempt to resume my normal mommy duties.

Well, he's making his little grumbling noises in the swing now, so I think it's either time for a diaper change or more milk, or both. That's pretty much what his man party consists of so far.

One hour later.... Turns out Teddy's man party also consists of a lovely nap in the moses basket while I do some emailing, maybe get around to the dishes piled up in the sink and the laundry waiting for me in the dryer.

Is it weird that I'm slightly giddy at the thought of having a quiet house and another few child-free minutes to accomplish my mundane little tasks? Life is good!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Chrysalis

So I had a baby last week. What's new with you? Theodore Sayle McBride "Teddy" was born at 2:42 a.m. on October 30th. He weighed 8 lbs 4 oz and was 21 inches long. I was able to have him sans epidural and I'm quite proud of myself I have to say. The hypnobabies approach was very helpful. I was able to turn off my "light switch" (hypnobabies speak for learning how to relax your body instantly) and my labor was really very tolerable...in fact I questioned whether or not I was actually in labor until I went to the hospital and found out I was already 7 centimeters. The doctor (who was a totally random woman I had never laid eyes on before, and was not nearly as impressed with the fact that I was having a baby as I was--she was practically yawning through the entire event) broke my water right after declaring I was 7 centimeters. I stood up so that I could continue my favorite laboring position: the junior high slow dance. I have always kind of laughed at the pregnancy book pictures of women in labor and the strange positions they recommend to help labor along. The junior high slow dance position is perhaps the goofiest one of all, but for some reason, it helped more than anything. In case you're not familiar with this position, it's pretty self-explanatory (if you've ever been to junior high and you've ever slow danced). The pregnant woman puts her arms around her partner's neck and then sort of shuffles back and forth as though dancing to "Patience" by Guns N' Roses. So anyway, once my water was broken, I stood up and assumed the JHSDP and proceeded to have the worst contraction anyone has ever had since the dawn of time. There was no light switch big enough to turn this thing off. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Not like ouch, I stubbed my toe screaming, more like I'm about to have an 8 lb 4 oz baby screaming. Doctor blase must've heard my screams because she came running in and demanded that I get back on the table because I was about to have my baby on the floor. I was in the middle of the 2nd contraction heard round the world and could not hop up on the table at that particular moment. Eventually I got up on the table somehow and proceeded to have the baby. Once again, more yelling, lots of pain and grabbing onto Brandon for dear life. I just remember thinking, Oh my, I am having a baby right now and I feel every single thing. It felt like being strapped into a roller coaster that I was having second thoughts about. It was too late for drugs, so I just had to get through the pain and be tough. I will spare you the gory details, but it was a little scary there for a couple of minutes. It didn't help that my annoying doctor made me lay down and on my back instead of allowing me to sit up like I was led to believe I would be able to do. Anyway, the baby came out eventually and when he did it was the best feeling in the world. I felt like I had just climbed Mount Everest or run a marathon or something, like there was nothing I couldn't accomplish. The cord had been wrapped around his neck pretty tightly and so he wasn't crying when he came out. They let me hold him for about 2 seconds and then they whisked him away to go sit under the little tanning bed thingy and catch his breath. In no time I was chit chatting with everyone and drinking grape juice. I felt like a million bucks. I apologized for all the screaming earlier and the nurse and doctor shrugged and acted like it was no big deal. It's kind of funny that I was trying so hard to be charming to everyone after nearly deafening them with my blood-curdling screams mere moments before.

Teddy is just a pure delight. I think the third time really is a charm. I am just enjoying every second of his existence so much. I catch myself looking at pictures of Teddy that we took a week ago and feeling nostalgic for the time of his babyhood that has already passed. I just want everything to stay exactly as it is because it is so perfect at this very moment. My third time around I know all too well how fleeting everything is, how you think babyhood will last and last and you are just lousy with all this delicious wonder and innocence flooding your household and your life constantly. It's so easy to take it all for granted and then you wake up and your baby has turned into a giant who asks for privacy when they go to the bathroom and answers the telephone when you can't get to it in time. Not that those things are bad...those are definitely goals we should all be working towards with our children, but not Teddy. Teddy, I'm hoping will stay swaddled in his blankets, making his little chirpy sounds when he's nursing forever and ever. I think that's fair, right?

The kids' nickname for Teddy is sort of weird. They call him "the chrysalis." As in, "I want to see the chrysalis." Or, "where's the chrysalis?" (um...in his bed sleeping.) This all started when Emma saw him all swaddled up and decided he looked like a butterfly in the pupa stage. Here's a picture of a chrysalis:




And here's a picture of Teddy:




So, you can kind of see how she might see a similarity. Anyway, by definition, a chrysalis is in transition, it's turning into something else. And it's the same with Teddy. I know this. But for now I'd really just like for him to stay a chrysalis for, say, ever. Is that so much to ask?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

God Said No

Emma has taken to praying before we eat our lunch these days...something, I'm embarrassed to say, I haven't really taught her to do. We generally pray before dinner and before bedtime, but for some reason our cheerios and pb & j sandwiches have been missing out on their daily blessing around here.

She is trying to sneak in as many prayers as possible in a campaign to get the baby to come out sooner. She may be more impatient for this baby to be born than I am. One day when she was begging my stomach to release the baby treasure within, I told her that, really, when the baby comes out was up to God (and the baby) and that we didn't have a lot of say in it. I told her if she wanted the baby to come out that she should pray about it and ask God to make it happen. Problem solved, and onto unloading the dishwasher for me. Ahh, but things are never that simple are they?

So now Emma prays before lunch and at other times of the day. Instead of her usual rote prayer where she pretty much thanks him for Daddy, Mommy, Charlie and a whole laundry list of things that are important to her like leaves and spider costumes and granola bars, she is now asking God for something. No, she is not asking, she is beseeching. Beseeching is a really weird word. I don't think I've ever written it down before. Anyway, her prayer starts out "Dear God" like usual and then she gets down to business. "God?" She says, as though she's checking to see if he's listening. "God? Please let this baby be born TOMORROW. Amen." She doesn't throw in any of that "if it's your will" jazz, or "if you're not busy with other stuff" like I might do. I always feel weird asking God for things so boldly. I usually try to be more cool about it.

Well she prayed that prayer two days ago and here we all are still, me typing at the computer, the baby pushing my tummy out so it's almost touching the keyboard. Yesterday, Emma told me, apropos of nothing, "God said no." We hadn't been talking about the baby or anything, but I knew what she was talking about. It's a hard truth to witness your child learn...that sometimes God says no to what we ask for. I imagine, up until now, Emma has thought of God as this big Santa Claus type of guy up in Heaven who is just hanging out granting wishes to people from his little workshop in the clouds. I even think of him that way sometimes and then get frustrated when God says no. Why would he say no to sick friends getting better, to us moving closer to family, to a child's request for a baby to be born? I don't pretend to fully understand it. All I know for sure is that he does have a plan for all of us and it is better than any of us could envision for ourselves. Maybe his vision will not make our lives easier, or fancier or more comfortable, but it will most likely shape us into what and who he wants us to be, which is sort of the goal of, well, life. Right?

So, all Emma and I can do at this point is be patient and pray and hope for the best. It's not glamorous, but I think it's teaching us both more than we realize: that we are not in charge here, and that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The calm before the storm

Everything is strangely normal at our house considering everything is about to change in just 19 short days from now. And no, I'm not just referring to the election, although election day just happens to be my due date. Everything seems relatively normal, but there's an electricity in the air, an anticipation that makes the mundane seem more poignant. As I give the kids a bath at night I think, these are the last nights I'm only going to have to bathe two kids. As we struggle to go down three flights of stairs and head off fifteen minutes late to wherever we were supposed to be fifteen minutes ago, I think, these are the last few times I will only have to haul two kids down three flights of stairs and strap them into car seats. Pretty soon I will be nursing a baby while Emma and Charlie do their art work all over the kitchen floor and I will be rendered essentially powerless if they decide to start painting their toenails with watercolors or building a robot out of my colanders.

I realize intellectually that I have it pretty easy right now as I can do things like head upstairs to take a shower whenever the mood strikes me and not worry about leaving the kids unattended for a few minutes. I have a few afternoons off during the week while they are both at preschool and I am a giantly pregnant lady of leisure, free to waddle the aisles of Babies 'r Us and Target all by myself. Or sometimes during their preschool hours I will put on my hypnobirthing CDs and catch a few hypno-induced zzzz's (I have yet to make it through an entire CD without falling asleep).

Life is good right now and I have it pretty easy. I realize this, but I still can't stand the waiting any longer. I am just dying to meet this new baby and have him come join our little foursome, making everything wonderfully chaotic and complicated. I know that he will only be about 20 inches long, won't be able to see more than a few feet in front of his face, will likely sleep a good portion of the time and eat the rest of the time, but I have been preparing our home as though we were expecting Martha Stewart or Prince Charles to drop in for a visit any second. Just in case the new babe decides to go rifling through my closet, he will find that I have dedicated certain areas for all my craft stuff, my yarn carefully wound and organized by color, my scrapbook stickers, paper, and pictures lovingly appointed. I have organized my pantry for him, cleaned out everyone's closets and the garage. I have gone to Costco to buy a forest's worth of paper towels and toilet paper, shampoo by the gallons, tomato sauce and coffee by the crate. It's like I'm preparing for some kind of permanent house guest who just happens to be staying with us during Y2K or a hurricane.

When I'm not obsessively nesting, I've been trying to pass the time by doing some projects (or "projecks" as Emma would call them) that help me keep my mind off of the whole having a baby thing. Here's what I've been up to lately:

Planning, sketching, discussing and designing Halloween costumes. Halloween and the potential craftiness that it can inspire has been a great distraction to me and the kids. We have been discussing their Halloween costumes for about the past two weeks and we're just now getting around to the business of actually making them. Here is our sketch of Emma's Supergirl costume:


This was the first of many Halloween costume ideas she has come up with. She changes her mind daily though. Most recently she has decided she wanted to be a spider-witch. There was also a point in time where she wanted to be a star, for me to be Earth, Brandon to be Saturn and Charlie to be a rocket. I think I would make a great planet, so I was all excited about this idea, but, alas, she has moved on to other ideas. Last night she said she just wanted to be a princess. Whatever. I've relinquished any control over her and her Halloween ideas.

Charlie is much more decisive and focused in his interests. At first he wanted to be Wall-e. Here is our Wall-e costume sketch:


I think in theory this would be a really cute costume for Charlie. I like that he's into nerdy stuff like environmentally conscious robots and I want to support that interest, but I know Charlie. There is no way he's wearing a spray-painted box for more than like two seconds. He is all about robots, but he is also all about comfort and so Wall-e is just not in the cards I think. Luckily, he decided on his own that he wanted to be a "3-2-1 blast-off rocket" instead and I think that sounds like a much more wearable costume (at least the way I'm designing it). So here is the "3-2-1 blast-off rocket" so far....



It's a work in progress, but I think it will be cute. I just have to figure out a way to make the pointy top part of the rocket in such a way that is comfy, yet pointy and rocket-like. I'm thinking I'll make some sort of cone hat out of black felt and somehow affix it to a hat or hooded sweatshirt? I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any.

Emma just informed me that she decided she wants to be Supergirl now. Looks like it's time to figure out a way to make a yellow sequin-sparkle mask and track down some purple tights. I better run. I hope the baby is born soon, but not too soon. There's lots of important work still to be done!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

(Paper bag) Princess Party

I am feeling so uninspired to do anything lately that does not involve yarn, felt or, apparently, butter. It seems I have been going through butter at an alarming rate. That is probably because I made this crazy castle cake for Emma's birthday party.

The cake involved baking five little cakes and layering them. It seemed like it would be really easy after watching this video of some pastry chef masquerading as a normal lady make the cake. Anyway, my cake had a few foundation problems and leaned way over to the side, causing the ice cream cone turrets to sort of come at you from weird, scary angles. Emma was very happy with it though and it tasted okay so that was really all that mattered.

Not that you asked, but here are the puppets and backdrop I made for the Paper Bag Princess party.

It turns out it's really easy and rewarding to make your own puppets. I found an easy pattern for making the base of the puppet (I would share it with you, but I can't seem to find it on the internet just now). Then I just had fun gluing on their faces and accessories. As their faces came to life I just kept smiling at my little felt creations. It's probably hormonal (on my part not the puppets'), but they just seemed to have their own little puppet personalities once I was done with them. Anyway, I highly recommend making some puppets. And it's so fun to personalize them to your child's favorite stories. I still owe Charlie a rocket ship puppet. Here's our puppet show in case you're interested in checking it out!

The other fun, crafty thing I did for the party was to make giant coloring pages to serve as decoration and a party activity for the kids. Basically, I scanned in pictures from the Paper Bag Princess book. Then I turned the scanned picture into a black and white line drawing by using the "lithograph" setting on the software that came with my printer/scanner. I also have a similar setting on the software that came with my Kodak digital camera--it's called "coloring book" in that software. Anyway, I turned a color picture like this:



Into a coloring book page like this



Then I took the black and white pages to Kinko's and blew them up to 2 ft. x 3 ft. posters for the kids to color. You can see the same picture behind Emma & Charlie in this picture.







I was very pleased with how the big coloring pages turned out and I think they would also be a fun and inexpensive way to jazz up a kid's bedroom. You could have them up as coloring pages and give your child (washable) crayons to use at his/her leisure or you could frame some favorite storybook art this way too. Oh, my brain is just bursting with the craft ideas at the moment! Not so much with the writing, but for everything there is a season, right?



Here's another project I've been working on at night (instead of blogging):

I won't tell you how long it took me to get that one piece of the baby sweater completed. I had to start over at least eight times before I finally got the hang of the cables. Before I figured out the pattern, the baby in that Time For Baby picture would stare up at me and I imagined he was saying, while smiling his smug little baby smile "you'll never figure out how to make this sweater. You are completely incapable of knitting cables, silly." But I sure showed him. Check out those cables, baby. Who's silly now? I am now working on the front of the sweater and so far, so good. Once I figure out all the weird knitting lingo and my hands just start doing what they're supposed to do and I don't hear that baby making fun of me in my head, I really enjoy knitting--especially knitting for a baby that is kicking and wriggling around as I my needles click along. I can't help but think of the following verses (from Psalm 139):

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

There is something almost holy about knitting something for a baby. With each stitch there is the opportunity to ponder this new life that is on the cusp of being in this world, but is still not quite here yet. How will this baby leave his mark? What will his particular gifts and talents be? What will my job be as his mother? I love to think about this stuff as I make his little brown sweater. That is so much more fascinating to me at the moment than writing. Writing, I'll come back to you soon, I promise. For now, I've got a sweater I simply have to make.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Princess Party Preparations



What, your kids don't color with their toes on the dining room table? The kids are, ahem, entertaining themselves while I look up castle cake recipes on the internet and print out coloring pages. I am in full-throttle birthday party planning mode right now. Emma's fifth birthday is coming up on Saturday and we are having a Paper Bag Princess party. If you haven't read the Paper Bag Princess, and you have a princess lover in your house, then you should really check it out. It's a princess story with a feminist twist...and there isn't a pink or purple picture in the whole book. Quite refreshing.
There are few things that equal my love of planning birthday parties. This is when my Masters of Fine Arts really pays for itself, I have to say. (My husband and the student loan company might beg to differ.) I'm not saying my birthday parties are always successful or even that impressive, but I still love the process of dreaming up ideas for them and trying my best to execute my vision.
So, I can't write much now because I need to wipe the marker off the kids' feet, get us all dressed and then head off to Kinko's for some b-day-party-related copying. I'll fill you in on the details of our party soon, I promise!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

You know how I know this baby is almost ready to "come out" (as Emma would say)? The other day Charlie dropped a book on the floor and the baby jumped from the loud noise. That is like a real person in there, I thought to myself. And he must be wondering what in the world is going on as the kids play bug trappers and pirates and go around dropping things all the time. He is in for quite a wild ride when he comes out.

I'm in that weird in-between space where I am so pregnant that it feels like I have been pregnant my whole life, yet I'm still not done being pregnant. At this point it feels like the baby will come out wearing a little cap and gown and be ready for college. It seems impossible that he (and I) could keep growing at the pound-a-week rate that my pregnancy book threatens he (and I) will continue to grow. The baby is going to probably double in size in the next month or so. If he's anything like his brother, he will be around nine pounds when all is said and done. Yikes! How is it humanly possible to put 4.5 more pounds in this maxed-out baby hotel I used to think of as my tummy? A pregnancy email that I get every Wednesday when my baby calendar flips over to a new week told me yesterday in big bold alarming letters that MY BABY COULD COME AT ANY TIME NOW!!!! This is not my first rodeo...my babies do not tend to show up early. I know better than to think that my baby is going to arrive tomorrow and wonder why I haven't put his bed together yet. (Isn't that a cozy little bed? I'm trying it out on this baby in the hopes that I might be able to string a few hours of sleep together...I'll let you know how it works out.) I'm tempted to put his bed together, but part of me thinks it will just be torture staring at that empty bed for the next six weeks, wondering when the baby is going to knock on the door with his little baby suitcase. Plus, I know my kids. If I put that bed together, it will just be sitting there, asking to be a bed forrocket ships or a tiny pirate ship for tiny pirates. I bought a baby bathtub form Ikea last weekend and within minutes of schlepping it up the stairs and into the house, the kids were rowing it around the living room and trying to tie it up to other baskets to make a train. They just can't help themselves when they see a piece of vacant baby equipment sitting around.

I have been trying to make the time pass by knitting the baby a sweater, making puppets for Emma's fifth b-day party and researching potential Halloween costumes online...you know, really important stuff. I can't seem to make myself read or write fiction at all. The only thing I feel like reading at the end of the day is blurbs about infant car seat safety on Amazon.com and re-reading the same text about whatever week of pregnancy I'm in from my pregnancy book. I just can't seem to escape into the lives of other characters right now. My brain is consumed by thinking about this new person that's coming and preparing my own family for all the changes headed their way.

I think with a third baby my preparation is not so much about preparing for the actual baby (hence the fact that I haven't purchased a car seat yet or put together the baby bed), but instead I feel more compelled to prepare Emma and Charlie for the baby. I told a friend of mine that I felt like I needed to put lots of deposits in Emma and Charlie's emotional "banks" so that when the baby comes, there will be something there for me to withdrawal. I'm not sure how life with three will go, but I don't see myself as being super available to make paper airplanes, sew extraneous puppets and involve the kids in dinner preparation. Basically I envision that I won't be able to do anything that requires me to use my hands for about three months following the arrival of baby #3. I imagine I will be like a big sleep-deprived lump on the couch for many months in a row and I will count it as a big success if I manage to get us to the Chick-Fil-A play scape for some chicken and play time.

You know another reason I think it's almost time for this baby to come out? We FINALLY have red tomatoes. I don't know what has been going on with their little tomato schedule, but they stayed green forever. As soon as they got all big and green I was on pins and needles waiting for them to ripen. Then days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months and they were STILL not ripe. And I gave up. After a while I barely looked their way and had even contemplated searching theinternet for fried green tomato recipes. But then, magically, they finally decided to ripen and now we are the proud owners of red, balcony-grown tomatoes. I am so proud. They just hang out on our kitchen counter for the most part because it is so hard to make myself eat our little babies. I forced myself to eat one the other night because it was about to go bad and having to throw it away would've been even more tragic than eating it. It was delicious and perfect and with each bite I could taste the months of sun and water and patience that went into growing it from its tiny tomato seed. I still can't believe these tomatoes survived Charlie and his love of digging and uprooting. I hate to compare my baby to a tomato, but I know when I finally get to hold him in my arms, it will be about a million times sweeter and more delicious than that tomato....and that tomato was really good. I really can't wait until he's here, but I know I'm going to have to.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yet another post about grocery shopping

Last week in a fit of what I can only imagine was some form of nesting gone wrong, I got an irresistible urge to go to Costco. I haven't been since the last time I was hugely pregnant and that is apparent from the bloated Costco picture on the back of my expired Costco Membership Card from 2005. I re-upped my membership (spending $50 in order to "save" money is always a hard financial formula for me to comprehend), put the kids in the giant double-wide Costco shopping carts and set to work a-savin'.

For the year and a half or so that we lived in DC, I bought most of my groceries on foot and only bought what I could carry about four blocks with two kids in the stroller. That big jug of Tide might be cheaper per load, but there was no way this mommy was carrying it down a crowded sidewalk while pushing a double stroller. I shopped not with an eye for the bargains necessarily, but for what would fit in the storage compartment of my stroller.

Now we have lived in suburbia for the past year and I have slowly altered my way of looking at grocery shopping. Plus, is it me or have grocery costs gone through the roof in the last year? I can't seem to get in and out of the cookie store without spending $140. No matter what I'm buying it always magically adds up to $140. So, last week I needed to do my weekly shopping and the thought of spending $140 at the cookie store yet again was really getting me down. Plus, like I said before, I think my nesting instinct was hitting some surge last week and I decided it was finally time to renew the Costco card and go buy huge quantities of food.

At first I walked around Costco feeling really nervous. I quickly had to make up Costco rules for myself so that I wouldn't go crazy buying big screen TVs and riding lawnmowers in the name of bargain shopping. I stopped to look at some socks and thought to myself, okay, I really do need some new socks. All of mine are sad and have holes in them and they are, ironically, the socks I bought at Costco the last time I was pregnant and in this same mental state. So I handled several pairs of socks from the giant sock bin and tried to nervously calculate whether $9.99 for six pairs of socks is a good deal. I was tempted to buy socks for the whole family, but decided that this time around Brandon and I were the most in need of socks and so I stopped myself from blowing $40 on socks and instead spent $20. I had only been in Costco about 10 minutes and so far I'd spent $70. Was this really bargain shopping?

I made the mistake of cutting through the clothing section where I was very tempted to buy new fleeces for the kids. Never mind that it's about 92 degrees outside. These fleeces were cute and at $16.99 each, how could I not buy them? I picked up the fleeces and put them down, picked them up, put them down again. I did this a few more times until I finally decided that I needed to just say no and walk away from the fleeces and towards the food. I came to Costco for food and that's what I should be spending my money on. So that led me to create...
Costco rule #1:
If it has a zipper (or buttons or requires a remote control), it cannot count as "groceries."

I steered my giant cart away from all the things with zippers and buttons and headed down the snack aisle. Once again I panicked. Is $9.99 really a good deal on a giant package of dried apples that we've never tried before and have no idea if my kids will eat? I decided to take the risk and get the dried apples anyway after much internal debate. Luckily, Emma loves the apples and they are a big hit. But it could've just as easily gone the other way and we've could've been stuck with $9.99 worth of dried apples taking up half of our pantry. I also grabbed a giant bag of trail mix for $9.99 and felt pretty good about this purchase. Trail mix is my go-to snack of choice and very handy for those pregnancy-induced (and later breastfeeding-induced) munchies. I am eating it now in fact.
Costco Rule #2:
Only buy huge boxes of things you know you like.

By this point I was starting to get into my Costco groove...Suddenly $9.99 didn't seem like such a big number anymore and I was comfortable tossing giant boxes of canned tomatoes, Raisin Bran, Craisins, American cheese and granola bars into my cart.

Costco Rule #3:
If it doesn't have zippers, buttons or require a remote control, it costs $9.99

The above items were things I knew we liked and wouldn't go bad for the two or three years it would take us to eat them. I looked at this food made for giants and thought of that scene in The Shining where the kid rides his tricycle through the hotel pantry filled with huge canned goods and over sized mixing bowls. It makes me feel smugly domestic and also a little creaped out to think that we have that much food in our house right now. At what point is buying this much food crossing that imaginary line that separates buying in bulk and hoarding?

Then we made our way to the frozen and fresh foods section. I am sort of a reluctant meat eater (something Emma and I have in common), so buying a huge bag of chicken breasts and 8 lbs of ground turkey is a big leap of faith for me. I really don't enjoy cooking either of these items, but they are ingredients that figure into about one-third of our typical meals so I figured it was safe to buy them in Costco-sized quantities and freeze them. Still there is something icky to me about buying that much chicken and turkey in one shot.

We entered the chamber of milk and picked up a couple of gallons of the weird Costco gallons of milk that look like they are straight from Russia or the moon. Is it somehow cheaper to put the milk in those weird bottles? I think these are the sneaky tricks that Costco uses to make you think you are getting a "deal." Like you're going, "Gee, that milk looks like it's from Russia. It must be a great deal!" I needed milk though, so I went for it.

I bought two dozen eggs, thought long and hard about buying 12 Italian sausages and decided against it, and decided to roll the dice on a $16.00 box of frozen salmon. I bought enough potatoes, apples, onions and garlic to open a restaurant that only serves potatoes, apples, onions and garlic. I also bought a giant bag of fresh broccoli during a moment of temporary insanity. I'm not sure why or how I thought we would eat that much broccoli before it goes bad? Broccoli soup anyone? Broccoli quiche? Broccoli and peanut butter sandwiches?

Then came the moment I was dreading with two antsy kids. The coffee section. I really needed to buy coffee and it seemed like $21.00 was a reasonable price to pay for a 3-foot bag of Starbucks coffee. But as all of you Costco aficionados already know, you have to grind your own 3-foot bag of coffee. Somehow there is always a person ahead of you while you're waiting to grind your beans who is grinding about six bags of their own and using all three grinders simultaneously. "What's their story?" you think to yourself good-naturedly during the first five minutes that you're waiting...then the kids start hitting each other in the face and begging to be let out of their shopping cart cage, and you really start resenting the annoying person with all the coffee. You want to yell at them that that much coffee can't possibly be good for them and maybe they should cut back a little. You decide that you will let the kids out to go look at the drum kit that is set up right across the aisle from the coffee grinder. You think maybe the kids playing the drums will encourage the coffee freak to move things along a little. And it does. Charlie does a drum solo and I finally get my turn at the coffee grinder.

A few minutes later we are in the check-out line. The grand total is announced matter-of-factly by the cashier. I swallow hard and hand over my debit card. The total is way more than I would've spent at the cookie store. I feel a sinking feeling as I eye the mountains of boxes of food (and socks). Have I made a huge mistake? I can't believe I've spent this much money on stuff that does not even have a zipper or require a remote control.

It has been a week since my Costco trip and except for the random milk run, we really haven't had to go to the grocery store and I don't anticipate having to do a big shopping trip again for quite some time. So I would say that the trip was a success. Now I have the creative challenge of coming up with different meals that involve chicken, ground turkey, eggs, broccoli, potatoes, canned tomatoes and salmon. Here are the meals I've come up with so far:

Broccoli quiche
Turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli
Spaghetti with meat (ground turkey) sauce
BBQ Chicken, baked potatoes (with broccoli & cheese), apples
Broccoli soup
Oven baked chicken nuggets and broccoli rice casserole
Turkey burgers with oven roasted potatoes
Spanish Tortilla (omelet) with potatoes & onions & gazpacho
Salmon with mashed potatoes & (you guessed it) broccoli
Turkey chili


Anyone got any other brilliant meal ideas involving chicken, ground turkey, broccoli, potatoes, onions, apples, eggs, tomatoes, & salmon?

I know there are some very savvy meal planners out there because I've read your blogs (Phillips Family, Robin, Raegan). Please help me keep things interesting with my limited selection of ingredients!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ahhhhhggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ahhh.....now I feel a little bit better. Have you ever had one of those days? You know, the kind of day where you wake up having had about two hours sleep (I'll spare you the details about my sleepless night), and then you come downstairs to Raisin Bran crunching under your feet in the kitchen and the aftermath of an early morning, parent-free painting session? Then you decide it would be a good day to finally getting around to scraping the old nasty caulk out of the old nasty shower that has mold growing from like two tenants ago which has been sealed beneath the old nasty caulk? And you've been staring at that (insert colorful adjective here) shower so long and thinking how nasty it is and you decide that you just can't stare at it another (insert similar colorful adjective here) minute? So you hike up your maternity night gown, grab the screwdriver and start scraping away, choking on Tilex fumes and wondering if this will definitely rule out Harvard for baby #3 seeing as Tilex inhalation is probably right up there with hot tubs and ice skating when it comes to things you're not supposed to do while pregnant.

Then you realize you're out of everything that you usually eat, so you decide to make a grocery list but the children can't stand that you are using a pencil and they aren't and they want to use your pencil RIGHT NOW because it is obviously the best pencil known to man and the only pencil anyone would ever want to write with RIGHT NOW. So you hand over the pencil to one of them, the shorter one, because he seems more vulnerable and more in need. And the other one gets really upset because she too has rights in this family and knows when she is being deprived of something. So you go find pencils for all and set about writing your grocery list. Here is the list:
  • caulk
  • Tilex
  • milk
  • bread
  • cheese
  • tortillas
  • ground turkey
  • potatoes
  • pie crust
  • frozen peas
  • avocados
  • pineapple
  • apples
  • peanut butter
It's a sad little list isn't it? Somehow that list ended up costing me about $140 at the grocery store and taking about two hours to shop for. That's probably because I drove about 15 minutes out of my way to the giant grocery store with the free childcare so that I could have a precious hour to myself to waddle pregnantly down the aisles looking for good deals on caulk and peanut butter. Apparently every other mom in the universe had the same idea, because when I got to the grocery store with the free childcare, the free childcare place was totally full and had a line of moms and kids waiting to get in. I thought about waiting in line with the other moms and kids and knew that I probably had the same pained, desperate look on my face and would've fit right in in that line, but I decided to make the executive decision to go to the "cookie store" (the store where they hand out free cookies) instead of the free childcare store. I am the captain of this ship after all and I can make these kinds of decisions. Charlie was so not on board with this plan. He was stumbling around the store with the free childcare, mouth open, crying inconsolably, his new light-up tennis shoes lighting up the floor in a festive way that belied his tragic state.

A slightly crazy woman stopped me and wanted to give Charlie something from her purse. She searched for this thing (what could it have been?) for a few moments and then gave up and told me how cute the kids were, etc. I don't understand the people who want to try to have a conversation with you while one of your children is having a meltdown. Do they really think you can sit and chat in that moment? Anyway the slightly crazy lady looked down at my stomach and realized that I was pregnant and then she crosses herself, as if to say, "Dear God, please don't let that ever happen to me." I get these kinds of responses from people daily, if not multiple times a day. And not just when the kids are being "spirited." The kids could be silently reading library books in their Sunday best and someone will feel compelled to walk up to me, take one look at my belly and say, "You're going to have your hands full!" Thank you, hands-full people. Message received. Apparently no one has ever heard of having three children before in their lives, or they just think that I in particular have no business having three children because this is like the theme song of my life right now. "You're going to have your hands full."

What, like I don't already?

We ended up at the cookie store where I had to do my best negotiating to convince Emma to ride in the rocket ship cart (the two-seater cart with steering wheels), rather than letting her push her little person cart around the grocery store. The cookie store thinks they are being clever by having these little people carts for the kids, but really they are making life a lot harder for the mom people as we are always having to convince the little people that they would much rather ride in the rocket ship than push their own little cart willy nilly down the aisle, into people's ankles. Anyway, I successfully got both kids in the rocket ship cart and managed to get almost everything on my list (and then some, as you probably deduced from the $140 spent). I still do not have caulk. They apparently don't sell caulk at the cookie store. That will be tomorrow's adventure. Home Depot, here we come!

I'm sure there are some people at Home Depot just waiting to tell me that I'm going to have my hands full. What they probably don't realize is, I already know I have my hands full. And I will continue to have my hands full. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Artist Teacher-

Emma is constantly walking up to people and telling them she is an artist and that when she grows up she's going to be an artist teacher. I would not be surprised in the least if she becomes an artist teacher. She is a girl obsessed with making things...and bossing people around. From the moment she wakes up in the morning she begins working on a project (or "projeck" as she calls it). This is not the tidy, cute little preschool projeck you might be thinking of. It generally involves scissors, a ream of computer paper and takes over most of the kitchen floor. Her favorite space for creating happens to be right next to the trash can and recycling bins in the kitchen. Many times I will have to move some work in progress so that I can scrape the remains of whatever meal we've just eaten into the trash. It is sort of annoying. I tried to set her up with a little studio space near the trash can and I've been trying to encourage her to sit at her table (now called the "art table") to do her work. But old habits die hard and I still find her spread out on the floor, scissors in hand, surrounded by tiny bits and pieces of paper, crayons, glue, beads, and other objects one would not normally think of as an art supply (such as bottles pilfered from the recycling, strings, rocks, pine cones, and Rolo wrappers).
My attempt at art supply organization.

Emma sometimes reminds me of the students I taught at the Art Institute when I was a TA in grad school. I was their English teacher and they all seemed like fish out of water when they were in my class and told to make something using only words. They were much more comfortable constructing art work out of their own hair or used band aids than writing essays and short stories. I can totally see Emma fitting in with those kids and I both fear for her and am extremely proud of her talent.

When I was in grad school I used to love going to the student show at the end of each school year and seeing the work that the undergrads had produced when people like me weren't forcing them to read and write. I remember one student had taken an army of stuffed birds, hung them from the ceiling and fashioned little helmets and armor for them out of metal that she had designed and welded to fit their tiny bird bodies. It was so moving to see this fleet of birds with their protective gear, and to imagine the mind and the soul that thinks that up and is able to execute it. There was another student who made an installation that was an exact replica of a dentist's office waiting room. The student art show was like a crazy science fair gone wrong and it was just such an exciting thing to be a witness to all that creativity.

Now I feel like I'm living in my own student art show a lot of the time. Here is a picture of what our playroom looks like at the moment. I promise when we got up this morning (about an hour or so ago) everything was in its proper place. Little People in the Little People basket, Thomas Lego3s in the Thomas Lego basket, puzzles in their bin, coloring books in theirs. See that overturned white chair? It is now a mountain that the kids were scaling with their mountain climbing ropes (those yellow and purple strings on the floor). See those green bins stacked up with the strange spire on top? That's a city. And that white board balanced precariously on the windowsill? A car ramp of course. (sigh.) Here's a picture of Emma with her "baby bounce" that she made for the baby to sit in when he is born. I think it is supposed to be some kind of cross between a bouncy seat and a Bjorn. Not a bad idea really.

Sometimes I think about jumping on board the homeschooling bandwagon (everyone seems to be doing it these days), but I'm not sure if it would be such a good thing for my kids. I think Emma might turn out a little (um, how can I put this delicately) weird if she were able to stay home all day making things. I mean at some point do you sort of run the risk of being so "creative" that you can't quite function in the real world? I wonder what the girl behind the bird armour is doing now? I'm sure, like me, she has some pretty hefty student loans to pay off. Welding tiny bird fashion does not seem like it would really pay the bills.

In the end I'm really proud of Emma and her amazing powers to create. She really can't seem to help herself and so I might as well be supportive and get out of her way. That's definitely Charlie's attitude. He is probably her biggest fan. He is able to admire her vision without worrying about the mess she's making, her proximity to trash or her future college plans. I could probably learn a lot from both of them.
Emma's homemade dollhouse and road...note the perfectly good Pottery Barn Kids dollhouse in the background.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Long time no post

Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while. I haven't been writing in general and it's really making my mind all cobwebby and sluggish. Not writing begets more not writing and so it is a terrible downward spiral until one forces oneself to get back to it and put fingers to keyboard. So, here I am, easing back into things, cobwebs and all.

Here's some stuff we've been up to lately...

My friend Ramona told me about this blog http://www.soulemama.com/. The writer of soulemama is so talented that it puts all of us normal moms to shame. But she is not talented in the annoying, great-now-I-feel-like-a-loser kind of way. She inspires you to greatness in your momness, causing you to want to elevate your life with kids to an art form. I even bought soulemama's book The Creative Family and I have just devoured it--reading bits over oatmeal or while the kids are taking a bath. She is an amazing photographer that soulemama and her pictures will make you salivate even more than the Anthropologie catalog, I'm telling you. She depicts a world that I so crave for myself that I can almost taste it. Her family is constantly digging up the earth of their luscious Maine property so that they can plant something or they're hanging clothes (that she has made of course) out to dry on a clothesline--the littlest soulemama offspring standing on a stool and pinning the clothes herself. She tells you how to repurpose your husband's old shirt into a pair of super hip pants for your toddler and she also encourages you to keep a basket of yarn out for little ones to play with and run their hands through. Who needs a Bob the Builder computer when you've got a basket of yarn? Why didn't I think of that? Even if you aren't the least bit crafty, she will get your mind a-workin so that all you think about are the crafts. I keep finding myself staring into space and imagining the things I could make if I just had a little time and little hands weren't constantly all up in whatever it is I'm doing. I'm hoping to teach Emma to finger knit soon. According to soulemama, children as young as three can do this. I think if I could just get that girl hooked on some kind project then we could all sit around knitting together, growing things, wearing Brandon's old shirts as pants. That is my fantasy.

I've also been passing the time by learning how to hypnotize myself. I have been listening to a friend's Hypnobabies CDs in an attempt to prepare myself for a "pain-free" birth. I know, I know. It sounds kind of crazy, huh? But according to lots of people, it's supposed to work. I always seem to fall asleep during the hypnotizing so hopefully I will just sleep through the whole labor and wake up when I've had my baby. I'll let you know how it goes!

I also spend way too much time looking at real estate web sites dreaming about buying a house someday. We are hoping to be able to buy something in about 9 months to a year. Soulemama's got me wanting a big old house with lots of land with room enough for a banging wall and my own studio to make things and write in (actually I wanted all these things pre-soulemama, but now the desire is palpable). Maybe we could have some goats or something too? It's not likely to happen where we live though. We are destined for townhouse living for some time with prices the way they are here. I am just really itching for an old house with lots of character, a yard, room for the kids to have birthday parties and their own gardens in the back yard, etc. I know that if I had those things, I wouldn't be any happier than I am now. My life wouldn't be this beautiful soulemama photograph. It would just be more rooms to clean, a lawn to mow, a banging wall to tend to. It would still be me living my life after all.

So, since I am slightly real estate obsessed these days, I found this article to be really interesting. It's about how the ideal American house has changed over the past century and how it's changing now. I am sure that I'm not alone in my American dream...it's probably indicative of some big cultural shift that I'm part of but can't see because I'm too close. I'm pretty sure there are millions of pregnant ladies out there blogging about houses and goats and hypnobirthing all over America right now. I'm okay with being a cliche.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hot Topic! TV: how evil is it?

Pop Quiz: How do you feel about letting your kids watch TV?

a) I would sooner feed them a sippy cup full of bleach.
b) My kids watch TV...when they're on international flights or getting their teeth cleaned.
c) My kids don't watch that much TV...just a few hours of Playhouse Disney in the morning and an hour or two of PBS Kids after lunch--oh, and of course I pop in a video or two while I'm making dinner and before bedtime.

Here's a really interesting essay about TV-watching and its possible benefits. As a kid I grew up watching lots of TV, but also reading lots of books and loving riding my bike to the art museum down the street from my house. I have to say when I read this essay, I found it refreshing to hear someone actually admit that watching TV is fun, can be educational, stimulating, provocative and moving (just like any other art form).

As an adult I still love watching TV, although when it comes to interesting shows, it's slim pickings these days. Brandon and I get really excited on Wednesdays and Sundays because we know two of our favorite shows are going to be on on those nights: Project Runway and Mad Men (If you haven't watched this show about Madison Avenue advertising executives in the 60s, check it out. It's really great fun). I have now outed my husband as a Project Runway fan...he will never forgive me. We love watching those shows together and talking about them. It's a cheap date, but I would also contend it is time well spent together. We are also serial watchers of Jon and Kate Plus Eight. We will put the kids to bed, finally get a moment to ourselves and then head down to the living room to watch other people struggle to put their kids to bed and wish they had a moment to themselves. I'm not sure why that show is so appealing...who wants to watch a show about what you've been doing all day? I guess being a voyeur of a life that is so similar to your own is cathartic. It's like a mirror that you hold up to yourself and it turns out you actually look okay.

So, if Brandon and I are responsible recreational TV watchers, wouldn't it follow that we could teach our kids to be also? I think this idea that TV is all bad or all junk food for the brain is really false. There are some great kid shows out there too. Have you ever watched Word Girl before? It just won a Television Critics Association award for best children's programming. I love that it has inspired my daughter's super hero imaginative play and she's learning words like "cumbersome" in the process. I admit as a writer and a lover of books, I often think of myself as a "word girl" too. If I had a super power it would be the power to diagram sentences in the blink of an eye.

If one of my kids wanted to watch Max and Ruby while I made dinner, (which is, conveniently, when Max and Ruby comes on) I probably wouldn't say no. I love the Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells and the show does the books proud in my opinion. The stories are smart and character-driven and they always remind me of the way Emma and Charlie interact with each other. To quote Noggin's blurb about the show: "The brother and sister relationship is at the heart of these stories, and what makes the relationship humorous and fulfilling is that Rosemary Wells has added salt and pepper to it, instead of sugar." I guess Max and Ruby is to Emma and Charlie as Jon and Kate Plus Eight is to Brandon and me (except I would argue that I'm not nearly as uptight and bossy as Kate).

I certainly don't agree with everything the writer says in the aforementioned essay. I don't think it's a good idea to haphazardly expose young viewers to content they aren't mature enough for. I would not be pleased if Charlie started watching The Family Guy, for example. But I do think that there are worse things than finding comfort and entertainment in a favorite TV show. I know it makes my Wednesday that much better knowing that a new episode of Project Runway is waiting for me at the end of it. Why should I deny the same innocent pleasure to my children?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

No-Name Boy

My latest obsession, besides researching things like infant bath tubs on the Internet ad nauseam, is what this baby boy is going to be called. I have become a frequent lurker on baby name blogs like this one and this one. I have been thinking about it so much that every noun is starting to sound like a plausible name. Computer? Is that a good name? Mouse? That has sort of an off-beat, funky sound to it, doesn't it? Mouse McBride, hmmmm.....

One of our favorite names is Teddy (Theodore). The other night, in the middle of the night, I was woken up by a leg cramp, a.k.a. a "charlie horse." I was screaming and writhing around in such a way that might make one doubt that I am capable of the non-medicated birth I am hoping for. Anyway, all my carrying on eventually woke Brandon up and he asked what was wrong. "I have a....a....Teddy graham" was all I could come up with at the time. I think I was obsessing so much on the name "Teddy" that I replaced the "Charlie" in "Charlie horse" with Teddy and then Teddy horse didn't sound right, but Teddy graham seemed like a plausible answer. Hmmmm....Graham...that's a nice name too. Hadn't considered that one yet.

This name stuff is making me totally nuts. I keep thinking that we will just know what to call this person when we see him. I hope that happens. I know that I am probably very influenced by all of the baby naming resources that are literally at my fingertips via the Internet. I think sites like nymbler and name voyager are making parents feel like the "right" name is out there if they just look hard enough and Google long enough. The blurb on the back of the baby name book I'm currently reading says this:
"Yes, your baby’s perfect name is out there. The trick is finding it. The perfect baby name will speak to your heart, give your child a great start in life—and maybe even satisfy your relatives. But you can't expect to just stumble on a name like that in an A to Z dictionary or on a trendy list. That’s why you need The Baby Name Wizard. Created by a name-searching mom, it uses groundbreaking research and computer generated models to pinpoint each name’s image, examine its usage and popularity over the last 100 years, and suggest other promising ideas. A perfect guide to the modern world of names, The Baby Name Wizard will engage you from the first name you look up and keep you enchanted through your journey to the just-right name for your baby."
Could it be that all the "computer generated models" and "groundbreaking research" are actually making our job as the official namers of another human being harder rather than easier? Suddenly perfectly good names like James or John or even (gasp!) Charles, sound so plain, so obvious. I mean do you really need a computer generated model to lead you to John? Did you really do your baby name homework thoroughly if all you could come up with was John?

Then there's the flip side of that. If everyone's using these complicated web-savvy ways to find a baby name, then why not be a real trendsetter and come up with a name that is so anti-what-everyone-else-is-doing that you're actually sort of cutting edge? Doesn't that make John, like, way more hip than say, Milo?

Uggh. I just need to have the baby, see what mood we're in at the time and give the little guy a name. Whatever the name, we will love it because we will love him and he will be the cutest _____ we have ever seen, I'm sure.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The importance of being idle

I don't have much to write about. Honestly my life is pretty boring right now. You're probably clicking over to someone else's blog right now, and I wouldn't blame you. For a while there I was really fired up about summer and all the FUN that we were going to have, all the adventures we were going to go on, etc. Now I'm tired. And I'm hot. And I am way pregnant. I find myself lying on things, fanning myself with a Wall-E book a lot. I stare at the giant calendar in the kid's playroom, the kind that kindergarten teachers have with the huge numbers that fit inside of pockets, and try to figure out what day it is. Does it matter? Who cares? I go outside to water the plants and see how big the tomato plants are getting. We started them from little seeds bought at the Dollar Spot at Target in March, back when we still had to wear coats if we were going to buy something at the Dollar Spot. We put the tiny Dollar Spot pots on our living room window sill because it was still too cold for them outside. Someone (I can't be sure who, but I have an idea) thought it would be cool to pull up the little sprouts as soon as they started to grow, and I would come into the living room to find them lying, corpse-like, roots exposed on the windowsill next to their pot. It made me so angry. Livid! What a silly thing to be angry about, but at the time it was a huge deal. At the time I was newly pregnant and I really related to those little sprouts, trying so earnestly to take root. Now, the plants are big and hearty. Their stems are thick and have little hairs that stand out all over them. They have yellow flowers now which bear the promise of future tomatoes. Yet, we still have to wait. All this time has passed and there is still more time to be passed before we arrive at destination tomatoes. Once again, I totally relate.

The tomato plants are growing, my tummy is expanding, Charlie needs a haircut. The days are slowly drifting by, but I still feel like summer is never going to end. Part of me wants it to and part of me doesn't. Judging from my blog entries, you might be led to believe that every day is an educational thrill a minute. For every blog entry I've written about some fun summer activity we've done, there have been about six days in between where we spent the time at home; me folding laundry and intermittently groaning about how giant the baby is, the kids playing out one of their crazy imaginary scenarios where they pretend to be lifeguards at the beach or drive their babies around in convertible cars. These exciting days are peppered with trips to the grocery store and maybe a visit to the pool where we always seem to be the only people there. We try our best to follow all the pool rules as we swim under the unflagging gaze of a very stoic lifeguard, every word we say magnified by the water and the lack of other people. It's not a bad life, but for some reason I'm ready to get on with things and get back to "real" life.

One thing I've noticed though is that all this unstructured time has been good for us. It has fed my spirit and I feel sort of happy (when I'm not complaining about the heat, or the giant baby, or the tyrant of a lifeguard.) I've come to the conclusion that a little boredom is good for the soul. I just read the following quote today (it's about writing, but don't worry, it applies to lots of things): "If you write, good ideas must come welling up into you so that you have something to write. If good ideas do not come at once, or for a long time, do not be troubled at all. Wait for them. Put down the little ideas however insignificant they are. But do not feel, anymore, guilty about idleness and solitude...if it is the dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano, or sew, or paint ALONE; or an idleness-and this is what I want you to do--where you sit with pencil and paper or before a typewriter quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness. With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are being slowly filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts."*

The tomatoes are coming, along with shorter days and deep blue skies that will be set off by bright orange leaves. The preschool will open its glorious doors again, and the sounds of football will fill our living room as it does every fall, as will the cries of a brand new baby. And most likely I will look back dreamily on our long summer days as the best days--the days I wish I could have back again.

*From Brenda Ueland's book If You Want to Write

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Space Mommy

Got no sleep last night...well, does three-ish hours count? I'm not sure what my problem was...probably just the typical and especially cruel pregnancy-induced insomnia that is your body's way of "preparing" you to wake up every hour or so with a newborn. Fun. The upside of my painful night is that I watched a new cooking show on Tivo at 4:30 a.m. and got some great, easy weekday dinner ideas. The theme of the show was five meals you can make with only one trip to the grocery store. Here are the recipes (click on the link and scroll down to "Episode 408 Supermarket Savvy). Mommy Town always has your back.

We had plans today to hang out with some friends in DC and so I figured I'd make the gas usage worthwhile and have an all-out DC museum day. We had lots of fun splashing and digging in the Children's Garden at the U.S. Botanic Garden (wow, some fancy plants going on there). Then we headed to the National Gallery for a "trip to Paris" art class. The kids got little passports and were "transported" via art and stories to Paris. We sat in front of Renoir's painting "The Pont Neuf, Paris" and talked about what kinds of things we might see, taste, smell, hear if we were in that painting. We talked about the use of light and how you can tell that it is daytime even though you can't see the sun.

And then we read this book...I think a lot of it was over their heads. (Charlie kept shouting out, "when are we going to the rocket museum?" at inappropriate times. ) But they enjoyed making the craft, which was to finger paint with Color Wonder finger paints onto transparent Color Wonder paper that had been affixed to a matted picture of the Eiffel Tower (whew, awkward sentence). The end result was pretty cool and is much more tasteful than most of the kid art we currently have hanging on the wall.

Then we headed over to the "Rocket Museum," a.k.a The Air and Space Museum for some airplane/rocket fun. We hadn't been there in about a year or so, long before Charlie could fully express his absolute love of all things winged. It was an ecstatic experience for him to see all those airplanes and rockets. Truly, he radiated airplane/rocket-induced joy. Emma liked it too. In fact she requested that we have a space party ASAP.
What's a space party you ask? I have no idea. We are making this stuff up as we go. I think we might go to Michaels and purchase one of those kits where you can paint the solar system. That would be fun. While we're at Michaels we might also pick up some Color Explosion art supplies so that we can make our own constellation pictures. I also think it would be cool to get one of those projector things that shines all the constellations on the ceiling, but this is sort of expensive, so instead I might just poke holes in some card stock and stick it over a flashlight. The only thing we're really sure of is that this space party will involve a rocket cake. I might try to talk the kids into some rocket sugar cookies instead because heaven knows I do not need some big rocket cake sitting around the house tempting me for the next week.

Emma really wants the space party to happen tonight. She's already prepping by making princess party hats. (I know that does not really "go" with the space theme, but I am not terribly rigid about these things.) It's unlikely that the space party will happen tonight seeing as I am about to fall asleep as I write this. I think we'll continue the space theme tomorrow when Mommy is fresh and doesn't feel, well, quite so spacey.

Got any other crafty ideas we can do for our space party? Don't keep 'em to yourself. Please share!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Having Kids Makes You Happy...True or False?

This is an interesting article in Newsweek about whether people with kids are happier than people without kids. (Hint: the answer is not what you might think...)

After reading this article, I can't help but wonder do kids make me "happier?" I think they definitely do... I think I'm much happier sharing my life with them, seeing the world through their eyes and most importantly, I don't have time to think about myself and be all angsty (as is my tendency) because I'm too busy cleaning up after their potty training messes, their arts and crafts messes, their food messes, too fried from playing judge and jury as they both debate about who had the Bob the Builder computer first. This morning Charlie woke me up at 5:40 a.m. because he wanted to cuddle. Did that make me happy? I'm too tired to know or care. It's not that cleaning up messes all day and feeling sleep deprived make me happy, but they are a small price to pay for a life filled with the deep and abiding love I feel for my family. So, in the end, I think it's safe to say, I'm happy.

I might be a lot happier after a nap though...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lemonade out of Lemons

Yesterday I was just settling into a nice afternoon nap on the couch when Emma came downstairs to announce she needed a box so she could make a lemonade stand. No wait, I wasn't really settling into a nap...it was more like a nap came and grabbed me by the maternity t-shirt and wrestled me onto the couch. I think this is one way that being pregnant is sort of like being narcoleptic. Sleep just descends on you out of nowhere and you have no choice but to submit to it.

In my weakened state all I could muster up to say was, "a box?"

"Yes, Mommy," Emma was already growing impatient with my lack of knowledge and lack of consciousness.

I lay there, hoping that this was the end of our conversation.
"Mom-yyyyyyy!" Her not-so-subtle emphasis on the "eee" part of Mommy made it clear my nap was over. I could either get on board with this lemonade stand or spend the rest of the day regretting it.
Lemonade, anyone?

It ended up being pretty darn cute. We actually squeezed our own lemons because being the neglectful Mommy I am, there was not a grain of Country Time or Minute Maid powder to be found in our townhouse. We did have lemons, though...and sugar...and water, which apparently is all you need to make lemonade. Who knew? The kids helped squeeze the lemons and I couldn't help thinking about all the things they were getting out of this little project (developing their hand muscles by squeezing the lemons, measuring, pouring, a lesson in the power of advertising and the importance of product placement, how not to harass costumers, etc.) We made the lemonade, Emma made a sign and actually wrote the letters "L-E-M-O-N-A-D-E" across the sign in large yellow crayon letters from left to write instead of all over the page seek-and-find style as she sometimes does with her writing. I asked her how much the lemonade should cost and she said simply, "one."

"One cent?" I asked.
"Yes, one cent," she said clearly having no idea what that meant.
We took their little table and chairs downstairs along with the cash register, our sign, the tape, some dixie cups stolen from the toothbrushing station upstairs and the pitcher of lemonade. We set up shop on the sidewalk in front of our house and waited. Our house faces a hike and bike trail, so if we really wanted big business, we could've moved our little stand to the entrance of the trail and made a killing, we're talking like fifty, maybe fifty-three cents here. But, pregnant mommy didn't want to carry everything quite that far, so the sidewalk in front of our house worked just fine.

We had maybe four customers and all of them insisted on giving us a quarter for their tiny toothbrush cup shot of lemonade. We offered free refills to sweeten the deal. I think Charlie drank the rest of the lemonade himself. Between potty breaks for him (apparently lemonade is processed differently from other drinks in that it goes straight from mouth to potty/underpants in about two minutes flat) and breaks to bring out toys to play with, we probably spent a good hour or so attempting to sell lemonade. Every time the kids would see a car pull up near our house, they would yell, "a customer! a customer!" and I had to practically strap them down to keep them from running out into the street and accosting the poor person with lemonade. A few people walked right by us and either pretended not to hear their pleas to buy lemonade, or said a curt "no thank you" and kept walking. How, I ask you, can you say no to this?





We never did end up needing the aforementioned box. I'm not sure where Emma came up with that one. We did end up having a lot of fun...and meeting a few of our neighbors...and I think we made a whole dollar. Not bad for a Monday afternoon.