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 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 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 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!