Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Hmph!" hmphed Sara

I deleted my last blog entry because I couldn't stand the idea of presenting myself to internet-at-large as a self-indulgent whiner. I thought I'd start over with more positive stuff.

So the past week or so has been really great. I've been having SO much fun, just living and doing the normal mundane stuff. G-money (the munchkin formerly known as "G") baked her first batch of brownies ALL BY HERSELF. I had to sit on my hands a few times so that I wouldn't ruin the experience with all my "help." They turned out wonderfully and she was so proud. Bayba (the little monkey formerly known as "A") loves helping me with anything and everything I do... and offers two-year-old wisdom and insight that frequently floors me. So, to re-cap - life is good. I just haven't been writing about it because I've been too busy living it.

Then there's the not-so-good. I had a midwife appointment, this morning, and was basically put on modified bedrest. All the physical issues of the last pregnancy have recurred, and my midwife strongly encouraged me to spend as much time as possible laying down on my left side. Admittedly, if she was an OB, I'd probably blow off this advice as too extreme and alarmist... but given that she's from The Netherlands and extremely easy-going (tends to avoid medicalizing the whole pregnancy/birth thing as much as possible), I'm inclined to take it a little more seriously.

Which is difficult enough, what with a VERY active two-year-old and all... but I told her we were planning to leave on our Holiday pilgrimage to The Homeland, this weekend... so what am I supposed to do about that? She said she'd prefer that I not travel, but she understood that this is a pretty big deal, so she wasn't going to give specific orders not to travel... but she's strongly recommending that if I travel, I take it easy and spend as much of the trip as possible sitting or, even better, laying down.

Right.

This should be fun.

But at least the baby seems to be doing great, growing well, and not trying to make an early appearance... so, really, it's all good.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Jig is Up

Yesterday something suddenly felt different. The sore, aching hips popped in kind of a strange-feeling-almost-audible way. The symphisis has a palpable separation, probably slightly less than a centimeter. What's kind of weird is that it's slightly right of meridian... so I'm not sure what's up with that.

Anyway, bear with me here. This is not a whiney post. Not really much point in whining, now. Besides, it's not like I have a lot of time left to put in. It was a lot scarier with the last pregnancy, when I was worried that I would be stuck like this forever. Fortunately, while it took a long time, my body did take care of the healing stuff without much medical intervention. I don't see why this time should be any different. Last time I was worried about surgery and long-term pain. This time - eh... I'm just wishing I'd made it to the library before my legs quit working. Oh well. I'll get some books reserved and send Superhusband.

OK - one little whine... I MISS my deceased laptop. It was one of the very nice things about last pregnancy... Sure, I was stuck in bed, but at least I could chat online and play games. If that's the best thing I can think of to whine about, I'm in pretty good shape.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Petrificus Totalis!

Lately A has been really exercising her independence. It's a good thing she's SUPER cute because sometimes I think she goes a little beyond normal two-year-old defiance. Take last night, for example.

J was trying to do bedtime stories and every time he turned his back, A was trying to provoke her big sister. Now - G is generally an awesome big sister. She's usually very patient and very generous and kind... but let's A push her until she (G) has total emotional (we're talking drama llama) meltdowns. That's what was happening last night. G had arranged her bed just so and had the books set up and ready to go. A saw this as an opportunity to examine cause and effect. What would happen if the blanket tent fell (was pushed)? How would G react if her carefully ordered books were tossed on the floor?

I'll tell you how she'd react. She reacts the same way every time. Wailing and waterworks. Which amuses A tremendously.

So J had left the room to retrieve some absolute bedtime necessity when G began crying. He hurried back into the room. A, caught in the act of demolishing the bedtime tent, began waving her arms at her Daddy, shouting "Petrificus Totalis! Petrificus Totalis!"

Those of you unfamiliar with Harry Potter may be entertained by the fact that this is the spell the young wizards and witches use to petrify (freeze) a person or moving object. Apparently A was hoping that she could delay the inevitable parental intercession by freezing her Daddy.

Good times.

Meanwhile, in the nesting/painting issue, I'm coming to an uneasy realization. Yesterday I took A to Lowe's with me and picked up a billion paint chips. There was one color I really liked. It's a greenish gray. But I'm looking for beige... cafe au lait, if you want to get all snobby about it... Anyway, when I got home, I taped my six favorite cards up on the wall and sat back to contemplate them. I had taped my favorite (though least practical) in the center, and as I sat back I realized that it matched the wall.

Yup. Nearly a perfect match.

So all day my poor preggo-addled brain worked uneasily on the issue.

My favorite chip already matches two of the walls. But what has been really slowing me down on changing anything is the fact that I love... I mean LOVE the purple that's also on two of the walls. I think it would be good - peaceful - to make everything a uniform beige (cafe au lait!). Beige with white trim looks very pretty in the magazines.

When J got home, I told him if he really wanted to be annoyed, he should guess which of the chips was my favorite. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to be annoyed, he played along... and guessed the color that I thought would be the best choice (Behr Pony Tail... it looks great in all the staged shots). No, I told him... look at the one in the center... it's kind of hard to see because it blends into the wall. J was not as amused as I'd hoped he'd be.

I've been thinking (it hurts but I do it anyway) - maybe the real problem is not the colors that are on the walls but that I didn't "finish" the project. Maybe I should begin by painting the trim white. No matter what color the wall is, I want white trim anyway.

Maybe, if I took an hour or two and painted the trim on that one gray wall, I could find out that's all I'm really missing... I mentioned this to J and you would have thought I'd just invented a new microcontroller or something. Big thumbs up. So guess what I'm doing today?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Intervention

Talk me down, guys.

A nesting obsession has hit and I don't know if I can handle the fallout.

I. must. paint.

About a year ago I painted two walls of my livingroom/dining room gray and two purple. I LOVE the purple. J likes the gray (not so much the purple). Don't get me wrong - this was FUN and a vital step for me in feeling like I was really in my OWN home.

Times change. People grow up.

So, months and months ago I decided that I wanted to do all my main downstairs walls (we have an open floor plan, so all the walls kind of bleed together) a light cafe-au-lait color and paint the trim white (right now it's kind of oakey - which is probably real oak but just looks like the cheapo imitation oak to me). I've been kind of daydreaming about it - yet still enjoying my purple.

Well, last night It hit. I need to finish my main floor. NOW. Why, you ask? Window treatments of course. Duh. I want to put up wrought iron curtain rods and either deep purple (to accent my sofa) or sage green (just 'cause I like sage green... it probably wouldn't go with anything) curtains. In all our years of apartment and rental house dwelling, I've never felt motivated to take on "window treatment." Mini blinds were good enough and there wasn't any point in investing too much thought or emotional attachment to any place I'd be leaving in a year or two.

Now, after getting used to how stunning my wrought iron mirror is, I realized that motif would be fantastic to carry on to other accents in the house. In this case, curtain rods.

Big whoop, right? A quick trip to Ikea or Target and a fresh charge on my cordless screwdriver and I'm good to go! Except that there's no point in putting them up, only to have to take them down again for painting. And the oakey color of the trim just wouldn't look right.

I thought about just painting the trim for the sliding door and livingroom window (that's it - we're only talking about TWO sets of curtains/rods for this obsession) and then postponing the walls indefinitely. But... Aaaargh! I'd really like to just get the whole project done so I could sit back and enjoy the beauty of my home.

So I'm contemplating running down to Lowe's and at least getting some painter's tape. And drop cloths. And some tinted primer (the gray walls are oil-based and the purple are - well - purple). And just getting started. I'm pretty sure I can move the entertainment center and TV by myself. Not so sure about the fridge or stove. *sigh*

If I had a 10-15' ladder I'd be painting already. Yeah. HIGH ceilings in the entryway. I looked it up. Those things are expensive.

So... if any of you have wisdom to share, I'd love to hear it.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mighty Fine Day

The rain is still coming down and roads are beginning to flood in my little corner of the world, so I thought I'd take a few minutes and post a big public Thank You to all the people who made this weekend so wonderful for me.

The Bday Bash thrown by The Urban Princess (she's the one with the magenta hair) was SO much fun! The cake was awesome (chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting)... I'm still fantasizing about it. The company was fascinating - and you simply can't beat a party where everybody can relax and be appreciated for who they are (kids and adults alike).

And Princess's mom (The Urban Queen?) treated us all to fabulous pizza when the party ran on later than planned. YUM!




I arrived home from the party to find a birthday card from my mom waiting for me in the mail. She sent me birthday money. Birthday money is pretty cool when you're a kid... but who would have thought it would mean so much more when you become an old mommy-type? Being an adult with all the fun of budgeting, I generally feel very uncomfortable about spending money on myself. It always seems like there are more important places for money to go than whatever luxury I might be dreaming about. But Birthday money? All options are open and there's no guilt about selfishness. Nice.

Yesterday my superhusband was at his superhusband best. He started off the day making a yummy breakfast (eggs, toast and bacon) before loading us all in the car for a morning of shopping (woo hoo! happy birthday to me! especially when I have birthday money burning a hole in my pocket). First stop was Barnes & Noble, where I bought 2 Foodie magazines and Fit Pregnancy (another magazine... hey - gotta have balance!). That's some decadent shopping!
Afterwards we hopped across the river to Ikea. It was so much fun to be shopping for ME! I bought a wrought iron wall mirror for my dining room (something I've been wanting ever since we moved into this house), two floor lamps, and a few kitchen utensils. And even had a few dollars left over!
We were all exhaused by the time we got out of Ikea so we came home and Superhusband made a wonderful dinner for me, after which we put the kids to bed and watched the third DVD of Season 1 of The Sopranos.
Yup. I think the past two days have pretty much proven themselves to comprise the best birthday ever.
Thanks everyone!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Old

This afternoon I'm going to The Urban Princess' house to eat cake in honor of my birthday. Woo Hoo! I'm so excited to be celebrating my birthday with my family and close friends.

I know at some point I'm supposed to reach the age where I lie about my age and claim to dread my birthdays. Apparently I haven't grown up sufficiently to be embarrassed by my age, yet. And birthdays are still nearly as fun as they were when I was a kid. Maybe not so much in my 20's when every day was spent in the shadow of a death wish... but once I hit 30... well, life just keeps getting better, so I can't imagine even feigning ennui or shame and slathering myself in wrinkle cream instead of celebrating the passage. No thanks. I prefer the cake.

Party on!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Reflection

Today has not been the pinnacle of mommyhood for me. I actually raised my voice to my toddler. Multiple times. And when it comes right down to it, the behaviors that were angering me were nothing but what an adult should (and does) know to expect from a two-year-old. Two-year-olds are stubborn. And persistent. And easily frustrated. Some days I easily go with the flow and it's intuitive to empathize with a little person who is having a hard time navigating a big world of challenges. Today was just not one of those days.

I'm grumpy and impatient and both my girls are weathering the snarls and disapproval. It's not fair. They don't deserve to have to walk on eggshells just because I'm not doing enough to control my emotions. Poor kiddos.

So I'm taking 15 minutes to vent on my blog and chill out. And then I will pull myself together and show them the patience and respect they deserve.

:::deep breath:::

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Self-Pity

It's my blog, so I can whine if I want to. Right? Right.

My hips hurt. At this point, I don't remember if it was worse with my last pregnancy or not. Up until the last week or so I've been able to mostly get by without admitting there's a problem. But now it's too obvious to hide (very well).

About halfway (give or take) through my pregnancy with A, the symphysis (cartilaginous joint) between my hip bones gave up the ghost and refused to properly hold the bones in place. This is rather painful and caused all sorts of fun complications. Plus, it took over a year after A was born before I could take stairs or go hiking without pain.

I had high hopes that I'd get through this pregnancy without dealing with this... every time I had hip or lower back pain, I'd tell myself to slow down and back off the physical activities and would pretty much feel better the next day. Despite going much lighter on the housework, yesterday, I have not recovered from Tuesday's nesting.

When it hurts so bad to roll over in bed that you get tears in your eyes... the jig is up. When you can't stand up without holding your breath to keep from swearing... well, you get the picture.

I hate feeling weak. I hate feeling needy. Right now both feelings are completely overwhelming me.

And what really makes me angry is that there's nothing I can do about it.

Complaining doesn't help. But using my deeply ingrained stiff-upper-lip technique is making things worse because nobody understands that I've been pushing through pain and have pretty much reached my limit... the point where sucking it up and pushing through the pain becomes a physical impossibility. I tell my legs to go and they simply won't do it.

And I'm really really really angry that this makes me feel like such a useless wimp and I don't know what to do.

But if you'll forgive my obsessive need to find something to be thankful for (yeah, I was way too into Pollyanna as a kid), I need to end even a self-pity post with something positive: Today is the first day of my third trimester. I've made it through the majority of the pregnancy without major issue. Even if I'm stuck in pain for the rest of the pregnancy, I only have three months left to deal with that. I can do this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Nesting

If I had any doubts before, they have been overrun and drowned in Pine Sol. I am nesting.

Yesterday began innocently enough, as I faced a rather dingy kitchen. First I decided to reorganize the drawers (once the dishwasher was already running, of course). Halfway into drawer #1 (the junk drawer), I realized that I should probably dust off the range hood. OK. The exterior shed its dust easily enough and then I foolishly peeked underneath.

I've read in my housekeeping books that these things should be scrubbed down and degreased at least twice per year... but I uneasily ignored that advice, hoping it could be banished to the realm that shelters such notions as keeping hand-crocheted doilies covering all horizontal surfaces and teaching the servants to properly polish the silver (and counting it when they're through). No such luck. In thirty-two years, I've managed to never take apart or scrub a fume hood. Until yesterday.

Short recap of things that don't work: Soaking the metal filter in soapy water does nothing to degrease it. Scrubbing does little more. Dishsoap won't cut through years of grease built up on the underside of the hood. Comet will, but it will get all over your brand-new stove and give you panic attacks about scratching its pristine surface. Elbow grease? Overrated. Chemical arsenal? Good clean fun.

What ultimately worked: letting the dishwasher do its pots and pans thing on the filter and lightbulb cover. Straight-up pine sol (orange scented - I'm not a barbarian) and a teflon-safe abrasive sponge cut through the years of grease build-up like nobody's business.

While the dishwasher was coping with its job, I tossed A (tutu, cowboy boots and all) into the car and we went to the local hardware store. For those of you who grew up in my homeland, I thought I'd mention that this hardware store makes me nostalgic for Linton's Big R. They have the same kind of stuff... everything from Wranglers and Ropers to John Deere ride-on toys and veterinary supplies for livestock (and 2-3 times per week they have a mobile veterinary clinic in their parking lot... wally world could learn something about one-stop shopping). They also have furnace filters and hardware. So A and I bought two furnace filters and some wall hooks... and then I noticed that they also have the big old-fashioned bags of candy, so I bought some of that, too (cinnamon bears (remind me of my Dad), pink wintergreen candies (Grandpa used to always buy me those) and circus peanuts (I don't know why I like those)).

A and I came home and binged on candy. She wasn't terribly impressed with the cinnamon bears. Woo Hoo! A whole bag of candy I don't have to share! I think I'm beginning to see why my Dad liked them so much.

After that fine, nutritious lunch, I changed the filters (hauling all necessary ladders out of the garage, up the stairs, put them away, etc.). After all that, I also did the "normal" stuff of sweeping/vacuuming/dusting, etc. Then the day was gone and it was time to make dinner.

I think I've mentioned that I instituted family-member request-specific dinners. Tuesday nights are A's dinners. I made pork lo mein stir fry.

One last little helpful bit of information: Cast iron skillets are fabulous for most things. Not so much for stir frying.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Favorite Things


We always decorate the tree on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year I got my perfectionism under control and let the kids put the decorations wherever they wanted... some branches are still bent from the strain of multiple ornaments. Some branches float gracefully unburdened. The kids are proud of their tree.



The best thing about two-year-olds? Their impeccable fashion sense. This is the ensemble A composed for running errands today. Ooh la la!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sisters

"Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don't know what your rights are, or who the person is you're talking to. Then on the way out, slam the door." --Jack Handey--

This is the quote on my sister's blog, today. I will be chuckling to myself, recalling it, for the rest of the day. If you roll your eyes and think it's dumb... well, you're probably right, but it would be a good indication that you and I will not amuse each other in a positive way. I'm a humor-of-the-absurd kind of person. The kind of person who still giggles gleefully, just remembering the Monty Python Silly Walks sketch or the Dead Parrot sketch. Jack Handey's Deep Thoughts are right up there on my happy list, amongst any recitation from The Princess Bride. Yes, I'm one of those people. No, I'm not into D&D.

I miss my sister.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Real World

In the midst of waiting for a new stove, and waiting for my husband to get home so I can go to the dentist, I'm reminded how thankful I am to be who I am, living where I do. I don't have time to do my whole rant. I'll get to that later, if I can.

Meanwhile, please read this news story:
Saudis defend punishment for rape victim

And by all means, comment!

I may come across (in fact, I may be) a bit of a cultural relativist... but there are boundaries which - when pushed - find my sympathetic nature shutting down. This is one of those.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hausfrau Joy

I have several subjects waiting for long, wordy, quasi-intellectual rants.

But those subjects will have to wait.

Right now there's just too much excitement in "The Little Life" (a favorite concept of my lit and art professors, back in the ol' Jr. College days).

Yesterday G had her 2nd grade Thanksgiving production. She played the part of the "T" - and did a mighty fine job.



video


Today I must do my T-day Costco shopping because I need to be at home all day tomorrow.

Why?

I'm glad you asked.

Tomorrow the fine folks at Lowe's will be delivering my new Whirlpool range. It's my Anniversary/Birthday/Christmas present from my awesome husband.





When we moved into our house, a year-and-a-half ago, I was dismayed to discover that the stove in the kitchen was... what's the word... wonky. The burners were perpetually crooked, no matter what I did to try to level them (it didn't help that they didn't sit in the reflection bowls properly and I think the connecters were crooked) and there didn't seem to be any predictibility to the temp of the oven. So I've been coping, since then, while hunting classifieds looking for a used range. A year (plus) of looking wasn't getting me closer to something usable... and NOW... I get a brand-spankin-new one. Delivered. And they'll take away my hated old one. Woo Hoo!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's All Fun and Games...

Yesterday was a little more exciting than I'd hoped.

A, my darling dynamatrix, was playing with her little toy vacuum. J was out for a run. G was playing piano up in her room. I was taking advantage of the moment of presumed unneededness to read up on bread making techniques. Ah, a quiet Saturday afternoon...

Until I heard A scream.

My clever little girl had decided to pretend the mallet/stick for her triangle (we're talking about the musical instrument, here, not a geometric concept) was a screwdriver and had been "fixing" her vacuum. I, admittedly, was not paying adequate attention, or I would have realized her little game looked like this:




Yeah. You could put an eye out with that thing, and I wasn't paying attention.

Sure enough, she slipped on one of her toys, fell, and stabbed herself in the eye.

I haven't had such a huge adrenaline reaction since G broke her arm, years ago. Unfortunately, while I deal quite well with blood, gore, etc. in the general population, seeing my child hurt completely shuts my brain down and I freak out.

Sometimes I think I just don't have the emotional fortitude for this parenting thing.

Whether I do or not, here I am. I love the family practice physicians we use. I called and they told me to just come to the office as quickly as I could - despite the fact that it was nearly time for them to be shutting their doors. The doctor on call was calm and thorough and carefully checked her eye. It's painful and red from the irritation, but otherwise looks OK.

It AMAZES me how resilient kids are.

So, as J says, "All's well that ends." Hopefully today will be the boring day we'd planned for yesterday... and I'll continue my struggle to find the happy medium between prudent vigilence and overprotection.

Friday, November 16, 2007

On the Menu

I've instituted a meal-planning change, recently. Each family member has a designated day of the week to choose what to have for dinner. In the case of the girls, they then get to help me shop for the ingredients and prepare the meal. (For J, I told him I'd take requests, but otherwise just plan on making his favorites... I'm guessing he wouldn't have quite as much fun meal-planning as the kids do.)

Friday's are J's dinners. I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. This was the menu:

Salad
(Baby Spinach with dried cranberries, maple candied walnuts, red onions and feta, with a homemade poppyseed vinegraitte)
Sirloin Steaks
(marinated in a worcestershire/pepper brine before being seared to med rare)
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Broiled Acorn Squash Stuffed with Carmelized Granny Smith Apples

Mmmmmmmmm... It was good.

Surprisingly, the squash seemed to be the hit of the evening. I was afraid no one would eat it. Go figure. Thank goodness no one has thought to ask about dessert. I didn't bother with that. :o)

Rainy Day




If you take a look out the living room window, you might notice that it's a lovely gray, rainy day. A is busy building lego castles and hasn't even thought to ask to watch TV, yet. I've been free to clean the kitchen and get caught up on email and friends' blogs. So far so good.

A declared, this morning, that she didn't want to get dressed because she's a mermaid. Apparently mermaids wear nightgowns all day. OK. Learn something new every day.

I ought to do some grocery shopping, today. Since I've been doing so much more cooking and baking, we've been going through the cheap staples much more quickly. But I don't really want to leave the house. I love feeling all cozy and baking/puttering while the rain drums down, outside.

However, I did just receive an email notice, this morning, that my two requested books on the science and practice of bread baking are waiting for me at the library. It would be awfully fun to dash out and pick up those books and a little more flour and have a bread baking day. I've been perfecting my French bread/baguettes and I'm about ready to move on to the next challenge.

But... it feels so good to just be at home. Maybe I'll wait and do the grocery shopping tomorrow, when I can go all by myself.

You know life is good when your big quandary of the day is whether it sounds better to go to the library or cozy up at home... and the library is only partly tempting because you already have four unread books on the coffee table.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ignorance

Yesterday I took A to the library so she could participate in toddler story time and I could collect the 23,000 books I'd reserved (I love being able to access the library via the internet... it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. The librarians who have to pull books for me almost every day may disagree.).

After the morning packed full of errands, I schlepped my toddler and my pile of books back home.

Have you ever been ravenously hungry as the first course of a gourmet dinner was served? Dinner could be a Big Mac and it would be divine (you're that hungry!), but you know that you can expect so much more that you can't help but be thankful for being painfully hungry because - hopefully - that will mean that you have the appetite to enjoy every course through dessert without ever feeling too full.

Maybe it's just me.

But that's how I feel when I bring a pile of books back from the library and sit down to contemplate them. And when it's the library, it's like going to a chef friend's house (yes, I've been fortunate enough to do this) where you could try exotic fare with no worries about the final bill... worst case scenario is that you don't like one particular offering so you move on to the next with no disappointment or obligation (probably just feeling thankful that you experienced something you might not have been adventurous enough to try elsewhere). Conversely, going to a bookstore is like going to a four star restaurant, where surveying the menu produces nothing so much as anxiety. Can you afford more than one course? Should you meekly select something a la carte and hope it will be OK (and that the waiter won't get all attitudey) or blow your budget trying a bunch of things you think you ought to like, but inevitably feel a little cheated because, even if it's fantastic, it's definitely consumable and it will end... and you'll be left with a blown budget and nothing much to show for it... and if it isn't wonderful, you'll be left feeling cheated and unsatisfied and (if you're anything like me) berate yourself for being so unsophisticated that you can't appreciate the foods that people with cultivated palates must love.

Yep. That's what a trip to Barnes & Noble is for me. It doesn't keep me away. No matter what, I still love being surrounded by books and potential knowledge. But, unless I went in intending to buy one particular book, I've come to dislike purchasing time... and in most of my subjects of interest, B&N just doesn't carry specialized enough material (Powell's Books is a whole other beast for a whole different analogy). So if I spend money in B&N, chances are very good I'll leave with some buyer's remorse. No matter how much I love books in general.

So... back to my fresh-from-the-library stack of books...

The first was a dud. It was Someone's in the Kitchen With Mommy: More than 100 Easy Recipes and Fun Crafts for Parents and Kids by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. OK, dud might be a bit harsh, but most of the recipes I contemplated required fake ingredients. I realize she's an RD, but if I'm going to take the time to cook good foods with/for my kids, I'm not using fat free egg product or diet margarine. That's not what I want to teach them about food. If you want to healthy-up a recipe there are many substitutions that can be made which replace fats with fruit, beans, etc. I'm not in this to add the latest chemical crap to my kids' food in the name of whatever current food fad is considered healthiest.

But hey... it's a library book. I didn't have to buy it. I get to take it back. I'm still happy.

Next I somewhat nervously began Pot on the Fire: Further Exploits of a Renegade Cook by John Thorne with Matt Lewis Thorne. Oh, rapture! John Thorne is such a brilliant essayist that I can forgive him his Amherst education (I'm deeply prejudiced against Amherst - mostly illogically - long story). Yes, his essays seem to orbit around a food or cooking method. But they're so much more. Subject matter aside, I rarely stumble across a writer who can evoke this kind of visceral, almost animalistic joy in me. I love words even more than I love food.

Which brings me to the title of today's blog entry: ignorance. Last night, I devoured a paragraph that brought me to a complete standstill. The kind of reading moment that freezes all the little brain cogs and you have to go back over it, three or four times, breaking down each word to suck the marrow out and try to reconstruct the essence of a concept just out of your reach. I knew I'd need to come back to it, so I actually defaced a sacred library book. I dog-eared the page and highlighted the paragraph with the first tool at hand - a jumbo washable crayon (red). Here it is:

"The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard once observed that, despite our persistent belief to the contrary, our ignorance is rarely a blank slate waiting to be written upon. Instead, it has the assured grip of deeply felt, fully formed (if unarticulated) assumptions that - no matter how hard we try to shake them - prove dismayingly durable, even regarding the simplest things."

Suddenly I'm digging through my psyche and knowledge banks, searching for all those little denials I know are hiding comfortably amongst the truths... examining all the things I think I know... yet knowing that my ignorances will probably not be so easily identified and dismembered. I can't quite explain why this is so exciting to me. I guess I'm just enchanted by finding a lucid description of an aspect of human nature that I could never quite describe.

My life is never so full and colorful as when I have a new concept to mull.

Life is good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tact

Today A and I were getting into the car, prepared to commence our morning errands, when My Lovely Russian Neighbor emerged from her house, kids in tow, ready to start her day as well. She had tried to call last night and I let it go to voicemail. Nevertheless, I summoned all my cool social niceness and said hello in what was intended to be a warm and friendly way.

Silly me.

She stopped to talk. OK. I made small talk for a few minutes until she said, "Oh wow! You still don't even look pregnant! You just look like you have a big bloated beer belly!!!"

And then she giggled.

And frankly, I couldn't help but laugh, too.

I mean -REALLY- either she's a total bitch or completely socially inept. Either way, there's nothing to do but shake my head and wish her a nice day as I drive away. As "compliments" go, that's certainly the worst I've yet experienced.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mommy Wars and Other Nonsense

This morning I was reading my email and an MSN headline caught my attention: Five tips to handle competitive moms. This is a topic that interests me - but perhaps not for the obvious content.

If you read the article (which will take all of 5 minutes... it has all the depth of a pancake), the basic idea is that many women have difficulty adapting to the notion of self-as-mother and so alienate the women around them by wrapping up their identities in their kids and bragging/competing constantly. Sorry, but I call BS on this tired issue.

Do some parents get competitive? Sure. Are some parents overly involved in the achievements of their kids? Probably. But there's so much gray area between being too involved vs. not involved enough... and every article you read will make you worry that perhaps you're too ______ (pick any quality, there's a parenting magazine article out there that can make you feel inferior, if you take it seriously).

But these particular missives are the most distasteful to me. It falls into the manufactured "Mommy Wars" category. If I believed the headlines or the characters on popular shows, I'd think that women were a bunch of shallow materialistic jerks who thought about little besides using their kids to satisfy their own egos. Whatever. I'm tired of articles that state that work-outside-the-home mommies think stay-at-home mommies are spoiled and backwards. I'm tired of essays suggesting that stay-at-home mommies think work-outside-the-home mommies are selfish women who put material comforts above the welfare of their kids.

I have yet to meet or talk to any woman who truly discounts the mothers around her in such a judgemental, cavalier manner.

I have many friends who work outside the home and do a fabulous job of parenting... and from what they say, they've usually found that this arrangement works the best for their family for many reasons. They've never passed judgement on me for doing what works best for our family - even when it's different. I have many stay-at-home mama friends and don't know any of them to have harshly judged another mother for having a paid career.

The insidious message of such media - as I see it - is that women should believe that they are constantly under attack from the people they most need to support them.

Seriously. Popular media would have us believe that we are lazy and indulgent if we stay at home with our kids. They would have us believe that we are selfish if we choose to work for a paycheck. They would call us unwise if we don't put our kids in preschool and alarmist or over-protective if we homeschool... all the while trying to terrify us with stories of school violence and promiscuity. News would have us believe that all men are likely child molesters and that there is mortal danger around every corner. Don't praise your kids or they'll never find self-motivation. Don't be too critical or your kids will never have decent self-esteem. Don't feed them sugar or they'll suffer from countless health maladies. Don't deprive them of sugar or they'll have eating disorders. Put them in sports, piano lessons, countless enrichment activities or they'll always lag behind their peers and never get into good colleges. Don't overbook them or they might burn out.

Basically, everything you do will probably be wrong and any hardship your child ever encounters will be your fault.

And don't bother trying to have friends, because they're just judging you anyway.

Aaaaaargh! Enough already! Stop it!

I want to hear about my friends' accomplishments and the accomplishments of their children. I want to be included in their joys and sorrows. I want to be party of the good, the bad and the ugly. It's all part of life, and the more you make taboo - off-limits to discussion - the bigger the rift grows between people who should be supporting each other.

And whom, exactly, does this serve?

Well, I think it's pretty obvious. It serves all the companies who post the neat, colorful ads in strategic places around the article. The best way to make us buy crap we don't need is to make us fearful and overwhelmed with a false sense of inferiority. The more alienated we feel, the more desperate we'll feel to belong to something... to fit somewhere... and the more desperate we are for camaraderie and closeness, the more likely we are to keep our mouths shut and not rock the boat when we think the people around us concur with all the crap we're being fed.

Enough.

There is no Mommy War. Your friends really do want to hear about the great things junior did, yesterday... and when they share their moments of joy and pride, it's not because they're competing, it's because they want to have someone to share in their happiness. Most of the other mamas out there support you! No matter what is said or unsaid. Is your child throwing a tantrum in the middle of the mall? Those looks you're getting probably aren't judgement. They probably mean that the people around you have been where you are and sympathize! They just don't dare say anything because they're so afraid it will come out wrong or you'll be mad if you know they noticed you're having a tough time.

Yes, sometimes the sahms will be jealous that the wohms get a paycheck and some adult conversation. Sometimes the wohms might feel a little jealous that the sahms are getting more one-on-one time with their little ones. That's HUMAN and has nothing to do with whether one group supports the decisions of the other.

The vast majority of us are doing our very best to navigate this life and do the best we can for our families. Don't let some advertising agenda convince you otherwise.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reality and Parenting

Yesterday I watched my two-year-old feed silver spoons down the crevices of the sofa cushions. I didn't think much of it... just normal toddler antics. Besides, I thoroughly vacuum the sofa at least once each week, carefully wedging the crevice tool between every cushion, all the way back to the frame.

So I half-heartedly admonished her to refrain from putting the nice silverware in the sofa and plunged my arm into the abyss to retrieve my fine flatware.

Before retrieving all four spoons I salvaged 12 jumbo crayons, the mallet for the xylophone, numerous barrettes and other coiffure accoutrements, three socks, and a whole mess of Annie's Organic whole wheat bunny crackers.

I've often wondered how we manage to go through crayons so quickly. I just assumed the socks had disappeared in the dryer. That the vacuum missed the crackers altogether is somewhat disconcerting, but I'll certainly be more careful in the future.

A's name means "bird-like." The imagery in my little world was always graceful and airy... I hadn't thought she'd live up to the name by decorating a hidden "nest" with flashy contraband like a magpie. Live and learn.

Meanwhile, she has been seriously trying my patience on other fronts. It's a little overwhelming to go into too much detail, right now, but the short version is that she has boundless energy, endless enthusiasm, and a need to perpetually be in motion... and while her sparkling personality can be all charm one minute, she doesn't have a highly refined sense of empathy (very different than her older sister in this detail) and can be quite (to use a friend's description of her son) prickly. I'll spare the detailed list of events of the weekend. The bottom line is that J and I didn't get to go out for our anniversary dinner, yesterday. Today we had to leave Barnes and Noble in a hurry and I didn't get a book. And I've been coping with tantrums each and every time A doesn't get exactly what she wants when she wants it... and sometimes an extra tantrum or two just for kicks, even when she is getting her way.

Yeah, I realize I'm whining. And yes, I understand that two-year-olds are, by default, willful and prone to tantrums. But this is different than what I went through with G. Very different. So different that I actually found myself, in a moment of despair last night, reading articles on symptoms of ADHD in toddlers and preschoolers. Yes. Seriously.

I'm hoping this is just a phase. Just normal for her and her dynamic way of being in this world. Hoping that I can just hang in there and try to enjoy the lessons she has to teach me. I know this time goes by too quickly. But sometimes... Sometimes I really need a break when there is no break to be had. During those times I reserve the right to whine just a little bit.

And not be embarrassed to admit that I don't think my children are 100% delightful 100% of the time. Parenting is HARD. I love it and wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world. But right now... Right now I'm just getting through the evening and hoping tomorrow will be better.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Salvage

OK, I confess... I am so stinkin' proud of myself, right now.

For months, I've been lusting after new play kitchens for the kids. I wanted one made out of wood, with individual appliances for maximum rearrangeability, painted bright colors... and I found various versions ranging from $120-$1200. I wanted to give this fabulous gift to the kids for Christmas... which was distinctly impractical because we'll be celebrating the holidays with the grandparents, rather than at home. Such gifts don't lend themselves to road trips - not even with the generous trunk size of the Taurus.

Whilst obsessed with all this wood-kitchen-coveting, I had a dirty little reality niggling at the back of my mind.

We already have one, you see.

No, it's not a lovely little wooden kitchen. It's the monstrous Little Tykes version I bought for G at a yard sale, several years ago. This Summer I'd become fed up with how much space the thing takes up and decided to move it to the back yard so the neighbor kids could enjoy it, too, and I would no longer have to creatively arrange the real furniture around it.

J was skeptical about my decision. He is well versed in the life cycles of toys outdoors. He graciously supplied the brute strength to haul the thing outside, all the while thinking we had just junked one of the kids' favorite toys. But, ever amicable, he obliged me... and out it went.

So, last night, when I mentioned my desire to spend hundreds of dollars on a new play kitchen, he was less than thrilled. If he was an emotional man, he probably would have been angry... but, being the mellow wonder that he is, the best way to describe his reaction is... hmmmm... that he was perplexed in an unfavorable way. So, as far as I was concerned, that was the end of that idea. (Don't get the wrong idea... this isn't a meekness/submissiveness thing. My husband hates saying no to me - so when he even expresses dissent to one of my fabulous ideas, I take it very seriously.)

Thus our story arrives at this lovely, cold, foggy morning. I decided to salvage the Little Tykes kitchen and try - again - to find a way to incorporate its garish plasticness into my decor. Leaving A watching Dora the explorer, I armed myself with an abrasive sponge, hot water and Pine Sol and braved the dirty, nasty kitchen.

Half the spiders in the Pacific Northwest had taken up residence in the various nooks and crannies. I evicted them. I scrubbed off the layers of dirt, dumped the leaves and standing water, and carefully removed all the chunks of various weeds that had served as make-believe food in the course of a backyard Summer. Then I sprayed it down and thoroughly dried it off with old towels. Bravely ignoring my increasingly ginormous belly, I then flexed my womanly muscles and maneuvered the thing back inside.

A was thrilled. I'm proud. And J will be so relieved. All in all - a good morning's work.


The results. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Scrapping

Today is the 7th anniversary of the day I married my husband. Yay! It's hard to believe that we've actually been in love with each other the majority of the years we've been alive. Wow.

In other stuff... I wanted to post a few examples of digital scrapping for the people who aren't familiar with it. I'm a hardcore proponent of digital storage (more to the point - I'm ANTI-CLUTTER) and I rarely have the energy to break out all the tools and supplies it takes to scrap the old-fashioned way. So here ya go:



I'm sure people with a better eye for layout could compose more professional looking results... but I'm happy with these and I think the kids will treasure their scrapbooks in years to come.
And lest you think I came up with all the embellishments myself, think again! I get most of my ribbons and other digital materials from Shabby Princess. Pretty painless.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Evolving Chef

After reading my old friend Rob's comment on my last blog entry, it occurred to me that my friends who formed their perception of me during the first half of my misspent 20's would be shocked by who I am, now that most of the rebellious crazy particles have been refined from my personality.

Yes, I cook. And I'm a very good cook, if I do say so myself. I also clean (that's the one that ought to really shock people). I have also learned that I am strong. I'm actually capable of having real relationships with people, now. I know how to trust. I can deal with being vulnerable.

Strange as it may seem, cooking is a manifestation of my willingness to set aside defensiveness and bravado so I can devote my energy to developing relationships with people I love. To cook for people you have to be willing to serve. Being willing to serve and nurture is often perceived to be a weakness. Especially for women.

So - years ago - I was so concerned about appearing tough and untouchable (or feeling tough and untouchable) that I refused to associate myself with any of the traits I thought were demeaning - the talents and activities I associated with subservience and femininity.

Then I married the love of my life and had babies. Appearing strong didn't help me in the slightest. Actually being tough enough to raise a family was what mattered. For me, this personal strength requires the base of a strong, secure family... for which my husband is absolutely essential. Happy, thriving kids are a necessity. As it turns out (for us), the talents and skills my mother taught me - which I had rejected as overly domestic - are very handy for giving my husband the respite he needs from his work and giving my kids a stable, healthy place to learn and grow.

None of this requires gourmet food or a perfectly organized and sanitary home. I just find the whole process more enjoyable when I put my whole heart and mind into doing the best I can for my family. They deserve no less. So that's my sappy little explanation for how an angry distrustful girl who hated life found the joie de vivre.

With that, here's the pumpkin bread recipe some of my friends have requested (my friend Daisy confirmed, today, that it really is the best pumpkin bread ever).

Sara's Fabulous Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:
15 oz. (about 2 C.) pumpkin puree
4 eggs
1 C. vegetable oil
2/3 C. water
2 tsp. vanilla
3 C. white sugar
3.5 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1.5 tsp. salt
1.5 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
0.5 tsp. ground cloves
0.25 tsp. ground ginger
extra cinnamon/sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350'
2. Liberally butter 3 (7"x3") loaf pans and thoroughly coat them with the cinnamon/sugar mixture
3. Cream eggs and sugar until light and fluffy... use your stand mixer and let it really whip up
4. Add remaining wet ingredients (I usually leave this blending in the mixer at about speed 4)
5. In separate bowl, thoroughly combine all dry ingredients (sifting or whisking them together)
6. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture JUST UNTIL BLENDED
(over-stirring will overdo the gluten structuring and make the bread tough)
7. Pour into prepared pans, sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar, and place on the center rack of preheated oven
8. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the loaves pass the clean toothpick test

When you take the bread out of the oven, DON'T let it cool in the pans. Immediately turn them out onto clean kitchen towels or cooling racks. This preserves the sugary crispness of the crust.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Back on Track


A, today, making pumpkin bread. (Updated after blog posted earlier.)

I seem to be nearing the end of this crazy cold/flu thing. What a relief! I'm finally getting my 2nd trimester energy (and accomplanying OCD ;o) back.

Today I braved the grocery store and bought all the necessities for the week's meals - including J's birthday dinner on Saturday. For his birthday I'm making a spicy sausage & spinach lasagna (the kind where you have to reduce the sauce for hours and your house smells divine), greek salad, pomegranate & kiwi salad, and a lemon layered poundcake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting.

Today A and I are going to make the lemon curd to go between the cake layers. Yum!

Tonight's dinner is four cheese macaroni (the oven kind, not the box kind!), ham, salad and fruit. I'll be making some Pumpkin bread, in a few minutes, to have when G gets home from school.

Can you tell I'm just a little obesessed with food right now? Yesterday J took us out for lunch at Olive Garden. I can't believe how much I ate!!! I'm not losing weight any more! (Until March, anyway.)

I'm also reading two books. Dr. Sears new Vaccine book... and still creeping through On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen. I know way more about the chemistry of foods and their flavors than I ever thought possible. And I also feel much more confident about the approach I've taken to vaccinating my children. Good stuff.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Family Weekend

This weekend has been fun.

Can't beat a pumpkin patch, the weekend before Halloween. The kids drank hot chocolate, navigated a corn maze... and then a hay bale maze, launched pumpkins with giant slingshots, tried to convince various farm animals to eat their straw bedding, and went on a hayride to the pumpkin fields to choose their perfect potential jack-o-lanterns.




G spent $4.00 of her own money to get her face painted and glittered.










A wasn't sure about the whole pumpkin idea. She discovered that the drying vines were prickly and was nervous about pumpkin-hunting.


Today we carved the jack-o-lanterns and now our front porch looks quite festive.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Getting Smarter

Today I made the necessary hotel reservations for our holiday vacation to the homeland. Those of you who followed my bloggy adventures on myspace may recall the last time I made such arrangements for a family trip. Quick summary for those who may not remember: I made reservations through Priceline, paid for a three star hotel and ended up in an Extended Stay America. As it turned out, the ESA wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared, but also was not the experience I was hoping for, either.

When The Urban Princess and I did our road trip to Wyoming, last Summer, again I did the hotel bargain hunting (although Hotwire got my business, rather than Priceline). Some of the rooms were good. Some were not. But every step of the way I noticed that the "savings" came at a price... like two adults and four children being stuck in a tiny smoking room with one double bed and not getting any of the perks and freebies (like kids-stay-and-eat-free type goodies that I had assumed just came with the hotel chain experience). Apparently accepting an internet discount rate voids all usual expectations. So using such "deals" didn't end up saving me as much as I thought it would.

(This specific example was a Holiday Inn... The desk clerk begrudgingly moved us into a two-bed room but warned me against booking with the online discount sites again.)

So I'm done with that. I made all reservation directly with my favorite mid-range hotel chain. I've always had great experience with them. Even one particular stay when I was pretty much the worst customer EVER (G had acquired food poisoning at a family function (LONG story... still makes me angry) and projectile vomited all over every surface of this otherwise lovely hotel room - with pretty much the comfiest beds ever... I had to call the front desk for clean towels and bedding and I couldn't apologize enough... I found the maid before we left in the morning to warn her and apologize profusely and she was outrageously kind and generous).

So we'll be paying about $30 more for hotels, this trip, than we would have if I'd done my super-frugal thing. But the increased likelihood of a good family vacation is worth every penny. (In case any of you are wondering, my favorite mid-range chain is The Red Lion. I've always had good rooms and VERY good service with them.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some Things are Cute. Some are Not.

First, an overwhelming bit of cuteness: A scavenged G's Polly Pockets from her room and brought them downstairs to join the general toy population. A is thrilled to be playing with big girl toys and is carrying one of the Pollies around everywhere. If you ask her about it, she hugs it close and says, "MY Lollipoppit!"

Awwwww...


And on the less-cute side of life - I wasted another 90 minutes of my life, last night.


We rented Evan Almighty.


J and I were shocked at how overwhelmingly lame this "comedy" was. We enjoyed Bruce Almighty, and -until last night- I loved everything Steve Carell ever made. Anchor Man? Oh heck yeah - I love lamp!!! The Office? Gimme more! 40 Year Old Virgin? Only Steve could have made it bearable. Little Miss Sunshine? FABULOUS!!! And then there's Evan Almighty.
Was the editing really bad? I can't believe he'd read the script of the end product and think - yeah, that sounds like a good vehicle for my talents! Was he offered a boatload (hehe) of money and thought -- Oh well, everybody has to make a Gigli sooner or later?
Wait - that comparison is unfair to Gigli which, compared to this movie, is fine cinema!
Anyway, my advice to Blockbuster and Netflix members anywhere is to drop this to the bottom of your queue. No, if I was an unfortunate subscriber to Netflix (BTDT), I'd drop it off the queue. At least, with Blockbuster, you don't have to bother removing it from the envelope. You can just take it to Blockbuster and trade it for something worth watching.
Oh - and in case you were one of the people (like me) who was told that Transformers was surprisingly good - don't fall for it! J watched it (it had robots and explosions and scantily clad damsels, after all). I, thankfully, had a book and only had to pay attention to the screen enough to mercilessly mock its stupidity (after all - that's occassionally enjoyable enough to make a really lame movie worth watching) and tease J for finding it appealing in the slightest.
There's something to be said for the entertainment factor of smug. (Reference to a fabulous episode of South Park for those of you who are shaking your heads.)
Anyhoo... G's parent-teacher conference is today. (This would be the perfect spot to insert a little smiley sighing and rolling its eyes.) Should be fun.

Monday, October 22, 2007

But WHY Does It DO That?

I have a dirty little secret.









I'm obsessed with Alton Brown.















No, I'm not "into" him in any unfortunate way... I'm just ecstatic that there's someone out there like ME!

See, some people mistakenly think I'm some sort of Martha Stewart wannabe. I'm not! I'm not really into domesticity for impressing all my friends (which seems obvious to me - as I err on the antisocial side). I don't want to be a chef. In fact, I can't think of anything much more miserable than being forced to cook, sew, etc. on demand, day in and day out.


Oh wait. I do that.


But I don't like that part of my job.


Some might not guess this, as I do find great joy in creating perfection - primarily in the kitchen. I'm a very picky eater, and I hate to have to go to the effort of cooking something unless it's going to be fabulous.


It may seem unrelated, but in highschool I hated chemistry. Balancing equations and doing mundane labwork bored me to tears.


At home, I persistently protested having to cook or bake anything.

But ask me a question about nutrition, and I can still spit out all sorts of crazy factoids about nutrition content, serving sizes, food pairings to maximize vitamin absorption or the completion of proteins... I kind of like baking - not just because I'm a total carb addict, but also because I love analyzing why a recipe works (or doesn't).


Enter Alton Brown and that love-hate relationship I have with TV.

A few weeks ago, while channel surfing one evening, I came across a geeky little show called Good Eats on The Food Network. As is usual, for me, I was nursing A off to sleep while J read G her bedtime stories. Good Eats totally hooked me. I don't really get into the recipe shows, but this was totally different. In each episode, Alton Brown focuses on a food (or recipe) and explains the science behind it. What makes it work? What ingredients can be freely substituted? Which ingredients must always be precisely combined? WHY? What tools are essential? Which tools are little more than expensive kitchen paperweights?


After getting addicted to Good Eats, I discovered he also does Feasting on Asphalt and hosts Iron Chef.


Yes, I now watch those faithfully.


So today I'm heading down to the library to check out the books I've reserved: All the works of Alton Brown as well as On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee (warning - this is a chemistry book, not a cookbook). Woo Hoo!















Oh, and I had that follow-up ultrasound, this morning. I know what kind of baby I'm having. ;o)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chivalry and Feminism

I always have to sigh when discussions about feminism devolve to focusing on manners. Should men open doors for women? Who pays on a date? Should men feel obligated to censor their language in front of women in a manner they wouldn't in front of men?

C'mon people. The error I see in all the sexism vs. manners questions is the assumption that the issue is gender expectations. The point of feminism, as I see it, is not even feminism so much as it is humanism. Quit worrying about how you're supposed to treat a gender and start seeing people as people. If you go out of your way to treat everyone around you well, you'll probably feel better about yourself and be a happier person in general.

Doors - whoever gets there first opens it. It's nice and often helpful. I'm always pleasantly surprised when the person ahead of me holds the door for me. Sometimes a man will go to extra effort to reach the door first and then hold it for the people behind him. That's nice. The fact that he's male doesn't make it a chauvenistic gesture.

Dates - don't get me started. To cut a long rant short, I think people would be much better off focusing on activities that don't cost anything. Who decreed a high priced dinner and movie the default date? Wouldn't a hike (free) and picnic (nearly free) be better for getting to know a person? If either party is shelling out big bucks on a date, it sets up an imbalance. One of the habits I want to instill in my daughters is always bringing along money of her own and always at least offering to pay her way... and NOT thinking a guy is cheap if he accepts her offer.

Language - no-brainer... Speaker: If you wouldn't want your mom to hear you say it, then just don't say it at all. Listener: If someone is using coarse language and it's offending you, you can ask them to cool it or you can physically remove yourself. Either way, you aren't guaranteed a happy result, but I think it's unrealistic and unreasonable to expect everyone around you to bend over backwards to avoid offending you. Like every other reaction, offense is a choice. And usually not a very productive one.

I've involved myself in too many debates over the years, usually with resentful men and women... the feminist/manners issue has just been overdone...

But today and event brought it all up for me.

I did my Costco shopping, toddler in tow and increasingly large belly to add to the fun. They piled my stuff in huge boxes, so when I was in the parking lot, trying to wrestle my toddler into her carseat while loading about 120 pounds of bulky stuff into an already half-full Taurus trunk, I was getting very frustrated. My back was killing me. Finally, feeling very sorry for myself, I finished the task. Except that I hadn't gotten out of the house on time, so I missed the Executive Member hours and was shopping with the hoi polloi ( for those of you who don't know me well, yet, please understand I use that term with tongue-in-cheek). The parking lot was completely packed, so I'd parked far away from the cart return (new mommies, heed my advice: a parking space proximal to the store is not the goal - park as close as you can to the cart returns!). So the quandary: do I get the toddler out of the car seat and carry her with me to the cart return, and then have to go through the buckling-in mayhem all over again? Or do I lock the car doors and hurry the cart across the parking lot, leaving her there alone?

Before I could make my decision, the gentleman parked next to me finished unloading his merchandise. Immediately, he offered to take my cart back to the return. What a relief! I think he was a little surprised when I thanked him emphatically. For him, it probably wasn't a big deal, but - obviously - his kindness made my day.

Kindness transcends gender politics.

In my little corner of the world, anyway.

Overpopulation

A conversation I had, yesterday, with The Urban Princess, really got under my skin. In the process of solving all the world's problems (theoretically, anyway), we briefly touched on family planning and the politics of family size.

As you all probably know, I'm pregnant with my third child.

Many of my demographic of breeders (environmentalist, quasi-liberal, feminist, politically-active types) found themselves entering their child-bearing years with a quandary: Knowing what we do of the burden a booming human population is weighing on the planet, is there any justification for bringing more people into the world?

When I was younger, I assumed I would not have children. Then I grew up and had to admit that I really wanted a child. When it became clear that getting pregnant might not be as simple as boy-meets-girl, I looked into adopting from third world countries and from foster care environments, domestically. Those seem to be acceptable bleeding-heart sources of baby fixes for my ilk. One uncomfortable truth I had to face, when considering such things, was that no agency would even consider me in a fostering position - let alone adoption. According to the standards of the world, a child would be better off starving in the streets, aborted, or spending their lives in a series of temporary homes than being entrusted to someone like me: a less-than-wealthy white woman with a history of emotional instability. Looking at it that way, I had to wonder if they were right. Do I have any business raising a child?

Fortunately, for that particular argument, I've come to realize that my years of therapy and intentional efforts at building my personal stability have probably left me more capable of controlling myself and my emotions (and often the finances/debt reflect exactly those issues) than 75% of the American population. Yes, I'm a little arrogant about that.

A few things have shaped my current views on the overpopulation issue. The first was probably the event of my older sister having her first child. As I saw her change from a self-absorbed teenager to a selfless mother and watched her son grow into a brilliant (if small, at the time) person, it was clear to me that caring and careful parenting could offer a gift to the world that no other work could. Before this, I had lofty hopes of offering a great intellectual magnum opus to the world. I would write the Great American Novel. Or I would solve some great medical conundrum. Having kids was something any peasant could do. My sister opened my eyes and I realized that, when my life ended, no worldly accomplishment would gratify me like knowing I'd created a strong and loving family.

As years have past and I've refined my political views and ideals, I've had to see a lot of realities I hadn't noticed in my youth. One of which is that people who believe very differently than I do, and would mold the world to fit their moral standards (though often they do that molding without conscious will), are having children. All over the world people are having children - hence the booming population - but huge percentages of these up-and-coming generations have no access to education. Religious fundamentalists (not just Christians) and warring tribal factions who place very different value on human life are outbreeding people like me. A great many of the people I like, admire, agree with, etc. are opting to go childless. A few more have one child. The wild-and-crazy ones might have two, expressing the justification that they are only replacing themselves, not being so indulgent as to actually add to the population.

So when I look at what I can do to save the world ('cause that's what bunny huggers like me are always trying to do, after all), the most obvious answer is to raise the next generation of problem solvers. In order to teach them my values, I still have to do my personal best to demonstrate how I want them to live - things like reduced consumerism, increased recycling, gardening, organics, supporting renewable resource development, placing high value on education and creative thinking, personal responsibility, healthy physical habits, critical thinking, kindness, compassion... All that I do reflects my values and teaches my children while (hopefully) improving my little corner of the world for those who are here...

But what my children learn and create will go on beyond anything else I might envision. My current little corner of the world is only mine for a short time. As my children grow, so does the pocket of the world I vicariously shape. For all I know it will be my kids (or theirs after them) who develop new technologies for feeding the world with less burden to the environment. It might be my kids who cure AIDS. Or discover the gene therapy that eliminates bipolar disorder. Or develop a new technology that permanently frees people from their dependence on fossil fuels. Pretty lofty thinking, I admit - but is stuff like that more likely to come from my kids or from the child soldiers in Africa? Or from the meth-crippled masses here at home? Or from the jihadists? Or trust fund babies with their tiny accessory dogs and senses of entitlement?

So I believe that as long as I am capable of caring for the children I bring into this world and raising them to be the kind of people I think this world needs, I am doing my greatest work. Sure, I'm still a little nervous that there are some people who are looking down their noses at me, or judging me ignorant for adding to the population. But I can't live my life worrying about everyone else's approval. Ultimately, I just have to decide what is right.

And then do it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Perfect Mundane Day

I'm hoping today will be a good day. I chucked the idea of a Costco run, today. J invited a group of coworkers over for dinner on Friday night, so I'm going to wait until tomorrow or Friday to go buy supplies. Today I will reserve for doing things I like to do.

The nurse at the midwifery practice called, last night, to discuss the results of the ultrasound. She thinks that the radiology/imagery people ought to redo the test at no charge because they didn't get the medical measurements they were supposed to. In a few minutes I'll be calling her to see what she found out about that. I'd love to actually know if we're having a boy or a girl, but I won't shell out another $200 for it.

After that, I'm going to toss A in the car and go to the mall. I usually avoid that place like the plague, but the mall has an Old Navy - which has cheap maternity clothes. And my size 10 maternity jeans are falling off... so I guess I need to go try on sixes and eights. If I wasn't pg, I'd be thrilled by this. I haven't been in single digit sizes since junior high. However, since I am pg, the weight loss issue is problematic. Regardless - I need at least one pair of pants that will cover all the necessary parts. And I intend to splurge on two long sleeved T-shirts too. For a non-fashionista like me, two t-shirts and a pair of pants should be enough to see me through about four days out of the week... and I'll still have my big jeans and the hand-me-downs from my fabulous little sister for when other attire is in order.

Assuming I'm not too traumatized from the mall, it will be followed up by a trip to Trader Joe's. For those unfortunate enough not to live near a TJ's, let me just tell you - it's one of my favorite places to shop. They have great artisan breads, cheeses, wines, etc. And carry a lot of organics (especially for such a small place). It's very laid back and one of the few places I can shop without having to retire the rest of the day.

All of this precedes the arrival of my great friend, The Urban Princess. She'll be over in the afternoon, with her son (The Wild Man) and daughter (Punky Monkey). The Wild Man is one of G's oldest and most beloved friends, and Punky Monkey and A enjoy hours of reciprocal toddler antagonism. The Urban Princess and I can chill out and hash out solutions to all the world's problems while the kids entertain each other. A bonus is that Princess is a total food snob and it's really fun to cook for her.

For dinner, tonight, I'm doing chili w/ salad and fresh corn bread. It's a cold, rainy day. Should be perfect.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Supermom

Somehow it's afternoon, already. Sometimes it's almost shocking to me how fast time speeds past me.

I spent the morning getting everyone out of bed, dressed, and fed. G (my oldest) was extremely co-operative, and made it off to school with minimal fuss. A, the two-year-old... eh... Well, I was surprised, but she was actually dressed by the time my husband was ready to go. In fact, I have to say that the biggest whiner gumming up the works, this morning, was me.

I caught a cold about two weeks ago, as did everyone else in the family. However, everyone else seems to be feeling better. I'm not. It's gotten so bad that I'm using my epi inhaler, coupled with generous amounts of guaifenisen, multiple times per day. Asthma doesn't usually bother me - not since I was a kid. But when I'm pregnant, all bets are off. Allergies are 8,000,000 times worse, and so is asthma.

It's particularly self-pity-inducing because, until this cold hit me, I was riding that 2nd trimester high and getting SO much done. Now I have no energy.

Back to this morning... It's that lovely time of year, again, when we have to do vehicle inspections and licensing. So my husband and I (and A) drove down to the 'Couve and dropped off the minivan for it's tune-up. Traffic was heavy. It took forever. A was furious, screaming "Faster! Faster!" at the top of her speed-freak lungs.

J (husband) dropped off the van and hopped in the car with us and we hurried home. Fast forward to now.

My grand accomplishments for the day:
  • Paid bills
  • Convinced A to don her rain coat and walk with me to the mailbox to deposit said bills
  • Emptied dishwasher
  • Refilled dishwasher
  • Collapsed on sofa and realized it was already time for lunch
  • Ordered Dominos Lunchboxes online, because I can not stomach another PB&J... and I'm a sucker for gimmicks - especially when individual pizzas and hot chocolate chip cookies are involved... and I justify this because I've lost yet more weight, the past few days... and tomorrow I'm halfway through this pregnancy! There's nothing like pizza to promote weight gain!

All this "work" and I'm exhausted. If I get the weeks' meal planning done, grocery list written and downstairs mopped and vacuumed, I will consider myself Supermom.

Pathetic? Maybe.

But that leaves me time to squeeze in a few games of Memory with A and maybe some cuddle/homework time with G without feeling like I ought to be doing more, somehow. And crowning myself Supermom (the admitted irony just makes it that much better) will put me in a good mood while I serve the family leftover chicken/spinach soup and dinner rolls, this evening. Everybody wins.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Loss and Meaning

I've been thinking a lot lately about the purpose of moving my blog to this open, public format. I felt a lot more comfortable posting in a more exclusive arena where I felt I could have more control over who is reading about my life - without having to think too much about it. The problem was that keeping out the one or two people who scare me also means that I can't share my thoughts and life with my family members and others who might actually be interested in what I have to say. And who really is interested in what I have to say, anyway?

Well, one thing that seems to set me apart from many of the people I interact with on a daily basis is that pesky bipolar diagnosis I blogged about before. In normal life I rarely talk about the bipolar thing or depression or mental illness in general. For me the bipolar thing and all the drugs and behavior adaptation has kind of slipped into the background of my life. Like being nearsighted - it gets annoying when my contacts irritate my eyes or when my glasses are smeary, but most of the time it's not something I have to think about.

But many things have happened, recently, that have brought mood disorders and their relatives back to the forefront of my mind. Not the least of which was the issue with my neighbor.

Many people have bipolar disorder. I'm not terribly unique in that particular diagnosis. What is different is that I have lived 10 years of juggling meds, breaking down, messing up, and figuring out what role I have to let it play in my life. I don't know anyone else with this diagnosis, at this point, who has lived longer with it. More importantly, I don't know anyone else with BPD who is as stable as I am, with a husband and kids, a home and a rather boring and undramatic life. I'm not saying this just to pat myself on the back, but also as a musing that I might actually have something to offer the world outside my little nuclear family.

Once a father of a child newly diagnosed with BPD asked me what made the difference for me. Basically - why am I here, living a "normal" life and not wearing an aluminum foil helmet to keep the voices out while I push my shopping cart down the street to the cardboard box I call home?

It's a tough question and one I'm not sure I'll ever be able to completely answer.

See, there was a point where I really thought that my only options were going to be the streets or suicide. Melodramatic? Yes. But accurate. My life was totally out of control. I was totally out of control. I was living a wild life that probably should have killed me, even if the suicide attempts didn't.

There are a few things that I can point to in my life that made it possible for me to climb back out of the abyss. Without them - who knows?

First and foremost was (is) my mother. I can only imagine how watching me self-destruct must have hurt her. Thinking of how she must have felt, throughout my darkest days, when she would go months without hearing from me or having any way to contact me - only knowing that I was hurting and out of control - breaks my heart. I feel so bad for what I put her through. But, through it all, she was there for me. She made sure, when I lost my job, and would have lost the health insurance that went with it, that my COBRA premiums were paid. Every month. She made it clear that I was loved. That, no matter how I was living or what I was doing, she was there for me. She's given me that kind of support my whole life - even when I didn't realize it.

Secondly, I've been incredibly fortunate to have very good friends. Not just nice friends, or pleasant acquaintances, but true friends who went through hell for me - and often because of me. In fact, the event that inspired me to start moving my blog in this direction was the death of one of these close friends, this past August. He, too, was bipolar, and the only one who had been consciously dealing with it as long as me. He, too, was completely dedicated to wrestling his demons in such a way that he could effectively live and grow and parent. So he was particularly helpful when it came to dealing with this stuff. He knew. And now I don't have that. It's a tough loss.

I needed this broad platform of support to be capable of doing what I needed to do to be healthy. I don't think I could have survived the long search for the right meds, or the longer process of accustomizing myself to how I need to think and behave, without the great people in my life.

But, even with all that - knowing it's more than many people ever have - I wouldn't have made it this far if I hadn't had a very important reason to make the huge behavioral and environmental changes that make personal stability accessible. For me, that was getting pregnant with my first child.

And this is a tricky point. I would never suggest that an unstable person ought to get married and start a family. Things could have been very, very bad.

In fact, they almost were.

Like alcoholics and drug addicts, I think many out-of-control people go through a "rock bottom" moment before they can commit to changing their lives. For me, this moment came when I was five months pregnant with my first daughter.

One of my self-destructive coping mechanisms had been cutting and/or burning myself. In fact, that had become my preferred way for dealing with stressful situations. Even though I wanted to be healthy for my baby, there came a moment, one day, when my husband and I had a very bad argument and he left. The truth of the matter was that he went for a run to cool off, but at the time, I was sure that I'd driven him away and that I'd lost my best friend. I'd thrown away all my favorite cutting tools months before, so I broke apart his safety razor and began hurriedly slashing at the veins running through my inner elbow. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I didn't have the practiced control with this razor as I'd had with my preferred tools, and one cut went too deep. Seeing my arm laid open woke me out of the "zone" I'd go to when doing things like that and I nearly panicked, realizing that if I bled out my baby would die, too. Not being able to reach my husband, I called a very good friend who rushed me to the ER. Lying on the bed, getting my arm all stitched up while the nurses monitored and worried about my unborn child, I was horrified by what I'd done. I was scared that I might have hurt the baby. And even if I hadn't, I imagined how devastating it would be to a child to see her mother cutting or burning herself.

That was it.

A deeply entrenched approach to life that I hadn't been able to conquer with medications or counseling was done. I knew I would NEVER, intentionally harm myself again.

As time has gone by, I've been fortunate enough to be able to transition from all the bad stuff I have to avoid to focus on habits to embrace in my life to make it the best it can be.

(Incidentally, back to the mother thing, I think one of the main forces that carried me into responsible parenting was the fact that I had been raised to be a good parent. I was raised to put the welfare of the kids first. I grew up thinking that the only way to parent was to be very involved and loving. I internalized my mother's habits of playing, cuddling, and singing to my kids. She taught me, by example, how to cook and sew and make a warm and loving home... I rebelled against these things for years, but when I needed it, I had the knowledge. I owe her so much, it's overwhelming.)

Events and life were just right for me that I could make the choice to live better. Some people never have the support or the timing right to be in a position to choose life and health. Some people have all they need, but when the time comes, they choose comfort and habit over change (which is almost always difficult and uncomfortable).

One thing I never had, early on, was an example of someone who was dealing with the mental/emotional issues of BPD who was living the life I wanted. So, in loving memory of Brett, who would be so proud to see me reach out like this, I'll be blogging about this (and lots of other really mundane stuff) and hoping that maybe my thoughts will be useful to someone.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Little Things

I feel awful, today. Somehow the cold that's been a simple nuisance for the past week or two has knocked the wind out of me. The right side of my chest HURTS whenever I inhale... forget about when I have to cough. Ouch! I've spent the morning lying on the sofa while my two-year-old watched Nick Jr. This is when my normal love-hate relationship with TV falls completely into the LOVE category. I don't want to get my daughter into any couch potato habits, but I'm glad that the TV is there to entertain her on the few occassions when I really can't.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Evangelism

This is a c/p from my last MySpace blog. I decided to move it over directly as a jumping-off point for changing to blogspot. At MySpace, access to this post was limited to a very select list of people who know me well. Here... well... equal opportunity offense, I guess. As an aside, update, whatever: yesterday I spent the day chilling out with a close friend (who is Christian and reads my blog) and was able to let go of most of the hurt and negativity, so I'm feeling much better today. Thank goodness.

October 4, 2007 - Thursday
Rant Category: Friends


I'm so frustrated and angry, right now. I'm actually shaking. So this probably isn't the best time to be posting a blog for all to see, but I need to let off some steam - and cursing out loud on the phone to a friend or to my husband would be overheard by the kids and they've already heard enough.


This is what happened: about two hours ago I went out to the minivan to haul in some groceries. I'd taken some Benadryl while at a friend's house, today, so I'm feeling really tired and a little out of it (so please forgive any typos). Anyway, the neighbors were outside. They said Hi. I responded in kind, and went back inside without furthering a conversation.
So my neighbor, a woman with whom I've been developing a tentative friendship, dropped by a while later to check on me because she said I was looking tired and pale and she wanted to make sure everything was OK. How sweet and wonderfully neighborly, right?


Despite being dead tired, I invited her in. Right away she started in on the Jesus talk. OK. Whatever. She asked what I thought of her and I told her I thought she was a good person. No, she clarified, knowing that she's Christian, how does that change my opinion of her? I laughed a little and said hey, one of the joys of being atheist is that I just don't care. I consider religious beliefs just one facet of who a person is. What matters to me is the whole person. Are you a good person? Yes? Then I like you well enough, whether or not we agree on everything.


Then she asked me if I was still on medication for depression. I tried to change the subject, knowing that she's a faith-heals-all person. She pushed it. I got sucked in. She kept telling me how if I'd just try to have a little faith, I wouldn't need to take these evil drugs.


I pulled out all the tried-and-true tricks to just deflect and move on. It's been 10 years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I've been dealing with it since childhood. Coping with people who don't believe in biologically-based mood disorders and those who are just ignorant in general is old hat at this point. But she kept pushing - actually having the gall to tell me (in front of my kids, no less) that I only need the meds because I think I do and that I should quit taking them.


I didn't blow up at her. I don't know as I visibly reacted at all, but I wanted to pick her up and physically remove her from my home.


Instead I told her more than I should have. I tried to explain where I've been and what I've been through. I told her that she had not lived my life. That, if it weren't for psychotropic regulation, I would be dead.


Because that's the bottom line. I don't like taking the pills every morning. I don't like that I spend nearly as much on the stupid pills every month as I do for food for the kids. Before I had kids who depended on me, I regularly quit taking meds because I hate them so much. But I can't do that now. My kids need me and it's unlikely I'd make it more than a few months before taking off for "exotic new life adventures," leaving behind everything I love. And I probably wouldn't last a year before jumping off a bridge or blowing my head off. This isn't drug dependence. It's a simple (if ugly) truth. And people who don't have experience with mental illness usually can't grasp that.


Basically I concluded by telling her that if I took her advice it would destroy my family so I didn't think this was a subject we should discuss again. Visibly upset, she reassured me that she was only seeking the best for me and that she'd pray for me. I told her it wasn't necessary. Apparently this offended her because she got up to leave, saying that she'd never bring up religion again. I told her that would probably be a good idea.


I don't think that was the response she was looking for.


I hate being cornered like that. Why couldn't she just lay off? I know she had good intentions (and I told her that I knew it), but somehow that just makes it worse.


I get so tired of the same old assumptions. I think I'm going to start a list to print out and keep on me (I probably won't actually print it, but I'm in need of some serious catharsis, so I'm going to keep ranting until I feel better.


Assumptions I Regularly Have to Address Every Time I Have Any Sort of Relationship with a "True Believer"


1. I don't know anything about your religious tomes.
Untrue. With few exceptions, I have found that I'm more familiar with your holy writ than you are. When happening upon the few exceptions, I often end up forming a real friendship. After all - I don't hate religion or religious people. I hate ignorance. I hate liars. And I despise hypocrites. If you haven't read your Bible when you start thumping me with it, I will probably not bother to correct you. I've learned that those who preach what they have been too lazy to research are not worth the time it would take to offer corrections.


2. I was not raised in the right religion.
This may be partly true, as I have rejected the religion in which I was raised. However, the monkey on the back of this particular assumption is that you have the right religion and if I just opened my heart to doing things your way, I'd be converted. The reality is that I am probably as attracted to magical thinking as any other human, but the line of reasoning that brought me to where I am absolutely rejects the idea of preferring belief or faith over logic and skepticism. If you are true to yourself, I will probably develop respect for who you are (part and parcel with your spiritual beliefs). If you can't reciprocate, back off. We will never actually be friends because I will know that you have no respect for who I am. And by the by - mocking the religion or beliefs of those who raised me loses major respect points. If that doesn't bother you, make fun of the LDS all you want. But know that I'm sardonically appraising the irony. After all, to me the Judeo-Christian pantheon is no different than that of the Ancient Greeks, Phoenecians, Assyrians, etc. Listening to you bash Mormons is like listening to two Asatru get brutal over whether Thor or Odin is mightier. Except, in this case, you are denigrating people I love. Not cool.


3. I don't believe in God because I never wanted to badly enough.
It's not easy to slough off the sacred beliefs of the society in which you were raised. I wanted to believe. Heck, I still feel a little sad about the acceptance I'll never have. It hurts that I'll never quite fit in with my own family. Who would want that? I would so love to believe that there is a benevolent being out there, just waiting to love and bless me. That's such a comforting concept. If there was any way I could possibly believe, I would. However, I have come to the far-less-comfortable conclusion that I can not believe in a god or gods, no matter how much I'd like to. Assuming otherwise is so off-the-mark and personally hurtful that you'd probably do a service to your evangelistic hopes by simply not discussing religion with me at all.


4. If only I would pray, I would find Jesus.
This is really the same as 3. I've prayed my little heart out. I've prayed while reading the Bible. I've prayed while reading other religious works. I've prayed prayed prayed prayed prayed... That ended about 15 years ago. At this point, telling me to pray is pretty much the same as insisting that I try to have a conversation with your imaginary friend. I could go through the motions, but it would be no different, for me, than when my then-three-year-old insisted that I set a place for Harry Potter at the dinner table and tuck him into bed at night. Except that I love my daughter unconditionally and I knew she'd grow out of it.


5. This is the first time I've been exposed to what you're preaching.
I've gone through all the same crap so many times. Your spin is not unique. You will not be the person to finally get through to me. If, deep down, you ultimately hope that offering me friendship will convert me and save my soul, I will know. If you can rise above that and actually love me for who I am (you know who you are), I will probably find your hopes for my spiritual well-being endearing. If our friendship is fundamentally balanced on me eventally coming around, please move on. You're wasting your time. And, even worse, you're wasting mine.


I'm sure I'll come up with more, but right now my husband is home and my family is eating dinner while I sit here and seethe. Time to go chill out.