Sunday, November 30, 2008

For The Love Of Swearing...

I'm not a big swear-er. I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be. That isn't to say that I don't swear on occasion, as I do. But with my prediliction against swearing, you can imagine that it's that much more effective when I do swear.

Personally, I'm just not a fan of swearing in general. I'm sometimes a bit old-fashioned, and it just sounds vulgar to me when it's thrown in gratuitously. I can remember being in the sixth grade riding the Mouse (roller coaster) at Valleyfair and for the first time saying -- quietly and to myself -- Oh my God as I rode up and down and around the curves and hills. I felt like I was being so bad then, but I did it anyway. You can imagine how much of a problem child I was for my mother.

With this minimal background in swearing, I didn't want my children to grow up swearing. When pregnant with Mister Man, we agreed to not swear in front of any children we may have and that to get in the habit, we should start immediately. It was much easier for me than it was for him, but we both did it.

Since Mister Man was born, there have been some slipups on Daddy's part, but luckily nothing frequent or that has stuck.

Interjections, on the other hand, are another matter. Personally, I think it sounds wrong and ugly for a preschooler to say things like "Oh my God" or "What the?..." (without the last bit at least) or "Gosh darn it" or even "For Pete's sake." Little kids don't need to learn saying like this, especially not at two or three. At least in my mind.

My husband and parents are of another mind altogether (we'll leave out my in-laws who swear in front of my children). They believe it's perfectly normal and that everyone needs interjections to get their point across.

We've come to a stalemate. I contend that Little Miss (at three) saying, For the love of God, will you please stop singing really isn't appropriate. I'm the only one in my camp. For now, the wee ones bend to my will and avoid saying things like this after being corrected once by me. The rest of the family, however, continues to expose them to language like this.

I know it's only a matter of time before I hear one of them shouting Holy cr@ p - or something worse - and I'm not looking forward to it. Am I totally out in left field on this one? I just want the wee ones to stay innocent and enjoy childhood. Apparently, that's too much to ask.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanks For The Memories

The holidays always bring with them their own special version of fun. This year was no different, as I had both new memories created and others revisted because they're just so fun.

One aunt and uncle who live on the south side of Chicago (meaning south suburbs) requested that my mom reimburse them for their gas to drive to her house (we're in the north suburbs). Forget the fact that my mom provided all the food and drink for the meal and sent them home with leftovers and happily hosted them and they brought nothing. You've got to love family. The best part is that I'm pretty sure my mom gave them money for gas.

When cooking the rolls, my mom asked me to look at them and check on them. I noticed that the rolls on the right side of the oven were getting a little too toasty, so I flipped them around thus giving all rolls the opportunity to get overly brown. When my mom took them out a few minutes later, she had to throw away eight of the rolls because they were slightly too burnt. She commented to me about how there was someting wrong with her oven and that it was burning things on the right side. A little while later, I was in charge of taking out the ham (which was cooking on a lower rack). That's when I discovered the smoldering paper towel in the oven. I really have no comment beyond that.

We went back to an old family tradition from when my parents were growing up and even a bit from when my grandmother used to host Thanksgiving and Christmas for friends and family but couldn't quite afford enough food to feed everyone. We had an old-fashioned FHB. What's this, you may ask? It's a Family Hold Back. That way the family starves but all the guests are able to eat their fills.

I made a really cool looking dessert to bring to my parents' house. I read on Kat's blog about her Pumpkin Gingerbread trifle. Mmmm, sounds good, doesn't it? When I got to their house, I stuck it in my parents' freezer. About a half hour later, one of my cousins walked in carrying, you guessed it, a trifle dish. Soooo, what'd you bring? I asked innocently. It's a gingerbread pumpkin trifle, he replied. Reeeeealllly? That's the same thing I brought! What are the odds? Well, first what are the odds that this cousin would bring anything to dinner, as he never has before. But really... how likely is it that two of the three people bringing dessert would make the exact same dessert? We ate his. I ate mine last night when I invited friends over to have dinner with us.

Today was the C.A.R.E. Faire for the animal shelter where I used to volunteer. I always am the cashier for the cookie walk, and the woman in charge of it reminded me of the lovely man we had come through the line last year. At the end of the cookie walk, I weigh the cookies and charge by the pound. It's $8 per pound, and we round to the closest quarter-pound. He wanted to know how much weight I took off for the bakery box the cookies were nested in. When I explained that this was a charity and that we just weighed the boxes and all because all the money went to charity, he asked again how much weight I took off for the box. I reiterated sir that all the money raised went to charity so we didn't remove the box's weight. He asked again. Sir, I explained, this is for charity, and we don't account for the miniscule amount of weight the box takes up when we weigh them. He huffed off but filled up one of our large boxes. I charged him for an extra quarter-pound. Oh, and then I weighed a box after he left. It weighs a fraction of an ounce. I was sort of disappointed that he didn't come this year... but not too surprised.

And also at the C.A.R.E. Faire, we have pet pictures with Santa. Last year, my husband, parents and wee ones came (driving the hour plus to get there) to hang out at the Faire for awhile. Little Miss was two at the time. While my mom was looking at the wares of a vendor, Little Miss spied Santa and ran up to sit on his lap. When my mom turned around, she was asked for $10. Ummm, what for? she asked. For the picture, came the reply. What picture? my poor mom asked. They showed her the picture of Little Miss happily smiling away hugging Santa. My mom forked over the money. Really, what two year old voluntarily runs to Santa without even being asked? My children are weird.

Oh, and I almost forgot my absolute favorite one. My mom asked me last week to look at Costco for a Bailey's drink she got last year. It came in a half gallon bottle and was really good, so she wanted to get some for Thanksgiving this year. I asked if she by chance meant the Christian Brothers Egg Nog. Nope, it was definitely made with Bailey's. I found nothing of the kind in Costco. My husband on Wednesday tried going to the bigger liquor store near us to find it for my mom but wasn't having luck. He finally called her to get a better description. Oh. Whoops. Yeah. She called her cousin who had introduced her to it the first time and discovered that she actually meant -- wait for it -- Christian Brothers Egg Nog. And that's my mom.

I hope you had as many fun and entertaining memories created this Thanksgiving. What were your favorites?

PS My feature on Betty Confidential is up now. Make me feel cool and go check out the article? Thanks!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday, Indeed

I'm not a huge fan of Black Friday. I don't like shopping on the best of days, and combine an early morning with the great unwashed masses, and I'll take a pass.

Granted, this was an informed decision. I looked through all the ads and decided that no, really, there wasn't anything I needed or that called out to me that made me want to get up at 4am. Selling an iPod for $0.30 wouldn't make me want to wake up at 4am though, so I'll admit that's a pretty high bar.

Instead, I decided to have a nice, relaxing Friday. The plan was to sleep in as long as the wee ones would let us (which generally means 7:30am) and then get up and head to the gym. From there, I was going to stop at Costco to get my annual cookbook -- because, you know, I don't have nearly enough cookbooks -- and restock the milk that I used making the pumpkin trifle on Thanksgiving (more on that to come). From there, I was heading to the blood donation center for my 12:10 appointment before getting the oil changed in my car and then making cookies until friends arrived for dinner.


What's that saying again? The best laid plans?

I did get to sleep in a bit, and we had a lovely breakfast where everyone ate the granola that I made for myself yesterday. I don't mind sharing my granola because it's really good for you and I like seeing the wee ones make good eating choices, but it's a forty five minute process that requires my attention for the majority of it. And it only makes a couple weeks' worth of servings. Since I put it into the canister yesterday, about two-thirds of it has been eaten. Of course, with Daddy and Little Miss and Mister Man all eating their fill, breakfast took a bit longer than expected, so we didn't get out the door until 9:30, which was later than I'd anticipated and gave me just enough time to grab a slice of pizza from Costco before heading to the blood donation appointment.

Shhh. I haven't been to the gym in awhile to run. I've done my belly dancing and yoga, but on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays lately, I've been otherwise occupied. I decided to not try to do a 25 minute run but instead regress to the middle of week six and do two ten minute runs. Of course my gym has replaced all the treadmills I liked with new ones. And being the day after Thanksgiving when no one is working, it was busy and I didn't get a treadmill near where I like to be, but that's ok. The first ten minute run wasn't fun, but I survived. I made it six minutes into the second run before I had to stop because I was getting seriously sick to my stomach. Bummer. I walked for a few minutes then tried to do my last four minutes. I made two minutes of torture before the risk of becoming publicly ill was too great for my sensibilities and I decided to walk for a few more minutes.

When I finished walking, I realized that I'd taken longer than I normally do by about seven minutes. That didn't get me hurrying on my way though. Instead, I dawdled a bit to read about the new offerings by the fitness trainers. I finally got into the locker room, took out my stuff from the locker to go take a shower and ... BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. Seriously? A fire alarm?

All the women sort of looked at each other for a minute or so debating whether this was a drill or whether we really needed to get out. I finally decided that even if it was a drill, the wee ones might like to see a parent as the loud noise is forcing them outside, so I headed over to the kids' area.

As I walked in, they were trying to shepherd the last of the kids out. Mister Man was still sitting at a computer playing with another little boy. When I ordered him out (from across the wall), he finally looked up and started heading out. The child care employees let me come in to go through the exit with him. That's when I saw Little Miss -- the very last child -- coming out of the maze area, so I grabbed her, too.

Right about this time, it dawns on me how lucky I am that I dawdled and took extra time on the treadmill. The alternative was being covered in soap in the shower when the alarm went off. And you thought procrastination never helped!

I didn't, however, think to grab coats or shoes for any of us, so I stood outside in the late November cold in my workout gear, and the wee ones in stocking feet. Oops. The good news is that I was hot enough from running that it took a good fifteen minutes before I started to feel chilly.

We heard the fire engines wailing towards the gym, which you'd expect. Whether it's a false alarm or not, you have to have the fire department check it out.

When we heard the second set of fire engines approaching, I started berating myself for not grabbing my purse and coat. The rest of it, I was fine with losing, but I was getting cold now and who knew how serious this was. *sigh*

The good news is that it was just a kitchen fire. Something in the oven went bad, but it was minor, and they reopened the gym after twenty-five or so minutes. And once they knew the fire was under control, the childcare workers were allowed to go inside to get everyone's coats and hats.

Of course by the time we actually got our coats and hats, everyone was allowed back inside, so we went on our merry way. Of course, this put me even further behind schedule. I wasn't missing out on my cookbook though, so I still stopped by Costco. That and Daddy had to drink black coffee this morning because we had no milk left. Costco wasn't an option.

Fortunately, I made it to Costco with no mishaps, and the ten minute line at the food court was really only a minor inconvenience considering how late I was for my blood appointment. Lucky for me, they still let me donate. AND still gave me a $15 Starbucks gift card. I did realize on my way home that I didn't get my Four Seasons gift, but I can live without it.

When I got home, I started baking.

I started volunteering at the Evanston Animal Shelter back when I was in college. I continued volunteering there even after I graduated and moved into the city. I volunteered when I moved out of the city and west, when it was an hour and fifteen minutes for me to get there and back. When I had Mister Man, I finally gave up the weekly commitment, but I still help out at their annual C.A.R.E. Faire.

The C.A.R.E. Faire is an annual holiday bazaar they run on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. They have pet pictures with Santa, a huge raffle, all sorts of pet goodies and vendors, and -- the biggest draw -- the cookie walk. We sell cookies by the pound where people start at one end with a box and a glove and choose what cookies they want. Seventy feet later, I stand with the scales and do the weighing and collecting of money. And hey, if anyone in Chicagoland needs something to do tomorrow, the Unitarian Church in Ev is hosting the C.A.R.E. Faire from 11am to 5pm.

Every year, I have to be the cashier. This used to be because the cookies were $6 per pound or $7 per pound and no one could do the math when it was 2 1/4 pound, and no one was comfortable giving change when the total was $14.25. I was drafted. I'm still drafted, and it's something I really enjoy doing -- with the one exception of the rude gentleman last year who wanted to know how I accounted for the weight of the box when weighing out his cookies.

In order to have seventy feet of cookies for six hours, that requires a lot of volunteer baking. I used to bring boxes of cookies. With the wee ones, I can't quite get that many made, but I do my fair share. These are the cookies we made this year:

Zebra Bars, Delectable Cream Cheese Cookies, Jelly Cookies, and Karen's Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies.

It's the last one that were the bane of my existence. I should really know better than to double a recipe I've never made before. In fact, I should have known it due to the issues I had when making the Zebra Bars. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, however.

The cookies themselves are really easy to make. It's a basic dough that you press into mini-muffin molds before adding a cherry and pouring a topping over it -- and therein lies the problem. I only have a single dozen mini-muffin pan. I doubled the recipe, which means somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 dozen cookies. That's a lot of waiting around for cookies to cool to remove from the pan before being able to start the process with the next batch.

As the first batch was cooking, I decided to get creative. I have little molds that I bought for Mister Man's fourth birthday party that we made chocolates in (yes, I'm insane for letting four year old children work with melted chocolate but that's a different post). They were about the right size and made of silicone. Perfect!

Umm, not so perfect. The silicone they were made out of wasn't exactly oven safe silicone. When the timer went off, I saw the molds melting all over the oven. And when I tried to use my oven mitt to pull them out, the silicone (which I've since decided isn't actually silicone) started pulling apart in my hands. Whee!

I finally got smart and stuck a jellyroll pan right near the edge of the oven rack and managed to push them onto the jellyroll pan. After that I did single batch by single batch in my metal nonstick solitary mini-muffin tin. I think I only just now took the last batch out of the oven.

Next year? I'm hitting the Black Friday sales. It has to be easier than this, right?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank You!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Although we all should do our best to be thankful every day and blah blah blah best intentions.... It's only on Thanksgiving that so many of us, including me, really take stock of how lucky we are. It's the one day where we don't compare ourselves to the Jonses, where we don't think about what we don't have, where we don't wish for something else. It's the one day we take to be content with ourselves and our lives and our choices. And it's frequently the one day we take to say thank you to all those who make a difference in our lives.

Thank you to my parents, who love the wee ones as though they were their own children. Without them, our lives would be very different, and the wee ones would not have such a wonderful and positive influence in their lives. We rely on them as babysitters and chauffeurs, laundresses and bakers. We don't ask them for much of what they give, as they volunteer and give gladly of their time and treasure. I will forever be grateful to them.

Thank you to the wee ones for being such awesome kids. Although there are times when I'm frustrated, I do realize how lucky I have it with them. They have no major allergies or sicknesses, and they are really quite cooperative and loving children who treat each other with respect (most of the time) and who are among the more well-behaved children I know.

Thank you to my husband who does more than just put up with me on my bad days. He loves me more than anyone else could. He graciously does all the yucky work in the house that I won't touch with a ten foot pole from washing dishes to cleaning toilets to taking out the garbage. He does it with nary a complaint, and he's a great dad to the wee ones, too.

Thank you to my friends, from the blog and off, who cheer me up when I need it. And who give me a good old-fashioned whack in the head when I need it. I know that no matter what I need, I will have someone there with an open door or hand extended ready and willing to offer it. You've kept me sane, and for that everyone is grateful.

Thank you to the morning bus driver for Little Miss who is so careful about making sure that Little Miss is safe. Any other bus driver would leave her in the harness we had requested at the beginning of the school year, but you recognized that she was too tiny for it and made sure that we put her in a carseat so that she would be safe and secure on her commute to and from school. Mister Man had you last year, and both wee ones talk about your bus rides with the Disney music and the nice Miss Deana.

Thank you to all the teachers and therapists who work with Mister Man (and Little Miss, to some degree). I used to cry when I'd see how the "other" children were developing and talking and interacting and running and climbing. I'd see how Mister Man would hold up the line as he tried so hard to climb the ladder to the slide. I watched as he never had an interest in playing with any of his peers. And I've watched over the past few years as he's blossomed into a neat little kid who has friends. He'll never be the most athletic or popular kid, but that's ok. As long as he's happy, that's all I care about. And you're helping him get there.

Thank you to my bosses at work who allow me the flexibility to work from home twice a week and go into the office only once. I appreciate the trust you accord me and the challenging work you present me with. The paycheck is always nice, but it's the mental stimulation that again helps to keep me sane and grounded. I know this situation would be extremely hard to replicate elsewhere.

Thank you to all of you who read my blog, even though I know many never comment. It's really gratifying to know that I don't bore the snot out of everyone who happens upon my ramblings, and the comments that you leave really make my day, especially when I'm tired and cranky. Without the readers and the comments, I probably would have quit awhile ago, and I want this record available for the wee ones to see as they grow older -- and for me to remember what life was like when they were young.

Just like the Academy Awards, I know I'm forgetting people, but if I keep writing, pretty soon I'll have no one left reading. I'm off to go shower and change before heading to my parents' house with twenty other relatives to gorge ourselves at dinner. I'm bringing my traditional Marguerite Salad and Kat's Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monsters Aren't Real

I was putting both the wee ones to bed last night because my husband wasn't home from work quite yet. They'd both had showers, pjs were on, and teeth were brushed. I'd finished the book, and it was just about time to turn out the lights. Little Miss was snug in my arms, but she wanted down to give Mister Man a hug and kiss goodnight.

After the hugging and kissing finished, Mister Man told me to look in his closet. I turned around and put my hand on the small brass knob, throwing a fake frightened look over my shoulder. He giggled with delight. I creaked open the closet a smidgen of an inch, then gasped and shut it. Mister Man was rocking back and forth on his Thomas sheets roaring with laughter.

I repeated myself, opening the door just a tiny pinch further before shutting it quickly and turning my back to it. It was about then that I noticed the hysterical screaming.


I gathered Little Miss back into my arms, shushing and rocking to try to calm her. I asked her why she was crying, only to discover that my pretending there were monsters in the closet had truly frightened her out of her wits. I calmly explained that I was merely pretending and that there was nothing in the closet. I took a step towards the closet to demonstrate.

A wildcat erupted in my arms as she flailed and clawed and tried to climb onto my head and down my back to get away, screaming in panic all the while. I reassured her that it was fine and that I was going to show her that there was nothing in the closet. Mister Man piped up that yes, there was too something in the closet. I shot him a look intended to get him to pipe down, and he looked crushed.

As I reached the closet, I realized that I had no way of holding onto the she-demon in my arms and opening the closet at the same time. However, were I to set her on the ground, she quite possibly might break the sound barrier exiting the room. This is where creativity really pays off. I managed to slide my toe under the closet door and exert enough pressure to open the door.

As the creature howled before darting out of the closet, my eardrum was pierced from the screams of panic from Little Miss.

See, I told you there was something in there! crowed Mister Man.

I quickly began pointing out to Little Miss that the creature was just Roar (one of our cats) who'd somehow gotten trapped inside Mister Man's closet and that it wasn't a monster and monsters don't exist and see Mommy always takes care of you and really it's ok, while mentally cataloguing how soon I needed to go to bed to make up for the lack of sleep I'd soon get due to Little Miss's nightmares.

Luckily, my soothing bedside manner is more effective than I thought, and she awoke this morning with no nightmares and no apparent ill-effects.

This morning, my mom was watching the wee ones who are off school, lucky devils, while I worked and conducted conference calls.

At the end of one conference call, I heard the oh-too-familiar hysterical screaming and then the whining, panting cries for Moommmmyyyyy. I hurried downstairs only to hear my mom whispering to her, it's ok; it was just pretend. You don't need Mommy. It's ok; we'll just pretend that didn't happen.

Yep, my mom also managed to scare the patootie out of Little Miss by turning off all the lights, handing the wee ones mini-flashlights, putting them in the toy house we have down there and then making our toy ride-on lion poke his head into said house and roar. Loudly.

Way to go, Mom. errr moms?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanks, Doctor

So today, I am sitting in a hospital. The good news is that no, nothing is wrong with anyone per se. It's just time for Little Miss to get her tubes out. Funny story, that.

She's had her tubes in for over two years. When we got her three year checkup in August, the doctor mentioned that her tubes didn't look like they were functioning anymore. In fact, one looked kind of like a lollipop with a wax top sitting on the tube. Yummy! He suggested we see our ENT and have him evaluate her tubes.

Our ENT is a great guy. He is great with the little ones, and he runs pretty much right on schedule. The downside is that he's affiliated with a hospital that's almost an hour from my house in non rush hour traffic. If I have to have the tubes removed, I don't want to be driving there early in the morning and fighting traffic. Nice as he is, I want a new ENT.

I asked for a referral to an ENT a little closer to where we're at, and the pediatrician wrote down the names of two that he liked. I tucked that note away and procrastinated on making an appointment.

When we went to Florida, we realized her tubes really weren't working. Oh and that maybe I should have gone to the ENT earlier. Too late though to keep her from bleeding from her ear, but I flipped a coin and called one of the ENTs whose office was about 15 minutes from my house.

He was available the Monday after we got back, and we headed on over there. He agreed that her tubes were non functional and that they needed to be removed. Further, he recommended putting in new tubes since we have a family history of longstanding ear infections. He asked which hospital I wanted to have them done at.

Good Shepherd, I replied.

Umm, I meant Lake Forest or Highland Park. My brain screeched to a halt. For those of you not familiar with Chicago geography, let me clarify. Good Shepherd = very close. Lake Forest and Highland Park = further than my work and likely an hour and a half to two hours to get there. That's further than the first hospital I was trying to avoid.

As I tried to wrap my mind around how my pediatrician thought that closer meant only the doctor's office and not the hospital he was affiliated, I was relieved to hear that the nurse would be calling me to make an appointment for the surgery and I didn't have to choose right then what I'd do.

By the time the nurse called me two days later, I had made up my mind. In fact, I'd made an appointment with the other referral from my pediatrician -- after verifying that yes, he was affiliated with the hospital close to my house. I explained the situation, and the nurse completely understood.

Now I just have to explain to my insurance company why I had to see two different ENTs within three days of each other in a non-emergency situation. But I figure that I have a good two hours of waiting for Little Miss here to figure that one out.

Me, I've learned my lesson. First, don't procrastinate when it comes to bodily orifices. Second, don't assume that a doctor is affiliated with the hospital that makes sense geographically.

PS The surgery went well. Little Miss has successfully had her tubes removed and a paper patch placed in them to help the eardrum heal. She came out of the anesthesia just fine and enjoyed watching Peter Pan while in the recovery room. While I've been cautioned that we may be back for new tubes in a few months, we have our fingers crossed that this is it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Birthday Recap

So yay today is my birthday. I had to work and go into the office, so it was an extra early day. Hmm, maybe that just means I get to enjoy more hours in my birthday?

When I go into the office, I get there by 7, usually work through lunch and leave by 3:30 or 4. Usually. When you work in a job like I do, you don't go by the clock but by how much needs to get done before you leave.

I had a few things that were burning that absolutely had to get out today before Thanksgiving, especially since I won't be reachable at all for work for most of tomorrow (more on that in tomorrow's post). It was almost five before I sent out the last of the emails that I needed to. Right before I hit send, my cell rang.

I missed the call but could see it was my husband. I tried him back but got his voicemail. Then I tried my mom, but it went straight to her voicemail (she was watching the wee ones after picking them up from daycare and preschool). I tried my dad. After five rings, he picked up. Phew! They aren't all avoiding me.

I reassure my dad that it's been a long day but that I'm finally on my way home when my husband beeps back in. I grab that call and find out that he's almost home (yay!) with pizza (what!?). He'd decided that we would get Chicago-style pizza tonight and picked it up without checking to see whether I'd left for home yet. You know, because he always gets home around five on Mondays. I know, that didn't make sense to me either, but whatever. Whoo, my birthday dinner is cold pizza! Gotta love that hour plus commute in rush hour.

And my presents? My husband gave me one last night. It's a new heart rate monitor. I'm really curious about how hard I'm actually working, and I know the ones at the gym are notoriously off on the treadmills. Plus, I want to see how hard my yoga and belly dancing (shut up, don't laugh) classes really are. And tonight I got my second present. It's a new lid to the Cuisinart. The old one cracked right through from grating too much good, hard cheese.

Yep. I got two presents. Both are items I mentioned last week when my husband finally started thinking about my birthday. His excuse? I don't want to go overseas because of the dollar right now, so he didn't want to plan a trip somewhere. Oh, and he didn't have a chance to go to the new pilates studio yet to get me a few passes to use the new Cadillac machines (or whatever they're called). Oh, and I only gave him like five things off the top of my head last week, and he needs to save some for Christmas. OH! And he doesn't know what a BPA-free bottle means, so he can't find one.

Next time? I'm telling my husband I want these for my birthday. Go check 'em out -- Mama Kat's giving them away even! The blogger who makes these has some real talent in her jewelry making!

So let's sum up the yuck to get it out of my system: really early morning, 10 hours of work, 2 nonpersonal presents, and cold pizza for dinner. Wheee!

Now for the cool things:

When I got home, there was something wedged between the screen door and the main door. It was a package of chocolates with a handmade card from a friend of mine who lives FORTY-FIVE minutes away and her daughter. I almost cried. How sweet was that?

My dad made his very first cake EVER today. For me. Apparently no one else could find the time to do anything about a cake, so he sucked it up. Granted, it was a white cake from a box, but he made homemade frosting. And he wrote "Happy Birthday Mom" (as in from the wee ones) on the cake in chocolate chips. And he filled it with raspberry jelly. How sweet was that?

Ok ok ok, so I have to share his frosting making story:

He tried to mix the butter and milk, but they wouldn't mix together no matter how hard he tried. My mom was at bridge, so when he called, no one was answering the phone. He was on his own. He finally figured out that you had to mix in the rest of the ingredients.

Whoops, he didn't have enough powdered sugar (which he called confectioner's sugar because that's what the recipe called it, and he got all confused when I said something about powdered sugar). He made a trip to the store and finally found the powdered sugar. He also made a discovery. Did you know they sell premade frosting in little cans? What a concept. He was tempted to scrap the whole idea and just buy some frosting, but then he remembered that he had ingredients sitting in a bowl and manned up.

Well, the frosting called for a lot of sugar, so he added a little more milk. Huh. And now he discovered that the frosting was a little runny. He poured it over the cake anyway, and enough of it stuck to the cake that it looked frosted.

I really wish that I would have taken a picture, but between my dad and my husband, there's less than a quarter of it left now. The part I'm most impressed by though is that he absolutely didn't burn the cake at all. It was perfectly done! Yay, Dad!

Oh, and the best part of my day? On my way to work, Mister Man woke up and asked Daddy if he could call me to wish me a happy birthday. Just before I arrived at work, I had a very enthusiastic little boy calling to tell me how much he loved me and wishing me the bestest birthday ever. That and telling me that he's really sorry Daddy didn't take him to go shopping for me yet. At least he tossed in the yet! Of course, his perfect present is a toy dinosaur. If you recall, Daddy, Little Miss and my dad all got toy dinosaurs for their birthdays this summer.

Yeah, I may end up deleting this post, but I'll leave it up for a bit!

Bah, Humbug!

Different families have very different traditions, and being married, I've learned that there are times when you just have to learn to compromise.

My husband's family grew up very differently from the way I grew up. He never had a birthday party. His mom made him only two birthday cakes that he can remember. Things like this just weren't a big deal to them. And for him, he doesn't get the celebrations that people do for their or their kids' birthdays.

Gift giving, in general, is the same way in his family. People hand each other lists of what they want, and they expect that you'll buy from them what you're told to. There's no creativity. There's no showing that you know a person well and figured out something that you know they'd love that they never even thought about. It's really less a present than a completion of a shopping list, and it always feels a little yuck to me. What's the fun and surprise and point even of exchanging gifts when you've told the person exactly what to get you?

It first started when I married into the family and drew my SIL for the gift exchange that year. She announced that she expected whoever drew her to purchase her the Season Whatever Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD. Ok. Did you want me to give it to you just in the bag? When I told my husband that I intended to get her something else, something that I thought she'd like, my husband warned me against this. Given the cattiness I've seen previously, I acquiesced. Except that I made him buy and wrap the DVD because I couldn't quite stomach it. And I bought her a couple of other cute small things that I thought she'd like.

Unfortunately, this means of "shopping" for people has resulted in people who don't know how to shop for people without a specific list. As year after year went by and my husband continued to miss my very unsubtle hints and instead purchased items for me that were inevitably returned, I realized that I had to make a compromise.

The next year, I started creating a list in May. I wrote down all sorts of things that I wanted from a big NU flag to an immersion blender to a fuzzy logic rice cooker (ok, I'm realizing how boring I sound with my list). I created a long, long list, with the clarification to my husband that these are simply ideas. I don't expect nor want to receive every item on the list, but at least it gives him some options.

He purchased the first six things on the list.

After the holidays I clarified the element of surprise bit and also that maybe some items were gifts that maybe I'd want more than others and that he should peruse the list a little. That actually seemed to work, and the gift giving really improved for him (and his family).

This year has been a bit busier, and while I continued to drop my not-so-subtle hints throughout the year, I didn't update my wish list. I'm discovering that this was a mistake.

When we were in Seattle last weekend, my husband asked me on Monday (the 17th) what I wanted for my birthday. I listed off a few items before realizing the implications of his question. My birthday is today (the 24th). We weren't getting home until the 18th. Six days before my birthday, he would not have even started shopping for me.

On Wednesday, the first package arrived from FedEx. The box prominently listed that it was from something or other lids company. Ahhh, the new lid for my Cuisinart has arrived. When I showed my husband the cracked plastic top to my very old Cuisinart that I use regularly, he nodded sagely, and I thought I was getting a brand new way cool Cuisinart. Nope, I'm just getting the top.

On Thursday, a second package arrived, with a prominently placed logo about something fitness. Whooo, I now have a new heart rate monitor. I'm realizing that I really made a mistake. And that it's really hard to not look at the return address of a package that comes as you're trying to determine who it's for, especially since there are items that I've ordered online that I'm waiting for.

Lesson learned. I'm already starting on the list for next year. I'm thinking about just taping it to the refrigerator to make it that much easier for my husband. But that really takes the fun out of it, doesn't it?

Oh, and I got a nice birthday dinner last night (since it's a school night tonight and I'm working in the office and won't be home until later). We went to my Monday night sushi place and did the hibachi. I forgot they actually make you wear a balloon hat and turn on the colored disco lights and play the birthday song. And, lucky me, they now memorialize it with a photo on their "Kobe wall."

At 5:37pm today, I'm officially 33 years old. With a new heartrate monitor and a Cuisinart lid for my efforts. And yes, I do already know what I'm getting my husband, and no, I don't let him make me a list!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm Not The Only One Who Hates Winter

It's really getting cold in Chicago. When you listen to the weather forecast on radio or tv, they always talk about the windchill now. Because even though the thermometer says that it's 28 degrees, that nasty wind blowing right through you and freezing your bones makes it feel like it's only 16 degrees. And it's important that we understand this difference. Why, I haven't yet figured out, but it must be important or they wouldn't remind us so often, right?

I've started my appropriate layering. I've moved out of the long sleeve t-shirts and blouses and into heavier sweaters and sweatshirts and fleeces even. I'm burrowing in, spending as little time outside as I possibly can.

And I'm not the only one.

Pshaw, you say. It's winter. It happens every year; get over it.

I've got proof though. Honest to goodness proof. I heard it tonight. Or rather, I heard them. They're back.

We live in the suburbs with a nature conservancy behind us with lots of nice trees and such. Even when the leaves are off the trees in winter, there are no houses to see behind us anywhere. It's really quite nice, except for some of the wildlife.

I've figured out how to deal with the deer. The mice, however, confound me. This is the second winter that they've realized how good people have it and snuck into our attic. I hear them scritch scritching around above my head when I'm sitting in the family room and when I'm in bed trying to sleep. They're nocturnal creatures, apparently, so they don't bother me during the day -- only when I'm trying to relax.

Last year, I hired exterminators in November when I first heard the noises. The nice man came and placed poison in the appropriate places around the attic (the kind that makes them thirsty so they run outside). We waited until I heard no noises for two weeks before he came back and filled in five holes into the attic that they found. They have a six month guarantee, which unfortunately I had to utilize. Twice. They found some more holes the second time but not the third. Fortunately, April arrived, and they went back outside and left us alone.

Until tonight. Little did I know how much mice hate winter. I'll be hauling out the yellow pages again to call a pest company. Given the success the folks had last year, I may be using a different company. Of course, those folks actually called me back. The first company I called couldn't be bothered.

Add this to the list of reasons to move out of the frigid north.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Heckling 101

Today was the last regular season game for Northwestern, and I was of course in attendance. It was quite the cold day (windchill at kickoff was 26, and it only got colder as the game progressed). Fortunately, I know how to handle cold weather and was fine and toasty.

With the weather the way it was, there were a few open seats that season ticketholders sold to scalpers, which let some Illinois fans into our section. We had a couple sitting right next to us that were quite entertaining. In the end, I was really glad that I had my Blackberry with me so I could accurately capture some of the more entertaining quotes.

The disappointing part? My husband struck up a conversation with the more entertaining one, which significantly reduced the opportunity for heckling highlights. Of course, had the Illini been winning the game, he probably would have been more obnoxious than entertaining. Luckily, Northwestern pulled out a lovely win.

On with the highlights:

Wow, this is small. This is like sitting in a high school stadiun. It's so quaint! Yes, I regularly frequent stadiums that seat 47,130. Granted, it's no Memorial Stadium, but really....

Alright now, we've got 'em where we want 'em. Uhhh, yeah. You're down 13-0, and just got the ball on your own 18. Right.

It takes us a whole quarter to warm up, but we're here now. That's called optimism. And in this case, unwarranted optimism.

I hate you, Pat Fitzgerald! (referring to the NU coach) Jealousy is so unbecoming!

It's called an open field tackle. You're on scholarship here. Tell me theybe taught you to do that at least! And the frustration mounts. Of course, I actually was laughing out loud after this one. He was a little frustrated at the slick move Rashid Ward made on his would-be tackler.

I can call a better game. Which is why the guy is sitting up in the stands instead of coaching somewhere.

Wow it's cold up here. And by up here, he meant Evanston. The first town north of Chicago, where he's from. Apparently the further north you go, the colder it gets?

After he listened to the Mo Greene song that they played during a tv timeout (and yes, it's worth listening to; I'll wait for you to come back). And before that I was going to send my son here....

Oh, you don't mark it where he fell. C'mon he rolled to that position! Apparently the refs were against Illinois all day. In fact, they didn't call a single holding penalty the entire game. Against either team.

I don't know why NU is even running the ball. I would be passing all over this defense. Reality was starting to set in at this point.

After the PA announcer presented the highlights that accorded (six tackles, a forced fumble, a sack, a pass deflection and a blocked field goal) Corey Wootton the NU Athlete of the Week honor: Hey Corey - everyone beats Michigan. That's nothing to be proud of!

Oh I can't even watch this. Yeah, I've been there.

It's our half! It's our half! It's our half! We're all warmed up. Apparently he was wrong. It takes a whole half for them to warm up, not just the first quarter as he asserted earlier.

That's how you want to start the half! Right. I want to have the ball kicked to my team in the end zone and then have the guy receiving the ball not able to make a decision of whether to run out of the end zone or take the touchback. And then almost run out before taking a knee, very narrowly avoiding giving my team the ball on the 3 inch line. Yep, definitely a great start.

Don't leave; don't leave. Ot's just getting good now! This was said to my husband and his peanut sized bladder as he left to go to the bathroom right after Illinois scored to make it a six point differential. See, he would have been bad had the Illini been winning.

It's ok; it's ok. We've got 8 minutes to glory! I hate to point it out, but there were 8 minutes and forty-six seconds left in the game at that point. Oh, and ummm, yeah you just got a first down (barely), but you're still at your own 35. And down by 14.

Unfortunately, after that last great quote, the Illini fumbed four plays later, with Northwestern recovering. They left. I was bummed. Seven minutes, four seconds left in the game.

And my all time favorite from this afternoon?
C'mon, let's beat up on the smart kids! (In fact, I believe this was the first comment they made after sitting down most of the way through the first quarter. It didn't quite turn out that way.)

Usually, the entertainment at a sporting event comes from watching the game on the field, but today, there was an added bonus. This was the first time ever that I was bummed that I didn't twitter.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Evolution of Milk

We all know how important it is to drink milk. Every time I see my pediatrician, he asks how much milk the wee ones are drinking on a daily basis. In fact, to ensure that I can actually answer that question with some degree of accuracy, I finally measured the capacity of the cups I use.

Getting them to drink milk used to be easy. They just did it. I gave them a cup, and the milk disappeared.

Somewhere along the way, Mister Man decided he didn't like milk anymore. Grandma had started to give him chocolate milk. I sort of get it, considering that I don't like milk. In that, I empathized with him. That didn't mean I gave up though. I tried being clever and creative. I put food coloring in it and made blue or pink or orange milk. Mister Man is a bit too smart for his own good.

It never worked, so he gets milk with just a teensy bit of Ovaltine stirred in. I look at the serving sizes where it gives instructions to put three heaping tablespoons into an eight ounce glass of milk. Ummm, no. How about a half teaspoon for six ounces of milk. Of course, this also explains why he doesn't like the chocolate milk in restaurants where I have to ask for half and half, but I'm good with that. I've since learned that there's something in chocolate that prevents calcium from being properly absorbed.

We've also gone through the phase where the wee ones just simply decided they didn't want to drink milk at meals anymore. Mommy got clever (or stupid, depending on your point of view) and told them that drinking milk turned them into bunnies. As they took additional sips, their ears started to grow longer and furrier and little fluffy cottontails began to sprout from their backsides.

Maybe I shouldn't have said that Mister Man is too smart for his own good because he completely bought into that one. For months it worked. In fact, they swore that they saw the ears of the sibling growing, too. Apparently they wanted to be bunnies. Who knew? That didn't work forever though.

We moved on to the swimming concept. I talked about how milk lets the food swim around in their stomachs. That really wasn't too appealing, but I riffed from that and found a solution. I had them lift their shirts to show me how much room was left. I'd feel around in various places and tell them that there was a little more room for milk over here and so forth. Phew! Ok, that only worked for a couple months, too.

Little Miss for a couple weeks showed that sometimes she isn't as smart as her brother. I'd secretly add a couple drops of food coloring, and she'd swear that her milk tasted like oranges or cherries or blueberries or grapes. I wasn't about to correct her, but I was always entertained by this. Interestingly, when I colored it green, the flavor was green. Not mint or apple or anything that is green, just plain green flavor. That only lasted a couple weeks before she got bored with it though.

Then we talked about how milk makes for strong bones. I'd feel their bones and tell them that they were getting weak and needed more milk. They'd happily gulp some more and then show me their strong bones. That one probably would have worked for a long time, but I made a mistake. I told Little Miss that her bones were getting so weak that her nose was sliding off her face. That freaked her out, and she couldn't drink her milk because she was too busy covering her nose with her hands. Oops.

Now, I talk about big kids. I tell them that I'm not ready for big kids in this house and that they shouldn't drink their milk. Ok, maybe just a little bit but don't drink it all up. The din ensues, with them shouting, "We want big kids! We want big kids!" The milk all disappears pretty soon after that, as I sigh in mock exasperation and make fake frownie faces at them. They think it's hilarious.

Honestly, Mister Man will drink his milk now if I tell him he needs to drink it. He's a good kid, and he knows to follow the rules. Little Miss is the stinker though, and she's started telling me that she'll stay a little kid just for me and not drink her milk. Hmmm. So far, she's always decided that in the end she wants to be a big kid, but I see this one will be in the scrap heap again sometime soon.

The evolution of milk continues. Right now, I'm plum out of ideas. Here's hoping that brilliance strikes me again before they decide to stop drinking milk.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Grass Is Always Greener...

Something's been bugging me all week long (raise your hand if you're shocked to hear me say that). When I got back from Seattle on Monday this week, the first thing I did was head upstairs to my sleeping children and try to wake them up so that I could say goodnight to them.

This may not sound that unusual or odd to anyone, but I am a very firm believer in the need of sleep in children. I know how much sleep my children benefit from, and I also know that having spent the previous four days with my parents, they weren't getting anywhere near that level of sleep.

So why did I (unsuccessfully, mind you) try to wake sleeping children? I feel like I'm missing out on them. I see them growing up quickly, and I don't get a chance to spend the time with them -- particularly not one on one -- that I realize more and more I want to because they're such fun and neat little personalities.

My mom told me that on Monday, Little Miss asked her when my mom picked her up from daycare if Mommy would be on a conference call when they arrived home. That's my only daughter's view of me. When she comes home from daycare, Mommy will still be working and unable to ask about her day or play with her or even just pay attention to her.

Work has been really busy for awhile now for me. I work twenty-four hours, and my agreement is that I stay at twenty-four hours, even if some weeks I work more than that. In return, other weeks I work less. I quickly built my way up past thirty hours "extra" that I had in the bank. I've been trying hard to reduce that backup and get back to even, but five months later, I'll end this pay cycle up around eighteen hours.

Granted, I'm really lucky that I work only three days a week and that I do have two days during the week that I can spend with the wee ones. It's amazing how fast that time disappears though.

Little Miss goes to preschool five mornings a week (not my choice - the special needs preschool is five days a week or nothing and she benefits from being there), she comes home, eats lunch, naps, wakes up to eat dinner, and our bedtime routine starts. There isn't a lot of quality time with her on the days that I have home with her.

Mister Man's days with me aren't much better. He's home in the morning and doesn't head to preschool until after lunch. We had a playdate this past Tuesday, and I realized how infrequently we have the opportunity to do this and how much he loves playing and sharing with his friends -- and how much the playdates benefit him and his social development.

The first Tuesday of every month I have the PTO meeting which essentially takes up the entire morning. I have only twenty minutes after Little Miss gets on the bus to hang out with him before we need to head to the preschool. Tuesday and Friday mornings are my only chances to run during the week, so we talk in the car on the way to and from the club, but that's it. Granted he loves going to the Kids Area and making new friends there, but I don't spend the time with him. If someone needs a doctor's appointment, guess when I'll plan it? Or if I need to run to the post office? Or maybe if my car needs an oil change? How about grocery shopping? Yep, it's all during the time that I should be spending playing with him or working with him on something or setting up playdates for him.

Then I run into the issues where the school plans events on days I'm working. Since they rarely try to plan anything for a Friday knowing how busy Fridays are, there's a seventy-five percent chance that whatever event they plan, I'm going to have to miss it for work. Forget the Halloween parade at school. Forget the Thanksgiving craft with my child. Forget the RIF events. Forget Valentine's tea. I'm the mom who isn't there. Unfortunately, with the frequency they come up, I can't take the time from work.

And don't get me started about my actual job. It's better and safer for everyone if we leave that topic completely alone.

But how can I even think about quitting in this economy? Could we make it work as a one income household? Yes, we could. It would involve cutting back on various things, but we could make do. I'm a nicely frugal person. But everything is so uncertain. Who knows where inflation will be going. Who knows when our roof will need replacing followed immediately by our furnace then our hot water heater then my husband's car and then medical issues? Were any of those worst case scenarios to arise, making do would no longer be in my vocabulary.

I work part time. I have a job that challenges me intellectually and gives me great responsibility. They pay me decently. How can you walk away from a situation like that?

Then I peek into Mister Man's room to see him sound asleep with a cat curled up on either side of him. Roar lifts his head at the noise, sees it's me and goes back to sleep. I quietly edge open Little Miss's door and see her surrounded by stuffed animals. These quiet, stolen moments are sometimes all I get from the wee ones.

How much longer will Little Miss say that I'm her favorite? How soon before Mister Man again pushes me away? And how soon before I don't recognize the teenagers before me, grown up in an instant while I was distracted elsewhere.

It's really been bothering me this week. Ironically, tomorrow I have an article or post or whatever you want to call it up on BettyConfidential talking about how I got to my part-time life. Go check it out tomorrow, and then whack me upside the head for forgetting that life's never perfect.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life!

Ok, raise your hand if you now have that song going through your head. Suckers! And for the lone person out there who didn't raise a hand, go watch some Monty Python. Please!

Anyway, I've noticed that I complain a lot... mostly just kvetching and not things that are bad, bad, but still it's a negative attitude. I know I'm not the only one, but sometimes I need to remember that I don't have it so bad.

When I was in Seattle this weekend for my friend's black tie wedding, I ran out of hair product.
But it could have been worse - It could have been my wedding where I had no product to style my unruly hair!

When we landed at O'Hare, I noticed that they put up all the Christmas trees and red and green bunting throughout the terminals. *sigh* I hate seeing Christmas things before Thanksgiving.
But it could have been worse - The Christmas decorations could have been up when we came back from Florida before Halloween.

When we got to our car, it was freezing and there was snow on the car.
But it could have been worse - It was just a dusting of snow that blew off as we drove and didn't even need to be scrapered off. We didn't have a shovel with us.

My dad had surgery last week to remove a growth from his breast. It was growing quickly, and we almost had to cancel the Florida vacation to have it removed then.
But it could have been worse - He could have been diagnosed with cancer; we were lucky that it was benign.

Little Miss's bus was fifteen minutes late bringing her home, which means that Mister Man (who has the same bus driver pick him up twenty minutes later) was going to be late for school... again!
But it could have been worse - She arrived home safely and was late due to traffic. I can't even begin to list all the ways this could be worse.

I really don't feel like working this week. Or next week. I'm completely burned out on my job (though I'll continue to work hard and produce expected results because I can't just show up).
But it could have been worse - I look around at all the people I know who don't have a job at all. And those who have jobs but struggle mightily financially. I know I'm lucky.

Mister Man was sent home with a bad note from his teacher last week (more on that someday, I think) talking about his misbehaving.
But it could have been worse - His teacher was surprised by his behavior and hadn't seen it before and was asking me for my thoughts on what to do if it happens again.

Little Miss has been struggling with keeping her underwear clean this fall.
But it could have been worse - She's seven straight days now totally clean (knock on wood) and seems to get it. And the preschool she was going to attend would have kicked her out because she wasn't potty trained (she had been but was regressing the last month). Since she now attends the special needs preschool, it's a complete nonissue.

I could go on and on. Life is only as bad as you make it, and it's much more pleasant to look at the glass half full. So while I complain about various things (and I'm sure I'll be back at it tomorrow), I'm happy with my life. I know I'm lucky, and there are very few things I'd actually change if I had the opportunity to. And really, what more can you ask for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keeping Warm

When the day outside looks like this:

...and yet you're stupid enough to be planning to spend 4 hours outside sitting still on a metal bench watching a football game, you need some tips. As a clarification, I mean spitting rain, 38 degrees, no sun with some wind tossed in kind of day.

First, you want to make sure that you have the proper undergarments. I recommend two (yes, two) pairs of silk long underwear, especially for the bottom. If you can't find the second top, a single silk long underwear top will do. The fat cat is optional.

Next, you'll want to make sure you have your ski socks on. The thermal kind. And go ahead, bring an extra pair of regular socks to put on top of them. To keep your long underwear from pulling up, go ahead and tuck the long underwear into your freakishly large ski socks.

Now you're ready to add your jeans. I recommend putting on a pair that's almost a size too big so that you can have air trapped in your jeans that will stay warm and insulated versus having cold wind blow more directly on your skin if the jeans are tights (since you have two pair of silk long underwear on already).

You'll want to add both a long sleeve t-shirt and a sweatshirt for your top, preferrably in appropriate school colors.

Since you know you'll be wearing a hat, don't bother doing anything to your hair after showering other than brushing it briefly. It will get mesed up anyway, so why lose sleep time primping? Your last step at home is to add the proper accessories. You'll notice the purple nails, as well as the earrings and necklace. These are critical to staying warm. Really, they are.

I feel like I shouldn't have to say this, but I'll go over the basics anyway. Wear a fleece. They're warm and they tend to repel water. Bring a fleece blanket to cover you and your legs, as well. A poncho is helpful but not necessary. Seatbacks are definitely necessary, as metal benches conduct the cold a little too well for my tastes. Plastic covered foam, however, keeps you a bit warmer. Gloves are also a big help, as are those cool hand warmers. Just make sure you let the hand warmers get a little air as they can't do their chemical reactions without sufficient air.

Lastly, bring along carpet squares. Why? Try putting your feet on frozen concrete for four hours. Mid hour two, you won't be able to feel your feet anymore. And trust me, not being able to feel your feet makes walking back to your car just a touch difficult. Instead, rest your feet on carpet squares. The carpet squares keep your feet off the concrete and create a great buffer.

Oh, did I forget to mention the matching purple shoes? So sorry!

Lastly, a little chemical addition to hot chocolate sipped periodically throughout the four hours may help some people. Personally, I wouldn't know, as it's illegal to bring alcohol into a college game. I've just heard about it....
Good luck keeping warm. Brrrr! Wish me luck on the 22nd! It's the last game of the season and at 2:30, which means we get to deal with dark as well as cold by the end of the game.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!

Every day, I go from my kitchen into the garage and into my car. By the time I make it into my car, I've lost at least six minutes. At first, I thought this was the wee ones' fault. You know how kids dawdle. But then I realized that this happens when I'm on my own headed to work, too.

I look at the clock in the kitchen, and it's 6:13. I grab my stuff, put my shoes on, and by the time I turn on my car, it's 6:22. In the grand scheme of things that's not the biggest problem except that traffic really starts to increase after 6:15.

The worst though is on Sundays. Sunday school starts at 9:05am. The church is literally five minutes door to door. If I start getting shoes on at 8:48, that should give me plenty of time to get to Sunday School on time, right?

Not really.

Or when Little Miss's bus picks her up at 8:40 and Mister Man needs to get to daycare/kindergarten by 9am. Plenty of time, especially as he usually gets his shoes and coat on by himself so he can come outside and see Little Miss onto the bus and wave goodbye. All we have to do then is grab his backpack and her blanket and head out the door.

It's frequently 9:02 when I'm pulling out the garage, and I can't figure it out.

How about when I have a yoga class at 6pm on Monday nights? That's fun because I get to fight rush hour traffic, so I always allow myself a little over a half hour to get there instead of my usual twenty minute jaunt. I get home from work a little after five and say hi to the wee ones who are usually eating dinner. I ask them how their days were, then gather my yoga mat and gym bag. I make sure to start my collecting of items by 5:14.

I turn on the car, and it's 5:25. And by the time I make it up to the yoga studio, it's after 6 and the class has started.

What gives? When I open the door to my garage, am I knocked unconscious by something on a daily basis for six minutes? Is there a time portal as I step through the actual portal? Do I get stuck in slow motion as I try to leave the house?

There has to be a rational explanation, right? And it couldn't be that the clock in the kitchen is wrong. Definitely not that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

He Is Not A Football Fan

I'm currently in Seattle for a good friend from college's wedding, which has been great so far. I love seeing people happy. Earlier this week, we were emailing back and forth on plans for the three days I'm spending out here and other such necessities. Part of this exchange has not stopped me from laughing, and I really need to share.

blah blah blah (rest of the email)

And I can search online for where to watch the NU game (as I'm assuming it's not on "normal" tv this week, especially not in Seattle!).

I'm not sure. I think the Seattle alumni club is pretty well defunct. I haven't been to any events with them in awhile. I'm not sure there's an NU bar anymore.

I'll try other means, thanks. Hey -- if we go warm weather and if I can get sufficient tickets, would you go bowling with us or no chance? And IF is a big statement right now, I know, but Tempe is a possibility....

Ask me about Tempe in 10 days... I say YES of course but (future wife) will say AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! I think bowling is very unlikely for me this weekend. I'm thinking about maybe going flying on Friday am. Any interest?

Screeeech! Wait, what? I never mentioned bowling this weekend. I mentioned Tempe and bowling together, and he has them totally separated. I'm talking about football. I'm talking about Northwestern. I'm talking about warm weather bowling and Tempe. I didn't realize I was making too huge a leap for someone who drove from Chicago to Pasadena to go to the Rose Bowl in 1996. Apparently the intervening 12 years have been difficult on his memory.

I did clear up the confusion in the next email, while only poking a small amount of fun at him for thinking I wanted to go pins and balls bowling with him on the weekend of his wedding. The good news is that it sounds like he's totally in, assuming we go to a bowl he's interested in. The Motor City Bowl may not exactly be his cup of tea. Here's hoping we put Michigan and Illinois in the win column.

As a side note, yes, he really meant flying like airplane flying. His plane. He has his pilot's license and typically meets me for vacations by flying on his own there. I'm not at all jealous of him though, I swear.

So would you have figured out that I was talking about going to a bowl game, or was I being too hard on him? Either way, I'm still giggling about it. And it's six days later.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Look, Ma! I Did It!

I've been tagged. And guess what! I'm actually going to play. I know I have a few others out there, and I promise that I'll get to them. But as I thought about myself I realized that being tagged for me is like my email: if I don't respond immediately, who knows when I'll find (make) the time to do it. That goes for all of you with email you've been waiting months for a response. Sorry!

Anyway, thanks Steph!

The rules?
Answer the following questions in one word and then pass it on to seven others. Anyone who's ever read a post of mine knows that one word and I don't generally go together in the same sentence. Or paragraph, for that matter. But I'm going to try to keep it short at least. Is that close enough?

Where is your cell phone? Pocket

Where is your significant other? Chair

Your hair color? Brunette? (Is it sad that I don't know what color to call it?)

Your mother? Overinvolved (but well-intentioned)

Your father? Changing

Your favorite thing? Happiness

Your dream last night? Unknown (I've discovered that I don't dream on nights I don't get
enough sleep)

Your dream/goal? Happiness (for everyone I care about)

The room you’re in? Family

Your hobby? Yoga (are moms allowed hobbies? I really had to think about this one)

Your fear? Failing (sorry, couldn't change that one)

Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happy (raise your hand if you're sensing a theme)

Where were you last night? Yoga

What you’re not? Artistic

One of your wish-list items? Heart-rate-monitor (and my birthday is less than two weeks away for anyone who's still searching for a gift!) ;)

Where you grew up? All over (IL, CT, Belgium, IL, MN, OH...)

Last thing you did? Uhhh (I don't remember. It's been a long day, and I'm tired. What did I do before I sat down? No idea. None at all)

What are you wearing? Clothes (aren't you glad I said that?)

Your TV? Tivo'ing

Your pet? Cats (two of them, in fact... Meow and Roar -- any guesses who named them?)

Your computer? Dell (technically that's my work's computer, but it's the one I use 99.9% of the time... the home one is a made to order one)

Your mood? Tired

Missing someone? No (I feel like I should say yes to this)

Your car? Pilot

Something you’re not wearing? Earrings (whoops... I just realized I didn't put them back on!)

Favorite store? BHWM (see, I kept it to one word... Black House White Market for the uninitiated)

Your summer? Blissful (and I want it back. And I swear I'll take more time off work if I can get it back)

Love someone? Yes (I can't imagine life without love; can you?)

Your favorite color? PURPLE! (specifically, royal purple... and at work on Monday I corrected my direct report when he tried to call Northwestern's color "violet" -- granted his first language is French but still....)

When is the last time you laughed? Today (I have the wee ones... how can I not laugh daily or hourly?)

Last time you cried? Friday (while watching Ghost House. Is that truly pathetic?)

Check it out! Technically, I answered each one in only one word. Of course, I had to add some clarifications to a few of them. Does that break the rules, or can I bask in my succinctness for a moment?

And for tags...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This Is SO Not My Time Of Year

Winter: A Haiku

Grey. Rainy. Dreary.
Drops outside my window fall.
I detest winter.
The leaves are now gone.
Bare branches, all that remain,
Cold, promising more.
Flakes here, wind blows there.
One last leaf falls to the ground.
Lonely, flittering down.
Skies grow yet darker.
The winds blow from the north now.
Winter's here. Let's hide.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Best Wishes!

When I was at work on Monday a coworker stopped by to show off her new diamond. It was large and gorgeous and oh so shiny. It reminded me that mine desperately needs to be cleaned. Maybe I need to go "shopping" for jewelry again soon so I can have someone steam clean it properly.

Anyway, once we all finished ooooing and ahhhhhing over her rock and demanding the answers to the usual questions like when the wedding will be, we asked her about the engagement story.

Her fiance (ok, another minor pet peeve of mine: fiance is the male; fiancee is the female -- French adds the extra e) apparently has been joking for quite awhile about getting married, and it's gotten old.

Last Saturday, (when it was cold and yucky here) he suggested that they go walk around the lake for some exercise. She had a long list of errands that needed to be done so tried to demur, but he wouldn't let her. She suggested doing it at the end of the errand-running, but he insisted on doing it earlier, so she acquiesced and agreed to do it midway through the day.

When they got to the lake, she put her sweatshirt on and stepped out of the car, and then she realized how cold it was. She suggested that she wait in the car for him while he walked. He insisted the both walk. She agreed but didn't want to walk all the way around the lake. He kept insisting.

When they got to the midpoint, he stopped and dropped to one knee. "Oh, get up. This isn't funny anymore," she told him. He was really asking her to marry him, but until she saw the box, she didn't believe him and kept blowing it off.

The spot they stopped at on the lake is where they had their first kiss. It's across the street from where they had their first date's dinner. It was all romantic, and she kept unintentionally trying to ruin it. OH, and they were going to dinner that night with two couples... the two that had introduced them to each other. It was all planned, and it had to be that night.

It makes me feel better to realize that I am not the only woman to sabotage an engagement.

My husband asked me to marry him when we were in San Diego on vacation. We were staying on Coronado Island and had gone to the Gaslamp district during the day to hang out. We got caught up watching college football in a cute little Mexican bar and headed back to the island later than we'd expected, and it was starting to get dark. On the little ferry back to the island, it started to rain. By the time we reached the dock on the other side, it was pouring and I hightailed it back to the room.

Once in the room, I changed into dry clothes and laid across the bed to peruse (read: drool over) the spa services offered by the hotel. My husband started talking about how great I am and how much he loves me and so on. I responded with only half my attention because I was still reading all the cool things that I could pay way too much money to have done to me. He finally grabbed the brochure from my hands and demanded I pay attention to him. He was on one knee with a box. And had been reciting a speech (monologue that I was interrupting). Oops.

He had intended to ask me not in twilight but in the graceful sunset as we walked on the beach in Coronado Island. Whoops. Then he was going to ask in the moonlight on the dock. Whoops. And in his mind, it had to be that day because he'd asked my parents' permission before we left (even showing them the ring), and he didn't want them to think he'd chickened out. Personally, I would have waited another day, but that's just me.

Anyone else mess up their engagement?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yeah, I Knew That

Tonight, my husband was helping Mister Man with his shower while I got Little Miss into bed and read her Peter Pan (again).

Daddy: Ok, Mister Man, I've got your back and your neck. Can you scrub all the rest of your body?
Mister Man: Where do I need to wash?
Daddy: Everything.
Mister Man: What's everything?
Daddy: Your entire body. All the parts of it.
Mister Man: Even my private parts?
Daddy: Yes, you pen1s and your test1cles and everything need to be washed.
Mister Man: Daddy, do you have a pen1s and test1cles?
Daddy: Yes, why?
Mister Man: Do girls have pen1ses and test1cles?
Daddy: No, they have different equipment.
Mister Man: I know that, Daddy. I was just making sure you did, too.

Ahhh, the joys of parenting small children.

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Long Will This Last?

This morning at breakfast, Mister Man paused with his fork part way to his mouth and a very serious look on his face.

Mister Man: Mom?
Me: Yes, Sweet Pea?
Mister Man: Next year, I want to use my money to buy some My Little Pony stuff.
Me: Really? Why next year?
Mister Man: When it's my birthday next year, I want to buy some My Little Pony stuff so that when it's my birthday I can give them to Little Miss so that she can have presents, too.

My heart melted, and I'm sure yours did, too. Granted, I grew up in a house where my mom always had the "birthday sister" who was also recognized and given presents and celebrated. I have serious reservations about this, as I feel like it contributed to a lot of sibling rivalry. We never learned that hey, it's not your day. You already had your day where we all focused on you. Now it's someone else's turn, and you should be happy for them and celebrate with them. That message was lost, and I don't want my wee ones to grow up with sibling rivalry.

However, when this is something that spontaneously comes from Mister Man, and it isn't even him buying her something that he wants to play with, I just hope that this attitude continues in perpetuity.

Even though shortly after breakfast, Mister Man grew frustrated with Little Miss while he was getting dressed and kicked her. So much for sustaining the love.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Whose Child Is He?

I helped Mister Man get ready for bed last night. After we brushed his teeth, he ran into my bedroom to say goodnight to Daddy. It was at that point that I realized there was no denying whose child he was.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It Was MY Idea First

I'm usually one of those people on the plane. It isn't that I'm not a friendly person, but especially when I was traveling regularly for business, the plane is the one place where I can relax and unwind in peace and quiet for just a little while.

I sit in my seat, and my magazines or newspapers or (if I'm lucky) book get opened. And I'm reading. Please don't bother me; I'm just not interested. I've been known to rattle my papers when interrupted and put them up higher to block out the face of the person talking to me. I promise this is only when I've had a really bad day, and it isn't quite as bad as it sounds.

However, on my most recent flight, I was reading the magazine that my health club sends out (hey, I didn't even know they sent one out with membership until now). One of the pages was talking about neti pots. Ironically, Manic Mommy had just given her demo recently on using a neti pot (Sept 6).

The woman next to me asked me if I'd ever used a neti pot, and I actually answered. We ended up talking the entire flight about various things, but the neti pot started it. We discussed how she uses it and how she introduced it to her son but how that didn't go so well.

We talked about how great it would be to have a neti pot for younger children since they so often get colds and allergies, and the neti pot can really help. Good luck getting a kid to sit still while you stick a watering can into their nose and have water run through.

I figured out how to get rid of all the issues, however.

To get kids interested in it, you make it look like an elephant. Just make it a nice pretty blue, and add some cute legs and ears.

The trunk is pretty obvious. However, putting something ceramic and cold and hard into a child's nose? Not gonna happen. Well, ok, it might happen, but not for more than six milliseconds or so. Instead, you make it out of a flexible neoprene. That way, when the child moves, the trunk moves with it and you don't spill the water everywhere. And it's soft and closer to room temperature.

I'm brilliant so far, aren't I?

The other issue is that the child is not likely to want to stand over the sink on a stool to drain into a sink. Solution? The elephant "lives" in a jungle. The jungle is a large shallow bowl with a couple of palm trees sticking out and four imprints for the elephant to rest comfortably. Obviously, this is made out of a shatterproof plastic or other material. You just have the child sit or stand near the jungle, and you're set.

The woman sitting next to me was really impressed with my ideas. In fact, she was so impressed she made notes when I was finished explaining my invention. And then she talked about how she's going to look into getting it made.

HEY! Wait a minute. This was my idea. She's stealing my idea! Maybe I wasn't ready to market it yet, but still, this was all me.

So when you see the child size elephant neti pot on QVC, you'll know who should really be getting all those royalties.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Call Me Scrooge

I feel like a bad person, but I'm getting a little annoyed by birthday parties lately. Of course, I'm referring to the birthday parties that my wee ones are constantly being invited to. After all, they're in daycare, preschool, Sunday School, playgroups, neighborhood and my friend "groupings" which all seem to have children who have birthday parties.

My personal favorite is the invitations to birthday parties that Little Miss gets invited to from daycare. She goes two days a week in the afternoons only (after preschool). The daycare is also a preschool where children go for mornings only. And we have been invited to two birthday parties so far since school started for kids that Little Miss has never heard of. I've politely called and declined the invitations. Wouldn't you check to see if the children you're inviting are at least friends of yours?

I got an invite in the mail today for a friend of mine's daughter who is turning two. She's been part of our playgroup since our older children were only a couple months old. Mister Man was not invited to her older child's birthday party last month because it was limited to "only" twenty-five children, and apparently Mister Man didn't make the cut. She felt compelled to call to tell me about this to be sure that I was ok about it. What am I supposed to do when she calls, regardless of how I fell, tell her that Mister Man has to be invited?

Now her daughter, who is over a year younger than Little Miss, is inviting Little Miss to her birthday party. Oh, but it isn't just her birthday party. It's her birthday party and the party for three other little girls that I've never heard of. You know what? I think I'll pass, thanks.

I get wanting to minimize the number of birthday parties, and sometimes the cost, but if you're doing a party for multiple kids, invite only people who are friends with all the children. We went to a birthday party this summer for another friend from that playgroup where it was her party and the party for a boy from her preschool who we'd never heard of. And it was at that boy's house. It was really awkward for all of us who were friends from playgroup but didn't know any of the preschool people.

And this day was coming, I knew.... We received an invitation for the daughter of a friend of mine via Evite. Yep. "My daughter is having a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on November X at 10:30am. A light lunch will be served at the end of the party. My daughter has created a birthday wish list at A printable list is also available in-store."

Really? It's come to an Evite? What happened to the invitations that you painstakingly pick out and write so that the child has something to open in the mail and tape to the calendar to look forward to? That part makes me a little sad. I get using Evite for casual get togethers -- I've used it for my Super Bowl bashes. But for a little kid's birthday party? Maybe it's just me, but it rubs me the wrong way.

Oh, and if I want to ask you what your child is interested in so that I can get a "good" gift for you, that's my choice. I think it's horrendously tacky and just feels yucky to me to send me a link of where your child has created a birthday wish list. Like I said, call me Scrooge.

Plus, the party -- for a girl just turning three -- is at Chuck E. Cheese which is a place I loathe. Little Miss isn't old enough to play the games, and the noise is just a bit overwhelming for her. It's so not my favorite place, let alone for a birthday party. Unfortunately, that birthday party is being held on a Wednesday morning when Little Miss has preschool, so we won't be able to attend that one either.

I feel like a crotchety old lady with my birthday rules, but it still just gives me an odd feeling. Birthdays to me should be fun celebrations made with thought and care that involve people you truly care about and want there to help you celebrate. All of these seem more like a grab for presents at a minimal cost and effort for the parents.

Am I being too harsh here? How do you celebrate birthdays?

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