Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Cooking Has Begun!

Our Thanksgiving weekend started a bit earlier than expected, because M. and I decided to keep the kids out of daycare today. When I picked up Finn yesterday afternoon, there was an unmistakable, icky odor permeating the air of his classroom. Turns out one of his friends had come down with some kind of stomach bug that had him losing it out of both ends.

Since my kids (especially Lucy) seem to come down with stomach bugs if you look at them cross eyed, we opted to try to save ourselves from misery and limit their exposure to the germs. M. and I both managed to do a little work, but kid wrangling (and a very, very necessary nap that I took) kept us from fitting in a full 8 hours of work today. Hence the early start to our holiday weekend.

On the plus side, I was able to start my Thanksgiving cooking a couple hours earlier than expected. Just to set the stage, we are hosting a low-key dinner tomorrow with one of my best friends and her husband. M. and I are cooking just about all of the dishes. Then Friday we all head to Baltimore for Thanksgiving #2 at a mutual friend's house, and I'm cooking a couple of dishes (an appetizer and a dessert) for that. Should be a fun, overly caloric weekend. I'd say relaxing, but the kids will be with us, so...

A rundown of the recipes I will be cooking over the next 24 hours:

Roasted Cauliflower

Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs (I'm making this with pine nuts instead of almonds)

Apple and Cheddar Scones

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese

Green beans with almonds and shallots (no recipe, just kind of winging this one)

Chile Citrus Turkey Breast (M. is in charge of this one, and he is roasting it rather than grilling)

We will also have olives, manchego cheese, crusty bread and Marcona almonds to nibble one, and a pumpkin pie that is, alas, not home-made (from Whole Foods). I'm not superwoman, after all...

For Friday's meal:

Crispy Butternut Wontons with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Peanutbutter Dark Chocolate Puddings

These recipes all swayed me with their lovely, lovely pictures on the web. I'm sure I won't be able to do them all justice, but nothing an extra glass of wine can't fix :-).

For now, I've just started with the wontons. The sauce and filling has been made, they will be stuffed and baked tomorrow. And with any luck, M. and I will also manage to cook all these other delightful (I hope!) dishes.

I hope you all have a wonderful start to the holiday season. And I say "start", but must confess that I have already been listening to the Holiday Traditions station on XM radio when I'm in M.'s car.

(As a side note, is anyone else irritated by the song "I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus"? We have it on a kid's CD of Christmas music, in addition to all the adult versions that end up getting played. In my mind, the song is either encouraging a kid to realize that Santa is Daddy, or that infidelity is OK as long as Mom is cheating with Santa. Seems inappropriate to me, but perhaps I judge too harshly?)

And hopefully, at the end of this looooooonnnnnnggggg weekend, I will be thankful that the M family managed to stay stomach bug-free?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Feeling My Way In The Dark With This Parenting Thing

I don't want to seem biased here, writing glowing posts about Lucy and her scrumptiousness and not Finn. He does find ways to delight me every day, but to be honest, we are going through some tough times. Suddenly at four, the tantrums/fits have kicked back up again. He has become very sensitive to tiny little idiosyncratic details, like the old goldfish I refused to let him eat a couple of weeks ago. In fact, this morning I let him pick up and eat a pancake and Cheerios off of our wet cement front steps (meaning, outside, after about 24 hours of rain. NOTE: According to M., I need to clarify here that the stoop was wet from 24 hours of rain, not the pancake and Cheerios. Those were dropped onto the stoop and picked up soon thereafter, somewhat within the 2-minute-rule window) when I heard his voice start to raise several octaves after I attempted to stop him. He was getting quite frantic about the prospect of not eating THIS EXACT SNACK, even though I offered to replace it for him. I chose not to fight that battle, despite the number of bugs and dirty shoes that have passed over those steps, but I can't avoid every single one.

It's the age, maybe? Although it's hard to distinguish it from the last age/stage, or the one before that. Are we making any progress? Sometime it still feels like I'm raising a 2-year-old still, but one who can talk really well. And maybe that's what's so frustrating - it seems like he SHOULD be able to understand my lectures, like he SHOULD be able have a little control over his reactions, because I asked/told/ordered him to. He speaks in full sentences, he tells jokes, he remembers all manner of random facts, he can play board games and do puzzles and even read and add a little. He's like a person now, you know?

But he's still only four. I need to remember that, and adjust my expectations. I've never done this before, I don't really know what he should know by now, what he should be able to do right now. And I think I'm expecting too much. Finn can calmly and rationally apologize for bad behavior the next day, if I bring it up after he's had some time to get a little distance from it. But he cannot see the effect his behavior has on others in the moment, and he is unable to stop himself once he gets started with the crying and unreasonable demands and shouting of such phrases as "I JUST WANT TO TELL YOU SOMETHING! YOU ARE INTERRUPTING ME!" and the serial repetition of whatever injustice he feels he is experiencing. And really, that's my problem. That should be OK, because he's four.

I think?

Tonight Finn was charming. He wheeled a stuffed Elmo doll around in a huge dump truck, pretending various pretend-y things, like that Elmo was hurt (he bleeds black blood, apparently) and in need of hospital care, or that Elmo was a baby who must be fed milk and bread. Then he left Elmo in my care so he could "go on vacation" (ahem, where is my vacation where I get to leave my children behind, eh?); far, far away to the beach, where the have miniature golfing. Then he went into the kitchen with his toy golf set and played golf. He came back demanding to know where Elmo's food was, his tone accusing me of neglect, of starvation. He is now currently sleeping with Elmo in his bed, along with a fake loaf of bread stuffed in Elmo's perpetually open mouth.

This kid raising thing, it really is a roller coaster. And we're not even at the hormonal years yet...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lucy, For Now

Barrettes fall out within minutes. She has this way of brushing her hair out of her face, with both hands, that kills me. She will sometimes hold still for a single ponytail on top of her head. Other times she squirms away, dashing out of reach as soon as I come close. I need to wrestle her down and hold her still with my legs.

She wakes up cranky now, if she's not really ready to be up. No more quiet babbling over the monitor. She sits up when she sees us, hands us her pink stuffed bear, her Elmo doll, then puts her hands on the mattress and lurches to a stand. She likes to bring her stuff with her when she gets up.

Or she hides her eyes from the light, tells us, "No." Not ready for the day just yet.

Lately she has been waking up at night. A little bug has her pooping at two in the morning. When it's not that, it's teething. I dress her in two piece pajamas with penguins on them, so I can check her diaper without undressing her. They are a little big. One morning last week, I went in to wake her up, and her pants were around her knees. She had scooched out of them during the night, but it didn't seem to bother her.

She still throws food off of her tray when she doesn't like it. She's gotten pickier with her eating. A wider variety of food ends up on the floor now. Her favorite is still fruit, any fruit. Followed closely by gummy vitamins, I think.

She watches TV with her brother, with more attention than I thought possible. She likes it all, she is easy to please.

She comes in the kitchen, repeatedly, while I cook dinner. She rummages through the pantry, looking for a snack. Asking for more snack, even when her bowl is still full. She says the word "snack" a lot. Then she plays with her play kitchen, pretending to wash dishes in the sink, eating "soup" with a spoon out of the fake salt shaker.

She loves to push around her shopping cart, placing all manner of toys and random things inside.

She loves Iron Man, and Batman, and Spiderman, because her brother does.

She loves her brother.

She insists on brushing her own teeth, asking again and again for more toothpaste. Her "brushing" consists of sucking the toothpaste off of the toothbrush. She pretends to spit, like her brother.

She tries walking up stairs holding on to the railing now. She still lets me help her walk down the stairs of our front stoop. As soon as she hits the walkway, she takes off running, unsteadily, toward the neighbors' houses and the frighteningly-close drainage hole, away from the car. Toward the playground. She loves the slide, hates the swing. Would much rather walk in the street than on the sidewalk.

She says more words than I can count. This weekend she learned to say "Morning" when I tried to teach her to tell her daddy "Good Morning." She acknowledges a dirty diaper with a cute little "Poopy?", like it's a question. As if one could be unsure of that smell.

She gives kisses and hugs when asked. She says "Hi!" to strangers at the store. They cannot resist saying it back. She loves to point out the moon, airplanes, balloons. She looks up a lot.

If you tell her she's hurt you, she'll say "wa-wry" (sorry), and leans her head forward for a hug. You can tell it's a hug, because she makes that squeezy noise, the one you make when you give someone a big bear hug. Or if you're constipated.

Her favorite color is yellow (yeh-yow), or maybe green (geen). But definitely not red or pink. If you ask her if she's OK, she'll say "Yeah." If you tell her to wait a moment, or explain something to her, she says "OH-kay", almost a three-syllable word the way she pronounces it. We all take turns getting her to say it, even Finn, because it's beyond cute, this way that she has.

She loves books. She holds her pointer finger in the air and asks for "one more?" through the pacifier, each time you finish one, even if it's the fourth bedtime book. She colors, and laughs a LOT, and lisps when she says "Bus," and dances, and won't let us sing AT ALL, and tells us "No" ALL THE TIME, but says "Yes" every now and then too.

She is so, so easy to love.

At the very end of this video, you can see how Lucy brushes her hair out of her face. You can see the penguin PJs, too :-).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Something My Non-Parent-Self Never Realized Would Be Different, Post-Kids

This used to be one of my favorite weekends of the year. An extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning. Less painful risings at the start of the week. In my 20's, it also meant a whole extra hour of drinking time, should I feel like staying out 'til closing time.

Now this weekend is dreaded. Now, I do not stay up later, knowing I can just hang out in bed a bit longer the next morning.

Now I have kids.

They do not understand the concept of "fall back".

They do not really even understand the concept of time.

On a good weekend morning, Finn might stay in bed until 6:30.

Oh, 5:30 am, I do not want to see you tomorrow morning. I sure as hell do not want to see 5:00 am.

Though it *should* still feel like 6:00 am to me, it will not. Intellectually, emotionally, psychologicially, I will KNOW that it is only 5:00 am.

I will need lots of coffee.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Parenting Milestone

Today marked a milestone in parenting for me. It was not a good milestone.

I picked up Finn and Lucy right around 5 pm from daycare today. All was well, and the kids were being extra cute. Finn, in particular, was wearing his camo winter hat and dancing out of his classroom to a strange recording of a Pink song sung by kids. Totally adorable. We got to the car, and as I was buckling Finn in to his carseat, he notices a two-week old goldfish on the seat next to Lucy and asked to eat it. I said no (see: two-weeks old, above) and tossed it on the ground (you know, for the squirrels...). And suddenly, Finn went batshit insane. Screaming, crying, kicking my seat, and lacking utter reason.

I knew from previous experience that he can, and likely would, continue this screaming at the top of his lungs the. whole. way. home. And frankly, I couldn't take it. I'm tired of not knowing what will set him off, what will change him from a perfectly pleasant person to an insaniac. I wanted a peaceful ride home, a chance to listen to MIX 107.3's Chili Amarr's Late Breaking Show Biz Headlines. I wanted QUIET.

I'm not proud of what occurred next, though I do feel justified. I slammed on my brakes, yelled at Finn to shut up, used the "S" word. All of which I have probably done separately in the past (except the slamming on the breaks part, I think that was new).

And then, I did it. I threatened to kick Finn out of the car. I even went so far as to drive across the street to a quiet side neighborhood, pull over, and get out of the car. Ostensibly to unbuckle Finn and make him start walking.

My mother used this tactic quite frequently. She even actually followed through a number of times. I remember in particular one day where she made us get out of the car as she was driving us to Sunday School. In that case the plan backfired, as we started to walk home instead of onward to church (which I'm sure was a large part of the original argument).

This is yet another parenting technique I swore I would not use. Oh how the mighty crumble.

But you know what? It worked.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Night Gumbo

OK, a few random housekeeping and rant-y items:

1. Regarding my search for meatless "meat" products - thank you all for your suggestions. I believe I am on my way to a solution, at least with regard to veggie sausage products. Just tonight I tried the Trader Joe's brand of Italian meatless sausages, and I was quite impressed. The texture was not rubbery, and the flavor was good. They look like complete yuck before cooking (really, really pale), but cooking them in a skillet with some oil gave them a nice color. All in all, I was quite happy with them - it's just unfortunate that I can only by them at Trader Joe's. I have also bought some TJ's meatless Chorizo to try out this week, and will likely check out the other suggestions as well. But my anxiety over this issue is already easing, thankfully. I still have no good solutions for the veggie hot dog problem, though...

2. Let's talk shoes for a moment. Specifically, toddler girl shoes. Oh my lord in heaven, are they freakin' expensive or what?!?! My little girl has been blessed with tiny, thick feet (with her 85% growth rate, this makes her look a bit like a Geisha girl - minus the blond hair of course - as she totters around on teeny feet). Extra wide shoes are just no where to be found, except online in two places: 1) Stride Rite - and they basically have sneakers only, one pair of which we have already purchased; and 2) - plenty of Mary Jane style shoes, some even available in the small size 4/5 Lucy sports, but they range in price from $36 (only those on sale) up to nearly $60. Gasp! I feel guilty spending that much on myself for shoes, and I usually wear shoes for at least 2 years (and some have been hanging on for way longer than that, grossly). Lucy's shoes last tops 4 months. Do you all really buy such expensive shoes for your kids? If not, what do you do instead? Anyone with experience buying extra wide toddler sizes? I plead for help before the holiday season is upon us!

3. My dieting was severely derailed this past weekend, and hasn't fully recovered yet. Which is so, so unfortunate, because after about 2 weeks of dieting I was down about 4 pounds. Now I'm pretty much back at my starting point (can we say YO-YO?). It began with a fundraiser buffet lunch at work - homemade macaroni and cheese, baked beans, desserts, nary a salad in sight... and no way to track calories without some serious effort on my part. I felt compelled to participate because a) it was for a good cause (to raise money to buy holiday gifts for military families in need); and b) M. refused to make my lunch the night before. The binging continued with birthday cake, take-out Thai food, Dunkin' Donuts, appetizers, wine, etc, etc - all in the name of entertaining our guests, but all of which I happily partook of. I'm having trouble getting back on track - the last two days I've started out counting my calories, but by noon I've slipped up and, out of guilt, ceased with the counting. I think part of my lack of will power for this is tied to a lack of exercise - I've only managed to jog about 4 times since my race, though one of those times was a 4 mile jog tonight, so hopefully that will help. I also need to start heading back to the gym during the work day a couple days a week to build up some muscle that will help me burn fat. Sigh.

4. This could fall under "Things That Annoy Me," but I forgot to include it in my list last week. And that is, apparently the Diaper Champ has been redesigned, and in my estimation, it makes for a much poorer diaper pail. Perhaps not the most interesting topic, but I feel that I must go public with this information. Now, we have used the Diaper Champ since Finn was brought home from the hospital, and we have always been very happy with it. First, you can use regular tall trash bags with it, no need to purchase some other wonky bag system. Second, it did a pretty good job keeping in the stink. Keep in mind that no diaper pail is perfect in this regard because toddler poop, it is some nasty smelly stuff. We have always viewed diaper pails as somewhat of a consumable, though - after a little while, an air freshener tucked in the bottom of the pail is necessary to keep the room stink-free. And eventually, it needs to be replaced, as no air freshener in the world is strong enought to contain the smell. I'd say after 4 years of diapers, we had 3 Diaper Champs. And we just bought our 4th two weeks ago. This time, though, it's... changed. First, it's smaller. And the top is different - and the way it has been redesigned basically means you can't throw a dirty diaper in it with one hand - you need two hands, one to open the lid and the other to throw in the stinky diaper you are holding. And worst of all, we christened the brand new DC with a poopy diaper at around 6 pm. By 11 pm that night (Lucy was night-waking at the time), I was ready to gag the moment I walked in her room. One day old, and already stinking! An air freshener has been deployed, and it's helping for the time being, but I fear that the day when we must abandon the Diaper Champ is coming soon. Perhaps this is incentive to potty train Lucy a little early? She already tells me when she has a poopy diaper, after all... (further proof that she is a genius, IMHO).

OK, enough for now. Must keep M. company as he hurls insults and incredulous snorts at the news coverage of the election night.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kids in Costume (and more)

Halloween weekend 2010 was a success by all accounts. My parents were in town, and the two extra sets of hands/unqualified attention for the under 4 feet crowd were a clear bonus.

We began on Friday night with some small gifts for the kids (mandatory grandparent gifts), and a birthday cake to re-celebrate Finn's 4th birthday:

A Batman cake

That went over very, very well with the guest of honor

Lucy refused to eat any cake (weirdo), so she managed to stay this clean

Finn did not fair so well

But at least he was a cute mess

Saturday morning brought soccer class for Finn, which, though cold:

A bundled Grammy gabbing with Lucy on the sidelines

was also fun. Finn's class had their first real "game", aka two different classes that tried to score on each other. There was much confusion about which goal each group of kids was supposed to aim for, and plenty of wandering attention spans, but it was adorable:

Finn is the one in the green shirt and camo hat

Lucy was her usual effervescent, hard to control, keeps-you-running self:

Pic of M. chasing her far and wide while the rest of us cheered Finn on

Saturday afternoon I escaped with my mom for mani/pedis and some kid-free grocery shopping (trust me, that IS a luxury). Then it was time for pumpkin carving, spearheaded by the surgeon himself, Bumpa:

Assisted by Finn, of course

My mom and M. took on the role of event photographer, so that left the role of "getting in the way and whining" to Lucy

And the unenviable role of separating the slimy pumpkin seeds from the even slimier pumpkin guts to me

Finn and Bumpa are posing with their finished product here

And Lucy helped Grammy prepare the pumpkin seeds for roasting (seriously, how cute is that?!)

The pumpkin made a suitably scary jack-o-lantern once lit up after dark

Sunday morning we headed out for breakfast at the local airpark, and dined on eggs and pancakes while watching little prop planes take off and land. Then M. and my dad took off for a game of golf (and I would be a remiss wife if I didn't sneak in the fact that M. managed to hit an 89, despite being very cold and utterly out of practice). A quick dinner for the kids, and it was time for costumes and trick-or-treating!:

Lucy was a fairy-princess-type thing - basically whatever cheap little bits we could find that we thought she would not cry about wearing (and would be able to keep using as dress up clothes for years to come - how's that for frugal?).

Finn, as previewed a couple of weeks ago here, continued his superhero obsession by dressing up as Batman

Attempts to get a picture of both kids in costume, together, failed


Not a failure? The actual Trick-or-Treating. Both kids had a great time, didn't shy away from saying trick-or-treat or thank you (when prompted) to all the many strangers, and lasted a good hour out on the streets. The evening basically ended when Lucy pooped, necessitating (by virtue of smell) a return home to assess the loot.

Now I have a whole bucked of candy and a half-eaten birthday cake to get rid of. Help!!

p.s. - all photos taken with my dad's camera. Makes me want my dad's camera!!