Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weather and Birthdays and Cereal

So, it's snowing. And I'd be OK with this, but I am still traumatized by last winter's storms. Thus, I am alarmed at how often the lights have flickered tonight. I don't think I can survive another winter night without power, at least not in a house with drafty windows and an inconveniently-positioned fireplace (in the cold, cold basement, in case you were wondering).

OK, wait - just had an interruption that involved the power going out completely, me scurrying around to turn on a flashlight and find M.'s phone with the electric company's number in it, the power coming BACK on (phew!?), and me continuing to scurrying around to light some "just-in-case" candles and hoard all the others I could find onto the dining room table. Every single digit of my body is crossed that the power STAYS ON. And the internet, of course.

I don't really have anything of importance to say here. In fact, I'm not really sure what this blog post is supposed to be about.

It could, I suppose, be about how I forgot it was M.'s birthday, sort of. I mean, I knew it was GOING to be his birthday. I remarked on it several times over the last couple of weeks, usually to remind him that he was in no way to expect a birthday present this year because he was generously gifted at Christmas (I bought him a Kindle, and fleece pants that he coveted, and a Chevrolet T-shirt in honor of our new car as a joke-y gift, and immediately after Christmas I bought him a very nice lighted case for his Kindle. For a couple who usually agrees to give each other stocking stuffers with a $50 limit, it was a spendy holiday). But then, on his actual birthDAY, I forgot. At least at first. I made it all the way to work before my Outlook calendar reminded me that it was, indeed January 25th. And it dawned on me that I was a loser who had forgotten to even wish her husband a happy birthday.

OK, I interrupt this blog post for a status update. Power just blinked off (off-off, not just a brown out - must go resume the dishwasher as I should really have clean dishes if I am to be stranded without power. And wine. Must go open wine bottle) and came back on again. Internet did not go out this time.

Aaaand, I'm back. Wine glass is filled and I've bumped the thermostat up to 75 to try to store up some nice hot air while I can. If the power doesn't actually go out, I may roast in my bed tonight.

So, back to the birthday. The worst part is that not only had I forgotten in the haze of the morning rush that it was M.'s birthday, but I had also forgotten to prepare the kids for the event. They had no idea it was Daddy's birthday, we had fashioned no cards, made no crafty-ish birthday presents, baked no cakes. I was striking out everywhere. I have no real defense, except that every year I feel the same challenge, and that is the challenge of battling "Christmas shopping fatigue" that leaves me lacking energy and ideas to plan for anything gift-related during the month of January. Some years I do better than others. No need to suggest that I shop early, and buy an extra gift or two for M. during the pre-Christmas shopping season. I am always so behind on my Christmas shopping and my Christmas gift ideas that this would just add more holiday stress than I can handle. I KNOW.

I did the best I could to make it up to M. I left him a "Happy Birthday" song voicemail (in which I changed to words a bit to point out what a moron I was), ran out at my lunch hour to buy a plain frosted cake and two cards (one from me - humorous - and one from the kids - cute), decorated the cake with the kids, taught Lucy to say "Birthday Daddy!", did the cake/candles/singing thing, had us order take out of M.'s choosing for an adult-only dinner once the kids went to bed, and, ahem, did other wifely things, if you know what I mean (and I'm sure you do). I think in the long run I made it up to him, but I still feel like a donkey's hiney.

He's 35, by the way, in case you wanted to know. Or as he likes to put it, he can now round up to 40.

Alternatively, this blog post could be about cereal. Remember back near the top, where I let on that I don't really know what to write about and am still deciding? And then I wrote a lot about the weather and M.'s birthday? Perhaps cereal is a better topic. Because I must say that I have more than a minor crush on Honey Bunches of Oats, which may well be the best cereal EVER invented. It is the one breakfast item that gives bagels a run for their money in my eyes as "favorite breakfast food" category (though bagels still have the edge overall). Oh, if only it was like celery, and I could burn more calories by the act of eating it than actually contains! The only drawback to it is that it is not easily eaten dry, and thus you really need a bowl with milk or yogurt and a spoon to delight in it (I prefer milk, just so you know). I seriously heart HBOO. When I was a kid, I had a thing for Cap'n Crunch, mostly because my mom would never let me have it, I presume because it is entirely unhealthy (and yet we always had Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops on hand so I'm not really sure I understand the rationale there). Now, as an adult, I appreciate a cereal that is only slightly sweetened, with a nice variety of textures (flaky flakes! crunch bunches of oats! Sometimes, when I buy the blue box, even slivers of almonds! A veritable cornucopia in my mouth!). The thought of Cap'n Crunch actually turns my stomach a bit. How about you - what's your favorite cereal, then and now?

With no way to artfully wrap up this mess of a post, and my nerves on edge (despite the delicious Layer Cake zinfandel I am sipping, I am considering offering up some sort of sacrifice to the powers that be at Pepco if they just KEEP MY POWER ON), I think I'll just stop here then.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Many Long Things

Just so you know, this was originally titled "A Few Quick Things," and then "A Few Quick-ish Things", until it became apparent that neither title would do.

1. I'm dubbing this winter The Winter of Illness. I thought last year was bad, but if it was, then I can't think of a suitable adjective for this one. Maybe ghastly? Horrific? Appalling? Or the like. I have calculated that since December 27th, I have spent 15 days feeling anywhere from crappy to on-the-verge-of-death. And the other 12 days feeling, at the very least, less-than-perfect. I have also had a cough for every single one of those days. Lucy, my partner in (and source of) Illness, has been at it since December 22nd, with maybe a 1-week period of good health. I expect her to get sick given the amount of non-food objects she insists on putting in her mouth, but good lord, not quite this often. And I feel betrayed by the same immune system I used to brag about.

2. While at the doctor's office with Lucy this past week, I took the opportunity to ask the doctor her opinion on what I should do about Finn and his tic (whether she thought it sounded concerning, whether I should bring him in). She told me that she has a scale - Interested, Concerned, Worried, Frightened. From what I had told her, she put this on the "Interested" side of the scale, which was reassuring. But she did think that his behavior should be checked out to rule out a couple of things that are either fixable (e.g. strep infection - did you know some strains can cause tics?) or more concerning (e.g. seizures). She recommended that we make an appointment with her once we have some video footage of what he's been doing, so Finn has unwittingly found himself as the star of several random home movies lately. I think we have some decent examples, so we'll likely be taking him in shortly just to make sure all is well.

3. Today stretched out long, cold and exhausting in front of us this morning. I despaired of doing anything other than chasing after Lucy every time she tried to kill herself in some daredevil feat and arguing with Finn about how much TV he was allowed to watch. We had no plans, and with 20 degree weather outside, not much hope of making any that allowed us to escape the confines of our living room. BUT, inspiration struck, and I convinced M. that I should take Finn to the movies while Lucy napped so that M. could catch up on some work. I really made out on that deal, because not only did Finn and I see a cute/fun movie (Tangled), Lucy woke up after only about half an hour, and M. had to wrangle and distract her by himself most of the time we were gone. Finn and I had a great time, though, so yay for us?

4. Today's eventual good mood carried over into dinner time, for which we decided to go out. We went to a favorite local pizza place that is kid-friendly (and the pizza is good!). The kids were, for once, perfect - well-behaved, fun, ate their food, were patient when their food wasn't delivered with ours - we really couldn't have asked for better from them. If only that could happen every time (or even a quarter of the times? please?) we went out!

5. Re: food not arriving on time - our waiter was quite incompetent, though well meaning. Of all of our orders, he only managed to get M.'s correct - a meat-laden pizza with the moniker "the Nelson Eddie", for whatever reason. My pizza had the correct toppings, but was a medium size instead of an individual size. And he forgot the kid's medium cheese pizza completely. And yet somehow, I was the one who felt bad and wanted to make light of it. Why is that? I gave him the right order, it appears he wrote it down in his little waitering-notebook correctly (since he referred to it once I mentioned that hey, we're missing a pizza, and comprehension dawned. I saw it.), and he just simply wasn't able to correctly convey it to the cooks. It was his fault, but I tried to make HIM feel better. Does everyone feel that way, or is it just because my subconscious acutely remembers my time as a waitress and makes me feel sympathy? I'm sure his earnestness worked in his favor, too, though - if he had been the least bit jerk-like I probably would have been a bit snippier. Or made M. be the heavy, since I don't actually do confrontational well.

6. Please, please tell me. What are some things you like to do with your kids in the winter that let you leave your house and don't necessarily involve play dates? We desperately need some suggestions so that we don't go crazy before spring gets here. We managed OK today, but I fear for our sanity next weekend.

7. I spent two days in D.C. for a meeting this past week (despite feeling Ill). I commuted in each day on the Metro. And I noticed that no matter how fast I walked, most people still seemed to walk faster. Yes, I wore heels, which definitely gives the men, and some women, an advantage. But there were plenty of women in heels with Amazon-like walking skills. Are my legs that short? Or am I just a slow walker? I FELT like I was walking SO FAST. Also, confession: I went the wrong way on the Metro once. I realized it right away and only went one stop out of my way, but oh, embarrassing! I assumed I was going up the right stairwell to change lines, and didn't actually CHECK, so I suppose that just adds to the body of evidence for the whole "ass-u-me" argument. I never told M., I'm guessing I'm letting myself in for some teasing once he reads this.

8. Lucy is very definitely on the cusp of TWO. Her behavior and mannerisms speak volumes to that. She had at least 4 time outs today. Her naughty-ness of choice (other than not listening to a single thing we say, running away from us whenever possible, and crying LOUDLY) is hitting. Usually the face. Good thing she is still adorable and smart and all that other mitigating stuff.

9. Lucy and the cat excepting, the whole family may need to be signed up for Angry Birds Anonymous. That sh*t is addictive! In fact, I will end here so that I may play a few rounds in piece without a 4-year-old trying to wrestle my (MY) iPod out of my hands. I have heard something about a game called Plants vs. Zombies but know nothing other than the name. Is it just as good or better? What are some other iPod games that you like for you, for your preschooler, or for your toddler? I don't really know where to begin looking for some of these things, especially the toddler-oriented games/apps.

So, you all have your homework regarding numbers 6 and 9, thanks much!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Kind of Rambling Post You Might Expect from Someone Who Is Mostly Just Killing Time While Her Husband Watches the Packers Game

To all who commented or e-mailed me with support, suggestions or stories to share on my last post - thank you! That's exactly why I wrote it, and your words mean a lot to me. M. and I are still thinking about what we will do - I know I will bring it up with Finn's pediatrician, just not sure when. For today, we are choosing to just keep an eye on him and wait, but we are taking it day by day.

On to more uplifting or at least mundane subjects. Yesterday Finn went ice skating for the first time with his daycare class. We were alerted to the field trip on fairly short notice, so unfortunately neither M. nor I could take time off of work to chaperone. But I have to think it was hysterical and fun - 14 or 15 kids wobbling around in little skates and helmets, pushing buckets around on the ice in an effort to stay upright. I was a bit hesitant - it's a lot of kids, and some of the teachers that went on the trip had never been ice skating before themselves. I pictured lots of crying, bumps, bruises and chaos. But apparently all the kids had a blast, even Finn, who was concerned ahead of time that he would fall a lot. He did fall, and he complained that he wasn't good at skating (at some point, need to have a blog post or two to seek advice on helping kids who are prone to low self esteem - why would he even think he SHOULD be good at ice skating, if he's never done it before? He sets unrealistic expectations for himself), but admitted that it was fun. Even the falling.

By the way, a note on the classroom door the night before the field trip indicated that parents could bring in helmets for their kids if they wanted to. M. and I vacillated, unsure of the right answer. Did he really need one? Would it be overprotective of us? Don't kids usually learn to ice skate without helmets? Is this just one more symptom of the madness that is parents trying to keep their kids in protective bubbles forever? Or would I doom him to concussion? I even considered taking to Facebook to put out a little poll since I am apparently incapable of making parenting decisions without doing some sort of research. But I did not, and we decided that we did not need to bring in a helmet for Finn. After all, he's only about 3 feet from the ice, and he was not going to be speed skating - how much damage could he really do to his noggin? Then I found out afterward that the ice rink had all the kids wear helmets anyway. And even though I'm very, very far from being a germaphobe, this skeeved me out because frankly, lice is gross. And a pain to get rid of. So in hindsight, I should have just brought in the damn helmet after all.

So that was Friday. Today, Lucy woke up with yet ANOTHER illness, which I suppose we can expect to see run through the family. She was free of sickness for about one week. Now she has a fever, a runny nose, and is currently coughing juicy coughs over the monitor. I have a feeling there may be a dose of antihistamines in her future tonight. And likely some missed work for me or M. (pretty sure it's my turn) next week. Or maybe by some miracle she'll be fever-free by Monday morning? A girl can hope.

Finn opted to spend the entire day in pajamas, and refused to let us go out and do anything. Well, M. did run a couple of errands, and picked up Thai food for dinner (and hey! The kids ate some chicken satay! Grown-up, non-processed food! It was a January miracle). And I walked about 10 yards outside of our house to get the mail. But other than that, no one left the house, and we did nothing productive AT ALL. Aside from some squabbles about too much TV watching, it was actually pretty relaxing. I took a nap. I think it's the longest amount of time Finn has ever spent in the same pair of pajamas (he's still wearing them now, which is probably kind of gross, but hey, less laundry, right?). They are footie PJs, so I have to think his feet feel pretty disgusting, but if he's not complaining, I certainly won't!

And now for a few photos and videos to tide over the extended family.

Here, Finn explains a drawing he made of the race car Chick from the Cars movie:

And here is a photo of the artist posing with his work of art, as well as a close up of the drawing. I helped a little with the green coloring, but everything else was all Finn - pretty good for a 4-year-old (I think!).

A cute faced Lucy

And Finn hamming it up with a funny face

Finally, a video of Lucy. Most of the ones I capture of her either involve her running away from the camera, or telling me "No pictures!" over and over again. Here she demonstrates a hint of her singing prowess - she loves to sing, especially at bedtime, where she accompanies whichever parent sings to her that night. It's hysterical, and also I am amazed by how many lyrics she knows. This performance is just small snippets, and you may want to turn the volume up when you watch it as I was sitting kind of far away from her when I filmed it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I've Rejected At Least 12 Titles, So I'm Just Going to Post Already

There's a topic I've been avoiding blogging about for the last couple of months, for a few reasons. I don't know the best way to bring it up, and I don't want to expose what might be considered, by some, to be flaws in my son. Also, admittedly, I am worried about it. And writing about it will make it seem more real.

But ultimately, my worry is why I really do want to blog about it. Because as a community, we are usually pretty good at allaying each other's fears, or chiming in with "me, too" experiences that do a lot to provide comfort and hope. So here goes...

Finn has been demonstrating some tics lately. I don't know that I can really pinpoint when it began. More than a year ago, he used to compulsively pick at his fingers and nails until they bled. I didn't think of this behavior as a tic, I thought of it more as a bad habit, albeit a gross one. But looking back, it was a habit that he really couldn't control AT ALL. M. or I would sit with Finn at bedtime, reading him a story, and tell him ten or twenty times to stop picking his nails. We would grab his hands, or touch them to stop him, and one second later he'd be back at it again. It was frustrating, and we went through periods of time where he'd have bandaids on nearly every finger. But eventually, without us even noticing when, Finn stopped picking his fingers. He still picks his nails a little (or he must, because I never seem to have to cut them), but his hands don't look like they were ravaged by a flesh-eating insect anymore.

Cut to November (I think?) of this year, and suddenly, Finn started incessantly making a sucking-in noise through his mouth - like he was drawing in spit around his teeth with his mouth shut (if that makes sense). I cannot adequately convey through words to you just how ANNOYING this sound was. And he made it A LOT. Usually when he was watching TV, eating dinner, in the car, or in other not terribly active (physically) situations.

I began to get concerned. What if he did this at school? What if his friends started to think he's weird? And allowing for the fact that 4- and 5-year-olds are pretty oblivious and probably don't notice, what if he never, ever stops, and he does this when he's 30? In my panicked mind, I thought he would never have a successful social or professional life.

M. and I first tried ignoring the sound, but eventually took a direct approach; calling Finn's attention to the noise, asking him to stop, ordering him to stop, begging and pleading for him to stop. We even tried mimicking the behavior back to him just so he could see how freaking irritating it was (he was not bothered, though he did notice). He claimed to like making the noise, and if anything, seemed to take pleasure in making the noise even more frequently than before.

And then, about 4 weeks after it started, the noise went away. It died away gradually - there was a little bit of time where Finn made some half-hearted, weakened versions of the sound - but was gone by Christmas. M. and I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking we had passed through what our limited Google research had told us might be a transient tic, something that is fairly common in young children (especially boys) and typically outgrown well before adulthood.

But now there's a new tic in town, and this one has us a little more worried than before. With the others, I could understand why the behavior might be comforting, or a fun obsession in the case of the mouth sucking noise. But the current tic doesn't seem like anything more than just that - a tic. In this one, Finn blinks his eyes hard (almost as though he is clearing something in his eye) and raises his arms up from his sides - sort of like he is pretending to fly, but not quite that high. More concerning is that he stops doing whatever he is doing (including playing) in order to make the movements, and he gets a spaced out look on his face. This week, I have noticed that the dinner table is one place where these movements come out very frequently. I'm not sure if he does it while watching TV, but he will do it while playing after dinner and when we read him stories at bedtime.

I've asked Finn what he thinks about when he does the arm raising, and he can't really tell me. He says he is not pretending to fly. I think because we have suggested it as a possibility, he says he blinks his eyes because they are dry and he can't see well. But he didn't say this before we brought it up to him as a possibility, and he passed an eye test at his well check-up in October, so I'm not really inclined to believe him (I think?).

I got up the courage (and I don't know why I needed it, but I did) to ask one of Finn's teachers if she had noticed him blinking his eyes or raising his arms at school. I wanted to know in case we brought it up with Finn's doctor. She had not. It's possible that it's a quick and subtle enough behavior that she might not have caught it with 16 other kids in the room, or it's possible that he just doesn't do it at school. And maybe that's why he goes crazy with it at the dinner table once we're at home and in a relaxed environment (if you can call home at dinner time relaxed, which I might not!).

I'm trying, trying not to worry TOO much about this, these quick changing, repetitive behaviors. But then I wonder, should I worry MORE about this? The (in)expert Dr. Google tells me that if it's not a transient tic disorder, it could be Tourrette's. Which would be good to know, I guess, but Dr. Google also tells me that behaviors like the ones Finn has been exhibiting would never be treated with medication - that is reserved only for tics that get in the way of every day life or that cause physical pain.

So, I have about twenty questions now. Do we make an appointment with Finn's pediatrician to start documenting this? Should Finn be with us? (I don't really want to talk about him in front of him in any way that might make him think there is something wrong with him.) Can we wait until his next sick visit to discuss it? (Is there ever really any extra time then, though, to talk about anything other than the fever or weird spots or whatever it is that brought us in?) Do we ask for a referral to a neurologist? Do we take him to an eye doctor? Do we just wait and watch and chill the f**k out because this is completely normal?

OK, now is the time where you shower me with reassurances and like experiences (first-, second- and even thirdhand stories will be accepted), please.

And it's also the point where I tell YOU that I love my baby boy with all my heart for everything that he is. He is wonderful and earnest and too hard on himself and funny and smart and beautiful. And he tells a mean fart joke.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Not Giving Up Yet

We didn't do so well this past weekend in working toward our goal of finding non-shopping things to do with the kids - our only outings were to Costco and Kohl's (well, and the grocery store, but at least I spared the kids and M. that trip, and went by myself). I chalk it up to yet ANOTHER illness that struck us down last week; this time, a stomach bug. M. was the only one spared, and the porcelain bowl-hugging and dirty linens-washing left little time to research fun, little-kid-friendly D.C. area activities. I also chalk it up to our lack of diapers, paper towels, and M.-sized jeans without holes in the right knee (seriously, the man just threw out 5 pairs of jeans with holes in the right knee. What gives? It's not like he's proposing to me every night!). So we'll just have to work on that goal another weekend, I guess.

However, I HAVE been fairly diligent about trying out some new recipes on the family in an effort to get us out of our dinner rut. And I'm beginning to wonder if I'm crazy. On Sunday night, I made Asian lettuce wraps using tofu and a modified version of this recipe. I eliminated the red chili pepper and the fish sauce and used only a teeny, tiny amount of oyster sauce (mostly because, even though I brought myself to buy it at the grocery store, it kind of grosses me out. It's brown and thick and I can't help thinking that it's oyster poop, which I realize is probably not even brown or even collectible but there you have it), and added a dollop of Hoisin sauce to the lettuce pockets. Aside from chopping, it came together quickly, and it was really, really good. But here is a representative picture of how BOTH kids felt about the recipe:

Finn tried one bite of the filling at my insistence (and gagged while chewing it), and Lucy refused to try any, instead taking just one bite of the carrots I cut up for them. The rest of their dinner consisted of picking out the mandarin oranges and black olives from the salad I made. Oh, and a gummy vitamin.

Tonight, I took Susanne's suggestion and made an enchilada casserole/lasagna creation, layering tortillas, enchilada sauce, cheese, beans and diced veggies. Again, it was really, really good. M. and I are really eating well this week! But again, the kids turned their noses up. Finn took one bite, as requested, and declared it SPICY. To be fair, Harris Teeter only had medium enchilada sauce in the store brand, so it was a bit spicier than usual, but the kid thinks EVERYTHING is spicy. Lucy is still not old enough to actually follow our directions and eat one bite of each thing on her plate (our rule for Finn), so she didn't try it at all. Instead, she just dumped her plate out on the table and asked for random OTHER things that I had no intention of giving her. Like candy. Well, really dried blueberries, but they are pretty much just like candy, what with all the added sugar. And milk, of which she had already drank a full cup, so I refused on principle.

Later this week we will try Lori's suggestion of homemade fish nuggets, which we may have more success with. We'll also be trying a new twist on pizza - individualized pizzas so that the grown ups can have fun toppings, and the kids can have boring cheese, and we can all (well, those of us that are home at dinner-making time) participate in making them. I'm hoping it will reinvigorate my feelings about family pizza night, which have been waning. But I'm sure that we will have many more failures along the way as we try to find a wider variety of family meals that EVERYONE can enjoy. Because not every night can be "let's feed the kids left over ravioli, put them to bed, and order Thai food" night. And having family dinner is important to us, even if the experience always (always!) leaves us exhausted and angry and wondering WHY it is important to us.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

On a whim, I decided to give Lucy her first real haircut today. I say "real" because she did have a teeny tiny haircut when she was 5-months old to remove a knot-ridden mullet, but the effect on her looks was practically imperceptible. This haircut, on the other hand, is a bit more drastic.

The impetus stemmed from the ever-increasing challenge of getting Lucy's hair out of her eyes (and mouth, and snotty nose) in a way that did not inspire screaming on her part, and frustration on mine. Down, her hair often looks like a ratty mess. It's quite thick, and long, and with curls hiding underneath straight hair in a way that hides any ringlets and mostly just looks like it hasn't been combed in 12 days. In my defense (and M.'s), we DO comb her hair (despite the crying), and use conditioner, but lately it hasn't seemed to matter. The barrette, while the easiest solution, is a temporary patch that never makes it through the day. Putting some of her hair up in a pony tail on top of her head can be cute (see below), lasts a bit longer than a barrette, and exposes the under-curls, but creating it takes time we don't have in the morning (and by we, I mean me, since M. has not mastered the pony tail) and evokes the aforementioned screaming. Some before pictures (the first two are from today):

Here you can see the back of Lucy's head and all those messy curls hidden by some straggly top stuff (she's the one on the left, her cousin Cameron is on the right)
And here you can see an example of the top head pony tail, already starting to look disheveled

So, despite some concerns that I would lose Lucy's curls forever, I started chopping. First, a bath to shampoo and condition her hair:
Look at how long her hair is when it's wet!

Then, the cutting started, parked in front of the TV with Phineas and Ferb to entertain her. She barely even noticed I was cutting, so I tried to get a bit fancy and put a few layers in. Not as many as she probably needs, but I didn't want to go nuts since I for the most part have no idea what I'm doing when I cut hair. I mean, I've seen it done a lot, and I feel like that counts for something (it looks so effortless when the professionals do it!), but... well, professional, I'm not. Also, I should point out that it is much easier to cut a girl's hair, where you mostly just try to go straight across, than to cut a boy's hair. I cut Finn's hair a few times when he was a baby, and squirmy child aside, I did NOT do a good job. During (we have videos, too, but since Lucy was like a statue and nothing interesting happened, I will spare you from them):

And here is the after, once her hair had time to dry. Note that she will still need a barrette of some sort, because I did not cut bangs (I am avoiding them like the plague, I think they are a mistake with kids - you always need to trim them, it's hard to grow them out, etc). I keep finding little straggly hairs that need to be cut, but overall I think it looks OK. At the very least, it should cut down on tangles, static issues, and tears! And she still has SOME of her curls, so I don't have to mourn their loss (yet - I'm sure it's coming, though)

She finally seemed to notice that something felt different during dinner, and started whipping her hair around (yes, she opted for naked (plus diaper) at the dinner table, we decided not to fight it)

And finally, a bonus picture of Finn, because he's just so darn cute:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In This New Year... (updated)

I wouldn't call these resolutions, per se. More like "goals" for the year. And I'm sure I will want to add to this list as time goes on, but you have to start somewhere, right?

1) Try new recipes on the family a couple of times a month. I'm sick of rotating the same 5 meals every week, and relying on the same convenience foods. The kids don't learn to like new/varied flavors, and M. and I get bored. So I'm going to do my best to try out a few new recipes that still work with the whole two-working-commuting-parents busy lifestyle we have. I already launched this a bit by making vegetarian chili from scratch on January 1st in the slow cooker (just threw a bunch of stuff in there and it somehow managed to taste good) and trying out a shrimp recipe from this month's issue of Cooking Light that was just OK. I'd like to keep the momentum going (feel free to share vegetarian or seafood/fish cooking ideas!).

2) Sign up for at least 2 long-ish races. Sounds vague, but what I want is to challenge myself without being unreasonable about my time commitment to said challenge. Running 7 miles last October was hard for me (and since I haven't been running much lately, it would be even harder now), and I felt like it was a good, difficult, can-I-make-it-? distance. I can't imagine trying to double that for a half marathon - training would take forever, and I just don't WANT to run for that long in any one go. The goal is thus a couple more races like the one I did last fall, to keep me going.

3) Read the manual for my camera. When I received it as a gift last Christmas, I just took it out of the box, put in some batteries, and started clicking. I am quite positive I could be getting much better pictures out of it, I just don't know how.

4) Gain new, broader work experience. Maybe by finding a way to write something professional that could be used to garner more work/a new job/be used as a general writing sample. I'm somewhat interested in the idea of pursuing a job that involves a little more writing than my current one, but at this point I don't have the experience to be hired for anything like that.

5) And on a related note, my final goal is to work toward moving back up to the New England area to be near family. I don't think it can happen this year because we are far, far away from being in a position to sell our house. And fortunately, M. and I are both in good work situations right now, so we don't need to rush. But if we are cautious forever, it will never happen. And I really, really want my kids to have the opportunity to grow up near family. Not to mention that *I* would like to be near family, and old friends, with social possibilities and something of a built-in support network. Some concrete things I can do are to update my resume, keep my ears open, and network here and there. We have a little less than two years until Finn starts kindergarten, one arbitrary goal we have set for ourselves in trying to make this happen. The stars may not align by then, but we won't know until we try.

Any resolutions or goals that you'd like to share?

Ooh, wait, wait, I already thought of one more goal that I left off this list:

6) Find fun things to do with the kids on the weekends that do NOT involve shopping. I'm pretty sure that they think the only thing to do in this area is go to Target, or Home Depot, or Kohls (or sometimes all three!), and then go out to lunch. Not only is this a drain on finances, it doesn't give the kids an appreciation of what this area has to offer, and it doesn't give them a chance to experience new things/learn new things. As I mentioned above, we eventually want to move up to New England. We should take advantage of being in the national capital region while we are still here, and try to do some quintessential D.C. things. I imagine this will be easier once the weather is warmer, but no reason we can't make a list now and start crossing things off!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Things I Have Learned Over the Last Two Weeks

Roughly in the order of revelation:

One should not play Angry Birds on one's iPod when one is supposed to be making sure one's toddler does not fall off a step stool, or there may be blood.

The skin under one's lip is highly vascularized, and while it may bleed profusely if one's tooth bites through it, it will heal well without stitches.

Lucy is now able to handle car trips of up to 9 hours quite wonderfully (this would have been even better if one of our car trips hadn't lasted 10 and a half hours).

I don't know why I ever disrespected the idea of DVD players in cars. I apologize, I was wrong. This is a MUST HAVE. With two screens.

Life would be perfect if we could travel from house to house and provide our kids with other people's toys everyday. They would require very little supervision and interaction.

Both Finn and Lucy absolutely LOVE their baby cousin Josephine (JoJo).

Stink bugs in Massachusetts look different from stink bugs in Maryland. But both must die.

Next time we drive somewhere for Christmas, our gifts to the kids will not come with us. We will open them at home first.

On a related note, there is no reason to give each child ~4 gifts from us, when Santa, two sets of grandparents, and various aunts and uncles will also be giving gifts. TOO MUCH STUFF.

It is quite challenging to schedule, coordinate and capture a professional picture of a family with a pre-schooler, 4 toddlers, and an infant. But it can be done.

If you weigh an SUV down with enough luggage and gifts, it can drive through a blizzard even without four-wheel drive.

Also, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is much, much better at clearing roads than the state of Maryland. It would be beneficial to arrange for some kind of exchange program to spread the knowledge.

It is really, really hard to parent when said parent has succumbed to a debilitating toddler-generated illness of some sort. Particularly when the partnering parent is in the same boat.

It is wonderful to be around family, even when it is loud and crazy and driving ME crazy.

A few pictures - note that there are many, many more, but I had to stop somewhere. Also, I swear M. was in attendance during our vacation, despite his lack of appearance in most of these photos. Click any or all of these to make bigger:

What it looks like when a toddler has devoured a Friendly's Conehead Sundae

M. assisted Penny and Lucy in playing dress up a couple of days before Christmas

Lucy and Penny lounge on the couch, ready for Christmas Eve to get on with it already

Ned and Finn play with the Polar Express model train my mom and brother set up all around the Christmas tree and through present "tunnels"

Ned and Finn model Christmas PJs

Baby JoJo love from both of my kids

Lucy was sick for most of our trip, and spent a lot of time looking pathetic like this (she is very good at looking pathetic):

Waiting outside the closed family room doors to see if Santa had come (the same way my siblings and I did when we were kids)

Finn was super excited to get his very first "shooting gun" (gee, thanks, Santa)

More Baby JoJo love

Well, someone has a little snowball, doesn't he? About 10 seconds after this picture, he was crying because he shoved the whole thing in his mouth and froze his teeth

One of the proofs from the big family picture photo shoot photo by Keith Quenzel

Resting up for our big car ride home

Home, and finally, relatively healthy (Note that these photos in no way capture how desperately ill most of us - knock wood, with the exception of Finn - have been)