31 December 2007

no resolutions

And so it ends, this year of living rejectedly. There was a bright moment just before Christmas when I was actually asked to join something, rather than being asked to go away quietly. I am still feeling stunned by the phone call. We'll see what happens when the work begins. I'm looking forward to working with people who want me around and to contributing to an important cause.

So, just a little retrospective. In 2007:

  • I left a job, not of my own choosing
  • We moved to a new house that is fabulous and in a great neighborhood
  • We had another baby, our last baby
  • I learned staying at home, full-time, with two kids is no good for any of us
  • We didn't sell our other house
  • We didn't sleep much

And we hope in 2008 that:

  • I'll get a job
  • The other house will sell
  • We will add another Clumber to the family and I will get back to doing fun dog things
  • Our kids will continue to thrive and make us laugh more than cry
  • The smallest kid will sleep better, learn to walk, wean, and grow a little more slowly

30 December 2007

son-day at the playground with Oliver

I had great plans for the holiday, eleven days of CD not going in to the office (note I did not say "not working"). Our office room was going to be cleaned out, the basement was going to be organized, we were going to the Aviary, the Zoo, the Children's Museum, maybe a couple of other museums that are so close and yet rarely visited by us, storytime at the library, etc. It's probably pretty clear where this is going.

We haven't done squat. Well, that's not entirely true. CD spent parts of three days organizing paper and filing, and I spent a few hours clearing and organizing in our office room. We did go to the Children's Museum last Friday. We planned to meet one of Oliver's buddies but they bailed at the last minute (with a really good reason). It was just as well. Oliver napped until 3:30pm that day and the museum closes at 5pm. I think we got there at 4:06 and shut the joint down.
Children's museum - the Garage
I took a lot of photos and this is the only one that is close to in-focus. Both boys enjoyed the Garage room. Oliver sat in the driver's seat of a mini cooper and looked like he was in love. And Oliver and I made it to the library for storytime once, the Saturday before Christmas.

Our problem, it seems, is mornings. If we don't do something in the morning, the day is pretty much shot. What seems to be happening is Oliver and I get up around 7:30, with Eleanor joining us soon after. CD makes his appearance around 9:30. Eleanor nurses and goes down for a nap, and I take a shower. What should happen is that one of us takes Oliver somewhere. What usually happens is the daily viewing of Cars or Finding Nemo. Eleanor wakes up around 11:45 and it's lunchtime. Then Oliver goes down for his nap right after lunch, and the day is essentially gone.

Today I decided we needed to break the cycle. Eleanor woke up at 11am and I said we should go to a playground. We have lots of choices in playgrounds nearby, and our first choice was closed. That was okay, since we tried a new playground a while back and had to introduce it to CD and Eleanor. CD took lots of pictures but hasn't shared any with me yet.

We also went out for lunch so there was fresh air, followed by social interaction. Oliver was wearing his Steeler's shirt, along with half the other people in the restaurant, so he took the opportunity to let everyone know he loves the Steelers. He also informed everyone that in football you "run and fall down." He really is in his element when out in public. I have a feeling he's not all that different from how I was as a kid. Sorry Mom! Precocious, I think it's called. So far I haven't felt the need to hide under a table but I know the day is coming.

The naps that followed were glorious. It's been quite a while since both kids napped at the same time. Oliver slept from about 1:15 to 3:30. Eleanor was out from 1:30 until just after 4. This is how I managed to work on cleaning up the office.

Side note: This is post #502. As usual, I intended to pay attention to the 500th post milestone. Oops. Probably just as well, since #500 was just a couple of links to Christmas photos.

28 December 2007

FFF - don't call it fruitcake

Had all gone well, I'd be writing about afternoon tea at the Frick museum cafe. Alas, no reservation meant no tea. Fortunately, I have a fall-back position in the form of Christmas pudding. Pre-CD, it's something I never would have tried. Now I have to scour the stores the day after Christmas, hoping to find one more for us to have on New Year's day so we can use up the ginger and brandy butter sauce. This year I really did get the last one. As I prowled my local Williams-Sonoma, three sales people told me they didn't have any left. As I went to check out, there was one lonely Christmas pudding on the counter. The cashier assured me it was not being held for anyone and I could have it. Not wanting to wait for her to change her mind, I checked out immediately.

We did share a slice of pudding with our a British neighbor who forgot to order one. He said it was no big deal, since the rest of his family didn't care for it. Problem solved...we delivered some pudding to him on Boxing Day.

It really is nothing like the fruitcake I remember seeing as a child. No strange brightly colored fruits to be found. I always thought the green bits in fruitcake were scary. All alone they were reason enough not to touch the stuff.

27 December 2007

more photos from Christmas

I'm just the pretend family photographer but my pictures from Christmas are on Flickr.

Better ones, taken by CD, are on our family site.

It's not hard to guess who has the PowerShot and who has the Rebel XTi, or who uses iPhoto and who uses Aperture.

26 December 2007

siblings

hair, please, hair




Siblings that get along? In my family? HaHaHaHaHa!!!


These are the photos I'll use on them later in life.

24 December 2007

the stockings were hung...


And the cookies were decorated and left for Santa, along with the obligatory glass of milk. (As we decorated I kept having flashbacks to a junior high experience. I was supposed to bring cookies to some holiday event and my sister and her friend Cory came to help me decorate. At least half of the cookies ended up "anatomically correct," thanks to Cory. Definitely not safe for junior high....)

The Night Before Christmas was read, though likely processed by Oliver and Eleanor.

The last drawer of the countdown calendar was opened (and chocolate star consumed).

And Santa was tracked through part of Europe, courtesy of NORAD.

We are trying to pace ourselves with traditions and hoopla, since there is only so much Oliver will remember, only so much that will really stick. Only time will tell how successful we are.

More tomorrow, when all the craziness really lets loose.

23 December 2007

not to be outdone

It may be son-day but Eleanor proclaimed an adamant "me too" by crawling for the first time. As we've come to expect, she's doing it differently from her big brother. Oliver's first attempts at crawling resembled an inchworm, and he moved backwards for a couple of weeks before he figured out forward motion.

Eleanor has opted for the military crawl, forward all the way.

Photos or a video to come.

'twas the Son-day before Christmas

and all through the house, not a child was stirring since it was naptime. I should be following their lead since the attack of the head cold. The kids have had runny noses for a few weeks now but I had avoided it until yesterday. Now it feels like my head is completely plugged up, just in time for Christmas. The good news is I really could get an extra nap since CD is technically off work until January 2. (I say "technically" since you know he's still spending most of his waking hours looking at his laptop. In case you missed it, read this.)

Oliver is getting pretty excited about Christmas. I don't think he has a real grasp of why he's excited, but he senses it is something special. He knows there just one magnet left to put on the Winnie-the-Pooh countdown calendar, and two more drawers to open on the other one. (We do the magnets in the morning, and open the drawer after dinner.) He's pretty sure Santa Claus will bring him a guitar. We have talked about Santa and the reindeer and stockings and the chimney but I think he's just doing his best "smile and nod" for his mum.

Last year he was entirely puzzled about Christmas. We were in Maine with my family, there were presents, but none of it really sunk in. This is the first Christmas he might remember later on so I have been trying to start a few traditions, like making cookies and putting them out for Santa and the reindeer, and the countdown calendars. We may add more next year, depending on what he remembers and seems to want to continue.

I can tell his eyes are going to pop out of his head on Christmas morning, but I don't think I have worry about him not wanting to go to sleep in Christmas eve or getting up too early the next morning. Only a matter of time though.

CD was doing kid nail clipping today. It's the only thing I don't do. I'll do nails when he starts breastfeeding. It seems like a reasonable trade to me. One of Oliver's former teachers used to do them for me when CD was on long trips. Anyway, while his toes were being tended to Oliver announced, "I love snails." He "loves" a lot of things lately, but "snails" was something new. I asked him to say it again, which he did. I was still puzzled and he must have been able to read my face because the next thing he said was, "Daddy clip snails, Mum!"

21 December 2007

FFF - chocolate vs granola

The annual deluge of chocolate has started to arrive, from parts far and near. Way too much chocolate. That's probably why my favorite holiday food has become granola. Tika makes the most amazing granola. I have the recipe but mine never turns out as well. She always sends a bag for Christmas and another for my birthday, about a month later. The rest of the year I have to make it myself or buy it, though neither option quite measures up.

I suppose I could add a little chocolate and call it trail mix, but that would just lead to my eating it at times of the day other than breakfast. It would be gone even faster, though my efforts to make the December shipment last until January never work anyway.

Tika's Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup chopped almonds or cashews
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup dried fruit

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Warm the oil and the honey together.
  • Pour the oil, honey, and vanilla into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • Put the mixture in a large, shallow roasting pan. [Two cookie sheets with edges work well. The larger the pan, the crisper the granola.]
  • Bake at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes.
  • Add dried fruit after the granola cools.

20 December 2007

for my geek readers

Just a little something to warm your heart this holiday season. This is v1.1. I missed it entirely the first time around.

18 December 2007

the uterus, she is closed for business

I had my hsg this morning, following up on the Essure procedure I had back in August. It was not nearly as horrible as I had been led to believe. A tiny bit of feeling crampy, but pretty much nothing compared to labor. It was even faster and less painful than the two CVS I have had. It was over in five minutes and the results are all good. My tubes are closed. Thank you and goodnight.

As mentioned previously, I opted to take one for the team when I learned that Essure was a permanent form of birth control that required no incisions. To my male readers, what would you do to thank your wife for keeping you from having to endure the snip, including the smoke and smell of things burning in your nether regions? I can certainly live without the "push present", though I did at one point suggest a hemorrhoid present (clearly a topic for blogging all by itself...) but this, this deserves some sort of recognition, don't you think?

17 December 2007

sleepy son-day

Son-day is on Monday this week. Better than Tuesday, I suppose. Today's topic is sleep. No, not parental sleep. That would be (oxy)moronic. We're talking about kid sleep, how much they need and what happens when that doesn't happen.

Sleep has been a hot topic in my little circle of parents. The conversation usually goes like this. First, when they hear about Oliver's bedtime, their eyes pop out of their head. Then they say, "You have it easy. My kid won't go to bed before 9pm (or 10, or in at least one case, 11)." If you moved four months ago there is no way your kid is still in the former timezone(!) if you haven't been the enabler.

I try not to be judgemental about parenting in general but sleep is one area where I sometimes can't keep my mouth shut. I really believe that good sleep habits can be learned by kids if the parents are committed and consistent. Have people forgotten that sleep deprivation is a torture technique? Or that mice DIE when they don't get enough? Quit whining about it and go read a book like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, or any of the many others on this topic. You'll find one that works if you stick with it.

A recent post from The Blogfathers (what? you don't read them? go check them out. we'll wait.) inspired me to comment, something I don't do as often as your average opinionated, loud-mouthed blogger. It also came up on ParentDish, a blog where I do comment pretty regularly (and think about applying to write for about every other day). That author cited a recent study of sleep needs of 2 and 3 year olds. Any talk of so-called "experts" usually gets my attention, since my mileage typically varies, sometimes wildly. In this case, Oliver seems to be pretty darn close to the experts' recommendations. I don't find that comforting or re-assuring. If Oliver was wildly divergent from the study, it wouldn't matter. He needs what he needs and doesn't read the expert studies.

It hasn't always been easy in the sleep department. Oliver was a horrible sleeper for at least the first year of his life. (I can't remember exactly when it got better. It's still a blur.) He was the master of the 20 minute nap, and often would not go more than 2-3 hours at a time during the night. Then we (finally) established a pre-sleep routine and things improved markedly.

Oliver now goes to bed around 7:30pm (sometimes 7:45, just about always by 8) and wakes up around 7am. If he wakes up any earlier I tell him to go back to sleep and he does, though that is easier in the winter when it is still dark. He naps after lunch, usually for about 2 hours. He goes to bed generally without complaint, so long as we do the routine, including PJs, tooth brushing, and a few stories. To my continued amazement, he frequently asks for nap when he's done with lunch on the weekend.

When things go awry, as they did last night, the results can be ugly. Oliver is 32 months old and that by itself can be challenging, but he is usually a pretty happy kid and I haven't met anyone who minded having him around, so far. We spent last evening at CD's office party and the kids did not see their beds until about 9:30pm. Oliver was having such a good time playing with a little girl his age that we couldn't get him to eat any dinner. I knew we were going to pay.

Here's the laundry list of consequences:

  • Oliver woke up 4 times during the night. And not your garden variety wake up. He woke up and was very upset each time.
  • He was grumpy this morning. There were no less than three meltdowns, one that I would rank in his "top ten".
  • His teacher said he was a bit off his game all day. Small things bothered him more than usual but he generally held it together. (I did warn her about what was going on.)
  • After holding it together at school, he was grumpy and touchy when he got home. Everything still had to be "just so" or else. I need a crystal ball to get things "just so"!

Needless to say, he went to bed as early as we could manage it, given that he needed a bath. Still he was out by 7:45pm. I am hopeful he is himself again tomorrow. This would be a pretty impressive recovery from what for us is a major disruption.

We have also had recent occasion to learn that if he sleeps too late in the morning he has trouble going to sleep at naptime. And if his nap is shortened is shows in his behavior for the rest of the day.

I think I can live with being chastised for being too rigid with his sleep schedule. As I said in my comment on ParentDish, if keeping your kid up late so you can have more time with him works for your family, go for it. If I did that with Oliver it would not be fun for any of us. I love my son and like him a whole lot better when he's had the rest he needs. He might as well be wearing a blinking neon sign that says "Sleep Deprived" when he hasn't.

Next year, we are leaving the party early. Lesson learned. The party was fun, but not enough to blow up the sleep schedule. Now I just have to get a little more of that sleep thing myself.

14 December 2007

behind the lens

Here's the long-awaited guest blog from Andrea. Or there would be a guest blog, if it were possible to get tech support from Blogger. Andrea ends up in an endless loop when trying to get help with logging in. When she tries to log in Blogger says her email address does not exist. When she tries to create a new account, it says there is an account for her email address already. When she tries to access help with this problem Blogger tells her to go to the help center, which cannot be accessed without logging in. Lovely. Thanks Blogger. I will renew my efforts to choose one of your competitors and move my blog. If you can't solve the easy stuff I know you won't be around when I have a more serious problem.

the winner

Meanwhile, here's what Andrea has to say about being the photographer for our Christmas photo:

One rarely gets to see the inner workings of a family. I had the pleasure of taking Kim and family's holiday card photo. All of the clich├ęs that you read are true... the dog and babies always steal the show. Look at the picture she posted as the "not" holiday card...now, imagine the dog licking the baby, Oliver whining because he wanted to be on mommy's lap and CD very prim and proper. (I think he was just terrified that I might drop his camera!) That is the sight that I saw as the true spirit of the holidays. Fun and family.

More of the photo shoot at Flickr.

FFF- basted eggs?

Eggs are on the menu here at Fabulous Food Friday. The aforementioned cancelled breakfast finally happened on Wednesday and we went to Pamela's in Shadyside, one of five branches around the city. It followed a mind-numbing hour of signing my name, in BLUE pen, at our lawyer's office so I was ready for a serious diner breakfast. with. bacon.

I ordered a poached egg and was informed they do "basted" eggs. I've never had anything bad at Pamela's. Their California French Toast is something everyone should have at least once and their pancakes are bigger than your head, yet light and fluffy. They probably know their eggs too, I assumed. Yeah, sure, basted egg.

They should have just said, "We don't poach. How 'bout over easy?" I would have said yes and known what to expect. Instead, I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what, exactly, was "basted" about my egg. Even Google didn't enlighten me, when I compared what I found there to what I saw on my plate. Wikipedia claims no knowledge of the basted egg.

Fortunately, the bacon alone was enough to qualify the meal for FFF. Mmmm. Bacon. If you are looking for a bacon gift, and frankly, who isn't, Zingerman's has a few nice choices.

13 December 2007

elvis has not left the building

Courtesy of Mr Big Dubya comes this music meme. iTunes, iPod, Media Monkey, whatever you've got. For me, it's iTunes since both my iPhone and video iPod have a subset of what is on the computer.

How Many Total Songs?

There are 1546 songs in iTunes. 4 movies, 3 tv shows, a couple of podcasts.

Sort by song title - First and Last
Accidents Will Happen - Elvis Costello - Armed Forces
'92 Subaru - Fountains of Wayne - Traffic and Weather

Sort by Time - Shortest and Longest
Mary Mary - 0:10 - Susie Tallman & Friends - Classic Nursery Rhymes
Beyond the Sea - 28:15 - Robbie Williams - Swing When You're Winning

Sort by Album - First and Last
Acoustic - Everything But the Girl
40 Years, A Charlie Brown Christmas

Sort by Artist - First and Last
First - Aaaardvarks (from Philadelphia Chickens - Sandra Boynton)
Last - 10,000 Maniacs

Top Five Most Played Songs
For Oliver:
Six Little Ducks - Susie Tallman & Friends
Ten Monkeys In the Bed - Susie Tallman & Friends
Winnie the Pooh - Ralph's World
The Hoppity Song - John Ondrasik
Marching Medley - Ralph's World

For me:
Accidents Will Happen - Elvis Costello
Out of Reach - Gabrielle
Brilliant Mistake - Elvis Costello
And She Was - Talking Heads
Every Day I Write the Book - Elvis Costello (are we sensing a trend yet?)

Find the following words. How many songs show up?
Sex: 1 (Sussex Carol!); Death: 0; Love: 98; You: 179; Boy: 53; Girl: 45

First five songs that come up on Party Shuffle
This Must Be the Place - Talking Heads
You Couldn't Have Come At a Better Time - Luka Bloom
Man Out of Time - Elvis Costello
Solsbuy Hill - Peter Gabriel
A Kiss To Build a Dream On - Louis Armstrong

Your turn!

11 December 2007

PSA - dogs are not for christmas

Since I don't see the AKC putting forward their usual campaign, I want to do my part to remind readers that puppies make lousy holiday gifts. Kids should not view a dog like any other toy that can be discarded when the novelty has worn off. It's a 10-15 year committment, longer for some breeds.

Take this opportunity to get a book about dog breeds if you haven't decided on a breed already. If you know what breed is a good match for your family you can pick up some supplies like a leash, bowl, or bed. And take some time during the holidays to research breeds and breeders. The AKC website can point you to contacts for the Parent Club of each breed (for those breeds recognized by AKC). Parent club websites usually have information about breed traits and characteristics, a link to the breed rescue group, and a breeder referral contact.

A better time of year to add a dog to the family is when someone will be home for a few days to help the dog get acclimated to new surroundings, not when there are parties, lots of visitors, and other sources of commotion.

AKC does have a great page of suggestions on how to be a responsible dog owner. Skipping the holidays is down there at number 11.

And one more thing: holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous to dogs. Keep the chocolate well out of sniffing range too.

Remember, a dog is for life, not just for Christmas.

09 December 2007

get down get funky

Son-day, once again. And on Sunday for the second week in a row! Woo-hoo! Today we're all about things Oliver is saying, and I'm translating. Mostly. Sometimes. When I can.

This morning, as our daily viewing of Cars began, Oliver instructed, "Get down and DANCE, Mama!" He said it very clearly, no need for a translator.

The same cannot be said for what he was yelling during the DVD previews. "Bogasteekers" had me completely stumped. It took a while but I finally figured out he was saying "bonus features." I think we may have to find a way to lay off the DVDs for a while.

He's been singing a strange song for a couple of weeks now. I can't even begin to figure out what the words are. If the song continues to stump me it may require an audio blog.

07 December 2007

FFF - beans and greens

It's Fabulous Food Friday again. Not much of a week for eating, with CD on the road and breakfast with a friend cancelled due to crappy road conditions. I love going out for breakfast. Brunch is my favorite meal, with breakfast a close second. Alas, nothing new I ate this week bears mentioning.

I have blogged about the beans and greens at Pino's Mercato before. My love for them grows every time I am lucky enough to have them. The more time that has passed since I have had them, the more I think about them. I have been scouring various recipe websites looking for something that looks like it would come close to the garlicky loveliness of Chef Pino's version. I have come up empty all the way around. I guess that means I will have to find a way to convince the chef to share his recipe. It's not like we won't have a reason to go there anymore. The pizza is also tasty and I look forward to trying some of the other dishes on their menu. They are an easy walk from the house and we are likely to be frequent visitors. So Chef Pino, if you're listening, share the Beans & Greens recipe with a grateful diner.

06 December 2007

forklips


You know, Luigi Guido from Cars, the things that change the tires. Forklips.

05 December 2007

cd, explained

Okay, so it's not exactly "CD - the definitive guide" but some parts are spot on. [click the title]

I miss being "the project". Fortunately, I still have all the emails from that time. And I now realize I'll probably never have my own work space in our office room. It's really "the cave".

nsfw?

My niece decided to "elf" the family. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

04 December 2007

sick things in my kitchen

And I'm not even referring to the trash can, which invariably contains a poopy diaper, or the fridge, which I'm proud to say contains nothing that is growing fur at present.

No, the appliances are dropping like flies around here. My steamer, my beloved steamer, steamer of all things wonderfully tasty and boiler of pasta extraordinaire, is dead. It was dead in a flaky sort of way, but now that the technician has visited it is, of course, completely dead. And, of course, they don't have another one in stock. They claim I'll get a call "soon" and should see a new one next week. Sometime. Maybe. I should have realized this would be a problem when they told me they only have two guys trained for Gaggenau (and I learned today they are brothers) and they have been alternating weeks of vacation and illness.

The other dead appliance is my espresso machine, after giving me twelve years of faithful, flawless service. I was waxing poetic about it just last weekend. Shows what I know. As I was steaming some milk for cocoa I detected a slight, but unmistakable, scent of sulfur. Shortly thereafter, steam ceased to be produced. I have emailed a service company in Seattle and await their reply. They will probably say, "Look, lady, you got twelve years out of the thing. Be happy and go buy a new one." Unfortunately, I want another Saeco Estro Vapore. I know how to use it, after seeing Korby Kummer demonstrate on a Martha Stewart tv show eons ago, a show I saw at least five times. They are no longer available, not even the silly Starbucks-branded version. I can probably find one on eBay but I want a brand spanky new one. The last thing I want to do is research a new machine. A sharp stick in the eye, or perhaps a mammogram, would be more pleasant.

02 December 2007

new and old territory

New territory: We finally got the first offer on the old house that has been on the market since April. Unfortunately it's not even in the right ballpark and the buyer isn't likely to get there. Our counter is essentially "go away". That said, it's nice that someone wants to live there, even if they probably can't afford it. Maybe there will be a surprise but I am not going to hold my breath.

Old territory: I'm flying solo this week, with CD away. He hasn't traveled in a couple of months and I am way out of practice with juggling both kids, especially late in the day when everyone, myself included, is hungry/grumpy/tired. I realized it had been a very long time since I have done bath time with Oliver and it was easier than I remember, a pleasant surprise. CD has helped him through a lot of his bath issues, like hair washing. Still, it's going to be a very long week.

Son-day: I hear a polka and my troubles are through

It's son-day again, and on Sunday this time. CD left for Vancouver at oh-dark-thirty this morning so it's just me and the kidlets for a few days. (Unless United never finds a plane to take him from Chicago, where he's been waiting for hours, in which case he's going to bag the whole thing and come home.)

Just when I get comfortable with leaving Oliver alone for a few minutes to feed Eleanor and what not, I am reminded this is just never going to be a good idea. As I was changing Ellie's diaper upstairs this morning I heard the sliding door to the backyard open and close. I foolishly assumed Oliver was letting Penguin go outside. He's good at this, and is also good at noticing if she wants to go out or come back in. What I didn't consider is that it's pouring rain and Penguin would rather hold it than go out in the rain. A few minutes later, Oliver appeared upstairs, using his tee-ball bat as a guitar. He spent the next hour dancing around the house, singing a lot of "Hoop De Doo" and generally paying no attention to where the guitar was swinging. The bat is now banned from Ellie's room, as he came much too close to whacking her in the head. I was in the line of fire a few times too. He's so absorbed by music that he doesn't think about anything else.

Coming soon: A Guest Blogger! The person behind the camera for our Christmas card photo would like to tell everyone what it was like to try to capture the craziness.

01 December 2007

not our Christmas card photo


So much for taking a day off from blogging.

This shot makes me laugh but was not our final choice for Christmas card photo. I may post the winner after I get the cards in the mail.