Monday, November 30, 2009

NoMo NaBloPoMo

Today's the last day of November, the official end date of National Blog Posting Month (the cleverly abbreviated NaBloPoMo). I have to say that I'm pretty proud that I managed to post every day in November, NTB. It's been a positive experience for me . . .

1. Daily posting makes me more aware of what I'm doing and thinking and learning over the course of each day.

2. Daily posting takes the "pressure off." In general, NTB is not a high pressure operation for me, but when I haven't made time to post in a week or so, I feel like whatever I do finally post needs to be "really good." Then I procrastinate posting even more because no topic I think of seems good enough. It's been liberating to post every day insofar as I feel like whatever I post does not have to be particularly special. I'd like to think that some of the November posts have turned out to be entertaining anyway, at least as much as some of my once-a-week posts.

3. Daily posting is a good outlet and good writing practice (not that I'm practicing for anything).

In terms of the downsides of daily posting . . .

1. Daily posting leads to DVR back-up. I'm not complaining, just stating a fact. I guess this one is less a downside and more a point of interest.

2. Daily posting also means less novel reading. I'm complaining a little.

3. Daily posting has started to make me feel like I am no longer just the casual mommyblogger and am instead the "look at me, look at my cute kids, look at my life, here's every little thing I'm thinking, aren't I so fascinating?" blogger. The fact that I have a blog to begin with probably means I am sort of that person to begin with, though I hope not obnoxiously so.

I've said it before but what I love most about NTB is the chance blogging gives me to make connections with friends, family, and "strangers." When something I write resonates with other moms or makes people laugh or touches them somehow, it is so satisfying.

I can't promise to post every day for another month, but I will do my best to post more often. Please keep reading! Thanks for taking this November journey with me.

And, if I can ask, what kind of posts do you want to read more of at NTB? Books? Recipes? Helpful tips? Mommy stories? Feminist rants? Sermons? Please share in the comments.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Comfy, Cozy, and Me

Do any of you share my holiday fantasy? It's the one where your tree is all decorated and lit, the kids are in bed, the cards sent, the gifts selected, and the house totally clean . . . and you are on the couch in a semi-dark room enjoying the Christmas lights on the tree, reading the perfect book for the moment, and enjoying a hot beverage and maybe a cookie or two.

I have a few things to check off my list before that fantasy can be fully realized (though, in theory, I guess I could take a few moments to relax with a book and a hot beverage any evening), but I already know what I'm planning to read and drink in this year's version of the cozy evening at home holiday fantasy.

I stopped in Borders on my way to the parking garage after work about a month ago and saw some books by Maud Hart Lovelace on display. Lovelace wrote a Betsy-Tacy series that follows a little girl (and her friend) growing up in a small town. The books were published starting in 1940 and are set earlier than that (late 1800s, I think). If you read the reviews, everyone gushes about how they LOVED these books growing up and how the books remind them of the Anne of Green Gables series and the Little House on the Prairie series. I have no idea how I never heard of these books until a month ago. Anyway, I told myself that if I found out I was having a daughter, I would read the Betsy-Tacy series so that I could share it with my daughter someday, along with my beloved Anne of Green Gables books and Farmer Boy (my very favorite of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books). I haven't started the books yet, but I am so excited to get lost in Betsy's world and in a seemingly more innocent and simple time and place.

As for my beverage, I've been thinking lately of the orange spiced tea that I drank growing up. There are many recipes out there, but my mom usually mixed Tang, instant tea, and some Aspen Mulling cider spices. You combine all the stuff in a jar and then add a few spoonfuls to hot water whenever you're ready to relax with a hot beverage. I love it.

What are your holiday fantasies? Or, if you're interested in mine, tell me what book and hot beverage you're picturing?

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Here are some highlights from our Thanksgiving in Ohio . . .

Highlight #1: Cousins and Being "Clumsy"
When visiting Ohio, Bub has a blast playing with his two oldest girl cousins, Fancy and Swiper. They go, go, go and, for the most part, play and entertain themselves with little need for adult intervention. However, they are so busy playing that they also go, go, go . . . if you know what I mean. There were three episodes of "I peed in my pants" on Thanksgiving alone, with one more by Bub the following day. After the second time Bub soaked his pants on Thanksgiving, he said, "It's okay, I'm just a little clumsy today." The next day, he offered a similar explanation, "I'm still a little clumsy." Clumsy, yes. But cute as well.

Highlight #2: Zoo, Zoo, Zoo
The last time we visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, the polar bear was not swimming. I imagine he was being groomed or treated somewhere, but Bub decided that the polar bear had gone "to Grammy's zoo." We decided to visit the Cincinnati Zoo earlier this evening to check for that polar bear and enjoy the mild weather and the Festival of Lights. We were not the only Cincinnatians who had that idea. The zoo was mighty crowded, but it was still a great night to be out. We saw a sleeping polar bear and lots of beautiful lights.

At the zoo, MEP & Co. also made our first attempt of the season to get a holiday-card worthy photo:

LAP & Co. fared a bit better:

Highlight #3: It's Like HGTV!
My parents recently remodeled their kitchen, living room, and dining room. The results are amazing. Every time I look at the kitchen, I cannot believe how beautiful it is. Plus, the layout is now far more practical, and there's more storage. The only downside is that the new kitchen floor has turned my mom into a Swiffer junkie (six-eight times a day, easily). I'm afraid the crappy photos I take wouldn't do it justice so I have just decided to share one small highlight of the remodel: the fridge now has a freezer drawer with a separate pull-out rack inside, which my mom has given my dad the okay to use for storing the beer mugs he likes to keep chilled for his Bud Lights. Cheers!

Highlight #4: You've Got to Represent
Hubby noted tonight at the zoo that he felt a little awkward being one of the few individuals there not wearing any Cincinnati Bengal, University of Cincinnati Bearcat, or local high school sportswear. That's an exaggeration, of course, but people in Cincinnati do love their sports teams (GO MUSKIES!!!!!!). Note, for example, the lovely light display of my parents' neighbors.

Highlight #5: 3.75%
I had a lot of fun with the ladies on Black Friday and completed a lot of my holiday shopping to boot. I don't get many chances to shop when I'm home in Chicago. Plus, the sales tax in Chicago is now 10.25%, which is ridiculous. When reviewing the holiday purchases with hubby, I made sure to emphasize the tax savings.

So, there you have them, just a few Ohi(o)lights! Lots of fun and laughter this trip. Lots of food. Lots of family time. Lots of fun.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pink Friday

NTB, but the grand total for everything you see here was around $120 (and that includes two coats). Sure, Sweet P won't fit into the cutest of this stuff until this time next year, but I just had to have my moment to finally enjoy checking out the larger, cuter, pinker section of the store. You know? Do you think I'm excited?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Feeling Full

Full of mashed potatoes (some heavenly recipe that involves sour cream), mashed sweet potatoes, corn, corn casserole, broccoli, ham, green beans, stuffing, cranberry/raspberry jello, and Graeter's ice cream. I didn't have room for rolls, pie, or even turkey. I'll look forward to the leftovers.

I'm also full of thanks for all the good things in my life, family and friends being at the tippy top of the list.

I'm full of joy that I have a healthy baby girl growing inside of me right now.

I'm full of relief every time I remember that graduate school is over, that the black cloud of my dissertation no longer hovers above me.

I'm especially thankful for all who read this blog regularly or stop by and visit from time to time. I love writing these posts and find so much joy each time a reader leaves a comment or takes the time to send me an email or a facebook message or wall post to let me know that you enjoy NTB. I'm thankful for all my "closet" readers as well.

Here's hoping that all of you feel full of all good things on this Thanksgiving day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

We spent a lot of time in the car today -- two different trips of around four hours or so each. I am pleased that we are (for now) past the stage where a baby is crying hysterically in the backseat and I have to endanger my life by climbing into the backseat, cramming myself between the car seats, and then trying to appease a cranky little one.

Even though the boys are pretty good in the car these days--give or take some screaming contests and the fact that Little Bit pooped twice in ninety minutes during our second trip of the day--I still think it's hard work to be the mommy passenger on these road trips. I sit shotgun but barely have enough room for my feet and legs with the food/snack bag, wipes, stray diapers, McDonalds bag, half-full water bottles, purse, and selection of DVDs. Then, just when I get myself semi-comfortably settled, someone needs a snack, a drink, a kleenex, for mommy to "press play," for mommy to change from Up to Chipmunks Christmas in the DVD player, or for mommy to get out her ipod so we can listen to "Boom Boom Pow." It's tough, right?

I used to feel jealous of hubby in the driver's seat and think, "I'm making myself nauseous turning around to help these kids" and all he has to do is drive. But today I was thinking about how driving sucks too. It's one thing to drive when you're alone in the car, listening to your tunes (or audiobooks). That kind of driving is kind of relaxing, as is chatting with other passengers (hubby and I do get some chatting time on family road trips, which is nice). But it's really no fun driving in the rain, negotiating traffic, fielding "how much longer, Daddy" queries, and so on, with the sound of Tom and Jerry's Christmas or screaming contests in the background.

So, it's a toss up as to who has it easier/harder when traveling with kids. What do you think?

I think that however long the road or challenging the trip, it's worth it when family is waiting to welcome you at your final destination. We'd travel any distance to see the loved ones we saw at the ends of both journeys today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Soft Core Food Porn

Crockpot 365 remains my preferred food porn right now, but here are some more food-related blogs that you may want to check out:

Diptacular 2009 -- Another blogger celebrated the start of fall by sharing dip recipes and inviting other bloggers to do the same. Follow this link to see her recipes and a whole list of links to other dip recipes. I had some fun checking out the different recipes and blogs.

Bakerella -- I was introduced to this site by another blogger (and friend) who tempted me with talk of the red velvet cake balls. The recipe sounds easy and delicious, similar to the schweaty oreo balls I attempted last December. Also, if you visit Bakerella, be sure to check out the unbelievable Sesame Street cake pops she made.

I'm not tied into the food blog world, though I would love to know more. If you know of any great food blogs or recipe sites, please share in the comments!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Meppie Homemaker

Oops -- I wrote this last night, but apparently forgot to actually publish it! I was wondering why no one left any comments. If the NaBloPoMo police are checking, I really did write it on Monday!

Do you remember a few months ago when I bragged about my new cutlery-sorting system and then just days later blew your mind with the butter wrapper trick for rice krispie treats? (I know I keep mentioning it, but I'm really proud). And how about earlier this month when I listed all those great, helpful tips that I should be following but am not?

I just feel that I have so much to give. (You know I'm joking, right?)

Anyway, I have a new household hint. I can't take full credit it for this tip, but I think it's worth sharing.

Does someone at your house eat grilled cheese sandwiches? I have two little someones who really enjoy grilled cheese. Because of my hubby's schedule, I prepare a separate dinner for my little guys at least five nights a week. After a long day of playing, singing, cleaning up messes as new ones are being created, reading books, and responding to Little Bit's pleas for "ju ju ju ju ju" (short for "juice" but really just a request for something to drink) . . . anyway, with all the stuff that fills a mom's day, sometimes just making a grilled cheese sandwich seems like a lot of work. Judge me harshly if you wish, but that's the truth for me.

You can also judge me harshly, if you wish, for revealing that I am not always vigilant about keeping track of what perishable food items I have on hand so as to use them before they spoil. Common things that I sometimes have to toss include containers of grape tomatoes, eggs, black bananas, and partial loaves of bread.

Today's tip from Meppie Homemaker promotes convenience and decreases waste.

Are you ready?

Years ago, when I had my dream job working the grill at the snack bar of my neighborhood pool, I regularly prepared grilled cheese sandwiches. To butter the bread and get out the cheese would have been very difficult in our tight quarters and during the busy lunch rush so the procedure was to butter one side each of two slices of bread and then put two slices of cheese in between. Then, all of these "sandwiches" went in a special freezer-tight Tupperware container and into the big old freezer. When someone order a grilled cheese, you opened the container, popped one of those frozen babies out, and threw it on the grill.

Tonight, I noticed that we had some bread that we certainly won't finish before leaving town for Thanksgiving and that definitely won't be good when we get home. So, I buttered eight slices, unwrapped my Kraft singles (my cheese of choice for grilled cheese sandwiches), and put them in a couple of freezer bags. I did put wax paper between each sandwich, but I doubt that step was necessary. I'll let you know how my system worked, the next time the boys ask for grilled cheese.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Bye and God Bless

Bub, Little Bit, and Hubby visited Grandma and Grandpa in Terre Haute this weekend while I drove on to southern Indiana for a weekend with my girlfriends. Bub helped Grandpa clean his boat and learned to play "Go Fish." Little Bit made messes and skipped naps, but managed to be angelic at the nursing home with his daddy and Grandma when they went to visit his Great Grandma. As ever, I am thankful that our boys have two sets of loving and involved grandparents and delight in seeing how excited they get to visit with all of them.

I know my husband and I both have great memories of time spent with our grandparents and are thrilled to see the joys of the grandparent/grandchild relationship from a new perspective. Earlier this summer, I wrote a little post sharing some memories of time spent with my grandparents and celebrating all the ways that my boys are now making memories with their grandparents.

On Saturday, hubby had a chance to visit with his maternal Grandma. I know he is so glad to have had that chance. This afternoon, she passed away peacefully.

I have only ever heard my husband call her "Grandma," but he told me just now that when he was little, he and his sister always called her "Ma."

So, with hubby's permission, I want to share some of his memories of Ma or "Grandma Koi-skee"--to quote Bub's valiant attempt at pronouncing her tricky Polish last name . . .

As ever, so many happy memories are linked with food. Hubby remembers that his Grandma made the best chicken and noodles. He also loved her cheese cake, as did his Grandpa. She made excellent oyster dressing and hubby was chuckling telling me how it took his own mother years to figure out how to make it on her own since his Grandma had never really used a recipe for it, just knew what to do. The first Thanksgiving I spent with hubby's family, his parents were in charge and hosting the gathering in the community center of his grandparents' senior living apartment. I remember that my mother-in-law was doing the dressing, but that Grandma "Koi-skee" was adding her own touches (suspecting there wasn't enough fresh sage) when her daughter was attending to other tasks to the point where my mother-in-law had lost all track of what had gone in. The dressing turned out great and was the first oyster dressing I had ever eaten. My mother-in-law has also told me about what light, flaky, and delicious pie crust her mom could make. Food is love.

My hubby also remembers his Grandma trying to scrub him clean. Apparently, she was not always gentle with her wash cloth and always worked especially hard on a "dirty spot" on her grandson's face that is actually just a discoloration. Scrub as she might, she could never wipe it off!

Grandma "Koi-skee" could play piano by ear with absolutely no formal training. She had a sharp wit which hubby remembers as often being exercised at his Grandpa's expense. Although my husband does not know how often or for whom his Grandma voted, he does remember her giving his Grandpa hell for voting for Jimmy Carter. She had red hair and, at moments, the fiery streak said to come with it. She also had a green thumb--a huge vegetable garden and many plants and flowers.

I am thankful that I had a few years of knowing my husband's Grandma before a series of strokes made it difficult to connect with her. I am also thankful that Bub and Little Bit visited their Great Grandma on several occasions and were able to elicit some smiles. I can clearly picture her reaching out to tickle Little Bit's baby foot.

When I arrived in Terre Haute to pick up my family, Bub told me, "Grandma Koi-skee died." Earlier this evening, he explained to us that she was "in heaven with God and the cats and dogs." He also worked diligently on what he called a "complication" which was for Grandma Koi-skee and because "he loves God a lot." We have no idea what he meant by a "complication" and could not get to the bottom of it even with lots of questions, but he was concentrating really hard as he wrote with marker on a receipt that he taped up to the fridge with stickers. I'm sure that somewhere she fully understands and appreciates his earnest efforts.

I asked my husband what qualities of his Grandma's he hopes to have inherited, and he said her good sense of humor, strong work ethic, and the way she was loving and modest. Sounds like a wonderful legacy to me. Here's to ninety-four years well lived and well loved.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good Day.

Food. Friends. Laughter. Fun. I'm enjoying a weekend with my oldest friends in the world. Life is good.

The photo is of my new ornaments from a holiday exchange.

Back to real blogging tomorrow.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

So many reasons to smile . . .

So many reasons to smile . . . such as:

* seeing the light at the end of the semester tunnel -- I will survive and possibly thrive!

* getting out of town this weekend to see my oldest friends in the world -- can't wait!

* Thanksgiving with my parents and (all but one of) my siblings next week and Black Friday shopping the day after -- have not been "home" in months and have not seen my parents for more than fifteen minutes since September.

* finding out tomorrow if we can call "the baby in mommy's belly" a sister or a brother

* the holiday season ahead -- feeling more excited than stressed this year!

And last, but certainly not least . . .

* the smiles on these little guys!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hot Vomit on a Chip--Absolutely Delicious.

That title is a little much. I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to delete it.

Earlier in this month of endless posts, I told you about my new food porn: a blog devoted to crock pot recipes. Ever since I started checking around in the archives (multiple times a day), I have not been able to stop thinking about one recipe in particular.

Cream Cheese, Sausage, and Rotel Dip.

The name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, and it's certainly not ever going to feature as a subtitle under a styled-for-the-camera Top Chef entree, but still, I had to try this dip.

I have long been a fan of a similar dip involving Velveeta, something spicy and tomato-ey (salsa, I always guessed, but possibly is Rotel), and ground meat (always assumed it was ground beef, but could be sausage). When I taught high school, one of my teacher pals always brought this creation to parties and at-school food events. I never made the dip myself, but have fond memories of it that stretch back to the late nineties.

Anyway, I thought the Cream Cheese, Sausage, and Rotel Dip would be similar and possibly better, especially since Stephanie at Crock Pot 365 calls it "mommy crack." Talk about a name that rolls off the tongue.

When the boys and I went to the grocery on Monday, I purchased some 10/$10 blocks of lite cream cheese (can never have too much on hand, especially with the holidays approaching), a can of Rotel tomatoes with green chilies (chose the mild ones, as I am a spice wimp), and a tube of Bob Evans pork sausage (the smell of it reminds me of home).

Then, I said to myself, "If Mommy Crack is really such a hit at parties, you should plan to serve it sometime, MEP." Then, I reflected, "It would be really irresponsible to try it for the first time when you're having guests. A test run is advised. And, since hubby is out of town on Wednesday night, what an ideal time to try the dip. You can call it dinner."

Tuesdays are very busy for me so I told myself all day yesterday, "You will survive. Tomorrow's Wednesday. Once you get the boys settled tomorrow night, you've got a date with a bag of tortilla chips and a mini crock of dip."

Friends, I just indulged and the dip . . . the dip is delicious. My version turned out a bit watery, but I suspect I did not drain the can of Rotel as well as I could have. The overall appearance of the dip is a bit "hot vomit on a chip," but the flavor was divine.

And, let's face it, if your friends aren't the kind of people you can serve "hot vomit on a chip" to, then they are not really good friends.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Music to my (admittedly uncool) ears . . .

I'm not a cool music person, and I know it. I use my ipod primarily for listening to audiobooks and spend my car time listening either to children's music (if boys are with me) or audiobooks (with ipod hook up thing). It's a shame really because I do love music. Every time I turn music on or hear music when I'm out, my spirits and mood lift. I like to sing along.

I really have no idea why I don't make more room for music in my life.

I do have an idea that my taste in music is not cool. Not even close. To prove this point I will describe the most recent albums added to my music library.*

Britney: The Singles Collection -- Though the CD does not include my personal Britney fave, "Lucky," I am also a major fan of "Oops! . . . I Did It Again" and even more so of "Toxic." Plus, I feel like this CD is a little piece of history, not necessarily a significant piece of history, but a piece of history.

Glee: The Music, Volume 1 -- Love the show. Love the song choices. Could listen to Rachel (Lea Michele) sing her half of the "Don't Stop Believin'" duet all day long. I have never heard some one make the word "Detroit" sound better. Really excited for the second volume.

New Moon: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack -- Since my beloved Entertainment Weekly has mentioned the awesomeness of this soundtrack multiple times, I decided to order it to expand my music knowledge and potentially up my cool factor (yes, I realize it is uncool to buy a CD because you hear it has cool, edgy music). I only recognize two artists on the back--Death Cab for Cutie and The Killers--so that may be an indication that the album really is cool . . . or at least cooler than I am (not that that takes much). I haven't listened to the soundtrack yet, but I'm going to have some alone time in the car this weekend and am planning to test it out on the open road.

I Dreamed A Dream by Susan Boyle -- I don't know what this purchase says about me, but I CANNOT wait for this CD to arrive in my mailbox. The YouTube video can still bring me to tears. I continue to root for Susan.

I don't know what these new acquisitions say about me, my music taste, and my overall coolness.

For anyone seeking a more definitive assessment of my music cool factor, I will share this piece of information: on my ipod's alphabetized list of albums, the first one listed is Air Supply-Greatest Hits.

I'm all out of love for now, folks. Please tell me what you're listening to these days.

*I rarely spend money on music--usually just 99 cents here and there on itunes--but felt I "deserved" a few treats since I am teaching this semester.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Poor, pathetic MEP

30 posts in 30 days.

Many papers to grade and only so many hours to grade them.

Instead of an actual post, I give you a glimpse of poor, pathetic, pale, wrinkled MEP with her frustrating flip-up-on-one-side-only-growing-out hair pinned in a clip with slight puff a la Hope on Days in the early nineties.

Tomorrow will be better. Possibly worse for a little bit, but eventually better.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Clean out the chimney or, um, oops, the DVR--Santa Claus is coming to town!

Do you remember being a little kid back in the days before DVR and Tivo and even possibly before the days of the VCR? Or, do you associate taping something on the VCR with a lot of anxiety, uncertainty, and turmoil, particularly when your parents had minimal tech savvy? Do you remember back when if you wanted to watch a particular show, you had to look it up in the TV Guide (or, at least, the newsprint version that came free with the newspaper--that's what we used) and then had to be physically in front of your television at the exact time when the show was scheduled?

Do you also remember when except for Sesame Street and the other public television options and the tons of kind-of crappy-low-educational-value cartoons, there was not really all that much children's programming?*

You do remember. Great, so you remember what a big deal it was to have a "Christmas Special" to look forward to watching during the evenings of the holiday season. I have such great memories of eating special snacks and having pizza picnics in front of Christmas specials . . . those semi-familiar-yet-oh-so-special shows that built up your excitement for the upcoming holiday and just seemed like such a treat.

My mom would try to track when all of the specials would be on so that we could enjoy them. Great memories.

Last year, we managed to DVR a few holiday shows and Bub took a fancy to Cranberry Christmas, Garfield's Christmas (humor way above his head, but he seemed intrigued by the fat cat), the Peanuts ones, and Polar Express (though not in its entirety).

I pulled out an ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas guide from a magazine and am planning to record a few special shows to enjoy during the upcoming season.** You can find that schedule right here. You're welcome.

I also found a list of holiday specials on multiple channels, not just ABC Family. That list is right here. If your fantasies include your couch, pajamas, wine, cookies, present-wrapping, and Lifetime or Hallmark original holiday movies, this list will help you realize those fantasies.

That's all I have to offer for now, but I have to ask: do you have a favorite "Christmas special"? I think mine is Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.

*I understand that the fact that there is so much children's programming today is not necessarily a great thing, but this post is not about that.

**Not all the shows on the list are holiday ones, but a lot are family/kid movies. I am excited to record Cars, The Incredibles, and Polar Express on our DVR. I'm tempted by Willy Wonka. Bub is not ready for the movie yet, but I think he would get a big kick out of seeing the inside of the candy factory with the chocolate lake, etc. I'll wait though.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Much too young to feel this damn old?

Late this afternoon, we decided to take a family trip to Toys 'R Us to get a birthday gift for a party Bub's attending tomorrow. Getting everyone out of the house seemed a better option than continuing to pull Little Bit off the table (climbing up on chairs and then onto the table is his new favorite thing) where he grabs hubby's Blackberry, which necessitates taking that away, which leads to tears and whining. Bub was busying himself throwing socks around the room (from the sock bin that he climbed up on top of the couch to retrieve from on top of the cabinet where I used to be able to put things I didn't want him to access).

On our way to the toy megastore, we were stopped at the end of our street waiting to make a right turn. There's a bar at the end of the street, which just has the coziest vibe. There are little lamps on each table, old-fashioned decor that is not lame, and a little courtyard in back. Very inviting. As we waited to make the turn, I looked with longing at the twenty-somethings inside. The front door of the bar was open to let in the unseasonably warm November air. The kids inside were talking and laughing and drinking. Probably some of them were watching football. I like to imagine that some might have been playing board games (that bar has them for patrons to play). Whatever the case, most are years away from pulling toddlers off tables and ducking to avoid being pelted by socks.

To be clear, I do not want to be a twenty-something again. Not. At. All. I feel tired just thinking about it and know that those years are not as carefree as they might appear.

So I absolutely do not want to be 23 or 24 or even 26 again, but I would enjoy having more moments when I could just relax and hang out with friends in the middle of an afternoon without having to think about naptimes or babysitters or what time the kids would be getting up the next morning. More time to relax. More opportunities to laugh with friends who know me really well. Maybe a beer (not now, in my pregnant state, of course) and some boneless buffalo wings to add to the pleasure of the afternoon.

Fast forward to a couple hours later. Little Bit was in bed and Bub jammied up. I ordered some Chinese food for our dinner and decided to take advantage of the great weather and walk to pick it up. I walked down Clark St. past Wrigley Field. Twentysomethings dressed in college logo sportswear spilled out from bar after bar. Kids were crowded outside smoking and making calls on their cell phones. Most of the bars looked hot, crowded, and sweaty inside. Tables were littered with empty bottles. Big screens everywhere were lit up with football games. Plenty of visibly intoxicated youth. People were catching cabs, and I wondered how many of the twentysomethings getting inside them were headed home to change out of their OSU sweatshirts and into their "going out" clothes and then keep drinking elsewhere. I can't even imagine.

I enjoyed the walk and the awesome weather, but I would not trade places with any of the people I passed along the way. Unlike the scene we passed on the way to Toys 'R Us that made me feel a temporary sense of longing, the people and places I passed walking to get our dinner just made me feel good about where I am now . . . ready to get home, dig into that Chinese food, and clean up the socks and toys littered all over the floor.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Snot the right way.

It's a privilege to watch one's children grow up, exciting to see them figure out how to do things on their own. Hubby and I have both marveled recently at how Little Bit already knows to pop the top off of his sandwich cookie* so as to maximize his icing intake as he enjoys the treat. No one taught him to do that. We did teach him how to kiss us good night, wave good night, and dance when he hears music. Or, at least we're taking credit.

Bub's at an age where we're constantly surprised by what he knows or has figured out on his own. He can quote from movies, as when earlier this evening Little Bit kept messing up Bub's puzzle and Bub said, "This is useless." Where did he hear that? Simon. Simon who? Simon from Alvin and the Chipmunks, a favorite movie but also one Bub has not seen in at least a month. Always interesting to see what he's picked up or remembered. Of course, we've taught him things too: his last name, his ABC's (with reinforcement from the Leap Frog Letter Factory video), the "Our Father."

Again, it's a privilege to watch kids grow up, to see how and what they learn from us and on their own.

But here's one thing Bub has not learned and that we cannot manage to teach him no matter how many demos we have done and how many tissues wasted: how to blow his nose.

When he gets congested, his instinct is to suck all the snot back in, not blow it out. I think that's part of the reason that he's been wet coughing for a month. Wouldn't you if there were a pile of snot inside of you?

"No, blow it out," we say.
"Like this," we say, as we blow our own noses.
"Put your hand under Daddy's nose. Feel how the air is coming out. Can you do that?"
"Watch mommy. Watch mommy blow her nose."

He watches and smiles then grabs a fresh tissue, holds it to his nose, and sucks in more snot.

Is nose-blowing instinctual or learned?

I don't know. I just know that we need some help here. The primary goal is, of course, to teach Bub how to blow his nose. In the meantime though, I'd also be interested in solutions for helping him to clean out, so to speak. Our babysitter keeps telling me, "Warm salt water. Try warm salt water." The idea appeals to me, but the logistics baffle me. I have no idea how to go about pouring warm salt water up Bub's nose in a way that might effectively trigger some, ahem, drainage. To begin with, how would I get him to stay still?

Anyway, those of you whose kids know how to blow their noses (NTB!!!), please help.

*Trader Joe's Maple Leaf cookies are a MAJOR treat around here. They are vanilla sandwich cookies in the shape of a leaf with a maple-flavored creme filling. The boys love them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

For my next trick (or treat) . . .

. . . I will do the bare minimum to fulfill my 30 blog posts in 30 days by including some cute pictures (NTB) of my kids on Halloween with just a little bit of commentary.

Bub was an elephant for Halloween and really loved wearing his costume. I love that he is still young and sweet and innocent enough to want to be an elephant instead of, say, a Power Ranger.
Little Bit was, um, a . . . a sea monster? an alien? There were two choices left on the rack at Children's Place and I chose the cuter of the two. I think he pulls it (whatever "it" is) off nicely, NTB. I could not resist including this photo of Little Bit the Pumpkin all dolled up for Bub's preschool party. One of the other moms said, "Oh, he'll hate you later for that one." For what? He's stinking adorable. NTB. My little goblins were not all that scary, but luckily we had our moldy, rotten, squirrel-eaten pumpkins to frighten off any little devils. Who would smash a pumpkin that's clearly hosting a whole spectrum of bacteria? Our pumpkins were dubbed "Mask" (or maybe "Masque"?) and "Manor" (perhaps "Manner"?) by Bub, in case you were wondering. And, of course, the grand old tradition of the dump and sort. They learn so young! I did my part to get in the Halloween spirit by eating every mini Butterfinger I could find and anything else that looked tempting, just trying to keep Bub from having too much candy.

What's your favorite Halloween candy?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Little Critter Fan Club . . . You In?

Several months ago, I posted about Mem Fox's Reading Magic, a book about the importance of reading to your children. In the post, I listed some of the most-loved children's books at our house and received a lot of great comments with the beloved titles in other families. You can check out that post right here.

Our list of favorites is always changing, but a new primetime player in the reading rotation around here is Mercer Mayer. Mayer writes and illustrates the Little Critter books. After a trip to my parents' house where Bub wanted to read Mayer's Just Shopping with Mom over and over, I decided we should check out some more Little Critter books from the library. We brought two home and read and reread those suckers until both of us had them almost memorized. I was so charmed by the stories and wrapped up in Bub's enthusiasm that I purchased two Little Critter collections at Amazon.

Just a Little Critter Collection was published to celebrate thirty years of Little Critter. I had to smile because the first Little Critter book was published in 1975, the year I was born. I actually don't remember reading them when I was little, but I am so thrilled to be sharing them with Bub and Little Bit now. Anyway, the collection includes seven different "books" in one volume for $9.99. Bub's favorites are I Was So Mad, All by Myself, and When I Get Bigger. Just a Mess and Just Go to Bed resonate with me!

I also ordered the Little Critter Storybook Collection, which includes seven "books" for $11.99. Little Critter is a little older in these stories (in school, having projects, etc.), but Bub is still into the stories. Bub's favorite in this collection is Bye-Bye, Mom and Dad where Little Critter and his sister stay with their grandparents for the weekend and do every fun thing you can imagine, including going bowling and to the movies (which seems to be a highlight for Bub). Bub also loves how Little Critter makes lunch for everybody: "When we got home, I made a special lunch for everyone--peanut butter and pickle sandwiches . . . with potato chips, marshmallows, and chocolate syrup on top. Grandma and Grandpa said it was the best lunch they ever had." As is always the case in Mayer's books, the fun and charm come in the way the text and the illustrations tell two different stories. The stories are always told from Little Critter's perspective, but you can get a sense of just how "tasty" those sandwiches are by looking at the illustrations. It's really fun when Bub picks up on some of the differences, as in: "Little Critter is not helping. He's making a mess." One more bonus is that there are really little critters--a mouse and, in later books, a spider too--hiding in each scene. If you want to stretch out the reading experience, you can pause to find them as you go.

My personal favorite Little Critter book is Just So Thankful (unfortunately, not in either collection). A new critter moves to town and has "everything"--the scooter Little Critter wants, a pool, a big house, servants, tons of sugar cereal, a cell phone, and a limo to bring him to school. When Little Critter invites the new kid over for a day of getting muddy with his dog, playing checkers with his little sister, helping set the table, and a cookout with the whole family, including Grandma and Grandpa, his friend has the best day ever and Little Critter realizes how much he has to be thankful for. I cried the first time I read it aloud. Sure, the early pregnancy hormones factored into the tears, but still, there's a great message and story there.

Check out Little Critter at the library if you get a chance and, if there are any toddlers or preschoolers on your holiday list, consider one of the collections as a gift.* Paperbacks of individual titles are usual $3.99.

One of my status updates on facebook a few months back was about Little Critter books and lots of people chimed in to name their favorites. So, do you have a favorite Little Critter title? What are some other favorite kiddie reads at your house? Please share in the comments.

*No one is paying me to write this post, just to be clear. I just really love Mercer Mayer books.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Assuming they're more nice than naughty . . .

Tuesday is my LONG day so this post will be short. I'm just starting to think about the holidays and have started receiving requests for the boys' Christmas lists.

The dilemma is that we need to prepare this house for sale which will involve a MONUMENTAL de-cluttering effort. I imagine that in addition to getting rid of stuff, we may also have to put some of the boys' stuff into storage. If people want to give my children gifts, I am thrilled and want the boys to enjoy a few new things. However, I do not want to bring a lot of big stuff into the house, nor any games/toys that involve multiple pieces (legos, blocks, crafts). I do want there to be some key items around that can keep them occupied while other stuff (like train table, for example) is in storage.

Some ideas I've thought of so far include:

* DVDs -- Bub is starting to be able to watch and actually comprehend movies, and it is fun to talk to him about what happened and see what he remembers/understands. I'm thinking of UP, Cars (erased our DVR copy on accident), Monsters vs. Aliens . . . but I don't want the boys to be watching movies the entire time the house is on the market!

* Photo Albums/Books -- My sister LAP made Bub a Kodak Gallery mini book a few years back, and he still loves flipping through it and naming all the family members featured on its pages, ditto with a book/album that Grandma put together for him. I designed a book at Kodak Gallery called "Best Buddies" that features Bub and Little Bit together that I hope they will both enjoy now and in the future. I could put together some other book/photo collections: updated family book, cousin-themed one, our neighborhood, our house, favorite things, etc. They might get a kick out having books that are about their life!

* Books in general -- They take up less space than other stuff, and we can definitely give our current library a weeding-out to create space for new books.

That's all I have so far. I have been wondering about the Leapster that's for four year-olds and older . . . Do any of you have kids with Leapsters? Do they like them? Use them? Any particular games? Are they worth it?

And, although these items are not small, they would be easy to put in the garage during a showing and may provide hours of indoor fun . . . have any of you seen/owned those little Plasma Cars (look like small scooter things that supposedly steer in some cool way)? The reviews on Amazon and are really, really positive. I'm just wondering if plasma cars are worth exploring.

At the end of the day, my boys are little and do not have a lot of expectations for the holidays. The festivities, travel, people, and wrapping paper will likely be the highlights for them. I know that. But I do want to give them a few gifts and want to be able to give good ideas to relatives who have requested them.

So, do you have any good ideas for me?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Crock Pot Porn

First of all, don't invite me over unless you really want me to show up. I don't get out as much as I would like so I tend to accept all invitations, assuming child care can be worked out. All I'm looking for out of any social outing is some decent conversation and decent food, though great food and conversation are even better.

Warning: If you are serving some sort of warm dip accompanied by sturdy chips or crackers, I may sit right next to your crock pot and never leave, except to get more to drink. I will leave your gathering with very warm, happy memories. I will tell my mom and sisters all about what I ate at your house. Like I said, I don't get out as much as I would like.

I found a new blog the other day called Crock Pot 365. I have been visiting it on and off for two days, just randomly clicking on categories, recipes, and success stories.

Crock Pot 365 is my new food porn, in part because of the attention given to some warm dips that sound just heavenly (if not healthy).

The current recipes fueling my food fantasies include:

Sundried Tomato Dip

Brie with Warm Apricot Topping

Sausage, Cream Cheese, and Rotel Dip (aka "mommy crack")

Little Dipper Cranberry Orange Dip

Super Duper Garlic Dip (note description of her crock pot almost licked clean after the gathering)

And, it's not a warm dip, but I admit to being mighty intrigued by the Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Lasagna.

I could go on and on, but I'm too hungry and I still have to grade twenty papers, clean up the kitchen, and hide the laundry that needs to be stain-treated from the cleaning lady. Don't ask.

I do want to point out that many of these dips also involve cream cheese, another staple in my food fantasies and memories.

Where do you find your food porn?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I love the theaters where you can butter your own popcorn.

Entertainment Weekly's Holiday Movie Preview edition arrived here yesterday, and this morning's Chicago Tribune had a winter movie preview section as well.

What must it be like to live a life where you actually need to plan and strategize for what movies (plural) you are going to see in the upcoming months?!

I can name every movie I have seen in the theater since 2005.

2005, pregnant with Bub: Walk the Line

2006, about to have Bub any minute: Casanova

2007 (I think): The Pursuit of Happyness [sic]

2008, pregnant with Little Bit: Juno

2009: The Proposal

It's possible I may be forgetting one or two films, but I sincerely doubt it. Hubby and I don't go to the movies because it just doesn't seem like the ideal use of paid babysitter time. We'd rather eat well, talk to each other, and/or hang out with friends. I could arrange to go to the movies during the week after hubby gets home, but that would require advanced planning and energy and effort. I could volunteer to take Bub to his first movie, except hubby wants to take him too so it's a stalemate there unless we arrange child care for Little Bit ( who is definitely not ready for the movies).

The point is that it will be a holiday miracle if I see even one movie in the next couple of months.

In case opportunity knocks, here are the movies I'd be interested in pairing with my extra large bucket of self-buttered popcorn and a large Diet Coke:

It's Complicated with Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep -- most likely candidate because it is a comedy. I go to the movies so rarely that I tend to want the experience to be a fun escape. Also, I really enjoy Alec Baldwin even though he is probably an asshole in real life.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? with Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant -- Scratch what I said above. This movie about a married couple in a witness protection program would be number one on my list. I will forgive Hugh anything.

The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock -- I haven't read The Blind Side, but hubby enjoyed the book. It's not often that hubby and I are willing to see the same movie so this is a good candidate as well. Plus, I like Sandra Bullock and am fond of heartwarming stories.

A Single Man with Colin Firth -- Colin Firth. Enough said.

Youth in Revolt with Michael Cera. Michael Cera. Enough said.

I know that seeing The Road with Viggo Mortensen would be powerful, and I feel drawn to/obligated to see Precious (Oprah factor, Mariah Carey with mustache, Mo'Nique in dramatic role), but I don't know if I can get through that kind of gut-wrenching stuff right now. Though, I have to say that Owen Gleiberman's review of Precious in EW does make want to try to see the film. Gleiberman writes, "Sometimes, a movie has to take you down--and I mean down, really far--to lift you up. Precious is that kind of movie." Then, at the end of the review, he writes, "It's a potent and moving experience, because by the end you feel you've witnessed nothing less than the birth of a soul." My soul could probably use that kind of movie-watching experience.

At the theater around the corner from us, people were lined up to see Antichrist, but I will not be joining that line. It's just not for me.

I would see New Moon as I enjoyed the Twilight movie and think that Taylor Lautner is cute, but I'm happy to wait for the DVD too.

If Bub were old enough, I would take him to see Jim Carrey in Disney's A Christmas Carol, but it sounds like it's a teense scary.

If we do take Bub to the movies this holiday season, I can see us ending up at either The Princess and the Frog (with his cousins) or Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (he's seen the first one many times and loves it except when Alvin says stupid: "Mommy, that not nice to say 'stupid.'").

So, what's on your holiday movie season wish list? What are the chances you will actually see a movie in the theaters?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I've earned my personal pan pizza. Go forth and Book-It.

One of items lost when our hard drive bit the dust a week or so ago was the document where I had been recording the titles of the books I've read in 2009. I've been working on recreating the list this evening and decided that today's NaBloPoMo (see graphic to right) would be a list of my favorite reads so far this year. You can click on each title to link to the original NTB post written about each book.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite reads this year:

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Commencement by J.Courtney Sullivan

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Plus, there's one more title that I loved but never posted about: Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym. This novel tells the story of four co-workers (not friends) who work in mindless office jobs as they transition into retirement. At moments, the novel is amusing as Pym so perfectly captures the eccentricities and habits of retirees. At other moments, the novel is truly heartbreaking in its portrayal of loneliness and disconnection.

You know what's coming, tell me please what you've been reading and enjoying this year . . .

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm not Rick Steves.

I'm not a photographer, nor am I travel writer, but I thought you might enjoy some highlights from the trip hubby and I took about a month ago. We attended a wedding about thirty miles (?) outside New York City and then spent one night in the city.*

We stayed at the Hilton in Rye, NY, and I tell you, I was quite taken with the pool area there. I wanted to take photos during daylight, but that is when the pool is being used by families with small children. I would have felt awkward snapping photos in that scenario. Both the pictures I snapped turned out like junk but please note the elaborate lattice work, the carpeting of green astroturf, and the elaborate floral window treatments with coordinating chaise cushions.

When I looked at the pool area, I could totally picture women (at some unspecified time in past) lounging, boozing, smoking, and discussing the Scarsdale diet (Scarsdale is near Rye).

The wedding itself was beautiful and the reception was a true celebration. Fantastic music, lots of dancing, and an abundance of wonderful food. I should have photographed all the appetizers, but I was too busy eating them, especially miniature slices of hot pretzel bread and their accompanying cheese sauce. I did snap a random photo of the dessert served in addition to the wedding cake.

On Sunday, we headed to New York City where we rested, walked around, visited Actchy and Co. (including the adorable "Acey") in their new digs, and went out for a nice dinner.

That afternoon, we happened upon a Polish Pride Parade and paused to appreciate hubby's heritage (his mom's maiden name ends with a "ski").

That evening, we ate dinner at Perilla, the restaurant of Harold Dieterle, the original and coolest Top Chef. Our favorite thing was the Farro Risotto which involves artichoke confit, parmesan, and chili-grape salad. We didn't order the risotto but our server knew it was our first visit and brought it to us anyway (for free!) because she thought we should try it. Delicious!

After dinner, we walked for a bit before getting a cab back to the hotel. Look what we walked past: the place where Harry met Sally!

My only advice to those traveling to NYC in the near future is to beware of the televisions inside the cabs (maybe there are televisions in cabs in every city now, I wouldn't know). If you are prone to car sickness, you really shouldn't watch, no matter how intrigued you are by the segment on the art appraiser who found herself out of work and began appraising art for a consignment store that raises funds for HIV. Just look out the window or close your eyes instead. Trust me.

*I didn't include any photos of the wonderful people we saw and hung out with as I only violate the privacy of my husband and sons by posting of photos of them without their permission.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Miss Bliss

Some evenings I am too lazy to wash my face before going to bed. Sad but true. In case you are worried that I am going to bed with a face caked with makeup, you should know that whatever makeup I put on (and I do devote 3-5 minutes to makeup almost every morning) is eaten up by the pores of my face within an hour. The only exception to the dissolving makeup phenomenon is my mascara which smudges so that I look sickly and tired.

Back in my younger years, I tried a variety of skin care regimes--Mary Kay and Clinique, in particular. These regimes involved multiple products and steps--masks, toners, cleansers, moisturizers, and cotton balls. I don't know that my skin was any better for it, though the stinging of the toner did make me feel like I was doing something.

Around my mid-twenties, I got lazy and alternated between buying cleansers at the grocery store (Neutrogena, Oil of Olay--something in the $8 range) and washing my hands with regular soap and then using my clean hands to splash water on my face.

The clean-hands-water-on-face is pretty much the norm for me these days. Kind of interesting that the more I need skin care (increasing evidence of lines and wrinkles), the less I bother with it.

Until now, sort of. About a month ago, hubby and I traveled to New York for a wedding. We spent two days outside of the city in West Chester and then one night in Manhattan at a W Hotel. W Hotels stock Bliss Spa products in their rooms, and I took a fancy to the "fabulous foaming face wash for all skin types." It has just a little bit of grit, forms a satisfying lather on your face, and, best of all, smells WONDERFUL--rose hips, chamomile, and passion flower (according to the label). I dropped the sample in my clear plastic, airline-approved baggie and have been enjoying it ever since. The next week, hubby was staying at another W for work and, per my request, brought home the sample that came in that hotel room as well. Now, I have a miniature fabulous foaming face wash downstairs and upstairs. NTB.

For now, I am going to try to continue using samples that hubby brings home when he stays at W's. If my supply run dangerously low, I may buy a full-sized bottle at the Bliss Spa location in Chicago or online or something.

Do you wash your face? Of course you do. What do you use?

P.S. -- I warned you that if I were going to post every day, some of the posts would be weak!

P.S.#2 -- Am I remembering correctly that there was a television show with "Miss Bliss" in the title that starred Hayley Mills?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

But it's so hard to make things easy.

At preschool pick-up today, one of the moms was congratulating me on the pregnancy. She already has three kids and so I asked her, as I have been asking many moms lately, if she had any advice for me on managing three. She said she had received one piece of advice that was invaluable: "Never let a day go by . . . " I'm going to stop there and note that I was nervous that she was going to end the statement with something like ". . . without telling your kids you love them"--a sentiment I totally agree with and all but not the kind of practical wisdom I was seeking.

Instead, she said, "Never let a day go by without doing at least one load of laundry." Now, that's pretty sweet advice, considering that I waste time each day finding clean/semi-matching socks for the boys, clean pants for myself (even harder when pregnant), clean washcloths for bath time, a onesie to go under Little Bit's footie pajamas, and a decent top and bottom combo for Bub to wear to school. And then there's hubby with his pesky news bulletins like "Honey, I only have two pair of underwear left." For some reason I tend to save the laundry until there's almost nothing to wear. Then, I attack the huge mound and start sorting and end up with about seven or eight loads worth. That's silly.

My life would be easier if I tried to do one load of laundry a day.

I've brainstormed a list of other things I could do that would make my life easier.

My life would be easier if I . . .

. . . put the little potty into storage.
Bub does all his bathroom business on his own these days, and I am no longer abreast of all his movements. Literally. He pees into the regular potty but prefers the little plastic one for number two. That's all fine except that he fills without emptying. And, since he does it all on his own,* I don't realize that there's been poop resting in potty until I open the bathroom door and almost pass out from the stench. I know he can use the real toilet for all his needs so I should just put the little potty into storage. But what would I use to sit on (lid down) during bath time?

. . . ran the dishwasher every night before bed.
I prefer to delay running it until I can fill every last nook, cranny, and crevice.

. . . emptied the dishwasher first thing every morning.
Then, I sometimes wait to unload it until there are so many dishes waiting in the sink that they practically fill the newly-emptied dishwasher.

. . . were stronger about removing toys that threaten my sanity.
After two or so days of picking up 300+ MegaBlocks multiple times a day, I get a little testy. I tell myself, "Tonight, when the boys are in bed, I will re-hide the MegaBlocks." Then I forget about it until the big box gets dumped all over first thing in the morning. The tunnel thing that takes up the entire living room when unfurled creates a similar state of irritation and chaos that I often fail to troubleshoot effectively. These toys are good for one or two days at a time. Then Mama needs a break.

. . . took some time over the weekend to plan my meals and grocery shopping for the following week.

. . . kept a typed piece of paper in my purse that lists ingredients for the dishes in our weeknight rotation of family favorites.

. . . developed a weeknight rotation of family favorite dishes.

. . . emptied the recycling every evening.
If I did that then Little Bit would not spend a good portion of each day scattering items from the bin--junk mail, wine bottles, pop cans, newspapers--all around the house. Had I emptied the recycling last night though, Little Bit would not have been able to entertain himself with an empty (but, unfortunately, unrinsed) gallon of milk for over thirty minutes.

. . . graded 5-10 papers each day instead of saving all 42 for the night before they absolutely need to be returned to my students (which, in my mind, is before their next assignment is due so they can "learn" from the feedback from the previous paper).
My failure/procrastination in this area is just as frustrating now as it was in the late nineties when I had 80-something papers to grade at a time.

How am I doing?
I have a load of laundry in now.
All the dishes are in the dishwasher, but it's not nearly full so I can't bear to run it.
The tunnel and MegaBlocks are both currently in hiding. The Diego puzzle may join them if I remember.
I graded two papers this afternoon.

You know where this is headed . . . what could you do to make your life easier? Or, even better, what do you do, NTB, that makes your life easier? Please share in the comments.

*You may be thinking, "But, MEP, shouldn't you be wiping him?" No lie, it's a clean break every time. Kind of amazing, NTB.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, What A Peeling!

Pretend you hear Lionel Richie when your read that title, okay?

One of my wedding shower gifts was a Cutco pizza cutter and peeler set. After I wash these items (in the dishwasher, not by hand as recommended), I place them back in the navy box in which they came. Then, I put the box into a cabinet that Bub can't easily access.

Both items do their jobs extremely well. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial bimbo, I will say that using the Cutco peeler makes peeling almost fun. It's just so easy!

Or, it was so easy until I lost my peeler. I suspect that it got gathered up with a paper towel full of pear peelings and thrown into the garbage. I actually hope that's the case, as opposed to finding one of the boys playing with the peeler one of these days and making a bloody mess. In case you are worried for my kids, I'm 95% sure the peeler got accidentally tossed.

On Saturday, hubby and I went to Old Orchard (outdoor mall in a nearby suburb) to take my defective laptop to the Apple Store and to get him measured for a new suit during a sale that was going on. Grandma and Grandpa were visiting and happy to stay with the boys so we were out and about for almost three hours all by ourselves. NTB. I even got an Auntie Anne's pretzel and a fountain diet coke. NTB.

Giddy with the freedom and the retail environment (remember, I rarely have time to shop anywhere but Target or Kohls these days), I wondered if I "needed" anything else. Aha! A new peeler! An excuse to browse in Williams Sonoma.

We walk in the store and when greeted by the sales associate, no-nonsense-shopping-buzzkill hubby says, "Show us where your peelers are." So much for browsing.

There were two on offer. One was an OXO that looked similar to the lost Cutco peeler; it cost $14.00. I was thinking about it. Yes, I know "a paring knife can do the trick," but I am not great with a paring knife and my Bub prefers his fruit "with no outside." I prefer my fingers with no gashes.

Then, the sales associates says, "We also have the kind the chefs on the Food Network use." That got my attention. If Ina and Giada have a preferred peeler, then you better believe I want the same one (though, to be clear the associate did not name specific chefs). But, of course, how much would such a special peeler cost?

$3.50!!! That's how much. So now I have a generic looking "clearpeeler" that retails for $3.50 and seems to be getting the job done and supposedly is better at just getting skin and peel, not flesh (of the fruit/vegetable). Though using the clearpeeler did not feel as easy as the Cutco one, it definitely got the job done on the apple I peeled this morning.

So there. Do you need a peeler? There's one for $3.50 at Williams Sonoma and you can brag that it's what Food Network chefs use.

Any kitchen gadgets or bargains to recommend?

Monday, November 2, 2009


Today's weather turned out to be just gorgeous--a great surprise. After Little Bit's nap, we headed to the park and enjoyed an hour or so of the usual: swings, sandbox, supervision of Little Bit on the play structure, "ice cream window," more sandbox, and treasure hunting.* Warm sunshine and gorgeous autumn leaves. No complaints here.

Or maybe one. Or maybe it's more a question than a complaint. Or maybe I am being too sensitive.

Whatever the situation, I'll come out with it: I don't understand parents who bring their kids to the park and then spend the entire time talking or texting on their phones.

There, I've said it.

I'll admit that I'm not a big phone talker myself. I'm happy to chat when someone calls, but I don't make tons of calls throughout the day, especially not on my cell phone. I can't balance my cell on my shoulder, for one thing. For another, unless they are really absorbed in some activity, my kids freak out when I am on the phone and it's difficult to be really present in a conversation.

I especially don't talk on the phone at the park. I would probably answer if someone called, but my phone is usually in the stroller not on my person. Beyond that, my kids still need supervision at the park. Bub is pretty good about sharing, taking turns, and playing nice, but he's been known to throw some sand every now and again. When he pulls stuff like that, I definitely want to be there to intervene. Little Bit can't really be left for a second. He thinks he's a big boy who is ready to climb, tackle steps (up and down), slide, "borrow" shovels and pails from others, and attempt to drink from the sand and leaf-filled water fountain. Lots of the play structures have drop-offs that scare the bejeezus out of me so I like to stay close to him. I don't think I could hover as well if I were engrossed in a phone conversation. That's just me.

I'm sure plenty of parents can balance talking/texting and watching their kids at the same time.

I assume there are plenty of parents whose kids are all at Bub's stage and beyond and don't need to hover.

And I know all too well that for plenty of parents, including me, taking care of kids--despite all its many, many joys and rewards--can be a lonely, isolating, and sometimes boring job.

I know how important it is to feel connected to the world beyond kids throughout the day. I check my email more than I care to admit (on my laptop though--my phone is not fancy like that). I depend upon the daily exchanges of status updates, photos, and encouraging comments on facebook . . . little glimpses of the lives of other moms and their joys and challenges. I author this blog and take great pleasure any time a reader leaves a comment (hint hint).

I know and understand that it means a lot to talk with, text, and otherwise connect with friends and family throughout the day. I get that. I really, really get that.

But here's the thing. If everyone at the park is connected to someone who's not at the park but instead on the other end of the phone line, then it's kind of tough for the people at the park to connect with one another. (You can replace "at the park" with "at any public/community space.")

When I say "connect," I'm not talking about trying to recruit new best friends, engage in obligatory small talk out of a sense of politeness, gossip about preschools or bad nannies, or drill the person you've just met with nosy neighbor questions. I'm just talking about acknowledging that the other people at the park are real, breathing human beings with at least one thing in common with you (the care of small children) and that it doesn't hurt to disconnect the phone for a bit so that you can at least be open to making some connections with the people breathing the same air as you.

Especially when I was a new mom, the conversations and exchanges I had with other moms--those in the same boat as me and those moms with more wisdom and experience--helped me through a lot of tough days. Even if the exchange was brief, I treasured that feeling of shared sympathy and understanding. I liked being reminded that I was not alone in the boat. All it takes is a "How old is your son?" or "I love her little jacket" to get the ball rolling.

Maybe you don't need to talk to anyone new. Maybe you can get most everything you need from your phone.

But maybe the other people in the park need you.

*Bub hunts for "treasures" (rocks) which he presents to me with a description of its shape ("looks like a triangle" and "this one's a turtle" etc.) and then stores in my pockets.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Anti-Fever Fervor

I'm not sure how to categorize my level of concern regarding H1N1.* Most mornings, I am concerned enough to call for the few vaccination time slots that our pediatrician's office offers each day even though it is a seemingly futile process of redial, busy signal, redial, two rings that trigger hope followed by a automatic message about all circuits being busy, redial, busy, and on and on.

I am not yet so concerned that I have taken the boys and I to one of Chicago's free vaccine clinics. I can't make the two clinic days during the week due to teaching and have been assuming that the ones on Saturdays are a hot, crowded mess. Plus, I am not that familiar with the neighborhoods where the clinics are held. Also, I am not clear on what kind of vaccine they have. If it's only the mist, Little Bit is too little and Bub had his seasonal flu mist too recently to get the H1N1 mist.

My ob's office has it but they're only giving it to third trimester patients right now. I call and check in there every three days or so for me.

One of my precautions is to use hand sanitizer around the house and pretty much every time we get in and out of the car . . . before and after school, the grocery store, music class, etc. Another precaution is to avoid unnecessary outings that may expose us to unwanted germs (no Target Cafe just to kill time, no Children's Museum even though Bub keeps asking, no McDonalds Playplace, none of the places where you pay to play). Music class (only seven people involved), swim lessons (doesn't chlorine kill everything?), grocery shopping, and preschool are still on our agenda. I'm not saying no to play dates, but I have not been doing much to arrange any. Am I being too paranoid? Not enough? I have no idea.

My other precaution is to get out the "butt gasoline" (Bub's phrase for vaseline) and take the boys' temperatures every time I have the slightest concern that one of them may have a fever. Though we have been fever free so far, I think I may be overdoing it on the temperature taking.

Please see the photo of Bub below. I was able to take the picture because Little Bit and I were invited to attend the last thirty minutes of his preschool Halloween party. We watched Bub make his craft, do the Monster Mash on the colored carpet for a couple of seconds, and then leave the dance party to become absorbed in the Pet Hospital set-up in the creative play corner of the room.

What was he doing in the Pet Hospital? Taking the rectal temperature of a teddy bear, of course. Note his precision and enthusiasm.

What precautions are you taking for H1N1? Do you think I am overdoing it? Or, do you think I should get my butt in line for the Chicago vaccine clinic? Please share in the comments.

Also, remember that I am participating in National Blog Posting Month and posting every day in November. Please keep checking back!

*I thought we were supposed to call the virus H1N1 now, but I am hearing it called swine flu more and more now. Did something change?
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