Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Working Christmas

I feel like I’ve been at work forever.  My shoulders hurt and my eyes are dry.  Above me looms a giant, firm deadline for the launch of the new business website, a website that has proven to be beyond complicated for so many crazy reasons  These reasons are almost innumerable, but at the top of the list is the fact that the sheer number of SKUs in our inventory, their stupid slight differences (.240-inch diameter pultruded carbon tube at 32.5 inches vs 40 inches, 48 inches, 60 inches, and whatever cutoffs we have in clearance, for example), and their multi-tier, multi-volume discount pricing structure.  Sound exciting?


Owning our own business is exciting, but it sure is a lot of work, and I don’t quite feel like we’ve hit a payoff yet.  So it still feels like and uphill slog, albeit one with a vast treasure at the top, and that sometimes gets me down (although other times it keeps me going).  Like when I don’t go sledding with my family the day before Christmas because I have to work.  Or when I have to work the whole weekend before Christmas.  Or when I have to go in early all week this week.  And stay late.  It’s a tough time of year for me to put in extra hours because the opportunity cost of this work is so great: time at home with my family during the holidays.


Consequently, I never quite got into the Christmas spirit this year.  Family descended upon us, but I wasn’t around much to make them feel welcome or help with the cooking.  My exhaustion and the work overload and the house full of people put into sharp relief that our lovely little house is getting too small.  I started to try to think of ways to embiggen it for next year: a new dining table with multiple leaves; the children sharing a room (that will probably happen anyhow); getting my act together and clearing the crap from the island so it can be used as a place to gather; moving the toy box downstairs.  Ultimately, though, I need to find a way to experience the whole season without a cloud of stress, exhaustion, and illness hovering over me.


One of the big things that’s missing is the sense of leisure that used to come with a two-week winter vacation.  Though I don’t expect to ever have that again, not even taking a day off to enjoy life was tough.  And our families didn’t want to join us for more than two days, which is much too short a visit for Christmas – there’s too much to do to make two big family dinners and the gift extravaganza happen in such a short amount of time.  I’m not sure how to reconcile this for next year; driving to the beach is a pretty big hardship for us, what with being smack in the middle of careers and having to also cart with us two kids, a dog, and the presents, and 3/4 of our parents are not working during the winter.  But if they don’t want to come to us, what option do we have?


Bottom line, though, is that I got almost everything I wanted for Christmas: a family in (mostly) good health, an extra ten pounds from delicious, delicious food, and two boys who were ecstatic with their Christmas gifts.  Jamie got TWO trains from the Thomas the Tank Engine family and has already run the batteries down in one of them.  Charles got some roller skates and killed a whole hour in the garage going around and around.  He also got a Flynn & Rapunzel doll set, and he spends a goodly amount of time having Flynn fight the Stabbington Brothers (who are represented by two Japanese robot action figures) and leaving Rapunzel in the boat because she’s boring.  They both received several books and lots of new clothing.  And, as a gift to me and Tony, they have both slept well for the past week.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I call it personal growth.

I cannot rid my travel mug of dishwasher soap.  A few weeks ago, we got new (and improved!) Kirkland brand dishwasher soap from Costco, the same brand we have always used, and after two loads, I could taste dishwasher soap on EVERYTHING.  I took it back, they gave me my money back, and I bought Cascade or something from Fred Meyer.  But!  The damage was done.  I have one of those spill-proof Contigo travel mugs and it Will. Not. Rinse. Clean.  Every day, I try again, but alas.  Soap.  I’m going to give it one more shot with a vinegar soak tonight, but if that doesn’t work, it’s going in the garbage.


And isn’t this soapy mug just a metaphor for my life right now?  I can’t seem to shake the stress, exhaustion, illness, and infection.  The dryer broke last night – well, sort of.  A roller or a belt got stuck, so Tony spent an hour after he got home from work at 10:30 PM trying to fix it.  Until that point, it made high-pitched, LOUD screeching noises that lovingly added to my stress headache.  Charles didn’t go to sleep until I threatened him with bodily harm at 10 PM, and Jamie woke up at 10:30 PM for a bit (he goes back down pretty easily).  Dryer repair mostly done by 11:30 PM.  And then the kids were up at 5 AM!  Hooray!  All I want for Christmas is to sleep and be healthy.


Tony left early this morning for a business trip (only for the day) and I decided not to shower.  I know, I know, showering is good, but I just didn’t wanna.  Also, I am trying this new (to me) thing where I don’t wash my hair everyday.  How did everyone but me know that this is how you are supposed to treat your hair?  I have been taking daily showers for years.  But, apparently, that’s not correct.  So I bought myself some dry shampoo (also didn’t know that was a thing until a month ago) and have been skipping the morning shower a few days a week.  It gives me a lot more time in the morning, that’s for sure.  It also eliminates the boys getting in the shower with me and then both of them needing to be dried off and clothed while I am also dripping wet.


My mom isn’t much of one for beauty routines.  Oh, she’s beautiful, but she’s never worn much more than sunscreen on her face, so I didn’t get a chance to learn at her feet, so to speak.  She, bless her, allowed me to experiment with makeup at a young age, and I can only imagine what she thought as I routinely left the house in 6th grade with blue eye shadow up to my eyebrows.  Thankfully, I’ve settled down, but not before going all the way in the opposite direction in college.  I didn’t really know any differently, despite being in a sorority.  It wasn’t so much of a makeup-and-clothes sorority to begin with (we had the highest GPA out of the whole Greek system the entire four years I was there) and it was also the early 2000s, era of glitter eye shadow and pale pink lipstick.  Not exactly my ideal look, you know?  Still, it was in college that I learned to pluck my eyebrows, so at least I made some progress, right?


Now here I am, 31 years old, and I have essentially just found out that I should be doing so much more for my beauty routine.  Dry shampoo instead of daily hair washing, yes, but also eye cream, bb cream, eyebrow pencil.  In one day of shopping, three people told me that they never left house without doing their eyebrows.  Sheesh!  I used to only do mascara.


Now I have a whole “thing” in the morning to keep myself from looking old and haggard.  Here is how I go from this:


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to this:


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Okay, okay, there’s not much difference… but I like the minimalist look.  And I also like to look less mom-of-two-boys.  Here we go!


Start with a clean face!  I use a salicylic acid scrub in the shower, but since I didn’t shower today, I just used antibacterial soap.  Then I used toner (a month ago, I had never even heard of toner) and eye cream (Clinique), which I was told by an esthetician that I need because I was starting to “age” around my eyes:


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So blotchy!


I have really oily skin – the kind that shines all day long, no matter how many times I blot it, no matter how much powder I cake on.  That is, my skin shined until I discovered this:


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Works like a charm.


After the oil-control moisturizer on my forehead and nose, I use a bb cream all over.


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If I’m going out, I might use some foundation after this for an even smoother look, but usually I just use the bb cream.  Which is also a product I had never heard of until this fall.  Then, mascara and a bit of eye shadow:


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Less blotchy, more even.


Finally, I use this amazing lip stuff – it’s like a chap stick, but has a hint of color and doesn’t smell weird.  I take it everywhere!  I’m pretty sure the tint I have is “sunny berry.”


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You should get some.


And here I am, ready for a day of work and crises and cooking and shopping and breaking up fights, complete with unwashed hair (will I ever get used to that?):


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Let’s be honest: I could look a whole lot worse, considering the circumstances.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Magic of the Season

The dog knocked down the Christmas tree for the SECOND TIME yesterday.  And I’m pretty sure he took several years off of the life of the poor, seasonally-employed UPS delivery lady (she’s not our regular driver, just a ride-along who runs packages to doorsteps).  Oh, boy, did that dog flip out.  Beware, anyone who comes to our door.  Now you will not just be greeted by frantic barking and snarling teeth, but also the crash of Christmas decorations.  None of the ornaments broke, so that’s good, but it makes me wonder how many more times we’ll go through this before the end of the season.


Is it just me, or does the Christmas spirit mean working one’s ass off to please others and get things perfect for others and then falling sick and positively dying because no one takes care of you?  No?  Just me?


No, dammit, it’s not just me, and I know it.  How many of you wives buy Christmas presents for your husband’s entire family?  Raise your hands, go ahead.  Yeah, me too.  One would think that, said husband having known those family members his entire life and me having only known them the duration of our relationship, and not ever having lived with them or gone on vacation with them or whatever, he would be more qualified to find the perfect Christmas gift for them.  And you know what else?  It’s not one Christmas gift!  It’s at least two!  Because we don’t receive a Tony-and-Amelia gift; I receive a gift and Tony receives a gift.  So I have to come up with at least two gift ideas for everyone in our families.  Is anyone truly keeping score?  No, of course not.  But I would feel badly if we didn’t get everyone a couple of gifts, so we do.


And then there’s the ham.  And the turkey.  And the pie.  And the cake.  And the sides.  Yes, they’re all coming to my house this year, and I AM happy about that because it means that my children will get to have their grandparents around them all weekend and they’ll wake up on Christmas and run downstairs in their pjs to the tree in our own house and we won’t have to cart Christmas gifts back on a five-hour-drive that would probably take at least eight hours due to Christmas traffic and potty breaks, etc, but it’s still stressful, you know? 


I’ve cut way, way back on “activities” this year – we aren’t going to the Lights of Christmas, I’ve been saying “no” to invitations more often – but we’re still awfully busy.  The coincidence of year-end-planning, inventory counts, a large website project at the office, and the holidays has me thinking we ought to consider rescheduling Christmas for sometime in July.  And all this madness even though my family, bless them, all agreed to cut back on presents even further this year, with a maximum dollar amount and an insistence that we all not go crazy.  But the shopping still must be done, and frankly, I like giving gifts.  It makes me really happy.  Part of the Christmas spirit for me is buying and giving things to the people I love.  I just wish I was one of those super organized people who could remember to shop throughout the year, instead of getting past Tony’s birthday and then trying to do it all in the already limited time I have each day.


So this week I did what any woman would do under such busy, stressful circumstances: I got a terrible cold that landed me in bed all day Sunday and then I got a yeast infection and started an epic face breakout.  Because the exhaustion from working so hard and getting up with kids at night was just not enough, right?

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Conversation in the Aftermath

It’s a weird thing to cry for people you’ve never met and will likely never meet.  But I did.  I cried for those parents of slain children on Friday.  I made it through the weekend a bit like I always do, spending time with my family, driving around looking at Christmas lights, running errands, cooking and cleaning, enjoying frozen yogurt with the boys.  I was sick and in bed with the cold that is making the rounds most of the day Sunday, but I was allowed to sleep by my very considerate husband and his effective shushing of the children, so I feel better now.


But how did the parents of those 20 babies make it through the weekend?  How in the world would I if someone were to kill one of my children?  It’s a terrifying thought, one that I have been pushing out of my head as soon as it enters because it doesn’t do to borrow trouble.


Over the weekend, I read two articles that I think you should read.  This one appeared in our local paper and this one appeared all over the internet.  Both, I think, highlight a problem that doesn’t get nearly as much press as gun control.  There will always be a way to procure illegal firearms, just as there is always a way to procure illegal drugs.  But at least we talk about those problems.  At least we talk about the hows and whys of getting guns and drugs and the myriad ways in which terrible people have access to those things.


But what about the mental health conversation?  In my hometown, the jail that was built for 88 inmates houses, on average, over 200 inmates each day.  There is no more room.  No more room for someone to be locked up to “cool down” from a mental episode.  No more room for someone with a mental illness and substance abuse problems to detox while authorities figure out the best way to deal with him or her.  That’s a problem, and it puts all of us in danger.  When the mental health ward at the local hospital runs out of room, how does someone going through a mental health crisis get help?  Where can he or she be put to keep themselves and others around them safe?


But public and private resources for restraint, diagnosis, and treatment are only part of the problem.  The other part is removing the taboo against acknowledgement of mental health problems.


Imagine that your son or daughter is exhibiting signs of sociopathic behavior.  They might be mild signs, such as not showing remorse when he or she hurts someone.  The child is manipulative and has poor impulse control.  The child is five years old, so you ignore this and wait for it to change.  But what if it doesn’t?  What if the sociopathic behavior gets worse?  At what point does a parent think, “time to get some help”?  My guess is, not often enough.  Because, quite frankly, it’s tough enough to be the parent of an autistic child in our society, for example, but it’s downright social suicide to be the parent of a sociopath. 


When so many mental illnesses can be treated, the reason so many kids don’t get the help they need is because we willfully ignore that anything is wrong.  In each of the school/theater/mall shootings of the past several years, people after the fact have come forward to say that “something was wrong with him.”  Something was wrong, but nobody did anything. 


And maybe that begs a better question: whom do you tell?  If you are not the parent, but maybe the classmate or coworker of someone who appears to have serious problems that are being ignored, whom do you tell?  Whom should be notified?  How can a person affect an intervention into someone else’s mental health situation?


I don’t know the answers, at all, but I do think these are all things we should be talking about.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Tales from a Wine Merchant

Tony and I went out last night for his office Christmas party – and we had a fabulous time!  I wasn’t expecting fabulous, no.  I was expecting good, because his coworkers are all very nice people, and the company knows how to put on a nice party with unlimited wine & beer and good catering, but we really had so! much! fun!


I’m thinking it was all due to the people we sat with.  Well, and us, of course.  I mean, Tony and I are pretty awesome. 


One of the guys at our table is a wine & beer merchant in addition to being a CPA.  He’s young (-er than me, probably by at least five years), so he has the energy to own his own business and also have a demanding full-time job.  I thought I heard him say that he was also an IT consultant to a gated community?  Can I even remember a time in my life when I had enough time and energy to do that much stuff?  Well, yeah, I can, and it was definitely before kids.


Anyhow, we were talking, and you know how sometimes you get into the groove with a group of people and the anecdotes are flying and the comments are apropos and everyone is laughing?  That was our table of eight last night.  I’m pretty sure we were the loudest in the room.  And I’d like to relate to you my favorite story from the evening:


Someone, at one point, started in with the “I don’t always do X, but when I do…” and I mentioned that for the longest time, I thought Dos Equis was non-alcoholic beer (obviously, I was confusing it with O’Doul’s).  So then we started talking about non-alcoholic beer and what a waste of space it is.  And then I said something about non-alcoholic wine.


Wine Merchant: You mean, grape juice?


Me: No, non-alcoholic wine.  It’s a thing.


WM: No!  I’ve totally had people ask for that in my shop, and I was always, like, “you mean, grape juice?”  I didn’t want to be an ass, but really, non-alcoholic wine?


Me: I know, it’s ridiculous!


WM: The best thing anyone ever asked for, though, was this one guy who came in and wanted “grape flavored wine.”  I just looked at him, and then pointed to the whole rack of wine.  “Take your pick.”


Tony: Right, like, not so much this part over here, because that’s the window, but this whole wall of wine here, that’s grape flavored.


Me: Choking on wine because I’m laughing so hard.


End scene.


Oh, gawd, you guys, grape flavored wine.  I’m still laughing.


Maybe you had to be there.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spreading Christmas Cheer

I finally ordered our Christmas cards:




Oh, sure, you might expect the photo to be a more staged image of family togetherness and happiness, but this one is far more exemplary of our daily lives.  “Charles, get off the couch!  Charles, let go of your brother’s face!  Jamie, stop hitting your brother!  Charles, he had that toy first, play with something else!  Watch out for the dog!  Jamie, don’t bite!”  I figure the recipients of the card will either be amused at the irreverence of it or relieved that they’re not raising these two rambunctious boys.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Nerd Time!

Grammar!  Punctuation!  Syntax!  Vocabulary!  The English language, especially American English, is so so fickle, so changing, and yet!  Yet!  There are rules, people.  Rules that aren’t being followed.  By people who don’t know about the rules, who assume that how their friends and parents speak and the messed-up, colloquialism-heavy, punctuation-abusing language of the internet is correct.  Rules that are broken by me, even!  Let’s talk more about them and then you can all see just how much of a nerd I am.  Because I think this is fun! 


Back in college, I was introduced to a book that has remained on my shelf all these years.  I didn’t pay much for it, and it is tiny, but it was required by at least one of my classes, maybe Core or some history class, I don’t know.  I do know that I love this book.  And do you know what?  It has been internet-ized!!!  Allow me to introduce (some of) you to The Elements of Style, known affectionately in my college days as, “Strunk and White” (though I see that it is on the internet as only Strunk.  Where have you gone, White?). 


Do you keep a dictionary in your house?  A thesaurus?  Grey’s Anatomy (the book, not the show)?  We do, and I use them all. the. time.  Strunk & White has also settled some arguments for me, and it has an entry on possession in the case of proper names ending with ‘s’.  In fact, it’s the very first entry of Elementary Rules of Usage:




So you see, Charles’s is correct.


What I really love, though, is the section on “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused.”  “Literally” is there, along with “whom.”  Strunk does not address “lay vs. lie,” but you can find the information all over the place – my favorite is Grammar Girl.  Why do people misuse “lay” so frequently?  It drives me up the wall, and you can’t correct your friends, especially not in front of others.  I have friends who are teaching their children to say “lay” in place of “lie,” always (I don’t think they’re deliberately teaching them the wrong way, just that they don’t know).  It’s as if the word “lie” only means “untruth” and not also “setting or reclining.”  Get with the program!  And the program is the correct use of English!  “To lay” requires a direct object.  When none are present, use “to lie.” 


Being the terrible bosses that we are, Leland and I insist on proper grammar in the office.  We correct each other and our employees, we hold extensive discussions on the proper usage of language and the meaning of words, and whether or not popular (ill) usage validates incorrect grammar or meaning (it doesn’t).  For instance, do you know what “nonplussed” means?  I bet you think it means “not angry” or “not reactive” or “not ruffled” because you took your cue from the root “plussed” and assumed that to mean “agitated” or something similar.  But it doesn’t mean any of those things!  “Nonplussed” means speechless due to confusion.  Our employees put up with this because, well, we hired awesome people who appreciate intellectual discussion.  And we pay them.


So here’s a good one: on Saturday, my cousins and my brother and I got into a lively discussion about the use of “this” and “next” in reference to days of the week.  I think it all has to do with proximity and verb usage.  For example, today is Monday, so if I asked you, “what did you do this weekend?” you would answer thinking that by “this weekend” I meant the weekend that just happened.  Mostly because I also used the word “did,” which is, of course, the past-tense of “to do.”  If I had said, “what are you going to do this weekend?” you would assume I was talking about the upcoming weekend in five days.  But if I said, “what are you going to do next weekend?” what would you think?  Would you think I was referring to the weekend coming up in five days or the weekend after that, coming up in twelve days?  I think “next” should always refer to the very next one coming up, and that if one means the weekend twelve days hence, then one should either say, “the weekend after next” or “the weekend of the 21st.”  But Leland disagrees.  He thinks that “next weekend” always means the one after the nearest coming weekend, or, the weekend that will occur in twelve days.  Who is correct?


I am, of course.  Though the argument has continued long enough that Leland obviously thinks he is.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Results: Inconclusive

Ah, well, it was a good thought, anyway.  Instead of eating well and eating lots to drive my kids to bed earlier, Charles had a candy cane after school yesterday and then refused dinner until he’d been put to bed with no stories.  Then he marched himself back downstairs, apologized for his rude behavior in refusing food and grumping at the table, and ate the whole thing.  It’s not like I cook crap, so I don’t know what his deal is.  More stubbornness.  By that time, his dinner was his bedtime snack, so we didn’t do that for him, either.  But he did stay in bed after lights-out and slept until 5:45 am, so there’s that.


Jamie, on the other hand, had a bedtime snack and slept until 5:30 am.  That was when Tony left for basketball, so that’s when I got up.  I’m tired, but the kids aren’t, so we’ll call it a win.  I still think I need to force them to eat more.  If I don’t, they just forget about it and play.


Tony is like this.  When we first started dating, he told me he consistently forgot to eat lunch.  And sometimes dinner.  And breakfast was often just a donut and coffee.  I did not understand.  I’m pretty sure that when he related this to me, I was nonplussed and stood there with one of those slack-jawed looks on my face, like I just couldn’t process the information.  I still don’t get it – how does one FORGET to eat?  I rarely skip meals; my body can’t handle it.  I turn into megabitch without food and it’s not pretty.  So maybe the kids take after Tony?  Who knew that in addition to wiping butts, doing laundry, cleaning everything, and actually making the food, I would have to coerce my children into eating enough of it?


I’ll gladly take on the role of food-pusher if it results in happy children (this is after two toaster waffles each, a bowl of yogurt each, a glass of milk each, and an extra bowl of cereal for Charles this morning):


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Post-shower, because they both shower with me now (Tony is routinely gone in the morning).  I am now skilled at acrobatic leg-shaving while children drive trucks and play with bath toys under me.


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Putting on his own clothes – usually he whines for me to “help” him, not that he needs it.  He did need help, however, getting the shirt over his head so that it would not “mess up his Dash hair.”  One of his birthday gifts was the movie The Incredibles and now he constantly puts water on his hair so he can spike it up like Dash.


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Kid loves that hat.



So get this: I have been WRONG for four years.  I have always thought that the possessive of Charles was Charles’ and the possessive of James was James’, but now I am told that, regardless of the ending of the name in question, it is always apostrophe s, like Charles’s mask and James’s toy.  That sounds so clunky, you know?  But, being a stickler for grammar and punctuation in most areas of my life, I’ll try to mend my ways here.  I don’t imagine it will be an easy feat, however.  Maybe when I need to use a possessive form of their names I’ll go with their nicknames: Charlie’s nose, Jamie’s truck.  Thoughts from my nerdy linguistics friends?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

His Eyes Are Still Blue

It’s a battle of wills in the Cook house, and honestly, I’m not sure I’m winning.  I might not even be considered a contender.


This morning’s blowout resulted in a black eye, which, you know, made me feel wonderful.  Mom of the year.


No!  God, no!  I did not hit my child.  But he was throwing a tantrum about taking his backpack (with change of clothes inside, which he needs more often than not because he plays in the mud and occasionally has a potty accident – yesterday it was WHILE he was in line for the bathroom, the poor kid) to school, after he had been in trouble of one sort or another for the previous half an hour for not listening and following directions and he went into the garage and slammed the door.  When I went downstairs and opened the door (it opens into the house), he was hanging onto the other side and smacked his face right into the door frame.  Cue screaming in pain.  Cue my heart breaking, regardless of the last half hour of frustration.


He held an ice pack over it on the way to preschool, and he was really concerned that his eye would no longer be blue because I said he would get a black eye.  “Is it still blue, mommy?  Can my eye be blue again now?”  You try explaining “black eye” to a four-year-old and not confusing the hell out of him.


The root of this problem is lack of sleep.  Charles takes a nap at school and then refuses to lie down and sleep at bedtime.  Last night, he was still awake when I came home from a cookie exchange at 9:15 pm.  That late of a bedtime might be at the limit of acceptable if he slept in, but he wakes up when his brother babbles and shrieks and talks to the dog in the morning, and Charles can’t stand the thought of missing out on my shower, so he wakes up when I turn on the water.  His bedroom door is closed and so is the bathroom door, so I’m pretty sure he’s possessed of some evil spirit.  So if he finally fell asleep around 10 pm and woke up at 6 am, that’s eight hours.  Not enough. 


And I’m low on sleep, too!  Jamie woke up at one am and Tony brought him into our bed, then he awoke for good at 5 am (then fell asleep on the way to preschool because 8 pm to 5 am isn’t enough!).  My fatigue makes it tough to deal with Charles’ outbursts (11 pm to 5 am isn’t enough!).


But what can I do?  I stand my ground, I revoke privileges and take away toys, I even deliver a smack on the butt should he talk back, but it all seems to escalate until I either have to fight him into his car seat or someone gets really hurt (usually him) from the tantrum.


Charles is well-loved by all the teachers and other children at school, and he wears his heart on his sleeve, so I’m relatively certain there’s nothing untoward going on there.  The rest of the time, we’re together, and he’s mostly just a good kid.  Active, interested, always, always asking for candy, a book-reader, a game-player, and a brother-indulger.  But oh!  The willfulness of him!  He says “no” to me all the time.  He refuses to do the most miniscule of tasks.  He doesn’t seem to want to be a functioning member of society.


So I guess I’m just going to start feeding him more and see if that helps the tantrums?  While we were gone last weekend, my mom gave both boys “bedtime snacks” and while there is all sorts of pop psychology/pop parenting strategy that says one should not feed one’s children before bed, but rather make them finish their dinner each night and like it because there are children starving in the world and you don’t hear them complaining, do you, and also this might build bad habits and promote obesity, blah, blah, blah, I, for one, do not live that way.  If my kids are hungry, I’ll feed them.  If they’re thirsty, they can drink water, even if it’s right before bed.  Nighttime dryness is less important to me than complete hydration. 


Charles is, essentially, forced to eat his dinner (so many bites of this, so many bites of that before you may be excused to play), and he does a pretty good job.  But he’s often hungry at night and I don’t know why I had never thought to institute routine snacking before.  But we do it now!  And I think I’m going to make even more (healthy) snacks available throughout the day.  It’s tough to limit the candy and cookies, given the season, but both of my children will plow through apple slices, raisins, and cheese if I leave a plate on the table through the afternoon, so that’s what I’ll do.  And cereal or popcorn before teeth brushing at bedtime.


Does it make me feel better to have a plan?  Yes.  Do I think feeding him more will work to minimize tantrums?  Not really, but action is better than inaction.  I’m hoping we’ll all just start sleeping better soon and that will take care of some of the strife.  Until then, I’ll keep that running list of punishments (take away books, take away toys, take away candy, take away bedtime stories) in my head and my butt-smacking hand at the ready.  My only other thought is to make a better effort at Mommy-Son dates so he gets a bit more time with me alone, hoping that will change his behavior.  Because I have to win, you know?  It doesn’t do to have a child out-will the parent.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The first time Tony and I left Charles in the care of grandparents, we made a dramatic getaway: one week in Mexico.  Charles was 18 months old and teething.  This time, we only left for the weekend, taking a short ferry ride to Orcas Island where we were mostly out of cellphone range.  Jamie is 17 months old and still not teething.  We forgot the camera and Tony forgot his bathing suit, but that was okay, because the hot tubs were private


This might have been the best trip ever, though I’m sure we felt that way about Mexico, too.  It’s amazing how wonderful a full night’s sleep feels.


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This guy turned 35.  Whoa.  We celebrated by being interrupted (ahem!) by the maintenance man at the resort wanting to check on the lights or some shit.  We also drove to the top of a mountain, and I know it was a mountain because it is called MOUNT Constitution and because we were in the clouds at the top.


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But out of the clouds, on the turnouts and scenic overlooks, we had an excellent view of the San Juan archipelago.  Not that you can tell from my crappy iPhone photo.


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I thought one of the more interesting aspects of the drive to the top was the CCC-era mossy, overgrown guardrails whose wood had rotten out over the years.  I didn’t take a picture.  Still, if you ever go there, that’s what those chunks of moss-covered cement with a giant nail driven through them are.  Let’s see if someone else on the internet has taken a photo.  Hmm, apparently not.  Well, at any rate, the scenery up the mountain is incredible, and I’m sure it would be fun to camp/hike/bike/swim there in the summer.  As it was, it was raining.


Tony got to have a birthday burger and he said it was great, and we relaxed and slept and went for a run, during which we saw several deer (so that’s why they call it Deer Harbor), and watched bad television (wow – I had forgotten how annoying commercials are!) and soaked in the tub until it was time to go home.  Then, we hopped back on the ferry, where we put together a puzzle until we docked.


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Both the ferry trip out and back home (different boats) had several puzzles on the tables for passengers to work on.  What a great idea!  We had a good time, and the voyage passed quickly (we needed a good distraction because the Seahawks game was on but the truck had no radio signal on the lower deck).


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And these guys seemed no worse for the wear (though I am sure my parents are exhausted).  And they have a new affinity for games on the phone or Grandpa’s iPad.


Many thanks to my mom and dad for taking care of our boys (including Buster) while we were gone.  If birthday presents for me and Tony for the next 18 years or so consist only of babysitting, we consider ourselves lucky, indeed.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like… Breakables Season

You didn’t think I’d actually let my poor, mistreated children go without a tree this year, did you?




Oh, sure, I ripped the skin off of four fingers, at least, untangling all the pre-lit, pre-tangled lights, complete with clips and twine, and then clipping on more lights, and sure, there clearly aren’t enough lights at the top to match the rest of the tree, but you know what?  The children love it.  And they can’t see to the top, anyhow.




Christmas season may now officially start.  And this guy’s pretty happy about that.  Or about pooping.  Or maybe about his train book.  He’s pretty universally happy, is what I’m saying.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

They Have No Idea

My parents are coming to stay with the kids for a few days while Tony and I get outta town.  I don’t think they really know what they’re in for, but I’m guessing that sleep deprivation isn’t too bad if it’s only for a couple of nights.  Prolonged lack of sleep is what makes a person stabby, and I should know.


They are, hopefully, preparing themselves for more than a bit of this:


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Emphatic morning cheer.  Also, insistence.  He wants his breakfast and he wants it now.  Now being 5:30 am.  And then, later, he wants some of your breakfast, especially if you’re having Frosted Mini Wheats because those are his favorite.


And I’m sure my parents prefer to sleep alone, without children between them, but guess what?  Both grandkids will end up in bed with them before morning, almost guaranteed.


The dog likes to go out around 2:30 am, I think because the house gets too warm, or maybe because he really enjoys hearing the thumping bass line of the songs that one guy blasts from his car stereo when he drives by every night.  Thanks for that, loud bass guy.  Sometimes Buster makes it until 5 am, but since Alli will also be there, he will feel comfortable leaving her in charge of the children while he prowls the backyard.


I’m sure my parents recall reading the same books to me fifteen bajillion times in a row, but fond remembrance and the reality of doing so for a half-hour at a time are two different things.


I hope they aren’t too attached to picking out their own clothing in the morning – the kids have pretty strong opinions when it comes to colors and patterns that are acceptable for each day.


My mom and dad are going to have to keep up with the Elf on the Shelf nonsense.  So far, I haven’t made Cheese the Elf get into any mischief by posing him someplace super interesting, so my keeping the bar low should enable my parents to comply with this little ritual.  Seriously, though, have you seen the elaborate schemes people are coming up with?


And, I’ve said it before, my job as a mom seems to be centered around wearing those two boys out.  I’ll be leaving my children’s museum cards, Jungle Playland frequent visitor card, and library card for their use over the weekend.  Also my Jamba Juice BOGO card, because smoothies are good and that will burn more than a little bit of time.


I think my parents, and my kids, will have fun.  I know I will have fun, relaxing in the hot tub, sleeping all night, eating adult food.  Oh, vacation.  I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I let a lot of things slide on account of the cuteness.

God, I love these kids.  My boys are so great, even when they steadfastly refuse to sleep in their own beds.  Jamie made it all the way till 10 pm last night before waking up and refusing to go back down.  Seriously, he will fall dead asleep in my arms or Tony’s arms, be silent and unmoving for 20 minutes, and will wake up the instant he even gets close to his crib.  I’m not afraid to admit that we have given up.  He slept with us all night last night.


Someone once accused me of letting Charles manipulate me with regard to sleeping.  Manipulate?  No, I firmly believe that he was not intentionally trying to get me to let him sleep with us.  At that age (18 months or so), he hurt (herniated umbilical cord, teething for-freaking-ever) and he felt more secure sleeping with us.  Truth be told, Charles would still rather sleep with us, but he’s old enough that we can mostly reason with him (or threaten him) and keep him in his own bed.  He’s also large enough that he can’t fit with us for a whole night anymore.  And, you know, it worked itself out.  He doesn’t cry and scream when we put him to bed.  Sure, he might take another hour or two after bedtime to finally settle into sleep, but he no longer screams like I’m pulling out his toenails with pliers when we put him into bed.


But Jamie does.  Last night we let him scream and wail and stomp his feet in his crib for almost 40 minutes.  By the time I finally relented and said “enough!” he was dehydrated and blotchy and had nearly barfed in anger and anxiety.


Oh, I know all the rules about cry-it-out.  I know all the methods for graduated cry-it-out and sleep easy method and blah, blah, blah.  But the bottom line, for us, is that we don’t want Jamie to cry it out if it will take hours each night.  We don’t want him to feel anxiety because he wants us and we’re not there.  He used to be a great sleeper who would cry for a minute or two, AT MOST, and then put his thumb in his mouth and go to sleep.  For whatever reason, he won’t do it anymore.


And I’m saying that’s okay.  He’s small, he’s cuddly, he still smells like baby, so he can sleep with us (Charles does not smell like a baby any longer.  And he farts).  Right in the middle of the bed, all tucked in next to mom and dad.  And I guarantee he won’t be doing it when he’s twelve, or even when he’s two.  But right now he needs us, he needs the comfort of sleeping with us, and I’m done fighting.  We always get a couple of hours after we put him down during which he sleeps in his crib and for the short term, that will be fine.  It allows me and Tony time to do laundry and dishes, snuggle on the couch, or whatever we need to do before bed.  And sleeping in our bed gives me and Tony the chance to cuddle with a little boy who is growing up all too soon.


Fortunately, despite our nighttime disturbances, these boys continue to be adorable.  Observe:


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Charles will sometimes read simple books to Jamie… he editorializes, frequently with the words, “poopy, you pooper!”  Four-year-old humor is awesome.


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Hat.  He put it on himself.


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“I’m in a box!”


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This is from an epic tantrum yesterday that lasted 45 minutes.  He thrashed about on the floor of the basement, which he was forbidden to leave, until he got his coat out of the car.  Time out is the worst punishment ever, but for three quarters of an hour, it was, apparently, a better choice than going to the car and getting that jacket.  I’ll never understand it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Frugality Tips

The internet is a pretty amazing place, you know?  And now, with Pinterest, there’s such a stupidly simple way to share recipes and ideas and tips and tricks.  However, so much of what’s pinned speaks to the rampant consumerism in America – the throw-away culture that we’ve developed over the past 100 years that will, if we let it, keep us from contributing money to our kids’ college funds or our retirement or whatever.  Sometimes I look at my neighbors and think, “how are they possibly saving any money?  They buy everything!”  And then Tony says, “they’re not saving a thing.”  And that’s probably true.  I think a strong case can be made for stewardship of our possessions as a good way to save money and keep from re-buying the things we use most.  In this way, I’m terribly frugal.


Tony would say I am too frugal, and I’ve listed reasons here before.  But I think that a large part of my frugality is the import of purchases in my life: I will wear a pair of jeans until they fall apart, and I expect to do so.  Therefore, I will agonize over a decision on purchasing jeans until I find the exact right pair.  And I will spend good money on that pair of jeans, though I have never, ever, been able to even consider paying more than $75 for one pair of jeans.  Bottom line, though, is that you spend money to get the right thing and then you take care of it so that it lasts a long, long time.  This is how I buy clothes, furniture, house wares, kitchen stuff, and toys.  I’m not very good at remembering to use coupons and I refuse to skimp on healthy food (though I certainly don’t shop the expensive stores and I do look for bargains and buy store brands when I can), but I do have more than a few ways to keep expenses down and our existing stuff in good use for a long time.


So!  Here are some tips that I’ve learned over time to keep my things looking their best and wearing for as long as possible.


1. Wash clothing the way it’s supposed to be washed.  Use a dark detergent for your dark clothes, like Woolite Dark, and they will not fade (my brother once accused me and my mom of keeping “laundry secrets” when he found out that we had been using dark detergent all these years).  Use the hand-wash function on your washer when things are supposed to be hand-washed and then lay them flat to dry like the tag says. 


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2.  Shine your shoes.  These boots are six years old, and the soles are finally wearing out to the point that I need to purchase new ones.  But six years!  Come on, that’s forever in shoe time!  AND, they probably only cost about $60 to begin with.  I had the heels replaced once and I shine them every time I wear them.  You can buy little shoe shine sponges like this to quickly brush out scuffs and keep your shoes looking like new.  Why don’t people do this anymore?  Shoe shining is not just for old men’s shoes!  Also, add an insole.  They keep things cushy and keep your feet from hurting, enabling you to wear your shoes for longer.


3.  Every time I make pancakes or waffles, I make a ton.  I add lots of good stuff to mine, too: pumpkin or squash, applesauce (unsweetened), wheat germ… whatever looks good.  The boys can never tell, especially if I also add cinnamon or some other spice.  Then, I freeze all of the leftovers in plastic baggies.  Even Jamie now knows that he can get a quick pancake from the freezer.  We have a bottom-of-the-fridge freezer drawer, and he toddles over, points, and says, “Da!” which must mean pancake, since every time I open the freezer, that’s what he reaches for.  They are good in the toaster or the microwave and so much less expensive and healthier than prepackaged frozen waffles. 


4.  In the same vein, I  frequently make extra dinner.  It’s pretty easy to make an entire 9 x 13” pan of casserole and then freeze the leftovers.  Tony or I can just reach into the freezer in the morning and by lunchtime, plus a couple of minutes in the microwave, we have a healthy meal.  If I do this often enough, the leftovers will be of such variety that it’s not at all like eating the same thing we had for dinner last night. 


5. I bought good plasticware (Tupperware, but I think I got the Rubbermaid brand) and, surprise, surprise, it lasts a LOT longer.  The other crap was splitting and leaking and this stuff, well, I expect it to last forever.  Or close.


6. Learn to cook.  Yeah, I know, duh, right?  But seriously, when you learn to cook and cook well, you learn how to stock your fridge with the building blocks of meals rather than just easy snacks and throw-together food.  It’s far more expensive to buy pre-made processed food than it is to stock milk, cheese, eggs, meat, vegetables, and spices and then combine them in new and interesting ways to make amazing meals.  I shop for chicken broth, green beans, diced tomatoes, black beans, produce, chicken, ground turkey, ground beef, meatballs, marinara sauce, pasta, bread, wine, cheese, flour, sugar, and rice at Costco.  Yes, that is to say that I buy all of those products (and more!) in BULK.  I have four ten-gallon food grade buckets in my garage and I keep the flour, sugar, and rice in three and dog food in the fourth.  YOU could do this, too, but you’d have to convince your husband to give up a bit of garage space.  But think!  You’d only have to buy these staples infrequently, and then you’re totally justified in investing in pretty canisters for flour and such for your kitchen counter.  And you always have a can or twelve of chicken broth for that crockpot soup you’re making.


Okay, now that I’m looking back over this list, it all seems pretty obvious.  Like, take care of your stuff and it will last a long time, right?  Don’t buy a bunch of crap.  Stock your freezer and your pantry.  Cook.


So you tell me: what are your life hacks?  Tips and tricks, I want to know yours; I want to know what keeps your life running smoothly and/or frugally.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Brings out the Best in Us, Right?

Let’s talk about frugality today, because I was a terrible parent yesterday and I don’t want to talk about that.


Aw, hell, let’s talk about that and then talk about frugality tomorrow.  I always feel better when I vent my feelings online.  Better than eating my feelings, right?


There’s no one in the whole world who knows how to frustrate me better than my own family.  I imagine this is true for most everyone; after all, you spend more time with your family than with anyone else, so they know which buttons to push to get you immediately riled up.  And some of us (me) are more raw than others.  My emotions are rubbed and rubbed and rubbed until I have no choice but to cry and bleed and yell in pain.


Our Christmas tree, which we bought four years ago, is dying.  No, it’s not a live tree!  It’s a pre-lit, and I know that some of you are going, “hold it right there, Amelia!  Pre-lit sucks.  Get a [live, u-cut, they-cut, whatever other falling-needles option is out there] and stop ruining the spirit of Christmas!”  Hey, I don’t judge your Christmas choices.  I grew up with a “fake” tree and I don’t want to water a tree or vacuum needles for the next four weeks, okay?


But.  Of course, there’s a “but.”  Half of the lights on the top of the tree went out last year, and we went the whole season with a partially-lit tree.  It looked awful, and made me feel sad every time I glanced at it.  I should have tried to fix it last year, but Jamie was teeny and needy, we went to my parents’ house for the holiday anyway, and I didn’t take the time.  So the yesterday I hauled the top off of that tree and proceeded to examine every light in hopes of finding the culprit and replacing the burnt-out bulb.  No such luck.  Well, I thought, this shouldn’t be too bad.  I’ll just take the strand that doesn’t work off and re-string the top of the tree with a new strand!  They’re only $3 at Fred Meyer, anyway!  No big deal.


No, it is a big deal.  Turns out that our throw-away culture extends to things that should be easily fixed, too.  Not that that is any great surprise.


The light strand is held onto each branch using clips which, after about five, started to make my fingers hurt.  Then, I noticed that the strands were ALSO held on with twine, making this task one that will take a lot more time than I have with children to entertain.  THEN I realized that the lights I bought to replace the dead strand were red and not white (ALL the boxes were red, so the red lights on the red background of the box looked clear.  I don’t know what the clear lights looked like on the red box because I obviously didn’t see them).


This was the point when Jamie woke up after having only a 45-minute nap.  If you have a young toddler, you probably know that 45 minutes is not long enough.  He was cranky and sad.


Also, Tony was gone watching the Seahawks with my brother, because Sunday is football day, which, when you have young children, might as well be “Dad’s personal day.”


Charles was in a touchy mood, too.  Lately, he has required telling 60 frajillion times in order to do something.  “It’s time to brush your teeth, Charles.”  “Charles, please brush your teeth because we’re leaving.”  “Charles!  I’m going to count down from five and if you’re not brushing your teeth, you will lose your toy!” “Five, four, three, two, one!”  (I take away the toy.)  (Crying and screaming ensues.)  “You lost the toy because you didn’t do what I asked.”  “But mommy, I didn’t hear you!”  Multiply this scene six hundred times each day.  The kid gets in the zone playing and honestly does not hear me.  I’ve started taking toys away before I even ask him to do something, so he has to do it before he gets the toy back.  This, of course, results in tears, but fewer tears than if I asked first.


Yesterday, Charles asked for a candy after lunch (we still have Halloween candy – but only the stuff I don’t like, obviously).  I told him to put away his Batman mask and then he could have a candy.  Charles threw a screaming, kicking fit.  “I want a candy!!!!”  He hit me.  I picked him up to carry him to his room for timeout.  He kicked me.  I shut the door.  Jamie crawled up the stairs.  Charles opened the door, tackled his brother, and thumped him on the back.  I had to revoke Charles playdate for the day. 


Why is it that the consequence often results in my suffering as much as Charles’?  I didn’t get to see my friend yesterday afternoon because I cancelled the play date. 


It was just, hmm, not easy.  None of it was easy.  It was a cold day with nothing fun happening, and I probably should have put on a movie and tried to snuggle with my boys.  I was tired and by the end of the day, I felt like both Charles and Jamie would have gladly traded me in on a new mother, one who wasn’t such a bitch. 


The tough part, the part no one tells you and so few admit out loud, is that being a good parent sucks.  It’s really hard to enforce rules and enact discipline because you love that little person so much and you just want them to be happy.  But they have to grow up.  They have to learn boundaries.  They have to brush their teeth in the morning and complete tasks before getting candy and keep out of the kitchen when mom is cooking and refrain from hitting their little brother or throwing toys and the wall in anger.  And you, the parent, have to teach them these boundaries and make sure that the kids grow to respect them.  And it’s really not fun and you’re going to be the bad guy quite frequently.  Here’s hoping that it will all turn out okay in the end and they won’t resent us forever, right?


Yesterday was hard for me because I had two fatigued children who just couldn’t get what they wanted.  And I was sad about that damnable tree.  I would love for Christmas to be beautiful in our house, but the reality is that I have very little room for decorations and those two monkeys (and the boisterous dog) destroy nice things, so the tree is pretty much it.  And without the lights on top, it looks like crap.  And yes, I know that Christmas is so much more than a tree, but come on, I deserve to feel good about my tree.  I deserve to feel like the house is moderately presentable and festive for the family that is coming to us for the holiday for the first time.


I told Tony that if we can’t have lights all the way up to the top of the tree, then we wouldn’t have a tree this year.  He said that’s ridiculous.  I said I don’t care.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

“Mmm… This is my favorite,” Tony just said to me.  There’s pretty much nothing I wouldn’t do for my boys, and making pumpkin cake is an easy way to please them, especially this time of year.  Leland likes it too, and I guess I generally include him in the category of “my boys.”  Except I endure more teasing from him.  In an effort at retaliation: Single ladies of Skagit, Snohomish, and Whatcom Counties: this is my brother and he’s single.  He owns his own business, is a non-drinker, does not live with parents, but has a strange penchant for decorative skulls, so if you can see past that, he might be the guy for you.  Email me (aintanda at gmail dot com) for more info.


Leland will probably kill me when he reads this.  Or make an elaborate plan to get back at me.  Probably all my Christmas presents will be decorative skulls or dragon statuettes.


My house smelled divine this afternoon as I was baking, and I want to share that with you – that warm, cinnamon/pumpkin/sweet scent that just screams “autumn.”  As I’ve mentioned before, my cooking style runs more toward that of Amelia Bedelia and her “a little of this, a little of that” than any sort of exact science, but as I’ve experimented with this recipe over the years, I think I have perfected it.  I had intended to make it and take it to Thanksgiving, but I honestly do not believe it will last that long – and my aunt (hi, Lisa!) insists that we not bring anything but ourselves and our swimsuits to Thanksgiving.  What’s that?  You don’t swim at your Thanksgiving?  Well, neither do we.  Instead, we jump headlong into freezing Lake Tapps to shock our system before cramming it with pie.  I love my family.


Without further ado:


Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting


First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then, mix all your dry ingredients:

1 Cup flour

1 Cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon


When those are nice and combined, add your wet ingredients and mix with a spoon or whisk or whatever (I’m not picky):

1 teaspoon vegetable oil (I always use olive oil because it is close to hand) (that’s not much oil, you might have noted – this recipe truly doesn’t need much, though the original recipe I have adapted over several years called for half a cup!)

2 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin (one small can is 15 ounces and that’s close enough)




Spread in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and put it in the oven for 25 minutes.




For the frosting, you wan to wait until the cake has cooled, which is probably the toughest part of this whole process.  The cake smells so good baking and I just want to eat it right out of the oven, hot, with a spoon.  I can usually restrain myself. 



Must… have… willpower!

The frosting is worth the wait; it is fluffy and not-too-sweet, but it is a bit finicky.  If you don’t do these steps correctly, it will be lumpy, and we don’t like lumps.  You will need:


1 8-ounce package softened cream cheese (really soft, not just sort of soft)

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

1 1/2 Cups heavy whipping cream


Put the whipping cream into your mixer and start beating the cream into whipped cream, nice and thick.  Then, put your cream cheese in a separate bowl with the sugar, vanilla, and salt. 



A whisk won’t work… I realized my error and switched.

Cream this all together with a wooden spoon until it’s really smooth.  Then, add the cream cheese mixture to the whipped cream and beat it all together until it is uniform in appearance.  Then spread it over the cake.






Finally, cut yourself a slice and enjoy!



Clearly, I’m not a food photographer.

Here’s the recipe in full:


Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 Cup flour

1 Cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 Cups canned pumpkin


Mix dry ingredients together.  Add eggs, oil, and pumpkin and blend.  Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 25 minutes.



1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch salt

1 1/2 Cups whipping cream


Whip cream in a mixer until stiff peaks form.  In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt until well blended.  Transfer cream cheese mixture into whipped cream and beat until smooth.  Spread on cooled cake.



It is my opinion that pumpkin and cinnamon cover a number of sins.  I think this cake would probably work well with alternative flours, say, if you are gluten free.  Or, double the pumpkin to make a moist, dense cake.  Add other veggies.  Cut the sugar.  Use an alternative sugar.  Go crazy!


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Now I Understand Why Some People Have Shopping Habits.

In a revelation that will come as a complete surprise to NOBODY but myself, when I make an effort to look nice, I feel better about myself.


Yeah, I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. 


I went on a large shopping trip on Saturday, the sort of outing I haven’t done in years.  It was for charity, which is how I am going to justify spending more money in one shot on myself that I have maybe ever done before, discounting wedding dress shopping (and that was more than seven years ago (and my mom bought my dress), so maybe I was due to indulge).  I managed to convince three of my girlfriends to shell out $50 for a shopping bus trip to benefit Seattle Children’s Hospital and spend an entire day with me (I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have friends like those ladies).  We were handed drinks as soon as we stepped on the bus at 8:15, and I’m pretty sure I had five (including two Jell-O shots) by the time we got to Bellevue Square.


We spent the whole day shopping, and I bought makeup, jeans, tops, and even a few Christmas gifts.  We had our makeup done, we chatted all day long, and I came home exhausted and refreshed.  And for the last two days, I have felt better than ever in my new jeans and shirts (and makeup) – clothes really do make the woman.  The lesson here?  Go shopping once a year to get new clothes to make myself feel better about myself.  Myself.  Also, spend more time with girlfriends.


So now it is Tuesday, and I am finding it tough to motivate myself for ANYTHING beyond the bare minimum.  Oh, I’m still wearing jeans that make my ass look great and nice makeup to cover the circles under my eyes, but I don’t want to move around too much or tax my brain by thinking about things.  Could that have something to do with the fact that Tony and I are trading sleep-ins because the baby wants to wake up screaming in the middle of the night and then get up for good before 5 am?  Fatigue will sap your will to live.



This very morning, after Jamie fell asleep around 7 am… you know, because he’d already been up for three hours.


Poor Tony and I have been burning that candle at both ends, too – in an attempt to stay fit, regardless of lack of sleep, I’ve continued with Baby Boot Camp and we took the whole family on a run this weekend.  Tony is in a basketball league and is going to the gym regularly.  I just… don’t know how much longer we can keep this up.  I started writing this thinking, “Why am I so tired?  Charles never slept when he was this age, so I should be used to it, and it’s not like I’m very busy.”  But I am, I am so busy.  Workouts, baby swim, library trips, work, housework, keeping up with friends, spending time with Tony, clubs and activities…Here’s hoping Jamie will learn to sleep again soon, because all of these things are important to me, but something will have to give if I can’t beat this exhaustion.




Some of you have asked me about the other blogs I read.  Previously, I have listed only the blogs of people I know in real life.  Now, however, I have listed blogs of people I don’t know, have never met, but read avidly because they’re interesting.  You’ll recognize some and maybe you’ll find some treasures in ones you’ve never read before.  There is an amazing quantity of good writing out there.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Migraines and Hormonal Birth Control

When Tony and I were first married, we lived in Bellingham, a beautiful, hippie-dippie city in which the population swelled by 18,000 during the school year.  Bellingham is on a bay, in a valley, and nestled between mountains and hills.  The weather is terrible because it changes so frequently – it can be beautiful in the morning and gray and overcast by early afternoon.  The clouds roll down the mountains and through the valley, the barometric pressure changes uncommonly fast, and clothing choices in the morning almost never match what you’ll need for the afternoon.


I blamed this God-awful shifting weather for my migraines for three years.  I went to see specialists and neurologists, had my noggin scanned, my sinuses inspected, and still, I experienced thrice-weekly migraines the whole time we lived there.  It was horrible, and probably contributed to the depression I battled at that time.


Do you get migraines?  If so, then you know how debilitating they are.  I would power through them because I simply had no choice; I had to do homework, I had to go to grad school, I had to go to work.  But still, when I could afford to, I would let them put me right into bed for the whole day.


Then we moved out of that valley and into another, 30 miles south, and things got better.  The weather here in the Skagit Valley isn’t nearly so fickle, and I’m sure having a steady pace in life helped immensely with my overall mental health.


However, two other factors combined to eliminate my migraines, factors that are so obvious in hindsight that I can’t believe I didn’t think of them when we were living in Bellingham: I quit taking birth control and then I got pregnant.


Now, graduate school would not have been a good time for Tony and I to have a baby, but the hormonal birth control?  If I had chucked that, I probably would have eliminated most of the migraines.  But I didn’t, and I didn’t even realize that it was the big problem until after Jamie weaned.


A few months ago, I started birth control again, and the headaches came back.  Three times a week, at least.  Except that this time, instead of just lying down and sleeping until the headache abated, I had a prescription for Imitrex.  Oh, blessed science.  I wish I had had access to this drug years ago.  I take it as soon as I feel a migraine starting.  It makes me nauseated and woozy for about 30 minutes, and then, so long as I eat something substantial (full of protein and fat), I feel fine.  Like, 100% fine.  Headache gone, miracle experienced, back to life fine.


I was still kind of an idiot, though.  I honestly didn’t draw the link between the birth control pills and the headaches until I realized that I had taken 20 of the 30 Imitrex pills prescribed to me.  In a MONTH!  Something had changed, and the only thing that had changed was the birth control.  The doctor confirmed that it was the most likely culprit.


So, turns out my headaches are hormonal.  I stopped the hormonal birth control and will NEVER USE IT AGAIN.  Yeah, I still get migraines twice a month, when I’m bathed in hormones like any fertile woman, but that’s just so much better than three times a week.  Yesterday, I started to get a headache around 10:30 am.  I went home, took an Imitrex, laid down for thirty minutes, and then went to my sons’ preschool Thanksgiving lunch.  It was delicious, and by 1 pm, I was back at the office, raring to go.


I thought I’d share because, well, I would have liked this information when I was younger.  If someone had said to me, “hey, you might consider going off the Pill to see if it cures your migraines,” I might have had a happier life for those three years.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Photogenic Cook Boys

We have had family photos taken a couple of times this year by our good friend Jen with JB Expressions, and it occurred to me that those of you who are not on Facebook have not seen them (this includes my in-laws, and I suspect that they do not wish to be left out in this instance).


In the spring (like, way back in May… which might as well be forever ago), we went to the park.  It was a beautiful day, but it wasn’t supposed to be, and we cut the session short.  Turns out, overcast is better for photos than sun. 


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I call him “Tony B. Squinty.”


Still, the kids being cute made up for the weather not cooperating, and we got a couple of good shots in the shade.


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My hair was a lot darker before the summer, wasn’t it?


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Being the type of person I am, though, I insisted we give it another shot (ooh, pun!).  We had to wait until October for an overcast day (this is not complaining! September was glorious!) and I even bought skinny jeans (gasp!) to go with my boots.  Hey, I’m on Pinterest.  I know what’s hot right now.


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My husband’s butt is hot, for instance.  Though it is not on Pinterest.


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Mr. Serious.  Which usually means that he’s plotting ways to thwart me and my silly rules.  Especially those regarding what he can and cannot climb.


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Get me out of here!


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Tickling gets the best photos.


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So there you have it!  A family photo shoot we can be proud of.  Many thanks to Jen, and watch out, family of mine, because I’m going to make you do it again next year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

And Leon’s Getting Laaaarger!

You guys.  Something weird is happening.  My torso is lengthening.


I don’t know how this happened, but I’m blaming the children.  Or rather, gestating the children for 9 months each.


Before I had children, I followed Dear Abby’s advice and filled out my wardrobe with basics that I could wear in perpetuity (or as long as they lasted without holes and stains).  I don’t have a whole lot of “trendy” clothing because I just can’t see the sense in investing in something that won’t be wearable beyond this season.  For the most part, I have classic shirts in solid colors, and when I buy new shirts, that is what I gravitate toward. 


My children, on the other hand, like my patterned shirts and skirts; Charles or Jamie picks out my clothing almost every day.  This morning, Jamie chose a chevron-patterned skirt for me to wear.  He can reach it on the bottom rod in my closet, and he wouldn’t let go, or stop making insistent “ehh!” noises, until I picked it up and put it on.  Charles has been known to cry when I don’t choose the shirt he tells me to wear, or, conversely, put on pants or a shirt he doesn’t like.


But I’ve noticed something strange lately.  As I’ve slowly started wearing my pre-pregnancy wardrobe again, many of my old shirts no longer fit well.  It’s not that they’re the wrong size.  And my boobs are, if anything, smaller than they used to be.  So why are some of my shirts riding so high that I can’t possibly wear them out in public?  I feel like I constantly have to tug them down to avoid showing the world my fleshy navel!


Tony and I both have long torsos to begin with.  Not so long that you would see us on the street and say to the person beside you, “Wow, look how long their torsos are!” but long, nonetheless.  Both of the boys have this feature as well – Charles shirts are short on him, even if they’re plenty wide in the shoulders (which will probably be an issue later, if he gets Tony’s shoulders: Tony is very broad-shouldered), and Jamie’s onesies are always too short, so I use onesie extenders


Enough about them, though, back to me: what the hell happened?  Thanks to modern bra technology, I can at least create the illusion that my breasts are in the same spot and are the same size they were years ago, but why aren’t the shirts fitting anymore?  Did my pregnancy body changes include an extra two inches of torso?


Oh, no.  Do you know what I just realized?  It’s the hip/pelvis spreading.  It’s the fact that those two inches used to hang down at my trim waist but now are taken up by the extra inches around my middle.  I used to have a waist that was smaller than my ribcage or hips, but it’s kind of just a straight line now.  And, I’m still carrying around an extra ten pounds that won’t seem to burn off.  Mystery solved.  Pregnancy and getting old (and excess cheese consumption) strike again.


Now, how to avoid any holiday weight gain?  Let’s be honest, I’m not going to abstain from either cooking or eating all the good stuff, so I guess I’ll have to go with ye olde moderation.  Sigh.  Moderation is almost never any fun.