Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Writing Assignment: Things I Have Tried After Reading About Them in Books

In Little House in the Big Woods, I was fascinated by the candy Laura and Mary made by drizzling syrup on snow.
One morning [Ma] boiled molasses and sugar together until they made a thick syrup, and Pa brought in two pans of clean, white snow from outdoors. Laura and Mary each had a pan, and Pa and Ma showed them how to pour the dark syrup in little streams on to the snow. They made circles, curlicues, and squiggledy things, and these hardened at once and became candy.

I tried this once, but all I had was Aunt Jemima pancake syrup and a bowl of Delaware snow that would certainly be defeated in a taste test against the fresh drifts of an 1860s Wisconsin forest. Sadly, the syrup soaked into the snow rather than freezing prettily on top, and I was left with a brown Slurpee-looking mess. I tried a little bit anyhow, but it tasted as bad as it looked.

(I have many, many more stories about trying to live like Laura Ingalls- surprise, surprise!- but I'll save those for another time)

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After reading Lois Duncan's Stranger With My Face as a pre-teen, I spent hours attempting astral projection.
I was there on the bed; then, I was over it. The thing happened so quickly it was like flinging myself off the end of a diving board. I took one great leap, and was free... I was over water, and then over clouds, I saw the edge of the sun curve over the eastern horizon, and I was traveling faster than it was. If I kept rising, I would be above the sun and beyond it, moving faster and farther until I became a part of the great, incredible forever that lay past everything.

After many attempts, I decided I was failing because I wasn't able to erase all thoughts from my head, as Laurie is urged to do in the book. After that, I simply worked at "not thinking", which inevitably led to my thinking, "Don't think, don't think, don't- DARN IT."

After which I decided to just keep all parts of myself together. Much easier.

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I once read a book in which a kid wanted to stay home from school, so he (she?) drank a mixture of mustard and milk to make himself throw up. (I can't for the life of me remember which book this was- does anyone know?)

Anyhow, I did try this once when I was desperate to get out of going to school. I remember squeezing big ribbons of French's into a blue plastic cup filled with milk, then mixing it up with a long iced tea spoon until it was a pale, cloudy yellow. Alas, while it certainly made me feel sick, the desired outcome eluded me. I settled for making myself look pale and wan, which is pretty much my natural look, anyhow. Success.

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Your turn. What are some of your book-inspired childhood antics?

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Luxuries

So we got a pizza on Friday night and Mike went to pick it up, as usual, since we are too cheap to pay the home delivery fee and a tip on top of that. He took my car, and when he got back he declared, "Your car is awesome for picking up a pizza."

"Why?" I asked.

"The seat heaters!"

Yeah, those are pretty nice when it's this cold, I thought.

It wasn't until the next day when I got in my car and saw the passenger seat heater turned on that I realized.

He'd used it for the pizza.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

What happened to my tiny baby?

I've been giving Lion rice cereal mixed with breastmilk once a day for the past week. He gets more and more in his stomach each time, but he loves to bite down on the spoon with his two little bottom teeth and grin at me. He also likes to grab the spoon from me and put it in his mouth. Mike thought maybe he was trying to feed himself, but Lion puts his own toes in his mouth, if you know what I mean. I figure he has a 50/50 chance of choosing the right end of the spoon, so he looks smarter than he really is. :) I now use two spoons when I feed him, so that when he grabs one, I can use the other to sneak the cereal into his mouth.

This morning I had to put a 12-month onesie on him, which makes me wonder if those sizes on the tags are ever accurate (Lion will be six months in 2 weeks). Most of the moms I know say their babies wear larger sizes. He's not a very fat baby, though he was in the 90th percentile for height and weight at all of his check-ups and I still call him Chub-Chub (I have my parents saying it, too... Mike says we'll have to stop so he doesn't get a complex). It's his length that tends to be problematic. He may have plenty of side-to-side room in a 6-month outfit, but I can barely snap the crotch closed. I do have a couple of those garment extenders, which are great, but they don't work with all onesies.

I'm a big fan of his BabyLegs leg warmers. I bought a couple pairs for fun, but they've turned out to be really useful, especially in these colder months. They keep his legs warm when his pants are too short. They're also good for when we put him in the stroller or the Ergo carrier, as the pants always seem to ride up. The women at his daycare think they are hilarious and want to know if he has any off-the-shoulder shirts.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Heart Day

Mike and I usually avoid going out for dinner on the weekend of or closest to Valentine's Day. The restaurants are overly crowded, the kitchen and wait staff overworked... it's just not the best time to enjoy ourselves and get our money's worth. This year we decided to eschew dining out altogether. And what did we do instead?

We went grocery shopping.

And the weirdest part is that I didn't even care! There we were last night, pushing our baby in a grocery cart around Wegman's at 6:30 p.m. on Valentine's Day, wearing sweatshirts and sneakers, and it was exhilirating because I WAS GETTING THINGS DONE. Plus I had a coupon for 10% off our entire purchase, which is close to having the best sex of your entire life.

And the store was really crowded, so either people were getting provisions for a romantic night in or they were just running errands, like us. Actually, I did see quite a few befuddled looking men in shirts and ties wandering around the produce section. One asked me in a hushed tone, "What are leeks?"

Me: They look like giant scallions.

Him: Scallions?

Me: Come with me.

When I told Mike about this, he shook his head. He prides himself on his produce identification skills.

We did make an effort, buying some strawberries and a bottle of wine for later. After we got home, I nursed the baby while Mike put the groceries away and heated up the leftover stuffed shells for dinner. Lion passed out around 7:30, we made a salad of spinach, scallions, toasted almonds and mandarin oranges, and ate on TV trays in the living room.

Later that evening, Mike was whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

"I'm going to dust the living room tomorrow," he purred.

"Oh, baby."

"I'll vacuum, too."

"YES."

"And I'll get up at 3 a.m. and breastfeed Lion so you can sleep."

"I will do ANYTHING YOU WANT right now."


We'd agreed not to exchange gifts, but I'd been working on making a DVD for him for months, comprised of photos and videos of Lion. So I finished it just in time, and Mike absolutely loved it. I'll put it up on Facebook for a while, so if we're friends, you can see it there.

It turned out to be a pretty good Valentine's Day. What did you do?

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

I know where we should go for spring break- maternity leave!

So I just watched one of those Momversation videos, in which a bunch of bloggers talk about various issues related to parenthood. The one I watched was "Childless by Choice", and the topic was, obviously, people who have chosen not to have children. The Momversation montage reached the typical conclusion of, "Hey- we all have choices, you make your choice and I'll make my choice and let's not judge each other!" Which, great. I'm all for not judging people, and I don't really care WHAT choices you make, as long as you refrain from sunbathing nude in my yard.

However- one thing I can't get past is this idea that it's not fair for moms to get benefits like maternity leave.

I don't know about other women, but my maternity leave was the bare minimum required by federal law- 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and then I was allowed to have my job back. The Family Medical Leave Act may be a big step up from what women used to get, which was nothing at all (maybe with a little shame thrown in for doing the thing that got us pregnant in the first place), but there is much room for improvement. Under FMLA, this same 12 weeks of unpaid leave is also available to anyone who is unable to work due to a serious health issue, or who needs to care for an immediate family member who is seriously ill (if you work for a public agency, or one that employs 50 or more people, etc.). You don't have to be a parent to qualify.

There is a reason that having a baby is lumped in with taking time off to deal with a serious health issue. Because having a baby IS a serious health issue. If people could see what maternity leave really looks like, would they still begrudge my 12 weeks?

Try this:

Run five marathons, vomit frequently, breathe and moan until your throat is raw, burst a few blood vessels, don't sleep for 24 hours, and get someone to pummel and maybe slice up your stomach and sensitive bits. Now you might have a slight understanding of how it feels to come through labor and delivery. But wait, there's more! You'll need to take lots and lots of hormones so you can experience the crazy crying jags that characterize the post-natal period. And while it hurts to walk and sit and do just about anything else, you'll need to make your way to the bathroom fairly frequently to deal with the heavy blood flow that will require football field-sized maxi-pads for the next two weeks. Also, don't forget to take your stool softeners, because even the tiniest poop is going to feel like giving birth all over again. Of course, if you're like me and you lost a ton of blood during the birth, you'll be taking massive amounts of iron that will render the stool softeners laughably ineffective.

Breastfeeding? Let's hope you're blessed with an easy time of it. But if not, you might have to deal with breasts and nipples so tender that even taking a shower is excruciatingly painful. Regardless, you might need to wander around the house topless for a few days because there is not a bra or a shirt in the world that will fit you. It can sometimes take 3 months for your breasts to stop going haywire on you. Six months later you will still be discovering dried milk splashes on the hardwood floors.

Now, before you start each day of your maternity leave, you will need to get up every two or three hours the night before. Or maybe more often! When you're finally up for the day, fix yourself a plate of food. Wait until you're really, really hungry, and then just as you're sitting down to eat, get someone to snatch the plate away. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Too bad, because sleeping and eating peaceful, well-balanced meals on a regular basis would probably help you recover faster. Oh, well.

Having a baby is a physical trauma. It is a trauma you invite when you decide to have children, and it is worth it, but maternity leave is not a vacation. It's a very necessary time of healing.

Do you still want it?

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

I am dead serious.

1. How do you accomplish grocery shopping with your baby when he a) has outgrown the infant carseat that could easily be transfered from car to shopping cart, b) is not yet steady enough to sit up in the front of the cart, and c) is not liking the Ergo baby carrier these days?

2. I was just looking through my recipe box and just now noticed (after 10 years of owning and using said box) that there is a section for recipes beginning with "Mc". There's J, K, L, M, and Mc. WTF? PLEASE- I would love for someone to name one recipe that starts with "Mc". If you can, I will immediately print it out and add it to the box, even if I will never, ever cook it, just because that empty section is suddenly driving me crazy.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Pet Peeves

Okay, I know I just blathered on about focusing on the positive when the world around you is going to hell in a handbasket, but can I have the luxury of a few complaints about the world's struggle with vegetarian cuisine?

1. I was searching Epicurious for some new main-dish vegetarian recipes to try and the majority of them were some kind of pizza, lasagna, tart, or quiche. I mean, I love cheese and crust as much as the next person, but it IS possible to construct creative, delicious vegetarian meals that do not include those things. I subscribe to Vegetarian Times and highly recommend it for anyone who seeks delicious, practical vegetarian and vegan recipes.

2. I am a Top Chef fan, absolutely. But I want to throw santoku knives at the contestants when they're told they have to cook something without meat and they act like it's the end of the world. Did you see last week's Superbowl episode? Stefan chooses to go head to head with Andrea in part because she's vegetarian- meaning, of course, that she's a weak chef. If a chef is worth his salt- if he can learn butchering and myriad cooking techniques to produce a delicious meat dish- then he should be able to do something interesting with vegetables.

As you were.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Little Celebrations

So I recently finished Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris. It was funny and highly entertaining (I still laugh when I think of Chris Yop saying "buckshelves" instead of "bookshelves"- it's just one of many memorable details), but I also felt some degree of discomfort all the way through. For those who haven't read it, the story is set in 2001, when the dot-com bubble has burst and employees at a Chicago ad agency are getting laid off left and right. Who's next? is a pervasive fear.

Maybe it wasn't the best reading choice given the current economic crisis.

So far, neither Mike nor I have heard anything definite about furloughs or layoffs. But as the economy tumbles a bit further every day, I have stopped wondering if and now wonder when. It seems inevitable that we will face some kind of income reduction. Being told that a job share is no longer an option now seems far from the worst that could happen.

I've never worried about being laid off. I figured my sector's stability made up for the fact that my salary, while adequate for us, would never be huge, and that things like bonuses and commissions would always just be nice ideas. Now it seems no one is safe- except maybe the bankruptcy and employment lawyers.

I don't like to be pessimistic, but I also don't want to be caught unprepared. And I'm not looking for sympathy, so please don't feel obligated to leave a "Atta girl!" comment- many of us are worried about our jobs, or have already lost them. I'm simply thinking with my keyboard.

When I'm worried, I do something. Action feels better than just sitting around, waiting for the monster to jump out of the closet. So Mike and I are donating diapers and formula to our local women's shelter. We may be concerned, but we still have plenty. Do unto others, and all that. I'm also considering some kind of volunteer work that I could do once a week with Lion in tow. Driving for Meals on Wheels, maybe? I'm not sure yet. I'll keep you posted.

I am also making a concerted effort to remember all the things I should be thankful for. And so I bring you the following:

Little Celebrations

1. Mike's stepfather is a closet mechanic. He has saved us hundreds of dollars on car repairs. He and Mike's mom also have a second car that they lend us when Mike's on the fritz.

2. A baby isn't really a "little" thing, but I love him so much. I am very, very thankful for him.

3. My nipples aren't bleeding anymore. That's always good.

4. Netflix. We signed up for the one-at-a-time unlimited plan right after Lion was born, which costs just $8.99 per month. It's our main form of entertainment these days, and it's a cheap one. Renting two movies from our local video store would cost more that that.

5. Impromptu dance parties in the living room.

6. The library. Really- I know I'm biased, but can you think of anything better than your public library? I have a nice, big stack of books that I'm slowly working my way through, and they didn't cost me a dime.

7. iTunes. A song costs only 99 cents! (see #5)

8. I roasted a big mess of Brussels sprouts, yams, carrots, and cauliflower with rosemary and thyme on Saturday night, and there are plenty of leftovers.

9. Some friends of ours just offered us all of their childproofing equipment. Cha-ching!

10. Another friend offered us her gently-used dog clippers, just as we were about to buy some. (mental note: look for a short-haired dog next time. Grooming a fluffy black dog when it's 90 degrees and humid as hell is no fun, unless you like looking like a very hairy man)

11. Mike graciously offered to clean up the impressive amount of dried diarrhea that I discovered on our rec room carpet yesterday. Alex's housebreaking is usually rock-solid, so I think it happened right after his surgery, when he was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia. (mental note #2: you might want to visit the rec room more often)

12. Lion has already outgrown his infant car seat, necessitating the purchase of two (pricey) convertible car seats, but hey- he's growing, and it's thanks to my boobs. I'm glad breastfeeding worked out for us.

13. My upcoming haircut. I've been trying to stretch the number of months between cuts, and haven't been since October. Having my hair shampooed in a quiet salon while Mike watches the baby sounds like sheer heaven.

14. We're having friends over for dinner this weekend. We haven't done this since Lion was born, and I'm really looking forward to it.

15. Mike's mom lives just 30 minutes away, and would babysit every weekend if we'd let her. Sometimes she comes over just so we can clean the house or do mundane errands. Having a loving, experienced sitter nearby is priceless.

16. Mike's stepfather never had children of his own, and is beyond tickled to have a grandson. He eagerly comes along for every babysitting job, and it's so touching to watch him playing with Lion. My son has three attentive grandfathers, that lucky boy! I never got the chance to know either of mine.

17. My brother is getting married in June, and I love his fiancee.

18. I ended up with a $35 store credit at Macy's after I returned a baby gift that we didn't need. I'm saving it until a good use comes along, but I like knowing that card is in my wallet.

19. My dog doesn't have cancer.

20. There's a very delicious-looking red velvet cupcake waiting for me in the kitchen.


What are you celebrating these days?

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