Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!



















May the wonders of the season be yours!

*I know you've all been on the edge of your seat wondering what picture did make the cut for the holiday card. This is it! Isn't my kid just the cutest thing!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Crazy

There is really only one tradition in my family when it comes to Christmastime. And that is my beloved Peanut Butter Balls. They are a sweet reminder of many, many happy Christmases past. I make them at least once each holiday season, and in fact just took them to a party last week. But when Mep of Not to Brag asked me and two of our other beautiful friends, Heather and E..., to be a part of a virtual cookie party, I thought it might be time to try something new.

As my now no doubt nervous in-laws are aware, I have a penchant for trying new dessert recipes. Unfortunately, my ability to create these masterpieces is severely outmatched by my desire to pick the most complicated and obscure recipes available. The year of the pumpkin flan comes to mind. It is to their credit that at each holiday event of the past 7 years, they have gamely nibbled on my creations. And not once have they made gagging noises or spit anything out, even though I am quite certain that they have all wanted to on at least one occasion. Even my husband, who is a human garbage disposal of food has on occasion been less than complimentary of my efforts. Which means it was BAD. So for this challenge I was really determined to make something that was not especially complicated and more importantly, tasty.

I looked over my cupboard and with a distinct aversion to the idea of a trip to the grocery store on this cold evening, I found a recipe that made use of the materials I had on hand. Which as it turns out, weren't so meager as I had feared. I was able to produce two ingredients that are favorites of mine, and most amazingly, in a quantity adequate for my needs. Specifically: white chocolate chips and cranberries. And with the discovery of some quick oats on the top shelf, I knew I was on my way.

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats (not instant
- 3/4 cup dried cranberries
- 6 ounces white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl using an electric mixer combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter; mix well to cream together. (I used my Kitchen-aid stand mixer for the whole process. I don't know how I lived without it.)
3. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
4. Add the cinnamon, baking soda, salt and flour and mix well.
5. Fold in the oatmeal, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips - making sure that all ingredients are uniformly distributed.
6. Drop teaspoonfuls (or roll into balls, but that is quite messy and doesn't make a discernible difference) about 3 inches apart onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375° for 10-12 minutes, just until the edges are lightly golden.
7. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer cookies to cooling rack.

I wish you could see the nice little red cranberries that accent this cookie, but that color just doesn't show up well.

















They came out a little crispier than I was expecting. That might be due to the pan I used. It might be due to overcooking. It might be that I used light butter. Really, none of that matters because these cookies are HEAVENLY. They are exactly the right mix of crispy and chewy. When I set the plate down in front of Neil, he said "looks good" in a non-committal way. I can't blame him. But after one bite, he was making yummy noises and proclaimed them "damn good!" Which is a far cry from the usual "fine" that passes for high praise in this house. 

I definitely recommend giving them a try, I just know these little beauties will be crowd pleasers! Enjoy!


And be sure to visit Mep, E... and Heather to see what yummy confections they made!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Card Reject

Neil told me this was too esoteric (I'm editorializing here, his exact comment was something along the lines of "why's it out of focus?") so it has been abandoned for a less artsy image. I love the new one, but I love this one too and I just couldn't let it languish in my discard pile without sharing it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jingle Bells

Last year, I was pretty much on the ball with our holiday cards. They weren't mailed yet, but they were at least in the late design stages. However. I couldn't get my stuff together when it came to decorating. I just couldn't find the spirit to bedeck our halls. So our tree didn't go up until the week before Christmas.

This year, I couldn't wait to get our tree set up. Starting around Thanksgiving, I badgered Neil to climb up in the top of the garage and get it down so I could set it up and decorate. I won't lie and tell you that it's construction was without it's speedbumps. Every year, I pull out all of the parts and kick myself for not having a better system to remember which pieces go where.* And there was some crankiness while I scratched my hands up as I placed, re-placed and then fluffed the branches. And neither the cats nor the kid were especially cooperative when it came to ornament placement. But I had lovely carols playing on the stereo and a pepperminty candle burning on the mantle.

And when I plugged in the lights. Ahhh. It. Was. Breathtaking. Sophie, standing a half dozen feet from it, spread her arms and WOWed. That moment was enough to make any pain and suffering worth it. A thousand times over. So our tree went up the first week of December and now we'll have nearly a month to enjoy it's twinkling beauty. God, I love Christmastime.

Now, I just need to figure out what the hell I'm going to do about our cards.

*THIS year, I'm instituting a color-coding system. Remind me round about December 26th, will ya?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kids at the Movies

Neil and I went to the movies this past Saturday night. I'm not sure what we were thinking going to a movie on a Saturday. And Thanksgiving weekend, no less. Needless to say, the place was jam packed. Luckily, Harry Potter 7 was not sold out and after purchasing our tickets, we made our way into the theater. Because we had arrived without a lot of extra time, the theater was mostly full when we walked in. There were a few pairs of seats in the middle but our reluctance to climb over other patrons led us to take seats in the floor area closer to the screen. If we knew then what we know now, we would have braved the stadium seating area.

Within minutes of sitting down, we noticed a family enter the theater and approach the row behind us. At first, I didn't notice the composition of the family because I was taken by the fact that one of the members was an infant in a bucket car seat. Probably 6 months old, the baby was wide awake and cooing. I watched as they situated the baby next to the father. It was then that I noticed the other kids as they took their seats directly behind me. Three of them. All under five. The youngest was about 3.

At first, they were quiet and I thought, well maybe these kids could handle a 2.5 hour long non-kids movie. But within 20 minutes, the infant began fussing. And that was the noise that broke the seal for the other kids. Mom and dad took turns with the infant in the hall, but that left only one parent to monitor the other three pre-school age children, who, no surprise here, were extremely fidgety. There was mock whispering, bouncing, running back and forth in the row and OF COURSE, chair kicking. MY CHAIR.

I know about wanting to get out and see a movie with your spouse. I know that for many people finding someone to watch their kids while they do so is complicated and pricey. However. This movie was clearly not appropriate for young children. It's rated PG-13, meaning children under 13 are probably not a good fit. There were definitely some VERY scary scenes. I can't imagine how those scenes would affect a small child. Beyond that, it's a 2.5 hour movie. NO kid that age can sit still for 2.5 hours. There's a reason Disney movies are all 90 minutes long. Finally, this was a 6:40 movie. My 3 year old goes to bed at 8. Adding in the expected twenty minutes of previews, that means the movie isn't getting out until 9:30. Now I can't speak for all kids, but mine does not improve when kept up after her bedtime. In fact, saying she goes into cranky, manic kid mode would be most accurate.

I'm just stunned that these people thought it was appropriate to bring their kids to this movie. Beyond that it showed ridiculously bad parenting, it was inconsiderate. They did a humdinger on our movie-going experience. We were distracted and irritated throughout the movie. And I'm sure we weren't the only ones. We have only taken Sophie to one movie, Toy Story 3, and we went to an early afternoon showing. Fortunately for us, our experience was good, but had she acted up, I would have left with her in a heartbeat. Had this been a matinee, I would likely be more forgiving. My expectations are different at day movies. But it wasn't. It was a full price evening movie, and that ain't cheap these days.

I feel like I can't be surprised anymore by how thoughtless people can be, and then I am. It makes me sad.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Music is gonna get ya

I love music. I love the way it makes me feel. It inspires emotion. Raises me up or brings me down. At home, I almost always have music on. I dance. I sing.

Of course, I don't just listen at home. I have Lucille loaded with music. I take her with me everywhere so I can get my fix any time, any place. She is ALWAYS with me at the gym. When I get going on the treadmill, the music becomes a part of me. I can feel the beat moving through my body and I find myself stepping to the rhythm.

It makes me wish I could sing at the gym. Top of my lungs, fist pumping singing. I want to shout out my exuberance. Throw my arms into the air like Rocky at the top of the stairs.

Maybe my gym should have soundproof rooms.

I think I'm going to put that in the suggestion box.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Would You Look At THAT

A great big thank you to all of my wonderful friends and family who voted for me in the Baltimore Sun Mobbies! Thanks to your perseverance day after day with a real pain in the patootie site, I eked out the win in the Family Category. AND! I came in 9th in Best Overall. Considering there were several hundred blogs nominated, I'm pleased as punch with a top 10 showing.

I attended the awards party last night with my dear friend Katie, where I accepted the handsome 8.5x11 commemorative sheet of paper announcing my win. I'll frame it and hang it on the wall next to last year's. The party was meh. Too loud. Too crowded. Food was gone by the time we got there. And we couldn't bribe our way into a drink. But I loved spending some rare non-kid time with Katie; talking sex, laundry and everything in between. And we shared a few laughs with fellow award-winning blogger Elizabeth of Strawberries in Paris who I met earlier this year at the LoveFeast Table BlogLove event. Despite a parking ticket (stupid head in only parking), it was good times. My heartfelt thanks again to all who voted!

I colored my hair a couple of weeks ago. It's about five shades darker than my hair naturally and much darker than the last color. Exactly TWO people have noticed. TWO. Change FAIL.

Monday, November 15, 2010

They Don't Call It Practice For Nothing

We have taken Sophie to the same pediatrician since she was born. Her doctor was affiliated with a very large, very well respected local medical entity (hint: it rhymes with Sean's Bobbkins) and at first that was very appealing to us. We liked the security of having a doctor attached to an organization with a century long reputation for medical excellence, not to mention the world of specialists at our fingertips.

But I would be lying if I said that I was delighted with our experiences, really from the very beginning. There was the time they sent us to the emergency room, where we sat for four hours with a mildly sick two month old only to be told we were overreacting to a normal condition. There were the layers we had to go through to actually speak to a medical professional on the phone. There was the complete lack of personal engagement. We were a number. Sophie's doctor never remembered her from one visit to the next. Ultimately, I just never felt a chemistry with her. We tried other doctors in the practice but didn't feel any better about them.

Meanwhile, Neil and I have been going to a family practice for a couple of years now and we have loved our experiences there. It was our plan to take Sophie there as soon as she completed the two year study that she was a part of through her old doctor. I had scheduled a well child check up, but unfortunately illness struck first. So her first visit was a couple of weeks ago when we had a chicken pox scare. It turns out it was some other chicken pox-y rash that had us on lockdown for a week, and it completely sucked, but it gave us an intro to the pediatric side of our now truly family practice. I was overwhelmed by what a positive experience it was.

The doctor was engaging and friendly. He sat and talked with us. More importantly, he listened. We had a real conversation. I didn't feel as though he was just playing the role of concerned doctor like I typically did with the last one. It was so refreshing. So when we brought her back in for a follow-up/well child, I was nervous that we would be seeing one of the other doctors in the practice. But if it is possible, I love her even more. I felt a real connection from the minute she walked in to the exam room. She's not much older than me, and unlike our last pediatrician, she has her own children. It even turns out that we had similar pregnancies and deliveries. When I expressed my concerns about the flu vaccine, she was very understanding. Our last pediatrician practically accused me of child abuse for not wanting to vaccinate my daughter. And not once did she refer to the growth chart! Sweet baby cheese, was that a breath of fresh air on a hot day.

I knew that I didn't like Sophie's old doctor, but I didn't realize how bad it was until I saw how good it could be. I think we forget sometimes that there is more to medicine than fancy diplomas and big names on the door. I'll take the small practice where the nurses play with my daughter and give her a lollipop any day of the week.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Last Day

For my poor Facebook and twitter friends, I apologize for the daily requests for your vote in the Baltimore Sun Mobbies. But I have good news! Today is the last day and the very last time (this year) that I will hound you for your vote. Voting ends at 5pm Baltimore time, so there are just a few short hours to help me retain the spot as Best Family blog and maybe inch my way up on the Best Overall list. I really, really, really appreciate your votes!

Click here to vote for my blog ... early and often

Monday, November 8, 2010

Across the miles...

I'm just going to come right out and say that while I put on a good front, I'm actually a bit of a chicken. This won't come as any surprise to the folks that know me really well, ie anyone who has ever slept in the same room as me (hello nightlight!). Despite this, I have a penchant for scary movies. Not often and not of the torture horror variety, but occasionally one will come along that grabs my fancy. The Blair Witch Project was one of these. Most recently, it was Paranormal Activity. A low budget, independent film that concentrated on psychological suspense rather than blood and gore, I saw it last year during a girls' weekend in Tennessee and it absolutely scared the cuss out of me. A year later and I still have night terrors about it.

When they announced they were making another one, I was not initially enthused. Rarely, in fact almost never, do sequels of these kinds of movies turn out to be any good. But reports came in that the filmmakers were doing everything they could to avoid the pitfalls that have plagued so many other doomed sequels. And then  early reviews were positive and it looked like there was cause for optimism.

A couple of months ago, Lula, Brandy and I half joked about getting together to see Paranormal Activity 2. It was the three of us (in addition to our friend Heather) that saw the first Paranormal Activity last year and it seemed natural that we would come together again for the second one. Distance and responsibilities being what they are, though, it seemed about as likely to happen as Lindsay Lohan successfully completing rehab.

But then a couple of weeks ago, we took a serious look at our calendars and decided that we were going to make it work. We landed on a date and began plotting. It took a little coordination on our parts, both Lula and I had to arrange child care so we could leave early enough from our respective homes to make it to Brandy's house (4.5 hour drive for me, 3 for Lula) in time for dinner and the movie, but we made it work.

Finally, the day arrived and I hit the open road. It was a long drive, but my excitement (and a trough of Dr. Pepper) made the time pass quickly. The laughs didn't stop from the moment I arrived until I left the next afternoon. There were times I was laughing so hard, I could barely breath. We had a fabulously fattening dinner where we introduced Brandy to red wine, unsuccessfully; we saw the movie, which wasn't quite as good as the first but definitely had some chills; we stayed up until all hours talking; and after sleeping in, we hit Cracker Barrel for a breakfast lunch.

A couple days before I left, Neil commented to me that it was an awfully long way to go for a movie. And he's not wrong. But the truth is that while I did want to see the movie, I didn't really drive all that way just for that. I drove 280 miles to see friends that I haven't seen in person in a year. To sit across from them. To give them great big hugs because I miss their faces. The internet is an amazing thing. If it weren't for this ability to connect over the miles, I never would have met these great ladies, and it is a wonderful tool for maintaining these relationships. But it is no substitute for sitting down at the kitchen table with a great glass of wine (or four) and making lewd drawings at 3am with friends.

Miss you girls. Can't wait for Paranormal Activity 3.

By the way, have you voted for me today in the Baltimore Sun Mobbies? I'm nominated under the Family category and don't forget to select Land of Bean for Best Overall! You can vote once a day until November 12. Thank you!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Civic Duty

It's a big day. It's our time to make our voices heard. I'm an ardent believer in our obligation to do our civic duty. Despite a sick kid, I plan to do mine. And of course, I ask that you do yours as well. Today we exercise our right to vote.

Of course, I'm talking about the annual Baltimore Sun Maryland Outstanding Blogs Awards (MOBBIES)! The Land of Bean has been nominated in the Family category. My fellow nominees are an amazing group of bloggers, many of whom I feel privileged to consider friends. So it pains me to say that I want to kick their asses, but I do, I really do. It is an honor to be nominated but it's freaking awesome to win. So I kindly request that you take just a couple of minutes and pop on over to the Baltimore Sun website to vote. You will have to register but it's little more than your email and a password.

Voting will take place between now and November 12 at 5pm. You can vote once in every 24 hour period, so please vote as often as you can! Don't forget to also click Land of Bean for Best Overall Blog! Note: You do not have to reside in Maryland to vote. (Mom, I'm talking to you.) Sadly, I do think you have to be in the United States, so my international friends can not take part.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Click here to vote for my blog ... early and often

Oh yeah, and for all of my American readers, don't forget to vote in our mid-term elections today! It's kinda important.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Souper Easy Recipe: French Onion

It is that time of year again. Soup season! There is just nothing like a steaming bowl on a chilly fall day. It warms you from the inside out. One of my forever favorites is French Onion. Ironically, I actually don't care much for onions, but something about this soup just works for me. For years and years, if I were enjoying a bowl at home, I bought a can of Campbell's and threw it in the microwave. But once I tried making this for myself and saw how easy it is, and how fantastic it tastes, I don't think it's possible to go back to my old college-y ways.

Ingredients:
4 - Tablespoons Butter (I suppose you could use margarine but I don't recommend it. Ever.)
2 - Onions (I use one red and one white but you can use whatever combination strikes your fancy.)
1 - Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 - Teaspoon Sugar
1 - Tablespoon Flour
4 - Cans (10.5 oz) Beef Broth
1/2 - Cup Red Wine (Use good stuff. Never cook with something you wouldn't drink.)
1/2 - Teaspoon Garlic Salt (or to taste)
1/2 - Teaspoon Salt (or to taste)
1/2 - Teaspoon Black Pepper (or to taste)
Sliced Provolone or Swiss Cheese
French Bread

1. Melt the butter in a medium soup pan. Thinly slice the onions and saute in the butter at medium heat until soft. Add the Worcestershire sauce and sugar. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.














2. Stir in the flour and mix well with onions and pan sauce. Add broth, wine, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.













3. Slice 3/4 inch pieces of French Bread. I toast mine in our toaster oven, but you can also cook in the oven at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes.













4. Fill oven-safe bowls 3/4 full with soup. Add the toasted bread and a slice of provolone or swiss cheese. Return to toaster oven or oven, 425 degrees, for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted. (You can also hollow out bread bowls. And that is a VERY tasty way to go, but the extra 400 calories kill me.)


Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Now

I have found that, like so many things, my interest in blogging waxes and wanes. In nearly three years I have published more than 500 posts. Every time I approached one of the century marks, I have thought I should make a fuss about it, but each time I forget until it's too late. I look and realize that I'm at 407. And really, who cares how many posts I've put up. Does it make me a more accomplished writer or blogger for the number of times I have managed to hit the publish button? Do the 100 or so people who visit here each day, most of whom are likely family, even care? Having said that, my relative absence from blogging lately has left me feeling stranded. Missing out on my friends lives and missing out on writing, something I truly enjoy doing. I want, no I need, to get back in to it.

____________

I am restarting Operation Smaller Ass. I lost 20 pounds earlier this year and then proceeded to gain most of it back over the following 8 months and that's total bullshit. I work out like a fiend, I NEED something to show for it. I've considered all of the easy routes: pills, hypnotism, chaining the fridge; and have decided to just get back with counting calories. I had success with it before, and early results are good. Five pounds in the last week. How many times do I say "this time I'm serious" before I really do GET SERIOUS?

____________

I'm considering doing NaNoWriMo. I have a story. And a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. I've been fleshing it out in my head for a while now, so it's just a matter of buckling down and bringing it to life. Will having a month deadline make it happen? I don't know, but it can't hurt trying. Neil's always asking me when I'm going to write my novel. Maybe now is the time.

____________

Maybe now is the time for a lot of things.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Birthday Wishes
















I'm not sure what she wished for, but she got three cupcakes out of the deal.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Three!!
















My darling girl is three years old today. I know that every single parent says it at every single birthday, but how did that happen? How have three years passed since she came into our world? She was just my tiny little bean and now she is a KID. She walks, she talks, she opines, LOUDLY. We have our highs and lows but every day with her is an adventure.

And now after more than one thousand glorious days of on the job training, I think it is safe to claim to be an expert on child-rearing.

Just a few of my pearls of wisdom:

1. Potty training is more art than science.

2. I don't care how many experts say that you can get your kid to eat anything. Accept that you will never understand your child's culinary choices.

3. Sleeping in? Fuhgeddaboudit.

4. Clothes will be changed a minimum of five times a day.

5. Related to #4: seasons, weather and temperature have no bearing on clothing selections.

6. Tantrums happen only at the very worst times. Like in the middle of the painfully quiet craft store.

7. Your child will do things for other people they will never do for you. Like eat. Or sit still.

8. Forget about making phone calls during their waking hours.

9. You don't know stubborn until you've tried to keep a 3 year old away from a cupcake.

10. What worked yesterday will absolutely not work tomorrow. No matter how ingenious.


Happy birthday to my beautiful girl! Every day you make me so proud.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Tuesday. And That Means Absolutely Nothing

- Sophie's 3rd birthday is just two days away. Can't even process that I have a THREE YEAR OLD. And NO, we're not having another kid.

- I ran another 5K a couple of weeks ago and now I have the bug. I want to do another. And another. Who is this person that has taken over my body and what has she done with the real Cara?

- We broke down and hired a biweekly cleaning service. All is right in the world again. There is really nothing better than coming home to a yummy clean house. Of course, the clean only lasts for 42 seconds, but those are 42 heavenly seconds.

- We got rid of the last of our tube TVs a couple of weeks ago. We tried to donate it to the local Goodwill but they wouldn't take it. A perfectly good 32 inch TV. We wound up taking it to the dump. I can't get over that.

- I have enough red clothes to do an entire load of them when I do laundry. I really need to diversify my wardrobe. I don't want to be known as the "lady in red", although I would love to have a song like that written about me. Sigh.

- I got hit on by a 90 year old white bearded fellow in the waiting room of my dermatologist yesterday. It was funny and flattering and creepy all at the same time. I think his 70 year old daughter, who was pushing his wheelchair, was embarrassed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My Social Network

I went to see The Social Network yesterday. For those of you living under a rock, this is the movie about the creation of Facebook. It was good. Damn good. The writing was whip smart and the acting was unbelievable. The fact that it is based on a true story is a very compelling element. Of course, from what I understand large swathes were taken not from actual accounts but from writers interpretations of what likely occurred at known events, but that is to be expected.

After the movie, Jill and I sat at a deli enjoying fantastic pastrami sandwiches and cream soda while we dissected the movie. One thing we kept coming back to was just how significantly Facebook has changed the way we interact.

I was a late comer to Facebook. I joined about two years ago. I had heard of it before, but I resisted. At the time, I had been blogging for about 8 months and felt that was all the online interaction I needed. But my 16th* high school reunion was coming up and it was the easiest way to connect with former classmates leading up to our get together.

At first it was people I was current with and those high school classmates I was trying to get in touch with for the reunion. But it pretty quickly evolved into a self-indulgent trip down memory lane. I looked up people I haven't seen since grade school. I'll confess there are a couple of ex-boyfriends in there. But only the friendly ones.

Sometimes I think that we're supposed to lose touch with people. That maybe there is a reason you don't talk anymore to that girl you ran around with for a couple of months when you were 20. And that snarking at photos of your ex-boyfriend's ugly wife is mean and unnecessary.

But for the most part, I love Facebook. I can't imagine life without it. I love that it allows me to passively follow a large number of friends on an everyday basis. I love that I can interact or not, at my discretion, and no one will criticize me either way. I love that I can disseminate information about myself and my family so easily.

There is little doubt that it has changed things. Like all of the greats, it was an invention I didn't even realize I needed until it was so entrenched in my life that I couldn't imagine operating without it. But that brings up the inevitable question: What is the next step? What will be the next Facebook?

I wish I could invent it.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Are you on Facebook? Love it? Hate it?

*We also had an 11th reunion. Not sure what, if any, plans there are for future reunions but I have full confidence they will NOT fall on the usual years.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Aaaand Scene!
















Sophie: I'm hungry.

Me: Do you want a string cheese?

S: YEAH!!

Me: (grabbing one out of the fridge) Are you sure you want a string cheese?

S: YEAAAHHH!!!

Me: (as I begin to unwrap it) You definitely want a string cheese?

S: Yes, yes, yes! (arms outstretched, jumping up and down)

Me: (holding out string cheese to her, big enticing smile on my face) Here you go, baby.

S: (turning away) Ummm, no.

Replay this scene about 114 times a day and you begin to understand why my kid is so skinny and my ass is still the size of Texas as I eat the stupid string cheese/apple/peppers/crackers/toast/bagel/egg sandwich because I'm tired of throwing food out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Generations

I was going through the photos I took when I was in Kansas. Finally. And I came across a couple that my sister took of me, Sophie and my granddaddy. It's a tad out of focus because it was my little point and shoot and somebody (me) let somebody (Sophie) take some self-portraits (cute!) and she somehow changed it to the macro setting. Which means that anything more than 12 inches away and bigger than a ladybug has an aura. Of course, I didn't realize this until it was way too late to retake, but if I spend long enough tinkering around in Photoshop, I think I can make it presentable. And I plan to, because I want to send a copy to my beloved granddaddy. But for now, I just wanted to get something up on my blog that puts a smile on my face. Because my last post? Does not. It was one of those posts that was terribly cathartic to write but painful to publish and think about other people reading.

This picture makes me happy. It reminds me of a hundred Christmases spent in that very room, a fire blazing while I lay stretched out on the carpet under the coffee table. It reminds me of those weeks we spent there during the summer, just my sister and I and our grandparents. Sunday nights spent eating apples, cheese and popcorn while we watched 60 minutes. So many wonderful memories. I love that I was able to bring my daughter to spend some time with her great-granddaddy, because he is such an amazing man. I love that my grandmother is still with us, even if only in our memories and a photograph that is never far from my granddaddy's side.

Mostly though, I'm just really happy that given both of our positions, you can see neither mine nor my daughter's underwear.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mean Girls

Last night I asked Neil what he thought my greatest weakness was. While he stalled in his answer, all of the things he might say swirled around in my head. I understand his reticence to answer me, being honestly critical of another person is difficult. And when that person is your wife, it's damn near impossible. So when he finally answered, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would he take the easy road and tell me my greatest weakness was being such a darn good cook? Or would he be truly honest and tell me that I'm a terrible housekeeper or that I don't have enough patience with Sophie. He went the honest route.

His answer: that I don't have enough confidence in myself.

I sputtered and said "I don't have enough confidence? I don't have enough confidence? Meeee?" I wasn't angry, I was surprised. Not because I honestly think I'm brimming over with confidence, but because I generally think I do a fair job of hiding the fact that I'm not.

But then I chewed on what he had said for a moment. While I was waiting for his answer, I had come up with literally dozens of possibilities for what his response would be. The list of things I saw wrong in myself was long and varied. That just doesn't seem like the sign of someone who has a great deal of confidence in themself or their abilities.

Truth is, self-esteem has always been an issue for me. Growing up, we moved a lot. I was always the new kid, forced to make new friends at every stop. Sometimes it was easy, sometimes not. In some places, the kids were so entrenched in their relationships that there simply wasn't room for the new girl and I floundered.

When I hit middle school, the very worst years for all but the most lucky of pre-teens, I struggled extraordinarily. Grotesquely skinny, acne and a nose that had outgrown my face, combined with the hormonal peaks and valleys of puberty to make me a pretty unhappy kid. And while I've grown into my nose, the acne is under control and I've definitely got the curves (and then some, SIGH) I longed for in 7th grade, I honestly don't think I've ever recovered from those years. From starting my first day in a new school and having the kids taunt me with "big nose" and "ugly." From one of my first real boyfriends breaking up with me because his friends told him I wasn't good enough for him. From no dates for dances.

This afternoon, I took Sophie to the park. When we arrived there were three little girls playing on the jungle gym. A year or two older than her, they were involved in a detailed role playing game. From the moment she ran up to them, they were exclusionary and rude. When Sophie attempted to join in their play, they squealed and ran away. When Sophie would follow them, they would say "SHE'S BACK! RUUUUNNN!" and run away. Despite my attempts to direct her towards other kids or playground equipment, she was not to be deterred and continued to follow the girls around. I looked to the girls' mothers, who stood not far from me engrossed in their own conversation, hoping they would tell them to be nice, but they never did.

As I watched this play out, I almost started crying, because suddenly I didn't see her, I saw myself. I saw me timidly approaching kids and being rebuffed or ignored. Right now, my daughter is brimming with confidence. She experiences not a moment's hesitation when approaching someone new. The vast majority of the response to her is great positivity. She is the friendliest, most enthusiastic kid around. She oozes sunshine. But how much will it take to beat that out of her? How many mean little girls will it take to break her confidence? At what point did mine go? How do I ensure that in 5 years, 10 years, 25 years, my daughter will have the confidence to approach any person or goal and know that she is worthy?

I wish I could go back and kick those little girls' asses. But I can't. All I can do is love on my daughter, tell her a hundred times a day how beautiful and wonderful she is, and pray that is enough.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Side Effects
















Our cat Potter has given us more than her fair share of scares. On multiple occasions we have carted her off, clawing and howling, to the vet or the Pet ER when things looked dire. I've never tallied up exactly how much we have spent on her medical care, mostly because it would depress me too much. Don't get me wrong, I love my kitty and would go the extra mile to make sure she is okay, but on every single occasion the results have been inconclusive, and basically, she just got better on her own. Thousands and thousands of dollars have been spent on what time alone fixed.

She's always been a puker. At least once a week, sometimes more often, sometimes less, she would revisit upon us her lunch. But lately things have been bad. Because of her history, we were hesitant to rush her to the vet, spend a ton of money and get no answers. However, after weeks and weeks of her throwing up A LOT, as in multiple times a day and on our bed on more than one occasion, we finally decided to take her in.

OF COURSE, the vet couldn't find anything wrong with her. All bloodwork came back fine. The diagnosis, such as it was, was that hair must be accumulating in her digestive tract and causing a backup. So the vet prescribed her Catlax, a molasses-like substance that serves in much the same way as Exlax does on humans. Which is to say, it greases the chute.

You might think this would cause a disturbing litter box situation, but in fact had almost no effect on that end. And at first, the vomiting slowed down and we thought "HALLELUJAH! We're on the right track."

But then we woke up Friday morning.

It was a morning like any other. Sophie woke us up at ohgod o'clock. We went through the upstairs part of our morning: pottying, face washing, changing diaper, putting on warmer clothes; before we headed for the stairs. And that was when I saw it.

It was everywhere.

It was on every step from the top to the bottom. That's thirteen steps. It was on the wall from the top nearly to the bottom. And there was clearly a spray pattern. It was like something had stood at the top of the stairs and a fire hose of vomit shot out of it. I didn't need Dexter or a team of CSIs to figure out what had happened.

I called out to Neil. When he met me at the top of the stairs, his mouth fell open and he said, only half kidding, "Do you think she's alive?" I'd had the same thought myself. It was an explosion. I have never seen an animal produce that kind of mess. HazMat teams usually deal with this sort of thing.

I went downstairs to track down Potter to confirm that she was, in fact, still among the land of the living. I found her in the kitchen circling her food dish waiting for some breaky as if nothing had happened. After refilling her bowl, I headed back upstairs to clean that ungodly mess up. It took a half a bottle of 409 and an entire roll of paper towels, but our stairs are back to their pre-disaster state.

We called the vet's office as soon as they opened and it was decided that we take a break from the Catlax and proceed to the next level of treatment: prednisone. So now our 7 lb cat is on steroids.

The good news is that the puking has slowed down to once a day for the last three days and we're optimistic that things are on the up and up. The bad news is that she's got acne and her meow is three octaves lower.

Whatever. As long as I never have to clean a mess like that again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Where's Mary Poppins When You Need Her?

I know that all children are different. They have different interests and skills. Different temperaments. And that's cool. What kind of world would it be where all kids were the same? Most days I love that I have the energetic, frenetic kid. Believe me when I say that there are NO dull moments with her around.

But some days, I wouldn't mind having a kid who sat and colored for, oh say, 10 minutes. Or who could focus on any of the umpteen million crafty projects I have put together for her for more than 42 seconds. I spent $40 and a half an hour setting up a craft project for her today that I was POSITIVE would net me at least a few minutes of quiet. Nope.

Pretty much the only way I can get some time to myself is if I turn on the tv. And I really don't like doing that too much. Don't get me wrong, we're not anti-tv around here, I just don't want to spend too much time with it on. Even that isn't much of a fix. At best it gets me a few minutes and then she is climbing all over me again.

I just don't know what to do. How to encourage her to self-entertain better so that I don't have to spend every minute of my day playing with her. My house is a disaster and I'm getting burnt out.

My husband chides me when I call taking care of our daughter work, but the fact is, it IS work. And frankly, it's hard work. But it makes me wonder, are my expectations too high for a nearly three year old or am I just lazy?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Table Topic Tuesdays: Eye Candy

I love my husband. Like, he is the apple of my eye, lights my fire, pushes my buttons...oh wait. Anyhoo, he is my dream guy. Having said that, I'm not dead. I have eyes and don't mind when they fall on attractive bits of manflesh.

So when Shannon posted the topic for this week's Table Topic Tuesday, I felt it my DUTY to list my top producers of testosterone. Not for me, mind you, but for you. Because I'm a giver. Enjoy.

Alexander Skarsgaard (aka Eric Northman on True Blood): Sure the character plays into this a little, he's a sexy, badass vampire, but he's also one fine looking man.

Eric Season Two HBO's True Blood Pictures, Images and Photos

Clive Owen: He has the gruff Englishman thing going on that is darn near irresistible. And look at those blue eyes! Swoon.

Clive Owen Pictures, Images and Photos

Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock): Seriously? Seriously. Behold:

Dwayne The Rock Johnson Pictures, Images and Photos

Chris Evans: Hi Chris! (she titters behind a coy smile)

Chris Evans Pictures, Images and Photos

Tom Hardy: Tom is a recent add to my hunk stable. Have you seen Inception yet? See it, if for nothing else than to see this man. That face belongs atop a statue to a Greek god.

Tom Hardy Pictures, Images and Photos

So who's your top five bits of eye candy?

Photobucket

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Edges

 (Please don't read this one, Mom)
I'm a frayed edge. It's been one of those days, those weeks; too little sleep, too much yelling. Every outing a trial. Nights too short. Days too long. And the weight of everything that has ever gone wrong drags at my feet, pulling me under. The pressure, man, the pressure, and I kick and flail trying to get back up to sweet, clear air.

How many people had perfect childhoods? Where mom and dad stayed together, and you lived in the same house forever, and there were no health issues, and there were no divisions in the family beyond a black sheep uncle that drank too much at Christmas and pissed in the potted palm. What percentage of people do you suppose fall into that category? 25%? 10%? 2%?

I feel like I'm yelling so much these days. That my daughter is constantly tugging at me. Both literally and figuratively as she presses each one of my buttons for maximum effect. Three is turning out to be really, really hard. We're only a month in and my nerves are stretched so thin. I yell at Sophie, I snip at Neil. I don't call my friends because my mind is so full of being a mommy that I can't seem to pull more scintillating things out even when I'm not complaining. I used to be interesting, if I do say so myself. Some even thought me downright funny.

Tell me it gets easier. Tell me there is a day coming when I don't feel like I belong under psychiatric care. Tell me that occasionally regretting being a stay at home mom is normal. That I'm not the only one feeling so completely and wholly incompetent at the task. Tell me I'll fit into those jeans again.

I want my kid to be in that 2%. But right now? I feel like I'm setting her up for a lifetime of therapy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Field Trip Friday

Have you all stopped in over at BlogTrotting lately? We've been visiting some amazing places and we're talking about our favorite vacation photos today. Now scoot on over there!

Monday, August 30, 2010

All Aboard!

The engineer showing Sophie how to toot the horn.

















On our next to last day in Kansas, we took a ride on the little train that runs at the park next to the zoo. It only runs about 8 hours a week and is operated by retired trainmen. Men who know a thing or two about trains, whose lives were spent on the full size versions of this delightful ride.

The train was a major part of life in my hometown. At one time, the railroad employed a good number of people there, but times have changed, so much is automated these days, and most operations have moved to Kansas City and other larger cities. But there are still the tracks that run through the middle of my small town. Every day, just as has been happening for over a hundred years, trains rumble through on their way to far off destinations. At each crossing they blow their horn, and at night, when everyone is quiet, you can hear the trains from just about any house in town.

The trains don't stop for passengers in my town anymore, but that charming little train at the zoo gives our children a chance to taste a little bit of that nostalgia. Tickets cost 50 cents for a couple trips around the winding tree-covered quarter mile track. Does anything cost 50 cents anymore? I would pay a hundred times that and still call it a bargain.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Still Going

This picture has nothing to do with anything other than that she is so frakking cute with her pigtails.

























We survived the flight, but only just. Sophie was most certainly NOT on her best behavior. There was chair kicking. There was screaming. There was the poopie diaper that required a change in the impossibly tight airplane bathroom.* There was food/toy/drink/iPhone throwing. There was NO sleeping. Basically, by the time we landed, I was done. D-U-N.

But arrive we did. We spent the first leg of our tour in Kansas City. It was there that the real reason for our trip resided. The passing of a beloved family member. I'm not really going to go into that much. It was my grandma. She was loved and will be most deeply missed.

Sadness.

But there have been some really lovely times with family mixed in here. I got to spend more time with my sister, Jonna, than I have in years and years. Our kids played together for hours. I simply couldn't stop smiling while I watched them. They do my heart good.

Of course, there has been some drama. Has there ever been a large family gathering, and in particular a funeral, where there wasn't a least a little? We all deal with our grief in different ways. Sometimes anger is the only emotion people feel comfortable expressing. But I was not the cause or the focus, for a change, so I came out unscathed.

Most amazingly, I have so far survived sleeping with my daughter every night. I thought I would hate it, but I'm surprised to admit that I'm actually kind of loving it. She is all over the place, but its so sweet to wake up to her arm or leg draped over me and to feel her sweet little warm body pressed up against me. This isn't something I want to do at home regularly, but it sure is nice for now.

We still have a couple of days and many miles before we will be home, but I have the very best of company and the weather is supposed to be good ...and you can't ask for much more than that.

*Seriously, Boeing, what the shit do I have to do to get a changing table in an airplane lav?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leaving On A Jet Plane

We're leaving tomorrow for a long visit home to Kansas. It is an unexpected trip. And while the reason is not a happy one, I am looking forward to seeing all of my family, most of whom I haven't seen in a year or more. I can't wait for Sophie to spend time with her grandparents and cousins.

What I am not looking forward to is flying with Sophie alone.

A-L-O-N-E.

Because of the short notice and because Neil just started a new job, he isn't able to come with us. So that means I'll be on my own.

Nobody to take care of the carseat and the luggage.

Nobody to watch her so I can go to the bathroom. (Praying my constitution doesn't require an, ahem,  extended visit.)

Nobody to help distract her so she doesn't spend two hours kicking the seat in front of her.

I traveled with her alone once before, but she wasn't even walking yet. So while it wasn't easy, at least I didn't have to worry about her running off. But this is a whole other ball game.

And there's supposed to be bad storms tomorrow night. Like flash flood, crazy rain kind of bad storm. So of course I've got visions of the Twilight Zone monster on the wing. Not to mention nausea inducing turbulence. That will probably send us hurtling to the earth in a thousand ton tin can. Clearly I'm thinking of only the best possible outcomes.

So around about 5:55pm tomorrow, can you all think buoyant thoughts? And sleeping toddler thoughts? I'll need all the positive energy flowing my way I can get.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Canopy

We took a field trip to Ikea today. We live about 5 minutes from one, and since its pretty much the funnest store in the world to run through at top speed, its awfully appropriate for using up some toddler energy on a rainy day. Plus they have a great kids section with lots of toys.

The real reason for our visit was in search of a couple of oversized pillows for Sophie to lounge/jump around on and a new rubber no-slip bath mat. But after approximately an hour in there, we walked out with neither. Not for lack of looking on my part. But never let it be said I squandered an opportunity to spend money.

I have always, since I was a young girl, dreamed of having netting or bedcurtains (think Victorian era) around my bed. But poor, deprived child* that I was, I never got them. And now, as all good mothers do, I am living vicariously through my daughter. (Lucky for her I never dreamed of being a beauty queen. Although she's much cuter than I ever dreamed of being, so her chances would probably be a lot better than mine might have been.)

Because of this, I have been eying the canopies at Ikea for a while now. But I held off because we have a camera monitor on the wall looking down into her bed. It's been there since she was born and has enabled us to see if she was awake or asleep and more recently, if she was still in bed. Neil and I have absolutely delighted in watching her sleep on it. So much so that I have been loathe to move or get rid of it.

So when I couldn't find those things I was ostensibly there for, I wandered into the children's furniture section and looked once again longingly at the canopies. But today, something clicked in me and I decided it was time. I grabbed the one that clashed the least with the colors of her room and headed for the exit.

When we got home, I set her to playing with her new Ikea train set and I went about hanging the new canopy over her bed. First I had to take down the camera. Until the moment I actually unplugged it, I didn't realize how much it would affect me. But affect me it did.

I am big on being aware when the last time something happens is. I guess I want to know so I can savor that last experience to its fullest. It chaffs me when a last time happened and I didn't realize it, as it did today. But once I brought the canopy home, I simply couldn't not put it up. I'm far too programmed for immediate gratification to have waited another day just to see her sleeping on the monitor one more time.

I couldn't get rid of it completely, though. I moved the camera across the room where I have a more overall view of her room (roughly where the shot below was taken). I figure I'll get rid of it altogether soon, but this is the transition location. I can still see that she is in bed, but I can't actually see her sleeping. I'm going to miss that more than I can say.

I'll get used to this. Just one more in the long line of changes as my little girl grows up.

Sweet dreams, my love.


















Please disregard the ghettoness of the way the canopy is hanging in this shot, I haven't figured out exactly how to drape it yet. And also ignore the state of her room. This IS a 2 1/2 year old's room, tidy is an infrequent visitor here. But HEY lookit the wood floors! Love them.

* I was NOT poor or deprived.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blogher Returns

I'm back from my long weekend in New York City for Blogher '10.

I'm still coming down from the high of spending time with some of my favorite people, ladies who the other 362 days of the year I only see on this little screen. For my part, there was no drama. No awkward interactions, no skirmishes, no embarrassing flubs. I didn't go overboard with the swag, nor did I hear of there being any swag hag issues. There were tons of private parties, and I went to a few, including a lovely luncheon in a chi-chi restaurant where I dropped a cheese biscuit down my shirt and my girls from LoveFeast Table pretended not to notice.

But it was the non-conference related moments that stand out: laying in bed talking with my blog wife Nap Warden. Dancing with my roomies: Elena and Shannon. Sucking down $5 happy hour martinis with the other three members of the Fourfecta: Nap Warden, Angry Julie and Scary Mommy. Walking through Central Park with Burghbaby and Nap Warden. Dragging Babe in Babeland to an out of the way bar to see an old friend WAY past our bedtime.

It was not the sessions, of which I attended ONE, or the huge organized parties, that were so loud and crowded it was impossible to hear someone standing even three feet away, that made Blogher '10 a success for me.

It was this and this and this:























(Abbey Road shot bottom left courtesy of the fabulous Burghbaby. That's me in the middle and Nap Warden behind me, pretending she doesn't know me.)

Blogging for me is only partly about writing. The biggest part is the connections. And bringing those connections off of the screen and into the "real" world is what makes it all worthwhile. It is this that brings us all to Blogher and it is this that keeps us coming back.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Doubts

Toddlerhood is frustrating. Not that that's a news flash or anything, but some days it just hits me over the head. She is opinionated and stubborn and almost completely incapable of clearly communicating what she wants. There are phrases and words that I understand, but for the most part, it's like she's speaking Russian. Maybe I should take her to a medium and make sure we're not harboring the reincarnation of Catherine the Great. I know everyone is always famous or royal, but as imperious as this kid is, she must have been someone who was not used to hearing no.

When she speaks, and it is often and loudly, it is with such conviction and passion. She waves her hands around as she talks. But it's mostly gibberish. I try so hard to understand. I look around, try to find whatever it is. Sometimes if I can figure out the right context, I can decipher a word or two. And when I do, it's pretty much the most amazing thing ever. Because this little person that I am raising, the one that seems to be little more than a semi-tamed animal most of the time, is becoming a person. A talking, thinking, (somewhat) rational being.

In my current occupation, I don't get raises or bonuses or promotions. The only outward evidence of my success is the health and happiness of my child. There are days where I worry that I'm doing it all wrong. When I yell too much or we watch too much TV or don't even look at a vegetable, and I feel the weight of this task. I worry that I don't spend enough time reading to her, that her lack of speech is due to my failure to provide her the right educational activities. I feel overwhelmed and unprepared and unqualified.

But then she looks up at me, an enormous smile on her face, and says "tank yoo, mahnee" and I realize that we're alright.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Cuteness
















Pay no attention to the pile of laundry as tall as a toddler. I do that on purpose so I can sort our clothes into blacks, whites, blues and reds. See. It's not about being lazy, it's about being meticulous about color separation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Because My Brain Just Can't Come Up With More

- I haven't talked about it, but I am going to Blogher '10 in New York City next week. I was excited, and then I was kind of blah, and now I'm excited again. And starting to stress out about the usual girl things: what to wear, how many pairs of shoes will fit in my suitcase, can I lose 20 pounds in the next 9 days. I have my roommates lined up at the Hilton and I am ready to get my groove on. If you're going, let me know, let's exchange numbers and promise to meet up.

- We pulled up the carpet from the second floor. I had pulled up some corners and I was optimistic that the hard wood floors underneath would be in decent shape. I am happy to report that they are gorgeous! There are a couple of spots but nothing that gives me any anxiety. Yay for quality craftsmanship in older houses!

- Hallelujah for the premium channel TV shows coming back to kill the summer TV drought. Closer, Mad Men, Being Human, My Boys: you're saving me from eating my foot out of boredom.

- And speaking of feet. I went to the doctor and they did some x-rays. It's a heel spur. Yay. It's painful and has pretty much put a stop to my running career. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually disappointed. I didn't like running, but it has a meditative quality that I enjoyed. I'm still working out, but no running.

- Our house has three temperature zones: arctic, temperate and tropical. In our bedrooms on the second floor, we're stripped down to skivvies, laying under the ceiling fan arguing about which direction its supposed to turn. In the basement TV/family room, we're bundled up in fluffy socks underneath my leopard print Snuggie. We've had the repair men out to make sure our AC works right. It does. And we've tried every combination of closed/open vents. Always the same result. It's maddening.

- Did I mention I'm going to Blogher? Yeah. Three days. No cooking. No housework. No "mommy, mommy, mooommmmeeeee!" Ahhh.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Life's a Beach and Then You Go Home

When I was a girl, I dreamed of summers spent at the beach. Crashing waves, salty air, tan skin. I am a Pisces, the fish. I don't know if I subscribe to astrology, but in this area it is spot on. I do love the water. Alas, growing up in landlocked Kansas, dreams of the ocean are all I had. And while we spent many, many summer days and nights on the lake waterskiing and swimming, always there was that call to the ocean.

It is many, many years later and now I live on the water. Or darn close anyway. You can't see it from my house, but you can be there within 15 or 20 minutes. Despite this, I have taken miserly few beach vacations. So many of my trips have involved visiting family in other parts of the country that I have neglected this desire.

But a few weeks ago, after months of anticipation and planning, I found my way to the ocean again. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We drove through the night, a mostly sleeping toddler in the back seat while I fought hallucinations to get there alive. It seems I'm not so good at staying up 24 hours as I used to be. Also, two glasses of wine and I am DONE. But that is another story.

We arrived to find our hotel and, thanks to all that is good and holy, they let us check in hours ahead of normal time. Despite our dismay at not getting the room we reserved (Again, months and months ago. Wyndam, you let us down. Big time.), we were delighted with the view and location. We made do, because what kind of practical midwesterner would I be if I couldn't overcome a teensy bit of adversity like that?

Our first night was the Fourth of July and I would be remiss if I didn't say that if you've never seen fireworks from a 15th story balcony in North Myrtle Beach, well, you just haven't lived. First off, evidently the folks in South Carolina aren't as concerned about people blowing off fingers and catching houses on fire as we are here in Maryland, the land of "we don't trust you with more than a sparkler." Seriously, they should put that on the license plate. No my friends, in South Carolina, any Tom, Dick and Jim Bob can shoot off any kind of firework they want. Anywhere. And they did. All up and down the beach, for miles and miles. Dangerous though it might have been, it was spectacular. Watching my daughter ooh and aah, her eyes wide, made the long drive and sleepless night completely worth it.

The rest of the week went by in a lazy progression of food, pool, food, nap, beach, food, sleep. Repeat. The days ran in to one another. I ate my weight in crab legs and fried corn on the cob. I felt not sleep deprived for the first time in nearly three years. My beloved husband, without discussion, took the lion's share of Sophie watching, so I could enjoy myself. And most importantly, I rolled around in the Atlantic waves.

Our last day, we watched a lightening storm come in off of the water. It was a fitting end to a week of perfect weather. We sat on the balcony, watching the current travel between cloud and water, listening to the thunder and wishing we could stay just a little bit longer.

I know we will look back on the photos for years to come and laugh at the memory of the little girls (and their daddies) digging their way to china in the sand, the look on Sophie's face when we jumped into a wave as it crested, the homey little diner where we ate breakfast and the waitresses played peekaboo with Sophie, floating around the lazy river pool, us on the big tubes and Sophie on her little donkey floaty.

You understand how people can chuck it all and run away to live a carefree beach lifestyle. Pull a Gauguin*. Those few days spent with friends, each other and the ocean, were idyllic. It would be heaven to live like that always. But it is often rarity that bestows upon a thing its preciousness. Could we appreciate the beauty and simple pleasures if we had them everyday?

I can tell you this much, I wouldn't mind trying.
















*Although not the abandoning family part.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lost and Found

I wrote a lovely long post describing our trip to Myrtle Beach last week. As I was going back through editing it, Blogger ate it. ATE. IT. Hundreds of perfectly ordered words. Gone. I clicked Control "Z", I clicked on the back button, I tried everything I could think of to recover it. To no avail. Gone, gone, gone. There were words used. Words that rhyme with duck and fit. Not that they did a lick of good, but they made me feel better.

I'll get back to it. When I'm not so angry at Blogger.

I still feel out of the loop. Still recovering from our vacation. It's funny how a few hundred miles can change so much. Having Neil there all the time was more than nice, not just for the help with Sophie, but to spend so much time with the man I married. Time away from our usual obligations.

We had wi-fi, in fact we both brought our laptops, and we had our iPhones, but we disconnected for the most part. We watched almost no tv and we spent the evenings just chilling out together; reading, talking. It wasn't exactly a second honeymoon, because there was, after all, a toddler along for the ride. A toddler who thought that 5:30am was when the day began. But we spent quality time together, cliched though that sounds. And I truly do think we rediscovered each other a little.

I don't want to let that go. How do you hold on to the vacation intimacy in the face of dirty floors and yards that need mowing and bills that need paying and meal planning and sleep deprivation? I wish I could compress that feeling into a pill and whenever we're feeling cross with each other or frustrated with Sophie, we could take the pill and find our way back to that place.

So I'll get back to my vacation recap, if for no other reason than to relive it. Soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summertime
















Is there anything more symbolic? Spitting out seeds, juice dripping down your chin and arms, that deliciously sweet taste. Watermelon IS summer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Beachy
















Still away, unplugged.
So many stories to tell.
They will have to wait.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

16,404

I took part in the Baltimore Women's Classic 5K. I have been training for months, building up from walking, to some running and mostly walking, to mostly running and some walking, to all running. It's all in preparation for the half-marathon I'm planning to run in October. The race took place at 8am in the morning and much like the days leading up to it, it was hot and muggy. Despite this, I felt confident.

There was one thing that made me nervous. Over the past month or so, I have noticed an increasing ache in my left ankle. I thought it was either a normal pain associated with beginning runners or that my precariously tiny ankles weren't up to the force of the impact. Either way, I felt that soldiering through was the way to go and I kept going at a harder and harder pace. I didn't worry that I couldn't finish the race, but I did worry that my ankle might not so I decided to take it a little easy last week, trying to give my ankle some time to recover and become strong again.

When the race day dawned, I was feeling rested and my ankle was in as good of shape as it has been in a while.

For the first mile, I felt pretty good.

It was somewhere around the halfway point that it started to ache. And then hurt. And then it was lightening bolts of pain. So I slowed to a walk, not that I was breaking any speed records anyway, and hobbled along.

But I hadn't sweated and suffered and pushed myself for the last three months to walk across the finish line, so after a half mile, I picked up the pace and I ran the last mile and change. I was huffing and puffing and my ankle was killing me, but I finished it. And I finished it running.


















I finally broke down and went to the doctor today and he thinks it might be a stress fracture. That'll teach me.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

BlogLove
















This past Thursday, I attended a fete hosted by my good bloggy friends, Kristin and Chris Ann of LoveFeast Table. They called it BlogLove and an education in coffee by the good folks at Zeke's Coffee was on the agenda and tasty treats like homemade biscotti and crepes made by Sweet Mary were on the menu.
















We were given the opportunity to taste our way through a variety of espressos, assessing the unique flavors of each. While I confess I am not much of a coffee person, it was definitely interesting to learn about the different varieties.

And even more interesting was our introduction to Kopi Luwak coffee. While we were not given a sample (it sells for upwards of $100 a cup!), we were told the unusual tale of this coffee. It begins like most coffee beans, but when the coffee berries ripen, they are eaten by Civets, a catlike mammal in Asia. The berries pass through the digestive system of the civet and after a day or so are pooped out. The coffee beans, which are basically the pits of the berry and so are not broken down by the digestive enzymes, are gathered, cleaned, dried and then roasted. Sometimes called Cat Scat Coffee, it is arguably the most expensive coffee in the world. Supposedly, because of its unusual path from bush to cup, it has a very mild flavor. They are currently featuring Kopi Luwak at Zeke's, so we were able to see and smell the beans. I can verify that it does not in fact smell like poo, but you'll have to visit Zeke's to taste it for yourself.

All in all, it was a really cool evening. I loved chatting with the other ladies in attendance: Jennifer of Hip As I Wanna Be, Mary of Sweet Mary,  Dara of Dining Dish and the Baltimore Dining Examiner, Beth of 990 Square, and Liz of Strawberries in Paris. And major bonus, we walked out with a fun little swag bag that included a beauty of a necklace from The Vintage Pearl. Great big thanks to Kristin and Chris Ann for putting the evening together!

*Clearly I've been doing some playing with Photoshop and my new Hipstamatic app on Lucille. Love me through it. 

**Top two photos courtesy of Jennifer of Hip As I Wanna B.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Common Plight?

It seems to be a common condition. Particularly for stay at home moms. We have dedicated our lives to our children. Which isn't to say that we don't have outside interests, but they almost all take a distant second to our children.

Guilt.

Moms feel guilty when they do anything that takes them away from the job of raising their children.

But not me. I don't feel guilty when I leave my daughter. Not for a couple of hours with her father or a trusted family member. And not for a long weekend away.

My time away from my daughter is regenerative for me. I NEED those hours and sometimes days to rediscover my love for being a stay at home mom. Do I miss her? Absolutely. But guilt? No way.

There is no other profession that doesn't allow for vacation days*. And I see myself as a professional mommy. I don't just want that time for myself, I DESERVE it. There is no expectation of a full three week vacation each year. I'm not even expecting a whole week, but I do expect some time for myself.

With Blogher '10 rapidly approaching, I'm preparing to spend a long weekend in New York City. Time with friends and fellow bloggers. Time when I can focus pretty much exclusively on MY wants. I can't tell you how excited I am for those days on my own. It doesn't mean I don't love my life and my family. It doesn't mean I'm a bad mom. It means that I love ME too.

What about you? Do you feel guilty leaving your child(ren)?


*Yes, I know there are plenty of jobs that don't offer paid vacation, but they at least allow for unpaid time off.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Innocence

Sophie has been sick the last few days. While I hate to see her so miserable, I have taken no small amount of joy from all of the extra hugs and cuddles. Having my baby fall asleep in my arms, on my chest, is a familiar and missed sensation.

She hasn't eaten much since she's been sick, and that worries me more than I want to talk about. We've never had any serious illnesses here. We've been very lucky. Of course, there have been colds and ear infections, but if I'm being honest, even the worst of those wasn't all that bad. I have a healthy child. I mostly attribute her strong immune system to the large quantity of unidentified foodlike items she eats off of the ground.

At the dinner table, after little more than a few nibbles, she laid her head down on her arms and closed her eyes. Alarm bells go off. While she could hardly be called a good eater, she generally at least eats some of whats on her plate. It is a rare day that she sits still for more than a few minutes and rarer still are the days when she is falling asleep before her head hits the pillow. Just one more reminder that not all is right here.

We carry her, half asleep, up to her room, and after a halfhearted attempt at brushing her teeth and a quick change into her new Dora sleepers, we put her to bed. With a kiss on her forehead, we leave her curled up in her bed asleep.

Twenty minutes later, Neil and I are down in the basement TV room when we hear a thumping noise. We look at each other but dismiss it as one of the cats or a noise from outside. After a few minutes, we hear the noise again. This time, it is definitely from inside and both of the cats are with us. My mind immediately goes to intruders, but Neil, the more rational of us, says that Sophie must be on a walkabout. A peek at the video monitor reveals an empty bed.

I lose at rock/paper/scissors and I set out for upstairs. As I hit the first floor, I call out to Sophie and I hear rapid footsteps on the second floor, a door closing and a couple more footsteps before it goes quiet. I look up the stairs and see her door is closed. When I open it, I find her curled up as though asleep. I say, chuckling, "you little faker." And she raises her head with a smile.

On the surface, this is a nothing experience. Except that it isn't. This is the first time she has shown a capacity for deception. Everything has changed.

A slice of innocence gone. My baby is growing up.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Welcome to Bawlmer, Hon!

















In Baltimore, a Hon is not just a charming endearment but a way of life. Anyone who's seen a John Waters movie (Hairspray 1988 is the best) has some idea of what a Hon is about. They're hard working, high living, Natty Boh drinking, animal print wearing, big hair having, loud laughing, bright makeup kind of women. They're no nonsense and down to earth. Don't think you can get anything by one of these gals, but once you've found a place in their heart, you're there forever.
















Each year the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore hosts an event to honor these ladies called Hon Fest. Among the many treats that await visitors to the festival are the Hon Beauty Contest (the bigger the hair, the better), the Little Miss Hon contest, great music, progressive art (lots of flamingos and velvet Elvises...Elvii?) and lots of food.
















Don't worry if you didn't get your Hon on before you got to the festival, there's a special salon right in the middle of all the action where you can get out of the heat and find your inner Hon.

















Come prepared to laugh. A lot. It's campy and crazy and tons of fun.
















Between the people watching, the dynamite food, and the fresh squeezed lemonade, it is impossible not to have a good time!


















For more, and far better pictures, check out my good friend John Waire's website. He was the official photographer of the Honfest and he did a fantastic job capturing the essence of this unusual festival.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Field Trip Fridays: Travel Peeves

Never let it be said I wasted an opportunity to complain. Traveling brings out the worst in some, and sometimes me. A few things that especially peeve me:

1. Family Pre-boarding. Before I had a kid, I used to watch the families with their strollers and wee ones smugly boarding the plane ahead of all of us no-young'uns types. Now, I didn't have children with the express desire to get preferred seating, but I did look forward to the day when I could look out at an empty plane and take whatever seat I wanted. Wouldn't you know that when I finally did have a kid, my favorite airline changed their policy and now families "pre"-board at the beginning of group B. That's 30-60 people before us. Great. Hey, thanks for the special consideration. Not.

2. Packing. I always pack twice as much as I need and yet it seems like no matter what I pack, it isn't right. What seemed totally appropriate at home somehow is totally wrong when we get there. I suspect there are luggage gremlins that secretly switch out my clothes and accessories while it is stowed away in the belly of the plane. They probably look like that thing from the Twilight Zone movie.

3.Never having pictures of the whole family. We have THOUSANDS of picture of our daughter and approaching that many of my husband. But precious few of all three of us. We need to bring along a designated photographer. Too much?

4. Extra charges. From airlines to rental cars to special excursions to hotels, you sign up for the GREAT rate and then you get the bill and there are extra fees and taxes that sometimes double the original amount. I understand why they do it, of course, but it still bugs the hell out of me.

5. Slow people in the fast lane. It's called THE FAST LANE for a reason. If you are going five miles under the speed limit, you are not fast. Get your slow moving vehicle back over into the right lane. And use a dagblasted turn signal when you do it. Harrumph.

What are your biggest travel pet peeves?

This post is part of Field Trip Fridays over at BlogTrotting!