Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Wondering: Stuck on the Sucker

People seem to feel the need to give my kiddo candy, this is especially grocery store cashiers and even doctors. And not only is it candy, it's almost always a sucker.

Two problems with this:

1) They hand this to the child as you are leaving where ever it is you're at. That means after we get outside I'll need to pry the candy away from Grace as she wails, "Minnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnneeee!" Fun times.

2) I'm pretty sure Grace hasn't had a sucker before. At least not to my knowledge. This means if I do let her have it, I'd likely find it stuck on the seat of the car, in Elmo fur (see picture) or, even worse, her in hair.  Grace always drops things when she's in her car seat -- sometimes intentionally as if to say "Hey, I'm going to toss this on the floor and tell Mommy to get it because it's a fun game to play while she's driving." 

So, I ask, why suckers? There's got to be some other item that could work, something else that says: "Here you go, thanks for being a good toddler and not shrieking in our store/waiting room/urgent care office."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Weekly Wondering: The Case of the ipod Touch

A few weeks ago I lost the case that I kept my ipod Touch in. Since I toss the thing into my bag everyday when I head to work, I need to have it in it's own case so it won't get all banged up. When I looked around to find a temporary fix, I thought to look in our coat closet. And there it was, the yellow and multi-colored bootie was the perfect size. It serves its protective purpose. But I'm hesitant to take the "case" out of my bag when I am in public. I don't think Jay even knows that I've been doing this -- he does now.

Which brings me to a something I'll plan to post on a weekly basis to get comments, insights and responses. I'm calling it my "Weekly Wondering."

What does having my ipod Touch in a baby bootie say about me?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Monkey See

I don't like to cook, but I really do like to bake. So figuring out what kind of cake to do for Grace's birthday each year will be something I look forward to. Since Jay's on a diet this year, I thought it would be a smart idea to do cupcakes instead of a cake so that those who came to our birthday gathering could take the extra cupcakes home with them. It so happened that I saw some cutely decorated cupcakes in a magazine. They looked fun and easy so I showed the picture of them to Grace and she exclaimed "Monkeys!!!!" Yep, these were it.

The photo and recipe have been on my fridge for over a month but I never read over the ingredients or cupcake procedure that closely. I was in for an mini-adventure. (The use of this term will become clear shortly.) I added the cupcake ingredients to our weekly grocery list and headed to the store. Two products almost put a halt to my plan. It was all going smooth until I was trying to find mini-Oreos. I'd never looked for these before and assumed they'd be in the cookie aisle. I also assumed they'd be by the other Oreo products. I started to panic when they weren't were I thought they'd be. What else could I use? These cookies were the monkey ears, what other food would work? Then as I walked further down the aisle, away from other Oreos, I found them in a bag, right next to gingersnaps. How odd and how handy, all at once. I needed gingersnaps too. Phew. So now to the next mini-item. Mini-M&Ms. Here my assumption was that they'd be in the candy aisle. Being Valentine's weekend there were a plethora of bags of small packaged candies. I dug around and didn't find any that included mini-M&Ms. Ahghhhhhghhhh. Again I started thinking, what would be the same size as mini-M&Ms that I could use for eyes? The only thing that came to mind were those little red hot candies, but then all my monkeys would look possessed. I finally found an entire bag of little packages of mini-M&Ms that was tossed in the wrong bin. I grabbed 'em and thank goodness we had everything we needed. Lesson for Kate: Read the fine print in these magazine recipes.

So the day before Grace's party I started the baking process. This was the easy part. Even making the homemade frosting worked well. Then the decorating. It was make or break time. The prep of the decorating implements was fun at first. I needed to "clean out" the filling of the mini-Oreos. Tasty. (Yes, I used a knife, not my tongue!) Then I read the directions to the next part: "Cut the gingersnaps." What do they mean by "cut"? The first few I took a knife to promptly shattered. Then I tried a few other things which resulted in treats for my pug assistant. Finally I used a knife to score the top of the cookie and then picked it up and snapped it. It broke right where it was supposed to. Another phew. After opening seven packs of mini-M&Ms to get the necessary 36 brown ones for the monkey eyes, I was ready for the cupcake assembly line to begin.

First the mouth, then the ears. Mouth, ears ... on all 18 cupcakes. Now the part that could be tricky. The eyes. The tube of frosting I had was too big and if I put an obnoxious amount on the cupcake it could ruin it. I did a few "test eyes" on the back of some of the shattered gingersnaps using the non-brown M&Ms. One turned out very well so I felt I was ready to move on to the real thing. I ended up having two test monkeys. With not enough white frosting they looked ... eyeless. But then I got the hang of it. 

The last few steps. First, little bits of frosting for nostrils. Got it. Done. The last step, little tuffs of frosting hair on the monkey heads. I skipped this last step. I'd created some quite cute cupcakes and I had an inkling that this last touch could be the end of their cuteness. (I took this photo of some of them before I realized that a few were caged monkeys. Hee.  Notice that I have the magazine image placed way away from my cupcakes so there is not the opportunity for a direct comparison. Ha.) 

Grace's birthday party day arrived and I was wondering if all the work was worth it. When I saw this little face consuming a monkey face, I had my answer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Truth -- It Hurts

Two years ago today I was being lied to by well-meaning labor and delivery nurses.

"You'll likely give birth before noon." = Grace was born at 3:18 p.m.

"You're through the worst of it." = Hmmm, not sure what their definition of "worst" was -- but I don't think it was the same as mine.

But I thank them for their lies because it made me realize the truth. The fact is, in my heart I wanted give birth naturally, I just wasn't brave enough to make that declaration. Their encouraging (albeit non-truthful) words allowed me to be honest with myself.  

The nurses said that I'd forget the pain of giving birth over time. But I haven't and don't want to. The pain of labor and delivery is part of what I experienced on the day that we got to meet our daughter. It's a part of our history together. It'll always be with me.

Since we're talking truthfulness, I feel obligated to be totally honest about something. Grace is the most beautiful, hilarious, smart 2-year-old you'll ever meet.

And that's no lie.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Less is More

Jay and I eat very different meals. And by that, I mean different from eachother, not different than what other couples and families ate, although it was likely that too. We knew that we would need eat as a family once we started having kids (or in our case, kid : ) For a long time I was hyper-obsessed with fat content and eating "healthy" foods. Jay ... well, he was pretty much the opposite. So, some of our usual meals would be me eating vegetable soup or a baked potato and him eating a multitude chicken tenders in buffalo wing sauce (many of them) with blue cheese dressing. Neither of our methods were model eating by any means. For the past few months, our meals have continued to differ, but with a purpose.

Things have changed.

Jay's been on weight managment program. He's eaten mostly shakes and oatmeal and nutrition bars for the past months. He's lost 70-some pounds since September. He's looking and feeling great. His motivation? Grace. She's so active that he wants to always be able to keep up with her, and be around for her too.

Jay's done awesome. (Here's before and after pictures. He hasn't worn the soccer jersey since college. And he says it fits him better today than it did back then.)

He hasn't whined or been grumpy about the diet. Not at all. And now he's eyeing fruits and vegetables Grace and I are having with interest. (Since I've been "cooking" for just Grace and I, I'm eating better than I ever did. Providing a balanced meal for Grace means a balanced meal for me too.)

Let us not forget that this eating healthy shift has occurred in the land of cheese and beer. The fact that I'm not dragging Jay to Friday night fish frys every week might be to his advantage too : ) We've avoided having any snack temptations in the house which has been relatively easy. The things I snack on, dried fruit and granola bars, aren't things that tempt Jay in the least. The only item that I feel I sacrificed for him was a little thing called Jumbo Rice Krispies. Those things are good! So good that a box rarely lasts 24 hours in our house. Serious.

At the time Jay started the program, we both happened to read the book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think (by Brian Wansink). A very, very interesting book that really gives insight into why we eat so much often without even knowing it. (Owning big dinner plates we feel like we need to fill with food -- mmm, pasta. Motivation to clean said plate -- don't want to waste any food! The convenience of not so healthy foods -- hello candy bar from Ms. Vending Machine. You get the picture.) Such obvious things, but things that are fixable without going on a diet-diet.

We're looking ahead to healthy, tasty family meals (which we have realized is indeed possible) and enjoying some special treat meals (ahhh, McDonald's, you know we love you.

Jay's also been working out regularly. While he's always been active (softball and volleyball in particular), it wasn't a regular part of his week. We are very much looking forward to family fitness (spring, where are you?). A handy Christmas gift -- Mr. Lawn Tractor -- will mean Jay spends less time mowing on weekends, and more time with Grace and I.

Since Jay's made such a huge change in his life, I've given in on something I have protested for years. Jay wants us to go bicycling as a family. Sounds like a simple request, right? Well he happened to marry someone for whom the phrase "It's just like riding a bike." does not apply. I have had many bikes in my life, but for some reason I've never been very good at it. (Meaning, I get on the thing and fall over and bruise the heck out of myself.) So I balked at the idea of family bike riding -- until now. Inspired by Jay's dedication, I'm willing to give it a try again. As long as our bike trips don't lead to the McDonald's drive-thru, I think we're on the right track.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Making Up for "Lost" Time

I've never watched Lost. Ever. Not sure why or how that happened. Perhaps the show debuted when I was working on my dissertation so I felt that I didn't have time for another hour-long drama (we were already watching 24 among many other things). That was 2004 and now it's 2010. Lots has changed, but two things remain the same. Still working on the dissertation and still haven't watched Lost.

I'm told by a reputable source (Jay) that I'd really like the show. He didn't watch it right away either, but got caught up over the years. I remember catching glimpses every now and then, and asking him, "What the heck is going on?" I guess that's a common reaction to the show.

And now it's the last season. What are my options? I'm not one to watch television by myself, so I can't see myself catching up on the show over the next few months. Not to mention the lack of time I have when I get home (teaching an online course, developing another online course, working on the aforementioned dissertation and most importantly, being a mama and wife).

Then, last night Jay mentioned that he DVR'd a pretty decent synopsis which provides the main gist of what's happened. After watching that, we'll watch the last season together.

I know there'll be some haters out there, saying "You can't do that! We've invested years into this show and now you think you can just watch a Cliff Notes version and jump right in!?!"

Yep. That's pretty much what I'm going to do.