Saturday, December 22, 2012

Silent Night

His new habit is to reach up and stroke our faces while we feed him. Sweetness.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

This face says it all. We're so over hearing about these apocalyptic predictions. Honestly, did anyone really believe the world was going to end? I mean, how would the Mayans even know?

Now if we could just get everyone to shut up about this fiscal cliff nonsense too, I'd be a lot happier. Just make the deal already, people.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The National Christmas Tree

I really don't understand how Christmas has snuck up on me this year. Thanksgiving was so early, it seems like I should have had all the time in the world to get ready for it. I think it probably has something to do with Chuk's crazy end of semester school schedule and a teething baby and each of us getting sick. Things have finally settled into a more normal pace and I'm determined to squeeze as much holiday spirit and quality family time into the remaining days of 2012 as I can.
Now that we've grown to a family of three, it's really important to me that we begin to establish some family traditions. I want our holidays (all holidays, not just the December ones) to be based on creating memories together rather than material acquisition. We've only bought the baby three presents for Christmas; they were $1 each and came from the Target dollar spot.* I'm making him some things too, but I'm trying to be realistic in recognizing that he really doesn't need anything, can't appreciate things yet, and has limited storage space in his room.
Instead of gifts, we have lots of activities planned from looking at Christmas lights in our neighborhood to baking to singing carols. One night, after work this week, we were able to check another fun activity off our list. We went to see the new National Christmas tree (the old one fell down this summer in the durecho) and all the small state and territory trees. We also posed for another free picture with Santa. (Baby was happier than he looks in this picture, but the shutter got snapped between smiles.)

It was so nice to be out doing festive things with my guys. The evening left me feeling quite merry and bright.

*For the curious, we got him a wood and metal tambourine, a metal slinky, and a small sensory ball that is similar to these

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meals for a Family with a New Baby

Our longtime friends had a baby! We got to visit when he was just a week old. It was crazy holding him and thinking my baby was this small seven months ago. Where does the tininess go? Sigh. I really, REALLY miss it. Anyway, we're all hoping these two little boys will be the best of friends someday.
Since the mom was recovering from a Cesarean and they now have two kids under two (Remember when we met big sister?) we brought food, lots of food. For families with a new baby, I think it's more helpful to bring a whole day's worth of food rather than just dinner, if you can possibly manage it. The family's routine is off, they're sleep deprived, and I think it's sometimes harder to figure out what to eat for breakfast or lunch than what to eat for dinner. After all, you can always order a pizza for dinner, but you can't get breakfast delivered.
This particular family is kind of hard to make food for because the mom doesn't eat red meat, pork, or shellfish and toddlers are notoriously picky too. Plus, I think you have to be thoughtful about foods that might upset the baby's tummy if the mom is nursing. Broccoli, cabbage, onions, and excessive garlic can cause gas pain in newborns. Personally, I like to go easy on the dairy too, since many babies are lactose sensitive.
I did a lot of brainstorming to come up with a menu for them.
Breakfast: Cranberry scones (Joy of Cooking recipe, but I use craisins instead of currants)
Lunch: Veggie wraps (hummus, lettuce, cucumber, bell pepper, tomato, carrot)
Dinner: BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches, carrot slaw
Dessert/Snack: Chocolate chocolate chip muffins

I wish I had done a spinach and mushroom quiche instead of the scones for added protein and nutrition and I also wish I had time to add another side dish for dinner (I would have made green beans sauteed with almonds) but I have a baby too and can't do everything. I have to keep telling myself, something is better than nothing.
If you're looking for meal ideas for your own meal deliveries, some other meal ideas I came up with but didn't use are:
Breakfast: pumpkin bread, banana bread, bagels and cream cheese, waffles, fritata, egg sandwiches
Lunch: chicken salad, tuna salad, chicken Cesar salad, quiche
Dinner: vegetarian taco bar with beans and Spanish rice, salmon pasta alfredo with garlic bread and veggies, pesto pasta, chili and cornbread, lasagne
Snacks: celery with peanut butter, veggies with onion dip, chips and salsa, oatmeal cookies, fruit salad

For more inspiration about delivering meals, you should check out the hospitality archives of the defunct blog Like Merchant Ships. Meredith has delivering beautiful, nutritious, affordable meals down to a science. Start here, here, here, or here.

Linking to Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are You Freaking Kidding Me: Stamps

Photo Credit
Today, yet again, I tried to get stamps for our holiday cards, and once again, I failed. As soon as the baby woke up from his nap, I changed his diaper, put him in the carrier and walked straight down to the post office. The postal worker closed the door in my face and locked it. (It was the grumpy guy that I hate anyway, so I'm not too surprised by his behavior.)

At this point, I was still determined to get the stamps. I just turned right around and headed back home. I didn't even go into my apartment, I just loaded us into the car and drove to the main post office. The parking lot was packed, but I got the last space left. Score!

I went in and the line was all the way to the door. No problem, I thought, I planned on using the automated postal machine anyway since I only needed stamps. There was only one lady in front of me. She was printing labels for packages, many, many packages. Whatever, I thought, it's still faster than the line for actual humans.

Fifteen minutes later, when my arm was about to fall off from holding my giant baby I'm staring daggers into the back of this lady's skull. Dude, don't you know I only need to buy stamps? Why is this taking you so long? A line has formed behind me and I'm long past regretting not bringing the baby carrier in with me.
Photo Credit
Finally, after a kabillion more years, she finishes printing all her shipping labels. Her tag is sticking out of her shirt and I think this is her karma for not being efficient with the machine. I step up and select the buy stamps option and hit the continue button. It gives me an option to buy one little printout sticker label for a first class letter. I think I must have selected the wrong option and go back. I want normal books of stamps, not weird bar code thingies. But no, somehow there is no option for a book of stamps. Really?! Really?!

Between the two post offices, I've been trying to buy stamps for almost an hour. With a heavy heart, I step away from the machine and get in line, which is now out the door, for a cashier. Another customer swings the door hard and it almost hits my baby in the head. I stopped it with my foot at the very last second. Merry Christmas to you too, A------.

The line isn't moving. My arms are burning as I futilely pass my child from the left to the right back to the left again, trying to get him in a more comfortable hold. We wait and wait and wait. I keep whispering in his ear, "You're doing such a great job, Buddy. Thanks for being my patient helper. We're going to be done soon." He doesn't understand what I'm saying, but I feel like we both need the encouragement.

He takes a long look all around the post office, then looks up at me with his big blue eyes and silently barfs all over both of us. Message received. We'll go home now.

And today is the day I'll remember as the time my seven month old had more sense than any of us adults. He knew we were all going to die waiting in that post office like we were in some existential French play. At the time I felt relieved to give up and go home, but now, typing this, I realize I still have a stack of cards and no stamps and I'm going to have to face the post office all over again. Ho, ho, ho, humbug.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Meaningful, Affordable Gift Idea (With Tutorial)

I'm sometimes wary of DIY gifts because too often I find that the cost of supplies exceeds the cost of a comparable store bought gift and with the former you're having to invest your time too, which can be in short supply at this time of year. In contrast, I promise this handmade ornament is both inexpensive and easy (if your hand model is in a cooperative mood.)

I bought a tub of clay from Target (in the office/art supplies section) for something like $5.00, give or take. For a baby hand print, you need to grab a hunk of clay about the size of your two hands balled together, slightly larger than a baseball. With all rings off, work the clay in your hands for a few minutes to make sure there aren't any air bubbles in the clay, and then roll into a ball like it's a meatball. While you're rolling, the goal is to make sure there are no seams in the ball.

Put the ball on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a second piece of plastic wrap. Here's a thrifty tip: Pre-used plastic wrap (clean, of course) actually works better than a new piece of plastic wrap because it's less clingy, and it also seems to be less likely to wrinkle during the next step. 
With the clay between the plastic, slowly roll the ball into a flat disk with a rolling pin. More passes with less pressure makes the plastic less likely to wrinkle and leave undesired imprints in the clay. When your clay is about 1/4 inch thick, pull the top piece of plastic off the perfectly smooth, flat disk.
Grab your hand model and put his hand on the disk. Use one hand to hold his hand in place (probably unnecessary if the hand model can be relied on not to wiggle) and your other hand to press the top of each part of his hand, to get an even imprint. Remember to place his hand towards the bottom of the disk so you have room to make a hole. My instinct was to try and center my model's hand, but that doesn't work for the next step.

Use a drinking straw to make a hole at the top of the ornament for hanging. Let dry for several days. Mine took about 3-4 days to dry completely. If desired, you could write the name of the hand model and the date on the back with a permanent marker.
A 2.5 pound container of clay will make at least six baby hand prints, so this gift costs about $1 each, yet it's thoughtful and personal. I also like that it's not messy (the clay isn't sticky) and doesn't take a lot of time if you do it assembly line style (i.e., roll all the balls, then flatten them all into disks, then do the hand impressions, then wipe your model's hand, then punch the holes.) You could also not punch the hole and give it with a plate stand if you think your recipient would prefer to display the hand print year round rather than have an ornament.

These are ideal gifts for parents and grandparents. We already gave one to my notoriously hard to shop for father-in-law and he liked it very much. We're keeping two for ourselves (one of each hand) and when Baby is grown up and moves out (*sob*) we'll give him one to take with him.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What's Been Going On

Since I last wrote, we've been keeping busy.
This guy wore a bow tie on Thanksgiving, which was pretty hilarious. It was a tie that had belonged to my husband when he was a boy.

Not to brag, but this was the best turkey I've ever had in my life. It's gone now. We ate it for lunch and dinner everyday for more than a week.

My baby tried solid food for the first time on Thanksgiving. (I've been exclusively breast feeding for seven months! This was not my plan, but he's been developing on the slow side with the milestones.) He did really well with it, but caught a cold the next day so we haven't given him any more food since then so he could get the breast milk antibodies and whatnot.

We got our Christmas tree.

My 20 pound seven month old and his 29 pound three year old cousin.
We went to see my in-laws, which wound up being a total nightmare. I think my sister-in-law has a personality disorder.

Chuk and I celebrated seven years together with a fancy Italian dinner. Baby came along too, so it wasn't so much romantic as it was entertaining/exhausting, but it was still nice.

We still take lots of walks.

And we've been trying to squeeze as much family time in around Chuk's finals schedule as possible.

Of course, we spend most of our time just playing at home.

But tonight someone got to meet Santa for the first time. He was unimpressed.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Let's Talk Turkey

Turkey 2009
It's just the three of us at home for Thanksgiving this year because Chuk is too busy finishing up the end of the semester for us to travel anywhere or host. Honestly though, I'm kind of excited to be doing a small, family Thanksgiving. It feels good to be establishing our own traditions now that we have Baby.

So since it's just going to be the two of us eating, we got a 19.5 pound turkey, obviously. (My turkey and my son are almost exactly the same size. Ha!) We'll also be having eight sides and two kinds of pie. Ridiculous? Absolutely! But it's Chuk's favorite holiday and feasting is pretty much the point of it, so how could I say no? At least we both like leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everybody.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Naughty is His Middle Name

List of things I never thought I'd say that I've said today:

  • Stop putting your foot in the poop.
  • Come here, please. I am allowed to clean throw up off of you.
  • 'No' means the opposite of funny. (When I say "no" in a serious voice, it always elicits a laugh.)
  • Hang on, I'm just going to get that booger out for you.
  • Please stop trying to eat my face. You're getting slobber all over me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Guilt Over Not Feeling Guilty, or I Hired a Babysitter for Tonight

I can account for every moment I've spent away from my son during his whole life. In six and a half months, I've spent exactly 15.5 hours away from him, or about a half hour a week, and that includes EVERYTHING including the time he was in the hospital as a newborn, the four trips to the grocery store I've made without him, the one time I had lunch with my mom and sister, the time Chuk and I got pizza while my mom stayed with my sleeping baby, everything. My husband has, on occasion, spent more time away from him in a single day than I have in his whole life.

I don't think this is entirely healthy for me. I can see how easy it would be for me to sacrifice my hobbies and interests and give up larger and larger pieces of myself to motherhood. But being a mom, as wonderful as it is, isn't the only thing that defines me, or at least I don't want it to be.

So I've started trying to find ways to take breaks. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it. My husband works full time and is taking four graduate level classes, so even though he's a feminist, he's not much help, but we're talking about him taking on baby duty three nights that he doesn't have class so I can take an intro to knitting class, something I've been wanting to do for a long time.

More monumentally, I temporarily overcame my shyness and asked our upstairs neighbor, the one who's always asking to hold the baby and covering him in kisses, to babysit tonight so Chuk and I can go to a concert. This is a major milestone, people. I'm leaving my baby with someone who isn't his parent and not my mom. We're going to see Ray Lamontagne and I couldn't be more excited. I saw him in concert eight years ago and he was fantastic. Chuk and I danced to him at our wedding too, so it'll be an extra special date night.

But I'm nervous too, not so much about the baby, who I think will be in good hands, but about my neighbor. My baby has been on a nap strike all week (that's another story, but suffice it to say, good Lord, I've earned this night off!) and has suddenly started getting fussy during diaper changes. He's never been put to sleep by anyone besides me. What if he cries the whole time we're gone? My husband, mom and I are bound by blood to love him even if he's screaming his head off, but the babysitter, not so much. I expect it to be fine (my plan is to have him in bed before the babysitter arrives, knock on wood) but there's always that twinge of doubt in the back of one's mind.

I'm forcing myself to get over it though. And just to gild the lily, I'm leaving the baby with Chuk on Saturday night and going to an Aretha Franklin show with a girlfriend. Yes, I'm leaving my baby two nights in a row. I figure belting out R-E-S-P-E-C-T will assuage any ovarian guilt I might be feeling.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Trying to Be a Good Friend During the Hard Times

I don't know if everyone ages this way, but I'm always kind of surprised by the fact that I'm an adult. I still kind of feel like I'm faking it. And the truth is, I don't know what I'm doing. Recently, I've been hit with situation after situation that I don't know how to handle. Adult situations. Situations that have me sitting, thinking, wishing there was a manual. 

Earlier this year, my friend's long awaited for son died when he was five weeks old. Another friend was accused of a crime I am certain he didn't commit, but his lawyer thinks he will be convicted of anyway. Yet another friend is breaking her engagement and having to find a new job and move out of the home she shares with her fiance. My friend's, who I've known since I was twelve years old who used to be like a sister to me, husband is charged with a crime and being held in jail on one million dollar bond. Another friend is getting divorced after nine years of marriage.

My heart aches and aches and aches for them all, but I don't know how to respond. What do you say to someone whose life is ruined? How do you react when it might not get better? How can I be a good friend in uncharted territory?

I don't know. I don't know that I'll ever figure it out. I write short, awkward emails saying I'm sorry and that I support them. I send Facebook messages saying I just want to check in and that I'm thinking about them. It doesn't feel like enough, but I can't think of more. I don't feel like a good friend, but I'm trying.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Activities for Infants

All day today I've been thinking it was Friday. Even yesterday I thought today would be Friday. Every time I've realized today is only Thursday I am exceedingly disappointed. Long week, friends, long week.

Anyway, now that the weather is getting colder here I've been having trouble thinking of things to do with the baby to help fill our days. Our default is stay at home and hang out or go to the park and look at the trees, looking at trees is Baby's favorite thing, but soon the leaves will be all gone. It's hard coming up with things to do with an infant; it's not like we can do a craft project or bake something or play a game. He can't even sit up and holding things is a hit or miss proposition. He's mostly in to just looking at stuff. It's extra awesome if that stuff moves, but not too fast for him to see it.
So I've come up with two lists, an inside list and an outside list, for things we can do when the weather is bad and when it is nicer out. Most of the ideas are completely free, but the ones with a fee are $5 or less. If you don't live in my area, not all of these things may be available to you, but perhaps it will help you to think of some ideas of fun things to do where you live.

Pet store to look at fish
Watch people swim at the indoor pool*
Soft playroom**
Botanical Gardens Conservatory (Specifically, the waterfall in the Hawaii room)
     National Gallery's water fountain
     Portrait Gallery's atrium with its undulating ceiling and large area to run around
     Natural History for dinosaurs
     Building Museum** (The playroom will be fun when he's a little older.)
     American History (Probably the least interesting for babies, but it has lots of toys on display.)
Visit Chuk at work
Ride the bus or metro**
Book store
Coffee shop** to people watch
Take a bath together***

Dog park
Spray ground
Playground (For myself, I list out all five playgrounds within walking distance of my apartment.)
Feed ducks at the river
Watch the bigger kids play sports at school, soccer field, or little league field
Arboretum for the koi pond (and the trees, obviously, trees are his favorite)
Walk around the neighborhood
Sculpture Garden to watch ice skaters in the winter and fountain in the spring

*Our city's indoor pool has a large window between the lobby and the pool so we don't have to be on the actual pool deck.
**Fee associated with this activity
***Not outside the house, but still different from playing with our same old toys.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


If you haven't already, please go vote today. Although I almost never write about politics on this blog, it is a subject I feel passionately about. Women have been able to vote in this country for less than 100 years. All over the world, people are fighting for the right to vote, risking both jail and violence to do so. Don't squander your right.

I'm taking the baby with me to vote this afternoon, partially because I don't have childcare, but mostly because it's never too early for me to start indoctrinating him. The great thing about living in a swing state is that I feel like my vote really matters. The not so great thing is, of course, all the political ads. I can't wait for those to be over.

Chuk voted on Friday because he is working as an election official today. Do you realize the election officials make less than minimum wage and probably took a day off work to help keep our republic running smoothly? Please be nice to them. It's a long day at the polls for them. Chuk has to be there at 4:45 am and they told him he'd likely be there until after 8:00 pm.

If you live in the DC area, and still haven't figured out who you're voting for, this voter guide is very helpful. Unfortunately, I didn't discover it until I had already spent three hours Saturday night researching school board and city council candidates. Argh. I may love politics, but it turns out I don't love reading local election debate transcripts.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Birthday Freebies

One of the nice things about birthdays is getting free food from restaurants. Many of the offers are good for a week or two after your actual birthday, so you have an opportunity to take advantage of several. Here are some that I'm signed up for or have heard about:

California Tortilla will give a free burrito if you're a member of their Burrito Elito program. Good for two weeks after your birthday. (This is my favorite chain Mexican restaurant. The offer lots of other promotions throughout the year as well and only send an email once a month. You can get a free taco on Tuesday if you say "vote" to the cashier.)

IHOP will give you a free Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, or meal of equal or lesser value, within a week of your birthday. You have to print an email and bring it in to redeem the offer. They'll also give you one free meal for your anniversary, but just one, so your spouse will have to pay or you'll have to go by yourself.

Noodles and Company will give you a free noodle bowl within a week of your birthday. I forget the exact dollar amount of the offer but it's like $8. You have to print and bring in an email to redeem the offer.

Cold Stone Creamery offers a buy one get one free coupon for your birthday. Again you have to print an email and bring it in to redeem.

According to their website, Denny's offers a free Grand Slam on your birthday. My friend told me about this offer so I'm not sure if you have to be signed up for their email to get it.

Do you know of any other birthday deals or freebies?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Six Months

I feel so overwhelmed with conflicting emotions--sadness regarding how quickly he's growing up, a sense of loss of his tiny days, pride at his new accomplishments, and overwhelming love. Mostly love. He is pure sweetness and I can't get enough.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Party Menu

I'm doing reverse trick-or-treating this year instead of having a real Halloween party, but the menu for my imaginary Halloween party is coming together nicely. I'm trying to keep it theme-y with as many orange and black foods as possible. Maybe next year.
Bloody Marys
Some kind of Oktoberfest beer
Orange soda

Roasted garlic (to keep away vampires)
Cheddar cheese (orange, not white cheddar)
Served on mini slices of pumpernickel (or any black bread)
Maybe Doritos too (depending on the crowd)

Roasted carrots
Mashed sweet potatoes or the black rice I saw at the natural foods store

Pumpkin pie
Halloween candy

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Are You Freaking Kidding Me: Keep Your Big Trap Shut Edition

When did people stop following the whole "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" rule? Today, the baby and I went to Target to get some more infant acetaminophen (side note: teething is kicking our butts and the amber necklace is not living up to the hype) and the checker kept talking to my baby and calling him "Butterball". She must have said it at least half a dozen times in the few minutes it takes to check out. At one point, she even reached out and pinched his thigh and said, "Look at those fat thighs!"

Dude, my baby's not fat! He's in the 97th percentile for height and only the 67th percentile for weight. Proportionally, he's a little slimmer than most babies. Do people just not realize that babies are supposed to be chubbier than adults? When did it become OK to comment on other's weight? How hard is it to just say, "What a cutie" so we can both continue along with our days without me imagining throwing discount boxes of generic Tylenol at your head while screeching like a banshee, "My baby's perfect THANKYOUVERYMUCH. Don't you dare touch him!"?

Really people, really. Let's all just keep our opinions to ourselves, shall we?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Western Maryland

Panorama of Deep Creek Lake
I always ask for a trip for my birthday. Plan A was a cheap cruise out of Baltimore, but that was deemed (by Chuk) not doable with a baby, too expensive, and too time consuming. Plan B was staying in a yurt at Deep Creek Lake State Park in Maryland. I have such a fascination with yurts. Unfortunately, when we arrived the yurt was already occupied. (They don't take reservations, so we knew it was a hit or miss plan.) Plan C was stay in a hotel but still check out the fall foliage in the area.
Chuk planned all the baby's outfits for the weekend. Notice the bear on his shirt. 
While I'd still love to stay in a yurt one day, Plan C worked out beautifully. I'd never been to that part of Maryland before and it was just gorgeous.

The weather was perfectly cool and crisp. We took some short hikes and were able to admire the changing leaves and check out some waterfalls.
Bundled up and ready to hike
Muddy Creek Falls, the highest in Maryland

I love living in the city, but weekends in the country are sometimes just the thing. We had a lovely, relaxing time.
And one the way home, we saw a double rainbow! They aren't very clear in this picture, but in real life the one on the left was so vibrant. I'm taking it as a good omen for my 33rd year.