Saturday, January 22, 2011

Month Four

Guess who is four months old already?
Oh, this little man of ours. Such a sweetheart, but it's been a little bit of a rough month, though. Before Christmas, he was sleeping through the night. What?? He's not a year old yet. I swear, I only ever whispered it, knowing that if I said it out loud it would all be ruined. Sure enough, he started refusing to nap during the day, and I figured that was my punishment. Hah! You think you can gain back some sanity? We'll see how you do with THREE kids that don't nap. Then, he started gifting me with every two hour wake up calls. No fever. I finally took him to the doctor and sure enough, the poor thing had an ear infection. It took another week for him to return to his old smily self.

Now we're just battling nasty eczema, moisturizing at least twice a day and saying lots of prayers that it is only winter dryness, and not some other allergy trigger. This would be much earlier than his sister's bout with similar issues. So far, he's not nearly as miserable as she was at her worst. I seem to be able to keep it relatively well controlled, though it always comes back.

He laughs out loud these days, watching his brother and sister's every move. He wants so badly to hold things and shove them in his mouth, and gets a little better at it every day. He has rolled over twice now, both times seemingly on accident, and hasn't been able to repeat it. He's sleeping in his own room now, for the last two weeks. (One of my experiments to try to get him to please, please sleep, thinking maybe he was getting big enough to wake himself rolling into the sides of his bassinet) In the last two days, he has taken two naps in his very own crib! Mostly, though, he'd rather be on Mommy's hip or in one of my front packs/slings. He prefers to be held face out, to get a view on the action.

Seriously. You don't have to be so happy about growing up so fast.
Better watch it, or we'll put you to work.
You could use a little exercise for those thunder thighs of yours.
Oh, okay. We'll get out the exersaucer to celebrate this little milestone.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Things to do in Cincinnati in the snow

1. Marvel at the fact that snow days are so much longer than school days, even though no child in your house goes to school for longer than three hours at a time.

2. Convince your mom to try some 'Minute to Win It' games at home. Good ones involve picking up pasta with spaghetti in your mouth; dice stacked on a popsicle stick in your mouth, stacking cookies into a unicorn horn on your forehead, and picking up jelly beans by sucking on a straw. Sorry no photos because it was kind of funny.

3. Play with your neon paint spinner thing. Make sure to use up all the paint and paper that goes with it in a shorter amount of time than it took to get it out of the box and change the batteries.

4. Play some other games: Twister, Rainforest Memory, Left Right Center, Trouble and Tinkerbell Crazy 8's. Interrupt each game with at least one fight over whose turn it is, and who gets to have the most favorite card/gam
e piece.

5. Play hide and seek in the basement. Make your sister cry by hiding upstairs instead.

6. Make a "penguin" out of a washcloth, water, glue stick, and bubble gum tooth paste. Hide it in your bedroom for your mom to find later.

7. Work really hard on your hair.
8. Entertain your baby brother so that Mommy doesn't have to hold him EVERY minute.
9. Gather every single stuffed friend in the house for a CD listening party.

10. Ask Mommy to please, please please release the big dump truck from its time out on the top shelf of the coat closet. Promise that you won't vroom it all over the house. Actually listen for once, and create a construction area instead and build a block city.

11. When the afternoon starts to get long, go to the old standby, pillow pile on the staircase. Change back into pajamas to be extra cozy.

12. Stand on the back of the couch looking out the window at the snow filling up the bowls you put on the table on the deck. Wear your mom's boots outside to bring the bowls in. Enjoy your snow sundae.

13. Watch TV on your mom's bed for a while. Decide that there is only one pillow that you can possibly lounge on, and smack your sister because she is on it instead. When she screams, hold that pillow over her head. Wake up your baby brother from the nap he is FINALLY taking in his own crib. Get really mad when Mom says you have to go to your room, and enlist your most fierce friends in your retaliatory attack.

14. If you feel like you really need to get out of the house, go watch big crazy mascots play broomball downtown at Fountain Square. Root for the Xavier Musketeer, of course. Though the garage door opener and the recycling bin were also strong players.

14. If you happen to be the mommy, be really, really really glad that you are not newly pregnant and nauseous during this year's cabin fever season.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Books For You!

I spend large parts of my day explaining to my kids why they can't have everything they want, right now.

No, you can't have five pieces of candy before breakfast.
No, we're not watching any more shows right now.
You need to have some of your apple and sandwich before you can have some chips.
Yes, you need to do your homework.
No, we're not going to leave the family room a mess for yet another day.

Right after Christmas we had a frustrating weekend where O. and N. were on the verge of tears for two days straight because we refused to take them to Target and buy them a toy. As if Santa and all the people who love them did not practically fill our home with new things for them at our three different Christmas celebrations. I worried that we were really doing something wrong and were creating selfish and spoiled little people.

Mostly, I know they are just kids. Yes, they are a little spoiled. But they don't understand much about delayed gratification. Most of the treats and material things they receive are for important occasions like birthdays and holidays. It's hard to wait for those things when every day seems like the whole world to them. Maybe I'm rationalizing. It's true there is more J and I could do to instill the traits of gratitude, charity and empathy in our children. But these are skills difficult for adults sometimes, built over a lifetime. And it sure does feel like I say 'no' to my kids an awful lot.

So, when it comes to books, especially at the library, I'm all about YES. You want to check out Iris Has a Virus for the eighteenth time? Fine. You want all three of the Dinosaur Cove chapter books that are on the shelf this time? Great. You want a whole stack of books? Absolutely.

We are pack mules on our trips in and out of the library, nearly every week. I do a pretty good job of keeping track of all of them, given how many we have out at any given time. Due dates often overlap, since DVDs are only allowed out for a week, renewable once, and books are allowed out for a month. We renew online, I print out lists of what we need to return when.and
mostly we stay on top of it. Sure, we don't always get everything back on time, but I am pretty good at staying well below the ten dollar fine limit. (Impressive, if you ask me, since the going overdue rate is twenty cents a day for books, and a dollar a day for DVDs, we usually have at least fifteen books and five movies at a time). We take good care of the materials, not leaving fingerprints all over the DVDs nor ripping up pages. N. is highly offended when she sees a page has been torn or someone has scribbled on a picture. Point is, we're good library customers.

So, imagine my surprise tonight when I had to tell my kids that NO, we cannot check out the stack of books and movies you picked out tonight. Yes, we have to leave them all there on the desk and go home empty handed.

We had neglected to return one book that is now one week overdue.

When we went to gather all the books up to return to the library today, we didn't come up with that one. Yes, I was irritated with the kids that we couldn't find it. And of course it was one of the overdue books that we couldn't find. But I was tired of trying to look under beds and couches with a baby on my hip, figured it would turn up as soon as we weren't actively looking for it. Also, I suspected it had gotten packed away with the Christmas books, and I really did not have it in me to go down and go through stacked bins of Christmas decorations.

This is not the first time we've had a straggling missing book. Usually they turn up shoved behind someone's bed or between books on the bookshelf. One time, I knew we had left one at a soccer game and it was gone for good. In the past, the attitude of workers at the library branch we go to has been "keep looking" -- maybe it will turn up. The soccer game one, I tried to pay for twice because I was pretty positive it was a goner from early on, but was put off for another week or so.

So, I had no idea that apparently these situations were a violation of library policy, that I was actually supposed to be in "lockdown" mode as soon as any book hit seven days overdue, and that the employees had been doing some sort of override in the system to avoid the lockdown of my card. The override option has since been disallowed.

Not even the branch manager at my library could do anything to get me and my children out of the door with books back in our bags tonight. We all stood there waiting for her to come and release us and our books, the kids growing ever more panicky that Dora, Digimon, the books about the armadillos, bears, princess mice, and Arthur's new baby might have to stay where they were. I made apologetic faces to the other people waiting in line and made loud comments like "It's okay guys. She's going to go ask someone else if it's okay. And then we'll go home and look for that one missing book." But no. No exceptions.

I can't even say they were all that sympathetic, even when I started crying. With J. on the road for the first time since Christmas, those books were my entertainment plan for the evening, and I saw it all dissolving into a long stretch of hysteria. The poor woman who had been trying to check me out kept apologizing, and awkwardly making moves to transfer the book pile over to a table where she promised she would hold them for me until tomorrow. This only made N.'s tears increase. It was all mostly awkward repetitions of the policy, and some sort of reference to an "administrative committee" who was clamping down. I couldn't even have the books back that weren't due until the end of the week, because I had asked her to check them in for me to extend the due date. O. and I wouldn't be able to read our chapter of The Cricket in Times Square. "We'll have to start all over!" he wailed.

We left, all the kids except L. crying. O. loudly proclaimed that the next time he came to the library, he was bringing soap to spray in people's eyes. So then I was left to lamely explain why we have to follow the rules. And that we really do need to keep track of our books, and bring them back because they don't belong to us and other people want to borrow them too.

I was pretty near to hysterical myself. Not so much at the policy itself. Just that it seemed like the rules had suddenly been changed on us without warning, and then I was treated as if that were not the case, like I was trying to get away with something. If I had known that all books needed to be accounted for before checking out others, you can be sure we would have not spent a half hour picking out new ones. If some sort of change in practice has been instituted, then there should be a notification to that effect.

J.'s response was to ask why we couldn't just pay for the book right then and there. And I guess we could have, though it seems to me ridiculous to pay twenty two dollars rather than a couple more days of a late fee for a book I will probably find next week.

But chances are, we'll be going in tomorrow to pay for that darn book, and claim our pile of books. To do otherwise seems to risk leaving a terrible bad feeling about libraries in my children's memories. As I said, they get enough of no, and learning about waiting. Books and curiosity about learning, (and how about a little grace, while we're at it??) are things I always want to be a 'yes.'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More favorites...

Books: I posted the full list of books I read last year earlier this week. I was surprised by how long the list looks -- I certainly didn't feel like I was doing a whole lot of reading this year. I don't feel like I can pick a "top ten" this year, but here are some notes about ones I particularly enjoyed.Bold

The Passage by Justin Cronin: Listened to this one -- devoted most of my driving time from October through December to it. Post apocalyptic, with characters I ended up really caring for, though it could have been much shorter and been just fine.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain Is it that he's getting mellower, or that I'm getting grumpier? Either way, he's growing on me, and I really enjoyed his rants on food culture. Made me want to eat at much better restaurants much more often.

The Girl With... trilogy by Stieg Larsson: Not sure what all the fuss is about, though I found them absorbing and would like to discuss with someone else what they think about what they have to say about societal attitudes on violence toward women. There are other, better thrillers out there, or maybe something just gets lost in the language translation.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: This one, however is worth the fuss. Still think The Hunger Games is the best of the series, but of all I've read this year, this is the one I'd most enthusiastically recommend.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett: If you haven't read this one yet, don't put it off any longer. You just don't get too many reading experiences like this one in a lifetime.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender: The weirdest, and most poignant book I read all year. Imagine being able to literally taste the emotions of the person who made any food you ate. A sweet, sad story that lingered with me long after I finished it.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: This came highly recommended, and I don't think it was quite as good as I'd hoped it would be, but it was written for a younger audience. If you have any love for A Wrinkle in Time, as I most certainly do, you really have to read this book.

Podcasts: When I wasn't listening to a massive audiobook, I was driving to and from school drop offs with one earbud in, taking in a podcast or two. I've already written about my great love for This American Life and The Splendid Table, but there are few more podcasts I subscribe to that I think are well worth checking out if you're looking for something new to share your commute.

Spilled Milk : Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg, both blog and cookbook writers I admire and enjoy (Orangette -- Molly; Roots and Grubs -- Matthew (lately focused on his trip to Japan with his daughter)), get together and goof around mostly, but talk about and make a dish or two focused on a particular theme. Say, ham, or tomatoes, or fudge. They also occasionally do a taste test of sorts with something like crackers or cereal. Always funny and down to earth -- I love the way they crack each other up, and occasionally I learn something.

The Moth: Selections from an open mike storytelling series that occurs at different locations around the country. These are usually funny, but sometimes really touching stories told by people from all sorts of backgrounds. Each one is usually only 10 to 20 minutes long, so it's a perfect way to spend a short trip to Target or what have you.

Radiolab: This is a sort of science-y series, with each show focused around a theme. Some are not that interesting to me, but others have been really fascinating. Molly Wizenberg, also a fan, wrote a post much more eloquent than I about it. I'm not sure I can link directly to it, but go here and look for the one from September 18.

Moments: It was a year of wonderful big moments, and also amazing small memories I want to make sure I don't forget. That's the whole point of this blog, after all. I don't capture them all, but I'm glad I keep trying to crystallize at least a few.
  • Endless piles of craft projects, papers, stickers and yarn bits
  • O. swimming across the whole pool.
  • N. jumping off the diving board at the lake.
  • The kids' first trip to Kings Island.
  • O.'s first day of kindergarten.
  • N.'s first day of preschool.
  • L.'s birth
  • O. and N. meeting L. for the first time
  • L.'s first smile
  • N.'s excited recounting of what she did at school
  • Swinging O's hand walking back from the bus stop each morning
  • Sitting on a stool in N.'s bedroom for the daily debate over her outfit; constantly trying to figure out which articles of twenty she's worn in a given day are actually dirty.
  • O. and N. really playing together, becoming true friends over block castles, animal habitats, and pillow piles, even if it means they sometimes conspire against me.
  • N.'s devotion to her female cousins, and the generous way those two older girls share with her.
  • Watching our nephew, the eldest grandchild on J.'s side, become godfather to L., the youngest grandchild.
  • Trip to Chicago with just J., eating in lovely restaurants and walking all over the darn city, seven months pregnant.
  • O. becoming a zoo camper for a week
  • O. and N. deciding to wrap up some of their own things to give to their dad for Christmas.
  • O. insisting that the first gift of Christmas morning be the stuffed Perry the Platypus he and N. gave to L.
  • N., finding my lap anytime it is absent baby, leaning into me, holding my face in both hands and kissing me full on the mouth, saying "You are my best Mommy."
  • O. hugging me in front of his whole kindergarten class when I come to volunteer in his classroom.
  • L.'s eyes, always seeking me out from across the room or in someone else's arms, lit from within, saying I am his entire universe.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

These are a few...

So, I'm a little late to the party with my "end of 2010, welcome 2011" post. We've had a bit of a rough transition around here and it's been tough to find the time/energy to post. Nothing bad really, just a lot of whine, and very little napping: for anyone. All of which means Mommy doesn't get much down time. More on all of that in another post.

I started setting aside "year in review" issues of magazines for each child's birth year back when O. was born. When it came time to gather L.'s, I realized we've curtailed our magazine consumption more than I'd thought -- no Sports Illustrated or Newsweek for him, mostly just Entertainment Weekly. I'm not sure Cooking Light or Real Simple really capture the zeitgeist.

So, I thought I'd take some time this week to record some of my "favorite things" that I newly discovered or just really enjoyed in the last year. (Speaking of, did you catch How I Met Your Mother's Barney's favorite things? Worth catching on the web. J., with no Oprah backstory, didn't quite get what I was chuckling about.)

Up for today: Television and Blogs!

Here is a list of (most of) the shows I watched and enjoyed consistently in 2010. It's an embarrassingly long list and probably doesn't even really cover the true extent of my viewing habits. Let's just say it reflects the fact that I was often too pregnantly or postpartumly exhausted to do anything except fill and empty the DVR.

How I Met Your Mother: I'm even willing to forgive the major downer at the end of last week's episode because I love this show so much.

House: The relationships have gotten a little old, but the mystery parts are still good.

Modern Family: If I were the kind of person with a memory for lines from shows -- I'd be tossing them out like crazy from this one.

Top Chef: I'm enjoying the All Star season, how about you? Fabio: oh how I'd missed you! Jamie: cook or go home. And Richard, was I wrong to love you so? You seem a little bored by all of this.

Amazing Race: This last season was just so-so, except for the delight I got from watching my husband laughing really really hard at the broken watermelon to the face scene early in the season. How great will it be to see the Cowboys return in February??

Glee: Just have to make sure J. isn't around when I watch, his heckling and nearly audible eye rolling ruin it all for me. Sure, it's completely unrealistic, but so is life in a real high school. It still gives me goosebumps sometimes.

The Closer: Brenda Lee, you're annoying, but I love you anyway. Call me a sucker for the police procedural.

Saving Grace: I hated the way this show ended, but I cried anyway. Maybe the acting was ocasionally a little over the top, but the characters here had depth, and the premise of a flawed, good hearted woman seeking redemption was compelling. And Earl was the most real angel I think I've ever seen depicted.

Breaking Bad: The most depressing show I can't tear my eyes away from. Watching the downward spiral of Walt and Jesse is truly compelling -- just when you think the writers can't possibly find a way to keep them falling further, they do. And you believe it.

Lost: Are they really gone for good? Sigh.

Sherlock: IBold already wrote about this one -- looking forward to season 2!

Parenthood: I couldn't wait to see the slimy Baldwin brother go. At times the plotlines get a little tedious, but I can't help really believing in this family.

The Good Wife: What in the world does Alicia see in either of the men in her life? Good thing Rory's Logan is around to keep things interesting.

Grey's Anatomy: Every time I think I'm going to give up on this show, it gets interesting again. Enough with Meredith, but I sure am rooting for Lexie and Mark.

Private Practice: I can't believe I'm admitting I watch this thing.

FringeBold: When I watch this show, I feel like I've gotten X Files back in a shiny new wrapper. Pacey is no Fox Mulder, but then again, X Files didn't have a Walternate.

This is also where I should mention things like Dino Dan, Dinosaur Train, Phineas and Ferb, the Princess episode of Ni Hao Kai Lan, and the Swiper's Christmas Carol episode of Dora. But I'm making the executive decision that these do not have to fall under the prevail of my "favorites" for 2010, even if they do make up the very air I breathe.


This is the year I relied more on the writing of others to keep me sane than I added my own two cents to the blogosphere. So thanks, to all of you who keep reading my sporadic posts and who send along a comment here or there. Thanks to those of you who I've read and with whom I've continued to shared life virtually.
I'm so glad to have made the acquaintance this year of Stacia at My Fluffy Bunnies and Heather at This is the Day. Even though I've yet to meet either of you in real life, I feel like we shared our lives last year, and look forward to reading your further adventures.

Pioneer Woman -- Not that she needs any press from me, but this was the year I started reading her regularly. Darn if she isn't just lovable and down to earth no matter how big and famous she is, don't you think? And for pure food porn, you just can't beat her cooking section. After having made her restaurant style salsa, I am tempted to never go back to my old pico de gallo style salsa, and I LOVE my salsa.

Epbot -- This is the personal blog of Jen of Cake Wrecks fame, and she is just adorable. Love her geeky crafty projects, and was really touched by the way she came to the aid of a young girl who was getting bullied at school for carrying a Star Wars lunchbox.

Dinner, a Love Story -- I have made my fair share of really negative comments about the now defunct magazine Cookie. I will say that its food features were usually pretty good, even if the rest of the urban uberexpensive parenting stuff made me crazy. So, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I realized that this blog, which I love, is written by one of former food editors at Cookie. Her "About" page, if you take out the stuff about juggling work and home, reads kind of like my own mission statement about the role of food and dinner in my family.
I get great ideas for real dinners at my house from here all the time. Even if my kids really don't actually play along AT ALL, blogs like this one help me hold out hope that they might, someday. I really want a recipe door like the one they have in their house, she co-wrote an awesome cookbook that I got as a gift for Christmas, and she and her husband write really cute things back and forth to each other. A really consistently great read.

When Parents Text: Okay, I just discovered this this week, thanks to Entertainment Weekly. But it is laugh out loud hilarious. Check out the Our Favorites section. Just hope it doesn't get corrupted too badly, ala Shit My Dad Says.

Up later this week: Books, Podcasts and other Great Moments of 2010.
In the meantime, feel free to share some of your favorite bloggy finds and your television true loves from the past year.

The Retired Reading List 2010

  • Here's what I read this year -- notes on a few in an upcoming post!

  • My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin
  • Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman
  • Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  • Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin
  • Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • Nothing to Lose by Lee Child
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  • The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors by Michelle Young-Stone
  • 61 Hours by Lee Child
  • Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009 edited by Dave Eggers
  • Cleaving by Julie Powell
  • When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • Target Underwear and a Vera Wang Gown by Adena Halpern
  • Club Dead by Charlaine Harris
  • Didn't I Feed You Yesterday?: A Mother's Guide to Sanity in Stilettos by Laura Bennett
  • The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Belong to Me by Maria de los Santos
  • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  • Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
  • Perfectly Imperfect by Lee Woodruff
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffennegger
  • All Over Creation by Ruth Ozeki
  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
  • This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
  • Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble
  • The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle
  • Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
  • Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
  • Hungry Monkey by Matthew Amster-Burton
  • The Food of a Younger Land by Mark Kurlansky
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett