Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween...

... from me, DH, Monkey Boy, the Lobster, and Jack O'Melon!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mama's little helper

I don't have time to write much this week, so this post will be picture-heavy. (Please, try to contain your disappointment.) This Saturday we are leaving for a two-week vacation to visit our families in Michigan, and I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to make it to various appointments and meetings this week while preparing for the trip. It will all be worth it, though, when we arrive and hand off the Bean to his fan club and sneak out the door. Cider mill, anyone?

One of the reasons DH wanted to have children is so that they will do the chores around the house. Specifically mow the lawn and take out the trash, the two activities that he dreads most of all. While it will probably be a few years before Bean is pushing the lawn mower, there are a few things he has been helping me with in the meantime.

Folding laundry...




... and cutting coupons.


He also helps me open and sort the mail. This week, he received two Halloween cards -- one from each set of grandparents. Evey checked to make sure there was no candy enclosed, which certainly would not have been good for a baby to eat. Good thinking, Eves.


To reward Bean for his hard work, we enjoyed a Halloween party at preschool today. He tolerated his monkey costume as long as he could chew on the chin strap. We had a great time, other than both of us being completely covered with little brown monkey hairs by the end of class.


Now it's back to the to-do list, but the end is in sight! T-minus three days...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Just Desserts

I've been tagged! Michelle has kindly chosen me to participate in a blogger buddy recipe exchange. Here are the rules:

With the busy holiday season fast approaching, I thought this would be a good time for a recipe exchange. If you’d like to participate please make a new post in your blog with your favorite holiday dish. A story to go along with why that particular dish is so special to you would be great too! Then, leave a comment for me with a link to your recipe post.

Next, pick at least 5 blogger buddies to include in the recipe exchange. Leave this comment for them: "I’ve chosen you to join in a blogger buddy recipe exchange! Check out my blog to find out more about it!"

As new recipe comments come in, your blog readers will be able to enjoy others' recipes as well.

Michelle and I have several very important things in common: we are Michiganders and thus know what a "doorwall" is; we know better than to ask anyone "So, when are you going to have kids?"; we contribute in ways other than culinary to the household; and we appreciate a good dessert. For my contribution, I struggled between two recipes and just decided to go with both -- call it creative license.

The first is an apple pie recipe. Normally I am not a big fan of apple pie. Being a texture person when it comes to food, I don't think apples should be part soft, part crunchy as they often are in a pie. Second, I dislike the typical dry pie crust that covers the apples. This recipe from my maternal Grandma has neither problem. If you cut them correctly, the apples are deliciously smooth, and the crumb topping is out of this world. It is comfort food to the highest degree. Before she passed, my Grandma would lovingly bake this pie for every special family occasion. As her grandkids grew up and began consuming more of it, she would make two to ensure that there were leftovers (which would be lucky to see 24 hours once we got home). Sadly, we have to make our own pie these days, but we always think of Grandma and how she took care of us. With the holidays coming up, you can have this with Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner!

Grandma's "Crumby" Apple Pie

Ingredients:
3 lbs cut-up McIntosh apples (I slice them *really* thin)
1 9-inch unbaked pastry crust
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup butter or margarine

Directions:
Pare and cut up apples. Arrange in pie shell. Mix 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples. Mix other 1/2 cup sugar with flour, cut in butter till crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.


My second recipe comes from my mother-in-law. She is a consummate cook, feeding a family of six every night for years and years. (I remember DH trying some of the banana bread I baked shortly after we got married and remarking, "I didn't know we had bananas in the house!" Yeah, we didn't. We had Pillsbury, water, and a mixing bowl. Did I tell that story before? I think so.) Anyway, among the treats she made were these amazing cookies. Nothing flat or boring here, you can really sink your teeth into these! They got their name because back in high school I once remarked that it took 10 minutes to eat just one because they are so densely packed with yummy. These days I can down one in closer to 10 seconds, which probably speaks to why I am 20 pounds heavier. But I still think you'll be surprised at how loaded -- and delicious -- these cookies are. Perfect to bring to a holiday party!

10 Minute Cookies

Ingredients:
2 sticks of margarine (melted)
2 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups old fashion oats
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions:
Mix sugars and margarine thoroughly. Let mixture cool a bit, then add remaining ingredients. Form into 1.5-inch balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on wire racks and store in tightly closed tin or tupperware.


I am tagging Mary, Holly, Deb, Lisa, and Kathy. Can't wait to see what you ladies have to share!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My pumpkin and his pumpkin

Last weekend we took advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and took Bean to a pumpkin patch. DH and I get really excited about these outings, and I often wonder what Bean thinks. Is he confused about why we get in the car and go other places, when it's equally as much fun and requires less effort to stay home and pull the dog's hair? I'm not sure, but until he can talk, he's just going to have to suck it up and go with us. (Hmmmm, maybe I should rethink my attempt to teach him some basic sign language...) Anyway, he looks like he's having fun, so I don't feel bad about indulging my mommy desires!



When we got back in the car with our 37 lb pumpkin that was surely a good investment, I spent the next 20 minutes trying to get a picture of Bean's new teeth. I eventually got one, kinda sorta.



As we drove, we approached the sign for Flaming Geyser State Park. DH asked if we could stop there to see (please imagine trumpet fanfare here) THE FLAMING GEYSER. Thinking it was right off the highway, I agreed. However, turns out it was still 9 miles away through the twists and turns of the foothills, and I quickly discovered that our previous 20-minute photography shoot had given me a mad case of motion sickness. But I survived without barfing, and the magic moment was upon us. We hiked a short distance through the woods...


... for this.

Don't see it? Let me show you a close-up.

That, my friends, is THE FLAMING GEYSER. There was a chorus of "That's it?" as various visitors sauntered up. One lady suggested they rename it Tea Light State Park, which is obviously more appropriate. In all fairness, however, the plaque claims that it used to shoot 8-10 feet in the air. Now that would have been worth seeing.

We had a wonderful weekend overall, despite poor DH being unable to shake his cold, and it led right into a wonderful week. Bean has spent most of the time being ridiculously cute, while I try to resist the urge to squeeze him into mush because of his ridiculous cuteness. Not that there aren't challenges. He still wakes up too many times at night. He still baffles me with his picky eating habits. But now that the teething and cold have passed, we laugh a lot. We laugh when Bean burps, we laugh when mommy burps. We laugh when he pees on the changing table; when he holds the sippy cup upside-down and drenches himself in water; and when he grabs the spoon to splatter the prunes all over his sleeves. Does it get any better than this?

Well, it does, at least a little. We took a field trip today to visit http://www.attachedtobaby.com/, which has its warehouse in Seattle. It was an hour's drive, but Bean was stellar and I got to catch up with a couple of friends while violating the new hands-free cell phone law. I'm sure many people struggle to understand my obsession with baby carriers. Why do I need so many? Well, they are all different! Answer this question: How many pairs of black shoes do you own? See, I've got you there. Different needs, different shoes, different baby carriers. So you can stop worrying that I'm turning into a hippie and let me get back to my story. My stash is conspicuously missing a mei tai style carrier, so after spending obscene amounts of time on TBW reading reviews and getting nowhere, I decided it would be best to try them out for myself. Despite lusting after the the fabric on the design-your-own BabyHawk, I fell in love with the NapsackBaby. It's European, so even though the fabric is plain, I pretend that we look very classy, moi et mon bebe. (Okay, it's from the U.K. and not France. But doesn't that phrase sound super cool?) It's also amazingly comfortable, and of course, the most expensive mei tai she sells. Problem solved -- I called DH on the way home and let him know that he just purchased my Christmas present, and wasn't it nice of me to do the shopping for him? I just love it when I get what I want and we are both happy.

Totally off the subject, I feel compelled to mention a movie I saw recently, called Then She Found Me. It has some big names, like Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, and Matthew Broderick, but the only reason I found it was that I asked Netflix to send me any and every movie starring Colin Firth. (Even with the dumbass hair he sports in this flick, he's still adorable!) Anyway, I was not expecting the theme of infertility and adoption, and after recently wasting nearly 2 hours of my life being disappointed by Baby Mama, I was a little concerned. But it was rather interesting! The movie purposes an answer to the question, "Is it the same to raise an adopted child as it is your biological child?" As someone who considered adoption at one point but otherwise knows little about it, I think the answer is probably a more complicated yes and no. But the other day, as I was rocking Bean to sleep, he was softly opening and closing his fist in a grabbing motion on my arm (kinda like he did in the first video), and it struck me -- my favorite thing about being Bean's mom is not that he carries my genes. What makes my heart so happy is that I know him better than anyone else in the world. I know all his little quirks and preferences, the way he likes to be held, how to distract him to stop the squirming during diaper changes, sure fire ways to make him laugh, and how he plays with the hair behind his left ear when is ready for a nap. I am the recipient of those amazing smiles that are his way of saying, "Mom, you are the most amazing person! I love you so much." It's not the best movie ever made, but if you get free movies like I do, you may want to check it out. (Besides, one might argue that listening to Colin Firth's British accent is worth it, if you can get past the bad hair.)

You also may notice the new "Follow Me" section in my sidebar. Deb was kind enough to request it so she could add me to the list of blogs she follows. There are only two faces there now -- Holly was my original fan. Sure, I could choose to feel self-conscious and lame that some other blogs I visit boast from 20 to near 500 followers. But I choose to feel flattered that two people who are not my parents actually check me out regularly, even if it's just in the hopes of seeing another giggle video. (I also know from my Google Reader stats that I have 10 other followers who are not set to "public." I respect the fact that you may be embarrassed to be seen on my blog, and thanks for tuning in anyway.) :)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can you see me now?

I am *finally* getting around to testing out the video capability on this blog. If this works, I will try to post more in the future! This is just a few seconds of what DH calls Bean's "drinking problem." Let me know -- can you see it? Can you hear it?

video

Edited to add: It seems to be working, so I added this brief one of him laughing.

video

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Show and Tell

Another week of Mel's Show and Tell! This one is in honor of my Mom, who turns 39 today. (But she doesn't look a day over 35.) HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!

What I am bringing to class:


About four or five years ago, I got it in my head that I wanted a Cookie Monster cookie jar. No, let me rephrase that. I needed a Cookie Monster cookie jar. I'm not really sure why -- just putting up one last eek of resistance to becoming a Grown Up, I suppose. Being set on my conquest, I immediately headed to the mecca of all things kitschy: eBay. I was an online auction newb at that time, and sadly, I was outbid on the jar. Not surprising for such a hot item, right?

Meanwhile, anyone who knows my mother would surely agree that generosity is her greatest virtue. (Remember #91 on my list? I inherited my "love language" directly from her.) She is simply the most thoughtful person I have ever met. Always attuned to the needs of her family and friends, Mom does all in her power to ensure that no one goes without.

As a prime example, I remember one Christmas that my Grandma decided to add some additional fun to our annual holiday gathering with a variation of the white elephant swap. She had two black garbage bags (one for girls and one for boys) that she filled with cute and useful little objects. We went around in a circle, and each person could either pick a new gift from the appropriate bag, or “steal” a gift from someone else who had gone before. Unfortunately, the game ended up to be rather a flop. We are rule followers in my family, and my poor Grandma was not prepared for the barrage of questions (“What if a girl wants an item that came from the boy bag?”). This particular trait may be greatly valued by our respective employers, but it's not conducive to an informal game of gift swapping. My favorite memory from that ill-fated attempt at frivolity was when my DH pulled a pair of black gloves (worth about $5) from the boy bag. Being the polite and pleasant person he is, DH remarked that they were just what he needed for winter, as his hands were cold when he drove to and from work. When my uncle’s turn came, completely keeping with the rules and spirit of the game, he “stole” the gloves from my DH, who then picked a new gift from the boy bag. Next was my Mom’s turn. She got up, walked over to my uncle, snatched the gloves, walked over to DH, put the gloves on his lap, and returned to her seat without any gift of her own.

It was the nail in the coffin of that game, you might say. To this day, I still laugh out loud picturing it. (And, incidentally, DH still uses those gloves.)

Anyway, back to my Show and Tell. You can probably guess what happened after I lost my eBay quest. My Mom set up her own eBay account and wouldn’t rest until I was the proud owner of a Cookie Monster cookie jar. It’s been in our kitchen ever since, filled with stale Oreos that my Dad still eats when he visits, despite my advice to carbon date them first. The googly eyes always make me smile, a reminder of sunny Sesame Street memories and a mother who doesn't let 2200 miles stop her from making sure I have what I need -- even when it's just a place to conduct experiments in cookie decomposition.

I love you, Mom!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sickos

It finally happened, the moment I have been dreading for months. We are all sick. My best guess is that Bean picked up a cold from preschool and then gave it to me and DH. But when I took Bean to see the nurse on Monday, she found no trace of a cold and said it was teething. Whatever the case, he's definitely teething, possibly recovering from a cold, and possibly having a growth spurt. The result is a crabby baby who eats constantly -- every 1.5 to 2 hours all day and all night. Think that sounds bad enough? Adding to the fun, DH is on a business trip this week. So while all I want to do is curl up under my covers in a NyQuil-induced haze, I'm forced to suffer with the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever, worst-sleep-I-ever-got while I try to care for Bean around the clock. Hear that? It may be the sound of the world's saddest song being played on the world's smallest violin. Well, I'm thankful that dogs can't catch a cold, at least.

The latest and greatest. As we are currently in survival mode, there is not much more to report. Bean's first tooth has a new companion that is almost entirely broken through. (Picture to follow when I can get a good one -- they are elusive buggers.) He is still so incredibly picky with solids that I resigned myself to purchase copious amounts of organic sweet potato baby food that I will use until he's old enough to tell me what else sounds good. We introduced a sippy cup with water, although he prefers to chew on the spout while the water dribbles down his chin. I had to wait in a very slow line at Kohl's the other day and the manager took an extra 15% off the already low sale price of the two tops I was purchasing. I immediately took some of that savings to Starbucks, where I indulged in a salted caramel hot chocolate. Yep, that's about it for excitement around here.

Special deliveries. No, I'm not talking about my new sling that is so comfortable and convenient that I would marry it, or the pants my mom sent me that are so comfortable and convenient that I would wear them down the aisle. Think much cuter and with more spit-up. Congratulations to my friend Allison, whose new baby Nathan is so agreeable that he practically crawled out on his own. Every woman should be so lucky! Jen also recently got to meet her little girl Jillian, who was stubborn like Bean and required an eviction. Both gorgeous, if you need some additional sweetness in your day.

Speaking of additional sweetness...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Show and Tell

Show and Tell

I've been wanting to participate in Mel's Show & Tell for a while now, and today seems like the perfect opportunity.

As I've mentioned before, I just love when the mail comes each day. This is a direct result of the kindness of our families (especially my mom) to send us care packages and my penchant for ordering stuff from Amazon.com. This has been an extra special week of fun mail-time goodies, one of them being the "Baby's First" Halloween quilted fabric that arrived from DH's grandma:


I have had an on-again-off-again relationship with Halloween, which I suppose is normal as we pass through different stages of life. As a child, I would spend the month of October anticipating the arrival of the crisp Midwestern evening when I could giddily run through the neighborhood with my friends and spend the following week gorging myself on sugary snacks. Then it became one of my least favorite holidays, perhaps because I had enough change in my pocket to buy myself a Kit Kat bar when the mood struck without having to make myself look ridiculous and knock on the neighbor's door. My love of Halloween returned when DH and I bought our first house in 2003. Maybe it was the Jack O'Melon adorning our front step or watching the little ones toddle to our house and shyly hold up their baskets for candy, but I was once again in love with the holiday.

As we still have a loft and garage full of boxes, I was unable to pull out our decorations to prepare the house for Bean's first Halloween. It's a bummer, but we have a gigantic to-do list, so I try not to put too much pressure on myself. That's why I was thrilled to open this package from DH's grandma -- not only does it fill an empty wall that has been begging for attention, but it (coupled with the Febreze pumpkin spice candle I bought) provides some much needed holiday spirit to the house.

Sewing is a craft that completely eludes me. This is too bad, because I have a great vintage sewing machine from my grandma and a host of projects that could use a handy needle. Fortunately, our families are filled with creative talent, so I can enjoy the fruits of their labor even if my greatest skill is... well, probably ordering from Amazon.com. Now that I've been talking about it, I'm feeling inspired to attack the boxes in the garage to find the ceramic haunted house that my grandma painted decades ago. The glow of its colored lights is my favorite reminder all those happy childhood Halloweens.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My Guy

Deb did this on her blog recently, and I decided to use the idea because I like to copy off of Deb talk about my hubby. Without further ado, here's my DH in 20 rather shallow questions...

1. He's sitting in front of the TV: what is on the screen? Glenn Beck. (And here I thought it couldn't get any more boring than watching Sports Center or shows about military weapons.)

2. You're out to eat. What kind of dressing does he get on his salad? Ranch. Always ranch. He claims to like Caesar, but I've never seen it.

3. What is one food he doesn't like? Gosh, I don't know... dog food.

4. You go out to the bar. What does he order? A round of draught beer for everyone in the establishment! (This is a fantasy, right? Because we are at a bar?)

5. Where did he go to high school? Generic Public High School, Michigan.

6. What size shoe does he wear? Ten and a half.

7. If he was to collect anything, what would it be? Hundred dollar bills. He's very focused on our finances right now, as his wife isn't working and has expensive addictions to baby carriers and iced mochas.

8. What is his favorite type of sandwich? That's a toughie, he does like many kinds. Sloppy Joe's, which I never ever make. (The dog likes these too, incidentally... on a plate or in the trash, it's all the same to her.) He also recently mentioned craving one of those loaded lunch meat sandwiches from Subway, dripping with oil and vinegar.

9. What would the Husband eat every day if he could? Mexican food. Chips, salsa, guacamole, burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, etc. He likes his food how he likes his women: very spicy. Ooh la la!

10. What is his favorite cereal? Twigs and Branches -- now with Flaxseed. (aka Kashi)

11. What would he never wear? A sweater vest.

12. What is his favorite sports team? I would have to say the Michigan State University men's basketball team. He's followed them around the country to watch them play in tournaments. We follow the ones we love, don't we, honey?

13. Who will he vote for? Definitely not Cloris Leachman, probably Brooke Burke. Oh, you meant for President! The candidates actually don't waste their money advertising in tree-hugging Seattle, so sometimes I forget that's even going on.

14. Who is his best friend? ME!

15. What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn’t do? Blog about him.

16. How many states has he lived in? Five. California, Michigan, Ohio, Missoura, Washington.

17. What is his heritage? The Spartans of Michigan State University. I was lucky enough to marry into the clan, we needed special permission from this guy.

18. You bake him a cake for his birthday; what kind? Oh shoot, I always get this wrong! I think it might be white cake with chocolate frosting, but maybe not. I just end up making him what I like, which is chocolate cake with white frosting. I'm a horrible wife. (But a great cake eater!) Edited to add: DH reports that his favorite is chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. You'd think that'd be easier for me to remember.

19. Did he play sports in high school? Yes, baseball and football. And he was quite adorable in both outfits.

20. What could he spend hours doing? Sleeping.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sucked in

They could probably smell me from down the street.

Frazzled mom with chubby-cheeked, curious infant and active, tail-wagging pooch.

Just desperate enough to endure over two hours of a vacuum presentation in order to get the carpets cleaned and shampooed for free as part of the demonstration.

I resisted the urge to be a smart ass when he asked inane questions like, "Would you like to get rid of the dirt in your carpet?" (Actually, no, then it would be harder for the daffodils I've planted there to grow.) I did have to laugh, though, when he asked if I vacuum the carpet once a week. Right, I also get an oil change every 3,000 miles and make dinner for the family on a regular basis. Who do I look like, Martha Stewart?

I will say two things about the presentation, though. First, that is one butt-kicking vacuum. If I ever win the lottery -- not enough to afford a maid, but enough to spend $1800 on a cleaning machine -- I will totally get one. Second, Oprah was right. The stuff hidden in your mattress is NASTY!

In other news, we hit two milestones recently. First, it's been just over a month since I quit my job. The bank hasn't foreclosed on our home yet, so I guess we're doing okay. And I still love it, love it, love it. Why on earth did I even spend a minute of my life questioning this? I don't have to go to work! Duh! I make sure I thank DH every night for agreeing to let me stay home. I'm really surprised at how natural of a transition it's been, considering how much I do enjoy my profession. I just absolutely adore spending time with my little Bean buddy. Each day when I hold him in my arms, it seems that I can't possibly love him any more than I do at that moment... but the next morning, sure enough, it happens. Cheesy but true.

Which brings me to milestone number two, Bean turned seven months old yesterday. SEVEN. Why does that sound so much older than six months? He's getting so big, it's hard to imagine that he'll soon be crawling and walking and talking. We have made HUGE strides in our naptime routine, he is now taking three 1-1.5 hour naps every day with hardly a fuss when I put him in his crib. Consistency was key, for sure. I also started playing Sade in his room, very soothing. (I can sing her entire collection now, as I listen to several hours of it through the baby monitor daily. I'm considering hiring myself out for weddings.) Another contributing factor may have been my mom's suggestion of explaining to him that it's time to take a nap, I won't be far away, and I will come get him right when he wakes up. She is a firm believer in the power of these explanations for both babies and dogs, which I discovered after Evey came back from a month-long stay at her house while we moved out here. The pooch now expects a full commentary (with exploratory sniff) every time I open a package of something or put on my shoes. Anyway, I know there is always another challenge around the corner when you are raising kids, but a well-rested mama with a well-rested baby makes the world of difference.

We also purchased a used treadmill off of craigslist last weekend. I finally reached the point where even I was tired of hearing myself complain about the lingering baby weight. It's been awesome, I wish we would have gotten it sooner! Now that Bean is taking predictable naps, I can hop on during his mid-morning snooze. However, the problem I'm running into (pun intended) is that he only sleeps for an hour, which doesn't give me time to also shower before he wakes up. And he does NOT like it when I shower. As someone who loves to be held close in a baby carrier all day, you'd think he would want me smelling as fresh as possible. Not so. And I just can't bring myself to get up at 5:30 am to workout before he wakes up, either. (If anyone sees a solution to this dilemma, I'm all ears.) The other person affected by my workouts is the dog. She is not quite sure about this treadmill contraption. Sometimes she whines a little bit when I get on it -- not very supportive, if you ask me -- and she spends the duration walking around the machine with an anxious and quizzical look. If only my mom were here to explain to her what I was doing.

Here's my big boy!