Monday, December 31, 2012

Dead Reckoning

Dead Reckoning

Originating with Linda at All & Sundry.

Here are mine from years past:
2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before? Willingly cut my hair short.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
 Last year, I said: "My goals for 2011 are (1) finish the Great Decluttering (2) maintain the cleaning that has already been achieved and (3) get back into a regular yoga practice." Mostly these all get a big pffffft. The decluttering puttered along but did not reach what I'd call a stage of completion. I suppose I did keep the house a little cleaner overall, though it definitely had periods of being cluttered-up. I gave up the gym at about six weeks pregnant because the daily fatigue was too much. I'm sure I'll regret it when I'm trying to work off 40 lbs of baby weight, but I don't think I'd physically be able to keep up a workout routine at this point anyway, thanks to SPD.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
 One of my coworkers and his wife had a baby girl in March and my former coworker / good friend Julia had a baby girl in May.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit? none

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012? a healthy external baby

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? We had a very nice vacation in May. I got the positive pregnancy test result on June 17, Father's Day.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 I can't think of anything epic. I feel like I was a really good mother this year, though, and that's something.

9. What was your biggest failure? No big regrets. Just the typical didn't spend enough time with friends, wish I'd read more books, etc etc

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I did have that horrid Man Cold in the fall, but that's about it.

11. What was the best thing you bought? I might say my Kindle in a few months once I've had time to use it more, except I didn't buy it. It was a gift from a generous friend.

12. Where did most of your money go? mortgage, paying down debt

13. What did you get really excited about? Having another baby!

14. What song will always remind you of 2012? Probably anything from the new Mumford & Sons album, which I listened to for over a month on repeat when it came out.

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

– happier or sadder?
– thinner or fatter? HAAAAHAHAHAHA
– richer or poorer? Maybe poorer, or about the same?

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
 Spent more time hanging out with friends

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 I regret how much frivolous spending I did. I don't think true austerity is any way to live, but I could've been more discerning.

18. How did you spend Christmas? We celebrated with MB's family on the 23rd, had Christmas Eve dinner with my mom's extended family, and then spent Christmas Day with my parents and sister at their house.

19. What was your favorite TV program? Sons of Anarchy, hands down

20. What were your favorite books of the year? The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

21. What was your favorite music from this year? Babel by Mumford & Sons, the Brave soundtrack

22. What were your favorite films of the year? Honestly, I'm having trouble thinking of much of anything we saw. Almost nothing in theaters. Brave was good and we recently watched Take Me Home on Netflix instant and liked it a lot.

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I threw a surprise game shower for my best friend since Kindergarten. And then a few weeks later, some of my friends surprised me with a cake as a make-up birthday. It was very nice. I turned 31 this year, and then promptly forgot and answered "thirty…something?" every time I was asked for my age.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Winning the Powerball, I guess.

26. What kept you sane? Writing, music, friends, and above all my boys.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. Sometimes a plain, simple life is really the best possible life.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Last hurrah

Last hurrah

Well, hey, look at that…almost the end of the year! This happens every year, with the month-long (much-enjoyed, at least for me) lead up to Christmas and then Bam!, it's all over.

Drama for your mama

Both kids have been keeping things interesting, and while I'm not quite ready to ground either of them, it's been a little more high-drama than usual around these parts. Way back at my December 3rd / 28 week OB appointment, the doctor couldn't catch the baby to listen to his heartbeat on the doppler. She tried for a while then gave up, laughing, and asked, "Is he always like this?" My answer was yes, yes, constantly wiggly. I didn't think much of it, but then at my 30 week appointment on the 17th she still couldn't get a good read on his heart. She finally tried pinning him down and got it then, but it sounded funny. My OB is pretty low-key and let-it-ride, but she decided that she was concerned enough to refer me to the high-risk practice for an ultrasound, just to make sure the funny sound was a two-time fluke and not a cardiac arrhythmia.

I tried very hard not to worry about it between then and my ultrasound on the 20th, and I was mostly successful. I stayed off Google and just tried to focus on her telling me that even if it was an actual arrhythmia, they usually correct spontaneously after birth and are not that big a deal. Baby looked great at the ultrasound and was a huge and hilariously cute ham the whole time. I was sent home with two sheets of 3D glamour shots of his fat little cheeks and told that even though everything looked fine, I should come back in a week for another checkup. I went back on Thursday this past week and his ticker got a clean bill of health. Now the high-risk doc wants to see me in another two weeks because my amniotic fluid is "borderline high." Another ultrasound, even though the doctor himself said it's "nothing to write home about." I'm torn between being happy they're paying such close attention and wondering if perhaps they're a little too used to zebras over at that practice. Thank goodness for insurance, either way.

Usually I think those 3D ultrasound photos are decidedly creepy, but this one has killed me dead with cuteness:

Baby Brother is reportedly around 4 lbs already, with feet measuring 7 centimeters long, gangly arms and legs, and a full head of hair. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, I failed my one-hour glucose test and had to go in for the three-hour version (which I apparently passed, though if my fluid keeps reading high, I'll have to take another one. Dammit.) My OB confirmed my internet-assisted self-diagnosis of pubic symphysis / SPD, which explains why what I thought was a strained crotch-area ligament just wasn't getting better. It hasn't been too terrible, though my hips wake me up several times a night already, which did not happen with Nico until much closer to the end. I'm trying to take it easy and not further exacerbate things. And Nico came down with a spectacular case of pinkeye the Thursday night before Christmas. Luckily his pediatrician is wonderfully accommodating and squeezed us in for a Friday morning appointment and we got him on eye drops right away. Even with those, he looked ridiculously pitiful by the end of the day Friday, his eye all crusted-over and runny and a bruise underneath where he'd rubbed and rubbed it. He was mostly better by Christmas and I'm grateful it wasn't flu or something pukey. I'm hoping we can go into the new year with a reprieve on medical mini-dramas, but with preschool and its associated petri dish of interesting contagions starting on January 3rd, I'm certainly not holding my breath.

Jolly holidays

We had a really nice Christmas, one of the best I can remember. We visited MB's family on the 23rd for most of the day. There was a huge country supper, MB's mamaw broke out the family photo albums after we ate, Nico had a fun time visiting his great-grandparents' chicken coop, and everyone behaved. BoMB and Nie made it up from Memphis and spent the night with us that evening and got to stay and hang out with us and Nico the next morning. The guys cooked this amazing breakfast and it was just nice overall to have time to visit. It was the first significant hang-out time we've been able to have since we went to Memphis back in May. I made the ridiculous rookie mistake of deciding we should rearrange Nico's playroom that day, but in the end MB didn't actually reach the brink of divorce so I guess it worked out. We had my extended family's Christmas gathering the evening of the 24th, and hung out with my parents and sister on the 25th. Nico's gifts were all age-appropriate and either aligned with his current interests (trucks! instruments! more trucks!) or just plain cool (marble run! this tangram-y thing!) We aren't quite done celebrating, as the annual Thanksmas party, always one of my favorite nights of the year, is set for New Year's Eve. I must say, I'm a fan of the slightly drawn-out holiday.

(I washed the shirt in between celebrations, I promise.)

Snow business

We actually got honest-to-God snow for the first time in Nico's life! It started late on Christmas night and snowed well into mid-day on the 26th. Nico noticed it on his own during breakfast and asked to go out and play. I didn't think he'd actually agree to wear the necessary clothing or tolerate the wet / cold, but he surprised me twice. I layered him up ridiculously and he happily stomped around and threw big handfuls of snow onto my clothes and even put a few handfuls of snow onto our small, slightly Muppety snowman. I dragged him inside after about 45 minutes because I was hungry; otherwise I think he would've stayed out for quite a while. It was ridiculously fun to share this with him, and also to realize this might make it into his memory bank. Plus he was so stinking cute in all his snow gear. Also, hilariously, the local paper keeps referring to this as the "blizzard" of 2012 even though the city only averaged 7 inches of snow. The last time we got significant snow it dropped around 22 inches, which I think qualifies as a blizzard by anyone's standards. But seven inches? A blizzard? Oh, lower Midwest…you're so cute!

"It's a snowball!"

Monday, December 17, 2012



I try not to be too serious around here, but I can't just move on like the horrible, horrible events of Friday didn't happen. I was at the children's museum with Nico for the day when the news broke on Twitter. It was surreal and awful and literally gut-wrenching and I can't decide if I'm glad I found out then because I couldn't focus too much on it or if I wish I hadn't found out at all until later. I've been doing my best to avoid too many news reports since then. I don't want to read the "horrifying details." I don't want to know how many times he shot each child, where their tiny bodies were found, what the parents had to go through to identify and claim their stolen babies. My traitor brain is filling in enough of it as I lie in bed at night trying not to think about it.

The Dunblane school massacre happened on my fifteenth birthday. This was in 1996 so there was no internet, no Twitter, no instant news. Instead, there were horrified reports on the evening news, and a black and white class photo published in the international section of our local paper the next day. I don't even think it made the front page. I clipped the article and pasted in into my diary. I don't remember what I wrote and though I'm sure that journal is in my attic I'm not going to go looking. I do remember feeling utter dismay and despair that someone could do something so utterly evil. Even as a self-absorbed teenager, years away from a boyfriend let alone kids, I couldn't begin to wrap my brain around it.

When the Virginia Tech shootings happened back in 2007, I wrote I cannot imagine how parents can take this kind of thing, I especially can't imagine it today, not when I've spent hours trying not to read the reports coming out of Virginia. Will I ever be brave enough to shoulder that kind of responsibility, to risk a hurt that deep by letting my children leave my side? I used to think that parents only really had to worry about their kids until their kids were grown up. Now I know better. I look at my sister, and I don't just see the 20-year-old woman she is now. I see the roundheaded baby she used to be, the knobby-kneed stick-skinny little girl, the calmly self-assured teenager. It's killing me to think of kids just like her, just her age, going to class and never making it home. Going to class because it was school, and what could happen? My heart is breaking for them, and for their parents, who worried and worried, but knew they had to take the risk and let them strike out on their own. I want to wake up tomorrow and find out it's okay, that none of it really happened. Otherwise, how can anyone be expected to bear it?

This time, I am a mother. I still cannot begin to fathom how the parents of those children go on breathing the day after and the day after that. How do they not crumble under the weight of it?

I try not to be too political, and I really try not to make sweeping statements about topics in which I am certainly no expert. However, a few things seem obvious. Something must change. I do not know what the answer is regarding the complicated stew of laws and gun control and mental health system failings and on and on, but I do know this: while I did this very evening dine upon a deer shot by a guy I know who owns hunting rifles, it's time we ask ourselves why people in this country seem to need weapons designed to annihilate anything in their path. If you need a semiautomatic weapon to take down a deer, you're doing it wrong. If you're not using it for deer / bear / elk / moose, you don't need it. I do know that the argument "Criminals don't follow laws so it's stupid to make guns illegal" is so imbecilic as to actually cause pain. No point in making murder illegal then, or burglary, or rape, or…oh, wait. And I know in my gut, without any hesitation or doubt, that just because we don't know the firm and final answer to this problem does not mean we can choose to keep on keeping on with the status quo. It's obviously not fucking working. Every culture has mentally ill citizens, but we seem to be the only country with an appalling gun crime problem. I think it's high time we ask the hard questions and figure out why we haven't been trying to fix this since well before now, well before Virginia Tech, maybe even well before Columbine. It's not about politicizing or using victims to advance an agenda. It's not about co-opting tragedy. It's not mental healthcare vs gun control. It's not "the wrong time" to discuss the difficult questions.

Again, I'm not pretending to be an expert. I'm not claiming I have anything resembling answers. I'm just thinking of those parents who never get to see their kids again, and I refuse to accept that this is just how it's going to be. I refuse.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Cookie party!

Cookie party!

Ever since painting the cookies for the bibliophile's game shower back in March, I wanted to have a cookie painting party for Nico and his little toddler buddies. Christmas seemed like the perfect time to do it, so we invited two friends over on Monday afternoon and two friends over on Tuesday evening to paint cookies and play. The guests (who just happened to be all girls) ranged in age from two to four years old, and they all seemed to really love it. Nico was so-so on his interest on Monday but got a lot more into it on Tuesday. I have to say, this may turn out to be one of my very favorite Christmas activities of the year. The painting ended up taking up just the right amount of time, the kids enjoyed it, there was really minimal mess, and it was something different and fun. As a bonus, the cookies look iced after baking but the paint doesn't add any additional sugar the way icing or sprinkles will.

In case anyone else wants to try this with toddlers or even older kids, I thought I'd write up a the how-to. I made the cookie dough and the cookie paint on Sunday late afternoon / evening. Since the Monday party was in the morning and we were going to story time with Santa right before, I rolled out and cut the cookies on Sunday night as well. I cut a dozen cookies for each of the three kids for the first party, but if I was doing it again, I'd do ten per kid. With older kids, rolling and cutting could be part of the party, but I find it's a fiddly, frustrating process and I decided I'd rather just do it myself since our guests were so young and there was no good way for all of them to help at once. Each kid got his or her own cookie sheet of cookie cut-outs on parchment paper the next day.

I stored the leftover dough in an old-school Pyrex casserole dish with a glass lid overnight, but I should've double-wrapped it in plastic wrap instead. It was a little dry by the time I rolled out the second batch to cut on Tuesday afternoon, though it worked out okay. For the second party I only had enough dough for seven cookies per kid, which is why I'd reduce the number on the first set.

I used a sugar cookie recipe that I copied out of my mom's hand-written receipe book years ago, which I think was the one she got from her mom (see below). I don't know the origin, but it's the one I always use. It does tend to make crispy cookies, so if you prefer a softer sugar cookie, you'll probably want a different recipe. I rolled the dough a bit too thin on some of the cookies, which let the paint overcook a little. They still tasted okay in the end, though. The paint recipe comes from A Baker's Field Guide to Christmas Cookies by Dede Wilson and is paraphrased below as well. I had never separated eggs before and didn't have any trouble at all with making the paint. I used four eggs, made four colors of paint, and divided each color between two plastic baby food containers with lids. I could've easily divided it into three or four dishes per color and the kids still wouldn't have run out. I stored the paint in the containers in the fridge overnight and it worked great for the second day. If there had been much more of a gap between uses, though, I probably would've just made more paint. I didn't have much luck getting really true colors since the yolks of the eggs I used were super bright yellow…your mileage may vary.

I initially planned to buy the brushes in the baking aisle at Michaels, but the Wilton brand brushes were $3.99 for a three-pack and they looked exactly like plain kids' paintbrushes. Instead I bought a 24-pack of brushes in the kids' art supply section for $1.99. This worked out great because the brushes came in the same four colors of paint I was planning to make. The idea was that there would be a dedicated brush for each paint pot, but once my child got involved, there was brush / color mixing all over the place. The two-year-old and three-year-olds didn't really notice, but the four-year-old became rather protective of her un-besmirched colors. Next time I think I will prepare a set of color pots for each child so that the picky kids can have pristine paint and it won't matter if my kid dumps all the colors together for fun, which he totally did halfway through Tuesday's party. So buy whatever brushes you can find that are cheap and wash them first (I just soaked mine in soapy dishwater for a few minutes, then rinsed.) You'll probably want to soak them in hot water as soon as the painting is done so the egg yolks don't harden in the bristles. I can't tell you if they're dishwasher safe because we don't have one.

He's also a marker cap switcher. I'm not sure how I managed to birth a cap-switching paint-mixer, but I suppose there's no accounting for recessive genes.

Once the kids were done painting, we let them play while the cookies baked and cooled. Then at the end of the playdate, everyone got to take their edible projects home. Reports are that the kids were thrilled to have treats to take home. As Nico and his friends get older, I figure I can add in fancier decorating options, but just the plain paint worked out fantastically this year.

1 cup butter (softened, not melted)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt

Cream butter, add sugar gradually. Add unbeaten egg and vanilla, beat well. Sift in / stir together remaining dry ingredients in a separate dish, then sift / stir into mix. (NOTE: I did not do the separate dish thing. I added 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp of everything else, and then repeated until I'd reached the needed total amounts.)

Roll into balls and press flat or chill dough to roll out and cut.

After decorating, bake 8 - 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

For each color:
Separate an egg, keeping the yolk for the paint. Whisk the yolk until smooth. Divide yolk among several dishes if desired, then use gel food coloring to tint each dish. (I had to use a lot of coloring to approximate blue since my yolks were rather aggressively yellow.)

Yay, cookies!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012



It seems I've once again reached the stage of pregnancy where I sometimes have to get up in the night and go make a plate of toast lest I starve to death on my pillow. I remember doing this with Nico, too, and in fact I got up around 3 AM the morning of his birthday and had toast, knowing it would be the last time I was allowed to eat for quite a while (over 24 hours, it would turn out).

I haven't written nearly as much about this pregnancy as I hoped / planned / should have. The trilobite continues to be an ideal and super-easy tenant. He also is rambunctious as can be, which is awesome and sometimes a little surreal. How can someone so small pack such hilariously big punches? We hit 28 weeks yesterday (third trimester!) and I went in for my routine OB appointment. My doctor chased the baby around with the Doppler as he grew increasingly sassy, booting the receiver and then scuttling away. She finally gave up, laughing, and asked, "Is this normal for you?" I was pleased to tell her that yes, it is.

If our current plan of only two children holds true, I will be okay. I will be so fulfilled with two (two!) fantastic little boys. But I'll be sad to never again host an extremely acrobatic baby who sometimes demands late night toast.

Monday, December 03, 2012

A hot mess

A hot mess

Yesterday while I was in the shower, Nico stole a peanut butter cracker from MB and took a bite. About 45 minutes later, he threw up an entire cup of yogurt all over MB and the couch. This is significant because about six months ago, my mom gave Nico a bite of bread with the thinnest smudge of peanut butter on it, and the same thing happened. He flipped out, adorably wailing "What's in my mouth?" and requesting Grandma to get it off, and then threw up 30 - 45 minutes later. And when Mom and I talked about it yesterday, she recalled that when he was about a year old, she'd given him a bite of a peanut butter cookie and he'd later barfed on the floor. So over almost two years, it took us a long time to establish the pattern, but putting the pieces together it suddenly seems clear that Nico has a legitimate issue with peanuts beyond just an aversion to the texture of peanut butter. I posted a flippant status about it on facebook, vowed to keep the kid off peanuts, and figured that was it. Except when I checked my facebook a few hours later, there was a resounding consensus that we need to get Nico tested for a true peanut allergy, lest it suddenly become more severe without warning.

I spent the rest of the day in a bit of a bummed-out funk. Even though I knew it was absurd, I felt awful and guilty, as if there was something I could've done or not done to spare him. A day later I don't feel terrible anymore, though of course I'm a little worried and I'm hoping it turns out to be a mild sensitivity. The thought of having to jab an epi pen into his fat little thigh makes me want to cry. I asked his pediatrician about it this morning and she didn't seem very concerned. Initially she recommended that we just wait six months without letting him have peanut butter again and then see what happens. I told her I was a little concerned with him starting school in January that it might be better to know for sure what's up, and she agreed and set up a referral to an allergist. Even if it's no big thing, I'd really rather know. A few friends of mine with kids in preschool have told me their kids are in peanut-free classes and it's really no big deal, which makes me feel better.

We were at the pediatrician so quickly because Nico woke up this morning with an awful-looking red swollen bump on his upper lip. The swelling went down on its own within about two hours and he was biting at it a little which makes me think it didn't really hurt, but man…it looked terrible. Everything looks worse on your own kid, I'm sure, especially when said kid is still really little. But since neither MB nor I witnessed any kind of fall or injury yesterday, my immediate thought was that it had to be a spider bite or a cold sore. A cold sore! I'm kind of torn up over this. MB and I don't get cold sores but my parents do, so of course it's possible Nico could've picked up the virus somewhere along the way. The doctor said it looked like a cold sore but might be a mysterious injury, and gave us a prescription for some cream to put on it if it looks worse tomorrow. I'm sure it's, again, no big thing, but all day I have felt like wringing my hands and crying "My baby!" Nico seems no worse for wear, but we're kind of a hot mess so far this week. And my couch still smells kind of gross.

slightly plague-ridden yet still adorable