Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Love Note to Darius Rucker

(Because what says "Christmas spirit" more than that? Also, I'm really into writing open letters these days.)

Dear Darius,

I was eleven years old when Cracked Rear View came out. I think my dad bought me your CD -- I'm not sure why, exactly -- maybe it was his attempt to get me to listen to something more current than John Denver and Air Supply? Maybe he thought I'd piggybacked off his musical tastes long enough. Maybe he was alarmed that the first CD I actually bought by my own volition was Ace of Base Happy Nation/The Sign and bringing me this CD was his way of gently suggesting that I. . . never spend his money on Swedish techno-pop again. Maybe he'd just heard it and liked it and wasn't sure how socially acceptable it was for a 40-something number cruncher to be into a band called Hootie and the Blowfish so he claimed it was for his daughter. At any rate, I got it. And I played the heck out of it. Seventh-grade Karinya could belt out "Only Wanna be with You" with the best of 'em. Just ask my neighbors.

I'll confess to getting a little annoyed when you were in your pouty "don't call me Hootie" phase. If you are the lead singer of a band called Hootie and the Blowfish, convention dictates that the name preceding the "and the band" part of the name is the name of the SINGER, but whatever. I don't want to dwell on that. I've grown, you've grown; we're different people now. I'll respect your wishes and address you by your actual name.

Our relationship might have lost a bit of its initial spark in the years that followed -- I went through a teenage heavy metal phase (no, really. My first screenname was Metallichick_525 and I spent a lot of time in Metallica chat rooms and dating guys in bad garage bands. I'm full of surprises.) You were always around to some degree, though. I bought everything you put out -- even the albums no one liked and your weird little B-sides. I might have picked some of them up secondhand at the local CD Warehouse, but --

And then! Then I had a baby. (Well, we're probably skipping a step or two, but I'm trying to keep this to a readable length.) I had a baby with colic. I had a baby with colic and no (helpful) partner. I had a baby with colic and no partner and a death in the family (my grandfather passed away a couple of days after I gave birth. It was all very circle-of-life). I had a baby with colic and no partner and a death in the family and was so sleep-deprived that I actually googled things like, "will you pass out before you die from exhaustion or will you just die with no warning?" I'm 100% serious.

And it was 4am and I was crying and begging K to just oh my God, please, please, please go to sleep. Please (hey, that doesn't sound entirely dissimilar to some nights in more recent history! But with less crying on my part) and a song came on the radio with the lines "He didn't have to wake up/He'd been up all night/Layin’ there in bed listenin’/To his new born baby cry."

At this point I said, okay, mystery singer who sounds suspiciously familiar. I'm listening. There aren't many songs that actually acknowledge anything beyond the "precious little miracle" aspect of newborns, so let's see what else you've got to say. And then you said this: "It won’t be like this for long/One day we'll look back laughin’/At the week we brought her home/This phase is gonna fly by/So baby just hold on/‘Cause it won't be like this for long."

And then I cried some more. But for different reasons. (Is this song cheesy? Of course! Does that matter? Not at all!) I googled the lyrics and found that it was my beloved Hootie Darius, Darius! And that he was now a country singer? I was confused but handed over my credit card number to itunes anyway and downloaded the whole album. And then listened to that song over and over and over and felt a little more confident that I'd get through this. Our flame had been rekindled.

Some more stuff happened. I survived colic. I survived teething. I bought a house. I got a divorce. I had some messy. . . learning experiences. I fell in love with Bob. And then I drove down the road and heard another song whose lyrics were just so spot-on that I couldn't wait to get home/google/study lyrics/buy/sing obsessively. And do you know who sings this song, Darius? You do! You're such a goof sometimes. It is "This" off the Charleston, SC 1965 album. Almost all of the lyrics are "yes! this!" worthy, but the chorus sums it up nicely: "Every stoplight I didn’t make/Every chance I did or I didn’t take/All the nights I went too far/All the girls that broke my heart/All the doors that I had to close/All the things I knew but I didn’t know/Thank God for all I missed/Cause it led me here to this." You can hear the song here:

Was this album written for us, Darius? (Here I should probably specify that I mean me and Bob, not me and you, because while we've got something special,  I am actually engaged to another man and I'm very happy with him.) I thought it might be, but then I heard the song "Might Get Lucky" and I KNEW that it was. My favorite line: "There's a window of opportunity between/when the kids are tucked in and a half a glass of Chardonnay." You are a perceptive man, my friend. You really do need to hit up moms for grown-up time before they break out the wine. (Or at least before they get more than half a glass in!) I texted this line to Bob at work just because it made me laugh/rang a little too true ;-)

I could go on (I like the "The Craziest Thing," too!) but you get the point.

Thanks for writing the soundtrack to my life, buddy. Keep it up!



(Readers: And, um, in case this is the last time I blog before Christmas: I hope it's a good one for all of you! Thanks for reading!)


Monday, December 20, 2010

Warning Signs

I'm considering putting a deadbolt on my bedroom door. Not to prevent middle-of-the-night bed crashing. (K has actually only come out of her room ONCE during the night this last week! That's amazing! I'm probably jinxing it here but I needed to share that Christmas miracle with you.) No. I think I need a lock for personal protection. Self-preservation. Whatever you want to call it.

K and I were in the car the other day. I was driving. She was playing with one of those God-Forsaken charming baby dolls that make noise. This particular one makes a sucking and gurgling sound (again, charming) like it's working on a pacifier or bottle.

K calls out from the backseat, "Baby choking! Baby choking!"

"I don't think the baby is choking, K. She's trying to suck on a pacifier. A binky. That's not choking."

At this point I'm still keeping my eyes on the road, because I am an attentive driver. (Ha!)

"No, Mom. LOOK! Baby choking! Look, mom!"

I look. She's sitting there, tiny toddler hands THROTTLING THE NECK OF HER BABY DOLL.

At this point I'm mostly amused. I've wanted to choke the life out of that particular doll before, too. I try not to laugh and instead explain why we don't, uh, choke babies.

Everything is quiet for a few minutes. Then I hear it again. "Look, mom. Baby choking!"

I think, okay, let's try a different tactic. "Why would you want to choke your baby? Why would you want to do that to Baby . . . What is that baby's name?" (K is an eclectic doll-namer, and has characters ranging from the mundane "Baby Sue" to the more colorful "Baby Dar-Dar" to one that's just called Baby Baby.)

K: "Baby Karinya [my last name]."

YOU GUYS. My daughter was not only enthusiastically choking a baby, but a baby who happens to share my FULL NAME.

I'm afraid of my toddler. If there's another long period of silence here on the blog, you might want to send someone over to do a welfare check.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What I Really Want for Christmas

Bob keeps harassing me to make a Christmas list. He actually started asking me for this several months ago, and here we are: nine days before Christmas (nine days!) and I'm still finding reasons to put it off. (If you had told me five years ago that I'd have trouble coming up with gifts for myself that I'd like to receive, I would have laughed. so. hard. But now? If it's not for K, I usually have huge "but there are better ways to spend that money!" guilt over it. Unless it's something that I buy on a whim at Target. My middle-class mom money guilt seems to go out the window at Target.)

But now I've figured it out. What do I really want/need for Christmas?

A clone. Or three.

Right now, if magically gifted with a small (peaceful!) army of clones, I'd have:

-One sit down and read through the three work manuscripts I have piled up, taking diligent editorial notes and not budging until they were all read in their entirety and the client reports were delivered.
-One clean my house. Dear Baby Jesus, I don't understand how it gets so messy so quickly.
-One to tackle administrative tasks. Return e-mails, make phone calls I've been putting off, run to the post office, etc. I'd also like for them to arrange for a trash pickup service, so that we can stop piling garbage bags on the back deck. (SERIOUSLY, SELF. MAKE THAT PHONE CALL. YOU ARE LIVING LIKE AN ANIMAL.)
-One to plan out enrichment activities for K that are engaging and fun and better for her than my old standby of, "Hey, go watch TV, baby!" (*I* will still get to do the fun activities with her. I just want someone else to plan them/acquire the supplies/set up the activity station, and then, of course, clean up afterward.)
-One for general household maintenance work. Shoveling. Killing that damn mouse that's been scurrying around lately. Making the ancient furnace somehow suddenly way more efficient, because paying to heat a huge old farmhouse with a huge old furnace = bad news for the bank account.

I, naturally, will be busy playing with K out in the snow, baking cookies to warm up afterward, then snuggling on the couch watching The Office/30 Rock/Arrested Development DVDs until my loving almost-husband comes home to shower me with kisses, marvel at how nice the house looks/smells/etc, and replenish my bonbon supply.

What would you have your clone(s) do?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Arduous Journey (to the playhouse)

On Making Adjustments with a New Family

(This post is the latest installment in Bob's "The Geek Speaks" series.)

One of the things that I've had to get used to in sharing my home with a writer and a sometimes crazed toddler is that all of the things I used to do in my bachelorhood are now tossed out the window. I am a creature of habit and ritual; I have a way of doing things that requires time to hone the process and shape it into a lean and efficient system. In the before-time -- before K squared -- I got up at 4:44 am and got to the shower. I was done with the shower and back to my room by 5:05. I was out the door to the car by 5:30. I hit the freeway at 5:37, and knew that I would be at the parking lot at work by 6:15. I had these things down to a science.

Now, I get out of bed at 4:40 and stumble to the shower and try to wash up without falling and breaking my neck. (I have a huge somewhat irrational fear of falling in the shower.) I hopefully get out of the shower and go cuddle with Karinya for a little bit before getting ready for work. Unless toddler K has decided to join us at some point during the night and then she usually takes her half of the bed out of the middle. I'm still working on what time I need to be on the road to hit the freeway at that magical 5:37 point and in the month we've lived here, I think I've managed it twice. Still working on it but I have confidence.

Another of the adjustments that I've had to undergo is eating healthy. Karinya has this habit of wanting to make delicious dinners for me to eat, with foods that aren't filled with chemicals and other additives. I've been used to going to a variety of restaurants and plunking down my money and having someone put food of unknown origin in front of me. She insists on taking care of me!

I've been pretty self-reliant over these last many years. I mean, I know how to do my own laundry and (sort of) clean for myself and pay my own bills mostly on time. But I find myself having someone caring for me in ways that I had forgotten were possible. In that same manner, I find myself wanting to care for someone else -- two someone elses, even -- because it makes me feel good to do so. It takes time to adjust to these things that I'd forgotten existed.

Finally, instead of coming home to a basement apartment and watching TV until it was time to go to bed, I now come home to a family who looks forward to me being there and is happy to see me. When I come in, K rushes to hug daddy with a big smile on her face and Karinya smiles at me and gives me a kiss and a hug. It's like something that comes straight out of Leave it to Beaver, I know.

How will I ever adjust to all of these things happening to me? How will I figure out how many minutes it takes me to go from shower to the car? How will I ever get used to eating all of these healthy foods?

Dear readers, I cannot answer these difficult questions. But I can promise you this: I will, to the best of my ability, enjoy trying to find out the answers to these and a thousand others over the next 40 plus years of being with my family.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

An Open Letter to my House

(Inspired by the McSweeney's feature, "Open Letters to People or Entities who are Unlikely to Respond.")

Dear (old) house,

It’s a snowy Wednesday in mid-December and I’m visiting you to do some laundry (because while your replacement has you bested in almost every category, it does not yet have laundry facilities) and to reminisce. I’m sitting on one of the last two pieces of furniture left in you, and instead of reading the work manuscript I brought with me, I’m writing you this letter to commemorate our time together.  You’ve taught me a lot in the year and a half since I bought you, but time management was clearly not one of those things.

Do you remember the day we met? It was right after I’d fallen in love with another house – a house with hardwood floors and plenty of extra bedrooms and a gorgeous, gorgeous kitchen. It was after my realtor had called to tell me that, whoops, that house was already under contract when we went to go visit it. You, my dear, were a rebound. Instead of hardwood floors you had black & white checkered linoleum and worn blue carpet. Instead of extra bedrooms you had two. Instead of a big remodeled kitchen, you had about seven square feet of counter space (total) and only one cabinet for dishes.  As an added bonus, your layout included only a wobbly piece of what was probably intended as a garden edge fence to keep one from walking directly from the dining room area to the cold concrete basement floor ten feet below. But! You didn’t have any other offers on you and your price had been reduced and I was busy and didn’t have time to mess around. You were clearly the right choice for a single mom and her unsteady baby.

Do you remember our first night together? We ordered a pizza and ate on paper plates on the living room floor. It was nice. Then I went to wash my hands and discovered that the only water that comes out of your bathroom sink is scalding hot. (A year and a half later I still haven’t taken care of that.) Fun surprise, house! Then do you remember what you gave me the day after closing? Do you?

YOU GAVE ME A FLOODED BASEMENT. Do you know why I remember this? Because I am still making payments on the resultant repairs/sump pump installation/mold treatment. That was fun. Really fun. I don’t know which I enjoyed more, come to think of it: the initial discovery of the water, or the days of men running jackhammers in my basement. They were both equally awesome, I guess.

I was undaunted. (Or rather, I was “daunted” as all get out, but by this point in the game I’d sunk so much money into you that I didn’t see any other option but to keep sinking money into you.) I was in it for the long-haul with you, house. It was going to be me and you, together, forever (or until I found some sucker kind, loving man to buy me a gorgeous old immaculately-restored farmhouse – Hi, honey!). I got you pretty new windows in the basement. I got you some nice warm insulation. I brought your electrical work up to date. (When the electrician came out he said – totally matter-of-factly—“Well, your house probably won’t catch on fire. But if it gets struck by lightning, all of the nails are going to pop out and your siding will fall off.”) I even got you sparkly fancy things like vents. Vents! I treated you good.

How did you pay me back? By continuing to fall apart. By revealing to me that your “custom shower” was probably installed by a sixth grader and that eventually your leak was going to rot away the floorboards underneath. (That day I cried in front of two plumbers.) 

And now? Now you’re mostly empty. You still have junk in the basement and half a gallon of expired milk in the fridge; some stray mate-less shoes in the closet and a collection of empty Diet Coke cans waiting to be recycled. You smell like cats with behavioral issues. (I… I thought it would be a good idea to bring a third cat into a 750 square foot bungalow. I was wrong!) Your carpet is . . . I have multiple degrees in creative writing, and I still can’t even begin to imagine what the right word might be to describe the current state of your carpet. (I even have a degree in a second language and – nope, I don’t think Spanish has a word that captures quite that level of horribleness, either!)

I don’t hate you, though. I still kind of love you, and I know that before too long I’m going to have to do something with you – either fix you up to rent or sell or burn down for the insurance money.   Our breakup saddens me, just a little. You were the first house I bought. By myself. You were where my daughter learned to walk. You were where I proved to myself that I could shovel out of a blizzard when I was sick and with a baby attached to my hip. (Literally. I shoveled and wore her in a baby carrier!) You were where I learned how to scrub chocolate-milk vomit out of carpet (…kind of) and that it’s generally best to leave relationships with contractors at the professional level.  You taught me not to be afraid of the fuse box.

All that said: thanks for the memories, old house. It’s been an (expensive, stressful) adventure, but one that I’m glad to have had.

Love  (& a bit of loathing),


PS: New house: don’t get any ideas from this blog entry!

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Week in Food

(We like food. A lot. I don't think this will come as a surprise to any of our readers.)

Until Friday morning (so early! Our furnace guy is either very in demand or very lazy, because he has a habit of waiting until a few hours after the initial appointment to call and reschedule, but aaaanyway --) we didn't have any real cooking capabilities. We had a crockpot -- and I'm actually a big crockpot fan! -- but no range or oven. Rather, we had them, but we had no natural gas line going into the kitchen. . . (Why does everything seem ten times more complicated than it needs to be when you're a homeowner?)

Anyway, early Friday morning our furnace/gas/etc. guy got here to hook up the gas line to the kitchen/clean the furnace/other fun things. My favorite exchange? When he said, "Hey, put your hands here. You feel that? That's a carbon monoxide leak!" To which I responded, "Oh." Sometimes I feel like people must think I'm -- I don't know, "special needs?" -- but really, what else do you say to that?

At any rate, he fixed it. He cleaned the furnace (which is older than I am!) and the water heater. He hooked a gas line up to the kitchen. He gave me a working range. When I went to write out the check, he said he'd send me a bill instead, and I'm not sure whether he was being semi-merciful (as in, "I know you don't have this in your checking account now, so I'll let you sweat it out/save/wait a bit,") or cruel ("muahahaha they'll never know what's about to hit them!"), but --

Our first week in the house was full o' crock pot goodness. Or at least crock pot edibleness. We made slow-cooker beef stew with mushrooms which was gooood, we made some kind of chicken and noodle and white wine stew that turned out a little too "eh" to bother linking to, and we made Stephanie O'Dea's nice pot roast recipe. (I love her book Make it Fast, Cook it Slow. She's my crock pot hero!) The beef stew disappeared in a day. The chicken "stuff" is probably on its way out into the trash  (sorry, starving African orphans or whoever), and the pot roast is on its way to becoming taco/enchilada/southwestern something for tomorrow night's leftover dinner extravaganza.

On Friday, after we were gifted with the magic of natural gas in the kitchen, we made plain old white bread to christen the oven. I know that's a totally lame/unadventurous recipe to use for bread, but it's served me well in the past. This time? Either my shiny new oven runs hot or the yeast really does die when the package says it expires, because it was a little flat/sad, but still pretty good. A friend suggested trying this recipe for No-Fuss Focaccia but I went with the tried & true recipe this time (because I'm boring?) but that one is going on the to-try list! My assistant helped me knead. With her nose. With a cold. Oy.

A few vitamin C pills and a good night's sleep later, we turned that bread into Overnight Blueberry Stuffed French Toast! Oh, goodness. I'm watching calories these days, but -- this is worth it. We made a few mods (mostly scaling back the recipe for a family of 2.5, and using slightly lighter ingredients when possible), but -- yep, definitely worth it. Especially on a snowy Sunday morning. I don't mean to be all gushy about my newly found domestic bliss, but -- Sunday morning family breakfasts are awesome. We had coffee. We had snuggling. (Later we also had more football than---- anyway.) We had glorious high-fat breakfasts with whipped cream. I don't care how many lunges I'll have to do or how many grilled skinless chicken breasts the next few days will bring. This morning was lovely :-)

Let's see, what else? Before the oven got hooked up, Bob had a rotten day at work and I wanted to surprise him in an "I'm a pseudo-SAHM-with-a-toddler-and, uh,-a-job-and-no-working-oven" way and K and I made a batch of no-bake bourbon cookies, as follows:

2 cups crushed vanilla wafers (because I like making cookies from other cookies)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
...2+ish tablespoons honey (I don't know how much I ended up using -- it didn't seem sticky enough with what the original recipe called for)
1/4 cup bourbon
(Some recipes call for chopped pecans too, but we've got a toddler with nut allergies so we skipped that. Uh, not that we should be feeding the toddler bourbon to begin with...)

Mix cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder together. Pour in the bourbon & honey, and dig those hands in! (I started trying to mix with a spoon but it was just -- hands were easier.) It should be kind of a clay-like consistency. Roll into balls, then roll in more powdered sugar. Refrigerate (they're supposed to be better cold & aged a couple of days, but they were pretty good fresh, too!) and enjoy!

At any rate: hello, new week. Why are you waving all those carrot sticks at me?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Toddler Goofiness

(There isn't any actual substance here, just fluff. Fair warning!)

Is it horribly gloomy and cold right now where you live? It sure is here. On a happier note, K is working her cute toddler mojo hard enough today that she's counteracting at least a little of the winter blahs.

This morning, upon waking up:
K: "Where's Daddy?"
Me: "Daddy went to work."
K: "Oh. I was sleeping."

On the way to the store to grab a missing dinner ingredient, I noticed that she had a look of intense concentration on her face. A look that usually means she's working on a. . . diaper surprise.
Me: "What are you doing, K?"
K: (In a strained voice through clenched teeth) "I'm trying to stay warm!"

A short while later at the checkout, I was putting the groceries up on the counter when Ms. K snagged a piece of candy from the display, snuck around me, handed it to the cashier for her to scan, and then took it back and started walking towards the exit. I didn't notice any of this until I looked to see what the people in the next checkout line were laughing about. (I'm an attentive mother.) I was impressed enough that I let her keep it. If you want strawberry Mentos (?!) that badly, K, then by all means, enjoy 'em. (This is a more sophisticated candy-acquiring technique, as she used to be a fan of the "bite through the wrapper so mom HAS to buy it" strategy.)

Now she's wearing the bowl that her orange slices were in on her head as a hat. It's tough times in the Unlikely Origins household -- we can't afford both Mentos AND winter gear, so it's a good thing she's learned to improvise.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Parenting Style is Roller Coaster*

*First, a toddler anecdote: Our new house is close to an interesting train crossing. It's a fun twisting-turn at the top of a small hill, and it's bumpy as ----. K thinks crossing it is great fun, and she excitedly cries out "roller coaster!" every time we go over it. Bob's even got her putting her arms up in the air. For someone who has never been on an actual roller coaster, she's got great form!

In general, I consider myself a proponent of attachment style parenting. We exclusively nursed for the first six months, and practiced* extended breastfeeding. We co-slept for a long, long time (and, if I'm being honest, we probably would still be co-sleeping if Bob wasn't in the picture. Alas, a toddler in the bed makes a new romance difficult -- though she's a terrific form of birth control.) I did the babywearing thing. She was with me constantly until I had to put her in part time daycare at 18 months.

*I'm as pro-breastfeeding as they come but, Dear Baby Jesus, please get this thing off my boob already. 

When I'm well-rested, I don't believe in "crying it out." I don't believe in corporal punishment. I don't believe in foods made with high fructose corn syrup. Naturally, I do believe in unicorns and fairies.

When I'm especially not well-rested? When I've spent half the night trying to get her to sleep before tiptoeing down the stairs, trying to will the 100 year old hardwood floor not to creak, then crawl with cautious optimism into the grown-up bed, then hear "Mommy, where are you?!?" right as I'm starting to fall asleep?

My parenting ideals go out the window. I want to spank her little baby butt. I want to not only let her cry it out, but also lock her bedroom door and find my earplugs. The next morning I want to go ahead and hook her up to an IV of Capri Sun "juice" if it'll buy me five minutes of relative peace.

Yesterday K woke up at 5am after going to bed at 1:30. (I hadn't gotten to bed until 2!) She ignored my threats of great violence  gentle urgings to go back to bed. I lay down with her (contorting one's body to be half on the floor and half on a toddler mattress is good for you, right? Like yoga?) and instead of graciously accepting her partial victory in the Make-Mom-Sleep-With-Me-Not-Bob battle, she wanted to engage in an epic staring competition. Around 7 I gave up, went downstairs, turned on the coffee maker and fired up the laptop. I grumbled. I worked. She sat next to me on the couch with a smug little smile on her (admittedly adorable) face.

Bob, conveniently enough, had taken the day off work. He volunteered to stay home with her while I went on a much needed work-off-the-stress run.  (I like this having a co-parent thing.) I was in the middle of making a snarky comment about how with each step I was going to imagine ... well, maybe not stepping on her head, but --

then she threw her arms around me in an enthusiastic toddler hug and said, "Love you, Mom."

Way to work that guilt, baby. You've got this down to a science.

I went on my run. I came back feeling less homicidal. I didn't beat myself up (too much!) over the things I'd thought under the cloud of sleep deprivation and general parental stress. I know that there will always be a discrepancy between the kind of parent I want to be and the kind of parent that I am. I get that that's a part of the game.

I don't like it, but I get it.

Parents who have survived the toddler phase: at some point this evens out a little, right? I kind of feel like starting an It Gets Better campaign for parents of two-year-olds wouldn't be a horrible idea. . . (Consider this an open invitation to leave inspiring stories in the comments section!)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Between Noon and Four

Oof, it's been a week since our last blog post. A week! I've barely had time to breathe recently, let alone blog. (I like to have tea at night as my little "mom break" in an effort to restore sanity, right? I had to re-heat my tea THREE TIMES the other night before I actually got to drink it. One of those times I didn't even get to take it out of the microwave before it went cold. Tangent: yeah, I microwave tea.)

But we've made it through a full week of cohabitation, and so far neither of us is having "Oh, God, what have I done?" thoughts. . . or at least none that have been vocalized ;-)

We've survived:
-a night when K woke up four times between 3 and 7am
-six days with no kitchen appliances. (I wanted to kiss the delivery guy when he finally brought our shiny new refrigerator and range on Saturday.)
-so many trips through the McDonalds drive-through that K now, as a regular part of her goofy backseat chattering, spontaneously orders "kids meal, chicken nunnets, fries, choca-milk..."
-More trips back and forth with loads of boxes, furniture, etc. than I can count.
-Lots of cursing about how early it gets dark these days. If there's anything more fun than unloading truckloads of boxes in the freezing cold with a toddler in tow, it's unloading truckloads of boxes in the freezing cold with a toddler in tow in the dark.
-The realization that the electrician I'd just called and given my phone number and address and an invitation to come to my house to shares a name with a high-profile murderer.
-So. Many. Phone calls. (I'm not a phone fan, as anyone who has ever tried to get me to return a call knows ;-)
-The soul-crushing discovery that the new TV we'd ordered for the house would not, in fact, be delivered before Thanksgiving (thanks for nothing, Amazon!) Do you know how much fun it is to live in a house with a little toddler who only wants to watch Dora/Elmo and a big toddler (hi honey!) who only wants to watch football/whatever is on SyFy when there is only one television and a long holiday weekend? *I know it's kind of absurd to complain about this, since it's not like I'm bubbling over with time to watch TV.
-Thanksgiving dinner at Old Country Buffet because, man, I was tired (and applianceless) and they were open. I love to cook, but --

We made it to (some of) K's extracurricular activities, too! She got to go to yoga. She got to play with friends. We visited one grandma, and called another one. I even fit in a (freezing cold) run (where I was rewarded with multiple snakes on the trail. Isn't it about time for you to check out for the winter, snakes?)

I didn't get everything on the list done. I still have two manuscripts I need to read for work (sometimes I almost forget that I have a job-job amidst everything else) in boxes next to my bed. I still have unpacking to do. I would, at some point, like to feed my family a dinner that isn't ordered by number. I --

am as happy as I can remember ever being.

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Babies, Boxes, Blissful Sleep

K is a tough little kid. (I first typed "baby" here, but that's not really accurate anymore, beyond the "she'll always be my baby" sense.)

When we run together (not when I push her in the stroller while *I* run -- she wants to run *with* me) she almost always takes a spill or two along the way, usually because she gets distracted or starts laughing so hard over who-knows-what that she just kind of forgets to think about her feet. Do you know what she does after she falls?

She stands up, brushes off her hands, and starts running again.

This started when I (playfully!) modeled the hand-brushing for her and tried telling her to "walk it off, baby!" as a way to distract her from the instant exaggerated tears any time any sort of tumble happened (like on soft carpet.) But it worked. (Telling an injured baby to walk it off? Whoa, publishers, don't all come knocking at my door at once trying to sign me for that book on parenting you'd love to have me write.) And now, 95% of the time, even when she falls full-force from a run onto cold asphalt, she really does it. She brushes her hands and (runs) it off.

She's had a broken bone. She survived an assassination attempt via peanut butter. (That's when we found out the fun way that she's allergic. Sorry, K!) She spent her first year of life with two parents one parent and one additional adult in the house, then took it all in stride when one disappeared. After having never been apart from me for more than an hour, ever, she adjusted to going to daycare starting at 18 months. (*Well, she's still a bit of a crankpants about the daycare thing.) She's had three different addresses. Three.

Last night was our first official night in what is hopefully going to be her last address for quite a while. (Unless we win the lottery. Then I might be willing to put her through one more move . . . )  She'd been helping me move a little at a time for a few weeks now, and she understood, as well as a toddler can, what was going on. (She could differentiate between/discuss "our house," "Bob's house," and "new house" a single conversation.) When we got done dropping off a load of boxes and pulled out of the driveway, lately she'd been waving and saying, "Bye new house!"

Yesterday Bob's sister took K off our hands so that we could move the Big Stuff. (And by "we," I mean a team of strong friends ;-) By the time we got K back, the house was looking more like an actual home, complete with furniture! I didn't know what she'd think, but -- she just kind of looked around a little, settled in on the couch with me and Bob and a bag of popcorn, and watched How to Train Your Dragon. After that? She went to bed in her own room, in her own bed. She stayed asleep for the entire night. No bed crashing. No crying. No 4am parties. It was glorious. I climbed (quietly!) up the stairs around 9:30 this morning to peek in her bedroom, to make sure she was still, you know, breathing.

Tomorrow I might be tempted to put her out in the barn, but for now? I'm just a little in awe of her resilience and all around awesomeness. She really is a trooper.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Arms, Don't Fail Me Now

You know that point in the moving process where you shift from neat, organized, labeled boxes packed in a logical, relaxed manner to OhForTheLoveOfGodJustThrowTheCrapInABoxAndGo? We're so there.

We've been moving a little at a time for a couple of weeks now. A pickup load here and there when the schedule/weather/toddler allow. (The toddler, actually, has two almost entirely furnished rooms already at the new house -- a bedroom and a playroom. The adults? We don't even have a mattress there yet. Or dishes that are not made of paper.)

This weekend we're cranking Operation Cohabitation up to eleven. (Relatedly, are you guys on the make Nigel Tufnel Day happen bandwagon for next year? You probably should be.) Child care has been arranged. Friends have made promises to show up (in the morning on a Saturday!) to carry heavy things. If all goes well, by Sunday evening we should be living less like nomads (good lord, we're currently splitting our time between three houses) and more like a Real Official Family with a single address.

Wish us luck, ya'll. We're going to need it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not At All Wordless Wednesday!

Ignore my gross hand, ya'll. Focus on the ring!

Bob proposed on Saturday.

We had dropped K off at his sister's house for her first overnight away from home (our little girl is growing up!) and we stopped at the new house afterward. He said he wanted to check something out in the back, so we walked up the little hill together, where we could look out over the stream and the woods.

Where he got down on one knee. And brought out the (gorgeous) ring.

It. Was. Perfect.

I said yes, then called him a jerk (or maybe it was the other way around?) because he'd done a very thorough job of convincing me that this was actually *not* going to happen that weekend. And because I'm totally sweet and romantic like that. Ahem.

Aaaanyway, post-initial-surprise/stumbling-over-my-own-feet-because-I-was-so-focused-on-the-ring ("I don't think you should drive with that on," Bob said. "You're going to get distracted and veer off the road,") we high-tailed it to Ann Arbor where we had reservations here. (Going to restaurants without a toddler in tow is awesome, by the way. No crayons or chocolate milk in sight!)  We had a table right by the window, and everything was delicious. There was sashimi. There was awesome (cooked!) fish. There was rice in pyramid form. (Bob SQUASHED my pyramid-o-rice, and I was so incredulous over it that the manager brought me another pyramid. "I didn't want to see your fun ruined," he said. Ten points for you, manager dude. No points for you, fiancĂ©!) There was also chocolate-covered-chocolate for dessert. I didn't even think about calories once, that's how good everything was.

And then? Then there was hot tubbing under the stars, complete with cheesy love songs. Swoon. 

Maybe the best part of the night was that we got to sleep for as long as we wanted with NO BABY CRASHING OUR BED. (Thanks again, Bob's sister!) 

Not a bad weekend at all ;-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Toddler Moments

from the last week or so. I have big, sickeningly romantic news to write about here when I have time for a real entry, but for now? Cute toddler junk!

*"There's a buffalo on my head!" /Repeated for most of the hour-long drive between the new house and our current house, as she tried to balance her stuffed buffalo on her noggin.

*Me: "Sorry, K. The baby seat for the potty is at the other house already. There's no baby seat here."
K: [pats regular toilet seat] "No baby seat. Daddy seat!"

*K, upon waking up one morning: "Turkey Sandwich."
Me: "Is that what you want for breakfast? A turkey sandwich?"
K: "Turkey Sandwich . . . and chocolate."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Our First Giveaway Winner!

THANK YOU to everyone who entered. You made me feel like a real, official Mom Blogger ;-) has selected comment number 8 as the winner, and that one belongs to Nat! Congratulations! I'll be in touch to get your mailing address soon.

We've got more fun stuff in store for the future. For now: Happy Friday, everyone!

Late to the Party

I usually am. (Late to the party, that is.) There was a time when I actually got things done according to schedule, and even arrived early for appointments, but --gosh, how long ago was that? Oh, right. About two years. Hm. Interesting.

At any rate, when Bob and I first started kicking around the idea of writing complementary Veteran's Day posts, I thought -- yay! It'll be the first time we're actually going to use the blog in the way that we thought we'd use it from the beginning -- to share two different viewpoints on issues that impact the family unit. He posted his Veteran's Day entry yesterday morning. Then waited. And waited. Then went to sleep.

Sometimes I can sneak in late-night blogging when the baby is in bed. Last night? Nope. Passed out ten minutes after she did. "I'll just do it in the morning, when my brain is actually working," I thought.

K had other plans. She woke up yelling at 2am, I went to her room and tried to comfort her/keep her company/hold her/etc until 3:30, and which point I grew tired of contorting my body so that I was partly on the floor, partly on a toddler mattress. She tricked me into thinking she was going back to sleep a couple of times, but at the slightest twitch? MOM I'M NOT ASLEEP YET WHERE ARE YOU GOING??? OMG!!! WERE YOU GOING TO ABANDON ME? LET ME SCREAM SO THAT I CAN EXPRESS TO YOU HOW UPSETTING THIS IS TO ME.

Finally, Bob (who has to get up at 4:40am to get ready for work) hauled her little butt over into the bed with us. Was this her goal all along? Most definitely. Did we care at that point? No. We were tired. She lay there in between us, wide-awake and pleased with herself, for at least another hour before finally crashing again.

All this to say: yeah, that meaningful, coherent blog entry I was going to write about Veteran's Day? Hahahaha. Instead, here are some bullet points. Sorry, crew. It's the best I can do without a crapton of coffee.

Pros/Cons of Growing Up with a Military (Air Force! Woot!) Father:

Pro: The Christmas Parties. Santa flew in every year on a fighter jet. We all waited eagerly in the hangar, fingers-firmly-plugging-ears, for him to land and distribute our gifts.
Con: It's really tough to be impressed by/care about regular Santas (Aw, your sleigh is pulled by reindeer? How quaint.) when you're used to a Santa who is such a badass.

Pro: The postcards/gifts/etc that arrive in the mail when your dad goes to training or to work on special projects in fun places. Like Arkansas. Or Alaska. Or Texas. Or . . . exotic Alpena, Michigan. When he was in Texas he sent me one of those postcards with a Jackalope on it, and -- parents, don't do that to your kid. I really believed that those existed in Texas. Like Santa, I spent a long time thinking it was totally real. Another time I got a neat t-shirt with a bear on it. Another time I got a rock. (. . . when I say these things out loud they do not, in fact, sound like awesome gifts. At the time? I loved them.)
Con: See Jackalope note. Also? It stinks when your dad is gone. After the novelty of "No dad around to enforce rules! Party time!" wore off (and it wore off pretty quickly) we missed him like crazy.

Pro: Sunday brunch at the Officer's Club. It's been at least a dozen years and I can still remember that buffet vividly. Mmmm.
Con: Weight issues? No. Probably unfair to blame that one on the military. Semi-relatedly, as much fun as it was to go on base for things like obscene amounts of breakfast foods, it was less fun when my dad insisted on driving us hours out of our way to visit other bases. (Visiting Tucson? Let's just take a quick jaunt two hours up the road in the desert in the summer so that I can show you girls where I did my flight training!)

Pro: The uniforms, and the endless dress-up play potential they provided. Is there anything cooler than stepping into your dad's combat boots and BDU jacket with your last name on it! when you're a little girl? Maybe. But it was totally awesome.
Con: My dad has been gone for a decade now and I still have most of his gear. It's like a little tiny stab in the heart whenever I look in the back of my closet.

Pro: I understood, from a very early age, that what my dad did was special and something to be proud of. We knew why he was in the military and what he was prepared to do should the country ever need it. We were incredibly proud of him.
Con: It was terrifying to understand that it would only take a phone call to take dad away from us, maybe for a long time, maybe for forever. As scary as this was when my mom was alive, it became truly horrifying after she died. A war might have meant that we lost the only other parent we had. Definite con.

Thanks, Dad, for doing what you did. And for that rock. It was a neat one.

(And here's a picture of my other favorite veteran, because -- on a lighter note -- isn't he crazy handsome? Don't get any ideas, ladies. This one is mine ;-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

On this Veteran's Day...

Bob here, speaking about Veteran's Day.

I served in the Army Reserve for a little more than six years, from 1984 to 1991. It was, apart from Karinya, the best thing that's ever happened to me. I was in during a relatively quiet time for the nation's military; post-Grenada and Panama and pre-Iraq and Desert Storm. I'm so very proud to be a veteran, even though my service didn't entail any really dangerous deployments. Unless you count two weeks in the summer in western Wisconsin "dangerous."

My father was a veteran as well. He was a company clerk for a field artillery unit during World War II. While I spent my time safely in the woods of Wisconsin, he spent his in the sands of North Africa and the mud and mire of Sicily and Italy. Needless to say I honor him a great deal for his service. He never talked much in detail about what he did, though when he did it was with a sense of pride.

My dad was an immigrant. He, my uncle, and my grandparents came to the U.S. from England to seek a better life. Unfortunately, they sought that better life just in time to find The Great Depression. But that's another entry for another time. He was drafted in 1943, still a subject of His Majesty, the King. When he went to tell the draft board about this, their response was that he was an American now.

I was inspired to enlist by my dad. Not encouraged by him, mind you, because he'd seen what war really was and didn't want to take the chance of me seeing it first hand as well. But I did enlist -- as much for personal pride and patriotism as for money for college. My term was, as I mentioned, pretty quiet. But during the nearly 20 years since I left the military, my pride for having served has always remained. I place those who have served before and since my time, who went into harm's way, in Europe, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, far above me on the ladder of honorable deeds but I take pride in being on that ladder at all. I hope that I have instilled in the generation who follows me a sense of that pride; both in their country and in themselves. My nephew and niece, Mitchell and McKenzie, have invited me over the last several years to their elementary school to take part in Veteran's Day activities. Several dozen other veterans, from all eras are also in attendance. We are all overwhelmed by the way the children there embrace us and thank us for our service. It is this, more than almost anything else, that makes everything worth it. I think in many cases we're a little embarrassed by all of the attention because we certainly didn't do any of this in expectation of adulation by seven year old kids. We did it because we felt a need to.

So today, on this Veteran's Day, thank a vet for his or her service. You never know what that service may be, whether it was in the sands of the Middle East, the jungles of Vietnam, the cold mountains of Korea, the mud of Italy, or the quiet forests of Wisconsin. But all of them were there standing at the front of the line to volunteer to go into harm's way so that one day we could sit back and smile at the children playing and laughing -- safely and securely.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday for a More Balanced Week

K's favorite - "tree pose!"

Demonstrating "downward dog" for the class!

Since April (when K was about 18 months), we've been attending a "Yoga Tots" class on Wednesdays at the local library. It took her a few classes to catch on, but now? She's a full blown little yogi. And she loves it. (I do, too!) I'll post more about it another time -- this is supposed to be "wordless Wednesday," after all -- but for now, I thought these pictures were fitting to post. This week has been much better than the last -- things are moving in the right direction on a number of fronts and we're halfway through the week and have had no major tantrums yet (I realize I'm probably jinxing myself here, but. . .)

Things feel good. More balanced. Maybe this yoga thing does work after all ;-)

(For our Michigan readers, check out our wonderful yoga teacher's website HERE!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Clarification re: the giveaway

Hi crew,

Just so we're all on the same page, the "confession" part of the giveaway is meant to be fun! I'm not asking for deep dark secrets. Goofy is just fine! Did you let your little munchkin eat chocolate for dinner? Did you go a whole day without realizing his shirt was inside out? Did you text or check e-mail during your daughter's piano recital? I'll even take admissions of re-gifting ;-)

This is, as the title says, a celebration of imperfect parenting. (After all, perfect parents are boring, aren't they? What goofy stories are their kids going to tell about them at family reunions in thirty years? Yep. I thought so.) Let's embrace the fact that we're providing our children with fodder for cocktail party stories (or, uh, therapy) down the road.

Comment on. If you're having trouble commenting on the contest entry, please e-mail us at unlikelyorigins (at) gmail (dot) com.

Celebration of Imperfect Parenting Giveaway!

This is my baby. With wine. In a box. Doing her crazy face. Yep.

With regards to this blog, there is an emerging pattern that goes like this:

1) I babble on in a post where I make some terrific parenting confessions. (See: depriving my child of a jack-o-lantern, dragging her barefoot through Sears, screaming at her for wanting to change her shoes, etc.)

2)I get lots of private messages from folks making similar confessions. (If I owe you a response? I'm sorry! I really don't ignore people on purpose. I'm just unorganized.)

3)These notes make me laugh/feel better/etc, but they don't do much to foster a sense of community here on the blog.

To remedy this, I am going to take the high road. I AM GOING TO BRIBE YOU.

Unlikely Origins is, starting today, hosting what we're calling our Celebration of Imperfect Parenting Giveaway! The prize? A Target giftcard (conveniently in the exact amount that a 4-pack of wine juice boxes costs*) and a package of high-quality earplugs, to aid you in your continuing imperfect parenting efforts. Throw 'em both in the diaper bag and you're ready to go!

There are four ways to enter. Entry method one is required (no skipping to number two without jumping through my hoop first!) and the rest are optional ways to earn extra entries for a better chance of winning.

1)You must leave a comment here on the blog wherein you make an imperfect parenting confession of your own. You don't need to write a detailed tell-all. You don't need to try to outdo the person before you. You don't even need to be a parent! (If you are not yet . . . "blessed" with children of your own, give us some dirt on *your* parents. Or your siblings. Or what you did to your dog. I don't care. Confess to something.) NOTE: THIS IS MEANT TO BE FUN! Your "confession" can be something totally goofy or lighthearted. I'm not looking for tales of child abuse so I can tip off child services. I promise.

2) Like us on Facebook! That's it. Then come back here and leave a separate comment telling us that you've done so.

3) Subscribe via RSS/add us to your reader. (Upper right corner.) Then, same deal, leave a comment letting us know that you did/already are/whatever.

4)Pimp us out. Post a message on facebook or twitter or your blog or pretty much wherever with a link to this post, then leave a comment here so we know.

Entries will close on Friday (11/12) at 5pm (EST), because I feel like Friday at 5 is an appropriate time for a contest to end when there's wine involved. The winning entry will be chosen by and I'll announce that lucky duck here.

*Of course, you don't have to spend the giftcard on wine. Though I will think a little less of you if you use it on something practical like diapers or nutritious food.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Other Names

The three of us were hanging out this weekend when K referred to me as Kathryn (her actual name, though I bet you've already figured that out).

It wasn't the first time she'd done that. It seems like, while she realizes that I'm mommy and she's baby, she thinks we both share the "other name" of Kathryn.

"K," I said, wanting to prod at this a little more. "What's my other name?"
K: "Mommy!"
Me: "Yes, but what's my other name?"
K: "You!"
Me: "Yes, but what's my other name?"
K: [thinks] "Friend."


We played a few more rounds of this game, and I told her that my Other other name was Karinya, and -- my name is not an easy one to pronounce, but she just about nailed it! It was the first time I'd heard her say my Other other name, and it was . . . one of those amazing motherhood moments that sort of cancels out things like last month's Desitin-on-carpet-and-favorite-chair incident.

Names are something we've been thinking a lot about lately. When we started the blog, I asked Bob what he wanted to be referred to as in posts, and after some deliberation about what labels to apply to ourselves in relation to each other and our family, we decided to just use our real names instead of "mom" or "dad" or whatever. Parenthood is all-consuming and life-taking-over enough (not that it's not worth it) but it's nice, sometimes, to remember that we have "other names," too.

*For those keeping score, K usually calls Bob dad or daddy, even though he didn't come into our lives until she was twenty months old. She started doing it on her own (there was no goading on either of our parts to encourage her to apply that label to him; it just happened organically. This thrilled me beyond belief) but she still sometimes rotates Bob or Bobby into her daily speech.

I'm a little tired and birthday partied-out, so I can't come up with a smooth way to tie this into the rest of the post, but: Unlikely Origins now has a facebook page! If you like us (and I hope you do?), please consider "officially" liking us on facebook. If you really like us, perhaps use facebook's handy "suggest to friends" tool, too? (Don't make me play the birthday card, folks. I TOTALLY WILL.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

One of Those Weeks

I don't really know how else to put it.

Monday brought with it a surprise letter from the IRS (ended up not being my problem, but it took six phone calls and an anxiety attack to straighten out). Tuesday brought sleep deprivation and tough work issues. Wednesday? Most of Wednesday was spent in a state of mourning due to the state's election results. Thursday I sat in a waiting room for over an hour before getting disappointing and unexpected news, then I topped the evening off by spilling the dish of the stuffed peppers I'd made for dinner. (Cue tears and Bob's offer to make it all better by ordering a pizza ;-) Friday I accidentally busted a bottle of wine during my moving efforts (one pickup truck load at a time... with a toddler!) and then later K treated the two of us to an epic, flail-on-the-floor, scream-at-the-top-of-her-lungs tantrum in the middle of the mall. (No nap & molars coming in & . . . being two, I guess.)

I'm not an especially pleasant person to be around right now. I'm tired. I'm overwhelmed. I'm burnt out. Those damn kids need to get off my lawn.

But the worst part of having a bad week, I think, is the way I let it affect how I parent. I can feel myself being short with her. Is it annoying when I find her changing shoes for the fourth time when oh for the love of God we have to go now this has to be at the post office today and they close in ten minutes? Of course. Is it worth screaming at her over? No. I know she's not part of a vast global conspiracy to mess with me (I hope?) and that she doesn't understand the way her usual toddler antics are, more often than not, just that proverbial straw that on top of everything else is making me lose. my. mind.

Today is Saturday, though, and I'm officially declaring today the first day of next week, which promises to be full of awesome. (Full of it!) The new week is bringing with it lots of exciting things, life-wise and blog-wise. We'll be launching the Unlikely Origins facebook page (and subsequently harassing you all to "like" us there), one of the Unlikely Origins crew will be turning the big two-seven (I'm sure you can't guess who!), Bob's sister has, perhaps foolishly, offered to take K off our hands overnight next weekend so we can do exciting grown up things (sleep),  and -- and! Unlikely Origins will be hosting its first "Celebration of Imperfect Parenting" giveaway.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On a Lighter Note...

Today on my run I hit a big milestone. It wasn't a longer distance or a new high number-of-minutes-I-can-run-without-collapsing (though I actually did that too!).


Today, in response to K's request for "somfing to drink," I fished out her Capri Sun (HFCS is evil, I know, I know), unwrapped the straw, poked it into the package, and handed it back to her, all while keeping one hand on the stroller and not breaking stride.

I was darn proud of myself afterward.

I am such a mom.

Starting 'em Young

(Disclaimer: this was mostly written last night, but wasn't posted until today, so -- please just roll with me on the today/tomorrow stuff?)

K went into her first voting booth at six weeks old. She endures, mostly without complaint, how I squeeze her a little tighter when a particularly cringe-worthy political sound bite hits our ears -- or whenever we're in a waiting room where the television is tuned to Fox News. (I want to believe that if I hold her tight enough, we'll form some sort of a magic barrier between her and whatever hateful/fearful/xenophobic/etc propaganda is being spewed at her from the speakers. That's how it works, right?) She stood by patiently as her phone-phobic mother worked up the guts to actually call her representatives when some semblance of the health care bill was working its way through, and she refrained from crying or demanding attention until the phone had been hung up. In a few hours (I'm writing this late at night -- ah, motherhood) I'll be dragging K out of bed early so that she can go vote with me before it's time for daycare. I could (and probably should, actually) let her sleep in a little longer and just hit the library to vote after I drop her off at her care provider's house. Without the toddler distractions I'd probably be more focused, and the absence of a toddler eliminates the possibility of one of those epic toddler meltdowns occurring in the relatively sacred (and quiet) space of the voting booth. Unfortunately for my fellow voters, it's not gonna happen.

She's coming with me to vote, whether she's being a crankpants or not. I know that at 25 months old it's really, really unlikely that she'll remember this at all -- and of course she won't remember the first time she "voted," but I feel that it's important to have her with me, and to be able to tell her later that she was there. I remember the thrill of going into the voting booth with my parents when I was little. They took my sister and me every year and we each got to pick a parent to accompany behind the curtain. When we were little-little we didn't know what we were really voting for (beyond the basics -- they'd explain that pulling the lever here meant we were voting to give money to our school, or the zoo, or whatever -- ballot initiatives that kindergartners can kind of grasp) but I knew from the beginning that what we were doing was special, and important, and -- hey, you get a sticker at the end!

I want K to grow up in a house where being an (at least semi-) involved participant in the political process is the norm. I don't want her to take anything for granted. I want her to know how things work, and why. We'll probably save the 19th amendment lesson for next year (with a feminist mom and a historian dad, she's going to get lessons, oh yes!) but we've got to start somewhere.

Anyway, sleeping K: rest up. Tomorrow is a big day.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I had really grand plans for Halloween. Weeks ago, things looked wonderful: I had plenty of time to put together creative Halloween-themed crafts, someday after storytime my mom friends and I would coordinate when/where we would meet to go trick-or-treating, K and I would paint lots of little pumpkins and put a few out in front of both our now-house and our new-house for decoration, and we'd send one to work with Bob to put on his desk as a cutesy reminder of how much we like him ;-). This weekend we were going to go out and let K pick a pumpkin, then set up shop at the new house and help her carve her first jack-o-lantern. At one point I had even entertained the idea of a homemade costume, like my mom used to sew for my sister and me. It was going to be awesome. 

That's not how it happened. No crafts were made that weren't planned by someone else (thank goodness for K's absurd schedule of extra-curricular toddler activities! She did make the requisite number of themed crafts thanks to her multiple library activities and yoga classes that she attends every week). My mom friends and I all got caught up in our own lives and didn't get to coordinate any Halloween meet-ups. We did, actually, paint a number of small pumpkins -- but they never made it past the top of the microwave cart where I had set them to dry. And the actual pumpkin carving? Yeah. Nope.

Instead, today after leaving Bob's house I made a 30-second pit stop at my house to frantically search for the black pants and top that went underneath K's costume, I chugged Diet Coke on the drive to my grandma's farm to stay awake (. . . it had been a long day) so we could quickly show her K's Elmo getup before heading back to town for trick-or-treating, I threw a bag of old suckers that had been in my basement for a month or two into a big mixing bowl and put it on my porch, and K and I hit the streets to go "treat-treating" by ourselves.

And it was fine. It was fun! K ended up with an almost-full plastic pumpkin bucket of candy, we got a ton of compliments on her (store-bought!) costume, we actually ran into a number of our friends while we were out anyway, and she gleefully shouted "treat-treat!" at most of our neighbors. The bowl-o-suckers that I had left on my porch wasn't emptied by the first greedy middle-schooler that came along, and when we got home almost two hours later it was still half full! (Humanity, I'm impressed and award you two points.)

I think that's one of my biggest parenting challenges: reconciling the differences between the kind of parent I want to be (organized, pro-active, something-close-ish-to-perfect?) with the kind of parent that I actually am (overwhelmed, seat-of-pants, hey-she-probably-won't-remember-anyway-so-this-is-good-enough.) The logical side of my brain knows that K is only two and it's unlikely that she'll someday end up in therapy as a result of not having carved her first pumpkin until the ripe old age of three, and that the fact that we walked around the neighborhood without an entourage of friends probably won't lead to a lifetime of social anxiety or chronic loneliness. I know that. But that annoying other side of my brain is tsktsk-ing me and saying, is "good enough" really good enough for K? Is it?

I don't know. To be honest, it's almost midnight and I'm tired and I can't even begin to think about forming an answer-answer to that question. But right now she's happy, sugar-buzzed and staying up late to watch an OnDemand Dora marathon, so we'll call this one a draw.

Happy Halloween, fellow imperfect parents of the interwebs!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Geek Speaks

This is Bob, taking a turn posting. I'm a little intimidated writing this, since Karinya is the one who has the advanced degree in writing and actually works in a position where she evaluates other peoples' efforts doing so. However, having said that, I will press on.

Karinya is, putting it simply, the best thing that's ever happened to me. I could say so much more, fawning over her beauty and intelligence and making a case for her nomination as mother of the year. However, I'll pass on that since I may be the tiniest bit biased in my judgement.

When we talked about starting this blog, I suggested that maybe I would write a post now and again, thinking that it would be simple to knock out a few hundred words. I mean, I'm a historian by education so it's nothing for me to put together ten or fifteen (or thirty) pages on some minute aspect of history. Want to read my analysis on the rise of the film industry in Weimar (post World War I) Germany? I'll blow the dust off it and send you a copy. But writing about myself and my family takes a little more effort.

Karinya and I are in what's called an age-gap relationship. I'm 45 and she's 26 (for another week or so). But it never really makes a difference to us until we talk about something which, to her, is beyond her memory but to me is something I vividly remember. So there are times when I have to explain to her the amazing excitement about when The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, or when people really were afraid to swim after seeing Jaws in 1975. In return she explains to me the wonders of Jem and the Holograms, a cartoon series of the middle to late 80s. (I don't get it but I do smile and nod when she gets excited about it.) I've gone into the minutae of the controversies surrounding the manipulation of Star Wars' cantina scene, where originally Han shoots Greedo first. (In the remakes, the scene is digitally altered so Greedo shoots first and Han "ducks" to avoid it while also getting off a shot that kills Greedo. (Don't get me started.)) Where was I? Oh. Age-gap relationships. We're in one and while Karinya may be younger than I am by virtue of a calendar, I'm sure that all who know the both of us will agree that she's the more adult and responsible one. This is probably for the best.

So there is my introduction to readers of our little saga. Please stay with us for the ride and don't worry, Karinya will be writing the majority of these entries.

Han always shoots first.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fair Warning From a Toddler

"Be careful, Mom. I'm going to bite you on the face." - K

(Kind of) Wordless Wednesday

(I know the whole point of "Wordless Wednesday" is to post a picture that speaks for itself, but I'm going to riff a bit here anyway. I'm invoking my "I'm the mom/I make the rules" privilege.)

This was our first "official" family photo together. K was -- as she is wont to be -- a bit of a pill that day. There was an early-morning meltdown. There was a tumultuous car ride. There was the realization in the parking lot that I had totally forgotten to bring the shoes that matched her outfit. There was her refusal to be carried, even though she will normally go to great lengths to avoid having to support her own body weight.

So there we are, walking into Sears with a barefoot baby with a snotty nose and tear-streaked face. I'm feeling harried because we're running late (aren't we always?) and, well, I had just let my temper get the better of me and I'd given K a little swat when she tried to scratch my face in the midst of the walking vs. carrying debacle, so I was feeling less than awesome about my parenting skills. I had become that really classy mom who smacks her poor just-being-a-toddler toddler in the Sears parking lot, for God's sake. Bob was -- I don't really remember what Bob was doing. Probably carrying bags and opening doors and clearing innocent bystanders out of the way before we brought the crazy storm through and just generally trying to keep us all together. I suspect at this point he was also wondering just what he had gotten himself into when he decided to become a member of this family. . .

The photo session itself wasn't exactly smooth sailing either -- it took two photographers, lots of pleading, a twenty-minute detox/time-out/play period in the middle of the session, a bribe of gum (. . . she loves gum), and a threat or two, but then we finally got pictures like this one.

Which I love.

I was going to write that I hope in twenty years, when all-grow'd-up K comes across this in a photo album, that she won't remember the backstory -- that she'll just see the happy end product -- but I'm not sure I mean that. What good is a picture without a story to back it up and round it out, anyway?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Midwestern Style Multitasking

I wasn't expecting today to be anything other than a nice calm  normal Tuesday. Wake up, cuddle with K for a bit, ship her off to daycare, get several hours of work work done while free from toddler distraction, pop a casserole in the oven (I wasn't kidding about the Midwestern thing), then go grab K before meeting Bob at the house for our first official family dinner in the new place.

What I wasn't expecting was tornado weather. It's late October! And yet --

Sesame Street kept being interrupted by National Weather Service bulletins. (Much to K's delight. Every time they stopped, she demanded that they "play it again!") When I made my way to the kitchen to heat up some leftover macaroni & cheese prepare a nutritious breakfast, I noticed that nothing that had been on my back deck the day before was there anymore...

After treating the neighbors to a show of pre-coffee-Karinya tromping pajama-clad through their backyards, I returned home victorious, having reclaimed both the baby pool and all various items of patio furniture that had blown away that morning.

The watch turned into a warning. The warning turned on my paranoid mom switch, and into the basement we went. The basement. Where all productive Tuesdays are spent.

It wasn't where I'd planned on spending the first half of my day, but -- you know, it actually wasn't too bad. The (one!) local radio station played David Bowie in between weather updates, and despite K's order of "No dancing!" (she's a puritan, that one) -- there was dancing. There was laundry. There was the filling of two trash bags with junk from the basement that won't be accompanying us to the new house.  There was the packing of several boxes of things that *will* be accompanying us to the new house. There was the realization that, no matter how good a deal I can get on it, I probably shouldn't buy any more tuna, because OH MY GOD I HAVE ABOUT FORTY CANS OF TUNA FISH IN MY PANTRY ALREADY. (Ahem. It was a long warning period. Taking an inventory of the foodstuffs that I purchase, throw in the basement, and then forget about seemed like a good idea.) There was a toddler meltdown, or four.

There was no actual work work done. (Sorry, clients!) But we did all of the above and avoided being blown away by a tornado, and eventually a casserole did get made.

Thanks for keeping things interesting, Michigan.

Monday, October 25, 2010


This is being posted on Monday, because. . . well, because Sunday was a Sunday, and the weekends always end too soon.

I’ve never been a particularly pleasant person to be around on Sunday evenings. When I was in school (way back when!) it was the grumpy “fine-I-guess-I’ll-finish-my-homework-and-shove-junk-into-my-backpack” time; in college it was . . . well, it was pretty much the same – until I got smart and signed up for as many Tuesday/Thursday classes as I could; when I graduated and started working in an office it was that awesome “in just eight short hours I get to go back to giving up my life in exchange for ten dollars an hour and no benefits” feeling. More recently, I’ve spent Sunday evenings wondering who decided to schedule “Time for Twos” so darn early on a Monday morning. (Nothing says “hello, new week!” quite like twenty crazy toddlers crammed into a tiny room at the library.)

And, of course, Sunday evenings have, for the last five months or so, meant time to say goodbye to the last 48 (mostly ;-) blissful hours of playing house on the weekends with Bob. (The drive between our houses and our respective work schedules and his long commute make seeing each other on “school nights” a challenge.)

That’s what Sunday nights used to mean, anyway. Bob signed the closing documents for the new house on Friday. Project Cohabitation – and the promise of happier Sunday evenings for everyone – is a go. 

*This photo snagged from the real estate company's website. We haven't even had time to take our own pictures yet! 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Did you know that last Saturday (October 16) was World Food Day? No? I didn't either, until I saw PhD in Parenting's thought-provoking post here.

Being the good world citizens that we are, K and I spent most of that day focused on food-centered activities ourselves. (And, okay, I understand that the point of World Food Day is to raise awareness and solve the hunger problem, but I was trying for a nice, socially conscious tie-in to the rest of this indulgent post.)

It's fall (again, did you know?) and that means apples. K loves apples. She loves enthusiastically identifying them at the grocery store, she loves begging for them until I agree to buy them, she loves putting as many into the produce bag as she can before I cut her off . . . then when we get home, she loves doing things like throwing them down the basement stairs or taking one bite then forcefully offering the rest to the cats. This, combined with my grandma's propensity for loading me down with foodstuffs whenever we visit her, leaves me with a lot of excess apples, especially at this time of year. 

Photos courtesy of Blue Jean Gourmet and Sonya Cuellar

What a problem to have, eh? I know, I know. What did we do? First we tried our hand at applesauce in the crock pot. (An encouraging friend said "Applesauce is sort of a free-form transcendental experience," and as such, we're not bothering with a recipe here.) Once the obligatory healthy use of apples was out of the way, we moved on to:

Oh. My. God. The Blue Jean Gourmet knows her stuff, folks. Her recipe for Apple Sour Cream Muffins can be found here.

I made my obligatory mom alterations (no nuts -- hello, toddler food allergies!), whole wheat subbed in for part of the white flour, and a little Splenda in place of some of the sugar, but -- really, this whole post was just an excuse to tell you how good these are. Mmm. Apples. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What is That, K?

A substantive post -- complete with (someone else's) gorgeous photos and a killer recipe -- is coming soon, but for now I just had to share this.

K and I went for a run on our favorite right-by-the-lake, canopied-by-gorgeous-foliage trail today. (We're trying to squeeze in as many of those as we can before the weather really turns!) During the "cool down" portion of the workout I always pop K out of the stroller so she can walk with me, and she usually picks up acorns and leaves that catch her eye along the way.

Today she spotted (she has eagle eyes, I swear) and picked up a different nut than we usually come across.

Me: "What is that, K?"

K: Stops for a moment to look at the nut in question, then gleefully announces: "Poop!"

Me: . . .

Google has since confirmed my suspicions that the darn thing was actually a hickory nut, but -- man. Toddlers. We had a long talk about what we do and do not pick up as we made our way back to the truck.

I love her.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'll Tell You Where You Can Put That Basket

I used to be lazy. Really lazy. Plop-on-the-couch-after-work, watch-an-entire-season’s-worth-of-DVD-episodes-in-a-row, stay-in-bed-for-at-least-12-hours-whenever-possible lazy.

I can’t do that anymore. For the most part, it doesn’t bother me. (Everything except the sleeping part. I do love me some sleep.) Parenthood makes it more difficult to be lazy. Single parenthood makes it impossible. And the transition into parenting with a new, supportive, willing-to-share-the-parenting-load partner? It’s confusing.

Operation Cohabitation (we’re only days away from getting the keys!) brings with it lots of fun little questions like, “what are we going to do about the laundry situation?” We were cruising around last week, and Bob pointed out the laundromat closest to the new house.

My stomach dropped. I hate laundromats. I. Hate. Laundromats. (Have you heard? I’m not a fan of laundromats.) I think my reaction actually scared Bob a bit.

Why? Because when you’re at a Laundromat, you’re only doing one thing: Laundry. I almost never only do one thing at a time these days. At home I can start a load in the washer, go upstairs and do dishes, keep an eye on my work e-mail in case anything urgent comes in, chop & pop dinner into the crock pot, go back downstairs and switch the clothes into the dryer, start a new load in the washer, then go back to the computer where I can get a good chunk of work in and keep tabs on other online “stuff” while I wait for that happy buzz announcing that the clothes are dry.

“I didn’t realize you were such a militant multitasker,” Bob said. After I shot him The Look (because, man, “militant” just carries too many connotations), I told him that I haven’t always been that way, but that now, I have no choice. If I wasn’t a (dedicated?) multitasker, I’d never get anything done.

He volunteered to handle the laundry.

I like this having a partner thing.