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.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Yesterday Something Awful Happened

My camera broke. Died. Moved on to cheap technology heaven.

I just stared at it when it first failed to respond to my request to turn on. I pushed the power button again. And again. “Come on,” I begged it. “Please?” No response. No flicker of life. Nothing.

Maybe it’s the batteries! I deluded myself into thinking for a minute – but no, it wasn’t the batteries. I knew it wasn’t the batteries. When the batteries get low, the camera lets me know. It tries its best to stay alive – turning on before taking maybe one picture in a painful last gasp, then shutting itself off. This was no battery situation, as my failed attempts at reviving the camera with fresh Energizers revealed.

I even tried putting them in upside-down (negative end where the positive goes) just in case my camera had decided that maybe it liked them like that. It didn’t. It was dead.

We were getting ready to go to the grand opening of a friend’s new paint-your-own-pottery studio when this devastating discovery was made. You can’t do this to me. Not now, I pleaded. Why, of all times, did it have to die right then? We were on our way to an event that promised to combine toddlers and paint! There were going to be so many incredibly picture ops! AHH.

At this point K was standing by the door, shoes on (the right feet!), ready to go, and was looking at me like, enough, mom. Are we going or not? I have messes to make. It was with a heavy heart that I left the little broken camera sitting on the microwave cart as we left the house.

The worst part? I knew I was responsible for this. I’d been letting K play with and abuse it for a long time, just because I always said I kind of hope it breaks, so I’ll be justified in buying a new/better one. My camera – as dependant on him as I was – was slow. He was easily confused in low-light or indoor situations. He caused me to miss more than one shot with his incessant "thinking." He was a little grainy in anything but full sun. And yet, now that he’s gone, I’m feeling a little lost without him. And a little too poor to run out and replace him.

Rest in peace, crappy blue camera from WalMart’s clearance section. The internet will be a (temporarily) darker place without the zillions of daily pictures of K that you used to make possible.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Being a (Not So) Single Parent

My first official week as a single parent, the stomach flu came to visit. It hit K first, and gave me the opportunity to learn useful new skills like how to get chocolate milk-based vomit out of light colored carpet, and how to breathe through the urge to lose it yourself when someone throws up in your face.

Then, once K was relatively puke-free, I got it.

Ah, memories.

It was a trial-by-fire introduction to single parenting – it didn’t matter that I just wanted to hibernate somewhere warm and in close proximity to a bathroom until the storm passed, because Things Needed To Get Done. Capital letters. No way around it.  Diapers needed to be changed. The litter boxes needed to be cleaned. The trash needed to be taken out, and dinner needed to be cooked.  (Not necessarily in that order.) Even if I didn’t want to eat, I couldn’t keep the baby on the saltines & ginger ale diet with me, and – oh, there was my job, too! I was able to take all the sick days I wanted, but . . . I wouldn’t get paid for them, and the projects with deadlines still had deadlines. And I had bills to pay.

K survived, I survived, even the cats survived, but it was a bit terrifying in that WELCOME TO THE REST OF YOUR LIFE kind of way. There’s no one to bring you soup when you’re a single parent. It’s all on you.

I learned to deal with it. I learned to lean on friends when possible. I learned how to balance a baby on my boob and a macbook on my lap, because K had to be fed and work had to be done, often at the same time. At the end of most days, (almost) everything that needed to be done had been done, but the stress level was – well, if I’d had health insurance, I probably would have seen about getting some sweet chemical relief through anti-anxiety or blood pressure meds. Maybe both. It wasn’t fun, but it was better than the alternative.

And then came Bob.

One day last week, I had a gurgling in my stomach. I had a long to-do list for work. The house was a mess. K’s cough, which I thought we’d finally gotten rid of, threatened to come back. I barely had enough time to brush my teeth, let alone fit a visit/welfare check on my (very) elderly grandmother in between working and K’s various activities and -- I had déjà vu.

It wasn’t until I was already in full on panic mode that I remembered, now I have a partner. I may be the only adult in my house most of the time (Project Cohabitation is in the final prep stages – there’s a closing scheduled next week on a house that’s actually suitable for a family), but I’m not a single parent like I was before. I have backup. I have someone to talk to. I have someone to bring me soup, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Green Beans

Lately we’ve been working on the concept of making decisions with our just-turned-two year old, K. She’s not shy about voicing her opinion (hence her billing as the “opinionated toddler” in this blog’s subtitle), but when faced with a choice to make, she’ll often just scrunch her nose and repeat both choices back to you, rapid-fire style.

Me: K, would you like to wear the green shirt or the purple shirt today?
K: PurpleGreen!
Bob: K, would you like to play with your crayons or your cars?
K: CrayonCars!

. . . you get the idea.

Last night when we went out to dinner, K had the choice of two vegetables as her side dish: corn or green beans. After the waitress listed the options and I repeated them back to K, I fully expected – you know what’s coming now, right? – an enthusiastic but entirely unhelpful “CornGreenBeans!” I waited for it, but it didn’t come.

Instead she thought about it for a second, then calmly responded, “green beans.” Just like that. Like she’d been making smart, thoughtful decisions her entire life.

Bob and I shared a cautiously optimistic look – had we finally made a major breakthrough in K’s cognitive development regarding conscious choice? Well, maybe. Or maybe we’ll revert back to “ElmoDora” the next time we ask her what DVD she wants to watch. At any rate, it was one of those special little family moments that made us both beam with pride over our brilliant, perfect daughter.

Then she borrowed my lip gloss and used it to pick her nose.

K’s impressive display of decision making prowess inspired us to make a decision of our own. We’d been kicking around the idea of starting a family blog since. . . well, almost since we began to form a family. We could never settle on a name, though, or an angle, or a hosting platform, or, or, or.

Today we did. Welcome to our blog, Unlikely Origins: How a Computer Geek, a Writer, and an Opinionated Toddler Together Formed a Family. We're not promising that we won't switch things up a little as time goes by (we may someday opt for the corn over the green beans), but for now: we are here. We hope you'll follow along as we document our journey of becoming a family. We can't promise that it will always be pretty (in fact, we can guarantee that it won't -- see lip gloss-in-nose example above) but it'll never be boring.