Monday, May 30, 2011

Don't Tell Pediatrician Man...

But somebody LOVES pears!


I thought he might like to taste the pear I was eating at the fancy grocery store downtown where we had lunch, but as soon as I got it within an inch of his mouth he latched onto it and began sucking as though he hadn't been fed in days (which, look at those cheeks, clearly access to food is not an issue).

Then I was all, "Haha, Baby James likes my pear!" and took it away so I could finish it and that was NOT ACCEPTABLE. Just ask the other people enjoying their lunch on the patio or the flock of birds that was startled into flight by the sharp wail he let out as I tried to reclaim my lunch.

So we shared it. He got the juice and I got everything that was left. I don't blame him. It was a delicious, juicy, perfectly ripe pear. And I have similar feelings for pico de gallo.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Good Friends

Before I tell you how awesome my friend Abby is, let me catch you up on the details of my week.


I am now to the point where I am referring to it simply as "my project" so sick am I of hearing myself talk about the freaking proposal proposal proposal PROPOSAL GAH!

Anywhoo. It's all I did this week, my project. The kids watched a lot of TV, I didn't sleep much, I was a big huge melodramatic grouch, it was an awful lot like the last weeks of my dissertation, actually. The feces really hit the fan yesterday when we finally got the revised budget from our collaborator to learn that we needed to magically create an extra twenty-four thousand dollars somehow. That was yesterday around 3:00. I was scheduled to go to another town to visit my friend Abby today. So I fired up PBS Kids again and settled in to remove what turned out to be an entire YEAR of activities from my project, then turned back in around 5:00. It was still not done.

So Ryan and I made a plan. After confirming that I wouldn't need to be on campus to finish everything up, Ryan took copies of all my files with him to work and monitored my email while I drove to the other town with the kids. If an email came about the proposal he called me and read me the email, and then I told him how to fix it and "wrote" a reply, over the phone. Smart phone, schmart phone.

We fixed a couple of items this way (there were many, MANY items) then I stopped in a McDonalds parking lot to steal their Wifi and nurse James while I made budget edits on my computer on the passenger seat. I sent off the last email with seconds to spare before my battery died.

Whoever coined the term "I am woman, hear me roar" must have tried to work on a tight deadline in a hot minivan with two rambunctious boys in back while nursing a baby. Because there was roaring. And not the empowering kind.

Ryan called thirty minutes later to tell me there was ONE LAST QUESTION. OF COURSE.

So this is the part where my friend Abby is awesome. She met me in the driveway of her dad's house and gave me a huge hug and then got Wes out of the car for me. After I'd lugged everybody and everything inside, she handed me a margarita and the password for the house wifi and took the boys off to the porch for a snack. I changed the ONE LAST THING and sent it off then joined everyone for a delicious lunch.

And then it was time for some SERIOUS relaxing.






Five sweet little boys, a pool just their size, endless chips and guacamole, strawberries, and, lemonade. Old friends and a shady porch. The perfect end to a very difficult week.

(And yes, the project is now in the hands of the NSF, eek!)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A new tradition, I think...

I stayed up way too late making this delicious cake (omit the dried fruit) Friday night for the grown-up dinner party that we had on Saturday, but it was SO worth it. Really, I need to get out of my Tollhouse cookie rut more often.

The late night (and all the cake filling I ate out of the mixing bowl before remembering it had alcohol in it and maybe I should give it a rest) meant James and I fell asleep Saturday morning while everyone else was at tee ball and I was supposed to be cleaning the house. When everyone came back I took my second trip to the grocery store for the day (first trip was at 7:00 for chocolate chips and when I got back Wes ran out to my car and grabbed the bag and exclaimed "You a brought me ah donut, Mama?!) to buy corn tortillas and came home with two bottles of wine, a six pack of Corona, some raspberry chipotle sauce, a "fiesta size" bag of tortilla chips, and a huge tub of guacamole. Then I ate lunch, which clearly I should have done before leaving for the store.

After a family nap we switched into full-on prep mode, which entailed a Hoarders-style clean up of both floors of the house, and my favorite part of party prep, COOKING.

I poached chicken, I chopped sweet potatoes, I made tomatillo sauce. We used eight limes. EIGHT. It was my kind of meal. By five o'clock I had two pans of chicken enchiladas (spicy and kids') and a huge tray of cilantro-lime sweet potatoes, iced tea, a dip made of cream cheese and raspberry chipotle sauce, chips and guacamole all ready to go, and thanks to Ryan the house was sparkling--even the shower door--the table was set, and the music was just right.

James woke up from his nap right on time and our guests, Charlie and Wes's wonderful preschool teachers and one of their husbands, arrived. Everything was ready and under control and I couldn't help but reflect on the first dinner party Ryan and I threw together before we were married when the guests had to serve the salad with their hands and I think someone had a spoon instead of a fork because I didn't have enough forks at my house. And we cleverly used a tablecloth to conceal the fact that we had brought the big patio table inside because the kitchen table was tiny and who knows what I made that night, but it certainly did not involve homemade tomatillo sauce and now that I'm thinking about it I sort of remember holding my breath as I cut into a chicken breast because I was terrified that it wouldn't be cooked through (it was).

Charlie and Wes were perfect little angels in the way only kids whose teachers have just shown up to their house and sat down at their table can be. Which is to say they were terrified. Charlie refused to speak audibly for the first hour, instead tapping me on the shoulder and whispering things into my ear. Wes ate crackers for dinner, but he was very subdued from his normal dinnertime behavior. They warmed up after dessert--Wes regaled us all with his nonsensical knock-knock jokes and Charlie brought a jigsaw puzzle into the kitchen for he and Miss Cindi to work on together.

It was wonderful to finally get to talk to the boys' teachers while not standing on either side of a half-door. We talked about food and school and kids and grown-up kids and our Alma Mater and places we've all lived and Charlie and James and Wes and how well Wes eats at school and how picky he is at home. It was really lovely and I could have sat there at our kitchen table with them all night, until the last of the wine and the last of the cake were gone, but then they probably wouldn't have such nice things to say about the boys' behavior, so we reluctantly said goodbye and I brainstormed reasons to invite them over again one day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I might need one of those annoying "Making Baby Food" signs

A couple of months ago I was pumping in my office when there was a knock at the door. You've never seen anybody move so fast. I got everything shoved out of sight and my shirt put back together in about ten nano-seconds, then opened my door, a little out of breath and disheveled, to find another professor, we'll call him Co-PI, standing there looking bewildered. He peered around me into the office as he asked if my officemate was in today. She wasn't so he thanked me and left, looking awfully curious about what he had interrupted.

Today I became so absorbed in what I was doing that I forgot to pump until well after I was supposed to meet with my Co-PI to talk about our proposal (that is due on WEDNESDAY, Hold me!) and more than an hour past the time James would have eaten.

Figuring I would just pump after the meeting, I kept trying to finish my revisions. But then I remembered the whole leaking possibility and what if he wanted to go to lunch and I saw a baby at the restaurant and had to spend the rest of the meal pretending to be one of those paranoid old women who clutches her purse to her chest all the time. How embarrassing would THAT be? Plus my originally conservative shirt was getting kind of inappropriate and things were getting uncomfortable.

Figuring I would just ask to move our meeting back thirty minutes, I walked down the hall and discovered that Co-PI was not in his lab. Hurray! He has forgotten! I am saved!

I put my cheery little "Just a minute, please!" note on the door and hooked myself up to the milking machine.


I went hands-free and continued to work through my revisions.


Wow, I waited WAY too long, this is taking forever...


Drumming fingers on desk...


Twenty minutes seemed like a more than reasonable amount of time, so I hastily stored the milk and shoved the pump under my desk. There was no one in the hall when I opened my door so I figured I was home free. Hurray!

Fifteen seconds later Co-PI appears in my doorway.

"Hi, so I saw the note on your door and that is fiiiiinnnnneeee"





And then he came around my desk (which is cleverly arranged so that I can hide things like BREAST PUMPS from general view) to use the phone and had to STEP OVER the mysterious be-tubed contraption on the floor that I couldn't move quickly because it was still plugged in!

I really hope he thinks I am using drugs in my office.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Overheard in the Big Gold Minivan

On the way to school today...

Charlie: Mama, remember the time when the bad train was going down the tracks too fast and Thomas....

We need wipes, bananas, something for dinner--what will Wes eat? Do I care today?--conditioner, milk, trash bags...

Wes: Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!

[car approaches bend in road]

Charlie: MAMA! Difficult bend! Puff with care! And you remember when the bad train was going down the tracks too fast and Thomas saved the day by...

Do I have enough cash to run through Starbucks after dropoff?

Wes: Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!

Charlie: Thomas made the bad train go on the other track because it was a bad train and it was going too fast and...

Me: Just a minute Charlie, Wes has something to say.

Wes: Mama! Mama! Wook! A square and a circle!

Me: Awesome, buddy!

How long does it take to lose fifteen pounds? A pound a week would make it, OMG NO. Better skip Starbucks. And lunch...

Charlie: And the bad train went on the other track and the station was SAVED!

Wes: Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!

Charlie: Mama, you're going too fast, PUFF WITH CARE!"

Wes: Mama! Fat and thin!! [I remember that he's reading an opposites book]

Me: Wow, Wes, fantastic! Who's looking forward to chapel today!

Charlie: Me!! I like the part when the [unintelligable], RIGHT MOM?

Me: Um, tell me again, buddy?

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Wes: Mama mama mama mama MAAAMAAA!

Charlie [more quietly this time]: I like the part? Of chapel? When Pastor Jennifer? Tells us [unintelligable].

Me: Ohhh, OK.

Wes: I wike da part wit da ba ba boo ba da goo dee fuh!!!


Five more minutes, five more minutes, five more minutes

Charlie: Miss Lisa told me "We don't dump out all the toys" and then I hadda go sit in da [unintelligable]. That made me sad.

Wes: WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO! I a police car!

Me: What? Did you go to time out at school? What happened?

Mother of God, what the hell am I going to do this summer?!

Charlie: I had to go [unintelligable] because I [unintelligable]. My friend Chris won't share. I ALWAYS share.

Note to self: Apologize to Chris's mother next time we see each other

Wes: WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO WOO! I a firetruck!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Tourists in our own town

Ryan had to work Saturday, so he took today off. We told the boys we were going to go out for breakfast then surprised them by driving to the train station so we could ride downtown for the day. There was lots of excitement all around.


The train ride was lots of fun, but we were ready to stretch our legs by the end. Fortunately we had kind of a long-ish walk to the brunch place I chose. Charlie was so disappointed that everyone had their blinds closed in this apartment building. Let's face it, so was I. I'm so curious about how the cooler half lives!


Then we ate pancakes (boys), French toast (me), and breakfast tacos (Ryan) OUTSIDE! People were eating with their dogs!! A bird stole a huge bite of pancake right off of Wes's fork!


Ryan held James up like Flat Stanley. This picture makes me want a cup of coffee. And a snuggly baby (he's asleep right now). And a good book and about two hours of free time. That place was nice.


We call Ryan "The Double Stroller".


We walked to the State Capital and I fed James while the boys had the run of the place. No squirrel or bird (or congressional staffer trying to enjoy their lunch hour) was safe from the screamy brothers.


Then, because it is a perfectly normal thing perfectly normal people do with their three small children, we spent some time watching the proceedings of both the House and the Senate. Charlie and I were fascinated. Wes and James had to be removed because James was overtired and Wes refused to put his shoes and socks back on.


We stopped for the obligatory rotunda picture on the way out. A tour group of nuns thought we were very funny.


We had a snack lunch in the Congressional Cafeteria where we stood out like really loud, messy sore thumbs, then tried to get a nice family picture in front of the statehouse, which was kind of the last straw for my patience and the kids' willingness to follow directions. Made for some really hilarious pictures, though. I especially like the way you can't see Wes behind James. They also wear the same size clothes!


Wes didn't last much longer than that. He woke up when it was almost time to get back on the train.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

You have to do it every year, just like visiting the lady doctor

Two catalogs arrived in the mail the other day. Well, there were two that I was interested in. Apparently the people who used to live here had quite the mail order habit. My favorite was the one with the XL Lawn Chair featured on the front cover with the words "HOLDS 450 POUNDS!" printed next to it. What will they think of next?

Anyway, the two catalogs I was interested in (though a lawn chair that could hold my entire family WOULD be kind of nice to have) were the highly disparate JCrew and Lands End. You see, I am in the market for a new swimsuit to accommodate what I am hoping is a temporary situation called Third Baby Kangaroo Tummy. Also? I sort of flashed the whole neighborhood last summer when the teeny string holding up the top of my old JCrew one-piece experienced a structural failure while I was trying to swim laps. Something with a little more integrity was in order.

My friend A raved about Lands End suits about a month ago when we were reminiscing shopping for swimsuits together in grad school and our mutual complaint that most of the offerings at Target required you to choose whether you would rather show way too much butt or way too much boob (boob all the way for me, but it depends on your figure). She said that not only are they long enough to cover everything, they are also made of heavy fabric that holds everything in. Winning!

So I paged through Lands End while the kiddies watched some PBS Kids and quickly found several-hundred dollars worth of sensible mom clothing that I wanted to buy (but did not) in addition to several good swimsuit offerings.

"Oh, look at that flattering swim skirt," I thought. "So-and-so wore one of those last year and it looked really nice."

"Oh, and I could also get a rash guard shirt! A skirt and a shirt! It's what I wear EVERY DAY! Perfect!"

But then I remembered that I am supposed to be playing up my best feature, which at the moment means as little fabric as possible above the waist. James is more than happy to help me with that goal every three waking hours and four at night, but since I should probably cover up at least a little at the pool I found a few sensible options before turning to the JCrew catalog to peruse their offerings.

You guys. The monologue in my head sounded *exactly* like Dana Carvey's "Church Lady" ("Look at me, Mommy, I'm a sugar slut in a devil's mask!"). And it has nothing to do with jealousy or the fact that there is no freaking way I'll ever be able to buy a swim suit there again, between the high prices and the teeny tiny bikinis and the absurd impracticality of gold sequins on a SWIM SUIT. And then I got up to make some brownies and roast a chicken. And stepped on a little pirate figurine on the way to the kitchen. And said "OH SHOWER" instead of the other word that starts with "SH".

So yeah, JCrew's days are over for me. I blame the kids. But I think I'm really going to like swimming fully clothed.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Big day around here if you like breaking stuff.

It all started this morning when Ryan and I were downstairs performing our two-man show called "SIT IN YOUR CHAIR AND EAT YOUR BREAKFAST." I was starting up the coffee maker when I heard a funny metallic noise and then a big THUMP.

I found Wes, who was not SITTING IN HIS CHAIR EATING HIS BREAKFAST, standing at the top of the stairs, looking sheepish. He was looking sheepish because he had just ripped the baby gate right out of the wall, leaving a two-inch hole in the drywall.

Thank goodness Ryan has so much drywall experience, heh heh heh! Also, I think his office needs a "Performing emergency home maintenance necessitated by two-year-old" space on their time sheets because this is the second time this week something has gone horribly wrong five minutes before he was due to leave for work. Yesterday morning involved a diaper and a whole lot of Resolve. Enough said. Really.

So Ryan got the rest of the gate off the wall so we could walk through the hallway without stepping on it and went to work. And then our babysitter came and I gratefully spent six hours in a quiet, windowless room reading about wind.

After I came home we played in the back yard for a while. It was a nice warm afternoon and the kids played with the hose while I held James or pulled weeds. It was all very peaceful and calm, so I went inside to make dinner while the kids continued to play.

I was almost done cutting up the potatoes when I heard that maniacal cackle that usually means they're doing something wrong.

Turns out Wes was standing on our glass-topped patio table. Dancing. Naked.

I've said it once and I'll say it again: That kid is going to join a fraternity one day. Probably one that gets put on probation. Even though he did not fall through the table and slice open his aorta, he still got a time out for that one. But it was really, really hard not to laugh.

Act III of Wesmageddon occurred after Ryan came home. I was plating up dinner when I heard a woosha woosha woosha noise coming from the general vicinity of James room. And then what sounded like a thirty-pound bag of potatoes falling onto the floor. And then hysterical screaming.

Ryan found Wes in James's room, having jumped so forcefully in the crib that he had pushed the whole mattress and spring down through the bottom like a fun house trap door, causing him to roll down the "hill" and crash into the floor.

Ryan had to bend the metal back into place with a hammer so James would have a place to sleep tonight. The whole time I nursed James to sleep I was thinking about how on earth I was going to get through this phase with my relationship with Wes intact.

And then I remembered the time when Charlie was two-and-a-half and I dragged his dresser out of his room in a fit of rage one day because I had found him standing on top of it throwing books instead of napping (while I was trying to talk on the phone with my advisor about my defense date). And Charlie is perfectly lovely and largely not a psychopath today. So I guess I just have to wait it out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Chicken in Every Pot

I told my friend on Facebook the other day, after asking for her roasted chicken recipe, that one of my goals for the summer is to "learn to cook like it's the Depression." Because with three boys and one-point-two incomes, we're going to need to be creative in the kitchen. I'm starting with roasted chicken. At $0.85 a pound, it is less than a third of the price of breasts alone and Wes could really use the extra fat in the dark meat anyway. And after you eat the parts you want, you can boil the rest to make chicken stock and save even more money.

My parents came over for dinner last night, so I made them this recipe with a five-pound chicken I bought for approximately $4.75. After we carved it, found some uncooked places (Klassy! Also, grr broken meat thermometer!!), microwaved the uncooked pieces, and served it, it was delicious and moist! The potatoes were perfectly done too. I shall trademark my roasting/microwaving combo strategy and make millions!

After bedtime Ryan and I sat at the kitchen table and talked about our days while we picked the extra meat off the bones (ro-man-tic). Then I used the bones and skin to make ten cups of stock in the crockpot (OH the heated debate that occurred on my Facebook wall when I put up an innocent little appeal for stock-making tips!! Highly amusing. And informative!). TEN cups! Ten cups of stock at the store is $5! The same price I paid for the whole chicken! That we also got to eat for dinner! Bring on the Dust Bowl!

Tonight I'll make chicken soup with the extra meat and four of the cups of stock. CHA-CHING!

(I attribute this little home cooking jag to the abrupt end to the semester and resulting directionless creative energy. For lunch yesterday the kids had organic black bean and Monterrey jack tacos while I enjoyed a mozzarella and tomato sandwich with fresh basil on ciabatta bread with a side of sliced fresh pears. I am not bragging. I'm just kind of amazed because usually lunch involves yogurt and peanut butter toast for the kids and a handful of Halloween candy and a side of guilt-induced fresh fruit for me. Bon appetit!)

It's not all fun and chicken stock around here though. Do you know what your house smells like when you simmer a chicken carcass in a crock pot for ten hours over night? Like CHICKEN. Not chicken. CHICKEN. I woke up at 4:00 sure that someone had left a toy in the oven. Putting the stock away in the freezer has helped. But I'm going to make some peach cobbler too just to make sure the smell coming from my house doesn't start attracting stray dogs.

Next we'll move on to the Cold War and learn how to prepare dried beans in the crock pot. I'll be off the grid in no time!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a sleeping baby and about ten hours worth of chicken smell to wash out of my hair.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Messy Happy

Usually clutter and chaos drives me crazy. You can imagine how much time I spend frustrated with the chaos given the current state of things. I'm told it won't get better until James goes to college, so I'm trying to prioritize and clean up as we go and it's helping, even though that whole shoveling the driveway while it's still snowing analogy still applies. Big time.

But this morning I walked into my messy living room and just felt content and happy.

When we bought this house we knew we needed one big room for all of us to do things together. I used to think an "adult house" needed a living room and a family room, but this house just had one living room (and a small playroom that is more often used for toy storage because everyone likes the living room so damn much) and we fell in love with it and it's been perfect.

This morning the coffee table was used as my office, with my grading and proposal budget still spread out where I left them late last night. They shared the table with Ryan's and my dishes from dinner last night where we ate in front of The Office and 30 Rock, one of our favorite weekly rituals.

There are clothes all over the place, left behind after hasty mid-day clothing changes, which are now more frequent now that Charlie can turn on the sprinkler for himself.

I realize this is not *that* bad. Which might be contributing to my shiny happy feelings today. Or maybe it's because I slept for six and a half continuous hours last night.

One of the protective pads from the dining room table houses the Island of Sodor and many happy afternoons of civil engineering (and violent property disputes).

The couch is a bookshelf, bed, and jungle gym (STOP DOING THAT TO THE COUCH! GO OUTSIDE IF YOU WANT TO CLIMB SOMETHING!).

Today I understand the empty nesters who have told me I'll miss the messy house. I just wanted to get this down as a reminder for the next time I feel like greeting Ryan home from work with "Sorry the house is such a hellhole." I don't think he even notices.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I gave James cereal during Charlie and Wes's dinner ONE TIME and now he expects it. A four month old can EXPECT things. I did not know that. I just assumed that someone who becomes irrevocably trapped after rolling onto his stomach just kind of went with the flow. But apparently not. I tried to hold him in my lap at the table while Charlie and Wes ate dinner tonight and he wiggled and squawked and spit out his pacifier until I stuck him in his chair and gave him something to eat.

He doesn't quite know what to do but he does know that he NEEDS MORE FOOD RIGHT NOW as soon as he swallows a bite.

Probably now would be a good time to join Costco.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

CSI: Kitchen Edition

Everyone jokes that the leftovers in their fridge have been there so long as to be unrecognizable. But that never really happens, right? I mean, you might have a little trouble determining which green vegetable it was that has turned orange and liquidy in the bottom of the Corningware dish some well-intentioned relative gave you for your wedding. But usually with a little bit of thought, review of grocery store receipts, and laboratory analysis you can piece it together.

Oh yeah, I remember making green beans almondine for Thanksgiving now. What was it, 2009?

I've never truly had the "What the hell was THAT?" experience when cleaning out the fridge. No matter how badly deteriorated the contents of the bowl was, I could always sort of remember having bought it, prepared it, or brought it home from someone else's house with the intention of eating it at some point.

Until today.

I came home from the store and opened the fridge to put the milk away only to have a medium sized enameled baking dish fall onto my foot, ejecting it's blue, fuzzy contents all over the floor and my shoes.

I stood there for a moment, gallon of milk in hand, muttering unladylike things about the rest of my family and why I'm the only one who ever cleans the fridge before remembering how I went to yoga last night while Ryan put the big boys to bed then cleaned the kitchen before starting on the actual work he had still to do before going to bed and getting up with James several times between three and six in the morning. OK! Time to clean the fridge!

After putting the baking dish in some soapy water and cleaning all the blue fuzz off the floor I put on my lead apron and face shield and removed a covered Corningware dish from the lower shelf for inspection.

It was about the size of a softball and appeared to have been some kind of roast at one time. The last roast I bought I had cooked in the crockpot to make French Dips, so I am fairly certain this was not it. Whatever it was had been white meat and was covered with a creamy orange sauce with what appeared to have been bits of some kind of herb in it.

Whether or not the sauce was intended to be orange is a matter of uncertainty. The herbs looked tasty though. If they were actually herbs.

I stared at it for several minutes trying to remember when I had cooked it and what it had been but came up with nothing. I looked closer at it and noticed what might have been cheese back in 1997 when it was originally prepared, but this did not help either.

And then, and I cannot explain this behavior other than to remind you that James got up multiple times between three and six last night, I gave it a little sniff.


I am pretty sure that was not how it smelled originally when I cooked it to celebrate JFK's inauguration.

Defeated, I scraped it into the trash and washed out the dish. Carefully. And then sterilized my hands in a paste made of isopropyl alcohol and pumice from a dormant volcano in Greece named for the Goddess of Botulism.

I am very unsettled not knowing what it was.