Monday, September 30, 2013

Luxury sweet

Another day, another meltdown in the lobby of the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago.  Story of my life.  First world problems.  Whatever you want to call it, that was the brink I was leaning towards when calmer minds (shockingly, my own) prevailed. 

So, it's Monday.  The Monday following the Big Weekend.  The Big Weekend of my high school buddy's wedding.  My high school buddy's wedding in downtown Chicago.  Downtown Chicago is apparently Never Never Land according to Capital One.

Flag.  Roughing the Passer.  Technical foul.  Something.  Capital One--you had me worked up into the state of a whirling dervish for about 30 minutes there.  And it was NOT COOL, yo. 

Imagine the following scenario (hypothetical all the way, mind you...):  You get invited to this swanky wedding in downtown Chicago, which is 'bout 3 hours away driving.  You have two young sprouts and a limited amount of money to fritter away on things other than food and electricity, so you ponder the reservation for a couple of weeks.  Mind you, it's something that you really want to do; imagine having the luxury of spending time with adults and perhaps, maybe sleeping in, even if just a bit, and not having to laboriously cut up everyone else's meal before you get to your own cold grub (now that the hubs can cut up his own food, it's only two little ones to tend to, but still).  I mean, you really want to go.  You weigh your options ad naseum until finally you decide it's six of one, half dozen of another and go ahead and book the g'parents for a weekend of babysitting and book the luxury hotel for a one-night stay cause you don't have any extra kidneys to sell to afford a two-night stay. 

You are totally and completely stoked for a 30-hour respite from all things kid, even though you know you're going to be thinking about them a lot, talking about them a good amount, and counting down the time until you get to pick them up.  And, it's your first night away from the little one, so there's that element of insecurity in that (leave directions for just about every possibility, knowing that it's really not going to matter much anyways and she's a resilient little bit of child, so she'll be fine).  You take off for this little dream getaway, literally hoping that it's going to be a dream getaway as in dreaming...sleep...lots of it. 

You roll into the big city without a hitch, act the part of a casual tourist for a couple of hours until you can check-in at the hotel, send the boy to cart over a load of stuff from the car (which is parked in its own luxury suite of a parking spot at primo dollars so that in the words of the boy "it doesn't get stolen overnight"), and saunter up to the front desk trying to act as if this feels natural so that you don't look out of place, a modern day Dorothy in the Oz of a $$$$ hotel.  You carry the to-go coffee just to be on the safe side and look the part (and cause your afternoon lull has hit you full-force, and you were just about ready to curl up in the corner of some alley and try to slip a quick nap in before the busy night ahead of you; safely, you choose to caffeinate instead, which likewise gives you a serious case of jitters as you haven't eaten for a while).  You pull out the credit card, which has a credit limit the likes of which you could have used to purchase your used car a year ago, with another grand to spare.  In other words, you feel confident in throwing down this plastic to pay for your room. 

Your check-in goes just fine and you get your room keys (two, please).  Eighteenth floor--feels exotic.  You wander away from the desk with the lovely young woman with a definite and unidentifiable accent, and wait for the spouse/your personal valet to return to the lobby so that you can find your room and therefore the richy-rich lotion that's bound to be left for you in the bathroom.  Who doesn't love a sweet little bottle of luxe lotion?  Plus, you have food with you that you're waiting to eat (remember the jitters from the caffeine?), and it seems a little gauche to hunker down with it in the middle of the lobby.  So you wait on the boy, but the sweet, accent-laden desk attendant tracks you down instead and tells you that your credit card has pulled a fast one on you: denied.  Say, what?? 

What do you do?  You mentally freak out a bit that someone has hacked your account and now you're in a foreign city with not enough cash between you to cover one night in this hotel, let alone food & gas to get you home.  It was something of a debacle involving a wasted $3 ATM fee, virtually identical debit cards, and just enough time to scarf a sandwich and wedge into a formal dress before finding an elevator to take us to the ballroom. 

But no sooner had we sat down then another good friend from high school showed up, and the good times ensued.  It was about four hours of non-stop laughing, punctuated by delish Indian food, masks, and fast dancing to standard wedding fare. 

Stayin' Alive for sure.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Where is the happy medium?

If you're someone who has read my gender rants before, you might remember how we're pretty much anti-princess-ness.  We feel very strongly about how morally approach parenting two girls.  One of our big no-no-'aint-gonna-happens is us purposefully choosing princessy/overtly sexualized toys for our girls, basically anything that degrades females or presents females in such a way as to be weakened by that activity.  (I know that I've kindly discussed my thoughts about girls' clothing as well.  However, for today, we're just talking toys.)  Let's not misconstrue what I'm saying, though, and paint my words with too broad a brush.  Dress-up can be very feminized and princessy.  Are we against dress-up?  Oh goodness, no.  While dress up in Disney princess garb isn't so much for our kids, dress-up in extra bits of clothing, hats, scarves, and shoes most definitely is. 

I've been dwelling a bit lately on how we have crafted our kids' exposure to toys.  You know mamas...always something to worry about, right?  For once, however, I'm not worrying so much as just considering what's at stake here and what is going on.  Our toys are decidedly gender-neutral in general.  However, if they tend towards either end of the continuum, they swing more masculine.  And I'm wondering, have we made such the effort to not princess the heck out of our girls that we've left them with very little that is categorized as feminine?  There are a couple of baby dolls hanging around, sure, as well as a play kitchen and an odd Dora the Explorer purse/bag thing.  But of those 5 items, we only purchased one of them: 1 baby doll complete with a couple of diaper bag play things.  We're not going out of our way to feminize the girls, and this is evident in how they play inside and out. 

There's a little bit of pink, but our general rule of thumb is gender-neutral when given a choice with toys because specifically gendered toys are so overt that it becomes mostly off-putting for us.  Our oldest daughter doesn't wear skirts by choice and her favorite color is blue.  Granted, these choices can be relevant to any number of reasons (she does wear dresses), and her blue preference is a bright, aqua color. 

I don't it a big deal?  Are our girls exposed to a fair treatment of socially understood feminine perceptions?  Doesn't "gender neutral" still favor masculine norms?  It's the whole nature v. nurture thing that I'm chewing on a bit here.  I obviously need to go back to school and surround myself with all of the good things that community learning has to offer again.  Where is Psych 101: Gender and Social Norms when you need it? 

Friday, September 20, 2013

A dessert is a dessert is a dessert is a dessert

Can we take a moment to talk about how truly, magnificently jaded our society is about what is and (more importantly) is NOT healthy?  Just in the last few days, I keep coming across recipes or products that are touted as "a healthy snack" (always a snack, yet do we ever eat snack sized portions???) and they're still l-o-a-d-e-d with unhealthiness.  Like butter.  And sugar.  This is not to say that I'm looking to cast the first stone here.  Good gracious, no.  Sugar is my boo, and with no adult supervision in the house (I hardly count to supervise myself, right?) during the day, it's pretty much an anything goes kind of carnival when the kids aren't looking.  In fact, it's kind of a game.  How many chocolate chips can I sneak out of the noisy container with the kids on the other side of the half wall?  Will the girls notice if I discreetly snitch a cookie and eat it with my back turned to them the entire time?  For the record, I'm about 50-50.  And you know when times are desperate, the girls get a treat, cause the "rule" in our house is they get a treat when we get a treat.  Except that it's really more like they get a treat when I get caught having a treat.  But then there's naptime...

But I should get back to the what-in-the-world-are-you-thinking-calling-this-a-healthy-snack-alternative thread that I was actually trying to start, here.  I've been looking at loads of apple recipes lately since we came home with the aforementioned 1 1/2 bushels of apples (which, turns out, is around 200 per the size of our apples, which are pretty big this year).  One cannot be satisfied by applesauce alone, and we've been feasting on apple dessert after apple dessert after apple dessert for 1 1/2 weeks straight now.  I knew that I liked apples, but even I'm surprised that I haven't gotten tired of what amounts to some variation of the same flavor profile so much for the past 12 days.  Other than the obvious overload of apples needing to be used, why am I still cranking these yummies out with no break for something chocolate?  Because.  They're still all loaded with sugar and butter, of course.  And I'm not about to start proclaiming how apple crisp becomes a healthy snack alternative--you could even eat it for breakfast!!! like that's actually true.  It's so not.  When you must add some variation of a stick of butter or a full scoop of sugar to fulfill the demands of a recipe, it's not "a healthy alternative."  It's a dessert with benefits, but it's not healthy.  Never trust a fat cook, right?  Let's not be tricking ourselves into believing that if you stick a slice of fruit in it, it magically becomes not dessert.  If that were the case, I'd plunk one raspberry on every gigantic wedge of brownie that I find.  Just watch the pounds melt off!

Any my stink eye is also cast towards you, Nutella, and your devious advertising tactics.  Spreading chocolate on top of toast is suddenly a healthy breakfast option (that the whole family will love!!)?  Let's just sell it with a spoon attached and leave it at that, for who doesn't hoard the Nutella, hiding it from the probing eyes of the toddler set?  Unconditional love is a little bit bogus; it is conditional when adult-ed peanut butter is at stake.  (Obviously, I'm hyperbolizing (not a word--I'm just feeling snarky).  My own kid was just gladly handed a graham cracker spread with a bit of Nutella after she asked for one kindly.  I just happened to load up two for myself when she wasn't looking to notice the disparity of the amount of delicous she got in comparison to me.  Yet was this her healthy snack for the morning?  Absolutely not!  She ate an apple first.  She knows the rules.)  

Here's to healthy snacks everywhere.  May you not be tainted by the false advertising of those who wish they were you. 

(Did anyone catch my literary reference in the title of this post???  Anyone???  Someone???)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Calling the shots

It's a new school year.  Ergo, it's a whole new season of the creeping crud.  And the pre-schooler among us wasn't the first one to be felled by the nasty buggers this time around.  No, no.  That distinction fell to sweet'ums, who spent all of about 1 1/2 hours in a church nursery with a large handful of other kids while Mama attended a Bible study.  (By the bye...I think that I'm just about now getting the idea that there are things that I can do with my time during the day now that has not really been on my radar before.  I had this realization while driving the other day that never in my life had I ever thought of myself as someone who would be a stay-at-homer with the kids; I still don't.  But while I'm muddling my way through this temporary change of pace, I can do things.  During the day.  It's odd and even unsettling in the out-of-my-comfort-zone kind of way.  It's rather like finding yourself stuck in a strange city for a 2-night layover that you hadn't really planned on.  Once you wrap your mind around it, you start to enjoy it.  When you first find yourself in the situation, you're just fuzzily disoriented for a while.)  So the Sprout brought home the first grossness, which I don't even know what you would classify this one as--it's not much of a cold, just grossness.  She believes in share & share alike and so bequeathed me with her yuck.  I'm guessing that she went through the same stuff, so in hindsight, I should have been more willing to give her the non-stop cuddles that she wanted.  As I was sacked out on the couch last night, I was thinking about it and realized "Yeah, now I get why babies want cuddles when they don't feel well.  Cuddles sound good about right now."

As luck would have it, Sprout was scheduled for her 15-month (already?!?) well baby check-up, so we got a two-fer and a free check-up on her ears since these visits are covered 100% by insurance whereas the walk-up clinic is a twenty-spot.  She was also due for her next round of vaccines with this visit, and as she wasn't running a fever, we said "Bring 'em on!" 

Here's where I admit something that has long befuddled me.  Two things actually.  First: Why in the ever-living world do some parents avoid vaccines?  Second:  Why in the ever-living world does it bother some parents to see their child receive the vaccines?

First.  I've heard the arguments against the vaccines.  There's a slight smidge of arsenic in them (as there is in rice, drinking water, and any number of foods in our pantries).  They might contribute to the probability of Autism (a study which has long been disproved and there is no definite research confirming this so-called link).  We don't get it.  There's scads of proven data about how vaccines are beneficial.  And the argument that counters "When is the last time that you've come across anyone with _____?"  True.  It took vaccines to control that, didn't it? 

Second.  What's the problem with seeing your kid get a shot?  Do I need someone else to hold her down while she gets them?  No.  I'll do it.  Because it's not that big of a deal.  I've had shots a'plenty.  Yeah, they sting, but, well, that's it.  It's not excruciating pain.  They're good to go as soon as you pick them up.  The whole ordeal takes about 5 seconds if you have a doctor's office worth their salt who give the shots simultaneously (if there's more than one).  Those 2 fat tears that linger on their cheeks also occur with any number of things, like not being able to play in the garbage.  And I don't feel badly about causing tears in that situation either.  The only time I've ever felt badly about my kid getting a shot was when #1 had to receive one in her thigh for a persistent ear infection that wouldn't go away.  This last resort was one that required 3 people holding her down/giving her the shot, and was one that the medical staff warned me in advance would be "very painful for her."  But again, that one was over in a matter of a few hugs, even though it also had soul-wrenching screams.Vaccine shots, though...pshaw.  So not a big deal. 

And that is going to perhaps categorize me as unfeeling mom #1.  Or, it might be my way of saying "Life hurts, kid.  Get used to it now."  Let's save the anguish for those times when it's more relevant, eh?    

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No dyes for me, thank you. I prefer food.

Every so often, I get on a rampage against something new, and it becomes verboten in our house.  Actually, that's a bit harsh.  I want it to be verboten, but I also understand the sheer difficulty of banishing said item from our "TYPICAL AMERICAN HOUSEHOLD."  This is all to say that I'm more and more under the impression that we're not the TAH, in many a way.  Technology, vacations, free time adventures, food...we tend to jam to our own off-key-only-in-the-ears-of-society-at-large tune.  Rock on, my friend, if you do as well. 

Of late, I've started an outright war on artificial dyes in food.  The things like Red40 on the labels of pert near everything, it seems.  FACT: marshmallows have food dye in them.  Marshmallows.  Those white, puffy things.  What the ever living what???  Add that to the list of things I will very likely never buy again.  Fortunately, I enjoy making them from time to time; they're super cinchy just fairly messy.  And they are da-licious when they're homemade.  T-o-t-a-l-l-y worth the time and effort for a cheap, cheap, cheap little holiday gifty to stick in to someone's stocking or goody bag.  Another FACT: gum has food dyes in it as well.  And this disappoints me heartily, but so far so good.  Not a stick chewed since the label was perused. 

It's just everywhere.  And it has links to yucky stuff like ADHD.  While I'm not really concerned about this being a problem with any of us, I have a serious aversion developing towards artificial you name it.  It just all seems to be seriously no bueno to me.  We spend so much time and money on putting good, healthy stuff in our babies when they first start to eat (When is the last time that you ever heard of a 6-month old eating color changing Jell-o as their first "solid" food?  If the food, a term I use loosely in this circumstance, "magically" changes colors when you add innocuous water, there's some serious chemical ju-ju going on with that food-like product.), so why do we give up the good fight so easily and quickly as the little sprouts start to sprout?  I have lots of theories, which I'll drone on about another time.

This is all to share that I'm on something of a mission to avoid artificial food dyes in our food choices.  They're on my bad news radar, and gross junk like that infiltrating my otherwise seemingly benign food choices makes me gag not just a little but a lottle. 

In celebration of fall, a happier harvest year, and tiny tots now being able to walk and chew crunchy things, I found a somewhat local apple orchard that avoids blind spraying, called up my mum to join us, and piled the girls in the car to go apple picking.  It was glorious.  The apples are gigant-o this year, which is especially noticeable to me as I didn't get a single freshly picked apple all of last year due to a having a little newbie and the utterly horrid growing season that we went through between cold snaps and drought snaps.  And here are the happy pickers, who each mowed through as much as they wanted of 4+ apples.  Once we let them loose, there wasn't a moment from stop to finish when they each didn't have an apple in hand and jaws working.  In fact, little sprout often went double fisted.  Cause that's the way she rolls. 

 After we packed up the car and drove all the way to the orchard (this was a day trip with a picnic planned and some outdoor exploring at a nature center and park), I mean right as I parked the car, I realized that I forgot to bring shoes for the little one.  She, obviously, didn't care. Then, she picked up a new pair of kicks in what is now an affectionate memory (yeah, right) of the time I nearly walked out of Walmart without my wallet.  In front of my mom. 

Someone was having just some fun picking apples.  Just a "tiny touch," as #1 says.

I basically never dress the girls alike, except for this.  I found these AWESOME elephant leggings a while ago, and now they both fit in their respective sizes.  And I cannot resist the requisite "We dressed alike!" pose.  Little sprout is sporting a Discovery Toys stopwatch that I got for her big sisty, who loves all things DAD and therefore all things that DAD does, which means running.  So they literally go to cross country meets for fun.  And now, she times the runners, too.  Please do not report me to Child Services, though; I obviously was right beside the little one when she had this around her neck.  Good times.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sister, Sister!

Often, we receive amusing comments about our girls.  Amusing in that perspective is everything.  Today, I'm referring to the inevitable comments in the same vein as "They're starting to look alike!"  Pardon?  I mean, starting...?! 

I get that you haven't been staring at each of their faces since birth.  Actually, since my oldest stares the floor more often than looking back at someone when they speak to her in public, you might not have really noticed what she looks like.  But still.  These munchkins are done cut from the same bolt of mini-me cloth.  With due regards to my mother-in-law who swears up and down that #1 is the spitting image of her son, I thoroughly disagree.  And I've looked at a myriad of pictures trying to find the clone-ness. 

Today, I'm going to play my new favorite game of "guess which child this is."  And, since the girls were born exactly 3 years and 16 days apart, their clothing matches up per-fect-o for comparison shots such as these.  In other words, you can't count on the season to be a giveaway if one was born in winter and the other in summer. It is a game we have played a few times when I put forth some effort to organize the mass of images.  And, it is a game that we have both lost upon occasion.  This is how we roll on Friday nights.  Sometimes Saturday nights as well.

For a frame of reference, the first shot is one that was taken within the last month with both #1 & #2 in it.  After that, see if you can figure it out.  Answers, like any game in a magazine, is at the bottom.

This one is a little tricky, I know, since it's smallish and #2 is wearing a hat.  But, this is literally the only picture that I have with both girls in it from the last month where each is smiling and/or looking at the camera.  


This post has taken me an inordinately long amount of time as I've been sifting through scads of pictures (good) and blogger isn't being very user friendly for me right now once I have them loaded (bad).  And, this very well may be one of the most boring posts that I've written.  If you found yourself questioning why I would throw up 20 random pictures of the girls, I don't know.  I just did cause I felt like it. 

Answers: 1.)#2  2.)#2  3.)#1  4.)#2  5.)#1  6.)#1  7.)#1  8.)#2  9.)#1  10.)#2  11.)#1  12.)#1  13.)#1  14.)#1  15.)#1  16.)#2  17.)#2  18.)#2  19.)#2  20.)#2   (I mentioned that blogger wasn't being very happy with me and all of these pictures, right?  As in, this isn't nearly as mixed up as I intended.  Blerg.)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My little people

The days have been gorgeously sunny and warm, and we have been out and about with several impromptu field trips.  A year ago, I would not have even attempted to take day trips by myself with a 3-year and a 2-month old.  It just wouldn't have even entered my mind as a possibility.  Just a few days later (or so it seems, right?), we've been having some sweet girl time and tons of fun.  (I had an actual topic to write about flitting through my mind earlier today, but when the fingers hit the keyboard, I couldn't, for whatever reason, remember what it is.  Thus, enjoy the pictures instead!) 

 Who doesn't love to ride a cow carousel?

 This is completely indicative of both girls' personalities--over zealous & patiently suffering.

 We have several pictures of #1 with this same elephant fountain from years past.  

Just for reference, this picture is #1 from when we took her to the same zoo (both 14 months old) as the picture of #2 with the elephant fountain, taken about a week ago.  Sisters, no???

 Because she's a silly goofball, little bean occupied herself for at least 30 minutes putting blocks down her shirt and walking around with a belly fully of corners poking out.  GOOD times.

 I rather love this smile.  (coloring together with some mommy & me time)

I kid you not, this kid does this all of the time.  I finally got a picture of her balancing on her head. 
And, my big little one returned for her second year of pre-school.  Here's another example of how much we can change in just one year.  Oh.  My.  Word.  Is that my child, all confident and purposeful, heading into her new preschool room with her new teacher and her new classmates, none of which she is familiar with, which would have rendered her mute and clingy a few short months ago?  This time, I'm not bribing & there's no lovey in sight.  The backpack has been packed (and re-packed and re-packed and re-packed) in preparation for the big day: (in the words of my daughter) "PREEE-SCHEEEEEEWWWWWWUUUUUULLLLLLLLL!!!!!"  ("First, we'll have gym time, and then we'll have a snack, and then centers!")  In case you're wondering what is absolutely essential to pack when headed to the 4-year old class, the following is the list of items she toted to school, only to leave in her backpack, hanging on the hook.  But just in case, she took her "favorite" purple crayon (news to me that she has a favorite), her monkey water bottle ("that I got for my birthday!"), her sunglasses, a dot-to-dot book, and about 4 half-used notebooks of different shapes and sizes.  Prior to today, I put the solitary colored pencil away so that little sprout wouldn't chew on it as it was just sticking up & out of the pocket of the backpack.  Luckily, big one didn't notice the omission when she did the grand un-packing right before lunch. 
 first day of pre-school, 3-years old: nervous

first day of pre-school, 4-years old: confident
(This picture pretty much looks exactly like what it was: a rush job.  Them's the breaks sometimes.)

Next year: KINDERGARTEN.  But that's a whole 'nuther post.