Monday, December 31, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

2007 was a long, exciting, difficult, heart-bending, challenging, dark, and beautiful year. I'm thankful I survived it and thankful I experienced it. And I'm looking forward with great hope to 2008.

If you were here and listened to me as I poured my heart out to the blogosphere, thank you. Thank you to A. and Renn and Jeremy and Rich and Suz and all of y'all who offered encouragement when I thought I was going to be pulled under the dark waters of ppd. Naturally, I couldn't have done it without the compassion of Scott and the friends who dwell here with me in 3-D land. But I also couldn't have thrived the way I think I have without the heartfelt support of those of you whom I only know through our blogs and our crazy desire to throw it all up and out for the world to feel. Just knowing y'all were out there reading somehow made me keep writing and that somehow made me keep going and gaining hope each day that the darkness would lift. And one day, it did. And y'all were (mostly) all still here. Thanks.

I look forward to hearing what you're all up to in the New Year.

I hope we all experience the richness of God's blessings this year.

With love and hope...Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's Christmastime!

Merry Christmas, y'all!

I hope everyone is having a splendid, joy-filled day.

Santa was very good to everyone in our house. I've been so busy watching Brendan play with the Planet Heroes space shuttle and building things with modeling clay, that I haven't had a chance to play with my gifts yet.

I also have put a roast on. Since it turns out that it's just us today – we ended up having our big family Christmas in Montgomery instead of our house because my brother-in-law was on call – I'm using the Paula Deen recipe for a small roast instead of a tenderloin. We'll have mashed potatoes and green beans, too. I need to figure out a good, easy dessert that doesn't require milk since we're almost out and I don't want to try to find an open store. I'm also making some homemade bread. It's rising right now. I haven't made bread in years, so I hope it turns out okay.

So far it's a good day. I feel bad that I wasn't able to get the gift I wanted to for Scott. I wanted to give him a Wii, but as they are sold out everywhere, I simple gave him a gift certificate to go buy one when they're in. I feel bad for him that he didn't get a great gift to open today.

Otherwise, the day is really great. Brendan seems so happy and thankful for all he received and told us he was sad that Beckett didn't get anything in his stocking. Of course, Beckett prefers pulling all the sippy cups out of the drawer in the kitchen to any of his toys.

Go figure. I thought about not getting him anything, but it just felt weird.

Anyway, hope you all have a beautiful Christmas day!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas in Killarney

Christmas in Killarney is probably my favorite Christmas song. I just love it. It makes me happy right down to my toes. As we've been listening to all the Christmas songs on my iPod the last couple of weeks, two have popped up as Brendan's favorites and I'm happy to say my little Irish laddie has his mama's taste in Christmas songs.

He has repeatedly asked me to play Christmas in Killarney. I have two versions, Bing Crosby's and one by the Irish Rovers. The latter is my favorite, although I will alway's have a soft spot for Bing Crosby and his version. As it turns out the Rovers version is proving to be Brendan's favorite as well.

The other song that he likes is Snoopy and the Red Baron, both the Christmas version and the original version.

That was one of my favorites and I had the single when I was around his age. Ah! Record players. Anyway, it makes me happy to share these things with him and have him react the same way I did once upon a time. I guess this is part of what Christmas is all about...sharing our traditions and making new ones.

I feel really blessed to have these two wonderful boys and their sweet daddy to be making traditions with. It's so cool to see the wonder and joy in their little faces each time they experience some new aspect of Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No One Dies Harder Than John McClain

Except, perhaps, Elmo.

I bought Beckett a small, stuffed Elmo who giggles and talks when you shake him. Today, as I was driving around, I hear Yippee-Ki-Yay! Hahahahaha! from the cargo area. Naturally, all I could think of was the famous John McClain line from Die Hard.

And then, of course, I heard the line in Elmo's voice. And now, I can't stop hearing it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

You're With Stupid Now

As I prepare to write this post, I know that what I'm going to say is going to sound judgmental and elitist and that there will be people who read it and think what an awful person I am. But really, I just have to cuss on the mic tonight. What is wrong with people?

There is a local web site run by one of the local tv stations and the mega-conglomerate-parent company which I think is probably Gannett, but I'm too lazy to check right now. Anyway, it's called peachymoms.com, ya know, because we live in the Peach State and all. So, when I first heard the commercials I thought it would be a cool site with lots of local info on activities and discussions about local happenings as they relate to parenting, etc. In other words, I thought I'd find other women like myself or at least relatively like myself.

Now, don't get me wrong. I realize that parenting isn't the exclusive territory of white, married, thirty-something, college educated, suburban-dwelling, neurotic, hetero women like myself. And I'm not saying that to be facetious.

I have been amazed, however, when reading this site to realize that this particular web site and accompanying message boards are primarily dominated by lots and lots of single women who chose to get pregnant and keep their babies and by keep, I don't mean abortion, although I certainly don't judge anyone for that choice. I mean adoption. In fact, I got slammed for suggesting a woman put her baby up for adoption after she expressed concern that she was 6 months pregnant and not feeling any maternal instinct and her biggest concern was that she wouldn't be able to continue partying after she had the baby. I simply suggested that if she wasn't 100% ready to commit herself to her child that both of them would fare better if she put the baby up for adoption. You would have thought I said she should leave the baby down by the river in a burlap sack.

Then, today, I saw this post and I just felt sick to my stomach. How on earth could anyone be thinking this way? When I was 17 all I could think about was which college I was going to and what it was going to be like to be the D.A. in Nashville some day. Kids were the furthest thing from my mind.

It makes me sad that there are kids out there who think like this, but it makes me sadder that even the people who are trying to talk some sense into her do it in such a wussy way. No one has the guts to stand up to kids and tell them to stop screwing around. They act like children have some God-given right to have sex and that if we tell them not to then we're all horrible Bible-thumping fundamentalists.

I'm not a prude. But, I think it is the rare, very rare, teenager who has the sense to have sex in a smart and responsible way. Even if we give them birth control. Can a 17-year old really remember to take her pill every day? Or insert her diaphragm correctly? And if girls are responsible for the birth control, what happens to condoms (which break and boys hate wearing and will try to talk their girlfriends out of) and the risk of STDs?

I just wish that someone could tell these idiotic little girls the truth without all the baby-mamas out there rushing to beat them up. It's just devastatingly sad to me when I look around and see the dolts that are going to be running this country some day and putting an even greater strain on the system with all their unplanned, unwanted children.

And I feel worse for those kids who are just going to propagate the same failings when it's their turn. Or maybe not. Maybe our country will get on an upswing where all kids realize their potential and don't do stupid things to ruin their lives. We can hope.

El Manana

Driving home from a little Christmas shopping on Sunday, I was listening to a program on NPR. I tend not to think a lot about listening to news shows in front of my kids. I grew up watching the news. Walter Cronkite and John Chancellor were my first heroes. I knew more about world politics and current events when I was four than most adults do now. As a result, I've always been a news junkie and that has only lessened since I've had children and don't enjoy the luxury of watching news programs obsessively, reading several newspapers and magazines each day, and talking politics and/or current events with everyone I know. Since I don't often get to watch the news at home, I listen in the car whenever I can.

Anyway, I'm driving along with Brendan in the backseat, listening to All Things Considered and they're talking about Ingrid Betancourt, a hostage held by Marxist geurillas in Colombia since 2002. The first thing Brendan hears is guerillas, only to him it's gorillas. Now, it is important to note at this point that Brendan mispronounces gorilla so that it comes out as badrilla.Badrillas!, he exclaims. Badrillas kidnap humans! AAAAAHHHHHHH!

I control my laughter so I can actually hear the rest of the story and we continue on. A little way into the story, the reporter says that in a letter to her mother, Bettancourt said that the only people in the camp where she is being held beside herself are the male guerillas. The next thing I hear is What?! The mail man is a badrilla! I knew it!

I laughed so hard I a had to pull over for a second. I was just imagining a gorilla putting on a human mail carrier costume and stealthily sneaking around delivering mail, ripping open certain packages.

In other cuteness, Brendan told his dad the other day that all smart kids wear glasses which oddly coincides with his affection for Simon the Chipmunk and Brainy Smurf, although, he told me today that Smurfette is actually his favorite.

Beckett, too, is doing his best to be the cutest baby ever. He's walking and actually trying to run in order to keep up with big brother. He has five teeth now and loves to bite me wherever he can. Shoulder. Thigh. A couple of nights ago while I was kneeling on the floor looking for some shoes under the bed, he came up behind me and bit me on the bottom. Of course, when I jump and say No biting! he bursts into tears. He's also gotten very clingy and is in the separation anxiety phase. But he's just so cute. My goodness. He said bye-bye for the first time yesterday and is trying to say his own name, I think, and our Cooper's name, too, it sounds like.

It's all so sweet and I'm glad. Especially since I'm a little under the weather. It makes it all easier when they're being cute.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Good Times Bad Times

It seems like the last few days have been a right strange mixture of the good and bad.

First, on Friday evening we went to a Christmas/Hannukah party at our friends' Scott and Lauren's. It was a family party and we brought both our boys. There were a ton of kids and we all had a good time. Sadly, though, right before we left we got a call from our friend Chris telling us that his dog Sam had died. Chris and his wife Laura and their two girls are our closest friends in the neighborhood. The first ones we got to know, with two girls – one just older and one just younger than Brendan. They're really wonderful people that I have grown to care for deeply and Sam was our dog Cooper's best friend. Cooper and Sam had known each other for six years and like our other kids, were very close in age. Back when we each only had one child and for a while after Laura had two, we would take the two dogs for walks together almost every day.

Sam was a great dog. Just a force of nature, really. And Cooper loved him. He had what Scott and I dubbed the Sam Whine. Whenever Chris and Laura would walk Sam, if Cooper saw them, he would whine this high-pitched, excited whine. He didn't make it for any other dog. Not even his other neighborhood buddy, Champ. Anytime, he made that sound, we knew Sam was somewhere close by. And if we didn't see him walking down the street with his family, we knew it meant he was at our front door or in the yard. You see, anytime Sam would escape by sneaking through the gate of his family's backyard, he'd make a beeline for our house. And it worked in reverse, too. Cooper, upon escaping though a gate left open by little boys, heads straight for Sam's house. Fortunately, we're only four houses apart. But I can't number the times phone calls have been exchanged that went something like this:

Me: Hey, Laura. Have you seen Cooper?
Laura: Yeah. He's in our backyard playing with Sam. I was just getting ready to call you. He came up and stood on the porch, scratching at the door until I let him in.
Me: Awwww. Well, thanks for taking him in. I'll be up there in a few minutes to get him.
Laura: Oh, no problem. They're having fun. Just come whenever. No rush.


My favorite memory of Sam is actually from the very first time he came to our house unannounced. Cooper was whining and standing at the front door, stomping his big German shepherd feet, and going nuts. So, Scott opened the door and before you could say how do you do, Sam threw his 140-lb. self through the door and barreled through our house like a fur-covered tornado. He ran through every room in the house, scared the cat, drank all of Cooper's water and ate all his food, and just ran all over the house, sniffing everything, with Cooper following close behind. It was one of the funniest and most surprising things I've ever witnessed.

In other sad news, my best friend Courtney's grandmother passed away Sunday night. She had suffered a massive stroke on December 6, so her death was inevitable and ultimately a comfort for it means there will be no drawn out suffering. Courtney got to have a warm and loving goodbye with her Gran in a moment of lucidity and although she'll miss her, I think Courtney has a real sense of comfort and closure and knows that her Gran is now with her grandpa and the friends who went before her, so she's okay with it all. And that's actually a good place to be.

And back in happy news, Scott's set at the Krazy About Kats benefit went well and he was well-received. Pete,the comic who was on before Scott, suggested he play at one of the venues where he's a regular and got my contact information so we could follow up.

I guess that's about it. I actually have some hilarious Brendanisms to share and Beckett has added a few words to his repetoire, but I'll save all that for another post. Right now, Brendan wants to help me wrap his cousins' Christmas presents and keeps asking me what kind of Chia pet I want for Christmas. I think the answer I'm supposed to give is Scooby-Doo.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mistletoe and Holly

Yesterday was the least stressful, busy day I have had in ages. Scott had a show last night and yesterday afternoon I took both boys Christmas shopping with me. I knocked out gifts for three of our six nieces and nephews. The thing is, for two of them, I bought books. I love giving and receiving books as gifts, but I'm not sure that when our nieces and nephews get them that they're not disappointed. Still, I am very excited about the books that I got for our 10-year old niece, Lauren, and her 8-year old brother, Corey. For her, I bought The Daring Book for Girls and for him,The Dangerous Book for Boys. They seem like such cool books with a lot of fun things for kids to do and learn. I hope they'll like them.

I was really surprised, though, that when I went shopping, it wasn't the madhouse I expected. Other than Brendan getting his finger mashed in the elevator door (he's fine, thankfully!), shopping was a lovely experience. Now, this week, I have to go this week to buy for our boys and our other three nieces and nephews. And Scott. And a couple of friends. I had bought a couple of things for Brendan's teacher and her aide, but then the room mom suggested that each family in the class contribute whatever amount we were comfortable with to buying Visa gift cards for them. We ended up with over $200, meaning that each teacher will get a gift card that she can spend anywhere, valued at over $100. I thought that was really cool. Most of the parents in the class would probably spend close to or more than $10 per teacher anyway. With 20 kids in the class, each family only had to contribute $10 to cover both teachers. Cool. I had bought some little gift sets when they were on sale this summer and was going to bake each of them my special Christmas cake that I do each year. (I'll try to post the recipe later. It is delicious!) As it turns out, one of the teachers is allergic to everything so those weren't going to be very good gifts anyway.

Hopefully, this week will go smoothly and I can get the rest of the shopping and wrapping and baking done. I can't believe it's all going by so fast!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cat Scratch Fever


So, if you're in the ATL and you're not doing anything tonight and you love cats, maybe you should think about coming to this event. Scott's playing at this benefit to help raise money for this organization that helps feral and homeless cats. It's tonight, but you can buy a ticket at the door. All proceeds will go to Krazy About Kats to help build their new state-of-the-art veterinary and shelter facility.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas in Dixie

We celebrate two Christmases with Scott's family...three if you count the fact that we have our own Christmas Day celebration that's just for us and the kids (our Santa celebration, I suppose). We always celebrate Christmas with his mom and brothers' families on Christmas Eve. And sometime, usually the weekend before Christmas, we celebrate with his dad and stepmom, also with the brothers and their families. Oh yeah...and then sometimes we have a Christmas Day visit and meal at his Aunt Gaynelle's house if we happen to be spending Christmas in Montgomery.

We rotate where the Christmas celebrations with mom and dad are, with each son and daughter-in-law taking a turn. Essentially, once every four years, it's your turn to host. Or something like that. Math has never been my strong suit. This is our year to host the mom Christmas Eve dinner/celebration. Actually, last year was our year, but because we had a two-week old baby, Scott's mom hosted at her house.

So, it's our turn. And this is what I'm planning to serve as the main course: Paula Deen's Soy Rubbed Beef Tenderloin. I'm a little turkey-ed out. The recipe follows and is from Paula Deen's Christmas cookbook:

Soy-Rubbed Tenderloin

Paula Deen
Serves 10 to 12

"This is really so simple. I buy a whole tenderloin when it goes on sale and have it cut in two. I fix one that night and freeze the other for a special occasion." - Paula

(I plan to try this easy recipe for Christmas dinner.)

INGREDIENTS

One 4- to 5-pound beef tenderloin

1/2 cup soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper


DIRECTIONS:

Allow the beef to stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the tenderloin in a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish and rub all over with the soy sauce. Rub the meat all over with a generous amount of black pepper.

Roast the tenderloin for 45 to 50 minutes, depending on the degree of doneness you prefer. (Using a meat thermometer, 125 degrees F is rare; 135 degrees F is medium rare; and 140 degrees F is medium.)

Remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes before you slice it.

I'm excited. I look forward to figuring out what to serve with it. And what to suggest my sisters-in-law bring. Oh the desserts! That reminds me. If anyone has a recipe for Kentucky Jam Cake that you love, I'd love to see it. It's my favorite cake, but I've never made it.

Christmas is Coming

It must just be that time of year. I just saw a Publix commercial that made me cry. Then, a bit on the Dr. Phil show promoting a Christmas special that he's hosting with his wife and hearing Christmas music made me teary-eyed.

I also have found myself gettin' crafty. Brendan wanted us all to have new Christmas stockings with our names on them, so I went to Michael's today to buy the stuff to make stockings, but decided to just buy their pre-made felt stockings because they were cuter than anything I could make (and really...Do I have time to find a pattern, cut the felt, and sew 4 Christmas stockings? I didn't think so!). I bought some glitter paint/glue and put our names on them. I also bought some stuff to make a gift or two, but won't say what they are yet so as to not give it away in case the recipients are reading the blog. I'm not usually very good at this sort of thing, but I had such good ideas that I wanted to give it a try. I've completed one of the items and think it turned out really nice!

And it's fun to think that you can give someone something that's not just personal, but that you actually put a little of yourself into. I may make a few more things I hadn't planned on if the next thing I'm working on turns out okay.

I haven't done any major shopping. I've bought a gift certificate for my mother-in-law to have a facial or a massage and I bought some bathy-type stuff for her. She's allergic to a lot of scents, but likes lavender, so that's what I got for her. I've also bought a gift for a friend. Some stocking stuffers for Brendan. No big presents for him or Beckett yet. And what do I get for Scott? It's kind of hard when I'm not working enough to make any real money. I hate spending his money on him. I love being at home with my kids, but I hate not having my own money. It totally sucks. I think about the expensive and indulgent gifts I once was able to give him when I worked and feel worthless knowing I can't do that anymore. Oh well. Someday.

Daddy's Gone to Knoxville

There's a great column by Roland S. Martin over on CNN.com. I don't think he's necessarily breaking any new ground with his statement that dads matter, but I think it's important that he's actually saying it aloud to a national audience because I think too many people are afraid of offending others to be honest about things like this.

Martin's piece focuses solely on the role of fathers in the African-American community. He addresses the fact that 10.4 percent of black men between 25 and 29 were incarcerated in 2002. And while he does acknowledge the role of poverty, he points out that (duh) when there are two parents providing financial support as well as love and guidance, you alleviate the effects of poverty. I mean, this should be obvious, but our nation and culture seems to have such an aversion to holding people accountable and calling individuals to accept personal responsibility for their actions.

Why are we so afraid to call people out when they're acting a fool, as Martin says.

I've made no bones about the fact that I grew up without a dad and in poverty, but somehow, through the grace of God, I got it together, relatively speaking. I focused on school and getting into college. I got lucky.

Anyway, Martin got me thinking (shocking, I know!). It's just not enough for a dad to simply sleep in the same home (when he's not traveling on business), hand out indulgent allowances, and never establish or enforce any kind of discipline or show any real affection or interest in their children.

In Alpharetta, one of Atlanta's countless affluent northern suburbs, six young men, ages 16 to 18, were arrested for breaking into and stealing cars and other items. These brats broke into at least 100 cars since Thanksgiving and police believe they are actually responsible for many more thefts. These aren't kids living in poverty. But I could almost guarantee that they have parents who are so consumed with their own lives and interests that they never take the time to show any meaningful interest in their kids. The homes in North Fulton probably average $400,000. I would wager that almost all of these kids have dads who are so caught up in earning their $250K a year salaries and moms so consumed with their ALTA schedules and Botox regimens that they never even see their kids. Kids, mind you, who probably never wanted for a single material possession in their lives. These are kids who get brand new cars when they turn 16, never hit a lick at a snake, and expect the world to be handed to them on a silver platter.

The thing is, now that they've fucked up, Daddy – and his expensive attorney – will be there. Just in time to keep poor baby from going to jail. Too bad they weren't around to teach their children about showing a little respect to their fellow human beings when it mattered.

So, it's not just African-American kids who need their fathers, although clearly the differences are crucial, the paths the lives of poor urban kids will follow vastly different than those followed by a bunch of poor little rich kids.

At least Roland Martin is courageous enough and willing to call for accountability among African-American men; I just wish someone would do the same with their rich white counterparts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Within You, Without You

Yesterday as we were leaving the chiropractor's office, Brendan exclaimed, This is the best day! I got to do all kinds of things I was expecting...go to Chik-fil-A, go to the doctor, then go to the park! Thanks, Mommy!"

Then, he very quickly followed that statement with, This is the funnest life ever!

I have mixed feelings about the idea of reincarnation, but I do believe children, especially the younger they are, are tuned in spiritually in ways that most adults are incapable of. We've lost the innocence or willingness to believe in the things we can't see or comprehend whereas kids just accept those things as they come.

It also made me really happy to think that if we are reincarnated and this is not Brendan's first life that I have somehow contributed to making it a really good one for his soul. I hope we can continue to do so.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pictures of Me





I know I linked to the flickr stream, but I thought I'd just post a couple directly to the blog, too. We had a happy day that was followed by another fun day yesterday when we celebrated Christmas early with Scott's dad and stepmom up at Scott's brother's house. Again, the kids were all well-behaved and played well with one another. The food was tasty and it was a fun kickoff to the Christmas season which seems to be flying by this year.

Celebration Day

On Saturday, we celebrated Beckett's first birthday with a small party at our house. Small, to us, means 3 grandparents, 2 sets of aunts and uncles, 6 cousins, 1 close friend with 2 daughters, plus 2 other friends and a baby. The day started off smoothly, but went down hill fast when my cake wasn't ready at the appointed time.

I asked a fellow MOMS Club member who is trying to start a cake business to do the cake for me. It turned out great. It was a beautiful cake and tasted great, especially considering she had never even heard of the kind of cake I wanted before (white almond). But, I thought I'd have a nervous breakdown waiting for it. My party was at 4 p.m. and the cake arrived at 3:45 after I had already been waiting for her since 2:00 p.m. I was a basket case.

But, it worked out fine. We had a great time, Beckett had fun, the kids were well-behaved and sweet, and everyone played nice.

And so went the last first birthday party I'll ever throw.

Friday, December 7, 2007

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Because I'm procrastinating on cleaning my living room, dining room, and kitchen – the last of the house that needs to be cleaned before tomorrow's big first birthday bash – I thought I'd blog again.

Brendan has been super cute and super funny of late and because I haven't blogged in something like a week, I've missed out on sharing it all.

So, Wednesday night we decorated our tree. It was the best tree decorating occasion ever. For a variety of reasons.

Last year, in the throes of having a two-week old baby and freaking out over not having any decorations up, I conceded that perhaps an artificial tree would be tolerable. Scott ran out and bought a beautiful pre-lit tree at Michael's and on the 23rd of December, we decorated it.

This year, I wanted to take advantage of the fact that we had it and get it up early and enjoy the full season. I put it up last Saturday, but because we've been so busy, we didn't get around to the actual decorating until Wednesday. Brendan was so excited he put almost every decoration on by himself. Thus, there is a huge concentration of decorations on the bottom half, especially on one quarter of the tree, but it was just so cute that I didn't have the heart to move them out too much. I did move the breakable ones so they wouldn't be accessible to Beckett's curious fingers.

The entire time he was decorating, Brendan was singing and humming to himself and he kept saying over and over again, to no one in particular,
This is going to be the best Christmas ever!
When he was done decorating the tree, Brendan decided he wanted to play with my Nativity set or as he likes to call the Baby Jesus set.

He set took all the pieces from their box and set it up on the coffee table first, then moved it to the floor. He knew what all the pieces were and named them all as he set them up and he figured out that the angel hung over the creche. He deduced this because she had a little hook on her back and there was a tiny nail on the front of the creche. We were impressed.

He was playing with the nativity and telling us that Mary, Jophus, and Baby Jesus are his favorite characters in the Nativity story. Then, all of a sudden, very excitedly he said,
I hope this story has a happy ending!


Scott and I just looked at each other, trying not to laugh and then we both said,
Uh...Not so much. Nope, not really a happy ending for Jesus.
But when Brendan questioned us, we backtracked and said everything works out fine for jesus, Mary, and Joseph, which he accepted. We weren't really ready to get into the Easter story while celebrating Advent.

Life is a Carnival

I have so much to do, I really shouldn't be sitting here blogging. Yet, I can't pull myself up and out of this chair. It's freezing cold out; Beckett's still sleeping; I'm a little drowsy; the Christmas tree is lit and I have a steaming cup of coffee. I think I'll just sit here a bit longer.

It's been a long week. We're having Beckett's first birthday party tomorrow. Scott's parents, his brothers and their families, a few friends from the neighborhood, some cake. Good times. But I've been stressing all week, cleaning like a maniac. Putting away baby clothes that have been outgrown. Crying and feeling melancholy at how quickly the time has gone by. Decorating the house for Christmas. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. and literally did not stop moving until Scott got home last night, which was some time after 8:00 p.m. I am worn out. And as tired and stressed out as I am, things are harder for Scott.

He has deadlines at work. For weeks, I haven't seen him before 8 p.m. at night, unless we have something else going on and he can break away early. I've been keeping Brendan up so Scott can spend some time with him before he goes to bed, otherwise, Scott would never see him. Beckett usually is asleep by the time Scott gets home, so I made a point last night of keeping him up. By the time we're done with dinner and everyone's in bed, I feel like a zombie and feel terrible that I'm not better company.

But, I know that this is just the phase of life we're in right now. I think every family has their own version of this and my job right now is to simply figure out how to make things less stressful for all of us.

Getting my house organized is one way and what I'm working on. When Scott comes home, I want him to feel like he's come home to a place of comfort and sanctuary. Some place low stress.

I'm also thinking of ways I can reduce my own stress. Thanks to A., I've realized I don't have to cook a new meal every night. We can eat leftovers once in a while. Duh!

Anyway, I'm working on it. Life is good. Tiring. But good.

Birthday

My baby is one-year old! I can't believe it. In the blink of an eye, this last year has vanished. Where did it go? I feel like I barely had time to catch my breath.

Beckett has been everything you could hope a baby would be. So sweet. So beautiful. An excellent sleeper. I just love him so much. So much. And he has given so much to our family. I love seeing the way Brendan is with him. I love the way Beckett looks at his brother and laughs at everything he does. I love seeing how sweet and confident Scott is with him.

Having a second child does wonders for your confidence as a parent, I think. I second-guess myself so much less now.

I've been wondering if Beckett's calm and easy-going disposition has more to do with who he is or with the fact that we know what we're doing now and aren't terrified of breaking the baby.

When I found out I was pregnant with Beckett, it was a surprise. We hadn't started trying. But I'm so happy we never had the chance to try. I can't imagine having any other baby. This one is perfect and I can't imagine my life without him now.

Happy Birthday, Baby Boy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

If All Men Are Truly Brothers

It's not often I find an opportunity to use my blog for actual good in the world, but today I see a chance to do so. A friend of a friend just sent this e-mail. She and her husband just found out their son, who is two, has signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The teacher mentioned in the e-mail works with their son. If you are local to the Atlanta area and can help or know someone who can help, please contact me via the e-mail link on my profile and I will put you in touch with Tamela, the girl who is coordinating all of this. Thanks!

Please see the following email regarding Paul's Mother's Day Out teacher in need. If you know of anyone who is able to donate a washing machine, car mechanic time or a car, or anything else, please let me know. Feel free to forward this email to anyone you think may be able to help. Thank you.
Hope you are all well.

We recently learned of a special need that made us want to reach out to all of you. Our MDO teacher, has a unique situation: as a widowed mother of two children, she works two jobs to support her family. She personally has no medical insurance and has an old car that is need of some major repairs. We know that she always puts her children first, which means that she sacrifices when it comes to herself. For example, she recently received a gift card to Wal-Mart and used that to buy a Thanksgiving turkey for her kids. A couple of weeks ago, she took her children to a roller-skating party and ended up in the emergency room with a concussion. Because she does not have health insurance, she is now faced with this medical bill. And just yesterday, her washing machine stopped working.

As you can see, her circumstances are weighing heavily on our hearts. In the short time that we’ve known her, she seems to be a very selfless person and yet always has a smile on her face no matter what hardships she may be going through. If you know of anyone who could donate a washing machine, mechanic time for car repairs or even a reliable car, please contact us immediately. Your gift is greatly appreciated. We are also in the process of contacting local charities for assistance with her rent, utilities and medical expenses.

If you know of additional people that may be able to help our friend in need, please forward this email on to them. We are trying to impact the life of someone who is near and dear to us this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baby Watch Your Back

Being pregnant is something like an endurance race. For nine months your body is working hard to build and grow a new human being. It takes a lot of work to sustain that new life, but somehow our bodies figure out how to do it. In the process, however, the strain pregnancy can exact upon your body, especially your back and hips, not to mention your stomach muscles, can really take its toll. And, speaking from experience, I can tell you that the last thing a new mommy needs is an aching back.

When I mentioned previously that one of the best things you can do for yourself prior to becoming pregnant was to get in shape, I wasn't solely referring to body weight. I also meant that you need to focus on strengthening your core muscles. The core muscles, what we typically think of and call our abs, are the muscles that help support our backs, the place where you're going to be carrying much of that extra baby weight. Going into pregnancy with a strong and supported back can help reduce the prospect of lower back pain. Another benefit of having strong and toned core muscles prior to getting pregnant is that your pelvic floor muscles are also considered part of your core and when you work your abs, you can also strengthen the muscles connecting to your pelvic floor. This adds to your stability, helps strengthen the pelvic floor which can prevent incontinence, and can also help you bounce back more quickly following the birth of your child.

So, how do you strengthen your core? It's all in the abs, baby. One of the quickest and easiest things you can do, though, is to think about your body and start by contracting your abdominal muscles while you're reading, watching tv, surfing the Web, cooking dinner, or whatever you're doing. Just contract the abs, hold for 10-15 seconds, and release. It's important that you contract the abs as you are exhaling.

Start here and you'll be surprised how this simple exercise can make a big difference. As your core gets stronger, you will be able to feel the impact on your back.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Birdhouse in Your Soul

Well, I certainly had a bee in my bonnet today. I not only produced multiple blog entries, but wrote a lengthy apology to the MOMS Club membership in my chapter for blowing up via e-mail at one of our members.

Mothers judging mothers happens to be one of my pet peeves. Yesterday, one of our members, L., sent an e-mail to our group asking for advice on getting her son to take a pacifier. Several of us responded with our advice and then one of our new members responded in what I perceived as a judgmental tone asking why L. wanted her son to take a pacifier. I kind of went off on her. Just a little. Especially after she wrote that L. was the best pacifier for her child.

I said that L. was a human being, not a pacifier and that the AAP now recommends the use of pacifiers to help prevent SIDS.

I am totally in favor of breastfeeding, but I don't think that every time your baby cries for no obvious reason (i.e. isn't hungry), you should pop a boob in his mouth. I believe in feeding on demand and I believe in consoling your baby, but I don't believe that mommy is the human pacifier. Sometimes, especially when they have more than one child, mommies need to be able to put junior down for a minute to tend to the needs of other family members. Or, God forbid, their own needs.

Anyway, I said all this rather brusquely, feeling defensive for my friend's right to choose to give her son a pacifier without being judged by the Attachment Parenting and Breastfeeding police. Unfortunately, the mom who questioned the use of the pacifier was even more sensitive and decided she did not fit into our group.

So, I offered my apologies with a statement about how no one in our group had ever judged anyone else for her parenting choices. Hopefully she will decide she can fit in after all.

On another topic, I just want to clarify that I realize I'm also not winning any Pulitzers for my blogging, but I'm also not writing for a premier news magazine. Just to be clear on that.

Thanks, Sherlock!

I hate articles or conversations or debates that begin with the question, Is X overrated?. it pisses me off. Obviously the writer or questioner thinks so.

Anyway, this article in Time rubbed me the wrong way from the first paragraph. The writer is clearly some smarmy, child-hating, self-imposed arbiter of technological popularity, and poseur trying to make out like she's so cool. The article is biased and one-sided, as most writing on technology in major news publications tends to be.

In the battle between My Space and Facebook it clearly comes down to one thing: the question of taste. Either you like to look at pages that are junky, cluttered, and annoying as all hell or you prefer clean, easy-to-read, and tasteful. That's it.

I've been around long enough to see that good taste usually wins in the end. Clearly the writer of this My Space propaganda wouldn't know good taste if it came up and shook her hand.

Nor would she know the kind of writing we should be seeing in Time. The last two lines of her story are, shall we say, less than Pulitzer winning.

And it pisses me off that I wasted my time reading her lousy article hoping for some bit of enlightenment or entertainment.

A Spoonful Weighs a Ton

Before I got pregnant with Brendan, I worked hard to get myself to a healthy weight, but what I didn't work hard enough on was actual physical fitness. I've always been a fairly healthy eater. I'm not a fan of fried foods, fast food, and junk, so eating healthy isn't a big deal to me. Sweets are my downfall, but I've found I can manage that temptation fairly well. 

However, I learned that all willpower can go out the window when you're pregnant and if you haven't been regularly and consistently working out before you get pregnant, you're not too likely to be able to start working out at any meaningful level once you are pregnant. Even a tiny amount in the quantity you eat with no increase in your activity level is going to translate into weight gain and while you should gain a healthy amount of weight – 25 to 30 lbs. if you're in the healthy range for your height, 15 to 20 lbs. if you're overweight – I know from experience that it's far too easy to gain more than you intend to during pregnancy.

My first bit of advice to anyone planning to lose weight before getting pregnant or trying to lose their baby weight would be to look at what you eat. Keep a food journal for a week and write down every bite that goes into your mouth. Every meal, every snack, every bit you pick or pluck off your toddler's plate. It all adds up. And don't forget what you drink. Every cup of juice (100 calories), every Coke (150 in a 12 oz. can), every cup of coffee with cream and sugar (120 calories), every latte (300 to 500 calories), every glass of wine or cocktail (90 to 200 calories).

Once you know what you're eating, then you can think about ways to make healthy changes and you can't remain in denial about what and how much you're eating.




Carry That Weight

I was recently talking with a friend who is thinking about getting pregnant. She asked me what my best piece of advice for her would be, what one thing she should know before getting pregnant. I don't think I even had to hesitate. My advice for her and for anyone undertaking pregnancy for the first time would be to get in shape. Get yourself as healthy as possible before you conceive because pregnancy is probably the hardest thing your body will ever do.

I'm not an expert in terms of any credentials I have, but I've seen two pregnancies through and I've done it both ways. I have more than a few thoughts on the subject and more than a little advice to offer.

So, I thought I might start sharing a few of the things that worked for me and the things that didn't. If I can help someone else avoid the esteem crushing battle I faced to lose weight following Brendan's birth, I am overjoyed to do so.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

I love being inside on a cold rainy day with the only sounds I hear being the rain and the sound of the dryer, humming along all warm and cozy in the basement. Knowing I'm here alone except for the sleeping baby, it makes me feel productive. If I didn't have to go somewhere, I could get a lot done on a day like this.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time to Kill

So, what I want to know is how does one make her life fit the alloted number of hours given? How do I possibly make all the things I want and/or need to do fit in one day? I am open to suggestions. Here's my list in no particular order:

Pray/meditate
Think and plan for the day/days ahead (to-do lists, calendars, etc.)
Blog
Write assigned articles
Write articles to pitch
Care for children(feed, clean, nurture)
Play with children (just be present and having fun with them; take them to do fun things)
Spend time with husband (being present and enjoying each other's company)
Work at new part-time marketing job
Cook
Clean house 
Laundry
Spend time with friends (by phone, e-mail, im, etc. if not in person--at least one a day)
Exercise
Shower, dress, try to look nice

These are all the things I need to fit into most days or at least my week somewhere. Obviously, some of the things are non-negotiable such as time spent with my family. Work. Exercise, for me, needs to be a priority. I'm just having trouble making it all work. I feel like I could literally get up at 5 a.m. and stay up until 1 a.m. trying to fit it all in, be exhausted, and still not get it all done.

Oh yeah. That seems to be part of my problem. I seem to really need my 6 hours of sleep a night and would take all I could get. I think if I could force myself to get up two hours before the kids I could knock out working out and showering/getting dressed. I just can't seem to force myself out of bed until I have to get up.

How do you manage your time and make it all work without feeling like you're neglecting someone?



Friday, November 23, 2007

Here Comes Santa Claus

We have a new word for the cute file.

Brendan just asked me how Santa gets down the jimby. I'm consistently amazed and confused how he can correctly pronounce and use like mischievous when most adults mispronounce it, but simple words often seem to be misheard and/or mispronounced. Still, jimby's a pretty cute mispronunciation even if I am biased.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Home Cookin'

Scott and I were supposed to host our neighborhood supper club last night. The group meets once a month and we take turns hosting. The hosts provide the entree and everyone else brings a side dish, appetizer, or dessert. We usually try to do a theme, although we're not super consistent with that. The idea really is simply to get together with our friends from the neighborhood without the kids and have a relaxing meal and good conversation.

Because both boys were sick all week and I had work, I wanted to reschedule, but one of the other couples offered up their home if I could still cook. Worked great for me, so I still got to make the dish I've been dying to make for ages.

It's a very old traditional Southern recipe called Chicken Country Captain. It's a curried chicken stew that is served over rice with a variety of condiments to put on top ranging from shredded coconut and chutney, to a yogurt sauce, green onions, chopped boiled egg, bacon, and toasted almonds and peanuts. It has always sounded so delicious to me and I've been eager to try it, but it's a lot of work and a big dish, so it's not something I've wanted to whip up on a Wednesday night.

I used Scott Peacock's recipe from what has become one of my favorite cookbooks.

But this recipe from Food and Wine is very similar. Peacock's recipe omits the mace. I just realized, too, that I failed to put in the bay leaves for which his recipe calls. Still, it turned into quite a nice dish. I received a lot of compliments on it. If you're not a fan of Indian curries, you probably won't like this, but I really enjoyed it.

Chicken Country Captain (from Food and Wine):



INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 green bell peppers, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
One 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup blanched whole almonds, lightly toasted and chopped
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 325°. In a shallow bowl, mix the flour with the paprika, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add half of the chicken and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Pour off the oil from the skillet, then melt the butter in it. Add the bell peppers, onion and parsley; cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, 12 minutes. Add the garlic, curry powder and mace; cook, stirring, until fragrant, 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juices and the stock; simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Add the currants. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer the sauce to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Arrange the chicken on top, skin side up. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the breasts are just cooked through. Transfer the breasts to a plate and cover loosely with foil. Bake the remaining chicken for 1 hour longer, or until tender and the sauce is thickened. Return the chicken breasts to the sauce and bake for 5 minutes longer, or until heated through. Sprinkle the almonds on top and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The baked chicken can be refrigerated overnight.

SERVE WITH Steamed white rice.

Friday, November 16, 2007

hindi sad diamonds

I have no idea how, but for some reason, when I changed fonts recently, the transliteration button got turned on and suddenly I could only type in Hindi. But, it took my sleep-deprived and addled brain over 24 hours to figure out why everything was displaying in Hindi. 

Yikes.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

म्र्स। दल्लोवय

I have received some kind and helpful comments on my rant, like yours Renn. And a thoughtful and funny one. Thank you, Chris.

And I also got one, which I decided not to post, commenting on my anger issues. Dude, why do you think I blog?

Sarcasm aside, I blog for lots and lots of reasons. But, one of my primary reasons is to process the broad range of emotions – including anger – that being a parent and living this incredible life of mine stirs up in me.

I've made no secret of the fact that I have held onto issues from my childhood and that occasionally through my own act of mothering these things spring up.

Writing allows me to release those feelings in a healthy way. When I write a post like yesterday's, it's as if I'm huffing and puffing really hard to blow up a balloon and once I'm done, I pop the balloon and it goes flying around the room releasing all that anger and energy. And it's gone and I feel incredibly better and saner and can move on with my life. It's much like therapy, except that it's free. And I'm telling hundreds of complete strangers instead of just the one, highly-trained professional.

I realize every moment of every day, even in the midst of two sick kids, no sleep, and piles of laundry, how incredibly blessed I am. And I appreciate every moment of it, even if there are moments (like the whining) that try my patience. In fact, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to be here. In this time, this place, with the people in my life that God has chosen to lead me to or lead to me.

I have a loving and supportive husband who works incredibly hard to take care of us and allow me to be at home with our sons. I have two beautiful and generally healthy little boys.

I constantly remind myself that there are plenty of women in this world who have it a lot harder than I do. There are women who have given up serious careers to be at home with their kids. Women who want to be at home who can't. Women raising their children alone. Women who want children, but can't have them. Women who struggle for years to conceive, who have multiple miscarriages, who go through incredibly difficult pregnancies and risk their own lives to be able to hold a precious little baby in their arms. Women who wonder how they're going to feed their children the next meal. Women who are trying to protect their sons and daughters from war, torture, and the cruelties of the time and place where they live. Women who sit beside hospital beds tending their sick children who may never come home. Women who find themselves in the unimaginable situation of burying their children. I think about these things almost every day and feel guilty for every complaint or frustration that leaves my lips or crosses my mind.

I think about my friends who long to have warm, loving arms to hold them, a good and kind partner to share with and celebrate with and I know how blessed I am to be in love and be loved and to share my life with an amazing man.

But, I'd be lying and a fraud if I didn't admit that parenting is a challenge some times. And if I didn't have a forum for expressing the good and the bad in a healthy and civilized manner, it would come out somewhere, somehow.

I am thankful I have a means of expressing myself and the self-awareness to realize that I need to do so rather than pushing it all down beneath a veil of vodka tonics and valium or leading a life of silent misery like so many of our foremothers did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Crazy

For anyone who doubts that lack of sleep can make you crazy, I give you the events of this morning as an example.

Admittedly, my lack of sleep is exacerbated by a level of stress I haven't felt in a while. However, not having gotten more than 4 hours or so a night of uninterrupted sleep since last Thursday has certainly made me a little crazy.

Anyway, as Scott was leaving for work this morning, suddenly the thought of being home alone in my messy house with two sick children who will whine a lot because they are sick was just more than I could stand and I ran out of the house behind Scott for one last hug, in tears, begging him to take me with him. I was only half joking.

It hasn't been as bad as I thought it might. I did have to fight Brendan a little on the albuterol and benadryl, but eventually got him to take them. Both boys napped for a couple of hours and I did a little work that needed to be done for my new client, and took care of a couple of items for Beckett's birthday party and now this.

Hopefully things don't fall apart in the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

That Was Your Mother

With both boys in bed (although admittedly, Beckett, who is cutting two new bottom teeth, is whining in his sleep and keeping me on edge in case he needs me to pick him up), Scott not home, and dinner in the oven, I thought I'd have something amazing to say.

Yet, the only thing that springs to mind is the fact that I realize I have achieved the ability to psychoanalyze myself. I'm guessing most of us have that ability but may not realize it.

Tonight, I was beating myself up for getting angry and frustrated with Brendan for refusing to take his medicine. He has the croup and the doc prescribed an Albuterol inhaler for him. She also told me to give him Benadryl for his runny nose and to help him sleep so that I could get some sleep after three nights in a row with barely any of the sweet stuff. Yesterday and last night he amazed me with how readily he let me administer both medications plus Tylenol Meltaways. He did better than he has ever done at taking medicine. He slept most of the night in his own bed, then after being awake for about an hour or so, came into our bed around 4 a.m. and slept there until 9 a.m. When he awoke he was a little whiny, but after a bath, he was practically his normal chipper, super active self. And he wasn't coughing. Yay.

It all fell apart about 5 p.m.

So, now, picking up where I left off last night at 8:19, I have been awake for most of the time since then. Scott got home, we had dinner, talked a bit, and then all hell broke loose. Teething baby awoke around 10 and was up until midnight at which point Brendan woke up crying and was awake every hour from that point on until 6:00 a.m. when he finally went to sleep and slept until almost 9 a.m.

Much of the night was spent battling him to use the inhaler and take his Benadryl. I was, at one point, wondering where he got all the extra arms and legs he was punching me with as I attempted to administer the inhaler. And I was furious.

I realized.... And this was the original point of my post...that Brendan's refusal to take medicine and his willingness to put up a physical fight infuriates me so much because it reminds me of my mother. She was, as I have mentioned before, a juvenile diabetic and had been on insulin since she was 13 years old. When I was 9, I learned how to give her shots because she would sometimes just decide she was tired of taking her insulin. I learned how to force open her mouth and give her sugar or orange juice when she was in insulin shock (low blood sugar). I learned that a knee in the chest can hold a person down, pretty much, unless she's so outraged and messed up by her illness that she doesn't recognize her own daughter and throws her to the ground. I learned that if you can tell that's about to happen, a knee to the throat can stop it.

What I learned last night as I was about to put my knee into my son's chest to force him to take his medicine is how angry I still am at my mom for being such a fucking brat and baby all her life. Just take the goddamned medicine. Nobody cares that you wish you were normal. So do the rest of us. Fuck you.

Just try to be normal. Is it that fucking hard? Take your goddamned medicine and don't expect your child to be the adult! Nobody wants to be sick and if you just take the fucking medicine you can be relatively normal. You jackass.

And so, I realized last night that a lot of my frustration and anger at Brendan for not getting with the program has roots that run long and deep. I just want him to take his medicine and be normal. I want him to learn that there are rules and that if you just follow the rules, life is so much easier. And happier. For everyone.

I got really angry at my Uncle T. a couple of weeks ago because I told him some Brendan anecdote and he said that Brendan sounded just like my mom. I was so mad I wanted to hang up on him, but I love him so I didn't. But last night I saw it for myself, whether it's really there or imagined from too little sleep. And it just makes me angrier. I've never wanted to break someone's spirit before, but I cannot tolerate a child who is as selfish and self-centered as my mother was. My grandparents never dared to break her; my grandfather spoiled and coddled her because she was sick. And I paid for that. I'll be damned if I'm going to let this child turn out the way that she did.

Sick or not, he's going to start towing the line.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Swan Dive

Here's how my week's shaping up...

Two sick kids. One wheezing and requiring breathing treatments a couple of times a day. One with a fever I can't get down.
One house in need of major, major cleaning. A dinner party we're supposed to host on Saturday night. A deadline looming on Friday. A new job I was supposed to have a final interview for today. A husband with a major deadline of his own at work who can't afford to get sick right now. And three nights in a row with little sleep.

I guess it could be worse.

At least we have Duke basketball tonight. Whoo-hooo.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Friends to Go



Well...now I know how the first runner-up in the Miss America pageant feels. Pretty good, but not as good as she would if she got the crown.

Seriously, I have no complaints today about my experience in the Diva for a Day competition. I had a ball. It was about the craziest thing I've done since Capping in college when my friends and I were forced by the seniors to sing On the Road Again but in the voices of Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The contest was a lot of fun. It was held at Shout in Midtown. There were eight contestants, all with really great reasons for deserving to be treated to a little luxury in life.

The first part of the competition was Diva Jeopardy. The categories were: fashion, cosmetic surgery, celebrity news, cosmetics, potpourri, Sex in the City, and jewelry. I did really well, only missing one question. Of course, while it was going on I didn't realize I was doing so well. I also felt like mysterious divine forces were at work for me, because almost all of the questions I got were things I had specifically researched because I thought they might be on there. So, when I was asked who Jackie Kennedy's exclusive designer was while she was First Lady, I was prepared with Oleg Cassini.

It was also fortuitous that one of the bits of SITC trivia fed to me by Lauren and Barrett before the game began was the name of Miranda's baby. That was the last question of the game and when the judge read it, I simply couldn't believe it! How lucky is that?

Winning at that portion of the contest, meant that I was one of three to advance to the second round which consisted of walking gracefully with a book on my head (hell no, I can't do that!), lip synching and dancing to a song of my selection, and then an interview question where they asked each of us why we deserved to win.

I chose the Madonna song Material Girl and did a pretty good job, I think.

I felt as if I pulled a Miss South Carolina on the interview question. It felt like I was rambling incoherently because I was trying to figure out what I could say that could possibly compete with the statement by the girl who went before me. She talked about how she's a breast cancer survivor and all I could think was a) I can't compete with that and b) I don't want to. Just give her the crown, man. She deserves it.

And so it was.

I had a ball and I honestly feel like I did win because I had the biggest crowd there to support me. I had about a dozen of my friends there, all wearing boas and with signs they made, cheering me on. Scott wore a fuzzy purple hat and was as supportive and loving of his crazy wife as anyone could hope her husband would be. The only other time I have felt so special and loved by so many people was on my wedding day. It's a special and amazing and humbling feeling and it means so much more to me than any prize ever could. I am a lucky girl, indeed.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Trying My Luck

As if my life weren't strange and exciting and wonderful enough right now...

I have been chosen as one of eight finalists for Dave FM's Diva for a Day contest. Dave is a local radio station that I listen to in the mornings when I'm taking Brendan to school. They have a couple of really fun DJs whom I like. I just really enjoy the station when I'm not listening to my iPod. I especially like a midday segment that Mara Davis does called Radio Free Lunch. It's a theme hour, a different theme everyday with listener suggestions, and always really fun to hear. I've actually contributed a song suggestion to the show. (One day the theme was about obnoxious people using their cell phones and I suggested the 'Til Tuesday song Voices Carry.)

The contest required entrants to explain, in 100 words or less, why they felt they deserved to be Diva for a Day. I heard about the contest Wednesday morning and the deadline for entries was Friday. I immediately forgot about it, but remembered right after getting up on Thursday morning. So, in the brief silence before both boys awoke that morning, I sat down and entered the contest. I wrote on the fly and while I remember the theme and gist of what I wrote, I can't repeat it as eloquently.

The second part of the contest will pit the eight finalists against one another in a Jeopardy-like competition on fashion, makeup, and "Diva-y" things according to Mara. She actually called me in person to tell me and when I answered the phone and she said, "Hi, Dawn. This is Mara Davis from Dave FM," it took a minute for me to realize why she was calling. Like she just calls me up all the time to chat. Her son just turned one, we both love music, so theoretically, we could have a lot in common.

There's also a Diva Olympics portion of the contest, I think she said. Of course, I have no clue what that will entail. I'm a bit nervous. But, my friend Barrett made me an awesome, fantastic, super-cool Diva study guide. I'm pleased that I knew most of what was on there, meaning, I have a chance anyway.

So, cross your fingers for me. It sure would be fun to win. Of course, just having this experience is fun and exciting. I've decided I'm going to simply enjoy it rather than judge myself for doing it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Caravan: Review of the 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan

If you had told me, just 8 days ago, that I would soon be yearning to drive a minivan, I would have looked at you as if you were a fool. However, driving a brand new 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan was life changing in the literal sense that it made the part of my life that involves loading two squirmy boys (one of them, increasingly tall and heavy) into my car each day infinitely easier. When the couriers came to take it away yesterday, I actually felt sad. I jokingly told Scott that he would be getting a call from the local SWAT team alerting him that his wife had locked herself inside the minivan and was holding people at bay with a kitchen knife.

I really loved it and I promise that if I didn’t love it, or found it to be a poor performer, I would be honest with you. So, if you care, if you find yourself in the market for a new minivan, read on…

The 2008 DGC, comes in two trim models – the SE or the SXT – and three powertrain choices: a 4.0-liter, V-6 aluminum engine with a six-speed transmission, capable of producing up to 240 hp with 253 lb-ft of torque; a 3.8-liter, V-6, six-speed that produces 197 hp; and the base model 3.3-liter, V-6, flex-fuel engine capable of 175 hp. The flex-fuel powertrain is only available on the base model.

I had the opportunity to drive the 4.0 liter, V-6. It…packs a punch. I was pleasantly surprised by how much power this thing has. It definitely outperformed my Santa Fe. My 6-year old Santa Fe which still kicks a little driving boo-tay.

I’ll be honest, the thing that most surprised me about the Grand Caravan was the way it handled. It drives as smooth as glass. The ride felt like that of a luxury car. It takes corners confidently with none of that SUV-induced sense of toppling over unless you’re driving 20 mph. On dry surfaces, it’s quick and smooth off the line. I easily took a couple of Odysseys and a Sienna without even trying. However, on wet pavement, it did not perform as well off the line and seemed to have some traction control issues.


Apparently, there is some controversy over the styling of ’08 Grand Caravan. A lot of folks just think it’s plain ugly. I, on the other hand, think it’s the best looking of all the minivans with the exception of the Quest. I’ve heard really negative things about the Quest, though, in terms of quality and apparently it hasn’t sold well. It’s also a bit more expensive than some of the other minivans on the market. I’m a fan of Dodge and Chrysler’s particular brand of styling. I like the edginess of models like the 300 and the Magnum and I honestly think the Grand Caravan picks up a lot of its styling cues from the Magnum – long straight lines, a boxy feel. And I will say this, call it ugly all day long, but I think it shows more personality than the Odyssey (no offense Odyssey drivers). I will say that I have a bias against Hondas even though they’re known for their reliability. I just think that a company once known for well-considered, innovative design (anyone remember the CRX or the Acura Integra?) has lost all credibility on that front, turning out really safe and reliable, but bland, boring cars for the masses. And that’s okay. Someone has to do that.

The interior is, naturally, roomy. The leather seats are comfortable and nice. I love the captain’s chairs for driver and passenger. The second row captain’s chairs are nice and they do rotate to face the third row. The Dodge Grand Caravan comes with a table that can be installed between the second and third rows. Passengers can use the table for… something…I guess. It seems impractical for use while driving, although it would be awesome on a camping trip or for tailgating.

I love the power-sliding side doors and the power lift tailgate. Very nice when you have a 25-lb. baby in your arms. However, I was warned that you should alternate between opening them manually and with the remote so that you don’t wear out the motor. Not exactly confidence-inspiring and I was honestly surprised to hear that.

The coolest thing about the Grand Caravan is probably the My Gig entertainment system. Wow. So not necessary, but so nice. It has Sirius satellite radio and TV, a DVD player, you can upload your music to the system’s hard drive, and of course, it has standard AM/FM radio. The satellite TV is nice, but, it’s not like most of our kids need to watch more TV. However, if you’re on a long trip and you want to keep the kids entertained, but don’t want to fool with dvd’s, then it’s kind of nice to have. You have to be careful, though. There are three channels offered: Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network. There’s a lot of programming on Nick and CN that I find objectionable and the listings that are supposed to be available don’t always show up, so you don’t always know what’s on unless (unlike me) you can get the dashboard screen activated to see what’s on or your kids tell you what’s on. Brendan’s very honest, but I can see how a 6-year old might fib to Mom in order to get her to leave it on the channel he wants to see.

Speaking of the in-dash screen, I loved having the rearview camera. It instantly activates when you put the car in reverse. Now that I’m at an elementary school twice a day with kids running everywhere, I am hyper paranoid about running over a child. This eased that fear a good bit. You still need to check your mirrors and proceed cautiously, but it’s just one more tool in the safety arsenal.

Now, what didn’t I like about the GC? Well, the devil is certainly in the details when it comes to car design, and clearly the user interface designers and engineers either aren’t being listened to at Dodge or they simply don’t have any on staff.

Admittedly, some of these complaints probably relate to being used to my own car’s functionality and placement of shifters, buttons, knobs, etc. in my own car, but a lot of these are just someone’s failure to think about how people think and use tools.

In my Santa Fe, turn signals, wiper controls for front and rear, and the controls for the lights are all on two separate clickers on the steering column. You never have to reach for anything other than the radio controls, the fog lights (a push button), the rear window defrost, and the heat/ac. All of those buttons and knobs are on center panel to the right of the steering wheel. All easily within reach and intuitive in their functionality.

The controls for the Grand Caravan don’t make any sense at all and they’re spread all over the place. My goodness, it drove me nuts. First, the gear shift is on the dash. This, apparently, is a throwback to a ‘60s Dodge concept that failed. I can’t remember the specific vehicle (a ’67 work van, maybe?) that had this, but no one liked it, so they reverted to the steering column gear shift before evolving to the floor/center console shifter.

After several days of reaching to the center console to shift, I got used to. So much so, that even yesterday in my SF, I was reaching to the dash to put the car in drive.

There were a few things I really hated about the Grand Caravan. First, were the placement of the lights and the way they worked and were labeled. The lights are activated by turning a knob that is on the lower part of the dash, to the left of the steering column. Fine. Hard to reach and you have to sort of look for it to see if you’re actually turning on the lights, the running lights, or the option labeled “A”, which made no sense, meaning you’re taking your eyes off the road. The other aspect I hated about the lights was that to activate your brights, you just push in on the knob that turns the lights on. However, if you apply the least amount of pressure to that knob as you’re turning on the lights, you’ve just blinded anyone coming toward you. Bad, poorly considered design.

Next, I hated the key fob remote. It was backwards. If you pointed the remote at the vehicle (as most of us are wont to do, I think) when you were opening the doors, the button that opened the driver side rear sliding door was on the left of the key fob (opposite what is intuitive) and the button that opens the passenger side door is on the right of the key fob as you’re aiming it at the car. Yes, there are little pictures on the fob indicating which is which, but really? Do I want my user to have to look at a diagram or simply be able to do what is logically right and what feels right to sense and muscle memory? It really bugged the heck out of me that they designed it this way. Clearly no thought went into how a real person uses a key fob remote.

The last two things that really irked me are minor and my own quirks, but I’ll share them anyway. First, I am an adult and I can decide if I want to take my life in my own hands by choosing not to wear my seatbelt. Dodge (like our paternalistic government) doesn’t see it that way and they choose to have an obnoxious bell ding every 10 seconds or so, over the radio, to let you know that you’re breaking the law by not wearing your seat belt. I hate that. It’s just obnoxious and unnecessary. I often don’t wear my seatbelt if I’m just tooling around the neighborhood, but if I leave the relative safety of my neighborhood and venture onto a road with stripes, I put it on. And my kids are always buckled. I don’t need Dodge telling me to buckle up especially over my music.

And finally, and maybe most annoying, there was no tape player so I couldn’t listen to my iPod. I could have uploaded my music, but not all of it, and the process for doing so was tedious and involved and I just didn’t want to bother with it.

Overall, though, I really liked it. I’d probably buy one without comparing it to other minivans because it made my life so much easier for one week that I have the warm fuzzies for it. I can’t believe what a difference it made to my life not having to lift Brendan into the car or having to lean in with a door jutting out to strap Beckett in.

It was a lovely experience and if asked, I would definitely recommend this car to anyone looking to trade style for space, practicality, and function.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

All This and More

So much to write about and so little time. Hopefully I will have time for a couple of detailed posts later to cover the following topics:

Why and how I've been converted to the darkside

Beckett's burgeoning skills and our plans for his birthday party

Writing projects (and how you might be able to help)

Brendan's new interest in reading and all the cool things he knows

Halloween fun

Right now, I have so much going on, I feel as if I am in a whirlpool, getting sucked deeper and deeper down, far away from a place where I feel like I'm in control of anything in my life. I wish I could stop time and just get it together for a minute.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Get Around

After only one day and a half of driving the Grand Caravan*, I am well on my way to being converted. That said, I don't know if I could drive just any minivan. This one is special.

Not that I have any experience driving minivans or have a lot to compare this thing to.

It is very comfortable though. Very.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I just want to remind y'all that I am a volunteer test marketer for Dodge. Their marketing company solicited me because a) I'm right smack-dab in the middle of their core demographic for this product, and b)**I write a blog and have a forum to share my thoughts on the product. Which I seem perfectly willing to do. I'm not getting paid to do this, so trust me...I will be completely honest in my feedback.

**I was tempted to write a) then 2), but I was afraid my joke would flop and y'all would think that I was the kind of person who really would say that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Little Old Lady from Pasadena

In an alternate universe – the one where I have a doting Daddy who adores me – I got a '64 1/2 Mustang convertible when I turned 16. At 19, in my little fantasy world, Dad and I bought a '65 Fastback that we restored together.

In my mind, I am Barbara Ann. I'm that girl in the T-Bird. I am meant to be driving a muscle car. If I could have and drive any car I wanted, it probably would be this one. And, if not a muscle car, then perhaps something a little rugged like this or quirky like this.

Because I have this vision of who I am beneath the suburban mommy exterior, the idea of driving a minivan kills me. I tend to see minivans as soulless grocery-getters for boring, unimaginative sheep. As my friend Chuck Kaste once put it, Satan drives a minivan.

But, all that said, I'm not at a time in my life where a Shelby Cobra makes a lot of sense and I don't really need an amphibious vehicle. I am at a time in my life where I need a vehicle that can accommodate two child safety seats, and once in a while, haul around various other adults, luggage, pieces of furniture, power tools, untold bags of groceries, soccer equipment, a large dog, bikes and ride-on toys, and keep everyone comfortable in the process.

I don't need a living room on wheels, but most minivans these days seem to strive to be just that. Including the one I'll be driving for the next week. Nope, there's no Super Stock Dodge in my garage. Just a 2008 Dodge Grand Caravan SXT.

I'll be driving it as part of a test marketing effort to get feedback for Dodge. For someone who loves cars as much as I do, it seemed like a really fun and interesting opportunity. I'll write up a review and give them my feedback when I'm done. In the meantime, I'll let you know what I think as I drive it this week. If you care...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The House at Pooh Corner

Hey, Atlanta parents. Here's a deal for you. You can see a production of a Winnie the Pooh story at the Center for Puppetry Arts tomorrow and Friday for just $5 per person. Ticket prices are usually around $15 per person.

For what my opinion is worth, Brendan's class went on a field trip to see this and he really loved it and he's not especially into the Pooh at all.

Here's the deal:

See Winnie-the-Pooh THIS Thursday or Friday for $5!

Due to unforseen circumstances, we have tickets to sell for
OCTOBER 18th & 19th, 2007!
Mention this e-mail and get all your tickets for JUST $5! (Not valid with any other offer, subject to availability)

This classic tale by A.A Milne is sure to captivate your children and warm your heart too! There are no villains here, just friends helping friends as Eeyore loses his tail, Piglet looks for a Heffalump and Pooh takes a balloon ride through the sky . Don't miss these timeless tales of friendship. Hunny anyone? More>
Showtimes: Thursday, October 18th & Friday, October 19th @ 10 & 11:30am
Tickets: $5! Includes performance, Create-A-Puppet Workshop & Museum Admission

To reserve your seats using this Special Offer, call our Ticket Sales Office today at 404.873.3391 and mention this e-mail!
Winnie-the-Pooh is sponsored by LeapFrog.

Produced by special arrangement with THE DRAMATIC PUBLISHING COMPANY of Woodstock, Illinois.

See you at the Center!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Better by the Pound

One of the most fascinating things about being a parent is the manner in which you quickly become an expert on things you only need to know about for a relatively brief period.

For four years now, I've been relatively obsessed and opinionated about diapers and pull ups. I know more about the subject than I ever cared to know or imagined I would. It began when Scott and I were debating the pros and cons of disposables vs. cloth diapers. We came down on the side of disposables because I, ultimately, decided I didn't want to be chained to the washing machine and because the jury's still out on which has a worse environmental impact. And, of course, now in Georgia with the water crisis we're facing, disposables make a lot of sense.

Ever since making that decision, I have tried every diaper on the market. Okay. Not every diaper. But certainly all of the major brands and most store brands. When Brendan was a newborn, I started going through all the diapers we received at showers. First, I tried the Pampers. Hated them. They had a really overpowering perfumey smell that made me sick, especially when mixed with other smelly things.

Next, I tried Luvs. Too leaky. Finally, I tried Huggies and had a winner. I stuck with that brand for a while, but then got lured into trying store brands to save money, but I couldn't stand the chemical smell and plastic feel of the store brands. I figured if it was uncomfortable for me to touch them just to put one on, it had to be misery-making for a baby. I went back to the Huggies brand and stuck with it until Brendan was potty-trained.

Of course, every baby's different and I've found that what worked on Brendan hasn't necessarily worked for Beckett. Huggies have been the leakiest on Beckett by far. I've found myself almost exclusively using Pampers which no longer have that disgusting perfumey fragrance. Unfortunately, I didn't even give Luvs a chance this time. That is until I got an unsolicited sample pack in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

I say sample pack, but it was actually a full-size 42-diaper pack of Luvs new Bear Hug Stretch diapers. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Both to receive free diapers in the mail (because, really, as a mom to a baby is there anything more exciting than free diapers?) and by how great they were for my baby.

As I said, every baby's different and these diapers really seemed to fit Beckett well. He has chunky legs and I've heard that he looks like the Michelin Man on more than one occasion. I had been buying diapers one size above his weight range just to get them to fit around his thighs without cutting into his sweet legs. The Luvs Bear Hug Stretch, though, have some extra give and stretch in the legs and provided what seemed to be a much more comfortable fit (hence the name, I suppose). And, because they were the right size, there was no bunching in the bottom or around the waist.

I didn't have any leaking problems with them. No weird smell. The only thing I didn't like was that sometimes the tabs tore off when I was trying to fasten the diaper. That was frustrating, but overall I was really pleased and decided I should give these diapers a chance. We'll have to see how it pans out in the long run...If Luvs can go the distance with my chunky boy.

All this said, I would like to give one piece of advice to the Luvs ad agency and/or marketing department. Your commercial with the little boy humping his teddy bear is awful. It creeps me out.

Other than that, I've turned the corner on your product and will definitely be buying Luvs in the future. Good work on the changes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

(Hay)Ride



Brendan's school had its fall break this weekend, meaning the kids were out of school on Friday and today. So, my friend Tara and I took our kids to a pumpkin patch in North Georgia. We had a ball.

We picked out our pumpkins and I bought some homemade pumpkin bread and some of Scott's favorite, pumpkin butter.

I also bought an inexpensive scarecrow and several small pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn to use as decorations. Brendan has been hounding me for Halloween decorations for a few weeks now. He's finally happy.

We also went on a hayride. It was a gorgeous day...perfect for a hayride. The kids loved it. I'm glad we went.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Crazy Love

I've never been one to come to the aid of friends who were throwing up. I've always been a bit weak of the stomach when it comes to bodily functions. In college, I never held anyone's hair out of her face while she hurled and I never expected anyone to do that for me. Although, I don't think it was necessary more than once or twice anyway.

Blood doesn't bother me in the least. But I don't do vomit very well. I got my fill taking care of my mom and grandmother. It seems like my mom was constantly getting sick because of some diabetic complication or the other and my grandmother died of stomach cancer so she was sick a lot the last few months of her life. I took a several week leave from high school to help care for her because we couldn't afford a nurse. I've dealt with blood, vomit, bloody vomit, poop, feeding tubes, and all kinds of crazy sick-room gross-outs.

Still, I've found myself getting furious with people for vomiting near me and found myself embarrassed by getting sick near others.

Yet, I've discovered, as I'm sure any of you who are parents have, that the nature of vomit totally changes when the person getting sick is your child. I never, in a million years, would have imagined that someone could not only get sick near me, but ON me and I wouldn't want to throw them through a window. But it has happened.

Friends, on Saturday night my darling baby boy was sick. Friday night, he developed a high fever, but had no other symptoms. On Saturday, he still seemed like he felt a little puny, but was otherwise fine and the fever was gone. Unfortunately, it all went down hill after he went to bed on Saturday night.

About 10 p.m., he woke up crying. When I went into his room, I knew instantly that he had thrown up because the lovely aroma hit me in the face as soon as I opened his door. Poor little guy.

So, I took him out of his crib, got a tub of water, and gave him a sponge bath on his changing table. Then, as I was carrying him over to his dresser to get some fresh jammies, he threw up all over the front of my sweater. I was calm. No problem. It's all part of being a mommy, I told myself. I hugged him and told him it was okay and he'd be fine.

After getting the jammies out, I took him back to the changing table to start again. I decided to take off my yucky, soaking wet sweater and t-shirt and finish the job in my bra and jeans. Everything's going fine and I've got him clean and ready to go. Then, just as I lift him up so I can get his pjs on him, the poor little dude hurls on me again. This time directly onto flesh and straight down into the waist of my jeans. I am, at this point, covered in hot, lumpy, orange baby vomit from my neck to my groin. Fun stuff on a Saturday night.

Somehow, Beckett managed not to get a drop on himself, so I carried him and his clean pjs downstairs to Scott and took a quick shower and put on my pjs. I was gone about 10 min. and in that time, Beckett managed not to throw up on his dad. So, I settle in on the couch with the sick groggy baby on my lap. I've never seen him so sad. He's always such a happy guy and usually so independent. It was unusual for him to want to fall asleep on me, but that's just what he was doing, when all of a sudden, he threw up again. On my nice, comfy, clean pajamas.

It's just strange and amazing to me, though, that my overriding emotions were sympathy and sadness. I just wanted to make him feel better and figure out why he was sick. When I've had to deal with sickies in the past, who weren't my children, even if I felt bad for them, I've always been kind of annoyed even if it wasn't their fault they were ill. Who knew a mother's love could abide such an abundance of gross?

I guess I do now.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Homebrew

Scott played a really great show last Wednesday night. The venue was really cool, but unusual. It was a local brewery, Atlanta Brewing Company.

On Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays they do brewery tours and tastings and have live music. It's a really neat idea. Just brilliant marketing. For the brewery and the musician. The shows are run by the owner/president of a local label with an impressive list of artists, so the music is far better than what you might expect for free.

The crowd was pretty big and reasonably attentive for an alcohol-fueled event. A lot of our friends came out which is always fun. And appreciated. My friend Josie – whom I haven't seen since 1992 – even came out with her fiance. That was pretty neat. Her fiance compared Scott to Neil Young. Always a nice compliment for a singer-songwriter.

ABC is ATL's oldest microbrewery and makes Red Brick Ale. I had had Red Brick and it's fine. Not awesome, but good enough.

At the tasting, I tried two of their other beers and decided I like beer again. If you're a beer drinker and can find either of these in your area, I strongly urge you to give them a try. The first is the Red Brick Blonde. It's very light and refreshing with a real clean palate. Nice. An excellent spring and summer beer.

The second I never would have expected to enjoy as much as I did. I like dark beer, but I've never been able to finish a Guinness. As Scott has so charmingly put it on many an occasion, "Drinking a Guinness is like drinking a loaf of bread." And we're both Irish. So, that's sayin' something about my particular tastes.

But, to my point, ABC's Double Chocolate Oatmeal Porter was amazing. If you like coffee, you'll love it. It has a rich, creamy coffee flavor with a strong chocolate aroma. There's no bitterness and best of all, it's not super-heavy. I wouldn't want it every day, but as a treat once in a while, it's pretty nice. Nothing like a loaf of bread. At all.

If you're in the Atlanta area, you should definitely go check the place out sometime. Give the beers a try and support a working musician.