Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Chaos

Observations from Christmas 2009:

Sometimes the squeakquel is even better than the original.

Bubbles even work in the snow.

Grandpas are the best story readers.

Second cousins can be as fun as first cousins.

Six boys are very rambunctious but very cute.

When it comes to slippers: the bigger the better.

There is no such thing as too many presents.

Cookies for Santa must be prepared with great care.

Train tables are amazing things.

Christmas can be exhausting.

Hope yours was wonderful!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just before dawn

T was raised Catholic, and I Presbyterian. Lately though we have been going to a Unitarian-Universalist church periodically. Today's message really resonated with me.

The UU denomination is very flexible and open. It does not have a specific creed but rather a set of guiding principles in which UUs believe, the first of which is the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Within any UU congregation you could have Jews, Christians, atheists and agnostics. Services can vary widely and often explore various religious traditions or philosophies.

Today the service centered on the Solstice. In December, that is the shortest day of the year, before the days start to get longer again. In many cultures, it is celebrated as a time of change. A time of hope and light in the coldest, darkest days.

The Christmas tradition ties into this with the gleaming star providing guidance in the dark night and the birth of a baby bringing hope to the world.

The minister described other traditions and cultures that describe this time of year as one of rebirth and renewal, hope and change. It works well with our calendar as we contemplate the closing of the year and our New Year's resolutions.

The message is reflected clearly in nature especially in Wisconsin, where the thoughts of green shoots and flower buds are far from mind. The grass is brown, where it can be seen beneath the slopes of snow. The trees are bleak and barren. The world is painted with colors of grey, brown, and blue. But buried beneath the frozen ground is the promise of new life. Hidden amidst the blinding white are shades of green, pink, red, orange, and yellow. In the most desolate time of year, the promise of Spring remains.

This has been a year of change for me, as I left behind a career I had always dreamed of with the idea of staying at home with my children. We moved across the country to the place I grew up. We found a new home, new friends, new favorite places. I struggled to find a sense of worth and identity in a foreign role.

Now as our year of transition draws to a close, I am ready for a rebirth. I recognize now that I would like to return to a fulfilling career, and that this would be best for myself and my children. A happy mother is a good mother! I have an interview next week, and a couple of promising applications submitted for other positions. But even if these don't work out, I am confident the right opportunity will come along, just as I know the green shoots will soon emerge from the cold, hard soil and the robins will begin their song once again.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Potty time!

I am very happy to say Q is nearly potty trained! You don't realize how important a development this is until you are standing next to your toddler perched on his mini potty seat, Thomas underwear encircling his ankles, and a smile on his face as he announces, "I went poo-poo!"

"Number 2" is like the holy grail of potty training. Much harder than simple peeing of course. When Q announced his achievement, I clapped and danced. I praised him and high-fived him. I called his dad and let Q leave a voicemail on Grandma's phone. It was a grand occasion. Nothing I could have imagined a few short years ago.

Q had been wearing underwear at his babysitter's house for sometime, and so I decided it was time to lay down the law at home where he was clearly pulling a power trip on his mama. We switched to strictly underwear during the day and muddled through. There were a few horrible messy days of poop-filled pants and multiple clothing changes, but today we were accident-free! Hallelujah!

It's still far from a done deal. I continually ask him if he needs to go potty and have to offer endless bribes to get him there. But I think we have definitely turned the corner.

That means one big thing: preschool. You have to be potty-trained to attend many of them, and now we are finally at that pivotal stage. Q could be headed to 4K next Fall, and I think he requires a little more socialization before that. Preschool is just what he needs.

I hope to get him in somewhere in January, so he can go for a few months at least and get used to the routine.

One more big thing for mama? Fewer diapers. That makes me very happy.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009


We are in the midst of a blizzard. T inched his way to work, but my classes were cancelled. It was a long slow drive home last night.

Today we are holed up. I stayed in my pajamas till after lunch. At that point I decided the boys had to play in the snow for at least a little while. Q's snow gear from last year still fits well, but R has outgrown his. He desperately needs new snow pants and some boots, but for now, I squeezed him into last year's 6-12 month snowsuit. It kept him warm for the short time we were outside, but he couldn't get up when he fell over.

One being who doesn't like the snow is Ruby.

She is just not a winter dog. She strains at her leash and shivers by the door. So far she has peed outside, but pooped strictly indoors. It's going to be a long few months of winter if she keeps that up.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Is it over yet?

I do love Christmas. From the sparkling trees, to the tasty cookies, and creamy egg nog, I very much look forward to this time of year. I will feel a lot better though when all my tasks are complete.

There's the decorating, the card-writing, the shopping, the wrapping, the planning, the cooking. The days quickly slip by and the calendar edges ever closer to December 25th. This year is a bit more complicated as we are flying east to visit T's family. That adds organizing, packing, and traveling to the to-do list. Should I wrap packages and check them in a piece of luggage? Should I carry them on and wrap them there? Should I ship? What to get all my sister's little boys? Stressful.

Gluttons for my punishment that we are, we added a cocktail party to the mix. It is this Friday, so I am planning the food and drinks and gearing myself up for a major housecleaning.

We are chugging along nicely toward the deadline. The tree is up, the stockings are hung, the cards are done and on their way, about half the gifts are purchased and a few are even already wrapped. I do feel a lot of satisfaction as I cross things off my list, ahead of schedule. I feel like I am in control when I complete my cards and stick on every last stamp.

But what if I didn't get it all done? Would it really matter? Though I enjoy most of the trappings of the holidays, I often wish it were all a little simpler. I could make this change myself of course, but I find myself swept along on the tide of tinsel, twinkling lights, and mall bargains, and I can't seem to pull myself out.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Going Rogue"

I finished Sarah Palin's book and didn't cringe as much as I thought I would. It was actually well-written though seemingly not by her. She included a letter she wrote to her family from God's point of view and it is in stark contrast to the writing in the rest of the book.

I do find her impressive in a lot of ways. She looks amazing, especially for having five kids. She has run a sub-four hour marathon, which is a goal of mine. And she is an involved mom as well as a successful careerwoman. Her book however, is fiercely partisan all the while criticizing partisanship. She is simple-minded about things like abortion, patriotism, and war, not recognizing how complicated those issues can be. And she completely entangles religion and politics while praising the Constitution. Isn't that a contradiction?

I'm glad I read her book. If nothing else, it gave a fascinating look into Alaska and political campaigning, but I am not likely to jump on the Palin bandwagon.


I have to admit, I have been a bit fascinated by the Tiger Woods scandal. Though I don't blame him for protecting his privacy, I am very curious. Whatever the truth may be, it shows even this incredible athlete with his beautiful wife, bulging bank accounts, and cute children has his own problems. None among us is perfect or has the ideal life, and I think this is kind of comforting in a strange way.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Picture pain

Who would've thought taking a family picture would be so hard? We like to include a family picture with our Christmas card, but it is never an easy endeavor. Last year we had success simply sitting on the front steps and putting our camera on a timer.

This year, we wanted to capture the essence of our new home, so we planned to pose in front of the state capitol. Twice we ran out of daylight. Countless times one or both boys was looking down, squirming, screaming, or just looking weird. A few times I was blinking or T was grimacing. Occasionally we drew a crowd, and once a helpful woman (and former Santa's elf and Easter Bunny) danced behind the camera to draw a smile from our boys.

We finally got a decent one yesterday. These were some of the finalists. Next year, we may resort to Photoshop.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Why I am not going shopping today

Black Friday makes people do crazy things. I heard today that people have been sleeping in tents since 10 a.m. yesterday for post-Thanksgiving sales. That's just silly. I will not be joining them.

In truth, T and I did join the mob of shoppers a few years ago when Wal-mart was offering cheap TVs. We were dirt poor, and my only TV was a 13-inch leftover from college, so we jumped at the chance. It was a frightening experience as people with steel determination in their eyes rammed their shopping carts through whatever was in their path. We grabbed our TVs, hit the checkout, and high-tailed it out of there. I haven't returned since.

Last year I was sickened when a worker was trampled in a Black Friday stampede. Was that man's life really worth a cheap Ipod? It is depressing and disgusting. And that bargain buy isn't going to bring you happiness. You'll be back in line to replace it next year.

The consumerism of the season puzzles me as well, especially this year. I and most other people I know are a little financially challenged this year, so gift-giving is a tricky endeavor. Without fail we scrape together money to buy presents for other people and they buy gifts for us. We are all out roughly the same amount of money, but now with more material possessions that we may or may not want. It doesn't make a lot of sense....except for retailers.

My sister-in-law came up with a good plan of choosing names between all the siblings on that side of the family, so each person only has to buy one present. I think we will be carrying that theme to all our gift-giving. Our presents this year will be simple and thoughtful. Especially between T and me, and even to our children. I want to teach them that accumulating more "things" well never make them more happy and it is more likely to make them miserable.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This and that

I'm reading Sarah Palin's book. Crazy, yes. I am no supporter of hers, but I have always found her life interesting. I remember first hearing her name when her fifth pregnancy became public while she was governor of Alaska. I found that just mind-boggling, as I attempted to keep my life together during my second pregnancy. Any woman who can navigate a successful career while managing a large family is a hero of mine. I want to know how they do it and glean any bits of wisdom from them I can. Plus, she is polished and stylish, and I just like that.

Her book has its interesting parts, but she lays on the political rhetoric extra thick, and that is a turn off. I wish it was a bit more autobiography and a bit less propaganda, but what can you do.


On a related note, I am weighing a return to a full-time job. I applied for one yesterday and am considering pursuing TV news again. I constantly vacillate. Another salary would be very nice, and I often feel confined and half-crazy in my mostly stay-at-home life. Then people tell me I am lucky and doing the "most important" job, and I wonder why I don't feel more fortunate. Maybe I will never be satisfied? I don't know. I have a lot of thinking to do.


I am still crooked. After several manipulations at my doctor's office, I thought I was getting better. But the last few weeks I have been in a lot of pain, with nerve sensations shooting down the front of my thighs, my right hip sticking out and my back hunched over. It is so difficult to teach my classes and even hefting R out of the crib is a major undertaking.

This weekend I tried alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol along with half doses of muscle relaxants. I ended up passing the weekend in a delirious zombie state and with an upset stomach to boot. I expressed my frustration to my doctor, and she referred me to physical therapy.

I just finished my appointment, and I feel like I may be getting somewhere. She said my joints are more flexible than the average person, and my hips and pelvis are especially loose after giving birth twice. So I have to learn specific strengthening exercises to counteract this instability.

We'll see how it goes. I have been in pain on and off for almost four years, so I am about ready to figure this out.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hallowed ground

T has finally made his pilgrimage to the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field. His birthday was this past Friday, and about a month ago I got him tickets to a Packers game. I couldn't wait to give them to him, because I knew he'd be thrilled. But I waited till dinner at The Melting Pot to hand over the card. He lit up and grinned from ear to ear incredulously. It was a great reaction.

I have been to two Packers games before and both were painfully cold. I was dreading the same for this game, but we got lucky. Temperatures were near 50 at the beginning and though they cooled down as the sun went down, it was tolerable. The last time I went, the metal bleachers were iced over. This time they were cool on the tush, but not frostbite-inducing.

The Packers won 17-7. The game got off to a slow start but the second half was gripping. The excitement and passion in the stadium was energizing, and I am glad T got to experience it. It's good to be back in Wisconsin.


Monday, November 9, 2009

The price you pay

Usually T does the grocery shopping. I plan our meals and make a grocery list on Sunday and then he shops that evening and gets cash for the sitter. He was out of town this weekend, so the shopping was my task.

I do everything humanly possible to avoid long shopping trips with the children, so I went between classes today while they were at childcare. I decided to hit Whole Foods because it has great food and was near where I was teaching. I found great stuff of course, but even by choosing generics and sale items, it was still pricey. I'd love to start buying more organic food, but it painful to pay often double the price. I do believe some items are worth the extra cost, and I do think I will invest in organic milk. For rice, beans, and flour, however, I am heading back to the cheap store.



Saturday, November 7, 2009

On my own

T is out of town. Off to a work conference for five days. That leaves a lot of dirty diapers and messy high chairs for me. Not fun. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't know how single moms do it. I don't like going solo. I like sharing the load.

T left this afternoon, but we managed to enjoy a gorgeous fall day. We went to the final farmers market and then to the children's museum. The boys were busy building, digging, and exploring.

They napped well when they got home.

Tomorrow I am escaping to my sister's house so I won't have to figure out how to keep the boys busy for a long Sunday. They can run around with their rambunctious cousins.


I made two loaves of bread this evening. This time I made them the old fashioned way rather than in the bread machine. They look good, but we'll see how they taste tomorrow. I did one part wheat flour and two parts white.

I making more and more of our own food or buying it is naturally as possible. I am growing increasingly frustrated with how food is processed and the crap they put in it. I find it maddening and a bit depressing, really. So, might as well make my own! I enjoy the process and most of the time it tastes better.


Thursday, November 5, 2009


We accidentally overpaid for childcare this week, but I benefited. T paid our provider on Monday, but I realized he had paid her for three extra hours. We didn't want to say, "Hey, can we have some of that money back?" So I just found a use for that extra time.

Today I got a massage. It was lovely. I did have a small gift card and some birthday money from my grandma, so I didn't even feel overly self-indulgent. I almost fell asleep during it with those half-dream fleeting thoughts skipping across my brain. Afterward I was like a puddle on the exam table.

T and I met for coffee afterward. Overpaying turned out to be a happy accident. Don't you love those?


On an odd side note, while walking to Starbucks, I saw a scraggly, bearded homeless man carrying a baseball bat over his shoulder and nothing else. I gave him a wide berth for obvious reasons, but he came over to tell me he thought I was beautiful. Thanks, I guess. I'll take compliments where I can get them!


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Four-legged vaccuum

I am not a dog person by nature.

We grew up with cats, and they have always been my first love. There was Toby, then Charlie, now in my own family there are Abby and Maddie. (Abby is my favorite. Don't tell Maddie) T however grew up with dogs. And we thought the boys needed a dog. Enter Ruby for Christmas 2007.

Clearly as cute as a button but a major pain in the buttocks. She chewed many things (including my mom's new shoes) and piddled regularly on the ground. She still has frequent accidents and is a lap dog to an annoying degree. But there is one thing she does the cats don't do, and I love it.

She is our own living Roomba. She licks up the bits of granola bars and bread that fall to the floor. Of course we chase her away from entire sandwiches or chocolate chunks from cookies pitched from the high chair. But if the morsel is small and harmless, I call her right over and let her clean up for me. When I am somewhere else I have to catch myself before I mindlessly let crumbs fall to the ground.

Sometimes she gets a bit too aggressive, lunging to lick a far-flung piece of cheese in the corner of R's chair. Thankfully she's short and usually misses, but she never gives up. It is a nice little perk, though I'm not sure this bit of housekeeping makes up for all the spots on the carpet.

I think I am finding my inner dog person.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mom Comrades

The first thing I did when I moved to a new city was join a moms' group. And thank goodness I did.

It gave Q and R a set of playmates and introduced me to friends as well. Our weekly play dates are a great way to get out of the house and to burn off energy for the boys. But the value of the moms' group extends beyond that.

There are some moms who drive me a little crazy of course. You'll encounter that in any social circle. But there are others with whom I have quickly formed a friendship.

We have met for drinks and dinner and our husbands have gotten to know each other.

We can depend on each other for last-minute babysitters or compare potty-training stories.

It's really an invaluable part of my life now, and I would recommend it to any new mom or any mom moving to a new area. Many of us in the group are new residents. We even had one mom come to the group while she was still pregnant and now her newborn has joined the ranks. You can't beat the support system and the camaraderie.


One of my favorite times of the day is nap time. The boys are down now after running and climbing at this morning's weekly play date. Some sort of time warp exists during nap time however. Time seems to slip by at twice the normal speed and my plans of eating lunch, resting, Internet surfing, and cleaning are rushed. I constantly watch the clock and dread that first whimper from their bedroom. Is that wrong?


Monday, November 2, 2009

Fresh-baked bread

Is there anything better than the smell of fresh-baked bread? I don't think so.

T got me a bread maker for my 24th birthday, and I used it pretty frequently the first few years. Then it stayed tucked away in storage for the last few years we were in Oregon. T was downsizing our storage unit, and I told him to unearth the bread machine box. I dusted it off, found a recipe online, and had it baking this afternoon.

In my effort to eat cleaner and cheaper, I am attempting to cut out most processed foods and make more of my own food for our family. I used whole wheat flour and flax meal in the recipe. Q "helped" put the ingredients in the pan and pushed the button. He continually asked me to pick him up so he could see the progress and asked repeatedly if it was done.

About three and a half hours later, it was. I used it tonight for some sandwiches with hummus, greens, cucumbers, avocado, and provolone. It was quite tasty.

There is something very satisfying about eating something you made. So now we are eating oatmeal every morning, homemade granola bars, and homemade bread. Our grocery list includes very few boxed or processed foods. I feel pretty good about that.


Sunday, November 1, 2009


Dad got the one thing he wanted for his 60th birthday: six grandsons crowded around him. We enjoyed a few days in Wisconsin Dells, eating Dad's favorite tacos, and playing in the massive indoor water park.

R kept going down the toddler slides over and over. Q was a bit more hesitant at first, but had a ball splashing his cousins.

Next up: Halloween. We went as a group of doctors.

Everyone thought R was a girl and one man made the insulting on multiple levels comment of "Oh look! A little nurse!"

They cleaned up in the candy department, and now they are rationed as am I.


Keeping in the Halloween spooky spirit of things, T and I watched Rosemary's Baby. It was intriguing and very different from horror movies of today.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Life changes and other things

I am ready to take it up a notch.

I am a fit, healthy person, but I think I am still holding myself back. The exercise is not a problem. I enjoy it, from the classes I teach to races I run. I eat healthy food and include most all the required vitamins and nutrients. But I also include a little too much extra. For instance, the half bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips I just polished off or the two servings of fudge tracks ice cream earlier in the week. I think I could be in stellar shape if I cut these habits out of my day.

I have always had an easier time doing things rather than not doing them. So I can eat good food and workout diligently, but the not eating what tastes good is the challenge. Now that I am making health and fitness my professional focus, I feel like I should be a better example. My new goals are getting stronger by doing more challenging strength exercises and eating better. Or at least eating less crap. We'll see how this goes, especially with Halloween candy looming.


We are going away this weekend for my Dad's 60th birthday. He is absolutely one of my favorite people, and I have been a Daddy's girl since birth. I am enthusiastic about celebrating such a great person. My sisters and I got him the very cool present of tickets to next year's PGA championship in Wisconsin. I found my inner crafty person and created a card for him.

He's a humble guy and doesn't want us to make a fuss, but he deserves it.


Boys, boys, boys

Baby in disguise.

Who is this strange, tiny man?

Baby Tom Brady...last minute costume.

Slapped-together fireman costume (complete with girls' cowboy hat).


Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall 50

Running in the crisp fall air over a blanket of rust-colored leaves while the cool sunlight filters through golden trees. You can't beat that.

Five of us headed north to the Fall 50 in Door County. It was a 10-part relay covering 50 miles from the tip of the peninsula down to Sturgeon Bay. I did legs five and ten. The first was 4.8 miles, the second was 4.6. It was a bit hilly and a bit chilly, but I felt great, and broke 40 minutes for both runs.

It was a fun, interesting race. We had to shuttle runners to each exchange point, stopping to cheer our runner on the way. Then the next runner had to be in place to accept the "baton" (really a glorified snap bracelet). The whole affair took us seven and a half hours, but time went quickly. It all ended with a party complete with pizza and beer under a heated tent. Wisconsin runners know how to do it.

The drive there and back was long and not good for sore muscles, but the weekend was a blast, as was reconnecting with old teammates from high school cross country.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Feast or famine

I tend to be an all or nothing kind of girl. At least when it comes to motivation and energy. This week I had a little of both. Early in the week, I was sluggish and uninspired. I did the bare minimum and spent a lot of time lying on the couch and napping when the kids did.

Yesterday however, was a different story. Perhaps it was tied to my higher-than-usual caffeine consumption, but I was on fire. It started at 4:40 a.m. when I woke up for my first class of the day. I did take a nap after that. I don't know how those people keep going about their day after their class. That is just early. Besides that first aerobics class, I had an 11:00 am Pilates class and a 5:45 pm fitness class. But in between, I managed to squeeze in a lot.

Our closet has been annoying me for sometime. T had a open box of ties he had yet to unpack from our move six months ago. The cats used it as a sleeping bag, and his ties were wrinkly and fur-covered. I made it my mission to remedy this. Also, his side of the closet was disastrous. He didn't even know about several items of clothing hidden away.

Yesterday, I hit Target and got a few Tupperware containers to slide under the bed. I unearthed his ties (pissing off the cats who are now forced to rough it amongst the shoes).

I rolled his ties and organized them by color in the container.

I also found a few robes and a belt stuffed beneath the ties. I put his sweaters in bins as well, and filled another with hats, goggles, and belts. I then organized his closet and labeled it with my super cool new label maker which I requested for my birthday last week.

My other mission for the day was to figure out a good recipe for healthy granola bars. We have been trying to use flax meal lately to give us Omega 3 fatty acids, since we don't eat fish. I want to give the kids (and T and me) a healthy snack without paying a ton for Kashi bars or something. So I searched the Internet, stocked up at Target and came up with these:

They weren't too hard to make and now are individually wrapped and ready for us. And, I can mix it up with chocolate chips or peanuts. For this batch I used dried apricots, peanut butter, and walnuts (for another boost of Omega 3s.) They are really tasty. I doubled the recipe and used a 13 X 9 pan.

1 and 1/4 cups crisp rice cereal (e.g., Rice Krispies)
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons ground flax seed (flax seed meal)
1/4 cup finely chopped dried fruit (e.g., raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, etc.)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts (preferably roasted or toasted)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup (or honey, maple syrup, or light molasses)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/3 cup nut butter (e.g., peanut, almond, cashew, soy nut)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the rice cereal, oats, flaxseed meal, dried fruit, and nuts in a large bowl.

Bring the syrup and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in nut butter and vanilla until blended.

Pour nut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated (mixture will be stiff). Press mixture firmly into an 8-inch square pan (sprayed with nonstick cooking spray) using a large square of wax paper. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 12 bars. (Wrap bars tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator).

Nutrition per serving (1 bar):
Calories 228; Fat 7.4g (poly 2.3g, mono 4.1g, sat 0.9g); Protein 10.8g; Cholesterol 5mg; Carbohydrate 34.3g; Sodium 156mg)

I also gave myself a manicure after breaking a nail on the wet trunk door and made veggie pitas for dinner. I was feeling pretty accomplished by the end of the day. I think I need a few lazy days to make up for this burst of inspiration.


I woke up this morning to disaster. The boys were both jumping in R's crib. R was completely naked and Q had just a T-shirt on. Q had piled the contents of his dresser, changing table, toy basket, and hat rack into a "house" in the middle of the floor. I was not pleased. It was quite a clean-up operation and an exercise in patience.

I am in great need of a break and mercifully one is coming my way. Tonight I head out of town for two days to take part in a 50-mile relay in Door County. Five of us are doing it, so the mileage won't be too difficult. It is just a short getaway, but it will be nice to pack for one person and shirk my parental responsibility for awhile.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Growing like weeds

Professional pictures are not cheap. We got some when R turned 1 and Q turned 3. We paid more than $400 and didn't have much to show for it. The pictures were beautiful, but they were $25 for a 4 x 6. Craziness.

So, for R's 18-month pictures, I decided to take matters into my own hands. After all, I am a trained videographer, I think I can manage some decent still pictures. I herded the boys out into the side yard in their new coordinating puffy vests and snapped away. We printed them at Walgreens and while not quite professionally perfect, they are pretty darn cute and a hell of a lot cheaper.