Sunday, December 31, 2006

Of snot and snowstorms

We had the misfortune of making our way home from New Jersey yesterday. We were making record time (taking the Merritt Parkway rather than I-84 between Hartford and White Plains makes such a big difference...) when it started to snow lightly. We'd just gotten on 495 in Massachusetts and thought nothing of the snow. And then, a few miles later, we watched an SUV roll over right in front of us. We didn't see what caused it to roll, but it seemed slow and fantastical as it toppled over on the shoulder. Everyone around us hit the brakes, which caused us to skid and fishtail. We recovered and went on as several cars stopped to assist the occupants of the SUV; its top remained intact, so I am hopeful that its occupants were ok.

But that episode put us severely on edge for the rest of the drive. It literally took an hour to go 30 miles; there was just a dusting of snow on the ground at that point, but apparently it took the plow operators by surprise, since we didn't see sand or salt for quite a while. Conditions were miserable; I counted 11 accidents -- all of them fender-benders after the rollover -- between Worcester and Portsmouth.

So we were happy to roll into our snow-covered driveway in one piece several hours later. Instead of a record-breaking trip home -- we were slated to get here in about 6.5 hours -- we chalked up an eight-hour-plus journey. And we were exhausted to begin with; while we were at my parents' house, Ess came down with a head cold that caused major sleep disturbances (read: one night I didn't get to sleep until 3:30 am). Which meant that my immune system finally gave up and let D's germs do their work. His cold of last week is still lingering, with a nasty cough and a round of weariness. So the three of us make a pretty picture today, sniffling and coughing and crying when our noses are wiped (I'll let you guess which one of us that phrase describes...).

Still, I wouldn't have skipped that trip for the world. It's so nice to hang out with my parents and to watch them adore every little thing Ess does. My grandparents do much the same; my grandfather in particular is just awed to spend time with his great-granddaughter (though he was scandalized by the fact that we actually trust the monitor to tell us if she is crying -- he kept offering to go down and check on her and sort of sniffing at us for neglecting her). We were a bit hobbled by the colds and the lack of sleep, but we got to see some friends, if only briefly, and to have the traditional opening of gifts and eating of (post)Christmas breakfast with my parents.

And by the time we called my parents yesterday afternoon to let them know we'd gotten home safely, they'd decided that they're going to come up for a visit on their spring break. And a visit that involves no driving on our part, and the possibility for a normal sleep schedule on Ess' part, sounds mighty fine to me.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Today was a brief interlude of calm/preparation before Christmas: Part II kicks in tomorrow, when we head to my parents' for a few days. Our living room and dining room are full of piles -- suitcases, the car seat with fun and exciting toys already attached, the bag full of presents. The cooler has been dusted off, the sandwiches are made, the coffeemaker just needs to be turned on. We're really hoping that Ess travels better than she did when we last made this trip in mid-October. But we're prepared, I guess, if she doesn't.

And, really, we couldn't blame her if she's not up to seven hours in the carseat (with breaks, of course). She's just been a dream for the last few days -- happy, social and engaged. The picture above gives you an idea of her temperament these last several days (also please note the giant bottle of beer and excellent Italian cookbook among my presents -- does my husband know me well or what?). It doesn't show off her very fashionable little velvet and satin pantsuit, courtesy of my sister and brother-in-law, but you get the idea... In this shot, she's happily gnawing on the ribbon that her fancy helicopter was wrapped with; presumably someday the helicopter itself will be of interest to her.

So it's really just been a whirlwind of cooking and wrapping and talking and eating these last several days. I got into a classic Christmas funk on Friday, feeling sad that few friends were around and that my family was far away. But D and Ess snapped me out of it -- as did, bizarrely, a late afternoon trip to the insanely crowded grocery store -- and I really enjoyed the next several days. Saturday night D's parents came over; we ate stuffed shells and watched "Meet Me in St. Louis," which was fun if a little slow. (The night before, D and I had watched "The Family Stone" -- totally predictable and formulaic yet still enjoyable, particularly if you like Luke Wilson like I like Luke Wilson.)

On Christmas Eve we must've done something in the morning... probably wrapping and organizing. Oh, yes, D was sick -- he'd come down with a bad head cold that moved into his chest. He had a horrible cough that made me concerned about bronchitis or worse, so I talked him into going to the quick care clinic to see if he needed antibiotics. He did not, and was cleared to attend a gathering that afternoon at his aunt's house. D's extended family doesn't get together very often -- I'd only met this aunt, her children and their kids once, at a funeral five years ago -- but it turned out to be a very nice event, calm and low-key. D's cousin's six-year-old son made it his mission to entertain Ess, which he did in fine fashion, fake-slapping himself in the face and falling down dramatically on the living room rug, over and over again. She was totally entranced. And I had an entertaining conversation with him and his eight-year-old brother about Santa logistics (best question: what if you are good all year long, but then on Christmas Eve you are really, really bad?).

We came home to trundle our sleepy girl off to bed, then recommence wrapping and cooking (I had to marinate the beef for our Christmas dinner beef bourginoine, which I'm sure is spelled wrong). Finally, at about 9:45, we collapsed on the couch, me with a glass of the pinot noir the meat was marinating in, D with a dose of Nyquil he poured into a shot glass to be more festive. We sat together in the light of the Christmas tree, reconnecting, talking, going over the day's events. It was quick but very cozy, one of the very best kind of moments we've shared lately.

And then on Christmas we opened stockings, made breakfast (omelets with fancy goat cheese and amazing bacon and roasted red peppers) and opened presents. D and I managed to both buy something the other had really wanted (a wine book for him, a T-shirt from our local kick-ass bakery for me) despite the time and money crunch, which was very cool. His parents came over for appetizers, dinner and more presents; they bought a handful of things for Ess and a contribution to her college fund, as well as a couple things for us and a very nice check. Though I've had my issues with my in-laws in the past, and likely will again in the future, we spent a really relaxing three days with them. Ess clearly loves spending time with them, and they with her. And I really appreciate the lack of excess gift-giving on their part.

So now it is time to do this all over again, complete with a Christmas-morning re-creation at my parents' and visits to NJ friends and a lot more eating. (Not to mention a lot more excess; my parents are not known for restraint in the gift department.) It's unlikely that I'll post while we're down there, but we'll be back Saturday night. Hope you all have plenty of days off, a chance to get some fresh air and, if your diet is anything like mine has been recently, a green vegetable or two amidst all the chocolate.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

(And Happy Monday to everyone else.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

The final countdown

I'm working until 2 or 3 today, and actually getting stuff done, somewhat to my surprise. Even more to my surprise: I've been able to do a few interviews; having sources be available on the last work day before any holiday is rare and getting rarer.

D. came down with a bad, bad cold yesterday; he is on Ess duty until I'm done, and swears he can muddle through. Right now she's taking a long nap, though, and he's watching a movie on the couch. Good news for both of them. I'm a little worried about how his illness will affect our (extremely minimal) Christmas plans... and our planned trip to NJ next Wednesday. And I REALLY hope that Ess doesn't catch what he's got. I will have to work very hard to be a grownup, and not a whiny little kid, if we have to skip seeing my family for the holiday. And, yes, I am in fact borrowing trouble and I should really stop.

I started the wrapping last night. And, of course, began with the presents for my parents, which don't actually have to be wrapped until after Christmas. But they were all in one place, which was near the wrapping paper and tape, and so they got done. We only bought Ess one real present -- a beautiful helicopter from this place -- plus an ornament, and I'm pondering whether we should even bother wrapping them. But of course we will and she will try to eat the wrapping paper and totally ignore her swanky new toy.

We have very little in the way of plans for the next few days. Tomorrow morning I would like to write one of the freelance stories that are due in early January, but if D is still sick that's not going to happen. I also need to pick up a few little things for some friends we're planning to see in NJ (or for their kids, anyway), and we probably need to get something for our new daycare provider. And tomorrow would seem to be the last opportunity to do so.

Sunday we're supposed to go to D's aunt's house... a side of the family with whom we have very little contact. D is totally unenthused about going, but I convinced him that it will make his mom happy and, really, what's a couple hours once every few years? I'm actually looking forward to the large group gathering, since it will distract me from the fact that I'm missing the seven-fish dinner and related festivities at my grandparents' house.

And on Christmas D and Ess and I will spend the morning here by ourselves, opening presents and having breakfast -- omelets, maybe? His parents will come over later for beef bourginoine, which satisfies my need to make something slightly fancy and also satisfies his dad's desire to actually eat something that I cook (a true Mainer, he is a meat and potatoes man with very unadventurous culinary tastes). D has to work on Christmas, which we hope will mean that he just carries a cell phone... but there is a chance that he will have to go in to work, which would be really lousy.

So that's that. I really need to spend some time thinking about the positive things about having a quiet Christmas; talking to my sister, who is en route to NJ as I type this, made me realize that, much as I love the holidays at home, there is a fair amount of stress involved. Not to mention the uncertainty of how Ess will sleep at her grandparents' and the chaos of traveling with a blind, deaf, incontinent dog. So, yes, a quiet Christmas is ok. Just forgive me if I seem to repeat that sentiment over the next few days as I try to convince myself that I believe it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Katie Couric better watch her back

Well, perhaps that's overstating it a bit, since I apparently couldn't be bothered to sit up straight (note to self: the back of the chair is for decorative purposes only; do not actually lean back on it) and since my habit of looking at the ceiling when I'm thinking appears as eye-rolling on TV. But all in all, my four minutes of fame went quite well.

It was a bizarre experience, though. I showed up at the studio 45 minutes early, as instructed. I briefly met the producer -- who looked all of 12 -- then sat and waited in the darkened lobby. And waited. And then waited some more. I played with my new cell phone, talked to my sister, called my mom and waited some more. I only checked my appearance twice, which I think showed admirable restraint.

Speaking of my appearance: Holy near wardrobe malfunction! Somehow the shirt I carefully ironed and then set aside, to be put on just before I left the house, gained grease spots on both breasts. Where this came from I have no idea, but I discovered it at the last second and ran around the house shrieking like a maniac until I found a sweater that was clean and relatively unwrinkled.

In any case, when they finally escorted me into the studio, I chatted briefly with the hosts, hopped up on the chair and yammered away as they asked a handful of questions. They were interested in things I was taken aback by, and completely missed areas I felt certain they'd mention. I never said the magazine's name (the hosts did, more than once), and I totally missed a point I really wanted to make. But when I came home and watched the tape with D, I was surprised at how well I think I did. Got a nice email from my editor this evening saying he's proud of me, which was awfully sweet of him. And I've got another line on ye olde resume.

Now if only I could get my pulse rate down.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Random gerunds of Monday night

Munching: On Christmas cookies, an insane number of which appeared at my house this afternoon courtesy of a cookie swap at my sister's work. So I did nothing, and got a whole plate of cookies. It is fabulous and also quite evil.

Anticipating: A good night's sleep, something that -- through no fault of Ess' -- we haven't gotten in several days. We went to a Christmas party Friday night, then spent Saturday and Sunday staying up late with an old friend of mine who was visiting from the west coast. Asleep before midnight is the goal tonight, and I hope to beat it by at least 90 minutes.

Disbelieving: The fact that I spent much of that party discussing kids and careers and wuas totally fascinated by all of it. We did not get to real estate, but we could have. When did we turn into our parents?

Hoping: To finish my Christmas shopping tomorrow. Astonishingly, we got the cards done and the tree decorated last week. Most of my shopping is done, which is a huge relief.

Appreciating: Old friends. I hadn't seen my friend K for three or four years, and we didn't do a great job of keeping in touch since the last visit. But she is among my oldest of friends; we have seen each other at our best and at our worst, and -- a key factor in turning childhood friendships into adult relationships -- we have disagreed and gotten over it. It's a shame we live on the exact opposite sides of the country, because I'd love to see her more.

Stressing: About the fact that I have to appear on live TV later this week to talk about a story I wrote recently. There was a reason I did not choose broadcast journalism, so this strikes me as more than a little unfair. But my editor asked, and so I will go. What will I wear? How will I stop myself from gesticulating wildly while I talk? And, I say again, what will I wear?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

This post brought to you by the letter B

Sorry for the lack of posting lately... Christmas preparations, work, and a visit from a high school friend have combined to keep me far from the blogs. In any case, this is the meme where you post 10 things you like that begin with your assigned letter. My letter came from ppb, who thought B would be good because of the Baby. So here goes. And if you'd like to play along, leave a note in the comments and I will assign you a letter.

1. Blogging! I am finding that I miss the pressure of NaBloPoMo to post every day; it was a really good exercise, and now I've quickly returned to my lackadaisical posting schedule. But my point about blogging is that I'm frequently overwhelmed by the generosity of this community, something I'd never expected to find.
2. Baby, the. I am not one of those people who gets all squealy about babies in general, but I have to say that the one napping in the next room is pretty frickin' amazing.
3. Beer. Mmmmm. Can't wait to try the homebrew that a friend just passed along as a Christmas gift.
4. Bacon. We were out to brunch this morning and I had an amazing dish -- potato gnocchi with spinach, hollandaise and thick-cut bacon. Yum, yum, yum.
5. Beatles, the. An easy one, to be sure, but they really never go out of style, and it's so much fun to play them for Ess. I sing her "In My Life" -- a garbled version of it, anyway -- every night before bed.
6. Beach, the. It's not summer to me without a few days spent in a beach chair, with a sandy butt and a jug of eventually lukewarm water. I am so lucky to live within walking distance of the beach. It soothes my soul in a way little else does.
7. Beef. When I started eating meat after 5 or 6 vegetarian years, I began with turkey sandwiches, which were what I'd been craving. And then went home at Christmas and my mom had made meatballs. And that was the end of my ban on red meat. We try to buy local, grass-fed beef, although it doesn't come in all the cuts we use, but I am surprised at how comfortable I've gotten cooking it.... to the point where we probably ought to eat a little less.
8. Bocce. Another sign of summer -- the clink of the heavy balls as they meet, the chorus of groans when a throw goes astray, the friendly arguments over whose ball is closer. It's going to be a few years, but I can't wait to teach Ess how to play.
9. Beets. A surprising discovery of adulthood (and CSA membership). I LOVE a salad with greens, beets and goat cheese. It's a totally different vegetable than the canned slimy things I ate as a child.
10. Bed. Covers with some heft to them, a nice cushy pillow, a good book or magazine article and I am in heaven. In fact, I think a nap is in order right now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Random bullets of addressing Christmas cards

  • How did I end up knowing so many people who live in Ohio? Does it have anything to do with that John Gorka song "I'm from New Jersey"? (Sample lyric: "It's like Ohio, but even more so.")
  • Next year, I am getting pre-printed return address labels.
  • And possibly figuring out how to print labels from my address book.
  • Although I still refuse to capitulate to the tyranny of the pre-printed photo card with no room for a handwritten message. We will painstakingly hand-write the same two sentences over and over to all of our friends and like it, by god! (And, yes, a glass of wine helps this effort immeasurably.)
  • Curious how the card list has grown lengthier since we have a photo of a little cutie-pie to show off...
  • ...Although I did heed the words of some columnist or blogger I read once who griped about getting holiday cards that just include pictures of the kids; the theory is that your old friends are more interested in seeing your kid if they can see an updated photo of you, too... post-baby weight, receding hairline and all. (Not, of course, that either of those would apply to us. Ahem.) We opted for a family photo at a scenic locale (the nearby beach) with vaguely holiday-ish clothing (I'm in a red sweater, D's in a cream-colored Irish wool sweater, and Ess is decked out in her Swedish Childrensson Xmas dress and a fuzzy white hat).
  • And now that all 60+ cards have been addressed, return addressed and stamped, I have absolutely zero willpower to write messages on any of them. Can barely hold head up to finish my wine.
  • Someone remind me what it is we enjoy about the holidays?

Heat miser

Although my mind is filled with little more than variations on the question of how I can get Ess to sleep more -- yes, we are in two-steps-forward, one-step-back land with the Blerber method -- I want to write the post that's been spinning around in my head for the last few weeks. It was moved to the top of the mental "posts I should write" list when I read about jo(e)'s white cloths, which her family uses instead of paper towels.

We are conservation-minded around these parts... at least I am, and D goes along willingly whenever I propose a new conservation measure. We bought the Prius, after all (though in retrospect financing it with a home equity loan rather than an auto loan was really stupid... and this from someone who writes about personal finance...); we pay extra for green power; we recycle like crazy; we belong to a CSA, which not only provides us with fresh, local, organic vegetables but also cuts down tremendously on the amount of petroleum used along the way. I try to combine trips, to walk rather than drive when feasible, to print on both sides of the paper I use in my printer. And lately I've begun trying to unplug appliances when they're not in use... a task that creates more inconvenience than you might think.

So all of that seems reasonable, and quite likely more than the average bear does to conserve energy. But lately it seems nowhere near enough. In part, I'm obsessing about this stuff for financial reasons; with daycare bills starting up in three weeks (ye gods), we need to pinch our pennies even tighter than we have been. But I think parenthood has also created some urgency on this issue for me. I want Ess' world to be better than the one I grew up in. I certainly don't want her to have to deal with the doomsday scenarios of life after peak oil.

Herewith, some conservation measures, and some quasi-related home/health measures, I am pondering implementing:
~Plastic insulation on windows. We do this every year on the living room and bedroom windows, to keep the rooms warmer without having to turn up the thermostat. Gotta get the kits today. And, yes, they're plastic, but they work.
~An insulating cover for the hot water heater. I've been meaning to get one of these for a while and have never gotten around to it.
~Installing compact fluorescent light bulbs in as many fixtures as appropriate.
~Seriously decreasing the number of resealable plastic bags we use -- for sandwiches, for the half of the avocado Ess didn't eat, for the onion I only used half of. But I recently threw out most of our plastic containers since they'd gotten all bubbly and gross and I was worried about the plastic leaching into our food. Glass containers with lids are on my Christmas list, and I bet my mom will get them for me. That is one small step... and then there are the 400 others outlined at Leery Polyp, which just make me want to crawl under the desk and take a nap because I suspect she is right, but how much time and money do I have to restock my kitchen?
~Perhaps implementing jo(e)'s white cloth method. The main thing we use paper towels for, however, is cleanup of canine bodily fluids. I am not at all sure that I am comfortable using a white cloth in my kitchen that has also perhaps swabbed the dining room floor of dog urine (or, in last night's example, cleaned my rubber-soled slippers of the poop I stepped in on the way back from the compost pile in the dark). Hot water and bleach would do it, I guess, but that's a big mental hurdle to leap.
~Umm, there were others but they're totally escaping me right now.

So there you have it. Seems as though we need to spend money to save money, which is tough to ponder this time of year. I'm curious what y'all do -- whether you have any conservation tips that are working well for you, how much money you can imagine shelling out to save dough in the long run, that sort of thing.

Long post and linkage courtesy of Ess, who has now been napping for one hour and 45 minutes.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Seven months old

Dear Ess,

You are getting to be such a big kid! This month you've taken to solid foods with a vengeance. You love everything we've presented you with -- rice cereal, sweet potatoes, bananas, prunes, avocados, butternut squash -- and when we don't have those prepared quickly enough for you, you bang on the high chair and grunt at us as if to say, "Feed me!" We're really enjoying preparing your food and watching you gobble it down.

In just the last several days, you've become a very proficient sitter. You especially like to sit on the couch and play with your toys... or sink your hands into Rocky's fur. She tolerates it for now, but we suspect that once you become mobile she may be spending a lot more time upstairs. You've also begun shrieking at the dogs, who don't know quite what to make of this high-pitched noise coming unpredictably from such a small creature.

You're much stronger this month, spending lots of time on your tummy reaching for toys, shaking them and sticking them straight in your mouth. Your dexterity is impressive, as is the fuzz that's starting to appear on your head.

This month has been an adventure for all of us when it comes to sleep. You'd gotten quite frustrating, little girl, wanting only to sleep in our arms at night and not in your crib. So after trying every sleep-training method known to man (or at least available on the Internet), we decided to see what happened if we let you cry. Perhaps unwisely, we began this method the night of the surprise party for your father's 35th birthday. And it was hard to listen to you cry. Very, very hard. But you know what? It worked. You learned that you can fall asleep without us, and that nighttime is not time for playing. You've been sleeping much better these days, usually waking up around 1 or 2 and then again around 5. Your parents can now function a little better, which is a big relief, and you seem quite happy in the morning, which is also a relief.

In other sleep news, you've begun taking long, luxurious naps most days -- yesterday, for example, your morning nap lasted from 9:30 until noon! The only problem is that, just when we begin to count on a lengthy nap, you go back to a day of 40-minute snoozes. Oh well.

This month, you hosted your first party (with Mom's help); although you're starting to get a little wary around new people... or even favorite and beloved people who don't happen to be Mom and Dad... you really enjoyed watching the kids play when we celebrated Dad's birthday. You've also been out to dinner a few times, and you've gone grocery shopping nearly every week. You go into a sort of trance at the grocery store, where you gaze at the shelves full of products and spend the shopping trip being very quiet.

You celebrated your first Thanksgiving a few weeks back, and last night you came along as we bought your first Christmas tree. We're not sure a visit to Santa is in order this year given your nervousness around strangers... we'll have to see. Although the holidays are largely lost on you, we've been surprised to see that you actually almost enjoy the cold weather. You get bundled up in one of your fleece suits and go out for a walk almost every day; the cold air shocks you into a stunned silence, but after a while you start looking around and smiling (especially if Rocky's along).

You've gotten to see quite a bit of your Maine grandparents this month, which seems to make you awfully happy. And yesterday you got to see your New Jersey grandparents via webcam for the first time. It took a lot of work (and muttering under the breath) on your mother's part to get the camera set up, but it was a lot of fun once we got it working. Like the rest of us, they were amazed at how big you've gotten, and how interested in the world you are.

It's hard to capture in words how amazing you are, and how very much we love you. But you are, and we do. It may sound a little sappy, but we've already gotten the very best Christmas gift we could imagine. We love you like crazy, Boo Boo.

Mom and Dad

Saturday, December 09, 2006

How not to start your day

7:15 Get up when Ess wakes. Find her playing and smiling in her crib, snuggled up with her Taggie. When you change her diaper, realize that prunes are perhaps best served at a meal other than dinner.

7:25 Head downstairs. Put Ess in bouncy seat; realize that the frequency with which she's sitting means this won't be a baby containment option for much longer. Open the kitchen door and discover a puddle of pee on the floor. Thank whichever deity is responsible for the idea that Jelly gets locked in the kitchen at night, and that Ess is not yet crawling.

7:27 Pick Jelly up and carry her into the backyard. Discover that your zeal for not letting heat escape from the house means you have pulled the back door tight behind you. It is locked. You are wearing red slippers, blue pajama pants, an orange shirt, and a pink cardigan, and nothing else. D is still in bed. It is approximately 18 degrees out.

7:28 Knock insistently on the back door. No answer. Ponder which neighbor will be least likely to make fun of your outfit should you need to borrow the phone, and how likely it is that Ess will topple her bouncy seat over in her attempt to sit upright in it.

7:29 Go to driveway and bellow up at the bedroom window.

7:30 Gratefully re-enter the house, courtesy of your wonderful husband. Lock the dogs
out of the kitchen and clean up the pee. Feed the dogs and put Ess down on her tummy in the living room, where she can watch them eat.

7:35 Put Rocky out in the yard. Watch her through the kitchen window for the telltale signs of coprophagia. Listen to Ess whine about tummy time. When Rocky assumes her hunched, guilty position, open the window and shake the treat jar to lure her back inside.

7:36 Rocky completely ignores you. Mutter curses under your breath. In same outfit as above, go into the backyard (note that back door is now unlocked). Trudge through the snow in slippers to corral disobedient shih tzu.

7:37 Return inside. Leave snow-filled slippers at the door. Ess is whining. The kitchen still smells like pee. But you have a massage appointment at 10:15, and a dinner date (rescheduled from last weekend) with your husband. Determine that this is all kind of funny, and crack open the laptop.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I love you, sweater

Living up here in the frozen north, sweaters are a fact of life, along with silky long underwear and a hat that covers your ears. So I have acquired a collection of warm, woolly sweaters of which I am quite fond. And right now I am mourning the fact that nursing/pumping makes it impractical to wear them; I just can't deal with that much bulky fabric jammed up under my chin several times a day.

So this year I have become a proponent of the cardigan. I only have a couple, so they are seeing extremely heavy wear these days, especially today's little gray wool number. The cardigans are practical and warm enough, I guess, but I sure do miss my sweaters. Maybe next year....

On a separate wintry topic: I really need to buy some winter boots (the kind for trudging through snow and navigating the icy back deck). I typically wear my hiking boots through winter, but they're not weatherproofed, nor are their treads particularly well suited for snow. I've been meaning to buy real boots for years, but the thought of slipping and falling with miss Ess in my arms has me convinced that this is the year. My only question? What kind to buy that will keep my feet warm and dry for not too much money. Any ideas, friends?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Safe food vs. scary food

I bookmarked two news stories today and was trying to decide which one to write about... then I realized that they're actually opposite sides of the same coin.

Side the first: A Seattle woman who was trapped in a snowbound car with her husband and two little kids for nine days was able to keep the girls alive by breastfeeding them, despite her own lack of nourishment. I'm glad to see the media reporting on this angle, especially given some of the furor over breastfeeding in recent weeks. I think a story like this does a lot more to spread information about the positive effects of BFing than any number of nurse-ins. (Thanks to Zoot for the heads-up on this saga, which I hadn't heard about. And here's hoping that the husband, who left to find help, is found safe and sound very soon.)

Side the second: The e. coli outbreak at Chalupa Ding Dong (sorry, I can't resist; Phantom and Songbird have infected me with their imaginative aliases, of which this is but a poor imitation). Given the recent spinach debacle, I wonder when we are going to start talking about the problems in the corporatization of our food system, particulary as it relates to agribusiness. Rather, I wonder when those conversations will move from the rarified circles of food bloggers and the buy-local crowd into the mainstream. (Yes, Michael Pollan wrote about this topic for the Times Magazine a while back, but I'm not sure that counts since he is the king of buy -- and eat -- local.)

All that said, Chalupa Ding Dong is my fast food weakness. I got addicted to it when I lived in, of all places, the southwest, where real burritos and enchiladas were everywhere. But Chalupa Ding Dong was super cheap, and so I ate their (then) 79 cent bean burritos like they were going out of style. Luckily for me, the only one nearby now is in the mall food court, which I do not frequent all that frequently. But I can tell you at which exits between here and the state of my birth have a convenient Chalupa Ding Dong; we've stopped at all of them at one time or another. So I understand, I think, the diners who are eating there despite the outbreak. But I'm coming to the conclusion that I may have finally lost my taste for Chalupa Ding Dong. What fun is a guilty pleasure, after all, if it may land you in the hospital, or worse, and when it supports the very factory food system you claim to abhor? (And that is causing American vegetable farmers to lose market share to overseas growers who are flooding the market with el cheapo produce?)

So there you have it. Wonderful, amazing food that saves lives -- and, really can you get any more local than your mom's breast? -- and frightening eats that kill people. With so many links that you might think Jody had written this post (although her prodigious linkage puts this mere smattering to shame).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Can't find nothing good on the radio

I was on my way out to lunch with a friend and her seven-month-old this afternoon when I switched to a different radio station than the one I normally listen to. My radio hierarchy is NPR, then the local adult alternative station, then whatever else.

Rarely do I venture off those first two. But NPR was playing the Gates hearings, and I was in the mood for something a little more rhythmic. The adult alternative (or roots or Americana or whatever they've taken to calling the music I listen to) station was playing an hour of reggae, and I was in the mood for something less repetitive. So I ended up listening to another local station, one that plays hits from the 80s, 90s and today, with a playlist designed to "get you through your workday." Not something I normally go for, but they were playing something good... an old Til Tuesday song, I believe... and so I kept it tuned it.

And then at the break, they played one of their pre-recorded promos. These things are not known for their subtlety or wit, but this one, intoned by a silky female voice, blew me away:

"WXYZ: Almost as good as chocolate and credit cards."

Umm, credit cards?? I can see how you'd want your radio station to rank right up there with dark chocolate and free money, but debt? High interest payments? Subsidizing giant corporations while you live paycheck to paycheck? Not to mention the implication that if you listen to this station, you're a woman and therefore you like to eat sweets and spend money you don't have. Gah.

I always knew that corporate radio was evil, but this has me totally speechless.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Attack of the gerunds, Monday edition

Craving: Sleep, glorious sleep. We are using the Sleep Method That Shall Not Be Named, and while we are seeing some progress, it is exhausting in the process. I got two, two-and-a-half hour chunks of sleep last night, which is simply not enough. And then settled down to nap when Ess did this afternoon, and instead of the hour or more she's been napping lately, she was down for 35 minutes... which D called in the middle of. She's now down again -- after just an hour and a quarter -- and I've decided to not even bother trying to sleep. Here's hoping that tonight we see some improvement...

Regretting: The hasty decision I made about which photo to use for our Christmas cards. A friend shot the photos and then uploaded them to the Blodak Gallery... which meant I couldn't download them myself and apply the limited amount of Photoshop magic I know. So I picked one quickly that night and submitted the order. Since then, I've looked at the shots online a number of times, and there's one I like a lot better -- there is actually light on our faces, we look happy, and even though Ess isn't looking at the camera, you can see her face and her adorable Swedish Childrensson dress (Jennie, it's the one I sent you). But the prints of the other shot arrived over the weekend, and we will make do. Apparently I am not alone in experiencing this phenomenon this year...

Wondering: Where the hell my Christmas spirit has gone to. I suspect its absence has something to do with gerund the first, but it's tough. Ess and I went out to do a few things this morning, including a quick trip to my favorite kitchen store to get a decent knife for my dad, who's admired our chef's knife a few times. Christmas carols were playing in the store, which was full of people bustling around with their shopping lists, and it just did absolutely nothing for me. I don't typically go nuts for the holidays, but I like them... and this year I feel nada so far. But maybe that will change once we get the decorations out and buy the tree next weekend.

Anticipating: A visit from a high school friend who has lived on the west coast for the last several years. She doesn't get back east very often -- I think the last time was four years ago -- and we aren't great at keeping in touch in between. But we always connect really well when we do see each other. She's going to stay with us the weekend after next, and I can't wait to introduce her to Ess and talk to her about motherhood (her son is nine already!).

Gazing: Upon our new, 27-inch flat-screen TV, which was my parents' and grandparents' combination birthday and Christmas gift to D. I didn't much care that since our old TV had broken we were watching a small screen, but my husband the movie buff has practically been in physical pain. We inaugurated it with a viewing of Clerks II over the weekend; while I am a huge Kevin Smith fan, I've gotta say that this one was underwhelming. And, yes, I am enjoying the new, bigger TV... although it does sort of dominate the living room now.

Hearing: A wee girl waking from her nap, so thus endeth the gerunds for today. Blogger's being wonky, so I'll come back and add links later, presuming this even posts in the first place...

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Today D turns 35. So last night I threw him a surprise party that was incredibly successful. I'd been plotting and planning for weeks... all of which was thrown into chaos when it turned out that he took yesterday off instead of working until 5 as originally planned. But my brother-in-law heroically offered to take him out for a couple beers, so my in-laws and my sister and I were able to get the house in order with plenty of time to spare. Bizarrely so, in fact, because even though I had only an hour between when he left and when guests were to arrive, we ended up standing around with nothing to do for 20 minutes.

In any case, D was thrilled with the surprise; he says he's still kind of wired from it today. It doesn't hurt that far-flung friends have been calling to say hello since last night; right now D is on the phone with one of the kids (who is now probably in his late 20s) we used to work with when we lived in the southwest. And if my advance information is correct, the phone will continue to ring all day, and the e-mails will keep pouring in. It's so much fun to watch; we've been fairly isolated from all but a few people since Ess was born, and lately that has really been getting D down. So it's very cool to reconnect with people, and to see the pleasure he's getting out of it. He totally deserves it.

Tonight, my in-laws are babysitting and D and I are going out to a fancy restaurant by ourselves. This is financially ill-advised (though not ruinous by any means), but I'm taking advantage of the opportunity to treat ourselves. Frankly, I'm also glad that D's parents will be dealing with little Ess after bedtime... I will have to fill you in on the latest in the sleep saga when I feel a little better about it all.

In any case, half a year of parenthood has certainly had its ups and downs, and created a certain amount of stress in our relationship. So it feels so good to be able to do something nice for D, and to see him enjoy it so thoroughly.

On top of all that, we've got a fridge full of beer, more wine than we started out with and a bunch of leftover chili (sadly, my sister's stuffed shells were so popular that I never even got a bit before they vanished). It's sunny (if windy) here, and Ess has been napping for almost two hours. All in all, a very good day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Sneaky Pete

D's birthday is tomorrow. I have more than one sneaky, secret thing going on, and I have come thisclose to letting the cats out of their respective bags more than once. The time for secrecy is coming to an end, but as the hours tick by I am finding it harder and harder to keep my big mouth shut.

He rarely reads this blog, but on the off chance that he checks in today or tomorrow morning, I will keep my silence for now. Details to come over the weekend. And if anyone can lend me some discretion in the meantime? It'd be very much appreciated.