Saturday, July 31, 2010

Offerings to the Goddess of Domesticity

It all started with a mixer and a pat on the back. A couple weeks ago, one of my amazing relatives gave me stand mixer. Not knowing of my love for all things vintage kitchen, she had no idea how much I would love this item. It's an old school Sunbeam Mixmaster...

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so, Sunbeam has designed a "Heritage Series" that looks just like mine. But I hold an original, in a fantastic mustardy color no one else can get unless they find it on eBay.

So what would be the maiden voyage for my new kitchen tool? I considered a few things... bread was out of the question, no dough hook (but it's coming soon, yipee!) It occurred to me that my mom could use a treat. She's so awesome about helping out with Alex, and keeping me company when the hubby is at work late at night. She also had a big work milestone/accomplishment coming up. So I would make my first offering to the domestic goddess dedicated to her as a pat on the back. Not an easy prospect. You see, I come from a line of REALLY good bakers. Baking is a science, but they truly have the touch. My Gram measures things with her hands, and they still come out perfect. Mom not only makes the best pie crust EVER, but is the keeper of the most eclectic and impressive collection of recipes I've ever seen. She's even got recipes from old TV Guides that make really good food... who'd-a thunk?! Despite this, it came to me in a flash... Black and White Cookies! If you've never been to NYC, you've never really had a Black and White. The prepackaged cookies in the store do not count. They're full of stabilizers and therefore not as fresh and tasty. B&Ws are cakey and have shiny glaze icings. These are things that really need to be fresh.

A quick digression on why B&Ws.... Mom and I used to go to NYC for my birthday every February. we'd stay in a great hotel near Broadway (I was a theatre major in collage, this was awesome for me!) and go see a show. We would always go to Macy's, and we would always get B&Ws. Knowing how much we both loved these trips and how it would be at least a year before we would go again, it had to be Black and Whites.

The recipe was relatively simple, which worried me. Could they really be that good? In fact, they were! I Googled the recipe and surprisingly, there weren't a lot of choices. I settled on the recipe:

If you're going to try this recipe, a couple of notes... cut back a bit on the lemon juice, make sure the water you use for the icing is boiling, and you can use unsweetened chocolate squares in lieu of the cocoa, I used a block and a half. Here are the results of my efforts, pre and post icing:

Next up, I'm going to try the recipe for cupcakes that my fellow blogger and beer lover Stephanie Mansueto suggests on her blog

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Art of Minimal Sleeping

Big duh, right? New parents get very little sleep. And what they do get is often sporadic, interrupted and often on strange surfaces. If you read my blog you are most likely friends with me on Facebook, so you know that I'm a fan of the late night nap face down on the living room floor. There's a very specific reason why I'm in the living room at 11:00 pm and not in my bed. I've managed to magically make my pumping schedule 4 times a day, every 6 hours. This shouldn't work, but somehow it does and somehow I'm producing enough, so I go with it. However, the midnight round is tough. Alex usually falls asleep around 10, 10:30 pm. If I let him go, he'd be up at 4:00 am every morning, which is not a very friendly wake up call. So since I have to be up at midnight anyway, we let him sleep in the living room until 12:00 then stick a bottle in his face while re-diapering him. If we do the parental double team, he stays asleep through this and goes right to bed. Then I do my thing and join my boys in the bedroom. Alex's night time baby nap is the perfect time for me to finish laundry, flip the dishwasher or pass out. Pass out usually wins.

Lately Alex has been waking up at 4 in the morning despite our careful planning. Growing teeth is a painful and difficult process, and he likes to share his experience with his mom. Not that I blame him... if I had little enamel bullets cutting through my delicate virgin gums, I'd probably bitch a bit too. For the first two nights of this, I was an grumpy, slightly tearful mess. It just so happened that these early mornings coincided with Dennis' opening shifts. While I truly believe that parenting is a two person job, I still try to be extremely respectful of this. I've worked the business. I understand that not only are the hours long, but you are on your feet all day in an extremely hot kitchen (this past week they recorded 105 degree temps in there!) Add to that the fact that he's the new guy in a newly created position, and there's some serious pressure to be on your A game. So on the days where I know he has to go in early, I try to make sure he's not up too late with Alex, and try to usher the little guy out of our room at the first hints of wakefulness. So no help for the mommy. I was exhausted, I was frustrated, I was not functional. I would comfort, feed, then rock to sleep. By this time, it would be 5:00 am. The logical thing at this point would be for me to pump, even though I usually do it at 6:00 am. I would grumble under my breath the entire time, read status updates from my west coast friends (and up late east coasties), play games on my iPod so I wouldn't fall asleep in the chair. Then I'd trudge back to bed at 5:45 knowing I had to be up in about 3 hours. GRUUUUM-PY! It was a vicious cycle, and I was getting pretty snarky, which is never good for household relations.

Around the middle of last week, after wallowing in my own pity puddle for several hours, I decided enough was enough. The next time Alex took a nap, I went outside, turned the sprinkler on to water the garden, and stood in it. It was a wake up call in more than one way... it was freekin freezing on a 110 degree heat index day, and it was a good reminder that you make your own fun, your own attitude, your own daily path. Yeah, getting up at 4 am sucks big time, but I chose this. I wanted to be a mom, and Alex is worth every second. So next time I had to get up at 4 am, I didn't have to like it, but I didn't get to hate it either. I would take a deep breath, a good stretch and rescue my sugar from dreams of bears and baby fangs. I ran this over in my head several times while drying off from the sprinkler. I thought about it while I gave Alex his evening bath. I repeated it over and over during my midnight session (it's really easy to mentally repeat things while pumping, the pump sound is totally made for meditation!)

You know what? It worked. When Alex got fussy at 3:45 that morning I got up, stretched and felt more awake and in control of the situation. Alex was more calm while I changed him and fell back to sleep quicker and easier. I finished my business, went back to bed and felt more refreshed when I got up that morning. Am I still tired? Oh yeah. I don't think I'll stop being tired until he's at least 30 or so. But I no longer feel like crap. I don't want to bite anyone's head off. And by far the best part is that Alex let me sleep until 5:30 this morning (hey, its another hour and a half, I'll take what I can get!) and then again until 9:00. I'm not the type to preach like a caffeine amp'd self-help guru, but it worked for me. It brought my happy back.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

...and for her next trick....

I've had a touch of nostalgic feelings for my pre-baby job lately. It doesn't help that Dennis works for Dogfish Head. For those of you who don't know, I used to be the South East Florida rep for Shipyard Brewing Company. I loved my job, a lot. I was ready to leave at the end, but that had to do more with hauling my bulk in and out of my VW Bug than the job itself. I miss my friends from the establishments I worked with and the people from my distributor desperately, and that includes all the awesome people associated with them as well.

One of the things I miss the most though, is a bit egotistical. I miss walking into a bar cold, asking to see the bar manager and introducing myself. This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but the percentage of women in the craft beer industry is pretty small. Add to that the tendency by large distributors to use model types to present the beers rather than knowledgeable representatives, and you've got an even smaller number. So the scenerio usually went like this:

Me: Hi, I'm Amy and I work for Shipyard Brewing Company.

Bar Manager: Unhhh. I guess we should think about adding craft beers. Bar X down the street did, and people keep asking for them... I personally don't like all those fancy beers.

Me: Well, we've got a great portfolio of styles for you to choose from...

Bar Manager (with skeptical look in the eye): What can you tell me about the beers.

At this point, they expect me to pull out a sell sheet and start regurgitating facts from a beer selling seminar. Instead, I'd ask for their menu. This would usually illicit a look of "what are ya gonna do with that?" I'd get the menu and put my 18+ years of restaurant experience to work by pairing beers with their dishes and making wine style to beer style comparisons. Add to that a healthy knowledge of craft beer in general, the fact that Dennis and I home brew and a dash of occasional "tell them just what they want to hear to stroke their ego" bullshit. The result was always the same as if they'd just met a talking cat. Female? Homebrewer? Actually knows her shit? Oh the satisfaction of proving a stereotype wrong. I loved building relationships with new establishments and nurturing previous relationships lovingly handed over by my predecessor...

...Amelia Daly.

Despite all the fun I had on that end, the biggest loss with the move and change of occupation to full-time mom is festivals. Those who have not worked beer festivals often think it's just a bunch of drunk shenanigans where you pour some beers and shoot the shit. Mostly... they're right. But for the Malty Mama, it was work, work work.... First, I was pregnant the entire time I had the job. Second, I'm a workaholic. Third, my restaurant training has beaten into my brain that if there's a customer, you man your post! So no drinking for me... but standing there and pouring beers was a blast. I met so many cool people at events and festivals, I got to hang out with all of my work friends at the same time, and I got to talk about my favorite subject all night.

So to go from all the travel (which did suck a good bit, but wasn't completely awful), restaurants, ride-alongs,

and festivals to laundry and dishes and baby joggling was quite the shift. I think I just mostly miss my friends from down south. I don't think I'll ever want to move back to Florida. Visit, yes. Move, noooooo. But if I could transport my buddies here or me there just for an hour or two, it would make me very happy. Add some Plineys, a Creme Brulee Stout and a My Antonia to share amongst us, and it'd be pure bliss.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sheep Dip and the World's Ugliest Handbag

**TMI Alert** for my friends who are wiggy about things like breastfeeding, this is not the post for you.

Ah, breastfeeding. The most natural thing in the world. They warn you that it will be hard work at first, baby acclimating to eating while figuring out how to survive post belly. Mommy having to be patient with the whole proper latch thing while recovering from labor and delivery. So, it sounds like it's going to be tough, but doable, right? I felt ready. I had a bit of resistance from some folks who didn't understand, but all in all there was a lot of support. My family was 100% behind me, especially my husband. So how could I not succeed?

At 38 weeks I went in for an ultrasound to check the position of my little guy. He had been transverse toward the end of the pregnancy, so there was a bit of worry over position. Well, the worry went from position, which was correct, to size. He wasn't huge, but there was some concern that he would be too big by term. The OB decided with best intentions that I should be induced a week pre-term, as in seven short days later. Being my first baby and not having a ton of close friends (as in zero close friends) that had gone through L&D, I was excited. No more waiting! I knew exactly when I was going to the hospital. Checked my lists and my suitcase, I was ready to go. Ah the innocence... little did I know that while Pitocin does start the labor process, it is notorious for making it drag out. And drag. And drag. And drag. This shouldn't have been too much of a surprise to me. I've always had a bit of weird sixth sense about things, most particularly breakfast foods. Apparently when I was very young, I used to wake up and ask my mom for the very thing she was considering for breakfast. But I digress. I was scheduled for the hospital on March 9th, but somehow I just knew Alex was supposed to be born on the 10th. I was only 2.5 cm 9 hours into labor. And I hurt. Realllllly bad. They won't give you your epidural until you are at least 3 cm. Finally I hit the magic number, had a really bad epi experience (subject for a later time) and went to la-la land. Skip ahead to 4:00 am the next morning (I arrived at 8:00 am the day before) and little Alex was born. To a mommy with a 103 degree temp. Not good. They let me see him for a foggy couple of minutes, then he was whisked away to the NICU for antibiotics. Breastfeeding strike one. When I was finally allowed to go to the NICU to see him (6 HOURS LATER!) there he was in his little Tupperware bin hooked to a bunch of tubes. At that point, they were running tests, administering medications, and pricking his little heels for the first of many times (by the time we left the hospital, his feet looked like they got in a fight with a staple gun and lost.) I was told to go rest and come back in an hour or so. So I listened, what did I know? Biiiiig mistake. This was my super early chance to try to get him latched. Nurses mean well, but after a while, I think they have to harden themselves into stock answers and responses. I understand, but their advice can result in serious confusion. Too many opinions, many based in their own child rearing experiences rather than fact, created serious confusion. Alex's first charge nurse was the one that got the bad ball rolling. I came back down in my wheelchair to see him and try to feed him. I got arranged, I tickled his face, but he wouldn't latch. He would arch away and cry! I remembered all the books that said not to take it personally, so I steeled myself and gently tryed again. Same response. So I took the time to just cuddle with him, unwrap him and check out all the little bits and pieces. Re-enter nurse #1. "You're going to have to get him to eat something within the next hour, or I have to give him a bottle of formula." I cried. The lactation nurse came by and asked if I was okay. I explained my situation and she said she'd be right back. She came back with a little tube attached to a syringe with formula. She taped it to me and tryed to get him to latch. This would have worked if I had anything more than a few drops of colostrum. Which is SUPPOSED to be all a baby needs the first day. But there was pressure from all sides to get him fed as soon as possible as not only did he have a bit of my temp when he was born, but he was starting to exhibit signs of jaundice. This, they explained, meant that he needed more food earlier to help fight it off. I discovered later that while this may be mildly true, it's more a case of the hospital trying CYA tactics by doing everything possible to get the baby healthy quick. Alex tried to latch when he tasted the formula, which is good. The fact that we discovered he's a barracuda eater was strike two. Kid chomped down and ate like he was in the Nathan's hot dog eating competition. But I could work with this... if he's such a strong sucker, it should bring my milk down, right? Well in hind-sight, while my OB may have thought Alex was ready to see the world, I think my body wasn't quite ready to take care of him yet. He was way too hungry and greedy each time he fed to put up with my slow milk. All he wanted was the push of the formula syringe. When we tried without it, screaming ensued. So on to the formula in the bottle we went. I cried more.

Strike three came over the next few days. I got very lucky in that they moved Alex to a private NICU room with a couch. I moved in immediately and my lactation nurse ordered up an Ameda pump. Before I go any further, let me just make two things very clear. My lactation nurse was AWESOME. She did everything possible to help me, comfort me and make this work. Second, I have an enormous respect for nurses, especially NICU ones. They have an incredibly difficult job, and do it well every single day. HOWEVER... many nurses over many days can make a tired, semi-drugged, over emotional new mommy nuts. Each one had an opinion (unsolicited, mind you) about why the latch wasn't happening, what I could do to fix it, if I should use a nipple shield, if I should use a syringe, what kind of bottle to use... I intermittently cried and snapped. By the time we left the hospital 5 days after entering it, I was determined to go home with my baby and make this work.

Fast forward 3 weeks later to a resolved Amy. Alex was far too impatient and greedy, my milk was still a bit slow, and we just didn't get the latch down early enough. I refused to make feeding time horrible for both of us, so I got friendly with my Medela pump. I had purchased the pump 5 weeks before I was due planning to use it for supplemental feedings once he was about 2 months old. I'm so glad we invested in an expensive high end pump. But let's just talk a moment about the concept behind my particular model... it's called the "Pump in Style" and comes in a black "handbag."

Now will someone please tell me what is stylish about this bag? It reminds me of a bridesmaid dress. I'm not going to cut that puce taffeta ruffled monstrosity and wear it again, just like I would never pull the pump out of this bag and carry it with me on date night. Can't they just call it a "pump in a granny bag" or "pump with straps and a zipper front?" It is possibly the world's ugliest handbag, but I just couldn't bring myself to get the one in a backpack. I kept imagining trying to pump in the front while wearing the motor on my back. I know I would never be in a situation that required this, but still!

That brings me to the Sheep Dip portion of my post. While I know Lansinoh is not actually the same thing as sheep dip... sheep dip kills fleas while Lansinoh is like booby chapstick, you can't help calling it that. Or at least I can't. Lansinoh has saved my pumping ass though. It was getting to the point about six weeks into pumping where I would dread doing it. It hurt, the pumps would slip off so I was only doing one side at a time, it was taking forever... Then I remembered that my cousin Katelyn had sent me a tube of Lansinoh. I read the label, "HPA Lanolin" eh? Sooooo, sheep dip. I tried a little out after pumping and it soothed what ailed me. The only problem was, I noticed it had completely disolved by my next session. I re-read the label "does not have to be removed prior to feeding." Sweet! I can use it before I pump! What I soon came to realize is that not only do my nerps no longer hurt, but it makes the shields stick! I'm back to double pumping, and while I still stress about volume, it's no longer the painful dreaded process it once was. So if you're reading this and can't get a latch, keep trying while you still have patience. Try a little longer after that... but know that there is an alternative if it doesn't work. It isn't you or your baby that doesn't work, it's just a fluke of the system and you can still provide that liquid gold for your baby. And feel damn good about it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oh My, Goodness!!

As some of you may know, I'm trying to raise Alex with a bit of a "back to basics" approach. While I haven't yet purchased his FuzziBunz (cloth diapers to the uninitiated) due to the financial strains of moving, I'll be doing so within the next month. I can't wait, as they come in very cute colors and will eliminate the 80 pound diaper trash bags I empty every week. They also cut down on diaper rash, and you have to be suspicious of anything that can take that much fluid and turn it into a flexible gel-solid the way disposables do. I know it'll be a lot of laundry, but I do at least one load a day between Alex clothes and the fact that my husband wears at least two sets of clothes a day (chef stuff then regular stuff.)

I've already started the other old school part of his rearing though: home made baby food. I was going to wait a little while longer to start feeding him beyond the bottle. The books indicate six months or so before you start solids, but the Dr. Sears baby book (thanks for the intro, Erica!!) says to look for signs. Well Alex was all but flashing neons at me. First was the fascination with Dennis and I eating. At first I thought he just liked watching food disappear, but then I noticed that he was chewing along with us. Then he started sticking everything in his mouth and biting down on it, which lead us to notice not two, not four, but eight (count 'em, eight!) teeth coming in. I had already done my research on making my own baby food. I originally thought I would get one of the all-in-one Beaba machines that steams and purees the foods in one container. I changed my mind when I noticed a lot of the Amazon reviews sited problems with mold growth. Not to mention it was $150 and really only good for baby food. So instead I bought a $25 Black and Decker steamer that can steam not only the foods for Alex, but is big enough for potatoes or corn on the cob. Then I purchased a Kidco puree-er. Sure, I could have bought a food processor, but I wanted something really simple and the the Kidco came with 2 lidded freezer trays with 7 portion spots per. Last but not least Amazon suggested I add a book called "100 Baby Purees", so I bit. Good call, it's awesome! So there sat all the equipment on my kitchen counter and a baby that was doing everything but yelling "I'll take mine medium-rare with a baked potato, salad with italian and the carmelized brussels sprouts." Time to give it a shot. First food was going to be carrots. This was a decision based not in tons of research, but in the fact that I had some baby carrots in my fridge. I popped them in the ole' steamer for 15 minutes and went about my business. When the timer dinged, I pulled off the lid (more carefully than I did today, steam burns suck!) and voila! soft carrots. Next step, into the mini processor. The recipes in the book say to either use unsweetened fruit juice, baby's usual milk (formula or breast) or water. I'm not keen on adding sweetness to his first foods and the mommy milk comes dear, so water it was. I used the water from under the just-steamed veggies to keep as many vitamins in the food as I could, and blended away. Out came a nice smooth texture... so far so good. Here's the part that anyone who has known me for more than five minutes has realized must come. For some reason... be it sleep deprivation, cockiness that everything has been so easy thus far, or just plain Amy-ness, getting the puree INTO the freezer tray was a debacle. This should have been a very simple process of spooning carrot puree into the ice-cube tray type storage. First I forgot to remove the blade from the processor, so the spoon caught it and it plopped back down. This was the first shower of orange goo I subjected myself to. Then, for some reason, just the simple process of spooning the food into the sections ended in carrots on my elbows, on the underside of cabinets and smushed on the coffee maker. Eeeeeeyeah. Only me.

A little later (due to the massive clean-up effort) it was time to see if all my hard work and culinary brilliance paid off. I plopped Alex into his highchair, spooned up a little still warm carroty goodness and hoped for the best. I clicked the tray on for the first time, put the container far enough away from his little fingers and spooned up a teeeeeeeny tiny little bit. I was expecting him to push the food back out of his mouth. I expected a bit of fussing or head turning. I was NOT expecting a baby that opened his mouth up wide, swallowing every little bit. I certainly never guessed that if I didn't feed him fast enough and with enough on the spoon, that he would bang his little fist on the tray. That's right. In an empirical gesture of such sureness, he balled up his fist and wacked the tray. This was not a random flailing. He did it every single time I paused to stir or re-portion what was on the spoon. Hy-sterical! On the first go round he ate half the portion, which is equivalent to 1/4 a jar of baby food. Ever since, he's been eating an entire portion, twice a day. This is in addition to his regular bottles! This kid was made for eating. On top of which, he's enjoyed everything I've made him so far: the aforementioned carrots, butternut squash, even broccoli! Admittedly, I have to hold my nose in order to make it, but the kid thinks it's great. It might be that I sing "choppin' brocc-o-l'eye" during the entire feeding, but I'm hoping it's because he actually likes the stuff.

The best part of all this is, of course, all the goodness he's getting from fresh fruits and veggies. I buy organic whenever I can, but Whole Foods is no where to be found. I have to admit there is an awesome second reason. Just like the cloth diapers which will pay for themselves within three months, making Alex's food appeals to my inner cheap-skate. Here's the math. I purchased broccoli that made 7 portions, a sweet potato that yielded an additional 7 portions, and a butternut squash that yielded 14 portions on my last grocery trip. It cost me $3.02. Keep in mind that each portion is only one half a normal retail baby food size. So 28 portions is 14 baby food containers. 14 containers of organic baby food would cost me about $20. Can anyone say cha-ching??!! By the end of the month, the steamer and processor will have paid for themselves. AND there are no preservatives, no recalls, no line inspectors named Helga who forgot to wash her hands after devouring left over Taco Bell on her break. Nothin' but goodness...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Blended Families

(a pictorial love letter to my new dirt...)

Dear Yard,

You are a marvelous thing! I love having grass to tickle my toes and my puppy's belly and a big enough space to run.

You'd been neglected by your previous caretaker; overgrown with weeds, big dirt spots where grass used to be, last year's freeze killing two of your trees.

But there are beautiful remnants of the first owner on your green lush skirts. From what my neighbor has told me, your first owner truly loved you. The same neighbor that passed along a beautiful Lilac tree cutting that has reached the roofline in the past 10 years. Your first owner planted the trees out front, two of which were killed in the blizzard. One still stands though, and is a haven to no less than 3 bird's nests and adds lovely morning shade to the front of my east facing house.

My mom has added some beautiful flowers to your weed riddled beds to add a burst of color.

You hid from me some of your most lovely secrets for the first few months, it was almost as if you were holding your breath to see if I would care for you like I should. Like the sweet pink roses, the surprising presence of a cactus, and the bright happy yellow wild flowers that fill the south and west beds.

But my greatest thrill is blending in with your beauty. Adding my own treasures of veggies and greenery. Borrowing the shade of your big flowering I-don't-know-what-you-are bush for my cukes, peppers and tomatoes.

One of your best features is not a part of your natural state, but rather a command central for us bite-able, overheating weak creatures. The screened in gazebo that was such a deciding factor in our choosing you, provides a fan to cool us and protection from your fearsome insect inhabitants.

From here I can see the beautiful Crepe Myrtle that just bloomed last week, and our second garden complete with late Silver Queen and a Pumpkin Patch. The Pumpkin leaves are getting so big, I've dreamed that the vines overtake the entire house!

Last but not least, the air and sun have been so good to your "step-children:" my potted plants from a previous residence :)

You are so good to me, little yard. I appreciate you and hope we will continue to take care of each other for a great while. I'll even overlook the fact that you provide sanctuary to the earwigs from Ceti Alpha Five!


p.s. I've enclosed a picture of Alex, he grows as fast as your weeds!

Friday, July 16, 2010

SoFla Regrets...

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy to be back in the Mid-Atlantic area. I love seasons, I love the proximity of my family, I love 90 Minute IPA....

But there are things that I wish I did before I left:

1. Hang out at Abraxas with all the beer people
2. Eat a meal at Big Pink
3. Go bowling at one of the fancy places
4. Hang out on the beach at SoBe all day, eat lunch under the awnings then dinner at Joe's Stone Crab
5. Go kayaking at the place in Aventura with the good beer
6. Stay at the W in Fort Lauderdale for a night
7. Hang out at Fat Cats one more time
8. Get a professional beach portrait done with the family
9. Go to the swimming hall of fame (don't ask me why...)
10. Eat a fancy dinner all dressed up on Palm Beach

And most importantly, I should have had a big fat nasty party with amazing beer for all my friends before I left. There was too little time. Guess I'll just have to visit!

(and why didn't we go to Disney while we had local rates??!!)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have a serious love/hate relationship with dirt. I think it comes down to inside dirt vs outside dirt. Granted, inside dirt used to BE outside dirt, but I swear it's different.

I consider cleaning my house part of my job. The hubby is awesome and is constantly helping out by vacuuming and such, but the day to day is my thing. Laundry doesn't really bother me. The fact that my beautiful new washer makes entire loads gross smelling if you don't dry them within 8 hours of washing sucks. So what used to be an easy job has become a race against time, but in the long run it's not that bad. The bane of my indoor dirt existence is the bathrooms. I think it's the anticipation of cleaning them that's the worst. It's one of those jobs that wasn't a big deal in my pre-baby life. I had a system with two bathrooms... chuck the toilet cleaner in one, then the other. Sprinkle Comet in one tub, then the other. Scrub, cleanse.... you get the point. Due to the bleach and chemical content of bathroom cleansers, my system has changed. I need a solid 40 minutes of uninterrupted time in which to clean the bathrooms. Yeah, like that's gonna happen with a 4 month old. So it bugs the hell out of me every minute of every day until I make it happen some how.

On the other hand, I have a love of dirt that is all about the outdoors. I completely forgot about this phenomenon living in various condo/shoeboxes for the past 16 years. Oh, but now life is good. Dennis and I got lucky enough (thanks mom!) to get our hands on a rental house with a half acre of land. Some may think it's a pain in the butt, but we love it. Dennis has his mower and goes into zen mode mowing away while plugged into his iPod. I have the beds that circle the entire house. When we first moved in, mom planted some flowers for me around the house, but for the past few months we've been on our own. We have two gardens: The one at the back of our yard has heirloom tomatoes, green peppers, jalapeños and the cucumber plant that ate New York (at least 6-8 cukes a day!! come get your freebies if you're in town...) and the one next to the house has Silver Queen corn and giant pumpkins. THIS is the dirt I love. I wade into the cucumber plant daily to get our "pickles" and trim back tomato leaves so they get more sun. I check out the height of our corn and the size of our pumpkin leaves (dinner plates currently). I am like a swine in fecal matter.

The best moment in the dirt came today though. There have been crazy weeds growing in the bed up against our bedroom wall that I haven't been able to keep up with. The house had not been lived in for two years, so needless to say, all the plants were out of control. Nestled in the weeds are Lily of the Valley, some old gorgeous Iris bulbs and scattered Black Eyed Susans. So hack and slash was out of the question. I want to preserve all of these until the fall when I can pull up and separate bulbs and delicately replant the rooted flowers. So in the meantime, I've been staring at the mutant weeds that went from an inch high to 3 feet tall in a matter of a week. No lie! I got my chance today. It rained for 3 hours so I knew the ground was nice and soft, and Dennis was home to watch the little man. Out I went. I grabbed a shovel, garden rake and ignored my gloves. It was a day for serious digging in the dirt. I pulled weeds gently around the flowers. Where I didn't have to work around flowers, I footed the shovel into the dirt to loosen the weeds and grabbed handfuls of roots. I was about 2 feet down the bedline when WHOOSH! it started raining like mad again. I looked up into the clouds, looked at my already soaked clothes, shrugged, and kept plugging away. Along the route, I met a few interesting characters. First was a beat up ceramic owl that has such character, I'm going to clean him up and put him back into the bed. Second was the starter of a rose bush... the closest one is 50 yards away, so this little sucker worked hard to get to where it was. Last but not least was a small family of mantis.' I encountered the first baby on one of the sleeping Iris leaves. The second baby tried to jump on my shovel. The third mantis scared the crapola out of me as it must have been mama. Huge and hanging out on the side of the house inches from my face when I bent down to clear a Susan. I made it halfway down the bed before I got really beat (it's tough doing yardwork on 5 hours of interrupted sleep) and went inside. I had to peel my rainsoaked clothes off and was covered from clog to knee in mud. It was up my arms and I'm sure smudged all over my face. I felt great! It was the cleanest dirt I'd been exposed to in forever.

I just wish I had as much time for the outside dirt as I do for the in.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Am Not a Show Pony

I feel pretty lucky. Alex is a very pleasant baby thus far. As long as he's not tired (at which point the crankiness demons rear their ugly heads) he's either laughing, smiling or just observing the world around him. He even lets us occasionally torture him:

That being said, he's never been a fan of repeating his new or funny tricks. Ever since he was in the belly, he's been like that. When he was big enough to make kicks that could be felt on the outside of the belly, I would reach over and put Dennis' hand on the last place he hit. He could have done it once or twenty times, but as soon as someone else tried to feel it too, he would refuse to budge. At one point, after my friend Kristi tried unsuccessfully to feel a nudge, I exclaimed "I am not a show pony, Auntie Kristi!" and it stuck.

So now he's doing hysterical things constantly that he won't repeat if you missed them. The other day I was at my mom's and (not that he knew what he was doing) he was pulling his own finger and farting. Un-Be-Lievable. Pure boy. Obviously he wouldn't do that again, but I'll do something repetitively that makes him laugh out loud and as soon as someone comes into the room to see what's going on, he gets really sober and refuses to laugh anymore. Or he'll figure something cool out like grabbing a toy with both hands, but as soon as I try to show my poor husband, Alex just looks at him like "What? I'm just laying here... why are you staring at me?" I am not a show pony indeed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Repetition and Rejection

"One little horsey plays peekaboo, loves to run and play with you, two little duckies..."

Oh how I curse the music that comes with baby gear. Sure, it's great for babies who love repetition, but when I lay down at night, I always have a loop of music from one of Alex's baby gear bits stuck in my head. The Bright Starts swing uses instrumentals that I've never heard before, but we use the swing so frequently, it might as well play the Star Spangled Banner as familiar as the tunes have become.

The mobile on his crib plays a Bach piece, a Beethoven piece and a Mozart piece. I'm not as familiar with Beethoven as I am with the other two composers, so when I heard the song and found I recognized it, I was surprised. More so when I realized that it was because Billy Joel used the tune for one of his songs! Beethoven's Pathétique Sonata is used in his song "This Night" and I found myself singing the lyrics along with the mobile. Then there is the new jumparoo which puts different lyrics to "Old McDonald" amongst others. With all these twists on songs I already recognize, the torture is infinite!

To add to my pre-nocturnal frustrations, before bed I always use the Medela. So I sit there, with a half hour to kill and the "woooka woooka woooka" sound which always makes me more sleepy, so instead of reading I try to play a game on my Ipod Touch to keep me awake. Despite my intentions to play something more intelligent, I always go back to Babo Crash. This is a Bejewelled knock off, where you slide the shapes to match 3 or more. After playing it and rotting my brain for 20 minutes or so, I close my eyes in bed and all I can see is a grid with colored shapes.

Along with all of that, there is the repetition of our routine. I live in three hour clumps. Feed, play, nap. Insert intermittent fussing here or there. Rinse, repeat. This part I don't mind so much. When Alex is not feeling at his best and giving me a run for my money, I can count how many three hour sessions I have left until my husband comes home.

As comfortable as we are with our little routines throughout the day, Alex is definitely his own little person. While I wouldn't have it any other way, sometimes I wish he would give mom a break. Just when you think you've unlocked another part of the big baby puzzle, he goes "Nope! REEEEJECTED!" For instance: it used to be that you could sit in the rocker with him, cradle him on his back on the Boppy, stick a binky in his mouth and off he'd go to dreamland. Well, first he decided he didn't like being on his back. Noooo problem. Then, he rejected the binky. OhhhhKay. NOW, he wants to only be held on my left side while being jiggled, patted and shooshed to. And it better be done exactly right, or he'll try to wrestle himself out of your arms or claw your neck so badly that you look like you've just withheld the last bit of catnip from your junky cat.

The 'stop that baby from crying' entertainment methods have also become rather erratic. Where once upon a time, we could just smile and soothe, now I'm inventing things like the carwash (running my hair over his face back and forth like a car wash... works really well for now!) and the running man (bicycling the legs quickly with clicky sounds, then tickling the ribs with raspberry sounds). And they have to be done a very specific way, or REEEEJECTED!

In the end, there is one repetition that makes it all worth while... Alex has gotten really good at laughing over and over again, and that's pure sunshine in my book.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Trust the Midas Touch

Holidays always bring together families. Whether it's traditional family frames, or extended with great friends, it's the excuse we need to gather everyone close to us. We were no different this Fourth of July. Dennis and I decided to have our first ever family holiday party, as Alex is the focus for most of the members (he's the first grandbaby on my side.) My family, like most is comprised of people with a wide variety of tastes. Despite that, food is easy. Break out the grill and make corn on the cob, hamburgers, kielbasa, and all the little bits and pieces you would expect. We ended up a bit heavy on the dips this year due to a clerical error, but I'm a dip freak, so I was in heaven. Everything on the food front was hunky-dory.

But then there's the beer issue. *Sigh* As you know, I'm a freak about the micros, but I have decided to cease and desist in picking on the folks who would rather have a "fizzy yellow beer" (IS for wussies, but I digress.) I will NOT, however, stop trying to convert people. Ever! So we bought the perfunctory Miller Lite. Hey: even I drink the stuff at ball games and after mowing the lawn. It's kind of hard to process a Ten Fidy after 102 degree weather. Other than the Miller Lite, we had to pick a mix of Dogfish Head beers. We had to go with the Festina Peche, cuz chicks love fruit beers. Alright, so its a bit of a stretch for some, but its just so darned yummy! For my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Mike who are micro fanatics but haven't experienced the breadth of beers that Dennis and I have, we brought home a DfH/3 Floyds Pop Skull, a fresh off the line My Antonia, and an equally fresh Theobroma. These were mostly consumed Saturday night during the impromptu drink fest that broke out in our gazebo. We saved the Festina though.

Then there was the Midas. I love Midas Touch, it's a hardcore gateway beer. I used to convert a lot of ladies to micros with the Seadog Blueberry Wheat when I worked for Shipyard, but it was a soft sell. Most would try it, love it, but never get brave enough to venture on. Midas, however tends to be the beer you really like, but you're not sure why. My Dad started it. He's the most adventurous of the non-micro people, and he requests it when we go to the restaurant, or when he knows Dennis is bringing home beer. Then my step-mom got hooked, and some of my friends. The great thing about the Midas is that it's not an "easy" beer. You have to think about it. Maybe its the honey, or the saffron, but I think its the muscat grapes. If you haven't read the label and don't know that they're in there, you have thoughts of "there is something in here I've had before and I can't put my finger on it. It intrigues people. Once you've earned their trust on that one, you can guide them to other beers like Festina, S'ah Tea, and (dare I say it) 60 Minute. It's harder for women to cross that bitterness threshold, but if you ease them into it a little at a time, they start to acquire a taste for the citrusy herbacious goodness. But a journey of thousand micros starts with a single bottle.

So Midas is what brought everyone to the same opinion (yum!) and started a lot of fun conversations. And that was the best part.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Sometimes there is just no way to get things done the way you want with the way products are originally intended. Or in a "traditional" fashion... you know, the way they lay it out in "What to Expect..."

*Side Tangent* I have a serious love/hate relationship with the "What to Expect" books. I love them for milestones, you know: this month your baby is the size of a lemon, this month your baby is the size of an envelope, in the ninth month your baby is the size of an eight cylinder Hemi. The same goes for the first year: this month, your baby should sit up supported... blah blah blah. HOWEVER it is NOT good for parental paranoia. Any symptom you could possibly have, no matter how small, leads somehow back to a catastrophic illness. I have a hangnail turns into "your baby's head is growing feet where the ears should be." Of course that's not going to happen, and I understand the need to inform parents of all the scenarios. Maybe they can make an edited version for people like me who read (and retain) the entire book cover to cover. That way, all the gloom and doom can be hidden behind little doors like an advent calendar. "Open this door only after you have diagnosed that you have ALL of the following symptoms, have had your doctor confirm said symptoms, and have an extremely pragmatic person sitting next to you with a paper bag for you to breathe into." Okay, so that's a lot to print on a little door, but you get my point.

So back to invention... baby baths are great (thanks Christine and Jeff!) but they only last a couple months. After that, a little emotion called fear enters your baby's brain. All is well and good in bath land, its cuteness and pictures with washcloths on their heads. Then very suddenly, leaning back in the bathtub = drowning in your baby's mind. Screams ensue, there is mucho mad wriggling and soapy slidey near misses, and you're sweating and wishing for a much needed shot of Grey Goose by the end. Enter the Bumbo. Now, this works for me, in my sink with my baby. I'm sure the people at Bumbo would seriously freak out if they knew I was using their product in such a blasphemous manner. Lawyers would be retained and new warning stickers would be printed. I. DON'T. CARE. The Bumbo has made bath time not only tolerable, but fun! In our new house, we have a nice size double sink. I squish the Bumbo down in one side, then fill the other halfway and add a wind up duck and the ever-so-helpful temperature duck (says HOT if the water is not the right temp.) I then stick Alex's little round hiney in the Bumbo, wind up the duck, wet some washcloths and set to work. He loves to watch the duck do it's turn on the catwalk, make waterfalls (as only boys can) and doesn't even mind the whole washing part.

Then there is the constant need for entertainment. I think it's really cool that my son loves sounds and music. I know all babies do, but it just gives me the warm and fuzzies that he stops fussing and focuses so hard anytime there is music around. That being said, the original mobile we had on his crib is so so cute and matches all the bedding and decor in his room. But its the old school wind up kind. It lasts all of about 4 minutes, then you better hustle your honky ass back to his room and wind 'er up again. Enter Granny with a battery operated mobile complete with projected lights and a remote. So what to do with the perfectly good albeit abbreviated mobile? My brilliant (and exhausted) hubby finds a way to attach it to the back of a kitchen chair. Voila! A mobile mobile. We use it in the kitchen over the high chair, we use it over the pack and play in the living room, I'll probably even put it in the gazebo this weekend during the festivities! It's good times had by all, and an excellent distraction for mommy's dishwasher flipping/coffee time.

Have a fantastic fire-work-filled fourth everybody!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Sh!t

I did it all for the dooky, wha? the dooky, wha? so you can take that poopy and...

Okay, I won't go any further with my destruction of an already annoying song... but the main point is poo. Abundance, lack there of, varieties... A year ago I never would have guessed that I would have to be so obsessed with stinkies.

So what, you may ask, has prompted this sudden pontification on the dark and gooey? My poor son's belly likes to take a vacation about once a month. Sure its worry-some in and of itself, but it really bugs him. And as you know, what bugs the baby is sure to frazzle the parents. He's been a cranky, farty mess. Unfortunately, the hiatus of function for 2-4 days is accompanied by very unpredictable behavior. It goes something like this:

"I'm happy, I'm playing, I'm smiling... I'm happy, I'm playing, I'm sm...AAAAARRRRHHHHHHHHHHHH! EEEEEEEEAHHHHH! WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

The worst part is that you can see in his little face that he's p-o'd that I'm not fixing the owie. So I jiggle jiggle, pat pat... carry him with his belly over my arm, lay him down and bicycle his legs. All to no avail. I find myself praying for poo. "Please, let the little guy poop. I don't care if it ends up all over his car seat, or his swing, or upside a wall... just open the flood gates!"

Eventually, he always accomplishes his goal. Which would be to shoot mom while she's changing his diaper. I swear, the kid will go through a lot of ouchie time just to save it up for shot at mom. It's like punk'd for babies.

On the abundance end, and how poo becomes a family affair, there's poor Roscoe. He's such a great little guy... and very happy to finally have a yard. But HIS potty time is ALSO at the mercy of the little man. Roscoe always seems to go to the door just as I'm sitting down to feed Alex or to pump, which for those uninitiated souls, is not something easily interrupted. And then there's the "am I neglecting my dog to the point of damage" factor. I find myself racking my brain to remember if he's gone, when, how many times. Ew.

I know poo in it's many forms is part of the job, and just like out of the home employees have parts of their job they don't want to have to deal with. However in a competition against -oh lets say- sales cold calling, piles of files or having to schedule your boss' colonoscopy (more poo humor!), I win.

I still have the better job over all though, no ifs ands or butts.