Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Trying out the remote control to my camera that SwingDaddy gave me for my birthday a few days ago.

Q-ster is garbed in Jedi casualwear, courtesy of my mother. Suitable for days at the space port when no trade negotiations need supervising or reporting to the Jedi Council.

Reflections on the year past and intentions for the year forward will wait for another day. Wishing you a fabulous 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Inadvertent Ferberization of Our Child

Who Me? Cause trouble?

If you think CIO stands for Chief Information Officer and have never heard of Dr. Ferber, count yourself lucky. Welcome to the delightful (not) world of parenting advice. There’s one school that believes in Crying It Out – if you don’t teach your baby to soothe himself to sleep and coddle him instead, he’ll be deprived of good sleep habits, ruining his life forever. There’s another faction that promotes No Cry, because if you don’t pick up your baby immediately, he’ll become traumatized, ruining his life forever. Whee!

Buster was a really good sleeper, for a baby that is, until the last month, where he started waking up a lot, and then he got sick, which sent everything into madness. We generally rock him to sleep, but things got so bad that I brought him into bed with us, where I could just sit up and cuddle him every half hour when he fussed. It was not doing wonders for our family health and alertness.

A few nights ago, we had a particularly rocky time where SwingDaddy took an unsuccessful 2-3am shift, followed by another hour of rocking from me. I was so exhausted by this point that I put the micro dude in his crib and staggered over to our bed, while he began to wail. I mumbled to SwingDaddy, “Should I let him cry?” He muttered back, “Yes,” although he was so disoriented that he has no recollection of the discussion.

I thought that I would just rest for a moment before picking him up again and trying to see if he’d finally chill out. The next thing I knew, it was 7:00am, the room was silent, and I’d had a full, continuous three hours of sleep! Buster was all smiley when he woke up a half hour later, so I’ll assume he fell asleep quickly after I collapsed.

We are hoping for some continued improvements in the sleep department. Right now, both boys are in bed. Fingers crossed.

Monday, December 29, 2008

If Big Bird Were Red

My sister alerted me to a furniture sale, so I stopped in to take a look. Unfortunately, instead of picking something simple and matchable like this:

This is the one that caught my eye (the sofa, not the girl):

It looks like a fuzzy red nest. It's probably a little too extreme to actually buy, but one can't deny that it's rather me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in a Nutshell

The Advent calendar is finally complete with star on top:

The stockings have been ransacked (note the Christmas lightsaber,left side of the photo):

All is well:

The micro dude loves his new squishy block:

His big brother loves his new bedsheets. I have never seen a child be so excited about linens:

Hope you had a great Christmas or other holiday and enjoy the coming weekend!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

With Lots of Love

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

You’re Getting a Goat for Christmas

Need a last minute idea for that special person for whom finding gifts is impossible? I’ve just identified my go-to source for the next holiday season. Heifer International.

Through their online gift catalog, you can purchase a goat, cow, bunch of rabbits, flock of geese, or even a water buffalo that will change the lives of an impoverished family. Example: “The protein in just one egg is a nutritious gift for a hungry child. Protein-packed eggs from even a single chicken can make a life-saving difference.” Recipients are required to give the first offspring of their animals to others in need, so they become part of the Heifer organization and the entire community benefits.

Plus, the idea of getting someone a llama is just really cool.

On the sleep front, Buster insisted on sleeping in our bed again last night, but at least he slept! Tonight, he was in his crib for three hours without a sound (causing me to startle and think, “Omigod, the baby’s dead!”), but he just perked up to see what we’re doing. Fingers crossed that he’ll sleep again.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not Really Hearing Impaired But A Lot Like It

Q-ster went to “Kids Night Out” at preschool today, an activity session designed to free up parents to finish Christmas shopping, wrapping, or even have a date night. I love how expressive he’s become with words, but while he was gone, I thought for a few minutes that I had gone deaf. The little dude talks a LOT.

Apparently, he had a great time, since his fellow Star Wars-crazed buddy was also in attendance. Have you noticed that I have gone eight days without writing about anything Jedi? Believe me, it wasn’t easy to do, but I needed a lightsaber hiatus so that it wouldn’t drive the rest of you parents of princesses and Thomas the Tank Engine fans crazy.

Since the topic is unavoidable long term, here’s our latest craft. Q-ster requested a braid, just like the one worn by Ewan McGregor when portraying Obi-wan as an apprentice. It didn’t take too long to dig through the crate of false hair left over from costuming days and sew a few braids to a hair clip. He was soooo pleased with how much like a “real Jedi” he looks.

Sorry about the grainy photo. I'm having some trouble with my flash and may need to get the camera repaired.

And what is going on with our other son? Many charming grins, but not a lot of sleeping. Buster has decided that he can’t rest unless he is directly lying on top of me or SwingDaddy, which was tolerable during the first couple of nights of his illness, but is going to kill me if he doesn’t return to his crib soon.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who Do You Trust? Being Prepared.

Happy Winter Solstice.

It's time for another quarterly emergency readiness check!

Sometimes emergency plans look so daunting that it's easier to do nothing. So, my goals are modest. I'm going to do a few small things each season to put us in better shape to handle an emergency.

Today is not a good day to be thinking about emergency preparedness, because honestly, at this point, having a stock of infant Motrin and Puffs tissues is enough to make me feel well supplied. I didn’t used to get sick much – the occasional sore throat that could be overpowered with enough Vitamin C – but our household has been hammered twice this calendar year. Yuck. Here’s to hoping for a healthy 2009.

In any care, back to the topic at hand. We did actually do one important thing this quarter, which is to have our will and trust drawn up. If you have children, please, please, please, put some thought into who you would ask to raise your little angels if the worst happens, and make sure those prospective guardians are willing to do it!

Call to action: Do one thing improve your emergency readiness. Buy a few cans of food (and have a can opener nearby). Store some extra water. Or get a crank-powered flashlight and radio.

And here’s our daily non sequitur:

If you have a singing role in a musical and you don’t have a great voice, you’d better be as handsome as Pierce Brosnan.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Year and A Day

A year and a day ago, we moved into this house during the biggest rainstorm of the whole winter. I love our home. It’s not perfect – the door to the Harry Potter room has gotten stuck, so our coats are haphazardly piled on the front hall bench, and the lighting system still drives me nuts – but we’re happy here.

I’m trying to convince SwingDaddy to let me paint over the wallpaper in the kitchen, because removing it is too big a job to tackle right now, and he says that I’m allowed to paint just as soon as I demonstrate my ability to be responsible with liquids by refilling the kitchen hand soap without spilling. Which I have actually done, at least one time in a row.

We’ve also emptied our bedroom (almost) of boxes, leaving an empty, undecorated space perfect for Q-ster to run laps and for Buster to show his disagreement with the editorial content of magazines. There are still boxes galore in the office, but I’m turning a blind eye for another few months.

The tree in our front yard is sprouting hundreds of oranges, and we’re looking forward to more seasons of picking, sharing, and chocolate dipping. We hope to live here for at least eighteen years, long enough for Buster to graduate from the excellent high school down the street . . . if the economy and job market allow. It’s scary and thrilling to think in multiple decades, but Year One has been a good start.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sure Signs that I Need More Sleep

After Buster’s birth, I bought a pair of jeans that were two sizes bigger than normal, and they’ve been jarringly baggy for the last two months, in a gangsta-risking-showing-the-underwear sort of way. I’m not quite in shape to wear my old jeans for longer than a few minutes (but I can get in them now!), and I refuse to buy a pair in the in-between size, since my goal is within sight. That’s left me pulling up my pants again and again.

Then last week, I had the revelation that I could wear a belt to hold them up. The idea! Of using a belt for its true purpose – threading through the belt loops on the pants. Amazing.

Honestly, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever worn a belt for non-cosmetic purposes. In fact, the reason why I didn’t think of it is that when I last wore a belt, probably in 2005, I was the last person on earth to have moved on to the ‘long shirt worn untucked over beltless low-waisted pants’ look. Belts seem to be intermittently back now, but I have insufficient fashion sense to judge when to wear one, leaving me to the mercy of having a belt a purely functional purpose. After three weeks of hiking up the jeans, boy, is it more comfortable.

Next in the brilliant thought department:

I’ve had a low-level irritation with the number of knives it takes to prepare a bagel. One serrated knife to slice it in half, and then a butter knife to take care of the margarine, or whatever “buttery spread” material we’re using these days. The butter knife is no good at piercing the bagel, and the serrated knife makes a mess of the butter. The result is a plate and two knives to wash, every time I want to have a bagel.

Then it occurred to me that the one item we never use in the excellent knife block we received for Christmas three years ago from SwingDaddy’s parents looks like this:

Serrated on one side, smooth and appropriate for butter on the other. What genius.

Better late than never.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fickle, Fickle Reindeer

I think this guy looks a little moody.

I find it irritating that Rudolph’s little classmates “used to laugh and call him names.” I mean, sure, there are bullying and Mean Deer situations everywhere, and a story wouldn’t be satisfying without overcoming some kind of obstacle. The part that really annoys me is that Santa comes along and praises Rudolph, and “then all the reindeer loved him.”

What dorky followers they are! Acting like a pack of sheep, or I guess weindeer, as Q-ster would call them. It’s a good thing I’m not in charge of the preschool sing-along.

In unrelated news:

- Buster has learned to crawl backwards, which is really cute until the point when he discovers that he’s farther away from his goal than when he started and starts yelping for assistance. We’re hoping that he doesn’t gain full direction on his mobility until eight days from now, saving us from having to fence off the Christmas tree.

- Just heard at work today that donations made to the food bank this holiday season will not only be double-matched by the Company, but also matched personally by the Chairman of the Board. So, the humble gift we made is actually a 4x donation!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Inability to Concentrate – Oooh, Look – Shiny!

After a near all-nighter for work and baby, I’m groggy and still sick, so instead of writing about saving the environment and being crafty and getting gifts ready, here’s a simpler thought. What do you think of these necklaces?

Cool Mom Picks had this pretty one in their newsletter today.

It made me think of the Superhero necklaces. I love mine (Joy) and had always considered getting the Angel, which looks really similar to a beloved piece given to me by a middle school friend that broke years ago.

Of course, I’m always tempted by the reds.

Webby window shopping is so fun!

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Guess You Can Make Endless Variations of a Good Thing

We’ve been fond of Pocky (stick-like Japanese cookies dipped in chocolate) for a long time, and they certainly seem to be expanding their market. Check out these flavors, ranging from coconut to almond, and especially the Men’s Pocky. Why the Men’s Pocky flavor is “bitter,” I don’t know.

And for some other humor, this competitmommy satire is pretty snarky. Highlight:

I don't know anything about low IQ children (my daughter is two and has been writing for The Economist since last year. . . . but it only seems logical that you shouldn't give him anything but very, very simple books. Maybe have him read Toni Morrison or Salmon Rushdie? That might be more his level.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Inherited Habits

When I was in college, a friend pointed out a habit I had never noticed. I like to wrap soft fabric around my fingers. So if I’m near a blanket, wearing a scarf, or a drapey dress, I’ll often catch myself with my fingers intertwined among the hem. I’ll even admit that under the nice crisp duvet on our bed lies a blanket more than two decades old (possibly three!), worn and battered, but with the softest, calming material. I still sometimes fall asleep holding the edge.

Buster has clearly inherited that habit. He absolutely must be fingering Blankie, a burp cloth, or of nothing else is near, he’ll commandeer my sleeve. As self-soothing behaviors go, this one is an undemanding winner.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


It’s been an exhausting week, filled with moments where there wasn’t much I could do for my children besides hold them, hand over tissues, and clean snotty noses. So a moment this morning was especially precious.

I sewed a quick “Jedi belt” for Q-ster, with a loop to hold a lightsaber. As he tried it on and I pressed the Velcro closed, he chirped, “Help me put on my Jedi cape and I’ll get my lightsaber, and I’ll look perfect!”

Yes, you do, my dear.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Etsy Business – Gone Before It Started

Even my serious posts have to begin with silliness, namely soft, squishy toys in the shape of deadly galactic weapons. As we’ve had visitors in the house who’ve been attacked by Q-ster and his plush lightsabers, many friends have said, “Hey, you should start an online business selling these!” because there must be other parents in the world who would love to give their Star Wars-loving, stick-wielding children something safer.

I’ve certainly enjoyed making the toys for Q-ster, and if I wasn’t mostly concerned with getting a full night’s sleep instead of creative projects, I’d probably pursue it. What if I told you that my burgeoning business, in fact all handmade toys, are about to be made illegal?

Liz at Mom-101 writes a beautiful post about why small businesses, often mom-run, are particularly important to her and an explanation of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act. This was a quick government action meant to prevent distribution of the disastrous run of contaminated toys brought to light last Christmas by requiring each and every product to run through mandated third-party testing at a tune of $4000.

The big companies that have been outsourcing to shady suppliers and manufacturers can afford this, but as Liz puts it, “small toy manufacturers, independent artisans, and crafters who have already earned the public trust” will be forced to go out of business.

I have mixed feelings, because I’m generally a “yes, safer! Make sure things don’t go unregulated” kind of person. However, making small toy and clothing companies illegal isn’t the way to go. Big companies all started small – how else would they get there? And making the barrier to entry so high, affecting people (particularly moms working from their homes) who run businesses in this newly flat internet world, is too heavy handed.

People who seek quality, hand-crafted toys are more likely to be alert to toy recalls or safety issues – it’s a self-selecting population. Would it be enough to have a registry of toys that haven’t gone through the official testing, but should be exempt by source? Making an unpainted, natural-wood toy get tested to prove that it doesn’t have lead paint or a dangerous plastic is pretty silly.

In any case, this is an issue worth some thought and action, and quickly, because it takes effect within sixty days.

You’ll pry my lightsabers away from my cold, head hand
, says Obi-wan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Coughing and Wheezing and Barfing

Q-ster is recovering, but his little brother joined him in the land of coughs, plus a fever. There’s really nothing more pitiful than a sick baby.

After downing a bottle a dinnertime, Buster had a pretty epic barf, covering half our kitchen floor. As we consoled him and mopped the floor, SwingDaddy and I reminisced about how this kind of mess used to be a once or twice daily occurrence, since Q-ster was a barfy baby. We don’t miss those days, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I’m OD-ing on Vitamin C, Emergen-C, orange juice and carrots. Cheese-its are next, in an all-out effort to drown the beginnings of a sore throat in orangeness. Let’s hope for sleep tonight and a healthier tomorrow.

Unrelated photo of us on an unintentional matchy-matchy day. Once Q-ster noticed our clothes, he insisted on running upstairs to change his green socks to match my white socks.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Worthy Causes, Electric Nostalgia

I finished up our year-end charitable donations tonight. As I wrote last year, we handle most of our favored organizations through the year as their campaigns run, but there are always a few to catch in December. In addition to our usual alma mater contribution, we were able to give a little to primary school assistance (back to school backpack drive, classroom supplies), healthcare (children’s hospital, combating cancer), and disaster relief (aid for children in the China earthquake.)

I noticed we hadn’t yet covered poverty assistance. I like to find a smaller, extremely local group to help and haven’t identified a group since our move last year, so I settled for the food bank that supplies the county. The good part is that the Company will do a 100% match on that.

Thanks to friends who were participating in various fund drives, the donations were spread out pretty evenly through the year, which made it manageable – especially since most donations were made before the national economic squeeze had set in! None of our gifts are huge, but it feels nice to be able to give back in some small way.

While looking up last December’s post on this topic, I paused for a moment to smile over the photos of our former neighbor’s exuberant Christmas display. The little dude’s going to miss looking out the window to check out the circus each night.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Wanna Be Like My Brother

I can wear a hood like a little Jedi.

I can beat the drums.

Or at least eat them.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

As Lovely as a Poem*

It’s a cliché to say it, but every bit of the holidays has become full of excitement through the eyes of the little dude. And the baby too, although he’s mostly just interested in things that are pleasant to chew.

We picked out our Christmas tree in gorgeous weather today. Q-ster examined the options quite seriously.

After watching us attach the tree to the stand, center and trim it, he helped “trim” the bottom branches with his spatula. Sunglasses are required because the Christmas lights are “too bright” and “super pretty.”

We got the lights up, but decorations will wait until tomorrow. In a true sign that the forces of the universe are in alignment, Hallmark produced a set of Star Wars tree ornaments, three of which were in wide circulation, and the three sets of grandparents independently picked a different ornament of the set for Q-ster. Amazing!

*I never really liked that poem either.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Everybody Needs A Culinary Robot

Look what arrived in the mail!

It’s not actually an autonomous robot, but we did choose a shiny red food processor for Christmas. We’re attempting to make baby food, and it’ll be helpful with other cooking chores as well.

So cheerful and red!

Miscellaneous follow-ups:

Mantle hooks for Christmas stockings: I did indeed get four hooks, like all of you recommended. Upon inspection, the snowflakes had too much smooth surface area at Target-level quality and I could see lots of imperfections in the material, so I choose the train set instead. I think the snowflakes would have looked great a Pottery Barn-level quality, but I’m not willing to pay that much for a trinket that won’t be handled much.

The Advent calendar debate: More of you agreed with SwingDaddy that the star should go on last, but several admitted that it looks odd that way. Mayberry wins for the most amusing and realistic answer: “In our house it doesn't matter, because the kids have already put all 25 ornaments, including the star, on the Advent tree! I can't get them to do it one at a time.”

One more random thought: Did you know that many a brick and mortar shopping mall is already open deep into the night? I pulled into the parking lot tonight and found a great parking space easily, since what idiot is going to start shopping at 8:30pm? One with sleeping children, that’s who. Though a combination of sales, coupons, and credit vouchers, I found some excellent deals and feel much better about the state of our Christmas list. And I was home long before the 11pm closing time.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Properly Documented Baby

I took the day off work on Monday since Nanny J was still on her Thanksgiving trip and brought the boys into the office. It was fun for Q-ster to see where SwingDaddy and I work, and I got a photo of “all my babies” together, including my newly shipping product.

The lobby receptionist was very thorough and filled out guest badges for the little guys. I stuck Buster's to his blanket and his big brother helped keep him from chewing it.

Nanny J brought these cute cowboy booties back from Texas for the micro dude!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Help Us Settle This Advent Calendar Debate

Many years ago, SwingDaddy’s mother made a charming Advent calendar for each of her children, and each year, we’re thrilled to bring it out to begin the holiday celebrations. And each year, we disagree on procedure.

There are twenty-five little pockets for the felt objects – ornaments, presents, a reindeer, Santa, and item in question, the star. SwingDaddy puts it in the last pocket, so that it goes up Christmas day. If I get to the Advent calendar first, I put it in the first pocket, so that it goes up December 1, and the tree looks its best for the whole month.

I think that leaving the star off makes the calendar look unbalanced and incomplete, with an odd gap at the top. He thinks that waiting until the end is kind of an anticipatory thing, or some nonsense like that. It’s his family tradition (and he helped Q-ster put the felt critters in the pockets before I got home from work today), so the star is in the last place this year.

I fully intend to harass SwingDaddy about this for the twenty-two days, but just wondered if everyone else would side with him.

This is how it should look.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to Lose Weight Without Dieting or Going to the Gym

The answer is three words: Labor and delivery.

The flaw in this scheme is that of course, you gain lots of weight in advance, and you don’t lose all of it during L&D and also not through breastfeeding, no matter what the lactivists tell you.

I’m past all the “easy” weight that came off while I was nursing Q, and now I have to do something about the rest of it. After a month of denial and snacking, I broke down and created a chart of how much I need to lose each week to make my short term weight goal by the time Buster is nine months old in mid January.

It’s not terrible – 7 pounds, to hit the same weight I was when I got pregnant with Q-ster four years ago. My long term goal is to lose another 3 pounds, to match when I got pregnant with Buster (yes, it’s weird that I was lighter after the first baby, but I think I lost muscle mass when I had to cut back on workouts), but I don’t care if it takes another year to do that.

It surprised me how happy I was to make my first two weight checks. I must admit that I set really tiny goals up front so that I could start with success. I mean, such marginal, fractional goals that I could probably have succeeded just by trimming a single fingernail, but in any case, it feels nice.

I think knowing that I’m going to “weigh in” each night makes me snack less. Reading this is probably horrifically boring to you, so I won’t make it a regular topic, but posting this makes me feel more accountable somehow. I can’t wait to replace the shabby, worn-out clothes that survived the Goodwill purges with tidy new outfits during after-Christmas sales!

Monday, December 01, 2008


It’s a pretty necklace. It’s also a non-toxic, phthalate, BPA, and PVC- free, patent-pending teether, “safe for curious babies to handle and chew.”

Kristen comments that a teething necklace may be like letting your dog play with shoe-shaped toys – not exactly what you want to teach your child. It also brings to mind Penny Arcade’s rant when Gabe discovered Kellogg’s was launching a Lego-branded fruit snack:

I would love to know what sick bastard at Kellogs (sic) came up with this genius idea. I just spent the first three years of my sons life trying to get him not to eat blocks, and now you're telling him they taste like f*ing strawberries . . . Seriously, how in the hell did this ever get past their legal department. You can't tell me that this isn't a lawsuit just waiting to happen. I can only assume that their next product is fruit flavored thumbtacks.

I don’t think I’d actively encourage the micro dude to chew on the “jade,” but it might be nice to have some jewelry where I wouldn’t have to worry in case he did. Any words of warning?