Thursday, September 30, 2010

The paternity test

Just in case there would ever be any doubt that these two fellas are related:
Dan with Mini-Dan

Yesterday, Jack farted and then laughed. Clearly they are father and son.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I ran a mile and a half!

On August 1, 2010, I was a non-runner. I hated running. The idea of running was completely repulsive to me. If I was on fire and my only option for putting myself out was to run to a body of water fifty yards away, I'd have to seriously think about it.  Even in high school when we were required to run a mile for the Presidential Fitness tests, I walked the mile even though it meant a strong talking-to from my gym teacher.  I had long ago decided that I just wasn't cut out for running.

On August 8, 2010, I started running using the Couch to 5K program.  I don't know why, but something about the program drew me in and convinced me to give it a shot.  I still very vividly remember slogging myself up the block on that humid August evening for my first day of running.  It was hot, humid, pretty miserable, but not completely intolerable, and when I was done I felt accomplished.  I blogged about it.  And I stuck with it because it really wasn't that bad.  Every week, every session added a little more intensity, but I was able to keep up because the pace was not overly ambitious.

Yesterday I finished Week 5, Day 3 of the C25K program, which is the first run that I had really been dreading:  a twenty minute run with no breaks.  No resting, no stopping, no slowing, no quitting.  I didn't think I'd be able to do it, not on the first try.  But I did.  I ran twenty minutes without stopping.  In fact, I ran a little more than twenty minutes because I was so close to a mile and a half that I pushed myself a little extra for that goal.  And afterwards I felt fine.  No, I felt great. 

I can do this, guys.  I can.  I don't want to go so far as to say this is life-changing, but really, I feel great.  I feel like I can take on anything.  On days that I'm not running I feel like I'm missing out on something.  What a difference a few weeks makes.

I'm thinking about signing up for a 5K race in November.  I can't believe it, but I'd like to do it.  And beyond that?  Maybe a 10K someday.  The sky is the limit, isn't it?

I'm a runner.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Forbidden Fruit

Now that Jack has gone mobile, we've mostly babyproofed our family room so he can have a relatively safe place to play.  Computer cables have been tucked away, game controllers have been stowed on top of the television, DVDs have been moved to higher ground, and Jack's massive amount of toys create a nice shield for the television's speakers. We do have one area that we keep off limits - a little round table between the sofa and the recliner where we set our coffee cups, television remote, and tissue box.

Of course, that little round table is THE GREATEST THING in the house, and Jack absolutely must see what is on it.  He pulls himself up on the base of the table, puts his little fingertips on the table's edge, and then hoists himself up onto his feet so he can peer onto the table.  And then he tries to grab whatever he can - keys, coffee cups, and even the holy grail of all forbidden items: the television remote.  And yes, he knows how to change the channel. 

I don't get it.  On one side of the room, he has toys galore - brightly colored plastic noisy chewable baby toys - everything a baby could want - yet he wants to play with this table.  And it isn't even an interesting table - I'd have a hard time imagining a more boring table.  

I've tried to make the table's contents as dull as possible so as to dissuade him from this venture.  All of our little this-and-thats have been removed.  Coffee mugs are kept at the back of the table, far out of his reach.  The remote gets nestled behind the table lamp, well out of sight.  Yet he persists.  He is one determined kid.

I'm starting to learn something here.  Kids don't need toys.  They need car keys, measuring cups, a pressure cooker, a television remote, and something they are told not to play with, and they'll be entertained for hours.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What my garden has taught me this year.

2009 was my first attempt at gardening on my own, and it was an educational experience. The biggest lesson I learned last year was that squirrels are the devil, and that I'd need to take some serious steps if I didn't want to share my produce with those little furry bastards. As this year's gardening season draws to a close, I feel like I have learned a lot more.

1. Don't plant cucumbers. Or, if I do, I'll plant very few. There's just no way to get through as many cukes as we had, and we wasted a lot of food. I hope cucumbers compost well because there are a lot in our compost pile right now.

2. Don't plant what we don't eat. I planted peas this year, and I really don't know why. I don't like peas. I don't have the patience to shell them and use them in dishes. They grew well but they were pretty much a waste of space.

3. Do  plant what we do eat. This year I did a lot of cooking with zucchini and squash, but they all came from the farmer's market. I never really thought to plant them because this year was my first time cooking with them.  Next year I'll dedicate a nice portion of our garden to zucchini and squash since they are so versatile.

4. One yellow cherry tomato plant is enough. Seriously, my two plants have taken over the whole garden. I've never seen anything grow quite like that.  Yellow cherry tomatoes everywhere.

5. Carrots really need their space. I read it, I knew it, yet I let my carrots grow really close together which means I ended up with very few reasonably sized carrots.

6.  Tomatoes.  Oh, tomatoes.  They vex me.  I was hoping to have enough to can tomatoes this year, but I don't, and I don't know why.  

If I learn a handful of things every year that I garden, I should be a pretty fabulous gardener by the time I'm sixty-give.

And since I hate posts without photos, let's go with this cute one from this morning:  Jack showing off his beautiful wool hat from The Knitting Sheep.  We ventured out into the cool weather this morning in hopes of finding tomatoes for canning (no luck - only one vendor had any in quantity, and they looked terrible), but Jack looked great in his warm cap, don't you think?


Friday, September 24, 2010

Best. Toy. Ever!

What a lovely little mountain of toys Jack has. Musical toys, busy boxes, blocks, choo-choo trains, stacking rings, all the standard baby fare and much, much more.

Well, there are the toys. But where is Jack?

Jack?  Where did you go?

Oh, of course.  He's in the kitchen, playing with his favorite toy - the BEST toy ever:  the pressure cooker.

All he ever wants to play with is the pressure cooker.  Forget Fisher-Price, forget Mattel.  Give him that Presto pressure cooker, and you have a happy, happy boy.

I love you, little goofy baby.  Happy 9 month birthday, Jack!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm doing the best that I can.

I should know better than to get upset by what other people say on the Internet, but sometimes I can't help myself. Sometimes people say things that cut so deeply, that touch such a nerve, that I just can't let it go.

A friend of mine posted a rather humorous status message on Facebook musing about why an eleven year old would have a cell phone, and who could possibly be calling an eleven year old early in the morning. It was a lighthearted comment, but one of his relatives felt the need to respond thusly:

A parent who probably never saw her child get up this morning b/c they already left for work & most likely will only see their child for (maybe) 2-3 hrs before they go to bed. Sad how some parents only spend time with their children 15 hrs... out of 121 hrs in 5 days! Priorities! Money should never replace time with your children. Invest, rather, in your child's future. The other reason for a young child to have a cell phone.......broken homes. Helps the absentee parent keep in better touch (to help ease the conscience of that parent). I know......harsh examples, but unfortunally I koow of too many real life situations to back it up. 

I realize she isn't talking about me.  She doesn't even know me.  But those words hurt.  I work outside the home at least five days a week.  I leave at 7 a.m. and don't return until after 6 p.m. because that's what my job demands.  I cherish every minute with my son, every precious and all-to-rare minute.   If there's a choice between sleeping in and spending time with Jack, I spend time with Jack every single time.  If there's a choice between a babysitter or finding an activity I can do with Jack, I find something Jack and I can do together every single time.  Maybe that isn't enough - God knows I struggle with that question every time I leave the house to go to work.  Did I make Jack smile this morning?  Was our time together quality time?  Did I read to him enough, sing to him enough, hold him enough?

Am I wrong?  Am I doing the wrong thing?  No, I can't even question it.  I'm confident that I'm doing the best that I can for my family.  If I don't go to work, we don't have a roof over our heads, food in our refrigerator, health insurance.  Absent winning the lottery or living on some kind of handout, I don't know any other way to do this.  Money certainly does not replace time with my child, thank  you very much, but it is a necessity, a fact of life. 

My choice to work long hours is not born of a desire for things, for accumulation and status symbols.  I do it out of the deep love I have for my family.  That can't be the wrong things to do.  And lest this post become any more melodramatic than I already has, I will end on a light note, with a nod to Bender:  judgmental people like that broad on Facebook can bite my shiny metal ass. 


I'm pleased to report that my cooking is no longer a threat.

Four years ago I was vaguely aware that there was a kitchen in the house. I knew it as the place where I could go to get a soda out of the fridge. Cooking was not really part of my life because I had no reason to enjoy it: I had no one to cook for but myself, and there were far more convenient and less messy ways to get food.

Having a husband who appreciates good cooking has changed all of that, and I've definitely found a love of cooking.  Plus, after watching episode after episode of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, I pretty much assume that all restaurants are filthy cockroach pits.  I'm certainly no Betty Crocker, but I'm finding my way around the kitchen with the help of my cookbook apps and some food blogs.  So far, I'm getting pretty good, and I've learned a lot:

1. Life is too short for crappy cookware. Until my birthday this year, my cookware consisted of a Goodwill hodge-podge of seconds and hand-me-downs. My husband bought me a nice set of new cookware and I'm honestly not sure how I ever cooked without it. Cooking with nice cookware is a pleasure. If I'm ever unhappy with a piece of my cookware, it is not too much of an expense to replace it with something good.

Maybe it's the autumn talking, but I love my pumpkin colored cookware.

2. Pre-shredded cheese is an abomination against nature. I admit it - I used to love those bags of Sargento's shredded cheese. I'd pick up a bag of the Mexican four-cheese when I made tacos, or a bag of the Italian blend when I made lasagna. Then one day I decided to just buy a block of cheese and grate it myself. It was fantastic. I enjoyed it. Very zen. It makes cooking feel more like cooking and less like assembly line work.  Plus, bag of cheese?  That just sounds gross.  No more cheesebags in this house.

3. Store-bought sauerkraut is not that awesome.  I recently fermented a crock of sauerkraut and learned that it is ridiculously easy and very tasty. The health benefits of sauerkraut are hard to overstate, so there's no reason not to have fresh (or at least home-canned) sauerkraut.

4. There's no fun in frozen pizza.  You don't have to go whole-hog and make your crust from scratch or prepare your sauce from fresh tomatoes, but good for you if you can.  We go much simpler as our quick and easy meal:  a Boboli pizza crust is an invitation to be creative, and it isn't much harder to create a pizza than it is to cook a frozen one.  Our favorite combination so far has been pineapple and turkey bacon.

5.Don't be afraid to trash a disaster.  God knows I've created a few W-T-Fs in my kitchen, and I'd never force a disaster on my family.  If the casserole turned into a charred lump, it's time to trash the pan and go to Chili's.

Simple stuff, basic stuff, but I really, really enjoy my kitchen now.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I can't make mom friends.

This is absolutely brilliant - a short, humorous video about the one-upsmanship that moms regularly engage in.  

"I think a baby seal just died."

It sounds pretty ludicrous when it is laid out like this, but we see it time and time again.  Breast feeding vs. formula feeding, cloth diapers vs. disposables, cosleeping vs. sleep training.  Can't we all just be moms?


My wordiest Wednesday yet

It is our nature to want to explain away bad things, to say that "everything happens for a reason" and to think that good people have good things happen to them, and bad people suffer tragedies.

Maybe one of the most basic human fears is that none of that is true; that there is no fairness, no settling out of the good and the bad. That sometimes bad things happen to great people for no apparent reason, and that sometimes lightning does strike twice.

One of the most sweet, amazing, caring, wonderful women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting online is pregnant with a little baby boy. It is her second child - her first, a daughter, was born too soon last year and did not survive. It was a tragedy that no one should endure, but she endured it with grace and strength unlike any I had ever seen. And when we learned she was expecting again, it was such a celebratory event. She'd finally have a sweet, healthy baby in her arms.

After a pretty uneventful start to her pregnancy, she got some bad news and she is now on bedrest indefinitely.  She is only 22 weeks along at this time - it is much too early for her baby to be born.  When her online community of friends heard about this development we were in despair; we behaved as though the worst had happened. We cried, we bargained, and we asked why?  A cooler head prevailed and told us all to put our game faces on, to pray hard, and to send as many positive thoughts and words as we could to our beloved friend and her precious son.

We rallied. We put on our game faces. And we are praying hard for our dear friend.

Of course, since this is sort of a Wordless Wednesday blog entry, you expect photos.

Hang in there, TW and Baby M. 


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Child cruelty awareness.

It's that time of year again. The time of year that we talk about the very serious issue of child cruelty, of the heartless, horrible things that parents do to their young children. Things that could scar them for life.

That's right.  Halloween is next month.  Let's talk about baby Halloween costumes.

There are a disturbing amount of costumes that involve dressing babies as food.  Years from now when the social scientists analyze all that was wrong with our culture, I'm sure they'll have a lot to say about dressing up a baby like dinner. 

Continuing the "your child as food" theme, we have this poor babe.  It's one thing to put the baby in a fish costume, but actually put him in a pot...what's that I smell cooking?  Ah, yes.  Years of therapy.

Don't you hate it when you pick your dinner out of the tank at Red Lobster, and right as you make your decision it gives you that pitiful "why me?" look and you end up sobbing into your third glass of wine and filling up on cheddar biscuits instead because you can't bring yourself to eat Pinchy?

What?  Don't look at me like that.  I know you've been there.

Now this is just downright mean.



I hate you.

I smell freakin' awesome.  But I hate you.

Okay, this one is actually kind of funny.  Not so funny when you slide it onto your buddy's chair though.  Unless you think a Whoopie Cushion so go "waaaaaah!"  Then you'd be spot-on.

Friends, parents, readers:  please help raising awareness of this very serious issue.  If you see a friend or a family member eyeing up the baby section at Halloween Express, or if you find the infant section of among their bookmarks, please intervene.  Do it for the children.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How we met: a love story

I'm going to be really self-indulgent on this Friday night and share the story of how Dan and I met.  It was such an unlikely occurrence, yet here we are.  I think it is a great story.

Years ago, back before Facebook and Twitter were household names, there was Myspace. In March of 2007, I received a friend request on Myspace from a total stranger.

Yes, we met on Myspace.

By 2007, Myspace had become a medium for bad band spam and adult pinup wannabes, so I was pretty selective about which friend requests I accepted, but this guy seemed nice enough and his page was interesting, so I accepted. He followed up with an introductory message, a thank you for accepting his friend request, and he told me his name was Dan.

We chatted for awhile - first by messages on Myspace, then by Instant Messenger, and ultimately we exchanged telephone numbers. We talked daily, and our conversations wandered to all topics but were always wonderful. We astounded one another with our common ground, and enjoyed learning about our differences. He was absolutely wonderful. He was also 2200 miles away: I was in Wisconsin, and he was in California.  I had a serious decision to make.

That year in May, I took the leap and bought myself a plane ticket to go meet Dan in person. We planned on spending three incredible days on the beaches at Ventura.  After spending those three days with him, I realized that there was no way I could go back to the life I had been leading. My heart still catches in my throat when I recall the day I had to board the plane to return home to Wisconsin without Dan.

And from there, it all came together: A few weeks later, Dan aced an interview for a job in Wisconsin. I packed up my life and we found a place together in Bay View. And since then, every day has felt like a vacation.

So what compelled me to write this? The other day, Dan said: if it wasn't for Myspace, Jack wouldn't exist. God, that was a profound statement.  Facebook may rule the day, but Myspace will forever be in my heart.


Free diaper coupon - Kelly's Closet

I love passing these along when I receive them. Kelly's Closet has another free diaper code this week. This one is limited to the first 100, so don't delay!

Available to the first 100 users. FREE one-size cloth diaper (valued at $16.95 retail or more) when you place an order of $30 or more at Use discount code FREEOS100
RULES: Limit 1 use per customer/family/household.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

How green are you?

I discovered this interesting little web quiz today called "How green are you?" It contains a pretty extensive set of questions about the sustainability of the choices you make for your family and your home. It did a great job of pointing out to me what I needed some improvement on.  Do you need a green evaulation?  I encourage my eco-friendly readers to take a few moments to take the test and see where you score.

 As for me, I received:

Congratulations! You Are Solidly Green

You have reached Level 6 out of a possible 10. Kudos! You’ve made some meaningful changes in your life to go green. Want more? It’s easy: get started for your personalized plan, based on your answers to the quiz. And please post your stories, ratings, and product recommendations.

I was surprised to score this high.  I definitely fell short on a lot of the home-efficiency items.  I have a big, old house.  While the upper level has received an energy efficient facelift, the lower level has all original windows and fixtures.  Ideologically, I sort of struggle with that:  how can I claim to be eco-conscious when I know that my house pumps all kinds of heat out through my leaded glass windows during the winter?  And every year, even though our heating bill is absolutely astounding, our beautiful original windows win out. I just can't bring myself to replace them with modern, energy-efficient counterparts.  Our house is old and full of beautiful original detail.

We've reached some compromises though.  Last year we saved a lot on our heating bill by putting up ugly, ugly clear plastic barriers on the windows that were our biggest offenders.  The difference was remarkable and immediately noticeable.  We will do that again this year.  And aside from the physical structure of our house, I know that energy efficiency was not in our minds when we purchased our appliances, and I'd like to change that as we eventually purchase new items for our home.  Maybe we'll start a new tradition in our home of doing one energy-efficient improvement to our home every year.  By starting slowly but remaining steady, I think we can make a pretty big impact on how green we live.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: A confession.

When I go to check on Jack while he's asleep in his room, I full expect to look in and see this:

My teeny, tiny little napper, with a shock of baby black hair, skin still yellowed with newborn jaundice.

It still surprises me when I see something like this instead:

Guys?  He's so big.  There's nothing newborn left, and even the traces of "baby" are giving way to toddler features.  Too fast.  Too, too fast.


Monday, September 13, 2010

A PSA from the Monkeybutt Dad

Apparently my husband isn't a fan of my choice of diaper wipes. What can I say - I'm a big fan of a sale. He wrote up this little PSA about Parent's Choice baby wipes.

What follows is a graphic tale of adventures in baby changing.  I don't suggest reading it if you are eating pizza tonight.

A POX on Parent's Choice Baby Wipes

I'm pretty certain that I change more diapers in this house then Jen so I can share just how I feel about Parent Choice Baby Wipes.

They are the worst example of a wet wipe out there, especially when you have a bare baby butt that resembles the inside top of a dropped pizza box. Just try to grab one of these super glued together, crappy, stupid waste of towel while attempting to hold a squirming baby - a baby that resembles a greased pig at the State Fair - and out of the waste of plastic box comes darn near every single wipe as they are completely caked together. So here I am, shaking this wet mass of wipes to hopefully break one loose, as my son attempts to do Olympic tumbling. I can barely hold onto his one leg for fear of spreading baby poo from my fingers to the changing table to the wall, ceiling, floor, clean clothes and everything else it can be flung onto.

Personally, after a mass failing of getting a wipe out, and fingers baptized in Jack joy, and poo everywhere that it wasn't just moments before, I close my eyes and imagine a conference room full of Parent's Choice bigwigs having a mass and sudden attack of Montezuma's Revenge so they can see just how crappy their product is.

If you would like to validate my rantings then head to Target and pic a pack up! I'll gladly let you attempt to change Jack.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mom. Work. Mom. Sleep. Mom. Work. Mom. Sleep.

Balance.  Sometimes life pulls you in all directions all at once, and you need to take a moment to find some balance.  Throughout my life - as a student, a business owner, as a lawyer, and now as a wife and as a mom, finding balance can be a struggle.  Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes it means letting things go if only for a short time.

Yes, this is where I explain my lack of blogging for an entire week.

Work has been consuming me lately. It has been consuming me to the point where my days have involved nothing more than going to work and collapsing into a heap of exhaustion at night.  Everything becomes a blur; a tired, worn out blur.  Days run into one another to the point where I only know the day of the week because I have a calendar on my desk.  That's not a complaint about work - I love my work, and I love doing my best, working hard and seeing months of planning and effort coming together. It just how things are right now.  I've had to rely on Dan even more as I've gone in early, stayed late and put in time on the weekends. Dan has risen to the occasion as he always does, but I can tell he needs a break, too. He slept in until 1p.m. today - almost unheard of, but oh so necessary sometimes. And it isn't over - not yet. There's still plenty of work to do.

Add into the mix a little boy who isn't feeling well, and guys?  I'm beat.

I had to find some balance somewhere. The house isn't bad, but it could be cleaner. I'm behind about 2 loads of laundry. And I haven't written a blog in seven days. Blogging, something that comes so easily to me, had to fall to the side for a little while.  Something had to give. Life happens.  I've got no excuse for it.  But things are balancing out again.  You'll see a Monkey Butt Junction Wordless Wednesday this week, along with the usual assortment of rants and randoms.

Mostly though, I bet you'll forgive me if I include a cute picture of Jack in this post.

Yeah, that worked, didn't it?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Not in my house!

So do you remember when I said we'd never, ever have a house filled with brightly colored chunks of plastic to amuse our child? That he'd have to learn to play with one or two toys at a time, and then put those away neatly before moving on to the next toy? That our yard wouldn't become a sea of primary colors.

Remember that?  Well, I take it back.

We've contained it to one area of one room of the house, but my dear God does Jack have the toys.  Maybe that is one of the great lessons of parenthood:  never say never. 


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Alright, who is she?

Every parent waits to hear their child's first word. Like a first meal of solids or first steps, it is a milestone, but the first word is more than that: it a parent's first good opportunity to claim favorite parent status.*  Will the first word be mama? Will he say papa? Will he show preference for the family pet, or a weird uncle?

Jack has begun to move from vowel sounds like "oooo" and "aaaa" to consonants like "mmmm."  We hear lots of "mmmm" in our house, clearly unrelated to my cooking, so I thought that "mama" was a shoe-in for Jack's first word.  All he would have to do is open up his little mouth after an "mmmm" and he'd have some semblance of "mmmmaaaaa."  No problem, right?

In theory, that's a pretty good approach.  In practice, Jack is going to say what he wants, when he wants to.  And right now, mama isn't in it.  Instead, he's decided to put the vowel in front of his "mmmm" so now he goes about exuberently shouting "EMMM!"  "EMMM!"

How cute, Jack has a favorite letter.  I'm really partial to R, but M is okay too.

And then yesterday, he did it.  He worked on "EMMM" for quite awhile until it evolved into his first word.  It was my birthday, so how fitting would it have been for him to finally say Mama?  What a beautiful present!

But not our Jack.  He decides to go for the surprise, the curveball, the unexpected.

Emma.  He said Emma.

Over and over again.  Emma, Emma, Emma.

Who the hell is Emma?  I know one thing - Emma sure isn't mama.

My theory is that Emma is his imaginary girlfriend.  My husband thinks that Emma is his imaginary wet nurse. 

Well, Emma.   You won the coveted prize.  You are Jack's first word.  You had better hope we don't meet in a dark alley, Ms. Emma, whoever you are.   


*I realize that favoritism isn't really a factor at all. But who among parents hasn't joked about being the "favorite" because baby chose to enunciate dada before mama?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Carrots

Mom, I love carrots. Eating them, wearing them - it doesn't matter to me. I just love them.

But Mom?  You really need to feed me faster. A growing boy can only wait so long between spoonfuls.  One second, maybe two, tops.  Step it up here, lady.

Mom!  I said I'm hungry.  Do you want me to feed myself?  I can, but it won't be pretty!

I can't believe you left this right here, right within my reach!  You're slipping, mom.  Totally slipping.

Got it!  Now, how does this thing work?  Are there instructions on the bottom?  The spoon usually just comes to my face seems to be be broken today.

The answer must be in here...somewhere.  Maybe underneath all of these carrots?  Hmm, this is harder than it looked.

There we go!  That's how it's done!