Friday, November 20, 2009

The Best Couponing Blog On the Web!

Want to win a $50 gift card? How awesome would that be? Just follow this link to my friend Couponing for 4 and follow the directions. It couldn't be easier! Also, read the blog to find out the many ways you can save money and even make some cash on the side. Fun and informative. What else could a person want? :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Windshield Nightmare

It started off a good day. I had gone to bed early. Got up to the sound of Wife taking a shower, around 5:15am. Went downstairs, made coffee, started planning my day. Kissed Wife good-bye at 5:45am.

Then the phone rings 10 minutes later. Sobbing. "I've been in an accident." My mind flashes white. Adrenaline pumping. Mind racing.

Are you OK?

Yes. I think so.

What happened?

Something flew into my windshield. I'm stopped on the side of the road. I don't know what to do.

Neither did I. Two kids, sound asleep upstairs. A wife on the side of the road at 6am.

She'd called 911. They told her to move from the left shoulder to the right. Fortunately, there was little traffic, or a little traffic as you get near downtown Chicago. This happened in the Southbound lanes of the Kennedy expressway between North and Division.

I'll cut to the chase. Another car had changed lanes in front of her. Not dangerously or anything. A moment later, something flew up and lodged into the dead center of her windshield. A metal grate about 5 feet long by 1 foot wide.

A state trooper helped guide her to the next exit and wrote up an accident report. I ordered a cab for her. She was home by 6:30 or 7. When Toodles woke up, I took her to see the car for myself and take some pictures.

That's when I got scared.

I was sick. All I could think about is what if . . . what if . . . one more inch; 5 MPH faster . . .

I called a glass place we used when I worked for my family business. Majestic Auto Glass went to the scene, changed out the windshield, and did an admirable job vacuuming the glass. It still needed to be detailed, but it was good. It was ready by 11am. The same day.

But a car wash and a new windshield do not erase memories.

I have, on occasion, thought about my Wife's and my mortality. The sadness. The utter sadness I would feel if she were gone. Frankly, I don't know what I would do.

We have safeguards in place, but I mean, what would I do without her?

At least I know that, for now, I can go upstairs and watch her sleep. I could go into JD and Toodle's room and watch them sleep. The night is wonderfully peaceful.

No Posts Lately

If anyone actually reads this blog, I haven't been blogging for two reasons.

First, my laptop died. Rather, the motherboard died. It would cost over $600 to replace that and the inverter on the screen. (The inverter is the cheap/easy part.) I could get a new laptop for that price, but mine has a 17" screen and I like that. So I'm being picky. Sue me. 17" monitors from Lenovo start around $1200 (apparently their hardware is the best quality as opposed to HP which is what failed me after 2.5 years.)

Second, I've become addicted to World Golf Tour or It's an online golf game that has an international community. So much fun. If you go on, I'm Grissomwoods.

Yes, I have a desktop in my basement. Blogging is not as easy down here. When I'm on this computer, it's either in the middle of the day when I am trying to check email & stocks in between loads of laundry and checking on whatever is on the stove or in the oven or tending to a kid who is not napping like they are supposed to. At night, I like to play golf.

Fortunately, this isn't a job, or I'd have been fired a long time ago.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Find A Friend

I just got off the phone with a friend. We were on for over an hour. Over that time, we were able to share some of our personal current events. Most of it was bad stuff, things that haven't been so great lately.

This blog entry is to tell you 1) how good it felt to talk to someone, to have them confide in me and to confide in her and 2) to be able to do so with a person I know I can trust.

I can trust and confide in Wife, but I can't talk about her with her! (I love you Honeys).

It's better than therapy because you get to hear about their good and bad as well as share your own. Not everyone has such a person. I believe that is because so many people are afraid of sharing themselves; sharing their bad as well as their good.

Being an at-home parent is very lonely. The best part of the job is the job security - there is no threat of being fired. Otherwise, it is as grueling a workday as any other job (if you're dedicated) and with very little peer contact.

Having a person with whom you can talk on a deep level every now and again is imperative.

And not a person with whom you gossip or be caddy. Those friends have their purpose. But think about it: if that person's nature is to gossip or to be caddy, do you really want to share seriously personal issues? Perhaps you do have a person that can be both, but . . .

So find a friend. Not a person on whom you can spill all of your problems. If you sense that something is wrong, you'll ask. For instance, you ask, "How are you?" and you are looking at them and they say, "Oh, fine," but you know they're not fine, you ask what's going on. And then you shut up. You only say oh or jeez or I see. And when you're the one with the bad day, they'll know when and how to ask you and how to listen.

Hopefully you can find one, because no matter how bad things are, you'll feel a little better after you're done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Homemaker's Tip

Don't waste your junk mail and misprints.

When paper has a blank back side, cut it into quarters for scratch paper. Great for grocery lists, notes, etc.

I think it also helps with security, not allowing sensitive papers and information to go without being destroyed.

With the amount of junk we get, we'll never need to buy paper again!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

As JD and Toodles become older and more massive, I've been wondering about the safety regulations for child seats. (Toodles just had her 4 month checkup - 16 lbs 10 oz / 26.5 inches tall.)

This is the NHTSA website. The following was copy-and-pasted (or copied-and-paste?) from the NHTSA website.

Infants - from birth to at least 1 year old and at least 20 pounds
For the best possible protection keep infants in the back seat, in rear-facing child safety seats, as long as possible up to the height or weight limit of the particular seat. At a minimum, keep infants rear-facing until a minimum of age 1 and at least 20 pounds.

Toddlers - Age 1 & 20 lbs to Age 4 & 40 lbs
When children outgrow their rear-facing seats (at a minimum age 1 and at least 20 pounds) they should ride in forward-facing child safety seats, in the back seat, until they reach the upper weight or height limit of the particular seat (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds).

Children - from about age 4 to at least age 8
Once children outgrow their forward-facing seats (usually around age 4 and 40 pounds), they should ride in booster seats, in the back seat, until the vehicle seat belts fit properly. Seat belts fit properly when the lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall).

Tweens - age 8 and older
When children outgrow their booster seats, (usually at age 8 or when they are 4’9” tall) they can use the adult seat belt in the back seat, if it fits properly (lap belt lays across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt fits across the chest).

With toodles growing at her rate, if she hits 20 lbs before she turns 1, I'm turning the thing around. Her feet are already kicking the back of the seat and she HATES riding in the car. I think it's because she's staring at a seat back. I'm sure there are things I can buy to entertain her, but I'd like her to look out upon the world. Call me crazy.

JD, meanwhile, is nearing 35 lbs quickly and will be 3 in January. He can put his foot on his sister's face and regularly marks up the back of my chair. I figure, when she's ready for the forward-facing seat, he'll move to a booster.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good News, Bad News

The good news. JD naturally throws a spiral when he throws a football.

The bad news: he also throws books, cars, cups, balls in the house, puzzle pieces . . .

He'd better become a professional athlete of some kind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The In-A-Pinch Meal

I was planning on making my Mexican meal of the week tonight when Wife called to tell me she's so sorry but her meeting was catered with Mexican food. Of course, she didn't find this out until after I'd gone shopping, so now I have to come up with dinner with the food in the house.

This happens all the time, but not her fault.

These days, I'm trying to use fresh food while still maintaining a budget. I found that I can get ground beef at just above the Costco price and in small quantities from the butcher counter at Jewel (the price fluctuates . . .) and at Strack and Van Til. So I bought some ground beef Friday for burgers on Saturday but ended up at Uncle Julio's Hacienda for lunch (soooo good.)

What to do with the ground beef?

So I was planning on making beef enchiladas tonight but that was foiled.

My next thought was meat lasagna. I looked up recipes on the Food Network website but they all required a couple of ingredients that I didn't have and a prep/cook time that wouldn't work.

The problem with having championship sleepers is that once I'm home from shopping, there's no going back. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying.

Well, I had also defrosted chicken for half the enchiladas. Marinaded, grilled chicken.

There were potatoes in the pantry that I've been neglecting. That would be the complex item on the menu - twice baked potatoes.

Finally, I'll steam some broccoli in the microwave and add a small side salad.

When cooking, remember to start with a clean kitchen. Then start with the items that have the longest cooking duration. In this case, the potatoes required the longest cook time. In a pinch, I do make baked potatoes in the microwave. And I've heard that the microwave is more energy efficient than the oven. Wash and pierce the potatoes and put them on the microwave-safe plate and into the box. My microwave has an automatic potato baking setting, but you can probably do around 8 minutes on high, adding 2-3 minutes for each additional potato. They're done when they're pierced with a fork without resistance.

Pound the breasts to an even thickness, around 1/4 inch, and marinade in balsamic vinaigrette (or dressing of your choice). When pounding chicken, I first rinse the chicken, then dry in paper towel. Having put a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter, place chicken with the smooth side up. Then another sheet of plastic wrap over the chicken. Easy cleanup, no salmonella. Use tongs for handling the chicken and the dirty plastic wrap. Chicken into a Ziploc bag. Pour marinade over till just covering chicken. Get as much air out of the bag as possible upon sealing, swish around to spread marinade, put into a plastic bowl to protect accidental leakage, and into the fridge.

Chop up lettuce, rinse and dry with a salad spinner, put into a bowl. Garnish with other veggies you like. Wife likes carrots, and I had a bag of baby carrots that I've been using slowly but surely. Combine in a salad bowl, cover with plastic wrap, into the fridge.

The potatoes were done in the microwave, tested for tenderness with a fork (should go in and out easily when pierced through the middle.) Cut lengthwise through the short side. Scoop the insides into a bowl, leaving a nice border to maintain the skin as a bowl. Today for 2 potatoes, I used about 1/4c caramelized onions chopped, 2-3T plain yogurt, 1T unsalted butter, 2T grated parmasiano reggiano, about 1/4t kosher salt, 1/4t black pepper (all measurements are estimated, as they were done by sight). Stir till smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste; add yogurt for a smoother texture. Fill the skins with the creamy potatoes. (I didn't do this, but you could probably use this trick to make the potatoes look fancy: make the potato mixture extra creamy, cool down, put into a baggie and cut off the tip to make like an icing dispenser to squeeze into the skins. Fancy!) Skins onto a broiler pan, cover loosely with foil, and let them sit. Considering the ingredients, I would be comfortable with their room-temp exposure for 60-90 minutes.

The chicken takes about 20 minutes total to cook. 5-10 minutes to preheat the GAS grill, 5-6 minutes on the front side, 4-5 minutes on the back side. Because you've pounded them, they'll cook evenly.

While the grill is heating, go to the oven and put the top oven grate to the second from the top slot and preheat the broiler, take the salad out of the fridge, and the frozen veggies out of the freezer. Put the veggies into your microwave steam dish and the remaining veggies from the bag back into the freezer. Toss the salad with dressing then divide onto plates or just divide the dry salad.

By this time, the grill will be ready. Adjust the heat from high to medium high. Put the chicken on, smooth side down, and close the lid. Go inside and put the potatoes on the broiler pan into the oven. Then set the table.

After flipping the chicken, turn on the microwave to steam the veggies. Check the potatoes. You want them golden, not burned! Check the chicken. Plate the salad.

After taking the chicken off the grill, allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before serving. Drain the veggies and plate. Plate the potato. Plate the chicken. Dinner time!

Keys to the In-A-Pinch Meal. Make sure things that take the longest time go first. This includes cooking time as well as marinading. If something will take 2 hours to marinade, you don't want to first put something in the oven that only takes an hour. Salad can be made any time that day. Marinading can be done overnight. If you do marinade overnight and you don't use the meat the next day, just pour out the marinade and put back into the same bag. Otherwise, you run the risk of over-marinading. In a pinch, being creative can be fun, but may not make sense. I could have (and probably should have) made baked potatoes. But they sure were yummy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Taco Night

Taco night - Tuesday night.

The tip I'll focus on in this blog entry is how and what to make in advance.

Wife usually comes home around 6:00 these days, so I'd like to have dinner on the table, ideally, around 6:10 or 6:15. Though I'm not perfect at that, I'm getting better. The major barriers to that are having the kids awake. Fortunately, yesterday they took rock-star naps, so I was able to have almost everything ready to go.

To successfully make food well in advance of the meal, you have to think about what you're making, even if it means making a list. You have to consider if things have to go into the oven and what things will keep well versus having to serve right from the stove/oven/grill.

Sauces, side dishes, and garnish are usually the best to make in advance. For taco night, my side dishes included Rice-a-Roni Mexican Rice and homemade refried beans. I would also prepare the garnish: chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sour cream, cebollas y cilantro (onions with cilantro and jalapenos), and salsa.

The garnish is almost all out-of-the-jar, so it can be done intermittently while cooking the beans and the rice.

Since I'd never made refried beans before, I decided to tackle that first. It turns out, it was very easy. The recipe used was out of Mexican family favorites Cook Book by Maria Teresa Bermudez (2004 Golden West Publishers). I used a 16oz can of pinto beans, 1 T vegetable oil, 1 clove of garlic, 1 T chopped onion, and 1 pinch of salt, while keeping a reserve of water in a measuring cup to put into the beans in small doses to thin and puree the beans. Overall, about 5 minutes of prep (10 if you don't have onion chopped in your refrigerator already), 10 minutes of hands-on cooking, and 5 minutes hands-off cooking.

The Mexican Rice was easy, as it was Rice-a-Roni. Nothing complicated about that. 2 minutes of prep, 5 minutes hands-on cooking, 15-20 minutes hands-off cooking. I added about 1/4 c. each of frozen corn and frozen peas after 15 minutes of covered simmering (I know that 1/4 c. is a palmfull.)

While the rice was cooking, I made the cebollas y cilantro by taking about 1/4 c. chopped onion, about a 1T pinch of fresh cilantro, and about 1 t. diced japalenos out of the jar. (By the way, I bought Mt. Olive jalapenos and was pissed to find that they'd put Yellow #5 in there. I mean, really, do they need to enhance the color of jalapenos? Hopefully, my liver won't hate me...) Chopped the onion into finer pieces, minced the cilantro, and combined them with the jalapenos in a small serving dish.
Then I chopped, rinsed, and salad-spun iceberg lettuce.
Next was dicing the 1/4 tomato I had left over from the other day. (By the way, if you don't know the RIGHT way to dice an onion - and most other round fruit and vegetables - you must learn. It will save you time and make you more confident as a cook. And, yes, there is a RIGHT WAY.)
Put about 1/4 c. shredded cheddar and sour cream in serving dishes. Put back into the fridge.

I did all of that at around 3pm. When the beans and rice were done, I just left them on the stove with the stove off. They're not meat or dairy, so they won't go bad after just a couple of hours. Covering them is not a bad idea to keep them moist and ease re-heating.

At 5:30, Wife called to say she was leaving. I started the meat. Today, just ground beef, though getting skirt steak from the Mexican grocery store would be preferred. The ground beef took about 15 minutes to make. Unfortunately, Toodles woke up during the most delicate time, simmering the meat in water and seasoning. It was on a couple of minutes long resulting in dryness. Still edible.

When I could, I reheated the rice, beans, and beef. Then I set the table. Having already plated the garnish made everything easier - rather than having to scoop things into dishes, then put them on the table, I just set everything on to the table. Tortillas were placed into a tortilla warmer and into the microwave on High for 1 minute. The reheated main dishes and sides were put on serving dishes and onto the table.

What could have been done better? When Toodles woke up, I should have turned the heat under the meat waaaay down and that would have slowed the cooking process. I also should have used more water in the beans. Otherwise, pretty good all around.

Remember, the key to this was knowing what could be done ahead of time. Say your kids aren't rock-star nappers like mine and there's no way you'll have 2-3 hours in one shot. You can do the rice in the morning during nap. Remember: you only have about 5 minutes of actual work for that, then it simmers covered on low heat for 15-20 minutes, then you take it off the heat to let it cool, stir it up, put it in the fridge. The beans only took about 15 minutes and I'm sure there's a cartoon that the kid(s) watch at some point. You can put sour cream, cheese, and whatever other garnishes on a plate while making lunch, throw some plastic wrap over and back into the fridge. The meat takes all of 10 minutes, about 5 of which are letting it cook by itself and that can be done just before serving. Planning is the key to success.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicken, pita, hummus, etc

Tonight was Greek night. I made:
-Greek viniagrette (homemade - Food Network, Ina Garten)
-b/s chicken breasts marinaded in greek vinagrette (b/s chicken breasts $2.49 @ Jewel till 8/12)
-hummus (homemade - Joy of Cooking)
-tzatziki (homemade - Joy)
-salad w/ Greek viniagrette
-Garnish - Thomas' Sahara whole wheat pita, diced: tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mozzarella.

Overall, it was tasty.
The highlights:

Greek Viniagrette. Red wine, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil. A key to making any type of viniagrette (a solution of vinegar and oil) is to wisk the vinegar and seasonings first, then add the oil s-l-o-w-l-y from a measuring cub while whisking. Make two batches. You'll notice a difference. Wife said that it needed a stronger vinegar presence and less oregano, though it was good.

Greek Chicken.
The chicken was pounded to appx 1/2" and marinaded for about 2 hours. Grilled out doors.
Pounding the chicken does 2 things:
1) makes it more tender
2) makes the thickness consistent, allowing for consistent doneness throughout the meat.
Chicken can be marinaded as long as 2 days or as soon as 5 minutes. The type of marinade you use and the desired taste will vary the time. Ex. A salty marinade is best done in less time. To allow longer time, add water or another liquid filler to dilute.
Preheated the grill on high till it was appx 475 degrees. DON'T GREASE THE GRATES!
Put the chicken on SMOOTH SIDE DOWN.
Close the grill, turn down to MED-HIGH. Cook appx 4-7 minutes per side. DON'T TOUCH THE CHICKEN AFTER PUTTING IT ON! You'll know it's ready to turn when some white, fatty liquid appears on top of the chicken and it easily separates from the grates. ONLY TURN ONCE.

Here are some things that need some work.
Hummus. Needs to be made 1-2 days earlier than I want to use it. When I've just made it, the tahini and lemon flavors overwhelm the dish. Perhaps I could use less of both. While Joy's recipe says to use 1-16oz can of chick peas, 1/3 c. lemon juice, 3 T tahini, I should first blend the beans, then add some salt and garlic, then add the lemon juice and tahini 1 T at a time and then taste. The Jewish-Egyptian mother of a neighbor suggested using some olive oil. That might add some good flavor as well as smooth it out.

Tzatziki. The recipe calls for diced cucumber. I think it would be better grated, as in dill sauce. Also, it called for 1 T. ea of dill and mint. Probably could have gone 1-2 t. of mint, though I like dill. More garlic.

Pita. I used the tortilla warmer lined with waxed paper to warm the pitas in the microwave. While it made them and kept them warm, it also made the top and bottom ones a bit gummy on the exposed sides. Next time I'll warm them in the oven or on the grill, then put them in linen in the warmer.

Feta cheese. Needed it.

Overall, a good and healthy meal.

This week's menu

Monday: mediterranean night
Tuesday: tacos
Wednesday: tri-salads
Thursday: at Aunt Debi's
Friday: who knows?

Mediterranean night. Chicken marinaded in greek vinagrette. Pita. Hummus. Garnish.

Taco night. Ground beef tacos seasoned with McCormick taco seasoning (purchased in bulk @ Costco.) Rice-a-Roni Mexican rice. La Preferida refried beans. Corn tortillas. Garnish.

Tri-salads. Tuna salad, chicken salad, bow-tie pasta salad.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I just sold most of my old Avent baby bottles on Ebay. We purchased the new, BPA-free bottles for Toodles, so we had no need for the old ones.

What do I care if some other kid gets sick? At least I got $19 back on my investment!

Does sarcasm come through over blog?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Load a Day

I was just thinking of something: our family generates the equivalent of a load of laundry per day.

Three to five pairs of pants. Three to five pairs of socks. Two to five pairs of underwear. Three to five t-shirts. During the summer, one to three polo, button-down, or jersey-type shirts. During the winter, add sweaters and sweatshirts, not to mention layers. And we're not necessarily considering pajamas, bath towels, sheets, or kitchen towels. That's just one day.

Of course, I can't actually do that load of laundry per day because of separations.

I've talked about laundry and I'll do it again.

Separating by color, by weight, by wash cycle type, and by whether the clothes are machine dried or hang dried. Add to that my conservation attitude toward water usage and laundry can be a big headache.

Somehow, I actually enjoy it. Perhaps it's the system that has been put in place. I think I'm good at it. Who's proud to be good at laundry?

Yet I look at the clothes and think I'm doing a great job. Our closet space is maximized. Our clothes aren't wrinkled and I minimize our dry-cleaning expenditures.

One of the ways I keep myself going is by telling myself that every dollar I save our family is my income. Although I haven't added it up, I think I'm still in poverty. But at least it's a living.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Twice the Fun

On my third day on my own with both JD and Toodles, I can safely say it's about what I expected. That is, expect the unexpected.

Expect JD to have a perfect morning yesterday, just to spoil it just before his naptime. How did he do that? After eating his lunch like such a good boy! I let him go play in the living room while I cleaned the kitchen.

Of course, just a couple minutes later, I hear Toodles, who had been sleeping, wake up with a wicked scream. I run into the living room where she is sleeping in her port-a-crib. In the crib, next to her head, is the empty can of tuna from making tuna melts for lunch. Needless to say, I was not pleased.

Then there are the awesome moments where JD is playing nicely with Toodles. Or he gets a great review from his speech therapist. Or Toodles gives me a big smile when I pick her up from her nap or while changing a big, wet diaper.

The balancing act, to me, is a matter of will power. It's the will to let the kids do their own thing with limited supervision. What do I mean?
While in the backyard, I put Toodles on a blanket and let JD do his own thing while I mowed and raked the lawn.
While we're in the basement, I let JD play with blocks while Toodles is *shock* on a blanket while I change loads of laundry.

Sometimes Toodles is crying, sometimes not. But if I want to get things done, they simply have to get done.

I've said before that one of the perks of being the at-home Dad is that I don't have the hormonal attachment to the kids so that when they cry, I don't have a chemical/hormonal reaction. I don't like hearing them cry, but I'm willing to trade five minutes of crying for lunch/dinner, laundry, or a few minutes with Oprah. Yeah, right. I am proud to say we haven't watched one minute of TV during the day.

Where do we go from here? Making sure I'm as focused on their development as I am on their nutrition. Making sure we have more fun together than doing chores. Making sure our outings are not all dedicated to shopping. I think if I can do that, to make sure I'm thinking of them and not just us, we'll be a happy family.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

1st Trip to the ER

A day at the pool ended up at the hospital, but not in a way one might think.

After doing the things that you do with a toddler at a pool, we sat down in the concessions area to eat our snack.

Slight tangent: I am appalled at the number of Moms who feel it's okay to disregard not only signs, but public health and cleanliness by allowing their kids to eat and drink by the water, not in the eating area! I saw torn up string cheese under one chair with the wrapper next to it, and others eating bags of food. Hopefully, these kids will become more socially conscious than their mothers.

Back to the snack. So our social consciousness backfired. After getting his fill, JD started playing with his cousin, running and jumping around. Part of the picnic area is the housing for the pool's mechanicals. It is an elevated cement platform that is roughly 18 inches tall, 6 feet wide, and 15 feet long. JD and his cousin climbed on it and were jumping around. Harmless.

JD was not wearing shoes and his cousin was. Cousin jumped on what looked like a metal grate and JD followed suit. As soon as JD jumped on it, he let out a scream. I thought he was scared but my wife felt his pain.

It was not a grate, but a metal plate that is the door to the pump or one of the pumps. It is flat with some dimples and faces directly upward so that it has 100% sun exposure. After JD went on my wife, I felt it and sure enough, it was super hot, probably a couple hundred degrees.

My wife went to run water on his feet, but he was screaming and screaming. I saw him a few minutes later and his left foot had already blistered and popped so that the underlayer was exposed. Time to go to the hospital.

We ended up in an ambulance which I thought was overkill at the time but probably made sense, as it would not have been easy to drive rationally with a screaming child in the back, though I'm sure I could have done it.

We were at the hospital for a couple of hours. They were all nice and, of course, sympathetic to this little boy in so much pain. I don't think I'd ever held him for so long and he never felt heavy.

The hard part was holding him when they examined and dressed the wounds. He's got tree-trunk legs and it took all of my strength to hold him steady while not hurting him.

To sum up his injuries, he has 2nd degree burns on his left foot, 1st degree burns on his right foot and right hand (he sat down and probably put his hand down briefly when he jumped on the plate.)

Worst of all is trying to keep him off of his feet. Imagine yourself not being able to put pressure on the bottoms of your feet. Now try doing that with a 2-year-old.

The good news is that he is not in visible pain. That is, with the help of Tylenol-2. I'll try to update; we have a trip to the Loyola burn center tomorrow. What a fun outing!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


My wife was not sure whether she wanted a second child. I think the thing that made her want to do so was when I asked her if she could imagine life without her sisters.

The first week two that Toodles was home, JD, for the most part, ignored her. As he has come to terms that she is not going anywhere, he has warmed up to her and then some.

He first began trying to play with her while I put her on her small play mat for tummy-time. JD would come over and play with the trinkets on the soft poles that arch over the mat. Then he began to point to her body and identify eyes, nose, mouth, ears (though I have to make sure he keeps his fingers out of those places!) Then he would pat her head and her belly. Finally, he asked to hold her, so I had him sit on my lap and then brought her on top of his.

My favorite moment so far was the other day in the car. I looked in my mirror and saw JD's hand in her car seat. He was looking down at her. Though I couldn't see inside her rear-facing car seat, I think that he was holding her hand while she slept.

A Greater Sense of Now

A quick catch-up on the last 5 weeks: we brought #2 (to be referred to as "Toodles") home from the hospital. She's doing great. My wife and I are tired but trying to avoid being cranky. A shout out to the many people who have helped us one way or another. Especially my Mom who stayed with JD for 4 days while we were in the hospital and then 2 more days after our return home. Now that she is gone, I don't have extra hands to cook, clean, give attention to JD, pay bills, etc etc.

And that is where I find myself. Looking out at my kitchen, which was never consistently spotless, I see what the addition of a second child has done. Dishes and counter-tops are found clean less and less often or with greater and greater piles.

While JD still sleeps 2-3 hours in the afternoon, I find that I only have about 30-90 minutes to accomplish things.

The good news is that my wife and I are learning to share responsibilities. As she heals from c-sect surgery, she is more able to take on chores. One problem I face is relinquishing the control over how the chores are done. If she takes on, say, kitchen duty, as in cleaning up counters, etc. I can't expect her to do it to my specifications. In a perfect world, she's going to ask me how I want it done because in seven weeks' time it will all fall back to me. But that is a lot to expect. Just be happy they get clean! I tell myself.

The many many things I was able to accomplish consistently have become a list from which I have to choose. Do laundry or download, organize, and email pictures. Cook from scratch (or semi-homemade) or help JD with oral motor exercises. Tend to the lawn and flowers or sleep. Change Toodles' diaper or shower.

But maybe they're not choices I have to make, but rather a list or a routine that needs to be reorganized. That is the optimist talking. Nevermind that I am the type of person that tries to pack 25 hours of activity into 24 hours, leaving time for neither inefficiency nor error (of which many are made).

Remembering back to my adjustment to having JD, I believe it took around three months to establish a routine. Then I could make small adjustments whenever his schedule changed.

And that's what we've been doing - waiting for a routine to emerge.

Waiting for a routine to emerge will be death, so to speak. If the routine creates itself, it will be chaos. There is a way to create a structure, be it rigid or loose, by which we can guide our days rather than letting our days guide us. That was good for summer vacations when the most I had to do was wake-and-bake, but those days are long gone.

I am not the only one who needs the reassurance of structure. JD is happier when he knows what's coming. My wife certainly is a person to whom uncertainty is an unwelcome guest.

When I mentioned creating a schedule she said that the idea was thoughtful, but could I really follow a schedule? The answer: not to a T, but having some structure is a much needed step away from the chaos that has begun to take over.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Long Time No Post???

I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post!

To anyone who checks in regularly, my apologies. However, the last month has kept my mind and body elsewhere. Specifically, the impending birth of our baby girl.

The birth of a new baby requires very little. A bassinet, diapers, blankets, and clothes. Of course, it is the peripherals that make the list long.

How about a double stroller? We went with the Bob. I haven't used it other than a test drive in a store, but it seems top notch.

Window treatments, crib bedding, and pacifier sanitizing. Washing all of the new clothes and blankets. Making room for a new person's belongings. Adjusting the way our seasonal clothes are stored.

Making lists, checking them twice.

And how about JD who's being naughty and nice?

Volatile! That's all I have to say. His sweet, fun-loving self for most of the day, but emotions getting up and down.

I am convinced that the coming of the new baby has set his sensors into code red. He can tell things are changing. We are buying things for someone else. Neither for me nor for Mommy nor for JD. He hated Wife's belly, though he understood, to the best of a 2-year-old's ability, that there was a baby inside.

And Wife was home more often. In the last two months, she probably averaged one day off per two weeks and began coming home before he would wake from his afternoon nap. This probably caused some of the most stress, as he didn't know when he could and couldn't expect her to be around. Follow that with her 'intruding' on our routine and nutritional patterns. It would be enough to make anyone's head spin. Or, at least, make one's emotions unstable. And we're dealign with a 2-year-old.

And wife was having a harder time sleeping which meant my computer time was cut down by more than an hour per day. It used to be, I would put JD to bed around 8:30pm, then sit with Wife for another hour before she'd be asleep, then I'd go do some cleanup and then some computer fun.

Finally, my computer is in the basement, which limits the amount of access I have to writing when I have thoughts. My next move is to check the availability of putting another modem in the kitchen so I don't have to go down there every time I want to write or check something.

Monday, March 30, 2009


If you've read some entries from my blog, you know that I don't brag on my child all that much. While JD is a terrific kid, he's got plenty of moments that make my eyes shoot fire and steam come out of my ears.

Right now, I'd like to brag on my kid.

JD is a championship sleeper. He slept five hours in the hospital the second night we were there and had to be awoken by the nurses for a feeding. He was sleeping through the night around six or eight weeks and, with a handful of exceptions that all include sickness, has never turned back.

He has also been exceptional with respect to major transitions. He took a pacifier in the hospital after he was born and took it until he was just over eleven months. The doctor said to take it away, so I did. No problems whatsoever. Giving up bottles in favor of sippy cups? Forget about it. Going from two naps per day to one? (And he still takes a three hour nap every afternoon.)

Need him to get up a little early? No problem. Keep him up late? No meltdowns. Put him down a little early? That's about the only challenge unless I run him around sufficiently. As long as he has some milk, a couple of stories, and his puppy, he's good to go.

But all of that, I feel, pales in comparison to the transition he seems to have quickly mastered. That was going from his crib to his full sized bed.

Actually, it's a twin-over-full bunk bed. Being only two-years-two-months-old, he's only in the full bed and has no access to the top bunk which does not yet have a mattress.

It's the transition we heard was important to make before his sister is born in five weeks from tomorrow (3/31). Though she won't be in her crib until she's sleeping through the night consistently, we wanted to ensure that JD didn't feel as though he was giving his crib up for the baby.

So we purchased the bed and had it delivered and put together. He was immediately excited. The three of us went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond to outfit it with sheets, pillowcases, and a comforter. The next day, JD and I went to Costco to purchase pillows, including a body pillow and some decorative throw pillows. This way, he would have padding all around. We didn't know what to expect, but we didn't want him to have the option of slamming into something. (By the way, the one drawback of bunk beds is making the bed. What a pain! That, and hitting your head.)

Finally, we had a countdown. Okay, JD, three more days until you sleep in your bed! Two days! etc.

Then came Friday afternoon. The big moment. we didn't want to wait until nighttime - limit the chance of having a sleepless night.

JD and I climbed into the bed together. I was prepared to read a bunch of books and lay there with him until he fell asleep. That didn't work. Just like trying to get him to sleep with us in our own bed, it didn't work. It was play time. After forty-five minutes, I got up. JD got up with me and I picked him up and asked him, Crib or bed? Bed, he replied. So into bed I put him, kissed him, then walked out and closed the door.

The next fifteen minutes reminded me how hard sleep training is.

So I lied a little bit about the ease of the transition. There was one rough spot.

For fifteen minutes he screamed bloody murder. Oh, and that comment I just made about sleep training? While at just a few months, your baby is still an infant and vulnerable and fragile, this is a toddler with lungs and a vocabulary. Daddy! Daddy! I want Daddy! Hello? Hello? I want open please! Come in, please! He used every word he could muster to try to get me to come get him. I had to hide in the basement and work on a project so that I could divert my attention. But still, the monitor lights were bright red and as low as I'd set the volume so I could just hear him, he was still quite audible. Daddy! Daddy! Crying so hard. It was hard not to, myself.

I decided a few minutes into his hysterics that I would wait fifteen minutes and then go up, put him into bed, then walk back out.

Just as that fifteen minute mark came up, I suddenly heard silence. I looked into the video monitor but didn't see him in bed. I decided to wait a little longer. A couple of minutes later, I heard some rustling. He was crawling into bed. I turned on the monitor to see him sitting in bed, whimpering to catch his breath, and clutching his blue puppy. Another few minutes and he was out.

The next couple of naps were tough, too, but not like that. Tonight, I read the standard two books while he sipped some milk, then I kissed him good night and, just before I turned off the reading light, he lay down holding puppy.

He was tired and happy to be in bed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Project Management

Have you ever found yourself starting projects that never seem to get finished? Welcome to my world.

It seems that every day I think of something new to do, some project that I or my household cannot live without. Whether it's putting our seasonal or non-maternity clothes into Space Bags, reorganizing the laundry room, starting a new story idea, organizing the office, hanging pictures, reading books, organizing the garage, doing the dishes, doing laundry, checking account balances, auditing statements, planning the week's meals with a coordinated shopping list, planning daily activities for JD, planning play dates for JD, or organizing family outings, I can't seem to get things finished after starting them.

One thing I've tried to do is to make a list of projects I'd like to start. It sort of works. I get to them eventually, but some don't get started as they fall down the priority list.

If they fall down the priority list, did they need to get started in the first place?

Of course they did! The clothes that were piling up in corners of the bedroom need to be stored. That way, when my wife gets back into shape, she can frown upon her old wardrobe and request that funds be earmarked for new clothes. The pot that has been soaking for four days after making chicken stock. Thinking about my family and that we haven't gotten together since the holidays. Looking at the papers piling up in the office and wondering how many bills are underneath that need to be paid today to avoid late charges. The next Great American Novel for which I have a tremendous concept, if only I could get some amphetamines and write for three weeks straight in Kerouac style.

The reality is that these things do all get accomplished. Necessity dictates it. There will be a time soon when we will expect to have guests, so I'll be forced to finish storing the clothes piled up in the guest bedroom. I will need the stockpot for a new batch of stock. The thought of giving money away to late fees makes my skin crawl. The novel . . . that will have to wait until I decide to give up several other hobbies or carry around a journal at all times so that I can jot down my ideas as they come to me.

I might not be the most organized person in the world, but if I had a dollar for all of my good intentions, I'd be a millionaire! And I do make some good chicken soup.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Positive Reinforcement

My son as taken a liking to lollipops. Correction, a loving to them. Maybe it's just lust, but only time will tell. He asks for one every day, sometimes three or four times per day. It's an addiction.

He was introduced by his speech therapist. When used during a lesson; either by her, by my wife, or by me, it can be used to strengthen lips and cheeks as well as to promote greater oral awareness.

Of course, it can also be used for evil.

Or at least, a lot of whining.


No buddy, it's time for breakfast.

I...I want lollipop, please.

Go sit in your chair, please.


And the saga continues. Several times per day.

I did use it the other day for positive reinforcement. Upon entering the house from playing outside, he promptly, and without prompting from me, sat down and took his shoes off.

I made a big deal out of it, gave him praise and hugs and kisses, then told him that he deserved a lollipop for doing such a good job taking his shoes off when he came inside.

Hopefully two things happen. First, he continues to take his shoes off as soon as he comes in the house. Second, that he doesn't expect a lollipop every time he does so.

The reality is that rewarding good behavior it touchy. I don't want to fall into the trap where behaving properly becomes a way to get things. They behave correctly because that's how one is supposed to behave.

Some of you are saying, Ha! Wishful thinking! Or other, more profane things.

But, to me, that's where parenting gets tough. But I only have one kid (until May 5th) and he's only two-years-old. We'll see how long I last.

In the mean time, we'll see how the positive reinforcement works out.

I should also mention that it really does work for oral awareness and lip rounding. There are several exercises one can do and it is especially good when the parent and child each have one and use them in front of a mirror (expect him or her to ask to trade with you at some point - he or she will wonder if yours is more tasty.) If you are curious, just ask and I can send details about the exercises.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sick Boy and Bedtime Moments

Yesterday, JD woke up from his nap with a 102.3 fever.

He was crying and unhappy when he woke up. He took an exceptionally long nap - over 4 hours. He's a good sleeper, but that was long even for him. Sometimes when he wakes up and it's dark, he cries; I thought it was no different.

But when I picked him up, I could tell he was warm. He clung to me and I sat down in the glider next to his crib and rocked for a few minutes. Then he heard his mother in the next room and asked to be put down. After running to our room and jumping into bed with her, he snuggled up close and said, "Yo Gabba Gabba." He spent the next 30 minutes snuggled and silent.

The rest of the night went well. While they watched Gabba, I got some water and some Children's Tylenol (I didn't need a thermometer to tell me he had a fever.) He willingly took his medicine.

Then I went back and heated up a big bowl of chicken soup I'd made the other day. It had tomatoes, corn, garbanzo beans, mirepoix, egg noodles, and shredded soup chicken. When I brought it up, JD said, "Soup, please." How coould I resist? He ate broth, I ate 'stuff'. He was thrilled and kept eating and eating so we were thrilled.

He then came to the kitchen with me and ate two bags of dried apple chips, some animal crackers, and a glass of milk. There we were, JD and I, sitting on the floor in the kitchen. He had a small plastic bowl with animal crackers in his hands, his mouth stuffed. I was eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. His milk was in a small translucent red plasic glass, while I had milk in a rocks glass. It was a nice, comfortable silence.

He was as happy as I've ever seen him and he was burning up. It was quite the paradox.

When bedtime came, we went to his room and I read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type for the fifteenth night in a row. Then I turned the light off and he turned toward me so that I would pick him up and set him face down on me. I reclined in the glider and there we were, sitting in the dark. He was laying on me with his arms around my shoulders, his chin nuzzled into my neck. Occasionally, as he has been doing lately, he would pick up his head and lean into my face like he's trying to make out with me, just to turn into my cheek so he can rub his soft cheek against the stubble on mine.

These are the moments when we forget about the discipline, the car throwing, the food flinging, the diaper-changing tantrums. These are the moments when I could care less about missing a hockey game; going out with the boys and drinking doesn't sound like fun. These times are the big bonus paychecks.

It's when I fall in love with being a Dad all over again.

New Territory - Bathing a Baby Girl

Part of JD and my routine is to take a shower in the morning. It came about because he didn't transition from being bathed in a sink to a full-sized bathtub. I had purchased a stool for my wife to ease leg-shaving, as our shower is a stall, not inside a bathtub. JD stands on that stool and plays with tub paint (thanks Jay-Jay!)

I am able to wash myself first, then I turn to JD. He's generally a willing participant and doesn't mind the water coming down on him. He's even learned to enjoy it; I spy him with his back to the water, holding still with his head turned down slightly, letting the water hit his back.

JD gets washed as thoroughly as I wash myself, including his private parts. Penises and anuses need washing, too. Especially when they're subjected to sitting in their own excrement and feces for any length of time. Plus, crumbs, milk, and soup get down in there. Don't ask me how. It's no big deal, I just wash him as I would wash myself.

But now I'm going to have a daughter. Say what you will, but it's different. Frankly speaking, I don't have a vagina. I have only dealt with the vagina in a more intimate manner.

It's not that I fear it or anything, it's just an unknown. I've had plenty of practice on myself. Do I ask my wife to practice on her?

There are always unknowns when beginning something new. This is my new territory. Women probably have the same questions that men do in this respect. From a male's point of view, washing the penis seems rather simple - just don't get soap down the tip; it hurts. But for a woman, it's all inside, but some parts are more inside than others.

As usual, I'll talk to my wife, to playgroup moms, and read a book or two.

Then I'll get to the task and figure it out for myself.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Coolest Guy in His World

My wife said something quite special to me today. She said, “What's it like having someone think you're the coolest guy in the world?”

That was certainly a great compliment to me, that my son thinks so highly of me.

Maybe she's right. I'm not trying to appear modest; I simply don't think about my status in my son's eyes. As long as he loves and respects me, all is good in the world. Eating my cooking is nice, too.

The truth is, he does emulate my actions. He always wants to be with me. He is sad to see me leave and happy to see me return. He is angry when I have to divert attention from him at any time during the day (unless he's watching Yo Gabba Gabba. Since I'm a bleeding-heart hippie libertarian, I don't let the TV babysit.)

I can't make a pot of soup without him hitting my hip or butt to gain my attention.

We can make each other laugh and cry. If I wasn't so concerned with keeping a certain distance, I would say that we're best friends.

But that's how best friends think of each other. I also think he's the best kid in the world (like most parents). Does he drive me crazy with his stubbornness and his insanity? All the time. Do I make him crazy driving all over the place to go shopping every other day? I'm sure.

In spite of these exceptions we are grateful to have one another. We play hockey almost every day, if not every day. His new thing is asking me to play Wii – and he just sits and watches me play. He gets pissed when I say it's time to turn it off! (And I want to keep playing, but know the better of it.) We eat together at home and in restaurants.

I receive consistent compliments about him and consider that a success of our parenting.

To be the coolest guy in the world? It's the fruit of waking up in the morning.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time Management

There is not enough time in the day. Hard choices have to be made regarding time management.

It is time to stop going to the bathroom. That's right, I've given up peeing.

I made this decision about five minutes ago as I was unloading my dishwasher. I was thinking, man it's been a while since I wrote a blog. Then I realized that I had just been at my computer for 90 minutes reading. Auditing my bank statements, setting up recurring payments to avoid banking charges, reading and deleting email, reading about the Libertarian Party's ideas on current events, reading ways to conserve energy (unplug everything that's not in use,) and responding to Facebook status updates.

How can I do all of that and keep my house clean and poop? I say it can't be done.

So to the forces of nature, I've felt pressure before. Give it all you've got. Because I'm on a crusade to make the most of my time.

Consider the benefits: no more toilet paper. Reduced electric bill because I don't have to run the exhaust fan. Reduced water waste. Reduced pollution. I can even get another 2-300 square feet by knocking down the bathrooms. Oh, that won't work because I still need to shower. Can't cut that out. That would be disgusting.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sports Authority Customer Service Continues...

Just a quick update; this is the email I received in response  to my email.
I will continue to update as news breaks.

Dear Marc,

Thank you for contacting Customer Support at

We are committed to providing superior customer service and want to
ensure your product/service needs are met.

We appreciate your patience as one of our Team Representatives reviews
your request and contacts you within the next 2-3 business days. Your
request number is 3510224.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to
contact us toll free at 1-888-801-9164 or reply to this email. For your
convenience, we are available 24 hours a day to assist you.

Please let us know if there is anything else we can do for you, and
thank you again for contacting Customer Support at


Justin S.
Customer Service Representative
Customer Support at

If you have additional questions, please visit our online Help Desk.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Promise Fulfilment

Okay, I guess it's my day to bitch and moan about things.

My receipt from my last visit to Sports Authority had a promotional stub that says, "Sign up and save! Go to and join our mailing list to save $25 off your next purchase of $100 or more."

I logged on and input my information. Upon my submitting my information, the website indicated that my coupon would come in my email. It arrived just a few moments later, but with a shocking addition.


Man was I pissed. Furthermore, the 14-day window started on Feb 1. Well, it's already Feb 4!

I sent an email via the 'contact us' portion of their website. We'll see what happens!

The following is the letter I wrote:

Upon making a purchase at a land-based store, I saw a stub for a
promotion where, upon submitting my email address, I would get $25 off
of my next purchase of $100 or more.

I logged onto the website, read the directions, and submitted the
requested information.

When I received the coupon in my email, I was taken aback by the
expiration date. It gave me a window of less than two weeks to make my
purchase and get the promised discount.

Nowhere on the stub of my receipt nor on the website submission form was
there a detail about the limited window of the promotion. The stub says,
" of your next purchase of $100 or more."

I would like you to send something to me saying that I do not have a
specific window and that you will uphold your initial promise of the
money off of my next purchase of $100 or more, whenever that may be.

A Complaint / Suggestion For Email Service Providers

I want to be able to add a person to my Contacts / Address Book from an email.

Why isn't there a function that says "add sender to contacts"? It bothers me and makes my life that much more difficult.

Thanks for reading my rant.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


For my office documents, I use Open Office. Open Office is free software from Sun Microsystems that includes word processing, spreadsheets, database, and presentation software. It is very good quality and again, free to download from

I have been working on making a schedule for JD and myself. Basically, it's to help me plan my days so that I'm working with him on oral skills as well as giving him time to play. It will also help me know when I have time to do shopping, etc.

With pen and paper in hand, I started making a schedule. Then I realized that I am sitting at a computer and that such a template must exist. It didn't on the Open Office default templates, but there was a link to get more templates online. Point and click.

There, right on the templates home page, with a big, both graphic, was a weekly planner. Exactly what I wanted. It's always nice when the computer reads your mind.

My Rabbi once told me that there is no such thing as a coincidence. I would like to think that God has better things to do than make my template readily available. Then again, what's wrong with a small miracle once in a while?

Monday, February 2, 2009

No Parenting from the Sidelines

I definitely mentioned this in a previous blog, but I'll mention it again.

Parenting is not something done from a distance. Nor does it require 100% of your focus. But when you're doing it - when you're parenting - it has to be up-close-and-personal.

The reason I bring this up now is because I realize that we can't be with our kid 100% of his awake time. There are times we need to read, cook, have a phone conversation, or watch a few minutes of TV. But while we're taking this time out for "ourselves", we can continue to parent effectively. The energy used to get up is less than it takes to yell and then deal with the ensuing stress.

My wife reminded me of that. Despite being 26-months pregnant (as of today), she still gets up from the couch to help JD do puzzles, read books, or play cars after a long day of work. She also gets up when he needs some discipline and redirection.

Do you ever get frustrated when your child doesn't respond to your direction from across the room? Guess what? She gets frustrated that you're across the room directing her! Your yelling only indicates that you've taken notice of her actions. The thought that she'll actually change what she's doing because you are directing or yelling is self-misleading.

If your child is 10, then fine. He should be reasonably be expected to take oral direction. But to a kid still in the early stages of communication, you're kidding yourself. Get up and show him what you want.

But, you say, then they'll know that all they have to do to get us up is to act out. Not that I've noticed with JD. There are times that he will do so. Cooking, for example, is something he hates watching me do. But giving him small snacks and a couple of puzzles will buy me some valuable time. Also, the time you put into reinforcing positive behavior will pay dividends at these times.

When he's playing nicely and quietly? Get up and tell him that he's doing good then, too.

Remember, you've got limited time to affect your child's long-term behavior. Putting in these moments and minutes now will lead to better behavior down the road.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Good Ending to a Tough Morning

You know what it's like. Trashing every toy. Refusing to eat. Every time I try to play one game, he gets up and goes to another one. Cleanup attempts are battles. Everything is chaos.

But then there was nap time. 1:00pm came around. I picked him up and started up the stairs. Halfway up, he tried to throw himself from my grasp. Did I mention I had a laundry basket in my other hand and hip? Fortunately, I have big hands and long arms.

Anyway, we got upstairs, set him and the basket down, and locked the gate behind me, blocking him from getting there. I knew he would try to bolt to the stairs the second I put him down. He ran to it, found it locked, and sat down and cried. I took a deep breath, (probably the hundredth time I'd taken a deep breath today,) squatted down, and put my arms out. "Can I have a hug?"

The truth is, I needed a hug as badly as he did. He got up, then sat back down. His crying was subsiding. He got up again and walked into me and then hugged me. Then he said, "Teeth." He likes brushing his teeth.

After getting his tooth brush, we sat down in the glider next to his crib. While he sat in my lap, we read the usual two books: There's a Wocket in My Pocket (he calls "Pocket")and Fox in Socks (he says the whole name) by Dr. Seuss. Then I picked him up and we hugged while I sat and sang his favorite songs du jour, Jingle Bells ("Dashing") and Bye Baby Bunting (Bunting). After a couple rounds of both, I set him down in his crib. He stood up, but I told him to lay down and, singing again, put a blanket on him, turned on his night light, and walked out, closing the door behind the last word of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star ("Twinkle.")

This is our routine when it's bedtime or naptime. It was nice to get back to our good times after a long morning of fighting.


If you park on the street, here are a couple of snow recommendations.

First, don't be cheap about outfitting your car. I strongly recommend snow tires. You can often find deals for a set installed for $400 or less total. If you just replied, "but I have all-season tires," you are misinformed. All-season tires are meant for light snow. They are not engineered for deep snow and ice. Ask anyone who has winter/snow tires and they will tell you that the difference is remarkable. All-wheel-drive? Still put 'em on.

You'll also need a good snow brush and ice scraper. I just bought an awesome one that extends and has these nice padded handles at Costco for around $12. You may have to spend as much as $15. Do it. You'll thank me. Also, get a shovel. After the plow just went by on your side street, you'll find a foot or more piled up alongside your car. A broom is a nice extra. If you drive on the highway, or are prone to getting stuck, a bag of cat litter and some boards.

Next, you're dealing with the snow on your car. Some people just clear their windows so they can see. Others will include the hood. DO THE WHOLE THING. Top to bottom: hood, roof, in the nooks between the windshield and the hood, and the wheel wells.

Many people use their windshield wipers to help clear snow. Don't. They are meant for rain and some snow. They were not meant to clear several inches at once. And on the sides of the windshield, too. If they have to push too hard and don't have full range of motion, the motor will burn out prematurely.

If you don't clear the hood and roof, you are losing valuable fuel mileage. Snow is not only heavy, but is like carrying a mattress or other big block on your car. It will also fall in big clumps and scare, if not potentially injure, other drivers. If you don't do the hood, you are the person whose vision will be impaired. If you don't have one of the nice, big snow scrapers like I recommended, this is where the broom comes in handy.

And finally, the shovel. Don't waste gas spinning your tires backward and forward. Shovel a path for your car. It will take about the same amount of time as spinning your wheels. And it will probably save you a trip to the gym. If you really want to get altruistic, shovel the space after you leave it for the next person. If we all did this, we wouldn't have a problem the next time we park.

What are the boards and cat litter for? We all hear this, but seldom get direction on their use. You will need a shovel to use them. If you're stuck and you have all of these items, here's what you do. You will need to shovel driving tracks behind, underneath, and ahead of your car. Jam the boards under the drive tires (or all of them if you have enough boards) so that when you get going forward, you'll get on top of them. Pile up a good amount of cat litter behind the tires. This will act as gravel and another platform on which your car can get traction. Finally, GO SLOW. Start by going backward 2-6 inches. Now forward. Use the low gear. Push the pedal down so slowly that your car will barely start to rock up on to the boards. You will barely move. If you push too hard, you will spray cat litter, push the boards out of the way, and dig yourself in deeper. You'll have the RPMs up high, but will barely move. As you move up on to the boards and start going, ease off the pedal a big so you don't hurtle yourself into the street at fifty MPH.

Finally, if you see someone stuck, stop and help. If you're outfitted properly, you'll feel really good about having helped someone.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Appreciation for the Flashlight

A power outage makes one appreciate the little things that we take for granted.

Like central heating. Lights. Digital Cable. Cordless phones. Refrigeration.

All things that we consider utilities these days.

Obviously, we had a power outage tonight. It was about 7:30pm. I was in the basement bathroom. After unzipping my pants, taking aim, and letting it fly, darkness ensued. Fortunately, I have good aim. And good lungs - my wife was wondering where I was and how long it would be to bring her a flashlight. I was laughing, trying to tell her that I was peeing.

ComEd's automated system said the power would be restored by 9:30pm. We resolved to get some books and read to JD in bed till he had to go to sleep. Around 8:30pm, power was restored. It felt like I was under water and was finally able to breach the surface and take a breath. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks lost.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fun with Potty Training

JD is not potty training, but some of his play group friends are.

During his play group birthday party, nature called to me. I adjourned to the bathroom where I noticed that the toilet had been used but the contents were not flushed.

The toilet contained a small poop and some pee. I laughed, flushed, then did my business.

While doing my business, I realized what I had seen, and what was missing. Have you guessed yet?

Toilet paper. That's right! The previous party failed to clean his rear end. He or she did wash hands, though, as the step was pushed to the sink and the sink was a mess.

Kids do the darndest things, don't they?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Party Time!

JD's second birthday is upon us. Well, Monday, anyway. To celebrate, we are throwing three separate parties to accomodate all of his friends, our friends, and our family.

Today was the first party, thrown for JD's play group friends. We've been attending the same play group for more than 18 months. I think the count in attendance was around 14 kids and 7 adults.

Saturday we are hosting a party for our friends who have kids. Some of them are JD's buddies, some are acquaintences. There will be around 10 kids and 15-20 adults.

Sunday is the family party. Last year, my wife's extended family was invited. This year mine is. We'll have 2 kids and around 25 adults.

Madness, I tell you!

For the kid parties, we're doing cupcake decorating. It's fun, easy, and everybody likes cupcakes. I have made them myself. The yellow cake cupcakes came out very good. The chocolate cupcakes came out okay. Both are very tasty (as good as bakery), but they aren't quite up to bakery presentation quality. Frankly, I don't think the kids will care what they look like as they are plastering them with frosting, M&Ms, Dots, and sprinkles.

For the family party, it's pizza and salad with a store-bought cake. I wouldn't be afraid to make the cake; it's the fillings and frostings that appear to be the hard part. I'm a snob when it comes to cooking - if I'm making the cake from scratch, I should make the frosting and buttercream from scratch, right? I made the cupcake frosting myself. That came out nicely. But making the buttercream and the frosting, then actually putting them on the cake and getting everything even and looking nice? I'll leave that to the professionals. I make tasty, not pretty.

We'll see how everything goes. I'll post pictures next week, if I survive.