Thursday, February 25, 2010

Handmade and Homemade

As you may have gathered from some previous posts, I am an amateur chef. Today, I made Belgian Waffles! Thanks to LB for the electric waffle iron!

They were so good that I continue to think about them, but then try to remember the amount of butter that goes into them. Moderation is the key!

The point of this post is to remind everyone how good it feels to make things yourself. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. That's part of trying.

But, personally, I feel that the times when the things work out far makes me feel better than how frustrated I get when things don't work out.

Have you found that things don't work out when you try, so you've stopped trying?

Let me ask you this: how often do you try? For instance, in cooking, I have found that making a new recipe, especially those that require an extensive ingredient list and several steps can be tough to get just right the first time. If I wait, say, 4 - 6 weeks to try again, remembering the mistakes I made will likely repeat. But if I try again in a couple of days or the next week (maybe even make some notes about the experience) then I find that I'm not only more successful, but that it gets easier every time. For instance, I can now make Tyler's Ultimate Chicken Enchiladas without looking at the recipe.

So remember, keep trying, don't give up. You'll not only do nice things for others, but the feeling of fulfillment and creation brings great joy to your day.


 I have to give myself some props for pulling this one off.

Wife had never been to Las Vegas. We've been talking about going since we've been together, but it wasn't a top priority. Our plan was to go when she got her promotion at work, but what little extra money came from that went toward other priorities.

That was a hard blow in a way; the expectation of a reward for hard work getting pulled out from under her. She never complained, but we all know what it's like to have our expectations thwarted.

Finally, it seemed that, if I could get a good deal on the flight and hotel, we could go. So I started searching between Christmas and the New Year for packages in February or March, as her birthday is March 18. I didn't realize that I'd found a great deal, but thought that the prices were at their normal levels. Because of holiday shopping, I had to wait till the credit card cycle renewed at the beginning of January.

I wanted this to be a surprise for Wife, so she didn't know about my research. She mentioned going a few times and I kept telling her, "We just can't afford it right now. Maybe in the fall."

In the mean time, I arranged for my in-laws to take the kids for a weekend in February. That problem was solved. So I checked back over my searches in January, but the prices had gone up over 50%! Yikes! By this time, most of my family knew that I was planning this, so they would give me a heads-up if they heard about some fare specials. Still, I finally told my in-laws that unless something dramatic happened, the trip would have to be postponed.

But I kept checking and finally found the deal. 2 nights at the Bellagio and non-stop flights out of O'Hare on American Airlines. Friday February 12th through Sunday the 14th.

The trip was set. Now to do the impossible: keep it quiet while getting the peripheral preparations in order.

For instance, I couldn't have Wife get on a conference call at 4pm. Secretary informed Wife's superiors what the deal was and, if possible, to avoid conflicts at that time.

I also couldn't have Wife come home early. Occasionally, she'll pack up some reading or editing she can do as easily at home as at work and come home at say, 3pm. That would make a mess of things. I called her friends to arrange a pretend happy hour. That would ensure she would plan on staying at work until 5pm.

Everything was going so smoothly. I was getting very excited.

Then Friday morning came early with text messages from my brother at 5am. His wife was in labor. I couldn't believe it. Of all the selfish things a person could do to ruin my surprise, this certainly topped the list!

I was beside myself. On one hand, I was so excited and happy for my brother and desperately wanted to be at the hospital for them. On the other hand, I had a grocery list of things to do to get ready for this trip. And there was the question, do we still go on the trip? I had purchased trip cancellation insurance in case the kids got sick or other obstruction to my travel plans. This scenario was in the back of my mind, but she wasn't due until 2/17, the following week. I mean really, who has their first baby a week early? That never happens!

But it was happening. Wife went to work, as usual, around 6am. I was up-and-Adam and had lots to do. But instead of being focused and knowing exactly what I wanted to do and when, I was scattered. Are we going or aren't we? When do I drop the surprise on Wife? Do I keep the plans intact? What about the baby? What if they have the baby? What do I do with the kids?

Just to get the kids to the In-Laws, I had to pack their clothes and pack their food. Staying for two days brings its own intricacies. I didn't want In-Laws to have to buy a bunch of stuff they don't normally eat, so I offered to bring all of their food. My plan was to portion it all out so that they had enough for their meals and some just-in-case food (like, if we stayed an extra day or two :). I didn't do that early so Wife wouldn't be clued in that something was up. In hindsight, I could have easily packed their clothes and non-perishable food and hidden them, but I thought I would have all day Friday to do all of this.

I told wife that In-Laws offered to take the kids overnight so that we could stay at the hospital as long as it took. She responded, "Oh, great! Hey, why don't you pick me up from the office on your way back? Then we can go to the hospital together." My, what a great idea.

Instead of having all morning to pack the kids' things, then all afternoon to pack for Wife and myself, I panicked, thinking that I had to do everything before I left at 9:30am. Of course, there was laundry to do and the kids were sleeping so I couldn't go into their room. So they did wake up and had to be fed and clothed. The TV babysitter took over from there.

Then JD pooped in his underwear which leaked out to the carpet and then stepped on it. Toodles needed attention. I didn't know if I was going to cry or throw up.

Then I did the sensible thing. I decided to drop the surprise early. A weight was lifted from my shoulders. I threw JD and Toodles' things into bags, dumped everything in the car, then drove like heck to In-Laws where I had to give thorough explanation about their clothes and food and schedule. Then downtown where I picked up Wife. Finally, I told her there was laundry that absolutely had to be changed over.

We arrived home where she found the itinerary on the counter.

What's this? We're going to Vegas?!?

She was terribly excited. Then she started asking questions.

Who knew about this?
She found out about the fake plans that night and throughout the weekend. Coworker friends. Family. It was a lot of fun watching her discover how deep the river ran.

The best part about telling her early was that she packed her own things. I was having some anxiety about that.

We packed, went to the hospital and waited. At 3:45, a baby girl came into the world. We got the be the first ones to hold her so that we could get to the airport. She was wonderful and beautiful and looked just like her mother's side of the family. Then we said good-bye and drove to O'Hare.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Toodles the Destroyer

She crawls, pulls herself up, and cruises. That is all a baby needs to destroy the house.

And there's nothing I can do about it.

Not that I don't want to encourage her independence and curiosity. Far from it. I let her get up, fall down, bang her head, pull down books and pictures and tear apart magazines. I'm Libertarian in my parenting.

Seriously, I let Toodles do all of those things. The problem is, time is not on my side. With JD potty training (slowly) and Toodles taking forever at the dining table, attempts to keep a respectable house are futile.

Her eating takes forever. I am grateful for her appetite. Something has to sustain her remarkable growth chart (95% height, 75% weight at her 9 month checkup.) Tonight at dinner, she took down 1/4 cup of brown rice, 1 tablespoon each of black beans, peas, and broccoli and 3 chicken nuggets. Other days she'll eat a cup or more of soup and a half slice of wheat bread. Meals take 30-60 minutes.

Oh, and she isn't feeding herself.  Not at all. I think she ate some string cheese today when we were at the Museum of Science and Industry (new members! - Thanks LB.) I pulled about a quarter of the stick in string-style and gave it to her. After attending to JD, I looked back to find that it was gone down to her fist. Otherwise, no Cheerios, no bread, no bananas, no blueberries, no corn, no peas. Nothing goes from her hands to her mouth.

Well, just not food. Cars, blocks, balls, books, magazines, remote controls, cell phones, cordless house phones, cookware, cooking utensils and any other inanimate non-food item finds its way into her two-toothed mouth.

On a normal day, Toodles wakes at 7, JD at 7:30am. She'll take down a bottle, play, then we'll have breakfast all together. That takes us to 8 or 8:15. Then I have to clean up breakfast. Unload the dishwasher from last night, dirty dishes into the dishwasher, clean the high chair, sweep the floor, wipe off the coutertops, put the milk and any other perishables back into the refrigerator. That's around 15 minutes. By now, Toodles has dumped out her small bowl of kitchen toys, played with them, and has moved down the hall to the living room where JD has managed to turn on CNBC or NHL on the Fly. She begins playing with some alphabet blocks, then pulls out some action figures, then decides that the books on the shelf are in entirely the wrong order and must be pulled down, two at a time. The magazines on the coffee table are far too old and the only way to get me to throw them out is to dismember them and drool on them, making them illegible. She'll finally make her way to the basket housing the changing materials and take out several diapers in an obvious attempt to show that one is badly needed, not that the scent couldn't be traced down the hall. But if I don't put JD on the potty, then he'll either soil himself or the living room carpet. And he certainly can't be left alone on the toilet, so I spend 10 minutes in there reading to him. Toodles may or may not stay with us, but by this time there is little more damage she can do elsewhere. By this time, it is either time for her nap or time for a shower. Not to mention routine things like garbage, laundry, dry cleaning, packing the diaper bag for whatever outing, making the grocery list and coordinating that with coupons, taking out something to defrost for dinner . . .

Nine-and-a-half months. Just wait till she can walk and decides to negotiate the 30 stairs that separate the 2nd floor from the basement. I don't think the gates will stop this one. I can see it now: JD and Toodles escaping to the 2nd floor and dropping things from the balcony on to my unsuspecting head.

Then again, I was folding laundry this afternoon and what did she do but crawl up and on me with a big smile and sit in my lap playing with a pair of mommy's socks.