Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy Birthday to...


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm not sure who won, but we will be losing these white elephants

As I mentioned yesterday, every year on Christmas Eve Chris' family drives to his aunt's ranch for dinner and a white elephant gift exchange. This year we spent much of Christmas Eve day unsure about whether we would go, given that it took us over FOUR hours to make the normally one hour trip between our house and Chris' parents' place. Chris' aunt called us every hour or two with road updates. ("Mike just got home, and he says highway 99 is completely clear." "Travis is here now and he can tell you what the roads look like now.") Finally we decided that the thaw that had been going on all day made it likely that we would not run into any problems en route, so we packed ourselves into the car and headed to Camille's place.

After dinner we gathered in the family room for the white elephant gift exchange. (For those who do not partake in this particular tradition, click over here for last year's or here for a Wikipedia explanation.) Ada, who had never done this before but is very into distributing and opening presents, was very excited to help.

When it was Chris' turn to open a present, he got a travel mug. When it was stolen from him he opened what we started to call the transvestite monkey angel:

With Scary Transvestite Monkey Angel
I was going to dig the angel out of the car to photograph it in its full "glory," but the idea of it in my house creeped me out too much and I decided to settle for this photo from the gift exchange evening.

Chris' dad opened a package with two hula girls in it. I coveted them (thinking of course how cool they would look on the dashboard of the minivan we will be buying next year) but they were stolen by Uncle Mike. When it was my turn to pick, Ada chose a heavy box for me. It contained a metal desk accessory that looked like a little guy sitting at a desk. I didn't want it, so I wasn't heartbroken when it was stolen by Travis a moment later. Ada then chose for me a package that turned out to be a hefty paperback book: The Shooter's Bible. I am not exactly sure what year it was from (maybe 1974) but it was not the latest edition. Not that this matters. Ada was thrilled, seeing it as a coloring book.

With "The Shooter's Bible"
Lovin' up hte shooter's bible. Thanks Uncle Mike!

We left both of these "treasures" in Chris' trunk when we got home on Friday afternoon. We figured we could leave them there until Ada forgot about them, but then she saw this this afternoon as I loaded groceries into the car. Oops. I suspect the angel and gun book might disappear mysteriously, like the nuk.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Chris and I just lied to our daughter.

It started out innocently enough. On Christmas eve we visit Aunt Camille's house for the traditional family dinner and white elephant gift swap. In past years we put Ada to bed at Camille's and then woke her up for the drive home. This year we decide Ada is old enough to stay up, and on this score she is a champ. No tired tantrums, no complaints, just dancing and cheerful present shuttling.

We get home, and it is hours past Ada's usual bedtime. Chris shepherds her though an accelerated bedtime routine. But then he pops back downstairs because Ada's nuk (pacifier) is nowhere to be found. [As an aside, I know that 3.5 is kind of on the old side to be using a pacifier, but (a) she only uses it for sleeping and (b) I sucked my thumb way past when it was considered acceptable and I turned out okay. My teeth did too. I am one of the few people my age who never wore braces.]

When Chris tells me the nuk is missing, I am completely annoyed. We'd had a little temporary nuk crisis before nap and I saw Ada put her nap on the shelf when I got her up that afternoon. At home she is great about leaving the nuk in a little basket between sleep times, but I wonder if being at the grandparents' had confused things a bit.

Chris searches everywhere he can think of, but can not find the nuk. Ada is upset, but also very tired, so she yawns and cries while Chris explains that there is no nuk, but that we'd look for it again in the morning. She goes to bed just fine that night (again - it probably helps that it is two hours past her bedtime). Right after Chris comes back downstairs, I remember that in preparation for the trip to Camille's, I'd packed up bedtime supplies - jammies, a teddy bear, and the nuk - just in case Ada got pooped early in the evening. I had completely forgotten the bag sitting at the bottom of the stairs, and Chris had not known to look for it. He'd just used a different pair of pajamas when he got her dressed.

So ok, we could have put the nuk in her stocking the next morning. We could have "found" it at nap time. We decide to do neither. We decide to do what we did when we did actually lose Ada's nuk a few months ago.

At this point I should mention that not only does Ada use a pacifier, but she is very specific about which pacifier. For the past year or so we had ONE acceptable pacifier, dubbed the "cat and moon" nuk for the picture on the nub. When that one started to break down, I had to talk her into a different brand and style, because the old kind was no longer available.

Right, so: a few months ago we put Ada to bed at Monkey Boy's house, and when we took her home the nuk got left in her carseat. We didn't realize that it was there, and we did not use the car for several days. Ada was sad, but got over the loss fairly well. But then we finally got into the car, and Ada exclaimed: "I found it!" Chris and I groaned, but we went back to our old nuk-napping ways. But now we have a second chance at a nuk-free lifestyle! Everything went smoothly at the grandparents' house. Ada accepted that the nuk was irretrievably missing, and slept just fine without it.

Tonight (back at our house) we move smoothly through our usual routine, until we get to the part where we tuck Ada into bed. She asks for the nuk, and we remind her that we've lost it.

"But what about the green nuk?" (the beloved purple nuk had come in a two pack with a green pacifier)

And this is where we betray our sweet daughter's trust. I say: "I don't know where that one is."

"Is it in the basket? Can you look for it, Papa?" (I love that she calls us Mama and Papa, but in these moments it makes her sound even more innocent and sweet and breaks my heart even that much more.)

Chris makes a perfunctory examination. "Nope, I don't see it."

Sensing this could go either way, I reassure her that she'd done so well without the nuk, that she was such a big girl. So she snuggles into bed, and with a quick negotiation about a water cup on the shelf, she goes to bed.

So the nuk is gone, hopefully for good. I just hope Chris can hide the green nuk from Ada before she goes digging in the basket tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One last thing about Chanukah

This year, in addition to "regular" latkes, I made sweet potato latkes. They turned out well, if I do say so myself. Here's the recipe I made up:

1 large sweet potato (preferably red/orange)
1 medium onion
2 eggs
flour (maybe between a quarter and a half cup?)

Peel the sweet potato and grate it. If you have a food processor, use that, otherwise watch your knuckles as you manually grate. Grate the onion. Throw both in a bowl with eggs and flour. Mix and decide if you need more flour. Mix in salt and pepper.

Get out a non-stick pan (or two if you can multi-task). Add more oil than seems reasonable, and then add a bit more. When the oil is hot, spoon in (maybe 1/4 cup) dollops of grated mix. Over medium-high, cook latkes to brown but not burnt on one side, flip and brown the other side. Serve warm with sour cream and applesauce. And brisket. (Chris makes a great one!) 

When making latkes with potatos, I usually use a ratio of about three large potatoes to one big onion, plus 2-3 eggs and more than a half cup on flour.

Oh yeah, and for the three of you clamoring for a belly photo, here's the bump as of last weekend. Because who doesn't need a photo of a pregnant woman holding a sweet potato?

Pregnant Woman with Sweet Potato

Note that although I am only 15 weeks along in this picture, the shirt is already insufficient to cover the bump. I am thrilled to have gotten a lot of hand-me-down maternity clothes from friends, but already the ones from the Gap are too short. Unless my friends bought special petite maternity clothes, I can not understand how something labeled 'maternity' does not cover me at this point in my pregnancy. Having learned the hard way about how easy it is to anger Gap partisans (see the comments), perhaps I should not complain so publicly about this, but really. Shouldn't maternity shirts be built long enough to cover a woman's torso for most, if not all of her pregnancy? Just a thought.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the second day of Chanukah

My blog-friend gave to me: photos of the most recent Latke-Hammentashen Debate.

If this makes no sense to you, read this first.

For what it's worth, latkes get my vote any day. Tomorrow, a recipe.

Also, Ada got a fairy princess outfit from her pal Juniper. Once Juniper left, Ada modeled for us:

I think she likes the gift, Juniper
Apparently this is a stealth fairy princess outfit. 
With that mask on, we have no idea who that fairy girl is.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah

As a Jew in America, it is hard to compete with the Christmas whirlwind, especially when you have children. I'll admit that in my mixed family we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. (In my defense, I don't "do" Christmas at my house. We go to Christmas at Ada's grandparents' house.)

Good thing the girls have my back:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I love my husband (reason 5497)

Chris, to Ada, who has been camped out in the bathroom refusing to pee for a half-hour: Do you want to do the Cheerio trick?

Ada: What?

Chris: The Cheerio trick, where we put a Cheerio in the bottom of the potty and you pee on it. Do you want to do that?

Ada: Yes!

Of course in the end she changed her mind and no one peed on any grains, but oh how I love that he came up with this one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You Can Find This Post At Every Blog In Western Oregon

It snowed on Sunday.

Whoopie, right? Half of the eastern seaboard was without power last week, so what do you care about a couple of flakes out here? Portland gets snow once or twice a season, and it invariably wrecks havoc. People abandon cars in the middle of the street because driving is too stressful. Stores close if the owner sees more than three flakes. Everything grinds to a standstill.

That was fine with us on Sunday, it is not as if we had anywhere to go. Looks like Wednesday will be another snow day (Portland Public Schools, and thus Ada's nursery school as well, are already shuttered at the mere thought of snow). As I was planning on working from home, I can't really call in sick. With help from Chris and our friends, I think Ada and Monkey Boy will get some childcare, and some of us will get some work done. And in a few days, after the temperatures rise back out of the low 30s, things will go back to normal.

For now, a picture of Chris' snowball tutorial:

How to make a snowball

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm So Tired

(And now for the boring pregnancy complaints! No wonder no one reads this blog.)

One of the side effects of my twin pregnancy, along with a quickly expanding midsection, appears to be fatigue. I remember being incredibly tired during my first trimester of pregnancy with Ada, but this time I felt reasonably perky until a couple of weeks ago. Now I want a nap almost daily, and this afternoon while reading books with Ada it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. Luckily Chris was home and I dragged myself upstairs to take a quick nap. Less fortuitously Ada ended my short nap by "gently" patting me and climbing all over me to tuck herself into bed with me. Her attentions were very sweet, however, and she did not complain when I stayed in bed while Chris gave her a bath.

Lying in bed I thought of an old movie reference, a favorite in my family. Madeline Kahn, as Lilly Von Schtupp, deadpanning "I'm So Tired." I realize this is not totally apt, as Lilly's complaint is somewhat different from mine. But hey, and port/reference in a storm, right?

Oh, and about that expanding belly...Last time I was pregnant Chris took a picture of me every Monday night.  I'm not going to show the photos because they were taken with me in various unflattering states of undress. (Hello internet, marvel at my ugly undies!) Not my finest moments, these pictures of me looking rumpled and tired, but they do mark the weekly progress of my belly. I dragged these pictures out a couple of weeks ago, since the first was taken around week 12 and I wanted a comparison. The week 12 photograph shows no evidence of pregnancy, other than why else would I be raising my shirt? This time my belly was already pooching. Now, at 14 weeks I look as big as I did at about 5 months last time. The pictures show that some time in early March 2005 I took out my navel ring, which I'd worn for 10 years. I figured I could have it put back in, but somehow I never did.

So right, tired and big already. Sleepy tired, but also tired in that all over muscle way that makes me nervous about what is coming the next few months. Plus my knees hurt. I have crappy knees, due to torturing them with competitive running in high school and goodness knows what else. I had surgery on one knee in college, but both are a bit wonky and sensitive to change. As my hips get moved about, my knees complain about the new arrangement. Last time I slept with a pillow between my knees. Chris and I called the pillow the boyfriend. Poor Chris, I've got a husband and a boyfriend, plus him. (Not to be confused with these husband pillows.)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What I am Thinking While They are Talking

Why did I agree to shlep out to a tree farm on what is promising to be the coldest day of the year so far? (To be quickly followed by an even colder day, which MIGHT just bring a dusting of snow.)

The stye in my left eyelid is really bothering me. Why won't it go away already? Would it REALLY help to hold a warm compress against my eye, or is that just something to distract me? Why does the above picture not bother me even though I know if I had that few eyelashes I would be freaking out?

Why did Chris eat the last of Ada's bunny crackers, even though he must know that I want them?

How many people noticed that my pants were rolled up in an odd way for several hours this morning, until I noticed that what I thought were cuffs (on borrowed maternity pants) were really just turned up ends?

After hearing Bill O'Reilly say he tends to "bloviate" I now have the word rolling around in my head. Bloviate, bloviate, bloviate.

Is every 3.5 year old as directive as mine? As we walked to her school, Ada informed me that I should pick her up with the trailer and a yogurt drink. I am a little frustrated that she thinks getting a yogurt drink is part of her pick up routine, thanks to Chris often getting her one. He's definitely the "nice" parent. When I pick her up the routine is more like: look up from computer to notice the time, run around pulling on sweater, shoes and jacket before rushing out to get her in time. "Buy yogurt drink" does not fit in that  schedule.

The stye is still bothering me. Maybe if I poke at it, it will go away. Nope, still there.

I wonder if the teachers notice that I never do anything about Ada's crazy hair. I wonder, but do not care enough to deal with her crazy hair.


I am not totally sold on the new Morning Becomes Eclectic DJ, but willing to give him a chance. I liked the Ozomatli/Charlie Tuna song he just played.

I just can't seem to get enough hot water with lemon and honey.

I am completely charmed by the animal cards someone stapled along the phone poles in my neighborhood.

What is rolling around in your head today? No really, I want to know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Random Quote and Unrelated Photo of the Week

Centro de Propaganda

Meeting a namesake is one of the most delicate and most brief of surprises.

Michael Chabon
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Monday, December 08, 2008

How NOT to make a Duvet Cover (a tutorial and cautionary tale)

(1) When your sister suggests that as a joint birthday gift for herself and her husband, agree readily. Assure your sister that it will be no problem, just a few straight seams, easy really.

(2) Work out a deal with your mother in which you will do the labor and she will pay for the fabric, allowing you both to give your sister and her husband a gift in a nice Marxist way (each according her her ability...)

(3) Send your sister some fabric web sites. Suggest that she and her husband pick out a fabric. Make a few suggestions of your own.

(4) Receive email from your sister with several options, including a lovely but obscenely expensive Marimekko print and a much less expensive Moda fabric. Discuss and agree up the idea of incorporating your sister and brother-in-law's chuppah in the design.

(5) Engage in several more rounds of fabric discussion, finally settling on the Moda print. Fail to consider that, as this is a Moda print, it will go out of stock quickly and not be re-produced by the manufacturer. Allow months to go by while you are busy at the beach, with friends, and in the garden.

(6) Finally get around to purchasing the fabric, only to realize that it is out of stock at your local mega fabric store and at most online shops. Find one online shop that carries it, and order 7 yards.

(7) Wait another month and then purchase two 600 thread count sheet, one to go under the delicate chuppah fabric, the other for the bottom of the comforter cover, to accommodate your brother-in-law's preference for a very soft comforter. Feel glad that the sheet is on sale. Feel even gladder that you have been carting around that 15% off coupon in your wallet for 3 months.

(8) Get the sheets home and realize that the white chuppah will look horrible with the main fabric's purple and cream print and the dark cream sheet. Decide not to use the chuppah. Return the second sheet.

(9) Call the online fabric merchant and experience the most amazing customer service. (Although the seller did not have any more of the pattern, the owner of this one woman shop called Moda to see if they still make the print. When she called me back to say that Moda doesn't make this print any more, she suggested I check several of her competitors' web sites to see if they might have any. She even suggested specific competitor sites that were likely to have it.)

(10) Take the nice quilt lady's advice and find another vendor that carries the fabric. Order 3 more yards.

(11) Once the fabric arrives, wash the sheet and all 10 yards of the purchased fabric Press all 10 yards. Press the sheet, cursing the whole time.

(12) Wait another few weeks while you nightly feel crappy and first-trimester nauseous.

Measuring Fabric

(13) Finally get off your butt and start calculating measurements. Recalculate all measurements after talking to husband about said calculations. Re-recalculate, and then go to bed.

(14) Months after you agreed to start the project, start sewing. Quickly realize that the hard part of the project is handling 94 inch long pieces of fabric. 

Look I made a seam

(15) Sew all four pieces of the comforter top together, and fiddle around while deciding how best to attach the back.

(16) Sew the front piece to the sheet and realize you have slightly miscalculated the measurements. Decide to ignore the problem, figuring most of the error will be hidden by the seams.

(17) Practice making button holes. Panic that they will look crappy.

(18) Measure fabric and decide how many buttons you need to keep the comforter from poking out of the cover.

(19) Go to the crazy button store and spend way too much time picking out buttons that will match the fabric and are sturdy enough to survive the washer and drier without breaking. Cleverly purchase two more buttons than you plan to use, just in case.

(20) Get over panic and start sewing button holes. Decide that although they look a little wonky, no one will really notice because the buttons will cover the holes.

(21) Realize that your want four more buttons than you originally thought you wanted. Return to the crazy button store for two more buttons.

Adding Buttons
Note chalk marks, which I carefully rubbed off before finishing the cover.

(22) Hand sew buttons all evening in order to be sure the project will be done in time to mail it on Monday before you leave town for Thanksgiving.

ill-fated duvet cover

(23) Iron the entire duvet cover so it will look nice. Ignore nagging voice telling you that once you fold it to put it in the box it will get all wrinkly again.

(24) Carefully insert folded duvet cover into a plastic bag, then put the bag and a note into the mailing box. Address the box at the post office. Call your sister to confirm zip code. Wake up said sister in the process.

(25) Fail to confirm street address with sleepy sister, and incorrectly address box.

(26) Buy delivery confirmation and insurance for package which you have just mis-addressed.  Mail package.

(27) Wait 4 days.

(28) Call sister and ask if she has gotten your package. When she says she has not, consider what could have gone wrong. Realize you have mis-addressed package.

(29) Dream about the package on two consecutive nights.

(30) Nine days after you mail the ill-fated package, talk to your local postal worker, who cheerfully tries to convince you that it will all work out all right - either your sister's postal worker will figure out the problem and get the package to her anyway, or it will be returned to you after what he figures should be a few days. Feel impressed by the extent to which your mail carrier takes pride in his work.

(31) Two days later, still see no evidence of the package and hear nothing from your sister that suggests she's gotten it.

(32) Sigh heavily. Regret that you did not take more pictures of the duvet cover. Realize the amount of insurance purchased will not cover the cost of materials, much less the time the project took. Sigh again.

(33) Twelve days after you mailed the package, return to the house to find it on the front porch. Do a quick happy dance and drag the box inside. Open the box, add a second item to make up for the tardiness, reseal and re-label with the correct address. Slather with tape.

(34) Rush to the post office to mail the package.  Wait for your sister to call and tell you she's received the package and that the duvet cover is the best one you'd ever made. Fire up the computer to write a tutorial.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Of course I read that article

In last Sunday's New York Times magazine, Alex Kuczynski writes about her efforts to have a baby (which included 12 rounds of IVF and finally a gestational surrogate (a woman who was pregnant with the fetus created by Alex's egg and her husband's sperm).

I so wanted to be right there every moment with this story, and for the most part I appreciated the author's candor about her struggles and doubts. A couple of things bugged me about the piece. Since I figure that at least a few of you might share my interest in the piece, I thought I'd write about it.

Several of the photographs in the essay really bugged me. For someone who describes herself as so much wanting to experience parenting, you'd think Kuczynski would have noticed that the picture of her with her child and "baby nurse" might undermine the reader's sense that she is in this whole hog. I admit that if I was rich enough to have a home in New York City, plus others in Southhampton and Idaho, I might have a little live in help too. But maybe including in the picture a uniformed woman standing at attention a few paces from mother and baby was not the wisest choice on the author's part.

This photograph especially disturbed me when I read the part of the article in which Kuczynski complains that people joked with her that by having a surrogate she was skipping out on the hard part of parenting. This leads Kuczynski to worry that she is somehow less of a mother, that she is missing some elemental experience. My first reaction was viceral - as challenging as it can be, labor is NOT the hard part of becoming a parent. Parenting is the hard part. But then the picture flashed before me, and I thought maybe it isn't the hard part if you are surrounded by help all the time.

And the cover photo? Even going into the article with a good faith effort to like the author, just looking at the picture creeped me a out a bit. Kuczynski writes about how wonderful her surrogate is, how warm and thoughtful (the surrogate brought Kuczynski a gift when the former went into labor!). But in the picture Kuczynski looks anything but connected to the woman. I could not help but wonder what the author was thinking when she okayed that cold and creepy picture. I suppose it is possible that she did not take part in this editorial decision, but given her stature in the profession, you'd think she'd get a little say about it.

I feel a little weird that my complaints about the article are actually complaints about the pictures that accompany it. Talking to my mother, her response was a little different. She didn't like the pictures either, but she also did not like the author. She was annoyed by how self-absorbed Kuczynski appeared. Somehow this bothered me less, maybe because as a blogger self-absorption is my bread and butter. But  blogging aside, I could relate to how all-consuming the desire to become a parent and the stress associated with being repeatedly thwarted.

I should cut Kuczynski a little slack, I suppose. I do appreciate how open she was about what she went through. I don't think she is a hero, but I am sympathetic to her five years of infertility hell. In any case, it is an interesting read for anyone interested in this small but growing corner of the assisted fertility world.

Updated: As Karen noted, a lot of people had a lot to say about this article. Check out the comments (404 as of Thursday afternoon) here.  

Also - interesting articles  on related topics:
Nobody Loves My $20,000 Baby by Daniel Nester
Commentary on the Kuczynski piece by Melissa Ford (on Blogher)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Random quote and unrelated photo of the week

Pump n' Munch

Slow but happy grocery checkers do not a hellhole make.

Anna Hirsh
Portland Polemic

Monday, December 01, 2008

In Through the Out Door

While helping me unpack the maternity clothes my neighbor loaned me, Ada asked what the clothes were for.

Me: As the babies grow, my belly is getting bigger. These clothes will help me cover my belly so that I don't get cold. 

Ada: How will the babies get out?

Me, gesturing from my slightly bulgy belly downward between my legs: They will come out this way, but not until they are big and ready to come out. They'll sort of knock and let me know that they want to come out. Then something like a door (making a small circle with my hands) will open a little, then a little more, then more until they have room to come out. Then the door will close again. 

Starting to worry that my door metaphor might make Ada worry that the door could swing open at any time, I added: The door can only open when the babies are ready to come out. They won't just fall out. 

Ada: And how do they get back in?

I could not help thinking of those signs at concert venues: No In And Out.