Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat

The lowdown on Halloween 2008:

Genevieve refused to wear the pants of her ladybug costume. You'd think a crazy, fuzzy, hooded, antennaed, polka-dotted jacket would be more offensive to a two-year-old's sensibilities than a pair of plain black pants, but you would be wrong.

Julia went as a witch. Randomly, her get-up included self-designed and self-applied face-paint from a nursery school activity earlier in the day. So she was a witch with random four-year-old face-paint. OK then.

Neither of my girls napped today. Thus, by about 6:45 p.m., Genevieve was rubbing her eyes and Julia was asking if it was time to go home yet, to "have my treat and go to bed."

We were the lucky recipients of an invitation for dinner at the home of some friends, with trick-or-treating afterward on their block (near Julia's preschool). All I can say is, thank God for fellow parent friends with whom to share the trials and joys of such fraught events as todder/preschooler trick-or-treating. A pre-trick-or-treating mojito helped, too.

Poor Genevieve was terrified of most houses' Halloween decorations, standing paralyzed and speechless upon spying a large jack o'lantern with a big jagged mouth. She spent most of the adventure being carried in my arms, whimpering in protest at the most "festive" homes. Julia was frightened of one house in particular, which had some very scary decorations and which led to my "aha" moment of realization that guess what? Four- and two-year-olds are too little to go trick-or-treating. I've always known this, and somehow we STILL started going out LAST YEAR (when Julia was only three! And Genevieve was one!). Why, I have no idea.

And lastly. A note to myself, the one I repeat every single year and then promptly forget by the following October. DO NOT BUY THE $7.99, 105-PIECE BAG OF CANDY. Especially if you only get SEVEN TRICK-OR-TREATERS AT YOUR DOOR. Did you get that? SEVEN.

Did you read that part up there about the HUNDRED AND FIVE?

People! Good! Lord! That's a lot of extra candy! What in God's name was I thinking? Oh yes--now I remember. I bought that bag at the end of a long, harried trip to Target with an antsy toddler in tow. Riiiight. I recall not exactly having time to notice the number of pieces involved and do my own analysis of past years' turnouts. I recall careening down the Halloween candy aisle, frantically yelling to Genevieve, "It's OK, honey, we're almost done! Aaaaaalmost done. OK, now. Just the candy. Then we're done. Almost done. Yes, going bye-bye. Yes, home. Yes, I know Elmo is on. Yes, just a minute. Just a minute. Just a minute" before pitching a giant bag of candy into my overflowing cart.

There's also the fact that I have zero memory left anymore. You know all those months and years of baby- and nursing-related sleep deprivation? They make you lose your memory. I could no more tell you, in early October, how many (few?) trick-or-treaters I had at my house last year than I could start singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in Russian. So there's that.

Help me. You can start by taking some of my leftover Halloween candy off my hands.

[Edited to add: I just remembered that I bought that giant bag of candy before I knew we'd be out socializing in a different neighborhood until 7:30 p.m. I think we missed a lot of children at our own door tonight while we were gone. Last year we took the girls to six houses on our street and were back home to hand out treats within half an hour. Although I STILL had a bunch of leftover candy last year, according to my archives. So please, someone stage an intervention on me in the Target candy aisle around October 25th next year. Thank you.]

Truly Scary

We had a rough morning around here yesterday. When Christopher brought Genevieve downstairs for breakfast, I cheerily greeted her, "Hi, honey! Are you hungry?" Which led her to scream indignantly, "NOOOOOOOO, Mama!" and then throw herself onto her back on the carpet, kicking and screaming and thrashing all four limbs. Moments later, Julia came down and erupted into wailing hysterics over the fact that Daddy had cut her breakfast toast into the shape of a ghost. Someone had altered the appearance of her morning meal. The world was now ending. CLEARLY. Shortly after that, Christopher left for work.

Last night as we were lying in bed, Christopher and I were chuckling about the whole scenario.

Me: It's a wonder that anyone gets through the day.
Christopher: What's way more of a wonder than that is the fact that, despite doing this for 4+ years, you don't seem, as far as I can tell, to have developed any ADDICTIONS.
Me: Caffeine and sugar, babe.
C: Considering your working conditions, those are pretty mild given the choices out there that would be understandable and totally justified.
Me: Obama will save me.

OK, I didn't actually say that last line.

Happy Halloween! Good luck with all the little devils and goblins out there. And I don't mean the ones ringing your doorbell.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cookie Party

We had a great time during our cookie frosting/decorating party yesterday afternoon. I'd post photos of the kids, but we had guests, and not everyone likes pictures of their children posted on the Internet. I'll just show you the goods instead:

Let the fun begin!

End result

Stay tuned for Halloween costume photos tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Go Obama

Was anyone else in tears during most of the Obama television program tonight? I've been a diehard Democrat my entire life, but I've never, ever been so utterly consumed by a presidential election before this year. I've never felt leveled--just laid out flat--by the sorry state of our country before now. I've never before believed there would be no hope for this world if my preferred candidate did not win. I've never felt so strongly that one person is our country's salvation and the only chance for a good future for my family and all the other regular working middle-class families out there. I know there are folks who feel just as strongly about McCain as my family does about Obama. I don't understand those people--who must they be? are they benefiting right now, doing well with their mortgages and health insurance premiums and retirement accounts? really?--but I guess they don't understand me, either. I wonder if they watched TV tonight, and if they remained dry-eyed.

Are you excited about next Tuesday? Is anyone taking the day off work? Is anyone taking their babies to the polls, just to expose their little hearts to the excitement of hopefulness and optimism? Can you hardly wait?

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Halloween Cookies

Get out your pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters, people! What better activity for this week than rolling and cutting out Halloween sugar cookies? Of course the best part is the frosting and decorating, but in our house we haven't gotten to that step yet; we've got friends coming over later today for a cookie-decorating party and the photo above is from the preliminary stage of the whole endeavor (completed yesterday). Pumpkins and ghosts! Yum!

And just remember: anyone can do this. The simplest version is a tube of refrigerated sugar cookie dough from the supermarket, a couple of seasonal cookie cutters, a can of vanilla frosting tinted orange (for the pumpkins) or left white (for the ghosts), and whatever candy decorations you desire (we're using chocolate chips, candy corn, orange and black sprinkles, and Brach's mellocreme mini-pumpkins). Sure, it's all sugar and chemicals, but Halloween only comes around once a year. That's what I tell myself anyway.

Which reminds me: Damn! I forgot to stock up on those addictive Reese's peanut butter pumpkins they only sell at this time of year. Not for the trick-or-treaters, of course--for ME. Oh well. It's probably for the best.

At any rate, have fun with your own little goblins. Sneak a cookie or two for yourself while you're at it. You deserve it! You're the best mom ever, doing fun things like this with your kids! Am I right?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Purple is Huge for Fall

I promised my friend Donna I'd post a picture of my purple pedicure from my weekend in Texas. This photo does not do the color justice, however. I was going to go for classic red (always lovely), but then remembered Donna's advice to get an edgy color, just for fun. Purple is big this fall, you know.

The Bloom is Off the Rose

Apparently the "Mama's home!" honeymoon is already over as far as Genevieve is concerned. This morning she yelled at me when I smiled at her and gave her a cuddle when she woke up, and then she threw a giant fit when I attempted to dress her in weather-appropriate clothing, refusing to wear anything other than a short-sleeved onesie, cotton pants, and bare feet. (Here's an unsurprising update on the whole baby's-cold-at-night problem: not only does Genevieve continue to refuse to wear the infamous toddler sleep-sack, she also will not wear a blanket sleeper, or even footie pajamas, or even an undershirt-onesie under her regular knit pajamas, or even socks on her feet. WHICH WOULD BE ALL WELL AND GOOD IF SHE KEPT HER BLANKETS ON AT NIGHT. Or even if she kicked off her blankets all night long but somehow remained unbothered, asleep, and NOT CRYING about it.

This baby is going to turn all my hair gray.

And let me tell you this. Guess what? There is actually no earthly way to force a two-year-old to keep socks on her feet. Or a cardigan on over her short-sleeved shirt. And are you imagining that one just simply forcibly puts the sleep-sack on her? Or the blanket sleeper? Or the footie pajamas? Are you thinking this? Well, sure she'll cry, but just force it on her and make her wear it. She'll get over it. Um, no. What occurred when we attempted such a coup was a scene that threatened to spur the neighbors to alarmedly phone Child Protective Services. You think I am joking, but I am not.

It's going to be a long winter, people.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I'm Back

All day today, Genevieve has been, now and then, looking up at me, smiling, and exclaiming with wonderment and delight, "Mama home!" She has murmured, "Mama stay home. Mama no bye-bye." She has walked into my arms unbidden and given me three bear hugs. In a row. She has willingly given me several kisses on the lips. It took a three-day absence, but I've broken her bad-ass spirit and successfully yanked some affection out of her stubborn little soul.

As for Julia, when she exited her bedroom this morning and saw me at the end of the hall, she cried out, "MAMA!" with such joy I thought her little heart would break with happiness. Later on she hugged my leg and said, "Mama, I missed you SO MUCH. I love you more than anything in the whole world."

Three days is a long time to be away, when your kids are two and four. It's a long time for you, even though you're having the best time imaginable, and even more so it's a long time for them. I was only in Texas from dinnertime Friday to dinnertime Sunday, but what with travel logistics and all, I was gone from home from preschool drop-off on Friday morning until after ten o'clock on Sunday night. I missed three bedtimes. The morning I left, both girls pleaded with me not to go. Julia hugged me and said, "I wish you could stay home and take care of me," and Genevieve turned her lip down in her highchair and said, "Mama no go." It felt long. And also very, very short.

Because, after all, do you know what I was up to? With my dearest girlfriend and, some of the time, her extremely tolerant and good-hearted husband, and the 80-degree sunshine? Well, let me tell you. I watched three movies--all of which, coincidentally, included the birth of a baby somewhere within the plot, just to make sure I cried a little bit while I was gone, I guess. I drank a giant glass of wine. I stayed up till twelve both nights. I slept "late" (if 8 a.m. is late to you, which it is to me). I spent half a day at a spa, where my girlfriend and I had massages of all kinds--including a scalp massage involving vast quanities of oil applied to our hair, which, in all honesty people, is truly a story for another time. Because YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN US AFTERWARD. And we went OUT TO A RESTAURANT LIKE THAT BECAUSE WE WERE TOO LAZY TO GO HOME FIRST AND RE-DO OUR HAIR--as well as a manicure and pedicure. I got my toenails painted a deep shade of purple.

We also ate ice cream, went out for tons of yummy food, drank a lot of coffee drinks, browsed the Sephora boutique, and visited the perfume counter at Macy's to scout out a designer perfume for Christopher to buy me for Christmas. I read a lot of magazines. I talked a lot. I laughed a lot. Not once did I have even one demand placed on me. I spent zero time taking care of anyone else. I stayed seated for entire meals, and not once did I leave my bed to attend to a crying baby during the night.

So did you get all that? Wine, spa treatments, perfume, make-up, movies, ice cream, and sleep? Aren't you proud of me? Didn't I do the notion of the girls' weekend proud? Didn't I rock the Mama's Weekend Away? I'm pretty sure I did.

The best part, of course, was hanging for 2-1/2 days with my one of my very dearest friends. I almost kidnapped her and took her home with me on the plane. (Thank you, V. You're the best friend a harried mom could ever have.)

Oh, and by the way: by ten this morning I had been up and on my feet running around like a crazy person for nearly four hours straight (after less than six hours of sleep) and was my usual sweaty, dehydrated self, having ingested only a cup of coffee and having already accomplished the school drop-off, three errands, two loads of laundry, and the cleaning of the entire kitchen, so, you know: back to normal! It was a nice escape while it lasted, though. And by "nice" I mean "heavenly." I only wish I could magically bestow such an escape on every harried stay-at-home mom friend I know.

Cheers, all you moms out there. You've got a hard job. And we all deserve a vacation sometimes!

Did You Miss Me?

(It says: "Welcome Home, Mama!!!!! We love you Mama")

I'm back! And I'm full of tales to tell of the BEST WEEKEND EVER. But right now I've got a babe to get to preschool and another to feed and dress, and then there's the errand-running--the Target hit and the prescription pick-up and the library books to return--so there's no time for telling of tales, not until later. Check back later today and I'll give you all the yummy, girly, relaxing details. You might be jealous. Sorry about that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Long-Awaited Girly Trip

Tomorrow I'm leaving these honeys and this autumn weather in Minnesota, for a child-free existence amidst 88 degrees in Texas!

But only for a weekend.

I'll be back next week, with tales to tell of what grown women do when they're childless. For 2-1/2 days anyway. I've heard that full nights' sleep are involved. Also using the restroom in private, and eating an entire meal without having to get up once.

Best of all, this little jaunt will include hanging out with one of my dearest friends in the entire world--truly, words cannot do justice to her kindheartedness and her loyalty--so I know I'll have a lot of fun. Probably involving chocolate.

I don't leave for another day, but I know today is going to be consumed with finishing the weekly housecleaning, cooking some healthy advance-dinners, and packing for a climate some 45 degrees warmer than the one here. Unfortunately, I'll be doing all this with the help of a major caffeine overdose, because Genevieve kept me up ALL NIGHT LONG last night for the fourth night in a row. I thought this night-waking business was over once the baby was DONE BREASTFEEDING. What the heck? Why all the crying and yelling and tossing and turning and calling and screaming and bad dreams and no blankets and bedtime tantrums and morning grumps? Am I in kid-sleep hell?

I need my coffee and some PBS Kids. Oh! And also a weekend getaway! Ahhhh....

See you next week.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adult Pursuits

On Friday I am flying to San Antonio to visit a good friend for a couple of days. Last night a friend of mine and I met for dinner. And afterward I went to the bookstore next door and bought a new book for an evening book reading/discussion event I will be attending in a couple of weeks with some other women friends here in town. What? Am I actually beginning to have some semblance of a non-mothering life, in addition to my devoted-mama life? I guess we'll all just have to wait and see. Of course, all this fun requires a devoted husband to take over in my place, so I'm grateful to have a spouse who is truly an equal partner in parenting. Some day Genevieve will stop waging her war against bedtime and we'll actually be able to hire a sitter to come over during evening hours to put our girls to bed for us, and we'll do fun things like go out for Indian food or to a book reading TOGETHER. In the meantime, were we to do that we'd probably face charges of torture against the poor unsuspecting non-family-member forced to cope with ongoing toddler bedtime-screaming.

In other news, Genevieve keeps talking in her sleep. Actually, it's more like yelling. She'll be sound asleep, but ragefully shouting things like, "Mama, NOOOOOOO! Noooooo!" She's probably dreaming that I'm trying to put her in her sleep-sack or change her diaper, or, you know, convince her to do just about anything at all. She's even belligerent in her sleep! Isn't she going to make a lovely teenager? I can see it now, and I bet you can too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Milk-Jug Ghosts

I love doing Halloween projects with my daughters. Halloween lends itself especially well to creativity, with all its spooks and colored leaves and pumpkin faces, don't you think?

Last year I found this idea in Family Fun magazine: making ghosts out of plastic milk jugs. All you do is save and wash out an empty plastic milk jug, have the kids color ghost faces on it with black permanent marker (which: are you kidding me? We used Crayola washables, because our ghosts are not going outside), and then theoretically cut a hole out of the bottom of the jug and push in a strand or two of white Christmas lights. Because I am lazy and my children are tiny, I skipped the lights part. Yes, that means that all this project entailed was having them draw faces on milk jugs. Yes, it only took about two minutes. But yes, they DID think it was fantastic and delightful, thank you very much. And they are very proud of their ghosts. You may or may not want to click over to Family Fun to see their lovely version, before laying your eyes upon ours:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Milestone: Update (or: Shameless Writerly Self-Promotion)

As promised: here is my newly published essay in the current issue of Macalester Today, not available online. Click the image below to see a readable version. Hope you like it.

And please graciously ignore the grammatical error toward the end. Sometimes things happen during the editing process. (I was an English major. Enough said.)


The Fall 2008 issue of Macalester Today, my alma mater's award-winning alumni magazine, is out at last. You may recall that late last spring, I received notice that the magazine had accepted for publication an essay I'd written, about reconciling an elite education, an ambitious career path, and a modern-day notion of feminism with a 180-degree turn into stay-at-home-motherhood. I titled my essay, "Mama, Ph.D.," and subtitled it, "Can a Mac grad embrace stay-at-home-motherhood and still call herself a feminist?" (The subtitle got cut, but my answer is yes.)

I received my copy of the magazine's new issue in the mail last week, and honestly, I could not be prouder to be published there.

Unfortunately, the magazine does not regularly produce complete online issues, so I don't have a link to my published essay for you. But check back here again soon for more details and I'll hook you up, dear online readers.

In the meantime: So! Excited!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I've decided that if I could have any superpower, I'd pick the ability to put myself back to sleep instantly upon being awakened during the night. That way, when Genevieve wakes up at night crying, as she did six different times last night because she does not keep her blankets on and thus keeps getting chilled, I'd only lose a couple of minutes of sleep each time, like Christopher--rather than the hours I actually end up missing. My life would be transformed! If only.

Last year Genevieve wore a giant fleece toddler sleep-sack ("wearable blanket") all winter long to help keep her warm. We dubbed it the "Big Blue Suit." Of course she has grown out of that one, and so the other week we ordered her a new, different, larger one. This one is purple and is embroidered with a little blonde fairy on one shoulder. Last year Genevieve grew to love her Big Blue Suit, but now, apparently because it has been six months since she has worn a sleep-sack and also because she is two and as stubborn as a mule with a personality disorder, she has rejected the New Purple Suit out of hand. When it came in the mail, I opened the package in front of her, drew out the cozy fleece, oohed and aahed over it dramatically, pointed out the sweet little fairy, and admired the violet hue.

Genevieve took one look at it, scowled, shook her head, pointed at it, and said firmly, "NO. No bo-po [purple]. No doot [suit]."

And that is how we are doing as far as the wearable blanket is concerned.

And no, she won't wear a blanket sleeper either.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


How is it that my toddler throws three tantrums this morning, pretends she wants a morning nap, plays at the playground for an hour (shouldn't an hour of going up and down the jungle gym tire out a two-year-old?) and then drags herself home like she's finishing a marathon and might not make it, yawns her way through lunch and stories, and then REFUSES TO TAKE A NAP?

Why, people? Why?

Did I mention that she woke up crying approximately seventy million times last night, at one point (I believe it was 3:30 a.m.) insisting it was time to get up? When it most certainly was not? And that I then did not return to sleep until approximately 6 a.m.?

Yeah, I'm a little bit annoyed right now. As I go to the nursery to sigh heavily and get the baby back up from her aborted nap. And recall that Christopher is working late tonight.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Have I Mentioned That My Hair is Falling Out?

pancake breakfast = yummy

Even though I'm not writing about it much anymore, I'm still deep in the trenches of a stressful volunteer position, the one I took on five months ago when I was under the impression that it would involve an hour or so of monthly meetings and a few other easy tasks throughout the school year. Of course my faithful readers know--or sort of know--that it turned into something along the lines of EVERY PARENT VOLUNTEER'S WORST NIGHTMARE. And by that I mean that circumstances changed dramatically due to some major administrative shifts, and that my fellow volunteers and I have since invested countless hours into, basically, saving a little school. I am fortunate that I adore this school, its teachers, its new director, its families, and my fellow parent volunteers. Everyone involved deserves a medal. But people, it is extremely stressful to hold other people's livelihoods in your hands, to gaze at an agency's budget and be faced with decisions about staffing and hours and salaries. When you're just a mom, and you never thought of yourself as an employer; you were just thinking of doing things like donating cookies to the school carnival. You didn't expect to lose many nights' sleep over keeping a preschool open. You didn't expect that your life would open up to include an entire additional endeavor amidst the mothering, housewifery, cooking, running, and writing--that now you would also have "help run the preschool" on the list of things taking up your time. And that it would be really hard.

So maybe it's not so surprising that I'm losing hair like a postpartum mama? Or that my adrenaline is in overdrive? Or that running five miles now feels not like a challenge but an escape?

I am praying and praying about the election. I've been so disappointed by human nature in the last several months; people I thought I knew have stomped all over me and others, people I trusted have turned out to be anything but trustworthy. There are people out there--people in my very own hard-core liberal state!--who truly believe that Barack Obama is "an Arab" and that he is someone to be feared, apparently because he's black with a name that doesn't sound like their own. There's a lot of disappointing behavior out there--in the larger world and in my own little world as well--and I'm just holding thoughts of the truly good people I know close to my heart and hoping against hope that November 4th brings some redeeming news. Because things are better in my life these days than they were last summer--the baby screams a little less, the mean former friend is over and done, the volunteer job has morphed from immediate crisis into chronic challenge--but that's not to say my hair isn't falling out in clumps. Which is never a good thing, people.

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Mini "Caramel" Apples

Here's a fun and tasty fall project/recipe from Family Fun magazine: mini "caramel" apples. I wish I had a photo for you of my daughters' creation, but our camera battery died at the crucial moment. Click here to see the magazine version. They are super cute and were a big hit with my girls!

Note: I used a hefty spoonful of organic natural peanut butter, microwaved in a glass bowl for 30-40 seconds until runny, rather than melted butterscotch or peanut butter chips. That way even with my girls' ingestion of their weight in decorative sprinkles, it was still a healthy snack.

Here's what you do:

Use a melon baller to scoop out as many apple balls as you can from a medium apple. But make sure each scoop has a piece of apple skin on it (for the sticks to poke into). Find yourself some wooden coffee stirrers or lollipop sticks (available at craft stores--maybe some grocery stores too? in the baking aisle? not sure where I got mine; they're holdovers from another craft long ago) and cut them in half at an angle (to make a point on one end). Push a stick into the skin of each apple ball, pointy side in.

Melt butterscotch or peanut butter chips in the microwave according to package directions--or nuke some peanut butter like I did. Dip each mini apple into the melted chips or peanut butter, then dip into colored sprinkles, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, or crushed granola. Set each mini apple into a mini muffin-cup paper to set/cool (or just use a plate; but the little paper cups are especially fun for kids).

They look so adorable when they're done, and the girls had a blast making them. Plus: yummy. This is definitely going to be a fall tradition in our family.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Recipe Request: Pan-Roasted Carrots in Cayenne-Cream Sauce

At least one Wonderland reader wants my sinful carrot recipe from the other day. I tried and tried to find it online to post a link (the photo is especially gorgeous), but since I could not remember which magazine I clipped it from more than a year ago, I was unsuccessful. So I'll just give you the recipe here. I adapted it a little bit by using less cream and olive oil than called for. It was still unbelievably rich and savory. This is not an every-day dish. Unless you don't mind heart disease, that is. But it is scrumptious, especially in the fall, and a little heavy cream on an occasional basis won't kill you. Enjoy!

Pan-Roasted Carrots in Cayenne-Cream Sauce
8 servings

2 lbs. fresh whole carrots, unpeeled but well-scrubbed, sliced in half lengthwise (or into thinner strips if your carrots are really large), with a bit of the tops attached if desired (it looks pretty on the serving dish)
1 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
ground black pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more if desired)
fresh flat-leaf parsley, snipped, for garnish

Heat olive oil over medium heat in very large skillet. Add carrots, cut sides down, and cover. Cook 10 minutes, shaking pan occasionally to keep carrots from sticking. [Check heat now and then; I accidentally burned my carrots a bit.] Add salt, pepper, and garlic. Flip carrots over. Re-cover skillet and cook another 10 minutes, shaking occasionally, until carrots are tender and deeply browned.

Remove carrots to serving dish. Add cream and cayenne pepper to skillet and simmer, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour over carrots and garnish with parsley.

Friday, October 10, 2008

While the Baby Watches Sesame Street

Aren't there how-to-write-a-good-blog instructions somewhere that say something about how you should never write a post about how you have nothing to write? Well, I'm violating those instructions today.

I don't have much to write these days. You know: the baby keeps screaming at bedtime, the preschooler keeps obsessively playing "nativity story," we're busy with our seed collection and our Halloween decorations and our school mornings and our playdates. Julia draws about a hundred pictures a day, one after the other, paper paper everywhere, and argues with me daily about how many of them I recycle at one time. I'm sorry, but I'm drowning in paper; recycling must happen, oh tortured artist.

We've been visiting our new neighborhood playground pretty much every day with great joy, watching a healthy amount of PBSKids, going to Target way too often, fretting about the economy and the election, cooking, baking, and wishing my parents would come for a weekend (hear that, Mom and Dad?). At night I run five miles and then come home and eat ice cream out of nervousness while listening to the baby scream, because my brain is so tired of all the bedtime screaming. I haven't decided yet if the running five miles makes up for the ice cream or not. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out and then I remember how MNMom is always telling me that before I know it my girls will be nine years old, eleven years old, teenagers, and no one will be screaming in their cribs at bedtime anymore, and I will hardly believe it, and I'll miss their chubby baby hands and their baby blankies. I know it's true.

Sometimes I take Genevieve on stroller walks and I realize that she is almost too old for a stroller and then one of my all-time favorite baby things will be over, because I've always loved going for walks with the stroller.

So that's it, people. How is autumn going for you? Any screaming babies in your life? What about stroller walks? Is there anything you're wishing away, and anything else that you're trying to hold onto?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Picky Eater

Last night I tried a new side-dish recipe. Turns out that not even pan-roasting carrots in olive oil and then covering them with a sauce made from heavy cream can convince Genevieve to eat them. Is she crazy?

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Apple Farm

Last Saturday the girls and I were among the lucky attendees at an apple-themed outdoor kids' birthday party, held in the yard and meadow of some family friends who live out in the country. We had a fantastic time. The girls were sent home with a party-favor bag filled with paper cut-outs of apples, apple stickers, and apple books, including Apple Farmer Annie, by one of our favorite children's authors, Monica Wellington.

All of this inspired an imaginative and engrossing playtime activity: pretending to be an apple farmer, just like Annie in the book, who grows and picks apples to sell at a farmers' market. Julia and Genevieve had great fun locating baskets and pretend apples (including a crop of plastic snap-on baby beads), and setting up their "apple stand" on the sofa.

They then sold apples, apple muffins, apple pies, and candied apples at their market. Great fun, and creative too. Plus it continues the theme of autumn-related activities.

And remember: if you can keep the kids from eating all of them, you could let them use real apples for this game, too.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mama's Going on a TRIP, You All!

Last night, after four years of dreaming and six months of post-weaning and two-to-three months of planning and fare-watching, I booked a plane ticket to San Antonio to visit one of my dearest friends for a weekend later this month. Yes, the price of the ticket almost gave me a heart attack. However, it was $100 to $200 less than any fare we'd seen in the past three months, it was a direct flight, it is leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday (just as I needed), and it worked with Julia's preschool schedule and Christopher's work schedule. Also, it's the only real trip I've taken in almost four years, and the ONLY trip I've taken away from my children since becoming a mom. I'll be gone from my girls for two nights and most of three days (three nights if you count the fact that the babes will be in bed by the time I get home), and the idea is so unimaginable to me that I haven't yet fully grasped its meaning or its significance. Although reportedly my friend's husband--who has been privy to my friend's and my pining for one another since his job transferred the two of them from Minneapolis to Texas immediately after my first child was born, causing great heartbreak--has already booked us girls a spa day on Saturday, so, you know: that I can grasp. But still: sleeping "late" (read: past six a.m.) and not having to immediately care for another human being the second I open my eyes? Reading for pleasure on a plane? Having an adult conversation that isn't interrupted every two minutes by the sound of two small voices calling, "Mama, Mama, Mama!" about every little thing? Unimaginable.

A lot of moms I know (or hear/read about) get away from their children for special nights or weekends, girls' trips and whatnot, on at least an occasional basis, and view such events as normal, reasonable, required, deserved, and/or sanity-saving--and express surprise at the news that I have gone four years without going out of town without my babes. But the truth is, at my most absolute burned-out and impatient, empathy-emptied and depleted, all I've really ever pined for is an evening with my spouse alone and the kids at their grandparents', even if only for the duration of a movie. Since we haven't had many sitters in our parenting life--for many reasons well detailed elsewhere--even the littlest break goes a long way. When my parents sent Christopher and me off to dinner and a hotel for our anniversary during our trip north in August, it set me up for another four years. So I'm not--anymore--counting down the hours until I get a break from my girlies and their care. But that doesn't mean I won't be thrilled to spend a weekend with one of my all-time best girlfriends, doing girl stuff and being pampered, living vicariously the childless life once again---you know the one I mean, the one that involves using the restroom by yourself and carrying a handbag free of diapers and baby-sunscreen.

What it's really about is how much I miss this friend, how much fun it will be to catch up with her in person for a few days. And how when I come back, I'll be so happy to see their little faces in the morning.

I still have a few details to work out, including the transportation challenges of having only one car in our family and no public transportation between our country town and the city airport 45 minutes away (one-way), but come on: if I can give birth to two babies, nurse them forever and ever, put up with all sorts of toddler shenanigans and bedtime tantrums, survive the 2008 summer from hell and still live to tell the tale, I'm sure I can figure it out.

Having said that, seeing as how a few weeks ago I was stymied by the question of how to operate an ATM, navigating a big-city airport by myself for the first time in, like, ever--while also managing to avoid violating some unfathomable airline-security regulation or another--might pose a bit of a challenge. It is fair to say that my life in the past several years has been a bit, shall we say, LIMITED in certain ways. As in, limited mainly to activities involving intensive baby/toddler caregiving. It has not involved any jet-setting travel (or, apparently, the use of an ATM).

Wish me luck. And you know you'll hear a lot more about it in weeks to come.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Fall Frolic 2008

Over the weekend we embarked upon our second annual pumpkin-patch adventure at a nearby farm. We love this place. We met some friends there, and everyone had fun--everyone except Genevieve, I mean. No, really, toward the end she finally came around and decided that picking pumpkins and apples, visiting farm animals, and petting a gentle dog wasn't a special form of torture after all, and she actually began to smile. The photos here are from that portion of the visit. We also have a whole batch of photos featuring joyful grins from everyone else, and then Genevieve sulking in the background, walking out of the frame with her shoulders slumped, or Genevieve scowling into her lap while the other children grin and cheer at the camera. What was her problem? I have no idea. She was the absolute picture of a moody teenager. Good Lord, can you imagine what Genevieve's adolescence is going to be like? I'm going to start saving up now for powerful prescription mood-altering drugs. For myself, I mean.

Anyway, it was picturesque and idyllic, as fall in Minnesota always is. And as for outdoor adventures with preschoolers and toddlers? Picturesque and idyllic too, in their own way, of course. Right?

Friday, October 03, 2008

I Swear, the Only Beverage I Consume Before 9 a.m. is Coffee.

I'm sitting here trying to think what could possibly be my good excuse for embodying the very definition of a harried mom this week. Perhaps the fact that I ended up with a pediatrician appointment, a pediatric speech evaluation appointment (fine! her speech is fine! I wish I could go back in time and cancel those two appointments because I surely could have used those extra hours!), a dentist appointment, and a haircut appointment all in one week? Perhaps my attempts to juggle preschool, playdates, daily playground visits, nightly home-cooked dinners, and every household chore imaginable, all at the same time?

Perhaps the fact that Christopher worked late last night. Or that due to all the potty accidents around this place lately, I feel like I live in the laundry room these days. Or maybe it's the fact that I had three kid-birthdays to shop for this week. Or the birthday parties, pumpkin patch visits, and apple-picking plans beginning to fill my October wall calendar. Or, I know--it's all the preschool fundraiser deadlines and pancake breakfast sign-ups and t-shirt ordering and Board meeting agendas cluttering up my brain. Or wait! Julia's yearly preschool "All About Me" page is due in a week; and isn't that, in the end, something that's more on MY to-do list than her own?

Maybe it's the fact that in two weeks I was supposed to fly to San Antonio to visit my dearest far-away friend for a girls' weekend (imagined for 4+ years!), and yet daily fare-checks reveal plane tickets so expensive there is NO WAY I can afford them? And yet, I'm sort of supposed to be flying to TX in two weeks? Yeah, that's a little frazzling.

All I know is, this morning after preschool drop-off, I drove to CostCutters to get Genevieve's hair cut, and when I pulled up to the strip mall, I ended up straddling the white parking-space line, smack in front of the shop's front window. (No, I did not realize it until I was out of the car and in the shop.) Then when I got inside and was checking in with the nice, no doubt childless and unharried twenty-something hairdresser, I spilled the contents of my (very large) handbag all over the salon floor. When I gathered my things, the nice hairdresser girl at the desk had to point out that my phone was still under a chair. (Thanks, nice childless hairdresser girl! I'm not always this harried!) When I went to pay, I accidentally wrote the amount of the check in the space for the name of the salon, and had to start over.

I'm sure this 22-year-old hairstylist was convinced I had started drinking at 8 a.m. today.

I did make it home without further incident, and that's including stopping at two other places to run further errands. Although I did accidentally make Genevieve cry by taking her down the Halloween-candy aisle at Walgreen's, where, unbeknownst to me, on the opposite side of the aisle from where we were standing, stood two or three big old scary Halloween monster mannequins, right there, right where she was facing from her helpless little strapped-into-the-cart vantage point. I was so busy picking out treats for my big plan to make, frost, and decorate Halloween sugar-cookie cut-outs with the girls later this month that it took me awhile to register that Genevieve was feebly whimpering my name and weakly gesturing toward the ghouls, paralyzed with fear.

Ah, yes. Best. Mom. Ever. (Sigh.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Solo Playdate! Hooray!

The other day a fellow preschool mom, whose daughter is in Julia's classroom at nursery school, called out of the blue to invite Julia over to play tomorrow morning. Alone. And stay for lunch. This mom even offered to drive Julia back home afterward, which I refused since it's hard to get to our house these days due to a massive road-construction project going on right outside our door, and it just seemed, well--too nice of her. She's going to have my kid over, feed her a meal, AND navigate a construction detour all over creation to bring her back home? The least I can do is spare her that last part.

This is our first drop-off playdate experience, and I'm not used to someone else offering to WATCH MY CHILD FOR ME. For free. Someone who's not even related to me. Someone I hardly know! (Although, I should emphasize, we've known this family superficially for over a year now and they are extremely friendly and sweet, just not anyone we've socialized with outside the preschool hallways.) Apparently Julia's little classmate has been asking to have Julia over to play. How sweet is that? As for Julia, she's super-excited. I wondered if she'd be hesitant, since we've never visited this family before and she's never played one-on-one with this child, let alone eaten a meal at her house, but right away Julia was thrilled with the invitation. I hope she's as eager tomorrow morning when Genevieve and I drop her off.

Now I just need to find someone who wants to spend a morning with GENEVIEVE.

What-to-Do Wednesdays: Seed Collection

Ready for another week's autumn-themed kids' activity? I got the idea to go on a seed collecting hunt from Mom and Kiddo over at What Do We Do All Day?, so THANKS, Mom and Kiddo! It's such a great idea I couldn't resist trying it out, and now spreading the word.

Last week Julia, Genevieve, and I began our seed collection. We went on a walk in our neighborhood, hunting for any type of seeds and placing them gently in a Ziploc bag to take home with us. Along the way, we had plenty of time to talk about what seeds are, what types we might find--acorns, pinecones (seeds inside), seed pods from leafy trees, fluffy white dandelion heads--and what grows from them. When we got home we transferred our treasures to the cups of an empty egg carton. We continue to add to our collection here and there; the other day on a family walk, we found a milkweed pod and some green acorns. It's been a fun little science lesson to learn about seeds this fall, and it's a great way to enjoy a lovely autumn day. Best of all, by expanding upon or limiting your hunt as needed, this activity would work for a wide range of ages. Toddlers love to hold round, smooth acorns and explore their bumpy "hats"; a fourth-grader could research different types of seeds at the library (or, let's face it, on the Internet) and get really scientific about it.

Have fun on your own seed hunt! Let me know how it goes!