Tuesday, March 31, 2009

where in the world

I have had this blog for nearly two years. In all that time, pushing 600 days - 24 months - how many minutes and I have only, just barely, like last week, installed a site counter.

I know. It's so like me to be on the cutting edge of this technology stuff. Nay, the BLEEDING EDGE OF TECHNOLOGY (that phrase just rankles me, but that's for another day). I'm all about this new fangled computer stuff. With the INTERNET and the GOOGLE and the EMAIL. Also: my Crackberry is actually a brick-sized phone with an antenna that's strong enough to put out your eye.

So yeah. I just installed a site counter, and I have to ask those of you who have been doing this site counter nonsense for longer than five minutes: HOW DO YOU NOT CHECK THE THING ALL THE TIME? LIKE, EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY?

I am currently obsessed with finding out who is visiting The Creamery from Fiji, India, Switzerland, and Germany. Any ideas?

Monday, March 30, 2009

a brief and frightening glimpse into my psyche

Today, I ate chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, and I will most likely also consume it for dinner.

I don't think most doctors would recommend it, but for my particular ailment (toomuchtodo-itis), it is a tried and true remedy. Other helpful remedies include steps such as rolling around on the floor with a 12-month-old baby and making this noise: wow-wow-wow-WOW, stacking multi-colored cups for selfsame baby to repeatedly knock over, kissing as many baby belly jelly rolls as possible, eating yet more chocolate cake, and reading Anne Rice's The Witching Hour (I'll get to this in a bit).

I find that I am suffering from toomuchtodo-itis because I have, um, ALOT to do. It's all part of this ball of STRESS that we've been sorting through for the past few months, and it feels like it's coming to a head, with deadlines and other stuff looming out there in the ever-approaching-future. My portion of the STRESS has me making a million phonecalls and sending emails. I'm normally pretty good at that kind of stuff, but when I'm faced with a truly heinous deadline, I tend to get paralyzed into inaction. Hence today and the chocolate cake.

I think I'm comprised of equal parts 2-year-old child, petulant teenager, and homing pigeon. How else to explain the excess of chocolate and the repeated readings of an overwrought novel about witches living in New Orleans? See, I am a creature of habit, and the more you push this particular creature of habit into stressful situations, the more she returns to those things that are comforting and above-all familiar. Hence the novel. I've read it about six times, and I return to it every few years when I forget how terribly unsatisfying I always find the later novels to be. For those few of you who carefully monitor my reading material, you might be surprised about the Anne Rice. But here's the thing: there's a reason we occasionally eat Captain Crunch cereal and can digest an entire carton of cookie dough ice cream if we're really truly in the mood. And so it is with The Witching Hour. When I pick the thing up, it is so comforting, so familiar, and so darn MORE-ISH, I just have to read the entire thing. I've read the other books that come after it, and I hate them. H-A-T-E. But I think The Witching Hour is one of Rice's best books.

And it's most especially good when I'm trying to forget about the daily concerns of one Whimsy C. Homely Houserperson. The Witching Hour: the perfect chaser for chocolate cake and a glass of milk.

Are you ever stressed into inaction? How long does it take you to recover? What are your tried and true remedies for stress?

curses, books, etc.

Chocolate cake curse: 42
Whimsy: 0
YES THE STREAK CONTINUES. I made the cursed chocolate cake on Sunday and screwed it up YET AGAIN. This time I forgot to add the water during the proper step (cocoa + butter + water heated together). I was also low on sour cream. So I substituted. With YOGURT. Ha! In addition, when I made the icing I added what was, apparently, the lumpiest powdered sugar to ever lump - so the resulting icing was, um, lumpy. The good news: the chocolate cake is impervious to my screw ups. I added the water at the end and it was still brilliant! You can't tell that it's a sour cream/YOGURT cake! The lumpy icing might be lumpy but it's still delicious! Yay for chocolate cake that refuses to die!

My favorite part of The Latest Chocolate Cake Experience was when I made the water screw up and muttered a somewhat irritated (okay, VERY IRRITATED) CRUD! Chip overheard me from the living room, and he goes, "What did you forget?" Because he knows about The Curse.

* * * * *

Our most exciting moment of the weekend is when Alice took her very first actual unassisted totally voluntary STEPS. She waited until Chip had been home for five minutes on Friday afternoon. We were sitting on the living room floor, Alice standing next to the couch. Chip had taken off his watch and was holding it in his hand when wouldn't you know, Alice really wanted that watch. So what does she do? She WALKS OVER TO IT. Chip kept backing up with this wide-eyed crazy look on his face as Alice took tiny step after tiny step to get to him. It was fantastic. In total she took about six steps. Since then, we can get her to walk between us, but really she doesn't notice that it's that great of a trick yet. I keep waiting for it to dawn on her that she can move herself from point A to point B in the middle of the room without assistance or the need to get on her hands and knees. Once that happens, I know we're going to be in for crazy hands-in-air waving Frankenstein girl.

* * * * *

Something else Alice spontaneously started to do last week was to bring me books to read to her. The kid loves a good book, just like her mother, and really I can't complain about it. What mother would complain about her kid wanting to READ, right? It's just that she loves the same books read to her forty-two times. In a row. So any time I'm sitting on the floor with Alice, she'll come lug a book over and then crawl directly into my lap (really, it's so adorable I want to die) and then she sits there waiting for me to read about the pigs going LA LA LA and the mommy that hides under the covers and the hippo that holds a very successful hippo party and the baby animals on the farm and the little girl that waves bye bye and the hippopotamus that doesn't do anything with the other animals until the very end of the story. You know, like that.

* * * * *

In other news, I dreamt last night that I was riding a golden elevator up and down a bunch of floors and I kept trying to land on this one floor that had some kind of very special baby clothing boutique, and when I finally got to that floor, I spent a great deal of time trying to find the perfect baby carrier for Alice. Which was so weird, because she doesn't need a baby carrier. And also, who the heck dreams about shopping? And a golden elevator, REALLY?

How was your weekend?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

12-month old psychology

If it's closed, it should be open.
If it's up, it should be down.
If it's folded, it should be on the floor.
If it's neat, it should be messy.
If it's stacked, it should be strewn around.
If it's quiet, it should be LOUD.
If it's clean, it should be dirty.
If it's sweet smelling, it should be poopy.

Why yes, we're feeling so much better over here!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

breathing lessons

There are things that I want to tell Alice, like how no matter how hard she tries, she's never going to catch Fergus. Don't eat the carpet lint. This bite of chicken and rice is really good. Washing your face is not the same thing as torture, no matter how much you hate it. I want to tell her these things and have her understand me. Have her face flash a sense of recognition. Have her nod her head in agreement - or even say OKAY, YES, I GET IT. I know we're a long ways off from such a thing, and really, if I'm being honest with myself, we get through our days just fine with our communication shorthand. But last night, oh last night I realized just how much I would trade to be able to teach Alice to breathe.

She is struggling to sleep, and I can see the toll it is taking: the dark circles under her eyes, her lack of spark and energy. Her body is heavy with the need of it, her arms sluggish. She is very cranky.

We spent the day together trying to make do - my low energy, her one desire to be held and comforted. We read books. She didn't want me to leave her to make lunch or dinner. At bedtime I set the steam vaporizer up in her room. I carefully added eucalyptus, watching the oil serpentine through the water. After a bottle, I lay her in her crib, her small body impossibly limp. Less than an hour passed before she was up crying through a fit of coughing. I went to her room, stood at the crib rail and leaned in as far as I could go, rubbing her back - soothing her back into sleep.

I had the room monitor downstairs to listen to Alice while I loaded the dishwasher and put the toys away. Her breaths came in ragged wheezing fits. I counted between them, hoping she would calm herself, hoping she would settle into sleep. It wasn't long before she was awake again and again and again. Each time I went to her, I stood at the crib rail and hoped my presence would speak to her in a way that my words cannot: Be still. Trust. Each breath will come. You cannot force it. Don't panic. This is a night that will pass like all the others. Don't fight. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

I wonder how often I'm going to be doing this in Alice's lifetime, how often I'm going to be at her side - knowing everything she needs to do, but having no way to tell her so: lacking the words, lacking the vision, lacking the simple ability to communicate the answer. She will have to trust in my presence, understand that I'm there next to her, that she is not alone, that she is going to be fine, that she shouldn't panic, that each breath will come, she cannot force it, breathe, breathe, breathe.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

(not so) plain white box sighting

Shelly Overlook has the Plain White Box! And has opened her contest for its next stop - visit her here and enter to win.

If you're out of the loop and what to know about the Saga of the Box: check here, here, and here.

Monday, March 23, 2009


When I refer to The Little Brother, I am doing so in a birth-order specific way. Because he is not in the least bit little. Especially in comparison to yours truly, who doesn't measure over five feet.

The LB was actually little for about twenty minutes of his lifetime. After that, he was able to not only outdistance me in laps around our kitchen, but could also lift tremendous obstacles (i.e. the coffee table that childhood friend Stacie and I were hiding behind) when attempting to catch me in our daily game of let's-see-how-much-we-can-torment-one-another.

Ours has been a brother-sister relationship of mutual conflict and toleration. I put Tobasco sauce on the LB's popcorn ball, he threw a large screwdriver at my head. I took the LB and his friend to the movies (so very uncool), he was the errand boy to carry notes back and forth between my friends.

Despite my best efforts, he's turned out to be a very cool guy. And moreover, he's turned out to be a very good man. A while back, he married himself a very cool girl. And yesterday, they brought this to the world:

A very little girl in his very large hands. Congrats, bro. I couldn't be more proud.


Hello. I am calling out sick today. Seems that the plague is still doing its darndest to hang on, despite our best efforts.

Let's talk tomorrow, mmm kay? In the meantime, I'd love to hear about your weekend. Mine involved a lot of coughing. Also sneezing. And snot. What about you?

Friday, March 20, 2009

baby tending for the sick and infirmed

My new best friend.
I was required to show my I.D. to purchase it.
At this point, I would give both of my kidneys (and my liver, too) just to keep
it around. I do not use the term "blissful" lightly.

The secret to tending a baby who is on the UP side of feeling sick (who, at the time of writing this, was rolling around on the floor, amazed that she could see her toes, while simultaneously making this noise OOOOOOO! OOOOOOO! OWWWWW!), especially when the mother is clearly mired in the Valley of Death in the Country of Sick? I present to you, my brilliant plan.

1.) Stay current with diaper changes. This is a non-negotiable.

2.) Relax the need to keep your child ultra clean and settle for mildly clean. More sticky and perishable items such as yogurt should be wiped from face and hands, with reasonable care. Less sticky, more crumbly items such as crackers, bread, and rice rusks can remain on facial area for hours.

3.) Lay out almost all favorite toys on a large favorite blanket on the floor. Keep back one or two favorite toys (behind couch cushion) for emergencies.

4.) Close all auxiliary doors, barricade unsafe outlets behind furniture, make room as safe as possible.

5.) Place child on floor. Introduce her to all the fun toys.

6.) Measure out large portion of Annie's Honey Bunny Grahams (thank you, Angela!) into a paper cup.

7.) Take paper cup and self to the couch. Lounge.

8.) Watch baby interest herself in toys for 2 minutes.

9.) Watch baby lose interest in toys and turn eyes to various items in the room.

10.) Watch baby investigate doors, chairs, tables, pack n play, booster seat, cabinet, and hotel room door --- all of which interests her for exactly 2 minutes.

11.) Watch baby crawl to you, whining that she is boooooored and wants to play with maaaaaaamaaaaaaa.

12.) Do the mental gymnastics of adding up the total time that baby has been entertained by all of mama's hard prep work (total: 4 minutes).

13.) Reach hand into honey bunny graham cup and extract one magic biscuit. Show it to baby.

14.) Watch baby's increasing speed in coming to mama.

15.) Hand baby the biscuit.

16.) Watch baby cruise away, down the couch, around the table, over to the blanket, around the pack n play, cross the room back to the chair, and back eventually to the couch for another biscuit (total time spent: 2.8 minutes).

17.) Lounge listlessly on couch as baby makes countless rounds of the room, accompanied by a new bunny cracker for each trip.

18.) Repeat until child begins to take face-down rest breaks on the blanket or bunny crackers are expired, whichever comes first.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

how to get by on less than 30 words

Well. It would seem that my EXCELLENT MOTHER'S INTUITION was completely and totally off, and that whole teething thing I thought we had going on was, in fact, some kind of virus. Which Chip has been fighting. And now I have as well.

I am calling us Mr. & Mrs. Coughy McCougherson, with their adorable daughter, Coughsy. Hi - don't you want to sit next to us?

In lieu of an actual entry, I have pictures of Astoria.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

my self-worth is dictated by my rewards card level

I had a great title for this entry, and also a fantastic introduction. I wrote both in my head at 4 o'clock this morning, when I was lying awake on the couch in our Astoria hotel room. Both the title and the first sentence have now gone the way of most thoughts conceived before the sun has risen-- and now I'm sitting here in the evening, trying to think of a way to tell you that my husband is obsessed with his Hilton Rewards status.

Here's the story: there is a whole Travel Hierarchy that I have only ever glimpsed from afar - making flight and hotel reservations for bosses whose DIAMOND, PLATINUM, and SUPER-DUPER DOUBLE-PLATED UNOBTAINIUM cards opened doors that I never even knew existed. There is an entire Travel Royalty, y'all, and I doubt that many of us will ever even glimpse the luxury these folks enjoy. And I'm not talking about free upgrades of flights or free bottled water in a hotel room or two. I'm talking about a whole industry of complimentary food, treats, entire hotel stays, free flights, special tours, special rental cars, and access to hot-and-cold liquid GOLD. There are free receptions, special toiletries (the BIG size - not the puny ones made for elves), entire CHECK-IN DESKS just for these people who are considered frequent travelers.

Because Chip travels so much, he's had one too many brushes with this kind of plush treatment to just ignore that it goes on. Keep in mind, this is a dude who travels to places like Pe Ell, Washington (population 500, if you include the animals). He does his best to stay in bigger towns, not only because Pe Ell doesn't even HAVE a hotel to stay in, but also because he needs at least some creature comforts. With this kind of hectic travel schedule, the guy isn't going to be staying at the neon-sign blinking Sunset Inn anytime soon. I certainly don't blame him. In fact, his company prefers that he stay at large chain hotels (preferably Hilton). But Chip's choices are few and far between owing to the fact that his "big city" stays are actually more along the line of "small town that seems big because it sits in comparison to places that don't have a gas station". So Chip doesn't have a lot of hotel choices. Luckily he can usually find some version of the Hampton Inn - a fine establishment, to be sure, but not really the Waldorf Astoria. And here's where this whole thing gets even weirder: you might be thinking that places like the Hampton Inn don't have the special rewards, the precious metal-graded (SILVER! GOLD! PLATINUM! DIAMOND!) cards, the extra special super duper presents given to those people who frequent their hotel... but they do.

Enter my husband, apple of my eye, sweet goodly man that he is. My dearest chip is only at Silver status, and boy does it just ZING him every time. He traveled with his boss last week - a guy who has been doing this gig for four years. A guy who is easily a DOUBLE-BLACK-FIVE-POINT-DIAMOND SPECIAL SPECIAL card holder. They stayed at the Hampton Inn somewhere in Smallish Town, Washington. Chip was booked in a nice-ish room: clean, a king bed, a nice television, a microwave, a refrigerator. And his Boss? His Boss was given (no lie) THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE. I didn't think they even had a Presidential Suite at the Hampton Inn, but they do. With (according to my husband) a full-size kitchen, a full-size living room, leather furniture, and (possibly, if reports are true) a gold-plated bathroom complete with its own butler. It turns out that the Hampton Inn automatically upgrades Boss to the largest suite available every time the dude stays with them. Chip was a little... jealous.

Since this time, he has been counting his points - adding up his stays - researching the Hilton website within an inch of its LIFE to find out when he, too, will be treated like the King of Someplace That's Very Important.

I've been calling it Operation Gold Member - and it has its own theme song, which sounds very much like the theme song to James Bond's Goldfinger. If I see Chip so much as open a web page, I know he's looking at the Hilton site and I'll start in with "Goooooooooold memberrrrrrrrrrrrr!" He thinks I'm charming. Wouldn't you?

It isn't just the status and room upgrades that have Chip doing all this research. He's fascinated with the potential freebies, which, on the scale of Hampton Inn, totally crack me up. Here's a place that is geared toward the budget traveler, the family traveler, right? So sure, they have a Presidential Suite in Randomville, Washington - but they have the weirdest freebies ever. To wit: a silver status member doesn't qualify for anything; a gold status member receives one (1) bottle of water PLUS a complimentary room upgrade. You can imagine by the time they work their way up to the membership levels that are for the dudes that are just one step away from living at their hotel, they give them things like one (1) bottle of water, one (1) salty snack (really!), and a guaranteed complimentary room upgrade. They outdo themselves.

At Embassy Suites, it gets even more ridiculous. Silver status doesn't get anything. Gold status gets one (1) bottle of water and a choice of one (1) salty snack. (Chip's comment: Could they demean popcorn any worse than calling it a "salty snack"? Popcorn has earned its right to be called POPCORN.) Diamon status gets a choice of three (3!!!) items: bottle of water, cola, diet cola, lemon-lime soda, diet lemon-lime soda, salty snack.

Chip and I got a kick out of the snack situation when he first read about it - like, can you imagine walking up to the front desk and being all, "Hello Miss? You forgot to offer me my one (1) salty snack."

So last night (and rounding back to this whole FOUR AM business), we had a hard time sleeping. Chip's been fighting a horrible bout of bronchitis, and Alice is fighting some kind of teething cross-over to cold/cough thing. Neither one of them was having a good night, which left me somewhere in the middle: either sleep on the couch out by Alice or stay awake with Chip as he tossed and turned on the queen-size bed. I tried to tough it out on the bed, but finally gave up around 2am and went out to the couch. I lay there for a long while - sleep had abandoned me for other, more receptive, clients. After about an hour, I heard Chip still awake in the bedroom - so I went to find out how he was doing. Lo and behold, I found him staring intently at his computer.

Whimsy: What are you doing?
Chip: Guess.
Whimsy: Goooooooooold Memberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr?
Chip: (Nods head.) The good news is, I now know how many points it would take for us to stay for free at Tobago, Trinidad. 35,000 points.
Whimsy: (Wonders if Chip knows how crazy this sounds. And then wonders if Chip is doing this in his sleep.) Wow.
Chip: And that's not all. We'd get the choice of TWO salty snacks!

And that is when I went back to the couch and lay there for another hour, thinking of all the brilliant ways I could tell this story and make you laugh.

Trinidad: ours for only thirty-five THOUSAND points. AND we'd get two salty snacks. I'm sold.

I feel the need to remind you (as my husband has now reminded me tonight) that Chip is doing all of this mad obsessing for us, for his famkily. He tells me that one day soon I'm going to find myself thoroughly enjoying the free room upgrades (he's not wrong - I like me a free room upgrade) and perhaps I will even be arguing with a front desk person named Maggie that we are owed a salty snack. I believe him. After all, he's done the research.

Monday, March 16, 2009

how we roll

I am cheating by posting this picture of Alice-- it isn't from
today, it's from last month's trek to Eastern Washington, which
also explains why she's still facing backward in this photo

We're on our way to Portland again...

By way of Astoria for one night (Astoria: made famous by The Goonies and Kindergarten Cop). I've never been to Astoria, though Chip has visited there many times. I've gotten the question a few times from you guys: WHY all the traveling? The short version? Because my heart leaves for days at a time each time Chip walks out the door and drives down the driveway - Alice an
d I safely left behind at the house, left behind to do all those normal daily things that we need to do like visit friends and do the dishes and go for walks and live life as normally as possible. But those things are never much fun when my heart isn't in them - my heart that sits there with Chip as he goes to far-off locales as Humptulips, Washington (you think I'm kidding? I'm so not...) or Winthrop, Washington or even the big city of Spokane, Washington. His work has him going to all these places, and normally he isn't in one town for very long - usually one night. Alice and I don't go with him when he's going to be town-hopping because to do so would be both CRAZY and almost IMPOSSIBLE. See, when Chip took this job a year ago, we made an agreement that we'd keep Alice's life as close to normal as we could. But I also committed to travel with Chip at least once a month. Which means that I take a ton of stuff with us on the road. Things like Alice's booster seat, her stroller, and her pack n play. Not to mention the diapers, the wipes, the clothes, and the food she normally eats. All this to give Alice a sense of normalcy even when we're living at the Embassy Suites in Portland for a week.

This week's packed items includes the humidifier, because Alice is in the particular week in her teething situation known as ALL SNOT ALL THE TIME. The humidifier seems to help her sleep. So we brought it. We also brought a nightlight (for seeing Alice in a dark nighttime hotel room), electrical plug covers (because I'm tired of trying to cover every available outlet with furniture), and an entire 1/2 gallon of organic whole milk in the cooler (so glad that we're done with the nasty and HOLY COW EXPENSIVE formula, but seriously someone needs to come up with easily transported whole milk for the child on the road).

It's so nice to be traveling WITH my heart this week - which really makes up for the craziness we go through on these trips. I am a true creature of habit, and if you didn't know that BEFORE, than you certainly should NOW because dude, who takes that much stuff with them on a week-long trip?

See you on the other side, duders.

Friday, March 13, 2009

fruit punch dregs

I've been drinking fruit punch today.

It seemed like the appropriate drink for Friday the 13th. A sweet drink to counteract some of my acidity. (Can a person be acidic? Yes, yes I think so.) I didn't want to get all hopped up on the 'punch, so I limited myself to one glass. A glass that lasted for most of the morning up until just these last few moments, here at 2:50 in the afternoon.

When I reached the bottom of the glass, the last little bits of purply red liquid sitting there, reflecting onto my kitchen table, I noticed a ---let's call it sediment--- a sediment of fruit punch bits floating in the liquid. Ewww, right? I'm telling myself that the fruit punch was just so darn fruity that it actually had pulpy bits of fruit in it, and that's what is left in the last bits of my glass. I'm telling myself this so as not to get all weird about what I just drank today.

Which brings me to this thought that I'm going to share with you here: dregs. We have them in our lives, right? Little bits of junk left behind from something good (or bad - I've seen dregs in V8 juice and I'm NOT a fan of the V8). The little bits can clog us up, hold us back, make us forget who and what we are. In my life, I have let these little pulpy bits stop me from truly embracing the moments. I have thought too much about the possiblities that I've missed the actual event.

I don't know if I'm making sense. I have a feeling I'm not, but I don't think it matters. What matters is that I've enjoyed a delicious glass of fruit punch. I am ignoring the nasty sludge left behind. And now I might take a walk down to the mailbox (Alice is asleep). Have a great weekend, my friends.

what if

I wonder what she's going to be like when she's three. Will she tell me NO? Will she ask lots of questions? Will she tell me about her imaginary friends?

I wonder what she's going to be like when she's five. Will she still love books? Will she be holding her blankie in the crook of her arm when she sleeps? Will she talk with a lisp?

I wonder what she's going to be like when she's seven. Will she look forward to losing her teeth to the tooth fairy? Will she insist that I know nothing about seven-year-old fashion? Will she hang out with me in the kitchen when I'm cooking?

I wonder what she's going to be like when she's fourteen. Will she play sports? Will she make music? Will she be an artist?

I wonder what she's going to be like when she's eighteen. Will she love learning? Will she express herself in words or athletics or art? Will she tell me that she's brave enough, that she's strong enough, that she has all that she needs to make good choices - to face the world - to become the person that she's capable of becoming?

I love her so much now-- the little girl she is, the quirky things she does, her fearless approach to life. I adore her for now and for later, for her possibilities. I can only imagine how much the boundaries of that love are going to stretch with time, stretch to encompass not only who she is, but to embrace that person she will become tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow as her possibilities become traits. I don't know what those traits will be. But I know one thing: she's going to be amazing.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

devil's food

The first time I made mom's chocolate sheet cake, I had forgotten to write "EGGS" in the recipe. It didn't turn out so well.

The second time I made the cake, I accidentally doubled the amount of powdered sugar in the frosting. It didn't turn out so well.

The third time I made the cake, I was following a newly written recipe (don't know where the first one went) and I completely skipped over the steps to melt the butter and heat the cocoa for the batter. Again: it didn't turn out so well.

The fourth time I made the cake, I didn't melt the frosting ingredients properly. The resulting concrete-like boulder of chocolate was both un-re-meltable (not a word and I don't care) and unspreadable. Hence: didn't turn out so well.

The fifth time I made the cake, I didn't even make it. I took out the recipe, considered my past attempts, and gave up before even trying.

The sixth time I made the cake (giving myself a generous wait time in between disasters), I got through the entire recipe - all the way until the last step in the frosting, and I hadn't made a single mistake. The last ingredient in the frosting? Vanilla. And I didn't have any. I made it with Almond flavoring instead. The result was... interesting.

If I keep numbering the times I've made this cake and gotten it wrong, you'll know for sure that I'm crazy. So I'm just going to tell you that I do it wrong Every. Single. Time. This is without exaggeration. I can't get it right. I do something, anything, to sabotage myself every time. I've added too many eggs, not enough water, the wrong amount of cocoa. I've had the cake fall after baking. I've overmelted the chocolate icing (yes, really). I've added too much butter, not enough sour cream, kept it in the oven too long. I don't know what possessed me to offer, but I made the cursed cake for my friend K's little girl's first birthday party. True to form, I hadn't written the recipe down correctly - so I left out the milk in the chocolate icing. Instead, I punted and added extra butter and water... luckily it was salvageable.

Which is the reason I keep making this ridiculous cake. I get it wrong EVERY STINKING TIME and it's still mostly edible. It's even (dare I say?) good. The kind of cake that you can get wrong and still people mostly don't know.

But I know. And the fact that I can't get this stupidly EASY cake right is what has me making the cake again and again and again. Convinced that I will break the curse.

It's been over 10 years. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

how to host a successful first birthday party

Step 1. Plan, plan, plan.
Start planning at least four weeks in advance. Make multiple lists - sorted by category. Obsessing is recommended. 4am to 6am are particularly fruitful hours to lay in bed and reorder your lists. Rework the lists in order to allow you to strike things off of them as many times as possible.

Step 2. Worry.
Although this goes hand in hand with planning, it is important that you spend adequate time worrying over the smallest details. When in doubt, run scenarios of bad weather, sick baby, and/or not enough food.

Step 3. Do not ask for help.

Convince yourself you can do it alone, given enough lists. Encourage your husband to go on his week-long business trip and know you will get everything done (and MORE) while he's gone. Laugh when this turns out to be TOTALLY UNTRUE.

Step 4. Schedule other commitments for the week leading up to the party.
12-month doctor's appointments, meetings, commitments to friends --- don't let the party be the only thing you are trying to do. It's boring to keep things within reason.

Step 5. Complicate things.

Do not settle for one flavor of cupcake, one type of chips/dip, one simple dessert. When in doubt, always make things more complicated. Two types of cupcakes, special desserts just for the babies in attendance, etc.

Step 6. Be detailed.

So detailed, in fact, that you make tiny little color-coordinated flags to top the vanilla cupcakes.

Step 7. Be crazy detailed.
So crazy detailed, in fact, that you decide the tiny little color-coordinated flags aren't as cute as tiny little flags made out of color-coordinated ribbon. Toss the paper color-coordinated flags and spend 45 minutes making ribbon flags with hot glue and toothpicks. Admire your work. They look smashing.

Step 8. Make a cake that is cursed.
(Specific details to follow...) Do not settle for boxed cake. Make a yummy chocolate batter recipe that is CURSED. That you get wrong EVERY TIME YOU MAKE IT. And do a lot of other things while making the batter, all the better to ensure yo
u will again do something wrong when you make the cupcakes.

Step 9. Leave the vanilla cupcakes out on the kitchen counter overnight.
Ensure the cats are both irritated with you for stiffing them on less evening treats than normal. Wake up the next morning to find the tray of vanilla cupcakes with the added bonus of CAT PAW PRINTS IN THEM. Be excited about making more vanilla cupcakes.

Step 10. On the day of the party, fiddle with the birthday girl's nap schedule.
Why be boring when you can wonder if your child
is going to sleep at all or sleep right through the party?

Step 11. Make a special birthday cake for the birthday girl.
A cake she has never eaten before and will be sure to shun when all thirteen pairs of eyes are watching her, waiting for her to take a first bite. Laugh heartily that HA HA - MY BABY WON'T EAT HER BIRTHDAY CAKE.

Step 12. Make individual cupcakes for the other babies who will be attending the party.
Cupcakes from the same birthday cake batter that the birthday girl has decided is TOTALLY GAG-WORTHY (gagging tongue and facial expression tells the tale). Cupcakes that the other kids DEVOUR and LOVE. The birthday girl? Totally nonplussed.

Step 13. Be proud as the birthday girl shuns the "healthy" cake in favor of actually healthy wheat bread.
Take pictures. Perhaps she will believe you one day when you tell her, "You know, once upon a time, you wanted nothing to do with a fruity sweet yummy apple/pumpkin cake. All you wanted was wheat bread."

Step 14. Say thank you. Be grateful. Enjoy yourself. And marvel.
Thank your small group of friends and family who braved traffic, a freak snow storm, and gave up time on their busy Saturday to celebrate.
Be grateful to know such lovely people.
Marvel that the birthday girl survived a whole year with your craziness.

Friday, March 6, 2009

mischief, hijinks, and other words for doing things that aren't recommended but still funny

The Alice Loo-Who, looking totally innocent. Just wait.

I think it's time to revisit the Awesome/Not Awesome game.

Alice's bare bum sitting on the scale at the doctor's office. Really: is there anything cuter than a bare baby bum? I don't think so.

Not awesome:
The screaming that came after Alice's shots. HATE THAT PART. (Alice isn't so fond of it either.)

Finding some very yummy smoked turkey on sale at the grocery store WITH a little sticky coupon on the lid for an additional $0.50 off.

Not awesome:
Later finding the little sticky coupon still stuck on the lid because you forgot to remind the grocery store clerk to actually use the coupon.

A very sweet husband stopping at Petco to buy the expensive Special-Indoor-Super-Duper-Hairball-Reduction-Extravaganza-And-By-The-Way-This-Food-Will-Also-Minimize-Your-Pores-And-Make-Your- Hair-Extra-Shiny-And-Gorgeous cat food.

Not awesome:
The cats having some kind of ridiculously explosive hairball puke-fest because they're eating the Outrageously-Expensive-Will-Magically-Make-You-Look-Ten-Years-Younger cat food.

Coming home to a clean house.

Not awesome:
A clean house with the exception of cat puke that is sitting forlornly in the front entryway. In the exact spot you just walked through.

Alice sleeping through the night until 7:00 a.m.

Not awesome:
Alice napping for a total of FIFTEEN MINUTES for the entire day. Yes, you hear me. Fifteen minutes. The entire day.

Finally getting to crawl into bed after a long and exhausting day.

Not awesome:
Stepping in yet more of the explosive cat puke.


Not awesome:

By the time she was finished, there were something like thirty garbage bags on the floor. To be honest, this was kinda awesome.

More quiet.

Not awesome:

That would be toilet paper in her hand. THE ENTIRE ROLL OF TOILET PAPER. How does a tiny person such as herself get from her bedroom to the bathroom, and completely unroll an ENTIRE roll of toilet paper in 15 seconds?

At least she looks guilty in this shot.

Your turn!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the day after

Well, I had the best of intentions. I was going to keep Alice off the Major Sugar for as long as possible. I'm a reasonable person, however, and how is a reasonable person supposed to face the siren song of the Baskin Robbins ice cream cake? Especially when it is her baby girl's first birthday? Chip came home with it last night.

And this:

Plus this:

Is bound to equal this:

What else is a mother to do except join in the fun? (I take solace in the fact that Alice's first taste of SWEET was none other than CREAM - in the form of a dab of whipped cream from Chip's piece of cake. Cream, as befitting a creamy girl of CREAM: THE NEXT GENERATION.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

a year in your life

Dear Alice,

In your life, you are going to hear the following phrase a lot: I can't believe the time went by so fast! You will hear it mostly from adults when they are dis
cussing your height, your age, what grade you're in, how much you're learning -- basically anything involving how you are changing. The adults might also utter this phrase when discussing their own age, but I wouldn't worry about it too much. The fact of the matter is, time really does go by quick - and what we're enjoying one day will be gone the next. Things like a few certain lovable rolls of baby chub that used to sit so prettily on your very adorable thighs. I used to snack on those rolls. They were particularly good with a scoop of ice cream.

My little dear, you have changed so much in your first year o
f life. I'm not sure it would be fair to you to say how many things have changed, because it would take pages and pages. Suffice it to say you came into this world on March 3rd, 2008 -- and you were this beautiful and sweet thing, but you were also a blank slate. I used to sort of actually forget that you were a real live human being because I spent so much time toting you around, changing your clothes, feeding you, putting you to sleep - and still you'd just sort of be there, a little baby. And now, my dear, now you are a tried and true person person. You have opinions. Oh, how you have opinions. You love bread products and anything even closely bread-related. You will eat crackers, chips (if I let you), bread, toast, english muffin, waffle, cake (again, if I let you). You do not, however, share this intensity of love for much of anything else. After many attempts, your full repertoire of vegetable matter consumption is green beans, bananas, and pear. You do like yogurt. Everything else gets ceremoniously dumped on the floor. Including scrambled eggs, cheese, pasta, and other fruits and vegetables when I decide to get wildly creative and try to give you things like raisins, grapes, steamed carrots, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes. You lower yourself to eat the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Annnnd that's it for the meat group. Everyone tells me this super picky stage will pass, so I try not to get too worried that you are building brain matter and muscle mass on five foods.

Despite the lack of variety in your diet, you are growing and
getting so strong. You get everywhere you want to go (and more) on your little hands and knees, crawling for all you're worth. You love to pull yourself up and cruise the furniture, walls, and anything else that's relatively vertical (I find myself saying "WE DON'T USE OTHER KIDS AS LEVERAGE" alot these days). You are thisclose to walking. We catch you standing unassisted several times a day. I think this whole standing without holding on to anything isn't even a little bit surprising to you. Which goes to say a lot about your whole outlook on your life. You take chances, and you don't consider them chances. You think that everything you encounter is to be touched, to be grabbed, to be pulled around by its ears. You attack your life in a way that I admire and (to be honest) fear. I suppose that's my right as your mother: to worry for you. To know about gravity and the cost it extracts from those who ignore it. But truth is, baby girl, I want you to ignore gravity as long as possible. I want you to always leap into the unknown without second guessing your ability to fly.

This is what you say to me: mmmmmmmmaaaaaammmm. This is what you say to your daddy: daa daa daa daaad. This is what you say to your blankie: hhaaaaaaaaaaa
aaaaa. You use a language that's entirely your own - and I think you're saying A LOT to us, if only we could understand you. It doesn't matter. You get your message across quite well - wave to us when it's time to go bye-bye; put your hands in the air when you're done smearing pears in your hair; and plant nice juicy open-mouth smackers on our cheeks to tell us how much you love us.

In a year's time, the cats have discovered their own coping
mechanisms for cohabitating with a baby. Fergus mostly stays out of your way - and until last month, was perfectly safe sitting on the stairs and watching you with a wary eye. Since you have tackled the stairs and freely zoom up to the landing, he has taken to bed-level surfaces. Phoebe is another story. I tell her that she has no survival instinct because she just keeps coming back to you. The other day I caught you sitting on Phoebe. Her reaction when I unclenched your kung fu grip on her fur? A small meow. She didn't even MOVE. I suppose that's her way of saying that she loves you, in all her furry glory. I'm hoping that it will be a long and hairy friendship.

Alice, your relationship with sleep has evolved this past year, but it is still something of a gray area for us. You were the baby that wouldn't nap unless you were nursing. The smallest move away from my chest and you were wide awake and crying. In the months to follow I learned a lot. About naps (once upon a time, you took FIVE NAPS A DAY, and they were, like, FIVE MINUTES EACH). About night sleeping (or not). About how long an adult person can function on two hour increments of sleep (it turns out: indefinitely). As of now, you take two naps a day, of indeterminant, but still pretty short length. About 45 minutes to an hour each. Sometimes you squeak in an extra 30 minutes, but that's about your limit. I've learned that it's okay to let you be you. We adore you in all your quirkiness. Your official bedtime start is 6:30 p.m., but lately it's been getting pushed back because you are absolutely hysterical at 6:30 p.m. This is when you most want to climb the stairs and slide back down on your belly. It makes you scream with glee, and who would possibly want to take that away from you? After your bath, singing, and rocking with a bottle, I put you into bed with a paci firmly in your mouth, blankie clutched in your fingers. I love our night time ritual - the way I get to rock you to sleep, the feel of your heavy body against mine, the one last final kiss I give your sleeping cheek. Because of these small and precious moments, I have never once regretted our decision to parent you to sleep. I think that making you cry yourself to sleep would break something very special inside of you. Instead, you are whole and strong and so very brave.

At one year, you are a very playful kid. You love to smile at pe
ople and have them smile back. You love books, which really speaks to my book-loving heart. I adore watching you read a book to yourself. You make the story sound so much better than the way it was written. Your favorite toys continue to be your stacking cups, your kitty cat ring stacker, and any of your various amphibian toys. I don't understand the frog love, but who am I to get in between a girl and her green friends? There are several "froggies" in your life, along with Clyde the purple crocodile and Ally the large green alligator that we got for you when we visited Florida before you were even a foggy conception in our minds.

You have always been in the future for us, little Alice, this we know to be true. Our family wasn't complete without you, and now you're here, with us every day. The time couldn't be more sweetly spent. And so, honey, the time really has gone by so fast. My
friends told me that you wouldn't eat every two hours forever, and they were right. My friends told me that you wouldn't be immoble forever, and they were right. My friends tell me that you won't smell like baby lotion and sweet peas forever, so I'm sure they're right - which means that I'm going to enjoy you the way you are now, for as long as possible.

I know that you won't be the same little girl in a year's time. I
'm okay with that. You've been such a joy in this past year, I can only imagine what the next one will hold. Happy birthday, sweet little Bean-head.


Monday, March 2, 2009

a year ago tomorrow: alice's birth story

I have a personal belief that a new mother has a 365-day window to write thank you notes, return phone calls, send Christmas packages (don't ask), and post the story of their child's birth. I'm squeaking by on this one...

I don't know how it happened, except to say I do know how it happened: I never wrote this down because I was handed a wee baby girl and she was amazing and beautiful and also a little bit of a handful and the hours turned into days and the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months until I found myself here, thinking about the way 365 days can go by so quick without ever writing about the day that wee baby girl was born.

We got to the hospital in the early morning of March 3rd. Early like it's-still-DARK-outside-early. The c-section was scheduled for 8am, but they had us arrive two hours early for all the preliminary poking, ultrasounding, more poking, and forms signing. Chip took pictures of a lot of this stuff - looking back on the pics, it cracks me up to see things like "here's Whimsy standing at the reception desk" and "here's Whimsy walking to the bathroom holding the back of her hospital gown shut". We spent most of those two hours in the triage area. Chip's least favorite moment? When one of the triage nurses was trying to get an IV started on me and sort of missed several ti
mes - and then hit something of a GUSHER vein because there was a huge puddle of my blood just pooling there on the floor. I believe Chip turned a nice shade of green. In those two hours we also listened to Bean's heartbeat a lot. After they got the monitor hooked up and working, I just lay there for a while, listening to Bean's WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW-WOW heartbeat. I got quiet then, listening to this mystery baby, hoping she was doing okay - knowing that I'd be meeting her so soon. And with Chip squeezing my hand, our doctor came by one last time and told us we'd be heading to the delivery room. It was time.

I remember walking most of the way, but the details in my head are fuzzy. I don't know what the hallway looked like, or how long it took to get there - but the next thing I knew, I was standing inside an operating room wearing green and yellow striped socks. Chip had been taken to another area to get ready. There were doctors everywhere wearing blue scrubs. I
was helped up onto a table and told that they'd be giving me a spinal block, but I'd need to bend forward, trying to curve my spine as much as possible. I've had epidurals before, for cortisone shots in my lower back. I'm not a huge fan of the epidural. Truthfully, it sort of freaks me out with the BIG needle and the way they are jamming that thing between your vertebrae. My worst fear? Having a surgeon cut into me when I can still feel it. I wonder if my state of mind had something to do with what happened next. They told me that after the spinal block was done, they'd lay me down on the table really quick, because it can take affect very quickly and they didn't want me to, you know, FALL OFF THE TABLE OR ANYTHING. So, they did the spinal block and then I was laid down on the table - arms stretched out to the sides and fastened down on splints. It was then that Chip was brought into the room, and oh, I was so glad to see him - all gussied up in scrubs and a mask and a very jaunty hat. The nurse brought Chip up to where he could sit by me, up by my head, and they put a blue curtain up between my face and the rest of my body, where the doctors would be doing the actual work. Do you want us to keep it open before the baby is born? A resounding NO from both of us.

It's at this point that I remember the anesthesiologist explain that they'd be checking to make sure the spinal block was effective, that if I could feel anything I should let him know. From my perspective, of course, it seemed perfectly normal. Chip's point of view was more along the lines of -- here's my wife, spread eagle on a table in the middle of an operating room, NO CLOTHES ON, with some dude poking her with a small metal stick asking DO YOU FEEL THAT? And the thing is, I could feel it. I wondered if I was just drugged up and imagining it, and told him so. Yes, I can sort of feel that. Is that normal? Poke, poke, poke. Yes, yes, yes, I can feel that. So then, he does this quick cutting motion across my lower abdomen and it royally FREAKED ME OUT because DUDE, WORST NIGHTMARE, RIGHT? So I go YES I CAN CERTAINLY FEEL THAT! And so the doctor looks at all the other doctors with an Oh Crap look and says "Um, we're going to have to do the spinal again. It didn't take."

So we then lather, rinse, repeat: undrape, uncurtain, unbind my arms, sit me up. Bend me over, do the spinal all over again. This time: TOTALLY EFFECTIVE. I know, because there was no feeling whatsoever with all the poking.

I remember watching Chip's face when I was laying there - arms spread wide, my body turned just slightly to the side, my head dipped just below my ankles. That was a weird feeling. I had these little odd thoughts like, "Wow, I didn't know I'd be laying here with my ankles up in the air - when you see these things on TV it looks like they're layin
g flat." Chip's face was my constant. As my body rocked from side to side, as I listened to the doctors, I watched his eyes, I asked him again and again if he had the camera - if he was going to take a picture of our little girl.

And then there was pressure. I lot of pressure. I felt like a piano was sitting on my chest, and I looked at Chip, "She's here." We looked through the little window in the curtain and there she was, purply-pink and covered in goo.

The moments now are even more of a blur - tears, and smiles, and congratulations from our doc. And Bean's crying, the sound of her crying in that cold surgery room. I told Chip to go, to follow Alice, I'd be okay. I listened to him talk to her, listened to him say things like, "Wow, littl
e girl, that doesn't look like it feels so nice, but I'm sure it's good for you." (Turns out the nurse was putting the vaseline goo on her eyes - I know from the video that Chip was very dedicated about filming. My favorite moments were when the camera was dangling around by his middle and ankles and you can sort of see things moving and the sound of the other camera he was also toting around. What a guy.) It seemed like they were away from me forever, my body continuing to be rocked and moved slightly from the sewing up job. Every once in a while I could catch a glimpse of Chip moving, of Alice's tiny body. And then they were back with me, Alice in Chip's arms, her small perfect face up next to mine.

When the surgery was over, I was moved down to our room, the morphine taking affect and putting me in a drowsy happy fog. Those next hours went by in more dreamy haze - and the firsts were clicking by and collecting in my hands: the first time I held Alice, the first time I kissed her face, the first time I fed her, Alice's first bath, Grammy Dawn holding Alice, watching the nurse change Alice's first diaper.

Every few hours Chip would look at me and the clock and say, "Can you believe it's only been X hours?" It was the longest day of our lives - lasting into the wee hours of the morning when I simply didn't sleep.

Writing this a year later is so hard, because everything I felt then is now brought to you through the filter of my experiences since. I can say that I felt both ways on everything. I was overwhelmed. I was at peace. I was brilliantly happy. I was crying every few minutes. I felt totally incapable. I felt like I could do anything. I felt blessed beyond reason. I felt like I should crawl under a rock. I felt wonderful. Everything hurt. I wanted to go home. I couldn't imagine leaving the hospital. And now? I realize I was feeling those first feelings of motherhood. It is an imperfect state, but also so totally singular that you know this is how it's supposed to be. There is nothing missing inside of you. You are enough. You will be enough. You will figure it out.

And somehow, some way, we did figure it out. Because we're here, nearly a year later. And I'd do it all again in a WOW-WOW-WOW heartbeat.