Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not enough coffee in the world...

Here was our evening last night:

Em hadn't taken a nap, so she went down easy-peasy. I played video games, then Justin played video games, and I spent the rest of the evening chatting with my sister online. In addition, I was drinking this Starbucks liqueor stuff. (This turned out to be a crucial misstep.)

Around 12, I tried to go to sleep but I couldn't. So I read. Still couldn't sleep. Dang coffee drink.

Around 2, Justin came to bed. But he couldn't sleep either. So he got back up to play more video games.

Around 3, (I'm still up, so is Justin), Em wakes up. She's been having nightmares lately. Last night, apparently, they were about bugs.

I think I fell asleep around 5. I have no idea when the other two did.

Again, not enough coffee in the world.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's my HOUSE, Stella and Ripley!

Stella and Ripley are not the names of my children (thank goodness right? that'd be a little movie obsessive.)

No, they are my cats.

Stella, who's about 8 years old, is a beautiful Russian Blue mixed with Siamese. She is beautiful, but psychotic. Absolutely. She will cuddle with you one moment and turn into viper kitty the next. She's actually mellowed with age, but lately she has been driving me crazy.

How, you say, is this cat so maddening? Well, she demonstrates her anger via urination. Litter box dirty--let's pee on the bed. Daddy not being attentive--let's pee in his drawer. Family gone for five days--let's pee on the bed, in the kid's crib, and pretty much anywhere else we can.

I hate her.

Then, there's Ripley. Typically, I feel sorry for Ripley. She's quite large, 20 pounds approximately. I've taken her to the vet, but they couldn't find anything wrong except...get this....she's FAT. (That was a good 500 dollars wasted.) She doesn't eat much during the day, but she just cannot seem to lose weight. Therefore, she can't clean herself.


We leave a mat for Ripley by her litter box, and she takes care of, business. But not this week. No, she jumped on the angry train with Stella and wiped herself all over our carpet. All over our house.

I hate both of them.

For those who do not have pets, this all seems very gross, I'm sure. Good. Don't get pets. They're icky.

Stella and Rip are enjoying the lovely weather outside. Once the weather turns, they will enjoy our lovely, spacious garage. I'm sure I'll let them in soon. But not unsupervised.

I do not enjoy.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I have enjoyed many different foods this holiday...and beverages. Let's see, there was pozole on Christmas Eve, with Sangria, Ham yesterday with some drink Justin made called a coffee frostie, and chili today.

All I have to say now is ow.

I have heartburn and it sucks. It has subsided a bit, but I bypassed my run today (running and an upset stomach does not mix), and I took a nap. I feel better.

But still...

I should probably have a piece of fruit. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Cookie Problem

So, I have a problem. And it has become unmanageable. My problem is this incessant desire to make a TON of cookies every Christmas.

Every year, I finish teaching around the 19th or so. One day later, I'm elbow deep in flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and sprinkles. For two solid days, the kitchen (which I rarely care about any other time of the year) is my domain. This year I made the following: double chocolate, cherry-chocolate bars, glazed lemon cookies, pecan sandies, and molasses spice cookies.

It's really quiet insane.

My problem is not helped by the fact that I now have a food processor AND a standing mixer and a large kitchen and many surfaces to work on.

Now, I have taken steps to control the chaos. I no longer make cookies that require rolling or decorating. The "pinwheel" cookie has been banished from my household: it seems easy but it's a nightmare. And I'm limited to 5 types (I kinda cheated cause I made two other kinds at my grandma's...hee-hee.)

To anyone who wishes to become a cookie maven (or refine the process), here are my suggestions:

* If possible, invest in either (or both if you can) a food processor or standing mixer; cookies have specific requirements for each. If the butter needs to be creamed first, you need a mixer; if the recipe starts with flour, you need a processor
* Try to pick cookie recipes with similar or shared ingredients
* Have the following tools/supplies: parchment paper, at least 4 cookie sheets, liquid and dry measuring cups, two sets of measuring spoons, and several mixing bowls. It's a good idea to have plenty of storage containers. Paper plates work great to transport the cookies as gifts
* Seriously consider purchasing Cooks Illustrated's America's Test Kitchen cook books; they have the best recipes, which never require modifications. Their cookies, cakes, etc are impossible to screw up
* Don't eat cookies as you go--you'll feel terrible. Make sure to have a reasonable lunch
* Know your baking personality. I'm messy and I don't want anyone getting in my business, so I do much better on my own. You may want companionship. Either is fine; just know what makes you happy

I'm all done for this year, and my table is covered. I think I've fully satisfied my inner baker...until next year. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Pics

Yes, it is almost Christmas. Yes, I waited awhile to post pictures of Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house in Concord. Better late...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running on Empty

I hit that typical teacher skid today. The one where you realize the students are paying better attention than you are. Several times today I was the major cause of annoyance to my students because I was the one off-task, or not listening, or just staring into space.

Here is a sampling of some of my remarks when my students expressed frustration at my lack of focus:

"Sorry I missed your call. Ms Harrell isn't here right now; please leave a message at the beep."

"Oh, whoops. You expected a response."

"And once more for the cheap seats!"

"Really, you need me to answer that?"

"I started break last Friday. You'll have to excuse me."


The school year didn't start off this way. Actually, I felt pretty much on fire until circa Halloween. Here was my typical routine prior to the winter slow-down:

* Woke up at 5, worked out for a half hour
* Took shower, did hair, make up
* Out of house prior to 7 with daughter in tow
* Worked solidly from 7:30 to 4:00 with one 20 minute break for lunch
* Picked up daughter at 4:30
* Home by five, made snack for Em
* Worked out for another half hour
* Made dinner, cleaned, bathed Em
* Greeted husband at 8, completely exhausted but feeling accomplished

That patterned continued until late October, when I no longer could get up early enough to work out in the morning. So, I'd have to work out for an hour in the evening, meaning no time for cleaning. Eventually, too, the hair doing and make up putting on ceased. But hey, that extra 15 minutes of sleep is a non-negotiable.

Tomorrow is the day before winter break. I have finished my first semester of grad school. My husband just finished his semester. And I have graded over 600 essays this semester (okay, I am never allowed to actually count it AGAIN.)

And I'm done. My brain power is all used up. The gas light is on and I'm puttering to the curb. Luckily present wrapping, cookie making, and egg-nog drinking don't take that much thinkin!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding my Inner Mama Lion

For all my supposed flaunting of authority as a teenager, I really am a big wuss when it comes to the rules. I follow them. I rarely question them. And I feel a lot of anxiety when I feel that an authority figure is judging me.

This is especially true when it comes to doctors and other medical professionals. I remember feeling just awful when I met with the nurse practitioner for the first time about my gestational diabetes. She was totally harsh and I didn't stand up for myself at all.

When facing an authoritative person, especially women, I turn to mush.

Well, I used to.

Recently, I found my inner mama lion. This all came about because I didn't listen to myself. Which made me both really pissed with myself and with a new target: medical professionals.

Allow me to explain.

My daughter had all of her teeth, even the molars way before her first birthday. She started with two in the front, then six popped in one day (I'm not kidding) and then they all started flying in rapid succession.

I was concerned, so I asked her doctor about it a her first year appointment. She was on fluoride drops, no juice, no bottle at night, etc. All was good.

But the more I thought about it, the more worried I felt. However, every medical expert I spoke to told me to wait until she was 3 or 4 before seeing a dentist. Each one brushed me off like I had nothing to worry about. But I did.

I asked my daycare lady, who was a dental hygienist in the past, to take a look. She told me she thought she saw some decay. I rushed Em into an appointment, and yup, she had 7 cavities.

Seven cavities.

I lost it. The anger and guilt boiled through me for days. But after I calmed down and gained some perspective (I do have awesome dental coverage after all), that anger turned into something remarkably like a back bone.

When the dental hygienist asked me repeatedly if Em still took a bottle at night and arched her eyebrow every time I said no, I told her firmly that I was not lying so she could just stop it.

When the nurse who was monitoring my daughter's anesthesia during her dental surgery to fix her teeth, patted my arm condescendingly and told me not to worry about a thing, I said, "No, you will explain the entire procedure until I understand it fully."

These may not seem like bold moves, but for me they are. I finally figured out that no one will stand up for me except me. And no one can be a better advocate for my daughter but me.

Em is fine. Her teeth are beautiful and I'm so glad we were able to get everything done in one appointment, I was not thrilled about her being sedated, but it went great.

While I still wish this had never happened, I know so much more now. I knew deep down that something was wrong, but I didn't listen to myself. I used to get angry and frustrated with myself for not trusting my own judgment, but I'm so past that now. Hey, if I'm wrong about something, so be it. But I'd rather go with my gut and check things out and be a little embarrassed at overreacting than make my family the victim of my inaction.

All in all, this was a big week.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Adults CAN Have Fun Too!

I think it's pretty typical for most kids to dream about when they grow up, live on their own, and get to do all the things their parents won't let them do, like eat ice cream for dinner. As adults, we, well, grow up and realize our priorities. While we do get much more choice in our daily lives than we did as kids, there still isn't a whole lot of dessert for dinner.

I was no different when it came to this childhood practice. I was constantly telling my mom I would never treat my daughter the way she treated me. Looking back on this, I'm sure my mother loved hearing that.

Although I have gradually changed my mind about the things I would let my children do. I probably won't let my daughter pierce her nose, dye her hair pink, or stay over at her boyfriend's. Yeah, no probably about it. Not happening.

But I did get to realize one childhood dream today that I have waited a long time for: I finally got to buy a Christmas tree.

When I was really little, we did have Christmas trees, but when I was 8 or so, we stopped getting them. My parents gave several legitimate reasons: we didn't have the money, we didn't actually spend Christmas day at home, and my cousins, who came over for the Christmas Eve party, were really allergic. Eventually, my mom discovered she was allergic too. So, no Christmas trees.

Today, though, I realized the full power of my adulthood and I bought my very own Christmas tree, plus ornaments. As we were decorating it, I really did feel a strong sense of that childish awe I used to feel. Decorating a tree on a frosty night with your family (wine not required, but highly enjoyable) is one of my favorite, although new, family traditions.

I felt a little guilt buying the tree and trimmings this morning, as both Justin and I have a ton of work to do for school. This next week will be exhausting to say the least. My head swims at how much work Justin needs to do. I have a huge paper due on Friday. Most importantly, Em has dental surgery scheduled to take care of her extensive cavities. I will be taking the day off on Tuesday so I can attend the three hour procedure. All in all, this week is building to a head...and it hasn't even happened yet!

So the Christmas tree was a gift to my family and to myself. A wondrous time to relax and enjoy the season with the two most important people in my world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keep it Simple

Seeing the holidays through the perspective of a two-year old has been quite an experience so far this year.

Here's what I've seen through my daughter's eyes:

Fourth of July: corn-on-the cob, wading pool time, and the excuse to stay up late because the neighbors are shooting off fire crackers. Awesome.

Halloween: candy is not enough incentive to put on a costume, or worst yet, a mask. No thank you. Try me again next year.

Thanksgiving: while pumpkin pie is cool and all, the entire holiday was pretty much a letdown. Parents have to cook the whole time and I have to nap in a weird place. Nice try.

Christmas: Now we're talking. Cookies--good. Twinkly lights--good. Presents--ah, wonderful.

Today I was talking to Em about Santa (my daycare lady has her decorations up, so Em is interested in it.) I told her that Santa brings presents and that we can also give presents to people we care about. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Emy, Santa is a man who wears a red suit, is very jolly, and brings little boys and girls presents."

Emerson: "That's wonderful mama."

Me: "What would you like Santa to bring you?"

Emerson: "A pink present, mama."

Me: "I think that he would be more than happy to do that."

I need to remember this moment for when she is older and nothing I get her makes her happy. I'll just pull out this memory of a time when just the mere thought of a gift was exciting and wonderful. Hopefully, I will remember the simple joy also.

Maybe Em has a great idea for all people. It's not really the gift that matters. It's the time and attention people put into it, the fact that they would just like to find exactly the perfect pink present you want. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

What I'm Thankful for

I've always had a preference for Thanksgiving over other winter holidays. The crisp weather is still a novelty. I love, love, love the food (gravy is awesome). Most importantly, it's my first long break from school since summer, so I'm super grateful for that. And this time of year, unlike the crazy busy Christmas time with all the shopping, wrapping, baking, and driving around, lends itself nicely to reflection. (Much time spent on the couch digesting.)

Upon reflection, I came up with a number of things that I am thankful for:

Refrigerated Pie Crust: Instead of spending hours making pie crust, I whipped these puppies out, threw them in a pie pan, and focused on what is really important--the filling (hello!) And I got to play around with Em in the kitchen as I did it.

My daughter's laughs: Not laugh...laughs. The girl has a ton. I was a little frazzled last week: online class, crazy shopping, three pies to make, and my mom invited a "friend" to Thanksgiving. The whole time Em kept me focused with her grunts, guffaws, squeals, and giggles. She is awesome.

Gravy: I do not feel the need to explain this.

My sister: There is not a life experience I have gone through in which she hasn't been a large part. My parents divorce, my wedding, the birth of my child all happened in rapid succession. She was there the whole time, crying and laughing with me. She was there this weekend, and I am so thankful.

My home: I absolutely love living in a house. I love my neighborhood. The holidays are so much more festive when you live in a house and everyone around hangs lights and other decorations. We're getting a tree this weekend. We don't have much to spend, but I'm excited to be able to do this for the first time in a long time.

Most importantly, Winter break is three short weeks away and I couldn't be happier. I will have two blissful weeks with my daughter, no homework, and if I can help it, no cold.