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About A Boy

6 Jun

Whine: I looked down from making dinner and caught Brother Bear licking bacon grease off a paper towel he found.

Cheese: I guess he’s really going to like what we’re having. At least someone in the five-and-under set will eat their dinner.

I remember the day we found out we were having a boy. We rushed off to Target to buy a little something for The Big Reveal lunch we were having with our family. I was thinking we might bring in some blue jelly beans and hand them out. Mr. Dad had other, less appropriate ideas. So there I am, standing in the bulk candy aisle, watching my grown-man of a husband giggle about picking out an assortment of candies that represented boy parts. I guess I was just surprised that Mr. Dad’s gross sense of Boy Humor was kicking in so soon. I suppose he was just relieved to have another set of XY chromosomes around here.

Concentration

The significant increase of vomit and gas pains  during his gestation should have clued me in that “one of these kids is not like the others” but I remained clueless as to how definite and immediate his Boyness would be.

From Day One Brother Bear has been identified by his appetite. In German it’s called Barenhunger, i.e., I’m hungry like a bear. I found my pre-pregnancy clothes fitting a lot sooner despite the fact that I was polishing off whole plates of ribs. And when it came time to start solids, Brother Bear had strong opinions about baby food. As in, Don’t you even think about serving me that slop, Lady. Talk to me when you have some meat. Cheerios, that staple of early childhood, were flung back in my face. Instead of walking around with a snack keeper filled with fruit puffs (aka Baby Crack), Brother Bear’s is filled with sausage.

I call this Snot and Spaghetti on Two Chins

And when he’s not eating meat, he enjoys sampling the fruits of the earth. Well, not really, more like the actual earth. All of my kids have eaten dirt at one point or another. Only one of them has gone back for seconds. . .

My son lives in a constant state of stink. In fact, he has a reputation around my office for his aromatic exploits. Our secretary emailed me before a trip and said “Have a nice trip and I hope Brother Bear does not stink up the plane.” He’s also dirty. I wish the grunge movement of the 90s would come back–my laundry would be a lot easier.

He also instinctively knows how to throw a ball (or food off his high chair). He likes trucks and waves his arms at the tv while we watch basketball. He wasn’t an early walker, but in the last three weeks of walking he has already learned to scale the back of a deck chair and (nearly) go hurtling to the concrete below. He’s had three bloody noses (one from picking his nose, seriously) and lots of black and blue spots. Before I even get him out of bed in the morning he’s got scratch marks on his face.

Verbally he’s all boy as well. By this age both my girls were talking a blue streak. Brother Bear appears to be the strong, silent type. Although he can say Daddy as clear as day and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the words hot dog and chicken come out of that baby mouth, he really doesn’t say mama. Sometimes he calls me baba,  but mostly he just flashes me those big blue eyes and reaches for me. I am SUCH a sucker.

On all of these points I was duly warned. And I understood them in theory. But only the act of living with an eating, stinking, falling machine can truly open your eyes to Boyhood. (Unless of course you ARE a boy, in which case you’re probably like Well, duh.)

Hygiene and safety issues aside, people often comforted me with the fact that he would most certainly be a Mama’s Boy.  When I heard this, I would always nod knowingly and silently think that I wouldn’t be that lucky.

But I am beyond lucky. Brother Bear luuuuuhhhhvvvvs his Mommy. He took his first steps without me, because when I’m around he’s much happier holding my hand (or in my arms). He looks for me around the house and lights up when I come back. When he’s cutting molars, Mommy Cuddles are as good a remedy as Orajel. He always comes to get me when his diaper is stinky. (I bet Mr. Dad taught him that.)

Self-Portrait, Mother and Child

Brother Bear has found his niche around here. He’s the little one. The dirty one. The hungry one. And already, at a year old he’s the funny one. So used to sitting at the dinner table to a chorus of cackles directed at him, Brother Bear has perfected the art of Being the Joke. Hearing the first hints of laughter, he wrinkles up his cute little nose and cranks out some fake laughs.  Forget SNL, we’ve got our own little Jim Carrey in the blue high chair.

A Portrait of the Comedian as a Young Man

So far his repertoire consists mainly of laughing with the crowd and occasionally putting something on his head (he knows that one kills every time), but I’m sure once he figures out that some people laugh when he is gross or gets in trouble then he will have a never-ending source of material. He is a boy, after all.

The Bookshelf Series, part 1

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Dear Whine and Cheese

22 Apr

Whine: Today I made the mistake of buying the sisters each a butterfly net. Then, once I got the nets off their heads (and mine, once) I spent the better part of my afternoon bug hunting with the girls. And by “with the girls” I mean me digging through the dirt with a stick and picking up worms with my bare hands while they called out encouragingly from the safety of the swingset. 

Cheese: I got a “Bravo!” and a “Take a bow!” and even a “You’re an expert, Mom!” Man, if I’d known worms would make me so popular, I would have bought a worm farm a long time ago.

So NOT my idea.

Many of you out there are wondering just exactly what it takes to survive as a multi-child mom. I’m no octo-mom, but being home alone all day with three little urchins requires some creativity, and I’m happy to answer your burning questions. (Actually, if they’re burning, you should probably see your doctor.)

Dear Whine and Cheese,

Since having my baby a month ago I haven’t figured out how moms actually eat. Doesn’t my baby realize that if I don’t eat, neither does he?

Sincerely,

About to Eat my Own Arm

Dear, um, Hungry,

You’ve asked the central question of motherhood. Whether you are struggling to eat because your jelly-bean-sized fetus is rejecting all nourishment or because every time you get some food multiple someones are a)crying, yelling and hollering or b)climbing on top of you trying to get a bite, you’ve got to figure out how to eat, lest the very underpinnings of our civilization (i.e., happy mommas) crumble and fall apart.

That being said, here are a few tips for avoiding the low blood sugar meltdown:

1) While you sit in your car to nurse the baby who screamed through all twenty-four aisles of the grocery store to the pitying (judgmental?) glances of midday shoppers, scrounge around through the jumble of bags until you stumble upon something edible, like a bagel or a candy bar or a few of both. Wash them down with a warm Diet Coke or the cup of day-old water that has hints of dog hair floating around in it. I’d go with the Diet Coke if I were you.

2) When a lovely, kind and compassionate person brings dinner for your family, immediately serve yourself a plate, shoot your husband and kids The Death Look and run to your bedroom. Enjoy your feast while you sit on the floor and watch the reruns of Hoarders on A&E, because at least someone’s living room looks worse than yours.

3)  Two words: Drive Thru. Because they can’t get to you — or your food — if they’re strapped into their car seats.

I hope this helps you retain all your appendages, for this week at least.

Yours Truly,

Whine and Cheese

Dear Whine and Cheese,

I’m now a mother of three. How on earth am I supposed to leave the house, let alone grocery shop?

Sincerely,

Old Mother Hubbard

Dear Mother Hubbard,

When grocery shopping it is important to remember a few things: your grocery list, your coupons (all expired, of course), and a few giant lollipops. Don’t hesitate to utilize the XXL-sized Racecar shopping cart. Just be warned that you will need to complete a driver safety course in order to maneuver the cart without knocking over the cardboard display filled with sample-sized bottles of Irish Spring bodywash that not one of those pitying midday shoppers will help you pick up. Also know that despite the ungainly size of the cart, no actual groceries will fit inside without a delicate house-of-cards-like arrangement. By the time you reach the check-out your chips will be totally crumbled and the labels will be ripped off all your boxes of cereal, but at least you’ll have food to rummage through when you’re stranded in a parking lot feeding The Hungriest Baby Who Ever Lived.

Yours Truly,

Whine and Cheese

Dear Whine and Cheese,

I’m thinking of having children. Should I have noise-reducing headphones surgically attached to my ears?

Sincerely,

La, La, La, I Can’t Hear You

Dear La La,

You pose a fascinating question. Certainly the sounds of early childhood can be overwhelming. The crying in the night when you just barely just fell asleep. The shouts of “she’stouchingmeWAAAHH” from the back seat. The disturbingly loud and metallic crinkle of the new biodegradable chip bag (seriously, SO loud!). The dollar store cd of kids’ songs whose squeaky fast-forward sound makes you wonder if when recording a cd for the dollar store you pay for the recording studio by the minute.

But if you were to muffle all the cries, shouts, crinkles and squeaks, you’d also be muffling the sound of the tiny sweet baby stretching and yawning next to you. And you might miss out on hearing your six favorite words: “Mom, I have to go potty.” (Even if it is a false alarm.) And when you’re up to your wrists in worm slime, you might need your ears free to hear the encouragement of your biggest fan.

So, La La, I wouldn’t attach the headphones, but I’d sure keep ’em handy for roadtrips. Or trips to the grocery store. It’s hard to push a huge grocery cart with your fingers stuffed in your ears.  

Yours Truly,

Whine and Cheese

Sometimes Love Means Buying Your Own Flowers

12 Feb

Whine: I just spent 2+ hours in our local specialty grocery store with two little kids and high-heeled boots (hey, they were the only twelve-inches-of-snow-appropriate footwear I could find). By the time we exited Lil’ Sis had mauled an apple –I’ve never seen such carnage this side of applesauce.  She also alternated between sweetly saying “Thank you, Lady” or “Hi, Sir” and screaming/growling/roaring at me and the general public.  That’ll teach me to try and shop during naptime.

Cheese: That store is faaaaannnncy. I bought lots of yummy things for tomorrow’s Valentine’s Feast, including some cheese, of course. Queso Blanco with Serrano Chiles and Epazole. Like I know what epazole is. For what I paid, I sure hope I like it.

Valentine’s Day. Some people love it. Some people loathe it. Many people fear it — forgetful men and commitment phobes, especially.  Lots of people let it pass by like any other day.

I’ve been at pretty much every stage with this day. I remember one very special year when I decided to commemorate the (lack of) love in my life by wearing black. I remember lots of years trying really hard not to care. And then I snagged Mr. Dad.

When we were first together, I loved Valentine’s Day. Mr. Dad’s mother raised him right and taught him how to choose a schmaltzy card and some nice flowers. Which probably had something to with the fact that her first Valentine’s Day card from Mr. Dad’s dad was presented to her all those years ago unsigned in the brown grocery sack he’d just run in and bought it in while she waited in the car.

But after a year or two things changed. I wouldn’t say the romance wore off. I’d say I got more picky. I didn’t want a bunch of roses that he’d picked up on his way home from the tent in the grocery store parking lot. I wanted him to have thought about his overwhelming love for me and found a way to express that through flowers, gifts and handwritten cards, but without breaking the bank. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

One year, my expectations hit fever pitch. I spent all day long choosing a new outfit and perfect accessories to wear on what Mr. Dad had assured me would be a magical surprise date. Then I got home and began to get ready and realized that we weren’t going anywhere. Mr. Dad was making dinner for two in our apartment. And this was no hotdogs and macaroni feast. No, if I remember correctly, it involved steak, steamed crab legs and chocolate-covered strawberries.

And I was disappointed.

I know, I know, I know. Go ahead and make a dartboard from my picture. I was a terribly foolish and ungrateful woman. But I had spent all day choosing the perfect outfit so I’d look just right. I needed to go out. To be seen. Honestly, I had been planning on going out. And we all know how I do when the plan changes.

We somehow survived the Valentine’s Debacle of ’02. Dinner that night was delicious. (Score another point for Mr. Dad’s mom, who apparently passed down some of her kitchen skills to her eldest son.) And we learned a few things about us. Mostly that I like to be in charge. Surprise, surprise.

Fast forward a few years and things are a little different. Tomorrow night’s Valentine’s celebration, will, in fact be a dinner for two served at home. I planned the menu, and incidentally, steak and steamed crab legs are on the menu. I bought all the ingredients. And since I was the one who was going to be at the faaaaannnncy store today, I bought my own flowers. Well, I bought myself one flower; they really hike those prices around this time of year. Plus, I’d rather spend my V-day budget on steak and chocolate strawberries than flowers.

Lots of people spend lots of time stressing about Valentine’s Day. Lots of guys have been in Mr. Dad’s shoes. Trying their best to get the right thing and still managing to strike out, standing outside the locked bathroom door trying to understand just what was so wrong with the box of generic chocolates and the card that had no personal message, just his signature. (Hey, at least it was signed.) Lots of girls have been in my shoes. Locked in the bathroom, wondering if he actually really loves her or not, because if he did surely he’d know that tulips are her favorite flowers and that chocolate upsets her stomach.

At a wedding I once heard the officiant give the best advice I’d ever heard given to a groom. He said, “Become a student of your wife.” And that, in my personal opinion, is what Valentine’s Day, what Love, boils down to. It’s about knowing someone and being known. And in that place of vulnerable trust, being loved anyway.

I’m not saying Mr. Dad and I have it all figured out. And I’m not saying I love him perfectly or he me. I chastised him just yesterday after he worked all day out in the snow then stopped on his way home for a few groceries for buying four more items than I requested. I may never learn. 

But you know what? He knows that I am, ahem, a little tightly wound. That I do my best to take care of our house, our budget, our kids, and that sometimes a little change in plans is a hard thing for me to assimilate. So he smiles (ok, maybe his teeth are gritted), offers me a little grace and goes on his way.

And you know what else? I know that he (somewhat inexplicably) is happiest when he can be with me. Sitting on the couch watching dvr and playing backgammon. Perhaps enjoying a bowl of ice cream. Even though he does love them Cowboys (and Mavericks and Baylor Bears), when it comes down to it, he likes to be with me. Even though I’m me. Or because I’m me. Imagine that.

And so when Valentine’s Day rolls around these days what I need from him is not a box of chocolates I won’t eat or a dozen roses that I’ll forget to water.  What I need is to know that he knows me and that he loves me. Which means I’d rather have him spend his time emptying the dishwasher without my asking than running around town trying to find just the right card. And I’d rather be home with him, eating a meal we cooked together (that I planned, of course) than out for a fancy night at the opera. But mostly because we both hate opera.

One flower for each of his girls. Who cares if I had to buy them? It's the thought that counts.

The Turkey IS a funny bird. . .

26 Nov

Whine: Sorry, too full of pie  for any whine today.

Cheese: No, really, I’m too full for any cheese either. There were actually fourteen pies at dinner tonight. I’m ashamed to say I only managed to sample four of them. In my defense, two of them were gone before I even had a chance. What can I say, these guys eat like a pack of wolves (my husband’s side of the family, of course.)

About a week before Thanksgiving last year Big Sis’ three-year old preschool class hosted a Thanksgiving feast. We walked in to find a handsome table, that they had set themselves: forks on the left, spoons on the right (no knives, of course, they’re only three for heaven’s sakes) sitting atop little homemade placemats and turkeys. Being a first-time preschool parent, my eyes welled up a little to think that my BABY was setting a table. Those sentimental tears transitioned almost immediately into ones induced from giggles as they performed their Thanksgiving song in tradtional mumble-sing, stare-at-the-ceiling toddler style:

The turkey is a funny bird

His head goes wobble-wobble

He just knows one funny word

Gobble, gobble, gobble.

Speaking of those funny birds, I like them soaked in a mysteriously tasty brine and roasted until they’re juuuuust right.  And then I like to keep them company on my plate with overly-sweetened sweet potatoes, stuffing whose butter-to-bread ratio is roughly 50/50, a healthy portion of just-like-my-momma-makes sour-cream mashed potatoes, and most importantly, a  special helping of the Thanksgiving classic, the “I’ll-kill-you-if-you-eat-the-last-of-it” green bean casserole. (You gotta stand your ground when you’re surrounded by wolves. Wolves, I tell you, wolves.)

I was going to tell you this long story about how our culture has ended up calling boy turkeys “Toms” that I heard on the radio on my ten-hour traffic vomit whiny baby road trip to Kansas City. How it all started because Ben Franklin was mad at Thomas Jefferson, etc, etc, etc. But then, because here at Whine and Cheese we value the whole truth and nothing but the truth and we never exaggerate or anything, I googled it. Turns out it’s probably not true at all. But still, I can’t complain, it passed at least three of the six hundred minutes I spent in what felt like a very small car with what felt like very loud and irritated birds in the back seat.

Meanwhile, Mr. Dad is driving contentedly along. Why? You ask. Was it because he is just that zen and can tune out the whole back seat? No, though he is very zen. Was it because he loves driving that much that he didn’t care about the Antsy Pantsies constant demands? No, though he does love driving. A lot. Was it because he brought along his industrial-quality noise-reduction headphones and piped Johnny Cash in from his blackberry? Yes, that is exactly why.

After a few hours of driving in this most inequitable situation (he says it was only an hour, but time flies when you are not wishing you could rid yourself of the gift of hearing) I ripped the headphones from his head, tuned into some Tim McGraw and immediately felt my blood pressure drop from “I hate this whole stupid road trip idea” to ” why this isn’t so bad.” I could see him dealing with the demands from the backseat as I blissfully tuned them out. Which, since he was driving may not have been our safest bet, but then, hey WELCOME TO MY WORLD, MR. DAD.

But we arrived safe and sound last night to find many, many excited relatives jockeying for position at the front door as we clambered up the walk. I’m surprised nobody got hurt, really. There was actual pushing and shoving. And this morning, certain other relatives, after staying up waaaayyyy past their bedtimes chatting, got up with my kids. So I could sleep. And that is one the nicest gift I’ve ever received. We had our traditional Thanksgiving church service this morning. And this family, though we all just cram into the living room, is bigger than some actual churches. The little girls sang the aptly titled “Make a Joyful Noise” with a little bit of bicycle horn, tambourine and harmonica. (Sound familiar?) But mostly cowbell. Lots and lots of cowbell. Which is a good thing, cause I had a fever. And the only prescription was more cowbell.

This was a good day. A very good day. Full of family, food, naps (for the kids) and football. And although Thanksgiving is about all those things, it’s about a lot more too. It’s really about attitude. About being able to find something to be thankful for even when you kinda just think everything stinks, like the vomit-covered car seat positioned directly behind you. About listening to a cowbell symphony and thinking it’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard. And about tasting everyone’s pie and telling them how insanely delicious it was, even if you they may have burned the crust just a little.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, I hope you can find lots of little somethings to be thankful for today!

Baby Fat? Who, Me?

23 Jan

Whine:  Watching Food Network on an empty stomach and wishing Paula Deen were my very generous next-door neighbor. I can practically smell that melted butter.

Cheese: I do, in fact, have a very generous next-door neighbor.  I went by the other day and was treated to homemade tortillas and some delicious fillings. Eat your heart out, Taco Bell.

 

On a good day if you ask me I’ll tell you that my weight is not a big deal. On the other 360 days a year, you’ll probably get a very different answer. The main reason you haven’t heard me whining about it here  is because I’m really hesitant to talk weight-loss in this format. There are just so many things to take out of context. The other reason I haven’t been whining about it lately is because I’ve been using the ostrich (stick your head in the sand) method of dieting and weight loss.

 

So when my friend Spaghetti Pie asked me to read The Baby Fat Diet as part of a blog tour, I thought, hey, why the heck not? Obviously the forget-to-eat-then-supplement-your-flagging-energy-with-candy diet has not quite gotten me to ideal healthfulness, not to mention weight, so what have I got to lose? (Besides 10 pounds or so.)

The Baby Fat Diet is a book constructed for mothers. The chapters are short and able to be read in any order at any time. And at the end of each amazingly short chapter are bullet points summarizing the few pages you probably still didn’t manage to read, amidst wild toddlers and screaming babies. The authors also leave plentyof space for you to write out your response(s) to and/or action plan for each chapter. Action plans are a good thing. Especially when it comes to weight loss.

 

The topics in the book range from vitamins and minerals to how to cheat (my favorite chapter). As suggested by the authors, I skipped around the book, reading the chapters that I felt most pertained to my current situation. Remarkably, the authors do NOT recommend skipping meals, eating off your child’s plate or supplementing your nutrition with peanut M&Ms. They do, however, give you lots and lots of information on how, when and what to eat.

 

I found lots of helpful info in the book, including my healthy weight range, my necessary calorie intake (which as a former Weight Watchers member I didn’t know) and some suggested meal and snack ideas. Some of this was news to me, some of it was a good reminder. But the bottom line that I walked away with was this: healthy eating takes time. Until I am willing to spend time thinking about and preparing healthy food, I won’t lose more than a pound or two. This is a problem for me because I am, in fact, the laziest eater on the planet. I have been known to open a can of condensed soup and eat it directly from the can. No water. No heat. Disgusting, I know. But that’s how lazy I am. So, I have discovered that I may actually have to do some work to be a healthy mom.

 

The only thing I felt was missing from the book was a strong motivation for implementing any or all of the strategies. Knowing I’m lacking riboflavin doesn’t exactly coerce me into going out and eating more legumes. Perhaps I’m foolish to think that I could derive motivation from the pages of a book, but at this point in my life I probably don’t need information quite as much as I need a drill instructor yelling in my face.

 

All in all, I would recommend The Baby Fat diet as an incredible, easy-to-use source of information on nutrition and exercise. If you need to know the ins and outs of a healthy lifestyle, this is the book for you.

 

If , however, you need a kick in the pants, you’ll probably have to do that yourself. Good luck with that.

 

For more info on The Baby Fat Diet, please visit the website. To read other reviews and interviews with the authors, plase visit these sites.