I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Enough about the Chile Rellenos

"We've run out of chile rellenos for the day."

I say this a lot. I say it because I have to - certainly not because I want to. This particular dish is really labor intensive and really delicious. This means that we don't make a lot, they're popular and we run out on nearly a daily basis.

I'm going to announce a restaurant industry insider secret: servers/bartenders do not control the kitchen. We have no investment in whether a certain menu item is available or not. We don't like having to tell people that we are out of any item because it draws us into two annoying scenarios.

Annoying guest option #1:

Complain loudly and over-dramatically about the restaurant being out of chile rellenos. Act like this is a life threatening situation and you're beyond devastated. Blame the server and pout for at least ten minutes. Consult the owners as if you believe there is some elaborate conspiracy to keep you from your beloved chile rellenos. Then punish your server even further by leaving a terrible tip - as if this was a personal affront to you.

Annoying option #2:

Make a stupid joke that you are "going to get up and leave", thus making your server pretend that s/he hasn't heard the joke ten thousand times before. It's not original.

It's very rare that I encounter a normal person who can just say "okay" and move on without either acting like a huge baby or trying to make a bad joke about it.

And since I'm ranting, what is it with customers who obsess about the television when they are out to eat? People sometimes refuse tables because they won't have a good view of Sports Center. God forbid you socialize with your family and stop staring at the same highlights for one hour! And other people will literally flag you down (while you are carrying 10 drinks or someone else's food) to ask that you change the channel. If I'm busy - my last concern is making sure you can stare at the tv screen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toddlers and Tutus

I swear I'm not a pageant Mom. Really. Anyone looking at this rehearsal video could say that it's pointless and silly and I shouldn't be pushing Ayla into dance if she doesn't like it. But up until a few weeks ago, I thought she did!

She has gotten very strange lately about attending any sort of class. Gregory has taken her to dance class consistently and she always rants and raves about not wanting to go, fights it like hell and then comes out an hour later smiling and happy. It doesn't make any sense. We've also been attending the library story time and it used to be a happy 45 minutes singing songs and listening to stories. She even coaxed other hesitant children to come in the room. But my last attempt to take her ending in screaming and many, many tears - and this was with the FUN librarian!

Just check out today's experience at the rehearsal:

So - needless to say, I've been anxious about her upcoming dance recital this weekend. I have serious doubts that she will do anything while on the stage. I just want her to have a good time! I'm not smearing on the lipstick or sending her to the tanning salon. However, I did buy her the ridiculously pouffy and cute tutu to fit the occasion.

I won't be angry with her if she doesn't dance or even look at the audience. (I won't have a pageant mom temper tantrum, for sure.) But I will continue to be perplexed as to why she is extremely outgoing one minute and then tucking into a virtual turtle shell the next.

Can Composting be considered a Hobby?

I've been doing this all wrong!

For the past couple of years, we've had a corner of the yard set aside as the compost area. Gregory put up chicken wire & burlap to contain the mess and it's been the place to throw any compost items. It's done the job, but I really wasn't doing it justice. Because the area was about 15 feet long and 2 feet deep, completely uncovered - it was virtually impossible to turn the soil and create wonderful fertilizer for the yard. We've dug out rocks and attacked the dirt pile with many different spiky garden tools.

The big plus is that we've had a space to throw all of those leftover food items, weeds, grass cuttings, coffee filters, etc. It's just in my yard and not a landfill. It doesn't break down at the rate it should and it's very difficult to access the good soil buried underneath everything.

It was time for an upgrade. I've been drooling over all sorts of composters in gardening catalogs and trying to rationalize spending upwards of $150. (This is my type of splurge - forget shoes and handbags.) Luckily, I found my dreamboat composter at Construction Junction last week. And it didn't cost even close to that much money.

Hello Mr. Earth Machine. It's truly a pleasure. He is now sitting in a corner of the yard, inconspicuously baking all of the dirt and vegetable scraps that will make my garden amazing. I was so excited to set it up and start loading in all that I could find. Dryer lint from the basement, lemon/lime rinds cut at work, all the stuff I've let get moldy in the vegetable drawers in the refrigerator. It all now has a place to go!

I am still a person impressed with simplicity. At this point, if it makes my life just a miniscule amount easier - it's a thrill. Which will lead into my next post about the new fence. Small miracles, seriously!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I just can't win

I need to stop measuring my daily "success" as a parent based on my childrens opinions. It is a steep and very slippery slope. For example...

We've recently joined the YMCA because it's time to start getting involved in camps, preschool sports and swimming lessons. I'm sure I'll also take advantage of the free babysitting so I can work out too. I was super-excited to take Ayla swimming the other day. I bought goggles so we could play underwater and we trekked out to the warm water pool. We play and giggle and splash for about an hour, until it's finally time to go home. Huge temper tantrum. Then, later, I'm reminding her what a good time we had swimming together.

Ms. Debbie Downer replied, "But I didn't have fun when we were leaving!"

Yeah, I remember.

And in celebration of Jackson's 2nd birthday, I bought him a used tricycle on Craigslist. It is faded from the sun and missing some of the stickers, but these shortcomings are balanced out with all of the cool buttons that make revving sounds and play music. There have already been violent fights between Ayla and Jackson over HIS bike. I was trying to talk up Ayla's birthday and that we could get her a "big girl" bike with training wheels.

She says, "I don't want a big girl bike, I want a little boy bike."

Of course.

I know that deep down they enjoy the little things we try to do for them. ALL of this is to be expected, yet it always catches me by surprise. It's just like the constant effort to keep the house clean and the foolishness of making them dinner from scratch when all they desire is Ramen noodles. If I use their reactions as a litmus test, I really won't ever win.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Strawberries, Fences and a Mile of Mint

Although I'm a bit hindered by sore legs and an ever-growing stomach, I'm back to obsessing about our garden and landscaping! This year, I am trying to take advantage of every corner without tearing up ALL of the grass. I need to make some major purchases: a rain barrel, tumbling composter, a locking gate (not only for runaway Baxter, but runaway children as well). If I can just find a place for a zucchini plant and the cucumber seedlings - I will be a satisfied gardener.

This is a photo of the original section designated to vegetables, fruits and herbs. After three rookie summers of gardening, I finally figured out how to plant items that grow back virtually maintenance free. The entire left half is a strawberry patch that keeps expanding. On the right is my trusty chives - where Ayla helps herself to a snack every day. She might smell like green onions, but she loves them! Blackberries and raspberries grow up two trellises and sugar snap peas will wind their way up the final trellis.

This is the area I extended into last year... a couple Clematis vines, an evergreen and a few herbs. I'm hoping to make room for broccoli and a cucumber trellis. Big dreams, I know! The mint in the back started out as a sickly looking transplant from my friend Erin's yard - and now threatens the neighboring plants daily. I've unwound mint stalks from the thyme several times already this year. Luckily, it doesn't go to waste. I simply un-root a big chunk of mint once a week and take it over to work. Fresh mojitos, anyone?

And this beautiful wheelbarrow was my Mother's Day gift. Finally a place to put my gloves, shovels, potting soil and planters! It will make me a much more efficient "farmer" - with a proper place to throw weeds and keep seedlings safe from the psycho dog.

And I can't leave out a picture of Ayla enjoying the first strawberries! They taste entirely different from any strawberry I've ever purchased in a store. We rationed out a few at breakfast the other morning, but the true harvest is coming soon!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

If you've thought of it, it already exists

I was JUST saying that I needed maternity suspenders the other day. Although maternity clothes can be amazingly comfortable - it's rare to find a pair of pants that fit you the entire way through. Even if you are buying the normal size you are used to, it is still difficult to keep an all-elastic waistband in place. When I'm at work or at home - lifting kids, picking up toys, reaching for things on the top shelf... the pants either sag or pull up too high on one side. I thought it was a good idea to look into maternity suspenders.

I was kidding, of course.

This company WASN'T kidding.
Has anyone seen these before? And more importantly, is anyone going to admit to wearing them? Because as dumb as they look, I'm wondering if the benefit might outweigh the risk. Is this like the old man sock suspenders?

Friday, May 14, 2010


Why is it that when you are in a locked public restroom, women can't figure out why it's locked? (I'm sure this might be the case with the men's room... but I'll have to take someone else's word for it.) Every time I use a single-person public bathroom, meaning that the outer door locks and there aren't any stalls, some woman always come barging up to the door and continually tries to get in the entire time I am in there.

First, they push on the door - when it's resisted by the lock, they violently shake the handle, then knock, then push again. By this point, I am so unnerved and have already yelled that "DUH! Someone is in here!" that I am flushing the toilet and running the water in the sink to really make it obvious that the bathroom is, indeed, occupied. Yet, they still knock and try to jiggle the handle.

I don't get it. I locked the door with the intent of keeping everyone else out. Don't try to break down the door! And always, as I come out of the bathroom, it is a grown woman standing there saying, "Oh! I didn't know someone was in there?!?". Someone who should know better, not a helpless 8 year old girl who waited until she was about to pee herself to run to the bathroom.

Thank goodness I at least lock the door - I don't think I could survive the humiliation of having the door swung open on me every time I use a public restroom.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Are you Catholic?

This post is dedicated to all of the annoying things that annoying people say to me when I'm pregnant. The ordinary questions (and my inevitable repeat answers) are acceptable - it's a nice way to make conversation.

But I'd really like to wear a maternity shirt that says:

This is my third child.
I'm due in August.
No, I don't know what I'm having.
I already have a boy and a girl. She is almost four and he is almost two.
Yes, I will have my hands full.
Thanks for caring!

This is only natural curiosity. Those types of questions aren't judgmental or invasive. Pregnancy only lasts so long until you're another Mom giving out the stats on your new baby. How long was labor? How old is your baby? How much did she/he weigh? (Or in the nosier cases: do you have any major injuries? Can you sit down yet?)

When I was pregnant with Ayla, I worked downtown and commuted by bus most of the time. A great place to meet the Pittsburgh crazies! Random women would touch my stomach and ask me all my parenting plans for the future. The best was a lady who waited until we got onto the bus, sat nearly 10 seats away from each other and she yelled across to me, "Are you going to breastfeed?"

Now expecting my third baby, the questions and comments sometimes get rude. Some idiot coworker of mine (who no longer is a coworker) made a HUGE deal about the fact I was going to have three kids. "Holy shit, I would never ever be able to deal with that many kids. NO way. That would be terrible!" Thanks dude! First of all, keep it to yourself. I worry enough all ready without having to hear from your incompetent ass.

And the "Are you Catholic?" stuff. All of a sudden, I must be uber-religious to even think about a family bigger than four people. Yes, we currently have that perfect, compact little economical family. But adding one more does not qualify us for a reality show. We know what birth control is and aren't afraid to use it.

I feel like standards have really changed for what is considered a "normal" number of children. You can make all of the arguments about how it just isn't affordable anymore to have a large family. I won't disagree with the cost of health insurance, braces, a bigger house, school, etc. But what has really gotten more expensive? All of the useless toys that parents purchase at Target - at full price? Buying each kid their own gaming system? Indulging their every whim and avoiding the Thrift Store like you are too good for it? People act like it's unacceptable to have more kids if you can't keep them all dressed in designer onesies.

Once you've made the necessary investments into your "baby stuff" with the car seats and cribs - the cost ratio really goes down with each child. Sure, I'll lose more income in my time off, but hell, I'm used to that by now.

So what is the big deal about having 3 kids? We are quickly outgrowing our three bedroom home - or are we? People have asked if we are going to move to a bigger house now. Uhhh, no. I like my mortgage the way it is. It is not a devastation or a parenting failure to have my kids share rooms. The plan is to have Jackson & Ayla bunk together in her (humongous!) room; the baby gets the nursery. They'll be fine. The idea actually makes them happy. I shared a room with my sister at some point during childhood. Most of my friends growing up had to share rooms as well.

But people act like it's an extreme choice. I truly don't understand. No, I'm not Catholic in any sense - I love my kids and love that they will have each other growing up. That is it. I'm not going to buy into the new mentality that anything bigger than the nuclear family is freakish.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Surprise.... you're 30!

Last week I threw a surprise party for Gregory to celebrate his 30th birthday. I did my part by reserving the space (the upstairs party room at my work) and inviting family and friends. All I had to do was ask - and everyone who loves Gregory accepted the invite! (I'm sure offering delicious Mexican appetizers and alcohol was an incentive too.)

Genevieve helped me with creating the babysitting illusion - she came over early so I could take Gregory out to the only chain restaurant we really like besides Outback. THE CHANG. We gorged ourselves at the bar with half-price appetizers. I had told him we needed to be somewhere by 7:15 for his big "surprise". So after stuffing our faces with potstickers and shrimp, we got back in the minivan.

Now there was absolutely no hiding the fact that we had to come back to our house and park in front of Azul to arrive at the surprise party. Let alone the fact that he would recognize all of the cars AND anyone arriving at the last minute. I let him go most of the car ride back knowing our direction, until we had to cross the Sewickley bridge. On goes the blindfold (risking motion sickness) and I had to make a few circles in the neighborhood to throw him off. He literally kept naming everything we passed right on cue, so that I was starting to worry that he could see. "Oh, must be passing Eat n Park, now the BP, now the doctor's office..."

Meanwhile, Eve and Matt had been scrambling to blow up balloons, decorate and make sure all of the food was ready. Other friends made cupcakes (and the lemon ones that Erin made are still being devoured two-at-a-time!) which were AMAZING.

We parked in front our house and I was leading Gregory down the sidewalk blindfolded. I saw our dog, Baxter, staring at us through the front window and he started to howl when we walked past the house. If anyone was going to ruin the surprise, it was going to be our spaz dog. I led Gregory into the side door of Azul and let him take off the blindfold. Even once we were inside the restaurant, he had no idea that we were about to go to his own surprise party. I'm not sure what he thought we were going to do!

Up the stairs and "SURPRISE!!!!", everyone is screaming at Gregory and he has to get over the shock of seeing so many unexpected faces. High school friends, family, work friends, everyone. Of course, we missed family and friends that live out of town, etc. - it's hard to coordinate a party on a Monday night that attracts interstate travel. This is what meant the most, though, is that so many people jumped at the chance to celebrate Gregory's birthday. It wasn't about my planning the event or coordinating an elaborate secret. It's about our friends & family; how kind everyone was to make it work and show my 30 year old husband what a great person he is!
Thirty is a milestone that deserves to be recognized. There should be a party and no mention of "doom and gloom" about getting older. I think I'll save that for forty, when we really should have everything figured out. :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

I love you more than...

Car rides are a great place for conversation. It's my favorite to hear Ayla's perspective on the scenery and answer her questions about where we are going, who is in the other cars, etc.

Tonight we were having a simple "I love you more than..." contest.

Me: I love you more than french fries.
Ayla: I love you more than french fries.

Me: I love you more than flowers.
Ayla: I love YOU more than flowers.

Me: I loved you first.
Ayla: No, I loved YOU first.

This went one for awhile, listing all of our favorite things until I hit her personal limit.

Me: I love you more than... candy.
Ayla: (laughter) CANDY! WHAT?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not that I'm counting

One of my OCD parenting habits has been to keep a written log of words said by my children. It started at around 15 months for Ayla (in fact, it is still a shortcut on my desktop - time to clean up the computer!). I would add a few words every month to add to the repertoire. However, I stopped after 21 months because the list could have just said... "everything". Ayla was repeating all words back to us and putting her thoughts together with cute little sentences.

I'm not going to be a terrible mother and compare... but it's a completely different story with Jackson. He is not a fan of acquiring and speaking words. I thought we were along the same lines of development when he said "Ayla" very early. We were taking a road trip alone with him while Ayla rode in another car. I can't remember the exact age, but it surprised us both when he kept yelling, "Ay-la" from his car seat.

Fast forward to a few weeks before his 2nd birthday and he's only consistently saying a few words. He understands absolutely everything we tell him to do, so there's no need to have his hearing tested. This is often a suspicion when children take a long time to start talking. He doesn't even use the word "No!", which is of course a favorite among toddlers. He likes to give a slightly whiny "Ehh" when he doesn't want to do something instead.

He signs for "more" and says his version of "please" (which sounds like a long Eeeee). I can get him to say "up" if he wants to be picked up and is whining about it. Other than that, Jackson just nods and smiles when I ask him to repeat new words. He knows what he is doing - so why say it out loud?

Words we know he can say:

- Dada
- Puppy
- Hi
- Bye
- Wow
- Ayla
- Mama
- Kitty
- Up
- Ow
- Beep
- Cheese
- Uh oh (oddly enough, this is said to signify good and bad things)
- Nana (banana)
- Aww (as in, that's so cute)
- Baby
- Eww(opening up the trash and saying "Ewww" is a hobby)
- Empty

Actually, written out the list is looking good! I'm sure there are a number of factors to consider. Gender, birth order, personality, etc. We certainly don't have any real concerns about it. We're just trying to figure out what all the baby mumbling is about.