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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Brat Ban

 I am more than a little disturbed by a new business trend. No kids allowed. Which in essence, also means no parents allowed for many, many parents in the world who do not have reliable babysitters.

 In response to the apparent deconstruction and overthrow of stable society (sarcasm) that babies and toddlers present in America: many business owners are banning children entirely from their establishments.  They've had too many "complaints" from other patrons that loud, crying children have ruined their dinners (or movies or flight).

  A friend posted this article last night, and I went to bed angry about the state of the world. And the state of child-less adults in America. And the empty nesters who are now arrogant and have forgotten what their lives were like thirty years ago. And the parents in support of banning kids, who say that they love kids but think every other parent is doing a terrible job and don't "manage" their children in public.

 First of all, if you are the parent of a single child who is under one year old: your opinion is not yet valid. Just as my opinion about dealing with teenagers isn't valid yet - I haven't fought that battle yet. Babies loves to go out to eat before they realize they can walk. They sit happily in their chairs, swoon at the bright lights and yes, make messes under the table - but that's why vacuums were invented. Then your precious little baby can't sit still for more than five seconds and every trip to a restaurant is a battle between constant toddler entertainment and tiredly, hungrily trying to feed yourself.

 I am so tired of the judgemental, know-it-all parents that act like they are doing a superior job to every other parent out there. Especially when those said parents have the luxury of leaving their kids with grandparents, friends, neighbors that they trust. We have lived in Buffalo now for six months and have only managed ONE date night. And we brought Elliot. Gregory's cousins were kind enough to babysit for a few hours - but we still don't feel okay leaving all three kids with someone. It's just too much to handle. We went to a nice restaurant, ordered a bottle of wine and perhaps he made a peep that upset another patron. For the most part, though, people were waving and smiling at him unprompted. No one's night was ruined and we were certainly valued as customers even though we had one of those ghastly babies in our presence.

  It's not so much the "brat ban" that upsets me (sure, it is nice to have peace and quiet at dinner), but the sentiment behind it. What is wrong with our society that we hate families so much? Coupled adults that choose to not have children - good for you, that is a valid choice. But you are not better than me. You are not more enlightened and you are not more privileged. Sorry. When you leave your childless, pristine home and enter the public: you are going to encounter people under the age of six. They are messy and loud, but a part of society nonetheless. You run the risk of being annoyed in a public place, be it a movie theatre, airplane, restaurant or sidewalk.

 I think this is bad business. I would avoid a restaurant that banned children even if I were going out without them (a vision! an impossible dream!). It's rude. I would think smart restaurant owners would welcome the business of new parents, in the hope they would make a life-long customer. Because, in fact, who needs a meal more than a tired parent who just can't take another mess under their own kitchen table? This is a slippery slope. It's not just kids that make venturing out into public an annoyance. I despise anyone who talks loudly during a movie, or yells at their waitress in a restaurant or is, ahem, too large to fit in their own seat on the airplane. Who's banning them? My kids are learning early how to behave in a public forum, not perfectly of course, but I still think they have better manners than most adults.

 I could go on and on about this for many a paragraph, but will stop with this sentiment. Why do businesses always cater to the loudest complainer? My years in the hotel industry proved that managers will cave under the pressure of irrational complaints. This ban on kids may gain steam for awhile, but my guess is that smart businesses will push back and recognize that while parents might not be the ones complaining like real adult brats (and getting their way for the moment), their spending power will be missed. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My children should be arrested.... for CUTENESS! 

Our neighborhood of Lancaster, NY has tons of free/almost free activities for the summertime. Ayla is currently enrolled in an art class and both older kids have their first swimming lesson at the high school tomorrow afternoon. They get almost three weeks of swim lessons, every day, at the whopping cost of $5 a kid! Good thing I missed the enrollment date for the Y... we would have paid $40 for the same thing. 

To partake in these activities, though, I had to take my kids and their birth certificates to the Recreation office for some photo IDs. It was so worth the trip. 

The headband look just kills me.

I have a feeling that Jackson is going to have the same haircut when he goes for his driver's license in 13 years. That mop looks so good on him!
 And here's the best for last...what baby has ever had his own ID? 

I had to hold Elliot above my head so they could take his picture "solo".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Night night time! GO Dadda's House!"

 Those words are Jackson's battle cry when he is done for the day. Or at least done for the moment. If he falls or realizes that he needs a nap or loses a battle over a toy with Ayla, he always cries, "Night night time!"

 We are often more than happy to oblige and I am still so thrilled that he is articulating what he needs, after a comparatively slow development using words. Jackson took his time talking, and we spent much of last year guessing what he wanted, because almost everything was described by the word "Adee!" There was many a frustrating moment with me standing at the kitchen cabinet, searching for the snack he was pointing out...Jackson saying "adee" over and over and shaking his head as I picked the wrong item.

  Whatever mental roadblock we were facing, promptly disappeared when Gregory returned from his ATC training last December. (I think we were all in a psychological slump during that time.) Words started to spew from Jackson's mouth easily and he's putting together some very coherent sentences now. Just like any parent, I stressed about something that eventually resolved itself.

 Now he won't stop telling (more like yelling) us what he wants to do...every...second...of...the...day. 

 The other night, we attended CanalFest in the suburb of Tonawanda. The rumor was that the fireworks were pretty bomb - and after watching the 4th of July fireworks through the branches of a tree, we needed a good fireworks fix.

 We wandered around the carnival for an hour, spending an atrocious $10 for one ride on the Ferris wheel and indulged in funnel cakes and fried Oreos. The town of Tonawanda was nuts, so crowded with people... it took us a harrowing, claustrophobia-inducing 10 minutes to cross over a bridge to find a somewhat secluded spot for fireworks-watching. Gregory knew which bridge they were launching the fireworks from, and we sat down on a curb close to that point.

 Then the artillery started, or so one would assume from the loud, blasting noises and bright lights! We were so close to the fireworks that I could hear/feel the blasts exploding in my head. Ayla was loving it, Elliot looked at me to gauge the situation (once I smiled at him, he was assured).... and Jackson lost his mind. Crying, covering up his face and yelling, "Night night time! Go Dadda's house now!". So, for the entire fireworks show, he cried, cowered and basically hated life.

"No mer fireworks!"

 Who ever thought that one of Gregory's children would hate fireworks? Perhaps we caught him at the wrong time of day; next time we will try our luck sitting more than 10 feet away from the blast-off bridge. At least the Ferris wheel was a success.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Fly Me to the Moon.... oh, wait....

  (As always, I preface any commentary on current events with the disclaimer that I am never really "current" anymore. It is doubtful that I hear about anything happening outside of my block, let alone politically or internationally - unless I get a spare half hour to peruse the internet instead of wiping someone's heinie.)

  Tonight, all heinies have been wiped and I wanted to read more about the end of the space shuttle program. I knew that the astronaut program was coming to an end, and that the final launch was scheduled earlier this month. It made me sad, mostly because it essentially takes away a very specific dream. Maybe I am nostalgic because I watched my brother go to space camp in 1986, and subsequently attend the Air Force Academy after high school.

 But isn't "astronaut" one of the top three answers for all little kids when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up? My children's generation will not be able to say that. They can certainly still have dreams to be a space engineer or something akin to that, but damn! it's just not quite as exciting when you are dressing up as your dream for Halloween.

 We watched a series about the beginning of the space program in the 1950's (somebody help me with the title, can't remember!). It was spectacular. The time, money and sense of adventure necessary to develop a space program in the first place was epic. It was the assertion of USA as a super-power and an extension of what our country believed about themselves. We simply can't understand what it was like for our parents to sit and watch the "moon landing" on television. Unreal, unbelievable and goose-bump inducing. (Unless you think that it was a hoax, of course.) Exploration outside of our home, our planet, is mind-boggling and I think, a necessary dream.

My parents took this photo while watching the Moon Landing on July 20th, 1969.

 Politics aside, I can understand that if we need the money on earth to handle medical care, housing, peace-keeping, etc., then maybe stepping on the moon again in 2020 isn't the top priority. But I say that with the expectation that this stoppage in the space program is only temporary. It's not fair that this temporary lull will affect this generation, but it is with the hope that we can save the money now and develop better, safer technologies in the future. Let robots figure out the voyage to Mars for a few decades and then give people the chance to look back at the Earth through a window instead of reading about it in a book.

 Can you continue reading and consider me a sane person if I say that I still think the government will be conducting space research? Insert conspiracy here... I'm just saying. Go ahead, Washington, do it in secret...just keep doing it in Area 51.

 Well-written articles like this give me hope that there is a plan. We still, as a human race, will be able to dream about space exploration. And if we don't think it is an important part of the budget now... we will when we fulfill our Wall-E destiny and cover the Earth with garbage.

 For now, we can feel better and join Tina Fey and Buzz Aldrin by screaming at the idiot moon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Easier than a trip to Target

 Some parents would cringe at the thought of flying with their young children... let alone on a "flexible" schedule as a standby passenger. But personally, most of my experiences have been more enjoyable than a standard trip to Target.

I flew to Minneapolis on Thursday, traveling via Pittsburgh and then Chicago. Hopping on a plane in the burgh was painless, but I had to wait out three full planes in Chicago. It is disheartening to see your name twenty down on the standby list and zero seats left. But, by mid-afternoon I was comfortably sitting next to a family (with two loud kids of their own!) on the way to my final destination.

I flew last November with a nearly newborn Elliot and hyper, overstimulated Ayla. So traveling with only one baby this time is exactly 100% easier. I find it humorous that other travelers look at me and a baby like I am carrying the black plague. I know people talk about "babies on planes" as the most annoying concept in the world... but I can think of about a million more aspects of traveling that are worse.

Like sitting next to a person who hasn't bathed in a week. Or having to use the barf bag. Or realizing you have pee when the beverage cart is blocking your path to the bathroom.

All in all, there are so many distractions and exciting elements for a baby to look at... that all of my kids have been more than happy to sit and behave in the enclosed space of an airplane than in the cart at the grocery store.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Where Old T-shirts Go To Die

This is my first post sent via my phone. Extremely lazy or amazing potential?

I thought I would discuss this t-shirt quilt, an unfinished project that has moved with me to every apartment and home I have lived in since 1999.

Looking at all of the memories of concerts, camps and some of my poor fashion choices gives me a sense of where I have been and how much I have evolved.

I love snuggling up at night under a blanket that took me over a decade to finish the final stitch. But I'm not sure how Gregory feels about cuddling with Cookie Monster and my old Dashund shirt on a daily basis...

(This post made possible by Gregory's ultimate patience with technology)
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Saturday, July 9, 2011

It's About Time!

 I've been a Mom for almost 5 years now, and yesterday was the first time I made baby food. This blog may be a testament to the fact that I love to try anything homemade rather than buy it in a store. I'd rather toil and garden than buy lettuce, beans, eggplant or tomatoes during the summertime. So, it is a bit odd and out of character that I've never tried to make my own baby food.

Maybe I don't have any time or inclination after washing, folding and using cloth diapers! I don't know.

Regardless, I was inspired to make roasted banana and blueberry puree. I saw it in my new favorite magazine, the Food Network Magazine, a recipe by Tyler Florence. I have bought several packages of his new baby food line - Sprout. I like that he offers different flavors from your standard Beef & Pasta or Chicken & Stars. When you are feeding your baby during the in-between stages of plain purees and regular diced food, the flavors and varieties can become redundant. And the packaging is very convenient for traveling and reheating.

 Elliot has been enjoying tastes of Tyler's Lentil Bolognese and Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese for months, so I was super excited to see the recipes in print. Talk about baby food fate!

 I made (with the help of budding chef Ayla) Roasted Bananas and Blueberries in under thirty minutes. I highly recommend it, even for your older kids. We buy a lot of packaged applesauce in our house - so it's great to have an alternative that Ayla and Jackson can enjoy as well.

And while we're talking good eats, I know a lot of mommas out there have been making their own for years. Any recommendations for easy recipes that I can try now that I've caught the baby-food-making bug?

Three bananas, one pint of blueberries on parchment paper.
Roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes - until the blueberries burst and the bananas look like they've been in a campfire.

 Puree the fruits in the blender or food processor (minus banana skins) and then enjoy the show! Elliot laughed maniacally when he tasted his new treat.

So I have blueberries in my eyebrow, so what?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rollercoasters and the Ring of Fire

 Fireworks, parades, hot dogs, sparklers and catching fireflies. These are the memories of Independence Day, from my own childhood and now for my children.

Add something new to the list of 4th of July activities.


  In characteristic fashion, our kids are nutso over holidays and recount their favorite parts of any given holiday over and over all year long, until it returns again. The 4th has always been about the parade that came down Broad Street in Leetsdale, directly in front of our house. Ayla would lunge at the candy tossed from firefighters and keep her hoard safely tucked away for months afterward.

 This year was different, obviously, but I think we definitely upped the ante of 4th of July excitement. A traveling carnival (yes, with real carnies!) set up in Lancaster in the local grocery store parking lot. Holy hell, those were some serious rides! I put the fact aside in my mind that all of the mechanical parts had been recently assembled (and then unassembled and assembled again) as Ayla and Jackson boarded their first "real" rides.

Ayla, like the true stunt-woman that she is, showed no fear and loved every ride. Jackson handled this first one okay with Gregory right next to him... but freaked out in the little water taxis, wouldn't attempt anything else and finally enjoyed these cars.

 Oh, and did I mention the Ring of Fire? I never had the satisfaction of riding the Laser Loop growing up; they tore it down before I was tall or brave enough to try it. This traveling Ring of Fire was not a comparison - but after several years of not riding any rollercoasters (I've been pregnant during three of the last six summers!), it might as well been 150 feet up in the air.

 As a side note, I was searching on Wikipedia for Laser Loop stats and found this . Maybe someday I will make it to Mexico City and get my chance to ride the infamous Pittsburgh loop.

 But the Ring of Fire in a grocery store parking lot in Lancaster, NY was pretty awesome. I was laughing and crying and scared out of my mind as Rachel, Genevieve and I hung upside down only slightly bracketed by cushioned pieces of metal.

"Grumps" just casually walking by...

Jackson was happy to have us back on the ground... he had started crying as soon as we got on the ride.

 We will be talking about fireworks and parades until next year, of course, but only as a side note to the ridiculously unsafe rollercoasters we rode (and loved!) this 4th of July! Well done, carnies.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fizzy Lifting Drink

 The addiction began when I was pregnant with Elliot - nothing else could satisfy my irrational thirst like soda water. Yes, bubbly, calorie-free, sodium-free soda water. It is perfect to have in the kitchen at all times. Mix it with juice and you have an exciting breakfast cocktail. Keep it at your bedside and it relieves the middle of the night dry mouth. It is far superior than water which is terrible because it is stale by 2 am and tastes like your own morning breath.

 Gregory soon picked up the same habit and we were going through ten to fifteen bottles of seltzer water every week. Our taste buds started to get sophisticated and it was frustrating that the plastic bottles would lose their "oomph" and we'd always end of up with a flat glass of soda water with every bottle. We knew that cans of seltzer existed - we had seen them in grocery stores in North Carolina - but were nowhere to be found on the shelves of Giant Eagle.

 Lo and behold, it only took a move to New York to find all of the seltzer our hearts could desire! Both Tops and Wegmans (our most frequented grocery stores) carry a wide variety of canned seltzer flavors: Lime, Lemon, Pomegranate, Cranberry Lime, Mixed Berry and Orange. The assortment in bottles is even wider - including Pink Grapefruit and Vanilla - but those are only good if you are going to drink it all at once. (And don't worry, I usually do.)

 I am a complete convert from drinking regular or even diet soda now. It might be blasphemous in my family to say that I've renounced Pepsi (a photo album was made about 30 years ago, showing many family members using Pepsi for household chores, filling pools, watering gardens, etc. as a gift for my grandmother because she loved it so much.), but why would I ever go back? I can drink seltzer all day long without the calories or the worry of what aspartame is doing to my liver.

 Of course, there is the problem with excessive recycling and use of tons of aluminum cans and bottles. But water just doesn't cut it anymore. We have tried homemade versions of soda water with our iSi, but that would be an expensive habit.

 Imagine my delight when I saw seasonal flavors at the grocery store this past weekend! Apparently I am easily excited and I bought every one. Hello banana (it's better than you think), pineapple passionfruit, orange mango and pina colada! I haven't tried the last one yet, but I am still brainstorming as to how I'm going to mix that one with alcohol.

 Not to speak unkindly of PA and its' pride Giant Eagle - but this is one instance where I know I've upgraded. I can binge on seltzer to my hearts content and only hope they market even stranger flavors in the fall. Apple? Pumpkin? Keeping my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Le Jardin Pathetique

I can't take credit for the rose bush... the previous owners planted it. But Ayla is really appreciating the flowers.

 My luck with the garden this year has been spotty, with a success rate hovering around 50%. I am adjusting to a new climate - where spring didn't really hit until late May and the yard was flooded with heavy rains for a few weeks after planting seeds. The seedlings that started indoors were promptly planted outside when their roots began to wind together, where many of them quickly perished (or were eaten by a pesky rabbit!). The strange thing is that some plants died right next to ones that are flourishing. It's as if there are dead spots in the ground. Others, like my cauliflower, aren't exactly dying but aren't growing either. Those plants have been outside for over a month and haven't grown an inch.
So what if there are more weeds than plants? The lettuce is in there something, and I finally wised up to using weed fabric by the tomatoes.

Tasty, tasty snap peas - they enjoy the Buffalo weather much better than Pittsburgh.

Can't wait to harvest!

  I put a lot of hope and faith into the ground every year, when I try new varieties and spend hours of time digging, weeding and mulching. My standards might be too rigid for realistic gardening: I am a little devastated every time a tomato plant dries up or the spinach looked healthy one minute and then was spindly and near-dead the next day. I know that gardening is all about trial and error, and I'm happy to be successful with at least one new venture every year. But, I have to admit, I probably get disproportionally upset when something completely fails.

 Like the potato condo.

I am almost positive that is it dead. We have no idea what went wrong, but when we returned from our week-long vacation, the greenery at the top of the potato box was almost non-existent. This is a complete change from the flourishing, out of control growth we had a few weeks ago. I thought it had good drainage and enough sunlight - it's possible that we may have built up the remaining plank levels too soon and caused too much shade as the sun shifted in the afternoon. Regardless, I've been digging into the potting soil and have yet to find any life. Only marble-sized potatoes at the very bottom and nothing else. They're too small to even pretend that we intended to grow baby potatoes!

 However, the front porch and full-day sun is working very well for our container plants.

Parsley, dill, lemon thyme and a bush bean plant.

Lettuce, basil, more snap peas and monster tomato plants.

Upside down bell peppers and potted eggplants - grow, eggplants, grow!

 Maybe there is enough time left in the season to make another attempt with the potato condo... but if not, I will just have to wait until next year. For now, I'll try to look on the positive side of my "jardin pathetique" and be happy that the snap peas are almost ready to pick and we've already enjoyed radishes, lettuce and a plethora of basil.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th!

2009... with a baby Jackson!
 I hope everyone is having a fantastic, relaxing holiday. We are having a great first 4th of July here in Buffalo, all in part to family visiting AND Gregory getting the day off. Really, there isn't much more to ask for!

 We attended the parade in our new suburb small town of Lancaster. It satisfied the patriotic desires to clap for our veterans, volunteer firefighters, high school band and Girl Scout troops. Being in New York, though, is just not quite as relaxing as watching the Leetsdale parade from our front porch. Alas, that time in my life is over!

 And with more reasons to celebrate: I have to mark my second blogiversary!!! Amazing! I can't believe how time has elapsed and how cathartic this writing really is for me. I am honored that anyone shows an interest and comments on the random rantings spewing from my brain. I look forward to writing posts and hope that I come across in an honest, genuine way. I write here on the blog as a means to document my life and form cohesive thoughts about all the complications of being a woman, mother, wife, citizen and friend.

 So thank you for reading and supporting me. I know "Mom" blogs are very common, but there must be a reason for this. We are proud of our children and want to share their accomplishments. But we also need a voice amongst the hours of cleaning, wiping and diaper changing. This outlet gives me the opportunity to reflect in the midst of to-do lists, rapidly growing children and attempts to pursue grown-up interests as well. Every post helps me slow down  and get a hold of my feelings one at a time.

 Have a great holiday that hopefully includes lots and lots of fireworks!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Summer Vacation

  Promptly after graduating preschool, we got out of Buffalo and took our first road trip of the summer - ultimately to Diana (Gregory's cousin) and Jared's (now cousin-in-law) wedding in Virginia, with bookend stops in Pittsburgh.

 Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to arrive in Pittsburgh on Erin's real, actual birthday. It's virtually impossible to plan seeing an out-of-town friend on their birthday - but we were rolling through town just on chance! I arrived just in time to get a tasty honeydew margarita with Erin and her fiance (ooohhhh- kissy kissy!) Rob at Mad Mex. I do miss me some Mad Mex.

 Onto the scenic drive into Virginia to the wedding at Veritas Vineyards. We were kindly invited to a dinner the night before at Michie Tavern , where we feasted on fried chicken, mashed potatoes, beets, black-eyed peas, peach cobbler and ice cream. It was pretty fascinating to be inside a well-preserved historic tavern, although we did discover some horrific drawings hanging on the wall. Without getting too detailed, the drawings depicted some colonial sexual assault and then betrothment? It was weird.

 The wedding itself was stunning. I'm beginning to think there isn't a better backdrop to anything than a vineyard, let alone the tranquility of a wedding ceremony. (Okay, beaches are awesome too.) The food was amazing - it's not often to find a fantastically fresh salad in any banquet situation! Kudos, Diana and Jared! I only wish that bringing our three well-dressed children to a party with family meant that we actually got to spend more time catching up with said family. From attempting to take pictures, to running Jackson into the bathroom every time he announced he had to go (we are faltering at potty training, so we'll run anytime he says he has to use the real bathroom), to feeding Elliot and finding a wandering Ayla - the night sped by too quickly.

Ayla sat at the grown-up kids table! What a little lady.

Heartbreaker. He's wearing the "tie" shirt under that blazer!

Passed out by 9 pm. Jackson has a hard time even falling asleep in the car, so this surprised me.

A happy bride and groom!

Dinner companions - so what if we had the rowdiest table?

 We then returned to Pittsburgh for a graduation celebration for Genevieve. Woo hoo! "Quaker Valley" graduate! I'm sad to say we didn't pull out the camera that night until the unveiling of the cake.... sorry, Genevieve! But congratulations, we can't wait to visit you at college and tease you in front of your new friends! "Guys, stop teasing him!"

Luscious... and it was MY job to cut this bad boy!

"It's so much cake I can't handle it!"

 The timing for our trip was a perfect segway into the somewhat lazy summer days ahead of us. (Lazy for the kids, almost ulcer inducing for me.) I really loved seeing so many of our friends and family back in Pittsburgh, for even a few hours. It was very surreal to be less than a minute's drive from our old house and not be able to stay there. I'm realizing now that it was relatively easy, at least psychologically, to slink away from "home" in the dead of winter, rather than in the beautiful, green, energized power of summer.

 Alas, these are the kinds of weekends where you do a fair amount of looking backwards (old gardens, old neighbors, old familiarities) and realizing what the future can be (new marriages, another year of children growing, new jobs and cities).