I’ve seen a few things in my life. Not as many as my grandparents, or my parents, but a few.

I’ve been around for those moments, those moments that you’ll always remember exactly where you were.

January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster: High school, sophomore year, French class. It had just started to snow. When the announcement started, I thought they were going to send us home because of the weather.

January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm (aka the first Gulf War) begins: Duquesne campus, walking back to my dorm after dinner. One of my friends passed me on her way to a night class. “Have you heard?” she asked in a disgusted tone. “We’re at war.” I smoked marijuana for the first time that night.

November 3, 1992, Bill Clinton’s election victory: Rico’s house. I even remember that I was wearing a multi-colored striped turtleneck with a black mini skirt and tights. I had a crush on Rico.

February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster: The original Max & Erma’s in German Village, Columbus, Ohio. I was pregnant with Gabriel.

9/11: Florence, Italy, on our honeymoon.

November 4, 2008, 11 p.m. EST: Sitting on my couch (crying, of course).

January 20, 2009: Co-worker’s cubicle, watching a live video stream.

Yes, we did.

Surviving the Game II: Some Good Advice

Last time I was on my own to watch the Steelers playoff game, it was difficult. But we all survived, and I did discover some strategies to mix toddler management with watching football.

This time, for Sunday’s game, I decided to see if Misfit Hausfrau‘s advice would work. She suggested a slumber party in one of the girls’ rooms (see the comments from Surviving the Game I). I called it movie night instead, and we held it in Monkey’s room.

I couldn’t find the in-laws’ portable DVD player, so I unearthed my 13″ television with a built-in VCR player, purloined some VHS tapes from next door, and set the girls up in Monkey’s room, complete with a kid couch and snack delivery (during commercials).

Monkey was so excited to have a TV in her room, watching movies was like gravy. She kept jumping up and down: “I have a TV in my room. I have a TV in my room!” She wanted to know who bought it for her (no one, I said, it’s an old TV of Mommy’s), and if it was going to live in her room from now on (no).

After I got both girls bathed and in pajamas, I put on “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown” — as an aside, DearDR picked out the VHS tapes, and I’m not sure I would have made the same selections: Mulan, the aforementioned Charlie Brown, The Little Mermaid TV series on VHS, and a Christmas sing-along video.

Monkey was captivated, and although she wanted me to watch with her, she seemed resigned to letting me watch the Steelers.

Bun, as per usual, was a different story. Are you sensing a trend with Bun? It used to be that she would do anything Monkey would do. With the exception of the They Might Be Giants DVDs, watching television has never been big on her list, though. And I guess she didn’t feel like hanging with her sister. Not when she had Mommy and Daddy all to herself downstairs!

I don’t think Bun was upstairs for five minutes. When I lured her back to Monkey’s room with snacks, she announced “Eyeont like it, Mommy” referring to the video. She came back downstairs again, and stayed for the rest of the first half. (Both girls went to bed at halftime.)

Both girls, as a matter of fact, “watched” the final two minutes of the half. They decided to put some of their toys to bed, so we turned off the light. Bun actually shushed me when I clapped for a Steelers’ sack of Flacco. “Shhh, Mommy,” she said. “Baby shleepin’.”

It was okay, though. Monkey did fine in her room. I did watch a little of the Little Mermaid with her toward the end of the first half. Daddy actually played with Bun during the game. And Bun didn’t bug us to turn the game off or put something else on the television.

The results were mixed, but for the most part it was a successful strategy, and I will be using it again, although not for Super Bowl XLIII. Because I have a babysitter, and a plethora of outside-the-house viewing options.


Pictures of You

I got tagged the other day by the loverly Jaysel (and you should follow that link because it shows Jaysel WITH BANGS).

The meme is fairly simple:
1. Go to the fourth picture folder on your computer.
2. Post the fourth picture in that folder.
3. Explain the picture.
4. Tag four more people.

Only I had to go ahead and make it all complicated. Because I have two computers and about 50 picture folders between them — start from the top or go in order of date? Which computer? Which photo program (HP or Picasa)?

So I went to my online gallery at Picasa from my Mac. And the fourth picture folder (going from earliest to most recent) only had one image in it.

So here’s the fourth picture from my fifth folder on Picasa. (Could I be more annoying?)

(Don’t answer that.)

This was from a little post that I called the Zen and the Art of Motherhood. That is the wand I decorated for Monkey’s fairy costume for Halloween that year. I was fully invested in arts & craps, as Monkey called it at the time.

I miss it, to be honest. We played outside in the snow a little bit today, and I realized that I miss the fun stuff with my girls these days. As I said recently, though, such is the bed I have made. I’m where I need to be, and where my family needs me to be.

Although I found out how pathetic I am at making snowmen. Sorry I didn’t get any visual evidence.

On to the tag: How about Kim Z, Misfit Hausfrau, Melissa, and Allison? Go!

When Your Day Starts at 2:30 a.m….

…the suck lasts alllll day looong. I assure you.

I don’t know what happened, although I have guesses. In Monkey’s case, I don’t know what it is, but she finds it much harder to settle when DearDR is home and/or when he puts her to bed. First she wouldn’t settle down — she wanted him to stay with her; then she wanted to go in our bed; then she wanted to be back in her bed. Finally she fell asleep in our bed, and I moved her to her bed at 11 p.m. when I went to bed.

She was back at 2:30 a.m. Then she wanted to go back to her bed at 3:30 a.m., then came back at 4 a.m., and then Bun woke up at 4:30 a.m., and was pretty much up for the count. At 5-ish in a desperate bid for sleep, DearDR took Monkey into her room and they both slept in her bed. Bun simply would not give up, and finally I took her downstairs sometime around 6:30. That happened after I cried for nearly 20 minutes because she would not.fall.asleep, and my crying made her cry.

It was a bad scene.

Although I ditched on my original plans (the Children’s Museum), I still had some things to try to accomplish yesterday: grocery store, bank, post office, library. We made it to the second one. Then I tried to burn them out at the kid mall.

And Monkey was wonderful, very well behaved, in the mood to shop, even. Quote: “I think we should buy me something pretty here.” This after a search turned up no toddler-sized Steelers jerseys.

Bun, as usual, was a different story. If I went right, she wanted to go left; she didn’t want the snack we were all sharing; she wanted all of the drink we were all (supposed to be) sharing; and she ran, ran, ran, sometimes literally in circles away from me. It all culminated in a major fit as we were leaving the mall and I was wrestling her into her coat and trying to keep her near me while I helped Monkey with her coat.

I was tired, frazzled, and most of all, embarrassed. Bun can be an angel in public, or at least funnily charming. But yesterday she could be nothing but contrary.

My theories about the sleep issues: I think Monkey was cold; our upstairs tends to be chilly, and it was chillier than usual. Bun is teething I think, cutting her final molar. At least I hope it’s the final one. This has been going on every couple of weeks for awhile now, so between teething and ear infections, Bun hasn’t been the best sleeper.

I’m almost positive it was not a full moon, but I’m too tired now to check.

You Are What You Eat

I know there has been a lot of controversy surrounding high fructose corn syrup: it’s bad for you; it’s not bad for you; it’s not that bad for you; it’s actually good for you — it’s made of corn!; it’s pure and unadulterated evil.

I have been toying with the idea of eliminating it from my household. It’s not the HFCS per se — it’s the idea that it’s in so many highly processed foods. I’m a simple foods kind of person. I like cooking; I use fresh ingredients. I spend the most time in the grocery store in the produce and organic sections.

After reviewing a number of articles on both sides, I think I’m going to stick with the gut instinct that says to me: Purge it from the house. I am raising two vegetarians (I am one myself), and I would like to raise two girls who prefer real ingredients in their food, too.

So far, they do. My girls are good eaters, and they like tofu, beans, and veggies just as much as anything else. And they love fruit. Monkey would eat blueberries until she became one; both girls love apples, strawberries, bananas, raisins, grapes, pears, and so on. They are on the fence about melons — except for watermelon of course. I chalk that up to a texture thing, and figure they will outgrow it.

As you may know, if you’ve decided to eliminate HFCS, you have to become an avid label reader. Since I am anyway (see: vegetarian, above), this has been okay with me. Of course I am dismayed at the places I find HFCS — bread being my biggest disappointment, with canned soup close behind. Bye-bye, Roman Meal and Progresso Soup.

I stumbled onto this site, and I am going to use their list of HFCS-free foods to help me shop next time I go. Monkey doesn’t like any bread with nuts or seeds in it — neither does DearDR, come to think of it — so it will be challenging to find something she will eat. Making my own bread and/or shopping at Whole Foods are not quite on the agenda yet (it’s a time thing).

I’ve actually been just as surprised as where HFCS is not. Apple Jacks? No HFCS. Fruit Loops? Ditto. Now obviously, those are high in sugar (I think it’s the first or second ingredient in both), but I think on occasion, those cereals are okay.

RPM’s Food Mantra: All things in moderation. I don’t drink diet pop (or “soda” as some of you insist of calling it) — I don’t drink regular pop that often; I don’t buy “low-fat” foods, or sugar-free snacks. I believe in real ingredients, organic if we can afford it (and almost all organic dairy), and variety.

It’s funny, because as I’m reading this over I think I sound like a super-fussy eater. But really, I’m not. I like food that tastes good, and I’m not a big junk-food eater. I don’t obsess about food or about what I feed the girls. And I don’t get all worked up about what (or when) they eat, or how much. I can count the food battles I have had with them: Two, one with Bun, one with Monkey.

But I am trying to be more conscientious about food ingredients because… I don’t know. I guess it’s complicated to explain. Because I’m a mom — and a wife — who is the caretaker of health in my house. Eating well — it’s second nature to me. I do not think about it, literally. And I want Monkey and Bun to have the same relationship with food that I have, which can be summed up like this: Eat when you’re hungry; eat food that tastes good and is good for you; and everything is fine in moderation.

That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

Bun Love

The instant Monkey was born, she had her daddy’s heart. There was no question. Monkey was born with her eyes wide open (you’d be awake, too, after being squeezed like a sausage for three hours), and, DearDR says, looking right at him.

With Bun, it has taken longer for her to assume the mantle of ‘daddy’s girl’.

Part of it was the timing. We had intended to wait another year before even ‘trying’ to get pregnant. Bun was born a year early, and as my husband also says, “It’s the first time a [Our Last Name] was that early for anything.” So DearDR wasn’t quite ready for round two with another girl.

The anxiety that Bun put us through, albeit unintentionally, didn’t help either.

But as of late, Bun has just as much (i.e. all of) her daddy’s heart as Monkey. Don’t get me wrong, of course DearDR has loved Bun from the outset. It’s just that I can see him warming toward her the way he instantly warmed to Monkey.

At times that we are together as family, “divide and conquer” used to mean: I took care of Bun, and DearDR took care of Monkey. But even that is being switched up. He is just as likely to take Bun under his care as Monkey. (Still not crazy about taking them both at the same time, but he’s getting there.)

The way he touches her face when they are together, and the way he lavishes his attention on her… The level and type of the attention that used to be Monkey’s exclusive right has expanded to include Bun. The same exclamations that DearDR used to say to and about Monkey now apply to Bun as well. “I love you so much, Bun.” “She’s so beautiful!” He has even elected to put her to bed instead of Monkey.

I can see that Monkey is a little insecure about her Daddy’s expanding affection. As a result she is turning back toward me. She wants me to bathe her, even when DearDR is available. She wants to help me with dinner on a Saturday night, rather than hanging with Daddy and Bun. This week, with my in-laws out of town, she has asked me to take her to school or to DCL’s. Unfortunately, I leave too early for work to be able to do that. That has been difficult for Monkey to accept.

Heck, Monkey can’t figure out why I get up in the middle of the night to shower and go to work in the first place. I should be able to wait until the sun comes up and take her to school. (I kind of agree with her on that, but such is the bed I have made.)

As for the girls, and who they prefer, it all depends who is at hand. If I am there, and they are not getting their way, they revert to ” I want Daddy!” (Monkey) or “Dada!” (Bun). Of course. I’m sure DearDR gets a lot of calls for “Mama!” in the mornings.

Don’t worry, Monkey. You’re still Number One.
It’s just that Bun is Number One now, too.

4 a.m.

I keep waking up at 4 a.m.

It’s been awhile since I’ve awoken regularly in the middle of the night. Usually if I do, it’s because my bladder needs some relief. And I can go right back to sleep.

But lately it’s like some internal alarm is going off. And it’s set for 4 a.m. Which is not good.

Occasionally, I am waking up from a dream. Last night, it was a very strange dream about two teens (the boy, white, rich and 14 years old; the girl, poor and of a different race, and a little older, 17 maybe; also, she looked a lot like Angelina Jolie) who have this baby, and their families’ reactions, and how they grow and change and accept this child into their lives and their family histories. It was incredibly involved — most of my dreams are.

And by the time I realized that I had awoken with a racing mind — finishing this odd story my subconscious had cooked up for me, and then thinking about all the stuff I had to do — it was 30 minutes later, and I was like, “Go back to sleep already!” And it took another 15-20 minutes.

And my alarm goes off at 5:30 a.m.

This has been a pattern for about a week now. I just noticed the pattern last night.

I don’t like the pattern.

Every mother — parent — knows from interrupted sleep. But I don’t understand what is interrupting my sleep now. Wacky dreams? Red wine (I usually have a glass after my “chores”)? Bun fussing? She does fuss at night without her binky. It usually goes something like: rustle, rustle, whimper, whimper, a soft, “mama”, then another whimper or two, and she’s back to sleep. I don’t rush into get her at the first whimper — I’d just wake her up. Then neither of us would get sleep.

What does 4 a.m. mean?


It has been 16 days since my last cigarette. I still think about it a lot. It helps that the weather is bitter cold. I still haven’t settled on something to replace it, per se.


It has been six days since Bun has given up the binky. I still am quite surprised at how easy it was (knock wood). Nap time on the weekends is not going very smoothly (she’s napped one hour or two — down from three hours — or declined to nap at all), but bedtime is pretty easy. She cries a little extra as I’m putting her down in her crib, but she is usually sleeping by the time I’m singing Monkey lullabies.


The girls were noisy tonight. So.Frickin’.Loud. Happy loud: singing, laughing, banging maracas together. Unhappy loud: crying, screaming. From the time I picked ’em up at daycare until about 8:15 p.m., when I got them in bed.

Instead of the vacuum game (where I “chase” them around the room with the vacuum — it’s the only way I can get my rug vacuumed) we played the “march straight upstairs, I’m reading you three books” game. Monkey seemed to like it fine, but that Bun. She cannot sit still or stop babbling for anything.

I love her spirit, but, man, I wish she would give it a rest.


I know I have written a ton on Bun lately. She is, right now, my more challenging and changing child. Monkey is well, though, and proving to be whip smart. I hope to have more to say about her soon.


Remember how long it took me to get Christmas up around here? Well, it’s taking about that long to come down too.

Surviving the Game

I am in a fairly unique position.

I love NFL football. From September to January, Sundays (and Thursday night, or Monday night, or Saturday night) will find me putzing around the house with the TV on, tuned to the football game of the hour. I don’t watch as many as I used to. And I’m no fanatic — I don’t do fantasy football, or read stats, or watch the draft.

I just like me some good ol’ smash-mouth football.

And if the Steelers are on? I am watching the game. This is non-negotiable.

I am also the mother of two toddler girls.

Back in the day, the Steelers played at 1 p.m. This worked extremely well for me as a mother. At least one kid was napping; the other could be distracted with arts & crafts or even board games — kids’ board games are extremely easy to play in front of the television. Take my word for it.

But this year, if I am not mistaken, the majority of the Steelers’ games have been after 4 p.m. This meant I had two kids on my hands, plus dinner and/or bath time, and a husband who got so wrapped up in the game he forgot all about the rest of the world.

And now they are in the playoffs. Are, as a matter of fact, in the AFC Division Championship game this Sunday.

Last Sunday’s game was challenging — for me, I mean. DearDR went to watch with a friend of his whom he hasn’t seen in awhile. Leaving me home with the two girls, one of whom is still harboring an ear infection, is not napping well, and is a little clingy. And the other of whom is a 4-year-old Drama Queen.

Monkey: Mama, can I go to the kid mall?
Me (trying not to miss the next play): No, Monkey, we’re not going to the kid mall.
Monkey: Why not?
Me: Because Mama is watching the football game.
Monkey: Just turn off the television!

I think instant reply was invented for mothers — or fathers, if by some miracle they end up POD during a football game. I cannot tell you how many times during yesterday’s game I needed the replay to actually see the Big Play of the Drive. And still I missed a touchdown, the muffed punt, the fake field goal, and Ben getting sacked (well, okay, I wouldn’t have wanted to see that anyway).

This, actually, is the number one rule of surviving the game: Realize that you are not going to watch the whole entire game. You may not even get to watch an entire drive. You may not see a touchdown or a completed pass or an interception. If you are going to “watch” the game with your kids (if they are under 6, and/or girls), you have to accept this now.

Otherwise, hire a babysitter and head to a sports bar.

Two: Dinner does not have to be a formal affair. I offered my girls chili (left over) or rice and beans (left over). Monkey declined both offers. She decided she wanted some cheese.

So they got deli slices, cheese, pepperfoni, organic tortilla chips (I included the organic part to make me feel a little better), and (in Bun’s case) Cheez-Its. Plus juice and soy milk. I had some left-over spinach pizza. We barely missed any of the game to eat!

Three: As long as they are not killing each other, let them do stuff you wouldn’t normally let them do. Within reason. Bun and Monkey happily slid down the cushions of our couch; there may have also been some jumping on the couch. I was too amazed that the Chargers had only had the ball for 17 seconds in the third quarter to really pay attention.

Four: Turn out the lights. This was actually Monkey’s idea, and it was awesome. She lay down on the couch to rest; Bun lay on her little couch; I lay on another one. We were pretending to sleep. Monkey complained that she couldn’t get to sleep “with all that noise” (i.e. the football game), so I turned it down. This was good for, like, 15-20 minutes.

Five: If they don’t need a bath, don’t bathe ’em. Unfortunately, my girls needed baths. Monkey had somehow gone two days without one (that may have been because of the birthday festivities the day before). The girls got what we call the Fast Bath (i.e. the shower), and I dried them off and dressed them in pajamas downstairs. I think I only missed the fourth touchdown.

Six: If the game is well-in-hand, let them watch a video while you listen to the last seven minutes on the radio. I know in many households there is more than one television, but not in ours! Heck, we don’t even have a converter box yet. If it were not for Lost, we wouldn’t even bother. But we can’t miss Lost.

And that’s how I survived Sunday’s Steeler game.

I haven’t worked out the details of this Sunday’s game yet. The 6:30 p.m. kickoff time presents another set of problems. If nothing presents itself, there’s always:

Hire a babysitter and head to a sports bar.

Back on the Merry-Go-Round

Last Thursday was Bun’s 2-year-old check up. They now do an autism screening questionnaire at this check up (I don’t recall them doing it for Monkey). One of the questions is, “Do you sometimes think your child is deaf?”

And I confess to thinking, “Jeez, doesn’t every parent think his or her child is deaf on occasion??”

The good news is that Bun tests normal on that questionnaire. Additionally, she’s in the 90th percentile for height and the 50th percentile for weight, so unfortunately that toddler belly is not making a comeback anytime soon. Color me not surprised.

The bad news is we have been, once again, referred to an ENT. Bun and I are going in early February.

[Aside: I made the appointment in Wexford, because that office is much easier for me to get to. DCL — the redoubtable DCL — is urging me to make the appointment in Oakland at Children’s.

I do not want to drive to Oakland. This attitude primarily bums me out because it reveals what a suburbanite I’ve become. “Oh, the traffic, the parking, whine whine whine.” Should I suck it up, and if I can get in earlier, should I drive into Oakland?]

Back to the point: this go-’round is no fun. Bun is currently on her fifth antibiotic this winter alone (dating to before Thanksgiving). That’s two ear infections (the latest one of which seems to be lingering) and one sinus infection.

What was most alarming at this most recent appointment: the doctor (whom I think of as Hot Doc, with all apologies to my own hot doc, DearDR) took his time rechecking her ears. After looking in her left ear, he said, “That one’s clear. But, I can tell that she’s had repeated ear infections, just looking in there.”


My pediatricians are not alarmists. They are all very calm, very cool. I really like almost every one of the docs at the practice, too. They are not dismissive; they do not condescend; the answer all my questions. They are awesome with my kids, to a man and woman.

So I felt that a statement like, “I can tell she’s had repeated infections” was scary. He went on to say, “You don’t want to get into scarring, and hearing problems, so if there’s an infection in the other ear, I’m going to refer you to an ENT again.”

The other ear was still infected.

Off we go. I really liked the doctor we saw last time in Wexford, so that was another deciding factor in heading that direction.

I don’t think this latest antibiotic is helping her, either. My poor Bun.

Maybe quitting the binky will help. I may also ask about a month of antibiotics before we go to tubes, see what the prevailing feeling is.

I just want Bun to be better. Maybe it is something she will outgrow — probably. But in the meantime, it’s tough on everyone. Especially Bun — and me!