Well, I Tried

So I completely fucked up my childcare situation — okay, not completely, but allow me my dramatic language for a minute — and I’m kinda cranky about it.

I don’t think the two halves of that sentence go together.

I have complained before about my situation in the evening, e.g. the endless driving. I thought I had found a cost-effective, win-win situation (no, not a new job), and was all set to implement it this week.

And it all went to shit.

I should probably back up a little bit.

++

I don’t know when I got the idea to ask Tiffany (not her real name) to babysit full-time for us in our home. Tiffany is one of our regular babysitters. She has known the girls since they started at the Day School (I think Kate was 3). Tiffany left the DS, but she offered her babysitting services to those parents, and a few of us have taken her up on that.

Tiffany is a sweet girl, likes my kids, and is responsible: doesn’t let them veg out on TV, cleans up after meals and playtime, gets the kids to bed on time. My kids like her, too.

We have *never* had a problem with her.

Recently, Tiffany lost her full-time job. And she’s pregnant. The two may be related, but I don’t know the particulars, and that is for Tiffany to work out with her former employer.

So, she became readily available. She was always willing to babysit, just about any day or time. We asked her to watch the children the week between Christmas and New Year’s — the kids could sleep in, I could leave early in the morning having only myself to get ready. During that week, Dan, Tiffany, and I talked about her watching the kids at our home until she delivered her baby in May. Maybe doing a little driving to pick them up. We worked out a plan that had her working for us part time — Flora in school full time, Michael and Kate at the DS three days a week, Tiffany picking up from the DS and watching Kate and Michael at home all day twice a week. If Flora had half days or days off because of holidays, Tiffany was available.

I was very enthusiastic about this idea. I saw a future where I could leave work, maybe make ONE stop instead of two or three, walk in the door by 5:15 at the latest. Occasionally, I could have her switch on the slow cooker or rice maker so meals would come together more quickly. She would empty the dishwasher so I wouldn’t have to do the nightly dance of empty dishwasher, fill dishwasher, clean kitchen, run dishwasher before bed.

It was going to be great.

Tiffany flaked out on us. She doesn’t want to drive in the snow. Her PCP said she needed to get more rest, and shouldn’t be babysitting so much — which REALLY? How does she think I did it, pregnant with Michael, with two kids AND A FULL-TIME FUCKING JOB? Since time immemorial, Tiffany, mothers (to-be) have been sleep deprived, physically overextended wrecks. So good luck with that.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Flaked out 21-year-old. About two days into our new arrangement.

Fuck.

In the meantime — and I will make this as short and non-ranty as I can — DCL simmered with resentment because she wasn’t watching our children any longer, hence is not making as much money as she was, and so won’t watch our children any more. Bridge, burned. (I was unaware of the simmering resentment/rage until I received a pissed off email. After my husband read it, he said, “Yeah, that’s how a nice Christian woman says, ‘Fuck you.'”)

Fuckity fuck.

This is where I start thinking I would’ve avoided all this angst (and eff-bomb dropping) if I were a SAHM.

Boat, sailed.

Sigh.

I worry about Tiffany, and I was hoping that babysitting for us would give her a little money in her pocket, a little stability. Dan and I do really like her, and she’s going to be struggling more once her child is born. This post is more about my frustration than any anger at anyone. As far as DCL, she is entitled to her anger at us; we did not give her enough notice about pulling the children out of her care. I wish she had *talked* to me instead of emailing me. That made me a little sore.

Changes need to happen in my life, and changing up my childcare arrangements to accommodate me better was supposed to be a little boost in the direction I want my life — and my time — to go. It’s fallen through, and my disappointment is keen.

At least we’ve eliminated one pickup (sorry, DCL). Kate and Michael are together, so drop-offs and pick-ups are shorter; I’m driving a little less.

Lining, silver.

What do you do when your best laid plans go to hell?

Project: Food Budget Week 15

Food Budget Piggybank

We shopped from the food budget little this week, with only a quick Costco run to the (food) tune of $37.57. Most of our spending went to entertainment food (Kate’s bday party on Sunday) and diapers.

I think Dan’s eating out has crept up again. So, still something to work on. Our spending on eating out went over budget by $7.84 — I guess that’s not too awful.

I really wanted to draw up a long, staple-centric shopping list for this week, but we’ve neither the budget nor the time for that. So:

Costco budget: $50. We need bread and chocolate milk for lunches, and I’m sure we’ll get a couple more odds and ends there.

I will be going through what I have to hand in my freezer, pantry, and crisper, then, and so our menu is going to look like this for the week (Thursday to Wednesday):

Black Beans and Rice
Vegetarian Chili and Mashed Potatoes
Lentil Stew
Roasted Beets
Slow-Cooker Applesauce
Roasted Cabbage
Baked Oatmeal (I mean it! This is the weekend I actually make this recipe!)

Let’s see how everyone else did.

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* A Nice Heart and a White Suit
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife
* Charmingly Modern
* NaMAMAste

Lost: Pilot Episode I and II

Before Christmas, Dan bought himself — okay, it’s really for all of us — a flat-screen LED television.

It is very shiny.

It was bundled with a Blu Ray player.

And then, he found the entire series of Lost on Blu Ray for a good price on eBay. I wanted to give it to him for Christmas, but he saw the box, and just couldn’t wait.

Men: grown up children.

Anyhoo, we cracked Season 1 open last night, and I was forcibly reminded how much I loved that series.

It was also a lot of fun going back to the beginning even knowing how it ultimately ends, and all the stuff that happens in between.

Now *that’s* foreshadowing.

I won’t be breaking down the episodes like I did for Seasons 4, 5, and 6 — although that was fun.

Lost became more than just a television show.

First and foremost, it was a date night for Dan and me. We’d get the kids to bed and park ourselves on the couch at 9 p.m. every Tuesday. We’d exclaim and laugh and gasp and generally enjoy an hour of time together sharing something.

Secondly, it generated a community of people online sharing… well, pretty much the same things Dan and I shared. Reactions, guesses as to what would happen next, hypotheses as to what it all meant. Lost went beyond the water cooler. I doubt I’m going to find that as we delve into our blu-ray set now. Although maybe I’ll find people who will enjoy the reminiscing.

I also doubt Dan and I will have the discipline to only watch one episode a week. We watched two eps last night, and if I had to wager on it, I would bet Dan watched the rest of the first disk. I’ll probably try to wait to watch more of the show with him, though. It’s really fun to share that time.

What was the first TV show that became more than just a show for you?

Oh, Rick

If you follow politics at all (and I, unfortunately, do), you may have seen Rick Santorum come under fire for being a hypocrite.

The charge stems from the pro-choice left and pro-choice feminists who accuse Santorum of exercising a right for his wife (late term abortion) that he would take away from other women. He would, frankly, outlaw all abortions if he could, even in the cases of preserving the health or life of the mother.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like Rick Santorum. The term used in a conversation on Twitter was “theocratic neocon”, and I think that is spot on. Even as a Catholic, I don’t like that much religion in my politics. I’d like to see the end of social conservatism as it is practiced in American politics today. I don’t think government should be involved in personal, medical, or sexual decisions that adults make.

That Santorum, and by extension his wife Karen, is under fire for a medical decision — a choice — that he and his wife were facing when Karen was pregnant with their son Gabriel, distresses me mostly because of what is being overlooked. And that is the lost baby, and the bereaved parents.

I don’t need to go on and on about how awful, how absolutely devastating it is to lose a child. I’ve covered that pretty well here.

I am sorry the Santorums lost a baby. I am sorry that they faced a difficult medical decision (to induce labor so Karen could deliver her 20-week-old baby). Due to a number of circumstances (medical problems the baby had, fetal surgery, and a uterine infection), Karen was literally dying when these medical decisions had to be made. She went into pre-term labor, and Gabriel was delivered. He died two hours after his birth.

It’s a sad story that has been dragged out because of Santorum’s politics. That makes me sadder. Because those in the media who would use this to disparage Santorum’s politics, in my opinion, just look ugly. It’s a dead baby; it’s a woman who suffered more than I can imagine (and, hello!); it’s a husband and father who were facing not just the loss of his son, but the loss of his wife — his partner, his love, and mother to his other children.

No one should have to face that, or make the choice that Karen and Rick (almost) had to make. But it does happen, couples do have to face that — not often, but often enough — and, yes, Santorum should have no say in what other women and other couples decide.

Regardless, my heart goes out to the Santorums for the loss of their son. I do know how that feels. It’s the worst feeling in the world. And it can’t help that they have to revisit it now in the glare of the spotlight. I’m sad for them.

And, that is all.

[updated to add:]

So I went ahead and forgot about the part where certain people were also denigrating the Santorums for taking Gabriel home to show him to their children.

This was how Karen and Rick decided to help their children grieve the death of their brother.

It’s also not very much of anyone’s business.

Janet, at Love Is Blonde, wrote a very powerful post about her reaction to some of the media reaction, and their characterization of the Santorums’ actions as gross or creepy.

It made me remember holding my Gabriel. I should’ve held him longer too.

I remember my brother — who was still at the hospital at 2 a.m., when Gabriel was finally delivered, who was already a father two times over, most recently of a boy born a month before Gabriel — who came into the room, and took my son into his arms, and *rocked* him. Even though my son was dead, my brother held and rocked him just as he would’ve had Gabriel been alive.

The next morning, before we left the hospital, I asked to see Gabriel again. I undressed him, and cried some more over his small, still, perfect body. Maybe that strikes you as gross or morbid or creepy.

My son was a real baby. And I needed to see and touch him, so that I would never forget it. If I had had other children at the time, I think I would’ve wanted them to see Gabriel too. As it is, we visit his grave. Flora and Kate know he existed (Michael, obviously, is unaware as of yet).

I don’t think the Santorums did anything wrong.

There, I guess *that’s* all.

Meatless Monday: Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

I am always looking for squash recipes to try. Come the fall and winter months, my CSA gives me a squash or two a week, usually butternut, sometimes acorn.

The week approaching New Year’s Day, I found myself with two butternut squashes in my crisper, and a plan to do a lot of cooking for the holiday. Because we would also be having sauerkraut (with vegetarian kielbasa for the veggies, and pork for the omnivores), I thought a sweet soup would be better than savory.

I adapted this recipe from Ina Garten at the food network site. It’s excellent, and leftovers freeze well.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

2 tbsp salted butter (it’s all I had; if you want less salt, use unsalted butter)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small yellow onions, chopped
2 tbsp curry powder
2 large butternut squash (about 5 lbs.), peeled and cut into chunks, seeds removed
4 sweet apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 1.5 lbs.; I used organic Pink Lady apples)
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
1 cup apple cider

Warm butter, olive oil, onions, and curry powder in a large stockpot, uncovered over low heat, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot.

While the onions are getting tender, prepare squash and apples. Add squash, apples, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to pot. Bring to boil, cover, and cook over low heat 30 to 40 minutes, until squash and apples are very soft. Use an immersion blender to puree soup coarsely. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a food processor or a food mill fitted with a large blade.)

Add apple cider (or juice) until the soup is the consistency you prefer. I only used a cup of cider for a thick, creamy consistency.

++

I made this soup the day before New Year’s, refrigerated it over night, and served it from a slow cooker the next day.

What’s your favorite way to use squash?

Dear Kate: 5

My dearest second daughter,

Putting this letter together for you on this, the occasion of your fifth birthday presents its difficulty.

I don’t want to compare you to your siblings, not because you (or they) may look bad in comparison, but simply because you are incomparable. You are a force and a personality onto yourself.

We have made progress this year, and we (okay *I*) have made missteps. I do most of my parenting dancing with you. Because even though you are my middle child, I don’t want to treat you like my middle child (whatever that means). I want to give you the attention you need so that you don’t have to go out of your way to get my attention. Mileage varies.

You make an impression on everyone you meet. Sometimes literally.

Your teachers have nothing but praise for you. You have no shortage of energy or personality — except when you are sick. As a matter of fact, it’s about the only way we know you are sick: you are still, prone on the couch, quiet.

I know people reading this blog who have met you don’t believe such a creature — a still, quiet Kate — can exist. You are unforgettable, my dear.

You are also clever, mischievous, fun-loving, and you love to make people laugh. And yet you are not a people-pleaser. You don’t seek approval; you seek notice, on your own terms.

Our favorite thing to do together is cook. You are so focused in the kitchen, and you listen to me give direction. It’s our “thing”. Someday it may be pedicures, but for now I like the baking.

You are full to bursting. With life, with ideas, with things to tell me, with things to do. With love, love, and love.

I love you, whole-heartedly, right back. Happy birthday, baby girl.

Hugs and kisses,
Mommy

Project: Food Budget Week 14

Food Budget Piggybank

I cooked a ton for New Year’s Day — and I loved it. We went a little over the grocery budget, $254.21 versus $200. I made butternut squash and apple soup, extra creamy mashed potatoes, Tofurkey kielbasa with sauerkraut (from my CSA — SO GOOD I HAVE TO SHOUT!), and cookies. Eating out, Dan spent $49.25. He’s got to get back on plan.

This week brings a CSA box full of goodies: $34; a birthday party for my soon-to-be 5-year-old (entertainment budget); and various and sundry running around. Looking ahead, I’ll probably have to send Dan to the grocery store at least once. I need to see what I have and plan a menu accordingly. I should be able to keep the total under $100, depending on the CSA box.

I’ll be posting a couple New Year’s Day recipes over the next couple of weeks, but for the meantime: Kate and I made chocolate chip cookies. Only instead of the usual recipe on the back of a package of Nestle Tollhouse chips, I made two minor substitutions: dark chocolate chips (instead of milk or semi-sweet) and dried cherries (instead of the optional cup of nuts). Now that’s a grown up chocolate chip cookie!

Happy New Year and let’s see how everyone else did!

* Emily Levenson
* Dairy-Free Cooking
* Test Kitchen Tuesday
* Acquired Tastes
* Fit Flexitarian
* Warm As Pie
* Katy Rank Lev
* My Inner Healthy
* Little Blue Hen
* xox, b
* What da Health?
* Project Food Budget 2.0
* A Nice Heart and a White Suit
* Fresh…A New Chapter
* Chandeleah
* Two Eggs Over Easy
* That’s Just Me
* Eat Whole Be Vital
* Four Happy Violets
* Naturally {Un}refined
* Pgh Dad
* yogabeautylife

Memory Lane: Maker’s Mark

It was the summer of 1999, and I had just gotten back to Pittsburgh after a girlie vacation in Rehoboth Beach, DE. While there, I had discovered Dogfish Head Microbrewery, mostly because the first three days were somewhat cold and rainy.

I was single. And surprisingly restless after a 6+ hour car ride back to the ‘burgh.

So I donned the only clean clothes I had available (white pants and a navy and white tank) and went around the corner to the Lava Lounge on the South Side. It was the place where most of my friends could be found on any given night, plus I knew the bartender, plus they had live music that night.

Not that I ever got to the back to see the band.

As I was waiting to order a drink, some people of my acquaintance came in, including one guy I knew from Duquesne.

He was cute, and I was *extremely* single, and we got to talking.

“So,” he said at one point, “can I buy you a drink?”

“Sure,” I answered. “I’ll take a Maker’s Mark on the rocks.”

The look on his face was worth the price of admission. Simultaneously surprised and impressed. I think he was kind of expecting me to order a wine cooler. He didn’t know me very well back then.

We got married two years later.

++

For Christmas, Dan bought me a Maker’s Mark gift set, which included two square-bottomed cocktail glasses with the distinctive red “wax” enclosing the bottom and a booklet of cocktail recipes.

We’re not big liquor drinkers in general, tending more toward beer (microbrews and craft beers mostly) or wine (red, dry). But I took a little look through the booklet of cocktails, and we mixed up a couple over the New Year’s weekend.

Snowcap
(after dinner drink for two; serve in a brandy snifter)

3 parts Maker’s Mark
2 tbsp. powered sugar
6 tbsp. (or 1/3 cup) heavy cream
2 parts orange liquor (we used Cointreau)
nutmeg and twist of orange peel for garnish

Mix Maker’s Mark, powdered sugar, cream, and orange liquor together. Pour over crushed ice. Sprinkle nutmeg on top and garnish with orange peel twist.

This is a perfect cold winter drink. Dan and I shared one on New Year’s Eve while we snuggled on the couch and watched Super 8. It’s like a sophisticated egg nog.

++

The other cocktail we had was called The Pub. Dan’s favorite cocktail is a Moscow Mule, which is made with ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice, so we always have ginger beer around the house. (He also just likes ginger beer.) The Pub is made by pouring 1 1/2 parts of Maker’s Mark over cubed ice in a pint glass, and then filling the glass with ginger beer. Tasty and refreshing! We drank this before dinner on New Year’s Day.

++

What’s your favorite drink to share, and with whom?