October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Patch Pictures

Happy Autumn, from my family to yours!
Hello, lovely readers!

You might have noticed I've been a bit... absent.

It's getting mighty dusty around here.

My apologies.  Things have been, in a word, absolutely insane.  But, to tide you over until I can make all my explanations, here are pictures of the girls (and even a few of the whole family!) at a pumpkin patch last weekend.

Happy Halloween!!!

DD picking out a pumpkin

Welcome to the petting zoo!

SI and the biggest pumpkin of them all!

SI was all about the animals, but DD was a little scared.


Climbing mountain of hay bales

"I am the hay king!"

The whole family on a hay ride

October 24, 2011

End of the Month Controversy: Marriage Equality

M and I under the chuppah on our wedding day
I don't believe in the so-called "sanctity of marriage."  Just look at the etymology of the words involved.  Aside from the immediate connection to the words, to happy families and mommies and daddies, what do these words even mean?

Marriage- a joining.

Husband- to care for, to protect, to cultivate

Wife- servant, or, shame

Seriously.  That is the root of the word.

As a feminist and a realist, those were things I had to come to terms with very early on in my life planning.  As you may remember from earlier posts, I never particularly envisioned myself getting married.  And the idea of becoming somebody's dirty secret, or their slave... I wasn't exactly thrilled with that idea.  But that isn't what it means to be a wife now, it's just the roots of the word.

What I'm trying to say is that marriage isn't the same thing that it was in Once Upon A Time, it isn't an arrangement where a girl goes from being the property of her father to being the property of her husband.  It is a partnership.

In fact, I would go as far to say that a marriage is actually the creation- a joining- of an economic unit.

How's that for unromantic?

Marriage is, to me, an arrangement entered into with mutual consent for the (presumably) lifelong economic protection of itself.

I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

I have a fairly traditional marriage.  My husband in the bread winner, I mostly stay home with the children.  I mostly do the cooking and cleaning.  This is a sacrifice on both of our parts.  It's a sacrifice on my part because I could be "working."  In fact, if I was doing the inexplicably not-defined-as-work duties of childcare, housework, etc, for another family, I'd probably be making upwords of $80,000 a year.  Substantially more than our current family income.  So that is a sacrifice that I make.

It's a sacrifice for him because, first and foremost, he hates his job.  But he keeps working because he finds tremendous satisfaction in providing for his family.  In earning that money so that I can stay home with our children.  Using the skills and talents he spent a great deal of work cultivating.

When you look at it in those terms, our "traditional marriage" is utter nonsense.  Theoretically, we would be a lot happier if he stayed home with the kids, and I went off and worked insane hours for somebody else's family, doing all the things that I currently do for my own.

But we wouldn't be happier.  Because what we have, aside from a marriage, is a relationship.  One where we want each other to be happy and fulfilled.

M knows his current job isn't forever.  His industry was hit VERY hard by the economic collapse, and he's had to take the work he could find.  Work that doesn't exactly utilize his skills, but gives him some opportunity to use them once in a while, and provides the benefit of making it possible for him to keep working on his Master's degree- with which, hopefully, he can find a job that not only provides him with more money but also with more personal satisfaction and joy.

And me?  I would much rather do the things that I do for my family, even if I'm doing them for "free."  Because I love my family.

My family, the economic unit.  And it's here that I think all arguments against non-traditional marriage completely fail.

The only thing that makes a family unit work in our modern world, where we're actually hurting ourselves by preserving these sorts of traditional roles, is that we love each other.

And love is not defined by sex.  There are lots of married couples that don't have sex.  I believe it's been the stuff of jokes, of expectations, and of motivation of Bachelor parties since time immemorial.

Love is about genuinely caring for each other, genuinely wanting the best for each other.

Being friends, but also assuming responsibility for each others' personal happiness.

I feel that any couple, or even group, who mutually agree that they all want to sacrifice what might be their own greater economic success in order to work together to achieve some greater happiness should have every right to do so.  The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins thus,

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

So if a man and two women decide-MUTUALLY- that in order to pursue happiness, they wish to become a single economic unit... well, good for them.

If two men or two women decide- MUTUALLY- that in order to achieve happiness in their lives they should sacrifice their previous economic potential in order to build a family, that is not only their business, but their inalienable right.

If a man and a woman decide-MUTUALLY- that they want to take care of each other, but that it doesn't require any sort of sexual fidelity, that is their concern and should trouble nobody else.  Monogamy is an illusion in many marriages anyway- cheating, mistresses, secret affairs, these are just as common as ideas about sexless marriages.

But if a pregnant teenager and the boy that knocked her up are coerced into marrying each other by their angry parents?

Or a marriage between a child, too young to understand at all what is happening to her, and a man three times her age?

That is what I feel is a threat to my own marriage.  That is what I feel is a detriment to loving families everywhere.  That isn't a mutually agreed upon benefit, that's a standard foisted upon them into a condition where "wife" can mean "shame."  That is when marriage is not about choosing a lifelong sacrifice, that's not when it's about picking a person who makes you happy, that is when it is about punishment and servitude.  And my marriage, the "sanctity" of my marriage, is threatened when any marriage is a prison.

I never swore to obey my husband in my vows.  I never will swear to blindly obey anyone, or anything.  Obedience is a virtue in a dog, but in a human being?  I would prefer reason and self awareness any day.  The only demands I make of my husband are in jest, or in whining hormonal funks.  Any other request I make of him is that, a request.  Because he is not my servant, he is my husband.  And I am not his wife in the archaic sense, I am his wife in the understanding that we are equals.  That anything we do for one another is a choice, from what we eat for dinner, to where we live, to whether or not we're going to have sex.  We make sacrifices for each other out of love, not out of obligation.

My marriage is important to me.  My marriage is filled with meaning, but the meaning isn't that I'm a woman and my husband is a man.  It isn't filled with meaning because we decided to have children, even.  Actually, I left both my job and school before we even got married in order to advocate for his health care- while he kept working through chemotherapy because that's what it took not only to keep him insured, but to ensure that he received the treatment he needed to remain among the living.

The meaning of our marriage is that we are utterly in love, and as a result we have decided to spend our whole lives sacrificing for each other.  To spend our whole lives throwing away opportunities, or miring ourselves in miserable tasks that we despise, because being able to be there for each other in times of need, to care for each other in illness, to grow our joys together, this is what our marriage is about.

We are married in order to pursue our own happiness.  As is every person's inalienable right.

October 21, 2011

SuperMommy vs. The Big Girl Beds

Sure looks innocent, doesn't it?
It was bound to happen.  It was inevitable.  One of these days, one of those girls was going to figure out that she could actually climb over the rail of her crib, and she was going to fall.  Hard.

And then she would do it again, and again, and if we were very lucky, nobody would be seriously injured.

Or at least, that's how I thought it would go.

What I didn't expect was the colossal CRASH, and then the discovery that not only had SI finally escaped from her cribby confines, but that she had first pushed the bed away from the wall and then fallen between the wall and the crib.  Lucky us, she wasn't injured.  But she could have been.  She could has trapped her head somewhere.  She could have really been in trouble.

SI helping Daddy
As it was, she was pretty traumatized.  She wouldn't sleep for hours.  And so the decision was made.  It was time for big girl beds.

M bravely dismantled and attempted to re-mantle the cribs.  In the two plus years since their initial assembly, parts had gone missing.  Accommodations had to be made.  Wood, irreparably split.  Parents, sniping wildly.  Children, exhausted and up past bedtime, because their beds remained in pieces.

And then finally, it was done.  Big girl beds.  Yes, one of them is in imminent danger of collapsing should anybody, say, jump on top of it.  But other than that, it should hold.  The rails gone, we proudly stood back and let our pajama clad daughters scurry under their covers.  The children cheered- forget about a bedtime story, we have big girl beds!

I was so exhausted, so hungry, and so frustrated that I had no patience for their cheerful shenanigans.  The first time I heard a child up and out of bed, I went into the room in full conniption.  "EVERYBODY BACK INTO THOSE BEDS...


The children cowered, ducked for cover, and were silenced.  It was the only commotion before unconsciousness reined.  I felt too successful to even register guilt.  Night one of big girl beds was a success.

Until 3:30am.

Ever tried to sleep while somebody does this to you?
Sometime around 3:30am, SI woke up, howling.  She wasn't wet.  She hadn't soiled herself.  For all I can tell, she had suffered a bout of panic.  Fear of freedom.  Fear of her mother's demonically possessed shouted demands for silence.  Perhaps a simple nightmare.  I may never know.  All I know is that after the first half hour, M's alarm clock went off, and he abandoned us to get ready for work.  In my fear that she would wake her sister, I decided to suck it up and put her into my own bed.  Maybe I would be able to sleep.

She kicked.  She tickled.  She poked.  And I kept shushing her and holding her and trying to tell her to just shut up and sleep.  When it seemed I had finally succeeded, I naively thought to return her to her own bed.  It was now well after 5am.

Ever tried to sit up from reclining on a nice, comfy bed, without disturbing the 30 pounds of barely unconscious dead weight across one arm and your chest?

I don't recommend it.

By the time we made it into her room, she was awake.  And shrieking again.  I plopped her into her bed, told her she was a big girl in a big girl bed.  I begged.  I threatened.  I'm not proud.  I was too exhausted to be a particularly good parent.  And eventually, I decided that DD wouldn't wake up and that SI could just cry it out.

I was wrong on both counts.  At the first sign that DD was joining SI in her refrains of misery, I marched into the room and hoisted SI onto my shoulder.  I quickly tucked DD back into her covers, and abandoned her.  She was instantly asleep again.

As for SI, she didn't fall asleep- which meant I didn't fall asleep- until ten minutes before MY alarm clock went off.

I thought...  maybe... just maybe... the next night would be better.

When DD DOES sleep, she means it.
So last night, I tucked my children into bed.  I closed the door.  I waited for the mischief.  It never came.  Again, in my hubris, I rejoiced.

Until midnight.  At midnight, almost precisely, DD fell out of bed.  We head the heavy thud, and then the confused wail.  Lucky for us, she didn't even actually wake up.  Simply lifting her back into bed was all it took for the snoring to resume.  We rejoiced again, we fools.

Until 3:15am, when SI awoke, shrouded in misery once more.

With a primal shriek of anger, I threw off the covers to find out what the hell was wrong with my kid this time.  I still have no idea.  She was standing next to her crib, wailing.  I held her and rocked for what felt like ages, although it can't have been more than half an hour.  Then I held my breath and put her back into her bed.  She sighed, rolled over, and slept.

That was last night.

Yes, they've both been grouchy as hell.

But their enthusiasm for big girl beds remains.

Mine... not so much.  I just want a good night's sleep.

It's got happen sometime, right?

It's got to be inevitable...

Goodbye cribs, how I shall miss you.
Well... I can hope.

October 20, 2011

In Honor of World Vegetarian Month

Another post pilfered from my old food blog!  And a perennial classic around Casa SuperMommy.  Enjoy!

'Tis the season!  One of my husband's favorites of my inventions and one of my most requested recipes. Mike's very much a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I'm a life long vegetarian with an unyielding love of curries and adventure, so you'd think that dinner might be an issue of contention. Not with this dish! And if you start with a meal like this, you can move onward to more exciting flavors and unusual names. But for the beginning food enthusiast, a nice warm bowl of savory stew and a sandwich is an excellent dinner. Or even lunch. Or leftover. Or, well... anytime.  But especially in the fall.  :)

Shopping List
  1. 1 butternut squash
  2. 1 can kidney beans
  3. 2 small russet potatoes
  4. 3 oranges
  5. fresh rosemary
  6. parmesan cheese
  7. sour cream
  8. parmesan cheese rind
  9. whole grain bread
  10. 1 heirloom tomato
  11. sharp cheddar cheese
  12. baby spinach
  13. arugula
  14. 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  15. 1 avocado
  16. slivered almonds
Now, to pick the ingredients at the store.
To choose a squash, the best you can really do is to find one that isn't too beat up. Sometimes you'll see that the butternut squash has had chunks taken out by being knocked around. Try to get one as undamaged as possible, and for this recipe you'll want one about the size of a loaf of bread.

When picking your beans, check the ingredients. Amazingly, most canned beans have all sorts of stuff that isn't beans. So if the ingredient list is long, pass up those beans in favor of some that have a shorter list. Ideally, the only ingredients in your beans will be beans and water.

For your spinach, cilantro, and arugula, find a bunch of greens that aren't wilting or gummy. gummy means rotten, and you want your greens fresh and crisp.

Picking avocados can be hard- you need to find one that's slightly soft when you squeeze it gently, but not so soft that it's all mush and rot on the inside. Squeeze a few, and if you can dent it gently, it's ripe.

Most difficult of all... a parmesan rind? Now to be fair, you can just leave this out. It won't damage the flavor very terribly. but you can find one at any grocery store that has a good cheese counter- any Whole Foods will carry them, even if they don't have it out. Simply ask the nice cheese man behind the counter for one. 2" inches of rind will suffice, and the more you put in the richer the flavor of the stew will be. Like garlic and chocolate, you can pretty much never have too much parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash Stew
skin and seed the squash, and chop it into 1" pieces
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
3-5 T minced garlic
3 tbs olive oil
rinse the can of kidney beans
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
3 c water
Juice two of the oranges and zest the peels- reserve 1/2 T of the juice for the salad
1 tbs fresh rosemary, or 2 tsp dried ground rosemary
1 tbs Spike or Mrs. Dash
salt and black pepper
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese (NOT powdered!)
sour cream, for garnish

In a large pot over med. high heat, sauté the onions in the oil until they become translucent. Add the garlic, orange zest, and spices and stir occasionally for three minutes.

Add the squash, potatoes, water, and orange juice and mix well. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the stew to simmer gently for half an hour.

Add beans and parmesan rind, and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes.

During this time, you're ready to make the rest of the meal.

Fresh Cilantro Salad
baby spinach
fresh cilantro
heirloom tomato
1 avocado
1/4 c slivered almonds
1/2 T orange juice- reserved from stew preparation

Rinse your greens THOROUGHLY. I always try to use local and organic greens, which reduces the likelihood of contaminants like E Coli, but there's going to be dirt on them. They do come from the ground. So rinse your greens!

The baby spinach and arugula can go in whole. The idea of salad greens is to get them to a size where you can easily put it into your mouth, so if your arugula or spinach is of a larger leaf, tear it down to size. Tearing instead of chopping your greens will keep them crisp longer.

Slice as much as half of the heirloom tomato- as much as you need to have two VERY thin slices per sandwich- and set those aside. Chop the rest of the tomato into 1/2" squares, and toss into the salad.

Cube the avocado, and toss the pieces in the reserved orange juice. This will keep them from browning while you finish the meal. Toss the avocado into the salad.

Mince the cilantro, and toss into the salad. You will, however, want to reserve about a teaspoon for the salad dressing.

Add the almonds, and set aside the salad to prepare the sandwiches and dressing.

Heirloom Tomato Grilled Cheese
I like to use a grill pan for my grilled cheese. Your sandwiches are less likely to stick to the pan, and who doesn't love the look of those grill lines on their food? You will want to pre-heat the pan, so set it on the stove and turn the heat to med. high. There is usually no need to grease your pan, but if you're using something fancy like Le Creuset cookware, you will need to be careful to grease it a little. Some pans can be damaged by inadequate greasing.

For each sandwich, you will need two slices of that tomato, enough sliced cheese to cover the bread plus a little extra, and two slices of whole grain bread.

Assemble a sandwich by first covering one piece of bread with cheese, then with the sliced tomato, and then with just enough extra cheese to cover about half of each slice of tomato. Put the second piece of bread on, and put it onto the pan. While it cooks, about three minutes on each side, you will make the salad dressing.

Orange Vinaigrette
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
juice of the third orange
reserved chopped cilantro
pinch of salt

In a small bowl, all ingredients together.

By the time you have finished this, your whole meal will be ready. And like magic, it will all be ready at once.

After serving the stew, garnish with a sprinkle of extra parmesan cheese and a LARGE dollop of sour cream- as much as 3 tablespoons. As the sour cream mixes in with the stew bite by bite, it will enrich the flavor.

Bon apetit!

October 18, 2011

Winning the Holidays

My children found a katydid
This year, I am determined to be on top.

Allow me to rephrase.

I am determined to be on top of something.  Anything at all.  Right now, my whole life is a mess of desperately trying to catch up.  It's a disaster.

So of course, rather than actually put the work into my current projects (like, say, SCHOOL), I am instead determined to be on top of my holidays this year.

To be fair, I pretty much nailed them last year.  We had lovely cards (all hand made by yours truly), we had PERFECT gifts for everyone, and we threw a hell of a holiday party.  Despite toddlers in footy pajamas who refused to go to bed.

Our 2009-2010 Cards
This year, the holidays are mine.  Why?  Because this year, for the first time in my married life, I am making enough money that the holiday spending is all on me.

That is to say, I'm making EXACTLY that much money.  No more, no less.

The money I'm earning by writing at IdeasforWomen.com is officially our holiday reserve fund.

The stakes are high.  The reserve is not so high.  So how am I going to do it?

First of all, I'm going to send out my holiday cards early.  Yeah, I know, that was my plan last year.  But this year I am ON IT!  And I'm going easy on the goods.  Haven't figured out the design yet, but it should be simple.  Simple, but fun.

From our 2008-2009 Holiday Cards
I don't *do* photo cards.  I do art cards.  Last year, I made cards with wintery scenes made of foam and glitter and ink, and individually stamped each darn letter in each of our names.  Oh, AND stamped out all of the addresses.

Because that's how I roll.  I just wish I'd remembered to take a picture.

The year before, I painted a portrait of my daughters, and used the print of that painting as the card front.

The year before that, I created a scene with my newborn babes as Baby New Year.  Didn't turn out perfectly, but it was serviceable.

And the year before that it was an elaborate collage of images of me and M from the entire year.  It was hilarious and awesome.  I even got M in his Thor costume.

Our 2007-2008 Holiday Cards
 Holiday cards are a little complicated when one side of the family is Jewish and the other is Christian.  You can't aim to deliver the cards during either actual holiday- it implies a preference.  Usually I am for New Year's.  This time, I'm aiming for just after Thanksgiving.  That's a fine time for an annual wrap-up, right?

But cards are only one element of the holiday that I'm determined to rock.  The next is the presents.  This is where my new income comes in.  We have a lot of presents to buy.  After all, we celebrate two simultaneous gift giving holidays.  And the way MY family rolls, Channukah means eight days of presents.  You don't skip on celebrating Channukah just because Christmas also falls on that day.  This year, we'll be going to Grandma and Grandpa's church, and then going to my in-laws to light the menorah.

I'm getting all the gifts.  M is totally off the hook.  Lucky him.  :)

So how do I stretch my measly earnings to accomodate the sort of gift giving frenzy I always wished for?  Simple!  It's time to start entering contests like mad.  My grandfather would be proud- he was a contest maniac.

Tickle fight!
Take this one, for example.  Lots of awesome ladies with lots of awesome shops promoting before the holidays.  I'm all about it.  If I can win, great!  Another couple of presents I don't have to pay for!  If I don't, I'm only out a few minutes of my time.

And then, the last hurdle.  The final holiday task that I am determined to crush.


Last year, I only made about two thirds of my planned cookies.  This year, I will start early.  I will freeze cookies.  I will rock cookies.

I just haven't decided which ones just yet.

So there you have it.  Me, determined to be on top of my holiday game.

Granda MADE these sweaters!  So cute!
Too soon to tell whether there's any hope.  But I will tell you this- I've already got my lists.  I'm checking them twice.  And I've got half a dozen pages bookmarked on my browser so that as soon as any item goes on sale, you can bet it's getting shipped post haste to my house to hide out for another two months.

And then...

I will win the holidays.

October 11, 2011

How I Got Pregnant With Twins (Part 2)

Back in the day, I kept a Livejournal.  It was on this blog that I chronicled the actions taken by me and M to get ourselves a baby.  And here... for all of you... that journey, republished for Becoming SuperMommy.  What can I say?  The girls turning two has made me sentimental.  :)

Warning: it does contain a fair amount of profanity.

How to Make a Grubling, Part II  (2/12/2009)
Part I

Lies, lies, lies!

All that wonderful information I was able to give you in advance? Take everything after the point where I had actually completed the step, and throw it out the window.

Here's the problem. Straight from the nurse's mouth, they don't want to tell you what's coming because they don't want to scare you. Well, I would rather be scared than misinformed.

Injection A for two weeks, then injection B AND injection A for two weeks. Then injection C (variable dose) for one day. Then retrieval. Which is NOT what you had been told it was. No, this is not some "comfortable" abortion-like procedure where they suck out the eggs. Oh no.

Picture, if you will, a futuristic white dildo. Now, attach a few cords and buttons. This is an ultrasound wand. You should be very familiar with it by now, because you've been getting it shoved unceremoniously up your twat every day for the last few weeks.

Now, as it turns out, this machine is actually more sinister than it looks. All those knobs and buttons and whatnot, they hide a secret switch. What does this switch do? It shoots out a big, thick, TEN INCH LONG NEEDLE. Then the NEEDLE will suck up each egg, individually.

This means that once you wake up from the procedure, you will learn that you did not just have a very angry pap smear. Oh, no. you've just had a NEEDLE of DOOM shot through your vaginal walls approximately 25 times. And THAT is why the pain is different from what you expected. And THAT is why you'll be walking funny for a few days.

Oh- and now that you have a bunch of extra holes in your vagina, you've got to stick big freakin' pills in there three times a day. Yes, very comfortable, THAT is.

How do they propose to make this all better? Every day, you are also to take an extra special pill. No explanation why, but it DOES have a little embossed heart on it.

...because you can't make a baby without love?

Getting COMPLETELY Knocked Up  (2/16/2009)
I suppose that now, technically, I am officially knocked up.

Please, no congratulations.

You see, it can take up to eight weeks to be sure that the grublings *take*.   For the time being, I have a minor medical condition for which I am prescribed rest, routine doctor's visits, and lots of ice cream. M will be doing the laundry and cooking for a while.

Oh yeah, best medical condition ever.

A far as I'm concerned, I'm not pregnant until I have some kind of evidence that there's a little person inside of me. Like... it kicks me. Then I think I'll buy it. For the time being, I have a two useless clusters of cells that will make me bitchy, nauseated, and eventually- fat.

When I'm convinced there's a new human life inside me, I'll let you know.

As for the actual procedure, it felt like there was a Vaudeville show going on in my vagina. Lights, curtains, audience... the whole nine yards. It was about ten minutes of actual procedure, and I got to watch! They inserted a small plastic catheter, and then the embryos went through the tube, they showed me on the ultrasound. Then they gave us a picture of my uterus with a little glowing white spot. The spot is two embryos, and the HUGE BLACK MASS above it is my INSANELY FULL BLADDER. Because I had to have a giant bladder to make insertion easier. Honestly, that was the worst part. I had to pee SO BAD during the whole thing. Because no part of getting pregnant should be pleasant.

And now no sex for at least ten days. And then... I can put my pants on!

Down to the wire  (2/26/2009)
Well, today is the day. First thing this morning I went back to the clinic. Not to have anyone shove things into my vagina, no. I had my pregnancy test.

You see, what with all the hormones I'm taking, an over the counter pee type test probably wouldn't be effective. I'd be likely to get a false positive, which- of course- the boxes on those things say is impossible. Not so. There is such a thing as a "chemical pregnancy." You can test positive and be negative. Usually it means that you were recently pregnant for a minute or two. Well, I had embryos implanted. So I was preggers for at least a few minutes. So no over the counter test.

I won't know until this evening.

If I am NOT pregnant, I have to wait three months before trying again. Suck.

Something I've recently learned, though. A few days ago Mike and I were wrestling, and I pulled a muscle in my abdomen. I had a full fledged panic attack. Not only that, the mind altering pain was accompanied by a crazy FLOOD of hormones. I was absolutely positive that the strain had eliminated any shot of staying pregnant. Now, this is EXTREMELY unlikely, but I did come to a realization. If I'm not pregnant, I'll be upset. Very, very upset. This is precisely why I didn't want to think of myself and pregnant yet. Between my extended family CONSTANTLY asking how the baby's coming, some friends getting pumped up to babysit and throw showers, and my father's immoderate excitement, I'm going to feel like I'm letting a lot of people down if I'm not knocked up.

Of course I'll let all of you know if I'm still testing preggers today, but that still doesn't mean I'm actually pregnant. MOST pregnancies don't result in grublings, you know. Most times that people get pregnant their body rejects the fetus pretty damn quick. True enough, if I AM pregnant, thanks to all this protocol I'm likely to stay pregnant. But even so, no excitement, please. I have an obnoxious medical condition where I can't take medications, drink alcohol, or eat spicy foods (seriously) for another few months. Then, either I get to be healthy for a few months, or I go into a second trimester with excitement and glee.

In the meantime, I am NOT pregnant. No matter what the test says. I am merely ill.

I'm "pregnant." :)

Also, my hcG levels are nearly double normal. This is fair indication of multiples. So, maybe twins? We'll see.

Feel free to congratulate. I want it now. :) Hormonal hypocrite, that's me!

October 10, 2011

How I Got Pregnant With Twins (Part 1)

Back in the day, I kept a Livejournal.  It was on this blog that I chronicled the actions taken by me and M to get ourselves a baby.  And here... for all of you... that journey, republished for Becoming SuperMommy.  What can I say?  The girls turning two has made me sentimental.  :)

Warning: it does contain a fair amount of profanity.

Coming Out, so to speak  (1-13-2009)
By now most of you probably know that M and I are planning on having a baby. Not in that, "Oh, someday we'll be awesome parents!" kind of way either. As in, this blog is about to be primarily a log of all the insane crap that goes along with getting intentionally and very technically knocked up.

So, if you don't want to have all kinds of icky, medical, vagina related stuff on your feed, now is the time to mention it and I'll make a filter.

Why am I making all of this public NOW? Here's why. I have lots of friends with children. I have NO friends who intentionally went through the process of MAKING one. I have friends who are married and planning on having kids... someday. I am, unless I'm very much mistaken, the first among my friends to do this procreation thing intentionally. The first person to go through the insanely irritating steps leading to the pregnancy, versus the very entertaining steps of accidentally procreating. I am not casting judgment, I am merely observing. I haven't seen anybody do this yet- this "now it's time to make miniature copies of ourselves" thing. (Note: we do not actually want to make miniature copies of ourselves.) Therefore, if you are in any way curious about what might happen to you if you should DECIDE to have a baby, feel free to keep reading.

M and I knew from the week after we got engaged that we were going to have to freeze some embryos (if you don't know why, read this.). This has resulted in a few inconveniences for me and M. For example, it is now M's job to clean that cat box, never mind that the General is MY cat. It also meant that I basically had to start acting as though I was already pregnant in some other ways. The most obnoxious of these being the new need for pre-natal vitamins.

I had a lovely prescription for creepy vitamins. The box had variously colored women with ethnic babies in their tummies. Green ladies with black babies, purple ladies with Asian babies, yellow ladies with Latino babies... terrifying. Perhaps most terrifying of all was the INTENSE intestinal distress, which naturally led to the AGONIZING endless yeast infection. Needless to say, I stopped taking pre-natal vitamins.

Well, I'm back on now. It seems you're supposed to take them for at least 30 days before you conceive. I've got a new bottle, ones that hopefully won't make me horribly ill. Unfortunately, I've been nauseated since I started taking them yesterday, but I'm kind of hoping that will go away. It's better than the endless diarrhea and yeast infections. So far.

This bottle has a wonderful little phrase on it- "Science Safe."

...I'll give you a moment to ponder that.

Tomorrow M and I get to have TONS of blood drawn so that we can find out what sort of awful genetic diseases we've got. I'm wondering what the chemo will do to his blood work. I also get to have a saline ultrasound.

This is when you get an injection of mild anesthesia in your cervix, and then have your ovaries filled with fluid. The point, I believe, is to get you prepared psychologically for when your water breaks and you go into labor. Other than that, it lets the doctors see if you have any abnormalities in your uterus.

The fun part is for the next two hours when each time you hiccup or sneeze tons of water shoots out of your cooter.

Then, onward to medication! According to the doctors, there's only one way to see if the hormones will make my heart explode.

...Science Safe!

I'll keep you all informed as events progress.

Makin' Babies  (1/22/2009)
The injections have finally begun. Waiting was the worst part.
I nearly had a panic attack. I'm just grateful that M was calm and collected enough to stab me with a needle.

That said, it was not so bad. The injections (at least the first round) are administered in insulin needles, so it's really not bad at all. I still couldn't do it. I hope I get over that.

As for my physiological response to the hormones- I got lightheaded, warm, dizzy, and my heart started feeling very light- as though it was about to start skipping beats. This feeling lasted for about three minutes and then abated. That's the biggest relief. Thanks to my hormone sensitivity, we were worried that I might immediately go into cardiac arrest. I didn't, so, full speed ahead!

Pretty soon I'll get to stop shooting myself up with hormones, and then... onward to grublings!

Ala Dolores Claiborne  (1/29/2009)
"Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hang on to."

I fucking hate medical "professionals."
I'm tired of being poked and prodded, being told that I have no idea what I'm doing while having information withheld and misdirected.

Grumble grumble grumble...
I sure fucking hope having a baby is worth the trouble.

Internal countdown at four hours twelve minutes and counting  (1/30/2009)
I'm done with round one. Moving on to round two. The big round. The gigantic doses of drugs that might make my heart stop.

I am fucking terrified. Every hour I get a little closer to hyperventilating. I'm sure it won't be that bad. I'm sure this will be virtually identical to the initial injection fear. Only this time... well... we'll see if two shots is actually better than one.

...God I'm a wreck.

Grubling goo, round two  (2/1/2009)
Two shots a night.
My stomach is covered in little bruises and scratches.
My lungs and chest hurt and I'm more bloated than I've ever been in my life.
Next assault by the fertility staff is Tuesday morning.

...I am no longer seeing much humor. Hopefully the hormones will stop deadening my sense of humor and I can go back to thinking this is a big joke.


Step 2: ? (2/8/2009)
It seems I have been misled. I must offer my most sincere apologies. I have passed along incorrect information to all of you, out there in livejournal land.

It is not two weeks on injection A and four weeks on injection B.

Actually, it is two weeks on injection A, two weeks on injections A and B, and then two days on injection C. With daily blood draws and vaginal ultrasounds. Then, six days on patch D and ovule E.

...which you are NOT to put in the refrigerator with the rest of the drugs. Those last two have all gone bad now. You need to spend another $100 on replacing them. NOW. Or we start all over again.

Carry on.

October 9, 2011

SuperMommy Caught on Camera

In case you've forgotten, I hate Disney Princesses.

I still let my kids watch the movies.

But there's one that... no matter how good particular elements might be... I just can't stand to be in the same room.

I mean, it's the only Princess the DOESN'T run off with the guy at the end, but Pocahontas DIED OF CHOLERA IN ENGLAND.

Because she ran off with the dumb freakin' guy.

For the love of...

October 6, 2011

The Most Important Things In My Life

SI the Peeking Panda
As was bound to happen, my children turned two.

I can't really explain why, but I didn't believe it was coming.  Part of me just couldn't wrap my head around the idea that my kids are... well... kids.

I don't think of them as the tiny little babies that I was shocked to take home with me from the hospital.  Well, not most of the time.  In my head, I see them as they were about three weeks ago.

I always see them as they were about three weeks ago.  I'm always surprised by how big they are, how strong they are, how vocal they are.  How much more their personalities come through each day.

DD has finally gotten the hang of a skill I've been trying to teach her for months and months.  It's the trick of calling for me by name instead of just shouting or whining.  And in pure DD fashion, she doesn't just say, "Mommy," she makes it a melodramatic performance.  It's three notes.  First, a middle E.  Then a high E, followed by the corresponding C.


I know it sounds kind of awful, but it's adorable.  And she's started to use the same pattern for all the things she likes.  "Oh FROOOOOOG-GEEEEEE!"  "Oh DOOOOOOOL-LEEEEEE!"  "Oh DAAAAAAAAD-DEEEEEE!"

DD the Peeking Panda
Meanwhile, little MissSI has expanded her love of Disney Princesses.  Now, the Little Mermaid is a close second to Cinderella in her heart.  Never Ariel, always, "Li-ul Muhmaid."

Yes, I know they have some speech difficulties.  But it's not because of any difficulty hearing, or any disability.  It's just that they always talk to each other, reinforcing the wrong way to say things.  And even with that, they get better all the time.

They love to sing the Alphabet Song.  SI is even getting the hang of the melody, along with the words.

In short, I have children.

Children with favorite colors.
Children with favorite past times.
Children with favorite foods.

I can already see the problems that I'm facing later in my life.  I know that SI and I will butt heads a lot over things like homework and chores.  I know that DD is going to be extremely sensitive to bullying (or even perceived dislike) at school.  I worry that, like her father, she'll get hell in her early school years for being a bit of a cry baby.

DD is so focused.  And SI is so perceptive.  They're little people that make me proud every day.

SI the Happy Panda
And what's strangest to me are the things I don't miss.  I feel that my arms have no memory of holding them when they were new.  I feel like I've completely forgotten their toothless smiles.  And I want to weep for the loss not only of those babies, but of my real, true memories of them.

But I can't.  I'm simply so happy, so proud, so in love with them three weeks ago... three weeks from now...  I have no emotional energy left to mourn their babyhood.

They're learning so much, so fast.  Complete sentences (such as they are).  Outgrown clothes.  DD even criticizes my paintings.

When they woke up in the morning on their birthday, and it was their birthday... when they were really two years old...

I didn't know how to feel.  I only felt the same joy and pride I feel every morning when they awaken happy and healthy and full of infectious energy.  As I got them dressed, I looked at the clock.  Exactly two years, to the minute, since they left the warm, cozy confines of my body.  The improbableness of it.  It was too weird to be real.

Last year, I felt like their birthday was more about me than them.  It was *I* who accomplished the feat of bringing them into the world, of keeping them safe while they grew.  It was *me* who nursed them, who rocked them and sand to them.  (Well, me and M.  He was the most amazing stay at home parent that first year!)  Yes, it was all well and good for children to celebrate their birthdays, but it's really a reminder for their mother.  For their parents.  A token of success.
DD the Happy Panda

Or so I thought last year.

This year, it was about them.  It wasn't just a chance for me to beam with pride and show off how wonderful they are to all our friends.  It was an excuse to shower them with tokens of my appreciation.  To give them the happiest day I could wrangle.  Because every day they give me gifts.  With each little game, with each little present.  Each time DD insists on wearing a skirt so she can exclaim that she looks like mommy, or SI holds her frog lovey over her legs like a dress and proclaims that SHE'S mommy... each time my children show me that they're watching me, that they love me...

I want to spoil my children.  I want to give them all the gifts, all the cookies, all the shoes and hats in the world.  I want to hug them and kiss them all the time.  But spoiling a child never did them any favors.  Instead, smiling and nodding, offering words of encouragement, helping them to do things better... this is the way I'm learning to show my love.  Making them stop paying with their vegetables and actually swallow them, reminding them to say please each time they ask to put on my shoes, washing their faces when they cram their apple sauce into their eyebrows...

This is how I show them I love them now.  So yes, I went a little overboard on their birthday.  I made a cake they couldn't possibly appreciate.  I made them a kitchen they'll be playing with for most of their childhood, I filled our home with things that I knew they would love.  I managed to orchestrate a day so wonderful for them that they took two days to calm down from their birthday high.  For days, SI kept pointing on top of the toy kitchen- where their presents were- ans saying, "More birthday!"

I keep telling her she only gets one a year, but it's a lie.  My parents are coming to town next week and we'll have another smaller birthday.
SI and the last bites of birthday cake

And I remember in my own childhood, I had a few birthdays each year.  One with a party for my friends, one with my family, and sometimes one with my extended family.  It was a chance to feel like I was the most important thing in anyone's life.

And now I understand.  I want my children, at least once a year, to feel like they ARE the most important things in my life.  Because they are.  I know it's cliche, but there it is.  My husband and my children are the most important things in my life.

No matter how many times I say, "Yes, that's Cinderella's shoe!" or, "It's the dancing show!" or "Oh DEEEEEEEE-BEEEEEE!"  No matter how exhausted I am and how desperate I am to get a little work done instead of finding out that the monster at the end of the book is Grover...

I'm always melting, inside.  I always want to freeze them the way they were three weeks ago, before they were this little bit more independent, more capable, more like people...

Three weeks ago is always the best time of my life.

Next year I'm sure I'll feel differently about their birthday.

DD and the last bites of birthday cake
Just as I'm sure that someday the idea of making another dozen gift bags, of coming up with party games... I'm sure it will get to be old.

But I hope that having a chance to shower my children with love and affection, without inhibition, to pull out all the stops and let them know how desperately I love them...

I hope that never gets old.

I hope that I always have a way to show them that they're the most important things in my life.

I can't imagine a future where it's not always true.

October 5, 2011

Your Guide to Eating on Nothing

Every once in a while, I go back to the well.  I wrote this the week after the stock market crashed in 2008.  Still true!

The economy has tanked. Yes, tanked. I know that many of you are jobless and starting to wish you'd listened to your grandparents' tales about the Great Depression and surviving it. Well, have no fear. Here are a few handy hints to keep you alive and sort of full over the next months and maybe years of economic turmoil. They are personally tested by yours truly during my years of starving-artistdom, and I assure you they are all effective.

1. Learn to make soup
You'll be surprised how easy this is, and how cheap. Invest in a tub of broth mix- less than ten dollars for a year's supply. Now, all you need to make a hearty and relatively healthy soup is salt, pepper, onions or cabbage, and butter or oil. I prefer butter, and I like adding garlic. You honestly can live off the stuff. If you have a lot of spices, you can even make it feel like different soup every day. Congratulations, you are now eating a fraction of your previous budget.

2. Adjust your free-time habits
Did you read in the good old days? Well good, you can hold on to that one. Get a library card. Did you do ANYTHING ELSE? Stop! You don't have the money! There are some exceptions. Go and get yourself a box of crayons. Not any crayons, but the Prang child-safe soy crayons. Why? They are completely edible. Not necessarily palatable, but edible. This will actually lower your food budget even more, since you won't feel like eating for a few hours at least after each crayon.

3. Sign up for free internet dating services
No, you are not about to actually look for somebody to date. No, you will not be cheating on your significant other. You are doing this for FOOD! Meet up with as many people for as many dates in cheap public places as possible. Let them pick up the check, and take home your leftovers. There! Now you're not just eating soup and crayons! Now you are eating soup, crayons, and whatever your single serving dates buy you. This is even better for you gentlemen, because it guarantees that the you won't be asked for a second date, and the last thing that you need is for another person to think that you're going to feed them, too.

4. Learn some botany
You'd be surprised how many plants out there are edible. Pine, for example. You can make a fairly decent tea out of pine needles. Or Maple- same thing. Take nice long walks and collect plants that you can eat. Dandelion greens are quite delicious, actually. So this will be particularly useful in the summer.

5. Go to lots of art gallery openings
They're free, and they frequently serve cheese and wine. Consider this your big night out each week. You will never have eaten so much cheese in your life. For that matter, head to Whole Foods. You can almost live off of the samples there. So long as you rotate your Whole Foods schedule between all the locations in your area. Also, be sure that you don't mind eating any number of fairly flavorless soy products.

There are other things, of course, that you can do to pull yourself through this awful economic climate, but in the meantime you can rest assured that by following this advice you will always eat.

Pandamonium (Or, appropriately themed children's parties)

When I first set out to plan the girls' second birthday party, I was struck with fear to the depths of my soul.

My house would be FILLED with toddlers.

They would be everywhere.  Running, laughing, screaming, covered in food, hopefully not causing irreparable damage.

It would be chaos.  It would be mayhem.  It would be pandemonium.

...wait a minute, I thought to myself, it could be PANDA-monium!

And thus, my theme was born.  Panda-monium.  Toddlers. Crazy.  Everywhere.  Perfect.

The best thing about this theme was that I didn't have to do a lot.  If it was chaotic, it would fit my theme.  If it happened to also involve a lot of pandas... all the better.

I started with the invitations.  No amount of art school could teach me to simplify my designs like the lack of time and energy of parenthood.

Happy Panda!

I created a very cute, very easy to replicate panda.  He became my invitations.  Cousin Lala helped me glue on the googly eyes.

"You're Invited!"

After this little guy did his job, it turned out we were expecting fourteen kids and babies in the house!  At the last minute, four had to cancel.  But that was probably for the best.  My house might have actually exploded.

After I got my guest list, the next thing was to make everything else get panda-ish.  There would be gift bags.  Lucky me, the girls' birthday is shortly before Halloween.  There would be no shortage of cheap bags of individually wrapped candy.  And even luckier me, tiny stuffed pandas were on sale at the World Market for less than two bucks apiece.  All that was left for those gift bags was to draw pandas on them again.

The first batch of pandas were cute and all, but still too much work.  I needed to simplify again.  I needed EASY pandas.  Thus, my next cute little panda themed object came into being.  Aunt Vox colored him in after I drew all the outlines.

For you!

I decided to make a panda cake.  At first, I was going to make a whole bear- sitting up, no less!  I ditched this idea for the much simpler one of a panda face.  And rather than frost him, I'd cover him in fondant.  but... I don't like fondant.  So what else?  Ah!  I know!  Marzipan!  Thus was the world's first almond chocolate marziPanda cake created.  (Yes, his insides are marbled chocolate and almond cakes.  I figured they'd go with the decorative material.)  That's a lot of marzipan.  Good thing I freakin' LOVE marzipan.

Almond Chocolate Marzi-Panda!

Marbled cake!  Yummy!

One themed food is never enough!  I also made panda rice balls (sushi rice filled with avocado) and panda bear cookies, both of which got rushed and frankly I could have done better... but still!  More pandas!

Panda Rice balls!  ....or at least, they're pandas at SOME angles.

Panda cookies!

For the rest of the food, I asked people to bring potluck.  I made my world famous bean dip (okay, not WORLD famous... yet...), and my friends and family arrived laden with delicious edibles.

Quite the spread!

But that's not quite enough panda mayhem.  I apologize- panda-monium.  I figured that with enough little kids there AND quite a few not-quite-mobile babies, balloons would be a big hit.  Balloons... with pandas drawn on them!

Panda balloons!

Panda balloons, and Thomas underpants!

Last but not least- it wouldn't *really* be all that panda-tastic without any real pandas, right?  So Our Mary Poppins came in and did panda face paint for the wee ones.  I'm not sure I'd recommend it.  First of all, a few kids were freaked out by the face paint.  Secondly, this was- without a doubt- the messiest part of the day.  Cake included.

Little pandas!

I set up a play yard we'd been given last year in the living room, complete with a ball pit!

DD in the ball pit

...and a basketball hoop, too!

Then, I prepared the brand new toy kitchen in the dining room, and SI and DD's friends really got into it!

Cookin' up some crazy in the kitchen!
And connecting the two play areas, a tunnel of cardboard boxes, lined with bubble wrap, for the little monkeys to crawl through.

Bubble tunnel!

They all had a ball.  My house?  Still in utter chaos.  But I'd say it was a total success.

That's one saaaaaad panda.


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