And it is now happy hour

Pool at the bitter end

Cooper mountain winery

We've moved on from doughnuts to wine. So pretty here.

Voodoo donuts


Frugality be damned. McCashew has spawned a stepsister.

I am pleased to announce the creation of McDeals and $teals. With the economy in the toilet and everyone feeling the crunch in one way or another, I suspected I would be posting many more entries about bargains found while shopping for growing Caroline’s spring/summer wardrobe. I also suspected that some of you might not want to read about that perfect little sundress rescue from my consignment shop’s rack. There’s going to be more than just my most recent shopping conquest because though it might not read that way, I don’t shop all that often. You can look to McDeals and $teals for coupon codes, giveaways, and online bargains to share and not have to worry about yet another “can you believe this deal!?!?!?” post here on McCashew.

How do you get there you ask? It’s easy, over there under peanuts, hardy har har! With the blogger blog list function it just got easier to keep track of the deals I might be posting about with the date and title of most recent post feature. Happy Sales Hunting!

In McCashew related news, we discussed our Portland agenda with Auntie C. Seems that she and Steve are cut from the same cloth; they just feel more comfy when they have a plan. I won’t say that I don’t like a plan, I do. I just don’t feel pressured to have things figured out quite the way they do. Though to Auntie C’s credit – she’s got to feel some pressure to entertain all the visitors she’s been having. I might however be coming around to having a general itinerary because now I am able to be excited for a vineyard, exploring the Gorge, enjoying Happy Hours that begin at 4, and exploring a side of Portland unfamiliar to our tour guide when we head to the Trailblazers/Spurs game for Steve’s birthday on Sunday.

You can count on some iPhone’d in updates over the weekend and many a twitter.

With under 24 hours to decide if my future included a trip to Chicago for BlogHer09 I bit the freakin' bullet and registered! After a careful googledocs spreadsheet comparison of flights options (Steve likes itineraries, I like charts) the jury was out until a car convo en route to beantown. I'm going!!! Steve informs me that I am not allowed to "quit the blog between now and then." Now to secure that roommate...

West Coast Bound

It has been awhile since I’ve had to pack up the family for a weekend away. Earlier this week Steve took bath duty and I managed to wrangle 4 days worth of toddler clothing together. I laid it all out and organized it neatly before stuffing it and some overnight Easy Ups into the “Caroline” bag. In no time at all I was reading “Goodnight, Boston” to my damp haired thumb sucker. It was so easy that I keep second-guessing myself, “does she need an extra pair of pjs? Or another pair of shoes in case she goes to the beach?” No I said to myself both aloud and in my head, it really was that easy. So I wonder, was it really that much more challenging to pack her up before or have I just gotten better at it OR (and this is probably the answer) have I mellowed a ton since she arrived?

Packing for myself. Let’s hope it goes as smoothly. Auntie C instructed us to pack lots of layers and to be casual. How hard could that be!? Like most trips we take, I don’t fully absorb that we are actually going somewhere until we are packed and on our way. Steve logged on to check our flights and seat assignements last night and discovered that we don’t have confirmed seats on the flight back. (Thank you Orbitz for your lovely fine print!) Of course even if we could select seats, only middle seats remain – which means that not only will we potentially be surrounded by armrest hogging strangers, but we might not be together. As of this moment. Calls to the airline and Orbitz both resulted in the same result. We have to try to log on again when they open some seats up in the 24 hours before the flight. I am hopeful that we will actually be together. I am not panicked but who will I nudge when I read something funny in my magazine? Who will I share a soda with? Who won’t mind me laying my head against their shoulder?

It will all work itself out and I am optimistic that these minor issues really should not be concerns at all. In the meantime I am coming up with Plan B just in case. We have the usual travel distractions; books, DVD (on loan from Caroline), iPod, iPhone Craps. I realize I am years late on this book, but having lived through those years why revisit them unnecessarily? Oh I know why, they loom for your daughter. Nothing like preparing for the teenage years in toddlerhood, but I hear the preschool playground can get rough. I dashed over to my little yarn shop to attempt this as a way to prep me for this ultra ambitious project.

Bento Box Meals

Steve requested salmon this week and followed through both on marinating it overnight and preparing it to perfection; flaky and yet incredibly moist. He used an easy Maple Soy Glaze I came across in a magazine. We have been putting on pork chops, but it could work for salmon too. Equal parts soy and maple syrup, a tsp of garlic, and a shake of chili flakes. It was divine. Caroline loved it. Even after eating an entire helping of mac and cheese with veggies she kept asking for more fish.

I picked up a couple plates for Caroline in the $1 bin at Target with separate areas for each part of the meal. I haven’t really utilized them until now. I am so set in my meal prep ways using her little IKEA plates that I don’t often reach for the alternative options. When her lunch was presented on one of these plates yesterday she came running to the table and was simply delighted with the tomatoes, avocado, strawberries and toast with cheese all in their very own sections. I chose to use the plate as a pick me up for a little girl who spent the majority of the day licking snoots off her top lip (not that I didn’t try to stay on top of that! Yuck!) and looking rather miserable. Dear Zicam, please PLEASE save me from this fate. Emergen-C – I am looking at you!

I had read an article some time ago in the sadly defunct Wondertime (tears!!!!) about presenting foods to children in this way. I purchased these plates with that ditty on Japanese Bento Boxes in mind. Seeing her reaction to lunch yesterday, a truly rare lunchtime excitement that I hear she has at school but we NEVER see at home, I think I am going to adopt some of these Bento principles using these cutie plates. 3 parts carb, 1 part protein, 2 parts fruit and vegetable. Imagine my surprise when I googled Bento and discovered that her meal yesterday was just about this ratio. Those little separated sections really lend themselves to this sort of thinking. I saw some “easter” themed plates with rabbits at Target this week, I’ll wait for them to hit the $1 bin and pick up a few more.

As I sat there watching her “mmming” and smiling through her meal I had a really foolish “aha moment.” This kid loves variety. I know this. I just don’t practice it. There I said it. I will now go to admit that I can be pretty lazy on the creating an interesting meal front. I really enjoy cooking for my family. I labor over soups on my days off and present quick but healthy meals with quality ingredients on days that I am working. I offer her what we are having and if that is a no go, I might (and I stress MIGHT) offer her up some sad squiggle of hot dog. I don’t often offer an alternative because we try not to be too concerned if she refuses a meal. We are trying very hard to believe that if she is hungry she will eat. Caroline has a pretty good appetite most of the time. If we limit the afternoon snacking she will usually plow through whatever we present her with, but there are nights when she eats a bite or two and asks to be “scoose.” When we are able to sit down for lingering weekend breakfasts she loves having a taste of the eggs, a bite of toast, some cereal, chomping on some bacon - because it is interesting. All those plates on the table, people selecting a bit more of this or that. What better way to encourage her to explore food than to present it to her in a fun way. So Yes, I am actually just now thinking in this way now. I suppose I have been in denial of her toddlerhood mealtime needs until now. Making food and mealtime fun for her just hasn’t occurred to me. I do however draw the line at creating fish stick houses.

Dizzy Tutu

We laughed so hard watching this back tonight that we had to upload it asap. Caroline was so excited to try on that tutu. I wore it for my Ballet 1 recital when I was oh - maybe 6? It was "The Color Ballet" and yours truly was happy to play the part of the color maroon - haha all you eagles. very funny. She loves making herself dizzy and she really likes that song. Auntie/Hokie reception request? with a disclaimer that Auntie is OF COURSE going to be an amazingly stunning bride and despite that fact, she and Hokie will be happy for the rest of their lives.

Mommy Wars

I am fully aware that I seriously go on and on in this video - but with the topic at hand how could I possibly answer quickly? Also - can I create a video that does not feature a completely awkward still frame in the preview window???

Please weigh in! Have the Mommy Wars always existed? Are they a new phenomenon? Do they exist at all? What do you think?

pajama sunday

The McFam had a lovely little weekend at home. We spent some time with a very strong Tommy and his parents, attacked a local Children’s Museum with gusto, giggled while Caroline tried to pick up Goldfish crackers with chopsticks at dinner, and our daughter enjoyed Pajama Sunday to the fullest – along with her first bath since Thursday night. Yup. She was dirty – but her HAIR was awesome! Who has time for baths when you are out visiting babies and playing with chopsticks?

Caroline had such a fun weekend, despite the fact that she woke up this morning with that awful croupy seal cough. She called for me and I took her right into the bathroom for a steam. She looked up at me, pointed to her nose, “my nose. full.” So we are holding onto our hats tonight – hoping she sleeps well and that we can pump enough fluids into her to push this cold right on out of town. We’d like to stay healthy too if we can – flying cross country in a few days and all.

We have been enjoying listening to her explain things to us. She often says “my” when grammar calls for “I.” “My help.” “My tired.” “My go outside.” “My happy.”

I loved hearing her share her day at the museum this morning – she “danced!” and “my slide.” I also loved hearing her remind me about seeing that snake, dinosaur and butterfly moving last week with Nana. She still remembers every detail Mom. I would be remiss in not mentioning how she saw a photo of kids at the beach in a catalog and exclaimed, “Beach, Papa!”

Tonight she pulled out an old dance recital costume I had tucked in with her toys and asked me to help her step into it. As soon as I pulled it onto her shoulders (over the pajamas she never took off from last night), she asked “my dance?” So I did what every good mother would do and despite the fact that it was creeping ever closer to bedtime; I turned on the iPod and we danced together. This little moment – my little girl dancing in a costume I had danced in - was so special to me and though it only lasted one short song, Daddy caught it on film.

Caroline is growing up before our very eyes, repeating every thing we say, greeting us at the door and helping us put the groceries away, asking for a high five, telling us when she is sleepy. I pulled out a blanket and danced with her to Billy’s Lullabye, singing the words softly in her ear and suddenly she was my baby again – laying her head on my shoulder, eyes closed, calm and serene – reminding me that despite how quick things seem to be going, she still needs me.

Ash Wednesday is just around the corner

Had to share this simple yet tasty recipe that has found its way into our weekly rotation. Caroline is still not sure about it, but she definitely likes to help me prepare it.

NOTE: I cut the recipe from 4 pieces of fish to 2!!!

Baked Haddock

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon ground dried thyme
2 haddock fillets
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the milk and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and thyme. Dip the haddock fillets in the milk, then press into the crumb mixture to coat. (I also scoop them onto the top and push them into place for better coverage.) Place haddock fillets in a glass baking dish, and drizzle with melted butter.

Bake on the top rack of the preheated oven until the fish flakes easily, about 15 minutes.

to confer or not to confer?

I announced to Steve that “I think I might want to maybe go to BlogHer.” I said this softly. I had been pondering it for some time, but hadn’t wanted to begin his unstoppable launch sequence to immediately check flights at three different airports. I blog. He searches for flights.

I checked out the agenda. The more I have been thinking about it, the more I really want to go. I wish I could take a bloggy friend with me as a bunkmate to assist me in not feeling so alone among a sea of virtual (HAR!) strangers. I hate that junior high “I don’t fit in and everyone already seems to know one another feeling.” I gchatted auntie C and totally absconded her “did you do a bouquet toss?” convo to see what she thought. Some bridesmaid I am huh?! When I told her that I was nervous to go alone and that Steve had offered to accompany me and keep himself busy for the day, she reminded me that the whole point of this conference is for me to go alone. A.L.O.N.E.

I am 80% convinced I should go and do this for myself.

It has been previously noted how wonderful I am at making or rather NOT making decisions. I go round and round in my head until it is ready to explode, throw my hands in the air & pretend that there was never a decision to be made. It’s true.

I tossed out the idea to do something kid friendly together as a family this weekend and so began the web crawling under the google search “things to do with kids in…..” When I toss out ideas they almost always begin with NYC. Being as close as we are to the city, I feel it is vastly underutilized. Within five minutes NYC is vetoed. Too expensive to get in. Too expensive while we are there. We need a stroller. So long American Museum of Natural History! We’ll see you in the Spring. Or Summer. Then I toss out the usual; the aquarium, the children’s museum? When your child still requires a nap midday, you are forced to consider spending upwards of $30 on admissions for a maximum of three hours of fun. $10 an hour. The same as having a sitter….hmmmm. Interesting. Inevitably, I stop talking about it because if I kept the discussion going I might actually make a decision. So I push it off on Steve with a “what do you think?”

After nearly 8 years of non-committal plan making (and he is a serious planner) he is finally making some headway and forcing me to secure plans. We chose the Children’s Museum. It’s small enough that we can see it all and large enough to keep her entertained. What toddler can really hold their attention on anything for more than three hours anyway? There is a toddler area for her to just run and climb and burn off energy. I envision us spending at least half the time in the water area, but this time I will be prepared with a spare pair of pants.

I even shocked myself by looking for museum passes available at local libraries (Buy 1 admission Get 1 free). Of course they are checked out right now, it’s school vacation week after all, but I will be sure to do this in the future when planning trips to the local Zoo (Free Family Admission!).!

Our plan is to nap her, blast out the door, and get in as much time at the museum as humanly possible. I even made reservations for dinner down that way. LOOK AT ME – decision-making, committing, and following through all over the place.

So – all that – to explain the 20% of me that cannot decide if I want to, should, or am able to go to BlogHer. Since I am on such a decision-making kick, I am going to nail this one to the wall before the early bird rate expires at the end of the month. WHY OH WHY must you be the shortest month February??? I am missing out on entire DAYS of procrastination??

The conference would be right up my alley; a nice mix of mommyblogging and general blogging sessions. I’d like to dip my toe into other areas and maybe find some inspiration. I really think I would regret not going to both days, even if it meant being away from Thursday to Sunday. So if I choose to attend, it will be for the whole conference. The real hang-ups are childcare and the combined "holy crap" cost of attendance ($200!! to attend, $$$ to get there, $$$ to stay three nights). I can look at some more budget friendly hotels and maybe I can come across a sweet deal of a flight, but is my little blogging hobby really REALLY worth all this cash??? Especially in a time when finances are so tight, jobs are uncertain, and we’ve been trying to cut back in all areas?

perfect in our imperfections

Is replacing a soap chip with a brand new bar akin to replacing an empty tp roll? How about awareness of the conditioner level?

I hopped into the shower earlier this week looking forward to the five minutes of hot steamy solitude, only to discover that I had been left with a tiny elf-sized chip of soap. What’s a girl to do when she’s already wet and the room is sufficiently steamy? Let’s just say that somewhere in the body-washing portion of my shower I ran out of soap. I have no idea when exactly that moment occurred. It is better that way I am sure.

This morning we flip-flopped our routine. I was dubbed the dropper offer and Steve the picker upper. While he lay in bed waiting to hear every excruciating detail of the Travis the Chimp 911 call, my toddler was bouncing off the walls begging to go downstairs. I reminded him that flip flopping meant he was actually “Kerri” and should be getting her fed and ready for school while I was “Steve” showering and dashing off toddler in tow. Just as I was able to close the bathroom door to trap that pore cleansing steam in the room, I noticed that there was a teeny tiny amount of conditioner left, enough for me to shake the container violently to get a smidge. Cursing the world imagining that full brand new bottle below the vanity did not make the conditioner in my palm magically double in diameter. I replaced that bottle of conditioner post shower with the brand new bottle, huffing and puffing the whole time.

On Tuesday I thought twice of my evil plan to send Steve soapless into his post gym shower and kindly reminded him to grab a new bar from the linen closet. I am not that cruel. He will readily admit that the soap was his fault, but he calls BS on the conditioner. As it turns out – I huffily replaced that conditioner with a brand new bottle of shampoo.

See, I’m not perfect either.

Shopping Potty Talk

Did I fail to mention that I made a little trip up to my consignment shop President’s Day? With the library closed and an empty pantry my options for the day were somewhat limited. Let’s not even discuss how it is also School Vacation week which means all the special fun activities (like an aquarium for example) were going to be well, packed to the gills. So after some speedy grocery shopping we jetted to the consignment shop.

I have found that I need to be a bit choosier about what I bring home because kids at this age really beat on their clothes. While everything my shop accepts is always in excellent condition, I am seeing more items that have enjoyed a few rides in a hot dryer and are probably a bit shorter than they used to be. While I think my daughter’s bellybutton is adorable, we’ll opt to share it at the beach. I actually shopped through the both the 2 and 3T sections for tops, which resulted in some great finds (hello, crewcuts polo for 3.50). I picked up a few dresses (perfect for the Vineyard in June) and some tops that I know I can pair with items from the end of the season sales last fall. Her spring/summer wardrobe is starting to fill out. This might very well be the first season that I am not concerned about her growing out of things before she actually puts them on. Add in the amazing deals during the $10 Gymboree sale this past weekend (that additional 20% off coupon sweetened the deal) and we are sitting pretty. Now only if the darn winter would END already.

Caroline had a blast pulling dresses off the rack to show me. She turned her nose up to some of my choices, but when allowed her to pull these same items from the rack herself during the final pre-register tally, they were suddenly amazing, “LOOK MOMMY!” Yes Caroline, your mother has no style herself, but for you my dear, she sometimes has a pretty darn good eye.

There is but one issue I have with my little shop. Caroline poops within five minutes of us walking in the door, just long enough for me to already have a wonderful item in my hands to purchase. This leads to a non-stop debate in my head, “grab her and run for the register” or “shop quickly.” I usually do the latter because let’s be honest, I have a toddler. Any visions I had of selecting things carefully are certainly pipedreams. I am not going to be very long. I actually smelled her before we walked in yesterday and then BAM! Mere minutes later I was pulling her over to get a better whiff. My daughter must just get very excited about bargains? Auntie k, watch out!

Does this happen to other Moms? What do you do? Is there etiquette on this kind of thing? and what does it say about me if I blatantly ignore this so-called etiquette? should I care?

5-day weekend

A little housekeeping. After great debate I have relocated the photos to the photo link under “honey roasted” aptly named for Steve’s favorite peanut. Instead of a long list of albums you will be transported magically to the general McCashew Picasa album where I am quite sure you can find whatever month or photo you might be seeking. Speaking of photos – there are few really sweet ones from this weekend.

Weekend wrap-up? Steve and I enjoyed packing as much fun and couple time as possible into the 4.5 hours we had a sitter on Valentine’s Day. With just a hand wave towards cell phone numbers posted on the fridge and a snack drawer slide out we bolted out the door to grab some wings and beers before our 2pm movie. Classiest thing in there was the girl at the bar in her skinny jeans scarfing wings. Most classless? The forty-ish guy slugging shots of Ketel One. It being V-Day and all Steve arranged for “Rachel Getting Married” which was a really great movie! Anne Hathaway really deserves the award nods. Post movie we trekked across the street to the first place we had dinner when officially made the move to CT. (the first first place we ever ate was the wings joint where we were brokenhearted to discover the Yankees game on in place of the Sox) I tried to recreate the drawing I made on the table that night in 2006; a rudimentary depiction of our journey and when it came time to star our current location I was so confused about where we exist on the map. Recreate I did, I still can’t quite place us on the map, much to Steve’s delight. Being back in that restaurant brought back memories of our big leap, how exciting and terrifying it was to be there, how in just one week’s time we would learn that our twosome was to welcome another member. We didn’t yet have a grip on this new life we were living and we wouldn’t ever really get one, because man, it was changing. We ordered take out from this restaurant Valentine's Day 2007 when Caroline was just 10 days old. Being back there was odd and strange and it makes us nostalgic, even if we only lived there for a year.

We talked about whether or not we could move back there, if we would want to. Quite often we discuss the limbo of location. Stay put? Move "home?" If we do stay put do we consider a move North closer to Boston? Move back South? This town has great schools. It is an amazing community. It is one of those places that feel so instantly comfortable and yet interesting little run-ins with a certain type of resident sometimes leave a bad taste in our mouth. Like one half of an older couple seated next to us for “linner” who upon being told to head to the back bar for a table immediately expounded that it was a way to get more money and he wasn’t fooling for it. They went on to argue with the waitstaff about not ordering their appetizer (they did) and whether or not a salad was going to be enough for them to split. They went to the same matinee we did and also enjoyed it. I have passed my keen people watching to Steve over the course of our nearly 8-year relationship. We both sat enjoying our meals (burger for him, pear gorgonzola and chicken salad for me) with one ear to each other and the other to this couple raising an eyebrow every now and then. Talking only with our eyes it was clear – this could NOT/would NOT be us in 30 some odd years, but yet it so easily could be. As for whether or not we could or would move back, I think we would be open to it.

We glanced up the hill when we returned to our parking spot and decided to breeze through the old condo we rented when Steve’e employer gave us four weeks to move our entire life. We couldn’t tell for sure if it was rented or empty, but I barely felt those familiar speed bumps. The first place we had lived down here, the first bedroom Caroline had slept in, the place where we hunkered down to weather the newborn fog.

Sunday we enjoyed Uncle Bub’s company for the morning. He colored Snow White under Caroline’s close supervision and assisted her in decorating cakes with the adorable set he brought for her birthday. A brand new Cinderella doll accompanied her in the car on our ride to meet up with Nana and Granda. I made a serious misstep in assuming that there would be a short wait for dinner and neglected to make a reservation or put our name in. So it is my fault that we did not enjoy lettuce wraps, Mongolian Beef, Chang’s Spicy Chicken or that amazing brown rice. We’ll just have to try it again. At the end of our little linner at CPK Caroline had clearly bonded with Uncle Bub as she leaned in to snuggle him from her highchair. All day yesterday she kept talking about Bub and the butterfly (“buh-fy”) at Rainforest Café that she saw with “Nana” that was moving “moo-ing.” (there was also an alligator/“dinesaur” in the water/“wawa” and a “snake” and those were also moving/”moo-in.”)

We did not get to see TJ and his entourage on Monday because the poor boy had a fever brought on by a virus and his mother threw her back out! We are hoping for speedy recoveries and a healthy rest of the winter for their fam. They have had a tough go of it this season. Caroline and I are going to take a trip down during the time Steve is away for Marc’s bachelor party in March. So fear not Tasha, a get together LOOMS!

Fresh New Look

Wait, hold on! You are in the right place! This is really McCashew –a snazzy new sassier McCashew that is. As you can plainly see I kept myself plenty busy on that little day off this week. The lovely Ellie Moore of Rainy Day Templates conjured up this new space. Now, we all know how wonderful I am at making decisions. I have been known to break out into hives deciding whether or not I want something to drink and please don’t ask me what exactly I would like to drink if I reply in the affirmative because, JEEZ, I just MADE a decision, can’t I just sit this one out?? With limited input Ellie kept surprising me with totally “Kerri” ideas including that sweet little pop of pink asterisk/daisy. I think the product is exactly what I had in mind and we got there without the pressure of dictating my vision in painstakingly specific detail. If I said, “I think it is missing something, how about some color?” POOF, a perfect background! She was wonderful to work with from start to finish and should anyone else be considering a fresh face for their blog I enthusiastically recommend her.

Special thanks of course to Steve and Colleen for kick starting this project with a holiday gift. This space makes me so happy, it feels very me, and I am doubtful I would have done it without your encouragement!

A true day off

Since I am “working from home” this fine President’s Day, I thought I would skip yesterday to get as much work done as possible in my shortened week. My office is closed, but since I am technically a “consultant” I can work a few hours here at home and add it to my time sheet, which I am fully taking advantage of.

The house feels odd. I had to put the Today Show on in the background to drone out the eerie quiet and wind blowing quite briskly by my windows. I suspect my day off from most of my responsibilities will be spent eating chocolate and finishing a little project I have been racing to finish for Tommy. These babies (Tommy and Little Danny) and their crazy rush to get here early have totally thrown me for a loop!

I am still sitting in my bathrobe, drinking Ruby Red, wearing glasses. I’ve been spending more time in my bathrobe lately. Steve’s office relocated just down the street recently and with that came a juggling of the morning/afternoon routine. Most days he brings Caroline to daycare and I handle the pick-up. This allows me to spend more time with Caroline in the morning (we have all but eliminated the necessity of Blues Clues to dry hair and apply mascara!) and our rush, rush, rush to get out of the door has given way to leisurely questions like “more syrup?” I see my family off at the door waving from the window in my bathrobe before racing upstairs to get myself ready to face the day. This happily has resulted in way less craziness and I think a pretty nice little routine. I am fortunate Steve has been able to step into a part-time daycare dropper offer role. I forgot how much I love sitting in my bathrobe and enjoying my entire English muffin.

I looked at Steve this morning and asked him what we were doing this Saturday because I totally blanked. Here’s why – we have quite a weekend ahead of us! I am hoping to meet Tommy at some point today. Not sure what Caroline and I will cook up for our Girly Friday. One of the girls from school is spending the afternoon with Caroline on Saturday and we have grand plans to catch a matinee of Rachel Getting Married and some yummy lunch. Uncle Bub is coming down to visit on Sunday and then we’ll all pile into cars at naptime to meet my parents halfway between here and there for a rare family "linner". Monday we’re hoping TJ, Tasha, and Tony might stop by for a quick visit on their way home from visiting with her parents.

In news that might only be exciting for me, I am hoping to be checking out a test blog shortly of McCashew’s redesign! This day off has afforded me the ability to make time for a pleasant back and forth with the designer I chose for the project. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with. McCashew is getting a fresh new look! Now, to go save all this to the Free Agent for nostalgia.

I’m off to eat a package of mini M&M’s and consider a shower.

Babies & Beer

It has been quite mild around these parts lately – maybe around you too? I made an error in wardrobe judgment yesterday and selected a short sleeve top, which I later replaced with a tried and true sweatshirt after my outside the house activities were done of course. I have certainly gotten better at making it appear to the outside world that I have it together. As the seasons mock us and pretend to be changing I am struck with the overwhelming realization that I have yet another closet reformation ahead of me. Last summer I had not yet embraced the “for me” movement so I know I have a little updating to do. Groan.

We had a lovely little weekend at home. We woke up Saturday to text messages from our neighbors that they were at the hospital awaiting their son’s arrival. Go ahead you can click over and see what happened, I’ll wait here.

I kept checking for updates and offered my services to the extended family that had made their way to town to wait for the baby’s grand entrance into the world later that night. We had a date with Tom and Ann to have dinner that night, so we went despite their obvious absence and toasted that the new parents might meet their son soon and meet him they did! We are delighted for them and it is taking a considerable amount of effort to keep myself from prancing over there right NOW with lasagna in hand to swoon at the newborn’s delicious baby head. I might get a chance to congratulate the new parents in person later this week on my day off for Lincoln’s birthday. Wahoo! Wedsriday!

On Sunday we had a nice visit from Mary and her girls. Emma is so grown up that it is hard to imagine she was ever the tiny baby I first met and Julia is full of spunk and spirit clearly watching her big sis for cues on what to do next. Mary is such a great mother and we were so glad to offer her a nice little break in her ride home from the city. We are hopeful that schedules will allow us to help them celebrate the upcoming 1st and 3rd birthdays!!! There are some photos up on Picasa of their visit and as you can plainly see, they are gorgeous girls. Caroline was on cloud 9 having pint sized visitors to play with although we did notice she was a bit territorial with little Julia. It was so so nice to see the girls!

Steve had some serious time to kill on Sunday as he continues his Football Detox. What’s better to do on a free afternoon than brew your first ever batch of beer? He cooked up a (hopefully) lovely Sierra Nevada clone and we are cautiously optimistic that his first attempt will be not only drinkable, but downright delicious!

Monday, Monday was perfect from beginning to bedtime. We had such a lovely little Mommy and Caro day together. We hit the library for sing along and storytime and left without incident. She was so unbelievably angelic (save for a few sad moments that I chalk up to toddlerdom). At dinner there was a request for “more chicken please.” Not only did she WANT chicken, but she wanted more, PLEASE!. I was a little surprised because my “shake” of chili flakes was more of a “SHAKE”, but lo and behold my daughter loves chicken stir-fry. We’ve been trying to have this meal more often; lots of fresh veggies, yummy chicken and the Organic Brown Rice ready in three minutes from Trader Joes. It is quite popular in our house, apparently by ALL members of the fam. Honey, if you will ask “for more chicken please,” I will make this meal for you EVERYNIGHT. =)

Bedtime has been a bit easier too with the introduction of the “big girl pillow.” I’ve been wondering, exactly when do babies go from mattress to pillow for some time. We just got a couple new pillows so I pulled out the saved for just this occasion matching pillowcase and eureka, she loves it. She reminds us as we walk her upstairs that she has a “big girl pillow” and snuggles down on it like she has the most amazing thing ever in her bed. Of course, this has provided additional play options with George, Abby, the monkey, and the puppy who used to be found lined up either at attention along the edge or scarily face down “sleeping.” Last night she had George in one corner of the pillow and Abby in the other and they must have been having a fantastic convo because she was awake all through Obama’s speech and needed some extra coaxing to “get comfy.” All that new pillow excitement was just too much for her!

Momversation Toxins

The Official Momversation

There are days when I feel like clothing management for Caroline could be a third part-time job. What you didn’t know I already had two; social worker and housekeeper?

I pride myself on being organized. We recently filed our taxes and Steve was hunting for a document that I was able to produce in less than 30 seconds. If there is a missing item anywhere in the house (except for the blasted measuring tape which I cannot for the life of me find!) I can locate it. It is a challenge and I revel in it. My father passed this skill to me. He was always the “finder” in our family. Steve’s father has that role in his house, but lest you think there might be two finders in our house, let me assure you that this specific gene did not make it into my husband’s DNA. Thankfully, one of us is of the finder variety or the chaos would be unmanageable. (For someone who prides themselves on being organized, this post is already feeling pretty cluttered.)

From the day Caroline began to outgrow her newborn clothes I have been faced with the challenge of boxing things up as she grows out of them and storing them. Initially, I tried to group things by size, but then I learned rule #1.

Rule #1

Sizes are merely a guideline. Between three and six months, Caroline was wearing things of various sizes because each individual retailer sizes their items differently. We’ve all come to learn how things fit our kids as they grow. I know to get a size up at the Children’s Place, that Carter’s will shrink a bit, and the Gap runs so big I can count on her wearing it for more than a season. This last bit about the Gap isn’t always a good thing. It runs so large that my first few tries at buying ahead were disastrous. New parents. Learn Rule #1 early and it will help you enormously.

So as things started piling up on the futon that used to be in her nursery back at the old condo, I knew I needed a system. I purchased some plastic storage tubs and started grouping things as best I could.

Rule #2

Save money and use the old BJs diaper boxes. Oh, you can’t see in them you say? It doesn’t matter. I cannot tell what size things are by looking at the outside of a semi see through box full of pepto pinkness – can you?

Once I started adapting the BJ’s diaper box method things appeared to be moving smoothly until I realized that by placing items together as she grew out of them I was essentially organizing them backwards and unless I have a child in the future with a case of the Benjamin Buttons, this won’t help me one bit.

Rule #3

Any organization is better than no organization at all.

We’ve been cruising along with Rule #3 for quite some time. Here is my current method:

Current Clothing: Only clothes for NOW are kept in dresser or hang in closet. If she cannot wear it tomorrow it does not belong in her room.

Grown out of Clothing: I keep a gigunda diaper box in the spare room on a side table that I place items in as she grows out of them. If that shirt she has on today has the look of “the last time she’ll wear it” it gets washed and put directly into the box as neatly as possible. I purge her current clothes about 3 times a season, once at the beginning to make way for the new, once in the middle to get rid of the items that barely made the cut last time, and once towards the end to evaluate what things I need to fill in when I pull out the new stuff. Once that gigunda box gets full (towers far over the edges) I take it all out, organize it by size and clothing type. It gets a markered on label and off it goes to the attic and we start a new box.

Future Clothing: I love the idea of buying Caroline a brand new wardrobe each season. Which collections look cutest? And lately – what would she like? I hate the idea of paying for it. So I shop the sales. I have shopping rules for her – I shop for the next season, for the next year, and for those transitional now items. I just spent under fifty dollars on what I'll call the “transitional wardrobe,” the long sleeve – not quite springy, not quite winter pieces. It hurts less when I do it this way. Before long my consignment shop with be having its end of the winter $1 sale and I will stock up on 3T items for next winter. Steve even helped pick up some stuff for next fall/winter at a recent Old Navy Super Sale. He has seen the full retail cost and it is enough to make him lose his mind, so he supports my seasonal sale shopping.

What do I do with all that stuff? Put it in another diaper box of course. I keep it in her closet, where I can easily get to it and remember it is there. I organize it backwards with the next season on top so that when I purge winter I can pull out spring at the same time and squeal in delight over all the cuteness which seems to help mask the sadness that “she’s never going to wear that adorable sweater again.” At first that seemed like a pain. Each time I buy ahead another season I have to unload the entire box to put it at the bottom, but it actually has been helpful in reminding me what is coming up next. These reminders help me to fill with the items I need to maximize the outfits and I need to maximize not just for the cute factor, but also for the can be worn to school aspect as well. Winter seems to be a bit more manageable – the occasional yogurt incident evidence on her shirt. SPRING and SUMMER are just terrible. With the outside play in the sand and puddles, she comes home looking like she spent all day playing in a quarry, dirt in her ears and all. I am all for this! She should be playing and getting dirty – but the daycare clothes take a severe beating and so I now shop for separate comfy options for summer at school. It keeps me sane.

My daughter might not always be sporting the “complete look” that so many retailers push (Gymboree, I am talking to you!!!), but I think that on the budget I work within, she is looking great. I have learned that all tops can get paired with khakis, jeans, or a neutral comfy pant. She doesn't NEED the matching rainbow grosgrain ribbon seamed jeans to complete her outfit, and especially not for the $30 price tag. I don't have complete outfits like this - so I don't think she needs them either.

So that is how we do it. There are boxes and boxes in the attic of tiny little footie pjs and dresses with bloomers. If I ever need to access them again, I know that it will take some work (and a LOT of time) to find the right stuff for the right time, but I cannot imagine any other way to organize.

Maybe you can! Talk to me about your clothing management strategy!

and she'll have fun, fun, fun till her Daddy takes the T-bird away

Not even 24 hours into Caroline’s 25th month, there is already a Picasa album started. You’ll find a few photos of some birthday cupcakes, videos of the candles being lit and then blown out by Mommy, videos of her gift that arrived FedEx from Auntie C in Portland (those are mostly for auntie who couldn’t see the joy on her niece’s face when she opened MARKERS!!!), and of course her reaction to her birthday gifts from her parents.

Gift One was an assortment of late winter clothes to get us through as she moves from 18-24 months to size 2T (sniff!). I have a bevy of folded up confections waiting for spring, so we’ll call this her transitional wardrobe. She cannot possibly appreciate the new wardrobe she sports with each passing season. I have a girl who is pretty true to her age/size and this has made it easier to shop those end of the season sales. Like many other moms, clothing management feels at times crippling. Maybe I should detail my current system in another post, because MAN – I could use some help in this area and I am sure others could too. Happily there are many gently worn second hand items in that “future stash” that I cannot wait for her to dive into. If you check out the photos you will see that she genuinely appreciated and adored each and every item she pulled from that gift bag; displaying it against her body, gently placing in on the chair between her and ‘rella.

Gift Two was the refurbished Cozy Coupe! It was scrubbed, sanitized with a bleach solution, and even the tiniest details were cleaned with a q-tip or toothpick. Even Neil would have exclaimed, “CLEAN!” DELIGHTED does not begin to describe her reaction. She spent the last 20 minutes before bed climbing in, slamming the door behind her, steering, jumping out, slamming the door… and repeat. She loved it and when the clock moved past her bedtime we looked at each other in horror. This my dear friends, could only end in tears.

We had the best intentions, really we did. The family dined on her favorite meal of spaghetti and meatballs. Pre-dinner we offered her the option of opening her presents, but the birthday girl’s response was “Not yet.” She was too busy playing with her beach themed play doh play set. She had footprints to press, pink doh to slice, lobsters to punch out. Who needed presents? During dinner we decided that we would wait until after the birthday phone/video calls had been made before we gave her the gifts because there was no way she was going to say “Hi Nana” or “Love you Auntie” when there was a cozy coupe involved, this much we knew. After many quick and lovely calls to her nearest and dearest, we finally pushed the coupe around the corner. I know pre-bed gifts was a bad idea. Honestly, judging from her reaction last night and this morning, we could have given her 8 hours to play with it and she would still have been sobbing the most desperate tears into my shoulder, “Daddy, Truck!” She cried all through the disrobing, all through her bath, all through pjs. When I sat her down on the sofa (the Coupe stowed out of sight) for books, she sniffled and snuggled up to read Goodnight, Boston as if nothing had ever happened. If the toddler years are any indication of her teen years, we are in for it. How can one go from terrible thunder & lightening to breezy & sunny with birds tweeting instantaneously?

The good news is that she loves her present. The bad news is that she has a hissy anytime we try to get her out of it. The good news is that she is currently employing the “my bones turn to j-ello when I don’t get my way” tactic, which results in her sliding down the coupe and onto the floor, allowing me to simply push it forward and voila! I can’t help but say “That didn’t work out the way you thought it would, did it?” WHICH IS SO EVIL OF ME! The bad news is that she hits her head on the hardwood every time she does it which = more tears. Ah, the life of toddler. The novelty of her coupe will wear off, but we already can’t wait for the Spring thaw to set our girl and her new ride loose in the backyard. Until then she’ll be cruising the dining room and yelling at Reese to “get away, my truck.”

The only car she will ever get on her birthday

Happy Second Birthday Caro

It's been a year.

.. we quit nursing, met some beanies and their babies, survived two bouts of parental & one baby flu, traveled to Mexico, held our breath during first steps, suffered many an ear infection, welcomed Julia, TJ, Zachary, Ryan, Nicholas, Amelie & Daniel into the world (Samantha and Ethan too, but we didn't really know them then), saw the worst diaper rash ever in the spring and again in the winter, cheered Auntie k on as she completed her marathon, experienced a home renovation, turned 30, celebrated Auntie C and Hokie's engagement, met some other bloggers (Aimee, Emily, Amanda), witnessed the tentative beginnings of a relationship of any kind between Reese and Caroline, watched a lot of Disney movies, experienced a first and far from relaxing train ride to Boston, watched the amazement of that first ever taste of lobster, heard real words, documented proof that our daughter is indeed a hot bod like her daddy, went to the beach… a lot, introduced her to the "helpah cha," sat in time out, learned about the frenum, embraced the "for me" movement, saw Billy Joel's Last Play at Shea along with many other amazing voices including Sir Paul (I still can't believe it!), made friends with the tiny dictator who apparently now lives in our house, took shelter in our basement during the unconfirmed tornado, caught fireflies, nearly won the peppercini contest during Falmout/MV, saw how easy it really is to lock a baby in the car, attended all but one BC Football game, somehow skirted out of jury duty, accepted forms of protein into the toddler diet, spent a solo night in NYC (yummy Bar Americain, YUMMY), the sucktaculars still sucked, I paid it forward despite some delays, got Caroline dressed up for Halloween and enjoyed her first school parade, watched Caroline walk like a penguin, heard the rumblings of a vicious neighborhood war, successfully completed post a day month, welcomed a Sah-ta obsession, Dulcolax, the sheer joy of a childhood Christmas, our first holiday meal at home, went to Nashville (not the bowl game that Steve is trying to pretend never happened), finally got ourselves to Children's for tubes, set up an under the sea Ariel birthday party, heard spontaneous song from the backseat, met a little dancing fool…

and those are just the highlights. It was a busy, amazing, wonderful year with Caroline.

This year also brought more moments when I was able to just stop and appreciate the moment. The frenetic paced parenting we had become accustomed faded away. I found whole minutes of quiet and enjoyed them over play doh, coloring, giggling, or just snuggling. I got to know Caroline this year. As her personality continues to develop and shine I am often startled with the little lady she is becoming.

My daughter says please and thank you. She knows to hold my hand in parking lots, even if she sometimes pulls away and runs at a full sprint instead. She throws her head back and laughs the most beautiful carefree laugh I have ever heard. She sits quietly and asks me for a blanket so we can snuggle together. She prefers that I "hold you" in the grocery store unless we can find a cart shaped like a truck. She also communicates in multi word phrases now like, "Ice, Slippery, No walk" and can name all her favorite movies; Seepin Booty, Mouse Movie, Ariel, Nemo, Belle, and Penguin. She kisses my forehead when she pretends to put me to sleep. For all the times I watch her scold her dolls, or echo my "yeah. Ok" and groan that I taught her these things, this simple loving gesture reminds me that I am actually providing some positive modeling along this very crooked parenting path.

I sit and gaze at my breathtaking daughter, who is amazing in every way she possibly can be, and I feel so lucky. In a time when it often feels like the world is falling apart, that things can't get much worse for so many, I feel fortunate to have those special escapist moments. Reading "Going on a Bear Hunt" for the 1578th time (complete with can't go over it and can't go under it hand motions she knows by heart) seems to place us into our own little snow globe protected by glass from the perils outside. She is blissfully naïve to the strains on our economy. I can shield her from the atrocities happening everyday around the globe. Naïve as she is, I cannot yet share with her my tearful hope for her future with all the recent happy changes down in the Capital. Life is like that. Can't share the things you want and stow away the things worth hiding. It's all or nothing. So for now I take nothing and enjoy these peaceful moments of her all too quick moving childhood. There are plenty of days ahead for discussing politics, how she feels about social issues, and other adult business that I myself pretend to understand half the time.

My daughter knows nothing of the world beyond the glass shield we have built for her, and yet we allow so many to shake our little world and peer in to watch the snow; the smiles, the joys, and yes, even the tears. This level of sharing is not for the weak, but I find so much enjoyment in this place. I just can’t seem to connect to the “Mommy set” in this town. I struggle with it – like a middle schooler – where do I fit in? I don’t stay at home, I don’t work full-time. I am blessed to have found a good rhythm for our family, but is it just me or are we always walking on egg shells around other Moms? I feel like I am forever trying to connect, to share this amazing and exhausting phase of life that we only get once. I am grateful for this space, to be able to share with anyone who cares to check-in what we have been doing, what we have been worried about, the latest silly thing Caroline said, the massive throwing self on the floor temper tantrum at the library, or just that we’re here – making it work somehow. What I need to remember – is that I don’t need the blog to help me recall the really good stuff.

As I type this we are watching the Super Bowl and like a vortex I can see with absolute clarity that night two years ago when my daughter was just five hours old, laying on Steve as he attempted to watch the game, me videoing from the hospital bed. I wondered aloud then and tonight if this was really, REALLY, real? Daddy's little girl still loves watching football with Steve, only now she adds in "Go" and looks at us asking "No flag?" My husband is doing an amazing job raising a tomboy or at the very least, a dream girl. As amazing I thought it was then, I had no idea how much better it would get as she grows up.

Our daughter is two years old today. She is the light of our family's life, our own little solar system's point of gravity, and as much as we delight sharing her with the world, we'll be celebrating at home tonight just us three. Being a parent isn't everything I thought it would be – it is infinitely more than I ever could have imagined.

limbo rock

Tuesday rolled in and with it came snow (started mid morning here) and early dismissals. No word yet from Caroline’s school, but I was warned at drop off that I might get a call later if the weather gets bad. So there’s that.

I’ve been staring at a blank cursor because it is challenging to not share the other stuff that is happening. So let’s be as vague as possible and say that I submitted an order at a local copy shop to get my resume printed on fancy paper.

I’ve been here before, considering a move, scared out of my gourd for altering the status quo that appears to be working for us, but thrilled at the prospect of something new that MIGHT include benefits along with flexibility, or at the very least not be grant-funded. Being funded by the fed has some pros, but lately mostly cons and I grow worrisome about what will be of this position in October when the funding ends on the current grant I operate under.

I was talking to a dear old friend recently about Limbo. This is where we both seem to be living. We live here, but we imagine a time that we might move “home.” I do x, but if I had my license I could be doing y. I’d like to get my license, but unless I pay for weekly supervision it ain’t gonna happen. We have our amazing Caroline, but our family doesn't yet feel complete. Limbo sucks. I never feel settled. I still drive around town wondering how long we’ll live here, reminding myself occasionally that this is home. I imagine feeling so much more fulfilled with my work life, but also feeling the weight of responsibility pull me away from even going there. I imagine Caroline’s big girl room and that little nursery having a new owner, but am crushed to think that we might have another baby so far from Steve’s family and in this sucktastic economy, with no maternity benefits, and no short-term disability and no promise of a job on the other end. I think I may have just vacated Limbo for GULP.

My biggest concern at this moment is how to appear formal enough for a lunchtime meeting tomorrow without raising eyebrows around these parts. I might need to do some fancy restyling in the car en route. Mom, I am thinking of that amazing houndstooth skirt, a plum turtle and a jacket! Other Ideas?

Watching the super bowl alternating between "get em" and "go" also
initiating a game of duck duck goose by tagging Steve "duck" and me
"not duck"