Isabella's First Halloween

Happy Halloween from Isabella! We received an adorable pumpkin costume as a gift when she was born, plus, I couldn't resist getting her a ladybug costume as well. We're headed here for a toddler Halloween party this morning with my friend Marie and her son (and yes, I know she's neither a toddler, nor does she understand in the slightest the concept of Halloween, but mommy wants to see the new museum, and so we're going!). Then, we're headed to her grandma's and aunt's houses for trick-or-treating. What are ya'll up to today?

I am scary and terrifying, and trick-or-treaters will drop to their knees in terror upon seeing this face. Look away now, before my face turns you into a pillar of salt.

Send candy now! Please?

La Cuca Rocha! La Cuca Rocha! La-La-La-La-La-La-La!

What do you mean I bug my eyes out every time the flash goes off? I honestly have no idea what you're talking about.

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

Ramona's prize from the Pumpkin Pay It Forward contest is speeding its way to Canada as I write this. Having never made this particular recipe before, I was interested in how it would turn out. The cake was dense, moist, and very flavorful, as any good pound cake should be. And although it called for a full 15oz can of pumpkin, the taste wasn't overly "pumpkiny." I know this because I figured the easiest way to pack and ship the cake was by cutting it up into slices. And, as luck would have it, that last slice? Didn't fit. Darn it! So, into my mouth it went. Hope you don't mind, Ramona! Consider it quality control. I wouldn't want my friend to bite into an inferior product that might possibly cause her gastric distress. I know, you don't have to thank me. That's just the kind of gal I am.

Here's the recipe for those who want to give this one a whirl.

3 cups flour
1 TBS ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups unsalted buttered, softened
2 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 15oz can pumpkin

2 TBS unsalted softened butter
3oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 TBS heavy whipping cream


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, 2 tsp cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

3. In a large bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups butter and sugar at medium speed until light ad fluffy. Add eggs two at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in pumpkin and 1 tsp vanilla until well blended. Slowly add flour mixture, beating until incorporated. Spoon batter into pan.

4. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until cake is a deep golden brown. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert cake on rack and cool completely.

5. In a large bowl, beat 2 tsp butter, cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and 3/4 tsp cinnamon at low speed for one minute or until blended. Slowly beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in crem cheese until you achieve desired consistency. Pour glaze over cake, and let stand until glaze is set.

And the Winner Is...

The votes are in for the Pumpkin Pay It Forward contest. The name of the winner has been drawn. And I cast the deciding vote as to which dessert I'll make this weekend, as two of our pumpkin possibilities tied with three votes each. Let's get started.

First, I wrote all your names on an individual sheet of paper.

Then, I folded them up, and placed them ever-so-gently in Isabella's trick-or-treat bag.

And a winner was drawn. So, without further ado, our winner is...


Congratulations, Ramona! To receive your prize, all you need to do is email your address to me at shish76 at aol dot com. And it just so happens that the treat you voted for is the one that won.

Here's how it happened. We had a tie. The votes were broken down as follows:

1 vote for pumpkin banana bread

2 votes for pumpkin spice muffins

3 votes for pumpkin pound cake

3 votes for pumpkin gooey butter cakes

So pumpkin pound cake and pumpkin gooey butter cakes tied with three votes a piece. Now, given that this treat is going to be shipped, I figured something with "gooey" in its title might not make it intact to its final destination (as some of you live in other countries, and some of you live waaaay on the other side of the U.S. from me). So, I made the executive decision to select Pumpkin Pound Cake as our winner. But, because it didn't actually win (in the strict interpretation of the word), I will at some point in the near future make the pumpkin gooey butter cakes, and post its recipe and pictures on this blog. That way you can all lick your computer screens, and it will be almost as if you were with me in my kitchen. Capice?

Thank you so much, everyone, for participating in the contest. I think this was a lot of fun! And Congrats to Ramona on winning! I'm going to make the pumpkin pound cake today, so as soon as I have your address, I'll send it on its way.

Oh, and if you want the recipes for any of the other pumpkin treats (I'll post the recipe and pictures of the pumpkin pound cake tomorrow), just let me know and I'll send them to you.

The Pumpkin Pay It Forward Contest

The fall is my favorite time of year. I live in a neighborhood of old houses full of mature trees, and the color they're showing right now is gorgeous. I love the cool days (after the horrifically hot summer I suffered through while hauling around the person formally known as Beastie), and the even cooler nights. We have a fireplace, so fall also means wood fires, sweater-weather, and of course, Halloween. Speaking of which, you long-time readers of this blog will not have a hard time figuring out what Isabella is going as for the holiday. Any guesses?

But my favorite part of fall is that for me, it's baking season! Now, I can't cook myself out of a cardboard box, but I like to think that I'm a pretty decent baker. And for the past seven years or so, I've provided all the desserts for my family's Thanksgiving dinner, most of which turned out pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. And my favorite spices always play a central part in my fall baking: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice.

My all-time favorite fall treats are those made with pumpkin. I love anything with pumpkin in it, really. And in an effort to get back in the baking saddle, I'm going to make a pumpkin treat of some kind this weekend. Here's where you come in.

Given that I have a limited amount of baking time, and a virtually unlimited supply of pumpkin recipes that I want to try, I'd like you to cast your vote for the treat you think I should make this weekend. I'll post the names and brief descriptions of the recipes I want to try here, and you respond in the comments section with which one you think I should make. The treat that gets the most votes is the one I'll make this weekend. Then, I'll put all the names of those who responded with their vote (regardless of which pumpkin treat you chose) in a hat, and draw out one winner. That person will receive in the mail the pumpkin treat I end up making. Post your vote no later than 8am EST Saturday morning in order to be eligible.

So see? It's a win-win. You help me decide what to do with my baking time, and spare me from eating my weight in whatever treat happens to win (because believe me, it will happen, and dammit, those Citizens jeans are going to button by Christmas if I have to shoe horn myself into them), and you, my fabulous readers, get to receive some yummy pumpkin goodness of your very own.

Now, for the "pay it forward" part. All I ask of the winner is that you hold a similar contest on your own blog (if you want). I know not everyone here is a baker. I get that. So if you're the winner and you don't bake, you don't have to participate, and I'll still respect you in the morning. But if you want to do it, that's great! And you could even choose a different "fall flavor" for your baking pay it forward adventure. Say apples, or brown sugar, or even chocolate. And if you want to continue the pumpkin theme, but don't have have enough recipes, let me know. I can supply you with as many as you want from my ample stash.

So, without further ado, let's welcome our contestants:

Pumpkin Cookies: I've made these before. A soft cookie with butterscotch chips in them. Yum!

Pumpkin Pie Bars: Pumpkin goodness on the bottom, and cream cheese and pumpkin mixed together on top. Check out the recipe here.

Pumpkin Scones: I've made these before too, with great success. The recipe comes from here.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting: Another yummy recipe from Joy of Baking.

Pumpkin Pound Cake with Cinnamon Glaze: Pumpkin. Pound Cake. Cinnamon. Enough said.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins: One cup of wheat flour makes this recipe sort of healthy, right?

Cinnamon Pumpkin Bars: This is a Cooking Light recipe. Only 114 calories per bar!

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cakes: This is a Paula Deen recipe, so you know it has to be good.

Pumpkin Banana Bread: I made this one before, and it's a Cooking Light recipe.

Okay, so go ahead. Tell me what to make!

Lessons Learned

When you're a person without children, your time is your own. From the moment you get up in the morning to the second your head hits the pillow for a full and glorious night's sleep in the evening, your choices dictate that day's events. Sure, you have to go to work to pay your bills, so you don't exactly make that choice. And everyone has certain daily obligations they have to meet. But those other 13 or so hours? Those are yours. Want to take a walk in the crisp fall air during your lunch hour on a Tuesday? Go for it. Watch two hours of reality tv uninterrupted on a Thursday night? Sure. Hit the gym for a yoga class on Saturday morning? Why not? And the only person you have to consult is your significant other, if you have one. And generally, you won't find a problem there, because he or she is likely doing the exact same thing.

Such was my life prior to August 22, 2006. And what a fabulous life it was, because ultimately, I am a very selfish person. I like my "me" time. I like deciding what I want to do and when I want to do it without input from others. Including Rich.

It's ironic, then, how incompatible I am with the core tenets of motherhood: selflessness and sacrifice.

Being Isabella's mom is the single most fulfilling thing I have ever done in my 30 years. Nothing even comes close, and nothing I've ever done has made me happier. And I would do anything to be able to devote myself to her full-time, which is something I never thought I would want. My love for her is so complete, that nothing even comes close. I am incredibly lucky to have her, against all odds. I know this much is true.

But I wouldn't be honest with myself if I said I had given up this former life without thinking back fondly, at times, of what it used to be like.

Because now, it seems, I have very little free time. At all.

In those all-too-brief moments when the little darling is napping, a million ideas as to what I should do with this "free" time immediately enter my head. I should remove the 15 inches of cat hair accumulating on the living room floor before that hair joins forces with the hair on the other floors of the house and suddenly I have a fourth cat. No, I should change the very rank sheets on our bed. Scratch that, I should sterilize my pump parts, or try to get in a daytime pumping session to keep up my milk supply. No, I should throw in a load of laundry. Or pick up her toys. Or spend some time petting my cats, whom I've been sorely neglecting. No, I should shower, because really, I stink.

And then, of course, there are thoughts of the things I want to do with the time. Maybe I'll work on Ella's baby book, which I haven't touched since just after she was born. Or get started on her photo albums. Forget it, I want to blog on one of the 15 posts I keep composing in my head. No, I miss baking, so I'll make something with pumpkin in it. Or take a bath. Or hit the treadmill. Or read the newspaper from five days ago.

But of course, by the time I've chosen one of these tasks, she's awake. And she needs to be changed. Or fed. Or walked around the house because she's fussy. Or played with. Or bathed. And my plan on what to do during her napping time? Scrapped. Again. And my husband sometimes wonders what it is I do all day long.

So the number one lesson in being Isabella's mom has taught me is this: selflessness. My time isn't my own anymore. I can't come down to breakfast at 8:00am on a Saturday, grab my coffee and read the paper for the next hour, as I used to do in the pre-Ella era. And even if I could run the five miles a day I used to run before becoming pregnant, I certainly don't have the hour to devote to that kind of run now. I can't up and bake a pumpkin cheesecake at 3pm on a Sunday, or write five to six blog posts a week, as I used to, either.

I won't lie and say that I'm giving up my former life without a second thought as to what I'm missing. That I'm some sacrificial super-mom martyr, who doesn't at times pray silently into her pillow in the middle of the night that Isabella will suddenly stop screeching because she's hungry, develop the ability to walk, and hit the fridge to grab herself a bottle. Or that her 45 minute naps would just last five minutes longer so I could finish my bowl of cereal. Or my shower. Or blowdrying my hair.

But being a mother is ultimately about selflessness and I believe you can't be a good one without it. Your time isn't your own anymore. If you're breastfeeding, in many ways your body isn't your own anymore either. And that carefully crafted life you constructed for yourself before she was born? Well, let's just hope it has a long shelf-life, because it's going to be sitting untouched for awhile. And if you blog, the Save As Draft button and you quickly become intimate friends. It's taken me awhile, but I'm finally beginning to reconcile all of this in my head.

Isabella is teaching me the fine art of selflessness and the even harder-to-attain art of patience, two characteristics which formulated the very antithesis of the Kristi of just two months ago. They're a work-in-progress, but I'm on my way. She's the center of my universe, truly, and I can't wait to see what other lessons she has to impart.

Now if only I could teach her the importance of remaining silent during McDreamy time. I think in a few years, she'll understand where mommy was coming from with this one.


I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.

-Gloria Steinem

It's always been my belief that feminism is about a woman having a choice. A choice about what medical procedures to have performed on her body. A choice about whether to have a family, or to remain child-free. And a choice to return to work upon having that family, or to become a stay-at-home mother, or some variation of it.

Regarding the later, I always envisioned myself in the "have baby, return to work" category of feminist. I believed it was imperative for me not to "waste" my brains and education staying at home with my child. I thought the only way I could be a decent mother to my children was to live in the adult world during the day, and return home at night ready to immerse myself in the very different, although equally fulfilling, world of my baby. I thought I would go stir-crazy staying at home with only a child to talk to all day long. And while I believed that being a stay-at-home mom was the hardest job in the world, and a completely worthwhile one (my mom, aunt, and grandma were all SAHMs), the job wasn't for me.

And then Isabella arrived.

I'm now firmly entrenched in the other camp. There's now nothing I want more in this world than to "stay at home" with my baby.

Those of you who know me in real life might be shocked by this. Some of you may even be disappointed. All I can say is this. Having Isabella has completely changed my outlook on what's important in life. Right now, what's important to me is raising her and giving her the kind of unique childhood I was given (minus the parental unit divorce at age two). I was surrounded by family love and support on a daily basis. I was introduced to books at a very early age, which led me to begin reading at two and half years old. My mom took me and my sister to museums. To libraries. To children's theatre. She devoted herself to us in a way I've only recently begun to realize. I want to give Isabella that kind of focus, love, and attention. And I'm not sure I can do that while working full time. And the thought of this has been been killing me the last few weeks.

The reality of my work situation is this. I need to bring in money. I cannot be a full-time SAHM, and I probably wouldn't want that exact situation anyway. My ideal scenario is to work as a freelancer (and since I'm a writer by profession, this is entirely possible). I'm scheduled to "return" to work on December 4th. If my manager still agrees to the plan he approved, I'll work from home for the entire month of December, and then beginning in January, I'll spend one day working in the office, and the other four at home. I know this may seem an ideal scenario. I know this makes me lucky, as so many other mothers don't have this opportunity.

But my problem is this: the thought of having to park Isabella in her swing, or pack-n-play, or crib for hours everyday and hope that she entertains herself while I work for eight or nine hours is horrible. I want to play with her. Teach her. Spend time helping her brain to grow and thrive. How can I possibly do this while simultaneously working? She's so young and needy still. I know she needs me. How can I deny her the person she most needs in the world right now?

When she's older, it will be different. She'll have a predictable napping schedule. She'll be able to play on her own, and I'll be able to work when she does. But the truth of the matter is this. I don't want to work for a company anymore. I want to be my own boss, and work the hours of my choice, and not someone else's. I want to bring in the money I need to for our budget, but I want to do it on my time, so that Isabella can benefit from the flexibility. I'm doing everything I can right now to make this a possibility. Every sacrifice, financial, career, or otherwise is worth it, because she is worth it.

Because when you're looking at the face that I'm looking at all day, every day, how can you not want to devote yourself to her completely?

My Take on the Foley Scandel

As everyone in the U.S. is probably aware by now, former House Representative Mark Foley has been accused of sending sexuality explicit instant messages and emails to young, male Congressional pages.

Once the news broke and he was fired, instead of retreating quietly out of the public limelight, Foley comes out with a litany of excuses for his behavior. He's an alcoholic. He suffers from mental illness. And, oh yeah, he's also gay.

And herein lies my problem. The equating of pedophiles with gay men is an issue the gay community has been battling for years. So many people still equate homosexuality with deviant sexual behavior, and beyond that, with with sexual abuse of young boys that "gay" is practically synonomous with "child predator" in many parts of this country. Gay people are seen as "other" by the red staters. They lead "alternative lifestyles" and want such radical things as the right to marry their partners and equal protection under the law. And hell, one of the pivotal issues on the ballots across the U.S. in 2004 was whether or not to grant gay men and women the right to marry. It's a hotly charged political and social issue. And Mark Foley knew this.

So while his ship was sinking, and the door slamming shut on his political career, he takes the opportunity to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre. He essentially said, "I did what I did not only because I'm mentally ill and abuse alcohol, but because I'm gay as well." Nevermind that pedophilia is not about sex, but about power and control. Nevermind that pedophiles are overwhelmingly straight males who do not discriminate in choosing their victims between boys and girls. And nevermind that the timing of his coming out party coincided directly with an investigation into his email and IM interactions with Congressional pages. Purely coincidental, as I'm sure he was just about to come out anyway.

And now we have the braintrust of Pat Robertson, he of the beliefs that God wanted W elected in 2004, that the feminist agenda encourages women to leave their husbands, practice witchcraft, and become lesbians, and that God sent hurricanes to Florida as retribution for a gay pride parade, saying that Republicans should respond to the Foley scandal by saying, "Well, this man's gay, he does what gay people do, and so don't worry about it." Oh yes, my friends, he actually said this.

And so my question is this: What do gay Republicans (and especially gay Republican Representatives and Senators, most of whom are closeted) think of Foley equating who they are with predatory behavior toward teenage boys? And what about the Log Cabin Republicans, that group of gay men and women, who for reasons unknown to me, align themselves with the political party that hates them. I wonder what they think of what Foley did, and of what Robertson, who is also a member of their party, said about being gay.

The ongoing link between pedophilia and homosexuality needs to end. Now. Its ridiculous. It's hateful. And most of all, it is completely, 100% based on inaccuracy. You know. Much like the Bush presidency.

Why Isabella Hates My PDA

Last week I finally got my hair cut, after having gone months and months without so much as a trim. You'll be pleased to know I no longer look like a bushwoman. My stylist, whom I absolutely adore because he works miracles with my pathetically limp, thin, and brittle hair, was telling me about the latest cruise he's going on later this month. Having never gone on a cruise before, I asked him what it was he liked so much about cruising (in a ship, people. Keep your minds out of the gutter). He said he loves the fact that you can have access to so many restaurants, bars, stores, etc. all without leaving the confines of the boat. He loves the relaxed atmosphere. Everyone is always in a good mood. And then he mentioned how much he enjoys the schedule that arrives like clockwork under his cabin door every morning, which announces the time of the special events of the day onboard the ship, the drink specials at the bar, and any excursions planned for the ports the boat would dock at that day, so that cruisers can plan their day accordingly.

I am trying to find a way to force Isabella to do me a similar courtesy.

Let it be known that I most often thrive on predictability. Spontaneity and I? Usually, we don't get along. I schedule vacation itineraries down to the nanosecond, much to the absolute delight of my husband (except not). I start planning Christmas and birthday gifts for people months in advance. I make lists and check tasks off as I accomplish them. I like to know where I'm going and what I'm doing on any given day at least 24 hours in advance, and more if possible. Can you see how a six week old baby's unpredictability could drive me slightly to moderately insane?

Most days, Isabella takes a morning nap around 10am. However, some days she doesn't. Sometimes she's interested in nursing on the every two-to-three hour schedule I've set up for her, and sometimes I feel like I'm attempting to rise Lazarus from the dead to get her to eat. And sometimes she's awake for hours on end and as pleasant as punch, and sometimes she's a demon child hell bent on forcing her mother to pull out her already thin (although freshly cut!) hair one strand at a time.

I know I'm being ridiculous, because in talking with friends with babies, no one had established a schedule for their child at Isabella's age. But just imagine how nice it would be for me to take her to her changing table to put on her first fresh diaper of the morning and find the following schedule laying beneath her (always clean and fresh!) little cheeks:

7:00am-7:40am Nurse me, mom, I'm hungry, after sleeping through the entire night so you don't resemble a creature from Night of the Living Dead.

7:40am-8:30am Nap time! Go ahead and shower and get ready for the day, mom. I promise I won't awake screaming so that it's 1 o'clock before you find your three-quarters full yogurt container from breakfast sitting on the bathroom counter.

8:30am-10:30am Play time. I'll be a sweet little darling as we play my favorite games, including looking at lights and playing with my floormat jungle toy, two of my favorites.

10:30am-11:30am Feed me, Seymour. And no thrashing from gas, or falling asleep on the job. Straight nursing, mom, without the bullshit.

11:30am-2:00pm Afternoon naptime. Go ahead, mom. Finish those thank you notes before my 5th birthday. Cut the cats' nails, each of which is likely wrapped three times around its associated paw right now, it's been so long since they've been cut.

2:00pm-4:00pm Take me out for a walk. I'll stay awake for awhile, which gives you enough time to show me off to the neighbors. And when I get home, I promise I won't scream once the motion of the stroller jolts me back to consciousness.

4:00-4:10pm Daddy's home! And just for you, mom, I saved my most lethal "deposits" just for him.

Well, a girl can dream right?

PS: Stay tuned for a post coming soon that has nothing to do with motherhood. It was never my intention to turn this into a mommyblog, however I've realized all my most recent posts are about just that! I'll give you a hint on the topic: politics, baby! One of my favorites.

Quick Snapshot:

  • 34-year-old writer and
    mother to a daughter
    born in August 2006 following
    IVF and girl/boy twins born in October 2008 following FET. Come along as I document the search for my lost intellect. It's a bumpy ride. Consider yourself warned.

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