Over the past 12 months, I started cooking for the first time in my adult life. (Okay, so technically it's for Isabella and not for the hubs and me, but baby steps, people, baby steps!) I parlayed my new hobby into a new baby/toddler food blog, Mush, which I started along with Pru. (I need to devote more attention to it, but I'm getting ahead of myself.) I survived my first year of motherhood, largely intact. And then a month later, I quit my job to start freelancing.
Long-term goals are too much for me to handle right now. I would love to start training for a half-marathon, bake my own bread as I used to, and pick up my long-neglected knitting needles, but I know I have too much on my plate to make these my goals for 2008.
So, I've stolen Melissa's idea to set small monthly goals that I can actually accomplish.
Here are my goals for January of 2008.
1. Create a writing schedule.
January looks like it will be a very busy month of work. Granted, much of it is contract writing for my business clients, which isn't something I want to do forever, but in the freelance world, I've learned it's best to take all the jobs you can get, because you never know when the well of work will dry up. There are a few possible writing opportunities that are more in-line with the kind of writing I want to do (essays and features for magazines and newspapers), so I have my fingers crossed that these will materialize.
In the meantime, though, I desperately need to create a writing schedule. I thrive on predictability and order, and right now, I work in short spurts when Isabella is occupied, napping, when the hubs gets home from work, and after she's in bed. I need to craft a schedule that allows time for my client writing, but more importantly, for the queries and research for magazine articles.
2. Clean and organize my desk, and maintain it once I've finished.
I've never had a tidy desk. For the 10 years I worked in an office, my workspace was always a jumble of papers, pens, notebooks, and empty file organizers (I had the tools and the desire to create an organized desk, but not the drive to do so). However, I knew where everything was, and could produce the desired document or folder in a moment's notice.
Unfortunately, the same is true for my desk here at home, and it has begun to cause me added stress in the last few months. I clean it every few weeks, but the piles of papers, magazines, and sticky notes of reminders and lists emerge a few days later. I will clean and organize it before the month is up, and I WILL keep it clean and organized.
3. Start running before Isabella wakes up.
Before I became pregnant with Isabella, I ran 30 miles a week (5 miles a day, 6 days a week), mostly after work, but sometimes in the morning. Since her birth, however, my weekly runs are more in the neighborhood of 20-25 miles a week, and since she gave up her morning nap, I've had to run when I put her down at 1pm. Running 3 or so miles a day on weekdays cuts into my work time, and since her naps are ridiculously short anyway, I need to focus my attention purely on writing while she sleeps. So, I plan to start arising early, before she gets up, and hitting the treadmill then, so I can have at least 1.5 hours (and sometimes less) to work while she naps.
4. Write my first query.
I've been bouncing around in my head many ideas for my first foray into writing for publication over the past few months or so. I've scribbled down some notes and ideas, and I've started a little research. But this is as far as I've progressed. Yes, it's due to lack of time, but it's also due to abject fear of entering the wickedly competitive world of writing for magazines. I think I've finally narrowed down my topic ideas, and have selected one I need to run with. It's time to start the terrifying task of writing the query, which can take almost as long as writing the article itself.
5. Post more frequently on Mush
I started Mush along with Pru to help other moms (and dads) prepare nutritious and homemade food for their babies and toddlers. I made all of Isabella's baby food when she was younger, and even though she's on table food now, I haven't stopped introducing her to new and varied foods whenever possible. Granted, most of my efforts as of late end up lining my ceiling instead of her tummy, but I'm confident her new fussiness is a phase she'll pass through (please?).
I haven't posted anything there in awhile, and I must admit, my failures to tempt even a nibble out of my culinary endeavors from Her Royal PissyPants is partly to blame. How can I post a recipe my own baby won't touch? But I've realized that tastes in food are subjective, and something Isabella may loathe might be the cat's pajamas to another baby out there, so I plan on posting recipes to Mush more often. I'll mention any new posts to Mush on this blog, in case anyone is interested.
So there you have it. I've posted my goals here so I can better hold myself to achieving them. Public accountability is a beautiful thing.
Happy New Year! And please share a goal for the new year, if you wish.
Her motor skills are improving too. Isabella can now open her wallet, take the lids off of boxes and containers, etc., instead of handing them over to me to open. And she's attempting to snap her fingers, which is pretty funny to watch.
When I rock her before putting her down to sleep for the night, she's started taking my head in her hands, saying, "Mama," and giving me a kiss, which always melts this mama's cold heart, even when we've had the worst of days. She's also picked up the word "wow!" and each time we've switched on the Christmas tree's lights this month, she'll say it.
And, in addition to her two top teeth, which are almost completely descended, the two bottom ones have just broken the skin. So far, she seems to have few teething problems.
Has anyone seen my baby? Because this little girl just cannot be her.
We've been to my grandma's house twice in two days (for Christmas dinner and Christmas dinner II-in our family, it's "Go Big Or Stay Home" in terms of food preparation, so every major holiday meal nets enough in leftovers to feed the same 18 people a full meal the next day as well), and we kiss our daughter goodbye the second we step through the door, as she's whisked away by a family member, only to emerge when it's time to go home. To say Isabella had a wonderful and gift-laden Christmas is to put it mildly. She is a very lucky little girl.
Here are some highlights from the past five days.
When Christmas morning arrived, auntie Karrie arose early to open presents with her niece. Here, Isabella opens a package of vegetables from her vegetarian auntie.
While she won't touch real vegetables with a ten-foot pole when they're on her highchair tray, she's enjoying playing with her fake ones in her new kitchen from her grandma. Green pepper and hot dog soup, anyone?
Fashionista auntie Karrie also hooked up Isabella with this super-fly bomber hat, for when she starts taking flying lessons in the spring.
It was a very musical Christmas in my house, courtesy of my grandma, who bought Isabella this collection of charming stuffed toys, each of which plays a little jingle that's pleasant the first four times your daughter presses the button to turn it on, and wrist-slittingly annoying the next 10,234.
And finally, it's worth mentioning that Isabella has a new BFF, and his name Duj. Isabella is a little wary around males these days, but my sister's boyfriend Jud has captured her heart, as she spent the four days they stayed with us calling his name (albeit backwards) and seeking out his attention whenever he was around.
I will be making the family rounds for the next few days, visiting various relatives and eating too many Christmas cookies, so I won't have much time to blog. Ah, the joys of divorced parents and in-laws.
I hope your holidays bring you cheer and at least one really good present. That is what the season is all about anyway, right? ;)
I'll be back shortly after Christmas. Until then, happy holidays!
My friends, I rocked that thing.
It was 1982. I was six years old, and absolutely infatuated with the feminized version of the yellow dot-chomping computerized circle. My grandma would take me to the mall. I would hit the children's play area and jump on these gigantic blocks made of sponge and foam (imagine the injury-related lawsuits if this type of play area existed today), and then we'd visit the arcade, conveniently located right next to the sponges.
Grandma would feed me quarter after quarter, and I would spend many a glassy-eyed hour honing my mad Ms. Pac-Man skillz.
I hit the pinnacle of my gaming career when I achieved the high score on the machine. When I was close to beating the previous high score, the teenage boy lined up behind me waiting to play gathered his friends around to watch the kindergartner kick Ms. Pac-Man's ass. They were agog and agape. I was oblivious. It was just me, the joystick, and my unrelenting resolve to have my name appear on the card taped to the upper-left corner of the machine. And it did. I was beaming (and my grandma and those boys were stunned) as I informed the arcade attendant of my feat.
After that, my obsession with Ms. Pac-Man waned. I had peaked too early, and as such Ms. Pac-Man was eventually replaced by my best friend's Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers.
And then my friend got a Game Boy and Tetris. And a love like no other was born.
I spent many weekends sleeping over her house. We would take turns using the Game Boy, and whenever it was my turn, I always played Tetris.
There's something about the game of Tetris that suits my Type A tendencies perfectly, although I didn't have the self-awareness then that I have now. Turning the blocks so they fit together in the best possible way (a haphazard approach to block organization is a failed approach) led to immense satisfaction each time I cleared a line.
Once I hit 13 or 14, Tetris lost its allure. Suddenly, my friend and I were spending more time calling boys and hanging up when they answered than burning the midnight oil with the Game Boy.
I hadn't played Tetris in years.
One night last week, my husband brought this home, a Christmas gift from a friend.
And suddenly, I am 12 years old all over again.
We both share the same baby-fine hair. On her, it's cute. On me, not so much.
We both love books. I prefer to read them, and she still likes to lick them, but never mind.
And she and I share what I call conviction, and what my husband calls unflinching willfulness.
What we apparently do not share is my childhood affinity for the fat man in the red suit.
Here's me at almost 9 months old, pleased as all get-out to be sitting on Santa's lap all by myself. Look! I'm even clapping my hands. By all appearances, I am having a grand old time. (Although Santa looks as if rigor mortis has set in.)
And here's Isabella, at almost 16 months old. I turned her body around to sit on Santa's lap. She clung to me like Posh Spice to the Stairmaster and wouldn't let go. Santa then requested that I sit on his lap with Isabella (creepy!) to see if things got any better (they didn't), and the hubs snapped this keepsake photo for next year's Christmas card.
(Thanks for all your advice and insight into The Great Vegetable Debate of 2007. I've decided that hidden vegetables (as long as they're sneaked into healthy foods and not crap food) are better than no vegetables, so let the subterfuge begin.)
The basic premise of the book is that in order to get kids to eat vegetables, you puree them and "hide" them in the foods they like. They'll (presumably) never know there's cauliflower in their mozzarella sticks or spinach in their brownies.
Rather than run out and buy it, I decided to place a hold on it at my library so I could decide if it was worth the money. That was back in October. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea, but my ship finally came in last week.
The book is beautifully presented. It has full-page color photos of the recipes, which I always enjoy in a cookbook. And her program sounds both beneficial and easy to implement. Kids get the nutrients they otherwise wouldn't get from the vegetables they won't touch in their traditional state, and all the adults have to do is make some big batches of purees, freeze them, and then stick them in some of their kids' favorite foods. Mom's happy. Kids are healthier and happier. Everyone wins, right?
And then I read a review of the book in my local newspaper, and I started to question the merits of the program. Is hiding vegetables in kid-friendly food teaching children good eating habits? If they loathe vegetables at age 4, and you hide butternut squash in their macaroni and cheese and carrots in their hamburgers, are you to assume they'll suddenly start loving these vegetables at age 10? If you're burying vegetables in your kids' foods, presumably they aren't also making an appearance in non-pureed form on their plates, so how will children ever learn to give them a try?
I'm undecided as to whether or not to give the methods in this book a shot. On the surface, they seem to run counter to everything I've been doing with Isabella to this point. I serve her vegetables with both lunch and dinner. If she refuses to eat a certain veggie once, I try again the next day, and the next, and the one after that, as it can often take up to 10 tries for a child to accept a new food. And up until about a week ago, Isabella was a fantastic eater. I was the smug mommy whose child ate anything and everything I put in front of her, and I credited myself and my approach to feeding her for this success.
Since last week, though, all hell has broken loose in the highchair, and my daughter is now refusing to eat 98% of the vegetables she once loved. And now I'm torn. Baby cannot live on cheese and Cheerios alone, and these days, that's all she seems to want to eat. Do I stick some pureed sweet potato in her grilled cheese? Do I bake her a batch of angel food cupcakes with yellow squash lurking inside?
Would following this book's program turn back the clock on all my hard work to this point?
Please share your thoughts on my vegetable dilemma.
This column has me thinking about my own "shoe policy."
The author writes that asking guests to remove their shoes before entering your home is rude, even if you're offering slippers or socks in place of their footwear. Not wanting them to track in dirt and germs or scuff your tile isn't a good enough reason for a "no shoes, please" policy, and further sends the message to your friends and family that your possessions are more important to you than they are.
Much like Carrie Bradshaw, the author believes that shoes are meant to be worn and shown off, and that if you do wish guests to remove their shoes, compliance with your policy should be voluntary.
I hadn't given the idea of a "shoe policy" being a personal affront to friends and fashion until I read this column. Perhaps it's because I live in a climate where the weather is so erratic and often produces some very messy conditions, but when I'm visiting a friend or family member, I always ask about their shoe policy (if I don't already know it) as soon as I walk through the door. I do this only when the weather is nice. When it's not (and that's often here in upstate NY), I remove them without even asking.
I've never thought it rude when I am asked to remove my shoes in someone's home because this is generally something I ask people to do in my own. Call me materialistic or obsessed with cleanliness (which you wouldn't, if you knew me "in real life") but I don't want muddy sneakers on my living room ottoman in the spring, or snow-covered shoes traipsing around my kitchen in the winter. If the conditions outdoors are dry, my guests are welcome to keep their shoes on. But that's not often the case here, at least for 10 months out of the year.
Unlike my very fashion-forward sister, I don't own any shoes I would consider too nice to slip off at the door. It's often the case that the shoes I have on at any given time are chosen more for their proximity to the door than for the way they compliment what I'm wearing. But even so, I respect a person's desire to keep her home and furniture clean more than I do my right to look good while walking in it.
How do you feel about being asked to remove your shoes when visiting someone's home? Do you have a "shoe policy" of your own?
Here's what we've been up to this December.
Once the tree (a Douglas Fir) was selected and in the process of being readied for transport, Isabella decided it was time to get acquainted with the strange white stuff on the ground.
And then there's this, a proud maternal moment for me to be sure, as I realized my daughter approaches life with the same grace and finesse that her mother does.
(I cannot center this video within the post. This bothers me greatly.)
When I first put the dough in front of her, she attempted to eat it. I told her we were going to "make Christmas cookies." Clearly, she heard the word "cookies" and not much else.
And much messy fun commenced.
Push presents are gifts given by men to the women in their lives to commemorate the birth of their children. While a relatively new trend in North America, push presents have a long history in Europe and in India.
Should a new mom receive a push present (beyond the obligatory flowers) after giving birth as a token of her partner's appreciation for the hardships nine months of pregnancy often brings? Or is a push present a frivolous and unnecessary waste of money?
Check out my post on A Writer's Woolgatherings to read my thoughts on push presents.
I once did most of my Christmas shopping on Amazon.
However, they're not getting a dime of my money this holiday season or ever again until they stop selling dog-fighting and cock-fighting materials to criminals.
Animal-fighting is a disgusting, morally reprehensible, and illegal bloodsport. Dogs and gamecocks are bred and trained to fight each other to the brink of death, under the wild encouragement of a crowd who has bet money or drugs on the outcome. The "loser" in the fight, who is usually seriously injured, is often abandoned by his or her owner and left to die a slow and painful death, or the animal is shot to death on the spot.
Dog-fighting is illegal in every state, and is a felony in 48 states (Wyoming and Idaho, get with the program). Cock-fighting is illegal in 48 states, and is a felony in 35.
And yet somehow, Amazon sees fit to continue to sell magazines and DVDs that promote these heinous activities. And they do so in the face of public outrage, the nationwide condemnation of animal fighting, especially in light of the Michael (May He Rot In Jail) Vick scandal, and a lawsuit from The Humane Society of the United States. Amazon's reason? They believe their right to sell such material is considered freedom of speech and is therefore protected by the First Amendment.
As a freelance journalist, I wholeheartedly support the protections of the First Amendment. However, as a life-long animal-lover and animal activist, my reaction to what Amazon is doing couldn't be more visceral.
It's a shame that Amazon, which was once so cutting-edge and progressive, has devolved to a point where it's catering to the lowest common denominator.
I will not allow my money to boost the revenue of a company who profits from animal cruelty. I love my animals too much to allow this to happen.
Please join me in boycotting Amazon until they stop selling animal-fighting materials.
Her interests have advanced a bit in the last 12 months, and while I still think I could get away with delivering her hours of fun on Christmas morning by wrapping an empty box in colorful paper, I was (momentarily) excited about the prospect of picking out a few toys to stash under the tree. Although she's at least a year or two away from really understanding the true meaning of Christmas commercialism, I mean, Christmas spirit, most parents like to see joy on their kids' faces when they open up a present they really like.
So last week, while my great aunt was babysitting Isabella, I went to a large big box toy store (I'm sure you can figure out which one I visited). I was jazzed as I headed into the store, actually. It was the middle of a weekday. The store wasn't crowded. And I had almost an hour to myself. Which is rare. Very, very rare. I planned to pick up just a few toys for Isabella. (I stashed away a few of her unopened birthday presents to give her for Christmas because she received so many.)
Then I walked in, grabbed a cart, and started to stroll through the aisles. My excitement quickly fizzled out. I was completely and totally overwhelmed. Isabella is only 15 months old. She doesn't have any true favorite pastimes yet, unless you count examining belly buttons and undressing herself in the car during Every.Single.Trip, and the store didn't seem to carry toys to cater to either of those. She also still sticks just about everything in her mouth, which makes many, many toys choking hazards. And while I researched* some age-appropriate toys online before I left, the store didn't carry many of the ones I wanted to check out.
So I wandered. I paced. I picked up random toys to examine them in all their plastic glory, and became panicked at the thought of inadvertently buying one laced with lead paint or GHB or crack, or whatever it is so many toys are contaminated with these days.
I didn't understand what would make many of the toys I saw for her age group fun or interesting. Most days, I don't have the mental capacity of a toddler, so I found it really hard to put myself in her shoes and guess as to what she might like. Would she find the bus with the little people passengers a blast or boring? What about the farm animal magnet set? Would she play with it for five minutes and then forget about it?
I did end up with a few things. Among them, I bought her these, because they looked like they'd inspire creativity and I got this because she's all about the animal sounds these days. I plan on getting a few more things online at ebeanstalk.com (thank you, Melissa, for this recommendation!).
While I'm completely inept at selecting toys, books are another story. Shopping for books is familiar and much-loved territory for me, so once I had finished with the toys, I headed over to the bookshelves, and immediately relaxed. I bought her this one, because the illustrations were beautiful. Then I found one of my favorite children's book authors, and bought this book, which will likely end up as her most favorite gift of the season yet.
One final observation about shopping in this particular store. Once Isabella hits about three years old, it's spelled out in black-and-white (or rather pink and blue) in exactly which aisles of the store her mother ought to shop for her. If ever there was doubt as to childhood gender role indoctrination using colors, toy shopping will clear it all up for you. Shopping for a girl? Look for the aisles festooned in pink located in the front of the store. Picking up toys for a boy? You'll find aisles and aisles of blue (and black) fun located just beyond the pink aisles. There was actually a section of the store with a sign reading "Little Mommy" hanging over it, underneath which were baby dolls and accessories in every shade of pink you could imagine. And while I want to raise my daughter to be loving and kind and nurturing, and while I don't mind if she plays with (certain) dolls someday, this display irked me. Is it such a novel idea to market gender-neutral toys?
* My recent online research helped me solve my "how in the hell am I supposed to work with a child crawling up my leg all day?" problem. I'm going to move her into one of these! Or maybe I'll leave her in the house, and I'll move into one. Because seriously? These are cool.