Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Budgets and a few disclaimers. Let's start with the disclaimers.

1. I am going to say some things in this post that might make you think I am a total idiot. At the very least, you might question my/our priorities and think I/we act kind of entitled/spoiled/wasteful. Please don't let these observations keep you from sharing some budgeting tips and tricks. I have talked to you and read your stuff, and I know that lots of you are real life adults who, like, budget and stuff.

2. Even if I claim in some of my ridiculous rants that will follow that I will not cut out X or cannot live without Y, feel free to tell me why life without X and/or Y is great or that cutting out those things is exactly what we should do. I want to hear your real life experiences and learn from your financial voodoo powers.

3. I might cuss because talking about not spending money makes me cuss. Damn it. See?

4. No need to tell me, Sarah, if you are looking to save a few bucks here and there don't buy giant framed glamour shots of yourself, YOU IDIOT. Because, dude? Totally get that. It won't happen again (until Ben loses the beard and my haircut changes).

I mentioned yesterday that we hit up Barnes and Noble for Dave Ramsey's _Total Money Makeover_, and our purchase of the book in hard back for $2.50 more than it cost at Target the previous day (when we declared the price tag too high) is exhibit A in the case of WHY WE NEED A FRIGGIN' BUDGET.

We quickly determined that the book is not exactly for us, mostly because it's really, really creepy. Culty creepy. But I occasionally listen to Dave's radio show, and I am always struck by the callers who make less than grad student wages and own their houses and cars debt-free and tithe 40% of their paychecks and STILL stockpile money in their savings account while watching their retirement fund grow to the millions. You don't have to look at my closet full of Snuggies, Sham Wows, and Magic Bullets to know that "too good to be true" is not a phrase that registers with me.

After reading the book, which is full of the same rags to riches, debt to miser kind of stories (featuring single income families who barely make 5 figures and have like 6 kids), I kind of think these stories ARE true because the strategy is ruthless. Unlike other financial planners who tell you to pay your savings account first and pay your debt from highest to lowest interest, Dave says pour all of your money into the debt pit, and pay your debt from smallest to largest. He advises saving $1000 for true emergencies (and he offers a very sharp definition of emergencies which are NOT things like regular car repairs, spontaneous trips, and outgrown/worn clothes) and then taking all of the rest of your money in your accounts and throwing it at your debt. He calls it a debt snowball-- you pay off your smallest debt first, then you take all the extra money you can scrape together plus the old minimum payment from that bill and roll it onto the next largest debt. Eventually, you have an avalanche of debt relief. And this, my friends, is the best metaphor in the whole book which is full of the very worst allusions and comparisons I have ever read (like diaper rash, which figures prominently as an extended metaphor. Poetry it ain't).

Where do you come up with this extra money? You live like a total pauper and you get some odd jobs (he frequently recommends delivering pizzas). And then, apparently, you get so high on the rush of living debt free that you continue the snowball and pay off your cars, your student loans, your mortgage, etc. That's when the real hoarding fun can begin, and you can squirrel your money away for retirement. "Live like no one else," Dave says," And later, you can live like no one else." He also asks "Aren't you sick and tired of being sick and tired?" and he proclaims, "There was too much month at the end of the money" so many times that I imagine these phrases are chanted by his teeming masses of followers who assemble at his Financial Peace University seminars where they wait in line to weep on Dave's shoulder and thank him for sharing his healing vision with them.

He has this great metaphor about being financially fat and standing in front of the mirror and sucking in your stomach and thinking you're skinny, and as I write the scathing paragraph above, I realize that's where Ben and I are right now-- sucking those credit card receipts in and turning sideways so all we see is nice rack of a balance in our savings account. I know when I whine and say we can't do Dave's plan because there are things we just *can't* give up, I am that idiot he's talking about who thinks I can afford something if I can just afford the payments on it. ("Stop paying for yesterday and live for tomorrow" is another phrase that's bandied about quite a bit.)

Some things we cannot live without according to a brainstorming session we had this weekend? DiorShow mascara (duh), name brand wrinkle cream, nicotine gum, high speed internet, 700 digital cable channels, DVR, Blockbuster online, using iTunes like an all you can eat mp3 buffet, Little Gym, our smart phones. Clearly, we are trimming down to the essentials. **snort**

For us, the credit card comes out when we want to buy something that we feel uncomfortable paying cash for because it costs so much. So stop using the card, right? Only buy things you are happy to afford, right? Riiiiiight. We'll get right on that. (And we have, really. We just have some residual debt that we can't get ahead of and instead of using our extra money to pay it off, we use our extra money to pay cash for even more shit. Which, we understand is a step in the right direction, but only a baby step.)

We're not comfortable halting all savings to snowball our credit card debt, but we DO need a budget that allows us to live comfortably, save money, AND make more aggressive payments in a few areas.

On Saturday, instead of going out to dinner, we went to a local butcher shop that we have been meaning to try for YEARS (and instead of spending $50+ on a restaurant tab for the 4 of us, we spent $8 on sweet corn and burger patties. And another $40 on wine. FAIL). On the way home, we drove through a preshus little neighborhood we've never seen before with tidy old houses, big, shaggy trees, quiet dead end streets and a tiny little park. Petty much the cutest place we could imagine. We wanted to move there RIGHT NOW. Or at least before H goes to kindergarten.

That's what spurred our quest for a money makeover, even though we are stopping short of a Total Money Makeover. Tomorrow night, we're going to curl up with the doctor:

and put together our first ever budget (I know; I know. We're idiots). So please with sugar on it, hit me with your best tips.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall food in the forecast

One morning last week, we stopped at Starbucks before school, and Harry drank hot chocolate looking like a teeny hipster. His hair is so awesome right now-- exactly like Zac Effron's on the cover of the _17 Again_ DVD. Harry told me before bedtime last night, "Remember that time when my hair was getting in my eyes? It's doing that again." So, I think he needs a trim.

Sometime in the last few days, Jack became an actual person who is like all id all the time. There he goes running away from us at Barnes and Noble (where we bought Dave Ramsey's _Total Money Makeover_-- which is the scariest fucking book I have ever read and I'll write more about that later because wow!)

Nothing makes Ben grin more than sharpening knives. Creepy, huh? We made what we hope is a delicious beef stew last night. it is currently slowcooking on the counter and should be delightful tonight.

Pizza from this local chain that promotes other local chains. In addition to a pretty fantastic pie that we just tried for the first time yesterday, the owner sells all his favorite local foods, namely ice cream, kosher donuts, and gas station gyros. The owner is a large man.
Beef stew (beef, broth, flour, peas, carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic, thyme, and a bay leaf. Only we took out the potatoes and added butternut squash, yams, and turnips.)
Grapes (quartered because I am afraid to give the kids whole grapes-- is that weird?)
Turkey breast
Green beans
Pumpkin bread
(I stole the idea for this dinner from Becca and she emailed me her pumpkin bread recipe, so I m super excited. My grandma gave me some slow cooker cook books years ago, and this weekend, Ben and I stumbled upon a turkey breast recipe that only has 5 ingredients, and you just sort of dump 'em all together: turkey breast (duh), a can of whole-berry cranberry sauce, a package of onion soup mix, and 1/2 c, of orange juice. I'll let you know how it goes).
Chicken tacos
Rotini with meatballs
Tossed salad

I am feeling very bloggy lately (probably because I need to do some writing for real, and I am beginning my good old shame spiral), so I hope to talk about budgets and balance this week, so please, get your best tips ready.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lactivist follow up

How cool is this?


I am such an a**hole that I probably deserved to be hit in the eye with the dryer door this morning when it swung open just as I was bending down to retrieve a basket of warm clothes that fell on the floor. I probably deserve the shiner that seems to be developing because I am really such an a**hole.

Last night, I ate my face off while watching the Biggest Loser, like an a**hole. Last night, like an a**hole, I totally lied to Harry about the time, so that we could pick up his ever growing basket of "night night toys" and just put him the eff to bed already because he was so hopped up on frosting from his school's 60th birthday party, we knew a crash was inevitable.

But by far the most a**holish thing I did last night was to NOT get my sick husband any ibuprofen when he woke me up with his frail whimpers at a quarter of 2. I didn't even turn off the fan when I saw his feverish shivers. Instead, I watched through a half-open eye while he stumbled out of bed and wrapped himself up in a bunch of sweaters thinking he was feigning patheticness because a pile of sweaters? Really? Why not a blanket? I asked him if he was okay, not really interested in the answer. He said no, he wasn't okay, actually. He thought he had a fever, and he had a headache, and he couldn't sleep at all. I offered to go downstairs and get him some ibuprofen, but he said no he was okay, he got some sweaters. I thought about leaving my blanket cocoon to get the meds anyway (I've mentioned that we like to sleep in a freezing house, right?) but then I figured screw him and rolled back over.

I didn't really think of feverish Ben again, except briefly at 3:11 when I asked him if he could stop rocking the bed with his chattering teeth and to please breathe in the other direction, so he wouldn't get germs on my pillow. When my alarm went off at 5, I reset it for 6 because I figured it was stupid to go to the gym and leave Ben home alone wit the kids if he was really sick, which I doubted because I never believe him when he says he doesn't feel good. I invariably accuse him of trying to get out of the housework and spend the day badgering him until he gets out of bed and just goes the hell to work.

At some point midmorning, he did throw his wrist to his forehead and offer to go to a hotel. And I almost took him up on it because germs on my pillow? Do not want.

I told him he could be sick for a half day on Saturday, but otherwise, there's no time in our schedule for sick time!

And that is when I realized what an a**hole I actually am, made him some chicken soup and Theraflu, and left him alone. Poor guy.

Ben and Jack on Sunday morning. As you can tell from the stripped bed, Sunday is a busy day and NOT A SICK DAY.

Here's Harry after swim class on Friday. He was soooooooo pissed at me for bringing this frog towel because all of his friends had superhero towels, and nobody else was subjected to the indignity of a towel hood. As if. I guess their moms aren't, you know, a**holes. (But really? Could this towel be cuter? I don't think it could-- but yes, he has superhero towels and Thomas towels that I will bring from now on. Jeez.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I should be cleaning out my fridge right now...

The good news is that the box elder bugs have not invaded our house this year.

The bad news is that we're plagued with bees. They swarm our trees, bushes and flower boxes, and the babysitters have to dart in and out of our house. Ben and Harry are at Menards right now looking for some bee solutions (read: horrible, dangerous chemicals and hopefully beekeeper clothes because that's just funny).

The semester continues to deplete us, so let me just give you a glimpse of our super lazy menu for the week:

It has gotten so overwhelming that when one of us has a late night, the person home with the kids doesn't even pretend like s/he is planning to cook dinner. Also? TJ's frozen stir fry counts for a healthy meal this week. Bummer.

Hey look! Harry and Jack collaborated on their first art project:

The large colred area is Buzz Lightyear, and the smaller Jack-contributed patch is his rocket ship (DUH).
And Jack has taken a heightened interest in grooming himself, which slays me.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oeddie and his brother the daddy's boy

Yesterday as we were rushing to load the car to take Harry to school, he gasped when the garage door opened to reveal swirling leaves. "Mama!" he exclaimed. "There's fall colors on were ground."

He meant "our ground," but he says "were" when he means "our," and this Harryism, along with the occasional "w" sound when he should make an "l" sound, is the last vestige of his baby talk. Soon we will miss "were" the way we miss markies and muffies and mimmens and gaupeen (vacuum) and blablablablabla (banana). We'll remember it like we remember when he called himself "Ha-ee" and when his only words were "this," "that," and "get it." Before we know it, "Dada" will be Dad and "Mama" Mommy, then Mom, then just-drop-me-off-on-this-block-before-my-friends-see-you.

Harry and Ben coached speech last night, so Jack and I hung out at home (where Jack got an unfortunate bang trim in the bath tub just in time for pictures on Saturday). At the end of his milk and Aveeno scented nighttime routine, Jack finished his bottle, brushed his teeth, and told me he didn't want to read another story. Instead of burying his soft head on my shoulder, which is the universal Jack sign for bedtime, especially when it's accompanied by a sweet little "Nigh nigh?," he stared at me expectantly. I stared back at him. He put his fat little wrists together and fanned out his palms. "Dada?" he asked. Dada is on campus with his students, I told him. You'll see him when you wake up. His face crumpled. "Daaaadaaaaaaa," he wailed and was still crying quietly when I tucked him into his crib.

Jack sleeps with Harry's old stuffed Buzz Lightyear doll these days because Harry has another stuffed Buzz Lightyear doll that his grandparents found inexplicably stashed away with Ben's old college stuff. The night Jack discovered Buzz in his crib, he happened to be wearing his new Buzz Lightyear PJ's, and he grabbed the doll, pushed the red button on its chest, and then pushed the red button on his own pajama shirt. He squealed with delight, clasped the doll to his heart, and was still clutching it an hour later when I tucked Harry in.

Harry, I said. Thank you so much for giving Jack your old doll. That was such good sharing. "Yeah," Harry replied barely glancing up from Wow Wow Wubzy. "The paint is coming off his eye, so it doesn't look the same as his other eye, and it creeps me out. So Jack can have it."

Last night after Harry and Ben came home, Harry took a shower and bossed Ben through a complex game of Buzz Lightyear and army men played with the toys he set out for that purpose at 9 o'clock in the morning. Then I took him upstairs to read bedtime stories. After we finished our books, Harry turned to me and said, "When I grow up, I'll be somebody's dad. I think I'll have students like my dad. but I won't take my baby to work. I will call Jamie to watch my baby. But I'll have to use my dad's phone. And I'll need his wallet. Also his car."

What will your dad drive? I asked Harry.

He thought for a minute. "A van," he decided. "And I'll live right by were house, not anyplace far."

Where will Daddy and I live? I asked. In our house that we live in now?

"Vans are big," Harry told me. "But you can live with me in my house. You can be the mother," he said.

Only he didn't say mother. He said "mu-yer," and when he nestled into my arms to finish drinking his milk, I patted his little marshmallow cheek, holding my baby just a moment longer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Apropos of nothing, I'd like to give you some tiny pictures of Jack drinking. They're my dad's from Facebook. Anyone know how I can embiggen? I need my Jack-dration pics full screen.

I have really started to hate the balance metaphor I've been reading so much about lately.

Every women's magazine I subscribe to (which is a lot, and Redbook is my favorite because I am so old and also because I do not subscribe to ladies Home Journal (yet-- I really want to but keep forgetting until I donate my mags to the gym and see all the tattered LHJs on the magazine rack) because if I did, it would be my favorite because of the always repulsive "Can This Marriage Be Saved" column which used to be written by eugenicist Paul Popenoe and makes me want to take the wife by the shoulders, shake her and yell "WHY DO YOU WANT TO SAVE THIS MARRIAGE?) has featured a back-to-school article on balance.

I am supposed to be able to balance my work commitments and my family commitments, and this balance is super easy, they tell me, if only I buy an accordion file to store all my extra crap and hold permission slips and the like, wear flats instead of heels, and start giving myself at home pedicures as a recession concession. Totally! It was the jumble of extra handouts, the stilettos, and all that wasted time at the spa that were holding me back! Now I'll have my forms in on time, won't have to mince my way from car to schoolhouse door, and can finally find that moment of zen hunched over the ledge of my bathtub, foot jammed awkwardly on the wall, boobs and tummy breaking out in hives from being pressed together because I am TOO GODDAMNED OLD TO COMFORTABLY REACH MY GODDAMNED TOES FOR THE TIME IT TAKES TO PUSH BACK 10 SETS OF CUTICLES.

This month's Family Circle or Parents or Parenting-- not sure which-- even tells me I can't take the easy way out when it's bake sale time-- I have to make things from scratch so my kids don't feel like I'm too busy to care about them. My kids who live in 1954, apparently, before moms had jobs, dads participated in school life, and kids had too many allergies to eat homemade baked goods at school.

Anyway, I am in kind of a bad mood today and just feel generally rushed and smushed and out of balance.

But really, Ben and I? We'd have to be contortionists to balance all this shit. Or really, really good jugglers. Either way, too many balls in the air, if you catch my drift.

But I did make this:

And yesterday, Harry and I did this:

Now all I need is some sensible shoes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Delicious zucchini bread recipe

Okay, guys, for realz: how much do you pay for your vanilla? I balked at the $17 price tag @ Whole Foods yesterday, but a lot of my Facebook friends say they pay big bucks for their extract and beans. What about you? Is vanilla something to splurge on?

My mom gave me this recipe for zucchini bread, and it was FANTASTIC, so let me share:
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon (I actually accidentally used cinnamon sugar, so I did 2 t of that and then another t of actual cinnamon when I realized my mistake)
2 t vanilla
1 t salt
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups shredded zucchini
8 1/4 ounces crushed pineapple( drained)

Combine all of this, put it in a 9x5x3 loaf pan and bake at 350 for an hour (my bread was NOWHERE near DONE after an hour, so I turned the heat down to 325 and let it go for another hour-ish. It turned out perfect-- crusty on top and moist inside.)

Sadly, this bread looks super fattening, so I haven't actually had my own piece (but plenty of bites of Harry and Jack's-- in fact, I keep cutting them slightly larger pieces than they want to eat, just so I can snag the crumbs. Damn. I should just suck it up and eat some, huh, before I choke down waaaaay more than a slice without the enjoyment of actually eating it?)

My parents visited this weekend, and we had a blast, but I took almost no pictures on my own camera-- I did use my dad's a little, and so id he. My mom had her camera, too, so wouldn't it be great if they emailed me some pictures??

Jack loved walking into breakfast with his grandma and grandpa.

Swinging, though? Not so much.

Harry modeled Ben's super awesome aviators,

and Jack insisted upon this witch hat from the dollar bins

I had a bit of sticker shock grocery shopping this week. The organic prices at Super Target were so so, and the selection was PATHETIC (good deal on yogurt; a milk special, cheap Annie's brand convenience foods, some plums and oranges that look great), so we also went to Whole Foods, where 3.5 bags of groceries was easily as expensive as 7 bags at the regular store (and we already bought most of our produce at the farmer's market). So, yeah, a little disillusioned, but still making it work.
hot dogs
(this is healthier than it sounds, as there was a ton of veg in the chili, but I forgot to dice green onions to throw on top, which is unfortunate because we bought some seriously monstrous onions this weekend)
Ben has the kids, so he's making turkey sloppy joes
blanched green beans and snow peas w/ dip
apples (because we picked waaaaay too many apples last week)
Chili redux
Take out
Chicken breasts
tossed salad
Cider rubbed pork chops
tossed salad

Look out, though, because next week, we are breaking the slow cooker out of its summer storage. Wow, things are exciting around here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When did lactivists get a bad name?

I was reading Parents at the gym today, and there's a cute little story by a woman (Nicole Caccavo Kear) who went on vacay with her hubs while she was breastfeeding her baby and came home with 50 ounces of frozen breastmilk. She talked about lugging her pump through security, pumping in the airplane bathroom, and going to great lengths to make sure she could store her milk at the proper temperature throughout her vacation.

Cool, right?

Then she said something that raised my hackles. She said as an aside on p.84 "Now I'm not a lactivist or anything (my daughter is well acquainted with the taste of formula), but..."

What's so bad about being a lactivist? Isn't raising the consciousness of fellow passengers badgering her to hurry up in the bathroom a kind of lactivism? Isn't going to such lengths to preserve her milk supply and to integrate nursing into her life while carving out some adult time lactivism? Isn't a commitment to breastfeeding even when it's not convenient lactivism? And if not, can we redefine the term?

And please, I am no stranger to Internet message boards. I understand the vernacular politics of infant feeding, and I am reacting against them.

I'd like "lactivist" to have a positive connotation, and I'd love it if breastfeeding moms would embrace the label and do things like Kear did to make the world easier for moms who want to feed their kids.

Why is this kind of social activism undesirable? And, no, I don't blame the internet crazies who give breastfeeders a bad name. I am always reluctant to blame individual women for social trends (and I think Kear's article is very nice-- she's not the bad guy here at all-- not sure there is a bad guy apart from a culture that supports breastfeeding sort of, in name, if it's governed by creepy Victorian ideas of discretion and keeps the "right" women at home with their kids)

This shrugging off of the lactivist label just reminded me too much of people who say "I'm not a feminist, but" and then go on to fill the "but" with a nicely articulated feminist argument.

I am especially sad that there exists a pressure to discount our commitment to breastfeeding by "admitting" to being a formula feeder. Why does it have to be an all or nothing proposition-- especially in a culture that only grudgingly pretends to support breastfeeding?

Kear's story of pumping under mild adversity is a kind of lactivism-- and the kind of social activism any mom-- or dad, or, um, anyone, really -- could support. Consciousness raising is an important step in any social movement, I think (because, really, I loved the second wavers the best).

Ultimately, the kind of reforms lactivism could make-- better maternity leave, better places for women to pump at work, relaxed social standards about breastfeeding in public, better onsite daycare centers that would let working moms feed their babies, a social re-imagining of the ideal worker as someone intimately connected to the family, someone with a body, someone whose corporeality would also be part of our public consciousness-- would make the world better for everyone, not just moms, dads, and babies, not just breastfeeders, either.
Edited to Add: If all of these reforms happened, I'm not saying that only breastfeeding moms could take timeout of the day to see their kids. Dads could, too, and bottle feeders. The world of work, the public sphere, it would take into account our "private" interest, is all I'm saying.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

His lips are sealed

Coming home from the gym at 10 to 6 this morning, I was treated to a bed full of Buzz Lightyears. Usually, I come home to a bed full of sleeping and about to be henpecked awake husband, so this was a nice surprise for all of us.

I have always been a morning person, but this 5 am crap has to go. Unfortunately, I think it's here to stay because I have no other possible second in my day to exercise, and, truth be told, I am not too keen on the germy gym playroom now that cold and flu season is upon us (and the boys officially have their first back to school cold which they have nicely shared with Ben and me).
Today was another first day of school, so we took more pictures, hoping they might turn out better than yesterday's. But, as you can see, they did not. Also, you can see that the Zac Effron hair is making its debut on the preschool scene.

Ever since I drove away with my camera on top of the car, it's been taking kind of shitty pictures. Also, now that I think about it, I don't think I have a flash anymore. Damn it.

This cart? I yelled at this cart at the bakery when it got stuck between a rack of pre-packaged baked goods and the edge of the cake fridge. (I want a cake fridge at home.) Then I yelled at the old man grocery bagger who said I could not take this cart outside to the parking lot because it didn't fit in the cart return stalls. How am I supposed to get 60 pounds of kid and three boxes of donuts to my car, then? I asked. Are you going to help me? He offered to help me, but I felt like an asshat for yelling at an old man, so I refused, and we struggled our way to the car, me balancing the boxed donuts and Jack and Harry carrying the bag containing the boys' long johns and holding onto Jack's fat leg because I was out of hands.

The donuts were for the Welcome Wagon room at Harry's new school, but he and Jack had a little impromptu long john picnic before we went in.

Harry's been fairly nervous about school. Today, he insisted upon Incredibles underwear, a Superman T-shirt, and his red and blue Ironmen to keep in his cubby. Protected by these superheroes, he didn't cry or cling or even really look over his shoulder at me when I dropped him off. He just washed his chubby hands in the tiny sink inside his classroom and began to very seriously pile PlayMobil people in a Little Tikes minivan (I know because Jack and I spied on him through the courtyard)

Of course they both got baby wipe sponge baths before we went inside.

He came home with cheeks so red they were purple and with sweat soaked hair (that feathers really awesomely over his ears when it's wet), but he remained tight lipped about what he did all day. He responded to all of my questions (even the absurd ones) the same way, with an imperious, "Mama, I am not going to tell you that."

Oh! One more thing! Reading Gina's blog about Bella's first day of school, I forgot to mention that Harry has homework! How cute is that? His Spanish teacher sent home lots of adorable worksheets for us to complete with him-- so, so cute.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Yay! School started!

I have been pretty jealous reading about everyone's pre- and grade-schoolers starting school and because we're attending two different nursery schools (because I am a bad decision maker. Shut up), I have been to double the beginning-of-the-year meetings, open houses, and conferences, which has only served to further ratchet up my excitement.

Before we went to the frenzied drop off (where I almost got stuck in my parking spot by some moron who igorned all posted no-parking signs because those signs? couldn't possibly be telling her not to park there because she had the most preshus snowflake of all preshus snowflakes in her car. and that preshus snowflake? was NOT old enough for the booster seat she was riding in. people are so stupid about carseat safety-- it boggles my mind), I made Harry stop stomping ants to take some pictures on the porch.

I told him I wanted to see how big he is, so he dusted off an old classic move (how big is Harry?)

I asked him what he wanted to wear today, and he insisted upon this Buzz Lightyear shirt his grandma got him. Insisted upon it with such fervor, in fact, that Jack and I spent the whole time Harry was in school (besides our time on the big! red! mat!) shopping for more Buzz-wear (with limited success-- we scored some glee-inspiring Lightyear PJ's and a Woody T-shirt that received a rather tepid reception).

Did some neighbor kids throw rocks at our door? Looking at these pictures, I think maybe they did.

Also? Might want to think about storing the sand and water table for the season, huh? Especially since the water dried up months agao, and it's just a dusty spider playground. We're all about the curb appeal, people.

When we got to school, I tried to take more pictures of Harry with his backpack in front of his cubby. But I couldn't find my camera. Because I drove off with it on my trunk. I found it in the street when we got home. And that, my friends, is why I don't have nice things.

Oh! I took the pictures of Harry out front because I am going to take the exact same pictures of him at the end of the school year to see how much he's grown. I dream of compiling an entire album of first and last day of school pictures, from now through senior year of high school. I stole this idea from Family Fun magazine, by the way.

Here he was on the first day of nursery school last year:

Senior year will be here before we know it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Defending our food

Because my university is sponsoring a campus-wide reading program that features In Defense of Food, I have been thinking a lot about how we feed our family. We've always bought organic dairy products, and we sometimes buy organic meat and produce, depending on sales. Our snack cabinet, however, has been processed city. Several months ago, we cut out HFCS and some of the scarier dyes, and we switched to organic mac and cheese and canned pasta (which Jack looooves). All summer, we have been buying local fruits and veggies at the farmers market, but now that summer is drawing to a close, we're starting to look at our food more carefully.

This week, we decided to eat better, so we bought only organic at the store today. We expected some sticker shock (and we haven't even made our Trader Joe's run yet), but it was actually very affordable. For the stuff we buy every week, we only spent about $8 more (because there was an awesome sale on YoKids yogurt). Because we went to Whole Foods, though, we had some fairly major splurges in the deli (because the curry chicken salad! and the garlic green beans! and the boxed kid lunches and the sushi and the premade salads and all that stuff-- they are delicious!), but really we came out even-ish.

We still have some chocolate chip Teddy Grahams and frosted animal crackers to devour before our snack cabinet is as healthy as our fridge, but we have instituted a no-more-than-5-ingredients-on-the-label rule for all processed snacks, so we'll see how that goes.

I know my single and childless friends might disagree, but I think it is harder to be a defensive eater when you have small kids. It takes a bit of time to start from fresh, and kids need snacks they can grab on the go. Bananas work okay, and we love us some Veggie Booty, but the convenience of things like breakfast bars and goldfish crackers is hard to beat. (But! we will resist!) The dinner hour is tough to manage with small kids, too, which is why we have resorted to make ahead meals, and now that we are eating more meat, I want to make sure it is as good for us as possible.

This is not to say that Harry and Jack won't have Happy Meals or popsicles or pizza or any of the fattening garbage we love. We're just trying to take Michael Pollan's fairly simple eating advice and be more discerning consumers.

So, here's a menu:
steak, shrimp, and ginormous hotdogs from the butcher (for the kids. and yeah, they're all beef and nitrite free)
baby field green salad
(and hopefully Babcock ice cream on the Terrace)

something from TJ's.

the rigatoni and zucchini casserole we didn't make last week

Going out to celebrate H's first week of school. I hope this trip includes Coldstone because the Jello pudding ice cream? Scrumptious.

salmon burgers

Jack thinks the new food plan is whack

Hilarious Harry in which he shows off his burgeoning comedy skillz

Untitled from sarah on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Somebody's a crabby piece of crab (and it's not me this time)

I am officially overbooked.

I thought this semester would be the perfect blend of full time worker, haus frau, and concerned, actively involved mom. I haven't even taught my first class yet, and I think that those 3 things can never be blended just right.

I am already sick of going to the gym at 5 am. While Ben and I both enjoy cooking at night and while I do actually find peace of mind cleaning my bathrooms, it's also nice to have time to sit on the couch and stare at the talking glowing box.

Because preschool hasn't started yet, I had to take Harry with me to Jack's LIttle Gym class today, and we ended up leaving 20 minutes early with BOTH kids crying. Then we ran straight to a room parent meeting at Harry's new school where I was so distracted by Jack's sand eating and penchant for flinging himself off the jungle gym that I almost missed Harry whacking some girl upside the head with a shovel and exclaiming, "Someone hit that girl." Um, yeah, Sybil. You did. Then Jack crapped his pants so disgustingly that I smelled him across the playground, and we left in the middle of a conversation I was having with the the 2 other moms in my room about the upcoming year and our projects as room parents and I didn't realize that I drifted off mid word until about halfway home, when I wantd to go back, but I figured the meeting was probably over, and I was almost late to work.

(and that, freshman writers, is how you craft a run-on sentence)

Work, though, is lovely and relaxing and not only is there a food court and a coffee shop in the brand new building next to me, there's also a no-fee ATM, a cute trendy boutique, a Walgreens, and an Aveda beauty school that carries a full product line and does cheap mani pedis.

Harry has been generally screamy and out-of-sorts lately. He also says his teeth hurt and jabs at the back of his mouth. Do they teethe at 3?

I think he has some anxiety about starting at a new school because he's especially terrible when the subject of his school comes up. We're having a playdate there with his oldest friend this week, so I hope that will help. And we meet his teacher next week. I already had my teacher conference at his other school, the one he's been going to since last September, and he's nothing but excited about that class. Maybe I'm nervous about his new school, and he's picking up on it?

Do you like his shoes?

Most of the other room moms have older kids staring kindergarden, so they were all misty eyed about sending their 5 year olds on the bus for the first time. I told them I was already excited about the big K in 2 years, and they looked at me like I was a monster. I laughed awkwardly and said I was looking forward to the uninterrupted shower time, and they looked at me like I was dirty.

But really? I know I'll miss my baby someday.