Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Deals

I'm a bit overwhelmed at the sales these days. It just feels like the question these days is not "are you having a sale?" Rather "how good is your sale?" And free shipping is a default assumption.

I went to a favorite store, Anthropology, with a specific item in mind and found myself accosted by racks of clothes that filled half the store..all deeply discounted. The better part of my loot was 50% off.

To name a few recent discounting retailers that have helped to overwhelm me: Banana Republic, Gap, J Crew, American Eagle Outfitters, Bloomingdales, Macys, and even high end retailers like Saks and Nordstrom. Emails and store signs and mailers...it's so hard to resist!!

Gap was selling all sweaters at $25 one day, then all gloves, scarves, and hats for $10 another day. Saks has some serious mark downs on designer labels, though it's all far beyond what I'm willing to spend. And I just discovered that Kate Spade (oh, their lovely handbags!!) is offering 30% off of everything on their website, excluding jewelry.

Yikes!!

Have you found any good deals out there?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Madness

While it may seem that's I've fallen off of the face of the earth, I assure you I haven't. You know what December's like. You still have all of the same errands as usual, but now you have to worry about presents, parties, and travel plans.

I've gotten most of our shopping out of the way (no small feat, let me tell you), and we're actually looking forward to relaxing at a friend's party this weekend (probably because it's one of the rare occasions we're not cooking/cleaning/worrying the whole time). Ah, ain't it grand?

And travel. Well, ya. We've decided to do it. The big one. We're taking the fussy, whiney toddler on a plane with hundreds of poor other passengers. And ya, we're taking the infant, too. Crossing our fingers that she'll be a bit less fussy than MetaBoy, but you never know. We thought that because he was such a good eater (he would routinely nurse and immediately fall asleep), we could rely on that habit to help us pacify him on the flight. Whoa, were we wrong. He slept all of 30 minutes, but that's been the case on every flight he's ever been on. He doesn't fall asleep in his car seat either, so that was another tell-tale sign. For those 10 hours, some of the time he was calm, some of the time he was entertained, but most of the time he was cranky.

But MetaGirl already seems generally calmer than him, and she can actually fall asleep in her car seat. So we've decided to chance it and go to Ireland. We're going to enclose ourselves in a tiny space with a gazillion people for 10 hours. Why? Because it's the holidays. We all have to suffer a little to know how good we have it. Besides, when we get to Ireland, it'll all be worth it. MetaBoy is going to have a ridiculously good time with his aunts, uncle, and Nana. Our biggest challenge will be stopping him from eating salmon at every meal (he's just like his daddy, that way).

So, don't fret. We're all still here. And if you're ever wondering, I've been tweeting since it's much easier to do from my phone (I don't have as much computer time these days and there's a character limit...which I need).

Hope the holidays are treating you all well!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

How Do You Keep Your Hands Warm?

My hands are so cold these days. I'd hardly care, and occasionally it's fun to shock MetaBoy or MetaDaddy our of their skins. But when I have to touch MetaGirl's warm, tender skin, I feel soooooooooooooo guilty!!

Gloves have never worked for me. I've tried warming up my hands with hot water, but it feels wasteful to let the water run until it's warm. Besides, it doesn't work very well. So I've taken to leaving my hair dryer handy so I can quickly give them a blast of warm air. That's the most use this dryer has ever gotten. It's having loads of fun ;-)

How do you keep your hands warm?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cooking with Sharp Knives

'Tis the season for lots and lots of cooking.

You may recall my opinions on Thanksgiving cooking. Well, they haven't changed. However, we will be doing the meal here this year. Eek!!

More on that later.

Today, my issue is knives. The more I cook, the more I appreciate my knives. MetaDaddy first turned me on to how important a sharp knife is. Not a knife that can cut, but a truly sharp knife. Here's why IMHO:
  • Comfort - A sharp knife makes slicing, dicing, etc easier, which increased the cook's comfort level.
  • Usefulness - How useful is a mangled tomato? If you have a sharp knife, you can simply do more, and your food looks more sliced than hacked.
  • Safety - A dull knife requires more force from the user. Hardly safe to apply a huge amount of pressure onto an instrument that while dull for some purposes, is still sharp enough to do some serious damage.
So, having addressed the reasons that I prefer sharp knives in my kitchen, what's the best way to keep them sharpened. Heck if I know. There are all sorts of different ways to address that.

Here's how I look at it:

Issue #1
  • Get a good knife and don't pay a fortune. We've had a set of J.A. Henkles knives for years, and they've served us well, but they're definitely showing their age.
  • Get a strong, well made knife that stays sharp longer than other knives due to the composition of its steel. We have a Shun knife, and it's spectacular. So's the price.
Issue #2
  • You can buy a sharpener and sharpen your own knives. This is an investment, and you'll save yourself the time and hassle of taking it elsewhere. However, you don't want to overdo this option since each time you sharpen your knife, you wear down the metal, thus shortening the life of your blade.
  • Find a knife sharpening service. I took my knives to Sur La Table to be sharpened. However, they just use a sharpener, and it didn't sharpen my knives to a level I was happy with. Make sure that if a service will be sharpening your knives, they're not using a sharpener that you can buy on your own. I found a guy at the Santa Monica farmers' market who has tools, experience, and knowledge when it comes to knives. He's not currently there due to some city code issue (the market organizers told me it's complicated, but they're trying to get him back). I hear he's at the market in Mar Vista, so I'll be looking for him there.
  • Some manufacturers will sharpen your knives for free. Shun, for example, will sharpen the knife at no cost, but you have to pay for shipping and wait up to 4 weeks to get it back. That said, they do the job right. There's a lot to be said about that.
As for the purpose of a steel (that long, metal rod that came with your knife set), it's not a tool to sharpen your knife. It serves to keep an edge on your blade, which gets microscopically dinged up with use. A steel smooths out the edge. Here's a little video that describes a steel's purpose and how it's used.

So, there are a few issues. Personally, I'd rather find someone who knows what they're doing. Since sharpening is an infrequent expense, I'd prefer to get it done right, even if it costs a bit more. At the end of the day, if the knife is treated properly when sharpened, it give me more value for money since it increases the blade's lifespan. Barring that, I'd sooner buy a sharpener and do it on my own than pay a service to do the same.

Pretty Up Your Flowers

I picked this tip up at a flower shop, and it doesn't get any easier.

If you have a clear vase to put flowers in, drop some cranberries into the water. They gracefully float to the top and add some beautiful color to your arrangement.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My Food is Your Food

To whom it may concern,

You know that bag? That green bag that you found on the sidewalk today? The one filled with groceries. That was mine. I was the dummy who loaded myself up with an infant and running toddler to buy bread, avocados, potatoes, and other edibles, only to forget the bag next to my car because I was so distracted by the two year old who was trying to pounce on the 3 month old in her car seat. That green bag, which was heavy enough to leave marks on my arm that I can still see, had the ingredients for a yummy lentil dinner, and a nutritious vegetable soup. That green bag, which was gone despite driving back within 10 minutes of leaving it behind, held the first blueberries of the season, which MetaBoy was so excited about.

Let's not call it stealing, that thing you did where you took something that didn't belong to you. I'm going to picture you as someone who needed the food, and I hope that this actually did brighten your spirits for the coming week when we take that time to give thanks for things both big and small. I hope you do make that soup, and have a hearty sandwich with the nine grain bread, and finish all of the antioxidant rich blueberries. I hope you do because it will mean that my annoying sentiments toward you and my dulling mental performances were warrantless

Now that this issue is behind us, I'll rewrite my grocery list and go shopping again tomorrow. I'm hoping these groceries make it home, this time.

MetaMommy

P.S. MetaBoy drooled on the lentils.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cool to be Frugal

I have my suspicions about shopping. When everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones', it's not very "cool" to say you're cutting back on spending. Even if some people should, they don't want to cut back when it means not getting that cool new something. That's what credit cards are for, right?

As lay-offs abound, consumer confidence dwindles, and the economy tanks, shoppers have stopped opening their wallets for everything other than the bare necessities.

I can't help but wonder. Is it "cool" to be frugal now?

Enough of the Sex and the City.

If you have a favorite store, I suggest getting on their email list. Everything is on sale everywhere. And it's just going to get better as things get...well, worse. Maybe it's time to stock up on basics or refresh your wardrobe. MetaDaddy loves his Polo shirts, and they're finally on sale. Woo Hoo!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Putumayo’s Sesame Street Playground

Can't travel? Sing along!

Putumayo’s Sesame Street Playground sounds like a fun musical investment. Good for the whole family, and cool way to expose everyone to other languages.

Click through for some videos, too. Good times.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Recipe: Green Zebra Gazpacho Soup

Here's a recent find from The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, by Amelia Saltsman. I've had this book for over a year, but I always seem to find some lovely treat when I'm in the mood for something new. A favorite then, a favorite today.

Case in point, Gazpacho. The name doesn't do it for me, and the thought of a cold tomato soup feels...well, kinda blagh. But I keep forgetting that because it's a raw soup, it's almost more like a salad than a soup. The flavors are so fresh, and when you leave the right amount of texture, there's even that bit of crunch in each spoon. I had gazpacho in Spain, and it completely changed my perception of it. But I left that behind when I left Spain. I decided to give it another chance with this recipe as my inspiration, and I'm hooked again!

There's a decent amount of prep work involved in this recipe, the worst of which involves the tomatoes. As for everything else, remember that it's all going to get blended in the end, so don't worry too much about chopping. Oh, and when you do start blending, cover up. This soup has more jump than Splash Mountain.

You have been warned.

Lastly, flavors are best when the soup is left to sit for a bit, so don't plan on eating it right away. And because it's served cold, leave seasoning for when you're about to serve. Cold food needs more seasoning.

Green Zebra Gazpacho
2 lbs ripe Green Zebra or Evergreen tomatoes
2 Persian cucumbers (about 10 ounces total)
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup seedless green grapes
2 cups torn, crust-free, stale French bread
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 to 1 small jalapeno chile, cut into small pieces
Leaves from 8 to 10 sprigs cilantro
Leaves from 8 to 10 sprigs mint
2 tablespoons canola or other mild cooking oil
Kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch dice
Snipped fresh chives for garnish

Peel and seed tomatoes, reserving the juices that collect in the bowl. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half lenthwise, and use the tip of a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Cut the cucumbers into chunks and add them to the bowl. Stir in the cucumbers, onion, grapes, bread, juice of 1 lime, 1/2 chile, cilantro, mint, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and water.

Puree the soup with a stand blender, leaving the texture a little chunky. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. If the soup is not zesty enough, grind the remaining 1/2 chile with a little of the soup and stir it into the soup. Garnish each serving with the avocado, chives, and an extra sprinkling of salt.

PhotoStory Friday: Disney Daze

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

So, we went to Disneyland as a family for the first time. It was fun, but honestly, we didn't get as much out of it as if the kids were a bit older. That said, kids under three are free and we (MetaDaddy and I) had tickets for free admission, so it was a fun experiment.

It turns out that MetaBoy is still not past his "people in suits freak me out" stage. Santa, for example, is not a welcoming figure for our little lad. Dude, can you blame him?

Anyway, here's our story.

******************************************************
"Holy Crap? Seriously? There's a bear behind me? Shouldn't we be running?"





















"Dude!! You scared me. I thought it was a bear! That's some dork in a costume. Whew!"





















"In fact, take a picture, mom. A picture of me with a bear. Ha ha."



















"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"





















[Pant, pant, pant, pant...]
"Ya, I know it's leaving, but is it coming back? That wasn't cool. He was behind me, then next to me. Those things move FAST!! Can I have a pain au chocolate? You know, you settle my nerves. Peeeeeeeeezzz?!?"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't Do It For The Ice Cream

Go vote.

Then go to Ben & Jerry's to celebrate with a free ice cream.
November 4th from 5-8pm

Or, go to Starbucks and get free tall cup of brewed coffee. Just go in and tell them you voted.
November 4th, all day

Or, go to Krispy Kreme and show your "I Voted" sticker for a free star shaped doughnut.
November 4th, all day

Locally (Santa Monica and environs)
Take your voter receipt to Bergamot Cafe for a free apple cobbler bar. Nook Bistro, owned by the same folks, is offering an apple crisp with vanilla gelato with a voter receipt and a $10 minimum purchase.

Or, opt for the Daily Grill, which will give free appetizers to voters.
November th, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Aw heck, go all out and do them all! And if you hear about any other such offers, do share :-)

Happy Voting!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Daylight Savings Ends

Happy end of Daylight Savings!!

My favorite day of the year! Just ask MetaDaddy ;-)

Hope you got to sleep in, too...zzZZZZZZzZzZzzzzz

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rushing Thomas

MetaBoy received a Thomas the Tank engine for his birthday, and he loves, loves, loves it. This is aided by the fact that after resisting for his two years, I finally gave in and let him watch an episode of the show on PBS. Unfortunately, his daily chant since has been "Thomas"?

That said, sometimes I wonder who likes the little choo choo and his track more.

MetaDaddy went with the little lad to buy some more track today. They also picked up a motorized Thomas.

Score for the boys!!

They get home and assemble the booty.

Once MetaBoy gets the hang of it, he takes the motorized Thomas and starts pushing it while saying "Go Thomas!"

I don't know if it's a reflection on him or us as parents. But seriously...if he's rushing Thomas at two, what's he going to be doing when he can actually tell time?

Geography Refresher

Annoyingly, I found I couldn't mentally place a couple of states this past week. So, I decided to search for a map online. Even better, I found a little U.S. geography quiz, along with various other geographical quizzes that have worked to sharpen my world geography. It's amazing how much I've forgotten! And it's amazing how unfamiliar I am with Eastern Europe. I'll have to take the quiz every so often as a refresher...since we won't be doing any serious travel for a while.

World Geography Quizzes

Monday, October 27, 2008

More U.S. Kids Growing Up Bilingual

I heard a piece on the radio today:
More U.S. kids growing up bilingual

Someone mentioned Language Lizard as a good source for dual language books, as well as audio books of stories in other languages. And if you're looking for a good reason to teach your kids a second language, how about this: research shows that it helps stave off dementia in later years.

Best to start 'em young!!

I still talk to MetaBoy in Spanish, though admittedly not as continuously as I'd like. We do try to get in a book in Spanish most days. His current choice is Ocho Monitos (Eight Monkeys). He definitely learns at a greater pace these days. However, given his greater exposure to English, with some Spanish thrown in for good measure, understanding him can be a bit challenging. It doesn't help that he is now listening to and repeating what he hears on the radio. One day, I caught him saying "get up, stand up." I only realized what he was saying when I heard Bob Marley in the background on the radio.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shoe Pavilion Going Out of Business

Did you hear? Shoe Pavilion is going out of business. The sale is expected to last 10-12 weeks with some stores closing sooner.

Time to stock up on family footwear!

World Animal Day Photos

A friend sent me this link. There are some wonderful pictures of familiar and not so familiar animals. Have a glance.
World Animal Day

AP Photo/John McConnico - A zebra eyes visitors at the zoo in Chisinau, Moldova Sunday Sept. 28, 2008.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lashing Out

Oh, to be a girl. So many things to worry about. How does my hair look? Are my tights straight? Does this diaper make my tushie look big?


Well, we think she's darling. This outfit certainly helps bring out the precious qualities. That little vest? MetaNana's handiwork. Impressive, let me tell you. It seems I can hardly dress her. Making actual clothes would be highly improbable.

As I've mentioned before, she really resembles MetaBoy. One of the big difference is in the eyes color. MetaDaddy isn't as obsessive about the eye color as I am. Born and raised in Ireland, blue eyes were the everyday norm. He claims to really like my brown eyes. Then again, that's only the smart thing to say, n'est pas?

Anyway, having been born and raised in Los Angeles, blue eyes are much more rare. My mother's green eyes just tauned me...oh to be different. MetaBoy was born with very dark blue eyes which then became a dark brown like mine. MetaGirl's started off a much lighter blue than his, but have slowly gotten darker. I guess blue just isn't in the cards here. Ah well.

Hair is another of the differences they were born expressing. He was born with a perfectly coiffed head of dark hair. His eyebrows and eyelashes were well defined, and they've only become more pronounced over time. We've actually had strangers, specifically women, say "those eyelashes are wasted on him." I know what they're trying to say, even if they're not doing a good job at expressing themselves. A guy just doesn't appreciate the gorgeous lashes he's bestowed with as much as a girl does. I have long lashes, and I spent my childhood shielding myself from adult women ogling them. I've been taught to appreciate them.

But my little MetaGirl has much more fair, fine hair. And up until recently, she looked like she had quite the receding hairline. Precious for a newborn. I'm sure she'll grow out of it before the preciousness wears off ;-)

As for the lashes, when she's old enough to appreciate them, she might very well not appreciate her brother. At two months, you can't really see her eyebrows or lashes. Let's call them dainty. In any event, to prevent any fights, I'm hoping hers get thicker and darker...cuz she won't be using makeup on them for a long, long, long time.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Whole Foods Coupon

Woo Hoo!

A Whole Foods coupon for $5 off a purchase of $25. They must be hurting.

Melodramatic Toddler

MetaBoy can be so melodramatic. The whines and the yelps, all because you offered him a spoon full of food instead of allowing him to spoon it himself.

As MetaDaddy said, "he's a drama queen, but he's more of a stage actor than film actor."

So, we're raising ourselves a William Shatner. Score!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jack in the Box ad

I've been avoiding a double stroller for various reasons. But this
is what I picture it to be like.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Like a German

Sometimes I feel like a German.

[Insert joke here]

I heard this piece on the radio explaining how Germany's banking system is relatively unaffected by the current economic climate because they didn't participate (or gain) from the excesses that led to the international meltdown. They didn't get involved in subprime loans. In fact, their equivalent system to a savings and loan is very conservative, only offering mortgages to those with at least 20% down. And depositors earn no more than 4%. Whoa, Nelly!!

The thing is that MetaDaddy and I thought about moving a couple of years ago, but we didn't want to (1) overpay for a property or (2) take out a mortgage we couldn't afford. Staying in our current home, we got to take advantage of the benefits of Santa Monica under affordable circumstances. That said, we'd look longingly at homes in our neighborhood while muttering under our breathe about how nice it would be...blah, blah, blah. But financially, we remained conservative...yardless, but conservative.

When the mortgage crisis started to unfold, we felt vindicated. Why should I feel bad for someone who made a bad decision if I restricted myself from the same luxury? Why should I bail that person out? Why? Why? Why?

But at some point it became obvious that something needed to happen before the U.S. economy, as well as that of so many other countries, is compromised. Is the 700 billion bail out the answer? I don't know. I don't think anyone knows for sure. It seems people with a lot of knowledge and experience are taking a shot in the dark to avoid repeating history.

As I heard this story about Germany, it seemed to me that they'll have to appreciate that even if they didn't benefit from the economy over the past few years, it doesn't mean that they won't suffer if the financial system isn't repaired. All of our economies are interwoven so tightly; you can see the tear ripping through the fabric of the international financial system. And while it's hard to help someone who benefited from stupid mistakes at an ultimate cost to you, isn't the alternative scenario worse.

Happiest Place on Earth

When you Google "Happiest Place on Earth," the first result is Disneyland.

Which leads me to tell you about the best text message ever.

"Do you want to go to Disneyland?"

Duh.

Be still my heart. I don't remember when I've been so excited! I've been to Disneyland many, many times, but not for a while. In my 20's, it seemed like a ridiculously boring thing to do. But now, OMG, OMG, OMG!!

Speaking of the "happiest place on earth," I ran across a couple of interesting articles. This one and this one both rank Iceland as the 4th happiest place on earth. Basically, the populations of the happiest countries
  • have a higher GDP per capita,
  • have good healthcare,
  • have access to education,
  • don't have extremes in happiness or sadness.
Basic tools for a healthy body and mind while keeping to the middle of the road is where to be, I guess. Unfortunately, Iceland's been perhaps the hardest hit thus far in the global economic crisis.
"Iceland's whole economy appears on the verge of breakdown, with debts 12 times larger than its GDP. Its stock exchange was today shut down until Monday, due to the "unusual market conditions". Three days ago trading in financial firms was stopped."
The population of 320,000 seems panicky, as does the British government given that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering legal action against Iceland for its decision not to recompense those with savings in its failed banks.

Every day, another huge chunk of depressing financial news.

Curious to see what happens with WellsChovia Group. What's King Solomon gonna do with that baby?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Quote: Sir Winston Churchill

Solvency is valueless without security, and security is impossible to achieve without solvency.
--Sir Winston Churchill

...touche

Monday, October 6, 2008

Farmers' Market Delivery

I read about an interesting local service. Auntie Em's Organic Produce and Dinner Delivery delivers seasonal produce from local farmers and farmers' markets. I've always wondered why no one does this. Locally, there are so many farmers' markets, but the best are the ones held during the week. If you work, you can't go. What's more, unless you go religiously, you don't have the opportunity to learn about the produce and farmers, you can't ask questions about recipes and seasonality, and as a result you can't develop relationships that help you get the best food. It seems to me that a service like this has the potential of working their wisdom and connections to get you the best food.

I've always found that organic food from the FM is cheaper than organic food from the grocery store. This leaves a good deal of earnings potential for this kind of service. Based on their sample listing of food and the prices I'm used to, it seems to me like this service tacks on a hefty premium for their efforts. That said, local food is fresher, which means it'll last longer in your fridge. There's a lot to be said about that.

While you'd be better off going to the FM yourself, this is a close runner up. If you get a chance to try it, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An Economy of Cheap Comfort Foods

Interesting segment on ABC World News last night. The sale of inexpensive comfort foods is up, as is the advertising for said foods. Campbell's soup, DiGiorno pizza, Kellogg's...they're all touting their thrifty eats. Campbell's general manager even admitted that they haven't been as "explicit in focusing on value probably since the 1920s or 1930s." When the stock market took a dive on Monday (remember that 778 drop in the Dow?), the only stock on the S&P 500 index to go up was...drumroll...yup, Campbells.

The segment goes on to say that biologically, this marketing tactic makes sense. Animal studies suggest that fatty comfort foods may ease stress. They are sooooo preaching to the choir. If I could live on cupcakes, I would. I would.

Personally, I've noticed more ads focused on savings. I saw the first commercial for Kool Aid that I've seen in years. It wasn't very exciting, but it just felt unusual. Same goes for Velveeta. I can't believe they still make that stuff!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mothers' Hair

Ya, this is how I feel. Is Suave the answer?

Credit Crunch on Main Street

Here's an fun animation simplifying how the credit crunch could effect main street. Cute and funny :-)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Busy Week Coming

One of my least favorite phrases uttered by MetaDaddy: "I have to go out of town on business."

Ugh.

When: This week.
How long: 4 days.
The number of offspring he be taking: 0

Le sigh.

On the bright side, I got a lot of *me* time this weekend. Got my hair cut on Saturday, which always takes a while. And went to my book club for a bit. That said, I can only be gone for so long since nursing duty calls. Yes, I could pump, but that seems like more trouble to me that it's worth. To each her own, I suppose.

But ya, I'm anticipating lots of meals, baths, and stories with a wild child. Crossing me fingers.

Oh, and the toddler caught a cold. Generous little lad that he is, he passed it on.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If You Want To Feel Rich...

If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can't buy.
--A moneyclip

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Britax Frontier Booster Car Seat

When MetaGirl was on the way, we decided to reserve MetaBoy's car seat for her and upgrade him to a new one. After much research and help from a little birdie with much experience on the topic, we chose the Britax Frontier Booster Car Seat.
  • Britax is a great brand that seems to consistently work on improving the safety of their car seats. We trust the brand.

  • The seat has a five-point harness seat and can be used until he's 80 pounds, or up to 100 pounds as a booster seat.

  • MetaBoy can easily climb into and out of the chair, which was impossible in his old car seat (Britax Decathlon Convertible Car Seat).

  • It's so much easier to buckle than the Decathlon. I wish we had gotten it so much sooner.

  • It has cup holders, though he doesn't use them. They seem to be a bit awkward at his age, though he might appreciate them when he's older.

  • On the down side, I've read some people's comments that the seat is quite hard to install. MetaDaddy installed it and said it wasn't too hard at all. Maybe he just knew the trick, engineer that he is. Me? Well, there's a reason I didn't install it. And there's a reason that when the printer stops working, my reaction is "help, help, help!!"
Overall, we're quite happy with the seat. We currently have both seats in my car, which means that if we're each taking a kid, only MetaDaddy or I can go out. We've decided to get a second seat for MetaBoy to put in MetaDaddy's car. It's important to me because if he and MetaBoy go out, for example, I'd like to know that MetaGirl and I can go out too in the event of an emergency (e.g., we're out of chocolate). Besides, some day she can move into that seat, so it's a preemptive purchase.

On that note, I saw that BabyCenter has a sale on Britax car seats. I was going to buy it there, but at MetaDaddy's suggestion I decided to check Amazon's prices. It turns out that they have the same discount. And while my experience in purchasing and returning items with BabyCenter has been pleasant, as Amazon Prime members, we get free two-day shipping via UPS. BabyCenter ships via FedEx Ground, which is terrible when it comes to home deliveries and customer service (not to mention this). I avoid them at all costs.

If I had the wherewithal, I'd consider buying from Hip Monkey. They have a price match guarantee (they say to email them a link to the lower price and they'll match it), free shipping, no sales tax, and 100% of the net proceeds go to The Kyle David Miller Foundation to help purchase car seats for children in need.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Economy

I listen to news radio a lot throughout the day, and I try to follow the news online when I have time (ha!). When I hear headlines that I find fascinating, I want to post about them so very much. However, I generally don't like posting without researching and referencing information, for the sake of accuracy and clarity. I enjoy the process of researching because it gives me the opportunity to learn more about a particular topic. It's my geeky version of fun.

I yam what I yam.

The economy is a source of so much interest to me. I was an accountant at what I'll call an investment bank, for the sake of simplicity. But it's all so...UGH. Despite my inclination to do so, I'm going to refrain from researching too much because this post will turn into one of those "drafts" that never sees the light of day. Trust me, I know the signs. I'll just share a few news highlights that I've heard over the past few days, and some thoughts here and there. There's so much more, though!!
  • Short-selling stocks of financial firms has been halted in the U.K. by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for the rest of the year, and all held positions will require full disclosure. The reason? Some are accusing short-sellers of spreading false information about companies (e.g., Goldman) to assure the stocks price drops.

  • On a similar note, the SEC is considering a temporary ban on short-selling.

  • I heard someone on the radio comment that the securities lending industry (short-sellers) saw all of the failures coming. For example, they shorted Lehman, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I can't help but wonder if they foresaw Lehman's demise, or if helped spur it on.

  • As of yesterday (Sept 17), the Fed's bail outs totaled a staggering $816 billion, as follows:

    --$29 billion to help JP Morgan buy Bear Stearns
    --$200 billion to shore up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
    --$85 billion to keep AIG in business
    --$400 billion emergency credit line to banks
    --$102 billion in new FHA loans for distressed homeowners

  • Such bailouts have been compared to communist policies in other countries. The thing is that they have far exceeded the intervention of any communist country.

  • Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan, is putting itself up for sale rather than risk total collapse.

  • London based Lloyd's Insurance is selling itself to a Scottish bank.

  • Wachovia and Morgan Stanley may merge. If Morgan Stanley does merge, Goldman Sachs would be the only independent investment bank left compared to five at the beginning of the year.

  • Bank of America didn't get deeply involved in risky sub-prime mortgages.

  • Bank of America and Barclays were interested in buying Lehman, but when the Fed wasn't willing to help the purchase along by taking on some of Lehman's debt, as with the Bear Stearns purchase, both potential buyers backed out. Instead, Barclays was able to buy the specific division it wanted at a fire sale price once Lehman filed for bankruptcy and was essentially sold for parts. Why buy the car when all you need is the windshield wiper?

  • The 1999 legislation that broke down firewalls between commercial and investment banks and insurance companies created rules that institutions like AIG were able to exploit allowing for its current financial problems.

  • And the financial news of the day that has spurred actual positive activity in the stock market involves a systemic fix that resembles the Resolution Trust Corporation (the fix for the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s). An explanation from Marketplace:
    "What's being discussed today is something similar, where a fund would be set up by the U.S. government that would go into the marketplace and buy up unwanted mortgage securities and hold them on the sidelines until some of the panic calmed down."
Sources:
ABC World News
Marketplace
Bloomberg
NY Times
NPR

PC as Steve Jobs

PC as Steve Jobs. You might also know PC as John Hodgeman.

Gates & Seinfeld

Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld...guess how they roll.

Well, if you've seen the Microsoft Vista ads, you know they roll in discount shoes. It's such a strange ad, if you ask me. Leather shoes. Churros. Adjusting ones shorts. All just strange. Strange can be amusing, though. But I guess Microsoft didn't think it was amusing enough cuz they're dumping Seinfeld. Perhaps they should have used Larry David instead? This Vista campaign is costing them about $300 million, so I guess they're hoping to get a bit more traction out of it.



Newest ads are meant to attack Apple's Mac vs. PC ads. Let's see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tina Fey as Palin

SNL has a few funny moments every now and then. The Swedish Chef, for example. And Tina Fey has offered me some priceless giggles, including her impression of Sarah Palin this past weekend. I'm not alone in thinking so. And now the real question. Did Palin really dress up as Fey for Halloween back when? If so, it totally explains the glasses.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It Could Be Worse

Recently, I haven't been getting a full night of sleep. Waking up every 3 hours (if I'm lucky) to nurse. Sometimes, MetaGirl is quick to go back to sleep. SOMETIMES!!

Le sigh.

Mornings are painful. I'm past the worst pain from my c-section, but that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. Getting up in the morning after a feeble attempt at resting despite the crying newborn...well, I'll say it again...

Le sigh.

Getting through mornings that involve feedings, several diaper changes, wardrobe changes, and getting mommy dressed, all while balancing the reality that one crying child leads to two crying children. Say it with me...

Le sigh.

But then, you sit down to nurse the cranky newborn and turn on the TV to find a show you've never seen before. To find out that despite how tired you feel right now, there are people who have taken tired to the next level. These people make me feel like such a whiner for saying...

Le sigh.

Meet Jon & Kate Plus 8.

I love my only two.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Feeding a Toddler: Subterfuge

It occurred to me today. I've mentioned here that MetaBoy is a good eater. He's always curious to taste new things, especially food he sees us eating. The other day, I heard myself saying "no, you have to finish your pasta first. Then you can have some fish." He definitely didn't get this adventurous streak from me. I can't wait until he learns to cook!

But I digress. The reason for this post is to say that regardless of how well he eats on average, he's not always game for eating a meal. If he's tired, for example, getting him to eat a meal comprised of his favorite foods is nearly impossible. He insists on holding the spoon, but in his tired state, food ends up everywhere except in his mouth. He might start to pick up food with his fingers, or even better, toss said food with his fingers. Once the tossing begins, everything tends to find its way to the floor. Food, his cup, his place mat, his bib, my sanity, my dignity...and so on.

Short of ending the meal, there's little that can remedy such situations. I stumbled upon one thing to help the derailed meal back on track: distractions. I start doing something simple to engage him. Singing a favorite song like "row, row, row your boat" is something he can follow along to and add in a few words here or there (e.g., boat, dream). Or I start asking him questions that he has to think about like "where's your nose?" This tends to help him forget about how awful he feels, he starts to smile, and responds. Once he's smiling, it's almost like he forgets how disinterested he was in eating, so I'll sneak in a spoonful here or there. In a few minutes, dinner's gone.

It's worked well enough to ensure most meals get at least close to finished. I'm not sure of what we'll do once MetaBoy catches on to my little scheme. Then again, I'm hoping I won't have to trick MetaTeenager into eating his dinner by singing "Old McDonald."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Air Travel News

A Flier Strikes Back - A flier sues over a weather related flight cancellation and wins. Sure, he won a default judgment because Delta didn't bother to show up, but a win's a win. And I'm sure it felt really, really good.

United Keeps Free Food on International Flights - It just goes to show that fliers still have some power. Just remember that airlines might actually listen to complaints if they get enough of them. That said, it's entirely unreasonable for United to eliminate the expectation of food on a long haul flight. Leaving fliers to worry about bringing enough food for a 12 hour flight with weight limitations and security restrictions?!? Not cool.

Monday, September 1, 2008

How Fast They Grow

Genetics are a funny thing. When people say MetaBoy has my eyes, but otherwise looks just like his dad, I just say "hmmm," or some variation thereof. I have a hard time seeing any of my features on him, and can only see a small few similarities to MetaDaddy. To me, I always figured MetaBoy was his own person, so he doesn't look "just like" anyone.

Then MetaGirl comes along and throws that theory out the window. She looks just like her brother. Sure, there are a few small personality differences (e.g., she startles if you whisper, which is usually hilarious), but visually...wow. The view of her when she's nursing is that much more impressive to me. I keep having flashbacks to the early days of MetaBoy. So weird.

She's growing fast, too...just like her brother. Though, hopefully she won't grow at quite the same pace. She was born at 6.5 pounds, and was 7.8 pounds at her 2 week appointment. Relatively speaking, she's nipping at her brother's heels. He was born weighing 7.11 pounds at 41 weeks. She was born at 39 weeks, and 2 weeks later, she almost matched his birth weight. He then went on to gain 2 pounds by the time he was 2 weeks old. And he doubled his weight by 2 months.

To make a short story long, she's getting big fast. I hope she stays as wee as she is for a bit longer than MetaBoy did.

Oh, and breastfed babies can grow at impressive rates. Always nice to reiterate :-D

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Breastfed Babies Don't Get Constipated

Our pediatrician says breastfed babies don't get constipated. Yes, they might not poop as often as babies on formula, but it's because their bodies use breastmilk more efficiently, so there isn't the same amount of waste produced.

This is what he told us when we called frantically two years ago when MetaBoy hadn't pooped in days. Maybe it was two days, but he'd gone from pooping several times a day to nothing. He put our minds at ease, though we were still careful and suspicious.

Later that day, MetaBoy pooped. Oh boy did he poop. He pooped so much it filled and leaked out of his diaper, and ruined his onesie.

What we learned: this is how MetaBoy deals with poop.

The other day, I was nursing MetaGirl. When she finished, she nodded off and I held her for a while. She can be so ridiculously cuddly.

Suddenly, she made a pooping noise. (Note: Newborns poop really loud for such small creatures.) She hadn't pooped for a couple of days, so we knew it was coming. I was wondering whether or not I should wait for some more action (inevitable that there would be more), when I noticed she felt squishier than usual. I could feel the new squishiness through the blanket she was wrapped in. Not good.

I move her a bit to inspect the damage, and suddenly...drip, drip. Yellow, mustard-like goo on me. On my pants. Do you have any idea how few pants I have that fit me right now? I'm in a strange stage where my tummy isn't as big as when I was heavily pregnant, but I can't stand even the mildest pressure on my tummy below my belly button. I have very few bottoms with very adjustable waistlines that are high enough to wear like grandpa pants.

So, MetaDaddy helped me up and we changed her. As expected, there was poop absolutely everywhere. We had to cut her out of her onesie. It was an ugly affair, let me tell you.

A wardrobe change for her and a wardrobe change for me later, we were walking back to the living room to sit for a few minutes to wind down before getting to bed. I started feeding her again because...well, she was suddenly quite hungry. After nursing, she nodded off. Then, her diaper leaked.

Ya, she peed on me.

These are not the fun days of nursing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Caffeine

Oh, heck!!

I just realized I haven't had caffeine in like 3 years. No wonder I'm so tired!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Milk Supply Tip

I swear, it's become so hard to find time to post these days. You'd think I have some weird new something in my life consuming all of my mental energy.

But what?

Oh, right.

So, a lactation consultant gave me some great advice that I could really have used the first time when I was breastfeeding MetaBoy. I had so much milk, I was in severe pain every 2-3 hours due to engorgement, which eventually led to a plugged duct, mastitis, and an abscess. Ugly business, folks.

So, for those out there facing breastfeeding challenges, here's what I learned.

Increase your milk supply - start nursing on one side for a couple of minutes, then on the other side for a couple of minutes, and continue switching off. Feed frequently, even if it means waking the baby every couple of hours.

Reduce milk supply - start nursing on one side for a couple of minutes, then finish nursing on the other.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spontaneous Sleep

Poor MetaDaddy was falling asleep on the sofa. You know how it goes when you're tired and had a long day. But falling asleep on the sofa will just leave you with a sore neck, and hardly more rested.

But now, I have the perfect solution. And she comes in a wee little onesie.

No worries, folks. MetaDaddy's cured from falling asleep on the sofa.

May all your days be as fortunate :-)

xoxo,
Bleary-eyed MetaMommy

Monday, August 18, 2008

Surviving and Such

I spend all day thinking of things to blog. For example, while I'm nursing and trying to keep from passing out from a combination of exhaustion and that lovely warm feeling from having my little hot water bottle on my chest.

And yet, when I have computer time, I literally forget everything I so meticulously edited in my head.

Le sigh.

So, we're all sleeping, if slightly more erratically than usual. We're all still eating well (enough) despite my being farmers' market free for a little while longer. Oh so antsy to get back to those killer tomatoes! And MetaBoy is handling things as well as can be expected, but he's slightly cranky for no good reason. It might be the family addition, or he might have a slight cold. That said, I hope he doesn't have a cold because there's nothing more scary than the thought of sneezing while recovering from a c-section.

Eek!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: Expanding Family

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


MetaBoy has an announcement to make.

Drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrumroll, please.



MetaBoy has a brand spanking new baby sister, MetaGirl, for whom he has vowed to look after and protect as much as any two year old can. He's promised to try to be "gentle" and "quiet"...within reason. And seems to even empathize with her pain, as he's been known to cry if he hears her crying.

MetaGirl, for her part, does what she can to keep herself pacified.



She's found and lost her thumb several times. When not seeking out such comforts, she's either nursing, sleeping, hiccuping, or intensely staring at one of her new family member.

All in all, we're all happy, if a little tired...

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Verdict

So, did we have any wagers out there?

The verdict:

MetaBoy

And

MetaGirl

MamaGeek was totally right!!

Pix soon.

G'night

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why It's My Choice

Funny thing is I didn't expect the intensity of the comments posted so far from my prior post. Naive? Perhaps.

Funnier yet, two of the three posters sent me to ICAN-Online, which is the website I referenced in that very post.

The point of concern with the commenters is that I am allowing my obstetrician to decide how I will deliver M2 (i.e., VBAC or C-Section). However, I don't consider myself an unknowing participant in this endeavor. I've read up on VBACs, spoken to people who have chosen in favor and against them, and I have developed all sorts of opinions that are completely independent of my doctor's. My first labor has a lot to do with where I am today, so I'll start there.

I had a doula, and every intention and expectation to follow through with a drug-free childbirth. I expressed my desire for as little medical interference as possible in my birth plan, though I was not interested in going the route of using a midwife.

My doctor began seriously suggesting that we induce at week 40, but my husband and I stalled until week 41. At that point, I was put on pitocin and she broke my water, only to discover there was meconium in the fluid (descriptions on Natural Childbirth.org and Kids Health.org). This was potentially due to my pregnancy having gone into week 41, although I suspect that's debatable. She did an amnioinfusion (diluted the amniotic fluid with saline to wash meconium out of the amniotic sac before the baby has a chance to inhale it at birth), which was to be one of many bags I was hooked up during my labor. Being hooked up to various bags prevents you from moving around, which in turn prevents you from dealing with your pain in a medicine-free way. I labored through the night with the help of my doula, but after 7 hours, I was exhausted and there was no position in which I didn't feel pain, even between contractions. I went for the epidural. After that, my doula stayed and helped us get through things, emotionally and physically. At one point, we were informed that during contractions, our son's heart rate was normal, but on the low side of normal. They took me off of the pitocin to see if that remedied the problem, but it didn't. What it did do was slow down the contractions. Between the slowing of the labor and the concern over my son's heart rate, the doctor "seriously" suggested a c-section. I don't know about you, but if someone says your baby's life is in danger and you should really have this done to help him, I'm not about to point to my birth plan and remind them of how much I really don't want a c-section.

So, he was born kicking and screaming, and hasn't stopped since. While a c-section was the one thing I truly didn't want, I genuinely couldn't put my preference above the well-being of my child. And I can't say that I truly blame the doctor, either. Being an obstetrician comes with it's set of troubles, which includes soaring malpractice-insurance premiums. It's an environment which impels a conservative approach (i.e., better safe than sorry).

I seriously considered going to a new doctor, but in the end, I guess you could say my reason to stay with the same doctor was the age old reason: better the devil you know than the devil you don't. When I was pregnant last time, I asked her all sorts of questions, including her c-section rate (~15%). And since I have no way of knowing how another doctor might have handled the same situation, how can I know things would have turned out different. What I do know is that my recovery went very well, and I haven't experienced any real pain or complications from the surgery. I've spoken to a few people who have not been so fortunate. I don't really like her bedside manner, but now that I know the nuances of her demeanor, I can take her "matter of fact" approach with a grain of salt. That, and I can mock her accent...it's hilarious.

Besides that, I know that a lot of doctors will not do a VBAC. She said she was open to the possibility, and quelled my concern of uterine rupture by saying the rate was well below 1%. But it's still a serious concern of mine. I know women who've experienced it, and it's not something I'd like to deal with first hand.

Maybe I'm just trying to make lemonade out of these lemons, but I can find merit to a VBAC and a c-section. My body has not really experienced labor, so there would be new and wonderfully painful things to recover from there. I have friends and family who seriously worry about a VBAC. I try to reason out why it's possibly safer than a c-section, but I can't help but think of the little things that can go wrong. Rare? Ya. Impossible? No.

Either method isn't making me jump up and down with excitement. But I'm not pregnant because I want to experience labor. I'm pregnant because my husband and I want to share our meager little home with a kid. We're doing that existential thing where we breed because we can and that's what we're biologically meant to do. Well, maybe that's an argument for another day, but my point is that I never cared about the empowerment or experience of labor, I just want to assure the safety of the baby and me. If I can still pick up and hug my toddler after the fact, that's just gravy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Quick, Quick!!

A lot of stuff has come to a head because my doctor is concerned about the size of M2. MetaToddler was expected to be about 9 pounds when he was born at 41 weeks, but he was 7.11 pounds. So, ya...the docs were wrong. I've expressed my preference for a VBAC, and my doctor is willing to let it happen, but only if it happens by week 39. In other words, I have until this weekend to go into spontaneous labor. Otherwise, she's calling the game.

I have some friends and family horrified at the thought of a VBAC. But my reasoning is simple. A c-section is major surgery, something I'd prefer to avoid if at all possible. And perhaps more important, my recovery time would be significantly greater than with a regular birth, forcing me to deal with a serious recovery, a newborn, and a two-year-old. I'd prefer to be able to get back to my life sooner than later.

I suddenly feel so behind on my nesting. We have our car seat, assembled crib, laundered clothes , and various other readied things. I've made a few frozen meals to have on standby for those rough first few weeks. I don't have anywhere near as much as I did the last time, which is unfortunate. Oh well. We'll have a few easy meals on hand, and a few reliable favorite restaurants that deliver, so we should be fine on the food front. Sleep is another issue all together, but nothing you can do about that beast.

Le sigh.

I've had to accept that I won't be able to go to the farmers' market for a while. It's my weekly thing, and since I'm likely to have a c-section again, I'll have to forego seasonal treats for recovery. This is hard. Well, I'm finding a few things hard this time around. Before, I wasn't as involved in cooking, cleaning, and obviously, parenting. It was just MetaDaddy and me, so I cooked several meals that were frozen into two person portions, but no stress. I had gained much more weight, and couldn't clean, so MetaDaddy was doing all of the cleaning at home. And well, there was no one to parent.

This time, I've slowly had to accept that I couldn't keep cleaning to the level that I felt appropriate, so per MetaDaddy's insistence, we've had someone come over once a week to help out. We just have to maintain it, which isn't easy, but nowhere near as bad as cleaning it in the first place. And she's pretty meticulous, which I truly appreciate. Not as meticulous as I am, but hey, I'm a self-admitted PITA.

Also at MetaDaddy's insistence, we've also gotten a referral from a few friends for a nanny. Everyone loves this particular person, and our circle of friends have known her for years. MetaDaddy's concerns stemmed from knowing how hard the c-section was on me last time, and he's worried about how I'll manage at keeping MetaToddler happy while caring for M2. After all, it's me and the kid(s) alone all day. So any extra help will go a long way. I kept putting it off, and eventually, he won. We have a part time nanny. It's just so hard to give up caring for MetaToddler 100% that I can't easily let go. But I want to be fair to him and avoid his feeling neglected. He doesn't go to day care or preschool, so it's all me. And if I can't give 100%, well...boo! He's been getting used to the nanny over the past few weeks. She keeps up pretty well, so he's getting a lot of attention and excitement from her, which I'm having a hard time providing these days with my size and all.

So ya...if I don't go into labor over the next few days, it's c-section #2. I mean, it's not like in a perfect world I would go for a regular birth. In a perfect world, I'd aim for an "oh, it's a baby!" thing where it just magically appears after months of jabbing me in the ribs and bladder. Either way, another August birthday is about to hit the MetaHome.

We'll keep you posted on the deets.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How to Pick a Baby Name

I have no idea.

It was pretty hard picking a name for MetaToddler. We didn't know his sex beforehand, either, so we had to pick a name for a boy and girl, just in case. In the end, we were really lucky he was a boy because we were only able to compromise on one name, and it wouldn't have worked for a girl.

Our problem is that MetaDaddy prefers something familiar, strong, traditional. I want a name that's unique and has character, but isn't so rare that people look at you funny when you say it. Having grown up with a name no one has ever heard of, I can assure you that getting through school is a tough row to hoe. If you're teacher can't get it right, well...you're screwed for that school year.

So, how did we find something that's unique enough to me, but strong and traditional enough for MetaDaddy? We went to Ireland. There are a lot of very unique non-American names, but like I said, I didn't want it to be too hard to spell or pronounce. So Niamh (pronounced like Neve) and the like were off the table. Oh sure, we considered them, but in the end, they just didn't last on the short list.

Here are some of the sites I visited often then, and have come back to a lot over the past few weeks:

Think Baby Names - Scroll through a whole bunch of popular names in the U.S., and several other countries.

Baby Names World - You can search by sex, cultural origin, popularity ratings, and various other criteria. Very refined results.

Baby Name Network - International names from various different cultures.

Baby Name World - International names from various different cultures.

Nymbler - Enter up to 6 names as "inspiration," and the Nymbler returns a bunch of names that you might like.

Name Nerds - Find yourself a good, strong Irish name :-)

So, in the end I've learned this. Picking a name for a human being other than yourself is a daunting challenge. How to do help this poor kid get through life without the embarrassment of a name that's too weak, unfamiliar, generic, etc. I know that you can come to appreciate your rare name, but heck, there's a whole lotta pain and suffering to get to that point. And honestly, if you're not leaving the kid a mega trust fund, it just hardly seems fair to pick celebrity names like Apple, Poppy Honey, Fifi Trixibelle or Moon Unit.

I'm just saying.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dry Cat Food

So, is this weird? I keep smelling dry cat food. I bought potatoes at the farmers' market, and they smelled like dry cat food. I was walking down the street with MetaToddler, and despite the lack of cats and their apparent food, I smelled dry cat food. And it happened a few other instances of dry cat food.

Is this normal?

Is some dry cat food company conducting tests on pregnant women?

Is this a sign of labor infrequently discussed?

Any theories would be appreciated :-)

Cheap Music: Death Cab for Cutie

If you want to try out some good music, how about Death Cab for Cutie? As Liz commented here, their latest album Narrow Stairs is a whopping $5 on Amazon (today through Sunday, only).

Seriously, can you do better than that?

Ya, I don't think so.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mo Willems Captions

Do you know Mo Willems? He wrote Knuffle Bunny (a MetaToddler favorite) and the Pigeon books after winning 6 Emmys for his writing for Sesame Street.

Needless to say, he knows funny. He knows kids, too, but that's another post.

He's teamed up with NPR's All Things Considered for a caption contest. He drew and captioned four cartoons, but anyone can take a look and submit a caption of their own. It's cute and fun, so go on and check it out if you're looking for a few minutes of amusement :-)

Music: Two of a Kind

Sometimes, you feel fooled and tricked for no good reason.

Today's trickery involves music of the indie nature.

A while back, a friend of mine turned me on to The Postal Service. I love their album and listened to it again, and again, and again. MetaDaddy's favorite trick, but not really mine. So this album, Give Up, is a favorite indeed. But they haven't come out with a second, so I've had to settle with nothing new for a while.

My favorite radio station, KCRW, tends to play a great variety of music. I kept hearing this one band and thinking "they came out with a new album!!" only to find out that it wasn't The Postal Service, but some other band called Death Cab for Cutie. So they've grown on me, even though they still confuse the bejeesus out of me.

Get this, my friend just realized that the lead singer in both bands is Ben Gibbard. That's right, the same person...both bands...singing. Ugh!! No wonder I was so frustrated!!!

I'm annoyed, but relieved to know that I'm not crazy or paranoid. Well, not crazy. Well, at least...

Whatever, they tricked me. And I can still claim the pregnancy hormone card, so I deserve an apology!!

I'll be here when you're ready, Ben Gibbard.

Dancing Toddler with the Pink Stroller

Dancing in his high chair. Why? Because of something he heard me playing on You Tube. A rather malicious "friend" sent me a link to a NKOTB video. Don't know the anacronym? You obviously didn't grow up a girl in the late 80s/early 90s.

So, it's bad enough that it played on my computer. I'm embarrassed for myself, and the only other person here was MetaToddler. Which brings me to my point of concern. Whatever about the pink piano, or the pink stroller. How much should I worry when my little boy starts dancing to NKOTB?!?

Here, you try. Play it for your toddler and see what happens. You can blame my evil "friend" for whatever happens ;-)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

LA's Earthquake

Did you hear? There was an earthquake in the Los Angeles area yesterday. It was initially reported to be 5.8 in magnitude, but has since been downgraded to 5.4.

Of all places, we were in a shopping center in the Valley, very near the dreaded Northridge of the 1994 Northridge Quake fame. Worse still, the car was in a parking structure, the last place you want to be in the event of an earthquake.

When the shaking started, I was walking around with MetaToddler. I wasn't sure if the rumbling was normal (e.g., truck driving by), but a sales associate gasped "it's an earthquake. Everyone to the counter." I looked around and decided she was right. There were a lot of wonky racks and shelves, but there were no fixed structures other than the counter. I calmly picked him up and walked over there, so he remained pretty calm, in turn. When it was over, I saw a lot of people rushing to the exit, but our choices were essentially:

(1) stay in the department store next to the glass doors,
(2) go outside the building and stand in the parking structure,
(3) go down to the first floor and stand outside the building, or
(4) go to your car and leave.

When I saw that there wasn't a huge exodus in the parking lot, I chose to leave. It seemed the best of the four unpleasant options. I hurried (as much as I can these days) to the car, and we were out of the structure in a few minutes. The ironic thing is I always try to avoid parking structures, but in this case, this was the only parking option. Figures.

The most frustrating part was that I couldn't to make calls on my cell because they kept failing. I heard today that the network was overloaded. This was a big problem all over, apparently.
"Sprint Nextel Corp. reported a spike of 800 percent right after the quake and Verizon Wireless saw the volume jump by 400 percent over that of a typical day. It wasn't clear how long the systems were overloaded but they were back to normal Wednesday."
Overall, nerves were shaken, but very little damage has been reported. Personally, I heard one glass item crash in the department store, but nothing was out of place when we got home. MetaDaddy's dry erase markers fell to the floor. Not bad.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Baby Clothes

Oh, how time flies.

I was digging out some of MetaToddler's old clothes for M2 and I've come to a few conclusions.
  1. I can't believe he was ever that small.

  2. I can't believe how lucky we've been with his wardrobe. Between gifts and hand-me-downs from his younger cousin (ya, he's way bigger), we've had very little stress in keeping him well clothed. We love the one piece footed outfits from Ireland because they're well-made, soft, cotton, inexpensive, and adorable. I've found similar items here at much higher prices, so we've tried to get him new ones every time we go back to Dublin. That said, he's at that cusp where we can't find footed ones that fit him any more. The footed ones are particularly beneficial in keeping him from climbing out of his crib because he climbs much better in his bare feet. He can't get a proper foothold when he's bound in his jammies.

  3. We hardly need anything for M2. We've got clothes, toys, etc. aplenty. Unfortunately, no excuses for shopping. Eh, I'm sure I'll find something. We always need something when it's particularly cute ;-)

  4. I'm really excited to revisit some of the things that I really loved seeing MetaToddler wear. The opposite of that sad feeling you get when you admit to yourself that your child no longer fits into that little shirt that you love seeing him in. That's what today did for me. Gave me a big sense of "awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww....I forgot how much I loved this shirt!!!"
Now, the unpleasant part. Laundry.

Friday, July 25, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: You Call Those Toys?!?

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


So as MetaToddler's birthday approaches, I'm sure he'll get some gifts. Since I'm debating birthday party ideas, and I'm hoping to follow through with a party of some sort (cross your fingers for us), that's all the more reason to expect gifts. We just have to time it right so that he gets a party, preferably before M2 arrives. Eep!!

With gifts on my mind, I'm reminded of my prior inclination against an abundance of cheap, plastic toys. I've mentioned reasons why here and here, and a few alternate gift ideas here.

As time goes by, I'm only more and more convinced that he doesn't need the big, plastic, fancy, flashing, noise-makers. Why do I say that? Here are a couple of his favorite toys these days.


A red plastic box that his Lego-like bricks came in. The box is usually empty, so he climbs on it, wears it like a hat to play peek-a-boo (usually resulting in walking into walls, as in the photo), rides it like a fire truck, etc. Other times, he fills it with toys, empties it, fills it, empties it, and so on.


And his other favorite? Empty cardboard containers that he wears on his head like a crown. At those times, we refer to him as King MetaToddler.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Never Buy from BabyAge.com

So, I'm closing in on 37 weeks. About time to start nesting, n'est pas?

The crib we have for MetaToddler converts into a toddler bed, so he'll be keeping that one. We'll need a new bed for our new Wee one, which we'll call M2 (as in Meta 2) for now. Thought about Wee 2, or W2, but that seemed to close to Wii...which might confuse some people (you know who you are).

Anyway, I order the crib online at www.BabyAge.com. I've heard of the site in a few places, they've been around for a while, and I know they sell through Amazon, so I thought "why not." Free shipping, no tax, and the crib retails for the same price everywhere. Once I placed my order, I saw a strange pop up message that requested more information in order to fulfill my order. I click on it, and it requested the last four digits of my social security number and my year of birth. That screams alarm bells, but I'd already placed my order at that point. I decide to ignore it and see what happens.

The next day, I receive an email message asking that I call Baby Age in order to provide some information before they can complete my order.

Grr.

I call, but I'm already annoyed. Sure enough, they ask me for my social and year of birth. I ask them why they need it, and they say that this is risk management because I'm making a large purchase. *Just the other day I stopped a fraudulent order by doing this* blah, blah. I say "I'm not comfortable providing that information. Are you saying that I can either provide my private information or cancel my order?" He said "yes." So, I canceled my order.

Duh.

I then called American Express, and they said:

1) I was right to not provide the vendor with that information.
2) Vendors can ask for things like the security code on the card or your zip code, but not your SSN or year of birth.
3) BabyAge already put a charge through on my card, so keep an eye on the card to make sure they cancel it immediately.

Unfortunately, when I found out that the charge had been put through, it was too late to call Baby Age again. However, I will follow up with them to assure they have canceled my order and refunded my card. I'm crossing my fingers in hopes that the credit will not be a problem. That said, American Express has been great when dealing with shady vendors and/or charges in the past, so I'm expecting them to be just as great this time :-)

Of course, after the fact I search on Google and find they make a practice of asking for credit card holder's social security number. How is this not phishing? Baby Age didn't have this info to verify it against my answers. How is this managing risk? After providing this info, they would have had my name, address, phone, email, credit card, last four of my SSN, and my year of birth. What else would they need to steal my identity? After all, American Express only asks for the last four of my SSN in order to access my account history.

Hopefully you don't have to deal with any vendors like these, but always be on the lookout for people who ask too much information. Never, ever give out any digits of your social or your year of birth, which is harder to get than the day and month of your birth. And never provide any information to people who call you. I once had Aetna call me to verify who I was. I asked them "I need to verify who you are first!"

Duh.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Summer at the Farmers' Market

Oh, how I love the farmers' market during the summer. Well, I love it and hate it. There's so much beautiful food, that I have to work hard to stay on my list. It's really quite easy to overspend. My summer downfall: fruit.

Cherry season is about mother's day through father's day, so they're long gone. But they overlapped nicely with peaches, my current obsession.

My favorite peach stand has the best peaches, nectarines, plums I've ever had. Ever. High end local restaurants haul away crates of Fitz's fruit, but he always has time to shoot the breeze and answer my silly questions. He's big into grilling his peaches these days. His recommendation is to take a full-flavored peach, which is usually a yellow fleshed peach; their acid content provides a more balanced flavor than white peaches, which tend to be much sweeter. Cut it in half, and take the pit out. Add a few drops of balsamic vinegar and smear it on the flesh. Put the peach flesh side down on the grill and cook it for 3-5 minutes. Flip it and cook it on the skin side for another 3-5 minutes. Feel free to add a few more drops of balsamic vinegar, and serve.

When we grill peaches, we don't bother with the balsamic. Honestly, they're so good they just don't need it. We grill them, and if you have some pound cake lying around, toast some up on the grill. Pour over a little honey, syrup, cream, ice cream...whatever floats your boat. The result...O...M...G...So simple, so easy, so delicious. How did I not know about this sooner? I'd be bitter if I wasn't so happy.

But now I find out Fitz is only expecting to be at the market for another couple of weeks. This saddens me. Last year, I went cold turkey on peaches when his season ended. I actually did a little dance when I saw him this year, and I've been loyal all summer. I suspect I'll be peachless again once his season ends. He's truly spoiled me with those Carmen Mirandas nectarines.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jib Jab - Time for Some Campaignin'

Oh, so excited! I've been looking forward to some new Jib Jab for a while, and here we are!!

Time for Some Campaignin'

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ice Cream for Dessert

Speaking of dessert (I'm sure someone's speaking of dessert somewhere, right?), here's my current relationship with ice cream.

I love several flavors of Ben & Jerry's. Ah, don't we all. My current flavor of choice (i.e., the flavor in the fridge) is Phish Food. But I'm starting to think Half Baked wouldn't go down bad right now. However, vanilla is a pretty good flavor, one very easily dressed up. So I'm always in favor of...well, I'm in favor of those flavors.

Looking around at ice cream at the grocery store, I noticed that Breyers has a nice list of ingredients that I can actually pronounce (e.g., sugar, cream). And it turns out that Breyers vanilla is much lighter and fluffier than the Ben & Jerry's, so a 1/2 cup serving of Breyers vanilla is nearly 1/2 the calories of the B & J.

Breyers Vanilla - 1/2 cup = 140 calories; 7g fat; 14 g carbohydrates
Ben & Jerry's Phish Food - 1/2 cup = 270 calories; 12 g fat; 37 g carbohydrates
Ben & Jerry's Half Baked - 1/2 cup = 270 calories; 13g fat; 33g carbohydrates

So if you'd like an ice cream treat, you might be better off going for the Breyers if you're going the all natural but low calorie route. Even better, add a couple of slices of fresh fruit like banana, strawberry, berries, some nuts and call it a deconstructed banana split :-)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Google: Jerks or Fumblers?

Google stock is down today in after hours trading. Personally, I'd say it's because they're jerks (see below). But no, it's just that their second-quarter earnings that fell below analysts' expectations.

Why are Google heads jerks?

On Day Care, Google Makes a Rare Fumble
"Parents who had been paying $1,425 a month for infant care would see their costs rise to nearly $2,500 — well above the market rate. For parents with toddlers and preschoolers, who were charged less, the price increases were equally eye-popping. Under the new plan, parents with two kids in Google day care would most likely see their annual day care bill grow to more than $57,000 from around $33,000."
It's essentially a ridiculous tale where Google kept one-upping its day care facilities, and before it knew it, they had an over-the-top program that it was subsidizing to the tune of $37K per child per year. The price increase served to fix their other problem, too: the ridiculously long wait list.
"Google has also started charging people several hundred dollars to stay on the waiting list; as a result the list has dropped to around 300 parents. By next fall, Google plans to open new facilities with another 300 places. See? No more waiting list."
Just to drive the point home, Google co-founder Sergey Brin was reported to have said "he had no sympathy for the parents, and that he was tired of “Googlers” who felt entitled to perks like 'bottled water and M&Ms.'"

Since when has day care been equatable to a packet of "free" M&Ms?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Italian Toddler

MetaToddler's speech is regressing. He went from being close to pronouncing a few words correctly (in English) to making them sound just that little bit more Italian.

Actual word --> Former Pronunciation --> Current Pronunciation

Down --> Dow --> Downah
Green --> Geen --> Geenah
Spoon --> Pooh --> Poonah
Brown --> Bwow --> Bwownah

I don't even speak to him in Italian. I speak to him in Spanish. Where's the Spanish?!?

I shutter to think of what's next. Greek? German? Swahili?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Response: No Mo Mama Drama

My buddy, Mama Geek, over at What Works for Us has had a hard week. Think floods and other assorted summer mayhem. I seriously feel for her, and I'll be partaking in dessert on her behalf ;-)

So, my turn to commiserate.

MetaDaddy goes into the closet where the water heater is housed, only to notice a slight bit of water pooled underneath. We couldn't tell if it was a leak or condensation. So, I call the plumber the next day, and he comes out. Leak. Replace. Better still, they no longer make the same version, so we had to buy the fancy new insulated model, which happens to be twice the price. Bye, bye three car payments!

Plumber comes the following day to install the gi-normous thing...upstairs. He and his assistant were seriously struggling. I would have offered to help...but well, I'm no use to anyone these days :-P

Day 3: A little something needed to be readjusted from the installation, so the plumber had to come back the following day.

Plumbing finally all up to snuff. A couple of days later, we find a leak in the bathroom. I'm destined to be best friends with our plumber. Time to call again.

We have top-down-bottom-up blinds in a large window, and they're wonderful. They allow us to pull the blinds all the way up to maximize light and exposure. And for those times when we prefer a bit more privacy, we can pull the blinds partially down and still get warmth and sunshine, along with a pleasant breeze. It's the perfect compromise for us because I prefer sun with privacy, and MetaDaddy prefers all sunshine all the time. I think it's the Irish in him. Have I mentioned that he gets kinda depressed when it rains here? Specifically here in Los Angeles. He could care less if it rains when we're traveling. I think he feels robbed...like "I didn't move half way across the world for rain." Anywho, the only downside to the blinds is that the string that runs through the mechanism works overtime in holding up the full weight of the blinds. And the more it's used, the more likely something will go wrong. Today, one of the strings either broke or untied, or whatever. So we had to take it down, with the aid of a ladder, and we're going to see about getting it fixed. Obviously, I didn't hike up the ladder, but I was totally there for moral support.

That's all for now. I'm hoping that in writing this list, nothing else will magically break. I really can't handle much more right now.

Right, so where's that cake?

Friday, July 11, 2008

PhotoStory Friday: OCD in the Making

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek


I've probably mentioned a few little OCD habits I have. I chalk it up to being a Virgo, but others chalk it up to my being slightly anal. Eh, whatever. So I love my label maker. And I live and die by my lists. We all have our quirks :-)

But is it innate or learned?

MetaToddler was in his class, and with all the toys out to play, guess what he chose to do?



Yes, he lined those up...all by himself.