Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 books

I think you've all read this already, but if you haven't, do so immediately. I snort-laughed many times while reading it. I would say it was the funniest book I read this year, but it was also the first book I read this year, so. (That said, there is a ton of swearing, so if that would bother you too much to otherwise enjoy the book, skip this one.)

Apparently I missed this when it came out in 2011. Unfortunately, it seems I didn't miss much. It covered well-trod Grisham story lines (lawsuits against drug companies, small-scale barely-making-a-living lawyers) and I kept having to reassure myself that no, I hadn't actually read this one, it just seemed like it. It was still a decent way to pass the time (I gave it 3 stars), but I don't know that I'd necessarily recommend it.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I'm not sure how to review this book. Clueless but Hopeful Mama recommended it, so I put the both book and movie on my library request list (like an idiot). Of course, the movie came in first and I was charged the DVD check out fee, so I didn't want to return it and get it back (for another fee) after reading the book.

The movie was very confusing. We got none of the back story on...anything, so Thomas and I sat there saying "huh?" a lot. Actors would say something in their "THIS IS SIGNIFICANT" voice and it would never be explained. There were a ton of scenes irrelevant to the rest of the movie which I assume were only there because, if you'd read the book, it might seem weird to leave them out. But we hadn't.

The book is one of those books where if you re-read you understand it a lot better. In that way, it was better to have watched the movie first because I think I was able to enjoy and understand the book much more having already figured out what was going on. (And I don't just mean the major plot point, but all the little ones, too.)

I wasn't ever sure if I was enjoying the book, but I was sad when it was over, so I suppose I recommend it?

Dead Reckoning: Sookie Stackhouse #11 by Charlaine Harris
The perfect thing for a cruise. I read it sitting on a deck overlooking the ocean while eating chocolate chip cookies from room service.

Week 3 as a stay-at-home mom

It's quite difficult to type a post while there is a toddler trying to force your laptop shut.

(Which is why I ordinarily only write at night, but I had to get a Style All Over post up today. Off to play trucks now!)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I suppose since I don't have job stuff to worry about anymore stains are now the bane of my existence

I think I whine about this too often, so you may be all too aware, but I am allergic to scented products. They give me awful headaches, sometimes migraines, and basically, I think anything scented is the devil. The fact there is so much of it in the world annoys me to no end. Also, “natural” or organic or non-chemical, what have you, makes no difference. It’s actually natural scents the allergy is TO, not only chemical reproductions of them. The worst is an actual lavender or lilac bush. Instant knock out headache. (Note to all manufacturers ever: KEEP THE LAVENDER SCENT OUT OF YOUR “NATURAL” CLEANING SHIT OR I CAN’T USE IT. THANK YOU.)


This is one of the reasons I’m absolutely head-over-heels in love with Charlie’s laundry soap. (This probably sounds sponsored, but it isn’t.) I packed white powder in a baggie to bring through airport security on vacation and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t end up in TSA jail because I couldn’t imagine using laundry detergent on my clothes. Partly because of the scent, but also because of Paul’s eczema, which is aggravated if he happens to wear something washed in detergent instead of soap. I had single-use packets of liquid Tide from who knows where that would have been easier to bring, but no one wants to be itchy on vacation, right?

The kids did a real number on their clothes on this trip, though. At one point, we had Margaret practically swaddled in cloth napkins all around her torso and she managed to drop an entire slice of pepperoni pizza onto her skirt. I can’t even. By the end of the trip, I’d decided the hell with natural products, when we got home I’d simply have to purchase a bottle of color-safe bleach and see what happens. I certainly have tried everything else.

On the journey home I read Manda’s Tide confession (thinking to myself how Tide is the scent and eczema devil), then clicked through to the New York Times article she linked and…hmm. It seemed to say Tide really was the best at removing stains. I thought detergent was detergent, but the article implied no one has ever really been able to replicate Tide’s proprietary formula (or, even if they have, consumers are still convinced Tide is the best).

That night, I washed the first load of vacation laundry in Charlie’s and when the clothes came out, the stains were in all of the exact same places they’d been on the way in. As they always are. I thought I stunk at stain removal, but was it my soap? I eyed the Tide packets, then quickly ripped one open and threw it in the washer before I could change my mind. I figured I’d do one load with Tide, then rewash it once or twice with Charlie’s to remove the stink.

The Tide didn’t work, either. I didn’t expect it to remove all evidence of pepperoni pizza or anything, but I expected some change. Maybe at least the little stains? But no. I’m going to have to buy that bleach.

As far as other things go, I’ve tried, over the last year, OxiClean with every load (I liked it, and felt it kept things nicer, but it doesn’t remove the kinds of stains my kids make)(I’ve also made a paste of it and rubbed directly on stains, but that didn’t help), Shout (what my mom – and I – have always used and, honestly, it works better than anything else I’ve tried, but it hasn’t gotten kid stains all the way out), and the OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick Emily recommended (it has not worked at all for me. Nada.)(I did coat the clothes with it last night, though, because it can’t hurt to try again, right?)

Do you have anything else you swear by? I’m at a loss. Maybe the bleach will work? I’m not asking for a miracle here – that skirt, which Margaret also covered in watermelon stains, may be a loss – but I don’t even have anything that works on everyday stains. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

It's like I was in the dark ages or something

I'm back! You didn't even know I was gone! So, yeah, we went on vacation. Since a local friend of mine had her house broken into while her family was gone for Christmas, I decided not to broadcast the fact we were leaving. It felt weird. I knew I was going to be without internet for a whole week and I couldn't even let you guys know. But I'm back in my lovely - and quite clean, thanks to the excellent work of a-week-ago me (and Thomas) - house and I have tons of things to say. I hope to write a short-ish vacation recap soon, but I spent a lot of time this week thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of being internet-less, so this post was dying to come out.

We went on a cruise through the Western Caribbean. One of the side effects (or sometimes the point) of a cruise is an internet fast. It’s gotten much more affordable, actually, to buy a wireless internet package while on a cruise, but it’s still expensive and since I primarily use the internet for entertainment I didn't see the need to pay for it when there are always tons of free things going on around the ship. 

When we went on a cruise two years ago the internet break was refreshing and made every fun, vacationy day seem longer since I didn’t lose huge chunks of time with my eyes glued to my phone. We had lazy afternoon siestas where Margaret napped and I read magazines. We went to bed at a reasonable time, since there wasn’t much to do after she was asleep for the night when glowing screens were unavailable to us.

Two parents on vacation with one child was totally doable and we had plenty of time to relax. This time we were two parents with two children who fed off each other’s crazy and somehow seemed to seem like six children we could not control in a tiny little room. I needed my coping mechanism – a little adult interaction with my friends – and it felt extreme to go without it completely. (I would have settled for a little adult interaction with my husband, but the kids weren't really allowing that.)

A couple months ago, I reached an internet saturation point and had to take a step back. I’ve drastically cut back the amount of time I spend on Twitter and I have ruthlessly unsubscribed to a lot blogs I wasn’t enjoying anymore. (Mostly large, impersonal blogs. I decided I was all Cake Wrecked out. After a while they all run together, amiright?)

This meant by the time we left on the cruise, I wasn’t really wasting that much time on the internet. Certainly it still took up a noticeable chunk of my day – a couple hours, in 10-15 minute increments here and there – but it seemed reasonable to me. Maybe it wasn’t, but it was working for right now. Cutting it out completely seemed unnecessary. I mean, A’Dell was having a baby and I wasn’t allowed to check in and see how things were going.

I brought plenty of magazines, but I didn’t really want to read them. It felt a little silly to say no, you can’t read a blog post about what’s going in your friends’ lives, you must read a magazine article about Kim Kardashian’s ongoing divorce. I do love a good US Weekly (or five), but I wasn’t feeling it this week. I missed you guys.

A “no internet outside of naptime or bedtime” rule I would have been fine with. That seems appropriate for a vacation. But does it really matter if I spend 15 minutes before bed reading a Kindle book I didn’t enjoy or a few blog posts?

I wouldn't say going without the internet for a week was hard, at least not in my current low-maintenance, no-Twitter internet routine. I survived just fine. I feel like I’m doing pretty well with the moderation right now, though, so I don’t expect to do a complete fast again anytime soon. I am glad I had trip two years ago where I felt like the break was really valuable, or I'd be a rather cranky internet-fasts-are-STUPID person right now. Sometimes they're just what you need. Sometimes they just make you realize how much your people mean to you.

Monday, January 21, 2013

December books, part 2

So, yeah. When I finally made it to my 2012 reading goal I didn't even want to think about books any more, which means my mostly complete December books, part 2 post was sadly neglected. But it's done now! Starting with January, I'll go back to monthly post for awhile, instead of twice a month, in keeping with my "read less books" goal.

I’m wondering if I was able to enjoy this book more than others might because personally I see very little difference in a painting done by James Buttersworth in 1800 or Ken Perenyi in 1980. If the fake is identical enough to fool authenticators, down to the period canvases, frame, and varnish, I'll take it. I do realize it’s wrong (lying for starters, plus stealing from whomever you sell it to and devaluing authentic paintings); I’m just more fascinated than indignant, while I can see some people having a hard time reading about such large-scale fraud.

It took awhile to get to the fascinating stuff, though. The first several chapters were hard to slog through and almost completely irrelevant to the rest of the book. They made me really glad I wasn’t around during the psychedelic 70s, though. Sex, drugs, and rock & roll would not have been for me.

If you thought Pride and Prejudice was as boring as all get out, as I did, the addition of a murder mystery does nothing to make it more interesting. If you do like (or love) Pride and Prejudice it appears, from reading other reviews, you probably won't think this book worthy of the characters. So there's really no winning here.

This book snuck up and surprised me. I expected (or hoped, at least) it would be a solid three-star book, since I know Melissa Ford has a popular, well-known blog. The beginning of the book was a little bumpy and overly filled with blogging 101, but by the end I genuinely cared about the main character, Rachel, and was kind of upset it was over. Lately it has seemed like all of the books I read tell instead of showing and this one finally broke that streak. The emotion was portrayed really well and I even cried in solidarity with Rachel in a couple places.

I never got into this one. I really tried, because I love Ali Wentworth, but the book was just too over the top. I was never sure if anything was true, since each story was so extreme (“and then I snorted half a brick of cocaine, freaked out, and ran off to the airport to fly home with the other half in my backpack!”). The chapters were also disjointed, so I could never get into the groove. This was a book I had been looking forward to for awhile and I was pretty disappointed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Margaret's Birth Story

I don’t think I ever wrote Margaret’s birth story here! I started this blog when she was 8 months old and have always meant to write about her birth, but haven’t. Moxie asked about labor stories last week and after I wrote my comment I thought this could be my opportunity to expand on it and give Margaret a birth story like her brother already has!

At 38 weeks, 6 days, after begging Thomas for weeks to just let me have the bed all to myself, PLEASE, he finally agreed to sleep elsewhere for the night. I woke up at 2am in labor. (39w0d) Or at least I thought I did, but I’d never been in labor before, so how should I know? They weren’t like the Braxton-Hicks I’d been having, though, and I thought it was the real thing. I was super-calm and it felt like something really exciting was happening. I went and woke Thomas up around 3. The contractions continued erratically all day. We went for walks around the block. We went to the mall to walk and take one last pass at finding a going home outfit. (I had one picked out, but I still wanted to look.) We didn’t buy anything. By that evening we were very frustrated.

I thought labor would be linear. It might take 48 hours to get from contractions every 30 minutes to every 2, but you’d be able to tell they’re progressing. Mine, however, never found a pattern. At several points during the day, they came every 5 minutes and we’d get excited. Then they’d slow back down to every 15 minutes, or even every 30 minutes and we’d discouragedly start watching another episode of The Office.

At around 10 pm, my mom came over and we sent Thomas to get some sleep. I walked figure eights around the living room and kitchen for hours. The contractions kept coming, but not in any regular pattern. At 9am, my mom convinced me to just go the hospital and see what they said.
I was put on a contraction monitor in triage and, thankfully, proved to be in labor. I was 4.5 centimeters dilated, so they admitted me. I was disappointed with the number, as I’d been 4 cm already at my doctor appointment two days earlier. After I was admitted, the doctor came to break my water (I think around 10 am) since I’d been in labor for 32 hours without much progress.

That kicked things up a notch and after taking a couple laps around L & D I was begging for an epidural. I think I got it around 11:30. At noon, I was feeling MUCH better and tried to take a little nap. I’d been up for 34 hours, walking for most of it. I dozed a little, but don’t feel like I really slept. My contractions slowed way down and I was given a little Pitocin without being consulted. I remember hearing my mom ask the nurse what she was putting in my IV and the nurse answering Pitocin, which made me think, geez, that’s not something you think you should ASK me about?? Or at least TELL me about? I was pretty timid, though, and couldn’t feel anything due to the epidural, so I didn’t say anything.

They increased the Pitocin dose a few times over the next couple hours (and did at least tell me about it). It was still a low dose, though. By 2pm, things were humming and everyone was preparing for the birth. I started pushing at 2:50 and we could see progress with every push (yay!). Margaret was born after only 15 minutes, at 3:05 pm. 7 lbs, 0.5 oz (rounded to 1 oz for the paperwork) and 19.5 inches. She was put directly on my chest and I couldn’t believe she was real.

My mom immediately ran and told my sister to come in with the video camera to tape the beginning of Margaret’s life (cutting the cord, weighing). Meanwhile, I was still spread wide in stirrups, with the doctor grumbling he couldn’t reach high enough “up there” (????) to stitch me. I still don’t know exactly how I tore ‘up’ instead of…back? Is that how you’d phrase it? but for the next year I could feel the scar tissue extending ‘up’ a ways. It was painful. (I’m sure Margaret will love to read about this.)

I'm sure you all were dying for photographic proof.
See the doctor in the lower right corner? Still stitching. 
Breastfeeding was a little difficult to get the hang of, but by the time we left the hospital two days later I thought everything was peachy. When we took Margaret in for her 4 day checkup, she’d lost over 10% of her birth weight and the pediatrician demanded I give my child formula. Right now!

Actually, he was very gentle about it. He asked if I had a breast pump (I did), told me to start using it after every feeding while Thomas feed the baby a bottle of whatever colostrum I’d pumped the last time mixed with enough formula to equal two ounces. My new-mom brain freaked out, though, and totally lost it. I was starving my baby! She was wasting away! How could I have been reduced to formula only 4 days into my breastfeeding career?! What a failure I was as a mother!

For the next 48 hours, I nursed Margaret for 10 minutes on each side every two hours during the day and every three hours at night. Then Thomas gave her a bottle and I pumped for 30 minutes. We then washed the pump parts and bottle, set everything up for the next time and had, like, 45 minutes before starting the next round. It was grueling and miserable. Then, when she was 6 days old, I suddenly pumped 3 oz in 10 minutes and I think it was the most exciting and validating 10 minutes of my life. I had milk! I was not a failure!

After that point, Margaret didn’t have any formula until she was 9-ish months old and that’s a whoooole ‘nother story of angst and feelings of failure. (Which I now see as a success, actually. There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding your baby for 9 whole months!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Day 1 as a housewife

Yesterday, Paul spilled an entire snack cup full of cheerios under the table. There were a lot of them and they were kind of hard to reach, so I got out the vacuum. There were clumps of cat hair on the carpet (and would be even if I vacuumed twice a day, WHY CAT WHY) so I made the kids pick up their toys and did the entire living room.

When I pushed the vacuum back to the corner of the kitchen where it lives, I noticed it's corner was dusty. So I hooked up the attachment and took care of it. Then I did the whole perimeter of the kitchen.

When I looked up I noticed a pile of crumbs on the counter and thought...why not? So I vacuumed all of the counter tops. I found this to be such a brilliant idea, I decided to try it on the pile of onion-skin detritus in the vegetable crisper.

And that is how I wound up vacuuming the entire interior of my refrigerator.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Should it Stay? No!

So, my last day of work was Thursday! It has not sunk in at all yet and if someone woke me up tomorrow and told me to go to work, I'd just...go and everything would be business as usual. I'm rather confused right now and sort of feel like I'm simply on vacation.

Anyway, I figured this big transition from working lady to stay-at-home mom warranted a complete wardrobe overhaul and the first thing to go would be stuff I have kept only because it's "good for work." Now I know we'd all like to only wear "things we love," but that's not always realistic, you know? Sometimes you just need something to wear to work and it's not the BEST or your LOVAH, it's just a shirt.

As it turns out, though, I liked most of what I wore to work (which was business casual and not fancy at all, so perfectly appropriate for being at home.) Aside from the items I had earmarked in advance, I threw out hardly any work clothes and a BOATLOAD of crappy stuff I kept to wear on off days so I wouldn't "waste" my work clothes. Nothing bummed me out faster than wearing my favorite work-appropriate shirt on a Saturday and then getting to Monday morning and wailing "I have nothing to weaaaaaaar." I apparently had a lot of good-enough-for-the-weekend-but-not-for-work stuff. And, again, my office was pretty casual, so the bar wasn't particularly high.

This was just my first pass at half of my closet. That's 3 pairs of pants and 32 shirts. That I am getting rid of. FROM HALF MY CLOSET. If you can believe it, I didn't know I had a problem until I thought I should take a before shot and looked through my lens to see this:

I mean, I knew I had an organization problem, but I really didn't realize how many items were in this closet or how out of control it truly looked. (Probably because the messy areas are below eye-level.)

I wasn't kidding when I said I could keep up Should it Stay Monday forever if I wanted to, using just what's in my closet. At this point though, most of it should be a no. I've been through most of the clothes I had questions on, so Should it Stay Monday will be on an as-needed basis now instead of every week. There will definitely be closet organization posts, though. Probably both at Style All Over and here, so get ready.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

52 Date Nights, Week 13: Make s'mores indoors

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

The past week has been one of those weeks where Thomas and I haven’t gotten more than 15 consecutive minutes together and are mostly just passing each other in the hall on the way to unpacking/laundry/making dinner/putting kids to bed. I guess we did have time one night to take the Christmas tree down together and assemble this to put in its place, but unfortunately I couldn’t find “play with easel magnets” on the date night list.*

{Edited to add: I knew I was going to forget to put in the picture I wanted here. It's on Thomas' computer and I meant to get it! Here's a blurry one from Amazon.} {Also, doesn't that little girl look just like Michelle's Peanut? You didn't tell us she modeled, Michelle!}

My parents got this for Margaret and both kids love, love, love it.

So, when opportunities for a date night look slim, you can either think: bummer, not going to happen this week OR you can grab one of those 15 minute stretches and use it to set things on fire with your gas stove.

(This picture was staged because we are FAR TOO COMPETENT to accidentally set marshmallows on fire.)**

Chocolate graham crackers because they were what we had and I didn’t want to buy a whole new box. Extra dark chocolate because I’m fancy. And kind of a snob. Baileys because…you know. Why not?

Thomas opted for a Reeses minis s’more and it was quite delicious.

*Neither was “assemble pieces in the wrong order, screwing up the whole process and making your long-suffering husband fix your mistakes.” Weird.

**OK, fine, we did set a couple on fire briefly. The picture was staged, though – the next morning, when Thomas was gone. I was alone in the kitchen setting things on fire with one hand while trying to take pictures with the other, all while the kids were eating breakfast in the next room. Safe!***

***This won’t affect my homeowner’s insurance rates, right?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 Reading Goal: Completed

I’m not a fan of resolutions, but I do know one thing I’m planning to do in 2013: not read so many dang books. I read a lot when I have tiny babies, especially since with an iPad and Kindle, turning pages while trapped under a baby is easy. Last year I had time to read in the middle of the night (thanks, Paul!) and time to read while pumping at work (3x a day at 20 minutes each is an HOUR per day I was reading at work!) I set a goal of reading 100 books in 2012 and by June I was blowing that goal out of the water. I think I was at 71 already.

I figured to make my goal relevant again, I’d just re-set it. Half of the year left = read 50 more books. So I changed my goal to 120 and suddenly found out that since Paul had just turned one, reading wasn’t going so smoothly. I was spending much more time picking up after my (walking!) one-year-old than sitting on the couch nursing. Thomas started handling a lot of the night wakeups (yay for Daddy!). I no longer pumped at work. A little over 8 books a month started to seem like a…lot. (As a comparison, I read seventeen books in May.)

By the time November and December rolled around, reading was a big struggle for me. After 102 books already that year, I was pretty sick of reading. I wanted to watch TV. Page through a magazine. Anything but look at the stack of library books taunting me. I wanted to stop thinking about how 11/22/63 should totally count as 4 books and how my goal had turned into “read 120 books I can review on Goodreads,” meaning the five I couldn’t didn’t count.* (So, yes, I read one hundred and twenty-five books in 2012.)

I considered dropping the goal back to 100 and saying ‘done!’ I just couldn’t. I set this wacky goal and I was GOING TO MEET IT. No matter how much it made me hate reading! (Not counter-productive at all!) I did meet my goal, on December 30th and was very relieved to be done with it. Now reading is for pleasure again, instead of feeling like homework. We’re eight days into 2013 and I’ve only finished ONE book. It’s so nice to have permission (from myself) to read one chapter before bed and have that be IT for the whole day. I think I’ve established that meaningless goals are probably not a good thing for me. Resolve to be a better parent? That’s a good thing. Resolve to spend all my free time doing one thing? Not so much.

*Three were books I just couldn’t admit to reading where anyone on earth could see. (Guess what they were!) (NOT IN MY COMMENTS SECTION.) The fourth was the beta version of the Office Crush book and the fifth was a book written by a relative of mine that I really don’t want to review.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

52 Date Nights: Week 12, Sing Karaoke

Previous date night posts here. Free stay-at-home date night ideas PDF download here. (Not sponsored.)

Karaoke is a date night that requires extensive preparation in the form of alcohol. Unfortunately, we decided to squeeze it in after several hours of packing for our family trip to Memphis and absolutely no drinking. I don’t feel as if we did the activity justice.
This is the site the date nights PDF linked to. It was…OK. But
you can’t beat free, right? That’s really all we’re looking for.
I was pretty tentative, but after Thomas belted his song out I got a little more into it. We wanted to try a duet, but apparently you have to create a paid membership on this site to do that. Who knows, maybe we’ll search out a karaoke bar in Memphis!

Thomas belting it out at the bar. (The bar in our basement, that is.)