Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Troops are Descending!

All of my out-of-town co-workers are coming to Minnesota for a meeting this coming week, and I thought it was a good idea to host a little get-to-know-you cocktail party the night everyone arrives. Two weeks ago when I brought this idea up to my very enthusiastic boss, it seemed like a great idea. A week ago when I finalized plans, it seemed like an okay idea. Today, it seems like a really, really, REALLY bad idea.

What I didn’t know two weeks ago was that because most of my co-workers are traveling from the East coast to get here, they’d essentially be gone for most of Tuesday and most of Friday traveling back and forth. Well, apparently our clients don’t care about that? Can you believe it? I mean they want to sell their wares while I am trying to get ready to host a party. The nerve! And since I am one of the few who doesn’t have to travel, I am the fortunate individual who gets the privilege of handling all the deadlines that interfere with the travel dates. A lot of deadlines. 12-hour-day deadlines. Ripping hair out deadlines.

So, yesterday and today were spent making up for the week of things I was supposed to do last week while I was tearing my hair out and nearing the point where I hit the fetal position and curse the day I ever said “I love entertaining, it’s no problem.” Turns out, it’s not super easy to cram a week’s worth of stuff in two days. Particularly when you have a baby who clings to mommy like a spider monkey on a football. I can barely go to the bathroom without a meltdown, much less clean my house, get the food, plan the food, and clean the entire outside of my house.

Right, the outside of my house. Have I mentioned I haven’t exactly developed a green thumb? Or that we sort of never replaced the patio chairs we borrowed, and then returned? The list of things we’ve been too lazy or too cheap to do all of a sudden piled up, and this is pretty much what our day consisted of.

Thank GOODNESS for my husband and friend, who helped while I dealt with aforementioned spider monkey half the day. Apparently Wee ‘Burb doesn’t love sitting outside while mom plants flowers. Apparently she wants food and attention or something. Rotten kid.

Anyway, so that’s my explanation as to why I haven’t posted, and it serves as a warning to anyone local that if you do hear screams of “what the hell was I thinking??” it’s just me reminding myself to never volunteer again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meat + Controversy = Friday Night at the VFW

Summer brings a lot of joys…lemonade, beaches, sun staying out until well past 8 p.m. But know where it goes horribly wrong? Meat raffles! Apparently, people would rather be, you know, OUTSIDE or AT THEIR CABINS or outside at their cabins than at the bar trying to win some meat.

At least this was what I was told when I called multiple bars that all informed me after July 4th, they were “taking a hiatus” from meat raffles.

What is the world coming to??

But fear not, because we can always depend on our men and women who served their country proudly to provide protection from tyranny at home and abroad, and a room full of chicken and pork on a Friday night. Thank you so very much for your service, VFW!

We arranged for Scott to drop us off at the VFW while he took Wee ‘Burb to grandma’s house. And just as I am about to close the car door after blowing kisses to the Wee ‘Burb, what does he say?

“Hey, you should probably check and see if you need a sponsor to get in.” If this were a sitcom, this is when you’d hear the record scratch and the sound of crickets.

I believe my extremely stupid response was “well, like, could YOU be our sponsor?” I have NO IDEA why this crossed my mind. Because he’s a dude? Is that the same as serving in a war?

I mean, Scott has the same war experience as Cous Cous …I don’t know where my head was at. I was just so taken aback that my perfect evening plan could go awry…and that he didn’t think to mention this earlier. Preferably before I was standing in the parking lot looking like a total moron.

But I was resolved. I was going to attend this meat raffle if I had to go door to door and ask for Veteran support. I walked in and immediately I see a sign-in book. Crap.

So I looked around to find someone in charge. There was nobody behind the bar and everyone looked up and stared as we walked in…again, cue the crickets.

I saw someone tallying receipts so I walked in what I thought to be a confident manner up to this guy and said: ”do we need someone to sponsor us to come in, or can anyone join for the meat raffle?”

He laughed and pointed to the open tables and bellowed like the Ghost of ChristmasPast: “Come in and know us better, man.”

Okay, he didn’t. What he did say was: “You’re MY guest tonight, have a drink!”

Now, I’d had partaken of some cheap beer and just found out the meat raffle was only 50 cents a ticket versus the $1 tickets at most bars, so I was a tad charged up when I screeched to my friend: “I feel REALLY good about this!!”

She had the #10 and when the dude spun the roulette wheel, I almost passed out when I saw it land on 10!! I start squealing like a 13-year-old Bieber fan and the table next to us starts congratulating her on winning her first one, and we’re all excited.

Until we see someone else walking up and waving the #9 in the meat auctioneer’s face. He says rather menacingly “that’s MY meat.”

So my friend starts to sit down, but I’m not having this! This man will NOT take her victory. I say very loudly “the wheel CLEARLY says 10” and my friend is shrugging her shoulders and seconds away from shooshing me.

There’s a conference with the Ghost of Christmas past and some of his fellow judges, and they say something that sets Number 9 off. To the point that this GROWN MAN actually tries to tear up his ticket and throw it on the ground.

He shouts “I walked all the way up here for THIS!?”

First of all, dude, you’re out 50 cents. I’ve seen people lose their rent money with less of a hissy fit than this guy was throwing.

Also? Throwing your dollies down and going home is for 5-year-old girls with braids, not men who’ve been through war. Is losing a 50-cent meat raffle REALLY something that keeps you up at night?

And also again? “All the way up here” was approximately 20 steps. He looked rather agile as he was throwing his tantrum, so the extra hissiness based on the distance he had to travel to claim his now-denied meat was just unnecessary.

The people at the table next to us who were cheering for us are now jeering the meat auctioneer and Number 9 and telling him it was for sure #10 and she deserves her meat!

My friend leans over to them and says “look, I don’t want to break any rules here” and as the auctioneer comes over to tell her to claim her meat, the woman says something to my friend that means I will be spending a lot of Friday nights at the VFW:

“Honey, there ARE no rules at the VFW.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: Lists and the Organizers that Let Me List

Do you ever do something that you think nobody else does? Or at least so few people do that you’d still be considered a huge freak if you ever admitted to it, and therefore you keep it to yourself as a secret shame?

That used to be me and lists. I thought I was alone in the extreme euphoria I felt when making a list, organizing it just so, and then I saw these bad boys and I felt reborn.

Allow me to give you a list of my favorite lists to make:  
  • Christmas Lists: I keep one all year long and update it once a month. Actually, I keep two - one in my phone and one on Amazon.
  • Packing Lists: Traveling used to be so fun and relaxing. The only good thing to come out of liquid restrictions and all that hoopla now means I get to add “to buy at location” list, along with the “pack in suitcase” and “pack in carry-on” lists. It’s the little things.
  • And last, but so very much NOT least, grocery lists. My FAVORITE list is a grocery list. I just love digging through my recipes for the week, and going through the fridge and cabinets and cleaning them out, making room for the new food for the new meals.

 I organize my grocery list according to aisle or shopping section…that’s just how I roll, people!

 Seriously, though, organizing it that way cuts down significantly on the time you spend in the store, plus minimizes impulse buys. If you’re anything like me, that saves both money AND pounds.

Then I go through my coupons and mark which ones have a coupon. It’s a weird ritual, and it makes me so happy. And now, thanks to this awesome list pad, it’s all organized!

If grocery lists aren’t your thing, the good folks at Buttoned Up also carry errand lists, general to-do lists, and other fun pads to help you have fun organizing.

Now tell me, are you a list person? Do you do yours daily or weekly? Are you a cross-out or check-mark person? Share your shame, People!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

America, Meet my Meat

Since my friend from Boston moved in with us in February, I have slowly been trying to introduce her to the intricacies of the ‘burbs. So I waited to expose her to one of the great suburban experiences, one I only discovered myself about two years ago when we went “up north” (because that’s what you do on weekends in Minnesota, people, you go “up north” to “cabins” that are often nicer than most people’s houses, have satellite TVs, and central air and heat) and I saw a sign for it in the bar window.

My exact words were “what on God’s green earth is a meat raffle?”

I was met with stunned silence. And then shocked expressions of “but, you grew up here.”

Apparently, my New Yorker parents didn’t feel the need to expose me to the wonder that is a meat raffle, and after having experienced it, well, let’s just say that will go in my own version of Mommy Dearest. No, she didn’t scream at me about wire hangers, but my mom DID fail to introduce me to the exciting world of meat raffles.

My first time was so much more than I ever dreamed. It was at church.

I got in just under the wire for the first drawing. I handed the lady my money and in return she handed me a lunch ticket.

I don’t care how many events I’ve been to where those are featured, they are lunch tickets to me. The little serial number on the side, the perforations from where they were carelessly ripped, it just brings me back. But in the present, it was time to draw the winner. And it was me!

So the woman takes me to a freezer truck that’s parked in the middle of the church tent (huh, I didn’t realize how weird that was until I wrote it. Freezer truck in a church tent), and opened it to reveal the most glorious assortment of meat I’ve ever seen. Gloriously free meat. And I have to choose which gloriously free meat I want.

I try to look over to Scott, but he’s just shaking his head and laughing. He totally talks to me like a four-year-old: “You bought the ticket, you can choose your prize!”

It reminded me of the Perkins restaurants we went to growing up, the ones that had the wishing well at the entrance where you could pick out a prize? Anyone? I almost always got the plastic jumping frogs, the one with the little tab on the butt that when you pressed, it jumps across the table?

Aaaaanyway…so basically what they do is saran wrap buttloads (that's a valid measurement of meat in the 'burbs, by the by) of meat together and Sophie’s Choice dictates you have to pick which 10 pounds of meat you wish to bring home after trading in your lunch ticket. I chose one with pork chops, bacon, ground beef, ground pork, and a pork tenderloin. Soooo much meat.

Then the worst thing happened…I was informed I wasn’t at a legit meat raffle! Because a legit meat raffle, you see, does not have a freezer truck. Or any form of keeping meat cold. Instead, I’m afraid to say, a legit meat raffle has all the carcass shavings laid out on the pool table like a botulism buffet.

But a few beers, and my judgment waned and I agreed to accompany my Boston friend to the fair of food poisoning. This time, at a legit meat raffle in a bar.

Allow me to set the scene (ignore the bad photography, considering how dark and dingy the bar was, I’m frigging Ansel Adams). Witness the whole turkey carcass on the left just sitting on the pool table, holding up a wing and screaming “pick me! Pick me!”

Then the people running the show spin a wheel:

I think we can safely call my cherry-breaking church experience beginner’s luck. Because there was NOTHING (I blame the fact that they didn’t use lunch tickets, clearly my luck is based on a red lunch ticket).

The table to the left of us won twice in a row, and we continued through four rounds (and incidentally, about 6 gin and tonics) getting nowhere. To the point where we paid this way:

I’m afraid my friend wasn’t very impressed, but as you know, I tend to get competitive the more I drink, and two-for-ones do nothing to quell my spirit.

Which may be why I passively/aggressively tried to dig for pennies to pay for the poor wheel-spinner who I am sure went to the CoinStar machine grumbling about that little drunk brown-haired girl who paid with loose change.

We plan to go again, I know my luck will change! I’ve got a piggy bank full of change just itching to see the light of day.

Does your town have any of its own weird customs? Are there things people are just shocked you go out and do?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My First Guest Post!

The blogosphere is such a funny thing. I actually said to someone "my friend let me do a guest post on her blog." Isn't it strange how "friend" has become such a stretchy word now? I mean, I have like 200 Facebook friends, but I'm frequently alone on a Friday night. How does that work? I suppose the same way it works with my blog buddies, who I feel like I know even though we've not met in person. Some of the conversations I've had with fellow bloggers have been deeper than people I call my friends.

Anyway, E over at E, Myself, and I is a great bloggy friend (bluddy? bluggy? Froggy?) and has let me do a guest post on how to convince your partner that it's baby time in honor of the fact that she's on a long road trip with her hubby where she plans to start planting the seeds (pun intended) about baby-making. See my tips and show her (and me) some love. Thanks!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blog About the Devil and She Appears

Ok, holy small suburban world!! I'm in Target perusing pajamas for Wee 'Burb, who has THE BIGGEST feet ever...I'm talking no footie pajamas can contain her. Anyway, I hear a familiar voice telling the kids to climb back into the cart and I look up from adorable monkey pajamas and who do I see: SUBURBAN WORKING MOM FROM THE POOL! Only, I am realizing now she's more than likely a Suburban Stay-at-Home mom who just happens to be very poised and put together. Now I hate her even more.

The best part?? Guess what she was buying with her perfect little suburban spawn? SWIMSUIT COVER-UPS! You can't make this stuff up!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ice Age: The Meltdowns

Guess what? Wee ‘Burb just got her first official diploma! Yup, my girl is wicked smart, getting diplomas before she even turns 1. It’s totally cool that she has zero interest in crawling and still tries to stick her bottle in her eye, because my little genius has passed her very first parent/child swimming class.

I confessed here that I was doing this largely to make new mommy friends. The other impetus, though, was to make sure that when we head to oceans East this summer, Wee ‘Burb isn’t terrified of the water. Because Mommy likes to get her beach on, People, and I can’t have a kid who refuses to leave the safety of their umbrella and towel.

We got to the first lesson super early, which will surprise nobody who knows me. I have a very “10 minutes early is 20 minutes late” philosophy that requires me to travel with reading material and a charged cell phone to kill time while I wait for people with normal internal clocks that allow them to show up places on time.

The lessons are at a middle school, and can I tell you, the first whiff of barely hidden B.O. and ammonia and chlorine brought me back to the torturous years of middle school so much so that I had to check my teeth for braces, and felt the snap of a bra strap like a PTSD flashback.

I see that there are two…kids? I don’t know, they’re out of high school, I guess. Teenagers? What do they call them now, I’m still trying to figure out what the hell a “tween” is. Anyway, they’re young’uns being instructed by a very pregnant older lady on how to prepare the pool for the kiddies after a middle school swim team apparently created bad baby swimming juju by putting the ropes too close together.

The “teachers” are not inspiring a lot of confidence. They’re kind of shuffling around, looking at each other, looking at the parents who are starting to file in. The pregnant pool feng shui advisor is long gone. They’re not really saying anything to us.

The dude finally hands me a piece of paper that gives the “rules” of swim class (okay, it’s really hard not to write “the first rule of baby swim class is don’t talk about baby swim class!”), which are basically common sense things like this class doesn’t promise your kid will never drown, you need to hold on to your baby, etc. And one that I thought was super common sense, but proved not to be was that your kid will pick up on your cues to determine how to act in the water.

The “teachers” finally introduce themselves and confess what is now obvious: they’ve never actually taught a parent/child swimming lesson (and, I am sure, will never engage in any activity that may result in being a parent with a child after seeing the ensuing meltdowns, which only echo in a pool that size).

So it’s time (10 minutes late, thanks) to finally get in the water. And I am psyched. Only now I am starting to realize that Wee ‘Burb is, by far, the littlest one there. All of the other kids are walking, talking little people and my drooly howler monkey is staring at them, then at me, like “what did you get me into here, Mom?”

It turns out they had combined classes and instead of the 6 months to 2 years class, Wee ‘Burb was now in the 6 months to 4 years class. And by the stares as we tried to maneuver getting in the water when Wee ‘Burb could barely sit on her own on the side, I realized most people were thinking I either had some baby with a growing disease, or I was insane.

But, we’re resilient, Wee ‘Burb and I. I jump in the water and it is COLD! Not lake cold, I’m talking polar ice caps cold. But all I can think about is if I start screeching, it’s over, Wee ‘Burb will not come in. So I smile, clap my hands and pull her in.
The look of SHOCK that came over that baby’s face! I thought for sure I was killing her, or at the very least making sure her insides wouldn’t thaw out until she was the age of our “teachers.” But after a minute or so of moving around, she was good to go and I was less blue, so we were ready.

Two other mommies follow me. One is a rather large woman with what I assume to be a large 4-year-old in an ill-fitting pink bikini, who actually turns out to be a very large two-year-old with an ill-fitting pink bikini and, let’s face it, a cruel mom. Anyway, the mom gets in and immediately starts squealing and Pink Bikini immediately grabs on to the railing and refuses to let go. Meltdown #1.

The other mom behind her is a very polished looking Suburban Working Mom. She oozes poise and I am immediately jealous of her and her very fit body and her lovely (though impractical for the pool) diamond earrings, and carries her tow-headed daughter in a perfectly cut little pink princess bathing suit, hair done in two symmetrical ponytails (here’s where I confess that our daycare ladies LOVE to play with Wee ‘Burb’s hair and I have given them free rein to do so, so that night she was sporting what we like to call her Wee Who from Whoville look, which was two very short ponytails on top of her head, closely resembling a little alien). She is there with Suburban Working Dad who has their tow-headed son in a polo shirt and trunks remarkably similar to his own.

She gets in and immediately shoots a warning look to Suburban Working Dad that he is not to allow either of their perfect children near this glacial abyss known as the middle school pool. She immediately looks at the “teachers” and declares it “far too cold for children to enter.” Aaaakward, as right then Wee ‘Burb puts her feet in her mouth and floats right on by Suburban Working Mom’s super judgmental stare.
The little boy actually WANTS to go in the water, but Suburban Working Mom refuses to let him. Meltdown #2.

Two other little kids see that Suburban Working Mom isn’t making HER kids go in the water, and refuse to go in themselves. Meltdowns #3 and #4.
This whole time, Wee ‘Burb could not care less. She’s happily frog kicking and smiling at all the parents who are now torn between their fears of hypothermia or curing their kids’ fear of water.

The bottom line was this, according to the “teachers,” the pool was at 78 degrees. It would get into the 80s when classes progressed, this was just early and they were still playing around with the temperatures, etc. And most of the class was then spent trying to coax parents, and then their kids, into the damn water.

I don’t see Suburban Working Mom at the next two classes. She shows up to the fourth class and immediately tells the “teachers” that she had phoned the Community Education office and given them a piece of her mind that 78 degrees was totally inappropriate for children and she was not about to subject her kids to that.

I swear she looked right at me and Wee ‘Burb, who was now happily following a Dora the Explorer ball around the pool and screeching her delight. That day it was supposedly 83 degrees, which Suburban Working Mom felt was okay enough to allow her darling children in, but only for 20 minutes of the 30-minute class.

She didn’t show up again to the rest of the classes, after complaining 83 was still too cold for the full class and her darling dears were not going to swim in that.

At first I felt guilty for allowing Wee ‘Burb, clearly smaller and more fragile than Suburban Working Mom’s toddlers, in the pool in those temperatures. But she never turned blue, she had a great time, and most importantly: she lives out in the world! I mean, what lake or ocean maintains a constant temperature of 83 degrees or higher?

Incidentally, I was looking something else up in one of my long-put-aside Mommy Books and I saw an entire chapter on swim lessons that might as well have been titled “Stephanie: Reason #400 you are the Worst Mom Ever” or “Call Child Services Now” for short.

Because, according to the very practical doctors and mommies and other people keeping their kids in bubbles all their lives, 83 degrees is in fact the optimal temperature for babies to swim in. But you probably shouldn’t take them swimming, anyway, because they’re liable to have their ears or bowels explode, resulting in little baby pieces that are very rough on the pool filters.

Whoops! And now we know why Stephanie didn’t make any new mommy friends at parent/child swim lessons. But we do have this nifty diploma!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Absconding with a Bronte or Two

I am a library fugitive. Betcha didn’t know that about me. And now that you do, please keep it to yourself…you know what I’m capable of!

One of the best things about moving to the ‘burbs was it’s a different county! Out from under the tyranny of THE MAN trying to charge me a frigging quarter every day I held their precious books hostage. Why must their policy be not to negotiate with book terrorists?

Here are my list of demands, since you asked:

1. You need to give me more than two weeks with a book. I mean, do they not know that when forced to choose between staring at Dr. Drew and his dreamy black t-shirts in Celebrity Rehab and reading a book, Drew is going to win out EVERY day and twice on Sunday (incidentally, that’s how often VH1 repeats the damn show, but that’s totally beside the point)? Plus, who came up with two weeks — a speed reader? That dude on those annoying commercials with Peyton Manning who’s all “I read 20 books while I sat here.” Yeah? Really? Well, everyone you’re at the table with can buy you and sell you 20 times over, how’s that make you feel, Speedy Gonzalez? And why do we, as a culture, place such emphasis on the speediness of reading, anyway? Are we not to enjoy a book, to get engaged with a character or storyline and savor it?

2. Kindly stop sending me friendly reminder e-mails. They’re not friendly, we both know it. You can try to pretend you’re not threatening the kneecaps, but we all know what follows.
Kindly stop sending me the “reminder after the fact” e-mails that I am continuing to hold the books hostage. I know I am. And you’re charging me a quarter for the privilege. Really I think you’re winning out in this scenario, so why don’t you save your automated e-mails for someone who cares?

3. If you do, in fact, want this book back, stop restricting my ability to renew the book. So there’s a list a mile long of people who want to read it? Life’s tough, get a helmet, people. Wait like everyone else. I mean, you’re going to wait either way, why should the library reap the financial reward? It’d be one thing if that quarter went to the person who was next on the list, anxiously awaiting the newest gut-wrenching Jodi Picoult to leave my greedy little hands. Better yet, let it be between me and the next one on the list. Let us come to a negotiation like mature adults and stop trying to justify publicly funded extortion.

Have my years of winning summer reading contests and attending story hours from the ripe age of 4 gotten me no credit with you people? How about the fact that while SOME would say I am the biggest abuser, others would say I am the biggest USER of your services? Does the 25 cents a day make you feel better that you’re about to be put out of business by e-readers and Amazon? Will that keep you afloat long enough to have a library created entirely of automated machinery? Because I’m thinking the lady who snipped at me that I could use the machine to check out my books instead of her line CLEARLY knows in which direction this world is turning.

Well, old library, I have a new haunt now. And they only hold me up for a nickel a day. What’s that you say? I can only have a $10 fine before they cut me off from getting more books instead of your $20?

Dear New Library…

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things I Love Thursday: Sun Butter

I’ve been anxiously awaiting my weight loss plateau…the same way you know someone is mad at you and you anxiously await the inevitable confrontation. Typically, my plateau happens around 20 pounds, and when you have 40 to lose and you’re stuck at 20, it just feels like time to give up.

Well, my plateau never came. What happened instead was two pounds from my birthday goal (and also the loss of all my baby weight), I began to gain and lose the same three pounds. It’s been weeks now. I thought the plateau was bad, but seeing the scale go up when you’re working so hard is just a special brand of torture.

In the past, when I have plateaud, I’ve taken stock of my food and figured out how I can change it up, so I’ve been doing the same with…whatever this cosmic joke is. I went to one of my better weight loss sources, my sister-in-law. She’s my role model because when we go out, she has a blast, she eats what she wants, and you would just never know in the back of her head she’s calculating exactly what she needs to do the next day to make up for what she’s doing then. She also doesn’t eat a lot of overly processed frozen meals, etc. That was my huge mistake last time I was trying to lose weight. You can only live off frozen meals so long, gaining the weight back is inevitable when you try to do that.

Anyway, she suggested I focus on breakfast, and focus on protein, not carbs. She hit it spot on…I was constantly eating english muffins or toast or muffins. And then I wondered why I was starving at 10:00. She eats refried beans and makes a sort of breakfast burrito without the tortilla, but I just can’t get behind that for breakfast.

So I started researching things higher in protein, and I found a few Web sites that featured Sun Butter. In particular, I saw a lot of people pouring it in oatmeal. I’m not much of an oatmeal eater myself, but it looked good on the sites, and I needed a change.

This stuff is amazing! It is the richest flavor, and while it’s definitely oily, you don’t really need to stir it. It recommends keeping it in the fridge, but I prefer the oilier consistency, particularly when I add it to oatmeal because it mixes and melts in.

For those who don’t like the texture of peanut butter, or have peanut allergies, I highly recommend this substitute. While higher in fat, the protein levels are great, I’ve stayed full until lunch, and I am finally working my way back to getting to my pre-pregnancy weight.

My next step is to try some of their recipes, I will let you know how they go!

What do you do when you hit a weight loss plateau, or worse, gain weight when you’re doing what you’ve always done?