Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Years Revelations

I’m not much for New Years Resolutions. In my slightly more than 30 years, I’ve done more than my share of resolutions. Usually they are an epic fail. Why set yourself up? Even my masochism knows some bounds!

I’ve made a few goals in the last few years. Usually they revolve around simple things like take more pictures, eat more vegetarian meals, etc. Nothing earth-shattering like lose 100 pounds or read 100 books or something.

If you have been following my blog, you know when I plan a timeframe and an outcome, I’m generally not successful. Exhibit A: any walking/workout plan I have done EVER.

I was surfing around for some prompts after deciding I couldn’t write any more complaint blogs this week. When I saw this prompt , at first I dismissed it as a resolution prompt. But I kept coming back to it because I was having a major case of writer’s block and because I was thinking about it a lot.
December 11 – 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

The good news is, I couldn’t even come up with 11 things! Or at least 11 things I felt worthy of including in this blog. I mean, I could do without fleas or lice or more boxelder bugs or crazy neighbors.

But I thought now (versus when the prompt was released on the 11th) was as good a time as any to go ahead and release these…not resolutions, not goals, maybe just hopes and things I am attempting to do. With a few revelations thrown in. Yes, those terms give me a decent out should I epically fail again.

So here are some things I can do without in 2011:

1. Comcast: once my year-long deal ends with them, so does my relationship with cable. Not only will it save us money, but I think it will encourage us to be more choosy in what we watch and how much time we spend watching it. Maybe I’ll read a book or two.

2. Constant Background Noise: This goes with the release of cable. Back when we were living together before we were married, Scott and I tried to have a quiet night each week. One without TV or radio or anything, just us reading a book or a magazine, curled up together on the couch. Scott constantly fights for this now, and I am just ambivalent. I edit for a living, so reading sometimes is as taxing as work. I also have a tendency to get deep into a book, to the point where I don’t sleep until I finish it. I am a fast reader, but it’s meant many a late night trying to get to the last chapters when I should be sleeping. It’s much easier to turn off the TV in the middle of a Simpsons rerun than it is at the climax of a good juicy novel. But it’s important to turn the noise off sometimes, I know, and this is something I am dedicating myself to, even if it means a night of writing instead of reading.

3. Customer Service Complaints and Appeals: I’ve got to accept customer service doesn’t exist. I have to start choosing my battles. Calling insurance and telling them their billing is unfair is not worth it. Continuing to blanket Comcast with complaints and my disgust is not worth it. It feels good in the moment, but ultimately takes time and rage I can no longer afford.

4. Solitude in Motherhood: I have to continue to reach out to the moms I already know, and try to continue to find moms in my community. Wee ‘Burb is in such a crazy time of change, I need that support to get through her becoming a toddler and person.

5. Letting Myself Go: I have been appalled recently that when it was time to go out, I didn’t have anything nice to wear. Somehow I had become unaware that nothing fits right because I’ve been living in sweats. And this isn’t even a “how did I get so fat” post because honestly, I’ve been losing weight. I’ve been focusing on it, it isn’t happening magically (as much as I wish that to be). But somehow it never occurred to me that since I lost over 30 pounds since this time last year, perhaps I shouldn’t try to wear last year’s outfits? I’ve simply got to invest some money in myself and my appearance. To this end, I did get a nice Sephora gift card for Christmas. If you have any suggestions, speak now or forever hold your awesome glowy skin a secret.

6. Skipping Date Nights: So many weekends, Scott and I will say we should go here or there. We never make final plans because of his insane work schedule. So when it comes to a free day, I always figure he would rather sit at home with some beer and catch up on Tivo. And confession: so would I! Him being at work means I am home with Wee ‘Burb, or out doing 150 things at once so Wee ‘Burb and I aren’t bored at home. To avoid the avoidance this year, I’ve created a Christmas present that will ensure a bunch of date nights: The 12 Dates of Christmas! I went through and picked out 10 places that we have been forever talking about, and then kept two open for us to choose if a new place opens up or if we just have an alternate hankering. While it’s sad that we need this prescribed date time, I think it will be a really good game changer for us. And will make #5 even more important! I can’t go on date night as dumpy wife.

So again, I could only come up with 6. I’m going to count that as a good thing.

What things can YOU do without in 2011? Do you make resolutions? If you do, do you stick to them?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday Randomness

So, Scott and I went to Costco today. Because, you know, we're a hot young couple with a kid. That's date night, people!

Anyway, we had Wee 'Burb with us because our roommate had the AUDACITY to leave and go visit her family. I don't think we realized how reliant we had become on her pitching in when we had quick errands to run. Turns out, Wee 'Burb has her mommy's patience. Which is to say, less than zero.

So we're walking and we're price comparing and discussing what we're going to make for New Years Eve (we've long ago decided not to bother going out: I never like the fixed-price menu options and neither of us enjoy being on the roads or going to the built-up parties that always end up super boring).

Those of you who go to Costco or Sam's Club know that every few aisles there are sample carts. I usually try to avoid these because they're not friends to the ole diet. But today I was feeling fancy free and decided to try some frozen pizza. Pedestrian at best, sigh.

Then there's a ravioli sample and it looks good. I go to grab one and I am about to hand a little bite to Wee 'Burb, who is guppy-mouthing for more food since we're nearing her normal chow time, when I stifle a "sonofabitch" and throw it in the trash.

The word molten could not describe! The woman has the nerve to serve this on a little paper doily less thick and absorbent than the little tray that separates the milanos in a bag. It's CLEARLY soaking right through these little paper things, but she hasn't even bothered to refill her napkin dispenser.

So I am covered in grease and nearing tears my tongue hurts so bad, and Wee 'Burb is burying into Scott's chest and whining because mommy is the meanest mommy EVER not giving her a piece of that tongue-scalding noodle she so badly wanted.

Happy Tuesday, Costco. Thanks for nothing!

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm Pooped!

So I may have gone into this whole parenthood thing with some false bravado. Whereas Scott has never even really held a baby before, I’d spent most of my teen and college years baby-sitting and nannying.

And it turns out, so far I can totally keep her fed and safe and more or less entertained. I think I do a pretty good job if I do say so myself. In fairness, she makes it very easy, she’s not particularly bothered by much.

And while I have read some articles or books here and there, for the most part, I’ve been parenting on instinct. I don't know how it's going, exactly. But she's alive. So, that's not bad, right?

It becomes infinitely harder when the kid is mobile. And when that mobility coincides with holidays, meaning you have to keep them fed, safe, and entertained for the ENTIRE DAY, no help from daycare and other kids.

Recent events had me doing the dreaded looking at a book.

For a stretch of days, Wee ‘Burb was not napping in the afternoons. I could tell she was exhausted, she was giving me all the normal signs: rubbing her eyes, pushing her head into the carpet, trying to use Cous Cous as a pillow. But I would put her down and she would squawk and talk and roll around for hours. Seriously, one day it was two hours!

So, naturally Scott is like “why are we forcing this?” And I’m all “the book says this can happen because she’s so mobile and social and wants to play and stuff. So we have to try to keep her on the schedule so she knows it’s not time to play.”

And Scott is all raising his eyebrows like “book says whah?”

So he can see how desperate I am. And when I’m desperate, I just keep repeating the new knowledge I’ve gained about toddler sleeping habits and at the end he’s like “just asking, didn’t need the dissertation. You’re saying leave her in the crib?” And I’m like “yup the book says leave her in the crib.”

To say these weren’t restful days would be an understatement. I start to wonder if this is going on in daycare and I just don’t know about it. I start to get resentful that she’s only pulling this crap with me to test my boundaries or manipulate me (more book theories).

I become obsessed about when my kid became such a jerk! And then finally I go in and check on her on day 3 of no afternoon nap. I take her out and change her, all the while faking the cheerful “hello, my love” while really thinking “you suck so hard”…but you can’t say that, the books tell you only say loving things, the books say kids can hear you and read you and one false move will guarantee she’s on the next season of Intervention talking about how she goes around giving BJs for smack because her mommy told her she was a jerk for not napping.

So I am putting all my energy into changing said diaper the way you fake having a good time on a really bad date, just to pass the time with as little awkwardness and horror as possible.

When it hits me.

She’s had a dirty diaper the last three days when I’ve picked her up. Each time. I’ve been so focused on pretending I don’t think she’s a big fat meanie, it never occurred to me! So I change her and put her back down and she squawks for five minutes. And she’s out.

Um, where is the chapter that says “it’s really hard to sleep with a load in your pants, MOM!”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Where I Ask if I Just Need to Embrace My Lack of Cool

So the latest discussion in Suburbia is related to vehicles. And the need to purchase a new one.


Preferably before last week when the current vehicle snapped a belt and cost us $400 when it’s barely worth that in trade-in.

Sigh. Hindsight and all that.

Our discussion is an age-old one, with a bit of a twist: the slightly cooler SUV with fair to crappy gas mileage or the practical mini-van with the total giving up of any pretense that we’re a cool young couple.

The twist? Scott is the one who is clamoring for the mini-van.

I know! What dude is all “this is half the reason I got married and had a kid, I want the mini-van.” Say whah?

Look, I was never a member of the cool club. I was marginally acceptable in school, not so dorky as to have the radar gun of bullies at me; but not cool enough to bully anyone myself. I just imagine after I get the keys to a mini-van, there will be a line of cool moms with their colored hair and manicured nails ready to throw tomatoes at me.

That’s what happens when bullies grow up, right? This is my understanding.

There are no practical reasons Scott wants a mini-van, I would just like to point this out. Since he’s given up his truck, he is clamoring for a place to put his tools. Apparently a 1997 Saturn doesn’t provide enough space for the amount of tools formerly held in a Chevy S-10? Who knew?

And let’s just be honest: this is going to be like the dog. “Oh we can totally handle a baby and a dog, I’ll walk the dog twice a day, it’ll be fine.”

Yup, til you get a job and don’t want to walk the dog at 6 a.m. I’ve got approximately 4 pairs of eaten shoes and a destroyed comforter that shows you how well THAT argument worked out. Let's not even discuss the nightstand drawer. THE DRAWER, PEOPLE!

It’ll be the same with the van. I’ll be driving the damn thing around with his tools and a bunch of baby crap, and really, is it big enough to hold all my tears, people? IS IT???

The man has done his research, though. And he wanted to show me the coolest car he’d found. The Honda Odyssey. Honda…freaking…Odyssey.

He tries to point out the cup holders, the fancy seats, the this and the that. I’m searching for the in-seat Kleenex dispenser and mentally revising the lyrics to the Britney song all “I’m not a giiiirl, not yet a crone.”

I mean…come on! Who are you trying to kid? He’s talking to me the way I talk to Wee ‘Burb to try to convince her that the broccoli is just as delicious as the steak I am eating. Only, contrary to popular belief, I wasn’t born yesterday!

The only thing I am afraid of with the SUV option is the perception of invincibility you get when you get behind the wheel of those bad boys. I saw the best example of 4-wheel-drive hubris the other day. A tow truck driver and a cop had stopped traffic while they towed a car out on the ditch. The tow truck had to park on the right side to get the car out of the left side ditch, for some reason I assume has to do with gravity or leverage or something. I didn’t question it, just put the car into park and turned up the Christmas music.

But the 4WD vehicle in front of me was in NO MOOD to wait. So he attempted to drive around the tow truck. And ended up in the ditch himself! I am not going to pretend I didn’t totally crack up and thank the entire principle of karma.

And thought to myself: don’t think there’s such a thing as mini-van hubris.

So weigh in, party people. Mini-van or SUV?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Embroidered Pillows and Other Workday Fun

Because I have a desk job, and said desk is at home without other human contact, and I am a human being who occasionally needs human contact, I have a tendency to e-mail my friends throughout the day.

I e-mail one friend in particular about 20 times a day. Typically it’s random inanities of our day. But occasionally one of us whips out a one-liner that causes the other to reply “would you please embroider that on a pillow for me?”

A few examples:

One of our boss’ baked us a pie. The pillow-worthy reply: “all my boss bakes is controversy.”

"This is my career. I cannot be attached to wackiness."

"Outlines are for chumps"

"Ovens are weird. Covens are better."

"People suck."

Turns out we're trendy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Totally Terrible Trim-a-Tree

So in the spirit of trying to keep a positive outlook, I thought I would share a fun contest my friend (and current roommate) and I have. Each year we buy each other a nice ornament, and one totally terrible one. It started with a gold Jesus Fish and it's just spiraled down from there. Or, I mean, got more awesome.

I submit to you our tree this year with current winners:

Moustache #1, the Porn Star

Moustache #2: Uncle Ed

This year's winner: The Christmas Pickle!

 The Christmas Pickle was a winner largely because of the story that goes with it. I may have chosen a less regal version of this ornament, but I think it looks lovely on the top of my tree.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bakefest 2010

I haven't posted a lot lately, mostly because I don't have anything nice to say. And while that hasn't stopped me before, me complaining about different customer service disasters and insurance is getting old for me, so it has to be for you, too. But that's basically what I've been up to. Arguing, crying, throwing stuff in frustration, and constantly paying too much money for crap.

So...I took the day off. And Wee 'Burb had a day off from daycare. So we played, and we talked, and we laughed. We did not touch the phone or look at bills.

And most importantly, we baked!!

As requested, here's some pictures of the Krisp Kringles.

The dough. Also? I got a new camera!! I like the pictures a lot better.

The finished product!

My sous chef and food critic. Success!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Need Me Some Christmas

I have been trying to come up with a word to describe the last couple of weeks. I just can't come up with one that's bad enough. We're going to stick with sucktacular.

I desperately need some Christmas spirit, which is why I put my last post out as a feeler for how to proceed with my desire to bake. Baking is my therapy. I don't do it often, because baking also requires being precise and attentive, neither of which is my strong suit. I'm much better at cooking where I can taste it halfway through and figure out what I left out.

Anyway, thanks to those of you who posted your advice on freezing! I am going to do some dough this weekend and freeze it, as suggested.

In return, I did promise a recipe for my favorite cookies. I got this recipe when I attended my very first Midwestern Cookie Exchange. This was like two years ago. I'm a tad behind...hey, I just discovered the joy of meat raffles, I'm behind!

Anyway, we went home with 6 different types of cookies and for the most part, I was fairly unimpressed. Except for these bad boys. These are really different, and have been officially requested since then.

I introduce you to..

Krisp Kringles

1 package yellow cake mix (2 layer size)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
3 cups POST Fruity Pebbles cereal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend cake mix, oil, water, and egg in a large bowl with wooden spoon until well blended.

Stir in cereal.

Drop by cookie scoop 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet (I line mine w/ parchment paper. Hey, don't use wax paper instead, that's a bad idea, trust me).

Bake 11 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. You want them to stay moist so don't let center get overdone.

SO EASY! And yet, a different sort of cake taste that sets it apart from your typical peanut blossoms.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cookie S.O.S!

Every year I put together a folder of cookies and bars and other wonderful goodies that I would like to make for people for Christmas. Not only does baking help me relieve stress (and if you've been reading any of my past posts, you know there's a fair bit of that going around in Suburbia at the moment, and you don't know the half of it!), but it's also a nice and cheap gift to give people. And you can almost guarantee it won't be returned.

The problem/dilemma...if you can call it that I am not seeing most of the intended recipients until closer to Christmas Eve. But precisely because I will be spending the joyous holiday season with those intended recipients, I don't have a ton of time leading up to it to bake.

So every year I go through the aforementioned folder and try to narrow it to 5 different baked goods. And then what typically happens is on baked good #3, I look at the mess in my kitchen, think of the cleaning time PLUS the baking time, get totally overwhelmed, crack open a bottle of wine and figure people will just deal with what they get.

My goal this year is to actually MAKE these 5, if not more and actually use my folder to its capacity! So here's my question for you good folks out there: to freeze or not to freeze? If you vote freeze, how do you freeze? Do you freeze the dough/makings and bake them fresh? Do you bake and then freeze? Are there some things like bars that you can't freeze or don't freeze well?

And of course, links to recipes on your blogs or others are so much more than welcome! I've got to keep building that folder up, people. In exchange, I will share one of my favorites with you this week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh Healthcare, I Don't Care

So, look, I am going to say it. I have health insurance, my family is covered. In many ways, I am lucky. But that’s never stopped me from whining before.

I’ve mentioned our glorious new high-deductible plan in passing. If only there were a word to actually describe the sucking of this plan. It’s the suckiest plan that ever sucked. EVER! SUCKED!! I prize correct grammar over almost everything else, so you know how serious I am about not being able to find adequate phrasing.

Mathematically, I am informed that this plan is actually a good deal…as “deals” go in healthcare. On a per-month basis, my premiums look quite loverly. But, you see, those per-month premiums cover NOTHING. Anything that isn’t considered preventive (which, hey, includes BIRTHING A CHILD) is not covered at all until you reach a deductible. And then it is only covered at about 60-80%.

Allow me to relate the fun we’ve had with this new insurance plan:

I won’t give the exact amount, but I paid quite a bit for Wee ‘Burb’s birth. I stayed in the hospital for 5 days. I had no choice, they would not release me after my surgery until then. And this is what I tried to explain to the people at the insurance company when I got the bill. I pointed out it was rather punitive not to consider the surgery part of preventive care…again, there was no choice. The baby has to come out some way, right? You cover NINE MONTHS of pregnancy and then when the baby actually, ya know, COMES OUT, I start footing the bill? It’s a natural result of the nine months you’ve been covering, yes? Or am I to be pregnant forever? Cuz nine months felt like forever enough, thank ya!

Then I got notice about our biometric screening "credit." So we’re required to do these biometric screenings for the “credit.” And it just says “go to any convenience care clinic” on the form. Just keep that in mind. Any convenience care clinic.

So, a few weeks ago I call insurance to be sure they will cover a flu shot for Wee ‘Burb if we go to a convenience care clinic. The response I get is less than confidence-inducing: “well, sort of.”

Huh? Yeah, sort of.

As in, the only convenience care considered in our network is Minute Clinic. Target wishes you to know with a million signs that they are NOT a Minute Clinic. Which is ever so excellent information not so much imparted to me from Doctor Cashier as she told me “oh we’ve done a bunch of these biometric screenings.”

Cool. What do you want a cookie? Oh, sure, you can find those in aisle 6. Let me just stick you with this needle first.

Incidentally, the flu shot! Moms, have you not been INUNDATED with people telling you to get the flu shot for your baby? Magazines, e-mail newsletters, everyone is telling me that child needs to be injected like yesterday. Only, nobody would do it! The convenience care clinics refuse to treat those under 18 months!! And Wee ‘Burb’s doctor put us on a waiting list for almost a month! I heard maybe there was a recall of some dosages, but seriously! A waiting list?

So now we’re in that fun open enrollment time where you get to pick the least sucky plan. It’s kind of like politics, you know? There’s major faults with every single candidate, but you have to pick one, and that pick will effect you life for months to come. And you don’t get a do-over if you realize you pick the wrong one.

So I’m trying to put as much thought as humanly possible into this. And I consult Scott. Who actually says to me, in this adorably na├»ve way: “I wanted to get back on my old medicine. I was waiting for your plan to get better.”

Awww, it’s cute how he thinks healthcare is somehow going to improve. It’s kind of like believing in the tooth fairy, or the Easter Bunny, or Social Security or something.