Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quick Pics

Happened to look out the window on Sunday morning to see this:
Harrison happily petting a pony-sized Saint Bernard who was taking a morning amble without a leash.  Ben really wanted a Saint Bernard, but happily, common sense prevailed.  That's me.  I was common sense, which is totally weird because I am usually the idiot who wants a yacht-sized couch and a 12-foot Christmas tree.

I am glad I bought this coat so big for Dorothy last year because she can still wear it this fall.  She really likes those "boops" even though they are getting too small, but she will not keep a single "bow-bow" in her mullet.  Sigh.
Cooper found my lipstick when I picked him up from school and gave himself a faint coat.
Then today when Ben picked him up, he really WENT FOR IT.

She is a seriously dramatic sleeper.  ben mowed the lawn the other day and her little feet were green-- it was just about the cutest thing ever.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

That's my girl

We survived our last sports gauntlet Saturday!  Next week, we theoretically have 3 sporting events again, but we are thinking about taking the whole fam damily to Jack's soccer game because he hasn't been getting the same kind of attention as our beloved squeaky wheel and then heading to a pumpkin patch for mandatory fall fun.

We had a sushi and champagne cocktail movie night last night to enjoy The Cutting Edge.  (The boys drank Izze.)  Jack loves sushi, but holy cow is he disgusting when he eats it.  He eats all the grains of rice with his fingers and then unrolls the whole thing to pick out the salmon (his preference) or shrimp and discard any vegetables.  The Cutting Edge was as good as I remember, but the boys liked Happy Gilmore better.  Ben said next time, he is going to introduce them to his favorite actor of all time, Chris Farley.

Harry went to his first drop-ff birthday party at someone's house as opposed to a laser tag place, a bouncey house place, a bowling alley, Chuck E. Cheese, a park, the ice skating rink, a water park, the pool, etc, and I kind of wish he hadn't.  When he was small and parents came to parties, we went to a few house parties, but since kindergarten, all of his friends have had destination parties, which is what we do, too, because IT IS SO EASY.  Now he's all "I didn't think about having  party at my house, but that's totally what we should do.  Can we have face painters?  How about Bucky Badger?"   I am hoping the allure of a trampoline place that's opening soon will be enough to convince him to opt for a party package SOMEPLACE ELSE.

Ben cleaned out the garage while the boys played yesterday, so I took Dorothy on a few errands and then to the grocery store where I am sad to report she would not ride in a cart.  Folded her little arms and said "No, uh-uh," kind of sadly, like she felt bad for me or was embarrassed that I was even asking.  Grocery shopping took longer and cost about $50 more than usual because someone kept throwing weird stuff into the cart, and some hippie had to help us push a second cart of bagged stuff to the car.  She freaked out once when she had to stop playing a stacking game with cartons of eggs and packages of butter (AAAAUUUGH!), but otherwise, she was happy and excited and good at sticking close to me.  But I was SWEATING when I walked out of there.  I think our days of leisurely Saturday afternoon family grocery shopping are over, at least for awhile because I don't think I can handle her AND Cooper roaming the store freely.

 Can you believe that this was sweet Dorothy just a year ago today?

And now she is a rowdy toddler with a ponytail

 She's still super sweet, of course
 But she also has a hilarious little personality.  Look at that side-eye:
 And she has a  mullet (hence the constant pigtails).  Beatrix digs cinnamon rolls, BTW.
 Stacking soaps in the check-out line at the grocery store. 
As soon as she saw me this morning, she said "Go go go."  I asked where she wanted to go, and she waved both hands and said "Bye-bye."  I think she had fun shopping yesterday.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mid-week cardiology trip

 Do you see the attitude I am dealing with here?  Look at the way she looks at me!

Speaking of attitude, yesterday, Cooper threw a 10-minute fit because he saw a 6-pack of Corona Light in the fridge and really wanted one.  "Juice!" he insisted.  He finally calmed himself down enough to stomp back over the fridge and throw it open to peer inside for another beverage choice (spoiler alert: we one have water, milk, beer, and wine, maybe a little vodka in the freezer, but I used most of it making pie crust).  He found a container of half and half I bought to make chicken pot pie, decided it was a milk box, and pounded it-- all of it-- with lunch.  I didn't stop him because I did not want another tantrum.  He is noticeably fatter already.

 Beatrix, meanwhile, came inside from the chilly, wet back yard and took a very dramatic nap.

In the midst of this cozy scene, the school nurse called to tell me Harrison was having CHEST PAINS.  WHAT THE EFF?  He has been on a hard-core drug used typically to treat gout and arthritis (neither of which he has, but Cooper probably has gout after yesterday's lunch) that was supposed to prevent inflammation.  I, of course, freaked out, scheduled an immediate echo and cardiology appointment, woke up the babies-- who were PISSED-- went across the street and got both boys because I would never be back in time to pick up Jack, and took all 4 kids to the children's hospital, stopping at the Starbuck's drive through for an after school snack along the way.

Cooper is so funny with the to-scale Starbucks cup.
 As you can tell by her mouth, Dorothy is saying no in her cute little Wisconsin accent. She says no a lot.  Also uh-uh.  And sometimes, rarely, yesh.
 Jack came home from school on Tuesday with a Sophia the First tattoo.  He told Ben and me that he was going to put it on, and then emerged from the bathroom with a cheek tat.  He also announced his intention to not wash his face.  And as you can see, the tattoo was completely in place on Wednesday afternoon.  Also, his sweater is on backwards.
 Harrison.  He wears that jersey every time it's clean (we do a lot of laundry-- it's always clean); he only likes jeans with ripped knees, and I swear he is going to get whiplash from constantly tossing the bangs out of his eyes.  I let him go in the echo room by himself because I didn't want to take the whole circus.
 None of the iPads were charged.  NONE.  So I snagged a bag of art supplies from the laundry room on the way out the door.
 Jack glue-sticked this to his face because he wanted another tattoo.
 Cooper was very serious.  Dorothy drew all the hell over herself.
 Thankfully, Ben showed up moments after this picture was taken and took the little kids home.

Harry is fine.  Labs and echo fine.  Cardiologist not worried. Next appointment in February.  Chest pain unexplained.  But he's fine.

Here's the gourmet dinner I assembled last night before leaving Ben with all 4 kids and hockey try-outs and a conference call so I could go to wine night:  (I really am a hell of a catch, huh?)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

TLC Book Tour: Age of Opportunity by Laurence Steinberg, PhD.

I maybe should have considered a palate cleanser before I started reading Age of Opportunity: Lessons From the New Science of Adolescence.  

I mean, you guys, the last book I read was the incredible, devastating Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala, a London professor who watched her entire family get washed away by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.  Her whole family-- husband, 2 small sons, and her parents.  Plus her best friend.  It was a remarkable book, one that would be a tough act to follow for any book that came next.

No wonder it took me a second to catch my breath and plunge headfirst into Lawrence Steinberg's new discussion of prolonged adolescence and how parents can help their kids succeed by finding potential in an age of turmoil.  But once I began reading this book, I was intrigued and, ultimately, satisfied.

TLC Book Tours sent me the book and asked me to participate in a blog tour for Age of Opportunity, and I was happy to do it.  You guys know me-- I will read just about anything, and I have a special soft spot for parenting books.  I am also a big planner.  So even though I have an 8-year-old, this is the PERFECT TIME to start figuring out adolescence, especially since, Steinberg points out, the onset of puberty is getting earlier and the age at which kids finally grow up is getting later.

Steinberg does a great job of summarizing some really complex neuroscience research without talking down to his readers and without boring us.  This is a fine line to straddle between too much jargon and too much gloss, and Steinberg balances by providing lots of good case studies and personal examples to bring research to life.

Because I have become a parent in the age of intensive mothering, I have read a million books that tell me about the plasticity of my children's brains between the ages of 0 and 3.  I mean, if you believe the latest parenting buzz, your whole kid's life is determined by time they get to preschool-- that's how important neuroplasticity is.  Steinberg cautions us against such thinking by introducing research that claims adolescence is also a period of enormous plastic potential, making it an even more crucial time in a child's life than we already imagined.

I really appreciated the level of nuance in this book.  Not only does Steinberg carefully aggregate and explain a variety of studies, but he is also quick to take gender, race, and class into the equation, situating the experiences of real kids in their real environments.  It is not a book that simply scares parents and leaves us hanging.  Instead, Steinberg devotes a whole chapter to the idea that parents can help kids maximize their adolescent potential without turning into big clingy helicopters. The chapter, aptly titled "How parents Can Help" provides a thorough list and explanation of parenting techniques we can use to guide our children through adolescence and still help them think for themselves-- a kind of gradual release of responsibility model.  His conclusion, moreover, lists clear solutions for everyone who comes into contact with adolescents, including policy makers.

My favorite chapter was "Protecting Adolescents From Themselves."  Here, Steinberg details the kind of risky behavior and poor choices kids make when they are in groups.  He cites case studies from his own life and practice as well as research studies that argue teens are worse drivers with friends around,  are more likely to engage in risky behavior like drinking and unprotected sex when they are unsupervised with their with friends, are more likely to just generally get into trouble.  This penchant for adolescent poor decision making is compounded, he argues, by the fact that lots of teens spend lots of time together without adults looking over their shoulders.  The most chilling part of this argument comes when Steinberg highlights a very common, very high-risk situation that groups of teens find themselves in-- a situation that has the power to alter the course of their lives and the course of nations:  war.  He writes, "When soldiers are sent out on combat missions, they're often divided into fireteams composed of four warfighters. The foursome must constantly make difficult decisions, frequently under conditions of fatigue, stress, and emotional arousal-- the very circumstances that can impair an adolescent's judgment (100)."  Steinberg claims to be looking for grant funding to study group decision to determine if groups that contain a mix of both adolescents and adults make better decisions, and he hopes to share that information with military planners.

I would happily recommend Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence.  It was a smart, informative read!  Thanks TLC Book Tours for including me on your tour.  My friend Kate is hosting the book tomorrow, so drop in and see her review.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, etc: Dads are Not Moms, Damnit.

Based on the previews, I thought I was really going to hate Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  I was pretty bummed about my potential hatred, too, because I think the book is just adorable, and I even sort of liked the horrible children's theater musical version of the story that I saw on a second grade field trip last year.  But that preview where the kangaroo kicks Steve Carrell?  SO DUMB.

That scene was pretty damn dumb in the movie, too.  And I didn't believe for one tiny second that Jennifer Garner would ever kiss Steve Carell, let alone have 4 children with him.

But still, these are minor complaints.

The boys wanted to see it.  I wanted to not hang out with Dorothy and Cooper who were unusually terrible and screamy.  It was a match made in heaven.

It surprised me by being  a very cute movie.  Scenes that would have been loud and fake and terrible in the hands of the actors who play bumbling dads on Disney channel tween sitcoms were understated and sweet with Carrell at the helm.  Teen character types that would have been snarky and insufferable on Jessie or Ant Farm were genuine and loving in this movie.  Ridiculous animal-on-the-loose scenes were kind of funny (KIND OF), and most of the slapstick was warranted (excluding the dumb kangaroo thing).  It was a good enough family movie.

I have loved Jennifer Garner since 13 Going on 30, which remains one of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, and she was adorable and bubbly and charming in this movie, too.  Both Garner and Carell rounded out their characters and played them like real, likable, relatable people.

 It was even OK with me that the Cooper family was obviously so loaded that the stresses of daily life just couldn't get them down.  Job in jeopardy?  S'all right.  Still got that perfectly finished kitchen lousy with $500 Dutch ovens.  Been laid off for 7 months?  S'OK.  How about a pricey mommy-and-me yoga class to ease the tension.  Teenage son wrecks your minivan? Think about it in your giant backyard soaking in your country-club-sized pool.  I mean, the script talked relentlessly about the family's positive attitude, but come on now people.  It's easy to be positive when you have enough cash to make the unexpected problem NO BIG DEAL.  White privilege at work: unspoken but also really loud.

What rubbed me the wrong way, though, was the way the movie talked about work and gender.  Within the first 5 or so minutes, it is clear that Ben Cooper stays home with his kids and Kelly Cooper goes to work.  I thought this was a refreshing twist on the usual SAHM/WOHD dynamic in kids' movies.  Sure, Kelly looks regretfully at her baby on her way out the door, but don't we all?  I mean name 1 single breakfast scene in any movie ever where the dad goes to work with a wistful glance at his kids, but whatevs.  But then the audience quickly learns that Ben is only home with the kids as a stop-gap desperate sort of solution because he is laid off an looking for a job.  Luckily Kelly landed a good one in kiddie lit to keep the family in Le Creusets and backyard petting zoos, but as the movie notes, her returning to work has been really hard on 12-year-old Alexander.  Gah.  Name me one movie where the dad going to work is a problem for the kids, especially when his partner stays home.

Ben takes the baby to a mommy-and-me yoga class where another parent tells him he is a Fommy.  A father mommy.  Because, you know, dads don't mother.  If this doesn't make you want to puke,  a few seconds later, the baby calls Ben Fommy.  THEN at dinner that night, Kelly is all sad because the baby said Fommy, not Mommy.

Of course (OF COURSE) the trope of the evil boss who hates family life and wants the disembodied, liberal subject, ideal worker is in this movie, too, in the form of Megan Mullally, who tells Kelly Cooper she needs to be at work 24/7 if she wants a promotion.  Kelly responds by saying she'll have to make time to see her kids (How often does this happen in movies where the dad goes to work?  Not very because it's NORMAL for a dad to work.  As this movie reminds us a thousand times in a thousand tiny ways, it's not normal for moms to do this).  Her boss tells her she can just look at their pictures and laughs an evil, tropey laugh.  I mean, WTF? For a second I thought I was watching Baby Boom.

Ben takes his baby with him on a job interview and of course the kid eats a permanent marker because dads aren't moms (this point is further driven home by the children telling Kelly about a time when Ben lost the baby at Target), and the guys conducting the interview draw his attention to the marker consumption saying something like "hey your baby."  Ben responds quickly by assuring them that he will "put the kid in daycare."  Erm.  Where's the emotional turmoil that a mom in this situation would be duty-bound to perform?  Oh, right, it's not there because dads aren't moms.  Silly me.

Thank goodness resolution did not come through the characters' assumption of normal gender roles because my head might have exploded all over the kids and the people in front of us.  But Ben is happily employed at the end of the move in a unicorn tech job that will let him flex his hours and drive carpool and "see the kids."  Kelly, presumably, does not get promoted, but she also does not quit or get fired.  Which really doesn't matter because the Cooper's remain covered up in cash.

Now, you guys, I get it.  This 90-minute movie is based on a really short, really vague children's book.  Some stuff HAS to happen.  But WHY this stuff?  Why couldn't Ben Cooper be a SAHD without comment, the way the mom in the book is a SAHM without comment?  Why introduce such a tortured look at work/family/gender balance?

Disney has been knocking it out of the park in terms of feminism lately.  Hello, Elsa and Anna?  Maleficent? My heroes for sure.  The Coopers?  Not so much.  But, good news, I didn't hate the movie like I thought I would or for the same reasons I thought I would.  And Jack shared his Junior Mints.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gah. Weekend.

OMG. I need a weekend to recover from my weekend.

We had a jam-packed schedule, starting Friday night when the boys' old babysitter Jamie came to visit, and Ben and I had a lovely date night (not with Jamie as the babysitter-- she was strictly a dinner guest). Then, Saturday, we did our usual billion-sporting-events shuffle.  Harry scored a touchdown at football!  We also spent a million dollars on groceries at Whole Foods (and gave the kids McDonalds for lunch today-- hashtag irony), took Harry to a birthday party, and then I took the boys out for a fun night.  Today, we started bright and early with family pictures (OMG DOROTHY WAS A MONSTER), followed by hockey try-outs, marathon housecleaning, baking, and a little shoe shopping.

Here are the monkeys having a Friday morning breakfast of pumpkin-chip muffins, my best of the season, if I do say so myself.
Beatrix.  She runs around like a fool at night until bam! She passes put cold.
Dorothy.  Shoeless.  Because, as we are discovering bit by bit, Dorothy does what she wants when she wants to, damnit.
Dorothy did NOT want to take this picture.

We split a half order of nachos and had some beers.

Before adjourning to the country club restaurant for more beers/gin and walking/stumbling home across the golf course.
I am seriously torn between getting Dorothy hot pink Hunters and wellie socks OR light pink Uggs for winter.  It's kind of keeping me up at night,  I have both options for myself and know they are both warm, but I am leaning Ugg because she already has cute lady bug rain boots.
While Ben and Jack were at soccer, these three helpfully made lunch
Somehow, this whole pack of cheese ended up on the floor, and the dog ate it, paper and all.  Also, we were all still jammied.
The boys and I saw Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, etc. on Saturday night and went ice skating again.  I fell down HARD.  My knees are bruised and both my arms are sore from the shock of flinging them out to break my fall.  I am too old.
After our photo session today, Ben and Harry went straight to hockey, and I took the other 3 to Toys R Us to buy them the bribe toys they did not earn.  But oh the screaming if I didn't actually buy them their Pokemon crap, robot, and Minnie Mouse shopping cart plus hula hoop.
This car has dirty wheels and is almost already broken, but SHE HAD TO HAVE IT.
I swear I have more to say, but the wine is kicking in.  So, tomorrow?

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Turkey tetrazzini: a menu revalation

Because I am a chubby Wisconsin mom, I made a very chubby Wisconsin dinner last night.  Turkey tetrazzini, roasted broccoli, and apple crisp.  I immediately called my mom to ask why we never had turkey tetrazzini growing up, and she called it school lunch food, which totally.  I can totally see it on the kids' menus, right between mini corn dogs and teriyaki chicken.  But EVERYONE LOVED IT.  Maybe because they miss school lunch since I am mean and won't let them buy it this year (I do not spend another mortgage payment on organic groceries every month to let them stuff themselves with GMOS and hormone-laden milk 5 times a week).

 But whatever the reason, I love when they love my food.  Harry andJack ate it for breakfast even.  I brought a Pyrex to the office for lunch.  Ben is feeding it to the kids for dinner.  And we all gained 6 pounds.  The end.

I used a recipe from the Pioneer Woman, so there was no canned  cream of crap.  I made my own roux.  But still, between the butter and the cheeses (3!!) and the bacon, it's really not a health food.  You should see the bags under my eyes this morning, full of delicious, delicious white whine butter and mushroom roux I am sure.

I really enjoy casseroles because they can be easily made and cleaned up during the slowest part of my day and then just baked and served in a pretty dish during the busiest part of my day.  Cooper helped me make it while Dorothy played piano and dolls and trucks in her room, and he was so proud of himself.  Not proud enough to actually EAT it, but that's because Cooper only eats bagels with peanut butter.  And he is a pretty messy eater, so just a strong whiff of him could send someone into anaphylactic shock.

When choosing my pretty dish, I always gravitate to my Le Creuset collection-- made considerably smaller by poor storage choices and DOROTHY.  I always forget, however, until the broccoli is over-roasted and the kids are freaking out that those damn casserole dishes make things cooks SO SLOW.  Last night, we got the added bonus of the apple crisp leaking and the smoke alarms going off.  Tonight after work, I am going to scrub the oven with baking soda.  SO GLAM.

We have been in a major rut food-wise lately.  I mean, we don't all eat peanut butter bagels all the time, but close.  So I am making a conscious effort to cook something brand new once a week. The turkey tetrazzini was the second new recipe we tried-- last week was a slow cooker chicken tortilla soup.  I experimented with the spices and made it too hot for the kids accidentally, but Ben and I loved it, and there's lots more in the freezer.

I also tried this excellent apple butter recipe, but I was busy on Tuesday, so I had the brilliant idea of making it overnight in the crock pot.  I got really paranoid before bed that we would all be burned to an appley crisp in our sleep, though, so I slept on the living room couch to be near my butter (crazy, I know).  But actually NOT CRAZY at all because at 2:00 am, it started to smell like it was burning, and I was able to leap from  my couch bed, sterilize 8 jars, and pop it in the fridge.  BUT OF COURSE I could not go back to sleep.  Instead, I laid on the couch reading a really great book until I could get up and work out before Ben went to work, and I was home all day to work, manage 2 toddlers, and make turkey tetrazzini and apple crisp.  And there it is.  FULL CIRCLE.

She lunched all over this dress and had to change shortly after this picture was taken, but how cute is she practicing her family picture smile??  The problem is she says cheese very quickly.  It's more like "chiz" so her smile fades fast.

This is her style blogger pose.  It took us 30 minutes to go outside and play yesterday afternoon because she is not messing around when it comes to selecting the perfect pair of shoes and socks.

 He is totally Schroeder.
 Took the boys ice skating last night because Harry has hockey try-outs on Sunday.  It was super fun, and I didn't fall down!!!!