Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry, Merry

Well, it's all over but the shouting, I guess. Our gifts are shipped (to Oklahoma, Virginia, Maryland, and Minnesota), and I'm all shopped out. I took a half-day off work last Friday and knocked out a lot of the shopping then. I just need to wrap the gifts I bought for my kid and my husband. Of course, I need to kick them out of the house first, which is no small feat. A asked for a table she can use for sewing. My friend Sarah is moving and had an extra table. A win-win! I just need to paint that bad boy and I'll be all set. I would do it after the kid goes to sleep but half the time she stays up later than I do.  I did get her the dress form she wanted, too. Dress forms can get pretty pricey and the one I bought is fairly basic. I just hope it's not too rickety. The only way the table and dress form will fit in her bedroom is if we pull out the huge dollhouse and put it in storage. I might just shed a tear when that happens.

I didn't send Christmas cards or do any baking this year. I actually enjoy doing both but just didn't seem to have the time to take on any big projects this Christmas. I did show up at a vegan bake sale last weekend, which was awesome (got my fill of baked goods without baking, in other words). I have been dragging the kid around to our usual festivities.  We saw a Christmas musical last weekend and have attended a few other events as well. She wants me to take her to a kids-only shop (at a local museum) on Saturday.  I pointed out to her that she doesn't have any money because she never bothers to do any chores. She's trying to convince me that she wants to buy gifts for me and her dad but I think she actually wants to buy them for the boy.

Speaking of the boy, he called yesterday and invited her over after school.  So, I talked to his mom and agreed to a playdate.  I am just not ready for this! My baby still can't turn the shower on by herself and now she's walking home from school with a boy.  I cannot deal, mes amis. Can. Not. Deal.  He does seem like a nice kid, so it's not that. It's just that . . . my baby!

One bit of good news - our foster dog (Botas) got adopted last weekend. His new family is very nice and I know they were excited to get him. People always say, "Oh, I could never foster. I could never give up a dog like that." Well, let's see. Young Botas pooped on my floor, dug in the trash, and counter surfed. He's also very sweet, super cuddly, and extremely adorable.  So, that's why I didn't kill him.  My job was to fix him up as best as I could (we did make a LOT of progress with the housebreaking during his weeks with us) and then pass him along to someone who apparently doesn't mind a little puppy poop on the floor. So, that's what I did. It's all good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Six months ago today . . .

. . . I went vegan. I haven't lost an ounce (which would have been a nice little side effect) but my conscience is immeasurably lighter.

Originally, I was just going to try it for a week but once I did that, it just seemed to make sense to keep going. I should probably say "plant-based diet" instead of vegan because I know I'm not great at this vegan stuff. I'm sure I've accidentally eaten things that were not 100% vegan. Every Wednesday, I go to a local grocery store (that has a kick-ass salad bar) and get a salad for lunch. They have this balsamic vinaigrette dressing that I love, but it does have trace amounts of honey in it (and I had eaten it several times before I noticed that). I probably shouldn't eat it, but I tell myself that I get bonus points for the salad itself.  At work there is a candy bowl full of Lifesavers. One day I Googled Lifesavers and it turns out that not only are they not vegan, they really aren't even vegetarian. They contain stearic acid, which is sometimes animal-derived. Trying to eat vegan is a bit of a minefield.

My friend Jennifer (who has been vegan for quite a few years) told me that all vegans have to draw the line somewhere. So, I try to keep that in mind. I won't eat, say, a piece of cheese or drink a glass of dairy milk (I had actually switched to almond milk years ago anyway), but if something I eat has some random sub-ingredient that isn't vegan . . . well, I guess I won't lose too much sleep over that. I'm doing my best, and that's all I can do.

I have learned to cook some new stuff, which is good. I'm not much of a cook, but I try. Last weekend I made an awesome black bean soup. I'm going to try another new soup recipe next week. Today I'm taking my foster dog Botas to his new home and I'm stopping at a vegan bake sale on the way home. (I thought going vegan might also help to rein in my sweet tooth but . . . nope!)

The two main challenges I've encountered since I went vegan:

1. Restaurants.  They are tricky. Jennifer gave me a list of stuff of local restaurants and which meals are vegan (or can be made to be vegan), so that was helpful. Being out of town and eating out can be tricky.

2. Company lunches. Our administrative person is just as nice as can be and wants me to be able to eat at company lunches (held regularly on Fridays), but it's just causing us both too much anxiety. I can't eat pizza or most of the other stuff that gets ordered. I've tried to reassure her that I am more than fine with just bringing my own lunch. No trouble at all.

The main benefit I've encountered since I went vegan:

Peace of mind. I became a vegetarian at 19 as a direct protest of factory farming. I didn't want to be a part of something like that. I did my research and I was done.  Adopting a vegan diet means opting out of support of the dairy and egg industries as well.  They are really no better than the factory farms. And I'll spare you the details of what you probably already know.

I know that most people want to leave a big mark on the world before they die, but I'm trying to leave as small a footprint as I can.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Kid's Christmas List (Subtitle: Surely You Jest)

My daughter handed me her Christmas list a few weeks ago. I offered to give her my Christmas list and she just gave me a "does not compute" look in reply.

The other day she handed me an addendum. "That's not how this works," I told her. "You only get one list."

Then, a day later she asked to have it back so that she could edit it. Seriously, kid, give it a rest.

A few of the items on her list are pretty straightforward and yes, she's getting them. She wants a dress form for sewing and a table for laying out patterns and whatnot. Some of her gift "suggestions" are dumb but I'm buying them anyway, such as this bird in a cage.

What's on the addendum, you ask? A Netflix subscription, Darn Yarn (I thought it said Damn Yarn but I'll take her word for it), and a bunch of sports stuff: a new helmet, a soccer ball, a basketball, and a volleyball. What's weird about these items is that my kid has almost zero interest in sports. We took her to a hockey game last weekend and I seriously don't think she glanced at the ice even once.

Here's the stuff she's definitely not getting:
  • A "gineau" pig.  Ha ha ha ha!  I actually thought about it for half a second and then remembered who would be taking care of the "gineau" pig. My to-do list is plenty long already, thankyouverymuch.
  • Orbeez foot spa. Ha ha ha ha!  If you're not sure why this one is a problem, I would encourage you to look carefully at the picture. 
  • Karaoke machine with microphone. I don't want to buy a cheap one and I don't want to invest in an expensive one, so there you go.
I was unsure about a few of the other items so in those instances I passed them along to her aunts and a cousin. She asked for the High School Musical 1, 2, and 3 DVDs. I'm sure I'll live to regret it if some sucker does buy them for her. She has watched Camp Rock about 87 times and has memorized the songs. I would REALLY like to thank my middle sister for sending the Camp Rock CD a couple months ago. In exchange, I've threatened to buy this for her three-year-old. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

This is serious, mes amis

My daughter has an admirer, a beau, a suitor. What do kids call it these days? A boo? And she's his shorty?  Is that how this works?

Being a good NPR-listening, Democratic-voting, liberal Unitarian Universalist, I've been very careful to tell my daughter things like, "When you grow up, you might marry a boy or a girl. Or maybe you won't want to get married at all." Well, I needn't have bothered. My kid is firmly interested in the opposite sex and I think I can already picture some seriously dramatic teen interactions coming up in a few years. I'm just imagining some lovelorn fool from her algebra class standing on our front lawn and begging her for just one more chance.

For now, though, we are just in the beginning stages of the gooey stuff. A boy in her class has it bad for my kid. When I went in for parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to look through my daughter's desk. It was like Hiroshima in desk form. Very bad, very messy things happening under that lid. It looked like what her room would look like if I left her to her own devices. I did find a note from the boy in her desk, though. He asked her if she wanted to go to the movies with him. (And if she says yes, how does this work, exactly? Does his mom drive? Do I drive? And where do we sit? Between the two lovebirds is what I'm thinking.)

When I asked Mrs. K (during the conference) if she knew who the object of my daughter's affection is, she said, "Do I ever."  Apparently she's been through this sort of thing before and said that it normally just fizzles out at some point. Fourth grade romance is a tenuous thing, I guess.

My daughter tells me that she and the boy sit together on the carpet during reading time. They also sit together at lunch. She said that at first the other boys made fun of him but now they don't. Fourth grade romance knows no barriers, people!

Today, when I picked her up from daycare, she was wearing a new scarf. It was an early Christmas gift from her wooer (I am running out of synonyms for boyfriend).  His mom made it. Is that not the cutest thing?  He put it in her locker this morning. I won't tell him that she spilled queso dip on it at dinner. Shhhh.  

I am not sure what happens next.  Do I need to rough him up or anything? Ask him about his employment prospects? And, most importantly, how soon does he feel that he can take over the monthly payments we are making to the orthodontist?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"

I spent the evening with my three-year-old nephew yesterday. It was my brother-in-law's birthday and he and my sister had dinner reservations. So, I decided to take my nephew out while they were dining.

At first, he wasn't too keen on leaving the house with me. I knew he'd be fine once we got on the road, though.

"Are you doing okay back there?" I asked him once we were a mile from home.

"It's not," he replied and gave me a little scowl.

"How about some Christmas music?"

"Yeah, Christmas music!"

And from then on he was fine. Yesterday morning, I told him, "Say 'happy birthday' to your daddy."

Instead of wishing his father a happy birthday, he said, "I want my Christmas."  So sentimental, that kid! Anyway, I know he's really getting into Christmas so that's why I figured some festive holiday music would be met with some enthusiasm.  We drove to Tysons Corner.  I wanted to stop at Lush for some bath bombs and also needed to pick up a birthday gift for my niece (who is returning home from Australia this evening). Sweet 16! I can't believe she's practically an adult. It seems like just yesterday she was playing with Polly Pockets and watching Blue's Clues.

As you might guess, I was not the only person headed to Tysons on a Saturday. Parking was insane. I finally found a spot, loaded my nephew into his stroller, and headed off in search of an elevator. Unbelievably, the four-story parking garage did not have one. Grrrr. I was not about to move the car, so I bumped the poor kid down a flight of stairs. I have to say he was a good sport about it. He talks constantly. "You can't find an elerator, Aunt Claudia? Did you see that car? It was orange. That's cool."  Everything is "That's coooool."

First we stopped at a candy store. I am determined to be the cool/fun aunt, so I bought him a plastic Santa full of candy.  Then I took him to the Disney Store. To say that my nephew is nuts about cars would be a drastic understatement. I tucked two Matchbox cars into my suitcase and gave them to him when I first arrived. He added them to his collection of hundreds. When we got into the Disney Store, he spotted a collection of three cars from the Cars movie. I took a picture of it and sent it to my brother-in-law to ask if these cars were already floating around the house somewhere. Good news - I was free to buy them. I was on track to be the best auntie ever.

We then headed to Lush and then to American Eagle to buy a gift card for my niece. I always feel like I'm about 100 years old when I visit American Eagle (which I do just once a year, to buy that gift card). The loud music, the hipper-than-thou cashiers, the clothes made for people with no hips . . .

There were other places I wanted to visit in the mall, but I decided it was best to give up at that point. The place was extremely crowded and most of the stores seemed impossible to navigate with a stroller. My nephew was behaving very well. I mean, he had cars and candy, so he was all set. I wanted to go to the food court on the third floor but it seemed like it would take an act of congress to get the stroller up there. So, we headed out.

When we got back to the parking garage, a car followed me to our space. I thought, surely they are not going to sit and wait for us. It seemed clear that it would take a while before we would be ready to pull out. First I had to extract my nephew from the stroller and load him into the car. He didn't want to let go of the cars, which made it a challenge to get him strapped into his carseat. Then I grabbed our stuff from the stroller and put it in the car.  And then came the final challenge . . . collapsing the stroller. I could not make this happen for love nor money. I'm sure the hardcore shopper in the car was wondering how on earth I didn't know how to collapse the stroller. It definitely didn't work the same way my daughter's stroller worked when she was little. I tried pushing and pulling the bar, looking for a handle of some kind, etc. Finally I just shoved that mofo into the back of my sister's Expedition as is. At long last, we were ready to go.

Next up, we drove to my grandma's house in Arlington. She and I chatted while my nephew zoomed around the house with his cars and caused minor mayhem. She has a priceless collection of Hummels and I did get a little nervous when I saw him peering into the glass case where they live. So, I would talk to my grandma for a few minutes, then get up and make sure the three-year-old wasn't drinking Windex or anything. At one point I got up to check on him and smelled an aroma of lemony freshness. He had found a bottle of Pledge and sprayed it all over the guest room (including the bed pillows). Ooooops.  Eventually, I decided we'd better head home. It was getting late and I knew my sister would be home shortly. I was hoping to get a photo of my nephew and my grandma, but the kid was not willing. He was done. "Bye, Gammaw!" he shouted, blowing kisses from the front walk. As I was opening the car door, he ran across the street, causing me to call him by his full name, loudly.

"Sorry, Aunt Claudia!" he said as he climbed into his car seat.  I have to say that he does have darned good manners for a three-year-old. As we were headed back home, he said, "I love you, Aunt Claudia. Thank you for the cool cars." Then I heard him say that he is a "yucky" (lucky) boy.

As we listened to more Christmas carols, he said, "Are you happy, Aunt Claudia?"  In 44 years, I don't think anyone has ever asked me if I'm happy. I'm guessing he didn't mean, "Are you content with your life choices?" but rather, "Are you enjoying yourself?"

"Yes, I'm very happy, " I said. "I'm happy when I'm with you."

"Happy when you're with me? That's cooooool."

Saturday, November 29, 2014


I'm having a fabulous time in Virginia. I'm staying with my middle sister and her family.  I'm staying in my niece's bedroom since she's in Australia with her dad. Her bed is super comfortable and I like all the girlie colors in her room. Basically, what I'm saying, is that I'm staying. You cannot overestimate the importance of a good night's sleep. My sister was teasing me yesterday because I was still wearing my pajamas as of 11:30 a.m. In my defense, I was online doing some shopping. Normally, I like to get up at the crack of dawn after Thanksgiving and fling myself into the Black Friday zaniness. However, thanks to the over-packing skills I learned from my mother, I can barely fit my toothbrush into my suitcase. Shopping is pretty much out of the question. I did get some good deals online, though.

My flight out here was not as uneventful as I might have liked. I got to the airport on time, only to find that my flight was delayed. I was disappointed but not overly traumatized. I didn't have a connecting flight or anything, so the only real inconvenience was that my sister was going to have to pick me up much later than anticipated. After I got through security, I headed to Chili's for a beverage and a snack. Because of all the delayed flights and the heavy Thanksgiving traffic, there was a line just to get into Chili's. I wanted food and drink badly enough to stand in it, though. I just kept thinking, "Wow, I am standing in line for a CHILI'S."

Eventually, the plane arrived but the crew had timed out. So, we had to fly to Chicago to pick up a new pilot. Part of me felt vaguely inconvenienced but the more rational part of me understood that it's better to have a pilot who hasn't been in the air for three days or something. Anyway, we flew to DC (with our new pilot) and my sister picked me up at around 12:45 a.m. She was a good sport about the delay.

I am having a great time but am missing my husband and daughter, of course. I've been chatting with them regularly. I have had to explain my solo trip quite a few times to quite a few people. I just want to say for the record that my child has two parents and that it's okay if she spends time with just one of them for a little while. Everyone will live. Plus, I left him with a helpful list.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go take a shower so that I can get out of my pajamas before noon today. I am meeting a friend for lunch this afternoon. My sister and I went out with another friend last night and had a lot of fun. My dad and his fiancee came over for a visit yesterday. I've been getting some visits in but not over-scheduling myself (as I've been known to do).  Later today I'm taking my nephew to visit my grandma. I'm feeling brave, what can I say.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Three cheers for headgear!

The day has finally arrived. Headgear day! I feel a bit sorry for my daughter's orthodontist. I have a feeling that most kids hate him until they see the end result of all the re-arranging and appliances  - in theory, straight teeth. We pass Dr. M's office building pretty regularly and my daughter shakes her fist at it every time. She was basically a pill during today's visit. He had to make an adjustment to her palate expander and she was not what you'd call a good sport about it. I don't think Dr. M loses a lot of sleep over the fact that my daughter dislikes him, though.

Anywho . . . the kid was fitted with her new headgear and we were sent home with instructions and about a hundred million tiny rubber bands. The instructions are that she needs to wear it at least 10 hours a day, if not more like 12. We can't even get Her Highness to flush a toilet - making her wear headgear feels like a Herculean task right out of the gate. But, we shall see.

Be glad you don't have to sleep with this bugger attached to your face.