Once Upon A Time, There Was A Bedtime Story

Sean loves books. And brushing his teeth. And gorillas.

So when you ask me: “How do I get my toddler into his pajamas every night and into bed with minimal fuss?”

My answer is this: You say, “Do you want to brush your teeth? Do you want to read ‘Goodnight Gorilla’? Yes? Well then! You need your jammies first!”

Works every time.

He sprints into his room, holds up his arms so I’ll put him on the changing table, and jibbers all the things we’re going to do after we’re done changing: “Buff teef. Goo-wight Go-wi-wah. Geen eggs an am! Goo-wight Moon. Mon-eees.” (translation for those of you who don’t speak Sean: Brush teeth, Goodnight Gorilla, Green Eggs and Ham, Goodnight Moon, and Five Monkeys Jumping On the Bed.)

As soon as his pajama-clad feet hit the carpet, he scampers into the master bathroom and onto his step stool to pick out a toothbrush (he has three), and waits for me to fill his cup with a smidgen of water and put toothpaste on it for him. Then he tells me to brush my teeth. We brush together, with him mimicking me. When I’m done, I sit him on the counter and do one final brushing for him. He rinses, I set him on the ground, and he’s off again — back to his room to the stack of books on the shelf. When I arrive, he laughs and climbs into bed and lays down. By the time I’ve sat on the edge of the bed, he’s sitting up again, sifting through the books, picking out what he wants to read first.

And then we start — he turns the pages himself, and knows the books by heart. For my part, I have everything except “Green Eggs and Ham” memorized. After we finally finish all the books, and have repeated “Goodnight Gorilla” at least four times, I deem it bed time. He protests and cries and calls for “daddy” to eek things out.

Sometimes he gets out of bed upwards of 8 times. Other times, he’ll only get up once. Usually because he wants to be tucked in again.

Its one of my favorite parts of the day. (Except when he asks for Green Eggs And Ham 4x in a row. Then I just want to strangle Dr. Seuss.)

Here are a list of some of our favorite bedtime books:

Some of the books I’m adding to the mix:

I have to say, for my kids, the best books have a rhythm to them. It engages them. Allie bobs around to it, like a song. For Sean, as long as there are animal pictures, he’ll give the book a chance. Allie is still at the “I want to eat all the books” stage. Which annoys her brother to no end. I tend to read with her after she wakes up from a nap. But soon, very soon, it’ll be part of her bedtime routine too.

I can’t wait.

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Thankful

All across America, people are in full turkey-day preparation. They’re scurrying around, frantically looking for that stuffing recipe, trolling the grocery store aisles for last-minute supplies, or traveling by plane, train, and car to their families. In the ensuing frenzy — what to pack, what to make, how to handle another family gathering, will we have enough wine to help you deal with said family — I hope that you have a moment to take a deep breath and appreciate … well, everything.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Family.

I am so very thankful for my family. For Hubbs. For our kids. For their smiles, kisses, and hugs. For their laughter and their love.

Wishing you a mellow and love-filled holiday.

Financial Reality Bites

In 1 month, my daughter will turn 1.

Look how tiny she was! It seemed like she didn't open her eyes for a week.

First of all, it’s hard to believe that she’s almost 1 already. My mind boggles. Second, this means I have to plan and execute a family party.

This makes me twitch. It really does. I understand now, why my mother was always so stressed out about our birthday parties as kids. I totally get it now Mom, and I am so, SO sorry I requested anything. EVER. You should have just ordered pizza and called it a night.

My family does the dinner thing. Which as an adult is fine. But when you plan a dinner party for kids? Good lord. The last one was dinner at a restaurant. I totally get why they did it: No cleanup, nothing to haul back and forth, NO DISHES. But the kids? I think I got through 2 courses of the Chinese banquet before I was constantly outside, running around, changing diapers, and taming meltdowns. Meanwhile, waiters are running around with vats of magma-hot soup, sizzling rice dishes, and pots of hot tea.

Needless to say, it was not a relaxing experience for me. (But what IS after you have kids?)

Since my house is entirely too small to house everyone inside for a winter birthday party, we will be traveling to San Jose for Allie’s 1st, to my grandma’s house. Also known as the house with the ridiculously soft orange carpet.

To make my life easier — like I did for the boy’s birthday, I looked into catering/take-out options. Since Allie loves pasta, I wanted to get take-out from a place I’ll call … Pasta Primadonna.

Now Pasta Primadonna is a chain restaurant with a separate catering wing. You cannot simply order party platters through your closest restaurant. Oh no. You have to call the catering section. This should have tipped me off right away.

Each party platter only serves 8 people. The party will have a maximum of 36 people. I wanted to order chicken parmigana and baked rigatoni. Simple, yes?

To my knowlege, pasta isn't made with unicorn horns and flaked 24k gold ...

Each platter of rigatoni and chicken parmigana? $65. EACH. That’s $8.125 per serving. For noodles and tomato sauce with mozzarella. I know people have to make a living, but holy bejeezus … $8+ for noodles and sauce?!

After my heart resumed beating, I tried crunching numbers.

The absolute lowest number I could work it to, which made me feel even more like Ebeneezer Scrooge, was $260 for 2 rigatoni trays and 2 chicken pargmigana trays (and to have them cut each 5 oz breast in half to make it go further.) On top of that, I’d need to make a salad, another veggie, and some bread.

I can’t do it.  I can’t spend THAT much money on pasta and sauce. On a meal that will be gone in an instant, never to be seen again. If it were prime rib, it would be different. But we’re talking about pasta and sauce.

“I can buy a box of pasta for $1 at the store,” I thought to myself.

Do you know what this means? It means I’m making her birthday dinner.

Damn it.

I have, however, worked out a plan to make it slightly less painful and stressful:

  1. I will be making lasagna rolls. This means 1 noodle = 1 serving. It also means that 1 box of noodles = 12 servings — well, 10 if you don’t use the broken ones. It also means that if you put a lasagna roll on a sheet of wax paper and pop it in your freezer on a sheet tray lined with wax paper, you can make it ahead.
  2. My grandmother has 2 ovens. Bless her heart. This means everything goes in at the same time and no worrying about getting x in by a certain time so it cooks.
  3. Disposable. Foil. Trays.
  4. Bagged lettuce + pre-cut veggies = salad.
  5. Meatballs + marinara = extra meat.
  6. Did I mention DISPOSABLE FOIL TRAYS?!
  7. Store-bought French and garlic bread.
  8. I’ll also make Parmesan roasted broccoli. Because it is tasty and fast.
  9. Cupcakes instead of cake, since my family prefers ice cream. (I bought a full sheet cake for Sean’s party last year and they didn’t even eat 25% of it and declined leftovers.)  AND I’ll order it from a San Jose bakery so I don’t have to transport it.
  10. Paper plates, plastic utensils and cups, and paper napkins.

I’ll let you know how it turns out!

End Of Days: Are You Prepared?

And no, I’m not talking about the end of the world.

I’m talking about your end. My end. The end. You know, dying. Because it happens — and although not a comfortable subject, its best to be prepared, right?

Before the boy was a year old, we had a standard (statutory) will and health directive with power of attorney  in place. We should go to a lawyer and get a detailed, iron-clad will drawn up, but for now, at least we have an official, legal document outlining our wishes. (If you live in California, go here for a statutory will and here for an advance health-care directive.)

For us, the point of the will and advance-care directive was our kids: Who will take care of them? After about two seconds, we agreed that should the worst happen, the kids will live with the Rock Stars of their world: Grandma and Grandpa. And if the Rock Stars are unavailable (knock wood), the children will live with the Super Rock Star of their world: Their uncle. All assets go to the kids 50-50, and will be held in trust by the guardian until they reach 18 years old.

I only hope your choice is as obvious.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant the first time, I raised our life insurance to the maximum allowable. We probably need more — it seems you always do — but at least its there.

As for the rest, of which there are lots, the Hubbs (TH) and I (SM) had an e-mail conversation the other day. I swear, he’s the only person who can make me laugh and cry at the same time. Excerpts of our e-mails are below and edited slightly for privacy:

TH: Here’s a quick rundown of what I would want when I pass. Of course, my opinion on all this could change as the years go on but at least this gives you something to work off of.

Mourn me, but go on and live your life as fully and happily as possible even if I meet a slow, horrible end.  You have the green light to date, party, get a pixie cut and dye it neon pink … whatever.  If it makes you happy go for it.  Start wearing hats.  It’s not like I’ll be around to make fun of how small they all look on your head.  All I wanted while I was alive was for you to be happy so why the heck would I want you to suffer with a dark cloud over your head for the rest of your life once I’m dead?  You were a happy woman when we met, you’ve mostly been a happy woman since we’ve been together and I’d want you to go on as a happy woman once I’m reduced to looking like the contents of an ash tray.

SM: Wow honey. Only you can make me laugh and cry at the same time.

I’ll try. Ditto for you. Move on when you’re ready and don’t feel guilty about it. Just don’t shack up with some floozy who wears leopard-print pants. I can’t stand leopard-print pants on grown women. Also, I want you to treat yourself after I’m gone. Go to more baseball games. Be a season ticket holder again. Laugh lots, because you’re cutest when you laugh and your eyes crinkle in the corners.

TH: (ed note: This is where I lost it.) Tell the kids I loved’em with all my heart, every moment of my life from the time I heard we were having them to the day I died.  Tell’em to go on with their lives too.  Tell’em that we’re all human and I was sorry for any mistakes/arguments I ever had with them and that I forgave them for anything they ever did to me along those lines.  Tell’em not to spend a moment feeling guilty about or regretting anything difficult in our relationships and to embrace the good times and the unconditional love we had for each other.  Let’em know that they were always among the best parts of my life, right up there with you, baseball, good whiskey, beef jerky, pepperoni pizza and the action films of Patrick Swayze.  I’m not too sure how I would feel about either one of them getting a pixie cut and dying it neon pink but they can do whatever they want to. I’ll be dead and it’s not like I’ll be around to give them any crap for it anyway.

SM: You know I will. Tell them I loved them from the second I knew I was pregnant. That I lived for their smiles and laughter. That I made them ridiculous sandwiches with no crusts and occasionally cut into cutesy shapes. That I overdressed them when it was cold, because I didn’t want them to get sick. That I’d dance like a complete idiot to Halloween music in the middle of Trader Joes just to make them laugh.

That I loved them unconditionally and that wherever I am, I still do. That nothing can ever change that. That I love them for who they are, exactly as they are, and that they’re perfect.

I’d like Sean to have my engagement ring. Maybe someday he can have it reset and give it to the girl he loves. I’d also like him to have the jade you got me on our honeymoon. I’d like Allie to have my wedding ring, my heart-shaped jade, and the gold piece from our wedding. Fates willing, their kids can have their choosing of the rest of my jewelry.

TH: Cremation.  I want the shake n’ bake treatment when life finally punches my ticket and kicks me off this big, spinning rock we call earth. I’d like my remains to come back to the house with you and then eventually I’d like the two of us to be thrown into a plot somewhere.  Maybe we can work this out as the years go on.

SM: Then I’ll go with cremation too. That way there’s no chance of me coming back as a zombie. (You knew I had to put that in.) And I’d like to stay with you as well. We’ll figure out a place.

TH:  Post-death stuff.  Make it a celebration.  I’d like there to be some kind of party with friends and loved ones where people can smile and laugh and give you and the kids some support in a time of grief and let you recall the good times and the life and humor that was in me.  You don’t have to shell out big buck for this (please, don’t do that).  Maybe just a modest reception at our place/the kids’ house/etc.  Make sure there’s free booze.   Buy the good stuff since it’s the last time you’ll probably ever have to buy hard liquor since I’m dead and I won’t be swilling copious amounts of the stuff anymore.  Maybe set up some sort of display/s with some pictures of me/us/the kids in better times.  Feel free to throw in some silly stuff too.  If you ever get pictures of me as a kid throw those in the mix too.  I’m sure people would be amused to see that I didn’t just spring from the earth as an overgrown sarcastic, surly goofball.

SM: OK. As for me … do something. A party, a celebration. Lots of pics. Whatever you guys need/feel is appropriate. Surround yourselves with family and friends.

TH:  Before I go: I guess maybe we should work out a formal DNR.  I think I’d rather move on to the afterlife rather than have the chance of being revived into an existence as a glorified veggie platter.  I love a good sugar snap pea but I don’t want to live like one and I don’t want you and the kids to be saddled with that.

SM: I don’t want to be a vegetable either. But I’m not sure how I feel about the DNR. For now, I definitely want you to crack my ribs trying. But that may change in 20-30 years.

TH: Ripley.  I’m not sure what to do with her when I/we get near the end.  I don’t see how any cemetery would take our remains with hers and that seems kind of nuts anyway.  I don’t know where we would scatter her ashes since she was a house cat and I can’t really see burying her in the yard because most of the time she ended up out there as punishment.  Plus, we won’t be in the house forever so eventually she’ll be stuck living with strangers for eternity.  I can’t see passing her ashes on to our kids and their kids, etc. for an eternity but it would break my heart to leave this unresolved and end up having someone throw her remains in the garbage at the end of an estate sale. We should figure this one out.  Maybe in our golden years we can sneak into the garden at (a park) and scatter her ashes when no one is around.

SM: I think she’d like the pond at (a park). There are ducks and she loved watching birds.

I still feel like we’re not “prepared”, but then again — can you ever be?

Friday Dreaming

I’m bouncing all over the place today, which means LISTMANIA.

When I say that, or think it, I always start singing that song from the “Tiny Toons” cartoon with the Tazmanian Devil. Do you remember that?

“Come to Tazmania … down in Tazmania … where topsy meets turvy and they start to spin, like a Tazmanian Devil and his closest kin!”

No? Maybe this will jog your memory:

That thing is guaranteed to get stuck in your head all afternoon. Or give you seizures.

Either way, YOU’RE WELCOME.

On to the lists!

List 1: Cleaning-Related Projects:

  1. I need to purge: The house is overflowing with STUFF and we need a serious purge. Christmas AND Allie’s 1st birthday are racing toward us and I have the feeling that we’re gonna be on “Clean House” if we don’t trim some of the fat — and quick.
  2. Things that need to be organized: The refrigerator & freezer (I bought bins weeks ago and never got around to the organizing), the pantry, my desk area (good lord!), and my clothes/dresser/closet. I need to go through my things with a VERY critical eye, especially since I only seem to wear 5%-10% of my clothes on a regular basis.
  3. I need to switch out (translation: take apart one and re-assemble another — no wonder I’m procrastinating!) Allie’s crib with the convertible one we bought for Sean. This would clear up space in the house (his old crib is blocking my desk right now), and allow me to get rid of yet another piece of furniture.
  4. I need to clean the furnace filter, wipe down the intake, and sweep and mop the floors.
  5. The kitchen fairy needs to come to my house and clean.

List 2: Fun-Related Projects

  1. I’m looking forward to putting up the tree with both kids. Although the thought kind of makes me twitch as I imagine the two of them trying to climb it, I know they’ll love the lights and ornaments.
  2. I get to plan the Princess’s 1st birthday party. And try to wedge it in so it’s not too close to either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Oofdah.

List 3: If I won $100 million, I would …

  1. Pay off the house.
  2. Pay all the bills.
  3. Move into a hotel (or my parents’ house) while we … add a second story onto our house and re-arrange the first floor into an open-concept with bamboo floors and a kitchen with an island. (drool!)
  4. Finish off the children’s play area of the backyard.
  5. Do other charitable things — especially for family.
  6. Save/invest 99% of the rest — setting up trust funds, college funds, and house funds for the kids and a  retirement fund and savings fund for us.
  7. Buy Hubbs a swanky sports car. Then refuse to let him drive it. Because have you ever been  a passenger in his car? Yeah …
  8. Sell No. 7 and get him his own box for the next 20 years of A’s games instead. (Save the $$ I have left over.)
  9. Go on vacation. For at least a month.

Happy Friday!

The Lady (Bug) Of The Year

So I finished Allie’s Halloween costume. As originally reported, I had attempted to make a hat with antennae coming out of the top. It would have worked brilliantly — had the hat fit. Note to self: Flannel doesn’t stretch enough for a hat, no matter how accurate your tracing skills for a pattern.

I was able to salvage the antennae. I deleted the photos — I was mad — but essentially you:

  1. Cut two strips 4x as wide as you need out of black flannel.
  2. Place 1 piece of stitch witchery on one end, length-wise.
  3. Place 1 piece of stitch witchery on the other end, again, length-wise.
  4. Fold the ends (with stitch witchery) toward the center. You should end up folding 2x on each side until they come together.
  5. Sew the edges together with black thread, and use a thimble to push the needle through.

This makes for a stiff antennae. (snark-snark)

Next, make the ends: Cut out 4 circles from the leftover red fleece. Take 2 pieces and sew them together, leaving 1/4 unsewn. Slip the end of 1 antennae into each circle and sew closed. Now you have 2 completed antennae.

In the end, I got lazy. Or smart.

I found a pre-made headband with a bow at Target — a 4-pack for $2.99. I used the black one, and wrapped the antennae around the black headband piece and sewed it shut. This way, I can slide the antennae around on the headband as needed. It also means that after Halloween, I can cut off the antennae — if I want — and reuse the headband.

Now for the finished product!

Close-up of her headband.

And the entire outfit!

The kid loves to pose.

We ended up buying Sean’s costume. He picked out a dinosaur. And wore it for exactly 3o seconds before demanding that we take it off. The neighbors gave him candy anyway.

Shy Guy

(Like my “rawr!” hands in the background?)

Happy Halloween everyone!