Tuesday, August 31, 2010

30 B4 30: Skin Care Confessions

When I was in 6th grade, I wore a purple flannel shirt for my school picture, along with a gold necklace that my mom let me wear. It was the 90's, ya'll; I was jazzed about my outfit. What I wasn't so jazzed about was the crop of zits that just happened up erupt right under my bangs, so that when the photographer's assistant brushed the hair out of my face the camera got a big ole glimpse of the fact that I was quickly growing up. When the pictures came in, I was heartbroken, so my mom took me to the Clinique counter and bought me the same 3 step skincare system that they have today (albeit with bar soap, not liquid). I used it excitedly at first, but then began to lose interest. I would wash up hardcore when I was having breakouts, but when I got my skin under control again, I would go to bed without doing it, would skimp on the moisturizer in the morning, would spend whole days forgetting all together.

Fast forward 17 years. One would think that this is the part where I say, "But I grew up and changed and now I have the finest skin one could ever hope to see." Notsomuch. I am pretty much the same person all these years later: I am streaky with my skin care--pampering it when there are problems, ignoring it (or worse) when things are going ok. I go to bed with my make-up on, I buy whatever cleanser looks ok at the store, I hardly use moisturizer not of the tinted variety, I never exfoliate. But I never break out, I never have dryness, my skin is just there. My skin is like that skinny girl who never exercises and eats chocolate cake at every meal. You just know she's going to get fat at some point, but for the time being, she seems ok to stuff her face.

But I have decided to change all that. For one thing, I know my skin can't hold on like this forever. But more importantly, Gabby is to the age now where she needs to start taking care of her skin, and I want to be a good example. It is hard to remind her to wash her face every night when I know I am going to pass out on the couch watching Criminal Minds without bothering to take my make-up off. Hypocrite, table for one!

I came up with a list of things that my perfect skin care regimen must have:

  • It must be affordable. I like to spend money on clothes and boots--not necessarily on lotions. Plus, my skin is pretty problem-free right now, so I'll save the major cash droppage for when I have problems.

  • It must be easy to find. No Sephora only items--I want things that I can just run out and get if need be. This limits me to Target finds, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Lancome, and maybe Elizabeth Arden.

  • It must address my needs--normal skin with very, very occasional breakouts.

  • It must have as few products as necessary. I don't want to have to do 15 things every night because guess what? I won't do it.

  • I like natural products. This is not a requirement, but it is something that I'm drawn to.

So after my monthly marathon Bazaar-Vanity Fair-Cooks Illustrated-Lucky reading adventure, I decided to take the bull by the horns and go to Target and get started on lucky #7 on the ole 30 Before 30 List: develop a skin care regimen. Why? Well, Bazaar had an article about skin care for every age, and it reminded me. I'm the kind of person who needs about 10,324 reminders a day if I'm actually going to complete a task. And, well, the bookstore was cold and I kinda wanted to walk to Target to get a latte anyway. You see, it is a lot easier to say, "Honey, I'm going to walk to Target to complete a very important task that is pertinent that I do before my thirtieth birthday," than it is to say, "I have the aching desire to spend some money after reading all these magazines. Oh, and I want an overpriced coffee beverage while I'm at it. Care to spot me a few dollars?"

So I go to Target. After much deliberation, I decided to go with Cetaphil cleanser.

Why Cetaphil? Well, because I listen to my mother. Sometimes. When I have good reason to. My mom has officially used every skin care product known to man, from high to low. You may think I'm kidding, but I'm really not. I consulted her when I was thinking about what to get, and she talked for 1.5 hours NONSTOP, giving me full reviews of everything from Mary Kay to Avon to Perricone to Wexler to Olay to God knows what. She recently started going to a dermatologist, and the doctor put her on strictly (and only) Cera-ve. She now adores this stuff. I think she even bathes in it. And the dermatologist told her that she uses it, and that her daughter uses Cetaphil. Also Bazaar recommended it for being in your 20's. And for the next 2.5 years, I'm officially there. So...Cetaphil it is. I got the cleanser for Normal to Oily skin because my skin is heartachingly normal, but I do get that bump right around that time of the month. ALWAYS. Between that and the uptake in brownie production/consumption at that particular time, I'm a Cathy cartoon waiting to happen.

My mother also told me not to do toner any more, which I was of course tempted to do anyway. But I didn't. I went straight for the moisturizer. I was concerned about sun exposure, so I made sure to find one with SPF in it. I decided to go with Yes to Carrots Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15. Why? Becaust it craves my need for natural products, Target has it, it is available from drugstore.com, which is an online merchant that I use regularly, and because I like the brand. This is something that I will have to be careful with, though, because I am allergic to a few different kinds of fruit acids (therefore, I can't do any type of Origins product, which makes me very, very sad). So I will keep a close eye on it. I have used products of theirs in the past, though, with no real problems, so I am hopeful.

And finally, I decided to do the night cream that Bazaar recommended: Garnier Nutritioniste Moisture Rescue Refreshing Gel Cream. With a name like that, it has to be good, right? I bought this solely on the magazine recommendation, which is not something I usually do because I figure they are being given certain products and asked to feature them in the magazine. But, I thought, well, if it doesn't work, I'll just chalk it up to an experiment for science. And also because I just wanted a night cream to feel like a real girl. For real.

I am not crossing this off the list just yet because the goal is to get the "perfect skincare regimen." So I am going to experiment with products until I get the right blend. My mom suggested getting a system that will work together, so I will try that next if something goes wrong with this system. I will try to update as things progress with how I am doing keeping up with the regimen (that is going to be the hardest part) and what the products are like. Wish me luck! Also, any recommendations are much appreciated. There is only so much that one can listen to her mother (just kidding, Mom).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Epic Fails and Epic Awesomes

The past two days have been an exercise in ickiness. After I wrote the post before this one, I went to bed and managed to wake Alice up in the process. She proceeded to stay up nearly all night after that. Now, this is a baby who has slept through the night since day one. Seriously. And, the night of her first birthday, she was UP. It, my friends, was miserable. I noticed that her hands were a bit warm and that her nose was running, but she seemed fine other than that--mostly content to sit in her Jumperoo and watch Dora. I figured it was all a byproduct of having a bit of sugar and getting a bunch of presents and attention. I finally managed to get her to sleep at about 6:30 by walking around the living room and singing the Wow Wow Wubbzy theme song. Hell on Earth, I tell you. Especially after spending a day cooking, cleaning and decorating for a birthday party.

So at 6:30, I make my way to the bathroom. I am about to do my business when I smell something. Someone had not flushed the toilet. And it was bad. I flush, silently wishing something slightly awful on my 6 year old son, and watch as the toilet backs up, nearly overflows, and then fills with water to about 10 nanocenimeters from the top of the basin. Clogged toilet. Nice. I go to bed anyway.

So I wake up in an hour to get the kids ready for school. I had already taken the day off since I was supposed to take Alice for her one year appointment later in the day. I get them ready and ask Sam about the toilet. He tells me that it was stopped up when he used it the night before and that he didn't want to tell me because it was during the party and we had told him not to talk about potty issues in front of other people. Nice that he picks this time to be obedient. I nod, and go to the computer to look up plumbing advice. The internet isn't working. Even better.

I take the kids to school while my husband gets ready for work. When I get back, Alice is once again up, and incredibly, incredibly cranky. I spend the next hour on the phone with tech support about the internet and consoling her. She falls asleep laying across my lap. I notice that she is running a fever. I call the doctor and they tell me not to bring her in for the well-child appointment. Evidently you have to be well for that. Since I'm pretty sure this is just a cold, I decline to bring her in for a sick child appointment. So I will have to take another day off from work for the well child check. Great.

With the internet working, I check the computer about plumbing and when the remedies listed do not work, I realize that I will have to take the toilet up. I call my husband to ask his advice. He exasperatedly tells me that I will have to call a plumber and we'll have to take the money out of our discretionary fund to pay for it. I'm not in the mood for this; I have earmarked that money for clothes for all of us and a trip to a theme park in a couple of weeks (well, ok, mostly clothes for me...yes, I know that this makes me into a very selfish person). Since I consider myself to be a bit of an amateur plumber, I decide to do it myself. I go to a local hardware store, toting a sick child who is wearing new pink jammies and a pink BumGenius, and buy a $1.85 wax ring for the toilet. The hardware smells like feet. The man asks me who is fixing my toilet. I tell him that I am doing it. He smiles at me and pats my hand.

We return home and Alice falls asleep watching a new Dora DVD. And I get down to business. I plunge it until all the water is out of it, and then I manage to get the toilet up. It smells godawfully bad. I retch a few times and find the culprit: two tampon applicators that have managed to get crossed and are blocking the opening at the bottom of the toilet. I curse myself, the good people at Playtex and promise Mother Earth that I wll buy a Diva Cup. I begin sweating and my glasses fall off my face and onto one of the dirty towels. Twice. I get the new wax ring on and reinstall the toilet. I have (unnecessarily) taken the tank off, so I reaffix that. Matt calls and asks me what was clogging it. I tell him merely "stuff." He declines to ask more. He asks me how much he owes the plumber. I tell him the plumber only accepts J. Crew gift cards as payment. He hangs up the phone and calls his father who then calls me and quizzes me on how I fixed it. When everything checks out, he laughs out loud.

Then, task completed, I decide to turn the water back on. When I do this, not everything was put back on as tightly as maybe it should have been and water shoots out across my bathroom, hitting the mirror on the facing wall at incredible force. I actually give myself some gnarly whiplash trying to get out of the way. And I fall into the bathtub. Not kidding. I reaffix everything tightly this time.

Since Alice is still asleep, I clean the bathroom and then take a blistering hot 40 minute shower. Now the bathroom smells like a poop and Scrubbing Bubbles sundae. Nice. The toilet works. I flush it three times just for fun.

The rest of the night passes without much interest. Matt is amazed by the toilet, but does not pay up in gift cards. Alice falls asleep, but then wakes up every hour to nurse. Owie boobs.

Today I needed to take my oldest to the dentist, but with Alice being sick and clingy, I decided not to try it. Luckily, they find an appointment for me for next week. I had already decided to take the day off, but missing the appointment is not that big of a deal. Gabby is excited by this because this means she can go shopping with one of her friends after school. Since Alice absolutely refuses to go to sleep for an overdue nap, I decide to drive an hour and a half to go to the Gap to use my Give and Get 30% off and the Groupon. I figure Alice can sleep in the car and finally get her nap on, and then have some fun in the stroller. I pick myself out a pair of black pants (can mark that off the list!) and this shirt but with black stripes (maybe a store exclusive--not on the website). I am paying with my Groupon and talking to the SA and somehow I mention how awesome I am at fixing toilets and how I am going to use the 30% off later too to treat myself and Alice. She commends me and gives me 30% on the Groupon purchase too! She wasn't supposed to do it, but she said there is a loop hole on the computer that allowed it to work. So freaking cool. I buy another pair of Long and Lean jeans, so Gap made money in the end, but I go home happy! I also buy Alice a bunch of new togs including her first ever pairs of jeans! She doesn't care--she is happily asleep in her stroller at this point.

Alice and I stop by Old Navy on the way home, and I pick up this sweater, a couple of dresses for Alice, and a shirt for Matt. They are all striped. What is with me and stripes today? They just look so fresh and awesome. I don't know. I want to buy more for the older kids, but they are picky, so I'll have to carve out some time this weekend and take them. I love Give and Get time! It kinda balances out the whole losing-ones-glasses-on-a-feces-stained-towel-kind of thing. I also went by Target and purchased a couple of value sized bottles of toilet cleaner. And some eyeshadow.

We came home to a powerless house. Turns out a squirrel in the back yard had a death wish and bit a hole in our power line. The squirrel was dead in the backyard when I returned. So was everything else in the house. Since I don't trust myself with electricity like I do plumbing, I called the power company, who came out and fixed it. It didn't take long, but the whole thing seemed incredibly fitting with the last couple of days we've had.

So we are home now, with power, and Alice and I are both super tired. She is crawling around happily though--I am pleased to report that Alice, like most girls, can be cured with a combination of a hot bath and some new dresses. Or perhaps it was just the girl time. Matt and Sam are playing checkers and Gabby is putting on the new BFF jammies she bought tonight with her BFF. I have to say--there was a moment yesterday when I was just so mad. I cursed my life and wished I lived a peaceful, kid free existence, where discretionary income flowed freely, sleep was easy to come by, and plumbers were called with abandon. But then today, walking around with Allie, watching her smile and laugh at everyone in the mall, despite the runny nose, I knew just how lucky I am. Things are crazy sometimes and I may sometimes have to complete some less than savory tasks. But that is just my life, and it is terribly, terribly worth it.

I will hopefully post some of the b-day party pics this weekend, granted the computer does not decide to implode or my house is attacked my mutant zombie midgets from Mars.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Weight Watchers Wednesday????

Thus far, this week has been INSANE. Alice's first birthday was today, my husband's was on Monday, and my mom has been in town all weekend and just left this morning. Therefore, Weight Watchers Wednesday has been postponed because we haven't had time to do anything properly. I will report one bit of WW related goodness: Matt, who heretofore has been painfully addicted to Coca Cola (and has been for as long as I've known him--over 15 years now), is making the switch to water and Coke Zero. I am so proud of him! And although we had a big meal on Monday for his birthday (I made fried scallops and hush puppies and banana cream pie--EEKADS), both of have lost about half a pound. Yea us! I demonstrated our loss to Matt with sticks of butter today. And then I proceeded to use all four sticks of butter in making cupcakes for Alice. Again, EEKADS.

Today was my daughter's first birthday, which was a BIG DEAL. Well, not so much big deal as in "Where do you want this bouncy house, ma'am?" kinda big deal. Just a big deal because I put a crazy amount of energy into it to make her feel special. That is all I really wanted for the day. We had a small party with just family members this evening, and let her open presents and have cake. She actually wasn't terribly interested in the cake--she took about three bites of her cupcake and then proceeded to rip it into tiny pieces. Everyone else, however, was there to eat. Here is what we had:
  • sandwiches with Elie Krieger's curried chicken salad and turkey with cranberry cream cheese and arugula (the cream cheese spread is amazing, by the way, and would be a great thing to just keep in your fridge for when the mood/opportunity arises--I used neufchatel cheese to lighten it a smidge.)
  • spinach dip in a slow cooker (yes, it is light, and yes, it is fabulous) with pita points
  • hummus with carrots and Stacy's pita chips
  • chips and salsa from the local Mexican restaurant
  • Magnolia vanilla cupcakes with pink buttercream and yellow cupcakes with Real Simple's quick chocolate buttercream (I made these for Sam's first birthday as well, and he wanted me to make them for Alice, in addition to the pink fluffy Magnolia's I had planned on. I was happy to do this.)
  • and yes, homemade strawberry marshmallows. I was so happy that these turned out, as I don't have a stand mixer, so making them was...challenging. Matt was so thrilled with them--he has bragged on me all day which has made me feel super awesome. And he has promised me a KitchenAid stand mixer. If I knew that making marshmallows was all I had to do to get one of those, I would have made them years ago!

I will return with pictures, hopefully tomorrow. For right now, I am going to lay on the couch and think about the past year and just how much fun it has been. It is so hard to believe that she is one now. Part of me wants her to be little forever--the soft little dumpling who rolls toward me in the night--but the other part can't wait for the rest of the ride.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Randomness

Here are a bunch of unconnected things that I thought about writing about this week, but didn't....

Um, ok, Kim. I got my ShoeDazzle picks this week. I kinda thought that I would get an email with one pair of shoes that was all like, "THIS IS THE MAGICAL SHOE FOR YOUR FOOT, GUARANTEED TO NET YOU AT LEAST THREE PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYERS, " kind of like Cinderella with a large bottomed fairy godmother. Not so much. I got an email that led me to my "shoe closet" or something like that, and there were like 6 pairs there that in truth were probably picked for me by a hobo throwing darts at a wall with shoes on it. One pair of red flats was kinda cute, but I like these more, so I'm probably going to pass. But then I got an email from Kim Kardashian (OMG!) saying this was her pick for the month. Behold:

She goes on to say in the email that you could wear this with a cute romper to make you look a "little more edgy." A romper? Was this email meant for me or for Alice, my 11 month old? Because she can barely walk as it is--add a four inch heel to the mix and I think we've got trouble. Seriously...that is like one of the ugliest non-Croc related shoes I've ever seen. That saddens me. If we can't rely on questionably talented "reality" television stars to pick our shoes, just what will become of this world?

Cloth Diaper Warrior on Electric 94.9!!! Earlier this week, I was innocently driving my kids to school. My daughter INSISTS on listening to this radio station, Electric 94.9, that INSISTS on playing Lady Gaga every 4.3 minutes. Let it be known that Lady Gaga makes my ears bleed. Anyway, the morning show there was doing a "Things that Should be Banished from the World" segment and having people call in. Someone called in and said rats or something, someone else called in and said Obama (grrr...) and then this woman called in and said "disposable diapers"! This woman was OFF THE CHAIN with anger at disposable diaper companies: she cited the lawsuits against Pampers for the whole Drymax fiasco, she talked about the impact on the environment. It was awesome. The DJ was all like, "Oh I had no idea." She kept going and talked about cloth diapers now and how awesome they were and how she had diapered three kids in them. She was great. I loved this because I had NO IDEA that there were more cloth diaper moms and dads around here. When I talk about using them, I get THE LOOK that is usually accompanied by some nice woman saying, "Now, honey, you do what? Well, bless your heart!" But she's blessing my heart because she thinks I'm crazy, not because she thinks I'm righteous. So anyway, I am happy with this. I surely didn't think that there was someone else out there who lives in the Appalachian South, cloth diapers, and listens to/is forced to listen to Electric 94.9. I want us to get together and go to Stir Fry Cafe and talk shit. Literally.

Cheap Mascara! Let it be known that nothing makes me happier than a good mascara. I used to use Dior Show and swore that I would never use another. But then I moved to the middle of nowhere, and there wasn't a Sephora close, and yes, I know I could just place an order, but sometimes I run out and I just need it NOW NOW NOW. I think I've ordered DiorShow once since we moved here. I have thus experimented with other brands. Mostly it has just been an ok showing, but recently I got some Maybelline Falsies mascara. I actually like it. Now it is not like false lashes at all, and I don't think it is as good as DiorShow. But it is definitely a passable cheap alternative. A note: it will clump if you put on a lot of it. I have found that if you kind of rub the brush to get the maximum amount of product off before you put it on, you can eliminate some of the clumping. And really, a dab will do you. If you really want awesome looking lashes, layer a lenthening mascara (I used Cover Girl Lash Blast Length) underneath and then put the Falsies on the top (just a bit, mind you). Maybe more of a night time look. But overall, not bad, not bad.

Carnation Instant Breakfast. Huzzah! I bought some of this, and I like it. I have been having it for breakfast while I fix the kids lunches. I actually bought it for them because I wasn't having a lot of luck with getting them to eat healthily in the morning. However, they have found other alternatives, and I'm drinking this. It is good. I have the Rich Milk Chocolate No Sugar Added. I like that it dissolves really well in the milk, so there is no clumps or anything. It is only 150 calories though (when made with skim milk), so you probably need something else to make sure you don't get hungry before lunch. I've been having some fruit with it and maybe a piece of toast. It is also good mixed with light chocolate soy milk and instant coffee and then blended with ice. Nom nom nom.

Hope everyone has a good weekend! I have to get ready for Alice's Birthday Party, which is next Wednesday. Matt's birthday is on Monday as well. We were going to have the party this weekend, but Matt thought it important for her to have her party on the day of her birthday. Why? I don't know. When he gets something like this in his head, I have determined it is best to just nod and agree. So we are having a "drop in" party on Wednesday. A small one, because, well, she's one. And her favorite toy right now is a sample size maple syrup bottle. So I don't think we need a bouncy house or anything, do you? I am going to make the Magnolia vanilla cupcakes with pink icing, and I think I might try my hand at some homemade strawberry marshmallows. Or I won't. We'll see just how Martha-esque I am feeling. I am also thinking of making a big pot of spaghetti sauce because Alice loves anything with tomato sauce (enchilada sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato chutney--whatever, she likes it all). At any rate, my mother is visiting this weekend as well, which will probably mean there will be some shopping involved. And probably my mother will attempt to run a man down with her car. But that, as I always say, is another story for another time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What I Want For Fall

Now that school has started and things are resuming a familiar school year pace, I have really started to look forward to Fall. This is probably unfortunate, because I live in VA, and it doesn't really get cooler until mid-late September at the earliest, so I've got a good while still. But yesterday, I (finally) got my Ann Taylor Loft Friends and Family order and just seeing all the warm colors made me want to make some butternut squash soup and rush the season a bit. I won't...at least not yet. It is tempting though. Especially since the other day when I was at Target, I got the great idea to try on some high boots just to see if I can actually get my leg in the regular sized boots. And yup...I'm there. I'm supremely pleased with this, since in the past I couldn't even get my legs in some extended calf styles. So yes, I was totally that girl in Target, wearing two different boots and dancing like a maniac. If you were in the Bristol, VA Target on Tuesday and witnessed that, I apologize.

I have a few things (besides boots of many styles and colors!) that I have been craving. The interesting thing about it is though that in planning my list for Fall, I have had to take a long hard look at my life and what styles actually fit me now. Not only has my body changed in the past year, but my life has changed as well. I'm now the mother to an almost-toddler, a little being who I chased around the floor happily and greedily. I have two more incredibly active kids and now face a fall where 6 of my Saturday nights will be spent at pee-wee football games (Gabby is a cheerleader). Moreover, just culturally, I do not live in a very "dressed up" place. Sadly, a pair of jeans and a nice cardigan is more dressed up than most people get around here, but that is a (meaner) post for another time. And even more sadly, high heels sink into the ground outside of my house. Yup, BOONIES people. I LIVE THERE. So although I crave pencil skirts and heels, I have to face facts that those things are just not practical for me right now. When making my Loft order, I had the Silk Flutter Dress in my cart for the longest time. But then I thought...how am I going to style that when it gets cold? And what place does a silk dress have in my wardrobe right now? The answer is no place at all, my friend. So I deleted it and got jeans, cardigans, and tanks instead. Kind of a uniform, yes. But it works for me right now. And since I have no returns from the order, it seems I did ok.

So, with that preface, here is what I am looking for this Fall:
  • A sweater jacket. I am really looking for something like this from Lands End Canvas that I can wear to those pee-wee football games that will be heavier than my usual cardi, but not a full on coat. Plus, this is cute. I love how they have it styled with the pleated front skirt on the front page. This might be a purchase very soon.
  • Hats! When I was a kid, I went nowhere without a hat. Six from Blossom was my inspiration--in fact, some people called me "Blossom." Not even kidding. I really feel like bringing that back this fall. I'm looking for a fedora and I like this newsboy cap. Seems like a fun way to stay warm and add a little fun to your outfit without going crazy. And I need a replacement for the heels I'm not going to buy.
  • A nice shirtdress. I tried one on at Target before we went on vacation, and I loved it and should have bought it, but it was like 200,000 degrees that day, and I just couldn't even think of wearing a black shirt dress like ever. Mental block, I think. So now, I want it, and I don't have it and it makes me sad. This will probably go on the list of "The Clothes That Got Away" that I halfheartedly stalk ebay for and weep for every night (Maya cardigan in dusty blossom!!! WHY OH WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME?). Anyway, I want a fall-ish shirt dress to wear with boots and then boots and tights and a nice scarf.
  • Some nice loungewear. Don't you love that word? L-O-U-N-G-E-W-E-A-R. It makes me feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor. Anyway, I want some nice things to wear around the house because we tend to spend some time around the house making popcorn balls and carving pumpkins and the like and I just really want to step up the game. I want a nice cocoon cardigan, maybe a comfy kimono dress that I can wear with leggings. Nothing too fancy, just something that will look nice for hanging out with the family.
  • Skinny jeans. If you are looking for them, I recommend these from Loft. I had them last year in a 10, and I got them again this year during F&F in a 6. The fit is nice, I think, and the quality is good for the price. I'm going to have to wear a belt so that I don't have to worry about who I'm flashing underwear at, so I might try a 4 sometime if I am ever near a Loft (I live nowhere near one, but my husband and I are going to homecoming at my alma mater, and there is one there, so a girl can dream) and just see. However, I like the 6, and I'd probably belt them anyway. I don't even have to get a petite in them. Rock. I might get some more of these, or try others that I can try on around here. Love them with the 5,246 pairs of boots I'm going to buy.
  • Some simple black trousers. Probably going to order these today with the SHOPNOW code. I've been waiting to place my order because I like to procrastinate and look for popbacks, but the time has come, the walrus said. Anyway, those are a bit more fashion-y than I usually go, so I'll probably also get some regular ones. I want to try the new ones at Gap in person, because I usually have good luck with Gap pants. We'll see.
  • A denim pencil skirt. Tried on a Merona Collection one at Target on Tuesday and really liked it--didn't buy it because we were in a hurry to get to the movie and the line was long with back to school shoppers. Probably will go back to get that one because the fit was great and they had a bunch of 6's.
  • Cardigans and boots are givens, because I'm addicted. Just got this Loft one in the wild berry, and I am thinking of getting another color. I got a S though and it fit well (I normally get a M in tops because of the ta-ta's, but Loft's M can be a bit...voluminous). Will probably spring for a couple of new Jackies. Love the Breeze, and missed out on it last time around. Boots--I'm thinking one "nice" pair and a few fun pairs to just play around with. You have no idea how long I have waited on the moment to buy regular width boots. I used to dream about going into a shoe store and buying them. Usually with Bow Wow Wow's I Want Candy playing.
  • I should really conclude this list before Matt finds this post and takes my name off the bank account.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Weight Watchers Wednesday! Plus a Recipe and a Giveaway! Oh my!

So. In all the traveling and craziness that was summer, I have gained 4 lbs. This is not one of those situations where you look and say, "Now how did I do that?," where the weight just snuck up on you. Nope. This is one of those situations where you look and say "How did I not gain 400?" Dude, I subsisted on nothing but fried seafood, fudge, and chicken salad for an ENTIRE WEEK. By all accounts, I should have my own gravitational pull at this point. So, comparatively, 4 lbs. is not that big of a deal. Except that it is. I have worked hard to lose weight, and to let it get out of control again is not something that I want to do.

I started Weight Watchers way back when I lived in CA because I wanted to be in better shape before we moved across the country. I lost between 20 and 30 pounds before we left, and then kept it up until I got pregnant with Alice. When I got pregnant, I gave up on WW, but I still monitored what I ate and tried to move a lot. This made my last pregnancy the easiest one. I only gained about 25 pounds and I was moving up until the last day, which was great. After Alice's birth, I decided not to do anything formal, but to listen to my body and monitor what I ate and to try to exercise when I could. This laissez faire approach worked well, and I managed to get down to what was my original goal and to make some healthy changes.

However, I want to lose about 10-15 more pounds and to tone up a bit. As I have gotten smaller, I have determined that I am a petite woman and that my original goal is a bit high for my height and structure. I used to think that I was built larger like my dad, but I am becoming more aware of my body and that no longer seems to be the case. Therefore, I think 15 (well, 19 if you count the 4 pounds I put on over the summer) more pounds is a very reasonable goal. So I am going on WW to get it off for good.

And this time...my husband is joining me! I am so jazzed. Matt has always been super thin--when we started dating, he wore a size 28 pants. He has had a couple of times when he has gained weight (mostly connected with extended trips to Russia--land of sour cream and blini stands), but he lost it quickly just by upping his walking. However, now that we are older, he is finding it harder to control it that way. Plus, he feels that his metabolism is (finally) slowing down, and he wants to avoid more severe weight problems in the future. So, I finally talked him into it. He is (obviously) doing the WW for Men program, so I am eager to see how that differs from my own program. Further, we are hoping to use both of our programs to teach our kids more about healthy eating and to improve the health of our overall household.

On this blog, I will post a weekly update on our progress (on Wednesdays, because we started on Wednesday and because I like alliteration). The entries will mostly focus on me and my week, but I will mention how Matt is doing as well. Matt is much more of a private person than I am, so I'm sure he would not want details splashed all over the internet, so I'll just give the basics so that others who may have husbands who want to try WW online can find out about it. I am also hoping to do a "Healthy Recipe of the Week" of something new that we have tried with our entire family.

DISCLAIMER: This week's recipe is not healthy. In fact, it is probably one of the least healthy thing you can put in your mouth, other than the fact that it contains some fruit and calcium. I am posting it because it is delicious and because I am bidding adieu to non-healthy food for a while, or at least, I am vowing not to bake one of these suckers and have it sitting in my refrigerator for when my willpower gets low. I will definitely try to refocus my baking energies on things less sinful for the time being. But I made this on Sunday, and it is so, so freaking good.

Lime Cheesecake with Rasp-berry Pur-ee (The kind you find in a secondhand store!)
2 cups gingersnap crumbs
2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter, melted
4 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese (yes, 4)
5 large eggs
1 tbsp. grated lime rind (if you don't have a microplaner, don't even attempt this recipe)
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 (16 oz.) container sour cream (yup)
1 (10 oz) pkg. frozen raspberries, thawed.
Stir together the gingernsap crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and butter.
Press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 10 in. springform pan. Chill 1 hour.
Beat all that cream cheese at medium speed until smooth.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups sugar, beating until blended.
Stir in lime rind, lime juice, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Pour mixture into crust.
Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until outside is set but middle is still a bit wobbly (kind of like Prince's hips). Remove cheesecake from oven; cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1/8 tsp. vanilla, and sour cream. Spread over cheesecake. Bake at 325 for 10 more minutes. Cool on wire rack for 1 hour and then cover and chill for 10 hours.
Process raspberries in a blender until smooth. Serve with cheesecake.
Recipe courtesy Southern Living 2000 Annual Recipes.

This thing would be perfect to take to a summer picnic. Especially if it is a picnic populated by people that you care about enough to prepare something for, but not enough to where if they died of sudden heart failure after eating it, you would be overly upset.

And finally...a giveaway. Not my giveaway. I am nowhere near having my shit together enough for that. The giveaway is sponsored by the amazing Dr. BabyMamaDrama at A Voice of Reason and (in)Sanity. It is all about stuff that will help you as you get healthier--a t-shirt, a water bottle, a gift certificate to Walgreens and Neutrogena sunblock products. I'm sure it would be good penance if you do decide to make the cheesecake. I myself am particularly excited about the water bottle because my family is currently trying to break our terrible addiction to plastic water bottles. Comment to sign up for it and stick around to read some of her blogs--I am a big fan.

So until next Wednesday, ya'll. Have a healthy week!

(Oh, I will be back with more inane banter tomorrow probably--just next Wednesday on the WW thing. Get it? Kind of? Cool.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

30 B4 30: Tuesday Night Date Night

As part of my 30 Before 30 list, I have promised to go on a date night twice a month with my husband, Matt. We have never been good at giving ourselves time together. For one thing, we've always been super busy with school/work and for a large amount of time, we lived away from our family and thus reliable/affordable baby-sitting. Even now that we live close enough to take advantage, we don't because we feel guilty about leaving the kids and find ourselves just too busy to take time out that often.

But I made a committment to do it, and I'll be damned if I don't at least give it the old college try. Plus, it is something we really need to do for ourselves. And, besides all that, it is just totally fun to go out and watch movies and eat bad food and talk about things that do not include my daughter's cheerleading and son's finicky eating habits.

One thing we are doing is going out on Tuesday nights. This sounds odd, I know. We started it because my husband is hella cheap and movie tickets are just $4 on Tuesday nights at our local theater. Plus, a lot of local restaurants run specials on Monday and Tuesday nights. So it is a cheap night out. However, we have come to really like it for many more reasons than the cheapness of it. For one thing, it is not crowded on Tuesday nights really anywhere. You can get a table with no wait, the theater is not full of obnoxious people texting away and guffawing at stupid jokes. Plus, it is something to look forward to coming out of the weekend. Yes, it is hard to get started on a Monday morning. However, knowing that there is a treat waiting for me on Tuesday night makes it a lot easier. I even think this applies to the kids. They like the break of getting to go to their grandmother's house on Tuesday afternoons--she picks them up from school and takes them to a local drive-in restaurant for hot dogs and shakes, which is a great break from eating with us every night. We don't do it every Tuesday (obviously), but when we do, we all come away from it happy.

Tonight we went and saw Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. My husband picked the movie because he read the graphic novel. I just went along because I never know anything about movies--I just kind of like to walk into them and be surprised as to what I'm seeing. I don't keep up with what is out or anything like that. This is in opposition to Matt, who has a tab on his igoogle that is all about movies that he follows religiously. I just requested no Eat Pray Love because I read the book and really disliked it--found it to be a bit overindulgent and trite (did anyone else not like this book? I usually find myself to be in the minority on this one). Matt was more than pleased to honor my request because he has this issue with Julia Roberts' teeth. Not kidding. Who doesn't like Pretty Woman? That movie singlehandedly taught me everything I know about sex and mean-sprited SA's. But I digress....

ANYWAY, Scott Pilgrim....was awesome. I adored it because it had all of these awesome musical references and totally made me feel like I was a 14 year old girl again. Because I totally had this shirt:

Love that Zero shirt. The summer when I was 13, I plotted to have Billy Corgan's babies and I had about 3 of those...a long sleeved one, a short sleeved one, and a ringer like you see on Michael Cera above. I also had the blue hair seen above, although mine was not nearly as cute and mine was made with blue gel-ly type stuff that I bought at Gadzooks in the Kingsport Mall. Not permanent in the least. But I tried. And watching that movie took me right back to that place.

When I stood up at the end of the movie, I looked down and saw myself : Gap jeans, cardigan, cute top. Typical 27 year old Mom I think. About as far from 13 year old rock star wannabe as you can get. But then I looked over. There stood Matt, who knew me in those days, who listened when I insisted on playing Siamese Dream three times in a row, who I have seen innumerable movies with, who uses the term "graphic novel," who I have watched play Zelda enough to where I got those references in the movie too. We are older, and wiser, maybe a bit more world weary then we once were. We are not as cool; the streaks in my hair now come from the actual sun and not a jar. But there is no one else in the world that I would rather spend a Tuesday evening with. And I hope I see 15 million more movies with him, and I hope I'm never too old to enjoy breaking out a Pumpkins album to listen to on the way home.

Friday, August 13, 2010

30 Before 30

As I write this, I am 27.5 years old. I feel relatively young, but yesterday Gabby and Sam told me that I was really, really old. Sam kept going on about it, and Gabby finally relented and said, "Well, she's younger than a lot of the other mom's out there." I was about to thank her for sharing that, but she decided to finish her thought and said, "But she's still really old." Harumph.

Anyway, I decided to make a list of 30 things that I want to do before I turn 30. My husband liked the list for the most part and has already started planning #1. I may have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: my husband rocks.

1. Go to France
2. Make croissants, brioche and challah from scratch.
3. Run a 5k.
4. Run a 10k.
5. Buy a new car.
6. Lose 15 more pounds and keep it all off.
7. Develop a skin care routine that is perfect for me.
8. Hike to the top of Mount Rogers.
9. Hike the trail between Muir Woods and Stinson Beach.
10. See at least 3 more major league ball parks.
11. See the Montgomery Biscuits and get a t-shirt.
12. Make homemade yogurt.
13. Save $5,000 of my very own.
14. Own a ridulously expensive pair of shoes.
15. Receive a hot stone massage.
16. Host a formal dinner party.
17. Create an herb garden that doesn't die within 6 months.
18. Decide if I want a tattoo or not and just get it already.
19. Acquire a digital camera and learn to use it on my own.
20. Have a date night with Matt at least twice a month.
21. Have a really nice family photo taken.
22. Learn to knit and make a scarf.
23. Paint a room.
24. Read the following books: Crime and Punishment, Madame Bovary, Ulysses, and at least one (small) thing by Proust.
25. Start (formal) college funds for the kids (we have a couple of small savings accounts but none are totally devoted to this, and poor Alice has zip).
26. Do 10 real push ups in a row.
27. Publish something.
28. Get a job I love.
29. Wear red lipstick.
30. Drink one bottle of very fancy champagne.

I am going to use this blog as a spot to document my progress. I will post pictures and other "evidence" of my completing things, and hopefully, in 2.5 years, everything will be marked off! Any help and encouragement is, of course, appreciated!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Go To Meals

Yesterday I was in the unenviable position of having to take my kids to Wal-Mart. I absolutely abhor Wal-Mart: it is crowded, it smells, the customer service is nonexistent, the products are cheap and crappy. However. I live in the freaking boonies, and here, Wal-Mart is a minor deity. People plan whole days where they just go to Wal-Mart. Because of this, unless I am going in one specific direction, there is no choice but to go to Wal-Mart to make purchases. Plus, the grocery store in our town is small and very overpriced, so Wal-Mart is actually a good choice for groceries. And since my children needed stuff for their lunchboxes (school started today), we ended up there.

And of course, I left my grocery list at home. Nice. The grocery list I had was one printed from myrecipes.com, which is an awesome, awesome place. You can print a store list for 5 meals, and it is always less than 30 items, so cheap, healthy, and usually fun/easy to make. Love it when I have no time to plan my groceries. ANYWAY, they are not great when you do not bring them with you. Therefore, I was left to my own devices, meal-wise. In Wal-Mart. A recipe for disaster (see what I did there? Recipe? Har har.).

No sweat though. I'm sure everyone has them, but I have my "go to" meals--things I can make with no recipe and will little guidance. Things that everyone likes and that are easy. No fancy dancy mango coulis--just food that can be pumped out with little thought.

I thought I would share these with you. Like I said, everyone has these things, and this is not an exhaustive list of mine--just the three I thought of yesterday when push came to shove. I would love it if other folks shared their's--I'm always on the prowl for more.

Blue Cheese Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Oven Fries
You need: 1 sweet onion (Vidalia or Walla Walla work nicely)
1 lb. lean ground beef or ground sirloin
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley
salt and pepper
4-5 good sized potatoes (or more small ones)
hamburger buns (you need something substantial for these burgers, I think. Whole wheat is hearty and yum.)
blue cheese dressing (if desired)

Preheat oven to 425. Cut up the potatoes into uniform cuts, like steak fries. Place them on a well greased jelly roll pan. Drizzle with a little vegetable oil and use your hands to rub it in. Sprinkle with generous amounts of kosher salt and coarse ground pepper. Pop in the oven. You'll need to turn them about halfway through. I would guesstimate that these take about 30 minutes, but I never time them. Just keep a close eye on them. They can go from YUM to "Um, is this edible?" in very little time.

Now slice the onion into rings. Preheat a pan over low heat with a bit of olive oil. Place the onions in the pan. Stir them around a bit. You are going to cook them for about 20 minutes or so over the low heat. Give them a good stir every once in a while, but otherwise, ignore them.

Meanwhile, take the ground beef and put it in a bowl. Mix in the blue cheese and the parsley, then salt and pepper. Mix it around with your hands and make into four good sized patties. You can either grill these or cook them inside. They usually go in about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on how thick the patties are.

Serve the burgers on the buns with the onions on top and the fries on the side. If you love blue cheese (like I do), slather a bit of dressing on the top of the bun (my favorite is the Weight Watchers recipe for blue cheese dressing--not even kidding--I keep it in my fridge just about all the time).

Roast Chicken with Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans
This one is very malleable. Basically, you just get a chicken (make sure to choose a good one--the best are organically raised and free range as they are fresher tasting and not plumped with salt). Get it out of the package and dry it a bit with a paper towel--just dab it, you don't have to get it perfect. Place in a roasting pan and preheat the oven to 375. Now...have fun. You can basically use anything that you want now to make the chicken taste good. I always use garlic, kosher salt, coarse ground pepper and some kind of herb Sometimes I add other stuff, just depending on what is around. The herb just depends on what I have in the fridge or in the garden. Drizzle with a fair amount of good olive oil and then go to town. I usually stuff a few whole cloves of garlic into the cavity along with some sprigs of the herb. Then take a few more cloves and crush them. Slide those puppies under the skin beside the breast meat. Do the same with any chopped herbs you may have. Sprinkle the whole thing with a good amount of salt and fresh ground pepper. I usually roast for an hour and a half, but it depends on the size of the bird. The real plus here is that you don't have to pay any attention to it whatsoever. No basting, or funky temperature stuff. Just stick it in and forget about it (THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID! HA!).

For the mashed potatoes--forget about it. It is my secret recipe. Just fix whatever mashed potatoes that you make/love.

The green beans are easily sauteed. Sometimes I add sliced crimini mushrooms and that really makes it good. A little garlic never hurt anyone either.

Rolls are also good if the potatoes weren't enough carbs for you. Or biscuits if you are nasty.

*I'm not even kidding when I say this, but nothing makes me feel more divinely womanly than preparing a roast chicken. Yes, I know what I singlehandedly just did for the woman's movement. Sorry. I just adore it. I even kind of like the feeling of the bird beneath my hands as I work on it. And that, my friends, is how one ends up on Criminal Minds, I presume.

Baked Chicken Parmigiana with Salad and Bread
You'll need: a pack of chicken tenderloins, about 1-1.5 lbs. (you can use the whole breast, but my kids like the tenders)
bread crumbs (I prefer panko, but you can use whatever you have)
Italian seasoning (buying a big tub at Sam's/Costco is a good way to go)
grated parmesan
an egg (or maybe too, depending on the number of tenders)
a jar of spaghetti sauce (or if you have been particularly good, get about 2 cups out of your freezer stash--I try to be good, but haven't been in a few months)
a ball of fresh mozzarella
pasta, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375. Mix a combination of breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning; add a good amount of parmesan. Mix well. Whisk the egg (or two in a bowl). Dip each chicken tender in the egg and then in the crumb mixture. Lay in a well greased 11x7 inch baking dish.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. I err on the side of uber done here because my husband has this thing about chicken. After the chicken is done, pull it out and pour on the jar of spaghetti sauce. Cut pieces of the mozzarella and place on top of the chicken. Cover the whole thing with aluminum foil and place back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes or until every thing is bubbly and yummy.

Meanwhile, cook pasta if serving alongside. Serve with bakery bread and any type of good greens with dressing.

Monday, August 9, 2010


When you are the mother of three children, you start to have a relationship with your laundry. I can only relate it to Stockholm syndrome. You struggle against it and complain about it and just generally beat your chest and wail about it for so long, and then one day you wake up and realize, "I.CANNOT.EFFING.WAIT.TO.DO.THE.LAUNDRY." You, my friend, are Patty Hearst. You begin doing it everyday and you think of ways to spice it up--handwashing, laying flat to dry, stain removal. And when you buy new clothes for yourself or your children, you immediately think of how it will look in the closet, how it will feel when you fold it or slide that hanger in and watch as the fabric tumbles down. You imagine people coming into your home while you are gone and looking in your closets and thinking, "Wow, that kitchen wasn't much to write home about but this closet...Jesus Christ on a rubber crutch, look at this closet!!!"

(What? Just me? Alrighty then...)

My daughter and I are both allergic to Tide, me less um, vehemently than Gabby. We both break out in huge red bumps that itch like crazy if we even sleep on sheets washed in it, much less wear clothes in it. But. Gabby is not only allergic to Tide, she hates its very being. She once almost made my stepmother cry because she uses it. I wish I were kidding. Therefore, I have always used All Free and Clear. It is relatively cheap, it gets the job done, and no one in my house foams at the mouth when they see the bottle sitting around. I also always use some sort of fabric softener or dryer sheet because my husband likes dryer sheets and uses them for various chores around the house. Again, not kidding. He also does weird stuff with Swiffer sheets, but that is another post for another time. For diapers, I use Rockin' Green, which, well, is rockin'. We started this when Alice started eating solids and things just got turned up a whole nother level if you know what I mean.

Well, one day I went to Target, which is probably how my autobiography will start. And I got frisky. And I bought a big bottle of Method Laundry Detergent in Fresh Air. I bought this, totally afraid that I would break out in huge running sores after use, but a bit turned on by switching up the whole laundry routine. Just like Patty when she robbed that bank.

Gabby made fun of me mercilessly. "Air? What does Air even smell like? What if it is the air over a chicken farm? What will it smell like then?" But I stuck to my guns. And I spent $15 on a bottle of laundry detergent.

And yes, it is fairly awesome. I don't know if it is $15 worth of awesome because you can buy a fairly good bottle of wine for $15 and that would probably make me happier in the long run. But being able to just pump out the stuff and not having to measure is definitely cool. And the bottle is small and not unwieldy so there is much less in the trash. And it doesn't smell like the air over a chicken farm.

Another purchase I made that fine day was a bottle of Downy Simple Pleasures fabric softener in Spice Blossom Dare. Isn't that the most idiotic name for a fabric softener that you have ever heard? What is it "daring" me to do? Write a sexually charged blog post about doing my laundry? Because BOO-YA DOWNY. I'M ALREADY THERE. It also made me think of Virginia Dare, who was the first English baby born in the New World and part of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island. And yes, I'm cool like that.

And now folks let me tell you the main reason I am writing this post. When you combine these two things together, the scent is OUT OF CONTROL. It is so good. Like slap your mama good. Like I wash my laundry and need a cigarette good. In fact, let me lay it out math-style for all you back to school'ers out there:

Method Laundry detergent + Downy Spice Blossom Dare = candy + sex + new shoes + new movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Liev Shrieber as pastry chefs who save the world

And in other news, I'm afraid I need to get out more.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rant: Back to School Shopping

When I was a kid, back to school shopping was fun. My mom would take me to Wal-Mart, and I would tool around quietly, buying the Crayola crayons 64 pack (the biggest one they had when I was a kid), a few Lisa Frank folders and a bitchin' Trapper Keeper. If I was supremely lucky, she would then take me to Sanrio Surprises in the Kingsport Mall and buy me a backpack with Hello Kitty on it. All my pencils came from my mom's office and from gift stores at the beach (that was always my souvenir). These purchases would be made effortlessly, happily even, and then I would go home and organize my stuff, vowing that his would be the year that I actually used those little reinforcements and kept my stuff securely and perfectly in the Trapper Keeper. My mom would be pretty effortless in the whole thing too--it wasn't terribly expensive and she didn't have to do much--just push the cart around and admire the rainbow-hued dolphins on my folder.

School shopping today is nothing like this. School shopping today is more akin to say, having your intestines ripped out through your ear. Yesterday, I took my kids school shopping. We walked into the Target all fresh faced and happy, having just eaten a refreshing lunch at Chili's (where they serve fresh pineapple with the kids meals and have more options than just chicken tenders--yea for Chili's!). Two hours and $160 dollars later, we walked out, defeated, sad and tired. My kids had gotten a few things they wanted--Spiderman lunchbox and backpack for Sam, locker materials for Gab (sniff, sniff, yes my baby gets a locker this year), but mostly we had purchased things that were on their "school supply lists." "School supply lists," I've discovered, were probably dreamed up in a joint conglommeration between Scott Disick and Atila the Hun. Yes, they seem all idyllic and perfect, and I can see their use--the kids get what they need for the classroom, not a bunch of superfluous junk, and the teacher is able to come up with plans that use those items. But. BUT. When you are spending over $80 just to purchase the things on the list, there is a problem. When your sixth grader has four teachers, and thus FOUR seperate lists, there is a problem. I effectively purchased Gabby more supplies yesterday for a year in the SIXTH GRADE than I did for my entire high school experience. For one class, she had to have a 3 inch binder (the cheapest they had was $10) with 2 packs of filler paper and a five subject notebook, among other interesting things. What exactly is she going to write in this class? A sequel to War in Peace? A biography of Proust spelled out in pictograms?

That is not even to mention the amount of time it takes to find all of those things. Especially when you are in a crowded Target with a bunch of other woebegone parents who look like prisoners of war. Especially when your infant daughter just learned to make this noise that can only be described as the cry of the hounds of Hell as they rip out your soul and she insists on making it every 2 minutes or so, always with this big grin so you're not sure whether to fall to ground covering your ears crying or praise her for being so cute and inventive. Especially when you thought this was going to be a fun day and you thought you might even score a dress or a nice cardigan at Target and now your husband is frantically adding stuff up on his cell phone and looking as if he might cry/start a revolution/start trying to eat pencils to smuggle them out unseen so the idea of the dress is now completely and totally massacred.

The other thing that really irked me was that we spent a lot of time (and money) buying disinfecting wipes and sandwich bags and hand sanitizer and Kleenex for the classroom. I have absolutely no problem with the teachers requesting these items--kids need to have these things around, and come flu season, I'm really going to appreciate it. What peeves me is that these items should be provided by the school system. Now, I'm not going to go into too much detail here because the same school system does sign my paychecks (although I work at a high school, and if anyone wants hand sanitizer there, you best be buying it yourself and then having it surgically grafted onto your arm so that it will not be stolen and drank), but I'm pretty sure that each football team in the system could take a tiny financial hit (that they probably wouldn't even notice) and we could buy the teachers some sanitizer. Since I started working for the school system, I have seen the kind of egregious budgeting mishaps that come about at schools. And I think of all this when I'm loading down my shopping cart with dry erase markers for the teachers (yup). Imagine you had come home as a small child with a letter from the school asking your parents to pony up for chalk for the teachers. Wouldn't your parents have been a little, shall we say, quizzical?

And it worries me so about the kids who can't afford these things. In my work as a homeless student mentor, I gave all my students a binder with paper and then talked to them about good study skills, organizing, etc. That was the extent of their school supply. That was just part of my schtick. I can't imagine what they would do at the elementary level when there is so much that they need. Even backpack drives just furnish kids with backpacks--they don't look individually at the list and make sure that if the needy kid has to have a 3 subject notebook instead of a 5 that they are getting it. Or maybe they do, and I'm just not aware of the right ones. It is just so sad that so many kids have not even started school, and they are already behind. I am thinking of calling the school on Monday to see if there is a kid that they know of that I can adopt and purchase his/her items as on the list. Sigh.

I guess this is all just part of my incredible unrest with the educational system, especially in the area where I currently live. I have discovered, though, that there is no "perfect" school--there is always going to be something that you don't like, so you just have to deal. But. I am really starting to realize why people homeschool, and that is really starting to look like a viable option. I think if I lived in a more urban area and was able to join so sort of homeschooling group so that my kids still go social interaction, I would already have done it. I don't know. Maybe I'm just grumpy because my fun day did not come to fruition. Maybe I just need to go back to Target and buy that dress.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why oh Freakin' Why?

I have no idea why, but for some ungodly reason, I am completely and totally drawn to the Kardashian family. Yes, I'm 74% sure that they are all repulsive and horrible human beings, especially Rob who I'm 100% sure that I want to punch in the throat. However, more often than not, I find myself watching them on E! and being totally immersed in what's going on. If they are showing a marathon, forget about it. I'm going to watch it, or rather, pick that day to "clean my room" and commence spending the rest of the day halfheartedly sorting magazines while catching up on the craziness. It doesn't matter if it is the whole family or just Kourtney and Khloe (even though they are my favorites), I will watch it.

The really disturbing thing is that it is not even that I just watch so much TV that this is just a percentage of all the other crap that I watch. I don't. I basically watch this and Criminal Minds and the odd Law and Order rerun and my husband and I tivo Modern Family and watch it together. Up until this point, I've been much too embarassed to tivo this crap, but just now I decided to go ahead and add Sunday night's offering to the queue because I'm so concerned about Scott and Kourtney's relationship. Oh yes, I did. What will become of Baby Mason? What about Scott's hand? What if he loses the ability to close his fist? Who will shove money down the throats of unsuspecting waiters then? I gave up reading gossip columns a while ago because I thought that they denigrated women (which I know is ironic, given the subject of this post), but I'm tempted to fire some up and see if I can uncover some un-E! released news. AAARGH.
And just now I was just aimlessly checking Facebook, just passing the time while my vacation pictures upload on Shutterfly, and I see Kim peeking out of the side of the page. She's telling me that she can get me some super stylish shoes, picked just for me. And yeah, well, the next thing I know I'm going through a "3 minute style quiz" on shoedazzle.com. Oh yes, I did. If you are part of the population who reads newspapers and listens to NPR and can't be bothered with the businesses of a woman whose major accomplishment in life is having a large rear end, shoedazzle.com is a "service" that for the low, low price of $39.95 will ship you a pair of shoes every month. The shoes are supposedly picked just for you by a "team" of "stylists" of which Kim K. is one. On the front page, one pair of the shoes is actually cute--the others look like something purchased from "that" store in the mall--you know the one I'm talking about--the one that also sells fishnet stockings and those jeans with all the rips and rhinestones and has the employees who may or may not have an operating meth lab under the cash register. $40 seems a steep price to pay for those shoes, don't you think? Well, any wise person would think that. Not this girl. I finished the quiz and am currently waiting on the "stylists" to email me the results with the pair of shoes that they have picked just for me. Now, one side of my brain is saying I'm doing this whole thing under the title "sociological research." The other half is all like, "OHMYGOD, I can't wait to see what Kim picked for me!!! Then maybe I'll go to Dash and then we'll all go eat cobb salads together and talk about what a douche Scott is!!! And maybe Alice will grow up and marry Baby Mason and we'll all be this big happy family who loves each other's marketability!!! HUZZAH!"
Is anyone else drawn to the Kardashians? I mean, I can't be the only one. Just going to the grocery store tells me that as a nation, we are all drawn to them and whether or not they are gaining/losing weight. Why oh why do we care? Better yet, why do I care?
And even more important...what do I do if the shoes turn out to be cute? Pony up the $40 and hope for the best? Sometimes I amaze myself.

Surviving the Family Trip to a Theme Park

When it comes to vacation, I'm much more of a lay on the beach with a book or relax in a cozy cabin kinda girl. However, when my husband and I decided to take our kids on a family vacay this summer, we knew that taking them to a theme park was going to be a must. Why? Because even if your kids spend their entire day eating pate and listening to the Boston Pops, they love those places. Theme parks are made for kids and they are ridiculously fun for them--they are filled with sugar, acceleration and water. What more can a kid want? What's more, they can be awfully fun for adults too, if you prepare well and get into the spirit. Riding the biggest, fastest roller coasters is not optional (hey, you're tall enough!).

On our trip, we visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which was voted the most beautiful theme park by some unknown entity probably 25 years ago. How do I know that? Because it is on every thing you will ever see about Busch Gardens. However, it is beautiful--the whole park is laid out in mock European towns. There is an Ireland, a Germany, an Italy, a France and a Scotland. If you are a really motivated parent, you could use this to talk to your kids about geography. They probably won't listen though--they will be too busy licking off that cotton candy beard they just made. Busch Gardens is a good mix of thrill rides and smaller attractions for smaller kids. They have the Griffon, which is a roller coaster that drops you straight down a 90 degree angle, as well as Elmo's Forest of Fun, which is a toddler Elysium, complete with water geysers and live Elmo shows every 30 minutes. Although infants are not allowed to ride any rides, they can ride the carousel and the train and tram with their families. Plus, there are all those geysers to crawl around in.

The most important thing to see in that last paragraph is the word "geysers." Yes, your children are going to want to crawl/walk around an area where water shoots freely from the ground 12 hours a day. Chances are, you will be with them when they do this. Therefore, you should all dress accordingly. You would not believe the kinds of things I saw people wearing inside Busch Gardens. Everything from skintight ripped pink denim (yup) to family-matching Lily Pulitzer dresses. And yes, the people I saw wearing those things looked miserable.

What you should wear: your best bet is to wear workout clothes. I wore my running stuff--a running skort and tank, both made out of spandex-y material. This stuff dries super fast, wicks and is easy to move around in. The good news is that this stuff is cheap if you don't already own it. My running skorts were $16.99 at Target--I'm able to quote this price offhand because I own 4 of these suckers and owned 3 of them in assorted other sizes. My favorite top I wore was from the Aerie Fit line , but the other top I wore I bought at Wal-Mart for $7. And...just go ahead and admit defeat and put your hair into a ponytail before you leave the house. It is going to look like crap soon anyway--just accept it. The shoe thing bring some debate in my house: for my money, wear your flip flops, but make sure they are comfortable (not the $3 flops from Old Navy). I have a pair of Reefs that I have had forever and they were perfect. You don't have to wear socks with flip flops which eliminates the whole wet sock thing. My husband, however, thinks I am insane for wearing flip flops all day. He chose to wear running shoes which he said were much more comfortable. Either way, I'd say.
What you should not wear: denim. They should hang a sign at the front gate that declares the theme park a denim free zone. I don't care how cute you think you are in denim shorts: a) you are not cute and b) even if by some miracle you are, you will be so uncomfortable. And do I really need to tell you why you shouldn't wear jeans during the summer? To a theme park? No, I didn't think so. Also you should not wear anything white (I mentioned the water, didn't I?), anything you care about that much, shoes with any kind of a platform (even platform flip flops), earrings (if you do, you will be asked to remove them on the larger rides), and dresses.
A quick note on dresses: I am usually the first one to espouse wearing a dress to any place during the summer. They are cool and always look fresh, so what's not to love? However, I saw this one lady on the log flume that changed my mind. She was so gorgeous, and was wearing the perfect summer dress--spaghetti straps and airy, about knee length. However, you should have seen her trying to arrange herself on the log flume. Yeah, that's trouble that you don't need.
What your kids should wear: Boys are easy--swimming trunks with a t-shirt. Girls will have to layer. Gab wore her bathing suit with athletic shorts and a t-shirt on top. On their feet, they wore aqua shoes. We got cheapie ones (I think they were $7 at Target), but they worked like a charm. However, on our last day we noticed that Sam had worn a hole in the heel of his. It was fine--they more than served their purpose. For babies, I put Alice in her bathing suit with a terry cloth cover up on top. Super easy to get off for when she wanted to crawl in the geysers with Elmo, and easy to put back on. Be forewarned as well--in any place where kids can just run unfettered in the water, swim diapers are a must. We used disposables all during the trip, so I didn't try cloth, but I would advise to get a package of disposables ahead of time even if you are doing cloth. The park management seems insistent on the disposable kind and they have lots of folks around watching the kids. I heard one girl talk to a dad because his kid was wearing a (bulging) regular diaper. I don't think they would call you out on the cloth, but sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.
Now why should they wear this? Well, for one thing, if you are concerned about money in the least, you should put them in their bathing suit. You will not be able to keep them out of the water, and Busch Gardens (or any other theme park) knows this. Therefore, set up next to every watery area is a store selling swimsuits, aqua shoes, swim diapers, and cover ups. Therefore, all the people who do not put the stuff on their kids are at a huge risk for having to buy it when they get there. The lady with the girls in matching Lily Pulitzer? Yup, she was ponying up for Zoe swimsuits at the Elmo Forest of Fun. So, better safe than out $50. Save that dough for the caramel apples and ice cream (I successfully ate a banana split waffle cone for dinner both nights we were at Busch Gardens, and yes, it was amazing).
What you should take: As little as you can get away with. Pack a very small diaper bag (we used the one we got for free at the hospital when Al was born) with just the essentials. You are not allowed to take in food or water, but I took Allie in a bottle of water with a sippie and some snacks in her Boon snack ball and they didn't seem to mind. Also bring a good stroller. You see a lot of people with the big ones, but that just seems like a huge hassle, having to get it on and off the tram and other things. If you are traveling very light, they have strollers for rent that seem ok. Not cushy, but you just put your name on a card with the stroller and instead of having to load it on attractions (like the train or the tram), you just pull out the card and put it in a new stroller when you get to where you are going. Our Maclaren Quest was perfect, and I would imagine any similar model would be great. Don't worry with a carrier--you'll be taking it on and off so much that it just wouldn't be practical.
What you should know: This is where Busch Gardens gets my kudos. If you are nursing, Busch Gardens has three nursing stations set up--one in New France, one in Germany, and one in the Forest of Fun. The best one, I think, is the one in New France, although they are all nice. It is in the Lost Children center, and has a nice diaper change area, and then a nursing room with a big leather chair. Best of all, all nursing stations are air conditioned! It was such a nice respite during the day for both me and Alice--we were able to sit down together and nurse and enjoy the cool and comfort for a little while. I never had to wait at any station--I don't know if this is because people just weren't nursing their babies or because people just didn't know about the stations.
However, ask about this stuff before you get into the park. I asked at Guest Relations when I first went in and they gave me a nice map with the areas circled. However, when I got over to the Germany station to use it, I couldn't find the exact location. I asked three BG employees and none of them had even heard of it. I finally happened on it just by walking around the bathroom (FYI, it is located in the Festhaus bathroom on the exit side in the back--what they have done is to take a couple of stalls and take out the fixtures and put in a big leather chair--not super fancy, but definitely cool and comfortable). If you have any disability or any other questions about anything, definitely ask at Guest Relations as soon as you get in--all theme parks have something similar. The ladies in there were super nice and helpful and know about two tons more than any of the other employees.
So, yes, as a parent you will definitely find yourself at one of these places, and really, it is very fun. We are already planning to take our brood to Cedar Point next year, and we are all super excited. Just don't eat too much sugar...ah, who am I kidding? Live it up!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

And we're back!

Disregard the fact that I'm wearing no make-up. Before I went on this trip, there were about 3 pictures in the known universe of me not wearing make-up (I am from the South after all!). Now there are about 300. Awesome.
These pictures are representative of the two themes of our trip: historic punishments and Thomas Jefferson. About 66% of our pictures have something to do with one of these two things.

We just got back from our epic trip yesterday. And boy, was it epic. Ten days of history, roller coasters, miniature golf, ice cream, and more delicious food than you can possibly imagine. I still get goose bumps thinking of these awesome smoked gouda tacos that I had one night...yum.

And I have lots of things I want to write about. Among them: dressing for a theme park/water park, a big kudos to Busch Gardens, a review of a Shabby Apple order, and the unveiling of my 30 Before 30 list. But I also have an absolute ton of laundry to do and my son's room, which is permanently in a state of chaos, needs to be cleaned a bit to make room for the spoils of the trip (including the toy handcuffs he bought and used to restrain me last night, promptly realizing [post restraint] that he didn't know how to use the key). So bear with me. Until then, here are some pics of us enjoying ourselves.