Thursday, March 31, 2011

23:40 -- Opening Day

Let's Go Buccos!

Baseball season is here!
Being from Pittsburgh, that really has no meaning anymore. The Pirates are the laughingstock of professional sports, with their record-breaking consecutive losing seasons. But if I still lived there, I'm sure I would go to several games every year. I love live baseball! Being at the ballpark invokes all sorts of wonderful memories for me, pretty much all of them with my Pap.
Pap was a Pittsburgh sports fan in the truest sense. Even when Roethlisberger would engineer one of his famous last-second, game-winning drives Pap would rail about how it never should have come down to that. He was a Steelers season ticket holder all throughout the 70s Steel Curtain era and the much-maligned "rebuilding" years that was pretty much all of the 80s. He was actually there on that fateful late-December day in 1972, when Frenchy Fuqua collided with Jack Tatum causing Franco Harris to catch the deflected ball off his foot and score the touchdown which sealed the Steelers' first ever playoff victory. The Immaculate Reception was the foremost defining moment in Pittsburgh sports history and it was pure luck that Pap was still at the game to see it. He was always one to leave games early to "beat the crowd." But this particular game, he stayed till the very end and never once regretted it.
Pap and Grandma took me to my first Pittsburgh Pirates game when I was 3 or 4. I asked them when Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert were going to come out. Oh, the joys of dual sports in the same stadium.
Going to Pirate games were a regular thing for Pap and me. If there ever was a great promotion like a free cap, ball, pennant, Pirate Parrot doll...we were there. Buck Night was a monthly staple and there were a few seasons in which we didn't miss one. Your general admission was a buck and you got a hot dog and a coke for a buck. We always sat in Henry's section on the 200-level. (Henry was the usher who worked Pap's Steeler-ticket section.) Pap would slip him a few bucks and he'd give us the best seats he had until the real ticket holders showed up. We had to move around a lot.
The summer of 1986, Pap somehow had a connection in the Allegheny Club, which was the swanky restaurant/club inside Three Rivers Stadium. We went several times that year; the dessert buffet was legendary. I can still taste the chocolate mousse. We wouldn't watch much of the games from in there because it was enclosed in glass but it was still a real thrill. It was a who's-who of Pittsburgh celebrities, most notably the Chief himself, Art Rooney Sr. He sat right behind us one time and stopped Pap as we were leaving. He shook his hand and complimented him on his extremely well-behaved granddaughters. We were all completely starstruck.
Mr. Rooney died not long after that. I'm glad I got to see him in-person.
Another highlight of that year was the rookie phenom who joined the Pirates: Barry Bonds. Ok, half-his-current-size Barry Bonds. I'm pretty sure we saw his first homerun in Three Rivers.
I can name more players that were Pirates in my youth than I could right now. Andy Van Slyke, Jay Bell, Bobby Bonilla, Sammy Khalifa, Dave Parker, Jason Thompson, Omar Marino...all legends in my mind.
It's sad when we grow up. Even sadder when our heroes don't live forever. We lost Pap last September. I'm grateful for everything he ever did for me and I'm even happier he got to meet my daughter.
We're raising L.E. to appreciate sports the way we always have. She's been to three Reno Aces games and I'm sure there will be many more to come. I hope the first hot dog she ever has is at a ballpark. But I'm sure it cost more than a buck.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

22:40 -- Halfway Point

She makes me a better writer and a better person.
So I'm more than halfway to my goal of blogging every day during Lent. I missed a couple Sundays here and there because Sundays are for sweatpants and zero ambition. I'm not sure what my intention of this blog exercise is (other than getting a book deal). I just really love to write and I feel like I'm pretty good at it.
I've gone through a lot in the last year. Becoming a mom has been the most unbelievable experience of my life. And when my little L.E. wasn't "perfect," it devastated me. I fell apart inside and out. But by writing about my experiences,  I've been able to heal myself. I've grown as a person and more importantly, as a mother. My daughter is the epitome of joy, my reason to come home at night, my cure for a bad day. One smile or giggle from her could end all wars, I swear.
I don't know if you necessarily like me or my writing or my blog. I don't know if I ever came close to my original intention of reaching out to other DDH parents. You may even be wondering why I bother writing about the most mundane things and that I should really get a life. If that's the case, then I thank you for getting my page-view-count up and I hope you check back tomorrow. Please feel free to tell your friends how lame I am and make sure you give them the correct blog address so they can see my lameness for themselves.
If you genuinely like my blog, then I say to you, "Hi. How are you today? You look terrific! Did you get a haircut? I love your shoes!" I hope you check back tomorrow. Please feel free to tell your friends how awesome I am and make sure you give them the correct blog address so they can see my awesomeness for themselves.

21:40 -- With a Side of Self-Loathing


$10 says you're hungry now.


I have issues with food. I love it, in case you haven't noticed. I also hate exercising. And I just had a baby. (I can still say that even though it's been a year, right?) All of this has culminated into a more-to-love Hip-Baby Mama. It's very depressing.
I gained 60 lbs while pregnant. When you consider that I've technically lost all the baby weight, it's a pretty impressive feat. But what anyone will tell you, mom or not, is that your body is never the same. As much as I'd love all the extra weight I'm carrying to be in my boobs, it's unfortunately in my stomach. And my butt. And my thighs. But mostly my stomach.
I could theoretically eat nothing but salad and lose these last few (or 20) pounds. And I could find 10 minutes a day to do some core exercises. But the fact is I love to eat good food and I am usually so exhausted when I finally do get some "me" time that the last thing I want to do is crunches. I like to believe that I'm fat because I enjoy life and I enjoy food. But this nagging self-pity creeps in every time I order off a menu in a restaurant.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those people who eats fast food 8 times a week. I couldn't tell you the last time I had McDonald's. I occasionally indulge in Wendy's or In & Out Burger. I keep my french fry intake to a minimum. I don't eat sweets very often. I just really like cheese. And meat. And bread. And pasta. And chicken wings. And butter. Kind of a dangerous combo if eaten all together. A delicious, dangerous combo. OK, now I'm craving chicken wings and they're all I'll think about the rest of the day! I haven't eaten breakfast and I'm already thinking about lunch. And dinner. AAARRRRRGGGGHHH!
Hopefully L.E. will be more mobile soon and I can get some extra exercise chasing her around. Also, we won't be eating our biggest meal at 9:00 every night after she goes to sleep, we'll be eating as a family. I don't want L.E. to subsist on a diet of only chicken nuggets and macaroni & cheese, as awesome as that may sound.
Once the weather gets warmer, I'm sure I'll take this weight thing way more seriously.
At least you can't see my c-section scar because my paunch is covering it up.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

20:40 -- Bride of Chucky?



My sister has a theory that if you push down on any baby's head, they look like Chucky. Case in point...

Monday, March 28, 2011

19:40 -- Sisters

Before you go jumping to conclusions, this post is in no way shape or form about having a second baby.


Can you tell we're related?


My older sister came to town for L.E.'s birthday. I haven't seen her in over 2 years. And I haven't lived with her for over 15 years. But the same question always come up from my parents: Are you 2 getting along?
We are 3-1/2 years apart. By sibling standards, especially sisters, that is waaaay too close once you become teenagers. So yes, from the time I was 12 until 20, we didn't always get along. Sometimes we had the ultimate knock-down, drag-out, fist-punching fights. I even sent her to the ER after I punched her in the nose. Our fights were almost always about clothes. She'd wear something of mine without asking. I would do the same. Inevitably stains appeared. It was always the other's fault. Never mind the fact that to this day, she and i have the same drinking problem that Ted Striker does.
There was the sweatshirt. One of my college visits was to UNC-Wilmington. I bought a very expensive embroidered sweatshirt (extra-large...it was the 90s, the big look was in) and I wore it all of 2 times before it mysteriously disappeared. Soon after, photos started appearing featuring my sweatshirt on pretty much every friend my sister had. Our good friend who lived around the block picked me up for school and had it on. A co-worker at the restaurant where I worked showed up wearing it. I questioned my sister and she gave me the old "I must have left it in someone's car" story.
When I was packing to move out west, I asked her about it. She played dumb. So I got my own little revenge by stealing about 6 of her CDs along with a few other shirts. It became a long-running joke. She would send me more photos of people wearing it. I tried to find it in her closet when I went home for visits but was never successful. A few Christmases later, SURPRISE! She wrapped up the sweatshirt for me. It was pretty mangled but I didn't care, I had it back. I wore it tons when I was pregnant. (Good foresight to get the XL). So on her visit this trip, I ceremoniously gave it back to her. Little does she know that I'll totally steal it back when I visit her in a few weeks. So what was initially a very sore subject for me (it was a $55 sweatshirt I bought with my own money) has now become one of the best running gags we have.
The point is, when we were TEENAGERS...of COURSE we fought! But that was almost 20 years ago. My parents don't seem to understand that we're not the same people we were then. Is anyone? We're closer than we've ever been. When something happens in my life, good or bad, she is the first person I call. She knew I was pregnant well before my parents did. And I know that she would have visited way sooner if she hadn't just changed jobs recently (RIGHT, OH SISTER OF MINE?)
I read an article a few years ago in Time magazine about the science of siblings. The jist of it is, your siblings shape who you are more than anyone else. My sister gave me great fashion sense, a sharp wit, common sense, relationship advice, ways to get past Mom and Dad, my first cigarette, the idea to steal the airplane bottles out of our parents' bar, a night out with her college friends when I didn't have a homecoming date, the best grilled-cheese ever and more Indian-burns than I can count. I wouldn't trade my relationship with her for anything in the world.


But I'm still not going to have another baby.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

18:40 -- Blessed

We threw L.E. a birthday party to cap off her big 1st year. It was amazing; so many family and friends were here to celebrate. We are truly blessed to have so many people care about our sweet daughter. She had a great time playing with all of her friends.
I'll post some pics soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

17:40 -- Meatless Friday 2, The Electric Boogaloo

One thing I miss about the east coast is the Lenten Friday Fish Frys at church or the VFW. I'm convinced you can't get a decent fried fish sandwich east of the Mississippi unless you make it yourself. Which is exactly what T and I do when we're craving beer-battered fishy, tartar-y goodness. Below is our "recipe." I borrowed the measurements from Cooks.com.

Fried Fish Sandwiches
1 lb. fresh or frozen fish fillets (I recommend Cod)
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup of beer. (I recommend an ale or pale ale)
1 c. Flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Sandwich buns (Don't skimp; get the best buns you can find)
Tartar Sauce (Either make your own or buy it. I prefer Trader Joe's)
Cut fish into six 3 inch squares about 1/2 inch thick. Beat egg; add beer. Dip fish portions in egg/beer mixture, then in flour. Fry fish in 1/4 to 1/2 inch oil on med-high heat until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes on each side. Drain on paper toweling. Toast buns in toaster oven or regular oven. Serve with plenty of tartar sauce.
Enjoy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

16:40 -- Happy Birthday

Dear L.E.,
Today is your first birthday. I can't believe it's been a whole year since you came into my life and turned it completely upside down. I was pretty cool and collected before I had you. Sure, I had my neuroses but I still managed to make it to work on time and rarely, if ever, had some food-type product on my clothes or in my hair. My socks always matched. I was rarely without makeup. I even wore heels, if you can believe it. Your dad and I would go out to dinner a lot and were always at happy hour on Friday nights. We slept till 9 am on weekends. Can you believe that?
Then you were born. And from the first moment I looked at you, while you were screaming your head off, I feel head over heels in love with you. You didn't really seem to care about that. You were mostly pissed because I'm sure it was cold.
They told me you had hip dysplasia and it made me love you more. I would do anything and everything to fix you, just like I did with your woof-woof Porter. My dysplasia kids.
Those first few weeks were tough. You seemed like you hated me and your dad. You cried and we couldn't get you to stop. You didn't like me nursing you so Daddy would bottle-feed you while I pumped. I missed you during that time. I got a lot of reading done but I missed holding you.
When Daddy went back to work and left you alone with me, we had some rough days. But then you started to smile at me. I loved the way your eyes lit up when you would wake up and look at me. Your little personality started to shine through. You loved music so we would listen to "Hey Soul Sister" and dance. I also played you lots of U2 lullabies. You seemed to really like sleeping then. Funny how things changed when you discovered you had your own free will.
You met all of your grandparents within two months. You even flew on a plane to see my Pap. I've never seen him so happy than when you smiled at him instantly. He held you like an old pro, even though I'm sure he hadn't held a baby in over 30 years.
You started daycare and made all kinds of new friends. Everybody loved you. Your caregivers were very protective of you in your brace. It seemed like you loved daycare more than being at home! That's why we took you as many places as we could on the weekends. You loved being out and still do.
Right around Labor Day, we sensed your first tooth was coming in. You just weren't your normal happy self. I felt the bump and was happy to discover why.
Your first road trip was to San Francisco when you turned 6 months old. You had so much fun exploring a new city. We went to Golden Gate Park and you saw some penguins that made you crack up. You were the hit of the drunken Irishmen when we watched the Steeler game. You saw the ocean for the first time. The trip was punctuated by you sitting up by yourself for the first time ever. It was so great to have you sitting unsupported.
We had you baptized in October. The holidays flew by. For Halloween, you were a beautiful flower but you hated your costume. Thanksgiving was spent in Portland with your godparents, highlighted by sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what you wanted for Christmas. You learned to crawl a week later. Your grandma and grandpap spent your first Christmas with you and spoiled you with all of your favorite toys. Your other grandpa, G.G., came to visit soon after.
You love TV, especially football. Sadly, the Steelers were not meant to win the Super Bowl the first year you were alive. But there's always next year. (We hope.)
All the while, you grew and grew. New teeth. New milestones. Soon you were pulling yourself up, high-fiving and waving on command. You're such a happy baby to be around. Everyone loves you. But I'm pretty sure nobody loves you more than I do.
Happy birthday, sweetheart.
Love always,
Mom

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

15:40 -- Good Mom vs Bad Mom

Would a Good Mom let her baby eat her bib?
Is she a Bad Mom for taking a photo and posting it on her blog?

Every mom goes through the same thing. Are we good moms or bad moms? I don't mean bad mom in the drowning-your-kids sense, I mean the lazy, somewhat morally-questionable things moms do. Or I do. Maybe it's just me?
Allow me to do a little play on those lovable bastards from Highlights magazine, Goofus and Gallant.

Good Mom: Doesn't allow baby to ever watch TV because of some study done in the UK about it literally rotting their brain
Bad Mom: OK, just 2 episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba and 1 Sesame Street so that Mommy can check her Facebook and finish this impossible level on Angry Birds

Good Mom: Stays home with her kids
Bad Mom: Goes back to work and leaves baby at the company-subsidized daycare without doing any other daycare research except for the fact that no kid has ever gone missing or choked on a chicken nugget there. (Fortunately, our daycare truly is AWESOME. Got soooo lucky on that one)

Good Mom: Baby-proofs the house diligently with cabinet locks, corner-padding, outlet covers and toilet-locking mechanisms
Bad Mom: Baby-proofs with some easy-to-remove outlet covers and cabinet locks which are never "locked".

Good Mom: Immediately runs to baby when she bumps her head and coos soothingly
Bad Mom: Giggles before soothing because baby bumps her head on the exact same spot daily

Good Mom: Has professional photography sessions set up every 3 months and compiles all of the proofs into elegantly-bound scrapbook albums
Bad Mom: Buys the school portraits taken in front of a fake-park backdrop and brags about how her kid was scowling in the photos because the photographer took the snot-ridden Elmo doll away

Good Mom: Keeps the dog away from baby because any animal that licks its own butt shouldn't be giving baby kisses
Bad Mom: Lets the dog clean off baby's face after meals

Good Mom: Doesn't take baby to crowded places
Bad Mom: Takes baby to beer festivals

Good Mom: Documents every new food baby eats and waits the requsite 4 days between introducing new foods
Bad Mom: Takes a learn-by-eating approach and lets baby try everything, including tater tots and ribs

Good Mom: Supervises baby's playtime, especially when new toys are presented
Bad Mom:  Lets baby crawl under the sink of her new play kitchen for ages 3 and up

Good Mom: Wraps birthday presents in fancy paper
Bad Mom: Gives baby the present right out of the Amazon.com box with the hopes that she'll stop crying

Good Mom: Always has hand sanitizer at the ready
Bad Mom: Realizes too late that baby has been chewing on the wrong end of a dirty nasal aspirator

Good Mom: Rarely speaks about baby's bowel movements
Bad Mom: Tells her friends her baby's poop smells like ham

Good Mom: Has a well-behaved toddler who doesn't make a mess in a restaurant
Bad Mom: Over-tips the servers

Good Mom: Keeps all medication out of baby's reach. Especially the Vicodin. If she even tries to take one of Mommy's happy pills, i'll....Oh wait, that's venturing into Bad Mom territory

Good Mom: Loves her baby unconditionally
Bad Mom: Loves her baby unconditionally...since i'm the "Bad Mom" in these scenarios

Nobody's perfect. So please don't call CPS.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

14:40--Some Assembly Required





My freakin' back!
L.E. got a new play kitchen for her birthday. It arrived on Thursday and sat in the box for a few days. Considering it contained a stove/sink combo plus refrigerator, the box was rather small. That only means one thing in baby-land: get out the screwdriver and try to decipher the 48-page, illustration-only instruction booklet.
This is the first really big toy T and I have had to put together since becoming Mom and Dad. At Christmas, my parents were here and since they were the ones who bought all of the crazy-big toys for L.E., they had to put them all together. T and I have been pretty lucky. Aside from the normal baby stuff like the swing, bouncey seat, strollers, etc there really hasn't been much assembly. (Except for the rocking chair which I wheeled into the house and put it together all by myself 3 weeks before my due date. Weird burst of strength and energy on that one.)
Here's the funny part. I LOVE putting things together! I single-handedly put our dining set together. When the crib showed up, T just stood there holding the heavy pieces. Last time we visited T's dad, I directed the two of them as they put a new gas grill together, otherwise it would have taken them a week. I feel like I should have been an engineer or something. Or else I'm just really good at following directions.
So T knows not to assemble anything without my being around to "supervise." But he still put the sink/stove together while I was out. The fridge was up to me. It surprisingly wasn't too bad. But about halfway through putting the door on it, I felt a pinch. OK, it felt more like the icy-hot grip of death on my lower spine, as if a glove with rusty nails pointy-end-out attached was being squeezed into me after I'd been beaten with a baseball bat. (I've never had a back spasm before). I seized up and pretty much landed face-down in a pile of unused screws. Two Vicodin later (thank you, c-section) I was able to at least move to the couch. The rest of the day, it was as if L.E. didn't have a mom to hold her. I tried to lift her up but almost dropped her. Twice. Of course, the side of my back that hurt is the same side I perch her on.
I'm not one for massages but I figured if I wanted to at least partially function, I better get one. I went to a chain massage place that's reasonably priced. But when they asked if I'd like to become a member and I politely declined, they turned bitchy. If I can't commit to a workout "program" of walking around the block twice a week, how can i commit to a massage-membership? They were super-pushy about it. Can't a gal just get a massage once in a great while? Why do I always have to commit to something? Like punch cards?
 After the usual post-massage achey-ness, I finally can lift my kid up again. But I can't swing her or throw her up in the air unless it's over a soft, fluffy surface like the bed or dirty laundry pile. She appreciates that.
At least we finished the kitchen. It's actually pretty awesome. And the best part about it is it doesn't require batteries because it doesn't make noise!*
I guess the moral of the story is before you assemble your kids' toys, LIMBER UP.








*I would really like to hear about the kid who swallowed a battery and ruined parents' lives forever because the clicky thing wasn't good enough in keeping jr from eating some double-As. Now we need to use a screwdriver? Really? Did something like that really happen or is it all a conspiracy started by the screw makers?

13:40 -- Does this mean I'm going to Hell?

I missed a post yesterday! It was beyond my control. The little "stomach bug" escalated to full-on fun so I took the day off of work. Unfortunately, L.E. was also under the weather so we had some quality mom-baby bonding time in between fits of crying and fever. And that was just me.
Today, I feel like a million bucks and so does L.E. I'm so relieved. Her birthday is on Thursday and the last thing I want is for her to be sick over the weekend. Her aunt and uncle are coming to visit and I want her to be her happy little self.
I hate being sick. I turn into this ball of guilt about missing work and not helping around the house. It's like I'm back in jr high when i would pretend to be sick but really just didn't want to go to school. I feel like everyone thinks I'm faking it just to get out of doing things. So I over-compensate by doing laundry or emptying the dishwasher and it makes me even more tired and feverish. Ugh. But the good part about being sick is instant weightloss. I'm down 3 lbs!
So by missing a post, I didn't fulfill my Lenten challenge. But I am working on another post for today so maybe that makes up for it?








I also ate meat last Friday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

12:40 -- Sunday Ouch

I'm sticking with this 40 days of blogs and I'm sorry today's isn't more exciting. I'll be expanding on it during tomorrow's post. Suffice to say that I am having back pain for the first time in my life and I'm pretty sure I got the little bug that's been passed around L.E.'s daycare class. Back to the couch for me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

11:40 -- Hugs and hearts

There are a lot of people who deserve to have some good vibes thrown their way so I ask that you please take a moment to send out hugs and hearts to those who need it.
In particular:
My brother-in-law who stayed behind in Japan while my sister-in-law and their sons came back to the U.S. He's in the Army stationed in Japan and is actively helping with relief efforts. The people of Japan need all the good energy we can muster, too.
My friend in Pittsburgh whom I've never met but feel a kinship with. Her 6-month-old daughter just had surgery on her hips. I hope the time in her spica goes by quickly. Baby B is totally rockin' the hot-pink cast, too.
My Twitter friend in Orlando also struggling with her son's DDH. I want her to know that she's not alone and her baby boy is just perfect.
Another little guy who just celebrated his first birthday and is having his first pacemaker put in. He's a total trooper and his parents are so strong.
L.E.'s godmother who's taking her final dental assistant exams.
My 90-year-old great uncle who's always been my favorite. He taught me to play 31, uchre and so many other card games.
My husband, who does an amazing job taking care of his family while still accomplishing his own goals. He just needs a little more ooomph to get over the final hurdle.
And lastly, my sweet L.E. I hope her little body keeps doing what it's supposed to. If not, I know we'll be as strong as the other hip-baby families and will lead by their amazing example.
xo

Friday, March 18, 2011

10:40 -- food Food FOOD

Diggin' for gold...nom nom nom!
Every time L.E. tries a new food it's hilarious. This morning she stuffed an entire Ritz cracker in her mouth to suck the salt off of it. She would spit it out and stuff it back in and keep sucking. She's more entertaining than TV!
Her favorite food without a doubt is her "puffies." She could seriously knock back a whole container in one sitting. Last week, she grabbed the container out of my hand and dug around in it to feed herself. She must have had 30 of them stuffed in her cheeks.
We're starting to give her more of our food and it's always a surprise to see what she likes and dislikes. She shares my aversion to chunks in normally smooth foods, like chunky applesauce or fruit in her normally-plain yogurt. She loves ham, pizza, potatoes, pasta, blueberries, yogurt, cheese and peaches. T wanted to give her some of his St. Patty's Day reuben but I talked him out of it. Not sure I'm ready to see what sauerkraut does to her.
It's the little things that make me smile and I hope you do, too.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

9:40 -- Luck o' the Dagos


Not everyone loves St. Patty's Day
I always wanted to be Irish.
I hated being Italian.
Irish people had cool last names like Murphy, Kelly and O'Malley.
They didn't have ethnically-confusing last names that sounded like a fruit.
Being called a "mick" didn't seem nearly as offensive as being called a "dago." But then again, this was 1980s suburban Pennsylvania, not New York in the mid-19th century.
It didn't help that we owned a pizzeria.
Irish people seemed so much cooler. They had a sweet lilting voice. Not a Nu Yalk/Nu Joisy nasal tone.
My Irish classmates had soft light-colored hair and freckles. Not nappy-frizz so thick, it was always cut short.
I even wanted to go to Notre Dame because they were the Fighting Irish. My Pap's friend was a huge Notre Dame fan and gave me a keychain that played the fight song.
I hated being Italian. I hated Dago-Wop jokes.
I wore a Claddagh ring with an emerald in it. I threw away my Italian horn necklace.
My loathing of all things Red White and Green culminated the summer before high school. My friend and I were at the township pool. My sister was supposed to pick us up and refused. We had to call my friend's brother. I didn't know him that well except that he'd dated a friend of my sister's and I suppose it didn't end well. It was apparent he didn't think much of my sister.
We got in the car and he had one of his friends with him. They turned the heater up. "Are you greasy yet? Like a greasy dago? Don't forget your leather jacket. Your hair needs some more oil in it. Did your nonna make you spaghetti for dinner?" (That last one kinda hurt; I never knew my dad's mom but his nonna died when I was 7. She was a sweet lady)
The comments continued the whole drive, especially the "greasy Dago" ones. I was mortified. And hot. And silent. I secretly wanted to burst into tears but being that I was 14 and these were senior boys, I kept my cool. But I never forgot that. And never wanted to be Irish more.
My first Irish heartbreak occurred when we visited the Notre Dame campus. But it was for my SISTER to attend, not me. She had better grades than I did but it still wasn't enough for her to get into ND. I didn't stand a chance. (But seeing ND play Purdue in South Bend is still one of the best experiences of my life.)
The next came when Italy beat Ireland during the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals. We watched the game with my dad's Irish best friend. I was trying to contain my disappointment when Ireland lost. I don't think anyone noticed I wasn't cheering for Italy. I don't think I ever felt passionate about soccer again.
The emerald fell out of my Claddagh ring.
Eventually I moved west. The dry climate kept my hair frizz-free. Being Italian was unique and respected. Despite the cute McC boy I met in art school, I no longer wished to be Irish as much as I did before. Then The Sopranos aired and there became a never-before-seen pop-culture reverance for Italian-Americans.  Tony, Pauly, Christopher and Carmela were ubiquitous. Although the mob-mentality only enabled the stereotypes, there was a cool reverence that never existed. Name one full-blooded Italian man that DIDN'T start wearing velour tracksuits at that time. Also, The Sopranos created the most business for nail salons since Barbra Streisand's beautifully-manicured talons graced the screen in Prince of Tides.
My attitude about being Italian changed. I embraced it. The realization that I cook better Italian food than Irish food made Sunday dinners a big deal in my house. It's made my husband happy he doesn't have to cook at least one day a week. My meatballs are the stuff of legend. And I've perfected marinara sauce that's better than what my parents ever made. (Sorry, Dad)
I humbly respect the Irish culture. I love your food and your Guinness beer. My favorite bar in town is an Irish pub. But I think I'll stick with my born heritage and let my Dago flag fly. At least until the other half of my heritage (Russian-Slovenian) takes over. Along with the craving for pierogies.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

8:40 -- The Perfect Grilled Cheese

You know you want one.
This post is inspired by my co-workers A and R and our extensive conversations about food.
Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food and to me, there's no wrong way to make it.
My tastes for this gooey delicious staple can range from the gourmet to the ghetto. Lately I've been pilfering the cheese bin at Whole Foods (trying to find a block under $20 a lb is a challenge that I'm up for) and toasting up the scrumptious combo of Irish Cheddar, Robusto and Prosciutto on Sourdough. Whether it's Gruyere on Rosemary-Garlic Focaccia or good ol' Cheddar and Bacon on White, I could seriously eat it every day.
If you're a loyal watcher of Top Chef All-Stars, I'm sure you remember Dale's Target Challenge victory where he used a clothes iron to melt the cheese on his winning creation. (Although he totally ripped off the idea from Mr. Mom)
I still remember the best-tasting grilled cheese sandwich ever. It was the night of my 30th birthday party and we were HUNGRY. My sister was visiting for the celebration and it was her idea to fulfill our late-night munchie cravings with grilled cheese sandwiches. We had some leftover American cheese to use from the pigs-in-a-blankets served at the party. Instead of bread, she sliced off the top of a Franco Sweet French roll. She buttered both the bread and the pan and toasted it to a greasy, gooey, golden-brown. It was pure cheesy nirvana. To this day, I still haven't been able to replicate it and I'm pretty sure it's the only thing my sister knows how to cook. I salute her because if the one thing you can make is perfection on a plate, why bother with anything else?
So to celebrate life (because hey, you're alive right?) why not grill yourself up your favorite bread and cheese combo? Tomorrow's St. Patty's Day so give it an Irish flair with some corned beef and Dubliner cheese. Or even Swiss on Rye. I'm including a how-to below, just in case you need a refresher.

Customizable Grilled Cheese

2 Slices of Thick-sliced Bread (any kind works)
4 Slices of Cheese (again, any kind works. Be creative!)
Meat, if you want
Vegetables, if you want
Butter (Better keep the whole stick handy)
Frying Pan with lid

Preheat the pan over medium-high eat. Melt a chunk of butter. Butter both sides of the bread and put cheese (and meat and/or vegetables) in-between. Place in pan and cover for 2 minutes (give or take) Flip over and cover again for another minute to 2. Neurotically check both sides to ensure you're not burning it. Remove from pan when golden-brown and the cheese is melted. Cut in half and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

7:40 -- The Battle for Sleep

Who knew the one of the most basic human needs, SLEEP, would be the most stress-inducing thing I've ever experienced? I love to sleep. My husband loves to sleep. You'd think our offspring, with her super-mellow disposition, would also love to sleep. You'd also think shows like Animal Hoarders wouldn't hold an audience for very long. You're wrong on both accounts.

A hard-fought victory won.

L.E. hates to sleep. She hates to nap. She thinks of her crib as a prison. Before her crib, she thought of her bassinet as a torture device. I don't know if she's worried she'll miss something or what but every night before bed, I'm armed for battle.
At first we thought the brace was keeping her from sleeping through the night. I mean how comfortable can you be with your legs splayed out, wrapped in Velcro, and it's 85 degrees out? But once she had a taste of the sweet candy that was bracelessness, we could no longer blame her DDH for the lack of sleep.
I've read the books. I've listened to podcasts. I've tried it all: Ferberizing, Weissbluth (he's worse than Ferber), co-sleeping (not good when she kicks), swaddling, not swaddling, white noise, playlists, special stuffed animals, Goodnight Moon, etc etc etc. I would make a goal to stick to a new method for 2 weeks because that's what all the books suggest. Yeah. Have you ever put a crying baby in a crib? How long did you let them cry? That's what I thought. As much as I wanted to lock myself in the basement and  let her "cry it out" upstairs, I just couldn't. The basement isn't sound-proof.
T and I were fighting. We were inconsistent. I was tired. He was tired. So tired. We both sleep-walked through our daily lives, hoping nobody would notice we were like zombies.
We gave up on the methods. I was desperate and even considered paying $200 an hour for a sleep expert's consultation services. After countless well-meaning advice, we became resolved to the fact that one of us would be up with her each night. Why not trade-off? Whatever night was your night with her was your whole night. If she woke up once, you're lucky. If she woke up 3 times, not so much. Whatever, it worked. Getting her down was easier with a big bottle, her playlist and a Giraffe from the makers of the Sleep Sheep. We had a routine and I got used to seeing her in the middle of the night. It became less of a battle.
Then one night a miracle happened. Our pediatrician suggested she eat something protein-heavy right before bed. So I gave her a jar of some pureed turkey-vegetable thing (yes, a jar. I can't make ALL of her food. What am I, a super-mom?) She ate the entire jar, a few scoops of yogurt, some of her puffy snacks and topped it off with an 8-oz bottle of milk. For the first time ever, at 11 months, L.E. slept 8 solid hours. But, of course, we were up all night waiting for her to wake up!
Since then, we've continued to power-feed her before bedtime. As she explores more foods throughout the day, like eating the school lunch at daycare, she's become easier to get down for bedtime. Last night she slept 10 straight hours. And so did we.
Naps are a completely different story. I don't think her daycare teachers are paid enough for how much she fights them during naptime. They have better luck with swaddling than I ever did (safe swaddling!) but she's still always the last one down and the first one up. I hope that as she gets more active, she tires herself out more. On the weekends, we usually just drive her around and she naps in her carseat. Hey, whatever works, right?

Monday, March 14, 2011

6:40 -- Baby Hip Health Week

STEPS Charity in the UK celebrates Baby Hip Health Week March 13th-19th. It would be great to have a similar thing in the States. I think holding an event such as "Put the Kettle On" is a fantastic idea.
From http://www.steps-charity.org.uk/links/6-216-baby_hip_health_week_2011.php

Baby Hip Health Week 2011
Following the success of our Baby Hip Health Weeks ( 2008, 2009 and 2010 we are holding another Baby Hip Health Week 13th - 19th March 2011 to continue to raise awareness amongst parents and health professionals of the vital need to check babies' hips during the first few weeks of life to prevent unnecessary pain and disability in later years.

Safe Swaddling
As part of Baby Hip Health Week in 2011 we want parents and professionals to learn how to swaddle babies correctly because if done wrong it can potentially lead to hip dysplasia.

Whilst swaddling can comfort a baby, reduce crying and assist with settled sleep patterns, in order for healthy hip development, the legs should be able to bend up and out at the hips and the baby’s legs should not be tightly wrapped straight down and pressed together. Swaddling infants with the hips and knees in an extended position may increase the risk of hip dysplasia and dislocation.
It’s also important that when using a travel system, a baby’s legs should not be restricted in a straight down and pressed together position. They need to be able to spread their legs wide in an “abducted position” and care should be taken on limiting the time your baby spends in these “bucket type seats” as this could affect the way the hip grows, causing hip dysplasia.

We don’t want to scare you but by swaddling babies in the wrong way or putting them in travel systems for extended periods of time, there is a real risk that you could affect the growth of your child’s hips.

STEPS is working with the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI) to promote safe swaddling. They have produced a safe swaddling video.  http://www.hipdysplasia.org/For-Parents/Living-with-Hip-Dysplasia/Hip-Healthy/default.aspx

Hip Dysplasia Facts:
In the UK alone, up to 2000 children a year are diagnosed with Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH), which describes a range of conditions from mild instability to total dislocation of the hip. Early detection means DDH can often be corrected by a simple outpatient treatment, but a later, or missed, diagnosis can leave a child requiring hospitals stays, operations and potentially a permanent disability.
The story so far………
•STEPS published a Baby Hip Screening
•EDM (Early Day Motion) with a staggering 118 MP signatures calling for improvements
•Raising profile of STEPS and DDH with the Department of Health via a letter writing campaign with MPs and Ministers
•Raising awareness of DDH and screening with general public through national and regional press coverage in 20 + newspapers across the country plus local TV and radio.
•Representation on the New-born Infant Physical Examination (NIPE) Implementation Group
•Telling the parents’ story at conferences and training sessions for health professionals.
One of our most dedicated campaigners, STEPS Trustee, Oonagh Keith became involved with STEPS when her daughter was given a late diagnosis of DDH.
She said: "When Siomha was born, she was discharged from hospital without an examination. I mentioned at her 6-8 week check that she made some funny leg movements but no action was suggested and yet at 14 months old a complete dislocation of the hips was diagnosed"
WE NEED YOUR HELP!
The aim of our Baby Hip Health Awareness Week is to continue to raise awareness amongst parents and health professionals of the vital need to check babies' hips during the first few weeks of life to prevent unnecessary pain and disability in later years. Putting it simply early diagnosis is so important because:
•Early treatment is cheap and simple - A simple splint put on in outpatients.
•Late treatment is costly and complex - Inpatient treatment involving invasive surgery & hip spicas. Also late treatment is more likely to lead to problems in later life.
We want you to:
•Distribute the STEPS award winning leaflet on Baby Hip Health to your local surgery or clinic.
•Host a “Put The Kettle On” fundraising event whereby you hold a tea/coffee morning at home, work or in the community to spread the word about baby hip health and help raise vital funds at the same time.
•Get your story featured in a local magazine or newspaper to raise awareness. Alternatively send us your story and we will try and get media coverage for you.
Anyone wishing to get further advice, tell their story to the media, distribute leaflets or wanting a “Put The Kettle On” fundraising pack please contact the STEPS helpline or email info@steps-charity.org.uk  or phone 01925 750271

Sunday, March 13, 2011

5:40 -- OMG, my baby's on crack!

OK, not real crack...but we discovered Yo Gabba Gabba today. I've never seen L.E. so riveted by something non-Elmo! I'm having a hard time following...why does DJ Lance Rock's accent keep changing?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

4:40 -- Make your own baby food!




Notice that I avoided putting them into a vulgar pose. This is a family blog after all.

I'm not a hippie or "earth mom" by any means. But I am a bit food obsessed and I do care about the environment. Using cloth diapers is very impractical for us so I decided while pregnant that my trade-off would be making L.E.'s baby food. I got a Beaba Babycook as a gift and it's super-easy to use. It's been a great experience all-around and very cost-effective. A large (not HUGE) Butternut Squash cost less than $3 and it made 18 portions of food.
So here you go, step-by-step, how to make your own pureed fruits and veggies!

What you will need:
A Beaba Babycook (or some other way to steam and puree your food.)
Vegetable Peeler
Apple Slicer
Knives (T's Christmas present from L.E. and me)
A Chopper (Yep, I use both)
An adorable baby nearby watching your every move

On this particular day, I made Apple-Pear-Butternut Squash

Step 1: Peel and Chop



A knife works best for Squash but I like the nifty chopper for apples. You want the pieces small but not quite diced-size.

Step 2: Steam
Follow the Beaba instructions for steaming. It takes about 15 minutes.


While waiting for the veggies to steam, why not play with your little sidekick? Never underestimate how much fun utensils can be!


Step 3: Drain
Reserve some of the cooking "juice" to help your puree become smoother.


Step 4: Puree until smooth. If your baby has some teeth, you can leave it a bit chunkier.


Step 5: Pour into trays and freeze.


The Beaba trays make the perfect size for a single portion. Or you can just use ice cube trays.

Step 6: Thaw and enjoy!
60 seconds in the microwave should be just perfect.
She stopped smiling as soon as I snapped the pic.


Friday, March 11, 2011

3:40 -- Meatless Friday

I love food. Foody food food. And I love meat! I was a vegetarian for several years because of my ongoing stomach issues but I never felt that much better. So meat is once again my friend. Being that it's Lent, I try to go meatless on Fridays. (Look at me, sticking with blog posts AND giving up meat on Fridays. Does this still get me out of going to church?)
So today, I'd like to share my absolute all-time favorite meatless recipe. Macaroni and cheese, courtesy of Ms. "Howdy Y'all" herself, Paula Deen. I gurarantee that once you try this, you'll never eat Kraft again. And the kiddies will love it for sure. Enjoy!


Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked elbow macaroni, drained (3 cups uncooked)
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Once you have the macaroni cooked and drained, place in a large bowl and while still hot and add the cheddar. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and add to the macaroni mixture. Pour macaroni mixture into a casserole dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes. Top with additional cheese if desired

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2:40 The good advice


L.E. complete with forehead bruise.
On the flip-side to yesterday's post, there are a few pieces of GREAT advice that I received and stuck with me. The best was from a friend who has 2 daughters 18 months apart: They're tough little buggers. That would go through my head when we had little "mishaps" like L.E. rolling off the couch or falling out of the Moby Wrap that wasn't tied properly (oopsies) or smacking her head off of...well too many things to count. After a few tears and Elmo-distraction, my tough little bugger was good as new minus a few bruises.
Other great advice:
You can't have too many burp rags (especially once they start on solids)
A little guilt is good (Guilt is what gets us to make sure the baby is still breathing at night)
Try to get a date-night with your husband every few weeks. (Invite some friends for a drink, too. They will enjoy seeing you sans baby and you can pretend you're your old selves!)
Check the backseat before leaving the car (You don't want to forget your baby)
Pampers Swaddlers are the nicest disposable diapers
The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD (only 30 min instead of reading an entire book)
Never underestimate how fun a trip to Target is
Even after the first few months, if anyone comes to visit make sure they bring food

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

1:40 -- Please pass the judgment

I've been a mom for almost a year. That's still sinking in. I've considered myself a lot of things in life but Mom was never at the top of my list. But here I am now, having successfully kept another human being alive for almost an entire year!
I've learned many things over the past year but the biggest thing is that society is never more judgmental than when you're bringing a baby into the world. If you're pregnant, just had a baby or have had 5 kids, chances are you've heard just about every piece of unsolicited advice imaginable. Random strangers will ask you if you're breast-feeding and then completely judge you when you answer honestly that you tried but didn't make it past a few months. "Breast milk is best! Your baby is going to be obese, sick and full of allergies!! You should have tried harder!!!" As if I already didn't put myself through the guilt-wringer about it.

Some of these are featured in this Yahoo article but most are purely anecdotal.
http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/parenting/the-10-most-irritating-least-helpful-parenting-tips-ever-2448391/

Other tidbits: "Sleep when the baby sleeps." (Good advice but not if your baby refuses to nap and you like to shower)
"Read to your baby and she'll learn to read before she's 2!" (L.E. has devoured every book we've read. Literally. The corners are completely chewed off)
"Let her cry it out and she'll learn to self-soothe" (If anyone can listen to their child wail for longer than 2 minutes and not be a hysterical freak, I applaud you)
"Your whole life is about to change." (well, duh...kind of the point!)
"What's WRONG with her?" (Ok, that one was what i heard the most and came from people who had never seen a Pavlik harness or abduction brace. I never knew people could be so blunt. Do they go up to people in wheelchairs and ask them how they got that way?)
"Someone must be hungry/tired/cold/hot/teething/wet" (Thanks. I thought she was crying because our home value decreased another 3.9% in January)
"Doesn't the time just fly by?" (Those first few months sure didn't. You know, when she didn't care who you were, she just needed fed and it didn't matter who the bottle was attached to)
"How's your sex life since you had a baby?" (Uh...do I know you?)
"Don't let your baby watch any TV" (Letting your child watch a Jersey Shore marathon probably isn't the best thing but a little Sesame Street is just fine. Behold the healing power of Elmo. That fuzzy red bastard has soothed many a meltdown.)
"How are you going to lose all the baby weight if you keep scarfing chicken wings?" (!!!!)
I know everyone is well-intentioned with their advice and I'm sure I've doled out my share. But really, all you want to hear when you're a new mom is that your baby is beautiful, you're doing a great job and that you look fantastic in sweatpants.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

40 Days 40 Posts

Happy Fat Tuesday!
As a lapsed Catholic, I've always taken Lent with a grain of salt. When I was a kid, I was forced to give something up but that went the way of the rest of my religious inclinations as I aged. This year, because being a mom has changed my perspective on everything including Lent, I've decided to make it a point to post something on this blog every day until Easter. I can't say it will be the most exciting thing you've ever read; I can't say if I'll even keep up with it through this weekend. But I love to write and I don't do it enough. So in advance, thank you for reading and I'm sorry if I've bored you.