Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Christmas Gauntlet

My brother-in-law coined the title to this post to describe the four day traveling extravaganza that was our holiday.

Friday, we drove across the city to see the relative who suggested that I get a sitter and come without the girls. Since a sitter was out of the question, I left Doug at work and took the girls over there three hours early so that Dagny could nap. It worked out fine because I helped with the party preparations and got the girls home at only one hour past their bedtime. If Annika hadn't woken back up, we would have been golden. Saturday, I gave Doug a pass and took the girls to my Grammy's house in Griffin for lunch. Dinner was to be at 6pm and that would NOT work with Dagny's nap (3-5pm) so I thought lunch would be better. When I arrived at the house, they told me that "dinner" was at 4pm so if I had known the actual time, I could have stayed home in the morning, brought Doug and actually done the official party. Whatever. Grammy is hard of hearing, so it was better to be there before the crowd anyway. Sunday was cold, but I got to run and go to Mass before 8:30am. We shopped in the morning and then Doug took Annika to church with his family in the afternoon. Everyone returned to our house after church for food and excitement. It was very pleasant and easy. Monday was beautiful. Santa got up early and repaired the seam of Dagny's rocking lamb while Doug made a lovely breakfast. We had to wake Annika at 7:40 because Dagny was screeching for her. The girls had a marvelous time and we played outside in the freezing rain until lunch. My family came for the ultra-controversial Christmas dinner. They may actually be speaking to me again now (despite the fact that it was not I who demanded any change in plans), but maybe not. Regardless, we made beef, asparagus, risotto and lobster tails for dinner. Except that my risotto was done well in advance of everything else, the food was good and I think everyone had a good time.

Yesterday was to be my running day. We did some size-correction shopping in the morning and I was going to run in the afternoon. Then came the rain. I put Dagny down for her nap and noticed that the drops were covering the driveway. Sorely tempted to stay inside, I came down to check the weather on the computer. Sigh - no sign of stopping and no indication of any rain on the radar. However, Natalie had sent me an email about my race, which spurred me back into action. I donned the foul-weather gear and sallied forth into the mist . . . hoping to get to 8 miles. I ran the first two miles in the 39 degree rain. After that the rain stopped and I even saw another runner. I got to seven miles without pain, but then my hurt knee began to ache. Knowing that further running would make me lame, I stopped at 7 and counted myself lucky. This will be my last long run before the big race. I may not make good time or even get to run the whole way, but I think I can finish. Thank you Nat, for getting me out of the house. It was the best run I've had in a long time.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oops

I finally made the Outrageous Peanut Butter Cookies that Anna wrote about last week. One of the cookies broke as I was transferring them from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack, so I had to taste-test. "Hm," I thought, "tasty, but a little buttery." I wondered if the peanut butter added extra fat so that it overwhelmed the flour. Maybe I needed more flour. I consulted the recipe for further muddling. All of a sudden I noticed that it called for 1/2 cup of butter. For those of you who are not baking fools this week, that means one stick of butter. I used two. Oops.

They are still good, just a bit pecan-sandieish in texture. Good thing I have extra chocolate chip cookies from the garbage guys' batch, which (by the way) start with two sticks of butter.

It would be silly if I hadn't done this to the sugar cookies just last week.

In other news, I ran six miles yesterday. It's a new world record. Not really, but it is the farthest I've gone since August. No knee pain at all, except for where I strapped my knee brace too tightly and hurt the back of my knee, which I didn't notice until I removed the brace upon finishing. I did learn that the whole wheat pancakes and grapefruit were not bad pre-run food, but maybe less of them would prevent them from threatening to reappear. The run certainly helped my endorphin shortage. I was beginning to feel a lot like the grinch with my soul being "an appalling dungheap. . . ."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Heck

I love grapefruit. Annika and Dagny love grapefruit. For lunch, I cut the grapefruit into smiles (wedges, for those of you without toddlers) and we eat them all up. When Annika eats her smiles, or anything else, for that matter, I exclaim and praise her.

So, when she ate her grapefruit smiles recently, I said "wow, Annika, you are eating the heck out of that grapefruit." Yes, I said heck. I probably should have phrased this differently despite the obvious lack of bad words.

"Why?" you say. Because now Annika thinks that the inside of the grapefruit is called the "heck." "Mom, I ate all of the heck out of this grapefruit." "Dagny left some of the heck in her grapefruit." Either that or Annika is using Larry the Cable Guy as her speech role model.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Ugliest Cupcakes and other disasters

Doug's birthday was last week. We went out for dinner to a fancy-schmantzy place inside the perimeter (I had a gift certificate). Since we left the girls with my mom, Annika and I made cupcakes the next day to celebrate the birthday with the family.

Because a cake mix makes a million cupcakes and I'm not a terrible baker, Annika and I decided to make the cupcakes from scratch, using the Small Batch Baking cookbook. We made the fudgy chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing. As the cupcakes finished baking, I tested them with a toothpick to be sure they were done. No problem until the cupcake deflated as I removed the pan from the oven. That has never happened to me before, so I crossed my fingers and hoped that I could just take the ugly one. Nope. Soon enough, all four cupcakes deflated, leaving a crunchy burned rim around the top of the pan and sunken centers (like the craters of volcanos). Crossing my fingers, I whipped up the peanut butter frosting. It tasted lovely, but my spatula broke off in it. Sigh. I frosted as best I could and you can see the results. Annika had one cupcake and enjoyed it, but the others were a loss. Doug didn't even taste them. I spent two days beating myself up about not being exact enough to bake in small batches before tasting (in a fit of hormone weakness) the monstrosities and realizing that they were AWESOME. Doug missed out.

A week prior to this event, we went to a bring-the-kids party at which I was to bring dessert. After contemplating the chocolate flan cake and nixing it as too "flan-ish," I consulted with Tara (who suggested some lovely desserts) and Anna (who suggested a red velvet cheesecake and a three-layer cheesecake). Since it was a party, I went with the festive cheesecake. It wasn't a difficult recipe and turned out very nicely with delicious topping, but no one at the party touched it. No one, until I begged for opinions (and then only two of us tried it). Let that be a lesson - at a party where people are chasing kids, finger food is better. Then, we dropped the remainder of the cake on the neighbor's driveway on the way home. Oops. Hope that it didn't stain.

This past Sunday, I went to a work party. Mindful of the untouchable cheesecake, I planned my dessert selection around what the other dessert-bringer was doing (Buche de Noel from Gabriel's). Thinking that something simple would make a good foil for the cake, I baked banana bread with peanut butter chips and walnuts and pumpkin bread and paired them with chocolate chip cookies and some leftover oatmeal cookies. No dice. My desserts tasted and looked pretty marvelous (if you ask me), but no takers. Everyone ate the cake (except for Steph, who doesn't like cake) and left the breads and cookies.

I was only able to run 2 miles yesterday (sore knee) and today's cold/low-grade fever are making my appointment with the Billy Blanks CD unlikely. So, I've wasted two 18 packs of eggs and a lot of effort in the last two weeks for nothing except to expand my own waistline. I love the holidays.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Nice Thing

I'm full of good stories to post, but a bit short on time these days. So, instead of the photos of the cupcakes we made for Doug's birthday or the numerous attempts at Christmas card photos, I'll tell you a nice thing that happened to me today.

I took Annika to "church school" this morning and went to Mass. Doug had Dagny and they went shopping. Dagny is sick and has bumps on her head and nose from our outing yesterday so it was better for them to be alone together. Anyway, during Catholic Mass, when you say the "Our Father," everyone holds hands. It's a relatively new thing and a bit hippy-dippy, but a good community-builder. So, I extended my hand to the woman next to me and into the aisle (because I was on the end) and was denied. The woman at my side had her hands folded in prayer and was not going to share my cooties. No matter, I get the germ idea so I wasn't angry. It is good form to extend your hand across the aisle but it's unlikely to be taken, so I resigned myself to empty-handed "Our Father"ing. Whatever - no big deal.

Then, a woman that I know from our neighborhood reached across the aisle from one row back and grabbed my hand. I know it's sappy, but it really made my day. Hopefully she didn't notice that it made me cry. Maybe I'm spread a little too thin these days or maybe it was because I was up three times last night with Dagny or maybe I'm still not feeling that I'm actually a part of the congregation yet, but that little gesture meant a lot to me. Thank you, lady - I hope that I can hold out my hand to you when you are having a bad day.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Different Life

Natalie mentioned in her blog today that she wishes that she had run in high school as her gymnastics coach had encouraged.

While I ran on Sunday, I was thinking about the same thing - how would my life have been different if I had run track my freshman year as I had wanted to. Unfortunately, that year I was grounded from the world from January until spring because of the sneaking-out incident. So, I was barred from track that year and just never bothered again. Would I have stuck with it if I had joined the team? Could I have kicked ass at the hurdles (the way I did in my mind's eye)? Would the stronger/thinner/faster/smarter/taller endorphin high have helped me actually buckle down and learn something in high school instead of worrying mainly about boys? Would I have appreciated the nice boys who liked me instead of pursuing the "bad" ones? I don't know. If the running and discipline did not create a character change, it is likely that I would have just given it up. I was pretty darn shallow then and had no perspective. I like to think that I was a larva (or a pod person) - lacking in actual human qualities.

So, in light of the spitting incidents and nastiness at school, I am wondering how we can instill empathy, consideration and perspective in the girls so that they aren't like larva. So far, we are still working with the "we control you" system that I mentioned last week, with a little "Santa is watching you" thrown in for good measure. I don't know where to begin to bridge the transition from "we control you" to "you are a good human who can make choices." Doug insists that team sports are a good first step. So, even if Annika and Dagny are REALLY DARN BAD, they will still do the sports. We will just have to think of some other thing to deny them or make them do for punishment.

By the way, my sister mentioned to me that a call from Santa might not be a bad idea for the unruly kid - a "I hear that you might not be acting like a good girl all of the time - better shape up" call. We haven't resorted to that, but it is definitely an option.

Friday, December 01, 2006

If I Didn't Know Better

One Christmas (8th grade), I received a giant hershey kiss from a female relative - with a card that said "your first?"

Then, last week at Thanksgiving dinner, after I explained why I put Uncrustables sandwiches in Annika's lunch box (so she will eat something, anything, at lunch), the same relative said "you lose your mommy card for that!"

Then, today I got an email from the same woman which said you are invited to XX event at XX location on XX date, "around 6 or whenever it is good for babies. Or, if too hard, how about a sitter?"

So, I know that I was hypersensitive in middle school, that being my fat period, the time of hormones and the fact that I had indeed never kissed anyone. Bless her heart, she meant it as a joke. You can even hear the "hee-hee" after the quotation marks. Heck, the card probably even SAID "hee-hee." You'd think that with teenagers of her own and having been a pubescent girl at one point, she might have been sensitive to these issues, but no.

The Thanksgiving thing was also a joke - "oh ho - you lose your mommy card for THAT! ha ha ha!" She has no way of knowing about the First Meals book or the time I spent making baby food and ensuring that no sugar or other junk entered Annika's body. Or the fact that Doug and I now silently and covertly rejoice together if Annika puts a single bite of anything in her mouth.

And the latest, though not a joke, is an attempt to be accomodating after ignoring my sister's polite request for a child-friendly time. She is probably just trying to make sure that the time works for the folks who work in offices - with no idea that it's usually the kids that are the bigger lure, not the dinner.

Anyway, the nutshell is - please, please promise that you will all ridicule me when I start to say stuff like this. Or at least pull me aside for a private discussion on thinking before speaking.