Friday, February 25, 2011

Home Alone

My husband had a stomach pain for a couple of days before being rushed to the hospital--turned out, his appendix was inflamed to the size of his thumb.  (Reference point: the appendix is usually about 4 inches long and maybe the width of a pen.)  The hospital worked fast and smoothly to remove it within hours of his diagnosis.  He stayed in the hospital overnight and then came home the next day.  His time at home recuperating has given me enormous insight into differences between my husband and I.

I loved having a large family growing up, but I always cherished the time at home alone.  That rarely happened, but when it did, I treasured it.  Still today, if I ever get a day at home without the kids or husband, it is a treat.  It's like a day to do-what-I-want.  I would use the day curled up on the sofa watching movies or TV shows, eating all the junk food I wanted.

And so, projecting my own wishes on my husband, I originally tried to avoid being home as much as possible after his surgery.  Instead of being delighted, he was disappointed.  He told me that he'd rather I be home more.  As far as I was concerned, this was ridiculous.  Why on Earth would he prefer two whining, troublesome, rambunctious children to be home just so he could remind them that he couldn't play with them or get very near them?  And for my part, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to have my husband at the house in body but not in assistance.  I hadn't realized how often I relied on him to pull my 11 month old away from an outlet full of wires or help my 3 year old on the toilet when necessary.

It still confounds me as to why he'd rather us be home than away.  I think that my best dreams are spent imagining myself home alone with nothing to do but enjoy the peace and quiet that actually exists in my house without the rest of my family--choosing my own activities and eating whatever I want without questioning.  This whole situation with my invalid husband has moved me to wonder what his dreams are.....obviously, I've learned they don't look like mine.

To start with, he obviously feels like being home with the family all day while recuperating from laparoscopic surgery is not only possible but preferable.  These are definitely not emotions I would share in similar circumstances.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Watch out for the quiet ones

I work just a handful of hours during the week in a daycare setting.  We take care of kids from 6 weeks to 6 years old.  On days when we're "full," that is around 30 kids, it is definitely chaotic.  Anyone would expect as much.  What has taken me months to learn is that the quiet kids are the ones you have to be careful of.

It's easy to watch the loud ones closely; you're eyes follow them without even being aware of it.  "Joseph, get down off that chair...."  "Lora, stop throwing those blocks...."  "George, please, please stop yelling....!"  But the quiet ones, they can be treacherous without ever being noticed.

I could hardly believe my eyes the first time I saw an incident.  One darling little blond-haired toddler who I rarely heard speak slammed her open hand into an unassuming child nearby.  The poor kid went flying to the floor in utter bewilderment.  It didn't take long for the sobbing to begin, but all the while I was in shock at what I had seen.  If I hadn't witnessed it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it.  And weeks later, I found this same precious toddler stabbing another girl in the head with a marker.  My coworkers were so shocked, they didn't even have the heart to tell the parent what had really happened.

And this little girl is definitely not the only one.  What surprises me is that the children who really are the most aggressive are the ones who are the least noticeable.  Is it their learned tactics?  Have they taught themselves to be quiet in order to be more stealthy in their mischievousness?  Or do these traits simply go hand-in-hand?  Or is it merely a coincidence?

It's hard to know the correlation, and it's equally as hard to teach yourself to pay attention to the ones who seem like they don't need it.  When you're in a room full of kids, you learn to prioritize.  When I first started working in this setting, keeping tabs on the reserved kids wasn't a top priority.  Now, I realize that it's even more important than keeping tabs on the boisterous ones.

*This picture is not from work.
I just thought it would be fitting to put a picture of a crying baby at the end of this post, since this event is the typical byproduct of the work of the quietly aggressive..... :) 
(This crying baby happens to be my 11 month old, at home.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Subliminal Messages/Girl Scout Cookies

I love this time of year.  But, its not because the temperature sometimes jumps up a few degrees and Spring feels like its finally on its way.  I do certainly enjoy this phenomenon.  What I love about this time of year are the cookies.  Yes, the Girl Scout Cookies.  I do a lot of my own baking (if you haven't already noticed), but Thin Mints and Caramel DeLites are cookies I've never attempted on my own.  And I don't plan to.  I'm sure any I could create wouldn't compare to the deliciousness of the ones mass produced by the Girl Scouts.  And I mean that wholeheartedly.

Tonight I broke into my first box of Caramel DeLites.  I had never taken much notice of the name, maybe in part because I grew up calling them Samoas.  My husband, on the other hand, walks over to me as I'm happily indulging and tells me that the Girl Scouts are trying to send me subliminal messages.  You see, the term "lite" generally stirs up images of something that is "lighter" than a similar product--for instance in fat or sugar content.  The idea of "lite" makes a person feel like the thing they are consuming is, to some degree, more healthy.  So, as I'm enjoying my Caramel DeLite, my husband tells me that my mind is being manipulated.

No, I tell him.  My mind is not being manipulated.  I assure him that I bought the cookies based on their taste and not their title.  In fact, I didn't even notice that it was DeLite instead of Delight.  No, no, no, he says.  Your conscious may not have realized it, but your subconscious surely did.  And that is their purpose--to sway you to buy the cookies on account of their "healthiness"--though they are most certainly not healthy at all.

While this may be true for some people, this definitely wasn't true for me.  I bought these cookies because they taste amazing.  In fact, I tell my husband, I would buy them even if they were called Caramel DeFats instead of Caramel DeLites.  Huh, he says, walking away in disbelief, shaking his head.  He might not believe me, but I'm sure of it.  They're delicious no matter their name.  As far as I'm concerned, worth the cost and the calories.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The child in the room

You know the phrase "the elephant in the room"?  It's the idea that there is something lingering on everyone's collective thoughts, but no one is willing to come out in the open and talk about it.  I think "the child in the room" should be the phrase used to describe the exact opposite--when there is something lingering on everyone's collective thoughts, and everyone wants to talk about it.

Most parents of small children are probably acutely attuned to this phenomenon.  You can't walk into a small store, or stand too long in one place at a grocery store, without a stranger approaching you about your child.  "Oh, what beautiful brown hair he has!"... actually, it's a girl.  "Oh, such big brown eyes!"....actually, they're green.  "Oh, he must be three months old; am I right?!", you're wrong.  He's six months old.

Sometimes I find it hard not to react, at least inwardly, in a somewhat begrudging tone.  It's as if this stranger can't help but say something, but doesn't really have anything useful, or even accurate, to say.  And there are also the times that I just really don't want all eyes on me and my children.

I was at a fast food restaurant this past weekend; we were far from home and my hypoglycemic son very much needed to eat a meal.  My 10 month old daughter, though beaming with joy, had mucous smeared all over her face.  Try though I might, it was nearly impossible to get much of the snot off of her face since a) the tools available to me at Wendy's were not quite sufficient and b) my daughter fought me at every move.  And so, I tried my hardest to steer clear of any possible interactions with the general public.  I desperately avoided eye contact with anyone but my daughter and son.  I was doing pretty well until a worker came to clean a table next to ours.  My son couldn't help but stare at her spray bottle and ask me inquisitively what she might be doing.  And when your child is staring at someone else, it always seems like the nice thing to do to acknowledge that person and briefly explain why your child is so enthralled with him or her....  So, I had no choice but to give up on my intentional avoidance of others and look this woman in the eye.  It took just one look for the conversations to begin.

It felt like the room erupted around me.  "Oh, look at that little girl!  How adorable!"  "Yes, and her big eyes!"  "And what little feet!"  "My feet were never that small...." "And are you her brother?  You must be a great big brother!"  On and on and on it went.  I just wanted to flee the scene as quickly as possible.  But of course, my son was lapping it up.  His face was beaming with delight; oh how he relishes the attention!  There I was, trying as well as I could to cover my daughter's face so that it might be a little less obvious that she was covered in green snot from forehead to chin.  My son is thinking, "this is GREAT!" and I'm thinking, "get me OUT of HERE!"  But of course, I couldn't make a run for it.  We were stuck there until my son finished eating.  And he is a slow eater.

A lot of times you hear a parent talk about how much longer everything takes because of having small children.  It's true.  But it's not just because of the children themselves.  It's also because of all the passerby en-route who have something to say about the children.  Don't ever expect to get through the grocery line quickly.  But on the other hand, if you're ever looking for a way to grab the attention of an entire room with very little effort--carry a baby with you.  Never fails.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


I have recently decided that trifles are pretty cool.  Sadly, I don't have a trifle bowl.  Thankfully, I have a friend who does.

We had some students over for dinner last weekend and it was requested that I make a banana trifle.  I found a simple recipe online for a caramel banana trifle, but I don't like simple.  Simple is boring.  Here was the basic recipe:

layer of pound cake
layer of vanilla pudding
layer of banana
layer of caramel
layer of cool whip

Yes, a great beginning.  But I made it even better.  Here was my trifle:

layer of homemade caramel pound cake
layer of french vanilla pudding
layer of bananas
layer of caramel
layer of caramel sprinkles (in this case from Pampered Chef)
layer of cool whip

Not that different in essence, and yet totally different in taste.  The caramel pound cake and caramel sprinkles make this dessert unbelievably delicious.  So, here is the recipe I used to make the caramel pound cake.  It may take longer than going to the store, but trust me, it's worth it.  You won't regret the time spent.

Caramel Pound Cake
Instead of putting the cake into a tube pan, I separated the batter into two loaf pans and baked it for 3/4 the time.  I used one loaf for the trifle.  You can either wrap and freeze the second, or, make another trifle days later after you've finish the first....since you'll want to keep eating it. :)

Here are the amounts you'll need for the layers to accommodate a trifle bowl:
1 pound cake
2 packages pudding
3 bananas
1 jar caramel sauce (I used about half of mine, but you could definitely use more)
1 large container of cool whip (or two normal size containers)
Tablespoon or 2 of caramel sprinkles

Sunday, February 6, 2011

heart muffins!

I was making banana chocolate chip muffins for a Valentine's Day gathering last Friday and was trying to come up with a way to make the yellow and brown muffins a bit more festive.  I found some ideas online about forming aluminum circle muffin liners into hearts, and then baking them on a cookie sheet.  Sounded perfect!  The only problem was that my muffin batter ended up being pretty stiff--it was the first time I had made this particular recipe, so I didn't have any prior knowledge about the final consistency.  The stiff batter proved to be a little tricky to get into the heart-shaped muffin liners, but, I persevered!  It was definitely worth it.  But, the next time I attempt hearts, I will definitely use a softer batter.  Here are some pictures of the results.  I would encourage you all to make some heart muffins this Valentine's Day--they'll be a hit no matter where you take them!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Warm and Fishy

What?!  Warm and fishy?!  Yep, that's right!  I decided to make some rice bags this week as we buckled down for the "blizzard of the decade" (which didn't really end up being that) to keep warm while the cold wind roared outside.  While I was making my boring rectangle rice bag, Elijah told me he'd like one too--but in the shape of a fish.  I was a little taken aback, since if anything, my son asks for things with wheels.  Never sea creatures.  But hey, I was thrilled with the idea of making a fish.  A fish would be much simpler than a train.

So, in a very short amount of time, with scraps of fabric from other projects and a little know-how, I made two rice bags: one rectangle and one fish.  It occurred to me during the process that one could really make a rice bag into almost any shape she wanted, thus making warm rice bags appealing to any age group.

Your homework is as follows: break out the sewing machine (or, needle and thread if you don't have a sewing machine) and get creative.  You'll be delighted by the style and function of your rice bag and it will definitely make your winter that much more pleasant.


1)  Get creative and find a silhouette of something fun.  Cut your fabric accordingly.  (But realize that when you turn it right-side-out, the corners won't be quite as tight--take this into consideration.  Don't get too detailed!)

2)  Sew right sides of fabric together along edges, leave 1-2 inch opening to fill with rice or beans.  Turn right-side out, being careful not to rip opening.

3) Fill 3/4 full with rice or beans.

4) Close seam by hand.  (I made mine a little fancier by sewing an outer seam around the edges before putting the rice in--still leaving a hole for the rice.  Then, to close the bag, I completed my outer seam.  It gave it a cleaner look.)