Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fall Foliage

If you get a thrill from instant gratification, consider a lace cap. They look like you spent some time on them, even though they only take a couple of hours to complete.

Yesterday's chilling wind reminded me that I didn't have a hat; some bargain chunky yarn at Jo-Ann's and about two hours of my time; problem solved! This hat was made using the Foliage pattern by Emilee Mooney, which was published in Knitty. If you've never been to, it's a great online magazine with tons of free patterns!

I loved that there were instructions for both bulky and medium weight yarns for this hat. I wore it out during our errands this morning, and my head was oh-so-greatful! Knit in a top-down construction, I wasn't sure how it would all come together, but I really like it. I'll definitely use this pattern again.

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Monday, December 28, 2009


Ahh, gives me the chills! I'm so excited! Even better? I think I'll be on the West Coast (and unpregnant) for this one, so I don't have to cry in my virgin cosmo thinking of all my girlfriends going together...Look out girls, W is coming to town!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hey, Santa!

On Christmas Eve we spent an evening of food and fun, eating Gino's East chicago-style deep-dish pizzas, drinking some great Pinot and basking in the glow that is six children playing for two hours without incident.

When we got home, J quickly bathed the kids and got them ready for bed as I started on stocking #2. We'd already threatened H with the outcome of Santa not arriving with his gifts if he didn't stay in his own bed, so felt fairly confident he'd stay there all night. I let H stay up long enough to pick out the order of his stripes on his stocking and then off to bed he went.

Mid-stocking J decided to order an on-demand movie. I can't remember the last time we were both home to watch a movie, so I was excitedly finishing up my project so I could snuggle (no, we don't have a Snuggie with which to snuggle) up with a glass of wine and watch a feel-good flick with my husband.

From my sewing station at the table, I heard the opening dialogue...'What movie did you pick?!' To which J answered with a half-hidden smile 'You don't want to know.' Ummm, yes, yes I do. This isn't some obscure Netflix movie you've sequestered yourself upstairs with headphones to view...this is our Christmas Eve get-us-in-the-feelgood-mood-to-be-elves movie.

Orrrr Drag Me To Hell. Yep, my lovely husband chose the new Sam Raimi movie for us to ring in the holiday cheer. I was immediately incensed. Then, I walked over to look at the opening credits; wait! Justin Long is in it? Hm, maybe it won't be half-bad. Once he told me that it was part of the Evil Dead saga I acquiesced because I actually like that genre of campy horror, and it was hilarious!

I think we've started a new family tradition; get the kids to bed then watch a blood-spurting, bile and innards spewing horror-comedy. After all, nothing gets you in the mood to celebrate the birth of Christ like a movie with Hell in the title. (sorry, Mom)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Lace caps have become a new fun project because if you use a worsted weight yarn they're as functional (in keeping your head warm) as they are nice to look at. I used a purl decrease on this one just for a little something different visually, but I don't know that I'd do it again. Hats are great because they are easily completed in one sitting...I watched The Hangover and part of Inglorious Basterds (found in my stocking), did all of our laundry and made this hat last night. Hats are great stash busters, and a great way to try new stitches or skills. Have fun!
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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Silk Stockings

Last night, I finally dug out all the fabric that I'd purchased last year in order to make the quilt-as-you go Christmas stockings from Quilting 101 that my sister-in-law had given me. Of course, I bought it thinking 'I have a whole year to make these, this will be fantastic!' So, of course, I'm making them on the eve of Christmas Eve. (That is, until I realized I'd actually purchased it during Christmas 2007 as I was pregnant with Charlie at the fact, I didn't even know he was a Charlie yet.)

Although the prep was a little bit tedious and took about two hours, the actual construction of the stocking, including the cuff, was about 45 minutes. Constructed by stitching three-inch strips of fabric in an intentionally haphazard way to a backing fabric that already has batting fused to it, each stocking is comprised of two panels that are then sewn together and turned inside out after adding a cuff. At 1:30 am after I successfully turned out my first stocking, I decided to call it a night and put things back in their place until Charlie's nap today.

Sometime between cupcake and macaroon-making, store runs, gift-wrapping and, oh yeah, showering, I'll have three more lovely stockings so that we actually have something to stuff tonight! I'm pretty pleased with the final product. The fact that it actually looks like the picture just shows that it's a pretty idiot proof method...try it for yourself!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Walla Walla Sweet

With all the business around the holidays, I forgot to post one of the most exciting things that has happened for us; we know where we're going to land post-residency!

We'll be moving to the sleepy Walla Walla Valley, where vineyards abound and the character of downtown puts a smile on your face.
Moving also means househunting, and we're pretty sure we're going to build, so it's a big step, a fun step, and I'm sure you'll hear all about the mis-steps.

Oh, and we'll be getting a dog, per H's request when we move, so there are sure to be puppy potty and poo stories to make your day start off with a bang.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Disney on Ice

Congratulations to Erin M. for winning a Family Pack of Tickets to see Disney on Ice at TD Garden in Boston on opening night! (December 26th). Even if you didn't win, you can still get a super-affordable family outing by entering the code MOM at for a Monday through Friday Matinee of Disney on Ice for just $44! You can even purchase additional tickets for just $11.

Have a great time, Erin!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

..With Candy Canes and Silver Lanes Aglow

I knew when I planned my trip home that I'd be gone for all of November, returning to my home on St. Nick's Day. That holiday should have tipped me off to just how close I'd be to the next big did I ever think that I could go from zero to Christmas in just three weeks?!

As I was making a list of everything I had yet to do, buy for, mail, make, send, be, the urgency started to overwhelm me and I got a little frantic. J, in all his wisdom, said "Don't let it get you so overwhelmed, it's just Christmas!" To which, I cackled maniacly and responded with a snarky, 'You're right, honey. Christmas has no significance for anyone in our culture. It hasn't become a crazy commercialized holiday with stress and anxiety attached. There aren't more mental health crises over this season. WHAT was I thinking getting worked up about it?!'

This year, we're doing a simple Christmas in many ways, but also more than some years in others. For the first time we have a live tree. Of course, because of our fantastic planning, I spent the time that J had available to accompany me on said tree-finding mission purchasing all the know, like a tree stand? I was actually proud of myself that I went to Christmas Tree Shops and bought the tree stand tray, a tree skirt, lights and ribbon before coming home with a huge tree.

That left me in the parking lot of the Episcopal church with both kids at 6:30 the other night because I'd promised Henry that that was the day we'd get a tree. As I'd gone to Alex's house earlier to help her swap out her tree stand for one that would accomodate her tree's trunk, she volunteered to come help me with mine. I did not, thankfully, have delusions that I'd be able to hold the tree and screw it in solo.

After hefting the tree from the top of my car, I carried it up the flight of stairs and into my living room. It was a surprisingly effortless ordeal, and before you know it, I was vaccuuming up the first of many, many needles before putting Charlie to bed. H got to stay up with me, and we decorated the tree together.

Earlier in the day, we'd made our own star; he requested silver, so we used embossing ink and powder, some swirly stamps and, of course, sparkly brads. A little free-hand cut and voila! A star is born.

I'm glad I only put the tree up just shy of a week before Christmas because I'm already tired of 'Don't! Touch! The! Tree!'

While I was at the beloved Christmas Tree Shops (a store I live less than a half-mile from, but had not entered the entire time I lived here until the last couple of months...which is full of everything you never knew you didn't need but couldn't live without. Bath and Body-works knock-off hand-soap...for a dollar?! I'll take seven!) I also picked up some shiny ball ornaments and a little holiday kitch. I stole the brilliant idea of my sister-in-law to fill regular drinking glasses with the shiny balls and put them on my sconces instead of candles, then filled a clear vase with them and put them by the entertainment center. I then strung a gauzy ribbon across one wall garland-style so that I could tack up our Christmas cards* as we received them.

When we were all done wrapping the tree in a tulle ribbon and lights, I brought down the two boxes of candy canes (I decided to forego ornaments this year in light of my children's grabby hands) and he was so excited to arrange them in one giant cluster, which I anally re-arranged after he'd gone to bed. When we were all done he said 'Now, when people come over, they're going to see that our house is all decorated! They're gonna love our decorations!' It wasn't until then that I realized how important it was to take the time to get in the holiday spirit. I look around every night at our lit tree and the shiny ornaments and for a moment, I don't care how much I have to get done before the big day...and then the moment's gone.

*I love getting Christmas cards and reading Christmas letters and was a little disappointed this year as we've not received very many and then I remembered that mine are sitting in a box on my counter waiting to be addressed during Charlie's nap today...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disney On Ice-100 Years of Magic!

When I was little, I had a best friend who always got to do what I thought were super cool things. The coolest, though, was that she got to go to the IceCapades...more than once. Alas, poor little SallyHP sat at home in rural Eastern Oregon with not an ice rink in sight.

I knew there was a reason we moved to NewEngland! This month, Disney on Ice will be coming to TD Garden in Boston to celebrate 100 Years of Magic!

From Mickey Mouse to Woody and Mr. Increcible you'll be dazzled by the characters that fill your home. In light of the current economic situation, MomCentral has asked that we spread the word about an awesome opportunity to get a Four-pack of tickets for only $44 when you go to a Monday-Friday matinee show. (You can even get more tickets for $11 each!) The code MOM will not only get you the four-pack at a great price, but you can also choose to save $4 off Friday night and weekend shows.

If you're still trying to think of a great stocking stuffer for your kids, this may be it! Go to and use the code MOM to get your great discount. Show Dates in Boston are as follows: Saturday, December 26: 11:00 AM, 3:00PM, 7:00PM. Sunday, December 27: 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM Monday, December 28: 11:00AM, 3:00PM Tuesday, December 29:12:00 PM and 4:00PM.

Last, but certainly not least, I've been given the chance to offer a four-pack of tickets for FREE to one lucky commenter for opening night; December 26th at 7pm in Boston. Your tickets will be available at will-call with valid photo ID. Comment today and win! Drawing will be held Friday at noon EST and the winner notified via email, so please include that information!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Lump Of Coal Is The New Black

I would like to preface this post by saying that I am by no means downplaying the importance of ensuring gynecological health. Nor am I saying that screening for cervical cancer is not a serious matter. I religiously attend my annual exam, and have never complained about it. It's a whopping fifteen minutes of my time each year.

I do, however, have to say that whoever is behind CBS' new PSA campaign maybe needs to re-think the delivery. If you haven't yet seen the commercials in which Mr. Suave actor tells you the something special you can do for 'your woman' this year is to schedule her pap smear, then I've included it in the post for you. I can only imagine men across America as they innocently look at their wives and say..."Baby, I gave you the gift of life. Not even Santa can bring that." There's even a version for Hannakuh...does that mean you have to get eight pap smears?

I'm pretty sure most men wouldn't be too jazzed if their woman slipped an appointment card for a colonoscopy or prostate exam into their stockings instead of Guitar Hero. But that's just my humble opinion. How about I'll schedule my annual exam all by myself...I'm a big girl.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Falling All Over Myself

For one of our last nights away from the land of taxes, we stayed with our friends in Portland. In order to facilitate the evacuation of wiggles, we went to Out of This World Pizza so that the kids could run and run and run in the warehouse-sized playland and eat dinner in one fell swoop.

H and Charlie were having a magnificent time with the giant slides, swirly bumper carts and play houses. I wish we had something like this at home because in addition to being a great place to take the kiddos, the pizza was really good...not something old Chuck E. can claim. Plus the animatronic band is just plain creepy.

As we were eating, H quickly lost interest in his slice o' cheese, and ran off to play. After about twenty minutes, I realized I wasn't doing the best parental supervisory job and headed off to find him. Walking across the squishy mats in my trusty Dansko clogs, I spotted H in the plastic Little Tykes-style house as he was slamming a window. I quickened my pace so that I could remind him that 'We don't slam things' (aka, You don't slam things) and I failed to notice the sloped edging of the black mat.

The design of clogs have always kind of baffled me...they're much more narrow at the bottom than at the top, which is great if you like to break your ankle on every uneven surface. These things were seriously designed by a nation with cobble-stone streets?

Predictably, my ankle buckled to the side and my lithe frame went flying. 'Luckily' there was a plastic house to catch my fall. After slamming into the house and moving it a good six inches across the floor, the wall being it's stopping point, I glanced around to see that no other adults spotted my fall from grace. Sure enough, Mr. Cool Dad was snorting into his sleeve in order to at least attempt social nicety. Too late, I'd already seen it.

There was nothing to do but balance myself in a crouched position against the open window of the plastic house so that a) I could assess whether or not I'd broken my ankle b) I stopped laughing long enough to gain the strength to stand up again and c) I'd assured H and the other little boy inside that they'd not been the victims of an 'earth shake'.

Cackling like a crazed woman, I returned to the table to relate my tale, which was greeted by head-shakes and blank stares...because I still couldn't compose myself enough to get it all out in one breath.

Nothing like a little tumble to put you right back in your place.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Better Not Cry

I'm too lazy and jet-lagged to write down some of the funny s*%# that happened while I was gone, so you get to read my wicked funny sister today...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pish Posh

Yesterday, I finally started to feel like this whole residency thing would eventually come to a close. While J spent some time with the big wigs at his first hospital tour, I got to look at homes with a realtor and start to envision H and Charlie playing in the large, fenced back yards with our potential dog, sleeping in bunk-beds in a bedroom overlooking said yard and slurping cereal in the breakfast nook.

We were treated to a fantastic dinner at a beautiful winery filled with laughter and ease, then drove to a gorgeous restored historic hotel; where I’m currently sitting on a plush King-sized bed in the hotel’s cushy robe while J sweats away another morning of interviews.  And if that wasn’t enough, there was a huge wine and cheese basket filled with local decadence and a personal touch.

I think this is something to which I’d like to become accustomed…

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks a Latte!

Last week, my sisters and I sat down to make the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. A decade ago, if you'd asked me how many things I'd volunteer to make, I may have signed up for my mother's orange salad, which consists of cottage cheese, orange jell-o, mandarin oranges and cool-whip. That torch has passed to the baby of the family, I'm proud to say.

This year, I made sweet potato casserole (wicked good and not a marshmallow in sight!), green beans sauteed with slivered almonds, stuffing, mashed potatoes (with cream and butter, of course), rolls and five pies. I have to say, I've found my space. I loved being in the kitchen all morning, making sure that everything was timed so that it all came out hot, at the same time, and without fear of botulism or salmonella. Perhaps the best was that everyone else was so happy to not have to cook that they were more than willing to entertain my own little crumb snatchers.

My sister prepared the 24-pound turkey and transported it to my parents' house without incident, whisked some awesome gravy from drippings and roux and we all had a wonderful, stress-free holiday. For those of you who know my family, that in itself is nearly a miracle.

At the end of the day, my sister and I were marvelling that we'd survived a holiday at which three of the four sisters were present, and nobody, I mean nobody leaked a single tear. I had an a-ha moment as I was hugging Myrtle good-bye...Marmy didn't spend a second in the kitchen!

My love of cooking was discovered on my own, not because I was encouraged to stand next to my mom as she patiently watched me scoop flour and whisk eggs. Germs, messes and other mistakes could abound if sticky-handed children put their fingers in her pie. We knew that she would appreciate a big dinner that she didn't have to prepare or plan, but about ten years ago, she never would have let her kids take over the kitchen for a day and trust that all would be well in the end.

So, this year, I'm thankful for the pharmaceutical company that developed Zoloft. Because controlled OCD is a beautiful thing. Oh, and that I was able to be in the loving clutches of my big ole family, instead of 3,000 miles away.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play

Time flies when you're having fun...which is the only excuse I can think of for going this long without posting.

I've been knitting up a storm*, taking long drives around the valley, making full dinners for the parentals and myself, watching the kids have a ball in the great outdoors and just enjoying being back in small-town USA.

Did you know that people routinely smile and chat you up in grocery stores, on the street and just in general? I know! I'd almost forgotten as well.

I love driving my dad's big ole pick-up truck, and love that when you're driving 60 miles an hour on the highway between my old stomping grounds and the big city, otherwise knows as L.A. Grande, that people will wave because they recognize your car.

I love putting the boys in the double stroller every afternoon and getting out for a nice long walk down through the town. I love having a yard that they can run, and run, and run in every day. Seeing H's 'Californy Quail', for whom he tosses out cracked corn every day, and the deer that boldly jump the fence into the yard to clean up the extras after the quail have settled in for the night.

I love that Charlie has started making all the barnyard noises because we're actually seeing barnyard animals everywhere we go.

I love going out for beers with my friends and only spending $20 for a roaring good time.

I love that this time is helping me make the mental transition back to rural America. Most likely J's job will not land us back in Portland as we'd hoped, which was really disappointing at first. What will I do without sushi restaurants, major movie theatres and an endless stream of entertainment possibilities right at my fingertips?!

But the more I'm home and see the kids of my friends, and my friends themselves with the comfortable lives they're able to afford and enjoy, it's getting more and more palatable. Maybe even, gasp, something I'm looking forward to? Wherever we land, it will be an adjustment. After three years I feel like I'm settled. We have a routine, we have friends and we have our home.

The next six months are going to go so quickly, and I'm realizing that what this time in Oregon has really given me is an appreciation for how much I've loved living in New England. Yes, there are many things about it that this Pac Northwesterner finds 'wicked retahded', but it is a great place to be, and it will be hard to leave. There. I said it.

*So far, I've knit two of the Georgian Lace Cap, a baby lace cap, most of a pair of socks, part of a scarf, and I started on the Scandanavian stranded colorwork stockings from KnitPicks. Pictures to come when I can figure out how to make my camera work with my parents' computer, or when I get home...whichever comes first.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All Good Things...

I'm sitting in the condo overlooking Pearl Harbor in disbelief that it's already my last full day in sunny O'ahu. We've packed so much fun into such a short period of time, yet still managed to have a day where we did absolutely nothing but lay by the pool at the Hale Koa and have frothy drinks delivered one after another. Nothing like a liquid lunch to make you enjoy the sunshine even more.

Squelching the guilt of having my parents get up with the kids super early every morning has been surprisingly easy, as I just have to think 'Would I rather be there or here at this moment?' Yeah, here.

We've balanced physical activity with tourist attractions and laziness, making me deliciously tired every night. Because of the time difference, waking up at 7-8am every morning has felt absolutely decadent. From sea kayaking in Kailua to hiking Diamond Head and Scuba diving and surfing in Waikiki, we came, we saw and, best of all, we learned a lot.

I learned that shorty wetsuits are actually very easy to get on, and very easy to look totally awesome pretty ridiculous in. That filling up your BCD is scuba diving is pretty uncomfortable when you're not used to the sensation, and it's probably best that you don't have plate lunch to burp on. That surfing is frickin' hard work (well, the whole paddling back out to the waves bit) but so much fun...and you don't give a second thought to sharks because you're working so hard. That the sound of your own breathing underwater is the most relaxing white noise ever. That your dive master making a talking motion to you and pointing right under you means you're going to land on an eel...but he'll jerk you up by your tank if you give him a blank stare. That no matter how long you stand at the ready with your camera, you won't capture the random sea turtle poking their head out of the surf...if you want a picture, they have to come out of the water.

That I have 'Tahitian hips' or so says the kayak rental guy when he learned that we never tipped over; I'm sure he says that to all the girls. That the long dark tunnel up to Diamond Head would end just before I thought I was going to have to turn around and have a panic attack. That a semi-private beach without a bathroom can lead to a 'situation', I just gave you a topic...tawk amongst youahselves. That the person in back of the kayak is supposed to steer, unless it's the wife in back and then the husband will do whatever he wants to in the front anyhow. That tandem kayaking is the way to go; that way, if you flip over or do anything else that causes a problem, you can blame your spouse.

That you miss so much just playing in the water...put on a snorkel, mask and some fins and you'll be amazed at everything that's down there! That Hawaiian Shave Ice places aren't open after matter how many you go to. That shrimp shacks really are shacks...or old VW buses. That too much haupia (can you say Ted's Chocolate Haupia Pie? Yum!) makes you have to poopia...a lot. That the USS Arizona Memorial is incredibly moving, and should be on every one's list of things to see. That there is no such thing as too many frothy pool-side drinks. That the water can never be too blue, the sand too fine, or the sunset too beautiful. That you should do the things that push you outside your comfort zone, and do them with zest.

I learned upon reflection that J and I would probably be 'that couple' were we ever to go on Amazing Race; loud and intense, and making those around us in the middle of a dispute that's, for the most part good-natured, slightly uncomfortable...but it would make for some damn good television and we love each other more at the end of every day.

That absence really does make the heart grow fonder...I'm ready to see my babies again! Well, maybe after just one more day of being a pool rat. I'll see you tomorrow! Mwah!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Aloha O'ahu!

Today I did something I haven't done in over three years. I flew on an airplane all by myself, and it was fabulous. I noted several infants and toddlers with parents laden with toys, food, drink and other goods to occupy them for the journey ahead. What did I have? A small rollerbag, my purse and a smile on my face.

The night before I'd been at a friend's house and spent an evening with former co-workers and my sisters-in-law who are now scattered about and pursuing their lives; a good time was had by all. As well as a lot of wine consumed...thank goodness for Starbucks! On the way to the airport, I snapped a shot of the sun coming up over Mt. Hood. A perfect Oregon morning, and a wonderful day to fly.

As we boarded the plane I waited in line with all the other child-free people, and stowed my sole suitcase in the overhead compartment before taking my seat at the window, which would have otherwise been occupied by a car seat.

As I settled in next to my stranger-seat-mate, I heard the whimpers of an unhappy baby a few rows back. "Somebody's not happy, and we haven't even started yet", grumbled stranger-seat-mate. I turned with a smile on my face and said "Well, then I guess you should be happy that it's not your problem, huh?" Ah, I finally found the shut-down for airplane small-talk. Calling someone out on their bitchiness.

After 5.5 hours of looking out the window I couldn't stop thinking of the comedy sketch I'd recently seen, Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy (check it out on YouTube), as I gazed down the length of the 767's wing. How does this mass of steel become airborne? And how could you be experiencing that feat of science and engineering and be snarly?

As I snapped aerial shots of the North Shore upon arrival, I stopped to take a picture of the wing as we made our descent. H and I had just talked about how the one part goes down, and the other parts go up, and it all helps to slow the plane as you descend and roll up to the gate. Alas, I guess I miss the little buggers after all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Evenflo Smart Steps

I posted about Evenflo Smart Steps over at Knitty Reviews.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home, Home on the Range

This week I made yet another cross-country flight with both kids; I feel a lot older and a little wiser. About two days before our trip, I realized that a big part of my dread was the prospect of holding ChuckRoast on my lap for the duration. A quick phone-call and courtesy call-back after my wait time at 800-IFLYSWA resulted in the purchase of an infant fare ticket, and a large dose of relief.

I somehow managed not to spend a single penny at the airport, but I did have to endure the annoyance of the baggage swab which was far more unpleasant than the full body pat-down. Something in my small soft-sided Coleman cooler, in which I'd packed a plethora of flight and kid-friendly foods still in their factory seal, was showing as being toxic per their swabs.

Well, that's not good.

So, in Chicago on our layover, after we ate the majority of the contents and I was able to condense down to my one backpack, I ditched the cooler. Not only was it extra baggage, something about it made them think I was a terrorist. With Horizon Organic milk boxes. And cereal bars. And string cheese.

Plane boarded and day of travel begun, I busted out the portable DVD player that Alex had gently, and multiple times, suggested I may want to borrow. I'd survived a number of cross-country flights without an extra piece of baggage, so I'd be fine on one more, right? Once again, my faithful friend was correct and the day before I left I called to ask if the offer was still on the table.

A viewing of The Wild between Providence and Chicago, and H was ready for leg #2, as mama played the game of Sally the Sherpa to get from one gate to the next with H's back-pack, my back-pack and a small bag of diapers slung across the handles of the stroller in which both kids were blissfully secured, a car seat over one arm and a smile on my face.

I did the dance down the aisle with a car seat held as high as I could, Charlie in the sling, and Henry trailing faithfully behind under penalty of death if he touched the controls that make the jetway separate from the plane; yet another hazard in having a child whose hero is Curious would be less give-you-a-captain's-hat-and-let-you-sit-in-the-cockpit and more mommy-gets-arrested-for-suspicion-of-terrorist-activity. Especially in light of the cooler debacle.

I smiled wryly at one passenger as he was holding his head as far to the side as possible so as not the be concussed by the car seat and I quipped 'As if him crying won't be enough to make you hate me, I could give you a skull fracture as well!' Luckily he laughed.

Each time one of my snotty kids coughed or sniffled, I could see passengers giving me sideways glances...I should have put snouts on them.

I love flying Southwest, but wish they would have a direct flight. Alas, part of the lot of flying on the airline that has heart, is a lot of up and down. Being a master planner, I changed Charlie's diaper in my lap just prior to the last trash collection as we were getting ready to descend in Salt Lake, where we'd have to sit on the plane and wait for the connecting passengers to board.

Just as we were given the fasten seat belts warning due to turbulence, the most foul smell filled the air. Awesome. So glad you didn't do that before I changed your diaper. Not quite brave enough to delve into that with him on my lap, I had to wait...and wait....and wait until we landed.

Back in the air again for our one-hour romp to Boise, we were almost home-free. H had fallen asleep for almost three hours on the prior flight, dosing off during take-off while reading the brochure for the 737. Charlie had yet to sleep a wink.

After arriving safely we walked to my sister's car and I noticed a large box strapped to the top of her Explorer. What. Is. That?! Oh, just a tub surround for a friend...because Sherpas run in the family.

Kids fed and car gassed we were in the home stretch; a three-hour car ride to my parent's house in rural Eastern Oregon. As I took in the slush and the grey, the sage and the open space surrounded by mountains, it came to me again how much I love my home.

About half-way there, we realized there was a slight thumping noise from the top of the car and glanced to see if the other had heard it too. After a van passed us motioning to the top of the car, we decided to pull over and investigate. Sure enough, the slush and wind had ripped off the front corner of the box.

Small pieces that could fly out should the whole box become compromised were removed and the security of the tie-downs double-checked and we were back on the road.

As we pulled up to my parents' house, Charlie was still wide-eyed and promptly handed me separation papers announcing his intent to divorce his car-seat. It was only as I sat him down on the plush carpet and he stumbled his first few steps that I realized...he had not taken a single step since 4am EST...and it was 5 at my parents'. A full 16 hours in which he hadn't been out of a seated position, other than to bounce on my lap in the plane. Ahh...a shining example of motherhood am I. In my defense, we had just enough time in Chicago to eat, change a diaper, go potty and head to the gate as they were able to leave ahead of schedule.

Go ahead Char, you are now free to roam about the country.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lacy Lurvis Hat; Baby Alpaca/Silk blend (blue) and cotton (green)...leftovers from the ruff neck warmer I made earlier.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Black-Eyed Peas

This afternoon, I laid down on the couch in the delusional gesture of taking a nap in the living room while J read a book, oblivious to the kids re-enacting the storming of Normandy. Why I didn't go into the bedroom? Aparrently, I didn't really want to sleep.

It all started out innocently enough; H in a time-out for repeatedly doing what he was asked not to, and Charlie meandering around the living room looking for something else to bash into so that he could be told 'No!', laugh at me, be told 'No!' again, comply, and then stand in the middle of the room and start bawling because he doesn't like being told 'No!'. The fabric of our lives.

I closed my eyes for a second and asked J that if, by miracle or stroke of luck, sleep should find it's way into my body, that I be awoken by four so that I could make dinner before escaping to the theatre with friends.

Not five seconds later I heard Charlie toddle over. He's been big on giving kisses lately, such a sweet, sweet boy is he, so I kept my face slack and in peaceful repose only to be rewarded with SMACK! Yep, shattering smack of the hard plastic crocodile xylophone (not a small toy, mind you) to my cheek bone and eye socket. Nothing feels better on a Sunday afternoon.

About five minutes later, I was treated to a crack along my temporal lobe with a sippy cup. Showing mama some lovin', eh? Parenting is most definitely its own reward.

But at least I didn't actually get a black eye...unlike my senior citizen mother who fell and hit her head a couple of weeks ago on the corner of a pressure cooker box and got a shiner. Or my dad, who two days later tripped over the wheel barrel that my mom moved 'out of the way' as he was hauling her faux wishing well (circa 1985) on a handtruck so that it would be in a more asthetically pleasing area of the lawn. In case you're wondering if he's alright, I can't be sure, I could barely make out the story through my mother's hysterical laughter in recounting the tale to me. And they wonder where I get it.

Speaking of gnarly bruises...Whip It (with Juno's Ellen Page) was a fun movie and had a great ensemble cast, including Drew Barrymore, Jimmy Fallon, Eve and Juliette Lewis. The coach, Lazer, is the 'other' Wilson brother, Andrew (who sounds eerily like Owen, which is how we figured he must be a Wilson even before the credits rolled). And, triple bonus, I finally found out the object of roller derby.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ruff Neck Revisited

This is the scarf we're making for the knitting sub-group of my moms' club. Cast-on Sunday night, you can see it's a pretty quick knit. I'll post again when it's completed...probably tonight!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Would You Like Some Cheese With That?

Why yes, yes I would. Last night, my girlfriends and I went to a new-ish restaurant in Worcester, The Citizen. The tagline wine+cheese+chocolate says it all. If you're from the area, it's the same restaurant group that owns Bocado, Mezcal and The Jewelbox (the former Block5 location); the expected service and ambiance delivered in full, with attention to detail such as hooks under the bar for hanging your purse, and loads of pillows on the cushy banquette.

The menu is simple, with a variety of soft, semi-firm, hard and bleu cheeses that are served in groups of 1-4 (a platter of 4 cheese varieties is $15), which are accompanied by fig paste, french baguette and honeycomb. I don't know that I've ever had fresh honeycomb, but can I just say that it was amazing on the cheese? I can imagine it would have tasted fantastic on the local chevre as well, but I was too busy savoring that on its own.

Incidentally, earlier that day on NPR they were talking about bee-keepers in Paris who'd been granted the opportunity to move hives into unused (or rarely used) city parks, rooftop gardens and public gardens. The hives are thriving there as the pesticide levels are much lower in the city. The request to move the hives in was granted as they are making an effort to 'reintroduce wildlife to the city'. The honey is then harvested and sold at local farmers' markets. It was just interesting because as I was listening, I was imagining a proposition to introduce bees into city parks in the US; I don't think that would fly. (pun intended)

If you choose, there are also a few pressed sandwiches and salads/savories, but we stuck to the basics.

The six of us shared 8 varieties of cheese (about 1 oz per variety) and two meats. I had a fantastic Oregon Pinot Noir, Next, by King Estate out of Eugene (which, not surprisingly practices organic and sustainable farming methods) followed by my own little french press of coffee, enjoyed with a dark chocolate trifle served in a martini glass. We shared a selection of 4 different milk and dark chocolates ranging in cocoa percentages (also about 1 oz per selection).

When you're thinking about 8 ounces of cheese between six people, it doesn't seem like it would be a lot, but it was plenty. I felt really satisfied when we had finished that course, and we were given ample time to visit between the cheese and chocolates.

We spent four hours, eating, talking and drinking. And I left feeling full, fat and happy, spending less than $40 each including gratuity. A fun, very affordable night out with the girls that I would recommend to anyone. Maybe this will be enough to lure some of my left-coasters out for a girlfriend weekend?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Boys' Sturdy Winter Socks

I had ordered some Swish (superwash merino) from KnitPicks awhile ago, intending to make a hat and mittens set for H at the same time I was making the Playground Mittens for Alex's kids. Then one project led to another and the wool sat in it's lonely bin. Each time I made a new pair of socks, H asked if they were for him...I figured it was finally time to make good on my promise to him so he didn't end up like the shoemaker whose children went barefoot. Last night, while watching Grey's Anatomy I knocked out the first sock in his pair. Who knew a preschooler's sock worked in worsted weight yarn would go so quickly?! The second sock, as any good sock-maker knows to do, is cast on and started already so that it gets done as quickly as the first. You, too, can make these socks! I based it on this pattern in Ravelry (find me under SallyHP79)

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Leather and Lace

I've traditionally been known as what could conservatively be called 'the most impatient person in the world'. I like things to be done and I'm a big fan of instant gratification. This has often resulted in crappy hair-cuts, acrylic nails that looked like I had jelly beans affixed to my nailbeds and a scrapbook full of slapped together pages.

I knew the next way to challenge myself in knitting was to try a lace project. I found the free pattern for this Georgian Lace Cap on KnitPicks, and used some Cotton-Ease yarn that I already had in my stash. One skein is enough to do two hats.

My first attempt, I was feeling pretty cocky as I worked the first couple rounds, but it was my first time using a chart and let's just say that about three rounds into the pattern, things didn't look so hot. So, I ripped it out.

Second attempt gave me three repeats of the 8 row pattern, so when I ripped out those 28 rows (including the four stockinette rows) it was a little more painful. I put the needles and yarn on my bookcase and glowered at them in the corner for the rest of the evening.

My third attempt, I successfully completed my first repeat and realized what my error had been before...after that, I took the hat to bookclub with me and was able to discuss the book and complete most of the hat, which I finished at home. Fairly instant gratification and a more complex looking pattern; makes my little knitty heart warm.

I think I have a new appreciation for charts. It allowed me to see what was supposed to be emerging as I knit so that after a couple of repeats (when they're done correctly, unlike my first two tries) you start to automatically sense when yarn-overs and decreases are going to happen so that you can knit a lace pattern and do something else at the same time.

Speaking of double-duty, or double fisting, I just bought the book Pints and Purls: Portable Projects for the Social Knitter and really like a lot of the patterns. Along with great full-color photos, there are ideas for fun knitting nights and drink suggestions that will result in less tears when spilled (aka Gin and Tonic vs. Red Wine when knitting with a lovely creamy silk yarn).

Next on the needles is the Ruff Neck Warmer from the book, which I'm knitting in an alpaca/silk blend that is the most beautiful shade of blue I've seen in a long time (kenai). A fun and simple gift that will be going to someone who the color may "matcher" their eyes.

For a more whimsical project, I recently knit this tooth-fairy pillow for a customer and received responses from friends and H that it looked like everything from a bunny to a fat person in long-john's with the flap on the butt. You be the judge of little Mervin the Molar.

I also finally mastered the magic loop for socks, and I don't think there's any turning back. I'm not a huge fan of using two circulars because I felt like I spent all my time sliding yard across the cables, but it's much less so with just the one in magic loop.

And, because I am instant-gratification-sometimes-a-little-manic-girl...these were all created in the last two weeks. And there you have it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Shine On, Happy Family!

I've had the opportunity to try an awesome baby/toddler food line, HappyBaby, at a couple of venues, and was really excited to see that they are currently one of three finalists out of over 4,000 entries in the American Express/NBC Shine a Light contest to win $100,000 in grant money and marketing support. They were nominated for being a business that has shown dedication to customer service, innovation and a commitment to improving their local and global community.

When we were at Baby Loves Disco in Boston, they (along with Stonyfield Farms and some others) provided snacks and samples. Following my visit there, I'd offered to post about them because Charlie loved the food. In addition to great microwave-able meals like Mac and Cheese with veggies snuck in, they had puffs that were in the same size package as the Gerber puffs, but their container held about 40% more and had a LOT less sugar. Plus, from the couple I snuck, they're pretty tasty! They come in Banana, Apple and Greens. Julie at HappyFamily was happy to send me a couple of containers to try, as they're not yet widely available in our area. I wasn't able to try a lot of the other entrees because the stores right around me weren't carrying them yet.

One of the reasons I'm asking that people vote for HappyBaby in the Shine a Light is that the money and support will enable them to place their product in a lot more venues, letting babies across the nation in on the secret: baby food doesn't have to taste bland and can be really good and good for you.

It only takes a moment to vote, and you have to register your information but I'm thinking that's because they don't want one person coming back to vote multiple times. Please take the time to support a company that is working hard to support and feed families in a positive and socially responsible way. You have until October 16th, but if you're anything like'd be better to click over right now before you put it off until 'tomorrow' which will end up being October 17th before you know it!

Here's what they have to say for themselves:

HAPPYBABY organic baby foods launched on Mother’s Day 2006 with 5 products in 5 small NYC stores. The business is the brainchild of a social entrepreneur who wanted to make a difference using business, support sustainable agriculture, provide our children with the best start to instill eating habits for a healthy happy life, and simultaneously provid basic nutritional needs for less fortunate children simply trying to survive. Today, the innovative business has 26 products, always organic, formulated with leading pediatricians and nutritionists for optimal nutrition using the best ingredients nature offers, and can be found in over 5,000 stores nationwide with a loyal following.

The company’s ability to innovate is responsible for its great success. They care. HAPPYBABY pioneered a new movement in baby food with a line of sustainable organic home-style meals as an alternative to the processed jarred foods that had not been improved since the 1930’s. They were the first organic baby food to incorporate DHA, the essential fatty acid needed for brain development and used a sustainable vegetarian source. HAPPYBELLIES cereal was the first baby food to use probiotics which defend against the development of food allergies, asthma, and eczema while supporting digestive wellness. Their HAPPYPUFFS were the first organic puffed snack for baby as a low sugar alternative to the artificial products on the market. HAPPYMELTS are the first product to combine pre and probiotics in a truly healthy yogurt snack for tots. Their HAPPYBITES line encourages kids to eat their veggies by sneaking them into familiar flavors. Most recently, the company is the first to use the supergrain, Salba, the planet’s most nutritious grain.

HAPPYBABY has created a tight-knit community of its own with its Community Marketing Specialist Program whose actions positively impact local communities nationwide. These 50 moms support the mission to give babies the very best and work to educate parents about why organic is important for their baby’s delicate immune system, demonstrate how to make fresh foods, and simply get the word out. The global community is impacted in a truly unique way by the company’s very special partnership with the heroic nonprofit, Project Peanut Butter, that works to feed a starving child in Africa for an entire day based on each unit sold by HAPPYBABY!

Customer relationships are paramount to a company that exists to make babies and parents happy. The founding team personally responds to all questions, directs medically related questions to its experts, and really listens to the feedback and suggestions from parents in order to continuously improve. They further believe that being a resource for education and wellness is their duty.

HAPPYBABY ‘s philosophy is highlighted in their new book, HAPPYBABY co-authored by revered pediatrician Dr Sears, provides parents with affordable green parenting options to raise their own healthy happy babies in an environmentally friendly way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Reach For The Sky

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Temperamentally Yours

Following H's four-year check-up yesterday where I had a tearful moment after H spent the better half of the time I was trying to converse with the doctor enamoured with the crinkling sound of the exam table paper, I dusted off my copy of Temperament Tools: Working With Your Child's Inborn Traits.

Yes, I cried at the doctor's office. I cried because I'm tired of looking like she who cannot control her offspring. I cried because I'm terrified that my kid who couldn't sit still for three seconds during the appointment will be labeled as ADHD, ODD, ADD or whatever other thing I don't think he is. Lastly, I cried because laughing just didn't fit the bill. (see intensity of emotions below, maybe that's why we butt heads) Never fear, H didn't even notice because he was too busy with his symphony o' scratchy noises on the exam table.

I'm not saying I broke down, but the voice got quivery and my eyes welled with tears. I love our pediatrician, and he was very reassuring that he wasn't seeing anything that was concerning; H was behaving like a four-year old boy in a new situation and I was correcting him appropriately. Given that H is adapting so well to preschool and listening well there, that is a more important indicator than how they act in a 30 minute appointment. A fact that my rational self knows, but my perfect parenting self does not. He asked at that point why I was being so hard on myself. I explained then what has been dawning on me more and more; I don't have anything to 'show' for my 'work' anymore except how my kids turn out. He said "Well, then you're getting an A! H is great He's fine."

Emotional crisis averted, I asked him to check H's foreskin because I didn't think it had retracted yet, and it's not exactly easy to check at home. Yes, I'm going there, and you'll see why. Sure enough, still stubbornly in place. He said that he wasn't concerned, but that if it wasn't retracted by the time he was around 8, but definintely by puberty, that I could go see a urologist. I dumbly asked "And what will they do?" Yep, you guessed it, a circumcision.

I just let my head drop back. "Awesome, we chose not to do it when he was an infant because we didn't want to do something that would cause unnecessary pain, and now he might have to do it when he's eight?!" Doctor: "There you go being hard on yourself again! You made a good decision when he was born, and it's most likely that this will resolve itself. It's not medically necessary at birth."

Sweet. If you want your son to stop liking you, I've got an idea, make a decision for him at birth that causes him to have penis surgery when he's about to enter puberty! Here I thought baptizing our infants into the Catholic faith would cause controversy later. Oh no, no, we'll go ahead and one up that with pain in the here and now. But enough about that.

Back to Temperament Tools. Tired of constantly going to bed at night thinking of what I should have done better, questioning why I said that and promising that tomorrow would be a better day where I didn't let my four year-old wind me up only to repeat said routine, I realized that this just wasn't a battle of the wills I was winning.

So I got a pen this time, instead of just trying to mentally picture my scores as I went and I began marking the x's where both H and Charlie fall on the temperament traits of Activity, Adaptability, Approach to New Things, Frustration Reaction, Intensity of Emotions, Mood, Regularity and Sensitivity.

When I reached the end, I read the brief descriptions of the behaviors that go with certain 'temperament clusters' and was having a hard time finding which of the last three to pick. Then I saw "This high-energy child has many of the behaviors of the previous three. If you are therefore having trouble deciding which chapter to pick, turn first to page 117." Okay...turning pages, turning pages...then (because all the temperament examples are named after animals) 'The Bear Cub Combo";

Imagine the darting speed of a bird combined with the intesity of a prowling tiger and the powerful determination of a whale. When the temperaments of BeiLing Bluebird, Tiganda Tiger and Walocka Whale all combine in one small body, the result is the Olympic Challenge of Parenting.

You don't say!

The book then moves on to talk about learning styles, parenting tips and common behavioral issues. I have to say, as I was reading the three chapters of the animals that combine to make the temperament most like H's, the more disturbing or truly hard characteristics did not describe him. It's amazing how arming yourself with more information can suddenly turn "What the hell?! How am I this horrible a parent, and where did this ferral child come from?!" into "Oh, H isn't anywhere near that bad!" It's all relative, folks.

Learning about temperament is important to me, because I feel like the one thing I'm always so concerned about is smothering his spirit. Providing examples of effective discipline for each temperament-style, it's certainly not a book that just wants parents to let their children be free as a bird, but instead to incorporate all personalities and temperaments into a harmonious family, and not letting the intensity of one child, or your fear of their reaction to something rule the roost.

J had commented a couple times how H and I just wind each other up. Sure enough (in the Tiganda Tiger example); Intensity fuels intensity. When Mom yells, "Stop that!" or, "Be quiet!" or spanks Tiganda for hitting another child, Tiganda's intensity rises even higher. Which makes the kiddo less flexible, which makes mama mad, and the circle of strife continues.

Aparrently remaining calm will allow you to take control of the situation more effectively than flapping your arms around as you direct, demand and shout in loud tones. Oh, and probably having a non-neurotic parent helps out as well. Who knew?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Food For Thought

When J and I made the decision that I'd stay at home with the kids, well it was just H when we made that decision, for the duration of his residency I had delusions of lazy days, 1950's home-maker skills that I thought may have just been laying dormant and a craft each afternoon. It didn't take long for my Betty Crocker bubble to burst, but it also didn't take long for H and I to find a rhythm to our days that allowed me to start enjoying the room in the home that had long been foreign to me...the kitchen.

Prior to our move East, J did most of the cooking because he enjoyed it, and I just really didn't have the desire to make a meal at the end of the day. My job was emotionally exhausting and often required many, many hours of overtime in order to get a decent night's rest, knowing you'd done what you could to ensure safety that didn't leave room for much more than a vacant stare at the wall for about 20 minutes when I first got home.

There were days that I'd get off at 6pm, J was still on a rotation somewhere, and since the daycare was just across the street I'd wait until 6:30 (which was the latest I could pick H up) so that I'd have that half-hour to just be before I had to be mama and wife.

Flash forward to now when I get excited about the new recipes I'm going to try, bread I've just baked and jam I made and we've come a long way, baby. Add in an overall increased awareness of health-conscious meals and my impact on my kids' future eating habits, and I've already started planning my dream kitchen.

One thing I've noticed is that I have to be doubly careful in my planning now that I've started buying more organic produce, especially those on the Dirty Dozen list. For us, cost is absolutely a factor in our grocery shopping, so we won't be going to Whole Paycheck anytime soon; I could get lost in there for hours and spend, well, our whole paycheck. There are a lot of things for the budget-minded that don't need to be organic; bananas, avocados, onions and corn to name a few as they don't contain pesticide residue, generally. But an example of a group we've chosen to shell out for is wild caught fish and sea-food (think salmon that is a natural shade of pink ;)).

However, to get back on point, the produce that is organic I've found to be ready to go within the first few days of purchase. So plan your work and work your plan, or you've doubly 'wasted' money when you have to throw out the bad produce that you spent your hard-earned schuckles on.

That said, I've found so many farmer's markets in our area as well as a local grocery chain that carries a lot of locally grown produce. While I try to do a big shop for staples at BJ's or Price Chopper, I do make a weekly run for produce to Roche Bros, because they just have beautiful produce and generally have great prices. Shopping the exterior of the store, in general is what you should aim for. Aside from flour and baking staples, the exterior rim of the store is where you'll find that you should be spending the bulk of your grocery dollars; dairy, meat, seafood, limited bakery and produce. The aisles are full of processed foods and general traps that are so easy to fall in, especially if you've got a sweet tooth like me, or are hungry when you shop.

A lot of farmer's markets are now accepting food stamps and EBT cards, which I think is just fabulous. The Central Community Branch YMCA in Worcester holds a weekly market on Saturdays from June to October and they DOUBLE food stamp values.

If we continue to have healthful options that stretch food dollars that are already scarce, we could be making the small steps it will take to curb child-hood obesity. Now, if I could just get H to see that Hot Dogs and Chicken Nuggets are not an actual food group...and Ketchup does not count as his veggie for the day.
*The photo is of Spicy Sweet Potato Soup using a dollop of plain non-fat yogurt in the place of sour cream...such a great fall recipe! Thanks Portlandia>

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Monday, September 21, 2009

Go Nuts! Or Not.

Today was H's first day of pre-school. Yep, after much back and forth, a particularly rough week was followed by the fortuitous placement of a poster advertising openings at the YMCA pre-school.

The fact that uber-frugal J didn't bat an eyelash when I told him about it, and that I'd like to send H asap means that everyone had begun to notice my mounting frustration with my lack of ability to sufficiently entertain/busy the kiddos; even though I felt like I was running myself ragged from Farmland to Seashore and back again to do so.

After visiting the school and paying the insanely low registration fee of $25, my next stop was at the pediatrician's office to sweet talk the receptionist into giving me written proof, on the spot, that H doesn't have rabies, and won't give them to any of the other kids.

As I went through the packet from the school, I realized that some of H's staples were nixed from the list of foods that could be sent with his lunches, foremost being peanut butter and peanut products. Some of the others surprised raw carrots, even if they're cut up. No grapes that haven't been quartered. Really? He's been eating whole grapes for over two years now.

No popcorn...there goes the snack bag of Smartfood that would be a treat for him. Hmmm...the list was getting shorter. I know! Pretzels! Whenever he sees other kids that have pretzels, he always mooches some...nope, guess that one's a no-no as well according to new federal regulations regarding choking hazard food items in schools.

About to face defeat, I remembered that my friend who has a child with multiple allergies talked about sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds and actually quite tasty), so I put it on my list. Did you know that most grocery stores charge around ten dollars for a jar of sun or almond butter? Thank God for Trader Joe's, where it can be yours for the low, low price of $3.99 (which I snapped up before picking him up today, because why would I plan ahead and buy it before school started?)

So, after I felt like I had all the rules, regulations and expectations down pat, I packed H's lunch last night. As J was drifting off last night, I casually mentioned that I was buying sun butter and he was not to eat it, because it was just for school lunches. "What's sun butter?" was the response. I explained the peanut-free facility concept and his eyes snapped open. I could feel the snide remarks coming...welcome to parenting in the Third Millennium, J.*

*I know, I know...we'd feel a whole lot differently about this if our children weren't hearty German/Swedish kids who don't seem to be negatively affected by any food groups other than too many blueberries (a whole other post).