Whatcha Got Cookin'?

So, I can feel the last few hours of my maternity leave ebbing away.  I head back to work on Wednesday, and I've spent days thinking of how in the world I can get up, get ready, and get an infant and a toddler to daycare, while trying to catch a bus to work before 7:15 a.m.

Pregnancy, childbirth and now sleep deprivation have done something crazy to my brain this time around.  I forget things at the grocery store, lose track of time, have trouble recalling names of people or places, or derail my train of thought in the middle of a story I'm telling.  So I've made lists of everything I need to get done at night and in the morning.  Between pumping at work for an infant that's still nursing, getting the kids' stuff ready to go each day, finding my way to a brand new bus route, and taking care of the house, I haven't even given a moment's thought to actual work once I get back.  

(I do have the baby brag book ready to go, though, chock full of pictures.  I already feel sorry for people who make the mistake of asking me about Alice & Helen this week.  "Here are 25 pictures of my baby!  Please fawn profusely over all of them.")

Honestly, what worries me more is getting home in the evening.  After a full day at daycare, Helen is a HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPO and if I don't have dinner on the table within 20 seconds of the front door opening, I have to throw snacks at her for about 30 minutes straight while we hurry around putting a meal together.  (Yes, they feed my daughter at daycare.  But animal crackers and juice at 4 pm doesn't cut it.  And then snacks right before dinner - well, you know what your mother always told you.  Turns out it's true!  So we're stuck between a rock and that other inflexibly rigid spot known as Terrible Threes.)  

We have tried getting her to help us cook.  That hasn't stopped the whining, but only serves to distract her for a few minutes until she remembers she's hungry again.

Before I went on maternity leave, Brian & I had a system.  Without a lot of room for food storage at our place, we maintain a "just in time" inventory of food.  I'm not one of those people who could cook dinner with just anything in my pantry.  Most of that stuff is there for show, to cover a one-time use, or to help with the baking every year at Thanksgiving.  So each night, via cell phone, Brian & I hammered out a dinner plan on our way home from work.  

This meant when I picked up Helen at daycare, I already knew what I needed to get from the store.  Our grocery store is great at handing out samples, and one little thing would usually tide Helen over until I could get her meal ready, instead of the 3 things she wanted at home.  As long as I explained the plan to Helen ("We're going to the store, and Daddy is going to cook burgers on the grill, and then we'll eat dinner"), she could generally manage the "long" wait with just a cup of milk.

With 2 kids, one of which is still nursing like a champion, I don't think I'll be able to have this little luxury of stopping at the store each night.  Maybe the baby will have a bottle just before I pick her up.  But she's not on that schedule yet, and knowing my luck, they'll hand her over and she'll need one as I'm getting home.

So I've decided to become one of those mothers who plans menus and cooks ahead and freezes things.  I might even spend the weekend baking goodies, too.  Who knows?  This could be a good thing for our family, even if I don't do it all the time.  

My first foray into this experimental lifestyle is crockpot cooking.  So rather than collapsing in front of the TV at night, I'll cut up some things, throw the mess into a crockpot, turn it on in the morning and come home at night to the aroma of dinner, completed.  It sounds like the most perfect thing in the world.

Tonight we're trying a meatloaf.  In the crockpot, you ask?  Yep!  I found a recipe online.  Prep the loaf of beef, line your pot in foil, put the loaf in it and pour the sauce on top.  Set to high or low, depending on when you want it to be done, and wow, does your house smell good in a few hours flat.  

I'm adding green beans and sourdough bread on the side.  That should be enough to tame even the hungriest of toddlers.

Tomorrow, I'm trying a whole chicken.  Wish me luck.

And feel free to share your own time-saving tips for meals in the comments.  I have a feeling I'm gonna need it.


Wii are not happy.

So last weekend, Brian surprised me with a present - a new Wii.  This game console is designed with a remote that helps you play games by mimicking the movements you make in an actual game.  So for example, in tennis you would swing a racket, or in bowling you would roll a ball.  Mimic these same movements while holding the remote, and you're on your way to becoming a pro at Wii games.

I am not that good at video games.  Brian loves them, and can play them for hours.  I, on the other hand, am very picky about the games that appeal to me, and can't seem to get the hang of a PlayStation controller.  Brian has worked hard for years to find something that we can play together but hasn't had much luck in piquing my interest.  His thought was that a Wii would be good for me to play on maternity leave, while he works - that way I can spend the time to get good at it and play with him.  

The first real test of the console came later that night.  We had company visiting from out of town.  I put Alice to bed after her last feeding of the night and found Brian and his two friends in a hotly contested tennis match.  By all accounts, it was a good time for everyone.

This week, Brian spent some time poking around all the features, and discovered a fitness test.  The Wii randomly selects 3 training tests for you - for example, returning tennis serves, finishing spares in bowling, or hitting homeruns.  Based on the results, Wii calculates a "fitness age" for you. 

Brian took the test - keep in mind he had spent the prior evening playing all of these games with his friends - and Wii told him his fitness age is 37.  He's actually 35, so he didn't take the news well, and it didn't help that I laughed at him.  And pointed.  And laughed some more.  I told him he better not spend the next day taking the test over and over again, trying to turn into a 19-year old Wii stud.

Well, he tried, but it turns out Wii lets you take the test only once per day.  So the next night, he dutifully took the test again, and discovered he'd aged 2 more years.

Frustrated, he handed me the remote and made me take the test, whereupon he discovered he's married to a 62-year old woman.

I was so mad, I promptly sent him down the street to get me ice cream.

And yesterday, when I was allowed to take the test again (and did much better, I thought), I had aged 7 more years.

This has not been the best present so far.


Rubber Duckie, you're the one.

Alice spent the first 5 baths wailing like a banshee.  Now she cries when I get her out of the tub.

For the curious, here's a comparison shot of Helen at the same age as Alice:


Sisterly Love

Many of you have been kind enough to ask how Helen is taking the transition from "only child" to "shackled to a life with a sibling."  As an older sister myself, whose younger sister arrived on Christmas Day when I was 2 (and ruined most every day the next 16 years after that by making THAT NOISE WITH HER TONGUE), I can sympathize.  Let's just say that a few years from now, I wouldn't be surprised to find Alice on eBay, courtesy of seller "NoMoreSharing."

But right now, this little girl LOVES her sister.  Every morning, Helen arrives at my bedside to whisper:  "Mommy, can I see my sister?"  The first time I took Alice with me to daycare to drop off Helen, one little girl came over to see the baby.  This classmate had a trail of snot dangling from one nostril, and I recoiled in horror, stammering, "No, no sweetie - Helen's the only one who can touch the baby."  And in one fell swoop, I created a possessive little child.  Today, Helen is overly proud of the fact that she's the only one who can touch the baby.  She tells everyone - her friends, teachers, and even other parents.  

I have spent a lot of time feeding this baby since her first day home, and Helen is always asking to see her.  Sometimes that means she wants to touch her or kiss on her.  Of course, when the baby is attached to me, that kind of downward pressure on the chest area can be a little painful for me.  As a concession, I'll tell Helen that she can hold her after I'm done feeding her.  Helen holding Alice can last anywhere from 5 seconds to whenever Alice starts crying.  Here was a particularly cute session that lasted longer than I expected, but still ended in crying:

Please note Helen continued to smile for the camera.  We have our priorities straight.


Soothing Update

Alice has found her thumb!

And she enjoys a good pacifier, too.


About 6 months ago I taught Helen how to whisper secrets to her Mommy and Daddy.  Once in a while, she will tell me she has a secret, and I lean forward to let her whisper it in my ear.  Usually it's something like, "I love you."   Recently it's changed to "I love my sister."  Very sweet stuff, but generally not an actual secret.

Yesterday, when Brian was getting ready to take her to daycare, she announced that she had a secret.  When Brian leaned toward her, she whispered in his ear, "I'm going to get ice cream after daycare."

I couldn't be prouder of that girl.