Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christening Pictures

Catherine Rose was baptized on December 13, 2008, at St. Patrick's in York, PA by Father Hauser. We had a lively party at our house afterward. She was a doll for the whole thing, not even crying at having water poured on her head! She just opened her eyes and looked around, as if she were thinking, "What was that?!!" Since Saturday's washing away of her original sin, we've noticed a remarkable change in Cate. Whereas before she was a good baby, now she is perfect. Ah, if only the sacraments could take away concupiscence as well...

Catherine Rose's Baptism

Friday, November 14, 2008

Video: Big Brother Dominic

Here are some video clips of Dominic's reactions to his new sister, Cate. She also features in the film. :)  We are enjoying our sleepy little princess.  So far she has been a snuggly, cuddly little thing who only protests when she is hungry or cold.  Dominic seems to be adjusting well and often tries to soothe her by offering blocks, cheerios, and other "comfort" items.  It's pretty cute to watch.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

We Have Pictures!

Since we have a new camera, a new house, and a new baby, plus funny Dominic, I've gone a little overboard with pictures and videos this last week... I'll post just a few here and put up the link the the Picasa album if you'd like to peruse more.

Mommy, Daddy, and Cate came home today at 11AM after an early discharge from the hospital. Cate has been a very sleepy baby so far. I think we'll see her true personality emerge in the next few days as she wakes up more from her rude entry into this world. One doctor called her fiesty, and I'm still waiting to see how her vigorous in-utero kicking will manifest itself...

Enjoy the pictures, and we look forward to hearing from or seeing you all soon.

Catherine Rose

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Baby, Baby, Baby!

She has come, at last. Catherine Rose Gaetano was born a 1:30AM on November 9th, 2008. She weighed in at 7 lbs. 1 oz and measured 18 1/2 inches. I think she made some sort of record with her speedy arrival. Just an hour and fifteen minutes after we checked into the maternity ward, Cate was born.

She came out in just 4 pushes, compared to Dominic's 4 hours. We left the house at midnight and delivered at 1:30AM. I had been having regular contractions for about 4 hours, but they weren't terribly strong (I slept through 2 hours of them), and they were about 15 minutes apart. Then, at 11:30 my water broke. We called the doctor and she told us to come in. When she asked if I was having contractions, I told her that I hadn't had any since my water broke (20 minutes or so). So we checked into labor and delivery and were sent to a preliminary exam room where they check your progress before they officially admit you. While we waited in there (30 minutes), I started having terrible, terrible contractions. I wanted an epidural, and I wanted it NOW! Where was the doctor? Why was it taking so long? Finally the doctor comes in, sees my awful contractions, apologizes, checks my progress, and announces that I'm at 10 cm and this baby will be coming within the hour! That put some hustle in the nurses. :) And so Catherine Rose came out crying just 30 minutes after we were set up in a delivery room. It was a wild ride.

Cate and I are both doing well, resting up from our sprint to the end, and getting to know one another. She is a little thing with very delicate features and a head of very dark hair. I'll put up pictures just as soon as I can.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Missed Her Birthday

Well, just like her brother, little Cate(?) has missed her own birthday. Despite our highest hopes that she would come on time or even a little early, she has decided to stay in her warm, cramped home for now. Perhaps today will be the day. Don't worry, we'll keep you all posted on anything interesting that should happen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Little Update Before the Storm

Well, things are just calming down... Matt has just finished his proposals that are due on Wednesday (money for research in Italy next year). The in-laws moved in on Monday, so the house is a bit fuller feeling and an impressive array of boxes. Dominic has been loving this opportunity to color on wardrobe boxes, crawl through tunnels, and get into things that are normally out of his reach. He has also fallen in love with the piano and plays it surprisingly gently and nicely. Maybe our little energizer will turn his energies to the fine arts? :) I'm sure that things will be even calmer once his new baby sister arrives. Lately he has been giving her kisses in my belly from both his precious Doggy and Elmo. Quite cute. We think he'll make a good brother once he gets over the initial shock.

We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby Girl Gaetano. Thus far she has been a very good girl, waiting until Matt was home and moving day was over. Now she can come. I'm tired of being a whale. We had an ultrasound last week that showed her to be very healthy and quite active. In fact, they had some trouble getting her measurements because she didn't want to stop moving. Uh-oh! I had another ob. appointment today and things look like they might get going in the next couple of days. We'll keep you posted, probably by g-mail status and lengthier updates on this blog.

To pass the time, we're watching the election coverage. Things don't look too good for McCain or a Republican Senate. We'll just continue to pray that whatever happens, people may come to respect the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. What a miracle this whole pregnancy and birth thing is!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trying out my new Macbook (Iphoto)

I've become slack again...  Here's another little video of Dominic in the absence of anything brilliant, witty, or even remotely interesting from me.  :)  By the way, we've got 5 days left till baby number two is due.   We'll keep you posted on how things are going.  So far, nothing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Just a Little Video

Taken with my sweet new digital camera.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

It struck me the other day that we are not doing our part to save mother earth. Our son is not very "green", if you will. He apparently thinks that everything is disposable and only has one use in it. Here is the evidence:

I filled his sippy cup (with a pop up straw top) with a real treat of 10% juice and 90% water. When he finished it a few minutes later, he promptly said, "Emm-ty" and then followed that up by saying, "traash" and, before I could process what he had said, he had toddled/run to the kitchen and chucked his empty sippy cup into the trash. Definitely not green. Not green at all.

Makes me wonder what else he has assumed is traash.  Perhaps the missing keys? Gift cards? or one of the remotes?  We'll probably never know.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

From the Balcony

Dominic is out on the balcony, staring between the bars, intently watching the older children playing below. He doesn't take his eyes off them for fifteen minutes. He just alternates between standing, sitting on his stool, and perching on the edge of the turtle sandbox. I keep watch from my computer chair in the nice, air-conditioned inside, just five feet from him. I am pleased he's found a diversion from his shrieking.

I hear one child say, "Look, it's Dominic." "Hi, Dominic."

Another, slightly higher voice, "Is he trying to climb out?"

"No, he can't, he's too little."

A boy chimes in, "What if he's like superman?"

Another boy, "Yeah, or spiderman!"

The girl with the higher voice adds her last two cents, in a somewhat reproachful tone, "Yeah, where's his mother. Shouldn't she be watching him?!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dominic 12-14 Months Video

Our CD drive is finally working for a day or two, so I got all the footage uploaded from 12-17 months and am making it into videos for your viewing pleasure. Here's the first one!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Correspondence Guilt

Does this sound familiar? If you've ever felt snubbed by a lack of correspondence, take heart.

First thing in the morning, I think, "Gosh, I should really call Gina. How long has it been since we had a phone conversation? Months...? And how long since I sent a decent e-mail. Weeks...? Okay, let's do it right now. Oh wait, she's at work..."

That night, right before dinner, I think, "I can do it right now, I've got half an hour. Call Gina. Oh, but she deserves a longer, less rushed conversation than that... I'll just call tomorrow."

I think about it at eleven the next morning when Dominic is sleeping. "Perfect, I'll call now. Dang-it. She works during the day (like most people). I have to remember to call tonight, then." The night goes by and I forget about it in the whirl of company. "Tomorrow, I say." The next night I am just so tired. "Tonight I'm not really going to be a good conversationalist. I should call when I have more energy and can carry on an interesting conversation. After all, it has been a few months since we've talked. I owe it to Gina..."

And so it goes on. Then there are times when I do call and get the answering machine. In some ways that's a relief. I can leave a message, letting Gina know that I do care and I took the time to call. I wanted to have a conversation. And it would have been an amazing one, she just wasn't home. Now the ball is in her court. Catch me when you can.

Or, even worse, I have been guilty of calling at a time when I'm pretty sure they'll be out just so that I can leave a message. I reserved this tactic for busy times during college...

And this is the silly way that I allow my correspondence to slide...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

When you Say "No", it means no

Self-chastisement has gone to a whole new level with Dominic. A few months ago he started saying, "no-no" before he touched forbidden items. Then it moved up to saying "no-no" and wagging his pointer finger. Just recently, though, he has started hitting his own hand with his other hand! This, of course, is in addition to the ever-dramatic "no-no" and finger wagging that he continues to do.

While Matt was unloading the dishwasher I overheard a sweet little voice saying, "no-no" "no-no" and then an angry, "NO! Dominic, that can really hurt you". Dominic likes to "help" put away dishes, including fragile items and sharp knives. I hear a little pouting from Dominic. Then the sing-song, almost mocking, "no-no" "no-no" starts in again. About a minute later I hear Matt, "Dominic, when you say "no", it means NO".

Isn't it usually "When I say no, I mean no?"

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tricksy Dom

Dominic has a new trick in his bag of wiles. I haven't come up with a good name for it yet, but this is the form it usually takes. He'll take your hand in his little hand and while you're swooning over the fact that he is willingly holding your hand, he leads you somewhere or to something, then he places your hand on it and says, "Peash" (Please). Now this has been a doorknob that he can't reach, a cracker on the counter that he can see, or as of late, a forbidden item.

He seems to think that if he can get me to open that forbidden drawer with my hand, albeit without true thought, that he will get away with his own mischief. He tries to catch me unaware, blindly letting him lead. He's tried to get me to turn on the TV, hand him the computer mouse, let him drink from my coffee cup, and of course, type on the laptop.

Are they ever innocent?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Shades of Black

What could be worse than a weak cup of coffee? Seriously, weak coffee is far worse than no coffee at all. It's just hot, murky water. In the beginning, when my "habit" was just forming, I was never concerned about the quality of my coffee. The kind of bean you use simply isn't important when you drown it in sugar and half and half. Let my brother-in-law illustrate my preferences for you, when asked by his wife what he wanted in his coffee, he teasingly answered her, "I want it to taste like a candy bar". While he was kidding, I was not. That was exactly how I liked my coffee. A milky way with 3 cubes of sugar (4 packets).

During college I realized that the amount of coffee I was drinking near the end of every semester coupled with the amount of sugar in every cup was not only bad for me, it would probably make me fat. So, "health conscious" as I am, I gradually started reducing the number of cubes in my coffee. I was hoping that the actual taste of coffee would eventually grow on me by cutting down the sugar. I don't believe I would have succeeded with my plan, but it was a valiant effort. I was rescued by a late night study session at a friend's place. He was making coffee but didn't have any sugar, only milk. Artes Liberales was pressing and my alertness was waning...so I accepted the offer of milky, sugarless coffee. It was surprisingly good!

I thought my tiredness was maybe just playing tricks on me, so I tried it again the next day in our dorm. Not half bad, I thought. Later that day I tried it in SAGA (the cafeteria). Yuck, blegh, ugh! Terrible. I had heard people complain about SAGA coffee before, but I had never noticed. I guess milk and a lot of sugar can cover up just about any blemishes the coffee may have.

Ever since then I've been drinking my coffee (except iced coffee), "just cream, please". I can now distinguish between "good coffee" and "bad coffee". I can't say that I'm a coffee snob in any way. Folgers is fine. Maxwell House has a bitter after-taste but tastes okay going down. Freshly ground beans are probably the best. Flavored-coffee smells good but tastes like SAGA coffee with vanilla slipped into it. The only true requirement I have is that it can't be weak.

Afrin, the Miracle Drug

I was rather under the weather this last week, as was little Dominic. All thanks to his Uncle/Godfather... No, these things are just bound to happen, especially with two "immune compromised" individuals like a pregnant woman and a small child. But we're back, feeling better, and regaining our groove.

Under normal circumstances I often get sinus colds--in fact, I even did a post a while ago about the nature of sinus cavities and "sinusitis", so I won't rehash any of the gory details. For some reason, though, pregnant women are even more prone to sinus inflammation. Something with extra blood for the baby, maybe? So this cold just knocked me off my feet. I was miserable. Exhausted and yet, sleep was almost impossible because either I couldn't breathe, needed chapstick for my poor lips (since I was solely breathing through my mouth), or I felt like I was choking on phlegm. Sorry, I couldn't resist some gory details...

The only thing that got me through this latest attack upon my immune system was Afrin. I had first been introduced to Afrin in junior high by my best friend. She used it for her allergies and was an Afrin-holic, she had so many. I didn't suffer much then, and I had no allergies, so I thought of it only as an allergy nose spray.

Then my oldest brother, the one who should have been a salesman--he can convince you to buy just about anything he happens to be impressed by, regaled me with the wonders of Afrin. Two puffs in each nostril and you will feel like a different person in 30 seconds, guaranteed. I was a bit skeptical. I mean, I couldn't breathe out of my nose at all. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I was willing to put something into my nose only because it couldn't possibly be worse than how it already felt.

20 seconds later, no joke, I felt relief. It's hard to even put words to it. The mucus in my nose just "shrunk" and suddenly the air could get by! I have no idea how this works, but it was miraculous. And it lasted for ten hours of near bliss. Breathing. Sniffing. Relieving head pressure. Wow. I'm a believer.

Beware, though, you are only supposed to take Afrin for three days or you will become addicted.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

Here are a few gadgets in honor of Konrad, who recently came to visit.

1. Dust Buster with swivel head:
Wow! This little baby does it all. It gets in the cracks of the high chair, it gets under the high chair, in corners, around trim...I've dusted cobwebs with it, cleaned out the minivan, and vacuumed thousands of cracker crumbs off the floor. My particular dust buster is sweeter than most because it has an extendable nose and that end has different angles you can position it in. Plus it is rechargeable.

2. KitchenAid Mixer: This hefty gadget doesn't need much selling. It does all my work for me. I throw in the ingredients and walk away to watch Seinfeld while it sits on the counter stirring, beating, and whipping.

3. Toaster Oven: I'm just continually amazed at how much cooler the toaster oven is than the toaster. I mean, it's going to take up space in your kitchen either way...but if you have a toaster oven you can also grill hot dogs, bake biscuits, or cook chicken breasts without heating up the whole house. And oversized and irregular-shaped bread fits!

4. Power doors on minivan: We almost went with the other model to save money and man o man would that have been a mistake. See, I have these two buttons on my keychain, right below the lock and unlock buttons, that will open either the left or right side door. I push it and the door slides open, just like magic. No need for me to pull the door open while struggling with Dominic, diaper bag, and groceries. Love my power doors. Think power garage door...but on a car.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Faux Pas

A faux pas was committed before my very eyes this morning. A bug. In my shower. His faux pas, literally, "false step" was not one of fashion or social mishap, no, it cost him his life.

While lathering yummy Herbal Essence shampoo in my hair, I spy the forlorn, leggy black creature mockingly crawling around the top edge of the tile. Inwardly I want to scream and make someone, anyone, come kill it for me but outwardly I remain calm and simply proceed with my routine, although I do pick up the conditioner bottle and contemplate smashing him. I reject this as messy and unnecessary. I resolve to ignore him. This, however, proves to be very difficult as he crawls from one end of the shower to the other, just above eye level. I must keep watch lest he come closer, or disappear! Then, just when I think I can take it no longer, he makes a move off the edge of the tile and starts his descent. But then, the faux pas, he hits a droplet of water and gravity takes its course. He plummets to the tub floor, the tub that usually bothers me because it doesn't drain well. But today is my lucky day. His false step sent him to his death--a watery, thankless death without grace. Good bye bug. No more faux pas for you. (by the way, what is the plural of faux pas, anyone?)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

T.S. Eliot -- "Do I dare to eat a peach?"

Our adventures this weekend picking our own peaches at a local orchard gave new meaning to Eliot's question, "Do I dare to eat a peach?" from his great narrative poem full of luscious images and immortal questions "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". Read it here.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Problem of Motherhood

Simply put: there's just no healthy competition.

What can I possibly mean by this absurd comment about the all-consuming vocation of motherhood? Motherhood simply does not and cannot thrive on competition. In fact, competition is almost antithetical to the task before me. Yet for someone who loves the rush and edge that comes from a competitive game, this can be very tiresome. I can never win as a mother. The game is never over, with my sorry opponents limping back to their locker rooms to lick their wounds. My performance in the match won't raise my value or make me the MVP. A crowd isn't there to cheer me on and give me that adrenaline rush to push meI am through to the end even when I am weary beyond belief. Motherhood is just hard. No cheerleaders, no time limit, and not really any rules.

How can we measure our progress as mothers? Is it the amount of patience we display during the day? Or the ease with which we can whip up a meal for six people? Perhaps it's the number of children we can carry at one time, the spotlessness of our bathrooms (ha!), or our overwhelming charm while sporting the latest maternity fashions... Sometimes I wish parenting had a referee, rules, and a clear end. First one to twenty-one. Two out of three. Best of six. I win, and now you must all bow down to me..

Monday, June 23, 2008

Exciting News!

Profile of Baby

Leg Shot

It's a Girl!!

And this was her first message,
"Everything is 'A Ok', Mom and Dad"

The Most Maddening Thing in the Word

1) Opening a cupboard and having something (usually unexpectedly) fall out at you, perhaps into your gooey cake batter. Shaking off the immediate frustration and perhaps unspeakable (and hopefully unspoken) word, you clean off the baking powder, balsamic vinegar, or box of raisins, and shove it back into its place. You show it who's boss. Until it resists its firm placement and reasserts its gravitational forces to leap out at you, again. After this most maddening defeat, you throw the offending object aside in a mild rage and huff. If you are smart, you leave the kitchen immediately and call for backup.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Glory of Saturday Mornings

Tomorrow is Saturday, specifically, Saturday Morning. Why do I still get so excited about that prospect when I don't work a regular job and my husband is now home for the summer, when weekends and weekdays are almost indistinguishable, you may ask? Saturday morning cartoons? Sleeping in? (ha!) A peaceful cup of tea? It's none of these. "What is it?!" you impatiently exclaim, since I have piqued your curiosity to the max with my phenomenal lead-in.
You'll never guess. But try, hold something in your mind and tell me later.

Garage sales.

Yard sales.

Rummage sales.

These yard, garage, or driveway sales really excite me. I love the hunt. I love the endless possibilities. I love the price. Rummage sales are the one place that I can afford to buy just about anything they might be selling. There might be a brand new air-popper for $1, toddler toys for $.50 each, $5 for a bag full of maternity clothes, craft materials (picture frames, ribbon, yarn, paint, etc), and let's not forget furniture. Furniture, O the furniture. Our living room is almost entirely furnished by yard sale steals.

For those of you who are amateurs at this art, let me share a few tips. 1) There are two kinds of yard sales. Those who are trying to "recover lost cost" and those who simply want to rid themselves of clutter. The first type maybe have some nice items, but they are not usually a steal of a deal. These people have Gymboree and Ralph Lauren baby clothes and they are trying to charge $3 or $5 for a small article of children's clothing. These sales are usually to be avoided unless you are looking for something specific and willing to pay "premium" for it. The second type is pretty self-explanatory. They have finally realized that their stuff is overwhelming them, and God bless them, they getting rid of it at next-to-nothing prices. I must add here that this second category also has a subset. Junk sales and worthwhile sales. Usually you can ascertain this by a simple driveby. Junk sales have lots of tables of knick-knacky type things, broken looking furniture, and general "attic-type" items. Worthwhile sales may be disorganized and have things still in boxes, but they look relatively recent (<5 years) and you can see at least one item in a category you are looking for (where you see one, there is usually more is a rule of thumb that I go by). When a cheap sale has worthwhile items, you are in for a real HAUL. But don't just buy something because it's a good deal. Make sure you know where it will go or what exactly you will do with it, or you'll be having the next rummage sale. That is, unless you buy things at rummage sales and resell them on Ebay...I've often thought about this...

So, did I mention that I love this? Yes! tomorrow morning is Saturday morning. (Out here rummage sales are Saturdays and Sundays, not Fridays and Saturdays...) Yippee!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friends for Sale on Ebay

After Doggy's swim in the toilet last week, I decided that we needed a backup. Dominic's beloved blue Doggy might not make it on his own. Lest we be caught with Doggy's entrails pulled out or flushed down the toilet, plunged into the bathtub, stuffed into the garbage, or worse yet, absent because he was left behind after a visit to Grandma and Grandpa's, I broke down and bought one. Who would have thought that even such a treasured companion, consoler, and sleep aid as Doggy is for sale on Ebay.

After "new Doggy" arrived, I introduced "old Doggy" and "new Doggy". Here are some photos from their first playdate.

I swear, these two puppies are exactly the same. Just one, "old Doggy" has been loved by his master for twelve months.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bathroom Run

I'm in the bathroom getting ready and Dominic pushes the dorm open and forges through. He immediately goes to the toiletry drawer and begins pulling out powder, perfume, and a hair brush. After I rescue these items and deny him further access to that drawer, he moves to a smaller drawer next to it. Pulling out a handful of Q-tips he glances at me and seeing the disapproval on my face high tails it out of the bathroom, but curiously enough he stops by the door. I turn around and see he's stopped because he is concentrating so hard as he tries to get it into his ear. Looks like he likes the feeling of Q-tips in his ears too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Stolen Funny

I'm sort of addicted to Danielle Bean's website...she's great. Anyway, her latest post was just too good not to copy for your amusement. Her daughter, Gabby, is five. Isn't this how life goes?

I just want my birthday cake to have a princess on it. Wearing a crown. And a sparkly dress. And then I want there to be a sunshine wearing sunglasses with a big smile. And of course lots of flowers with grass. And maybe some butterflies. And lots of fives, of course, because I am turning five. And don’t just write “Happy Birthday” on it, either. You should write “Happy Birthday to Gabby. Gabby is turning five. We love you, Gabby.” And don’t forget about the fives. Because I am turning five and it’s going to be my magic birthday.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The EX-Terminator

All right, I admit it. I have a hopeless crush on the bug man after what he did for me.

I called maintenance with a request to have the exterminator come because I had been seeing roaches (I think) and some other smaller bugs that I wouldn't go away. Fully expecting a similar disaster to that of the Carbon Monoxide (see CO-Habitating Post), I hesitated to call, and then when I finally did, prepared myself for a hopeless parade of nonsense taking up to a month to fully resolve the issue. I was also hesitant to have an exterminator come into my home with his full suit on and set off a stinky, dangerous bug bomb with Dominic here.

Instead, I was amazed to hear 1) the exterminator comes every other week and 2) we'll send him by as soon as he gets here. Most shocking of all, I hear the unmistakable pound of a serviceman on my door just 3 hours after I called. The bug man had come. He looked just like a normal respectable guy. No suit, no tank. Just a little wand and container.

You have bugs? Yes, I have bugs. Where? In the kitchen, in almost every cabinet and counter and under the sink. All right, let me take a look.

I disappear into the back room with Timmy and Dominic both wailing. Timmy because this man is a stranger and Dominic because I have told him "no" he can't stay in the kitchen and "help".

I come out minutes later to see if everything is going okay, and he tells me he's found the bugs and will take care of them. Very kindly he reassures me, lots of people think that they need to just put up with bugs, but that's not true. They're not a fact of life, and I can get rid of them. Maybe they came in with an appliance (the new stove????), or slipped in through a crack. Clearly you keep everything very clean, don't worry about that. See these paper bags under the sink, they need to go. Bugs love paper bags. I put beads of gel in all the cracks and in the corners of cupboards. They will not survive this stuff. Anything else? Okay, give me a call if you see any bugs in a week, and I'll come and do a second round.


The next morning, I walk into the kitchen and the casualties are strewn across my floor, their pathetic black bodies limp on the linoleum. I find a sick delight in this. 10 more down. We are winning the battle. The very fact that they are coming out during the day and shakily walking around means we're getting to them. They are nocturnal, and their appearance means that they are drunken with insecticide and losing their buggy instincts. Ha ha ha, I say (out loud). Good bye bugs.

Thank you, bug man. You're so nice.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dominic's Posse

These are Dominic's little friends Timmy (15 months) and Margaret (21 months). Wish we could have that much fun just sitting on a couch!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Damage Control Is More Like It

We were having a guest over shortly after Dominic's bedtime, so I thought I'd get a little jump on the tidying up that inevitably needed to be done after Dominic has been around.

Having this picking up down to a relative science, I put all the colorful board books on their shelf, shove the talking stuffed animals into their shelf, and pick up all miscellaneous legos, blocks, and measuring cups off the floor and back into their wicker basket. I scoop up the throw pillows, fluff them a bit and put them on the loveseat. Then I grab the sandals, pajamas, and magazine that Dominic has dragged out into the hallway and I quickly haul them back to their various places.

By the time I get back to living room--mind you, not more than 90 seconds later--half the throw pillows are on the floor, he's pulled the wicker basket back out, and he's sitting in a pile with all his books and animals. With moderate exasperation, I start back at the throw pillows, vaguely thinking that this is silly and I should just wait until he goes to bed. But, wanting to have it done as soon as possible, I neglect that small, reasonable voice and go about my re-doing.
With manufactured patience, I kindly command Dominic, "Go find your Doggy." In his extremely endearing way, he toddles off with his cute little legs making his diaper crinkle at every penguin step. I sigh to myself and finish picking up the books. It's a good thing he's so cute and at least knows what Doggy means.

Then I hear the unmistakable noise of a whole box of legos being dumped out on his bedroom floor. Not so cute. Bedtime. Now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dominic Words

Maa-ma = Mama
Da = Daddy
Ny ny = bedtime
Ra-ra = raisin
Craw-ka = cracker
Ba = bottle or ball (context)
Duh-kuh = doggy
eye = hi
O = hello
eeeh = everything else

Monday, May 12, 2008

Could I be the One You're Looking For?

No joke, these are personal ads from the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books.

So, who's type are you?

BRAINS, LOOKS, and a great sense of fun. Successful, Boston based, Ph.D., writer. Sparkles with warmth, style, and a quiet sexiness. Tone, fit, easygoing, romantic, blonde. Proactive and generous, yet no tolerance for injustice or arrogance. Game for travel adventures--penchant for Rome, San Miguel (dreams of one day speaking Spanish fluently), can never get enough of London, fantasizes about visiting Bali with special man. Fan of political humor, jazz, champagne, good fiction, steaks on the grill, sunny days. Appreciative of talent, be it sports, theater, music. Seeks bright, passionate, active man. 50-early 70s.

or perhaps:

PLEASURE-LOVING WRITER and intellectual; dark hair, nice slender shape. Academic with no time for the academic hooey; immoderately literary, unexpectedly sexy. Ardent, if unsophisticated, observer of rivers, trees, and tides. ...

but really, this is probably the best fit:

INTELLECTUAL ODYSSEUS (Ph.D., 66) seeking California Penelope to share the arts and life with.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The "eeehs"

Over and over, all day long, I hear "eeeh" "eeeh" "eeeh". It wouldn't be so bad if there were any variety in the tone of that nasal, monosyllabic utterance. I am very excited for the day that he learns some basic words. Here's a samplig of what the eeehs look like and possible interpretations. Keep in mind that for each "word" there are enough eehs not only to get my attention, but to motivate me to action.

eeeh...I'm hungry...

I'm thirsty...

eeeh...I'm done...

eeeh...I'm stuck...

eeeh...I can't reach...

eeeh...I want that...

eeeh...I can't have that...

Right now, in fact, as I type, I have gotten thirteen in a row, I assume because I'm on the computer and he's not allowed to be. Or maybe because I'm on the computer and not paying direct attention to him. Sometimes, simply by ignoring the eeeh, it goes away. Except for the ringing in my ears. Will that ever go away?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Cool word: Thurible

I just read this word in a First Things article and had no idea what in meant. Now it will probably appear in the next three things I read, as always seems to happen.

thurible (thŏŏr'ə-bəl) n.

A censer used in certain ecclesiastical ceremonies or liturgies.

"In truth, though, confronted by such enormous suffering, Christians have less to fear from the piercing dialectic of the village atheist than they do from the earnestness of certain believers, and from the clouds of cloying incense wafting upward from the open thuribles of their hearts." (Tsunami and Theodicy http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Color, Paint, and Pomegranate

Fruit is amazing. This is one aspect of creation that never fails to astound me. The colors are phenomenal. Painters have the hardest time trying to copy the pure, bright, rich yellow of a lemon or the luscious translucent purple of a grape. In my oil painting class I must have spent two weeks trying to capture the right vibrancy, shape, and texture of an orange for my still life. Granted, non-amateur painters can do it much faster because they have learned the tricks and have the best, lead-based cadmium paints, but even so, fruits (and vegetables) are an endless subject for painting because of their variety and pleasing appearance.

If it's good fruit, the inside will be even better than the outside. How can it be that this fruit, spawned by millions of years of evolution, has decided that is advantageous to be the right size for a human hand. To be tough on the outside to resist insects and other damaging forces? To be juicy and easy to eat on the inside? To be ready to eat without any preparation?

When you want to eat it, you can cut it in half. But until you cut it in half, exposing the succulent inside, the rind or peel protects the fruit from spoiling. It almost seems like fruit was made to be eaten...

There are "personal" fruits like:
Kumquats (I've never actually eaten one of these)

And then there are some fruits, like the pineapple, that are clearly meant for group consumption. I can't think of any ontological reason for this, but it is interesting.

Musk melon
Coconut (does that count as a fruit?)

Then there is pomegranate, which is just plain strange. Is it a personal or a shared fruit? Surely pomegranates are not actually meant for any sort of nutrition. I mean, they taste great, but they are so much work to eat. You eat 10 seeds and are then too tired to eat any more. Maybe they are dieters' fruit.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Son the Plumber

A few days ago I heard a little commotion in our bathroom and went to see what was the cause. Allow me to paint the scene for you:

I could see the profile of a chubby little boy looking very proud of the toilet plunger that he had sneakily managed to get (it's one of the disallowed items in our house...as is the bathroom, actually) as he tried to climb into the stand up shower with it. About half-way into the shower, however, he just about lost his balance causing him to bend over at the waist, giving me a nice view of his little "plumber's" backside. All the while he never let go of the plunger.

I don't think he got disciplined for either offense this time because I couldn't stop laughing. At least I managed to leave the room without him seeing me. :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ice Cream Junkie

I think I have just proven to myself that I am an ice cream addict with no self-control (although I was rather impressed with myself during Lent...it helps when you don't have any sweets to eat in the house). They say one sign of an alcoholic is if they start their drinks before noon. Ice cream just seems like it would follow a similar "rule", doesn't it?

Today, at 11:00 AM I looked into my freezer and saw Twix Triple Chocolate and Mint Cookies and Cream. My brain thought, "but Amy, it's not even noon yet! You really shouldn't. That's what addicts do." And yet, to borrow from Paul, I did what I did not want to do. Although, if I'm , I really wanted to eat the ice cream. The struggle was only in principle. So, I scooped that rich chocolate ice cream into a bowl--a small bowl my pride must interject--and enjoyed the delights of ice cream before noon. Yes, that's symptomatic of a junkie. I am no longer in denial. I am a bona fide ice cream addict.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sprite and Ham?

I scored my ten pound ham--my free ham, I must proudly add, poured Sprite and orange juice over it, and pressed brown sugar onto the surface. Then I put it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours and ignored it. Took it out to slice it. And yum. "Yum," that's exactly what Dominic said about it. Everyone else that we had over seems to have liked it too. You could have been there, counted among my guests, eating sweet juicy ham, cheesy scalloped potatoes, broccoslaw salad (I can't take any credit for making that), and scrumptous dessert... Yes, this is raw bribery, if you come visit us, I'll make you food that makes you say, "yum."

Now that I've discovered a new use for Sprite (or ginger ale, as the recipe originally called for), I'm thinking about trying other sodas in cooking. I've heard that Coca-Cola makes a great meat tenderizer in a marinade. Maybe I'll try that for my next cooking adventure. Maybe when you come.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Proof: Mischief Runs Deep

I think that those of you who have been following the blog since the entry "Lessons from Maestro Dominic" about his computer manipulation tactics will appreciate these photos where he is caught in action and reprimanded (as you can see by the second, oh-so-pathetic face). How appropriate that he's in his jail baby pajamas!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

And then I lost them all

Today ranks just shy of miraculous.

First I found a pacifier under the couch, the couch I look under almost daily for little books, big books, and TV remotes.

Then I found a pacifier under the crib. Not a big surprise, I just hadn't bothered to crawl under there to find it until today. Either way, it's another pacifier for the diminishing stockpile.

Pulling a toy telephone out from the toy box so that I can replace the batteries, I spy yet another pacifier! And then, as I move a few toys I find a second pacifier! Apparently, Dominic likes to stow them away with his toys. How orderly of him.

Then, putting away the diapers that Dominic had strewn all over the nursery floor, I find yes, you guessed it, another pacifier in the bottom of the basket.

Tickled pink with my miraculous findings, I stored the pacifiers safely away to be lost again one at a time.

But this was the real clincher. I got out the air pop popcorn maker from the bottom shelf of the hall closet and was about to make popcorn when I saw a star-shaped block sitting in the hole. So that's where that went. I pull it out and underneath is still another pacifier. No joke.

So, in one miraculous day, we went from one to seven pacifiers. There are still two lurking around...

Monday, March 31, 2008

What?, There's Gas Leaking? (Part II of CO)

After the terrors of the previous night, I was determined to stop CO-habitating immediately. First thing that morning, I call up the apartment help line. You can eavesdrop on our conversation:

"Hi, this is Amy in apartment C13 and I would like to have maintenance come look at our apartment because I believe that carbon monoxide might be leaking from our stove."

"What, there's gas leaking?"

"No, I think it's carbon monoxide."

"Can you smell it?"

"No, I can't smell anything. It's an odorless gas."

"So you can't smell it?"..."Well, I'll have maintenance come over as soon as they can and take a look."

I hang up with little confidence that a decent explanation would make its way to maintenance.
Surprisingly quick, and unusually prompt, a maintenance guy pounds on my door. He says, "You have a gas leak?" Expecting this from my previous phone conversation, I let him in and re-explain the whole situation about how I got sick the night before and had gotten sick one other time from, presumably, the same thing, which I suspect from my research was carbon monoxide, which doesn't smell, leaking from our stove. He swaggers over to the stove and preformed the "sniff test". "Well, I don't smell anything. Are you sure it was leaking gas?" He opens the oven door, peers in, shuts it and says, "I don't see anything..."

After a few minutes of indecision and no further inspection, our maintenance guy decides to call the fire department to see if they know anything about carbon monoxide. He asks me if I have a phone book and, after not being able to find the phone number there, he walks out the door muttering to himself. I have no idea what is going on. Ten minutes later there's the unmistakable pounding of the fire department on our door. They pound as if they intend to break the door down if you don't come. One time earlier that year the fire department had come to our apartment looking for some sort of water leak and just about gave us heart attacks with their unexpected and incessant thumps. Holding Timmy on one hip (I'm babysitting) and corralling Dominic with my leg so that he doesn't escape, I open the door to two firemen in full get-up. The tanks, masks and everything! Timmy takes one look and immediately starts to wail, really loudly. Dominic just keeps on trying to escape but every few seconds confusedly(and cutely) look concerned that Timmy is crying.

The firemen immediately go over to the oven and check for natural gas leaks. Reporting that they can't find any, they remove their masks and tell me, over Timmy's screams, that they are going to be checking all of the apartments in the building for gas leaks, especially on the balconies where the furnaces are located. In vain do I try to redirect them to carbon monoxide instead of natural gas. In vain do I tell them I have never smelled leaking gas. And in vain, do the fire men come. Out they go onto our balcony. They came back in and Timmy re-commences his wailing.

They leave and just when everyone is calmed down they return to tell me there did not find any natural gas leaks and are going to leave now. Timmy begins to wail again. Walking outside to see them leave in the fire truck, I am astonished to see that there is not one but five fire trucks outside my apartment for "carbon monoxide". Wow.

The maintenance guy returns and makes fun of the fire department and their big to-do. He tells me that a guy from PECO (the electric company) is going to come since the fire department didn't find anything. Thirty minutes later a very boring looking man in a blue collar shirt knocks normally, comes in and asks me if I'm experiencing a gas leak. Almost completely exasperated, I again explain that no, there is no gas leak, I think it's carbon monoxide... Without missing a beat, this man, says, "Oh, well I wish they'd told me that. I'll have to go to my truck and get the carbon monoxide detector." (!) So he comes back, uses his little CO honing device and discovers that yes, the stove is producing some CO.

Very knowledgeably he explains that all stoves produce some CO when they are used, and that this stove, while it is a little high in its CO production, is still within the acceptable range for a stove. When I ask him why our carbon monoxide detector didn't go off, he says that it is only programmed to go off if there are large amounts of CO in a short amount of time. It doesn't register a lower amount over a longer amount of time. Some people are also simply more sensitive to CO. There isn't a window in our kitchen, so try to open the glass door in the living room to get a little circulation and take breaks so that you're not by the stove for so long. He then explains to maintenance that they can turn down a certain valve a little bit and the oven won't produce as much CO. I thank him profusely for actually dealing with my problem. He unceremoniously leaves, and I feel much better.

An hour later I get a call from the same maintenance guy, we're getting you a new stove. It should be there tomorrow. Apparently no man on the maintenance crew is capable of turning down stove valves and therefore this situation required that I get a nice, new shiny clean white stove. Hey, good thing that I didn't clean the old oven like I meant to last week! (and this one is self-cleaning). Hurrah for CO...

4 Reasons to own Shakespeare

1. Impress your friends (if they're of that sort...). They're usually pretty on the shelf

2. Woo anyone, anytime (or re-woo)
  • Her passions are made of nothing but the finest part of pure love. ~Antony and Cleopatra
  • Hear my soul speak: The very instant that I saw you, did My heart fly to your service. ~The Tempest
  • But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?it is the east, and Juliet (insert name) is the sun. ~Romeo and Juliet
3. A treasured source of clever insults
  • I do desire we may be better strangers.
    As You Like It (3.2.248)
  • There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune. 1 Henry IV (3.3.40)
  • Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter!
    King Lear (2.2.61)
By the way, if a you are curious, you can create your own very clever Shakespearean insults at http://www.pangloss.com/seidel/shake_rule.html

4. Complete volumes have innumerable uses.
See picture at the right.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


CO-Habitating produces unseen and disastrous, even deadly, results. Forgive me if you've already heard this story, I needed to write it up. (this was two months ago)

A dinner party seemed like a good idea. We love to entertain and since we had six dozen pierogi taking up a large portion of our shrinking freezer (see the "Pierogi Pinching" blog entry), we invited our friends the Fords over for pierogi fried in butter, drizzled with butter and some carmelized onions and peppers on the side. Just as I was almost finishing up in the kitchen a pounding headache started. The kind that stops your thinking and sort of debilitates you. Thinking that maybe I just needed more coffee, I reheated the several hour old coffee and dumped that into my system. But I continued bustling about for a few minutes, determined that we would have a nice, complete dinner.

We all ate pierogi, I think, and I tried to remain calm on the outside while the gray matter inside battled against it's restrictive cranial case. Feeling something of a hero, we finished up pierogi, and I even managed to swallow a few myself. It would be a shame to let all of those delicious cabbage pierogi get eaten by other people. Then I asked Matt to move every one to the living room for dessert (I thought that I might feel better if I sat there for a little while). Then I had to excuse myself for a minute to use the bathroom, puked in my (fortunately) just-made-sparkly-for-company toilet and felt better, sort of. An hour later, after resting for a while, I felt much better.

Now, all suffering aside, what could this have been caused from? If it were just this one time, I would dismiss it as just some fluke, probably underestimating my addiction to coffee. But that's simply not the fact. Almost this exact scenario had happened about a month before. So I got to thinking, always dangerous, I know... The result was that I deduced that the Fords were causing my sudden illness. Clearly, I was allergic to them at our dinner parties. Adios. No more of you. Both times--no, the only times--that I became ill like that, they were the only ones here! Coincidence?

With the help of the Oracle (Google), I looked up my symptoms and matched them to the only thing that Matt and I could relate it to: the kitchen, in particular, the oven. Each time I had been in the kitchen for several hours while laboring closely to the stove. The hypothesis? Carbon Monoxide leaking (CO) and lengthy exposure. In case you you're not up your your CO stats, lots of people die for Carbon Monoxide each year, both unintentionally and intentionally. This is what suicidal people rely on when the stay in their car in the garage with the exhaust collecting.

So what next? We had a CO detector, it didn't go off. But I don't really want to use my stove until we figure it out... So I call the apartment's maintenance department and the typical drama that normally results from calling maintenance ensued... Tune in for that adventure next post!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Too Good To Pass Up

Joining The Lord In Loving

"The challenge of the cross demands that I give
my ego into Jesus’ hands, not so that he may
destroy it but so that in him it may become free
and expand...Thus a great deal of patience and
humility belongs to this way, just as the Lord
had patience with us: it is not a headlong leap
into heroism that makes someone a saint but
patiently and humbly walking with Jesus, step
by step. Holiness does not consist in
adventurous achievements of virtue, but in
joining him in loving. Hence the real saints are
also quite human, quite natural people in whom
through Easter transformation and purification
what is human appears afresh in its total
originality and beauty."

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
The Yes of Jesus Christ

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Super-Mom Syndrome

What possesses a mother to spend an hour baking a cake and then two and half more hours with a crusty, barely squeezable pastry tube (or ziploc bag) with a star-tip carefully poked into the corner? Clearly, an abundance of love, overzealous party-planning, and too much DIY-ness (do it yourself). But it didn't turn out half bad. I also painted that little Mickey Mouse picture out of desperation that I couldn't find any Mickey decorations in the party stores because he has been rudely shoved aside by Nemo, Cars, and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The (Dis)Organized Nightstand

I am reading lots of books in my abundance of spare time. Perhaps that's why they are all half-finished. Or half-begun. As much as I love being caught in the middle of a book that I just can't put down, a book that makes me sad when its over (even if it was 850 pages long, like David Copperfield), there is something really exciting about beginning a new book. Introductions are great. I love it when the author tells me about what they are going to tell me. I finish the introduction and I think, "Yes, this sounds interesting. I shall begin Chapter One tomorrow, when I'm more awake." And this, I think, is how I have collected so many books on my night stand.

Right now there is George Weigel's A Witness to Hope, Chesterton's Biography of St. Thomas and Francis, Annie Dillard's Teaching a Stone To Talk, Aeneid, Danielle Bean's Mom to Mom, and a copy of the magazine Real Simple. Now you have a picture of the quantity of reading material on my nightstand (try to imagine that none of it is in disarray, please). In all but Aeneid, I have actually gotten very far into all of these books, at least 100 pages, I would say. What is it about finishing a book that eludes me? Les Miserables is back on the shelf and I only made it to page 600/1000. It's not quite that I lose interest because whenever I pick the book back up I'm instantly interested. I think that the real problem is that it becomes buried under another book and then is not in my line of sight. I was reading yesterday, in Real Simple, if I recall correctly, about different types of organizing personalities. I don't remember them all, only the one I identified with: the visual organizer. These are people who intentionally leave things out to remind themselves to do them. Like leaving bills on the desk so you remember to pay them. These people hate to put things away immediately because they are afraid that they will forget about them.

This is me. I leave boxes out to be put away, I leave ingredients on the counter so I remember what I was going to make, I leave lots of papers in my purse, and I leave my books on the nightstand. I think it works like this, I leave them all out, so I will keep reading them, but then they get covered by the latest book and my method fails. Maybe someday I'll try to switch to another organization method. Any ideas?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Sell Your Old, Heavy, No Good Laptop

For $$$$

So I'm cleaning house...call it Spring Cleaning (if you have a low view of "cleaning"). I went through the closet and took three garbage bags of stuff to the clothing drop box. Lots of old books are posted on half.com, though I still haven't figured out what we'll do if they don't actually sell there. I'm even getting rid of tupperware! I'm telling you, all this junk is just getting on my nerves.

My latest purge is the old laptop that I bought during college. Except for threatening a "system failure" when I was trying to print a copy of my not-back-up thesis for my defense, it was a great computer. It had a few quirks, the g, h, and backspace would randomly stop working resulting in really funny e-mails where I said "i, ow are you? tins are ood ere." But now it's gone. I sold it to LaptopsIntoCash.com for a good price. They sent me a pre-paid box. I sent them the laptop. They sent me money. Not bad!

Now, do I sell Matt's old, angering me every day, every second computer too? Then take the proceeds and buy something that actually works? That's probably what we'll do. I hate computers.

Who knows what'll be next to go. Maybe Dominic. He is taking up more and more space and never stays tidy. In fact, he even makes everything else a mess. I think that'd solve most of my problem. Yes. Dominic has got to go. Any takers?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Latest From Dominic, A Video

This is the short version of a little video that I'm making for Dominic's first birthday. This one captures the last two and a half months, which have been full of new adventures like walking and babbling. This will kind of be like seeing it live...I hope.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Few Tips from Maestro Dominic

Should you ever desire to touch an object that is off limits for some reason, you will benefit from a few of the tactics that I have gathered in my observations of Dominic. This is pure will, unspoiled by the experience of life. He is not even one yet! Here is how he would advise you:

The first method is, of course, the easiest. Simply touch the object. There is no need for subtlety or stealth. If this should fail, wait until the "guard" looks away and then attack.

Now, if the direct method is not working, perhaps you should resort to using a secondary object. I would recommend something familiar like a stuffed Doggy or sippy cup but in a pinch blocks or a little book will work. Here's how this works. While you are playing near it, casually drop your Doggy or cup onto the keyboard, trying your best to make it look like an accident and then, as you pick up your Doggy, extend the time it takes to pick it up as long as possible by grazing all of the keys and pressing a few if you can manage.

While the keyboard is clearly the most fun, it is still fun to touch any part of a computer. I like to try to poke the screen with one finger or come up to the computer from the back side and feel the logo. But my very favorite is to come up along the side of the keyboard and try to eat the side with all of the holes for things. If you can't get to the keyboard, the power cord is also very tasty, especially the little end.

I have just a few more tricks for you. Though of course you cry whenever they strike down your efforts with, "No" and a hand slap, cry whenever you walk by the computer, even if nobody says, "No". It will get you some sympathy and maybe they will let up their vigilance. Try to rest your head on the laptop, as if you are really, really tired. They think that's cute. My most recent tactic, though, is my special invention. It's called hover hands. Here's how you do it. Hold you hands about two inches above the keyboard for about thirty seconds moving them back and forth but making it clear that you are not touching the keyboard. Then, when you have them convinced, drop your hands onto the keyboard. Presto!

Just be sure that you don't get in trouble when you actually weren't trying to get the computer. For example, as happened to me yesterday, if you happen to lose your balance and your hand accidentally falls upon the keyboard, straighten up immediately and put your offending hand straight up in the air away very dramatically and away from the computer. "Hands up" they call it.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Dominic Hits The "Snackpot"

He toddles across the apartment, his chubby legs move his rolly little body, and his diaper crinkles at his every "stride". Often he struts about enjoying the pure pleasure of it; he is tickled by his newfound skill and utterly pleased with himself for walking as a biped. Now that he can walk around and bang two objects together (usually blocks or balls, but it is never limited to that, shoes, cups, coasters, lots of things will work), he thinks his little life just couldn't get better.

This particular time, however, he seems to actually have a purpose for his toddle across the apartment. Curious, I sit back to watch where mischief will take him. That's the nice thing about a small apartment, I can watch him play almost anywhere from just one comfy spot on the couch. Dominic moves out of the living room, past the easy chair, and through the dining room chairs, to his high chair. His high chair affords him plenty of entertainment aside from eating in it for hours every day. He has figured out how to push it around, he scatters the cheerios beneath it, or he plays behind it in his "cave". Today he does none of these. Instead he walks right up to it, full of purpose, and thrusts his chubby little hands into the seat of the high chair, to pull them back out laden with "snacks" which he promptly shoves into his mouth, giggling between his snacks. It seems that our little saver was thinking ahead and had dropped (intentionally?) a few snacks there 'for later'. Dominic hit the "Snackpot"--and scored big time.

Just to save my housekeeping image which is probably in shambles now, I would like to say for the record that I do clean his high chair frequently. Just not immediately after he eats because I get occupied with cleaning him up, changing a diaper, or doing dishes. But it's not typical that there are lots of "snacks" there for him. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guess the 13th President of the United States...

If you said, Millard Fillmore, you are the winner!

If you're like me, however, failed by public education and your own memory, you probably can't name very many presidents according to their numerical terms, and Millard Fillmore probably wasn't on the top of your list. In fact, when I recently mused to my brother, "Can you believe that we had a president named Millard Fillmore?" he replied with all seriousness, "No way! We did?" Precisely my point; who knows anything about President Fillmore?

For starters, he served as Vice President from 1849-50 and then acceded to the office of President from 1850-53, after President Zachary Taylor's unexpected and early death. Millard is actually his mother's maiden name (at least there's some explanation for it, right?). He was a self-fashioned man from New York who eventually became a lawyer and started his own law firm and also founded the private University of Buffalo. In 1828 he was elected the the New York Assembly and then Congress until 1843, when he resigned to campaign for Governor of New York (an unsuccessful campaign). Fillmore was against the extension of slavery in the new lands, but he oversaw the Compromise of 1850--which, if you remember your American History was an attempt to solve the disputes over slavery in the territories after the Mexican-American war. The Compromise was to alternately admit slave states and free states to preserve the balance as a means of preserving the unity of the United States.

After his term in the White House, though, he was not very popular because he signed the Fugitive Slave Law which required the capture and return of any escaped slaves, even if they had made it to free territory, and was not re-elected (he later ran on the Know-Nothing ticket opposing Democrat James Buchanan and lost again). Although he is credited with the installation of the first bathtub into the White House, this is actually a tall-tale created by H.L. Mencken 1917 in a fictitious account on the "history of the bathtub." Too bad. That 's a pretty cool legacy. Boo :( He is said to have been quite a pleasant person with a soft eloquence and perhaps low self-confidence. See his picture below. I hope you've this episode of Who's Who?

Portrait of Millard Fillmore
Portrait of Millard Fillmore

The Young and the Restless

Do we not know how confused and weak people are, how everday matters endlessly distract us and fill our thoughts and emotions? It's funny to think that we allow these same matters, silly trifles that we won't even remember the day after tomorrow, to fill our short lives which, you would think, we would treasure above all else. All this cuts us off from our Lord, shutting us off from heaven and choking off prayer, like smoke from a funnel rising and obscuring the light from the sun. And what is smoke? It is made up of tiny black particles. In just the same way, our sins and restlessness (italics mine) rise and obscure everything like smoke -- so that our life ceases to be Christian and becomes vain and pointless.

Father Alexander Men

Isn't this just so true? I think Father Men really hits the nail on the head with this little meditation (Magnificat 3-4-08). Sin obviously obscures our "connection" with heaven, but so too does restlessness. As much as we are to be forward-looking as Christians, we are also supposed to bring in the kingdom of heaven, now. Augustine understood this well when he said that 'Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee'. I found the following entry on restlessness quite interesting (Webster). How often I am guilty of these various forms of restlessness! Even my resting is sometimes restless. So we pray, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul." (Psalm 23)

Restlessness (n.)

1. The quality of being ceaselessly moving or active; "the restlessness of the wind".
2. A lack of patience; irritation with anything that causes delay.
3. A feeling of agitation expressed in continual motion; "he's got the fidgets"; "waiting gave him a feeling of restlessness".
4. Inability to rest or relax or be still.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Forgetful Blessings

I am unexpectedly getting paid for doing my normal household duties. Maybe it's a reward for work well-done. Maybe it's extra incentive to keep doing the everyday tasks. Or maybe it's just a blessing for those of us who can't remember everything.

You see, twice in this last week I have been doing undesirable chores that paid me back. First, I was cleaning out our car, vacuuming, shampooing carpets, dusting, etc. to get it all pretty for Lana when I found $5 under the seat (and a lost mug, book, pacifier, an abundance of change, and a few mismatched socks). Five unexpected dollars in my pocket and a sparkly car to show for my efforts, basically made my day. Then today I was looking under the couch and checking between the seat cushions--always hazardous--trying to find the missing key that Dominic managed to pull off of our old laptop, when I found $10 stuck into the fold of the slipcover/cushion. It was as if someone put it there just so that I would find it!

Have you ever found money in your winter coat when you pull it out in October, after it's been put away all summer? And then, after your exhilaration at finding the money wears off, or perhaps in your exhilaration, you think, maybe I should purposefully put money into my coat pocket so that I can find it later. It's a kind of exciting savings program. If I am this thrilled by finding $5 in my pocket, how would I feel if it were $20? or even $50 (gasp).

But there's one catch, it only works if you forget you left/put it there. So, for those of us who can't remember everything, at least we have this one perk...

Monday, February 25, 2008

Adventures in Odyssey

I won't give you the play-by-play for our recent shopping excursion for a used minivan. The place we ended up at, Royal Motors Leasing, was very modest and the experience was actually relatively painless. After doing significant internet and telephone sleuthing, we found a pretty sound deal. Our new wheels are a shiny, silver 2004 Honda Odyssey EX. A picture of "Odysseus" is below. Just use your imagination to put us into it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Trouble starts with a "T" too

My baby, or should I say toddler, is walking!

One pudgy little step at a time Dominic toddles from the living room to the kitchen, around the island (at my in-laws), then down the hallway and back to the kitchen all "by self". We are in trouble.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tastes Like Chicken, Again

Yesterday was very unusual. A trip to the grocery store actually cast a sunny glow on my otherwise unremarkable, and even somewhat gloomy, day. I scrounged through the freezer and, on account of the appalling lack of options: chicken? chicken? or chicken? reluctantly set about making a cheesy chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole for dinner. After I had covered the casserole in tin foil and tucked it away in the fridge, Dominic was still asleep, so determined to find some deal on meat, I surfed the internet looking at our various grocery stores circulars. For some reason, I get them very sporadically here at the apartment. Looks like Pathmark has the best sales this week. So, despite my hatred of that grocery store (last time I waited 35 minutes in line to check out...), I bundled Dominic up after his nap, strapped him into his carseat, and went off to Pathmark with my grocery list and accordion-style coupon folder.

I was just shopping 5 days ago, so I am on a hunt, not a leisurely browse for my grocery items. Why, you ask, didn't I buy any meat last time I was at the grocery store? Simple. It was ungodly expensive. I refused. So chicken we ate. (And some ground beef I had left in the freezer became chili).

First, through the produce section. Grapes were on sale for $.99/lb (normally $2.99/lb), so I loaded up on those. I threw in two cantaloupes on a similar discount and a few bananas to restock Dominic's breakfast foods. Then I whisked my cart away, back to the meat and poultry section, always against the far wall. Marketing simply amazes me. They have placed all the staple food items again the far walls of the grocery store so that you must walk through at least one aisle to get there. Think about it: milk, eggs, cheese, meat, bread. In the meat department I scan the sale signs and know what I'm looking for round roast, top roast, maybe a pork shoulder, and maybe a whole chicken. Man, did I score. The "Manager's Special" treated me rather well.

Let me give you a little list of what I came away with:
  • Whole roaster chicken $.59/lb (normally $1.29/lb)
  • Angus beef london broil $1.88/lb (normally $4.99/lb)
  • Top round roast $1.99/lb (normally $5.39/lb)
  • Pork shoulder $ .89/lb
Let's be honest. These are sweet deals.

I was feeling pretty smug as Dominic and I exuberantly wheeled our cart to the check-out. We had 20 pounds of meat in our cart, all on super sale. My mouth was watering at the very thought of all that savory, guilt-free beef, chicken, and pork. A sweet deal makes everything sweeter.

Thinking that my trip to Pathmark couldn't really get any better (well, except for the check-out line not taking forever...), I saunter to the front, ready to wait in line. Something on one of those clever marketing end displays caught my attention. Canned, whole peeled plum tomatoes in tomato juice--a staple in my Italian-American food pantry. I mean, I use them in sauce, soup, casserole, taco pie, chili, you name it, I've used whole peeled plum tomatoes in it. I prefer these to the diced or crushed tomatoes (and obviously to tomato sauce) because they are fresher when I chop them myself and have better texture.

Whoa! $.59 for a 28 oz can! UNBELIEVABLE! Oh my gosh, well, how many can I get? Twelve. Okay, I'm getting a whole case then. At regular price these would be $22.68. On sale now I pay $7.08. Quick math, I save $15.60 (although, to be honest, I never buy them at regular price, so my real savings were $4.92, but I normally buy a cheaper brand...these should be better, right?). Sweet. And then, right next to the ever-needed tomatoes was extra virgin olive oil! A huge jug of it, like the ones that turpentine comes in, fifty percent off (and a better deal to begin with because it was a bulk item). So, I picked up one of those to go along with my case of tomatoes. Even sweeter.

Frugality, it seems, is just an integral part of my personality, and I have come to embrace that. I simply love sales, consignment, and coupons. In fact, I even feel guilty if I pay over my preset mental price for any item. Apparently other people have caught on to this. I was amused to realize that when some people buy unexpected things for us, they'll usually excuse the gift with a phrase something like, "they were just having such a good sale...."

Sweet deals do exist, you just have to have the time to wait or search for them. Perhaps another time I will let you in on my tips for finding them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

"Tubby" by the Tub (a companion video)

This video tells more than I ever could about our son's burgeoning personality: lively, energetic, and camera-loving. There's no doubt about it, he is his father's son through and through. The only thing that I can claim (besides his obvious good looks...) is his unmistakable eyebrow raise to accompany any expression. Clearly he gets that from my side--especially my mother and brothers. So, without any further delay, here's the video of my "Tubby" at his favorite place, the tub. I hope this video brings a smile to your face, as it does to mine. Think of it as a visual companion to my post, "The Tub's Edge".

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Lenten Hymn

This was the hymn for the 1st Thursday of Lent from the Magnificat, 2007. As best as I could find, it was written by James Montgomery, 1819 and appears in both Catholic and Protestant hymnals. It reminded me of my own frailty and my desperate need for help--even to pray.

Lord, teach us how to pray aright
With reverence and fear;
Though dust and ashes in thy sight,
We may, we must draw near,
We perish if we cease from prayer,
O grant us pow'r to pray;
And when to meet thee we prepare,
Lord, meet us in the way.

God of all grace, we come to thee
With broken, contrite hearts;
Give what thine eye delights to see,
Truth in the inward parts;
Faith in the only sacrifice
That can for sin atone;
To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,
On Christ, on Christ alone.

I have given up sweets for Lent (all desserts, sweet snacks, and even hot chocolate) and am finding it rather humbling to see just how weak the human body/mind can be. I am not a sweets junkie, and yet, as soon as I have given it up, I find myself dying for chocolate-covered raisins, ice cream, and all manner of tasty fructose treats. This abstinence is proving to be a little difficult. But with God's grace and ever-present help, I will press on. By this small fast, I am fortifying my will to say no when I need to. I am submitting my desires to scrutiny and control. I am suffering in some small way and understanding how hard it is to fast. My prayer is that that this Easter will bring a heart better bent toward Christ, heightened self-control, and a table heaped full of goodies.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bacteria Mask Vs. Sinuses

Sinuses should be seen and not heard. Or rather, they should not even be seen but just be content to lie peacefully underneath it all; yet once or twice a year they decide to make their presence known, just to make sure that they are not being taken for granted (or, like I thought it was when I was younger, "taken for granite"). Either way, it is not a pretty sight when they come out of hiding. The eyes water, the nose runs, you sneeze and have that slightly bleary look with the mouth gaping open just a tad, all the while wishing that you had the guts to go for acupuncture. Sinus pressure is really the only time that acupuncture sounds even remotely appealing. If someone could just prick my cheekbones and let out all that pressure; in my mind it would work just like pricking a helium balloon to let the air out of it. It would make a little funny noise and slowly deflate.

Why do we have sinuses? I know they're little air pockets located behind the forehead, eyes, cheeks, and maybe somewhere else, but what function do they serve? I don't think they are just vestigial organs like the appendix, and clearly they are not an amazing "evolutionary development" like opposable thumbs, so what do they do?

Here, from http://entassociates.com/sinus.htm:

"Sinuses are part of the nasal air and membrane system that produces mucus. Normally, the nose and sinuses produce between a pint and a quart of mucus and secretions per day. This mucus passes into and through the nose, sweeping and washing the membranes, picking up dust particles, bacteria, and other air pollutants along the way. The mucus then flows backward into the throat where it is swallowed, down into the stomach where acids destroy any dangerous bacteria. Most people do not notice this mucus flow because it is just a normal bodily function."

Yuck!!??!! On the other hand, if you can remove yourself from thinking just about mucus and bacteria, this is really a quite ingenious design. Just think, we could have some sort of mask over the attractive face or a filter system that obstructed our normal activities to repel dust, bacteria, and other small particles. The runny nose is your sinuses' attempt to flush out the bacteria with extra secretion, just as coughing is the lung's attempt to expel the gunk caught there. In fact, even when the sinuses "malfunction"and hurt because your sinuses have swollen too much and significantly narrowed, or even closed, the drainage openings causing a back-up of mucus. But even when you end up with painful sinusitis, the effect is fatigue and discomfort. Both of which force you to rest and take a break from normal activity. This is quite brilliant. Your body quickly gets the message that something is not right and you must alter your schedule to fix it. Of course, once it's fixed, you feel better and the sinuses go back to being unseen, unheard, and lying peacefully below the surface of our visage. Thank God that He designed the bacteria and dust filter to go under and not over the face.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Phase Two: Zip? Maybe We Should Have Bought A Mac

We come home from our adventure, and I excitedly take the new laptop out of it's intriguingly small box. There is the laptop and then a small cardboard compartment about 3 inches wide. That's all. I simply can't see how all the accessories (and necessaries!) can possibly fit into this trim little box. I open a rather paltry start-up guide and read, "insert the battery now." Pulling the small cardboard compartment open, I do find the thin battery inside. I take it out. I insert it. The guide then reads, "plug in computer". Okay, so far I can handle this PC. What's the big deal? Why do the Macs keep boasting about their ease of start-up? So I turn the computer on and prepare to be amazed the refreshing zippiness of our new purchase.

Everything loads and I see a new Windows screen that make me a little uncomfortable. It's called "The Welcome Center". Hmm...well, our new computer must be Protestant. That's nice. I always like to be welcomed. But it's a little funny when you're used to not being welcomed to your own computer. All right, now how do I start the anti-virus stuff? The guy at Best Buy warned us several times to get that going right away, before we do anything else on the internet, lest we get attacked by sneaky Spybots or something. I click on the Start Menu, per normal, and am again a little disoriented when the "Programs" icon is at the bottom of the menu instead of the top, and when I click it the list of programs opens, not the the right, as I was expecting, but directly on top of the Programs menu. But, persevering despite these few changes, I manage to find Norton, open it, and get it started up. That goes just fine. Now that I have obeyed the instructions from the Geek Squad, I feel free to deviate from the instruction manual into what I want to do: set up wireless and surf the internet at impressive high speeds.

After figuring out the hidden function key to turn the wireless on, I hit the usual "find networks button" and am connected to Gaetano home network. G-mail is my first stop. 1...2...3...wait, why do I even how time to count? This is a dual-core processor with 2 GB RAM...I should be there by now! Ugh! But, thinking as veteran Windows user always does, I have Control +Alt + Delete pressed before I am even aware that I am thinking about pressing it. Up comes the Task Manager and all 60 processes that are running. WHAT?!?! --60?-- Why? What? Maybe we should have bought a Mac.

I take a look at all of the processes that are running and find ones I never expected, like Napster. After a quick consultation with the Oracle (Google), I discover that it is not uncommon for brand new laptops to be running 60 processes, but if it seems to be lagging under the weight of too many trials and unwanted "bonuses" you can either remove all of the programs by hand after checking them on the internet, or you can simply re-install the Operating System from the disk that comes with the computer. Personally, since there weren't any documents or programs on the computer yet, it sounded a lot easier to put a disk in and follow a wizard made for dummies than to do all that research and uninstalling by hand. I insert the O.S. disk, of death.

An hour and a half later, after dozens of screens of wizard prompts, six restarts of the computer, and a lengthy scan of the entire computer (what all was on there fresh out of the box worries me a bit), I finish with the re-install of the OS. Let's go, baby: Zip. Zip. Zip.

I plan to return to G-mail and then zip around the internet at record speeds since I've de-junked the computer. Instead of an e-mail from my dear family or friends, I read a series of bad news messages: "Page not found", "Cannot connect to network", "Hardware not found". Now WHAT?!?! I am just about out of patience, which is very bad, because Matt is dying to use the new laptop, and I keep telling him to wait until I get it all zippy. Hours later, with more passion than patience, I have tried downloading updates (from the LAN, of course), finding and installing drivers, and thoroughly searching the "Help" tools of our laptop, and all I have achieved is another bad news message, "Video card not found". Oh, dear Lord, what did I do? I have ruined our brand new computer...ruined, I wail inside.

Believing that confession is healing and is a means of grace, I confess to Matt, hoping for some cure or grace to go on figuring it out. Frustrated with our purchase and each other, we go to bed, sadly lacking both grace and a cure.

The next morning a not very happy Matt devotes several of his study hours to trying his hand at sleuthing about on the internet and scouring the links on the Welcome page looking for our cure. About lunch time, he has a break through and downloads some Windows Vista update (even though I had already supposedly downloaded the Vista update...) that finally installs the correct, missing drivers for the wireless PCI card thingy and the video card. Why was it missing? Why didn't my update work? Some kind of thing like the inexplicable missing link in the evolution chain, I guess.

To all concerned about our marriage and livelihood after all this hassle and headache, thank you for your concern. Our Gateway is now working quite nicely and zipping along as it originally should have, so the reinstall, though incredibly painful, was successful after all. But we really should have known; PCs are simply not ready right out of the box. The stereotypes are stereotypes because they are true. Next time I want a Mac that I can lift out of the box and be amazed by its ease of use and my newfound coolness.