A random bag of Christmas

GUYS! Guys!

Ok, so let me back up to like an hour ago. The sky is heavily overcast, so it’s pretty dark out. I get home from my usual Monday night exercise class to find that Luffy is swamped with work. I offer to go pick up our usual Monday meal – Jersey Mike’s – so that he can work some more. After a quick shower, I head back out again. I’m two houses down when I glimpse something through the window of a house.

A Christmas tree.

??????? 

I know right?! I had the same reaction. I mean, it’s September, so I feel like it’s a bit early to be putting up your Christmas tree. Or does this mean that they never took it down and it’s been up for the past nine months? Do they ever take it down? I mean, I guess I can see not taking down exterior lights in between seasons, but not taking down your tree? Isn’t it in the way? Or does it become part of your decoration? It kind of has to right, it’s not exactly inconspicuous.

I finally settled on giving them the benefit of the doubt: perhaps they put their tree up over the weekend so that they could take some holiday photos for holiday cards. Just because I think that’s way too much work for some measly holiday cards, doesn’t mean they feel the same.

Anyway, it baffled me so much that I slowed down on my way back (with our dinner!) to confirm that I had indeed seen a Christmas tree through the window. Yup. It’s Christmas in September I guess.


My office stocks a couple of little candy dishes in the conference rooms. Little miniature chocolates and fun size candy bars. Every once in a while I’ll have something, but since Luffy and I are obsessed with Lindt chocolate, nothing quite compares on the chocolate front.

Today, I discovered that they now have peanut butter M&M’s. I really, really wished I hadn’t found that out as peanut butter M&M’s are my weakness. My only saving grace is that the conference rooms are off by themselves. It’s super obvious when someone goes to get candy because that’s the only reason to be over there. Since I’ve established myself as the healthy eater, I have to maintain appearances and I can’t just be grabbing candy. Whew. 


I’m enjoying reading through a few of my favorite books again. I used to use my iPad for books and had accumulated about 50 or so titles there. I recently transferred several of them to my Kindle, including a few of my absolute favorites.

I am, however, deeply annoyed that I can’t move everything. All the titles that were purchased through iBooks are firmly encrypted with Apple’s DRM technology. While I understand the need for data rights management, I’m so frustrated that I can’t read my own books on the device of my choosing. The only reason I have a few titles that are DRM-free is because I used to have a Sony eReader and I wanted to transfer those books to my iPad. Luffy busted the DRM on those at the time, leaving me with usable copies. Now though, Apple has really tightened their security and I can’t un-encrypt anything I’ve purchased through them.

Booooo.


I don’t think I’ve mentioned it anywhere, but Luffy and I are getting ready to go on a pretty amazing trip.

It all started because some dear friends of ours are getting married in Ireland and you don’t just go to Ireland for the weekend. So, we heading over a week early and spending some time in Italy. Our fifth anniversary just so happens to fall in that week, so we’ll celebrate our fifth in Rome!

On one hand, I am so freaking excited I can hardly stand it. We love to travel and we haven’t done any proper travelling since I got pregnant. I can’t wait to spend some time with just Luffy. We’re going to have an wonderful time, I just know it.

And yet, I’m also not looking forward to it because the dumpling is staying here. My mom is going to stay with  him, here at our house. We’re doing everything we can think of to help him out. My mom is taking him to daycare each day, to try to keep his routine as normal as possible. I’m going to make him a little calendar of sorts, to mark off the days until we return. (We actually got to practice this when Luffy went out of town!) We’re going to video chat with him each day, unless it seems like the calls do more damage than good. Just this evening, Luffy suggested that we make some videos of us singing to his favorite songs.

So yeah, on the one hand I am so, SO, SOSOSOSOSO ready for Italy and vacation. And on the other, I just don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye.

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Of Football and Fall

Luffy and I watched our first football game of the season last night. It was (I believe) the first Thursday-night football game of the season and Luffy and I tuned in after I made dinner. I can’t tell you who was playing or what the score was. I can’t tell you about plays or points or suspenseful moments. What I can tell you about is the feeling of satisfaction that envelopes me when I hear the commentator’s familiar voice or listen to the sounds of the game.

That’s the thing: I don’t necessarily love football, but I do love when it’s on. It reminds me of fall and winter. Of cozy nights, curled up under a blanket. Of relaxed Sundays, with the crisp light of December filtering in through the windows. Of jeans and sweaters. Of friendly gatherings with beer and BBQ. Oh, such happy times.

I’m always glad when it’s football season again.

The Shoe Saga

Back in ….. April? Though, let’s be honest, knowing the way I get excited about things, it might have been March…. Anyway, the point is that earlier this year, I bought the dumpling a pair of waterproof shoes at Target. I knew he’d need them for splash days at his daycare in the summer, plus I figured waterproof shoes would just be a handy thing to have for a toddler. They were Croc-esque, though made by Stride Rite’s Target brand Surprize. I also bought a pair of shoes that were a breathable, athletic shoe. I bought them both in a size 5, his Stride Rite size, and was a little baffled when they were considerably larger than his current shoes. Oh well! I thought, just more room for him to grow.

And then the dumpling proved once again that you can’t boss a toddler around as he absolutely REFUSED to wear the shoes I had gotten him. RE. FUSED. In fact, to this day, he still won’t even look at the athletic shoes I bought him. I did manage to get him into the waterproof shoes at the end of May, with the distraction of playing outside in the water, but I could never find such a distraction for the athletic shoes.

So, after all this – purchasing the shoes far in advance and my hard-earned victory in finally getting the dumpling to wear them (he even started to request to wear them!!) – we lost them. Yup, that’s right, we lost them.

Though this happened in June, I can still recall the events clearly. We had packed the dumpling up on a Saturday morning to go to the local Farmer’s Market. They have a little splash pad and we had hoped to delight the dumpling with a morning of frolicking in the water. We had put on his regular shoes and socks (to cut back on blisters), but had taken his water shoes with us. We learned that day that the dumpling seemed to have a deep mistrust of splash pads as he staunchly refused to even go near it, going so far as to “rescue” me or Luffy from it when we tried to lure him in. No harm though, Luffy took the water shoes with him as he bought our eggs and a few veggies. I clearly remember that he took everything to the car and then came back for us, and we all packed up and headed out. That’s the last either of us can clearly remember the shoes.

The following Wednesday, when we needed the shoes for splash day, they were nowhere to be found. We looked high and low, searching the house and my car and the diaper bag. We looked through the grocery bags, thinking it got mixed up there. We searched my car again and again and again, as that was the most logical place for them to appear. We looked through the pantry and the recycling bin. We searched the dumpling’s bedroom and the kitchen. Everywhere we could think of, but they never turned up. The best we could figure is that Luffy had perhaps set them down at a vendor’s stall at the market or somehow dropped them on the way to the car.

Because of my hard-earned victory (re: toddler stubbornness), I was worried about replacing them. I didn’t want to have to go through another round of the toddler power struggle because we had misplaced his current pair. Our Target was sold out of the shoes, but I managed to find them at a different Target. They miraculously had his size (as it was the single size 5 pair and then like a half dozen size 10’s) and I thanked the baby shoe gods for – HALLELUJAH – I wouldn’t have to barter with an eighteen month old again. PRAISE BE.


It was Luffy who finally said something, a couple of weeks later.

“I think those shoes are two different sizes.”

Pish and posh! I thought to myself. I’d checked them! The box said size 5. The shoes themselves both had “5” printed on the inside. They were still tied together by the manufacturer when I bought them. They were the same size! I mean, yeah, the left one is a little harder to get on that the right but that’s because I’m right-handed and it’s the opposite side and grumble grumble complicated explanation is complicated. Trust me! They’re the same size!

Then he held them up for me. They were indeed two different sizes and it was so obvious (once I was forced to see) that I’m not sure how I never noticed in the first place. Not only were they not the same size, there had to be at least a whole size difference between the right and the left. At least. Even the breathing holes were smaller. The sole (colored a brightly contrasting neon green) was shorter. So obvious.

Confused, I checked the inside of the shoes and confirmed that they both indeed say size 5. I bemoaned the fact that I’d chucked the receipt the day we had purchased them. I had actually taken the dumpling to get them and he had been so excited to wear them that he opened the box himself once we got back home. I figured we were good to go!

Since this was Target we were talking about though, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try to take them back. This was clearly a manufacturer’s default. Luckily, Target agreed with me and (thankfully) gave me a full refund once they were able to locate my purchase in their system. They were, unfortunately, out of the shoes I had purchased. Even the website didn’t have any in stock. So, I dragged the dumpling back to Target for a new pair of water shoes. I tested out my theory that he actually agrees to wear shoes as long as he’s there for the picking-out process and found it to be true. I again thanked the baby shoe gods because I wouldn’t need to barter with a twenty month old over shoes that were so very different from the water shoes we started with. PRAISE BE and ALL HAIL TARGET.


That all happened back at the end of June, middle of July. The dumpling has happily worn his new, though not really improved, water shoes for the rest of the summer. We’ve played at various pools, run through sprinklers, played with water tables. All good summer fun. Now that it’s September, I’m about to pack the water shoes away as I figure we won’t need them for a while.

Today, as I was sitting with Luffy at the dining table, chatting about the new exercise class I tried, I glimpsed something familiar. A shot of neon green against the beige wall. No freaking way, I thought, as I crouched down to remove the books from our bookshelf. Sure enough, back behind a stack of books, were the dumpling’s original water shoes. The ones we thought we lost at the market. In perfect condition, of course, since they’d been sitting back there for literally months.

Sigh. Good thing he’s cute as I have no doubt who put them there.

Little Light

Luffy was out of town this weekend for a bachelor trip. I was a little nervous as it would be the first time he’d really been gone since we had the dumpling. I mean sure, he’d had a business trip here or there, but it was always during the week, when I would at least have daycare to help with the care-taking load. But here, I was looking at two nights and two solid days of just me and the dumpling. Would he be a handful? Would I be able to keep up with him by myself? Would he drive me bonkers?

I needn’t have worried though; we ended up having the best time.

Sure, Friday night was rough, as Friday nights tend to be, and we had some power struggles, as toddlers are wont to do. But overall, we just had the best time. And, it sounds kind of bizarre, but I just fell so much more in love with my sweet boy. From little things, like the way he just played and played and played at the park. Or the way he carried our groceries to the car Saturday afternoon (never fear! it was a single bag with lightweight items). Or the way he would always give me the last ball to toss in our game of toss-and-retrieve.

I spoiled him a little, with the holiday weekend and all. He asked for a popsicle Saturday after he woke up from his nap. We didn’t have any, but I took him to Dairy Queen for a popsicle there. He was very confused as we were driving because “mama, you said popsicle and yet I have no popsicle…” I wasn’t even sure Dairy Queen still sold popsicles and was relieved to find that they still do. I got him a cherry-flavored, star-shaped one that was bigger than him. You guys should have seen the smile he gave me when we sat down with it. He beamed up at me from his seat on the bench, like a little light. We sat there for a good half hour, watching people come and go, as he ate his popsicle. An older man was delighted by him and stopped by to say hello.

We went to the park on Sunday morning and he astonished me by hanging out for almost an hour and a half. He was a little hesitant, at first, because we went to a different park than we usually do. He warmed up pretty quickly though and was running around in no time. He’d peek out at me from behind the bars and dissolve into giggles when I’d spot him and go “boo.” He watched an older girl bunny hop through a little obstacle course and a moment later I watched him go through the same course, with this little jig. I think it was his attempt at bunny hops and it was absolutely precious. We walked the big kid’s play area and we swung together. He was completely worn out, yet it still took me a few tries to get him to peacefully leave. After an early lunch, we sat down to play with blocks in the living room. He gathered some up and came to sit in my lap, humming Go to Sleep Little Baby to himself, which is how I knew I’d worn him out!


He’s just looking more and more like a little kid now. We’re really getting a peek at his personality as well. He’s observant and a little reserved. He’s sweet and caring. He loves to help, whether it’s feeding Jas or carrying groceries. He loves to sing and dance. He’s an amazing little person and I can’t wait to watch him grow.

 

Eyes on me

I’ve been having a lot of dreams that involve Michael lately. Sometimes it’s casual: we bump into each other, say hi/bye, and go about our business. Sometimes it’s bizarre in a typical so there I was, fighting a fire-breathing dragon, and Michael runs up to me and kicks me in the shins dream way. Others are negative: we bump into each other and he starts accusing me of ruining him or being a bitch. One was downright unnerving: we bumped into each other, but I had the dumpling with me, and Michael laid into him for his muddled lineage and told him what an awful person I am.

Shudder

I’ve always had vivid dreams. I can usually remember them too. Sometimes I can tie the vividness to something (Sudafed is often the culprit, but watching crime shows can be another). In this case, I think the trigger is a billboard.

You see, there’s a billboard that’s currently up all over DFW. Along my route to work. When I went to pick up pho last night. Near my exercise facility. It seriously seems to follow me. It’s an ad for an ambulance chasing lawyer, which is exactly what he does/is (pretty much). It features the lawyer in a suit and a cowboy hat and the guy looks startlingly like Michael. Like, I have to do double- and triple- takes just to make sure that it really isn’t him. And since I feel like I see him everywhere now, he’s been on my brain lately. And in my dreams, though I wish that would stop. I can’t wait for the billboards to come down.


Humans are weird. Our brains are hardwired to seek out patterns. We look for the familiar, we try to predict based on the past, we try to make sense out of the random. It also means that we see things from our past, things we might not want to. That’s what makes me laugh (in an uncomfortable sort of way) over the concept of “trigger warnings.” It can be such a personal thing. I mean, sure, talking about rape may bring up painful memories for a rape survivor and you might feel obligated to place a trigger warning on the discussion, but there are so many other triggers, far more painful triggers, that would need to be cautioned if what we’re going for is to truly limit someone’s pain. I can discuss emotional abuse without really linking it to myself but don’t you dare try to offer me a particular flavor of Extra gum. I can manner-of-factly tell you my story and why I stayed and why I left, but this song (especially the movie version) from Tangled makes me so uncomfortable I can hardly listen to it. The word “fluffy” is, just now – seven full years and this adorable character later – starting to lose it’s negative connotations. You see, it always meant my midsection.

Time softens the blow, as it has a tendency to do, but some memories refuse to be buried by the sands. There are things, reminders, that I wish I could forget, a la Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. A specific joke, for instance. He always told it to me at a specific, intimate moment and it jumps into my head at random moments with Luffy. I would pay good money to never think about that joke again, to never have it pop into my head. I live in fear that I’ll accidentally say it one day, though I’m not sure why. Luffy knows my past; he’d understand, I’m sure. But the simple fact that the joke still swirls around in my head is proof of the fact that the owner of the joke is still in there too. I can’t imagine my reaction if I actually heard someone else say that joke now, especially since it’s – ahem – sexual. I can tell you one thing for sure, it would absolutely kill any sort of mood they were trying to create. I’d also probably either run from the room or slap them, but who’s to say.

I don’t really have a nice, neat bow for all this. I’m hoping, as I did once before, to purge my mind of the intrusive thoughts. I hope those billboards come down soon.

A Toddler’s Regret

We’re at the phase in the dumpling’s life where it seems that each day he makes some small advance. Sometimes, it’s nothing more than a new request he can suddenly fulfill (I asked him to dry his own hands the other day and he walked over to the towel hanging off the dishwasher and dried his own hands and I about fell off my proverbial chair). Sometimes, it’s a larger leap like a new word or brand new addition to our routines. (As an example, one night Luffy bribed the dumpling with getting to feed Jasmine if he got out of the tub and feeding her is now a firm part of our bedtime routine, much to her delight). My point is, he’s advancing in mini steps and leaps and you never know what the day will bring.


Last night, we were moving through our typical bedtime routine – splashing around in the sink while he’s taking a bath hiatus and feeding Jasmine. Everything seemed perfectly normal, but when I went to put him into his beloved zippy, he kept saying that he wanted it off. We tried again, after we said goodnight to the house, but he once again refused to put on his zippy. Instead, he latched on to a tiny, ugly blanket that was laying on the floor. It had been part of a baby shower gift, once upon a time. It was minuscule and had a weird feel (like felt or something), so I never used it for the dumpling. It remained unwashed and I only used it to cover the light from his humidifier in the winter. It had been on the floor since April or so. THAT’S what the dumpling wanted to take to bed last night and we could not convince him otherwise. We put socks on him and hoped for the best. (I should also note here that his summer PJ’s are a romper-type onesie with short sleeves.)

Over the next hour, we watched him fight with the socks (which we went in and removed), fight with the zippy (which we attempted, once again, to put on him), and arrange and re-arrange the bigger, fluffier blanket (which we gave him in hopes it would actually keep him warmer than the fleece postage-stamp of a blanket he’d picked out). He finally settled down around 8pm, with his torso under the blanket and his legs completely uncovered. I fretted that he would be cold. He seemed to sleep soundly, which I thought was an encouraging sign. I went into his room before I went to bed, adding an extra blanket at the opposite end of his crib for him to grope for in the night, and shifting his current blanket to cover his legs. I went to sleep and hoped for the best.

At 1:30am, I was awoken by a howling dumpling. I raced through the house (though, in hindsight, I’m not sure why I sprinted over there) to get to him. I put him back in his zippy, which he seemed happy about at the time, kissed him goodnight and left the room. He gave his patented you’re-supposed-to-stay-here-to-entertain-me howl for three or four minutes before calming down and I mentally congratulated myself on a crisis well averted.

Ha.

Ha. Ha.

Oh you sweet summer child. What followed was two or three hours of complete RIDICULOUSNESS, both on the dumping’s part and mine.

First, his part: After remaining quiet for a few minutes, he started to fight with his zippy, clearly wanting it off, off, off! I went in and removed it, putting his socks back on him to keep him warm. Over the video monitor, I watched as he let out his but-but-entertainment!! howl for a few minutes again, calmed down (again), then started fighting with his socks a few minutes later. Once again, I went in and helped him out of the socks, re-tucking him into the blankets and praying they’d be enough. After exiting the room, and listening to ENTERTAINMENT!!! howls, yet again, I watched as he rolled around, wide awake, for the next hour and a half. I truly think he had to be cold, but what do I know? He seemed to be asleep when I checked around 3:45. He woke up the next morning with a stuffy nose that I am trying really hard to believe is not because he spent the night freezing, but you know, he seems ok otherwise.

Second, my part: After going in to his room for the third time around 2am, I vowed that I’d leave him to his own devices and head to bed myself. I have this hang-up though which makes it hard for me to fall asleep if one of my family members is awake. I do it with Luffy, in the rare cases that he’s awake when I head to bed. I used to do it with my parents when I lived at home. I guess I have an ingrained sense of FOMO or something, I just can’t seem to settle down if someone else is awake.

In spite of all this, I tried to fall asleep while the dumpling was still awake. However, in a horrendous time warp, I found my body back in the newborn days. I was freezing and couldn’t get warm (which I had a huge problem with while trying to sleep in the days right after my c-section). My alertness level for my son’s activities was dialed to 11 and my eyes flew open at every whimper and murmur and snuffle over the monitor. I was having phantom letdowns which only increased my general anxiety over the whole situation. I kept dozing off, only to startle myself awake at static over the monitor or my own thought spirals (the dumpling being cold, the dumpling not needing his zippy anymore (wah!), the dumpling getting bigger, the dumpling transitioning to a big-boy bed, MAH BABY!!!). It was a rough night. Luffy got up at 5am or so (which he’s been doing lately because of work stress). He went to turn off the monitor to let me sleep “more” when I told him that I’d been awake for hours and requested some snuggles which he happily obliged. I finally got an hour and a half of sleep or so while Luffy got the dumpling up and started on his day (around 6:15 – sheesh! you’d think he’d sleep in after being up all night!).

So, let’s recap: (1) the dumpling and I spent multiple hours awake last night, (2) he spent lots of time rolling around in his crib, I assume trying to find a warmer position, (3) he didn’t appreciate my attempts to keep him warm, and (4) my body went completely haywire and assumed I had a newborn on my hands, rather than a strong-willed almost two-year-old…

The dumpling willingly went into his zippy tonight, though he did want the ugly blanket back (which I thankfully wash today). I hope he sleeps well tonight, that sweet baby.

Now someone remind my boobs that I’m not nursing anymore, thanks.

Le Petit Chef

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I started another exercise program. When Luffy and I were breaking down the exorbitant cost, I realized something a tad bit startling:

In order to “save” enough money for the cost, all I had to do was skip my favorite sushi dinner twice a month. That’s all. Twice a month, I had to choose to make dinner at home rather than get sushi and I’d have enough for the class. Which felt ridiculous, considering I was ranting about how expensive these classes are and yet I’d gladly (and without complaint) eat sushi three or four times a week. The thought woke me up to how expensive my favorite meal is, and how I don’t really consider the cost whenever I’m asking (again) for sushi.

So, kicked into motion by that thought and a sudden desire to be back in the kitchen again, I’ve found a few new recipes to try soon.

Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka – This was the first recipe up to bat. I made it last night just as Deb described and it was delicious. Luffy requested the chicken be cut into cubes first next time, to help maximize the flavor of the marinade. (I had worried about that particular complaint before I made this recipe because it is often his complaint when trying marinated meat recipes. He feels that the flavor is just on the surface and that most of the meat ends up bland. Fair complaint, to be honest.) Next time, I’ll think I’ll chop the chicken up first and try to let it marinade longer.

Buttermilk Roast Chicken – On the menu for Thursday night so that I can give it an overnight soaking. I’m definitely curious about this one – to see what Luffy thinks of it since he typically needs a kick-in-the-mouth flavor to even register a “flavor.” We’ve often joked that some of the flavors I grew up with – rosemary and lemon chicken for instance – are basically non-flavors to him. He can’t help it; it’s that Chinese cuisine he grew up with. I’m going to pair this with wild rice and a salad.

Pasta and Chickpeas – I’m particularly excited about this one, but mainly because I figured out when I could try it. You see, I doubt Luffy will be a fan of this. He doesn’t really care for chickpeas or meatless meals. I, on the other hand, love chickpeas and I do appreciate a meatless meal here and there. I’m curious to try this particular recipe because Deb basically says it’s magic. Plus TWENTY MINUTE DINNER – wut wut!! But what’s a girl to do? If her husband probably won’t like it and yet she really, really wants to try it?? But like, not enough to make it for lunch or something…. [drumroll please] ….. I’m making it next weekend when Luffy is out of town! I figured that it’s easy enough for me to make one-handed when the dumpling inevitably wants to watch me make it. Plus, he’ll probably appreciate the pasta and chickpeas. Probably. Maybe. Oh, who am I kidding, he probably won’t even touch it. The point is that I win because I MADE dinner for us all by myself.

So yeah, that’s what’s on our menu.

[Also, did you see the pattern there? I love Smitten Kitchen. Literally everything I’ve made from her website is delicious, and I’ve made a lot of stuff. Her favorite brownies are my go-to. I’ve made these. This was the dumpling’s first birthday cake. Luffy and I tried this sweet potato dinner. I’m dying for cooler temps so that I can throw this into our regular rotation again. I turned to her when I wanted to try my hand at hummus. I made these fritters up for the dumpling. She inspired me to throw zucchini into quesadillas. These recipes are just what comes to mind; I’m sure I’ve made more over the years. Love her and her site!]