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Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page

One Parent, Two Parents (But I’ll Take Three Parents, or Four)

In Medicine, Peanut, Tolkien on November 24, 2010 at 8:53 pm

First off, since that last blog post, that stupid Chipmunks-go-clubbing CD has been playing every single time we have gone to pick Peanut up or drop her off at daycare.  And her teachers actually told me blithely, “Peanut just LOOOVES this CD!  We start it over from the beginning every time she comes so she can enjoy the whole thing!”

(I’m looking into nunneries for toddlers.  Anyone with any info, send it my way.)

Anyway, we have had a lovely week so far here at La Maison du Peanut (why bother even pretending this house is anyone’s but hers.)  Tolkien has started his very well-deserved two weeks of vacation, and life is totally different!  As most of you know, we are doctors, and Tolkien is in the midst of his residency.  He has worked so incredibly hard since starting this program in June.  He wakes up at 4:15 AM each day, is out of the house before 5, and doesn’t get home till 7, 8 or even later at night.  Once he gets home, he has more work to do for the next day before he can even think about eating or collapsing into bed.  On top of that, a couple of nights a week he takes call, which means he doesn’t come home at all until the next morning.  On top of that, he also has to work a couple of weekends each month.  It is brutal.  I finished my residency last year, and seeing him go through this now is bringing back the memories of bone-deep fatigue and stress that I have happily repressed.

Because I’ve gone through residency myself, I thought I knew what to expect when T started this program.  But I definitely did not realize what it would mean to effectively be a single parent 85% of the time, since we were childless when I was a resident.  There are entire days that Peanut doesn’t see her dad because he leaves before she wakes up and can’t get home till after I’ve put her to bed.  And when he is home, he has to sleep or study, so there’s very little time just to hang out and enjoy life.  Forget enjoying life, even cleaning the bathrooms together is out of the question.  So this vacation has been a godsend.  T is well-rested, he has time to go to the post office or dentist’s with us, he can take over 50% or more of the childcare, and all sorts of little things around the house have been magically getting done!  (There’s a hall light in our house that burned out 3 weeks ago which you need a ladder to reach, so I’ve been fumbling around in the dark for that long, waiting for T’s vacation so it could be fixed.  And no, the inability to change the bulb has nothing to do with the fact that I was gifted with somewhat less height than many of you, because 6-foot-2 Tolkien needed a ladder to reach it too.  SO THERE.)  (And by the way, short people are the last to need umbrellas.  TAKE THAT!)

It’s been so incredible having lives like regular people, and having a partner back to help with all the things around the house and with the baby, that I fear I will get far too used to this Shangri-La and require some sort of medical intervention when T’s vacation ends.  Compare and contrast, for example, a day last week to a day this week:

This week:

We all wake up and I leisurely make coffee (because you have to have something to add to your chocolate caramel French vanilla creamer.)  T feeds Peanut breakfast and takes her to daycare.  T and I work efficiently on our now-actually-dwindling to-do lists.  We then head over to Peanut’s daycare to attend her class’ Thanksgiving lunch with the other parents, none of whom have ever met Tolkien prior to now.

Last week:

I wake up to an ominous odour and trace it to the nursery, where I find a huge pile of orange and green vomit in the crib and a baby who has apparently been attempting to use said vomit as hair conditioner.  Naturally, today is a work day for me.  Equally naturally, Tolkien is on call and I am alone on the warfront.  I strip the sticky baby, who is finding this whole situation inexplicably hilarious (well, that makes one of us) and rush her into a bath (she does not find this hilarious whatsoever.)  I scrub her thrashing self as best I can, finding the most random foodstuffs in the puke hiding in her bodily crevices (eg. corn kernels, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t eaten corn in weeks.)  I get her dried and dressed and hurry down to feed her breakfast, at which point I drop a huge tub of yogurt on the floor, which explodes ALL OVER the kitchen and must be cleaned up lest ants take over our entire abode.  Half an hour later (during which P has screamed continuously because WAITRESS, WHY ARE YOU NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO MY NEXT COURSE?) we run upstairs while I try to occupy her while grooming myself into some semblance of a professional appearance.  Next I need to load up the car while toting a 22-lb squirming Screech-Bot back and forth.  On our way out the door for the final time, I get a whiff of something and my heart sinks.  The Peanut has had a blowout.  Of the fecal variety.  It’s back upstairs for another wrestling match in which I emerge semi-victorious, as Peanut has been successfully changed, but also semi-non-victorious, as my work clothes now smell like a combination of puke and poop.  (I’ll call it a draw.)  I throw us both into the car, feeling like I’ve already worked a full day before the full day of actual work I’m currently late for, and am halfway down the street when I realize I never even began to clean up the barf-soaked crib.

So yes, I’m thrilled that T is home.  And when he goes back to work, I’m going to need a staff.  (Yes, for one kid.  How do the Duggars do it?)

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Take A Blank Slate and SCRAWL GRAFFITI ALL OVER IT

In Celebrity Obsessions, Music, Peanut on November 18, 2010 at 7:39 pm

The other day when I went to pick up the Peanut from daycare, they were playing an unusual CD in the background.  Normally the music they play is very typical children’s stuff, nursery rhymes and Sesame Street jingles and the like.  Once they were playing a CD that sounded so incredibly familiar to me that I shocked myself by knowing all the words and the tune, and it turned out it was this fantastic Sharon Lois and Bram CD, a kids’ group they played all the time at my schools growing up but who I haven’t heard in decades.  That night I went online to order that CD for Peanut.  (What is it about wanting to recreate your own childhood experiences for your defenseless kids?  I’ve already ordered books that I loved that I plan to inflict on her, whether she is willing or not.  YOU WILL READ WHAT I READ, CHILD!) 

Anyway, so for a moment I couldn’t figure out what this new CD was.  Then I realized that it was contemporary pop music, performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks.  And by contemporary, I mean Katy Perry.  And these 12- to 18-month-olds were bopping happily along to “You’re hot, then you’re cold, you’re yes, then you’re no, we fight, we break up, we kiss, we make up …”  Next was a rendition of Pink’s “So What?”, in which an enthusiastic chipmunk chirps, “Guess I just lost my husband, I don’t know where he went.  I’m gonna drink my money, I’m not gonna pay his rent.” 

(They did see fit to change the line “What if this song’s on the radio? Somebody’s gonna die” to “Somebody’s gonna spy,” which raises two questions:  1) That’s the only line you felt might be inappropriate for toddlers?  2) Is making sense not a criterion for lyric alteration?  Also, another: 3) Does speeding up a track so it sounds like the Chipmunks automatically transform any tune into great kiddie listening?  If so, does that also work for an audio recording of, say, Mein Kampf?  Because now I am afraid.)

My distaste for this may seem odd given my interest in all things pop culture and my love for really bad pop music.  I soak up celebrity trivia and regularly spit it back out on whichever unfortunate person happens to be nearby.  If a song happens to be performed by some disposable 14-year-old artist, there’s a strong chance I’m going to be turning up the radio.  I used to have the good sense to be embarrassed by this, but no longer.  Now I wear my bad musical taste with pride!  It hurts no one if I enjoy singing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” in the car, right?  (Although I admit the argument could be made that until Peanut can independently unbuckle herself from her carseat and remove herself from the vicinity, she could be considered a potential innocent victim of my musical proclivities.)

Over the past few years I have, however, made a conscious effort not to listen to music with lyrics that promote violence, bad language, gratuitous sexuality, etc.  If a song’s offensive, I change the station whenever it comes on.  The definition of offensive can be fluid and I know that, but I try to be as objective and consistent about this as I can because I think it’s important for my relationship with God.  So Peanut isn’t hearing much of that stuff at home with us.  And though I realize that at 14 months she has little to no idea what any lyrics mean, whether they’re “Jesus, lamb of God” or “That thong, th-thong-thong-thong,” one of these days she will start understanding.  And I don’t want that day to be the one when the Chipmunks are channeling Britney Spears’ “I’m A Slave 4 U.” 

Sigh.  I have a plan, though.  Peanut’s a blank slate now, but if in a few years she dons a red leather bodysuit and starts brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack, I’m going to write a very sternly-worded letter to this CD producer.  That’ll show them.

Addendum: Little Jewels Were Here (Although Not Any Longer)

In Food on November 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Nibble and Nosh

In Celebrity Obsessions, Food, Tolkien on November 11, 2010 at 5:16 am
Oh, food.  In general.  How I love thee.  I love anticipating food, shopping for food, preparing food (and eating food isn’t half-bad either.)   My love affair with food is long-standing.  It began somewhere around age 9 or 10 when my childhood pickiness wore off.  My love affair with cooking food is much younger — it began the day we opened our wedding gifts and discovered all the awesome kitchen accoutrements that lovely friends and family had given us.  Nothing is more of an inspiration to start cooking than shiny new tools and toys (although no longer having ready-made meals from the cafeteria of Mom and Dad helps … I find that a “love of food” is usually accompanied by an equal amount of “fear of starvation.”)
I was already a Food Network viewer at that time, but it was then that my fanhood kicked into high gear.  Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson and their expert camera crews with their gorgeous close-up food-porn shots all contributed to my epicurean education (and to the drool stains on our couch.)  My relationship with Rachael Ray grew into an obsession of sorts: I collected her books and DVDs, subscribed to her magazine, and, for my birthday one year, even dragged poor Tolkien to Chelsea Market in NYC in the hopes of accidentally bumping into her.  (Since Tolkien’s and my birthdays are only 3 days apart, we usually do a combined birthday celebration.  That year, he insisted on a do-over.)  My passion for the Ray cooled, however, once she got her network talk show and started getting that world-weary smugness all celebrities seem to acquire.  I haven’t seen 30-Minute Meals in ages, but the last time I caught a clip of it, RR seemed positively bored with having to share her fabulousness with her lowly viewers.  I’ll always have a soft spot for her, though, because she really sparked my interest in the basics of cooking.  I’m no expert chef and never will be, but at least now I see the joy in it (that is, when one has more than 3 minutes to spend on a dish because no Peanut is screeching for one’s undivided attention.)
(Notable story about Rachael Ray’s magazine:  For awhile, I was trying desperately to get tickets to be in her studio audience.  The waiting list was 2 years long!  However, I sneakily thought I could increase my chances by being a frequent commenter on her website.  One posted question to subscribers was “How do you celebrate special occasions?”  I wrote an innocent sentence or two about how I like to make and sample multiple desserts instead of eating a multi-course meal.  I pressed “Submit” while blithely ignoring the fine print that stated that my name and comments were now the sole property of the Rachael Ray empire and they could come and demand one of my limbs at any time, and promptly forgot all about it.  Three months later I was idly flipping through my latest issue of Every Day With Rachael Ray when I came across a reader response column to the question “How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?”  Some tool had written in, “My husband and I skip the meal entirely … and go straight to dessert!”  Imagine my shock when I realized that that tool was ME!   Now, I have a very unique name, but I still needed to read the tool’s hometown before I was convinced that this statement was actually being attributed to me.  I was mortified.  What if my family saw this?  Thankfully my family does not read Every Day with Rachael Ray, and neither does anyone else I know.  People found out about this humiliation through my own big mouth.  The irony is that a couple of months later, I actually did get selected for a pair of tickets to the show — and couldn’t go.  Cruel world!)
Anyway, while that experience taught me caution, it did not stop me from continuing to like food.  Therefore, whenever autumn rolls around, we all continue to look forward to my favourite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

Heavy on the chocolate, with an obligatory touch of pumpkin.

Chocolate is my absolute number-one vice — I have it with almost every meal.  Terrible, I know.  But if God didn’t want me to do it, why did He make chocolate taste so good?  I’ve even gotten Tolkien into this habit too.  (He, in turn, has gotten me to drink more water.  We’re totally even.)  And I thought of something that would make these little gems even better:

 

Nectar of the gods. No, I'm serious.

Frosting them with Nutella!  Creamy, ambrosial, hazelnutty Nutella is such a temptation for me that I am unable to buy any lest I eat it straight from the jar with a spoon.  I simply do not keep any in the house.  If you have never tried this incredible delicacy, I am exhorting you to run out and get some immediately.  You can thank me later.  Preferably with a jar of Nutella.

If you’re a normal person, you will actually need something on which to spread this delightful confection (thankfully I have never been normal) and therefore I am sharing with you my foolproof pumpkin chocolate chip muffin recipe (although plain bread or bagels or some such would probably work fine as well, not that I’d know.)  Enjoy!
Much’s Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (adapted from Allrecipes.com)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chocolate chips (the success of this recipe relies on using decent chocolate, such as Ghirardelli)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Mix sugar, oil and eggs.  Add pumpkin and water.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and then add the chocolate chips.
3. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.
These go so quickly that I find it beneficial to double the recipe.  Give these only to people you like, because they’ll keep hanging around.  I may love food in general, but at this time of year I have to admit that these muffins might be slightly more loved than all the rest.

Successfully Restored: Sanity. Also, Fear.

In Baby Howie, Politics, Tolkien on November 4, 2010 at 3:45 am

So Tolkien, my younger brother Baby Howie (although he is not a baby and his name is not Howie) and I took a little trip to attend the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear in Washington, D.C. this weekend.  Not because we are such huge fans of Stewart or Colbert (who has time to catch any show regularly these days) but because so many friends and people we knew were attending and because we try not to turn down opportunities to participate in ridiculous things.  While I, like most people, definitely think Stewart and Colbert are funny, I was a little worried that the whole thing would be too uber-liberal for my taste.  One of the problems with being a political moderate is that, instead of remaining able to see all viewpoints, you usually just end up being annoyed by (and probably annoying) both sides of the debate.  However, my fears were unfounded.  While there were of course a few extremists here and there, the overarching theme of the rally seemed to be a polite request for a return to civil discourse.  And that, I can totally get behind.  I hate the current tendency in our society to completely discount opposing opinions by tarring them as coming from people who must be stupid or inbred or the like.  There are plenty of intelligent Democrats and plenty of intelligent Republicans (and I think this can be extrapolated to any country’s political parties.)  I wish we could all assume that people who don’t vote the way we vote might have very good, well-thought-out reasons for doing so.  I’m not saying we have to agree with them, I’m just asking for the basic respect that that would entail.  (In my next blog post I’ll draw out the map to my hometown, Utopia.)

So anyway, the rally was satisfying in the sense that it seemed to be attended by others who were likeminded in their desire to see a return to civility and, well, sanity, and it didn’t matter at all that we weren’t likeminded in our politics.  The only disappointing thing was that Comedy Central seemed to have grossly underestimated the number of people who would be attending (I don’t see how that’s possible, given that the Washington Post was predicting numbers in the hundreds of thousands for days beforehand) or just didn’t care to prepare, because things just seemed to be vastly smaller than necessary.  Public transportation was totally overwhelmed — crowds were 6 people deep at the Metro stations and no one could squeeze onto the bursting trains.  Once we gave up on that and headed back above ground, not a single taxi was to be found or called for.  Once we got a ride from a benevolent friend, we could not get within ten blocks of the stage due to the crowds, and there were hardly any screens or speakers set up, so after all the effort it took to get there (including roping my generous parents into providing a day of childcare for the Peanut) we couldn’t hear or see a thing.  T, BH and I eventually gave up and decided to find a bar where we could watch the rally on TV, but getting there was no easier either, given that the National Mall was a veritable can of sardines.  As many of you know, I am the very opposite of claustrophobic (claustrophilic, if you will … I love dark enclosed spaces) but for the first time I can remember I was actually a bit afraid of the crowd.  We were nearly crushed by the teeming mass of people, and could not move anywhere of our own will — we were literally pushed along wherever the wave felt like taking us.  I had the frightening, and not inaccurate, thought that if anyone was unfortunate enough to fall, they would be trampled to death.  And being short in a massive crowd does not help the psyche.  Plus, the cell phone service providers were all ALSO totally overwhelmed, so no one’s cell phone worked, which only added to the fear of being lost in a sea of humanity forever.  I mean, what is this, people, the year 2001??

However, once we eventually did fight our way out into the streets where our ribcages could re-expand, and once we did find an available table and TV screen, the day got much better, particularly once we were able to meet up with good friends.  From what I could read of the closed-captioning, the rally had its funny moments, but the program left us with some head-scratching.  I mean, the O-Jays?  Tony Bennett?  Mavis Staples?  What, was Shirley Temple not available?

The generationally-incorrect performer lineup was excusable, though, because the best entertainment was reading the hilarious signs carried by various attendees.  Let me close with my top ten favourites, in no particular order:

1. (carried by a resigned-looking 8-year-old) My Mom Made Me Come

2. If Screaming Makes You Right, Then the 3-Year-Old Down the Street Is A Freaking Genius

3. You May Be Right, But I Can’t Hear You Over All the Shouting

4. This Sign Is Heavy.  My Arm Is Starting To Hurt.  Why Did I Bring It?  I Should Have Thought This Through More Thoroughly. Dammit!

5. You Disagree With Me.  Let’s Sit Down and Have Coffee.

6. I Like Pineapples

7. Americans For … Oh Look! A Puppy!

8. The Person Behind Me Can’t See

9. I Don’t Have A Dream So Much As A Mild Preference

10. And my personal fave … I Thought This Was the Line for Georgetown Cupcakes

(Addendum: I actually sat across from Stephen Colbert at Newark Airport once.  I was too afraid of seeming like a crazy person to approach him, but that didn’t stop me from staring down his every move.  He was with a woman I assume was his wife, and they were having a private conversation that ended with, no joke, a fist-bump.  They then got up when a flight to South Carolina — his home state — was announced and I was impressed to note that they waited at the very back of the line and boarded last.  Good job, Colberts!)