Friday, August 22, 2014

When I Paint My Masterpiece

I almost never do things with Van that will involve him getting dirty. It's pretty effed up of me. Things like that require outfit changes and set up, the possibility of me getting dirt/paint/water all over myself. Messy things are also usually outdoor things and it's pretty crappy and hot here too.

But last week when I went to get some frames at Michael's Van spotted this guitar frame and it was over. Of course I had to get it for him. He carried it around the store and strummed it like a real guitar. Then he saw himself in the security tv thing and strummed it even harder. We picked out some paints and brought it home.

Last night Tony was gone and I thought we could kill some time so I stripped him down, brought him to the backyard to paint his new cool frame. He told me he can't wait to put a picture of his guitar in it. :)









 

 
 
 
 
We couldn't find a picture of Van's guitar that would fit, so he picked out a cute one of him and hid buddy Leo playing drums together.
 
Good job, V!


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sunday in Tahoe

Tahoe City is cool enough to host some really fun concerts at Commons Beach on Sundays during the summer, and we are lucky enough to live close enough to drive up and enjoy them. Having a Dad in a band that plays there is pretty sweet too.

Lake Tahoe is really stunningly lovely. I don't visit as often as I should but still feel so lucky that it's just a day trip away. What do mid westerners do? Sacramentans can drive 90 minutes in any direction and pretty much wind up in a totally different environment/climate. I can't imagine having to travel hours upon hours for a change of scenery. Eek.

This past Sunday we took a nice little (almost 2 hour) drive to Lake Tahoe with a bunch of Whole Foods goodies and beers and blankets to lay around and enjoy the music and the lake.

Van loved wading around in the cool water, throwing rocks and looking at stuff.


 
 


 And jacking his cousin's ice cream.




 Some kids gave us this sticker. Strange on many levels. Like, what do mustaches have to do with wineries? What does being a dick have to do with wineries or mustaches? Why are children handing these out?



 I hopped on stage to take some pics of the crowd. Holy shit. So many people!


My Dad said that if you have to work on a Sunday, this isn't too bad.

 

Fun times! Thanks Tahoe City for arranging these rad events. I always tell people how important it is to take advantage of these kinds of things. It's like a present from the city. A free, really fun show on a gorgeous, world-renowned lake. What's not to love?!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sushi Date Night and How I'm Able to Dine Out with a Toddler

Van and I sometimes struggle on nights when T has band practice. I think it's a combination of boredom on V's part (Tony is much more physically playful with him than I am) and exhaustion on my part ( my work isn't at all demanding but there's something strangely tiring about being on your ass at the computer all day. It's weird, I know).

Instead of me trying to make dinner with Van in between my legs on the kitchen floor whining at me to hold him or let him grate cheese or core a pineapple or broil toast or sear a tuna steak in hot oil, and me telling him no and him proceeding to whine louder in protest or play extra messily in his room to spite me, I decided we'd head out on a Mama/Vanny date.

I asked him if he wanted tacos or sushi. "Shoe-shee!" he exclaimed.

And so we went. It was fun doing something this classy, just the two of us. Hopefully this will be the first of many Mama and Vanny dinner dates. I think Van liked that he was out somewhere special with just me. I liked it too!

Van had the inari with veggie gyoza

and edamame, of course. as soon as the waitress dropped it off at our table van asked, "can I have some dip please?"

seared tuna with red sauce. always! van loved this too.

definitely doesn't suck at chopsticks...

don't let the face here fool you. he had a blast.

In closing, I thought I might add some tips that I use to keep Van acting right when we go out to eat. They work well for us - we've always been able to dine out with V with minimal meltdowns.

  • Go somewhere where you will be offered something to eat as soon as you sit down. When we go out with Vanny, most of the time it's the kind of place where you order at the counter and sit down and wait for your meal. Think Chipotle or Pluto's. When we venture to a real restaurant, we tend to choose Mexican because Van will have chips and salsa to eat right away. Also, if you are in the Sacramento-ish area, PF Changs will bring a little bowl of berries and crunchy Asian things to keep your babe busy and happy while you look over the menu. AWESOME. If you aren't offered something (like chips and salsa) order an appetizer. The less time your kid has to wait around for something to happen, the better.

  • Go at a time when your toddler isn't going to be a little ass. I mean, this seems like an obvious one but the restaurants of the world are filled with moron parents forcing their kids to behave when clearly they should be napping or going down for the night.

  • Bring stuff. Quiet stuff - cards, little plastic military men, a book. Some places offer crayons and a fun paper menu, but that can get old. Backup items are good to keep in your purse just in case.

  • Interact with your child. Talk to them, point out the scenery, count the forks at the table, organize the sugar packets by color, find things in the room that are blue, etc. Keep you kid busy and thinking. Boredom = acting out.

  • Let your kid know what he can expect the experience to be like. This one, I think, is probably the most major tip. Before you even get your child ready to head out the door tell them where you are taking them. Tell them how long it'll take to drive there, tell them what the room is going to look like when you get there. Tell them that the server is going to bring them drinks and food. Tell them they'll have choices. Tell them whether or not they are going to have to sit in a high chair. Tell them that no one wants to hear any kids whining/crying/screaming while out to eat. Tell them that if they whine/cry/scream/throw food, etc that ya'll will have to leave and they won't get to have fun and eat good food at the restaurant. And for Van, we tell him that if he's a good boy and eats his dinner, he'll get a lollipop. :)

  • And if your kid acts a fool, leave. Sorry. For the sake of your kid, for your sake and for the sake of the rest of the patrons. Tell your server you're going to need to get your food to go and take your whining/crying/screaming kid outside. We've been there a couple times. Even the best behaved toddler is still a toddler. I mean, they've only been alive for a couple years, we can't expect them to act right ALL the time. Better luck next time!




Friday, May 9, 2014

Your Mom Likes Songs

Here's a playlist for all the mamas, be they a little bit country or a little bit gansta rap.


Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys, Willie Nelson


Rag Mama Rag, The Band
 
Take Your Mama Out All Night, Scissor Sisters
 
Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J

Mama Told Me Not to Come, Three Dog Night

Mommy's Little Monster, Social Distortion

Mama Tried, Merle Haggard (The Grateful Dead do a good version of this too)

Dear Mama, Tupac

Mother, Danzig
 
Hey Me Hey Mama, Ray Lamontagne
 
Tell Me Mama, Jackie Greene

Happy Mother's Day, ya'll!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

What It's Really Like to Give Birth

I read this little interview feature on Cosmo online and found the womens' answers to be refreshingly honest and funny. I thought I'd go ahead and answer the questions too. I have come across a lot of pregnant friends and acquaintances lately, and it's pretty crazy what you forget.

I'll preface this with a quote from one of the original interviewees. I couldn't agree more:

"I dunno, I kind of hate pregnancy culture these days. Who gives a shit that you're pregnant? Pregnancy is the most boring, basic, universal thing that happens to almost half of all people since the beginning of time. It's also magical, and I know it's not easy or possible for everyone, so forgive me, but I was not leaning into it, for lack of a better phrase. I did like Googling weird questions, though, and reading pages and pages of dumb answers on BabyCenter.com."

:)

That said...

How old are you?
I'm 29 now. I was 26 when I found out I was pregnant, and delivered Van a couple months after turning 27.

Are you married/in a relationship? Single? 
Relationship. T and I were together for 4ish years when we became pregnant.


Did you try to get pregnant, or was it an accident?
It was quite a surprise. I had just changed to a different pill that was giving me a bit of nausea in the mornings if I didn't take it like total clockwork. I went off it with intentions to try out a new pill within the next couple months. Only no. I got pregnant right away, within a couple weeks of not taking the pill regularly. It was pretty ridiculous.

How long did it take to get pregnant? 
Right away! See above.

How did you feel when you found out?
I was horrified. Shocked. Disappointed. Confused - I still don't know how it happened, to be honest. I didn't (still don't, really) believe in getting pregnant on accident and I couldn't believe I was becoming one of those women!

Did you have morning sickness? When did it start?
Not really. I'd have random moments of queasiness every once in a while during those first weeks, but nothing major.

What were the changes in your body during the first trimester?
Pretty much as soon as I took the pee test my boobs started hurting like mad. I also had to pee all the time.

Describe the feeling of being pregnant to someone who hasn’t been.
I didn't feel pregnant until I was about 25 weeks along or so. At that point I'd liken it to when you have an eyelash twitch or a random muscle spasm. That's what the baby kicking felt like to me...little involuntary twitches in my tummy.

And the changes in your emotions/cravings?
The only craving I experienced was the craving of fresh things. I was in the second trimester during the summer of 2011, which probably had something to do with it. I wanted really cold salads and smoothies a lot. Toward the end, though, I was BIG into mandarins and grapefruit juice. I downed probably a gallon of grapefruit juice every 2 days in the last two weeks of pregnancy. I'd have gnarly heartburn every night, but would still eat 12 mandarins per evening.

While you were pregnant, did you want to have sex more or less than usual? 
The same, I think.

Was it harder to have sex because of your belly? What were the adjustments you needed to make in bed, if any?
Obviously having 20 lbs. of baby in your belly is going to change things up a bit.

What was your biggest fear throughout your pregnancy?
I don't think I had any. I had some concerns about raising a child - I was scared that he might be a difficult baby and I'd be exhausted and unhappy and Tony and I would never be able to have fun ever again.

Did you read books? If so, did they help?
I had What To Expect and would browse through it here and there. A friend gave me some others to borrow that I'd flip through if I had a question or was curious about something. I realized early on that the books were mostly fucking insane and alarmist and anti-woman. They all seem to want to convince you that you're some delicate, incapable moron that shouldn't be trusted around cured meats or warm baths. Eff that noise. During pregnancy I tried to picture my grandmothers and other ancestors pregnant with their children - working in the fields all day, cooking and cleaning at night with a baby in their belly and a million other children and family members to care for. I applied the knowledge we've gained about pregnancy as a culture of course (don't over exert yourself, no intravenous drugs, etc. ;)) but basically did what I wanted. within reason.

Did strangers treat you differently when they found out you were pregnant? How so?
It took me a long time to look pregnant. By the time I did, it was nearing sweater weather and pretty easy to hide still. Toward the very end people would ask how far along I was, that's about it.

Did you drink at all while pregnant?
I'm not a big drinker anyways, so not drinking while pregnant was no big deal. I participated in a couple champagne wedding toasts and would have a taste of a friend's wine or some sips of a beer when I felt like it. My sisters made some sangria for my baby shower and I think I had a small glass.

How did your friends react? Did they treat you differently?
My friends were as shocked as I was, I'm sure. My best friend was actually 6 months pregnant when I found out I was pregnant, so she was excited. Another good friend's girlfriend found out she was pregnant a couple months after I did, so that was cool too.

How involved was your boyfriend/husband in the birthing preparation? Did he go to classes with you, read books, etc.?
Not really at all. He is an amazing, AMAZING dad. He thought feeling the baby kick was kinda weird, and really didn't show any more interest than an acquaintance or coworker in birthing preparation. He was happy to be becoming a dad, but had little interest in the physiology of pregnancy and everything that comes with that. He attended the 20 week ultrasound with me, that's about the extent of it!

Did you intend to take drugs during the delivery or not? Did you change your mind about this when you were in labor?
Yes. I knew I didn't want to have the epidural too early and planned to ride out the pain until I couldn't anymore, and then get an epidural. Which is exactly what I did.

How long did the delivery take?
16 hours. My water broke at 5 in the afternoon on the 20th (V's due date). We headed to the hospital at 8, intense pain began at 11, epidural at 3:30 and baby was born at 9:30.

Who was in the room with you?
Tony, the midwife and a couple nurses (I think).

Was your delivery how you expected it to be? (I guess I mean, was it like in the movies?)
No! I didn't expect my water to break out of nowhere. I hadn't experienced Braxton Hicks or any of the other "baby is coming" things that happen to your body shortly before labor.

I also didn't expect the pain to be as intensely fucking awful as it was. In the movies (and for most women, from what I gather) contractions come on and you have a couple minutes of relief before another wave of pain comes on, and they get more and more intense throughout labor. I had some period like cramps for about an hour before I was hit head on with a wall of pain until the epidural shot came. The pain was literally unspeakable. I was in a weird delirium/fog of horrible, horrible pain (period cramps x 1000 would be the closest thing I could liken them to) and can remember nurses and midwives coming in and out and briefing each other on my status. I remember one nurse showing the other nurse a monitoring machine and saying, "Poor thing, she is getting zero rest time. They have just been one on top of the other."

Did you poop?
No.

Describe the feeling of giving birth to someone who hasn’t.
It's intense pressure. You feel like you're completely maxed out physically, and you're having to use every ounce of strength to keep going. It's like you are steps from completing a marathon and someone is jogging in front of you moving the finish line. Or like you're having to place a 75 lb. medicine ball on a shelf above your head that someone keeps notching up as you approach it.

Was it an emotional experience?
Yes. The actual labor was less emotional because every fiber of you is needing to focus on getting through the pain and then pushing the baby out. But once you've delivered that cocoon of focus and adrenaline dissipates and you're looking at this baby that you almost forgot was the reason for all the work!

What did you think when you first saw your baby?
During the actual delivery, I was told to only push every other contraction because Van's heart rate was dropping with every push and he needed time for his heart to get close to normal without me pushing. He was born with the cord wrapped around his torso and neck.  I caught a quick glimpse of him before they freed him and took him to another table to clean out his lungs and said out loud, "he has big eyes like me!" As I strained to see him while the doctors were working on him I thought he looked huge! Doctors and nurses had predicted I'd have a big baby - he was 6 lbs 15 oz and 20.5 inches long. Hardly a big baby. All those predictions obviously had gotten to me!

After about 30 minutes of checking his lungs and fishing out a bunch of goop from his little chest we did some skin to skin time. He was the most gorgeous thing I'd ever seen. He was craning his neck to look right at me. He had the most intense and aware air about him. Like a 50 year old philosopher in a newborn baby body.

What was your recovery like?
Not bad. Quick. And you're so into your new baby that everything else is very periphery and unimportant. Van was born on 12/21 and by New Years Eve I was at pre-baby weight. I don't know why. I know I'm very lucky.

Have you noticed any changes in your body since the delivery? If so, what?
I never had an enviable midsection but now it's flatter and lower, if that makes sense. More deflated looking, but not that much different than it was before. Also, oddly, I think my boobs are the same size, but the circumference around my chest is slightly bigger.

Do the changes concern you? 
No. I'm the same size I was before, for the most part.

What advice would you give to soon-to-be new moms?  The baby is the newbie here. Introduce them to your life, don't stop doing things the way you've always done them just because there is a baby in the picture. Take them places. Pass them around so they get to know and enjoy the company of other people and environments.

Also, babies are adaptable (or at least mine was). I once watched a mother take 10 minutes to stealthily swaddle her already sleeping baby because, "he only sleeps swaddled." Hhmmm. Maybe he'll sleep unswaddled too? You'll never know if you never try. Try! It might be easier for you in the long run (it probably will be). If not, then do it the hard way.

Lastly, you are the boss. Not your mother, not your baby, not your doctor, not your neighbor with a toddler. I knew a baby once that would cry for an hour after his 4 ounces of milk were all eaten up because the doctor told the mom not to exceed 4 ounces of milk every however many hours. The doctor is just that - a doctor - not the boss of you or the regulator of your kid's milk intake. If your baby is still hungry and you're at wits end dealing with your sobbing child (not the doctor, obviously), then give the baby another ounce for Gods sakes. It's your baby!

 
 





Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Freakin (Easter) Weekend

Easter weekend! I never feel more adult and surreal as I when I have to do the holiday thing for Van. For so  many years Easter was pretty much a roll out of bed, get ready and go to some kind of family BBQ or something type of holiday. Now it entails the full on Easter stuff - - filling an Easter basket, dying eggs.

Van didn't really have any idea of what was going on. We didn't mention anything about Easter or candy or bunnies bringing him anything until about the day before. I had mentioned making Easter eggs all day Saturday, which confused Van because when it came time to actually make them Van ran in the kitchen asking if he could crack the eggs and stir them in a bowl. I definitely should have been more clear about what Easter eggs actually are. He was interested in dying them for about 5 minutes before ditching us at the table to watch Feist sing 1,2,3,4 to the monsters on Sesame Street.

 
 
 
On Sunday we all woke up around 11. I told Van that there were some treats for him on the coffee table from the bunny and that all the eggs we dyed were gone. He was pretty stoked to get his little basket of treats (a Beatles book, organic lollipops, a learning game and a bubble gun) and see that the eggs were missing from the carton. With some pretty heavy hinting from Tony and I he was able to find all 12.
 
 

 
 
After getting ready we headed out to my Aunt Lora's to eat and hang out with my extended family. We had a nice ravioli lunch and the kids ran around collecting plastic eggs in the backyard.

My sister made these hilarious eggs with our pictures on them. They were pretty much the highlight of Easter. She printed the pics on tissue paper and decoupage'd them onto the eggs. Freaking hilarious.

 
 
 
Once home we had a three hour family nap and some lettuce wraps. Holidays are exhausting.
 
I'll close this out with some gratuitous pics of Van and his homegirl Minnie. She came over for a bit on Saturday. They are so freaking cute.
 

 
 


 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Delicious Thing I Make Sometimes: Chicken with Spanish Chorizo and Potatoes



This meal is so freaking good. The prep could not be simpler, it dirties few dishes and comes out pretty perfect every time.

I first saw this Nigella recipe on a web site somewhere. I pretty much do what the recipe calls for, but for some reason the version that is so posted and popular makes WAY more food than your typical family can eat at one sitting. It's more than my family of big eaters could eat over the course of a few dinners. It also makes things sound a little more involved than they really are. I don't like recipes that call for lots of measuring and instruction following. I use terms like "glug" when referring to olive oil amounts.

Here's how I make it:

What you'll need
  • Little potatoes, or big ones cut into chunks so they're like little potatoes
  • Chicken thighs WITH SKIN (for the love of God, make sure there is skin on there. If you're not into crispy chicken skin then just forget about this recipe. The crispy skin is the most glorious part of this whole meal.)
  • Spanish Chorizo, sliced up into bite sized pieces. Make sure it's SPANISH chorizo.
  • Red onion (cut it however you like it. I kinda slice mine - it's more in there for flavor, but they do soften and taste pretty good in the mix)
  • Dried oregano
  • Orange zest (from one orange)
  • Olive oil
  • S/P

Mix up your potatoes (how every many you want - I make sure I have a handful of little potatoes per person), onion and chorizo. Toss with a bit of olive oil and dump it all in an oven dish of sorts. Like one you'd use to make lasagna.

Place your chicken thighs (however many your family eats...4, 6, whatever) skin side up on top of the potato, chorizo and onion mixture. Maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top of your chicken.

Grab a cheese grater and grate the zest of the orange all over the chicken, potatoes, chorizo and onion. Don't be stingy. And don't squeeze any of the orange on top. This is not the place for orange juice. Just the zest.

Sprinkle a bit of salt, pepper and dried oregano over everything (not too much salt - chorizo is salty) before placing it into a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for one hour.

Halfway through cooking I like to pull it out for a second, toss the potatoes around a bit and kinda baste everything with the orangey, oregano-ey grease that's collected on the bottom.

My sister makes this without the orange zest ( which I would never do - the subtle orange flavor is really, really good) and will sometimes sub kielbasa for chorizo or try other kinds of dried herbs in lieu of oregano. It's a really easily adaptable dish. I make it all the time. There's nothing not to like here. Pretty bomb.