Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Soft Serve Solves Woman's Madness

Soft serve can fix almost anything.

That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.  Today is the first day in three that I have not felt the need for the soothing calm of a soft serve cone.  If it didn't involve putting the baby back in the car, I'd go back out for one right now.  I don't think it would survive the ride up the hill, otherwise I'd have W stop and get me one on his way home.

See, I've been a bit out of sorts for the last week.  Hence no witty and pithy posts.  I just didn't feel like it.  I still kinda don't feel like it.  I have a whole list of things I need to do and just don't feel like doing.  I think it started last week, after Ladies Night.  Two pineapple martinis and some wine, and at 3am I found myself standing over CJ's crib, fumbling a bink back into his mouth.  Ten minutes later, I was lying on the bathroom floor and thinking how cool the tile was, and that I should get another one of these bathmats.  It was soft.

Ever since then, I have felt a lethargy that has led me to the rut I'm in.  I check the other blogs I follow, write my comments and think I'm inspired to climb out of my ditch and do the top 5 things on my list.  Then "Bones" or "NCIS" comes on and that's that.

I find the soft serve helps.  I was driving home from my friend A's house when I rediscovered it.  I passed a Foster's Freeze on the corner and had to turn around.  I thought about that chocolate dipped cone for 2 days before I realized that McDonalds has soft serve, and that's a lot closer than driving over to A's everyday.  Yes, McDonalds.  Its not pretty, I know, but its working.

See, just two days ago I almost had a meltdown in the parking lot of the Mexican grocery store.  When scouting a grocery store for a parking space, I'm not looking for the space closest to the door, I'm looking for the space closest to the cart rack, so I can easily get a cart to put the baby in without lugging him halfway across a sunny parking lot that is lit like we're standing on the sun.  I found an empty space to the left of a silver compact, and was a quarter pulled into the space when a little man and his cart full of plastic bags stepped into the space in front of me, and brought the cart up to the silver compact.  I assumed he would do the human thing - bring the cart to the rear of the compact to unload, thereby allowing me to pull the rest of the way in.  But no, he pulled the cart perpendicular to the back door and stood there, taking his time to load his groceries into the back seat.

He must have read my lips, which may have said something that resembled the phrase, "Are you fucking kidding me, you rubber ducker?!?!  You asshole!" (we are attempting to replace certain phrases, so the kid learns his swearing where he should- from other kids at school, not from his parents at home.  Ok, we're not very successful yet).  I abruptly threw the car into reverse and pulled out, having just seen another empty space on the opposite side, closest to the front door of the store, but perhaps it seemed like an angry gesture.  Perhaps it offended his slow sensibilities in some way, because when I pulled into the space on the other side of the row and got out of my car, he had unloaded his cart but was standing at the hood of his car looking at me.   Almost mad-dogging me, but not quite.  Looking like he wanted to mad-dog me, but slightly afraid.

As he should have been.  I was on the phone with W at the time, and I think my half of the conversation went something like this -

"Uh huh... uh huh... wait, honey, hang on... oh no.  Oh no, you are NOT waiting for me.  Seriously?!?!  You have something to say?!?  Then you'd better get your fucking ass over here and say it to my fucking face, you dumb rubber ducker.... honey?  I'm going to have to call you right back.  I'm about to cut a bitch in the parking lot."

Well, clearly, I did no such thing.  I'm bad at confrontation, but that's a topic for another post.  What I DID do was look back at him clearly as if to say, "Oh yeah?  Come on, you got something to say?"  And he looked away.  But when I got CJ out of the back seat, I looked up again and he was still there.  I glared at him some more, and he still did nothing.  I locked the car and carried the car seat across the parking lot lane and he was still looking at me.  One more glare, and since he obviously wasn't going to come tell me off for calling him a rubber ducker, I went into the store.

I decided it was God's will that soft serve soothe my soul, since directly kitty corner to the Mexican grocery store is a McDonalds.  It did make me feel better as I crunched my cone on the way home, but perhaps I should find a better outlet for my energy.  Then again, the cone has few calories than my Yoplait Whipped Yogurt.

Stay tuned, more ranting is sure to ensue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Mommydom

When I found out I was pregnant and we began planning the baby's room, I knew I wanted something clean, simple, and definitely not blue. We didn't want stark modern, but we are not cluttery people. At least we try not to be (this usually results in throwing a lot of shit out every 3 months in the attempt not to be cluttery people). I did not want a house full of baby toys and baby stuff that baby wasn't ever going to use (by the way, that picture above IS NOT my house).

Ah, the plans of the ignorant.

I also planned to be the cool, slim, super chic mom. My pregnancy wasn't an excuse to gain 50 lbs or eat everything I ever wanted, any time I wanted to. What I found (not) amusing was how every one wanted to tell me my pregnancy was the excuse to simply live in excess for 9 months - eat what you want! Sleep the day away, don't keep the house clean or do errands or keep up any semblance of order or hygiene, you're pregnant! Oh no, I was not going to be that pregnant lady or that mom. After the baby was born, I planned to do the unthinkable: get a shower everyday (that included washing my hair), put on make-up when dealing with the outside world, lose the baby weight, keep my house clean, check email and most importantly - leave my house.

I managed to do most of that. I made a Target run (sans bebe) 3 days after we came home from the hospital. I lost the baby weight in 3 weeks (kudos to the gestational diabetes), even though the remaining weight seems to have, um... redistributed itself differently. I learned to shower super quick when he went down for his morning nap, and then at 15 weeks I learned that he was not going to die if I could hear him crying in his crib when I shut the shower water off. I took him out into the world 3 weeks after he was born and we both survived.

What I did not manage to do was keep out the invading baby stuff. I guess I should have known, when we had a dog it had 3 dog beds in the house, two in the living room and one in the bedroom. I was thinking about this today as I brought home and put together one of those Play and Lay mats (or whatever they're called, I threw the box out), one with the arch and the dangly things. Its cheesy but I was looking for something that would amuse him while he is on his back and looking up, and hopefully something that would encourage him to start to roll over (this one has fabric sides with pictures of animals). He has a Boppy frog play mat, but when on his back, the only thing to look at is me, and I think he is getting tired of that. So now my living room consists of 2 play mats, a rocker chair (with vibration and sound), and a swing chair (also with mobile and sound) in case, you know, he wants different movement. In his room is the foam mat on the floor to also encourage tummy time and rolling over, in addition to the Bumbo chair we got from a friend (what? he doesn't know its pink) so he can learn to sit up. Oh, and of course, there is the pack n play in our bedroom (aka the baby cage), which he no longer sleeps in, but which we have yet to pack up or play in.

You see, much as I miss my old uncluttered living room, the truth is, I need someplace to put this child when I simply can't hold him anymore. When he doesn't want to be held by me anymore, which contrary to all to mommy websites, happens. All those people who say, "Oh, your baby will never get tired of you holding him!" can bite me. In our house, it happens at least twice a day. There comes a point when he is fussing and half screaming/crying, when I know what he is saying is, "For God's sake put me down! Stop touching me!" He wants you to play with him, but while you sit across from him, not while he sweats in your arms and drools on your shoulder. But there is now a point of fussing when I sit in the usual chair, or the usual spot on the sofa, or when I sit him on my lap in front of the computer while I try to check my email or blog or Facebook or research for my future website. This is fussing that knows it has been here before and is tired of it. And these days, it happens faster and faster, so more and more during the day I play shuffle the baby. And live with the stuff.

We made a trip to Macy's this morning with the pretext of returning some clothes that were gifts (football/sports is SO not our style). The truth is, we had cabin fever and Mommy needed to distract baby somehow, so we were going to Macy's and then we were going to have lunch in an actual sit-down restaurant by ourselves. I will admit, I'm proud when we go out. I'm quick and efficient with the stroller and I'm working on being quicker and smoother with the Baby Bjorn. I wear heels and do my hair and put on a little natural make-up. I just need a little half-caf latte in the stroller cup holder and I'm the LA mom with her newest accessory, a cute baby.

At least that's what I thought. I passed two other LA moms pushing strollers, more chic than mine, with children who could sit up and hold up their own heads. They wore tight jeans and tank tops and tans and perky boobs, their long hair held back by designer sunglasses. Meanwhile, my hair was pinned to the side by a barrette like a 10-year old, I was wearing flip flops, and my kid started to cry.

Sigh. Maybe more make-up tomorrow.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Less Meat

Last week, W said something to me I never thought I would hear.

"Honey, let's get away from so much red meat."

He said this as he pushed a perfectly cooked, yet still strangely dry and tough New York strip steak around on his plate. My husband loves meat. When I first met him, he was subsisting on one huge Carl's Jr burger per day (ok, he was broke then too). The only salad he would eat was a Cheesecake Factory Cobb, laden with bacon and blue cheese and drowning in their balsamic dressing (extra on the side, please). Up until last week, his go-to meal when on the run, or even just at work was always a cheeseburger.

I was happy to hear the "less meat" request. If I wasn't cooking for him, truth be known, most of my meals would be meatless, or would contain small amounts of the red/white stuff. When we met, I was broke too and really careful with my money. I ate a lot of pasta and fresh tomatoes and vegetables. Cooking for myself was always easy. I'm Chinese, I believe in 1) leftovers, morning, noon and night; and 2) meat in small quantities. Big steaks are for Texans and special occasions. I also believe that dinner can be breakfast, and that a big wedge of leftover strawberry birthday cake is a perfectly acceptable meal to give you child before shuttling her off to school, but those are all different topics.

Turkey burgers are always notoriously dry and tasteless. Let's be honest, the turkey is a boring-ass bird. We only eat it at Thanksgiving because we are supposed to, and even then, in my house we won't eat it any other way than deep fried (more on this in another month!). I wouldn't eat it at all for Thanksgiving if family didn't want it. My ass would be giving thanks for something else.

Here then, is a recipe for the best non-dry turkey burger you will ever have. It gets veggies in there as well, and has a ton of flavor. You don't need anything else, but bonus points if you can serve a salad with it. If it passes muster with my husband, it will with yours, too.

Adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe; her original was still a little tasteless!
4 servings (I actually got 5 burgers out of this)

1 lb ground turkey (you can use chicken if you want, but I no wanna)
Salt & pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
A handful or so of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
One 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
Slices of beefsteak tomato
One jar marinated artichoke hearts
Sliced provolone cheese
Hamburger Buns

Preheat a grill, grill pan or large nonstick skillet to medium-high.

Take a few of the marinated artichokes and rinse them, removing a lot of the oily marinade. Carefully chop into small pieces, they can still be slippery. Place the ground turkey in a medium bowl and season with S & P. Add the lemon zest, Parmigianno-Reggiano, chopped garlic, spinach, thyme and chopped artichoke hearts. The mixture will be loose. Give it a little drizzle of olive oil, and then add a teaspoon or so of the artichoke marinade from the jar. Mix all ingredients well, adding a little more artichoke marinade as necessary to moisten the mixture and get it to hold together. Form into 4 (or 5) patties and cook the burgers until firm and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

Remove the rest of the marinated artichokes from the jar and pat dry on paper towels. Flatten a little with your hand, if any of the hearts seem too large, thinly slice, or halve the heart part horizontally.

In the last 2 minutes of the burgers cooking, time, divide the marinated artichokes evenly among the top of the burgers, then cover each with a slice (or 2 if you want) of provolone. If cooking on the grill, drop the lid to melt the cheese, or tent your grill pan or skillet with aluminum foil. Lightly grill your buns if you like, and place a burger on top of each tomato slice. Serve immediately, coagulated cheese is no fun.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Fish Story

I am all tuna-ed out.

My brother E went on a 2-day fishing trip out of San Diego on Monday and hit the motherlode. He caught 12 yellowfin tuna, 2 yellowtail and 2 dorado (mahi mahi), coming home with 72 lbs of fish. Before he even went home to shower or sleep, he was driving around LA, delivering beautiful, vacuum sealed bags of fresh fish to friends and family who would in turn rush to their local sushi bars with it. As he left my house at 2pm, he was on his way from Pasadena to El Segundo, to deliver a load to my mother so she could share with her friends at work. We made every kind of tuna sushi possible last night - nigiri, sashimi, in hand rolls, spicy tuna cut rolls, even spicy tuna on crispy rice (take that Katsuya, I can do it myself!). We are a tekka maki away from mercury poisoning.

He brought over the mahi mahi tonight and we made fish tacos, trying to consume all the fish we can as close to its freshest peak possible. This leads me to one of my all time favorite stories about my mother, which I found I really wanted to share.

E has always loved fishing. In high school, his reward for any major accomplishment was usually a 2 or 3 day fishing trip, often by himself. If he wasn't going on a longer trip, he would often take the 3/4 day boats out of San Pedro alone, working the deck or the galley or cleaning the boat after to avoid paying the boat fees.

He would always bring the entire catch home himself, as a 16-year-old high school student with no part-time job, he wasn't going to pay someone else to clean and fillet his catch. Because he would often clean the boat, we would usually hear E come in the door around 2am, clanging his poles as quietly as he could in the backyard.

When this happened, he would come into the house and whisper to my semi-sleeping mother that he was home and he would tell her what he had caught. It would be 3am and my mother would get out of bed, slide on her shoes and accompany E out to the backyard, where together, by the light of the moon and the back patio, they would clean, descale and fillet E's catch.

Here is the best part: once the fish was cleaned and cut and they were back in the house, E would wash up and mom would cut the raw fish into slices and make a little wasabi. Then they would wake the rest of us, and at 3:00 in the morning, bleary-eyed and barely awake, we would stand at the kitchen counter and eat sashimi.

Keep in mind that this was 1990, not a lot of people in high school were eating sashimi, and certainly none were doing it standing up in their kitchens at 3am, like cows in a pasture, mindlessly chewing their cud. We would finish our sashimi and stumble back to bed, bellies full, and mom would clean up and eventually go back to sleep herself.

Her philosophy was this: that fish was at its peak at 3am, freshly caught and just cleaned, the smell of the ocean still clinging faintly to it. She wanted us to have the best of that fish and it simply would not be the same two hours, four hours, six hours later. We had to eat it right then, whether we remembered it or enjoyed it or not.

People think I'm crazy when I tell this story. They think my mother is crazy and can't imagine that you will notice the difference if you wait until 6am to have sashimi (oh, but you will!). But I love this story. It exemplifies one of the good ways my mother is wacky (we all know there is good wacky, and then there is just plain wack), and I hope that I carry that little bit of wackiness around myself. She wanted us to have the best of everything, and even if she took the sashimi situation to an extreme, I hope that someday my son has a story like this to tell about me. I hope that someday he finds that a silly memory of me is just another example of things we will unthinkingly do to bring the best to those we love.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bring on the Ologists

Last week, after the danger of the Station Fire had passed and we had managed to have our living room repaired and painted, while spending the day locked in the cabana with the AC on, while also managing not to kill each other, we took Caleb to see another "-ologist."

Lucy, let me 'splain. After Caleb's 10-day stint in the hospital in June, we left Huntington with "-ologists." It started innocently enough when we picked up the first one, the pediatric ur-OLOGIST to keep an eye on his big-boy kidney condition. A few weeks later, when his regular pediatrician Dr. P thought he heard a murmur in his heart, we went to pick up our second, which was now our pediatric cardi-OLOGIST. Around this time, we began to collect ultrasounds too. He had the kidney ultrasound from the hospital in the bag, and then came his first heart sonogram, to locate the murmur. Which turned out not to be an actual murmur, but like bunnies, they seem to just multiply, as we will have to repeat both the kidney and heart ultrasound in December.

At his 3 month appointment last week, in addition to the indignity of having his thighs wrapped in Saran Wrap like picnic chicken (to hold the topical lidocaine in place for his shots), we talked to Dr P about the flat spot on the back of his head. My kid likes to sleep on his back, in full on naked-sunbather-froggy-position, and truth be known, it's not a flat spot. Its a flat head. And just because, as Dr P put it, "this kid has already had everything" he wanted us to go see Sean S, the head-OLOGIST.

Okay, that's not really his title, but that's what I'm calling him, because Prosthetics and Orthotics sounds so.... boring. Sean S made my son a do-rag and then put him in what I like to call the "magic box." The Magic Box is a black box with purple and gold writing on the outside, like you see when magicians cut people in half and then roll the two pieces of box away.

The magic box took a scan of his noggin, and surprise, he does indeed have a flat head (brachycephaly)! For those of you without children in this generation, incidents of flat heads are a recent phenomenon, largely due to the current medical advice that your child sleep on his back and not his stomach, to reduce the chance of SIDS. So more kids live, but more of them have flat heads. The head-ologist has kindly suggested a helmet to help re-contour his head, but we have chosen to pass and attempt other methods before subjecting our little Bug to a head helmet. Did you know that children who have to wear helmets usually have to wear them for 3 months? And that they need to wear them 23 hours a day?!?! And along with the fact that your little one is trying to figure out why he's wearing a plastic helmet all the time and it's harder for mommy to snuggle and kiss his fat cheeks, will come the oh-so pleasant SMELL of a sweaty head, trapped in a plastic hot box, not to mention the probability of rashes and blisters! Oh, and Blue Shield will likely not cover this because they don't deem it "medically necessary" (brachycephaly does not affect brain development or CNS function- its a looks thing), so you get to pay $3300 to torture yourself and your child for 3 months! YEA HELMET! No, we don't think so.

So this is the end of Bug's back sleeping. We have probably increased his chance of SIDS, since we now put him on his side to sleep. In order to keep him there, we have to wedge him in on all sides, so he sleeps with a bolster in front of him, and 2 rolled up towels behind him, to try to keep him from rolling onto his back. I personally think the back of his head feels rounder already, but that could be wishful thinking. All I know is we can't subject our son to a helmet unless it is absolutely necessary. After everything he has already been through, I can't have the helmet head kid with the big-boy kidneys and the big-boy ureters, who will probably need glasses on top of it all. I just can't do that to him. Bring on the ologists - this kid is staying helmet and smelly head free.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Working the System at 3am

It's 3:30am, a scant 210 minutes after the Labor Day Holiday, and I am up. I am up, attempting to cram a blog entry, some coffee , some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and maybe a baby feeding in before I leave the house in 20 minutes for... WORK.

Ok, it's sort of work. What began as an attempt to work the system and get "laid off", led me to go to sleep at 9pm last night an get up 45 minutes ago (my disability and Paid Family Leave Act have run out, and if I get laid off, I can file for unemployment for the rest of my "maternity leave"). One of my closest girlfriends is an extras casting coordinator and I had asked that she consider hiring me (and laying me off) if she ever needed help on one of her movies on days when they had a lot of background actors coming in. I said that on a Saturday - the following Saturday, I was up at 3:30am in order to help her check in 110 extras at 5am. While I wouldn't really consider hanging out with ME (those are her initials, not a capitalized "me") for 5 hours and standing on set chatting with co-workers I hadn't seen in months/years work, she did pay me and lay me off, thereby enabling the all important unemployment claim. The kicker came when she said, "What are you doing on Tuesday? I could really use some help with these 225 extras I have to check in..."

So here I am again at 3:40am, having laid my unemployment claim aside, to go do this thing called "work." Later, when I come home, I guess I will once again do the thing called "mama" with the thing called "baby" and continue to try to research my next project, which is by necessity a part-time thing called "thinking about starting a website". Maybe I can get to that after a nap. Or two.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Can't Breathe Inside, Can't Breathe Outside

So while the Station Fire doesn't appear to be coming any close to my home any longer, this morning we woke up to larger ash. Floating in the air, floating in the pool, everywhere. We are on day 6 of lockdown with the AC on.

When I started this post yesterday (hey man, things get interrupted with a 3 month old and a husband who is home), we were also on day 4 of what was supposed to be a "little" remodeling in the living room. When we bought the house 5 years ago, there was a faux fireplace in the wall and a huge yellow and white faux mantle that looked like it was made of paper mache. The mantle was huge, moveable, and the story was that the gay couple who had owned the home years ago had gotten it from the Chateau Marmont. Two years ago we disposed of the paper-mache mantle, and since then the faux fireplace has been through a few transformations until last year, when it just became an ugly, gaping, patched with putty around the edges, 3'x3' hole in the wall. I would post a picture but it would upset my husband, hence why we have also not had any of you over for the last year or so.

We originally wanted to put an actual working fireplace in, but put the kibbosh on that one after our contractor said it would probably run us about $14k to turn the gaping hole into an actual working fireplace. Oh, something about putting a gas fireplace into a wood wall and concrete framing and constructing a flue and inspectors and permits. Oh, and I believe his exact words were, "Hey guys, I would love to charge you $14,000 to put in a fireplace but seriously.... its not worth it. To you, I mean." So we decided to patch up said ugly hole, and redirect our money into ceiling fans, additional recessed lighting in the living room, patching the ceiling, repainting and some electrical work around the house. Like putting in electrical outlets under the eaves so this year we can actually hang lights for Baby's First Christmas (yes, I know he doesn't know and won't care. I do and will). Oh, and actually wiring in the tankless water heater we had installed a year and half ago. We were powering it with an extension cord running halfway around the house. I think you're not supposed to be doing that, no?

As a result of the construction and the fires though, we couldn't breathe inside or outside. Yesterday was the worst, as the painters/patchers sanded the new ceiling and all the patching and it looked like the winter wonderland from hell in the living room. We spent the day trapped up in the cabana, peeking down every now and then to check on their progress. Plaster dust is still everywhere, no matter how well they cleaned up after themselves or tried to seal off the doors and hallways to other rooms. I feel constantly gritty. My cleaning gal was supposed to come today and to much to my dismay, did not. We are attributing Caleb's 30 minute screaming fit this afternoon to a paint fume headache. The house still smells like paint, but really, it's choosing the worst of two evils. We can suck paint fumes or I can open the windows and doors and run the fans and we can suck the "particulate matter" floating in from the fires. I think I'm going to have to stick with the paint fumes. Maybe Caleb will grow gills.