Saturday, December 12, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Great Christmas Baking Fiasco

I've been doing a lot of holiday baking so far this year.  Well, really, I've baked one particular dessert several different times, and I'm not done yet.  That dessert is cheesecake.  I have a recipe that my mom developed over several years of testing and trying, and I happen to think it is one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten.  It has become my holiday staple, and I pretty much make it for any holiday gathering occurring between Thanksgiving and New Years.  This year, I made one for Thanksgiving, one for Cy's Blessing celebration, and one for Jason's office holiday party.  I am making four for this Tuesday's Relief Society Enrichment Meeting, and I am making at least one for Christmas Eve dinner.  All of this cheesecake baking reminds me of the first time I made this recipe all by myself.

It was the year 2005 and it marked Jason's first Christmas in New York.  We were engaged and sharing an apartment in the Bronx.  We were unable to fly home for Christmas because we had to fly home in January to plan our wedding in April.  It was admitedly depressing to not be with any other family, so I wanted to bring some of my family's traditions to our little Bronx Christmas.  There are two things that make me think Christmas - homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and cheesecake for Christmas Dinner.  So, never having made either before, I set to make them both on Christmas Eve.

I began with the Cinnamon rolls at about 1:00pm in the afternoon.  I mixed all of the ingredients, rolled them up, put them in the pan and left them to rise.  And left them.  And left them.  They didn't seem to be rising the way I thought they should, but I baked them anyway.  They came out small and hard, and they smelled oddly of play-dough.  I took one out and took a bite and was disgusted to discover that they tasted of play-dough as well!  After examining the flour bag, I realized that, not being a regular baker, I was using extremely old flour! I think it had expired like 6 months prior or something.  So, I started all over.  I don't remember exactly how long the cinnamon rolls take to rise and bake, but it is quite some time.  It was at least evening by this point.

I then began my cheesecake.  After several phone calls to my mom, I had it all mixed and ready to go. The way her recipe works is that, after making the graham cracker crust, you then make the rich, cream cheese filling.  You bake that for about 30 minutes, let it cool for 10 minutes, then put on the sour cream topping and bake for another 10 minutes.  I guess with eating dinner and what not, the process took quite some time.  When I pulled it out of the oven the first time, I was extremely pleased with the results.  Beleive me when I tell you that it was perfect.  There was not one single crack, it was smooth, and the perfect consistency.  I mixed the sour cream topping, and put it back in the oven.  While it baked I took a shower, as I had been baking all day and was tired and dirty.

It was about 1:30am Christmas morning when I went to pull the cheesecake out of the oven for the final time. Oh man, it's hard to talk about even now, four years late.  I pulled the cheesecake out, and as I did, the bottom of my spring form pan popped out of the ring, rose into the air (with the cheesecake on top, of course), turned over and landed with a splat on the floor.  I believe my response went something like this:


I then ran into the bedroom and flung myself on the bed in a fit of tears.  I had been baking for 12 hours and all I had to show for it was one lousy batch of cinamon rolls!  Jason ran in from the living room to see what was wrong, sure I had burnt myself or cut off a limb or something.  When he saw the disaster, being the thoughtful guy that he is, he immediately grabbed a camera and snapped a picture.

Yes, my friends, that is what happens when hot cheesecake, which has not yet had time to set, is thrust to the ground by gravity. It really did flip exactly upside down in the air.  Kind of amazing, really.

That is the splatter effect up the dishwasher.  What you can't see, is that it also splattered clear under the dishwasher.

A close up.

To his credit, Jason sent me to bed and cleaned up the whole mess, after getting photographic evidence, of course.  The worst part was that I was going to miss out on my Christmas Cheesecake!  Fortunately, our good friend Jean was also unable to go home for Christmas and was planning to join us for ours.  I called her first thing Christmas morning and asked if there was anywhere in her neighborhood that was open on Christmas day that might sell cream cheese and sour cream.

Lucky for us, there was, and so I made my second ever cheesecake fewer than 24 hours after making (and killing) the first.  Though not quite as perfect as the first, it was still mighty tasty!

Cheesecake #2

Fortunately, I have yet to have a repeat of that disaster; however, I have been permanently scarred.  While I am fine to remove the cheesecake from the over after it's first baking, I am so terrified of a repeat performance that I insist that Jason remove it after it's second baking, just to be on the safe side.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Matters of Sharing our Religion

This is a post that has been clanging around in my head for quite some time, but was brought to the fore again this past weekend when we had Cyrus blessed at my church.  For those of you who are unaware, I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon church) about three and a half years ago.  Jason did not join the church.  I may someday post my conversion story, but not now.

So, in our church, new babies are given a blessing and their names are recorded on church records.  It is kind of a similar process to a Christening, I think.  Anyway, Jason, being the supportive husband and father that he is, agreed to have Cy blessed.  The blessing was performed by a good family friend of ours.  We also decided to invite several of our family members, none of whom belong to the church.  In the end, we had Jason's dad, grandma, sister and her husband, one uncle and a cousin and my sister.

This was a nerve-wracking process for me, and I'll tell you why.  First of all, I think most people will probably agree that discussing religion can be kind of awkward - many people avoid it all together.  It becomes even more difficult if your religion is of the somewhat controversial variety - as Mormonism tends to be.  However, for most members of the church, their religion is such a significant factor in how they live their lives that is hard to avoid at least mentioning it.  And, since many people grow up in the religion, I think that being Mormon becomes a known fact and is not so difficult for people to talk about (if you are of this group, feel free to disagree with me if I am wrong).

For me, I not only did not grow up as a Mormon, but I went through a several-year period where I was vehemently against all organized religion (call it my rebellious college stage).  I not only did not want to belong to an organized religion, especially not one as regimented as Mormonism, but I held a pretty negative view of those who did.  The more "religious" the religion, the more negative my view.  I'm not proud of this judgemental stage in my life, but there it is.

So you can imagine that, when I converted to the church, family and friends who had known me for a long time were quite surprised and even shocked.  Some were down right confused.  And because of this, I have found it pretty difficult to discuss my religion openly with people I know - whether new friends or old, but especially old.  Over the past few years, I have reconnected with a few friends from college - remember, my rebellious, anti-religion days - and when it came out that I had joined the Mormon church, I was met with open-mouthed shock and some definite stammering.

Anyway, back to Sunday.  I was nervous about having so many members of Jason's family there.  I knew that everyone knew I was Mormon, but no one really talked about it.  And I didn't know what their views of the church or of me being a part of it were, either.  Add to that the stress that is was Fast and Testimony meeting.  For those who don't know, the first Sunday of the month is typically Fast Sunday, where members fast for two meals.  Then during Sacrament, instead of hearing talks, the time is opened up for members to share their testimonies - a kind of open-mic for the religious (I hope that's not blasphemous...)  Anyway, you kind of never know what you're going to get on Fast Sunday.  Sometimes people share really relevant stories and testimonies...other times, not so much.  Plus, the more people you have talking, the higher chance someone will say something that could offend a non-member.  My anxiety also came from whether or not I would bear my testimony.  On the one hand, I wanted to share my testimony because it was a really special day for our family; on the other hand, for someone who doesn't talk about her religion openly to people who aren't of her faith, sharing my testimony in front of so many family members was down-right terrifying.

In the end, I did share my testimony, and I'm glad I did.  I'm also glad that so many family members wanted to share in this day, even if it was as part of a religion that they may or may not agree with.  No one made any rude comments or remarks (not that I really expected them to) and there were some really good questions after the sacrament meeting about things like the process of the blessing, the meaning of the sacrament, and why we bear testimonies.

Have I totally gotten over my fear of sharing my beliefs? Definitely not.  However, I'm hoping that this experience will help me open up a little bit more and not be so worried about how other people will respond.  After all, my beliefs are a really big part of who I am and how I live.

Jason, Cyrus and I with our friend Bill (who performed the blessing)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Worth It

I know today is Friday, but I'm just lacking the energy to write a really quality flashback.  Perhaps sometime in the next few weeks I'll figure out how to get back on the Flashback train, but for now, a regular post will have to suffice.

I hate to admit this, but I'm kind of tight-fisted.  In our current financial situation, this is actually a pretty good thing, as it helps us buy only what we need, and spend less than we might want to. However, even when we have a little disposable income, I can still be rediculouly cheap, even to the point of not wanting to buy something that we really need. (For example, I sometimes go several years without replacing my bras, something my mom finds so horrifying that she often insists on taking me bra shopping every few years so she can have some peace of mind.)  One of the side effects of my cheap ways is that I scrutinize every shopping receipt to figure out where we spent our money, and to make sure that I was charged appropriately.

So this evening, Jason and I went grocery shopping at Winco.  The total came out to a little more than I was expecting, so as Jason was bagging the groceries, I did my customary thorough check of the receipt to see if there were any items that cost more than I was expecting.  As I scanned, I came across the ground turkey meat.  We had purchased two packages of ground turkey meat, each pre-seasoned - one with Italian seasonings and one with taco seasonings.  I never buy pre-seasoned meat, but in this case, it was the only ground turkey on sale, and it was selling for $2.18 a package, versus $2.68.  Yes, not a huge difference, but one just the same.  I needed turkey meat for one of my meals for the week that has an Italian flair, so it wasn't a huge deal to buy the Italian seasoned meat.  However, we decided to buy the taco seasoned meat just to have on hand, since it was on sale.  (I promise that these details are important.)

So.  Back to the receipt.  When I got to the ground turkey meat, I noticed two different entries - one was for $2.58 and one was for $2.78 - both more than I what I thought I was paying.  I was a little irritated.  Again, I realize that this only adds up to one extra dollar spent, but every dollar counts.  I felt a bit silly being so nit-picky, but Jason convinced me to go to the customer service counter and inquire as to the difference.  I explained that the posted sign said $2.18 but that the receipt rang up differently.  As I waited for the woman to go and check the sign, I began to wonder if it was really worth all the effort, for only a dollar.  But, it wasn't just a dollar at stake, because if the meat If they hadn't been on sale, we wouldn't have purchased the taco-seasoned meat at all.  I also worried that, even though I was sure I had checked the sign three times, maybe I had misread and they were not in fact on sale.

When the woman got back, she confirmed that I was, in fact, correct!  The meat department had forgotten to change their tags.  I watched while she took the items off, and I figured she would then put them back in at the $2.18 price, then refund me my dollar and I'd be one my way.  Imagine my delight when, instead of ringing them up again, she opened the cash register, took out $5.36, and handed it back to me!  Apparently, if they get the signs wrong, the first item is free.  And, since I had purchased two different products, they were both free!  If there is one thing I love more than a sale, it is getting something for free!  It really makes my day.  And, I was so pleased that my extra 10 minutes had earned me not one dollar, but five!

So there you go.  I guess making a stink about a wrong price, even if only wrong by a few cents, can really pay off.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Cloth Diapering Story: Part 3 - Fuzzibunz Follow Up

Jason reminded me the other day that I never followed up about our cloth diapering experience after my last post.  And, since it had a happy ending, I thought I would share.

As you may remember, I had quite a time finding the invoices, but thanks to the helpful people at Babyworks, we got them all together and finally got the diapers sent out about a week after I figured out that there was a problem.  During this time, I had to use disposables, which I just really didn't like.

It took the diapers about five days or so to get to Fuzzibunz, but fortunately their turn-around time was only about two days.  Then it took another four or five days to get them back to us.  I was a little nervous about what I would find. On the Fuzzibunz website, it states clearly that if your diapers are outside of the warranty period, you will be sent factory seconds.  I understand this with one or two faulty diapers, but not with all 24.  I was worried about that.  Also, when I called about sending in the diapers, I was told to send only the main diaper, and not the inserts (remember, the diapers came with two inserts).  I figured I would just get the diaper shells back as well.  Well, when I opened the box, it was to find 24 brand new diapers, in their regular packaging, with two more inserts!  That's right, I now have four total inserts per diaper. Probably more than I'll need, but nice just the same.  I also found two packages of super soft, thick cloths.  They seem too big to be wipes and too small to be burp cloths, but they are really nice and I love them.  Apparently, they were an added bonus for my trouble!

We have had those diapers back for over a month and have not had a single leaking issue.  Also, while using the disposable diapers, I had several poop blowouts up the back of the diaper.  On at least one occassion this required me to not only change Cy's entire outfit and the changing pad cover, but also to bath him, as I managed to spread poop all over his body and head as I took off his clothes.  This scenario has NEVER happened with the cloth diapers.  I've only had one or two blowouts and they were out the legs, which is much more manageable.  I decided that I would take leaking urine over widespread poop any day.

So there you have it.  I love my cloth diapers.  I love Fuzzibunz, and I feel that I can recommend them.  Their customer service was stellar, and that can be a hard thing to find.  Plus, their product is genius!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Step gone bad

Do you ever just feel old?  Last night, I felt old. And out of shape. And uncoordinated.  And kind of foolish.  Last night, I went to a step aerobic class at the community center. (You know the kind, where you have that cool plastic step and you do all kinds of fancy moves over, around and next to the step). Believe it or not, this was not my first step class.  Not that I'm a seasoned veteran or anything, but I actually attended a class on Saturday.  By some stroke of luck, the instructor on Saturday was a sub, and since she didn't know what kinds of steps the class knew, she kept it simple.  It was perfect for me.  I was able to pick up on most of the steps on the first try, and if not on the first try, then very shortly thereafter.  I got a great workout and it was pretty fun. Based on that experience, I decided to go again last night.

Last night was different.  The instructor was not a sub and he did not keep it simple.  The steps were incredibly complex, and had specific names.  And they were set to very fast music.  So he would call out a step, or a series of steps as he did them very quickly and I tried to keep track of where his feet went and how.  Of course, half of the routines he did had us turning around, so I would start the routine and be doing all right, but then would turn around and wouldn't know what I was doing anymore! As if that wasn't bad enough, apparently each step has an advanced variation that you can do should you be able to do the basic without tripping over yourself.  (By the way, I will likely never be coordinated enough to master the advance variations.)  Well, the instructor almost always did the advanced variation without explaining that there was a simpler way to do it.  I only realized the simpler way when I saw some others in the class doing it, and this was after I nearly killed myself trying to do the advanced step.

There were several points throughout the class when I just stood still, with a bewildered expression on my face. At some moments I found this comical.  I think I even laughed out loud, and may have uttered the phrase "Are you kidding me?"  At other moments I felt disheartened and frustrated, and came close to tears at least twice.  With the range of emotions I felt in just a short hour, you'd think I was pregnant! (I'm not, by the way.)  By the end of the class, I had kind of figured out some of the step routines, but by then I was so tired that my brain and body did not always want to cooperate.

I still got a great workout, and I will probably go back again on Wednesday.  But the more I think about the class, the more annoyed I am, and here's why.  The instructor could very clearly see that I was struggling - it was pretty obvious, after all.  Why didn't he stop and take just one minute to show me the steps?  Now, this may seem unreasonable to some, particularly any of you who are in the advanced step category (are there any you out there?)  But there are three conditions that I think make this quite a reasonable request.

First of all, there were only 7 total people in the class, and I was the only one struggling.  It t not have detracted from the rest of the class, and in fact, probably would have helped them as they wouldn't have been distracted by me fumbling and bumbling about.  If the class had been 20 or so, and I was the only one struggling, then I could understand just letting me figure it out on my own.

Second of all, there is no beginner's class.  The community center only offers two step classes, and both are in the same category.  Does that mean that since I haven't done step before, I shouldn't be able to go?  I don't think so.  If they don't offer a beginners class, then, in my opinion, the instructors should be more helpful to those of us who are, clearly, beginners.

Finally, this is, after all, a community center - not some fancy, schmancy, high-end gym or athletic club.  The community center clearly tries to be acessible to everyone, so by extension, I think that their fitness classes should also be accessible to everyone, particularly if they have only one level, as mentioned above.

I hope that, on Wednesday, I can pick up the steps a little bit better.  I may also just outright ask the instructor to help me out - I do have some agency in this whole process.  What do you think? Am I being unreasonable?  Should I have expected some help, or not?  Or, should I have not even gone to the class in the first place since I couldn't keep up?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Praise for ... a Bathroom?

Earlier this week, Jason and I managed to secure a scholarship for an annual membership to the Southwest Community Center, part of the Portland Parks and Rec network.  I did water aerobics there for the three months or so of my pregnancy and was really impressed with the facility.  When Jason and I decided it was time to really commit to a healthy lifestyle, but also knew that we couldn't afford a gym membership, we were thrilled to discover that the community center gave scholarships.  We applied, and were approved, and just in the past week Jason has attended four times (twice on one day!)

Now, Jason was excited for his workouts, but was even more excited when he realized that we could take Cy to Family Swim. Bathtime is one of the best times of our day, and it just seemed a natural progression to get Cy in a pool.  In fact, Jason has been planning for and talking about  "the big event" all week.  He even had me drive across town to buy a pair of reusable swim diapers so that the three of us could take advantage of the family swim today!

After a few hiccups in our plan (including a baby who not only slept in until 9am, but then took an unprecedented 3 hour nap at 11 - why does this only happen on days when I plan for his "regular" nap schedule?)...where was I? Oh yeah, so once we finally got ourselves out the door, we realized that getting the three of us changed and into, and back out of, the pool was going to take some maneuvering.  We had some elaborate plans worked out until I remembered that I had seen family changing rooms at the community center. I had never been inside them before, though, so I wasn't sure how helpful they would be.  I pictured maybe just a basic bathroom with a changing table, and figured we would still have to go shower in the main locker rooms.

Let me just say, of all the things that have impressed me about this community center (and there are a lot), the family changing rooms may just top the list!  Each room has a sink and a toilet, a changing table, a long bench and - get this - a shower!  And the room itself is huge - plenty of room for several children.  It was easy, then, for both Jason and I to take Cy into the changing room together, allowing us to trade off holding him and dressing him while we got ourselves dressed.  It made the whole process so much easier and more enjoyable than it could have been.  Plus, there are a total of four family changing rooms!

I had also been thinking about signing Cy and me up for Parent/child swim classes in January, but was concerned about the whole changing/drying off process, especially since I would be by myself.  Seeing the family changing rooms has eased my worries and now I'm even more excited about the prospect.

I have to know - is this whole family changing room thing common?  Am I just a newbie mom who didn't realize how accomodating some places would be?  Because in my limited experience, most places seem the opposite  of accommodating.  Sometimes I almost feel bad for having a baby in tow.  In fact, I've been surprised by the number of places that have zero space to change babies - and don't get me started on the lack of changing tables in men's restrooms! And yet, whoever designed the community center really thought ahead to the needs of families, and made the swimming experience completely accessible, and, dare I say, easy.  I was already impressed - now I'm downright in love!   (On a related note, Washington Square does have its own extraordinary family restroom, complete with a miniature toilet right next to the big person's toilet.  I don't think I've ever thought of a toilet as cute until I saw that one.  It makes me excited for the day Cy can use a toilet, and I think we may go to the mall just so we can use that one!)

So, needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), we will be frequenting the family swim time and most definitely taking full advantage of these fantastic changing rooms!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flashback Friday: Jager's Accidental Overdose

I've managed to let the past two Fridays slip by with nary a Flashback, and I just couldn't let it happen again! So, here is another Jager story for you.  As you may remember, Jager finds just about everything edible.  Her credits include chapstick, an unused pregnancy test, clorox wipes, and 20 PB&J sandwiches.  However, her most infamous - not to mention most dangerous and expensive - incident occurred two years ago on this, the Friday before Thanksgiving. 

On that Friday, Jason and I had gone out to dinner after work.  We arrived home to pools of dog vomit all over the hallway and living room.  It was like a crime scene unfolding before our eyes.  With each step we saw another, and another pool of vomit.   We quickly realized that she had gotten into something, so we began scouring the house for evidence.  I don't remember who discovered it, but one of us got to the bedroom at the back of the house first, and there it was - an empty bottle of Ibuprofen.  It was a large bottle of 200mg gel caps, one of the 80 count ones and it had been a little over half full when we left that morning.  We figured that she had consumed somewhere around 50 caplets - a total of 10,000 mg of Ibuprofen.  Yikes.

We called animal poison control and were told to monitor her for stomach ulcers and kidney failure.  At first she seemed her usual, peppy self, but by Sunday morning, she refused to go outside, would hardly leave our bed and was peeing all over the house.  We did some research on-line and found out that Malox could help dogs with potential stomach ulcers, so we went and got some.  And here's the funny part - our dog, who eats literally everything, balked at the Malox.  She clamped her lips closed, and when we forcefully opened them and poured in the MAlox, she shoved her tongue to the roof of her mouth and forced it back out again, spitting out showers of chalky, white Malox. Then she ran away with her tail between her legs.  To this day, shake a bottle of Malox in front of this dog and she runs for the hills.  And they say dogs have no memory.

Anyway, we finally took her to the vet on Monday morning.  Before we set out, we determined that she had a budget of $500 - that's all we could afford to pay.  When the vet examined her he found that she had extreme kidney failure and bleeding stomach ulcers.  And, even though she had been drinking water vociferously, she was severely dehydrated because the ulcers kept her stomach from absorbing the water she drank.  He admitted her overnight and gave her IV fluids and antibiotics.  The total - $580. Ok, we figured, we can handle that.

The next day, however, the vet called back to say that she could not keep food down and would therefore have to stay another few days - probably until Thursday, but since that was Thanksgiving and they were closed, they would keep her until Friday but not charge us the extra day.  The total for the remaining four days - $500.  Well, here's the thing.  At this point, we had already invested over $500 into our dog.  So if we brought her home early, we had the possibility of losing not only our dog, but also our $500!  So, we dug deep and paid the additional $500.  

Yep, that's right, we spent over a $1000 on our dog - we are those people.  But the thing is, she is part of our family, and at the time, we had no children.  We realized then, though, that if we had had children, we would not have been able to make that choice.  Lucky for her, we could, and we did, and she has now made a full recovery (though her bladder control was never quite the same). 

Fortunately, we've since learned our lesson.  We do a "Jager check" every time we leave the house, just to be sure that we haven't left anything tempting.  And we've learned to expand our definition of what is edible, because with a dog like Jager, you just never know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

...And We're Back!

Well, I really did think that I would maintain a little more momentum after finishing NaBloPoMo, but then we went to Kansas for a wedding...which is actually one of the main reasons why I did NaBloPoMo in October instead of November.  So, we have returned from our week away, and as entry back into the blogging world, I thought I would share a few little tidbits I discovered while in Kansas:

1.  I love weddings.  I don't know if it's going to more weddings or simply getting older, but each wedding I attend (particularly those for people to whom I am close) I get more emotional than I did at the previous wedding.  Maybe weddings remind me of my own wedding, or maybe I just love the whole sentiment.  This wedding was a little bitter-sweet, as it was the last of the Wells siblings' weddings.  There are no weddings looming in our future and this makes me sad.  However, Jason's sister Kelly looked beautiful and the wedding was quite the party!

The happy couple and their wedding party.

2.  I play a (very distant) second fiddle to my child.  On several occasions, various family members, on seeing us for the first time on this trip, ran excitedly toward us and exuberantly greeted Cy.  Then, only after smiling and cooing at him, they noticed either me or Jason and then said hi, generally as an after-thought.  I would be offended except that this happened so often that I must simply take it as a compliment that we made a baby too cute for our own good.

3.  Babies are cute and welcome almost everywhere.  A wedding party-bus (or trolley, in this case) is not one of them...Yes, this was a little lapse in judgment on Jason's and my part.  Jason was in the wedding party, and after the ceremony, the wedding party boarded the trolley/party bus to go take some more pictures around Kansas city before the reception.  At the last minute, myself and a few other spouses were invited on.  Without thinking, Jason and I agreed and Cy and I boarded the trolley...Of course, babies need to eat, and they don't often want to wait for the 1.5 hour party-bus ride to do so. However, a bunch of unmarried young folks don't necessarily want to see a baby nursed on their party bus.  Nor do they want to hear said baby screaming at the top of his lungs when he has to wait to eat.  Add to that the beer bong and bawdy drinking songs, and well, I think I just earned the "worst-parent-of-the-year" award...

Cyrus melting...

Yes, that is a beer bong.  Don't ask me, I'm not nearly cool enough to get it!

4.  Snoring is almost never cute. Unless it is a baby doing the snoring.  Then it is extremely cute.  And must be recorded.  And shared with everyone we see the following day.  I would share this video with you, except that I  can't figure out how to upload a video with the new editor, so I guess we will save that for another day.  If you do know how, please share!

5.  Due to aforementioned cold, I now realize that my child is never allowed to have anything worse than a low fever and mild congestion.  This very minor illness ripped my heart out and brought tears to my eyes.  Anything even remotely more severe will likely kill me.

6.  A sick and slightly cranky baby is not the best traveling companion.  Unless you are flying a nearly full Southwest flight and wish to have an empty seat in your row.  Then, a cranky, sick baby may be just the ticket.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Self-esteem rising...only to fall again

I'm going to go out on a limb here and generalize that those who blog do so with the anticipation and hope that others will read their writing. I will go even further to say that those of us who leave our blogs open hope that strangers may also read and find interesting the things that we write. Even if this isn't true for other bloggers, it is for me, even if I wasn't willing to admit it right away. Blogger has two easy ways for me to know if others are reading my blog: the follower gadget and comments at the end of posts. So far I have three followers (one of which is my mom) and I appreciate them all. And, I think around 8 or 9 people have commented on my blog overall. Not bad, considering that this blog has really only been active for a month.

Now, I will admit that I've decided that I will feel somewhat successful as a blogger when I have a stranger either comment on my blog or become a follower. So, imagine my delight when I opened my e-mail a few days ago and saw a comment from a person I did not know! My confidence sky-rocketed and I felt ever so slightly proud of myself. It was on my post about jogging strollers, which I did think was a pretty interesting post, if I do say so myself. And then I opened the e-mail to read the comment and saw this:

"Thanks for sharing that! Nice post. I just glanced through it. "

It was followed by a link to buy strollers.

So. Not only did my one stranger commenter only "glance" through my post, but he then used the comment section to advertise! Not exactly what I had in mind...

Oh well, I guess I haven't quite reached stranger-commenting-worthy status yet, after all. It's a good thing that I don't really base my self-esteem on the comments on my blog or that could have been a real doozy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reflections on NaBloPoMo

Here it is, November 1, and I no longer "have" to write a daily blog post - and yet, here I am, still writing a post. Even as I plopped down on my couch this evening and proudly asked Jason "Guess what I don't have to do tonight?" I had three blog post ideas running around in my head. So, I guess NaBloPoMo served it's purpose. Here are some other things that occurred as a result of writing 31 posts in 31 days:

1. I now think about things from a blogging perspective. At the beginning of the month, I really had to push myself to come up with something to write about every single day. As I've already mentioned, small occurrences in my daily life now practically write themselves into posts!

2. I've realized that I really enjoy the idea of a blogging community. I've learned new things or gotten new perspectives from the comments people have left on my posts, and that is an unexpected positive side-effect.

3. Things I thought might not be interesting sparked thoughts in other people. Some of the posts that I did simply as a way to make sure that I wrote a post every day garnered the most comments, or at least prompted people to ask questions that will lead to other posts.

4. I've gotten over some of my perfectionism and am OK to post something even if I can't weave my words into the work of art that I'd like to.

5. I've enjoyed blogging so much so that I started a second blog for Cyrus.

6. I had a really good excuse to finally write Cyrus' birth story - something I'd been wanting to do for three months!

7. Perhaps one of the greatest things is that I now have almost 40 posts for the year of 2009! That averages out to nearly 4 posts a month for January through October. Of course, 31 of those happened in October...

It helped having Kristen plugging away right beside me. And, now I get to sit back and relax for the month of November and read Bridget's blog as she completes NaBloPoMo this month. I will say that this was a tougher challenge than I thought it would be and yet one that I'm proud to have accomplished. Now we'll just have to see how long I can maintain this momentum!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Procrastination, Halloween style

So Jason and I decided to get all festive and dress up for Halloween this year, since we had a couple of parties this weekend. After my bout with costume perfectionism, we finally came up with a couple of decent, if not original, costume ideas. Since Cyrus already had a monkey costume, courtesy of one of his grandmothers, we decided that Jason would be a zoo keeper and I would be the Wicked Witch of the East (or is it West, I can never remember). You know, the one from the Wizard of Oz. Yes, I realize that it's a bit cheesy to coordinate our costumes with our child's but this way he could serve as an accessory to both of us - and really, isn't that what children are for, to accessorize their parents? Anyway, we figured when Jason held him he'd just be a regular monkey, and when I held him he could be a flying monkey. (Unfortunately, people at both of our parties mistook his costume for a bear...)

After deciding on our costumes, we then needed to procure the appropriate attire for a reasonable cost. Unfortunately, we didn't choose our costume ideas until Wednesday. Finally, on Friday, Jason stopped by a Value Village on the way home from work and found himself a safari shirt and a hat that would kind of pass as a safari hat. He found me a witch's hat, though it was a child's hat and looked a bit stupid. We still wanted some green face paint and maybe a witch's cloak for me, and maybe a better safari hat for Jason, so when he got home we head out to find said items. We tried a couple of Fred Meyers and even a dollar store, and then finally happened upon a Party City. We walked in, all hopeful in our naivete, only to find that they were practically wiped out! The shelves were literally bear, the hat selection was sparse, and when I tried to find a witch's costume, all they had were "sexy witches" - you know, really short skirts, tight shirts, fishnet stalkings - not really an Amber-style costume. Plus, they wanted $35 for it! The accessory section was all cleaned out too - a few child-sized hats, no adult hats, and no green face paint.

I looked at Jason and said "Well, I guess this is what we get for waiting until the day before Halloween!" It was kind of depressing, really. I mean, granted, Halloween stuff has been out since the beginning of September, but I guess I just didn't think that stores would be that wiped out.

In the end, we bought a little witch's broom, and I pieced together a few random items of black clothing and plopped my child's witch's hat on my head. Not the type of costume a perfectionist prefers, but I suppose it got the job done. And, as Jason pointed out, it's a good thing we started trying to dress up when Cy is still too young to care, because we can consider this year a trial run. Next year, maybe we'll put some real thought and effort it, and maybe we'll start planning more than two days in advance...maybe.

Cyrus as a zoo monkey with the zoo keeper...

Cyrus as a Flying Monkey with the Wicked Witch...

Cyrus worn out after too much Halloween...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Doggy Garbage Disposal

Hmm, I guess this is "post about my animals" week here at the Wells Family, because this Flashback Friday is about the exploits of my dog Jager. Jager is a mix of several breads, but her primary breads are Lab and Rhodesian Ridgeback. She is high energy, extremely friendly (some might even call her aggressively friendly) and more or less a doggy version of a vacuum. This dog eats anything and everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING. I've often stared in wonder at dogs who pick at their food, leaving some for later. This is not my dog. She wolfs her food down the moment it is set in front of her, and no amount seems to be enough. She also has a non-discriminating palate - she has consumed such things as chapstick, Clorox wipes, and even a pregnancy test (unused). But this post is about one particularly absurd instance of consumption.

It occurred in the summer of 2006 while Jason and I were working at camp. Jager was living there with us, and my general routine was to walk her from our tent up to my office where I fed her and left her for the morning. On one particularly hectic morning, I took her up to the office and didn't have a chance to feed her right away. What I didn't realize at the time was that our bag lunch from the day before was still in the office. About twice a week we got bag lunches (or as we called them, crate lunches since they were served in milk crates). These usually consisted of some carrot sticks, a few apples, and an entire bread sleeve full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. These were not ordinary bread sleeves - no, they were the sleeves that housed institutional-sized loaves of bread, usually around 35 slices. So a full sleeve of PB&J sandwiches included about 20. Now, this was also the end of the summer and we could hardly bear the sight of a PB&J, much less eat one. (Imagine if you had been served PB&J on cheap, dry, wheat bread twice a week all summer long.) So that sleeve from the previous day's lunch was pretty much untouched, and contained the full 20 sandwiches.

You can probably see where this is going. When I returned to the office, I fed Jager and was dumbfounded when she barely even picked at her food. Then I saw the crate and what was left of the sandwiches. All but two were gone - eaten in their entirety. Jager was moping around and licking her lips, so I shook my head at her and gave her some water. She finished that and wanted more, so I gave it to her. In my naivete, I probably gave her five or six bowls of water, not realizing that I was only compounding the situation. Jason had been off running some errands, and by the time he returned, Jager's poor belly was twice it's normal size. He, knowing much more about the dangers that can befall the overeating dog, immediately fear bloat (a condition in which a dog's stomach turns over on itself) and rushed her to the vet's.

By now, we're both worried that she has this awful condition that costs $1,000s to reverse and isn't even guaranteed. We knew we didn't have the money for the procedure, so I think we were both preparing ourselves that we may be saying goodbye to our beloved dog.

As it turned out, she did not have bloat, which an x-ray confirmed. The vet did, however, need to clear her stomach, so they induced vomiting. Upon her arrival at the vet's she weighed in at 93 lbs. After she vomited, she weighed 74 lbs - that's right, she consumed 19 lbs of PB&J and water. Fortunately, the x-ray and vomit-inducing medicine only cost about $200 - a far more affordable price than we had anticipated.

For a while, this was Jager's claim to fame - she was the dog who ate 18 PB&J sandwiches. But don't worry, because a few years later, she topped it. That's a story for another day, however.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Six Reasons I love Fall

Fall is pretty much my favorite time of year. With the exception of Los Angeles, I've loved Fall in every city I've lived in (there just isn't much difference between seasons in LA, I'm afraid - it's just hot and hotter). In New York, Fall was especially amazing, and I thought I would really miss that when we left. But I have to say, Fall in Portland is pretty spectacular too. Here are some things I love about Fall:

1. The perfect in between. I hate being hot, and I'm not crazy about being super cold either. Fall weather is kind of that perfect in between temperature, where I have to wear a sweater or long sleeves to go outside, but I also don't feel like whimpering every time I step out my door. Plus, I love that some days are bright and sunny and others are dreary and rainy, some days are good for being outside and some are good for cozying up inside.

2. Sweaters and Jeans. Enough said.

3. The food. Pumpkin pie, hot chocolate and warm apple cider, squash, casseroles, soups, chili - pretty much all of my favorite foods are popular or available during the fall, and that makes me smile.

4. Fall colors. I know it's cliche to love the colors of the leaves as they change, but I do. I think it's interesting that the vibrancy of fall is followed by a kind of bleakness with winter - almost like mother nature is trying to give us one last push of optimism before taking it all away for a season.

5. Thanksgiving. Yep, it's my favorite holiday. Nothing but food and family, because really, what more do you need? Fall signals that Thanksgiving is on it's way, and I get pretty excited about that. Of course, once Thanksgiving comes and goes, then it starts to feel like winter, and I mourn the passing of Fall just a little.

6. The smell. I don't know what it is, but I love the way the air smells in the fall. It even smelled good in New York, which is a hard thing for air to do in NY.

Ahh, Fall...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Costume Conundrum

As a kid, I loved Halloween. I looked forward to trick or treating and I planned my costume months in advance. Fortunately, my mom is an extremely creative woman and a talented seamstress, and she always willingly (or at least, that's how I remember it) spent hours creating whatever costume I came up with - a court jester, a senorita, a spider, etc. But I think some time in high school I stopped dressing up and I stopped looking forward to Halloween. It's become a kind of non-holiday for me. I'm honestly kind of envious of those people who still love dressing up and who still put tons of effort into coming up with and executing creative costume ideas, but I'm just not one of those people. And I've pretty much been fine with it, until now. Because now I have a child.

I hadn't really thought about it until recently, but I've decided that I want to be one of those parents who participates enthusiastically in things, and doesn't just watch from the sidelines. And this includes the spectacle of dressing up for Halloween.

I realize that my child is very young, too young in fact to understand or care about Halloween, and certainly too young to know whether or not his mom is enthusiastically participating in the festivities. But this year seems like a good year to start participating because, one, there will be pictures, and two, Jason and I are attending a few Halloween shindigs where costumes are strongly encouraged. So what the heck.

However, there is a very good reason why I haven't participated in Halloween costuming for the last several years. Somewhere along the way, I've lost my sense of creativity when it comes to those kinds of things. I just can't seem to come up with an interesting, creative costume for myself that can be made (as I believe the best costumes are) and that I haven't already seen a million times. So now I'm caught in the perfectionist's web: Do I let my desire to participate in Halloween outweigh my desire to have a unique, creative costume, or do I simply throw my hands up that I can't come up with the latter, and therefore forgo it all together?

Now, you might ask if this whole thing applies to Cyrus's costume too, since after all, he is too young to choose his own costume, which means I must do it for him. Fortunately, I've been let off the hook this year, as one of his many grandmothers found and purchased an extremely cute monkey costume for him. So he is set. But, this creates another whole dilemma - that of whether or not to try to coordinate my costume with his. And, on top of all of it, as you may all realize, Halloween is just a few short days away, which means that whatever I decide had better happen quickly or else I'll have no time to pull it off.

What's your opinion? Do you dress up for Halloween? Do you try to coordinate your costume with your child's? Do you go store-bought or handmade, and how much time and effort do you put in?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Pursuit of a Jogging Stroller

When Jason and I were preparing for Cyrus's arrival, I did copious amounts of research on all items baby-related. I spent hours pouring over my Baby Bargains book (absolutely indespensible if you are preparing for a baby, in my humble opinion) and spent days and days reading reviews on the Babies R Us website before completing my registry. One of the items that I found most overwhelming was the stroller. There were just so many choices, and such a huge range of prices. Jason and I spent one evening at Babies R US trying out strollers, and by the end, I was exhausted and confused. I decided to take the advice of the Baby Bargains book and just buy a snap-on frame for our carseat for a mere $60. It seemed to be a cheap, short-term solution that would get me through the first several months until I figured out what I wanted and needed.

I have to say, I'm glad I took this route. As it turns out, what I want is a jogging stroller, and I definitley didn't anticipate that all those months ago. While I used to be an avid runner (that's a story for another time), I haven't run consistently for the past two or three years. And, while I figured that I would probably take up running again at some point, I didn't figure that that time would come shortly after giving birth. However, seeing as how the baby weight has been taking it's sweet time to depart from my body, and the time and money for a gym membership isn't really in the cards for me at the moment, I have started going on daily walks with Cyrus through our neighborhood. It is a rather old neighborhood with very few sidewalks, lots of gravel roads, many, many hills and a little park with a 1/4 mile walking path. The hills have provided some good cardio workouts, but, I guess "once a runner always a runner", because that 1/4 mile walking path was just begging for me to start running it. And I have been. For the past five weeks or so I have gone on a 40 minute speed-walk 4-5 days a week, and have built up to running about a 1/2 mile within that walk.

I've realized pretty quickly that my little snap-on frame stroller just isn't cutting it. It's probably not the safest thing to be jogging with, or even speed-walking over gravelly roads with, and I'm pretty sure I'm giving it undue wear and tear in the process. Well, as luck would have it, right about the time that I started walking daily, a friend invited me to a Baby Boot Camp class (stroller fitness) and let me borrow her jogging stroller. It was one of these:

That's a Bob Revolution. It's pretty much top of the line. I fell in love. Then I saw the price...$399! Yikes. Remember how I can't really afford a gym membership? Well, then I really can't afford nearly $400 for a stroller! So I started shopping around, both used and new, and found that I could get a decent used jogging stroller for around $45, and a decent new one for about $150 or so. (I could even buy a used Bob Sport Utility, which sells for $300 new, for around $100.) However, most of these strollers had fixed front wheels - good for jogging, bad for everything else.

In the meantime, I realized a couple of things. First of all, I'm kind of a cheapskate. I knew at some point that I was going to have to buy a second stroller, and I knew that it would probably cost around $150-$200. But that was just for one stroller. I never planned to buy more than one additional stroller (after all, I have one already). So to buy one stroller that can only be used for jogging and then buy another stroller for everything else seems both unaffordable and impractical, especially since I'm not planning to train for any major running event anytime soon. Second of all, we plan to have more children, and probably at least one of those will arrive while Cy is still using a stroller, which means that at some point, I'll need a double stroller. And, if I keep jogging, I'll need a double jogging stroller too. So even if I could afford a Bob stroller, I just can't bear the thought of spending that much money when I'm going to have to buy another one in a few years.

So, with all that in mind, I had two choices: I could either buy a jogging stroller that can function in every day life as well, or I can forgo the jogging stroller and just buy an all-purpose stroller. I opted for choice #1. I realized that I would need a jogging stroller that has front wheel that can both swivel for maneuverability, and lock in place for more stable jogging. (By the way, that would have been the Bob Revolution, but again - money!) After doing some research, I found this stroller:

This is an Instep Safari, and it costs about $170 new. While not the top of the line, it's rated pretty well overall, and is far more affordable. However, still looking for a deal, I figured I'd try to find it used before I shelled out all that hard-earned cash. In fact, I have been scanning craigslist every day for the past month looking for this stroller. It is nowhere to be found. Perhaps it is too new, or perhaps it is just that good, but no one is selling. So then I went on, and found it for $135. Sweet! However, since I had never seen this stroller in person, or used it, and since I knew I'd be comparing it to my Bob experience, I figured I should give it a test run in person. So I went to Instep's website and found several places listed that supposedly sell this model. Easy enough, right? Wrong. No store seems to stock this stroller in the actual store - you can only buy it online! The one exception was Fred Meyer, but there it was all boxed up and not available to test run. I've probably been to half a dozen stores, and called at least a dozen more, and it just doesn't seem to exist in real life.

So here I sit. I desperately want my new jogging stroller, preferably before I destroy my current stroller. But I am nervous about purchasing it online in case I don't like it and it is a hassle to return. So in the meantime, I will keep searching for this stroller and keep praying that my stroller lasts just a little longer.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One of Those Days

The day started out all right. Cy slept till 8:00am, went down fairly easily for a nap at 10:00am, and then slept for 2 full hours, which doesn't always happen. Upon waking up he was all cuddly for a few minutes, until he pooped a huge poop, the magnitude of which I did not realize until I went to change his diaper. As I changed it, I realized that it had exploded up his back and all over his onesie. Of course, I realized this after poop got all over the changing pad cover to the point that it began spreading from the changing pad cover all over his arms and legs. Then, as I attempted to remove said onesie from his body, I further spread poop all over his back and head. Admitting defeat, I wrapped him in a blanket and gave him a quick bath, then removed the changing pad cover, all one-handed.

Then it was time for nap #2, which I falsely assumed would go as well as nap #1. Instead, he woke up screaming after 45 minutes and did not stop screaming, even while I held and rocked him until I fed him (though I'm sure he wasn't hungry). I tried putting him down for another nap, at which point he continued to scream until I picked him up and held him.

Of course, today was a day when I had lots of tasks planned - unpacking from our trip, giving the house a good cleaning that it desperately needed, installing Peachtree Accounting software so that I can do accounting for my dad's business, etc. I manged to get that last one done, but none of the others. As I sat at my desk holding Cy so that he wouldn't scream, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for getting at least one thing accomplished. Then I backed up my chair and heard a crunch. I turned around and saw this:

I wonder if killing the CD counteracts the fact that I accomplished something on my list...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tribute to the Low Man (or Woman?) on the Totem Pole

In our house, there exists a kind of hierarchy of priorities when it comes to those who can't take care of themselves. At the top, of course, is Cyrus. I don't even really think I need to go into detail as to why - he is, after all, our child. Next comes our dog, Jager. Before Cy was born, she took top priority. (Some time, I'll tell you just how much of a priority she was as illustrated by her $1,000 doggy hospital visit - that's another story though). And then, at the very bottom, as a sort of afterthought, is our cat. Even her name suggests little attention or care - we simply call her "Cat". Hers is a story of accidental ownership.

Jager was adopted by Jason the day I left for New York, and she moved with him across the country (and back again, come to think of it). Cyrus was painstakingly planned and tried for. The cat, on the other hand, was discovered by me one December night when I was walking Jager through our Bronx neighborhood. It was snowing and she was huddling in a box. I didn't even rescue her the first time I saw her. I went back home with Jager, and then told Jason about her over dinner after he got home. I suggested we go back out to see if she was all right. We both knew, of course, that if the cat was still there we would be bringing her inside - neither of us is so heartless as to leave a cat outside in the snow. Well, she was there all right and so we brought her in. She was completely emaciated, and most definitely wouldn't have survived the night. She was so weak she couldn't walk. We fed her and made a little bed for her in a box, and then the next morning Jason set to work finding her a shelter. He called nearly every shelter in the NY-metropolitan area. Each shelter's response was the same - "Oh, you say she's inside your house? Well, congratulations on your new pet." The shelters were so overrun that they wouldn't accept an animal that had been taken in. We tried for two weeks to find her a home, and then finally accepted the fact that we had a new cat. That's how she got her name. We didn't want to name her officially when we thought we were getting rid of her so we just kept referring to her as "the cat". By the time we finally decided to keep her, the name had stuck and there it was - "Cat".

Now, some cats are quite fun and endearing...but this one is a little odd. She isn't skittish, by any means, but she can be territorial of spaces and extremely fickle - one minute she loves you and is purring loudly, and the next minute she's ripping your hand to shreds. I still kind of like her, but I'm a cat person - Jason merely tolerates her, on some days more than others. She claws the furniture and can be extremely needy in the most annoying way. She wasn't even supposed to make the cross country trip, but we couldn't find her a home with someone we knew and I just couldn't turn her out on the streets. So she still belongs to us, but kind of by default.

However, despite all of this, she has some cute moments. I realized today that I don't think I've mentioned her on this blog except for as part of our retched subletter experience. Obviously Cyrus is going to get more press time than either of our animals, but Jager at least has a label. So, I thought it might be time to give the cat a little attention, even if only via my blog. One of her few endearing qualities is that she creates some fantastic photo-ops just by chance. Here are some of our more amusing pictures of the cat:

Cat doing Su Doku

For some reason, nothing is as enticing to her as a pile of freshly folded laundry. Now, I didn't place those items on top of her - they were neatly stacked. She wedged herself underneath them for some reason.

Though I think most cats like bags, this one has an obsession with them. She seems to find it her personal responsibility to investigate any bag lying around, and sometimes she finds herself caught up in it. She dragged this bag all over the kitchen for about 20 minutes one night.

We had this bag of plastic bags hanging in our closet in the Bronx so that we could grab a plastic bag for Jager's walks. The cat decided that it made a nice bed. You can't tell in the picture, but it is suspended about four feet off of the ground.

Apparently we didn't feed her fast enough, because she sought out the food herself.

Maybe if she keeps doing cute things, we'll keep her a little longer.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

More Thoughts on Plane Travel

Cy and I flew home from Denver today, and I can't help feeling just a little proud of myself for having completed a round-trip flight with him by myself. Aside from the occasional rude passenger on the way there, and an unexplained 10 minute screaming fit as we boarded the plane on the way home, I actually feel that the whole experience went pretty well. I can admit now, I was kind of terrified that I would explode with anxiety over the whole thing. I had visions of 2.5 hours of a screaming child, a seat-mate who overflowed into my seat, rude comments about breastfeeding, unsympathetic airline workers, etc. I think a few things helped:

1. I used a carrier with Cy and just checked our carseat and stroller at the ticket counter. I know that you can gate-check those items, but our stroller situation is really just a snap-in frame for our carseat. I realized pretty quickly that at security I would have to remove Cy, take the carseat off of the frame, fold up the frame and put both through the x-ray machine, and then do the whole thing in reverse, all while holding Cyrus. This just didn't seem practical to me. By using the carrier, I was hands free and the security part was essentially seamless. Also, the carrier worked great when Cy fell asleep during the flight and I wanted my hands for drinking, or eating, or doing a Su Doku puzzle.

2. Breastfeeding. I toyed with just bringing expressed breast milk in bottles for the flight, thinking it would be easier, but I'm glad I didn't. Cyrus doesn't just nurse for food, he nurses for comfort. I was able to to nurse him when he got cranky, and basically just put him to sleep. I think this made the whole thing more enjoyable for both of us. Plus, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be to nurse him on the plane. He is still small enough, I supposed, that he doesn't really encroach on the seat next to ours.

3. I took advantage of pre-boarding. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but I saw a woman with a baby get on with the rest of the cattle today, and all I could think was, Why? Having a few moments to get the necessities out of my carry on luggage and get ourselves all settled without having to worry about hoards of people coming down the aisle really helped.

4. I had an aisle seat. On both flights, I was able to easily stand up and rock Cy when he got cranky or restless. I think this made a big difference for both of us. I would have felt really trapped had I been in the middle or on the aisle.

5. Cy is only 3 months old. Yep, I think this definitely helped. He will sleep in my arms, and he has no problem just chilling in my lap. I have a feeling that things may not go so easily in a few months.

A self-portrait as we wait for our flight to Denver

And now, a few thoughts about pre-boarding:

When I pre-boarded on the flight to Denver, the couple sitting next to me also pre-boarded. Now, as Jason pointed out to me when I complained about this, I realize that they don't ask you if you plan to pre-board when you choose your seat, but I really think they should. Isn't it the point of pre-boarding that you have a few minutes to get yourself settled without feeling pressured by those around you? When that other couple showed up right after I got to my seat, I felt like I lost my opportunity to relax and get organized for a minute, because I became instantly anxious about letting them get through. Granted, they were extremely gracious, but still. I think this should be taken into consideration. Just a thought.

Today, after they called for pre-boarding, I made my way to the gate and happened to be the first one there. The woman taking boarding passes put her hand on my arm and said "Wait a minute, this woman needs extra time" and then gestured to an older woman with a cane who was standing behind me. She took her boarding pass and then took mine. Now, I have no problem with this woman going first, but I have to admit I was confused. Weren't we both there because we needed extra time? Why was her need for extra time greater than mine? Sure, she took longer to get down the gateway than I did, but I'm pretty sure it took me longer to get situated in my seat. Was she in a special pre-pre-boarding category? I just didn't get it. I don't know that I've ever seen pre-boarders be prioritized, but maybe that's just me. Can anyone offer any insight for this one?

So, there you have it. Chalk it up to another milestone, if not for Cy, than at least for me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Story Behind the T-shirt and Tux

Last week, I posted this picture at the end of my post about Jason rejecting me in 7th grade:

This picture was taken just after Jason and I got engaged. As you may notice, and as was pointed out in two comments on last week's post, Jason is wearing a tux and I am in a grubby T-shirt. I guess this begs some explaining, so here it goes.

First, a little background info. In the spring of 2005, Jason and I had been dating for 4 years and all but three months of that had been long distance. We started dating when I was in college in Los Angeles, and continued dating while I studied abroad in South Africa, worked two summers at Trail Blazers Camp in New Jersey, and then while I lived in the Bronx to continue working full time for Trail Blazers. There is only so much communicating and relationsihp building that you can do over the phone, and it became pretty obvious by that Spring that we either needed to be living in the same city or we needed to break up. Fortunately, Jason opted to move to New York.

Since I left the city each summer to live full time at our camp in New Jersey, Jason toyed with the idea of working at a different summer camp. He even had several job offers with various rich-kid sports camps. However, our camp was in desperate need of lifeguards and Jason was a strong swimmer, so at the last minute, he turned down those other jobs and decided to move out to the wilderness and work as a lifeguard for the summer with a bunch of crazy kids. Oh yeah, and me!

Now this may sound like the perfect summer camp romance, but please consider a few things before jumping to that conclusion: First of all, I was essentially the assistant director at that time, and therefore more or less Jason's boss. We had very different sets of rules to follow. Also, our camp was intense in the strongest sense of that word. We lived in teepees, used latrines, went backpacking, cooked over open fires, all with inner-city kids, who were not only unfamilar with the setting, but also often came with their own sets of challenges and baggage. And the summer of 2005 was even more intense than usual for a variety of reasons that I won't get into here.

So, now you have the background. Now, when someone moves clear across the country for you, it's pretty obvious that marriage is likely in the cards. Jason and I had talked about it all summer, and had even looked at rings on one of our days off, so I knew a proposal was coming. But I like surprises, so I didn't want to know the specifics. (Are you starting to get a sense of how the clothing choices came to be?)Fortunately, Jason is extremely romantic and thoughtful, and pretty good at planning things.

At the end of camp, after the kids have gone home, the staff stay for an extra two days to help take things down for the winter. On the last day we have a big staff banquet, and then all of the staff leave early the next morning. Part of my job as an administrator was to make sure that all of the staff's jobs had been done properly before staff banquet could start. So on that afternoon, I was preparing to go pack up my belongings and then to go do some checks around camp. As I was heading out to my shelter, two co-workers, Kate and Jean, asked me to take a walkie-talkie with me. I thought this was a bit odd as the kids had already left, but I figured they just wanted to be able to reach me as they checked their sections.

So, I'm in my shelter and I hear Kate and Jean on the radio, calling me over to them. They were standing at the top of a path that led down to probably one of the most beautiful spots on camp property, a place called Vesper Glenn. It sits right down next to the lake and is surrounded by trees and flowers. Anyway, when I approach them, they both have very somber looks on their faces and they tell me that we have a problem. According to them, when one of the other staff members checked Vesper Glenn, she found beer cans, bottles, and other evidence of debauchery. Kate asked me to follow her and explained that I just had to see it for myself. Now, our staff that summer were a bit rowdy, but this stil seemed a bit far-fetched. I was beginning to wonder if there was some other plot hatching, but I went along with it anyway.

As we began walking down the path, Kate said the following: "The staff have really done it now. I think we're just going to have to cancel staff banquet and send them all home tonight." Mind you, it was already 4 in the afternoon. On hearing this, I became convinced that Jason was about to propose, so I got this huge grin on my face. However, I also thought that there was a chance, albeit very slight, that Kate and Jean were actually telling the truth, so I tried to hide my grin so that I wouldn't look too stupid if I ended up being wrong.

Well, fortunately, I was not wrong. As I got to the bottom of the path, I heard "our song" playing and saw this:

Yep, that's Jason in a tuxedo with two dozen roses ready to propose. This was my reaction:

He did it all right. He got down on one knee and said some amazingly romantic things, then presented me with my ring.

Of course, I said yes! As we kissed, I heard this huge cheer erupt. I looked out across the lake to the girl's dock and saw almost the entire camp staff cheering! Apparently, everyone knew about the proposal but me! In fact, they had been delaying the staff swim until after Jason proposed.

One of the best parts for me was hearing all of the effort that went in to staging this proposal. Camp is located in a very tiny town, and yet somehow Jason managed to procure a tux. The morning of, he made some excuse to me about needing things for the banquet and went out to buy flowers and pick up his tux. Then, he and another staff member dogded me as he headed over to get set up. Those little tables with white table cloths? They are actually milk crates covered in white camp sheets! At the last minute, he realized that the cd player needed new batteries and he had to run over to the girl's side to get batteries and then run back over to Vesper Glenn - all while wearing a tux in swealtering, humid New Jersy August heat. Here's a shot of what that looked like:

So there you have it. I was wearing a grubby t-shirt because that's pretty much what I wore all summer long, and I was caught by surprise. Jason was wearing a tux becuase he is romantic. And, to answer Kristen's question, the No Bull t-shirt was a left-over from college, when I belonged to - wait for it - the vegetarian club. Get it? No Bull? Yep, pretty clever, I know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Five Things I Miss About New York

You may remember a few weeks ago that I wrote about reasons why I was glad I no longer live in New York. In that post, I did promise to write about some good things about New York, and that time has come. I supposed when you live somewhere for five or so years there are certain things that you get used to. As I was making my list, I actually realized that there are quite a few things that I miss (not surprisingly, several of them center on food) so perhaps I will consider this just part one of a series of posts. As a disclaimer, some of these things are not particular to New York, and some may even exist to an extent in Portland, they just aren't as readily available to me now. So here they are:

1. The Corner Store. This is a great little phenomenon that I came to rely upon while in New York. We had one within steps of both of the places we lived in New York, and fact had two or three to choose from within a five block radius. The corner store is kind of like a 7-11 or a mini-mart but less clean and with more character. Some were as tiny as a cubicle but still stocked several hundred items. Most were large enough to include a deli with various meats and cheeses and a hot griddle for Delicious hot sandwiches and breakfast items. They aren't really a place to do a large grocery shopping, but they are indispensable when you are in the middle of cooking dinner and realized that a key ingredient is missing. Of course, it's always kind of a crap-shoot whether or not they store will have your particular item. And, the items stocked definitely reflected the neighborhood and specific population where the store is located. Some stores were open 24 hours, but those that weren't almost never had consistent hours. The one closest to us was open as late at 1am and closed as early as 9pm, all depending on the whim of the owner. The stores were independently owned and the owner usually worked the store most of the time. Since we frequented them, they all knew us by sight. (I suppose it helps that Jason and I were two of maybe 5 white people who lived in our neighborhood). We actually have a version of a corner store near where we live now, but it lacks the character and charm of those in New York, and it just doesn't seem to afford the same level of convenience.

2. The Breakfast Sandwich. I guess this is more of an East Coast thing, but I just don't see it much around here. In New York, nearly every deli or corner store, or even restaurant that served breakfast offered some form of egg and cheese on a roll. While this was the basic, you could get it with bacon, sausage, ham or turkey and on different forms of bread. My personal favorite was a bagel. The eggs are fried on a flat-top griddle (not microwaved as in chain establishments) and everything is made to order. The cheese is almost always American (think Kraft singles) unless you request otherwise, but really, why would you? The American cheese melts and makes the sandwich all delicious and gooey. I admit, not the breakfast of champions, but oh so fantastic. And cheap - depending on your location, the basic breakfast sandwich was $1.50. It used to be my little treat once or twice a month to help me on my walk to the Subway. Once or twice I've ordered some form of the breakfast sandwich only to find that it is about three times as expensive and not even half as delicious. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to save my breakfast sandwich cravings for my next trip to NYC.

3. Lizzy's Fajita Seasoning. OK, this one is going to seem pretty silly, but you have to taste this stuff to understand. We found this by chance in one of the less-than-stellar Bronx supermarkets when we were looking for something to season our fajitas. It is a very simple blend of garlic and onion powder and salt and pepper, but the ratios are perfect. We didn't just use this stuff for fajitas - it was the perfect seasoning for all meats and veggies. I don't know why, but it made pork chops mouth-watering. Just last week we used the last of our jar. It cannot be found anywhere in the Western United States, and even when we were in New York, we could only find it in a few sub-par supermarkets. Just to prove how much we love this stuff, I will tell you that we have asked a few of our New York friends to buy us several jars and we will reimburse them the cost plus shipping. It's just that good.

4. Dunkin' Donuts. Another kind of silly one, I realize. (Remember when I said that most of these things are about food? I wasn't joking). Here's the thing: You can find Dunkin' Donuts here and there around Portland, but they are as prevalent as Starbucks in New York City - maybe even more so. Their coffee is better and cheaper than Starbucks (according to Jason anyway) and their hot chocolate is also fantastic. Plus, every now and again you just want a good donut, and Dunkin' Donuts doesn't disappoint. Jason mentioned the other day that all he really wanted was a Dunkin' Donuts so he could get cheap, good coffee on the way to work. I'm not really sure why there is such a discrepancy in the number of these stores between the two coasts. I guess East Coasters just like their donuts and coffee a little more old school.

5. Pizza. Yep, food again. It's true what they say about New York pizza being different. I didn't really get it until I lived there and now have moved back. Other pizza is all bread - the crust isn't so much crust as it is bread with toppings. The cheese is sparse, as are the other toppings. The slices are puny and are kind of greasy. Now, NY pizza is still kind of greasy, but not nearly as noticeably. The crust is think and dense and there is tons of cheese. Yes, tons. The toppings are generous, too. We used to order Canadian Bacon and Pineapple where the Canadian bacon almost covered the top of the pizza. The slices are hefty and usually one slice can serve as a meal. It is just all-around delicious. However, although I miss it, I'm kind of glad the pizza here isn't as good because now I eat a lot less of it!

Wow, I haven't even finished half my list. I guess we missed more about New York than I thought. We'll explore more of NY another time.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moving to Portland was completely worth it because...

...I've be able to see this cool girl six times since March - more than any other year since we graduated high school 10 years ago!

Because Elaine lives in California, about 1.5 hours from my dad and step-mom's, and because I live in Portland, about 30 minutes from her parents' house, we've been able to make lots of excuses to get together. For this most recent visit we decided to meet at my mom and step-dad's house in Denver (pictured), where, incidentally, it snowed today. The benefits of meeting in a neutral location, and, more specifically, at my parent's house, is that we both got spoiled and neither of us had to worry about much of anything. Quite a sweet deal, if you ask me.

There's nothing quite like a friendship that has lasted more than 18 years!
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