Sunday, February 27, 2011

Short month, lots of pictures.

As February winds up and I'm left wondering where the heck the first two months of 2011 have gone, I realize that it's been a big month with a lot going on, and very little of it has made it to this blog. Bad blogger! Time out.

It started, literally, with E's 2nd Birthday on the 1st, which was a smashing success, thanks to family and friends who were game for a little last minute school night celebration.

The festivities continued in Canada, where E celebrated her 2nd 2nd Birthday with more family and friends, and an exceptionally cool cake that I might have already mentioned.

While in Canada, J went on two interviews, one in Toronto and one in Ottawa, while the girl and I spent the week in between in Kingston. We soaked up lots of attention from both GrammaPapas, we spent a fun- and shenanigan-filled evening with our very good friends the Forestells, and we did a heck of a lot of relaxing, for a change.

We were only back in Brooklyn for a few days before it was off to Dallas for J's last interview of this long, drawn-out, exhausting, never-ending interview season. E loves Dallas. Mostly because of the two-toed sloth at the Dallas World Aquarium. But also because of the hotel shuttle, BBQ ribs, the weird alien at the playground that projects your voice back to you, M&Ms, and the free drinks every night from 5:30-7:30. Oh, no wait. That last one was us. Needless to say, we all left Dallas smiling with artifical dye on our fingers.

Just when I thought things were going to slow down, J's birthday came around. We had an uber-romantic date night in Williamsburg on Thursday, a fantastically juicy Peter Luger's burger for lunch on Friday, J had an all-out bender with the boys Friday night, homemade eggs benedict for family breakfast on Saturday and many, MANY brownies.

And now we're exhausted. But happy. J can now coast through his last four weeks of medical school. In one week from today we'll find out if Jeff matched in Canada, and if he doesn't, we'll find out about the US one week later.

March should be a good month.

Work? ... Who me?

I haven't brought home a paycheck in over three years. In that time I've created and grown a baby...but so has my husband and he managed to continue to be a contributing member of society at the same time. I've done a little of this and a little of that, but other than the most amazing two year old that is sleeping peacefully in the next room as we speak, I'm a bit ashamed to say that I have very little to show for it.

I should be in better shape. I should be much more organized that I am. I should have scrapbooks filled with memories from our travels and the first two years of my daughter's life. I should have a filing cabinet full of my writing. I should definitely have stopped swearing by now.

But...I'm not going to beat myself up over it. The fact is, I have been excessively fortunate to have had the opportunity to not have to go to work for a very long time. Most of my friends got to stay home for a year when they had their babies, and those were the lucky ones in Canada. Did I enjoy every minute of it? Nope. Did I make the most of it? Absolutely not. But I am so, so happy to have had it, and I know (most of the time) when to shut up and count my blessings. Apart from being able to watch almost every second of my daughter's development for the first two years, I have had the freedom to decide how to waste my time for much longer than most people get. And for that, I would like to thank the universe.

Which brings me to my point. The universe, it seems, has decided that I have been freeloading long enough. When J starts his residency in July, I will be going back to work. E will be introduced to the wonderful world of daycare/preschool, and mama will resume her post as a massage therapist. It's going to take some preparation. There are refresher courses to take and exams to pass. Plus, there's the unavoidable fact that I need to get my hands back in shape. For this, J has unselfishly committed to doing anything he can to support my efforts. I'm sure I'll find other good samaritans to take up my cause as well.

I'm excited. I loved massage therapy and I've missed it. I've always known that I would get back to it as soon as I could. I'm nervous as all get out - about leaving E, about starting from scratch in a new place, about relearning everything I've forgotten - but I'm sure that, like everything else, it will work out, and it will go much more smoothly than I anticipate. I always anticipate the worst.

So here's to the next four months or so. I have not spent the summer storing nuts for the winter. My ducks are not in a row. I am unprepared for the next phase of our lives. But I sure plan on squeezing as much enjoyment out of these last days as a stay-at-home-mom as I possibly can. And every time I think about that next phase, I find myself smiling. That's a good sign, I think.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Speaking of food...

I'm going to eat at one of these 3-star restaurants before leaving NYC if it kills me. Without question, it will kill my wallet, but what can I say? I'm a slave to gastronomy.

This list is very intriguing. I am committing to trying at least two places on this list in the next two months, if not more, and to finding other Best ___ in NYC lists to tackle. In particular, I would be very interested in a Cheesecake list and a Cup of Coffee list.

I need a snack.

How could I have forgotten dim sum? We need to go back to Brooklyn's Chinatown to get obscenely overstuffed for $10.

We must go back to Fairway to lose ourselves in grocery heaven. Plus, I hear they do a mean cheesecake.

Oh, god. There's not enough time!!! (author begins running around her living room in circles in a blind panic...)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meals to remember

It's getting down to the wire. Just about 52 days until we take our leave of the Big Apple, and our heads are swirling with things we simply must do. Most of those things involve food. There are so many neighbourhood places here that have made this town our home. Here, for your enjoyment, is a list of the...

Top 10 Meals We Have to Eat One More Time:

10. Grimaldi's - Margherita pizza with italian sausage

9. Lucali's - Pizza with fried artichokes and basil

8. Bagels by the Park - Seven grain bagel with veggie cream cheese

7. Court Street Bagels - Multigrain Everything with sundried tomato cream cheese

6. D'Amico's - 1lb Gowanus Super Blend beans

5. Eton - Chicken and beef dumplings, BBQ pork buns, Plum hawaiian ice

4. Ki Sushi - Ki Roll

3. Cobble Hill Coffee Shop - Breakfast special with freshly squeezed orange juice

2. Peter Luger's - Hamburger

And the #1 meal we will not leave New York City without enjoying at least one more time is

1. Vinny's Italian Restaurant - Lemon chicken & sausage with baked ziti

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Embassy SWEET!

I just don’t know how we get so lucky sometimes.

Traveling with a toddler is notoriously risky. Especially one who has just begun to explore the range of her terrible twos. You just. never. know. what is going on in that little brain and how it will conspire against you next. And when you’re strapped into a metal tube for four hours with no escape, well, it’s just the perfect time for a kid who typically has to live by everyone else’s rules to flex their free will muscles and raise some hell.

So imagine my utter amazement when my daughter was not just good, not just cooperative, but PERFECTION INCARNATE on our trip to Dallas today. Get this: about an hour into our delightful flight, she announced “I’m tired. I have a nap. I nap in Mama’s arms.” Suuuuuure, I thought. Let’s just call her bluff. So I scooped her up and snuggled her like I used to when she was a tiny little lump, like she hasn’t let me do for ages, and you’ll never guess what happened - okay, with this lead up it would be hard not to guess - she went to sleep! For real! In fact, I was the amateur that had to wake her up almost an hour and a half later to go pee. Did she wake up in her usual cranky mood? Of course not! Because she was perfect! Happy, easygoing, and oh, so charming.

We’re staying at the Embassy Suites in Dallas, and it is my new favourite place in the entire world. Pool, hot tub, free cooked-to-order breakfast every morning, free booze for two hours every evening, free local transportation...and a large pizza is only $8.95 at the restaurant! What? There was even a lovely fellow who refilled my complimentary glass of wine for me while I sat with E in the atrium, chowing down on pizza and going over our itinerary for the weekend. So I’m a little tipsy, my daughter is sleeping and life is wonderful. Now, seeing as I have a two-room suite to take advantage of without having to tiptoe around in absolute silence, I’m going to go remind myself what it’s like to have cable.

Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lyrical Genius

E wrote her first song today. Well, I wrote it down. She was too busy creating. Swaying rhythmically from side to side, with markers for drumsticks and a table as a drum, she laid down a steady beat while belting out the following Grammy-worthy tune:

"No More Anything!

No Anything! No Anything!

Anything! Anything! Anything! Anything! Anything! Anything! Anything! Anything!


No More Anything!

Anything! No More!

Nooooo...Mooooore...Anyyyyy-THING!" (Big smile)

Move over Justin Bieber.


My daughter is a wonderful, wonderful kid. But she sure ticks me off sometimes. And you know why she hasn't been put out with the recycling just yet? It's because of this conversation that happens almost every time I'm about to grab her and dump her in the blue box:

E: Mama? Talk, mama, talk! You sad or angry?

M: Yes. Mama is sad and/or angry.

E: Make mama happy! Mama, I love you! **hug** **kiss** Mama? You happy now?

How could I not be? I'm about the luckiest mom in the world.

Green is good...especially when it's not green

This is a public service announcement for anyone with picky eaters who won't eat their veggies.

My husband and I are lucky. Our daughter is not a picky eater. She eats everything, and lots of it. Sometimes she goes on a granola bar binge or on strike against tomatoes, but there's always something moderately healthy that she's happy to eat.

Still, I'm always trying to sneak an extra veggie or two into the repertoire. Enter the zucchini. Or perhaps you call it summer squash. Whatever you call it, I dare you to dislike it. Maybe you wouldn't want to eat it like an apple, and maybe you prefer not to see it sitting sliced and steamed on your plate in all its nude squashiness. But take a fine grater to that bad boy and I dare you to even notice it, let alone claim a distaste for this nutritional ninja. Grate it into eggs, into pancakes, into pasta sauce...endless possibilities, I tell you. Get creative. And, of course, if you're desperate, make chocolate chip zucchini bread and thank me later.

Today my daughter absolutely begged me to make pancakes. I made whole wheat zucchini pancakes, and she ate 8 of them. 8. Mini pancakes, yes, but come on. I made myself one giant pancake, doused it in maple syrup and tried, really hard, to taste the zucchini. Couldn't do it. Man, were they good.

Oh, and a little tip: If your anti-veggie loved one is a real fanatic, do yourself a favour and peel the zucchini first. No need to blow your cover with all those telltale green specks.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mama? Can I please have my face painted?

When your barely two-year old comes to you with a cock of her adorable little head and such a perfectly formed sentence, I double-dog dare you to turn her down. What I did try to do was delay the ordeal a little, like until tomorrow, when I wouldn't be dog-tired from a long day of laundry, yoga and grocery shopping with only half an hour until dinner. My first mistake was having my husband within earshot. I had just delivered a perfectly reasonable caveat to her expectation for immediate gratification ("Baby, that's a great idea. But you know, we don't have any face paint. How about we buy some tomorrow? Mama will have to figure out where we can get some! -- read -- buying time), when husband extraordinaire pipes up with "Hey, I bet the place where we got her haircut will have some! Let's stop on the way home!"

Thanks babe. Really.

Somehow, I then managed to change the topic and dart inconspicuously into the shop as Dada kept the girl distracted outside...or so I thought. As I emerge I attempt to sneak said face paint into the stroller without tipping her off, still clinging to the notion that I could keep her off the scent, at least for the evening, when the love of my life exclaims "Oh my gosh! Look what mama has! WOW! Facepaint!!!"

No, really. You're the best.

So, we had a late dinner tonight. With a dog named Spot. And his friend, Lady-with-paint-on-her -face. You tell me who has the brighter future in facial decoration.

P.S. The inspiration for this event was a story I had told E about a little girl and her very best friend, AB. They get up to all sorts of mischief in these tales that Dada and Mama weave regularly, and apparently the face painting adventure stuck with her. My next installment will involve a day of excessive napping and laying in bed watching movies. Fingers crossed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the air

Ode to the Cowfam

To J and to E
My two Valentines
And also to R
Who only counts sometimes

You make my life better
You make my life fun
You give gloomy days
Just a little more sun

I didn't always have you
I didn't always know
How great it could be
How far we could go

Sure, some days we cry
Things just don't work out
But we always remember
What life is about

Life is about love
And chocolate and wine
Or milk from a sippy
And kibble's just fine

We make a great team
We are pretty cute too
And no poem can describe
Just how much I love you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let's go swimming!

This is what we did tonight:

After my mom and I lost all of our money at the Gananoque casino...stupid 2¢ slots...the family and I high-tailed it to Ottawa to squeeze in a little fun at the city's largest (only?) indoor water park before bedtime. Big interview for J tomorrow. For us girls, it's just another excuse to order room service.

Here's to driving through snowstorms and blowing off bedtime!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What happens while the parents are in Vegas...

Spending time with the grandparents this week has me thinking all sorts of how being a grandparent makes you see extremely aggravating situations and toddlers in a very different, and amusing, light, and how they have a way of finding just about everything about grandchildren endearing. Did you ever notice that one person's grandparenting styles diverge wildly and recklessly from their parenting styles? How about the fact that, though they seem to be completely and utterly exhausted after your rambunctious toddler goes to bed, they maintain an almost manic level of energy and enthusiasm up until that moment?

But most of all it's got me thinking about Vegas.

Go ahead, call me selfish. In April, J and I are going to Las Vegas to celebrate his graduation from medical school. We did it when he turned 25, and again when he got his PhD, as well as a couple of times in between just for good measure, so we might as well continue the trend. Like all of the other times, we're going without the kid. The difference is, we didn't have the kid the other times. What I'm saying, as succinctly as always, is that THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WE'RE GOING AWAY AND LEAVING OUR DAUGHTER BEHIND. She's 2 years old and a week, and I have yet to spend a night away from her. J is always taking off to one place or another - interviews, overnight call, 4-day bachelor parties in New Orleans...the usual stuff - but I've been home-bound or, more accurately, baby-bound since sometime in mid-May 2008 when she became a sparkle in my eye. I've been getting by quite successfully on a large mountain of denial, but the mountain is crumbling. I'm starting to ask questions. And I don't have any answers. I don't know how she'll react. I don't know if my parents will be able to keep up with her. I don't know if the guilt and fear will overtake me somewhere over Nebraska...I don't even know if we'll be flying over Nebraska. But I think that's the best way to do it. Just go. She'll survive. Her grandparents will survive. Jeff and I will survive. And it won't likely be so traumatizing as to require years of therapy later in life. But maybe I'll put aside some of my winnings into a "therapy fund", just in case.

So cold it hurts

I'm not used to this kind of thing anymore. I woke up today to the chilling reminder that, even though we've been having a record-breaking winter in New York this year, Canada is colder. I spend a lot of time convincing New Yorkers that where I come from the weather is exactly the same as in New York. It's murderously hot in the summer, and not all that cold in the winter. The last few years especially, I assure them, have been very mild. But it seems that distance and my mid-thirties memory have teamed up against me on this one. At midday it has now warmed considerably to a balmy -12C and I doubt very much it will climb much higher.

Undaunted by numbers, confident in the insualting powers of down and wool, I spent a good twenty minutes preparing myself and my ornery, generally uncooperative toddler with surprising leg strength for the elements. Leg warmers, sweaters, hats, snowsuits with built-in mittens, snaps, zippers, hoods...the works. Then three generations of Canadian-bred women waddled together down the hall and out to the mounds of snow that awaited us just outside. It took about six seconds for me to realize that, though my limbs and torso were sufficiently buffeted against the cold, my face was never going to make it. And it wasn't only me. I believe E's words were: "Ack! My face!" It has been years since I considered the benefits of a balaclava. Do they come in pink? Because if I'm ever going to leave the warm sanctuary that is a heated building before May, it won't be without a mask of some kind, and I had better be able to order it online.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A pat on the back

Have you ever undertaken anything knowing perfectly well that you were completely and woefully unqualified for the job, that there really was only one possible outcome, and that the magnitude of the impending disaster was the only uncertainty in the matter?

I try to avoid putting myself into these situations, out of what I assume to be a fairly common aversion to failure, coupled with a healthy dose of laziness. Why exert myself unless I feel that I have a reasonable chance of accomplishing what I set out to do? There are people out there who continually test themselves, who take on tasks of heroic proportions only to crumble in the face of adversity, and rest only long enough to think up another hare-brained idea and off they go again. I'm not sure that I know any of them personally, but a quick search on You Tube will provide you with plenty of fodder for your viewing pleasure.

To make a short story longer than it needs to be, I made a cake for E's 2nd 2nd birthday party. This, in itself, will be no surprise to anyone. But here's the thing. I made an Ernie cake. The easy part was baking a cake in the shape of Ernie. Decorative cake pans can make even you appear to be a master confectionary sculptor. But I didn't stop there, though every neuron in my cerebral cortex begged me to. No, instead I gave myself a couple of solid whacks to the amygdala and busted open the food colouring. And somehow, about two hours and no violent mishaps later, Ernie appeared:

Now, I know I'm not entering him into any competitions, and I might add that not one person suggested that it was too magnificent to mutters under her breath...but I am very proud of the way it turned out. I was stretching the envelope when I tinted the icing blue and pink for her 1st 2nd birthday party cupcakes, and I went into this with all sorts of back-up plans. I was confident that I would eventually have to face the reality that I just cannot produce a recognizable muppet out of sugar. But here he is - was - in all his glory, and I stand corrected. The confirmation came when the birthday girl, all by herself, was able to tell me that Ernie was on her cake, after a few terribly tense seconds of deliberation. Folks, I went into this with nothing, and surprised myself. Maybe the next time you walk blindly into something you have no business doing, you'll come out the other end proudly, too.

Yes, I'd have to say that this one really takes the cake.

I just couldn't resist.

Doctor in training

Our daughter knows how to use a stethoscope and can put one on all by herself. She knows that the heart says "Lub Dup!" She knows that sometimes you need to get blood taken to make sure you're healthy. She knows that medicine is for people when they're sick, and shouldn't be taken by healthy people. She knows that doctors treat patients and take x-rays. She knows that patients shouldn't jump on the bed. She can take off her own band-aids, needles don't make her cry, and she says "thank you" after getting a shot.

I'd say she's ready for her MD. Or at least early admission to med school. Move over, Doogie Howser - there's a new game in town. She may wear a diaper, but she can take that off by herself too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's hard to blog when you're having so much fun.

I haven't been around much. Well, around the computer. And to get me away from the computer would take some pretty impressive means of diversion.

A 2nd Birthday.
An 8-hr drive through a snowstorm.
A visit to one set of GrammaPapas.
A 3-hr drive in beautifully sunny, yet still wintery, conditions.
Another monumental doctor's appointment.
A visit to the other set of GrammaPapas.
A residency interview (well, my husband's interview, but the ladies spent the afternoon at the museum so we wouldn't be biting our fingernails at home).
A 2nd 2nd Birthday party.

I'll be back soon. I promise. I've got lots to tell you. The girl is really maxing out on cuteness this week. Also ranking pretty highly in bossiness. And she's changed her name three times in the last several days.

But right now I'm going downstairs to have a drink and relax before getting back in the car tomorrow morning to head back to the first GrammaPapas. Having a toddler is a bit like pulling back the hammer on a pinball machine, and you're the ball. Especially when you have grandparents like these who are always chomping at the bit for just one more moment with her. I kind of know how they feel.