Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saving the Earth, One dirty diaper at a time...

Cloth diapered darling
Hugo and I made a decision when I was pregnant with Sofia. Actually, we made a decision long before Sofia was thought of or tried for, which involved agreeing roundly that the Earth was literally groaning under the weight of all the human beings on it and that we shouldn't make the situation worse by procreating. We would eschew the age-old practice of spitting out eating, pooping, garbage producing infants just because we had chosen to get hitched and just enjoy our lives together without any kids. We decided to give old Mother Earth a break and not have any kids. Well, then we changed our minds. So, we decided that if we were going to bring this child, this garbage spewing, unsustainable being, into the straining populace, we would do everything we could to bring up an ecologically sensitive, non-excessive trash producing, alternative fuel car driving (ok, so she won't be driving anything but a sweet tricked out Graco Stroller for a long time) infant.





The first step in the plan was to find a solution to the diaper crisis. See, way back in the day, diapers were made of cloth and our grandmas and grandpas (knowing MY Grandma, she never did, that's why I included the grandpas in the deal) would wash them out, fold them neatly in a hamper, and then reuse them. Remember safety pins? By the time our moms were pushing us out (in twos, threes, fours and in my case, fives), disposable diapers were on the rise. And if your mommy diapered YOU in sweet little Huggies than somewhere, in some landfill, stinking, rotting (but not decomposing) and leaking toxic little baby turds into the Earth, those diapers still remain. I read an article recently that said it takes those things 200-500 years to break down. Are any of you people out there planning on living for 200-500 years? Your diapers, then, will outlive you. And I didn't want that for my little darling. I wanted her little turds to go away and never be heard from again. So we decided to do cloth diapers.



Now, realize, that the disposable diaper industry pays a lot to keep us using their products. Apparently, nobody in the disposable diaper industry gives a flying crap (no pun intended) that their products are toxic, unhealthy and very very bad for the environment. Anybody out there care to cite that very well known "study" done on the environmental effects of cloth versus disposable diapers? The one that says the environmental effects are equal and that it really doesn't make a difference either way? The one Parents magazine, as well as a host of other popular-amongst-the-mommy-set magazines has frequently cited? Yeah, I did some digging on that one. Guess who paid for that research? HINT: Its the companies that makes the chemicals that are used to create the disposable diapers. And guess what else? That research has been banned from being printed as research in England due to the fact that it has been deemed false information and mere propaganda from the diapers companies to assuage the guilty feelings of moms who just might be contemplating the idea of switching to cloth. Why, you might ask, would Parents magazine, a reputable periodical, print such a thing? Well, open up an issue of the magazine and thumb through some of the advertisements in it. Who is it that is paying the magazine big bucks to advertise in their magazine? (I'll give you a hint; its not the cloth diaper companies).



So we found ourselves in a not terribly unique position of being treated like children by everyone we told about the hair brained cloth diapering idea. They said we wouldn't last. They laughed. They said the first time we had to do a load of dirty crappy diapers, we would turn tail and run to the nearest store for some Pampers. Strangely enough though, we found when we brought Sofia home from the hospital that we actually kind of liked the diapers. They were soft and felt nice. They didn't have a bunch of gel in the center that turned to cement whenever the baby peed so that we could arguably leave the dirty diaper on the kid for 12 hours without her butt getting wet. They had to be changed frequently, but since we did it right from the start, we didn't really mind. We had to do a load of dirty diapers about every other day to keep up with them. Oh my. Might I add in here that Hugo's mother cloth diapered 4 kids in COLOMBIA with diapers that she had to make herself and without a washing machine? Every time I don't feel like doing a load of diapers, I think of that. And best of all, we never had to make an emergency "diaper run" to the store in the middle of the night.



We have spent about 500 dollars on all the diapers we'll need until the kid is potty trained. Oh, and did I mention, cloth diapered kids are potty trained, on average, six months sooner than disposable diapered kids? You see, all that gel that the diaper company puts into your kids' diapers actually serves several purposes. First of all, it keeps the kid so dry that she doesn't even realize she's gone, which means that by the time your child is of potty trainable age, she makes little or no connection between the act of releasing her bladder and the resultant wetness that should accompany it. She has to, in effect, totally learn how to recognize that she is even going before she can be potty trained. Secondly, it sets your kid up for all kinds of convenient products (designed and marketed by the disposable diaper companies) to act as "interim" or "training" tools while your child is learning to potty. Pull-ups, toddler diapers, toddler wipes (in what way these are different from baby wipes I have no idea) and those neat new diapers for 10 year old boys that are disguised as boxer shorts so he won't get made fun of at camp. I tend to think that I got off easy with 500 dollars. Also, IF we decide to give Sofia a baby brother or sister, we won't have to spend ANYTHING on the diapers for that one. All you disposable diaper using moms should try that with YOUR baby's diapers. Save them and reuse them on the next one. They'll still be around I promise you.



So if you notice that Sofia looks a little puffier around the middle than other babies in some of the pictures, it's because her cloth diapers give her an absolutely adorable little Oompah Loompah appearance. She seems to be dealing with the stress quite nicely though. Do I think every mom should throw out their disposable diapers and buy cloth from now on? Kind of. But here's the thing. Keep a few packages of your Huggies around for trips, long days of errand running and the like. I even have a few packages for those purposes. Nobody's saying we shouldn't use paper plates and plastic silverware EVER. But who uses them every night for dinner? Most of us bust out the glass plates and metal silverware most of the time. Dixie Cups and Chinet plates are perfectly acceptable for picnics, work eat-ins, and potlucks, but it would just be silly if we ate off them all the time. If you think about diapers in much the same way, I think you might begin to see my point.



If you just CAN"T bring yourself to stick your toe in the water of cloth diapering, ok. I won't hate you for it (though I can't speak for mother nature on this matter). However, think very carefully about the future our kids will live in. They will be the ones who will have to learn how to live more environmentally friendly lives. They will have to adapt as we have all failed most miserably to do in even the most simple ways. It will be their future that depends on it. Are you doing your part to make sure that your child is prepared for that future?






Monday, September 15, 2008

Last year around this time...

OK, last year around this time (actually towards the end of October) I was experiencing the joys of first trimester pregnancy and around my birthday and Halloween was when we made the "Big Announcement" to Hugo's family and my side of the family that lives in Daytona (ie. Rene', Alex, Frank and Angela).



Here are a few pictures of me, unwrapping the gift from Hugo that "spilled the beans" so to speak. We decided that at my birthday dinner he would present me with a gift wrapped onesy or newborn outfit of some kind. When I opened it, his family would be like "WTF?" or, more appropriately, "Que es esto?" Try to keep up with the sequence. It went a little something like this....








He chose an adorable little sleeper that was white with green dinosaurs on account of the fact that we didn't know what the gender was yet (you think maybe he was leaning toward boy?)



I held it aloft proudly. Here you can clearly see my "sea bands" the grey wristbands that resemble something Cyndi Lauper would wear in a workout video from the '80s. They were supposed to help with the morning sickness (a euphemism if I ever heard one). I was sick all the time.
I looked at Hugo and grinned...
...cuz I had a feeling that what was underneath the jammies was a very pricey little video camera that I had suggested he purchase me for my birthday...
...so that we would have it when the baby was born to videotape her with
Hugo's parents...his mom got it right away, but clearly, his father was wondering, "Isn't that going to be too small for her? Who is she kidding?"











Hugo's brother Daniel was like, "Geez, I was starting to think the old boy didn't have what it takes..."
Hugo's dad was like, "Can I borrow this?"
Later that night, at a party at George and Adrianna's, the other part of the family had their chance to weigh in on the news. What's that? Was it a costume party? No, Alex and Rene' are just wierd like that. He likes to play Doctor, she likes to dress like a floozy from a different era.
Me and Hugo decided not to dress up. Or actually, we dressed up as a pregnant girl and Jimmy Smits.
Gianna was like, "Yo, if you think I'm just gonna push over and not be the baby anymore, you gotta nother thing comin'! Don't mess with the gansta fairy"

Helpful Resources for New Parents

Here is a picture of Sofia (far left) along with some of her future "best friends," all born within a few weeks of her at NFRMC; known affectionately by us moms as our "SpringPeas"


As a new mom, I have several websites that, along with my trusty American Society of Pediatricians tome, my sister Val's phone numbers, and the paltry amount of knowledge that falls under the heading of "maternal instinct," act as my main resources for parenting. Kellymom.com happens to be a very helpful resource for nursing moms. It was a godsend during those first few dark weeks of motherhood when I wanted nothing more than to hurl the baby through an open window every time she "latched on". However, upon browsing through the many helpful links contained in the site, I happened upon a really interesting one. It is aptly (and alluringly) titled "milkmen: men who breastfeed." Now how, I ask you, can one resist clicking on that one? For everyone's enjoyment, I will post a link to the site.

http://www.unassistedchildbirth.com/miscarticles/milkmen.html

Please don't think I'm making fun of Kellymom. I love the site. Like I said, it was a godsend. Especially after I watched the hilarious Youtube video about lactating men. It gave me an idea...Hugo? You're feeding the next one.

Another {un} helpful link was this one...

http://www.kellymom.com/parenting/links/no-diapers.html

I decided to put this idea into practice one day soon after we brought Sofia home. The Diaper Free Babies people recommend putting your baby, naked, upon a blanket or towel on your bed and "observing her" for an extended period of time to learn what her facial expressions and mannerisms are just prior to eliminating. Then, you can just watch for those preparatory signs and hold her over a small potty whenever she is about to go, thereby eliminating (hehe) the need for diapers. That sounded mighty interesting and if all the granola moms were doing it, I was determined to do it as well. Who needs diapers? I laid Sofia on the bed as directed and proceeded to "watch" her. She was quite content to be naked and happily munched on the back of her hand while I "observed" her. After quite some time, I began to feel the need to eliminate myself, so I quickly excused myself. Upon returning to the bedroom, I found that Sofia had taken advantage of my absence by both pooping and peeing all over herself while I was gone. I put a diaper on her and gave up. What a quitter I am.

Sofia at 16 weeks

I had a special request from one of my loyal readers (my mom) for some recent pictures of Sofia. So, I had Hugo go through, I don't know, 4,000 or so raw images on his computer and pick out some real cuties. I like to think of Hugo as my Network Administrator first and my husband second.




Go Gators!
Catching some "couch time"
Sofia "Pooh"
Now, I will post this and congratulate myself on several facts:
1. My daughter (whom I created with a minor amount of assistance from Hugo) is the cutest baby in the world.
2. I am the luckiest mother in the world since it is 10:55 PM and Sofia has been sound asleep since 9 or so and I'm not even terrified that she will wake up.
3. It feels good to not have engorged boobies anymore (those first few months of nursing were a doozie).
4. So far, I seem to be succeeding at this whole "stay at home mom who just happens to work 36 hours a week" thing. Me and Sofia had a lovely day in which we went to the mall, Old Navy and Target and walked around to avoid staying at home and succumbing to the temptations of the "all day nap" which I easily could have done. I bolstered myself with plenty of coffee from Starbucks and tried to forget the fact that my 401K (as well as everyone else's in America) is soon to be gone and McCain is actually starting to pull ahead in the polls. Yikes!
Oh and here's an amusing anecdote. Today, I went down to Hugo's work to pick him up and arrived early, so Sofia and I enjoyed some time together on the bench in the very park-like setting that is the Sunstate Federal Credit Union's downtown branch (one of the many joys of living in Gainesville is that even the downtown area is nice and green with plenty of trees and streams and whatnot; you hardly feel like you're in a city at all).
Hugo and his boss, Chuck, came out of the building promptly at 6 PM and Chuck greeted us pleasantly. I told Hugo that we had spent the day shopping and strolling around Gainesville and then Hugo's boss Chuck said something that SOUNDED like, "Now its time to go home and sip some beers with Daddy, right?"
"Damn Straight!" I replied, grinning enthusiastically at the thought. Perhaps Hugo had mentioned this to him as his plan for the evening or something. As we were walking away toward the car, Hugo looked at me strangely and said, "Why are you grinning? What's so funny about that?"
"He said we were gonna go home and sip some beers!" I giggled. I don't know, it just seemed kind of uncharacteristic of his boss to say something like that. As it turns out, it was. What he REALLY said, according to Hugo was that it was time to SWITCH GEARS, not SIP BEERS. Tee Hee. I guess I must have some fuzz in my ears.
Another amusing anecdote (they're just piling up here tonight). Hugo and I are currently in the computer room, he at his monster PC that he built himself and me with my laptop. I just caught Hugo laughing quietly to himself. "What's so funny?" I asked. He was enjoying quite a chuckle. He demured, claiming that it was something only he would be amused by and I wouldn't "get it". Of course, once he said that, I had to know. I insisted and finally he broke down. "My computer is running at 17 degrees Celcius" he said, and I howled with laughter. Because he is so right; I have no idea why that is laugh-worthy. And that makes it all the more of a riot.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some of My Worst Vices part IV





Cassie, My Yorkshire Terrier







But, you may ask, how can an adorable pooch be considered a vice (unless you have already come to the conclusion that I have an extremely loose grasp of exactly what a vice is, in which case you would be entirely correct; after all, I don’t have any REAL vices). The truth is Cassie is far from being an adorable pooch. If you examine the picture at the header of this blog, you will see Cassie sitting on my lap. If you look closely, you may also appreciate the fact that she has a certain look of superiority on her face which tells the world that she is the queen and she doesn’t give one red cent what you or anyone else thinks of her. What you might not be able to tell from that picture is that she is mean and vile and frequently chooses to roll around in rotten animal remains before returning to the house to sit on my furniture as though she owns it. She hates her sister Nicky who I specifically got to act as Cassie’s companion during the long days Hugo and I were away at work. The way that she expresses her feelings towards Nicky is by attacking her at any given moment (real subtle, huh?) and also by walking over to whatever chair, cushion, blanket or bed (mine included) Nicky deigns to sit upon and peeing directly in front of her. Not only that, but Nicky got several beatings for this when she was first brought home, because up until that point Cassie had always demonstrated at least a moderate amount of urinary continence so I assumed (until I actually witnessed the act) that it must be Nicky, the newcomer. I hope that Nicky (and God and Violet who was kind enough to give me Nicky) will forgive me for this oversight. Oh, yes, Cassie is everything that Lassie was not in terms of canine baseness and villainous acts. If she found a little boy stuck in a burning barn instead of running to get Timmy, she would probably add insult to injury by peeing on the innocent victim. She loves nothing more than to kick a girl when she’s down, as evidenced by her apparent delight in attacking Nicky whenever Nicky is already scared or being punished.
When little children mistakenly identify her as a cute fluffy puppy that they want to play with, she disavows them of this notion very effectively by “bopping” them in the face, an act that is somewhere between a punch and a bite. Luckily she has no teeth so she presents no actual threat to anything larger than a fruit fly. Yes, my “main” pooch Cassie is a real pain in the butt. Nicky, my “back-up pooch” is so much more pet-like and enjoyable to be around. And yet, I stubbornly continue to love Cassie the most of my two pooches. She’s mean and nasty and high-fallutin’ and she makes a poor excuse for a pet. She deserves nothing more than a date with the euthanasia tech at our local vet’s office. Don’t think Hugo hasn’t thought of it. I see it in his eyes sometimes. The only redeeming characteristic that Cassie exhibits, and get ready because it’s a good one, is that she is devoted to me. I might even go so far as to say that she worships me. At nighttime, she sneaks up and joins me in bed while Hugo is brushing his teeth. She sits there on the bed at my feet looking adoringly up at me until she hears Hugo on the stairs. Then, she leaps up and races to the top of the bed so that she can squirm underneath the covers and, following a path right along the side of my body, she slithers down to the bottom of the bed and lays there, quivering, as close to me as her 5 pound bulk will allow her to press. Hugo, playing along, comes up and pretends to be oblivious to her presence.






He sneaks up to the foot of the bed and in one motion he sweeps back the blanket and swoops her up, going, “ah-HAH!”. The foiled pooch gets transported back downstairs to where her bed awaits, with Nicky obediently ensconced already. Nicky will not risk her life and limbs to be with me, which is why she mostly stays downstairs and therefore on the better side of Hugo’s ill temper. Cassie, on the other hand, will not only risk life and limb but I firmly believe that she would gladly sacrifice all in order to save me. And when it comes right down to it; isn’t that the primary requirement of a good pet? My more egotistical side says yes. After all, it’s nice to be worshipped once in awhile, even if it’s by a lousy (no really, she catches fleas from the squirrels out back) excuse for a dog.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Some of my worst vices, part III

Keith Olberman
I love that man. For those of you who don’t know him, he has a show called Countdown with Keith Olberman on MSNBC every weeknight at 8. I watch him somewhat religiously (unless I’m currently on the no television until after the baby is in bed kick and then I have to catch him on reruns at 4 in the morning when I’m having insomnia because I’m a night shift nurse again).

But his show is pretty much a political commentary which his blessedly leftist soul attempts to pretend is fair, impartial and nonpartisan but in which he finds it extremely difficult to say anything nice about Republicans and anything not nice about Democrats. Since I tend to agree with him that Republicans are mostly evil and that most of the Democrats at least have some redeeming characteristics, I love to listen to his antics. The promo for his show says that it is “…Keithier” than other shows and it most certainly is that. I think he’s adorable. And he thinks that Barack Obama (or B-Funkadelic, as my sister would like me to refer to him heretofore) is sent straight from the heavens, a sentiment which I tend to also agree with.

So keep your Anderson Cooper 360, with his perfectly prematurely white hair and carefully nonpartisan subject matter. I’ll take Keith in all his dark suited and purple-tied, musty salt and pepper hairdo’d oddness. He’s a man who isn’t afraid to call Bill O’Reilly “Billo the Clown” and Fox News “Fixed News” and “Fox Noise” depending on how the mood strikes him. Left-Wing News Media he may very well be, but he’s just strange enough to make it onto my list of guilty pleasures.

Some of my worst vices, part II

Parentheses. Have you noticed? I use ‘em a lot. I also use them in conversation, only my listeners do not have the benefit of the physical presence of the parentheses so they don’t know I’ve gone off on a tangent and they consequently lose track of the main point of the story. Often, without having the benefit of looking back at my previous text to remind myself, I also forget where I was going when verbally telling a story. I wish we could have “air parentheses” like we have “air quotation marks”. I would use them frequently if we did.

Ellipses. These are the little dots that allow the writer to trail off, as though she has so much more to say on that subject but there just isn’t enough time. That way, anyone who does brave the typewritten diarrhea that is my daily thoughts will know that no matter how much I have rambled on and no matter how many crazy tangents I have gone off on (see above), it could have been worse…

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Long Hard Road to Motherhood



I have reached some sort of a crossroads in my journey to being a “mom”. Thus far, I have been a “mommy” and a “new mother,” but I haven’t yet felt like a “mom”. Shall I explain? Let me explain.

Mommies are new and fluffy and extremely, cripplingly in love with their babies. They cannot stand to hear them cry and they have utterly no perspective when it comes to their babies. They get offended in the supermarket when they hear some old moron calling their babies by the wrong gender (as in, “what’s his name?” when it’s a girl). They pull the car over (even if they’re in the worst section of town) if the baby makes any noises of discontent and sit there in the parking lot of the Mellow Mushroom with their boob out, feeding the baby till she settles down and falls asleep. They cry, and I mean really cry, if they see anything remotely unpleasant happening to any baby on television because they immediately think of the same thing happening to their baby. Their boobs start to ache and leak all over the place if they so much as hear a baby crying in the grocery store. They are drippy, tearful, maternal, worshipful and probably annoying for anyone else to be around. This is most likely why new moms have to hang out with other new moms in “postpartum support groups”. Not because postpartum is some kind of disease. Just because none of their other friends want to be around them, so the best thing is for them to congregate amongst each other, alternately breast feeding their own babies and cooing at the other babies in the group. This is where I have been for the past 16 weeks.

Today, I made an important advancement towards moving past this stage. We were in the car, Sofia and I, on our way to pick Hugo up at work. As soon as I got to the first red light, Sofia started to wail. She has begun doing this whenever the car stops. She’s all fine and everything until we come to a red light and as soon as I stop at it, she starts crying as though she’s in terrible pain. I have, up until this point, frequently stopped to check her diaper, make sure she’s not hungry and that there are no bugs happily munching away on her tender little neck (these are the things that haunt a new mommy’s sleep). Other times, I have pre-planned for this fussiness by not pulling all the way up to the light but instead giving myself a good 10 feet and tapping on the brakes to keep the car rocking back and forth until the light turns green again. On still other occasions, when Hugo’s in the car, I have hopped out of the passenger seat at a red light and popped into the back seat so that I can entertain and jiggle the baby to help settle her down.

Anyway, today I did none of these things. I didn’t even really think about it until after it happened. I pulled up to the light, it was red so I stopped, and the baby started crying as though her entire world was about to end. I smoothly reached over and turned up the radio. Welcome to the wonderful world of “Mom”.

I know that there is a purpose to the stages of motherhood. When the baby is tiny and helpless and incapable of manipulation, there is no need for perspective. Many will tell you that you shouldn’t let your newborn sleep with you, that you should let the baby “self soothe” if she wakes up crying, and that you should feed her on a strict schedule from the very beginning to avoid raising a “snacker”. This all made perfect sense to me before I had Sofia, and I planned on doing all of it. She wasn’t going to sleep with us, ever, she was going to learn how to “put herself to sleep” and she was going to be fed on a schedule so that we could establish a good feeding and sleeping pattern. When she was born, though, I found my own maternal instincts at odds with these dictates. The truth was; I wanted to sleep with her. She was so soft and snuggly and smelled so good. I didn’t want to hear her cry, ever, and I would do anything to make her stop when she did. When all else failed, even if I knew she wasn’t hungry, I would nurse her, because it seemed to make her feel better and it sure as heck made me feel better. The point is, I truly think now that this is how we’re supposed to act as new parents (don’t think Hugo was exempt from any of this).

Newborn babies shouldn’t ever be allowed to cry themselves out. They’re so tiny and they’ve just been introduced to this world from one in which they were warm and snuggly all the time, enveloped in love and fed a constant diet of the very best of whatever the mother eats. Is it asking so much to give them a few months to adjust before we start slugging them with the muck of “reality”? Can’t they just enjoy a short reprieve before we start imposing “schedules” and “sleeping rules” on them? Of course, eventually, we must begin to slowly introduce reality in small doses, so they won’t grow up to be narcissistic and incapable of dealing with unpleasant sensory experiences. I think I know how that happens now. It’s a slow transition from “mommy” to “mom” that happens within us. Today, I let her cry at the light. Tomorrow I might let her fuss until we get home before I feed her. And someday, just maybe, I might have the courage to put her on a school bus, knowing full well that she might get picked on and made fun of. Right now the very idea makes me break out in hives, but who knows?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some of my worst vices, part I

Coffee.
I love it.
All different kinds.
Regular with half and half. Café Latte. Cappucino. Iced or blended. Plenty of whipped cream where possible. I even like an espresso occasionally. The only thing I don’t much like is flavored coffee. I’m not sure why, but I just don’t like the way it tastes. Love the way it smells. For a long time, I would make the mistake of ordering flavored coffees when I could smell them and they smelled divine (not to mention some of the names…toasted hazelnut truffle…who could resist something called that?). Then I would taste it and realize that its only plain unflavored coffee for me. This gets immediately tossed out the window whenever the coffee beverage is chilled and blended. Then, flavors excite and fulfill me.
Many have asked me (with very holier than thou expressions on their faces) if I really think it’s a good idea to drink coffee while breastfeeding. I came up with a great rejoinder for this while pregnant. “My baby daddy is Colombian,” I would reply, rubbing my belly comfortably, “So, I figure she’s either gonna be addicted to coffee or cocaine. Let’s hope its coffee…” Really people. Every healthcare practitioner I have spoken to says that there have been no adverse effects on children whose mothers drink up to 4 cups of coffee a day. Now, I do love coffee, but I can’t imagine what I would look like if I drank 4 cups of it a day. Like I was high on crack probably. Coffee is like crack; it should be enjoyed in very small quantities…

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Easy Asian Coconut Curry

OK, here's a reipce I have been making a lot lately. I think Hugo might be starting to get tired of it because I make it about once a week. Its so good though! And easy. And cheap. OK, this is starting to sound like an advertisement for the girls on Ridgewood (Rene' will get that joke; hopefully nobody else will).
Start with the following ingredients:
1 can of light cocount milk (I often use the full fat one but right now I just finished eating a decadent dessert consisting of apples, butter, sugar, crescent rolls and Mountain Dew, so I'll go with the lighter version of the recipe).
2 cups of prepared brown rice (OK, use white if you must but I promise, the brown rice isn't just a health move; it actually does add something to the overall taste)
1 package of tofu (I like the NORYU box of silken firm tofu, its very silken, yet very firm as well...)
1 tablespoon of red curry paste (available in the asian foods aisle, near the soy sauce)
1 package of Birds Eye Steam Fresh mixed vegetables. The one with broccoli, carrots, sugarsnap peas and water chestnuts. Go ahead and pop it into the microwave and cook for 5 minutes (this isn't rocket science folks. If you want some crazy complicated recipe, visit my sister Val. She likes to keep it real with the old recipes, but she also switches it up and goes all Martha Stewart on your ass occasionally). www.valspictureperfectpotd.blogspot.com

While you're cooking the vegetables (oh, I'm sorry, you didn't realize that we had segued into the cooking portion of the recipe? I like to do that. Its a literary skill. I slid right from the ingredients section into the cooking section and you didn't even know it. What's that you say? Literary devices have no place in recipe-sharing? Nonsense.) Anyway, as I was saying, pour your can of coconut milk into a skillet (carefully, so as not to slosh any of that good stuff over the side of the pan. Not that I have ever done that before...) Whisk in the curry paste. You could just stir it in with a fork if you don't want to dirty up your whisk. Or, if your whisk happens to be in the dishwasher right now. Or if you, like me, do not own a whisk. I told you, this is not rocket science here. Even girls like me who don't own a whisk can do it. I don't like a lot of superfluous kitchen utensils hanging around. Anyway, once the sauce is bubbling, you can back off the heat a little so it barely simmers. You don't want to cook it down too much or it will be super thick.

Cut up the tofu into pleasant bite sized pieces and carefully slide them into the sauce. Here is where I better throw the modification in for people like my sister Rene' who hate foods that are meatless and free of alcohol. Switch out the tofu for cooked chicken and pour yourself a glass of plum wine. Modification complete. By the way, if you happen to be one of the 3 people reading this blog AND you happen to be one of my sisters, I bet you guys didn't think I thought of you as often as I obviously do. I can't write a single sentence without referring to one of you. Don't worry Mom (the third person reading this blog) I'm thinking about you too. I know you're probably trying to recover from my previous blog, the political direction of which probably still has you swooning with dread.

Now, you must get a few bowls out. Get 2 bowls if you are serving 2 people. Get 4 bowls if you are serving 4 people. If you are serving more than that, you might want to double up on this recipe. Place a nice portion of rice in each bowl. Add some of the vegetables from the Steam Fresh bag. Then, pour some of the creamy, coconutty sauce over everything, making sure to transfer plenty of tofu along with the sauce into each bowl. Get yourself some chopsticks if you really want to feel authentic. Eat it. Just eat it. Now, of course, if you are a wuss when it comes to spicy foods, feel free to reduce the amount of curry paste that you use the first time, to sort of ease yourself into the world of curry. Curry is very good. It is an acquired taste. It will clean out your sinuses in much the same way as wasabi does, but with a totally different flavour. I spelled flavour the long, exotic way. Hehe. It makes me feel just a little bit Martha...
BTW I realize that I have a problem with excessive parentheses and ellipses (I'm working on that...) :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A letter to our future President

Dear Barack
Well, Mr. Obama, it looks like you will be our next president. I’m really happy about that because, well, I sincerely think you’re the right man for this job. I don’t envy you your responsibilities or the struggle it took you to get where you are (and where you most certainly will be this coming January). However, now that you’re (almost) my president, I have a few minor requests. I make them on behalf of myself and my family. We don’t ask for much. As you can see, we aren’t bothering to write this letter to the current president, because, Mr. Obama, I just don’t think he really cares about people like us. You, on the other hand, seem to care a great deal about people just like us. So, I can wait a few more months. Think of it as an early Christmas wish list. Of course, by the time you get into office, it will be a late Christmas wish list. And, to be politically correct, we should refer to it as a holiday wish list. So here goes.

1. Please make a socialized healthcare system of some kind. I know there are people out there who like to say that socialized medicine is a bad idea and that it hasn’t worked in other countries. Other countries that have longer life expectancy and better quality of life than we in this country have. They say that socialized medicine turns healthcare into a nightmare of red tape, and that we will all have to wait in line to receive healthcare services. Barack, last time I checked, the ER lines were 3-4 hours long here in this country. I would rather see everyone wait in line than see some of my fellow Americans go without healthcare of any kind. Sometimes I think that those of us who have health insurance are just as badly off as those who don’t. I’m a nurse. I have had to see a patient get sent home from the hospital when they weren’t really ready to go simply because some guy in an insurance office somewhere decided that he didn’t deserve to stay and complete his treatment. What is this country coming to when the insurance companies that are supposed to protect us in times of crisis are the worse kinds of “fair weather friends”?

2. I’d also like to request that you fix social security. It seems almost like the current president has used it like his own personal piggy bank, withdrawing anytime he felt the need to fund an unpopular war. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of the whole thing but I do know that the social security program is in grave danger. It says so on the statement I get every year from the Social Security Administration. It says that even though I have paid in to the system all my working life, there won’t be enough to pay out my fair portion by the time I retire. To be honest, I’m more concerned about my parents than I am about myself. I have made alternate arrangements for my own retirement, so, while a pension check from SSA would be nice, it won’t make the difference between whether or not I’m (ever) able to retire. My parents, on the other hand, will need that check in order to make ends meet. They are good people who have worked hard all their lives. They don’t deserve to be reduced to poverty in their old age.

3. My next request is that you help us put the Earth on the road to recovery by setting policy which puts us at the forefront, not the very rear, of the effort to end global warming. My daughter is only 4 months old sir. The Earth is going to need to be around for a very long time if she is ever going to bounce great-grandchildren on her knee. I really can’t see anything much more important than that, can you?

4. Next, I’d like to stop all this nonsense with “relief at the pump”. It may be incredibly bourgeoisie of me, but I don’t see lower gas prices as the answer to all our problems. I want to stop standing at the pump entirely. Please stop all this nonsense about drilling for oil and providing subsidies for families to pay for the gas to fill up their SUV’s. We need alternatives. There is technology out there already that would allow for us to end our dependence on unfriendly countries for oil. Unfortunately, our country’s leadership has been in bed with the very people who make a lot of money off of our dependence on foreign oil for a very long time and I fear that they are the ones funding this push to invest still more in spinning our wheels for years while actually doing nothing to change the status quo. We need someone in Washington who hasn’t been around long enough to be in bed with anyone. That is why I actually think your “inexperience” might be just what we need Mr. Obama. You just might be naïve enough to get the job done right. Isn’t it a strange coincidence that, just about the time that our economic stimulus checks arrived this summer, gas topped out at over $4 a gallon? Does anyone else think it’s kind of like George W. Bush wrote a big huge check to the oil companies only he used us as the middle men?

5. I think it’s time we got a new women’s rights issue and put the Roe Vs. Wade case to bed for good. The thing is, while most women feel that they should control their own bodies, abortion just isn’t that big of a deal to most of us anymore. The vast majority of women have never considered, nor ever will consider getting an abortion. We’re just smarter than that. We know how to prevent unwanted pregnancies by now and we feel that by focusing on this tiny little procedure that we all can agree is unpleasant and in most cases unnecessary, all women lose. We want to focus on equal pay for an equal day. I won’t fight for my daughter to have the right to an abortion. I will fight for my daughter to have the right to the same treatment in school and the workplace as any man. Maybe that’s why the so-called “conservative” right has tried to distract us with the abortion issue for so many years. If it were equal pay, they might actually have to come up with some argument that doesn’t involve “God says so” in its response.

6. Speaking of my daughter and school, can we please put some money into the public school system so my daughter can have a world class education? I don’t mind paying taxes if I know that the money is going to stay here and in our schools instead of being poured into an unpopular and unnecessary war. I plan on teaching my daughter everything I can about values and respect and how to develop her own philosophy of the world we live in. I’d like to know that when I send her off to school in few years she will get a good solid education to add to that foundation. I’d like to think of my child’s education as a team effort. I will do my part. I will do the school’s part if I have to but I’d much rather focus on what I’m good at (nursing) and let the teachers focus on what they are good at. That’s what they’re talking about when they say that it takes a village.

I know there are other issues that are very important that I don’t understand fully. After all, I’m just a nurse. I will leave nuclear proliferation and peace in the Middle East in your very capable hands. These issues are the ones most of us here in the U.S.A. care about. We just want to enjoy the right to work, play and raise our families. We don’t mind if there are people out there who have a whole lot more than we do. We only object to the fact that it seems like the decisions being made in this country have been stacking the deck more and more in favor of those people for some time. We the middle class are the backbone of this country. If we lose, everyone loses. Mr. Obama, we can’t wait to see you become President Obama in a few short months. We just know that the change you have been talking about is more than a slogan. I’m sorry if this letter seems like the mother of all “honey do” lists. However, if you show it to Michelle, I bet she will agree that these are the things that really matter.

Yours truly,
Lauren

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Cockroach Incident

Today something traumatic happened. I told Hugo about it and then swore never to speak of it again, but I have decided to write it down for posterity. It still gives me the heeby jeebies to think about it, even after a bath and several brisk hand-washings. I was playing with Sofia on the bed and her pacifier fell off the bed onto the floor. I got up and went into the bathroom to rinse it off in the tub, but had to move my bathing suit, which was hanging over the faucet, where I had placed it to dry when I came in yesterday from the pool. When I say, the pool, so airily, I do not mean to imply that I have a pool. I would like to have a pool. It would be really cool to have one, since we live in Florida and everything. Alas, it was a community pool located in the subdivision of a “postpartum friend” who invited the mommies and babies over to a little pool party at her place. Sofia and I had a winning afternoon and came home barely in time for dinner. But, I digress. That was the day before. That was when life was grand and pool parties were the height of afternoon enjoyment. I fear I shall never be able to enjoy another afternoon at a pool again.
Why, you ask? Well, as I was transferring my suit to the closet, I felt a strange sensation on my shoulder, just out of eye-sight. I brushed it away with my hand, assuming that it was a stray hair. I have been shedding like crazy the past few weeks; they say it is common after pregnancy to shed all that extra hair you grew along with the fetus. So imagine my horror when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a cockroach go fluttering to the floor and begin to skitter around the way cockroaches do. Just now, when I typed the word skitter, I felt exactly the same sensation on my shoulder that I felt when it happened. Ughhhhhhhhh!!!!!! Without even stopping to think or care about the fact that I was barefoot, I immediately squashed the bug with my foot. I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t stand the idea of that thing surviving to tell all his cockroach buddies about the incident. It, in the way peculiar to cockroaches the world over, refused to simply die but instead flopped over on his back and began waving his tentacles in a grisly death dance. I, meanwhile, was making awful noises and wringing my hands in anguish. How could this happen to me? I was certain I would never feel the touch of a cockroach on my skin. I mean, this is Florida and we euphemistically call them palmetto bugs in order to pretend that we don’t have cockroaches in our houses, but anything that looks like a cockroach, is a cockroach as far as I’m concerned. And those things look like cockroaches on steroids.
We get the poison at Lowe’s and we spray it around the outside of the house to keep them at bay. The problem is, even though the poison works, the cockroaches refuse to slink away into their dark crevice to die with a little dignity. It is a peculiar trait of these nasty bugs; they hate humans almost as much as we hate them, but they have to die in front of us. During their lifespan, they attempt to live in as close proximity of us (and our food) as possible, while having as little contact as possible. Yet, when they are terminally afflicted with the poison we leave to kill them, they flop over on their backs in the middle of the floor and take about 6 hours to finally die for good. During that time, they occasionally wave a tentacle pathetically, as though in an attempt to make us feel guilty. However, the cockroach who had the misfortune to come in physical contact with me did not have that luxury (if dying a slow and public death could be considered a luxury). He spent his final moments in the recesses of the sewer system after being flushed emphatically down the toilet.
Now, I am dealing with the inevitable trauma of overcoming my fear of repeating this experience. Because, like I said earlier, my hair is shedding in great quantities, so I constantly have that creepy feeling that there’s a bug on me. Only now, I know that it could actually be a bug. So I don’t just brush the hair off me. Now, I jump up and jiggle my whole body in a very grotesque fashion while waving the afflicted limb as far away from my body as possible to make the imaginary bug fall off of me without coming in contact with any of my other body parts. It’s really attractive. I’m thinking about naming it the cucaracha dance. Fitting, don’t you think?