Monday, February 28, 2011

First official pre-schooler pedicure and a vacation

We're going on a long-overdue vacation. Our first as a family of four! Fun! Exciting! Crazy! All that and multiple bags of snacks. I don't mean that in an urban slang way. We really are taking  big ziploc bags of snacks. 'Cause we're all thrifty and hungry when traveling like that.

Last year, Seattle's summer was an oddity: very little sun. I know that's surprising to folks elsewhere who think it rains here all the time. But summers here are actually pretty spectacular: temperatures in the 70-80s with no humidity, with crystal clear (as in no smog) views of mountains, lakes and water in all directions. I call them amnesia days: they make you forget about the other nine months of craptastic grey and/or rainy dreariness.

So since summer stunk last year, it's been months since my toes have seen the light of day outside of my bathroom. As such, there are probably Preakness Winners with better looking hooves right now.

I didn't want to scare any small children (especially my own) poolside with unkempt feet. We're going to Mexico, so I had a mental picture of me flip-flopping out to the pool with the fam only to overhear some nino exclaim, "Sus pies son como un burro!" ("Their feet are like a donkey!")

So Ava and I hot-footed it over to a local mall and had some mommy-daughter time with side-by-side pedicures, Ava's first in a real nail salon.
We sat back with our fro-yo and smoothie and reveled in the girl time. As you can see, Ava is still so small that even with the seat flipped up, her feet barely made it to the water. But they managed, and she kept giggling and saying, "Mommy, I'm having so much fun!"

It was a reminder of how important it is for me to remember to build in time with me or J. and just her or just Dylan. We're usually so busy rushing through each week hoping to keep all the plates spinning, that we don't take time to savor each other and spend time just enjoying each other's company. The vacation should help some.

Ava got to wear and break in her new vacation sandals (Hot pink sparkly flip flops. Of course.) and chose a hot pink nail color. When the nail technician offered to do a flower too, you might as well have waved a magic wand and told her M & M's and Gummy Bears were about to rain from the heavens. She was thrilled.
She couldn't wait to get home to show her Daddy and brother her new pedicure. Dad oohed and aahhed and exclaimed as expected. Dylan just smiled, happy that his sister was happy.

I didn't get shots of my pedicure, but it was lovely too. It didn't take a belt sander to smooth my rough heels, as I feared, but I assure you, the nail tech earned her money that night. And I did tip accordingly. Mexico, here we come.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday salon day: 1st haircut

After three and a half years, it was finally time to get Ava's hair trimmed. We've been dealing with frequent snags even with conditioner, so we headed to the shop of our family hookup: my husband's cousin's wife, who is a hair stylist.

Even with her eight year old cousin helping and trying to entertain her, Ava was too busy crying and trying to climb out of the hair wash chair, so we didn't get any shots of that. But after the wash and blow dry, she sat very still as her curly tresses were flat ironed.

Followed by the trim.

Dylan wandered about trying to sweep up hair. Sweeping is one of his favorite activities and he was elated to find a tiny broom and dustpan set seemingly made just for him, oblivious to the transformation underway nearby. And voila...

Seriously straight, big girl hair. Ava looks kinda bummed in the pictures, especially compared to her reaction to the home blowout I did a few months ago. But by the evening, she'd come around. "Can you help me wrap up my pretty hair?" she asked. You betcha little one.With head bands and ponytails during the day and wrapping at night, it lasted several days this time, sans rat's nest effect.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dylan's first ER visit

After crawling, pulling up and walking, visiting the ER is a pretty standard milestone, isn't it? Dylan's hitting it at 14 months, courtesy of a gash to the forehead in an unfortunate laundry room mishap: a fairly minor fall at just the wrong angle against the drying rack his dad was setting up.

We called the consultant nurse who said to take him to the ER. The pictures were actually taken at the 2nd ER we went to tonight. The first had at least a dozen people waiting and a three to four hour wait! With both kids in tow and the witching hour of 8 pm fast-approaching, that kind of wait wasn't feasible unless staff there was prepared to hand out opiates to everyone in the waiting room to deal the ear bleeding caused by two shrieking children.

So we drove to another ER on our health plan in a neighboring city where there were just two people ahead of us and where we were seen within minutes of check-in by the triage nurse: a kid-friendly, burly man named Dan (of course).

After about 10 minutes, another nurse (not Dan) taped some numbing medicine to Dylan's head to prepare for the procedure ahead.
While we waited for it to take effect, I explained to Ava why there was a huge box of latex gloves in the room. The word "proctology" may have come up. Then I made a glove balloon to keep them entertained. 'Cause I'm all mad-crafty like that. Fo-shizzle.
When the pediatrician finally came to work his magic, I was given the unenviable task of sitting atop my wailing, flailing, screaming toddler on the gurney while a technician squirted saline solution into the short but frighteningly deep gash to clean it out.
 Given the aforementioned wailing and flailing, attempting to suture a gash so close to his eye would have been like trying to play that game Operation, except if you mess up, instead of getting a buzz, you stab an already-unhappy child in his eye, while his horrified mother, barely restrained father and protective, spitfire sister watch, mere inches away. But you know: no pressure.
They opted for fast-acting wound glue instead, held in place by a couple pieces of tape. My little guy left all patched up and looking like a miniature prize fighter. Hopefully this ER visit will be a rare event, not the "first in a series" in the years ahead. UPDATE: several friends with boys have since shared their own "first ER visit" stories and told me "don't bet on it." Sigh.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Original art Valentines for classmates

Ava's original art Valentines for classmates. I did the hearts and words, she did the art, in her signature pink. Good thing she has a small class!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Knock, knock. Who's there? My dog's butt

Just found a neat blog through a Tweet from an @momswhoblog link to Three Kid Circus.  The author seems lovely and as I posted in her comments, reading her New Year's post, I realized we have something totally random in common: problematic dog butts. She mentioned her dog chewing at its back/butt and needing to be shaved, in addition to doing a course of antibiotics and medicated shampoo.

My dog developed the same weird back itchiness and patchy hair loss around Christmas and we received the same instructions from the vet. We have not resorted to shaving her yet, but I thought for sure that I was the only mom in America spending New Year's weekend putting medicated shampoo on the dog's hind quarters and timing the administration of her antibiotic pills hidden (poorly) in cheese. Apparently (and happily for some reason) I was wrong.

I hope the meds and shampoo bring her coat back to it's seal-like glossiness. Seal as in the aquatic mammal, not the Heidi Klum better half. Although I'm sure he can be glossy given the right outfit.

Hubby's Super (Bowl) meat dip

Although the Super Bowl commercials didn't live up to the hype, the day was lovely. My folks came over to watch the game and nosh.
Note the delicious mound of seasoned ground turkey, onions, cheese, avocado, refried beans, tomatoes and salsa that J. prepared for us. We dug in using hint of lime-flavored tortilla chips. Surprisingly, we only lost one person to post-game, food-induced slumber.

Toddler playtime

Almost 14 month old Dylan at toddler playtime at a community center showing that he likes toys that move and that two popping toys are better than one.

In the homemade calzone zone

As a work outside the home mom, I am constantly on the move: heading home, to pickup the kids, to the office or to my volunteer duties, and always looking for easy ways to get some aspect of work or home life done more quickly or better.

At the same time, I crave time with my family. Correction: better quality time with them, because the time that we do have together is full of rush, rush, rush and not enough just being together to enjoy each other's company.

Earlier this week, I killed two birds with one stone by making up a shorthand version of a classic dish that 3 year old Ava was able to help with and that 13 month old Dylan, husband J. and hubby's 94 y.o. great aunt gave rave reviews.

First off, I am a recipe cooker. I'm no gourmet in kitchen, but I can follow directions. And I'm confident enough in my cooking skills and experience to know how to jazz up a recipe sometimes, which is really just a blueprint. The cook should always feel free to improvise and flesh out a dish according to family tastes.

I was in the mood for lasagna but didn't really want exactly that and didn't have time for my usual delicious but slightly time-consuming version. So I wondered if I could just use the lasagna filling in something else. Calzones came to mind and a quick search found oodles of recipes for easy calzones using pizza dough or canned biscuits with whatever fillings were available.

Unfortunately, although the local grocery store I went to carries what looked like every frozen pizza, burrito and fried protein concoction ever to come out of a multinational food manufacturing facility, I couldn't find fresh or frozen pizza dough.
(Sidebar: are there really that many people regularly eating frozen pizza and fried frozen fish sticks?! No wonder obesity in low-income communities (like the one this store is in) is on the rise. It's gotta be at least a decade since I've ingested anything in that category and the kids don't even know what a fish stick is, thank goodness. However the grandparents have unfortunately taken her to Mickey D's, so she has correctly identified chicken nuggets on a billboard. Grrr.)

A store employee finally pointed me to the biscuit section where I discovered that there is indeed pizza dough in a tube that pops open, like biscuits. I took it home and sauteed up my standard lasagna filling: seasoned ground turkey, onion, garlic, half the tomatoes (so it wouldn't be too wet), omitting the tomato paste and adding the frozen, chopped spinach to the meat, instead of the ricotta/egg mixture.

Note that I'm breaking in brand new Cuisinart cookware we bought a couple weeks ago after moving and purging all of our worn out, odds and end cookware collected over 18 years as a couple, first with our own homes, then a combined home. We got a 10 piece set and added the large skillet with helper handle shown, since we do lots of big dishes. 

After buying it, I caught J. using the one tiny pot we had to tide us over until we upgraded. When I asked why he wasn't using the new ones, he said, "They're too nice. I'm not ready to get them dirty yet." Nice, but I have no such compunction, as shown below.
Sauteed meat and veggies in SPANKIN' NEW, deep saute pan, mixed ricotta and egg mixture in bowl.

Next I stretched out the dough and considered using something round to make cute little pockets, but at the end of a long day and with hungry kids hovering, I went for speed over aesthetics and simply cut it into squares.

The 3 year old helped fill and close each little calzone with the meat mixture, ricotta and four-italian-cheese shreds and I crimped the edges with the tines of a fork.

Baked them on a exopat-covered cookie sheet for 15 minutes or so at 400 degrees until the little mounds were golden brown and bubbly.
These little calzones made great handheld dinners for all of us and were great on days two and three for lunch. I had filling left over, so I ended up getting more dough and making another batch the next night at J.'s request.
And as you can see above, 13 month old Dylan was heated when he finished his and I was too slow replacing it with another one hot out of the oven. All he needed was silverware in each fist to pound on his tray table for effect.

I've dubbed these little treats the "anti-hot pocket" because they are the antithesis of the supermarket version expanded on hilariously by comedian Jim Gaffigan below.