Tuesday, December 29, 2009

La Formule de Noël

It was going to be A Perfect Christmas.

I was going to get everything done and be relaxed and make lots of memories and take lots of pictures. My house would be spotless. Every dish would work out perfectly. No one would fight. It would be so special.


My biscotti (Grandma Mitzi's recipe) failed utterly because my oven decided to throw a tantrum and not hold or come up to the heat it should. It's only a few years old, so it shouldn't do this. (I'm calling the repair people soon.) As I sliced it to toast the slices, my knife came away sticky. Not exactly salvageable. My "Ultimate Spritz" were too floury and not buttery enough and didn't brown like I wanted and didn't puff up like Grandma's do. So next year, it's back to her perfect recipe (which blends butter and *shock!!!* shortening.) My krumkake were sort of soggy and kind of too brown. They were NOT PERFECT (but they didn't suck.)

Then, my deep freezer decided it didn't like working any more. ARGH!

The night the in-laws were supposed to arrive, I'd finished cleaning the house, except I didn't have time to shampoo the carpets and it was NASTY. I decided to plan to let Rowan leave toys everywhere so no one could see the stains. At 10 PM, we started rolling the lefse. Yeah, great planning, huh? Making a big floury mess late at night. Brilliant.

But the lefse actually turned out gloriously. Super thin, soft, tender, great flavor, though a little too big because I couldn't find the right measuring cup to make the "buns". I didn't mess with Grandma's recipe, except for my usual tweak (which is an improvement) and the fact we let it sit 2 days in the fridge because I was tired and my muscles were still sore from ricing the potatoes for it and Dr. B was unwilling to help until then. So, small success. (BTW, my friend Nikkibird had a great idea that I'm going to try next year because ricing potatoes is hard and it kind of sucks. Reminder to myself: KitchenAid attachment.)

The in-laws called, there were mechanical problems with the plane, and they were stuck in Detroit overnight. They were safe, but I didn't really have an excuse to make Monkey Bread in the AM. OH NO MY PLANS!!! FOILED AGAIN!!! (I really love Monkey Bread.)

I was a tish stressed.

They got here around noon, and I cobbled together a nice brunch and had it ready for them, with my standard Egg Bake (ham, cheese, and mushrooms), baguette, green salad, and juice. It was good. I felt a little better. I didn't plan afternoon snacks, and Dr. B yelled at me because he was bored and so therefore he should be eating more even though he wasn't hungry. I tried to ignore him. We had an early supper of pulled pork sandwiches, went to church, opened presents and had hors d'oeuvres and munchies. Which of course then he wasn't hungry for. (Grr.)

Then that night, after everyone else went to bed, Dr. B yelled at me for being stressed and trying to make things perfect and actually having a plan to follow (it's too regimented! too strict!) and always wanting a *SHOCK* clean house. Oh, the horror! It was my own fault I was on night 3 of an insomnia streak. I cried. It was bad. (He later apologized for being a jerk and said he used to do the same thing to his mom when she would get holiday stressed. You know, because yelling at me helps SO MUCH. I felt a little better then. But I still couldn't sleep that night or the next night.)

So anyway. Christmas morning, Rowan had her Santa gifts (which she loved) and then we got dressed and went to friends' for brunch. It was nice. Dr. B missed the fact that we'd all had coffee and he didn't get any until we got there at like noon, so I guess that was his payback. Heh. I drove because it was freezing rain (just in town, luckily, by the time we got to the country it was just rain) and he knew I'd freak if I rode, and he said he wanted me in a seatbelt (our car is dinky and with 4 adults and a carseat, the back is too packed for seatbelts.) But it was fine. She made spiced apple waffles and left out the cinnamon for me and made a really yummy quiche that had butternut squash and prosciutto in it. (We gave her Jewish husband a naugahyde bacon wallet and he got really excited. She's pregnant for the first time, so I gave her a Be-Band.)

On the way home, Dr. B suggested that he, Rowan and his folks go out for breakfast the next day and I stay home and sleep in. I took this as part good idea and part insult. His dad said it perfectly, "yeah, we just don't like you very much." Dick and I laughed. Dr. B sputtered. I let him.

I tried to take a nap. I had such a headache, and my nose was stuffed. Rowan decided to crawl in with me. Then she petted my hair. And hugged me. And kissed me. And "face mushed" me. And talked. I told her to be quiet. She said, "I am being quiet!" Then she laid there going, "Choo choo choo choo choo choo!!!" I told her she wasn't being quiet. "I'm not talking! I'm just going 'choo choo choo choo!'" UGH. I took 2 tylenol and a Benadryl and got up to cook.

But supper was great, if I do say so myself. Our friends came over (the ones we'd brunched with) and my in-laws (who are awesome) vacuumed and set the table with French linens and china and crystal and quickie-mopped the floor while I cooked. And everything turned out yummy and we ate by candlelight.

Here's what we had, all made from, as Rowan says, "scritch" (except the Tim Tams) and all delicious.
  • Velouté de Courge Butternut à la crème (squash soup! It was really good.)
  • Beef Tenderloin à point with a red wine reduction (even with a failing oven and a misfunctioning thermometer, I didn't overcook it. That was awesome.)
  • Vivi's Fat Potatoes Fat Fat (Garlic mashed potatoes with whipped cream cheese, butter and sour cream. Made au pif because I make stuff like this a lot. They were so luxurious I got sick later. But worth it.)
  • Haricots Verts à la vapeur (steamed green beans, left plain because the rest was so rich.)
  • Spiced Pomegranate, Clementine and Lingonberry Relish (Au pif encore, and delicious. I should really write that one down.)
  • Norwegian Lefse, with butter and sugar
  • Red wine, vanilla Silk (for the kiddo), Apple-Pomegranate Sparklers (for the preggos. Bought that at Wegman's. It wasn't horridly sweet, so we liked it.)
  • Venezuelan Flan (brought by my friend)
  • Spritz, Krumkake, Chippers, Caramel Tim Tams
  • Decaf Coffee

And my great plans for after Christmas? Eat the leftovers and make no plans. Take some naps. Rent some movies. Maybe go out to eat. It worked perfectly.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas. We did.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Child

This has nothing to do with my kid.

I'm referring to Julia. THE Child.

My New Year's Resolution this year is to watch more movies. Like eat more fish, wear more skirts, and eat more salads, it will be one I'll enjoy keeping. I may even spend less time on Facebook! (No promises.)

Since my in-laws were here, it wasn't hard to start. I married into a movie family. Last night was Angels and Demons (meh, not bad, not great), then today The Tales of Despereaux (I only caught the end, but that was really good.) Tonight, Julie and Julia.

I liked it! I was a little bit jealous, though. My expat blog still has not been picked up for a movie, and I'm pretty sure Nora Ephron would do a nice job directing. Some of my expat blogger friends had already discussed casting, too. (They liked Reese for me.)


Back to Julie/Julia. Love Merryl, of course. And the food, oh the food. I am craving duck as I type.

But the thing that got me the most?


I miss it, so much. And not just the Paris you visit. The Paris you live. Because it's different, it just is. The banter with the guys at the marché. Finding "the good butter". Impressing the lady that sells the good butter by admonishing her husband when he tried to pawn second-best off on me, enough so she always had it at the ready and saved some for me, because she knew I'd show up late. So she offered to mail it to me when I tearfully told her we were leaving for the US, for good. The amazing bread, the happy homeless guy who loved our dog, evening walks up la rue Mouffetard and the beauty everywhere you looked.

When I was there, I missed the US. Here, I miss France. My heart isn't sure where home is, perhaps somewhere suspended above the Atlantic.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


We talk a lot about preferences.

She likes pink, I like red. She likes cherry tomatoes, pickles are my favorite. My favorite number is 13. She's decided hers is 12.

"Mommy, you don't like that!" she says, when a "The Fresh Beat Band!!!" commercial comes on Nick, Jr. "You're right, I don't!" I answer. She doesn't like watching the local news. "I don't like that. I want my show!"

She eats the hot dog, I order Target's personal pizza. "I'm tired of this music," she says as a Couperin harpsichord piece plays in the car. "I'm not, and the driver gets to choose," I answer.

We both like string cheese.

Today, we ran out in the morning to do some errands before a promised lunch out. I was hopeful for a long nap* after so I could cross several things off my to-do list before her grandparents arrive late tomorrow night.

It's Christmas, I thought. It won't kill me, just once.

"OK, Honey. You were such a good girl at the store, I'll let you pick where you want to eat for lunch. Wendy's or (big mental shudder) McDonald's?"


"Are you sure? You love McDonald's. I thought it would be a special treat. You really want Wendy's?"

"Wendy's, Mommy. You don't like Donulz. I like Donulz, but you don't like Donulz. It's OK, I like Wendy's!"

We went to Wendy's. And I ordered a Frosty to split. A special treat for my very special, thoughtful, sweet little girl.

*Unfortunately, she didn't make good on the nap promise. I crossed some things off my list, but in quite a foul mood, and one got crossed off and dumped in the garbage. Total biscotti fail. Ah well, if I were Martha Stewart, I'd have a staff to hide my mistakes, a personal trainer to keep my tushie toned, and a bazillion gazillion dollars to bathe in whenever I wanted.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

18 1/2 Weeks: The Stats

I had a doc/LPN visit today, with Dr. B out of town in Philly. Rowan was better behaved with just me than she usually is when he's around to help--not sure what that means.

Did the usual, weigh in, pee in a cup (which Rowan was very confused by), ask if everything was OK, measure, listen to the baby's heart, check my ears for infection (Rowan's cold gave her one, I just wanted to be sure.) She suggested Sudafed or Tylenol Cold for my über-snot problems, and I got blood drawn for some tests.

Here's the good news: baby sounds fine, strong heart beat. The gentler movements may just be due to placenta placement (Rowan was rough, this one is noticeable but not nearly as easily.) I've gained all of 3 pounds, despite all the Rolos and Dove Promises Candy Cane bonbons I've been polishing off. My belly's at 18 cm. and the test results will be sent as soon as they get them.

And here's the day we've been waiting for: New Year's Eve, Jan. 31, we'll find out if Bootsie is a sister or a brother. What a Bonne Année, indeed!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


In first grade, our teacher at Kindred Public School, Miss Sorlie, gave awards to every child in class. A yellow construction paper ribbon, pinned to the bulletin board at the back of the class, highlighted a positive aspect of each of us.

I didn't really understand mine.

"Most Thoughtful." That was nice, I guess, but I was 6. I didn't really get it.

Sunday night, as I tucked my wiggly worm in, I promised her I would stay upstairs and read in our room. "I have a headache, Honey. I'm going to take some Tylenol and finish my book. I've got a new one to start, too. You just go to sleep," I said, knowing she was keyed up and wouldn't stay in her bed without some serious intervention.

After one more, "I just need another hug from you," she went to sleep.

Monday morning, I woke at 9 AM* to my little girl standing at the side of my bed.

"Mommy?" she said, stroking my hair. "Your head still hurt?" She leaned over and kissed my forehead.

Yeah, now I get it. She deserves a thousand construction paper ribbons.

*(Yes, 9 AM!!!! NINE!!!! And she did it again on Tuesday! I'm liking this.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Letter of Apology to Martha Stewart and My Father-in-Law

Dear Martha and Dick,

I am sorry. I just can't do it anymore.

We did, every year, after Dr. B expressed how important it was to him, too.

We went to the tree farm or tree lot, hunted for the perfect one (read: small enough and cheap enough and not ugly), and brought it home. We fought over when to bring it in, when it was straight, and when to decorate it.

I strung lights, covered it in ribbons, beads and ornaments, took photos.

I watered faithfully, with a combination of water and 7up. I vacuumed up the extra needles. I peeled sap out of my hair. Some presents got wet and damaged, no matter how hard I tried to not be klutzy when watering (impossible). I put gloves on every time I had to put a fallen ornament back on, because I am allergic to the damn things and it's only getting worse. I took Benadryl to soothe my red, hot, itchy hands.

Then, 2 years ago (Rowan's first Christmas), we left town for a few days. We turned the heat down, made sure it was well watered, unplugged and nowhere near a heat source so it wouldn't burn our house down.

We came home to a house full of mildew.

I'm sorry. That was the last straw for both of us. Or should I say, the last needle?

"But I thought it was important to you, too?"

"It used to be. But you're really allergic. And that mildew... Ew! I'm trying to be a better Buddhist when it comes to Christmas trees and just let it go."

We've gone over the edge: Plastic Pre-lit. Please forgive us.


La Rêveuse and Dr. B.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Best of the Day, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

Car conversation, returning from grocery shopping, Tuesday night.

"Mommy, I'm going to help God."

"Really?!? Well, I am sure He'll appreciate the help."


"So, how are you going to do that?"


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lorfa heefer

I was in the bathroom when the door opened abruptly. She came in, shut it, and climbed on top of her potty chair, mumbling.

"What was that, honey?"

"Loofah hoopah."


"Loafah hayfa."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand. Can you look at me and say it really clearly?"

"Loffie Hoofar!" she shouted.

This went on for a while. Eventually, she settled on a pronunciation.

"Lorfa Heefer! Yeah. Lorfa Heefer."

"OK, Lorfa Heefer*. What does it mean?"

She stopped spinning in a circle, hand on the wall, and looked at me, rather exasperated, and shook her head.

"Mommy, It's complicated."

Next week, she'll begin my Astrophysics lessons.

*We eventually worked out that "Lorfa Heefer" means La Tour Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower.

Friday, November 20, 2009


People love my Christmas cards. I think the reason is I always overthink them, and by the time I actually get them out, it's usually Valentine's Day. By then, the winter boredom has set in and they have nothing better to do than read a long photocopied letter of me blathering and bragging about my brilliant child and all the hilarious things she did this year. (Hey, you're reading my blog. You don't even need the long, boring letter!)

But this year is going to be different. It's November, and I'VE ALREADY ORDERED THE PICTURE PART.

And the best thing? I got them for free. 100 of them. You can, too. Go here, read it, and do it. One of the codes expires on Saturday the 21st (tomorrow) but the other one doesn't, so you could at least get 50 free. No shipping, even.

I really liked their interface. The backgrounds were fine, I found one I liked, but the best part was that I could add as many photos as I wanted, wherever I wanted, in my choice of sizes, and could add captions and clip art and the whole works, so you can take something plain and really tweak it to your own liking. On the card I made, each photo is labeled with the month, some with the place, some with who the heck she was supposed to be (Halloween). The software was easy to use, and after giving it the OK, I was able to browse all my own photos on my computer very easily, which frankly kind of shocked me (no waiting for long individual uploads.)

So now, all I have to do is return the paper ones I bought, write a letter, copy it on the cute candy cane paper I got, stuff them, address them, put the return address on them, stamp them and mail them.

Yeah, OK, so I'm still thinking February.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Smells like...

Though the temperature rose into the 60's this weekend, we're definitely into the chillier months of the year. The leaves are pretty much all down, the air is cooler, and I always shove a warm jacket in the back seat when we go somewhere, just in case the temp drops by 30 degrees (which it does, as soon as the sun is as low as the housetops.) There's been little rain, and the air is dry. Rowan and I have limited baths to every other day, the true sign of Winter Approaching.

I pulled her out of the bathtub and dried her with a towel, and then reached for the lotion. She usually doesn't need it, but has recently begun scratching herself and announcing it to the world every time--"I scratch! I scratch my leg!", so the moisture is necessary. This time, I tried a new brand.

"Mmmm!!!!" she said, "Smells good, Mommy!"

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it? It smells so clean and fresh," I said, rubbing the lotion on her kneecaps.

"Yeah!" she answered. "Smells like..." She looked at the bottle, then back at me.

"Clock. It smells like CLOCK!!!"

Apparently, that's how clocks smell. Perfectly logical, if you ask me. I wonder if oatmeal smells like Quakers?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We're renaming the dog "Clearblue Easy"

She knew, before we did.

One day, she attacked Rudy. Our neighbor's dog, a little black poodle who should really be called a puddle because he just loves everyone and everything and he's all about the love and happiness. He got chomped, blood and everything. I was mortified.

The Fed Ex guy dropped a package at our door, and had it not been for the glass, he would have lost some of his own package.

She won't leave me, for a second. Even in the bathroom. She forces the door open with her head, and if it won't budge, she leans agains the door and whines.

Even when the tests said no, she knew. And she was right.

The baby's due May 15. Rowan is very excited. And Lucy? She's on guard.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Crying Game

She had a good morning. A friend came to play, we had lunch, and her friend's mom came to get her friend around 12:30. Though it was a little late for Rowan, who normally naps around 12, I figured she could make it.

We headed up for the nap. She was crying already. Cried while we put toys away. Cried as we climbed the stairs. Cried, asking for Advil and water and to have her fingernails and toenails clipped. She climbed into bed, still crying.

"You've had your Advil, you've got your water. Here are your babies, here's your blanket. Lucy gave you kisses, I gave you hugs. Why are you crying? Is there anything else you need, Honey?"

"Moooooommmmmyyyyy!!!" she wailed, "I just need to crrrrrrrrryyyyyyyy!!!!"

Sometimes, she's just so wise.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween 2009

Angelina Ballerina, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

More pictures are to come, but after finally finding my camera cord I was able to find one photo where she wasn't a blur of pirouettes and jetés (which, admittedly, looked more like karate kicks.) Rowan went as a favorite book character, Angelina Ballerina. This was the first book her daddy read to her after she was born, and is loved by the whole family.

Her costume was put together with various things we had around the house--a tutu from the hand-me-down box, white shirt and tights, white mittens (not seen here, and the kazoo isn't part of it, either), her Easter shoes, and ears and a tail made by me the day before. We ribboned and rosed her up and drew a nose and whiskers with washable markers. She really did look adorable, and had a blast trick or treating with her friends at one of the dorms on the Penn State campus.

And she shared her candy. Bonus.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Victory Farts

This is a post about potty training. If you're the squeamish sort, bye bye.

After a few tinkles months ago, the magic stopped. She was no longer interested, and would answer queries with a quick and final "No!" and walk away, to color in her Kai-Lan coloring book or make another little pink play-doh ball with matching play-doh crumbs.

During her visit with her maternal grandparents in DC, I heard the expected, "She's so smart! She knows her ABC's, can count to 20 in English and 10 in French* and she's only 2? She should be potty trained by now. So'n'so's kid was trained by 18 months! Why isn't she trained yet?"

Yeah, like I haven't tried. Sigh.

So they tried, the questions, the incentives, the promises. And her response?


Then this week, she refused to let me change her diaper. I was kicked, screamed at, cried on, hit, and just generally abused. Not fun. Even so, she'd begin crying suddenly, with an "I peed my big girl bed!" or "I peed my booster chair!" (while wearing a diaper, still.) Since her dad finally had a weekend where he didn't have to really do much (this is exceedingly rare--he never takes any time off, but he needed it), it became his job to deal with diapers and the like. Rowan needed Mom to take some distance.

She didn't fight him, but still had no interest in the potty. However, she did have an interest in the Hello, Kitty! panties.

So he tried it. She wet through a couple of times, but he said it seemed to make sense to her. She insisted on the panties over her diaper at bed time.

Today? No requests, and many refusals. (All the panties were dirty.) But tonight before bed, she acquiesced. She sat on the potty, happy, with Mom in the room, for a good 5 minutes.


She FARTED. At least 5 times.

I call that a win.

*That would be Un, deux, trois, quatre, six. Un, deux, trois, quatre, six. Un, deux, trois, quatre, six. Close enough.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This was totally her idea.

She teaches me every day!, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

You go to Washington to visit the monuments. We go to hang spoons from our noses in public.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Heard, on a Fall Walk

"I'm running, on my tap toes!"

"Your tiptoes?"

"No, Mommy! My TAP toes!"

Stopping for every surviving dandelion and remaining patch of snow, downed branch or frozen berry, we made our way up the hill. She ran to the top, turned around, grinned as she caught my eye, and raised her arms up in the air.

"Ta-DAH!!! Ladies and Gem-men!!!"

She threw herself down on the still green grass, brown, red and yellow leaves, and rolled to the bottom of the hill.

She stood, smiling as she brushed the leaves from her sleeves, and ran to me, grabbing my finger tightly. "Come on, Lucy!" she called, as we headed for home.

*Note: I hope to have new photos soon. We've returned from DC, and I am awaiting the return of our camera, which the team was borrowing for use with the competition. I'm going through withdrawl. The phone camera just doesn't cut it. Updates on the trip soon, too.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Force feeding fruit

My kid likes veggies. I know, crazy, right? I guess no one told her not to. I do, her dad does, maybe it's genetic. Whatever. Her favorite food is "tomaaaaadoes", and she prefers the fancy heirloom tiny ones from the CSA basket, turning up her nose at store-bought. Begging for a treat usually means a little cup of frozen peas, or perhaps "cold bread" (frozen french bread chunks.) Yeah, she's kind of weird.

Usually fruit is fine, too, and she likes just about everything we give her, except for some reason squash and carrots (an orange thing?), and anything too spicy, though her dad is working on that. So I shopped for our week together while her dad was in DC, buying fruit for us to eat together. Apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas.

And of course, the bananas are not getting eaten in a timely manner. Before, when I had none in the house, I'd be begged for them. But of course when I do, she doesn't want them.

So today, I whipped up a special delight, and it worked. "Bananas à la Ronica!!!"

They were a big hit.

My secret?

Rainbow Sprinkles.

I think I'm going to try them on carrots next.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

DC Dreaming

The Solar Decathlon is nearly here. Yesterday, the house was wrapped and loaded on a truck, on its way to Washington, DC. The students are heading down to begin the massive amount of work it will take to get it operational and camera-ready. Ed Bagley, Jr. was here to speak, and joined us at the house. He said he was very impressed with the home, and worked hard to make Rowan laugh (though unfortunately he failed--she was in no mood and we ended up skipping his speech when she announced, "It's bedtime. I'm tired. I want a nap!") He was a very nice man, quiet and reserved, but friendly and kind as well. It was nice to hear that he thought the work the students were doing was so valuable, and that he had chosen to visit them from a host of other requests. They were so proud to share their work with him. (PS: the new season of Living with Ed begins soon!)

So now, we're trying to figure things out. As head Team Mom, I've got quite a job keeping 25 people healthy and fed, though I won't be able to be in DC the whole time due to obligations here in Academicsburg. Luckily for me, the team decided to fend for themselves the first week. The other parents who are visiting will help out when they arrive, so it won't be just me cooking for 25+ people (some of whom are vegetarians), and now I'm rocking Google Docs and Survey Monkey to figure out how to best "get 'er done". My dad and his wife are coming for a week, so we will plan to be there then, but otherwise I'll be driving back and forth in order to maintain attendance at my rehearsals (I'm in 3 music groups in town) and to take care of our furry family member, too. We are staying in a rented home in the DC area, which should make it easier as I'll have a gourmet kitchen at my disposal. We're heading down over the weekend to drop off Dr. B and to give me an idea of the lay of the land.

So, I've got a question for you. Do you have a favorite meal that's easy and serves a LOT of people? If so, please commment or link in the comments! I need all the help I can get.

And if you know a grocery store that delivers in the DC area, please let me know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Strange Conversation

"I smell like Mommy!" Sniff sniff.

I looked at her quizzically. "You smell like mommy (loud fake sniff) or you smell like Mommy?" (pretends to loudly sniff own armpit.)

"I smell like Mommy!", she says, sniffing her armpit and grinning.

"Really, what does Mommy smell like?"

"Rowan!!!" she squeals, and collapses on the couch in a burst of giggles.

"OK, then, what do we smell like?"

"A candle! A green candle!"

There you have it. Apparently, Eau de la Mère is "Green Candle". I'm thinking of selling the idea to Chanel.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day

Like Mrs. Chicken said recently, I've been feeling rather blogstipated. Not much going on, and what is bugging me I can't necessarily blog about because I don't know if those people read me, and I think you're probably getting rather tired of the "what I did with the random crazy veggies in my CSA basket this week!" posts. (I know I am.)

This weekend was Labor Day, and we had no plans. As a kid, I always dreaded Labor Day. We'd be at the lake, it would rain, we'd have to turn on the space heaters and light a fire, wearing jeans and tennies with our big, thick, hooded sweatshirts. It was so dark, we'd have to turn on lamps to read, Jerry Lewis would be on the little black-and-white TV, and the next day was always the beginning of school. I would wake up with an ooky feeling in the pit of my stomach, and honestly, I can feel it right now just remembering. It was the end. The end of the summer, the end of the good weather at the lake, the end of the freedom to pack up and just go whenever we wanted. We were back to responsibility and tests and deadlines, school and rehearsals. Mom always looked so sad on Labor Day.

Being an at-home mom, I figured it would be different. No schedules, no set in stone plans, no school tomorrow. Of course, it would be sunny and we'd go to the pool and grill burgers.

Our grill broke. It was cold. It rained. I had to put on socks and turn on the lamp.

But, I did have Dr. B home for the day. So I made a plan. And we had fun.

We took Rowan to her first in-theater movie. "Up!" was playing at our cheap theater, so even if she got "skeered", we'd only be out 3 bucks. But she did fine. She spent much of the movie hugging me facing the back, but by the end she was loving it, and only cried when I told her she couldn't lick the seat backs as the final credits rolled.

We came out of the theater, and she smiled up at us and said, "I loved my first movie!" We decided to make a night of it, and had dinner out at Damon's, followed by tag-team book browsing at Barnes and Noble while Rowan played trains at the Thomas the Tank Engine train table. We bought nothing, but got ideas for library requests, and enjoyed the smells of new paper and coffee, bright colors and fresh pages.

We made our stab at defeating the Labor Day Blues. Can't do anything about the weather, but a movie, buffalo chicken pizza, and some retail therapy did help lift our spirits a bit. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Holy Summer Squash, Batman!

We joined a CSA recently--got lucky. They didn't have a space until about 3 weeks ago, but now we are getting weekly deliveries right to our door, and we didn't have to pony up ahead. We pay each week, and can cancel, postpone, etc. at our will. It's the perfect solution for non-committal types like us. This CSA, the Fallywalker Farm, is known for the unusual varieties they grow, like black zucchini, blue potatoes, rat-tailed radishes, snake beans, flying saucer squash (patty pan), pink carrots, lemon cucumbers, Transylvanian Brain Tomatoes, etc. Everything has been fresh, delicious, and wonderful, and we've even received fresh flowers in each delivery. Awesome. As a result, Rowan's new favorite food is tomatoes, and we're eating more veggies than ever. Plus, I'm cooking a lot--when it's there and would spoil, you gotta use it up!

So, we're stuffing a lot of squash, making a lot of ratatouille, and eating loads of cucumber salad. But a woman cannot live by stuffed zucchini alone.

So I've been trying to come up with new ideas, and the other day I came up with one that was a hit. Full of zucchini or patty pan squash, but even a purist (I'm hoping) would appreciate it. Rowan, Dr. B and I sure did. Oh, and Lucy was way ticked off that she couldn't have any (dogs can't have onions or garlic.)

Shrimp Creole with Summer Squash

(amounts are approximate)

*1 medium onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced (to taste)
*1 small green pepper, seeded and chopped (ours was black, but whatever.)
*2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 can diced)
*1-2 cups of sliced (bite sized pieces) zucchini or patty pan squash. Peel if the skin is bitter, leave on if it's not (FWF squash skin has not been bitter at all)
*1 small can tomato paste
*2 cups water
*1 TB flour (I use Wondra. It mixes great, and the can is handy dandy. But regular is fine.)
*2 TB butter (or more, depends)
*14-16 oz. shrimp (fresh, shelled and deveined or frozen--doesn't matter. I used a bag of frozen.)
*Creole Seasoning, to taste. (I use this one--it is non-negotiable in my house. I even brought it to France and got more sent when I ran out.)
*Hot cooked rice to serve (we used brown, but it doesn't matter. You could even serve it over barley, I have and it's great.)

Heat butter and add onions and peppers. Cook until fragrant, add garlic. Cook another minute or so, then push the veggies to the side and add the flour in the hole in the middle. If it doesn't completely mix in with the liquid, (partially dry and powdery) add a bit more butter. Cook a minute or two until it smells toasty. It will begin to coat the veggies, that's fine--it will blend in and thicken the sauce later. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, water, and season well with Tony's Creole seasoning. Simmer until veggies are cooked, about 20 minutes or so. Add shrimp, and let cook just until shrimp are thawed or turn pink, a couple of minutes. If they get overcooked, they'll curl tight and be tough, so less is best.

Serve over fluffy rice and say "Y'all" and "Chère" a lot while you eat it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Monkey Birthday

monkey bread, originally uploaded by LDHNY.

It was my birthday yesterday. The night before, I planned to make Monkey Bread for breakfast, my favorite. But, Dr. B had other plans. "If you can get yourself up and dressed, I will take you all for breakfast before work." It's a his-family tradition. Though I'm not one for clothing before coffee, I love these special treats, so we went for it. French toast with fresh strawberries and no dirty dishes? Yeah, I'll take it.

But I still made the bread. We had it for dessert. I'd rather this than cake any day.

If you google "Monkey Bread", you'll find a million recipes, all pretty much the same. This isn't any different either, but I thought I'd share for those of you who haven't had it before (Hi Lisa!) I don't think it's necessarily a Midwestern thing--but I remember having it for the first time at my Aunt Carol's in Racine, WI, and the fact that my mom wouldn't make it. (I think she was afraid I'd eat the entire thing every time. Which I probably would have.) Basically, it's a cake made of caramel rolls. AWESOME caramel rolls, and it's super easy. Lots of people make it for Christmas morning. I make it whenever I've got a hankering for it. It's too good to save for special. It's called monkey bread because you sit around the plate and pick off bits to eat, and lick your fingers a lot. There are no bananas involved.

Monkey Bread
serves 18, 9, 3 or 1. Heh.

*18 frozen Rhodes bread rolls

(you can use a loaf of their bread dough, but waiting for it to thaw and cutting it in pieces is kind of a pain. This is way easier. Resist the urge to add more--there won't be enough caramel and the rolls will start creeping out of the pan like The Blob.)

*1 box NOT INSTANT butterscotch pudding mix
(the instant just turns the whole thing into a crusty, not caramelly mess. Don't do it.)

*3/4 cup brown sugar
*1 t. cinnamon
(if you're not allergic. I can't, but no one misses it. Dr. B doesn't really like cinnamon that much anyway, so it works out.)

*1/2 cup or so of chopped nuts, if desired
*1 stick butter, melted.

The night before, or at least 8 hours before (I have pushed this by warming my oven on low and letting it rise in there with the oven off), grease a Bundt or tube cake pan. Add the nuts, if using, and the frozen rolls. Mix the pudding mix, sugar and cinnamon together, and dump fairly evenly over the rolls. Drizzle the melted butter over the whole mess. Cover with a bit of greased foil or waxed paper or something like that. Set aside in a warm place to thaw and rise. (Overnight is ideal--do this just before you go to bed.)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Bake rolls about 25 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven, and turn out onto a large plate with high sides to contain any caramel overload. Try not to burn your fingers and mouth grabbing hot rolls (waiting a few minutes would be preferable, but good luck with that. I never manage to.)

Variations: some people use canned biscuits if they don't have the overnight time to wait, others dip each roll in butter and then dredge in the powder, some people like to mix the butter with the powders and then dredge. I'm lazy, and it still works just fine. The whole mess melts down and makes caramel in the bottom of the pan, and when you turn it over, coats the bits it missed.

Thanks to Lori D. Stone (LDSNY) for allowing use of this photo under Creative Commons licensure. I ate too much of mine before I thought about getting my camera out.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Dear John

I don't often do this, but this is one post I have to share. If you've ever seen a John Hughes movie and liked it (in other words, if you're over 30 and have a pulse), go. Click now.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Yes, this is part of an ad. But it's a true story, and I doubt you'll make it through it dry eyed. I sure didn't.

I have one for Rowan, and have never questioned the price I paid because I know this to be the safest option for my little girl. I, too, did the research, and I am glad I stuck to my gut on this one. She is worth it.

Please watch.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm working on it.

Pigtails in the sun, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

Photos are coming from our OBX trip, and perhaps a nugget or two of happenings as well. Things are finally slowing down, thank goodness. Our heads never went below, though we are a bit worse for wear. But we'll make it. And in the meantime, I'm a wild blackberry picking/ jam making machine.

After the last few weeks, I'm scratched up, but I'm healing.

(And who could resist a little girl in pigtails?)

Monday, July 27, 2009


We're home! Our week at the Outer Banks was a little too eventful for our taste (thanks to a wild horse that took a swat at Lucy), but we've survived and have made it back to PA in one piece (well, most of us, anyway). More photos will come, but I've got a lot of work to do to make that happen, so here's a teaser. I brought my camera, but one of the other women had a better one and was snap-happy, so I just let her go and read my book on the beach. She's given me free reign to download, so I will be doing that over the next few days, but since she took about 700 photos, it might take a while.

Rowan was a hoot to watch at the shore. She was terrified of the water, but determined to overcome her fear. The first day, she would go in kicking and screaming, clinging to us for dear life. As she'd come out of the pool or ocean, she'd turn around and go right back, scared but not willing to let that keep her from it. By the end, she was swimming alone in the pool (with water wings) and begging to go back into the ocean. The undertow and waves were strong, so walking was all she could do, and only with two adults holding on tight. I am so proud of her. It took me until I was in my thirties to get to the place she's at at age 2.


She had 3 dry nights! Woot! (I guess it all went in the pool.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

See you in a week...

Rowan and Daddy, July 2009, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

We're off to vacation on the beach at the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week. Though now it's nearly 4 AM and I have insomnia, we leave tomorrow. I hope I can sleep on the beach.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Les Soldes Américaines

Today, the big "sales" start in Paris. I say big with my tongue firmly in cheek--French sales are rien compared to the clearance racks at Target and Kohl's, as Chloé quickly found out. Despite her foot issues (one example of French Health Care that does NOT come close to American!), this girl can shop. Even jet lagged, she could go, but now that the jet lag is gone--the girl's got stamina.

Every day, after the kid I'm babysitting goes home, she smiles and says, "Ronica, can we go shopping?" Even me, who loves shopping (though the hunt is even more fun than the kill for me), is getting a bit worn out. But it's her only chance, so I've said "yes", every time.

Today, she finally got her trophy. After finding small gifts for her best girl friend and her sister, and part of her gift for her boyfriend, she had a few more things on her list. A bracelet for him (he requested--and finding man jewelry in the US is not an easy task), and jeans and a black hobo bag for her. She'd already found a cute black top at Target, as well as some strappy black sandals, but the jeans and bag eluded her.

Mais bien sûr, she is Parisian, she is rather particular. The jeans had to be dark, no little white lines, and skinny. They couldn't gap at the waist, and must not be too wide at the ankle. Oh, and cheap. The bag? Black, hobo style, not too square, with straps not attached by rings, and inexpensive. And the bracelet--steel or silver, adjustable (he's skinny), and masculine. And, of course, pas trop cher.

So today after Rowan finally woke up from her nap, we headed out to TJ Maxx. She hit. Jeans for $20, and a bracelet for him, with gift box. But the only bag she liked was again $100.

"We are going to Walmart?" she asked. "I could look for a bag there..."

"Uh, no. No, honey. Walmart is fine for grapes and pork ribs, but you won't find what you want there."

So we drove. All the way across town, to Ross. It happens to be next to the other Walmart, so it worked out fine.

And she hit again. The coup de coeur, the bag. "I am in love with it!" she cried.

"My porte-feuille is ..." she held it aloft, shaking it up and down, and gave me a quizzical look.

"Your wallet is light," I said.

"Yes!" she grinned back. "But I am so happy! I love American shopping. I will take a plane to America when I need to go shopping!!!" she laughed. "I now have a whole American..." she looked to me. "Outfit," I answered. "Ensemble."

"Yes! An American outfit. Shirt, jeans, shoes, bag. Everything from America!"

We arrived home, and she checked her email.

"Mom wants rassure-moi that I haven't spent all my money!" She grinned at the screen. "I have ten dollars left..."

A girl after my own heart.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

French Invasion

We have a guest chez nous, Chloé, one of the young girls I babysat in Paris when we lived there. She's now 14 1/2 and is here to practice her English. We have been having a great time introducing her to America and how we do things here. It is very interesting to see it from the other side and hear her observations. It reminds me so of the first days we spent in France, though she is without all the stress we had of setting up our own lives there. But still, the jet lag and immersion in a new language and culture are enough to tire her out. She has been enjoying it, however, and is adjusting quickly and well.

Here are a few of her observations so far:

"Everyone is very nice! Very friendly!"

"American pizza is HUGE! Everything here is so big!"

"It smells so good here! Paris smells bad. Here it is green everywhere!"

"Everything looks different. The streets, the houses, the cars, the mailboxes."

"I love Target! I could live in here! I want to buy everything!"

Upon finding a pair of black dress sandals for $19.99 in her size (11!) after hunting for 2 1/2 months in Paris and coming up empty--we found them in one trip to Target:

(shouted) "I *LOVE* America!!!"


"Can we go back to Target again? Please?"

On American food:

"I LOVE Pancakes!" "This hot chocolate is the size of 4 in Paris!" (She did drink it all.) "I love American breakfast!" "This sandwich is delicious!"

and when I said, "take as much as you like!"

(Big Grin)

Yeah, I think we're winning her over.

Ronica's "Delicious" Santa Fe Chicken Sandwiches

(Really just dressed up nuggets, but they are tasty and super fast.)

Prepare chicken nuggets or breaded tenderloins according to package directions.
On a flour tortilla, spread some sour cream. Top with ChiChi's salsa and shredded Mexican cheese, then add chicken. You can also add in shredded lettuce, sliced black olives, etc. Roll up and serve with extra sour cream and salsa as well as your favorite additions. (We did tortilla chips, corn, and carrot sticks and cucumber slices with ranch.) Enjoy!

Big american hot chocolate for energy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, to my love.

On a journey with Daddy
Originally uploaded by MrsBinParis
He's 36 today, and I can't think of anyone who could even come close to everything he gives to me.

I love you, honey. Happy Birthday.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I'll never get tired of this face.

Swinging!, originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dance Party: Yippee!!!

Our Hips Don't Lie from Ronica on Vimeo.

Please ignore the tall, bloated dork who appears occasionally in the frame, and focus on the cute kid with the smokin' moves. My favorite part is after I spin her around, when she nearly falls over but keeps on groovin'.

My daughter is so awesome.

PS: Lucy? Not much of a dancer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Recession Stick

They say it affects everyone. They're not kidding.

Yep, here we go. His summer funding? Lots of "Oh, we'd like to..." and "We'll keep you in mind" but no actual dollars. Which means? Our paychecks this year go down about 20%.

Twenty percent.

That's a big freakin' chunk.

It's a hit we can't afford. And of course, we found out just after our trip to France, in which we spent more than we planned, though we were able to go on the cheap due to the generosity of our dear friends and his paid tickets via his class at the University.

Now, we're caught, like many Americans, between a rock and a really, really hard place.

I hate this place.

When you're already buying generic, how do you cut down?

Right now, we're working on some solutions. Some freelance, doing the best we can, shh don't tell anyone, cash and thank you very much solutions. I could go back to teaching, but that would require a bunch of tests and license fees I can't swing right now, and finding daycare for Rowan and all sorts of other stuff, and I just, well, I'm just not ready yet. I'm a glutton for my little girl. She is my Kryptonite.

So anyway.

There will be stuff happening that I can't talk about on here, things I can't share, and it's not because I don't love you, my faithful readers. I do, I really do.

I'm just trying really, really hard to keep 4 heads above water.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Rowan, color

Rowan is a surprisingly strong little girl. She always has been. I felt my first kick at 14 weeks of pregnancy, and it was nothing like those flutters they tell you about--it hurt! Physically, she's got a lot more stamina than most of her friends, so I'm able to push her in ways you might not expect of a 2-year old.

The other night, her dad was not coming home for dinner, so we were on our own. She took an extra long nap and woke after 5 PM, and I wanted to help tire her out so I could get her to bed at the right time. We went to take Lucy on our usual walk, but this time I offered to let her walk the whole way instead of riding in the stroller for 3/4 of the walk.

Our walk is 1.4 miles. She's done a mile before without a problem, so I decided to give it a try.

I leashed Lucy, and then grabbed Rowan's Elmo walking harness handle thing.

Yeah, I leashed her. I LEASH MY CHILD. Cruel, whatever. We live on a 35 mph road, and at 5 PM I am not taking any chances.

So we took off walking, and she was doing great. Down the hill we went, the two of them criss-crossing in front and behind me. Lucy would stop to smell a tree or clump of grass, and Rowan would do the same. We walked past the park, up the hill, and around the corner. We met neighborhood dogs and talked to people we see on our daily walks. Rowan was doing fine--she was going strong! This was wonderful. No problem! I envisioned days without wrangling with the second-hand Peg stroller, without the "Rowan walk? Rowan walk?" arguments, free as a breeze as we walked together as a family.

As we were heading back up the hill, Rowan started to get a little fussy. I gave her a lift on my back for a few blocks, and she giggled and held on tight as Mom took on the steepest part of the hike. As we reached the corner where I normally allow her out of the stroller, she begged to walk again. Lucy took this chance to finally do her business, and I dutifully bagged and sealed it as we headed home. It was supper time, we were hungry, hot and sweaty and both in need of a cool drink.

Just then, Rowan tripped.

And then it started. The lip squared, the jaw jutted forward, the waterworks commenced. And then she wailed as her knee developed a dime-sized pink scrape.

My only thought? DISTRACT HER. Distract the kid. Give her something so she stops. STOPS. Anything! QUICK!!!

"Here, Honey! Can you carry this for Mommy?"

And I found myself handing her the only thing I had.

The bag of poop.

Yes, I leash my precious child and make her carry sacks of dog shit.

Someone call Child Protective Services.


Monday, June 08, 2009


*Note: more info and photos re: our France trip soon, but I had to post this before I forget it.

Rowan's language is developing rapidly. She knows when to say please, thank you, Bon Appétit, Cheers, and many other niceties (though "excuse me" is always followed and preceded by lots and lots of giggling and usually some attempt at reproducing whichever sound she just needed to ask to be excused for.) She asks questions, some two or three words, and tells us all about things she's done or things she's seen. Every night, there's a play-by-play of the day, and during prayers she thanks God for things that are important to her, like Lucy's haircut which currently appears to be the most wonderful thing she must give thanks for.

The one thing she can't say is, "I don't know." For that, she developed her own word, "Rowrie." (Rhymes with "Cow Pee.") No clue where that one came from.

We look through a book, identifying objects on the page, in English or in French. When one comes that she doesn't know or has forgotten: "Rowrie?"

I ask her the color of objects in a room. She gets to the undefinable puce, beige or olive, and... "Rowrie?"

Planning for her second birthday dinner tomorrow, I ask her what she'd like to have. "Rowrie?" (Eventually it came out that she wanted sandwiches. Fish ones, but we had fish tonight, so we settled on chicken.)

Before bed, we started cleaning up her play area, our living room. She had taken every single book out of the basket, so as we put them back in, I encouraged her to count. She made it up through ten with no problem. Then came eleven and twelve, which needed a little help to come out correctly. She took the book from my hand, plopped it in the basket, and said just after I did, "Thirteen!"

I handed her one more book. She put it in the basket. I said, "which one is that, Honey?"

She looked at me and smiled.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

*Waving from Paris*

Bonjour à tous! I know it's been a while, and honestly I won't write much today, but I did want to say hello and let you know we're having a wonderful time. Rowan is over her jet-lag, saying her "Bonjour" and "Au Revoir" and "Merci", eating lots of fabulous bread and loving chasing pigeons in the parks. I am eating massive quantities of my favorite cheeses, enjoying un verre or two, and catching up with friends I normally only get to see through this little screen. Though I wish I had tons more time--there are so many wonderful people here that I would love to see. I guess we'll just have to come back!

We've had the chance to take a few side trips; one to Chartres, Chateaudun and Brou to visit a non-blogging friend, and one to Champagne to visit Vivi. I've had many lovely lunches and teas with mes amies, and spent lots of time with Aimee, Max and Julien. Yesterday we took the opportunity to picnic in the Jardin des Plantes, have tea at the Paris Mosque, and then tour the church St. Germain de l'Auxerrois, the home parish of the kings and queens of France while they were living in the Louvre (also where Eva Longoria married Tony Parker in the religious ceremony.) It was incredible. Pictures to come!

I don't even want to think about leaving yet, but it's coming so fast. I feel back at home, like we never left, my french returning quickly and easily and my "France face" back on. This time is a little different though--people are friendlier when you've got a cute little kid in tow.

So now we are trying to fit in the last few things we'll have time to do before we leave on Monday. Soon we head back, much much much poorer in money but richer in so much more.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Learning By Example

Every kid does it, at this age--all parents learn that quickly when they see miniature versions of themselves walking around, spouting the same phrases, with many of the same habits. Rowan is a little mimic, and repeats much of what we say and do, looking to us for approval.

I didn't expect, however, that she would mimic everyone.

The other day, as we took Lucy for a walk, Rowan followed behind. She stopped at each tree, fire hydrant, and random clump of grass and touched it with her nose. Puzzled, I watched her a little more closely.

Then I saw.

Lucy squatted to relieve herself; Rowan squatted behind her. She looked up at me, a big grin on her face.

Let's just hope she doesn't try to "wash" herself next.

Friday, May 08, 2009


We were up, dressed, and nearly packed. Rowan was finishing her oatmeal, and I was toasting some bread and sucking down coffee. Then we got the call.

"We missed our plane!" Sob, sob, hysterical crying followed by anger at her husband's mistake. But they were coming, just later. She would understand if we didn't even want to make the 4 1/2 hour drive to New York.

"Rock, we're still coming. I planned, I packed, we're ready. Even if we just have dinner together, it will be worth it."

I crossed my fingers that my pep talk with Rowan the night before had stuck. "Roxy! Josh! New York! One two fee foh five six seben eight nine ten!" She was excited.

We took our time, checked the net, and got going around 9:45. Leisurely is much less stressful, and being trapped for many hours in a big city with a toddler who wasn't reacting well would be my idea of a nightmare, so I planned for a little time but not too much. We got approved to check into their room early at the hotel, and I set the GPS.

On the road, Rowan was *great*. She snoozed for about 30 minutes, but mostly just stared out the window, calmly watching Pennsylvania slide by. We stopped at a little local place in Hazleton, PA, for lunch, eschewing the "freedom fries" that were still on the menu, and surprising the waitress by ordering coffee, no cream (I guess she was expecting me to either ask for soda or a cappucino), and by Rowan's excellent behavior. I had a roast beef, fried onion and cheddar on toast, and Rowan wolfed her hot dog, applesauce, and most of my mixed veggies. We cranked the tunes and drove on.

As we headed into the city, the headache settled in, thanks to the smog. We got to the hotel, asked for advice from the front desk, and went to settle in. I had forgotten to fill my Excedrin, but other than that, all was well. We planned to take public transport into Manhattan, because quite frankly $45 is a lot to spend on a car ride, and after a year of Paris buses and metros, I wasn't worried. We were heading to Central Park first.

"Are you excited, honey?"

"Yes!!!" she said, and danced in a circle.

"Having fun?"

"Yeah!!! Yay!!!" she shouted, as she jumped up and down.

"Where are we?"

Her face split into a huge grin, and she squealed.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Faith of Confusion

Rowan and I go to church each week. I am Lutheran, though I used to teach in a Catholic school. Her dad is a Buddhist. We have crosses and Buddha heads in our home, living together happily. Rowan says her prayers at night before bed, and has coffee with Buddha in the morning. She goes up for a blessing when I receive communion, and does yoga with us at home.

Today, as she was playing with her new Madeline puzzle, Rowan brought over the Miss Clavel piece.

"Who is that?" I asked.


I really hope we don't run into any habited nuns in the next few days. They might not take that as a compliment.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Getting pregnant with Rowan was a miracle. Glorious, fabulous. Amazing. So wanted. Of course, it happened right when we didn't expect it, when we'd given up, when we were too busy to think about it. We were so lucky that everything went as well as it did (well, I consider a torn ACL, surgery, 4 months of puking, awful pain, physical therapy, and 29 hours of labor to be not so bad).

I'm hoping we can get lucky again.

It took me a while to get to this point. No, we're not pregnant, and haven't started trying again, but I finally got to the point where I think I am ready.

Then some bad things happened.

I'm not talking about the kids of other bloggers who died randomly and unjustly and so tragically. That was and is awful, yes. I wasn't a reader, so I wasn't invested myself, but the echoes were heard around the blogosphere.

No, but that same week, just after I had the realization that I was "ready", my friends lost their baby, just days after his official due date. He died in utero, and she had to go through labor and bury her child. This child that she didn't think she wanted to try for, until after she held my new baby for the first time. The child he had always dreamed of, a perfect son.

Then, another friend, someone from my high school class, wrote to me. He and his wife found their baby had severe heart defects and Downs Syndrome during a sonogram. They chose to end the pregnancy.

Dear God.

I've been trying to wrap my head and heart around this for weeks. I've thought, I've prayed, I've thought some more. I've talked with Dr. B. I've rejoiced in the healthy births of friends' and family's children. And then I looked at my little girl.

And I so want for her to have a brother or sister. She deserves as much love as we can give her in this life.

I am fearful. I am scared. Worried, anxious, you name it, I am feeling it. My age, the history of PCOS, my doctor's questions. The first pregnancy, gone in miscarriage. The months of grieving for our baby. The months of trying, the disappointment.

The ultimate question: what if that was it?

There are many things going on in our lives in the near future. Big trips coming up, plans, exciting things. These things I could use as excuses to put it off. But then I remember my birthday coming up, and I know I can't.

Soon, I think we'll start down the path to trying again.

Please, God. Please.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Danny Evans Is My Hero

For parents, DadGoneMad.com is required reading. (Well, at least for those who don't mind or better yet totally love inappropriate, swear-word filled rantings that make you laugh until stuff comes out your nose while your heart is being torn into little tiny pieces.) Danny is an amazing writer, and he recently got a book deal. His book, Rage Against the Meshugenah: Why it takes Balls to go nuts, comes out August 4. (It is available for pre-order on Amazon, and will also be carried by Target, Borders and Indie Bound.)

I'm a Danny fan. Big-time. I read every post, comment on a few, and have even forced him into a game or two of online pseudo-Scrabble. His honesty, forthrightness, and courage inspire me. His anger and fear and discussions of gross bodily functions make me feel normal. And he likes hockey. Bonus.

So I asked, he approved, and I started a Facebook fan page for him and his new book. If you're a Facebooker, please join and invite your friends.

Help Danny become more respected and famous than Chuck Klosterman. (Please.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm taking it as a sign.

It's a busy weekend here in Academicsburg. Dr. B's department has 2 banquets (Friday and Sunday), and his Solar Decathlon project another (Saturday), plus a ribbon cutting. Rowan went to one banquet and stayed with a friend for another, and will again join that friend tonight as we finish what is every-so-affectionately known as "Hell Weekend".

Saturday was a busy day. She was tired from the night before, but the Solar house was here and the ribbon-cutting ceremony was at noon. As I've done before, I asked her if she could play alone in her room for ten minutes while I showered, and then I'd give her a bath. She looked up at me with big, solemn eyes and repeated, "Good girl. Promise!"

She tried. I give her that.

I stepped into the room, clean and fresh-smelling, my hair dripping water down my back, and found her. Naked, sitting in the middle of the guest bed. Hands, chest, and bum--brown.

"Poopy!" she said, upset. Distressed. "Poopy! Uh-oh. No no no!!!" Nasty, funny-colored, and foul-smelling. I don't know what she ate at our friend's house, but she sure didn't like the feeling of its return.

I'm hoping this means she's getting closer to potty training days. She's a helpful little tyke, but diaper changing is really something I'd rather she didn't help with. Ew.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baguette Envy

Once upon a time, I lived in Paris, with my husband and our dog, who lived for the baguette.

One day while waiting for my girls outside their school on the Boulevard Arago, my dog licked a baguette that was poking out of a woman's tote bag. I was embarrassed. She was cool about it. She broke the end off and handed it to Lucy.

When Lucy would see bits of baguette on the street, she'd eat them. She'd veer unexpectedly into boulangeries, and puddles of drool would form by her feet when a warm, crackly baguette was too close to the edge of the dinner table.

We moved back to Madison, looked in vain for really good baguettes, and had a baby. Then we moved here.

Somehow, bread-snob genes are now crossing species.

Today, at the grocery store, my daughter licked a baguette that was poking out of a basket.

(Yes, I bought it. Only about a month until we return! I can't WAIT!!!)

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I was so excited. The perfect dress. Adorable shoes. Little, ruffly socks and a pink hair bow. I planned to curl her stick-straight hair and take lots of pictures. The bunny's visit at home, the church egg hunt and games, service, then dinner at a friend's. A perfect day, to help me forget this day eleven years ago, the day my mother entered the hospital, never to leave again. I was ready, to wipe the slate clean and lay a new memory over it.

Then, Good Friday hit with a vengeance.

I went to Target and Wegman's, filling the cart with fresh fruit, chocolate treats and 4 kinds of sorbet for the terrine I was making to go with homemade cookies I'd bake on Saturday, a contribution to the grand Easter meal.

We got home, planning a dinner out, but Rowan was tired. I suggested ordering in, and Dr. B said, "that's just what I was thinking." She had leftovers, we ate Bell's Greek Pizza, and I put her to bed.

Then my tummy started rumbling.

I decided to go to bed early. Unfortunately, I didn't get much sleep. I spent the next 12 hours retching everything that had entered my body in the last day into an ice-cream bucket, and wishing I could keep a spoonful of water down long enough for some Advil to take effect.

Dr. B was fine. It wasn't the pizza. Turns out I picked up more than fruit and sorbet at the store.

Saturday I stayed in bed all day, canceling with our friend for Sunday dinner for fear of getting everyone sick, and forbidding Rowan to come close to me. It killed me to see her standing at the door, "Mommy? Seeping? Jammies?" Her dad laid her down for a nap, and when she woke up, she stood in her crib, taking off all her clothes and her diaper and shouting loudly, so she would be sure I could hear her, "Mommy! I yow you! I yow you, Mommy!"

By 8 PM, it had been several hours since I'd last thrown up, I'd kept down a little applesauce and some toast, and things were looking up. I went down to kick off the Easter Bunny's visit. And was met with a mountain of unwashed dishes, food-spotted counters, and no clean diapers.

I guess I am needed around here.

I finally got to bed around 10:30, and as Dr. B tucked me in (after "fixing" the messed up bed for me, and turning down the covers), I said, "if I can't sleep, I'm taking an Ambien because I'm exhausted and I need some rest." He just smiled.

The next thing I knew it was 8:45 AM. The egg hunt started at 9:30. I felt, surprisingly, OK.

I could do it. I could make it!

I rushed her downstairs, shoveled some oatmeal, applesauce and toast in, and slugged 1/2 a cup of coffee with no signs of nausea. We ran upstairs while Dr. B walked the dog, and showered her, then me. He dressed her in her perfect outfit, but there was no time for hair curling. I blasted my hair enough so it looked sort of dry, swept it into a ponytail, and grabbed my makeup bag for a quick maquillage in the car. We were a few minutes late (but only missed the instructions she wouldn't have understood anyway), but we made it. Her hair looked really dorky*, but we made it.

A young girl quickly took Rowan under her wing, helping her decorate her Easter bag with stickers and crayon scribbles, and making her Easter Egg magnet with puffy crosses and fish on it. Margaret led Rowan around the grounds, helping her to find the eggs that were scattered about, beneath trees and tucked into the mulch. They played games and had treats. She loved it.

We went in for church, and she stayed just as long as her favorite church buddy Elena did, then she was ready for the playroom with her where Daddy was helping out.

I breathed in the strong, sweet scent of the hyacinths on the altar, thankful that the smell didn't make me want to chuck my breakfast. I greeted the people I see every week, and a few new faces. I got a hug from the pastor. I listened, while they shared the wonderful news I'd heard so many times. I shared a hymnal with a friend.

I sang, and felt it all go.

We have a new start. One I can't control, can't make perfect. But I can enjoy it.


*I tried to trim her bangs after church. Then Dr. B tried to fix it. I keep telling myself it will grow out.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Milking It

Yep. She's figured it out. Not even 2, and she's already a little manipulator.

She's recovering from her cold. Still an occasional cough, a bit of a runny nose. The fever is gone, she's got plenty (WAY TOO MUCH) energy, and she's no longer dropping gross yellow solid snot bombs on my shoulders. She's eating better, and no longer needs to spend the entire day in my lap.

But this morning, she would NOT sit in her own chair to eat her breakfast. She wanted to sit in my lap, again, and have me feed her every bite. It's her favorite way to eat, and occasionally we indulge her, but try not to let it become a habit.

Well, I guess I indulged her once too often during the whole pee and snot fiasco. Woops.

But I won. YAY. (It doesn't happen often, so I'm celebrating.)

"Rowan, NO. No. You either eat in your chair, or you GO BACK TO BED."


"Fine. Back to bed."

I picked her up, and she clung to me, convinced she'd won. (Heh. Fooled her.)

I took her upstairs, set her in her crib and walked out.

1/2 a cup of coffee, 2 pieces of bread sent on the journey to Toastville, and one moment of please, please, please let this work later, I went back up.

"Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"

"Do you promise to eat your oatmeal like a good girl, in your own chair?"

"Promise! Eat! Oatmeal!"

I took it. And she was as good as her word.


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mom will have hairy legs for a while.

Awesome., originally uploaded by MrsBinParis.

She woke yesterday sneezing, coughing, and trying to resist the urge to be cranky. All day we went back and forth between giggles and grins and random short-lived screaming fits. Most of the day was spent in my lap, leaving snot trails over each shoulder. Today, I lifted her from the crib and noticed the heat coming off her. She cried as I changed her diaper, in pain just to be awake. Advil brought the temp down, and gave her a little comfort while she ate breakfast, colored some pictures and caught up with Chicka on the Sunny Side Up Show.

We headed upstairs for her bath and a nap, but I could tell she needed a little something extra. So I gave it to her.

It was worth a whole can of shaving cream, just for that smile.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cathetering a Toddler Sucks

After 3 appointments, a blood draw and a urine sample (with no diaper-wringing...this is our second check for a UTI via catheter, and it wasn't any more fun this time), we still don't know anything.

The blood and urine tests came back clear for both excess sugars and bacteria (UTI or bladder infection). They'll culture to make sure, but they don't think either of these are positive.

So right now we have no idea. Hopefully she'll be fine this weekend and it's just a fluke. Maybe it's really "Eat lots of crackers and drink lots of water week." I don't always know these things. ;) But I did keep my appointment for Monday morning in case it's still wacky. I can always cancel it, but getting one isn't always easy.

On the bright side, today the peeing is less, so maybe it is just a weird coincidence. She's in a great mood, and was really good at the doctor's office, despite the yucky catheter and blood draw. She's a brave girl.

I'll keep you posted, but so far there's nothing to report. And that's great!

Thanks for the prayers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Peeing like a Racehorse

Now how's that for a title?

Mmmm hmmmm.

But that's the gist of it. Rowan has been whizzing like you wouldn't believe in the last 5 or 6 days. Wetting through diapers in no time. Leaking, changing clothes, and leaking again. Demanding water, Water, WATER, MORE WATER!!!! Today after lunch and her bath, I put her down for a nap, and in 90 minutes she wet through her diaper again, adding more than 6 ounces of liquid to it.

Yes, I weighed it. I know. It's kind of gross to weigh a diaper on a food scale, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

She's also been asking for lots and lots of crackers and snacks, and picking at her meals, which for most kids is normal but not for her. She's usually a pretty good eater.

Since it's a change, I got a little concerned. I called the nurse at 3. We saw a doc at 4:30. She thought I had a right to be concerned. It might be nothing! Or it might be diabetes. If it's diabetes, she has to be admitted to the hospital.

Tomorrow, we're doing a fasting blood test, before breakfast. Yeah. That ought to be fun.

Luckily, one of my good friends from middle school/high school is a pediatrician who specializes in pediatric diabetes. Though she's currently fighting the flood in Fargo, she has been able to talk on the phone and give me some ideas. Which tests to ask for, what to worry about, what not to, what it could be, what it might not be, etc. She said, "I wish she was here so I could just look at her now and set your mind at ease." (Me, too, Brenda. Me too.) But it sure did help to talk with her, though I'm still very worried.

If you're the praying kind, or the good thoughts/vibes/karma kind, please add us to your list. We need all the support we can get. Thanks in advance, and I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning French

We are getting ready for our first trip as a family of 3 back to France, since we left our temporary home. I am excited, nervous, and so looking forward to seeing friends, eating things I can't find here, and sharing my beloved Paris with my daughter. There are things I never did while I was there (can you believe I went to the Louvre at least 5 times and never saw the Venus de Milo? Not that I'm going to this time. But I really can't believe I missed it.) I want to go to Fontainebleau, perhaps the Picasso museum and the Rodin museum, eat a baguette rillettes et cornichons (drool...), pick up some lovely things at the market like the special butter, madeleines, and some really stinky cheeses, and walk up la rue Mouffetard for some gelato and people-watching.

Rowan has been exposed to some french her whole life, but we haven't raised her bilingual. Neither of us is a native speaker, so I guess we just don't want to do it wrong, though we'd probably be OK. I have been playing french music for her, speaking to her some, and she has been read french stories since she was very small.

Now, as we're getting ready, I'm trying to introduce a little more into our daily routine. The other day, I decided to teach her to faire la bise. I told her we would need it when we went to see Aimee.

"Aimee? Aimee? AIMEEEEEE???" she squealed. (She loves Aimee.)

We practiced la bise, bisous, and she loved planting kisses on my cheeks. A friend came over for a play date, and she gave her mother bisous before they left.

Then last night, I was looking at Aimee's flickr page, and there was a new photo of her, taken by her son Max, who turned 2 yesterday.

Rowan saw it, smiled and said, "Aimee!!!!" and leaned in. My laptop screen has now been bised.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And the torture returns...

Not Rowan. She's great. Her cold is gone, the teeth didn't pop (but I'm pretty sure they were moving) and she's back to her old self. She's happy, playing, coloring, dancing, learning new words, loving flash cards and stickers, and just generally a delight to be around. We've worked past her bedtime issues (they showed up with the sickness, but a few nights of stubbornness on our part seemed to do the trick) and now she's obsessed with wearing dresses, stealing my high heels ("Cute shoes! Cute shoes!") and playing ball, especially outside. It's warming up, and we've even seen the occasional crocus and other early flower peeking through the grass. Yesterday I even heard a woodpecker.

But the torture is my own. Apparently, the PCOS that has plagued me is back. I won't go into the gory details, but it wreaks havoc with my moods, energy levels, waistline and my head. And the migraine I've been dealing with for 6 days decided that the best day for it to really hit was the day I had Rowan and her buddy here the whole day. Not the best timing. Luckily, though he pulled another all-nighter, her dad was able to stay until 8:30 so I could give myself an injection and let it take effect (ie: nausea, head swelling, brain lining on fire, etc.) and even shower before I was alone with the munchkins. It did work, and chased with a Vicodin, it was tolerable.

I've been feeling blog guilt, so wanted to stop by and let you know I'm still here. I'm crabby, depressed (thank you, PCOS!!!), headachey, a little bit stuffed up (probably part of it, too), bloated, zitty, and I need a haircut, but I'm here. In my sock monkey pajamas, of course.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Breakfast Guest

It's Spring Break. Glorious, glorious break. We're not traveling. It's a staycation. And by that, I mean Dr. B isn't horribly stressed (just having guilt pangs because he actually can *breathe*, imagine that), he's home, and we get a lot more time together. Though he is working some, he's a lot more flexible. We're not doing anything super special or new--just playing, coloring, watching shows, going for walks and to the park--but it's enough. It's wonderful. I'll take it.

So I'm sorry I haven't been around. Because I've been busy enjoying the husband who'd been absent for a while, posting went down to the lower half of my list. (Plus, I have actually had to plan meals, rather than just throwing together scrambled eggs with random veggies and fruit at the last second like I usually do when it's just me and the monkey.) But then something happened the other day that I thought you might enjoy, so I finally got off my duff and uploaded the pictures from my camera to my laptop (watch flickr for more soon. It's too late for me to deal with all 60-odd pictures tonight).

A few months ago, I read this book. I really, really enjoyed it.

Then a few days ago, Rowan acted it out. She climbed up on the couch, fetched him down, and installed him in a seat next to her. She sat, coloring, and enjoying her morning with him.

I brought out cups. They had coffee. She even gave him a new nickname.

Breakfast with the Buddha

My daughter has a new friend, and his name is Buddha, though Rowan gets to call him "Bubba". Yeah, they're tight.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Baby Klingon

Rowan has never been a snuggly kid. Even as a little baby, she wasn't a cuddler. She would fight and kick if you held her too close, and though she wanted to be with you. At church, when she is taken to the nursery/play room, she runs in with barely a backward glance. She'll give you a hug or kiss goodbye, if you ask, but then shouts, "BYE!", waves, and heads toward the shelves filled with toys. While the other moms have to sit and play with their kids for 10 minutes until they are ready to be left alone, despite the fact that they go every week, I head back to the sanctuary, barely missing a minute.

A few months ago, we had an adult double date with some friends. A matinee and dinner, while the kids were being watched by our friends' daycare provider and her daughter. When we got back, Debbie commented on how much fun she'd had with Rowan, and that she'd love to watch her again.

"Most kids who stay at home with mom aren't very well-adjusted. Rowan is amazing! She had no problems with you leaving, made herself at home, and was a perfect angel. We had so much fun! She even brought a diaper and wipes over and asked when she needed her diaper changed." Rowan hadn't even noticed when I walked into the room, and didn't seem to care. She was too busy playing.

All this changes when she's not feeling well. Whether it's teething or a cold or a combination of the two (like now), she only wants to be with me. On top of me. All. The. Time. She refuses to eat, refuses to sleep, and panics when I close the door to use the bathroom. My shoulders are streaked with snot, and I have a 25 1/2 pound barnacle cemented to my torso.

Yesterday, she was in full sick-mode. Up in the night, with a refusal to sleep again unless Mom or Dad slept with her (I took the night before, Dr. B took that night). She was coughing, sneezing, and her upper lip had become Rio del Snotto. We raised the legs of the crib (Harry Potter 4 & 7), turned on the vaporizer, and gave her a little Motrin before bed.

I'm afraid our remedies worked too well. Yesterday, she was awake for 14 hours straight. No naps except for a 10 minute snooze in the stroller on our walk. Though she would stop and sit on the couch for a while, drinking juice, that was the extent of her rest.

And mine.

Bedtime came, and I got her ready. She called out a cheerful "Bye!" as I left, blowing kisses.

Then it started. Screaming. Crying. Wailing.

For the next hour, I let her go. Then gave in and went to talk with her. Then let her cry. Then her dad came home and tried, too. And then he left her room and it started again.

Finally, after an hour and a half, I did what I had to. I went up, and she begged me to pick her up. I hugged her as she stood, arms raised in her crib, and let her cry on my shoulders. But I didn't pick her up. I tried to reason with her.

It didn't work.

Finally, I asked her to sit. She refused. I sat next to the crib. She sat, so she could see my face, and reached through the bars of the crib for another hug. Then she put her hands on either side of my face, and pulled me close for a jailbird kiss.

We sat, and I talked to her in a low, soothing voice. About letting her body heal. About resting so she can play and have fun tomorrow. About how much I loved her.

Her eyes started to droop.

I asked her to lie down. She shook her head, violently, "No no no no nooooo!!!" I offered my arm for her to lie on.

She face planted on my hand, butt in the air. I slowly wiggled my arm out. She grasped my hand.

I waited. Soon, she was twitching, exhausted and deeply asleep. I extracted my fingers from her sweaty grip and crawled slowly toward the door.

Though she may not show it every day, our independent little girl needs us. It may be hidden, but it's still strong.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Appropriate Dress

Monday was chilly in Happy Valley. The temperature read 26, but the wind was strong, so our daily mile and a half walk with Lucy was a cold one. (We shortened it. A mile was plenty.) Despite being fairly well-dressed and covered with a blanket, Rowan got cold and yelled as the wind chapped her cheeks.

On Tuesday, the temp was the same so I decided to really pull out all the stops. Though I didn't expect the wind to be as strong, I wasn't taking any chances. I needed that walk. (Damn you, cookies!) I dressed her in snow pants, boots, and grabbed her jacket, mittens and hat. I tossed the jacket on the floor so she could do her "1,2, Fliperoo!", and went into the living room to find my own shoes, which tend to migrate on a set of little feet. When I got back, she had her jacket on, but the hat was no where to be seen.

"Where is it?" I said, looking around the kitchen. I looked under the table. On top of the table. On the kitchen counter. On top of the freezer. In the living room. On the bookshelf. Nope.

"Sheesh!" I told Rowan. "I must be losing it. I just had your hat here. You have to have a hat on! It's too cold to go with just your hood. You need a hat."

"Hat? Hat?" she answered. Then the light went on in her eyes, and she stomped into the living room in her pink furry snowboots.

She came back wearing this.

Hard Hat Baby

Unfortunately, it didn't fit under her hood.
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