Thursday, January 31, 2008

Shhhhh...don't tell...

Abel and I are going to play hooky tomorrow!

Well, I don't work on Fridays anyway, but Abel is going to take the day off! We'll have a leisurely morning then take Lucas to his babysitter so we can have a "date"!

A nice lunch...a movie...maybe some window shopping downtown...I can't wait!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The little things

This morning as I was driving to work I was behind or beside a firetruck (don't worry it wasn't going anywhere in a hurry!) for a few miles. When I first spotted it my heart lept and I almost said out loud, "A firetruck!"

Seeing firetrucks and many, many other things bring me so much joy these days because I know they make Lucas so happy. Lucas helps me notice the small wonders that previously wouldn't have garnered a second thought from me. Here's a list of some of them:
  • Trucks of any kind, especially back-hoes or firetrucks
  • School buses
  • Trains (huge bonus points if they are moving!)
  • Babies or any kids smaller than Lucas
  • Balloons!
  • Dogs (aka woof-woofs)
  • Kittys
  • Squirrels
  • Birds
  • Water, from small bodies like puddles to larger ones like rivers

Thursday, January 24, 2008

5 2 9er

This post on Ask Moxie today inspired me to write about the college savings plan we started for Lucas.

I'll be frank: I'm pretty proud of us, er, of it.

When I started looking at colleges in high school, I vividly remember getting really angry with my parents when I learned that they hadn't saved a dime for my college education. It seemed like all my friends' parents had at least some money put away. One day either my Mom or Dad--can't remember which one--basically told me to get over it. They had made the choice that Mom would stay home while we were young, and that was a big financial sacrifice. Therefore there simply wasn't any money to save.

Okay. I got it. That made sense.

Now, don't get me wrong, my parents helped a great deal with college--they're still paying off the loans they took out for my education, for which I am truly grateful. And I'm still paying off loans, too.

Abel was the first person in his family to graduate from college. His parents weren't able to save money for him either. Honestly, I don't know if the thought would have crossed their minds. I'm sure they helped wherever they could, but he's got loans, too.

Those loans are the one bill I don't mind paying each month. We both had great experiences at college that helped us get where we are today. (Though I do have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that much of Abel's loan money paid for beer...I mean how does an in-state resident go to a state college and come out with more loans than someone who goes to a small private school? But, I digress.)

For Lucas's first birthday we started a 529 college savings account for him. We seeded it with a few hundred dollars and now we put in $50 every month (automatically deducted so I don't even have to think about it and for that they even waive the plan fee). I certainly have no illusion that what we save will come close to paying all his college expenses, but it does mean a lot to me that we'll have something to get him started.

We (read: I) did some research, not extensive, but enough to make me feel confident in my decision, and decided to invest in our own state's Maryland College Investment Plan managed by T. Rowe Price, which has consistently been voted one of the best 529 plans in the country.

By going with the Maryland plan we can take advantage of the tax benefits. First, all earnings are tax-free when used toward college expenses (I believe this is pretty standard). Second, we can deduct contributions of up to $2,500 from our MD State Income Taxes.

We chose the enrollment-based portfolio for Lucas. As he gets older the balance of the investments gradually moves to a less-risky balance of investments. Here's an illustration:

They just automatically shift it every year. I just set it and forget it!

Now obviously like most parents we assume Lucas is brilliant and is--of course--going to get a full ride somewhere.

No problem! The savings in this account can be shifted to almost anyone--a sibling, a parent, a cousin.... And if everyone gets a full ride (ha! ha!) it can be used toward books, fees, anything else educationally-related.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pushing my child to be just like me?

I think most parents hope that their children will grow up with open, independent minds. Abel and I do, at least.

Yes, we joke that we'll disown Lucas if he ever decides to become a Republican or a Michigan fan. (Though I don't think Abel is actually joking about the latter.) But overall, we hope to show him a broad range of the world, let him know how we came to believe what we believe, and let him forge his opinions on his own.

Cut to cute side story
My maternal grandmother was a rock-solid devoutly Catholic Democrat. In second grade (after my teacher, Mrs. Sipes, told us that Walter Mondale would make us go to school year-round and that he killed babies) my friends and I decided we were for Regan. For weeks on the playground we made up cheers for Ronald Regan. The next time my family visited my grandmother, I was scared to death to tell her that I supported Regan. But, I felt like I couldn't hide it. She needed to know. When I finally worked up the nerve and told her why I supported him, she very nicely explained that my teacher was not entirely correct but that if I wanted to support Ronald Regan that was my choice and she still loved me no matter what. I was totally relieved--I truly believe there was a chance she wouldn't love me anymore once I was a Republican!

Okay, let's get back on track.

I'm worried that I am pushing my child into a bizarre love of mine: peanut butter sandwiches.

What's weird about that you ask?

Well, I don't eat jelly. Don't get me wrong, jelly is just fine. But not on a peanut butter sandwich.

We were crazy about not letting Lucas eat anything peanut for a solid year ++. When I started making him peanut butter sandwiches I left off the jelly, just like I do for my own. He enjoys a peanut butter sandwich. We both have one for lunch several times a week.

Others tell me that jelly adds a lot to the sandwich. Abel himself heaps on the jelly.

Is Lucas missing out because of me? Am I pushing my love of peanut butter sandwiches on him? When I make my own peanut butter sandwich (JIF ONLY, thank you!) should I be adding jelly to his? Should I give him a plain peanut butter sandwich and a sandwich with jelly and let him choose?

I am truly concerned. (But obviously not enough to have started adding jelly earlier!)

What's your opinion?

The Best Month Ev-ah

After bemoaning the lack of good TV a few weeks ago I am so excited that February is shaping up to be fabulous.

Three words:


Big Brother

I am SO excited!

Lost has got to be one of the all-time best shows. Abel and I have been faithful since the pilot. We're obsessed. I've been known to cruise the fan websites. I've been known to devote hours of serious conversation to the subject. The new season debuts February 1.

And, I literally just realized we'll be watching it this season in HD on our new big TV and with surround-sound. Yay!!

Now I know a lot of you are on the Lost bandwagon with me. And, I know I'll lose most of you when I talk about Big Brother. But, please hear me out.

I got addicted to Big Brother in the second season courtesy of my good friend Herschel. It has been my fun summer ritual ever since. While Lost is plot and character and suspense and mystery, Big Brother is just plain fun.

Give it a shot! Big Brother 9 debuts on February 12--the first non-summer season ever.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tonight at dinner...

Lucas: All Done!

Smiling Mama: Okay Lucas you may get down and play in the living room while Mama and Dada finish eating.

L: hoping down from his booster chair Okay!

Lucas runs to the bottom of the stairs

L: Watch TB

SM: No TV. Lucas. You may play with your trucks or piano or any other toys.

Lucas's shoulders droop, his chin drops, he looks up with major puppy dog eyes

SM: Sorry, buddy, no TV

L: pointing finger at Mama NO! BABE! WATCH TV!

SM: Nope.

Suddenly a spark of hope flickers in Lucas's eyes, he puts on his flirty smile and says...

L: Dada! Mama slkeoiha lkatoieh aslsdlihekx (words unintelligible, but meaning very clear-- Dada, tell Mama she's just being silly and that I can watch TV)

Dada: Desperately trying to hold in his laugh Sorry buddy.

Friday, January 18, 2008

More fun in the fight against going stir crazy

What a fun week! As you know, we checked out the College Park Aviation Museum on Tuesday.

Yesterday afternoon it snowed!

We played in the snow ONE time last winter but Lucas was in this snowsuit that was hysterical. He couldn't really move and basically knelt or laid down in the snow and looked around.

So I'm officially counting yesterday as his first snow: we had so much fun! After Christmas we bought a kiddy-sized shovel for him so he spent the entire 45 minutes shoveling. Lest you think this was helpful, let me clarify that he shoveled the lawn! (Without mittens! I tried and tried to get him to keep a pair on, but none of the approx. 10 pairs we've bought for him let him grip well enough for his satisfaction. Any moms out there have hints for us on this?)

While he shoveled our lawn, I was a good neighbor and shoveled the sidewalk in front of our house and that of three neighbors! I was feeling really good about myself, but by the time we went inside you couldn't even tell I had shoveled. Oh well.

Today we had even more excitement...I took Lucas to his first play!

We went to the Publick Playhouse, an adorable little theater run by the Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation in Cheverly, MD to see A Kid's Life. Tickets were $6 per person (kids included) and the show was about 50 minutes long--a prefect length. The audience was, of course, full of kids and there was lots of interacting, laughing, clapping and just a little crying. We had a great time. It was so much fun to watch Lucas watch the show. Of course his favorite character was the dog!

We can't wait to go back for another show. If you're in the area, I urge you to check it out! (They have performances for all ages!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Our New Crush

Lucas and I have a new crush.

He's handsome and kind. He has lots of friends and can fix just about anything. He's Hispanic and speaks Spanish. He has lots and lots of tools.

( it any coincidence that this also perfectly describes Abel?)

His name is Manny. He owns Handy Manny's Repair Shop. We both love him. We both get very excited when he's on TV. (My secret: between On Demand downstairs and TiVo upstairs he can be on TV anytime I want!)

I suspect we've got some competition by the name of Kelly who owns the tool shop a few doors down. Have you noticed this theme in cartoons: male main character and female helper character. They are SO obviously perfect for each other and totally in love but NOTHING ever happens.

Anyway, back to Manny. If you haven't discovered him yet, check him out. You won't be disappointed.

College Park Aviation Museum: A Review

Lucas and I both get a little stir crazy when we've been inside the house for too long. Yet, in this cold winter weather, I don't like being outside for too long, either.

What is a Mama to do?

Why, explore the many wonderful gems of the Washington, DC metro area, of course!

Yesterday we had a "play date" with our good friends Kerry and Jack at the College Park Aviation Museum. What fun! It is an adorable little museum very close to the University of Maryland College Park campus. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children age 2+ (under 2 is free!). As Lucas is just 2 and I'm an honest woman our total admission was $6. Kerry and Jack got in for $4 total.

It was money well spent!

For the first hour we had the entire place to ourselves! Mind you, the "entire place" is basically a very large open room with lots of airplanes, educational games, books, crafts, etc. The boys loved running back and forth among the planes then ended up spending a lot of time in the books/puzzle/craft area. Other than some general supervision, it wasn't hard work for the Mamas. Most of the place is pretty indestructible. Kerry and I learned a lot and enjoyed some of the activities, too.

The site definitely is historical. The tiny College Park Airport, the world's oldest continuously operating airport, is actually where the Wright Brothers trained the very first US military pilots.

I'd strongly recommend this museum for kids of all ages (older kids would definitely benefit more from the educational aspect than our 20 mo. and 2 year old did) and adults. For those of us used to the vastness (and hoards of people) of the Smithsonian Museums, this was an enjoyable change of pace!

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm Famous!

Well, not really.

But, over the course of two days I found out that a very small part of me is featured in two political print publications.

Friday afternoon I found out that I am quoted THREE times in a new biography of Nancy Pelosi. Yes, my quotes total to just a dozen or so words.

But, still.

Me. In a book. In a book about the first woman Speaker of the House. Third in line to the Presidency. Woo hoo!

I think I have told you before that we share an alma mater. Earlier this summer the author came to campus to interview a few people and check the place out. Since I'm an alumna, was involved with planning her pre-inauguration Mass here, and love politics, my boss hooked me up as one of his interviews. I never thought I'd actually make it into the book.

But. I did!!!

Then, Saturday afternoon, I was at a local political meeting and discovered that I am in a new piece of campaign literature for a candidate I've been supporting. It is a photo of me from the side and back talking to Donna (who is of course front and center in the photo) and if you didn't know it was me you couldn't tell it was me.

But. It is me!

I've been volunteering for her for months--phone banking, canvassing, raising money, giving money, telling people about her, etc. so when they asked if Lucas and I could take some photos with her of course I jumped on it. I can't wait for more pieces to come out. I've already decided that a big picture of Lucas saying "Vote for Donna" is all they'd need to win the election in a landslide. Who can resist the cutest 2 year-old around?


Someone shared this reflection with me recently and I really liked it -- I can't help but thinking how keeping this in mind could improve every relationship in life: marriage, friendships, children, co-workers and even strangers.

Every time you find it difficult to interact with someone...allow your own pure wisdom to shine forth. Instead of waiting for the other person to shower you with light, you step forward and be the light. Instead of waiting for the other person to reveal love, you step forward and be the embodiment of love. Instead of waiting for the other person to come to terms with his or her anger, you step forward and be the messenger of peace.

The passage is from Courage & Contentment by Gurumyi Chidvilasananc through Noa Baum. I have no idea who those people are, but sure do like the message!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

7 things you might now know about me

I love Lisa Leonard's blog It's The Little Things and she tagged everyone with this meme.

Here goes...

1) I'm left-handed (so is Abel, but Lucas appears to be favoring his right hand).

2) I've met President Clinton twice!

3) I used to be a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. (Someday I'll take it up again.)

4) I can't get to sleep without my white noise machine. I've had the same one for ten years and take it everywhere with me.

5) My smile is my favorite feature, hence the name of my blog :)

6) My favorite food is pizza.

7) The first time I flew I was 13, by myself, and on my way to Germany for 3 weeks to visit my best friend and her family. Looking back, I can't believe my parents really let me do it!

So did you learn something new about me today?

I officially tag my good friend and new blogger, Dr. Blondie!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Perfect Day

Yesterday was one of those perfect days.

It was one of my days home and I had scheduled Verizon to install our new FIOS. They told me it would take 4-6 hours to do the installation so I didn't make any plans for the day. However, due to a scheduling error they aren't coming until next week. It was like a free day!

The weather was so beautiful. We spent the entire morning at the park. It was so warm I was in short sleeves and Lucas just had on a long-sleeved tee. When it was time to go home for lunch Lucas ran over to the picnic table and said "food Mama". Darn! Why hadn't I thought to just bring lunch, too.

We walked five houses down (yes, we live five houses from one of the parks in our town and just around the corner from two more!) to our house for lunch. Lucas was a great eater and we even had a little conversation during lunch. Mostly I asked questions and he gave semi-reasonable answers to all of them. Mid-way through eating he stopped, looked at me and said, "Thank you Mama". It was SO sweet! Toward the end of lunch he rested his head on his hand and I asked if he was ready for his nap. He said yes and so we went upstairs. After a diaper change he laid right down, gave me a big smile and went to sleep.

I had two hours to check my e-mail, pay some bills, read blogs, etc. I also organized our desk and files. It didn't look like a big change, but it was something I'd really wanted to do for the new year. I got rid of a lot of old papers, started our new taxes file, etc. Satisfying work that I feel like I never really have time for.

When Lucas woke up we went right back to the park. Lots of kids were there in the afternoon and Lucas had a blast playing with a 6 year old (well, mostly running after him and trying to do all the things he was doing!).

Then, our big surprise--Abel came home early and met us at the park!

I was pushing Lucas in the swing when Abel walked up from behind me. Lucas started getting excited and saying "Dada! Dada!" and I didn't think twice about it until he started pointing. Sure enough! There was Abel walking across the field.

And, he brought our kite!

There was just enough wind to get it flying high a few times. Lucas and all the kids at the park really enjoyed it.

I had planned to make dinner that night, but who could resist staying outside in such great weather? Luckily we had our Let's Dish meals in the freezer so when we got home I moved our Citrus Tilapia with Almonds straight from the freezer to the oven, made some brown rice and steamed some baby asperagus. Yum!

After dinner Abel gave Lucas a bath and I chilled on the couch listening to NPR.

What a great day!

Backwards WFMW: Toddler who hits

First I'd like to say welcome to my faithful readers (the two of you?) and especially to all of Shannon's loyal readers over at Rocks in my Dryer from today's backwards edition of Works for me Wednesday who have come to help me with this major parenting dilemma: How do I get Lucas to stop hitting?

First, a little background. He's two. Two and a few weeks to be exact. He is generally a very sweet, kind boy. I know that he doesn't hit to be mean. The hitting generally takes two forms. One, when he gets over-excited and does more of happy/excited arm swinging and then he hits your face/head/arm/body, etc. The second is when he disagrees with what you are saying or doing or trying to get him to do. For example a very serious "NO MAMA" followed by an open-hand hit to my chest or legs.

Here's what we've tried:

1) Reinforcing gentle. He knows what gentle means. I've been trying to teach him that he may only touch people with "gentle". When I say this (even right after a hit) he'll stroke my cheek and repeat "gentle".

2) A stern "no hitting" when he does it. This usually brings him back from his frenzy and then he'll say sorry.

3) Time outs. He is just starting to understand the concept of time-out and so we'll do time-out after he hits.

He always expresses remorse and does seem to understand that he should not hit after the fact. Yet, he still does it again later.

Is this just a stage? Is there some other secret idea out there that I just haven't thought of?

Any and all (helpful!) advice welcome!


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Let's Dish: Part Two

I'm totally impressed.

I just received an e-mail from Rick Corcoran the co-owner of Let's Dish Mid-Atlantic responding to my recent post and explaining their "very rigorous food safety standards". Here's his e-mail:

Hi Smiling Mama!
We came across your blog post and we’re glad you had a good experience. We hope you'll enjoy our meals and find them convenient for your busy life as a mom!

Since you voiced some concern, we wanted to explain that we have very rigorous food safety standards and have even retained our own Serv Safe trainer to certify not only every store manager (GM and assistants) but also a sizable percentage of the hourly store teams. We also want to explain how we use gloves-- while not wearing gloves may seem odd, many studies have shown that using your well-washed bare hands actually is a safer way to work with raw food. This is usually because when your hands are bare, if you touch a raw item, you are aware of it and will be careful not to touch another food, especially one that will not be cooked, unless you wash your hands. If you wear gloves, if your hands are contaminated, you often will not realize it and continue touching other foods with that same pair of gloves. I'm not saying this would be the case with you, but we do find in practice it is the case with many people-- folks simply use gloves as a crutch and then forget to follow food safety procedures. As long as everyone has washed their hands for at least 20 seconds in warm water as we recommend (before they begin, in between each meal, if they take a break for food or to use the restroom), our environment is not only safe, but it exceeds sanitary and safety standards on all counts.

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance at any time.

You know, that certainly makes sense to me! Thanks so much for the explanation, Rick.

And, I'll report that the Fajita Steak with Chili-Lime Dressing also got rave reviews from one of my friends who was at the session with me.

Last night we tried the Sizzling Chicken and Veggie Fajitas and both LOVED them. We eat fajitas a lot but usually without so many wonderful veggies. I was so busy getting snacks ready for the big game (more on that disappointment later) that I didn't even make any sides. Yet, it really felt like a complete meal. Even though we both ate our fill there were lots of yummy leftovers which Abel took into work today for lunch. He is going to try the chicken/veggie/sauce mix over salad.

Thanks Let's Dish! I'm already looking forward to my next session!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Please indulge me. One more political post.

On Friday my co-workers were all totally impressed with me.


Well, several weeks ago I had predicted that long-shot Huckabee would have a late surge and go on to win the Iowa Republican primary. Friday morning almost everyone in my office came in to tell me that they were thinking of me Thursday night as Huckabee took the lead and eventually won. They couldn't believe I had predicted it so long ago.

Honestly, I don't think it was that big of a deal. I'd been paying attention to the Presidential politics for months and knew that the Republicans--especially those in Iowa--just weren't happy with their other GOP choices. Plus, I'd heard and read about Huckabee years before and knew that as a former preacher he could really draw in a crowd.

Not only my co-workers, but most of my apolitical friends ,and even my siblings think I'm a big political guru. I guess I am a little. I worked in politics for years and now that I'm in the non-profit sector I enjoy politics even more as a hobby.

With all this as background, I will share with you, Internet, my big dirty little secret: I am 100% undecided in the Democratic Presidential Primary.

How can this be?

I don't know.

Many, many times over the last several months I've told myself that I was going to decide and get behind someone. Yet, I just haven't been able to bring myself to really do it.

I've been embarrassed about this. I've tried to hide it from people.

I mean, come on, this is ME. I always have an opinion.

So when I read Meredith Chaiken's piece in the Washington Post's Outlook section on Sunday titled Undecided. Can it be me? it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.

Someone else feels exactly like I do! Someone involved in politics, someone informed also can't decide. I'm not alone!

So now I'll say it loud and proud: I'm an undecided Democrat!

And, that's okay.

Chances are pretty good the nomination will be locked up by the time I cast my vote on February 12 (one week after Tsunami Tuesday) and I'll get behind whomever the Democratic nominee is.

Thanks, Meredith, for making me feel okay.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Let's Dish: A Review

Three friends and I met up at a Let's Dish location this afternoon to prepare meals which then would be frozen to be thawed, cooked and eaten at a later date. Their claim is that this is "the easy and affordable way to prepare healthy, delicious, homemade dinners in no time".

I arrived for the in-store session at 1:30pm and was out the door by a little after 3pm with 8 freshly made meals (I selected 4 entrees which serve 6-8 people each and split them).

Overall it was a pretty good experience. Going into it, I was thinking it would be some fun girl-time with my friends. That definitely was not the case! You were there to work--the recipes and all ingredients (pre-chopped when needed) and containers (freezer bags or foil) were set up at stations. But, it still took (me at least!) quite a bit of concentration to put the meals together. And, there was really only room for one person at each station so we were all on our own.

I do have to admit that I am a germaphobe and the sanitary conditions weren't 100% up to my standards. We did wear bandannas on our heads and were strongly told to wash our hands between each meal station, but we didn't wear gloves and the same ladles, measuring spoons, etc. were used over and over again by each person at the station. Don't get me wrong, I didn't run in horror and definitely feel comfortable eating my meals, but still..... (edited to add: please read my post about the Let's Dish response to this comment. They made a strong case that people are more sanitary when they wash their hands often v. wear gloves. It makes a lot of sense!)

As I mentioned, I chose the 4 dish plan which is $100, divide that into the 8 entrees I brought home and that means we'll be eating dinner for $12.50 per night. I'm thinking we will often have leftovers as the divided portions are technically for 2-3 people. Sides aren't included but I think most will only require a salad or veggie--something we almost always have on hand.

Here are the dishes I chose from their menu:

Fajita Steak with Chile-Lime Dressing
Low carb! Our classic flank steak marinates in a delicious fajita mixture to create yet another great dinner. Once cooked, you can eat it as is, drizzling the yummy Chile-Lime Dressing on top or toss some fresh lettuce with the dressing and layer slices of the steak over the salad.

Sage Chicken with Golden Rice
Six all-natural, boneless chicken breasts are marinated and cooked in a sauce of sage and light cream. Serve over delicious rice infused with cinnamon, cumin, and orange, and tossed with golden raisins. This meal is sure to warm up your family on a cold winter night.

Sizzling Chicken and Vegetable Fajitas
Chicken breast strips are tossed with peppers, onions, corn, and zucchini in a smoky fajita sauce. Wrapped in tortillas and topped with cheese, it's sure to please.

Citrus Tilapia with Almonds
Heart healthy! We took a popular dish and made it even better! Individual tilapia filets are baked with oranges and a citrus marinade then sprinkled with almonds. A simple fish dish that the whole family will enjoy.

We ate one portion of our fajita steak with chile lime dressing tonight and it was a big hit! Abel absolutely loved it. I thought it was very good. I served it with a box of Goya Rice and Black Beans and some broccoli florets. For our second portion, I think I'll serve it as a salad.

We'll make our final judgement after trying one of each of the entrees, but so far Let's Dish gets two thumbs up from me!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A little, er, big elf

The Christmas that Lucas was born my mom stayed with us from the day he was born until about December 30th. She was oh-so-helpful the entire time, but the best part by far was when I came downstairs one afternoon after a nap to find Lucas bundled up and sleeping and all of our Christmas decorations packed up and put away.

Who doesn't love unwrapping each ornament and carefully placing each decoration? And who doesn't yearn for their house to get back to normal while DREADING the task of putting everything away? Well, if you don't, I certainly do.

Over the last few days I've been dreaming of having a little elf come to pack up all our decorations, take down the tree, and get our house back to normal.

How pleasantly surprised was I, then, when a certain big elf indeed did the job! Last night I returned from the monthly general meeting of the progressive group which I co-chair (remember, I did tell you that I am politically-involved!) to find Abel knee-deep in newspaper and plastic bins putting everything away.

Thanks Babe! You're the best!

Prayer for 2008

One thing I haven't blogged about yet is my love of politics. I truly believe in the political process. I truly believe that one person, that a group of people can make a difference in our country. On this day when most of our country is already sick of hearing about the horse-race carnival that is our presidential primary process, I am thinking about all the men and women in our country who are truly working for the greater good. There are good, honorable politicians out there. I have been privileged to know and work for some of them. There are good, honorable citizen activists out there. I am privileged to work with many of them.

I came across this wonderful anonymous prayer recently. I hope it will guide me and many others--especially our elected leaders--in 2008.

May God bless us with discomfort
at easy answers and half-truths...
May God bless us with anger
at injustice, oppression and
exploitation of people,
so that we may work for justice,
freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears,
to shed for those who suffer from
pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that we may reach out our hands...

And may God bless us with enough
foolishness to believe that we can
make a difference in this world,
so that we can do what others claim
cannot be done.


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Multiple Choice

Why oh why has my adorable and generally mild-mannered and sweet-natured son turned into a raving lunatic who flies into incomprehensible tantrums approximately every 15 minutes for approximately 20 minutes then returns to being the sweetest boy possible for the next 15 minutes?

a. He has Bipolar Disorder.
b. He has just spent approx. 10 days as the only child surrounded by his devoted, adoring, at-his-beck-and-call grammy, grampy, aunt, uncles, great aunt, great uncle and first cousins once removed.
c. He received approximately 100 gazillion presents over the course of one week.
d. He at more sugar in the course of the 10 days mentioned above than the rest of his days combined.
e. He spent 5 of those days with a terrible cold and was allowed to cuddle and watch as much TV as he has watched in the rest of his days combined.
f. His bottom eye teeth are finally, really, truly coming in.
g. He just turned two.
h. He's just messing with Mama and Dada.
i. All of the above (okay, except for a and maybe not h. H he'll save for at least a few more years from now, right?)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A few random thoughts

1) I will personally solve the Global Warming crisis by harnessing the energy in a toddler tantrum. Take that OPEC.

2) After 12 days of "vacation" I was pretty desperate to go back to work and take Lucas to his babysitter Abigail's house today. So was he, as evidenced by his pleading cries of "Ah-ga-bail" over and over again this morning.

3) This whole TV strike thing is really getting to me. I mean, there's only so much Clash of the Choirs a girl can take. The only thing my TiVo season pass is recording these days is Sesame Street. That is sad people. Sad.

4) I resolve to host a New Year's Eve party next year only as an excuse to use EmilyStyle's Mad Lib Resolution templates. Will you come?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Celebrating New Year's Eve

Abel and I spent our first New Year's Eve together ringing in 2001 in Las Vegas. We partied with about a dozen of his Sigma Chi frat brothers and a few of their wives/girlfriends/girls-they-met-that-night. It was so much fun! A little too much fun, actually. We quickly learned that one can only handle Vegas for a few days.

Seven years later, what a difference! This year we were in bed (asleep!) at the stroke of midnight.

It was still a great NYE, though. While I put Lucas to bed, Abel picked up carry-out from Capitol Grille. We popped a bottle of champagne and laughed hysterically at Blades of Glory.

Just in case you're curious, here's what we ordered. All our favorites!

Pan Friend Calamari with Hot Chili Peppers
Calamari sautéed in garlic butter until golden crisp.Then tossed with a house blend of peppers and scallions for a nice, fiery finish.

Caesar Salad
Refreshing Hearts of Romaine lettuce is tossed with our own version of distinctive Caesar dressing. Golden, baked croutons, anchovy filets (should you wish -- we did not)and a generous dusting of Reggiano Parmesan top everything off.

Filet Mignon
A perennial favorite, cooked to your wishes (that would be medium) and served au jus.

Sam's Mashed Potatoes
We blend Red Bliss potatoes with sweet cream, butter and salt for a blissfully good side dish.

Unfortunately this was sold out:

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
We pull out all the chocolate stops in this wondrous concoction of moist chocolate cake layered with dark chocolate mousse and coated with a hazelnut chocolate ganache. Creme Anglaise, chopped toasted hazelnuts and a Pirouline cookie provide the perfect balance.

So, Abel ordered this...I don't like the taste of coffee at all, so it was all his to enjoy...

Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake
Chocolate lovers will rhapsodize over this rich, dense dream of a cake. A hint of espresso, fresh raspberries, whipped cream and Melba sauce make for an unforgettable finish to any meal.

The best part is that we shared everything--saving money and ensuring that we were only comfortably stuffed at the end of the meal!

How did you ring in 2008?