Friday, April 30, 2010

In search of a shower solution.

I loved being a first-time mom. I knew everything there was to know about babies. Your little one won't take a bottle? Well, just use this brand — it worked for my child, so it's bound to work for yours, too. Baby won't settle down at night? All you have to do is swaddle tightly and put the paci in, and place her in a vibrating bouncy chair. Does the trick every time. I had a solution for everything. It wasn't until the second and third that I realized just how little I know.

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Someone recently asked me how I get a shower in, with three young ones and days when I have to go it alone. Let me preface this by saying, I still know nothing!

I wish I had appreciated how much my daughter loved her bouncy seat when she was itty bitty. I didn't realize how good I had it. She would sleep peacefully there for hours. So why did I feel so uncomfortable letting her rest in it in the other room for fifteen minutes while I took a shower? What was I so afraid of — that she'd wake up and *gasp* fuss for five minutes? Instead, I'd maneuver her little seat into my tiny pink bathroom so that I could be right there with her, just in case she woke up. And the sound of the shower always woke her up, of course.

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My daughter, in her bouncy chair. (My husband took this picture - can you tell?)

Two more children later, I am much more at ease about taking a shower while my little ones sleep.

It's when they're awake that it becomes tricky. And with three, one is almost always awake. Here's the problem with them interrupting me while I'm trying to take a shower. With my oldest, well, she's at an age where lifelong memories are being formed. Nuff said. My second is the easiest to distract while I shower, but he's also the most persistent and creative when he does realize where I'm at.

Really, though, it's my youngest that I worry about the most. He is in that cute phase where he teeters precariously and fearlessly on his chubby little legs, speed-babbling "golly golly golly" as he walks along, his belly leading the way. Cute, but dangerous. And he likes to put things in his mouth — his first teeth must be on their way. I really do need to keep an eye on him. He's going through separation anxiety, so he likes to keep an eye on me, too.

I love the days that my firefighter is home, when I can lock the bathroom door and have a relatively undisturbed hour of blissful silence. It's nice to have someone else to fetch the endless stream of toast and drinks that comes out of the kitchen.

It's on the days he's gone that I have to do some juggling. I can put the baby in his crib with some toys and let him fuss through his separation anxiety in there, which I do a lot, but it's hard to know he's in there crying. I can't relax — I end up hurrying through the shower. I could wake up early and get one in before the kids are up, but who am I kidding? I'll take stinky over less sleep any day. I can also take the shower late at night, but at that time of day, it's more annoying than refreshing. Why is that? How can something that is so pleasant in the morning be such a drag at night? I'm not sure, but thus it is.

So, the goal is to shower during the morning, preferably before I have to go out in public when I take my daughter to school.

Here's how I often do it. First, I get the older two snacks and drinks, even if they don't ask for snacks and drinks. Because at some point during the shower, they will eventually want one or the other. Then I settle the debate about which show to watch on the DVR — Team Umizoomi, or Dora the Explorer. Then I hit the start button: my timer.

Second, I close the gate at the top of the stairs, so even if they do break free from Dora's grasp, they can't quite get to me. But I can easily hear them and know if they really need me.

Third, to solve the separation anxiety and keep an eye on the baby, lately I've been depositing him here:

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Rounded corners, sterile, within eyesight, easy to clean up — so far, so good!

This works for now. Check back in a month or two. I'm sure I'll have a different shower solution then. I know enough now to know that what I know now, won't work then. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sweet Pea Salsa

...Or guacamole, I can't decide which it more closely resembles. Either way, this is a deliciously bright, textural, naturally sweet and savory Mexican dip.

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This is a variation of a recipe by Michael Roberts, from Great Food Without Fuss. Added bonus — it stays a lovely vibrant green and won't brown like guacamole does. This recipe could easily be spiced up a bit by adding more peppers.

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Cilantro and lime — is anything more heavenly?

Ingredients:
1 lb frozen petite green peas, thawed
10 - 15 sprigs fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
1/4 red onion, finely diced
Juice of 1 lime (2 tbsp)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp salt

Begin by thawing the peas. You can zap them for a few minutes in the microwave, or just place them in a strainer and run warm water over them. Set them aside and let all the moisture drain off. While the peas are draining, remove the leaves from approximately 10 large sprigs of cilantro and place the leaves in a food processor or blender.

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Next, split one jalapeño pepper (or two Serrano peppers). Lop the stem off and scrape the seeds out with a spoon.

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Add the de-seeded peppers, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lime, to the food processor.

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Pulse the mixture, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed, until this...

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resembles this.

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Inhale the bright citrusy goodness and transport yourself to a little place near L.A. that sells the most intoxicating fresh fish tacos.

When you return, add the thawed peas, ground cumin, chili powder, and salt.

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Pulse until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

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Finally, finely dice a quarter of a red onion.

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Stir the onion into the mixture.

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Serve with salty tortilla chips, or with any recipe calling for guacamole as a garnish.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Hey look, Easter pictures!

At least it's still April — I think that counts as "timely."

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I've pretty much given up on trying to get a picture with all the kids looking cool and aloof, or all looking at the camera at the same time. Either way — it's not happening. At least, not in the fifteen minutes I have to take pictures before someone gets sad, disinterested, or dirty.

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Somebody caught me taking a picture of him, after I told him we were just taking pictures of the kids:

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Somebody coming to punish me for taking a picture of him, after I told him we were just taking pictures of the kids:

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Note to self: wait until AFTER he puts down the small, projectile-like object before taking forbidden pictures.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Just another day at the office.

He almost always calls me back.

Here's how it works. I put the children in bed, hang out on the computer, put the kids back in bed again (and again), and then call my firefighter to get the detailed daily update. That's the routine.

Usually, if he doesn't answer my text, it's because he's on a call that requires so much of his attention that he can't deal with his cellphone. So when the phone kept ringing, I imagined what sort of call he must be on at 9:30 at night.

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Most likely, it was a medical aid call. Maybe someone had gotten into a fight at their Saturday night get-together with family and was having a panic attack. Or maybe someone ate too many Ho-Ho's again. Either way, it shouldn't keep him away for too long. He's usually only on scene for 10 minutes or so.

I waited twenty minutes, but he didn't text me back. "What's the ETA on you calling me back? If you're going to be more than 30 mins or so, I'm going to go work out."

A few minutes later, he replied.

"Go"

That was it, very brief. Ooooh, this should be good I thought, if it's going to be that long till he can call me back! My mind changed gears as I imagined what sort of call would require him to be on scene for an hour or more. It must be a fire. Or maybe a mass casualty incident. Or, maybe he got to break out one of his lesser-used skills, like high angle or trench rescue.

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I thought about the possibilities as I started my workout.

Most likely, it was a fire. I wondered what his task was. If he were assigned to the rapid intervention crew, the handful of firefighters set aside solely to rescue fellow firefighters should something go wrong, he would probably have been able to communicate more with me. At the very least, he would be able to tell me he was on a fire call. So, probably not on the RIC team.

Maybe he had been assigned to go interior. I imagined him pulling up on scene, jumping off of the flashing vehicle, tagging the fire hydrant, and giving the signal for the engine to drive off with a trail of hose left behind.

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I pictured him grabbing the cross lay, flaking it out, and calling for water. I could see the hose becoming impossibly rigid and squirly as the water flowed through it, my skilled firefighter holding it just right against his body to keep it in check while expending a minimal amount of energy. I saw him attacking the fire with controlled bursts of water until the black smoke turned to white steam.

Or, maybe he was overhauling the structure post-fire, pulling out every charred piece of what used to be furniture and piling it up outside, separating the salvageable from the irrevocably damaged. In between curses spewed at Jillian, I pictured the endless stream of chairs and soggy blackened couch cushions stacking up in front of the house.

I pictured the by-standers — the residents of the former house — standing around the perimeter of flashing lights, oddly giddy as they chat with the neighbors about the spectacle before them.

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Everyone likes a good show. The reality would sink in soon enough.

My workout ended and he still hadn't called me back. I imagined him coming home, smelling like a structure fire. This should be good — it will give me something to blog about, I thought.

Finally, my phone rang.

"So, where have you been? What happened?"

"Oh, nothing much. I was at a retirement party."

". . . A retirement party?!? That's it?" My disappointment must have been evident in my voice.

". . . Well, after that we came back to the station and talked for a while. But yeah, that's it."

No fire?

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No lights and sirens? No water making the TSSSSSsssss sound as it drips from the blackened rafters above, instantly turning to a curling, rising cloud of steam as it hits my husband's super-heated helmet, the glow of the embers in the background silhouetting his rugged figure?

Nope. What kept him from getting back to me was being a probie in a room full of chiefs and former chiefs, ribbing each other.

Sometimes his extraordinary job can be frustratingly ordinary. Sometimes it really is just another day at the office.

Oh well.

At least I got in a good workout!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grocery shopping at the dollar store

I've started stopping at the dollar store before heading on my way to the regular supermarket. Since it's on the way, why not? I went the other day to pick up some groceries. It always surprises me what products I can find there for a fraction of the price.

Take this box of hot chocolate, for example.

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I took a picture of the same product at my regular store, for 4x as much.

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Or, this ice cream that I used to pay good money for, until I found it for much cheaper.

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Or these other grocery items:

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Want produce? They've got produce...

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and lots of spices.

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But my favorite find from this trip were these granola bars. They're the perfect size for my purse, and I eat them as an 80 calorie snack on the go. (The baby still has no teeth so he doesn't eat them yet.)

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Here's their equivalent at the grocery store, for three times as much:

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Nice, huh?

Okay, okay. I admit it.

I didn't get the granola bars for a dollar.

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I got three for a dollar!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An unfortunate tradition

I'm all for tradition. I work hard on special days to give the children something fun and memorable to look forward to each year. I think they like knowing what's going to happen on holidays — I do, too. It's nice to have some regularity to those days since they don't always get celebrated on the correct calendar date due to my firefighter's schedule. I control what I can.

In a nutshell, tradition = very yes.

Some traditions, however, I could do without. Especially ones that involve me crawling all over the house on my hands and knees and eventually breaking out the drill.

The morning started out like any other day. My daughter was just shy of three years old at that time, and my son was almost one.

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My firefighter was not a firefighter at that point; he was working as a medic for a private ambulance company.

"Bye Honey, I'll see you tonight," I told him. It was early. The sun was still down, and the apartment was mercifully cool at that time of day. I wouldn't have to turn on the window A/C unit for a few hours; the only redeeming quality about that time in the morning.

"Okay. Any fun plans while I'm gone?" he asked as he put his wallet and keys into his pockets.

"Oh, nothing special, I'm just going to take the kids to the park if it gets too hot."

"Alright. I'll call you if anything interesting happens."

I heard the screen door close and fell back to sleep as his pickup pulled out of the parking structure.

The kids woke me up and we went about our morning routine. After lunch, I decided to take them out like I had planned. We had an annual pass to the Huntington Library and spent a lot of those summer days in the gardens there.

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I got the children dressed, changed diapers, and walked to the door to take them down to the car. The apartment was stuffy and I was ready to be out of there. I paused as I fished around in my oversized purse. The familiar clinking of my keys was missing as I stirred the contents of my purse. I couldn't find them.

We lived in a two bedroom, 750 square foot apartment at the time. I knew when I had the keys last; they were in the apartment somewhere. I spent the next hour inspecting the floors, drawers, garbage, toilet, laundry pile, and couches — to no avail. The children were waiting impatiently, anxious to be doing something other than waiting. I finally had to give up the garden scheme and let them watch a show while I continued the hunt.

One hour turned to two, and eventually the children had to go down for a nap.

I don't like losing things. I can find just about anything. It bothers me to no end when there's a puzzle with a piece missing, and I will look until I find it. And for something as important as my keys, it's near impossible for me to give up the search.

Day turned into evening, and my husband came home. Good — reinforcements, I thought. I didn't want to spend another day stuck in the house; I was determined to find the keys that night.

Finally, at about two in the morning, I collapsed on the couch in frustration. My husband had long since gone to bed. I vacantly stared at the television in front of me and made plans to get new keys. While staring at the entertainment center, I decided to check behind it one more time. Things were always getting lost back there.

I had already looked back there 8 times. But this time, as I was moving the subwoofer out of the way, I heard a sliding sound and a "thunk."

My keys. They were inside of the thing!

I unhooked the cord-laden box and inspected it. I couldn't fit my hand inside the hole in the front; I'd have to take the subwoofer apart.

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Have you ever tried to dismantle a sub-woofer? It is not a simple task. There was no easy way to get inside this one. Pieces were glued and nailed together; not just assembled with screws. After over an hour, I came to the conclusion that the only remaining option was to break something. I prepared to detach a circular seal on the back. The seal was was not only glued to the wood, it was also secured with screws. I hoped the hardware would be enough to keep it working correctly after I broke the seal. I unscrewed the plastic outer casing and began surgery.

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I used a box cutter and carefully slid it under the cushioned metal ring that was stuck to the wood in back. Amazingly, I managed to do all of this without waking anyone up in the rooms nearby.

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Finally, after pulling the disc off and unscrewing a few more pieces, I made it into the subwoofer innards. Much to my surprise, there was a lot more than just my keys in there:

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I'm not sure what it is about that black hole that is so alluring, but for whatever reason, my daughter loved to put things in there. So did my oldest boy. And just this week, I caught the youngest continuing the tradition.

Out of curiosity, I pulled the subwoofer apart this morning to see what was in there.

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Here's what I found:

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I wonder how many subwoofers across the nation are silently sitting there, with keys and spoons and jumpropes in their bellies, just waiting to be found.
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