Tiny Techies

Hide the toaster.

Given my proclivity for toast flambe (topped with tiny melted marshmallows) and Caden’s intense analytical investigative skills, small appliances don’t have great odds for remaining intact in our house.

His personality is beginning to show through as the type who will revel in divesting objects of their inner bits. Caden will sit among his toys – after dragging them all toward him – surrounding himself with his favorites. (Proud Mommy moment: the muppets favorite toy is their soft book, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”)

With great aplomb, he’ll pick one up and turn it around and around in his hands – investigating every angle. Then, seemingly without warning, he’ll fling it aside.

“Done with that one!”

And as we continue to work on mobility, Caden is displaying the true meaning of being a child born in 2010. What is the only object that intrigues Caden enough to immediately prop himself up on hands and knees and, with a look of intense determination, propel himself forward (even if it’s not exactly “crawling” yet)? The iPhone.

Hold the sexy smart phone out in front of him and Caden immediately starts to motivate himself. Focused on all-fours, he’ll begin to rock back and forth. He’ll lunge forward, face plant, pull himself slightly forward in a twist and roll movement and army crawl a few inches. Then he’ll collapse onto the ground, give his thumb several powerful sucks and repeat the entire process.

Every time he propelled himself forward within reach of the glowing gizmo. Every. Time. Jon observed, “Now THAT is true intent and determination.” Even the muppet’s Caterpillar book doesn’t illicit such an intrigued reaction.

“Awww, he wants to talk on the phone,” cooed GrammaJ (who thinks everything her “cutiepies” do is adorable and brilliant – I think that’s rule No. 1 in the grandparents handbook). Talking/chewing – simply semantics, right?

Logan is the muppet spending his days chattering away. While his conversations don’t often make much more sense than some of GrampaStavo’s Englalian language creations, he’s clearly communicating. “Ai!” he’ll squeal when someone walks into a room.

He might actually be saying “hi.” The greeting is always followed by his trademark infectious grin.

Today we were working on sitting – Logan is getting quite good at remaining upright. Holding his beloved Caterpillar book, he looked up. “Ai!” Then he fell straight backwards with a cry of, “Ai!”

Thunk.

He hit the carpeting, head on the ground and legs sticking straight up in the air – his body stubbornly remaining in the (vertically) seated position. The smile never wavered.

“Hi” and “Goodbye.”

(Un)Domestic Goddess

Domesticity is not my strong suit. I blame genetics.

You’ve heard about the failed pudding production experiment. I have set several microwaves and toasters on fire. (Side note: if one sets a toaster oven ablaze with a bag of mini-marshmallows atop the appliance, you will forever after be able to read the nutritional contents of the aforementioned mallows as they will be branded on your extra-toasty toaster oven.)

One of the muppets’ favorite foods is oatmeal. This is good stuff that they cannot get enough of – mouths wide open before I can refill the spoon. (Ok, who am I kidding – they seem to love all foods, but I digress.) After utilizing some rudimentary mathematical measurement skills, we determined that two oatmeal servings was equal to one-half cup. (The other foods come in single serve jars.) I pulled our measuring cup out and set about preparing dinner.

“You know that’s for liquid measurements right?” Jon queried.

You mean they’re not the same thing? Apparently stylistic design choices are not the sole reason for liquid measuring cups and the cups for measuring solid foods. Well, we’re never too old to learn something new!

During our Southern California adventure, I asked GrammaJ if I could borrow a measuring cup. She looked at me quizzically as she reminded me that she’d already given me one. “But I need one for the oatmeal; this one is for water,” I replied.

“Whatever,” she brushed me off. “They’re the same thing.”

Granted, this sage advice was proffered by a woman who is infamous for her culinary substitutions. Don’t have the specific spice called for in a recipe? No problem – there’s sure to be another spice on the rack that’s the same color and consistency, that’s what AllSpice is for, right? Casserole calls for cream of chicken soup? Chicken noodle has the same main ingredient, right? Hmmm, no olive oil for the brownies I’m making. A ha! The baby’s applesauce is easily at the ready.

(To be fair, that applesauce trick does work. And Jon conducted a little experiment while we were gone: those liquid and solid measuring cups are, in fact, pretty much the same thing.)

Overall, the women in my family get around this kitchen aversion by just not cooking. GrammaJ brags that she will cook twice a year – Thanksgiving and Christmas. But now that she’s handed the hosting reigns over to the next generation, she doesn’t do those holidays anymore. The prime example of our familial edibility ineptitude is AuntJ helping her future mother-in-law prepare a holiday feast.

“How can I help?” the eager soon-to-be-wed offered. Her beloved’s mother suggested she could best assist by preparing the mashed potatoes. “Sure!” AuntJ exclaimed. “Where’s the box?”

The reason the measuring cup inquiries initially came about is because GrammaJ and GrampaStavo recently remodeled the kitchen (so now I don’t know where anything is in my childhood home). A reasonable question here would be why a non-cook would redo the kitchen. “Well, if it’s never used, it won’t get dirty!” is GrammaJ’s logical response. (Worth mentioning: GrampaStavo is quite the cook, so the kitchen does actually participate in the creation of meals.)

During the recent remodel, all household items were packed up. The iron was lost in the aftermath. “Oh well,” mused GrammaJ. “Nothing’s going to get ironed. I’m not buying a new one.” Then, over the past weekend, I opened the cabinet below the bathroom sink to grab a hairdryer. Like the Farmer in the Dell’s cheese, the iron stood alone.

“Mom, I found your iron!” I called. I wasn’t expecting a hero’s cheer given my mother’s equal enthusiasm for housework as for cooking, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for her response.

“I know. I put it there. That way I’ll remember where it is now.”

I’m sorry? You put it there? On purpose?

I regaled G.G. with this amusing quirk of my mother’s during our drive down to the beach. She chuckled, mentioning that she has never been a big fan of ironing either. Perhaps that is because her iron does not have any steaming capabilities – to press a garment, one needs to iron over the item with a damp cloth.

I bet you’re wondering, “Do they even make irons without steaming options these days?” The answer to that would be a resounding, “No.” G.G.’s iron was a wedding gift. In 1949. She still has the same one. Why would you need to replace an appliance that never gets used. “Wrinkled or wash-and-wear,” G.G. proudly announced.

I understand the thought process. Years ago, before we were married, Jon and I had a “crucial conversation” about household chores – I wasn’t pulling my fair share. I couldn’t really argue this…I don’t do bathrooms. But I was willing to make an effort to equally distribute the chores.

I hired a housekeeper.

Given my new status as housewife, this familial history could present a problem.

Beach Boys

On Sunday, we caravanned down to Manhattan Beach to visit Uncle Paul and Aunt Steph. In preparation for the muppets first beach vacation, Mother Nature decided to play along and the weather was a picture-perfect, sunshiny, 70 degree day.

G.G. had not yet seen Uncle Paul’s new digs either. Paul has spent the past five years living in the ultimate bachelor pad. Four blocks from the beach, bachelor Paul lived in the downstairs “apartment” of a four-bedroom townhouse. In reality, this “apartment” was the townhouse’s mother-in-law unit with an external lock put on its door.

While the 900 sq. ft. room would have been quite spacious as a guest area, it made for some tight  permanent living quarters. The bedroom consisted of…a bed – the queen size mattress filled the entire space. His closet consisted of a divot in the wall the height of his waist. (Even 4’10” Steph had to squeeze into the closet.) The bathroom door did not fully open, as the sink was in the way, so one had to scoot around the plumbing for any desired cleansing. True to form for a bachelor pad, a black leather couch graced the living room. In front of the stereotypical settee was the state of the art, all encompassing entertainment system. A lone tiny plastic plant languished in the corner.

But now that Paul is marrying his better half, the two of them now reside in a gorgeous (full-sized) home with panoramic Pacific views. There is still no living greenery in their home, but the palm trees bordering the Strand more than make up for that particular omission.

Manhattan Beach is not known for its stellar parking situation. So we played a Rubik’s Cube game of fitting the whole family into the Pilot. Ultimately, the stroller was banished and the third row got its inaugural passenger. GrammaJ kicked off her shoes and climbed over the muppets row, gracefully tumbling into her seat. GrampaStavo planted himself in between the boys where he could commence cooing over his grandsons. (We are not sure who babbled more during this trip – Grampa or the muppets.) G.G. rode shotgun.

After the circus-like attempts to get the whole gang together in one vehicle and an Abbott and Costello themed performance on directional navigation, we turned down a narrow alley (allegedly a street in MB) and parked in front of his garage. The six of us piled out of the SUV in clown car style only to revise the seating arrangements shortly thereafter so we could walk the Strand. (We drove to the beach because the stroller was left behind; muppets had to be carried.)

The muppets were giggling away in their carseats when Steph decided to climb in. One moment she was standing beside us, the next she had ducked beneath the carseat – crawling through the minuscule leg space – reappearing between the muppets. This inspired GrampaStavo to attempt to hurl himself from the back of the car into the third row. He was luckily thwarted in this endeavor, and sent with Paul and GrammaJ to walk instead. GrampaStavo is a lot larger than the pocket-size carseat crawler Steph.

Speaking size, both muppets are now officially chunky. Without the stroller, our family took turns acting as human strollers – carrying the boys along the beach. Caden was in his element, enjoying every moment of the ocean air. The rest of us admired the multi-million dollar homes adorning the beach front, making fun of some of the more eccentric architectural choices.

On Monday it was gloomy again. Even Mother Nature was sad we weren’t still at the beach. I bet the muppets will absolutely love Maui too…

 

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

…to grandmother’s house we go.

It took three days of packing, two suitcases and one very large SUV. But the muppets and I braved the pouring rain and trekked 370 miles south to GrammaJ and GrampaStavo’s house in the rain. Jon remained behind to hold down the fort, care for our furry four-legged boys, and work.

I know that babies can get a little out of sorts in a new place, so Jon and I did all we could to ensure they felt at home. Two pack-n-plays (one borrowed), Dolph and El (their nighttime snuggly lovies – a stuffed dolphin and elephant), their jumper (bounce! bounce!), the Tiny Gym playmat (with dangly toys and activity Hungry Caterpillar), 10 pairs of jammies and stylish outfits for each day of our stay, bibs (lots of bibs), the land yacht of a stroller, and a wide variety of miscellaneous toys to grab and gnaw, among other accouterments.

At the last minute, Jon kindly reminded me that I should probably bring some necessities of my own. So I stuffed some jeans and shirts into a duffel bag and piled all my electronics gear into an insulated, cushioned case. (I wouldn’t have you, my faithful readers, bereft of my witty postings detailing the lives of our beloved muppets…)

We hit the road at 6 a.m. The rolling hum of the tires and the pounding raindrops surrounding the car, combined with the still darkness of pre-dawn, put the boys right back to sleep. They dozed happily in the backseat; I filled up the gas tank, hit Starbucks for a caffeine shooter and guided the Pilot onto the 101 freeway. Four hours into the drive, the muppets started babbling in the backseat. I was impressed they lasted as long as they did – I start getting antsy about 30 minutes into a road trip.

We pulled off the road to refuel muppets and the car in Buellton, at the home of Mrs. Anderson’s Split-Pea soup. It seemed an appropriate stopping point; I’m not personally a fan of pea soup (especially at 10 in the morning), but pureed peas are featured prominently on the muppets dinner menu this week.

The final hour of the drive to SoCal is always my favorite – winding along the coastline with the Pacific Ocean waves breaking on the beach outside your passenger windows, and traveling beneath the swaying palm trees and cliffside houses that perch along the hills through Santa Barbara. Granted, some trips are more uplifting than others, but even with the grey water and dreary, sad looking soggy trees, I was thrilled to share the muppets first seaside adventure with them. I think Logan turned his head and went back to sleep.

Precisely five and a half hours after departure, we pulled into G.G.’s driveway. The vacation officially commenced and we headed indoors for five fun-filled days of muppet spoiling, as they meet their throngs of admirers who have been anxiously awaiting an audience since May 28.

 

Real Housewives of Silicon Valley

The day after I became a stay-at-home mom, the vacuum – which I’d auspiciously ordered three days earlier – arrived. It’s a nice vacuum – a BMW super sucker if you will (that doesn’t lose suction…) I stared at my fancy new machine.

I envisioned myself pushing its retro ancestor around my living room, clad in a Betty Draper style A-line shirtwaist housedress protected by a simple apron. I’d tidy up our 1955 era little galley kitchen, corralling and calming our Leave It To Beaver-like children before stepping out onto porch to greet Jon as he returns home from work, in a fashion befitting Donna Reed.

I’m a housewife.

Then I realized I wasn’t entirely certain how to make my technologically advanced future Cheerio picker-upper go, and my husband returns home from work at 6:30 a.m. – not a time you’re likely to find me doing any chores more hard core than snoring. That snapped me out of my Nick-at-Nite TVLand daydream right quick. Perhaps I can find work as a more contemporary housewife – they haven’t done a Silicon Valley version of the Real Housewives series yet. Granted, I don’t think I have the right quotient of dramatic flare to entice viewers.

On tonight’s episode of Real Housewives of Silicon Valley! Housewife Tricia puzzles over her new vacuum as she attempts to clear the carpet of dog fur so her muppets can roll. And later…she goes on a walk at the park with other moms. Stay tuned!

Regardless of my silver screen likablility, I went ahead and decided to get some outstanding house projects done. Our honey-do list has been essentially on hold since April 2010 – hospitals, preemie baby boys and opposite work schedules ferreting our attention in other directions. Today Jon liberated our garage from the cardboard boxes and garbage that had threatened to take over. (You wouldn’t believe how much cardboard and packing material comes with babies.)

After his project was completed, we traded roles on muppet watch and I undertook the task of cleaning the tile floor. I don’t think our kitchen has had a deep scrub since we moved in three years ago. As I write this blog entry, the peach tile is coated in a slightly damp fine layer of baking soda. I’ve tried numerous commercial methods for grout rejuvenation, but the floor still looked dirty to me. So, with my days freed up a bit, I did some home-ec research and experimented with baking soda, vinegar and water. Jon kindly pointed out that I was recreating the elementary school volcano science experiment.

But it worked! Sort of. I still need to mop up the dusty white powder. Two days hunched over on my hands and knees with a toothbrush and hairbrush size scrub brush and our peach tile is refreshingly peachy again.

I’m going to spend the next few days networking/stalking recruiters during the two hour afternoon muppet downtime. But I think I’ll vacuum the living room first. It really is a nifty new machine.

More Carrots and Peas, Please

The carrots have been defeated.

Today was Day 2 of the solid food trials. Caden opened his mouth wide and stuck his tongue straight out. “I’m waiting, Mom…” Apparently, the taste is still a bit new – it took him by surprise and yesterday’s extraordinarily concerned facial expression returned. After the wrinkled nose subsided, he swallowed, eyed me suspiciously, and opened wide again.

In honor of yesterday’s fallen bib brethren (we’re on laundry load three), we experimented with plastic big boy bibs today. The washing instructions on those directed me to simply hose them down after the battle (I paraphrase).

Logan decided he wasn’t into eating carrots today. He requested a pass this afternoon, despite Dad’s repeated pleas. Rather, he was fascinated by his new bib and chose to chew on that instead. Caden took this distraction as an opportunity to knock the jar out of my hands.

Carrots aplenty!

While I futilely attempted to scoop up the vegetable bounty, Caden took the queue from his brother that the new bib may be delicious. Shortly thereafter, there were no carrot remnants left on his bib. He was a proud baby boy.

He took one last big bite, and sneezed. My little muppet shares!

Two washclothes, laundry load four running, and a brand new outfit later and we’re ready to take on tomorrow. Oatmeal breakfast (raspberries supplied by muppets) and carrots for lunch.

“Oompa Loompa Doompadee Dee
If you eat carrots you’ll grow big and see
But orange may be your color too
Like the Oompa
Oompa Loompa doompadee do”

Carrots and Peas, Please

Remember word problems? Solve for X:
The baby food vegetable variety pack includes 12 jars comprising 4 flavors. Each new flavor is introduced once a week. If Jon and Tricia have two babies, how many variety packs will they need to order so they have enough for each muppet can enjoy one flavor each week?

The muppets are eight months old today (actual); to celebrate, we awoke and trooped off to a morning doctor appointment. The boys continue their determined path to put their preemie days far behind them. Both are officially on the growth chart for their chronological age. More importantly, they are both maintaining a studly positively upward trajectory on their individual charts. My sons are obviously brilliant.

Caden Welker: 8 Months
15.5 lbs (2nd percentile for weight, 65th percentile weight for length)
25 inches (0.3 percentile for length – but double the 12 inches at birth)

Logan Anthony: 8 Months
17.5 lbs (16th percentile for weight, 95th percentile weight for length)
25 inches (0.3 percentile for length – but double the 12 inches at birth)

With two chubby growing boys at home, we continue trying solids. To build upon our math equation, eight months actual equates to five months adjusted. After tots decide their little tummies will tolerate infant cereals, “First Foods” are recommended for babes 4-6 months old – single ingredient pureed fruits and vegetables.

The idea to begin with vegetables comes highly suggested. Fruits are sweeter and kids may not want to go back to vegetables after eating pureed bananas that taste suspiciously like the filling in banana cream pie. So the menu options for this evening read: carrots, peas, squash or sweet potato. (Really only the first two, since the store was out of the latter two.) We decided on carrots.

The muppets were strapped into their highchairs, their bibs were read last rites, and we popped the little orange jar. (Interestingly, it smelled just like carrots – tasted rather bland, but Jon and I got the general carrot gist.) Caden and Logan are both used to the dinner-time drill. They expressed complete apathy toward rice cereal months ago, preferring to chew contentedly on the soft-tipped spoon, and have been enjoying oatmeal for several weeks. Jon scooped a small amount of orangey vegetable goodness and aimed for Caden’s mouth. Our little muppet opened wide and gulped down his first bite.

His face twisted in horrified concern, his little lips puckering and his tiny nose wrinkling. His eyes squinted in a combined glare and impending wail. He shrank backwards into his chair and tilted sideways as his 17.5 inch circumference mind raced feverishly. Words could not have more clearly expressed the thought, “Dad…there is something very wrong with my oatmeal!”

Logan’s response was strikingly similar, with the added effect of our more vocal child opening his carrot-filled mouth to explain, “Ablwaa.” The orange revolution had begun.

Both muppets decided to give this strange concoction a second try. And on the third or fourth bite, they both decided these “carrots” were good stuff. There were several successful big boy bites. (Of course, there were also several none-to-successful any size bites.) They finished the first jar, which we’d split between the two of them, and looked at us expectantly as they sat patiently in their high chairs. Ten minutes later, they’d polished off the second jar.

After dinner, we went straight to the bath. We did not pass Go. The boys shed their previously blue outfits. (I was going to type something here about what color the outfit was now, but there was no blending of colors. Orange won.) I then realized we were bathing Oompa Loompas. The boys had the distinct color of a bad spray tan. And it wasn’t coming off…

I’ve heard you can turn orange if you eat too many carrots. (I’ve also heard flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp and only polar bears that live in the snow are white.) The muppets apparently tried to fast-track this anomaly by simply staining their skin. I’m hoping the coloring won’t get worse as we continue to eat carrots for a full week. And given their raspberry-blowing abilities, I’m hoping my coloring won’t be terribly afflicted.

Next week we start peas. So if the muppets look a little green around the gills, no need to worry – it’s probably just pureed vegetables.

For those of you still pondering the opening question – the answer is 5.