Wriggle, Wiggle, Squiggle and Squirm

Toys are haphazardly strewn about my living in room – they lay where they fell in the aftermath of Hurricane Muppet.

Both muppets are sitting on their own. They can’t get upright by themselves – but they look adorable when you prop them up. Logan isn’t as good at maintaining the posture. Caden will lean and catch himself. Logan? “Well, guess we’re going down now.” Thunk.

They’re far more interested in the continued discovery of each and every toy. The can reach out and drag objects toward them. (Deemed “advanced skills” on the milestone growth chart timeline.)

Caden spent the morning scootching his little legs up underneath himself and rocking back and forth on his knees. He is so close to crawling. He’ll scoot backwards a few inches, growing increasingly frustrated that the object of his current attention is seemingly moving farther and farther out of his reach. Then after several attempts, he lurched himself forward. He completely faceplanted – but hey, we’re making mobility progress here.

Logan’s big boy carseats arrived today. The UPS man rang the doorbell, surrounded by four giant Britax boxes. “Four, huh?” he deadpanned. (To be fair, we went ahead and ordered Caden’s at the same time.) Jon set about putting the seats together and we strapped the muppets into the land-yacht stroller – forward facing – for the first time. The muppets were giddy with glee. Freedom!

But I think we’ll prolong their childhood (in infant seats) a few weeks more; Logan has a good two pounds left…And Caden doesn’t quite fit. Although, it doesn’t appear he’s going anywhere in his seat; he gave a rousing Houdini effort, but stayed firmly ensconced in his seat.

Today the muppets are nine months old.

The same amount of time has passed in their young lives that they should have remained with me in utero. From two pounds to 20 – why dwell on the beginnings when we’ve come so far. Our days now involve the mundane dealings of infants growing up. (And rantings in the blogosphere from their slightly neurotic mother.)

The wiggles, squiggles, giggles and grins.


(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…


Weary Travelers

Friday was the start of a long holiday weekend. It was pouring rain. The drive to SoCal took five and a half hours. Tuesday, once everyone had returned to school or work, was absolutely gorgeous. It took nine hours to get home.

We’re finally home. I’d planned to update you, all my faithful readers, on our trip last night. But our return became a full day’s adventure.

7:15 a.m.: The muppets and I bid adieu to weeping grandparents.

7:30 a.m.: The three of us visited briefly with an old friend, her little munchkin and munchkin-to-be, and enjoyed some nice warm bottles of milk.

9:00 a.m.: We arrived at G.G.’s house to dine on a delicious breakfast of pears and bask in the glow of some last minute doting.

11:00 a.m.: Time to hit the road – the wheels on the car go round and round.

1:00 p.m.: The wheels on the car are not going round and round. Logan begins to express displeasure for this particular journey. The muppets are tired, but not sleeping.

1:30 p.m.: We’re moving forward, but sadly without need for use of the gas pedal. Logan decides this is a problem best solved with food, so I promise them we’ll break for a snack. A green highway sign overhead shares that the next exit is one mile down the road.

2:00 p.m.: We finally approach the exit. I will the traffic ahead to make good use of the accelerator while preparing bottles for the boys. Both muppets protest a return to their carseats.

2:30 p.m.: Arrival in Santa Barbara. (I usually pass the “Big Yellow House” an hour and a half into this journey.)

3:30 p.m.: Caden begins to whine. Logan agrees with Caden. Numerous kamikaze bugs commit hari kari on the windshield.

4:00 p.m.: Pismo Beach looks like an inviting rest stop. I choose a grassy knoll at a Hilton Garden Inn overlooking the Pacific Ocean and set up a family picnic. In a setting fitting a Hollywood movie, we dine on peas under palm trees as we gaze out over the sparkling blue water shimmering in the distance. Logan rolls around in the sunshine, while Caden tries to disassemble his carseat.

5:00 p.m.: Halfway home! (This is the time we thought we’d arrive.)

6:00 p.m.: GrampaStavo starts to panic that we’re not home yet. Caden is wailing in the backseat.

8:00 p.m.: Never such a welcoming house have our eyes ever seen before. The muppets are sound asleep as we pull into our driveway. With sleep filled eyes, Caden curls up into Daddy’s arms.

“I missed you!” Jon cooed over the muppets as he doused them with kisses. I began to unload the car while Jon prepared milk and oatmeal. Caden began to cry again. By the time I got back into the house, we were experiencing our first full-blown tantrum.

Caden was screaming and squealing in his ExerSaucer as he jumped up and down. “I. AM. HUNGRY! I. AM. TIRED! I. AM. NEVER. EVER. NEVER. GETTING IN THAT CARSEAT AGAIN. MY DAY SUCKED!!! MY TEETH HURT!!!” Crocodile tears streamed from his bloodshot red eyes, down his chubby little chipmunk cheeks. His bottom lip jutted out in a full pout.

He didn’t even make through the appetizer course of milk before he passed out in Jon’s arms.

After we put the two of them to bed, where they immediately flipped onto their tummies and embraced the familiarity and comfort of their own beds, I returned downstairs to share the stories of our adventure. I stared at the computer screen, mesmerized by the blinking cursor.

Well, I’ll just leave them anticipating the next installment, I thought. I was sound asleep by 9:00 p.m., dreaming dreams that my butt was no longer molded to the precise shape of my car seat.

A Bedtime Story

The little boy was afraid of the dark. Things dark and untoward resided there. The silence bothered him. He was scared that he would be alone when he woke up. The light of the day provided so many new things to discover. He worried he’d miss out on some exciting adventure when he closed his eyes.

One night, he cried out. He screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed.

Suddenly, the Man in the Moon appeared. He scooped him up and cradled him in his crescent arms. “Little love,” he rocked the little boy. “Don’t be afraid. I have an important job for you to do.”

“The world of dreams is a wonderful place. It is a world of adventure and excitement. It is a place where your imagination rules the day.” The Man in the Moon asked the little boy if he would venture forth into dreamland. “Will you play, laugh and jump? Will you run, read and share? And will you share your stories when you wake up, for tomorrow’s morning sun?”

The Man in the Moon promised to watch over the little boy throughout the night. He promised to keep his light lit, embracing him in the warm glow of moonlight, so the little boy would never have to fight the night.

Finally, the little boy smiled. He tried to keep himself awake – he had so many questions for the Man in the Moon. But his eyelids began to droop. In the distance he saw an adventure beckoning. The little boy fell asleep as the Man in the Moon began to sing.

Little love, it’s time for bed
it’s time to prepare for the adventures ahead
You’re being sent off to explore
to play, to learn, to dream and more
There’s so much to know, in your world still unsaid.

The moon will look down over you throughout the night
the man who keeps watch will make sure you never lose sight.
Close your eyes and go to sleep
don’t be afraid to look, listen, laugh and leap.
Follow your journey through, until the morning light.

Tomorrow you will tell me all you learned and what you think of.
But now – it’s time for bed, my little love.

Tomorrow he would have such stories to share!


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.



I still remember getting the phone call with her name. I was on a break at my job at Blockbuster, my mom had opened the letter from my new college – and it contained the name of my new roommate and dorm room. I was going to be spending my freshman year on the 11th floor of an 11 story building with a stranger named Rebecca.

We exchanged emails throughout the months leading up to the start of our collegiate career. (It was last century, but we still had the archaic email technology.) Each and every day of the summer, someone reminded me, “Remember – you don’t need to be best friends with this individual. You just need to tolerate her for one single school year.

On move-in day we discovered each other in the hallway. “Are you Rebecca,” I stared. “Yes. Are you Patricia,” she questioned in return? We set about arranging our room, my father puttering about building a bunk bed and moving bookshelves. “Your new roommate is very quiet,” he observed later in the day. “No, Gustavo,” corrected my mother. “She just can’t understand a word you say.” (GrampaStavo has a rather thick Italian accent).

And then I stood in front of the building, watching my parents drive away. I lived alone for the first time in my life; the only person I knew was someone I’d exchanged a few emails with. She seemed nice enough. But remember – I didn’t need to be great friends with her, I just needed to tolerate her for one year.

Back upstairs we awkwardly stared at each other a bit more. Finally Rebecca broke the ice and asked if I was interested in accompanying her to the dining hall for our first dinner as college kids. By the end of the meal, we were chatting like old friends. (Advice – emailing your future roommate gives you a great background to go off of when you get where you’re going.) By the end of the year, we were thick as thieves. She’d pile my laundry in the closet to avoid the “trails” I made for myself; I’d make her eat a bag of pretzels before any argument commenced in case it was just low blood sugar making her cranky.

We were both 17, the youngest kids on the floor. Neither of us were theatre majors (yet, I’d become one later), but we’d indicated that particular pastime as an interest on our personality form. (I think colleges match roommates by hobby and height.) Becca’s mom had warned her that theatre people were weird, but I’m glad she marked the checkbox anyway. We pulled one all-nighter together – the two of us calling our educator moms at 6 a.m. to say good morning in a fit of giggles before we finally passed out.

Birthdays were always a big deal in our room. When I got flowers on my birthday, Becca proudly marched them down the hall proclaiming, “We got roses!!!” Sophomore year, when her birthday morning arrived, I think I may have rolled over and mumbled “happybirthday” before collapsing into sleep’s warm embrace. Becca was definitely a little hurt – she’d even gone to the trouble of circling the date on all of our calendars. But the moment she headed out the door for work, our little gaggle of girlfriends leapt into action. We decorated the room with flowers and cards (but made sure not to include any balloons) and placed a giant bow on her aerodynamic new desk chair. You didn’t think we’d really forget her birthday, do you?

Senior year we proudly stood in front of the Communications department and argued our joint thesis project together. We were both 21 and getting ready to move on to the next stage of our lives – the one where we played grownup.

In 2006, she got married and I was there. In 2007, on her one-year anniversary, I got married and she was there. In 2009, she had a little girl. I couldn’t wait to meet the newest member of our family. When I announced I was pregnant in 2010, she immediately demanded to see the ultrasound photos of her nephews.

During my hospital lockdown, we once again began exchanging emails as she sent me amusing anecdotes to keep my sprits up. And this Thanksgiving our families celebrated together, thankful for so much – especially friends who are family.

Today, Auntie Beeeca (nickname derived from GrampaStavo’s inability to correctly pronounce or spell her name) is 30. For someone I just had to tolerate for nine months, I’m awfully glad it was her. I’m truly lucky to have a friend like her.

Happy Dirty 30, Auntie Beeeca! Party like a rockstar. And here’s to our masquerade as grownups.