June 2009

Flower House and Grassy Man

File under: funny | greta


Greta: Hey, Dad.  How come you don't have a name?

Me: I do have a name.

Greta: Well you're my dad, but I don't even know your name.

Me: My name is Pat.

Greta: Nooooo.... (smiling with complete disbelief)

Me: Yes, it is.  Do you want to know my full name?

Greta: Yeah.  I want to know it.

Me: My full name is Patrick Michael Reed.

Greta: Nooooo... It's not.  (giggling like I am totally trying to pull a fast one)

Me: I promise you.  It is.

Greta: No it's not.  I don't believe you.  I am going to name you.  Your name is Flower House.

Me: Flower House?  I really like that name.  Thank you.

Greta: Yeah.  And mommy is Grassy Man.



The good and the bad

File under: nada mucho

Hmm, so I feel like I should post something because I am painfully aware that it has been a week since I last posted (and that last one really wasn't very exciting anyway), but I can't think of much to say. Pat suggested I write about how Greta refuses to believe us when we tell her our full names and that she calls us "Flower House" and "Grassy Man" (sadly, I'm Grassy Man), and I suggested that perhaps HE should write about that, and he keenly noted, "I don't really write about things like that." And since Pat only writes about riding Segways and he hasn't ridden one in the past week, here I am.
Here's a list:
+ Our good friends Mike, Christy, and Colin had a new addition come into their family recently: Miles Christopher! So far they are total rockstars at doing the family-of-four thing. Miles is a sweety, and I got to hold him for a good 20 minutes and he not only didn't cry, but he made the sweetest, most expressive little faces. We love him already.
+ We have been continuing to work on little things around our house, from decluttering to beautifying. I recently told Pat that I am starting to appreciate our house more and more...but I still want to move ASAP. :)
- We keep looking at houses in Brighton, and we keep leaving disappointed. I am pretty good at recognizing the obviously sucky houses in the pictures, but sometimes I get tripped up. When I see something promising in a listing, I can't help but get completely wrapped up in obsessing about it, decorating in my head, resisting the urge to buy lamps and curtains, etc (until I actually see that it's ranges from being a dump to being just slightly not quite right). It's an emotional rollercoaster for me, and I don't know how to stop feeling that way. We're going on 6 months of looking, and I'm starting to feel drained.
- A couple kids in G's class have had the flu in the past two weeks - at least one with confirmed H1N1. The reasonable mom says, "It's the flu. Wash your hands. Whateves." The crazy psycho mom is two seconds from pulling her out of day care. (Serenity now.)
+ My mom's 60th birthday is next week, and we have a very intimate family seafood extravaganza planned. CAN'T EFFING WAIT. My brother emailed me today to say he ordered 6 whole lobsters and 75 clams. I named my lobster Pinchy. I munna eat em.
- Tori and Dean's son has weird short bangs and a rat tail. At first I thought maybe they didn't realize he had the rat tail (because they're not the most involved parents [but probably better than most celebrity parents]), but then one episode I noticed Tori kind of running her fingers through it. I find the whole thing troubling.
+ Greta is showing her smart, funny nature every day (except this weekend when she was sort of the devil). Since being in her preschool class, she has started sort of coloring in the lines and even doing some simple math. My parents got her a subscription to National Geographic Kids, and it's for kids who are a bit older than her, but when we read it and I ask her the questions in the magazine, she rocks it; it boggles my mind. It's sweet and cute to see what she "gets" and what she doesn't, though. She can recite all of The Very Hungry Caterpillar nearly verbatim, but when we read Everyone Poops and we get to the last page, there is a spread of four different shapes of poop and she says, "That's poop, that's poop, that's poop, and that's a whale." (It's actually a silhouette of poop - shocking, I know.) When we remind her it's poop, she says, "Oh," and then calls it a whale again the very next day.
Hey, so apparently I did have some things to say! Ta-da!
How are you?

Guess what?

File under: funny | greta

When I got home yesterday, Greta said, "Guess what??" I said, "What?" To which she replied, "Chicken butt!" (Okay, I wasn't expecting that!)
We laughed hysterically.
And then she said, "Guess why??" I said, "Why?" And then she proudly exclaimed, "Chicken eyeball!!"
Um yeah. Looks like she got her mom's ability to ruin a joke.

Coolest kid in the preschool set

File under: greta | milestone | music


On Thursday we saved Greta the embarrassment of having to someday admit that her first concert was Miley Cyrus or something equally atrocious by taking her to see Old 97's at Party in the Park, which is a yearly free concert series in Rochester that features some local and some national acts. We actually listen to Old 97's (and Rhett Miller), so we jumped at the chance to see them play, for free no less. Music is a huge part of our lives, so Greta's first concert is an important milestone to us. Here is first-day-of-school-style picture before the show.

Greta ready for her first concert

Greta seemed a little out of sorts by how loud the music was at first (I forgot how loud live shows can be), but after walking around a bit and eating some ice cream, she grabbed our hands, smiled, and led us to the front, and I literally mean the front row. Interestingly, there was a bit of a love connection between the Old 97's bassist and Greta. During the last song, he looked directly at her and smiled and nodded for a good 30 seconds, and then as they left the stage, he waved at her. After he/they left, Greta was clearly upset. If I didn't know better, I would have thought the Beatles had just played.

Greta was crying, hanging onto the fence in front of us, and looking longingly in the distance. Of course the band came back out for an encore, but Greta was a young woman scorned. She looked so sad and mad at the same time and refused to clap after the encore. By the time we got back to the car, though, she was in a better mood and asking to hear Old 97's on the iPod. Personally, I am pleased Greta picked the bassist, who looks sort of like a grown Harry Potter, to crush on rather than the more obvious choice, the pretty-boy lead singer. (Atta girl.) Here is a picture of Pat and Greta enjoying the show.

Pat and Greta at Old 97's

As an aside, Greta was "this close" to having her first concert be Molly Hatchet, as that was the concert last week.

Over the last few weeks, Greta has been transitioning into a new classroom at day care, a preschool room! The transition, as far as we can tell, has been seamless, and I was thrilled when I picked Greta up on Friday and one of her new teachers reported that Greta is a pleasure to have in class, that she eats well, sleeps well, follows directions wonderfully, and that there is no question that she's ready for preschool. Does this mean I have to stop calling her a "toddler" and start calling her a "preschooler"?

The other milestone this week is that Greta got her first real haircut. After a lot of trepidation (on my part), we decided to take her to a place specifically for children, based on a recommendation from Greta's best buddy Colin. I'm so glad we did. Greta seemed a little stressed out about getting her hair cut until the pretty lady gave her a pink sucker and put Cars on. Here is a before shot of our shaggy dog.

Greta pre-haircut

Greta was so good during her haircut.

Greta's first haircut

The little girls get to pick out ribbons for their hair. Greta is actually squealing at this stage of the haircut.

Greta's haircut

Ta! Da!




Making homemade baby food: a rambling guide to success

File under: advice

I have had quite a few people ask me for advice regarding making baby food. I have typed it out enough times that I thought maybe I should publish it here. The other thing is, while I hate to sound pushy or like "one of those moms," I cannot stress how not a big deal it is to and how satisfying it feels.
So, in case you couldn't tell, I'm a huge advocate for making baby food. I just figure you will be making food for your kid for years and years, and you spend so much time during those early months breast feeding, if you are able to and choose to, why not make your own baby food?? It saves a ton of money (even if you do all organic), and it tastes like, well, food! I bought Greta some jars of baby food to have on hand, and I thought they smelled and tasted weird - I personally wouldn't want to eat that stuff, and once she was used to the homemade stuff, she turned her nose up at jarred food.
I've never been succinct at this, but here goes:
I recommend getting an immersion hand blender and a few ice cube trays with covers (check if BPA-free or use these trays). I also used a rice cooker / steamer. You may also want to invest in a food mill, although I admit I didn't get much use out of mine.
Okay, so I would steam or roast fruits and veggies and then just puree them with the hand blender. Things I had great luck with were sweet potatoes, yams, pears, butternut squash, apples, peaches, and carrots. Bananas, and avocado you don't need to cook; you can just blend. For the most part, after cooking and pureeing, you can thin the veggies (especially sweet potatoes and yams) with plain water or the water from the steamer. I believe that young infants shouldn't have water that carrots are steamed in because of nitrates (wait until at least 9 months to use the carrot water). Once things were at the proper consistency, I would pour the puree into the ice cube trays, which made approximately 1 oz cubes, and pop them in the freezer. The next day, I just threw the batch all together in a freezer bag (and never had issues with them sticking) and used them within a couple months. Other things I would freeze were portions of plain organic yogurt and silken tofu that I purred. (Greta never liked meat, so she got most of her protein the first couple years from pureed tofu that I mixed in with other things, and of course milk. I did make chicken baby food once but it did not go over well!)
During the entire process, from introduction of foods and beyond, I would usually have to make only 1 or 2 batches of baby food a week, and I would just kind of rotate them as necessary. I estimate that it took 1 or 2 hours a week of my time total.
One tip is that apples are a pain in the ass. I mean, if I'm going to peal, core, and dice that many apples, you know I'm going to make a mofo pie. So I would often just buy big jars of natural organic apple sauce that had no sugar added and freeze those into cubes. And speaking of shortcuts, Greta loved peaches, but I could never yield much from fresh peaches unless we were in the short, magical window that they were in season in Rochester, so I would buy big bags of frozen peaches that had been flash frozen and figured they were still better than canned or jarred!
I never got into making recipe-recipes - I had one baby food book that seemed promising, but Greta never seemed to like what I made from it. When she was a little older, she did like when I'd mix different purees though, and her absolute favorite was 1 oz yam, 1 oz peaches, 1 oz tofu, and 1 oz yogurt. Sounds weird, but she loved it!
This site gives good guidelines on when babies can have certain foods. See the left column has charts for different ranges of months and the section on introducing solids. (But obviously follow your pediatrician's advice.)
Now, Greta is a great eater who loves plain, fresh fruits and veggies (although she got ranch dip on her veggies at school and it was like Columbus discovering America) and other good stuff, and I like to think it has something to do with her great start! (Pats self on back.)
Bon appetite! Other advice welcome in the comments section.

Cross that one off the list

File under: weekend update


There are a few things I've wanted to do with Greta for a long time, and I've just been waiting for the right time. Here they are:


We were able to cross the last one off the list yesterday. We had an appointment to see one house yesterday morning, but that was the only planned activity for the entire weekend (yay). So, yesterday, during breakfast, Pat suggested we take a day trip to Ithaca once we got the house viewing out of the way. Ithaca is our favorite place to go for a day trip, but we've never taken Greta. It just never seemed like the right time. Moosewood is my favorite restaurant, and I specifically remember a couple years ago staring longingly at their kids' menu and wishing we could take Greta Bean there. I mean, we could have done it before, but Greta was just too much of a loose cannon before, and the chances of it being a less than pleasurable experience seemed not unlikely (ie, it could have been miserable). Anyway, yesterday was the day, and it was great. Best day ever.

It did rain most of the time we were walking around the Commons, but we still had fun, and dinner was excellent. I think there is nothing better than really fresh, healthy vegetarian food. I have rarely seen Greta eat more*, which obviously made me happy. Yay for healthy eater toddlers.

Here we are, all smiles at Moosewood.

If you haven't ever been to Ithaca, it's a very interesting place. I don't think I would want to live there, but as I mentioned, I love to visit. We don't know our way around very well, and we're not terribly adventurous travelers, so we mostly stick to walking around the Commons, which is always chock full of people, even when it's raining (as we found out yesterday). In the Commons, you can commonly see many hippies (young and old), doom-and-gloom college students dressed all in black, preppy college students, and families. There are always a lot of other interesting characters who can't be categorized as easily. (Yesterday alone we saw a a guy who appeared to be a morbidly obese special needs man who may or may not have been an Eskimo, a guy with a meticulously coifed mullet and mustache who was wearing a magenta shirt and pushing a umbrella stroller that contained a very cute little girl, and a woman who appeared to be a former hard drug abuser that tried to sell me expensive shoes at an upscale clothing and shoe store.) That's Ithaca in a nutshell!

The rest of the weekend has been good, although not as productive as I usually like. You win some, you lose some.

*For reals, if you ever have a chance to go to Moosewood, you should. Dinner entrees are $16-18, but they're worth every penny (and this is coming from Frugal Fran), and kids' meals are $3.50, which is actually less than a kids' meal at Denny's (as if that makes any sense).


If you drink slowly enough, your celebratory wine can become consolatory wine...

...and then just regular ol' drinkin' wine while watching Tori and Dean. We opened a fancy bottle of wine Saturday night to celebrate putting the offer in on the house. Pat and I both had a glass. I was too stressed to drink wine Sunday (is that possible?), but Pat did have a glass. And then I had some more last night in which to drown my sorrows. This seems to be some never-ending fancy bottle of wine, so now I'm just settling down with a glass.
I am happy to say that, although I started the day feeling quite dismayed with the house situation, at some point this morning I started actually feeling okay with it. First, the house itself had some obvious idiosyncrasies (eg, there was no place to put the kitty litter box, there was really no storage), but whenever I would think about those things I would immediately think about how awesome the bathrooms were, or how beautiful the windows were, or how gorgeous the gardens were. But then I had a bit of a breakthrough. This was a historic house in an an actual neighborhood-neighborhood. I Google'd the neighborhood this morning to see if I could find out its history, and I found the neighborhood association's website and, HOLY CRAP, those neighbors would be all up in our grill - in the nicest way possible, but still. They expect you to do neighborly activities, and pay dues, and help "support" your neighbors, and keep your yard super well maintained. I mean, sometimes we don't mow our lawn for a month, and our lawn still looks way the heck nicer than many of our current neighbors' lawns. I don't think I am ready to be the slacker neighbor. When my mom and I went to the open house on Sunday, there were a bunch of obnoxious women in the dining room all kibitzing about the sellers and their house and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, and they all seemed to know an awful lot about the couple. Now I understand why, and I sure wouldn't want to be forced to hang out with those women and then have them standing in someone else's dining room kibitzing about me.  
Call it self-preservation or whatever you like, but I guess I'm okay with how things worked out. While I highly, highly doubt we will find another house as aestheically pleasing, I am almost certain we'll find another that suits our family better.
And yes, I realize I'm talking about the house a lot. It was just a lot of energy and hope in one thing (and in a short amount of time - hey, I'm on the same bottle of wine!). But now, on to other things*.
For example, Greta is a bit danger prone and often has multiple cuts and scrapes and whatnot. At this very moment she is wearing three (count 'em, three) Band-Aids. And tonight I was reading her a book, and it asked a bunch of questions that she was answering. One such question was, "What makes you feel happy?" and she gleefully exclaimed, "Band-Aids!" Hehe.
*Although I just saw a commercial that showed the same washer and dryer that were in the house, and I actually stuck my lower lip out, in some sort of immature, yet involuntary reaction...I'm still healing. (Send more wine.)

A banner day...for crap

File under: house hunting

In case you haven't heard the news, after waiting approximately 38 hours after we submitted our offer and after biting my finger nails into even smaller nubs than they already were, we found out that they did not accept our offer. The competition was quite hefty, and three other people submitted offers for the house this weekend (which went on the market only on Friday). We thought we were safe offering a couple thousand dollars extra than asking price, but someone ended up offering more than $11K more than asking price AND they/he/she/it paid in cash. WTH? My friend Sarah and I had a pretty hilarious conversation after I told her that, involving a fictional couple, Muffy and Sebastian, who own many homes. They bought this home to store their wine, golf clubs, rare coins, and furs. Muffy and Sebastian are not very nice people, and I hope they find out the house was built on an ancient Indian burial ground and that their master bath is oozing with ghosts. Is that mean? I can't help how I feel...so don't judge me.
This entire day was just crappy, ranging in severity of it being Monday to getting the bad news about the house. But my personal favorite crappy thing that happened today is that I got an impromptu call from day care telling me Greta was upset that it was nap time and she didn't have her green blanket (a blanket she usually couldn't care less about). The woman who called asked me if she could put Greta on the phone, and I said, "Of course." Then, for the next five minutes (or at least it felt that long), Greta whimpered things like, "I want my green blanket." and "I really, really want my green blanket." To which nothing I said was even remotely helpful to her. Nothing makes a mom feel like more worthless than a conversation like that, when she wants nothing more than to hug her child.
Because I've already reached my quota of how many times I allow myself to say "crap" in one post, I will give the highlight of today: Greta cleaned her plate (ie, she ate all her dinner) for the first time ever while in my care. My only real goal for the meal was to use up a cup of ricotta that I had left over from another meal and to feed my family something semi healthy. I really wasn't expecting the entire family to become members of the "clean plate club." Because this seems notable, I thought I should document it. Here is what Greta ate:
A bunch of green grapes
Ziti with broccoli and ricotta sauce
Italian bread with butter
She even sopped up all of the sauce with her bread - mommy's little nonItalian.
In case you're interested, I've posted the recipe for the pasta dish in the comments section. Perhaps you will have similar results with your toddler.
Here's to Monday 6/8/09 being almost over!

Adventures in house hunting

Wow, this weekend has been sort of a whirlwind. At the end of the work day Friday, I told my friend Margaux that we weren't going to see any houses this weekend and that we had only one measly planned activity. I was looking forward to a nice low-key weekend, and then it turned into a rather stressful and action-packed one, in a good way, though. Our realtor, Mary, knowing how aggressive the housing market is in Brighton, has been checking the listings for us multiple times a day to let us know right away if anything promising comes up. She sent us a listing Friday night that looked great, and I asked her right away to get us an appointment. She did and we were the first ones in the house to see it. It is a gorgeous old farm house (built circa 1870) that has been completely renovated (um, except for the dirt basement) and is probably the most charming house I've ever seen. It is in pristine condition, has a beautiful yard (.55 acres, which is actually large in Brighton) with the most gorgeous perennials and mature trees, it made my heart race with excitement like no other house has done, and most importantly, it's in our price range. Holy crap, I love this house. Oh, and when walking down the hallway there were some old pictures and things, and there was one that said Whitacre on it, which is my mom's maiden name. THIS HOUSE IS MEANT FOR US, (says me).
We made a handsome offer last night that technically expired today at 1 PM. See, this house is the bee's knees, and they had an open house scheduled today, so I guess they want to see who all would throw their hats in the ring. So now we wait. I have been a nervous wreck all day, and Pat is busy with some work stuff this weekend, so my mom - probably sensing my need for company - offered to come out today. We went out to lunch and then we actually went to the open house for THE house so she could see and, secondarily, try to dissuade the collectively smitten masses by saying things in front of people like, "There sure is a lot to weed in this yard; that's a deal-breaker," and, "A basement with a dirt floor?? Deal-breaker!" from competing with us. Greta, my mom, and I then went to the zoo to walk around and kill some time. I can't tell you how nice it was to have my mom here to distract me. It made my day.
Now we wait. Writing this has actually been quite therapeutic. Also therapeutic is that one of my high school classmates sent me a link to a commercial that my first best friend, Randy, is in (he's the cool iPod dude). It is impossible for me to watch this and not crack up. For those readers who graduated from Marcellus HS in mid 90s, YOU'RE WELCOME.

Here's the deal

File under: good cause

So, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society contacted me a while back and asked if I'd be willing to send mailings to a bunch of my neighbors, personally asking them to donate to LLS. I said sure and sent out the mailings the day I received my packet of info, which included personal notes from yours truly. Always a pessimist, I suspected no one would respond. (My neighbors are deadbeats.) I gave them a suggested deadline of 18 days ago, and I didn't receive a single donation. (See, they're miserly slackers!)
Aaaaaanyway, I have made small donations to all sorts of places for friends collecting for this and that in conjunction with a marathon or triathlon or whatever. Having never done anything more athletic than chasing after a three year old for a couple hours at the park, I am akin to a single woman who constantly goes to wedding and baby showers, never getting her payback. So, friends, this is your time to shine. We all know leukemia and lymphoma are really, really bad and that we need to find a cure. And you all know you could use some good karma. If you would like to help out and make a donation via moi, leave me a comment or email me, and I'll give you my address. Unfortunately, I don't have some fancy donation site set up with them, so you will have to send me a check.
Please make your check payable to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and then I'll forward it to LLS. On behalf of all the families who are hoping for a cure, thanks very much for your generosity.