Saturday, January 31, 2009

Comfort Food Saturday--Spinach Artichoke Dip

In honor of one of my favorite bloggers, Frema, who is at this very moment welcoming her baby boy into the world, I give you Spinach Artichoke Dip. Those of you who read Frema's blogs know of her deep affection for this stuff. I also love it and searched far and wide for a recipe that didn't involve mayonnaise, which I do NOT love. This one's tasty and uses low-fat ingredients. So here ya go, just in time for Super Sunday. Enjoy!

SPINACH ARTICHOKE DIP
1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened (*I found that the reduced fat kind just works better for some reason, but feel free to use the "real" stuff!)
4 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, plus more as needed (This can be omitted if you don't like spicy food. You can also substitute a few red pepper flakes.)
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Squeeze all excess liquid from spinach, place in a food processor with sour cream, Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the cream cheese, garlic, pepper and hot sauce.
Process until just blended but still slightly lumpy. Add artichokes and pulse to form a chunky mixture. Place in a 1-quart baking dish. Top with remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks, crackers, toasted pitas or tortilla chips.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Well, whaddya know?

I have made a discovery. As I told you before, the numbers on my scale have been mercifully reducing over the past few months. I was pondering this yesterday. When we first moved, I was walking regularly, about 3 days a week, about 3 miles each time. Since the weather has turned cooler and my Aunt M has taken on a major kitchen renovation (she's my walking buddy), to call my workouts "spotty" is being extremely kind. However, Dean is much more active now, so I feel like I'm burning calories every minute I'm chasing him around or playing with toys. Since he's started solids, I've been making toddler-friendly meals and sharing them, especially on the days I'm home for lunch. Therein lies my discovery: if you eat like a toddler, you will not only be eating healthier, but you will lose weight.

Eat like a toddler, look like a hottie.

It's my new mantra. What do you think? I don't know how I'd do with WW, counting points and such. Doing a food journal has helped in the past, like when I needed to drop the 11 pounds I piled on after getting married. But portion control has never been something I was good at. Until now. I've started serving myself toddler-sized portions of the entree (in our house, that usually means some type of pasta with lean meat and as many veggies as possible crammed in--see my recipe for turkey meatballs). I've even started serving myself out of Dean's Gerber bowls. Of course, these portions don't completely fill me up, so I fill the void with salad or low-fat soups or fruit. Dean FINALLY has enough teeth to chew a ripe pear or chunks of banana, so whole fruits have taken over the dessert scene in our house. (Much healthier than our previous dessert scene, which often consisted of my latest cake creation or gummi bears.) Another thing about toddler meals: We're less inclined to put a lot of added salt, butter, sugar, etc. into our kids' food, right? Those of us with high blood pressure, like me, don't need the salt anyway, so why not follow our kids' healthy-eating lead?

I'm going to give this a try and see if it really makes the difference I think it will. If I hit upon a great recipe that's both satisfying and yummy, I'll be sure to share it. In the meantime, if YOU have any toddler-friendly recipes, please share them!

Here's to hotness.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Things I've learned today

1. I knew my class's presentations would probably be pretty good, but in reality? THEY ROCKED. I can't wait to see what else they come up with as the semester progresses.

2. On the day when you say to yourself "I'll just wait til the manny gets here to get dressed, put on makeup, etc." the manny will run late and you will not have time to straighten your hair. You will also forget to bring your yoga pants and t-shirt to work with you and will end up wearing your dress shirt, heels and a pair of your husband's pajama pants to do stage combat. (see next note)

3. I am SO about to turn 32. And I'm feeling it. Marcus has a studio-type stage combat drop-in session that he does on Tuesdays outside his regularly scheduled combat class (which meets the same time as my arts administration class). He asked me to come and help him teach it. (Didn't know I was a swordfighter, didja???) We did multiple drills with footwork for the first time today. And now I may die. How did I do this 5 times a week in my 20s? Because I was IN MY
20s!!!!!!!


It hurts to type, so I have to go lie down. Yow.

EDITED TO ADD (7:52am on Wednesday): You know, I'm not that sore! My legs were trembling for over an hour when I got home yesterday from muscle fatigue and I have the requisite right buttock soreness that only swordfighting can provide, but all in all, it's not really that bad. And Dean slept through the night, which didn't hurt either!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Six and six



A few weeks ago, my cousin Heather did this "writing assignment" on her blog. The assignment is to describe yourself in six words, then have someone close to you do the same. I asked my best pal Meredith to find six words to describe me. She went above and beyond and I am humbled and flattered (and amused) by her answers.

6 words to describe me:

1. Punctual: I cannot stand to be late and I get quite irked when others are late. My students learned the first day of class that I do not tolerate tardiness.
2. Mother-hen: I've been mothering people for years. My actors, my students, my friends, they've all had a "Mama Jen" moment, even long before Dean was around. Since he's arrived, this one's gotten stronger.

3. Sassy: This one speaks for itself. :)

4. Passionate: About my work, my family, my son, my friends, the places I have lived/live now, my hobbies (like my blog!), causes that mean a lot to me, and food.

5. Detail-oriented: That's why I'm a stage manager.

6. Quirky: I have to have the hand towels in the bathroom folded a certain way, I can't stand the sound of certain words (like the M word...I'm sure my mother will elaborate in the comments section...), and the sight of cracked mud makes me want to wretch. I also like to dip my green beans in ketchup.

And now, Meredith's answers.

6 WORDS TO DESCRIBE JEN:

FRIEND: Jen and I met my Senior Year of college at Alabama. She was a grad student in the department. We hit it off right away and we’ve been the best of friends ever since. It’s funny but I had to call her to find out when it was we first met. I told her that I just don’t remember us ever not being friends. She is truly one of the best friends I have ever had. In 2007, I was getting married and no one could fill the role of Matron of Honor except for Jen (don’t you hate the term matron? It just screams old school marm or spinster. They should be called Lovely Assistant Buffer Go-Between Princess to the Bride). She & Marcus were on their way to Theatre West Virginia for the summer and I was getting married Memorial Day weekend. She worked it out so that she could be here for all the festivities. Talk about loyal. She even had TWV write it into her contract that she would be off that weekend. She told them not only was she in the wedding but she was the Matron of Honor and had to be there. We had an awesome time at the wedding and let me tell you there are very few people in this world who will keep annoying family members at bay, make you wear napkins and feed you French fries before you walk down the aisle and help you pee in your wedding dress. Not to mention she was about a minute pregnant during all this.

SISTER: Jen is the sister I never had. We can stay up til all hours talking about nothing or not say anything at all. Whenever something happens, good or bad, she is the first person I call. When my grandmother died in 2003, I immediately called Jen. We were both living in New York and the time and I was having to fly home. I was going to miss a very important work event and I was torn. Jen helped me understand that given the opportunity, I needed to be with my family and if I wasn’t I would regret it. She was right. She’s very much a part of my family. When my husband & I were dating, I dragged him to New York because he HAD to meet Jen. I needed her approval of this man that I was madly in love with and could possibly marry. I was right, she LOVED him! Nothing pleased me more than knowing my best friend approved of my future husband.

ADVENTUROUS: Jen and I have had our adventures over the years. Meeting up at Film Center CafĂ© in New York for brunch and not remembering where we went afterwards, but knowing we had a great time. The night Jen moved from Ithaca to Manhattan and it poured down rain and there were no cabs. But nothing really compares to our time in Tuscaloosa. We had some interesting times to say the least. Watching Waiting for Guffman on closed caption so we could learn the words to “A Penny for Your Thoughts” not to mention the choreography. Going on a ghost hunt to Old Bryce Mental Hospital and to “see” the Northport Ghost. The Snow Day where we stayed locked up in Jen’s apartment eating and watching The Price is Right and the Game Show network. Mind you it snowed for like 3 minutes and the entire town shut down. Alabama is not equipped to handle such treacherous weather! Cutting class to go eat at the Alabama Grill...Good times!

MOTHER: Jen called me 4 days before my wedding to inform me she was pregnant. I did not know what to say. I was SO happy for her. I also knew before her parents . When she arrived in Dothan it was all we could do to not burst into tears when we saw each other! At my bridesmaids luncheon we had a cake with the charms baked in. (You Southerners know what I’m talking about. ) Well, I had picked out the charms weeks before the luncheon. Jen pulled hers and it was a baby carriage. I had no idea prior to her calling me that she would be pregnant. Talk about intuition, or was it ESP? Who knows! But I was so excited for her and Marcus. Well, fast forward to January of 2008. My husband and I went to dinner with his parents and I got a voicemail on my phone that night from Jen that she has been admitted to the hospital and was in labor. Dean made his way into the world on January 5th. I couldn’t wait to see him. My sweet husband and I flew up to New York in April to meet Dean. Precious does not even describe this child and Jen is an awesome mom. When they moved back to Alabama, I went to visit Jen and Dean for the weekend. Marcus was out of town. Watching her in action was impressive. She knows what to do for every cry, laugh, smile. She is amazing. I can only hope that I am half as good a mother as she is. I secretly dream (obviously not so secret anymore if it’s on the internet, right?) that I will have a girl and she and Dean will grow up and get married. For those reading this, NO I am currently not pregnant. Hopefully soon though!

FUNNY: Jen and I can laugh at nothing for hours. We’ll sit there and talk about being trapped in the costume room one night at rehearsal during a tornado. Or the party at Daniel’s when Steven Perry (not from Journey) did something in the bathroom that you just don’t do at someone’s house (I’ll just leave that up to your imaginations). We’ll talk about what our husbands have done to make us laugh or the antics of our families. The trip to the beach with my family or the trip to Graceland Too with hers. Or the fact that when she is on vacation (wherever she might be) she HAS to play mini-golf. It’s SO much fun! We can pretty much find humor in everything. We laugh a lot. It’s always a good time when we are together.

THOUGHTFUL: Jen is the most thoughtful person. She always sends me a birthday and Christmas card. The best was my birthday card last year. She mentioned that my gift was being shipped and I was not to open it under any circumstances until my birthday. She said she had secretly trained Suzy, our dog, to alert her if I did. Needless to say, I waited until my birthday to open it. I’ve been having some “girl issues” and Jen will call to check on me. She will make sure everything is alright and if she could be here with me, she would. She’s even offered to move in with me and Dave if we end up having 12 kids! And I know I mentioned this before, but she was very thoughtful in making me wear napkins all over my wedding dress and feeding me French fries one by one so I would not ruin my dress. Oh yeah and there was the whole peeing in my wedding dress incident. There’s no need for details. Those of you who were there know what happened ;)


Thanks, Mer! Someday I'll write a blog entry all about your wedding dress bathroom trip!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Comfort Food Saturday: Chicken Tortilla Soup

I made a big batch of this in the crock pot the day before our Christmas party only to be told that my husband does not like chicken tortilla soup. This is information he might have shared while we were at the grocery store, where I announced at least 3 times "I need this for my chicken tortilla soup!" Nope. I had a big ol' pot of soup ready to be sprinkled with cheese and annointed with tortilla strips when he came into the kitchen and turned his nose up at it. Thanks, honey.

Ever the mother hen, I filled every tupperware container I own, put a couple in the freezer and reserved one for a couple of our students who were coming over the next day. I sent it home with them and they reported back to me saying it was the best chicken tortilla soup they'd ever had. I don't know about all THAT, but it is pretty dang tasty. Add you own "flair" to make it the best it can be for your palate. (AJU5's Mom: I am DYING to try some of your chile-infused sour cream with this!) I kind of made this one up as I went along, like I do with most recipes. There are not a ton of spices because the mingling of the simple flavors is what makes it so tasty. Enjoy!

Chicken Tortilla Soup:
Cooked white chicken meat (I am being vague here, I know. You could technically used canned or pre-cooked stuff. OR you can do what I did, which was to throw a whole pound of boneless, skinless tenders in there raw and let them cook in the soup all day. They will eventually be so tender you can just pull them apart with a fork. If you like chunks, cut them up. You could also use 2-3 boneless skinless breasts.)

1 can Rotel tomatoes (with green chiles!), drained

1 small can tomato sauce

1 1/2-2 cups chicken broth (depends on how liquidy you like it and how big your slow cooker or pot is)

1 small can white shoepeg corn

1 can black beans, drained

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 cloves minced garlic

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

dash of cayenne pepper (if you like it hot)

Pour all ingredients into slow cooker and mix well. Cook on low for at least 4 hours or until chicken is very tender. This can also be made on the stovetop in a stockpot, where it should simmer for at least 2 hours. If using the stovetop recipe, cook chicken before adding other ingredients.
Top with grated cheese, sour cream, and tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips.

Recommendation! If you like tortilla strips, buy your own corn or flour tortillas, cut into small strips and toss into a deep fryer or pan of hot oil until crisp. If you choose to use tortilla chips, the blue ones are excellent with this soup and are best when crushed into the bottom of the bowl with the soup ladeled over the top. YUM.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pitchas

That is how old southern people say "pictures." (Pitch-uh-s)
Anyway, here are some illustrating how we spent our week.


Dean LOVES his new Radio Flyer car that he got for his birthday from G-Mama and Pop Pop. He wants to sit in it all the time and has become quite the expert at turning on the blinkers and the radio. Today he learned to beep the horn. Then he tried to eat it.





Just like he tried to eat this leaf.







We read "Moo, Baa, La La La" exactly 328 times.







No Mom, I won't get out of my car and eat my broccoli. So there! Blaaaaaaaaah! Can you see my tonsils?






We had a crazy hair day. Or 5.



And we went to Old Navy.
Speed it up, Dad, I gotta cruise this place for girl babies before my nap time!
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mission statement

My class is working on writing mission statements for the mock theatre companies they are creating for their semester-long projects. As we talked today, I couldn't help thinking what a good idea it would be for some people to write mission statements for themselves. So let's try it, shall we?

First of all, you should know that in an organization, a mission statement is just that: A statement of your mission. Your "reason for being." Who you are, what you do, who you want to see it, what outcome you would like to see.

Jen strives to be successful at motherhood, marriage and her career. She strives to please others through providing organization, love, leadership, understanding and baked goods. As time passes, she hopes to touch lives and inspire others to find their personal best while finding fulfillment in her family, her faith, and her work and continually challenging herself.

Aside from the kind of awkward run-on sentence at the end, that's not too bad! I tried to work in a sentence about coffee, but it just didn't fit.

What's your mission statement?

Monday, January 19, 2009

RIP, little Gateway

I knew this day was coming. When I bought my cheapo Gateway laptop almost three years ago, it was intended to be something I could use in my freelance work. I wanted a cheap computer that would let me do my word processing and internetting and a little Kodak Easy-Sharing. I also wanted something that I could hand over to my assistant(s) and not worry about it, or drop down the stairs and not worry about it. Ye Olde Gateway, she has served her time and served it well. But her time is up. A few weeks ago, my wireless card just up and died. I bought one of those external wireless sticks that goes into your USB port, and Dean decided he loooooooooved it. He would grab it every time he passed by my computer. Apparently his love for the wireless stick bent my USB port because yesterday the computer stopped recognizing our wireless network. That is not a good thing for an internet addict like myself, as I'm sure many of you understand. Anywho, Marcus offered to take me to Best Buy today to see if we could affordably upgrade. I found myself a Toshiba and brought it home. And let me tell you, it is a sexy thang! It's so fast and so cool! I'm still figuring out Vista, but I'll get there. The Geek Squad dude assured us that Windows is coming out with Windows 7 this summer and that it's much, much better than Vista. We shall see.

I'm about to start applying for grants to help me get to BlogHer this summer. Marcus and I have been talking about it and I think I can pitch it as a creative writing endeavor. I've been wanting to upgrade this blog for a while, but I feel like I need some more information before I make the big leap. I'm chatting with the TypePad community manager about some questions I have and about what I should be learning before I move over there. I also just became an officer for our state's Theatre Conference, and a part of my mission is to improve networking for theatre students and early career professionals. I think blogging may be a good way to do that. As a stage manager, I'm always shocked at how few networking opportunities there are for us. I'm thinking of starting a blog for stage managers to help with networking, sharing paperwork and ideas, and maybe interviewing a professional stage manager each week. Marcus and I are also interested in starting a blog to use as a recruitment tool for the theatre department at the University where we teach. If I could get some grant money, I could attend BlogHer, maybe even the Business Conference, and get all these ideas rolling! Plus, I could meet my blog friends in person. I think we all know that's the main reason I want to go! If you'll be there, let me know and let's hang out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Comfort Food Saturday

I'm craving comfort food. That is probably the reason I allowed Marcus to talk me into eating lunch at Dairy Queen. And yes, I did eat my sundae before I ate my cheeseburger. And I know, I didn't need either of them.

ANYWAY, I always enjoy doing recipe posts because sometimes it prompts folks to send me recipes of their own. Which I love. So keep sending them! It also saves me the bother of writing down new recipes, then losing them. I can just go to my archives! After the blandy mcbland turkey meatball recipe I posted earlier this week, which are quite tasty when mixed into tomato sauce, I thought I should give you something with a little more pizazz. So why don't we start Comfort Food Saturday? I'll try to provide a good, comforting recipe each weekend that won't break the bank. (And I realize some of our banks are more about saving calories than saving money!)

Here's one of my favorite snack recipes. I could eat an entire bowl of this stuff RIGHT NOW.

SOUTHERN CAVIAR
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (recommended: Ro-Tel)
  • 2 cups chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (8-ounce) bottle Italian dressing
  • 1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimentos, drained
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Some notes about this recipe:
If you hate black-eyed peas, use black beans instead!
If you hate spicy food, use a regular can of diced tomatoes instead of Ro-Tels and omit the jalapeno. Maybe add some green bell pepper for color.
Use fat free Italian dressing or the Wishbone "Just 2 Good" dressing which has only 2 grams of fat. Those dressings tend to have more chunks in them, which adds to the yum factor of this recipe.

This is great for pot-lucks. Enjoy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Successful Parenting?

What up, peeps? Deano the bambino here. I'm writing this entry so you'll get the truth, the facts, the events as they happened, not my mom's fluffed up version. She and Daddy have been trying to get me to drink from a sippy cup. Sure, I'll do it, if someone holds it for me and lets me suck like a baby goat. But I got things to do, y'all! I'm way to busy to occupy both my hands with a sippy cup! I'm a multi-tasker! I need to clap or throw peas or turn the pages in my books while I drink. I cannot be bothered to stop what I'm doing just to sip milk.
Anywho, today after lunch (I had risotto and spring vegetables...my palate is quite sophisticated for someone who's this many (1) ), Mommy sat my sippy cup on my tray. I threw it on the floor 4 times. She then explained that I needed to drink my milk. I was a little parched, so I obliged. I let her put my cup in my mouth. THEN, she took both my hands and made ME hold my OWN cup while she, like, unloaded the dishwasher or something silly like that. I did it, but only because I was thirsty. Mommy, thinking she'd had a breakthrough of some sort, grabbed her cell phone (which she will NOT let me play with, by the way) and started snapping pictures to send to my daddy. But I knew what to do. I let her snap her pictures and send her message, then I threw my cup at her. And spit milk all over the place. Haha! Who's in charge? That's right.
She can't even figure out how to get the picture off her phone to post and brag to you guys about it.
Nice try, Mom. Now hold my cup. I need some juice while I push this wagon across the room!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American Idol quote of the night

"You judges made the wrong choice and God's gonna get you."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One month til my birthday

In case you were counting. :)

Warning: This will be a VERY random post! Are you ready? Good!

Class started for me today. I had planned to go in once I got Dean and the Manny settled in here and take a little time to go over my notes, maybe even work on an outline for Thursday's class. That all fell to pieces when the Manny texted me at 8:15 with a 102 degree fever and tonsil pain! I sent him packing to the doctor while Marcus made arrangements for Dean to attend his stage combat class (no swordfighting today, thank GOD), which meets at the same time as my arts management class. I have 7 students, all of whom were engaging and interesting and talkative. We spent today going through the syllabus, getting to know each other and our specific interests in the arts and brainstorming a bit. It was a fantastic start to the semester.

Marcus snuck home with us after class and we're having a nice, leisurely afternoon. I just made Dean some turkey meatballs. He's been eating pasta like it's going out of style, so I thought I'd make some meatballs to sneak in some protein (and more veggies!). Here's the recipe if anyone's interested. They seem quite toddler-friendly. Plus, I just tasted one and they are GOOD.
*To make mine "Dean-friendly," I minced my veggies in the food processor and only used a small amount of onion. If it was for just Marcus and me, there would have been much, much more onion. Oh, and this recipe is salt-free! Woo hoo! That would be me taking control of my hypertension. Also, you will see that I do not really do recipes. I throw things into bowls and cook them. Ok, recipe!


1 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I used a lot because I also made a turkey meatloaf--same recipe!)
1/4 medium onion, minced
1 carrot, minced
1/3 cup frozen peas, cooked and pureed
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
dash garlic powder
dash salt-free Italian seasoning (Pampered Chef makes the BEST)
handful shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Mix all ingredients together, then roll into balls, or press into loaf pan. You can also use this recipe to make turkey burgers. They may be baked at 350 for 30 minutes (for balls, longer for loaf), tossed into a slow-cooker with some chicken broth for a couple of hours, or fried in a pan of olive oil.

That very well may be the most random recipe in the history of the world. But since many of us are trying to eat healthier and/or feed toddlers with very few teeth and picky appetites, I thought I'd share it.

American Idol starts tonight. Yes, I will be watching. I don't know how I feel about this fourth host, but I do love me a good old BAD audition! Please, let's discuss tomorrow!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Delurkerday!


Happy Delurker Day! If you don't know what "Delurking" is, it's coming out of hiding and commenting for the first time. I don't know if I have any readers who don't comment, but if you're there, why not say hi!

I head back to work tomorrow and I'm very excited. Dean's pretty jazzed about his Manny coming to play. Marcus started teaching today.

I have to go now. Marcus and I are frantically watching re-runs of LOST from last season so we'll be caught up for hte January 21st premier event!!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

JUST BE

That is my motto for 2009. Up until this exact moment in my life, I have, in one way or another, been waiting for "the next step." The next step has been something different with each passing year. For a while it was finishing my education. Then getting a job. Then getting the next job. Then getting promoted. Then getting married. Then having kids. Then watching Dean pass each milestone during his first year. Then buying a house. Then finding something to do with myself now that we've moved and are in our house. And it all happened. And I loved every second of it. And now, I want to sit back and enjoy it.

I really should have warned you about the bad grammar this post would contain BEFORE you committed to reading it, huh?

I'm not a maker of resolutions each new year, but I am a goal-setter. (really, the grammar is horrendous, isn't it?) I tend to set very high standards for myself, then decide that anything less is completely unacceptable. Funny how life sometimes throws a giant monkey wrench at you, huh? If 2008 taught me anything, it was that I have to be patient with myself and accept who I am and what my situation is at this very moment. And for the first time in over a year, I can tell you that today I am completely comfortable in my own skin, completely happy with where my life is right now and very, very excited about the coming months. This leads us to a revelation. (no, I'm not pregnant.) The past year has been, shall we say, rough. I know now that I have been dealing with some sort of post-partum depression and I feel like I'm ready to talk about it, like I need to talk about it. I would not open up about this on my blog normally, especially since I have a lot of readers who don't know me personally, but one of the only things that got me through a lot of days these past few months has been reading blogs. It's refreshing and reassuring to see that other people are going through the same struggles and facing the same challenges. Since moving, we have made a few friends, but none that we've really "clicked" with. I think that also has to do with the fact that we are parents now and our priorities are so different. Sure, we can socialize, but at 8:00, we want to be at home to put our kid to bed. But blogs are there 24 hours a day. Not to say they can replace human companionship, but when you're crying at 10am, your husband's at work and your baby's asleep, they sure can be comforting.

My one request is that my very close family members, who may or may not be aware of the things I talk about on here, do not use the comments section of this blog as an avenue for discussion. Call me on the phone or email me if you want to say something or ask me questions. If it's difficult for you to read these things on my blog, tell me and I'll tell you which entries to skip. It's something I need to share. My story may help someone else feel better and get through one tough day the way my "blog friends" helped me through so many last year. Also, telling about this situation makes me feel better. It's an important part of my life, even though it may be perceived as completely negative, but overcoming it has been wonderful.

As I head into new adventures, like a return to teaching, a new position with our state's theatre conference (!) and my second year of motherhood, I want to take my time and enjoy my life. After all, I've worked very hard to get here. My what-if's and when-that-happenses (again with the grammar!) are now my reality. It's time to just be.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oh, ok, so this is really going to happen

I think I just realized that I'm really going back to work on Tuesday. It's been a thing we've talked about for a while now, but it's always been in what seemed like the distant future. Yesterday, I locked myself in the bedroom for 2 hours while Dean took a nap on Marcus and finished my syllabus. I have a few tweaks to make, but it's more or less done. Dean took an insane 2 1/2 hour nap this afternoon, so I was able to plan about 6 lectures. I'm washing my work clothes. We've arranged child care (more on that later). I go in tomorrow to fill out all my paperwork, get my ID card (which should be lovely because HELLO BREAKOUT ON MY CHIN!), get a university email account set-up and check back in with the department chair. And then on Tuesday, for the first time in a while, I will teach college students about arts management. I'm rather excited!

I'm using the same textbook that I used when I took this class back in my college/grad school days. Reading the notes I made in the margins is fun. I like seeing what I highlighted, what I thought was super-important information back then. Now that I've been working in arts management for ten years, I see how much of that was less-than-useful information and how much of it was stuff I've used every day. I also love it when I see things like "charge phone" scribbled on a page. The chapter on fundraising (not my favorite) even has a grocery list written over a pie chart. I can't remember why I wrote my grocery list in my arts management textbook, but I imagine my thought process went something like this:
Pie chart. Pie. I like pie. Winn Dixie has pie. If I go to Winn Dixie, I should also get chicken, Dr. Pepper and honey mustard.

My favorite marginal note, however is the one that is written in purple highlighter and all caps and doesn't even have an arrow to tell me what I'm referencing. It just says, "NO." Nice, college Jen, nice.



















Jen's first day of class introduction:
Hey, y'all, I'm Jen! Who wants to manage the arts?!?!?!?
No? Ok.

So, childcare. We signed Dean up for Mother's Day Out at a church MONTHS ago, but were placed on a waiting list. I called after the first of the year and was told to call back at the end of January. UGH. Cutting it so close made me nervous. Marcus had even talked about taking Dean to stage combat class with him for the first couple of days (it meets when my class does) if we didn't have it figured out by then. Because that is just what I want--my baby in the room with 12 first-time swordfighters. Anyway, Jesus heard our pleas and sent us BJ. BJ is a recent graduate from the theatre program and the oldest of four kids. And Dean? ADORES him. They've played together a lot and I noticed at the holiday party that BJ just kind of started taking care of Dean while I was refilling the crostini tray. He mentioned the other day that he didn't have a job in town yet (he's hanging around til the end of the school year). Marcus and I talked about him and today we signed him on as our Manny. (that's New York talk for "male nanny." Seriously. That's what they call them there.) There were jokes made about requiring him to wear a uniform involving a neckerchief and a beret, but we decided that might be pushing it a little. He did offer to dress like Dean each day, which we thought was charming. I feel good about leaving Dean in his care for the few hours I'll be gone those two days. Who knows? I might even have time to go get a pedicure!

Speaking of luxury, another of our students wants some Dean time on Sunday, so Marcus and I are going to a movie! Do you know the last time we went to a movie? I do. It was January 2 OF LAST YEAR! We are giddy with anticipation.

Happy 74th Birthday, Elvis!

Thanks to everyone for your super comments on the eczema issue mentioned in yesterday's post!!! I will be referencing them many times, I'm sure.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Well, well

Dean had his one-year well-baby appointment today. You want the stats? You got it!
Weight: 22 lbs. 1 oz. (50th percentile)
Height; 29 1/2 inches (50th percentile)
Head: 18 1/8 inches (75th percentile--way to go, Dean!)
Vaccinations: 3
Band-aids: 3
Books as birthday gifts from doctor: 1 (cool, huh?)
Prescriptions for nasty, horrible eczema: 2

He had his first taste of whole milk today. He spit the first sip out, but that's usually what happens with his first sip of anything. He should be walking any minute now and is finally able to eat table food for most of his meals.

The eczema is awful and I only write about it because a)I want to have a record of it and b)it might help another parent. He had a huge, nasty patch behind his knee, which is where I used to get it when I was a child. There are little patches scattered all over his body, but that one was the worst. It had gotten infected, so the dr. gave us a very mild steroid cream to help speed up his healing and an oral antibiotic. She told us to stop using the creams we'd been using and lube him up with Lubriderm. We also stopped using Johnson's baby wash in favor of (get ready) a plain white Dove beauty bar! The doctor said that is what dermatologists recommend for eczema. It was weird to have him emerge from the tub smelling like he'd just taken off his make-up instead of like a baby. Just another step in our growing process, I suppose.

The oral antibiotic has already been an adventure. When I brought it home from the pharmacy, I realized that the bottle was sealed and contained powder instead of liquid. There were instructions telling how to mix it, but I didn't really trust myself with that task. (Plus, for what it cost, the least they could do was mix it up!) I called the pharmacy and the lady said "Oooooooooooooooh, yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaah." People in Alabama sometimes talk slow, you see. "We shoulda mixed that up. Come on back." So, back to the pharmacy went Marcus. When I opened the now-correctly-mixed bottle, the aroma of orange Sweet Tarts (or in Marcus's opinion, a ground-up orange Safety Pop) hit me. We tried our usual "give it to him in the bathtub" trick, which didn't work. He spit it all over Marcus's sleeve. We tried again before bed. He gargled it. GARGLED. How does a one-year old even know how to gargle? Anyway, tomorrow morning it's going in the cereal. And I may wear a Haz-Mat suit.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Happy, happy birthday, Deano















I totally had a waffle with a candle in it this morning!

I have literally written this post a million times in my head and in "draft" form. I've read my favorite bloggers' archives to see how they put into mere words what they were feeling on their babies' first birthdays. I could say a million mushy things, but I won't. I will say that on this day last year, a little boy entered my life and my heart has been his ever since. With each passing day and each milestone, each smile and giggle, each new discovery, each goodnight hug, I love him more and more. When you're falling in love with someone, the rest of the world seems to fall away. I remember when Marcus and I were first together, we'd talk for hours about nothing in particular. Neither of us could tell you what any of those conversations were actually about, but they were some of the most important times in our relationship because they helped us learn about each other and about how we would function together. There have been times this year when the rest of the universe has seemed to fade away, leaving just our little family of three, or some days, just Dean and me. Watching the world through his eyes has been amazing.
Words are starting to fail me and Dean REALLY wants me to read his birthday book to him (again), so I leave you with my very first video montage. I was going to set it to a sappy song, but then decided to use one of Dean's favorite dancing songs, "I'm On My Way" by the Proclaimers from the Shrek 2 Soundtrack. (I think he likes it when they say "uh, huh.")


Happy first birthday, Deano. I love you to pieces.


video

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Every day should be a birthday party!

Hey, peeps! Dean here! Mommy said I could blog today to tell you all about my birthday party, which was yesterday! The weekend was already super-exciting because my Uncle Lee came to visit all the way from Arkansas.














On Friday, my cousin Heather came over to play with me while mommy and daddy ran some errands. I took a nap on her.
On Saturday morning while mommy, daddy and Uncle Lee drank a BIG pot of coffee, someone pulled up in our driveway...it was Grammy and Papa! I was a little confused at first, but really happy to see them. AND they were carrying presents! (I know all about those from Christmas.)















Mommy made everybody put on those goofy looking hats to take pictures. She also just told me that Papa is probably going to kill her for letting me post that picture, but that's the risk we take, right fellow bloggers?
After lunch, my Aunt Meredith, Auntie M, Heather and Chase showed up and mommy said it was time for my party! I didn't really know what a party was at that point, but it sounded like fun, so I went with it. She and daddy put me in my booster chair by the Christmas tree (which I attempted to disassemble, thank you very much) and started handing me PRESENTS!!!!















I got a TON of new books (My favorite!!), some awesome blocks, a couple of DVDs, a piano and even a new car! Mommy only cried once, when she tried to read my card from her and daddy. She said we could read it later. I wondered why she's been so sappy lately and she said it's because she and daddy love me sooooo much.














Can you feel the love? (and can you dig my daddy's new short hair, no goatee look?)















I certainly can! (Jeez, guys, let a boy read his new Boynton books in peace!)
After presents and kissy-face, daddy took me to the kitchen to see my cake. He said mommy worked on it for HOURS while I was asleep Friday night, trying to make it look just like my favorite monkey friend, Stu. I think she did a good job.














Mommy said she's glad it turned out cute or else she would have had to throw the cake in the yard under a pile of leaves and submit herself to Cake Wrecks.
I had my very first taste of chocolate. At first I was skeptical.














Then I got the hang of it!














After I finished, I had a bath. Mommy says I had cake in places she didn't know cake could go!
I was on a sugar high for quite a while, so my Papa followed me while I climbed the stairs over and over and over for about an hour. I think everyone was REALLY impressed with my stair-climbing abilities! I crashed in the car on the way to dinner and had to sleep on mommy until her food came. Then I had a biscuit and some chicken and dumplins.
All in all, it was a great party and a great weekend!

Mommy will post tomorrow on my real birthday. She says this time last year she was in triage in labor and hadn't even had any drugs yet. Poor mommy.

In honor of my first birthday, I have decided to go on a baby food strike. I mean, I have two whole teeth and one more little nubber on top. Break out the table food, folks! My Grammy tried to give me baby cereal this morning, but I showed her I'm a big boy by spitting it at her. I think she got the picture, because she got mommy to give me a toasted English muffin and a pear. For lunch, I amazed mommy by eating a ton of pasta, more pear and some toast. And I only threw one piece on the floor! Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for my daily post-nap Yo Baby. Later, peeps!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Things I have learned in the past 12 hours

On the eve of Dean's first birthday party, I've received an education from the great teacher Experience. Here are my findings:

1. There is absolutely no way to clean your house for a party the day before said party is to occur. That is, unless you send everyone currently living in your home to a hotel. Seeing as the money tree will not allow that at this time, all cleaning of the kitchen and living areas will be left until in the morning. Because Lord knows we'll be up early enough. (SLEEP, DEAN, SLEEP!)
Side note: Other moms, have you heard the tale that just before they really start walking, babies start waking up every few hours? Dean is "cruising" all over, but not walking independently yet, but he IS waking up about every four hours. Just curious if anyone else has experienced that.

2. If your husband comes to you late on the eve of the party when you've decided "What the heck? I'll start cleaning the kitchen tonight!" and tells you he's going to make beignets
for breakfast (for the first time ever, mind you), glare at him until he talks himself out of it and leaves the room.

3. The people at Wilton have obviously never actually baked a cake in one of their own pans. They give you very dramatic instructions like "ONLY coat the pan with shortening, then dust with flour! DO NOT use butter, margarine or oil!!! NEEVVVEEERRRRRRR!" Then in little, tiny 3 point font, they write "Non-stick cooking spray may be substituted for flour and shortening." Gr. Also, they think that a half-round cake pan that is approximately 6 inches deep will bake a cake in one hour. They are obviously ON CRACK. My cake? Took 1 hour 52 minutes. That time may have been shortened had I not had to pause for a few minutes to clean the burned cake globs out of the bottom of my oven when THE PAN OVERFLOWED! They tell you to put waaaaaaaaaay too much batter in there, y'all. I trimmed enough off of that cake to feed everyone coming to this party tomorrow.

4. No matter how many times they visit, I always feel the need to "show off" my house to my parents. Look! A sparkly clean bathroom! Look! Freshly vacuumed floors! Look! All the labels in the fridge are pointing out! (Ok, maybe not that last one) I think deep down I know that they are really just coming to play with Dean, but I still don't want them to think my house isn't up to par.

5. Dean does not nap well with other people in the house. Because he might miss something. He also likes salsa.

In the next few days, I hope to post party pictures, including the insane monkey cake I baked and decorated. Unless the finishing touches don't work out and it turns out to be butt-ugly, in which case I'm throwing it in the leaf pile, burning it and going to Publix for a sheet cake.