Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week Zero: Demon-Slaying

Week Zero? Yes.

This, because we've not officially hit 2010 yet, is a warm-up challenge. A little something I like to call The "Face A Few Demons" Challenge.

(And if you're wondering what the hell I am talking about with all these quests and goals, read this post: The Beginnings of Challenge 52. It 'splains a lot.)

Notice I said "a few demons" and not "all of them." I'm afraid if I attempted to face down all the worries and nagging missteps I've taken recently, it would seem as though the gates of hell had burst at the seams (meaning, demons running amuck everywhere, hanging from lightposts and mooning the citizenry of Anchorage. Not pretty.)

But I need to start and a rolling start is better than starting cold on January 1, 2010 with Week 1. (Yeah, all those things I just said AND I've got some major nagging business I have to take care of in the financial sector and I just don't want to.)

This week's challenge, (due Thursday 12/31) is to tackle the following two f$&k ups I managed to find myself in:

1. I bounced a payment for my truck. (God, that felt good getting out in the open.) If you're my friend on Facebook, I mentioned a slight "accounting error" last week? Yeah. One of the final two payments I have left on ol Danny Boy Dakota and I manage to royally screw it up like the idiot asshat I am. I'm ashamed. So, the bank will be hearing from me. And I hope they don't yell. I hate being yelled at..

2. I've hidden from an overdue student loan for about six months. It's getting sirrrrious now, isn't it? Yes. I am going to call them up and get myself on the "not so naughty anymore" list if I can. If not, I'll offer my first-born grandchild (sorry, boys) in hopes that they'll stop writing me mean letters about what a loser I am.

When it comes to my financial health, I am your classic ostrich. This week, I'll work on removing my head from the proverbial sand (and my butt, maybe?)...baby steps, baby steps...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Preparing for 2010: The beginnings of Challenge 52

I love my blog. I mean, really, really love writing in this easy-going, relaxed way. WIth no editors, no real audience (in my head, nobody really reads these things). But to keep a good blog alive, it needs content and love and attention. Did I mention content?

See, that' the driving force behind blogs. People read them because it's a running account...a constantly updated glimpse into whatever world you're showing.

When I can update a few times a week on blogs (yes, I have two, one is hidden under a pseudonym for the world famous writer I am in my own head) I feel invincible. When I can come up with something worth writing, that people might read, I feel like a real, grown up writerly, creative person. But it doesn't always last long. Soon, the days start piling up since my last post and I start dealing with the guilt of ignoring my poor little blog and how undisciplined a human being I am. Yada, yada, yada, right?

I'm babbling now, so it's here that I'll get to the point. Updates are hard to comeby. And you know what else is tough? New Year's Resolutions. I'm trying to merge the tough-to-invent-frequent-updates factor with the I-need-to-implement-some-changes-around-here vibe of resolutions. There. That's what it's all about. (And here you thought it was the Hokey Pokey all this time...)

Don't get me wrong, I have no problem writing down 539 ways I could improve myself this year. It's the following through that's the pain in the ass, and therein lies the problem. What's the damn point?

I know I need to lose 25 pounds. Hello??? I was the one threatening my jeans with the scissors this morning.

Save money? Duh. Like every fourth week of the month I'm cursing at myself and my frivolous ways.

Help people. Yes. Good one. Go ahead and pencil some time in at a soup kitchen sometime in the next 12 months to make me feel better about the fact that I'm a selfish human being. I get it!

So the idea came to me one night when I couldn't fall asleep. (It happens.) What about 7 days? I can do 7 days...I can do 3 or 4 days stupendously, but hell, even Megan can eek out 7 days.

So instead of 539 year-long resolutions that I'll lose and never look at, what about a new challenge each week? I've got TONS and TONS of things that I want to try or theories about eating nothing but grapefruit for a week that I'd love to test. And only committing 7 days to each cause?? Hell to the yes, says me!

Some days I feel like I'm seriously lacking adventure in my life. Others, no organization. Some days I crave spirituality. Other days I crave a damn fine piece of home-baked bread. (No, I've never baked bread. Duh.) It seems that these weekly challenges are going to encourage me to be creative and to put myself out there on the more "challenging" weeks. And yes, I'm definitely going to need suggestions after about three weeks....52 weeks seems like forever.

I'd like to throw out there that some of these aren't meant for 7 whole days, but are challenges to be completed within the alloted 7 days. (I mean, I really want to learn how to roast a whole chicken, but I don't want to eat chicken for 21 meals in a row. Just sayin'...)

Some weekly challenges I've already thrown about: a week without swearing (holy sh$&!), perfecting a lattice-topped cherry pie, a week with no meat, going to bed every night at 9:30 for a week, conversely, making my self stay up until midnight for a week, waking up at 5 a.m. for a week, making it to a yoga class every day for a week, not spending a single cent for an entire 7 days (HOT DAMN!), calling a different friend each day for a week just to listen to them, etc..etc...

You see where I'm going? Infinite possibilities. 52 weeks. 52 new accomplishments (or failures...depending on whether I'm supposed to bake that week or not...)

Hi. My name is Megan. And I'm freakin' excited about 2010...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas from our house to yours

Luke 2:1-14

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A recipe for a perfect Christmas Eve: "...heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves..."

It's Christmas Eve at our house.

It's our first as a "married" couple, the first with Boo, and our first without Boy Wonder. We're mixing this and that, my favorite Christmas tradition, with his favorite, a new one for the boys, until we get it just right. I'm sure it's a lifelong process we'll constantly perfect, but here's what we have so far.

1. Steamed Shrimp with Old Bay
This one's from P and his family. I can't remember what my family does for dinner Christmas Eve, but I am not a shrimp eater. I'm a shrimp buyer, for sure. But this one is all P, until the boys grow up big enough to love shrimp, too. Here's the recipe P adapted from the Old Bay box:

1 lb raw shrimp
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup vinegar
Old Bay to taste

Bring the water and vinegar and spices to boil. Add shrimp. Boil no more than three minutes, or until shrimp turn from grey to pink. Voila!

2. Mulled Wine
A new one for both of us. He's not the wine drinker, so this is my equivalent to steamed shrimp. I like it. It's warm and gooey. Clarence from "It's a Wonderful Life" is the one who requests his "heavy on the cinnamon, easy on the cloves." Indeed, Angel, indeed. Here's the recipe I used (delicious....):

Clarence's Mulled Wine

A bottle of red wine
4 sticks cinnamon
5 whole cloves
1 orange
1 lemon

Warm for 40 minutes, but do not boil. Nummmmy.

3. New Pajamas for the whole family
Once we're in from our yearly tamale party at our favorite Anchorage family's house, there are new pajamas waiting for all of us. This is something I remember my mom doing for us the past few years...though I don't know if it was something we did "back in the day." Either way, I like it. A lot. And so does P. He had fun picking his out. Boo? He had no choice.

4. "It's a Wonderful Life"
This one we'll watch while we're wrapping the last of the presents tonight. It's my absolute favorite holiday movie and it's one of my favorite Jimmy Stewart flick. (I really do have a love of all things Jimmy Stewart. More than I love zombies, and I think that's probably a good thing.)

So Merry Christmas to all...and what are some of your Christmas Eve traditions?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Boy Wonder is visiting his father, and little Boo doesn't know what to do with himself without an older brother to chase around. P washed his contacts down the sink (last pair) and I'm fighting with my insurance company to recognize the fact that we are married (What is this? San Francisco??) The motor on my winshield wipers blew, we mismanaged the bank account and are praying for a check-clearing miracle (as in, don't clear yet!) but, at the end of it all, it's Christmas.

It's a season about so much more than the stress and the price tag, and I hope we all get the quiet moments we need to remember that. Make it meaningful...

Much love to you all. I'll be back before the new year with all new schemes and resolutions for 2010 (don't think I haven't been rolling them around in my head the past few weeks. I LOVES me a fresh start!)

See you in a few days...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's On Your Nightstand? (Fourth Tuesday)

I'm starting a new tradition one whole month before new traditions generally start. It's called "What's on Your Nightstand?" and it's a glimpse of what's on deck for Megan in the book world. So far, I have three that I'm working on.

1) The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library by Alice Kimberly. (Who is really Cleo Coyle. Who is really a husband and wife team, but I can't remember their names.)
This is actually book three in the haunted bookshop series, but my local store doesn't have number 1 or 2, so I'll jump in where I can.

2) Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
I heard about this on some talk show, and because Dr. Oz recommends it, I'm all for it. (I loves me some Dr. Oz!)

3)Shadow Music by Julie Garwood.
I know absolutely NOTHING about this book, other than it's written by Julie Garwood. And you know what? That's good enough for me!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

To Boy Wonder: On the Occasion of His Sixth Birthday

Dear Boy Wonder,

Tomorrow you will turn 6 years old. Can it be true? Has time really flown so quickly?

These days, you are in kindergarten. You have good friends whose names all rhyme for some reason (Braydon, Kaedon, and Jaydon) and I thank my lucky stars that I somehow missed the “-adon” naming phenomenon.

At this point in your life, you are a simple man. You love legos. You are a joy to watch and you impress P and me more and more each day with those dynamo visual-spatial skills you have. You can eyeball a lego set meant for a 10 year old and build it without looking at the “constructions.” (Yes, that’s the adorable word you use for “instructions.” I love it. I also love how you say “linja” instead of “ninja.”) The things you build and the stories you create behind them are amazing, and I know that you will be just like your great-grandfather someday—a tinker. You have so many interests in life and you are never bored—just like Pop. It’s a great way to be and I hope you never lose your fascination with living.

Six years ago, you saved my life. I thought you should know that. I spent an agonizing four months on bed rest when I was pregnant with you , and each week the doctors would say “Any day now, you’re probably going to have a miscarriage.” But every day, there you’d be, hanging on. You fought for your life and in September of 2003, I prayed for the first time in a long time. I found an old St. Jude medal and I prayed the novena over and over…pretty much until you were born. I still rely on St. Jude to this day, and I have you to thank for “saving” me from a life of apathy, an existence with no spirit.

On the days I get the chance to drive you to school, I drive slowly. With the pace of our lives these days, I rarely get anymore one on one time with you. Do you remember when it was just us? You were my main man, my partner in crime. We sing the Star Wars theme song off-key and too loudly. You tell me about the teachers we pass as we pull in. I want to soak it all in. Those mornings I get with you all turn out to be good days and I know my time with you in the early hours is the reason.

When you jump out of the truck and say goodbye, I want to walk inside with you and make sure all the other 6-year-olds are nice to you. I want to beat up their mothers when you tell me that kids aren’t always friendly. But the great thing about you is that you are resilient. Most times, you let it slide off your back and you find other friends to play with—something I was never good at. I took everything personally, and I’m trying to instill in you that you can’t control others—you can only control how you react to them.
You have been such an easygoing kid your whole life, that I’ve taken you everywhere with me. You grew up in a jiu jitsu gym. Your honorary uncles and aunts have been boxers, world-class athletes, MMA fighters, and jiu jitsu prodigies. To this day, you love going to the gym and seeing “your friends.” You are such a friendly guy that everyone there loves you. That’s true wherever you go.

This year, you got a new stepdad. I wanted to thank you for loving P so openly and ferociously from day one. I’m sure you won’t remember it, but you two go way back. When you were two years old and I was relatively new at Gracie Barra, you ran up to P and did the “you can’t see me” John Cena thing to him, trying to pick a play fight. Four years later, it’s still your favorite thing to do—wrestling with him.

With P, you accepted him immediately. You showed him how to be a kid and how to laugh out loud without worrying who might be watching. You paved a way for your little brother Andrew, helping shape P into the incredible dad he is today. You were his first “kid” and you gave him a crash course in unconditional love and acceptance, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the glue that brought our little family together.

Did you know you are the sparkle in your Nana’s eyes? From the day you were born, you’ve had a bond with her that transcends all manner of grandmother/grandson relationships. You two “get” each other. Sure, you guys bickered and picked on each other during your marathon walks to the park, but it’s because you felt safe enough to have that sort of relationship with her. Nana never lets you down and you know that. You never let her down either. It’s your job to make sure Boo has that same sort of relationship with her—you’re most definitely the guardian of all things Nana.
My favorite memory of you involves your Grandpa Gary. I had to run out and do an errand when you were very, very small and Grandpa volunteered to watch you while I was out. I took you over to the house and when I came back, I found a war zone. Poor Grandpa was on the floor with a naked Boy Wonder, trying to wipe your dirty bum with a handful of Wendy’s napkins. The dirty diaper was stuck upside down on the coffee table, and your grandfather was bright red—either on the verge of laughing hysterically or crying…or both! He’d never been around a baby before you and you taught him the pure joy of a drooly, stinky little human being. You should see all the pictures of you through the years he keeps around the house. You’re his little star.

So here’s to the first 6 years, my little man. If they’ve been any indication, you have a wonderful life ahead of you. Thanks for choosing me. ..I know I’m not your mom by accident.

With love,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Memory: Why I Hate A Certain Holiday Song

And I mean hate with a capital F-U, Christmas Song! Really, really. It makes my skin crawl now...

In 2004, I worked at student newspaper as an advisor. In El Paso. Circulation...about 10,000. (I'm making the point that we weren't the damn New York Times or Washington Post...we were a college paper and most of the damn students there didn't even read us most weeks...true story. Jerks!)

One week, we did a bundle of Christmas stories. Most creative gifts. Best memories. Favorite holiday songs. You know...the usual.

Things were going well, it was a week before Christmas and we were done for the semester. (It was AWESOME!) I was in the office, most of the students were gone for the holidays. And then it came....the call.

I answered the phone and the voice on the other end asked, nay...demanded to speak to someone in charge. Being middle management, but not a student, I stupidly said I was. (Bad, bad move and I have since learned from my mistakes. I am never in charge...even when I am in charge.)

This woman, with a speaking voice that was shrill and tinny to begin with, launched into a tirade, demanding that we print an IMMEDIATE correction about one of our stories.

The writer (and it had slipped past me, too) had attributed "Santa Baby" to Marilyn Monroe (MM had never, in fact, recorded the song) and he had listed it as one of his favorite songs.

The silly rabbit on the other end of the line tried to point out to me that SHE, in fact, had made the song famous. In 1997. Her. It was all her. Nobody had ever heard the song before she recorded it in her basement or whatever Bush League method she'd concocted. Point was, SHE was famous, dammit, and we better recognize her. (Oh, contraire, mon frer....thought I....)

Sounding like an 80-year-old chain smoking emphysema patient, she SHRIEKED about how incompetent we were. She was calling from Hollywood. She was calling her lawyers. She was going to sue us. She demanded satisfaction. NOW. (For what? I asked. Not attributing it to Eartha Kitt? Because nobody had ever heard her name around that newsroom before...)

As she rattled on and on and on and on and on... (I kid you NOT, dear reader), I spent the time I should have been taking her seriously and I googled her. (OH, how I "heart" you Google.)

ChickyBoom had herself a nice little Web site...more like a virtual altar she'd constructed to herself to pay homage to the fact that she'd recorded a version of a stupid Christmas song that had made it into that awful movie "Party Monster." (Who freakin' cares, woman?) She peppered her bio with great big, shiny superlatives like "incredible vocalist" and "fantastically talented" and "gorgeous former hair model" (what the hell are those, anyway?) and she's got one of those names that should probably sound the way it reads. You know, how that crazy lady on the BBC show "Keeping Up Appearances" is named Bucket, but demands people pronounce it "bouquet?" Yep. She's totally one of those. *gag*

So I offered to correct the mistake and attribute the song to Eartha Kitt. No? How about Madonna? Madonna did a great version... No? Ummm...Sheryl Crow! Sheryl Crow did it, too. No?(Yes, I was trying to piss her off on purpose.)

By the end of the conversation (it lasted at least 30 minutes with this self-aggrandizing nightmare), I had her on speaker phone and had the other poor slobs at work laughing at just how ANGRY and DEMANDING and NASTY this kitten was. Shrieking and threatening and just so out of the holiday spirit.

At one point I even asked her, "How the hell did you find this article? It's from a newspaper on a college campus in the middle of the desert? Do you troll any media outlet you can find for any single mention of "Santa Baby?"

I can't remember her response, but I'm sure it was angry. And hilarious.

And so, tonight, as Boy Wonder works on his new lego set (Thanks, Nana!), we have the music channel playing holiday music and Madonna's version of "Santa Baby" came on a couple hours ago. It came on again a couple minutes ago...sung by Eartha Kitt herself.

I guess all that hard work harassing newspapers and journalists got SuperCrazy nowhere. Not even the "Sounds of the Season" channel recognizes her "major contribution to pop culture"....


PS....Yes, I fully expect to somehow recieve a pissed off e-mail from this woman. I'm quite certain she's got the words "Santa Baby" locked down on Google Alerts. And yes...I'll post her nasty letter in full here for you to enjoy it as much as I'm sure I will. :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Time to Admit Defeat: New Tactics and the Picky Eater in My House

Folks, it's war.

I've known it for a while...a simmer that's slowly built up to a boil as I've watched Boy Wonder leave more and more food on his plate, immediately asking for snacks after meals, hording food in his bedroom, stealing my cans of diet soda when I'm not looking (he really does...I went back to finish one last night and the damn can was empty...and I'd just opened it!)

Whether Boy Wonder is truly a picky eater (could be, could be) or whether he's just darn lazy (another great possibility), there's a war brewing in our home and the refrigerator stands at ground zero.
P's been on to Boy Wonder for a few months now, but has given the kid space to change his ways. This morning, all heck broke loose when I went to change out his backpack before school and took out yesterday's lunchbox (yes, I forgot to last night.) Inside, I saw his lunch that I packed him--still intact 24 hours later. Oh sure, half the ham sandwich was gone and so was the juice box, but still...EVERYTHING else remained there. Untouched.

I panicked. I did a mental tally of all the things I saw him eat throughout the day (and yes, this is where my own "mea culpa" comes into the picture. The following list is shocking, sickening, and I'm taking full responsibility for it's ick-factor):

* a bowl of Lucky Charms, a half glass of Orange Juice for breakfast

* sent him to school with a lunch he didn't eat besides the juice box and the half sandwich

*once home, he snacked on pretzels while watching TV (this is also where he stole my soda)

*for dinner I made him a plate and all he ate was the corndog and two bites of applesauce

If I am lucky ( and I mean with a capital L-U-C-K-Y), he ingested what? a total of 800 grams of sugar and about 700 calories of crap??? And if you know Boy Wonder (or have eyes in your head and have seen a picture of him recently), you know he's a skinny little man. It's something I assume he'll grow out of (definitely not a trait he gets from me!), but not with the way he's currently eating.
I stood in shock for about two minutes this morning when I came to that conclusion. Thankfully P was sympathetic and kind, but I could tell he was relieved that I finally "got it." (He walks a fine line between being a parental figure and trying not to be an overbearing step-dad...of which he does a MIGHTY fine job, I must say).

We mutally decided on a "no snack" policy for the forseeable future, as Boy Wonder lives, breaths, and dwells on snacks. He'll ask for snacks directly after dinner. (Say whaaaaaaat?) I'm throwing out all pretzels, chips, and "snacky crap" when I get home. (Sorry, P! Hiden those goodies on the top shelf of the cabinet before I get home!!)

I went out and bought that "hide good crap in your kid's food book" (aka "Deceptively Delicous") and while I tried FOREVER to avoid her hype and buying in to it, it's a pretty brilliant idea. I've already put sticky notes on several of the recipes I want to try and I'll post a few and how they turned out.

I also did some research on "picky eaters" and it seems to be a phenomenon.

I, personally, don't remember being given the option of being picky...but that was back in the 80s...when kids didn't wear seatbelts, car seats hadn't been invented, and the only nutritional advice Hulk Hogan offered us was to eat our vitamins and say our prayers. (Check and check.) My mom would have knocked me out of my chair if I'd refused to eat and THEN asked for some pretzels. I'm a softie, I admit it.

I found a PBS entire Web section called The Science of Picky Eaters.

Psychology Today (one of my all time favorite magazines that has a Web site so rad and true to their print version that I rarely buy the hard copy anymore) has this article: "Picky Eaters."

And finally, the Mayo Clinic has "10 Tips for Picky Eaters" in their Children's Nutrition section.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. A long, uphill battle where we have to be bad guys (I HATE being the bad guy), we have to make rules and stick to them (not so great at that, either), and we have to set a good example (BOOO!)

But as small of a consolation as it is...I get to make broccoli puree and find a way to sneak it into his chocolate chip pancakes...suhweeet. A little something I like to call "Mama's Revenge."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The humble beginnings of the holiday tradition

It's that time again.

We took a few weeks off since Halloween and Netflix keeps sending subtle hints my way. ("Hey, Lady! You have kids...you MUST want Christmas cartoons, right? Pick me. Pick ME!") Seriously. Not so subtle, right?

So here we are on the eve of Thanksgiving. For some reason, the yoga DVD I requested doesn't live in the Anchorage warehouse (it lives in the California shipping center. Are you surprised? I'm not. Damn hippy DVD.) So it's unavailable. Then, we chose to rent a movie that was just released this week. Again, not available. So the smart computers pick the next three movies in my queue (lesson to Megan: check your queue past the first three freaking choices next time). In no particular order, they are:

  • Frosty the Snowman

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and

  • Santa Buddies

Damn. Looks like the weekend holiday movie festival has begun again.

P has requested the 80s movie "Santa Clause: The Movie" (never seen it.) I've put in for "Holiday Inn" (if for nothing other than the song) and a couple versions of "A Christmas Carol" including Bill Murray's "Scrooged." I threw in "Miracle on 34th Street" for good measure.

I hold off on "It's a Wonderful Life" until Christmas Eve for some reason...it's become a tradition that I watch that late into the night as I'm wrapping presents. That movie is magic to me and not to be used/consumed lightly. I can't watch it with my family because if they grew bored or turned out to be un-enamored with it, I'd disown them. No, seriously. It would be a chasm in the house that would ruin us all. (I know, I'm exaggerating. But I'd be soooooo damned mad if they knocked Jimmy Stewart.)

We caugh the Boris Karloff verision of the Grinch last night, so we can check that off the list.

So that begs the question:

What are we missing? What are your favorite holiday movies?

Do tell, do tell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Library Lion (A very good book)

Call it neo-nostalgic: This book feels like a children's classic of the '40s or '50s. A lion wanders into a library and is chided for his noisy roaring. He finds he loves story time, so he quickly learns the "Be quiet" rule. Soon he is the library's favorite visitor. But when a librarian is hurt in a fall and the lion must roar for help, he—and readers—learn that rules sometimes need to be broken.

Written by Michelle Knudsen, it's a book I randomly grabbed at Boy Wonder's book fair at school. We've read it a bazillion times already and we love it. She's got a neat Web site. You should check it out. And read the book. Do it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When the World is Trying to Tell You Something

For the first time in years, Boy Wonder and I clashed tonight. Nothing major...just a version of grating each others nerves from the moment I got home from work all the way through dinner (he chose to eat his pizza in his room, thankee verra much) and into our "art" time. Getting said Boy Wonder to complete a bookmark for a library contest was a real treat, please believe.

Add to the bad vibes one baby who learned a new trick: jamming your fingers down your throat makes you gag. And gagging is a really neat noise. So you should do it a lot. Like, constantly. In your high chair, on the floor, in the bath, during your dinner. Gag, gag, gag. And scream bloody murder when your mother yanks your dirty little fingies from your maw. And slap at her face with your free hand. She loves that.

I digress. Two angry boys. One pissy mom. Betcha wish you were in town visiting us right now, eh?


I get all parties (minus me) into bed. Boy Wonder made up about eleventy-seven reasons to leave his bed, the last being he couldn't find "Marvin." (His stuffed dog.)

Exhausted, exasperated, tired, frustrated, hungry, stressed, pitiful wreck that I was, I stormed into his room and found the damn dog...under his pillow. Mad as all hell at his refusal to go to bed, I threatened to give all his toys to the neighbor's dog (hey, I was caught off guard) if he didn't stay in bed. He said I was mean. I said I'm allowed to be. He said I should be nice. I said I was going to tell his teacher what a naughty boy he's being. He caved.

Victorious, I stomped back to the kitchen where I found his "reading packet" for the night (which we forgot to do and will have to read at breakfast.). Do you know what book I found staring up at me from the backpack? A g-damned mirror, that's what I found. Here, judge for yourself:

Ok, ok, world. I get it. Grumpy elephant= me. Ha ha...very funny.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another big day on Wednesday

Tonight I will go home. I will do the normal "home" things with my family. I will kiss P hello, tell him that I missed him. I will read Boy Wonder's school folder, see what "color" day he had. (Blue is great. Yellow is not.) I will ask how Boo did. Did he sleep? Did he make "mad baby" noises all day? We'll figure out dinner. I'll watch 4 episodes of Spongebob while P teaches jiu-jitsu. Then we'll figure out dinner. (Thinking take out, if you really want to know...)

The boys will have baths. They'll eat dinner. They'll destroy the house with their toys and pull things out that they'll never even play with. I'll throw them in bed and pick up after them. I'll tell the dog to relax, that P will be home any minute. I'll look at myself in the mirror and say something to the effect of "What the hell???"

And then...

I'll freak out.

See, I have another chance to pitch a manuscript tommorow morning with a Harlequin editor in New York.

6 a.m. to be exact...

The manuscript in question is a little ditty I like to call "Shelter from the Storm." It was fun to write. Not much fun to revise, and absolutely NONE fun to try to compartmentalize into cutesy sound bites for tomorrow's pitch session. I have lots of work to do tonight, perfecting my "this is why you should request a partial from me" spiel.

And that's what I'll be doing into the wee small hours of the morning. I'll attempt to interview myself and write out all the answers to the questions Ms. Editor may, or may not, ask. I'll spend a few hours tonight hanging out with my characters...the strong, silent type hero. He's a small-town sheriff with a nasty ex wife who up and broke his heart. (Nasty ex wife!)

There's our scarred, traumatized heroine. She's got an angry red scar from her eyebrow down her cheek--a souvenier from an attack by a serial killer she survived. She bought a bakery from her great aunt and started over in her old hometown. She's quiet and can't sleep well, but she's doing alright. Until...

Dun Dun DUNNNNN...

And that, dear Reader, is what makes Romantic Suspense, well, romantic suspense. (Which Harlequin Intrigue is.)

This is the second romantic suspense I've worked on, and I find they are actually kind of fun and easier to write. It's much easier to fill up pages when people are hacking at your characters with kitchen knifes or shooting at them from speeding SUVs. It's much harder to fill 50k words of two characters just plain ol' falling in love and stuff. Way harder.

So that's it. Tomorrow. Another day. Another chance to pitch the ol' romance novel. Will post any good news...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

At last...

Picture it...Eagle River, Alaska. Winter 2009. A beautiful young peasant girl walks down the aisle....

Ok, ok, no more nods to Sophia Patrillo or the Golden girls.

I don't sing like Etta James (more like Bartles and James), but, if you could, please imagine that song playing in the background. It sets the mood of sorts for this post.

I know all brides think their wedding was amazing, and I'm no different.

It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Our church had dim lighting and candles. And fall decorations. And bridesmaids in beautiful black dresses. And groomsmen in dapper black suits. And guests in lots of pretty party clothes. And P. And me. P had hemmed up pants. We bought a new shirt/tie combo for Boy Wonder and subsequently lost the NEW TIE moments before the ceremony. (I'm awesome like that.) Boo had a nice new shirt and some brown pants. (He looked great!) And I had a fancy hairdo AND a bouquet. (That I made a few hours before the ceremony with some roses and some ribbon. Martha Stewart can kick rocks...I didn't even need You Tube.)

The day was a blur. I had to coach Boy Wonder's basketball game at noon. P had a huge math exam at 10...so we crammed a day's worth of errands and prep into a couple hours. (Yes, I panicked and went crazy a few hours before...but I was chained to a stylist chair for two hours while the girl curling ironed my hair into oblivion, so I couldn't really unleash the true Bridezilla, scales and all. The hair was a really pretty oblivion, btw.)

Anyhoo...I just remember 7 p.m. arrived and there Boy Wonder and I were. Standing at the door of the church. And all of our friends stood and looked straight at us and I stared at the floor the entire walk. :) Stage fright, anyone?

I'll admit it. I was incredibly nervous and overwhelmed, but despite risking sounding like an absolute cheeseball, I looked to P when I got really antsy and he calmed me down. Talk about a rock...I'd look at him and the world sort of just disappeared and narrowed in on the two of us and Fr. Greg. (He did an amazing job and delivered a beautiful sermon that I can't really remember all that well now. But I do remember him saying that this is one of those moments that defines your life as "before" and "after." So true, so true.) And when it was just the three of us, I could focus. And I could say my lines without sounding robotic or like Optimus Prime. ("Autobots...let's transform...and ROLLOUT!")

Before we knew it, the rings were blessed and we were married. Amazing how time crawls like molasses in the church library before the ceremony and how it absolutely FLEW to the "Hey, you're married now" part. We had a few desserts with everyone and went home to tuck our boys into bed, then we were off to the hotel and after party.

Our first dance (to the best of my recollection) was to Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning." Hey, don't judge. Our first date soundtrack will forever be Soldier Boy's "You" song. We're not big on sentimentality around the Applegate house.

So we made it to the fairytale beginning and now it's back to reality. Like the electricity disconnect notice I have staring at me on the counter. (Why you gotta bust balls, Matanuska Electric Association?)

Thanks to every single one of our friends and families for the well wishes and the support. Lots of love to everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Come And Play, Everything's A-OK...

If you've used google in the past 72 hours, it's likely you've seen cookie monster or big bird fitting their faces through the great big letter O in celebration of 40 years. 40 YEARS!

It's tough to believe they've been around that long, and that some of the original cast is STILL on. (I'm talking about you, Maria.) My first memories of television have Sesame Street in them, and it's amazing that despite the necessary re-vamps to keep time with SpongeBob and Dora, it's still got that same "feel" to it.

So, in honor of the big 4-0, here's my Sesame Street Top 5 of all time list. (Top 5 greatest memories, I suppose...)

5. Ernie and his Rubber Ducky Song.

I love Ernie and his little fella who is "cute, and yellow, and chuuuuuuubby."

4. Cookie Monster tells us what starts with C.

C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me....(me too, cookie monster!)

"OOH! Cookie, Cookie, Cookie starts with C..." Indeed.

3. Bert and the Pigeon Dance

Live from Peoria...I mean, what was better when we were 5?? (Full disclosure: I sort of look like that when I dance these days. I blame Bert.)

2. Grover the Waiter

It was a toss up between this big hamburger or the fly in the soup. I love, love, love GROVER. I really do. You'll see how much in a second... (P.S. Customer Man, you should have taken the LITTLE hamburger. Just sayin'.)

1. Super Grover

OH. MY. GOODNESS. I love super grover. Like, love him so much I want to bottle him up and carry him around in my purse LOVE him. Especially when he helps "Little Freddy Smith" escape the playground, so he won't be late for dinner and his mother won't be mad at him. Super grover to the rescue.

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!

The Happy Ending Countdown: 5 Days...

Holy shite, Batman. Five days to go...

I think I have officially driven my friends (the bridesmaids) crazy with my lack of planning. I've offered a spreadsheet and not delivered yet (working on it...), we have a groom with unhemmed pants, a bride with an unironed gown, I've got a "Not Sure" status on the wedding cake (Hooray, you lousy baker woman), I have no shoes, and the baby has no fancy duds to match his dad or his brother. Oh, and we lost Boy Wonder's clip-on tie. And we still don't know who is going to take photos for us on Saturday. Dammit.

But...honestly...I don't think that's too bad. I mean, in the end, a couple wrinkles and a baby wearing his footie pajamas to watch his folks get married isn't the END of the world, is it?

Truth be told, I'm not stressed...I'm nervous. In a butterflies sort of way. In a "oh my gosh, this is real" sort of way. From the "we're getting married in a couple months" to the "happily ever after happens at the end of the week" sort of nervous. Remember how nervous I'd get days before a fight (or if you're old school, how sick I'd get the day of a swim meet)? How I'd have that sour stomach for days and days...yeah...that's about right. It's an adrenaline rush, methinks, but it's still crazy.

P is cool as a cucumber, as usual. He looks at me like I'm a macadamia (nuts, hehe) when I tell him I'm worried all the details won't magically fall into place (and they won't...they need a spreadsheet to magically fall into place.)...to him, the stress robs the day of the fun and the magic and he's so right. The point of Saturday is not to make sure the candles match the napkins and the pumpkin pie coordinates with the autumn leaves decor...it's the fact that we're GETTING MARRIED and all of our friends and family that can make it want to be a part. Now that's just magical to me...

But he still needs to get the pants hemmed and we need to find Boo a monkey suit to match Boy Wonder's missing tie. Oh, and in case you were worried, I made a hair appointment to let someone else do it, realizing that a half-assed ponytail (like the one I rock to the office EVERY DAY) won't cut it. I nearly choked when she told me $50...there better be some gold or semi-precious gems tucked in there when she's done....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Note to self

I've been doing it again lately. Keeping myself up at night with a million thoughts a minute. Replays of failures and worries running over and over on a continous loop to the point where it's damn near impossible to feel like things are actually doing just fine. I had an intense internal dialogue going for a while this morning on the way to work, and it got to be pretty funny. I was pretty hard on myself, truth be told. It went something like this:

Dear Self,

Grow up. No, seriously. Get over it already. We all have bills that are a month behind. We all hate our jobs on the ride in to work each morning. We all wish we had more money for more cappucinos or the Coach purse in the window. But move on. The constant whine in this head of yours is like a nagging buzz that never, ever ends.

Here's a hint: let go of the maniacal need to "organize" every other minute. In 10 years, your boys will remember the times you plunked down on the carpet and chewed on their legs or taught them checkers. They won't remember how awesomely organized the DVD cabinet was or how there was never any clutter on the kitchen counters. Seriously. Let it go now and then.

You should buck up. When did you get so wimpy and insecure? If someone is rude or makes you feel small, tell them to kick rocks. To their face, even. Don't carry the insult around for days, stewing on it. It's annoying. This hesitance and fear habit you've picked up the past few years is really depressing and it makes it hard to like you sometimes.

Quit worrying about how others see you. Nine times out of ten, the things they're thinking of have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with you. And when it is about you, it's their problem, not yours. Let them be insecure and petty.

Would it kill you to pluck an eyebrow or put on clothes that have been ironed once in a while? Since when does having two kids make it OK to look like a cave dweller?

Remember how all the hair on one side of your head fell out after brain surgery? Remember the crying and the fits you threw because you had giant bald spots that you couldn't hide? I do. You didn't shut up about how you couldn't wait to feel normal again and like yourself in the mirror. And now what?

Buy a scarf or something, woman. You're starting to scare the children. What's next? Sweat pants and rollers at the store? Take a little pride in yourself now and then, and you'll go far.

Call your mother. Call your dad. Call your grandmother. Call P's family. Just call. Send them Boy Wonder's kindergarten art. Send them cheesy Alaskan postcards with computer-drawn igloos and whale tales superimposed on water scenes. Time is precious and it's rushing by like water in a stream. You should know this by now. Feel blessed that there are people out there who want to hear from you and who miss you.

If you want to write, write. If you want to hang upside down off a building, hang upside down off a building. It gets old listening to the "I wish I could..." and "Wouldn't it be fun..." repeatedly. Do it. Or don't. Just shut up about it already.

And turn the TV off a little more. Boy Wonder has seen every single SpongeBob and Phineas and Ferb twice over. Enough already. Make him use the ol' imagination a little more, and before long, he won't notice the big annoying electronic box isn't spewing a million commercials an hour at him. He might sleep better, too.

Make it happen. Anything happen, it doesn't matter--you used to be really good at that. Now you hem and haw and think about possible consequences and whether it'd be too inconvenient or time consuming. You're driving me crazy. Just make it happen.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crowded Kitchen: Gingerbread Pancakes from Omlettery West

I was thinking a lot about my mom today. Partly because of wedding stuff she's totally being awesome about...but mostly because I was being a chicken about calling in on the status of my manuscript and TOTALLY asked her to pretend to be me and bug the editorial assistant for me. She was so game for it, too...

My mom was in the food section of the newspaper once. It was the Austin American Statesman (God Bless America, that is a GREAT newspaper), and she wrote in to the food writer requesting a top secret recipe from our favorite breakfast joint.

If there was ever a poll on which city has the best food, Austin would win my vote hands down, and I didn't even live in that city very long. I actually get homesick for Texas when I think of Austin food, and I grew up (for the most part) in El Paso.


The woman responded to my mother in the Sunday edition (it was sometime in the 80s...back when newsrooms were staffed with real people who wrote real columns and loved their jobs) and gave her the coveted Gingerbread Pancake recipe. As recent as a few years back, I remember seeing that yellowed old clipping in the midst of my mom's recipe collection (no, she's not the most organized about that stuff...ahem...Mom...)

(That photo to the left is said Burnett Road Omlettery.)
In my pumpkin pancake post a couple weeks ago, she chimed in about those gingerbread pancakes and how she missed that recipe. But you know what? Google is rad. Way rad. And I found the version of the recipe from Omlettery West (which claims to be different from the one on Burnett Road, where we ate, but big deal. Someday we'll know the difference and we probably won't even care!)

So in honor of her, here is:

Debra's Gingerbread Pancakes (Totally from the Omlettery, though, ok?)

Gingerbread Pancakes
3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brewed coffee
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Cream eggs and sugar together. Stir in buttermilk, water, and coffee and set aside. In a separate bowl sift together remaining dry ingredients.
Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, then mix in melted butter.
Add more water or buttermilk if necessary, but batter should be thick.
Cook until done on a lightly greased hot griddle or in a heavy skillet (turn once when bubbles appear on upper side and start to break).
Pancakes will be thick and cake-like in texture.

Makes 8 to 10 five-inch pancakes.

Oh, and here's a picture of my mom. She's cute. The handsome chap with her is Boy Wonder. He's rad, too. They're a lot alike.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A story in itself...

We had to go to the Muni cemetery yesterday to help P out with an anthropology project. It was a bright, sunny day and it was warm and not too gruesome...so I didn't see the harm in taking the boys. Boo is too young anyway, and with the stuff his dad tells him about wars and death, I figured the cemetery wouldn't be too bad for Boy Wonder. And if it was, we could go shopping to kill time while P finished.

It wasn't a big deal to Boy Wonder, and he was interested especially in the military graves. He wanted to know which service each person buried in the VFW plot had been in...and what war he might have served in.

When we got to the public section, we saw a headstone with a picture of Jesus on it. He thought Jesus was buried there, and I had to explain that it was a picture somebody put on their grave. That Jesus "watched" over the grave. I turned back around and started walking a few steps, not knowing Boy Wonder wasn't behind. When I turned back, this is what I saw...him praying for whoever's gravestone that was. He told me he asked Jesus to keep watching over the lady and to not forget her.

It struck me because we hadn't talked about praying or anything like that, and he didn't know I had a camera with me (to take picture of cultural differences, etc.). P and I always joke that Boy Wonder is going to be in the clergy somehow. He says grace each night without fail, he has to be at church every Sunday...we even call him "The Rev" sometimes.

Can't explain what it feels like when you realize your child is capable of incredible empathy, all on their own and without prompting from you.

Love that kid...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sundays are Fundays with Pumpkins

In our house, we only have one morning each week where we all can wake up at the same time and have nowhere to be. I know that doesn't sound bad, but in reality, it stinks. Saturdays are a blur between P getting to school and me getting the babysitter and Boy Wonder and I hustling off to basketball. It's a blur.

Most Sunday mornings I'm a grumpy mess because for some reason, Boo parties like a rockstar on Saturday nights and thinks 3 a.m. is dandy waking hour. He's standing now and will pull/pinch/punch whoever is sleeping nearest his crib to have a playmate. (An unhappy one.)

Anyway, we made the decision to make Sunday breakfasts special and more than the usual fill a bowl of cereal, pour some juice and Bob's-your-uncle. (In my case, Bob really is my uncle, but you get what I'm saying.)

I breezed through a recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes a couple weeks about but didn't write it down. That's ok, because it was from scratch and complicated and messy. I tinkered around in the kitch this morning and came up with these fine flapjacks instead. And they were a hit. Even though it took four hours, Boy Wonder ate all of his and even complimented me. Hooray!

Pumpkin Pancakes (Megan's cheating version)
1 and 1/4 cup pancake mix (I used Krusteaz)
1 cup water (more or less depending on consistency of batter)
(Mix together)
1/2 cup Pureed Pumpkin
1/4 water (or more, depending on consistency of batter)
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon sugar

Voila. These took a little longer to cook through, I learned. But they were delicious and i think they'd be FANTASTIC with real maple syrup, some chopped bananas, and some walnuts. Just sayin'. (We had syrup and powdered sugar and it was equally blissful.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The great pumpkin, some hocus, some pocus, and Little Jack Jenkins...

Part I
(In which the author updates her friends on Week 2 and 3 of the new Halloween/October movie tradition).

So week 2 of our Friday night Halloween Movie gig went smoothly...mostly because I SNAFUed Netflix and didn't get a scary movie delivered for P and I. I accidentally had "Sex and the City The Movie" delivered, and well, other than the premise of basing your whole existence on whether or not you marry Mr. Big (I'm still 100% Team Aiden), it's not very scary.

Boy Wonder, on the other hand, got a copy of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" We watched it while P cooked Dinner last week and the kid loved it. Loved loved loved it! Thank you Charles Schulze, you saved my fledgling tradition.

This week (the movies are already waiting for tomorrow night!) we have "Hocus Pocus" for Boy Wonder. Probably my favorite Halloween Movie ever, mostly because I have a lifelong fascination/strange love of all things Bette Midler (especially when she had buck teeth!). Even though it's not animated, I think he'll love it.

For us, I remembered seeing the 70s version of "The Omen" and it scaring the wee out of me. Since P likes the religion good v. evil stuff a lot more than some random schiz hacking his family apart...I'm hoping for a mark in the W category. Wish me luck...

Part II
(In which the author talks about the new thingy she's doing with Boy Wonder)

We've signed three reading contracts with Boy Wonder's kindergarten teacher so far this year. I'm not sure if she's losing them or if I'm just signing on the wrong line or in the wrong color pen...but they keep coming home and I keep signing them and sending them back.

The gist is that we're supposed to read to Boy Wonder every single day. Every single day. It sounds so great in theory, doesn't it? But in practice, it's pretty hard. And the books he brings home are those really short, few words a page alliteration books that are supposed to help kids memorize the words so they can start recognizing them by sight...

Anyway, after the third night of the dish, the chair and the spoon running away to New York only to have the fork, the knife, and the dog meet them there (seriously...that's the story in four pages), Boy Wonder and I needed something more.

And there was born "Little Jack Jenkins."

I spend countless hours each week typing away at whatever work in progress I've convinced myself will lift me out of the M-F work week mundane life I lead, and I never really thought of writing for my son. Until he asked me to.

So when I have time, I take a couple sheets of notebook paper, and I write about Little Jack Jenkins, a flashlight named "Blaze," and a stuffed dog named "Marvelous Marvin." And I read them to Boy Wonder at night. And he recognizes himself in these stories. And his stuffed dog. And hopefully, if it all goes well, he'll learn (like Little Jack Jenkins does) that anything can be an adventure in life.

So far, Little Jack Jenkins has met the hobbity gobbity when he wouldn't go to sleep like his mother told him ("Little Jack Jenkins Meets the Hobbity Gobbity"), he's flown to outer space to return an alien boy's toy ("Little Jack Jenkins Plays Outerspace Baseball") and he's even crossed swords with his own dinner ("Little Jack Jenkins and the Spaghetti and Meatball Monster").

When I have time, I've been hand copying the stories in to an extra journal I had lying around.
I know in a few years, Little Jack Jenkins will be lame and embarrassing, but my hope is that when it comes time for Boy Wonder to have his own baby wonder, maybe "Little Jack Jenkins" will help him out and he'll have something to remember our times together.

That's the hope anyway. That, and it's way more fun making up your own bedtime stories once in a while. True story.

I'm currently working on Little Jack Jenkins and the Sleep Pirates... What are sleep pirates, anyway?? Yaaar!

Life is good, life is good...