Wednesday, May 28, 2014

All About Gender-Reveal Cupcakes

A couple people have asked me about gender-reveal cupcakes. Particularly, "how do they work?" So, I decided the topic was worth a post.

How Do Cupcakes Determine A Baby's Gender?

Step One: Cupcake Selection

Make sure you choose your cupcake carefully. It can be fresh baked or from a box. It doesn't matter. Just select your flavor of choice. But make sure you check the ingredients label. This is critical. You must select a cupcake with an IQ greater than 90. Bonus if your cupcake has graduated from the second grade. Because the FDA has recently adopted strict labelling regulations regarding the IQ of food items, you can be sure that you are getting a cupcake as smart as advertised on its packaging.

Step Two: Contract Negotiation

It's important to have a written agreement in place with your cupcake. You don't want your cupcake going around telling the entire neighborhood about your baby's gender before you even know! Make sure you have a confidentiality clause. Also sort out things like: liability insurance for dropping the cupcake on the floor, damages for premature cupcake eating, what happens if your cupcake is wrong, and unwanted weight gain from eating the cupcake. These are pretty standard provisions in a Gender Reveal Cupcake Agreement.

Step Three: Ultrasound

Next, schedule your ultrasound. You can do this one of two ways. You can ask the ultrasound technician to write down the gender of your baby and put it in a sealed envelope. NO PEEKING! If your cupcake has not passed the second grade and cannot read, you might want to ask the technician to do some color coding. Blue for boy. Pink for Girl. Obvi. Unless you and your cupcake agree to different terms.

OR, if your cupcake is available, invite it to come along to your ultrasound. Then, you can glance away from the ultrasound screen while your cupcake takes a peek at the gender.

Step Four: Plan A Party

Invite people to your gender reveal party. Your party can be as large or as intimate as you wish. If you DO invite a large group, make sure your cupcake is comfortable removing its lining in front of other people. The last thing you want is a cupcake going all stage-shy on you right in the middle of the action.

Step Five: Cupcake Transformation

Now that your cupcake knows your baby's gender, it's time for it to do its thing! Your cupcake will fill with pink frosting if you are having a girl or blue frosting if you are having a boy (unless otherwise agreed). Your cupcake should take care not to let any filling visibly show from the outside. It's supposed to be a surprise!

Step Six: The Reveal

Finally, the moment you have been waiting for! In front of your guests, pick up the cupcake, remove the lining, and take a large bite. Then revel in the surprise of your new baby's gender! Guests should "oooh" and "ahhhh" appropriately. Note: it is not acceptable to cry in disgust if your baby is not the gender you had hoped. You must remain composed and fake that you are thrilled until all guests have left.

That pretty much sums it up. Feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section below. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's A....

I'm not big on gender reveal parties. Personally, I'm all for finding out at the ultrasound and then calling people to let them know. You know, the old school way. But my sister-in-law wanted to make cupcakes for a gender reveal get-together. And since this may be our last baby, I decided, "what the heck!"

I was amazed at the self restraint I showed today. My ultrasound was first thing in the morning. At first baby did not cooperate. I had the strength to look away from the ultrasound screen during all five of the technician's attempts to determine the baby's sex. Then I had the willpower not to rip open the sealed envelope (and replace it with a new envelope). I did hold it up to the light but the technician had cleverly covered the photo with multiple post-it notes (urrg!).

Then I waited ALL DAY LONG as each hour cruelly ticked by ever so slowly. The clock eventually struck five and I zoomed out the door for dinner at my sister-in-law's place where I sat patiently through dinner and held back the urge to rummage through her trash (hunting for frosting colors) or secretly dissect a cupcake when no one was looking.

Finally dinner was done and it was time. I was handed a carefully frosted cupcake. I had no idea what to expect or what the future held for our family. After all the build up, I almost didn't want to know. I didn't want to break the spell. I liked the idea of open possibilities.

When I took a bite and saw the color of the cupcake filling, I smiled a knowing smile. My heart was beaming. I had been open to the idea of either sex and was so in love with whoever this baby happened to be. But as soon as I saw the color of that filling, I was overcome with happiness and oddly, a little relieved. That's when I knew it's what my heart had secretly been hoping for all along. And I couldn't imagine my family any other way.

Boy or Girl?

I am so incredibly happy to be the mother of three BOYS!
But I guess Jacob wanted a girl. Ha ha.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Ocean Shores: High Tides And Low Tides

At the last minute last week, I booked us a hotel in my favorite place on earth, Ocean Shores, Washington. I actually had already booked the hotel right before I asked my husband, with all my fingers crossed, if we could go. Luckily, he said yes! Sometimes, you just have to take the initiative and have a little faith.

Washington's coast is one of my favorite places on earth. I love it when it's grey and drizzly and the sky and the water are the exact same color. On those days, I bundle up and beach comb, letting the cold, wet sand press between my barefeet. I watch the seagulls dive and soar, their usually ugly coats a brilliant dazzling white when set before the grey backdrop. I love to stare off into the expansive, never ending ocean and watch the horizon disappear. All my problems suddenly seems so small. Then, I'll come inside, enjoy a hot drink and cozy room, and just listen to the waves massage the shore.

My idea of heaven:

On sunny days, it's an entirely different place. The beach is imbibed with energy and life. I'll follow the receding waves and then let them chase me back to the dry shore as they crash playfully on the beach. There is kite flying, sand castle building, children laughing. I let the water lap my ankles and enjoy its refreshing, salty touch. I'll write names and messages in the beach, watching the damp sand crunch in the wake of my driftwood's pointy edge. And when I've given my energy for the day, I'll find a perfect sandy spot and let the heat radiate beneath me and as doze under the bulb of the sun.

The beach community is laid back and casual. There are little souvenir shops on every corner selling trinkets, kites, and saltwater taffy. You can go absolutely ANYWHERE in yoga pants and a hoody and fit right in. The locals are mostly retired, loaded with stories of their own grandchildren, and completely down to earth. The two main streets in town will take you anywhere you need to go. The side streets off these two main drags are named for the local shipwrecks dating back to the 1700's. The biggest news of the town is the latest stuff to wash up on the shore from the tsunami that hit Japan a couple years back.

I have so many memories of enjoying this place as a child. But the beach is even better when you're a parent. You get to watch your children discover all these wonders for themselves.

Jacob turned out to be my beachcomber and went swimming on the day of our arrival despite 45 degree water and 65 degree air. By the time we left the beach, he was wet head to toe!

Ryan, was NOT so fond of the ocean and it's rugged waves. When a wave ran up to him and soaked his beach shoes, he cried hysterically. After that, he was careful to hide behind his dad when the waves got too close.

Ryan screamed traumatically, "the water gonna get me!"

But once I pulled out his shovel and bucket, he was happy to dig away and spent an entire hour flinging dirt into the air.

Luckily we enjoyed the beach on our first day because it pretty much rained non-stop after that (as a true Washingtonian, I didn't mind one bit).

18 weeks pregnant at the ocean and feeling lots of jabs. Apparently, baby likes Ocean Shores as much as I do!

On day two, we were sure to see all the popular attractions. Like Sharky's souvenir ship.

Jacob had found $5 on the ground earlier in the day (lucky dog!) and we let him buy these shark grabbers. I loved these as a kid!

Ryan stuck his hand in his shark's mouth and said, "Sharky bite me!" I think it's time he saw Jaws.

As idyllic and wonderful as this place is, it unfortunately did not bring quite the vacation I had planned. That's the frustrating thing about vacationing with children. You have all the ingredients for a perfect time and yet,  you cannot escape the everyday drama and trauma that comes with having children. Against a backdrop of bliss, you still get stuck in tufts and tussles and arguments and you still find yourself relying heavily on bribery. It's emotionally exhausting to try to have so much fun amidst all the turmoil! After this vacation, I have decided that unless you are vacationing in a place with tropical weather or are traveling without children, you are simply not on vacation at all. You are on a trip. Same stuff. Different place. That is all.

Although our hotel was ideally located but the room was tiny and cramped, allowing us plenty of opportunities to get on each other's nerves. We had to tell Jacob everything five times before he will listen. Oh and Ryan is two. So that explains THAT. My husband and I took turns having short fuses. And while our pictures tell a different story (a mostly happy story), there were times when it was not pretty.

Like when we went out for pizza and our food took an hour. The kids were unusually pleasant for the first 20 minutes but after that it was like they had eaten a million rubber balls and bounced off at the slightest provocation (or no provocation). We spent forty minutes giving out the following commands, "don't run," "don't lick your chair," "don't poke strangers," "come sit down," "here have some gum," "did you eat the gum?" "no, no more gum," "I said NO MORE GUM," "stop yelling." It was pretty exhausting.

These commands were not limited to the restaurant. I feel like we were yelling, and scolding, and pleading, and begging with them ALL WEEKEND. There were times I wanted to lock them in the bathroom and let them sort out their own disagreements. Whoever emerged would be the victor.

Sunday, Ryan had been begging all morning to wear his swim trunks. He had a fit when we made him wear shorts (I wanted the swimsuit to be dry for when we went to the pool later). Then when we actually went to the pool, he threw a fit and refused to wear his swimsuit. I totally lost it and smacked him in the stomach with the swimsuit. Then he cried louder and I felt like a complete jerk. Definitely a low moment that I won't easily forget.

There was also the time Jacob insisted on staying in the car as we stepped out for a moment to take pictures off a scenic trail. The car never left our sight but when we returned to it, Jacob was gone! We found him a couple moments later much anger!

By far the lowest part of the trip was this morning when, after breakfast, Ryan began crying that his butt hurt. I figured he pooped his diaper and had a diaper rash. I set him down, fully prepared to deal with a rash. I was so not ready for what was about to happen. I pulled off his diaper and there was a hard, round poop stuck in his butt. Forgive the TMI. This is a necessary part of this story. Let's just say that I used my bare hands to "birth" that poop. And it did not come easily. Ryan was screaming in pain and we both walked away from that totally traumatized. Ugh. The image is forever burned into my memory.

Before we headed home, we stopped by Ocean Shores Interpretive Center where the kids got to feel and hold and touch all kinds of animal pelts and bones and pose behind a captain's wheel.

There were also moldings of Sasquatch's footprints. Jacob had asked me a week ago if Big Foot was real and I insisted he was not. Now, I'M the fool!

Mom, you promised me a hamger ("hamburger")!
The were gifted with seashells and shipwreck maps on our way out the door. Then we said goodbye to the beach (I wanted to stay and play but was out voted by Grouchy the Dad). Right before we left, I completed my mission of finding an unbroken sand dollar on the beach. We used to treasure those as kids and Jacob was as excited as I was. I explained to him that if you break them open you will find little shell pieces shaped like doves, but neither of us had the heat to break our treasure. I think we are satisfied just knowing our shell doves are locked safely inside.

 Found a shell shaped like a "J"

My sand dollar has a heart in the middle!

Goodbye ocean! Next time I'll come back by myself!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Letter To Maternity Stores

Dear Maternity Clothing Store,

You have one job in life. ONE JOB. That is to provide maternity clothes. That's ALL you have to do. So why do you fail so miserably?

It's totally unacceptable for a clothing store, which caters to only one type of women (pregnant!) to only offer sizes in S, M, L, and XL. What the hell. That's FOUR sizes. I'm sorry but have you seen women lately? They come in more than four sizes. Especially pregnant ones!

And just because you sell pants with a stretchy waist band, doesn't mean you are relieved of the duty to provide variable sizes. Waists aren't the only thing we need to clothe. Obviously waists seem to get the center stage in pregnancy. But a woman who is growing a baby in her belly doesn't all of a sudden lose the rest of her body parts.

You see, there are these things called LEGS. And THIGHS. And ASSES. These things come in all different sizes and a stretchy waistband will not make up for your complete failure to cater to these parts of a woman's body.

Also. What is up with horizontal stripes? Haven't you heard of the ONE and ONLY rule about stripes. Vertical = lean. Horizontal = tug boat. When we are carrying 40 extra pounds of baby weight in our middle, the last thing we want to do is accentuate all of our new fat! I mean, do you even KNOW any women? What planet do you live on?

Then there's style. Seriously, it's pretty much a hopeless cause with you. I assume from the assortment of really strange garments hanging on your racks that you are under the impression that as soon as a woman gets pregnant, she wants to dress like a circus clown. We may waddle. We may become spectacles. We may juggle a million tiny balls in the air. But we do NOT want to dress like clowns. It's only been about four months since I was not pregnant. My taste in clothes has not changed as dramatically as my cup size.

Pencil skirts. Appropriate length shift dresses. And, just to clarify, "appropriate length" is not the same as "see the color of my panties whenever I bend over"  nor does it mean "half way down my calves like a scandalous Amish woman." Shirts that do not have a million bow ties, strange prints, or embellishments. Is it so much to ask?!

Like I said. You have ONE JOB. You sell maternity clothes. So just do it right, ok?

Now, excuse me while I find a bed sheet that I can wear to work tomorrow.



When Good Things Turn You Into A Monster

I'm lying here on the couch, with an ice pad placed precariously over the curvature of my knee and another ice pad resting on my hip socket. Every step procures a grimace as pain shoots from my inflamed left hip flexor to my inflamed left knee to the week-old knot rooted firmly in my left calf. And this doesn't even cover the sharp stinging of my right knee cap where last week's injury has scabbed over.

I'm a total wreck. And yet, I'm happy about it. I needed this. I went too far. This is more than a reminder, it's a lesson I needed to relearn.

Two weeks ago I was running about five miles a day, five days a week. I had slowly worked my way up to five miles from zero miles. At first, three miles was hard. But after I conquered that number, I added one more mile, then another. I had no intention of going anywhere from there. My goal was just to stay active during pregnancy. And five consecutive miles was really challenging!

Then one day two weeks ago, just for the heck of it, I added a sixth mile to my work out. That was it. I was caught. Suddenly, my workouts didn't feel complete at five miles. I started to run six miles a day. Last week, that number crept to seven and then to eight. I felt good. Great actually. I was addicted.

My first seven mile run, I tripped and fell and scraped up my knee pretty badly. But that wasn't enough to stop me. My addiction was in full force. The next day, I ran EIGHT miles. With a freshly skinned knee (which hurt like hell every step for the first two miles). That's when I decided that five mile runs would no longer cut it. I started to toy with the idea of ten mile runs. "And then," I thought, "who knows where I will go from there?!"

Running is a wonderful thing. Exercise is a great habit. But like ANYTHING, it can be abused. I went way too far. And the worst part, I couldn't even see that past my runner's high. My six and seven and eight mile runs often got me home right before bed time. I missed outings to the park. I missed dinners. I missed bath times (not my own thankfully!). I would drag my kids to the park and let Jacob ride around while I pushed Ryan in the stroller. My kids were happy to be at the park. But I wasn't playing WITH them. Sure, I felt guilty. But I pushed my conscious under a mental rug and conveniently tunneled my vision.

I had become a running monster and I was totally blind to it. I was so amazed that my pregnant body could be pushed this far. I was so proud of my mileage. I was so proud that I had chipped my 10:00 minute mile pace down to 8:00 minute pace (yes, for EIGHT miles). I hadn't run like that since law school, pre-babies.

I wasn't just addicted to running. I was addicted to "success." Running offered me a measurable form of improvement. And when you are a working mom, spread so thin that it is rare to even accomplish mediocrity in any aspect of your life, measurable improvement of any kind fills the hole that is left by self-doubt and insecurity.

I let it get way out of control. It became my drug. I became so obsessed with running that it was literally just like I was an alcoholic. Spending all my free time running or thinking of running that there was no room in my life for anything else. I came home exhausted and starving with barely anything left to give my kids.

This weekend, I spent the day with my own mom. I complained to her that I felt guilty for not spending more time with my kids and told her I wish I could give them more attention. What did I do the very next day? I got off work and spent my first free hour running eight miles. What the heck?!

Somewhere around mile four, my left knee started to hurt. I pushed through. By mile five, my left hip socket was bothering me. I pushed through. When I finished my eight mile, I could barely walk. I had ignored all the signs of my obsessiveness all week long. I didn't want to see it. I wanted to do what I WANTED to do. And now I was paying.

I walked to the car limping. Jacob ran up to me and excitedly showed me a cup full of caterpillars and cocoons. I nodded dismissively, too tired to feign much enthusiasm. Ryan showed me his Frisbee. I eked out a smile before I rushed the kids into the car so that we could all get home before I collapsed. The full force of my shortcomings hit me. I sat there and soaked up the lesson.

I strongly believe that all working moms (heck, any kind of mom)  deserve to indulge in something just for them. No guilt allowed. We are one part of a duo that holds the entire fabric of the family together. It is important we have something of our own and time to ourselves. It's healthy for us and it's healthy for our families. Whether that be 30 minutes day to read a book. Or indulging in a weekly television show. Or hiding in the closet so you don't have to share your candy bar. Nonetheless, we all that have that ONE thing. That one thing that has the power, if unharness, to take control of us. That' exactly what happened to me. I let my "thing" consume me and I'm heartbroken that I didn't have the discipline to see it for myself. It took a pretty painful injury (ok, TWO painful injuries) for things to register.

This week, I'm hanging up my running shoes. I will spend the evenings after work playing with my kids at the park, blowing bubbles in the backyard, letting Jacob beat me at board games, and eating popsicles on the front steps. It won't be easy, but I know it's right. And I know I will not regret the time with my children.

Being a grown up is hard (and painful) sometimes.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Galleria Of Scribbles

Wanna make a bet? I bet my kitchen is more hideous than your kitchen! To prove it to you, I present Exhibit A:

Lime green cabinets. Dirty old brick counters. Non-matching tile backsplash. But wait people, the walls used to be ORANGE. Yep. The second we moved in, I eradicated that Cheeto-vomit color. And trust me, I know what Cheeto-vomit looks like. It looked like the sixties came to visit and had explosive diarrhea all over my kitchen.

The cabinets in the picture are the only cabinets in my entire kitchen. The ONLY cabinets. This makes life...interesting. Like when the canned goods starts to invade the pots and pans. Or when the cups spill out onto the plates. What's behind the Cream of Wheat? That's always a fun game. And where did I put my spatula? It's a total mystery!

Also: that's the only window in my entire kitchen. Such a sad, sad little thing. My husband and I are finally going to pull the trigger and get a long overdue, mini kitchen make-over. The impending remodel is probably the most exciting thing in our lives right now. And the fact that I have an entire box of oreo cookies. Oh yeah,  I guess the baby should be added to that list too.

The wall to the right of what you see in the above picture used to be home to a really large and ugly piece of hotel art. No, literally, I bought it from a hotel. It was a painstaking task to find a piece of art as ugly as my kitchen. But I did it, finally. And then after seven years of staring at the ugly abstract bowl of fruit that was trying just a little too hard to be a Picasso, I snapped and had an all-out verbal altercation with that hideous painting.

To try to salvage my sanity and restore order in our home, my husband installed two long wires from IKEA that we decided to use to hand the kids' art. It was the perfect solution: piles and piles of kid art were beginning to form all over the house in violation of multiple sections of the local fire code AND we just happened to have a nasty bowl of abstract fruit art that needed to be eliminated.

The result, voila:

So much better. And every piece of art tells a story. Every piece is an original. Hey, if I'm going to hang ugly scribbles on a wall, they might as well be from my own kids right?

I'm a baby person. I always have been. I LOVE babies. But having bigger kids, I'm learning, is pretty cool too. Hands down my favorite thing about older kids is the art that they produce from the depths of their larger-than-life imaginations.

This little masterpiece is my current favorite. Jacob sat down this morning and drew him. I think he is supposed to be a character from a tv show. But I'm not familiar with any tv shows starring walking hairy pickles that look like they want to eat you alive. But it's cute, right? In a creepy, millipede kind of way.

Jacob made me this for Mother's Day. In case you didn't know, colorful hand turkeys are the new symbol of motherly love. Also note: the strange pop-up face floating above the turkey.

This was also a Mother's Day gift. Jacob made this at his babysitter's house. I pretty much love it. I love that Jacob can't draw hearts so it is pretty obvious the babysitter drew the heart and Jacob colored it in. I can imagine the babysitter trying to coax Jacob into drawing a heart and him refusing, stubbornly.

This is the best part. Clearly, I'm Mother of the Year.

This is Ryan's contribution. He actually colors all the time but somehow, his art seems to disappear. Like into the trash can. Oops.

Jacob told me this is a kite. He cut a whole in it. Clearly he needs to learn a little bit more about wind, aerodynamics, and lift. But it's cute.

Airplanes. So, so cute.
But most of all, I love Jacob's people. They are so happy and have such wide stances. But when your legs jut straight out of your large circular belly, I guess you need to have a low center of gravity.
I love when they have fingers but no feet.

This is our family. We are all holding hands. I look like I'm performing in an amateur version of the Nutcracker, except my unruly hair would never get me onto a real ballet stage. My husband has a his belly.  None of us have pupils. But we still manage to look blissfully happy. Clearly we are all on drugs. I mean, why else would a group of four hold hands and synchronize-prance under the sun?

Sigh, kid art is the best :)