Tag Archives: photos

O Pantsless Christmas Tree

All my glass ornaments are in a bowl on the dining table. The tree is naked from the waist down, all the tinsel and soft (read: safely chewable) ornaments up high just out of curious grasps. It’s crooked and has a mitten tree-topper. It’s so very Charlie Brown. But at least it’s making me feel like Christmas.

This season has been so hard to enjoy. We’ve been crazy-busy, crazy-tired, at times just crazy, and now, crazy-sick. I slogged through yesterday, finishing wrapping and grocery shopping and tidying for today’s onslaught of houseguests, feeling like I’d been run over by a bus. The past two nights I haven’t slept more than an hour at a time. My throat feels like I ate glass and my nose is as red as Santa’s hat.

But the tree, which we only just put up, helps a lot. The dudes are so excited every time they see it on — which is not often, because if it’s on, they run to it and try to pull off all the lights and/or put them in their mouths. And we took them to Knott’s Berry Farm for some holiday fun, which resulted in two deeply hilarious moments that I’m sure I can’t aptly describe:

1) During the Snoopy characters’ tree-lighting skit, there is a part where Snoopy is supposed to light the tree, and of course everything short-circuits and there’s smoke and all the lights go out completely (only to go on later once we’ve all realized the True Spirit of Christmas). At this moment, both Liam and Dylan went, “UH-OHHHHH.” Dylan in fact repeated it for about two minutes. He was really agitated about it.

2) We took the dudes on the train ride — there’s an old locomotive they repurposed to go around the park — and midway through, train robbers burst through the back with fake pistols and do a “comedy” shtick where they threaten to steal all our belongings and money and/or shoot off somebody’s pony tail. As soon as they burst through, four women sitting next to the door shrieked. Liam took one look at the scene and then threw up his hands and gave them a round of applause. But not even hearty applause; it was a total golf clap, where one hand is still and the other taps it lightly. It was the kind of applause that said, “Oh, GOOD SHOW, old man!” So now we know that Liam’s reaction to pistols is to cheer. (Dylan’s reaction was to turn and look at the marauders, shrug, and turn back to the window, where OMG THERE IS A METAL BAR I CAN TRY TO EAT.)

Also, I just thought of a third: Dylan completely lost his shit on Santa’s lap.

Like, COMPLETELY.

I’m sure he was thinking, “YOU ARE TAKING MY PHOTO INSTEAD OF RESCUING ME. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY I DON’T LIKE YOU.”

This left Liam with some quality time with Santa, which he used to scrutinize him intensely. He just sat and stared, and stared. Maybe we should keep fake beards around the house to entertain them when they get bored. That thing is almost as hypnotic as the Yo Gabba Gabba opening credits.

Happy holidays to all of you — may it be full of the kind of fun chaos we’re experiencing every day.

Man Cave Progress

The last time we spoke of the Man Cave, it looked like this on Day Two:

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Now, at the end of Week Three (not three consistent weeks of work, though — probably about 14 days total), it looks like this:

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And it has lights, each row of which turns on via a separate switch:

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And outlets:

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The color of the walls is probably somewhere in between the brightness of the first photo and the grey-blue of the next two. It looks really nice, which is amusing because we chose it in the span of about 30 seconds, knowing we wanted something in this family but taken by surprise at how soon they wanted to do the walls. We chose this, and not the one a modicum different, because the color name is Falling Tears and Kevin really thought the inherent melodrama in that was an essential ingredient to his man cave. 

Next up: gray epoxy floors and a garage door, and a new ceiling fan. Kevin would be beside himself with excitement, were he not totally swamped with work and not even getting home until after midnight. I suppose it's for the best that it's not sitting there ready to be restuffed and furnished, since he doesn't have time to do anything but work and snore. Falling Tears, indeed.

  

Garage, Two Days Later

I wish I'd photographed the contractors punching a hole through the existing garage door, but alas, I didn't have the camera handy. You'd think that's a lesson from being a parent — always have a camera handy, because otherwise, you'll miss the time your kid climbs into the bookshelf — but I guess it hasn't quite taken yet.

Things are progressing pretty nicely here. Now, instead of looking like a very cheap mausoleum built for a person that nobody actually liked, we're getting into it looking like a space somebody might want to use someday for something other than the disposal of a body. 

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On the first day, the workers scraped out the inside of this thing like it was a pumpkin being gutted for decoration. They demolished that garage door, and they framed and cut the door and window openings, and finally put in all the beams for the ceiling. The second day, one guy spent his entire time essentially putting the attic "floor" over those beams, working on wiring and the placement of the recessed lights, and installing the hideaway ladder.

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See it up there? Hello, friend. I will never use you.

They also bought the door and window:

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This is what it looks like on the hot-tub side:

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When we repaint the garage, sadly we're going to pull down all the ivy. The report when we bought the house said it wasn't good for the wall and recommended that we eventually get rid of it, but I just like it so much, especially how secluded and wooded it makes the jacuzzi feel. I suppose we could leave it for a future owner to do, but I'm Suzy Rulefollower, so when somebody tells me I really ought to do something, I tend to do it. Unless it was, "Read this book as part of your homework." I know, I don't understand why, either.

Man Cave

Today is our contractor's first day of work on the house — so naturally, Sue Miller, Astrology Czar, posted a monthly horoscope for Leo that included the following:

People you may hire to work for you could be problematic too, and you may be disappointed with the quality of their output. You'll have to hover over them more than usual, just to be sure they understand what you need them to do.

Well, that is wonderful news, Sue! Thank you so much for coming to this party. 

The guys are primarily here to work on the garage. (And the kitchen; more on that later.) Because we live in Southern California, garages used as actual car-storage facilities are not terribly common unless you have a gigantic one. We're not hiding our cars from any actual weather, see, so we can throw caution to the wind and sun-shades on our dashboards and turn those spaces into guest houses, or game rooms, or offices. We have friends who've done it, and almost every house we saw — except for this one, apparently — had been given the goods by its previous owners. 

Our garage is at the back of the house: You go up the driveway, through a car port and a chain-link gate, then across a small chunk of patio before pulling inside. (Not that we have ever done this; it has never been empty until today.) So this little tucked-away space is ideal for hanging out: You can close it off from the driveway, roll up the garage door, and leave it that way, so people can party on the patio or wander in and watch TV or play Wii or what have you, maybe go around to the hot tub… plus, Kevin can keep a workstation in there for himself. Ah, the possibilities. 

But of course, we couldn't do that while the garage was a musty, dusty, rotting hell-cave.

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You might be thinking, "Eh, it's just a garage. Big deal. Garages are funky." But if you consider actually sitting down in there to do anything pleasant… no dice. People don't want to go in there. Hell, one Halloween, we played up its spookyness, hooked up an old TV back there and played Kevin's old homemade horror movies, made Kevin's old bowling table — now gone, having been nabbed off our curb by hoarders — look like a ghost, and put in strobe lights to make it all haunted and ugly, and STILL people didn't even want to go in there. Not even the people IN the old homemade horror movies.

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I can't imagine why. It's so pretty! Also: I know that may look structurally unsound, or moldy, but it is neither. Or so we've been told. I won't promise, because that will tempt the planets to spin into my house of GOTCHA. And check out this groovy door:

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Bowed in the middle, splitting along the bottom…

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Purest awesomeness. Although actually, we did just find out that the reason it never opened all the way is because the brainiac who installed the lock — which we never used; I know this because I never found out it existed until two hours ago — put it so that the mechanism blocked the door from moving completely. Well done, ace. So that makes the door look about ten years more ancient and worthless than it actually is, but… it's like the difference between an 80-year old and a 90-year old: Sure, one has more marbles in the bag, but still not enough to play a game. You can imagine how good it felt today to watch the dudes smash through it with a sledgehammer (or whatever it was; I couldn't see because they busted through it from the inside, but I may have applauded).

The trick is to do all this work so that it's still legally, real-estate-wise, a garage — which basically means, it has to have a garage door that's operable, so that no matter what you do to the floor, theoretically somebody someday could drive into it and leave their car there without leaving a giant pile of rubble in his or her wake. 

So, we're swapping in a garage door with windows up along top, and some sort of method in place wherein we could put up a shade or curtains that won't impede the door's function but would keep asshats from peering in at our stuff while we're away; cutting a regular-size door (with a step down to the ground, to make it flood-safe) and a window into the right-side wall, which will overlook/exit next to the hot tub; making the ceiling flat so that it creates attic storage above it, and adding a descending ladder; doing an epoxy floor; putting in wall storage; cutting a drainage trench outside the door just to be safe; putting in an edit station for Kevin in the corner; adding plenty of outlets; installing a small a/c unit and replacing the ceiling fan; adding recessed lighting on zoned dimmers; insulating it and dry-walling it… and a bunch of other things, many of which use words like "joist" that make my eyes cross and sound like a sex act. 

The idea, then, is to put a TV and a couch in there, probably our dart board, a spare fridge, and other things so that on a nice football Saturday we can open it up and let the dudes play in the yard or in the garage, without fear of them getting splinters or eating sawdust or making close friends with something that has "mite" in its name. And if Kevin has a halfway decent yet still sequestered editing space, he can try to come home early some nights, be here to tuck in the boys, and then go back into his Man Cave and work in relative quiet with minimal distractions. (I considered using it as an office, and someday I may want to, but for now Mama is way too afraid of the spiders in the Valley wandering up her leg while she's blogging. Theoretically they could do this inside the main house, also, but we don't think about that LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.)

Of course, this all led to Kevin TiVoing every episode of Man Caves, which is how we came to see the one for the gun enthusiast that they tricked out with black wallpaper  bearing the whitened silhouettes of handguns. GUN WALLPAPER. Obviously Kevin is copying that. It's so us.

As for Sue Miller:

If you travel even a short distance for any reason – and it is possible that you will – you must be sure your car is in good working order.

I almost ran out of gas on the freeway on Friday. Does that count?

Kitchen Advice

If I were to blame anything for the slippery slope of home renovation we're about to careen down, it would be the microwave.

"What's the big deal?" you might ask. "So your wall microwave broke. So replace it. Done."

No. Not done. Never done.

Our appliances, when we moved into the house, were ancient. The brand, Admiral, no longer exists. The user manuals are yellowed with age, stuffed into those transparent folders you can clip into three-ring binders. The font even seems musty. This didn't bother us, because when we shuffled into this house we figured it was the perfect canvas for upgrading them ourselves over the years; like so many things you think you can't live with, though, it slowly became less and less of a big deal until after a while we actually said to each other, "Eh, it WORKS, mostly, a lot of the time. Let's go to Egypt instead." 

Last year, for Valentine's Day, Kevin and I finally gave each other a new dishwasher, because the plastic-over-metal racks in the old one were wearing thin and rusting, which we convinced ourselves would poison the beans. Also, it was so loud, we couldn't run it after midnight without risk of being arrested for a noise violation. But the real dinosaur I'd been yearning to kill was the wall oven — yes, the same wall oven that once spent a month living in someone's repair shop because it wouldn't heat up properly and left a beef wellington raw in the center after six hours on 400. (And the same wall oven that returned to its alcove working pretty well… but missing a knob.)

A few weeks ago, I got my chance. The microwave, which perches above our oven, abruptly died. And it was sudden. One day it heated up my leftovers just fine. The next it needed five minutes to bring a modicum of warmth to a chicken tagine, and two days later, corn muffins took ten minutes to heat from room temperature. Goodbye, ancient friend with the turntable that didn't turn; hello, sleek modern something with things that do things. Right?

Maybe. A cursory glance at what was available, and we realized gas ovens these days are all twenty-four inches wide both inside and out — matching the current capacity of our oven, more or less, but not the width (ours is the standard 30-inches on the outside, but it's insulated enough that the actual cooking space is 23-24 inches wide inside). Slotting a narrower unit into our more cavernous space would look dumb, and it seemed stupid to spend all that money on an oven that is substandard in cooking space compared to what most home-buyers are used to having and/or wanting. Just because we don't cook our turkey in the oven doesn't mean other people won't want to, you know?

But, ah, to put in an electric oven requires a special line installed to power it. That's $500 right there. And that's where our imaginations started to run a little wild. Because, see, our kitchen doesn't have a pantry — no long, tall cupboard that's ideal for dry goods, or which can be compartmentalized to give you a place to tuck brooms and mops (which currently live in the corner, propped up against the wall). And so we got to thinking, if we're replacing all this stuff, why not reconfigure as well? Let's spend several grand just to avoid dropping $500 on the special electrical line! Makes perfect sense.

Currently, our kitchen has a separate cooktop over a cabinet with a pull-out drawer and a fan in the range hood, and then a single wall oven with a microwave above it and two cabinets: one below the oven, and one — divided into vertical slots, for things like cookie sheets and cutting boards — above the microwave. 

And here is a photo of the room, from before we bought the house, and shot slightly in fish-eye to look larger.

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We don't have a table; we have two black and chrome barstools, then of course high chairs, a small black bookshelf for cookbooks under that window and the one to its left, and then to the left of the doorway from which this photo was taken, a Crate and Barrel kitchen island against the wall, black, with a blond butcher-block top. Also, our fridge is taller and a bit wider, and black; the dishwasher, which you can't see, is also black.

So, option #1, which we'll call Big Drama, is this: 

– Knock out the cooktop and cabinet directly beneath it (but not the cupboards on either side), and replace it with a freestanding gas oven range, which keeps the energy efficiency of gas. 

– Buy a range-hood microwave (or whatever they're called) and install it where the cooktop's fan is now, because it is designed to function as both fan and microwave.

– Knock out the cupboard beneath the oven (but keep the one above), and use that entire empty space to install a pantry with pull-outs, and a tall, slim gutter to the left into which we can tuck the brooms and whatnot.

– Re-varnish the cabinets. I think I would also paint the new pantry's door panel with chalkboard paint, for shopping lists and for the beans' artistic fun when they get old enough not to try and snack on the chalk.

Option #2, which we'll call Boring Minimalism:

– Replace the appliances but keep them where they are

– Possibly still re-varnish the cabinets (one of them is cracked up top, and another, the previous owner's kid drew on it with green ballpoint pen and every time I belly up to that panel the green flower there smirks at me).

Here are the reasons Big Drama is giving me pause, and I'm hoping you wise folks out there have some words of wisdom for me on these scores:

1) Are wall ovens considered more desirable than the other kind? If we're keeping the microwave lofted, we're not forsaking counter space to do this, but I don't know if there's any kind of idealized value placed on having an oven in the wall rather than on the floor.

2) Do we think it's stupid to put an oven where a dude could possibly reach it? Or are we likely to find one heavy enough (or even lockable) to make that a moot concern?

3) We have a 36" cooktop, so we'd want to replace it with a 36" range. Those are terribly hard to find; so far we turned up a Kenmore that seems fine, but the oven itself is still only 30" (which we could live with but it's not as stylish); a Fisher Paykel, about whom I know nothing (I've read scathing reviews of their washing machines but can't find anything about their ovens) that has no digital readout of temperature but does at least have a timer, and is attractive; a mad expensive Electrolux that doesn't have a timer nor a digital readout for temperature, but has a gigantic oven; and an even more mad-expensive Dacor, which is similar to the Electrolux. We MIGHT have located a place that could help us preview the Fisher Paykel but we're not sure, and the others are probably not available to view. 

4) Is the pantry as desirable as we think it is? Right now our dry goods are stuffed into a double cupboard above the counter — the one to the left of the fridge — and then part of another cabinet above the toaster oven, which we keep on the counter to the right of the cooktop. I think the displaced frying pans and saucepans can go in the cupboards to the left and right of the range (drawback: no drawer) or in our kitchen island (drawback: not near the range), and the displaced baking trays and bowls in the cupboard currently beneath the oven can take whatever space the cookware doesn't occupy (one potential hiccup is the roasting pan, but we'll worry about that later), and basically everything can shift up and around now that the dry goods would all be in our nice long tall pantry. Tupperware could go in a higher cabinet, for instance. Does all that sound reasonable, or am I insane?

5) If we re-varnish the cabinets, how dark do we go? We've never been a particular fan of white cabinets, which I know is one option, and we could just keep them the same but I'm not really a light-wood person. We get nice natural light in the kitchen, so that helps the space feel big. Do we shoot straight to dark wood (like most of our furniture in the other rooms) or will that be too oppressive? Do we need to re-evaluate our stance on white cupboards?

I'm sure there are other questions, but right now these are the ones we're trying to deal with — like, will we get a better oven and a better cooktop if we just keep them separate and continue making do with our lack of pantry? We feel a bit squeezed out of the space we have, some of which is because I don't think all the cabinets are being used as best they can be, because they're not really designed with dry goods in mind. Will we regret putting an oven on the ground that curious hands can touch, or are they all made so well that a pre-heating oven won't hurt them if they bump it? Are oven doors heavy enough that it's unlikely Liam will tug it open until he's old enough to know not to do it? 

We are making such a meal out of this. But at least when it's done, one way or another, we can then proceed to make all future meals on nicer appliances.

Lordy

The other morning, I left the dudes in Mockatraz — their gated-off baby prison room — so I could clean up the remnants of breakfast in the kitchen. When I returned not five minutes later, this vision of Dylan is what greeted me:

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Note: Those pillows are at least twelve inches tall.

We are so screwed.

Year One: To Liam

Dear Liam,

Moments ago, you crawled into the hallway, looked right into my office, smacked your hands on the floor and panted with glee, and then barreled toward me to say hello. Those are some of my favorite moments of the day — the times when I feel like you know me, know that I love you, and want to tell me you love me too. Or you just want to see how loud and fast you can be. Either one.

You are such an exuberant kid. You are full of big plans, big thoughts, big emotions. You do nothing halfway. If you decide to teethe on your crib, you eat the heck out of it (every part of it bears the scars of your incisors). When you figured out how to slide open the entertainment center, you immediately tried to slap all the appliances therein and almost succeeded in turning off the DVR while it was recording England getting whipped by Germany in the World Cup. (In retrospect, I should have let you.) When you pulled up using just your hands on the sliding glass door, you then pounded on it in protest, either begging to be freed from the standing prison of your own making, or just liking the way it felt.

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And you smile with your entire head. Not just your mouth, your eyes, your nose… when you get happy, your entire skull seems to explode with joy. It's contagious. Sometimes you even bounce on the spot just out of glee. One of my favorite sights is walking into your room in the morning and seeing you standing up at your crib, grinning madly. Or when I'm on the couch and you're on the floor, and all of a sudden the empty air is filled with one hand, then two, reaching up and clasping the table. Then there's a curly head, then your beaming face; you pause, snarl-smile with self-satisfaction, and propel yourself up all the way. It's like getting a visit from my very own lucky sprite. 

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When you were learning to crawl, you were tireless. Unfortunately, you were also wrong. You would bite your lip and get that determined glint, slap the floor with your hands, and then throw all four of your limbs in the air, balancing on your tummy. We used to call it the Superman, and because it was the exact opposite of how to crawl, it of course never worked. But you were never daunted. You just balanced as long as you could, giggled, huffed a bit when you had to hit the ground again, and then gathered your spirits and tried again. Each attempt, and there were hundreds, bore an air of, "That one was practice. This one counts." Eventually we plonked you on the hardwood floor to teach you that you had the arm strength to drag yourself forward, and from that day, you were off.

Your first weeks were a bit like that. Early on you needed a bit of help with oxygen — just a day, maybe a day and a half, with nasal tubes. But once you got things sorted out, you never looked back. Ditto with food: You didn't tolerate it well at first, and then one day your body figured out what to do with it, and BAM, the nurses were flummoxed by how skillfully you took to bottle-feeding, blasting through all their milestones in almost record time. In the span of about 12 hours it went from, "He'll be home in two weeks," to, "He'll be home by Friday," to, "Well, we're testing him tonight, so you might have him tomorrow." And you don't sit either; you don't see the point. Because you can crawl, and stand, and why do something boring and stationary when you can move and explore and find new things to put in your mouth? You are intrepid. In fact, we called you The Uncontainable, because you always tried to escape your NICU bed — whether it was sliding down the edge…

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… or in this case, rolling over it altogether, in a way that puzzled even the nurses:

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We had you home a week before your brother, and I will never forget that first night. We drove you home from the hospital, your dad at the wheel and me in the back, slipping my hand behind your body in the car seat so that your tiny five-pound, two-ounce body wouldn't slump. We cradled you that night in total disbelief that anybody would allow us to have this perfect little person in our house. We put you in your crib, and it never looked more massive or imposing, a sea of cartoon animals cavorting around your compact, snuggly body as you assumed a position we didn't yet know would be your default: cuddled up next to the railing. (You always find your way there, usually with your head in the corner, but always with a part of it touching the cool wood of the crib, your legs either spread-eagled or tucked up under your bum so tightly that it's aloft. No in-between.) We slept badly that night, muddled through breast-feeding in the wee hours, and awoke for the day at 7 a.m. with the most profound feeling of relief that we had made it, and so had you. 

You were, however, recently the subject of our scariest baby-proofing moment, having located the cord of our baby-monitor camera up there on the wall — your crib had shifted during a sheet-change — pulled as much of it as you could into your crib, and wound it around you while you snacked on it. Had you fallen over, you might've been in dire straits as it cinched up around you, but thankfully your father found you first. And typically, you were very irritated that we broke up the party, but you forgot about it as soon as we waved the iPhone — or a measuring cup, or the plastic bottom to one of your cloth toy bins, or any number of other toys-that-aren't-toys — in front of your face. See, we had to distract you so that we could shift things around to mask the cord. Because you know. When we hide things, you see.

Right now, though, your favorite toy is Dylan. (Well, when you're not enthralled by Baby In The Window, or The Piano, or The Entertainment Center; we often say, nothing cheers up Liam like the sight of Liam. You are as endlessly amusing and fascinating to yourself as you are to us.) If Dylan is standing at the play table, instead of pulling up on the empty space next to him, you will use his shoulders, his pants, his butt, whatever. If he's on the floor, you will crawl over him and steal his toy while you're at it. If he's in the way, you will grab him by the hair and casually try to move him aside. If he's crawling to me, or your father, or to a toy, you dash over to catch up and see if you can get there first. If he's trying to walk around the coffee table, you will go all the way around just so you can pass him on the outside and ricochet between his body and the couch. Presumably because you can.

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It's not in a mean way, though; it's as if you haven't figured out how else to play with him, so making everything a competition will have to do.

You, Liam, have no guile. Dylan plots a bit to get at things; you just go, including the time you essentially tried to climb up my face to get at my sunglasses. You can't help it, but you're so open. No poker face. We feel everything as you feel it, and probably with equal intensity. I often joke that your inner monologue would be written in ALL CAPS AND NO PUNCTUATION BECAUSE OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT I THINK I NEED IT OW THAT HURT WHERE IS THAT OTHER THING I LIKE TO EAT OH THERE IT IS GIVE IT TO ME NOW HEY DYLAN GET OUT OF MY FACE OOH THERE'S DAD LET'S PLAY NOW BUT FIRST I WILL EAT THIS STEREO CORD.

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Your eyebrows raise up higher than the sky when you're unsure or shocked. When you're tired, you try to burrow your face deep into whatever soft surface you're with, be it the mattress or your father's shoulder — or, in a few amusing instances, the air, which you  tried to rub against with a fervor that seemed to say, "If I do this long enough, it will turn into my bed." You get this purposeful, mischievous gleam when you see something you know you're not supposed to have, like when we would try to entice you to crawl by leaving our iPhones across the room (a promise we later had to keep by letting you play with it a bit; you slapped it and Britney Spears came on, which so delighted you that I thought you were going to jump up and throw a dance party). Your eyes cloud with almost tangible confusion when we try to feed you something you think is really shady, like the time you were trying to eat off your father's plate and you got a mouthful of mashed potato instead of the breaded chicken you were after. "NO!" your wounded, repulsed face said. "This is a betrayal of the HIGHEST ORDER." Then you bent down and shoveled as much of your placemat into your mouth as would fit.

You also don't always have much patience. If you can see us in the room and we're not paying attention to you, often, a wailing fit ensues.

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It's short, but it's real: You can't believe that if we're at home, nearby, we would have anything else to do but fawn over you. (It IS unfair, I will agree, but it's a sad reality.) You're not nasty about it; just smart. You take your time to make your complaints known, and if we disappear again, you go back to whatever you were so merrily doing. It's like you're just testing the water to see if we'll bite. And if you want something and we're busy with Dylan, you don't like to wait. Once, while your father fed Dylan, you got so het up about the fact that you didn't have a bottle too that you scooted over, pulled up, and absently started chewing on Dylan's foot. He got upset, stopped drinking, wouldn't start again, and you won: Your bottle came next. But there's never any question that you're doing it to be nasty. You're just not that kind of guy. It's more like your uncensored way of living accidentally gave you a victory.

You don't withhold. You just throw it all out there, for better or worse. I hope that will serve you brilliantly someday, as you become a fearless adult. But it also makes me want to protect you, your heart and your mind and your body, with everything I have. I told Dylan I might always worry about him a bit more just because of how much tougher he had it early on, but the thing is, it's the difference between worrying infinity and worrying infinity-plus-one. And I worry not because I don't trust, but because I marvel at everything you have ahead of you and pray I can help you and your wide-open heart choose right. I can't wait to see what these loving, passionate, brave qualities
shape you into, Liam. To echo what I said in Dylan's letter, you two are my miracles. I love you for who you are together and who you are apart. You're my heroes. I'm proud of you, and I can't wait to see what you're going to do next.

Love,
Mom

Year One: To Dylan

[Why do this? What for? Click here.]

Dear Dylan,

As I write this, you've just woken up from a nap and are standing up in your crib — something you just figured out how to do, with great pride, for the first time yesterday. Getting down, well, that is another story. You haven't mastered your knees, haven't learned how to bend them slowly, one hand reaching for the floor to brace you when you're ready to let go with your other one. You will; like all things, you will do this, and it will be all of a sudden, like you've been doing it for months, and when I clap you will fix me with that angelic expression that says, "What's the fuss? That was nothing."

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But it will be something. Everything is something. For you, the fact that you're all about up, and not so much with the down, is a pretty metaphor for your life. You have always pressed on, against whatever came at you. When you came out, you were bruised but not beaten. Your swollen face bespoke a fighter, and that's what you are: You — all two pounds, nine ounces of you — breathed on your own from the get-go. You hated that feeding tube, the skinny, small lifeline through your nose into your stomach. One of the first things your father saw you do was flex that tiny hand, the one small enough to slip through his wedding ring, and pull that tube clean out of your nose, pulling up the tape that held it there. Then you argued while they tried to put in a new one. Because you didn't think you needed the help. You wanted to fight on your own terms.

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And in a lot of cases, you knew better. You knew how much your body could eat. When we'd fret about whether this amount or that was sufficient, you firmly said your yeses and nos with your hands, slapping away the bottle when it wasn’t welcome and opening wide for it when you were ready.

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And you grew. At your own rate, in your own way and in your own time, but you grew. You knew, better than we did, that you had this whole thing under control.
That goes for milestones, too. Liam figured out the crawl first, how to pull to stand, and how to cruise. He would try for days; you sat back and watched, and then one day, just like that, did everything he'd labored for weeks or months to master.

Your brother fascinates you. At this point, your relationship is starting to blossom. Your face lights up when you see him; if we put you on the floor together, you often charge toward each other like somebody just blew a whistle. (Someday I expect you two to tell me you're going running with the bulls, and just for the record, I will scream and protest and shout everything from, "You'll be KILLED," to, "But THINK OF YOUR UNBORN CHILDREN," when that happens, even though a little part of me will gloat that I was right.)

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You don't quite understand how to play together yet, so usually, it ends in toy theft or one of you crawling over the other, pulling hair, pushing heads, and creating general mayhem. But you're also drawn to each other like magnets. No matter where we put you, or what you're doing, you end up within a foot's reach of each other. Which makes sense; that's how you started life, so that's probably how you'll continue.

In twelve months you've gone from fifteen-and-three-quarters long to twenty-eight-and-a-half inches. You're almost seventeen pounds. You feel heavy, in the best way. You love to babble and shout. Nothing is worth anything unless it can be banged against something else and yield a noise. People in glasses fascinate you, and you try every technique you can to get them off their faces, often using misdirects that are surprisingly sophisticated for a kid who still can't hold his own spoon.

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Once, you lovingly stroked Auntie Carrie's face for ten minutes, inching your hand higher, higher, higher, and then giggling off in middle-distance until you thought we were distracted, at which point you clamped your hand down on those glasses and pulled with all your might. (For a whippet of a thing, Dylan, you have always had a lot of might.) You were certain you'd bested us. And then you tried to eat them.

Everything, and I do mean everything, goes in your mouth. You love the remote control for our TV speakers. You chow down on the floor mat we put down in your playroom. When we are in airports, you crawl under the black leather seating at the gates and suck on their chrome feet. You have even tried to take a chunk out of my finger, and one day, we noticed angry red bite marks on Liam's ankle the size of your open maw. Granted, maybe he deserved it, but we hope this doesn't foretell a future in which we're sitting with your pre-K teacher as she explains to us that you are a dangerous cannibal. We're trying to teach you that biting people is not okay. In that tradeoff, we'll gladly give up a remote control or two. Also, please don't eat my shoes. I know they look yummy, but I promise, they're full of gross.

Lately, you've developed an aversion to the spoon. You'll eat from it at lunch, you'll tolerate it at breakfast, but at dinner you are like, NO THANKS, PRISON WARDEN. Your stubborn side flares up in full, and you shake your head "no," as vehemently as you ever have. This is a relatively new skill, too, by the way — everything is a head-shake. Do you want more food? Shakes head. Do you want to go to sleep? Shakes head. Do you want world peace? Shakes head. Do you want me NOT to buy those really nice shoes I was looking at? Shakes head. Hey, thanks, kid. You're the best.

And oh, that stubborn side. Dylan, at this point, you will not sit unassisted. Or even assisted. If we get you in a high-chair, fine. But if we try to play with you on the floor, and arrange you into something approximating a seated position, you refuse. You kick your legs straight. Arch your back. Roll over so you're facing us, shooting us a pleading look designed to disarm us and force a surrender. You skipped right over this particular skill, and you could care less. You don't want to do it. Have no use for it. No matter how fun we try to make it look, you're like, "I see through you, lady," and scuttle off on your stomach to go pull up on a chair and stomp your feet. All you want to do is walk. You've been jonesing for it since you were five months and we held your feet to the floor. We called that prancing: We'd hold you still, and you'd march, knees up high, creeping forward millimeter by millimeter, a huge grin on your face. The first time we put you at a walker wagon, after watching Liam stagger unevenly across the room, you grabbed hold of that bar and zipped back the other way like you were being chased by an adult interested in making you sit.

Strawberry yogurt bites are your favorite new snack, but you're skilled at putting bits of bread, banana, chicken, and French fries into your mouth — better than Liam. You have more precision, more deliberation. It's like every tiny piece you pick up is the result of a very firm decision you just made that, yes, you would like another bite, and you would like it just-so, into the left side, placed in there with your middle and forefinger. Or into the right, delivered by a quick palm. You do not seem to do anything lightly; you know what you want, when you want it, and how you plan to do it. And often, when you try something that doesn't work, you fake like you're abandoning ship, only to turn back ten seconds later and try again, as if we'll think you did it wrong the first time on purpose and this one, this one is for real.

And you're an incorrigible flirt. Whenever we're at a restaurant, and you spontaneously smile, I can follow your eyes and invariably find a woman at the other end of your gaze, cooing at you and waving. And from then on, forget it. You don't want to look anyplace else. She might be behind you, to the left, or directly in front, and whichever it is, you'll arrange yourself so that she's within your line of vision. Your smooth-moves smile is slightly crooked, rising up higher on the right side of your mouth, head slightly cocked.

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And it is. You are so much more than okay. Even when you cried, and fought, and banged your head, and didn't want food, or spit up what you did eat… through all that, you have always been so much more than okay. You are happy, charming, friendly, beautiful, clever, strong, and above all, healthy. You made it. You and Liam are my miracles. I love you for who you are together and who you are apart. You're my heroes. I'm proud of you, and I can't wait to see what you're going to do next.

Love,
Mom

101 in 1001: Reboot

Years ago, I undertook this project, making a list of 101 things I hoped to achieve in 1001 days. I met with limited success, completing only just over half the things I set out to do (although some of them were really stupid, and some, I’ve since done, like put a dartboard in the house — okay, it’s in the garage, but still — and see the Grand Canyon).

But I’m going to do it again, partly to be my own taskmaster, and partly as an effort to reboot my regular postings on this blog, without making it All Beans All The Time. But if it’s beans you want, well, fear not — you’ll get it.

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Liam says, “Boo!” Except we totally knew he was in there. SERIOUSLY, Child Protective Services, we DID.

Also, I do have a birthday post coming up soon, with lots of really chocolatey photographs that I think you’ll enjoy. SPOILER:

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Dylan approves of devil’s food cake — does that mean he’s the evil twin?

Back to the topic at hand, though: I’m going to do this 101-list malarkey again. Hopefully with a better success rate. Most of my list items are kind of, well, domestic. And maybe even boring. I guess that’s my life now, and I wouldn’t trade it. Still, if “domestic” and “boring” nonetheless adds up to failure, for every goal I don’t complete, I’m going to donate $5 to TACA, the autism awareness group my sister works with (she founded the chapter in her area in Maryland, because she is awesome).

Without further ado:

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Because there’s no place worth going if it doesn’t involve going through your twin.

Okay, I lied, there was a LITTLE ado. Anyway:

1) Complete one major household project, which includes but is not limited to: replacing kitchen countertops, refinishing kitchen cabinets, repainting and re-tiling our master bathroom, fixing up the guest bathroom, and renovating the garage. All things we’ve discussed but not pulled the trigger on, because we’re busy, it’s a lot, it’s expensive, yada. The idea is to stop making excuses and actually do the stuff that’s going to spruce up our house, add value to it, and generally make us happy. There’s no point if we make it what we want it to be, right before we sell it (on that hypothetical day). [Done, mostly, in 2010-2011.]

2) Then at least start another one. Because there’s always more than one, and hell, I’m giving myself 1001 days. Get off your ass, lady.

3) Cook something from The French Laundry. Kevin’s father gave me the cookbook, and I’ve read Carol’s adventures cooking her way through it and what it’s done for her confidence and skill in the kitchen. I could use a boost in both. [Done: August 2011.]

4) Pitch a TV show. Jessica and I have been procrastinating making any serious inroads on this one, mostly because we’ve been working on our book. I’m not totally sure if this is for me — I’ve never really wanted to write scripts, despite trying to want to over the years because I thought I was supposed to — but if we’re ever going to do it, it’s got to be in the next three years, I think, while our iron is lukewarm.

5) Add a fruit tree to the house. I’d love lemons or avocados, something I love to have fresh but don’t usually buy because I’m never sure whether I’ll use it all. Mmm, lemons. We keep forgetting we have an orange tree in the back. Maybe I should use that one first. In fact:

6) Use the orange tree we have in the back. Just for good measure. I’ll define “use” as “eat or employ its fruit weekly during its ripe period.” Whenever that is. See? I don’t know stuff.

7) Run a half-marathon. I actually put this on my last list, I believe, and couldn’t achieve it. I may never. Some people just aren’t born to run, to borrow a phrase from The Boss; I’m not sure my knees like the pounding they take on pavement. So I’ll allow myself to complete this one on a treadmill if need be/if possible, but I’d like to push myself to go the distance regardless. Or maybe if I DREAM that I did one, I can count it…

8) Take the beans overseas. My sister is moving to Germany in a month or so, and will be there for the entire span of this 1001 days. It’s perfect.

9) Go back to Calgary.

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We had such a nice time on Memorial Day weekend, even with the cold. Maybe especially with the cold, except for Dylan (left, in the penguin hat, for whom this was a rare smile when out in the elements — although to be fair, he was also tired, as evidenced by him falling asleep in the Baby Bjorn about twenty minutes later). Going back once every fifteen years is stupid. I went to high school with some really nice people, some of whom now have really nice families. I’d like my kids to know them. And, I want to ski.

10) Beat the new Super Mario Bros. for the Wii. This is going to be almost impossible, because I haven’t had nearly enough time to play it since I got it for Christmas. You can’t save your progress very conveniently, like, say, if a bean is crawling over his brother’s face, or trying to stand on his stomach, or is trying to eat the cover off Me Talk Pretty One Day. You have to warp back to an easy castle level and beat it real fast, but the thing is, castle levels by definition aren’t that fast. Oh, woe. I know you all feel really sorry for my horrible, sad pain.

11) Buy an earthquake preparedness kit. Yes, technically, I could go do this online right now. But I won’t, because I know myself. (Also, I started this list a month ago, and still haven’t done this — so, see? I know myself.)

12) Learn to knit. This one was on my last list; obviously, I failed. But I figure, in the next three years, it can’t hurt to see if I can try again. Especially since I am friends with at least two terrific knitters. In fact, I noted in my roundup of things I hadn’t done, “Maybe when I have kids, Jen and Catherine will teach me to knit them booties. In the meantime, it’d be better if I just finished my damn needlepoint.” They didn’t — because I forgot to ask — and I haven’t. I was really on a roll toward completing that thing before my early labor, though. So that’s something.

13) Exit the locker room at Notre Dame Stadium, smack the historic “Play Like A Champion Today” sign in the stairwell on the way down to the field, then run out of the tunnel and straight for the opposite end zone. This was also on my last list, and I wrote, “If I were to die one second after completing this, then I’d die happy. That’s how much it means to me.” So why not try for it again? It also goes hand-in-glove with…

14) Take the beans to their first three sporting events. In 1001 days, I figure we have time to try them on baseball and football. Maybe even hockey, if it’s not too cold in there — although clearly I am a protective little wuss in that regard, as I’ve seen people with infants at hockey games. I’d like one of those events to be a Notre Dame game, so maybe that’s how I can rope in No. 13.

15) Learn the jackknife. This is a really hard (for me) move on the pole, where you stand with your back against it, the pole against one shoulder or the other, and your feet a few inches away from the pole so that you’re leaning. You put your hands behind your neck, lift your legs off the floor, and tip backwards and upside-down, your legs over your head, splayed, one on either side of the pole. I am setting myself up for a bit of failure on this one, as I’ve never even gotten my feet off the ground for more than a split second when I’ve attempted it. But if I could do it, I would be SO FREAKING THRILLED.

16) Visit Napa.  A friend in Calgary wanted to try this, so I’m hoping putting this out in the universe means I can make it happen with her and her husband.

17) Two salads a week for lunch, for two months. Just because. If I ever bitch about my ass or my skin or my hair, chances are it’s because I’m not bothering with my veggies.

18) Watch twenty-six movies I’ve never seen, starting with each letter of the alphabet. I got this idea off a Web site devoted to the 101-in-1001 idea, and it sounded kind of cool, and in the vein of the “Watch the AFI Top 100 Films” thing I tried (and failed) to complete the last time. Tragically — for this list, not in life, obviously — I have already seen Xanadu. But you know what I have not seen? XXX. Hello, friend. (1/26) Exit Through The Gift Shop.

19) Answer the “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind.” Why not? My mind could use a little freedom, right? If I can’t answer 50 questions in 1001 days, then I have problems. (20/50) Part 1, Part 2.

20) Complete a 365-day photo challenge. This one will be hard, because remembering to do it and upload it and whatnot every time is going to be a bit of a trick, especially when/if I am traveling. But that might force me to be more creative and/or at least improve my short-term memory, so why the hell not. (0/365)

21) Re-read the works of Jane Austen. It’s been a long time, and since I had to read most of them for school, accordingly I didn’t pay much attention to them. I’m the classic fool who won’t do it if it’s homework, but on my own, will love it.

22) Then the best of the Brontes. Ditto.

23) Read ten recommended fiction books. Commenters, have at! (3/10) Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Anna and the French Kiss; The Help;

24) Read ten non-fiction books. I’ll decide later whether borrowing Jessica’s copy of Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook counts. (0/10)

25) Get back to using Netflix. I’ve had the last DVD from season one of Felicity sitting around since I went into labor. No, really.

26) Finish my needlepoint. I tucked back into this while I was pregnant and Kevin was out of town, certain I would polish it off before I had the babies. I would have, too, except for their early arrival, after which I haven’t picked it up again because my hands are too busy with them.

27) Move to a bigger house. This one makes me sad. I adore our current place. It’s cute and cottagey, it was our first house, and so many good things have happened to us here. But if we ever want another kid, we’re going to have to upgrade, or else we will run out of rooms.

28) Have another baby. Don’t get excited. This one, if it happens, will be toward the end of the 1001 days. But number three is in the plan down the road. Preferably just one, although if the fates decide we’re meant for multiples again, so be it. We’ve certainly enjoyed our first go-round so far, although I’ll get back to you once they start walking.

29) Spring cleaning. I’ve done a thousand tiny little sweeps through cabinets and closets and shelves, but I think it’s time to do a harsh and massive one. My problem is that I love keeping things. But really, what am I going to do with the galley copy of Jancee Dunn’s But Enough About Me? or sTORItelling? I’m not going to read it again, even though it was cute. I probably don’t still need my old AP Stylebook, since the world has made it outmoded about ten times over since I acquired it. And the folders of old Fashion Week invitations… well, I might archive those, but they could certainly be stored someplace better. I’m a packrat.

30) Take the dudes sledding or skiing. Once they’re old enough, we’re so excited to bring the boys someplace snowy and show them winter fun. I wish we were raising them someplace with proper seasons, but it helps that there’s a mountain within driving distance that can at least approximate that.

31) Sell a new book idea. We’ve got one more or less in the can, and we have to write its sequel, but I’d love for Jessica and I to keep the book train rolling with another separate novel. We had so much fun creating this universe, it’d be great to see if we can do it all over again on a blank canvas.

32) Become an active investor. For this one, I would define “active” as going through a year with awareness of how my market positions are doing. I own stocks in accounts that my father manages, and couldn’t even tell you what all of them are, and I own two long-term mutual funds from my own pension funds through GFY. Do I remember what they are? No, no I do not.

33) Read my New Yorkers on time. I have never managed this in all my years of subscribing to that magazine. I’ll consider this one done if I can pull this off for three consecutive months.

34) Decorate the blank wall in our hallway. We used to have a giant poster, behind plexiglass, from Luis Bunuel’s L’Âge d’or (it was Kevin’s, and I always say, thank God he didn’t get one from Bunuel’s other movie where THE EVIL happens to THE THING and we WILL NOT TALK ABOUT IT FURTHER but I just went into a coma thinking about it) but I kept saying we needed to replace it when the beans got tall enough to pull up to a stand on it. But we never did, and then one day, Maria bumped against it and it tipped onto her — gently, but still — and popped out of the frame, and so Kevin carried it out to the garage, and there it will stay until we can toss it properly. I want to replace it with a collage of photos and frames, but of what? THE PLOT THICKENS. Except, not really.

35) Drink at least two liters of water a day for a month, and then try to keep it up. I’ve gotten wretched about hydration. I don’t know if it’s backlash from all the water I drank while I was pregnant, or what, but it’s just terrible. My skin is like, bitch, I’m THIRSTY.

36) Clean up and rearrange my contacts. My iPhone usually asks me if I want it to sync with my Gmail contacts, but this last time, it just did it without the question. So now my address book in Gmail AND my iPhone contacts list are both total messes. This is full-on dull housekeeping stuff, but it needs to be done, and it will delight the (very small) OCD part of my soul.

37) Draft and finalize our will. Depressing, but necessary. [Done.]

38) Complete a NaBloPoMo. I hate that term. But the idea of posting every day for a month is very appealing to me. I want to modify it so that I’m not required to do it on weekends, though, so when I start, I’ll factor that in, add those days as weekdays, and then figure out what my actual end date would be.

39) Use my creme brulee torch. Because seriously, WHY have I not played with fire before? It’s just SITTING THERE in my kitchen cupboard. Pathetic.

40) Assemble baby books for the boys. I’m not sure how to do
this, as scrapbooking gives me hives — I seriously just walk into that
aisle in Target and I get itchy and confused and disoriented. It’s too
much for me. But I have a lock of Liam’s hair from when they had to put
an IV in his forehead, and I have Dylan’s diaper from when they had to
put him in the size one step smaller than Pampers’ “preemie,” and they
should be preserved either in an album or a box. I might just catalog a
box and make a photo album their baby book. Not sure.

41) Once Julie moves to Germany, send her one piece of snail mail every month. Because nothing is more fun than getting real mail. (0/36)

42) Donate hair to Locks of Love. My hair isn’t so great, but it’s the thought that counts.

43) Attend spinning class once a week for two months. I miss doing spinning. The times at my current gym are super inconvenient, so it’s going to be tough to make this work, but that’s kind of the point of the list, right? To push myself, even if it’s in shallow directions? My ass will thank me. I am giving it a better tomorrow. This is practically philanthropy. (0/8)

44) Call an out-of-town friend every month for a year, and then try to keep up. I am terrible with the phone, so even though once a month sounds like a pittance, it is the perfect test.

45) Unearth all my old photo prints and begin making albums. There’s no fun in keeping them in a musty box under my bed. Unless they are ugly.

46) Confess an embarrassing moment. We’ll see.

47) Write a letter to myself to open at the end of 1001 days. Hopefully I’ll get off my bum and do this one first. The trick will be whether the contents of the letter burn in my brain, or whether I can forget what I wrote and be surprised by it in three years’ time.

48) Write down five good things a day for a month. Because it’s nice to accentuate the positive. (0/30)

49) Pickle something. Other than my liver. Actually, maybe I’ll make this pickle THREE things. Because sometimes stuff is good pickled. Like my liver. (0/3)

50) Make 20 new recipes, with at least seven of them being something I think seems too hard for me. Not invent, just make. I love to cook, so why not? Best to push myself. They don’t have to be hard, though; they just have to keep me from being in a rut. (4/20) Grilled corn salad; broccoli slaw; Grilled Arugula Pizza; pork tenderloin with balsamic reduction.

51) Get up to 100 REAL push-ups in one sitting. I define that as, I can take brief breathers, but I can’t, like, get up and do something else and then come back to it.

52) Finish old Egypt travelogue and picture-organizing. Because COME ON.

53) Catalog the contents of my pantry and try to cook with anything in there that hasn’t gone bad, instead of tossing it out. My dry goods cupboard is a total mess, and maybe this will dare me to make sense of it while also getting value for the money I spent. Of course, most of what’s in there is probably old soup and pasta, which may not make for a very interesting menu.

54) Write two short stories, just for myself. I suspect I need little exercises like this in order to get better about coming up with ideas, and executing them. And what I really need is to spend more time at my computer.

55) Jot down everything I spend money on — everything — for two months, and then see where I can make cutbacks. I’m no good at keeping a budget, in terms of allotting myself a set amount of money for a certain thing, so this might be a good way to work backwards and be like, “Okay, I shopped there more than I thought,” or, “I didn’t shop there nearly as much as I expected.” It’ll also give me a look at what we spend on groceries and whatnot. You know, whatnot is surprisingly pricey. It adds up.

56) Play tennis again, semi-regularly. That, I define as a periodic date with a rally buddy — I guess that’s still pretty vague, but really, I mean: more than once but not every week. Unless I can get myself to take lessons, but that costs money I probably don’t need to spend right now.

57) Locate, understand, and use the running trails in the Sepulveda Dam area. When I lived in Austin, the trails around Town Lake were divine: you could do a three-mile, four-mile, seven-mile, or ten-mile loop, all of which were clearly marked, and dotted along the way with water fountains. I know the Dam area has trails, but I don’t know the best place to drop in and out, and I don’t know if they’re as user-friendly. To me, that whole area is the opposite of user-friendly. And I would like to be its friend. I would. But I need it to do all the work. So I guess I should revise: I would like to be its toxic friend.

58) Do the Times crossword every day for three months. I did this while I was pregnant, but lately I’ve been too busy, even though they’re just a finger swipe away on my iPhone. I figure three months is a long enough time to get me properly back in the habit.

59) Go back to the driving range five times. Not something I’ve managed even once since I got pregnant. (0/5)

60) Finish Kevin’s Father’s Day present (from 2010, just in case I also muck it up in 2011 and beyond). Yes, it’s a tad late. But I know one thing I’d like to do; I just need a second to do it, without him home to see. [Completed Aug 2010.]

61) Get the dudes a little red wagon. I mean, right? How cute will that be?

62) Grill dinner for Kevin three times. The barbecue is his territory — not because he’s possessive, but because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’d like that to change, so that the grill doesn’t become this hulking thing in the corner of the yard that I can’t touch when he’s not around because I will doubtless burn down the house. It’s time for me to learn the art of cooking with fire, baby. (0/3)

63) Cook with the cast-iron skillet three times. We got it as a wedding gift — and yes, we asked for it — but we’ve never used it, because we sort of never got around to figuring out how and when one whips out a cast-iron skillet, except for murderous purposes.

64) Finally get rid of my old laptop. There’s a very specific recycling center to take old computers, and you can only go certain days and times. This seems safer than donating it, although I deleted everything on the hard drive, but part of me still wants to find something more altruistic to do with it. Even though it’s a piece of shit and has chunks torn out of the S key. [Completed Aug 2010.]

65) Make our home footage of the boys from the past year into a watchable video. This might be more for Kevin, although I’m willing to take a whack at it via the deeply imperfect Windows Movie Maker, which I used to make a slideshow of our summer vacation.

66) Tell a story a week on this Web site that doesn’t involve the beans. Just to keep alive that other side of me.

67) Put together a home inventory. This is more something you’d do if you were my parents, who own a lot of valuable collectibles and antiques — and in fact, they have been doing it since we got our first little Macintosh Plus black-and-white computer in the eighties. But it’s a good habit to start. When did we buy it? From whom? And, where relevant, what are the care instructions? Are there any stories behind the mementoes? Stuff like that. Otherwise, memories die. Information gets lost.

68) Take the beans to Disneyland. Somewhere in the next 1001 days, I reckon they will be old enough to appreciate at least some of the chaos, and not scream and run at the sight of the giant rodent in gloves surging toward them with manic glee.

69) Carve a Halloween pumpkin. I’ve never done it — or at least, not as an adult. I don’
t care for squash innards. So chalk this up to the list of things that you do because you have kids. What tremendous self-sacrifice. Do they give medals?

70) Complete the 5,000-Question Survey. I’ve heard it’s a bit outdated, but whatever. I’m game. (0/5000)

71) Go ice-skating. I’m terrible. But I’d like to try again anyway.

72) Properly learn to use Photoshop Elements. What’s the point of having it if I can’t retouch myself in pictures? I mean REALLY.

73) Learn what all the different camera settings mean on our nice Canon. This thing makes pretty pictures idiot-proof, but I could do better if I knew what the little dial was trying to tell me.

74) Talk to a personal trainer at my gym. I’m not doing a great job of toning myself up on my own; I think I need a pro to craft a program with me.

75) Volunteer for a day a year at the L.A. Food Bank. I love food. Thus, I should help other people have the opportunity to love food. (0/3)

76) Get my eyes checked. Just in case.

77) Get my ear checked. I have a chronic itch and dry skin in my right ear, and it’s making me mental. I have to get a referral to an ENT specialist, though, and the nurse at my clinic seems resistant to doing that. But she will relent. Oh yes.

78) Get my moles checked. Again, just in case.

79) Take swimming lessons with the dudes. They love being in the water, and I think we should get going on making sure they love it forever, and safely. And cutely. Floaties!

80) Find a local pool that I can use to swim myself. The LA Fitness by our old apartment had one, but this one doesn’t. I kind of miss it.

81) Take an online course in … anything. Foreign language, creative writing, investing… whatever. I should just do something.

82) Wear my night guard every night for a month. I hate wearing this f’ing thing, and it can be so hard to fall asleep with it in; you can imagine how sleep is at a premium these days. But I’ve got to do it. It’s SO bad for me that I don’t.

83) Complete some kind of tooth-whitening regimen. Nothing wack, like Brite Smile; just something gentle and at-home, that I won’t feel bad about spoiling with my Diet Coke habit.

84) Get GFY’s official Facebook page up and running. Honestly, this is more of a reminder, but it’s got to happen. [Completed Aug 2010.]

85) Set up a house-cleaning schedule. Since we can’t get a housekeeper right now, I need a schedule where I rotate which room gets the thorough once-over on which days, rather than letting it get to the point where every room needs it all at once.

86) Buy the new oven/microwave. I had this as a kitchen improvement project, but that was back when it felt like a want — not the need it became when our microwave broke. Getting this done will still take a bit of effort, as it’s hard to find gas ovens that are the right size any more, so maybe we’ll need to put in an electrical line, and maybe the expense of doing that means it’s worth a bit of renovation… we’ll see.

87) Do a little genealogy research/make a family tree. It’d be fun to see my ancestry laid out.

88) Invest in five new things and set regular investment meetings with Kevin.
This is related to my “become an active investor” thing, because
there’s a difference in boldness between just actively tracking my
existing positions, and stepping out on the ledge with new ones. The
problem is, I am so afraid to lose, that I don’t try. But then I
look at my parents and how well they’ve done for themselves in life,
and I think, “I’ll never get there.” But then I remember that they got
there through trial and error, but above all, by trying. And being
patient. It’s a scary time to be throwing money into things, but
sitting on what spare cash I have does nothing for me either.

89) Finish all outstanding thank-you notes for beans-related gifts.
This one will stretch forward to include anything they get in the coming weeks, as I know a couple awesome
aunties sprang for presents even though I told them not to worry about it.

90) Read a bedtime story to the boys without them trying to eat the book. This will take time. So much time.

91) Take the beans to New York. Central Park, WATCH OUT.

92) Have one dinner party a month for a year, with different people at each one. This will get us cooking more and seeing the people we haven’t been able to catch up with as much since we became parents. (0/12)

93) Hang out with our neighbors. We really LIKE our neighbors. Maybe it’s because we don’t hang out with them all the time, but I tend to think they’re actually just nice people, so while we live here we should take advantage of the fact that we don’t want to kill the people our property borders. Because that one Samuel L. Jackson movie that I call Help, It’s The Neighbors! is so realistic.

94) Do a road trip with the boys. I hear California is large, and full of places to go.

95) Try ten new restaurants. We’re always bemoaning that we don’t have that many dinner options, which can’t be true. The Valley might not be as fun or flashy as the other side of the hill, but it’s also not devoid of places that will take our money in exchange for a meal. (0/10)

96) Don’t order takeout for a month. Embarrassingly hard, that.

97) Go to a farmers market once a month. Weather permitting, of course. I will not define what “weather” means because anyone who lives in a less temperate climate might deliver a virtual punch to my face.

98) Clean my kitchen counters. I hate tile grout. And as much as I like the look of the white tile on my counters, it makes me stabby when it gets dirty and I can’t ever get it as clean as I’d like (kind of like teeth, in that way, no?). Soft Scrub failed me. My Clorox Bleach pen failed me. A toothbrush failed me. But there has GOT TO BE A WAY. I’m coming for you, bitches.

99) Beat Super Mario Galaxy 2. I will have to buy it first. But then. OH YES. I beat the first one, and now it’s your turn, SMGII (not to be confused with Sarah Michelle Gellar II, which is probably the name of somebody’s boat somewhere).

100) Do an hour on the Wii Fit once a week. It’s so fun. Why do I spend so much time on the f’ing Internet, when I can put my Mii in a chicken suit and fly around trying to hit targets? Or do a fake obstacle course? I’m a fabulous fake musician and a pretty respectable fake athlete. So I should not deny the world — read: my living room — my fake prowess.

101) Quit potato chips for a month. Saving the worst, the meanest, the hardest, for last. Can I do it? I DON’T KNOW. But since I skipped Lent this month, even though it’s the only Catholic tradition besides Christmas that I even indulge in regularly (sorry, Mom, Jesus, and Easter Bunny), I feel like I should attempt this to make up for my tragic lack of interest in organized religion.

And that’s it! I reserve the right to make substitutions, if it turns out I no longer want to do any of these — like if my neighbors mysteriously turn into assholes or something — but otherwise, I’m going to give it a whirl. I’ll be keeping you posted.

The Daily Bean

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Dylan's first strawberry is in that little mesh bag. And on his face. And his bib. And his tray.