Ask Mama Jells: A change in (almost every) routine

Ans getting ready for bed; alt. title: baby on a skateboard.

She’s already rebelling at 21 months. (Alt title: baby on a skateboard)

Things were getting out of control in our house.  One kid wouldn’t settle down and go to sleep until 10:30 pm, the toddler didn’t want to wean from breastfeeding, neither wanted to eat veggies anymore, and everyone – I mean everyone in my house was cranky.  This was going on for months.  No wonder I didn’t want to write about it.  I don’t exactly like documenting when I feel like my brain and house were simultaneously imploding into a black hole.  All I wanted was SLEEP and a tad bit of personal time, to, I don’t know, write and watch a few of my programs (Season 2 of Orange is the New Black!), but it wasn’t happening.  Nothing was happening.  The only thing that was happening was yelling, the losing of our collective temper, and all around tantrums.  Ans was learning about freak-out-over-nothings, when she was once a very reasonable baby.  Hubs and I conferred and decided there must be a change, and we needed to be on the same page about it.

  1. [Source: Amazon]

    [Source: Amazon]

    Weaning.  I was beyond ready; Ans was not pleased about this.  I reduced feedings over the past month-plus by saying, “there’s no more chi chi,” and redirected Ans to another kind of drink or snack.  I hated the idea of giving her something else to wean from, like a bottle, since she technically should’ve been done with those in September at her first birthday.  But that’s how she went to bed if Hubs put her down instead of me, so I tried to rock and feed her with one.  My problem was lack of consistency.  First off, she hated taking one from me, and if the bottle ran out, I ended up giving her my breast anyways to put her over that last bit of wakefulness.  It was so much easier, you know?  I finally saw success when I stuck to my guns and gently reminded her that it was all gone, over and over and over.  She was so mad at me, repeating, “I want chi chi.”  I held her, loved on her, and we were already working on the following item in this list, which helped.  For the next 2 days, she checked back in with me once each day, but I reiterated that they were, oh, so empty.   [Side note: a friend from grad school swears by weaning with neam oil - it tastes like yuck.  You still need to give the warnings that the boob shop is closed for business, but if they're still just going to try to nurse, this will discourage your Little without having the tantrums like we had.  I never got around to getting any, but I wished I knew about it beforehand.]  It took around 3 months of reduced feedings, and 3 days of straight up weaning.
  2. Sleeping arrangements.  Weaning was only going to work if the whole bed time routine changed.  Ans now sleeps next to her sister, and it’s the cutest thing ever.  The only way EB would agree to going to bed early is if she was in charge of comforting her sister.  The only way Ans would agree to staying in bed, or giving up nursing and the bottle, was if she got to cuddle in the big girl bed.  We had to meet in the middle with bedtime, so lights now go out at 8:30 after reading as a family (instead of 7:30 for Ans and 10:30 for EB).  Once we leave, Hubs and I watch on the video monitor as EB covers Ans up, pats her, and they actually fall asleep pretty quickly.  It took them about a week to adjust to this.
    The first time they snuggled at night - I found them like this and decided the toddler bed was obsolete.  Now Ans sleeps against the wall.

    The first time they snuggled at night – I found them like this and decided the toddler bed was obsolete. Now Ans sleeps against the wall.

    EB and Ans on the video monitor

    EB and Ans on the video monitor

  3. Eating better.  I always made the girls a separate dinner of “kid-friendly” (aka not very healthy) foods that I thought they would eat.  Part of my thinking was it was better that they got something in their stomaches than rejecting the veggies and whatnot.  It was dumb, but I’m sure not the only one who thinks this way.  Having a separate dinner meant it was ready at a slightly different time than ours, so they weren’t watching us eat our meals of non-nugget-shaped meats and veggies.  They wanted to get up and roam instead of sitting in their seats and finishing the meal.  The thing is, Hubs is an excellent chef, and we figured out one day recently that if we serve one plate, there’s no separate portions, we all eat together, and they aren’t overwhelmed by how much they got or have to eat.  The girls feel the competition to keep up and get the bites of their favorite part of the dish or else it will be gone.  We  chant, “Good veggie eater,” when one of the kids tries new veggie for the first time, and for every bite of veggies, we have EB list every veggie she can think of while we count a la The Count from Sesame Street.  Dessert is cut up fruit – absolutely no sweets in the house at all now.  Additionally, we cut out snacks before dinner, and have it ready as soon as they come in the door from school.  Now the kids run to the table and start gobbling away.  This took 2-3 weeks for them to adjust.

    I also made them chalk board placemats to entice them to sit at the table while waiting for dinner to be ready.

    I also made them chalk board placemats to entice them to sit at the table while waiting for dinner to be ready.

  4. Potty training.  This wasn’t really a problem, per se, but Ans is all about it since she sees her big EB sister go.  We’ve got the little potty next to the regular toilet in the bathroom and she just joins in whoever is going.  You just have to be ok with company in the bathroom at our house, and voila!  A self-potty-training toddler.  I’ve already talked to Ans’ teachers and make her go potty as soon as we get to her classroom.  It might seem early, but EB was pretty much potty trained by the time she turned 2.  She wore a night diaper for a while, but day dipes were done-zo.

The rest of the routines fell into place naturally.  The girls now get up effing early, which kind of sucks for me, but I’m an adult and I need to get going for work anyways.  Because they’re up by 7:15, I can finally get them to school by 8 am, where they serve breakfast until 8:30.  That saves me like an hour in the mornings, and I get much more done in the day, rendering me less cranky with landscape design deadlines for client presentations.  Baths stay the same after dinner, and the girls take them together while one of us cleans up the kitchen.  Then, the elusive evening for personal time is upon us.  Hubs is currently doing music on his computer.  I’m blogging for the first time in over a month.  We’ve all become so much more patient during the time we spend together outside of work and school.  It really is a whole new world.  I mean, I don’t want to speak too soon, but I’m feeling really good about this change in routine.  Instead of changing one thing, change all of the things that aren’t working, because they are probably related.

Ans wanted to help with the dishes.

Ans wanted to help with the dishes after her bath.

A side benefit is I’m about to gain some real estate in the overcrowded kids’ room!  The crib-turned-toddler-bed is going, the rocking chair is heading back to my MIL’s (I know you’re going to read this; surprise!), and I think we’re going to be done with most of the cloth diaper paraphernalia soon.  Their tiny room in our tiny house might not feel like a star exploding (it’s more like a white dwarf) in the very near future, which will only add to this feeling of albeit-fleeting parental serenity.

Are you going through any of this?  What routine would you like to change in your house?  Do you have tips you’d like to add?  

Mama Jells.

About these ads

What do you think you’re wearing?

As an unapologetic feminist, who has modest leanings when it comes to fashion, I have to say that this business with the gal thrown out of her homeschool prom because the dads couldn’t stop looking has got me thinking.  What is considered appropriate?  And who or what determines this?

Let’s get a few points out of the way:  I sympathize with this high school girl, Claire, I really do.  I actually had a very similar dress (silver, sparkly, mid-thigh) when I was in high school that I wore to a performance poetry show we put on for the school.

My sparkly dress probably came to my fingertips, too.

My sparkly dress probably came to my fingertips, too.

I am of average height, so what comes to my fingertips doesn’t look the same as what comes to the fingertips of a girl that’s 5′-9″.  If the to-the-fingertip, the only dress code used by Claire’s homeschool prom, does not seem appropriate on some body types, then it’s not a good rule of thumb.  What is, then?  Using however many inches above the knee?  Or is it a gut reaction to someone’s dress?  Like I said, for a 17 year old’s dress, it wasn’t shocking.  It was youthfully appropriate to me.  She said she’s curvy, but I’d agree with her other description of herself, that she’s got a woman’s figure.

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Picture of Claire’s dress from her blog post.

The other side of the story is the adults’ reaction.  The female chaperone in charge was furious because the dads, the male chaperones, were oogling her, and that she was causing “impure thoughts” with the boys at the dance.  Is that this girl’s fault?  I am frankly grossed out that it’s up to women to cover up because men can’t control their boners.   I do believe this is also what the Jezabel piece talks about as well.  It’s basically a feminist foundation point, the framework of overturning rape culture and slut-shaming.  Women are not “asking for it” by wearing certain articles of clothing.  Take this cartoon, for instance.

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If it’s hot, I’m going to wear a tank and shorts, no question.  I live in Texas.  That sweltering heat lasts most of the year.  I’m not “asking for it” by trying to stay weather-appropriate.  So then is it appropriate to wear a summer outfit to a job interview?  To visit a client?  To take my kids to a school function?  Here’s where I can see the other side.  I don’t feel comfortable showing cleavage, but that’s on me.  Unless we’re out to dinner, or at club (Ha!  Let’s pretend I want to do that while having small children), or at a body of water, showing acres of boob is most likely not appropriate.  Not because the woman is asking for trouble, or a slut.  Then why?  This is the crux of my inner dialogue about the whole thing.

When I was growing up, about the age in my sparkly dress above, I did indeed try to go to a club in inappropriate clothing, according to my mother.  I wore a bra under a sheer top, and when my mom caught sight of me about to leave, she told me to change so that I didn’t look like a “street walker.”  I wasn’t going to a club to grind up on someone (ew), but I was going to dance, and I’m frankly glad she helped me avoid creepers coming up to me, when I just wanted to express myself corporally.  (To the dudes that get off on yelling crap at women on the street – you deserve every retching sound I’ve yelled back at you.)  Would I have been “asking for it” by wearing what my mother so euphemistically called “street walker” clothing?  Unintentionally, yes.  Let me say for clarity’s sake that I mean unwanted attention, and not getting raped.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, can ask for rape in what they say, do, or where they go.  This girl was wearing sweats when she got raped.  I think it’s insulting to men to say they can’t keep themselves from raping just by seeing an attractive woman.

And since I’m also a vocal lactivist (that’s a an activist breast-feeder), is it appropriate to BF anywhere?  Yes, absolutely.  Feeding a child in the bathroom is gross.  But what about covering up?  I don’t usually.  Ans’ head covers what’s left of my deflated breasts, and she wouldn’t allow a cover at 20 months anyways.  But I must confess there are times when I feel the urge to cover.  If I were in front of a client, or at my mom’s private school before she retired – I covered.  If I was at a kid’s birthday party, or in front of friends or other parents, I didn’t care.  But it was me, I was the one who cared.  I felt a certain level of comfort to BF in front of people I know, or who I would assume understand vs people who I feel like I need to impress.  One last point on this – it’s never a sexual act, the side breast that might show.  It’s not immodest to bare breasts to feed a child – ever.

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UNT ad campaign about breastfeeding in stalls

To whittle down my point – aside from rape (we can all agree by now that clothes don’t instigate it), summer casual clothes, the night life, and pool parties, there seems to be a time and place that certain types of clothes are indeed appropriate.  Work attire, if in the professional world, can be flattering, form-fitting, but not sexualized, in my opinion.  Going to daytime events involving adolescent children (like at a school function) can be casual and weather appropriate, but probably shouldn’t show acres of cleavage.  Formal events like funerals or weddings probably require some level of conceal, don’t reveal, although that’s probably arguable at weddings…  I think my modesty really connects to what kind of attention I am looking for – I don’t appreciate guys hitting on me, so I exude an air of unavailability, including with how I dress myself.  But do I think those that do are sluts?  Nah.  I just think there are more flattering outfits they could be wearing.  But that’s just me.

What do you think?  Is there such a thing as “appropriate” clothing?  Or should we dress in what makes us comfortable and not internalize other people’s reactions?

Feminist Jells.

 

 

 

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A month in, and she’s doing fine.

 

First day pics

First day pics

And took all of three days to adjust to going to school.  She waves me and EB off, saying “bye bye” while picking up some toy in her class, or giving a new friend a hug.  It took EB almost two YEARS to quit crying when I dropped her off at school.  My MIL calls it second-child syndrome.  They adjust easier, especially if they see big thither waving me off while she makes her way to her friends already playing Frozen on the playground.

First day pic, before I cut the bangs into the cutest shag cut in the world.

First day pic, before I cut the bangs into the cutest shag cut in the world.

Having both girls in school has been a game changer in our house.  I can finally focus on work for more than an couple of hours at a time and I think because it’s spring and business is falling into our laps, it was fully necessary for me to not have an anxiety attack.  I had to work, and I enjoy working quite a bit.  I don’t enjoy half focusing on two things that deserve all of me.

Matching backpacks.

Matching backpacks.

Speaking of not fully paying attention – be warned if you give yourself five minutes to get ready in the bathroom and the kids are being exceptionally quiet in the other room.  Especially after you make an accessible art drawer that happens to have a pair of child-size scissors.

Bye bye curls.  Hello, butch haircut when I started college circa 1999.

She bangs.

BEFORE: She bangs.

The area EB chopped off was behind her right ear.  I caught her in the act right as she was going for the bangs.  As in, next to her eyes with sharp objects.

AFTER: The area EB chopped off was behind her right ear. I caught her in the act right as she was going for the bangs. As in, next to her eyes with sharp objects.

 

When I asked EB why she would cut her sister’s hair, especially after getting a talking-to by me for cutting her own bangs at school, she replied simply, “because I wanted to.”  Well, DER.  And I wanted to see my youngest daughter’s shag hair cut grow to fruition for the sake of pig tails.  It was so cuuuuuuute right before EB cut it.

Well, it’ll grow out soon because before I knew it, Ans has been at school a month and there’s a new normal here.  And I have a deadline/presentation in an hour, so of course I’m writing a blog post.  **UPDATE** I came home after the meeting to add another picture and press publish, but I thought I’d add that the meeting went great!  We’ve got a really exciting project coming up soon that’s going to be a real portfolio-builder.  The clients loved it and I’m ever impressed with Hubs’ design and communication skills.  Feeling greeeeeeeat on this Friday.  I hope you are, too!

Mama Jells.

 

 

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The end of an era.

Ans is now 17 months old.  She will be starting pre-school at the beginning of March, the same school EB attends, since next month marks the YEAR AND A HALF milestone.  It’s a big one.  She’s unbelievably ready and gets straight up pissed that I make her leave all of the obvious fun that her big sister gets to have for the entire day without her.  She’s really comfortable at school because she’s gone with me almost every day since she was born to drop off or pick up Big Sister (or as Ans says, “Thither!”).  I have to practically drag that small child out (it’s not hard – I just pick her up) and she cries all the way home (which is only 2 minutes away, tops).  I’ve even been leaving her in the Child Watch room at the Y, and she’s cool with it all.  The toys, oh the toys, they are different than ours.

Ans just can't make it back out to the car without playing with something at her new school.

Ans just can’t make it back out to the car without playing with something at her new school.

This is great.  I am very excited about her having three days a week where she plays with other Littles, sits in circle time to read a book, and eat at tiny tables in tiny chairs.  She will get the enrichment and attention I can’t always give her while she Wreck-It-Ralph’s the living room when I have a deadline.  This will give me three whole work days to churn out designs, keep up with my company’s social media (yes, that’s where I’ve been, playing with tangible rewards like a pay check), and be on site more than just a check-in to take pics with my little buddy.

Ans playing outside watering plants.

Ans playing outside watering plants.

But that’s just it.  My little buddy.  She who would like to snuggle and kiss and give endless fives.  She who would rather sit on my lap or stomach, or just in some way on my person if we’re in the same room, which we always are.  Ans is much more snuggly than Eebs.  Not necessarily needy, but yes, also needy.  I couldn’t take a bath in peace tonight because she kept trying to climb in with me in her PJs.  This is after I called Hubs to get her because she was climbing out and throwing cups full of water out onto the bathroom rug.

Yes, it will be easier, but she’ll officially be attending school!  For the rest of her life (practically)!  This is the last two weeks of being a full-time-stay-at-home-working mom.  I’m going to try and crunch all of my work life into those three days so that I don’t split myself on T/TH to be fully present with her on the days home.

I’ve been lucky to be able to keep Ans home this long.  I put EB in daycare at 10 months after taking her to work with me for that long.  She got sick all the time and her ear/nose/throat situation has been a persistent problem since then.  There might be surgery in her future – more on this later.  Ans has not been sick nearly as often and has had much fewer ear infections.  I also can’t complain about the snuggles and guilt-free co-PJ-wearing mornings watching TV.

EB has gone to this school since she was 1-1/2 as well.  Now she has best friends she wants to dance with at Sweetheart Balls!  Love.

EB has gone to this school since she was 1-1/2 as well. Now she has best friends she wants to dance with at Sweetheart Balls! Love.

HERE is the post where I wrote about EB’s first day at this school.  It has a pic of her and I walking up to the door together holding hands.  I want to take a new pic just like it with Ans, so I need to get her a small backpack…to carry my tears in with her.  Wah.

Life moves on.  We all get a little bit older everyday.  But as Eebs said the other day, “Is today tomorrow right now?”  Time is relative.  As a kid I had too much of it; as an adult, it’s never enough, and goes by so very quickly.  How is already almost March?  And the real question – am I going to wean that upright baby now that she’s going into daycare?  Because I don’t even know.

Happy/sad cry Jells.

Review and Giveaway: Baltic amber teething necklace by Amber for Babies

Ans wearing an amber teething necklace.

Ans wearing an amber teething necklace.

Amber for Babies sent me a Baltic Amber teething necklace in December.  I’ve had Ans try it out for about a month now, and I’m so pleased with it that I’m partnering with them for a giveaway, ending on January 31st at midnight (CST).

Before we get to how to enter, let me tell you why I love it.  Besides the hippie necklace cuteness, of course.

Because we do this in my family.

Because we do this in my family.

EB had some major teething issues: drooling, crankiness, gnawing on various parts of my body, etcetera etcetera.  I gave her the natural teething tablets that dissolved in her mouth, but it seemed like such a temporary solution and I wasn’t sure if it was even numbing the source of the pain.  I thought about getting her an amber necklace a little too late – she already had 20 teeth by the time I started researching.  When Ans started teething (she now has 8 chompers), I looked high and low on the Intertron, but I wasn’t sure what kind to get.  I knew Baltic amber was the oldest kind and had the highest concentration of succinic acid, which is released by the warmth of skin.  It is known to heal all sorts of ailments, including fighting off infections and reducing inflammation of the throat and ear.  I also wanted to make sure that if I put a necklace on a wiley baby that wouldn’t break or become a choking hazard if the beads came off.

Serendipity was looking my way, because right after I got lazy and never ordered anything because there were too many options and I was broke because of Christmas, Amber for Babies offered me  a necklace to review.  It’s the perfect length at 12″, has a screw-on clasp, and the extra-strong thread is knotted between the beads.  I’m telling you, Ans has put some downward pressure on that thing when she’s creeping up on a nap screaming and I’ve got two more errands to run in the car.

I was worried that Ans would hate wearing the amber necklace because she rips out hair ties and clips and won’t wear socks, gloves, or hats for more than 30 seconds.  For the most part, Ans lets it nestle against her skin under a shirt.  She does occasionally chew on it, but again, I haven’t been in fear of her breaking it at all.

She hardly notices wearing the amber necklace at all.  As opposed to how much I notice a baby in front of me on the table when I'm working.  (Read: A LOT.)

She hardly notices wearing the amber necklace at all. As opposed to how much I notice a baby in front of me on the table when I’m working. (Read: A LOT.)

So if you’d like your very own amber necklace, enter this giveaway HERE.  There are a few caveats: you have to like I’ll Sleep When They’re Grown on Facebook, and you have to follow ISWTGBlog on Twitter.  You can up your chances of winning by commenting below and tweeting about the giveaway (up to once per day).  You can also follow Amber for Babies on Facebook and Twitter for even more chances to win.  You have until the end of January!  I’m excited about my first giveaway and may the odds be ever in your favor.

Giveaway Jells.

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UPDATE: Emily from The Waiting won!  Congrats!

Top 2013 binge-worthy activities (while breastfeeding)

I have spent the past 15+ months nursing a smallish human.  We’re down to 5-6 times a day, but that’s still multiple cumulative hours that I need to find something to do so I don’t go slightly insane while I BF.  It used to write blog posts, but once Ans got big enough to WRECK SHOP with feet, hands, and her entire 22 lbs, there hasn’t been so much of that.  I’ve spent most of the past year binging on TV shows and books.  My cousin-in-law, Jamie, and my neighbor, BE, are about to pop, and it seems like about a dozen other friends are new parents (or new parents, the sequel) to their very own humans, so here is my go-to list for entertainment via a smartphone, tablet, or good-old-fashioned book:

1.  Pretty Little Liars.  There’s a reason it’s number one on my list.  I’ve just been on a bender for the last 2-3 weeks watching all 3-1/2 seasons and reading the first four books.  It’s on ABC Family, so there are no swear words, much making out, or blood, for that matter, but it’s about as suspenseful as this gal can take.  Hubs asks why I’m tucked under the covers to my eyes whimpering and I reply, “Scary dolls!  The music!”  Shut up.  It’s snarky, funny, and brings me back to my tweenage to teenage self, needing to fit in and keeping dumb secrets.  Four best friends drift apart after their 5th friend and the leader of the group is murdered, all while wearing clothes I wish I had the guts to wear in public.  Years later, they are harassed by “A,” who happens to know all of the dirty little secrets that they shared with the girl that died.  Seasons 1-3 are on Netflix and Season 4B of PLL comes back January 7th, 2014.

2.  Scandal.  This was a fun one to dive into.  I love strong female leads, and Olivia Pope is large and in charge, even when she is shattering from the man who supposedly loves her, but can’t be with her because he happens to be the (married) president, and let’s not forget about all of the daddy issues.  No matter, Liv will wear her finest white clothing and drink red wine until she figures out how to fix whatever it is that needs fixing.  Lots of great love scenes, fast-paced dialogue, and intrigue.  It’s the grown-up version of PLL.  Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix, Season 3B will be back on February 27, 2014 to account for Kerry Washington’s real life pregnancy (Squeeee!).

14 Times Olivia Pope Didn't Spill Her Red Wine All Over Her White Clothing

3.  Orange is the New Black.  This Netflix original show blew me away in the first couple of episodes.  I kept hearing about it on FB and how once you got into it, you’d be sneaking in minutes at a time while running errands or on a lunch break.  It’s worth the hype and the inevitable marathon.  Piper Chapman is incarcerated for a little over a year, a decade after carrying drugs for her then-girlfriend.  She is not the prison type but the friendships she develops while behind bars humanizes the inmates and tells their story.  I immediately read the book once the first season ended.  The tv version is of course embellished, but both are highly binge-worthy.  Season 2 is expected to air in Spring of 2014.

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4.  Parks and Recreation.  You can’t go wrong with Amy Poehler.  Hubs has a special kinship with Ron Swanson, too.  Leslie Knope works in PARD and rallies her band of misfit government co-workers to caring about improving their small town of Pawnee.  Another powerful female lead/feminist at heart – yes, there is a pattern here.  Each episode is funny on its own or you can plow through the seasons like Hubs and I did.  We are at a standoff because I can’t keep watching them on my own without getting in trouble and he started reading a book.  I make much more of a dent in a series if watching by myself.  There are five seasons on Netflix and the 6B is coming back on January 16th, 2014.

100 "Parks And Recreation" GIFs To Celebrate The Show's 100th Episode

5.  30 Rock.  Yes to the Yes.  Tina Fey is magnificent: She’s a self-depricating feminist.  I love that Liz Lemon is so flawed and probably relate to her flaws a little too much.  Alec Baldwin used  to creep to me on the many times he hosted SNL, but once I started watching 30 RockI finally got why is soft, breathy delivery is so funny.  Liz Lemon writes live sketch comedy, a la SNL, and this is like a behind-the-scenes of dealing with the talent, writers, and network suits.  See my previous post for an extended love letter to Tina Fey.  Again, all 7 seasons are all on Netflix.  PS – a little birdie told me that Tina has a new show that just got the green light about a women’s college that is just now accepting male students.  She’s not in the show, but is one of the writers.

135 "30 Rock GIFs"...Just Because

6.   The Vampire Diaries.  I have had a lady boner for Ian Somerhalder ever since he was Boone on Lost.  Elena falls for two brothers who are vampires.   There’s lots of high school and eventual college deliciousness to the as-of-now 5 seasons.  I don’t quite endorse all of the Originals storylines that plagued the past couple of seasons, but they now have their own spinoff and aren’t so front and center.  Mostly I didn’t like how the original vampires, who are thousands of years old and siblings, all have different accents.  Let’s just see some making out and Damon’s impulsive plotlines, shall we?   Seasons 1-4 are on Netflix and Season 5B starts January 23, 2014.

7.  Revenge.  I have a medium boner for the show.  It has a lot to do with the clothes and color palette of the show, but I do enjoy the story line of a gal out for revenge years after her father took the fall for the bad deeds of the wealthy and powerful Greyson family.  There are some decent lines, but mostly a lot of brooding.  I still watch it though.  Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix and Season 3B comes back January 5, 2014.

8.  Candy Crush.  I play this on my phone when I’m between shows and books.  I hate/love/hate it.  But it’s nice to play a game that only uses one finger and doesn’t (always) rely on time in case Ans hasn’t fallen asleep yet and wants to switch sides a dillion times.

9.  The Vampire Academy Series.  Oh, how I love a good vampire story.  There are six novels by Richelle Mead about Rose Hathaway, a half-vampire bodyguard of a Moroi (vampire) princess, Lissa Dragomir.  The dangerous vamps are called Strigoi.  So there are new races to get used to, but I like the spin on the traditional vampire lore and love story.  There is a movie that I’m very much looking forward to Valentines Day, 2014.  A second series from a different character’s point of view is called Bloodlines who is not a vampire, but instead an alchemist – they’re the somewhat supernatural humans charged with hiding the vampire race from regular human life.

10.  Revenge Wears Prada.  Lauren Weisberger’s 5th novel, after The Devil Wears Prada, is just as readable as the first and came out this year.  I actually recommend all of her books, including Everyone Worth Knowing, Chasing Harry Winston, and Last Night and Chateau Marmont.  I find them to satisfy whatever craving I have to read gossip blogs, except they’re automatically better for me since they are books and based in fiction.

UPDATE: 

11.  Alias:  I almost forgot that I spent a good chunk of time re-watching this series for the THIRD TIME.  When I first fell down this rabbit hole, I was mid-MLA and should have been making landscape models a little more carefully (exacto knives + eyes on the TV = bandaids).  Back then, I was waiting for season 5 to come back on the air.  And as you might read in the comments below, I rented the DVDs, then bought them, in the same month, because I am both efficient with time and money.  Jennifer Garner is Sydney Bristow, a double agent in hilarious costumes trying to take down a fake-CIA group called SD-6, along with her father, who is also a double agent.  Bradley Cooper was also in it before he made it big.  In the first couple of seasons, she drives a Land Cruiser FJ62, just like the one that I used to have and am still very sad I don’t have any more.  All 5 seasons are on Netflix.

 Do you have any shows or books of 2013 that made you lose weeks at a time and make your family forget what color your eyes are?  Tell me in the comments so I can plan 2014 accordingly.

Nursing Jells.

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An Open (Love) Letter to Tina Fey

Cupcake pajamas - a gal after my own heart.

Tina Fey as Liz Lemon in cupcake pajamas – a gal after my own heart. [Source]

I thought it would be more appropriate and less creepy to write a love letter to Tina Fey here on my blog.  I mean “less” creepy because I had this overwhelming urge to write you an actual letter, an email, a tweet, I don’t know, something to express how much I appreciate your perspective and craft.  I’ve written exactly one letter to someone famous, Diablo Cody, actually, after I read her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, but I felt straight-up stalker when I wrote her a private message on Myspace years ago.  (Myspace!  I know!)  Partly because she probably gets an exorbitant amount of creepers telling her inappropriate things based on the subject matter, but regardless, I loved it and wanted to tell her.

My admiration for you came years ago when you were the head writer on Saturday Night Live.  I thought you were smart, funny, self-depricating, and sweet.  But most of all, I thought you were a strong-ass b-tch.  You could hang with the funny guys and made friends – actual friends – with the funny gals.  I love that you had such strong feminist views that SNL became a ladies club where it wasn’t a competition for who would play the secretary, the doting wife, or the mother characters.  Over your almost-decade-long stint writing and acting on the show, you helped cultivate an environment where female characters and humor were both explored and celebrated, held with equal importance to the male-dominated leanings of that and almost every other show on television.

I watched a little bit of 30 Rock when it was on the air, but I got behind.  Hubs and I marathoned season 1 but we stalled out because we were watching it together.  If I really want to get in a show-coma, I’ve got to got at my own harried pace.  I devour episodes when left to my own devices.  Basically, I watch in the wee hours of the night on my iPhone while nursing my 13-month-old, Ans, because one can only play so many games of Candy Crush or scroll up to new stories on one’s Facebook feed.  I breezed through Orange is the New Black, am watching Parks and Recreation with Hubs so I have to wait for him before moving on (I’m actually 3 episodes ahead but don’t tell him), and needed my next fix.  Because once I get hooked on a tv show in a marathon, it’s hard to come off of it and back to reality.  So I picked back up on 30 Rock about a month ago and plowed through the other 6 seasons.  I loved it.  I giggled to myself in the dark of the girls’ room in the rocking chair, occasionally startling Ans awake for a few minutes.  The show’s dialogue started seeping into my sub-conscious and I relayed things like, “Never follow a hippie to a second location” or told some Tracy Jordan anecdote to Hubs the next day, like he was my own crazy co-worker and I had to figure out how to reign in the crazy somehow.  You gave useful tidbits on being a boss in a male-dominated workplace, actually.  But most of all, you stood up for yourself.  You, as Liz Lemon, didn’t let others stomp all over you, empowering while allowing for the inevitable flaws.

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When I went to NYC during the second leg of my vacation in late October, I just had to go to 30 Rockefeller.  It was funny – I’ve been before, I’m sure of it, but it meant nothing to me.  Just a famous name and building, a stop on the subway that I happened to come out of on an earlier trip to New York.  But I felt such a kinship to the show that I was actually giddy going inside to get my birthday chocolate.  Let’s say I was giddy for several reasons then.

30 Rockefeller Plaza - the shot from the opening credits

30 Rockefeller Plaza – Hubs and me in the shot from the opening credits

When Bossypants came out in 2011, I bought it the very first day.  I read it in one night.  The book is filled with your stories, your background, told in your punchy delivery delivery specific to only your voice.  I could hear Liz Lemon telling the story of climbing Old Rag Mountain in college, where you just wanted to get an over-the-jeans make out with a boy who also brought another boy along, who probably wanted the exact same thing.  You have so many ridiculous tidbits, and you know just what built you and why those stories would be interesting to a reader.  You gloss over your scar, calling it a litmus test for people based on how and when they ask you about it, or if it comes up in normal conversation.  I had been wanting to re-read it, having leant it to my MIL and seeing it on the book shelves out in the Texas hill country, just whispering my name for another good laugh curled up in bed, reading when I should be sleeping.  Because even though it would be a second read, I know it would make me stay up all night, devouring each tasty chapter, as good as the first time.  On the extra-long ride home from my cousin Jamie’s baby shower in Denton this weekend, my MIL bought the audio version of the book and, let me tell you, it reads better than stand-up.  It’s like you were there, telling us your stories!  It made those extra two hours of construction-induced traffic of what should have been a four hour drive feel like nothing.

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You and Amy Poehler, who deserves her own open (love) letter, hosted the Golden Globes in January of 2013 and I didn’t watch it live (because I forgot, or it was bedtime for the kids probably).  But I knew the next morning my gossip sites would have clips for me to watch without all of the boring awards.  Every time you were on stage together, it was gold.  Now you have a well-deserved deal to host for the next two years.

It was gold because you were both funny without pandering to the A-list celebs, didn’t make predictable jokes, and everyone likes to watch best friends at the top of their game.  You are the straight one, and Amy is the wild card.  You know what works and give it the same level of enthusiasm (unlike James Franco and Anne Hathaway on stage together – no wonder she over-compensated – he was he Franco’d the whole thing!).  I’m beyond excited to watch the next couple of GG’s, simply to watch your Midas touch, and proud that two women get to be smart on tv, instead of being hot stereotypes.

I attribute the success of Bridesmaids to your paving the way on SNL, Baby Mama, and then on 30 Rock.  It turns out that audiences did want to see women on screen, being funny.  The Heat, which I haven’t seen yet but really want to, is another example of a movie about female friendship, without the love interest being the ultimate plot line.

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Baby Mama [Source]

Finally!  I’m absolutely certain that it wouldn’t have been greenlit without your influence.  I can’t help but think that Keenan Thompson wouldn’t have made the comment about there not being enough funny black women to be cast on SNL if you were still on the show, because that concept seems impossible.  In the whole world, there are none funny enough to be sought out for an audition?  None?  To this, I’ll refer to a quote of yours from Bossypants:

…Whenever someone says to me, ‘Jerry Lewis says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Christopher Hitchens says women aren’t funny,’ or ‘Rick Fenderman says women aren’t funny… Do you have anything to say to that?’

Yes. We don’t f-cking care if you like it.

I don’t say it out loud, of course, because Jerry Lewis is a great philanthropist, Hitchens is very sick, and the third guy I made up.

I just felt the need to send an “attagirl” out into the ether to you, Tina.  You’ve warmed this little feminist heart, and rest assured I’m raising my own hilarious, perceptive feminists in the school of Tina Fey.  They will be confident enough to make statements and never end their sentences apologetically, in a question.  They won’t tear other women down out of jealousy, instead, EB and Ans will have female friends that mutually build each other up.  And they totally wouldn’t mind a play date with your daughters, Alice and Penelope.

Love,

Jells

EB and Ans in cupcake costumes for Halloween 2013

EB and Ans in cupcake costumes for Halloween 2013

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A very cupcake Halloween.

EB and Ans on the tire swing at school.

EB and Ans on the tire swing at school.

The increasing theme of my blog has been cupcakes because EB, when she was around 2 years old, said, “Happy Cupcake” instead of “Happy Birthday.”  She loves the tiny treats, in all flavors, frosting first, but especially when the sole purpose of the cupcake is to celebrate birthdays.  Her worlds collide and she can’t stop singing the birthday song.  This is my child’s idea of heaven, you see.

Ans and me at EB's Fall Festival.

Ans and me at EB’s Fall Festival.

I asked what Eebs wanted to be for Halloween about a month ago and she told me “Crayon Princess,” whatever that is.  I had a dream, you see.  I wanted pictures of us as a cupcake family.  It was blog fodder to the extreme.  I’ve never been involved in a group costume, the kiddos would be adorable and delicious-looking, and Hubs would be ironic and hilarious.  Or maybe steamrolled into doing it, but whatever.

My cupcake family.  Hubs' costume says, "good sport" to cover up the "eat me" bit.

My cupcake family. Hubs’ costume says, “good sport” to cover up the “eat me” bit.

My dreams came to fruition one day when I was selling some of Ans’ baby clothes to a consignment store.  They had a slightly too-small cupcake costume for her!  It was 12 mo and she’s in 18 mo, but what are a few tears of discomfort when you have a lifetime of pictures to enjoy?  Suck it up, baby.  Mama’s dream is bigger than all of us.

Hubs and my MIL with Ans.  He refused to wear his costume until I made it toddler-friendly.

Hubs and my MIL with Ans. He refused to wear his costume until I made it toddler-friendly.

My mini cupcake coming down a slide.

My mini cupcake coming down a slide.

Once EB saw her sister’s costume, she couldn’t not participate.  They love matching!  And she remembered that cupcakes were her thing to begin with, that I had just co-opted them because she’s a born leader.  So I got on Amazon Prime and accidentally ordered 3 costumes on my MIL’s account as well as sent them to her house in the hill country.  Whoops.  EB’s was perfect – a cherry headband, a gauzy shirt with sparkly sprinkles, and a comfortable enough outfit in all.  I’ve gotten my money’s worth with how much she’s worn the thing up until yesterday.  I found exactly one male and one female adult cupcake costumes.  The one for boys just had to be dirty in its own way.  It said, “Eat me.”  For reals?  This is for children!  What grown man would wear that without daughters putting the pressure on?  (Like how I blamed it on the girls?)  And all of the rest of the female costumes were slutty.  Blerg on a stick.  Mine wasn’t bad, exactly.  But I did want one as extravagant as EB’s.  (Read: gauze and sparkles.)  It’s fine.  It’s all for the kids anyways.

EB with the tire swing all to her self...chewing gum.  From her basket.  Unregulated candy consumption!

EB with the tire swing all to her self…chewing gum. From her basket. Unregulated candy consumption!

To top off this day (that was an unintentional cupcake pun in case you missed it), I volunteered at EB’s school at the Cupcake Walk for their Fall Festival.  Oh, yeah.  I handed out cupcakes, dressed as a cupcake, to my little cupcake and her class.  That’s so meta.

Eebs as a cupcake eating a cupcake.  And Hubs photobombing in the back.

Eebs as a cupcake eating a cupcake. And Hubs photobombing in the back.

That little cupcake figured out that if she was fast enough, probably fueled by the cupcakes at school and belatedly celebrating my birthday the night before with ones my MIL made me, she could eat candy all day long. Every time I turned around, she was back in her basket from trick-or-treating at school.  I hid the early stash for the evening trick-or-treating, and the only way to slow down her sugar consumption was to have her drag the wagon of babies.  If she was riding in the wagon, she gobbled and exacerbated her metamorphosis from cute cupcake to cupcake monster.  We had to call it a night after about 45 minutes.  There were issues getting her into the car, into the child seat, buckling, wearing the costume or not wearing the costume to buckle, and convincing the passers-by that we weren’t, in fact, abusing the small cupcake in the back seat.  Hopefully the other families in the Mueller neighborhood (which rivals the Zilker neighborhood for Halloween participation) understood that we had a full-on candy-induced meltdown.

Trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treating.

They were a little dubious about me collecting candy for Ans.  I say get over yourself, candy Nazis.  I might let her have one.

They were a little dubious about me collecting candy for Ans. I say get over yourself, candy Nazis. I might let her have one.

Our friends, Mason, Jessica, and Marshall as Raising Arizona.

Our friends Jessica, Mason, and baby Marshall as Raising Arizona.

EB didn't want to share the wagon handle.  Of course.

EB didn’t want to share the wagon handle. Of course.

Banana fight!  Two dads in banana costumes collide in the Mueller neighborhood.  Kids chanting, "banana fight" might've been the highlight of the night.

Banana fight! Two dads in banana costumes collide in the Mueller neighborhood. Kids chanting, “banana fight” might’ve been the highlight of the night.

Halloween, we flew a little too close to the sun, didn’t we.  See you next year.  Tell me about your Halloween!  Any meltdowns?  Cute costumes, meticulously planned, that refused to be worn?  Best night ever?  That was EB last year, not wanting to wear the Chicky Baby wig.  The one that Pee Wee posted a pic of on his FB page.

Cupcake Jells.

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I’m a 2013 Austin Birth Awards Winner!

Please forgive the lapse in blogging; I just got back from an actual vacation (as opposed to my staycation a few months ago where Hubs and I ended up working the whole time anyways).  Big stuff happened while Ans, Hubs, and I traipsed around Exton, PA, and NYC.

Hubs and me at the wedding.

Hubs and me at Sean and Yasmin’s wedding in Exton, PA.

Sean and Yasmin.  Wuv, twue wuv.

Sean and Yasmin. Wuv, twue wuv.

I knew I would be out of town for the 2013 Austin Birth Awards ceremony because of Sean and Yasmin’s wedding, but I figured it would be a worthwhile tradeoff.  Part of me assumed I would just be missing out on stalking/girl-crushing on my midwife, Liane MacPherson, who would be there, nominated for 2 awards.  (Thanks to Liane for giving me the text of the night, telling me I won!  Why are you so cool?)  If I didn’t have such a good excuse, our best friends’ wedding, there was no where I’d rather be than getting a free dinner in some clean and dressy clothes, wearing dangly earrings and my hair down because I wouldn’t have a baby yanking on either.  Even though I wanted to go, part of me just assumed I wouldn’t win.  I mean, I’ve been blogging for over 2 years now and every other WordPress blog friend I’ve made has (rightfully) been Freshly Pressed.  I wondered what would be different about this, except it was in real life, up against local and more-trafficked peers, for me to feel real disappointment when or if I didn’t win.  I harassed you people, my dear friends of the Intertron, to vote for me a few times, sure.  But let’s be honest, this was a big deal, and I never win anything.  I have no trophies to speak of, at least none that say anything more worthwhile than “Most Improved Runner Up.”  I have no I’m-number-one paraphernalia.  I am happy with mediocrity, but very often I crave the recognition that I am occasionally, pretty good at something.

todaysmamaI have been contributing to Today’s Mama with quasi-monthly posts, like the one I forgot to promote before I went out of town on a corn maze we had a blast at, which you can check out HERE.  I have yet to see any of the cents I will get once enough people click the links, but I am hopeful that blogging could lead to paying one bill.  Like the gas bill.  That would be nice.  Right now it’s another thing I feel guilty about that I don’t have more time to cultivate and grow.  I am using that energy to grow my family business, and am pleased that it has kept us busy enough to support the family without me having to get a second job like the last two years.

Regardless, I have loved writing this blog, and the half dozen or so posts I’ve done for Today’s Mama.  I have appreciated my time reflecting on my stories, especially on my vacation colored by fall leaves, celebrating my 33rd cupcake in Central Park with most of my family (EB called me first thing from Granny Camp, singing to me and then humming to me, which she learned how to do while we were away).  Because that’s what this platform is – a place for me to tell stories.  I reflected on the tone of voice that I use to be my family’s storyteller and am proud that it is full of joy, with only mild sarcasm.  I do not focus on that which has gone wrong – I find humor in the little things. And with kids, there are so many little things that just sparkle with joy.  I enjoyed being pregnant, sharing that with y’all, and keeping the journey imprinted on the Intertron for posterity.  I also enjoy chocolate.

My bday present - we went to 30 Rock to get Jacques Torres chocolate.  I picked out all 36 pieces of perfection.  I also just finished the last ep of 30 Rock and want to cry a little from how perfect the show was...

My bday present – we went to Rockefeller Plaza to get Jacques Torres chocolate. I picked out all 36 pieces of perfection. I also just finished the last ep of 30 Rock and want to cry a little from how perfect the show was…

So thank you for voting for me for Best Local Pregnancy Blog.  I am thankful for those of you that followed my blog these two years, have liked me on Facebook (and thanks for all of the new likes this week!), and kept up with me on Twitter and now Instagram.  I’m also grateful for you new-comers – welcome to ISWTG!  I feel like we have a community of people that love life here.  And most of all,  I appreciate whoever it was that first nominated me!  Who was it?  Tell me!  Because of you…

I WON.

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Happy Halloween, from my little cupcake!  I’ll have a pic of the whole Cupcake Family later.  (Oh, Hubs, you live with a bunch of girls.  You’re a good sport for playing along).

EB in sprinkles at school this morning.

EB in sprinkles at school this morning.

Tell me what you’re dressing yourself and/or your kiddos up for Halloween!  It’s my favorite of all of the favorite things.

Appreciative Jells.

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Mr. White, 10th grade English.

My high school in Houston was a magnet school for the humanities.  I especially loved my English classes – I don’t think this is a real shocker that a blogger enjoyed courses that allowed for reading and writing.  The thing is, the only “F” I’ve ever gotten was in English in 6th grade.  It was the sentence structure and grammar kind of class – not the literature and expressing yourself ones in which I blossomed emotionally as a person, so I forgive myself that failing grade.  Also, I failed because I missed so many days because I was “sick” aka bullied and I hated being there.

Fast forward 4 years to 1996 and I was going to a new school, with actual friends, and I had already taken to performance poetry.  I had not quite developed my reading muscle then, so 30 pages a night seemed torturous.  (Now I can devour a 1,000 page book in a night if it’s book-coma-worthy and I’m left unattended, which is never now that I have 2 kids.)  Mr. White constructed the syllabus from banned books, which is perfect reverse psychology for an angsty teen.  “Oh, you don’t want me to read these books, The Man?  Well, I’m not only going to read them, but I’m going to write essays on why they’re important!  So take that.”

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Angsty Jells and friends in 10th grade.

My favorite was Streetcar Named Desire.  Mr. White was energetic, committed, and funny in a way that made me feel like I was in on something.  He wanted the class to read the play aloud to get the feel of it and prevent just reading it the night before an exam or the essay was due.  It meant something to him and he wanted it to be slowly enjoyed by us.  So for several weeks, we would have a read-along, with the same students playing their part the whole book.

I, of course, wanted to be Blanch DuBois.  It was the major role and I think I was the only drama gal in the class/willing to take on a southern (more southern?) accent for the entirety of the reading.  It was such a smart move by Mr. White to give the class roles because everyone actually cared, which is difficult to garner in a high school class.  Or at least, I sure did.  I never skipped because I had Blanche to attend to.

Then came the movie days – for every book we read, if there was a movie made of it, and there usually was since they were classics, Mr. White would screen it and give play-by-plays why and how dramatic shots were achieved.  He would pause the moving and talk about a character shrouded in half-light/half dark being troubled and how the director represented some aspect of the book that we had previously spent a long time discussing.  I felt like he gave me a key to unlock watching black and white movies that always seemed so boring before.

But it wasn’t just the movie versions of books he showed.  He also screened The Simpsons’ version as well.  He gave it as much credibility as any of the others, instead of just phoning it in and catching up on grading at his desk while we had a free day.  I felt like every moment in that class was important, including my naive and rudimentary understandings of complicated and multi-layered allegories like Animal Farm and 1984.  I wasn’t scared to raise my hand and offer my take, wrong or not.  Mr. White was great at encouraging his students to at least try, which kept us present in class.

I’m not the only one who developed a deep respect for Mr. White, still held these 13 years later.  I can only remember a handful of teachers names from high school, and he was one of them.  To my high school friends reading this, can you back me up?  What was your favorite book from the class?

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Link up with Emily from The Waiting and Ashley from Zebra Garden’s Blog Hop HERE.  The theme this week was anything about teachers back in the day.  Do read the other entries and say what up in the comments.

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Blog Hop Jells.

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