Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I spent last Friday at work discovering just how much of an appalling mess our shelf list and card catalog are in. I spent literally all day trying to file cards and in general finding five cards to refile in the correct place for every one I filed initially. And now I get to figure out a way to diplomatically put the elderly volunteer who filed those cards out to pasture.

For those of you who are trying to dredge up from the dim recesses of your memories how card catalogs work, every book at minimum has three cards - author, title and shelf list, the shelf list being the list that reflects the order of books on, well, the shelf (there are also cards for each subject heading, and series, and artists, ad infinitum. Basically any way you would want to find a book, you need a card. But of course, since creating and filing cards takes time and space, you're always constrained by not wanting to create any more cards than necessary, even though since you can't do a keyword search, they're the only way you will find a book. Do you begin to see what a revolutionary thing the computerized catalog was?). But as I was going through the catalog, I would find all three cards shoved in together in the shelf list, so instead of being able to look up a book by its title or author to find out where it is on the shelf, you could only find a book by already knowing where it belongs on the shelf. This is... not helpful.

The volunteer who was doing such a creative filing job hasn't been in for the past six months, and while he was going to come in that day, we weren't expecting him to do any work. So when I mentioned to my manager that he shouldn't file cards any more, she said that it probably wouldn't be an issue. Instead, after catching up with my manager, he came over to me and asked if he should start filing some cards. Argh! I said something non-committal, and my manager asked him to help double-check her accounting with the petty cash, avoiding this issue for that week. But he's planning on coming in next week. Double argh.

Volunteers are a great thing for any cash-strapped organization. But the problem with them as opposed to a paid employee is that it's a lot harder to fire them for incompetence without feeling like an absolute heel. He's a sweet man, and I really don't know how to say that we don't want his help any more. I'm cravenly hoping that my manager will be the bad guy in this.


On a completely different topic, tonight's dinner (recipe courtesy of a Facebook friend) didn't taste exactly like the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden, but it was darn tasty, and surprisingly quick and easy. It helped that I've been trying to be better about meal planning recently, and doing things like making meals that can use the same ingredient more than once, so I can cut up a bunch of potatoes or cook up a bunch of chicken to use over a couple meals and have ingredients ready when I go to cook.

Note: this recipe makes a tankload of soup. I cut it in half and still had to use two pots when one was getting overfull. I would cut it down to about a third if you don't want leftovers for the next five years.

3 (14 ounce) cans of chicken broth
9 cups water
3-5 pieces bacon
1 lb italian sausage, loose ground
4 large russet potatoes; skin on and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2-11/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2-1 Tablespoon black pepper (to taste)
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 cups kale leaves, chopped (optional)


1. In a large stock pot combine the water, chicken broth, salt and potatoes and set to a low boil.

2. In a separate pan fry up the bacon until lightly crispy and set aside; save the bacon grease.

3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon add the Italian sausage, onion and olive oil and simmer on low until the sausage is browned and the consistency of hamburger.

4. Chop the bacon into small shreds and add to the cooked sausage, then add everything into the soup pot.

5. Mix the garlic, powders and half-and-half into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

6. 5 Minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tired snippets

* The combination of working both days this weekend, then having everyone home for MLK Day Monday has left me deeply confused about what day of the week it is. Not that I'm complaining - it was nice to be able to have a day off together after working all weekend, and the short week is an extra treat. But I'm drifting through the week never sure what today is - Tuesday? Wednesday? A week from next Friday? Who can tell at this point?

* After a dry December, a lot of our favorite shows are back - Chuck, Leverage, Burn Notice, White Collar and Psych. The alert will notice a certain similarity in all of those titles. I would say our appetite for hour-long spy/caper/mystery dramedies is completely sated for the moment.

* Speaking of caper/mysteries, we did manage to make it to a movie while we in Michigan, and saw Sherlock Holmes. We emjoyed it immensely, and not just because it was the first time we've been out together without a child since the night before Alec was born. It helped, of course, that Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law between them have 50 pounds of charisma in a five pound bag. It oozes out of their eyeballs, and they could make people enjoy watching them play Quaker Meeting. But the movie itself was pretty good. This is where I admit that I was never able to get into the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was younger. But I enjoyed watching a Holmes who was clearly flawed as well as brilliant, who showed the negative as well as positive sides of his genius.

* The other day, K brought a baby over to me and holding its hands behind its back, she asked me to tie them together. When I asked why, she said, "She's going to jail." Well. I tied the prisoner's hands good and tight. Far be it from me to stand in the way of the mighty hand of Justice.


Last night was a poop in the bathtub kind of night, both literally and figuratively. It was the sort of night with two wailing children, two aggravated parents and a disgusting mess to clean up. It was a continuation K's ongoing poop issues, and I am sorry to report that we did not deal with it with the sort of patience and grace one would hope for. It wasn't really her fault, yet it was next to impossible not to take some of our frustration out on her. I wasn't terribly sympathetic to her tears, I said things that at the time were meant to point out the consequences of her actions but in hindsight were more like rubbing it in, and she didn't get a bedtime story, which wasn't consciously meant to be a punishment, but I'm sure it felt like it to her.

We all have evenings like that, and I'm sure there will be more. One of the things that I'm becoming more aware of as K gets older is that she's now old enough that she's going to be able to remember a lot of the things that are happening her. Six months later, she's still talking about the day the window shattered in the door, and I suspect it's going to be a lasting memory (a couple weeks ago, as we were going out the door, she patiently explained to me that I needed to be careful when I closed it). The window didn't shatter because I was angry and slammed the door. It was already cracked and I had my hand on the window as I closed the door, so I suspect it would have happened anyway. But I find myself wondering if K is going to remember it as the day Mommy got angry and smashed a window. It's a chastening thought.

But what can you do? Today, before I put K in the car after school, I asked her for a hug and apologized for having such a grumpy night last night, and that I know she doesn't have poop issues on purpose. I can hope that if she's going to remember the times I traumatize her, she'll remember these moments too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

About a boy

I realized this week that I'm so late in posting Alec's six month update that it's almost time for the seven month update. I was waiting for his six month well baby appointment, which didn't happen until this week thanks to Christmas and our vacation. So here are a few notes until next week.

1. He is 27.25 inches tall, 21 pounds, 4 ounces, and has a head circumference of 18 inches. That's really quite large all around, maintaining his spot in the 90th percentile from two months ago. We don't really realize how big he is until we see him with other babies. On vacation, we met a five-month-old whom he dwarfed and a seven-month-old who was closer to his size, but still smaller than him despite being a month older.

It's a little odd when you have a big baby how people congratulate you as if it were your superior parenting that made him that big. Really, all we do is feed him, which is what any competent parent does. The rest is our obviously superior genes. :)

2. He started sitting on his own last month, but has really taken off with it this month, happily sitting for long periods without toppling over.

3. He has discovered the upper reaches of his vocal register, and the rest of us have lost approximately 25 percent of our hearing.

4. Aside from practicing his dog-summoning shrieks, his main form of communication these days is raspberries. He does them when he's cheerful and when he's annoyed. It's as if there wasn't enough saliva coming out of his mouth in drool, so he had to start spraying it around.

5. He's developing his pincer grip. Ask me how I know.*

6. We started solids this month, which he seems to be enjoying quite a bit. We're not being hugely consistent about giving them to him though, because I've discovered I'm just so bored with the spooning the pap into the baby and the bibs and the mess and the spitting. I just want to throw some food at him and let him feed himself. Sorry kid. That's life as a second child. However, he downed four ounces of pears mixed with oatmeal tonight, lunging and snapping at the spoon like a baby hawk, so I should probably work harder at getting him solids every day.


*He reminds me of an old Looney Tunes cartoon that was a guide to dog breeds. One segment went: "This is a doberman pinscher. And this is Doberman" Cue dog getting an evil grin on its face and making pinching motions as it walked off-screen, followed by a scream. Now imagine that with my nipples.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

About that Facebook meme

I got an e-mail yesterday morning, telling me to post my bra color into my Facebook status as a way to raise "awareness" for breast cancer. I use quotes because I didn't participate because I couldn't see how calling attention to my bra without actually including any information about breast cancer would raise awareness of it. I mean, posting my bra color with a link to the Susan G. Komen foundation website or suchlike would raise awareness. But just my bra color would raise awareness of, well, my bra.

In my web meanderings today, I found people who agreed with me for more or less the same reasons, and I was prepared to pretty much forget it as another stupid Facebook thing. And then I found a post by a breast cancer survivor explaining why it was a colossally insensitive to breast cancer survivors, the people it was ostensibly trying to help:

"Other cancer survivors joined in, telling me that they felt left out too. After all, this was ostensibly an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer — but one in which breast cancer survivors themselves could not participate, and were reminded (as if we needed a reminder) that we didn’t need bras anymore, that most basic undergarment of women everywhere, that symbol of sexuality, for the simple reason that we had already sacrificed our breasts in a hail mary attempt to keep the rest of our bodies from dying of cancer."

I know it's late to be posting this, since that meme was so yesterday. But if you were just getting the e-mail today, or didn't have time to post yesterday and were going to today, please don't. And maybe this should serve as a cautionary tale about how when well-meaning people try to help a cause, they should check with the people actually affected by it to find out if it would actually be helpful.

Travel notes

We arrived home last night, a day earlier than planned. It wasn't so much the heavy snow that was supposed to fall on Illinois and Indiana Wednesday night and all day Thursday - six inches of snow isn't so bad if you can drive out of it. But looking at the forecast made it clear that we would be chasing the weather system the entire way home. Blowing snow for 800 miles isn't my idea of a good time.

So although we're bitterly disappointed not to see our friends in Champaign, we instead made a stop in Indiana for dinner with friends on Wednesday and then went on to spend the night in Columbus. Our trip yesterday was cold but dry, only marred by Alec's discovery of the upper registers of his vocal range. Between the high pitched shrieks and the teething induced biting, I'm beginning to understand what it's like to live with a pterodactyl. Without the flying, that is.

It was lovely to have a day off today, before we embark on our work-filled weekend. We mostly spent it doing exciting things like getting groceries, but it was nice to have two parents for the day.


A quote from K today: "I don't want to wear a dinosaur shirt! I'm a girl!" Then she went and gave one of her previously beloved dinosaurs to her little brother because he's a boy and boys like dinosaurs (well, he liked chewing on the dinosaur). Apparently all she likes is princesses and ponies.

That sound you hear would be the breaking of her feminist parents' hearts. Sigh. It's a phase. I know it's a phase. And at least it's not as unpleasant as her other phase of the moment, which involves poop withholding.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Midwestward ho!

We arrived in Michigan 11:30 on Thursday night, with half an hour to spare for ringing in the new year with my mother and brother. Following that came the late Christmas gift opening, fondue lunch AND New Year's posole, all on the same day. Yesterday was the ceremonial trip to the favorite childhood bookstore for lunch, where I always mean to branch out and get something different, but wind up with the roasted artichoke sandwich because it's just so darn good and I get it at most twice a year.

This morning, I woke up at an inhumane, achingly cold hour to deliver my brother to the train station. I am not used to 5 degrees fahrenheit any more, not that that's actually a temperature I saw too often even in my Michigan childhood. In exchange for the lake dumping snow on us all winter, it tended to insulate us from the worst of the cold. Indiana and Illinois, on the other hand, were on average 5-10 degrees warmer than Michigan most of the time, but had nothing to insulate them from the Arctic air that came howling down the prairie, so we experienced a lot more extremes in temperature, including several single degree days every winter (and what I really thought was unfair was in Illinois, even though there wasn't a body of water to provide humidity, it was humid all summer because corn gives off moisture. So it was skin crackingly dry all winter AND sauna humid all summer). This is all colder than Philadelphia, where it feels like an unreasonable cold snap when the daytime temperatures stay below freezing for a whole week. During one of those periods last winter, I was thinking that I had really lost my tolerance for the cold when it occurred to that maybe I should think about zipping up my coat. And putting on a hat, and gloves and maybe one of those new-fangled scarves, instead of attempting to reenact My Logger Lover. I hadn't lost my tolerance, I had just forgotten little details like the fact that we humans can use cleverly sewn together cloth to protect our skins from the cold.

Today was an interstitial day, before the next round of family comes in the form of B's parents coming down for a visit. We want to see them, of course, but I would be lying if I didn't say I cherish hopes of getting out to see a movie while they're here. After that, we head down through Illinois and Indiana for brief visits on our way home.

These visits are never long enough before we have to climb back in the car. Thank goodness our children are good travellers.