Monday, August 25, 2014

18 months

Dear Elliott,

Today you are eighteen months old! You have grown into a little force of nature these past few months. You still have cheerful moments, a wonderful giggle, and a radiant smile, but you also have this fantastic glower, intense little eyebrows, and a tiny iron will. Like me, you have a quick temper but get over it pretty fast. You occasionally throw spectacular tantrums, folding dramatically to the floor and wailing while you kick your feet. You make spectacular excited / surprised faces sometimes when things make you happy. You definitely have some words, and you understand lots more than you say. You constantly surprise me. You are mischievous and headstrong and funny and beautiful and I feel so fortunate every day that I get to be your mother.

Other things about you as you reach a year and a half...You still really love mini muffins and when you get to Grandma's in the morning, you trot right to your high chair and demand that we open the container. ("Muh! O muh!") We have to cut the muffins into quarters so you don't stuff them whole into your cheeks. You're a champion eater overall right now, and the only thing you've ever rejected is cheese pasta, even the good kind from Panera. You can drink from an open cup if someone holds it for you, and call all drinks "Ba!" whether they're in a cup or a bottle. You love to splash in water and will usually try to drink it - so far this month you have drunk from the bubble rock at the little landscaped creek we visit, the fountains at the zoo, two swimming pools, and the water room at the children's museum. At swim lessons you'll industriously paddle your little arms through the water and sometimes kick your legs. You'll take my hands and step happily off the wall during jumping-in practice. You're trying to work out how to blow bubbles and it's adorable. You're bold on slides and stairs and have seemed to enjoy our last few visits to Pump it Up. You carry flannel blankies around now, though you don't seem to have a particular favorite.

You are in some ways my mini me and in some ways wholly your own creature. You are so unexpectedly different from your brother and yet the perfect complement to him. You are smart and stubborn and sassy. We have so many adventures ahead of us, little one, and I can't wait.

Love,
Mama















Here are some photos of the other dude, too:





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Muffin men

Back at the beginning of June I made some mini muffins on a whim, so that I'd have something easy and portable for Nico to eat at my desk at work each morning before summer camp started. It turns out my kids really like mini muffins. Like, really like them. They've eaten so many that I seriously considered ordering a bulk case of muffin papers from a restaurant supply company. At first I made box mixes from the store, but then I started feeling kind of guilty about it. I tried the basic plain muffin recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook with chocolate chips thrown in, but they were awful - the texture was all wrong. I'm not sure if I lost count and added and extra scoop of flour, or what. Has anyone ever used that recipe and liked it? I haven't made another attempt since I was so annoyed by the wasted supplies and work that first time.

When I can get nice zucchini, I use the Better Homes & Gardens zucchini bread recipe and add chocolate chips - the boys have no idea they're semi-healthy. I've been buying this "simple mornings" mix that claims to have no artificial ingredients for a blueberry option, though I'd still like to come up with a version I can make myself. And last night I made banana muffins from this recipe and holy cats, the house smelled AMAZING. I could easily eat the entire batch myself if I let myself get started. It's really good as bread and even better as mini muffins, it turns out. (I add a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to the recipe since cinnamon makes everything better. Oh, and I bake all the minis for 15 minutes or so, regardless of what the recipe claims to be the correct bake time.)

I have a really good pumpkin bread recipe for when zucchini season ends, but if the children keep eating muffins like they're eating them now (four per kid, every morning), I'd love to have some more semi-healthy options. So, hit me with your favorite muffin or quick bread recipes, pretty please! Two muffin-loving small boys thank you.




Turns out if you leave two small children alone with a bowl of mini muffins, they will eat all the mini muffins.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Things coming, things going

1. O captain, my captain. What a sad news day this has been.

2. I found my ring! And happily, not in a diaper. I was changing Elliott for bed on Friday evening and used the last wipe. When I picked up the box to put in more, it rattled and lo, there was my ring stashed inside. Sweet relief!

3. I'm giving away a book, so leave a comment over here if you're interested.

4. I was invited to a grownup lady playdate to watch the first episode of Outlander on Starz. I read the book way back in high school and kind of loved it. The show so far is very good. I am not 100% sold on the casting of a very handsome but not very gigantic actor to play Jamie. I was initially also nonplussed by his non-flaming red hair (I'm a little biased on behalf of redheads, you know), but after squinting at his cast photo online a few times, I think once they're not in the dark / rain (which may never happen, because: Scotland), it's going to turn out to actually be red hair, albeit a little duller than what I always imagined on Jamie. After watching the show, I pulled out the book for a re-read yesterday and I think I'm going to enjoy it all over again. Suddenly I'm wishing I hadn't purged the second and third books in a book clear-out a few years ago, though honestly I don't know that I'll have time to wade through three giant novels.

5. We had what will likely be our last playdate of the summer this morning, and what also will be our last regular playdate with a group of friends we started building when Nico was a wee bitty baby. I met one of the other kids and her mom at our breastfeeding group and we've been getting the kids together for several years now, once a month on Mondays. It was so bittersweet to see them playing together so well after so long, knowing that by September three of the five kids will be in preschool on Monday mornings. We're hoping to meet up for some Monday afternoons instead, and I'm really hoping that works out.

Last Monday we had a last summer playdate with another friend of Nico's, a kids / mom family I really, really like and only met about a year ago through a mutual friend who has since moved away with her two kids exactly my kids' ages. This keeps happening to me! The still-local little boy is going to Kindergarten this year and will be in school all day from now on. I'm hoping we can meet up on some school holidays and that his mom and I can keep in touch and keep our toddlers playing together. It all feels very sunrise / sunset at the moment, though. To assuage my melancholy, here's a video of Elliott from this morning:



We were at a little garden with a fantastic constructed creek that the kids can wade in, a place I stumbled across less than a month ago and have taken the kids to twice already. Nico told me today he wants to go to the creek every day, so I think we have a winner on our hands. So far our summer has been gleefully wonderful and it probably deserves a post of its own but for now, I think it's bedtime.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The precious is lost

I was getting the kids ready for a pool party yesterday afternoon and set my wedding ring on Elliott's dresser while I put on his sunscreen. I let him run around in his room in his diaper while I went to put on Nico's sunscreen and mine, and it was quite a while before I remembered I'd left the ring where he could reach it. Of course when I went back it was gone. We were in a hurry, so despite my creeping sense of slightly forlorn dread, we left and I figured I'd look for it later. When we got home, I picked up all the toys and books on Elliott's floor and looked under all his furniture and found nothing. At this point I'm thinking he either swallowed the ring or dropped it down the air vent. Is it awful that I'm really hoping he swallowed it?

It's just a plain white gold man's wedding band - which I wanted because it matches MB's ring - so it would actually be really easy to replace. But of the three rings MB has given me, the wedding band is the one I'm most sentimental about, the one I'm most attached to. It's the symbolism, you know? This was the ring he put on my finger when we stood up in front of God and everybody and promised to love and honor until death do us part. And so begins Poo Watch 2014. According to a friend whose daughter swallowed a hair clip last month, if he did swallow it I should see it again around day three. So on Thursday in time for our tenth anniversary, perhaps?


Stinker.


Reading:  Blackfin Sky by Kat Ellis

Playing:  Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits (1991-2001) by Barenaked Ladies

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spite cheer

I had an incredibly stressful, shitty day at work, so bad that at one point I was literally shaking with anger and frustration. It was an ALL CAPS kind of day. It was terrible, horrible, no-good, AND very bad at times, and to cap off the circus of shitty, the end result is that I have to sit down with an employee very soon and outline why her behavior led to this terrible, horrible, no-good very bad meeting and hope she doesn't make excuses / get loudly defensive / cry. SHITTY. SHITTY DAY. I could go on at length but I won't because (A) blogging about work is a bad plan and (B) probably no one wants to read a bunch of all-caps complaining about work. So, in the spirit of Swistle's brilliant spite charity, here's some spite cheer: some things that made me happy today even though I was also really, really pissed off.

1. I now own this shirt, and even though it's not the best look for my boobs, I care not. Because it's awesome.



2. I ran into my cousin at Old Navy and we ended up having this text conversation as we shopped separately afterward:



3. I carry this cigarette case in my purse to hold gift cards and store customer cards and things that I don't want to cram into my wallet. I got it from my great-aunt's house when she had to move into a nursing home and I just liked the way it looked / found it useful / like to think of her sometimes when I use this small, useful thing. Hilariously, I've had it for years and never realized it was a cigarette case until my officemate saw it last week and asked why I had a cigarette case. Then tonight I got it out at Barnes & Noble and the cashier - who was an adorable hipster Johnny Depp (if so young as to be practically fetal) - thought it was vintage and awesome.



4. I took this photo of Elliott at another touch-a-truck event this past Tuesday morning, and I just love it so much.



5. I caught this A-plus quality air butt last night:



6. I got this from Johnny Depp at the B&N cafe and I ate the whole goddamn thing. My feelings are delicious.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Boys of summer

In the midst of the stolen baby photos cancer scam drama, we actually had a really amazing perfect summer weekend with the boys last Saturday and Sunday. Delayed by my angst / slow watermarking process, here is the evidence:

Touch-a-truck! (They even had a helicopter, which landed right after we arrived. Greatest touch-a-truck ever.)




fire truck is SERIOUS BUSINESS




Panera lunch break / touch-a-truck aftermath:





Water Day at the library:











Bug festival (after dropping off Elliott and MB at home for naps):











Sunday birthday party fun:







On Sunday morning we discovered our butterfly had come out of its chrysalis, so we took it to the public flower garden to release it right before bedtime that night. Nico started to give it an adorable little pep talk: "Mr. Butterfly, here are some flowers! You can go find nectar!" Then he paused and asked, "Do butterflies have ears? Can he hear me talking?" I kind of wish I'd lied so he'd continued with his speech. The butterfly flew away, Nico pushed Elliott's stroller back to the car, and we drove home in the fading evening light. Mischief managed.





Thursday, July 24, 2014

Explanation

On July 8 I received an email that said, "I am not sure if you have been contacted by others and I apologize in advance if you have been. However, there is a female by the name of Jessica Krutuleski that has been using photos of your son. She has claimed the photos are her child by the name of Jayden. This has been going on for several months and even had lots of people believing this was true. Today her secret was let out after she posted that Jayden had passed away." There was a link to Jessica's personal facebook page, but I didn't see any photos of my kids. I assumed she had taken Elliott's pictures, because there was a post that said "Jayden's first ice cream cone!" and had clearly once included a photo. I was annoyed and irritated, and the fact that she posted his pictures and then said he died gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I try not to be superstitious, but it reminded me of how they say you should never lie about having to go to your grandma's funeral to get out of work, because then your grandma might really die and you'll feel horrible. (Admittedly, that probably wasn't the most rational response.) With no proof of wrongdoing, there was really nothing I could do. I very briefly wondered if I should lock down the blog, but came to the conclusion that it would be a little like locking up the barn after the horse has already wandered off. Plus, honestly, no harm could come to Elliott from this incident - he's anonymous on my blog and I've been pretty careful to keep my real identity and my blog identity separate. There are some longtime twitter friends who now know the real me through facebook, but unless one of them outs me, things should be fine. So I posted some angry tweets, googled Jessica Krutuleski and glowered at her cleaned-up facebook page, and decided to let the whole thing go.

Then on July 17, two more people emailed me. They'd seen Elliott's photos passed off as sick baby "Jayden" and then reverse image-searched them once the lie was exposed. That led them to my blog and this time they provided a link to a facebook community called Jayden's Prayer Warriors that was full of photos of Elliott. She'd been posting them for several months and including updates about "her" baby's illness and chemotherapy. There was an address for people to send cards and a link to a fundraising page (though no one had donated). I got the emails and link on my phone as I was heading back to work and without really thinking about it, I angrily reported the page as a scam. Once I got back to the office I realized I should've waited until after the police had a chance to see it, since I was pretty sure soliciting money using stolen photos and passing them off as a fake kid was at least report-worthy if not actually illegal. I snapped screenshots of everything that seemed relevant and called the police department in the town she gave as her place of residence. I was told since I live elsewhere, I'd need to file a report with my local police and then have them forward it to Lowell PD. I felt a little bit stupid calling the police and saying "Someone stole my baby's photos from my blog," but once I explained it the clerk I talked to was duly horrified and took down all the information for a report with the financial crimes unit.

I spoke to a sergeant in financial crimes on Monday, and while he told me that the use of the photos was really nothing they could deal with, he also took the fraud aspect seriously. He told me he'd forward the report to Lowell and that I should call them after giving it a few days to get there. I called Lowell today and talked to two police officers with awesome Boston accents. Since no one actually gave her any money (that I can find, and I've tried), there's not much they can do, but one said he'd call her and "tell her to knock it off" and the other admitted he'd confronted her last week for doing the same thing with someone else's baby photos. While I'm disappointed it didn't end with her definitely getting arrested for being a colossal douchebag, I'm glad the police took it seriously and that her name is now on record for the inevitable next time she tries to pull something like this.

People who've heard the story as it unfolded have tended to say sympathetic things like "I'm really sorry this is happening to you!" and while I do appreciate the comfort / care, really I do not feel personally attacked or victimized. I firmly believe the only reason Elliott was involved was that she stumbled across his photos and figured he was cute enough to get her the attention she wanted. With luck his name will never be tied to anything that happened, and hopefully she won't try to use his photos again. Perhaps it is a horribly selfish decision, but I have no intention of locking down the blog or stopping the sharing of the kids' pictures. I am experimenting with watermarking my photos, but it's a bit of a time-consuming pain in the ass and I kind of hate the way it looks. I may try to give it a month and see if it's still annoying me. But anyway, I guess the point is, the thing that made me so angry wasn't that she stole my photos, it was that she used them in such a disgusting lie. I kept thinking of Hugo's mom, whom I know from Twitter, and how she'd give almost anything to have her story be made-up, and here was someone lying about it for attention / money. The injustice, the unfairness of it, and knowing she'd probably get away with it, that's what made me furious. I'm still a little furious, though I feel much better now that I know I've done all I can to get her branded as a sleazebag in the eyes of the law.




This one isn't actually Elliott. There were three photos on the site that were very obviously a different baby,
and I'm not sure why she thought people wouldn't notice. Then again she's clearly not a rational person.


Okay, I'll admit it...this last one makes me want to drive to Massachusetts and punch her in the fucking face.