Sunday, May 28, 2006

Foodie Blues

Today we drove a long ways south to Imperial, MO to visit one of Isaac's grandmothers. On the way back home, we stopped at the only Whole Foods Market in town, a place we rarely get to visit since we moved to the suburbs because it's 45 minutes away from our home in traffic.

(Considering that A.) I'm a vegetarian and B.) I own 32 cookbooks, the fact that we live so far from Whole Foods is probably great for our grocery budget).

We were there to pick up some soy milk, some ginger, some veggie hot dogs, and a type of sweet potato chips Isaac likes, but on the way in I noticed that they had fresh corn in the husk on sale at eight ears for a dollar. Big ears, in crisp, bright green husks.

My husband rolled his eyes at me as I ran over to the display and began to stuff an enormous plastic bag full of corn. "I guess we'll be having corn for dinner all week?" he sighed.

My husband doesn't much care for corn.

As a matter of fact, he doesn't much care for vegetables. Period.

Standing in front of the shopping cart, all ready to push it straight to the snack aisle, my son called plaintively, "Chips? Chips?" His expression seemed to say, Get a move on already, old lady.

When we arrived home, after putting away the groceries, I cracked open one of the ears. A crisp, green, summery scent wafted through my kitchen. Beneath the husk and yellow silk, alternating white and gold kernels shone waxy and plump. As I tore away the husk, I saw that the ear was absolutely perfect-- full, smooth and straight; not a single shriveled or missing kernel. I opened a second ear: also perfect. Gorgeous.

I carried one into the living room, where my husband was futzing with his laptop while my son watched a DVD.

"Look at this!" I said to my husband. "Isn't it beautiful? There's not a blemish on it! And it smells delicious."

Glancing distractedly up from his computer, he said, "I see corn."

Sighing, I grabbed an ear that was still in the husk, and approached my son. "Look at this pretty corn, Isaac! Do you want to help mommy open this green envelope it's in? There are pretty little kernels inside!"

He glanced at me, then turned his attention back to his DVD-- a short film he'd already seen three times today.

"You could help me put the husks in the trash?" I wheedled. He loves to open and close the trash can in the kitchen-- it's one of the kinds with a lid that opens when you step on a pedal.

I could have sworn he scoffed.

I went back into the kitchen and resumed cooking dinner. I made barbeque hamburgers for my husband and son, a barbeque veggie burger for myself, an East Indian-style potato salad with red potatoes, peas, and shredded carrots in a cumin-cilantro-yogurt dressing with fresh cilantro picked from my garden (we can't have American or German-style potato salad, because my husband won't eat mayonnaise), and fresh roasted corn-on-the-cob, with organic lemonade to drink.

The burgers (as far as I could tell from looking at the meat ones) were thick and juicy. The exotic potato salad was bright and refreshing. The corn was the sweetest, juicest, most amazing corn I've tasted in ages-- it didn't even need a drop of butter.

My son, as usual, didn't touch a bite of anything, and haughtily demanded crackers, chicken nuggets, and chocolate milk, which we gave him, which he then also didn't eat.

When I asked my husband about dinner, he said, "Well, the hamburgers were pretty good."

"And the corn? Wasn't it great?" I said hopefully.


Let me tell you, coming from him, that's high praise.


Is it any wonder I dream longingly of people inviting themselves over for dinner?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Thanks, Julius!

International child model Isaac, in Okaidi.

At a recent photo shoot, Isaac confided to a group of photographers that from now on he will insist that all of his t-shirts be imported from Europe.

A close friend of Isaac confirms the handsome, precocious youngster remarked, "It has been my experience that European designers tend to show a much greater attention to fine detail than American designers when creating casual clothes."

But when asked if an exclusive promotion deal with Okaidi might be in the works, our secret source's lips remained sealed, reporting only: "Isaac is working on a number of exciting new projects this year."

(Thanks for sending us a birthday gift all the way from Italy, Nacken Family!)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Week Late and Several Marbles Short

Where has The Discontented One been?

1.) Sulking, discontentedly. Hiding in a deep, dark mental cave. Basking, if you will, in a long dark teatime of the soul.

2.) Re-reading The Da Vinci Code, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, and Borges' Ficciones. In an attempt to reorder her brain cells in such a fashion as to make them cease to wish sulking. It didn't really work.

(Yes, fellow book snobs, I know The Da Vinci Code sucks, from a literary standpoint, in terms of writing quality, but the twisted plotting is fun, and I was in a free-speechy stick-it-to-the-whiny-establishment sort of mood this week, even though I wasn't doing much talking).

Of course, like all of you other MommyBloggers out there, I thought Her Bad Mother had an excellent idea in her Mother's Day Mommy-Blogger Love-In. I found out about this whole beautiful bloglove exchange when Andrea over at Little Bald Doctors put me (*blush*) on her Mother's Day honor roll.

But did I post? No. I drafted. I dawdled. I re-drafted. I edited.

I finally got fed up with these sort of delay tactics, and turned off my computer for three days.

Now, here I am, swimming frantically in the fading wake of the Love Boat (By the by, did I mention I can't really swim?) Chasing the caboose of the meme train. Arriving at the blog party just as the DJ packs up and the waiters start collecting empty champagne bottles and ushering the last few weepy drunks out the door.

However, I am nothing if not one of the world's greatest procrastinators.

And some people need some props here, and I suppose they come better belated than never.

So, here they come, the women you've all been waiting for:

Mommybloggers who've made a difference. In my life, and I suspect, in the lives of many other women looking for the wit, wisdom and companionship of other mothers online.

I'll start with one of my earliest supporters in blogland: Andrea of Little Bald Doctors

An amazingly prolific blogger, Andrea never ceases to amaze me with the consistent beauty and coherence of her long, frequent, essay-quality posts. Despite coping with her own stressful day job and her husband's erratic work schedule on top of the trials and tribulations of mothering a two-year-old, this woman is a regular blogging machine who puts weaker blogbeings such as myself to shame.

She is also one of the most versatile bloggers I've come across. I never know when I visit whether I'll find a charming anecdote about her son's freakish obsession with Spongebob, or blistering social commentary about the state of mainstream journalism. I will not be at all surprised to see her name on the NYT Bestsellers list as soon as she finds time to finish that thriller she's working on.

Then there are Lisa, of Midwestern Mommy, and Dawn, of I Am Doing The Best I Can.

I can honestly say that finding Dawn's and Lisa's blogs really actually seriously and truly rescued me from a black pit of despair.

When I started blogging here at Blogger, I was still struggling to come to terms with my son's serious eating problems, trying to wrap my head around the fact that I was trying to mother a baby who JUST WOULDN'T EAT. My very first entry on this blog was a sort of a cry in the wilderness, searching for understanding I felt might never come. After months of healthcare professionals running invasive, often painful tests on my child, shaking their heads in befuddlement, and nearly always finally insisting that all of my son's problems must just come down to "manipulative behavioral issues" on my son's behalf which they could only attribute to "inexperienced parenting" on mine, finally, I found a group of occupational therapists who were able to give me a true diagnosis: my son had Sensory Integration Disorder, and it actually wasn't my fault.

And then, hard on the heels of this much sought-after diagnosis, who should appear almost instantly from the internet ether with words of support and wisdom but Lisa and Dawn? Women who also each had a child with this disorder. Kind strangers who showed more understanding and compassion about what my son and I were going through than I'd received even from some close friends and family members.

Lisa, a powerfully (if occasionally oddly) funny woman who seems to constantly wear her wry sense of humor as an impenetrable armor against the slings and arrows of parenting, makes me laugh out loud with almost every single post, and she handles the hurdles of raising a child with special needs with a grace and perspective I aspire to daily. Lisa radiates positive energy into the world through her computer.

And Dawn, whose daughter has learning disabilities and ADD on top of Sensory Integration Disorder. Dawn who had been a professional childcare expert before being a mother, who thought she knew how to handle any kid on the planet until her own came along. Dawn who had to wait not my measly eighteen months, but FIVE YEARS before finally getting a diagnosis for her daughter's many health and behavioral problems.

As I read her archives I discovered that nearly every difficult, scary thing I was going through with my own child, Dawn had already been through with her daughter-- in fact, that Dawn and her daughter had already both been through far worse-- and they were both still alive and kicking. Kicking serious ass, in fact. In tandem. I always imagine their house is sort of like The Matrix.

I started reading I Am Doing the Best I Can because it made me feel like my family and I weren't alone with my son's mysterious illness.

I keep reading it because it's one of the best damn blogs I've ever found.

I am sure by now that Dawn realizes I've been stalking her like a madwoman since the day she first left a comment on my site, and yet, she's much too polite to question me about my mental health. She's just classy like that. (Although I'm sure if she saw me in person wearing, say, an oversized track suit and worn-out tennis shoes from Target, she wouldn't hesitate to turn me in to the Fashion Police).

More recently, I've become positively addicted to Liz at Mom-101, who is probably one of the best writers on Earth, and most assuredly deserves whatever astronomical salary I hope to high heaven someone is actually paying her for flying between New York and L.A. weekly for her supercool advertising job, often having to leave the second most adorable baby I've ever seen behind for several days.

Liz describes her struggle to balance her home life with her career with such pathos-inspiring immediacy and such breathtaking beauty that I sometimes feel convinced if enough corporate overlords were forced to read her blog, Congress would suddenly pass a law declaring every day a Take Your Baby to Work Day.

But I'm probably giving the corporate overlords too much credit.

And my newest blog crush is Lildb over at I Obsess, a fairly new blogger whose well-composed musings remind me a lot of myself a little over a year ago, when my son was the same age her son is now. Only she writes better.

But you know, the sappy truth is, Mommybloggers, I love all of you. (And Daddybloggers, I love you too!)

One of the main reasons it's taken me a week to finish this post is that I actually wanted to write about my whole damn blogroll. And a lot of people who aren't on my blogroll. Even a couple of people whose blogs touched me months or a year ago, who sadly don't have time to write anymore.

So much in my life changed when I became a parent, and so many of my real life friends have since drifted away, unable to handle my new child-altered lifestyle. One of the hardest parts of parenting my son, for me, has been the feeling of isolation I've felt from the adult world since I quit my job and began working from home.

And yet, through the parenting blog community, I have been able to find so much amazing advice, support, and companionship. I never believed a virtual world could be so fulfilling. I am grateful to so many of you for helping me keep my own sanity, often by publicly sharing how close you've come to losing your own.

Thanks, friends.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Birthday Party

I haven't posted about this yet because it's taken me three days to recover from it.

Also, I didn't take enough photos. I let a friend convince me to let her take photos during the party so that I could actually be in the pictures for once, but apparently in my post-party-prep stupor I didn't do a good enough job of showing her how to focus my camera, so . . .

Anyway, this was the cake I made for the party:

As you can see, it was actually two cakes. The top cake was a butter yellow cake, coated with a clear powdered-sugar-and-egg-white glaze (made with pasteurized egg whites, of course-- let's not poison the kiddies, here). I applied the glaze with a pastry brush, then added the rainbow sprinkles while the glaze was still wet so that they would stick when it dried. My European blogfriend Peter Nacken will be pleased to note that the cake was cooked, in true Extravagant American Child's Birthday Party fashion, in a $30 Nordic Ware Castle Bundt pan.

The bottom cake was a chocolate cake. The frosting was homemade vanilla-mint buttercream, made with all butter and no shortening, because I don't like shortening.

If you've never made frosting from scratch at home before, I sincerely recommend you try it. It's really not that difficult, and once you've tasted homemade buttercream frosting, you will never, ever want to go back to the kind you get in a can. Seriously. My recipe follows:

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 lbs (one standard package) powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
other flavor extracts, food coloring or cocoa optional

Let butter soften to room temperature. Put butter in a large, heavy mixing bowl, and chop it into chunks with a knife or mash it up with a spoon to make it easier to beat. Add milk and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, beating with a handheld electric beater, until sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is fluffy. Unplug beater and then hold a household auction for the privilege of licking it clean.

(Yes, folks, that was ONE POUND of butter and TWO POUNDS of sugar sitting on top of that chocolate cake. And it was worth every single calorie).

In addition to the castle cake, I also mixed, rolled, cut, baked and decorated cookies by hand in the shape of cars and train engines:

I had to make these cookies twice, actually, because half of the first batch got burned when my husband forgot to take them out of the oven for me while I put Isaac to bed. This will henceforth be known as "The Great Birthday Cookie Burning Incident."

I also made some trains and cars without icing so that Isaac would actually eat them.

I also made cookies in the shape of letters that spelled out "Happy Birthday Isaac," with the idea that I would make more train cookies and put the letters on top of the train cookies and have an edible "Happy Birthday Isaac" train going around the table. Then I realized that idea was INSANE, so I wound up laying the "Happy Birthday Isaac" cookies in a circle around the cake, but unfortunately I didn't take a photo of it.

I put up crepe paper decorations all around the dining/living room:

And arranged a cracker tray, a deli meat tray, a deli cheese tray, and a vegetable and dip tray, all by hand.

My husband was strangely absent for most of these preparations. I believe his disappearance may have had something to do with a mysterious Dell box that came for him in the mail Friday afternoon . . .

However, he managed to tear himself away from his new electric lover in time to put a folding gazebo tent, a folding table, and some folding chairs outside, so that we would have extra seating space for the party, because we live in a 900 sq ft apartment, and the TV weatherfolks had predicted that the showers the sky was threatening would hold off until the late afternoon.

Ten minutes later, it started to rain.

But it turned out okay, anyway, because half of my husband's family who'd said they were coming-- you know, some of the family I spent a week talking to on the phone trying to schedule the party with? Them? Didn't show up.* So we had lots of room.

And cake.

Speaking of cake, I made the mistake of letting my well-intentioned mother-in-law convince me to do the presents before the cake. You know, like you'd normally do at a birthday party, instead of my weird unconventional plan to do the cake before the presents.

(Do you see me there? Sullenly regarding the proceedings? Don't I look like someone who's been up since 6 a.m. decorating after baking until 2 a.m. the night before? Yeah, thought so.)

So of course, Isaac started crying piteously the moment he realized we all expected him to put his brand new toys away and let us SING to him while we stood in a circle around a BIG PILE of STICKY FOOD that happened to be ON FIRE.

He started screaming in terror midway through the second line of "Happy Birthday," which caused people to stumble to a halt mid-song, until I forced a laugh and said, "Why don't we try singing 'Sad Birthday to You' instead?" after which everyone finished the song, and my husband hurriedly blew out the candle.

Then Isaac refused any cake (I thought at least he might try the kind without frosting, but I guess the group singing bit was too traumatic), and ran off to play with his new Thomas the Tank Engine Duplos.

After the party, he promptly fell asleep, without having eaten more than two bites of food all day, and then when he woke up two hours later he screamed for two hours straight.

All in all, I would say this party went over quite a bit better with him than last year's.

*This wasn't their fault, though. Apparently there was some last minute work interference. Silly work.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

All Hail the Fix-It Man

My power to whine at the general public over the internet without having to wait 45 seconds for every web page to load has been restored!

My husband, wizard and sage of all things computer, has temporarily fixed the power supply. He shook some things, jostled some things, pinched some things, unplugged and replugged some things, muttered some sort of profanity-laced incantation, and, voila, our computer turned on.

He said something or other to me that sounded vaguely like "internal breaker blown," and he is of the opinion that we will shortly have to purchase a new power supply regardless of his quick fix if we don't want our whole computer to fry the next time it rains into our electrical system.

But it's sunny out today! At least I can finish these Mother's Day presents I'm making that require Photoshop. Sweet, sweet, lovely, RAM-hogging Photoshop, that will not run worth beans on my ancient other computer.

(P.S. Don't worry, Mom-101: I was only at my secondary computer long enough yesterday to check and make sure our DSL router was still fully functional, as we've already lost one DSL router to all of the power failures and surges we get here. I posted while checking the router out. As soon as I was sure the router hadn't also been fried, I turned the computer off, and I'm happy to report that no electrocutions resulted).

(P.P.S. Andrea, a neighbor and friend of mine already threatened the apartment office with legal action once when our entire building had squirrels in the crawlspaces chewing on the wiring and insulation and they refused to hire an exterminator. They didn't seem to care . . . our complex is owned by a huge corporate conglomerate that is only concerned with the most superficial appearances, and I don't think the management staff in the office feel any sense of real loyalty to the company, or any need to protect its financial interests, let alone any sense of loyalty to the people who live here and would sort of prefer to have their homes not burn down. But it's always worth another try, I guess).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reason # 5,236 Why I Hate Renting This Apartment

The power goes out when it rains.

Not when it storms:

When it rains.

Because the water gets into our electrical system, due to faulty wiring. And no matter how many times I complain about this, the apartment office insists they have already fixed it, and continues to pretend it's not happening.

I am writing this from the slow, crappy computer in my bedroom, because my main computer JUST HAD ITS POWER SUPPLY FRIED, despite being connected to a surge protector, by a light drizzle.

Do you suppose a computer power supply is worth a pound of a property manager's flesh?

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Happy Birthday, Big Boy

May 9, 2004

May 9, 2005

May 9, 2006

From your first smile, to your first tooth, to your first word, to your first step, to your first tower of blocks, your first drawing, your first time counting to ten, your first Knock Knock joke:

Two years have seemed both an eternity and an instant. And sometimes I think having you in my life has caused me to grow even more than you have.

I can't wait to see what you'll do next.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Things I Never Imagined I'd Say As a Parent:

"Isaac, if you finish your cookies, then you can have more marshmallows."

Of course, I never imagined I'd be pouring half and half into his whole milk, either . . .

My New Celebrity Crush Is Ballsalicious

That's Jon Stewart's word, not mine.

Over at this shiny new blog I'm digging, I Obsess, I found a link to a site called Thank You Stephen Colbert.

This site has links to the full video of Stephen Colbert's "comedic" speech at the recent White House Correspondents' Dinner. I've been meaning to link to a video for this for two days now, but I haven't had a lot of free time to do research on the web and I've had trouble finding a good link to the video in its entirety until now.

If you are a person of any political persuasion who is dissatisfied with our nation's current direction under the reigning administration, and you haven't seen this yet, WATCH IT NOW. If you just read a transcript, or get the gist from a few choice quotes in one of the few mainstream articles to mention this, you will do yourself a disservice, trust me. Seeing searing political satire such as this delivered less than TEN FEET away from its primary intended target is stunning, to say the least.

Say what you will about whether or not it's funny; the point is, it's true.

Note: Being that the Thank You site links to IFILM, and IFILM is skanky, some of the advertised videos on the side may be NSFW, but this is the best quality video I've been able to find.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

When the Apocalypse Comes, You Will All Be Heading To My Place for Toothpaste and Toilet Paper

Continuing my series from yesterday, I will now enlighten you, internet, as to the contents of my linen closet.

My linen closet is actually inside my "Guest Bathroom." You know, the one that looked all clean and cute and organized?

Inside my linen closet you will, of course, find linens:

And . . . well . . . some other stuff . . .

I'm not even sure what to say here. You see, I save every free sample I get, I buy everything I can on sale, preferably in bulk, and I HATE running out of things.

I know, I'm insane.

On the upside, though, when we had some Katrina evacuees (families with small children) move into our apartment complex last year with little more than their cars and the shirts on their backs, I was on their doorstep with paper towels, toilet paper, tissues, trash bags, toothpaste, toothbrushes, childproof outlet covers, and diaper wipes, all neatly organized in re-used grocery bags, less than ten minutes after I heard they'd arrived.

Then when my husband got home, I said, "See? This is why I insist on buying tubes of toothpaste in five packs! In case of hurricanes!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Copycat Bathroom Expose

Wow! I used to be a halfway serious photographer, but I've never realized until today how freakin' hard it is to get decent photos in a bathroom! Seriously! Especially when you have dim, crappy, cheap, circa 1980 light fixtures and enormous mirrors (which tend to screw up your flash).

So, because I totally don't have time today to mess around until I get some decent shots out of my cheap-ass digital point-and-shoot, you'll just have to deal with crappy ones! Bwa ha ha!

I am ganking this post idea from Dawn of I Am Doing the Best I Can, who ganked it from Fancypants. Each of these ladies boldly went where few bloggers have gone before by showing the internet world the contents of her bathroom. However, because we really like to go all-out here at The State of Discontent when copping other bloggers' old ideas due to lack of inspiration, I today will lead you on a guided tour through TWO-- that's right, count 'em-- TWO bathrooms!

Bathroom Number One:

Nice, isn't it? Clean? Inviting? This is what we like to call the "Guest Bathroom."

Of course, it's also where Isaac generally takes his baths. What, you say? This doesn't look like a kid's bathroom? Au contraire. Just pull back that curtain there:

Or open a drawer in the sink cabinet:

Since it's Isaac's bathroom and he spends a lot of time in there, we don't keep much in the cabinet under the sink. Just gallons of water, for use in the event of that disaster I just know is impending, a hot water bottle, and, oh. A little extra toilet paper. Also in case of disaster. You just never know, right?

All right, all right, I hear you. I know what you're saying: "But Jae, come on. You're a chick. We know you've got it. Don't be a tease. Just show us.

"Where's the PRODUCT?"

Bathroom Number Two:

What better way to pay tribute to the blogger you copped a post idea from than to do the entire photo series while showing off your "tatas" in a fashionable baby-doll T-Shirt she added to her "B-List Blogger" Cafepress collection just for you?

Hmmm. Might I be, perhaps, a lotion junkie? A connoisseur of body sprays?

Note, though, that nearly all of these products were bought on sale, at Target, or on sale at Target. Because I may be a product addict, but I am a CHEAP product addict.

Note also my penchant for re-using plastic containers. Hey, our neighborhood has no recycling service, and I have guilt. (And again, I'm cheap). Ten points to the first parent of a child under five who can identify the original contents of those three tall, stylish plastic containers with blue lids on the second shelf! They now hold cotton balls, cotton swabs, etc.

(I know you see that pregnancy test box in there, but no, people, I am NOT pregnant, nor am I currently trying to get pregnant. I am just exceedingly paranoid ;) )

Like Dawn, I apparently have a phobia of running out of "feminine hygiene" accessories. And Olay Daily Facials.

Also, if you'll look closely, you'll see that I have both a package of Clorox sanitizing wipes and a package of generic window cleaning wipes in my sink cabinet. This is so I can clean the bathroom without ever leaving it. Because if I leave the bathroom while cleaning it, someone will invariably interrupt me, and I will never finish cleaning.

There's also a little water jet thingy in there from Homedics that's supposed to turn your regular old bathtub into a relaxing "Water Spa," but considering that I've gotten to take about two tub baths in the past year, it's not seen much action . . .

So, that's the tour. Next up: The Linen/Utility/Bulk Cosmetics/Natural Disaster Preparedness Closet.