Thursday, October 30, 2008

The arsenic hour

One day, when Austin was the baby and I was having a bad afternoon with him, my mother used an old-fashioned expression that made me laugh. The arsenic hour.

She explained that the arsenic hour usually falls in the late afternoon -- sometime between 4 and 7 p.m. and is almost always before dinner -- when the kid (or kids) are wired and/or hungry and/or over-stimulated and can be annoying as hell. In other words, a perfect cocktail to drive any mother crazy.

The expression, she said, was one her mother used to use, and the part that made me laugh was when my mom said she was never sure if the arsenic hour meant the kids were so crazy you wanted to feed them arsenic or you wanted to take it yourself.

As I've been learning these past few months, having one baby is easy compared to having a baby and a two-year-old. With one baby, no matter how fussy he was being, I could still manage to get things done and retain my sanity. (Or at least, that's how my memory recalls events of two years ago.) Some days, retaining my sanity with two kids is not that easy.

My arsenic hour comes around 6 p.m.

This is the time that I'm usually trying to get dinner started as Ryan tends to get home between 6:30 and 7 and we almost always eat around the table as a family.

Preparing dinner means always having a 'helper' as Austin is going through a stage right now where he has to be involved in everything. (And I mean EVERYTHING. I can't go to bathroom some days without him wanting to come in with me and flush the toilet for me.) So, whatever I'm making in the kitchen, he has to get up on his stool and start 'helping'. Sometimes he spins the lettuce for me; sometimes he puts the pre-chopped vegetables in the salad bowl for me; sometimes he helps me grate cheese; but most of the time he grabs a wooden spoon and pretends to use it like a knife.

This means banging it on the counter over and over again.

This is usually around the time that he starts talking louder -- because he needs to be heard over the sound of the banging -- and Alex, who is playing on the floor, decides it's time to be picked up.

Here's a typical image for you: Austin banging away on the counter with a wooden spoon yelling, and me chopping vegetables or cooking something on the stove holding a baby on my left hip.

Cooking like this sure brings multi-tasking to a whole new level. And I finally, truly understand, the arsenic hour expression.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin pie anyone?

The strangest thing came out of my mouth the other day. Ryan and I were at the pumpkin patch with the kids when suddenly, I looked at the small pumpkins designated as 'cooking pumpkins' and said "it can't be that hard to make a pumpkin pie, can it?"

At this point, I think Ryan was left at a loss for words.

For those of you who know me, I don't like baking. In fact, my dislike of it was subject of a blog post about two years ago. I enjoy eating baked treats, but actually doing the work is not my thing. Attempts to bake anything that didn't come out of a mix box has almost always resulted in hockey puck brownies or burnt cookies.

Then a funny thing happened this summer. I had some overripe bananas and rather than throw them out like I usually do, I opened a cookbook, found a recipe for chocolate chip banana loaf and made it before I could talk myself out of what I was doing.

And it turned out good. So good in fact, that Ryan later suggested that I should make it again sometime. I wasn't sure which was more surprising -- the fact that I baked, or the fact that Ryan suggested I make it again sometime!

And about a month later, I did. This time with Austin's help. So, in the space of a month, I went from hating baking to undertaking the task of baking with a two-year-old. Surprisingly, we both had fun and I intend to do it again.

Then, a few weeks ago, we had dinner with some friends and I offered to bring dessert. To everyone who knows me -- that means I'll go to the grocery store and pick something up. But instead, the trip to the grocery store was to buy apples to make an apple crisp. I baked for someone other than my family on my own volition and without coercion. And it turned out pretty good, I think.

For the record, it was my mother's recipe and if my mother can make it, then it has to be easy. (Sorry mom, but you're not a baker either.)

I may have only made the same treat twice and a simple dessert, but the key here is I've done it, and I had fun doing so.

And apparently, I want to try making a pumpkin pie. Anyone have a good recipe?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Multi-purpose toys

So that I would have a second one for the basement, a friend of mine loaned me her excersaucer for Alex. It's a simple one, with no toys attached to it. Instead, it just has a tray all around where I can put toys for her to play with. She seems to love it because she can easily spin around in the seat and throw all her toys off.

But it was while she was spinning in the seat, that the warning label on the back caught my eye.

The label reads:

  • Never leave child alone. (Ok, that one's pretty obvious although I do tend to do so from time to time. I mean, the excersaucer is the perfect place to plop her down when I need to go to the bathroom.)
  • Never use near stairs. (Again, pretty obvious.)
  • Never use in or near swimming pools or other bodies of water. (Near swimming pools make sense -- just like never use near stairs -- but IN swimming pools? What would possess someone to put this IN a pool?)
  • Never use as a flotation device. (Again, what would possess you to think this can float?)
  • Never use as a sled. (Huh?)
  • Do not fill saucer with water. (And why would you want to?)
  • Do not store outdoors in in sunlight. (Sure, whatever.)
  • Keep child away from ranges, radiators, space heaters, fireplaces. (Again, pretty obvious.)
So, here I thought I had this great toy to plop Alex in while I use the computer; use the bathroom; play with Austin or just watch her play. But apparently other parents might have assumed they also had something to keep their child safe in the water with, something to slide on in the snow with and something to even bathe in!

Good to know we've been warned against it.