Thursday, April 30, 2009

Internet Rehab

Whew, this week got away from me! Sorry to leave you all hanging since Tuesday. Its really quite an interesting story, but its protected by attorney-client privilege, so I can't tell you. Suffice to say, we got a call at the office at 3 p.m. Tuesday to let us know we had to file an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (i.e. an injunction) for one of our biggest clients by 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. So, one of the Jr. Partners and I stayed until about midnight putting it together and then we spent all day Wednesday dealing with the fall out that ensued. FUN times! The Court granted our motion, so it was worth it I 'spose.

Anyway...I have been meaning to do a post on internet addiction, since, well, I started this blog! But CNN apparently has beat me to it! Tuesday, CNN featured an article discussing internet addiction among new mothers. My best friend emailed it to me (although I'd already read it - in a minute you'll see why) and said "wow, this sounds just like ME!" Now, it struck me that she thought that she is addicted to the internet because she doesn't use the internet even 1/8 as much as I do!

We both belong on a message board for moms, but I post and/or reply to posts daily (many days, multiple times a day). She checks it maybe once a week, and usually only responds to my posts... I also belong to several preemie boards.

We both belong on Facebook, but I've belonged for about two years and update my status throughout the day. She just created her page this month and updates her status maybe once a day.

We both have blogs though!!! Her blog is mainly about her super delicious baby boy, and her penchant for all things outrageous and gross (she's got quite a sense of humor).

I have three different email accounts. I just prodded her to get a gmail account this month (for business purposes). I respond to emails almost instantaneously, and it takes her at least several hours to respond, because she doesn't check her accounts nearly as frequently as I do...

Well, the point is...if she's got a problem, then I must be in BIG trouble. Curious as to how much time I actually spent on the internet any given day, I conducted a little experiment - I recorded all the time I spent on the internet for a whole day for personal reasons (much like I account for every .1 hours throughout the day for billable hours...). I didn't account for time I spent on the net on my iPhone, as that would simply be too difficult (which should be telling in-and-of itself). It went down a little something like this:

6:20 a.m. -6:30 a.m. - 10 minutes
9:40-10:00 a.m. - 20 minutes
11:05 - 11:20 a.m. - 15 minutes
12:30-1:00 p.m. - 30 minutes
2:30-3:00 p.m. - 30 minutes
4:30-4:45 p.m. - 15 minutes
9:00 - 9:15 p.m. - 15 minutes
10:30 - 11:30 p.m. - 60 minutes

TOTAL: 3 hours 15 minutes

(plus about 15 "peeks" into Facebook, email or my message board for less than 1 minute a piece, so I didn't write it down).

THREE HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES?!! R U kidding me??!!?? No wonder I feel like I have no time and get nothing done! I'm spending 15% of the day mindlessly wandering the internet! Sheesh.

After passing out and recovering, I began to reason that of course some internet is legitimate. Not all of it is bad... But, clearly, my internet useage is out of control and needs to be reigned in. This very well could be the solution, or at least a step in the right direction, to solving my time management problems! So, ever the planner, I've come up with a three-step program for breaking internet addiction:

1. Make a list of the main uses for the internet that are most important to you. For 1 week, do not allow yourself to deviate from those uses unless absolutely necessary. For me, that would be my email, my mom-board, my blog (aren't you all so lucky!), and Facebook. I really should cut that list down, but baby steps!

2. Decide how much time you will spend on the internet, and stick to it. Set a timer when you get on, and get off when the timer goes off. Do not deviate!! I've resolved to only spend the 10 minutes it takes me to pump (once in the morning and three times during work), and 30 minutes at night. That is a 2/3 reduction in the time currently spent! Plus, if I do it while pumping - that's multitasking right??

3. After the first week is over, allow yourself to expand beyond your "main" uses, but log off immediately if you begin to experience what I call internet zoning - where your mind begins to melt to mush and you find yourself trying to find a reason to keep clicking. If you find your usage getting out of control again, start with step-1 again.

I have a feeling this is going to be a painful rehabilitation period my friends. But, the thought of gaining several hours back in my day is entirely too wonderful!

So, internet addiction - is it real? Do you have it? How bad? Whatcha going to do about it? If anything.... Discuss!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

South Beach HERE I COME!

Did you realize that summer is dangerously approaching?? As if these blazing temperatures we've had the last few days isn't reminder enough! Well, this summer I've resolved not to spend it looking like a beached whale! I need to lose approximately 18 pounds to get back to my happy weight were sleeveless tops and snug fitting clothes aren't offensive to general sensibilities. Bennett is going to be 1 in a week (*sob*) - I guess I can no longer use the euphemism "baby fat," huh?

So, yesterday, I started Phase I of the South Beach Diet. For those unfamiliar, Phase I requires you to cut out all carbohydrates and requires you to eat lean proteins. Think lots and LOTS of veggies, chicken breasts, turkey, low-fat dairy... For "treats" you do have options such as sugar free Jello or pudding. But you want to avoid refined carbohydrates and sugar like the plague. Or the swine flu. This is done for 14 short (or long and grueling) days. The theory is that you are 1. weaning your body off its sugar and carb addiction and 2. shocking your metabolism into gear. Carbohydrates are generally our energy source. So, if you aren't eat them, your body will have to start converting those fat stores that have been hanging around in your saddle bags for energy. The down-side is that you usually have some decreased energy and headaches during this period. However, most people (according to the book) lose about 10 lbs in the first two weeks. The most I've lost doing this was 6 lbs in two weeks.

After Phase I is complete, you move on two Phase II, which allows you to phase in limited portions of unrefined "whole" carbohydrates. The book touts that most people lose 2 lbs a week in this phase.

This may sound drastic, but I need something dramatic to jump my butt into gear! So, wish me luck!!! Anyone want to play along????

Also - has anyone read South Beach Diet Supercharged?? What is different??

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fast Food for Baby

To the parents of a premature baby, the end of April carries a whole new meaning - the end of RSV season. That means the world is no longer a scary dangerous place to take your baby where they can catch a potentially deadly respiratory disease simply by being within 5 feet of someone who's been exposed to it! Isn't that grand??? Ace and I are practically giddy about this and all the new possibilities that come with it. Bennett will be 1 in about a week and he has only been in public, other than doctors' offices, a handful of times. In the past, we've been a very active family, always on the go, and we are really looking forward to getting back to that!

As we were strolling around a lake path today with the boys, Ace and I were remarking that Bennett seems much more portable than Carter was at his age. Is it because he's generally a more laid back kid in comparison to his high-maintenance older brother? Or, is it because we're seasoned pros at this stuff by now, we know what we're doing, and very little phases us anymore? Whatever the reason, its really nice and we plan to take advantage of it!

So, I thought I'd share some of my tried-and-true favorite accessories that make feeding baby on the go super easy!

First up to bat - First Years Take & Toss

This is a very inexpensive line of disposable, yet VERY reusable, feeding items. You'll never have to worry about losing a spoon, bowl, or sippy cup again. I especially love the snack cups with the rotating lids - perfect for harnessing cheerios! The split-container bowel with spoon is also SUPER handy for meals on the go. They wash very well, and I've never yet had a piece warp in the dish washer.

Second - The Boon Squirt

This is a nifty little gizmo that I have come to love! You fill up the body of the spoon with your pureed food, and feed directly, just squeezing a little to fill up the spoon. It also comes with a cover for the spoon portion, but that isn't shown. This device eliminates the need for a bowel and it keeps feeding very clean. Its also very easy to wash. I generally prefer it for very pureed foods, such as Stage 1 or 2 foods. I make most of my own baby food though, and although I can't seem to get most things completely pureed, it has worked well with things even the consistency of apple sauce. I should add - its an excellent conversation piece as well. Everywhere I take it, people ask me about it and want to ooh and ahh at it! I've generally been very impressed with Boon products, and the Squirt is no exception.

Third - Bumkins Super Bibs

I will never ever buy another bib again! The Bumkins Super Bib is the perfect bib - lightweight, water proof, rinseable. It folds up very compactly so it doesn't take up any space in the diaper bag. You can simply rinse it or wipe it off on the go. It has a pocket for catching stray pieces of food. And it keeps baby dry underneath! Plus, who doesn't love the fun and colorful patterns??? We have each and every Dr. Seuss pattern they make! Its really an excellent bib - for home or on the go. This is a MUST HAVE!

Fourth and finally - Kiddopotomus Place Mat

This is an easy to clean, reusable place mat to barrier your child's cheerios and other table foods from the nasty dirty grimey surfaces they will be required to eat off of on the go. There are many options on the market for stick-on place mats, but they fall short for several reasons. First - they don't "hold" the food in since they are simply flat pieces of slippery plastic. Second - they are not earth-friendly, as they are one-use only items. The Kiddopotomus place mat is washable. And it has a little tray that catches stray pieces. As you see below, it rolls up super compact, which is essential for anything you have to lug around in your diaper bag!

Now if only I could discover a good high-chair cover that isn't bulky! Does anyone have any recommendations? We have one that rolls up into a ball, but its still too big to stuff into the diaper bag. Oh well - I guess we can't have everything 100% absolutely perfectamente. Maybe I should invent it!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lady luck is not my friend

What a weekend! Had I known how it was going to turn out, I'd have flown to Bermuda instead. Except for, with my luck this weekend, my plane probably would have crashed!

Friday went alright. I tried to leave the office early, but those efforts were thwarted by another attorney at my office who thought 4:30 on a gorgeous Friday afternoon was perfect timing to discuss a case we have together. So, we had to nix our plans for a picnic dinner because we had tickets to see the Seussical Musical put on by the middle schoolers at Carter's school. It was sooo cute! But Bennett decided to rival the performers, so we had to leave at intermission.

Saturday, we were heading to West Virginia to visit my best friend Melissa and her family. We were sitting at a red light right before the exit we get off at for her house, behind at least 10 cars, for at least 30 seconds...when I glance back in my rear view mirror and see this F-250 truck speeding up on me, braking hard, fish-tailing....then BAM! Yep, smack into the back of my new (used) car. With my baby in the back seat. (We'd dropped Carter off with my parents to go to a Children's Museum just minutes earlier). I FREAKED. Bennett was fine. I was ok (neck really sore, ears hurt, wrist hurt, shoulder and knee sore, etc.). Ace was fine. Car... not so fine. *sigh*

I tried to report it to my insurance company to get set up with a rental, but they aren't open until Monday. Of course, I have to be in court in D.C. at 9:30 Monday morning...

We went ahead and went on to Melissa's house and had a very lovely afternoon grilling out, loving on the babies, and plotting to take over the world. Went to pick up Carter, and headed home. Put the kids to bed, popped some pain pills, and watched the movie "Yes Man" with Jim Carey. HILARIOUS!!! Definitely recommend it! Crashed.

Woke up bright and early with Bennett this morning. Nursed, played, cleaned. Took him upstairs for a nap. Come down, and my entire foyer is covered in....TERMITES!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!

WHY ME?!? Seriously. Why????? We never seen a hint of a termite on our property before. Where did they come from??? Luckily, we had some insecticide spray from an ant infestation we had in our garage about two years ago. That killed them on contact and we were able to clean them up easily. Once those were gone, we haven't seen anymore. Terminex is coming tomorrow to give us a quote. Lovely. Just what we need right now.

On top of that, we found a hornet in the living room. Ace caught it in a ziploc bag and wanted to set it on fire. I, the logical and level-headed one, forcefully protested to this dangerous and bad-example-setting behavior.

Then on top of that...our camera is about to die. You can't have two gorgeous adorable kids and not have a camera. So....now we need to crunch numbers and figure out all these expenses that have suddenly popped up over the weekend. *sigh*

So, as you see, lady luck has a vendetta against me and carefully executed it this weekend. I pray she's finished exacting her revenge and we can now call it a truce. What are the chances?

My mom, on the other hand, had a rather fantastic weekend! She finished her half-marathon in 2 hours 52 minutes. In the heat! Here is a picture of her and my little brother Jimmy crossing the finish line. YAY MOM! We're so proud of you. And you too Peanut :) We are planning on doing the Disney half-marathon together next November, and making a vacation out of it! I guess I ought to start training....

Friday, April 24, 2009

The "Must-haves" for Building a Sustainable Business



When my friends tell me that they've been downsized or fired from their jobs, my immediate reaction is, "Congratulations - welcome to newfound freedom!" Of course, their mentality hasn't yet grasp the true definition of the kind of freedom I'm speaking of and they're usually still in the victim mentality to prompt them to do anything about it. So...

Here's what you will need to be in business for yourself (I'm skipping the o
bvious, such as a business plan, legal entity, accounting, marketing, sales, etc...because you can find information like that anywhere):

1. A Supportive family: Nothing is more important that this! You could argue that you will need a massive amount of starting capital, or venture capitalist support, but none of these things can build solid foundations
better than the support of your entire family.

2. Persistence and Resilience: There is not a single successful business I know of today that hasn't failed at first. In fact, ALL successful businesses (private and public) have failed many times! Once you've failed and fallen flat on your face, you need to have the resilience to get back up and try again using a different approach. Eventually, it will succeed - trust me.

3. Full-time attention: During my college years, I had established a web hosting business and I charged $1000 a year per account. In 4 years it failed, not because of my technology, or my overhead expenses, but because I had a job. The JOB (which stands of Just Over Broke), sucked the life out of me and gave me a false sense of priority! It consumed the time I had which could have been dedicated to building the business. Instead, I became satisfied with the salary, "perks" and benefits. The sense of comforts a job brings will kill you, slowly.

4. Nay-sayers: A lot of business books tell you to avoid such people, but I say, proceed with caution. You need nay-sayers as much as the praisers and fanatics. I had lunch with the former CFO of the company I used to worked for after I quit and he said to me, "Ace, your company can't compete with Fidelity, and people will choose big companies like these every time. You're better off using your business credit to obtain loans at low rates and re-loan at higher rates..." Needless to say, he was wrong and each time we sign a new account, he's proven
wrong. So, recognize the nay-sayers then prove them wrong. Heck, go into business just to destroy these people and you'll see just how gratifying it is!

5. Trust in your ability to succeed: One of the biggest mistakes I've made when we were starting out was when I did not trust in myself to guide the growth of the business. Instead, I hired it out. We spent thousands for results I could have achieved for FREE! Bad idea when you're just starting out, save your money, and spend it wisely (if at all).

So, there you have it! If you have been wanting/needing to be a stay-at-home-mom or stay-at-home-dad, but need an income stream to support the lifestyle, consider starting your own business.









13.1

The last shirt for "T-Shirt Week" is for my mom who is ...

get this ...

running her first half marathon tomorrow!!!! Yes, people, my nearly-50 year old mother is running a half marathon - 13.1 miles! GO MOM!!! Kick butt!

I don't even need to describe for you all the amount of work and dedication it takes to train for a half-marathon. I'm so proud of her! And inspired too. Heck, if my mom can do it, so can I, right?? And so can any of you! And, um...I really want that "13.1" sticker you see everywhere for my car...

Here is my mom and I about to run a 5k together last September:


That's all for today. I figure I cramped your brains enough yesterday with my 13.1 mile-long post/rant that I would keep it light and fun today (although I think mom would disagree 13.1 miles is "light").

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Here's an idea for you Mr. President

I'll just put out this disclosure up front - I'm ideologically conservative. Feel free to disagree with me on anything I say, but don't get offended or take it personally.


I heard on the news that President Obama has spent more money in the first three months of his presidency than if we had spent $1B each year since Christ was born. Yikes. That's a lot of money. Money our grandchildren will be paying. And he criticized President Bush for being a big spender??? So today, I thought this T-shirt --> was quite fitting. It was actually a campaign T-shirt for Obama, which I find quite ironic.

So, I understand the philosophy. The federal government is the single largest spender, so kicking up government spending is likely to stimulate growth in the economy. After all, that is what FDR did, in combination with the massive spending that went into WWII, to pull us out of the Great Depression. Perhaps, the mistake is in believing that this recession is like those prior. Maybe, just maybe, the same old tactics won't work? And that is because the reasons we are in a recession right now are quite different from before.

Yes, I know, I am a Doctor of Jurisprudence, not of economics. But, I know a little something something. In my meek view, the interrelated major causes of this recession right now are:

1. Corporate greed - The banks made really bad investments and pretty much went bankrupt. They sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford it, and told them they could afford it.


2. Consumer greed and overspending, over-leveraging credit (kind of like the Great Depression) - People slurped up the money the banks were so willing to hand out and bought way more house, cars, stuff, than they could afford.

3. Consumer confidence - People are freaking out. Everyone knows someone who has lost their job. Everyone's houses have taken a huge hit in their equity. Many owe more on their home now than its worth. Most people have lost 40-60% off of their investments (those who aren't invested with Custodio Asset Managment, that is). People just aren't spending. If people are spending, businesses aren't making money, and in turn aren't reinvesting, and the economy shrinks. Its self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts.

4. The foreclosure crisis, related to items 1 and 2. The initial wave of foreclosures came to head from all the people who believed the banks who told them they could afford the big house and the big mortgage. When it turned out that they couldn't. The second wave of foreclosures came from people who under normal circumstances could afford their mortgages. Until they lost their job. Or, their businesses began losing money. As of the end of 2008, estimates were that 12% of American home-owners were at least one month behind on their mortgage payment. In the first three months of 2009, foreclosures were already up over 24% over 2008. If this isn't a crisis, I do not know what is.

5. Retracted credit markets, related to items 1, 2, and 4. The banks began to crash and didn't have any capital available to lend. And if they did, they were hyper-conservative about it, not willing to risk another cent of loss. Businesses aren't able to borrow money to cover interim operating costs such as payroll. Consumers can't get mortgages or credit to buy vehicles. And the crisis just continues to perpetuate.

6. The severe decline in the housing market, caused by items 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. If the banks aren't lending, and people aren't buying, the housing market stagnates. On top of that, you have the housing market being flooded with foreclosure sale properties. In most markets, these properties sell significantly below market value, which in turns drags down the values of all the surrounding properties. I've heard estimates that right now 1 out of every 3 homes on the market is a foreclosure property. I have seen estimates ranging from 15 to 40% average decline in home values from the start of 2008. Considering that real estate is probably the biggest investment most people have, and the severe decline in housing values, no wonder everyone is freaking out.

Right now, there is a sense of urgency. Panic. We MUST do something NOW. And certainly, the American public would not tolerate it if the President sat on his hands and did nothing. But are we doing the right things??? It seems to me that an awful lot of money is being spent right now on things that we aren't really sure are even going to make a lick of difference in the long run. (And to be fair, this spending spree started with President Bush back in September with the initial "bail out" funds). CNN has the best tracker for spending that I have found - Bailout Tracker. CNN reports that thus far the government has pleged $10.5 TRILLION and spent $2.6 TRILLION in the recovery effort. Wowzah. Thems no small potatoes!

Yes, some of this spending is good. Tax breaks for Americans (in my opinion) is GOOD. Especially when nearly every household has been negatively impacted by this recession in some way. But, my main beef right now is with the President's proposed Homeowner's Stability & Affordability Plan. As you can see from my explanation above, the foreclosure and housing market crisis is a BIG part of the problem right now. It seems to me that if we can help halt that continued decline, it would have an exponential effect in improving the economy as a whole, and would surely directly and positively impact millions of deserving American families. But the President seems to only have one solution to all the woes of the recession - throw more money at it. In this case, I don't think that will help at all. And there are some BIG ways the President can effectuate positive change without spending one red nickle of tax-payer money!


Elle's Homeowner Relief Plan:

1. Declare a 1 year limited moratorium against foreclosures. If homeowners can afford to pay a certain amount or percentage of their mortgage payment, the bank cannot proceed to foreclose on them for 1 year. Several of the big banks currently are voluntarily doing this. I heard rumors that Citi will let you stay in your house if you can pay just $500 a month toward your mortgage!

2. Require banks to work with you BEFORE you go into default. Currently, most banks won't talk to you until you are at least 3 months behind in your payments. At that point, its nearly impossible for most people to "catch up."

3. Require banks to take one of the following actions with regard to any arrearages accrued during that 1 year period - forgive a portion, re-amortize it into the remaining life of the loan, refinance the loan to include the arrearages, or provide afforable and reasonable repayment plans.

4. Lower interest rates a certain proportion down to a minimum level. Interest rates are very low right now, but very few people can qualify to refinance. And if they qualify to refinance, they have no equity in their homes, so the banks won't do it.

(And if you doubt whether Congress has the authority to do any of this - let me just say that if the Supreme Court could find sufficient nexus between a farmer growing corps for his OWN use to interstate commerce, surely it will find that the activities of mortage companies come within the ambit of Congress' Constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce)


This plan puts the onus on the banks - the ones who caused this problem to begin with. It benefits the banks because it ensures that they will get paid over the long term on more mortages rather than ensuring HUGE losses now by foreclosing. It helps the homeowners. And helping the homeowners helps the economy. And preventing foreclosures will help both the credit and housing markets. And does it cost the federal government (aka tax payers...) anything? NOPE! That is the beauty of it.


So, if its this simple to me...what's the problem???

I know I'm biased but, is this the face of an angel?


After a long day at play...this is what Bennett does to "chillax"! What a face.

===============================================

Now on to more important topics!

Avoid the new movie, The Soloist by Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Fox. It is a complete waste of time. If you think I'm speaking from a chauvinistic male perspective (because my taste in movies involve BIG guns, fast cars, and tight abs), consider this:

1. Over 2 Minutes of screen time wasted by showing psychedelic, epilepsy inducing images of random swirling colors that practically gave everyone a minor migraine.

2. It uses 7th-grade humor relating to urine, which does not really fit with the theme of the movie.

3. Dramatic elements were not thought or emotionally provoking.

4. There is no climax, just seemingly random set of events that will leave the viewers highly disappointed.

5. The story could have been told in under 20 minutes, instead it dragged on for two hours.

In light of fair and honest "reporting" here are some of the goodies.

1. Beethoven.

2. Timely cut scenes and understandable dialogue.

To summarize, save your 10 bucks and buy a Beethoven CD then find someone intelligent to have a conversation with.

You'll thank me later when you are flippin' through the channels and you happen to catch this movie on TNT.

Ace Custodio

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I Make Milk - What's YOUR Super Power???


Since Super Heros are a pervasive theme in our household at the moment (Carter has declared himself to be Spider Man), I thought this t-shirt was quite fitting!!!!

Bennett is going to be 1 in two weeks from today (sob!!!). I wasn't really sure what I was going to do about nursing after he turned 1. When Carter turned 1, I stopped pumping during the day and just nursed him whenever I was home with him. He continued to nurse until he was 18 months when he decided he was too busy to sit still any longer.


I absolutely loved nursing Carter and was really proud that I was able to nurse him until he was 18 months old. I always assumed I'd do the same with Bennett. But nursing has been SUCH a struggle for us. Because he was born very premature, I wasn't able to even put him to the breast until he was 5 weeks old. Even then, the doctors in the NICU only let us "practice" twice a day for ten minutes at a time. After he figured out how to eat from a bottle, he decided he wanted nothing to do with the "mumsie" and refused to latch until he was about 4 months old. I saw so many lactation consultants and persevered. You see, I lost almost every sense of "normalcy" with my pregnancy and Bennett's birth that usually comes with having a baby - I wasn't about to give up nursing. It was so important to me. When Bennett came off of oxygen completely at 6.5 months old, he miraculously started to take full feedings from the breast! I was amazed, as I never thought it would be possible for him to do so since he suffers from chronic lung disease and horrible reflux. But he did it - and I was in heaven! So, I only really started nursing about 5 months ago. Sure, I've been pumping every 2-3 hours around the clock for nearly a year, and its been totally worth it to give him the best stuff on earth. But...I hate the pump!

So, my dilemma was - do I stop pumping at 1 year and risk losing my supply (which is delicate because he was never a great nurser), or do I forge ahead and suck it up? Well, I decided my new goal is to get until July 11, 2009 - the day when Bennett should have turned 1. I just bought a 3 months supply of domperidone (medicine that helps keep my supply up), and brushed away any thoughts of quitting for now. When I consider how delicate Bennett's immune system is (breastmilk passes mommy's immunities to baby!), and how TINY he is (he's about the size of a 6 month old right now), how could I make any other choice?? So, for today at least - I'm affording myself Super Hero status.

And in honor of T-shirt week - here is my precious Bennett Boo in his "got breastmilk?" onesie my friend Alice Anne gave me!!


I couldn't decide between the two photos :)

I'll also take this opportunity to get on my "Breast is Best" soapbox! I'm not saying that formula is, as a friend put it "the devil's brew" (we have to supplement with formula sometimes), but there just is no disputing the awesomeness of breastmilk. It is THE perfect nutrition for YOUR child! Even when Bennett was premature, my body knew to make milk of the perfect composition for a premature baby. Tell me that isn't amazing! Preemies in particular NEED breastmilk as formula is just too difficult for their immature digestive systems to process and it can lead to a very life-threatening infection of the bowels. In case you harbor any lingering doubts - check out this kick-butt article - 101 Reasons to Breastfeed. The short and long term benefits to both mother AND baby are tremendous. I highly recommend it :)
So fellow Super Mommies - let's give each other a high-five! Post in the comments how many months you've given your child(ren) cumultively any amount of breast milk!
For me: Carter 18 months
Bennett 11.5 months
Total - 29.5 months!




Monday, April 20, 2009

Patience (With Yourself) Is a Virtue

So...I declare this "T-shirt Week"!! I've come across a few fun t-shirts lately that have inspired some blog topics, so each of my blogs this week will feature a new t-shirt. Go ahead, tell me how corney that is - I can take it!

I recently discovered an online store called Faith Baby that sells Christian-inspired clothing for kids and babies, and saw this t-shirt, which I think would be PERFECT for Carter:

If you can't see the writing, it says "be patient. God is not finished with me yet!" Of course, this t-shirt is intended for toddlers, but I could sure use one adult-sized for me!!!

So, I last left you all gloating about my grand plans to clean my house top to bottom. Oh boy did I have big plans! I arranged for Ace to take the boys and leave me in peace and serenity for SIX straight hours Saturday. Surely, that is long enough don't you think? Back in the day before frugality hit me, I had a cleaning lady come once every two weeks and it took her like 3-4 hours to clean the house. If she could do it, so can I! Right? WRONG.

In six hours, all I managed to get done was the family room (but boy was it disgusting), the exterior of the kitchen (didn't get inside the fridge, cabinets or pantry), the half bath, and the foyer. PATHETIC. I swear I only took one 10-minute break the entire time to pump too. What the heck is wrong with me??? Even when I have all time in the world (i.e. 6 hours when you are a mom of two), I can't manage to keep my house clean! I'm just falling apart people!

After getting over my initial disappointment (err...devastation), I decided to give myself a break. I'm always plunging in expecting that I can whip things into shape and get things "perfect" again. I have this long list of goals that I wrote up for 2009, which if accomplished probably would resemble something along the lines of a Stepford Wife, but with a full-time career added on top. And I'm always so frustrated that I can't seem to make any headway on this list. I keep declaring "This will be THE week when I get my life in order!" Yet, it just never happens. Alas, I am not superwoman. Maybe back in the day I was, but that was before two kids, a law career and chronic sleep deprivation descended on me. I just may never accomplish that entire list of goals. I'm a work in progress after all!!!

So, the moral of the story here is - baby steps. I've realized that the only way any of my goals will ever come close to being met is to gradually work toward achieving them (or achieving the steps it takes to achieve them, lol!). I just need to be patient with myself! God doesn't give up on me because I am not perfect (yet), now does he? So, I can't keep giving up on myself. Maybe my house will achieve model-home status one day, and maybe it won't. As long as I view it as a work in progress, then I'll be one step closer. And a lot less frazzled and stressed about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Running Like a Well-Oiled Machine

In the never-ending quest to find balance and organization amid the chaos of life, I have found a few little tools that I have found to be helpful. Out of the goodness of my heart and sincerest interest for your wellbeing, I thought I would be kind enough to share them with you. Aren't I nice??

I currently have a super secret project underway that will one day (in the hopefully very near future) obliterate the need for these various archaic pieces of paper. I mean, come on people - its the 21st century and we're still writing with pen and paper?? However, until the great unveiling, to which my beloved and loyal blog readers will be privvy, I rely on these handy dandy forms to hold the pieces of this great juggling act together.

One of my favorite websites is the Mommy Trackd website. They have great material on there and some hilarious articles. You absolutely must check the site out! They have some awesome (and cute) downloads there too!


I really like this "Week at a Glance" to get the big picture of what is going on each week with the family. It also helps me get a better idea of which nights are better for planning things, and which days are full already.

In the bottom part for my "to do" I write out the ONE thing I will focus on from my goals list. For example, this week, my focus was working on getting up and working out each morning. I succeeded in that endeavor only 2 out of the 5 days this week, but its a start!




If you do nothing else to streamline your life, you must do this - meal plan. It saves you time, brain power and money. Long gone are the days where you rush home at 5:30 p.m. and think "ugh, what am I going to make for dinner tonight?" and try to piece together the random ingredients lying around in the fridge and pantry. No, no, no...you must plan this in advance. Every Sunday I write out my meal plan for the week (I include lunches too since I pack for both me and Carter), then I write out my grocery list and do my shopping for the week (and if I really have it together - 2 weeks). I try to chop any veggies or do any prep work I can ahead of time too!



I think this is my favorite form - The Balance Sheet. I print one out every day at the start of the day (I have it saved to my desk top) and write out what needs to get done for both work and home. Its a great way to stay on task!







Now, for my old nemesis - housecleaning. Many moons ago, I stumbled upon the Motivated Moms housekeeping planners. The lady who owns this business is a stay at home mom who came up with a way to stay on top of household chores while still preserving time for yourself. She sets out day-by-day a handful of chores that will keep your house in order. Now, I'll admit, its really hard to keep up with the daily schedule while working full time, so sometimes I have to look at it in terms of the week rather than the day, and that works too. But, its really nice when I can stay on top of the daily tasks and then don't have to carve out huge chunks of precious time with my kids on the weekends, or my down-time for myself (while they are asleep of course) to do housework. Its only $8 for the whole year and she has several different formats for you to choose from. For this paltry sum, I highly suggest you give it a try!!

If you are list-crazed OCD and want lots of different options for every conceivable situation (ahem...Melissa), then you will probably like the Organized Home website with its gazillion forms (and great content too!!) and the Mom Agenda website, which sells planners but has lots of free downloads as well (and they are super cute too!).

Of course, all the organization in the world won't help a lick if you don't actually do the work, so I'd better get back to writing this legal motion now. I hope you all have a FABULOUS weekend! I plan to do a major overhaul cleaning of my house tomorrow, so wish me luck and cooperative children!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Top 10 Ways to (Legally) Torture Your Husband

Yesterday, my friend Crystal was having a rather crummy day. Apparently, it involved her husband getting into a minor fender bender and not telling her about it until after she discovered it on her own accord. Anyway, she asked for some ideas for how to torture her husband. Never passing up a request for help, I arose to the challenge. She insisted I share the list with you all.

So here are my top 10 ways for torturing one's husband:

10. Decide the family is going vegetarian for a week and refuse to cook any meat.

9. Delete all the DVRs of his yet-unseen favorite shows.

8. Go on a long drive in the car with him and sing Celine Dion songs the entire way.

7. Put all of his work slacks into the washer at night and "forget" to put them in the dryer so he has nothing to wear in the morning.

6. Invite your mother to come stay at your house for a week.

5. Spend all his discretionary "fun" money for the month on a new outfit for yourself.

4. Volunteer him to spend all day Saturday helping out an elderly neighbor with yard work.

3. Make plans to be out that evening and tell him right before you leave that he is in charge of figuring out dinner, entertaining the kids, bathing them and putting them to bed.

2. Tell him that you decided that birth control is now HIS responsibility.

1. Then dress up in sexy lingerie and refuse him sex :)

I think any one of these thing would probably put my husband over the edge!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going Under the Knife


I bet you didn't know that April is in fact Cesarean Awareness Month, now did you?? Well, it is. So, I'm going to take this opportunity to shed a little more light on what - in my humble opinion - is a deplorable increase in cesarean births in the United States. Approximately 1/3 of all babies born today in this country are born via cesarean. And that number continues to grow.

I've had two cesareans, and to be quite frank, I'm rather pissed about it. Neither of my birth experiences came even remotely close to what I had wanted or dreamed of for so long.

I was a month shy of 24 when I gave birth to Carter. I was still rather young and meek and submissive, particularly to doctors, at that point. I thought, surely, if a doctor says you should do something, that means you really should, right? So, when my obstetrician told me she thought I should be induced two weeks before my due date because baby boy has a big noggin, and since a definitive end date was sounding pretty good at that point...I readily agreed to it. My doctor failed, however, to give me some pretty important details. Namely, that over 50% of first time mothers who are induced end up with a cesarean. And that induction in the vast majority of cases leads to other interventions that could otherwise be avoided. Nope, not a bit of that was mentioned.

So, I went to the hospital at 6 a.m. on March 11th, thinking they would just break my water (as we had agreed) and see what happened since I was already 2.5 cm dilated and almost completely effaced (meaning my body was on the brink of going into labor on its own anyway for those who don't know labor-speak). Rather than breaking my water, they hooked me up to a IV with pitocin - a.k.a the Devil's Spit. I should have protested, but I didn't. I was nervous and scared and really just wanted to have this baby already! The contractions came on hard and fast. An hour into it, my doctor showed up (how nice of her) and broke my water. HOLY MOLY OUCH. My pain level instantly tripled. Turns out, Master Carter was occiput posterior - facing up rather than down like he should be. And that my dear friends made the hardest part of his head press into my spine with every contraction - back labor. I had these delusions that I would have a med-free natural birth, but after 12 or 13 hours (who's counting at that point...) of laboring on pitocin with no pain meds, and without making much progress, my doctor gave me the option of an epidural or a cesarean. That was an easy choice. So I got the damn epi, and it worked for a whopping hour then wore off, but not before making me vomit and shake uncontrollably. Like you need MORE discomfort on top of discomfort. But I did in fact finish dilating. So, I started to push, and I got him down to the point where we could see his little head starting to come through, but every time I would push, his heartrate would drop. So, they had me wait and see if my body would bring him down naturally. Nope. I tried pushing again, and his heartrate kept plummeting to scary lows. So my doctor said (with sleep lines all over her face because it was after all 3 a.m.) I'm off to a c-section. NO!!!!!!!!!!!! This is not how it was supposed to happen!!! This was my nightmare!

So, Carter was born via cesarean. They cut me open, took out my baby, then took him to a warmer to clean him off, look him over and bundle him up. I got to lay eyes on my firstborn child for the first time as they were wheeling me out of the operating room and into the recovery room. I tried to hold him, but my arms couldn't support him from being numbed from the anesthesia. Within an hour after the delivery, I got very ill and they had to take him away because I was useless to him at the moment. I got to see him again 5 hours later. This is definitely NOT what I had envisioned giving birth to be like.

But my doctor assured me that I could try for a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean) for my second child. So, I held onto that, made peace with my cesarean, and looked forward to giving birth the "right" way one day.

When I got pregnant with Bennett, I did all the right things to prepare for my vbac. I did all the research and was lining up interviews with doulas (special birth partners). Then, my water broke at 24 weeks. And of course, Bennett was breech. So there went my hope for a vaginal delivery. This time, my cesarean was even worse. I had uncontrolled bleeding during the surgery and it took them a good while and a lot of force to get the bleeding to stop. My recovery was extremely long and painful. Nearly a year later, I still have pain on one side of my incision where they nicked a muscle closing me up. Definitely not the birth I had envisioned.

So, I can hold on to hope for a vba2c, right??? Probably not. I will be lucky to find a doctor in Maryland who will attend a vbac after 2 cesareans. I'll save the argument for why THAT sucks for another day, as the risks of having something go wrong is still very slim. But the point remains, my dreams of giving birth to my child, of having them lay him on my chest while Ace and I stare down at him, of having those crucial bonding moments together - those dreams have been sliced to pieces with a very sharp scalpel.

Now, I realize that not all women feel so strongly againt cesareans. And not all women have bad experiences with them. But the facts are clear that cesareans generally are not a good thing, and should be avoided a much as possible.

* It is MAJOR abdominal surgery with huge risks to the mother of infection, blood loss and hemorrhage, hysterectomy, transfusions, bladder and bowel injury, incisional endometriosis, heart and lung complications, blood clots in the legs, anesthesia complications, and rehospitalization due to surgical complications, rate of establishment and ongoing breastfeeding is reduced, and psychological well-being compromised and increased rate emotional trauma. Potential chronic complications from scar tissue adhesions include pelvic pain, bowel problems, and pain during sex. Scar tissue makes subsequent cesareans more difficult to perform, increasing the risk of injury to other organs and the risk of chronic problems from adhesions.

* Half of all women who have a cesarean encounter some complication from it. The death rate from cesarean is between 2 to 4 times greater than that from vaginal births. 180 women in the U.S. die from elective repeat cesareans every year.

* Each successive cesarean greatly increases the risk of developing placenta previa, placenta accreta and placental abruption in subsequent pregnancies. Both of these complications pose life-threatening risks to mother and baby. Cesareans also increase the odds of secondary infertility, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy in subsequent pregnancies.

* There are risks to the baby too - respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), prematurity (when surgery is performed because of an error in determining the due date), persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPH), and surgery-related fetal injuries such as lacerations. Even with mature babies, the absence of labor increases the risk of breathing problems and other complications. Far from doing better, even premature and at risk babies born by cesarean fare worse than those born vaginally. Just today, I read a study that showed that being born via cesarean increases a child's odds of developing asthma by 80%!!!!!

* Cesareans can delay the opportunity for early mother-newborn interaction, breastfeeding, and the establishment of family bonds.

Unfortunately, it seems that the common-place occurrence of cesareans in this country has distracted us from the stark reality that it is a dangerous procedure for both mother and child. There are numerous reasons why the cesarean rate continues to rise, and I will definitely do a blog on that another day (in the meantime, you should try to watch Ricki Lake's documentary called "The Business of Being Born" - its fascinating!!). Suffice to say that something needs to be done. This is unacceptable and unnecessary. According to the World Health Organization, only approximately 10-15% of deliveries should be cesareans. As the nurses used to "joke" with me while I was on bedrest - it seems that the doctors all got a shiny new scalpel to try out.

(Disclaimer - I am fully aware that not all, and probably very few, doctors perform cesareans for any reason less than full belief that it is medically necessary, and yes, there are situations in which a cesarean is medically indicated).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Birthday in Review

For my birthday, Ace took me to a quaint little French bistro in Baltimore - Petit Louis. We had received a gift certificate for this restaurant a while back but never used it. Perfect occassion! It was so nice to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant just the two of us. I can't even tell you how long its been since we had a date! We kept saying the entire time that we really should do this more often!!


I ordered a duck leg that came on a bed of mushrooms and these crispy tasty things, but I could never figure out what they were and forgot to ask. I also treated myself to a wonderful glass of French Pinot Blanc :) Ace ordered braised lamb that came with English peas, pearl onions and pee wee potatoes. For desert, we got this delicious chocolate cake that had some sort of carmel mousse swirled inside it and served with vanilla bean ice cream. It was all very yummy!!!

Then I came home and crawled into bed with Carter and conked out. What better gift to myself on my birthday than sleep??!! This sweet little boy made me a birthday card out of my scrapbooking supplies and hid it for an entire week just so he could surprise me with it today. That will definitely be going into the box of stuff a mom is compelled to keep forever.

I also happened to finish "Eat, Pray, Love" and have to say it was a very very good book. I highly recommend it. I can't say that I related to the author on a personal realm, but she has a way of writing that draws you in and makes you feel like you are experiencing her transcontinental trip with her every step of the way. It was like a mini-vacation to read the book! And of course, now I have a deep craving to travel - like that's going to happen any time soon!

Why Mint.com will revolutionize the way you manage your personal finances!

If you're living in the modern world, you probably have several bank accounts, credit card accounts, student loans, investment accounts, and mortgages that can all be accessed with a user name and password online?

It is time consuming to keep up with them individually, but MINT.com consolidates all of these accounts online!

Check out the screen shots and decide for yourself if this FREE service is worth your time (I truly believe it is).

[Oh, and to ensure you are being served with unbiased advice, MINT.com is not affiliated in any way with another financial services powerhouse: www.camtrading.com.]

Here's what the homepage looks like:



See why you'd want to use Mint.com:


It even works with your iPhone:


You can even track your investment performance:


Now you can get intimate with your money!



Written by: Ace Custodio
Co-Founder/CEO: Camtrading.com
Another awesome financial services company!


Monday, April 13, 2009

28 Years Old and 28 Accomplishments

So, as of this writing, Chantelle is officially...28 Years old! Wow! Keep in mind, I met her when she was 14. Anyway, another story for another day...

Happy Birthday, Elle! Here are 28 of your proudest accomplishments so far (not in order of importance).

LIFE
1. Married a super model.
2. Gave birth to Carter (Aka Spider-Man).
3. Gave birth to Bennett.
4. Sustained Bennett's life in the womb for (I can't remember how many weeks) after water breaking.
5. Mom to two very happy and thriving boys.
6. Achieved "Superwoman" status in the household.
7. Owns a home.

EDUCATION
8. Graduated with top honors in High School.
9. Summa Cum Laude, "with highest honors" from Mount St. Mary's University (NCAA Division I basketball team sucks - but we love 'em).
10. Juris Doctorate at University of Maryland School of Law (ranked 39 by U.S. News).
11. First in the family to obtain a JD (equivalent to a PhD in some States).
12. Tutored husband in Honors Biology (how husband got in the class, still a mystery)...

CAREER
13. Litigator at Meyers, Rodbell & Rosenbaum. (Health Care Defense, Business Litigation, and Employment Law).
14. Won a few cases for the firm by doing awesome work.
15. Been working for the same firm for over 5 years now? (Dates are fuzzy).
16. Member of various law-related clubs.





PERSONAL
17. Can read a 450-page novel in under a week!
18. Can do push-ups (but I will not dare say how many).
19. EXTREMELY efficient. One second will NOT go to waste!
20. Meticulous planner.
21. Learned how to dance Merengue and Salsa.
22. Sang at the National Cathedral in DC for Suzy's wedding.
23. Getting better at cooking (you should taste the meals she made when we first got married).
24. Creates beautiful greeting cards from scratch.
25. Won a few beauty pageants (can you tell I'm running out of things to say?).
26. Did gymnastics for a long time.
27. Won a few writing contests and was featured in the local newspapers.
28. Fluent in Spanish.

Happy Birthday!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lasagna is Like Sex

There are endless ways to make it, and its always good.

Tonight, I am hosting a viewing of The Passion at my house for our families. An Easter preview of sorts. So, I'm making that classic dish known for feeding masses without much expense - lasagna. And I happen to think that my recipe for lasagna is exceptionally tasty.

I use the Barilla No-Boil flat lasagna noodles to start. I was never so elated than I was to discover that they made this - it cuts the prep down to half the time. Tonight, I'm using a simple 4-cheese marinara sauce, but I do like to use the spicy pepper/arribiata sauce too.

On top of my first layer of lasagna noodles, I start by cutting up some fresh spinach and mixing it in with the ricotta cheese. On top of this, I layer ground sage sausage (already cooked). Then another layer of noodles, some sauce, then I layer thinly sliced zucchini and squash. I sprinkle a little sea salt for flavoring, then add another layer of noodles and sauce. Then I top liberally with shredded mozzarella. I season the top with some fresh chopped basil (missing tonight), oregano, and some garlic salt. I cover with foil, bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake it until the cheese begins to get golden and melted, gooey and delicious :) Yum.....

I also picked up two loaves of rosemary garlic bread. Normally, I don't serve bread with pasta to avoid carb overload, but there really isn't much pasta in lasagna.

So, tell me - what's your favorite position....er...I mean way to make lasagna ;)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bringing out the Big Guns

This week, in pursuit of my neverending quest to get in shape again, I had the most brilliant idea to start the 100 Push-Up Challenge. I mean, how awesome would it be to be able to say you could actually do 100 push-ups in a row??? Visions of sexy, ripped, Michelle Obama arms began to dance in my head. Summer is, afterall right around the corner, along with sleeveless tops and (shudder) bathing suits. Great idea, right???

So, you start out by taking the initial test to see how many push-ups you can already do in a row, pushing on until you cannott.do.one.more....


Much to my shock and amazement, I could already do TWENTY!! Yeah, I was feeling kind of proud of myself. But now, at the end of Week 1, I'm kind of wishing I weren't such an over-achiever...

So, I'm in the third column level-wise. As you can see, for the 5th set, you have to max out, with a minimum stipulation. Day 1 (still cocky and ambitious), I maxed out at 15 on the 5th set. Not bad, huh? It really wasn't all that hard.
Day 2 ...oh my gosh, I'm so sore...I am crying by the time I get to 12 on the 5th set...

And Day 3 - well, lets just say I did get to 13, but I had to take a little pause between push-up 10 and push-up 11, and I felt a little Opus Dei telling myself - "Its Good Friday, Jesus endured worst, you can do this you pansy!!" - but, hey - whatever works!
Seriously, its really not so bad - you should try it!!! When you're salivating over my seriously sculpted guns without a trace of jiggly under-arm fat in sight this summer, you'll be wishing you did!!! Any takers????
(And no, Ace, you cannott participate if you can already do 100 push-ups in a row....)














Let's talk about gangs...or not?

So, after my previous ramblings, I mentioned that I will talk about the pros and cons of being a gang member for my next topic. I know that some of the audience members of this blog have either first-hand experience with dealing with gang members or prosecuting gang members...and to stay true to my intention, I have decided to give a quick and dirty list of what I *think* the pros and cons are of joining a gang (before moving on to more serious topics).

PROS:
1. It's cool. I mean, come on, graffiti on concrete walls? Random tattoos of some cult symbol? Late night "snack" runs to the nearest 7-Eleven?
2. Weapons. I think, by joining a gang, you will get your choice of "man-handler." Of course, that assumes you passed the hazing part.
3. You are surrounded by like-minded individuals. This is not like joining the local rotary, or church group, oh no, not in the mean streets...there are some serious thugs who want nothing more than to inflict pain on others. Perfect company right?

CONS:
1. It's bad for you. There's just a negative connotation around the word "Gang." Wouldn't you agree?
2. You will commit crime. I don't mean computer crime like hacking into your wife's e-mail account to send your mother-in-law hate mail. I mean, serious, punishable crimes that will cause you to do time!
3. Parties, parties, and more parties. The parties involve heavy drinking, and sex with random people. (Hm...this one could belong in the Pros section)...
4. Smoking. I've seen enough TV to know what gang members do. They smoke! Yuck!

So, lesson learned kids. Preserve your pearly whites, don't join a gang!

...........

Moving onto more serious topics...

Google Docs. I have uncovered another gem of productivity tools online and that is Google Docs. Almond (my brother, co-worker) and I have always been sending each other Excel documents through e-mail for editing. No more! Thanks to Google Docs. All you do is upload your file, send an invite to your friend's e-mail and viola (sp?)! Instant document collaboration!

Good-bye painstakingly long uploads and downloads of the same Excel document, hello...Google Docs.

Disclosure: While we wish we were being paid for promoting Google in any way, unfortunately, there is no monetary compensation for recommending the use of Google Docs. I just really think it's that cool!
............

Next topic, Mint.com and why I think this will revolutionize the way you do your budgeting.

Ace

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We don't "do" the Easter Bunny

Just so you know. I was asked no less than three times yesterday if I had taken the boys to see the Easter Bunny yet. There are several reasons why I have not and will not do so, not the least of which are:

1. I have an immunodeficient infant who is taken into public sparingly during cold/flu season, and certainly not to a shopping mall to sit on the same grimey lap of a costumed character that has held hundreds of snotty nosed kids of late;

2. The sight of a gigantic anthropomorphic rabbit would probably scare the wits out of at least one of my children (not saying who...); but most importantly,

3. Easter isn't about the Easter Bunny!

Now, I don't think the Easter Bunny is evil or anything. And I don't judge others for introducing it to their children; its just not for us. For Christians, Easter is the holiest of all our religious holidays. The Easter Bunny is a mere symbol of the commercialization of what should be a strictly religious holiday. And well... in my estimation, the Easter Bunny is just kind of cheesy. In my view of how we should celebrate Christ's dying and rising again, mixing Christ and the Easter Bunny together just don't seem to mesh.

I'm not a complete party-pooper though, as we still give our children Easter baskets filled with all the normal ecoutrements of candy and toys. We just tell them that it is from mommy and daddy - a gift to celebrate God's gift to us!

(And in case you were wondering, I don't have similar misgivings about Santa Claus).

This year, however, things have become a little complicated. And now I face the challenge of how to explain the amazing complexity of Jesus' death and rising to my four year old. Carter was first introduced to the concept of death from a book on Safari animals given to him by his grandmother while I was in the hospital last spring on bedrest. It depicted a scene where several lions are feasting on the body of a dead zebra. He was disturbed yet fascinated with this scene and for weeks would continually come back to it and stare and ask me profound questions like "But why mom?" I do not think, though, that he had made the connection that if animals can die, so can people. Until recently that is, when I tried to explain to him the whole concept of the resurrection.

But that opens a whole big can of worms and I find myself trying to explain concepts that are difficult for even adults to grasp.

"Where is Jesus now mom? I can't see him?"

"If Jesus lives in my heart, how can he live in your heart too?"

"Where is heaven, mom? I can't see it." (I don't dare try to explain the concept of hell yet)

"How come when I prayed to Jesus and asked for the toy I wanted, I didn't get it?"

I give him the simplest explanations I can think of to his inquiries, and forgivingly, his preschooler mind moves on. For a few minutes at least, until he returns to the topic declaring:

"Let's be like the Incredibles mom. Bennett can change into a lion, then a bug, then snake. And you and daddy and me can wham bam and beat those mean people who hurt Jesus!"

So, we've traded the Easter bunny for super heros! I'll take that. And I'll take any tips you've got for explaining the metaphysical complexities of Christianity to my four year old!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A day in the life of Elle...

Tonight I suffer from "I've sat on my butt and can't get up" syndrome. I need to get up and do about a gazillion things, but my energy and motivation are both sapped. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Carter was up 2/3 of the night last night puking. So, I only really slept from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. when Bennett woke up to eat. Or perhaps I've just become lazy. Maybe both.

One thing is for sure, momma needs to make some changes around here and get her act together. I've been blaming my messy house and neglected piles of work on the fact that I'm adjusting to the new challenge of working full time with TWO children, instead of the one I had mastered previously. But, um....Bennett is 11 months old now. Its time I dug my heels in the ground and whipped my life into shape, don't ya think??? The problem is that now I have twice as much that needs to be done in half the time. So, I need to learn how to be more efficient (just when I thought that wasn't possible)!

This is a sampling of a day in the life of Elle:

5:30 a.m. - I wake up to feed Bennett. If I'm not being a TOTAL lazy bum (which I am about 9 times out of 10), I will trudge down to the basement and crawl onto to treadmill in a pathetic effort to shed these last 10 (or 15....0r 20....you take your pick) pounds of baby weight. If I AM being a lazy bum, I will crawl back in bed until I start getting that panicky feeling in my stomach that if I don't get up soon, the whole morning will crash down around me (i.e. the children will wake up). So then I shower and get dressed.

7:30 a.m. - The monsters...er...children...begin waking for the day. Most mornings I have to toss Bennett on top of Carter to slobber on him and pull his hair in order to compel his butt into action. Then Bennett and Carter "race" to see who can get dressed the fastest, with Carter whining and screeching "no mom...don't let Bennett win!!!" the whole while. Once that monumentous task is accomplished, I drag them downstairs for breakfast. Carter spends 30 minutes trying to decide what to eat for breakfast. I throw some Cheerios on Bennett's tray while I set about making my and Carter's lunches for the day. I yell at Carter to EAT and then I pack my pump bag and my work bag and then Carter's school bag. Then, if I have a minute or two left, I yell at Carter again that he's going to starve unless he inhales his food in the next two minutes, and then I inhale my food (oatmeal with peanut butter and berries every.single.morning - its supposed to be good for breastfeeding). Then I yell at Carter to PLEASE brush his teeth now and find his shoes. Then I yell at Ace to PLEASE get Bennett's bottle ready, he's starting to melt down.

8:15, or 8:30, or 8:45, and sometimes on a really bad day, 9:15 - Carter and I leave the house. I drop Carter off at preschool, 9 times out of 10 exasperatedly apologizing to his teacher for him being late once AGAIN and coming up with some lame excuse as to why. Then I battle my fellow commuters all the way down I-95 and try to sneak into my office without any of the partners noticing how late it is....

Somewhere between 9 and 10 a.m. - I plant myself behind my computer and start to work. Or... check emails, check blogs, check message boards, update my Facebook status... Then I freak out that thirty minutes (or an hour) has passed and I haven't billed a single minute yet. So, then I fervently work for a few hours until I get distracted by the internet once again. Then I waste more time playing around, then panic because "omg, I have to leave in two hours and I still haven't finished drafting this stupid motion or called back opposing counsel or researched that issue..." You'd think I would LEARN my lesson, huh? But I've already explained to you all that I am insane.

5:00 - Ace begins to send me panicky emails, text messages or IMs inquiring as to when I will be home. By 5:30 I usually give in and log off and crawl back onto I-95 for the northward commute home. I usually hit a decent amount of traffic at this time, so I take advantage of the downtime to harass my mom with yet another phone call, or my best friend if she has a minute free from her newborn son to listen to my nonsense. If I've phone stalked everyone on my Contacts list enough in recent history, I resort to listening to books on tape. I know, I sound like my dad now...

6:00 - It hardly matters what time I leave the office, I always seem to get home at 6. I greet the children who attach themselves to me like barnacle and try to use any free appendages I may have to cook dinner. Ace greets me with a hello if I'm lucky, but usually with the same old "I'm crazy busy today" and heads back up to his office. He reappears for 30 minutes after dinner is ready to eat with us (how nice of him) and then disappears again, usually for the remainder of the night.

7:00 - I bathe Bennett. Carter either "helps" me or plays on the computer or causes some brand of mischief around the house. Then I nurse Bennett and put him to bed.

7:30 - I fight with Carter for 30 minutes about whether or not its a bath night and whether he can go to the basement to play for "just a little bit." I usually cave under the pleading of his big brown eyes, and we spend some quality time together. Then I get him his "bednight" snack and read him his "bednight story(ies)" and say goodnight. That usually happens around 9 p.m. His bedtime is supposed to be 8:30, but since Bennett emerged on the scene, it just isn't possible.

So, at this point, as you can clearly see, I'm exhausted. So, I find myself sitting here tonight staring at the mounds of dishes to be done, a kitchen to clean up, a basket full of laundry to fold, Cheerios to pick up off the floor, several HOURS of work to make up for since I was a lazy bum at the office today, and the clock advancing all too quickly.

I know what I need to do, I just can't bring myself to do it because, well...my butt hit the chair. Now I can't peel myself off. And therein lies my problem. I need to get rid of all my chairs.

So, tell me please - how can I get my mojo back? Or where can I buy a new one???

Honorary Blog Contributor: Ace (Nightowl Version - for those insomniacs)...

After eating some delicious dinner (that I cooked - because I'm a GREAT chef), Elle and I talked about how the previous design to this blog kind of hurt the eyes a bit.

Hm...Orange text on a light-colored background really put your eyes on squint-mode. Not to mention, professional graphic designers tend to stay away from using secondary color combos for text and backgrounds.

Here's a visual example. When you get to the end credits in a movie the text color used is usually white against a background that is black, right? I guess getting to the end credits would depend on which movie you are venturing to see...And, if you're thinking Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz can't possibly make a terrible movie together, then you must not have heard of "All The Pretty Horses" that came out in 2000 while in the midst of our steamy romantic days (she dragged me to go see it...). Now, there's a classic that should be used to crack the toughest criminals under interrogation! If you haven't seen this movie, consider yourself lucky. If you have seen this movie AND you liked it...what were you smoking because I want some.

Anyway, I volunteered to give this here a little bit of a face lift. And...

Viola (sp)!

After 4 hours in and totally blowing up the blog...here I am, writing about how I managed to learn a bit of XML and some basic design principles. By the way speaking of design, I single-handedly designed www.camtrading.com (a multimillion-dollar investment management firm that is set to dominate the world of investing, IRAs, 401(k)s yada yada yada - seriously! Ask any one of the 90 or so clients under our wing about how true our national dominance is right now, just don't ask me to disclose their identities as it is illegal for us to do so).

Aside from the shameless promotional plug about my company, I plan to come by once in a while to write opinions about movies (action, comedy, horror), music (Rap, Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap), and cars (exotics, expensive, and anything out of the budget).

Next topic, I will discuss the pros and cons of joining a gang (I only speak from real life experience)...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Insanity: Repeatedly doing the same thing over expecting a different result

Many moons ago, I was in the habit of leaving the laundry detergent bottle on top of the washing machine (we have an upright) because it had the dispening spout, and it was just easier that way. Well, on one occassion, this proved to be not such a great idea, as the violent shaking of the washer caused it to fall off the top, break, and spill detergent all over.

So, for about a year and a half I have refrained from putting the detergent on top of the washer. Until recently. I don't know why I started doing it again. I KNEW that it could fall. But I thought "well, if I put it near the center, it won't fall, right?" WRONG. This is just further evidence of what I have suspected all along - I am insane.

Last night, I heard a loud thud. I looked around the house to see if anything had fallen, and didn't notice anything out of place. This morning, I got up to work out and went to take the laundry that I had put into the washer last night before bed and put it into the dryer. I opened the door to the laundry room and was greeted by a large pool of sticky, slippery detergent ALLLLLLL over the laundry room floor.

S&!#. I didn't have time for this! And how was I going to clean it up?? I grabbed some towels, but I'd soak an entire towel without making a dent in the pool of detergent. Kind of like trying to empty the bathtub with a tablespoon. I am standing there brainstorming more efficient ways of cleaning up the mess (in hopes of removing all evidence of my idiocy before Ace woke up and hit me with "I told you so"), when it struck me...

So, I present to you the perfect tools for cleaning up massive amounts of spilled laundry detergent (ya know, in case you ever do the same stupid thing): a spatula, a Spider Man plastic place mat (which is supposed to be going into Carter's Easter basket), a mixing bowl and some car detailing cloths. Simply squigie the detergent onto the place mat, and pour into the bowl. When the majority is up, use the car detailing cloths to wipe up the remainder. I'm still going to have to figure out how to get the residue off the concrete floor, as that will be hazardous when wet, but for now, I am satisfied by my effiency and ingenuity.

Yes people, insanity breeds ingenuity!

(Please ignore the lame attempt to make myself feel better for being so dumb in the first place!).

And in completely random news - I finished reading The Appeal (which ticked me off royally! the "good guy" is supposed to win!) and have moved on to Eat, Pray, Love. I'm 4 chapters in and HOOKED. Anyone care to read along?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Going GREEN (kinda)

Today, we went to the Howard County Green Fest. It was basically a bunch of vendors and interest groups all focused on being green. We saw all sorts of interesting things - solar panels, generators, organic and chemical free products... I think the most intriguing item I saw was this contraption that you hook up to your washing machine that makes it unnecessary to use detergents or hot water. Apparently, it uses silver ions (or something like that) to clean the clothes. And it "only" runs about $500.00. Interesting. Carter also got a dogwood seedling which he made us plop in the ground within minutes of arriving home. We'll see how long I can manage to keep that alive (I have a bit of a black thumb)!

Anyway, our outing today prompted the idea for this post. I am not exactly what you would call a tree hugger. In fact, a few short years ago I was classified among the skeptics that questioned whether global warming really exists. I dunno what "turned" me. Maybe it was more like a Pascal's Dilemma for me - even if global warming doesn't exist, we're still better off in trying to preserve the Earth than if we didn't, right? And if it does exist and we do nothing...well, then we're screwed. But I think the biggest factor in driving me to become more eco-conscious is becoming a mother. I just have this sense of responsibility for the state of the world I leave to my children and grandchildren, and feel the duty to pass that on to my kidlets as well. And I've become a bit of a pseudo-crunchy mom to boot (extended breast-feeding, semi-co-sleeping, baby-wearing, organic feeding...).

So, I've slowly, but sure started to implement gradual earth-friendly changes. A few months ago, our county implemented a really awesome recycling program - distributing larger trash-can sized recycling "bins" to every household where you can throw in without sorting any recyclable materials. We estimate that we've cut our trash output by 2/3 since we've started recycling!

All of the appliances we've purchased for our current home are in some way energy efficient - the washer/dryer, HVAC, dishwasher. I'm lusting for a tankless water heater and a dual zone HVAC sytem!!

A few years ago I started using some chemical-free cleaning products to reduce the amount of chemicals we are exposed to and put into the environment. My favorites are Method and Clorox's Green Works.

And for most of my cleaning, I use washable/reusable cleaning cloths rather than paper towels. But I also desire "germ-free" living (inasmuch as that is possible), particularly with an immuno-deficient child, so I can't bring myself to give up my Clorox disinfecting wipes!! I would imagine that Clorox would wise up soon and make a version that is biodegradable like their Green Works product line wipes. But earth-friendly cleaning products come at a premium price, unfortunately. So, I still buy some stuff from Costco in bulk (Windex, Toilet bowel cleaner, hardwood cleaner, and my beloved Clorox wipes!!!). So, while I'm trying, I can't seem to go all the way...

As a general rule, you we don't have bottled water in our house - just think about all the plastic you use up unnecesarily with bottled water!!! Even if you recycle at home, there aren't usually many places to dispose of recyclable materials like plastic bottles on the go. Rather, I carry around a Rubbermaid water bottle that I refill throughout the day and toss in the dishwasher at night. I also pack my and Carter's lunches in washable Rubbermaid containers rather than disposable packaging.

I've found that buying food in bulk often reduces the amount of packaging waste. This past Christmas, I discovered Amazon's "hassle-free packaging" - which is basically the product in the shipping box rather than in the retailer's packaging in addition to the inevitably larger shipping box - and I thought it was a FANTASTIC idea! It turns my stomach when I see the mound of cardboard and plastic that accumulates after Christmas or a birthday party! I would be ecstatic if retailers would begin to seriously cut down on the packaging of products - its so unnecessary!! And, who can live without those cute reusable grocery bags that everyone is selling these days?? I started by buying one each trip to the grosh until I accumulated enough to cover my usual-sized order. And at $1 each, I didn't even notice the cost impact!

Perhaps I could do the Earth a huge favor by cloth diapering; but yeah, I just can't bring myself to go there. Disposables are just entirely too convenient. As a busy mom, convenience sometimes has to trump the environment (although, I'm sure there are many who'll disagree). I also wonder if the use of water and energy and chemicals it takes to get those puppies clean really is all that much better???

So, I'm getting there. Trying. I'm always looking for other inexpesive and "easy" things I can do to help the green cause a little more. Ace has grandeur dreams of building a green home one day. And, I've found him trying to produce hydrogen in our kitchen, thinking he could develop some sort of hydrogen powered vehicle (neverminding the fact that he all but barely passed any science-related class he ever took!!). But for now, I'm looking for simple things I can do!

So give it to me - what are you doing, or hope to begin doing, to keep the world a clean and green place to live???