Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eco-friendly Hippie Bums: A diapering adventure!

I am a big believer in the idea that many people making small adjustments can create big change in the world. Time to put that idea to work for us by way of my baby's bum.

I always thought I'd be a cloth diaper kind of mom. (This was back in the day when I thought I'd do two years in the Peace Corp.) Who was I kidding? When Jude was born we said we'd start with disposables and then get cloth diapers once he was bigger. But there are so many options, and we were so tired, and we'd gotten a lot of diapers at the baby shower...and...and...And we never made the switch.

Fast-forward three years.

We now have Aidan, we are once again so so tired, and we are burning through boxes of diapers at an astonishing speed. So in honor of Earth Day, and because I am home now and able to take this on, we are finally embarking on our cloth diapering adventure. An adventure in washable poo!

For $130 I put together a starter kit. It helped that I hit a one-day sale for the GroVia diapers on (If you are a mom that doesn't yet go to this site daily, you should. It's a frugal brand-whore's paradise.) The rest I bought on Amazon.

In the kit, I have 2 GroVia hybrid shells, 2 GroVia all-in-ones, GroVia bio liners (roll of 200), GroVia bio soakers, bummis fleece liners (5-pk), GroVia soaker pads (2-pk) and a box of 6 OsoCozy unbleached prefold cloth diapers to try as another insert option.

I have also ordered Woolzies drier balls to replace my beloved Bounce dryer sheets.

They were cheapest ($29.99 with free shipping) at Cloth diapers react poorly to fabric softener, so this was a great motivator to move onto something reusable in the dryer. Wool dryer balls are also supposed to decrease drying time - bonus to my energy bill and a nice bump for Mother Earth.

Use cloth diapers overnight as well as replace 2-4 disposable diapers in the day, assuming it's a day we're at home. At $56 for a box of 144 diapers, each disposable diapers runs me about $0.39. If I average 3 cloth diapers a day, then the cloth diapers pay for themselves in just over 3 months. In that 3 months I'll also have kept over 90 diapers out of my local landfill.

Wish me luck! I'll report on our progress. Any tips from parents who have traveled this treacherous path would be oh so appreciated.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bite v Chew

I am a compulsive starter of projects. It has been a problem my whole life. I am addicted to the thrill of a good idea, but the problem arises when I try to complete them all at once. I work faster and faster, spinning into madness, until I finish a fraction of the projects on my list and the rest get washed away in the deluge of my resulting breakdown. And then it starts all over again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Right now my addiction is at an all-time high. Quitting my job has freed up ample time to think of a million wonderful new things to tackle!

Currently, I have plans in the works for 3 TV pitches, 2 books, a screenplay, a non-profit, a real estate investment idea, this blog, my upcoming Etsy store, a new writing gig, and 2 potential job opportunities that have blossomed out of freelance producing. Oh, and I still have my lovely boys to raise, dogs to play with, a husband who deserves some of my attention, a garden to plant, and various home projects designed to welcome summer.

Reading this list makes me tired.

Just yesterday a girlfriend described me as "ambitious." This was in the midst of a lunch play date where our toddlers were rapidly declining into a pre-nap freakout, my baby was crying in his Exersaucer, and I was trying to clean up a delightful lunch I hadn't yet had time to eat while simultaneously beating frosting to top the homemade cupcakes I'd pulled off that morning. Yeah, I don't think "ambitious" was a compliment. I think it was a euphemism for crazy.

Jude has an indoor trampoline we bought him to help with the pent up physicality of the winter months. Every time he starts to go a little nuts we send him to the tramp. He knows the drill, and on a recent afternoon yelled out "Mom, I gotta jump on my trampoline! I feel some crazies comin' on!"

Maybe I should try this. When I get that buzz of a new idea, instead of pulling out the albatross of my idea book I should shut everything down and head to the trampoline. I can burn a few calories (bonus!) and distract myself long enough that my fuzzy new-mom brain will eat my fledgling idea before it has a chance to fully form.

I'll tell you one thing. Next time I have a play date, we're doing cold cuts and hoagie rolls. What was I thinking?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Local Woman Foils Burglary, Invites Intruders To Tea"

Do you ever wonder, when you hear the stories of old people giving their credit card information to perfect strangers and then falling victim to a scam, who can possibly be that stupid? Me too. But the mystery is solved.

It's me!

I am that stupid. I am the future retiree who will lose everything to a grifter with a Crest-white smile. To illustrate my point, I have written the following one-act play entitled "Welcome, Please Steal My Shit."

a play in one act

Danielle is home putting the baby to sleep in the basement when the doorbell rings multiple times. The frazzled mother ignores the incessant chiming - it's probably just that nosy neighbor again! - and continues rocking the baby. 

Suddenly we hear a large dog frantically barking. We can later assume it is because an attempt was made to open the front door. Danielle, oblivious to the danger and cursing at the dog, finally hauls her ass up from the couch to walk upstairs. She looks out the front door. 

Two women are texting in a beat up white sedan parked outside outside the house. Danielle's nonchalant shrug says "No big deal - their car probably broke down and now they're calling AAA. La la la la la. Let's go back to sending email and see what's happening on Facebook."

Moments later, Danielle is back in the basement when she hears a bang at the side of the house and once again the dog starts barking. Good dog. Danielle hauls herself upstairs for the second time, only to see the two women on her back deck moving furniture and still with the texting. She touches her hair self-consciously wishing she'd showered and gotten dressed today. Still, something is off.

Danielle: (knocking on the picture window) Can I help you? Why are you in my yard?

Woman 1: (in accented, dammit-why-do-you-have-to-be-hispanic English) Oh! We here to clean.

Woman 2 texts with the speed of a thousand secretaries.

Danielle: Are you with Molly Maids? I don't think you're scheduled today.

Woman 1: Yes, maybe we have a wrong house. What's your name?

Danielle: We didn't order any cleaning service. I think you should leave. And could you please make sure to close the gates on your way out? I don't want the dogs to get out.

Woman 1: Oh okay.

Danielle: Sorry about the mixup - thanks.

The women high tail it out of there, while Danielle makes a fresh batch of coffee and goes to check on the baby. Sure, this was weird but hey, nothing to get upset about right? Their car didn't have a company logo, the women weren't in uniform, there were no cleaning supplies to speak of...and they didn't have a key, which is odd...and one usually doesn't keep a spare for the maids on the back porch but...but...

But what you idiot! This is the narrator speaking. You can recognize me by my use of italics. Now pick up the phone, call the police, and report these women! Do I have to draw you a diagram of your house, the alley it backs up to, and the truck that was on its way to cart away all of your worldly goods? Pick up the damn phone!

Danielle: (dialing and then speaking into the phone) Yes, hi, I think I'd like to report an attempted robbery. Maybe.


(Author's note: The police did in fact confirm that there had been a string of robberies in the neighborhood fitting this description and Officer Strong - real name - followed up with care and efficiency. There are many things that the author would do differently next time, but the #1 thing that she would do is invite the women in to clean her home and make good on their cover story. The author's home could use a good scrubbing, and it would serve those bitches right.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I used to be hot...

Let me just open with this picture, recently shown to my 8- and 10-year-old nephews who didn't know who it was.

Yep, me. My first headshots after moving to Chicago. Twenty-two years old and ready to take on the world. Look at that hair! Those arms! Those bedroom eyes! A dozen years ago I was smokin' hot. The crazy part is, I neither realized nor appreciated it.

Like most women I know, I have always had issues with my body. Or various parts of it at different times. I've never had nice legs - fat knees, trunkish calves, my ankles are thick, my feet are wide. I have always coveted height (I'm 5'4" on a good day). My neck is lined and will never look like Audrey Hepburn's. I fight with my eyebrows and I don't have good lashes. My mouth is huge, my two front teeth overlap, and I have a crooked smile that shows a lot of gum. Reading this, you may be thinking "This list is ridiculous! Who gives a shit?" But, if you are a woman, I am pretty certain you have a ridiculous list of your own somewhere.

Fast-forward 4 years, and I have moved from the physically-forgiving midwest to Los Angeles. My old list is now compounded by serious weight issues. I am the chubby girl in the room at auditions. And my curly hair is a liability instead of an asset. Ugh, no wonder I wasn't booking any work. I mean, look at me!

I know, right? I was adorable. A head case, sure, but what a sassy package! Of course, I only saw the imperfections. I wouldn't go to the beach with friends if I had to wear a swimsuit. I sucked in my stomach (what stomach??) all the time. I tempered my big horsey smile and started to actively feel bad about my body.

Add a few more years, and Gabe and I are engaged. (Awesome! It only took him three and a half years to ask!) We took a bunch of Save the Date pictures on the beach in Santa Monica with our recently engaged best friends. This is my favorite one (I know, we're hilarious), but back then I cried when I reviewed the series as a whole. I couldn't believe how fat I'd gotten.

WTF?! Seriously, Danielle, you were an insane, skinny, idiot!

Without even touching on the reality that bodies are created for more than showing off clothes and looking good in pictures, I know I have a problem. The worst part is, even though I look back on the previous Danielles with envy and chastise myself for not appreciating them, a future me covets the body I have right now.

Wait. Lightbulb say what?

That's right, current me. Fifty-year-old Danielle would walk down the street buck naked if she could conjure up my 34-year-old body, post-partum rolls and all. And seventy-year-old Danielle fantasizes about taking that 50-year-old body out for a spin.

The moral of the story: Love the skin you're in right now. Trite but true.

So in honor of my many future selves, I hereby declare my current self to be "hot" once again. Maybe I'll practice looking at myself through Gabe's eyes (he loves my big gummy smile), or Jude's (every time I wear a skirt his voice gets hushed and he tells me I look like a princess).

To kick this transition off I am going to give my List o' Flaws a two-fisted middle finger salute and then buy myself a new pair of jeans. A body this great should be celebrated.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Beef. It's what's for dinner.

It's always a challenge finding a meal that will feed the whole family (read "Jude") and not resort to the old macaroni and cheese with peas stand-by. (One box Annie's organic mac'n'cheese made according to box directions, with a cup of frozen peas added to the pasta in the final 2 minutes of boiling.)

This fits the bill, and only takes half an hour to pull off. I really enjoy that half hour - I put on whatever album I am currently obsessed with (right now it's Bruce Springsteen's "Wrecking Ball" - so great), Gabe and the boys retreat to the basement if they are home, and I reenact my favorite scene from "Bandits." Good times.

Today I had a tiny partner in the kitchen. He also got his groove on.

(adapted from a Real Simple recipe and Mark Bittman's quick homemade hummus) 

Mini burgers:
1 lb organic, grass-fed hamburger (pink slime free, if you care)
1 1/2 TB dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
olive oil

14 oz can organic garbanzo beans (drain off about half of the water, saving it to thin the hummus if needed)
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
3/4 TB lemon juice 
salt and pepper to taste
2+ TB olive oil
chopped garlic (4 cloves, or a fat teaspoon) 

box of couscous (time saver)

optional extras:
green onions

Form the hamburger into 12 small patties. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Combine the oregano and cumin and coat the burgers. 

NOTE: You can do this step the night before, cover and store these in the fridge, and then make dinner after work the next night in 15 minutes.

Heat 2-4 TB olive oil in a large skillet. I use my enameled dutch oven as it reduces the amount of hot oil that spits in my face. Heat oil over med-high heat. When hot, add burgers and cook 5 minutes on the first side.

While the burgers cook, you can make the hummus and start the water for your couscous. It's an efficient use of time, and will ensure that you leave the burgers alone and allow them to get a nice crust without bothering them. A food processor or blender will work just fine for the hummus, but I do love my (as seen on TV!) Magic Bullet. 

Everything just goes right in. The joy of this hummus is that you can wing it without messing it up. It's also easily adapted - you can add tahini, roasted red pepper, whatever. 

Blend blend blend until it is smooth and oh-so-tasty. Adjust your seasonings if you need to. I top it with a drizzle of olive oil and some parsley or oregano. 

Flip those burgers! An additional 5 minutes should give you a juicy burger with a slight hint of pink. Adjust the timing to your preferred doneness. 

The couscous can cook up while the burgers finish. I like Near East - not too gummy, a variety of good flavors. Even better if you add chopped green onions, a dash of lemon juice, and additional garlic - have fun.

Toddler tip: Meals that can be easily deconstructed are easy to tone down for fickle palates, and anything with dips are a hit. Also, ketchup still has lycopenes, so in my book counts as a serving of fruits/vegetables. 

 Proof that it works:

For the grown-up, this meal is best with fresh tomatoes, and in the summer we add diced cucumbers from the garden. Feta makes this WONDERFUL and as soon as Aidan can handle dairy without spitting up this will return to our table.

Sorry to talk about spit-up in a recipe post.

Enjoy your dinner.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Same River Twice

I've swiped the title of today's blog from Alice Walker, whom I love, and her book "The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult." It's a moving long-form essay on a time in her life when the most wonderful was paired with the most devastating. In the ultimate tribute to grace, she looks back on that tangled period of time with gratitude.

There is an inherent connection, I think, between the awful and awe-inspiring moments in life. Though it's more easily said than done, I'd like to be more like Alice and learn to embrace the difficult. Not just the overtly difficult, but the small disappointments that can build up and drown us if we aren't careful. In my best moments, when I am able to let go of what I thought life would be and simply see it for what it is, I start to glimpse how lucky I really am.

If I can apply some perspective now, when I know what was waiting outside the window after life slammed that metaphorical door, maybe I will be able to more readily wade through difficult waters in the future.

Here goes.

A Letter to My Life
Written with humility, happiness, and hope for the future

Thank you failed acting career. You remain my biggest disappointment. But I learned that there is no shame in throwing in the towel. Sometimes, even though you try your best, things just don't work out. I met Gabe doing a play though, and with the gift of Gabe came the treasure of my boys. There is no sitcom, no Broadway play, no Oscar-worthy movie role that I would choose over my little family. And even though I did not end this journey a star, I cannot discount the small victories along the way. Seeing my name on a cast list, that moment when a character clicks, the feeling of holding an audience captive - these things still happened. Life is long...who knows if or when this path and I will meet up again.

Thank you failed relationships. Thank you Stupid Pete for teaching me how to love someone. Thank you Kirby the Destroyer for showing me that 2 is better than 1, even though you weren't the man I thought you were. If it weren't for the two of you, I wouldn't fully appreciate what I have with Gabe.

Thank you to the four houses that I loved and then lost over the course of 3 months due to bad home inspections. Turns out that the fifth time is a charm! And now that we've left the congestion and noise of the Denver neighborhoods that we were aiming for, I wouldn't trade my big backyard, access to open space, and proximity to my parents for anything. Not even a good English-style pub...

Thank you heart surgery. Nothing puts life and love in perspective more than the threat of loss. Gabe's surgery was 7 months ago, and today it's as if it didn't happen. Except that maybe we appreciate being together a little bit more. And we try not to take the little annoyances too seriously or let the easy moments pass by unnoticed.

Thank you XY chromosomes. I had always wanted a daughter because I am so close with my mom, but this has turned out to be a delightful curveball. I was so sure that both boys were girls! Being wrong has never been more wonderful.

Thank you miscarriage. It breaks my heart to write that, but without you I never would have been honored by the birth of Aidan. And he is worth a million heartbreaks.

Finally, thank you former job for overwhelming me with work and then cutting my health insurance benefits when I was 5 months pregnant. I learned that just because I can function at a high stress level doesn't mean that I have to, and that it sometimes takes an extra push to overcome my fear of change and walk away.

Along those lines, thank you non-profit "dream job" that didn't even call me in for a first interview. I am so happy to be freelancing, spending more time with my kids, and finally being able to work on my own projects at my own pace. I never would have had the guts to land here voluntarily.

And that's maybe the biggest lesson of all.

I don't always know what is best for me. Just because I want something so much doesn't guarantee a success, and success doesn't guarantee that that path will be the optimum one for me. Unexpected pitfalls force change. I wouldn't have chosen any of the aforementioned struggles before they happened, but in hindsight I would not change a thing.

Thank you life. You seem to be working out quite well.