Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cheeky Monkey

Caleb's had this little patch of troublesome skin on his right cheek pretty much since he was born. It flares up every now and again, sometimes appearing as a dry patch, other times looking almost rash-like, and after a couple of weeks of home treatment with lots of Aveeno lotion and nail trimmings, the patch eventually goes away.

So when his little patch flared up around Thanksgiving time, I didn't think much of it. You can see it in this picture when he was feeding himself chili for the first time. Pardon the mess.
However, here we are nearly five weeks later, and the patch is still giving us problems. I recently took him to the doctor because I'm concerned that it's not healing and that it could potentially cause an infection (or worse, scarring! My baby's sweet little scoop-of-vanilla-ice-cream cheeks should not be marred by early scars!)

The doctor seems to think it's just a patch of eczema that Caleb won't allow to heal because he keeps picking at it. And it's true, he does a fair amount of picking. I trim his fingernails at least once a week, continue to moisturize it, and since our appointment, I've been slathering on Bactroban (a prescription strength Neosporin-type goo) anywhere from 3-6 times a day.

Lately we've taken to putting a band aid on it. As soon as it looks like it's starting to heal, Caleb will pick the crap out of it. I've turned around more than once to find his cheek covered in blood. He's ruined all of his crib sheets with little spots of blood from his picking. So we cover it with a band aid and the Bactroban as much as possible, but he picks that off, too. We keep trying, though, hoping to get this thing to take a vacation for a while.

In the mean time, we took him to the Fun2Play by our house this week. It's an indoor play zone for kids. They have an infant zone, toddler zone, and big kid zone. Caleb had a blast. He came home and napped like a zombie. Here's some pics from the day. This is Caleb taking a rid in a Royal Mail truck.

Here he is trying to pull a ball out from the ball pit. He got pretty frustrated that he couldn't fit it through the net. He was far more interested in the balls and the doors to the big play house than just about anything else. I keep telling my husband we should have just bought him balls and doors for Christmas. He would have loved it.

Caleb also loved driving the Step 2 giant camper. Although the playhouse you can see behind the camper was probably a bigger hit with Caleb, I loved the camper because we got some really cute shots in it. Also, it's hilarious to see a tiny person in a tiny camper.

He's such a good driver already! Looking behind him before he backs up. Any good driving skills he inherited are probably from his dad's side. Or at least that's what my husband will tell you.

But this is my favorite shot from the day. He looks so happy, so content. It's as if he's actually cruising the open roads. Can't you see it in his face? Gazing across the highways of America, going where the road takes him, stopping occasionally to get pictures with quaint local landmarks.

And then there's that stupid band aid. Nuts. Oh well, I still love this shot. And I love that boy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays

Well, Happy Boxing Day! We did not celebrate Boxing Day by hitting up the sales in the High Street shops. Instead we had friends of ours over for a lunch of hoers devours. (Ohh, don't forget to spell check, Kelly.) We had mini barbecue chicken sandwiches on Hawaiian sweet rolls, veggies and dip, chips and salsa, and crackers with cheese from the Bury market. I love snacky meals!

Caleb had a ton of fun with Kristy's kids. I wish I snapped some pictures! He's totally conked out right now. They played with Caleb's toys, watched bits and pieces of the Chipmunks movie, and we all bundled up to go down to the park by our house. He loved it.

I didn't get any pics of Caleb with the kiddos, but here's the aftermath.

This picture kills me. Just kills me.

Christmas Eve was quiet. We went to the Christmas Eve service at the base chapel, but Caleb's not really at a good age for that kind of thing. For normal church services, Caleb goes to nursery (and loves it!) But for this family service, Caleb was much more interested in walking up the isle to check out the pastor. We finally had to leave because he was getting more and more irritated that we wouldn't let him walk up the isle. At least he looked good! ;)

We had a nice Christmas. I woke up and baked Pioneer Woman's Delicious Orange Muffins. They were SO good. There are still good today, but something about eating them fresh out of the oven when the brown sugar glaze has just sunk into the muffins is just short of heavenly. Mmm!

Caleb really didn't get into opening present this year. He just didn't understand the concept.

But he was very excited about his gifts! I now have the Chipmunks "Christmas Song" playing over and over again in my head, thanks to my brother and his wife Kim who sent the Chipmunks movie. Caleb loved it.

He was also really keen on the DOG book my Aunt Pat sent him. Upon opening it, he announced "oof!" to us to let us know it was a dog book. ("Woof" or "Ruff" apparently is too hard at 14 months old.)

My Aunts are really great. They always send really cool gifts, whether it's gift cards or plush animal stackable rings (from FAO Schwartz, no less)...

...or this adorable little cow. If you squeeze his tail, he opens his mouth to reveal a flash light! Also, he moos at the same time. Seriously cute.

He also got some really cute clothes, which is always a ton of fun for me! And I'm ordering him some super cute shoes from Old Navy and his first ever puzzle from Toys R Us using the gift cards he received.

I received a few things, including a DayRunner day planner that's really cute. Maybe I'll be more organized this year! The problem is, I'm trying to cram all the stuff from my wallet into the day planner so it doesn't take up any more room in my diaper bag than necessary. Unfortunately, it appears I carry a ton of crap in my wallet. I don't have room in my planner for my library cards (yes, cards), my stamps, or my ration card (which you have to use on base from time to time for specific purchases) among other items. This will take some creative thinking to cram it all in.

Christmas night we had dinner with our friends, which was, of course, delicious. Nick made brussel sprouts, which I was less than excited about. But they were actually good! I don't know what magic he worked to make that happen, but I actually enjoyed brussel sprouts. Weird.

It's been a very nice few days. I've missed our families a ton, but it's been nice to be surrounded by friends who help fill the void.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Oh, Corner Tree

We have a small English living room, or lounge as they call it here. It doesn't have enough room for our furniture, let alone a Christmas tree. So when we celebrated our first Christmas in England last year, I finally conceded to my husband's pressure of getting a fake Christmas tree. It was my first fake Christmas in my then-28-year-old-life.

Although the act of conceding was previously unthinkable, it became an option when I encountered the Tesco corner tree. The corner tree was invented for tiny English lounges like ours. It's not a full tree. It's slightly more than 25% of a regular tree. A little wedge of a tree, a pie slice if you will, that is meant to look much fuller then it is. I saw the practicality of such an object in our lives and allowed this tree that had never seen soil or light to enter our home last year.

Let me say this of my tiny corner tree: it fulfills its duties of taking up as little space as possible. It requires me to only store one piece of furniture in the garage, and for that I thank Tesco.

Another great thing about having a tiny tree in a tiny space is that it takes a very small amount of gifts to make it look full. In these times of economic hardship, perhaps all families should invest in a corner tree!

On the other hand, it is still a corner tree. A sad imitation of the real thing. Not sad because it's a fake tree. Certainly there are very nice fake trees that fool many visitors into thinking their needles are real. I've seen such trees. A corner tree does not belong in the same category with such trees.

The thing is, a corner tree has no illusions of grandeur. It knows it has no chance of fooling anyone into thinking it once knew the smell of fresh air and the taste of rain. It doesn't expect visitors to gasp and awe at its green glory. It won't hope to hear children singing, "Oh Christmas Tree" as it is adorned with ornaments and garland and lights.

I think, though, that the corner tree is okay with its fate. Despite the fact that it will never star in a Christmas commercial or movie, I think the corner tree is grateful for a home for the holidays. Even though it may not share the glory of a tree in the front window, it still serves proudly under the weight of sentimental ornaments. It stands tall (or tries to) over the coveted gifts wrapped beautifully beneath it. And it folds its arms thankfully after New Years Day as it's returned to it's narrow box for safe keeping until the next year.

And you know what? I'm okay with that, too. No, I may not have the most glorious tree on my block this year. It may pale in comparison to our previous real Christmas trees. But by golly, I love my small English corner tree, and I look forward to spending this and two more Christmases with it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

As Promised...

Pics of my husband meeting President Bush earlier this week.

In other news, I can't seem to stop baking. It's like a crazy addiction. Right now I'm attempting sugar cut out cookies for the first time in my life. I remember my friend Lindy's mom made these freakin' awesome sugar cut out cookies one Christmas when I lived in Italy. I think of them (and Lindy's mom) fondly. (Seriously, Lindy's mom was cool. I'm sure she still is!)

Anyway, I'm trying this recipe from Pioneer Woman. Pioneer Woman is my Jackpot Find of the Week. I'm kind of addicted to blogs, and hers is probably one of the coolest blogs I've ever read. I love it. I found her through a Flickr contact of mine. I'm hoping her cookie dough will live up to my memories of Lindy's mom's dough.

Another blog I love is Culinary in the Desert. I nick a handful of their recipes from time to time, including a delicious Buffalo Chicken Soup, Peanut Butter Chocolate Pudding, and a Mexi-Cali Hamburger Casserole that's become a regular in our house. You'll probably go into a diabetic coma just by looking at all the delicious Christmas goodies Joe's been preparing over the last week or so. Seriously, you'll need to brush your teeth afterwards.

There are quite a few other blogs I frequent, but since this is primarily about Presidential visits and food preparation, I'll stick to pimping out those two for now. Besides, I think my dough is done chilling, so it's time to roll it out and break out the cookie cutters!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rockin' My Domestic Diva

I'm not a very good housewife. I'd like to think I'm a pretty good stay-at-home mom, but I make a rather mediocre housewife.

I do try and have dinner cooking and near ready when my husband gets home most nights. But there are plenty of fend-for-your-self nights when we just have pizza rolls or cereal. And I do try and pick up my messes, but I'm not really big on cleaning. I hate it, actually. I do it because I hate to live in filth and squalor, but there are seasons where I'm on top of cleaning and seasons where it falls to the back burner. I get it done eventually, but only after it gets to a point where I can't take it any more.

So when the mood strikes, I have to run with it. Today it's struck. My house is nearly clean. (Can't vacuum till Caleb wakes up from his nap. Even then, it's tricky, since he's terrified of the vacuum still.) I'm working on the third and fourth load of laundry. And darnit if I don't want to do some more baking, but I'm out of flour. Perhaps a quick trip to Tesco is in order when Caleb wakes up. I found a recipe for sugar cookies that I really want to try.

I baked some cookies for my brother-in-law Eddie who is deployed down range this year. He's Army, so he's doing one of those hardcore 12-15 month deployments, which I'm sure feels like there's no end in sight. I have a box of cookies I'm going to mail out tomorrow, but I feel like there's a couple batches of baking still left in me, so he may get two boxes.

I'm not normally this Betty Crocker-ish. It's bizarre. I think it's my way of celebrating being between classes. I've ordered the text books for my next class, but since they aren't here yet I can't get ahead on my reading. I should work on these FEMA course I need to do that will count towards my internship, but I can't seem to find the "umph" in me to get started on that. Maybe tomorrow.

In other news, I got my car MOT'd. An MOT is a vehicle inspection you have to do here in England every year to make sure your car is road worthy. The inspection itself isn't all that expensive, but the repairs you might have to do to ensure that your car passes inspection can add up, especially when you have a 9 year old car.

We spent and arm and leg this year making sure my car passed. That didn't even fix my drivers side window that makes horrible, gut-wrentching sounds every time I try to roll it down. (Why would you roll your car window down in the winter? you ask. Because every time I go on base, I have to hand the guard my ID card. Right now I only roll it down a few inches because I'm terrified it won't come back up one of these days.) Tommy's car is at the shop now getting MOT'd, because both of ours come up right around the same time. Joy.

Ugh. I hate cars. Why don't my feet have built-in-wheels and motors to get me around?

Okay, I better get back to finishing up the house before Caleb wakes up.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Craft Envy and Unexpected Presidential Encounters

It's almost Christmas. I haven't even purchases Christmas cards, let alone addressed them or mailed them out. I'm still shopping for Christmas gifts. I have no idea what I want for myself, which really isn't a big deal. I don't really need much.

I'm never really one of those super organized, ahead-of-the-game holiday people, but this year I am further behind than ever. I'll blame it on that Stats class and the squadron kid's Christmas party I helped to plan and organize on Saturday. (By the way, got an A in Stats! Crazy!) (And the Christmas party was great! Lots of fun, if not lots of food. Caleb had a blast!)

Have I ever mentioned that I have craft envy? I do. One of the spouses I know in the squadron is like the epitome of all things crafty. I get overwhelmed just seeing her supplies! And then I get jealous. I wants neat little doo dads that can create gorgeous invitations and cards and scrapbooking pages! I know I have a creative crafter in me, I just have to figure out how to release her.

So in that vein, I've been trying to get a little crafty lately. Caleb and I have been coloring (which is to say, Caleb is trying to eat the crayons, and I am spelling Caleb's name for him.) We also tried finger painting, which was fun, even if he didn't really understand what we were doing. And I have been trying to do a hand and footprint reindeer (as explained by Tina, the craft goddess), using Caleb's footprint as the reindeer face and his hand prints as the antlers. That project isn't going so well for reasons I won't bore you with.

Recently a friend mentioned she was doing tortilla snowflakes, which I instantly googled. Then while making breakfast burritos for dinner tonight (yum!), I made a snowflake tortilla for Caleb. This is how it turned out.

We didn't actually eat it tonight (again, for reasons I won't bore you with), but it looks pretty yummy, and it was ridiculous easy to make. I don't know if that makes me crafty, but it makes me happy. We'll try it tomorrow.

I have to say, I kind of wish I had been watching this season of X Factor (England's version of American Idol.) To be fair, I've never seen a single episode of X Factor and haven't really been interested in it before this year, even though I am an American Idol fan. (Albeit a young American Idol fan, I've only watched two seasons.) But I keep hearing the radio DJs talking about these amazing performances and I feel like I'm missing out. Maybe next season.

I've realized today that I've been in England a long time. This epiphany was brought on by the fact that I heard a new song on the radio this afternoon and I knew it was the Sugarbabes. I struck me that I could tell the difference between the Sugarbabes and Girls Aloud based strictly on the vocals, and at that moment, I thought, "Man, I have been here a while!"

In other news, my husband met the President today! We weren't expecting a visit from George W., but Air Force One stopped by our base to refuel. President Bush got off the plane for a bit and my husband got to shake his hand and get a picture with him! Crazy. He had no idea when he woke up this morning that he'd meet the President of the United States today! (By the way, President Bush asked my husband where he was from, and my husband responded by telling him South Carolina. To which President Bush responded, "Yee haw!" That, of course, is my favorite part of this story.)

We don't have the pictures to prove it yet, but as soon as Public Affairs sends them our way, I'll throw it up!

Man, this blog ended up being a lot longer than I expected. On that note, I'm going to bed!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

I Did Survive!

First I was afraid.
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never pass
without a miracle.
But I spent oh so many nights
studying central tendencies and Z scores,
and I learned more.
I learned how to solve chi squared!

Yep, it's true. As Robin reminded me today, I did survive HR 5023 (Research in Human Relations.) It was largely a math class which focused on statistics for evaluating behavioral research. And I'm so not mathy. I took one college math course, and that was Intermediate Algebra - nothing hard core.

However, I will say this of my undergraduate math experience. It was largely self-taught. The University of Nebraska (at the time) had the intro math course designed so that at any given class time you could choose from three different instructors depending on your own personal preference or you could choose to spend your class time in a math lab. After falling asleep consistently in the instructor-led classes often enough to do really poorly on my first test, I chose the math lab option. So three days a week, I read the chapter that the instructors were teaching from and did the assignments myself. There was always a facilitator available for assistance if I got totally lost. But for the most part, I managed to teach myself algebra, which I am still quite proud of! And I must have done a halfway decent job, because I managed to recover from my abysmal first test and finish the class with a B+.

But enough nerd talk. Research in HR is one of the core classes for the program I'm doing through the University of Oklahoma's Outreach program (which caters to military members and dependents.) It is by far one of the hardest classes I've taken yet, and made even more difficult by the intense framework for the class. (The actual classroom instruction is only 6 days long. Everything else is completed before class or during our out of class time during the week of instruction.)

There were so many times I felt completely fried this week. It was total information overload, and I wasn't confident I would complete everything on time. But I managed! Not really sure how I did yet, but should now by the middle of the week.

The weird thing is, I really feel like I learned a few things, and I wasn't expecting that, too be honest. There were a few light bulb moments this week where I thought, "Ah ha! I know how to solve that!" Now if you asked me the same question a week from now, I don't know that I could do it, but for this week, I am pretty sure I could solve a confidence interval if given the appropriate data! And I could probably find a critical value for you, if absolutely necessary.

Take that and rewind it back!

Anyway, the important thing is it's over. I'm done. I've survived. I'm confident I've at least passed, although I may not have the A I wanted. At this point: meh. Three more classes to go and my comprehensive exams before I'm done. Crazy how fast it's gone. I should be done this upcoming summer!

In other news, Caleb is on his way to walking! He even occasionally walks from one point to another without any encouragement at all! How about that?!

And, just for fun, here's a picture of Tommy and I at his squadron Christmas party. I couldn't attend most of the party because I was in class till 9:30, but I enjoyed the hour and a half I did attend! If there's a dance floor and some music, I'm generally a happy girl. (As long as it's not country music! I just can't dance to that! How does one shake one's tail feathers to country?!)

And with that, I bid you good-night. I'm going to go read a book that is not required for anything except my own enjoyment!