Saturday, January 30, 2010

Weekly Roundup! Or: Everything Important Happened on Wednesday

Just in case you were busy changing poopie diapers and cleaning baby barf on Wednesday (like me), I thought I'd do a quick roundup of all the weird and wonderful things that happened this week.

Technology: Apple Unveiled their Newest Gadget...
and then everyone made fun of it.

The much-anticipated, yet unfortunately-named Apple iPad was revealed on Wednesday, with Apple Supreme Overlord Steve Jobs billing it as "way better than a laptop, way better than a phone. It's the best web experience you've ever had."

There are lots of reasons to love or leave the latest addition to the Apple family, and I'll let you decide which side of the fence you want to be on with this one.  All you really need to know is that contrary to popular belief, the iPad will not do this (courtesy of the frogman):

Above: Heavy flow? There’s an app for that!

Politics: The Leader of Your Nation Gave A Little Speech...
called The State of the Union on Wednesday evening.  Maybe you've heard of it?

I'm going to try to round this up as bipartisanly (is that a word? Aha! Wiktionary says it is!  Score one for me) as possible, because it's not about whose side you're on, it's more about knowing what happened.  Or at least it's about knowing what the funny bits were.

Watching President Obama's first SOTU sort of reminded me of my dad during one of his lectures: "Oh, Mahreen.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  We are SO disappointed that you do not want to pursue medicine as your chosen career.  And what is this 'burnt out' you keep speaking of?  Good Brown Girls don't get 'burnt out'!  It is simply not in your genetic makeup!" (Okay, so maybe I'm projecting just the slightest bit.  I should work on that.)  

But it really was something to behold as the stern father figure of this great nation I have called home for almost a decade waggled his finger and basically called everyone out, from his predecessor, to the Republicans, then the Democrats - not even the Supreme Court Judges were safe from his disapproving tone. And then, the icing on the cake was that he even called his own Presidential self out!  Awesome (and if you have some spare time - yeah right, who am I kidding - please do check out the New York Times' full interactive transcript here to read all about it for yourself).

But perhaps the most entertaining portion of the SOTU spectacle was the stuff that happened afterward.  Namely, MSNBC's Chris Matthews on-air comment (which he later claimed was well-intentioned.  But it was still SO cringeworthy). The host of the show Hardball said following the speech:
"I was trying to think about who he was tonight. And uh, it's interesting. He is post-racial, by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour..."
Yikes.  I don't know about you, but where I come from that smells a bit like racist to me.  I think the internet nearly broke trying to handle the sheer volume of: "What the frack was THAT?!?" comments - and of course Matthews later swore up and down that he didn't really mean it that way...but I think the damage was done.

Maybe if I watch a few episodes of Hardball I'll forget that Chris Matthews is a moron. Then again, maybe not.

After all is said and done, however - I must admit that I'm a sucker for all this politcal pomp and circumstance. I think I'm a bit jealous because at least you guys HAVE a somewhat effective government.  You wanna know what's happening in my home and native land (Canada) right now?  The federal government decided to TAKE A BREAK until after the Vancouver Olympics (why they've decided to wait until after the Olympics to get stuff done is beyond everyone.  Maybe cheering for our hockey team is far more important than oh, I don't know - GOVERNING).  What kind of self-respecting country decides to take a governing hiatus?!?  Cripes eh?

Pop Culture: Giselle Announces She Gave Birth in Her Bathtub...

The only reason this appeals to me in the slightest is because I had a homebirth (Oh darn.  Now I'm going to get emails from half of you saying: "ohmygosh!  You're a special kind of crazy!!" and the other half of you are going to flood my inbox with: "ohmygosh!  You're crazy special!!" So let's be clear:  I don't care what kind of birth you have, just as long as you get the birth you want.  Some of you may not want or be able to give birth, or maybe you had to have a different birth than the one you envisioned because of safety concerns. That's all okay too.  Live and let birth, I say).

Now here's the thing.  In general I am a fan of celebrities having homebirths.  I am all for making homebirth more mainstream, because I think it's great when women can make more informed choices for themselves. My issue with this isn't even the homebirth itself. But when the new face of homebirth is giving interviews at a photo shoot in Brazil mere WEEKS after delivering her precious babe and looking totally Gisellelicious - well then I think we need to talk a bit about unrealistic expectations.  No, people.  As much as you may like to believe the hype - having a homebirth will NOT transform you from this scary sight (that would be me):

to this (courtesy of fashionologie):


Two notable passings occured this week, and I am so out of my league with ineptness when it comes to talking about how much these two men affected the world, or how they affected us personally.  So I'll just link to far more eloquent people than I and that will be that.

J.D. Salinger, the celebrated and reclusive author of "The Catcher in the Rye" passed away on Wednesday at the age of 91.  By far the best tribute I have read is here at The Onion, it's grumpy and funny and just reminds me of why we all loved this novel.  I think I'll best remember Salinger in his own words:
"Boy when you’re dead they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddamn cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sundays, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody."

Also on Wednesday (I told you everything happened that day), American historian, WWII Veteran and self-professed radical Howard Zinn passed away at the age of 87.  I am at a loss as to what to write about Howard Zinn because it's just not enough.  Perhaps I'll dig out our dusty copy of "A People's History of the United States" and reminisce about my college days.  I bet it's hiding under a box of diapers somewhere in the basement (oh how times have changed.  I'm so old!).

During his life, Howard Zinn wrote and campaigned for so many worthy causes, including but not limited to civil rights, civil liberties and the anti-war movement. During one of his last interviews, he was asked what he wanted to be remembered for. This is what he said:
"I guess if I want to be remembered for anything, it’s for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality, for getting more and more people to think that way...I want to be remembered as somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn’t have before."
And it's very telling that for so many of us, that's exactly what we'll remember him for.  Here is a touching tribute by NY Times Op-Ed Columnist Bob Herbert.  It's definitely worth a read.

Music: Matisyahu's One Day
I thought I'd end this post on a happy note. The remix of this song featuring Akon was released on January 2nd, 2010 but the original single has been out since June 2009.  Technically it's not "current", but I just have to share how much my uber-cute big girl loves this anthem.  This kid sure has great taste (and yes, I know we're such peaceniks):

That's it for now, folks...I hope you're having a great weekend.  See you on the flip side, peeps.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's Cookin': Toast, Fries and Salad

I think that the title of this post is a good indicator of how crazy things have been around the George household lately.  It's not that I can't cook, but when your babies have tummy bugs and you are out of the house all day attending the Parade of Weird Homes your choices are pretty limited.

First up:  Move Over Michaelangelo Toast

Inara had a bit of an upset tummy earlier this week, so we've been dry-toasting it for breakfast.  Slowly however, we've been adding back her favorite spreads and I've been enticing her to eat by cutting out her toast into shapes.  On the first day she requested a circle and a square, and I happily obliged.  The next day she asked for a star and an arrow pointing at the star - and I thought it was a bit of a funky request, but hey, it's Inara - what else can you expect?  So I tried my best and came up with a lopsided star and arrow, which she looked at with more than a little doubt, but eventually ate (phew!).

But of course that wasn't enough for my sweet girl.  Oh, no siree.  The next day she asked for dinosaur shapes.  Specifically, a pteranodon and a corythosaurus (damn you, Dinosaur Train!).  Let me tell you, I had to exercise some Serious Artistic Mama Mojo on these - I finally convinced her that just cutting out their heads would be good enough (and I got the Mother-I-don't-know-HOW-you-expect-me-to-put-up-with-this-inferior-service sigh, but she ultimately agreed and then stood beside me and WATCHED as I tried to get the deed done).  Talk about performance anxiety!

And so I did it.  I knew that anyone in their right mind would think my pathetic attempt was completely laughable but good gracious, my girl was so proud of me.  And that was good enough.

Behold - and be prepared to stand back in wonder and awe - as I present to you...

Dinosaur Heads In Toast:

The brown thing on the left is the pteranodon,  and the lighter brown thing on the right is the corythosaurus  (just in case you were wondering).  Okay, so maybe I'm more of a Picasso than a Michaelangelo - but the fact remains that Inara LOVED these.  When Yousuf walked by and snickered: "Very nice shapes, Mama" - Inara TOOK HIM DOWN.  "They are not just shapes, Daddy!  These are MY dinosaurs.  This one is a pteranodon and this one is a corythosaurus (pointing at the wrong ones, as I cringed in the background).  See his crust (meaning 'crest')?"

You tell him, sweet girl.  You tell him.

Next up:  I-Ran-Out-Of-Groceries Fries And Salad
(I promise this next food item will be better.  But only slightly.)

So yesterday I took a day off from seeing bizarre houses and tried to unearth us from the eighteen bazillion tons of laundry that were threatening to take over our teeny tiny townhouse.  I managed to get pretty far, until I came up for air half an hour before dinner and realized that whenever I try to be too efficient the family starves.  Yikes!  So I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off and came up with a completely random, but amazingly tasty dinner.  It was so good that Yousuf insisted I take pictures and blog about it, because it doesn't seem like it should all go together but oh my yum, it sure did!

Here are my Sweet Potato Fries and A Little-Bit-of-Everything Salad:


The fries were super easy to make, I just sliced up three big sweet potatoes, tossed them in a just a bit of olive oil, spread them out on two cookie sheets and sprinkled with the tiniest bit of sea salt.  Then I baked them at in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes.  After the 45 minutes were up, they were all soft and caramelized and then I broiled them (I did a low broil) for a few more minutes to get them crispy on the outside.  So delish.

The salad was tossed together with the dregs of greens that I had in the fridge, and then a bunch of other things that I thought would taste okay together (which is how I usually make rhyme or reason, just what I think will taste good on any given day).  This salad had baby spinach, romaine lettuce, chick peas, cashew nuts and grapes (Yes! Grapes!  I love fruit on my salads...I think because I don't love salad dressing, so fruit gives me that bit of extra flavor without the heaviness of dressing.  My favorite fruits on salads are usually grapes and clementines.  Berries are always good too - try blueberries on your next salad - you will LOVE it!).

So there you have it, folks.  Two easy (and pretty!  Who doesn't love dinosaurs in toast?) meals that you too can whip up when your life is so crazy that you can't see straight.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Do You Hear That? It's The Sound Of My Brain Exploding

We've had two sick girlies here this past week, and at the same time we've been embarking on The Great House Hunt Fiasco.  I am seriously ready to quit and we've barely even begun!  Can I just comment on the sheer number of weird houses there are in the world?  It boggles the mind that people actually LIVED in some of these houses before we looked at them.  Sigh.

So the lowdown is this:  there is a really perfect neighborhood that we'd love to live in, but we've tried to see a listed house there TWICE and it's been a no-go (and by "try" I mean we put on coats, hats, mittens, and boots for two little people, haul them out to the car, strap them in, make sure we've packed their meals, snacks, drinks, diapers, and the potty!  Can't forget the potty!!! And finally by the time we're ready to go the big little person of course has to pee AGAIN, so back inside we go and by this time we're late and the tiny little person needs to eat and it's just such a barrel of laughs and I can't WAIT to do it again).

The first time we went to go see The House That Shall Not Be Showed we had an appointment and the tenant was supposed to let us in (the house is for sale by the owner, but is currently tenant-occupied), but when we got there the tenant was nowhere to be found.  Grrreeeat.  Oh and did I mention that this house sits opposite a playground, so of course Inara saw the playground and I swear it was like trying to take away crack from an addict with the way she was carrying on as I literally dragged her back to the van (I'm sure our potential new neighbors were SO impressed with me), and was explaining to her in my nicest Mama-hopes-nobody-calls-the-authorities voice that we couldn't stay because we had other houses we needed to see (to which she replied: "Houses?  HOUSES?!?  But I don't wanna see other houses!  I don't even want to LIVE in a house!!  I just want to stay HERE!!!!"  which is actually very sound logic in three year-old Crazytown.  Or so I've heard).

So off we went, a little disappointed but not disheartened.  And then we saw the other houses.  Oh. My. Cow.  Now perhaps we only get to see the houses that smell like cats because of our laughable budget, but still!  Can people not make an EFFORT to clean up their junk?  Do they not want to sell their house?  To be fair, we did see some really cute homes on the outskirts of town, but they were soooooo far away from where we want to be.  So we had to decide whether we wanted a nicer house somewhere not as "us" or if we should try to go back to Crazy Tenant House (which is in a fantastic neighborhood!).

Our totally amazing agents made us another appointment for this morning to go see CT House, and we were so stoked.  I didn't even mind the whole get-ready-five-times-because-people-need-to-pee-and-eat thing, because Yousuf and I knew - we just knew that this was going to be it.  And then we got there.  And Inara saw the playground.  Again.  And her lovely eyes lit right up and I made the HORRIBLE mistake of saying: "Isn't that a nice playground, honey?  Maybe that will be our playground soon!" (and then the heavens opened up and the skies parted and the big man or woman or men or women upstairs pointed their finger or fingers and laughed their butt or butts off at me.  Well not really, but Holy Poop it sure felt like it!).

So we trudge up the steps and opened the porch door and right inside was this big crate with a dog inside, and the doggie was locked up and whining.  Oh and my heart just sank.  And then the dog jumped and started growling at Inara and then I was scared poopless as we waited for someone to answer the door.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity a man answered the door and asked us what we wanted.  Our agent said we had an appointment to see the house and the man answered that he didn't live there, and that the tenant wasn't there and we couldn't come in. And then he shut the door.  And Inara started crying because she had to pee and and wanted to play at the playground at the same time (Don't ask.  It made sense to her).

I honestly don't know whether I should be mad at the tenant, or mad at our agent for not demanding that someone representing the owner show up, or whether I should just give up altogether.  I just don't know what to think anymore.  What would you do?  Is it worth it to fight for this place, because it's where we want to live?  I mean there's no guarantee that the house is even worth living in - but I feel like we at least owe it to ourselves to try to see it!  I did tell Yousuf that there is no way I am dragging the kids out to this place again - I'll have to take Inara blindfolded or paint the van windows black before Mean Mommy says that she can't play at the playground again.  And I am so not up for that.

There is one other house that our agent just sent us the information for, but it's not quite in the same location (not terrible, but not facing a park!).  It looks cute, and is totally in our budget - the downsides are that the lot size is much smaller than CT House and the interior has wood paneling all over.  I'm not sure how much work it will be to make that mess over.

So please send us some good vibes...we could really use them!  I hope that we (and that really means Yousuf) get to see CT House soon, and I also hope that CT House is at the very least least habitable (which is my new standard after all the crazy we have seen).  Because I am so DONE with this house hunting baloney.

And also because our next best option has a bathroom that no full-sized human could ever hope to fit in:

Fan-flipping-tastic.  Excuse me as I drown my pathetic sorrows in a bag of potato chips.  I hear a bag of Kettle brand Salt & Black Pepper calling my name....

Monday, January 25, 2010

How To Be Good (and how to look good doing it)

If you thought this post was going to be about me, you are sadly mistaken.  Being good and looking good are two things that do not co-exist in my universe. My experience in do-gooding inevitably leads to me looking like a hot mess (insert obligitory manti-perspirant joke here.  I'm a total one-trick pony, I know.) - but I digress.  This post is not about me.  Mostly.

I'd like you to meet my friend, Candice:

Photo from Candice's website, The World Changers - such a great idea!

Before we go any further, I'd just like to point out how completely unfair it is that Candice has such a smokin' hot body after birthing four beautiful little girls.  And guess what?  She's nice too!  So I'm going to shake my fist at the heavens one more time and say that it's UNFAIR!  Aaaaah...much better.  Moving on.

A few things you should know about Candice (other than how amazing she looks!  I may have just the teensiest mama-crush on her): she is a fantastic friend and has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  Oh, and she is so super-organized - just being around her makes me want to label bins of toys and stack books in alphabetical order (and then I go home and don't do any of it.  Because I'm lazy).

After the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Candice, like so many of us, felt like she just had to do something.  Being a busy mom of four wasn't going to stand in her way, she knew that she just needed to get creative in finding a way to help.  Like so many of us Mamas - she felt a sense of urgency and a need to show her girls that any effort, no matter how small, was enough to speak volumes about how important it is to care for our fellow human beings.

So Candice had this fantastic idea.  She decided that she would run a hot cocoa stand in front of her house with her girls over the weekend.  The plan was to have her friends drive by, pick up some cocoa, and donate whatever they could to the Red Cross.  Well what Candice didn't expect was that her friends would tell their friends and family (go Facebook!) and suddenly this tiny little event was snowballing into a pretty big deal.  Our local Tim Horton's (hey awesome that Rochester has Timmies here, eh?  Makes me not miss Toronto quite so bad) stepped up and donated coffee, cocoa and donuts, and our Moms group - The Rochester Best Buddies - all pitched in to make cookies and snacks.  All of a sudden we were cooking with gas. 

Candice soon realized that her quiet residential street was going to get really backed up with all the cars coming in and out so guess what she did?  She opened up her home.  To strangers.  All in the name of charity.  Oprah should take notes because Candice rocks my ever-lovin' socks off!

So when Candice emailed me and told me what was going on, I was surprised to say the least.  Honestly, I thought she was a bit nuts to open up her house to people she didn't even know (well, she did know a lot of them...but certainly not all of them).  But when a busy mom of four darling girls who also happens do be a dear friend calls you and tells you that she has found the time to organize a charity event, the very least you can do is show the heck up.  So I did...and let me tell you, this was by far the best fundraiser I have ever been to (and I've been to a few.  I used to organize them for non-profits back in another life).

Above: Chugging yummy cocoa and making thank you cards

Above: an old friend, Candice with a new friend, Travis

Above:  How could you not donate with a cute baby like that around?

When I arrived (slightly late, as usual.  Because that's how I roll) the house was packed - but it wasn't uncomfortable.  Everyone was laughing and smiling, and there were kids playing and making homemade thank you cards at the kitchen table (another fantastic idea by organizer-extraordinaire Candice).  It was laid-back and perfect in every way - I got to meet lots of lovely people, and everyone was there for the same reason.  I could just tell that Candice's Hot Cocoa For Haiti was going to be a huge success.

That's me, the short one on the left - with Candice (center) and the incomparable Shawntrell (our Mom's group organizer) on the right

Later that evening, Candice sent out a message to the group - in that short four hours that she had people over, Candice and the Rochester Best Buddies had managed to raise close to $1300 for the Red Cross International Response Fund. We even made our local news. I can't tell you how proud I am of the moms that I know, and especially of Candice.  In a few short days, this amazing woman rallied us to go above and beyond our own expectations.  We changed the world, ladies.  More power to the Mamas! 

And to Candice:  here's looking at you, kid.  I think your girls are going to look back on Hot Cocoa For Haiti and burst with pride when they remember what their Mama accomplished.  You are such an inspiration, my dear.  Thanks for having me along for the ride.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

One-Way Ticket To Crazy Town

It's safe to say that I am stressed out today.  Stressed and wired because I'm stressed so I drank too much caffeine this morning so now I'm really really wired and oh my gosh this sentence has got to stop.

Inara is still not feeling well.  And I can't say much more than it could be nothing, or it could be something more complicated (not life-threatening, but something that will require tests and trips to specialists, and she has already been through all this when she was a baby and I thought we were DONE with all that, but we might not be done after all and ugh I must stop this sentence NOW).  And so we have to wait and see what develops and the waiting is probably the part that's making me so crazy right now.

Added to this is the fact that we are meeting with some potential real estate agents this evening, and I just hope they don't think we're big weirdos, or laugh at us when we tell them our budget.  Oh and Yousuf is meeting with the bank now to talk mortgage numbers.  Someone break out the manti-perspirant!  Fun, fun, fun - I'll be sure to let you know how it goes. 

In the meantime, I am trying not be overly-dramatic, hyper-sensitive and full of basically I have to work hard to not be myself until all this plays out.  It's going to be tough, but I think I can do it.  Let's talk about something other than me for a little bit, shall we?  Here's a random assortment of stuff that has come across my desk (and I use the term "desk" very loosely.  My desk is really a cheerio-encrusted laptop sitting in the middle of the kitchen table which is currently splattered with the remains of Nissa's lunch.  I do not think she liked the peas.) in the last couple of days:

Yes, I'm still talking about it - because it needs to be talked about.  You may or may not know that I am more than slightly obsessed with baby slings (because I would not have survived parenthood without them.  Basically they feel good, and they're good for you.  See my favorite babywearing site for more information on slings.). So when I heard about these fantastic sling companies offering up their products in the name of charity I was super stoked.  If you've ever thought about owning a sling, now would be a perfect time to check out:

Today and tomorrow, two fabulous baby sling companies - BabyHawk and Sakura Bloom - will be donating 50% of all their online sales to Partners in Health-Haiti. I can personally attest to the fabulousness of BabyHawks, it was certainly our preferred carrier when Inara was a wee babe:


Another amazing lady, the talented Jan of Sleeping Baby Productions will be donating all the profits from the sale of these Salvor Organic Pslings between now and Valentines day. Awesome!  I've not owned a Psling but I can say from personal experience that working with Jan is a dream.  We have loved all the Sleeping Baby Slings that have passed through our house and have snuggled both my girls:

And I just found out about this one today - Canadian company georgeousbaby is giving away a Paige Beco Butterfly 2 Baby Carrier to help raise funds for Haiti Earthquake Relief.  All you need to do is send them a receipt of your Red Cross or Unicef donation.  More information can be found at their blog, but hurry - this contest ends tomorrow morning, Friday January 22nd 2010.  Here's Inara in a 4th Generation Beco (not the same model as the contest prize, but similar.) being worn by my sister-in-law on her WEDDING DAY (shout out to my amazing sister-in-law!):

I know there are lots more efforts being made to raise money for the people of Haiti.  All are well-deserving of your time and attention, so please check them out, and if you find anything you think would be useful for me to link to, please drop me a message

Those of you without babies or who just want me to move on can now breathe a sigh of relief.  I have lots more randomness I can talk about because that's how I roll when I'm stressed, and I am crazy like a stressed out fox today:

Cindy McCain in the NOH8 Campaign:
 Ummmm....have you SEEN this picture of Mrs. McC?

The wife of well-known Republican (that's an understatement)  Senator John McCain reached out to California's NOH8 Gay-Rights Campaign to appear in one of their ads (their daughter, Meghan, is also a well-known marriage equality advocate).  Whether or not you support same-sex marriage, I'm sure you can appreciate the cojones (pardon my spanish) it took for her to do this. You can read more about Cindy & Meghan McCain and how they are Redefining Republican here.  And as a completely unrelated aside - damn, I hope I look that good when I'm 55.

Okay, enough news.  Onto entertainment!

Go Team CoCo:
So, Conan O'Brien finally got the heave-ho from NBC.  I say he's better off without them, and I hope he finds an even better gig (rumor has it that FOX wants him). Thoughts?

I'm not really on one team or the other.  But this picture sure is funny.

Beatboxing Is Cool (at least I think it is):
No entertainment round-up would be complete without a mention of the latest American Idol episode.  How cool was Jay Stone last night?  I so want to be able to do that when I grow up.

All right - that's all from nerve-wracked crazy-lady Mahreen for now.  I have to go get ready for our big real estate agent appointment.  I might *even* get to shower before we leave...that's how important this is to me.  I hope Inara is up for it, I have a feeling we are going to be in for a very exciting night.  Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Down For The Count

I had planned to write about all kinds of things today, but Inara isn't feeling very well, so it will have to wait.  Until tomorrow, friends (and please send us some get well soon big girl has been having a pretty rough couple of days).  And yes, I totally photoshopped my face in this picture - and yes, it totally didn't help.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tough Choices Ahead...

I'm a bit slow in writing today, because it has just been one of those days.  One of those days and weekends too, if you really wanted to know.  You know the kind of day I'm talking about, dontcha?  The kind where you stayed up too late (and not because you were out partying because face it, you are SO not cool anymore.  You just stayed up past 10:30pm and you are paying for it now, missy! *insert my mother's waggling finger here*).  Monday officially sucks at our house because it means that Yousuf has to go to work and earn real money to feed and clothe us.  It's so overrated.

Speaking of money, we have none.  Wow, I can't believe I am coming right out and telling all of you about our lack-of-financial-status.  Before you go and start feeling all weepy for us (or maybe you're not feeling weepy, maybe you're feeling something else entirely.  But I will hope you might have for a second felt weepy because that means we can at least pretend to be friends - hi pretend friends!), it should be made clear that we are not at all upset by our lack of moolah.  I am totally lying of course, but there are worse things in the world than not having a big house, fancy car, white picket fence, pretty clothes (I want pretty clothes!  I totally do!) and maybe a doggie.  Inara really wants a doggie. But I digress.  There are worse things.  We are lucky to have a roof over our heads and food on the table, and we have not suffered any major trauma or even been through a natural disaster (still thinking about Haiti today...remember to donate please!).  And we are all clothed and warm and even have toys and books - so I should really shut up and stop complaining.

But...the fact remains that I am a stay-at-home mom with no income and I am married to a math professor.  A math professor who works at a small liberal arts college and therefore does not make oodles and oodles of money.  But why, you ask...WHY doesn't Professor Yousuf make a lot of money?  I thought ALL professors made a more-than-decent living!  And here is where I tell you our dirty little secret:

We made a choice to not have lots of money.

Oh and I forgot to add this part:

(sometimes that choice really sucks.)

What happened was that as Dr. Yousuf was finishing his Ph.D. (from Penn State - gosh I miss State College), we were at a crossroads.  Yousuf could have accepted a position at World Class U and made lots of money by working insane hours and never being at home, or he could make significantly less money at a small liberal arts college.  Basically we gave up lots of money for lots of time together.  Right now I'm typing and it's the middle of the day and Yousuf is home from work, playing with Inara.  It's very awesome.

I know that this isn't the decision that a lot of families would have made given the same situation (Pretty clothes! Doggies!  White picket fence!!!), but I do know that this is what is best for US. Most of the time we are happy with the decision, but there are times that it's just plain hard. Like right now.

Right now we are looking to buy a house.  Yes, that's right, we are in our thirties and we have never owned a house.  We totally did everything bass-ackward - we had kids first, then got a job, and now we're looking for a house.  And we're faced with yet another choice - we can either live in a nice house in a less-than-ideal location (not unsafe, just not ideal for us), or we can live in our dream neighborhood in a teeny tiny, postage-stamp-sized house.  Sigh.  It's a choice I really don't want to think about making, because frankly I am not good at dealing with reality, and I DON'T WANT TO GROW UP.  I want my fancy house and white picket fence and oh, sometimes it's so flipping hard to be an adult!  Whine, whine whine and cheese - I know, I know.  I really need to get a grip.

In the end, I know things will be okay - but a girl can always dream, right?  One day, when I am The Boss of The Whole Universe, I am going to make it easy for Mamas to stay home (but only if they want to) and not have to worry about things like postage-stamp-sized houses.  And then I will finally be able to have my cake and eat it too.

And after that I will magically shed all the pounds gained from eating all that cake.

And then maybe I'll grow another foot and a half and have frizz-less hair, perfect skin and boobs that defy gravity.

Dream on, crazy lady.  Dream on.

"Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dear Google: I Don't Think I Like Where This Relationship Is Headed...

Here's a screen shot of my laptop, taken yesterday evening.  If I could direct your attention to the right - specifically the area circled in red:

Ummmm....yeah.  I do not think my blog means what you think it means, Professor Google (to be said in my best Inigo Montoya impression. The Princess Bride.  Such a classic.  And aaaaaah, Cary Elwes...whatever happened to you and your awesome Princess Bride bod?  Stop!  Get back on track!).  A closer look will reveal the following ads have/had been placed ON MY BLOG:

I have a few things to say about this.  First of all, any impressions that you may have been under about me being cool should officially be erased by now. Secondly, how stoopid can Google AdSense be?  I get that the ads are placed based on "Key AdWords" (oh and I love how it's somehow more official because they mashed two words together) - but just because I said the word "sweat" does not mean that this blog is about hyperhidrosis. And third,who knew Tag came in three new scents? 

So of course, the evil genius/poop disturber in me wants to just have fun with this for a while.  I will now type the words ingrown, discharge, facial hair, constipation (my poor Nissa is having bum issues, so this is fresh on my brain right now), feminine hygiene, and muffin top.  And now we shall sit back and see what happens.  Come on, say it with me folks: ingrown, discharge, facial hair, constipation, feminine hygiene, and muffin top.  Let this be your mantra for the day.

Ingrown, discharge, facial hair, constipation, feminine hygiene, and muffin top.

Oh and before I sign off for the weekend, I have to mention that people are really loving the word manti-perspirant.  I think me and my SIX subscribers (thank you, lovely people.  My life is complete knowing that you are here) should try to make sure that "manti-perspirant" enters into the lexicon of our generation.  Who knows, maybe it'll become as famous as the word "bootylicious"or " unfriend" (which was just listed as "The Word of 2009".  Seriously, folks - if "unfriend" got in then surely "manti-perspirant" stands a chance).

So my challenge to you, dear readers, is to go forth and propagate the word "manti-perspirant".  As in: "Dang.  This crazy chick I read about online sweats a ton.  She needs some manti-perspirant!".  Tweet it, Facebook it, share it.  I double-dog dare ya.  Ingrown, discharge, facial hair, constipation, feminine hygiene, and muffin top.

Happy Friday, peeps.  It's been a helluva week.  See you on the flip side.

Ingrown, discharge, facial hair, constipation, feminine hygiene, and muffin top.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hello, World...Now Please Pass the Manti-Perspirant

So yesterday this blog came out of the closet.

You might be asking yourself, "Self, why the heck does this crazy woman have a blog with ACTUAL posts, if she only told people about it yesterday?"

And your Self might just answer, "Who knows?  Maybe because she's nuts.  Maybe because she forgot to tell people.  Maybe because she has no friends.  Or maybe because she was waiting to inject subliminal messages into her content so that she can turn us all into her brain-dead minions. And then do her evil bidding.  Which of course would include leaving the house in a shirt covered with baby schmutz and mismatched socks.  But wait a minute...I already do that!  So what the FLIP is this chick playing at?"

And while most of the above is true (except for the part about turning all of you into my brain-dead minions.  That's only half-true.  I'm still working on my 5-year plan on that one) - the real truth is that I am a very fragile flower (read: self-centered) with very sensitive feelings (read: afraid of rejection) and I'm just a *teensy* bit anal (read: probably has OCD) and so I wanted to make sure that things around here looked good before I told anyone.  I was gadgetizing my widgets and widgetizing my gadgets and stuff like that.  Don't I just sound SO professional?

And of course the stone cold truth is that I was also plain procrastinating.  Because I just want you to like me.  I really really do!  Because it's ALL ABOUT ME. Memememememememe. There, I said it - and now of course I feel like a royal putz.

In the midst of all this pathetic self-involvement, the tragedy of the earthquake struck Haiti and it made me take a step back for just a second.  In the middle of diaper changes I realized that I needed to say something about it, and that I wanted people to hear me.  Too many times us Mamas don't get heard.  We don't get the chance to say that we are smart, caring, and involved in the world around us.  That we can make a difference.  And so I posted about Haiti, took a very deep (caffeine-laced) breath and hit Publish, and then I did the unthinkable.  I shared my post...eeeeeeek!

What would people say?  Would they like me?  Would they in turn share my post with the world?  Would I actually get to hit the ground running and do something totally amazing and useful with my blog (how novel)?  The rest of the day was spent with me camped out in front of my laptop, sweating bullets and compulsively hitting Refresh.  I didn't eat.  I didn't talk.  I didn't even PEE.  Thank Whatever that Yousuf was home because I will be the first to admit that I totally neglected my family yesterday.

As the evening wore on and NOBODY responded to my post, things went from bad to worse.  The sweat stains grew and grew to the point where I actually STOLE Yousuf's anti-perspirant because I needed a hit of the Good Stuff.  I was a complete and utter mess.  And I just know Yousuf was thinking that this "blog stuff" was SO not going to be worth it if I acted like a addict going through withdrawl every time I posted.  But I promised him that I wouldn't always be like this.  That I would get help.  That I would buy my own prescription-strength Manti-persiprant.

Finally, like a beacon shining on the blackest night, my amazing friends (who probably felt sorry for me, and thus compelled to write something) responded.  And all was right with the world.  Even if it was only THREE people who said: "Hey! Good Job!  You're only slightly less nuts than we always suspected!", it was enough to get me through the night.  But seriously folks, I can't go on like this.  I don't think the manti-perspirant can handle it either - so I'm just going to keep doing my thing and you can take it or leave it.  But I really hope you take it....because I'm sweaty and insecure and I NEED YOU.

There's still some things that need doing around here - I want to add a Search function and a FAQ, and I have Other Plans.  Oh baby, do I have Plans (hint: keep in mind that my ultimate plan is to turn you into my personal army of zombie minions) but that will all come in time.  For now - I'm here, and I have things to say.  I just hope you'll stick around to listen.

Oh, and I promised a dear friend that this would not just be a blog where I regale people with tales of my adorable children and their delightful antics, but I lied.  So there.

  Hi.  My name is Mahreen, and my kids are freakishly adorable.  This is my blog. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sending Support After Haiti's Darkest Night

“Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed.”  — President René Préval of Haiti

Just in case you live in a bubble (which is entirely possible if you're a judgements, peeps - being a Mama is hard enough without having the added responsibility of having to use up extra valuable brain cells on things like the news. But never fear, that's why you have me!), you might not know that there was a devastating earthquake in Haiti yesterday (Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at around 5pm local time). Besides being the poorest country in the western hemisphere, recently the people of Haiti have endured violence, political instability, famine, and the devastating effects of Hurricane Hanna in 2008

Here is a brief rundown, including what you can do to help:

What happened:
Around 5pm local time, a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti.  It was centered approximately 9 miles away from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.  Many of Haiti's major landmarks, including the Presidental Palace and the National Assembly Building were destroyed during the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.  The extent of the devastation is still unclear but there are fears that the casualties may number more than one hundred thousand.  Simply and utterly heartbreaking.

You can watch BBC News coverage immediately following the earthquake here.

Watch President Obama's remarks concerning Haiti here.  Or read the transcript here.
See Haitian-born Wyclef Jean's interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN here.

What You Can Do:
Donate.  Please.
Here is the Washington Post's list of organizations that are currently accepting donations to help Haiti.
These are the donation pages for Wyclef Jean's Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund, The American Red Cross International Response Fund, and Oxfam America's Haiti Earthquake Respond Fund. (If you are outside of the US, please donate through your country's website, and please do link to it in the comments below.)

You can also text donations. Text YELE to 501501 for a $5 donation to Yele Haiti or text HAITI to 90999 for a $10 donation to the American Red Cross. (Please note however, texting will NOT work in Canada. Donate online instead)

If you do nothing else, spread the word.  Link to this post.  Share it, tweet it, retweet it, whichever works for you. Let's send some light before the sun goes down tonight on the people of Haiti.

Strength Through Unity. L'Union Fait La Force.

We are thinking of all Haitians, everywhere, today.  Our hearts are with you.

A view of the Canape-Vert area of Port-au-Prince shows hundreds of homes destroyed by the earthquake.  Picture from Reuters.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's Cookin': Gold Rush Chili

This is recipe adapted from Fat Free Vegan (if you decide to stick around and see what else is cookin' you might notice a trend), but with some minor changes.  Both Yousuf and I find it really hard to follow directions (why else would I, a decent brown girl from a good family, end up marrying some white dude with dreadlocks?  Oh wait.  That's a story for another post.) - so we're always fiddling with recipes to make them better.  For us. Most normal people will probably find that following recipes results in a totally amazing culinary experience...but why be normal, when you can be like US? 

Above: Sunday Night Football Never Looked So Good. 

Our Recipe:

1/2 of a package of cleaned and cut butternut squash
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon mild chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 15-ounce cans beans (we used dark red kidney beans and pinto beans), drained and rinsed

Heat a large, non-stick pot over medium-high heat, and add the onion and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent and the pepper is soft, about 7-9 minutes. (You may add a little water to prevent sticking.) Add the garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes.

Add all the seasonings, and stir well to coat the vegetables. Stir in the tomatoes (and their juice), water, squash, salt, and pepper. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.

Add the beans, and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Cover and cook until the squash is tender but not falling apart (about 40 minutes). Serve in bowls, garnished with oregano, if desired.  Then negate all the health benefits of this chili by serving with a huge hunk of garlic bread, thereby infuriating Broccoli Boy.  But believe me, it's all worth it.  It always is.


Monday, January 11, 2010

An Excuse for A Party

We're big into half-birthday parties here.  It started back in January 2007, when we couldn't believe that we had actually managed to make it to Inara's six month-old mark (Inara had a whole whackload of exciting infant issues...none too serious in the grand scheme of things, but just enough to drive a pair of new, sleep-deprived parents to the breaking point and actually consider never procreating again).  Anyway, here's our eldest on her first half-birthday in January 2007:

Above:  Inara, with her "what the heck are they DOING to me?" face.  We know it well.

Well, we went ahead and procreated anyway - and it turned out MUCH better this time around.  Nissa's first six months were downright bliss compared to her older sister's, and so we decided to have a half-birthday to celebrate HER instead of the fact that we weren't speaking gibberish and exhibiting strange ticks due to the stress of parenting TWO high-needs children (for reference:  Nissa is the polar opposite of High Needs.  What is that, anyway?  Low Requirements? As in: "Nissa is a Low-Requirements baby".  Me likey).  The result was a rockin' good time and some wicked awesome party hats:

Oh yeah, baby.  We're awesome.

To be clear, we don't really "do" half-birthdays after the first's just too hard to keep it up (big revelation here:  we're LAZY parents.  Deal with it).  Plus you can't really compete with the first half-birthday anyway, so why bother?  Well, apparently nobody explained that to Inara.  Two nights ago I realized that Nissa was going to be 8 months old, and wait for the logic here...that meant it was January (yes!  I got the month right!  Hooray and Huzzah!), and that meant...that both Inara and I had half-birthdays coming up (Inara's birthday is a day before mine.  Six months later.  In July.  Wait - was I right AGAIN?  Yay...Mama's extremely limited math skills have not been badly damaged by procreation!  Celebrate!).  I told Inara that she was going to be three and-a-half  soon *sniffle*, and her beautiful eyes lit right up.  I could see what was happening, so I tried to deflect, but it was too late.  She is just such a seasoned pro at out-reasoning me and to be honest, Nissa did just have a half-birthday celebration (and by celebration I mean we made hats and ordered take-out.  Because we're classy like that.) so it was fresh in her mind and how could I refuse???  Me = Sucka!!!

Luckily, all Inara reallyreallyreally wants in life when it comes to Food That I Love But My Parents Won't Give Me is donuts.  So all it took to make my big girl happy was a frosted chocolate donut.  With sprinkles.  That's it.  Happy three and-a-half birthday, sweet girl.  We do so love you!

The half-birthday girl, eating her donut with a fork.  Because why WOULDN'T you do it that way?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Deep Breath...And Away We Go!

Here it is, our first official post. For posterity, I feel as though it should be something reflective in nature - perhaps a little poignant, and a post that we can feel proud of when we look back at our little blog years from now.  Unfortunately, all that comes to mind is this funny conversation I had via email with my friends when I was a week overdue with Nissa last May:

Me: If I ever have a blog...I will call it: "Is it a Baby or Is it Poop: Unraveling Life's Big Mysteries" Because seriously, I can't tell the difference anymore between my contractions and my turds. :P :P :P

Just wanted to update all of you...

The responses were as varied, loving and hilarious as my amazing friends - and if they say it's okay, maybe I'll post some here later. But for now, I just can't get that random conversation out of my head - it's as though I made a promise with the Fates and now I have to stick by it. So there you have it folks, my first post, the one that I should be looking back on with joy and pride is now officially about Babies, Birthing, and Poop. Rock on.

Very pregnant with nothing to show for it except poop
Above: Me - On my due date - Very pregnant, with nothing to show for it except for a whole lotta poop. 

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you, here's how:

Positive comments, encouragement, flattery and mad props can be sent to:
mahreen at venividiblogi dot com.

Everything else, including complaints and general gripes should be directed to:
yousuf at venividiblogi dot com.

Hope to hear from you soon!


I'm Mahreen, a.k.a. Boss Lady, Big Momma, The-Supreme-Knower-Of-All-Useless-Facts (like where you put your dolly's missing shoe):

I started this blog in January 2010, as a way to share the stories that were bubbling around in my head. You can read more about me in this post. It's not really helpful, but hey - it's a good place to start.

More useless information:
I live in Western NY with my long-suffering and flipping awesome husband, Yousuf, a.k.a. Broccoli Boy, El Cheapitan, Reasonable-Substitute-For-Mom-Minus-The-Boobs:

Broccoli Boy

And our two lovely little girls.  This is Inara Maelle, the little girl who made me a weepy, sleep-deprived, and very proud mother.  She's as smart as a whip, and has enough personality to sink a very large, purple, glittery ship.  The ship MUST be purple and glittery, otherwise she'll tell you where exactly you can stick said ship.  Don't say I didn't warn you:

Impish Inara

And here is our newest littlest addition, Nissa Aveline: Pure love wrapped up in a ball of sweet-smelling baby goo.  Issie is our little smiley-faced pudgemuffin whose entire world revolves around puking and laughing (with the occasional poop thrown in for added effect):

Nissa the Pudgemuffin

Seek And Ye Shall Find...

I thought this might be helpful for those of you who have been asking for a way to search the blog (which means you can all stop emailing me for my kale chips recipe.  Not that I don't love hearing from you!  I will stop putting my foot in my mouth now.):

Search Veni Vidi Blogi...
(or just click here to find the Kale Chips recipe):

Here is a list of popular categories (I'm working on linking to these):
Crazy Mahreen
Daily Life
El Cheapitan
In All Seriousness
New House
What's Cookin'

If you're extremely bored and looking for ways to kill time, you might also like to look through the archives by date:
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010

Hope that helps!

All The Information About Inara's Rainbow In One Handy-Dandy Location.

For those of you that have wandered here by accident and are reading this blog and wondering, "What the heck is this Inara's Rainbow thing, and why won't this person shut up about it???" - well my friends, this page is for YOU.

(And for everyone else who is interested in how Inara's Rainbow came about.)

It all started with a post called (not surprisingly), Inara's Rainbow, written in November of 2010. It was an amazing turn of events, and I'm still pinching myself over it.

The first pre-order for Inara's Rainbow opened in early December 2010. I'm still awed by how many people wrote to me saying that they bought IR because of our story. That's the power of the written word, and even though it was so hard to share, I'm so glad I wrote the post that moved you as much as it did for me.

After that, things began to snowball as my very good friend decided to make some very special Inara's Rainbow items. The giraffes sold out faster than you can say Justin Bieber (who was a very famous and very young superstar, for those of you that are reading this in the future with your implanted computer chips and robotic eyeballs. The future sounds SCARY.), and the hobo bags are a wrap-collector's dream come true.

The first batch of IR was delivered in Spring 2011, and it was absolutely stunning. Those of us who were lucky to get one were thrilled, and those of us who missed the pre-order were bummed to have missed out.

But not for long!

Because a SECOND pre-order for IR was opened up in March 2011, due to overwhelming demand. During that time, I asked my readers to help me choose a ring color for my own personal IR ring sling.

I have loved every part of the IR story. I love that the wrap came about as a result of sharing my own babywearing story, that it is named after my daughter who went through so much in her infancy, and to whom babywearing meant survival. I love that people have responded in such an overwhelmingly positive way to this wrap, and that through it I can give back to the community that supported me during my hardest days as a parent. I am not making a penny from the sale of IR, but the worth of this wrap means more to me than any monetary amount. To me, Inara's Rainbow means hope. It means love. And that is something I am so honored to share with the world.

Thanks for making Inara's Rainbow possible, friends. Thank you for being a part of our story.
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