Updated weekly. Usually on Tuesdays. Unless some small person eats my blog post.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Back in the day, you set hot potatoes or a pan full of hot coals in your bed to keep warm. These days, electric blankets or just flat-out turning up the heater are great options. I personally prefer a third choice, the nudge-your-spouse-till-they-roll-over-and-you-steal-their-warm-spot bedwarmer.

Last night, I had a run-in with the fourth bedwarmer. The damp kind.

StrawBee and I had had a normal 3 a.m. feeding. I read MLIA, she ate, she blew some raspberries at her food source, I decided she was done if she was making fun of mommy's milk bottles, then I put her back in her bed. As per my usual paranoid routine, I decided to take a quick peek at Ladybug to make sure she was still breathing. I carefully opened her door, sneaked across the bedroom (a feat in itself, considering she considers her floor synonymous with her toy chest), and assured myself that all was well.

As I walked back out the door and started to close it, however, I noticed something a little out of the ordinary. A lone diaper, lying just inside the door frame. This wasn't too out of the ordinary because, let's face it, Dear Boy was kind enough to put the kids to bed and he's notorious for leaving diapers in the most awkward places (bathroom floor, book shelf, dinner table, etc). However, Ladybug has long since mastered the art of diaper removal, so I thought I'd better check to make sure she wasn't missing this vital piece of her ensemble.

She was.

Now, this has happened on several occasions. Each time I've stuck my hand in those blankets to put a clean diaper on her bum, I've prayed the blankets would still be dry. Each time, they have been. Until last night.

Ladybug was plenty warm while the storm howled outside, but damp bedwarmers really just aren't the thing.

What ensued was five silently frantic minutes of finding a clean diaper (check), making sure the pillow wasn't wet (check), moving Ladybug so I could check the bed (check), and putting my hand in every single warm, damp spot that my dear child had made (check, check, check, and check!). Soon, and without waking up a soul in the house, I had Ladybug wrapped in a warm, dry blanket (warm because I had been using it, I might add), lying on a dry bed, and all the warm, damp blankets, sheets, and pajamas bundled up for later washing.

Go me.

This morning, when it was time to get up with the kids, Dear Boy and I both pretended not to hear the baby stirring. When her cries reached a level at which we were either deaf or dead not to hear, I rolled over and said, "Ladybug wet the bed last night. I cleaned it up."

Dear Boy thought for a moment, replied "I'm sorry," then got up to get the baby. I promptly rolled over in bedwarmer #3 fashion, and was soon snuggly (smugly?) asleep.

So, bedwarmer #4, damp and disgusting you may be, but thanks for the extra sleep. See you in the wee hours sometime. ~~Carolynn

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If a woman shaves her legs in the forest, does anybody care?

I first learned the art of leg-shaving in the sixth grade, after having noticed during P.E. that I was the only girl in the class whose legs caught the light with luster and shine. If only the hair had been on my head, this would not have been a problem. It wasn't, though, and it quickly became routine for me to shave. Mostly because it was routine for the girls around me to shave, really. You would think that living in Phoenix, where you can wear at least capris almost year-round, would have contributed to this wonderful hygienic monotony, but the fact is that I shaved out of herd instinct. This being an era when butt cheeks were considered a tasteful fashion statement by my peers, it was nigh impossible to find shorts that met my modesty standards. So I wore pants, even when it was 120 degrees out. And still shaved.

The habit stuck, and continued to stick even after my family and I moved to the land of Missouri sometime during high school, a land where a change in seasons meant more than "monsoon" or "no monsoon." It was in this place that my peers (aren't they helpful?) first introduced me to the idea that when a girl wears pants, as I always did, there is no reason whatever to shave the legs. No one sees them, no one touches them, and hey! the hair might actually keep you a little warmer if you let it go long enough.

I was appalled, to say the least.

I think I tried it once, but couldn't make it past that hair-is-just-long-enough-to-brush-the-inside-of-my-pants-and-irritate-my-skin stage. So it was about 48 hours before razor hit skin again.

It was about this time that my best friend, amused at my obsession, shook her head bemusedly and sighed, "Carolynn, if we got stranded in the middle of the woods, in peril of our lives, with no civilization for miles and miles, you would STILL find a way to shave your legs, wouldn't you?"

Yes, yes I would.

From there came college, where I was certain that keeping my legs shaved was one key (of many) to catching dates. Apparently not, since I only went out a couple dozen times my entire college career. Nothing daunted, I continued religious in leg-shaving observance.

It seemed to me that I was vindicated, however, when (happy day) I met Dear Boy and married him. What that had to do with shaving my legs I don't know, but I do know that I was happy in the knowledge that my husband would, at least, never need complain about my hairy legs.

Even I wasn't perfect, however, and I found myself one day apologizing for slightly hairy legs. His reply was something of a shock: "Oh, I don't care."


He really didn't. It took a couple years before I believed him but he was, in fact, being sincere and not just polite. I was a little shaken. After all, didn't girls learn most of their beautifying habits as teenagers in order to please some nebulous, would-be dream boat of the future? Well, my dream boat had arrived---and well-shaven legs were not a requirement to sail out of the harbor.

You would think that this story would end with me realizing I was liberated and declaring my freedom by swearing off razors forever. However, it doesn't. You'll be glad to know that even when I have an infant that keeps me up all night, I still make the effort to have nicely shaven legs. And why?

Because I want to.

So I guess it is a liberation story. No matter how many moms tell me I'm nuts for worrying about it, or how many women's lib movements say it's a sign of bondage, or even how many beauty ads tell me I should... I do it for me. So when I lotion my legs, I don't feel as though I'm petting a cactus. So tiny leg hairs don't get trapped in my pantyhose (and yes, I do insist on wearing those to church). And because, despite it all, it's become part of who I am. Carolynn-the-compulsive-leg-shaver.

And yes, Amy. Even if we were stranded in the forest and about to die I would still find a way to shave. And maybe the sharp rock I used would be just what we needed to build a fire and save our lives--but only after the leg hairs are gone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


For those of you who know what I'm talking about, rock on!

For those of you who don't, you seriously need to re-evaluate the time you waste on the internet. If there was ever a worthwhile time-waster, MLIA is it.

I've been addicted for several weeks now, and Dear Boy and I spend a lot of time chuckling over them. I've gotten to the point where I catch myself composing the little vignettes in my life into MLIA format out of habit. And, since I doubt I'll ever reach the level of awesomeness required to actually have a story on MLIA, I thought I would share some of those that have occurred to me over the last few days.

Today, while trying to carry on a serious conversation with a loan officer, I went to check on Ladybug, who was supposed to be sleeping. Not only was she awake, she was buck naked and cheerfully playing with her dollies. I had to explain to the banker I wasn't laughing at him, I was laughing at my future streaker. MLIA.

Today, I went to get my 6 month old up from her nap. I asked her if she was happy to see me; she pooped her pants. I'll take that as a yes. MLIA.

Today, I started to freak out and call my husband when a stranger walked out of my bathroom. Turned out, the stranger was my husband. I'd forgotten he was growing a beard. I almost ordered my husband to kill himself. MLIA.

Today, I found a piece of Ninja flair to post to my Facebook page. When I went to look at it, I couldn't find it. Well played, Ninja flair. MLIA

...I could go on, but I won't for now. I'll keep a running list and post more occasionally. In the meantime, how average is your life?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dinner for 50? Sure, why not.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: A meal for 50 women. You will be expected to provide a salad, a main dish, a side dish, and a dessert. You have 4 weeks to prepare and several kitchens to use, plus a large staff of helpful (sometimes too helpful) hands. No problem, right?

But what if your budget for food was just $100?

I heard that little choking sound. Believe it or not, though, it's totally doable. I've done it 3 times this year (it would've been four, but we opted for a fondue dessert bar one night). In fact, I think I once did it on $60--although I admittedly skipped dessert that time.

Anyway, if for some reason you'll be cooking for a large crowd on a small budget, here's some tips:

1. Pick your main dish carefully. It needs to be something inexpensive and easy to prepare, unless you really want to invest a lot of time. The first time I did this, I made chicken cordon bleu and it was great! However, I was also pregnant and supposed to stay off my feet so I had a lot of time on my hands to wrap the chicken.

For recipe ideas, check out my favorite site here, or just go take a look at my "Recipes" tab.

2. Gather all your recipes at least 2 weeks in advance and make a list of exactly how much you'll need of each item, and I do mean each. Even those things you usually have hanging around, like flour and butter, you may find you don't have enough of. Trust me, you don't want to be sending your poor significant other to Walmart at ten o'clock at night for a missing ingredient (Guilty!).

3. Find someone who belongs to a warehouse store, like Sam's Club or Costco. You'll want to shop for your meats, pastas, breads, dairy, and/or salad green necessities here. (Side note: I strongly recommend a potato dish of some kind for your side, as potatoes are inexpensive--especially in bulk--and most potato dishes are hard to ruin, always a good thing when you're cooking like crazy.)

4. Look for sales in your area. It's worth traveling to a different store than you usually use if their sour cream is at half price the week you're cooking.

5. Take a calculator with you when you shop to help keep you on track. Then you can decide if you really can afford to add those craisins to your salad.

6. Find creative solutions to pricey ingredients. It's actually fairly easy (and much cheaper) to make your own croutons. Same holds true with tortilla chips, salsa, salad dressing, and rolls.

7. At the risk of revealing how much of a control freak I am, I advise you to keep as much of the work in your own hands as possible. If you must farm out the cooking (and please do if you need to!) buy the ingredients yourself and drop them off to your helper. Do not trust anyone else with your budget! They won't be able to make decisions about which things can be dropped or substituted if necessary.

8. Prepare what you can ahead of time. Chicken cordon bleu, for example, can be frozen ahead of time, then defrosted and cooked the day of. Desserts are often fine made a day or two before. Salads, on the other hand, should be saved for last minute.

9. Always toss the dressing with the salad; don't allow your guests to serve themselves dressing. I promise if you do this you'll save yourself oodles of money and bother. One bottle of vinagrette dressing will cover 3 pounds of salad, which is plenty for 50 people. However, if 50 people get their own dressing, one bottle won't even get you halfway.

10. On that note, make plans to serve the food rather than a more buffet-style setup. Arrange an assembly line in your kitchen, with one person dishing up each food and servers to take plates to your guests. Again, people tend to take more than they need or will actually eat. I'm not suggesting lilliputian-size servings, but be judicious and you'll cut down on cost and extra waste (and waist, for that matter).

11. Be Type A about as much of planning as possible, but Type B when the time arrives. You've done all you can, and being relaxed will allow you to find creative solutions should any problems crop up.

12. Make sure to enlist help for clean up. Nothing worse than working like crazy to feed everyone, only to be left with a gigantic mess to clean up. You'll be tired (and rightfully so), so ask around to see if those to whom you denied shopping privileges will be willing dish washers.

If you have any tips to make cooking for a crowd easier, or great recipes I can post just because they're great, let me know. Life is learning, after all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Making Babies: Part One

Recently, I learned that a dear friend of mine is expecting her first. Like most first-time mothers, she's about as calm as a cornered rabbit. Unfortunately, it's compounded by the fact that she's known me through my four pregnancies (two miscarriages, one at 16 weeks; one normal pregnancy; one pregnancy with complications of preterm labor, IUGR, and ogliohydraminos). I imagine that fact alone about doubles her maternal twitchiness. After spending three straight days of answering her every little question (thank goodness for unlimited texting), I though I'd post what little wisdoms I've collected that would've been handy the first time around. Just to make myself sound that much smarter, I'll be breaking this up into handy-dandy sections. Today's section shall be:


1. First things first. Please be in a stable relationship before you decide to have a baby. Those midnight feedings are lonely enough without knowing you're going to have to get up for every other feeding, too.

2. If you don't already have healthy eating habits and a regular exercise routine, get into a habit now! I had the best of intentions the first time around to eat well "when I was pregnant," but had no habits to build on. Instead, I craved a lot of soft serve ice cream. The second time, when I was eating healthier overall already, I found my sweets cravings much more controllable and my weight gain was better.

3. Get to know the rhythms of your body! Make sure you chart the beginning of each of your periods so you know how long your cycle normally is. It can also be helpful to learn how to track your basal body temperature, check and track your cervical mucus (read more about that here), and/or check your actual cervix (read more about that here). These are not things I did before my first pregnancy, but if I could contact past-me I would certainly tell her to learn them!

Learning these things can also come in handy later in pregnancy, too, when you're trying to decide if you're really in labor or not. Remember, your body belongs to YOU, and while doctors know plenty about bodies in general, only you live in your body. Doctors are wonderful, helpful, knowledgeble people, but they work on generalities. The more you know of how your own body works the better off you'll be.

4. Start taking a prenatal vitamin.

5. Do your best not to obsess. If you find yourself thinking about having a baby too often, find a new hobby and develop yourself as an individual. It probably won't distract you, but it'll be good for you anyway. ^_-

6. Be aware that once you start trying you're very likely to think you're pregnant every month. Remember how you've been charting your cycles? This is where it becomes important: Do not test until 3 days after your expected period start date. If you can, wait until 5 days after. I know this is hard. I know a lot of tests say they can tell you "Up to 5 days before your period!" Don't do it, for 2 reasons.
A. If you aren't one of the 60% of women who can actually get a positive 5 days before your period, you'll depress yourself unnecessarily as well as waste tests. You'll find yourself using 2 or 3 tests per cycle, and that can add up both emotionally and monetarily.
B. If you are going to experience what is called a "chemical pregnancy" (meaning the egg or the sperm was faulty), you'll often miscarry within a week of your normal period (please note that I only said usually. Making it that far is no guarantee, I'm afraid). Before early pregnancy tests, women just thought they were experiencing late periods. Now, with early tests, a lot of women get that faint positive and then have to deal with the emotional repercussions of knowing you had a miscarriage. Please don't do that to yourself.

7. Buy paper cups. Using those is a heck of a lot easier than trying to pee on that dumb stick!

8. Keep your sense of humor. Babies are supposed to be fun!

Okay, most of that was a rehash of everything you've heard before. However, I promise it'll get more original as we go along. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

There's a candle in the kitchen...

and a baby in my lap. The candle is lit, and the baby is sucking down milk faster than she can realistically handle. She's been crying for the last 5 minutes, plays tug-of-war until I think my breasts will fall apart, and only slept for about 2 hours last night.

I've rarely been more grateful to be a mother.

It's October 15th, a day that had little significance until I discovered that 3 years ago, 50 governors signed a bill making it a day of remembrance for infant and pregnancy loss. Interestingly enough, that would've been right after I experienced my second pregnancy loss.

The candle in the kitchen is lit in remembrance of a baby who, according to most people, never was. In approximately 15 minutes, the candle will be blown out. The light will be gone.

I have a lot of confusion when I think over the entire experience. For me, the pregnancy lasted 16 weeks. At that time, however, they discovered that the fetus hadn't even survived two months. I still don't care to go into the details. Suffice it to say, it hurt.

The conditions of my loss left me in a kind of no-man's-land. Tell people I was 16 weeks along and I get awkward questions about whether I was able to see or hear the baby (how I wish I had!). Say it was 5, and I get a shrug of dismissal--Only a miscarriage. (What does that mean, anyway? It's not "only" to the woman who lost; the pregnancy was a baby to her.)

I appreciate the anonymity of a day like today, knowing that there are other candles in other places, lit by women who know. It's like a silent group hug--or a silent scream. Either way, it's healing.

Loss leads to so many questions. So, just for tonight, it's nice to know one answer: I lost. So did others.

And maybe--just maybe--we can crack the door a little on the pain so others don't have to light candles alone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm thinking...

Really, I swear I am. In fact, it seems I spend most of my life staring off into space trying to force the gears to turn. Usually I just get a horrible grinding sound and then--nothing. I used to be able to carry on a phone conversation, an IM conversation, read my email, and make notes to myself about my latest literary endeavor at the same time. Now I'm lucky if I can carry on a phone conversation and do the dishes without those long, embarrassing pauses that last until whoever I'm talking to says, "Uh... Carolynn?"

I'm not even entirely sure where my brain goes. I know some mothers report their minds wander in pursuit of such philosophical dilemmas as "Is my toddler ready to poop on a real toilet? Because if not, I've gotta figure out a way to keep those diapers from stinking up my bathroom." My mind, on the other hand, just takes a little hiatus, forgetting to leave a forwarding address. It's an unsettling feeling for someone who is used to having her mind constantly racing to suddenly come upon a blank. It's the same feeling you get when you're running along and all the sudden there's a cliff--WHAT?! Where'd the ground go and where the heck do I go next?

Maybe I should start taking herbal supplements to fix my head; that's supposed to fix the hormonal imbalances supposedly responsible for my sudden disconnects. Another suggestion I've gotten is that I'm just too stressed out, so I ought to just relax--as if I can push a button and suddenly be carefree. Others tell me I need to make more lists (that excuse, at least, got me a nice new cell phone with calendar capability. Really, who needs coherent thought when they can keep their brain in their pocket?). My husband doesn't have any suggestions. I suspect he finds it amusing when his normally verbose wife cuts off mid-sentence and stares blankly at that grape juice stain on the carpet.

My personal theory is that my brain is simply trying to get some of that rest it feels it so richly deserves. After all, it's up all day and a good portion of the night. Maybe my body held a meeting and decided that since most of me can't grab naps as frequently as would be ideal, my brain would be the one responsible to make sure we rest. It does work. I not only stop talking, I stop moving. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that I don't drop things.

Perhaps what I should do is advise my brain to gather all its blank spots for a month, and we'll go have a spa day together. Then I can blank out all day because the nice girls will tell me where to go next, and my brain can have the break that it's obviously dying to have. Yes, I like this suggestion. Excuse me, I think I'll go try and talk my husband into this before one of those brain breaks makes me think what I really wanted was a day in the kiddie playland at McDonalds--

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Corner of my Own Mind

Interesting to look back over my first several posts--the baby that I "broke" at 6 weeks is now a very happy 18 month old who sleeps through the night (maybe that's why I lack inspiration these days; lack of sleep does bring on an almost hallucinogenic state of euphoric creativity) and asks for "jussss" when she's thirsty. We've moved across the country so my darling husband can take advantage of more schooling opportunities (probably means I should update the "about" section of this blog, too). And I've happily become a human incubator for the second time; little Baby StrawBee Grace is expected to "Grace" us with her presence sometime at the end of June, which is approaching much faster than I thought possible. I've started training as a medical transcriptionist, which gives me the vast advantage of typing faster than I did, which is saying something since I averaged about 80 wpm before. Ironically, there has been a direct correlation between how much medical homework I do and the decrease in writing and music in my life. A discouraging fact, but one I must face up to. Maybe next Tuesday.

Basically, my life looks very different from this side of 2009.

Still, through all of these changes, this blog has been at the back of my mind. Perhaps I've been intimidated after feeling like my last post came off so well. I know I'm not in any way prepared to tackle another deep subject any time soon.

I decided I finally had to come back this morning, however, while updating my profile on BabyCenter.com. It asked me where my favorite retreat was and I immediately answered, "A corner of my own mind." I did a double take at my own answer. Surely I have somewhere else to retreat to? A corner of my own mind seems pathetically small when there's a whole huge world out there for me to retreat to. I figured if I thought about it long enough, I'd realize there was a time and place I went to to be "alone."

I soon realized this wasn't the case. From 7 a.m., when Ladybug wakes up and Devin's already gone, until around 11 p.m. when I fall asleep I have to keep company with someone or something besides myself, whether it be Ladybug, chores, exercise, bills, or Devin. This feeling is intensified by the little stranger living amid my vital organs. I don't regret any of this--there's a certain satisfaction from keeping the home running smoothly; Ladybug usually makes me laugh; and I treasure every minute with my rightfully busy husband. But these days, even my mind is getting invaded. My birthing classes are training me to use deep relaxation and mental conditioning to prepare myself to welcome StrawBee calmly and gently--any moment alone with my thoughts that isn't involved in family and home is taken with meditation and reassurance to prepare me for that time.

All I have left is the one little corner of my mind where dwell "my" projects. The ones that don't benefit anyone else, just me and my creative urges.

Looking back over the last few months, I realize my husband has been trying to tell me this since my first stress breakdown around Christmas (there have been several since): I can't live my inner life in just one teeny corner of my mind. But I've been trying to as my sense of balance in life has been skewed by all the expectations I have for what I "should" be doing. I guess when he's encouraging me to take time to "do what I want," he really means to do what I want--not what's next on my "To-Do Before Ladybug Wakes Up From Nap" list.

Time to give that Corner of my Own Mind an airing, I think; a spring cleaning, even. Push out the cobwebs and refresh old projects, even if they (like this post) are really strictly for my own benefit. I have an inkling that I'll find this the most important (and beneficial) type of spring cleaning I could do this year, for myself and for those things that possess the rest of my mind.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.Creative Commons License
This work by Carolynn Dyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.