Thursday, December 31, 2009

Traveling with kids, Part 2: The Airplane Bathroom and New Year's Resolutions

We have finally made it home, despite the amazing lengths we had to take to get here. It actually took us approximately 26 hours, 30 minutes and 2 seconds to get home once we left my sister-in-law's house. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say we actually had more stuff than we did when we traveled to Las Vegas.

After traveling in car, bus and train, we boarded the airplane and had a relatively uneventful plane ride.

Until Charlotte needed to use the bathroom.

To say the term "airplane bathroom" is a misnomer is an understatement. "Bath closet" or "toilet niche" would be more accurate. I know of bathrooms that consist entirely of holes in the floor in Hong Kong that are bigger. I don't know about you, but even on a good day, after weeks of working out and dieting, things are extremely tight in the airplane bathroom. And I can guarantee you, no working out and dieting have been accomplished by me since the autumn solstice. Add to that all the amazing treats we partook of on holiday, and I almost asked the stewardess to spread some Crisco on my thighs so I could squeeze in.

So, here I am, almost too wide to fit in the bathroom, and I still have a little girl to get in there. A little girl who really needs to pee. Bad. Because of course, we had had to wait for one of those bathrooms to become available, while the nice first class toilets were all free. Grrrrr.....

I finally get the door closed behind us and get Charlotte on the toilet and I am practically sitting in her lap. She looks up at me and says, "Mommy, give me some privacy!" I can't turn around, so I end up just closing my eyes so my modest girl (who, by the way, has no problem running around in the buff for everyone in town to see) can pee privately.

Next comes my turn to use the facilities. As I am finishing up, I actually zip Charlotte's hair up in my pants, that's how tight the quarters are.

And as soon as I am able to return to my seat, Bil informs me that Tommy needs to be changed. In the airplane bathrooom.

I tried to convince Bil it would be easier for him to do it, as he is thinner than I am, but he didn't bite. Yes, Tommy is pretty small, but it is no small feat to change a wiggly baby's diaper in such cramped quarters. Tommy was kicking so much I actually lost the load from his diaper, if you know what I mean. Yes, I had to go hunting for the poop that spilled out while he kicked and thrashed. And then, while ensuring Tommy doesn't fall off the changing table, I have to clean up the mess. I should have been a gymnast.

So, my New Year's Resolution this year? Well, you may be thinking it would be wise to set a diet and exercise goal. I've tried that before, but it doesn't really seem to work. I mean, sure, dieting and exercise would probably help me lose weight, but then I would actually have to get off the couch and keep the food out of my mouth. That would most certainly take Herculean effort. Besides, how fun would that be?

Instead, I have decided on a solution to the humiliating airplane bathroom dilemma. My resolution is to not fly in an airplane until Charlotte no longer needs assistance in the bathroom and Tommy is out of diapers. That will solve everything!

Check out the Spin Cycle for more New Year's Resolutions.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

traveling with kids

I am taking a rare Internet break now that the kids are in bed to do a bit of blogging. We are still in Nevada visiting family. I probably shouldn't be broadcasting this on the Internet in case anyone out there is casing my house trying to decide if we are home or not. If you are, in fact, thieves interested in breaking and entering the Pancake home, just know there is absolutely nothing worth stealing. Seriously. I am wearing my engagement ring, so that rules out jewelry, and our TV is so small you will probably pity us when you see it. Don't waste your energy. We don't even own cell phones. What kind of people don't own cell phones? Think about it.

And I doubt anyone but me and a few die-hard Jane Austen fans and admirers of Colin Firth (and really, aren't most red-blooded American women, and come to think of it, most homosexual men, Colin Firth admirers?) would think my A&E version of Pride and Prejudice is really worth that much..... And dudes, don't even think about touching my new August Wilson Century Cycle. That was a birthday present, which I haven't even had a chance to read.

But if you do happen to decide to break in, would you mind taking the turkey out of the freezer and sticking it in the fridge? And how about unloading the dishwasher? Thanks. That will make cooking much easier when I get back.

Sorry for the digression.

So. We are in Nevada, which means we traveled thousands of miles from Illinois all the way to the western part of the country. With three kids. During the busiest travel season of the year. And we flew out of O'Hare, one of the biggest airports in the country. It was insane. We actually took 4 modes of transportation just on Saturday in our journey to Las Vegas. First, we drove to Chicago, some three hours from home. The next day, we drove to O'Hare. Once we got to the parking lot, we had to take a shuttle bus which dropped us off at the train, which we took to the airport.

With three kids. And a stroller. And three backpacks, two booster seats, one carseat and a big purse. And three carry-on duffle bags. Oh, and did I mention three kids?

Yeah, you can imagine how horrible it was to be behind our little army at security, right? Where they had to use some instrument to make sure it was actually formula in Tommy's bottle instead of explosives.

I can tell FAA security officials this much: I don't care how crazy some terrorist might be, how fanatical and suicidal and determined to participate in a jihad they might be, I don't think ANYONE would be crazy enough to bring along three kids, a stroller, three backpacks, two booster seats, a car seat and three duffel bags to do it. Though I suppose dragging that load all over the country could theoretically drive someone to do something crazy. Especially if that someone happened to be PMSing and slightly sleep-deprived.

Ahem. I'm just saying.

Actually, though the trip was hectic and quite stressful, it went rather smoothly. And the kids? Well, the kids were downright hysterical at points. On the bus, they had the cool-looking twenty-something bus driver laughing at their enthusiasm. Danny kept squealing, "Whoohooo!!! We are going faster now!" and "This is Super-dee-duper!" while Charlotte talked about the upcoming airplane ride, which would go "way high up in the sky!"

On the train, Charlotte exclaimed loudly enough for everyone to hear her, "This ride is really fun!" I foolishly mentioned to the kids that by journey's end, we would have taken every form of transportation except boats. Which is when Danny pointed out that we had yet to fly in a rocket ship or a helicopter. Nor had we ridden an elephant, a giraffe or a cow.

And let's not forget baby Tommy here. In the hours we spent in the airport, he charmed no less than a dozen people, including an elderly Asian couple who he kept crawling over to at our terminal. He repeatedly pulled himself up on their pant legs and babbled to them. Then, there was the U.S. Air employee who spent a good ten minutes making him laugh and smile.

When we finally got close to Las Vegas, the kids enjoyed looking at all the lights. Danny pointed to the Stratosphere Hotel and declared, "Look! It's the North Pole! We are going to the North Pole where Santa lives!" And nothing has yet convinced him that Vegas is probably the antithesis of Santa's winter wonderland home. Danny is still possessed of the certainty that Santa resides somewhere in the Nevada mountains, which only made it that much easier for him to deliver our gifts.

Viva Las Vegas!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spin Cycle--Holiday Baking

It's time for the Spin Cycle again and this week the assignment is to share our favorite holiday recipes. This is right up my alley, as I love to bake. I had a really difficult time narrowing it down to just one recipe. I wanted to share my kringle recipe (that is one recipe people request often, so check it out if you want a delicious, buttery, cinnamony treat), but since I have already done that, I thought I would share two new recipes that I have recently discovered and fallen in love with.

This first recipe (and picture) comes from the McCormick spice website and it is divine. Not only are these tarts easy to make, but they look so pretty and impressive. And they taste wonderful. I had run out of peppermint extract, so I used coconut extract instead and the combination of dark chocolate and coconut was addictive.

Peppermint Tarts

2 packages (15 shells each) frozen mini phyllo shells

1/3 cup plus 3/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into chunks

2 ounces (1/4 package) cream cheese, softened

4 tablespoons sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon Peppermint Extract

1. Prepare phyllo shells as directed on package for crisp unfilled tarts. Cool completely.

2. Microwave 1/3 cup of the cream and chocolate in microwavable bowl on HIGH 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool 5 minutes or until chocolate ganache starts to thicken. Spoon a heaping teaspoon ganache into each tart shell. Cool completely.

3. Beat cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat remaining 3/4 cup cream, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and extract in medium bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Add 1/2 of the whipped cream to cream cheese mixture; stir until well blended. Gently stir in remaining whipped cream.

4. Spoon about 1 tablespoon Peppermint Crème into each tart. Garnish with chocolate shavings, if desired. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This next recipe comes from the Penzey's spice website and is also very easy to make. I was intrigued with the combination of cranberries and a butter sauce, and it was delicious. Easy to make and really comforting, it is perfect for cold weather. The recipe advises eating it warm, and that is a good idea, in my opinion.

Cranberry Duff

2 Cups flour

1 Cup sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder


2 Cups whole raw cranberries

1 Cup milk

1/4 Cup melted butter (1/2 stick)


Butter Sauce:

1/2 Cup butter (1 stick)

1 Cup sugar

3/4 Cup cream (half & half or whipping cream)



Preheat oven to 350°. Sift together the dry ingredients. Add the cranberries, milk, melted butter and PURE VANILLA EXTRACT. Mix well. Pour into an 8-inch square buttered baking dish. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. After the duff has been in the oven for 25 minutes, make the butter sauce by combining the butter, sugar and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Stir in the VANILLA and CINNAMON and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve the duff warm drizzled with sauce, with extra sauce on the side

Monday, December 14, 2009

second opinion, here I come

You may or may not remember my dilemma earlier in the year regarding whether I should have Danny reevaluated. I debated whether it was necessary to get a label for what Danny was dealing with. He is such a difficult case, I think, because in some situations he practically screams, "I HAVE AUTISM!!!!" and in many, many others, he acts like a "typical" child.

After much thought and internal debate, I got a referral to a developmental pediatrician. I would have preferred to take my friend Sarah's advice, which was to take Danny to a clinic that does a total evaluation. He would meet with several different professionals over a 5-day period, which I think would give such a good picture of what is really going on. Unfortunately, we have no such clinic nearby, so I thought I would start first with the pediatrician that is only 90 minutes away and go from there.

I have heard many good things about this doctor. Danny's private speech therapist, who I trust implicitly, says that Dr. M does not hand out autism diagnoses without being completely sure it is accurate. If he is unsure in any way, he meets with the child multiple times and also looks into nutrition and other factors that might help and/or hamper a child's development. He has a holistic approach; he even had us get Danny's iron tested before our appointment. Apparently, he has seen that kids with iron deficiencies often have focus and behavior issues.

Which brings me to the point of this rambling post: we have an appointment for Danny in January, right after the holidays. I feel like I should be preparing for this appointment in some way, coming up with questions or concerns, etc. but I just can't seem to get my mind around it.

What would you do to prepare? I have already sent the doctor copies of many of Danny's evaluations from OTs, STs, teachers and psychologists, along with some doctor's evaluations. I have filled out a 10-page questionnaire about Danny's development and I have lined up babysitting for Tommy and Charlotte. Bil will be unable to attend the appointment with me, as he just started a new job, and maybe that is adding to my nervousness. I like having him there with me, because he thinks of things I don't and vice versa.

I am just interested in any advice you might have. What sorts of things should I be paying attention to in the coming weeks? What should I bring up in the short 45 minutes I have with this doctor? Or am I overthinking it?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas wishes

It's that time of year again. The time where we can make wishes and hope they will come true. I have been pondering the question of what I want for Christmas yet again, since Bil asked me to give him a list of requests. After all, he has to not just take care of my Christmas presents, but my birthday ones as well. Not easy to have a wife whose birthday is three days before Christmas.

I mentally flipped through some things I want: a fit and healthy body, an end to emotional eating, a house that stays clean, kids who never fight. Sure, I would love any and all of these precious and magical gifts. But, still none of them are at the very top of my Christmas list.

I thought of peace on earth, an end to the suffering of children everywhere, enough food for countries where people are starving. All very noble and worthy wishes, and definitely all things I want to see happen; yet again, I have a particular wish that is not among those stated above.

My wish, while definitely more selfish than world peace, has the potential to help all those around me. It is a life-changing gift, one that will make me a better wife, mother, and person in general. It will bring more peace to my home, help my children be happier and better behaved. This precious of gifts would make everything better.


Yes, sleep is what I want for Christmas. But, not just any kind of sleep. I want 100% uninterrupted sleep. And not just for one night or even one week. I want months of it. Years would be great. Sleep in which once my head hits the pillow, nothing at all wakes me until 6:45 am when the sun gently warms my face and wakes me fully refreshed and energetic and ready to take on the world, instead of what actually happens, which isn't pretty, folks. Believe me. It includes much groaning, limping, inwardly cursing and scowling. Let's just leave it at that.

In order for this to happen I need an end to being awakened by a 4 year old's cries at 3 am and stumbling out of bed to tuck her in or give her a glass of water. No more waking to snores loud enough to raise the dead. And no more letting a baby cry it out at 2 am. I want him to sleep. I want them all to sleep without making any noise besides quiet, peaceful breathing, and perhaps a cute tiny little snuffle or two.

Is that really so much to ask for?

Because if you could see the havoc this sleeplessness is wreaking on me, I know you would agree that this is an important issue with enormous implications. Seriously. I don't do well with little sleep. I need a good 9 hours to be pleasant and at least 8 hours to be just functional.

As it is,5-6 hours with interruptions results in me misplacing everything. Lotion in the fridge? Check. Remote on the kitchen bookshelf? Check.

And then there is the inability to complete coherent sentences using correct words. I am pretty sure Bil is sick to death of me saying things like, "Could you please get me know, that thing? The thingy with the stuff? C'mon, you know what I mean! Just GET IT FOR ME!"

And the kids have been perplexed on an almost daily basis when I tell them to come eat breakfast at 5pm or I tell them to get their chicken nuggets out of the dishwasher (instead of the microwave). I swear I see the look in Danny's eye that says it won't be long before it's time to lock me away.

And he's right. He is. Unless I get me some sleep. STAT.


Check out Sprite's Keeper and her Spin Cycle for more ideas on Christmas wishes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Random thoughts--Walmart, diets and kids

***The WM folks must have some sort of vendetta against me. What else could explain how they have organized their paper goods? I am in charge of a dinner for the women at church on Saturday, so I had many things to buy today, including paper plates, napkins and cups. I happened to have my two youngest with me, because, as Bil continues to remind me, it is against the law to leave them home unattended.

Tommy was tired; I only have between 8 and 9:30 to get to the store and get all the shopping done before Tommy's nap time. This is not because I am super anal about naps. Rather, if I don't get home on time, I have a whimpering, crying little baby on my hands, which does not make for easy shopping, especially since Charlotte thinks it's funny to run off and hide on me. It's just a matter of time before we have a Code Adam on our hands (or is it Code Eve for little girls?)

Anyway, back to Walmart's vendetta. OK, so I am in the paper goods aisle looking for red dessert plates, but they are nowhere to be found. So, I head over to the Christmas room (which is all the way on the opposite side of the store) where it looks like Santa exploded. There they have an assortment of holiday paper goods, but no red plates. (Again, let me assert here that I am NOT anal. It's just that the napkins and all the other paper goods had already been bought and these women like things to match. Me? I don't really care as long as I get enough dessert on my plate to anesthetize an elephant and put me into a sugar coma.)

So, now that Tommy is getting tired, I have to hike to the other side of the store, which is seriously like a half mile away, back to the paper goods aisle. Why, why, I ask you, can the Walmart people not just put all the paper plates together? Is that really so much to ask?

***On the bright side, I started breaking out into a sweat as I half ran back to the paper plates aisle, because I was in a big hurry to get out of Walmart (or as I like to refer to it, the third circle of Hell). Surely, this should count as my exercise for the day, right? Or perhaps, I was only sweating because, like Hell, they keep the heat on high in Walmart.

***Which brings me to another topic I have been considering a lot lately: why I should be losing weight with ease. Consider this, if you will:
I carry around a 20+ pound baby in one arm while completing all kinds of tasks, including conducting a song at church, tending to children's wounds and setting the table. Surely, that added weight would burn some extra calories.

And then anytime I stop and bend over, I have either Danny or Charlotte jumping on my back, or sometimes just for grins, both of them. If I stop moving, one of them is inevitably climbing on me. It reminds me of those killer ants who attack whatever is standing in place for too long. In the spirit of self-preservation, I rarely sit down for fear of what will inevitably attack me. As soon as I do, someone is screaming for me or the phone is ringing or the doorbell chiming. By the end of the day, I am plumb tuckered out.

Again, you would think I would be burning thousands of calories an hour, at least.

**** Probable reasons for my lack of weight loss:
Mini Mint Three Musketeer Bars--Need I say more? My addiction is alive and well.

Unfortuntately, standing over a stove does not count as moderate exercise no matter how much I sweat.

Nor does sweating while eating a really spicy bowl of chili. I know. Totally unfair, right?

Christmas treats are everywhere, and I tend to eat for emotional reasons. You know, like when I am sad or happy or bored or tired or lonely or get the idea.

***I have no idea why, but Charlotte and Danny have recently taken to saying the words "Hamster's guinea pig!" in various contexts. Mostly, they seem to use it as an interjection, like "Hamster's guinea pig! This room is a mess!" I suppose it is a lot better than some things they could be saying.

***Lately, a fun little game I have been playing with the kids is I warm up my frigid hands on their warm little backs and bellies. They love it. They scream and squirm and run away. And I just keep coming back for more body warmth. Such a heartwarming game, no?

A few minutes ago, Charlotte approached me and put her icy hands down my shirt, almost giving me a heart attack.

You know what they say about payback, right? Yeah, it's totally true.