Category Archives: emotion

Coming Clean

Our new house is mostly picked up. The boys are, in a rare moment, tandem napping. The dogs have been walked. I remembered to eat. I have showered, brushed my teeth, and am dressed to leave the house. These are all major accomplishments before 1 PM on a Wednesday. But I am struck with an immobility, a weight that I need to share, and haven’t, because of embarrassment and shame (my phone autocorrected “shame” to “Shane”, and I don’t place any blame on anyone named Shane, so there’s that disclaimer). It’s time for me to come clean.

For a myriad of reasons, I’m going through some postpartum depression that I can’t shake, even seven months after having my little guy. There are plenty of good days but the bad ones peppered in make it hard to pull myself out of bed and into the kitchen. The sweet blue eyes of my boys, their squishy little kissy cheeks, their smiles- they are what get me through the day most days. And when I don’t feel like I can go on, waves of guilt wash over me for failing them. For not being the mom they deserve. I’m run over by a semi truck of inadequacy when I think ” I hate breastfeeding ” or “please watch something on Netflix so I can sit here for ten minutes quietly”. And at night, when sweet mini Gwinn tells me he ” wubs” me and snuggles against me on his floor before bedtime, instead of reveling in the moment, I am reminded that I am so undeserving of his love. When 2.0 lights up when I walk into a room, and then begins crying if I don’t pick him up, I feel horrible for meeting my own needs before his, even if that need is going to the bathroom. This depression is irrational, heart wrenching, and most days, unfightable.

My therapy used to be going to the gym and pushing myself until the sweat poured out and endorphins kicked in. Picking up my body weight and walking around the gym, muscling out 200 Russian basket twists, or running would remind me I have some control over my life, that I was strong and healthy and my family could rely upon me, or that when I had to wear a tank top, my arms looked more like Sarah Connor’s and less like pizza dough. But now? I’m on restricted physical activity.

I’m just sitting here, willing myself to write the next sentences. And they won’t come.

Even though I didn’t have any stitches after delivery, and I felt fine after coming home, my body hasn’t healed the way it should. I sustained a very slight prolapse, mild diastasis recti, and a lot of pelvic pain. Walking through the neighborhood now causes enough discomfort that I can’t pick up my kids without gasping for air. I’ve been going to physical therapy for it, but my doctor has told me that, until I’m done breastfeeding, I won’t return to my previous strength, ability, or endurance. And the pain will continue, although it may improve, until then.

My husband has urged me to see the bright side of things: I’m better than I was, I can walk, and I can do some limited exercises (the elliptical and rowing). I’m four pounds away from where I was when the doctor told me to gain weight to get pregnant (body composition wise, I’m probably eight pounds of fat to lose/ five pounds of muscle to gain away from my goal). And I think I could see the bright side, I really do, if I didn’t have postpartum depression. Someone looking into my life would think this depression is selfish. I agree. We have a gorgeous new house, two precious children, a wonderful marriage, CLP has a great job and I don’t have to work, and I fit into my skinny jeans. My kids are healthy. The rest of the world should be so lucky to have everything we do.

I want to know why these things happened physically. Not “why me” in an existential, “I have cancer” kind of way. I want to know the science behind why some athletes rebound from pregnancy and can run a marathon three months after delivering twins, and why I can’t walk around our neighborhood when I was in such great shape before. I emerged from delivery seemingly unscathed, but now? I can’t even do a pull up without pain.

Why do I have postpartum depression when almost everything in my life is going the “right” way? Why can’t I shake this cloud?

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Bittersweet Perspective

It’s been a heckuva week, interwebs. After the loveliness and traveling for the baby shower, I felt like I needed a vaycay to sleep for 26 hours straight. I don’t have that luxury, due to mini Gwinn (and I don’t really want to miss anything he does), and since Captain Laser Pants was kind enough to watch our little duderino so I could party it up in peace, I needed to be present to take care of our baby, because, frankly, husband needed a vaycay after manning the baby for a whole weekend solo.

While I was away, I felt twinges of envy at my dear girlfriend’s success in her home. Her house is beautiful, with amazing decoration (she could be an interior designer), she has flowers all over the outside of her home, and she has matching china. Gratefully, we were too busy over the weekend for me to take much notice of my feelings. But once I was in the comfort of my own crowded bed (three dogs + two adults = bedtime chaos), the envious side of me started whispering in my head. Truly, I am 90% happy for all that she has in her life, but that tiny portion of me wants the same things.

Two weeks ago some trees decided to commit suicide in our backyard during a barrage of heavy storms and a tornado. They’re hanging perilously close to our roof, but our landlord has yet to send anyone out for a tree removal. I’ve been fervently praying for calm weather until they’re removed. Thank God the biggest tree wouldn’t kill us (it’s not that heavy), but it would put a hole in the roof for sure. We would like to move, but we don’t know where work will take CLP in the next few years, so buying a home seems even further out than we originally thought.

This week we received news that my beloved Jeep (yes, the car whose engine my husband replaced) needed a new transmission, which would put us out just under $2k. Around us people were having babies, getting promotions, buying new homes, eating off beautiful china, and we were living under a dead tree and I can’t leave the house. While others around us seemed like they were having success after success, we were faced with uncertainty. Monday night I cried until my eyes were nearly swollen shut. The burden of so much going wrong around us broke my spirit. I prayed, asked why those who were so much more shallow/ cruel/ undeserving around us were given so much, and we were working to make the right decisions and life was crumbling. I didn’t get an answer that night. I cried until CLP came to bed, and he wrapped around me as I blubbered. He paraphrased Frederick Douglass, “Every man does not deserve all he has, but he must certainly work for what he has” (the actual quote: People might not work for all they get in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get.”). He then reminded me of our strong marriage, our beautiful baby, and the strength of character we’re building together as we suffer through our current problems. I fell asleep against his strong arms and muscled through Tuesday morning with a smile, even though my eyes were still good and swollen from the previous night.

Tuesday afternoon I saw a series of amazing quotes from Louis CK (mom, don’t look him up. You’ll be disappointed and offended, most certainly). To give you context, he is talking to his daughter about “fairness” in a sitcom. His younger daughter asks why her sister gets something and she doesn’t, then proclaims it to be unfair. His response, “Listen, the only time you should look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have […] as much as them.”

I was humbled by this quote. It’s not my place to decide whose karma is better or worse than mine, who deserves what, or to even give a crap about what someone else has.  Instead of feeling bitter because someone wasn’t building us a mansion on the side of a mountain, I should feel grateful that our roof doesn’t have a hole in it, our son is healthy, our marriage is healthy, and our car will be fixed. Would everyday dinnerware and a dining room table be nice? Yeah. But that’s not really in the cards for us right now. And when it is, I know we’ll appreciate what we have so much more because we had time without matching dishes or nice clothes. I say that facetiously, mostly, because even now I’m reminded that the kind of stuff we have doesn’t matter to the people that do, and the people that do care about what kind of stuff we have don’t matter to me.

The point I’m trying to haphazardly make is that I had a change of heart this week. A year ago I saw something that said (paraphrased) : What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you gave thanks [to God] for today? I needed that refresher this week. And I’m thanking God for the hot, humid, but not stormy weather we’re having today, among many other people and things in my life.

Hop you all have an awesome 4th of July!


The Problem with Elitism

“The master demon Screwtape identifies elitist humanity’s tendency toward “an ingrained habit of belittling anything that concerns the great mass of their fellow men.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters: Also Includes “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”

A few weeks ago we were dished out a little dose of elitism that came into conversation because Captain Laser Pants and I don’t have a “proper” dining room table. The height of the mockery (in public, mind you) was something to the effect of, “Dear GOD! You eat meals on a FOLDING TABLE?!” And my husband, being the pillar of reasoning and humility that he is, just smiled and said, “Yeah.” He could have said, “Dear GOD! You care about mocking people?!” or “You don’t have a college degree?!” or something equally rude and humiliating, but he didn’t. My husband isn’t in the business of making people feel badly about themselves or mocking them. In fact, he has an incredible gift (that I strongly believe is from God, because this is supernatural) that allows him to LISTEN to people during a debate or simple conversation.

Simply put, my husband isn’t an elitist.

If I had been with him, I would have held my tongue, all the while hurling cutting insults in my mind. As the years go on and we’re together, he has made me mature in this way substantially. While it’s temporarily fun to have the last word (especially if it’s several syllables long and deeply witty), it’s humane to be kind, let others have the last say.

You know what? We eat some meals on a folding table. We eat most meals in a hurry or on the couch. But the worth of our lives together is not made up of the contents of our rental home. The quality of our persons is not compiled of the designer labels we don’t wear or the way we could cleverly cut a person in public (but don’t).

The problem with elitism? The idea of degrading someone because he holds a different standard/ different way of life/ less knowledge/ more knowledge than the elitist is childish, petty, and comes off as insecure. The insecurity stems from the fact that most people aren’t qualified to be elitists in the first place. The problem with elitism is that no one is perfect. And if I scratch the surface of the elitist facade just a bit, I’m going to find something public- mocking- worthy.

But I won’t.

I wouldn’t want to disappoint my husband.


Never Again

Last night, in the middle of our bed time ritual, mini Gwinn’s face nuzzled against my neck just seconds before I put him in his crib for the night. The monumental realization hit me: he will never be this small again (not that 27 lbs. is small for a 14 month old). We will never have this night again.

I think all parents, particularly moms, have this epiphany at some point. It may spur the “let’s try for 2.0!” thought in some, maybe bittersweet thankfulness for going through the last round in others.

This past Sunday I shattered my phone (so for those that haven’t gotten text message responses or called with no answer, you now know why), and without the assistance of Facebook, have almost effectively been cut off from society completely. This has given me even more opportunity to immerse myself in the every moment of my little Fox. If anything, from last night’s realization, I took away the message to invest in his moments. The big stuff, like walking on his own, is obviously grabbing my attention. But his precious peals of laughter? The crazy phrases he says when I’m only half- listening (two days ago he said, “Ok guys!” what the heck, kid?!)? I don’t want to miss any of him. This is the last day he will be this age, this small, and at this point of development. And, I have to tell you, interwebs, he is such a cool toddler. He wears his sunglasses, willingly, at the park. He says funny things, like, “Ta da!”. And while I realize that I can’t eagerly await his every movement or sound, I can be present for him, no phone in hand, no TV in the background, more often.

That’s a concept I’m taking into my marriage, too. Captain Laser Pants is a rare man (for more reasons than his imbibing of orange soda and bizarre dance moves) in that he talks to me, like REALLY talks to me. There are times, for instance, when he is fresh from the gym after work (somewhere between 8-9 PM), and I am exhausted, but he wants to tell me about something he heard on the radio, or something from his work day, and I struggle to listen to him. Again, not that I can be 100% absorbed in my husband every second of the day, but when he wants to talk, I want to be present for him. He’s amazing and deserving, even if he is monumentally forgetful, and he is mine. My boys deserve the best of me, even when I’m tired or distracted, because never again will we be at this point in our lives as a family.


People I Love: Part Two – Mom Friends

It is possible that CLP and I created a monster.

Since birth, mini Gwinn has slept with a beautiful, hand knit blanket that was a gift from my sister’s mother in law. Literally, every night, he has been wrapped up in it and snuggled into the soft yarn of the blanket. He loves it. For fourteen months it served him dutifully, taking beatings in its constant trips across the floor as he crawled with it, traveling to Minnesota and Tennessee and home again, the many washes (on gentle cycle) from the spilled milk or the middle of the night accidents, and many other tortures such a delicate blanket should never endure. Now that he is a destructive toddler, mini Gwinn felt it necessary to deconstruct his blanket, string by string. It now has a gaping hole, smack in the middle of the blanket. Captain Laser Pants and I have had many worried nights that he may find himself stuck in the blanket, twined in the yarn, an obvious death trap waiting to happen. We decided, a mere two hours before bed time, to search frantically for a similar knit blanket at Target. Of course, being my child, mini Gwinn had no interest in the baby themed fleece blankets on clearance, nor did he feel particularly drawn to any knit blanket under $50. Finally, after racing through the domestics aisles like I’m on Super Market Sweep, I found a dark brown, cable sweater knit blanket, similar to his basket weave blanket (more in feel than style, obviously), on clearance for $19. He gave it a good squeeze with his chubby hands, and I rushed to the check out to make it home in time for bath time.

We settled in after his bath, snuggled in the new blanket (yes, I’m a bad mom, I didn’t wash it first, but I didn’t have time to, and couldn’t wrap my child in the blanket of potential death), and had his night time bottle (only one of the day, I promise). As soon as I put him in his crib, he EXPLODED in tears. Like, fits of howling screams and shakes accompanied by a river of heart breaking tears. I let it go on for ten or so minutes, mainly because he NEVER cries anymore, and I couldn’t handle it. We went downstairs and listened to his cello song (Bach’s prelude from Suite 1 for Unaccompanied Cello) three times. He so sweetly laid his head on my chest and his little hands on my arm and sank comfortably against me. When it was time to put him back in his crib, though, the same horrifying “DON’T LEAVE ME IN HERE, DEVIL WOMAN!” screams started again. I waited for fifteen or twenty minutes more and then couldn’t take it. I made him another small bottle and went into his room. With mommy magic I pseudo- stitched up the gaping hole with excess yarn, and as soon as I picked him up with the blanket against him, he cooed in delight. He polished off the four ounce condolence bottle and fell asleep immediately.

CLP was shocked that he had developed an attachment to the blanket. Given that I had my own blanket and passy (pacifier) til I was five, it didn’t come as a shock to me that he would have grown attached to his own, but still.  I wasn’t expecting this kind of reaction.Thoughts?

Anyway! Onto the second post about people in my life that rock my socks: my mom friends.

E-Wizzle: With your little guy the same age as mini Gwinn, and with having met you when they were both still lying on their backs due to immobility, I feel like we’ve been walking the same lines for a couple years now. You amaze me! I don’t know how you work full time, rock at being a mom full time, and seem so serene always. When I felt most lonely, you walked into that library meeting room with your little guy and -bam!- friendship. You are so graceful and kind, and you do this craziness called motherhood with poise. Thank you for being such a fabulous, wonderful friend.

Lu Lu: If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were my sister from another mister. Your dry, sarcastic humor pairs beautifully with your parenting style, and little Pippi is all the cooler for it. She is going to grow up to be one rad chick thanks to all your awesomeness and sacrifice you’ve made for her. Thank you for being such a fast, trustworthy friend. I love that I can confide in you on my bad days, laugh with you on the good days, and play video games with you once the sun (and son) goes down. You are such a seriously cool woman and I am so happy we are in one another’s lives for this wild season of life.

Tay C: You are so brave. And strong. And beautiful, and funny, and such a wonderful mom to Cball. That first step into friendship, remember the diner? That was awesome. I felt like we both needed someone to reflect back to ourselves: I can do this. You are fearless in your approach to new things and people, infinitely creative, and your mothering instincts are enviable. Your encouragement, your perspective and your friendship are huge blessings in my life. Even if you and I hadn’t been surprised with our little bundles of boys, you and I would have crossed paths and been friends, I just know it. Thank you for your friendship and the love you’ve brought into our lives.

I love you three ladies! You are encouragement on the hard days and light on the best of days. Thank you for your friendship, I am honored!


People I Love: Part One

Today was a pretty awesome day. My dermatologist told me I’d only have to take Amnesteem for another month (we originally thought it would be 10-12 months, instead it’s just 7! YAY!), AND mini Gwinn said “hewwo” while he waved to his accordion. Yes, my kid has an accordion. He’s that cool.

So, anyway, as promised, I’m starting a series on amazing people I love/ am so grateful to have in my life. This serves a few purposes, one being that it is a way to display kindness. There isn’t enough of it in the world.

Let’s begin!

Dear Bresus,

As far as friendships that I never saw coming, I am a major fan of ours. I must admit, when I first met you, I was wary, given that you were friends with what’s her name from CLP’s long long ago. But now? I am beyond grateful that you are in our lives. Time and time again you have gone above and beyond and have been an outstanding friend to one crazy mama. You are generous, funny, and smart. I envy you, sometimes (successful career, living the urban life dream), but it quickly fades into pride for you in all you have accomplished. One of my favorite things about you is this dichotomous representation in your personality of a tough lady with a major nurturing side. Everyone that truly knows you is happy to have you in their corners, and I am happy to say that I fall in line with them. Your cooking skills? Rad. You and the Viking? Super cool. Your ability to be funny, loving, accepting, clever and giving? Priceless.  I dubbed you “hot pants” a while ago, but “Bresus” is much more suited to who you are- you have saved our family from crises enough times that you officially deserve a cape. By the way, I’ve forgotten to tell you, but mini Gwinn LOVES his Holy Grail rabbit. Like thinks it’s the bee’s knees. Plus, who is so cool as to give Monty Python gifts for Easter? HELLO, BRESUS.

Thank you for being such a wonderful friend.

Love Always and Big,

Warren G


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The Changes Held Within a Year

It’s been a year and a week since mini Gwinn 100% changed my life. That may sound dramatic to those without children (not to exclude you, but it is just really hard to fathom until it happens to you), but to the others in the parenthood ranks, you get it. The day you meet your little biscuit face to face is the day your perspective on everything changes.

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Sitting in the hospital bed together

When I was playing landlord to this little guy, I imagined what his personality was like. He kicked when I laughed, squirmed and wiggled nonstop when I laid down, and kicked Captain Laser Pants in the face when he laid his cheek on my belly. Back then I thought, “Wow, he’s an angry little sucker, just like his mama!” but now I know how wrong I was. He is the happiest baby I’ve ever met. The slightest tickle or funny face results in an eruption of delicious, angelic laughter. He never stops moving; he is infinitely curious about his surroundings and the faces he sees. Months after he was born, CLP told me a fear he had while I was baking mini Gwinn. He had read studies that proved the mental and emotional state of a mother while pregnant affected the baby’s physical and emotional health. He was concerned that our little bear would be somehow “off” because of my horrible mental state. Miraculously, he’s an incredible child, well adjusted, secure, and very, very funny. He has off days, just like all of us, but I feel so, so blessed to be raising such a precious little man.

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Blue eyes, big hair and opinions! Oh my.

This time last year we were struggling in every sense of the word. The exhaustion of taking care of a newborn (for those with family near you, you are so lucky!), the realization of the financial strain of going from two salaries to one, and reconciling the major changes my body had undergone (and would continue to undergo over the next nine months) made life, erm, difficult. The parents that have been kind enough to be honest with me confided that the first three months were just about surviving, and they couldn’t have been more correct. Captain Laser Pants was finishing the hardest semester of his college career (Calculus 2 and Physics, yuck), working long hours and coming home to a madhouse, with his wife as the chief lunatic. I was investing the stress and anxiety I had into running. Mini Gwinn liked being outside, even then, and I (shockingly) felt good enough to start a four mile run four weeks after I delivered our baby boy.

It’s intense for me to look back on those hard days. The emotion is still fresh, the memories aren’t rose colored. The nurses in the hospital told me I would forget how hard the pregnancy and the first few months would be, and with an easy delivery, I’d want more children, and soon. I laugh, even now, at the thought. Perhaps with “eager moms” (those that planned pregnancy, those that enjoyed pregnancy, those that have a normal body image, etc) the idea of having more children is a positive one. For me, the idea of stretching out over a 36+ week course, feeling gross and grossly sick for the majority of the pregnancy, and the immensely strenuous first three months just doesn’t seem worth it.

Team Gwinn, Christmas 2011. Yowsers.

Team Gwinn, Christmas 2011. Yowsers.

The wild part in all of this? Despite my strong feelings of not wanting more children, I have had several pregnancy dreams (not pleasant ones, but still)  in the past month or so. It could be that many ladies I know are currently pregnant, or just that dumb biological clock ticking, but my subconscious mind is blowing my conscious mind. How a year has changed us. No more double chins, for one thing. But CLP and I seem so much stronger. I know that I am for sure, and not just emotionally. I feel more stable and more unstable all at once. I am strong for my son, and weakened by him. Rather, I am more vulnerable because of him. Give- a- thons for orphaned children make me cry. Scenes in Walking Dead make me cry. Once upon a time, I’d be critiquing the choices of the zombie apocalypse survivors, taking notes on survival tips. Now? I am emotionally involved, I’m putting CLP and I in the place of the main characters and fearing for our son if we had to live in a survival- type scenario.

Everything has changed.

At a wedding, November 2012. Yay for change!

At a wedding, November 2012. Yay for change!

This morning, while shopping with CLP and mini Gwinn, I jokingly asked my husband when I had gotten soft. We both laughed and he commented on the way parenthood has changed us both. I truly don’t mind 99% of the changes (belly skin pleats? I totally mind that). Being a mother has given me an entirely new strength in my life. While every woman has a different path in pregnancy, labor and raising her children, I will say that every good mother (not you, crack addicted mom. You should be shot in the face.) grows as a person in tremendous ways. The change you will experience over the first year will astound you. It certainly amazed me.


Mini Gwinn Turns One!

So, yes, as of late, I’ve been missing in action. Well, mostly just “missing,” not much “action” lately. Some of my absence is to blame on planning a majorly huge first birthday party for mini Gwinn. It has occurred to me that many parents disapprove of throwing a big “first birthday” for the dumb reason of “the birthday baby doesn’t know what is going on”. It is to those people I would like to send a flock of pigeons to poop on their mini-vans. The first birthday party, as all good parents know, is largely a celebration for the new parents’ “survival of the first year”. We, as dutiful parents, make it a child- friendly party, give it an appropriate theme, graciously accept gifts for the birthday child, but everyone there knows it is just as much of a milestone for the baby as it is the parents.

In the spirit of selfishly planning this party, I picked out a theme like six months ago. My favorite very little person book is “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. I loved it when I was little, and thanks to Pinterest, I found excellent ideas on ways to make this party kick as-… butt. The good news is that mini Gwinn actually loves this book, so it didn’t seem hugely self centered to make this his party’s theme.

So when I say I started planning months ago, I’m absolutely serious. I picked the theme in March, found the ideas for invitations in July, made the invitations in August, delivered them in September… you get the idea. But, good readers, by spreading the work over months instead of days, the party itself came together (mostly) seamlessly. Rather than desperately grocery shopping for food the day before, almost everything was already finished. I’m going to share with you my super- genius party planning. Prepare to be O-MAZED.

Firstly, let me clarify. I actually came up with next to none of the ideas for mini Gwinn’s party. Secondly, it was completely serendipitous that Target’s dollar section had Hungry Caterpillar items the week I went shopping for goodie bags and accessories for the party. Lastly, if anyone copies anything from my party, I would be honored.

Pottery Barn Kids Invitations – I changed mine slightly, which are mostly visible in my own pictures. Word to the wise: Michael’s craft store sells green pom pom rope! That saved me a lot of time gluing individual pom poms together to make caterpillars. Instead of hand cutting each eye and mouth, I used a hole punch. The hole punch saw a lot of action during the making of the invitations. I went to Michael’s and bought a ream of multi- colored cardstock, used eight or nine colors for confetti dots, four basic colors for the invitation lids, and green for the leaves in the invitation jar. The mason jars were on clearance at Target, so of course I scooped them up. I used the leftover invitations to decorate the tables.

Fun Cheap or Free Party Planning – I used this website as a base for how to plan the party menu. She has a million great ideas. I bought my plates and cups at Costco, napkins at Ikea, utensils and tablecloths at the dollar store, serving trays at the dollar store and clearance from Target, and followed most of this lady’s advice. She even has a table for the type/ amount of food to serve based upon the time of day of your party. Now that I know where to buy party supplies, I will never, ever buy expensive supplies ever again. The amount of money we saved on decorations and serving was redonk.

THE MENU

Planning the menu was a lot of fun. We had 44 adults and 6 kids RSVP for the party, some with dietary restrictions, some with bottomless appetites, and some with discerning palettes (ahem, Luke). The party started at 2, and although that’s the more common lunch time for weekend days, I felt like it was safe to not provide a full meal. With that in mind, I grew up with a mother who cooked for an army of 100 every Sunday lunch, and as a good Southern woman with a Midwestern practicality, I know you can never run out of food at a party, lest you risk public humiliation.

I feel like the crowd you are feeding dictates what you serve. If we had more children at the party, more “kid- friendly” foods would have filled up the spread. Since we had so many adults, I served food according to our guest list.

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Ham & Swiss Sandwiches – I doubled the recipe. How did I keep them warm, you may ask? Redneck heater: giant foil turkey pan from the dollar store, large heating pad on “high” underneath. These sandwiches were a big hit, and trust me, you’ll love them, unless of course you hate food and yourself.

Costco Pinwheel Sandwiches – the tray serves ~30. They are sold at such a reasonable price, and they’re filling, so they’re hard to beat at a party. Kids can handle them, adults like them, and they’re pretty much wonderful.

Mac & Cheese Cups – my own pseudo creation. Velveeta (or Market Pantry) shells and cheese, bacon bits, two or three globs of sour cream, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, lots of shredded cheese. Mix it all in a big pot, then drop two spoonfuls into foil cupcake liners. These can be made the day before the party, shoved in the fridge, and reheated the day of the event. I’m enjoying a re-reheated cup right now. Again, another kid and adult friendly food. Super tasty, and very easy to handle.

Sensible Portions Veggie Straws – these are the baked equivalent of French fries. I filled up a green planter I bought from Target ( 84 cents!), dropped a cup in, and had out paper bags to fill with the straws.

Vegetable Tray with Spinach & Artichoke Dip – self explanatory.

Strawberry and Green Grape Caterpillar Kabobs – I originally had a grandiose idea to stick these in a styrofoam block, add some chocolate covered marshmallows, and make it look like a cute edible arrangement. When that failed, I just laid them on a crystal- esque tray from the dollar store. Pretty simple. Bamboo skewers from Publix, cut off the sharp edges, three or four green grapes and then a big strawberry at the end. They look reminiscent of the main (well, only) character of the book on which the party was based.

Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice – Crazy easy recipe. I sliced apples and froze them in a little bit of lemon water to keep them from browning. The drink dispenser looked quite pretty!

Cucumber Water – Plain old water with frozen cucumber slices. Turns out like spa water. My brother said it was too fancy.

Skinny Girl Funfetti Cupcakes – These were gone in MINUTES, people. MINUTES. I don’t know how they tasted, but I heard good things. I did a rough frosting (from the recipe on the website), then dunked the entire head of the cupcake in large nonpareil sprinkles. Very cute look. The cupcake liners were cute dots from Wilton which appropriately matched the large “1” candle.

Most importantly, THE CAKE – my mom made a GORGEOUS birthday cake for mini Gwinn. She has a groovy printer that prints sugar paper, so I asked for this pattern on a white, three layer, 10 inch cake with this filling. This cake was the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. She made cute fondant letters spelling the kiddo’s name, and it turned out to be a beautiful, clean looking cake. Amazingly, this cake actually served everyone at the party. I wanted the cake to resemble the inside cover of the book, which seemed a lot less busy than the rest of the cakes I’ve seen. This was by far my favorite Hungry Caterpillar cake. Thank you, mom!! I think I was her toughest customer yet, because I swear by homemade cake. After her hard work, we all agreed- homemade cakes taste the best, especially when made by mom!

The Smash Cake – I used a little bitty pan and this recipe to make mini Gwinn’s smash cake. No frosting, and he still went at it!

THE PARTY

I ordered balloons from Publix (tip- tell them you don’t want high float. It adds to the cost and the balloons last ~12 hours without them) and strategically placed them in focal points of the main room, specifically, on the back of mini- Gwinn’s high chair, behind the main table, and in our fire pit/ present pit. Between the balloons, the table covers, the food and the kiddos, there was enough color that major decorations weren’t needed.

The Goodie Bag Contents:

For Kiddos Under 2: 1 pair of Hungry Caterpillar socks, one Hungry Caterpillar paper bucket, 4 Hungry Caterpillar crayons, one spiral top, one kazoo or one set of castanets.
For Boys Between 2-4: The above, but instead of kazoo/ castanets, one wooden train whistle
For “Big Kids” Between 4-11: One Hungry Caterpillar reusable bag (dark green, light green or yellow), and age appropriate awesomeness from the dollar bin, like hair ties, army men, stick on mustaches, sunglasses, slinkys and crayons

We also had a “predictions and wisdom” box for guests to fill out predictions for the kiddo’s future, words of wisdom, etc. He’ll get to read them when he turns 18, but Captain Laser Pants and I got a great laugh reading them last night. I put together a small box for the bigger kids with cloud dough, bubbles and coloring pages with crayons outside, just in case it was too crowded in the house (this was used!). My mom made a cute sign that said “come on in!” so people weren’t ringing the doorbell every minute. These were all last minute additions to the party that definitely made a difference.

Needless to say, the party was incredible. THANK YOU to all who were present, all who were there in spirit, for the incredible generosity, the love, support, laughter and friendship. We are beyond blessed, mini Gwinn had an outstanding first birthday party, and we are honored to have shared our son’s first year with all of you.

If you have ideas, thoughts, questions, etc- send them on down the line in the comments!


Why I ABHOR, LOATHE and DESPISE the TSA

Sorry, mom. There’s some colorful language in this one.

Originally I wanted to call this post “The TSA Raped Me,” but I didn’t want to lessen the emotional and physiological effects of actual rape. But I certainly feel like the TSA violated us in a MAJOR way.

Last week Team Gwinn took our mecca to Minnesota. Well, for me it’s a mecca. Captain Laser Pants is from Texas, so it was more of a death- defying journey for him (also, he went up for work). For myself, it was a returning to my heritage (think Vikings and the Swiss, not hot dishes and ludefisk) and visiting my family and friends. Mini- Gwinn went with us, of course, and our three dogs were in the incredibly caring hands of the best dog sitter on the planet. Seriously, this woman is amazing. She sent text messages with pictures every day and even vacuumed our house because of the dirt the dogs tracked in. If we ever travel again (which, at least by flight is highly unlikely due to this experience), she will be our go- to dog lover. I digress. So, like all good type A mothers, I started packing a month ago. I froze enough homemade baby food to last a little over a week. I watched the weather for several weeks to plan mini- Gwinn’s outfits and my own accordingly. When I was single, I could pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries in a carry on bag. This trip was much trickier. Packing a full size checked bag, a diaper bag, a carry on bag for mini- Gwinn took skill and consideration. I’m like a packing Tetris goddess now. Of course, CLP packed his one carry on and he was done. The Monday before our flight I called our hotel to verify our reservation. There were issues with the room we had booked, so we cancelled our reservation through Priceline, re-booked through the hotel, reserved a pack and play for the baby, and I had peace of mind for our room for the week. The Wednesday before our flight I verified with Delta that we were allowed to bring on liquids for our baby, check our stroller and car seat for free, and that there were special accommodations for families with babies. I talked to my sister, mother of four young boys, who had just flown recently with her family. She gave me peace of mind. I felt good about our trip and was excited to see my family.

So the morning of our flight, which was around 9:30 AM, we packed up our car, made sure the house was clean, did a load of dishes, took extra coffee with us, and headed to the airport. While we were assembling everything to carry from the daily parking area to the check in (which was: two carry on suitcases, one full size suitcase, one jogging stroller, one diaper bag, one baby, two adults), we forgot our car seat, which we had to turn around to retrieve. Are you keeping count of all that CLP and myself were carrying through the airport? Good. After going to the full service curbside check in, we were free of our full size checked bag and our car seat. We stood in line to get molested by the TSA. Now, for all you fliers who are only responsible for yourselves, admit it. Security is a hassle. You have to remove your shoes (if you’re wearing sandals, gals, you get to be barefoot in an airport. EWWWW.), your belt, take your laptop out of your carry on, remove the convenient quart- sized bag full of your tiny bottles of toiletries, and stand in line to have a naked body scan of yourself, get a detection wand waved over your body or an invasive pat down from a TSA employee, or some combination of all of the above. For the record, to be eligible for employment as a TSA “officer” (they are in no way officers- mall cops have more authority and importance), one must:
-be a US citizen
-have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
-pass a background check
-speak English
This is good news! In case you currently work at TACO BELL and want to be a TSA “officer”, you already have the requirements. You can just transfer on over!

I digress. Let’s continue with my experience.

So we are holding our tired baby, two carry on suitcases (because it’s $25 for the first bag and $60 if you check two), a diaper bag, and a stroller. They have a special line for families with strollers, which was significantly shorter, so yay? for that. We had to break down the stroller while holding our baby, remove our shoes, belts, get everything on the table, and stand in line. Once they realize our stroller won’t fit through their security belt screener, we had to reassemble the stroller, push it through the x-ray security scanner, and have someone “hand test” it for ballistics. Or whatever they look for. So, while we’re standing they’re like cattle in the slaughterhouse, they tell me they have to do a hand search of my diaper bag, which is craftily packed to actually hold everything. We oblige, because if we don’t, we get arrested and thrown into Azkaban or whatever prison houses beautiful, all American families who pack water for their baby. The good news in all of this is that the TSA “officers” in Hartsfield- Jackson are quite polite. I had a new bottle of hand sanitizer that had to be confiscated, but he was nice about it. All in all, even though it was a monumental pain in the ass, we made it through mostly unscathed. We barely made it to our flight for pre-boarding, in which the Delta staff assisted greatly.  Mini- Gwinn was wiggly on the plane, but he never sits still, so this was mostly expected. The flight was otherwise great- I really like flying Delta.

In case we weren’t screened enough by the initial TSA screening, my checked bag was also searched. I felt so safe knowing they literally had their paws on everything of mine to make sure I’m not a terrorist (I wish there was a font for sarcasm). What terrorist packs her and her baby’s belongings in a navy blue and white houndstooth Liz Claiborne matching suitcase set? It has hot pink lining, for crying out loud. As an aside, did you know that those awful blue gloves they wear (two by two, hands of blue) are for their protection? Those gloves are filthy. And they had those filthy gloves ALL OVER my baby’s belongings, including his bottles. Just to give you germaphobes a shiver of disgust.

The visit itself was tiring but wonderful. After the first night adjustments of sleeping in a new place, mini- Gwinn did wonderfully well. My grandparents are absolute saints- I adore them- and they loved my little man. I got to see one of my very best friends a few times, feel the glorious weather, see the beautiful Fall foliage, and took my husband to the Mall of America (say it aloud in an announcer voice, it’s fun). Advice for traveling with a baby: if staying in a hotel, always always get a suite so there are two separate rooms. Bring your own sheets for the baby and whatever other comforts s/he needs for sleep. Call ahead. Expect to get raped by the TSA if you’re flying.

We arrived an hour and a half before our flight at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International airport. Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the world, so they say. I am inclined to believe it- it is always crowded. By comparison, the Minneapolis airport is a ghost town. We thought ninety minutes would be plenty. When we asked a TSA agent for guidance on a line to go through with our stroller, they told us there wasn’t one (our stroller wouldn’t fit through the lines they had sectioned off). So we found the line ourselves, which was blocked off only for airport employees assisting families (thanks for nothing, in that case), and walked through. The TSA agent to whom CLP had spoken literally ninety seconds before about an assistance line acted as if we were brand new faces and waved us through.

This, good readers, is where the real fun begins. By “real fun” I mean ludicrous, proverbial rape.

We pulled mini- Gwinn out of the stroller, left it standing upright because it wouldn’t fit on the belt scanner, removed our shoes, belts, bags, and placed all of it on the belt scanner (all while holding a 25 lb. baby!!). Immediately, the TSA officer asked us to break down the stroller. CLP and I both explained that it was too big to fit through the scanner. The TSA agent pointed to some screws on the base where the wheels are held and told us that “most strollers can come apart here”. I told him, “No, ours was shipped that way. It does not break apart.” Asshat. As if I don’t know the fine, inner workings of my own stroller. ALSO, we already have our hands full. It gets better! Then he tells me I have to remove all liquid and food contents, including diaper creams, applesauce packs, bottles, from my diaper bag. MY HANDS ARE FULL. So, I continue to hold up the line and proceed to remove every item from my diaper bag. As if by ironic courtesy, the “officer” tells me I can “keep the formula in the diaper bag”. Gee, thanks, I can put that one freaking item back in the bag I so carefully packed. It gets even better! CLP and mini- Gwinn go through the x- ray machine together, his ticket and ID are checked, etc. Then they tell me they have to test the contents of the diaper bag. They “hand tested” the stroller and left it to the side, not even telling us (who were very busy with a baby and all of our personal belongings strewn out for God and everyone to see) it was ready to be retrieved. Then one of the “officers” gets out a test kit and tells my husband to open the baby’s bottles so he can test them. He told me this later- if I had seen this, I would have stabbed a ho. My husband told the TSA agent, “Those are for the baby to drink.” Thank God a TSA “officer” who had worked there a week or two longer stepped in and told the moron- agent that the bottles were protected under some rule in their retard- handbook and didn’t have to be tested. He put his gross, blue- gloved grubby hands on my child’s distilled water, boiled- to- kill- the- germs bottle. Then he told me (I had reassembled my outfit at this point) to open the diaper cream for testing. I laughed at him and said, “It’s A&D diaper cream.” Then he tested it and told me, that yes, in fact, it is JUST A&D diaper cream. Look, moron, my hands are already full of taking care of a baby and all the freaking stuff I have to bring along with us for him. I don’t have time to shove microscopic bombs into his diaper cream. Also, that diaper cream goes on his sweet baby butt cheeks. I’m not putting bombs on the butt I worked off my own butt for to make and raise for the past 20 months. Sarcasm font for this paragraph would be great. I just know that now I’m going to get pulled for a rape security screening at the airport the next time we fly. Joke’s on you, TSA, I don’t think I’m going to fly again until you’re dissolved. Want some irony? They FORGOT TO CHECK my ID AND my ticket. HAR HAR.

After the reassembling of our clothes, bags and baby, we made it to our gate with about two and a half minutes before pre-boarding took place. Captain Laser Pants and I were shaking with anger. Literally, absolutely shaking. Fuming. I’m sure there were airport security cameras trained on us the entire walk to our gate. I was ready to get in a fight. I even took off my sweater to show off my biceps, just in case someone wanted to get in my way and I could confront them by She- Hulking out.

When we got home, we were too exhausted to open my checked bag. I waited until this morning. Good news- they searched my bag on the return flight too. Not only was Captain Laser Pants’s $1100 work laptop stashed in there, but they opened both bags of liquids I had in my suitcase and opened the lotion I had locked closed. The lotion (and my toothpaste) were all over my clothes and gorgeous riding boots. If I hadn’t been such a good mom and packed two mattress protectors and two sets of sheets for mini- Gwinn, and if I hadn’t had the forethought to wrap my husband’s laptop in these things, his laptop would have been ruined.

Am I crazy political ranter? Am I a supercharged anti-TSA, angry hater? Yep. More importantly, I care about personal rights. Not just my own, but everyone’s. I want my readers to know that there have been TSA “officers” charged with theft of many travelers’ high dollar items, including iPads, laptops, cell phones, money, and more. Ironically, I saw a major news report on a national news station while in Minnesota about it. Here’s an article covering this as well. If you’re of the belief that, for the safety of all, some must be singled out, you may also be in support of random sobriety tests on the road, which would also include the requirement by law for everyone to have a breathalyzer in their  vehicles, as well as a requirement that before you reach any city or county road, you must pass a sobriety test. Whether or not you drink, you would be subjected to this law, because like flying, we all share the road and are at the mercy of other drivers. What’s good for all must be good for one, right? Wrong.

Our forefathers put our constitution and our laws into place NOT for protecting its’ citizens, but for protecting its’ citizens’ rights. Look it up, folks. Your government is not in place to take care of you, it’s in place to ensure that we have equal rights. The way the TSA treats us is  downright shameful. We are all assumed to be guilty of crimes we aren’t committing, and even when proven innocent, we are still subject to the molestation of “security” in the name of safety.

I abhor, loathe and despise the TSA for the way my family and I were treated. We are great parents who take excellent care of our child, not criminals who pack ballistics into our diaper bag.

Screw you, TSA.