Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 143) Micro-TransCations!

There’s something sneaky being built into many iPhone and iPad apps. It’s called “micro-transactions”. Some parents have discovered micro-transactions the hard way. Their child was playing with a free app and suddenly they’re charged $60 dollars for a bucket of “Smurfberries”. Yeah, not cool.

There’s a game Em likes to play featuring a talking cat named Tom who repeats everything Em says. He doesn’t play it all that often because it’s annoying as hell for mom and dad, but when he does, we have to keep a very watchful eye on him due to those pesky micro-transactions.

Now, before all you kidless, fur-parents get all high and mighty, micro-transactions are being built into games made for cats, too.

Exhibit A:

I know, right? Murray almost done broke the bank!

Beware, fur-parents and human-parents alike! Those sneaky iPad/iPhone developers are out to get us!

“Pay to Opt-Out” Advertising

I hate the circus. I will not be taking my kid(s) to a circus. I reckon this will warrant an eye roll from some. I’m OK with that. That’s how much I hate the circus.

There are few things I am passionate about. There are even fewer things I have deemed off limits when it comes to how I raise my son. My kid is allowed to watch TV. He is allowed to play with iPads, iPhones, and computers. He’s allowed to play games. He eats candy, drinks cocoa and consumes dessert every day. He’s allowed to stay up late and sleep in his clothes sometimes. I’ve taken him to Disney World. He’s even been to the Bronx Zoo.

But circuses (and Sea World!) are off limits.

I realize this might open me up to attack. Given what I’ve written above, it likely stinks of hypocrisy. But until the circus stops enslaving/abusing animals, we won’t be giving them a dime.

Today I was cleaning the apartment while Em was playing. He brought out a bunch of books and started building a “car” around himself and a stuffed bear. I asked him what he was doing and he said, “We’re going to the circus!”

I laughed and then asked, “Where did you hear about the circus?”

“On the television.”

“Which show were you watching about the circus?”

“It was a commercial, mama.”

Em doesn’t watch much live TV. We will rent family movies via our AppleTV. He watches shows on OnDemand or previously recorded TV shows. Very, very rarely do I turn on Nick Jr or PBS, but they don’t show circus advertisements. They don’t really show advertisements at all. So I wondered, again, what had he been watching that showed him a circus?

“Do you remember what TV show you were watching?” I asked him again.

“Nope.” He answered, still playing.

My guess is that it was one of the seasonal shows we had on during the holidays. We do watch soccer and football together, but they don’t usually show circus advertisements. They show fast food advertisements (almost as bad) and ads featuring chesty, hot women and beer toting idiots, but that’s a different type of circus, one he doesn’t yet care for or understand.

“Em, we won’t be going to the circus as a family. I will take you almost anywhere else you want to go, but the circus is a no-no.”

“I’m just pretending, mama.”

And then I just felt bad—too political and uppity for a 3-year-old and his active imagination. He has no desire to actually go to the circus. He was just pretending. But his mama had to get all indignant.

I felt like an ass.

Networks often refuse ads from certain companies. In 2009, NBC refused to air a Super Bowl ad created by Peta. It was deemed too sexually explicit. (Which is hilarious given what they show every other year, but that’s a post for another day.) I was annoyed with NBC’s decision to block the Peta advertisement. But as a cable consumer, I am nothing.

Peta wasn’t the only company turned away. In 2010 an ad from the gay dating Web site ManCrunch.com was rejected as well.

Talking to my son gave me a brainstorm. Since cable companies pick and choose what it is we’re shown, would you, the cable consumer, pay your cable provider a small amount each month to opt out of seeing certain advertisements from certain companies? Like, say you could tell them, “I don’t want to see anything from McDonald’s.” Behold, no more McDonald’s ads.

Now, I obviously have no idea what type of software and/or programming would go into such a thing, but the idealist in me wonders: if it were possible, would people use it?

Because I would.

And I’d start with the circus. ;]

The 3rd Trimester Rage. Soundtrack: Jazz.

About a week ago, I entered a really bad place and I haven’t been able to leave it. I hate feeling this way. The thing that sucks the most is that I’m aware of the change. I know it’s temporary, yet I can’t do anything to overcome it. This is what I imagine it feels like to have clinical depression. You’re depressed. You get it. But you just can’t snap the hell out of it no matter how hard you try or how many times you belly up and say, “Damn, dudes. I’m depressed!”

Because, damn, dudes. I’m irritable!

One might assume, that just by recognizing one has a problem, one might be freed from said problem. At the very least one might gain some insight as to how one might free oneself from one’s problem. But one can’t. And so one writes about oneself using “one”, and one grows increasingly more annoyed with oneself.

This one has no idea how to shake this ugly feeling.

I’m never comfortable. Even when I sleep my brain is tossing and turning. I have to sleep on my side (obviously), but my IT bands are acting up so I wake up with the worst leg pain and it doesn’t go away until I massage it and that hurts like hell. (For those who have ever run long distances, you are probably well aware of the IT band.)

Here’s the thing, I could deal with all the physical aches and pains if it weren’t for this new miserable mental state.

How do you overcome this grumpy feeling? I can’t even eat a bunch of junk food to drown my sorrows because of the heartburn. You know what I had for dinner last night? Pineapple. A LOT of pineapple. I didn’t get heartburn. But when I awoke at 2 AM to use the toilet (for the 3rd time) I had some of the most intense hunger I’ve ever had. But I knew eating would be a disaster, so I stared at the moon instead. (Which was admittedly awesome. I guess that’s one good thing about not being able sleep for longer than one hour at a time: I got to see the lunar eclipse every hour from beginning to end.)

Earlier today everything came to head. I was listening to Soundcheck on 93.9 and Matt Wilson’s Christmas Tree-O came on. They played a few songs live in the Soundcheck studio. Now, I am by no means a fan of jazz. Some jazz is OK, but most of it just annoys the living shit out of me. But today? This jazz? Oh my goodness, my body just filled with rage—true rage. I can’t imagine this is the reaction jazz musicians are hoping for. And I must be part of a small minority, because if everyone had the visceral feeling I had, the streets would look a lot like 28 Days Later.

If the Soundcheck studio had been nearby, I’d have hobbled my ass over there and screamed at them.

“WHERE’S THE MELODY, JAZZHOLES? YOU CALL THAT MUSIC? I CALL THAT AUDIBLE TORTURE!”

How can anyone play such nonsense and call it music? I was so annoyed. And I needed an answer. I needed to know how anyone could call that music.

How is that noise music?

And then I realized I’d taken crazy up to level 11, possibly even 12. And while I would have liked to blamed the crazy on all that jazz, I knew it wasn’t entirely jazz’s fault.

Yeah, this isn’t really about jazz, middle of the night hunger or heartburn. It’s not about eating pineapple for dinner because pineapple is a wonderful thing. This isn’t about taking note of a glorious eclipse. This is about me realizing I’m not myself at all and that I probably won’t be myself again for another 8 weeks. I have to learn how to deal with it somehow. I have to learn how to cope with me somehow.

Just, please, for the next 8 weeks don’t play any fucking jazz.

My Costanza Moment

A few months ago, I volunteered to be “Class Parent” at Em’s school. I figured, I’m not busy enough making candy, going to culinary school, and being a pregnant mother. I needed to add something to my schedule. But what?

CLASS PARENT!

So, I volunteered for the job. And for the most part things have been going just fine. (Plus, I get to pawn off my homework onto the kids and make it seem like I’m the BEST CLASS PARENT EVER! Because, what kid doesn’t like cake, cookies and croissants?)

Then the holidays rolled around, and I got the bright idea of arranging a group gift for all three of Em’s teachers. We (Toby and I) figured 20 bucks from each family meant each teacher would get 100 bucks. We thought 20 was a decent amount—not too much, not too little. I sent out an email saying, “Let’s do this! I’ll buy three cards and have an envelop waiting in Em’s cubby at school. Sign and drop off cash. Interested?”

What teacher doesn’t like cash?

The first response I received was positive. Something along the lines of: “YES!! Sounds great. That’s one less thing I have to deal with!”

Awesome.

Then the second one came in. It read: “This is very nice of you! But, listen, [insert daughter’s name] has been going to this school for 3 years, and while group gifts are nice and all, this year I’m opting out. One teacher likes my daughter’s lunchbox, so we’re going to give her that. The other teachers are getting the equivalent in cash. But thanks for the offer! We’re out.”

So yeah. The second response? Not so good.

“Is it too little?” I asked Toby. “Maybe it’s too little. Maybe I should have suggested 30? Or 50! What if they all think this is stupid?”

He told me to stop being an idiot and wait to hear from the others. He then said something like, “There’s always gonna be one person who fucks shit up.” And I calmed down a bit.

By the following day, every other family had responded and everyone thought it was a fine idea. I decided that we would cover that family’s 20 bucks. It’s worth it, after all. We love Em’s teachers.

So yesterday, I gathered everything together, got some C notes and began to finish off the card. That’s when I had a Constanza moment.

Wait! The teachers won’t necessarily know that there was one family that opted out of the group gift. They won’t know I covered her non-conforming ass. OMG, I need to let them know this!

“From everyone but So-and-So’s mom. Because So-and-So’s mom is kind of bitchy and had to go and fuck shit up.”

How’s that for holiday spirit?

WORST CLASS PARENT EVER.

Hoping For Happiness

Last night the baby currently residing inside of my torso began kicking the shit out of me. I’m not sure what gets him going, but every night at 8 PM he starts and doesn’t let up until about 11:30 PM. Em was exactly the same way, during the same time, so I’m used to it. And normally I love it. Having been through one miscarriage and then worrying everyday for months at the beginning of this pregnancy, I have grown to need those movements. It’s his way of saying, “Hey, mom! I’m still in here! I’m OK!” (Let’s hope he extends the same courtesy when he’s a texting teenager and out with his friends.)

Yeah, normally I love those movements. They are my lighthouse. They keep my eyes and mind onshore.

But last night I was beat. I’ve been working my ass off fulfilling lollipop orders. On top of the huge influx of holiday orders I’ve gotten, I’m fulfilling my biggest custom order ever. It’s for a company holiday party in Manhattan. I’m super excited about it. I think it will open up a whole new avenue for my business. But, holy balls it’s been a lot of work! I’ve been working 14-hour days.

So last night when Gangsta baby (AKA Kiki) began moving around, I just wanted stillness. My body has been aching all over. It’s worse at night and I just wanted it to feel weightless. But he kept on going.

“You gotta feel this, Toby.”

Toby put his hand on my belly and Kiki moved, kicked, poked, and high-fived us both.

“Wow.” Toby commiserated. “He’s an active one!”

“Yeah. Crazily so.” I sighed. “We’re gonna have another Emory on our hands, aren’t we?”

“Let’s hope so.” He said quietly.

If we end up with another Em, we’ll be the luckiest two parents alive. He may not sleep well. (Never has.) And he may be crazy active. But he’s smart, kind, and gracious. He’s funny. He’s sweet. He’s outgoing when he needs to be, and quiet when he doesn’t.

And, oh my! Is he ever happy. Every parent says they want a healthy child. And naturally, I agree with that statement. But happiness is definitely up there. There are few better things in life than happiness.

Toby and I talk about how we’re raising Em often. My biggest concern is finding a balance between telling him that he should and absolutely can remain happy, and letting him know that life isn’t always going to be awesome. We both feel we need to let him know that sometimes the people he shares this life with will occasionally make happiness hard to come by. That’s just the way it is out there. And I hope that no matter how much crap is thrown his way, he’ll find a way to remain happy beneath it all. Because I look around me these days, and I see a whole lot of unhappy people. And it bugs me so.

I just wish people were happier.

Last night I kind of panicked. And I’m sure this is normal. But I thought, What if our second son isn’t as happy as Em? What if our second son isn’t as kind? What if Em changes becauseof our second son?

Oh dear. What have we done?

Up until we met Em, we wanted just one kid. But he’s such a social creature. He doesn’t particularly like to be alone. He seems to need and thrive on companionship. (In this respect, he’s a great deal like me. Not so much like his father.) So, we changed our minds.

I’ve mentioned this before, that we wanted to give him someone who would be there for him no matter what happens to Toby and me. And, yes. I realize that I have no real way of knowing that this will actually happen. That’s the risk one takes when one changes the family dynamic. But I am willing to bet that with our help, we can help them forge a great relationship.

Basically, taking that chance was more important to us than not giving him one at all. It became of the utmost importance to me that he have someone other than crotchety old us.

Incidentally, this is precisely why I sunk into a deep depression whenever we were trying to have a second baby and could not. While I’m sure I would have eventually come to terms with this had it not worked out, not being able to give Em a brother or sister felt not like I was failing myself, but like I was failing Em. This might be why dealing with secondary infertility can be so utterly devastating. And while I don’t presume to know what it’s like to not be able to have one child, I do know what it feels like when one feels as though they are failing the one they do have. And it sucks, my friends. Pain and suffering is relative and the pain of facing that possibility was some of the worst I’ve ever experienced.

Those suffering from secondary infertility don’t often feel comfortable talking about it because there are others without any children. But we’re out here and our pain is very real.

But I digress.

Ultimately, I just want my kids to be happy. And if we end up with another Em, no matter how hyperactive he may be and how achy I may feel after a long ass day, I’d be so totally OK with that. Because he’s happy.

So, yes please; give us another Emory.

“The Due Date” and Cough Drop Sizes

I rolled out two new confectionary concepts over on Etsy. The first one features a new flavor called The Due Date. It combines wintergreen and (a few) fennel seeds.

I also added cough drop-sized candies to my store. This all began when a customer contacted me after finishing off one of my Asian Orange lollipops. She said it cleared her sinuses and that I should consider selling the spicy ones in cough drop sizes. So, I am! We’ll see how it goes. Now, you can order any of my active flavors in a smaller size.

The Night Terrors Continue

I’m writing today in search of a little company and maybe some answers. Em has been having night terrors again, at least that’s what we think they are. They take place at the same time every night, between the hours of 11 and midnight and start 3 hours after he falls asleep. It usually takes anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to calm him down (ie. wake him up fully). And he doesn’t really remember them in the morning.

They come and go in intervals. Meaning, we go months without one and then BAM! They’re on and take place for weeks. This one has been going on for about a week and a half. He usually always stirs about 3 hours after going to bed at night, but the night terrors are very different from that.

This particular interval seems to have coincided with him coming down with a cold. The cold wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, he was still able to go to school. I reckon that’s irrelevant but I did want to bring it up.

There have been a few personality changes over the last couple of months as well. Em is now very much into his “babies”. He has three small stuffed animals (a cardinal, a baby duck and a baby bear) that he refers to as his babies. They need to be with him at night at all times. Sometimes he wakes up screaming about them. He brings the bear to school with him for naps and if we forget the bear, we simply must go back. He’s very attached to his babies. He likes to carry them in his winter coat hood or up his shirt and scoot to school. He introduces them to people on the street, at stores. It’s cute.

I know what you’re thinking! Pending new arrival = stuffed animal/baby attachment. But I’m not so sure this wouldn’t have taken place had I gotten pregnant or not. People probably say this a lot, but Em is a very sensitive child. He loves animals. He pets them (usually dogs) even though we’ve told him repeatedly he should ask first. It’s like he can’t help himself. He needs to touch furry things. (Like mother, like son!) He loves babies, and has for a long while. You should see him with his best friend’s baby sister. It’s heartwarming to say the least. It could have to do with my being pregnant, but I’m thinking, given his personality, it would have happened this way no matter what.

Anyway, why? Why is this happening? Is it a crash? Is this related to sugar? He has very little of it, but I’m not ruling anything out. (For example, last night I gave him half a homemade cookie an hour or so before bed.) He doesn’t drink juice anymore at all. Is this related to growing? He’s in school 3 days a week and loves it, but maybe it’s due to school?

Do your children have night terrors? Do they wake up this way? Agitated and impossible to sooth? Do they eventually go away? When?

Any or all information welcome. We’re getting desperate as we approach the arrival of number two when every minute of sleep will become a commodity.

Help?

Le beaujolais est arrive!

Over the last several months, many people have requested I make wine-flavored lollipops. I never thought it’d be possible, to be honest. But over the weekend I was at a boutique shop here in Brooklyn and noticed handmade candy canes for sale. While the candy canes are all made with corn syrup, they are also made with wine (or made to taste like wine). Inspired, I gave it a shot.

My first wine-flavored lollipop is seasonal. It’s called The Beaujolais. And, yes. I used actual beaujolais to make them.

There are more to come and I’ll surely be posting them here as I add them to my store. I wanted to see how this one went over before rolling out all the rest. This is new territory for me! I’ve done teas and am quite pleased with the outcome, but wine? Totally new territory for me. But it’s been quite awesome. Stop by!

Lastly, I’m always taking flavor suggestions. If you’ve ever desired a certain lollipop flavor, please let me know. I am happy to give just about anything a try. And the weirder, the better!

Mom It Down: Homemade Deodorant!

I can be really stinky. Unfortunately, my armpits (and feet!) are my biggest culprits. I used to go weeks and weeks without having to wear deodorant. But something changed in my late 20s. (I blame hormones. I blame them for everything.) Nowadays, unless I want to fill up an entire subway car with my stink, I have to wear something.

I am forever searching for a natural deodorant that actually works. I have tried Toms of Maine and it just doesn’t work. (It works for my husband, however.) By the end of the day I end up smelling like an onion sandwich.

Old Spice works (and they offer a stick without aluminum) but they are owned by Proctor and Gamble and I try not to support P&G whenever possible. The Old Spice sticks are also filled with other questionable ingredients, so I’m not pleased with them either.

I’ve also used Arm and Hammer deodorant. But the sticks include chemicals such as propylene glycol. And I’m a little bit wary of propylene glycol (PG). While I’m pretty certain that it won’t cause harm in small amounts, industrial strength PG is used in engine coolants, antifreeze, paints, enamels and varnishes.

I always come back to the same question: If I can find something completely “natural” that actually works, why not try it? (Plus, the hippie in me gets a boner for such things.)

Last Friday, friend and twitter contact Mary wrote about making her own deodorant. I’ve always wanted to try this, but never really researched it. So I reached out to Mary and she totally came through. (Thanks, Mary!)

Today I’d like to share that homemade deodorant recipe with everyone. While this doesn’t fall in with my usual “Mom It Down” recipes, it’s pretty awesome. (And it is actually edible! But don’t eat it, because that’s weird and I can’t imagine it tastes very good.)

One more thing I should mention: I put this stuff to the test yesterday. I had an 8-hour pastry class, one where I spend all 8 hours standing next to and over many, many hot ovens. Plus, we’re made to wear long-sleeve, chef jackets. Guess what? It worked!

What you will need

  • Saucepan
  • Spoon

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shea butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Mom It Down!

Put everything into a saucepan.

Over low heat, mix until melted and milky in color.

Remove from heat. If you’re adding a secondary smell, add it now.

Pour into a lidded container. (I made a label for the one made with patchouli because I’m a dork.)

Put it into the refrigerator to firm up.

You’re done!

Overcoming Obstacles

The refrigerated mixture will be rather hard—the consistency of very cold butter. At room temperature, it will loosen up a bit. This is perfectly normal. Mine ended up being the consistency of lotion as did the one I made for my husband.

The smallest amount goes a long way.

Shea butter and coconut oil can be pricey. The good news is, they go a long, long way. I reckon you could get a good year’s worth of deodorant out of one container of each. In the end, I know it’ll be MUCH cheaper than buying deodorant sticks all the time. And your body will thank you.

One last thing from Mary: she mentions that baking soda can irritate freshly-shaven skin. Please keep is in mind, ladies. I would wait a little bit after shaving to apply it.

Variations

As mentioned earlier, feel free to add essential oils to your mixture. I did one all-natural (smells like cocoa butter) for Toby and one using a dash of patchouli for myself. (Might as well turn the hippie up to 11, right?) Be warned, however, that some essential oils can irritate the skin. I would suggest testing any oils before adding them to the deodorant.

As usual, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

I PASSED!

Not only did I pass my gestational diabetes test, but I did so every hour by quite a bit. Awesome, right?

So, here is where I confess to something.

I did something before the 1-hour test that may have messed with my numbers a bit. When I admitted this to my mom and husband, both said, “You’re a moron!”

You ready?

The morning of my 1-hour glucose test, I may have consumed a fruit tart I had made in pastry class. Said fruit tart was made with homemade pastry cream. (The kind with a lot of sugar, cream and butter.) It was also made with flour and butter and fruit. I know! That’s probably pretty sugary, right? I had that at 7:30 AM.

But to my credit, I asked and read up on this. Everywhere I looked said NO NEED TO FAST before the 1-hour test. Even the nurse told me I didn’t have to fast. In fact, everything I found suggested one eat normally. So I thought, it’d be fine.

I also had a little bit of cereal at 9 AM. That’s more normal for me. So I thought that’d be OK as well.

Drank the orange soda at 10:30 and by 11:30 I was ready to go.

I’m thinking that had something to do with it. While everyone and everything said I could eat normally, I don’t normally eat fruit tarts for breakfast.

However, I asked the nurse about whether or not eating beforehand would have messed with my numbers and she said probably not. So who knows? Maybe I’m not that big of a moron.

Anyway. I passed. I am pleased. I’ve been eating really well since I got the news that I failed. I’ve been eating a low carb diet, barely any sugar. But I think I earned some freaking cake. Or pie!

OMG! I have class tonight and we’re making croissants. I will have two.

Thank goodness.

Now I must work on the anemia.