Liam at Two Years Old


Two years. Twenty-four months of squirming and growing and changing. The changing is both the best and the worst part, because just as I get used to the baby I have, a new one comes along with new words and new skills and new opinions that don’t line up with mine.


  • Height: 33.5 inches
  • Weight: 27ish lbs
  • Favorite foods: Chicken nuggets, raspberries, muffins, french fries, raisin bread
  • Favorite toys: Weeble-wobbles, toy broom, toy phone (or Mommy’s phone, if he finds it), ukulele, new outdoor slide (thanks, Boobah!)
  • Favorite books: Goodnight Moon, the Mo Willems “Pigeon” books, Zoom City, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Favorite activities: Splashing in water, dumping things out onto the floor (especially Cheerios), reading, sharing things, watching short videos of other kids, going for walks, playing music on anything remotely like an instrument



He’s talking so much that I’ve stopped trying to keep a list of words that he knows. New words come daily – hourly – and even though the conversations get repetitive, we’re talking together. I ask if he wants milk, he says yes. He asks for books, and I read them. He’s old enough now to understand what’s being said around him and we’re going to have to completely shift how we talk in his presence. In the car, when Dave asked what I wanted for dinner, I said “anything but pizza,” and Liam screamed TEETSA!! from the backseat. And he doesn’t even like pizza.

He even tells us stories about his school day, if we prompt him with leading questions. Did you play outside? “Ow-kide, yeah, Au-dee!” You played with Audrey? Did you see Zoe today? “Yeah! Doh-ee go ‘ome!

He is almost constantly chattering at home, even though it’s still toddler-speak that most people can’t quite understand. He says atsoo to us when we sneeze or blow our noses. “Uh-oh Leenum” when he trips. He plays happily with the pots and pans in his new toy kick-in and he draws with his yayons. He yells at “Ahmul” to get off the counter and away from our afternoon hnack of wabeewees and yoguck, and asks politely for me to o-peen my coffee tin in the mornings so he can hmell mommy foffee.


He likes to hear me laugh – Mommy appy. Liam is NOT appy when I won’t let him watch Elmo wee-ee-yos on YouTube, though, even though he’s earnestly patting my chair, repeating “ere, Mommy. Dit, Mommy, Dit down Mommy.” We stop at the mailbox to check for new meeul every day after school and he always stops dead in his tracks if he sees a murm on the wide-walk. He loves his murms. And nakes, which are really just giant murms, after all. When I say “I love you Liam,” he’ll usually answer with I-lahyoo Daddy but if I’m out of sight he’ll sing-whisper Mommy wheyayoo? Most fruits are “apples”, and most veggies are “no.” He surprised us with plurals last week, telling us he saw “two beeeg deers” outside.


If he sees or hears a thing once, he wants more. Explaining that I can’t make more deer appear in the backyard right now, or ask the garbage truck to drive past the house seventeen more times, leads to plop-down sit-in toddler protests. Protests are getting more frequent in general, and it’s hard to know how to react to some of it. Picking battles only works if you’re pretty sure which ones you can afford to lose without long-term consequences, and we don’t yet have that confidence. He dumps his food out of bowls, holds utensils out and watches them drop to the floor, and smashes crackers into dust and drips milk onto them. That’s when he’s in a good mood. We like to think he’s experimenting with physics and chemistry.

When he’s cranky or doesn’t like what we’re asking of him, he’ll shove whatever he’s holding with a huff and cross his arms. If he’s not holding anything, he’ll look around, find something, and glare at us while deliberately shoving it to the side with the absolute most disdain that a two-year-old can muster. If he doesn’t feel it’s moved far enough away from him, he’ll reach out and shove it again for good measure. Hmph. TAKE THAT.

He has a solid concept of “mine” and applies it often. Labeling things as his, or Mommy’s, or Daddy’s, is a seriously big deal to him. If we sit in the “wrong” chairs at dinner, he’ll tell us.

13483318_1231382123562274_6059097716345640770_oBut he’s also such a loving kid. He’ll run in for a hug anytime, and he’s still asking for “up” a million times a day because he loves to be held. We have snuggle time for a few minutes every night before bed, and he’s just devastated when I end it. Bedtimes are rocky again, with a new emotional attachment causing him a lot of distress when we leave the room. We’re working on it, but it’s been an exhausting few weeks.

Move it move it

Liam’s physical side is developing well, too, and he’s getting so much faster and stronger. He can zoom up the stairs in a flash now, even though he’s still mostly on all fours to do it. He’ll zip up the first three and then turn to yell “c‘mon, mommy!” He can also scoot down stairs on his butt now, but he prefers to do it standing, while holding the railing and saying “Leenum fah-full” with every step (I guess I warn him to be careful too often).


He’s been more into physical play in general, probably because of his daycare buddies’ influence. He likes to roll around and be tickled, and climb on chairs and boxes. He’s started running, which is amazing to see, when we were so worried about his late walking. He loves to go for walks as often as we can find the time, and he’ll run ahead to make me chase him a lot. But he still tires pretty quickly, and he’s still unsteady with quick changes in direction or wobbly terrain. We’re still working with him to explore new ways to move and get more strength and coordination, and his new bike and new climbing structure/slide will help a ton this summer.

He’s a real kid now, not just a squishy little critter, and that’s just WILD. We’re finally able to share experiences with him and have him share them right back after they’ve been processed by that little toddler brain, and the whole thing is fascinating. I can’t wait to see the changes that are coming over the next few months, even though I’m sure the terrible twos will be rough on all of us. But we’re all still learning, and we’ll get through it all together.


Love you, little dude.



I struggle to hold him still on the changing table as he twists his little naked body around to reach the light switch. “ight ahfffff!” he declares proudly, dragging out the ffff as though he were blowing out birthday candles. Not for another couple weeks, kiddo. I reach out to flick the light back on and spin him back around to secure the velcro on his diaper while he wiggles his feet in my face. “eet?” he asks. I grab one little foot and kiss its sole. MWAH. He grins. “Udda eet?” the other foot comes up beside the first, and I continue delivering kisses, MWAH MWAH MWAH, back and forth, one foot, two foot, while I get him into his shark pajamas.

I hoist him up and turn to set him on the floor, and he stops me, asking eagerly “Nunnel fuhst mommy? Nunnel?”

Of course.

Of course we can snuggle first.

Still holding him, all twenty-six wiggling pounds of him, I switch on the nightlight and pull the cord on the ceiling fan to dim the room with a click. I back carefully into the soft brown recliner and shift him into my lap, but he squirms free with a grin. “Cose! Cose dees!” he toddles to the bedroom door and pushes it closed with a click. He crosses the carpet to his crib and sticks his hand through the slats, all the way to his shoulder, to the very edge of his reach. He yanks his hand back out, triumphantly waving his frog Wubbanub. Half pacifier, half stuffed animal, “Bubba” is a snuggle time necessity. He pulls a blanket from the crib rail, pops Bubba in his mouth and walks towards me, stuffed frog dangling from his little face. He drops the blanket on my feet before lifting both hands up and out, and bouncing a little at his knees. The international toddler sign for “up, mommy.”

He’s heavy. The angle is awkward. I huff and I oof and I drag him up to my lap and he shifts around until his arms are in just the right places before he drops his head to my chest with a soft thud. He’s quiet except for snuffly breathing and the little sucking squeaks that escape around the pacifier. I wrap him up in the blanket and he wiggles an arm free, lifts his head, readjusts his shoulders, drops back down. He’s settled. He’s comfy.


My mouth is right against the top of his head, and I kiss him. He doesn’t smell like a baby anymore. He smells like sunscreen and sweat, like an active little boy. But it’s the same weight on my chest, only heavier. The same little heartbeat, only stronger.

I don’t get to contemplate my toddler for long, because after thirty seconds of ‘nunnels’ he pops the pacifier out and looks up at me. “Suh-shyyy?” I sing for him, rocking, telling him he’s my little squirm-shine and he makes me happy. After three rounds of suh-shyyy, two baby belugas, and a twinkle twinkle, he pulls himself up and points to the space between the chair and the bedroom wall. There’s a pillow stuffed in there, is that what he wants? He nods, and the frog in his mouth hops twice. I shimmy the pillow loose and move it to the arm of the chair, and he immediately throws himself into it with a grin. I can’t see the grin behind the Wubbanub, but his eyes are bright and happy, and there’s one sweet dimple peeking out beside the pacifier’s edge. I grin back at him and his eyes sparkle brighter and the dimple gets deeper, and just the smallest “heh” escapes behind the frog.

I hug him tight, so tight.

I’ll snuggle you as long as you’ll let me.

The Greatest Generation

I had the highest of hopes for the Greatest Generation podcast when the Maximum Fun network picked it up and brought it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of other Max Fun podcasts, so I felt like if they were backing and promoting a Star Trek podcast, it would probably be a good one. Unfortunately, three episodes in, I’m done. I don’t feel like I can continue listening, and I absolutely cannot recommend the Greatest Generation podcast to any Star Trek fan.

It should have been a huge red flag to me that the hosts are so embarrassed to be hosting the podcast that they spend a little time in each of the first three episodes contemplating using pseudonyms so nobody knows they’re involved in such a nerdy project. Their premise is “A Star Trek podcast by two guys who are a bit embarrassed to have a Star Trek podcast.” Maybe that should have tipped me off. But it’s a comedy podcast, and I guess I figured they were playing to their audience, many of whom probably had to (or still have to) hide their love of Star Trek in order to avoid being mocked and bullied. Most geeks understand the impulse to stay quiet about what they love, in case someone comes by to tear it to shreds. So I let that slide, and decided to give it a few more episodes to see how it evolved.

It didn’t.

I thought I was going to hear a podcast that would poke fun at the silly things in TNG (and goodness knows there’s a whole harvest of silly pickings in season one alone). There’s some of that, to be sure, but there are also far too many Picard-the-closet-pedophile jokes for my liking, and I often found myself wishing they’d hurry up and talk about something else so I could stop squirming in discomfort. I’m glad I stopped at episode three, because @lakeline on Twitter tells me the sexual assault jokes get worse, and they go into weird Cosby territory around episode 8.

To be honest, though, that part doesn’t even bother me as much as it probably should. Those jokes have been made before, and there is a fair amount of casual sexism inherent to the show itself. Maybe the hosts are saying all that stuff ironically. Maybe.

Because they certainly don’t seem sincere. And that lack of sincerity gives an air of mean-spiritedness to the fun they’re poking at the show I love. If it ended there, I’d just have stopped listening and walked away without writing this post. I’d have just accepted that this podcast wasn’t for me and moved on to other things. But it’s not just the show they make fun of. They make fun of the fans, too. And that hurts.

I’ve spent enough of my lifetime taking crap for loving science fiction and other nerdy things – I will not put up with a podcast that jokes about holding up nerdier nerds to use as human wedgie shields. The hosts are careful to tell you over and over that they’re not super nerds, you guys. Yeah, they’re doing this podcast thing (don’t worry, they’re embarrassed about it) but there are waaaay nerdier fans than them out there. You know, those dorks who dress up and immerse themselves in the fantasy, and who try to recreate Klingon recipes with Earthly foods.

Dorks like me.

I love TNG. I was only a kid back when it premiered, but I watched it every week, without fail, while it was on the air. It’s what I compare all other science fiction to. I idolized Captain Picard and I was in love with Wesley. I wanted a friendship like the one between Geordi and Data. I wanted to check out the holodeck and work in sickbay as Dr Crusher’s assistant. I came to this podcast hoping to hear people geeking out about one of my favorite things. I wanted to connect with other nerds who love this same thing. Instead I feel vaguely ashamed for loving Star Trek as much as I do.

Why are they punching down? Why create levels and classes of nerds so there’s always someone to look down on? I’m genuinely confused about the audience they’re trying to reach with the show. It seems like it should be people like me, but then why would they insult me? Maybe this podcast is only for the super cool TNG fans who only watch it ironically on Netflix.

I’m especially disappointed because the other shows I enjoy on the Maximum Podcast network are so inclusive. I listen to Judge John Hodgman where “people like what they like” is settled fake internet law, and One Bad Mother where everyone’s parenting journey is equally valid and we’re all doing a good job. I guess maybe I thought that other shows on the network would share that welcoming atmosphere.

I’m not saying the hosts of the show are bad people. And maybe the show does get better in the second season, just like TNG did. But I can’t invest the emotional energy to continue listening.

Swedish Chef Therapy


This is my second in what will surely be a useful series of fictional-character-based self-help exercises. I’ve already told you how Spock can help you with some aspects of depression and anxiety by calling out your irrational side. Today we’re going to look at anger, and how to deal with it simply and effectively using what I like to call Swedish Chef Therapy, or MBAST: Muppet-Based Anger-Suppression Technique.

swedish chef

Credit: Connor Luddy via Flickr CC by 2.0

You’re angry. Frustrated. Irrational. Maybe your undies are too tight, you skipped breakfast, and have to sit beside Loudy McShoutington and his political opinions in the lunch room. Whatever the reasons, you’re successfully coasting through a tough day with gritted teeth and positive self-talk until you open your lunch and realize the sandwich artist put the wrong dressing on your sub.

We need to defuse this bomb before you give Mr. McShoutington the gift of a sandwich hat and you find yourself escorted out of the building.

1. Find two things you can hold in your hands. No weapons! Small everyday objects that you have nearby. A stapler and a water bottle are good options if you’re in the office. Just look around and get creative. They need to be big and heavy enough to really feel them in your hands – a pen is too small.

2. Get in front of a mirror. Alone. Lock yourself in the bathroom. If you’re at work, check for feet under the stalls. You’re about to get very, very silly, and you may not want witnesses.

3. Look mirror-you in the eyes. This part is important.

4. Hop up and down, flail your objects around like your arms are jelly, and sing as loud as you’re comfortable with:

Yorn deshorn, der burr beedish-kadoo
Yee bursh dee hurnder, de boor


If you’re not laugh-crying at yourself at this point, you need to go watch an hour-long playlist of Swedish Chef videos as a part of your training. If you’re prone to angry outbursts on a regular basis, you may need to start with advanced Swedish Chef Therapy right away and keep one of these chef’s hats in your desk drawer for emergencies.

swedish chef

Credit: Brian M, via Flickr CC by 2.0

Nine Exciting Part-Time Jobs for Med Techs

Whether you’re calling yourself a medical laboratory technologist or clinical laboratory scientist or any combination of those, let’s face it: you’re likely underpaid, overworked, and underappreciated by the rest of the healthcare team. In honor of Medical Laboratory Professionals Week, April 24-30, 2016, I’ve come up with a helpful list of part-time jobs that med techs can sign up for on their days off to bring in a little extra money. After all, we’ve got an impressive skill set thanks to our laboratory training!

1. Large Appliance Mechanic

maintenance on beckman lab instruments

The instruments are always down, and you’re always neck-deep inside one trying to figure out what’s stuck where. Why restrict yourself to chemistry analyzers and hematology counters when those same skills can probably dislodge stray forks from a dishwasher?

2. Shelf Stocker

shelf full of laboratory reagents

Everything is labeled, facing front, tagged with expiration dates and segregated by lot number. The grocery store will never be the same once you’re done with them.

3. Flower Arranger

plastic beaker full of pipettes

You can fit one more carnation in there. And a fern. Keep jamming.

4. Crime Scene Cleanup Technician

blood cleanup with bleach

It’s disturbing how quickly you can jump in with advice when someone asks how to get blood out of clothes.

5. Balloon Artist

balloon made of nitrile glove

They work well as water balloons too. Don’t ask me how I know. What happens during lab week stays in lab week.

6. Extremely Patient Phone Customer Service Representative

lab phone call

Yes, your specimen is hemolyzed. No, it was definitely like that when we got it. And no, we can’t run it anyway. No, we don’t hemolyze it just because we don’t like you. We’d use those laser-eyes for much better things if we had them, trust us.

7. Timekeeper

laboratory timers

Bake cookies in four different ovens. Sit in a hairdresser’s and monitor how long the dye’s been on whom. Stand by the track at the Olympics and time the bobsleds.1

8. Barista for Blood Cafe

pouring blood

Depending on whose blood you’ve got, it’s pretty lowfat, and I can definitely give you extra foam.

9. That Guy Who Writes Names On Grains Of Rice

labeled tubes sharpie

We know that anything fatter than an ultra-fine Sharpie doesn’t deserve the pocket space. Years of teeny tiny writing on tubes, labels, and badly-designed downtime worksheets means that we’ve perfected the skill of fitting our initials and the date (and more) into microscopic spaces.

Happy Lab Week to all my fellow lab rats. May your QC always be in range and may your STATs be few.

1 True story: I bought myself a lab-style timer for my kitchen, because I’m so well-conditioned that I can’t help but respond immediately to the beeping. And multiple channels are so incredibly useful when I’m cooking and have one thing on the stovetop and one in the oven and need to keep track of them both.

Many thanks to my lab friends for helping me with the photos for this post.

Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and you can read more about that here. I only ever link to products I love and recommend.

Easy Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini pancakes are one of the few reliable tantrum-free ways to get green food into my toddler. This afternoon felt like a good time to cook up a batch, so I got my equipment ready and then shared my plans with Twitter. As one does.

Screenshot from 2016-04-15 13:02:43And then someone on Twitter asked me for the recipe.

Uh-oh. Think fast.

I rarely follow recipes when I cook. I assemble meals out of some fresh stuff and some packaged stuff, call it a win, and then never manage to make that meal quite the same way ever again. The zucchini pancakes are no different. I “invented” my “recipe” almost a year ago when I had some pureed zucchini the kid refused to eat, and I turned to the millions of DIY baby food blogs hoping to find a way to use it up. I found lots of pancake suggestions, but they were all from scratch, because that’s how you prove your love as a mother, I guess? They wanted me to get out flour. Baking powder. Eggs. Blah. I have a box of pancake mix right here, how hard could this be to figure out? Let’s wing it.

Lazy Zucchini Pancakes

You need:

  • Zucchinis
  • Pancake mix
  • Water
  • Big microwave-safe bowl with lid (or plastic wrap to cover it)
  • Stick blender or regular blender

Wash and dice the zucchinis, skin and all. No, I didn’t tell you how many zucchinis to use. How many do you have? Use that many. We’re winging it, remember? Dump the diced bits into a microwave-safe bowl, add a splash of water, cover it tightly, and microwave until the zucchini is super squishy. 3-4 minutes usually does it for two zucchinis diced small.

Drain the water out carefully into a bowl or cup and save it in case you need to add it back in. Or dump it down the sink and just use regular non-zucchini water to thin stuff out later. No biggie, really.

Puree the zucchini. I use a stick blender, because it’s fast and much easier to clean than a regular blender, but either one will work. You can leave it chunkier or you can puree it completely smooth. I don’t mind chunks, but kiddo spits them out when he finds them, so I pretty much liquefy the stuff.

pureeing microwaved zucchini

Pour in some pancake mix. Maybe about half as much in volume as the amount of puree you have? Start with less; you can always add more. Mix it all in with a spoon. Or a fork: I’m not here to judge. Then just keep adjusting it by adding more pancake mix or more water until you get a consistency that looks like a thick (greenish) pancake batter. You’ve made regular pancakes using the directions on the box before, right? You know what pancake batter should look like? If not, maybe go do that first, then come back. I’ll wait.

making zucchini pancakes

Once the batter looks right, you’re ready to make pancakes.

Cooking zucchini pancakes

It’s hard to really screw this up – the worst that’ll happen is you’ll have too much zucchini in there and you’ll end up with really dense cakes that stay kind of squishy and taste more like zucchini fritters. If you’ve got more mix than zucchini in there, you’ll get nice fluffy pancakes, but you’ll have less zucchini per pancake that way. Be flexible and be prepared to play around with this one, because it’s such a variable process. How big are the zucchinis? How well did you drain them? What brand of mix are you using?

These pancakes freeze very well. Just lay them flat on a baking sheet or cutting board or something, and put them in the freezer. Once they’re frozen, pop them off and put them into a freezer bag. They last at least a month and can be thawed overnight in the fridge and microwaved back to warmth in the morning. They can also be microwaved from frozen, but you’ll need to flip them over a lot to avoid the frozen-middle-and-lava-edges problem.

easy zucchini pancakes

Go make some of these pancakes and show me! I want to see you winging it!


Spock Therapy

Vulcan Lane Sign

Image credit: Wonderferret via Flickr, CC by 2.0

I’ve fought hard against depression and anxiety for decades. I’ve read so many self-help books and tried all the positive thinking in the world. I’ve yanked on my bootstraps and I’ve Stuart Smalley’d myself in the mirror. I’ve written about my depression. I’ve given therapists my life story and they’ve tried to dig into my subconscious to pinpoint what emotional upheavals in my childhood might have turned me into a nervous caffeinated Eeyore. It wasn’t until I stumbled onto cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that my life finally started to change.

Cognitive therapy is hard work. Such hard work, in fact, that I wasn’t ready to take it on until I finally found a medication that lifted my depression just enough for me to dedicate my resources to anything other than basic needs. Even then, I was reluctant to take on the challenge. CBT is a long-term commitment. It’s not just dumping a week’s worth of troubles onto a therapist’s couch and walking away with a new bounce in your step. It’s constant repetitive work, like redirecting a fork-wielding toddler away from the power outlets, over and over and over.

Any Google search on CBT will quickly get you to a long list of “cognitive distortions” that get in the way of healthy thinking. It’s worth buying a copy of David Burns’ Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy and reading through it yourself to really understand the research behind the therapy techniques. Essentially, you train yourself to recognize and label distorted thoughts as they come by, and then use appropriate techniques to challenge or “talk back” to them. Every time you check in and find your brain veering off course, you need to stop, focus, and correct it.

It can be intimidating to a beginner. I’ve recommended the book to friends who start out very enthusiastic and then abandon it after a chapter or two because it’s difficult or confusing. And it is difficult. Especially if the only therapy you’ve ever had (if any) is the introspective, cry-on-a-couch, relive-your-childhood-until-we-get-to-the-bottom-of-things therapy.

So I’ve found an easier way to approach it. If you want to start telling your irrational thoughts what’s what, but the books seem like gibberish to you, start simply. Don’t jump all the way in and splash around. Start logically. Your exhausted, anxious, depressed brain needs a first officer who can help you keep your shit together even when you’re falling apart. Your brain needs Spock.


Let me explain.

The beauty of CBT, and the reason it connected so well with me, is that none of it is magic. No fake-it-till-you-make it, think positive, rainbows and unicorns pop-sci bullshit. It’s just logic. Pure, simple, and real. Logic. It’s Spock therapy.

At its core, CBT is simple: it’s about recognizing cognitive distortions. It’s about noticing when your thoughts need to be relieved of command. The purpose isn’t to change how you feel, at least not directly. It’s about recognizing that the thoughts you think contribute to which way your mood is likely to swing, and learning to control them instead of letting them control you. Everyone has irrational thoughts from time to time; the difference is that folks suffering from depression or anxiety have them more often, and believe them more often, and get trapped in a feedback loop of irrational thoughts causing very real feelings.

Now, CBT isn’t about never being sad: things suck sometimes and everyone deserves a good cry when it gets to be too much. And it’s not about never being angry: a kicked puppy is right to bite back. You’re allowed to have feelings! You’re human, after all. What the therapy does – what the hard work you put into the exercises does – is help you to assess whether the thoughts you are thinking make any sense, in context.

And who’s the best out there at telling an impulsive and irrational captain that he’s being ridiculous?

Kirk and Spock argue

Image credit: JD Hancock via Flickr, CC by 2.0

You know the logical answer.

Just imagine Spock (Tuvok will do, I’m not here to judge you on your Vulcan choice) on your shoulder, listening in on your thoughts. When your brain pulls out an irrational cognitive distortion, Spock is there to question you and make you reconsider. That’s his job as first officer. Don’t worry, you’re still the captain: sometimes, you’re going to decide that Spock is wrong and you’re going to accept your thoughts and feel your feelings. But before you dismiss your first officer, give him a chance to challenge you. When you start making statements about yourself or the situation you’re in, hand them off to Spock before you give them any weight. Think to yourself: What would Spock say?

Let’s take one of the most common kinds of distortions: “all-or-nothing thinking,” or applying a mental filter that accentuates the negative and discounts the positive.

“Dammit, I forgot my wallet at home again. I can’t do anything right.”

“Captain, that statement is illogical. You have, in fact, done several things right even in the past hour. You are wearing correctly-buttoned pants, and you drove yourself to this Trader Joe’s without breaking any traffic laws.”

How about “fortune-telling,” where you jump to conclusions (usually the worst ones) without any evidence. What would Spock say?

“He didn’t call back. I must have said something to offend him.”

Captain, telepathy is not a common human trait. Absent any evidence that he is in fact offended, you are basing your belief on conjecture. There are many explanations for a delayed response on his part, and your hypothesis does not carry more statistical weight than the others.

Irrational thoughts are sneaky. They can be really convincing, especially if they’ve been with you for decades or more. Talking back to them takes dedication and a lot of practice, and I honestly believe that the Feeling Good book is the best tool you can have in your pocket. Get the handbook, too, and really take the time to learn how your brain distorts things. Nobody else can do the work for you, and you can’t improve without effort. But that doesn’t mean that you have to make that effort alone.

Some people wear religious symbols – crosses, stars – or get meaningful images tattooed on their bodies to remind them they’re not alone in their journey. In my case my symbol is a reminder that I don’t always know best, because my thinking can list towards the irrational without my conscious mind realizing just how far off course we’ve gotten. If I’m not careful, I find myself fighting like mad just to stay in place as my depression and anxious thoughts pull at my mind like a tractor beam.

That’s why I depend on my first officer to help me make the right decisions about when to pay attention to what my brain is saying.

Spock and Kirk

Image credit: Sonny Abesamis via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Keep Spock with you. Let him help you.

He has been, and always shall be, your friend.



(Any Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and you can read more about that here. I’ve only linked to things I love and recommend.)

Maybe I Use Too Many Monkeys

Monkeys. Too many monkeys. My brain is full of them. My cognitive control center is run by a monkey crew, none of whom work particularly well together or enjoy each other’s company. It’s never quiet up there. One of them is always worried about something, and they trip over each other to inform me about the VERY IMPORTANT THINGS that they think I need to deal with RIGHT NOW. They’re jerks. I really wish they’d shut up, because they’re causing some pretty serious anxiety these days and that’s a lot to deal with.


Many people who seem to have their act together (including my trusted therapist) have suggested I try meditation as a strategy to deal with my anxiety. But I just don’t see how it’s going to work. There are too many monkeys. I know the point of meditation exercises are to quiet your mind, and to just let intrusive thoughts float through and be on their way, but I have too many thoughts. Too many monkeys reminding me about all the things I have to do. Not to mention the 24-hour round-the-clock repeating video of all the things I’ve ever done wrong.


I envy people who can answer the question “what are you thinking about” with a simple, honest, “nothing.” If I’m asked the same question, the answer takes long enough that the listener should probably take notes to follow along:

This beer is good but I probably didn’t need the calories. But that caramel egg put me over a reasonable count for the day anyway. I should stop if I want to fit in any pants by next month. I need new jeans. When can I go shopping? Oh, clothes, wait. There are clothes in the washing machine, better get that in the dryer before bed. Liam needs socks tomorrow, he wore the last clean pair today. Oh, crap. Liam. I didn’t make Liam’s lunch for tomorrow, I should do that. Nuggets? He had those yesterday, I should probably change it up for him. But he won’t eat much else, this food thing is getting complicated. Maybe it’s time for the meal plan? But that’s expensive, what’s $15 a week come to, $3 a day? That’s a lot. Nuggets are cheap, fuck it. Oh, wait, I almost forgot the laundry!

**Note to my readers: I DID forget the stupid laundry after all.

Even if I could manage to succeed at meditation, I don’t understand how it can possibly fix an overactive mind. I guess it gives you a few minutes of calm, with a reduced heart rate and blood pressure and all that good stuff, but once you snap your fingers and pop back into reality, all those problems you were worried about are still there. And you’re now 30 minutes closer to death without having dealt with them. Even considering meditation makes me more anxious because it feels like a wasteful use of the precious little time I have to get shit done. I get angry just thinking about it. Seriously – just writing these sentences out and thinking about possibly trying to meditate has triggered an anger response in me.

To be honest, I can’t even say that I hate my monkeys. They’re so familiar to me now, and my brain would seem so quiet without them. I just wish I could train them to prioritize better.

Friends who meditate: how? How do you make it work? Have you evicted the monkeys? Or are yours just better-trained? What’s the point of the half hour of quiet, if it just means you’ve got to catch up with the world again afterwards? How can I approach meditation with something other than frustrated rage?

Aeropress Guide for Normal People

Aeropress coffee

Current favorite mug, full of fresh-pressed coffee goodness

I just received an Aeropress as a gift. How do I get good coffee out of it?

I want to be a coffee snob when I grow up, but I just haven’t had the time or money or patience to really start down that path yet. One of my most lovely friends knew of my dream and sent me an Aeropress to try, and I unboxed it with absolute delight. Coffee snobbery, here I come!

One tiny hiccup in my plan: my new Aeropress was secondhand, and didn’t come with instructions! I had a basic idea what to do with it, since I’ve used a French press before and the concept is similar enough, but I wanted to do it right, and get perfect coffee out of the Aeropress on my very first try. So I searched online for how-to guides. There are a ton of them. Every coffee blog out there has an illustrated step-by-step guide to the perfect Aeropressing. They’re lovely, and I’m sure they’re accurate. But I am an amateur coffee snob. I’m the kind of person who usually buys Kirkland Colombian coffee in the 3lb bucket, not handpicked singing Arabica beans delivered from the Hawaiian mountainside by emerald hummingbirds.

“Measure out 17g of coffee.”

“Add 200g of water.”

“Heat your water to 190F.” (They make programmable kettles! Did you know that? What a world!)

You guys. Please.

I just want coffee. I don’t want to drag out a kitchen scale and a thermometer. It’s 6am. My toddler will be up any second. Coffee. Now. Please.

How can a normal person get great coffee out of an Aeropress?

I’m mostly normal. Depends who you ask. Here’s how I’ve been doing it so far. I’ve got a whole week of use behind me, so I’m totally qualified to write my own how-to guide.

1. Collect all your junk in one place. Coffee, coffee scoop, cup, spoon, Aeropress parts, and Aeropress filters. Fill up a measuring cup with water (about 1.5 cups) and put it into the microwave to boil. Or get the kettle on. Whatever it takes to get boiling water.

Aeropress setup

The set-up

2. Assemble the Aeropress so the plunger is just inside the chamber making a nice tight seal. Stand it up, upside-down, and put in two flat scoops of coffee. My scoop delivers about 1.5 tablespoons when flat and about 2 tablespoons in a rounded scoop. So we’re looking at about 3 tablespoons total of fine-grind coffee.

Adding coffee to Aeropress

Add the coffee

3. Fit a paper filter into the holder, then go get your water. Carefully, and over your mug in case you spill, pour a tiny bit of water onto the filter to wet it and help it stick in place. I use a spoon to do this because I can’t be that precise with boiling water, especially before I’ve had my coffee!

Wet Aeropress filter

Wet the filter

4. Pour hot water into the chamber of the Aeropress, over your coffee grinds, until it’s about half an inch shy of the edge. Stick a spoon in there and give it a good stir. One of the coffier-than-thou how-to-Aeropress guides I found suggested that I should “stir the grounds with a bamboo paddle or butter knife.” What, I ask you, is wrong with a spoon? YOU ARE STIRRING A THING. USE A SPOON.

Stir coffee in Aeropress chamber


5. Wait 2 minutes or so. This will vary depending on personal taste and what kind of coffee you’re using, but I find that it’s better to err on the side of stronger coffee, because I can always dilute it with hot water afterwards. There’s no good way to rescue a weak cup of coffee. My current favorite fancy “treat myself” coffee is Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend, and I find that two minutes is exactly right for a full chamber and two scoops.

6. Carefully attach the filter holder to the chamber – remember, this is almost-boiling water we’re playing with – and then flip the whole thing over onto your mug. I haven’t experienced any leaking during the flip, but you can always sit your empty mug upside down over the Aeropress and flip the whole thing over that way if you’re concerned. I usually use the plastic funnel attachment to that the thing sits more securely in my mug and is less likely to tip.

Aeropress inverted with filter attached

Aeropress with filter in place

7.  Slowly press down on the plunger and squeeze coffee out into your mug. It should take about 30 seconds of steady pressure, and you’ll hear a little hiss from the filter when you’ve hit the bottom.

Pressing the Aeropress

Squeeeeeeze! (Note the plastic funnel for extra stability)

8. Sample the coffee concentrate, add hot water until it tastes right to you, and then enjoy.


You have to press pretty hard on your Aeropress to get the coffee out, so I wouldn’t recommend using a delicate family heirloom coffee mug for this. You can always use something stronger, like a small measuring cup, to press into, and then transfer the coffee to the mug afterwards. I just try to use a good tough mug, because I don’t want extra dishes.

I’m sure that if I took the extra effort to weigh out my coffee and water and to measure the exact temperature, I’d end up with better coffee. But I’m not aiming to win coffee competitions, just to get a tasty cup of coffee in the morning. Please, if you’re into precision, get out that scale and weigh your 17g of coffee. You’ll probably have better coffee than me. I can live with that.

This is the “Aeropress inverted method,” since we’re starting with the gadget upside-down. You can also do it the other way, and start with the filter in place and the Aeropress standing up over your mug. You’d add water to the chamber, wait, put the plunger in, and press, instead of screwing the filter on just before flipping the whole thing. I do the inverted method because I live for the danger. Also because my friend told me it was better, and I got tired of reading the coffee snob sites to see if she was right.

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My Third Favorite Cake

Cake with cherries

Image credit: Erich Ferdinand, CC BY 2.0

I have a friend – a good friend, mind you, not just a friend I made up for the purposes of this post – who likes to ask people what their third favorite kind of cake is.

And that makes me crazy.

First of all, being asked about cake makes me think about cake. About at least three different types of cake, all of them proud medalists in the cake Olympics of my mind. So, the BEST cakes. She always asks me this question when I am at work and nowhere near cake. It’s torture. It’s not like being presented with a golden fork and a table full of cakes and being asked which of the delicious soon-to-be-fork-stabbing-victims is your third favorite. That’s high-calorie heaven. But being subjected to a cruel thought experiment where cake only exists inside your head? Inhumane. I think there’s a footnote in some UN document about it.

Cruelty aside, I hate the question because it’s impossible for me to play favorites with cake. I can tell you what cakes I don’t like. That’s an easy question. Like fruitcake – that’s not even real cake. And vegetables aren’t dessert, so you’ll never sell me on carrot cake (although I may pout and lick off the frosting). But there’s a reason it takes me twenty minutes to choose my dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.

I love so many kinds of cake. So many. Chocolate, vanilla, marble, yellow, funfetti, almond, lemon, pumpkin spice. Coffee cakes and cheesecakes. Buttercreams and cream cheeses and whipped cream frostings. Sprinkles! Chocolate shavings! Obscenely large frosting balloons!

Taking out the cakes I don’t like doesn’t do much to simplify the problem. Infinity minus ten is still pretty much infinity. I stare into the abyss and infinite cakes stare back at me.

I love you all, my sweet children. Every layer and every crumb. I love you all. I can’t play favorites.


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