Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Consider it tackled

What did I do with my day off yesterday?

Why, organize the clutter, of course!

There are few things that make me as happy as purging, cleaning and organizing THE STUFF before the new year begins. I measured our cabinets, had a plan of attack, and accomplished the goal. Success!!

I purchased some clear boxes at Target to house craft supplies, Playdoh and accessories, and Legos.
We had a small basket in our family room that collected the miscellaneous dolls and toys that didn't otherwise have a home in a drawer or behind closed doors. Despite moving several of the items to the "baby" box in storage, it was still overflowing. I was hoping to find a large storage container with a lid - a nice looking basket or box or something, but I didn't want to spend a ton of money and couldn't find anything I liked on short notice.

We had gift cards to spend and I found these large canvas containers at Pottery Barn Kids. So, free to us and it does the trick. I was hoping for the neutral color, but they were out of stock (of course), and red matches our room OK without looking too childish. We actually got the floor model, which I would recommend, because it was already put together and steamed!
My other goal was to find some way to corral all the food and kitchen accessories that came with the new kitchen that Santa brought. I didn't want to buy a large storage-type piece of furniture, because it was going to be very visible in my living room. I also only had a pretty small corner to work with and I wanted covered / stacking storage.

I took a look on the basket aisle at Michael's and they had two decent looking rectangular woven baskets with hinged lids, two different sizes. They aren't the sturdiest things in the world, but look fine and hold all the gadgets for less than $40 total on sale. Sold.

You can see that I don't have much real estate to work with here, and even less with the new kitchen, but I now have glimpsed the hours and hours of entertainment this will provide the Girl. Worth the sacrifice, no?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Strategic storage

Well, it has started.

We had our first round of family Christmas and I am already overwhelmed by the number of new things that will be taking up residence in our home.

Until this point, I feel like I have done a decent job of finding hidden storage in a drawer here, or a cabinet there, and most of Ellen's things can be hidden when desired. We are pretty much at capacity, though, and even though I purged some things recently, she still really plays with most of it on a rotating basis.

My current plan is to wait to see the extent of what Santa brings, then shop the after-holiday sales for some decent looking storage containers with lids. (All of this storage is in our living and dining room, of course, not in any magical playroom).

My only tip at this point, as the mother of a young girl, is to have a stash of small boxes or containers on hand for the myriad of little treasures that come through your door. Miss E brought home about 48 Silly Bandz yesterday, which I promptly put in an old Christmas tin. She is more willing to keep them in one place if I show her what that place should be, and she has just as much fun moving them in and out (and in and out and in and out) of that box.

How are you strategic in attacking toy storage?

Friday, December 17, 2010

'tis the Season

I think I'm finally learning what Christmas is all about when you have a kid in the house. This year seems about 167% more hectic than last year, and we really don't even have all that much on the calendar. Maybe it is the way the holiday falls on a weekend this year, but I just feel like Christmas is coming at a rapid pace, whether I am ready or not, and it is hard to sit back and enjoy the time.

One of my good friends was recently telling me about a book, and I can't remember the title of course because my mind is full of other junk, but it was about keeping your sanity in the Christmas season. And not only from a religious perspective, but just about not over-programming your family, not going crazy on the gift-giving, and making a deliberate effort to focus on special time with your family members.

I feel like I tried to keep the Santa gifts practical and small, but then when I look at the pile I see that Santa grossly over-purchased. The birthday right before Christmas doesn't help things.

I love having a decorated house, but I always feel under the gun to get things up and out, and then the pressure to take them down the second Christmas is over.

I would like to establish one or two special traditions for our family, things that allow us to spend time together, and leave it at that. As Ells grows up, I think we will be more successful with this. We did have a spontaneous trip this week to visit a big Christmas tree and gingerbread village and it was perfect - hot chocolate and treats and a happy girl.

How do you keep the sanity in your holiday activities?

Also, there was a nice post today on Under the Sycamore about giving your children your presence, not only presents. That is the thing they want the most anyway.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In this season of picture taking

This is a good reminder about the kids in your life ...

Visit Know the Glow and watch the video.

The mom featured in the video is the daughter of a friend of the family. She noticed the glow in her son's eye in some of their family photos and eventually brought it to her doctor's attention, resulting in the diagnosis of an eye disease. Though he doesn't have retinoblastoma, a cancer of the eye, I have worked with children who have this disorder and it can be as devastating as it sounds.

I had heard stories before about parents who noticed a strange or white glow in their child's eye on printed photos. What I didn't realize is that the glow can be very sporadic - perhaps only present in a small percentage of photos over time. This is a really good reminder and something that is worth sharing with your loved ones.

Friday, December 10, 2010


What are your feelings on party favors?

I like the idea of giving a little something special to the tiny tots that attend your child's birthday party, but I also don't like the idea of spending money on trinkets that will end up in the trash. I tried to come up with something that would be consumable, and not only food. (Though for a circus party, you must do animal crackers. Right?)

If you are a teacher, or if you have a teacher friend, or if you have older kids, I bet you can get your hands on a big pile of old crayons. And, if you are lucky, they will be free!

Beg and borrow until you get enough for this project. First, you have to unwrap them. Pick out a show on your DVR because it will take a little while ... I found that using a sharp knife to cut all along the side of the crayon works best.

Then, if you are smart, you will start saving empty cans from your recycling bin. I hadn't saved enough and ended up scrounging diet coke cans and cutting the top off with my kitchen shears. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You will need one can for each "color group".

Break the crayons into halves or thirds and add them to the can. Pinch the top of the can a little to make a pour spout.

Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. You will want the water to be at about the level of the crayons when the can is submerged. You will probably have to hold the can down, and it gets hot, so use tongs or an oven mitt. Wait for the crayons to melt. I used a skewer to stir them together for a uniform color, but you can leave them alone for a more swirly effect in your final product.

**Before you start melting, get yourself to your local craft store and pick up a candy mold in whatever theme you are looking for! This one was about $2. **

When your crayons are completely melted, act quickly and pour the wax into your candy mold. You don't have to prep the mold in any way at all. Tap lightly to get any bubbles out, though the crayons start to harden as soon as they are poured. If you have several to do, put them in the freezer to harden faster.

Your new crayons should pop out very easily and, Voila!, you are done!

This mold was pretty deep and it took more crayons than I expected. Err on the side of more rather than less if you are getting crafty.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Birthday shirt

Last year, I bought a darling first birthday onesie with a cupcake on the front and the girl's name on the back. So, so cute. And, so, so $35 for a one-time wear.

This year, I wised up. I had seen lots of tutorials on freezer paper stenciling and thought this would be the perfect opportunity!

I mostly followed this tutorial on How About Orange. There are also similar instructions on Say Yes! to Hoboken with some really cute examples.

I found a font I liked and made it as big as possible to fit on one sheet of paper (about 640 point, I think this is called Euroscript, or something like that).

I bought a roll of freezer paper at the grocery store for less than $4. I could make about 100 shirts with this roll! Tape your image to the back (shiny) side of the freezer paper.

Flip it over and cut out very carefully with a sharp knife.

I know this picture is bad, but the next step is to iron the stencil on to the shirt (shiny side against fabric). I just got a plain white t-shirt at Target. Next time, I would get a 100% cotton shirt ... this one had some stretch in it, so I had to use a cooler iron setting and the stencil didn't stick perfectly. Also, one of the blogs had a tip to iron a full sheet of freezer paper on the inside to prevent bleeding of the paint, but I couldn't get that to work.

I had some fabric paint from previous projects, so I just used that and a sponge brush to dab it on pretty thickly. I did put a sheet of paper inside the shirt to prevent bleed-through. If your shirt is a light color, you can hold it up to the light to see if you have any patches that need more paint.

Follow the instructions on your paint and let it dry, then peel off the stencil. So Easy!! This was about a $10 project, and next time it would just be the cost of whatever item you are stenciling. The possibilities are endless ....

Monday, December 6, 2010

I don't follow my own advice

uh, woops.

Remember when I said that thing about not making birthdays a huge deal?

Well, I confess that I unwillingly made this 2-year birthday party a bigger deal than originally intended. It's just so fun, though ... how can you avoid it?

I randomly came across this cute circus-themed party for a 2-year-old and thought it would be the perfect theme for Miss Ells. Then, I remembered this post on Under the Sycamore about popcorn boxes. (Do you read her blog? She is a photographer and has great pictures of her kids with fun crafty projects). Turns out, Hobby Lobby has an entire line of circus-themed party supplies. All of these things conspired together to make me cross the border into crazy-birthday land.

Most of the craziness was crafty projects on my end - the party was still just our family and 2 little friends - but I do really enjoy the crafty part, so that counts for something, right?

I will post about some of the fun crafts this week. In the meantime, though, here is a fun birthday tip: have the special grandparents / aunts / uncles in your life call and leave a message on your voicemail for the little birthday girl or boy. Both grandmothers called Girly on her birthday and she sort of acted interested in holding the phone to her ear. One of her grandfathers, though, left a message because we were out of the house, and she asked to listen to it no fewer than 12 times!

And, here are a couple of blogs that have every cute party idea you could ever imagine!
Hip Hip Hooray!
Sara's Party Perfect

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dearest Girl

Dearest Ellen,

It is amazing to me that you have been a part of our lives for a mere 2 years, though I can hardly remember how we spent our time before you arrived. It hasn't been the easiest two years, but it has been rewarding and joyful and full of smiles. "Life with Ellen" is the life we want and we feel so fortunate to be your parents.

Birth to age 1 is almost a blur ... it was amazing to watch the change from a tiny, helpless newborn to an independent 1-year-old. The change from 1 to 2, though, has been even more remarkable to me. I love watching the wheels turn in your head as you figure things out. You are so inquisitive and surprise us daily with new things you have learned. I treasure your running commentary on our car rides and pride myself on figuring out 95% of what comes out of your mouth. Your newest phrase of, "Mama - what you doin in der?" brings an instant smile to my face.

As you approached 2, the mischievous twinkle in your eye grew even brighter and you like to stand your ground, particularly when I'm involved. My goal between 2 to 3 is to channel your passion into constructive activities - let's see how that goes. I always want you to stand up for what you believe in and to challenge those around you.

I love your questions (oh, the never-ending questions) and the science nerd in me can't help but be excited about the more complicated questions to come. When I see the light bulb go off in your head, it is thrilling. Quite literally, as I was writing this, I stopped to go up to your room to quiet you for a nap. "Why?" you asked. "Why nap, Mommy?" Oh, dear ...

You are a loving, cuddly, affectionate girl and find it endlessly entertaining that Daddy gives both Ellen AND Mommy kisses in the morning. You ask us to sit right next to you on the couch to read or watch a show, and I try to take advantage of every second, knowing full well that the day will come when you want to sit as far away from us as possible.

Our bedtime routine is very special and I feel lucky that your Dad and I both participate in bedtime most nights. You like to call the shots, and most nights we rock a bit before bed, either "just rock", or "rock and skatch-da-back". You lie down in bed and demand, "SKATCH-DA-BACK MOMMY!" and usually add, "in minutes". I giggle softly and generally comply with your demands, you lucky girl.

You have a delightful personality and often capture the eye of those around you. Yes, you have your moments of fake tantrums and flailing on the floor in public, but more often you enjoy parroting silly phrases that your Dad taught you, or shaking your booty to the music, or laughing out loud at the simplest of things.

We love you. We are proud of you. We are proud to be your parents. You have changed our life, from top to bottom, in the best possible way.

Happiest Birthday to you, darling girl.

Love, Mama

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anticipatory Guidance

In the paid job that I do 3 days a week (otherwise known as Keeping My Sanity), the concept of "anticipatory guidance" is something we use quite a bit. Basically, helping families think and talk through what they might expect in the near and far future as related to the health of their loved ones.

I have modified this for use at home, too.

Girly is quite verbal for her age and I've learned that she understands far more than I might have thought, and picks up on random pieces of conversations and pulls remote bits of information from her memory bank at the strangest of times. I think she has reached the developmental point where she understands more "If-Then" concepts, and has a basic understanding of time (yesterday / today / tomorrow). If we have something on the calendar that is a little out of our normal routine, I try to talk with her about it in advance to hopefully ease the transition.

So ... cue her first haircut!

I know first haircuts can be quite the tantrum-fest and, since we waited almost 2 years, I wasn't sure if it would be better or worse than average. I looked on YouTube for "sesame street + haircut" and found an old clip of Cookie Monster singing a song about haircuts. It is totally out of the 80's, and not that good honestly, but she asked to watch it over and over. We talked a lot about what happens when you get your haircut: special cape, spray bottle, comb, scissors ... all the while encouraging nice and sweet behavior, of course!

I think there are Sesame Street videos on an infinite number of topics. Or, if screen time isn't your thing, there are certainly books that address a lot of the same things, you just have to be organized enough to get to the bookstore, which I clearly am not.

The holidays are a great time for this, too. It is really fun to watch Girly get into the idea of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, though it is so hard to explain why they only last one day!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Serving size

I've been meaning to post this for awhile now - something I found pretty interesting from our last Parents As Teachers meeting ....

A serving is a level tablespoon for each year of your child's age.

Isn't this less than what you thought? So, for my 2-year-old, just 2 Tbs or 1/8 cup is a serving of whatever she is having.

Here are the guidelines for daily servings:
3 servings protein
4 servings bread / cereal
4 servings fruit / vegetable / both
4 servings milk /dairy

So, if your child subsisted on pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce with an occasional green bean, for the last 4 days like mine did - don't feel so bad!

Friday, November 19, 2010


One of my favorite things I heard this year on NPR was about the power of email. My behavior analyst friend could describe it better, but remember your high school or college psychology class and the discussion about the power of intermittent reinforcement? Email is just that very thing ... the 7th, or 83rd, or 1,217th time you check your email you get that really great email from an old friend, while the rest of it is mostly crap. You keep coming back, though, hoping for that really great one again. (Same thing with blogs, I suppose, which explains why I choose to rot my brain with the internets rather than on Real Housewives of Big Cities).

So, it seems that someone else had the same idea about parenting. Exactly! I was with a group of high school girlfriends the other night and 2/3rds of us were lamenting the challenges of parenthood. One of the child-less among us was appalled and asked why we did such a thing? While it is a fair question I ask myself from time to time, I explained that when you laugh harder with your child than you have in weeks, even in the midst of a day full of battles, it just keeps you coming back for more.

See what you think ...

Slate's article: Parents Are Junkies (If parenthood sucks, why do we love it? Because we are addicted).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Shhh ... don't tell Girly I'm telling you this ...

It has finally happened. She has become a reasonable napper and is getting up at a reasonable time. (Cue hallelujah chorus here).

Everyone kept telling me that after she started walking and expending more energy, she would become a better napper. This just wasn't true for her and I have my suspicion that girls (of the calmer variety) just don't get that busy until closer to their 2nd birthday. Within the last month, I have started to be able to count on a 1 1/2 hour nap at a minimum, closer to 2 hours on average, and 2 1/2 hours on a great day. It is heavenly.

The week or so prior to daylight savings, she had started to sleep until 6:00am every morning, with most mornings at 6:15-6:30am, and even an occasional 7 or 7:15am!! Daylight savings threw us (and everyone else) for a loop for just a few mornings, and even 5:40am was bearable because I knew it would have been 4:40am not that long ago.

I don't know that I can take any credit for this (though, I still swear the sleeping/dancing cow clock helped), but I'm so so SO happy that her inner clock has lined up a little better with the rest of our household.

Here's to hoping that it happens at your house, too ....

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Strong willed" is saying it nicely

Oh yeah, another tidbit from that blocks class I mentioned.

Girly was a nightmare.

Not a nightmare of the Freddy Krueger variety, but certainly a nightmare on her spectrum of "sweetest/nicest to oh-my-god-who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-my-kid."

I picked her up from school, came prepared with snacks, and thought she would really enjoy something different. There were about 20 kids between 8 months and 3 years and she was, by far, the most disruptive in the room. Granted, a room full of 20 small tykes and lots of blocks will already be disrupted, but she didn't do anything to help the situation. All of the teachers and parents were understanding of course, but I was caught off-guard by her behavior and challenged to respond appropriately in the moment. We got our first "wow, she is busy" comment, and not really in a nice way. We left 25 minutes into the 90 minute class.

What happened to my sweet girl who sat quietly and observed? Oh yeah, TWO happened.

I know this is par for the course (it is, right?), but I will say that it isn't much fun.

It also taught me an important lesson ... this event was for Girly and I thought she would have fun. She didn't and made that abundantly clear to me. I need to be flexible enough to change plans when the situation isn't working for us. From a Love and Logic perspective, I also feel that if I can learn to respond - calmly - in the moment, and validate Girly's feelings, she will eventually act out less. And, in those situations where we can't be flexible, she will eventually be more willing to comply because she knows that I listen to what she is telling me.

I think that's how it might work, anyway - but what do I know? Wishful thinking, I tell you ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm sold

Are you reading Ain't No Mom Jeans? I've posted about them before, but just in case ... you really should head over there now.

It's not that I care so much about what I look like - my style (style? do I have a style?) is simple, affordable and comfortable. I am far from the trendiest person on the block. I wear mostly plain colored clothes and few patterns (as my good friend says, curly hair is kind of enough pattern on its own!). Finally, at age 32, I am getting better at realizing that I should never buy turtlenecks or crewneck shirts. The issue I have is that the post-pregnancy body is harder to dress, at least for me. Do you have that squishy stuff around your waist that looks bad under fitted shirts? Blech.

So, this brings me to my new style secret - wear a belt. Around your waist. Lots of the time. I had seen this accessory all over the place, and was slow to adopt it, and then Ain't No Mom Jeans cemented it for me.

A fitted shirt with a long boyfriend sweater looks kind of shlumpy on me. But - add a skinny belt around the sweater? Defines the waist just enough, while said sweater still hides the squishy stuff.

A peasant shirt with jeans? Thanks, but having a friends' father ask when the baby was due - months before I got pregnant - was one time too many for me. The belt preserves the best aspect of the flowy shirt (camouflage!) while still showing that you have a waist.

I am really liking the skinny belts from J. Crew this fall - they have great colors and metallics and you can usually find some on sale. I am terrible about accessorizing with jewelry, so a silver belt does double duty for me. I wish I could say that Target had belts that were just as cute, but it sadly isn't true.

Give it a shot - your waist will thank you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A-ha moment!

Our Parents as Teachers educator came for our 22-month visit and she gave us a flier on an upcoming class about block-building. She mentioned that Americans focus primarily on reading and music skills in early childhood, while many Asians focus primarily on math and science skills in early childhood. I had never heard anyone phrase it this way, but it was a total light bulb moment for me!

Think about it ... what activities are aimed at young children? Music classes and reading time at the library. We have gajillions of books and Girly loves reading them, which I obviously encourage. She loves playing with musical instruments and listening to music. I think these are important skills, but I wish I could say that I put an equal emphasis on math and science skills, but I don't and I bet you don't either.

Playing with blocks is a good way to build understanding of math and science concepts - they say it helps develop numeracy (the understanding of numbers in everyday life), just like literacy is the understanding of letters and words. You probably already use a lot of math and science words in your normal play with your kiddo, but I've never focused on them.

Math words: long, tall, narrow, order, top, square, less, more, curve, add, count, outside, triangle, lines, patterns, big, little, rectangle ...

Science words: rough, smooth, smallest, heavy, whole, bigger, after, first, next, balance, light, weight, gravity, system ....

Don't underestimate your child's ability to learn these concepts!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pseudo slacker

Last week for Girly's Halloween party at school, I signed up to bring tablecloths. Then, I felt bad and agreed to bring cheese and crackers, too. Sure, it was participation, but I have unreasonable Martha-goals for myself and feel guilty when I don't make something from scratch.

So, in a moment of inspiration, I realized that I had tiny "fall" cookie cutters in my drawer for lord knows what reason. I think I got them at Michael's in the $1 bin several years ago and they have never been used, other than thrown around the kitchen by Girly. I just cut the slices of cheese into fun pumpkin, bat and moon shapes and slapped it on a paper plate. It was fun, kid-friendly, and looked like I made an effort. In other words, score, score, SCORE.

I think I had the popular bento-style lunches in the back of my brain somewhere. Have you seen those? Another Lunch is a great blog with totally cute ideas. I would love to make and receive a lunch like that - but - let's be honest. Who the hell has time? If that was part of the daily program at our house, it would look more like me running around at 6:55am, trying to make coffee and peel a banana, and searching for the freaking bunny toothpicks.

So, again, in other words - not going to happen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Remove the offender

We spent most of our weekend locked in a battle of wills over picking up.

Girly has reached the age where she is certainly capable of picking up her toys. She used to do it with pleasure, but as 2 approaches, she uses it as a stall tactic or to annoy her mother. She spent a lot of time in the time-out corner, then finally asked to spend time there. She willfully pushed her toys or magnets or noodles into a pile, as if she was going to pick them up, then kicked them all over the place. Exasperating, FOR SURE, and did not bring out the best in me.

I am trying to work hard on curtailing the whining - by ignoring her - but there are only so many things I can ignore and only so many threats I can issue. (I try very hard to 'threaten' with only the things I am willing to follow-through on. So, "if you ever want to eat again you better pick up!" is not a very good threat.)

I finally realized the problem - I need to remove the offending item. There are certain items in our house that are guaranteed triggers of bad behavior (like alcohol for alcoholics and drugs for crackheads - she is addicted to mess). She used to love to pour noodles from bowl to bowl - now they are shrapnel in our kitchen. She loved to play with magnets on the refrigerator - I saved all the sports schedules that came in the mail - and now she yields them as swords. Little General Custer and I had our Last Stand over the linoleum floor many a time this weekend.

No more.

You won't pick up your noodles after countless time-outs and threats? Fine. I'll sweep them up and throw them away.

You won't pick up your magnets without collapsing to the floor in melodramatic fashion? Fine. I'll throw them away.

It won't work for everything ... the Love and Logic folks say not to threaten to throw away toys unless you are really willing to throw them away forever ... but it will help limit the battles, I think.

Or, if I'm really honest with myself, the battle will just move to another item. Items.

Sigh ...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pardon the interruption

Between a vacation, a post-vacation stomach bug (not the detox I was looking for), sewing a Halloween costume, and cutting toddler fingernails that had somehow become claws, this Mama is BEAT DOWN.

See you back here soon ....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Yes or No?

I followed the Chronicles of a Babywise Mom blog pretty closely when Girly was a bitty babe - very helpful to me with all of the sleeping, eating, sleeping and sleeping some more. I haven't read any of the Babywise books after the newborn one, so I don't read her as closely anymore, but I do check in from time to time.

I thought this post was a good cosmic reminder for me to LOOSEN UP!!

Yes When You Can, No When You Must

Monday, October 18, 2010


Dear Tooth Fairy,

You may be pretty and you may bring gifts, but I am no fan of yours. This latest round of teeth is a doozey - are you going to pay extra for these when they fall out?

Mama with drool handprints on all of her things

I thought our girl had a rough time with teething in the past, but it has been nothing compared to this latest round. Her upper canines are for sure coming in, with some more on the bottom just erupting and I think maybe some more molars? All I know is that Girly constantly has her hands in her mouth (practically shoved down her throat) and drools all over the place. And has been doing it for 2+ weeks now.

Poor thing has been waking up early screaming, which has negated some of the cow-is-dancing training that we had going. I give her Motrin in the 4's or 5's and then she will go back to sleep until the cow is awake. :)

Early mornings aren't so rare around here, but she started a new thing of screaming at bedtime for 30 minutes to 1 hour. It partly coincided with my vacation out of town, but I think also had something to do with her teeth. I tried the cry-it-out, but it was just pitiful. I finally gave her a frozen washcloth at bedtime to chew on (our go-to teething aide) and she went down without a peep. Hallelujah.

I've also started a countdown at bedtime that seems to eliminate some of our power struggles (just with me, mind you - that mother/daughter thing starts early). We rock in the chair with her blanket and I tell her we'll rock until I count to 10. Then, I lay her in bed and she asks me to scratch her back (skatch da back!!) - I tell her that I will scratch her back until I count to 5, then it is time to close her eyes and go to sleep.

I like this cuddle time and it it sweet to see her ask for it, but all of these sweet things add on top of each other until our 'brief' bedtime routine lasts 30 minutes. Not exactly what I am looking for when mama still has to make dinner ...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Funnies, take two

Yes, I'm kind of dialing it in this week. Sorry 'bout that.

Just came across this tonight ... is it bad karma to laugh at this?

Shit My Kids Ruined

And, really, poop gloves? So help me ....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R & R


Does any of that exist in parenting?

I will say that I had a little dose this weekend and it was heavenly. Heavenly.

Here is my prescription for you:

Make plans for a girlfriend get-away with your best buddies. Ours happened to be hours (by plane!) away from home, but I think you could do it in your very own neighborhood. Send your spouse and kid(s) away, have the girls over, break out the snacks and adult beverages and enjoy yourself! Sleep in! Don't make 6 meals a day unless they are for yourself! You can do it!

Here is my second prescription, and one that I need to follow myself:

Set up a regular date night with your spouse. Two of my girlfriends started to do this regularly on Sundays nights after their 2nd child was born. I wish we had date night more often, and I'm sure I'll really long for it if a second child ever comes to live in our house. You must make it a habit - put the kids down (or not), go to dinner and try hard to talk about things other than naps, daycare and bills.

It's good for everyone's soul.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Let's lighten things up a bit, shall we?

Some funny for your Friday ...

The Good Enough Baby, courtesy of The New Yorker.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Take two

I read this article a while ago and thought it was pretty thought provoking. I planned to try to write something insightful to go along with it. Whether I'm ever insightful is debatable, but today? Not a chance.

So. Here's where I am:

The thought of a 2nd child is pure craziness.

This doesn't help.

All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting

post at Rookie Moms (read their take on it, too)


Friday, October 1, 2010

Reading labels

Ahhh, yes, the crazy continues.

Do you pay attention to the parabens, phthalates, sulfates and other -ates in the myriad of products in your bathroom? I swear, I'm just now getting a handle on the food in our house and the sunscreen we use, and now I feel the need to tackle every other product in our house.

I don't know where I picked up the bug, but it seems there has been an article in every magazine that has entered our house in the last few months about the dangers of lurking chemicals. I have paid pretty close attention to the products we use for Girly, but you will be surprised by the 'dangerous' chemicals that are in a lot of those products if you read carefully. Just because it looks healthy or natural doesn't mean it is. I haven't thought much about what the adults in this house use, which is kind of silly. If I care about one of us, I should care about all of us.

There is certainly a lot of debate about whether these things are actually dangerous or not. I guess I am choosing to err on the side of caution ... if I can find a product that is equally good without them, why not use it?

Therein lies the problem, though, because it can be a big challenge to actually find a product that you like equally as well. I have searched a lot on the Cosmetic Safety Database, which seems to be a good resource, but it can be a challenge to find a lot of their highest rated products without going to the ends of the earth or spending my whole paycheck on internet shipping.

This is a (seemingly) balanced article from Real Simple: What are parabens and do I need to worry about them? I think it makes sense to take a logical approach to changing your products. Start with the products you use the most (hand soap, body soap, shampoo/conditioner, lotion) and those that cover a large percentage of your skin.

I've just been replacing products when they run out with a 'better' option. It seems wasteful to run out and replace everything all at once. I'm also pretty budget conscious, which can be challenging because many of these products are $pricey$. So far, I am liking the Kiss My Face lotion and Whole Foods 365 mint shampoo and conditioner. Surprisingly, Costco also has a citrus bodywash and shampoo and conditioner that are paraben and phthalate free. I really like the California Baby stuff for Girly, but Johnson and Johnson just came out with a Natural option that looks promising. I had already been using an Arbonne skin care system, which is also free of a lot of the nastiness. Sadly, our beloved Cetaphil does have some of the nastiness, which is just sad because that is a good product that is hard to replace.

I haven't tackled shaving cream yet, or make-up or hair products. You curly-haired girls know what I am talking about - it is quite the gamble to switch up the products and I hate to spend money on something that might not work. Baby steps ....

What are the good products you use?

Monday, September 27, 2010

How do you do it?

I have finally come around to the idea that exercise should be, and needs to be, a more regular part of my life. The problem, though, is trying to figure out how to fit it into my day.

Except for an ill-conceived attempt at cross country running my freshman year in high school, I do not participate in sports. I am not athletic. I do not run. I do like to walk, but generally outside and not on the treadmill (which lives in our basement. Yes. I am lazy).

I am, however, exceptionally good at making excuses:

1. I don't like to walk unless the weather is nice.
2. I don't like to walk if it will mess up Girly's nap schedule. (Not so much an issue now, but used to be).
3. I don't want to have to pay someone to exercise.
4. I am not willing to give up my 1 hour of alone time during naps and devote it to exercise.
5. I can't workout in the mornings - I leave for work by 700am and we have already discussed my pure hatred for mornings that start in the 5's.
6. I could workout at night, but only after I cook dinner? Well, then, that interferes with my daily glass of wine.

See? I am a whiner.

I feel very fortunate that most of the baby weight from #1 came off with relative ease. (I don't know if breastfeeding was always easy, but I do give it credit for helping with those pounds.) Slowly, though, I think some of those pounds have crept back. I find myself saying ridiculous things like, "Oh, well. I'll just have another kid anyway - what is the point of trying to lose the weight?" Well, here is the point: we are entering Fall and when your clothes don't fit from last Fall, that feels crappy. And, should we decide to have another and I start a pregnancy weighing quite a bit more than last time? I'm sure I'll really feel excellent about myself 40 weeks later and 40 (more) pounds heavier.

So, my current approach is to try to really devote 30 minutes each day (or most days of the week) to an exercise video on TV. Girly can run around while I'm doing it and I can generally keep her out of mischief, or at least hear what kind of mischief she is getting into.

How do you fit exercise into your day / week?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The one in which a good idea backfires

I previously mentioned the new use of a basket of toys / books / calculators in Girly's bed. (Calculator, you say? Yes. She's totally a nerd and I'm totally OK with it.)

This has served us well for the past 10 days or so. Surprisingly, she doesn't seem to really use it ... she may pull out a few of the books as she is falling asleep, but otherwise doesn't pay much attention.

That is, until naps this week. Sunday and Monday resulted in totally disrupted naps as she had a grand ol' time playing with all her toys and talk-talk-talking to herself for over an hour. Yes, I had some alone time to eat my lunch and I didn't have to listen to her cry, but the face-slapping, hair-pulling, crumbles-at-the-drop-of-a-book girl we were left with in the late afternoon was So. Not. Worth It.

So - this is apparently a nighttime tool only. Let's see how that goes.

Monday, September 20, 2010


They say one is born every minute, right? I guess I am the one for 8:10pm on the day of my birth in 1977.

I think some of you will feel my pain when I say that getting up at 5:15am for two weeks in a row will inspire you to do crazy things and seek crazy solutions. I mentioned this KID'Sleep alarm clock before and finally found myself desperate enough to order it. Anything with the slightest promise of 10 additional minutes of sleep seems to be worth about $120,000 to me about now.

** I started this post about 10 days ago to keep track of our progress. Progress? Hmmm - you decide. **

It arrived on a Friday (!! happy dance !!) and I put it to the test. Here is the lowdown:

Night/Morning #1: I set the clock, showed Girly the sleeping cow and explained that when the cow was sleeping, she needed to be sleeping. She woke at 5:19am as usual, I went to her room, showed her the sleeping cow and told her to sleep, just like mommy and daddy. Surprisingly, she laid down and was quiet for about 10 minutes. This happened three more times - she cried out, threw all her stuff on the floor, I went in to put it back in her crib and told her to lie down. At 6:03am she was up and I excitedly (this was good acting on my part) showed her the dancing cow and told her it was time to get up.

Aside: Part of the problem with the early waking is that Girly gets up, then poops and then screams out that she is "Poopy! Change diapey!". I feel bad just leaving her there for 30 minutes or more when she is clearly uncomfortable. This was the first night I explained that I would change her diaper and put her back in bed and she was actually OK with it.

Night/Morning #2: Same routine. Girly was excited about the sleeping cow. I decided to put a basket of books and toys in her crib to see if that would improve the throw-crap-out-of-your-crib-until-mommy-gets-it game. She is big time into taking things in and out of baskets. She woke first about 5:20am, I showed her the sleeping cow and laid her down. She was up again about 10 minutes later with a poopy diaper, and same routine. Then, she was quiet until 6:04am when I acted exciting about the dancing cow again. She didn't throw anything out of her crib, so that was a plus.

Morning #3: Could it be this easy? Huz nudged me early in the morning and said, "what time is it?" Ummm ... thanks for waking me up, and it's 6:04am. "Have you heard the Girl?" No. No? NO! She slept until 6:30am which, no joke, is like a frigging miracle.

Morning #4: No, it could not be this easy. Up at 5:22am, showed the sleeping cow and laid her down. Up at 5:53am. I let her cry until about 5:57am, then I went in for a 'teachable moment' (see above re: sucker). I showed her the sleeping cow, again explained that we couldn't get out of bed until the cow was dancing. At 6:00am, when the cow started dancing, I got her out.

Morning #5: I'll take it. Up at 5:02am - see the sleeping cow? - lie down - I'll see you when the cow is dancing. Then, up at 7:03am!!! Love that kid.

Morning #6: Can't remember, but only marginal.

Morning #7: Rated poor to very poor. I have the unfortunate situation of having to get up at 5:15am on Thursdays to leave my house before 6:00am for work. So - Huz was on duty. Girly was up at 5:15am ... when he responded with the cow routine, she was not pleased. I am usually the person that goes in and puts back to sleep and he is the one that gets her up for good. She was probably confused and, well, OOPS on our part. Then, she cried that she was poopy. I changed her and laid her back down. She started crying out that she was poopy again. Crying wolf? (or, is that crying poop?) Huz didn't get her till 6:00am and she really was poopy. Ooops again.

Morning #8: Marginal.

Morning #9: Marginal.

Morning #10: Slept till 6:34am with no waking in the 5's. Happy campers all around! (Well, at least until she skipped her nap that day - can't have it all).

Morning #11: Slept till 6:15am with no mama visit in the 5's. Are we on to something here?

In summary, I do feel that we have made progress. I can't say the progress is entirely due to the clock, but I do honestly feel that it has helped. Plus, the happy "cow dancing!" dance that Girly does when you go in to get her is worth every penny of the $50, and more.

Friday, September 17, 2010


So, after the last post about raising girls, I feel the need to issue a clarification. Or a retraction. Or an admission ... whatever.

I truly didn't think that our Girl was aware of princesses. We don't play princess, or have princess dolls or books or any kind of princess paraphernalia.

We had a Mom & Daughter pizza and fro-yo date last night and there happened to be a little sidewalk sale party event. As Girly busted a move to the DJ, a nice lady gave her a little tiara comb for her hair. It was the sparkliest-pinkest-sparkle fest you've ever seen. And she loved it, of course.

But - the best (?worst) was that she then proclaimed - for our entire walk to the fro-yo shop - My Pin-cess! MY Pin-cess! MINE PIN-CESS!

So, not only do we have a serious case of the MINE's (!!!), but she apparently knows about, and adores, princesses.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

oh, girls

I had one of those 'big picture' moments recently ... can't remember how I stumbled on it ... blog? Twitter? Facebook? ... but it made me freeze in my tracks and just think, whoa, this job is SO huge.

The job of raising children, but especially the job of raising GIRLS.

I wish I could remember how I found it, but please read this post: Redefine Girly - A New Way to Parent Young Girls. Even if you have boys, I think some of the points are interesting and might make you think again about the young girls in your life.

When I was buying big baby items (pack n'play, swing, bouncy seat, exersaucer), I intentionally tried to make them as gender-neutral as possible, thinking we might have a boy some day. I tried to do the same thing with the itty bitty newborn clothes that I thought we could use for more than one baby, girl or boy. That was more challenging, as those of you who didn't find out the gender of your child can attest to.

How is it that marketing and corporate greed (i.e. the need to buy 2 of every product - one pink and one blue) has slowly, but surely, contributed to the concept of gender in our society? I am certainly not qualified to comment on the intricacies of our society and economy when it comes to gender roles, but I think you can see it in the aisle at Target and elsewhere. Why is it so hard to find neutral kid clothing? Do PJ's have to be covered in princesses - for little babies who don't know any better? Why do I see other girls, about age 2, who look like tarts? Why are the simple, child-appropriate clothes often so pricey, out of the reach of the majority of Americans?


All this being said, I certainly do like the color pink and we have a lot of it. I make an effort, though, to buy Girly clothes that are NOT pink - which can be harder than you think. I try to buy more simple or traditional clothes - no words if I can help it. (I have a friend who was searching for plain, brightly colored onesies for her little boy and couldn't find them anywhere for a decent price. Target recently filled this gap, but seriously, was this rocket science?).

As I look around the room, most of our toys are gender neutral. We have a couple of baby dolls, which are of course fine for little boys or girls, and a pink car and pink purse that were gifts. I guess we've done a decent job, and I will continue to make the effort. I know our Girl will express her opinion about the toys she likes and wants in no time, but I will try my hardest not to steer her in one direction or another.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Mom's Best friend

I guess it could also be a Dad's best friend, but really, are any Dads reading this? Right. Just as I thought. Back to the Moms.

I love, love, capital LOVE, love Evernote. Do you use it? I don't even have an iWhatsIt, but still find it extremely useful in all aspects of my life.

First, some background: I am the child of a librarian and marketing guru / rehabilitated pack rat. Growing up, we had lots of magazines around our house and my mom always tore out 'inspiration' pages and filed them away neatly in hanging files. She cut recipes out of magazines or the newspaper, taped them to index cards and filed them in an old card catalog. Truly. Then, my dad was forever reading something and always dog-eared the corners. You know, for future reference. Fast forward and (genetics is an amazing thing) I find myself with piles of dog-eared magazines, piles of tear sheets, files and files of recipes. Occasionally I can find what I am looking for, but our kid totally gets in the way of my tearing and filing system.

Soooo ... I randomly came across Evernote a while back when I was looking for a way to organize my recipes, in particular. It's genius! I can go through a cooking magazine, corner the recipes I like, find them online, and then cut and paste into Evernote. No tearing or filing! Then, I can search by any ingredient - so much more useful then trying to remember if I filed those green chile enchiladas under 'chicken' or 'mexican'. If you come across a recipe on some blog that sounds good, just cut and paste it for the future. You can also scan any piece of paper that, say, has a handwritten recipe and it is still searchable!

I don't have convenient access to a printer at home. (Aside: does anyone anymore? Seems like sitting down at a desktop computer with an attached printer is akin to saying you are riding your dinosaur to the quarry for work, a la Fred Flinstone). So, I am usually dragging my laptop into the kitchen when I cook. This would be far simpler if I had an iPad .... Santa? Please get on that.

It's not just recipes, though. You can cut and paste anything from the internets and save it for future reference. A cute kid's birthday party? A good DIY project? The perfect gift for your in-laws? YES. ALL OF IT.

I love products like this that support my OCD. Technology is an amazing thing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Switching it up

A few random thoughts for today:

1. We switched Girly to 2% milk. Our pediatrician suggested we could make the switch whenever, as long as she was getting other full-fat dairy, and we just finally did it. Perhaps the fact that she gained 1 pound in about 2 1/2 weeks pushed us over the edge. (It was mostly due to post-sickness rebound, but still). She didn't give a hoot, and maybe it will even be healthier for Mom and Dad.

2. If you have your act together (unlike me), you might be able to take advantage of the lingering summer sale items that are still around in some stores. If you know any kids who have mid-winter birthdays, their parents sure appreciate the thought of toys that can be put away to pull out several months down the road. Same goes for end-of-winter sales for those kiddos with summer birthdays. I suppose this might not work when kids are old enough to realize that the toy won't be useful in the near future, but Girly doesn't mind the deception.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Consider this a warning

Dear 3's, 4's and 5's ....

I haven't seen you in a while. Let me tell you - you weren't missed. It is so rude the way you barge into my sleep and make me stumble through the halls, rubbing my eyes, to get you to go away.

Please stop corrupting my child. She doesn't want or need to see you. There is nothing good that happens when you are around.

If you show yourselves again, I will be forced to resort to more significant measures.

Consider yourself warned.

Signed -
Bleary eyed in the Midwest

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Choices, choices

I highly recommend that you read a book or take a class on discipline if you haven't yet.

Just sayin' that you might need it sometime soon. REAL SOON.

I previously mentioned the Love and Logic classes I took here, here and here. Girly was just about 15 months at the time, so we really weren't having any significant discipline issues, but I wanted to have some tools to fall back on. And, yes, the tools are unwrapped and in use.

I need to sit down and review the fine details, but it is really nice to have an idea about how to respond in the moment without feeling (more) flustered. We are still pretty successful with re-directing and changing the subject, but there are an increasing number of behaviors that need to be firmly addressed.

Say, for example, on our walk the other day. Girly likes to navigate - "this way! that way!" - and I turned a corner without her consent and - WHOA - watch out. She roared her terrible roar and gnashed her terrible teeth (Where The Wild Thing Are, anyone?) for the entire next block. She has this determined version of NO!!, in which she shouts/shrieks NO!, turns red and stiffens her body. It actually takes most of my restraint not to bust out laughing at her. The straps of her stroller could barely contain her and the poor lady sweeping her driveway sweetly said, "what's the matter?"

Never you mind, lady, just out for a stroll with a wild coyote. That's all.

So ... since we were nowhere close to home and I was tiring of the screaming, oh the incessant screaming, I turned to CHOICES. Magic, I tell you!

I have been trying to institute a lot of choices in our house - black plum or red plum? purple cup or yellow cup? left shoe or right shoe? Anything and everything, but they generally haven't been in the midst of a meltdown. We got to the end of the block and I let Girly choose - which way? Straight or left? She picked, she calmed down, and I patted myself on the back. I let her choose again at our next junction and she was perfectly calm. You obviously can't do this forever, or you would end up in China, but the beauty is this: when we reached the corner where we had to turn left to head toward home I just warned her and said, "Mommy's going to choose this time. Let's go left!" I was enthusiastic, she went with it, and then I almost fell over in shock because there wasn't any screaming!

It won't always work, of course, but I was sure glad I had invested some time a few months earlier. Saved my bacon (and my sanity)!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dippity do dah

I promise this isn't a post about early waking.

Except, that, well, I've been about to tear my hair out with all the early waking!

Let's focus on a solution, then, shall we?

Our Girl always asks to eat the second we get her out of her crib. I think some of this is habit, but I also truly think she is hungry, as evidenced by the ungodly amount of food she consumes first thing in the morning.

I've tried all my usual tricks to get her to stay in her bed (quietly): Cry it out. Go in and lay her back down and tell her to sleep. Go get her and have her sleep in our bed (which works on occasion, but usually results in her kicking my face). Try to reason with her and tell her that if it is still dark outside she needs to stay in her crib quietly. (Ha, Ha. And, oh yeah, HA again). Have her play with her toys in her pack n' play in mommy's room while mommy sleeps. Put books in her own crib to play with ...

My newest notion is that I've been wondering if a grumbly stomach has been contributing to her waking up. She eats a lot during the day and generally eats a pretty good volume of food at dinner, but it is mostly fruit and veggies, which doesn't necessarily sustain her for 12 hours. She used to be a cheese monster, but now turns her nose up at cheese, unless it comes in a grilled cheese sammy form. She doesn't eat very much meat and usually refuses meatballs or deli meat or the like.

So, time to get creative with the protein-pushing!

I roasted a chicken in the crock pot (btw - you should do this if you have the time. It is the same price as a rotisserie chicken and you can get a better quality chicken. Just clean out the cavity, rinse and pat dry, rub the skin with spices, put it in a crockpot on high or med-high for about 4 hours and forget it. No liquid or anything!) and Huz was cleaning the meat off the bones while I made Girly dinner. She asked to "eat that!" and I gave her a taste, though she never liked it in the past. She kind of picked at the meat, then I offered her ketchup and mustard and she couldn't get enough! The shredded chicken pieces are perfect for dipping.

I have been trying to avoid most condiments, with the thought being that I wanted her to eat her food as it was and not to always have to add something to it to make it appealing. I've gotten over myself, though, now that I have witnessed the wonders of sauces! She would just eat the ketchup and mustard straight with her fork, so I had to remind her to dip and bite, dip and bite, but she did eat it all up. And, she slept till 6:00am for two mornings in a row! Success! (And, yes, 6:00 is pretty much the best I can hope for ...)

So, if you haven't started the dips yet, you may want to check them out! I am trying to focus on 'healthier' things, like mustard and salsa, but the occasional drizzle of real maple syrup on roasted squash isn't such a bad thing, either.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Welcome to B.B.C.

No, not the British Broadcasting Corporation. Our Girly has been enrolled in Behavior Boot Camp this week!

I took the week off work to stay home with her as she recovered from the fluke-y illness. Though she is still yellowish, her personality has mostly returned. For the better, and for the worse.

Our girl is truly mostly a delight - reasonably even-tempered and very well behaved for a child her age. She is content to play independently and she has lately been totally fascinated with moving little bits of things (crayons, noodles, balls) all over the house. The loveliness of a little girl, I tell you!

That being said, the NO!! has returned with full-force. It was almost a month ago that this bug entered our lives and Girly started to act, not exactly sick, but certainly not like herself. She ate and drank less and less, to the point where she would have part of a banana and a few ounces of milk. All Day. In an effort to get some calories in, I offered anything and everything that I thought she would eat or drink and I catered to her every whim. Popsicles? Two flavors? Sure!

Now, though, I can see her appetite is back and she is just expressing opinions about what she prefers (to put it nicely). We are back to offering a reasonable meal or snack, milk only when sitting at the table, and she can take it or leave it. After a bit of leaving it, she is now taking it. :)

She was also EXTRA cuddly, which I have to admit was super sweet. "Mama Huggie", "Mama Carry" ... awww .... okay. She would curl up on my shoulder every night and refuse books, just wanting to snuggle. I felt badly that she was sick, but I squeezed in every squeeze I could because I knew it wouldn't last forever.

Now, though, if Girly doesn't want to do something (like walk up the stairs or walk at the zoo), it's "Mama Carry". If I tell her No, she plops down dramatically and cries, and then puts her arms out - "Mama Huggie!". Cute, but No.

Just reinforces the fact that discipline and consistency will take you a long way in this parenting gig. Fortunately, she still responds pretty quickly to a little adjusting at this age. Don't you wish everyone was that way?

Monday, August 9, 2010

We know what we are talking about

Girly has gone and caught herself some type of rare illness (or, rather, a common illness with a rare complication. Semantics.) Regardless, I thought it was worth a brief reminder that parents should trust themselves when it comes to the health of our children.

Our daycare provider called last week to say that our girl's eyes were yellow. Not that she had yellow gunky eyes, but rather that the whites of her eyes were yellow. Uh Oh. I work in the health care field and instantly knew this was a problem, but I think most parents would draw the same conclusion. I promptly called our pediatrician's office and, 4 hours later, their triage nurse informed me this was normal and to push fluids.

I begged to differ.

I knew she needed lab work and fortunately had the contacts to make it happen without our pediatrician's office, but it was frustrating nonetheless. We got the tests we needed and our pediatrician was very responsive the next day and got Girly some additional tests very promptly. No harm was done by the fact that she wasn't seen right away, but things might not have been the same for another family.

My point is this: you know your child better than anyone else does. If something seems very unusual or very wrong, it may very well be. It is okay to NICELY persist in getting your child seen if you really think they need it. I always think that a nice, understanding parent is taken more seriously than a parent who rants and raves unnecessarily. It is worth the cost of an office co-pay to have your concerns addressed. And, if you find that your doctor's office just isn't responsive to your concerns, maybe it is time to find a new doctor. There are so many good ones out there - it has to be one of the most important things you can do for your child.

Another side point: take your immunization card to all of your well-visits to get updated. I have done this only sporadically and forgot it at our last visit. Even though Girly has been immunized on the regular schedule, I wasn't sure exactly what shots she had. It would have been helpful to know and I will do a better job next time.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New vocabulary

Are any of you reading Rants from Mommyland?

It's really f-ing funny. Moms need funny. A LOT OF IT.

I was introduced to the Rants from another blog I read, and specifically the MommyLand Desk Reference post. Trust me - read a few of them when you need a pick me up. It does the trick.

A few of my favorites:

Indoor Homeless People: pet name for Kate's washed, brushed, rich, satiated children AKA the small people who have no jobs and beg you for everything, but do it inside your house.

Turtle Herding: The act of getting small children to go anywhere. Worse than herding cats, as cats actually move. Also see; excruciating.

T-Box: A Target Wine Box. They come in different flavors, colors, and sizes. Lydia is particularly fond of the littlest ones, which are also called: "mommy juice boxes", because they look exactly like the kind of juice boxes you give your kids except that these are filled with awesomeness.

Speaking of ... I'm off to the T-Box.


Monday, August 2, 2010

'Special' dinner

We are facing our first food strike with the Girl and it isn't a ton of fun. I think there are a lot of issues at play - more (MORE) teeth, maybe a GI bug?, being 20 months old - so it's just a perfect storm.

On a happier note, I will pass along a food tradition that we will definitely be implementing in our house some day.

My mom is a great cook and we had homemade, delicious family dinners most nights of the week all during our childhood. (And, really, our teenhood and adulthood, too). I will say, though, that I often looked forward to the 'special dinner' that we had a few Sunday nights each month.

'Special dinner' at our house consisted of microwave popcorn, veggies and dip, cut-up fruit, cheese and crackers ... you get the idea. We prepped our plates and often sat in my parents' room and watched National Geographic or 60 Minutes or something of the sort. I thought it was great! And, now, as the primary cook at our house, I see the beauty in the simplicity!

I have a friend who makes nachos every now and then and camps out with her husband and daughter in front of the TV. It's a special treat and simple for the cook - what's not to love?

How about a picnic on a blanket on your living room floor?

Girly is a little ways away from this - can't quite trust her to stay seated and not throw food - but I sure do look forward to it.

What fun food traditions did you have growing up?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Seriously. In. Need. Of. Help.

Do any of you have kids who get car sick?

There will be more to come on our First Car Trip Ever, but let me give you a preview and say that Girly apparently gets car sick. Like mother, like daughter. Damn - I hate genetics.

We have been very lucky in the sickness department ... our girl has had her fair share of snotty noses, but we have managed to avoid the GI nastiness. She did have a weird vomiting illness about a month ago - threw up once each day for about 4 days out of 7 with no rhyme or reason - but that was the end of it.

On our way out of town last week, we picked her up at school, popped her in the car, and she promptly threw up all over the place about 15 minutes later. This didn't seem to be car sickness - we have driven farther lots of time without incident - but the dry heaving in Des Moines while watching the DVD player sure cleared things up.

Fast forward to today. I picked her up at daycare and took our normal 10 minute route home. At minute 9 we had vomit all over the backseat. Seriously???

She is still rear-facing in her car seat and I would like to leave her that way, if possible, since she has a ways to go before she meets the size restrictions. I agree that being rear-facing might make the motion sickness worse, but why would it start all of a sudden? She has been this way for 19 months.

She had a rash today when I got her out of the car to clean her up, so maybe she does have a bug, but she was sure acting fine.

I guess my question is this ... how do you know if it is car sickness or a bug? And, what do you do about it? The thought of cleaning puke out of a car seat several times a week is just maddening.


Icked Out in the Midwest

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bag it

How are you all managing your baby bag these days?

I never really got into the 'formal diaper bag' idea ... it didn't fit our lifestyle very well. We are kind of homebodies on our home days, or our girl already has everything she needs at daycare.

My approach thus far has been to have a 'baby station' in our living room, located in a large Lands End canvas bag. (I think I've previously mentioned my love affair with these things). We have diapers, wipes, a few spare outfits, burp cloths, plastic bags - you know, all that miscellaneous crap.
It also includes our Skip Hop Pronto changer, which I just LOVE and couldn't live without.

When we are headed out of the house, I just grab our medium Lands End bag (see - told you - obsessed) and transfer whatever we need - pronto changer, spare outfit, add a sippy cup or snacks and go. This bag also serves as the daycare bag, hence the frequent packing and unpacking.

This has worked pretty well for us, but now that Girly is older and more mobile, I am finding the need for a change. I have several friends who use backpacks for their baby/diapering needs, and I've finally stolen their idea.

I just ordered the Lands End diaper bag backpack upon the recommendation of a friend.
Truly, I don't have stock in this company, but I probably should. I just love to monogram things, you know.

I need to be more hands-free these days ... chasing Girly at the zoo, or farm, or just down the driveway, doesn't work with an open-topped bag in one of my hands. Or, I hang the tote bag on the stroller, chase her, and then watch the stroller fall over.

If a second child joins our family someday, I suppose this plan will need a revision - seems you need a lot more stuff for 2 kids, and not just twice the stuff - more like 10 times the stuff.

Also, are any of you organized enough to have a 'car kit' of sorts? Kind of an emergency stash for the things you forgot or didn't think you would need? I haven't been able to get my act together enough in 19 months to accomplish that, but maybe you have some tips ...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cleaning house

Here is my advice about cleaning toys:

Stop cleaning your toys.

The End.

I'm not really kidding. I cleaned Girly's toys a few times when she was just starting to really move around and mouth things, and it was a whole production with bleach water and air drying and the like. Then, I never really did it again.

If we have lots of kids over I might run a few things under hot water, or if she has been sick I might clean a few things, but in general - NOPE. She is in daycare for heaven's sake - there is no germ I can banish from my house. (We also haven't **crossing fingers** had the dreaded GI bug yet. That would require some sanitizing).

Our teethers are just frozen washcloths, so they all go in the wash anyway.

Save yourself some time and effort. Spend your free time doing something fun, like, oh I don't know, laundry?

In case you are an overachiever, here are some toy-cleaning tips from our friends at SafeMama.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Have baby, will travel: the car edition

I have been delinquent in describing our first car trip with Girly and I have forgotten a lot of the details (or, more likely, blocked them from memory). The destination was wonderful, but the coming and going? Not so much.

Here are just a few little tips -

Motion sickness:
We didn't know our girl got sick in the car. Looking back, I think she had just caught the bug that made her sick, sick, sick (because she threw up 10 minutes into the trip - that isn't motion sickness), but she also clearly had some degree of motion sickness, as evidenced by the dry heaving 4 hours into our trip. I suggest you call your pediatrician before you leave and ask if there is any medication you can give to your child and get the dose, just in case. Better to have it on hand than to have to go searching for it in a strange town.

Also, pack plenty of extra wipes and plastic bags in the car - there is all sorts of dirty-ness on road trips, puke or otherwise. We finally learned (after lots of puking) that a bib with a big pouch at the bottom can help contain the mess and make your kid and the car seat easier to clean.

If you are traveling with a special blanket or animal (lovingly named dee-dee in our house), be careful with its use. We have two dee-dees, fortunately, but both were thrown up on in the first 10 minutes, unfortunately. I wish, wish, wish I had kept one on reserve - just in case. ("Just In Case" became the theme of our trip.)

Finally, I was so super excited to use the portable DVD player to help pass the time - quietly. Turns out, a sick kid in a rear-facing car seat who watches movies continues to get sick. Bring plenty of reinforcements to fill the time.

Which is a nice transition to ... Toys!
I made a special solo trip to Target to find all manner of fun things to fill our time. Turns out that it is surprisingly hard to find age-appropriate toys that are quiet and good for the car. Whatever happened to the plain ol' Magnadoodle? I got the Target version, which has a laughable name, but was compact and good for travel. Otherwise, it was just some books from the $1 section and some colors. We bought a little keyboard for the trip home because Girly LOVES banging on the keys. We would have taken out the batteries, if it wasn't for the dreaded tiny screwdriver, but it did take her almost an hour to figure out how to turn it on!

Entertainment for parents?
I checked out some books on CD from the library for when Girly was sleeping (which, shocker, wasn't all that often). I ended up getting a series of short stories by David Sedaris, which were really funny and perfect because we could just listen to it in short bursts if necessary.

I bought a lot of special treats for the trip, as my plan was to feed Girly from the time we left until the time we arrived, just to keep her happy. "Minnesota crackers" we called them. Turns out a sick kid wants nothing to do with cheese bunnies, so more for me, thankyouverymuch.

In general, I hope you travel to a place where there are friends / grandparents / aunts, uncles, cousins / random strangers (kidding, kidding) who can take care of your kid for a little bit and give you a breather!

Also, last tip: bring a spare set of car keys that you DON'T keep in the car. No need getting trapped anywhere. I did have the forethought to renew our AAA membership the day we left, though it didn't help when the keys were locked in the trunk in Minnesota. Apparently, we don't have coverage for stupidity.

Dinner FAIL

My brain is fried from the mental energy I expended last weekend on our first road trip with Girly. Details to come when I am coherent again.

In the meantime, let me regale you with another tale of poor memory and parenthood failure. Remember when I sought your advice about eating out with your kids? Well, it must have all gone in one ear and out the other, because we tried again and it wasn't pretty.

One evening a couple of weeks ago we were having the 'dinner showdown' in our kitchen. You know how it goes ... everyone gets home from work / school and you stand around debating what you are going to eat. It was early on a Friday night and sushi sounded like a good idea. I decided our option was to walk 2 blocks to our local sushi place with Girly at 5:30pm, or wait until she went to bed and get carry-out sushi.

Oh, why not? Let's take her! She'll love sushi!
Just because she dresses like it doesn't mean she'll eat it.

It was a disaster. I probably have higher standards than most - it wasn't like we were kicked out - but it was un-relaxing, un-fun, and un-appetizing.

And, the worst part is that it was mostly my fault.

I overestimated the chance that Girly would eat sushi. California rolls? No go. I brought a banana as a back-up that lasted about 4 seconds. I had only one toy that occupied her attention for maybe 4 more seconds. I forgot that instead of just being restless, she now deploys a high-pitched scream when annoyed.

Once again, I set her up to fail because I didn't prepare well enough. We just aren't at the stage where we can spontaneously run out of the house to dinner and I need to be OK with that. I am OK with that, but I just need to remember next time.

The chopsticks were a help when Girly wasn't sticking them in her ears, and the oranges at the end of our meal bought us just enough time to pay the bill and get out of there. We'll ask for those first if we ever try it again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

While we're on the subject ...

Since we've already been talking food and feeding, just another glimpse at how things are working for us these days.

I love making meals in the summer. (Wait. Let me re-phrase. I find making 6 meals a day to be very tedious, but it is less tedious in the summer.) Fresh fruits are so varied and plentiful that there is always something healthy and easy to prepare waiting in the refrigerator. Our girl also usually likes pasta, and loves quesadillas (corn tortilla with refried beans and a little cheese), and an occasional half PB&J on wheat bread.

Veggies and protein, though, are more of a challenge for me. We are past the baby food stage and fully into finger and fork/spoon foods. Girly isn't quite up to the task of raw veggies, though, unless it is something soft like a cucumber (though she usually refuses those, along with tomatoes because she doesn't like the skin). I've mentioned before about blanching and freezing veggies, and this works very well for broccoli and cauliflower for us. Microwaved with a little cheese and she eats it all up.

I've also found that I am far more successful in providing balanced meals if I can pull something out of the freezer that is already prepped. If I devote an afternoon or an evening or two to cooking, then I can usually have meals for at least a month. I still find that NurtureBaby has some of the best recipes. I've made them over and over and have had great success, both in cooking and Girly's eating. The one-pot wonders are very toddler-friendly and freeze great. The Mexican Fiesta Stew is a staple around here, and I've also made the Creamy Chicken Florentine and the Pork Chops and Applesauce a few times. I've tried almost all of the recipes and they all are quite good! I just don't mash or puree anything anymore and simply freeze portions in muffin tins.

What are your tips for getting the veg and protein into your toddler?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Water Safety

I've mentioned before that one of 'my things' is a fear around water. I am a confidant swimmer, but I had one bad experience at summer camp being caught in a large group of girls in the river and I couldn't get out. Ever since, I get anxious in bodies of water where I can't see the bottom, and even in pools if there are a lot of people.

Add children to the mix? Might as well send the Xanax my way ...

This is a little ways off for us, as Girly pretty much stages a protest with full-on picket signs if I even attempt to get her near the pool, but it will be here before I know it.

I have seen pretty impressive videos of swim lessons with little kids who are taught to float on their backs as instinct ... note to self to seek those out next Summer.

I also came across this scary account of drowning today as I trolled the Internets. Yep, Debbie Downer presents: Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning. I'm not sure who these gCaptain folks are, but it seems like sound advice, or at least food for thought.

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, “Daddy!”

How did this captain know, from fifty feet away, what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television. If you spend time on or near the water (hint: that’s all of us) then you should make sure that you and your crew knows what to look for whenever people enter the water. Until she cried a tearful, “Daddy,” she hadn’t made a sound. As a former Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I wasn’t surprised at all by this story. Drowning is almost always a deceptively quiet event. The waving, splashing, and yelling that dramatic conditioning (television) prepares us to look for, is rarely seen in real life.

The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. And it does not look like most people expect. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the number two cause of accidental death in children, age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) – of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC). Drowning does not look like drowning – Dr. Pia, in an article in the Coast Guard’s On Scene Magazine, described the instinctive drowning response like this:

  1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. Th e respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.
  2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.
  3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.
  4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.
  5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

(Source: On Scene Magazine: Fall 2006)

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experience aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in there own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are n the water:

  • Head low in the water, mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes closed
  • Hair over forehead or eyes
  • Not using legs – Vertical
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on the back
  • Ladder climb, rarely out of the water.

So if a crew member falls overboard and every looks O.K. – don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don’t look like they’re drowning. They may just look like they are treading water and looking up at the deck. One way to be sure? Ask them: “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all – they probably are. If they return a blank stare – you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. And parents: children playing in the water make noise. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why.