Friday, December 28, 2012

Breastfeeding, take 2

Sporadic posting, I know. That really is What I've Learned So Far ... no time for things like this!

I did want to take some time to note my experience with breastfeeding this time around because it was one of the things I was nervous about with baby girl #2. I nursed Ellen for 10 months and I'm pretty sure we had the typical course ... major learning curve at the beginning, figured it out by about 1 month, and then coasted pretty smoothly (with an over-abundant milk supply) to 10 months when I weaned her before a vacation and she was majorly distractable / disinterested.

Despite all that, it was seriously a distant memory and I could hardly fathom doing it again. I dug out my pump (the Medela Freestyle - still convinced it's the best thing around) and found that all my old pump parts were pretty grody. I was planning to order replacements, but that sealed the deal. I guess the old style of breast shields (the Soft Fit) didn't hold up over time, so they aren't available now. I ordered replacements and they come in sizes - I started with the 24mm (standard) and moved up to the 27mm after my milk came in. I have 2 full sets of parts and will have 3 when I go back to work to avoid so much sanitizing and drying during the work day. I also got replacement tubing, just because, I guess. I had everything sanitized and ready at home before I left for the hospital.

The day before I delivered I was looking up breastfeeding videos on YouTube (lame), but I didn't really even remember the terminology and such and needed a little refresher. Lansinoh had a decent video that was protected under like 3 warnings about being age 18 or older - really?

I don't remember much about the hospital days of breastfeeding with Ellen, other than the fact that she was SO SO sleepy that we spent most of her feeds trying to wake her up. I think she was latching well, though, and hadn't lost too much weight when we went home.

This time was different - Georgia didn't latch well at all and kept her tongue at the roof of her mouth. She wasn't tongue tied or anything, just more of a general disinterest in eating. I felt much more comfortable with the nurses and lactation consultants trying to help me, and I felt more confidant in what I was doing (it really is like riding a bike ...) and they all acknowledged that I was doing everything correctly, but that she was just difficult. It was super frustrating, even with my knowledge base, and I'm glad she was #2 instead of #1. I ended up using the hospital pump and pumping after trying to nurse, then giving her colostrum through a syringe on my finger or in her mouth while she was nursing. It was super annoying and very difficult to do by myself and I couldn't see how this would translate to us going home.

Over our 3 days in the hospital she showed VERY SLOW progress, to the point where we all felt comfortable going home and following up with a weight check the next day. Her best feeding was right before we left the hospital and then her weight check the next day was promising. She continued to nurse better with each feeding and by about day 5 she was totally fine - no more tube feedings or any assistance. One of the lactation consultants commented that when she had her babies (25+ years ago), no one expected breastfed babies to eat very well for the first 3 days. Now we get in a panic about it, when I think it just takes time for some babies to wake up and show interest. That certainly seemed to be the case for Georgia (fortunately).

From that point her weight gain was great and I even thought she was a better / more relaxed / possibly more efficient feeder than Ellen. She was eating 7 times in 24 hours and I was able to read or check email on my phone while she nursed, which I could never do with Ellen (needed all hands on deck). Then fast forward about 3 weeks and I had searing, toe-curling pain when she latched on. I was afraid it might be a yeast infection or something, but when I assessed the situation I realized it was just a lazy latch. She was getting milk, but wasn't latching well and I was paying the price. I did quite a bit of reading and even watched some videos (Jack Newman's site is good) of a good latch to really get a picture of what I was aiming for. I worked hard for a few days to improve her latch, which was successful, and it has been smooth sailing since then. So, in the end, it really was about 1 month until everything seemed easy for both of us.

Some tips I have learned this time around:
- Use lanolin (or a comparable product) EVERY TIME you nurse or pump. I started in the hospital and have been diligent and I haven't had any cracks or bleeding.
- Have some smallish ice packs on hand and frozen for when you come home from the hospital. When your milk comes in you will be happy you have them (cold is better than hot - that just adds to the inflammation). I would wear my nursing tank, then a zip up jacket on top to hold the ice bags in place.
- I pumped much more this time when my milk came in, which I think helped matters. With Ellen I think I was afraid to pump too much for fear it would just produce more milk. This time I bet I pumped 4 or 5 times the first day, and 2 or 3 times the second day, in addition to feeds until my breasts felt soft(er). By the 3rd day I think I was pretty much back to just the regular feeding schedule.
- While you are doing all that pumping, just save your pump parts in the fridge in a ziploc bag so you aren't constantly sterilizing and drying parts and use them as needed.  It should be fine for 12-24 hours.
- We are still using the little Medela regular neck bottles that fit on the pump for Georgia's bottles. She takes them just fine (gave her first bottle around 3-4 weeks, no issue). I sterilized all the bottles and caps and rings before we left for the hospital and bought new slow flow nipples. Nipples for regular neck bottles are almost impossible to find anymore, just FYI. I don't even think Medela makes them - I used the Green To Grow ones.
- I still pump at least once a day (usually last feeding of the day when she gets a bottle from Dad) and sometimes twice (early morning after first feed now that she is mostly sleeping through the night).
- I am on the hunt for a good hands-free pumping situation that might allow for me to get ready for work in the mornings while pumping. I have read good things about the Rumina tank and may splurge.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Random thoughts

It's amazing what you come across at 2:47am while you're perusing all of the internet on your phone. 

The Car Seat Lady explains the new American Academy of Pediatrics Car Seat Recommendations

Why I don't bake from scratch (but think it's awesome if you do)

We finally got all the Christmas decorations up. And by "we" I mean me and my sister who I guilted into helping me. It was on my to-do list for 5 days and I just finally felt that it was now or never and I put up the easy stuff and called it good. I even contemplated doing something different with the Christmas tree - something easy and simple - but I couldn't get to the store or spend any time on a DIY project, so the standard stuff had to suffice. It's fine. It's good enough (see article above).

As much as I love Pinterest and wasting my brain cells reading blogs, I must say that this season I have felt like maybe all of this stuff is a double edged sword. I like the inspiration, but dislike the standard it sets. I like doing crafty and creative things, but don't like feeling like my thoughts aren't original anymore. I like celebrating, but don't like the guilt that seeps in when the birthday party for a small child isn't "perfect" or your Christmas decorations are the same you've had for forever. And The Elf? Don't even get me started ... perhaps I would be happier with Nicholas if I didn't have a newborn to contend with.

I'm trying my hardest to slow down and enjoy this season with Ellen, but the days are just merging together. There has been an endless parade of gifts for her entering our house - big sister gifts, birthday gifts, and Christmas is starting to trickle in. Every one of them thoughtful and enjoyed, but a 4-year-old faced with weekly gifts becomes a bit greedy. I suppose we all would if we had gifts to open every week.

I'm just trying to pick my battles, trying to have patience when it's in short supply, and trying to make memories of our Christmas this year. Not gonna lie, though ... January 2nd is looking really good.

Monday, December 3, 2012

She's Four!

My dearest Ellen (poodle, button, sister bear ...),

Happiest 4th Birthday To You!

What a year this has been! It has been a delight watching you grow into a real person - leaving most of the baby behind and, at times, seeming wise and/or mature beyond your years. Last year was marked by the upheaval of moving, and this year was marked by the upheaval of a pregnant mother and new baby sister. You met both challenges with grace - a quality I hope you will always have.

You continue to be funny and surprising and sometimes surprisingly funny. You can almost always get a smile or giggle from your parents, even at an inappropriate time (i.e. 9:45pm), but your timing is impeccable - we generally are in desperate need of a giggle and you seem to sense that.

You are caring and kind, sometimes to a fault. It is hard to watch you and your little friends bicker and it is tough to see you have your feelings hurt, though it is a part of life. I hope we can teach you to roll with the punches and to be your own person.

You are smart and inquisitive and I love seeing how your mind works. You ask insightful questions about life and death and nature and people. I hope you continue to ask us questions and I hope we are smart enough to give you good answers.

You are creative and artistic and it has been so fun to watch your skills develop over the least year. You could scratch out your name when you turned 3, but have become so much more confidant in writing and recognizing your letters.You like to look at books and objects and copy the letters, ever so precisely. You spend much of each day coloring and it has been amazing to see the transformation from scribbles to coloring in the lines and drawing people and families.

Finally, you are a Big Sister. You cherish the title and it warms my heart to see you interact with Georgia. You have been nothing but sweet to her and, while I know it won't always be this way, I hope she is as much a gift to you this year as you are to her.

I love you to pieces, my favorite Big Girl.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hospital List / First days home

There a lot of different sources on hospital lists for mom / baby. I kind of obsessed over our list the first time, then never really packed a bag, and honestly can't remember what we cobbled together to bring to the hospital. Whatever it was, it was fine.

This time, it felt like a different experience because I knew the date and time we would be arriving at the hospital (most likely) and I knew there wouldn't be any labor and delivery time and that I would be recovering from a c-section. So, perhaps a little different ...

In case you care, here is what my list included for a repeat c-section, with some notes about the ultimate usefulness of these items:

Bag for Baby
Bag for Dad / Significant Other
Bag for Mom
(lots of bags, but helpful to have stuff separate and easy to find / bring in from the car when needed. Also, stuff accumulates at the hospital - good to have extra packing room coming home.)

Two cute swaddling blankets (never used)
Going home outfit (brought a preemie outfit and a 0-3 month. Ended up with preemie choice for a 7lb baby)
Couple of kimono style shirts and pants (never used)
Baby hats (never used, just used hospital provided)
Boppy (left in the car, never ended up bringing it in)
Breast pump (had ready at home just in case. Ended up using hospital grade pump and a kit of parts they provided)
Gift from baby to older sibling(s) if you want
So ... sounds like baby doesn't need a bag.

Dad / Significant Other:
Whatever he throws in!
Changes of clothes, toiletries, extra charger(s)
Extra pillows for mom and dad with patterned pillow cases to keep separate from hospital

Plastic folder / envelope for papers (super helpful. Brought insurance paperwork, hospital directions, copy of advanced directive. Placed all the various paperwork that accumulates during the hospital in one place to bring home)
Robe (didn't use. I'm not a robe person and didn't start now)
No-skid socks (didn't use, had flip flops instead)
Nursing tanks / bras, breast pads (used all of the above - brought Large tanks, could have used XL to account for engorgement. Got lanolin from lactation consultant)
PJ pants, nursing tops with short and long sleeves (I wore my own clothes on day 2 after I showered, was nice to have short and long sleeve options depending on room temp)
Toiletries (lip balm, good smelling travel shampoo, spare toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbands / headbands, extra contacts/glasses/eyedrops, face cleaner wipes). I had packed with spares of most everything and threw in a few essentials at the end. The face cleaner wipes were so nice when I couldn't get out of bed. Wish I brought hand lotion and a small mirror.
Makeup (never used)
Gum - may help with digestion / gas
Going home outfit - just wore the same thing I put on the morning we came to the hospital. Comfy and black, seemed slimming, though not so much.
Underwear and pads - I made sure to get undies that came up over my incision and brought my own thinner pads
Camera / chargers / batteries (we just ended up using our iPhones, so easy! We had 2 chargers, which were in frequent use. Plugs aren't all that convenient in hospital rooms - I read somewhere about bringing a short extension cord, which we didn't do, but you could)

Ahead of time:
Get a pedicure / manicure (I almost never treat myself to this, but it was nice to have pretty  hands and feet when the rest was, well, not so pretty)
Put a waterproof crib pad under the sheets on your side of the bed in case your water breaks
Treats for the nurses - 2 batches for day and night shifts. If it's homemade, bring the recipe! We had awesome nurses and the first time we gave them some cookies before we left, but it's nice to have the ability to plan ahead to bring something. They all commented on how nice it was and I'm sure we would have had great care anyway, but it's nice little insurance. :)
Baby-tracker app for phone. I was an obsessive note-taker with Ellen and now I use the "Eat Sleep" app for iPhone and it fulfills all my note-taking desires. :)
Baby books - read up on sleeping or feeding or whatever it is that you've gathered. I always think I'll have time after baby is born, but it quickly falls to the bottom of the priority list. I have a lot of books, but this time around I skimmed Baby Wise and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.
Check on your vaccines, especially for fall / winter babies: flu shot for everyone who will be around baby regularly and TDAP booster if you need it.  

Things to have on hand at home:
Since you won't be getting out anytime soon, grab these things before you deliver:
Slippers to have at home if you don't have any
Some zip up or button up tops that are big enough - just got a few fleece jackets from Old Navy
Extra lanolin - one tube for upstairs and one for downstairs if you need it. Use it EVERY time you nurse / pump
Extra pump parts - have everything on hand and sanitized, including bottles. I pumped much earlier this time than the first time and it was nice to have everything ready to go
Milk bags for freezer if you are breastfeeding (in case you pump - hang on to that stuff!). I think Lansinoh are easiest to use. 
Vitamin D drops for baby - recommended if breastfeeding
Pump hand sanitizer in any room you think you'll need it. I'm not generally a germaphobe, but I am with a newborn in RSV / flu season
Gas X for mom - I don't remember this from last time, but my gas pains in the hospital and at home are almost as bad as my incision pain. Tums / antacids won't work.
Miralax if things aren't, ummm,  moving (especially if you are taking pain meds)
Pacifiers if you think you'll use them, perhaps a few types (see my pacifier try-out post here). Ellen always liked the Nuk, but started out with the green Soothies pacifier from the hospital. We never got one (or even saw one) this time, and I had the Gumdrops pacifiers at home, which Georgia prefers.
Some kind of swaddle system - blanket / Kiddopotamous SwaddleMe (what we use) / Miracle blanket (have heard great things). I feel confidant swaddling with a blanket in the daytime, but I get nervous that blankets will get loose overnight.

Be aware:
My hands, wrists and feet were CRAZY swollen. I don't remember this the first time, but I also didn't get so many fluids prior to surgery because it was semi-emergency. My doctor suggested it's those first few bags of fluid you hang on to for a while.
If you have carpal tunnel in your pregnancy, it lingers for awhile. Like, almost 3 weeks later, my fingertips are still numb. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Screeching halt

I feel like about 17 days ago my life came to a screeching halt. For the best reason, of course, but a serious 180 degree turnabout in my schedule.

I am a person who likes to keep busy. Not in the work-out kind of way (but, damn, that would be useful), but rather I feel like I need to keep my hands and my mind busy. I always have some type of "project" that I'm working on.

Pregnancy and nesting exacerbated this in a serious way ... I wasn't sleeping well, so I was up early. I had lots of time to work on stuff. My almost 4-year-old was pretty independent and generally willing to run errands, so we had busy "home days". I completed virtually everything on my to-do list and felt pretty accomplished.

Fast forward to having an extra child, who isn't super easy to run-around with, and no sort of daily schedule and it all feels kind of strange. I'm not waking up at any specific time and when I do, I'm zombie-ish. Sometimes my first cup of coffee is at 9 or 10am and I feel like my day starts around lunchtime, which kind of feels awful. I don't remember this with Ellen, and perhaps it was because I was adjusting so much to just having a baby around. Now I feel much more confidant with the baby, leaving me feeling like I should be accomplishing more.

It's ridiculous, I know. Keeping my girls fed and happy and healthy is my most important task, always at the top of my to-do list. I just felt it was worth sharing that this was an unexpected adjustment with child #2 ...

So, you may find that I post more here about "new mom" things, or at least "second time mom things" and you may wonder why I'm spending my time on this. One, I hope it's helpful to someone else (you know I love to research things and I always find other people's opinions helpful). But two, and just as important right now, it gives me a "project" - something quick and simple and it's preserving my sanity.

So, for that, thanks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Baby girl

I've always hoped for two children. While Ellen fit our family perfectly, I always wished that she would get to experience having a sibling. As it goes, we were so busy with her toddler-hood that I was never sure when or if another baby would fit in. As a planner (no, PLANNER), I thought I could pretty much control how this would all work out. My first lesson in being a parent of two is that "planning" and "control" are laughable. Celebrating holidays with Ellen has been beyond fun, but as we near the Christmas season, I must admit that I always felt a tiny pang of longing. I didn't buy stockings because I wanted there to be two matching ones. I couldn't wait for siblings in Christmas jammies. It should come as no surprise that those two things were tops on my To-Do list after bringing Georgia home. I'm happy, thankful (so thankful), and feel like our family is finally exactly as it was meant to be.

I summarized my first pregnancy here, so same story, second verse:

Hoping, wishing, waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting and waiting some more. Pssst - it's positive. A huge smile on the inside, a cautious smile on the outside. Feeling good, then not-so-good, then pretty good again. Ultrasound 1, 2, 3 .... 8. Everything looking as it should - still nervous. Good looking nuchal, frankly scary-looking 3D ultrasound. We're having another baby! (Shhh ... Ellen doesn't know). It's a boy, right? It's gotta be a boy. "Mama - I'm ess-ited about your baby"- heartbroken, then so happy to share the news with a happy big sister (who ordered a girl baby). Cupcake bows and Spiderman bows. Surprise ... it's a .... GIRL! Serious sweet tooth - gummy candy extravaganza and homemade s'mores. Nightly. Haven't gained as much weight as the first time, until, 8 pounds in 1 month? I'm sure the scale was broken. Sciatica. Tired - OH SO TIRED. Growth looking good? Well, not so much. Moderate panic - nest, nest, nest. Oh, kidding, she looks just fine - fat around her belly (takes after her mother). Feeling good again, develop a plan to stock the freezer. To the gills. Time to do laundry - where did all these blankets and burp cloths come from? Are 25 pairs of tiny socks enough? The closets are clean, the house is clean, the freezer is full. Will she wait? Not a contraction in sight. Pass time with my feet up on the couch. Halloween distraction. Please no Halloween birthday. Goodnight sweet Ellen, when we see you again you will be a big sister. No big deal, just waking up at 4:45am to have a baby. It's calm, casual, breezy - so different from the first time. Waiting, waiting, waiting again to see your sweet face. "What a beautiful round head! And, so much hair!" Here she is ... looking just like Ellen! A quick cry, then quiet - my sweet, patient girl taking it all in. We all were. Happy beyond belief. Relief beyond belief. The new normal - life as FOUR.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A few things ...

Random thoughts, as that is my life at the moment ...

1. Do you use the child safety lock on your back car doors? Never occurred to me to set it, until this week when Ellen reached out and opened the door while we were driving. First of all, I didn't think her arms were long enough to open it. Second of all, my car requires you to pull the handle twice in the back seat to get the door to open after it auto locks while moving. Third of all - YIKES. Fortunately we were only driving slowly in our neighborhood, but if we had been on the highway or something ... don't want to think about it. I yelled at her and I think she was scared. I'm sure she was just curious about what the handle was for and I hope I have nipped that curiosity.

2. For those of you with tons of time for reading today (ha - NO ONE raises their hand), here is a long article (several parts, actually) from Slate on the 40th Anniversary of Free To Be You and Me.  My memory is quite terrible, but I'm pretty certain we had this album and I listened to it all the time when I was little. I even think it was played at a birthday party of mine or some sort of play date? This would have been before age 7, so is impressive coming out of my cobweb-y brain. See? My parents were subversive even then. :)

3. I've been doing laundry like a fool and have no idea how we accumulated so many burp cloths and blankets. Just wanted to share.

4. Speaking of subversive, I voted by early ballot last week since I'll be a little tied up come election day. You all have it on your calendar to vote, RIGHT? It's so, so important. Read up and educate yourselves on the candidates. Pay even closer attention to you local candidates and the "smaller" offices, like school board officials. These are the choices that can impact your life and that of your children the most. And, take your kids with you to vote - teach them that it's important.

5. If you put enough food in your freezer and wash enough tiny socks that pretty much means you're  ready to have a newborn in your house, right? Every part of me is swollen and my hands are tingling from carpal tunnel. I hope Baby Sister holds out for her c-section date, and I'm also hoping that all of this swelling / painful joints magically disappears the moment she arrives. I'm pretty sure that's how it works, anyway.

We'll see what the next two weeks hold ... I could be a mother of TWO next time you hear from me. Send help.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Toy shopping!

Otherwise known as something I don't enjoy very much.

At our house, birthday and Christmas come within 22 days of each other, so there is quite an inundation of "stuff". On top of that, add shopping for family, friends and the myriad of birthday parties that seem to be popping up and there is quite a lot of purchasing going on.

This year I started my birthday / Christmas shopping for Ellen in the summer. I am never, NEVER, that organized, but I really needed to be this year. I'm done purchasing for my nieces and nephew and our friends, with a few birthday party gifts stashed away. I thought it might be helpful to list a few of my favorite resources, as well as some of our most-played-with toys, for you sane people that haven't been obsessing about this for months.

Have you come across The Diminutive Review? It's a frequently-updated blog with great deals on children's clothing. So, not toys really, but still something you may purchase for your own child. Especially good for little bitty kids and/or atypical sizes, since it is all deep sale stuff.

I recently found Tinybop, Inc. - a blog / list of children's media (books, movies, apps, etc.). I haven't explored it much, but it seems there are some nice finds.

Also, to be redundant, Dinner: A Love Story has great lists of children's books if you are looking for inspiration (especially for girls).

I have one niece, in particular, who is an avid reader. I love buying her books and starting her on new authors or series. Around the holidays Costco often has inexpensive boxed sets of classic books for children / tweens. I have also found that Amazon can be helpful - search for a book you know they liked, then look at "what other's purchased" and chase it a bit. I think I found some good ones this year!

Also, Baby Cheapskate has nice lists of "Toys That Get Played With" by age. They are sort of generic, but I think that is kind of the point - the basic toys last the longest.

At our house, these things are in frequent rotation:
- Ikea child's table and chairs. This was for Ellen's 1st Christmas and has been used all day, everyday since. I should go back and pay more money for it, but I won't.
- Play kitchen / food / accessories. This was for Ellen's 2nd Christmas and gets played with all the time. She mostly likes to pack the food into bags and such and carry it around. The Haba Play Food is amazing (and a total choking hazard).
- Baby dolls. I think she got her first soft dolls at age 1, then bigger dolls and a stroller at age 2. The stroller is used all the time and Ells likes to diaper her babies. We (fortunately) haven't really gotten into all the baby accessories / changing of outfits, but I think that's coming.
- "Make believe" items - purse and accessories, doctor kit, vet kit. These were gifted at age 2 and 3 and she is really hitting her stride with the make believe play closer to age 4.
- Playdoh is popular, but it's kind of hidden away because it's such a damn mess.
- Art / coloring is probably the most popular activity at our house, and it's pretty basic - she is happiest with plain paper and markers. Coloring books are rotated in and out, but she is always happy with plain paper.
- Books, of course, and we have a million. These are mostly used at "quiet time" and bedtime. She can have a pile of books in her bed and read quietly until she falls asleep.
- Dress-up clothes. These are sporadically played with, but especially when friends are over or when she is avoiding quiet time (because it's all in her room). It's great to look for this stuff on clearance after Halloween!
- Games. These were gifted at her 3rd birthday / Christmas and do get played with quite a bit. Candyland is quite popular and tolerable to her parents. Spot It is a great card game that is fun for all ages (truly). Zimbbos is a fun building / balance game. Nice wooden pieces, will last forever. Ellen got Uno Moo and it has been pretty popular. I think we might be ready for the real Uno card game based on it's popularity with some of our friends.
- I also like the B. Toys line a lot with toys for all ages. The Pop Arty beads, in particular, are a favorite.

Anything we're missing? Any suggestions for 4-year-olds? I am mostly done with her holiday purchasing, but am always open to suggestions. :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I should really just change the name of this blog to "Go Read Dinner: A Love Story". They had a great post today on the importance of being empathetic and how it relates to bullying during Bullying Prevention Month. I love many of their recipes, but their book recommendations are just as spot-on.

Here is the post: The Importance of Being Empathetic
(be sure to read the comments, too, for some more recommendations, especially for younger kids)

One of our great friends recently recommended Wonder and I've been meaning to read it. Well, when I start reading again. Which is certainly not a reflection on the subject matter, but, well, you know ...

Also, it seems pretty timely at our house as I've noticed that Ellen seems to really be noticing differences in people around us when we're shopping or running errands or whatever ... the older girl with Down syndrome at the park or the adult with dwarfism at Costco. As a genetic counselor I feel that I should really have a better response to these sorts of things, and I DO feel confidant in having discussions with her about differences in people, but it's the caught-in-the-moment that I'm struggling with a bit.

Also, if you're interested in this sort of thing, you might find another blog interesting - This Little Miggy Stayed Home. I found her blog a couple of years ago from some other blog (isn't that always the way) when she was pregnant with her second daughter who was found to have limb differences prenatally. Admittedly, I find this kind of thing more interesting than most people, but she is a good writer (and crafty!) and it's nice to follow their daughter's achievements. Further, she started a semi-regular feature - the Special Needs Spotlight. Again, I find this interesting / important from a work perspective, but it occurs to me that it also works from the "teaching empathy" perspective. Many of the mothers comment on reactions to their child and how they wish people would react. Worth noting ...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Movin' on up

I think I did mention our quest for the new car seat on here ... just coming back with an update.

Prompted by my super duper friend, The Car Seat Lady, I was starting to get anxious about our seat maxing out at 40 pounds, plus the new LATCH rules that go into effect in 2014. This kind of thing drives me crazy ... I understand it takes time for car manufacturers to change their supplies and such, but basically it's like a news story that says, Hey! Your kid probably isn't safe in their car seat - that might get better in two years. Ugh.

Anywho, after much searching on Consumer Reports, polling of friends and reading reviews ad nauseum I decided to go with the Britax Marathon 70, which I now see was just retired on the Britax website. I swear, you just can't keep up with this game. When I did the side-by-side comparison about 6 weeks ago it was still on there (of course). The Britax Marathon 70-G3 appears to be the replacement and, as far as I can tell, the only difference is their Easy Buckle System. I've been jacking around with car seat buckles for years now and don't feel that it is a major issue for us. Also, for what it's worth, our old convertible seat (the Britax Diplomat), was also retired in favor of some newer version. We never had an issue with it and the seats are "good" for 6 years past their retirement date, so our kids will be out of them by then anyway.

We got a good price on the Marathon 70, not much more than the Graco Nautilus 3-in-1, which was highly rated on Consumer Reports and recommended lots of places. When it came down to it, I had Ellen sit in a floor sample of the Graco and it just didn't seem to "fit" her very well, especially for a seat that she could be in for a few more years. I like the feature of converting to a booster, but I figured that boosters aren't that expensive anyway, and we'll have a second kid to use this seat when it's time for Ellen to move on.

There are definitely Britax car seats that have more gadgets and safety features, at a much higher price, and at the end of the day I feel that some of it is just marketing. OF COURSE I would pay whatever it took to keep my kids safe in the car (I'm kind of a freak about car seat use), but it is hard to compare seats across different manufacturers and a lot of the side impact features aren't tested or rated on any kind of standard. Plus you have the variable of the safety features of your own car and it just gets too confusing. It isn't feasible for us to buy two new car seats every time they come up with a safety innovation, nor do I think it is feasible for most families.

I do subscribe to the "keep your kid in a 5-point harness as long as possible" philosophy. I think based on age alone Ellen could go to a high back booster pretty soon, and maybe even based on weight, but she is challenged with height, so that just isn't very safe. She doesn't complain, so for now it's fine.

Here is the link to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on car seat stuff. And I came across this site on Pinterest and I think she has a good real-world description of car seat issues: Lucie's List - Real World Car Seat Installation Tips.

And, speaking of car seats, it's just about time to get our infant seat out and installed again. Yikes. There goes my back seat, along with a lot of other things (sleep, showering, free time .....)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So much ....

So much time, so little to do.

Wait, reverse that.

(Willy Wonka, anyone??)

Anywho, we gots a lot going on, just like, oh, everyone else I know.

I came across this post on my very favorite Dinner: A Love Story, which you must already be reading because I post about it all the time. Just in case, though ...
How to Nurture Talent (Without Being a Psycho Parent)

I would like to read this book (someday when I start reading again) and I must say that a quick skim of the article rang true to me about the "pay attention to what your kid stares at". Ellen participated in dance this summer - 1 hour and 20 minutes of tap, ballet and an art project. We dropped her off every Saturday morning for like 9 weeks and weren't allowed to watch, so I have no idea what transpired there. We would ask her how dance was, or to show us what she learned, and she never engaged. (The first rule of dance class is not to talk about dance class). She almost never talked about it outside of Saturday mornings, though did comment repeatedly on the art projects she brought home. I asked her if she wanted to continue for the rest of the year or if she would like to try something different ... she thought art class sounded better. :)

(We are not enrolled in art class, but that is a story for another time).

Also, to bastardize a quote I read (sleepily) last night in Parents Magazine, "behavior is the language that your child is most fluent in". Totally caught my eye and seems totally true to me. I am the parent of an EXTREMELY verbal child, but even still, I think most kids express their core desires / wants / needs in behaviors and I need to do a better job about reading into the meaning behind the whining. See a similar post here from Motherhood Uncensored about The Other Side.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Petite Monet

Our little Ellen is quite the prolific artist. We have gobs and gobs of masterpieces that come home from school, and are made at home, and end up in piles in her playroom before I recycle them.

I really don't feel bad about throwing away the ones that are "scribbles", for lack of a better word. I do keep all the "project" type items that come home from school, and some especially nice paintings or the first drawings of people or letters, for example.

But, how to keep them for the long term?

I have seen tons of great ideas online and on Pinterest. Coffee table "art" books of your child's art. Or scanning the artwork and then creating a big poster. Rotating the pieces in and out of a wall of frames.

I really like the coffee table art book idea the best, though I am sort of paralyzed when it comes to taking a good quality photo of the art to begin with and getting the lighting correct and more or less standard from picture to picture. Our scanner is super old and smallish, so really won't work for this kind of project.

I also saw this new app on Cool Mom Tech this week - ArtKive. It sounds like a similar idea -you can take pictures of your child's artwork and it stores them in some way, then eventually you can make a book. I haven't figured it all out, but it's free to download for a short period of time, so I downloaded it and will figure it out later!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It adds up

A co-worker mentioned this article to me yesterday and I thought it was worth sharing ...

Teaching Kids to Love Math - Wall Street Journal

I think I've alluded to a similar idea before as told to me by our Parents as Teachers educator - there is a correlation between the amount of block play (with related math concepts) a child has and their success in school / math. I think America / Western countries focus more on reading and music concepts in toddlers and less on math and science. I'm certainly guilty of the same.

Ellen has never been a child who loves to play with blocks or legos, so I don't push it. She really does love art and creative projects and reading, but I think I can still work harder at building math concepts into our days. She has started to do easy addition by counting her fingers, which I've tried to encourage. Last night at dinner I tried to incorporate some subtraction - 6 grapes, take away 1, now you have ....

Cooking is a good way to do this, too, and lord knows I've been making LOTS of treats lately. It's OK - it's Math!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Some light reading

I'm waist deep (belly deep?) in projects this weekend - making lists and lists and lists! I woke up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night this week and then spent the next 1 1/2 hours planning Ellen's birthday party in my head. Nesting - UGH - though rather productive, I must admit. I've also already purchased half of my Christmas gifts - jealous?  :)

Here is a link to a good article on 7 Lessons Your Daughter Needs You To Teach Her. And, the photograph just happens to be from yours truly of two of our favorite people!

Also, came across this on Flipboard last night from Parenting magazine ... What Teachers Wish Parents Knew about Kindergarten. We aren't there yet (phew!), but thought there were some interesting points, especially on teaching your kids how to make friends and be social.

In other random news, if you're looking for a Halloween bucket for this year, Land's End has some new cute ones that are like their tote bags that I am generally obsessed with. Yes, I will be working on Ellen's Halloween costume this weekend. Nesting!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tricky people

I came across this in the wormhole that is Pinterest. I admittedly haven't really explored it, but it seemed like a good thing worth sharing.

I have had some of this same difficulty in explaining the concept of a "stranger" to Ellen. Same with "bad guy" (or "bad lady", I suppose). I think around age 3 they start to develop a concept of "bad guy" from movies and books, which is most certainly not what a "bad guy" in real life will look like.

Tricky People are the New Strangers

Friday, August 10, 2012

You have to get it wrong before you get it right

I'm in the midst of spray painting furniture and arranging art for walls ... two rooms to get ready for one Big and one Little and, seemingly, no time for blogging!

Interesting article via Design Mom and The New York Times on

Raising Successful Children

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Caution, caution

I follow our little local police department on facebook and, fortunately, the posts are mostly of the "lock your cars" "bike stolen" "traffic work" variety rather than that other nasty stuff.

They did have a good tip the other day, I thought ....
If you take your kid(s), or especially a group of kids, to a busy event - circus, fair, etc - take a picture of them on your phone before you leave the house.

Should they get separated from you -**please, please, please never let this happen to me** - you have a current picture that shows exactly what they are wearing. It can be distributed quickly in an emergency.

(My two scariest "lost child" moments thus far have been 1. in the hardware store as Ellen wandered the aisles just fast enough that she was gone before I turned each corner, and 2. when she was watering with me in the back yard and again, wandered to the front and around the house fast enough that we were chasing each other, but couldn't see each other. Awful. Our rule is that she has to be able to see my eyes if we aren't holding hands.)

I love taking pictures with my iPhone and I bet a lot of us do it anyways, but I've never specifically thought to get a quick full body picture including Ellen's outfit.

Note to self ...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Eat this!

My mother-in-law got us the Eat This, Not That book for kids. Not in the "you-need-help" kind of way, but in a "knew-you-would-enjoy-this" kind of way. She's good like that. While a lot of it is common sense, and we eat at very few of the chain restaurants they profile, I still thought there were some good tips - a few of which I'll share!

I was pretty much of a food nazi before Ellen was born regarding what I planned on her eating. That continued for most of her first year - I made almost everything that went in her mouth, most of it organic, and she was a delightful eater. I loosened up quite a bit as she started eating meals at school, by necessity and to avoid rocking the boat too much, and have continued to loosen up. Did I think I would share my secret stash of gummy bears with her? No, but it can't be avoided and, really, what's the harm in a gummy bear or two?

Again, I think common sense prevails: we eat most meals at home, cooked by me, and she eats virtually anything I put in front of her. She is willing to try almost any new food and that is just as important to me as feeding her healthy food (which I do). We eat out with family or friends once a week or so, and she gets a special mom-daughter lunch every now and then, which is fun and fine. She doesn't notice if I order her green beans instead of fries, but she also gets to sneak a few fries from someone else's plate. She is a snack-lover, and I try to make healthy choices (beyond fruit or veggies, of course). She eats a lot of organic food, but not everything.

Here are some things I found interesting:
- Chick-Fil-A got the award for America's Healthiest Chain Restaurant for Kids. Politics aside (which I do struggle with, damn you waffle fries), a chicken strip, fruit and milk is a pretty decent "treat" lunch.
- Chipotle is surprisingly less healthy than I would have thought. Crispy steak tacos? Yes. Soft chicken tacos? Not nearly as healthy. No cheese or sour cream, of course, is what they recommend. Boo.
- Dairy Queen strawberry sundae has 260 calories and 7g of fat and the sauce's first ingredient is strawberries, as it should be. This is a lot better than a milkshake, though maybe similar to a Blizzard. We don't often get to DQ, usually opting for FroYo, but I do love me a dipped cone.
- I don't ever get to Jamba Juice, and frankly am not even sure we have one near us, but I guess they have an All Fruit Line of smoothies just like I would make at home.
- Krispy Kreme: If we eat donuts, we go to our fave local place. But, the book says that the sugar donut at KK has less sugar than any other donut on the menu. Who knew?
- It's funny how I rationalize fast food that Ellen eats. She has never had a meal from McDonald's, though has eaten at Chick-fil-A plenty of times. The small vanilla cone at McDonald's is a great treat for kids - 45 calories, 1 g fat, 6 g sugar. Go ahead, get one for yourself, too. The Egg McMuffin is also a pretty healthy breakfast in a pinch, as far as fast food breakfasts go.
- Ellen was begging for Panera this week. I usually get her the kid meal with a turkey sandwich, but a healthier choice is the half chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread. Bonus - Ells would eat this!
- The Wendy's single hamburger with everything (minus mayo) is one of the healthiest fast food hamburgers. 

For grocery store items:
- We usually buy the Nature Valley granola bars because I think they have the fewest "weird" ingredients. Surprisingly, the Clif Kid organic chocolate ZBar has less calories, less fat and more fiber. Seems counter-intuitive, but Ellen would be THRILLED to get to eat this.
- Most other grocery store items are as you would expect - watch for hidden sugar and calories, whole wheat over white, etc, etc. We don't buy much packaged food, but I must say that I really do like regular pasta vs. whole wheat. Sue me. I bought a loaf of white bread from the bakery this week for meatloaf sandwiches (the only acceptable method) and Ellen hardly knew what it was.

And, for the pregnant among you, if faced with a a vending machine at work: Nacho cheese Doritos have fewer calories and about the same fat as a bag of cheese Goldfish. Go for it. :)

I also read a good tip somewhere this week - The mother's rule was that her kids had to ask her before getting any snack, but they could have a piece of fruit (or veggies I suppose) without asking. The path of least resistance is also the healthiest!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just buy it

How are you all approaching chores / allowance / teaching the value of money??

We have just started having some of the, "Well, you can just buy it" or "just pay for it, Mom" comments from Ellen when she asks for something and I tell her no. It is time to start working on teaching the value of money, but I'm not sure the best way to approach it all.

I casually asked her if she would like to do some chores, like making her bed or emptying the dishwasher, for some nickels and dimes. She was all about it. I didn't mention anything else, but the next morning she made her bed without prompting and yesterday she came to help me unload the dishwasher. She kept saying "I need to do my chapters. I need to finish these chapters!" and I was so confused ... took me a minute ... "chores??" I asked. Oh, yes, chores. :)

So, I thought I would come up with some casual chart and give her some coins to put in a piggy bank, but the more I researched it for ideas, the more confused I got. Not surprisingly, there are all kinds of opinions on the best way to do this. Here are the challenges I see:

1. Let's be real - I will be in charge of remembering to do this, so it needs to be simple.

2. Some people are very opposed to rewarding "expected" behaviors with money. So, for example, I do expect that Ellen will make her bed and pick up her toys and clear her dishes at some point - those are normal parts of being a human being - but I'm not sure I see a problem with a monetary reward for those activities at age 3.

3. Some people don't want to provide an "allowance", i.e. money that is just given without being tied to a specific activity. They do, however, reward specific tasks, above and beyond the expected tasks, with money. Like working in the yard, or folding laundry, or whatever.

4. A lot of people want to enforce the habit of saving and giving to charity, which I like. But if the monetary reward is 10 cents, how do you split that up into different banks? With pennies?

5. At what point do you let your child bust into their bank and buy something? I think there is value in making decisions about spending money, and even making bad choices so you don't do it the next time, but if Ellen wants a Barbie (which I don't intend to buy her), it's going to take A LOT of bed making at 5 cents a pop to earn a reward. Will she get bored and lose interest?

I don't recall how my parents approached this, but I do think I have a healthy respect for money and savings. I had my first checking account in probably 5th or 6th grade and I diligently balance my checkbook every month. I had an allowance in high school, and I also worked after school and on weekends, and I was responsible for paying for most of my fun and probably some of my clothes. I was never paid for good grades - those were expected - and I had a lot of household tasks that were my responsibility and I lost privileges if I didn't do them. Oh the days of losing phone privileges! I was discussing this with my mom and I think she could see me spiraling out of control and we changed the subject. :)

So - deep breath - this isn't a life or death matter. I think I may start with a small chart with some basic tasks that get rewarded with money. Ellen is young. As she grasps the concept, then I think we can move some of those tasks into the "expected household behavior" category and add new tasks to her list. Once she starts to grasp the idea of money, then I think we can add a savings and charity component.

I did see this idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama on easy sticker charts. It looks simple and I like the idea of just basically rewarding good behavior in any form, but it doesn't involve the money component that I'm looking for. Maybe down the road ....

Tips? Thoughts? Am I too early on this at age 3 1/2??

(Edited to add: another good post on Dinner: A Love Story about some similar issues - my mom and sister were telling me about The New Yorker article, in particular).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Birth Plan

My plan is:
1. Get the baby out
2. Take the baby home

I'm not so worried about any of the other details ...

This, however, is worth a read and good for a laugh -
Jamie and Jeff's Birth Plan via McSweeney's

Friday, July 13, 2012

Play time

Artsy stuff is the primary time-occupier around here. Ellen does like to read, and play dress up (mostly when she should be having "quiet time"), and there is an occasional game or puzzle, but she always, always comes back to coloring.She is getting pretty good at coloring in the lines and likes some coloring books, but also really likes free form drawing on plain paper.

I recently picked up several pieces from the Todd Oldham Kids Made Modern line at Target. I'm not sure how long this line will last in stores, so I stocked up on a few of my favorites. I must admit that I initially purchased because they are so darn cute, but I really love their colored pencils, big and little, and their watercolor set. The little pencils are PERFECT for coloring on-the-go. They come in a round canister with a lid that is pretty hard to destroy, unlike the typical crayon box. My only gripe is that they don't come with a sharpener and Ells uses them pretty quickly! The watercolors also have lots of great colors and come with a little pad of watercolor paper, which makes all the difference. I love what Ellen dreams up and some of her pieces are frame-worthy. I just put an old sorority T-shirt on her (a "smob" she calls it) and let her go ....

I've been really keeping my eyes open for good sales on toys and such as we approach the end of summer. The "end of summer" sounds ridiculous, but back-to-school sales are right around the corner and then fall and then baby and then OHMYGODHELPME. I want to keep the holidays pretty low-key this year and would love to get my shopping done early .... any suggestions??

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Great series on Cup of Jo this week on work-life balance for moms ... check it out here.

I must say, most days I feel super, super lucky to have the option to work part time at a job I really love. Three days of work is the ideal for me and our family. Ellen has a spot in a daycare that we have been really happy with and, while not perfect, I don't think any child-care situation is perfect. Even when you're exclusively doing it yourself!

I find it so interesting to read about other families and how they make their lives work. Last year, Joanna did a series on work-from-home moms. I would also find it really interesting to read about stay-at-home moms because, for the life of me, I don't know how you do it!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Safety patrol

I have a great friend who is a nurse. Actually, I have several great friends who are nurses - they are the best kind of friends to have. However, the first nurse friend is a real safety hound and a car seat expert. For real, certified and everything. She shared this with me today - MORE car seat changes.

Child Seat Requirements Change with 2014 Rule

Read it through, but the basic idea is that the LATCH system may not be adequate for children who are 30+ pounds and are in a car seat that is heavy. Great, just as I reach the point of feeling very comfortable with the LATCH system and not at all comfortable installing a seat with the seat belt.

Also, I just realized the other day that our convertible car seat max's out at 40 pounds. Ells is a compact 36 pounds these days and I have no way to predict when she'll reach 40, but it can't be that far away. So, yet another car seat purchase looming ... advice?

Finally, I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Fourth of July holiday. We live in a place where home fireworks aren't allowed and it is so hot and dry it's probably a bad idea anyway. We are going to make Diet Coke Mentos bombs tonight with our little friend up the street - I think (hope) it will be just as entertaining for the 2-3 year old crowd.

I'm going to follow the directions at Pancakes and French Fries: How to Make Cola Bombs (The Easier Way).

Friday, June 29, 2012

The wisdom of Will Smith

Not sure how I feel about Will Smith in general, but came across this quote this week and thought it was pretty much spot-on (regarding their tween-age daughter shaving her head):

"We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it's like how can you teach her that you're in control of her body? If I teach her that I'm in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she's going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can't cut my hair but that's her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she's going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives."

In the terribleness of all the Sandusky trial lately, I have been reading stories here and there about adults who had experiences with assault as children or young adults. Not an on-going abuse situation, but having an inappropriate experience with a friend's parent or a trusted adult or a bullying situation that went just a step too far. What was striking to me is how many people never told their parents for fear of ruining a family or friend relationship, or feeling like they could handle it on their own, even as a 12- or 16-year-old. It was very surprising to me and so sad. I think (hope) that every parent wants their child to feel like they can tell them anything, but how exactly do you teach that?

There is some commercial on TV right now with two teenage boys and one of them wrecks their car and says, "My dad is going to KILL me." There is such a fine line between instilling fear in your children and making them too fearful to tell you when something bad happens or is about to happen. I want my children to learn responsibility and good decision making and when things are fun and when fun borders on dangerous. I also want them to learn that there are SO, SO many things worse than upsetting your parents. Hair grows back, cars can be fixed, tattoos can be lasered off (right?). There are many other things not so easily fixed. I want them to know that we will listen first, hug first, help first - disappointment and discipline have a place, too, but those things can wait.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dressing the bump

I've wised up this pregnancy. Or, at least, continue to be in denial about the clothing situation.

With my first pregnancy, I think I was fully in maternity pants by 17 weeks. I am now 19+ weeks and still wearing regular pants and I think I have a few weeks to go, which pleases me. There is something about the shiny appeal of "maternity clothes" in your first pregnancy that seems fun and exciting and cute. And then you realize that maternity clothes are rarely any of those things and you spend your second pregnancy trying to avoid them like the plague.

Further, my last pregnancy was fully 4 years ago and I pulled out my 2 boxes of maternity clothes and was appalled at what I wore. I borrowed lots from friends, and my bigger maternity clothes are for winter and still seem OK-ish, but my summer stuff was slim pickins and mostly dreadful.

I think this is my last pregnancy and I don't want to spend a ton of money on things that won't get any more use, but I also need clothes to get me to work 3-4 days a week and then some cute-ish weekend things and/or clothing appropriate for chasing a small child.

Here are a few treasures that have worked well for me so far, in case you are looking!

This is the Merona Women's V-neck Crossover dress from Target, non-maternity (though I think they have a maternity version online). I bought it one size up and it looks pretty cute with a tank underneath and a belt around the waist, pulled up over your bump a bit.

 This is also from Target, the Mossimo women's cowl neck tank, that I think is on clearance now. I also bought it one size up. It is really long on me and has room to grow, though the arm holes are huge, so it requires a cardigan.
These Gap pants are the MVP of my pregnancy wardrobe so far. Like, I've worn them almost everyday since about 7 weeks. They are the Gap slim cropped pants and I have two pairs. I ordered them on a super sale early in my pregnancy and a lot of the reviews said to order one size up generally, which I did. I also ordered two sizes up and just pulled them out last week, which will buy me a few more weeks of wear and probably postpartum, too. I have short legs and they are just about the right crop length on me and they sit low, below my belly.
I also hit some really good sales before Memorial Day at The Legends. I got three of these J Crew Factory cap-sleeve blouses, 2 in medium and 1 in large. They are the kind of shirt that will make you look kind of pregnant in regular life, but just keep people guessing if you really are pregnant. The medium ones are now a bit short, but I can get a little more wear out of the large one. Cute with the Jackie cardigan, too, for work.
Old Navy has also been a good source of inexpensive items for me. I've ordered a few cute maternity things, but still find that a lot of their regular skirts work. This one has a nice elastic band so you can have it sit lower on your waist, below your belly.

For me, this is the best Old Navy skirt so far. I don't really even know how non-preggos can wear it because it fits weird, but it's perfect for me. Sits nice and low with an elastic back.

I guess I was in a chambray mood the day I shopped, but got all of these on a good sale. This skirt is a little less forgiving, but still has an elastic back and sits low on your waist.
Generally, I like to find dresses for work because I don't need as many pieces to get dressed, but it's surprisingly hard to find work-appropriate dresses that have sleeves and are still pretty casual. I have an old one from Lands End that works great with a belt - it's just a straight shift kind of dress. 

I also ordered a few of the Gap essential v-neck t-shirts before I was pregnant in size large and they have always been a bit big and long for regular wear, but now work perfectly. (In contrast, my absolute favorite v-neck t-shirt is the Gap Factory version, which is thinner and cut slimmer, though now getting tight). 

Sadly, my favorite jeans crapped out and got a big hole in the butt at about 8 weeks pregnant, so I really don't have any jeans to wear, but it's getting hot enough that I don't want to anyway. 

Any good tips / pieces I'm missing? Send them my way!

Friday, June 15, 2012

'tis the Season

Did you hear .... it's summer! 

We have yet to get to the pool, or plan any swim lessons, but we are regularly slathering the girl up in sunscreen before school. I think she plays outside from dawn till dusk and, despite our best efforts, already has tan arms and legs. 

We are still using the SuperGoop sunscreen swipes and loving them. We also like some of their stick and lotion products. 

I came across this interesting graphic on sunscreen and protection factors and such - take a look. I know I never put enough sunscreen on, and I thought the tip about using 2-finger's worth and dividing your body in zones was a good one. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Only if you're doing it right

I know I've mentioned the Dinner: A Love Story blog many times before, but it remains one of my very favorites. I have tried, and had success with, many of their recipes. I love their philosophy on family dinner. They have great book recommendations for kids. They write a column in Bon Appetit! Consider me smitten.

Their book comes out today - you can read more about it here and order through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. (I pre-ordered, thankyouverymuch).

Another blog that I really like, and may or may not have mentioned, is Momfilter. It's updated a few times a week and just has snippets about things you might care about - parties, entertainment, home, food, style - along with some great kid pictures and usually a feature or two about an "interesting" mom. If I'm honest, these features can almost border on making me feel like an inadequate human being, but then they often come around to the point where I can see that these (gorgeous / glamorous / smart) women are just moms like me and have the same issues.

Case in point: Jenny Rosenstrach, the author of Dinner: A Love Story, is the featured mother this week. She has some good ideas, there is a great picture of some hand-drawn recipes inside a cabinet door, and the clincher for me at the end: My daughters are close in age so when they were little I remember turning to my mother-in-law and telling her, “I had no idea how hard this was.” And my mother-in-law said, “Only if you’re doing it right.”

You can read the full story here: We Want to Know More About - Jenny Rosenstrach

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Funny for today

This is awesome.

Not awesome, as in, why can't it be me???

But awesome, as in, she lived to tell the tale. Mothers are resourceful, yo. (And, please God, don't let this ever be me. Thanks.)

This is follow-up from Ain't No Mom Jeans' Travel Tips .... the aftermath, if you will.

The One Where I Get a Smack-Down ... On an Airplane

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tips and such

I was at a meeting this week (one of those get-your-child-from-school-shove-food-in-your-faces-thank-your-mother-for-babysitting-and-out-the-door kind of meetings) and the outgoing president of the organization said something that really stuck with me.

To paraphrase, she said "I feel immensely satisfied with this year. I wasn't aiming for perfection - perfect isn't a fair expectation. I was aiming for progress, and I think we accomplished that."

It stuck with me, as a self-proclaimed perfectionist, that YES, IT'S TRUE, "perfect" is rarely ever a fair thing to expect of yourself or others, especially when it comes to child-raising (or just keeping your children alive on any particular day - we've all been there).

As an example, our morning routine after moving Ellen to the big girl bed has been dicey at best. We are trying very hard to enforce the "stay in your room quietly until the cow dances" rule (6:30am), but it isn't really going well. Ells typically wakes up in the late 5's or early 6's to go to the bathroom. I can't deny her that, so I wake up to the pitter patter of her feet racing down the hallway, then she goes potty, puts her diaper in the trash and gets some undies from her room. At that point she is pretty much awake, but we send her back to her room to wait "patiently". Mostly this involves singing and storytelling. She occasionally gets quiet, but today it was a full-on tap show with high heels and dress up clothes. At 6:12am. I blame this behavior on her father, a mostly-earlybird and former childhood "class clown" who believes he spent time with the principal because he was a snappy dresser and fun to be around. You see what I'm up against here?

So, again, the theme for the day is  ... aim for progress. This might involve some kind of personal nightlight / flashlight to encourage reading in bed without turning on every light upstairs. Will keep you posted.

In other news, a couple of things I think you might find interesting if you are reading on the beach or at the lake this holiday weekend, you lucky dog:

Ain't No Mom Jeans: Ten Tips for Flying Alone with Kids - now, if I could just get a vacation, we would be set.

Momastery: Whack-A-Mole - I don't read this blog often, but a few of her posts have gone kind of viral and a friend posted this on facebook. A funny, perfect, description of bedtime.

And, finally, in this graduation season - David Foster Wallace's Commencement Speech from Kenyon College in 2005. I don't think I am smart enough or cool enough to really "get" David Foster Wallace. I tried to read Confederacy of Dunces and then didn't finish. Not even close. There used to be a time in my life when I felt more comfortable analyzing literature and the arts, but this ain't that time. Nonetheless, I came across this in 2008 when the author died and thought it was worth reading. Maybe you will, too.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Worth reading

Hey! Guys! I finally read a BOOK! And, it didn't even have pictures!

I've discovered my problem with reading is that I just add it on to the end of my day, after doing all the other things I want / need to do. So - I get in bed and ponder "read" vs. "sleep" and sleep almost always wins. If I would just read at another point in the day, I think I could fix this problem. Alas, baby steps.

A friend gifted me with The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I know I'm late to the game on this one, and I've always wanted to read it, but again I have my internal debate of "read about a dying father" vs. "sleep" and I think you can guess what happens.

I finally bit the bullet this week and was so glad I did. Yes, there were parts that made me sob (get your kleenex), but there were also funny parts and aha! parts. I generally cry at the drop of a hat, but now that I work with a lot of young people with cancer, these kinds of stories are more personally touching to me and I feel it's a more important perspective for me to have.

I certainly can't eloquently summarize the book, but I think one of the main points is to either Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying. He talks about the inspirations in his life - his wonderful parents, great coaches and teachers - and it was a nice reminder to cultivate those same things in your own child's life. I was also so touched by the tangible memories he left for his children in the form of notes and letters and stories and experiences. I sincerely, truthfully, honestly hope that no one I love finds themselves in a similar situation, but also - what are we waiting for? It shouldn't take a terminal diagnosis of cancer to make great memories for your children. His kids were so young, but I think every child would love to have snapshots of their childhood and funny stories, even if they have the gift of their parents to a ripe old age. For example, he wrote that Diane Sawyer suggested that he write letters to his children describing the very unique, funny things he loved about them ... not just the first steps, first tooth, but the funny crease over their nose when they laughed, or a funny joke they liked to tell, or whatever the case may be.

Take the time, don't put on any mascara, and give it a read. I think you'll be happy you did.

Monday, May 14, 2012


I hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day. Our day was typical / simple, which was just right. I find that the older I get, the more perspective I have on Mother's Day as something more than an occasion for brunch and cards. I feel profoundly grateful to have the opportunity to mother my own child, and so lucky to have my mother and mother-in-law in my life. Erik and I were raised by strong, loving mothers and I am surrounded by friends who are amazing mothers. If I can take a bit of that and pass it on to Ellen, I will feel successful in this very hard and immensely important job.

I had the "opportunity" to do a lot of mothering yesterday. Ellen was up late, having a marvelous time, at a party on Saturday night and my experience predicted we would pay for it for day(s). She had a mediocre quiet time, but seemed to rally and was cuddling on the couch with me just moments before spitting in my face and wrestling me like Hulk Hogan. She was un-containable, un-consolable, un-happy. I knew she was just plain exhausted and it took every ounce of my being to try to get her to calm down.

She finally - for one of the few times in her life - just said, "I'm so tired!". And, of course, she was far beyond the point of falling asleep on her own and just begged me to help her, help her, help her fall asleep. I laid with her and scratched her back "under" (under her shirt), and scratched her head "not there, all over", and patted her back "like this, harder". She drifted off to sleep probably 8 times, then woke every time I inched out of her bed and pleaded with me again. She finally feel asleep and was an improved version of her 3-year-old self upon waking.

I felt needed, as though it was a job only I could do at that moment, and I strained to see the beauty of the moment through my tired eyes and exasperation. She is increasingly independent, in ways that are wonderful to watch, but it's nice to be reminded that she is my baby, and always will be, no matter how big she gets.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Toy overload

Again, from A Cup of Jo today, a topic I've been pondering - how to best deal with TOYS.

Motherhood Mondays: The Great Toy Experiment

I've read some similar ideas here and there over the last few weeks, then really started considering what to do with the overflowing toys because we are having 20-ish small children to our house this weekend. EEKS! I need to do a lot of cleaning, and removing of choking hazards, and then have a discussion with Ellen about what is fair-game and what she wants to put away. I was considering putting quite a bit of it away and not getting it back out?

We are fortunate in our new house to have a lot of storage space, so I feel much less that I am being swallowed by her things, mostly because I don't have to look at them all the time. Still, though, she has far too many toys, some of which rarely get played with. My approach generally is to have everything put away every night before bed. I've noticed if things are left on the floor or in piles, she'll just walk right past them the next day to get to something else. When Ellen plays with Erik, I'll often come home to a room full of things strewn all over the place. I know she has had an excellent time, but I also know that she won't pick up any of those items again to play with - she'll go and get something new.

Her favorite things to do these days are color, make piles of hoarded items, and occasionally play in kitchen or vet. That's about it. That also leaves about 89 toys in her play room  and big girl room that languish on the shelves.

How do you deal with this?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Safety first

Interesting article on playground safety and not sliding down slides with your children. I swear I know someone this happened to, but can't recall the details ....

A Surprising Risk for Toddlers on Playground Slides

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Paper bags

This is really the prime of excitement, folks. Brace yourselves.

Miss Ellen has been keeping herself occupied all week making "puppets" out of brown paper lunch sacks. She colors all over them, assigns them to friends and family, and makes piles of her "favorites" and "not-so-favorites". I even had to make a special trip home to make sure the bags and markers were packed in her overnight bag for a sleepover with the grandparents.

I wish I could take credit for this creativity, but the truth is that this must be all daycare. I've had the bags sitting in my pantry for ages and it never would have occurred to me to pull together this (simple) project. I consider myself a reasonably creative person, but I just can't get it together to do crafty things with Ells. Pinterest, be damned. I think there are a lot of positives that daycare adds to her life, and certainly the crafty / artsy / outdoorsy / adventure stuff is a lot of it.

By the way, I have the paper lunch sacks not because I am packing lunch in them, but because I use them now to make microwave popcorn. It is totally the best thing ever and very cost effective. Popcorn is a favorite treat around here and I hated the thought of the weird chemicals in microwave popcorn for Ellen, plus I don't think it generally tastes all that good. I usually would make it in a pot on the stove with a little olive oil, but let's face it, that requires cleaning a pan.

Now, though, this is perfect:
- take a regular old brown lunch sack
- add some popcorn kernals to the bottom, maybe 1/4 to 1/3 cup.
- don't add any oil or anything
- fold over the top of the bag a few times tightly to keep the steam in, but keep the fold small to allow for plenty of room for the popped corn
- don't staple unless you want sparks and/or fire
- set the bag standing up in your microwave and run it 2-3 minutes, however long your popcorn usually takes. Listen for the pops to slow down.
- Warning: I think I bought the cheapest brown bags ever and sometimes the steam gets the bottom of the bag wet and it tears, spilling some popcorn / kernals. Oh well.

That's it! A perfectly popped, whole grain snack. And, then you can add melted butter and/or salt and/or maple syrup and not feel (so) bad about it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Status report

One week into Project Big Girl Bed and all is well. Ellen has slept there every night (naps / "quiet time" typically dicey) and once in bed, hasn't really gotten out. Her mornings have actually been great - sleeping until "the cow is dancing" almost every morning, and even late some days! Well, if you count late as 6:37-6:42am, which we do.

The falling asleep has been more of an issue than I anticipated. She says she "can't fall asleep very well!" and has required lots of visits to her room for reassurance and prompts to count sheep or lay quietly or some such thing that sounds non-sensical when recommended to a 3-year-old. We are trying to avoid a lot of hair scratching / back rubbing / general coddling as it is so much easier to do now that she is so close and not behind bars! :)

Our major point of enforcement has been for her to stay in her bed from the time we put her there until we come in her room in the morning to get her out. So far, so good. One morning I did wake to her little feet running down the hall, but otherwise she has been generally compliant. 

Also, I'm realizing that we are just about one year out from The Potty Party! It seemed pretty easy at the time and in retrospect, totally was. We've had so few accidents or issues since that time - hard to believe I was ever resistant to the idea. She is still in diapers at bedtime, though has been out of diapers at nap for probably 6 months. She wakes up dry several mornings a week, but not enough to contemplate undies at bedtime. I'm not pushing it and would certainly rather have diapers than wet sheets to deal with in the mornings.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

How to move a toddler to a Big Kid Bed

Ok, you should totally take my advice.

It goes like this:

- Spend quite a bit of time pondering the decor of your child's Big Kid Room.
- Decide on what bed fits best aesthetically, then Google till your eyes bleed and you find a great price on said bed.
- Wait for a Groupon to get a good deal on a mattress.
- Move.
- Set up the bed in the Big Kid Room say, oh, at least 6 months before you need it.
- Be entirely wishy washy about the whole process. (Everyone says to keep your child in their crib as long as possible, but turns out, you won't know anyone who kept their kid in the crib as long as you did).
- Avoid your child when he/she asks when she gets to sleep in the Big Bed.
- Stall, stall, stall.
- Randomly, over about a 3 month time frame, try to enforce "quiet time" in the Big Kid Bed. If you are lucky, your child might fall asleep once. Or twice.
- One night, when your child is so sleepy they almost fall asleep mid-sentence, decide on a whim that it's a good night to try the Big Kid Bed. At your child's (groggy) insistence, of course.
- Cross your fingers, lament the lack of a night light and bed rails, and fall into bed yourself.

If you are EXTRA lucky, your husband will wake you up at 5:15am (not intentionally, of course), and then you won't fall asleep again until about 6:51am. You got to stay in bed until 6:51am because your child slept in late until 7:00am for the first time in, oh, 114 days. But, then you get up and praise your toddler after what feels like 9 total minutes of sleep.

Rinse and Repeat.

Acting on a whim is not in my nature, but I do have a tendency to over-think things (ahem) and sometimes you gotta just go with it. Ells woke up, so proud of herself, and asked if she could do it again every night. I told her I would think about it. :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pay off

You know when you're in the midst of making dinner, fighting the Easter candy battle, stepping on toy fragments and generally up to your ears in parenthood?

And then - THEN - you find yourself smack in the middle of one of those moments that makes it all worth it?

I mentioned that we were going to try reading chapter books and it has actually been a success. Ellen loves to snuggle up and listen and generally pays attention, though the reading comprehension isn't all that great. :) We started with Matilda by Roald Dahl, which is one of my all-time favorites from childhood. She likes the story (after some editing by me) and I found the old movie on TV this week and recorded it.

Ellen got to watch a bit before bed tonight ... she snuggled up in my lap, asked lots of questions about the nice people and the mean Mrs. Trunchbull, and I generally LOVED every second of it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I accept your apology

Just a brief note to say we've entered a funny developmental stage - frequent / appropriate apologies.

Ellen clearly now understands the idea of an apology and can (mostly) apologize for the offending behavior. She is quick to apologize, even for things that I'm not upset about.

Now ... if we could just get her to avoid the offending behavior in the first place, we would really be onto something.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Read all about it!

I'm into books these days. Oh, not for myself - who has time to read? (she says sheepishly...), but for Miss Ellen.

I love the hunt of tracking down an obscure / great / new-to-us book and feel giddy when she loves it just like I thought she would. There are a lot of duds in this search, to be sure, (I'm looking at you "A Chocolate Moose for Dinner" - so dated), but definitely some diamonds in the rough from our typical library plunder.

With Easter baskets on the horizon, I find myself searching Amazon for something great to add that isn't candy. Oh, there will be candy - the girl is a fiend for jelly beans - but I like to add other treats, too. (The Betty Bunny books are fun, if a little naughty). And, truly, I'm always trying to find that little something extra to get my basket over $25 for free shipping - aren't you?

So, this year I'm approaching chapter books. Whoa. We're probably a little early for this, but I never would have even considered it without coming across this post on Pinterest. Aaah, Pinterest - how you've changed my life. From Sarah Jane Studios - Chapter Books for the Younger Kids. Some of these books are definitely for elementary age, but read the comments, too, and you'll see some suggestions for younger kids.

We have a copy of Matilda by Roald Dahl - one of my all time favorites - and Ellen loves paging through it and there are just enough illustrations to keep her interested. I sent my niece a Roald Dahl boxed set two years ago for Christmas and she loved every bit of it, just like I did. My heart almost burst with pride!

So ... we ended up with Junie B. Jones for a newer option and Pippi Longstocking for an older option. Maybe we'll try Matilda and Stuart Little, too. We'll see how that goes ...

Also, a few other sources for good kid books that I might have shared before:
Dinner A Love Story: Fave Five (updated periodically)
Design Mom: Picture Books
Daily Candy - All Time Favorite Kids' Books

There are other lists on Pinterest - search for kids books. And, this is fun too:
We Give Books - a free online site for reading books online (flip through the pages on your computer and read out loud).

And, I know I've mentioned this one, but Barnes and Noble adds a new book to their storytime site every month and Ellen loves "watching" them. Good if you need a break, not that you ever do ...