Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Pancakes And Some Cute John Pictures

For once I'm posting my Sunday Pancakes on Sunday!

Here's what we tried today. They were good! Hazelnut has a distinct flavor that you can really taste. However, as I'm typing this with Peter reading over my shoulder he said "I really didn't even notice the flavor."


It was there, trust me.

Part of the reason I'm trying new things so much is because I feel like one day, hopefully after a few more kids are added in, it may be a huge luxury to try a new recipe. I'll have to fall back on the ones I've become quick at throwing together over the years. I love trying new things and we're enjoying experimenting with pancakes. This is also why I read so many books. I've always loved to read but I've been more ambitious lately because I see a day in my future where the only book I read might be The Very Hungry Caterpillar over and over again...

I wish I had captured this seconds before. He was fully in the cabinet, crouched, looking out at me smiling.

Love this boy! He's a delicious dish!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dog Sitting

We recently dog sat (yikes, is that the correct way to say that? Because that doesn't invoke pleasant images.) for some dear friends of ours.

John likes Taffy's beds almost as much as he likes Taffy.

I have to say, I am so happy that I don't have any pets! And I'm sad about that. A little. Peter and I couldn't have pets for the first four years that we were married because we lived in student housing. I always had cats growing up and pined for the day when I could have my very own cat. Then we got two cats; they were very sweet cats. They did shed everywhere and occasionally peed on a pile of towels. But I could deal with that. Then John was born and they started peeing all over the furniture. That I couldn't deal with. So now they live a content, albeit less luxurious, life in my mother's back yard.

I mostly thought of this as a fluke. Eventually I saw us having more cats and possibly a dog. I used to feel sorry for people who didn't want pets, supposing them to lead cold, unhappy little lives. Now, I am one of those people. Yet rather than leading a cold, unhappy life, I see that those non-pet people were probably just busy or, busy or not, they didn't want to pick up dog poop in a bag three times a day or spend their lives in the fruitless battle against pet fur.

Taffy, the dog we kept, is a really good and sweet dog. She's obedient and she's very good with John. But she still needs the attention that living beings require: food, potty breaks, affection. And I found myself begrudging her those things because my time and attention are pulled so many other places over the course of the day! We were happy to keep her for a while. John loved it. But I fear I'm one of those non-pet people now. The kind that prefers clean furniture over a purring cat. The kind that is too concerned about germs to appreciate a dog's kiss. The kind that is too practical to be drawn in by the mind-blowing cuteness of a tiny kitten. This is a little sad to me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not shedding any tears. One day maybe we'll be a pet family again when we don't have kids in diapers. If not, we can always visit Taffy. In the meantime, I'm happy that I don't have two creatures demanding food and potty breaks first thing in the morning!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Word Wise Wednesday

Two weeks ago the question was posed: What to do with proper nouns that end in 's' when making them possessive? This is a conundrum. It is quite pertinent to me, my last name ending in 's'.

Well, it turns out that there is a raging debate over this very question in the punctuation world. You may be surprised (or completely unsurprised) to learn that there is always a fierce debate of some kind among grammar/punctuationphiles. Probably because many grammar and punctuationphiles are impossible-to-please sticklers.

Perhaps because this debate has little hope of ever being solved, you have options! Meaning that no matter what you do, some people will think you are ignorant, others will laud you for using correct punctuation in a punctuation-ignorant world. And, I suppose we should admit that most will not care one way or the other and some may not even know what an apostrophe is.

Laura, a former proofreader (I'm so jealous that you had that job!) and commenter said that, according to AP format, a singular possessive proper noun that ends in 's' should have an apostrophe after the 's':

James' car. (Please correct me if that's not what you meant, Laura!)

However, according to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, either "James's car" or "James' car" is acceptable. Choices! Just go with what strikes your fancy! Isn't punctuation fun?!

For plural possessive proper nouns (say that three times fast), put the apostrophe after the 's':

The Joneses' car

I'll admit, that looks clunky but what should the Joneses do? Change their names? No. I do not think that they want to stand in that social security office line for the sake of avoiding an awkward plural possessive!

According to Eats, Shoots and Leaves, there are various disagreements over the above rules throughout the punctuation world and it's best not to get too worked up. The author states that the only consistency she found in the dozen or so punctuation guides she consulted was that they used the poet John Keats' name (or John Keats's name!) to illustrate their various and sometimes opposing points.

So, go crazy and say Keats' or Keats's but whichever you choose, be consistent. (And when I say crazy, I mean crazy within the bounds of punctuation decorum, of course. Don't go writing "Ja'mes car" or anything like that. Even people who don't know what an apostrophe is will recognize that you're not the brightest crayon in the box.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sunday Pancakes

These are the pancakes we ate last Sunday:

Peanut Butter Pancakes

I loved these! We ate them with jam, per the recipe notes. And I ate leftovers with honey. (I eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches A LOT. I love that combo.) Though I loved these, Peter just informed me that he can't believe that I preferred these over the pancakes that we ate the Sunday before, which were:

Blueberry Pancakes

I thought these were, meh, but Peter really loved them.

I had been looking forward to posting some success stories from all my blueberry baking. Unfortunately, none of the recipes have knocked me off my feet (which may be a good thing because I don't want to hurt myself!). (I had originally written "knocked me off of my feet", but then I decided to get rid of that extraneous preposition!) I have yet to make the blueberry cheesecake, I hope to make it this weekend.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Word Wise Wednesday: Relax! Here's a Rule You Can Break

Yeesh. I've been remiss in blogging. John has been under the weather and clingy, we've been dog sitting and I've been searching for a dress to wear to my 10 year (!) high school reunion that is in two weeks! I can scarcely believe it! More on that later. If the dress I have my eye on works out, it will make for an especially fun and fashionable Word Wise Wednesday post! (Really.)

I was so thrilled that last week's WWW post generated discussion! I am going to reply but, because of the above goings-on, I haven't had a chance.

For today: Some of you might be constantly haunted by something your high school English teacher told you (I am haunted by many things my high school English teacher told me). You might have been taught a rule that you feel you should observe but you find it nearly impossible to follow all the time. When it is possible, you find that adhering to it strictly, especially in casual conversation, makes you sound like a stuck up word snob (which you may be, but still it makes you uncomfortable to think that others might think that you are just trying to show off your erudition, when really you just love to follow grammar rules).

I'm speaking of the dangling preposition. Does it give you a little pang of guilt every time one slips out, hanging from your sentence like a convict from a noose?

Well, you can relax. It's not necessary to always ensure your prepositions are tucked nicely in their clauses rather than dangling over the precipice of the bad grammar inferno. In fact, sometimes not dangling your prepositions can sound ridiculous, as in this quote attributed to Winston Churchill: "That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put."

I have read that the Columbia and the Chicago style manuals agree with this position, but I have not confirmed this personally.

Another ridiculous example: "About what are you thinking?"

I mean, come on. Who talks that way? Not even the staunchest grammarphile will say that. For the sake of not sounding like a pedagogue, let's just dangle that "about" and say "what are you thinking about?" The occasional dangled preposition might just ensure that you still have friends who are willing to have a conversation with you.

So, besides the fact that tucking your prepositions can sound inane, all the "to whom's" and "of which's" required to tuck those prepositions in can make things sound awfully clunky. So, don't worry if your prepositions dangle occasionally. There are times when a dangling preposition sounds cleaner. There are also times when a tucked-in preposition is more graceful. So use your judgment and don't feel guilty about breaking your high school English teacher's rule (in this case)!

BUT, there is at least one situation in which you should avoid the dangling preposition at all costs: when the preposition can be deleted from the clause and the meaning of the sentence will not change, by all means, get that preposition out of there! And quick!

Here's a classic example: "Were are you at?"

There is absolutely no reason that "at" should be there. Just say, "where are you?"

Another example: "Where are you going to?"

Again, if you remove the "to," the meaning of the sentence is still crystal clear. Nix the "to" and say, "where are you going?"

There are other, less urgent, cases where prepositions are unnecessary:

"Sally jumped off of the dock."

"John stood outside of the door."

You really don't need the "of" in either of those cases. You can streamline your writing by culling all of those extraneous prepositions and throwing them into the bad grammar inferno.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Word Wise Wednesday

A few years ago I saw the book Eats, Shoots & Leaves in an airport. I remember thinking, I want to read that sometime. It's a book about punctuation. (Don't look so excited.) So, since I'm on a mission to become a less-ignorant grammarian (I consider punctuation a subset of grammar), I recently picked it up from the library.

I really can't explain exactly why I'm suddenly interested in mastering the rules of grammar. I don't know of many (okay, any) other people who read books about punctuation for leisure. Perhaps I just don't run in the right circles? All I can say is that I would like to improve my writing skills. As I edit my posts I've been paying a little more attention to whether or not my sentences are grammatically correct and I became slightly disconcerted to realize that many times, I don't actually know. And now, here you are, helping me to work through my grammatical demons. Yay! (Am I normal? Don't answer that.)

I digress. Back to the book. It's fabulous. But it has shown me that I knew even less than I thought I did about correct punctuation. I was going to do this first WWW post about the semi colon. But my reading has shown me that I have about as much understanding of the semi colon as I have of rocket science. And what do I know about rocket science? Well, I have seen a rocket once or twice. Who knew that the semi colon conveys buckets of nuanced meaning?

The semi colon will have to wait. Possibly until I obtain another degree. So, here's an easy tidbit, a piece of information that has somehow eluded me in my 12 years of school and 6 years of higher education:

You probably all know that to make a singular word possessive, you and an -'s: Peter's hat. Leslie's questionable sanity.

To denote a plural possessive, you add an s': The cats' box (more than one cat); the girls' shoes (more than one girl).

But there are exceptions! I was surprised to learn that when you want to show the possessive of a plural word that does not end in -s, you use the -'s again! Did you know this?!? I did not.

For example: children. Children, the plural of child, does not end in -s. The correct plural possessive of children is children's. Not childrens', as you would think according to the rules above.

Correct plural possessive: The children's toys.

Another good example: women. Women's is the correct plural possessive, not womens', again contrary to the rules.

Correct plural possessive: The Women's movement.

You learn something new everyday! Some days, more than you anticipated!

14 Months Today

Sweet John is 14 months today. He's just as happy and delicious as ever! As you know, being 14 months old, he has terribly many things on his mind and must fit an astonishing amount of activities in his schedule; running to and fro, entreating snacks from strangers at the library, clapping, play dates, naps, all of these things keep him very busy!

He had his first dentist appointment yesterday. I wouldn't have taken him so early in life except for the fact that we just started seeing a new dentist who sees kids also. They offered to make an appointment for John, and there's no copay, so we went for it! There's really nothing to it at his age. She brushed his teeth and put some fluoride on them. She checked to see if any other teeth are on their way in. And she talked to me about brushing habits for John. So we've started brushing which John lets me do and even finds entertaining.

He has continued to sign "more" and "get down." "More," to him, generally adheres to its literal meaning. While, "get down," must often be interpreted more broadly to mean "I want to change my situation." He signs get down when we wants to get down (imagine that!), but also when he wants to get out of the pool, for example, or when he's gotten bored of playing and wants to do something else. He has added "please" to his repertoire of signs. It is so cute! He's a polite little guy! I'm sure he doesn't comprehend the meaning of "please", but it's a start!

He loves to clap. He understands when I say it. When, for example, we sing "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." But, in his mind, there are specific clap-worthy occasions. In the mornings when I get him up, usually he has thrown all of his toys out of the crib. I hand them to him one-by-one to put back in the crib and he claps after he puts each one in.

He's almost totally eating table food. I'm still nursing a little. But other than that, he pretty much eats what we eat. He no longer wants to be spoon fed, but prefers to finger feed himself. This has upped the mess factor at mealtime but I suppose I can't spoon feed him forever for the sake of cleanliness. Even those of us with highly developed fine motor skills are not immune to the occasional spill at dinnertime, after all!

He loves snacks and if there are any to be found where he can reach them, he will ferret them out. Last week he pulled a peach out of Peter's satchel and ate it to the pit. (Actually, it was pretty funny because John snatched the peach while Peter was in the bathroom. So John comes into the bathroom eating Peter's peach and since Peter is, ahem, preoccupied, all he can do is watch while John devours his peach.) Yesterday we went to story time at the library and he spent a lot of the time accosting children with snacks and signing "more". It sort of drives me crazy that mothers are always feeding their kids snacks. Even though, I acknowledge, I'm part of this problem. But John never wants snacks until he sees other kids with snacks. So I carry snacks around not because I think John will get hungry, but because I know that I'll have to feed him something if he sees other kids eating. But, I digress.

John has made an important life choice about what he wants to do when he grows up. Some of you might think it too early to be making such decisions. But he's clearly indicated that he wants to be a doctor:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


We spent the last week of June in Salt Lake City. It was great to be out of our everyday routine, catch up with friends and enjoy parts of nature that aren't found around Houston. Here's a recap:

The Flights
I was concerned about the flights with John. He is a very easy-tempered baby but he likes to move. I was worried that if I tried to confine him to our laps he would transform into a fire-breathing dragon. You know how they frown upon flame-throwing devices being brought onto planes these days.

So... does this mean we can safely stow him in the overhead bins?

Happily, he was superb on both flights. He slept much less than I would've preferred, considering how tired he was- only about 40 minutes per flight split up into shorter naps. But he didn't scream the entire time (or very much at all). Success!

Finally asleep!

The Visit
We stayed with some very gracious friends who have an awesome house nestled in the foothills with a spectacular view of the valley and surrounding mountains. They were also kind enough to let us drive their Mazda sports car while we were there. Which was pretty funny, trying to get our car seat, stroller, pack and play, etc in and out of that sleek little thing! (The husband of this family is a pediatric surgeon in case you were wondering how they came to possess such an amazing house and have extra sports cars sitting around).

Our view from the back porch of the house

We had a great time catching up with friends. I wish I'd taken more pictures of the people we saw. Most of our visiting also involved eating at our favorite places, which is always a highlight of any trip we take.

The 800 mg Ibuprofen Hike

We were really looking forward to getting out and doing a day hike. We were able to do a few short ones in the city. However, we were having a hard time finding a hike that we could do in the mountains. SLC had so much snow this year that many of the peaks are still blanketed in it. Having already learned the hard way that snow-covered hikes are sometimes not so fun, we searched for one that was clear. One day I pointed across the valley to a peak that didn't look like it had any snow on it.

"Why can't we do that one?" I asked

It turns out that the one I pointed to was Mt. Olympus. It is in the pictures above, at the far right of the lower one. It is at a lower elevation and gets a lot of sun which explains why no snow remained. It's only 3.5 miles one way. It seemed like a good choice! Except for one thing. It gains 4,000 feet of elevation in that 3.5 miles; it's steep. It is a classic hike in that area so we decided to give it a try reasoning that the worst that could happen is that we get too tired, turn around and come home.

Well, that didn't happen. Actually, we did indeed get tired and come home but not before we made it to the top. It was a spectacular view. However, while coming down is usually the easy part, this hike was so steep that the descent was perhaps as taxing as climbing up. The descent is also what warranted the 800 mg of Ibuprofen that we swallowed when we returned home. (Not so much because we were in unbearable pain, though our knees were worn out, but because we wanted to curb inflammation that was sure to come after such a pounding.)

I'm so glad we did it because who knows when we'll be near the mountains again. BUT, I would not recommend hiking Mt. Olympus with a child. There was some steep stuff at the end that made me very nervous. Thankfully, Peter was as cool as a cucumber and he carted John down the steepest parts. Still though, get a baby sitter if you want to do this one!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Word Wise Wednesday

Okay, I had an idea that may or may not be good or attainable for me. I enjoy writing and I'd like to improve my writing skillz. Lately I've found myself composing posts in my head about various grammar-related topics that I'd like to discuss such as commonly misused words and punctuation marks. Beyond that, I have had a growing uneasy feeling that I don't actually know how to use commas, and that most of my sentences are run-ons.

I am one of those rare people who fervently wishes that I'd had the opportunity to diagram more sentences in high school. Seriously, I find it enthralling. Yet, correct grammar, I've found, like other aspects of language, requires constant practice. If you don't use it, you lose it. (At least I do.) And goodness knows, most of us have lost it. Of all the grammar I must have learned at some point in my life, little remains in my working knowledge. You might have noticed from reading here that I sprinkle commas around haphazardly like an over-zealous flower girl gleefully tossing daisies around the entire church.

So, every Wednesday I'm tentatively planning to write a grammarphile post, hence: Word Wise Wednesday. This might fall through, as regular deadlines are not my forte. But, if nothing else, I might learn a thing or two. I'm hoping to clear up some of my own grammar misunderstandings so that I appear less ignorant and grow more adept at writing.

Any of you reading this who happen to be grammarphiles can accompany me on my grammarlicious journey! On the other hand, if this kind of thing makes you have a semi-anaphylactic reaction, I understand. Some of us (surely it's not only me?) just can't let go of those heady, sentence-diagramming high school days.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

June Books

I've rekindled my love for audio books recently. In the past, the only time I've listened to them was on road trips. But now I listen when I go jogging and when I'm doing mindless things around this house like dishes, laundry or cleaning. So I inundated the library with requests and now I have 7 or 8 downloaded to my iPod. Sometimes technology and I get along!

The Hobbit by J.R.R . Tolkein

I listened to this one on audio book. Loved it! When we were driving to SLC the summer we moved there, Peter and I listened to The LOTR trilogy which was read by the same man who reads The Hobbit. He is great! The nuances in his voice blew my mind- more so in LOTR. But he's still great in The Hobbit. I can see why this one is a classic. I hope I can read it with John one day.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I also listened to this one on audio book. This is the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. This series is hugely popular. Every book club that I know of has read it. I am going through the series for one of my book clubs. There is a movie slated to come out within the next year, I believe. This book was very gripping and I'm looking forward to reading the other two. It is supposed to be a young adult novel. However, I don't really think it's appropriate for young adults because it contains disturbing material. It's very violent and the premise is somewhat Lord of the Flies-ish. Everyone I know who has read this series couldn't put it down. I'd recommend it as long as you know that you're not picking up a fluffy book about kittens and puppies frolicking in a field with butterflies. This one is considerably darker.

The Shaping of a Christian Home by Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot is one of my favorite Christian writers. Often while reading her books I find myself saying "she's writing what I'm thinking!" This was a memoir of her childhood and particularly how her parents structured their home and imparted their values. I loved reading this and would recommend it.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th!

Happy Independence Day, everyone! What a day to reflect on our independence from those pesky Brits. (Though, as I've said before, the downside might be that we also did away with all of their fabulous hats.)

Anyways, we are also celebrating Peter's independence from the tyrannical world of Internal Medicine. Last year he spent his first year of residency, otherwise known as "intern year," in internal medicine. Most specialties require that doctors do one year of general medicine before going on to train in their specialty. This seems to be a perfectly valid idea. The unfortunate part is that scheduling in internal medicine is grueling. Whereas scheduling in ophthalmology is sublime! There are not so many ophthalmological emergencies, you see.

In June Peter finished his intern year in general medicine and July 1st was his first day of ophthalmology residency. Consequently, this Independence Day is the first holiday he's had off in over a year. Unless you count Halloween.

As we speak he is studying, disciplined soul that he is. "Holiday" has a more liberal definition in the medical world. Still, any day that he doesn't have to go into the hospital is nice. We went to the park this morning. And we're going to a barbecue tonight. So, hitting the books for a few hours in the middle of the day isn't bad! He's very excited to embark on this new phase of his training. In only 3 to 5 more years he will be eligible for gainful employment!

We went to the splash fountain at Hermann Park this morning. Then we walked around the lake and through the Japanese garden. We had a lovely time. I only wished we'd arrived a smidge earlier to avoid the hotter heat (as there's no way to avoid the heat altogether).

For what it's worth, I want to mention that I bought John an i play swim diaper. Mine was $8 at HEB. I wanted to try to avoid disposables so I grabbed this one when I saw it. This is the only one I've used so I have nothing to compare it to. But so far I've been really happy with it. Today he took a prodigious bowel movement at the splash park and everything stayed well-contained. Clean up was fairly easy.

This cute little swim outfit was one of his birthday presents. Thanks, Carolyn!

As you can tell, I'm doing my best to ensure that his skin retains its pale hue.

I hope you all have as much fun today as John in the splash park!