Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nerd Problems

I'm not, in the strictest sense, a nerd because I don't wear glasses, I'm not tech savvy, and I've never been that successful at mathematics. But I am most definitely a nerd in that I love LOTR! So this boils down to the fact that I'm a nerd with no real skill set. Hm. Well, it could be worse.

If you're not a nerd, you probably don't even know what LOTR stands for. Let me help you (perhaps you could help me with my fashion sense?). It stands for Lord of the Rings. I'm a big fan. I'm also a big fan of the Hobbit and I've been eagerly anticipating the its opening.  I didn't realize until yesterday that the Hobbit is also being made into a trilogy (like LOTR) which will include not only the Hobbit, but some of Tolkien's other works that pertain to Middle Earth. The Hobbit, though, is not a trilogy. It's just one book, and now I'm concerned. So concerned! I fear that the film makers will take liberties that will diminish or change all the things that make it a well-loved, classic novel! Nerd problems- not to be confused with actual problems.

I reread the Hobbit this month in preparation for the movie coming out. I have to say, I just love it. The best books- and desserts- always have layers, and each reading will reveal something new to chew on. The Hobbit, at it's simplest, is a great fantasy adventure story. But you can go much deeper than that. I'm not  talking about going to Comic Con dressed as an elf. I mean that I find Tolkein's writing to be so illuminating regarding human nature. One thing that I love most about it is his characterization of the various races that inhabit Middle Earth. In those characterizations, you almost have a parable of the Proverbs- the wisdom literature of the Bible. You see various traits, positive and negative, playing against each other and coming to fruition in arcs of wisdom and folly.

Dwarves, for example, are highly industrious and able to produce things of great usefulness and extraordinary beauty. But they are rather rude and they love gold, which figures prominently into the book's premise: A group of Dwarves trek to an ancient homeland to reclaim their stolen treasure from a dragon. They little concern themselves with considering the possible consequences of waking a dragon that has long been dormant in his mountain, guarding his mountain of treasure.

On the other hand, you have Hobbits. I just love Hobbits. They might tend towards laziness, but they do not have the same weakness for riches. They have little penchant for adventures and are provincial in their thinking, but they are mild-mannered and, Bilbo in particular, is not blinded by greed.

In once scene that I love, there are three trolls that are so fond of arguing that they argue themselves into oblivion. They would have done well to remember that "a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 (Wouldn't we all do well to remember that?!)

I love the way that the races interact. Each has strengths and weaknesses and various quirks that, together, weave a rich tapestry. Like with real people in real life.

I cannot wait until my children are old enough to read stories like this aloud. Unless, by that time, they've come out with a Hobbit video game,  then I'll just let them play that. (No, I won't!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For What It's Worth*: My Thoughts On Juicing

Over the summer my in laws all started juicing, and I was intrigued. I usually think of juicers as granola-organic-hipster types. My in laws are not granola-organic-hipsters. I am not a granola-organic-hipster either, but I aspire to their sense of irony and their love of hummus. I was very interested to see how it went for my in laws, and I was contemplating getting a juicer myself.

Then, while vising my mother in law, she let me try some juice that she'd been drinking regularly made from juiced carrots, celery, apples, cucumbers, perhaps a few other things- I can't remember. But I do remember that it tasted only slightly better than vomit. I'm not knocking my mother in law here, she's aware of what I thought of that concoction. And I'm sure she's capable of making a delicious juice, but this one reminded me of a long night I spent retching over the toilet. (My mother in law, by the way, is the best mother in law anyone could ever hope to have! Hi, Diane!)

As I researched juicing, I decided that I'm better off just eating fruits and veggies. I'm sure juicing has it's place, but I don't like the idea that I would be missing a whole lot of nutrition from any given fruit or vegetable if I was just extracting the juice.

One thing that struck me when I watched my mother in law prepare that juice was how much was wasted. All of the pulp from the fruits and veggies (and there was a lot of it- I was surprised how much) accumulated in a canister attached to the juicer and was subsequently given to my in laws' pet rabbits. The pulp has additional nutrients and lots of fiber. Fiber, something which most Americans are lacking, is important for intestinal and heart health and also helps you to feel full. You miss all of those  benefits if you're just drinking juice. I've heard that you can save the pulp and bake it into something. But, to me it would be a lot easier to just eat the apple rather than juicing it and then baking the skins into chips (or whatever it is that people make.)

There is a caveat, though. If the only way you can manage to ingest any fruits and vegetables is to juice- then you should juice! I'm still intrigued by juicing, and some of the recipes I found on the web sounded delicious. Maybe I'll look into it again in the future. It's definitely not a bad habit, or unhealthy in any way. I just don't understand why, if health and nutrition is the point of juicing, you would throw away so much of the nutrients and fiber? Why not just eat fruits and vegetables?

 I feel that people are always trying to find creative ways to avoid eating fruits and vegetables while still capturing their nutritional benefits. My opinion is that there's really no good way to get around it: you just have to eat fruits and vegetables. With rare exceptions, you'll never match the nutrition of actual food through fake food, food supplements or, in this case, juice. If you could just, say, have an apple or some celery and peanut butter as a snack, I think you'll probably gain more nutrition and save yourself the trouble of having to bake a celery skin cake.

A possible alternative to juicing would be to mix vegetables and fruits into a smoothie. I think that is a much better way to preserve all of the nutrition in the fruits and vegetables and feel fuller for longer.

This is just my opinion. If you're a juicer, you're probably way healthier and cooler than I am anyway. So, just roll your eyes at me behind your black, thick-rimmed glasses and keep on juicing! And, if any juicers are reading this, tell me, why juice? And, what do you do with all that pulp besides provide a fantastic diet for your rabbits?

* Not much, I know!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Guess What Time It Is?

Grandma Time. 

My mom graciously came to town this weekend to help me out as Peter had to travel to sunny San Diego for  a surgery course. John loves his grandma and you can see why. Yes, there's coke in that cup. I just left the house and pretended not to see any of it. 

Peter called me from San Diego and he was raving about the hotel and the food at the hotel. And I was like, "how is the course going?" And he was like, "oh  yeah... it's okay." And then he went right back to talking about the food and his trip to the shore. So! Sounds like there was a lot of learning going on.  

I'm happy he's on his way back from the airport right now! 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Purple is a Good Color for You

If you're like me, you're always looking for a good recipe for beets. Right? Are you with me? (Anyone?)

I don't know what it is about beets but, for me, they're like the emblem of healthy eating wrapped up in foodie-ism. Kale, arugula, beets- these are healthy (extremely healthy) foods that require a little foodie know how to give them a wider appeal. I imagine Martha Stewart saying "just toss a few pantry staples together to create these gorgeous and delicious prosciutto-wrapped kale-stuffed beet truffles." Martha would consider prosciutto to be a pantry staple, but I digress.

 If you're eating foods like that, you've got a culinary sophistication to which I aspire. I'm always looking for simplevery simple) and delicious ways to incorporate more veggies. (Don't get me wrong, I strive to be a healthy eater, but, love for veggies notwithstanding, I have a formidable sweet tooth, and given the opportunity I will shovel icing down my gullet. <--- This sentence has so many commas that I'm sure it can't be correct.)

The beet has long eluded me, but I have two recipes that I wanted to share.

Due to the peculiarities of the Texas Winter, we are able to enjoy frozen smoothies in December with winter vegetables. It seems that green smoothies are all the rage these days, but here is the recipe for a purple one: Mixed Berry and Beet Smoothie.

I understand that the beet's purple color is an indication of its fantastic nutritional content. And it really is so pretty. That's part of the draw for me- don't you just love that purple? (But you must be careful because it will stain!) This may be a good way to get your kids (or yourself) to eat more veggies- sneaking them into smoothies. I thought the smoothie was good, not great. But John gulped it down and asked for more. I will definitely try it again.

 The keeper recipe was this Savory Beet Soup. This was excellent. It's easy to make and it would look so beautiful at a holiday meal because of its festive color. Try it! The only reason that I don't make it more often is because it's a little light for a main course. If you had some really good, filling bread, it might work.  I always feel like I should make something to accompany it, but I'm mostly striving for one-pot meals these days. Coordinating main dishes, side dishes, prepping, cooking and cleaning is a little more that I can accomplish in one segment of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Please, Oh Please, Let Them Be Clean Freaks

God, it is my humble prayer that you would make all of my children clean freaks. As you know, I need help around here.

Isla likes to put her face flat on the floor and lick. She also loves plastic bags (suffocation hazard!) How does anyone ever survive childhood?

Thankfully, John is well on his way to becoming a neat and tidy young man. Sort of. He loves to "help clean". Here he is making me proud by vacuuming under a hard to reach area (and hamming it up with that smile):

He also enjoys "packing up". While I was busy getting us ready for a trip to San Antonio recently, he was busy efficiently packing some of our necessities:

 I couldn't imagine leaving town without all of our letters.

And Isla's got big news! A few weeks ago she was making a lot of commotion after I'd put her down for her afternoon nap. It sounded like she was having way too much fun for nap time, squealing with glee and all. I walked in to see what could possibly be the source of all of this happiness and I saw this:

She's pulling up, and she's mighty happy about that! (I took out the bassinet insert right away and now she's sleeping in the bottom of the pack and play.) And she's starting to hands-and-knees crawl, though she still mostly belly crawls. And she's got two bottom front teeth poking through. Standing, and crawling, and teeth, oh my!

I found this picture recently when I was looking back through some photos from earlier this year and it gave me a laugh: 

Isla, happy to be alive. She might be upset because we wouldn't share the cake. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

John. One Word: Busy

John turned 2.5 on November 13th which also happened to by my mom's 29th birthday! Now we're the same age. I'm going to grow one year older so that I can set her curfew.

I thought an update on John was in order. Recently I asked him if he's acquired wisdom beyond is 2.5 years. He answered affirmatively.

Interspersed are some pumpkin patch pictures. We were going for action shots this year.  Not by choice.

 It's hard for me to distill all of his development into a blog post. It boggles the mind. Here is an anecdote to illustrate my point: Shortly after Isla was born, just before he turned 2, as we drove out of town one day he saw some cows in a field, and  he said "muh moo." This I knew to mean "more moo" or "I want to see more cows." A scant three months later his language had exploded into sayings like: "How you do that cow?" We were never clear exactly which of the cow's activities he was inquiring about, but you can still see quite a progression in the language. Now at 2.5, what isn't he saying? This week he told me: "It's not about you!" Surely this is a helpful reminder to all of us in our individualistic society, and yet Peter and I don't regularly bandy that phrase about, so I asked where he heard it. Turns out he was repeating it from the movie The Incredibles. He went on to tell me that it's not so much not about me as it's not about Mr. Incredible, since it was said to him in the movie.

His observation skills continue to impress me. It's funny that due to juggling the needs of two young children,  a smidgen of sleep deprivation, and possibly aging, my powers of observation (and mental acumen in general) seem to be on the decline. John is as sharp as a tack and you can't put anything past him which is unfortunate for me- one of the duller tools in the shed. Usually after our Saturday morning grocery run, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me is on the radio on our ride home. Today when we got in the car to go back to the house he said "I want to listen to Wait Wait Don't Tell Me." (Granted, it might not be crystal clear, but that's definitely what he said.) So, not only does he recognize the show, he also knows it's name even though we haven't discussed it. It seems that daily he has more to say and makes more connections about his environment.

More about John:
He can count to 12
He loves to read books
He loves music and singing songs (interestingly enough, he won't do this in public. We go to library time where there's plenty of singing and dancing, which he refuses to do. But he knows all the songs and will sing them at home.)
He's memorized several songs like the Alphabet song, Jesus Loves Me, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, as well as some scriptures put to music from these Seeds Family Worship CD's (I love these! It's Bible verses set to music that kids love and that don't make me want to skewer my ear drums.)
He likes playing blocks and trains
He loves dinosaurs
He loves all things construction and he will correct you if you mistake an excavator for a tractor
Whenever he falls down or bumps his head, etc, he says "I okay, mama."

Things that make him throw a fit:
Leaving anywhere fun (friend's house, park, zoo, etc)
When I turn off his afternoon "movie" (30 minute DVD)
He dislikes sitting still and sharing (we're working on these)

Where I wanted him to sit (next to the big pumpkin)

He is characteristically pushing limits behavior-wise, but overall he's very receptive to instruction and discipline.

He is a sweet, sweet happy boy. I'm very thankful that I can take care of him and see the constant changes that are taking place. Though, I do wish he showed more appreciation for the art of quiet contemplation.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

October Books

My October reading was scant. Well, not scant exactly, but of the two books I read, one does not lend itself to leisure reading.

Not Buying It by Judith Levine. A memoir of one woman's year of foregoing all but the most necessary purchases. It had some (at least one) interesting insights, but I didn't love it, and I'm still not sure exactly what she'd recommend as an antidote to consumerism/materialism. The author is a liberal feminist, which I only mention to say that the book definitely has an angle to it. She's a writer who was so fed up with Christmas-season consumerism (I can identify with that) that she vowed to only  buy necessities for a year. She spent that year navigating what constitutes a "necessity", mulling over what it means to be a consumer versus a citizen, and, of course, writing the book. And, like I said I'm still not sure what conclusion she reached. But I tend to plow through books and do not always contemplate them like I should, so maybe I just missed it.

 Fitness: Theory and Practice, a Comprehensive Resource for Group Fitness Instructors. If that title doesn't peak your interest, certainly nothing will. Recently during an aerobics class at the Y, the instructor suggested to me the possibility of getting certified to teach aerobics. I'd never thought of that before, but I quickly decided that if I could get paid to do something that I'm already doing (and in fact paying to do), that would be a good thing for our bottom line. So, I did the certification workshop a few weeks ago and got my certification card in the mail shortly after! This explains my blogging hiatus- I spent many an evening reading up on high school science class favorites like lever classification (bicep curl = 3rd class lever), oxygen metabolism (glycolisis, electron transport chain, krebb's cycle... any of that sound familiar?), and musculoskeletal anatomy. Now I can impress high school kids with all of that worthless information* knowledge. I'm looking for a job and surely soon I'll have my own line of aerobics videos. I'll let you know!

* I do not actually believe this to be worthless information. Yet, I don't ever expect it to come up in an aerobics class either. Stay in school, kids!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Baby Steps

I voted Tuesday! It was my first time voting despite the fact that I've been eligible for two previous elections. I usually struggle deeply over the candidates because rarely does either one represent my views very well. And I usually find that voting for either party requires me to endorse at least one policy that I find morally reprehensible. And, in fact, I still feel that way. I don't wish to say who I voted for because I don't particularly wish to be associated with either candidate. 

Despite that, I was excited to participate in the  political process. It is quite amazing that our country has transferred executive power 44 times since it's inception and, excluding #16 (Lincoln in 1860), I think all of those episodes have been non-violent and more or less by the will of the people. Well, the people and large corporations who are now considered people. Okay, so it's not perfect. But it could be so, so much worse. It is a privilege to  participate- one that so many people do not enjoy the world over. 

Next time, mark my words (and please remind me of them when the next elections are looming!), I'm going to know more about the local candidates. That's where I think my vote counts the most. Unfortunately this time around the only research I did was to google "Harris County ballot, who should I vote for?" which, as you might expect, yielded few helpful results. I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that, and yet I think that's pretty par for the course for most Americans, sadly. So, baby steps. This year, I showed up at the polls. Next time, I'm going to have some (any!) information on local politics. 

We made our voting a family affair. Since we'd neglected to partake in early voting, it was very important to avoid lines on election day, which meant that we had to get there early. And we did with the help of our early-rising kids who, aided by the time change, are getting up before the sun (I will support any legislation that requires children to remain sleeping until a reasonable hour.)  All four of us were at our precinct voting location at 7 am. There was not a long line, so we got done quickly and went out to breakfast at Three Brother's Bakery. 

Sadly, only then, after casting my ballot, did I meet my dream candidates:

 If only I'd known, I would've written in for a bipartisan President/VP team of these yummy cookie candidates! They're like regular politicians, only they're cookies! This way, if their activities in office aren't satisfactory, they can double as a helpful blood sugar boost during those long filibuster sessions. This is much more delicious than the usual partisan squabbling that we've become accustomed to, don't you think?

If you plan to move to Canada, I really want to come visit! Not necessarily to avoid Obama's second term, more so because I  like to drink hot chocolate and I hear Canada gets chilly.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Favorites

Caramel Apple Muffins

I don't know whether it's having a second baby (who still occasionally wakes up at night) or my new schedule that would put a rooster to shame (I'll have to write more on that later), but my ardor for making homemade baked goods from scratch has diminished. Fall is here, and it's my favorite time of year to bake, but my "to-make" list is much less ambitious than it usually is. However this week I've been busy, and I've made:

Sweet Potato Pound Cake, it would go really well with some Maple Cream like the one found here.

Caramel Apple "Muffins" (I think this would more accurately be called a cupcake.) Next time I would probably make my own caramel sauce like this one (very easy to do) rather than melt caramel candies- I think the homemade sauce would have a better flavor.

Next up:

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

And that may be all that I have energy for this year! But we'll see, it's only October.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You Know What Might Be A Good Idea...? if you could make life-sized wax figures of your children. That way when you want to take their pictures, you wouldn't actually have to deal with live children. Live children and photography, in my experience, are rarely a successful combination. I need the crew of Planet Earth to come take some pictures for me. Wildlife photographers are surely used to capturing unpredictable, moving creatures.

We went to the pumpkin patch at the zoo today. I love pumpkin pictures. I've planned several pumpkin patch outings in order to maximize the chances that I'll actually get a keeper.

Today I realized that it's  going to take more than just me to get some good pictures. I need at least one extra set of hands. I had to prop Isla up in the basket of pumpkins and wrangle John into place then shoot, shoot, shoot, hoping Isla wouldn't tip over. She didn't. Whew!

There were a few cute ones and a lot of outtakes:

Monday, October 08, 2012

Bed Head

Last week I went in to get John up from his nap. He had a cute case of bed head, so I took a picture. Now, everyday when I get him from his nap he says: "Please take a picture of my bed head."

You know, people go to fancy salons, pay good money and use a lot of product to achieve this "just rolled out of bed" style. And, depending on how much you end up paying for a hair cut, you might also acquire that crazed look in your eyes.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

15-Minute Meals

Gone (for now) are the days when I can spend an hour in the kitchen making spinach butternut squash lasagna complete with homemade marinara sauce.

I hope that I don't have to totally eschew butternut squash lasagna until my children fly the coop, but there's nothing about that dish that can just be thrown together in a pinch. And, right now, I need meals that can be thrown together in a pinch. If I do get to the butternut squash lasagna, which would be nice because it's delicious and nutritious,  it will have to be made piece-meal style ahead of time and put together right before dinner.

For me the holy grail of meals, is quick, cheap, healthy, and (this one is pushing it) can be made with local ingredients- this kind of meal is almost a culinary unicorn.

These days, though, the emphasis is on quick.

Here are some meals that truly are quick. I mean really, they can be put together in less than 20 minutes. They may not be the healthiest of fare- none of them feature arugula- but I think you could do a lot worse. And that's my motto for a lot of things right now: If I could do worse, then I'm doing pretty well!

Chipotle Bean Burritos

Spicy Chicken Quesadillas
This recipe calls for shredded rotisserie chicken. I used chicken that I had previously boiled, shredded and frozen. I thawed it the day I made the quesadillas.

Black Bean and Cheese Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce
This is really good, and very easy to put together, but only if you make the ranchero sauce ahead of time. I double the recipe and freeze a few batches of sauce. On the day I want to make the enchiladas, I thaw the sauce and then throw everything together (usually in a pinch). Peter suggested buying the ranchero sauce. I've not seen bottled or canned ranchero sauce in the store, but I haven't looked either. The homemade sauce has an excellent flavor, though.

Slow Cooker Enchilada Casserole
I make this every week for a pot luck that we have after our church service. You can totally skip step one. It doesn't make a difference in the end product whether you toast the tortillas or not. You can add whatever you'd like- maybe some additional veggies to make it healthier or ground meat to make it hardier. But people like this and it could not be easier.

Blackened Cumin-Cayenne Tilapia

You wouldn't know it from this list, but I do cook more than one type of cuisine. I guess the quickest ones happen to be (all but one) Tex Mex. Nothing wrong with that!

If you have any 15- minute meals, please share them!

Friday, October 05, 2012

More Free Things For Toddlers To Do: Water Pouring

One morning I found myself needing to clean the kitchen and needing some occupation for John so that I could focus and get it done quickly rather than distractedly working on it all day.

I opened my magical cabinet o' garbage, pulled out a funnel and some containers. I filled a few containers with water and let the pouring commence. I don't know if other toddlers are like this, but if so, by all means, take advantage! If your child loves pouring water, you have got a free, relatively mess free (a little water on the floor does not count as a mess in my book) source of entertainment that you can use over and over.

I showed him how to pour the water into the larger containers and then how to use the funnel to pour it back into the smaller containers. He did this for approximately 1/2 an hour. I'm not great at keeping track of time these days- it may have been 45 minutes. You can see he's very focused. He asks to do this all the time.

I periodically refilled the containers as more and more of it ended up on the floor. Once I asked him "where did all your water go?" He responded: "It's in the towel."

And, bonus! I searched the web for water pouring ideas one day and found that it is considered all kinds of  educational!

If he becomes a genius, I'm going to take credit. "It was all that water pouring you did!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

September Books

Room by Emma Donoghue
This is a really interesting novel. The premise, which is fairly quickly established, is that a woman and her son are being held captive in a one-room shed. That idea gives me chills. It's even more haunting given that similar things have actually happened recently, like Jaycee Dugard. But the book is well-written with incredible (I thought) insight. I knew the setting of the book before I stared it, but was intrigued with the directions the story took- you wouldn't think it could go very many directions when most of the story takes place in one room, but it does! One thing I didn't expect is that it ended up being a commentary on society and, among other things, the voyeuristic nature of our media.

Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jancovic
A tiny book packed with food for thought on being  a mother to little ones from a Christian perspective. One thing she said that has challenged me:

"If there is anything I have learned in the course of my fast and furious mothering journey, it is that there is only one thing in my entire life that must be organized. The kids can be running like a bunch of hooligans through a house that appears to be at the bottom of a toaster, and yet, if organization and order can still be found in my attitude, we are doing well. But if my attitude falters, even in the midst of external order, so does everything else."

There are all sorts of nuggets of wisdom like that. It was honest, well-written and engaging. I would recommend it.

The Art of Fiction by John Gardiner
Notes on writing. I enjoyed this. It was well-written- which I guess is a necessity if you're going to write a book on writing- and informative.

Til We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
The myth of Psyche and Cupid retold from the perspective of Psyche's sister. The book is divided into two parts. Part 1 is the bulk of the book, part 2 is an addendum. I could not put this down. Part one was riveting. Part 2, I'll be a monkey's uncle if I understood any of it. I'm going to reread part 2, pay closer attention, and then discuss it with my book club friend. I really liked it but don't yet have a great grasp of it's message.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Isla: 6 Months

Isla turned 6 months on Friday 9/28. Thursday I took her to her 6 month pediatrician appointment where we got these stats:

Height: 26 in, 56%
Weight: 17 lbs 12 oz, 80%

Respectable, but petite compared to her big brother. She's not the biggest 6 month old in the world, but she is healthy and for that I am so thankful.

She's growing every day in her baby skillz. She can sit unassisted for small, very small, periods of time. She's army crawling, and occasionally she gets up on her hands and knees for a few seconds at a time. I've been trying to discourage all of this forward movement. It's mostly been verbal discouragement: "Isla, there will come a day when you will actually have to do something with yourself. Please, for my sake, enjoy laying about while you can!" (I'm kind of nervous. I don't know what I'm going to do when two of them are running around the house... )

I captured her on Friday having a great time looking in the mirror on a play mat:

Who's that girl?

She's hilarious!

And smart. 

She's been on an exclusive diet of breast milk. Today, in honor of her 6 month birthday, we went crazy and gave her breast milk mixed with cereal. Super indulgent, I know. She could have been less interested but that would've been a challenge. So, we'll put the cereal away for now and try again in a few weeks.

In it went...

..and out it came.

Despite her lack of interest in actually eating, she managed to convey quite the range of emotions: from suspicious to surprised to appalled: 

Seriously, it can't be that bad.

She's sleeping from about 7 pm to 7 am, waking once or twice to eat, most nights one time around 3 or 4 am. She takes two naps. One in the morning around 9. They both go to sleep for an afternoon nap at 1 in the afternoon. She loves interaction. She loves her Dada and her big brother. She also does well "playing" on her own for a while. ("playing": rolling around and putting things into her mouth.) She also loves anything that rattles, squeaks, jingles, etc

We could not be more delighted with this girl! The only thing I'm disappointed about is that she's growing up so quickly!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Potty Training: A Qualified Success Story

I hope that John doesn't one day read this and become incensed that I felt at liberty to discuss his bodily functions so freely with all of our friends and family. Surely he'll enjoy the stories as much as we do, right? (John, if you're reading this, you should know that it is every child's burden to live with embarrassing stories from his childhood until everyone in his parent's generation is incapacitated. I know this from experience.)

We've hung in there with potty training. John goes reliably on the potty and proudly announces "I went tee tee!" whenever he emerges from the bathroom successful.

If I'd known exactly what I was getting into, I might have waited to initiate it. But, since we're in the middle of it, we may as well keep going. It is very manageable right now, but no more manageable than having two kids in diapers, really. I suppose I'd convinced myself that having only one in diapers would afford me all sorts of extra time that I could use for lounging and eating bon bons. Not so.

He rarely tells me when he needs to go (he's far too busy) so I have to keep on top of it, taking him often. Our saving grace has been that he doesn't have to go that much. Some children seem to go a lot more often than others. John only goes maybe 4 times per day, so it's not hard for me to keep up with. But when I lose track occasionally, he does have accidents.

One thing that we haven't had to deal with is going  #2 on the potty. He still wears diapers over night and during naps, and 99.9% of the time this is when he goes #2. There is that 0.1% of the time that adds a little unpredictability to our lives, spices things up!

Last Friday on our way to a church retreat, we stopped to eat at Panera. John suddenly stopped chatting and eating. He lowered his brow and grew still and extremely focused. I thought he might be contemplating one of mankind's perpetual conundrums (which came first, the chicken or the egg?) No. He was just pooping his pants.

You'd be in for an unpleasant surprise if you mistook that doggie bag for a delicious pastry we decided to bring home. I'll let you guess what's inside.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Pom Poms: The Final Frontier

I believe that humanity has only just scratched the surface of what is possible with pom poms. I wouldn't be surprised if they are instrumental in getting men to Mars.

The possibilities are endless, you can:

Sort them
Count them
Stuff them
Stick them
Use them for any number of crafts

With that kind of versatility, one can only logically assume that they can also be used for some sort of rocket propulsion, right?

 I've frequently seen this "pom pom stuff it in" activity bag. I happened to have everything I needed on hand so I put one together last week.

In the far left of the first picture you can see the sour cream container with the hole cut in the lid. That's where he stuffs the pom poms. I also gave him a spice container and some colored cups that I happened to have into which he can sort them by color. He isn't yet interested in sorting by color, but he does love to stuff. You can see, he stuffs his pom poms, takes them out and then stuffs them again, with a gravitas to rival that of Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. He takes this so seriously he wouldn't even look up for a picture.

Another upcycling success story!

Thursday, September 20, 2012


When John was an only child, I would often, to my shock and awe, see babies zonked out in the unlikeliest of places- on their parent's shoulder at a loud party, in the swing at the park, on the floor of a raucous nursery.

John is a good sleeper, but after he emerged from his newborn stupor he wouldn't fall asleep out and about.  Never while being held. He rarely even fell asleep in the car unless it was close to his nap time.

Then it hit me. I was witnessing  another symptom of "subsequent syndrome." These children were "subsequents"- second, third, fourth children.

Subsequents don't get all their naps for one reason or another. They're on the go more and they have to deal with noisy siblings in the house when they do get to sleep. It's a trade off.  Firsts are well rested, subsequents less so, but they develop a valuable skill: they can sleep through the main act of a three-ring circus. Frankly, I wish I could do that.

Here's my favorite subsequent who missed her morning nap due to a melee of  marauding toddler boys ransacking our house this morning. Thankfully no one was injured.

Sleeping in the bouncer

Friday, September 14, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Dispassionate Assessment of Isla's Strengths and Weaknesses

I have to take a moment to gush about  Isla. Poor thing, she doesn't get very much face time here. For one, because her mother is a poor historian. Secondly, because someone frequently interrupts her photo shoots:

I could not be more delighted with her. I did not think that I could have another baby as happy, cute and wonderful as John was, but Isla has been the definition of happy, cute and wonderful.  Perhaps my children are extraordinary. Or perhaps it's just that they're my children.

There was a time when I felt sorry for all my friends who only had girls. (Of course I'm sure they felt sorry for me since I didn't have a girl.) With each new pregnancy I heard of, I felt secretly disappointed for the women who weren't having boys. After all, I had a boy and since he is the best thing since sliced bread, well, how sad for everyone else...

Then Isla was born, and now I see that I couldn't have been more foolish. I can't imagine how we got along without her all these years!

She is tailor-made for snuggling. I defy anyone to resist snuggles when she's around. You can't do it! She's such a soft, happy little dumpling that I am compelled to spend my days nuzzling her neck.

And her smiles! I'm just going to be totally cliche and say that they light up my life. It is impossible to be in a bad mood, have a bad attitude, feel irritated that the house is a disaster, etc when she's smiling! I just can't understand how she's so cute. It boggles the mind. Of course, if she were a hideous troll, I wouldn't know it. (But I know she's not!)

She can also scream bloody murder with the best of them (them being babies- a group renowned for their screaming). Yet all of her screaming is done during the day which is fine by me. I can deal with screaming all day. She sleeps like a champ at night, and that's when it counts. And she by no means screams all day. But sometimes it seems like she's screamed all day. Then, looking at the clock, I realize it's only been five minutes.

Everyone told me that having a second child is a lot easier than having a first child because experience makes for a more confident and relaxed second time around. I find this to be true and not true for me. I am more relaxed, which I didn't think possible as I was very laid back with John. But there were things that I was attentive (okay, obsessive) about with John that I rarely think about now- like how many times he ate during the day. I dutifully counted his feedings for months. Isla? I have no idea how many times she eats. She's gaining weight! She's happy! Great! I must have enough milk.

I was also very concerned with John's schedule. He never missed a nap. These days, I know that I'm not going to get anything done ever again anyways, so I just enjoy holding Isla. That's not to say I'm not trying to get us on a schedule, but a lot of times I get side tracked by giving her so many kisses! (It's impossible to stop.)

So, I would say that I am more relaxed this time around, but that doesn't necessarily translate to things being easier. Some things are harder. Many times life feels like walking through quicksand- it takes forever to get anywhere. The house is a mess much more than not, I haven't been back to the gym as often as I'd like, and I'm still working on pinning down that elusive schedule. But some some things are easier- they entertain each other! Overall though, I think I am enjoying her babyhood more than John's, if only because I know how fast it passes. Also, I appreciate that she's immobile and not yet throwing tantrums.

They love each other and that is one of the highlights of my life. She laughs at John's antics and he laughs at her laughing at his antics. When we, Isla and I, walk into John's room in the morning he says: "Good Morning, Isla!" What am I, chopped liver? She's always the first person he asks about when he wakes up from his nap. His dad is the second person.

Every night when they're both in bed I kind of wish they were still awake. Kind of. I'd never consider actually waking them up, mind you.