Sunday, October 31, 2010


Trick or Treat!

We're looking forward to taking Kate around our neighborhood in her kitty costume when we go trick or treating tonight, but we've already had a lot of costume-and-candy fun this week! On Wednesday, we went to Trunk or Treat at Matt's parents' church, where Matt grew up and still knows a lot of folks.

Our friends John and Nancy also serve there, and Kate loved hanging out with her friend Becca--even if she was a little confused about why she was there and everybody was dressed up in strange outfits.
 Aren't these little kitty and Saint Bernard puppy (and their mommies) just so cute?
 They gathered all the kids in the sanctuary for a group picture beforehand. Kate's there between the Toy Story alien and Shaggy (whose whole family dressed up as the Scooby Doo gang and decorated their van like the Mystery Machine).
Once Kate got outside and discovered she could run around and check out all the different costumes and cars, she got pretty into it! The candy was secondary, I think, though she loved putting things in and taking things out of her basket.
 If you're not familiar with the notion of Trunk or Treat, it's basically trick or treating around a parking lot, where people pass out candy from the trunks of their cars. There was a prize for best-decorated trunk, so people went all out with cobwebs and scary music, etc.

Inspired by their own little Saint Bernard, Becca's family made the back of their SUV into a little puppy-pound, full of stuffed dogs (and Becca, whenever she felt like taking a break to start testing the candy). They let one little kitty into the puppy shop, though. :0)
 Becca and her mommy have been sick since that night, which may explain why I'm home blogging on a Sunday morning (but maybe not). Kate has had a fever this weekend, and then threw up her breakfast this morning. Hopefully she'll feel up to trick or treating at least a little tonight.
I hope you and your little kitties and puppies, ghosts and goblins, princesses and pirates all have fun tonight as well, and have a safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Comfort Times Six

Kate has six lovey items she sleeps with at night and when napping at home:
  1. Raffi (Raffi I, to be exact. Raffi II is at school and Raffi III is at Granna and Opa's house)
  2. Big Raffi (large, pink, embroidered version of little Raffi)
  3. Giri (another stuffed giraffe)
  4. Puppy (a little bulldog)
  5. Paci (she broke the habit pretty easily during awake-time and for school naps--we'll start weaning her off for home naps and bedtime too pretty soon!)
  6. a cup of water
After making sure she has all these items, she lays down with her bottom up in the air, and we cover her up with Big Raffi. She always falls asleep easily, and stays asleep until about 5:18am (literally--it is often that exact!) when she just needs us to pick her paci up off the ground where it has fallen out of the crib, and cover her back up with Big Raffi. Then she goes back to sleep for another hour or so until I get out of bed.

I had various stuffed animals I slept with all through elementary school, so we'll see if Kate keeps up the habit and which ones stick. I also went through phases of sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor next to my bed, though those phases may have been more about not wanting to make my bed in the morning.

I remember reading an article a while back about how kids find comfort in taking certain items to bed, not just for security and comfort, but out of their growing sense of ownership of things and wanting to be sure they would still have those things the next day. In addition to stuffed animals and blankies, the writer's child slept with a soccer ball and a calendar! That cracked me up.

What do/did your kids (or you!) sleep with at night?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dream Job #12: Wedding Photographer

I didn't mention this one yesterday, but another of my "dream jobs" is to be a wedding photographer. I love weddings, noticing and capturing the special little details that the bride planned so carefully. I'm only now learning how to use a "fancy" camera, and I don't want to give up all my Saturdays, but in a hypothetical sense, it sounds like a fun job!

Matt performed a wedding last weekend for someone he went to high school with, and--even though I didn't know the happy couple and it won't be going in my scrapbook or anything--I still enjoyed taking my own snapshots of their lovely fall wedding.

Orange and green with some rustic details... it was a beautiful event.


(Kate couldn't let Daddy do all the talking in the service, so she and I had to retreat way back from the gathering. It gave me a beautiful--if distant--vantage point, though.)

I won't quit my day job, but maybe if a friend's photographer got a last-minute stomach bug or something?
(Just kidding!) Congrats to the happy couple!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: Dream Jobs

Working Mom WednesdayWhen you were a kid, what did you dream of being "when you grew up"?
I remember an exercise in second grade in which we were supposed to draw ourselves at 20, 30, 40, 50, etc., and--not understanding what all went into preparing for a career--I drew myself as a teacher, a lawyer, a librarian, a veteranarian, and so forth, a different career at every age. (None of those things do I actually have any recollection of wanting to be. At that age, I just wanted to be ten.)

I remember walking through the Smithsonian a few years later, looking at the paintings and agonizing over whether I would be an author or an artist when I grew up. Those were my dream jobs for most of my childhood. I made paintings and sold them door to door one summer. In fourth grade, I wrote a "novel" about a pioneer family with twelve kids and had my teacher critique it. Author or artist, that was the big question. (As a book editor who blogs, scrapbooks, paints, and dabbles in graphic design, I guess I've managed to do both, to some extent!)

At other points throughout my childhood, I wanted to be a novelist, a jewelry designer, a costume designer, and a greeting card designer for Hallmark. Somehow my dad convinced me that that last one meant I wanted to go into marketing. I'm not sure if he actually saw the connection or was just trying to put something practical into my head. I also wanted to have twelve children, which I guess meant I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, since it would take more than two salaries to put twelve kids in day care.

As I got into high school and college, I went through phases of wanting to be a child psychologist, a historical advisor for movies, a youth pastor, and finally--a religion professor. I was out of Divinity school and working in market research for a religious publisher before I decided I didn't have the self-esteem to endure a doctoral program and that I should stick with religious publishing instead.

I am definitely happy with that decision. I have loved my job over the last four years or so--editing books, a magazine, and now a website--so I consider myself pretty lucky. (And my dad is still in shock that I am making a living with two degrees in religion.)

My work over the last few years has even, in some ways, included elements of several other "dream jobs":
- reporter on the religion beat
- secret church shopper
- professional organizer (of words, paragraphs, and articles, if not actual "stuff")

I feel like I'm using my gifts and my education, and it's just a great situation. As my friend Katie quoted last week, "the best leaders are the ones who are able to do what they do best every day."

Are you able to do what you do best for a living?
If not, what is your "dream job"?
What dream jobs came and went as you grew up?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Project Life (mid-October)

So I haven't done Project Life in about a month. I got burned out on it, and just needed a break. I wasn't sure I'd come back to it, but as Matt said, "I can't believe you're giving it up when it's your favorite time of year!"

True that. So, I'll give it a go again. Here are a few "ordinary extraordinary" moments from my favorite month of the year...

We've been enjoying taking walks together (on foot--no stroller!) and looking at doggies and leaves and the rising moon and all sorts of fun stuff. There are few things sweeter than a child looking up at you while taking your hand.
I think the autumn leaves are more vibrant this year than in recent years. This picture doesn't do it justice. I'm seeing such bright reds and oranges where it feels like most trees just went yellow or brown in past years. What do you think--is it just in my head?
Even when we don't walk beyond our own driveway, Kate loves to check out the puppy across the street. She loves dogs, but still gets a little anxious (since their faces are typically level with her own) so she's content to watch from a distance, then waves at the dog as we walk back up the driveway.
As I've mentioned a couple times lately, Kate loves to clean. She mops, she washes dishes, she "vacuums." She's also discovered the dustpan and broom. I put down some dry noodles for her to sweep up, and she had fun with that. Her teachers told us today that she is one of the only kids in the class who helps clean up--wiping the table, putting toys back where they go, etc. They love her!

I don't know if this is some wierd OCD thing too, but when Kate plays with play-doh, she likes to tear off little bits and lay them out in a row. Strange, huh?
In lieu of carving our pumpkin (and thus having it rot well before Thanksgiving) I decided to give it a little paint job. Hooray for polka dots! And a monogrammed gourd. And a Daddy Long Legs on the pumpkin, which I didn't notice until uploading the photos.

Ah, the joys of fall!
What are your favorite little moments right now?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Just a few bits and pieces to share...

Two Abingdon authors were on Good Morning America and Fox & Friends last week. They aren't "my" authors (meaning I am not their editor) but it was still really cool to see our work on national morning shows!

Deanna Favre (Brett Favre's wife and a breast cancer survivor) and Shane Stanford (a United Methodist pastor and hemophiliac who contracted HIV as a teenager) talked about their book, The Cure for the Chronic Life: Overcoming the Hopelessness That Holds You Back. As two people who have dealt with disease (one of them a chronic disease), they wrote a book about overcoming hopelessness and despair--whether it is from an illness or just the tough things of life. Here's the segment. (They wanted her to talk about Brett's illicit sexting, but she just said, "my faith gets me through it.")

On to another subject, I've won two blog giveaways in my life--the first was my blog design from The Design Girl. The second one was a couple weeks ago, winning a pair of Lee Slender Secret jeans from Blonde Mom Blog. I wore them for the first time on Friday, and they are really, really comfy. Just enough stretch to be slim-fitting but not "skinny jean" tight, and I don't look like a plumber when I bend over!

Matt and I often call each other "Mommy"or "Daddy" when speaking on behalf of Kate. ("Mommy, is there any more milk?" or whatnot.) And Kate can say "Mommy" and "Daddy" with ease. The other night, though, I was changing Kate's diaper and wanted Matt to come help me with something in the nursery. So, I called to him a couple times, "Daddy! Daddy!" to no avail. So my voice got sharper (of course, right as Matt finally showed up in the doorway) and I gave a very staccato, "Matt!" Kate repeated me immediately, saying "Matt!" a few times before we reminded her, "You can call me 'Daddy,' thankyouverymuch."

I am loving this trend of leggings/footless tights. Soooo comfortable, and cute with flats or heels. Even Kate's getting in on the act. How cute are those polka dot footless tights under her denim jumper?
To update again on Kate's somewhat picky eating, thanks to my friend who suggested meatloaf--Kate ate that last week, and some chicken as well. She's still not so into the veggies, but as they show up on her plate for the thousandth time, maybe she'll give them a try. I read an article recently on how picky eaters can be iron-deficient, since it is meat and veggies they are most likely to avoid. It said that curry and thyme were great sources of iron that can be snuck in as seasonings. So, I'm trying to put thyme in everything now, but the other night, I didn't even serve her any of the thyme mashed potatoes since she was already chowing down on the chicken before I could put the potatoes on her plate!

Finally, if you've made it to the end of this scattershot post, let me share with you a verse of Scripture that has been my focus this past week. It has been encouraging to me, and I can think of a few of you readers who might need to hear these words right now as well. Blessings to you.

But as for me, I will look to the Lord,
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.

-- Micah 7:7

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Breast Cancer Story

Unless you've been living under a rock (or suffer from some sort of color-blindness for the color pink) you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In light of that, I thought I'd share my breast cancer story. No, I haven't had it myself, but loved ones who have been afflicted become part of our story, and several special women are part of mine.

Both of my grandmothers and my mother have had breast cancer, so I have gone through life figuring that--whether the gene tends to skip a generation or not--my number is coming up at some point. That sounds fatalistic, but I know we'll try to catch it early, and I have little doubt I'd beat it. Perhaps I'm over-confident, but these three most important women in my life survived it, and so could I.

My paternal grandmother had it back in the 1970s, when she was in her fifties. She had a mastectomy, and that was that. She had a fake boob that she would often forget to wear. If you saw it laying around, it looked like a raw chicken breast.

My maternal grandmother had it in her eighties, in the early 2000s. She had a lumpectomy and came through just fine.

And in between those two, my mother had it as well. She was in her forties, and I was fifteen. She had a lumpectomy and radiation. And she came through it, just like I knew she would from the moment my parents told me what was going on. My main memory of the actual event was visiting Mom in the hospital before her friend took me to see Phantom of the Opera. I'd gotten tickets for my birthday, but then Mom couldn't go.

What I remember surrounding Mom's cancer, though, is how Dad told me later that she thought I didn't care. That she was afraid she was going to die and not get to see me graduate or get married or have children, and that I didn't care.

Mom and I butted heads a lot (as many teenage girls and their moms do) and I know Mom worried a lot about our relationship--but of course I would care if I thought she was going to die. I would be devastated if something happened to my mom. The thing was, there was just no doubt whatsoever in my mind that she would beat it and be just fine. Not in the way that some people pray so hard and are mentally determined that their loved one will survive, but in sheer confidence that modern medicine could take care of it, lickety split. And it did.

It was clearly very naive of me to think that way. I felt terrible as it became more apparent to me how my mother must have felt. (After six years of guilt, I made a donation to the American Cancer Society for my mom's 50th birthday as a final act of penance.) I guess I was just a self-centered teen without much exposure to tragedy, since at some point since then, I realized that even with modern medicine, not everyone beats it.

A girl who was in my church youth group growing up lost her mother a few years ago and may soon lose her dad to cancer as well. A guy I knew in college--thirty years old with a wife and young son--has been battling esophageal cancer for eight months, and after thirteen rounds of chemo, the doctors are at a loss. And of course, there are the children--six year olds who are diagnosed with brain cancer and die from it, all over the course of one summer. What havoc is wreaked by this monster of a disease!

I am so thankful that my mother and grandmothers survived. I pray for those currently in the trenches of such battles. But I also imagine what it might be like one day when diagnostics and treatments and procedures all live up to the naive idealism of a sheltered fifteen year old. When people of any age and maturity can say, "Cancer? No problem. We can beat that."

That's my cancer story.
What's yours?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spiritual Self-Discipline

I've always really admired those people who can get up at 4am and get a lot of stuff done before the sun even rises. I remember a girl in college who would rise at 4:30 in order to practice flute for an hour, do homework, exercise, eat a real breakfast, etc. Holy cow.

I really, really wish I could do that. When I express this desire to Matt, he takes the opportunity to remind me how (ever-reluctantly) Wesleyan I am. John Wesley rose early in order to spend hours in prayer and study, and said something to the effect of "keep a faithful account of every productive thing you do all day." I think of that whenever I write something on my planner after it has already happened. Yes, in that we share a crazy Type-A love of organization and control, I am Wesleyan.

I think all the time about how I want to set the alarm for 5:00 and get out of bed promptly when it goes off. I would make coffee and sit on the back patio, reading scripture and communing with God. Then I would shower and get Kate up and make my lunch and leave the house with enough time to drive breezily for 40 minutes and then sit in gridlock for 20 more, getting to work before 8:00.  But I can’t do it.

I consider myself a morning person, in that I could never sleep till noon (or even 10) and once I am up, I am chipper and active. Nonetheless, my natural, unassisted waking time is still about 7:15 (on the rare occasion I get to sleep until rising "naturally"). So, I hit snooze several times when my alarm goes off at 5:45 or 6:00 each morning. I get confused when it's the baby monitor making noise, rather than the radio, and yet I still instinctively reach for the snooze button.

I feel frustrated with myself, because I really admire self-discipline, and wish I had more of it. I'm a big multi-tasker, and I love productivity, but multitasking is actually less productive, so I've read. While busyness feels productive, one really wastes time by shifting gears frequently. I need to focus, but that feels hard to do.  I have to fight the urge to switch tasks, to click on other windows open on my desktop, editing a page before checking email and then planning a layout and then looking at my to-do list to see if I've completed any one thing yet! Over the course of the day, I get a lot done, but all in bits and pieces! What could I do if I stopped all the multitasking?

I find that I even multitask my prayer life. I chat with God while driving home, read a scripture or written prayer in passing, etc. But when I actually stop. . .  to read, pray, ponder my surroundings… my blood pressure immediately drops. My body relaxes, my mind slows down. It's not so much about what I say. . . even better if I say nothing at all. I notice little things like the way an ant crawls or the way the sun rises so gradually that you barely notice it happening. I can connect with God in a way I can't while being so busy with other things.

I don't have to get up at 4am to do it, but I do have to be intentional about it. I have to choose to stop everything else so that I can focus on God,  just sit . . . and be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caring and Cuteness

First, the caring...
My husband turns 30 in exactly 30 days. Being the selfless, compassionate person that he is, he wants to celebrate this milestone in his own life by helping others. So, he issued the 30-till-30 Challenge, asking people to contribute to HEAL Africa, an organization working to "address the root causes of illness and poverty for the people of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo." (quoted from their About page)

Matt wants to raise $3000 for HEAL Africa to provide basic training and equipment for women to start their own businesses, become financially independent, and help her and her children escape the evil cycle of poverty.

Please help my hubby's birthday wish come true--and make a huge difference for several Congolese families--by making your donation HERE (through One Day's Wages' "Birthday for a Cause" program.)

Now for the cuteness...

There haven't been enough cute Kate pics here lately, so here's one to bring a smile to your face and say "thank you!" in advance for honoring her daddy and the God he serves by caring for the least of these.
This is Kate saying "Put down the camera and go get my sidewalk chalk, please. I want to color RIGHT HERE."
(One of Kate's "things" right now is pointing to the ground where she wants me to put something, sit, or do something. "Put it right here, Mommy!")

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kate's Mop

Despite being raised by the Queen of Clean, housekeeping is not exactly a high priority for me. After getting by with a Swiffer duster and wet-jet for most of my adult life so far, I decided I needed a mop. A real, self-wringing sponge mop that one uses with a bucket of water. I actually started singing in the aisle at Wal-Mart, "won't my mommy be so proud of me?"

I'm sure my mom is thrilled for my graduation into more grown-up cleaning supplies, but possibly not so thrilled as my little girl, who instantly fell in love with The Mop.
While we were still in Wal-Mart, Kate got squirmy in the seat of the cart, and I let her stand up in the basket. Before I knew it, she was scooting the other items in the cart to one side so that she could "mop" the floor of the cart. For the rest of our shopping excursion, she mopped that cart while strangers commented how I had her "trained."

Now, she loves to mop the kitchen floor. If I so much as bring the mop in from the garage with the intent to mop, she's all over it before I even have the bucket ready! I felt pretty bad last night, sitting down with a glass of wine while my toddler mopped the floor for me! Once I introduced her to the wonder of a dustpan and hand-broom, though, she enjoyed that as well and let me take over the detail-mopping. My sweet little helper.

I know you're proud, Mom, but I'm sure the thrill will be gone once she learns it's not a game, but a chore.
Nobody tell her--please!

Outliers and Parenting

I love learning why things are the way they are. That's why I love Malcolm Gladwell, author of bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink. I recently read his Outliers: The Story of Success, which features tons of fascinating stories and statistics exploring why some people succeed while others don't. His overall thesis is that success is less about natural talent and more about the opportunities one has to practice and develop one's natural aptitudes. The Beatles' Hamburg sessions and the fact that Bill Gates went to a private high school that had computer technology before most colleges are primary examples.

I've blogged about a couple parenting-related books lately (Parenting Inc. and The Lolita Effect), and I'm definitely not planning on reviewing every book I read here, but a few of Gladwell's insights on success do have interesting implications for parenting.

1. It may be a good idea to hold kids back a year. I never thought much about that concept, having been young for my grade myself (a July birthday) and doing just fine, but Gladwell offers some interesting evidence to make me consider it. His opening case study focuses on Canadian hockey players and how most of them are born early in the year. Analyzing the rosters of professional teams and the elite youth programs, January birthdays were common, followed by February, on down to where only a handful were born after July. This is because in kids' leagues, the best players from each age level were tapped early for special training and opportunities, and with a birthday cutoff of January 1, the fastest, strongest players tended to be those born early in the year. They would get the extra playing time and special coaching that it took to become really great. A small advantage as an eight year old becomes huge by adulthood because of all those special opportunities.

As I said, I was young for my grade, and it didn't cause me any problems, and Kate is a January baby, so she's not in the iffy zone at all, but Gladwell's point was that if a child is close to the cutoff date for something (August or September for school, I guess) there really might be some benefit to holding them back. Not because they need the extra year of kindergarten, but because if they're extra smart in first grade, they will get the special attention that may privilege them later. (One of the top GPAs in my graduating class was an August birthday, as I recall, so she was almost a year older than me--and got her driver's license a year and a half before me, due to a change in Kentucky law that hit right as our grade was turning sixteen. Then again, I think the other top GPA was a guy with a June birthday--just a month older than me--so who knows. He's a Navy SEAL now, so he may have been an outlier for other reasons!)

2. Teach your kids to be a little impertinent. In one of my favorite chapters, Gladwell talks about a sociological study where researchers were flies on the wall in the homes of families of all socio-economic classes. There were many differences between rich and poor, of course, but the one they really found to make a difference was the way wealthier parents taught their children to interact with authority figures. It was what he called "entitlement in the best sense of the word."

The main case he described was an upper-class mother who told her son on the way to the doctor's office, "Now, be thinking of any questions you want to ask the doctor." She showed her son that even though he was a child, he could freely address an authority figure to get the information he wanted. Gladwell compared this to a bonafied genius in another chapter who didn't get anywhere in life because he had been trained to distrust authority and could not competently work with authority figures to work out his scholarship and stay in school when he hit a minor paperwork glitch.

3. Parents' involvement matters academically. Nashville blogger Lindsey Ferrier wrote a post last week that actually prompted me to write this post. Lindsey was talking about how much homework her first grader has, and how it would be impossible for a child to do it all and learn from it without a parent right there, walking them through it. Kids whose parents were unable or unwilling to take that time (working a second shift or just too busy with other responsibilities) are at a distinct disadvantage.
This immediately brought to mind Gladwell's discussion of the "achievement gap" studies of schoolchildren have revealed. The stats generally show that kids from lower-income families score lower on various tests, while middle- and upper-class kids do much better. The conclusion is often that poor kids are not as smart or that schools fail poor kids. However, comparing June's scores to September's revealed that over the course of the school year, lower-income kids show more improvement than others, essentially erasing the gap by the end of the school year.

The clincher was when they compared September to June--that is, the end of the summer to the beginning. Poor kids declined over the summer--actually losing some of their reading skills--while the middle-class kids improved slightly and rich kids improved by a huge margin. While the poor children were just chilling out over the summer (and there is certainly something to be said for unstructured playtime), other kids were reading with their parents and going to day camps and special classes, etc. Gladwell uses this to advocate for a school year schedule that doesn't allow such long breaks where so much retention can be lost. I agree with that, since we need to be looking out for the interests of disadvantaged kids, but this vignette also says something about the importance of reading with kids and creating an intellectually-stimulating environment at home.

We all want our kids to be successful--with or without the Beatles' or Bill Gates' kind of fame--and in a way it's nice to know it's not all about their genes (takes some pressure off us biological parents!) But there is some pressure to realizing that we have a huge influence on who our children become, whether it be through big decisions or conversations in the car, or simply snuggling up to read books together.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Potty Talk

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice regarding Kate's dinnertime habits. I don't think I'll go with the "sit here until all those peas are gone!" thing (no one seriously suggested that--more like cautionary tales from one's own childhood), but I'll definitely continue to offer them and not try to supplement with extra fruit.

Regarding the sitting-down-to-eat thing, I had been feeling it was time to get stricter on that anyway, so we laid down the law on that one last night. We were having pasta--something Kate likes almost as much as we do--so fortunately we could focus on the sitting and not so much on the food. (Yes, yesterday was our anniversary, but our nice date will be tonight, so we just had our favorite Italian meal last night at home.) Anyway, Kate managed to stay strapped into her seat for the whole meal, so in a way that was easier than I expected. She screamed and squirmed off and on--and was generally too frustrated to eat more than a few pieces of pasta and the tomatoes out of her salad--but that's all fine. Tonight she'll be with Granna and Opa, and never has trouble staying in her seat there or at school, but we'll see how it goes Saturday and Sunday at home again!

On to the next fun parenting challenge I can pick your brain about: potty training!!

Kate has been aware of her "goings" for quite a while now, notifying us when she needs a diaper change. I'm still not sure if she knows before she goes, or only after, but even that level of awareness is still a crucial precursor to potty training. She's only 20 months old, but I figured we'd set the stage and start getting her more familiar with the idea of using the potty. We're talking about it, calling her attention to when I go to the potty, and asking if she wants to sit on the potty.

I tried sitting her on the toilet a few times in the last couple months, since she was showing some signs of readiness, but it scared her. I would prefer to train her on the big potty, so we don't have to go through the second phase of re-training her from the little potty to the big one, but when I looked at all the varieties of rings and seats, etc., this 3-in-1 potty seemed our best option. The seat removes to become a ring for the big toilet, and you can close the lid to make it a stepstool (all for less than the price of a cushioned ring).

So, this gem is now sitting in our bathroom, letting Kate get used to it. She's sat on it a few times with her clothes on, so we'll get there! She actually went on the kid-sized toilet at day care the other day. She often learns by watching slightly older kids (a competitive streak, perhaps) so when she saw some of the closer-to-2 kids doing it, she told her teacher she wanted to do it too!

We're pretty much at the very beginning of the process, so let me know what methods you all have used. I've heard about the one-day thing, letting the child walk around naked, a timer schedule, etc.
In your experience, what has worked well?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Four Years Later

Matt and I were married four years ago today...
... and I'm still using the monogrammed cocktail napkins from the reception.

I don't mind. I like them, and I'll probably be sad when we use the last one. (Maybe by our fifth anniversary?)

Two notes about the above picture:
(1) it was taken with my new phone (the LG Ally--cheapest Android-platform phone you can get). I'm really impressed with the crispness of the photos.
(2) The photo of Matt and I visible in that shot was our first photo together--taken at a friend's house in September of 2003. He spilled a glass of red wine on my khaki pants a few minutes later. Ah, memories!

Happy anniversary, sweetie. I love you!

Vegging Out (or not)

Two things to know about me:
  1. Picky eating is a pet peeve of mine.
  2. I've been pleasantly surprised at how "chill" of a parent I've been.
Those two factors intersect to put me between a rock and a hard place. Or, perhaps--between mashed potatoes and green beans.

I honestly can't remember if I referred to Kate as a "good eater" in her first few months of solids a year ago. I don't recall any major issues. (A quick look in the blog archive indicates that at Thanksgiving, she ate all table food, including turkey, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, and a roll.) Somewhere beyond that point, though, her dietary repertoire narrowed considerably. Now, she literally won't touch a vegetable, and rarely eats meat or other proteins. It's pretty much all fruit, dairy, and carbs. So that's the pickiness that concerns me some.

Regarding the "chill" factor, I certainly don't mean that I'm trying to be a "cool" parent who doesn't lay down the law. I just mean that as a Type-A who, in most areas of life, gets bent out of shape when something doesn't go as planned, I expected to be more high-strung as a parent. I've been pleasantly surprised that I can keep my cool when Kate is upset, not caving to tantrums and not turning general toddler obstinence into a power struggle. I guess my definition of "chill" would simply be a happy medium between being a pushover and freaking out about every little thing. Sometimes, that line is harder to walk than others.

I am really trying not to get worked up over this pickiness. She's growing fine, and from some cursory research, I think the fruits she eats provide most of the same nutrients as vegetables. It doesn't seem to be a health concern, so I'm trying to roll with it and assume it will pass. But what if it doesn't? I really don't want her to get into this habit of picky eating.

I've read that it can take many exposures to a food before a kid will try something, so I always give her some of whatever we're eating, in addition to one or two things that I know she'll eat. But, she just eats the berries or cheese and leaves the meat, rice, peas, etc. I've tried going back to baby-food veggies, with the thought that since she likes yogurt, maybe she'd go for that. Alas, no. (But I did stir half a container of Gerber mixed veggies into our mashed potatoes the other night, and that was a success!)

I guess the experts would say to simply not give her anything that's not on the menu and eventually she'll get hungry enough and eat. She never seems to care that much about eating, though, so I think it would be quite a while before she got "hungry enough" to actually sit and eat dinner.

Actually, she's been reluctant to sit in her eat-seat at all lately, and if she's going to eat at all, wants to sit on my lap while doing it. I've been torn over how strict to get with that too, because I'd rather her sit on my lap and eat something than spend dinnertime Houdini-ing herself out of her seat and refusing to eat. For a while, she was in the habit of standing in her seat to eat breakfast, and I finally decided to lay down the law (after wiping dripped yogurt off her shoe several times in one sitting). So now she's usually sitting down for breakfast, but for dinner, she'll stand in her seat until I'm done dishing things up for Matt and I, then she'll push her plate over to my place and climb into my chair. I don't really fight it because I'm picking my battles and focusing on the food for now.

Do you think she'll get over it on her own? Or should I starve her into submission? (I'm exaggerating there, clearly.)
What would you suggest?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: Why Criticize?

Working Mom WednesdayThis post isn't just for working moms, but since a mom's decision to work outside the home or not is a lightning rod for criticism and comparison among moms, I think it's fitting for Working Mom Wednesday.

I noticed one day last week that one of my favorite bloggers had received a couple very harsh, very rude, very personal attacks from one particular commenter. The woman's criticisms were the most over the top things I'd ever seen on a blog, even attacking the blogger's young child. Seriously, people! Would you say such things to a person's face? Then why be so cruel online?

It is interesting how the blog world has opened up a whole new venue for personal attacks that in previous decades might have been reserved for public figures or other celebrities. By blogging, people are choosing to make their personal lives a bit more public, but is that any reason to pick them apart and tear them down?

I don't know what sort of hurt motivated the aforementioned mean commenter to say what she said, but I suspect it came either from jealousy (Meanie wishes she had something Blogger has) or defensiveness (Meanie does things differently from Blogger but isn't confident in her decision). That's no excuse, but it's easy to see how the blog world can tempt a person toward either.

Regarding jealousy:  I know I am so often tempted to compare my life to others when scrolling through my Reader. Blogs make it so easy to peek in on others' private lives, and I'm quick to envy another blogger's beautifully-decorated house or fun-filled SAHM-lifestyle. When we read someone's blog, we see only a small glimpse of her life--only the glimpse she wants you to see. So of course it looks pretty good.

But even if that person's life really is every bit as great as you imagine it to be, it's not yours. Quite possibly, it's not yours for a reason--you've made different choices, and can be tempted to second-guess those choices when you see the choices others have made. We all want to be good parents, but because there are so many ways to parent, it's easy get defensive about your own choices. Yes, working full time or cloth-diapering or homeschooling or whatever may work for your family, but when those comparisons kick in, you wonder if you've made the right decision.

There are several bloggers I read whose kids were born within a few months (or weeks) of Kate, and though I know kids develop at different rates and have different strengths, I still find myself thinking things like, "oh, that child is saying X number of words; why isn't Kate?" And then I wonder if it's something I'm doing wrong. Do I not use a wide-enough vocabulary with her? Or worse--is it because I work full-time and maybe she's not getting enough one-on-one attention from her day care teachers? I know I'm being melodramatic, but the temptation is there.

We can't help but notice comparisons sometimes, but one doesn't have to feel jealous or defensive about one's own parenting or child's development. Parenting is tough, and we're all doing the best we can. Let's not criticize others for doing the best they can as well.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In a Child's Mind

When I was a kid, I recall asking my dad, "Dad, back in the time of Jesus, were our ancestors Jews or Gentiles?"
He replied, "At the time of Jesus, our ancestors were pagan barbarians in Britain."

I don't know why I didn't realize that the various peoples of the world had dispersed from the Fertile Crescent long before the time of Jesus, but kids think some crazy things sometimes.

Matt remembers how, during the first Gulf War, he kept thinking people were saying "golf," rather than "gulf," and wondered, "Why are people so upset about the golf? My dad loves golf."

Around that same time, I kept hearing news reports out of Tel Aviv, and thought that must be Iraq's main television station.

I can't wait until Kate says "the darndest things," reflecting the creative and insightful ways a child's mind works.

What funny things did you think or say as a child? Or, what funny things have your kids said?

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Face

I have the sneaking suspicion that this sweet face will be used in many attempts to charm us over the years...

"Can I borrow the car keys, Daddy? Puh-leeeze?"

"No? Uchh!" [teen gutteral noise]
"No fair!"

"So sad."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Counting like The Count

Due to Elmo and Abby's commercial success, some of the more old-school Sesame Street characters don't get as much attention as they used to. Fortunately, Daddy is a great impressionist and brings characters like Cookie Monster and The Count to life in our house every day!

In fact, Kate is learning to count like The Count as well.
Check it out...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Working Mom Wednesday: Business Casual

Working Mom WednesdayI like dressing up for work. That seems to be going out of style everywhere west of New York and D.C., judging at least from the lack of ties in my own office and the 12-for-1 suit deals Jos. A. Bank keeps advertising.
So, you tend to see less of this...
And more of this...

And that's fine. It just makes me kind of an oddball, since I wear skirts and dresses most days.  I just like it. I prefer skirts to slacks, and high heels to flats. Our workplace is officially business casual with casual Fridays, but I'd say just plain "casual" is more the status quo. Jeans are fairly common on other days of the week too. Most people would say they're more comfortable, I guess.

But honestly, I'm more comfortable in something like this:
Or this:

Actually, I've never done the "casual suit" thing like in the above picture, but I think it looks cool. I'm very into cardigans, which I guess may be more "librarian" than "power-chick" but that's how I'm comfy, and sometimes a sweater can casualize a dressier dress, so that works in making me not feel too overdressed in my casual office! I like feeling professional and polished, and I feel like it helps me be momre focused and productive.

I confess I'm not going anywhere with this. I'm certainly not making a value judgment on dressy vs. casual offices. It's just my personal preference. I'm not a clothes horse by any means, but I like feeling like I look nice. (And I love Ann Taylor LOFT, from which I snagged the photos for this post.)

I've actually become a little more casual in my style since becoming a mom. BK ("before kids" or "before Kate") I never wore jeans to the office, even on casual Fridays. I would wear khakis...with heels. Now, jeans and flats are not unheard of for me, and I actually love that leggings-under-skirts look.

On the weekends, I live in flats now, and really don't like wearing heels any time I'm with Kate. They make me feel like I've got cinder blocks on my feet because I can't run after her or pick her up as easily. I change into pajamas or yoga pants as soon as I get home from work now. And Sundays have gotten way more casual for me, as I wear pants or a more casual dress that will work with my Mom Shoes.

But Monday through Friday (or at least Thursday) I'll keep my business casual, even as it goes out of style.

What do you wear to work?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Welcoming Fall

I had a great weekend--just doing "nothing." That is, getting a lot done because I had "nothing" planned. I love just bumming around the house on weekends, doing the things that I don't have the time or energy for on weeknights.

I had a long to-do list, and got most of it done. Things like decorating for fall! I love fall, and so I decorate for it almost as much as I do for Christmas. I got this autumnal garland at a yard sale last spring, and I just love it! It looks like I meticulously placed leaves, flowers, pine cones, and berries across the mantle, but really it's all one big piece!
Grocery shopping with Kate is practically a Saturday ritual, and after having five nights of "what on earth should we have for dinner?" last week, I decided to be more intentional about meal-planning for this week. I looked through some cookbooks and thought about classic favorites, so we've been eating pretty well since Saturday night! I made this Greek pasta casserole on Saturday (great if you like artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese), Sunday we had Swiss Chicken (chicken breasts with stuffing, cream of chicken soup, and swiss cheese), and Monday we had a classic spaghetti dinner.
With the change of seasons, several items on my to-do list had to do with sorting the summer clothes from the fall. I barely touched my own closet, but I did box up a bunch of Kate's clothes to put in the attic. I keep a box in the corner of her room in which to put things she's outgrown, and I hadn't sorted it since winter turned to spring, so I had one box of last year's cool-weather clothes and then another box with the summer things that she's just now leaving behind. (One day I'll sell or give them away, but until we're done having kids, I plan to keep most everything for a little sister, should Kate get one!)

I got a pumpkin and some hard squash to set out on the front porch. Kate thought the small green squash made a great ball, and kept throwing it into the grass...

One of Kate's favorite outdoor activities is looking for puppies. There's a little dog that is sometimes out in the front yard across the street, and if we're in the back yard, Kate will ask to go around front to look for the dog. I love her little toddler gibberish, peppered with words she knows: "Aca beca ala a-puppy?" And if the dog is not outside, I'll ask rhetorically "Where's the puppy?" And she'll shrug her shoulders and respond, "Eta bela aba don'-know!"

After ten minutes of squash-tossing on Saturday, we went looking for puppies. The dog across the street wasn't there, so we went walking down the street toward the other houses that have dogs. We got to one where two little dogs hang out in a side-yard with a chain link fence. The two dogs were there as well as two little girls, who yakked my ear off for a half hour while demonstrating their cartwheeling and frisbee-tossing skills. Man, six-year-old girls can talk! "I'm Allie, this is Annie, we're cousins. I'm six, she's six and a half. I still cry sometimes but I'm in first grade. My little brother just got borned. I wanna be [some tween idol I'd never heard of] for Halloween, but her hair is orange and my hair is blond, and I don't have a dress like hers..." and on, and on, and on. Whew!

Kate capped off the weekend by giving herself a bubble bath in the kitchen sink. She loves to stand on the stool and play in the water, but has not mastered the whole keeping-the-water-in-the-sink thing. So, she gets wet enough accidentally...
... and even more so when she decides to rub bubbles all over her face and hair! Crazy girl!

I hope you had a leaf-and-pumpkin-filled, wet-and-wild first weekend of fall as well!


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