Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the Old and In with the New Year

It's 7:30 p.m. New Year's Eve. I'm sitting on my bed with my laptop, reading emails and blogs, waiting on my husband to bring me some hot wings for dinner. My sweet big girl / baby (she alternates which she is) is sleeping soundly. I'm sipping a festive mocktail of ginger ale and orange juice in a champagne glass and looking forward to a hot bath before bedtime, which will come well before midnight. I'll ring in the New Year when I get up to pee for the first time during the night.

We did our celebrating early at Austin's First Night. What a great city we live in. I'd feel really cool if I could say "we took the train into the city" but instead, we took the bus. Still, it was a neat adventure and a pleasant experience -- $4 round trip in a heated, comfy coach with someone else doing the driving. We didn't have to use the gallon or two of gas the commute would have required, didn't have to search for parking, didn't have to deal with traffic.

This is the third year for First Night, but it is the first we've attended. It's a celebration of the arts and of the city. This year's theme was Peace, so we started the evening with a theatrical presentation of the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Then we watched some performers -- cloggers, children's choir, clowns, and jugglers, before we hit the food and people watching. Caroline wanted to make one of the festive hats she saw so many people wearing, but the line was LONG! We went to the sock-puppet-making exhibit instead, which she enjoyed. We'll try to figure out how to make one of those HEB bag hats tomorrow.

For my sappy reflections and expectations -- 2007 was a good year. I am happy and blessed. Of course, there was sadness this year, loosing Tony. I'm looking forward to a fabulous 2008, welcoming our family's newest addition, along with (at least) a couple of new cousins for Caroline and Baby 2.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It Ain't Over Yet!

It *is* Christmas now! All that anticipation and preparation throughout December has been Advent. Now, it is Christmas, and this is the time I love! John is home; Caroline has fun new stuff to entertain her. Decorations are still festive. And we can continue our focus on the reason for Christmas without the commercialism of Christmas.

With our nightly Advent activities completed, we have moved on to celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas. They're more than just a song. In liturgical churches, the twelve days from December 25 are the Christmas season, leading up to Epiphany, or Three Kings Day -- the day the Magi brought gifts to the Christ child. My original plan had me holding back a "big" gift to give Caroline on Epiphany. That gift was hidden and remained in the guest bedroom ... until Caroline followed Poppy into his room and spotted it. "Hey, this is for me!" I let her have it.

For our evening Christmas ritual, I have a neat little activity book I found last year at an after-Christmas sale. Adornaments is published by the Campus Crusade for Christ folks. It has a book with a page explaining each of the Biblical names for Jesus. Each name also has a mini-ornament picture book to go with it. I am really excited about this because Caroline is quite focused on "Baby" Jesus. These nightly discussions will take her beyond the manger and give her an awareness of Christ.

The twelve names are
1. Emmanuel
2. Lion of Judah
3. The Door
4. True Vine
5. Living Water
6. Light of the World
7. Lamb of God
8. Good Shepherd
9. King of Kings
10. Bread of Life
11. Bright and Morning Star
12. Savior

She'll also get quite an exposure to metaphor. :-)

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm not a Scrooge, really

Bah Humbug! Many of dear friends and new friends did not get a Christmas card from me this year. I planned ahead. I sent them out in early December. And then they started being returned. It was too late to send out new ones, so if you were missed...so sorry and Merry Christmas!

Here's the story. This fall, I had a computer fire. My computer caught on fire, yes. When it came time for Christmas cards, John managed to salvage some file that was called xmascardlist. I used that to create my cards, but I forgot to add new friends because I was so frantic to get the list compiled. Strike one: folks I adore and have gotten close to this year didn't get a card. The list we recovered was pretty old, and people move. Last week, cards started coming back to me. I know more will because my sister-in-law already asked why she didn't get a card when everyone else has one already (and hers has yet to be returned). Well, that's because I sent it to the house she lived in three years ago! Strike two: USPS doesn't forward mail endlessly for years and years.

My list is now updated, and I'll even save it to my google docs so it will not be lost due to a computer fire or whatever other technical catastrophe could occur.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Advent: Week Four

Candle: Love
Song:
Away in a Manger

hang ornament on Advent Calendar

pray for person on Advent Chain

Activities
St. Matthew's Pick-up Pageant (Caroline will be an angel)

Scripture and Story: Luke 2
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pregnancy II Journal

This is the journal I kept during my second pregnancy, which ended in a loss at 20 weeks.

September 17, 2007

Just nine days short of three years ago, I found out I was pregnant with Caroline. I've been saying that three years between kids seems like a good separation, and that's just what we'll get! My estimated due date, per the online calculators, is May 28.

I took two home pregnancy tests today, just to be sure. Then Caroline and I went to Target and bought some iron-on printable transfers and a shirt for her. I quickly (and shoddily) made a shirt for her that says "Big Sister in Training" and got it on her before John got home from work. She hugged him. They played. He held her. He noticed the new shoes she was wearing. Finally, when we were outside and she was playing at her water table, "making rain," I told her to be careful so she wouldn't mess up her special shirt. John said, "What's special about it?" And I just waited. He said, "What does it say?" Pause. "Is she really?" Yup, she is. :-)

September 27, 2007
The morning sickness begins.

I know holding off on our announcement through the first trimester will be much harder, if not impossible this time. My dad is stopping off here tomorrow to get Caroline and me and drop us off at my sister's for the week. Keeping my secret was going to be hard enough without the throwing up! We'll see how suspicious she gets.

I have made an appointment for late October with the same doctor that delivered Caroline. I loved this doctor throughout my pregnancy and was happy with my delivery and c-section. She truly did everything indicated to prevent it. I am not scheduling a repeat c-section, though. My recovery from the surgery wasn't bad, but I hated hearing Caroline gurgling on the fluids that weren't pushed out of her lungs and despised battling the thrush that the antibiotics brought on. I have much reading to do in preparation since, in a way, this is almost like a first delivery.

October 6, 2007
During my stay with my sister, I refused all alcohol, demanded a trip to Brahm's for ice cream, napped every day, and never helped with cooking -- you'd think my pregnant state would be obvious.

John arrived for the weekend to pick me up, and we all went out on the Satoro's boat on Saturday morning. Cruising along -- taking turns driving (even Caroline), I was suddenly overwhelmed by the exhaust fumes and a whiff of Caroline's Pirate's Booty. I hollered for John to stop (he was at the wheel at that moment) and leaned myself over the side of the boat to barf.

My dad was baffled, commenting that I'd never gotten sick on a boat in the 34 years years I'd been boatriding. My sister, not at all baffled, yelled "She's PREGNANT!" I had to admit it. So much for holding out the first trimester. It was good to share the news. I didn't feel like such an awful houseguest. I got to pick our lunch spot. It was nice.

October 8, 2007
Today, with my nausea and Caroline's crankiness, I'm really worried about what I'm getting myself into. I feel lousy. I can stand up and do about one thing at a time -- sort the laundry, then take a break. Fold the socks. Then take a break. Scrub a toilet. Then take a break. I've eaten a piece of peanut butter toast (but didn't keep it for long), a bowl of dry cheerios, two popsicles, a banana, and a bag of popcorn. It is now 3:30. I think I want another popsicle.

Caroline's little body and mommy's not-so-little body are not working well together. Caroline's bottom two-year molars are making their appearance at the height of mommy's morning all-day sickness. I know, I know, this is just a taste of what life with two will be.

October 12, 2007
When one is first-trimester pregnant, all the rules and structure one aspires to as a parent (or even as a human being) are off. It is 10:30 in the morning. I am in pajamas, and Caroline is wearing only panties. I just ate what should have been my lunch, leftovers from last night. She is eating popcorn. The television has been on PBS all morning. The laundry from yesterday is still in the dryer. And I'm ready for a nap!

October 18, 2007
First doctor's appointment today. Weight check -- why didn't I diet before getting pregnant? Urine deposit. Tons of paperwork with the nurse. Exam by doctor. Ultrasound.

The stats:
BP: 102 / 68
Blood vials: 5
Dating: 8 weeks 4 days
Due Date: May 25, 2008

We did talk about a VBAC, and she said she had to tell me that there is a chance that the area from my incision could come apart during labor, and the baby or I could die as a result of uterine rupture. She said it would be more likely that I would leave her office and get hit by a car in the parking lot, but that she had to tell me about the risk. They will do fetal monitoring during labor, though, because before rupture, the baby usually shows signs of distress.

October 23, 2007
I am feeling better, nausea-wise, but I'm still tired. I've been taking B-Natals -- they sure help! We told my extended family at the family reunion this weekend, and we called John's family and told them, too. We didn't exactly make an announcement to my family. We arrived, and as we were unloading the car, Aunt Becky asked me why my butt was so big. Feel the love? Caroline got to tell her Aunt Carlye on the phone "I be big sister." When her Aunt Stephanie called back, though, Caroline must have forgotten the coaching I'd given her on her line. I handed Caroline the phone and told her to tell Buffy what she's going to be. "I be butterly, Buffy." Well, it's true. She's going to be a butterfly for Halloween -- that's much more exciting than being whatever a big sister is.

November 15, 2007
Doctor's appointment today, 12 weeks 4 days.
Weight: +1 pound (not sure how that's possible as I feel 30 pounds heavier and have the breath capacity that goes with that kind of weight gain!)
BP: 110/62
Fetal length: 6.24 cm

Doc said "Everything looks perfect!"

The nausea is better but still rears its ugly head, especially when I brush my teeth. I am still pretty tired, too. I'm looking forward to the happy second trimester coming up soon. I am wearing elastic waist bands exclusively, which mostly means sweats or yoga pants. I did splurge on a Bella Band and wore it to church Sunday with a pair of dress slacks. It was nice not to feel totally dumpy.

December 20, 2007
Another doctor's appointment, 17 weeks 4 days.
Weight +5 lbs
BP: Much higher at 135/70 -- I have a cold and was am having trouble catching my breath
Listened to heartbeat and took a peek on sonogram -- everything looks great (well, alien-like, but as it should look).
Heartbeat was high 140s to low 150s.
My OB told me she is almost eight weeks pregnant!
I asked about the scar check after the c-section that I had read about in my VBAC books (they advice against it.) She doesn't do it!! Yay!

Here's my reading list so far:
Reading month-by-month
The Pregnancy Book by Sears and Sears

Completed
Silent Knife by Cohen
The VBAC Companion by Korte

I'm feeling good, sometimes tired and sometimes (in the middle of the night) restless. No more nausea, though. I'm wearing maternity clothes now -- more than a month earlier than last time!

January 10, 2007
When John, Caroline, and I went in for the routine anatomy ultrasound, we learned that our baby had died sometime since my last appointment. The news slowly sunk in, and I checked in to the hospital that night, asked for and had another ultrasound to confirm the baby's death, and was induced. I delivered a baby boy on Friday, January 11 at 10:22 p.m.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent: Week Three

Nightly:
candle -- Joy (the pink one Caroline has been anxiously awaiting!)

scripture -- Phillipians 4:4
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice."

song -- Joy to the World!

hang ornament on Advent Calendar

pray for person on Advent Chain

Storybook for week: continue with the two books we've been reading; add in a secular book, The Polar Express

Activities for week:
-- Trail of Lights (we didn't make it last week)
-- holiday baking (decorate cookies!)
-- travel to visit family

Friday, December 14, 2007

The "Aha" Book Series

A friend of mine always raves about the book series by THE GESELL INSTITUTE OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT. Titles include Your Two Year Old, Your Three Year Old, etc. I bought a used copy of Your Two Year Old right when Caroline turned two and read it. Turns out, I should have waited a bit until she was firmly entrenched in being two to read this little gem. I pulled it out tonight in search of suggestions, answers, whatever. What I found was reassurance. My child is two. She won't be two forever.

Here are a few quotes that resonated with the situation in our household.

"Many are ... beyond parallel play, and there is often considerable interaction. But this interaction cannot in most instances be described as cooperative. In fact it is often quite the opposite. One rule seems cardinal in the child's mind. This is that he is going to hang onto and defend to the death any toy he has played with, is playing with, or might play with." (So relived to read this is typical and my child is not a bully!)

"The two-and-a-half year old child not only acts like a baby but he loves to hear about his babyhood. " (Caroline has loved to pretend to be a baby lately. She has fake-baby-cried more this last month than she ever did as an actual baby.)

"If you find yourself involved in one of those fruitless (and boring) 'I want -- I don't want' routines, in which the child demands some toy, food, article of clothing, or activity, and then the minute he gets it rejects it, and then when you take it away wants it again, it may be impossible to resolve the situation at this level." The authors go on to suggest leaving the scene taking the child from the scene, or introducing some entirely new object or idea. "For instance, when the child is in a bad mood and nothing pleases -- he doesn't want to stay but he doesn't want to go -- some simple suggestion such as "but where are your shoes?" can shift his attention with good results."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Advent: Week Two

Nightly:
candle -- Peace

scripture -- Isaiah 9:6
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

song -- Silent Night

hang ornament on Advent Calendar

pray for person on Advent Chain -- This has been a big hit! Caroline loves taking off the link and talking about the person for whom we pray.

Storybook for week: The Christmas Story Peek-a-Bible
The book from last week, The Christmas Story, is just so right for Caroline's age and is exactly the content I want (phrases that Caroline as already started using like "Glory to God in the Highest" and "Peace, Goodwill toward men.") that I am going to keep it as our reading during the evening's Advent activities. I'll use the other storybooks I had planned, like the peek-a-Bible for this week, in her daily reading break times.

Activities for week:
-- visit Zilker Tree and Trail of Lights
-- make clove oranges
-- make peanut butter balls
-- various crafts and colorings

Friday, December 07, 2007

St. Nicholas Day

In all my Advent planning, St. Nicholas Day slipped my mind. An email from John's Uncle Joe reminded me last night, and I pulled one of Caroline's stocking stuffers out to serve as her St. Nick treat. Technically, we did the whole gift-in-the-shoe bit a day late, as the shoes should have been found on the morning of St. Nicholas Day rather than the day after -- but she's two and doesn't know any different. :-)


I like including the observance of St. Nicholas Day in with our Advent and Christmas celebrations since it takes the emphasis off of the commercial Santa and brings into focus the history behind Santa Class as Jolly Old St. Nicholas. I also like spreading out the gift joy so it isn't all forgotten within a few hours on Christmas morning. I plan to hold back a gift or two for Caroline to receive on Epiphany, too, in observance of the gifts the Christ child received from the Magi.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Yummy, but not so pretty


Our Advent plan called for making Chex Mix today, but since the mamma babe-in-utero (it's nice to have someone on whom to blame your cravings) was more in the mood for sweet than salty, we tried a new recipe -- Muddy Buddies. Oh, they are mighty tasty, and the picture on the box would make one think of something snow-covered. Mine are more like something covered in Southeast Texas snow. It could be that I had no powdered sugar and made my own (1 cup sugar with 1 tbspn corn starch in blender) or that my sugar is organic fair trade, and therefore yellow. Either way, my muddy buddies look like the thin layer of pine-straw infused snow I played in as a child. But snow is always fun to a kid. And chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar together is always good when you're pregnant it's Christmas.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Watch your mouth, mama!

Caroline is at the age where she soaks everything in.

Sometimes to my amazement -- She's been to several birthday parties lately and is very interested in birthday stuff -- cake, presents, the song. At Ikea this week, she saw a toy and asked if that was for her birthday. I said, no. She then replied, "My birthday is in May." I don't know if I've ever explicitly told her that her birthday is in May, but she knows.

Sometimes to my chagrin -- This afternoon, as I was staring at myself in the mirror, I wondered aloud, "Do I look pregnant yet or still just fat?" Caroline posed herself in the mirror beside me and said, "I'm fat." Oh, I have to watch my mouth! I don't want to create body image issues for my daughter.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Advent: Week One

Nightly:
candle -- Hope

scripture -- "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." Matthew 24:36, 44 (NIV)

song -- O Come, O Come Emmanuel

hang ornament on Advent Calendar

pray for person on Advent Chain (we're making the ubiquitous Advent Ring, adding a family member's or friend's name on each link. As we remove each link, we'll pray for that person.)

Storybook for week: The Christmas Story by Patricia Pingry

Activities for week:
-- have picture made with Santa
-- decorate tree
-- make Texas Trash (Chex Mix)
-- decorate ornament for our tree

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday Shopping Success!

I am so thankful to live in the Day of the Interweb!

Today, I did not fight a single crowd or search for a single parking spot, but I got (almost) all of my Christmas shopping done -- online. It'll be delivered right to my door -- stress free. I do need to make one stop at Family Christian for a few trinkets for friends and another at my favorite local toy store for a couple of stocking stuffers for Caroline.

I am thrilled! Now, I will admit that Christmas shopping has gotten easier these past two years. My side of the family has decided to go gift-free. Last year we took a trip together, and we'll continue that again, probably every other year. We decided to have the adults draw names in John's family this year, so that made things easier there.

I'm happy to have this week between Thanksgiving before Advent begins. I'll get finished with the hectic, commercial part of the holiday -- the shopping -- and make my plan for Advent activities to do with Caroline.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Sickness and in Health

For nearly two-and-a-half years, I've had a pretty easy path, thanks to "mothering through breastfeeding." That's a La Leche League catch-phrase, acknowledging that breastfeeding is much more than just nutrition. Now that my daughter has weaned, I have to explore some new methods of mothering, specifically in mothering a sick toddler.

One of the best benefits for us of extended nursing was the immunological benefits. Caroline was rarely sick, and those few times she was, she recovered quickly and easily. Now that she isn't getting the immunities of momma milk, she's struggling with a bout of diarrhea. I am upset with myself, knowing that she probably wouldn't have caught the bug if she were still nursing. I have to worry more about keeping her hydrated since she isn't getting the comforting hydration of my milk. And I don't have that super cure-all, the amazing anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, anti-infective breast milk, to squirt on her chapped bottom brought on from the frequent wiping.

She's doing fine, though. She's playing and eating (and wearing a pull-up.) Her burning bottom is her biggest fret, so I'm not too worried. And John is with us this week -- thank goodness because she is quite the daddy's girl lately and that is exaggerated by her illness.

This will pass, and I will grow as a mother in this new season of parenting Caroline.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Neighborhood Co-op


A few neighbors and I, all looking for a bit of a break during the day and some social time for the kids but unhappy with formal MDOs or preschools for two-year-olds, have formed a co-op, hired a teacher, and worked up a rough curriculum / schedule. We started our "school" last week. Caroline *loves* school so far.

We have four kids -- three moms will rotate as hosts and one mom works from home and has donated her nanny as the teacher's assistant. We each pay our teacher $20 a week. School is from 9:30 until noon on Mondays and Wednesdays. This first week, the moms stayed to model the curriculum for the teacher and help the kids adjust. Next week, the teacher will run the show and us moms will linger elsewhere in the host's home. After that, we'll play it by ear, having an open-door policy for moms to be there whenever they'd like. The host mom will be at home during school hours, but will only get involved if she is needed.

Each week, we'll have a theme based on a story or picture book. We'll incorporate the theme into the snack, craft, songs, etc. This week we read Pete's a Pizza. One day, the kids made mini pizzas for snack. They also made their own pizzas on the felt board.

Here's our routine (subject to change for special guests or activities, which will be planned often.)

9:30-9:45 Circle Time -- Hello Song, calendar and weather, concept book (shapes, colors, numbers, alphabet), song with movement/motions, story book

9:45-10:15 Work Time -- Child-chosen, individual activities based on the Montessori work period

10:15-10:35 Snack -- kids wash hands, prepare snack, eat, and help clean up

10:35-10:50 Sharing Time -- "show and tell", phonics song, music with instruments

10:50-11:20 Arts / Craft -- some days, free expression; some days, planned craft

11:20-12 Free play, usually outside

A new aspect of our school is that two of the kids are bilingual, speaking Spanish exclusively at home and just beginning to use English. They'll improve their English, and I'm excited that Caroline will be exposed to more Spanish than I could ever use with her. The teacher is bilingual, and our teacher's aid speaks Spanish and a bit of English.

I'm really excited about our program. It being a co-op, I have lots of say in how I want it run. And we all know I have strong opinions on how I want my daughter educated. Since it is home-based, I don't feel like I'm starting my daughter in any kind of institutional program too early. She's still at-home (or at a friend's home.)

I'm sure I'll post again about our little adventure.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Make the Pie Higher

Make the Pie Higher

words by George W. Bush; setting by Richard Thompson

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It's a world of madmen
And uncertainty
And potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet
Become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish
Can coexist.

Families is where our nation finds hope
Where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher!
Make the pie higher!

Snopes shows it true and even details the circumstances of each quote.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Frisbees, Burt's Bees, and Schemata

Caroline encountered a new object this week: a frisbee. She heard it called a frisbee and then asked me to throw the Burt's Bees with her. Her little brain was trying to fit this new object, a frisbee, as she has heard us call it, into an existing schema. She didn't have a reference point for it, though, so she mistakenly fit it in with a term she knows -- Burt's Bees.

This brought home to me the importance of reading broadly with and talking normally to a child. According to Maria Montessori, age 1 to 3 is the sensitive period for language acquisition -- Caroline is absorbing terms she is exposed to. The more she is read to, the more words and ideas she is exposed to, the greater her language skills will become. This will not only help her verbally, it will help her reading comprehension (and general life skills comprehension, as well, I venture). The Schema Theory of Learning explains that our brains work to make sense of new things we encounter by fitting them into our existing schemata. Misunderstanding happen, like with the frisbee, when we misapply or can't find the correct schema.

We have our favorite books at home in our regular reading rotation, but to expose Caroline to other ideas, I try to get a couple of books at the library every other week to add in some new material and expand her schemata.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My BFFs -- Hillary and Barak

I'm signed up on both Hillary Clinton's and Barak Obama's email lists. I'm fickle that way, having not made up my mind for the Democratic Primaries just yet. I must say that I am a bit turned off by the false intimacy that comes through in their emails. I just got a message from Barak (I can call him that because he emails me regularly) with the subject line : "Hey!" Yesterday, Hillary (again, we're on a first name basis now) emailed me to tell me if I win the chance to watch the debates with Bill to make sure he snacks on carrots instead of chips.

Obviously, they are trying to bridge the gap between the political and personal. I don't care for a friendly leader, though. Gosh, look at GW. He can be a pretty friendly guy. I worked for the paper during the 1994 Gubernatorial campaign, so I got to meet Ann Richards and George W. Since it was the college paper, the sports guys wanted me to get football picks from each of them. Ann Richards (God rest her soul) refused. Good 'ol George was as nice as can be and happily gave me his picks.

Of course, Richards got my vote!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Knotty Girl

How the curse of "I hope you have one just like you" is visited upon me.



We've been battling this hair twisting for a long while now. It's a battle every morning to get the knot out of her hair. I cut her hair shorter, hoping that would eliminate the knots. It seems that shorter hair just means TIGHTER knots! We've gone out in public two days this week because I didn't have the time, energy, or nerves to untangle the nasty knots.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WFMW: Getting the last of the peanut butter


Such a simple, obvious idea that just never occurred to me until I read it in Natural Home magazine (a wonderful bday gift from my wonderful SIL. Thanks, Liz Beth!)

To get the last bit out of the peanut butter jar, use a rubber spatula as a scraper. Frugal and environment since you get more peanut butter from the jar, and the jar is then easier to clean out for recycling.

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'Em: Favorite "Educational" Toys

Forget what the marketing folks say about "educational" toys -- all those flashing lights and loud sounds don't make a kid smarter (but they do annoy parents.) Apparently, to those toy marketing folks, something the sings the alphabet song or plays tinny classical music is "educational." Hogwash!

Kids need toys that open their imaginations. Toys with multiple uses. Toys that foster concentration. Here are a few of our favorites:

Natural (not pained) Wooden Blocks -- Buy lots of wooden blocks and put them in an easily visible and accessible spot. Our are in an open basket in the living room. John's theory is that you can never have too many blocks. Wooden blocks are a bit expensive, but they'll be used for years, so consider them an investment. We certainly enjoy playing along building towers and castles, ourselves, which is a nice bonus. Blocks encourage critical thinking -- what happens if I stack this block on this one. What happens if I push them over. The open-ended play blocks allow facilitates creativity. As kids get older, blocks are a great venue for cooperative play.

Puzzles -- Puzzles are a great pre-reading / pre-writing activity. Assembling a puzzle require focus, eye-hand coordination, and critical thinking. Secondary to the skill exercised in putting together a puzzle is the knowledge of the puzzle's theme -- animal puzzles, musical instrument puzzles, alphabet puzzles, number puzzles, shapes...colors...etc. Naming the objects builds vocabulary.

Playdough -- Lately, we've been pulling out the playdough every day! It is a great sensory activity -- the child can feel and manipulate the playdough. Children can be creative with it -- snakes and ice cream cones are favorite creations here. If you feel the need to incorporate a more academic level, you could use shape cookie cutters or talk about and work with specific colors. (Use homemade playdough or be sure to buy brand-name non-toxic playdough.)

edited to add some informational links that better explain my views on toys marketed as "educational."
http://notquitecrunchyparent.blogspot.com/2007/04/rule-of-three.html
http://www.temple.edu/temple_times/december06/Xmastoys.html
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/15/soa/electronictoys.htm


Thursday, September 13, 2007

A cave, right in our own backyard!

When construction workers were preparing a home site in our neighborhood, they discovered a "small, but highly decorative" cave. The area was given to the Texas Cave Conservancy to manage, and they open it a couple of times a year for tours. The family and I went to the inaugural tour a few months ago but neglected to bring a camera. A neighbor created this flickr slide show, and it is just so cool and beautiful, I had to share. Oh, and it was the visit to this cave that began Caroline's fascination with caves.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hello, My name is Amanda and I have a problem.

I drink about half a gallon of diet coke a day. I have one first thing in the morning. I look forward to my coke breaks throughout the day. When I travel overnight, I make sure to bring along some diet cokes in case the place I am staying doesn't have any handy.

With subtle pressure from my husband (in the form of information) and not-so-subtle pressure from some friends, I've decided to kick the coke habit. Now, I don't plan to become a T-tolarer, but I want to be more in control of the consumption. I aspire to become a person who has an occasional coke when out for a burger or with popcorn at the movies. I aspire to no longer be that person who has to hide diet cokes in her suitcase.

I went back and forth on deciding between a slow weaning -- cutting back from four a day to three to two to one to half... but decided instead that method might continue my cravings for the sweet-that-isn't-so sweet. I instead quit cold turkey. I drank my last diet coke Friday morning. For my morning fizzy-fix, I drink orange juice mixed with ginger ale. For the headaches (from caffeine withdrawal) I take ibuprofen. I drink lots of water and have another OJ in the afternoons for another pick-me-up. Saturday, I took a nap while Caroline napped. It was like a drugged sleep -- I was restless and fidgety, but I didn't want to get up.

My reasoning behind suddenly giving up my habit has to do with the research John pointed out to me -- that diet cokes make you fat. The theory is that sugar consumption makes your body crave more sugar. You drink a diet coke, though, causing your body to continually crave more sweets but that original carving isn't satiated, so you crave even more sweets and end up consuming even more calories.

So there. It's in writing, published for all the world to see. And hold me accountable. Kicking the diet coke habit -- let's hope it continues to WORK FOR ME!
For more Works for Me Wednesday Ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'Em: No "School" for my 2-year-old

Last spring, not knowing what life with a two-year-old would be like, I signed Caroline up to start a two-day-a-week Mother's Day Out program this fall. I toured a Montessori school and our church's school, as well as the program I chose , and though they were amazing, they were too far and too expensive. I just wanted to have a place in case I was going crazy. Well, I'm not going crazy, and Friday was the Open-House / Meet the Teacher Day at the MDO. Caroline and I went.

I now understand a bit more the reason many parents choose homeschooling. Though that is not a path I plan for us (I have learned never to say never, though), I see how a school program will probably never fit the ideal for my daughter, or for her picky mother.

This particular school seems fun and caring. The school handbook and teacher's welcome letter were both full of punctuation errors and misspellings. The director made some off-hand comment when going through the handbook about yelling at your kid, assuming that all parents yell at their kids. There was a computer in the two-year-old classroom. And the teacher and teacher's assistant both repeatedly told a crying two-year-old (whose mother wasn't in the room because she is also a teacher at the school) that they would not pick her up. None of that made me happy.

So, mother doesn't get a day out this year. We have plenty to keep us busy, and between John and some great friends who can help me out when needed, I can still do things like get my hair cut or go to the dentist.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'ems: Music

This summer, Caroline and I participated in a mini-session of music classes at Heartsong Music Together. My sister-in-law had raved about the music program her kids are in, but I wasn't sure it was worth the expense. After seeing the fun songs Liz did with the kids and how much Caroline loved them, I decided we'd try out a couple of classes. We did a trial class with a traveling Music Together class near our house. The class was held at a church, and the instructor was fabulous. From just that trial, I learned not to manipulate Caroline's hands to force her to clap to the beat. Then we tried a class at Hearstong Music Together and signed up for the mini-summer session.

I was amazed -- with the program, with the school, with the instructor, and with what Caroline got out of the classes.

Music Together is a franchised curriculum that is research-based and child-centered. The director at Heartsong is Montessori trained and has the school set-up as a Montessori environment. The kids are welcome to play and explore before and after class. From what I understand, most Music Together classes are held at community centers or churches. Heartsong's school is unique.

The Music Together program rotates songbooks each session, with three books a year, different books for three years. Ideally, one would participate in the classes for three years to experience each book. The course includes the weekly class (50 minutes at Heartsong), two cds (one for the car and one for home), the music book, a parent-guide on the philosophy of the method, and a parent-education night. At the core of the philosophy is the parents' involvement. If mom or dad is participating and enjoying music, the child will take it in.

Caroline bursts into song frequently now. She recognizes musical instruments, mimics tones, and knows the do-re-mi scale. I realized how much she learns from song, so I bought a Christian praise cd for kids that includes the Lord's Prayer to help her learn that. We've also checked out Putamaya's World Playground from the library and are enjoying listening to that. Exposure to the music of different cultures and the complex beats involved is also important, according to Music Together.

We signed up for a full session for the fall, and Caroline and John (and sometimes, I) will attend that together on Saturdays. Heartsong is holding free trial classes this week September 5-7. Check them out!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Paint -- a home makeover in a can!



We added some color to our house this Labor Day Weekend -- Behr's Centaur Brown in our breakfast area and one hallway. I LOVE IT!

Brown, I know. I could hear my Nanny's disgust on the phone today when I told her I painted a room brown. Who would have thunk it! It works really well, though, as the area is large and open. The lighting makes a big difference in how the color appears, though. The two areas pictured are the exact same shade. The lighting changes the look.

Next on the to-be-painted list is the rest of the main house (almond toast) followed by the office (forest ridge) and then the guest bedroom (rhythmic blue, we think).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WFMW: Cheap Montessori Shelving


In a child-centered environment, short, open shelving allows the child easy access to activities or toys. You want the shelves low enough to be reachable by little hands and open so that the child can see the activity and get to it easily. The shelves should also be natural or white in color so as not to distract from the activities displayed, either. Ideally, Montessori materials should be made of natural materials. I found some great, cheap shelves at Target that meet *most* of these ideals. (They're not made of natural materials.) These were on sale for $9.something for back-to-school. I stocked up! I have one that is still not in use, but I have three ideas for how to use it and where to put it. I used one as Caroline's kitchen and another as our math center. Cheap and educational and organizational -- works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday Tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

We Bleed Maroon!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


Perhaps it is because of the hype and the closure since this is the last in the series, but I must admit that I LOVED IT! I've enjoyed all of the books in the Harry Potter series, but I wasn't moved by them necessarily. This one really got to me. I won't give any "spoilers" but will just say that, if I were still teaching, I would love to create a unit (well, with seven books, I guess it'd be a whole course) exploring the motifs, the symbols, the themes. What a way to draw kids into the world of literary analysis and appreciation.

MY DRY, SPOILERLESS COMMENTARY: I enjoyed the JC connection, really appreciated the resolution with Neville's character, didn't like the epilogue, was broken-hearted for Teddy. Loved Luna's dad, Xenophilius Lovegood (love of strangeness) -- my kind of guy!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vacation Wrap-Up

We decided to go easy on the ozone and our our wallets and vacation close to home this summer. We drove to downtown Houston for three days and two nights of food and fun. Then we headed south to League City for a couple of days with Poppy and Nana. Some observations and points to remember for future trips are

1. plan, plan, plan (but be flexible!) -- I mapped out our itinerary carefully, I thought, then realized in the car that I scheduled us for the zoo in the heat of the afternoon. We just flip-flopped activities to keep us indoors in the afternoon and moved the zoo to a morning. We also had a nap problem when we got lost driving to our room for naptime, causing Caroline to fall asleep in the car. My toddler doesn't transfer well, and if she falls asleep in the car, even if it is only for ten minutes -- that's the nap! We just had to be flexible again -- we moved our evening swim to the afternoon, ate dinner a bit earlier, and put the tot to bed early that night.

2. toddlers love animals -- The zoo was an obvious hit. The dog at the Bed and Breakfast was an unexpected delight as was feeding the fishies at the Kemah Boardwalk. All future vacations with toddlers must include animals.

3. Bed and Breakfasts are great -- We'd never before stayed in a B&B, The Lovett Inn. It was just fabulous!! Nice and cozy, not too busy, great location. The first night, John said, "From now on, let's stay in Bed and Breakfasts on vacation." I agree.

4. spend more time at the Contemporary Arts Museum -- I put the Contemporary Arts Museum as a maybe stop on our itinerary. Admission was free, and I thought we might want to stop in for a few minutes. The current exhibit features Texas artists. I wasn't sure what to expect. Modern Art can be a bit of a joke, I know, and my first reaction was just that. This is art? But then the old English teacher in me came out and I began asking, what does it mean? I want to go back sans toddler some time (she did GREAT at not touching the toy trucks and bicycles that were right there on the floor for her to play with, though), take plenty of time to examine the exhibits, and then discuss them with my hubby or friends over a bottle of wine.

5. always get recommendations from friends who have lived or been there
-- My fabulous sister-in-law Carlye, mother of Georgia Peorgia, lived in the Montrose area for a few years. She emailed me a list of recommended restaurants and spots that was just fabulous. She knew that John would appreciate THE HOBBIT CAFE and that I would love THE CHOCOLATE BAR. (We did!) EMPIRE CAFE was also really neat.

6. I am a 70
-- I now know my Sleep Number. Our room had a Select Comfort Sleep Number Bed, and with the same sense of curiosity and adventure that made me beg as a child for a quarter to put in the vibrating bed in our motel room, I had to fully experience the Sleep Number Bed. I laid on the bed, which was set around 60, and moved the dial all the way down to its lowest setting of five. I felt the bed slowly deflate under me. And I wondered why on earth would anyone want to sleep on such a soft gushy mattress. Then Caroline hopped onto the middle of the bed and rolled right into me. Nope, let's move the dial back on up. I decided that 75 was a bit too stiff, so I eased back down to a 70 -- a nice average number. I sleep better at home, and I'll stick with my individual coils and memory foam.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Laundry Room

It's so exciting to organize a room, or an area, in your home! Today, I organized my laundry room -- recycling cardboard boxes I had saved, I guess, to put items in for storage (I tossed a booster chair box, various toy boxes, etc), moving around shelves, and adding some special touches. I put my french memo board with some photos and things up in there, and I hung a cross that says "God danced the day you were born" -- a gift from John's grandma.

I just love it now! I smile every time I step in there. It is just so satisfying to have a clutter-free (at least for a couple of days!) room, and I'm really happy to have added a little bit of personality to my laundry room.

I'm most proud, though, that I didn't spend much money. I bought one shelf to add to some that were already up -- $8 for shelf and brackets. Usually, my organization sprees cost me a lot more money! I just used things I already had in that room or around the house.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'ems: Nose Blowing and Other Thoughts

Caroline had a runny nose yesterday, giving us the prime opportunity to work on a Montessori lesson in nose blowing.


I've been questioning my choice of alliterative name for these Tuesday posts, thinking that TEACH is not the term I truly intend. I'm not teaching Caroline. I'm creating an environment that allows her to learn--not an environment to learn the alphabet or mathematics, either, an environment to learn to learn, to learn to concentrate and focus, to learn to take care of her body, her environment, her home.

But, I did teach her to blow her nose. And even found a lesson plan online for doing it. Maybe Tuesday Teach 'Em is appropriate.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

WFMW: Parenting Advice Edition -- Don't Watch the Clock; Watch the Baby!

It started as breastfeeding advice that I heard in a La Leche League meeting. "Don't watch the clock; watch the baby." Great advice for nursing to make sure you establish a good milk supply and meet your baby's ever-changing needs rather than putting your child on a rigid schedule. It also seems to work well beyond nursing -- sleep, solids, potty-training, weaning, new experiences. As a classic Type A personality, I like to be in control. I like to PLAN. I like to read the latest research to support my choices. That's all great, but it all has to come down to what *my child* is ready for. Are bedtimes or naptimes becoming challenging? Perhaps her sleep needs have changed and it's time to reevaluate our routine. How do I know she's ready for solids? Is she showing signs of potty readiness? Should I put her in a playschool program or keep her at home with me? No book can have all the right answers for every child. As parents, we have to watch our babies, know our babies, and read the signs from our babies (however old those babies) to know what they need.

Watch the baby.

That's the advice that has WORKED FOR ME. I hope it works for you, too.

For more Works for Me Wednesday Ideas -- specifically "parenting advice" ideas, this week's theme, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'em: Great Montessori-Type Activities BARGAIN PRICES

I opened the mail today while Caroline was napping, which allowed me to peruse some of the catalogs I had received. Imagine my delight as some of these finds in the Oriental Trading catalog!

6 Children's Colorful Aprons for $16.95. (That's $2.83 per apron!) These are solid colored and meant to be decorated with paints. I could see using a couple in that way for art projects, but I'd also leave several plain -- a couple for kitchen help; a couple for art-work -- one for Caroline and a spare for doing those activities when a friend visits.

Easy to Grip ABC foam stamps -- comes in your choice of lowercase or uppercase for $12.95 per set. I'd start with lowercase since those are the first letters to teach children as the majority of written material is in lowercase.

Just Shake It! Listen and Match set for $19.95 -- This is a great sensorial exercise! Six unique sounds in twelve wooden shakers. Children shake, observe by listening carefully, and match the like sounding shakers.

Totally Touchable Matching Board for $9.95 -- Another great sensorial exercise -- this one has ten assorted textures to be matched

OK, that's just what I ordered! There are lots of lacing activities, arts and crafts, musical items, and other manipulatives. There are even cross-section models of the human brain and human heart for those with older kiddos! AND FREE SHIPPING FOR ORDERS OVER $75.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Journey to the Potty

No more diapers here! When I was planning our potty training time, I thought we'd go for a three-day-at-home bootcamp (diaper-free, stay home) over the Fourth of July weekend. Then I realized that July 4 was in the middle of the week and I wouldn't have daddy back-up so that Caroline could just be at home in panties for three days straight. I thought about putting the process off until Labor Day weekend, but then all of a sudden, Caroline seemed ready and I decided to just go for it! I've always heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so I wanted to have 21 days in panties before I declared it a new way of life.

Day One:

used potty all morning, wore diaper for nap, then back in panties
pee'd on Mother's Helper and went back in diaper for rest of day

Day Two:
wearing diaper out of house; peeing in potty in house
pee'd and pooped on potty of her own initiation!

Day Three:
Brought potty into master bathroom on her own while I was in the shower, went back and got a book, came back and sat down and pooped
First outing out of house in training pants -- pee'd in public toilet at Heartsong Music Together

Days Four through Seven:
sometimes in diapers, sometimes in panties, some accidents
moved from waterproof training pants to padded panties for outings

Day Eight:
going out of house in panties, using public toilets
accident at home -- pee'd on floor about five minutes after pooping on potty (told John "It happens.")

Day Nine:
waking up dry from naps

Day Ten:
in panties all time now -- pee'd on floor at friend's house (and still talks about it)

Day Eleven:
asked to pee in middle of night -- dry besides that
no accidents!
used public toilets a couple of times during day

Day Twelve:
no accidents, used public toilet
dry all night without a potty break

Day Thirteen:
no accidents!

Day Fourteen:
refused to take off overnight diaper when she woke up -- peed in it and then let me put her in panties
used public toilet while out shopping
insisted on napping in diaper

Day Fifteen:
No accidents!

Day Sixteen:
Uh oh...playing outside...gotta poop. Didn't make it inside in time.

Day Seventeen through Twenty-One:
Still having occasional poop misses (but only one pee pee accident in two weeks!)
Wearing a diaper overnight
I'm comfortable enough going out with her in panties as she will use public bathrooms (with a potty ring)

Today: Woke up dry!

Some things I found helpful through this process:
Potty Training Info at Drsears.com
Baby Bjorn Potty Chair
Baby Bjorn Potty Ring
Once Upon a Potty
Potty for Me
Trickle Free Trainers
Gerber panties

Sunday, July 29, 2007

La Leche League's 50th Anniversary



Want to know more about La Leche League? Here's a fabulous news feature from Chicago Today.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lookie what I made!




This is quite a feat because 1) I have very little patience, 2) I'm not very crafty, and 3) I'm not very detail-oriented (oh, and I have a toddler and a houseful of company right now!). *But* I have a daughter, and her bangs are getting long so she needs to wear them up everyday (topped with a bow, of course), and she has these CUTE shoes that you put a pair of bows on to make them match every outfit ... so I had to experiment. Ms. W at Haphazard Happenstances was my inspiration and instruction. I modified a bit because I had to use alligator clip bows, and once again, I'm not very detail oriented.

Here are my tips:
1. Print out Hobby Lobby's 40% off coupons (or get it in the paper).
2. Get your ribbon on the scrapbooking aisle. They have these great pre-coordinated multipacks, and if you use your 40% coupon, you can get a pack with a selection of five patterns, enough to make three ribbons, for $5.00. Considering you'd pay MORE than that for ONE boutique ribbon, and this only takes about fifteen minutes, it is well worth it!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Changing Mindset

As I paused in my dinner preparations to scoop my frightened toddler into my arms for the tenth time since the thunderstorm had begun just a few minutes before, I wondered what I could do to get her over her fear of thunder. I told her that thunder is just noise. It can't hurt us. I told her that the thunder was just answering the lightening. We imitated the sound thunder makes, and she finally agreed with me that thunder was fun. She wasn't afraid. Then it thundered again, and I got a nice long cuddle.

Instead of trying to fix the "problem" I decided to shift my focus and just enjoy the rare chance to cuddle with my daughter. I've always liked stormy weather -- the peaceful feeling of the darkened sky, staying inside, the good excuse to nap. Thunder hugs are now at the top of my favorite things about stormy weather.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday Teach' Em: Encouraging Little Helpers

Even young toddlers can help with some chores -- if we give them an environment that allows for their help.

Make the environment accessible: Put your toddler's eating utensils on a low shelf so they can help empty the dishwasher. Provide a place for your toddler to put away her clean, folded clothes (Caroline just carries hers to her bed for now.)

Provide the right tools: Your toddler will love helping you with housework! Use natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies and give your toddler her own spray bottle of water and vinegar and a cleaning rag. She can spray and wipe surfaces for you. Fill an old shaker bottle (like a parmasan cheese shaker) with baking soda, and she can sprinkle the tub, shower, and toilet bowls for you.

Demonstrate: Model with slow, deliberate moves -- step by step -- how do do the task. I read somewhere that the modeling should be motions only, no "lectures" or verbal explanations. It's hard for me to keep my mouth shut, though, so I try to do a run-through without words and then a run-through with explanations. Also, show your toddler where things go: have at least one waste basket accessible for throwing trash away. Show them were you'd like their dirty dishes placed. A two-year-old can reach the counter to place her dirty plates or cups on it.

Let them: This is probably the hardest part. Just let them do it. Sure, it's going to take them a bit longer. Don't hover as the plate is carried to the kitchen sink after dinner. The pile of clothes carried to the bedroom might get mussed a bit, but that's OK. Resist the urge to redo their work.

Thank them for helping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

WFMW: The non-scrapbooker's memory book

I am not a scrapbooker. I think they are beautiful and special, but I'm just not into creating things like that myself. It is time-consuming, expensive, and clutter-creating. My non-scrap-booker alternative is to create a memory book each year for my daughter, choosing favorite pictures and memories from the year. I used Shutterfly for the book about her ssecond year of life and did a day-in-her-life theme. I can see the project evolving over the years to become highlights of the year. The book is high quality, and the photo software is easy to use and includes a variety of templates. This book cost me about $20 -- pricey, yes, but I *know* I would have spent that buying scrapbooking materials that just sat in a closet. This way, I actually *have* the book. :-)
It works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

TTE: Books for Toddlers

Looking for ideas of books to read to your toddler? You can get ideas from award lists, like Caldecott Winners, from The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, from your librarian, from other families (like my list below -- a work in progress), or from just stumbling upon them. Make library visits part of your routine and check out a few books each week. I always have my list of to-reads in mind, but I like to get a book or two not on my list -- books that catch my eye or that Caroline pulls of the shelf and hands to me. I've stumbled upon some great ones this way. I've created an amazon list of our favorites.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

WFMW: To Do Lists

If you are a list-maker like me, try iGoogle. You can personalize the "stuff" on your page and add as many tabs as you'd like. I have one tab for homepage type stuff -- favorite links, news, email, Google Reader, etc. Another tab is for notes and information. A third tab is ALL LISTS! Google offers several types of lists -- To Do Lists, Sticky Notes, Notepads -- quite a variety. I just placed several different Sticky Notes on a tab. You have to add the Sticky Notes one at a time, but it's a quick, easy process. I have a note for blog ideas, a note for upcoming events, a note for projects ... and more and more notes. I create them as I need them and delete them on a whim. They are handy no matter which computer I am on, and I don't use a shred of paper! Organization -- it works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday tips, visit Rocks in My Dryer.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'em: Utensil Skills

A key concept in Montessori philosophy is building independence, and therefore self-confidence, in toddlers by letting them do things themselves. How many battles are fought with "twos" because they want to DO IT SELF! Helping them to do it themselves can alleviate many of these battles. Montessori ideals also stress using real or beautiful items -- wooden toys over plastic; glassware over plastic. I found a great toddler stainless flatware set at Magic Cabin to use instead of the ubiquitous plastic wares.

Caroline enjoys using her toddler-sized flatware, both in preparing snacks and meals and eating them. Since the dull knife works, she can slice a banana for a snack. The prongs on the fork really work, too, so she can accurately use her utensils.


Monday, July 09, 2007

I love robots


I've been wanting a iRobot Roomba for quite some time. I got one last week (after quite an ordeal involving a bargain, a smashed windshield, a return, disappointment, another return, and finally ownership) and I LOVE IT!!

Because of the two returns -- the first two robots I bought were obviously previously returned -- I questioned the store manager on why people were returning these. I'd heard rave reviews from a few friends who have them. His theory is that people have unreasonable expectations of them and return them. He explained that it was more of a sweeper than a deep vacuum cleaner. That is true, but it is fine with me. My house is mostly hard floor, anyway. I don't mind vacuuming once a week (er...maybe every other week now...) it is just all the little bits of junk -- cat litter, crumbs, who knows what all -- that I hate stepping on every day.

The cats are not big fans of my robot. The thing does something that I never do -- it goes UNDER THE BED to vacuum up all their cat hair. Problem is, when the vacuum comes out, they usually hide -- yup, you guessed it -- under the bed.

My toddler loves the idea of the robot, but she gets a bit excited when it chases her. The first time I used it, she and I were about to go on a walk. Robot is vacuuming my floors, and I'm piddling around the house getting ready. I sent Caroline into her room to put on her shoes. She goes in just as the robot comes out from under the her futon. I had to rescue her and put on her shoes.

Robots are smart, too, but not geniuses, you know. Mine can close doors. Sure, that's smart...but it can't open them back up, so it gets stuck in one room. I just have to close all the bedroom doors if I want it to sweep the living areas or make sure I stay nearby if I want it to wander to all the bedrooms.

Now, I sweep the floors while I fold laundry. I sweep the floors while I blog. I sweep the floors while I work on puzzles with my toddler. Or I guess I could live the housewife's dream and sit back and eat bon bons while my robot vacuums. What a life!

Shopper's Tip: Use your 20% coupon from Linens and Things or Bed Bath and Beyond to save $$.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Thrifting Fun

I rarely hit the thrift stores, though I'm usually so excited with my finds on those rare occasions I go. Today, I went with a mission: I was looking for small pitchers for pouring exercises for Caroline. (I'm sure you'll see more about the exercise on a Tuesday Teach 'em soon.)

I found two pitchers, though not exactly the look I wanted, and a silver tray to display and carry them. One of the principals of Montessori is that the supplies be beautiful. A smart Montessori tip is the buy your "beautiful" items at thrift stores so that you don't have to worry about being too upset if something gets broken. My bonus find was this Wilton trivet to add to my collection! I have one life it already that is unpainted. It was 99 cents!! Score!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Tuesday Teach 'ems: Putting on shoes

Toddlers crave independence. Their liberal use of "Mine!" and the phrase "Do it self!" are evidence. Parents can help instill confidence in their children, not through over-generous praise, but by teaching their kids to be self-sufficient.

Young toddlers can put on their own shoes. To make that process easier,

1. buy shoes that are easy to get on (slip-ons or velcro closures)
2. let your toddler practice with some shoes that are a few sizes too big (hand-me-downs or shoes from resale shops are great for this practice)
3. demonstrate for your child how to put her shoes on herself by sitting behind her and doing putting her shoes on her in slow, deliberate steps
4. give her time -- she's not going to do it as quickly as you will for awhile. Use those couple of minutes while she's putting on her shoes to get your purse or diaper bag ready to go.

Here's a picture of Caroline at about 20 months putting on her shoes. See how proud she is!

Monday, July 02, 2007

New Idea: Tuesday Teach 'ems

I like routine. I like having a set plan for what I'm doing, including what I'm writing about. I tend to be more diligent with my blogging when I have a mission. So I've decided to add my own little weekly assignment to my blogging: Tuesday Teach 'ems.

I've been reading quite a bit and talking with friends a lot about educational philosophy and teaching our toddlers. I regularly read Barbara Curtis's Mommylife blog, and I just finished her books, Mommy, Teach Me and Mommy, Teach Me to Read. I've read a few other books based on Montessori philosophy. I've also read a bit about Waldorf philosophy, and I do have a masters degree in secondary education with an emphasis in gifted and talented populations. All of this has ingrained in me the importance of child-centered / child-led approach to learning. I'm trying to bring this all together to ground my daughter in an environment that sets a foundation for learning. I don't plan to send my daughter to an academic "preschool" or spend time drilling her on the memorization of the alphabet. The foundation I want her to have is broader. I believe that mommy is the best teacher a toddler and young child will ever have. I'll probably expound on those ideas in the weeks ahead, but I guess it's important to note that my Tuesday Teach 'ems will not be about rote memorization.

Every Tuesday, I'll post an exercise that I've completed with Caroline. I predict that some will be roaring successes and some blaring failures. We'll learn together. Eventually, I can add a Mr. Linky so that others can join in on Tuesday Teach 'ems. That may or may not happen, but I'd love to get ideas from others out there.

Check back tomorrow for the first TUESDAY TEACH 'EM.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weaning Cold Turkey

No, not *that* weaning. :-)

But Caroline had to wean suddenly this week from one of her top three favorite foods (those would be beans, apple bars, and booty.) Veggie Booty was recalled due to contamination with Salmonella. I buy the stuff in bulk in one-ounce bags from amazon.com, and Caroline eats about a bag a day. I heard the news Thursday afternoon, after she'd had her fix for the day. Friday, she had a few breakdowns asking for Booty and going to the laundry room where I store the box. Saturday was great -- she didn't ask for Booty once! But today I emptied the packages as instructed and addressed the envelope to send the packaging to the manufacturer for a refund. Caroline was outside with John but picked me a flower and came in the house to give it to me (how sweet!) just in time to see me putting the bags into an envelope. Now she's begging for Booty!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Negotiator

A few times lately, I've told Caroline that she could nurse until I count to ten. That worked a few times. The other night, I said, "OK. I'll count to ten." She replied, "No. Five minutes." Yesterday when I agreed to nurse for ten, she countered, "Um, sixteen."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mixing Multi-Generationally

I love my church! BC (Before Caroline) John and I participated in a dinner group with people from our church. Ten or so people would gather once a month, rotating homes, to visit over dinner. John and I (and the few other young couples who joined in on the fun with us) were by far the youngsters. We were the 30-somethings dining amongst the hexagenarians and septagenarians. But it was such fun! We learned so much and truly looked forward to those evenings. We both love our grandmothers, but we don't live as close to them as ideal. This gave us a chance to visit with folks with wisdom and experience. People with true stories to share. Tonight I organized a women's social for the ladies at our church. I say organized, but all I did was call La Madeleine and reserve and room, and then advertise that I'd be there for a few hours this evening. I put in the bulletin that we'd start at 5:30. Knowing Austin-time, I arrived right at 5:30 to set up, thinking I'd be sitting in a room alone for 20 minutes or so. There were ladies already lined up! We quickly filled up the little room there, so we'll have to change venues for the next gathering. I enjoyed visiting with women my own age who are also in the midst of raising toddlers and preschoolers. I appreciated talking to moms of teens, hearing what their lives are like and gleening bits of wisdom from their experiences. I especially loved talking to these phenomenal, educated women from THE GREATEST GENERATION. These are women who went to college when women "didn't" go to college. Women who had careers in their twenties when women "didn't" do that. Women who took time off to raise their kids (but had those kids close together in age because they had waited *so* long to start their families.) Women who have led lives they are proud to have led -- with early careers they loved, who raised kids they now adore, who have active lives even now. I have my "mommy" mentors that I look up to, of course. Some of these ladies are my "womanhood" mentors.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Indecision 2008

The only time I ocassionally pine for cable is when I miss my old Daily Show at bedtime routine. With the primaries in full swing, I miss it even more lately. Luckily, Comedy Central gives me most of the good stuff (at my convenience) online. I've added a link to their INDECISION 2008 web site on my sidebar. I'll be checking it out regularly.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Happy Hooray!

Happy Birthday to me! Or as Caroline says, "Happy Hooray!" followed immediately by "Cake?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WFMW: Organizing Shower Stuff

In our master bathroom, we have a separate tub and shower. The shower has a little shelf in it that collects sundry bath products -- shampoo and conditioner, shaving cream, razors, soaps, scrubs, etc. I hated taking all of that out every time I cleaned the shower and then putting it all back in. My solution: I bought a plastic dishrack that sits in the shower. I keep the items in it and just take it out when I clean the shower. Every other week or so, I clean it, too. Much easier than taking out all those individual items. It works for me!

For more Works for Me Wednesday ideas, visit Rocks in My Dryer.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Poltergeist

Living with a two-year old is sometimes like a scene from the movie Poltergeist. Remember the scene where the mom is in the kitchen and turns around for a second and then all the chairs on on top of the table?


Something similar happens with doors, too. I can walk down the hallway and all the doors are open; I return a moment later, and all the doors are closed.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What the World Eats

Time has a fascinating photo essay of What The World Eats on their site. It showcases the weekly diet of families around the world (and how much they spend) who are featured in the book Hungry Planet.

It is really interesting to look in other people's houses and see what they eat. I'd say our weeklies would include apples, bananas, and a couple other seasonal fruits; carrots, lettuce and/or other greens, cucumbers, peppers, onions, and a seasonal veggie or two; tofu (every other week); several meats (I do plan meals around meats, so I usually buy some kind of pork, chicken, ground beef, some kind of seafood, and some other kind of beef; canned beans (usually black beans but other varieties, too) and hotdogs (for the tot!); wheat bread; pasta and sauce; peanut butter and jelly; yogurt, eggs, milk; Cheerios, Veggie Booty, Bunny Grahams; frozen veggies (I buy frozen asparagus, frozen brocoli, and frozen green beans, but not every week); frozen pizza or fish sticks or frozen HEB hamburgers (that's a new one for me since that meal deal a month or so ago). And wine and mommy's diet cokes plus some kind of treat (chocolate chips for cookies, ice cream, etc).

I'm really curious and would love to see what your family eats most weeks.

To Everything Turn, Turn, Turn

Today is my little sister's 31st birthday. Happy Birthday, Mary!

It is also the first anniversary of the death of John's Aunt Yibbit and the eve of her birthday. In a couple of days, we'll celebrate many more birthdays (including mine, the fifth anniversary of my 29th birthday!) and anniversaries in the Bindel family, and we just wrapped up celebrating my daughter's. We're also approaching the first Father's Day since John's father's death. We will be in Wichita Falls for this date, both to be with his siblings on Father's Day and to celebrate some birthdays.

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the joys of being in such a big family. There is so much joy! So many celebrations -- births, weddings, good news. Somebody is always expecting a new baby in the Bindel family. :-) We have just set up a yahoo group for the Bindels -- with a family of about 100 living descendants of John and Irene, you need such a thing! When I look at the calendar of birthdays and anniversaries, I am overwhelmed. June is a busy month for celebrations!

But when you love so many people, you have a lot of loss and saddness, too. In a way, I can't believe it's been year without Yibbit. But it also seems like so long ago since we got that early morning phone call from Tony. So much has happened -- like losing Tony. We Bindels have had quite a year. Is that so unusual in this family? Maybe not. Since last June, we've added five babies, lost two loved ones, graduated the youngest cousin from high school. It's been quite a year. A year of living. A year of celebration. And with that comes some sadness, some mourning.

I'm thankful to be a part of such a big family, where we can experience life. To everything, turn, turn, turn.

Ecclesiastes 3:
1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—
2 A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.