I can't believe you are 18. I remember the day you were born. In fact, I remember going with mom to the ultrasound and finding out you were a boy. I was so disappointed you were not going to be a sister, but that might be the last time I was disappointed with you. And as long as you still agree to go shopping with me sometimes, I'll forgive you for not being a girl :-)
You are a great brother, a great friend and now, a great adult. I know this past year hasn't been what you were hoping for in your senior year but you have stepped up and shown yourself to be an amazing man. I'm so proud of you.
I've enjoyed spending so much time with you this year and being able to be a part of your life again. I'm going to miss seeing you every month when you go off to school but I know you will also be a great Aggie and they are lucky to have you.
And at the end of the day, you will still be my baby brother so it is my right to call you at school and bug you about grades and it you are getting enough sleep and eating enough vegetables, knowing full well that the answer to both of those questions is probably going to be no. But I promise not to call you that in public anymore.
Our trip began early Friday morning and made pretty good time. Lucy did well most of the trip but the last hour or so needed a change so I started driving while Craig went to the back to play and read to her.
This change of scenery for her worked great except for one thing. It meant I was driving the last few miles of the trip – in downtown Chicago! I’m not a bad driver but I’m not always very confident and there was a lot of traffic, both cars and pedestrian, not to mention construction going on right in front of the hotel. I missed the valet station the first time and had to circle around again. It was incredible stressful and I practically needed to change my shirt when we got there but we all survived and I only got yelled at once.
Once we got in, we let Lucy have some downtime in our room then popped her in the Ergo and headed out for the Sears Willis tower.
This was the one thing I really wanted to do but honestly, I wasn’t sure how much it would hold Lucy’s attention. Turns out, she loved it.
She kept pointing out the window and signing “bug,” not quite sure why – perhaps everything looked bug-sized?
Towards the end she started to get fussy but the Ergo was great since she could nurse without my having to find a seat (because there aren’t any!). Then we did the unthinkable. We put her on a leash! We had been given a monkey backpack leash a while back and this was its inaugural use. My pre-mom self would be shocked at this and I don’t think we’ll be using it that much, but for this situation, it worked.
After that, she did okay until we were waiting to go out onto the clear platform. Craig didn’t really want to but I was brave and Lucy was oblivious so we waited, or tried to wait. She didn’t grasp the concept of waiting in line. She threw a huge fit but as soon as we got out there, she relaxed.
If you watch the Duggars, you’ll know that one of the older girls had a lot of trouble with this platform and I understand why now. It’s scarier than I thought it would be. I didn’t stay there long at all!
It was only about 4:30 by the time we left the tower but right next door was Giordanos Pizza which was personally recommended to me by a friend who used to live in Chicago. Even with us being there so early, we had to wait 40 minutes for our pizza. 40 minutes is like an eternity in toddler/restaurant time. But Lucy did amazing. One thing that really helped was the group sitting next to us, they were a guide dog raising organization so under the table were about 5 sleeping golden retriever puppies. Cute and entertaining! Between that, a packet of applesauce and a couple of walks up and down the bathroom hall, we not only survived but had a delightful evening (and allowed others to have theirs as well :-). And the pizza was worth the wait, it was so good. We weren’t the only ones to think so, by the time we left, the line to get into the restaurant was getting pretty long so I was very thankful we had gotten there so early.
The next morning, we got up nice and early and went to explore the parks next to the hotel. We thought about going to the Navy Pier but didn’t want to take Lucy in a cab without a car seat. I know it is legal but too scary for a first time mom. This ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip anyway. 8am on a Saturday morning is a nice quite time in Chicago apparently, we only saw a handful of people and it was nice calm way to start the day.
We got her a new stroller (Macleran Volo) and this was our first time testing it out. I didn’t like our old one at all and neither did she but this one is awesome. She just sat back with her sippy and enjoyed the sites of the fountains and “wildlife” like pigeons, seagulls, bunnies and squirrels.
Of course, just because we’re the parents shouldn’t mean we do all the work. She had to do her fair share of pushing our stuff around. Here she is “building her character”
Next up was Millenium Park. We were waiting for a children’s festival to open but on our way found Cloud Gate. It wasn’t on our agenda, we aren’t big modern art folks and I didn’t really get it, but I’m so glad we didn’t miss it. It’s a toddlers dream. She had a blast running around and looking at herself.
And it was kind fun trying to get a picture of ourselves and the skyline. I might have to post the “outakes” later.
We spent a little bit of time at the kid’s festival but she was getting really tired so we ducked out early and went back to the hotel for some downtime before we checked out. But the fun wasn’t over yet!
Craig was gone from Tuesday morning to Thursday evening. He's been gone before, and for much longer than that, but I've always retreated to my parent's with Lucy. Even though my work load isn't really any lighter there, it feels so much easier than being here alone. To give you a sense of the progression: I had plans to make Craig a nice homecooked meal before the weekend of travel food. My meal plan on Tuesday was chicken fried steak, mashed potatos, and green beans. On Wednesday it was spaghetti and green beans. Thursday is was "we're going out." Thursday was just a bad day. A real bad day. By then, she wanted her daddy and kept signing for him and pointing at the door. By then my patience was pretty much all used up and I wanted him too but there wasn't much I could do about it other than wait it out. I
When she woke up from her afternoon nap (after spending two grumpy hours refusing to sleep), we still had about an hour before it was time to pick up Craig but I knew we need to get out of the house. We were both too crabby and tired. So I threw her in the car (not literally, I wasn't that upset, maybe I should say I gently put her into her child safety seat and nicely adjust the buckles until she was snug and safe) and drove. I wasn't sure where we were going at first but we ended up at Panera. This was a good choice as it is relaxing and their salads have lots of good Lucy foods in the them (We had the chicken bbq which has black beans, corn and chicken - three of Lucy's favorite foods). Craig was able to be dropped off there and by then time he arrived, Lucy and Mommy were happy and calm but still very relieved to see him.
And then we had 12 hours to unpack, repack and head off to Chicago. But more on that later!
*Does anyone else get hotel hair. It doesn't matter if I use their shampoo or my own. I always seem to get hotel hair.
A south Bossier City homeowners association has sued to force a family to remove a front yard sign supporting their son's military service because it violated subdivision covenants.There are countless examples of HOAs taking exorbitant, unpatriotic, nonsensical stands on trivial issues. A lot of these stories are linked on Drudge when they occur, but I have wondered if there one good compendium that chronicles all that is soulless and evil about HOAs. I found this, but it's not quite what I'm looking for. Here is a good example of the type of site I'm thinking of, in this case chronicling the woes of our legal system, including frivolous lawsuits. If you've seen such a site cor HOAs, let me know.
Maybe I should start a feature on this website in which I keep track of HOAs. A Google search on homeowner's associations returns a lot of links to the blogs of individual HOAs. One could probably mine them for some golden nuggets. I could also review this post on "The Impact of Homeowners Associations on Purchasing Decisions." I might just do that. I even created a new label for this post, so I'm well on my way.
Blueberries (Nakedness required for babies, highly discouraged for adults)
Best Ever Lemonade (she's not lying, it really is)
Maxing out the children's summer reading program - and being allowed to pick out her very own prize (her selection? Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.)
Dancing in the living room with our play silks and bouncy balls (currently selections include the Momma Mia Soundtrack and Classics for Kids)
The little corner of the garage foundation that not only fits Lucy perfectly as a little seat but also happens to be shaded during the afternoons when I normally collect the laundry from the line. She found it and goes over and sits there while she waits for me to finish.
Too hot to even sit in the baby pool days
Mysterious rash/welts all over - but they were gone in 48 hrs.
Dad taking trips without us :-(
But as you can see, the good is currently winning. And we've got a bit of a family vacation coming up so more good times coming soon!
The problems with this system were that it was unattractive, it didn't contain the pile well enough, and the pile merged with the ground to become a muddy mess. Compost guidelines state that a pile should be at least 3 feet deep and 3 feet in diameter to create a critical mass of material to for the bacteria to efficiently decompose, but in the pallets the pile was too wide and too short. In addition, it rained a lot last fall and this spring, and water ran down the hill into the pile and kept it saturated. When turning the pile, it was hard to tell where the pile ended and the ground began.
So I found a different method. In a publication from the Brazos Valley Compost Corps, I found the design for a cylindrical pile that used hardware cloth, which is like finer chicken wire, or sturdier window screen. I used about 10 feet of 3-foot wide, 1/2-inch spaced hardware cloth, rolled into a cylinder and secured with zip ties. To get past the problem of a pile saturated from below with water, I laid 9 12" square concrete patio blocks on the ground, and placed my hardware cloth frame on top of it. I bought two T-posts to support the frame, and made spaces between stones to pound the posts into the ground. I zip-tied the posts to the frame. My setup was ready to use, so I put the compost from my old pile into the new pile. Here's a photo:
It is a little more difficult to turn the compost with this system, because the wire is in the way, but that is the only drawback, and it is minor. From what I can tell, compost items break down much faster than they did under the pallet system. There are hardly any undigested items below the top layer of material.
Near the end of the life of my old pile, some plant started growing out of it. I decided to follow my yard motto, which is "If you don't know, let it grow." At first I thought it was a bean plant, but then it came to resemble squash, both items that I have placed in the pile. But now I think it is watermelon. Or cantaloupe. Either way, I may just make this spot my new melon patch.
Mochi is a rice cake, but not the normal bland puffy type that springs to mind when you hear "rice cake". Sticky rice is cooked and then pounded down and made into a block. You buy it as a block, which when packaged looks like won-ton wrappers. But instead of being thin pieces stacked, its just one thick stack. To make it, you cut it into 1-2 in squares and bake for a few minutes. It puffs up and gets all gooey and delicious. We got the cinnamon raisin flavor. The ingredients are organic sweet brown rice, filtered water, raisins, cinnamon and sea salt. All real food! I served it for breakfast with jam inside but next time I'll make some yogurt cheese. Delicious!
It's a little bit more expensive than most of our other breakfasts. One block costs $3.75 from our coop or a little bit more than that from Whole Foods, but it really isn't too bad for a special breakfast. It lasted the three of us (yes, Lucy ate her fair share!) two breakfasts but would have lasted three meals except I didn't believe the package serving size. But believe them, this stuff is very filling. One or two small squares, along with a piece or two of fruit, was a big enough breakfast for even Craig.
2) Chia seeds
I can't believe I'm just now discovering Chia seeds can do more than grow hair on a dog.
Unlike flax, Chia are pretty easy to digest and don't need to be ground up first so it is easy to throw them into a smoothie, sprinkle it on a salad or yogurt or even add it to a granola bar recipe.They don't have any flavor to speak of so its easy to sneak them in here and there without husbands noticing.
But my friend told me about how Chia seeds also have a cool property - when expose to liquid, they become gelatinous. I'll be honest, I happen to think the texture is cool, like tapioca (but without the pain of having to heat them up) but Craig isn't a fan. He is picky about textures, he doesn't like bubble tea either - weirdo :-)
I made a Chia pudding with 1 cup of milk, a little bit of cinammon and vanilla and a couple tablespoons of Chia. Just mix and sit for a couple hours to overnight and it will thicken up. If it isn't thick enough, add a bit more of the Chia seeds and let it sit longer. You really can't mess it up. I served it with blueberries and mango. I meant to add honey too and forgot but even so, Lucy and I ate a whole big bowl just the two of us.
As I was making the pudding, I got thinking how cool it would be to make a lemonade pudding or a lemonade slushy type drink. But then I looked around and found out my idea wasn't so new. Chia fresca is a popular drink in Mexico that has been stolen by hippy runners and is now considered one of the best raw energy drinks around. Since homemade lemonade is one of my favorite summertime treats and I'm always in need of energy, I'm going to be giving that a try.
3) Lacto-fermented Salsa
It is well documented on this blog that my previous attemps over the past few years have not been entirely productive - until now!
I made a batch of Lacto-fermented Salsa using this recipe and it turned out great. The tomatoes I started with were not the best in terms of flavor but I used what I had and it was still tasty and just a tad bubbly, I can't wait to try again with out homegrown tomatoes. And it gave me the confidence I needed to try lacto-fermented pickles again. I've got a jar brewing as we speak!
So what have you been eating lately?
I’ve been meaning to do an update on potty training for a while now. The last 6 weeks has had its ups and downs. The very same day she “become a toddler” in her attitude, we started having trouble. She still loved to sit on the potty most of the time, but she wouldn’t go. And then as soon as she stood up, she would go on the floor. Or I knew she would have to go but they she wouldn’t want to sit on the potty. So I wouldn’t make her but then would change her 5 minutes later.
I really didn’t want potty training to become a battle (and still don’t!) so I was thinking about dropping the whole thing for a while but after talking to a few ec moms and reading some online, I realized that it was tied to her new found independence. No, she wasn’t doing it just to spite me, but she wanted to do more herself and wasn’t able. Just like she wanted to do more in every other area of her life but was frustrated with her inabilities.
So instead of stopping, we stepped it up a notch. I gave her lots of naked time in the mornings (when she normally goes a lot, maybe every 20-30 minutes or so). When it wasn’t so hot out we spent a lot of time outdoors but we did some inside too. It got a little messy but I used a baby gate to keep her in the kitchen with its easy to clean floors and wiping up an “accident” off linoleum is actually less work than fighting her through a diaper change. At first, when I saw her go, I would just inform her and then have her help me clean up (well, watch as I did). Now, I pick her up and move her to the potty saying something like “Oh dear, pee goes in the potty.”
I also started involving her more in the whole potty process. I got her some trainers and she gets to pick whether she wants to wear diapers or “undies” sometimes. It cracks me up because it takes her a few minutes and if you look at her face, is really does appear like she is studying her options and thinking hard but she always picks undies. She doesn’t always get to pick, if we are going out, or if I know I’m going to be distracted I’ll put her in a diaper. And to keep my sanity, after three wet trainers, I stop giving her the option and she wears diapers the rest of the day. Or somedays I’m just not in the mood so its diapers all the way. I probably should be more consistent, but well, I’m not! She doesn’t seem to expect the option but she likes it when it is given.
I’m making our bathroom more Lucy friendly (with help from some Montessori resources) and part of that involved building a stool. So know she loves to climb up and wash her hands. And she likes to wave bye-bye and watch me flush it away.
The result? Progress! Not necessarily in number of successes but in awareness and communication. She is definitely taking more initiative. The last week she has learned how to pull up her undies mostly by herself (she needs a bit of help at the end) and she now signs potty. I’ve realized that she doesn’t like to be rushed and will let me know if she is done or if she wants to keep sitting. Sometimes we end up sitting for quite a while but I’ve learned to be okay with that.
One time during my last trip to my parents, she went three times in a row and was in the same diaper from (I stick with diapers all the time when I’m there) 11 to 4. At four, she successfully went #1 (for the third time in a row!) but then just sat there. I tried to pick her up but she pushed my hands back but I knew she had gone so picked her up anyway and put her back in a diaper. We didn’t even make it down the stairs before she had filled it up. But I had no one but myself to blame and she gave me this, “Well, I tried to tell you” look. Bad mommy!
Also, the week earlier, we were running around with Craig’s parents. She had gone on the potty right before we left but it had been a couple hours so I took her to the Target bathroom to change her diaper. It was still dry but I didn’t have a potty with me so I put it back on her. She didn’t seem to like that but I told her it was okay because there was no potty. 20 minutes later we were home and she was soaking.
Of course, we have our fair share of “bad” days too. Times when she ends up peeing on the floor then seems surprised to find a puddle there. Times when we’ve used three trainers by 10am. Times when she is standing in the living room, signs potty but I mistake it for bug and starting asking her where the bug is, then watch as she pees on the carpet (to be fair to myself, that was the first time she had signed potty and it does look remarkable similar to her sign for bug)
At this point, I’m not sure how I feel about “stage 2.” Stage 1, which I guess is what I am calling my last post method ( I just made up the stages right now so go with me :-) was pretty much no risk, all reward. I just don’t see a reason not to let a baby/young toddler try the potty at diaper changes. This stage has a bit of risk to it. Things get wet, so far not too much has gotten pooped on but I’m sure it is just a matter of time. But she seems to be doing well an is back to enjoying the process so we are sticking with it. I’ll let you know if that changes.
The first one, whose name I forgot, was really bad. It started out okay but did not end well and I wished my hours back so I turned to something more reliable, or really someone. Rhys Bowen*. She writes several mystery series and I'm currently in the middle of two so instead of reviewing random books in the series, I'd thought I'd review the series.
Molly Murphy Series:
I've read two of these so far, but alas not the first two**. They tell the story of Molly Murphy, an Irish immigrant living in New York City in the early 1900s. She ends up making her way through the city as a detective of sorts. I like Molly's character, she is spunky but believable. These books remind me of the gaslight series and from what I've read, the series only gets better as it progresses so I'll definitely be sticking with it.
The Royal Spyness Series:
The first one of these was okay, I mean it was good enough that I picked up the second, but nothing amazing But then I fell in love with them and read the next two within 72 hours. The heroine of this series is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenia (aka Georgie) who is a royal cousin of King George V. But alas, it is 1932 and royalty or not, she's broke. Georgie is naive and way out of her element trying to make it on her own but she is also kind, generous and willing to work hard.
This series is more humorous and lighthearted than the Molly Murphy Series. It's the type of mystery book that I can read while Craig is out of town without becoming hypersensitive to every creak and moan in the house. One of the story-lines did perpetuate some negative adoption sterotypes which bothered me, but overall I found the mysteries to be imaginative and delightful. I love how she brings in other members of the royal family (Georgie is fiction but many of the side characters are real). The only other fault I have with the series is that there are only 4 books so far and I've read three of them.
* Also, I just found her blog. I love when authors have blogs, its so much fun! Rhys has also endeared herself to my heart by putting together a easy to print list of her books in order. I passionately hate it when I go to get the next in a series and can't figure out which one that would be. Why are so many series not numbered, all it takes is one little digit on the cover somewhere or a list on the inside, how hard is that?
** Why do libaries torture us and only get part of a series? Our library has a random assortment of these but not the second and third? If you are going to get four of the nine books in a series, get the first four!
Okay, I better end this post before I pop a blood vessel. It is just very important to me to read things in the correct order. Anyway, Happy Reading!
It's pouring out and I forgot about my clothes on the line until about 15 minutes after the rain started.
Lucy and I both have colds so we are sitting next to a big pile of used kleenex.
I'm missing two items for our meal tonight so dinner will be late.
My mom has her MRI today and her follow up with the doctor tomorrow and I'm not sure I want to hear what they have to say.
Craig is one the way home...with those missing groceries.
My friend just welcomed her new little one into the world and I am reminded again how every new life is a miracle.
Lucy, snotty though she may be, is snuggled on my lap, trying to nurse but struggling because she keeps laughing at the silly faces I'm making.
My mom is still here with us today. Tomorrow I can call her and tell her all about Lucy's new obsessions and skills.
The rain seems to be washing away the thoughts Satan tries to send my way so now I can remember, I am blessed.
First off, I want to congratulate my dad on his successful military career! This past week has been the first time in my entire life that my dad has been a “Mr.” and not a captain/major/colonel. It’s weird for me to think about so I’m sure it is really odd for my mom and dad since they have spent the last 30+ years in the Army. But they leave knowing that they can be proud of their service to our country. Not only that, but as I was sitting around at the my dad’s party watching all these family friends that have been a part of our lives for many many years, I realized that the military is like a small town – just spread all over the world. Those relationships carry on. And when you are career military like my family, I don’t think you really ever leave. I still say I “am” a military brat, not that I “was” a military brat. Growing up in the military shaped who I am and its a part of who I am now.
Anyway, back to the week’s festivities. We got to my parents on Tuesday along with a bunch of my extended family and old family friends. Over the next couple days, tons of people were in and out. I think one night 19 people were sleeping in our house. It was crazy but fun and Lucy did remarkably well considering.
My dad had his official retirement ceremony Thursday morning. Lucy ended up sleeping through the whole thing, which was a good thing - a sleeping baby is a quiet baby. She even slept through the receiving line which was not quite as good for me. It is really hard to hold 20 lbs of dead weight and shake peoples hands at the same time, especially while wearing heels.
Since Lucy was sleeping in my arms, I didn’t take a single picture during the ceremony. Not of the general giving my dad his medal and awards, my dad giving his speech, us all tearing up over several parts of my dad’s speech, or even my mom getting her awards. But I did get these cute ones of my dad and Lucy after the ceremony.
That is one of the few pictures I took all week, even of the awesome two-family retirement party that went on Thursday night. I can’t believe it since it was the first time I’ve seen many of those people in a long time and I’m not sure when I’ll see them again – but I was too busy chasing Lucy around or collapsing on the couch once I got her to bed. It is not easy to put a toddler to sleep when 100+ people are roaming around the house and yard.
Most of the family, except Uncle Jack and Gael, were was gone by Friday night when Craig was able to join us, save me from post-party fatigue – and take pictures like these :-)
The weekend was a bit calmer but my parents did go to a dinner theatre show with Jack and Gael. Lucy isn’t quite ready for that amount of sitting still and being quiet so instead Craig, Lucy and I headed to nearby Atchinson, Kansas to see the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.
To be honest, Lucy was not real impressed by the museum inside but she really loved the dog statues out front!
Monday we headed home. And since we were on the road, we didn’t really celebrate the 4th of July at all. We ate dinner at an almost completely deserted Panera Bread and the only fireworks we saw were a couple really tall ones we could see out our living room window. I guess there is only so much fun one family can take and we were already maxed out.