Saturday, October 31, 2009

Is Halloween evil?

I was listening to our biggest local talk radio station yesterday morning. One of the hosts is very conservative, politically and religiously, and he said something negative about Halloween.

"I bet," one of the other hosts said, "you think Halloween is of the devil."

"Well, not only is it of the devil," the conservative host replied, "but you're also teaching kids to ask strangers to give them something for nothing. It's perfect training for future Democrats."

His "logic" got a laugh, and later he was teased about saying Halloween is "a conspiracy between the devil and Democrats."

I groaned at the radio host's views, but it did get me to thinking--

Is Halloween evil?

I grew up in a very conservative Christian family--my dad is a Baptist pastor. We had great fun with Halloween, and my other Christian friends celebrated the holiday too. Then when I was seven years old or so, my parents were given some information about Halloween's past and current pagan/occult/Satanic influences.

So, in the mid-1980s, when most Christians still had no problems with Halloween, we stopped celebrating. We still handed out candy, but didn't dress up or Trick-or-Treat. "Fall Festivals" and "Harvest Festivals" weren't popular yet, so we didn't go to any "Halloween alternative" celebrations. My mom did buy us candy--she didn't want us to feel too deprived! And I'll admit, candy has always gone a long way toward making me happy.

I wholeheartedly shared my parents' convictions about not celebrating a "Satanic holy day" but also missed the fun parts of Halloween. When we transferred out of a Christian school and into a public school, I was embarrassed that I couldn't participate in singing Halloween songs or coloring Halloween pictures. I felt it was worth it...but it was hard.

Now a great many American Evangelical Christians do not celebrate Halloween because of the scary and/or evil influences. This is a pretty popular view, and many kids from anti-Halloween families are now in good company, at least in certain parts of the country.

I'm still a Christian, I'm okay with Halloween. (Interestingly, my parents don't think it's a terrible holiday anymore either.) I've read opinions on both side of this in-house Christian debate. I tend to agree with those who make these points:
  • A few people who use a day for evil don't have to turn the day evil for everyone else.
  • Various holidays have pagan histories (including a certain now-Christian holiday at the end of December); the history of the day matters less than what we do with it now.
  • Even the "scary" parts of Halloween can be an opportunity for kids to confront fears, and to laugh at them. In our house we describe the bats, ghosts, and mummies as "silly scary."
  • October 31 and November 1 have been celebrated as Christian holidays in the past. In the future we may research this more and incorporate "All Saint's Day" into our family celebration.
This year our church is having a Fall Festival. We'll dress up our kids and go...and then we'll probably trick-or-treat in our neighborhood afterward. I think the Fall Festival is a great way to reach out to our community, and to give non-celebrating families a non-scary, fun place to spend the evening. But I also think trick-or-treating is fun, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to spend just a bit of time with our neighbors.

We have friends who do not celebrate Halloween. And you know what? That's okay. I believe one of the responsibilities we have as parents is to pass along the values and beliefs that are important to us. So whether they do or don't participate in _________ (fill in the blank with Halloween, Christmas, Passover, Valentine's Day, etc.), I support the parents around me. It's not my goal to convince others to come to the "pro-Halloween" side.

But if any of my Republican friends start arguing that Halloween is a Democratic holiday, I just might have to give them a talkin'-to.

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's ghoulish blog by clicking the button below.

My words...

Juice plus fabric equals moldy costume.

When I pulled out our bag of Halloween costumes this morning, I discovered that one of the kids had left an upside-down sippy cup of juice in there. It had spilled on Zoodle's costume, and proceeded to mold. So...we are doing a last-minute costume change. Hopefully the rest of the day will be full of treats, NOT tricks!

Friday, October 30, 2009

I caught a freezer!

Remember that old prank call?

"Hi, is your refrigerator running?"

"Uh, yes...."

"Then you'd better go catch it!" Preteen hangs up as quickly as possible, but not before the person answering the phone hears peals of laughter from at least six other kids listening in on the call. Ah, the days before Caller ID....

Well, I haven't "caught" the exact fridge I'd like, but this week I did "catch" something I've wanted for awhile--a standalone freezer for my garage.

Before the baby shower last week, here is what the freezer in my side-by-side fridge
looked like:

side-by-side fridge freezer

I have a great example of how this packed freezer has been insufficient: Some time ago I bought some cheap ice pop molds--you know, to make your own Popsicle-type treats. I used 100% juice in them, for a healthy snack for the kids (and sometimes for me.) Well, somehow after using them a couple of times, I could not find them. Until I began to find pieces of clear and colored my ice. There hadn't been room for the ice pops anywhere but in the icemaker tray, and so I'd stuck them there "temporarily." I forgot about them, and they were covered with new ice and eventually were chopped up through the gears of the dispenser. Oops.

So... here is my new appliance:

garage upright freezer exterior

garage upright freezer interior

It has an LED number on the outside with the current temp. It will sound an alarm if the temperature goes too high, or the door is left open. There is a "soft freeze" section in case I want something like ice cream to be at a slightly higher temp. It's 20.6 cubic feet of zero-degree goodness. My kitchen appliance-loving heart is doing flips of joy!

No longer do I have to look at a 400-pound bag of vegetables at Costco and think, "Hmm, will it fit?" I won't ever have to wonder what I'll have to kick out of the freezer to make room for a lasagna. And never again will I find bits of plastic in my ice.

I caught a new freezer!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just because I'm skinny...

...doesn't mean I'm in shape.

This became painfully obvious yesterday when I started running.

Now, "running" is kind of an overstatement. I started the Couch-to-5K program, a very popular online, nine-week plan that is meant to help even couch potatoes train to run three miles (which just happens to be the approximate total distance I have run in my entire life.) In Week One, a 25-minute training session only involves eight minutes of running, in one-minute increments. The other 17 minutes are all walking.

Piece of cake, I thought. Until recently, I was exercising semi-regularly, so I figured my body would remember that (even though I've hardly exercised in the last couple of months.) So yesterday morning I got ready to go. I got the kids dressed, including coats, put them in the double jogging stroller, and put the dog on a leash, tied to a belt on my waist. This process of getting myself, two kids, and a dog ready to go only takes approximately four hours (or at least it feels like it.) Finally, we were ready.

I started with a five-minute, brisk warm up walk, then went into the main portion: 20 minutes of alternating running (60 seconds) with walking (90 seconds.)

By the time the second segment of running came around, I realized my lungs and legs were protesting. By the time I finished the workout, I was sore and had been breathing heavily for some time.

"Please," I told The Engineer (who is also a triathlete), "tell me some of this difficulty is caused by me pushing a jogging stroller and having a dog tied to my waist." He's run with the kids before (not the dog), and he agreed it's definitely harder.

So I'm skinny and out of shape, but I don't think I'll have a good feel of how out of shape I really am until I run without pushing a stroller and being tugged on by a dog. I'm hoping the next run will be solo, and we'll see how it goes.

Incidentally, I'm not going to make any promises about finishing this program. (I know, how terribly un-goal-oriented of me.) I do hope to finish it, but high-impact exercise tends to make my knees sound like Rice Krispies, so if they protest too much I may just have to get really good at brisk walking. I'm hoping the gradual nature of this training will build up my muscles enough to support my weak knees--we'll see.

Anyone want to join me...?

I've started a new blog to track my progress. It will contain short posts, many of them purely informational and nauseatingly boring. Boy, I'm doing a good job selling it, aren't I? Here's the link: C. Beth Run.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Seven Days Seven Answers (and plenty of limericks)

For months I've been a fan of the blog Show My Face, by Call Me Cate. Well, Cate has a fun new blog called Seven Days Seven Answers. Each day she gives a cue, and readers are invited to respond to it in their comments. Winners will be announced each day (after a week has passed to allow people to respond.)

I've been writing limericks as my responses. Eventually I'll get tired of that (maybe weeks after Cate does...!) but for now it's fun. Today's cue is about Halloween costumes. Here is my response:

Oh, honey, I just can't believe
You came to my party as Eve.
This causes me grief,
But please put on a leaf--
Or, sweetie, you'll just have to leave.

So, check out the blog, respond, and have fun!

Baby shower games (wanna play along?)

Note: Yes, this blog has been VERY baby shower-centric lately. Tomorrow we will be back to our regularly unscheduled programming.

Some people hate baby or bridal shower games. Others (like me) are a little disappointed if there aren't any games at a shower. So for last weekend's shower I tried to plan games that were fun, quick, and minimally-annoying. They turned out pretty well. These are the two we played.

Baby Name Word Game:
*I don't know who to give credit to, but I think I'd heard of this game from someone before....

I typed the baby's full name (first/middle/last) at the top of the page, and filled the page with blank lines. Guests were instructed to use the letters of the baby's name to make as many words as possible (3 letters or more, no proper nouns.)

After three minutes, they counted their points. (3 or 4 letter word: 1 point. 5 letter word: 2 points. 6 letter word: 3 points. Etc.) The winner had 49 points--wow! Even the grade school-aged girls got into it--one young girl was very proud to have come up with two words!

The Price is Wrong:
I looked at baby gifts on the Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue websites. I found five examples of ridiculously-priced gifts, and at the shower I distributed this handout:

baby shower game

I then gave descriptions of each gift, and asked the guests to guess how much they thought each one cost. (Go ahead, play along! See if you can beat the top scorer from the shower!)

Here were the gifts:
From Neiman Marcus:
1. Pink Lamb Footie by Burberry (footed pajamas with a picture of a lamb on the front and the Burberry checks on the soles of the feet)
2. Burberry checked bib (cotton bib with the Burberry tartan print on it)
3. Heart-shaped bar of baby soap, Noodle & Boo brand, 100% vegetable oil, 9 oz.
From Saks:
4. Armani Baby pacifier with plastic case
5. Silver ringed heart rattle, Cunill brand. 0.9 ounce, 2 inches in diameter. Description on website: “An adorable rattle is designed in super-shiny sterling silver that’s guaranteed to intrigue little ones!”

Okay, have you written down your guesses? I'll give you the real prices, but first, here's how to score it: Determine the difference between your guesstimate and the real price for each item. Add the difference for all five items. Do NOT take positive or negative difference into account. ($20 over is 20 points; $30 under is 30 points.) Whoever has the lowest score, wins.

Ready for the real prices?
1. Footie: $100
2. Bib: $55
3. Soap: $15
4. Pacifier: $50
5. Rattle: $181

How did you do? The winner at the shower had a low score of 119 points--not bad!

By the way, this game of course wouldn't be suitable for all baby showers. If you're planning a high-end shower, and the mom is registered at Neimans and Saks, this might not be appropriate. But I hope never to plan one of those showers, because doubt homemade pita sandwiches would be chic enough!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hummus recipe

Sunday's baby shower had a fun menu--and one that is very doable, whether you cook a lot or not. I'll share more, and maybe you'll be inspired. (By the way, I'd love to share photos, but I forgot to bring my camera! You'll have to imagine what the food looked like.)

The main dish was pita sandwiches, with homemade pita bread (thanks, once again, to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.) Pita pockets are somewhat time-consuming when you're making a lot of them. I think the time spent is worth it, but of course you can very easily just purchase them!

Most of the pita sandwich fillers were vegan, since Ann (the mama) is vegan. But there were a few non-vegan options too.

Pita veggie sandwich fillers:
Hummus (See below for recipe)
Mayonnaise (non-vegan)
Alfalfa sprouts
Cucumber (sliced)
Marinated sweet peppers (chopped, from an "olive bar" at local grocery store)
Green olives (sliced)
Kalamata (brown) olives (sliced)
Tomatoes (chopped)
Red onions (chopped)
Feta cheese crumbles (non-vegan)

For those who didn't want a sandwich chock full of veggies, I made chicken salad. This chicken salad recipe is easy and fantastic: Holiday Chicken Salad. I pretty much follow the recipe exactly, so I take zero credit for it and feel comfortable telling you one of the ladies at the shower told me it was the best chicken salad she'd ever had. I will note that I chop the green onions and green peppers small so the flavor isn't overwhelming. (I'm not generally a fan of either of those ingredients, but I love what they add to this recipe.)

To drink, we had Sparkling Punch, a delicious, non-alcoholic, vegan punch. (Lots of punch recipes contain ice cream or sherbet, and aren't vegan.)

Other ladies provided green salad and fruit with fruit dip. Whole Foods Market's bakery made a chocolate cake with raspberry filling--vegan, gorgeous, and delicious.


I like making my own hummus. It's delicious, super easy, and inexpensive--makes you wonder why storebought hummus costs so much! Here is the recipe:

2 cloves minced garlic (or 1 tsp. jarred minced garlic--this is what I use)
1-19 oz. can garbanzo beans--drained, with half the liquid reserved
2 Tbsp lemon juice (bottled is fine)
2 Tbsp tahini*
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper
olive oil

Throw everything except the pepper and olive oil into a blender or food processor and blend well. Blend in as much of the liquid from the beans as it takes to get the consistency you desire. Transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with pepper, and drizzle with olive oil (both to taste.) Enjoy as a dip, spread, or even by the spoonful! Both of my kids have gone through periods of liking hummus, and neither of them cares for it now--but it's always worth a try; it's a good way to eat healthy protein and healthy fat.

*Tahini is sort of like peanut butter, but it's made with sesame seeds. I found it at a local gourmet supermarket that has lots of natural foods. If you can't find it locally, there's always Amazon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Micro: File this one away...

I really enjoyed planning yesterday's baby shower, and it went great. The food was a hit--more on that later in the week. I got lots of nice compliments, and you know what? It felt good.

One of the nicest things that I heard was from a grade school-aged girl. In a voice of wonder, she said to one of the adults, "Ms. Beth can do a lot of things!"

I'm tucking that one away in the "Today I need to feel good about myself" file, to be brought out whenever necessary!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Six Word Saturday?

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's cool blog by clicking the button below.

My words...

Too busy for six words!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oh, baby!

This Sunday I'm hosting a baby shower for my friend Ann and little Baby S. So I have a to-do list (that is currently in my head and needs to be transferred to paper) involving meal planning, shopping, game planning, and other prep.

It's coming along nicely--I really enjoy planning baby showers! Even better, Ann wants to have the shower at her house, and I'm not rushing to get my house in pristine condition. (And since Ann has a new baby, no one will expect her house to look perfect!)

Yesterday I put together most of the guest favors--just simple little votive candles with a side of chocolate.

Baby shower favors

Our menu will be mostly plant-based, since Ann is vegan. I've ordered a delicious-sounding vegan cake (chocolate with raspberry filling) from Whole Foods Market, and I'm excited to try it!

So wish me luck as I get the shower planned...and give me grace if my posts are a little shorter, later, and/or less frequent than usual, for the next few busy days!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"These boots were made for walkin'..."

This is a wonderful time of year. The weather starts to cool, and I rediscover my boots.


I got them in 2001, when The Engineer and I took a trip to San Antonio, TX to celebrate our first anniversary. I'd never before owned cowboy boots (except maybe when I was a kid), so I felt it was a big step to take.

In fact, I didn't even wear them much for the first year or two--I guess I just wasn't in touch with my inner cowgirl, and I didn't have the sass to pull off boots. But once I did start wearing them, and got them broken in, I discovered I loved them.

There's something about a good pair of cowboy boots. That soft, supple leather cradles your feet, and the supportive soles are great for walking on the range or, in my case, in the grocery store. Your heels are supposed to move up and down in the boot a bit as you walk. That means every year I have to develop little heel callouses, but once that break-in phase is over, I love the feel of shoes that aren't too constrictive. They feel natural and great.

And the cool thing about cowboy boots is that there are so many different styles. If you aren't really the type to listen to George Strait and go to rodeos on the weekend, you don't have to buy boots with pointy toes and with intricate, multicolored designs stitched into the leather. My boots are Justin Ropers--they are pretty plain, with low heels and rounded toes. When I visited my sister and she saw them poking out under my jeans, she said, "Those almost look like cowboy boots." I lifted my jeans and said, "They are!" They're simple enough that when I'm wearing them I don't feel that my outfit's incomplete without a cowboy hat and a pair of Wranglers (neither of which I own.)

Since I started wearing my boots, there have been winters in which they've sat, forgotten, on my closet floor. But in years such as this one, when I remember how much I love to wear these boots, my feet--and my inner cowgirl--rejoice. Yee haw!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Micro: Portraits, then and now

Ah, how she's changed...

Chickie, August 2008: Click here. (From this post.)

Chickie, October 2009: Click here.

Gee, she hardly even looks like the same person!

On a related note, I won't be attempting to become a professional Etch-a-Sketch artist any time soon....

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I know, I know, you're not supposed to use "baby talk" with kids because it doesn't teach them the correct way to say things. But, darn it, I don't think it's possible to stop calling teeth "toofies" with my kids. If their verbal development is scarred by it, I take full responsibility.

My kids are sloooooow teethers. The average time for a baby to cut that first tooth is about 6 or 7 months. Chickie's first broke through at 11 months old. I said to myself, "Oh, surely Zoodle's won't be that late!" He set out to prove me wrong.

A couple of weeks after his first birthday, Zoodle's first tooth (one of the bottom middle ones) finally started to pop out. (I was so relieved to realize he wouldn't be gumming his hamburgers and fries in high school.) A few weeks later, tooth number two made its appearance.

He was a two-toothed wonder until the first top middle tooth showed up at around 17 months. And then apparently he decided he'd better make up for lost time.

He hit 18 months a couple of weeks ago, and that week the second top middle tooth finally popped out of the gums. But it wasn't until a week later that I realized his exceptionally fussy mood the previous week had been due to cutting not one tooth, but two. I hadn't noticed the second because it was a molar. Now, molars don't usually come out until quite a bit further along in the teething process, so of course I'm taking this as a sign that Zoodle is exceptional and creative. Soon afterward, the other top molar started making its appearance.

And while I think his bottom gums may remain two-toothed for awhile, on the top I can see every other little tooth (with the exception of the two-year molars) pushing against his gums, just waiting to pop out. We may have a rough few months ahead of us.

So if I come on here one day and my post says nothing but "AAAAAAARGH!" just chalk it up to little Zoodle, making it clear to me that these "toofies" are bringing pain and drama to his life--and mine.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's blog (BOOYAH!) by clicking the button below.

My six words...

Four front teeth and...two molars?!

Friday, October 16, 2009

He's in labor! (Or at least it feels like it)

"Women have a higher pain tolerance than men; that's what allows them to go through labor and childbirth!"

You've probably heard that. Many researchers, though, say that it's not true. But it's a difficult subject to study. (How does one accurately quantify pain level or tolerance?)

Well, an Australian TV show, What's Good For You, set out to find out if a man was strong enough to handle unmedicated labor. Of course, with that goal in mind, there is one tiny little obstacle--how do you get a man pregnant? Instead of recreating Junior, they used electrical stimulation to contract Andrew Rochford's abdominal muscles, simulating labor contractions. The results were fascinating. Watch for yourself.

I'm going to give a spoiler here, so if you haven't watched it yet, you've been fairly warned.

After about 3 1/2 hours of "labor," Mr. Rochford was done. The pain was just too much, and of course he wasn't about to get an epidural for simulated labor, though I think he'd reached the point where, if he'd really been in labor, he might have been begging for an anesthesiologist!

So does this prove that women have a higher pain tolerance than men? I have my own opinions, but I'd like to hear yours first. Please weigh in, using the Comments below. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

By the way, my labor with Chickie was induced in a hospital, and I had an epidural. I had a natural childbirth (in a birthing tub) at a birthing center with Zoodle. If you'd like to read about my unmedicated childbirth experience, check out this post.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A good, healthy(?) debate

Every day Amazon has a special Gold Box deal--a bargain good all day or until it sells out. Yesterday the deal was for YummyEarth Organic Lollipops.


But then I saw that the "Comment" thread (available for all Gold Box deals) was, as of mid-afternoon, well over 100 comments. Most products draw under 30 comments, so my curiosity was, naturally, roused.

Well, it turns out lollipops bring out the crazy in people. Here are examples of just some of the debates that raged yesterday. (I'll use initials in place of names.)

Debate 1: Allergies

JPS: Allergen free...that's what I look for in my Halloween candy.

Give me a break! If some little doofus is going to choke on certain treats then he/she may as well celebrate the sheltered Halloween as provided by his or her mother. It isn't on me to provide your squaling brat with some "San Fransisco" style goodies just because you gave birth to a freak!

OA: Golly, J, what a grouch you are. These lollies look like a great bargain for folks who prefer not to feed their kids the toxic brew that's in too many Halloween treats nowadays. These days I would certainly not advise letting kids eat anything given to them by strangers though. Better to have a Halloween party with friends at home.

JPS: I'm a razor blade filled apples kind of guy myself, thank you very much.

You can have my "No" vote too, as you pass out your soy-based, organic, post-consumer content candy bars.

For crying out loud, what's so wrong with Snickers? Can't kids have normal candy anymore? Why push the freak -pops?

PM9: I have a child with severe, life threatening food allergies and I take HUGE offense to your insensitive, cruel, uneducated comments, JPS! SHAME ON YOU for insulting CHILDREN on amazon or anywhere else!!! What is wrong with you that you feel the need to bully kids on the internet? FYI, my child doesn't have a "sheltered" Halloween, he had a SAFE Halloween, and he DOES trick or treat like everyone else!


Debate 2: Red40 & Snopes

NE: I bought a whole bunch for the kids, I do not like to give them the bad stuff, like RED40 which is basically colour of fleas.. from the cactusses. (In case you wander where the red colour comes from) That's why red m&m's are not kosher.

MS: WHAT?!? Come on don't go spreading misconception about things you have no knowledge of. People please make sure to read up on info and don't blindly take some off the wall crazy post from here as the truth.
Just to clarify, New Era was talking about Cochineal. See snopes here:

SD: Snopes?

Why do people cite Snopes as if it were a legitimate source of information?

It's a website run by a married couple in California. That's it. No research team, no independent verification of information. Just some guy in his underwear, typing away while his wife does Pilates in the other room.

MDM: That's absurd. Plus, it's definitely not true, that rumor was debunked by Snopes.

Debate #3: Mexico

F: This crap is made in Mexico.

Never ever EVER buy candy unless it's made in the U.S.A., whether it claims to be organic or not. Lead is also "organic" and is found to be in most candy made outside of the United States, plus even friends of mine from Mexico laugh and say they would never believe anything from Mexico is actually "organic".

And here's where it got cool. Another reader called the company, told one of the owners what was going on, and he came on to the message board to defend his product. He gave information about their manufacturing, and their voluntary lead testing. He continued to comment throughout the day. He provided his phone number, which at least one commenter used to call him. In the end, I was both entertained and impressed, and I bought a five pound package.

If Amazon gets tired of the distraction caused by these debates, maybe they should offer less controversial products, like automatic weapons or knock-off pharmaceutical drugs. Lollipops are just a little too over the top.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yes, it's a time-waster. And yes, it's totally fun.

Thanks to Anna for posting this on her blog, and therefore making me stay up late to try it!

(Sounds about right!)

(Pshaw, most people say he looks like Daddy.)

Am I done?

"Mommy milk" is what we call it here.

It is a miracle. Sure, it can be explained scientifically; we can talk of hormones and ducts and production.

But it sure seems miraculous that I've been able to nourish my children with a sweet, perfect substance made by my own body, and have bonded with them on a level beyond physical, chemical reactions.

I nursed Chickie almost two and a half years, including nine months of pregnancy, and three months of tandem nursing (breastfeeding both her and Zoodle.) Weaning Chickie was a remarkably smooth process.

I figured I might not breastfeed Zoodle quite so long, but I don't think I expected that, at 18 months, almost a year younger than Chickie's weaning age, he'd be losing interest. Lately, Zoodle seems to touch my shirt and ask, "Ma?" (Milk?) mostly out of habit. If I "expose the taps," so to speak, he often doesn't even take a sip; if I tell him no, he doesn't seem to mind. When he does nurse, it's usually for a few seconds or maybe a minute; he's only been really getting down to business and taking full feedings about once or twice a week.

I certainly didn't expect that I'd feel so ready to be done. When Chickie was 18 months, I couldn't imagine stopping, even when I found out I was pregnant with Zoodle. But, oh my goodness, I've been nursing for three years and nine months (today), and I'm just done with it.

At least I think I am.

This is really an emotional decision. Human milk is such an amazingly nourishing substance. The World Health Organization recommends at least two years of nursing, and while I think I want this phase of my life to be over, I also feel guilty. And a little sad, because it's been such a beautiful thing for my relationship with my kids.

But when it comes down to it, I'm just tired of being a nursing mom. I'm tired of being depended on in that way. I'm ready for my body to belong to two people--me and my husband--without that adorable third wheel asking, "Ma?"

I think the timing makes sense, since Zoodle doesn't seem too attached to nursing right now. He did fine when I was away for a weekend, and shortly before that, he didn't nurse for 48 hours even when I was nearby, just because he wasn't interested.

So, when I look at his loss of interest--and mine--I think it's time. I didn't nurse him at all yesterday. A very short session on Monday afternoon was probably our last.

I'm relieved. I'm sad.

And I'll always treasure this "Mommy milk" miracle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

She's shaving her head

Over the last several months I've gotten to know Kris, an awesomely sweet blogger. And she's doing something very generous and just a little bit crazy.

She's shaving her head to help kids with cancer.

See, there's this charity called St. Baldrick's (get it, Baldricks?) Foundation. According to their website, "St. Baldrick's is the world's largest volunteer-driven fundraising event for childhood cancer research. Thousands of volunteers shave their heads in solidarity of children with cancer, while requesting donations of support from friends and family." According to their 2008 Annual Report, over 77% of funds raised are used for grants that go to organizations researching cancer. That's a great use of funds; they keep their administrative and fund-raising costs nice and low.

So, as of March 20, 2010, Kris and her husband (and possibly other friends) will be shaving their heads. (Kris will even be giving her hair to Locks of Love, if she has enough to donate.) Kris is trying to raise $1000 before then. And I'm hoping some of us can help her.

To read Kris' blog post about this, click here. Or if you'd like to go ahead and donate, click the button below.

St. Baldrick's

Kris, may God bless you as you raise money for such a great cause! I'm looking forward to pictures of your beautiful, bald head in March!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Micro: Language explosion

"You aren't going to believe Zoodle when we come home," I told The Engineer during our first, long leg of travel several weeks ago. "He'll be having full conversations with you."

That wasn't quite true, but Zoodle has definitely reached a phase of language explosion. It's really fun as a mom to listen to all his new words. Some of my favorites:

"Hhamm" (Hammer, our dog)
"Kay!" (Okay)
"I" (Ice, which he likes to eat)

and best of all,

"Dada," which he finally said recently when he saw The Engineer's photo on my blog. "D" isn't one of his commonly-used sounds, so "dada" was a long time coming.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hello, Captain Obvious

It's been the same ever since Zoodle was tiny.

We're in the car, driving. He starts to get fussy. I call back to him, "It's okay, Zoodle!" He continues to fuss, and it's getting louder. I put on some music*, and...

...the fussing stops. Just like that.

It doesn't work 100% of the time, but if I can catch the fussiness early enough, music is a pretty reliable way to zap (or at least delay) his bad mood in the car.

So you'd think that it wouldn't have taken me 18 months to realize this little car trick might work at home too. See, I'm one of those people who doesn't listen to music much at home. In the car, I often enjoy music; at home, it strikes me as noise.

But Zoodle has been extra-fussy lately. (Could have something to do with the tooth that just came in, and the others that are near the surface. Or it could just be that his "Approaching Terrible Twos" switch has been turned on.) So, finally, it hit me.... I bet music would work.

I'm writing this on Saturday afternoon, and Zoodle has been whiny. But a few minutes ago, Sandra Boynton and company joined us, and the strains of her album Dog Train are playing from my computer. And Zoodle's not fussing. In fact, he's bopping his head to the beat, and occasionally clapping.

No, I don't love listening to music at home, but it sure beats crying.


Music. Zoodle likes it. And not just in the car. I don't know why it took me this long to figure it out, but I'm sure glad Captain Obvious (or is it Maestro Obvious?) paid me a visit!

*Check out this post, and this one, for info on some kid-friendly music that doesn't drive me batty. I even...gasp...enjoy it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's fun blog by clicking the button below.

My six words...

Trying to tame my control freakishness.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bring out the masks!

I'm normally a mom who doesn't worry much about germs. I figure when my kids get sick, they're building up immunity for later.

But this whole H1N1 thing seems different. So many people around us have it, or had it--kids across the street, kids at church, friends on Facebook. Thankfully it can't be passed on Facebook, but it seems to be spreading very quickly around the neighborhood and around schools...and probably around churches.

My kids don't go to school yet, and we haven't been to church in a month because of all our travel. But here we are, back in town, and I find myself wondering, Hmm, do you think I could get surgical masks to match the kids' Sunday clothes? Would it look weird if Zoodle carried a bottle of Purell in his pocket? If I just keep the kids inside the house for the next three months, will they suffer permanent psychological damage?

For reasons that may or may not be logical, I am definitely more wary of this particular illness than of run-of-the-mill seasonal viruses. So many children have H1N1; it seems to be spreading like wildfire. I do wonder how much of that is just due to the hype; could it be that lots of kids around me get "normal" influenza every year, and I just don't hear about it?

I'm going to try to find a happy medium--somewhere between, "Do these surgical masks come in toddler sizes?" and "You're cold, Chickie? Aww, just cuddle up against that kid who has a 103 degree fever; he'll warm you up." And if, despite reasonable precautions, one or all of us get sick, we'll deal with it.

What about you--have you found yourself caught up in the H1N1 hype?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Evil bread

When we were in Portland visiting my brother and his wife a couple of weeks ago, my parents joined us there for part of the trip. One warm day we took a long walk to a beautiful park, where we had a picnic, played on the playground, and fed the ducks in the pond.


It was a day full of classic grandparent/grandchildren activities. Until...

"Excuse me." The voice was coming from a kid, about eight years old, who'd approached us at the pond. The child earnestly continued, "I'm here with my school, and we're doing a study on the pond. You really shouldn't feed the ducks. People are feeding them, and they're getting sick."

I put the bread I was holding back into its bag and replied, "Well, then I guess we'd better stop feeding them! Thank you for telling us!"

By this time other kids had joined the original. One of them pointed to an apple at the edge of the pond. "Oh, they can eat apples!" she said. "And you can feed them duck food." (Duck food?)

Another kid held out the clipboard he was holding, where he had a paper for recording data. He carefully erased the "0" he'd written next to the question, "How many groups of people did you see feeding the ducks?" "Now I can write '1' here!" he happily declared.

One girl sweetly told me, "I'm sorry you can't feed the ducks. I used to go feed the ducks with my dad, and it was the only time he left the house." Oh, goodness. I tried to be encouraging, telling her that maybe she could get some duck food and come back with her dad.

The kids returned to their group, and we packed up to leave, glad we'd been able to oblige by unwittingly participating in their study (and hoping we hadn't made any ducks sick by feeding them that evil bread.)


Recently I blogged about the key to traveling with small children. Basically, the key is having a not-freaked-out attitude, realizing it's not that big of a deal.

Turns out that's the key to traveling without my kids too. They did great without me. Daddy did great without me. It wasn't that big of a deal.

Hmm, realizing it's not that big of a deal.... Maybe that's the key to a lot of things. Maybe it's a master key of sorts. Maybe so.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New York City pics

Some of the best moments in New York City were...

*Seeing my good friend Ann and her two kids, J (boy) and S (baby girl.) I hadn't met sweet S yet, and holding a tiny new baby is such a joy! I've missed Ann so much, and Chickie has missed her friend J. They've all been in Jersey for the last couple of months; that's where baby S was born. They're coming home in about a week--hooray!


*Finding a relaxing place to sit and get out of the rain. (Left to right: me, brother-in-law D, and sister Becki)


*Finding my phone (after losing it for half an hour, in my suitcase.) No photo of that, but it was a glorious moment. I should lose my phone more often, just to enjoy the high of finding it.

*Enjoying a Starbucks iced coffee and "Perfect Oatmeal" (it really is pretty perfect), reading a book, overlooking a Manhattan street. Becki and D had left, so I had Sunday morning to myself, and it was such a peaceful breakfast.


*Finding my way through the subway from our hotel to JFK Airport in Queens. I'm not exactly a public transit expert, but I am proud that I navigated subways in Boston and New York City by myself on this trip!

Some other photos of memorable sights:

*The cross at Ground Zero (steel beams found there, in the shape of a cross.)



*The view from our window at the Millenium Hilton. This is Ground Zero, which is being rebuilt into a beautiful memorial, new Tower 1 (Freedom Tower), etc:


*A fish peeking out at us in the aquarium at our lunch restaurant (Soy & Sake, an Asian vegetarian restaurant.)


*The "tastiest" part of Times Square:


It was a fun weekend, and gave Mommy a much-needed break. And the kids? They did great with Daddy. More on that tomorrow.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Micro: A break

Chickie must have really bonded with Daddy this weekend, because after I got home and she spent some time welcoming me, she still wanted to play and play and play with him.

"I think Daddy might need a break," I told Chickie when she asked him to do something else with her.

She didn't mind that at all, declaring as she hopped up on the couch where he sat, "I can take a break with him!"

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again...Six Word Saturday! To find out more about 6WS and to participate, check out Call Me Cate's nifty blog by clicking the button below.

My six words...

New York City, here we come!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Did I mention "kid-free"?

If you read this blog...and especially if you also follow me on Twitter, you may have heard me mention a time or ten that my last trip on this mad time of travel is going to be kid-free. Sans children. Without munchkins. And did I mention my kiddos aren't coming? Yee haw!

Well, I'm leaving for that final, short trip today! My flight is early this morning; I'll be going to Boston. Tomorrow my sister and brother-in-law will drop off their daughter at a sitter and we'll set out, bright and early, on the road to New York City. We'll spend the day there (including a chance for me to see a very good friend and meet her new baby--hi, Ann!) Then, thanks to The Engineer's frequent-stay points from business travel, we got a fantastic deal on a 4-star hotel. On Sunday, shortly after noon, I'll board a plane and head home.

This is the first time I've been away from my kids overnight. Ever. Wish The Engineer luck as he handles the two kids (one of whom is used to nursing just a bit most days.) He has not complained at all about the extra kid-duty he's taking on so Mommy can go play in New York City. The Engineer rocks. Time for me to roll!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Body parts

Warning: this is one of those parenting blog posts that isn't the most tasteful. Read at your own risk! And now that I've built up your curiosity....

Zoodle is learning body parts. Being a boy, he's a little obsessed with one particular part under his diaper. So last night during a diaper change, I showed The Engineer some of Zoodle's skills in body part identification.

"Zoodle," I said, "Where's your nose?"

He obligingly pointed. Daddy praised him.

"Where are your eyes?" I asked.

Daddy was again impressed by Zoodle's accurate pointing.

"Where's your penis?" I asked. Then, "Where's your bottom?"

Daddy laughed when Zoodle happily used his hands to pat the said parts.

"After all that," The Engineer cautioned me, "just don't ask him where his mouth is."