Sunday, May 31, 2009

Keys to bedtime sanity

Yesterday my six words for Six Word Saturday were,

"Keys to bedtime sanity: PLAN. PREPARE."

Here's the story.

We were having big issues with Chickie going to bed. She was turning on her light to play or read; finding excuses to bring us back into her room; and throwing tantrums if we didn't bow to her every whim. In case you haven't figured it out from reading my posts, bowing to every one of my children's whims isn't my parenting style.

It all came to a head Wednesday night, when Chickie had a meltdown of disastrous proportions. We're talking screaming, crying, trembling, and plenty of incoherent demands. She successfully got The Engineer and me to come back into her room several times, despite our threats and consequences. In the end, after about an hour of battle, Chickie (possibly) went to sleep for a few minutes, and then got up and ended up on her magic couch in our room. I felt like she'd somewhat won the battle, but in reality it was an immensely stressful situation for all three of us. Nobody won.

Believe it or not, by the next night, bedtime had turned around. Chickie went to sleep peacefully, without a tantrum and without repeated trips upstairs required by Mommy and Daddy. How did we make such a big change, so quickly?

It was beautifully simple. (I love when the complex business of parenting seems simple--occasionally!) It required two steps: PLAN and PREPARE.

I came up with a simple system of behavior and consequences. These are built specifically around what I know of my daughter, and what really drives a point home for her.
  • Chickie is expected to stay in bed at bedtime. (We do usually let her have reading time before bed as a transition. But when reading time is over, it's over.)
  • If Chickie gets out of bed, the baby gate in her doorway will be closed. She doesn't like this.
  • If Chickie either kicks the gate down (an issue we've had) or throws a fit, her door will be closed. And it will be closed for a long time. She really doesn't like this.
All day on Thursday, I prepared Chickie by making the plan very, very clear to her.
  • As soon as she got up, I clearly laid out the plan to her.
  • Repeatedly throughout the day I reminded her of the plan.
  • I encouraged her to explain the plan to her stuffed animals, which she did, with some coaching from me.
  • I reminded her of the plan again at bedtime.
I've continued to go over the plan with Chickie, multiple times a day, every day. She gets it. And it's worked like magic (which is truly amazing since so many of my parenting tactics don't work. This is a trial and error business!)

Interestingly, the consequences in the plan are the same ones we were implementing on the nights when Chickie was testing us and throwing fits. But in the height of her emotion, she did not have the self control to stop the fit, even knowing the consequences. And let's be honest--The Engineer and I were giving her positive reinforcement by coming back to her room over and over. Having a plan, and thoroughly preparing Chickie for its implementation, has helped prevent all of us from being overwhelmed by the negative emotions associated with bedtime battles.

We'll probably have more testing in this area as time goes by. But for now, we have bedtime sanity, and it's a beautiful thing.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

Time for Six Word Saturday again, courtesy of the awesome Call Me Cate over at Show My Face! To read more about 6WS or participate, click on the nifty button below.

And now for my six words, which I'll explain in tomorrow's post:

Keys to bedtime sanity: PLAN. PREPARE.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Beth's Bookmarks

I make liberal use of my browser bookmarks! Below I'll share some interesting sites I have bookmarked, and I invite you to do the same in your comments. Enjoy!

Gold Box has some fantastic deals. The Deal of the Day is available all day long or until it sells out; Lightning Deals are only available for a short time (usually 1-4 hours) or until they sell out. I love seeing what the newest deal is, and I usually check this site multiple times a day, though I only rarely purchase from it.


2. Wordle

This site is hard to explain, but it's worth checking out. (Thanks, Call Me Cate, for introducing me to it!)


3. "Parallel Play With Children," an article from the New York Times

My sister sent me the link to this fantastic article. If you're a parent who feels guilty for not engaging your child in creative or stimulating activities whenever you are with them...this is for you.


4. Hotel de Glace

It's an entire hotel made of ice. Seriously. I might not want to stay there, but I sure do dig the pictures.


5. stock.xchng

stock.xchng is a fantastic site full of free stock photos. Most can even be used for commercial publications. (The stopwatch on my other blog's header is from this site.)


Looking forward to hearing what fascinating sites you have bookmarked!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Easy t-shirt applique: A photo tutorial

I was reading the blog Forever Folding Laundry recently, and I saw this post. I fell in love with the shirt that cutie patootie Avery was wearing. I love the simple applique that Keri does--none of that time-consuming turning under of fabric edges. Nothing wrong with the fabric fraying a bit; it's part of what makes this whimsical style of applique look so fun and unique. I decided I had to try it myself.

Here were the results:



I like Zoodle's shirt so much more than Chickie's, but I just happened to use Chickie's for my tutorial photos. Oh, well. Here's how you can make a creative shirt for a lucky kid (or adult!) in your life:

Easy T-Shirt Applique Photo Tutorial

1. Buy cheap shirts. I got mine at Target. Zoodle's was $5, and Chickie's was on clearance for $2.48.

2. Buy fabric. I bought 1/4 yard of several different fabrics. They were on sale at Hobby Lobby for 30% off. (Fabric and craft stores nearly always have some sort of good sale going on!) You might want to look for coordinating fabrics (displayed together) if you plan to use more than one fabric on the same shirt. I bought all this fabric plus Wonder Under (see below) for under $15, and I'll be able to make a gazillion shirts with it.



3. Buy Wonder Under. This is sold by the yard with the interfacing--just ask someone at the store if you don't know what I'm talking about! I bought 1 1/2 yards so that I'll have plenty for future projects, but 1/4 yard should be more than enough for a few shirts.


4. Draw whatever shape you want for your applique. I wanted a kangaroo for Chickie's, so I used Google Image Search to find one I liked, and I used that image as a rough model for my drawing. (It took me a few drafts to get it right.) Your design doesn't need to be perfect! I purposefully made Zoodle's tie a bit crooked, and didn't make sure it was perfectly symmetrical.


Do As I Say, Not As I Do Tip #1: Zoodle's shirt was far simpler, far easier, and far cuter than Chickie's. Simple is good!

5. Wonder Under comes with great directions, but I altered them a bit to make it even easier. Place your drawing under the Wonder Under, and trace it. (Draw on the rough side of the Wonder Under.)


6. Follow the instructions on the Wonder Under to iron your design onto the fabric. (Position the rough side of the Wonder Under on the wrong [back] side of the fabric.)


Do As I Say Not As I Do Tip #2: In general, small prints will work better than larger prints for these appliques--especially for detailed designs like a kangaroo. Also, make sure your design is positioned in such a way that the print doesn't look funky. I really don't like the big, green circle that sits right where the kangaroo's eye is.

7. Cut the fabric and Wonder Under along the lines you traced. I used one fabric for the mama kangaroo's body, and a complimentary fabric for the baby kangaroo [joey] and for the mama's ears.



8. If you have more than one piece and they'll be overlapping, position them approximately where you want them, to make sure they fit well.


9. If you want to use fabric paint, permanent marker, etc. to decorate a bit, this is a good time to do it.


10. Peel the Wonder Under off the back of the fabric. Having fingernails definitely helps for this step! The fabric will be left with a gummy substance on it, that will allow you to iron it onto the shirt.


11. Position the design on the shirt, and follow the Wonder Under directions for ironing it on. A damp press cloth is required. Here's an easy way to dampen a clot:. Run water in the sink, drain open, for a couple of seconds, then turn off the water, and use your cloth to soak up what's left in the sink.



12. Remove the press cloth and make sure the design looks good. Before it cools, you can adjust it slightly if needed, and re-press.


You can stop at this point if you'd like, but the design may not hold up too well in the wash. I suggest the next step.

13. Topstitch around the edges of the design. You can use your sewing machine or do this by hand--larger hand stitches would be adorable!


That's it! Now, I recognize that 13 steps sounds like a lot, but once I got my kangaroo design drawn and my shopping done, I completed both shirts in a couple of hours or so. If I'd only been doing Zoodle's ultra-simple shirt, I could have finished it in about 30 minutes!

Thanks, Keri, for the inspiration! (Her blog has a ton of other examples of her ultra-cute handiwork, and she also sells totally adorable hair clips on Etsy.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

G-rated (today, anyway)

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

According to What's My Blog Rated?, I am safe for kids of all ages to read. Today, anyway. I've tried this fun little site a few times, and my rating was PG at one point--I think because I'd used the word "poop" too many times in a recent post. (Oops, said it again--once I publish this, will my rating be bumped back up?)

This is a fun little time-wasting site. Go ahead, check your own blog, if you have one. Check other blogs and websites. ( is rated PG; and my favorite fake news site,, is rated PG-13.)

I'll try to continue keepin' it clean. It would be a pain to have to check IDs at the door.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hard workin' man

The Engineer has been hard at work lately. He (with help from a fantastic friend, a fellow engineer) put together a playscape for the kids. It was a lot of work. I love it!


And what does Chickie think? Well, I'll let you judge that for yourself.


The Engineer has also been hard at work training his body. Monday morning, he got up early and did his first triathlon.


I'm proud of my hard workin' man!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Monday Micro: Genuine

I went to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast Saturday, one I'd never visited. I was pleased to note that the Taqueria had a good percentage of Latino patrons and an entirely Latino staff--both indicators of a place serving real Mexican food.

Then I looked at the menu and saw the biggest proof that the restaurant serves genuine Mexican food. Diners can order breakfast tacos filled with beef brains.

The salsa and refried beans were great--but I'm sorry, you'll have to look elsewhere for a review of the beef brain tacos.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

It's that time again! To find out what Six Word Saturdays are all about, and to participate, just click on the purty button below.

And my six words for this week...

Wishing babies were born with teeth.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mother, daughter, and fear

Yesterday I had some routine bloodwork, to check my cholesterol and such. Both kids came with me. As my blood was drawn, I narrated to Chickie,

"See, Chickie? She's going to poke that needle into my skin. There we go! It barely even hurt, just a pinch. Now see? The blood is going into this little thing. Now they can test it like the doctor wants them to do! Isn't that cool?" The wonderful lady taking my blood explained what the bright red bandage was for, and even cut off a piece for Chickie, making it into a bracelet for her.

Now, I think Chickie was somewhat weirded out, understandably, as she watched my blood go into a plastic vial. She had a lot of questions, during and after the blood draw. But she seemed fairly comfortable and unafraid as she observed it.

I compare that to how she reacts to spiders. I see a spider near her and say, "Oh, no, Chickie! Get away! Don't touch the spider! I don't want it to bite you!" It's been my goal to instill a healthy fear in her, but I think I've gone overboard. Now she's definitely afraid of spiders, and of some other bugs (like houseflies.) While I'd prefer that she not play with spiders, I regret that I've given her more fear than she really needs to have.

These situations show me just how much my daughter takes cues from me, as she decides what is or isn't scary. I hope that I can encourage her to be cautious when necessary (crossing the street, deciding which bugs to play with, touching hot things, etc.) But I also hope that I can more often handle potentially scary situations in the way I handled my blood draw yesterday. Little eyes are watching closely!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nest cam!

This is so cool. Jonah Lisa, who writes one of the first blogs I started reading, recently discovered a robin's nest on her front porch. Click the button below to follow the Nest Cam. I'm finding it very exciting!

The button is in my left sidebar too, so you can continue to keep up with the growing avian family. And be sure to check out the rest of JL's blog; it's fantastic.

Just a few changes...

I love All Recipes. It's a fantastic site with a zillion recipes for almost anything you can imagine. One of the best features is that users can review the recipes, so when I try something new, it usually turns out tasting good, as long as it's a 4- or 5-star recipe.

Reviewers often list what they did to alter the recipe. This can be very useful. Sometimes, though, it's a little overboard. Occasionally a review reads something like this fictional review of a chocolate chip cookie recipe:

"Good basic recipe, but I did make a few changes. I left out half the oil and added a cup of chunky peanut butter. I also left out the chocolate chips; my husband is allergic. I spread the batter in a sheet pan, baked it, and after it cooled, I cut into 1 x 2 inch rectangles. To die for!"

Psst, Mr. or Ms. Reviewer--you didn't make chocolate chip cookies. You made peanut butter bars!

So I usually ignore the reviews that list so many changes that the original recipe is unrecognizable, but I do often use some of the advice I've read. A Mexican casserole might be greatly improved by a can of olives, and if a previous reviewer has had luck replacing white flour with whole wheat, chances are I'll do the same.

To get you started, here are a few fantastic recipes I've discovered at All Recipes. Enjoy!

Real Hummus (Fantastic, basic hummus recipe.)
Colleen's Slow Cooker Jambalaya (Delicious, and makes a ton!)
Caramel Apple Pie (Delicious on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and 363 other days.)
Simple Scones (Truly simple, and truly delicious.)
Baked Spaghetti I I love this non-spaghetti-sauce based recipe. DON'T pay attention to the reviews that tell you to add spaghetti sauce!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hit me! (I won't even realize you did it.)

If you're a blogger, how many hits did your blog get yesterday? How about last month?

If you ask me this question, it is with a sense of freedom that I'll answer, "I don't know."

When I first signed up on Stat Counter, which I use to track how many people visit my blogs, I visited the site frequently to check my numbers. I'd feel a thrill when my numbers were high, and self-doubt when they dipped.

When I got started with BlogHer Ads, that added even more urgency. My ad revenues are based on how many people visit my sites (and how many ads the powers that be at Blog Her have sold.) I'd frequent both Stat Counter and the site where my ad revenues are tracked. I opened the sites with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

Eventually, though, the excitement part became overshadowed by my nerves. I knew if I checked my numbers and they were low, I'd be disappointed. So I started checking less frequently, and eventually realized I'd stopped altogether.

What a relief! I got a check from Blog Her Ads yesterday. I hadn't expected it, and I didn't know how much it would be. Opening it was fun! I don't make nearly enough money to consider blogging a job. (My hourly wage would be pitifully low.) By forgetting about the stats and the money, I'm able to enjoy blogging as a hobby again.

I'm not promising to never check those numbers again. I'm sure eventually I will. But for now, I'll keep writing, and if you want to read it, you can bring on the hits. I won't even feel it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


"I've been reading about Chickie's Obedience Chart," the voice on the other end of the line said, "and do you mind if I give you a little advice?"

I admit it's hard for me to take unsolicited parenting advice. I'm not sure if this is primarily because I don't like being reminded that I'm not perfect, or because I don't like being reminded that other people don't think I'm perfect. Either way, it's hard to take, especially from... sister.

But as difficult as it can be to listen to advice from my twin, I know that my pride really shouldn't keep me from listening to something that might be really helpful. So with (fake) cheerfulness, I told Becki, "Sure!"

And I was really glad I did, because the advice was excellent--good enough to share with you.

Becki is a middle school teacher, and she has a quality that is extremely helpful when teaching that age group: She is very good at classroom management. She is respected by her students, and most of them even like her. So she's learned a few tricks through the years, and many of them are useful in childrearing too.

Becki explained that using the Obedience Chart for both positive and negative reinforcement (giving Chickie stars for good behavior, and erasing them for bad) probably wasn't the best idea. She gave me these two examples of what can go wrong when the same system is used for both good and bad behavior:
  • A child who has problems controlling his/her impulses may give up on even trying to do the right thing, figuring that soon enough, the reward will be taken away when he or she inevitably does something wrong.
  • A child may think, "Well, I might as well be naughty; I can always do something good to make up for it."
Becki explained that I can still use both positive and negative reinforcement; I just might want to use separate systems for them. The chart can be only for positive reinforcement, so that Chickie will eventually be rewarded for her good choices, even if they are few and far between. We can choose other ways to discipline her for bad behavior, such as time-outs, and taking away various privileges.

This seems to be working nicely and definitely feels right to me. Turns out unsolicited advice can be a great thing...even when it comes from my sister. (Thanks, Becki!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday Micro: Lunchtime conversation

"Chickie, I know it's fun to feed the dog from your mouth, but we don't feed him from the table."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Are Wii motivated yet?

I've had the Wii Fit for a few months. In case you're not familiar with it, here's a link explaining what it's all about.

I love my Fit. It's a great way to get in a bit of exercise during the kids' nap times. It's very interactive, giving me feedback as I exercise.

But it's the interactivity that is causing problems.

When I boot up the game, I choose my profile (since each person who plays has a separate profile), and an animated graphic representation of the Wii Balance Board walks around my TV screen. The Balance Board greets me by name, and recently we had this strange conversation.

On my TV screen: I haven't seen The Engineer lately. Press A.

I'd like to tell the Balance Board that The Engineer is training for a triathlon and has been working out a ton despite not using the Wii Fit. But that's not an option, so I press the "A" button. The Balance Board continues.

How would you say The Engineer is looking lately?
A. Heavier.
B. Thinner.
C. Less toned.
D. More toned.

What, so now I'm a spy for the Wii Fit? I choose B and am greeted with this message:

Great! You should tell him what you just told me!

I stare at the screen. Did I really just get marital advice from a workout video game? Um, yeah. I think that's what happened.

Usually, though, the Fit just comments on how often I've been working out. Sometimes it's encouraging, saying things like, "It takes a lot of dedication to work out daily!" (when I come back two days in a row.) And I enjoy that little pat on the back.

Other times, it's not so encouraging. When I come back after an extended absence, the animated Balance Board admonishes me, "It's been 5 days since I've seen you! Work out every day for the best results." Or, "Too busy to work out yesterday, eh, Beth?"

Now, I suppose a normal person reads that, mutters, "Yeah, whatever," and continues on to do some yoga positions or rhythm boxing. I, on the other hand, actually find myself dreading the Balance Board's critiques. It's a pretty passive aggressive little character, you know. There it is, safe on my TV screen, supposedly encouraging me to work out more often, but I know what it's really thinking is, "You're lazy! LAZY! Get off your blogs and work out more often!"

And I want to shout, "Wait! I took my dog on walks a couple of days this week! And my kid kept me up at night, so I've been extra tired! And really, taking care of kids is a workout in itself, and I burn calories breastfeeding. Please, try to understand! Please, Balance Board, please love me!!"


If you know any therapists who could help me with the unhealthy relationship I have with a digital rendition of an inanimate object, please send them my way.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

Going to my first Farmer's Market.

Amazing I've never been to a Farmer's Market, isn't it? There is a new one beginning in a town very close to my little suburb, so I'm taking the kids this morning. I'm excited!

Join Six Word Saturdays by clicking the link above! If you don't mind, let me know in the comments section that you played; I may check it out.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Echoing baby cries

We have a couple of fantastic storage ottomans. Take off the top, and you'll find a bunch of toys. We use these to make the living room (our main play area) look halfway-presentable, when necessary.

Every so often, however, I'm busy, letting the kids play, and I hear a distinct sound. It's Zoodle's frustrated cry, and it's echoing, like he's in a very confined space. And I go into the living room, knowing this is probably what I'll find:


You see, that storage ottoman is fantastic when it's 100% full, or even 50%, or 25%. But as Zoodle removes more and more toys, he leans further and further in, and eventually gets stuck with his little feet off the floor and his head in the toy bin. This photo was one of his lucky times; he has one hand out for steadiness. Sometimes both hands are on the inside, and he's hanging only by his little gut, a human teeter totter. Of course, I quickly move him (well, except that one time I couldn't stop myself from grabbing the camera for a quick pic first.)

I can imagine this is very scary for him. He's stuck with his head in a dark space, not knowing quite how to maneuver his way back to into the bright room. How frightening!

But let's be honest--any pity I might feel for the poor kid is entirely drowned out by my terribly unmerciful giggles.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Red Alert: This post will be appreciated by geeks

I discovered a fun new site where you can upload your photo and turn yourself into a Star Trek character. It's called Trek Yourself. And because I'm sure you're dying to know what I'd look like as an alien, you'll want to check out Beth, the Romulan. Enjoy.

Do Not Call. (No, seriously, don't)

Several weeks ago we had a bad hail storm in our area. Some roofs in our neighborhood have been replaced, and one of these days we'll get ours looked at to see if we have the privilege of paying a deductible to get a less-than-two-year-old roof replaced.

So the vultures have been circling. ("Vultures" being roofing companies, and "circling" being annoyingly begging us to let them do free evaluations and estimates.) As a rule, I say no to these offers; I'd prefer to do my own research and contact companies myself.

Recently, I got this call:


"Hi, I'm Sue from SoAndSo Roofing; we are an experienced local company who has been in the business for 20 years; we are looking at other homes in your neighborhood, giving free evaluations of their roofs since the recent storm, and giving estimates when necessary; we'll be in your neighborhood Friday, Saturday and Sunday and would like to give you an estimate; which day would be better for you--Friday, Saturday, or Sunday?"

(Finally, Sue pauses. Little does she know I've gotten more and more annoyed through her spiel, which was basically one big, run-on sentence with no chances for me to speak. I really don't like this tactic, which gives me options that aren't really options--I'm not being asked if I want SoAndSo Roofing to come out, but when. I use this pseudo-choice tactic on my child but kind of think I'm too smart for it at the age of 31. So, I respond.)

"We're not interested, but thank you."

"May I ask why?"

(Another sales tactic I don't like. I have a policy of not answering this question.)

"We're not interested, but thank you."

That's when Sue hung up. Now, this really annoyed me. A few minutes later, I realized something that annoyed me even more. We're on the federal Do Not Call registry, a fact I quickly verified, which means Sue's call was illegal, as were similar ones we've received from other companies.

Yesterday I received another call. The salesperson was friendlier, but the call was still illegal. It went like this.


"Hello, this is Pam Reardon from XYZ Roofing, Siding, and Gutters."

"We're on the Do Not Call list, so we shouldn't be getting this call."

(Brief pause. I get the feeling this is an objection she hasn't heard.)

"Well--your roof is okay, right?"

(Now she's caught me off-guard. That was kind of an odd response.)

"Uh, we wouldn't do business with anybody who calls us despite the Do Not Call List."


(She still sounds a bit taken aback, and the call is over. I look back on this conversation and laugh that it was really two entirely separate conversations, each of us politely refusing to actually respond to the other person's message.)

Now, here's where I would love to hear your opinions. I could easily file a complaint against the company who called me yesterday. I still have the phone number on my Caller ID, and the process is simple. Most likely nothing would come of it, but the information would go in a database and could possibly be used in a future lawsuit. The Engineer and I agreed, however, that we don't want to "go after" local companies just trying to stay in business.

That felt right to me at first...until I started thinking about it from a business standpoint. These companies that are making illegal phone calls are, presumably, getting some business as a result. A portion of that business is probably being, in essence, stolen from more ethical companies who refuse to do illegal marketing. This bothers me a lot and makes me wonder if I should take the limited recourse I have, in defense of the companies who aren't calling us.

What would you do?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obedience chart

My fantastic little strong-willed girl has been asserting her independence lately--not always in the most constructive of ways. So yesterday I set up this little Obedience Chart:


It's simple. She obeys me (or does something good out of the blue), and she gets a star. She disobeys me (or does something naughty out of the blue), and a star is erased. When the chart is full, she gets to watch some Angelina Ballerina, her current cartoon obsession. (That's Angelina, the dancing mouse, at the bottom of the chart.)

It hasn't suddenly eliminated every tantrum or defiant act, but so far it's sure helped motivate her to obey! It also seems to help us relate to each other in a more positive way. Chickie is excited to obey, because she wants a star, and I am encouraged realizing just how often she really does listen to me.

At some another day, or month, or year...this will cease to motivate her. I'll have to dig deeper in my bag of tricks to find something else that works. But for now, Chickie's Obedience Chart is making my day a lot easier.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breastfeeding inertia

I have been breastfeeding since time began.

Or at least it feels that way.

In reality, today is "only" my 1,215th consecutive day of nursing. That includes the 18 months between Chickie's birth and me getting pregnant, the nine months of pregnancy with Zoodle (still nursing Chickie), three months of nursing them both, and the last 10 months or so of nursing only Zoodle.

I once came across the phrase, "Breastfeeding makes my heart sing." This was probably sometime between Chickie's first birthday and me getting pregnant with Zoodle. I thought, "Yes! That describes how I feel!" I felt that nursing helped me bond with Chickie. The body also gives off the relaxing hormone oxytocin during breastfeeding, and that can be very nice.

But, folks, these days breastfeeding usually does not "make my heart sing"! I'm almost at a point of breastfeeding inertia--where I'm continuing to do it because it's easier than weaning, and because it's what I've done for so long. It's not quite at that point yet--I also like knowing that Zoodle is still getting good nutrition and Mommy time by nursing. Sometimes I feel a nice sense of relaxation while nursing, but other times, frankly, it's just a bother.

I find myself thinking about how much I'll enjoy my breasts being mine again. They've done a great job serving their practical purposes as milk production and delivery systems. But as wonderful as that has been, there's something to be said for shutting down the dairy farm and letting the cows enjoy their retirement.

So we'll see how long I'm kept going due to inertia and an intellectual awareness of the benefits. When I do stop nursing, it will be with the poignant knowledge that I'll probably miss it later, and that I'm unlikely to ever do it again. But I think it's a chapter of my life I'll be ready to leave behind before too long. I just hope Zoodle feels the same way.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bag Lady

I am a one-bag lady. I like to have a neutral-colored purse that I can use every day. I keep a little black evening bag for occasional use, but other than's the same purse, day after day.

For the last three years or so, I've been using a handmade, hand-tooled, leather purse made by my fantastic father-in-law. I've carried this beautiful purse with pride.


I really love this bag. However, it's gotten scratched and stained, and, well...after three years, I was ready for a change! But after using a fantastic, custom purse, how could I buy something "off the rack"?

So I decided to look on Etsy, a fantastic website where creative sellers hawk their wares. I looked through photos of thousands of handmade bags--some adorable, some hideous, and all unique.

Finally, I found just the right design--the Nap Sack by MimsMaine. But there was a problem. The only one they were currently listing was made of white fabric. I am way too clumsy to keep a white bag clean.

So I contacted Natasha from MimsMaine, and she happily agreed to make me the bag with my choice of fabric. I found a beautiful, dark brown, home decor fabric and sent it to her. I let her choose the lining.

It arrived Saturday, and I love the result! It's a great size. I'm very petite, and it doesn't overwhelm me, but it's big enough for a lot of stuff.


And here's what is just ingenious about this design. In the photo above, and the one below, it's a shoulder bag.


But by tugging on the straps, it becomes a nap sack (backpack.) This will be fantastic when I need my hands free for kid-wrangling. My shoulders are nearly nonexistent, so bags often slip off if I move around too much.


Natasha did a great job choosing a bright, fun lining fabric.


This is a worthy follow-up to my homemade leather purse. And the experience of ordering a custom bag was exciting.

But I'd better be careful on Etsy's handbag section. Spending too much time there, I might become a two- (or three- or dozen-)bag lady. That could be a dangerous thing.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day in Four Phases

Late Tuesday night, I sent The Engineer an e-mail. It read:

Dear The Engineer,

Today I became aware that this coming Sunday is Mother's Day. I wanted to send you this Public Service Announcement in case you were as calendar-unaware as I.

As part of this PSA, I should remind you that this is a fantastic day to make the mother of your children feel very special and pampered. She's probably not expecting anything in particular, but she's probably hoping for something very sweet and special. Since you have women in your office, you could always ask around and get some ideas. You don't need to spend a lot of money to make it a special day.

I hope this PSA has been helpful to you.


Yesterday morning he asked me if I'd like to go shopping today to find a new watch. I guess he'd noticed me looking around at watches lately. I was impressed--he was thinking about something special he could do for me! Being romantic isn't always the most natural thing for engineer types, and so it means a lot to me when he puts in the effort. (And a new watch? Woo hoo!)

Later, he was running errands, and he came home with these:


"Happy Mother's Day," he said. "This is Phase One."

I smiled. "Thanks!"

He continued. "Phase Two is Star Trek [which we saw yesterday afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed.] Phase Three is something tomorrow that you don't know about yet. Phase Four is watch shopping."

Now, as I write this, I still don't know what Phase Three is going to be. I'm just basking in my adorable Engineer's well-planned, four-phase pampering.

It's a good day--a good weekend--to be a mom.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Six Word Saturday!

I know, I know, I said no post today. But I forgot about Six Word Saturdays! Too easy and fun to pass up.

And my six words...

Giddy with excitement--Star Trek today!!!!!!

I get a real date with The Engineer today! Sans kids and everything. We've been excited about the new Star Trek movie for months, and it's finally here! My geeky little heart is all aflutter.

I hope you'll play too! Be sure to post a link to your Six Word Saturday over at Show My Face, and I'd love if you'd post a link in my comments section, too.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Blogiversary winner!

We have a winner! declares...

Here are your random numbers:

Timestamp: 2009-05-09 02:35:54 UTC

Congratulations to mullensfam! (And I'm lucky--she lives a couple of miles from me and we go to the same church, so I'll get to hand-deliver!)

Thanks to everyone for playing, and for all the nice comments!

There won't be a post tomorrow (Saturday.) Enjoy your day!

Blogiversary! A 12-hour giveaway

On May 8, 2008 I sat down and wrote a blog post--my first! It wasn't brilliant but it was a start. 365 days later I am at post #405 (!) and happy to celebrate my first blogiversary--hopefully the first of many.

So I want to thank those of you who read this blog by doing a giveaway. I'll make chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies Treats for a lucky winner. You can choose whether you want milk chocolate or white, or some of each, and I'll even dip them in sprinkles if you'd like. If you don't eat refined sugar or some other ingredient, I'll make you something you will eat. (Macrobiotic vegan oatmeal cookies, anyone?)

The rules are simple:

1. Post a comment here. You can enter once.
2. Come back tonight--I'll use a random number generator and announce the winner at around 9:30 p.m. CST (approximately 12 hours from now.) This giveaway is now closed.

This giveaway doesn't include any encouragement for you to spread the word. This is specifically geared towards my awesome blog readers. Thanks for sticking with me!

"Reply All"

Ah, the "Reply All" option on e-mails. It's so convenient. It's so helpful.

Except when it's not.

Have you ever clicked "Reply All" in error? It's not usually a big deal.

Except when it is.

A few years ago I was on the board of a small local nonprofit. I was in charge of communicating with a company who was subleasing space from us, as we attempted to renegotiate the lease. Unfortunately, the relationship between the two companies had been rocky.

One day I clicked that "Reply All" button so that I could communicate with the rest of the board, updating them on negotiations. I forgot that our tenant was also included in the e-mail. Shortly after clicking "Send," I gasped, realizing my mistake. "I can't believe it happened again!" I cried.

You see, not long before this incident, another member of our board had made the same mistake. And her e-mail gave her opinion of our tenant in none-too-glowing terms. It hadn't exactly improved our relationship. And I'd made the same error.

Quickly, I read over the e-mail I'd sent. It was respectful. I'd given our tenants the benefit of the doubt despite our communication difficulties. And fairly quickly it became evident that my mistake had actually been a positive one. The tenants realized that someone on our board wanted to treat them with respect, even as we negotiated.

I'd like to say that my fortuitous mistake fixed the relationship between the two groups. It didn't. Our tenants found a different space, and we parted ways. But my communication with them remained professional and polite, and I felt great about that.

I was left with an important lesson. Treating opponents with respect, to their faces and behind their backs, is a fantastic way to foster communication.

Oh...and it's always a good idea to pause before clicking "Send."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Inside Chickie's mind

I don't make any claims to understanding the crazy mind of a three-year-old. But if I could hear Chickie's thoughts, I imagine that at dinner last night, I would have heard something like this:

Mmm. Good lasagna.

Oh, my nose is running. (Sniffle.)

Yum. (Sniffle.)

Oh, it's really running. I should ask Mommy for a Kleenex.

But those Kleenex are all the way across the room, and I'd have to stop eating this yummy lasagna to ask Mommy.


Hmm, there must be a better way.

Oh, look, the couch is only a few feet from me! Let's see, I'll just hop off my chair--okay, I'm down--and wipe my nose right there on the seat of the couch.

That leather feels kinda cool on my nose.

Back to my chair. I don't even think Mommy noticed! That was fun.

Aw, geez, my nose is still running. (Sniffle.)

Okay, it worked so well last time, let's do it again. Off the chair, to the couch. WIPE.

Uh oh.

She noticed.

Really, Mommy, it's not that big of a deal. Lighten up! I'm not listening!

Mmm. Good lasagna.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The agony of defeat

**Warning: This post is about potty training. Poop in particular. Poop is icky.**

**Special request: Please don't give me any potty training advice in the comments section. I think you are awesome for wanting to help me (seriously, thank you!), but I've probably tried some version of whatever worked for you, and it didn't work for me. (Trust me. I've tried nearly everything.)**

With those disclaimers...


I hate potty training.

Chickie has been peeing on the potty for many months now. But poop is another issue. Pooping on the potty terrifies her. We've been allowing her to poop in disposable training pants (Pull-Ups.) Five or six months ago I was trying every "miracle method" under the sun, and nothing worked. I finally followed advice I heard from many camps (including from several of you)--just wait until she's ready. So we started letting her poop in Pull-Ups.

Do you have any idea how disgusting it is to change a three-year-old's poopy Pull-Up? It's nasty, people. Nasty. But it was worth it--I enjoyed the not forcing the issue.

And then, last Tuesday, joyful tears came to my eyes when something amazing happened. Chickie pooped. In the potty. On her own. And was not at all traumatized.

It was a day of celebration in our household. I thought, "Woo hoo, I waited until she was ready, and now she's ready!" We got ice cream and gave her a toy. I told her, "No more Pull-Ups!"'s been downhill from there. Without going into too much detail, I'll tell you that she has spent far more time on the potty in the last week than she should be spending there over the course of a month; pooping on the potty is still freakishly terrifying to her; and while suppositories work, they are really, really not fun to anyone involved. (Oh, and babies like to play with and possibly eat the glycerin from extra liquid suppositories. Thankfully Poison Control assured us this is not really dangerous.)

So yesterday after talking to a good friend who called to check on me (thank you, Kendra!), I grabbed the last Pull-Up from the package, brought it upstairs, and offered it to Chickie. She took it, and made good use of it. Good, non-traumatic, totally disgusting use of it.

I tried. I tried so hard to make this work. I thought if I tried hard enough and was stubborn enough, she'd get it. And she just didn't. It was getting worse instead of better.

I was defeated. And I don't like losing.

But you know what I realized? I'm going to lose some battles as a parent. This is an experimental science, and some of my formulas are just going to blow up.

But that doesn't mean I shouldn't have tried. I have to try different tactics as I train my kids, and I have to deal with the fact that failure is just part of the game.

It doesn't mean that the stress and tears from the last several days were useless. It just means instead of coming out of it with success, I came out with a learning experience. That's not the reward I was hoping for, but it's still useful in my quest to understand my daughter.

Defeat in one parenting battle does not mean I've been defeated as a parent. I'll just keep on marching...armed with a bandolier of clothespins for my nose, and a big box of baby wipes.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Zoodle's new shoes

I love soft-soled baby shoes. But I'm not willing to spend $40 or so on Robeez brand shoes, cute as they are. So I found a free pattern online at Tacky Living, grabbed some faux suede and denim (the same I've used in decorating Zoodle's nursery), and got to work.


(I love me some chubby baby ankles!)


I used faux suede for the body of the shoe and denim for the bottom. I'm hoping the texture of the denim will keep it from becoming too slippery.

While this project was fun, it took quite awhile. I finished it and thought, "There's no way I'm doing this again." It's easy to find leather, soft-soled baby shoes that aren't name brand for under $20 on Etsy or Ebay.

Of course, I've seen some pictures of corduroy ones that are just adorable. It wouldn't be that hard to make another pair...or two.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday Micro: Love list

This weekend was somewhat challenging to me, as the mom of a three-year-old. You know, "somewhat challenging" in the way that a nuclear bomb is "somewhat annoying." So this blog post is a little exercise to help my attitude. I'm going to name three things I love about my three-year-old.
  1. I love her imagination. I bet I was the only mom in Taco Cabana today who realized the restaurant was actually a spaceship.
  2. I love the way she that she can sit with a stack of books and "read" for long periods of time. It makes me very proud!
  3. I love her desire to help me, whether it's at the grocery store, in the kitchen, or while cleaning.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Help or Hinder?

One of the frustrating things about motherhood is that very small children can make it hard to do tasks that were a piece of cake when I was childless. Take folding laundry, for instance. In my pre-child days I didn't like doing it; I procrastinated terribly; but once I got around to it, it was easy.

Until I had a child who was big enough to grab the laundry off the coffee table or couch and undo everything I'd just done.

For many months, folding laundry was a source of unending frustration for me. Then Chickie got to the point that she mostly ignored what I was doing, and thankfully Zoodle has never been that interested in Daddy's freshly-folded T-shirts, so this boring task became manageable again.

And now...this is really cool, folks...Chickie, who used to hinder me in my laundry-folding efforts, has become a helper. Last week as I was trying to get through a full basket of clean laundry, Chickie was eager to assist. And it became a little game--I'd fold something, give it to her, and she'd figure out what pile it went in, whether it was one of her shirts, in the nearby pile...


...or a pair of Daddy's socks, which belonged on the far side of the table.


Involving Chickie in my chores is something I haven't generally wanted to do in the past, since her "helping" tended to make tasks take longer. Finally, though, she is at an age when sometimes she genuinely helps--no quotation marks required. (She's gotten good at sorting utensils when I'm unloading the dishwasher, too.)

These bits of independence are so encouraging to me. I imagine in just a few more years, if I can keep the school district from finding out I have a kindergarten-aged child, I'll be able to put her to work full time doing cooking, cleaning, and childcare. It's about time I get down to the serious business of eating bon bons and watching soaps all day.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday thanks and prayer

Thank you so much to each of you who commented on yesterday's post. The comments were so encouraging--as I expected they'd be! Thank you for coming through for me, again! I responded to all the comments, in my own comment.

I loved one thing that Sandra wrote, and wanted to share it. In case you don't "know" Sandra, she has a really fantastic blog calle Add Humor and Faith...Mix Well. It is funny and inspirational, and as I've said before, I'd like to just sit down and have a cup of tea with her. Or maybe coffee; I'm more on a coffee kick these days. With some half and half, but no sugar. Mmm....

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Here's what Sandra said. I'm hoping by typing it out, it'll stick in my head so that I'll remember it for the next couple of decades.

The prayer I said many times during the child-rearing years was this: "Please diminish the things I do wrong, and enhance the things I do right, because I haven't a clue which is which!"

Now, that's my kind of prayer.

Thank you again for being such an encouraging group of blog readers. Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mommy fears

I am afraid.

I think it's hard to be a mom without having fears. Some moms fear that their children will get sick, or be snatched from a parking lot, or hit their heads on coffee tables. I have felt all of those fears.

But these days, one of my biggest fears is that my daughter will turn into a brat.

I'm typing this, knowing that label is highly distasteful to me and probably to readers. And yet I'm not going to reword it because emotionally, that's the fear I've got. Honestly, I don't even know if it's a very logical fear, but logic often plays only a bit role on the stage of fear.

I was a compliant child. I mean, ultra-compliant. I was scared to death of displeasing my parents, or God, or any other authority figure. I was a follower of the "letter of the law."

Chickie didn't get that compliant gene. Instead she is more like her dad. She has a fun-loving temperament that wants to try new things, and test all the limits, and get away with breaking the rules. I know this is her personality, and that there are fantastic aspects to her quirks--she will probably be a leader, and she'll speak her mind without worrying too much about what people think.

But it's so foreign to the way I was as a kid, and it scares me. When I have to tell her multiple times to do go upstairs for bed, I fear that I've been too easy on her. When I force her to take a bath she doesn't want to take, and she screams her way through it, I fear I've been too hard on her. I just don't know where that perfect balance is, and I suppose I'll be trying to figure it out for the next 15 years or more.

I don't want a child who is so wild and unruly that we can't go to a restaurant without getting dirty looks and whispered judgment. That thought sickens me, and so I require respect from my daughter, and I try to be consistent with discipline. Yet I also don't want to suppress her fantastic, spirited personality, so I try to give her grace.

I just hope that even when I give her too much discipline one day, and too much leeway the next, there will be enough love mixed in that I won't mess her up too badly. I hope that God will have the grace to guide my path, and Chickie's. I hope in a decade and a half, when she's graduating from high school, I'll have tears of pride in my eyes when I realize that Chickie has become a young woman who, while imperfect, displays both strength and humility.

I am hopeful.