Wrap Up

November is coming to an end, and it's bittersweet. I love this month, but I also really love Advent and Christmas. I'm looking forward to spending time with my family in Oklahoma and maybe getting to see a little snow? I have a lot of presents already that need to be wrapped plus a bit more shopping to do before all is said and done.

For me I need a second pie plate (had to use a 9 inch cake pan, which worked but made getting the pie out difficult) and a meat thermometer (poor dried out turkey) if I'm ever going to attempt to make a big meal again. Otherwise Thanksgiving dinner went off OK, save for being about an hour early due to my panic since the turkey had to be in the oven alone/there was no way to fit the rack to allow the second rack to hold anything.

I'm trying to get my act together and order Christmas cards. We tried to take some pictures of Jane today in her red dress by the tree. I'm not sure if I got a shot that's worth anything. I might try a wrapped-in-Christmas-lights shot instead if none of what I took today will work.

I'm sure I could keep coming up with things to write about, and hopefully I will post some things in December. (I definitely have a few crochet posts coming up once the gifts have been given at Christmas -- my hooks are flying!)

Until then...

A Felt Christmas Tree Toddler Christmas Activity

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas ...

We got out our Christmas tree today and a few other decorations (including a ceramic Christmas tree that plays Winter Wonderland that was my Gran's ... I finally talked my way into her giving it to me since she doesn't put it up anymore). Maybe that's jumping the gun, but I wanted my in-laws to see the house decorated a bit, and I want to stretch the magic with Jane as long as I can!

One of the things I have been looking forward to the most was making a felt Christmas tree for Jane. The idea is that she'll play with and decorate her tree instead of bothering the actual tree. Time will tell if that's true, but she's had fun carrying around the felt ornaments I made, and they stick to the felt tree beautifully.

I used a combination from two tutorials: Empty Bobbin Sewing Tutorial's No Sew Felt Christmas Tree and Juggling With Kids' The Secret to Cutting Felt & Making Felt Storyboards for Preschoolers.

The tree was pretty easy -- Shawn actually did the calculations and cut a half-yard of green felt into a triangle. And I used half a sheet of brown felt for the trunk. We used double-sided scotch tape to attach it to our brick wall in the sunroom. It's only been a few hours, but it seems like it will stick no problem.

Ornament outlines traced on freezer paper
For the ornaments I first scoured Google images for plain ornament and Christmas-type icon outlines. I have bells, angels, candy canes, round ornaments, lemon-shaped ornaments, gingerbread men, bows, stockings and stars. I tried to use some cookie cutters to make patterns, but that just didn't work. I think finding printed images of cookie cutter shapes would be good because they need to be simple lines.

I printed out my Word doc (which I created to be able to size the outline drawings to my liking) and put it under freezer paper. This stuff was KEY to easily making the ornaments. It has plastic on one side that melts when you hit it with a hot iron, just enough to attach temporarily to the felt. This makes cutting out the ornaments a breeze -- no pinning and no freehanding. Plus, like Juggling with Kids states the templates can be reused a few times because they'll stick again when ironed onto another piece of felt.

All together it was a pretty cheap endeavor. The green felt was on sale, and the sheets of felt were less than a dollar each (usually two or three for a dollar, although the fancy white sparkle and blue/black swirl were a bit more). The freezer paper is pricy, although I only used a bit of it. I already had some felt glue from something I made Owen ages ago, so that was how I attached the stripes on the candy cane and Jane's name to one of the stockings. I think hot glue would work too (and somewhere I read that hot glue can be used to attach felt to brick without damaging either, but I didn't try that).

I love the way it looks, and I still have enough green from the yard I bought to make a second tree -- originally I was going to take down ours and try to get it to Oklahoma for continued Christmas play, but it might just be easier to make a second triangle to not have to deal with the sticky tape. I don't know how I'll store it for next year, but I'm sure that I'll want to pull it out -- it's also just a really cute decoration!


Thanksgiving is here, and I'm working on day two of a cooking extravaganza. You can follow me on Twitter to see what I've been making (and any disasters ... I'm pretty worried about the turkey!).

A lot of people on Facebook have been doing 30 days of gratitude, posting about something they are thankful for each day in November. I know for everyone it's only a drop in the bucket full of blessings, but I like the idea anyway. So here are my 30:
  1. Shawn -- everything about him as a husband and partner, and I'm so grateful for our marriage
  2. Jane -- sweet baby, trying toddler and all around best girl
  3. Owen -- my first baby love, the brightest boy I know and my favorite nephew.
  4. Rest of my family -- without using up all 30 slots for names of everyone I love, I'll just say I'm grateful for the family that raised me and the family I married into.
  5. My childhood -- being raised a Christian in a loving home has been critical to me being me, and I'm so grateful to my parents for the work they put in -- and my sister for surviving it with me.
  6. The church -- I love the United Methodist Church and its open hearts, open minds, open doors structure. I don't understand all the rules of discipline and other hierarchy, but I feel like it's based on "God is love," which I'm so grateful to know and believe. And I am working to pass that onto Jane, with the help of many, including others in our local church.
  7. Our home in Baton Rouge -- I love our house, every square foot, even with its too-small kitchen and no-windows master bedroom.
  8. Clean running water (for drinking, hot showers, on-demand laundry, dishwashing, etc.).
  9. Air conditioning (and in the case of our all-too-brief Baton Rouge winter: heat!)
  10. Electricity in general -- the infrastructure that makes it possible to have it on demand AND the invention of it in the first place.
  11. The internet -- OMG I love you even in your stupidity.
  12. College education -- another big thanks to my mom for helping with that and for all of my family for instilling the idea that it was a given. It's invaluable to be educated, and I recognize that gift.
  13. Coffee, even though you don't taste good to me now I know I'll come home to you someday.
  14. Earl Grey tea -- you'll keep me caffeinated until that old joe flavor comes back to me.
  15. Diet Dr. Pepper ... I want to quit you, but somehow I just can't. I am drinking you right now.
  16. Food and cooking -- the blessing of abundance, especially in the face of the Thanksgiving meal. The ability to get food on demand too -- pick up, delivery, restaurants. I don't have it as good here as I did in NYC, but access to food is something I never have to worry about. What an enormous blessing!
  17. Crochet -- this hobby is something I pick up and put down, but I love the creative outlet it provides and the connection it makes me feel with my Gran who taught me how to do it.
  18. Books, books, books -- I love the library and am so grateful that such an infrastructure exists. I love falling into books and never wanting to come out.
  19. Magazines -- I love the pages, the glossy pictures, the aspirational recipes (some of which I'm working on today!) and even the same-every-year stories.
  20. NPR -- it's become my medium of choice since we're a no-TV-during-the-day family. I love Morning Edition and All Things Considered. I also love the app so I can listen to other stations -- basically so I can keep Morning Edition going later, since I'm kind of a lazy bones.
  21. Our bed -- it's fantastic, a Serta iComfort. Having a clean, comfortable place to sleep every night is a blessing that is so easy to take for granted.
  22. Television -- I'm grateful for the entertainment and crochet accompaniment. You know I could come up with a list of 30 TV shows I'm grateful exist in no time flat, but I will refrain and just give it a line. I love TV too much, even if it does make me stupid.
  23. My iPod -- I don't have a smart phone, but if I have wifi I have the equivalent, minus being able to make calls. It was a gift from my mom (so we could play Draw Something together!) and has been worth ten times its weight in gold. I use it every day and I love it, probably a little too much. Thank you again, Mama!
  24. Exercise -- and the ability to find a variety of routines to follow online. I think of all the wasted time not exercising, and therefore not feeling as good as I do now, and I cringe. And I worry about how I'm going to keep it up -- and not fall back into my patterns of laziness. In any case I'm grateful to have rediscovered moving my muscles -- and seeing some of their definition!
  25. Digital photography -- I am an amateur mama-razzi, and I love it. I love my camera and the lenses I have thanks to Christmas gifts from my husband and mother-in-law. I love experimenting and taking pictures of Jane for fun, for specific set up shots and for remembering our life together, including travels. I'm grateful that I can share snap shots online, make prints and create custom photo books.
  26. Honda Accord and Dodge Grand Caravan -- I love our car, and it's a huge blessing that we are a two-car family. Having reliable transportation is definitely something to be grateful for!
  27. Air travel -- it's a nightmare at the best of times, but I'm so thankful that we can travel to see far-flung family and friends, to have adventures and not have to be stuck in a car for days of our lives (although those kinds of trips are in our future, I'm sure).
  28. The Post Office -- another way to stay in touch with family and friends, plus online ordering? Ah, Amazon Prime. Another being-grateful-for-infrastructure item, but it really does make a difference in my life, and I love getting post!
  29. Work -- even though it's not fun, I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to use my skills and education even in small ways (and in most cases on a volunteer basis). I get so wrapped up in work that it's difficult for me to keep it from invading every part of my brain, but I'm so glad to have something I love to do that is needed by others.
  30. Target -- I love this store so much. I know it isn't the most ethical place to shop, but I love being able to get almost everything I need in one place without that one place being Walmart. (Target does not have yarn for crocheting though, so that's a minus.) I am grateful to have access to a Target (and so many other shopping choices) as well as the resources to buy what we need -- and most of what we want. It really is just a symbol of the underlying blessing of having enough and wanting for nothing.
So that was pretty easy, and I could keep going with even more minutia. But 30 is 30 and there you go. We're wrapping up this month of blog posts, and I have been loving the routine of writing even when what I have to write amounts to nothing. I am proud of a few of the posts this month though and am glad to have written them.

I hope you have wonderful Thanksgiving. I'm not sure how our turkey is going to turn out, but even if it's a bust we'll have a boat-load of sides to fill us up.

The Great Nap Fakeout

My kid is getting too smart for her own good (or my own good). She seems to have figured out that she can hang out in her crib and stay awake during nap time. She definitely sings and talks to herself after I put her in the crib, but she'll usually quiet down. I am convinced she's faking me out to make me think she's taking a nap because she gets so tired and crabby by the end of the afternoon.

If I had a baby monitor with video I could spy on her, or even just a sound monitor I could hear her breathing and be able to tell if she actually slept. We never got one of those, since she slept in our room until she was almost 10 months old. Seems crazy to think about it now, but I loved it then.

My mom suggested trying a later nap, but Jane is so sleepy by lunchtime I'm not sure how I could work that. We may give it a try when we're back on our own next week. But I definitely don't want to give up my exercise/cleaning time, and she's definitely not ready to drop her nap entirely.

Being a toddler mom is hard, but I think being a toddler is a lot harder.

A Brand New Year

I'm 33 today and feeling pretty good about it. I like birthdays even now when they're not that big of a deal. I am going to get to have a date night with Shawn -- margaritas, Mexican food and a movie -- while my in-laws stay with Jane. It's a perfect grey cool cloudy November day. My kind of weather for a great birthday.

This is what 33 looks like on me.
I'm very happy with my life, and I can't think of any resolutions or goals or ideas to take into the next year. I want to stay on the track toward better health ("transformation is not a future event; it is a present activity") and be better facing the challenges of raising a toddler. There are a lot of things I love to do and would love to make more time for: reading, crocheting, movies. I also contemplate expanding our family and returning to the full-time workforce (probably mutually exclusive goals at this point though).

Stay tuned as this girl's life continues to unfold...

Labyrinth and Holiday Shopping

Since my in-laws have been here (less than 24 hours!) I've had two church commitments. The first was a meeting of a spiritual leadership academy of which I'm a part. (I agreed simply because I was asked, even though it cost $90 and three weekends plus these extra meetings. Oh me.)

Anyway, at this meeting we walked the labyrinth at our church, which is something I'd never done -- at this church or anywhere else. I focused way too much on the mechanics and not getting "lost" in the maze-like walk.

I kept my mind somewhat focused by repeating "God is with me" over and over with each step. But at one point I thought "I know that, why do I need to walk in a circle to know that?!" Then immediately thought it's not about knowing that but remembering it, which is something I'm not always so good at!

Today was something I AM good at -- shopping at Target! I met a bunch of other church people, and we were shopping for children at a nearby head start. Their parents earn points by volunteering, having perfect attendance, etc., and the points get turned into dollars for Christmas gifts. Some people worked with partners, but I shopped solo. I had three kids (there were so many shoppers I gave one of my original four back so there would be enough to go around). One kid had earned $200 and only had toys on his wish list (parents fill in the clothes section). It was pretty fun to just throw things into the cart, although his wish list was non-specific and nothing very expensive. So he got a LOT of things! I also got to shop for clothes for a 4-year-old girl and some for a 5-year-old boy. It was so much fun and a little bit like supermarket sweepstakes. I felt like I was racing to get it done (I was finished in an hour).

I'd never really perused the toy aisle that carefully, and it was fun to see what there was available. I definitely got some ideas of things for Jane, and I may have picked up something because it was on sale and I know how much she loves things like that. I also got her a pair of $6 jeans even though the girl is basically swimming in jeans. The shop-shop-shop mode really spilled into my own shopping that I did after completing the shop for the kids. Whoops!

I also shopped last week for an Angel Tree recipient. Our angel is 7 and wanted a soccer ball and a blue jacket. I found the ball on Amazon (all the ones in the stores looked grungy/played with) and the jacket at Kohl's. I don't buy Owen many clothes, so I'd never noticed how shrimpy the boys' section of a store is relative to the girls' section. There were hardly any boy jackets and only one blue. Luckily there was one in the size I needed! I also threw in some socks and a hat and gloves, and I wish he could have them now since it's actually slightly cold here! I guess it still will be in December/January/February (maybe).

Anyway, I'm grateful to have a church with activities like this to take part in, and I'm glad to have free child care right now so I can do the activities without worrying about my bambino!

Too Fat to Run

I'm trying to get my body back into regular movement for health and sanity reasons. So far it's going OK. I've mentioned that I do exercise videos during Jane's naps, and I do them during the week so five times per week. On the weekends I rest (and I'm also usually doing errands during her naps since Shawn is home to stay with her).

But sometimes I feel like moving anyway -- doing a few back kick/front kick combos or a lunge here and there. It's the weirdest thing because I am seriously lazy and would rather lay on a couch than just about anything I think.

But before I settled into this routine that is working for me right now I tried to do a Couch to 5K program. So many people on my Facebook feed and on blogs I read are "mother runners." And I thought it sounded amazing to "run like a mother." And couch to 5K sounded doable.

I found a free podcast that started slow -- mostly walking with a few minutes of running. I set out and got to work. This was probably in April because it wasn't yet SUPER hot here, and it was light enough that I could do the jogs after Shawn got home from work.

I had no trouble doing the actual running/walking combos, and I could really feel the effects on my cardiovascular system, which was great. But after only one week I was having pain in my right knee. I figured it was just a symptom of laziness and wanting to get out of running so I pressed on.

Big mistake.

I could hardly walk for at least two weeks. Putting on underpants or stepping into the tub was difficult. Even driving would leave my knee feeling tweaked! And I had to do all my normal things while caring for a wild toddler. Oh it was rough.

I gave up trying to improve myself through exercise and joked about being too fat to run. Shawn is convinced that my lack of stretching is what caused the problem, although the podcast program included a walking warm-up so I thought I was fine. (Ongoing lesson: I should listen to my husband!)

My knee did eventually get better, although I was halfway convinced that I would have to live with the pain forever. And I felt like I deserved it for being too fat to run! So far with these exercise videos I haven't hurt my knee again, and I hope it stays that way. With some of the strength training exercises I have to concentrate on how my knee holds the weight, and I do jumping jacks and jump rope moves that could hurt, but so far so good.

I think part of my knee's weakness stems from high school basketball. We played on a concrete floor -- seriously I don't think there was any kind of padding between the basketball wood and the concrete like in other gyms at richer schools. I also sprained/hurt my ankle and knee when I was a sophomore (?) and that plagued me the rest of high school a bit. In New York I hurt my left knee when ice skating, so maybe that old injury came back to haunt me too.

I don't know if I'll try running again. Sometimes I am tempted -- especially when the weather is crisp like it is and I feel like moving and getting my heart pumping (and the exercise videos get a little boring and repetitive). But when I weigh that slight desire against the real possibility of even temporary immobility I think I'll just stick with kicking and jumping and the like in the comfort of my sun room. I'll have to lose a lot more weight before I'm in shape enough to try running again!

Feeding My Toddler

Making meals and snacks for Jane isn't the hardest thing I've ever done, but it's also not the easiest. I think she's a very good eater and will mostly try everything. It's me I worry about.
I don't want to push her or nag her to "eat your veggies" or the like, but I find myself asking her to please take a bite of your squash or eat some more apple and we'll talk about more crackers or yogurt or whatever. (She loves carbs and cheese/dairy just like her mama!)

It's hard to know what to do because I recognize the enormity of establishing good lifelong eating habits. But I'm trying to be more relaxed and laid back -- providing her all good choices so it's OK if she doesn't eat all of her peas or beans or whatever. She's getting plenty of variety across the days and weeks.

One way to get veggies and fruits in her no problem are with the baby food pouches. She still loves to suck those down and I keep getting coupons for them. I also have the reusable squeeze pouches that I can fill with things like yogurt and pureed fruit or veggies. I did it once and it was a big mess, so I haven't repeated it. But I could/should.

Anyway, I felt kind of virtuous about those stupid pouches because she gets greens and interesting fruits in her system. But in reality she loses out on fiber and nutrients from the whole foods. Also I started thinking how are these any better than juice, which I don't let Jane have at all? *headdesk*

The pouches are mostly a travel thing, as they are great to fill in at restaurants or on the go as a snack. The guilt I felt when I realized what I was doing -- and then continue to give them to her! -- was not even the close to the worst guilt I've felt over a parenting decision.

And although we try to focus on whole, fresh foods she does eat processed foods like cheddar bunnies, regular bread, crackers, etc. I alternate between feeling like her eating is great and feeling like I'm doing her a huge disservice by letting her have those things at all!

Jane is amazingly healthy, and whatever she's eating it's powering her play and development in fantastic ways. (She can sing songs from memory and is working on her jump right now!) But being me I'm always going to fret and second guess and worry about what I'm not doing right (not feeding her full-on organic for everything -- mostly because I'm cheap and lazy/not everything at our regular grocery store can be had organic, or not eating the exact same things as a family at each meal, etc.).

I need to keep my eyes open to the reality of a healthy little girl, even if she does throw her sippy cup to the floor at least once per meal. (Another worry: should she be drinking from a cup right now? I don't even let her try because I don't want to clean up water or milk multiple times a day from the throwing!)

Selfie Reflecting

So the word of the year for 2013 according to the Oxford English Dictionary is "selfie." Jezebel wrote a piece spring boarding off this called Selfies Aren't Empowering, They're a Cry for Help.
Further, self-taken digital portraits are typically posted on social media, ostensibly with the intent of getting people to respond to them — that's what social media is. In that respect, selfies aren't expressions of pride, but rather calls for affirmation. In real life, walking up to a stranger, tilting your head downward at a 45-degree angle, duckfacing, pushing your tits together, and screaming "DO YOU THINK I'M PRETTY!" would be summon the authorities. On the internet, it's just how people operate.

Selfies aren't empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises by silly, conceited bitches. They're a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you're pretty. 
Selfie from 2004, summer before meeting Shawn
I tweeted about the article -- just noting it because I found myself nodding along with the author's assertions. I'm not super-fond of selfies, although I've certainly taken my share (I have a folder labeled "Self-Indulgence" in my pictures file that mostly contains pictures of my face, including ones I took with my very first digital camera at 23).

When I looked back at Twitter later yesterday evening there was a lot of chatter using #feministselfie, in which feminists railed against the Jezebel article, mainly in a "don't tell me what to do" kind of way as well as "we like our faces" and "selfies give us a way to see real people and feel good about ourselves," all of which are totally valid. I found myself feeling kind of crumbly about it as I went to sleep. (Note to self: stop checking ANY social media before bed!)

The author responded to tweets and said she didn't get any emails asking to discuss the article (she also said she didn't write the headline, which is more inflammatory than the article itself). I went to sleep wanting to email her my overall agreement with her argument while still understanding people's upset. (I didn't do it because I would have fretted even more.)

As for me, now I am rarely in the picture because my camera is always pointing the other way! And I can shift the idea slightly about how I share Jane's picture online and really how much of it is, like a selfie can often be, just a request for admiration/affirmation. Not that there's anything wrong with admiration and affirmation online or otherwise. But where does that leave me in my quest to raise a smart, strong daughter whose value to the world is not based on her physical appearance?

Also, even though I don't take a lot of pictures of myself, rarely change my Facebook profile photo and my Twitter avatar is of me at my fattest and in glasses, isn't this BLOG my own "selfie" looking for admiration and affirmation? Write on...

Prompt: Outfit that Makes Me Feel Good

May 2010: First trip to Baton Rouge
I'm wearing these same jeans today.
Writing daily is getting harder. I think of LOTS of things to write about after I hit post (with plenty of gripe, gripe, gripe ideas), but somehow I don't keep those in my brain for the next day. I've exhausted almost all of my pre-November ideas that I had (save for some that are a little bit more truth-telling than I'm sure I want to get into here, although desperate times so we'll see how it goes). So here's a prompt I just got in email:

NaBloPoMo Writing Prompt for 11/21: Describe an outfit that makes you feel good. (It can be from any period of your life.) Double points if you post a picture of yourself in the outfit.

Hands down my best outfit is jeans and a T-shirt with a hoodie or sweater cardigan on top, because my perfect weather is slightly nippy inside and out. I'm wearing that outfit now, and it's pretty much what I wear in mild weather (i.e., three months of the year in Baton Rouge). The rest of the time the jeans are traded in for shorts. I also wear skirts or dresses to church since I don't have work to dress up for right now. I guess the jeans and T-shirt are just comfortable, which is key to me, and it doesn't require a lot of thought. I'm not and never will be a fashionista despite my magazine habit, and I'm OK with that.

I guess this is about as interesting as anything else I've written this month. Sorry.


With the death of Google Reader my blog reading has dropped off. I still open Feedly a couple times a day, but I am usually powering through just to make sure I don't miss my favorites,* and a lot of things go unread. With the truncated feeds at Jezebel/Lifehacker/etc. needing a click through to see a full article (which then crashes Feedly) I usually don't read much there except first paragraphs.

There are a couple blogs though that I read just because I hate them. (Not the writers per se, but the stuff they write about/how they write about anything.) It's kind of like Get Off My Internets, except I just keep reading and make fun of them to no one. But I read almost every post they write!

Highlights of such blogs include trying to use overly descriptive words for everything (such as never using the word "said"), being proud of lax parenting and a regular diet of processed foods and sugar by making fun of parents who worry about what their kids eat, media they consume, etc. and just generally being unaware of how they come across. While not required for a blog to be part of my "haterade" diet most seem to have a very conservative political bent.

I wonder if I'm on anyone's haterade list. I kind of doubt it unless it's a person I've pissed off in real life. I don't have much of an impact on the world wide web despite having written in some capacity for about 15 years. Good grief.

*Some of my (non-IRL friend or family) favorites:

Read: Heloise's Housekeeping Hints

Just before our travels Jane and I did some garage saling, and we hit up an estate sale. Jane always rides in the Ergo backpack for that, which is infinitely easier than chasing a toddler through someone's home filled with breakables for sale. But it makes for some achy Mama back if we take too long. Usually we do a quick walk through and leave. On this occasion Jane also pointed out every teddy bear in sight with a top-of-her-lungs shout of "BEAR!" Oh me.

We got a few things overall, but my favorite was probably the Heloise's Housekeeping Hints book, 1962 edition. I read it in a couple days, intending to come back and try some of the tips. It was unintentionally hilarious, basically the dated language and ideas of women vs. men made me laugh. A particularly funny-to-me passage was about splurging on a piece of ham every month. "No husband understands that ham costs more than hamburger!" LOLOLOL.

Here are a couple things I thought sounded useful/that I'd like to try:
  • Finely crushed ice: Rinse out a two-quart plastic milk carton, fill with water and store in the freezer. "When ready for that finely crushed ice, remove one or more cartons from the freezer. Next--and this is the trick--take the cartons to a solid concrete sidewalk or patio. Holding onto the carton, slam it against the cement on all four sides until it quits going 'crack' and starts going 'thunk.' Then open the top and pour out the finest crushed ice you havve ever seen It's amazing!"
  • "Dip a raw potato into scouring powder to scrub the corners of rusted cake and pie pans."
And another funny:
  •  From Louisiana: "I am surprised that people don't know how to clear the air in the bathroom by striking matches. Floral deodorizers are fine in the summer, but in winter, with heat on, they just don't mix for us."
I'm sure there are more but I didn't mark them when I read through the first time. I know I laughed at a part where she wrote about "the old man" liking things a certain way. And the way laundry was done then vs. how I do it now is like night and day. I really have it easy!

Do you have any good household tips? Or have you been to any good garage sales lately?

Gift Ideas for Toddlers

I'm having a lot of fun dream-shopping for gifts for my cousins' daughters (ages 3 months and 2.5 years) and of course Owen Max (age 9!). My budget doesn't allow me to be extravagant, and I think it sends the wrong message anyway ... We are so blessed that in our house our problem is keeping ourselves from buying Jane too many toys and gifts because she already has so much, and I know my cousins and sister are in the same boat. But even so it's fun to look at gift lists (here are two great ones I found via Pinterest on It's Always Autumn) and sift through catalogs and Amazon recommended items. I think I'm closing in on what I want to buy for the kids in my life, but I thought I'd share some ideas, mostly things Jane got for her birthday that are A-number-one.

Early Childhood Classics - Old Favorites With A New Twist - We've owned this CD for a month since Jane got it from Grandma Dale and Popeye. We learned about this artist at our library story time, where they use this CD. We LOVE the version of "Itsy Bitsy Spider" (if you've been at our house you've heard the version ... "that tiny spider would not quit!") and the riffing on "Patty Cake" that includes rocking a baby to sleep while you wait for the cake to rise. So fun! We've also fallen in love with a song about an elephant, and the liner notes have suggestions for movements with the songs plus identifying some of the instruments (e.g., the elephant's trumpet sound is made by the French horn). The CD includes instrumental versions of all the songs, which is fun for solos and/or making up words (I think that will come more for Jane later, but it's fun for me now). I love this CD, and I may have to add a few more of this singer's albums to Jane's Amazon list!

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Wooden Numbers - This is another birthday gift, and I have high hopes for it. We had to leave it behind because we had limited suitcase space on our return trip. But when Popeye and Grandma Dale arrive Jane will have her magnet numbers (and letters). I saw these at a friend's house and they are too cool. The magnets themselves are in the shape of the number or letter, so you can use them on a magnadoodle-type drawing toy. I also think that will make them stay on the fridge/door/metal whatever much better. I have some metal Ikea boards that we haven't used, so we're planning to set those up at Jane height in the sunroom for her to play with these. We saw these at the Louisiana Children's Museum, and Jane had a great time playing with them there. They are for 3+ because they could be a choking hazard, but with supervision I'm confident Jane will be OK playing with them.

LEGO DUPLO My First Circus - This gift was from Gingie, and there is no way I would have thought of it. I'm sure she got a great deal on it, as Gingie is apt to do, but it has actually been a perfect plaything too! Jane can build a little bit and with practice her dexterity will improve, but she loves playing with the figures (tightrope walker girl, clown, ring master (aka "That Guy"), tiger, elephant and horse) and having the people swing. We've had it for about a week and she plays with it every day. LEGOS! I don't think you can ever go wrong with Legos (unless you're stepping on them in the middle of the night ... not looking forward to that eventuality).

Stickers: Jane loves stickers, and they have neat books with re-usable stickers so you can place and re-place them on the backgrounds to make new scenes. Jane needs help to use those, but she still likes them very much. I've added one of those to her wish list!

Books: Jane is definitely a reader, and some of our favorite books of late are:
  • I Love You Through and Through (a perennial Mama favorite)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Mommy Hugs and Daddy Hugs (Karen Katz is a favorite author)
  • Hello, New Orleans
  • Random garage sale books, especially long ones (oh me)
  • Anything Winnie the Pooh

An idea I like is buying a kid (or family) an experience, like membership to their local zoo or children's museum. Or maybe just tickets to a ball game or something. (We're thinking we'd like to take Jane to a women's basketball game soon, so we'll see how that works out.)

I know I'm going to come across many more gift ideas in my hunting (and I don't want to give away anything I actually buy!). This is a quick post (as per usual), but hopefully it's helpful to someone.

Do you have any great gift ideas for kids? Or grownups for that matter!

A Home Cook from Magazines

Magazine Stack
Magazine Stack on Flickr by thebittenword.com
I'm not a great cook, but I can follow a recipe and make things turn out OK most times. I'm realizing that the way I meal plan heavily involves magazines -- mostly pages ripped from magazines that I keep in a file folder.

As Jane started pulling books off shelves I had to move my cookbooks out -- and then the bookshelf got replaced with a bench but the cookbooks haven't made a reappearance. So I don't really make recipes from cookbooks. They're tucked away in a box for now.

My magazine clipping file folder is getting out of control. I tried to organize things (chicken, beef, pasta, desserts), but as I use recipes I don't put them back/they land back at the top of the pile making things even messier.

I know if I went digital -- finding the recipes on the magazine's websites and then saving them in an online recipe box somewhere -- I could search and find things more easily. But I wouldn't want technology in the kitchen to get messed up by my less-than-stellar cleaning skills. (Just ask my mother-in-law ... she'll be here in a week and ALWAYS leaves my kitchen cleaner than when she arrives without even trying!) So I keep slogging away in my paper-filled world.

I subscribe to so many magazines it's obscene, and yet I still find ones I want to buy on the newsstand. (One I love but don't subscribe to is HGTV, and I've started to like Southern Living. My m-i-l subscribes to Saturday Evening Post, which I found to be a really good magazine too.) My dream job in J-school was to work at a women's magazine. (Although after reading them for so many years I don't think I'd like it so much.)

I'm planning Thanksgiving dinner mostly from magazine recipes -- from years past and a few new this year. There are family recipes of course and non-recipe things like mashed potatoes or deviled eggs. It's going to be fantastic. I love food so much.

What's your plan for Thanksgiving? Do you have a smart way to organize your recipes?

Christmas Frenzy

Christmas baby 2012
The count down to Christmas 2013 is on. I guess it starts right after Halloween? Thanksgiving is much later this year than last (my birthday was after Thanksgiving, this year it's before), which kind of crunches the true Christmas season even more. I guess some bleeding edge is to be expected.

I, for one, am ready to delve into the holiday season, and I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving with my in-laws followed by decorating the house for Christmas, figuring out Christmas cards and finishing off holiday shopping (mostly online I think). I love making lists and checking things off, and Christmas provides ample opportunities for that.

When it's 80 degrees outside it's less easy to feel in the spirit, but I guess I'll enjoy it while I can and try not to get too wound up about something still safely in the future. (I already ordered my stamps for my Christmas cards though!)

Bossy Baby

Our weather is back to balmy, and Jane and I went to the park this morning. We were the only ones there for a while, but it really started to pick up around 10:30. She was swinging and said "Mama swing," but I couldn't because the other swings were taken. I explained she was swinging with other kids, isn't that fun? Then one of the kids left his swing and Jane said "kid swing!" like a command. Out of my mouth popped: "Jane, don't be bossy."

I've never said that to her before (probably because she's never bossed anyone but family). And as soon as I said it my brain went into overdrive analyzing it. Do I really not want her to be bossy? Isn't that a prerequisite to leadership? But she has to learn to be mindful of others. You can get others to do things your way without the use of commands, and you attract more flies with honey. Gah! She's two for crying out loud.

Would my approach or response be different if I were raising a boy? I can't wrap my head around that hypothetical now that I have Jane and she is who she is.

There are so many other things I think about when I ponder raising a girl. I'm still wary of princesses and pink overload. But I find myself drawn to Hello Kitty (!) who is everywhere, especially in Target. Jane doesn't show much preference in her play things, and probably all her toys are technically gender neutral even if they're pink (thinking about the doll stroller for that one).

I think we have a sticker book about Disney princesses (which hasn't made it home to Baton Rouge yet). My favorite is Ariel and I l-o-v-e-d The Little Mermaid. Looking at it through a feminist lens though it's just another story of a girl putting the very best of herself aside in pursuit of a guy (and one she doesn't even know at that). When I realized that (probably when Jezebel wrote something about it), I was a little crushed. Now I'm just confused as to whether Jane should get to enjoy the Disney stories when they contain themes I so don't agree with.

Basically I don't want Jane to be limited -- by me, by society, by expectations. That may be unrealistic.

Creepy Monkey

While we were traveling the fall consignment sale for Rhea Lana Baton Rouge took place. I was very bummed to miss it, so I did a quick Google to see if there were any consignment sales happening while we were in the DC area. Lo and behold, there was one the first weekend we were there, and it was about a mile from our hotel in Greenbelt! SCORE!

So before we headed to Annapolis that first Friday I took a tired baby on my back and bought a few things. It was amazing fun as usual. (I think I like consignment sales too much AND I really don't need most of the stuff I buy. Also not a good idea to talk about it -- I made a friend's eyes glaze over talking about my rapture ... and she has two little kids so could somewhat relate!)

Everything was 50% off on Sunday, and since we were so close and I could sneak away by myself before we left to go to a friend's house for brunch I went back for another look. That's when I found Creepy Monkey (even though the picture doesn't show it he has a tail so definitely a monkey).

He (she?) was in a bag with a Care Bear and a lady bug ball. Jane has a Funshine Bear that she likes a lot, and she loves Care Bear books. This one was Cheer Bear and had a rainbow on its tummy, so it fit with my rainbow birthday theme. So for $1.50 I figured why not, and I planned to donate the monkey and lady bug when we got to Danville (or leave them for my mother-in-law's house toys-for-Jane collection). I gave Jane the Care Bear at some point during the trip, but the monkey and lady bug were just hanging around in our room.

Jane saw them and begged for the monkey. She was so excited. I started calling him creepy monkey, and the name has stuck. She had been sleeping with her Bert and Ernie dolls, which was a first in terms of wanting something to sleep with. She started chewing on those so I took them away as sleeping toys. Creepy Monkey stepped up to fill in.

Now he's a fixture in her crib and she asks for him before naps and bedtime. I washed him when we got home (no dryer) and he's fluffed right back up no problem. I haven't had any luck figuring out what kind of toy he actually is (should I need to replace him). I don't recommend googling "creepy monkey" either -- yikes!

Have you ever seen a toy like this/do you know what it is?

Pictoral of Recent Travels

My last pre-written post about our trip was published today. I didn't write extra from Danville since November had already begun and I was struggling just to get one post together. Anyway, here are some non-Jane snapshots from our DC/Virginia trip and our weekend trip to New Orleans (actually just two pictures from the zoo). In order:
  • The White House (through the bars of the fence)
  • The National Press Club Building (memories)
  • Bert & Ernie and the Washington Monument, just because
  • Washington Monument through the World War II Memorial (note scaffolding)
  • Fox on the Mall -- so weird in broad daylight
  • Panda at the National Zoo
  • Fall leaves at the Zoo
  • Metro ceiling
  • Walker Drive (we were staying at a hotel just off this road)
  • Route 66 light sign in the American History Museum
  • Washington Monument Earthquake Repair sign (explanation for scaffolding)
  • More fall leaves
  • Profound quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
  • Fall leaves and Washington Monument
  • Carousel on the National Mall
  • United Methodist Building: "God's Justice Never Shuts Down" (a stone's throw from the Capitol)
  • Three flags at Union Station
  • Water tower in Danville (basically all my pics from here are of Jane!)
  • Orangutans at Audubon Zoo
  • White alligator at Audubon Zoo (taken through glass and quickly before Jane ran off -- not sure why I didn't make a better effort to get his tail in the shot too)

Danville or Bust!

I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise.

30 October 2013

I'm so tired that I'm READY to go. I am looking forward to relaxing at Steve and Dale's once we get there. And then we'll prepare for Jane's second birthday party on Saturday! I haven't even begun to fret about that, as I have been swept up in trying to see everything and everyone here in DC (I failed on both counts, but we did pretty well).

As our trip wound down I couldn't sleep as well fretting about how we were going to fit things in, especially as Jane and I got more and more tired. Metro-ing and walking long distances became harder. I used to stay up late thinking about websites, content, strategy, events, publications, etc. Now it's whether we can make it to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial AND the Supreme Court. (We did. I'm still tired.)

It's been a great trip, and we're still a week from going home.

She is so beautiful

My daughter is a beautiful child. She has smooth white skin, big, bright blue eyes with ridiculous eyelashes, tons of dark hair and adorable features. I'm partial, of course, but her beauty is confirmed by people almost everywhere we go. I never tire of hearing someone say how gorgeous she is. (Especially if they also say she looks just like me: LOL!)

What I like hearing even more is a compliment or comment on her personality, throwing arm or climbing ability (all of which are even better than her looks!). She's much more than a pretty face, and as she becomes a full-fledged kid and moves further from her babyhood the complex person she is becomes more and more evident.

One comment I have a hard time responding to is "Shawn's going to need to get a shotgun" or "You're really going to have trouble with the boys with this one."

Me: "..."

Somehow in this type of comment I hear Jane being devalued, which is something I can't stand no matter how well-intentioned the remark might be. I know the heart of it is a compliment on her physical beauty.

Yes she's a very cute kid who will likely grow into a stunning young lady. But I expect so much more from her than being a boy magnet. I want to help her develop skills and maturity to navigate relationships of all kinds, including boy-girl relationships. Our plan isn't "get a shotgun to keep the boys away" but rather equip Jane with the tools she needs to make wise decisions and demand to be treated as a person first rather than just a pretty girl.

Like most of my blog posts (especially in November) this isn't a fully thought out idea. But it's something that nags at me every time I get a comment like that. Maybe someone else has the right comeback? Mostly I just say nothing or nod and smile, which might be the appropriate response after all.

Top of the Newseum

I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise. 

26 October 2013

The Newseum was great. I got free tix from a former coworker so we didn't have to pay $22 each, and we got there early so beat the massive Saturday crowds. I could have stayed longer, but with a need-to-nap toddler our visit was a smidge briefer than had I been on my own. We still got to see most of the museum, and I especially loved this picture, one of the few of me from the trip and probably the only one of me by myself. I especially love the Canadian flags visible in front of the Capitol. LOL. 

Practicing Socialization and Constant Prayer

During our trip to DC and Danville we did a lot of visiting -- going to people's houses to get together, meeting for coffee or lunch. It was great. I probably had more socializing time in three weeks than I have in three months in Baton Rouge (or possibly all three years!). But that's normal for me.

I'm not inherently social by nature -- or something. I really have to work at friendships/connecting with people, and a lot of times it seems like too much effort. Sometimes it becomes effortless, and it's those connections that feed my desire to want more.

After all these great catch ups with old friends I find myself thinking about them specifically -- like oh, I want to send this link to Friend A, and this show reminds me of Friend B I should see if she watches it, and so on. But the amount of communications I would be doing long distance would get intimidating I think. Because no one wants to continually hear from me as random things pop into my head. (I mostly limit myself to one follow up thank you per friend.)

And those random things will subside, and I'll go back to the regular routine and annoying my normal cohort of contacts (or just blogging my fool head off).

This thought about continually thinking about people I've just seen and interacted with has been rolling around in my head, and it popped in again tonight after Bible study and the idea of praying without ceasing. (Romans 12:12 was verse in question: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.")

Why is it that I don't think "I should tell God about this," or "wow, this chapter of my book really reminds me of something He said to me," to the same extent I am reminded of my friends after a good visit?

I think the answer is somewhat obvious that I need to spend more time cultivating my relationship with God and attend to prayer in a more intentional way.

Bert and Ernie Visit Washington

I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise. 

I love this picture.

Little Free Library

We went to a couple parks in Danville (lesson learned: listen to the recommendation of someone who actually HAS a young kid. Her recommended park actually had swings).

At both of the parks we hit they had these "Little Free Libraries," which I thought were so clever. Basically they are library books that are probably taken out of circulation. Then you can take what you want and put it back when you're done (or not I guess). I didn't find anything I wanted to read, but I could certainly dump some of my own books after I read them (although I'm not sure if that's allowed).

Looking at the map it seems that there are little free libraries all across the country, including in New Orleans. I didn't notice any while we were out (and we've been to a couple parks here). Oh and there's one in Baton Rouge -- how funny. Maybe I'll check it out sometime.

I'm a big public library fan, and I use my library card at least monthly if not more frequently. In Baton Rouge the library cards expire every three years. I didn't realize this until whoops! My card didn't work to download ebooks anymore. And I was in Greenbelt!

I called to find out the problem, and the woman on the phone said: you have to come in, no two ways about it. So I tweeted my distress (I really wanted my ebooks AND I really didn't want to lose them since you only have a few days to download reserved ebooks before they're put back in the queue). The reference desk tweeted back and was able to give me a temporary extension so I could get my ebooks. Hurray!

The day after we returned was library storytime, so I went to renew my card since we were there anyway. It was kind of a hassle because I'd forgotten something with my address -- and I needed to update the address on the card. I had our car insurance/registration and managed to cobble together something (with my ID that has my old address on it) that worked for the cranky lady at the desk.

In any case I'm good until November 2016, give or take.

Forgetting Fall

Fall foliage in NoVa
I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise.

24 October 2013

Autumn came to the DC area today. It was actually brisk verging on cold. We tried playing on a play ground at 11 a.m., but it was shady and just too nippy. Jane wanted to keep playing, but I was too cold.

I wish I could go back in time to convince Louisiana Mari that it really WOULD get cooler here and that cold weather gear would be welcome. I have a jean jacket, a light cardigan thing and my deep purple pashmina. How hard would it have been to throw in my leather gloves and cashmere hat (both holdovers from NYC that don't see much action down south)? I did break down and buy a $10 Target zip up fleece (resisted purple and went with black and grey) -- not that it was a challenge to talk myself into shopping!

I'll keep on chattering my teeth and hope it warms up (it's supposed to at least get back up into high 50s/low 60s). Jane is fine, as I brought a warm hat for her, her warmest coat (which is neat and separates into two reversible lighter jackets -- four looks in one) and long-sleeve tops. She doesn't own any gloves, so we might go ahead and buy them if we run across them.

Difficulties in The Big Easy

I'm sitting writing this in the bathroom of our bed & breakfast room. When Shawn asked the person booking the room for more space to bring his family he thought he was clear that we were asking for a separate bedroom. Instead we're in this fancy house where nothing is toddler friendly with a single -- albeit large -- room. The owner/operator couldn't be nicer, and it isn't her fault that Jane won't fall asleep if I'm in the room with her. Just meh. At least there is an outlet in the bathroom for my computer.

This is the first time I've stayed at a B&B, and apparently with that comes being asked "where are you going" and "what time will you be back" with every move. Breakfast was weird too -- she asked everyone else what they would like, but she just served us (totally high carb stuff so I had to wait to get a breakfast sandwich later from Starbucks). Jane ate some muffin I would have NEVER let her have otherwise -- totally white flour/refined sugar non-nutritional junk. She also served us both tea, when I'm back to jonesing for coffee (took care of that at Starbucks too). It would be totally romantic and nice to be here WITHOUT a toddler (and without a husband at a conference). We'll survive it!

We went to the zoo today, and good grief it's expensive. Also the zoo doesn't open until 10. I knew this but wanted to get out of our room before Jane destroyed something, drove me crazy or both. Good thing -- there were GOBS of people there at 9:30 when we arrived, and the lines were out of control when they finally opened the gates after 10. Ugh.

Jane's favorite parts were the playground and the carousel. The white tiger was cool and something I don't think I've seen before. Same for the white alligators. We always like giraffes, and they had three of those, and zebras. We bought an expensive lunch and we also went shopping for post cards and magnets, and we got a Christmas ornament for our tree (I like to do that on our travels). All in all this is probably our most expensive day of travel (not counting air fare). I don't think I spent this much any day in DC. I guess I'm supporting our state's economy?


It is also stupid hot here. And yesterday was chilly in Baton Rouge so when I packed I only brought long sleeves for Jane. It's warm enough for SHORTS, which I guess I shouldn't complain about because mild weather is nice and easier to navigate a toddler in. But still. I much prefer the crisp autumn air to sweating profusely.

Just another day-in-the-life entry...

Possibly The Worst Story Time Ever

I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise.

24 October 2013

I have been taking notes of our every move -- for my own record keeping, for sharing in The Weekly Jane and for blogging purposes if I decide to detail this trip in bullets like our Minneapolis trip (and/or I may need the ideas for NaBloPoMo!). But I wanted to write this while it is fresh. When I told someone this story today she said it sounded like the start of a sitcom. (Arguably a BAD sitcom, but there you go.)

Jane and I love story time at our Baton Rouge library. We really loved the one we tried out in Minneapolis, and I hoped that one in the DC suburbs would be as good. I was so wrong. It was just a waste of time.

I knew from the website that you needed a ticket to get into the program, so we arrived about 30 minutes early to get them. The idea is to limit the number to 20 -- but that 20 includes parents! We didn't need to be there as early as we were, but we passed the time reading books and Jane pretending to play on the computers (oh that girl loves her screens -- she is her mother's daughter!).

Finally at 10:30 the librarian rings a bell signaling the children to come into the story time room. About three toddlers and their caregivers follow her in, handing over the tickets. The librarian shuts the door and starts to read a very long not-so-toddler-friendly book about fire safety, which is the theme of this story time.

Every other page she is stopped by a late comer at the door. She won't let another parent open the door because she needs to be sure they have tickets and collect them. Inevitably they don't have a ticket so she sends them back to the front desk to get one. She resumes reading and does the same thing all over again when they come back with their ticket. It happened about five times for a total of 10 interruptions. It was just a ridiculously stupid system -- and they didn't seem to be overrun with patrons anyway. If nothing else they should have had another librarian or shelver or something collect the tickets and let people in once the story time started.

That was bad, but it wasn't the worst part. This librarian clearly didn't really like kids. She had a sour puss look while she read and seemed somewhat agitated by the toddlers running around. Part of the room was off limits, as it had a small stage area. And there was a boom box (literally) at toddler level that we had to keep redirecting the kids from. She read three long books that were too complicated for the young audience, in my opinion anyway. There were two or three song/movement things, but they were very short. I think everyone wanted to shake and dance some more (Jane kept asking for "songs, songs").

Lest I sound too gripe-y, there was one good part -- she had a felt board and handed the kids pictures to stick on. Some were fire fighter pictures and others were police officer pictures (Dalmatian vs. German shepherd, fire hose vs. flashlight, fire hat vs. police hat, etc.) so they had to put them on the correct column. Jane really liked that interactivity even though she didn't know where things went and had to be told.

We needed a low key activity anyway because we'd gone to the zoo the day before and stayed out way too late so were exhausted. So I guess it wasn't a total loss. I guess there's no way to tell how a library will do its programming without trying it out. I give this one a big thumbs down.

Rainbow Party for a Second Birthday

While we were in Danville with Shawn's family we had a party for Jane. It was mostly an excuse for everyone to come over and visit (limiting the number of trips we had to take trying to see everyone on a six-day trip). It ended up being really fun.

I decided on a rainbow theme way back -- I think inspired by a rainbow layer cake that looked wow-worthy. (After my amateur baking fails at Christmas, I thought this could be a chance to redeem myself. Silly Mari.) After remembering my aversion to food dyes for Jane and the lack of proper baking equipment in my mother-in-law's kitchen I scaled back my baking efforts to a pumpkin cake (lower sugar and easy to make in bundt cake pans), but we had rainbow decorations.

 Happy Birthday banner from the dollar store (bought by Grandma)

Second year around the sun photo retrospective -- my 24 favorite Jane photos from Nov 2012 - Oct 2013 (not including our DC trip of course).

Arch of rainbow balloons on the carport wall -- was cuter in my imagination and we should have started with a red row of 14 instead of 12, working down to a row of 4 purple. It looked great from the road though and added to the festivity.

The best way to do it is string the balloons (which we did the day before the party and hung them the morning of). I used size 10 crochet thread (which I can use for actual crocheting later/once Grandma and Popeye come visit and bring our overflow baggage) and a tapestry needle. Then we poked that through the necks of each balloon to get a string of each color. We used regular tape to affix to the siding and they stayed up several days -- at least as long as we were there. I haven't heard if they've fallen down yet, although they were starting to lose air from the temperature fluctuations and just time.

After last year's helium shortage I really wanted to get Jane her own balloon for her second birthday. I bought this "2" from Oriental Trading, not realizing how big it would be (almost as tall as Jane!). In the end though I had it filled with air (that much helium would have probably been pretty pricy). The party store also did some rainbow balloons and squiggles and added a weight at the bottom so that the balloon centerpiece stood up. Jane kept saying "pop it!" So she didn't really get to play with it much.

The cake ended up being very cute and was complimented a lot. It definitely tasted "healthier" -- lower sugar and with 1/3 whole wheat flour.

The icing/glaze was just leftover pumpkin (probably 1/2 cup) mixed with powdered sugar and a bit of milk. So it had a nice pumpkin flavor and color.

The ice cream cone stem was supposed to be green, but we forgot to look for it earlier and ended up just using what we could find at the last minute.

I forgot to put baking soda in the bottom cake, so it didn't taste as good/have as much lift. But we only served the top cake at the party so that was all OK.

We also made fruit salad and pasta salad, both rainbow-style. I had toyed with the idea of making fruit pizza, which could be designed to look like a rainbow. But after tasting the test version Shawn didn't think it would be a good idea for his family. The recipe also took several ingredients my mother-in-law didn't have, and I wasn't up for buying more when it came time to make the decision. The fruit salad replacement was a big hit -- I had thought about doing a fruit tray with the rainbow colors layered out, but in the end I thought the fruit salad would be easier to eat. And it was well received -- with no random bits of fruit left if one color didn't taste as good as the other.

The pasta salad was the only thing that made leftovers. I didn't use a heavy dressing, which would have made it taste better. Instead it was dressed simply with olive oil and lemon juice. There was too much pasta to veggie ratio, and the red onion was overwhelmingly sharp. It looked pretty though. Here's what I used for the rainbow colors (fruit salad and pasta salad):

Red: strawberries and grape tomatoes
Orange: peaches and shredded carrots
Yellow: bananas and cheddar cheese
Green: green apple and green bell pepper (from Grandma's garden!)
Blue: blackberries and nothing (could have done crushed blue corn chips? or maybe found blue colored pasta?)
Purple: purple grapes and red onion

Today is Jane's actual birthday, and she is two years old. We are heading on ANOTHER trip, although this one is short and by car. We're going to have some fun in New Orleans before we come home and start focusing on prepping for the holidays. Grandma and Popeye are coming for Thanksgiving!

Media Use Decisions

'365:32 - Television' photo (c) 2009, Sarah Reid - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Jane doesn't watch television. She's never seen Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers or Thomas the Tank Engine (Owen's favorite!) or any of the new shows aimed at toddlers and preschoolers. (Through birthday gifts she was introduced to Lalaloopsy and Dora ... although we kind of nipped that in the bud, at least temporarily!)

If you had asked me even three years ago if I would have this parenting stance I would have laughed and said no. When Owen was a toddler I was the enabler to end all enablers and encouraged him to watch whatever he wanted and however much he wanted. It makes me sick now to think about it.

Shawn was right all along, as he's always been in the camp of limiting screen time (for everyone!). As we researched in preparation for Jane's birth and the responsibility of parenting I found myself warming up to the idea of no screen time until after age 2, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I recognize my own dependency on screen time and want Jane to be a better consumer of media.

While we were on our trip a Common Sense Research Media Study was released about children's media use in the United States. I heard stories about it several times on NPR, so I assume it got coverage elsewhere too. Basically more and more kids are using screens and at younger and younger ages. No one knows what -- if anything -- this is doing to their developing brains.

Despite our decision to avoid TV Jane has never been entirely screen free. She falls into the 38% of under-2s who have used a smart phone (people at church have taught her how to use an iPhone, for example). We Skype with family and friends on occasion, and I am known to let her look through photos with me -- either on my iPod, the computer or camera. She also sees TV screens  in restaurants, airports, etc. (and knows to say "TV on!" with delight.) None of this causes me any pause, just as other families are completely comfortable with more TV time than we are.

Our decision against TV for now also has to do with my desire to avoid the inundation of advertisements in kids' media. Marketers are smart and can sell-sell-sell to everyone, especially impressionable young minds (and if we're being honest to this mama!). It's not only the sugar cereal/bad-for-you food ads shown on traditional TV aimed at kids. But it's also the overwhelming tie ins, which I'm afraid would lead to an even bigger "gimme-gimme-gimme" attitude than we might otherwise face.

Even Sesame Street, which Jane is familiar with through books/coloring books, children's museums and some toys, is selling, selling, selling. Elmo toys always seem to be on the hot list at Christmas, and Earth's Best food items bear his furry red face along with other characters. I buy some Earth's Best products, and Jane definitely prefers to eat something with a character on the package, and that's without even seeing the show. I absolutely believe Sesame Street is an educational program that adds value to kids' lives. I'm just not yet sure how to navigate the resulting "see it, want it, get it" cycle the branding can induce.

Jane is almost two, but we have no plans yet to introduce TV. But our decision is just that -- ours. And it in no way affects how I feel about others' parenting decisions past, present and future. Parenting is a tough road to navigate no matter how you look at it.

Travel Woahs

I drafted a few posts from our recent trip and am scheduling them to post when we get home. These will not count for NaBloPoMo, since I use that as a write-every-day exercise.

16 October 2013

Atlanta's airport is horrible. I get that it's busy, but it's also too small for the amount of busy-ness. It was claustrophobic in a horrible, horrible way. We ate lunch at PF Chang's -- and paid INSANE prices for mediocre food -- just so we could have a small respite from the fray. Would HATE a long layover there, although we never did find the kid's play area... Not sure what our layover is like on the way back.

ATL did have a nice water dispenser system. I filled my Vapur anti-bottle no problem, and the water system was sponsored by Vapur! I like the bottle so much that I convinced Shawn to get one (his is green), and he's been using it on his travels too. It's also good just in the diaper bag, since it doesn't add much weight to the water (unlike my Lifefactory glass bottle, which I also love but is so heavy).

BWI is entirely painted black on the outside. What the heck?! Wouldn't that be ridiculously hot in the summer/jack up the cooling bills? Inside it was much less horrible -- there were definitely a lot of people, but not in a bouncing-off-every-available-surface-including-me kind of way that was Atlanta. We had a bit of congestion at the car pick up lane, but all in all it was fine.

Amazon Affiliate links used.

TIBTIL: Kidz Gear Wired Headphones

As tweeted October 16
Instead of packing LESS in my backpack carry on (which I've bemoaned the weight of previously) I actually made room somehow for one more item: Kidz Gear Wired Headphones. The $20 price tag was SO worth it during the trip. It's a Thing I Bought That I LOVE.

I had decided to buy the orange version, but before I hit purchase I showed Jane the page and she picked purple. She is her mother's daughter, although I had some color regret when they came because she really couldn't care less what color they are.

After they arrived from Amazon I let Jane try them on, to be sure they fit and that she didn't run screaming. She was very interested in them, but I put them away until the trip. They came out on the airplane to Atlanta and WOW. She kept them on and listened to songs (some new-to-her ones ripped from a Disney Travel Songs CD given to us by Gingie). It made for pockets of relaxation on the flights, as she could be occupied and quiet without parental intervention. She would also simultaneously read a book, play with stickers or draw on her Fisher Price Travel Doodler Pro (another TIBTIL that we also used on our Minneapolis travel).

During our trip the FAA rules changed re: using electronics during flight. Now you can listen to your iPod, read on your Kindle, etc. from gate to gate. So on our flight from Raleigh to Atlanta we did that just because we could. On the podunk regional jets they are sticking to the "no electronics until over 10,000 feet rule" for a while longer, so we couldn't do the same from Atlanta to Baton Rouge. No big deal.

A great feature is that the sound is limited, which means she can't crank up the volume high enough to hurt her ears. That isn't a huge issue now because I don't actually let her handle the iPod while she wears the headphones, but probably a feature we'll appreciate in the future. It has a volume control on the cord too, although she didn't really mess with that much.

The headphones were key during our trip too. On the long walks on the National Mall or rides on the Metro or sitting in a coffee shop while I talked with friends Jane could have her headphones on and be entertained at least for a bit. They also facilitated a couple stroller naps, which are basically unheard of in our day-to-day life!

During our 2.5 hour layover in Atlanta on the way home we popped on the headphones, reclined the stroller and Jane headed straight to snoozeville for a good hour nap. Not as good as a crib nap of course but better than running solely on cortisol and cheddar bunnies (although there were plenty of those too!).

I crocheted a small drawstring carrying pouch for the headphones, although you can buy carrying cases with the Kidz Gear logo. I'm not interested in paying extra for something I could make with the overflow yarn I have hanging around this joint. I basically made a chain the width of my bag then started crocheting in the round -- first single crochet then half-double crochet with a few random rows of single thrown in to give it some dimension (or something). I used a variegated yarn leftover from a baby blanket. It kept the wire from getting tangled in other things in my bag.

The headphones held up well on this maiden voyage. Time will tell if they are as successful down the road as they were on this jaunt. I'm hopeful and would certainly buy them again if we wear them out with joyful use.

Some Amazon Affiliate links used.

Want to Order a Crochet Hat?

Thanks for your interest in silvermari crochet hats . Most of what I make are sized for infants and toddlers, although I can size up and dow...