Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good kids

I'd love for my kids to grow up to be rich, successful doctors. I'd be thrilled if they made it into the best colleges and earned big paychecks and were the smartest people around. But that's probably not going to happen (at least not entirely), and I don't have much control over it either. But one thing I do have at least a say in is how they learn to treat other people.

Though I grew up in a very homogeneous town, I grew up to be open-minded and accepting. My parents did it subtly, but I always understood that everyone deserved to be treated with equal respect regardless of any perceived differences.

I am determined that my children will grow up with the same guidance. I want my boys to be respectful of women and Lena to believe she can be anything she wants to be. I also want them to understand that they have a lot of advantages and not everyone has all the things they have. I want them to see giving generously as just a part of life. I want them to feel a passion for social justice and an obligation to pull up others who have fallen down.

This is a tall order of course considering they are just one, three, and five, but it's never too early right? And I feel that I also need to make helping people around me a structured part of life. Too often you give of yourself only when it is convenient. So T and I have decided to volunteer or donate or do something every month to remind us that we are part of a larger community, and we are all in this together.

We started in September. That first month, we printed out a list from the Humane Society, went shopping at the pet supply store, and dropped off our donations. We also took a little tour and resisted bringing home any new pets.

In October, I had an already-scheduled charity event for a women's fund, so I wrote an extra check. In November, we signed up to be bell ringers.

We really guilted some people into giving with this line-up. We tried to explain exactly what we were doing and why. I think Q started to get it, though R was more interested in helping to shove money into the kettle, and Lena just liked shaking the bell.

In December, T took the boys to Toy R Us to pick out gifts for Toys for Tots. That was a big test of course, as the boys get manic when they enter a toy store. They did a good job selecting their toys and did  eventually hand them over.

Especially this time of year when the kids become greedy little devils demanding everything they see advertised in colorful newspaper inserts or on television commercials, I want to make sure they are learning what we really value. If they grow up to be caring, generous adults, I will know I was a good mother.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

November Favorites

1. Instagram

I was due for a phone upgrade in November and got my hands on then new iPhone 4S. Among the fun little treats with which I have been entertaining myself: Instagram. This app lets you take pictures and then easily apply filters to make yourself look like a master photographer. Witness the documentation of my Christmas card construction:

Watch out. It's addicting!

2. Dermalogica products

I picked up som Dermalogica products when I got a facial last month and have fallen in love. I got this multi-active toner and also a hydration serum and eye cream. I especially like the serum, because your skin just drinks it in and is moisturized without being greasy.


For Christmas and birthday this fall, I am going for online shopping and homemade gifts. has the best, most clever gifts for kids. I have snapped up a couple things for my nephews. also is a great option for unique, useful gifts.

4. PIE!

I stopped eating meat in 2004 (and started eating fish again in 2009), so Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey for's all about the PIE. I think I could subsist on pie alone. Cherry pie, pecan pie, apple pie, peach pie, and pumpkin pie. The last few years I have made two pumpkin pies (from scratch of course. That's the only way to do it.) and eaten probably 1.5 pies by myself. This year my pesky children were into pie as well (perhaps there is a pie-loving gene?), and I didn't get my fair share. Even Lena was going to town on the pie. I managed to devour about eight pieces but felt still deprived. Next year I might have to increase my pie production. And I will state for the record that I firmly believe pumpkin pie makes a perfectly acceptable breakfast. It has vitamin A in it doesn't it?


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Relax already

I'm not very good at letting go. I tend to live up in my head, churning through thoughts, planning ahead, looking back, but rarely thinking about the exact moment I am in. I think how many minutes, hours, days, weeks, years until....something. I can eat a bag of chips and not realize it or take my vitamins and then forget if I just actually took them. It's not healthy.

I once read that rumination like this can keep you from being happy in your life. So I've been trying not to do it. Easier said than done if your brain has been operating in the same way since birth. Yoga is a great way to develop a more relaxed mindset. I didn't take easily to yoga when I first tried it. I would be thinking, When is this horrible plank going to be over? What am I going to do after class? Hasn't it been an hour yet? I still sometimes count down the seconds of particularly grueling poses, but I have gotten better at trying to climb down out of my head and actually be aware of my body.

My life is full right now. There is just no way around that. There is always something I need to accomplish or remember from the snack Q needs for school, to my next quiz in class, or a work meeting. If I don't rein it in, my mind just runs wild hopscotching from task to task and worry to worry. Lately I have consciously been trying to reel myself back and focus on one thing at a time. Work when I am at the office, family when the kids are awake, classwork after they go to bed. It doesn't always work but being conscious of it can't hurt.

I found myself yesterday with a vacation day to burn and a spa gift card I hadn't spent. I dedicated the day to a little relaxation and went to yoga, a facial, and lunch with T. It was lovely. Of course, I was stressed when I was running late to the facial and when I couldn't remember where I parked the car, but then I wouldn't be me if there wasn't a little anxiety in the mix.

I envy the people who can blissfully sink into relaxation. Even during a massage my mind is whirling, How many minutes do I have left? Why does my left calf hurt? Does she think my arms are fat?

I just can't turn it off. But at least I am developing the ability to dim it a little.


Monday, November 7, 2011

October Favorites

1. Short hair
You know those women who spend forever considering a change in hairstyle? Who think it about for months and research and ponder? I'm not one of those women. I was tired of my hair and had an appointment scheduled. I found a picture in a magazine, and said, "I want a change!" My husband doesn't love it, but I do, and it takes a heck of a lot less time to style.

2. The Packers

Packers season makes the descent into brutal Wisconsin winters a bit more bearable. Coming off the high of a Super Bowl win is a thrill and now the Packers are 8-0. I love it. I tend to fold laundry during Packers games and it makes matching up tiny socks a bit more enjoyable. Go Pack!

3. Gel Manicures

Taking a big turn here, I have found the best solution to chipping fingernail polish ever: gel/shellac/UVB manicures. These are amazing. I complimented someone at work on her manicure, and she informed me it was a gel manicure, which I had never heard of. I immediately researched who offered gel manicures in town and found a place. They paint on a particular type of gel polish and then bake it on under a UVB light. And it doesn't chip at all. That's just awesome. I have always envied fake nails because they look flawless and last a long time, but I never wanted to harm my natural nails. Enter the gel manicure. I'm in love.

My natural nails with a gel manicure after almost three weeks!

4. Door County

Door County is the "thumb" of Wisconsin. It is like a shabby, lesser-known, much cheaper Cape Cod of the Midwest. This is a big summer tourism destination with (very cold) beaches and cute little towns.

It's also gorgeous in the fall with breathtaking colors. I decided kind of last-minute to plan a weekend in Door County. I found a little cottage on the beach, and we drove up for two nights and a very full Saturday. We went for a bike ride and shopped and ate and walked on the beach. The boys had a great time and kept talking about their "little house." Even Ruby the Dachshund made the trip and enjoyed her first time playing in the waves. It was a much-needed and well-spent mini vacation.

In the lookout tower at Peninsula State Park.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

I made it

I travel a little lighter to work these days. That's because I can keep my breast pump at home! I am very happy and proud to report that I made it to the one-year benchmark of breastfeeding and am now weaning little Lena.

This has been an important goal for me, as I knew it was the best thing for Lena, and because I did it for both boys and didn't want to shortchange her in any way. That said, it was quite challenging to keep it going for the entire year. I had a tight schedule and often had to pump in handicapped bathrooms during 45-minute lunch breaks. But I made it. And I feel pretty good about that.

Lena on her first birthday in her fancy pink party dress.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

September Favorites

1. New Girl and Person of Interest

School is back in session, so that means I have little time to watch TV, but thanks to the most wonderful invention of DVR, I can squeeze in a little television watching here and there. I don't like sitcoms for the most part but I am enjoying New Girl. Also, Person of Interest had me intrigued since it is by the creator of Lost and stars one of Lost's actor. Person of Interest doesn't quite measure up to Lost, but it's still worth checking out.

2. A Word A Day
I am loving this website. You learn a new word every day through a daily email. The weekly words typically follow a theme and include a thought of the day. I have been suffering from a literary anosognosia, but not any more.

3. Rapture

I wore this perfume for years when I was in college and for awhile afterward. I got so used to it, that I couldn't even tell if I had put it on. I think it just absorbed into my blood. For a few years I tried some different perfumes, but recently returned to this old favorite. People always comment on how much they like the scent. It's the perfect blend of sweet and musky.

4. Golf
My first golf outing with my parents and T. I got about a 90. Unfortunately, we only played 9 holes.
I've taken up a few hobbies lately, one of which is golf. I have always wanted to learn but was not anxious to make an ass of myself on the golf course while others waited. In September, I finally took the plunge and signed up for golf lessons. I had no idea all the tiny details you have to keep in mind. Is your grip right? Are your eyes on the ball? Are you following through? I learned a lot in my lessons and last weekend, T and I ventured out for a real golf outing with my parents (who golf very often). My mom gave me an extra set of golf clubs she had that happen to have Michigan St. stamped all over them. (We have no connection whatsoever to Michigan St., but a friend of theirs got a good deal on them). My golfing was pretty horrible. My best hole was seven strokes. On my worst, I stopped counting around 15. It was fun though, and I want to get better. T and I are going to a par 3 tomorrow. Watch for me on the LPGA sometime soon.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Late bloomers

You know those moms who brag about how their kids were potty-trained at 18 months, walking at 10 months, and reading at the age of 2? I am not one of those moms. Mostly because I don't have those kind of kids. My kids don't tend to do things early. They don't even tend to do them on time.

Q was born six weeks late, so he has a bit of a pass, but he didn't crawl till he was about 14 months and finally started to walk when he was 19 months.

R was full term, so he doesn't have any excuses. He walked at 15 months.

I thought Lena might be the exception, but here she is, almost one, and not even crawling. She is however scooting to her chosen destinations on her bottom. Who needs crawling when you can do an awkward bum scooch to get where you need to go? I assume she will walk when she's good and ready, sometime between now and her second birthday.

 One thing my kids do seem to take to at an early age is talking. Lena already says a couple words like "doggie" and "uh-oh." R regularly makes up detailed songs in the car, and Q never seems to stop talking. This all results in a kind of constant din everywhere we go.

I am holding out hope that Lena will be an early potty trainer. The other two sure weren't.

So it must be something we are doing. Maybe they get procrastinating from us? Maybe we don't push them enough or maybe we are pushovers ourselves? Maybe we are just modern parents letting them grown at their own pace?

Whatever it is, my late bloomers seem just right to me, and I'd rather stay out of those overachiever mommy discussions anyway.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Eight years

T and I have been married eight years. We sealed the deal on August 23, 2003, at what now seems like the very young ages of 24 and 25. Much has happened since then: three states, three kids, three pets, several jobs, a few houses, some ups and a few downs. Our lives are so utterly interwoven now, I don't think either of us can completely remember what life was like before we met in 2001.

We're lucky to have each other. To whom would I send i-phone pictures of my cat? Who else would laugh at my badly-told jokes and silly dances? I'm lucky to have him, but I make sure is frequently reminded that he is lucky to have me.

You get a mountain of advice around the time of your wedding, to much of which we nodded politely. We did get some good words of wisdom that we have lived by. My hairstylist told me to always value and celebrate your anniversary and to do something to mark its importance. She and her husband switched off years of planning something to do. T and I took that approach right from the start, and now I plan all even years and he takes the odds.

Pre-children, we enjoyed romantic weekends away. Some day I want to plan trips to Hawaii or Bora Bora. This year was my time to plan, and with Bora Bora off the table, I looked for something a little closer to home, but still fun. I like to plan it as a surprise to make it a little more memorable. We went to lunch in downtown Milwaukee, out for coffee by Lake Michigan, and then to great seats at the Brewers game. Perhaps not your average eighth-anniversary tradition, but just what we needed to take a breather from the chaos of workschoolkidshomepetsyardworkbills and remember how good we have it.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School days

The nights are growing longer, the mornings have a chill to them, Labor Day is behind us, and now most of the household is back in school. Some of us are more excited then others.

Q started full-day Kindergarten this year, and R is in half-day preschool two days a week. Last week they donned their first-day-of-school outfits and pulled on their back packs and were ready for class. Q is taking the bus and R is getting dropped off by his childcare provider. T and I took the morning off and accompanied them both the first day. Both boys were a bit tentative and a bit excited. It was a strange feeling to have a child in elementary school. I plan to go to the PTO meetings and love the idea of being part of a school! Though I am still convinced I am too young to be at this stage in my life already. R is excited about everything from his markers to his three teachers. I think it will be good for him to have some independence and friends of his very own. So far he has been glued to Q for all his activities.

Both boys have been taking two-hour naps every afternoon, but those will be cut short or even eliminated now that they are school boys. A fortunate side effect; they are now exhausted by bedtime and it is less of a battle than usual.

I am back in class as well as of tonight. It feels like my two months of summer were over before they started. I enjoyed seeing my classmates tonight and listening to an engaging professor and soaking in new bits of knowledge. But a big part of me felt like I did when I was going back to school in tenth grade and would have rather laid on the couch in front of the TV. Just 21 more months to go....


Monday, September 5, 2011

August Favorites

1. Essie Ballet Slippers Nail Polish

This is the perfect fingernail color. I tend to switch between bright and pale hues, and this is the ideal pale choice. It is clean and natural and forgiving for chips between polishes. When I used to pay for manicures, I would often get french manicures and this comes close to that look. You can even get it at Target!

2. HBO Documentaries

 I love movies, but the times we make it to a movie theater these days are few and far between. So I get my theatrical fix On Demand, often while folding laundry. One of my favorite sources is HBO Documentaries. They are so well done and so thought-provoking. A few favorites of late: I Think We're Alone Now, Hot Coffee, 
There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane, and Love Crimes of Kabul. 

I always learn something, and it makes the laundry folding a little less painful.

3. Kashi Go-Lean Crunch! Honey Almond Flax

 I eat this cereal almost every morning. In the summer I dump a bunch of blueberries on top of it. In winter I slice bananas or just have it plain. It is healthy and filling and tasty as well, and that trifecta is not easy to come by. It's a bit pricey, but well worth it.

4. Adele and Florence and the Machine

I can't get enough of these two female singers. They dominate my iPhone. From Adele "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You," and from Florence "Cosmic Love" and "Heavy in Your Arms" are addicting tracks. I find myself belting them out in my car and around the house, much to the annoyance of my eye-rolling husband.

5. Genuine Kids from Oshkosh at Target

One of the many things I love about having a little girl is the wealth of cuteness in which I can dress her. It's a little tougher to seek out cute boys clothes amongst the plethora of sports and cartoon character apparel lining the racks. And while I love outfitting her in ruffles and bows, I don't want to break the bank buying clothes she will wear for a few months. I love the Oshkosh baby clothes at Target. They are adorable and well-made and reasonably-priced, especially if you can find them on the sale rack. Many come with precious matching bloomers. I love it! I bought stacks of summer dresses including the one above (disregard the creepiness of the photo).


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Memories from the ballpark

My hometown team is hot right now. The Brewers are first place in their division by nine games as of this afternoon. One of my favorite things about moving back to my home state is all the teams I grew up with are actually on TV. If you haven't lived in another state, you don't realize how nice that is.

It is also great to have the natural camaraderie of sports. It was tough cheering for the Packers and the Brewers while at school in Missouri in the midst of Cardinals and Rams fans. Then in Iowa and Oregon where fans of various allegiances could not relate to your Packer pride.

It's been a good time to be a Wisconsin sports fan all around from the Badgers in the Rose Bowl, to Packers as Super Bowl champs, and now the Brewers working toward a pennant race. I love it.

I have lots of memories tied up with Brewers games. We only lived about 15 minutes away from the old County Stadium. We would be listening to the game on the radio, and my dad would say, "Let's just go to the game!" Tickets were extremely cheap then, mind you, so we would pile in to the car and head to the ballpark. It was often a few innings in to the game by this point. We would buy nosebleed seats and then sneak down into the prime seats later in the game. We would eat peanuts and Dove Bars.

I remember scandalously skipping school to go to Opening Day and sitting in the second to last row. The drunk college kids behind us peed in the corner and their urine soaked my program, I vividly remember how disgusted I was.  My dad went off on them, "Do that again, and I'll put you in it!" he said. Good old Dad protecting his daughters.

Similarly, we decided at the last minute to go to the game in which Robin Yount could possibly hit his 3,000th hit. We sat behind a pole, but he did it, and I remember standing and applauding until my hands ached. It was exciting to be a part of it.

My sister held her wedding reception at the shiny new Miller Park's 300 Club. We took pictures on the dugout and despite being sternly warned not to by the staff, we sneaked out into the stands and slid down Bernie Brewer's slide. Really, what did they expect us to do?

From tailgating to wearing my glove to the game to getting Brewers baseballs cards from police officers, many happy childhood memories are tied up with the Brewers. Now my kids have Prince Fielder shirts and squeal when they see Bernie Brewer take his home run slide. It doesn't get better than that.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pain in the throat and other problems

My pharynx is phalty. The poor thing is blisteringly sore like I have been gargling shards of glass. But you'd think I'd be used to that by now.

I have gotten strep throat more times than I remember. I get it at least once a year, if not more. I didn't realize this was abnormal until I began 2011: The Year of Random Health Issues. Fast-forward to August, and I am staying home without a voice today, taking a medley of medical treatments, and scheduled for a tonsillectomy.

In January, I started noticing some red, itchy spots on my arms around the time I got horribly sick with a 103 degree fever, horrible body aches, and a sore throat. This was all in the midst of a blizzard, so I never made it into the doctor. After several months of misdiagnoses, a dermatologist finally told me I had a type of psoriasis brought on from an untreated strep throat infection. Who knew that happened? Certainly not me.

I eventually saw an ear-nose-throat specialist who told me recurrent strep was not normal for a 32-year-old (at least my throat still thinks I am a teenager) and recommended I get my tonsils out. Unfortunate side note: tonsillectomies are also more common in children and said to be especially painful for adults. Yay. It's also not a great thing to have untreated strep floating around in your body which I have apparently often had. Those little strep jerks can cause your immune system to attack your own organs. So in a few weeks I will get the offending tonsils stripped out, slurp ice cream, and watch daytime TV. But just to get in one last dig, my throat has been incredibly painful for the last week, and I lost my voice yesterday. My tonsils aren't going down without a fight!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

July Favorites: St. Louis Edition

We just returned from our first family vacation road trip. We chose to go to St. Louis to see the sights, visit my college friends, and stop by my Alma mater, the University of Missouri. So for the month of July, my favorites are Show Me State inspired.

1. Seat-back DVD players

The drive to Missouri isn't terrible. It's about six hours (stretched to eight or so with frequent kid-related stops), but that can feel like an eternity with small children. T bought a two-screen seat-back DVD player and checked out a stack of DVDs from the library. It was our savior. They were zoned into those things and mostly peaceful. We also relied on DVDs in a laptop to keep them entertained at night as we were all crammed into one hotel room.The boys were on a hide-a-bed and Lena was in a crib in the bathroom. It wasn't the most relaxing set-up.

2. The City Museum

The City Museum in St. Louis is pretty incredible. It is several floors of mazes, slides and other activities. The kids were in heaven. Everything in the museum from the lighted walls made of bottles to wooden caves and a bank vault are constructed from recycled materials. It is hard to adequately explain. You really have to see it if you are in St. Louis.

                                                                                                             This is an ingenious concept for a restaurant: all different types of macaroni and cheese! T got bacon macaroni and cheese, I got Mediterranean (with feta, mozzarella, Kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes), and the boys got macaroni and cheese with broccoli and hot dogs and chicken. 
Even Lena got a taste.

4. Free Beer                                                            Wisconsin is the real beer state of course, but St. Louis has a strong brewing heritage with Anheuser-Busch everywhere you look. Despite having three small children in tow, T and I made sure we hit every locale with free Budweiser. This included the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour but also Grant's Farm that includes Ulysses S Grant's cabin and a menagerie of animals. The boys had a blast feeding goats, looking at elephants, and slurping Sno-Cones.

5.  Everything Else in St. Louis
There is a ton to do in St. Louis, and we crammed in as much as possible.

It was crazy-hot, but we did make it to the Arch, and managed to take some oddly-angled pictures.

The Museum of Transportation was a hit with our train-obsessed boys, as was the Magic House. We also checked out the St. Louis Basilica. The next time we go, when the kids are older, we will actually go up in the Arch, and we will visit the St. Louis Science Center. That place looks really neat, but not quite right for littler kids.

6. Memories from College

Besides visiting St. Louis, we also went to Columbia, Missouri, where I went to college at the University of Missouri. It is the first time I have been back since I graduated in December 2000. It felt like a million years ago and just yesterday at the same time. Pushing my third child around campus in a stroller was quite different from the last time I was on those grounds. Many things were the same, but my dorm had been demolished, a new business school built, and an impressive student center constructed. I enjoyed pointing out the locations of my happy and humiliating memories. We had to take a picture by the hallowed Mizzou columns of course.

The last time I posed in front of the columns, my parents were snapping the picture, and I was in my cap and gown holding my diploma. My how things have changed.  

The second day we were in Missouri we gathered for a barbecue with old college friends and their many children. Our last night in town, we stayed with my friend Lisa in St. Louis. It was a blast reliving old times and watching our kids getting to know each other. (Even if it resulted in my boys dressed in tutus and fancy hats.)

7. Family Vacations

Your idea of what a vacation is changes over time. When I was a kid, family vacations were thrilling, anticipated occasions. As a teenager, they became another chore of forced family togetherness. Then vacations became trips with friends to Panama City or New Orleans for drunken debauchery. As a couple, vacations were romantic weekend getaways. Now vacations have returned to being family-oriented. All of our stops were entirely kid-oriented (except for the free beer of course). Our meal choices and hotel accommodations all had to be family-friendly. The drive there and back included frequent stops and impatient questioning. But for all the challenges a family vacation brings and the aspects I miss from the before-kids trips, it is a joy to see experiences through their eyes and to create memories they will hold on to until the days they are taking their own family vacations.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweet freedom

Tonight I do not have any homework or nagging work problems on my mind. I bought two trashy magazines this past weekend because I could read them free from guilt that I should be reading something required for class. It's summer vacation, and I feel like I did when I was 17. (Except for that real job thing and the three kids hanging around.)

At work, I have learned to train four classes, which is a major milestone for me. That means for the next several months I will improve how I train rather than constantly learning new material. And- school's out for summer! Or at least for the next six weeks. I procrastinated horribly on a a massive Excel tutorial but now I am blissfully finished, and it feels so good.

What will I do with all this free time? After I finish catching up on my Brangelina and J-Lo gossip, I want to do some good reading. I have never finished the final Twilight book, and it is weighing heavily on my nightstand.

We are taking a road trip to my old college stomping grounds in Missouri where I will get to see the my college friends and their beautiful families. Finishing off a bottle has a whole new meaning in our lives these days, but I am sure we will still manage to have a good time. I also want to get all the kids' scrapbooks and baby books up to date.

T wants to do a half-marathon in August, but I am not entirely convinced yet. I might sit this one out on the sidelines.

I also am getting my tonsils at the start of September, but that is another blog for another day.

It has been probably the busiest and most stressful year of my life with moving, a new job, a new baby, and starting grad school, but I am hitting a relaxing plateau. I feel in control and calm for the first time in a long time.


Monday, July 4, 2011

June Favorites

1. French Press Iced Coffee at Home

T got this contraption a few weeks ago. I was skeptical at first, but now fully embrace it. What's better than iced coffee on a hot summer day? What's the best method of making coffee? French press of course. This lovely tool combines both of them for a much more reasonable price than Starbucks. T constantly has a batch working in the fridge. It is divine when mixed with simple syrup and half and half.

2. Garnier Fructis Hair Products
I have gone back to getting my hair colored at the salon, but I am still purchasing drug store products to take care of it. Garnier Fructis has some great and nice-smelling products that are wonderfully cheap. My stylist said she was amazed with how well my hair color stayed between my last two appointments. The Garnier Fructis Color Shield Shampoo and Conditioner must have something to do with it.

3. So You Think You Can Dance

I love this show. So entertaining and so much less annoying than Dancing With the Stars. The contestants are so talented. I honestly (and pathetically) feel happy when it returns to the airwaves each summer.

4. Trailer Bike

Biking is tough when you have three little ones. We do have a trailer that fits two kids snugly, but when Lena joined the party, that was no longer sufficient. We found the answer in this trailer bike T found at REI. Q and R take turns pedaling behind T while I pull the remaining offspring in the trailer. It's awesome! We went for a 20-mile ride together yesterday on a beautiful Wisconsin trail. Such a great way to spend the day with the family. The only problem is the fighting over whose turn it is to ride on the special bike, and Q looks fairly ridiculous squeezed into the bike trailer next to Lena. Oh, and my bum is still sore.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pumping queen

This has become a very breast-centric blog of late, but not exactly the titillating kind. Hee hee.

I am going on my worst work trip since little Lena was born, and I have been furiously preparing for it. I will only be gone two nights and two and a half days, so I figured I could get by leaving T and her nanny 10 bottles of milk. The problem was I had exactly zero in my stash, and Lena is a hungry thing who doesn't generally miss a meal. So I got to work squeezing in pumping sessions here and there till I had a nice little stash of frozen milk.

This week I was still a few short, so I had to up the ante. I set the alarm for 3:00 a.m. the last two nights, sleepily affixed the pumping parts, and filled two more bottles. Despite a little extra exhaustion this week, and the smoke that will probably soon be coming out of my Medela Pump-in-Style, I have reached my goal of ten. I am ridiculously proud of myself.

Granted it wouldn't hurt to give her a few bottles of formula, and I honestly don't fault others who do that. We all have to do what works for us, and working mothers don't need another source of guilt from other women. But for me, I feel satisfied and fulfilled if I am doing all I can to give me children the best chance. Some would say I should feed them all organic food, give up working, and home school them. That just wouldn't work for me. If I tried to fit into that mold, it would make all of us crazy. But for me, this is what works. It is a challenge and a sacrifice, but one if feel good about doing for my daughter. Her two older brothers got a full year of mother's milk, and Lena will too.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The breast chance at life

I recently learned the term lactivist. I love it! I am such a firm believer in breastfeeding and think it is one of the very best things you can do for your baby. That's why I found this article so fascinating.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father of three?! When did this happen?

This is T's first Father's Day as a father of three (six if you count the four-legged children). I think Father's Day celebrations are inversely proportionate to the number of children you have. When we just had Q, Father's Day was a big occasion. T was treated to a special breakfast and showered with gifts. This year Father's Day really snuck up on me. Unfortunately for T, it was not the most festive of occasions. We did have a nice breakfast and dinner, and Q proudly gifted T with a handmade keychain. I was not the best wife though. Not even a card, I hate to admit. But he does deserve a lot for being the father that he is.

T is the modern dad to my modern mama. He has a stressful, successful job and is constantly fielding calls and emails from work. He takes his kids to soccer and swimming and wrangles Lena into the frilly outfits I lay out for her (the Packers sweatsuit above notwithstanding).

He cooks dinner for the boys when I am at class and defrosts breastmilk to feed Lena. I write the grocery list and he does the grocery shopping. He cleans the cars and mows the lawn and shleps poop from three species out to the curb. He takes the boys to the Home Depot Kids' Workshops and soothes Lena to sleep balanced over his forearm.

Being a dad makes him laugh and beam with pride. Sometimes it makes him yell or grit his teeth. It brings him great love, moments of frustration, long nights, and fun days. It is his biggest challenge and his greatest success.

Happy Father's Day T!

(Hopefully this makes up for the less-than-stellar Father's Day celebration.)


Monday, June 13, 2011

Mini masterpieces

Q is a prolific artist and craftsman. His works are mostly abstract of course, but he churns them out by the dozens in preschool and at his caregiver's house. I am hoping that someday he will be on of those kids who can sell their pieces of art for $20,000, but in the meantime his masterpieces are either packed away in a Tupperware container surreptitiously stashed in the recycling bin.

I was looking for a way to display his talents, and remembered seeing a clothesline idea in a magazine somewhere. T and I found some twine and clothespins and came up with this set up in our basement:

The basement includes the kids' playroom and a TV room, so it is a nice fit and it adds a bright touch. We will have to be a bit more selective in our choices as our line fills up, and as R begins to lend his artistic genius to the mix. Q is extremely proud of his handiwork. He helps us decipher the inspiration behind some of the images. 'Oh that's a moon! Of course! I see it now." 


Thursday, June 2, 2011

May Favorites

1. Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe emails

Every weekend I plan my meals for the week and write a grocery list. I'd like to say I am just totally organized and in control, but it is mostly out of necessity. Otherwise we'd be eating peanut butter and jelly every night and the kids wouldn't have any milk.

It's not always easy figuring out a week's worth of good, quick, mostly healthy meals, and I try to limit myself to one night of takeout at the most. Lately, Martha Stewart recipes have been a big help. I get an email each day with Everyday Food recipes. The ones that sound good, I pop into a Gmail folder called "Recipes." Then when meal-planning time comes around on Sundays, I open that email folder and print out whatever sounds enticing. Easy. Thanks Martha.

You can sign up here.

2. The trashiness that is the Real Housewives

I like them all, but New Jersey and the OC are especially scandalous. T rolls his eyes every time I turn on an episode. I think I just like how it is mindless fluff, like cotton candy for the brain. Or maybe just because it makes me feel good about myself for not being such a train wreck.

3. Revlon ColorStay makeup

I used to wear MAC makeup every day for work. That was when I needed a good spackling to look good under TV lights, and when I had a monthly hair and makeup budget. Those days are gone. Now I would look like a prostitute if I walked around with the same amount of makeup on as I did then, and my hair and makeup budget consists of what's left over after buying groceries and paying the mortgage.

It felt a little overly extravagant to still spend $30 on MAC foundation, so I went looking for an alternative. Revlon's ColorStay is good stuff. It stays on and covers well. I now use just about all Revlon products from their eye shadow to their lip gloss and am quite pleased. And you don't even have to deal with the annoying makeup counter people.

4. Pineapple

This has to be my favorite fruit, and it is very sweet and cheap right now. I could eat a whole pineapple by myself. We had it mixed with blueberries this month and broiled with salmon. (Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe!) And we still have a pineapple sitting on the counter. Yum! I should have been Hawaiian.

5. Craft scissors

I have a love-hate relationship with scrapbooking. I love to look at the completed product, but I don't generally like the act of actually scrapbooking. It hangs over my head and stresses me out! I just want it to be done! I wish I could hire someone to do it for me! But I am determined that all the kids have nice scrapbooks to commemorate their first tooth and graduation from sixth grade and all that.

Lena's was stressing me out as I had not even started it, so this weekend I promised myself I would get it up to date. I hit up Michael's for the requisite pink patterned paper and baby-themed flair. I also grabbed a three pack of craft scissors to give cool edges to my background paper and labels. It didn't make scrapbooking totally enjoyable, but it was definitely more fun as I admired the crinkly edges of my work.

This show on TLC about the extravagant and bizarre world of European gypsy weddings is baffling and fascinating. They dress like whores, yet disallow any sex before marriage. The wedding dress in the picture above was complete with twinkly lights and moving butterflies! It's definitely an intriguing watch. After I finish catch up on The Real Housewives, of course.

(By the way, I do listen to NPR in the morning on the way to work. I am not a complete pop culture moron.)


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Week of crap

Wow, I had a bad week last week. Just horribly bad. And I pretty much let one person control that.

I knew going in that it would be a stressful week. I was teaching entirely new topics. I had to work late at night and get up very early in the morning poring over my notes and lesson plans to get ready for class. I was stressed and tired and felt awkward and unsure. I was counting down the hours until class was over. But I made it. And I actually thought I did pretty well. People seemed to get it, and I didn't make a complete ass of myself. Sometimes that counts as success.

Then I made the mistake of reading my evaluations right after class, when I still felt pretty good about how the class had gone, all things considered. Many were very kind and complimentary. A couple said they weren't thrilled with the training. And then one had a cruel personal comment that I won't repeat here because I have been repeating it in my head far too often.

I was pissed. And sad. I had worked so hard that week to make the class a success, and all this person can say is a comment on my appearance. Of course the comment was anonymous. So I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out who it was or how I had wronged that person.

Then I switched to deciding I was horrible at my job and for some reason people didn't like me. Then I evolved to thinking I shouldn't be working anyway if it was going to make me miserable, and I might as well just stay home with my kids. It was a long weekend.

This week went better. I had a good class, and my trainees were engaged and seemed happy. I decided to not even read my evals, opting to let my boss share any actually constructive criticism after she read them.

It's a shame people can be such jerks. It's sad that women are more likely to criticize women. It's pathetic that one person saw a personal comment as a valid item to include on an evaluation. And it's not right that I should feel miserable after a week I had every right to be proud of.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ET Amphibian

Q asks me, "Are those arons frogs?"

"What?" I ask. "Errands?"

"No," he answers, as if this is the most obvious question in the world. "Arions. They go way up into the sky in the circle things."



"Oh," I say, finally understanding his kidspeak. "Aliens. That go up in the sky in the flying saucers. Are they frogs? Is that what you are asking?"


"No, but they do look like frogs," I finally respond.

"Oh," he answers satisfied. "So they just look like frogs, but they're not really frogs."

"Yes," I say. Then I add after some thought, "And aliens are not real. They're just pretend."


Friday, May 13, 2011


Q is in that horrible phase where he just blurts out whatever he observes. I believe this phase shows up around the age of four and then again around the age of 75.

A few days ago we were walking in a parking garage when a tall couple approached. "Dad, look how TALL they are. Look! They're so tall!"

The people were about ten feet from us, so they just smiled in an embarrassed way and shuffled on.

He did it again this past week at the airport, exclaiming loudly about how tall a guy right next to us was. The tall person in question just ignored Q and acted like he didn't hear him, but a kid behind Mr. Tall thought the whole scene was hilarious.

I dodged a bullet when we were checking in at the airport. I noticed the woman taking the checked luggage appeared to have gigantism (like Andre the Giant).

"You better drop off the bag alone," I whispered to T.

But you can't dodge every awkward moment. We were in Boston this past weekend for Lena's christening. We stopped by to visit an old man who knew T when he was little. The man had trouble getting around, and as could be expected, his chair was shabby and their were stacks of magazines and other things.

"He lives in a dumpster!" Q declared.

Time to go!

I was filling the kids' nanny in on all this awkwardness, and she told me that Q had asked a chubby friend of her teenage daughter, "Why are you so fat?" I'm sure that's just what that poor girl needs at this stage of her life.

So now we are trying to inform him that you can't say everything that comes to mind, and some things are just not nice to say because they hurt other peoples' feelings.

How have you handled this pre-school awkwardness? Besides pretending the child belongs to someone else (though I have tried this).


Sunday, May 1, 2011

April favorites

The author of a blog I enjoy does a monthly list of her favorite discoveries during the previous four weeks. I know a good idea when I see it, so I am shamelessly ripping off her monthly list. Here then are my favorites for April:

1. Skinnygirl Margarita
What a wonderful thing. A margarita that's low in calories. Brilliant. I kind of love Bethenny Frankel, and I admit, I watch her reality shows. I had been meaning to try this, so we had it the other night with tacos, and it didn't disappoint.


This website lets you narrow in on the exact shoe you want. Two-inch heels, black, open-toed, under $100, C width? No problem. And then best thing is you get free overnight delivery on most shoes, and two-day delivery on most others. Awesome.

3. Chobani individual pineapple Greek yogurt cups

This isn't always the easiest to find because it is super popular. Pineapple is my absolute favorite, but they have other types as well. It is very high in protein and tastes like dessert. I'm in love.

4. Bumbo seats

Lena eating her first cereal

I think a lot of baby products are pointless. We got rid of our Pack n' play, and I don't get things like covers for shopping cart seats. But I do love this Bumbo seat, and I highly recommend it if you have a baby or plan to some time in the future. It is perfect to help them sit up and keep them contained before you want to haul out the big high chair. You can also get an attachable tray. I don't however purchase the optional Bumbo seat covers.

This will never be me
I used to do a lot of yoga. In fact, I even taught yoga several days a week, though I don't really have formal yoga training. I knew enough.

I have been away from yoga for a short while though and just started up again this month. A girl at my work teaches yoga once a week either in the hall of our training center or outdoors if we are lucky. She knows her stuff, and her classes are challenging and enjoyable. It's great. After the first session that was actually outdoors, I felt refreshed and serene. And really sore. I love the feeling of strengthening rarely used muscles and maybe even firming up my stretched out post-baby belly. Yoga, I've missed you.