Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Islamic Republic of Mauritania

  Early this year Jon introduced the idea of a Christmas Country. Anna or Isaac would pick a flag and we would learn about that country over the year. Come Christmas, we would incorporate some of their Christmas traditions, focus our charitable giving on that area, and I would make Christmas dinner based on the regional food. In February, Anna picked a flag that would appeal to any three year old: one with a moon and a star. The flag of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
  Obviously, this presented some challenges in terms of incorporating Christmas traditions, but I was excited to try some of the food and learn a little about this north western African nation. It is also a country of some need, having one of the lowest GDP rates in Africa.
  Selecting our Christmas gift to Mauritania was easy thanks to World Vision's gift catalog. I like the idea of doing something tangible, and I also think it was useful for Anna. I can't say for sure whether our gifts went to Mauritania itself, but we figured it was close enough.
  Deciding on Christmas dinner was more difficult. There aren't many online recipes specific to Mauritania, but I eventually cobbled something together. We barbecued a leg of lamb, based on this recipe for lamb mechoui. We also made couscous, a modified spinach recipe inspired by hakko, and grilled root vegetables. We could not resist incorporating some of our own traditions, serving pita bread with tabouleh & hummous (graciously provided by Jon's mom), and pluma moos (a holiday soup made with dried fruit, common in Mennonite homes). For dessert, we made matrimonial squares (a date square), Americanized with Cool Whip. Yum!
  To commemorate Mauritania I printed out a small picture of the flag and Anna colored her own rendition on the other side. I'll cover this in sticky tack and make it into an ornament for the tree. I'd also like to find a set of test tubes with corked tops, and every year fill one with something symbolizing our country. Sand for this year, since a large portion of the country is desert.

  Other than that, we had a fairly typical Christmas. It is our first in Colorado, having spent the prior ones in Canada. We were blessed to have both of my parents and my brother stay with us (Mum is here until after the new year - sweet!), and Jon's parents came for dinner. My Dad was thrilled beyond measure to have a snow-free holiday. Temps were balmy, in the upper 40s and 50s. I missed the snow, but it certainly made travel easier. While family was here we went swimming, checked out the mall, had fun at our local indoor play ground, Jon & I went out for dinner a couple of times, and we all ogled the amazing light displays at some nearby houses. We also visited Zoolights, but that was a disaster. Isaac decided he wanted to attach himself to Jon instead of the stroller, and Anna was crushed that we didn't ride the carousel. On the upside, we ended up at the home of some dear friends who provided yummy snacks and hot chocolate. So it was well worth it in the end.
  Christmas morning was typical for us - stockings attacked, a break for fresh baked cinnamon buns, and then gift mauling. Since many gifts were shipped here from Amazon, and there was no way of telling whose was whose, I simply wrapped them all the same and we played "guess whose present." I received exactly what I wanted, including a newly detailed car and a camera. I cannot begin to tell you how badly we needed a camera.
  [I also gave myself a gift: highlighted hair. I've never highlighted before since I have very coarse frizzy hair. I also rather like its natural color. But the gray is coming fast and furiously, so I thought it would be a good time to experiment. I went with gray highlights, since it was something different. I like the color, but I wish the streaks were much wider and more dramatic. It looks a little too natural.]
  Among other things, Anna received the one gift she'd consistently asked for: a unicorn pillow pet. I had gotten her a pink pig (it's pink, she likes pink, right?) but it became obvious that a unicorn was where things were at. So I tried to return the pig to the store I had purchased it. But they gave me $4 less than I paid! And there was nothing they could do about it! So I took the poor piggy back and donated it. Now I was a pillow pet short, and there were no unicorns to be found. So I did what any hysterical parent would do: ordered it online and paid $10 more than I would have in the store. A few days after that unicorn pets were everywhere. Oh well. I will consider that $10 my own personal stimulus packet for the economy.
   Isaac's favorite gift appears to be a little bus my mom picked up at the dollar store. Although the hot wheels and books about vehicles are also hits. Anna is thrilled with her Ken doll, but the Razor was not as loved as I had hoped. And now it's snowing (finally!) so I think her scooter may reside in the garage for awhile.

  I wish you much joy in the New Year.
  2011 will be wonderful, I think.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas goodies

Apple crisp season melded into pumpkin goody time, and it is now the era of gingerbread. So far, all these baking opportunities have passed me by. I prefer baking to cooking, but man (and woman, and child) does not live by dessert alone. As with many things, it is hard to find the time for what I enjoy amongst the pressures of what must get done. However, some yummy desserts made their way to our home this season. Nanaimo bars (a decadent Canadian confection), biscochitos (a New Mexican specialty), and caramels are among them. The latter two came from the quarterly get-together that I enjoy with my local female in-laws. We convene at regular intervals to cook or bake and generally hang out. The caramels are from a recipe originating with Jon's great-grandmother. My MIL hadn't made it since she was a girl, so this was a great adventure. We learned, for example, that the caramel should only boil to 230 F (soft ball stage), not 245 F (medium ball). When it came time to cut up the slabs of caramel it was so hard we resorted to throwing it on the granite counters to break it into shards. Jon preferred using a hammer and knife, but I think that took too long. He also likes these caramels rock hard - no accounting for taste, is there?

Anna and I decorated a gingerbread house (no pics - camera is a bust and I'm still not sure how to get photos off my phone), and I hope to make gingerbread men. I want Anna to help with the cookies, but her enthusiasm is inconsistent. Since I'm not all that interested in eating them (I prefer actual gingerbread) cookies may not happen. Perhaps better to focus on the inevitable: cinnamon buns (a must have for Christmas morning, according to all the males in my family), and matrimonial cake. You may not have heard of the last one. It's a common dessert at potlucks where Mennonites are found: a yummy oatmeal cake with a layer of cooked dates in the middle. Dates are important this year, since they seem common in Mauritanian cooking. Mauritania is our "Christmas country," but I'll explain this further in a separate post. It is a big country, after all.

In other, non-baking, news... I guess there isn't much news. Jon was away for a couple of days this week, and I'm finding these trips to be less bothersome than when the kids were younger. The usual sicknesses have been around: runny noses, vomit, coughing, etc. And the snow levels have reached pathetic lows. Maybe that's why I haven't been baking as much. It's hard to get into a gingerbread mood when the temps are in the 60s. 
We did manage to go swimming today, and I was pretty proud of myself for pulling this off. We had a great time, and Anna is getting closer to sticking her head under water. Alas, things ended on a sad note when Isaac split his lip on the stairs of the baby slide. Lots of blood, and he keeps sucking on the wound. Yuck! He got over it, of course, and now is having an extra long nap. So, I still count our trip a victory.

Only eight sleeps until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hurry Hurry Hurry

Whew! The floors are finally clean, after laying fallow for longer than I'd care to admit, and I have about 20 minutes to write an over-due post before picking up Anna from preschool. So this will be "out there" without editing - apologies for run-on sentences, non sequitars/sequiters/nonsequiters... and spelling mistakes.

I am rushed in general, and can see that fall and early winter will be this way for many years. October will see me gathering outfits for Halloween, November will be all about Anna's birthday and Thanksgiving, and then *surprise!* suddenly it's December! In December we have our anniversary, Jon's birthday, various other b-days, and of course the coming of our Lord which we will celebrate via mass consumption. I will ponder the latter more fully when I have time.

The little people in our house had their check-ups today, and Anna has reached a special point at which her height and weight are the same: 42. Which is, of course, the answer to everything. Perhaps this means that she knows everything and we can stop paying for preschool. But probably not.
Some good news about Anna is that the Zyrtec (an antihistamine) that she's taking appears to be working, although it does make her tired (mental note: only give at bedtime). The bad news is that there's not much we can do about her constant illnesses. We're going to try Flo-Vent (a steroid) to see if that helps some of her symptoms, or at least reduce the amount of times that she's wheezing without us knowing it.

Isaac is also growing well, and is healthy other than his runny nose. Again, the theme of illness. We are on week 8 of constant illness over here, so it is on my mind quite a bit. Of course, I suppose I could stop taking them places (like indoor play areas, and child care at the gym), but that also seems counter-productive. And a good way to lose my mind.

In terms of overall development, Anna seems quite her age. She is very social and still loves to dance and make believe. A budding theater major, if this dramatic arc continues. For example, while watching her during dance class I realized she was the only child who had trouble listening to the teacher simply because she couldn't get her eyes off of herself (the kids face a mirror). She was making faces and just enjoying her own movement. It was pretty cute, actually.
Anna is also is becoming increasingly helpful around the house, and can be given a few chores to do. At the same time I cannot believe how poky she can be about some things - getting dressed or getting out the door seems to take forever! And it is so frustrating. Even washing her hands can be interminable - again, the pull of the mirror is irresistable to her.

Isaac is also quite his age and appears to be a force to be reckoned with. He doesn't take any guff from anyone, and has no qualms about hitting or "taking down" his sister. Given the inability of this age group to inhibit much in the way of behavior, time outs seem more punitive than instructive at this point. But we do it if only to remove him from the situation. Other than a penchant for violence, his demenour is very sweet and loving. He is so very cuddly, and loves loves loves soft fleecy blankets and stuffed animals. He's always snuggling into something. Has only about 10-15 words, but gross motor skills are a bit advanced. He's great at throwing, climbing, running, and things like that.

Okay - time is up. Until next time....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two Weeks & A Tea Party

This is the end of two intense weeks. Jon was away on work-related business Sunday - Friday and then Sunday - Thursday. This was the longest I've been alone with the kids, and although it didn't exactly go well, it wasn't exactly horrible either. Which is to say, God was gracious and kept our attitudes positive. The dark evenings didn't drag as much as expected, and I was able to function despite being exhausted. I was even able to exercise at near-normal levels.
I could give a detailed rant of what went wrong, but perhaps it's best to quickly list the highlights and let you draw your own conclusions: daylight savings time ended, toddler diarrhea (everywhere), Anna coughing up a lung, microwave broke (my Dad says the megatron busted which made me vaguely autobot-ish, and hence briefly empowered), cancellation of various social events.
On the plus side, Isaac held off on the late-night vomiting until Daddy got home. Granted, this may not be a plus for Daddy, but it worked for me.

Originally, my plan for Jon's two week absence was to do nothing. No cooking, no cleaning, no nothing. And then I looked at the calendar and realized that Anna's b-day party was happening right after Jon's final return. Tactical error, that one.
So instead of nothing, my free time was spent scouring the web for preschool party ideas and taping streamers to the wall. What I discovered was that planning a party for little kiddos is fun! Lots of fun! Our theme was "A Tea Party for Little Fairies." I tried to keep the pace fast and the activities simple. I think everyone had a good time. (Anna was overwhelmed for the first half, maintaining a blank look on her face. She spent some time on the floor, but as long as she wasn't crying I marked it a success.)

 Pixie Hollow, waiting for fairies and elves to arrive.

Here's what we did:
Guests were invited to enter the Fairy Web and retrieve their wings. Once they did so, they chose their wand & tiara (for the fairies) or sword and crown (for the boys).

 Fairy Web

The kids then decorated their wings until all the guests had arrived. We played Stepping Stones (a non-competitive form of musical chairs), Fairy Freeze (a dancing game), and Pin the Flower on the Fairy (yup, everyone gets a prize - I'm not into competitive games for this age group).

 Preparing for Pin the Flower  
(kudos to my mom for quilting the wall hanging, and inspiring our party theme).

Then it was time for the Tea Party. I brought out my second-best china, and we ate in the Fairy Bower. There were toadstools and wands made out of fruit, butterflies (yogurt-covered pretzels), and fairy bread (raisin bread with cream cheese and sprinkles). We had cheese cut into small shapes and sparkling juice.
Fairy Food

The most popular food, of course, was what I didn't make: an ice cream cake from DQ. A couple of years ago I laboured over Anna's Dora cake, and then watched kids eat only icing. Since then I decided it's better to spend more money for something the kids will actually eat, than lots of time on something they won't. I'll save my cake-decorating mojo for other things.

After the cake we opened gifts. I was on the fence about doing a gift opening, until we attended a party without one. Anna was so crushed that she wasn't able to "give" her gift. And anyway gracious giving is a good skill to practice.
If there was any gift-envy it was lessened by the treasure hunt that immediately followed. Finally, there was a free-for-all until the parents came. (This was a parents-optional event, and we had about 2/3 attendance. Next year I may go kids-only. Or not. The parents were all very helpful.)

Anna's actual b-day is next week, and I am glad we can spread things out a bit. We'll do family gifts on her big day, and maybe take her to see Disney's Tangled. It will be a mellow day, after some hectic weeks. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sugar High

Halloween has come and gone, and we had a fine time despite both children being ill (three cheers for Motrin). This was Isaac's second illness in two weeks, and so I resigned myself to the fact that the season of poor health has begun early this year. Already, Anna's coughing has resulted in two missed events (preschool and a sleepover at her grandparents' house) and it ain't over yet.

But anyway, back to Halloween. Isaac wore the same tiger outfit that Anna donned for two years, and boy was he cute. We loved watching him toddle up and down the driveways carrying an oversize bucket, and offering the occasional tiger growl. By the third house he figured out what was what, and often had his hand in the candy bowl even as our neighbors were handing dropping goodies into his bucket. Obviously, more than a few chocolate morsels were consumed en route.
Spooky Ghost Tiger!

After much debate and discussion, Anna elected to wear her firefighter's outfit instead of her Tinker Bell costume. I felt it was too cold for fairies to trick-or-treat without long pants or a sweater, but Anna begged to differ. We had this same discussion days earlier, mere minutes before leaving for her preschool's Halloween parade (i.e., children in costume walking in a circle - it was precious). I didn't want to push the issue, since I only spent $15 on the outfit back in September.
Luckily she was able to go pure Tinker Bell the day before, at a Halloween party that her grandmother and great-aunt put on for the cousins. They did such a great job, with themed cookies and snacks and everyone in costume. I'd say that was one of the highlights of our autumn.

After the parties and hoopla we were left with a bucket of candy and a preschooler whose "tummy is [always] rumbling for candy." So we did what my mother did with us kids, way back when, and it has worked wonderfully. Anna and I divided up her spoils into groups of three (sometimes four!) candies and put each group into a paper bag. Every day she chooses a bag, and that's the sum total of her treats and desserts for 24 hours. She can choose to eat them whenever she wants (provided it's not right before or during an actual meal), and she's demonstrated excellent self-control. Most days, that is.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

News & Notes from the Week

  • A rare bald eagle sighting during my run. I took a picture with my new phone, but have no idea how to upload it here.
  • Yes, I finally replaced my mobile, thereby joining the 21st century. Alas, its been very buggy and needs to be returned. Fail.
  • Autumnal colors are great! Autumn is great! This is my favorite time of year.
  • Realize I spent most of the week simply preventing kiddos from hurting each other, often with mixed success. Isaac now sports a fat lip.
  • Cantaloupe plants accidentally sprouted from our compost pile in the spring, and actual cantaloupes resulted. We finally brought the fruit into the house. Only one was fully ripe, and its flavor was fantastic. The others looked great but tasted like nothing. Literally, they had no taste. This visual-flavour discrepancy was tough for my poor brain. It tried very hard to taste some sort of melon, but with no success.
  • Found myself completely unable to memorize Psalm 100. Perhaps too many brain cells trying to solve the melon problem.
  • Fervently wish we hadn't put away the bike trailer, as now I am limited to biking without kids. Which is to say, I am not biking.
  • Accidentally watered the raspberry bushes for 24 hours. Woops.
  • Reason for Isaac's mysteriously truncated nap has been revealed: fever and diarrhea!
  • Attended a fantastic bible study on the Psalms, which followed a great series on Philipians. I am part of a bible study for the women at our church, and I have to say I am loving the group. There is so much wisdom there.
  • Mental note (suggested by an aforementioned wise woman): begin to pray for kiddos' future spouses. Gives me a broader perspective.
  • Date night last night. Checked out a new wine bar which was fantastic. Ordered a flight, which is my preferred way of enjoying wine - little tastes of many varietals. Unfortunately, I forgot about the high alcohol content of port. Had to wait a long time before driving home.
  • Must have more date nights.
  • Cool enough for apple crisp, not quite cool enough for pumpkin pie. Hot chocolate in the forecast.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Musings (okay, a rant) on health care.

Everyone knows that the health care system in this country leaves much to be desired. Lately, I've been dealing with some of the reasons why.

Here is the picture:
A while back I had an admitted Mommy meltdown and took Isaac to the ER because there was a slight chance that he had ingested some Tylenol. I asked to have his blood tested for acetaminophen. One test. Just for the Tylenol.

When we got the invoice, I was surprised to see five items for "Laboratory" and charges totaling almost $1000. Intriguing. Numerous phone calls later, it was revealed that Isaac had been tested for Tylenol and aspirin and alcohol and to make sure various internal organs were still functioning. And anyway, what kind of mother would NOT want her child to get tested for all of these substances if given the chance? The last person I spoke to summed up the situation nicely: "We would NEVER make a medical decision based on monetary considerations." Me: "So this is about liability, then?" Administrator, with some shock: "No, this is about the health of a child." Me: "Grrrr....."

I can spot about five things wrong with this picture. How about you?
1) I asked for one test and ended up with many more. The given reason for this was "standard practice." Apparently, if a child is exposed to one medication he is likely to have been exposed to others. Really? In every circumstance? Even in our particular circumstance, where even the ER doc agreed that it was unlikely he had consumed any Tylenol let alone another substance? I don't think so.
So let's do a thought experiment: If patients were allowed to pay less for every test that came back negative, do you think all of these tests would still be "standard practice?"
I'm not saying that anyone is consciously trying to milk money from patients. But surely when income is dependent on the number and complexity of medical tests given, it must influence, to some extent, decision-making at many levels of the administrative tree.

2) I asked for one test and ended up with many more. Repeating myself on purpose, here. I do have a vague memory that the doctor mentioned something about testing Isaac's blood for other things. At 11:00 p.m. When I was trying to keep Isaac happy, and feeling guilty about being there in the first place. I'm not sure that counts as full disclosure. Regardless, subsequent conversations made clear that any protests about extraneous testing would have been met with a decent amount of resistance.

3) Five charges for "Laboratory." I should point out that these five charges were listed on the initial invoice we got from our insurance company. The actual bill just lumped everything together. Of course, even if it had divided the amount into five Laboratory charges, so what? It took at at least three phone calls to figure out what each charge meant. I want to know exactly what I'm paying for - in plain written English.

4) Shock and awe. Medical bills are always scary because you never know what to expect. Why not? Why don't I know what's coming? In other words, not only do I want my medical bills to be itemized, I want to have a sense of how much the total is going to be before I open up that mean white envelope. If Isaac's ER doc had ascribed a dollar amount to each one - even an approximated amount - it would have solved many problems. First, it would have saved me some time later on as I tried to figure out for what I was being billed. Second, it might have clarified the procedures being done. Third, it may have motivated me enough to speak up and at least engage the doctor as to why certain tests were administered. Obviously, upfront cost disclosure isn't practical in all situations. Often, medical decisions need to be fast and furious and sometimes there are no options. But such preventable things have happened to us before. For example, mere minutes before getting a third trimester (i.e., too late to do anything about it now) ultrasound I had to sign a form saying that I would pay for it if the insurance company didn't. No mention of how much it was going to cost (turns out my insurance didn't cover most of it). And I never did find out what they were looking for, or why it was important.

5) We would NEVER make a medical decision based on monetary considerations. Well how terribly convenient, since you are not paying for that medical decision. I am. And as lovely as it would be to think that all of our decisions occur in a monetary black hole, they just don't. Permit me another example: I had a CAT scan administered via the ER since the main medical offices had closed for the day. It was my choice whether to have the scan then, or wait until Monday. If I had known the cost, I would have waited until Monday. Risky? Maybe. But at least a more informed decision.

*End Rant*

I am worried about coming across as feeling negative about doctors and the job they do. This is not so. Some of the people I admire most are in the health care business and they're just concerned with making their patients better. But I do think there is a detrimental disconnect among the money and the medical decisions and the information imparted to the patient. And the whole thing just looks like a black box to the patient - a box shut so tight it seems useless to try and open it. I'm a trusting sort, and I generally go with whatever a medical doctor recommends. I know I should take more control of my health care - ask more questions, and so forth - and I think knowing about cost might provide a bit more motivation to do so. Perhaps it would also motivate other people.
Finally, I'm enough of a navel-gazer to realize that some of my annoyance comes from being in this situation in the first place. No doubt, I'm projecting some of my guilt about taking Isaac to the ER (for nothing!) onto the health care system. But it's such a behemoth, surely it won't even notice. I guess that's part of the problem, too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Parents say the darndest things

  • We need to at least shuck the corn before you put it into your mouth.
  • Pumpkin stems are not for chewing on.
  • Who let the poopies out? Isaac, Isaac! (To the tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out?")
  • Get your finger out of her eye. (To Isaac, as Anna naps on the couch).
  • Even if he could reach it, he won't get far. (Said by Jon, in response to my observation that Isaac, who is sitting on Anna's little ATV, is capable of reaching the accelerator. Seconds later, Isaac takes off making it half way across the yard, and hitting the fence.)
  • You can play with yourself later. (During diaper changes.)
  • Who's got the poop? Isaac's got that poop. (To the tune of "We've Got the Funk")
  • No more salad until you finish the cake.
  • Anna, wake up.
  • At a restaurant: Stop licking the table.
  •                           We do not suck up the Ranch dip with a straw.
  •                           You must finish eating the onion ring before you can taste daddy's milk shake.
  • Commuting sounds like fun!
  • Me: "The clouds let out all of their rain." Anna: "The clouds went potty on the earth?"  [This one doesn't quite fit, but I thought it was cute.]
  • I hope that was edible.
 In a similar vein, here are some questions I have recently pondered:
  • Why can't they design food storage containers that fit well in the dishwasher?
  • Why does our toilet paper advertise itself as "long lasting?"
  • Why is it so hard to find whole wheat bagels that also have sesame seeds or poppy seeds or some other topping?
  • Why aren't laundry rooms always on the same floor as the bedrooms?
  •  Why doesn't the Starbucks at the grocery store (the only coffee place nearby, which is itself questionable) offer curbside service?
  • Why can't someone at the drive-thru pharmacy also grab me some dish soap or shampoo along with my prescription?
  • How does my floor get so dirty between breakfast and lunch?
  • Why is McDonalds the only restaurant with a play area?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


It's been a few weeks since Isaac was weaned, and I'd like to think this was a joint decision. I admit, however, that sometimes when he's in the room while I get dressed, he looks at me as if trying to remember something important. (Or he just laughs, which I try not to take personally.)
At any rate, I've had some time to look back on this experience called nursing. Like many women, I've had very mixed feelings about it. So here's my story.

My initial intention with Anna was to exclusively nurse, and pump when needed. So I was delighted when she latched wonderfully, but less delighted by the excruciating pain (which of course went away) and the pressure to be ever present (which didn't go away). Like many newborns, she nursed a lot. But what was unique about our little girl was how little she slept and how much she screamed. It was a battle to get her to sleep, and one that we usually lost. Since I had zero experience with babies, I just assumed the nursing-screaming-cat nap cycle was normal and that it was my fault for not providing (a) more structure, or (b) less structure. In contrast, Jon suggested that a little formula was worth a try in case it was a milk supply issue. I argued that this was highly unlikely, and that breast was best. "Any hint of formula could permanently damage my supply!"

Well, as usual, Jon was right. By her two month appointment, Anna's weight had dropped from the 40th percentile to the 5th. She was barely over eight pounds, and still screaming. The pediatrician didn't seem to think this was a problem, but I did. So we instituted a bottle before bed, and we forked out some dough for a lactation consultant. The bottle was a hit, with Anna consuming 8-10 oz in one sitting, and sleeping much better afterward compared to nursing. The LC was a bust. She looked at the latch (perfect), inquired as to how I was cleaning my pump (fine), and showed me another way to swaddle (still ineffective). She did not inquire as to whether I had experienced engorgement (no), how much I could pump in one session (1/2 to 1 oz, maybe 2 oz if I was lucky), or do a before-and-after weighing (i.e., weigh the baby both before and after nursing to see how much fluid the child consumed). She also did not approve of the night bottle. From this interaction I concluded that I had failed, that I had only imagined the need for a bottle and that Anna would have been fine without it.

Nonetheless, I was exhausted so the night bottle stayed. Interestingly, over the next few months Anna grew fast and furiously, hitting the 80th percentile in both height and weight, and staying there ever since. 

I nursed Anna for 15 months, and during that time concluded that both nursing and using formula was the worst case scenario. Now I had to take time both to nurse and make formula and clean bottles. I also concluded that nursing was simply a horrible chore that moms did purely for the benefit of their children. I was floored by moms who claimed to enjoy breastfeeding. It just didn't compute.

When Isaac was born (new hospital, new pediatrician) I saw the in-house LCs right away. I wanted things to be different but was doubtful they would be. Again the latch was perfect, but again my milk was not coming in. The LCs recommended an herbal supplement + pumping. In the meantime, however, Isaac was beginning to lose weight (not just percentiles) and I could see that the nursing-screaming-cat nap cycle was beginning. So we just jumped in and started supplementing after every feeding. When that happened, I saw something I had never seen before: a look of contentment on a baby's face that showed he was full and happy and ready to sleep. When I saw that, I understood why nursing could be so fulfilling. If I, and I alone, could give my baby that feeling of fullness and contentment... well, who wouldn't want to nurse?!
So we worked hard (herbs, pumping, supplemental nursing systems) and over the next three or four weeks my milk slowly came in. "The girls aren't so floppy," was how I believe my LC put it. By the time Isaac was two months old, we were down to four ounces of formula a day and he was sleeping through the night. But it was not to last. At three months, he hit a growth spurt and I was never able to catch up. After weeks of constant nursing and night wakings I conceded defeat and upped the formula. Much less guilt this time around, though. I feel I did everything I could, without sacrificing my sanity or Isaac's health.

So my children, while I do feel that breastfeeding is extremely valuable, and although I'm sad about those 10 IQ points you've lost and the health problems you are no doubt experiencing, I have to say that formula probably improved your emotional health. Because it surely improved mine.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Autumn Resolutions

Autumn is surely my favorite season. I love the feeling of warm sweaters & heavier blankets, the coziness of shorter days, and the toasty sensation that comes with a hot chocolate*. I also love the advent of schedules, and what with Anna beginning preschool and dance class (the latter now at the rec center), we are scheduled up the wazoo. With the beginning of our fun and busy fall, I also found myself making a few resolutions for this season. Some are big, some are banal, some aren't even mine. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Baking my own bread: I've done this off and on, and now that I'm better rested and more ambitious, I'm trying to bake all my own bread instead of buying it. This was partly spurred by a newspaper article on simple ways to save money, and partly because homemade bread is more interesting. Recent successes include: Cinnamon Prune Bread, Zucchini Lemon Bread, and Carrot Bread with Crystallized Ginger (all from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook).
  • Cooking leafy greens weekly: This is harder than it sounds. In terms of veggies, my kids are more into orange beta-carotenes than green folates. But I keep trying. I've found some great recipes for swiss chard and kale. This week it's spinach, with the understanding that at least Jon likes (i.e., doesn't hate) spinach.
  • No longer leaving the kids at the child care center at my gym: This decision was spurred by our last visit, wherein Anna picked up the nastiest cold she's encountered in a long time. As a result, she missed out on her very first day of preschool. Terribly sad. Also sad because it means that I need to lift weights on the weekends or early in the morning.
  • Getting up early to work out: As in, before the kids are awake. This is to avoid (a) child care at the gym, (b) the physical violence that occurs when both kids are in the bike trailer, and (c) destroying my knees while pushing the double stroller. It also frees up our mornings so we can do more interesting things like play dates, visiting the zoo and museums, and possibly vacuuming.
  • Isaac's scrapbook: I really really would like to finish this album, documenting Isaac's first year. After that, I'm switching to photo books created on-line, featuring the best pics from the year.
  • Clothes: Last weekend I finally girded my loins and hired a babysitter so that I could buy some clothes. Many of mine were terribly old and falling apart. I hate buying clothes, but I decided it was time to move beyond t-shirts and shorts/jeans. So this season I'm going for the "not bag lady" look.
  • Drink more... water: It's hard to stay hydrated in Colorado.
  • Maintain sanity, and listen to my husband: Related to the bills accrued after the Tylenol Incident and an ineffective CAT scan, I shall attempt to use my head before any sort of medical adventures. Also, I will listen to the cool head of my husband who I find to be wise and even-keeled. And almost always right.
  • Wearing gloves while washing dishes: Have I mentioned this is a dry climate?
  • Climbing on everything just to see how high one can get: This is Isaac's resolution. I resolve to not make a big deal out of it. And maybe put pillows everywhere.
  • Avoid getting every single virus that comes to town: This is my resolution for Anna. Out of my control? Yup. But one can hope.
In short, I'm looking forward to the fall.
 * Please note that it is still too hot for any of these things in the Denver area. But the promise of them is almost as good as the real thing.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Tylenol Incident

It was 8:30 p.m. and I was tucking Anna into bed when I spied the bottle of Tylenol (adult, regular strength) on the heating vent under the window. I knew it had been rolling around since about 7:30 a.m., when Jon noted that it had fallen out of his pocket. In the morning craziness I forgot all about looking for the bottle until I saw it on the floor.
I picked it up and turned the cap to make sure that it was on securely. It was not. It didn't fall off in my hands, but it was rather loose. Hmmm....
"That's medicine," said Anna.
"Yes, it is."
"Isaac ate one."

Full stop.

Keep voice nonchalant: "What's that honey?"
"Isaac ate one."
"How did he get the bottle?"
"He climbed up on the toilet and got it out of the cabinet."
Yah, right.
"Did you give it to him?"
"Did you really see him, or did you make this up in your head."
"Oh, I made it up in my head."
"Did you eat any?"
"No, it's Mommy medicine."

Okay then - no problems! But let's call poison control just in case.
Poison control informs me that Isaac would have to eat six pills before it became a problem. These are those yucky white pills that are hard for even adults to swallow. Seems unlikely. Now the kicker:
"Ma'am, if you think there's any way that he could have swallowed a dangerous amount you should take him in, because there will be no symptoms if he's overdosed."


Review the facts:
Lid was on bottle. (But loose, and Isaac's been practicing putting lids on and off.)
No pills were lying around. (But bottle was on vent and loose ones could have fallen through.)
I can barely swallow these pills myself. Very yucky. (But little kids don't perceive taste the same way we do. At least, I think they don't. Nuts. Should have paid more attention in class on Sensation & Perception.)
No overdose symptoms. (What the !$#*&%? He's just gonna wake up dead?)
ER costs major dough, and we already have a lot of medical bills. (Don't be shallow. Can't put a price on health.)
It would be illogical to wake him up and go into the ER. (Yup. But I'm an illogical kind of gal.)
The chances that he swallowed six (six!) pills is astronomically small. (But what if.....)

Sit on the couch. Review facts again and again and again. Bemoan the horror of the what if mindset.

Finally, at 10 p.m. I got Isaac up and drove to the ER. All the way I cursed the fact that although I could look at the situation logically (he did not swallow any pills), I couldn't feel my way through it (what if? what if? what if?). In the end it came down to this: Stay up all night worrying and checking and worrying, or risk money, time, sleep, and Isaac's mental health in the ER but regain my own peace. Was this all about me?

What would you have done?

Final note: Was informed by ER doc that there ARE symptoms if someone overdoses on Tylenol. Vomiting.


So long, August. You kind of sucked.

There's a Slate article that convincingly argues for shortening August, and this year I'm inclined to agree. I had high hopes for the end of summer, beginning with my parents visit. When that was cut short, the month went from being a high point to a serious of blahs. Luckily, my dad had surgery on his knee as soon as he got home, but walking (and moving around in general) will remain a challenge for weeks. Poor dad also had hernia surgery last week, and due to some complications this has turned into quite an ordeal for both of my parents. Additionally, my father-in-law recently had major surgery, so we were in prayer for that (all went well, thankfully).
Closer to home nothing major has occurred, but there have been a few challenges. To begin with, we got the bill for the CAT scan I had last month, and it was jaw-dropping. Isaac has also been teething (again? still?), and it looks like his eyeteeth are poised to make an appearance. Which is to say, much sleep was lost in August. And let me tell you, that boy needs his sleep. More to the point, Momma needs her boy to sleep. He's been flexing his climbing muscles more than Anna ever did leading me to spend much of the day rescuing him from stuff, and vice versa. Most rescue operations concern the computer. This fascination, coupled with an ability to scale the desk using drawer knobs, keeps me busy.
Much blood has also been shed in August - lips have been split, noses flattened, fingers crushed, etc. It makes me wonder whether my children will survive to their 18th birthdays.

BUT, no one has been sick! We've also had fun playing with cousins and making new friends. And there were even a few days were the heat wasn't blistering, but merely uncomfortable. We discovered a lake nearby, and canned some pumpkin-butter. We found out that one neighbor grows the best plums I've ever tasted, and the other has yummy grapes waiting to be harvested. My tomato plant even has tomatoes. Best of all, Jon and I spent a night at a local resort sans children: dinner was quiet, swimming relaxing, and we woke up when we felt like it.

Okay, August, you can stay. But you're on probation.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Double Ugh

One of the things we look forward to the most are visits from my parents. My parents look forward to their visits with equal (if not greater) enthusiasm. This time they were able to come down together which, because of work schedules and cost of flights, is generally not the case. They drove down over a couple of days and arrived on Tuesday. We had various plans, such as the zoo, visits with friends and family, and I was going to get a refresher course on canning peaches from my mom. Mostly we were just going to hang out and enjoy each others' company.
'Twas not to be.

Within a day of arriving, my mom came down with some horrible sickness (likely dehydration due to our higher temperatures and altitudes). She was bed-bound for a day, but began recovering once we realized what was wrong and she started drinking Gatorade. By Saturday things began looking up, and we spent the late afternoon at Jon's parents house.
Then, disaster. Dad mistakenly stepped through a space on the side of the trampoline and fell through. It would have been fine, except that his foot or leg hit a cement block on the way down (the trampoline is dug into the ground, with a retaining wall around the hole). Long story short, an ambulance was called and he ended up in the ER with a dislocated knee, the tendons completely detached from the... quadricep, I think. The silver lining is that there's no pain in the knee. (Dad had me straighten his leg after the incident. I did so with great reservation, which is what detached the tendons. However, I'm told it also restored circulation, prevented nerve damage, and got rid of the pain. Or maybe they just said that to make me feel better.)
Unable to do surgery for at least a week on account of swelling, the ER sent my dad home. So, after determining that he could get in and out of the car fairly well, my folks headed back home this morning. Hopefully it won't take too long before Dad gets surgery up there, but with the Canadian health system, one never knows. He'll be put on a waiting list, and it remains to be seen if it will be days before he gets surgery, or months. He's quite incapacitated - unable to move his leg, with the only comfortable positions being flat on his back or standing with crutches. It's just not a tenable situation.

As an aside, it had been months since Grandma & Grandpa last saw the kids, and everyone was so looking forward to this trip. Now, we won't see them until Christmas (assuming Dad can travel by then). I just can't believe how one misstep can have such tragic consequences. It seems all out of proportion.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


What a crap couple of weeks. Not to say there haven't been some good moments, but I have to say this has not been the best of times. And to top off this two-week anniversary of crap, I am sitting here at 6:30 a.m. when I could still be asleep, since no children are awake (Isaac had a 5:30 a.m. shout out, which I could not recover from).
But let's first focus on the positive, shall we? To begin with, while Jon was cavorting in Miami for work, I had a lovely afternoon visit with some dear friends who were visiting the area. We had not seen each other since graduate school, and it was so very nice to catch up and meet their adorable baby girl. Meanwhile, Anna had a wonderful time at the Renaissance Fair with her grandma and did her share of cavorting with the resident princesses and faerie.
Other positive events included a visit to the zoo, getting formal pictures of the kids, and finding out there are more babysitters in our neighborhood than I had thought (always a good thing). Surprisingly, I will also put Jon's four day absence in the positive pile, since we managed to keep busy and had no major breakdowns (children or mommy).

The negative comes down to the soul-sucking nature of illness. To begin with, Anna caught a nasty bug while Jon was away, resulting in a spectacular display of fluid projection. Luckily, the carpet was unscathed. Alas, the toilet was also unscathed. The poor thing was so sick, but managed to be up and about the next day, despite some minor dehydration and some mental scars (i.e., she now "feels like I'm going to throw up" about once a day.)
My own illness has been less dramatic but more tiresome. Now let me be clear: I rarely get seriously ill. [Case in point: when Anna was about 7 months old she got a horrid stomach virus while we were on vacation, which required various trips to various ERs in various countries. This virus managed to spread to Jon, my parents, and my brother with shocking speed, reducing each of them to quivering, vomiting masses for about 24-48 hours. My own symptoms included mild sleepiness and a nap.] So finally going to the doctor last weekend was a big deal, made bigger by various tests and a CAT scan which will cost us hundreds of dollars. The kicker is that there's was nothing obviously wrong. Frankly, I don't think I should have to pay (as much) for expensive tests if they don't turn anything up.
Anyway, my only choice is to wait it out. So I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting...

Back to the positive. My parents are coming on Tuesday! I'm so excited! Anna and Isaac will be thrilled with all the attention, and it will just be nice to have them here. An added bonus: Jon and I will be able to take off for a full 24 hours! We haven't had 24 child-free hours since before Isaac was born. We're not going far, but will be staying in a nice hotel and perhaps even get a hike in, or a massage, or just breakfast in bed. It boggles my mind.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back from Vacation

On Monday we arrived home from a short vacation in northern New Mexico. Every few years, there is a family reunion on Jon's side and we meet up at a great retreat in the mountains. The drive is about 5 1/2 hours from here (sans children) and I was a little apprehensive about it. However, we stopped for the night at a halfway point, staying at a hotel with a pool. Much splashing ensued. On the way back we elected to drive straight and it *only* took eight hours. Frankly, I was impressed with the minimal fussing and crying that emanated from the back seat. A new toy, a new DVD, and many pit stops were integral. It also helped that I'm keeping Isaac in a rear facing seat for the time being, which encouraged naps. (As soon as Anna turned one, I plopped her in a forward-facing seat, but Isaac seems so much smaller than she did. And anyway, I hear the thing now is to keep kiddos rear-facing until age two. He doesn't seem to care either way.)

Between drives we had a fantastic time. Not a restful time (Mommy doesn't travel well), but it sure was fun. Jon and I went mountain biking down an actual mountain, which was fantastic and a little scary. I was sore for days after that. There was a bit of hiking, some people went fishing, a fun playground was nearby. But most of the value came from the people we were with. Jon has a great family, and everyone is very open and close despite somewhat sporadic face-to-face time. Anna had so many cousins around, and we could just send her out the door to play. It was also nice to have many eyes on Isaac, who is still in his run-wild phase. For me, it was incredible to be around adults all day and have time for actual conversations with both depth and breadth. I suspect Jon felt the same way.

It was hard to come home and get back to the grind, but we're managing. Not much choice, is there?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Spinning, spinning into the future...

In my last post I expressed concern about Anna's upcoming dance recital. I thought it was too much hoopla and too many backstage hours for such a tender age. I still think it was too much hoopla. But I needn't have worried about Anna. She did just fine playing with her classmates, watching the big girls in their costumes, and generally hanging out.
I should have been concerned about myself. Between the pre-rehearsal and pre-show primping, the packing of snacks and "quiet activities" and costumes, the coordination of naps and babysitters, this thing easily took two days of my life and hundred of dollars. And she was on stage for less than 10 minutes over two shows. I had the vague sensation, as I was sitting in the crowded auditorium, that my daughter's dance routine was being held hostage.
But oh, how she loved it! She was a little nervous, but performed wonderfully and wanted to do the whole thing again the next day. Despite my reservations I found myself bubbling with excitement by the time her class performed. It really is something to see your baby on the big stage. So here we are, days after the event, and I debate whether to enroll her with the same studio in the fall.
On the other hand, money doesn't grow on trees. Rec center classes, here we come!

The other notable event of the past couple of weeks was my birthday. I won't tell you the day or my age, but I will give you a hint: they are consecutive square numbers.
Jon's parents looked after the kids and we went for a leisurely dinner in the mountains. Although it was in the 90's in the flat lands, it was downright cold up there. Lovely! As an added bonus, Isaac did not have any meltdowns while we were gone. In fact, he had as much fun as Anna. Little does he know this means more babysitters in his future.

Speaking of Isaac and milestones, he is now 14 months old. Only a year ago he was an infant, a stationary observer of goings on. Now he's a spinning, running, dancing participant (not all of this is welcome as he also climbs the slide). Even Anna seems to have changed a lot recently: losing her baby fat, improving in agility, figuring out "jokes," learning deception (despite obvious flaws, this is indeed a hallmark of mental development), asserting her preferences with increased confidence (often loudly), deftly maneuvering the computer mouse (thumbs down from Mom). She is becoming a little lady, and I sometimes forget to respect her burgeoning self.

The last milestone I'm thinking of is on July 1st (which is also Canada Day!) On that day it will be two years since we bought this, our first house. I really like owning a home, particularly after the tiny apartments we lived in before. We haven't changed much of it, but it is undoubtedly ours. We did not realize how useful the layout or location would be when we bought it - it was simply the best one we saw during our two days of looking. We have been blessed since moving here, and I'm glad we followed God's gentle prod when deciding where and what to buy. I don't know if we'll be here forever, but I'm happy to be here now.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dramatic Interludes

There have been a lot of ups and downs these past couple of weeks. To begin with, there was a surprising development at Jon's work place that caused us to re-evaluate our long term plans. Thankfully, that situation seems to have ironed itself out for now. We've also cried and rejoiced with friends who have had their lives turned upside down - some in good ways, some in sad ways. Closer to home, there was the cancellation of a weekend retreat that I was really looking forward to, although that may have been for the best. June is crazy busy for us, and we need the time to gear up.

Against the backdrop of these events is the everyday drama and swashbuckling adventures of our kiddos. This week's episode featured mistaken identities (is it Anna or Hannah who is scheduled for swim lessons?), ticking time bombs (in the form of babies who will explode if they wake up and find the sitter instead of mom), dramatic chase scenes (can mommy bike her children to the park before they kill each other?), attempted murder (occurring whenever bike rides took longer than 20 minutes), and extreme eating (how many berries can a baby consume before his health is at risk?). Spoilers: Hannah (oops); bomb failed to go off; yes, but barely; see previous; apparently more than baby currently consumes, however Mom's sanity is at risk due to constant changing of dirty diapers.

Isaac continues to develop in a myriad of ways. He's learned how to get down one or two steps without falling, and can follow basic verbal commands. Verbal production is slower compared to Anna, but hey he's a boy. So far he can say Mama, Dada, Anna, ca (for car), and dao (for dog). His "word" for food is something like a lip smack. He's a world class pointer and has finally begun waving. Both our kids were slow at waving, preferring instead to sob when Daddy leaves the house. I'm still amazed at how coordinated he is, and how stubborn. Which brings us to the skill Isaac's been working on the most: The Tantrum.
The Tantrum's form can take the shape of the "wiggly plank" (rigid and wiggly at the same time), or the "head throwback-back arch," or some combination accompanied by ear piercing shrieks that sound as if someone is sacrificing a baby goat. Anna also had her share of tantrums, but she could eventually be distracted. These days I would characterize her as emotional instead of stubborn - everything is a Thing but we can talk her down. Isaac seems more focused, more determined to reach his goal, and if a tantrum is required so be it. So there you have it. Anna has her dad's looks and her mom's dramatic personality, Isaac has his mom's looks and his dad's immutable personality.

Speaking of drama, there is one thing this week that's got my ire up. It's the hoopla surrounding Anna's dance recital. Since January she's been taking instruction at a dance studio (as opposed to the rec center), due to the convenient class times. I figured there would be some sort of costume fee, but it just didn't occur to me that the final cost could possibly be as high as it is. Just money, though, right? What's money in light of Anna's first big stage debut? However, now they're turning the recital practice (yes, the 3 year olds actually need to practice on stage like the big kids the day before the Really Big Show) into another recital. In short, there will be a legion of 2 1/2 to 4 year olds stuck back stage for three hours Friday evening (over the dinner hour, I might add), and three hours Saturday afternoon. They will be expected to do "quiet activities" back stage between their dance numbers. For three hours. That's six hours within a 24 hour period. Is it just me, or is that crazy? And don't try to tell me that there's not going to be pee in those costumes Friday night, because there's no way a stage mom is going to be able to deal with all that potty action. I know this won't matter in 20 years, but sheesh, wouldn't it be nice if Anna's first dance recital were a more mellow experience? Or am I being melodramatic?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who are you and what do you want?

Weather-wise, it is a wonderful day: overcast, not too hot, not windy, and a little humid. A good day for visiting a Colorado playground, which is generally a place with very little shade and intense sun. SPF 50 is a must at our house.
We just returned from the playground at the time when we were supposed to be leaving. However, babies have a way of throwing wrenches in plans and today's wrench was no morning nap. So off we went. I guess Isaac is still transitioning to a single nap. Or maybe he's teething. Or maybe his cold finally turned into an ear infection. Or maybe he has his cranky pants on. I don't know. What is certain is that he wouldn't go to bed until 9:30 last night, and still woke up at his usual 6:15. And now no morning nap. This makes Mommy cranky.
It's not just the lack of naps that makes me annoyed, but not knowing why they are gone. I've heard that some moms can identify their child's needs simply by the quality of the cry. While not entirely illiterate in the language of Fuss, I am not proficient. So I sit around guessing why he's crying instead of sleeping, and wishing for an otoscope.

C'est la vie. What's important is that they're both (both!) asleep right now and I have some free time. Ah yes, free time. Time to do the laundry, the dishes, clean the bathrooms, etc. Or maybe just eat more cherries. Ah yes, the cherries....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ring around the Roseola

Both kids are asleep, and I can't seem to motivate myself to do anything. It's been one of those days where you wake up exhausted in the morning and wonder how you will get through the day. The upshot is that Anna got to watch more TV than usual while Mommy lay down. And now it's her turn, I guess. Following her mid-afternoon snack Anna declared that she had drank too much milk and now her tummy said she needed to lie down (on the floor). Thirty seconds later I hear snoring. Coincidence that she had just finished watching Sleeping Beauty?

Isaac's nap is a VERY good thing (going on 3 hours now). He's had a rough time of it lately. Saturday morning he woke up with a low grade fever. Against all current medical wisdom I attributed it to teething, and got my just rewards. We headed to my in-laws as planned, and early in the evening his fever hit 103F. Roseola! The rash came on yesterday, and persists today. As childhood illness go, I'm a big fan of roseola. It's just a fever and a non-irritating rash. The only down side is that it's contagious, so it curbed some of our plans for the weekend. And resulted in about 3 hours of sleep for me on Saturday night. At least, I hope it was the fever that got Isaac up every 1-2 hours and not merely a change of scenery. Otherwise we are SCREWED for our upcoming road trip.

Despite all of this, Saturday was fun. We were up at my in-laws place and Anna got to play with her cousins and hang out with her grandparents. I also brought a wine-blending kit, which we adults had fun with while the kiddies were engrossed with a movie. Or so we thought. About an hour into the film, a pile (a pile!) of recently consumed juice boxes were discovered near several shame-faced children. Questioning went something like this:

"How many boxes did you have?"
Child 1: a million!

"How many boxes did you have?"
Child 2: one
"Did you have two?"
Child 2: yes
"Did you have three?"
Child 2: yes

"How many boxes did you have?"
Child 3: I refuse to answer until my lawyer is present.

It was a miracle that no one peed in their bed.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Baby Days

Isaac's first birthday was this past week. The time has gone so quickly, and now the Lost Year is officially over. It's a more bittersweet event than I had anticipated. He is our last baby, and I am feeling the loss. I will miss holding such a tiny life, the new baby smell, the intense closeness that is unique to an infant. As Jon poignantly noted, children are forever moving away: they leave the womb, the breast, our steadying hands at their first step, our desires at their first "no!", our home as they run out to play, our yard when they ride a bike, our protection when they're off to school. Now I understand why many grandmothers are such prayer warriors - for years prayer is probably all that stood between them and a emotional meltdown.

Isaac's birthday itself was mellow, and I couldn't help but compare it to the day he was born. That day was warm and sunny (I have some lovely pictures featuring my sunburned arms) and we spent the morning at the zoo. Nothing out of the ordinary until about an hour after we got home. At that point my water broke, so once again I missed out laboring at home. No matter - a few hours later Isaac was born and all was well.

On this first birthday, we woke to snow and cold. However, Isaac's first taste of french toast took off the chill, and we headed to the library later on. That was a disaster. The Lost Year may be over, but the Onerous Ones have taken hold. He will not be contained or directed without making his displeasure widely known. Our little outing turned into a grab-and-dash as we took whatever books were close by and got out of there. It wasn't a total write-off, thanks to a nearby playground (sun had come out by then) and some wide open spaces. The swings are always a big hit with our kids, which is a little annoying because we have swings in our yard. What we don't have is all the other cool equipment they tend to ignore.

Anyway, after a marathon afternoon nap (birthday present for Mom?) we had some friends over for carrot cake and presents. (Cake BEFORE dinner - wow!) Isaac wore the same bemused expression the whole time, but seemed to like getting new cars and books. (Tons of baby dolls throughout the house and all he plays with are vehicles and balls. How's that for early gender differentiation?)

Anna was kind enough to blow out the candle before Isaac burned himself, and he tentatively grabbed at the edge of the frosting, unsure of what he was looking at. Things became clear once he had a slice, however.

And that was it! First birthdays are so nice, since the kid has zero expectation or understanding. The whole thing was a bigger deal for Anna, who made a few decorations, set the table, and helped decorate the cake. Gummy bears, anyone?

Looking ahead, I see some fun times. Once Isaac has lost his morning nap (surely by fall, if not sooner) we'll have a lot more freedom to do fun things. He should also be more verbal and I expect fewer meltdowns in public places. I will miss having a baby, but I look forward to knowing the boy.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Notes from the week

Wednesday evening our run of good health (2 1/2 weeks!) came to a halt with the arrival of Anna's cold and Isaac's fever. Is this the same illness with different presentations? If so, how interesting! If not, I imagine our housebound status will be extended as they catch each other's illnesses. So sad because, again, Anna's fun weekend (gymnastics, Pinnochio at the children's theater, a sleep over at grandma's house) is likely canceled. It has been replaced with the usual uncertainty of whether or not to give Anna a shot of her nebulizer, as well as a desire for a decent stethescope (sp?) so I can hear whether she's wheezing.
Blah. Anyway, my energy level is low so thought I'd just post a few random tidbits from the week.
  • Sweeping is never truly done.
  • Whyyyyyyyy dooooooooo threeeeeeee yeeeeeaaaaaaarrrr oooooooolds taaaaaaaaaaaaake sooooooo looooooooong tooooooo dooooooooo aaaaaaanyyyyyythiiiiiiinnnnnnnngggggggggg?
  • New plan for 3yo: Slowly count to 5 after requesting an action. If action remains incomplete at this time, repeat. Threaten time out. Time out.
  • Things that don't go well with sand: diapers, sun screen, siblings, drool.
  • Babies with fevers are the saddest thing ever.
  • Thank you, Isaac for putting away your toys. However, they do not live in the garbage can.
  • Spring in CO is windy. Crazy windy. Luckily, no lawn furniture has been lost thus far.
  • Isaac lasted a whole hour at a babysitter's house without crying. Yay!
  • Working out more regularly the past three weeks. I suspect this is unlikely to continue.
  • Why is food yucky when baby is in the high chair, but tasty when it is on the floor?
  • Isaac has started biting mommy all over. When Anna did that, I responded with a stern "no." Very effective. In contrast, Isaac just giggles at the "no." Suggestions?
  • Considering a larger vehicle (crossover? minivan?) after realizing that we may be unable to fit everything for our vacation in our car. Also, it's a bummer to have to wedge myself into the backseat, between car seats, whenever Mom or Dad flies down. I like our high mpg cars, and I hate car payments, so this is a big paradigm shift for me. Stay tuned.
  • If birds are brave enough to build a nest on my porch light, beside the giant plastic owl that I recently erected to prevent this behavior, they should be allowed to stay.
  • Have a great desire to plant raspberries. 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Fine Time

It's the end of my mom's 2-week visit, so after her departure tomorrow I am expecting a post-Christmas level of blues. I wish my family lived closer. On the other hand, when they visit it's a good excuse to do all the fun things I feel I don't usually have time for. And when mom, in particular, visits it's also a good time to get in some extra cleaning and organizing. For example, I finally switched the master bedroom and rumpus-room closets (you may recall that we moved into the spare room and turned the master bedroom into an office/craft/play space). I'm really liking the new rumpus room thing we have going. Eventually I hope we can get a TV up there so I can work on my scrapbooks while unwinding.

[Speaking of the upstairs reminds me of the rather horrible thing that occurred early last week: we exchanged our bed. Turns out my wonderful soft soft soft pillow top was slowly turning Jon's neck into a knotted pretzel. Good-bye pillow top, hello plush. It's still okay, but now it's just an average bed. I've never been so sad to exchange anything in my life. Guess I really love the guy.]

Other productive and/or fun events included the zoo, a picnic in the park, kid-free dinner out with friends, kid-free shopping (shoes with actual heels were purchased; now I need something to wear with the shoes), working out (not necessarily fun, but certainly productive), and a few hours at a near-by indoor play area (surely a virus was contracted and will soon be making its presence known).

The zoo was extra fun since Jon took the day off to join us. Now that Isaac is walking he's less content in the stroller, so it was nice to have a third adult to take him around. Isaac's toddle got a few stares and giggles, which surprised me. But I forget that he's a little small for his age, and an early walker at that. Not to mention the cloth diapers which make his bottom HUGE, giving him quite the waddle. It's super-cute. Our visits are also running more smoothly since I've finally adapted to Anna's expectations. For her, the zoo = riding on the merry-go-round + picnic. Apparently, the animals are merely a side benefit. So we do those things early on, and then everyone is happy.

A picnic in the park was also a big success. Anna found a little girl her age and they hit it off wonderfully. It was such a joy to see the two little girls holding hands and running together, sharing cookies, and playing in the sand. I find the emergence from parallel play to social interaction interesting to watch. Two little people meet and just start playing together, working out a rudimentary give-and-take, and verbalizing social norms ("I'll go first, then you get a turn, then I'll get a turn"). I love how there's no small talk - they just dive right in. It makes me so excited to think that Anna's going to start preschool in the fall, if only for the opportunity to find a bosom friend.

Dinner with friends also merits mention since it occurred to Jon and I that we hadn't done that since we lived in Connecticut. I suppose that sounds a little sad, but when I think of all the logistics in going out for a child-free anything (sitters! planning ahead!) and how tired I am at the end of the day, it doesn't sound sad. It sounds practical. And anyway, this complicated stage of life won't last forever. I'm just saving up until then.

In the midst of all this, Easter occurred. Anna began to grasp the larger significance, thank in part to a great children's devotional offered by the church. Every night after dinner we'd do a little object lesson and read some scripture. She really enjoyed it, so I'm in the market for a good preschool-level devotional guide. Any suggestions?
We also decorated eggs, which took all of 3 minutes. Anna simply plopped each egg into a different color and declared her task finished. Maybe next year we can extend her interest to 5 minutes, or at least as long as it takes to set up the dyes. Easter Sunday saw Jon's whole family over for dinner and an egg hunt. This was so much fun! I love having a full house for holidays, even with all the craziness that ensues.

In short, it was a busy, fun, full, wonderful two weeks. Come again soon, Mom.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Broken

It's spring break for various schools over here, but you wouldn't know it from all the snow. We were in shorts and t-shirts last week, followed by a Friday snow storm. All the snow was gone by Sunday afternoon, so it was back to shorts on Monday, and then a blizzard on Tuesday. I'd say we accumulated at least 8 inches in less than 24 hours, with more to come this afternoon. But the temperature is lovely, and if we can manage it I'd like to be out building snowmen this afternoon.

It hardly feels spring-like inside our house, either, as our family has succumbed to a particularly bothersome bug: hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Or foot-and-mouth disease. Or something. The kids have taken turns with fever and now Anna has horrid sores all over her mouth and spots on her feet. Isaac may have sores too, but I can't see into that little mouth. He's certainly fussy, though. Apparently this is something you only get once, so I suppose that's a plus. Meanwhile, I have something that's wiping me out which is why the breakfast dishes lay untouched on the counter and the bathrooms will not be cleaned today.
It may be I'm simply wiped out emotionally, as the illness thing continues to get old. It practically has white hair and a beard by now. Not that this is any different from any other winter, but I had hoped that at least Anna would have developed an immune system by now.

Despite the illnesses, we continue to sprinkle in fun here and there. Isaac's been to the pool twice now, and both times he's spent a good portion in a floaty thing looking dazed and confused. Once he gets into it, though, it's splash-city. Unlike Anna he is less bothered by water in the face. This has proven useful when I wash his hair.

Sunday found me with my lovely female in-laws, cooking up a storm using Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Beef Bourguignon and Chocolate Bavarian Cream were my personal favorites. However, I think the green beans and potatoes would have been better with about a tenth of the butter.  I greatly enjoy cooking, and it's so fun to do with others. It's one thing to have a dinner party where you do all the cooking, or a potluck where everyone cooks at home and brings the food together. It's a completely different experience to cook all together, everyone bringing their own talents and (in my case) quirks to the process. Some of my best graduate school memories are of cooking together with other students. If you've never done this, I highly recommend it.

Another highlight of the last month was watching Isaac master walking. Such a different process than his sister: Anna took a few steps and gradually improved until I woke up one morning and realized she was running. With Little Man, you can almost see the switches turn on in his brain. I know the exact moments he went from on tentative step, to four steps, to walking halfway across a room, to (now) walking across the house. I wonder if the same step-wise advancement will happen with talking.

Time to tackle those dishes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Big Community

Jon and I have begun watching episodes of Big Love. If you are not familiar with this HBO series, it is a drama centered around a suburban family. A polygamous family.

When I first heard about this series I was less than interested. I was skeptical of the basic premise: three (more-or-less) modern women voluntarily entering a polygamist relationship? Yah, right. But then I heard an interview with Bill Paxton (alpha male), and the show sounded intriguing. So onto the queue it went.
And the show is intriguing. We're midway into season 2, and I'm beginning to see how this polygamous thing could seem appealing at first.
[disclaimer: I am not advocating polygamy in any way, shape, or form for any and all reasons you can think of. To its credit, the show neatly illustrates why you'd have to believe this was a spiritual calling to enter into such a relationship(s). They portray downsides I hadn't even thought of.]

To get straight to the point, what's appealing is living in community. Not just a get-together-once-a-week community, or an our-kids-play-together community, or even friends that chat on the phone daily, but an acutely proximal community. A community where you live. Right where you live. Imagine having another friend or two that's always around to lend a hand or an ear; dropping into the house next door (without having to call first); having someone around to watch the kids if you need to run an errand; etc. Obviously you don't have to be polygamist to be good friends with your neighbor and feel comfortable with your kids running into each others houses at all hours and/or just dropping in to talk yourself. But it would seem to facilitate this communal freedom.

I've been thinking about community a lot since it occurred to me that I'm lonely. Don't get me wrong. I have friends, near and far, and I appreciate each one of you. But the longest I've ever lived in one place is 7 years, and we've moved twice since then. What I'm missing is those deep friendships that come from staying in one place for a significant amount of time and having a shared history with people. The saddest thing about this is that I'm hardly alone. We're such a mobile society, and although part of this is necessary (good colleges or jobs may be far away), an unintended consequence is the loss of a shared narrative and support structure. Loneliness is only one of the consequences - there are many others. I'm sure you can think of a few.

In lieu of living by The Principle, I hope to stay in one place for a long time. I don't expect, or need a proximal community (maybe it's not even as nice as I imagine), but I would like that deep friendship I've been missing. And I really want the same for my kids.

What about you? Have you reached Leave it to Beaver nirvana? How? Do you even want to?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Comings and Goings

It's a cool and cloudy Monday. A reminder that it's still winter despite last week's sunshine. I was glad that my dad got to enjoy a bit of that spring feeling, since he was visiting last week. He came partly because he's unable to join my mom on her Easter visit, and partly to babysit while Jon was away. By "babysit" I mean babysit all of us. I'm still a wimp when it comes to single parenting during Jon's trips. Luckily, these trips have been infrequent of late. And to be fair, this was a long stint: Monday-Friday. With my days beginning at 6 and bed times at 8:30.... well, that's a long time to be without reinforcements.
So my dad took pity and came down to play. And play we did! I tried to pack in all the fun things we never do during a typical week. We went to Jungle Quest one day, and the zoo the next day.

Dad even took Anna on the "circle of fun": they go on a walk to a great local playground, lunch at McDonald's, ice cream at Sonic, and pass by another park on the way home. Jon's parents came with dinner one evening, and the rest of the time was filled with home improvement projects that we save up for dad's visits. My father is a very handy guy. Among other things, he worked on Isaac's drop-side crib such that it's now a never-again-drop-side crib. Mommy now sleeps better at night.

We were all sad when Grandpa left, but happy to see Daddy come home. Isaac celebrated by suddenly becoming a full-fledged walker. At 6:00 p.m. on Friday a light went on in his fuzzy head and he started taking steps in groups of five rather than one. He's quite satisfied with himself. Meanwhile I desire to put a little helmet on his head. So far, no concussion-inducing falls but I know they're on their way. I am always amazed that children survive this stage without permanent brain damage. Then again, maybe they all have brain damage and we just don't notice because they all have it.

So while we humans survived Jon's absence with aplomb, our TV receiver decided to throw a fit and die. My attempts to reset and revive came to nothing, and the conversation with the help desk was unsuccessful on many levels:
Me: I've tried resetting the box, but it does nothing. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Is it plugged in?
Me: Yes. It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try resetting the power strip.
Me: Hello? It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try plugging it into a different power strip.
Me: Okay, but I don't think you understand. It's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
Them: Try plugging it in somewhere else. 
Me: Uh, okay. But I feel I must tell you that it's receiving power. The record light is blinking and it's making a weird noise.
etc. etc.

So we should be receiving a new box soon, although it was too late for yesterday's Academy Award ceremonies. I've watched at least part of every show for over 20 years, until yesterday. Apparently I didn't miss much, but it's the principle of the thing. It's my only must-watch-television-event, and it has to be watched live.
At least Avatar didn't win best picture. Jon (and David Brooks) noted the similarity between Avatar and the horrid Fern Gully. Yes, this plot has been recycled more than once, but the similarity between these two particular movies is striking. And very very sad. If you're going to spend that much money on a movie, shouldn't some of it go to writing plot and dialogue? Just sayin'.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

All about Isaac

Isaac took his first solo steps on Monday. He's only done it a couple of times since then, so I won't declare him walking just yet. Nonetheless, it's a big milestone. He's changing so quickly right now and in a few very short months will be a year old. How can this be? In the spirit of fleeting time, this post is devoted to the Little Man. [Anna, you will get your own post soon enough.] I'll probably be adding bits and pieces to this as I think of things throughout the week.

Physical Attributes: 
  • Yummy
  • Looks very much like his Mom at that age, down to a grin that reveals a tooth gap so large you could fit a grape in there.
  • Not the burliest of boy babies, at only 19 lb 9 oz at the 9 month mark (30th percentile).
  • Fair colouring, with hair that turns to fuzz at the first hint of humidity. 
  • Has a cry that sounds like a baby goat.
Mental Attributes:
  • Obviously very intelligent.

Emotional Attributes:
  • Not a push-over. Although can be pushed over (by Anna).
  • Relatively easy-going. Relative to his sister. Which is, I suppose, not saying much.
  • Love-hate relationship with his high chair.
  • Hate-hate relationship with his change table.
  • Fear of our small rubber T. Rex. Possibly because Jon makes a roaring sound whenever Isaac gets near it.
  • Cuddly.
  • Ambivalent about being thrown in the air by Daddy. Mommy is also ambivalent about this.

  • Chewing socks. He loves socks. But only baby-size socks.
  • Chewing his toothbrush. He has very clean teeth (and gums).
  • Crawling a foot or two, then stopping to chew something. Generally a sock or a toothbrush.
  • Crawling up stairs. Unless T. Rex is on the stairs.
  • Putting his head down on different textures and just soaking them in.
  • Getting into drawers, particularly a drawer in our bathroom. Has an affinity for a box of tampons.
  • Pulling books off shelves and then paging through them.
  • Investigation, locating any swallow-sized and hazardous items within his reach.
  • Rolling a ball.
  • Throwing aforementioned items down stairs. 

  • Bath time!
  • Pushing a shopping cart or other push toy and then banging it up and down when he hits a dead end.
  • Kitchen cupboards.
  • Banging the piano.
  • Anna, particularly when she roars at him.
  • "Walking" while yelling or blowing raspberries.
  • Having Daddy bounce him on the couch pillows.
  • Having his belly tickled with our head/hair.
  • Bananas, blueberries, Cheerios, sweet potato, plain yogurt, cottage cheese, avocado, mango.
  • Throwing the above on the ground.

That's Isaac in a nutshell, but like any baby he is greater than the sum of these parts. I'm excited to see who he will be a few months from now.

Friday, February 12, 2010

This and That

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, and frankly I can't quite remember what's happened during that time. I know that the kids finished up their course of antibiotics, and now Isaac has moved on to his next cold. Drat.

This weekend will be a busy one for us, which is likely why I'm focused on the present instead of the past. Our small group is hosting a parent-child Valentine's dance at our church, and I'm helping out with the food, among other things. So today is baking day. I'm getting re-acquainted with my camp cook book (in another life, I was thus employed) and have been making Congo Bars (a simple bar cookie with an odd name), Rice Krispie squares, and puffed wheat squares. The latter seems unknown in these parts, so I'm curious to know what the locals think. The Congo Bars are a little disappointing relative to my memory, so I've made some changes to the recipe. A little late for this batch, but whatever. Jon figures I'm making too much food, but I'd hate to run out of desserts. I know Anna could eat four of anything and she's just one kid. (Please note that I will endeavor to prevent this.)
In light of all these sweets it's a good thing that Anna is at her grandparents' house tonight. There will be bars and squares all over the available counter space by this evening, which would be a sore temptation for such a little sprout. It's a sore enough temptation for me.

Baking would have been done by now if Isaac had taken a decent nap, so of course he didn't. Nonetheless, he is napping now after being a bit of a crab this morning. He seems to be down to one short and one long nap a day. Although he's been sick so much, it's hard to tell whether this is his illness or actual development. One nap a day would be nice - we could actually go to the zoo or the children's museum or some other fun place. I guess the lost year isn't really over until that morning nap drifts off. But other than the virus, he's doing very well and deserves his own post. So I shall stop there.

The biggest news, literally, is that we actually purchased a bed this week. A soft king-size. It's not my dream mattress, but it's quite comfortable. If you will recall, this purchase was one of my goals for 2010. I was skeptical as to whether we'd actually follow through this year, but the air mattress in the guest room finally bit the dust so it seemed as good a time as any. I finally slept on it last night (odoriferous new mattress!) and am quite happy. It sure is different from our full size.

I hear Isaac whimpering. Nuts. Should have finished the squares while I had the chance.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dear January

January, we've had our differences in the past. You are the month associated with going back to school or work after Christmas vacation. You arrive, and we note a lack of holiday celebrations in the near future. You are the epitome of winter, and don't even have the decency to be a short month. Instead, you are the maximum at 31 days. The nerve of you! And if all that weren't enough, you contain within your boundaries the most depressing day of the year (despite the controversy, I still believe it's true).

But January, since we moved to Denver you had a chance to make amends. With your spring-like weather (well, spring-like for an Albertan), and family ski week, you held out a hand of reconciliation. 2010 started out hopefully enough. The kids got colds, but in what month doesn't that happen? I even began looking forward to you as the month in which Isaac would begin sleeping better. Alas, this false hope was part of your larger scheme.

The kids recovered from their initial cold well enough. Anna embarked upon her first ski trip with her Dad and had a rolicking good time with her cousins. I remained at home, glad to have only one child to attend to (ironic, since this same scenario a year earlier would have sent me into conniptions). All seemed well.
And then you sent an army of viruses into our midst, taking down the youngest first and then moving up the chain of command with methodical precision. And no minor cold, this. Instead, you brought ear infections, jarring coughs, rivers of mucous, sore throats, and the worst of all: asthma attacks.

This last symptom was your goal all along, wasn't it, January? A stealth wheeze such that no parent could have been aware that the exhaustion of our toddler was due to hypoxia rather than simple illness. No increase in respiratory rate, no audible whistling in the breath - merely glassy eyes and low energy. Your fatal mistake, however, was adding an ear infection into the mix: a pain that could not be ignored and brought us to the doctor where your treachery was unearthed.

January, as I sit here hacking and sleepless I bid you adieu. Until we meet again, in 2011.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Longest Month

     It's January. As of today, twenty unequivocally winter days still stretch out before us. January is such a looong month, in part because there is nothing specific to look forward to
     I think Jon's family has the right idea: they all get together for a ski-week during this most winter of months. And after that's over, why it's practically February. And February is a such a short month, speedily becoming March. And March is so hopeful; you can practically taste spring around the corner. Alas, Isaac and I are not skiing so all I see is January.
     I don't mean to be in a funk, but last week was quite difficult and it's going to take a day or two to emerge. Both kiddos were ill all last week, so we didn't go anywhere and no one came here. So, Anna missed her Fun Week: her first dance class, a visit to her grandparents, and a cousin's birthday party. This sadness was compounded by her asthma acting up, and the administration of her nebulizer. She's great at using the neb, but the medication induces a sort of borderline personality disorder. She's up and down and needy and cranky and spinning and sad and manic. So it was a rough week. In fact, it wasn't until Friday that I realized that, other than Jon and the doctor, I had not seen any adults all week. Worse, I hadn't even noticed.
     Enough self-pity. Here are the fantastic things that also happened:
First, Isaac learned to crawl up the stairs. All the stairs all at once. He's thrilled with this new skill, and I wish our baby gate could go lower than the fourth stair.
Second, Anna and I made cookies and buns. I love baking with her. She's so interested in measuring and feeling the ingredients and playing with the dough.
Third, I've enjoyed watching Isaac continue to explore his motor skills. He's firmly in pull-books-off-shelves and push-shopping-cart-around mode. About three weeks ago his crawling became lightning fast, so we spent the New Year's weekend baby proofing (better late than never) and setting up the baby barrier. The latter is basically a big fence set up in a circle, with rugs and blankets to make it soft, and a lot of his toys. Since I can never fully account for all of Anna's swallow-sized toys I wanted a place he could play in absolute safety. I want to emphasize that this is a LARGE space - I'm not talking pack 'n play size. He can do a good bit of cruising and crawling and exploring in there. But does he appreciate this? No. He cries unless someone is in there, playing with him. Too bad, kid. Momma's got to cook dinner.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Always double the time needed. Always.

     Last night I made a chicken stew from Real Simple Magazine. I chose this recipe because we all like olives, and it's different than my usual fare. Also, it is indeed pretty simple.
     However, I misread the suggested time and thought it was a 30 minute recipe. In fact, it's a 60 minute recipe. Thankfully, I still started a full hour before we were supposed to eat. A good thing, since it took almost 90 minutes to prepare, and would have taken 1 3/4 hours if I had followed all of the directions. Why so long?
Here's why:

Original Recipe: Chicken and pepper stew with olives

1/2 cup flour                             3 green bell peppers sliced
1 tsp. paprika                            4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 1/2 tsp salt                             2 cups chicken broth
3/4 pepper                                2 cups pitted olives
16 chicken thighs, halved         1/2 cup golden raisins
3 Tbsp. olive oil                       2 cups cooked rice
3 red bell peppers, sliced

Changes I made: 1/3 the amount of chicken, and halved the rest of the ingredients (except the rice). Also, added some red wine. Because red wine makes everything taste better.

Real-time directions (for our house, anyway):

4:29 - put baby in play pen; baby commences play; toddler (who has been ill) is occupied with something or other
4:30 - begin cooking brown rice
4:32 - begin slicing peppers (who has them pre-sliced? It's such a cheat to list sliced veggies in the ingredient list.) 
        - pretend to be a Wiggle at behest of toddler
4:35 - baby commences fussing; remember to make green beans for baby (no stew for you!)
4:37 - mix together flour, paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
        - pretend to be Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother
        - baby commences screaming
4:39 - pick up baby and attempt to soothe
4:45 - nurse baby
4:55 - abandon all principles; turn on Baby Einstein for both toddler and baby
4:56 - cut up chicken (again, I'd like to note the cheat factor in listing "halved chicken" in the ingredient list)
5:00 - coat chicken with flour mixture
        - put oil in a large pot and heat on medium high
5:02 - realize that the wrong burner is on, and am about to burn paper plate on which coated chicken is sitting
        - in mad dash to turn off burner, knife hits numerous clean utensils and smears chicken juice all over them ( #*@$@!!)
5:04 - begin browning chicken thighs
5:05 - sick toddler asks for cuddle, but mommy is cooking. Bad mommy.
5:08 - baby commences screaming
5:10 - abandon principles again: hold baby near hot stove as I flip chicken
        - note that toddler is asleep; poor little toddler
5:12 - arm tired; put baby down in front of fridge to play with magnets
5:15 - baby almost crushes finger in lazy susan; back into play pen!
5:16 - baby screaming
5:17 - begin eyeing wine bottle
5:20 - remove very browned chicken (which has now been cooking for double the amount of time it should be)
        - deglaze pot with a bit of wine; add peppers, 1/2 cup broth, rest of salt and pepper
5:21 - pick up baby
        - stir peppers occasionally
5:26 - garage door opens!!
5:27 - hand off baby to husband
5:30 - peppers too soft
        - add chicken and remaining ingredients, including garlic that was forgotten earlier
        - simmer, covered for 15 minutes
        - congratulate self for buying the pitted olives
5:33 - turn off rice; let sit with lid on
        - set table, do some laundary
5:40 - rice is done (for a change)
5:48 - chicken is cooked through (at this point, I was supposed to uncover and simmer another 15-20 minutes. oops.]
         - begin waking up toddler
5:50 - wrath of toddler incurred
5:55 - sit down to eat

6:45 - finally drain rest of green beans, now devoid of all nutrients
     So, how did it taste? Well, Jon added sriracha sauce and Anna basically sobbed and had tantrums all through dinner. But I really liked it, and will make it again.
     It's been awhile since I tried to cook a meal right before dinner. These days I'm all about the slow cooker, or making meals early in the day (while someone is napping) and reheating later. I think we'll go back to that for awhile.