Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 In Review

This decade, which began with me finishing up my undergrad degree and starting real life for the first time, is quickly coming to a close. What a formative 10 years it has been. I feel like I've gone through many different incarnations of myself in these years. This one I'm living right now though is by far my favorite.

2010 didn't hold many surprises for us and I'm just fine with that. Chris and I learned month by month how to be better parents to our ever developing little man. Together we learned about Milo's allergies and I came up with some new techniques in the kitchen to make life easier. For the first time we joined a CSA and really enjoyed the experience of having farm fresh veggies through the summer.

This year mainly saw us sticking close to home. We tried to take a little family get-away which was a disaster, but we fared much better on our trips to visit Chris' family in Indiana and Atlanta. Chris and I also had an adventure day zip lining in Hocking Hills.

We sadly had to find Prada another home, but the silver lining here is that she is doing really well with her new person. Plus, Milo's skin is much improved and I know we made the right choice. I still miss my kitty though.

2010 was a fairly normal year, if by normal you mean chasing after a toddler. We have fallen into a comfortable rhythm and enjoy our day-to-day life together. Actually I've been enjoying the day to day (the library trips, the family dinner, the cuddles and giggles) so much that the year has gotten away from me.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Accomplished

I am so happy to report that this year I don't have the nasty Christmas hangover as in years past. My holiday plan worked and we all came out okay! Sure, there were some misses (like we somehow missed Mass on Christmas Eve yet again this year), but overall the Christmas holiday was joyful. We did many fun things together as a family (Zoo lights, visiting the trains, playing in the snow). Much yummy food was consumed and while Milo and I did bake cookies we didn't make so many that it became stressful. This I think is the key to the holiday season. Moderation. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. And just because two presents under the tree are nice doesn't mean 12 presents are nicer. In keeping with the moderation theme, I shrunk the menu for Christmas dinner here at our house. I used tried and true recipes rather than testing out new ones. It was wonderful and so much easier. To balance out the simple menu (ham, black bean soup, cornbread, sweet potatoes, and fennel citrus salad), I also made a beverage menu for each guest to order from. Fun, easy and special! Just how I like my gatherings.

Hoping you all had similarly wonderful Christmases spent with family and friends. At the end of the day, they are all who matters.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Natural Children's Books

As a consummate book-lover, I have so enjoyed introducing Milo to reading. We've revisited favorites from childhood (Snowy Day, Good Night Moon, the Beatrix Potter books, and a couple of Dr. Seuss) and as he gets older I can't wait to add to that list (I wonder when will the first Harry Potter be appropriate night-time reading).

As much as I love the classics, I'm really enjoying a couple of new finds that I'll lump into a "natural" category. These books clearly have a somewhat specific target audience in mind and it seems we are it! Some of our favorites are:
I read about this book on several other blogs and I'm so glad I requested it from our library, because I love, love, love it. The lyrical lines trace the interconnectedness of all the world and the beautiful artwork shows the wonder of it all. I gave this book to one family as a gift this year and I hope they are enjoying it as much as we have. For me this book gets lumped into the natural genre because of the overall theme and some specific illustrations of farmer's markets and tree planting.
We picked this book up off the library shelf this week on a whim and now I can't count the number of times it has been read at our house. The story traces a little girl and her mother making soup - from picking the freshest veggies at the store to eating the final product. Our little foodie is mesmerized by the words and pictures. Great reading for a wintry day and the soup recipe is even on the last page.

Green Start: In the Garden
This last book was given to us by a friend and it seems to be part of a "green start" series. No author is listed, but the illustrator is Jillian Phillips. The words in this book are very repetitive - the green beans grow on the vine, we pick them and eat them / the orange carrot grows in the ground, we pick it and eat it, but it really appeals to Milo. The art is cute and simple. It's a great little book to introduce gardening.

Have you noticed any other children's book in this "natural" genre?

Friday, December 17, 2010

21 Months!

Our little 21 month-old is still upstairs sleeping right now (9:45 a.m. on Friday morning). Evidently the excitement of being out for his Uncle's birthday last night deserved an extra couple of hours or sleep (he typically sleeps until about 7:20ish). Or perhaps he has hit the teenage years of sleeping until noon already.

At dinner last night, it was clear we now have a fun-loving little boy rather than a baby. He used a grown-up fork with ease, he was pissed I cut his burger into smaller pieces, and he repeatedly yelled FRIES at the waitress who mistakenly didn't ask him for his order. He also sang us all his new rendition of Row Row Row Your Boat which brought the house down.

This last month has been a busy one including Milo's first plane trip (he did great!), celebrating Thanksgiving with Chris' family in Atlanta (lots of fun) and a continuation of learning to climb to higher heights (a bit scary for Mama).

What has really struck me about Milo this month is just how sweet he is. He has a smile for everyone and a hug for people he really likes. We can go whole days without crying which is just amazing to me. Part of this, of course, is that his verbal skills are much better and he can tell me what he needs or wants. The other part of this though is that he's just pretty easy going.

In the midst of getting ready for Christmas and partaking in all the fun festivities, I have also made sure we have some nights at home just the three of us. Honestly, these are best! We laugh and tickle, read books, and make up games involving a stuffed cat and balls (the rules aren't clear, but it sure is a family favorite). Our little guy likes to be out and about, but I think he really shines at home. And this makes my heart sing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thankful

Ah, I missed posting about Thanksgiving or as I've come to think of it Thanks Giving. I tend to gloss over some of the facts of the first Thanksgiving, but I really do like the idea of sitting down to a meal together in celebration and preparing for hard days to come. If you can think of some reasons in your life to be thankful then all the better. Here are some of things I jotted down on a notepad (which I had to keep tracking down as a certain toddler wanted to also journal his feelings) throughout November for which I am thankful:
  • Good, wholesome food that makes your body feel its best.
  • Unexpected sunny days spent with friends at the park.
  • Spicy Mochas from Caribou Coffee
  • The power of a rejuvenating nap to turn a day around.
  • A toddler helping to mix muffins while standing on a chair.
  • The homey smell of those muffins while they bake.
  • Grandparents who babysit and a little boy who asks for G and Pa constantly once they leave.
  • And, of course, my husband and our marriage of three years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving: Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Muffins

You know what else makes me feel better and more in control around the holidays? Baking. Yep, baking. When I was in grad school and my life felt mind-racingly unsettled I baked a lot because I couldn't really screw up a batch of cookies. I've since turned to other methods of coping, but baking still holds a special place in my heart. Plus, now Milo can help stir! The recipe below is an update to my previous favorite pumpkin muffin with a vegan twist to accommodate Milo's allergies. These aren't overly sweet, but don't taste vegan either. We gobbled them down quickly!

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup hemp (or other non-dairy) milk
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces of pureed pumpkin
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 bag (about 1 cup) of chocolate chips or raisins

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together wet ingredients in large mixing bowl until pumpkin is incorporated well. In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add dry to wet in small amounts until batter forms.
Fold in chips or raisins. Pour batter into muffin tins and bake for 25 minutes or until toddler decides he can't stand the wait any longer. Makes about 12 muffins. Enjoy!



Saturday, November 20, 2010

20 Months

Is it possible in only four more months, we'll be celebrating Milo's second birthday? Goodness, the second year is moving quickly. Milo is mostly just a joy to be around these days.

He seems to be picking up new words each day (I realize I have said this before, it is still happening and is even more pronounced this month). New favorite words are hummus (joy for Milo because I found a tahini-free brand at Trader Joe's) and house. In addition to nouns, he is also starting use more proper names so GG is officially G, Grandpa is Pa, Uncle Tony is T and Mama and Daddy continue to be Mama and Daddy. He knows Sam and Prada (even though she hasn't lived here in months, if I say Prada he says cat!) are cats and he also knows the names of the cats around the neighborhood.

He points out the various parts of his body such as facial features, feet, hands, etc. Slowly he is getting more coordinated. He can run quite quickly and often takes off down the sidewalk to collect handfuls of leaves. If I ask him to stand like a flamingo, he will lift one or the other leg. My little yogi regularly practices down dog, cat and cow poses with me. Not being much of a climber in the beginning, Milo is now getting more comfortable pulling himself up / off couches, play equipment and chairs.

We've been part of the same playgroup for a year now. Milo and the other boys have grown up together and it is so interesting to see how they went from ignoring one another, to playing side by side, to now starting to tune into each other. At the end of each meeting there is a period of waving, hugs, and bye byes which is so sweet. I'm glad Milo (and I) have these friends to learn, grow and share with.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Holiday Plan

Thanks for your suggestions on dealing with holiday anxiety. Taking into consideration some of your advice (unfortunately a tropical vacation isn't in the cards this year), I've come up with the following plan of action to keep stress at a minimum and joy at a maximum.
  • Enjoy myself! If I am having fun and am relaxed, those around me will be more likely to as well. Also, keep in mind that I can't control other people's words or actions, but I can control how I respond to them.
  • Get main events on the calendar now. We're making a list of all the things we want to do over the next two months - concerts, tree hunting, lights viewing, shopping, caroling, worhsipping - and penciling those in now. That way it won't be December 20th and suddenly we realize we have no tree or presents under it (not that that happened last year or anything).
  • Keep it all in perspective. At the risk of adding more things to my plate, I've signed up for a yoga / meditation home-based study. I think it will help keep me grounded.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ah, Halloween

It strikes me that Halloween is quickly becoming my favorite holiday. There is candy, cute kids in costumes, good weather, and fun activities surrounding the main event (pumpkin patch and carving the pumpkins leading up to Trick or Treating). As a bonus to all the good about Halloween, what I like even more is all that is lacking about the holiday. There is no obligation to exchange presents, eat food you don't really like, or see absolutely everyone you are related to. Instead Halloween festivities are intimate and neighborhood centered. I like that.

Plus everyone just has fun and goes with the flow. Who has ever heard of Halloween guilt or families erupting into disagreements over what type of candy to give out? It just doesn't happen. It's not that serious.

Can you tell I am a little ambivalent about the upcoming holidays? I want the lightheartedness of Halloween to carry me through straight up until New Year's Eve. These pictures might help.

Do you have a favorite holiday or a tip to get me through the craziness of the next two months?


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

19 Months

Sadly, I am a few days late with this post...because a 19 month old really keeps a Mama busy. And they like to go a lot of places with other little rug rats who harbor viruses (I'm looking at you Cosi kid's area). Anyway, after a day under the weateher, I am back to feeling like myself again and ready to update on a 19 month old Milo.

Each day we're starting to see more and more personality and by that I mean, he suddenly has strong opinions on certain things (like where to eat his apple sauce). His favorite new word is NO said using two syllables and making a duck face with the lips. We try not to laugh, but truthfully we probably encouraged this phase. In the past couple of weeks, we would ask Milo if he drank coffee and he would shake his head and say no sweetly in his quiet voice. The game progressed to asking him if he drank wine or if he was tofu chicken. Each time he would reply in the negative and we would all laugh. Now he will mutter no for a good several minutes at a time.

This past month we have been doing a Tuesday morning tumbling class at our local rec center to get out some extra energy. Milo loves it! Each week there is free play to bounce around the mats and try out skills. Then we have circle time where we stretch and sing songs. Each week a new skill is introduced (forward roll, handstand, backward roll, hanging on the bar) and each child gets a turn. Finally we play with the big parachute. I love that Milo is learning exercise is fun. I also like that he gets to practice things I wouldn't teach him at home (um, handstand) and taking turns / waiting in line. It's been a great experience. Since I signed him up as early as I could have (the class is kids for 18 - 36 months), we'll be attending again in the future.

Even with Milo's seemingly boundless energy and strong opinions, he is just so much fun. He's a giggly, cuddly little buddy who is now learning to kiss back. Since I am, for now, the only recipient of those mushy kisses, I am appreciating each and every one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Goes with Chili

The last week or so has been rainy and chilly. We've turned the heat on and our outside play was confined to small bursts between sprinkles. It's not the ideal crisp air and sunny days of fall we long for in August, but it is the perfect weather for making a pot of chili.

People have strong beliefs about their chili - with beans, without beans, what type of beans, corn or no corn, five alarm or just a little heat. For this reason, I am not going to offer up my chili recipe (plus there isn't one as I just wing it every time I make it). I, am, however going to say the best accompaniment to chili is cornbread. Corn chips are an acceptable substitute, but please hold the spaghetti and (eww) rice.

With Milo being allergic to dairy and eggs, I didn't want to use the usual Jiffy mix I have in the past. Luckily it was very easy to find a super good vegan cornbread recipe. This stuff is so good and so easy that I don't think I'll ever use the box again. The original recipe is linked to above. My changes are below.

Vegan Wholewheat Corn Bread

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bread flour
1 cup corn meal
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tbsp ground flax seed
6 tbsp warm water
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup rice milk
1/4 cup canola oil


Measure dry ingredients into large mixing bowl. Mix with fork until combined. In separate small bowl, whisk together the flax and warm water. Add the other wet ingredients. Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry. Scrape batter into greased 8 square inch baking dish. Bake in preheated oven at 355 degrees for about 25 - 30 minutes.

This cornbread goes great with chili and would be nice with other bean based soups as well. It's also tasty the next day with avocado slices. Enjoy the fall weather - even if it is rainy!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Few More 18 Month Things


This kid is so much fun right now, and it occurred to me I need to record some of the things he says and does before he moves onto the next big thing.We've been moving through the animal sounds for some time now. Neigh is his favorite. This week we added a few that just make me laugh. Milo thinks a frog says bbllhh (that sound you make when you purse your lips together and blow). It does sound a bit like ribbit. After hearing me a say a camel spits and demonstrating it, he now coughs if you ask him what a camel says.
  • Milo dances by turning around in circles and stomping his feet. He does this when music starts or when he is very happy about something.
  • If you say golf or soccer, he will start clapping. He will also clap whenever he sees football or baseball on television.
  • Milo's most recent word is honey. I call Chris honey a lot, and I think this is where is got it from. However, he also knows that bear from Bear at Home eats honey for lunch. In Milo's world it is pronounced HAHNey.
Also, using the fantastic photo tips mentioned here, we recently took these shots of our little guy. They are some of my favorite images of Milo.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Apples and More Apples

There are few photographic memories I find cuter than apple picking pictures. Something about the crisp fall air, the lush foliage and the happy, apple juice covered faces just make for great photos. In the past year, we've gone from sweet cherub little face happily munching on his first apple, to wild toddler frantically taking a bite of each apple he could get his hands on.

We'll keep going back year after year to add to the collection, so I need some great fall back apple recipes. Apples pick easily which means you end up with more apples
than it seems while picking. And for some reason the apple stash never seems to go down no matter how many apple snacks we have. So far I have made apple crisp, apple turnovers, apple sauce, and I also modified this muffin recipe to utilize more apples.

What am I missing?
What is your favorite thing to do with apples?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Year at Home

One year ago today I cleaned out my office, was given a surprise going away ice cream social, and said goodbye to co-workers and to a second income for our household. There are things I miss about working - the structure, the constant adult interaction and the camaraderie of working together toward a common goal. Overall though, I wouldn't trade this year or this current life for afternoons spent in meetings or at my desk whiling away the hours until I could go home.

Leaving my job to stay home with Milo was the right thing to do for our little family. And, yet, I still struggle with that decision to some degree. I am uncomfortable about how stay-at-home mothers are often viewed and the looks I sometimes get for staying at home. It shouldn't matter what other people think about how I spend my time, but somehow it does.

Trying to delve into those feelings a little more, I picked up Mommy Wars at the library. The book is supposed to elicit a truce between those mothers who work outside of the home and those who stay home. The essays in it were intended to shed light on the experiences of both sets of mothers and show both to be valid.

Fine premise, but I couldn't get through the book. I was feeling judged before I even made it through the forward (being how the author couldn't understand how a stay at home mother could put her economic circumstances into another's hands). Plus, the book seemed very dated (it was published in 2006) with references to things that just don't resonate only four years later.

At the end of the day, each woman needs to do what is right for her family. Economics, personality and individual circumstance play a role in this. Each outcome is genuine to that family. No one book of essays is going to be able to explore the vast array of situations that defines motherhood.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

18 Months

Our little buddy is a year and half old! It's a milestone. We are collecting more and more of these milestones...this month Milo started walking backwards, hopping, dancing, climbing a bit more, echoing more words, having more interest in drawing with crayons, and all together just being a super happy little boy.

Each day brings more words and better communication skills. He likes to hold our hands now and show us where he wants to go or what we should play with next. Milo still likes to play with kitchen tools and seems to have a special affinity for stuffed animals. We bought a sand table on summer sale and he has been clocking many hours digging in the backyard in it.

I was warned that the 15- 18 month time period can be a bit trying, but really I've found it a joy. Yes, we have some tantrums, but for the most part he is quite good-natured and is willing to go with the flow. This week we are trying to make sure he gets in bed each night by 8:15 and that has seemed to make him even more pleasant to be around.

We're now heading for the age of two and it is so exciting to me to watch a little boy emerge where there was once a baby.

ETA: At our 18 month appointment, Milo measured 32 inches and weighed in at 27 pounds, 10 ounces.

*Milo helped me decorate his sign this month.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Summer of CSA

For years, at least years since I have become aware of CSAs (community supported agriculture), I've wanted to participate in one. This summer we finally did it. After some research and weighing of options, we chose New Century CSA as our farm provider. This is one of the few (only?) central Ohio CSAs who deliver their produce, which was very nice. I also liked that it is a family-run farm.

Other Impressions of the season:
  • We split a full share with another couple. This worked out well as there would have been way too much food otherwise.
  • Corn, oh the corn. There was a lot of corn. Like 20 ears per week a lot of corn. Even with splitting the share, this was just too much corn for us.
  • The farm said they mostly use non-chemical methods of farming, but will use chemicals as a last resort. I would like some clarification on this policy as it seemed to me some of the produce must have been sprayed.
  • We would get a weekly e-mail saying what would be in the share that week. This was helpful, but it wasn't always accurate.
  • Each Tuesday morning was an adventure as Milo and I would sort out the veggies. Our favorites were beets, cucumbers, the various lettuces. We could have done with less of the cabbage, okra, and hot peppers.
  • Overall the quality of the produce was great. I would have preferred more variety of vegetables overall and varietals of species (all the produce seemed to be from modern seed).
All in all, it was a positive experience. I liked having to come up with menus and recipes using whatever we happened to have at the time. It was interesting to see how the share changed from the beginning of the summer to the end. Early June we had a lot of peas, kohlrabi and some early beets. By the end of August we receiving mostly tomatoes and corn.

We'll definitely do something similar next year, but we may branch out and try a different farm. For people who are interested in participating in a CSA, my advice is to create excitement for it in your family (Milo and I would look forward to the unpacking each week), be open to trying new vegetables prepared in different ways and use it as a learning experience.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Garden is Still Growing

It is late August and I haven't done a garden update in months. Yes, we still have a garden and have been quite enjoying the fruits of it. I can't really say the fruits of our labor, because other than occasional watering and sporadic weeding, we haven't so much labored this year. Milo still enjoys helping us in the garden, but doesn't have the attention span for us to actually do much upkeep. So far, this is what has been going on:




  • The heirloom tomato plants are doing great. We have enjoyed the variety (some striped, a few yellow and some nice pinkish ones) on sandwiches and cooking. We also have several volunteer plants which are producing well. Milo really likes to help pick the tomatoes, but doesn't seem to like the taste as well.
  • Our pepper plants are doing very well. We have the regular green peppers, what were supposed to be sweet red peppers, a purple pepper plant and sweet banana peppers. These are great for snacking on and cutting up for lunch. Thankfully, we all like peppers.
  • The bunny who ate the Swiss chard let it grow for a little bit, but is up to his old antics. We have not had Swiss chard this year.
  • The vining plants are doing so so. The spaghetti squash looked healthy, but only produced a few fruit before dying off. The butternut squash, however, is doing great. I am looking forward to freezing plenty of that for the winter months.
  • We also planted watermelon in the front yard. In spite of it being rather neglected, the plant loved all the sun and produced several good sized melons. Milo couldn't be happier.
  • Our bush zucchini did really well and has been providing us with lots of muffin making ingredients. Again, Milo, is thrilled.
  • The potatoes were an utter disaster. We're not sure if we didn't water enough or planted too many in too small of a space, but we only harvested about three thumb-sized potatoes. I'm glad we weren't depending on that crop to feed us all winter. We'll try for better luck next year.
  • We're on our second planting of lettuces. The first provided many tasty salads, before bolting and getting too bitter with the heat of the summer.
I think that is about it. It looks like a lot, but really, it has been pretty self-sufficient. We have had some wins and some losses, but all and all it has been a good summer for gardening.

Monday, August 16, 2010

17 Months

I feel like I've won the baby lottery with this stage and age. Milo is all hugs and kisses and funny new words mixed with smiles and proud expressions of accomplishment. He is a bundle of running energy and a very curious little man who still loves the dirt. We very rarely have tantrum issues and when we do he is usually easily distracted.

He's at his best exploring the yard, looking at bugs, drawing with sidewalk chalk and chasing after bunnies. He will helpfully pick tomatoes off the vine and all peppers enter our house with Milo nibbles out of them (even, sadly for a surprised Buster, the hot ones). If we go near the grill, he will warn us that it is HOT.

When playing inside, he is never far from his beloved tongs which he often uses in the kitchen. Books are still a favorite way to the pass the time and computers are fascinating objects that sometimes show Sesame Street clips.

Milo has his top and bottom molars (and has for awhile now), but his eye teeth are still missing and seem to sometimes bother him. While we all miss Prada, Milo's skin has really cleared up and he's less rashy and itchy. He has been healthy and happy and enjoying the summer. And I have been, too.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There You Are

Sometimes I wonder what Milo thinks when I load him up in the car. We get in the car and most often we go to the grocery store, library or the park, which are all fine places to be. Sometimes, though we end up at even better places like the pool, a festival or a far-off never before been to place. Yesterday was one of those days. We traipsed through a beautiful arboretum, we visited an Amish farm with cows, we picked blueberries and we jumped on a trampoline. Milo had a blast, I'm just not sure what he made of the whole, busy, wonderful day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Whole Story

I wrote a review of our recent summer trip, but while all true, this barely scratches the surface of what actually happened. Yes, the park is lovely. Yes, it was great to spend uninterrupted time with my boys. But we left a whole day early (and the trip was only to be two days anyway).

One of the reasons for the early departure is that while I like to think of myself as low maintenance and outdoorsy, in real life I'm not. I'm just not. I don't like being eaten by mosquitoes and I'm not a fan of submerging myself in murky lake water. Until I settle into my new surroundings, being outside of my comfort zone makes me really antsy.

Milo must have some of these quirks of mine, because it is becoming more and more clear, he can't sleep anyplace other than his own crib. He barely napped in the car coming or going from the park and he refused to sleep in the pack and play in the cabin. Instead he slept with Chris and me in a very small and uncomfortable full-size bed. Even once tucked in with us, it took him quite some time to fall asleep as he kept trying to initiate games of peek. None of got much rest.

Add to these two things that Chris forgot to pack his suitcase with all his clothes and all of our toiletries and we made for a rough, looking, tired family. Instead of staying the second night, we just enjoyed our morning at the park and got the heck out of dodge.

I'm glad we tried a little family trip and I'm hoping for better next time. I'm sure as Milo gets older we will have more freedom to explore.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Splitting Time

Lately I've been working on a new project and I am very excited by it. For almost a year now, I've been wanting a place to write about Columbus, fun kids activities and families. The topic - Columbus! kids! fun things! - really suits me and I enjoy sharing (evangelizing) my interests. The posts didn't really fit in here, so I started a new space for Columbus families to learn more about kid-friendly Columbus.

Come visit me at mamaincolumbus.com. It is a work in progress, so please let me know your thoughts for things to change or things to add. And if you are so inclined, pass the link on.

Friday, July 16, 2010

16 Months

Holy busy toddler, Batman! While I didn't really think it was possible, in the last month Milo has become so, so busy. He's goes from activity to activity without slowing down. He is quite determined and focused on whatever he is doing at the moment - reading books, stacking blocks, unpacking drawers, emptying the dishwasher - but then it is quickly onto the next task. I can only imagine sleep is such a sweet relief to his pint-sized self (he very willingly goes down for his one nap a day and bedtime around 8 each night). His walking is pretty much constant now and he can even run when really excited. He still trips up in uneven terrain, but for the most part he is quite steady on his feet.

Milo is also starting some imaginative play, which is quite fun to watch develop. In books and magazines (he loves to read Food & Wine), he enjoys finding pictures of berries or grapes and pretending to pluck them off the page. He then "feeds" himself, us, or his friend Bunny.

He uses the two or three signs he knows for everything and I've been teaching him the love sign. It's so sweet to see him cross his arms over himself in a hug. Now that he knows (and quite enjoys the sound of) the word ice, he is constantly asking for ICE. Plus, he's beginning to repeat quite a few of the words I say. He's great at following through on direction. For example, he will leave one room to put an object away if I ask him to.

We've really been enjoying this summer. Milo loves our trips to the pool where he likes to kick, kick, kick and most of all go down the slide with Daddy. We are regulars at certain playgrounds where Milo enjoys climbing and putting mulch through holes. Milo changes so much month to month that it is amazing to think of what is coming next.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Parents in the News

Have you seen this article from the New York Times mag? The gist of it is reporting several studies that state parents are more unhappy than non-parents, and mothers are less happy than fathers. If you make it all the way through the article though, you'll notice that the end suggests those studies are asking the wrong questions. The less happy responses are about overall life mood rather than living life with fulfillment or sense of purpose.

So here is the truth (as I see it): being a parent is hard and it is tiring. And, yes, overall I'm probably less carefree / happy than I was two years ago (when I could sleep in after a rough week or stop by a happy hour to unwind). I've certainly given up some important things - my job, my cat, and plenty of sleep. However, my life has shinier moments of abrupt joy now and also has more meaning overall.

While this article really shocked some people, I am not surprised by it. I've talked to other moms and I know we all carry a mixed bag of happiness. Sure, we love and treasure our kids, but we're also trying to define who we are as people, and we're doing it on little rest. It's a tough job, there is no way around that, but it is also amazing work and I'm so glad I'm on this parenting journey.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Yesterday

Other than Milo waking at the unheard hour of 6 a.m., yesterday morning started as so many others have before. I eased into wakefulness with a warm little body of kitty fur curled into my stomach. Soon it hit me that this would be the last morning I would wake in such way. Yesterday we moved our sweet little kitty to her new home. She promptly hid under the bed at the new place which is totally keeping in her character. I cried a lot - I mean quite a bit - over this whole situation. While I know it is for the best, certainly for Milo, but probably for Prada too, this was a very difficult decision to make and action to carry through. I feel guilty for not keeping the cat despite the allergies, I feel sad that Prada won't be in our life and I worry about her adjusting to her home.

However, Prada is in a great new home with a wonderful woman who has had pets her whole life. She's also living with a boy kitty and I am hoping they become best friends. I keep imagining a picture of the two cats curled up on the couch together. That is the image I put in my head when I look around our house and wonder where kitty is or when Milo says cat while looking for her in the bathroom closet. That image of Prada enjoying the quiet and warmth of her new home gives me peace.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Wanderlust

Suddenly I have that itch to get out of town, to explore, to see new things and to just be on the road. The last real vacation we took was our honeymoon almost three years ago, which is now just a distant memory. Unfortunately, the thought of traveling with a 15 month old just doesn't sound appealing. I can think of certain scenarios where this would work, but for the most part being out of a town with a toddler just seems like a lot work. Milo likes his routine and seems to do best when we don't deviate too far from the norm of expected nap and bed times. Traveling by definition gets you out of your norm and I'm just not sure how that would go. Still, I don't want to hold back on the traveling experience (for all of us) just because I am afraid of sleepless nights and tantruming baby.

Any thoughts on family travel with a little one? Any suggestions on where to go?

Friday, June 25, 2010

On a Brighter Note

I've come to the conclusion that summer is the golden time of being a stay at home. Summer means baby with a farmer's tan toddling toward a sprinkler. Summer is meeting friends at the park and taking long evening walks. Summer is climbing on playgrounds and going down the slide as many times as possible. Summer tastes like a popsicle melting in the warm sun. Summer is an icy drink to keep cool. Summer is weeds to pull, gardens to water and mud to play in. And all of these delightful activities result in long afternoon naps and mama reading a book in the back under a tree. Ah summer.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sad News

We've been rather glum around these parts for the past few days. Milo's most recent allergy testing revealed what I was beginning to suspect: he is uber allergic to cats and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. I'm so sad about this because we are now looking to find Prada a new home. I feel like an awful person because I made a commitment to her to provide her with a good home and I am now negating that promise. We've been through an awful lot Prada and I have been and not having her around makes me tear up. It is also hard, because, well Prada isn't great with change and I know it is going to be really tough on her to be in a new place without me.

Still, I can't think of another way out of the situation. Milo is steadily marching into having full-blown asthma and that isn't acceptable to me. We've tried vacuuming more and keeping Prada out of Milo's room, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. So today I sent this message out to some Facebook friends and cried while pressing send:

As several of you know, we've been struggling with Milo's allergies (leading to asthma and itchy, ouchy eczema) for more than a year now. After the latest allergy test, we've come to the very sad conclusion we need to find Prada a new home. She is a great cat and deserves a loving home where she doesn't make one of the family members quite sick. Prada is on the shy side, but is very loving to her people. I've had her since 2002 when she was just a wee kitten and she is an important part of our family.

Needless to say, having to find her a new home is very difficult for all three of us. I am hoping to find her a great place to live - she likes to look out windows, but is an indoor cat through and through. She has back claws, but her front claws have been removed. I suspect she would do best with one other cat or being the only animal in the house, just because she has never been around other pets. She does quite well being patient with Milo, so I don't think kids would be an issue.

If you are interested in a new to you kitty, please let me know. Also, feel free to pass the word on to other animal lovers out there.

Thanks everyone.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

15 Months

We have a walker! Well, at least 50% of the time, Milo now walks. It is the classic arms out front baby Frankenstein walk and it is adorable. When really needing to get somewhere fast, he will still crawl, but for the most part he walks. For the first time this week, if he falls while walking he will get back up and continue walking rather than just crawling. Walking is still a new skill and he is quite proud of it. I'll see him rounding the corner from our living room to the kitchen, smiling and clapping because he walked the whole way. Seeing him so proud of his accomplishments is such a thrill.

Milo continues to be a sweet little buddy. He has a nice hug for each and every stuffed animal (or live one for that matter) he sees. At the grocery store he waves and waves at the people walking by (if they don't wave back, he just smiles larger and waves harder). He smiles and flirts and he steals hearts wherever we go.

He is picking up words as we go along (door, GG, toast, hot), but mostly using the old stand bys (cat, dirt, mama, dada) along with the signs for eat, all done and more. Milo continues to use toys in different ways. He is quite good at the ring stacker now and sometimes can get the correct shapes into the sorter. We have several different sets of blocks and building toys (mainly because these are more interesting to Chris and me) which he is showing some interest in. Books are still a preferred way to wind down. His favorite game to play though is peek a boo or more commonly called at our house Where's Milo. He loves to hide and peek out from behind a wall, laundry basket or chair...repeatedly...and each time is cause for raucous giggles. I like it too, it's a fun game.

At his 15 month appointment he was a little below 26 pounds and 31 inches. With all his movement, he is starting to thin out and a little boy is emerging where our chubby baby was. I've really enjoyed this past month, with our toddler who is changing, learning and growing each day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dirty Laundry

We've been without a working washing machine here for a month. Four weeks of not being able to wash clothes, towels or sheets. And have I mentioned that we cloth diaper? We switched to disposables for the time being and are dealing with rashes and stinky trash. It's not been fun.

When we first noticed the problem with the washing machine, Chris took it apart and thought he could fix it. I had my doubts, but he ordered the part and we waited a week for it to come in. Then he realized he couldn't get the part on right. I scheduled an appointment with Sears and four days later the man came. Then we found out there were actually several things wrong with the machine and we had to order parts. The parts didn't come in time for the June 1 repair appointment and they told me they couldn't schedule the appointment until today, a week later. They were to be here between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m. The morning dragged on with us sticking around the house waiting for them to get here until finally the phone rang at 11:45 saying they would be two hours late. Uh, what? Nope that wasn't going to work.

Which is how I found myself on the phone with customer "care" explaining how unacceptable the situation was and asking what we could do to make the situation right. I had to use my no-nonsense voice and speak in short, direct sentences. I got what I wanted (the first appointment tomorrow morning), but I also left the conversation with a strange feeling of unease. I don't like being harsh to another person and I'm fully aware the person on the other end of the phone wasn't personally withholding my washing machine repair. Still, I had to get a little insistent to get what I wanted and I don't like who I was in that moment.

However, if I would have just gone with the flow, I would be another week without a washing machine and that's just not acceptable. In the end, I think I did the right thing and soon I'll have clean clothes again.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things Parents Say

The other day we were playing in the back yard and Milo looked up when he heard a siren from an emergency vehicle. I looked at him and said "do you hear the siren, they are going to help someone" and Milo satisfied with my answer returned to his dirt pile. I'm not sure where that explanation came from. Surely, it is the most simple and kid-friendly version of all the reasons a siren can be heard. I had to set aside my belief system (the police force is not always right) to provide the scenario of events he needed to learn (emergency forces are there to help people).

Now that Milo is a more effective communicator, I find I am measuring my words more carefully. Chris and I have fallen into the habit of just talking - about our days, our friends, our families - when we are in the car together or on walks. Most of it is not interesting to Milo, but some of it is probably not best for him to hear either. I think this will have to come to an end soon because Milo is starting to soak in a lot more of what we're saying.

It's an interesting position to be in, paying more attention to how I view the world and being more aware of how I communicate that to a little person just figuring this place out. There are so many ideas and facts and lessons for him to learn, but at the same time I want to protect him from a lot of the not so nice things. So I'm learning to put a positive spin on the sounds we hear and the ideas I communicate to him, hopefully giving him a fair view of the world and how people relate to it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summers on the Gulf

Each summer we would travel to the same plot of sand on the Gulf of Mexico. At one point the beach was named to the Top 10 Beaches of the World list because of the impeccable sand and gentle surf. The white sand was soft and would never get hot or too sharp with shells like the beaches to the north. We would walk for miles (or what seemed like miles to a little girl) collecting swirly shells as we went and letting the soft waves tickle our feet. Large sand castles were built with a wet drizzle of sand providing the fancy facade. Feet were buried and tans were perfected on lounge chairs. With the help of only a flimsy raft we would swim out to sand bars and collect sand dollars. Swimming to the sand bar was at once scary and exhilarating - as soon as I didn't think I could swim any longer in deep water, the sand bar materialised with reassuring shallow, clear water where I could see my feet. Almost every evening, sunburned and tired, we would feast on platters of oysters and baskets of peel and eat shrimp.

I remember crying one year when our week long vacation ended: Ohio is a lot of things, but the beach it's not. Now I tear up for the fisherman who are watching their livelihood disappear and for the sea animals who are contending with a confusing slick of oil where they are used to open water and perfect white sand beaches.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Because I Only Used the Tag Once

I started watching from the very first episode. Looking back, it wasn't a television show it seemed I would be interested in and I never got involved in any of the Lost wannabes that quickly flooded the airwaves. There was just something about the Island that drew me and kept me watching through good times and bad for six years.

I had long ago accepted Lost was just a show and wasn't going to provide all the answers. Instead I was drawn to the story and characters. The show was smart in a way that asked viewers to draw upon their knowledge of world religions, literary techniques and literature. I appreciated that and enjoyed the trivia and Easter eggs.

I was single when the series started and the first several episodes were so fast paced and a little scary (polar bears and smoke monsters - oh my!) that I wound up watching the rest of the first two seasons with my brother at his place. When I met Chris he wasn't watching and I sternly let him know there would be no talking during Lost. After we were married and in the middle of one of the very long Lost breaks, we borrowed the DVDs of the first three seasons and Lost had claimed another a fan. We watched an episode of season 5 in the hospital the day after Milo was born. And last night we watched the series finale and we're still talking about it today.

To me, Lost has been an enjoyable ride and something to keep my mind occupied for the last six years. Was it great? Maybe. Am I happy with the way it ended? In some ways, yes and in other ways, no. But the ending was never for me to decide, I was just along for the ride and I'm still glad I've been a Lostie for the last six years.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How My Garden Grows

We are in the middle of a wet spell here in Columbus. The garden is either going to love us this rain, or totally turn into a swamp. It could go either way.

The veggies we planted early on are doing well (except the peas which never came up). We have had our first micro-greens salad and have been enjoying our fresh herbs, especially parsley, on many dishes. I'm giving the radishes another couple of days, but some are about ready to nosh on for pre-dinner nibbles.

This year we bought tomato starts from a farmer at the Clintonville Farmer's Market. He had packaged heirloom seeds into three packs and was selling a variety. So we have six different varieties of tomatoes. I know one is chocolate colored one and one is zebra green, but it will be a surprise what the others are as I can't remember. There are also several volunteer plants shooting up from last year. I've pulled some up, but are letting others survive if they happen to be in a good spot.

The potatoes are doing really well. I've never seen a potato plant, so it has been very interesting to see them grow. I hope these turn out well.
We also have banana peppers and a jalapeno plant in the ground. I've planted yellow beans and green peppers from seed. We have a cool blue pumpkin start from my Mom in the front yard. I've yet to plant butternut squash and zucchini, both of which will be from seed.

The first casualty of the season was a Swiss chard plant nibbled down to the quick by a local bunny. I still have high hopes for it, but it doesn't look good. On top of the rabbits, the slugs are back for another year and loving the wet weather. As soon as things dry off, the beer traps will be set. And if the pests keep up, I'll be having a beer with them.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

14 Months

We've been so busy keeping up with our 14 month old. While not walking, he is a super fast crawler and is constantly on the move. He's standing more on his own now and can even hold toys while standing. He takes unsupported steps in between objects and is much more willing to walk while holding my hands now. Many people tell me that he'll speed up even more when he learns to walk, but I think there will be a (brief) period of slowing down as he perfects his walking abilities. That will be nice.

Milo's favorite thing to do is eat and he now has the eat sign to go along with the activity. He asks for pretzels (a favorite treat) by making the eat sign. I think it is really interesting how the all done sign has evolved with him. First, we would do it when he was done with a meal and I would unstrap him and get him out of this high chair. Now he does the all done sign when he wants out of something - the stroller, a swing or off the couch. I appreciate the signs as useful vehicles of communication. Milo is still repeating words after me and has picked up a few other common words.

One of Milo's very favorite words that he uses often is dirt. Oh, how he loves dirt. He likes to play in it and when I have my back turned he also likes to eat it. We work in the garden quite often in the afternoons and he thoroughly enjoys helping me pull weeds and dig holes. On particularly muddy days he earns a bonus bath in the afternoon.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Milo is totally weaned from nursing. He did such a great job transitioning to his sippy cup, and I am very proud of him. He seems taller to me now and much less baby like. He is using eating utensils and is an active participant in family dinners. My little guy is growing right up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Flair for the Dramatic

In high school, I was quite the little thespian with a flair for the dramatic. I like to think I have toned it down it over the years, but it seems Milo has picked up on the trait. As his communication skills increase, his personality becomes more evident.

On Sunday (Mother's Day), he was busy making the mamamamama sound all day and seemed to connect it to me. This was a first and his timing couldn't have been more impeccable.

Also on Sunday, Milo took a tumble and split open his lip earning himself his first bad boo boo. As we were putting him to bed that night, he pointed to ouchy lip and clearly said poor buddy. I often use the phrase poor buddy when he falls or isn't feeling well. His first phrase being poor buddy in relation to his swollen lip just pulled at my heart strings, but seriously the whole thing was rather dramatic. Chip off the old block that one is.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What to Eat

Does anyone else find it really confusing to figure out what type of fuel to put in your body? I know some of you do, because I've been talking with you about it lately. For a long time I went with the whole everything in moderation theory, but even that simple stance is starting to not work with me. I want to feel good about the things I am feeding my family, but I also want those foods to taste good. I want to know what is in the food and if at all possible, I would like to know where the food comes from. Sometimes this seems like too much to ask and sometimes it seems this isn't going far enough.

I have come to recognize our food supply in this country is broken and this really bothers me. We strive to eat closer to the source by eating whole foods rather than processed foods, but even the origin of simple ingredients are murky when you start looking at them. The other day I was flipping through the coupons (of which I am using fewer and fewer of because they are all for processed food) and noticed one popular yogurt company just came out with a simply version. They took out the high fructose corn syrup, the artificial colorings and flavors and left (presumably) the yogurt. This made me so mad! Why didn't they just change the whole line of "foods" to be simply? Why even keep making all the other neon flavors and calling it a good idea for lunch boxes?

I feel there is so much information out there now about nutrition and processed foods (the Pollan books, Food Inc, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution) and how as a nation we are seriously going down the wrong path. Unfortunately, I still have the sneaking suspicion the majority of the food companies are not on board with recognizing there is a problem or probably more accurately wanting to change the status quo. I'll keep on aiming to eat whole foods, reading labels (in order to buy the products with the fewest ingredients) and also buying local when possible. I just wonder if that is enough?

Friday, May 7, 2010

So Long Boppy

Today I noticed our much-loved and much-used Boppy pillow in the corner of Milo's room. The pillow was with us in the hospital when Milo arrived and has been used several times per day (and night) since then. I remember early on when I was still recovering from the c-section, I would sleep with the pillow wrapped around my stomach. The soft, but firm pressure felt good on the healing incision. At each nursing session, Milo would cuddle into me and the Boppy. Even when he got bigger and we didn't so much need the support of the pillow, I found it much more comfortable for both of us to have it. We last used the Boppy sometime around 1 a.m. one night last week. That middle of the night waking turned out to be our final nursing session. Since that time, Milo has been on sippy cups of hemp milk and seems fine with it.

My original breastfeeding goal was 6 months and when that came and went, it seemed silly to not keep going to a year. Starting in the fall, Milo would occasionally get a bottle of formula if I was out of the house, but otherwise he was primarily a breastfed baby. We started off the breastfeeding relationship a bit rocky because it took several days for my milk to come. After that, we both a had a learning curve to figure out what we were doing and how to make the situation work. Milo was a cluster feeder early on and wanted to eat constantly, so that was tough. Otherwise, though, we had a very easy and natural time breastfeeding. I'm so glad (and proud) we made it to a year. I'm also proud (and glad) of how naturally the weaning happened. There were virtually no struggles once we established food was not coming from Mommy. For something Milo enjoyed so much, he did a wonderful job of transitioning away from the breast.

The first few days of eliminating feedings, Milo would go and hug the Boppy. Now, though, the Boppy is all but forgotten by both of us as share new adventures together.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Returning to Those Three Things

Way back in October, I reflected on the three things I said I would never do as a parent. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

While the television is mostly off at our house, it does somehow get turned on almost every day around 4:30. We watch the Sprout shows (although they have recently added dirtgirlworld to their line up and wtf is up with that huge eyed character..ugh). Milo actually prefers the pink puppet host who announces the shows rather than watching the actual shows. The television being on, coupled with the allure of the remote usually can buy me enough time to get dinner started. I'm not proud of the television watching, but I figure he isn't watching more than an hour per day (where I think research has shown the harm can come in). He doesn't eat in front of the television and most of the time he wanders away from it. We read a lot, and play for the rest of the day, so I am rationalizing this little bit of television as being okay in the bigger picture. I'm also very aware to not let the habit grow.

Due to Milo's allergies, the processed food bit has kind of taken care of itself. No mac & cheese is even allowed! He also has not had a chicken nugget nor a hot dog. He has had pieces of a bratwurst though. And he is a big fan of tater tots. Otherwise we do lots of fruits, some veggies, lean protein, beans, rice, bread, pasta. There are a couple of things I give him, which I probably shouldn't: animal crackers and yellow corn chips are included in that list, but otherwise we're doing pretty well on the nutrition aspect.

Habitual co sleeping went by the wayside around December. Little man seems to prefer his own space now, which is great because our bed is a haven for dust mites and cat dander. I try not to bring Milo to bed with us, but sometimes the siren call of my bed is too much to stand. On the (increasingly) rare occasions when he wakes up screaming, I do sometimes take him to bed with me. I then immediately regret it because Milo sees the cat and starts screaming cat, cat, while crawling over us to get to her. Limbs are everywhere, Prada is meowing (but refusing to move) and Milo thinks it is the BEST THING ever to have a cat in the bed and consequently none of us are sleeping.

It's funny the things we think are a good idea before we actually carry out the plan.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

style

Somewhere between becoming pregnant two years ago, gaining 50 pounds, having Milo and eventually losing 60 pounds, breastfeeding for a year, quitting my job and staying home full-time, I have lost my sense of style. To be fair, I'm not sure I ever really had a defined sense of style, but the issue certainly has me thinking a lot more now than it ever has before. Suddenly most of my clothes don't fit or don't fit well. If they do fit, they don't really seem right for where I am at in my life right now.

Plenty of work clothes are sitting around my closet, but black pants and cardigans don't seem to gel with story time and the playground. On the other hand, I would like to be more pulled together than the comfy sports bra, shorts and sorority shirts from 10 years ago. It's a fine line for me to walk to stay comfortable and look presentable at the same time.

Plus, clothes and accessories are a way of presenting who you are to the world. I don't like to admit that sometimes what I throw on in the morning, isn't so much who I want to be. Coming across as a fun, caring, somewhat hippie like, approachable and confident mom is the image I am going for. I think I achieved it in the picture above - funky sun glasses, pedal pusher shorts and a fair trade flowy top. Getting the look down isn't an every day thing though, so this weekend a friend / personal shopper is going shopping with me. She's an expert at sorting through second-hand stores for deals and always looks great herself. I'm looking forward to the trip to see what's out there and what will work for my new look.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gardening Time Again

While we are not totally out of the woods for a hard frost quite yet, it is still time to think gardens. Technically for those who take gardening more seriously, thinking gardening should already be done and seedlings should be sprouting happily from indoor planting. For those of us without the space for sprouting our own seeds, though, now is the perfect time to get going.

So far this year we have cleared out what has traditionally been our lettuce bed. It is now planted with spinach, mesclun mix lettuce, leaf lettuce, peas, broccoli and kohlrabi. Everything is up except the peas and either the broccoli or the kohlrabi (we'll have to wait until harvest to figure out which variety it is since I planted in the same row). These seeds have been in for almost three weeks, so we will probably plant another batch of all the same things next weekend to extend our spring harvest.

We are also planting potatoes this year. Milo helped to clear the bed and Chris built a potato tower. The seed potatoes are in the ground and have been in for almost two weeks, but I have yet to see any progress. Fingers crossed.

I'll wait until the traditional Mother's Day date to put in tomatoes and peppers. Last year we had Swiss chard which was nice and we will probably do that again. As much as I love fennel, I have not gotten a good bulb in the last couple of years, so I don't think I will plant it again. Then we need to decide what vining veggie we want to put in this year because we really only have room for one. I'm leaning toward the butternut squash again as that worked really well last year and froze beautifully to eat throughout the winter.

What are you planting this season?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My New Muffin

Cooking posts, I told you! You might remember this muffin I made quite a bit when I was pregnant. While certainly edible, the recipe never quite created a fluffy bakery type of muffin. Plus, those two eggs aren't possible now with Milo's allergy. So when a nut, dairy and egg free morning glory muffin crossed my reader from the Food Allergy Mama recently, I thought I would give it a try. I'm glad I did! The muffin looks more tradtional muffin like and is quite tasty, but still not overly sweet. Original recipe is at the link above and my changes are below. All three of us have been enjoying these and I'll be trying more variations (adding in some wheat germ, trying coconut, adding in nuts since we don't have a problem with those and this summer subbing zucchini for the carrot).



145 Morning Muffin

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup non-dairy "milk" - I used hemp this time around

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tblspn. pineapple juice from can (not syrup)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

sprinkle nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 can of cubed pineapple, chopped



Mix all ingredients together (whisk wet ingredients first and then incorporate dry ingredients; adding fruits last). Bake in preheated 350 oven for 20 minutes.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let's Talk Cooking

It has been at least several weeks since I have posted any type of recipes on here. Lest you think I'm not cooking, here is a recent favorite dish we've been eating quite a bit lately and are having for dinner again tonight. We've been doing a fairly good job of planning a menu for the week and sticking to it, which is such a better way to go than the constant what's for dinner question.


I'll need to switch my cooking over to spring / summer flavors soon, but in the meantime there should be a couple of cool days to enjoy this yummy roasted chicken dish.


Roasted Curry Chicken With Vegetables

1 package boneless, skinless chicken thighs*

2 sweet potatoes

1 large baking potato

1/2 onion

3 or 4 carrots

1/2 head of cauliflower

Curry seasoning (not paste)

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil


After cleaning the chicken and all the veggies, throw everything into a large baking dish. Drizzle with a healthy portion of olive oil. Sprinkle liberally or to taste with curry, salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven at 400 for about 30 - 40 minutes, stirring about half way through and adding some chicken broth if anything is sticking.



*Note: I suppose you could do this with chicken breasts, but the dark meat of the thighs adds more flavor and stands up better to the high cooking temp. I'm a recent convert to thigh meat. It doesn't add that much fat or calories, adds more flavor and is less expensive than breasts.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

13 Months

So I've decided to keep going with the monthly updates...for all of you, but mainly for us. I was able to make a special photo book on one of the photo sharing sites using the monthly pictures and notes from each blog post. Since I am not the scrapbook type, this has morphed into our baby book. The final product turned out great even though it wasn't what I originally had in mind. So on we march into the second year!

Milo is a talker! Well, he still babbles quite a bit. Recognizable words include cat, dad and ball. He can also repeat several words after I do, but he does not use them on his own or in context. I've been a little slack in the signing department, but he uses the sign for eat quite regularly and has his own version of all done. Overall we have seen a much better communicator evolve in the past month - whether we are just finally getting his meaning or he is more adept at conveying his wants is up for debate.

Crawling is still Milo's main mode of transportation and he is fast! He does great pulling up to stand and cruising the furniture. When the mood strikes him he will walk with me holding onto my hands. Each day he can stand on his own not holding onto anything for longer and longer amounts of time. He can also climb the stairs, which he first discovered at the playground and was quite pleased to see we had a set in our very own house.

Although my kitchen tools are still his favorite toys, he is tuning in a bit more to actual toys. He is able to do some of the shape sorter and knows what toy pieces go which toys. Books are still a big hit, especially his touch and feel kitten book and his Elmo's colors book. We read each morning and afternoon before nap times.

I'm continuing to wean the little guy, who has good days and bad days with the whole idea. We're down to one nursing before bed and usually one sometime during the night. This past week he has had a stomach virus so we loosened up on the weaning a bit, but are still aiming to be done breastfeeding totally by June. Taking the place of all the nursing is a lot of cuddling. Milo loves to be held and close. He's great at wrapping his little arms around necks and giving the sweetest hugs. All the people he loves most regularly earn hugs, but so do a variety of stuffed animals and the Boppy pillow. He's a giver.

This past month having an official one-year-old has been lots of fun (other than the week long stomach virus we just lived through - which the picture is from this time period and he wasn't feeling well). I look forward to watching his sweet, silly and fun personality develop even more throughout this year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mommy Track

Surfing through the headlines at Slate yesterday morning, this article caught my eye and has had me thinking. Having been a sophomore in high school when the term Mommy Track was coined, this was all new to me. Turns out more than 20 years ago, an article in Harvard Business Review warned companies of turning off well-educated, high performing women with non-family friendly policies. Some women of the time opted out of the workforce all together, preferring to stay home and raise families to working full time. Thus, the original article suggested a "mommy track" for those women who had children and wanted to work part-time, or job share or have flexible hours. Feminists went wild saying this would be a step back, but some women and some companies made it work.

This is obviously a topic close to my heart since I have also opted out of the workforce (at least for the time being). I never set out to be a stay-at-home-mom and there are still times when I wonder how I got here. Although, I treasure this time at home and right now wouldn't trade it for anything, there are times I worry about what my options will be when I do decide to opt back in to the workforce.

What bothers me about the mommy track, though, is that does sound demeaning. In a perfect world, this would be the everybody track and it wouldn't need a special name. Companies and employees could work together to make sure the work was done and there was also a balance of personal / professional life. That only happens in a perfect world and that doesn't seem to be where we are in this country and this economy.

I've heard the White House convened a panel to discuss work place flexibility, which is a great start. An open dialogue could lead to some real change which could lead to some women not feeling as though the best option is to just opt out (and I do believe these moms have a lot to offer the workplace).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Springtime Thoughts

As much as I enjoy the activities, tastes and smells of Autumn, I tend to crave the renewal of Spring each year. I find motivation and meaning in the annual rebirth of nature. Watching the birds come back and hearing them proclaim the season is always such a mood lifter for me. With each brave little crocus shoot coming out of the earth, my heart soars with promise. The daffodils, hyacinths and tulips never fail to bring a smile of my face. I even relish in the smell of Spring - that wet, boggy and new scent promising the summer to come.

After a long winter, I have this response each year and I've said all this before, but this year it is a little different. In addition to all the experiences I typically look forward to, this time around I get to see the outdoor world though a new set of eyes. Milo has really been enjoying the Spring weather and we have both enjoyed visiting parks and exploring the backyard. Each stick, piece of mulch and blade of grass is new to him.

As he grows up, I hope to keep instilling in him this wonder of nature and the change of seasons. This built in marker of time and change has always been an important influence on me and I look forward to sharing that with Milo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

First Birthday Fun

For the last week, we have been celebrating birthdays around here. In fact, I am just now polishing off the last of the cake. It's been a great season of celebration.

Last Tuesday, on Milo's actual birthday, we went to the zoo. It was a gorgeous spring day and the weather was perfect for a stroll around the grounds. Chris took the day off and my parents met us there. Milo went on his first carousal ride and seemed to enjoy it (I held him for half of it, but he held on in wonderment for the first part of the ride). We stopped by to say hello to the gorillas and the manatees. It was such a nice afternoon.

That night, Milo had his first cupcake. I used this recipe to make the goods and they turned out really nice. Milo loved it! I made the mistake of handing the cupcake to him with the paper on it. He was none to happy with me when I had to pull the liner out of his mouth.

On Thursday we met my family for dinner to celebrate my mom's birthday. We met at a Greek restaurant and Milo enjoyed the yelling of OPA! (he also was really into the gyro).

I did not make the liner mistake on Saturday at his actual party. This time we ordered a cake and some cupcakes from an actual bakery. Milo had not had frosting before and loved it! The party guests were amazed at his cupcake eating prowess.

Saturday, was again a great day weather wise, so we could play outside which freed up a little space in the house. We had gone back and forth about the size of party we wanted to have and ended up with a little affair which I think was perfect. Milo knew everyone at the party and had a great time crawling from person to person for hugs. He was quite the little host and enjoyed all the attention.

First birthdays only come around once. I'm so happy we took the time and effort to celebrate our little man's graduation from babyhood.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dressing a Toddler

Upon Milo turning one this week, the e-mails I had been receiving entitled Your Baby: Week # now have the subject line Your Toddler: Week #. It seemed a little soon to make the switch seeing how some experts don't label a child a toddler until they are walking (which Milo is decidedly not). Regardless, having this pop up in my inbox reminded me of the troubles I am having dressing this not-quite baby, but not really toddler either.

I know girl clothes are cuter than boy clothes and that people buy more clothes for girls than for boys, so I can in some ways understand how there are three racks of "boy" items in stores with the rest of the space being devoted to pink princess crap. In other ways, seriously, they're all kids why aren't there more gender neutral items?

More practically though, I really like Milo to still have at least one layer that is a onsie. Since he's not walking, I like the snaps to hold the shirt in place while he's crawling all over and being picked up. Also, he's often rashy on his stomach and back and I like the protection the onsie offers. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer onsie options the bigger he gets.

Call it the hippie in me, but I also really prefer and usually insist on all cotton for Milo's clothes (mine too, come to think of it). Why are the older kids items more often made with synthetic fabrics? The chemicals, the questionable flame retardants, the itchiness; ugh, ugh and more ugh. I don't want these next to his sensitive skin.

The final problem I have with toddler boys clothes are the asinine sayings and images on them. All too often I see shirts emblazoned with negative words such as here comes trouble or little monster. Words have power and I don't want to dress Milo in a shirt that could negatively impact his behavior or how others view him. If it's not the words, it's the images. For me, commercial characters are usually out and I certainly don't seek out licensed gear. I, also, am not a fan of the camouflage, the John Deere or the other motorized vehicle type images.

So when I take away all those criteria, the shopping options are limited. There are some things at the Gap I like, especially their basic items, but again I would prefer the majority of the clothes didn't scream GAP. Land's End has great, hard core basics that I am sure I will turn to in the future, but for now, Milo is a tad too small for most of their clothes. I super love Mini Boden items, but I can't afford dressing a messy little boy who needs changed often in their outfits. Pretty much every place else (Kohls, Carters, JC Penney) I've learned to avoid, because it usually ends with me leaving in a huff.

Am I being too picky? Any other thoughts on where to shop my not quite baby, not quite toddler?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

12 Months

Happy Birthday Milo! The first year of having Milo as part of our family has been quite the ride. There has been a lot less sleep and a lot more laughing. There has been a lot more laundry and lot less fretting over the inconsequential. It's been pretty great.

Writing this post, it is really hard to update the last month's progress (which has been the point of this series) rather than compare the little person we have now to the strange almost bird-like newborn we brought home around this time last year. My mind keeps going back to last year at this time (where with me 60 pounds heavier, Chris and I had just left for the hospital) and how much has changed since then.

However, quite a few things have changed since just last month too. Milo's babbling is starting to sound more like words. He has the cadence of speech down now. He just needs to fit in recognizable words. Both my Dad and I have heard Milo say "Cat" and he does say "Dada" in relation to Chris, but otherwise I'm at a loss for what most of his conversation is about. Usually with lots of pointing and vocalising, he gets his point across - at least enough for more Rice Chex to land on his tray. He knows the meaning of a lot more words now, which means for the first time he can follow simple directions - hands on the head, fishie face, hug.

Milo continues to crawl on all fours now, having one day a month or two ago decided to leave the army crawl behind. Several people have told me how much they miss his one-armed army crawl, but I think his butt-wiggling crawl is pretty cute too. He is just now starting to stand on his own (without support) for very brief amounts of time. He can also squat (when holding on to something) to pick up a toy. I guess walking won't be far behind.

With the nicer weather here in the past week, we've been able to play outside which Milo thinks is the best thing since Cheerios for breakfast. He loves playing in the mulch and scooting around my parent's deck. Now, that the chill is back in the air, he looks out the windows longingly.

Today for Milo's birthday, I'll be trying to make vegan cupcakes, we'll head to the Zoo and Milo will have lots of hugs and kisses. Last night before bed we told him today would be a day to celebrate him - the way he laughs, the way he points, how he gives hugs and most of all how happy we to have the little guy in our life.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

At Play

Today I watched Milo playing in a whole new way. In the past playing has mostly meant putting items in his mouth or banging things together. Playing has also meant someone else making the voice or actions for a toy and him laughing.

This afternoon though, Milo took all the shapes out of his sorter and put them into his new super-cool Lego in training block wagon set. One by one he would take the shapes out of the sorter and ferry them across the room to drop them into the wagon with the blocks. Once all the shapes were gone, he looked around the room to make sure he didn't miss any. Then, again, one by one, he picked out all the shapes from the blocks and put them back in the sorter. Other than name the colors of the shapes and or blocks, I just sat back and watched. It was so interesting to me to watch the cognitive functions going on during this play session.

This little man is growing by shapes and blocks every day and it is so fascinating to watch that happen and be part of the discoveries.

Monday, March 1, 2010

At Home

It's been almost six months since I quit my job to be a full-time, stay-at-home mom. There are ups and downs to this gig, but on days like these I know I 100% made the right decision. It's not because Milo is being such a delight today that I am so thankful to be home with him today. It's because he has actually been a little bear all morning. There were multiple meltdowns and plenty of pulling up to my legs to pitifully whine. This isn't so much normal behavior for my typically smiley little man and I know something is a little off with him. That is why I am so glad that I am the one here to pull him close to me and have his little face burrow into my neck. I am so glad it is me who can sit with him on my lap and read a book. Little man needs his mommy to help him feel better and right now it is my job to help him feel his best. It doesn't pay well, but it is a pretty good job to have and does have some remarkable benefits.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Facelift

On my to-do list for, oh, the last two years has been to update the visual appeal of my blog. Starting with my first post here in March of 2007, I've tried to keep the content fresh, but the layout has never conveyed the feel I am aiming for here. This, while not perfect, is much more in line with what I want this space to be: fresh, but comfortable /exciting, but familiar.

So if you are reading me on a reader, click on over to see the new layout and let me know what you think.

Allergy Talk and More Reading

In my stack of books to get through (which is going pretty well, actually), there lurked a book I never would have read a year ago. The Unhealthy Truth:How Our Food is Making Us Sick and What We Can do About It is a book about the food supply and the increase in food allergies among children. I wouldn't have read this book a few years back because, honestly I didn't really buy into the whole food allergy thing. This is certainly a bias I have picked up from my family where we believe you prepare a balanced and nourishing meal and then you enjoy it. End of story. Reading labels and wondering how individual ingredients might affect certain family members doesn't enter the picture, it never needed to.

Then I had a baby who would spit up after every feeding. The weekend of his baptism, he had suspiciously red cheeks and a rash that didn't really improve over the next several months. Eventually we found out that Milo is allergic to dairy, eggs and most likely sesame. We're probably missing something else, too, because while the spitting up has stopped, the rashiness continues.

Now I read labels and I refuse some of my favorite foods. I've started to eat pizza without the cheese, which is surprisingly good. My Dad is learning to make fresh pasta without the egg. We're all slowly learning to deal with the food allergy, while hoping that Milo will be one of the majority of children who grow out of their early allergies.

This is all background to the perspective I went into when reading The Unhealthy Truth. The book is told in the first person of a stay at home who discovers her daughter has an egg allergy. She then goes on a research journey and ends up at her own theory of what is causing the increase in allergy (in her view GMO foods). Keep in mind I read the Michael Pollan books a few years back, so I already know our food supply is beyond messed up. This was the first thing that really irritated me about the book, the author seemed to have no clue about the current food supply issues. So she spends a lot of the book revealing some of the problems with the food supply using an excessive amount of exclamation points. I just didn't buy she really had no idea that feeding her kids blue yogurt was somehow not a natural thing to do.

The other thing I didn't like about the book is that the author is all over the place in terms of what the problems might be: she starts with a thorough investigation of the research concerning soy (this was the best part of the book in my opinion) and then moves on to what happens in the GMO process and why there could be problems with it (another strong point of the book). From there, though, she moves on to artificial colorings. Which I agree, best to stay away from, but she didn't really clearly connect this to the allergy topic.

If you read the book (and in spite of how negative this review seems, I do hope you read it), do yourself a favor and stop before you get to the section about putting her suggestions to use in your kitchen. Her suggestions focus on swapping out the colored goldfish crackers for the white cheddar ones. Probably not going to make a big enough difference. I do like her suggestion of crafting a family's diet to include 80% "good" and 20% "bad" foods, but I still bristle against labeling food good or bad.

All in all, this was a good read and it certainly does bring up some good points. I do believe we're in the midst of an allergy epidemic, I just don't know what is causing it or what I can do about it. To begin with, I'll be ordering Milo a vegan cake for his birthday next week.