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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Exciting!! *UPDATED*

I have a bit of news to report! I have begun blogging for milwaukeemoms.com, which is an online resource and a networking community for Milwaukee parents who have kids from ages 0-6, and I am very excited about this new opportunity. My new blog, One of Each, will contain stories about my many adventures in parenting, but I am also planning some entries on living as a vegetarian and possibly on what I have learned while managing a single-income household. (Ah, my financial wisdom--my mother can hardly believe her eyes.)

Please visit and read my new blog often...it can be found here:

http://www.milwaukeemoms.com/blogs/kitchentable/one_of_each.html


And, if you feel so inclined, please feel free to comment on any of my blog posts...you need to register with the site in order to comment, but registration is easy and free!! Also, feel free to browse the entire site, especially if you're in the Milwaukee area. There are tons of great things to be found!

Don't worry...I won't stop posting here. I need a place to blog about bodily fluids and post endless pics of my kids.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pics That DIDN'T Make Our Christmas Card






Oh, you have NO idea how much work it took to get that perfect Christmas picture.

Monday, December 14, 2009

We Need a Gate Around Our Christmas Tree

Check it out:

video

Harrison has been "sorta crawling" for quite a while now--he would crawl a few paces then roll back onto his bottom--but over the past few weeks he has really started to take off. He really took notice of our Christmas tree yesterday, and ever since, it has been a struggle to keep him away from it. I've decided to relax, put the unbreakable ornaments at the bottom of the tree, and let him explore a little.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Yesterday

Yesterday was one of those days when I had to dig really, really deep to find the patience I needed to deal with...well...everything.

Ever have one of those days? I have to work hard to be patient on a regular day...I'm not a patient person at all, and yesterday was particularly challenging for me for some reason.

After I put Grace to bed last night, I thought to myself, "It must be hard being my daughter sometimes." Because as much as I tried to be patient with her yesterday, I just couldn't do it. I told her to hurry up when she was putting on her new boots in the morning. I huffed and sighed as she took her sweet time putting her jacket on when I picked her up at school. And when she wanted to take a nice, long shower after swimming lessons, I shut the water off after she had rinsed and told her to just get dried off and dressed already. When we got home from swimming, before I put Grace to bed, she asked me, "Mama, why are you so mad today?"

Ugh. Why indeed?

Some days I think it's probably hard to be my anything...my spouse, my child, my parent, my friend. I'll just have to try harder to do better today.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

9 Months

Check out the cute:


You can see his wispy blonde hair in the sun and his two little bottom teeth. I keep thinking he can't get any cuter, but he does.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Giving Thanks

I have written a Thanksgiving post every year for the past few years, and this year won't be an exception. I know that Turkey Day (or, if you're a PETA person, Tofurkey Day) is still two days away, but since I will be hitting the road tomorrow for the weekend, you're getting your annual Thanksgiving post a bit early this year.

I am thankful for...

The newest member of my little family, Harrison. You entered my life 9 months ago tomorrow and I can't even imagine life without you. Before you were born, I worried so much about having enough love in my heart for my second child. After all, I love Grace so much, with all my heart...how would I ever be able to muster that much love for another child? But then you came, and all of my fears were instantly erased. You changed my heart. You made it grow. And you taught me that a mommy's love knows no bounds. Thank you.

My first baby, Grace. There is just no possible way to articulate how much you have changed in the past year. You went from only child to big sister. You know how to read. You go to bed on your own, after a story and a hug and kiss. You understand things. You're growing up right in front of my eyes. You are silly and fun. Laughing with you is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world. You're so caring, so loving, so full of life. So amazing. Thank you for being you.

My love, Aaron. I watched you become a daddy this year. This is my first time going through life with a baby with you, and wow. I am so proud of you. When I tell you that any kid would be lucky to have you for a dad, I mean it. You give 100% to your kids, and when they require more than that, you give it to them. You love them with all your heart. And when you walk through the door each evening, their faces light up to see you. They can't wait to spend time with you. And, you make being a mom so much easier for me, because you are truly my partner--you accept your fair share of the hard work, the struggles, and because of that, you also see the triumphs. I love you. So, so proud of the father that you are. Thank you.

My parents and my sister--my support system. When I say, "I couldn't have done it without you," this year, I mean it. Like, I COULD NOT have done this whole "having a second baby" thing without you guys. You guys stepped in and helped out with Grace when I had my super-surprise induction, taking off work and creating chaos in your lives for several days, without hesitation. And the thing is, I know you guys think it's no big deal...it's what family does. But, it's not what EVERY family does, and that's what is so awesome about you guys. I can't tell you how much what you did, and all you continue to do, means to me. So, thank you.

*sniff*

And now, some less gooshy things I am thankful for this year:

-Mexican hot chocolate
-Alterra coffee
-Really good vegetarian recipes
-Beans--black, pinto, kidney, and otherwise

(Why are these all food-related?)

-The "Twilight" saga...I'm an addict
-Daytime TV
-Our new vehicle, the Mazda 5, especially the sliding doors
-My church and my new church family
-My Daisy Scouts and my co-leader, Tracey
-Zip-up baby sleepers
-My new hat...my head looks fabulous even on 4 hours of sleep!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nerds and Vampires, A Conversation

Tonight, while watching "Big Bang Theory":

Me, to Aaron: You're my Leonard.

Aaron walks away dejectedly. I presume he didn't appreciate the fact that I implied he was nerdy, but he *claims* he was only going to the kitchen for salsa.

Me: Well, you're my Edward (as in Edward Cullen, the vampire in "Twilight") too!

Aaron: I'm a twinkly vampire?

Me: No, I mean that I can't live without you. Duh.

Aaron: Well, you're my hemoglobin. *snickers* I can't live without you, either. *more snickers*

Me, whispering to myself so Aaron can't hear: See, you are a nerd.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not My Kid?

Today, Grace's Q1 report card came home, and in looking at it, I am wondering whose kid Grace REALLY is...

Socially, Grace is doing really well in school. She has lots of friends, she participates in class discussions, and she (mostly) behaves. She shows care and concern for others. She is kind and she shares. She is respectful and follows the rules. That doesn't surprise me.

What does surprise me a bit...a lot, actually...is how Grace is doing academically.

As a child, and even into middle school, high school, and college, I was always above grade level in Reading and Writing. I read at the fourth grade level in Kindergarten, and I was always in the special, gifted groups for classes like Reading, Spelling, and Language Arts. However, Math and Science were the bane of my existence. The only class I ever came close to getting a D in was Chemistry. I struggled with each and every math class that I have ever had to take, and I was so very thankful that my major in college didn't require me to take any math classes.

Grace does well in Reading and Writing. She is right about where she should be in those subjects as a Kindergartner. However, the "X's" she received as satisfactory marks in Reading and Writing faded into resounding "+'s" that she earned this quarter in Math and Science--she exceeds grade level targets in these two areas. In fact, her teacher noted that Grace's areas of strength are likely to be...you guessed it...Math and Science. As I took this all in, I stood, looking at her report card, mouth agape, wondering where this talent came from.

Oh, and the other area she is doing really well in? Physical Education. Um, what? I was the kid who always got picked last for games in Gym class and who actually peed in her pants once while playing kickball. Yep. I was so nervous that someone was going to kick the ball to me.

One indicator Grace is actually my kid, though...As we were driving to get ice cream this past weekend, she told me that I made her heart turn upside down because, even though she was happy I was taking her to get ice cream, I wouldn't let her to go the ice cream place she REALLY wanted to go to. And also because I managed to lose her new favorite barrette. Yes, she is premenstrual early, just like I was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Growing Up

The H-man is crawling. This morning as Grace was eating her breakfast and I was hurrying to apply a layer of makeup before walking Grace to school, Harrison was sitting on the floor next to me, playing with some blocks. He pushed himself over onto his hands and knees, as he often does, but instead of just plopping onto his tummy or crawling backwards, he crawled about two paces forward. And suddenly Grace and I were on the floor, cheering, "Go buddy!" and "C'mon! You can do it!!"

Who is this baby and how is it possible that he is crawling already? How can it be that he already has two little teeth peeking out from his gums? Wasn't he just a teeny newborn? And now he is less than four months away from his first birthday...he won't be a baby for too much longer.

I love this stage of babyhood and I know it will pass too quickly. I am excited to watch Harrison grow up, but I find myself wishing time would slow down, just a little bit.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Of Prayers and Vaccines

First off, many prayers and thoughts for the folks down at Ft. Hood. I lived about a mile from Ft. Hood's gates back in 2001 and 2002 (in my previous life, when I was an Army wife), so when I heard the news of this tragedy yesterday, I felt especially sad. I remember how difficult it was to live the Army life, and I just can't imagine how much more stress this is adding to the soldiers and their families. Many, many prayers for all...

So, I managed to get H1N1 vaccines for both the kiddos, and it took some work. I have been calling our pediatrician's office every week since September 1st looking for the seasonal flu shot (which the kids still haven't gotten), and I started to ask for the H1N1 vaccine around that time as well. Each time I called, I was given the run-around..."call next week", "we don't know when they're coming", yadda, yadda, yadda...and it was really starting to piss me off. When I called last week I was told, "We don't know when we will have them, and by the way, we may NEVER have them. So if you can find the vaccines out in the community, go for it." I was in a particularly bad mood that day, so I decided to pursue things a bit further. I called the Clinic Administrator. I told her I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know how I could protect my children, and most of all, I wanted to know why in the HELL Target and Walgreens were able to purchase seasonal flu vaccines (and by the way, they are only vaccinating people who are 18 or older), but doctors' offices couldn't obtain them.

To my surprise, the Clinic Administrator was very pleasant and helpful. She informed me that more vaccine would be coming at the end of November and that she would put the kids' names on a waiting list, so that when they did receive vaccine, we would be called. She also gave me a website (www.pandemic.wisconsin.gov, for those of you in Wisconsin who are interested) that displays all of the public flu clinics in our area, so we could also try to find vaccine out in the community.

That afternoon, our pediatrican (who is also the clinic's Medical Director) also called me. He let me know that he shares my frustration (he has kids and a pregnant wife) and reiterated that since our family is high risk--with an 8-month-old and a 5-year-old who is in elementary school and spends her days with other germy kids--our kids would be put on a waiting list and we would be called as soon as vaccine became available. And I felt a little stupid for a minute, getting all of this attention, but then I remembered that I am a mom, and if anyone is going to fight for what is right for my kids, it's gonna be me.

There is a lesson to be learned here...it pays to complain. It pays to pick up the phone and make a couple of calls, because earlier this week, our pediatrician called and said he had received limited amount of the nasal H1N1 vaccine and that he would save one for Gracie.

Unfortunately, our clinic did not receive the injectable H1N1 vaccine, so Harrison was not able to be vaccinated that day. However, the city of Milwaukee held a clinic yesterday for the high risk groups, so I bundled Harrison up, stood in line with him for two hours, and got him vaccinated. And, because I thought to ask, Harrison got the thimerosal-free version of the vaccine. Ask, if you're concerned about that sort of thing, because it's available.

We get to do this all over again in four weeks...both kids need booster shots. And, as I said, neither of them has received the seasonal flu shot yet. I will keep calling.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Autumn


I love Autumn...sweatshirt weather is my favorite (and not just because sweatshirts cover up my muffin top) and with two kiddos around, it seems that Fall is more fun than ever. Check out these pics from our recent trip to Apple Holler:

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fear

I have aviophobia. I am extremely afraid of flying...so much so that I have talked my way out of flying on a couple of instances and if I do end up having to fly, I am physically sick for weeks before the flight.

For quite some time, Aaron and I had been talking about taking a trip back to Disney World, just the two of us, to celebrate our anniversary. (Grace of the future...I am sorry we didn't tell you where we were going, but you understand...you would have flipped your shizzy. Plus I'm sure you had a blast with Grandma and Grandpa anyway.) We decided that since MPS kids have off the last Thursday and Friday of October for Teacher's Convention, that would be a good time for us to take our trip--we wouldn't have to yank Grace out of school at all. So, we booked our flight and our hotel, and I made an effort to forget about the whole thing for a while.

A couple of weeks ago, though, the panic started to set in. I started checking the "fear of flying" forums online. I spent an unwarranted amount of time researching safety stats for the aircraft we will be flying in. I began having thoughts of impending doom. I started to feel convinced that I would never have the chance to see my children grow up. My palms would sweat when I would even think of getting on a plane. I even thought about trying to convince Aaron that we should extend our trip by a couple of days so we could drive or take the train (I never broached the subject with him, though, because I don't think it would have been well-received.)

Yeah. This is a problem for me.

I am generally a fearful person. I remember as a child I would lay still in my bed to listen for sounds of intruders in the middle of the night. I would creep around the kitchen at night while my parents watched television in the living room, looking for signs that someone was trying to break into our house. I had to go home from Girl Scout camp several days early because I was terrified of the whole thing. And as an adult, I'm still fearful of many things. I have a hard time getting on the El in Chicago because I know there's a chance that the train will go underground, and that terrifies me. When someone I love gets sick, I lose sleep worrying and thinking that they might die. I think the same thing when I get sick. And on days like today when Grace goes on a school field trip, I worry that she will be in a bus accident or that she will get separated from her group and will be lost.

I don't like feeling like this, and I really wish I didn't.

For this upcoming trip, I decided that I would bite the bullet and ask for pharmaceutical help. I went to the doctor on Monday and he prescribed some Ativan (he considered Xanax first but then decided that Xanax wears off too quickly...love that man). Funny thing...once I had those pills in my hand, my fear of flying started to fade ever so slightly...could I be afraid of the fear I know I will feel?

I did a trial run with the Ativan last evening, just to make sure it would work out ok for our flight next week, and it did its job. Mostly I just felt mellow, my limbs felt a little heavier, and I was a little tired. I tried to make myself afraid by thinking about flying, and I couldn't force myself to get too worked up about it. We'll see what happens when I'm actually confronted with the thing I fear...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dispatch From the Infirmary

So, where were we? Last week Grace was home sick on Friday, and even though she was showing signs of feeling better late Friday morning, I still took her in to the doctor Friday afternoon. Good thing I did...she had strep throat...again. Luckily, this bout of strep was much less severe than the last time she had it, but this time, just for fun, she had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics that she had to take. Since Grace is allergic to virtually every other antibiotic known to man, the doctor on call that I had paged on Sunday afternoon (after Grace's new rash flared up) decided to place her on one final antibiotic that might work. Here is the conversation that I had with the pharmacy tech at Walgreen's when I went to pick up the new antibiotic:

Pharm Tech: So, does your daughter like to take prescription medication?

Me: Um, no.

Pharm Tech: Because she's gonna HATE this one.

Me: *blank stare*

Pharm Tech: It is the worst tasting medicine ever.

It would appear as though this is true. The first time Grace took this new medicine, she cried because it tasted so bad. And she has to take it three times a day for the next five days. Humph.

At least Grace is on the mend. As you all know from my constant bitching not only here but also on Facebook and Twitter, Harrison has been sick for a month now, since the day after he started day care. He had a cold, then he was a little better. He had a cough, and then it went away for a day or two. Then, he caught the flu, got swabbed for H1N1 (which was negative, thank goodness), and then got a teeny bit better. Then, this past weekend, he got sicker than I have ever seen him. His nose was so congested he could barely breathe. His cough was worse and more painful-sounding than ever. He would wake up at night just howling because he was so miserable. And, yesterday morning when we woke up his right eye was crusted shut and the skin underneath was purple and swollen. Awesome.

So, back to the doctor we went...and Harrison has not only a severe case of pink eye, but the infection from the pink eye somehow made it into his skin surrounding his eye (perhaps from a small crack in the skin) and he has a case of cellulitis in the tissue around his eye. In case you don't know, cellulitis is a skin infection, and if it's not treated, the infection can spread to the bloodstream and can be life-threatening. Needless to say, the boy is on a high dose of strong antibiotics...which cause terrible diarrhea, so that's fun.

The only bright side to all of this is that Grace is already on antibiotics, so the chance of her catching pink eye from Harrison is very small.

We might be overreacting, but we decided to yank H out of day care. I'm staying home and he can deal with other kids' germs when he's bigger. And we're gonna try like hell to make sure Grace stays healthy and washes her hands very frequently so we can minimize the germs she brings home from school.

For those of you that know me well, you know that I have been having a tough time with this. I tend to imagine the worst when my kids are sick, so when the doctor told me yesterday that my baby has a serious infection, it wasn't pretty. I managed to hold myself together until last evening, after I had put H down for a pre-supper nap and after I got Grace busy playing with paper dolls in the living room. I was preparing dinner and I was suddenly seized with an overwhelming sense of panic and guilt, and all I could do was sit on the back steps and cry. Yeah, it's been a long month.

Friday, October 09, 2009

And Gracie Makes Four

That's four of us that have been sick in the past couple of weeks. For those of you keeping score, that means all four inhabitants of our house have been sick...Grace just got sick yesterday and Aaron and Harrison are still showing signs of illness. Me? I had the sinus headache of the century for like two days and then I was better. Why? Because I am a mom and as such I am not allowed to be sick for more than 48 hours. My body just knows that.

Anyhoo, since I am home from work again with a sick kiddo and that red-cheeked, glassy-eyed kiddo is contentedly lounging on the couch watching Sesame Street, I thought I would take a moment to sip some coffee, plan my cleaning strategy for the day (must wash sheets! must scrub floors!!), and catch all of you up on the non-illness-related happenings...

Harrison turned 7 months a couple of weeks ago and he is growing by leaps and bounds. When I took him to the doctor earlier this week to be checked out when he was sick, he weighed in at 19 pounds, 14 ounces. Holy crap. The boy likes to eat, and let's face it, his parents are no lightweights, so this shouldn't be a surprise, really. He is enjoying all sorts of new foods, his favorites of which are turkey and sweet potatoes, and as soon as those two bottom teeth pop through (which from the looks of it could be any moment now), we'll introduce him to some more tasty stuff.

One of my favorite things about this age is watching H discover things. Babies at this age are so animated and it is so fun just watching H watch bubbles floating in the air or steam rising from a cup of coffee or leaves blowing in the wind. He reminds me that the world is full of simple, wonderful treasures.

H is also sitting up on his own now, which makes play time much more fun for both him and whomever is playing with him. He's *this close* to crawling...in fact, he can hoist himself up onto his legs and crawl backwards for a bit, so I have a feeling he'll be mobile soon enough. (Mental note: baby proof house.) Harrison's favorite thing to do, though, is to jump. He loves his Jumparoo and when he's standing on someone's lap, he'll just smile and start bouncing up and down, indicating that he wants to jump. And when you let him jump on your lap, he rewards you by squealing and laughing in delight.

H is quite possibly the most laid-back baby I have ever met, too. He cries when he's hungry, and that's about it. He's incredibly smiley, saving his sweetest and most sincere smiles and giggles for his big sister. And, his transition from being home with me full-time to going to day care every day was ridiculously easy. The kid just goes with the flow.

Gracie, when she's healthy, is also doing very well. She is in love with kindergarten, so much so that she protested this morning when I told her she would need to stay home today and rest. Whereas last year she was hesitant when it came to school work (reading especially), this year she approaches learning with gusto. Her reading is improving every day (I'd like to think that's partly due to reading a chapter of Junie B. Jones with me each night at bedtime) and she loves to write down the new words that she's learning. And, every now and then, she'll come out with a new math problem that she has solved--yesterday afternoon on the way home from school, as sick as she was, Grace said, "Mama, two plus two plus two is six. And three plus three is six. Isn't that cool?"

And those of you who haven't seen Grace since she was a shy, tentative little kid wouldn't even recognize her now. Because she will run up to you, ask you your name, and tell you not only her first name but her middle name as well. We go to McDonald's every Wednesday for supper before swimming lessons, and it never ceases to amaze me how she seems to make at least one or two new friends each time she plays in the McDonald's Playland. She's no longer the kid hanging back on Mom's lap watching the other kids play--she's the kid organizing the games. She has emerged from her shell and she wants to play.

My mom was right when she told me that the early school-age years are the best years. These really are Grace's best times, so far anyway. She's old enough now that she can and wants to do lots of things for herself, but she's still young enough that she needs me. She can express herself and her wants, but she still likes to snuggle in my lap when she's sad. I have the best of both worlds right now and I'm going to enjoy these years.

Oh, and Aaron and I are both doing fine.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

So Yeah...

I went back to work on September 17th, and H has been sick since September 18th. Ugh. Cough, cold, diarrhea, sleepless nights...ugh.

I have been known to tell moms who have been distraught about having sick babies that they should look on their bright side because their kiddos are "building up their immunity" for when they go to kindergarten. If I could go back to each moment I said that to someone, I would punch myself in the face and tell myself to shut the hell up. Because it sucks, plain and simple.

This is pretty much how my mood has been since I went back to work. Makes you glad you don't live with me, huh?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Milestone

She lost her first tooth. It's all downhill from here, you know. Next thing I know, she'll be 18 years old and wearing a "F*ck 'em Bucky" shirt at a Badger football game. *sigh*

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What I've Been Up To Lately

So yeah, postings here on the blog have been scant. Turns out that having two kids is waaaaaaaay more work than having one...who knew?!? In case you were losing sleep from wondering about what it is that I do with my days, here you go. You can rest now.

-Searching for a job and going on LOTS of interviews. One of the terms of unemployment insurance is that I contact at least two prospective employers per week, and I have been living up to my end of the bargain and then some. Nothing overly promising at this point, but I am optimistic that the right thing for my family and for me will materialize. I am fortunate that I can take my time and be selective. Also, I am happy to report one positive that has come out of all of this interviewing: I discovered that I still fit in to my pre-pregnancy professional work wear. I may even need to buy some smaller dress pants!! Huzzah!

-Giving up the meat. My part-time vegan diet didn't work out well for me because, being the Wisconsin girl that I am, I found it impossible to shun dairy products for two-thirds of the day. I need my chai tea with real cow's milk every morning (face it, soy milk sucks) and I need to have cheese on my salad for lunch. BUT, I have discovered that meat is not a necessity to me. In fact, I rarely ate red meat anyway and I have never liked fish. I haven't had a bite of meat for a week now and I can honestly say that I don't miss it one bit. I've been experimenting with some new vegetarian dishes and one that I made--eggplant parmigiana--even got rave reviews at supper last night from the Queen Picky Eater herself, Gracie.

-Sleeping!! I refuse to say more because history has proven the blog effect to be VERY REAL INDEED, so I will simply say that I am well-rested for the first time in almost seven months.

-Enjoying my days with Harrison. Now that Gracie is in school, I have the opportunity for lots and lots of one-on-one time with the boy. Yes, I miss Grace and when 2:15pm comes I can't wait to pick her up from school, but at the same time, it's really nice to have some time during which I can focus all my attention on Harrison.

-Making baby food. We've been getting lots and lots of baby-friendly veggies from our CSA so I started whipping up some batches of homemade baby food for Harrison. It totally helps that he loves to eat so much--it's nice that my efforts are appreciated.

-Loving life. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Grace's First Day of K5 in Pictures

How excited was Grace for her first day back at school today? SO excited...in fact, it was infectious. I didn't even cry. And as much as I fretted and worried about it, we got the kids dressed, fed, and out the door on time, and there were no tears and no hassles. Whew. Here are some pics from this morning:
And I'm throwing in another picture from this past weekend's trip to the zoo, just because it cracks me up.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Dumps

I'm gonna preface this by stating that I just returned home from a dentist appointment during which the dentist was finishing up a root canal that has taken four--FOUR--separate appointments, so I'm in a fair amount of pain and I am feeling a bit salty at the moment.

Grace starts school tomorrow. Have you seen these commercials on TV (I think they're for Staples) where the dad takes his kids back to school shopping and he's skippping around the store, gleefully tossing pads of post-it notes and other supplies into his cart while the song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" plays in the background? Well, I am the opposite of that dad. In fact, tonight as I was putting Grace to bed, I whispered to her, "Thank you for spending such a wonderful summer with me," and then I broke down in sobs. SOBS. I have tears in my eyes now just thinking about it...although the feeling that a dull nail is piercing me in the jaw might have something to do with the tears.

Here's the thing. It probably wasn't a particularly memorable summer for Grace. Don't get me wrong--we did lots of fun stuff. We went to the park almost everyday. We went to a whole bunch of festivals. We went to the Children's Museum a few times. We walked to the library at least once a week. We went to the zoo at least once a week, and we even camped at the zoo a few weeks ago. We visited family. Grace had many fun playdates. But, will she remember all the fun we had in another year or two? Maybe, maybe not. But this summer will always, always be a special one for me.

Chances are, this was the one and only summer that I will be able to spend at home with my children. I have been actively looking for a job for a few weeks now--let's face it, not many families I know can live comfortably on one income--so the writing's on the wall. I'm headed back to work, and as much as I want to drag my feet and hem and haw about it, it's gonna happen sooner or later. Another summer like this one is probably not in the cards for us. And that is just heartbreaking for me.

Here come the tears again...I should be thankful, and I really, really am, that I had this opportunity. But it's hard.

I'm trying really, really hard to at least match Grace's excitement for the first day of school. And tomorrow when I drop her off, I will be all smiles and excitement...for her. And, maybe a little for me, too. But, when I turn around to walk home, I know that things just won't be quite the same without her home with me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Harrison--Half Way to One

If you don't think he's the cutest baby boy ever, well, I just don't know about you. (Unless of course you have a baby boy of your own. In that case, you're exempt.)

The earth has made half of its yearly trip around the sun since the day my little man was born, and all that I can say is, "Wow." I say that for two reasons: 1) Where did that time go? and 2) Holy crap the boy has grown. Here are the latest stats:

Weight: 18 pounds, 11 ounces--72nd percentile
Height: 27 inches--85th percentile
Head Circumference: 47 centimeters--OFF THE CHARTS

So the boy has a big head. I could have told you that six months ago.

Harrison is adding a whole bunch of new skills to his repertoire as well. He's sitting up on his own for longer periods of time. He's *this close* to crawling. He rolls over from tummy to back and he's able to get almost all the way over from back to tummy. He's much more vocal than he's ever been, responding with laughter and smiles and coos and little spitty noises whenever someone chats with him. He LOVES to play with anyone who wants to, especially his big sister, for whom he saves his sweetest and biggest smiles. And although he hasn't cut any teeth yet, he's got at least two in the front that are visible from under the gums and are threatening to poke through any day now.

Harrison has been eating solids for a little over a month now, and we just increased his solid food feedings to three a day. So far, he has had rice cereal, all of the yellow and orange veggies, and peas--squash is his favorite so far, and peas are decidedly NOT on his top three list. We're looking forward to incorporating some fruits and maybe some other fun stuff within the next few weeks.

As far as sleep goes...well, it's okay for now. He went through a particularly difficult period recently where he was waking up several times a night to fuss. The past few nights have been all right, so here's to hoping he's getting back on his schedule of sleeping from 10pm to 5am or so. And I prolly just jinxed myself by typing that.

Happy half birthday little dude!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

I AM Blessed

So, we've been having a bit of a rough go of it lately. Our little boy has reverted back to at least three to four night wakings per night, and Grace has been having some serious sleep issues of her own. The lack of sleep that has been mounting for the past six months or so has caught up with me (and, I think, with Aaron too) and as a result, I have been feeling pretty down in the dumps lately. In fact, yesterday I felt so exhausted that I was physically sick. I once heard someone say that parenting a young baby is similar to going through boot camp...this weekend, I definitely felt like that was the absolute truth.

Tonight, as I was driving alone around our neighborhood, I had a chance to take a deep breath for the first time in quite a while, and I took a moment to gain some perspective on things. Yes, right now things are tough for us. The kids keep us up all night, but the time will come when they won't want to be around us so much anymore, and I'm sure we'll long for those middle-of-the-night snuggles. Is feeding or rocking Harrison by the light of the moon in the dead of night really such a bad thing? Is it terrible that Grace wants to spend a few extra minutes alone with me at bed time? On both counts, the answer is a resounding, "No."

These kids have brought so much love and happiness into our lives. I can suck it up for a while longer, drink truckloads of caffeine, and deal with this.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Proof Our Messages Are Sinking In

This morning, as Grace and I stood at the window and watched the pouring rain...

Me: Wow, look at all that rain! Look, our rain barrel is overflowing!

Grace: It's overflowing? All that water is coming out!!!!

Me: Yep, but that's ok.

Grace: *gasp* But all that water is being WASTED! IT'S BEING WASTED!!!!!!! MAMA!!! THE CLOUDS ARE WASTING THE WATER!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lollapalooza: My Two Cents

Aaron and I attended two of the three days of Lollapalooza in Chicago this weekend, and apart from the crazy weather (downpours on Friday, heat and humidity on Saturday), it was a great weekend. Oddly enough though (or maybe not), the best parts of the weekend came from spending some time with friends who we don't get to see as often as we'd like to and enjoying some much-needed couple time. The music was secondary to me this weekend...to me, the most important part of our trip was hanging out with Aaron.

That said, a couple of observations on Lollapalooza...

The music lineup was very good this year, and as usual, the music portion of the festival was run like a well-oiled machine. Bands (for the most part) started on time, ended on time, and (unlike the last Lollapalooza I attended in '06) the sound at the shows was fantastic. I was pleased to experience a number of very good shows by some very talented acts--highlights were The Decemberists (naturally), Blind Pilot, Ben Folds, Gomez, and Tool.

However...

Lollapalooza hosts over 200,000 music fans, so the organizers should consider adding a few more bathroom pods. One shouldn't have to wait 30 minutes to use a filthy port-a-john. Also, since the festival is in August, a few more water stations would be a good idea. Again, festival goers shouldn't have to wait 30 minutes to fill their water bottles. I realize that the festival caters to the 18-24 year-old crowd (who probably don't mind so much or haven't been to a festival--like Bonnaroo--that has adequate and CLEAN facilities so they don't know that things can be SO much better), but still. Those of us who know better or care did notice.

Also, my beloved Decemberists: I love your new album, "The Hazards of Love" and I'm pretty sure your most devoted fans do, too. However, deciding to play the whole thing through from start to finish without any commentary was probably not the right decision, given the fact you were playing to a festival crowd, and the majority of those in the crowd had not come to see you, but rather they were holding spots near the stage to see Kings of Leon, who were playing after you. Because of this, I had to endure much eye rolling and fake yawning coming from the teenyboppers and others who don't appreciate your music as I do, and this was quite distressing indeed. Just sayin'.

All in all, Lollapalooza was a good time. But, as Aaron said, I prefer my music festivals in a field in Tennessee. Give me Bonnaroo anyday.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

*Sigh*

Today has been one of those days when I marvel at the fact that my kids are clean, dressed, and have been fed three square meals. And I am really marveling at the fact that all of these things seem to take place everyday...that's something, right?

It's not a particularly bad day by any means. The kids have been well-behaved. We had a nice lunch with Aaron at the zoo, and we just returned from a nice walk to the library, where we picked up some new books for Grace and I to read together at bedtime. We're about to head out the door to grab a quick supper and then we're on to Grace's swimming lessons. By all accounts, today has been a success--no major meltdowns, no vomit, no injuries. I'm wearing the same clothes I put on this morning, so no major spit up incidents. And, Harrison managed to pee on me only once today, and that was only on my leg, so it was easily cleaned up.

So why do I feel SOOOOOOOOO drained? I feel like I've been hit by the proverbial Mack truck, except that truck backed over me a couple of times just to make sure I was down.

I can now say, unequivocally and without reserve, that being a stay-at-home mom is a far more difficult job than any other "cubicle dweller"-type job that I've had or could imagine having. It's physically challenging. It's mentally challenging. It's emotionally challenging. And there is no lunch break. There are no 15-minute solitary walks around the building to clear the mind. Hell, in my house, I rarely get to go poop alone...Grace loves to join me in the bathroom. I guess I am just tired, and I am really in need of some time to myself.

Don't get me wrong--I love my children more than anything. Staying home with them is truly a labor of love for me. But man, even moms who love their kids more than anything and would gladly spend every waking minute with them need a break.

One more day, then Aaron and I head out of town--ALONE--for the weekend. And it couldn't have come at a better time.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Funny How Things Change

The Meaning of Bliss--

Pre-baby: A romantic night out on the town with the hubs, complete with lots of wine, good food, fabulous conversation, and maybe some great live music. Or, relaxing in the sun with a good book and a cold beer.

Post-baby: Scheduling a play date for Grace during Harrison's nap time and actually having a few moments to myself to check my emails and possibly go to the bathroom.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Unemployed

Today, I joined the ranks of the millions of other Americans whose jobs have been axed due to the economy...I got laid off.

As you might remember, I decided to take an extended leave of absence after my maternity leave ran out on May 19th. My plan was to take the entire summer off so that I could stay home with Grace and Harrison, and then to return to work in September when Grace starts school again. Harrison would go into day care, and I would return to work full time. That was the plan.

However, plans change. Today I got a call from my employer...my former employer...telling me that volumes are down at work and that I had two options. I could extend my leave indefinitely and technically remain an employee (who doesn't actually work) and then if a position opened up (highly unlikely), I could apply for it. Or, I could just be laid off and be in a status of "eligible for rehire". I went with the second option--at least in a lay off, I can claim unemployment.

I can't say that I am too surprised about all of this. I mean, the economy continues to suck, and my former employer has had to make cuts just like everyone else. And, I am super excited to be an official Stay At Home Mom. I plan to volunteer at Grace's school during the week--something I wouldn't have been able to do while I was working. And, I can rest assured that I will be able to witness all of Harrison's firsts that I might have missed had I been at work. I can't think of a more wonderful or fulfilling undertaking.

However, I can't help but feel a little disappointed about all of this as well. When I was working, I worked my ass off...there was rarely a night when I wasn't checking emails or doing other work long after Grace was asleep. I cared about my job, about my reputation at work, and about my rapport with my client. I cared so much, in fact, that the stress ended up affecting my health and the health of my child during the last few months of my pregnancy. I thought that I was an invaluable employee and that my employer would be so thrilled and relieved to have me back from leave. I thought that all the hard work I put in would somehow matter. I thought that the fact I did care so much would count for something. I thought it would matter that I was sticking it out and working even harder so that I could prove that I was still a valuable employee even though I was eight months pregnant and working from home.

But I'm not special. I'm not exempt. It didn't matter.

Come to think of it, I guess I'd rather spend my days with those who truly need and appreciate me.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harrison--5 months old





Sunday, July 19, 2009

Advanced Degree in Motherhood

On Friday, I traveled with my parents and the kiddos to LaCrosse to watch my younger sister receive her Master's degree in Education. I'm so happy for her--she worked hard, she sacrificed a lot, and as I watched her receive her degree on Friday, I couldn't have been prouder of her.

It's funny...I always thought I was going to be the first in my family to earn an advanced degree. After all, I was the first to earn a Bachelor's, and while I was in college, my long-term goal was to earn a Doctorate in Spanish and become a college professor. My plan was to teach for a few years and earn my Master's while I taught, and then when I had saved up some money, I would go back to school and get my PhD. Then I would find a job teaching Spanish at some university somewhere, travel all over the place, write books, and finally retire to a tiny fishing village in Mexico.

But sometimes things don't turn out as planned. Life happens. I tried teaching for two years and ended up not liking it much at all. Instead of starting coursework for my Master's, I decided to go down another path--take the LSAT and apply to law school to study immigration law. I took the LSAT, placed in the top 10% in the nation, and applied and was accepted to the UW Law School. Before I started, though, I decided to become a mom instead. Soon, I had Grace and became a single mother, and I was more focused on earning a living than I was about furthering my education.

There are times when I think about going back to school, and I probably will after Harrison starts kindergarten (to pursue a degree in Nursing), but right now I just can't imagine trying to keep up with all of the housework and the kids and possibly a full-time job while heaping schoolwork on top of it all. My long-term goal is now a distant memory, replaced instead by the reality of raising children and managing a household.

My mom asked me on Friday if I was sad at all that I didn't have my Master's yet. After all, she knows better than anyone that, at one point in my life at least, I couldn't earn it fast enough. But, as I looked at my kids I knew for certain that I wouldn't have things any other way. I am a mom, and I can't imagine doing anything more important than that. I may not have the alphabet soup behind my name, but I have more treasures in my life than I ever imagined I would have. Happiness is my reward.

But I'm still planning to retire to that tiny fishing village in Mexico...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Veggies, Apples, and Roller Skates

We didn't plant our garden this year. We had the best intentions. Really. We started a ton of seeds indoors and Aaron even mapped out how he wanted everything planted once the threat of frost was gone. But, the seeds we started inside were started a bit too soon and they ended up dying before we could get them in the ground. And, as much as we thought we would just be able to plop Harrison in his car seat and plunk him on the ground while we planted, one of us (or both of us) would inevitably end up on baby duty.

So, this year we decided to try something on a smaller scale, and so far, so good. We decided to plant a salad table in which we would grow some greens and we would get the rest of our veggies from our CSA. Aaron made our salad table from scratch using some lumber, mesh wire, and duct tape, and he even made Gracie her own little salad box so she could plant and care for some veggies of her own.

Our salad table (we planted beets, spinach, lettuce, and radishes):
Grace's salad box (she planted lettuce and peas):

We also received two plants from our CSA this year. The first is a rosemary plant, and the second is our only tomato plant, which (happily) is already sprouting some nice looking tomatoes:
Our nicest gardening surprise of this year came from our apple tree. Last year we decided to purchase and plant an apple tree in our back yard, but because we weren't certain whether or not the tree was self-pollenating, we weren't sure the tree would ever produce apples. But, Aaron noticed something on the tree a couple of weeks ago and called me over to show me...we have apples!!

And, this has nothing to do with gardening, but Grace wanted to me to take a couple of pictures while she was roller skating--her newest undertaking. Literally one second after I snapped the first shot, she took a pretty nasty fall:

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

4th of July Weekend in Pictures

We had a fantastic 4th of July weekend--here's a peek!!

Grace jumping around in one of the inflatables at Summerfest (this pic cracks me up--maybe because Grace just barely made it into the frame of the shot):

Harrison at his very first parade, being held by one of his proud grammas:
Aaron and Harrison and part of one of the famous Racing Sausages (only in Milwaukee do people get so excited about grown men dressing up as tubes of processed meat) at the Humboldt Park Neighborhood parade:
Grace marching for the first time with the Tippe Twirlers, her school's baton twirling group:
Harrison, decked out in Daddy's sunglasses and the ubiquitous nookie at the South Shore Farmer's Market:

Gracie, wearing my sunglasses, at South Park in Oshkosh (we were there visiting my parents):

A great weekend, capped off by Aaron and I having a chance to watch four old episodes of "Lost" uninterrupted--always a wonderful thing!

It just struck me that I am not in any of these pics. Someone's gotta be behind the camera, I suppose...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Spoke Too Soon

From last post:

"And--I'm almost afraid to say it because it's too good to be true and I don't want to jinx it--Harrison is sleeping 6 to 8 hours at a stretch at night. He usually has his last bottle of the evening between 8:00pm and 9:00pm, and then he falls asleep and generally doesn't wake up until 4:00am or 4:30am. We'd love to see him stretch that to 5:30am or 6:00am, but hey, I'm happy with this for a while."

It would appear as though I spoke too soon. For the past week, H has been up at least twice a night, sometimes more. If I'm not mistaken (or perhaps I'm hallucinating from lack of sleep), H has a couple of little tooth buds appearing under the surface of his lower gums, so that would explain this recent, unfortunate turn of events. Or, it could be that the little dude is just plain HUNGRY, despite the fact that he continues to eat more and more each day--another reason to perhaps bring on the solids. Either way, we've come back to the fog.

*sigh*

On a happier note, we had a fab 4th of July weekend, and I will be posting photos soon!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Harrison: Four Month Checkup

Can you believe my little dude is four months old already?!? It seems like just yesterday I was staring at my six-pound peanut in the NICU, and now here we are, calling Harrison "the tank" because he's gotten so big! We had his four month checkup today, and here are the latest stats:

Weight: 15 pounds, 2 ounces--56th percentile for his age
Height: 25.5 inches--73rd percentile for his age
Head Circumference: 44.5 centimeters--95th percentile for his age

That last stat is no shock at all--Aaron and I both have huge melons. Heads, I mean, although I have rather large melons of the other sort as well. But that's another story.

So, our little man is growing quite nicely. He's also performing lots of really cool feats! He has started to roll over (from tummy to back--he hasn't rolled the other way yet). He is able to support his head unassisted and he has great control of his head. He is able to sit up with help. He bears all of his weight on his legs when he is standing (supported, of course). He smiles all the time (he's quite possibly one of the smiliest babies I have ever seen), he cackles and giggles, he squeals in delight, he coos and truly interacts with anyone who chats with him--ah, babyhood is truly magical.

He's eating right around 30 ounces of formula everyday and he has stretched his feedings out now from every 2.5 or 3 hours to every 3.5 or 4 hours, which is a welcome change. Our pediatrician wants us to wait until H turns five months before starting him on solids, but I don't know. I started Grace out on rice cereal when she was four months old, and she did a great job. I'll give it a couple of weeks and then we might go ahead and give it a shot.

And--I'm almost afraid to say it because it's too good to be true and I don't want to jinx it--Harrison is sleeping 6 to 8 hours at a stretch at night. He usually has his last bottle of the evening between 8:00pm and 9:00pm, and then he falls asleep and generally doesn't wake up until 4:00am or 4:30am. We'd love to see him stretch that to 5:30am or 6:00am, but hey, I'm happy with this for a while.

(L.W.W.B., you were right--it did happen very quickly. Suddenly, this past Monday night, he slept from 9:00pm until 4:30am for us, and he's been doing it every night since.)

I am truly, truly treasuring every single moment with my little boy, because I know from experience that this wonderful phase will pass far too quickly. I want to kiss those chubby cheeks as much as I can. I want to take in that heavenly baby head smell. I want to nibble on those little toes and ears and that little tummy. I want to hold him in my arms and watch him sleeping.

And the moment you've all been waiting for....the four month picture. Try not to go blind from the cuteness.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Allow Me To Brag For A Moment...

So I know I should be paying closer attention to this town hall meeting thingy that the Prez is holding regarding health care right now, but yeah, I'm tired and my brain is goop and I'm content to just listen to his voice (it's like BUTTAH) and I thought it would be MORE important to brag about my kid for a bit. I'll catch up on all this health care noise later.

Anyhoo, Grace has been enrolled in swimming class continuously for almost two years now at our local YMCA. We started her out in a parent-child class because she was afraid of the water and we wanted to at least expose her to the idea of swimming--my in-laws live on a lake and my family has a cabin on a lake so we spend lots of time as a family in and around water, especially in the summer time. Grace enjoyed the parent-child class, so we went ahead and enrolled her in a kids-only class, and, much to our delight, she did pretty darn well. Over the past several months, she has become brave enough and confident enough in her skills to swim underwater, excel at both the front and back floats, and swim a pretty decent front stroke and back stroke. She's also learning the side stroke and is starting to get the hang of that as well. She dives underwater, too, with no problems at all.

For this summer session, the Y introduced block scheduling for the swimming classes--you sign your kid up for a time that works for you, and then the teachers give the kids a short swimming test and group them into classes based on their skill level. So, tonight was Grace's first class with this new setup, and there were five other kids, about her age, that had signed up for the same timeslot. The teachers dove in and asked the kids to get into the pool "the safe way" (which basically means that the kids sit on the edge of the pool, put their hands on the edge on one side, and slowly twist themselves down into the pool). Grace was the only one who knew what to do. Then, the teachers asked the kids to blow bubbles (at this point I'm thinking, "Seriously?!?") and again, Grace was the only one who was able to do that well. The kids were asked to bob completely under the water, and while the other kids were busy touching their noses and foreheads to the surface of the water, Grace was completely submerged.

By this time, the teachers noticed that one of these things was not like the other, so one of the teachers took Grace aside and asked her if she knew how to float. Grace did both a front and a back float, and the teacher was impressed. Then, she asked Grace to do the front, back, and side strokes, and Grace did each with relative ease. The teacher that was working with Grace motioned to the other teacher and the two chatted quietly, and the only thing I was able to get with my ninja sense of hearing was "She's the only one."

Of course, this whole time I'm sitting on the sidelines watching all of this unfold and whispering totally inappropriate and cocky things about the other kids to Aaron ("Ha! They can't do it!" and "Can he float?!? That's a negative!!!") and glowing about how awesome my kid was. I may have a problem. In fact, I usually go and sit in the hot tub while Grace is in swim class, but tonight I couldn't bear to stay in the hot tub because I wanted to watch Gracie strut her stuff.

The teacher that worked with Grace came over to us and explained that her swimming skills were on a much higher level than the other children's and that she would like to move her to a different time slot for the rest of the session so that she could have a class with another little boy who was also ahead of the other kids in his block. Of course we agreed that this would be the best thing for Grace (huzzah!!) and for the rest of the time, the teacher gave Grace some private instruction in the big pool.

I'm so fricking proud of the kid. She used to be TERRIFIED of the water...she wouldn't even go in at one point. Now she's a little fish. She's totally awesome.

This is coming from her mom, who used to fake having her period for three weeks at a time so she wouldn't have to go in the pool for gym class in high school.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wherein I Realize That I Am The Problem

My father-in-law has been known to say that as a parent, one makes mistakes daily, and the more experience I get under my belt as a mommy, the more I realize that he is absolutely right. My first mistake of the day (well, my first PARENTING mistake of the day) occurred this morning when I dropped Grace off for her first day of day camp at the YMCA.

Before I tell the story, an admission: I admit to feeling anxious about today. Last night as I was packing Grace's backpack and her lunch for today, I had that same vaguely sick, nervous feeling I would get in the pit of my stomach before I had my own first days of Girl Scout camp, band camp, etc. It's hard (for me, anyway) to go to a place where I don't know anyone and be expected to have a good time right away. I need time to warm up, and, I thought, Grace is the same way. She used to be the same way. She needed to go into new environments slowly, hanging back and observing for a while and clinging to my hand before she dove in. And so, I felt nervous for her, knowing that she would be doing something new with a group of people she didn't know, and honestly, I didn't know that the drop off this morning would go well. I thought there would be tears and clinging and coaxing and the inevitable guilt that comes with leaving your frightened child with a group of people she doesn't know well yet.

God. Writing it down makes it seem like my kid is a wuss. She's not. It's me.

So, on the way to the Y this morning, I spent a lot of time telling Grace that she was going to have SO MUCH FUN at day camp and that she was going to make ALL SORTS OF FRIENDS and how I was SO JEALOUS that she was going to have so much fun. At the time, I thought I was trying to convince Grace that this was a wonderful idea, but now, I realize I was trying to convince myself. And Grace just sat in the back seat, listening to me and giving me the occasional, "Uh huh."

When we arrived at camp, we proceeded to the check-in area, and as soon as she was checked in, Grace acted like she was just going to run off into the playground without me. When I told her to wait up, she rolled her eyes a little bit but conceded, and then I escorted her over to the shed where the kids' backpacks and lunches were being kept for the day. After Grace dropped her stuff off, I asked the camp counselor who was manning the shed if I should walk Grace to the playground. His response was, "Or she can just run over there herself." Hmm. Much to my surprise, Grace begged me to run over to the playground herself, but I told her that I would walk there with her to make sure she was all right. Ugh.

So, I walked her over to an area where some little girls were playing with puzzles and asked her if she wanted to sit down and play. She looked at the playground for a moment as she was deciding what she wanted to do, and then another camp counselor came over and introduced herself to Grace. She asked Grace if she was nervous to be alone without Mommy today, and Grace answered, confidently, "No." The counselor asked Grace if she wanted to play on the playground, and Grace of course said that she wanted to. Then I glanced around the playground and realized that I was the only parent there. And Grace and the counselor both looked at me as if to ask, "So what's the problem?"

Argh. I am the problem.

Sorry, kiddo. Go run and play.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What To Do This Summer?

Today is Day One of Grace's summer break, and currently Harrison is fast asleep and Gracie is contentedly watching Sesame Street (Neil Patrick Harris as The Shoe Fairy? Divine.) after just finishing up a game of Dominoes (she beat me...again). So far, Grace doesn't seem to be too terribly bored and I haven't had any trouble managing the two kiddos together, but we are only four hours or so into summer break, and I realize that keeping things interesting for the next three months might be a challenge at times. So, I have gathered my information, brainstormed with my hubby and others, and I have come up with a list of fun (and cheap) stuff to do and places to go this summer:

-Milwaukee County Zoo. Now that we have purchased our zoo pass, admission and parking are free for the rest of the year, we're not wasting all kinds of money if we can't devote an entire day to the zoo (which is tough with two little ones anyway). Also, since Aaron works less than a mile from the zoo, we can meet him there once a week for a picnic lunch!
-Betty Brinn Children's Museum. The museum has free admission on Mondays in the summer, and Grace LOVES going there.
-Milwaukee Public Museum. Also offers free admission on Mondays, and Grace has already expressed an interest in going.
-Milwaukee Art Museum. This museum offers free admission on Wednesdays from 10am to 5pm for Milwaukee County residents. Our art museum really caters well to kids. In fact, Grace had several field trips there with her class this year and can't wait to go back.
-Mitchell Park Domes. The domes offer free admission on Mondays from 9am till noon. We've never been to the domes--this summer, we will have plenty of opportunities to go.
-YMCA Day Camp. I have enrolled Grace in two weeks of day camp at our YMCA this summer. One week is Sparkles and Princess Camp (naturally) and the second week is Storybooks and Fairytales Camp.
-Tippecanoe Neighborhood Library. Our neighborhood library offers free story time on Thursdays at 10:30, and they also have a summertime reading program for kids ages three and up. I will be enrolling Grace in that program when we hit story time tomorrow. She's just getting the hang of reading and I want her to keep it up!!
-Summerfest. Grace was one of several students who were selected to plant flowers on the Summerfest grounds a month or so back, and because of her work, she earned four tickets for free weekday admission! Also, June 29th is Kids' Day at Summerfest, which includes free admission for families.
-Milwaukee County Parks. There are quite a few parks and playgrounds within walking distance of our house, so we could probably visit a new park once a week and not visit the same one twice.
-State Fair. Cream puffs and reuben rolls. Need I say more?
-Brewer Games. We took Grace to her first Brewer game last summer and she has been begging to go to another one ever since. There are plenty of games that have a 1:05pm start time, so we can make it to a game or two without sacrificing bed time.
-Play Dates. Several of us moms in Grace's class have expressed an interest in getting our kids together for play dates, and Grace is totally down with the idea.
-Farmers Markets. We will be attending the South Shore Farmers Market weekly to pick up our CSA share, but there are quite a few others around the city that I would like to visit as well.
-The Fests. Milwaukee is a festival city...Polish Fest, German Fest, Irish Fest, Bastille Days, Festa Italiana, Mexican Fiesta, among others. It'll be easy to hit these up this summer.

There are also attractions in the region that offer free or low-cost admission and have plenty of kid-friendly things to do:

-Apple Holler
-The Elegant Farmer
-Jelly Belly Center

And, naturally, we will have trips to visit grandparents and other relatives and friends. I'm sure there will also be the occasional lazy day around the house.

Whew. Do we have enough summer for all this stuff?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

K4 Grad

Today is Grace's last day of K4. Look at how much she has changed since September!

1st day of school:


Last day of school:

And tomorrow, my real work starts...being a full-time stay-at-home mom of two!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Chopped the Mess

I had my highly anticipated (by me, anyway) haircut appointment last night, and I am so proud of myself because I didn't wimp out and just get the mess trimmed--we chopped the mess. And I love the new 'do. It's sassy. Pictures, then:

Before (Grace took this picture one morning right after we woke up, and I think I was coming down with strep throat at this point, and I was holding a screaming baby, so yeah. Not the greatest pic of me, but it serves my purpose here. Turns out there aren't any other recent pictures of me, sadly.):

After (taken this morning, pre-makeup):

Last night as my hairdresser was hacking away, she asked me if my husband knew what I was doing with my hair, and I answered defiantly, "Yeah, he kind of knows, but it's my hair and if he doesn't like it, too bad!!" And then the two of us spent quite a bit of time chatting about all of THOSE women who want to cut their hair but won't because their husbands want them to have long hair and how we are so glad because WE'RE not like that. But then on the way home I felt just a teeny bit sick to my stomach thinking about how Aaron would react when he saw my new 'do and I thought, "Oh hell, I AM one of those women!!!" And when I got home, Aaron's precise reaction was, "Wow." That could mean one of three things:

1. "Wow, your hair is short like a boy's and there's no way we're having sex until your hair grows to at least between your chin and your shoulders."

2. "Wow, I really like it."

3. "Wow. I need time to formulate an opinion on this one, so I'm just going to keep making vague overtures to buy myself some time."

And then he told me that I should dye my hair black. I'm not sure why.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Leafy Green Recipes

Ok, so apparently I have neither the time nor the attention span to keep two blogs going consecutively, so I have not been posting on my other blog, For the Love of Beans. Sorry about that (for the couple of you who have ventured over there), but to make up for it, here are a couple of great recipes that we have come across lately. We joined a CSA earlier this year and each week, we get a share of wonderful, locally-grown, organic produce, but the problem is that some of the stuff we get is a little on the obscure side and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. Enter my good friend Google, and voila! Delicious recipes that utilize this fabulous produce!


Next time you're at your local farmer's market and you want to pick up that bunch of kale (which is super, super nutritious but not overly versatile) but you're not quite sure how to prepare it, you can use the following easy peasy recipe. You're welcome. And this was so tasty that my daughter, who we have to coerce and bribe into eating leafy greens of any kind, loved this so much that she asked us to make it again.

Roasted Kale
4 cups packed kale
1 tbsp EVOO (I actually used roasted garlic grapeseed oil, and it was delish)
Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash kale and remove the tough stems by folding the kale in half (like a book) and stripping the stems from the leaves. Trim kale and toss it in a bowl with the oil. Place kale on a baking pan and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Roast in oven for 7 minutes. Turn kale over, sprinkle a little more salt over the kale, and roast it for another 7 to 10 minutes, or until kale is brown and becomes brittle. Serve immediately.


Another veggie we've gotten a lot of from our CSA shares is asparagus. We're bored to tears with just steaming it or putting it in our salads, so Aaron suggested we try a recipe we found for asparagus pesto. We jazzed it up with the chicken.

Butterflied Chicken with Asparagus Pesto
Pesto:
1 1/4 cups chopped asparagus
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup EVOO

Run asparagus, garlic, and cheese through a food processor, adding EVOO slowly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butterfly as many boneless, skinless chicken breasts as you'd like, and rub a generous helping of the pesto inside each chicken breast. Close chicken breast and rub an additional helping of pesto on top (we placed a small slice of pepper jack cheese on top of each chicken breast as well, just because we love cheese). Sprinkle each chicken breast with a pinch of kosher salt and bake the chicken breasts on a roasting pan for about 45 minutes, or until chicken breasts are fully cooked. Goes beautifully with a nice red wine.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Seven Things That Have Changed Since Having Baby #2

1. My boobs. Before, I had what I would classify as a pleasantly large, relatively perky rack. Now, I need an industrial strength bra to both support and contain the girls. Any perkiness that I previously enjoyed is long gone, and my LORD the girls are HUGE. This is not a good thing since my starting point was "pleasantly large".

2. My body's weight distribution. According to the scale, I weigh six pounds less than I did when I found out I was pregnant with Harrison. However, I don't see it--maybe I lost some weight in my feet or something. The "mama pouch" that replaced my midsection after having Grace has morphed into a gelatinous, stretch mark-laden blob. Not at all attractive. Also, I don't know that I will ever be able to get rid of my double chin and flappy old lady arms.

3. My bladder control. Imagine my surprise when Grace and I were chasing each other around the house recently and I had to stop suddenly lest I piddle all over the floor. Ditto for sneezing, coughing, or laughing too hard.

4. My tolerance for alcohol. One glass of wine is ok, but if I have any more than that, I'm either slurring my speech or snoring on the couch. Sometimes both.

5. My hair. My once lustrous, shiny hair is now lackluster and falling out at an alarming rate. Hence my decision to get the mess chopped...pictures will follow soon after my appointment on Thursday.

6. My need for sleep. My new definition of a "full night's sleep" is five consecutive hours--I used to require at least eight hours in order to function. Now, as long as I get my five hours, I'm good to go. And, oddly enough, if I get too MUCH sleep, I'm a wreck...a few weeks ago, my parents took the kids for a night, and I got ten glorious hours of sleep. But, I ended up way more exhausted.

7. My perception of Grace's size. Before Harrison was born, Grace looked so small...she was my little baby girl. Suddenly, she is so big and sturdy! And she's so capable! I never imagined that a five-year-old was able to do so much stuff if her hovering mama would just let her try!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mixed Bag

This morning as Harrison and I were walking home after dropping Grace off at school, I struck up a conversation with one of the school's crossing guards as I was waiting to cross the street. We were chatting about Harrison, who was snoozing contentedly in his sling, when out of no where the crossing guard asked me, "Are you breastfeeding him?" When I replied that no, he's bottle fed, she looked at me for a moment and said, "Oh, so you must be going back to work then." When I told her that nope, I'm not planning to go back to work until September, she paused for another moment or two and said, "I don't understand you." And I could almost feel her head shaking at me as she walked away.

And a good morning to you, too.

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Speaking of work, yesterday there were several layoffs at Aaron's employer, and I got my first real dose of panic about being a single-income family in this economy. I found out about the layoffs when one of Aaron's co-workers posted on Facebook that he had just been laid off and I immediately tried to call Aaron to make sure he wasn't affected. I wasn't able to reach him right away, so there was a period of about twenty minutes in which I was certain that Aar was being issued his pink slip and would be on his way home to deliver the bad news.

Thankfully, Aaron's job was spared, but this is just another reminder for me that everyone is vulnerable these days. My sister, who is a teacher, also got a pink slip recently (actually, the slip was white but she colored it pink--at least she has a sense of humor about all of this). You know it's bad when the teachers, especially the good ones who really care and are doing a fabulous job (like my sister) are being cut. It just sucks and my heart goes out to those families who are now having to deal with a loss of income.

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On a happier note, I have discovered the key to getting Harrison to nap: the dishwasher. Harrison is now on a pretty predicable three-nap-a-day schedule, and if I am ever having a hard time getting him to fall asleep, all I have to do is fire up the dishwasher (as long as it's loaded with dirty dishes, naturally) and place Harrison in his bouncy chair next to it, and he's out like a light, guaranteed. Variations on this have worked as well...Harrison also falls asleep to the sounds of a hair dryer or a vacuum cleaner. Perhaps we should invest in a particularly loud fan to run during the night so our little man (finally) starts sleeping through the night??

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Post Party

Yesterday afternoon we had nine little girls from Grace's school over for her birthday party. The party was a hit and we managed to go through the entire two hours with only one minor breakdown from one little girl who was the first to be "out" during a rousing game of musical chairs. Grace had a blast and made an absolute haul in the gift department--so much so that we might have to add a wing to our house for the piles of Barbies and My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shops.

I'm beat, plain and simple. After the little girls all left yesterday we had family over and then I spent the evening with Grace, Harrison, and my four-year-old niece while Aaron went to a wedding reception, so I didn't really have a chance to recover. Then, today I spent the majority of the day just cleaning up the housewide mess left over from yesterday's festivities and fantasizing about what it would be like to hold next year's party for Grace anyplace OTHER than our house. Now, finally, I am enjoying a glass of wine and the relative silence in the house.

But, as I was putting Grace to bed tonight, she told me that she really loved her party and that she had so much fun. I suppose that makes the whole thing worth it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Grace: Five Years Old

Gracie,

One afternoon last week when I picked you up from school your teacher approached me to inform me that you had lost your play time privileges for that day because you were talking out of turn to some of your friends. And even though I did take a moment to gently remind you that it's important to listen when it's listening time and to be respectful of your teacher, inside I was smiling. I was smiling because I considered this a step in the right direction--you used to be the child who was so shy that I would have to beg you to talk to others. Now you've come out of your shell so much that sometimes you have to be reminded that it's not appropriate to talk ALL the time. I know you were worried that I would be mad at you for getting in trouble at school, but the opposite is true. I'm happy that you're finally coming out of your shell and showing the world what I have known for five years--that you are the most special, wonderful little girl. And to commemorate the first time you got in trouble at school, I took you out for ice cream.

Today you turn five years old, and when I think about how quickly these five years have passed, it takes my breath away. Also taking my breath away is the realization of how much you have grown up over the past year. You've become far more independent--in fact, you love to show us how you are able to do all kinds of things on your own and it seems that you are learning how to do more stuff every day. You're so smart--you love to sound out words and figure them out and if I let you, I have a feeling that you would spend hours just writing and writing. And, you shocked me recently by tearing off a piece of a napkin and telling me it looked like a trapezoid. A trapezoid!! I had to take a minute to remember my geometry so I could keep up with you...

Your imagination seems to grow day by day, as well. You love to tell the most magnificent stories, weaving together little pieces of your experiences and making sure you include your favorite people in your cast of characters. Sometimes, when you don't know I'm listening, I'll catch you making up little songs about all sorts of things and singing them to yourself and I'll chuckle to myself over how creative and imaginative you are. And, you're a little sponge, sopping up and retaining information as quickly as you can, and your constant hunger for more and more knowledge is so impressive to me. You're always anxious to practice the new things you're learning and you love to display your many new talents--the newest of which is baton twirling!

Something really big happened in your life this year--you became a big sister. Harrison came barreling into your world, monopolizing your mama's time and keeping you awake most nights with his crying. And not only have you taken this huge transition in stride, but you have accepted your new brother with eager and open arms. You have even gone so far as to put in an order for yet ANOTHER sibling because you like being a big sister so much. I hope that you are able to read this when you are a grown up and have children of your own, because then you will be able to appreciate as much as I do now how wonderful and helpful it is to have an oldest child who can handle so gracefully the difficult changes that a new sibling brings. Many kids have a really hard time when a younger sibling comes into their lives--they regress, they hate their new brother or sister, they have trouble in school. You have done the opposite--you have grown. You have become even more compassionate and caring and my heart swells with pride each time I see you interact with Harrison. I am so proud of you and I am excited for you to have a sibling to share your life with.

Last night as you were falling asleep, I spent some time watching your peaceful little face and listening to your soft breathing and recalling how at that moment five years ago, I was packing my hospital bag and trying to imagine how much my life was about to change. I couldn't fathom how quickly that tiny baby that I would deliver the next afternoon would grow--I couldn't imagine having a five-year-old, but here we are. Happy birthday, Punkin. Thanks for the privilege of spending yet another wonderful year with you.

Love,
Mama