Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Traveling with Kids.... Time to break the rules!

We had a great time this past weekend on our first overnight trip with both boys.  It was a lot of fun, but as I had learned before with just Lucas, it was a completely different kind of vacation now that we have kids.  Here are some things we learned, most of them were learned the hard way...

Do get your kid his own suitcase
Don't expect him to actually carry it.

Do pack more than you need, of everything. 
Don't expect that you'll find anything when you need it.

Do bring water bottles, sippy cups, and snacks.
Don't leave them in the car when you visit an amusement park or attraction ($6.68 for two small bottles, seriously?!)

Do try to relax and just go with the flow.
Don't have high expectations.
Don't plan on getting any sleep.

Do plan the best routes ahead of time, and include a few pit stops on the way... Unless you want to be like us, searching for a McDonalds with two screaming kids in the backseat, while going about 5mph in really crappy traffic.  

Do pack everything in the car, take showers, and make snacks the night before to make a quick getaway in the morning.

Don't leave at rush hour.

Do plan driving time around naptime... makes life a little more enjoyable.

Do whatever you need to make things easier and less work for mom and dad - fast food, tv in the car, unlimited juice boxes, and keeping the kids up late.  It won't kill them.  It's vacation, time to break the rules.

Most of all, have fun, take lots of pictures, and bring home lots of good memories.  Here are some of ours... 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fabric Dyeing = Accidental Hippie Onsie

I got the crafty bug awhile ago and have been itching to do some projects.  Step one was my first attempt at fabric dyeing.  I have to say the results weren't quite what I was hoping for, but I had fun in the process! 

I started with some old shirts and some plain white onsies...

Mixed up the dye (I used the powdered RIT dye) in two separate containers.  I chose blue and brown.  Then I submerged the fabric. 

The instructions said to soak for a half hour, but who am I to listen, plus I wanted a very dark color... so I soaked them for FIVE hours, outside.... because the smell was giving me a headache.  It didn't help that it started to rain. 

When I finally pulled them out I realized my first mistake - too small of a container.  They looked tie-dyed!  But, that was actually kind of cool.  Hippie shirts, right?  The blue looked great, a light/dark combo.  The brown on the other hand, was a little bit purple.  Not going to work on my stylish little boy.  So...  my soon to be second cousin (Baby Girl Danger) is probably going to get a cute brown and purple hand dyed onsie.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Weekend Wishes: A Mini Vacation

I stumbled upon the idea of Weekend Wishes while browsing from blog to blog last week, and now I can't get back there to give credit where credit is due.  When I find it again I will share, but for now I'm going to use the wonderful idea...

This weekend we are going out of town for the first time with TWO kids.  Legoland, Queen Mary, and Aquarium of the Pacific all packed into two days!

I am wishing for....

Good times with family

A somewhat relaxing mini vacation

Sleep from my 6 month old, and my two year old too for that matter

Lots of good photos ops, and a camera battery that lasts the whole trip

A weekend of fun memories

Coming back to a clean home...

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

No One is Perfect, But You are a Perfect Mother

My mom is on of my biggest fans.  She read my blog post today, and then on the phone told me that I was a perfect mother.  No one is perfect she said, but you are still a perfect mother.  The critical side of me winced as a dozen "unperfect" actions from today alone flew through my mind.  I am not perfect, I thought.  Far, far from it

Then, I told her, you were a perfect mother too.  Funny thing though, I don't think she believed me.  But I meant it.  Every thing she did, any mistake that she thought she made, every decision, every choice; they all shaped the experiences I had, and made me who I am today.  I would not change any of it.  Not one little bit. 

See, I've learned two very important things since I have become a mom.
1. Your mother loves you VERY, very much.  More than you can ever possibly imagine.  She wants only the best for you.  She would do anything for you.  You mean everything to her. 

2. Motherhood is crazy. It makes us a little looney, short tempered, and grumpy.  It is hard.  Very hard.  It tries our patience every second of every day.  Sometimes we want to run screaming in the opposite direction of our children.  Sometimes we throw a pot of mashed potatoes on the floor.   Sometimes we just have to scream. 

So, I know my mom did everything she could for me.  I know she, along with my dad, raised me to the best of their ability.  Any arguments we had or struggles we endured were there only because she cared about me and wanted the best for me.  Even when she fired me.  Even when I quit.  Even when she fired me again.  Or when I quit again.  Or locked me outside.  Or when I got out of the car in the middle of traffic.  I could go on...  but I'll just say...

Thanks, Mom.  For putting up with me all those years.  For loving me even when I was a teenager.  For not running screaming in the other direction.  For always being there for me.  For being my biggest fan.  And for being my best best girlfriend.  I love you so much.  You are a perfect mom no matter what you say, because you have always loved me.  I only hope I can be as spectacular a mom to my boys as you have been to me. 


Not for the Faint of Heart...

Imagine you're lying on your back, body tense, eyes blinking at the ceiling.  Your legs are drawn up to your chest, you are red faced and crying with pain.  Mom is by your side, holding on to your legs as she tries to keep you calm while you push with all your might.  All of a sudden, it's over.  You take a deep breath and smile, knowing the joy that comes after an experience like this.  

This was the scene on Nathans changing table a couple nights ago.  

Gross.  I know.  Sorry.  You thought I was telling a birth story right?  Nope.  For some reason I feel compelled to talk about Poo tonight.    

So, if you are still reading, you may be wondering why I am coaching my son through his Poos?  Because I am his mom.  And because he has been having some "issues" as we say in our house.  The poor little guy just can't get it out.  So, the prescription: Peaches, Pears, Plums are in, and rice cereal and bananas are out.  He has to eat pureed prunes or drink prune juice every day.  Yuck.  But... this means I get to get creative in the kitchen.  Today I enjoyed making baby Quinoa cereal (since we are avoiding gluten), tomorrow I'm making another batch of organic pears, and next week I'm working on peaches and plums.  I also stocked the cupboard with Earth's Best pears, sweet potatoes, and prunes.  Nathan.... we're gonna work out this issue.  Literally! 

Mmmmnnn, Prunes!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Real Life Parenting, No Judgement Please

We love you no matter what, Mom!  
(Even when you take a thousand pictures of us a day)

There is a lot of pressure in the new mom community to do everything absolutely perfect for your new baby.  And I mean, PERFECT.  Research everything, select only the best baby products, use only natural and organic chemical free diapers, wipes and shampoo, non battery operated educational toys, nurse exclusively, never let him cry, make all your own baby food, and keep your baby in a bubble and never expose him to the outside world.  

Ok, I am exaggerating.  But sometimes it feels this way.  

I've gone a little bit astray lately.  I've been reading a lot of "new mom" blogs, and I've been getting caught up in a lot of these things again, starting to question the choices I made with Lucas and those I am making with Nathan.  I have found my mind wandering and head spinning with anxiety over issues like sleeping and feeding.  This morning, a little bit of clarity hit me.  Smacked me in the face actually. 
I was up early again, before the kids, and in those quiet moments of folding diapers and putting away toys, I realized that I've got a pretty good handle on this whole parenting thing.  I am growing and evolving as a mom at the same time my kids are growing and learning.   I realized I've got to stop reading those perfect mommy books and blogs, and stick to the real world parenting that I have developed by following my own rules.  I need to remember that I've done this before, not by following the rules, but by following my gut and doing what works for my family.  

What is real parenting to me?
It is nursing my baby when he is hungry, day or night.  Letting him sleep next to me when he is restless.  Holding him close when he is upset.  Giving him some freedom to explore.  Teaching him to sleep on his own.  Putting him down when I need a moment.  Letting Daddy give him a bottle of formula at night.  Wearing him.  Letting him "play" with other kids.  Weaning on his schedule, whether I agree or not.  Feeding him the best quality foods, from jars when I'm busy and home made when I have the time.  Putting him in the pack 'n play with the most obnoxious, colorful, noisy toys so I have a few moments to myself.  Using both cloth and disposable diapers.  Letting my older son "water" the cement with the hose, share food with the dog, run around naked, pee in the yard, stay up late to play with daddy, and taste my iced tea.  Using the television as a babysitter so I can have a shower.  Driving the car until they fall asleep, no matter how much gas I use.  Calling my mom five times in one day because I just need to talk to another adult.  Dragging the kids to target because I need to get out of the house.  Leaving the dishes in the sink, and the clothes in a pile so I can just sit on the floor and tickle, hug, and play with my boys.  Finally, grabbing every spare minute I can find to breathe, recharge, and blog. 

My point?  Do what works for you.  And be proud of it.  I sure am. 

Wordless Wednesday: Waiting For Daddy

Friday, March 19, 2010

He Talks Because I Talk To Him, Grows Because I Feed Him

Everyone always says how amazing the first year of a childs life is.  It is truly a marvel how they grow from a completely helpless little being to a little mini person.  But I have to say, I am even more fascinated by what comes next - the things we get to see our children do after we finish that first year of mommy boot camp.

I watch Lucas think every day.  I watch him get frustrated because he can't get the words out of his mouth quick enough.  I love to see how he learns, how he figures out how things work.  He watches everything I do, listens to everything I say, and he understands it.  I can reason with him now.  I can have a conversation with him.  He can tell me a story.  He can pretend.  He can joke.  He can understand when his baby brother is sad and give him a pat on the head or a kiss on the cheek to make him feel better.  He can use my cell phone, not just to make calls, but to watch home movies, play games, even control the computer.  And I didn't teach him to do those things.  He just watched, and repeated.  And he's just turned two. 

He is learning about making friends, he is learning how plants grow, where food comes from, and all about animals.  He is learning to count.  He is learning what it means to love.  He loves to dance, and he likes when we sing.  He jumps all day long.  Jumps down the hall, over curbs, off the couch, in the yard, out of the car.  He is busy, very busy all day long.  He never stops, except to give me a hug or a kiss or to ask me for something he wants.  He loves to play with his brother.  One of my favorite things to see is my two boys playing together.  Nathan watches Lucas in awe, always laughing and smiling at his antics.  

The older he gets, the more I realize how much every little thing that I do really impacts his development, his learning, and his life.  I realize, he talks because I talked to him.  All those months I babbled on about everything we were doing, seeing, thinking... when he was sitting there silently...  those moments mattered.  And every time I stayed calm when I got frustrated, I set a good example.  Every time I responded to his needs when he fussed or cried, that taught him that I am there for him.  Every single time I told him "I love you', he heard it, and now he tells me he loves me back.  He loves his daddy and his brother, and his Ruffy and his Gizmo.   He even loves his juice, as he told me today.  Watching this little boy become such a sweet and strong little person makes me so proud.  I helped make him.  Ryan and I made him.  How cool is that?  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happily Gluten Free

I dont usually make it a habit to photograph my groceries... but today as I was unloading my bags from Trader Joes and Lassens I was trying to come up with an idea for Marvelous Monday.  It was staring me right in the face!  This is what I am thankful for!

Ten years ago when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, there was no such thing as gluten free labeling, waiters and waitresses looked at me like I was from another planet, and the closest thing I got to bread or crackers was something resembling cardboard.  Today, awareness of Celiac Disease is much greater and many companies are making wonderful and delicious gluten free foods.  I also feel very lucky to live in Southern California, where every diet is accepted and the majority of restaurants are familiar with our needs! 
So, in the spirit of looking at the positives in life rather than the negatives, I am thankful that living and coping with Celiac Disease today is such a delight and pleasure with so many products to choose from. 

Thank you Rachel for helping me remember this today on Marvelous Monday!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Half a Year Old

It feels like just yesterday that I was scowling at the labor and delivery nurse for not taking my contractions seriously. Our bags in our arms, standing in front of the counter, I must have looked too relaxed. I wasn't. I was just ready to finish being pregnant. And I wanted to get started. Who wouldn't, really? Just look what I took home!

He still makes that face, except he is usually trying to shove something in his mouth.

I can't believe it's been six months. With Lucas, those first six months seemed to go slowly, waiting for and watching every milestone. I was learning how to be a parent and so wrapped up in all the shoulds and shouldn'ts of sleep, feeding, diapering, and more that I don't think I appreciated the newborn phase as much as I should have. With Nathan, it's been completely different. I have stared into his face every day and seen the miracle of life that he is. I have thanked God and my husband for giving me such a precious boy. I have held him and rocked him to sleep, knowing that he might be my last little baby. I don't want him to grow up. Not yet. But he already is. The newborn is gone, and in its place is a sweet, chubby, smiley boy that loves his mama and just wants to eat and play all day long. I am so proud of him, and so proud to be his mom!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why I Love Boys

Because they sit in the front yard in an inflated boat and pretend to row in the rain
Because they run with all their might towards their next adventure...

Because I find myself completely surrounded by them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Kids treasure box

My high energy kid doesn't do well in restaurants, or long lines, or anywhere that he is not allowed to roam freely. I needed a solution. Coloring books don't work, his two year old brain just won't have it. I've tried distracting with snacks and juice, but that usually ruins dinner. I didn't want to spend any money (we have that thing called a mortgage now) so without running out and buying the latest and greatest electronic gadget, I came up with a solution!

I found a cute blue pencil box at the 99 cents store, and filled it with treasures I had around the house. We all have a junk drawer or basket somewhere in the house where we throw old party favors, McDonald's toys, and trinkets the kids get out of the quarter machines at the grocery store. They don't play with these toys at home, they just act as junk. Put them to use! They are the perfect solution when out and about, and when all packed up in a little treasure box, they are SO appealing you won't be able to take them away.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Sandwich Crust and Pickle Diet

Every spring something draws me to want to get out in the crisp air and just breathe, exercise, and enjoy nature. The ground is cold, the soil is wet, the grass is green, and flowers are poking up everywhere. This year is no different. In fact, the draw is a bit more intense. I'm not quite pre-baby yet... I need to get rid of 8 pounds. Ugh. And I'm not good at diets. Chocolate is just too important to me. I cannot live without its pure and perfect, rich and dark deliciousness.

So, since I won't commit to a diet, I will go with this generalization: I just want to take better care of my body.

One of our biggest challenges as moms is eating the right foods at the right times, and preparing balanced meals for ourselves and our families on a regular basis. We are either running out of the house too fast to pack something, or so hungry by the time we've fed the kids, that we grab the first thing we see regardless of what it is. I find myself cooking separate meals for all four of us, which can cause a bit of a messy situation. By the time I've made my kiddos mac 'n cheese, I'm so hungry myself that I scarf a few spoonfuls of his noodles, eat a pickle from the fridge, a piece of bread or a tortilla with cheese, and a handful of chips. That's not the greatest meal, obviously.

Anyway, I have found the ANSWER. Seriously. I've found the answer, and it's not hiring a personal chef or moving into the deli aisle of Whole Foods. It all comes down to two little words. Plan Ahead. Now, if I knew how to guarantee the time to plan ahead each week, I'd be eating a perfect diet. It's not happening, but I'm working on it.

Here are my favorite tips for planning ahead. I'm going to be working on these for next few weeks. Now, I can't take credit for all of them. I found many of them HERE, on my favorite nutrition blog.

1. Wash and prep food after your weekly grocery or farmers market trip. Don't just throw everything in the fridge when you get home from the store. Wash and dry the lettuce for an easy salad later. Wash, peel and chop carrots, celery, bell peppers, etc. into snack size pieces and store in airtight containers in the fridge. (Here are some of mine for this week)

2. Take the prep a step further and divide veggies and dip, trail mix, pretzels, and cheese into snack size baggies or containers for easy lunch packing.

3. Have a cooking night once a week. Make a batch of rice or quinoa to use in stir frys or salads, cook up a pot of bean or lentil soup with fresh vegetables, make some low sugar blueberry or banana muffins, or some pumpkin pancakes for easy breakfasts. Add a couple good protein items as well, such as hard boiled eggs, tuna salad, or chicken breasts. If you make your own gluten free bread like I do, add this to the list as well.

4. Keep the pantry, fridge, and freezer stocked. Things like pasta sauce, canned beans, chicken broth, and tuna are lifesavers when you only have a half an hour to make dinner. Make sure to have some good crackers or tortilla chips, peanut butter, salsa, and salad dressing as well. Frozen chicken breasts can be tossed in microwave steam bags and are ready in minutes for a variety of recipes.

5. Post a tentative meal plan on the refrigerator. It doesn't have to be a list of every meal, but do include lunch and snack ideas so that when you are starving and brain dead, you'll grab the tuna salad and lettuce wraps rather than the crusts you cut off your kids grilled cheese sandwich.

6. Have a no-fail recipe collection. Keep a little binder or recipe card holder in your kitchen with your favorite no frills, quick, and easy recipes. Make sure to flag the ones that are easily made out of pantry ingredients!

Here is one of my favorites:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
One medium onion
1-2 Cloves of Garlic
Olive Oil
One box of Trader Joes Chicken Broth
One can of diced tomatoes with green chiles added
One can of Trader Joes Chicken Breasts in Broth
Dried Cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, if desired
Tortilla Chips
Sour cream, cheese, and avocado for topping

Pour a little olive oil in your soup pot and set to medium heat. Chop and drop the garlic and onion, and saute until softened. Add broth, tomatoes, cilantro, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and add canned chicken. Return to a simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and serve over tortilla chips, topped with cheese, sour cream, and avocado. Enjoy!

Link to my menu plan for the week (yes, I actually type these things up, and yes, I am a bit crazy)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Snow Day

One of my favorite family memories as a kid was piling into our red Volkswagen van and driving up to Mt. Pinos to play in the snow. Sometimes there was tons of snow, sometimes just a little brown mush on the side of the road. It was always such great anticipation of what we were going to find. My brother and I had these awesome patagonia snow suits and jackets, and big snow boots. We would layer those on with turtleneck sweaters and big thick socks, and we'd be ready to dive in and make a hundred snow angels. My parents even got us some round sleds to slide down the snowy hills. It was always so much fun. I also loved coming back to the van when we were done, covered in snow and wet from head to toe, to dry off and drink hot chocolate my mom had made early that morning. I don't know how to explain the feeling, it was just plain fun. It was one of the good things about being a kid. And now I get to share that good feeling with my own kids.

A couple weekends ago, we decided to try this ourselves. At two years old Lucas would hopefully be able to enjoy the snow, and Nathan is still happy to hang in the ergo, so we went for it. I packed up lunch for all of us, made the hot chocolate and coffee, and Ryan packed up all the snow clothes, chains for the car, and an inner tube to try some sledding. The drive took us less than two hours and we made it to the top of the mountain. It had snowed the night before, the trees were covered in a thick blanket, and it was breathtakingly beautiful. The mini road trip was a nice break for us, and it reminded me of why I love to live in Southern California. The ocean is just 10 minutes from our house, and beautiful snowy mountains less than two hours away. It couldn't be any better than this.

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