Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's my potty, I can cry if I want to

I'm a believer in letting little kids choose their own adventure, so to speak, when it comes to things that won't hurt them. Markers (washable) instead of crayons, ok fine. Read a book or play with playdough. Mismatched clothes. Fine. (None of this is consistent with my control-freak nature, but I get by.) Anyway, this kid-in-charge attitude has extended to sleep training and breastfeeding, and now to potty training. (I guess it's my take on attachment parenting.)

Unfortunately, we started potty training about ten months ago and sometimes I think we've gone nowhere. I got the potty out when Emily started doing her business in the bathtub at about 18 months. Fortunately, she knew right away what she was supposed to do on the potty. The only catch is that she only uses the potty when the mood strikes her. The more I mention it, the less likely she is to go. I let her choose between pull-ups, training pants, and underwear but her behavior seems the same regardless of what kind of underpants she is wearing. She's not concerned about "keeping Dora (or Tinkerbelle or Elmo) clean" and all the stickers in the world wouldn't tear her away from her toys when she needs to "go." Today she refused to put on a pull-up and also refused to go to the bathroom before we left the house; several hours later, we were pulling over to change wet pants. We've gone through several day stretches without pee accidents, but she nearly always poops in her pants. I think she's just got more important things to do than stop what she's doing to go potty. I keep hoping that one day she'll wake up and say, "ya know, I'm tired of messing up my pants." I just hope that happens before I run out of patience.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Last Lecture

I spent a few days at my grad school alma mater last week, so I decided to pick up a faculty-related book to read during my downtime in the airport and such. Little did I know The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch would be so touching. The story is of a college professor who is dying, leaving behind three small children and a beautiful, young wife. He gives his last lecture in honor of his children, who are most likely too young to remember the depth of his love. The lecture wasn't about dying, it was about living. It really made me stop and think about the legacy I'm leaving Emily.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Weekend with -eppercorn

So Emily's class pet Peppercorn ("-eppercorn" to her) came home with us this weekend. He comes with a journal and a monogrammed bag, and we are to entertain him until Monday when his adventures will be discussed in class. Oh, the pressure to entertain! His journal records his past weekend adventures for all future parents to judge. Last week he went to the Great Wolf Lodge, where he went on waterslides in the winter! He picked out Christmas trees with at least three families this winter and has gone on countless trips to Grandma's house.

Well, this weekend is restaurant week. Andy and I have planned not just one, but two date nights as a belated Valentine's Day. Andy notes we don't actually have to tell the truth in the journal, though many parents include some photos to document their adventures. We'll see what we come up with; I hope our furry houseguest doesn't think we are bad hosts.

Amazing creativity

I am constantly amazed at the creative women I've stumbled upon in the blogosphere. Just this evening, I've found two novel ideas for generating blog traffic and creating enthusiasm among women bloggers. The Secret is in the Sauce is dedicated to supporting blogs through comments, In addition, they are hosting a fantastic bedroom bliss contest. Another fun blogging diversion I encountered on their site is Where's Wenda, a treasure hunt through comments on all sorts of blogs. In some ways this seems akin to journalists interviewing other journalists, but its a heckofalot more fun.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents' Day at Smithsonian

Day four of another long weekend, so we headed downtown to the Smithsonian. I'm not sure why we thought we'd be able to drive right up and park by the back door of the Natural History museum, but my trusty backup Reagan Building wasn't too badly priced given the holiday. Emily loves the animals at the Natural History museum even though they don't move. (She provides her own soundtrack.) I think it makes a nice complement to the zoo because she can get so close to the animals at Natural History. I find it a bit creepy the way they have the animals grouped -- walrus, bats, and armadillos side-by-side but by and large the exhibits are very well done. She asked me to take a picture of this hammerhead shark in a jar.

After a visit to the ocean, mammals, and dinosaurs, we decided to head next door to the recently renovated American History museum for lunch and a quick visit. The last time we went to Natural History, we ate at the newly renovated Atrium Cafe. The food was good, but the prices were exhorbitant. American History's cafe was no different. We had barbecue that rivaled a "real" restaurant, but lunch for three at more than thirty dollars was a bit pricey considering Emily had a side dish and a small milk. Since the museums are free, perhaps admission for three at two museums plus lunch all for thirty dollars isn't so bad. It was well-worth seeing Emily get excited about the exhibits. We only had time for two exhibits at American History -- Invention at Play and the Hall of Transportation. The invention area looked like a great place for elementary school aged children to explore with a lot of hands on exhibits. The Hall of Transportation has been recently renovated into a room that flows from horse-drawn trailors and early trains to motorcycles and minivans. There's even a Chicago El train that visitors can climb aboard. Next time we'll have to start at American History so that we have time to see more before naptime.

Make-ahead Monday

This week's make-ahead Monday was made-ahead on Monday for Tuesday because of the Presidents' Day holiday. I made six miniature meatloaves using three different recipes in no time at all. I tried to involve Emily as best as I could, letting her count, pour, and stir. We made the Joy of Cooking traditional meatloaf, their Italian meatloaf variant, and the Dinner Doctor Italian-style mini loaves. I like to make my meatloaf in mini loaf pans for faster cooking and more manageable leftovers. For dinner, we cooked one of the Joy of Cooking loaves and one of the Dinner Doctor loaves, had three servings left over for tomorrow, and froze the other four mini-loaves.

Joy of Cooking Meatloaf
24 oz. ground meat (I used half beef, half pork)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2/3 cup fresh parsely (I use the food processor to mince the onion and parsely)
1 cup breadcrumbs
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp thyme
2/3 cup ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

For Italian style add to the above,
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated parmesan
3 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp oregano

combine ingredients, do not overmix
bake mini loaf 45 minutes at 350 degrees

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Funny Valentine

Our family Valentine adventure started with chocolates at 8 am. (Andy and I both got each other Godiva truffles this year -- further proof that great minds think alike.) We then headed for McDonald's for breakfast on our way to the Metro. Our quick train ride down town was arguably Emily's favorite part of the day. Our destination? Disney on Ice. It was a perfect storm of sorts for Andy -- ice skating meets dance numbers meets cheesy script meets hordes of other people's children. He was a trooper, though, and Emily had a blast. We hadn't really taken her to a show before except for the short ones in Disney theme parks. She was well-behaved, getting restless only toward the end when Mickey Mouse wasn't coming out fast enough for her liking.

After the show, we headed to Nando's peri-peri chicken for lunch. Andy and I last ate there in London while I was pregnant with Emily. I had seen Nando's in three countries but there were none in the States at that point. Now there is one in Washington, DC. We had fond memories of their spicey chicken and very tasty spiced nuts. It did not disappoint. I dare say, though, I liked Emily's meal better than my own. Her barbecue chicken wings were sweet and smokey, her corn on the cob had just the right char. After lunch, it was back to the metro and home for a much-needed nap.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Literacy Thursday, Bunny Kisses

This week's Literacy Thursday pick is perfect for the littlest Valentine.
In the tradition of touch-and-feel books with Pat the Bunny, Bunny Kisses is an interactive board book with something to feel on each page and a button that makes kissing noises. It is a simple, sweet story about the bunny and his friends -- he plays hide-and-seek, tucks puppies into bed, pets the cat, and gives kisses to everyone, especially the reader.

Toddler Time

This week has been hard for me. I've had to compromise more than I am comfortable with because I was simply overbooked. I'm not good at saying, "no" even to myself and especially when it comes to doing all I can do for Emily while also working full-time. So, this week I skipped my monthly "book" club on Monday, didn't pick up Emily's Valentine photos as scheduled on Tuesday, and ordered take-out for dinner on Monday and Wednesday. I DID pick up a prescription on Monday night, bake cookies on Tuesday night, decorate cookies with Emily's class and make a sausage souffle for teachers on Wednesday. Something's got to give right?

So, today was a teacher work day, and Emily and I were home all day. Maybe because I was exhausted from the beginning of the week or maybe because I just hadn't thought too much about what we'd do today, we spent the day on Toddler Time instead of rushing frantically through the day. We slept in until nearly 9 (a full 3 hours extra) and then headed out for a breakfast date at Chick-fil-a (aka "the chicken place"). Emily loves their "tiny tator tots" and had a blast talking (albeit a bit loudly) about all the cows ("MOOOOOO") on the plastic placemat they gave her. We sauntered down the mall toward JC Penney to pick up the pictures I had neglected to retrieve on Tuesday. The mall wasn't quite open yet, so there was no reason to rush. I think it was the first time in a long time that I just let Emily walk at her own pace, pointing out things in shop windows and eyeing the dragon decorations up around the mall for the Chinese New Year. We wandered in a few childrens' shops to browse the sales racks. Emily said she didn't need a sweater because she has one already; I bought it anyway as it's for next year. We mosyed out to the car and cut her pictures apart so that we could put them in Valentine cards she made for grandparents. Her cards turned out really cute, I think -- I just had her stamp red hearts on some plain white cards and I wrote on them when she was done. They took on a modern flair with her wild stamping technique. Finally, we headed out to the post office to buy heart stamps and post her Valentines. She had a blast standing on the counter and putting the cards in the mail slot one-by-one. I don't think the lunch hour post office customers were so amused, but I was so relaxed from a morning on Toddler Time that I didn't care.
Sausage Souffle
1 lb bulk sausage
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
6 slices crustless bread, I used 4 slices with crusts, cubed
1 tsp salt
dash of oregano
1 tsp dry mustard
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
Brown sausage and drain well.
Combine other ingredients, add cheese, and sausage
Pour into casserole. The recipe calls for a 9x9, but I used a 8.5x11.2.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Best when refrigerated overnight before baking.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Free play

A birthday double-header spelled some much-needed mommie time for me this weekend. I took Emily to Lottie's party on Saturday, complete with rock-star-like Ms. Nancy, the school music teacher, singing tunes like "Pop, Pop, Pop, the Bubbles" and "Move Those Sticks." The kids had a blast sticking stickers, eating pizza, and "free play." It also meant that since I took Emily to Saturday's party, Andy took her to Sunday's party at the Little Gym and I got FREE PLAY!

So, I hit three discount stores, the ones with department store overstocks and odd gourmet candies, hoping to find a simple pair of black heels and some work clothes. I made it through two of them before getting sucked into the children's department. What is it about kids clothes that makes them irresistible? Emily scored two pair of shoes and an Easter dress out of my shopping trip. I treated myself to lunch and picked up a few things for my Valentine. Finally, I stopped in Nordstrom on the off-chance I could find some shoes to buy with a gift card from Christmas. Oh, the good life. It's not very often that I shop at a place with the calibre of service one finds at Nordstrom. Thelma, the most wonderful shoe sales lady ever, found not one, but three pairs of black heels for me. (I only bought one, and it was with a gift card, but it sure was fun!)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Literacy Thursday, More Parts

This week's book is one that I found hilarious but which I should have previewed before reading to Emily. The little boy in More Parts by Tedd Arnold is worried by common expressions he hears from grown-ups such as "broke your heart," "jump out of your skin," and "give him a hand." The boy in the story is afraid that he might run out of parts.
Since Emily really doesn't understand these expressions, she might have been more frightened than amused by the story (though she didn't say much either way.) The vivid story and illustrations are quite clever and the gross factor is likely to be appealing especially to little boys.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Make-ahead Monday

Ok, so tonight's dinner couldn't have been much easier. We had chili dogs! As with many dishes we cook around here, this one is our take on a favorite mom and pop restaurant. In this case, the chili dog reminds us of Ben's Chili Bowl, a DC landmark that I've not personally visited but whose food I have eaten at Nationals games (ok, so it was only one game, but the chili dog made that much of an impression). Anyway, I made the chili ahead on Saturday when we ate it in a bowl with cornbread and cheddar cheese. Tonight, all I had to do was heat up the leftovers, pile a top hot dogs grilled on a grill pan, and sprinkle with cheese. It's not one of my healthiest meals, but it sure was good. Emily ate a dog and a half, a pile of cheese, and two cups of applesauce.