Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miracle babies

Faith, hope, and love, the greatest among these is love. Tonight I am reminded of a dear friend Susan's children and their family's work with the March of Dimes on behalf of babies everywhere. Now 6-years old, when Jake and Abby were born 92 days early they had only a 50-50 chance of survival. Jake weighed 1 lb. 15 oz., and Abby weighed 1 lb. 13 oz. That’s about the size of a beanie baby bear…or as one of their doctors put it, a good sized cheeseburger. They experienced a range of difficulties at birth, not the least of which was breathing on their own. Jake had three surgeries before ever leaving the hospital. Both kids had RSV, a life threatening and permanently damaging respiratory virus. Both of them also had severe brain hemorrhaging, causing permanent brain damage.

Abby has substantial hearing loss, and Jake has mild cerebral palsy as a result of the damage. But that certainly doesn’t stop them from doing anything! In fact, to know Jake and Abby, you would have NO IDEA that they were born so early. They are truly miracle babies.

No one is working harder than the March of Dimes to understand the causes of prematurity and birth defects. That's why Jake and Abby's family and friends are participating in the March for Babies as a Family Team. Family Teams are made up of friends and family who want to honor babies – babies born prematurely or with a birth defect, babies who didn’t survive, or healthy, full-term babies. Premature birth touches half a million babies and their families every year. Babies born too soon are more likely to die or have disabilities. Birth defects pose another serious threat – taking the lives of many babies and cause lifelong disabilities for thousands more. So it’s important for us to help the March of Dimes help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies.

To find out more, visit or Susan's site at to join TEAM FONTANA or make a donation to support them. Walk for a special child in your life – a healthy baby, a premature baby, or a sick one. Walk for all babies.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Literacy Thursday, Itsy Bitsy Spider

I've finally gotten around to participating in Literacy Thursday by blogging about one of our favorite children's books. I'm always looking for creative things to read that are both educational and entertaining.

This modern twist on the classic, Itsy Bitsy Spider by Keith Chapman, brings together fun illustrations, rhyming, and alliteration into a short book that preschoolers love. The spider, "spinning silver silk webs high up in a barn," bounces from one farm animal to another and finally in the safety of his mom's web. This book is one of Emily's favorites -- I think the combination of animals, sounds, and a fun ending she can anticipate make it especially fun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Make-ahead Mondays

In hopes of perpetuating this trend I've developed of making my Monday supper on Sunday night, I'm instituting "Make-ahead Mondays." Tonight's dish was a Chicago-style pizza.

Chicago-style pizza (the easy way)

refrigerated pizza crust--I like the fresh kind and would make my own in the bread machine if I could keep yeast "alive"
sliced mozzerella
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, mild
can of crushed tomatoes
oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, garlic powder to taste
10" round cake pan.

Sunday night:
Spray cake pan, spread pizza dough across the bottom
lay cheese slices on dough
spread raw (yes, raw) sausage on the cheese, leaving about an inch of crust sticking out sides
cover with plastic wrap along the surface of the sausage and refrigerate

Monday night:
remove pizza from refrigerator to bring closer to room temperature
preheat oven to 425
spread crushed tomatoes, seasoned to taste, across sausage
bake 35-45 minutes until browned and bubbly.

Andy and I (wanna-be-foodies) enjoy eating our way through travels and trying to replicate local specialties when we get home. We rarely succeed completely, which keeps traveling interesting, but our copies are close enough to bring back fond memories of our travels. Tonight, we could smell Lou Malnati's without leaving home.

I'm on wheels!

I have no idea what she meant, but Emily was yelling, "I'm on wheels!" over and over again as she raced through the house in only her pull-up on Sunday night. She was in a particularly fiesty mood. She didn't want to do anything that might please me: eat dinner, sit on the potty, put on pajamas, move her toys back to the playroom, etc. We finally had to tell her that she was missing her favorite shows with all of her shenanigans--the longer it continued, the more TV time ticked away (it goes pretty quickly when you only see a half hour a day). I think the message finally sunk in when she was down to a single episode of Caillou. She was better tonight, but we've got to do something before we end up with a kid with an exaggerated sense of entitlement.

I've read that taking things away is not effective for toddlers -- the key is earning privileges rather than losing them. So, I'm thinking I've got to start some kind of reward chart. This led me to, which has a pretty cool downloadable chore chart. I'm debating whether to wrap potty training into the chart too or whether that'd just be too much for Emily to understand. Andy and I might start charts for ourselves too with stickers for working out, picking up, and washing dishes. I've been looking for some local art for my walls lately, maybe this is just the ticket!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

That's why they call it a long weekend

Four long days at home together, and we emerge victorious. (At least I hope we'll emerge, since we now all have colds.) I'm really not complaining about having four days to spend with my family, I'm just not sure I've got the stamina to make it fun for everyone.

Day 1, we headed to My Gym for Emily's weekly class. She had a blast sliding into the ball pit and jumping on the trampoline. Andy and I had a date of sorts in the afternoon and enjoyed lunch at Coastal Flats and a meal-prep session at Let's Dish. I feel slightly guilty about paying someone else to do the shopping and cut up the vegetables for me, but having quick, tasty meals on-hand is well-worth it. I like being able to alter the recipes--a little more cheese, a little less onion--unlike grocery-store prepared foods.

Day 2, we hosted a pizza-making playdate (complete with tickle-torture pictured here). The girls couldn't have cared less about eating the pizzas they created, but we had fun. Emily flips into "show-off mode" any time a friend comes by. The nice side effect to this is that she plays with toys she's ignored for months.

Day 3, we headed out for a special breakfast and then back to My Gym for a make-up class. Since we had been there a few days before, the class was the same more-or-less. Emily seemed to LOVE that, presumably because she could predict what was going to happen next. She has gotten really brazen lately, and was even telling the coaches what steps they had missed in the routine when they did things a little differently than the coaches from two days before. Everyone seemed to take it all in stride. That evening, I had a play date of my own and met a friend at the ice rink. It had been four years and a baby since I had been to the rink, eight years since I had skated nearly every day. It felt great to get back on the ice and discover that I could still do a spin or two (barely).

Day 4, just when we thought we had this stay-at-home thing under control, Emily managed to go through the house like a tornado, undoing all the cleaning we had done before the Day 2 playdate. And she talked. Non-stop. All day. She tends to provide color commentary for everything she does and repeats herself constantly: "Me-may changing Bertha, Bertha stinky, Me-may get diaper for Bertha, Me-may making lunch for babies, Me-may make lunch, Me-may changing Bertha . . . " Most of the time it is cute to see what is going through her head. Today it was simply too much. Maybe because we were trying to watch the inauguration coverage, maybe because we were feeling slightly trapped because of said inauguration's road closures, maybe because we were all a bit under the weather. I feel slightly guilty admitting that I'm ready for a quiet day at the office.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gearing up for four days on

I vaguely remember the days when a four-day weekend meant four days off work, days to do what I wanted without being bothered by tasking from others. During this BC (before child) era, I also left work each day in the early evening and didn't go back until the morning. I remember looking forward to "my" time. I now joke with single co-workers when I leave in the evening that I'm heading off to my other job -- one that's paid in "sugars" and "big hugs." (In any market, an investment with a much higher yield.)

I must confess, though, I look toward this long weekend with a bit of trepidation. Four whole days in a row with a toddler, and it's COLD outside. I think part of the problem is that this toddler is accustomed to a complex, structured day -- yoga on Mondays, music on Wednesdays, nap routines, puppet shows, breakfast/lunch/snack carefully timed, play time, craft time, reading time, potty time. I can't compete with that. I simply can't bear the thought of staying home for four whole days. I feel like I should have a lesson plan -- or at least a stockpile of craft supplies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A case of the Mondays

We seem to always have a hard time settling into the week around here. I think everyone is ready to head back to work and school on Monday morning, but we're all exhausted by the end of the day. As long as I can remember, Emily has been grumpier than usual on Monday evenings, eats early, and goes to bed early and easily. It has always been tricky to come home and make dinner before she's melted down. So, as part of my new year's meal plan, I've decided to head off part of the Monday evening madness by making Monday night supper while Sunday's is cooking. This week, Andy had a tasty French chicken roasting in the oven while I had chili cooking on the stove. Chili tonight, leftovers in the freezer, and one serving left for lunch tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Even the dog knows Christmas is over

I like to take my Christmas tree down on around the 6th of January. I like to leave it up until Epiphany, and this year I had hoped also to throw a party while the house was still "dressed." Anyway, the 6th came and went, party invitations never were sent, and Bailey, the dog, thought she'd take things into her own paws.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Programming children

I think one of the most fun things about being a parent has to be revisiting one's own childhood favorites. I think I'd feel a little self-conscious watching Cinderella without a child to share it with; although, Andy and I did see Hercules in the theatre on a date as graduate students, and I embarrased him further by ordering the kid's snack pack. In any case, I'm rediscovering joys of legos, puzzles, crayons, and playgrounds. I'm also planning extracurricular activities for my 2-year old as if she needs a head start to get a college athletic scholarship! I realize I'm not the only one -- which I think is why there's even more social pressure to sign-'er-up early-- but I wonder where this trend is leading us. I think part of me realizes that my time as curriculum planner is limited. If I don't get her enrolled in a sport soon, she might never want to play.

What have we been up to? We took swimming at 9 months and 18 months. She loved it at 9 months and hated it at 18. I think that was a control issue. Imagine not being able to swim, wanting independence, and finding yourself in water twice your height. I wouldn't have liked it either I guess. I refuse to drive out to one of the fancy swim schools or wait in line at 5 am for a 2-year old, so we'll try that one again later. (I think it is bordering on criminal to not try to teach a child to swim, so she'll be back in the water soon enough.)

For the past few months, she's been in a wonderful program at My Gym in Chantilly. It's a bit chaotic sometimes, but she absolutely has a blast climbing, swinging, singing, dancing, and jumping. Some weeks she literally climbs the walls, and she's finally starting to participate in circle time activities.

So, for the spring we're on to soccer. She kicked so much in the womb that we almost named her "Mia." We found a program that starts kids at 18 months. I haven't done any research on it, but the website says Lil' Kickers is a "nationally renowned" child-development program so it must be good. Right? We did a trial class last weekend and Emily had a lot of fun chasing the ball from one goal to another and "planting" cones around the field and tapping them with her foot. I'm not going to run out and buy cleats or stop contributing to her college fund, but one never knows where these things might lead.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Oh to be resolute

I admit, I can never get too charged up about New Year's. Andy often reminds me that birthdays ending in zero are only important because we have ten fingers; I guess I have a similar feeling about New Year's. Maybe I'm just saying I'm not that charged up about New Year's because I can't seem to stay awake until midnight anymore -- much less awake in heels with strangers. So, we spent a quiet, but festive, evening with friends -- home by 8 so Emily could hit the nebulizer -- and an even more quiet day home on New Year's day, with a morning field trip to Ikea and McDonald's. No football this year (that's Monday). No black-eyed peas (I forgot to replace the ones the mouse got into). My cook more, eat out less pre-resolution is already a flop. My perpetual lose-ten-pounds resolution seems to work only while breastfeeding. So, I'm forgoing a resolution this year -- lest I be disappointed in my lack of resolve -- but I would like to work harder at work, play harder at home, and make more time for the hobbies I used to enjoy.