Friday, November 30, 2007

Philanthropy

In a past post, I lamented my choices to support breast cancer research and those who are or who have struggled with this disease without giving money to the Komen Foundation. I recently discovered, through a blog I love, a link to a list of breast cancer organizations that do not provide grants or support for abortions or stem cell research.

I thought I'd share in time for a holiday donation.

Answer: Four

Question: How many loads of laundry did I have to do tonight to clean up after my daughter got sick?

A Benefit for My Cousin & His Family

My cousin was injured in a car accident on November 13th. He is expected to recover, but is suffering from severe brain trauma and will not be able to work for months to come. His is married with three young children, and is their only financial support. My extended family is organizing a benefit to help them through the next few months.

If you will be in central Illinois on December 16th and would like to attend the benefit, please let me know and I'll email you the details. If you cannot attend, but would like to make a donation (which can be mailed directly to an account in their name at their local bank), purchase raffle tickets or 50/50 drawing tickets, let me know and I'll forward you the information. (I'd post it here, but is a no-name blog, after all.) While you cannot take a tax deduction on any donation, please be assured that 100% of the donations are benefiting this young family.

They feel truly blessed my cousin is alive and recovering and by the generosity they've already experienced in the past few weeks. Please pray for them, and consider a gift to them or one of your own local charities during this holiday season.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Vocabulary and Rice

You can improve your vocabulary and help feed the hungry at the same time. It's likely you could feed more people by just donating some money, but then you might not be able to use words like imbroglio.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In Search of the Perfect Shirt

These are her brother's shirts, one on top of the other, at her request. Insistence, really.



Before He Thought It Was Fun

Here's a little video from January 28, 2004, when First Son was 13 months old (like our daughter now). I should preface this with a few facts:

1. First Son was laughing at the falling snowballs just before this film.
2. He was laughing a few moments after we stopped filming.

Our First Snow of the Winter

It didn't stick around for long, but it was great snow for packing and making footprints. We even made a little snowman. What more could you want from a Kansas snowfall in November?






Thursday, November 22, 2007

Family and Friends on Thanksgiving

We had a nice quiet holiday with Kansas Dad's family. It was wonderful to spend the afternoon with them and especially not to have to clean our house! Kansas Dad made his special holiday dressing (Apple Herb Dressing, yum!), but his parents (mostly Paw Paw) did the rest of the cooking. In what appears to be an annual tradition, we took a few family photos.



There was a picture with the uncle and aunt, but we didn't get a good version. In fact, everyone looks wonderful except First Son, who looks seriously possessed. I was going to post it here, but decided it was a little too disturbing for my taste. Hopefully someone else's camera has a good one of everyone.

Some friends joined us for Thanksgiving dinner, Ms. J and Mr. M, before they move in a few days. We'll miss them!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

They Got Me

I mentioned to my sister seeing a My Little Pony set that had my favorite childhood pony. (I was always a Pony girl; never Barbie.) She immediately called my mom because she knew Gram had already purchased the set for First Daughter. We received it today and I coaxed her into playing with them. She seems to like them well enough, but she is a bit on the young side. At least she could show off her horse sign over and over again.

A Year Ago

Last year, the weekend of Thanksgiving, I weaned First Daughter from sleeping in her car seat in the co-sleeper. (It worked great for us just after birth, but I knew I needed to get her out before she started wiggling too much.) She was so tiny that I used to put her to bed and then put a rolled up blanket next to her. I can hardly remember her so small, watching her run erratically around the house now, chasing her big brother and squealing in delight.

She managed the transition very well, much better than she slept last night, in fact. We tried a new medicine to address allergies, which the doctor thought was contributing to throwing up at meals (possibly further antagonized by whole milk). I think this medicine kept her awake all night. It was like insomnia. She wanted to sleep, but could only doze while we held her. She woke and cried as soon as she was put down. Kansas Dad finally managed to snuggle her in bed until she'd sleep fitfully, but he didn't sleep very well. We're switching the medicine to mornings and will keep our fingers crossed for a better night tonight. At least she hasn't thrown up in over 24 hours.

Kansas Transitions

Two days ago it was 80 degrees.

Now there are snow flakes in the air.

Do you want to come visit us more or less, knowing how quickly Kansas can change?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Weekend with Grammy

Kansas Dad and I left the kids for the first time since First Son was born for a whole weekend with Grammy. We flew to Williamsburg for a wedding and had a wonderful time connecting with old friends, though I missed the little ones the whole time we were gone. Perhaps it's because I work full-time, but I don't really have any desire to be away from the kids for more than a few hours, dinner or a movie every once in a while. It was good, though, to have a less stressful trip and the little ones seem to be fine. (Grammy deserves a vacation, so we're all especially thankful it's a short holiday week.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I Agree, Daughter, I Agree

First Son has recently become enamored (again) with a certain video featuring a small red monster. It's nice to see First Daughter a bit intrigued with the TV (horrible, I know, but it is useful to have a reliable distraction on occasion; though I am dismayed at the thought that "Elmo" may soon be her first word), but she always comes racing to one of us grown folks when Mr. Noodle or his brother, Mr. Noodle, appears on screen.

I'm with you, little one. They are scary.

A Reminder on Safety

Always buckle your kids into safety seats, no matter how slowly or how far you intend to go.

My mom, sister-in-law, and all my nieces and nephew were riding just a few miles to my aunt's house last weekend when they were hit by another car. My sister-in-law got a pretty big bump, but all the kids were perfectly fine, thanks in no small part to their car seats. My oldest niece (who will be five in a week) was frustrated when people kept trying to talk to her, making sure all the girls were alert.

My youngest niece finally said, "I don't want to talk about it anymore because it scares me." Yes indeed, scary.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Success at the Y

Daughter was fine after my workout. Son didn't even want to leave. If it keeps going this well, I'm going to start showering before picking them up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Worn Out

We drove about five minutes home from the grocery store, and I turn around to see this


and this


at 6:30 pm.

Candles

At first, First Son wasn't going to let us put a candle on Paw Paw's birthday cake. Then he insisted. He wasn't too keen on it, especially when it sparked back to life after Paw Paw blew it out. I doubt he'll give us another shot at his birthday next month. No candles again.

A Common Site Recently


We think she's teething.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Bit In Between


We're still using the gdiapers, and still loving them. For those that don't know, they're a third option between disposables and cloth. The cover and liner are washable. We use flushable inserts. They work better than the disposables overnight (double-layered) and we love that we compost the wet ones. (The dirty ones go down the toilet.) They recently redesigned them and I love the wider stretchier waist. I also love I can have them autoshipped on a regular basis. We never have to run out for diapers! (They are also carried at our local Whole Foods, so we can get them on the run if we run out.)

First Daughter likes them, too. Today she tried to snap a liner into the cover. I wonder if that means I could count on her to handle the diapering if we have another baby in a few years.

Outdoors Fun

It was a near perfect day for the kids. There was much playing in the leaves, getting wet from the hose and then playing in the sandbox. I had fun, too, even as I watched the laundry pile up.


Cheering on the Team

We may live in Kansas, but my family bleed orange and blue. We were decked out in our finery for the big game with Ohio State today - and it was an amazing victory!




Our condolences to our good friend in Boston who might just love Ohio as much as Papa* loves the Illini.

* I know, I said this was a no-name blog and I've posted a video with a name in it. I'm confident you couldn't find him unless you know him.

Coincidence?

In the past few days, I've caught First Daughter throwing away bits of Kleenex and the plastic bag from our newspaper.

We can't find the remote control for the DVD player.

[Update (11/12/07): I've found the remote, but we're still missing a big Winne-the-Pooh storybook. Think she got that past us and into the trash?]

Friday, November 9, 2007

Most Wonderful Time

I've done it. I've started listening to Christmas music. It's not as much of a stretch as you might think since First Son insists on Christmas music and videos throughout the year. Kansas Dad firmly believes Christmas music belongs after Thanksgiving, but I love it and he can't stop me from playing it on my computer as I work.

As long as I'm wearing headphones.

Which I always do.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Catalogs and Contentment


I found a little post about this new service on a friend's blog and signed up right away, but just for a few catalogs, the ones I didn't like. I went back yesterday, though, and started putting them all in. The benefits to the environment are great, but there are benefits to our emotional well-being, too.

Catalogs are designed to make us want something, and many of them do it very well. At the very least, catalogs can encourage us to spend a little bit more than we should on things we don't need. They can also lead us dangerously away from thanksgiving for and contentment with what we do have, which is usually quite a lot. I'm sure I would love some of those glittery butterflies to hang above Daughter's crib, but I'm perfectly happy with our home as it is (except for the pictures Kansas Dad still hasn't had a chance to hang*, but that's not really on point). I started thinking, perhaps it's better if I didn't have enticing pictures landing in my mail box every day of all the things we don't have.

So, I'm canceling them all. I know the stores I like. If I'm in the market, I can always go online and find whatever I need.

* No, I do not use a hammer and nails on our walls. I also don't kill bugs or spiders, unless absolutely necessary. (I even once called Kansas Dad about a spider that jumped at me when I tried to corner it. It was gone before he got home, of course.) Just a few of the many ways we fulfill gender stereotypes in our home.

Is Preschool for Everyone?

Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle Over Early Education by Bruce Fuller

Caveat #1. I did not finish this book. As long as he didn't contradict everything in the rest of the book, though, I think I got the gist of his arguments.

Caveat #2. Son is in preschool two days a week.

Dr. Fuller provides a glimpse into two locations that have instituted universal preschool (Los Angeles and Oklahoma) and presents ample data to guide the reader in the beginning of an analysis on the benefits, and potential pitfalls, of preschool. It seems he believes, and I agree with him, that the push for universal preschool is unlikely to be able to meet the needs of children and families. The main problem is that social science is such a maze of interacting causes and effects, there's no way to tell what kinds of interventions or curricula are beneficial for what kinds of children. In addition, it's not clear if the investment in universal preschool would be worth the money. That's all taxpayer money that could be going toward programs that have more evidence of positive impact.

I found this book to be thoughtful and well-supported. (I love it when authors actually use endnotes to document the source of all their statistics.) It touched on lots of issues Kansas Dad and I have been considering recently:

1. Taxpayer money being devoted to unproven methods. I'm distressed when states (yes, Kansas included) talk about investing vast sums of money in infant programs intended to take advantage of new research showing the proliferation of neurons in the first months or year. There is no evidence that any specific program would make any difference, or that any program is even necessary at all. They may even be detrimental. More research, yes, but let's devote most of our resources to proven areas until we know more what the impact would be.

2. Governments deciding what and how our children should learn. In particular, I worry that any state mandated curriculum should be imposed at the preschool level. It's a time for play and exploration. Even when programs are supposed to be developmentally appropriate, there's a push from school districts (especially if they are running the preschools) to teach reading and math skills in preschool in the hopes of raising test scores in elementary schools, despite nearly all the evidence that shows such direct skilling does not provide any long term benefits and may cause harm by introducing greater levels of stress on three and four year olds.

3. Childcare versus preschool. Now let's say a family has decided preschool is not the best option for their children, but both parents work. They need a safe and loving place for their kids during the day and begin a search. No options. In many states, all licensed providers are preschools for three and four year olds. You can't find a less structured environment. By requiring all licensed care-givers in a state (through universal preschool legislation) to follow a particular set of rules, state governments are eliminating choices for parents.

There's tons more data in the book about the benefits that some groups of young children receive through high-quality preschools, especially those that include home visits and work with the families as a whole. There are also examples of groups of young children that don't fare as well (like the white middle-class children who often suffer from emotional setbacks when in care more than 14 hours a week). He spends quite a bit of time exploring whether universal preschool can provide a respectful environment for other cultures. You can check out the book or the research itself if you're interested.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Family Day at the Gym, a Partial Success

Today Kansas Dad and I dropped the kids off at the child care area of the gym for the first time. We thought Son would really enjoy it since they have a big slide and climbing area (think McDonald's play zone without the coating of grease). Daughter we knew might be a problem, but she's been doing so well at day care we decided to take a shot. It's just too hard to find time for two people to exercise at different times. Plus, the child care area is newly renovated and actually very cool. Most of the other kids in there are obviously having a good time.

I was able to get in about 20 minutes before the inevitable page came. Daughter had been crying most of the time and even Son had gotten upset when he realized we weren't in the area with him. ("You lost me, " he said. "You lost me.') So I entertained them on the little outdoors playground in the crisp autumn air (crisp, not chilly, because if it had been chilly I would have to feel guilty about letting them run around without coats).

The child care folks said it just takes time and we should bring them three times a week at least until they get used to it. So back we'll go on Friday, and hopefully they'll make it at least 20 minutes. I also have to figure out a way to keep them entertained without having too much fun after I get them out, though, or they'll never want to stay in.

My advice to others: don't wait to start using the child care. They accept babies starting at six weeks, before they get upset at being away from parents for a little while. I thought I could save us $17 a month (2 or more kids for 2 hours a day for unlimited days in the month, which is really a good deal) by staggering our schedule or working out at home, but it's so difficult to keep that up I ended up just skipping the workout more often than not. Bad because I could use that workout and bad because then the monthly family membership fee is just going to waste.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

We Hate Safe Mode

Our computer has flipped out again. It just logs you out as quickly as you log on. We have been considering a laptop anyway, but this may push the purchase earlier. Plus, now we're thinking seriously about switching back to a Mac.

Any comments? Thoughts?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Flu Shots, Two Thirds Done

Today I took the kids for "a little ride" to the doctor's office. They each got a flu shot. (Daughter has to return in a month for the booster, one third to go.) Son did not cooperate very well. I didn't really expect him to behave any differently. What surprised me was the nurse. She seemed to just give up after a few tries and said she couldn't give him the shot because she needed three measurements (weight, temperature, etc.) in order for the insurance to pay for it.

First of all, that's ridiculous. Last year, a nurse at a desk in the lobby gave him a shot barely looking at him and insurance didn't have a problem with it. If you have an office policy, that's fine, but don't blame it on the insurance.

Secondly, Son wasn't being cooperative, but he's still only three (a big three, but still). I picked him up, plopped him down on the table and told her to take his temperature while I held him. He finally stood willingly enough on the scale (44 pounds, and didn't seem to want to get off). I held him again for a head measurement (as if the insurance company would care at all about that) and then held his arms for the shot (which he handled fairly well once she promised him a puzzle). Daughter cried a bit more after her shot and they were both grumpy this afternoon. (Son actually had a bit of a meltdown at bath time crying that his band-aid hurt. We skimped on the bath but he still limped around. The amount of limping is inversely related to the length of time since he last saw his band-aid, so I'm guessing it's more in his head than his leg.)

Anyway, I wasn't too impressed by the nurse. I suppose it's one of the consequences of choosing a family doctor over a pediatrician. She probably gives lots of shots to adults who sit willingly enough and do whatever she asks, the first time. We didn't care much for our last pediatrician, though, and I do like the doctor and PAs here, and I love the paintings of the Holy Family (a side benefit of the NFP only practice).

Sunday, November 4, 2007

This Is For Me, Right?

Sunday Concert Series #2

Son in the Leaves

I have some great pictures of Son in the leaves last year. In fact, I just checked the date and they're from a year and a week ago. I did order prints, probably around last Christmas. A few months ago they made it into an album and I ordered extras for a frame. A few weeks ago I put them in the frame and leaned it against the wall in the office...where it still stands. Maybe I should go ahead and replace them with some from today.


Daughter's First Autumn of Leaf Piles

Last year she was a little too young to enjoy the leaf piles. This year, they're a big hit. Though she's much more interested in feeling each individual leaf than jumping in. I suppose that'll grow on her.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

I am home after a week in a hotel. It was the first time I'd been away from Daughter for more than five hours. I survived the five days much better than I feared, as did they. In fact, it seems Daughter slept better this week than she has since she was just a few months old. Amazing. I'm trying to believe it didn't have to do with me leaving the house. While I was away, Kansas Dad added back dairy, and she's seemed to handle it fine. He did make sure she had plenty to drink before bedtime (she does love her water) and double layered her pajamas (a onesie underneath her footsie pajamas). I guess she was thirsty and cold.

Let's hope she continues to sleep well now that I'm home.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Dishes Are Still Dirty

Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwashing Soap (gel)

We've been trying out some new products that (hopefully) spew fewer chemicals into our home and our community. This one, though, did not get any of our dishes clean. We decided it wasn't doing anyone any good if we just had to wash them all by hand afterwards. Perhaps it would work better in a better dishwasher. Anyway, we don't hope to find anything as good as the old evil kind, but we've got some other options. We'll let you know if we find something worthwhile.

On a side note, Seventh Generation has a money-back guarantee. Perhaps I'll give it a try.