Monday, September 29, 2008

Hope on the Horizon

We took the kids to the park yesterday, and for some reason Sammy had it in his head that his daycare friends were going to be at the park, too. When I told him that they wouldn't be there, he said, "Well, maybe Nye will play with me instead."

And then, last night after we came home, Sammy said to Natalie, "Come on, Nye, let's go play in my room!"

Wow - could this be the beginning of a friendship?

(And an update - Sammy rarely hits, pushes, or otherwise bullies Natalie anymore! I can actually leave them alone in a room together for a couple of minutes without worrying about the consequences!)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Close Encounters of the Fungi Kind

Before having kids, I used to have a beautiful vegetable garden every summer. Each fall, I would can, freeze, and pressure cook vegetables until the pantry was full and I had lost half of my body weight in sweat from working in the steamy kitchen. But no more. Turns out, vegetables really don't do well when surrounded by weeds three times as high as they are. Who knew?

Luckily for me, raspberries have no such requirements. In fact, if this year's crop is any indication, they seem to thrive on neglect. I've been picking raspberries every other day, and ending up with approximately 4 cups of berries with each picking. In the coming days, I'll post some of the recipes that I've been experimenting with in my attempts to use up all these berries.
Last night, I made a fresh berry tiramisu. It turned out to be a lot of work, especially since I had two whiny children at my feet and in my hair (and it turns out, they can be both places simultaneously). At one point, I was starting to lose my temper, so I decided to step outside to get some fresh air and get away from it all for a minute. The problem is, "it all" followed me outside. Natalie wouldn't let me put her down, so she came out with me by default. And Sammy came running behind me, in his sock feet, saying, "Mommy, I want to come with! Don't leave me!" So instead of going for a short walk, like I had intended, I sat down in the grass and put my head in my hands for a brief meditation while the kids milled around.

It wasn't long before I heard Sammy say, "Natalie, don't eat that! Mom, Natalie's eating something!" Thinking she was eating a blade of grass, or a weed, I didn't react at first. When he repeated it, I finally looked up to see Natalie spitting something out, and Sammy pointing at the humongous mushroom she had just sampled.

Um. It seems that every story I've heard about amateur mushroom hunters hasn't turned out well. And even though it didn't look like she had actually swallowed any of it, I had no idea how much of that particular mushroom it would take to cause ill effects. So, I gathered the kids up and ran in the house to make my first call to Poison Control.

The man on the other end of the line was very helpful. He had me describe the mushroom, and reassured me that it didn't sound like it was an overly toxic mushroom, but to be safe, he wanted me to take a picture and email it to him. I did that, and a few minutes later, he called me back to say that the worst she would probably experience was stomach upset. And since I thought she hadn't swallowed much, that odds were she wouldn't have any symptoms whatsoever but if she did start showing symptoms, to call him back right away.

She ate supper shortly after that, and went to sleep. Of course, I checked on her all night long but she was totally fine. So, all's well that ends well.

Edited to add: The Poison Control called back this morning to follow up. I'm very impressed at their helpfulness! Although I hope I won't have to do any more "business" with them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Random Musings

Natalie only has four words in her vocabulary right now, plus about a half-dozen animal sounds. Do animal sounds count as words? They're a lot harder to work into casual conversation - "That's a moo point. It's like a cow's opinion. It doesn't matter."

But despite her lack of words, she can hold entire conversations with just the sound "eh". "Eh, eh eh eh eh EH!"means, "I was playing with that toy, Sam! Give it back RIGHT NOW!" And "Eh eh EH eh eh," (accompanied by a pointing finger) means, "I'd like a snack. Preferably those animal crackers I see on the counter right there."

On an unrelated topic, hooray for the new TV season!* Last night, I eagerly scrolled through my DVR listings to find Monday night's new episode of Two and a Half Men. Hmm. That's strange, it wasn't there. Come to find out, someone deleted the program off the list of timers (Ron later fessed up). No worries, though. I was able to hop online and find the full episode and watch it anyway.

That got me thinking about all the things my kids are going to take for granted. They'll never know a time before being able to pause and rewind live TV, skip through commercials, and record TV programs with a couple clicks of a remote. They'll never remember what it was like before internet and the ability to instantly download TV shows, movies, and radio programs from around the world. They'll never know what life was like before iPods, cell phones, or text messaging.

Just like the things that I've grown up with, and taken for granted. Things that didn't exist a generation or two ago - like televisions and microwave ovens. Doesn't it make you wonder what life will be like for our grandchildren?

*Did anyone else watch Worst Week? The last thing I need is another television show on my DVR, but the first episode was freaking hilarious. I'm a little skeptical that they'll be able to keep up that level of humor, but I'll definitely be watching that one again.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The PROTECT Our Children Act

I happened to catch an episode of Oprah last week about online child predators. It was absolutely horrifying, and I had to skip through most of the first fifteen minutes because I was getting sick to my stomach.

However, I did watch enough of the show to gather that only 2% of all leads are followed up on due to lack of resources. Law enforcement is grossly underfunded in this area.

There's currently a bill before the Senate - Bill 1738, the PROTECT Our Children Act - that would provide a lot more money and resources to law enforcement. I believe this is up for vote this Friday, September 26th.

Oprah's website makes it easy to contact your senators to show your support of this bill. She not only has the link to find contact information, but also a sample letter that you can modify as you see fit. Here's the exact link:

It seems like such a small thing to do, but there's strength in numbers. Let's email our senators and then pray that this bill passes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning About Bees

Colony collapse disorder has been in the news a lot lately. It’s scary stuff, especially since no one knows for sure what the cause is. I’ve heard of everything from a virus to cell phone radiation as being possible culprits.

Evidently, wasps are not struggling with the same problem. This seems to be a record year for wasps in our area. We took the kids to the zoo on Saturday, and were swarmed by wasps looking for a free meal while we were trying to eat our lunch. Amazingly, no one got stung. That day, anyway.

Thursday night was a different story. Ron drank some soda and left the empty can on the picnic table. An empty soda can is equally attractive to both wasps and young children, but I didn’t notice the can until the inevitable had already taken place. I heard Sammy’s screeches of pain and turned around to see him still clutching the can, so I guessed what had happened even before Sammy blubbered, “I got a bee stung”.

He wouldn’t let me touch it to try to scrape the stinger out, so all I could do was wash the area and apply an ice pack. His cheek turned bright red and swelled up, but after an hour he didn’t complain about it anymore. Friday morning, he crawled into our bed at 5:00 a.m., like he does every morning, and after a few seconds he obviously remembered what had happened. He sat upright in bed and said, surprised, “My bee stung not hurt anymore!”

Yesterday, he went into the garage to throw something in the garbage can. After about a minute, when he didn’t return, I yelled around the corner to ask what he was doing. “I throw something away,” he said. I waited another minute. Pretty soon, he came around the corner, still clutching the garbage. “There a bee on the garbage can,” he said. I went to help him and shooed away the “bee” – a housefly. It’s good that Sammy has a healthy respect for bees/wasps now, but I guess we should work on insect identification.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Dreaded One-Year Checkup

Natalie had her one-year well-baby checkup yesterday. Dread is not a strong enough word to describe how I felt about the upcoming appointment.

Let me explain why. Twenty months ago, Sammy had his one-year appointment, and I expected that the shots would be the worst part of it all. As usual, he cried when he got the shots but got over them quickly. Then...the blood draw. You see, at our pediatrician's office, they want to check lead levels and hemoglobin levels at twelve months old. So, they stuck Sammy's finger and he instantly started screaming. It took an eternity for them to squeeze out enough blood to fill the three little tubes full of blood, with Sammy getting more and more frantic with each passing second. In the parking lot afterwards, it took literally close to an hour to calm Sammy down enough to get him into his car seat. And that was with nursing, his usual cure-all.

Now, Natalie is a bit more skittish about new situations than Sammy was. So I was expecting at least twice the commotion. She cried at her shots, but got over them pretty quickly. We dawdled in the examination room after dressing her, letting Sammy take as long as he wanted to pick out a sticker from the doctor's sticker drawer, delaying the inevitable. I walked slowly down the hall with Natalie in tow, feeling like I was leading her like a lamb to the slaughter.

I sat down in the lab chair with Natalie on my lap and tried to steel myself. I felt her flinch when the nurse stuck her finger, tears. As the blood flowed into the tubes, Natalie watched with curiosity at that strange red stuff coming out of her finger. And when the nurse put a band-aid on her finger, Natalie scrutinized it and evidently found it pretty, since she proudly showed off her band-aid to everyone she came across on the way out of the doctor's office.

Well then. Ahem. To think of all the time I wasted worrying about that darn appointment, when I could have been spending all that mental energy trying to solve the current energy crisis.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Natalie's Birth Story

September 6, 2007: Natalie's due date. The day came and went without any fanfare. So much for the theory that second babies come sooner than first babies (Sammy was born on his due date). Apparently my uterus didn't get the memo.

September 7, 2007: Contractions start, getting closer together and stronger as the day goes on. I'm determined to stay home as long as possible, and decide not to leave for the hospital until the pain is nearly unbearable.

September 8, 2007: More contractions, more breathing exercises. Didn't sleep well the night before, so am extremely cranky.

September 9, 2007: Sunday night, finally go to the hospital to be checked. Since this is a VBAC attempt only 20 months after a C-section, decide it would be prudent to make sure scar is holding up. Pronounced "in early labor" with scar holding up well, and nurse says she expects to see me back later that evening but is sending me home to be more comfortable in the meantime. Gives me something to help me sleep (similar to Benadryl, if I remember correctly?) and about an hour after I get home, contractions stop abruptly.

September 10, 2007: No contractions all day long. Feeling disgusted, frustrated, and very cranky.

September 11, 2007: Contractions start up again. Actually relieved the day comes to an end with no baby, since I prefer baby have a birthday without so much negative association.

September 12, 2007: OK, now this is getting ridiculous. Contractions frequent, and bearable only with visualization and breathing exercises. This means no sleep for me. I spend the second night in a row in the bathtub, since it's the only way I am remotely comfortable.

September 13, 2007: I've had it. I tell Ron, "I am having a baby today and I don't care how it comes out. We are going to the hospital." We leave right at the start of rush-hour traffic and need to drive all the way across town. The hour-long car ride is the longest ride of my life.

Here's where my birth story really starts. We get to the hospital at about 9:00 a.m., and I am pronounced to be 4 cm. I have mixed thoughts about this. On the plus side, I am finally in active labor. On the minus side, 6 days of labor (5 if you count the one-day break I got on Monday), and I'm only at 4 cm? Kill me now.

I was checked in and sent to the labor and delivery room. I had been determined to have an unmedicated birth, but I was exhausted and had no more reserves left to deal with the pain, so when they asked about an epidural I said "yes, please". I still think that was the right decision for me, considering the marathon that was still ahead at that point.

Labor progressed slowly but steadily. At about 2:00 p.m., the nurse talked about adding some pitocin (NOT in my birth plan - it raises the risk of uterine rupture, although only slightly, but it wasn't a risk I wanted to take) but I didn't have to argue the point since they were too busy and never got around to trying it.

In my labor with Sammy, I stalled out at 6 cm, so when I finally got past that point, I really started getting excited that this was going to happen. At 6:00 p.m., I was pronounced complete. My epidural was wearing off and I could really feel the pain in my hips again (interestingly, throughout the whole labor, the worst of my pain was in my hips, which felt as though they were being spread with the jaws of life).

Right before my nurse went home at the end of her shift, she said, "You look familiar. Where are you from?" and that's when we figured out that we graduated from high school together (both of us had different last names then, which is why we didn't make the connection earlier). Since that high school is in a small town three hours north of here, that was an amazing coincidence.

At about 6:45, the doctor finally came in and had me start pushing. Two hours later, at 8:53 p.m., Natalie Rose finally made her appearance - but only after getting stuck on the way out. Thankfully the doctor was skilled enough to get her past the pubic bone without breaking her collarbone, although they watched her closely for the first few minutes to make sure she was moving both of her arms. She was, so all was well.

I think the doctor put her on my chest as soon as she came out, but honestly I don't have very many memories of those first few minutes after she was born. I was so exhausted, and tired from not sleeping formost of the past week, that I think my brain shut down for a little while. The first memory I really have is when she was over on the warming table, and the doctor said, "That's a big baby". I remember thinking, "What? She looks tiny," but the doctor turned out to be right. She weighed in at 9 lbs. 1 oz. and 20 1/2 inches long.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Slow-Speed Chase

A couple of nights ago, Sammy was playing with the television remote. He likes to pause the TV and start it up again (DVR). Natalie thinks it's a hoot to tease him, so she went over and got the remote, then started tearing across the room as fast as she could go (which really isn't that fast).

Even though Sammy could have easily overpowered her, I was impressed to see him try his negotiating skills on her instead. He followed her, wailing, "Let's put it on the couch, Natalie. That would be a good idea!" over and over.

She giggled and giggled as she motored around the room, with him in hot pursuit. I debated about intervening since I knew there was a possibility things wouldn't end well, but the current scene was so hilarious that I couldn't catch my breath.

I am happy to say that the situation resolved without any tears, and I'm glad I gave them a chance to work it out on their own. I'm not sure exactly how it ended since I was laughing in the other room, but Sammy apparently refrained from using physical force to get his way, and I was very proud. And very entertained by the slow-speed chase I had just witnessed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fort Snelling

Alright, so this trip to Fort Snelling was two months ago, but like I said, I just got around to downloading my pictures from that camera.

For anyone who lives locally, this is a great place to take kids. I didn't think it would be, since it's all historical and educational and stuff, but all four of the kids (mine and my friend's two) enjoyed themselves. A little background: It's a historic fort, which served as an outpost from 1819-1839 in the then-wilderness of Minnesota. During the Civil War, it became a training center for the Union Army, and when the war was over, the regular Army returned. The fort was finally closed after World War II, and was declared Minnesota's first National Historic Landmark in 1960. Today it's open to the public, and costumed guides are located everywhere, and will tell you the history of each building. There's your history lesson for today.

And now, pictures.

The view from a balcony overlooking the Mississippi River:

The armory? It's been so long, I couldn't swear to that anymore.

The four kids.

I believe this was the fort's doctor's bedroom.

Sammy and his cousin in the fireplace in the soldiers' barracks.

The stairway leading down to the bathrooms. The doors on either side are parallel with the ground, in case you're trying to figure out the orientation of this picture.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More random pictures

Laundry day. I just throw them in the machine on "warm" with some mild soap, and tumble-dry on low for 30 minutes. They come out pretty well that way.

Can you see the star-shaped fruit puff on her forehead? This picture is a little dark.

Sammy's Lego tower, that he made all by himself. Perhaps a future architect at work?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Power Wheels

We have two digital cameras. One that just takes still pictures, and one that takes video and stills. The problem with the camcorder is that it doesn't work with a Mac, so I need to boot up my PC simulator program in order to download the pictures. Because that's a few extra steps, I don't get around to downloading those pictures very often. I finally emptied that camera for the first time in a couple of months, so you're going to be bombarded with pictures for the next couple of days. Just so you're warned!

And here's the infamous Power Wheels jeep.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Great Minnesota Get-Together

The Minnesota State Fair is a big deal around here. Interesting fact: Our fair has the highest daily attendance of any in the U.S.!

The food theme is "on a stick". The majority of food items are served on a stick. Alligator on a stick. Deep-fried candy bars on a stick. Calzones on a stick. You get the idea.

And every year, there are new, crazy food combinations. This year's "big deal"? Pig Lickers (chocolate-covered bacon). My motto used to be, "Everything's better with chocolate", but I'm going to have to rethink that now. No, I did not try the Pig Lickers. I'd rather spend my money on cheese curds and mini donuts, thank you anyway.

And...some pictures. I'd like to point out the blue rubber rain boots Sammy is clutching in the final picture. He absolutely insisted on wearing those boots, and would not be dissuaded, even by dangling his Elmo sneakers in front of his face.

Click to play MN State Fair 2008
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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Six-Word Memoir

Mommy Vern tagged me (in this post) to write a six-word memoir. I tend to get a little....wordy, as you already know if you've read this blog for any length of time. I'm not sure if I've ever written a six-word sentence in my life, so this was a challenge!

Some intial thoughts:

Stressed Out, Trying to Find Balance
My Kids Are Driving Me Nuts
Calgon, Take Me Away (Pretty Please)
Looking for a Moment of Peace

As true as those might be, they don't really sum up who I am - and how I want people to remember me. After much thought, this is what I came up with:

Loving my Family While Seeking Enlightenment

I like this picture because it captures a moment in time with two of my favorite things - reading, and my children. I hope to pass on to them my passion of knowledge and learning.

Here's the rules to this game:

1. Write a six word memoir.
2. Post it to your blog, maybe with a pic.
3. Link to the person who tagged you.
4. Tag a few folks.
5. Leave a comment for them with an invite to play.

Colleen and Tabitha, wanna play?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Another use for a toy dump truck

What do you get when you combine a slightly downward-sloping driveway with a Tonka dump truck just big enough to hold a small child? A fun ride and hours of fun. The only downside is that, much like sledding, you need to pull the child back up the hill. Over and over. And over.