Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Our Typical Wednesday

I am so thankful for today.

Katie woke up happily in her big girl bed this morning, and she woke up early enough that we had time to read a few books all snuggly before getting up to dress for gymnastics class. Reading in bed is such a beautiful way to usher in a new day.

We dressed in our warm-up suits and went downstairs for a breakfast of oatmeal, good fuel for exercising. Because she has been sleeping in her big girl bed, because this morning was grey, and because I wanted to surprise her, I made her the first-ever mug of hot chocolate she has ever experienced in her life. I wanted her first taste of it to be the genuine thing, so I actually melted chocolate, milk, and some cream in a double boiler on the stove: she thought it was amazing! It was fairly rich, so we saved a good 2/3 of it for later.

We ate our oatmeal and sipped our mugs of hot chocolate together in the dining room, and then we packed our water bottles and left for class.

Yummy! Oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon.

At class, Katie was her usual hard-working, enthusiastic, sweet self:

Jumpy jump jump!

Katie does her somersaults all on her own now. This one went a little to the left, but she was stable when she landed. Somersaulting on her own is a skill she has developed through this class.

With Miss Nikki! Katie loves, loves, loves Miss Nikki. They have a little thing where they give each other high fives. Katie always gives her a high five before she leaves (we are teaching her always to greet and say goodbye to her teachers out of respect). Today, Katie also gave Miss Nikki a hug.

One of Katie's favorite stations is the bar flip. Look at her go!
As we were putting our shoes back on, I told Katie (as I always do) how proud I am of her hard work and her effort. Katie has internalized our constant message, because she replied, "You are proud when I try my best." That is very correct. Her daddy and I emphasize this to her constantly. What matters most to us is her work ethic and making good choices. As long as she is trying her best, that is all we can ever ask for.
Home again, we got out our bin of scrapbooking and card-making materials. I let Katie get into everything and experiment. She is getting so good at using safety scissors! We've been practicing. We were making a card for Great-Grandpa Yoder, whose birthday is approaching. Katie used her pastels to decorate white cardstock, and we cut it into a heart shape, mounted it on blue cardstock, and festooned it with pretty papers, ribbon, and paper flowers. I let Katie experiment with other papers and stamps: she loves the freedom.
Boppa dropped by to put the crib back together in Eric's room and to help with the garage. We ate lunch outside, and then Katie helped me make dinner. We made a beef stew with sage dumplings. If we can, we try to prep dinner early in the day so that all we have to do is cook it later. We cooked to the sound of Paul Simon's Graceland album (one of the best albums EVER in my opinion).
Katie took an early nap, and I culled through some magazines, rested, and gathered my thoughts. Then Amie came over and we put together the bassinette she is giving us (unfortunately, the family bassinette broke once and for all during Katie's use, so we are using a new one for Eric). So Eric's room now has a crib set up and a bassinette. I can't wait to get the paint and the wallpaper up.
My mom also trimmed my hair for me. I haven't been to a hairdresser for a haircut in over five years. The last time I went to a salon was to have my hair done for my wedding. My mom is so precise, and best of all, her hair services are free. I always love how she does it. I am such a cheapskate when it comes to things like that, and Bill and I prefer my hair and nails and so forth to be natural anyway (my husband's opinions really matter to me on this, to the extent that I try to wear my hair how he likes it since I am old-fashioned that way). I've never even colored it. I've asked Bill about that, but he says he definitely wants it to stay just how it is. So my hair needs are extremely simple... And my mom is great about meeting them!
Then it was time for dinner and bathtime...
A full and productive and happy day!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Big Girl Bed

Ever since we set up my childhood bed in our guest room after our move, Katie has been fairly vocal about wanting it for her own. I promised her several months ago that, when the time came for her to have her "big girl bed," I would give her my bed if she still wanted it. Knowing now that Eric is on his way, she has been eager to give him her crib (which she has never been too fond of, I must say) and to have her big girl bed.

Amie surprised me when she came over this afternoon: Amie suggested we switch the crib and bed and move around Katie's furniture. I have been wanting to do this, and Katie and I were both excited. When Katie realized she was getting her bed today, she jumped up and down and started singing.

Happy Katie is elated to have her big girl bed.

We moved the bookshelf and her chair to this side of the room. We had to put her tall dresser in the closet (it is still functional in there). My mom had the idea to put the chair in the corner (I had the chair and the bookcase switched originally), and I think her arrangement is super cozy!

Here is a view of Katie's short dresser (also my childhood furniture). We moved all of the changing-table items from it (I have been asking Katie about that since we're using underpants more and more now, but she has been hesitant to get rid of the changing pad---so we took the opportunity to do it today as part of the overall change). Now she has her jewelry there and some other keepsakes.

Katie loves her new bed so much that she wanted to read and snuggle in it right after bathtime tonight.
She is snoozing there right now as I write. It seems pretty cozy to me!

Creepy Story

We had a creepy little event transpire this afternoon...

Driving up to our house on our return from the market, I noticed that we had flyers on our front door handle. I looked around to see if anyone was still in the neighborhood and saw a guy walking up to another house, presumably the flyer-guy since he had papers in his hand.

We must note that upon first seeing him, I got a bad vibe. For no particular reason... My hairs just went up.

I drove into the garage, and told Katie that, this time, instead of her coming in and out with me while I unloaded the groceries, I wanted her to go into the house and stay there---because there was a stranger walking around whom I didn't trust. The hard part is that I need (or thought I needed to---Boppa talked me through how I could park differently) leave the garage door up to unload groceries (because the hatch opens so far). On other occasions, I usually drive in and close the garage door before we get out (unless I intent to check the mail).

So Katie was inside, and I am unloading the car, and I can see a shadow crossing the street but still on the side of the house where I can't see. Then suddenly the flyer guy is right there in an instant, coming into the garage. He said, "I don't want to scare you, but I want to talk with you..."

I said, "No! No!" and ran into the house and locked the door. The weird thing was that I ran then to the living room window, and I couldn't see where he went. I imagined that he might be hiding where I couldn't see him, or worse, waiting right outside in our garage for me to come out and get the rest of the groceries when I thought it was safe. So I called Amie and Boppa. Boppa came right over and we looked around and got the rest of the groceries in.

It is weird how we sometimes have "bad vibe" monitors. I mean, I do feel a little bad because it could have been nothing and I might have overreacted a bit and made the guy feel bad. But I also don't think he should have come up into our garage, do you? It seemed like an unwarranted intrusion and way too close to my personal space. Also, it should be common sense for any male these days that you do not approach a woman who is alone when she doesn't know you unless you want to be chivalrous in a very public space (like helping her pick up something she dropped or holding open her door). You certainly do not start encroaching on her home...

Also, we need to remember (as I did at the time), that he had already left flyers on our door (I had seen them there). He came to the garage holding out a paper and probably on the pretext of wanting to give me a flyer I already had. That didn't make sense either. The flyer, as it turned out was for a cleaning service: another pretext for getting into people's homes and lives, no doubt. Am I just untrusting and cynical?

Anyway, we are safe. Always listen to your gut! When you sense the presence of menace, do not second guess yourself. Especially as a woman, it is natural to feel a little guilty later (like maybe I judged too quickly), but it is important that we act on our instinct rather than letting emotions convince us that we need to be "nice."


One of my greatest enthusiasms this week has been my mom's marmalade. She gave me a jar around Christmastime, which I devoured then with ardent relish. I have been craving it ever since, and it just so happened that she concocted what has now become a mainstay for breakfast in both of our houses: oat wheat bread smeared with yogurt cheese and her marmalade. In fact, I am eating some right now. My mom makes her own yogurt, too, and lately she has been letting it strain to become a thick tart cheese, almost like cream cheese. I do not yet make my own yogurt, but I have been taking plain yogurt and doing the same thing.

Mom's marmalade is perfection. I am almost through with the first of three jars. She gave me the recipe, I think with the hint that I should start making my own. I will definitely attempt this; however, I should note that I am not particularly skilled at making jams and jellies. As much as I love to cook and bake, and as much as I spend ample time in the kitchen, jams and jellies continue to perplex me. I never achieve quite the right consistency, in my mind. My poor husband has several jars of sweet pepper jelly in his office at the moment, from a batch that went awry. It tastes good, but it is more like a sauce. Anyway, the marmalade is worth the effort---so this time, I will focus on getting it right.

Another treat lately: hot milk with a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg. I have been craving milk with Eric's pregnancy from the first moments. I've never been a big milk drinker, actually, until now. Hot milk is tasty with slabs of toast and marmalade...

We had a productive weekend in our house, though I am feeling a bit of a need to slow down today. Katie has been my little helper, and we love to celebrate time with Daddy when he is home on the weekends.

Each week, I have Katie help me to pick out our weekend breakfast menus: she loves to make breakfast for her daddy. She loves that we all eat it together, and she seems to enjoy the rituals of setting the table and then going into his office to tell him politely that it is ready (a week ago, she tried to be more efficient by hollering at him from the kitchen, but I told her that is not how we operate in this family---we aim to be polite). Katie likes eating what she has made, as well, so it is a good opportunity to try some new tastes here and there.

On Saturday we made a German apple pancake with a dollop of freshly whipped cream, Canadian bacon, and juicy canataloupe. On Sunday we chose: nutmeg cake muffins with a cinnamon crunch topping, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and icy cold tangerines. YUM!

We also cleaned several bins of my crafting supplies out of Eric's closet this weekend. (One whole side is completely done and there are a couple of heavier bins still on the other side). I reorganized the linen cabinet and condensed a bit, though a few items will need to be stored in the garage. We hung up all of his clothes so far...and he already has quite a few! I have bought him several items, and my mom as well. I also found many items among Katie's wardrobe that will legitimately work for a boy. He will still need some more onesies and relaxing clothes (when Katie was a newborn I was changing her all the time, anytime she spit up, and so we went through a few gowns and onesies a day). I love going in to look at his closet. I am eager also to change Katie's crib for the bed that is currently in there. I am so ready to see the nursery come together. My initial wallpaper sample was first put on backorder and then cancelled altogether as the paper was suspended (it was a beautiful Ralph Lauren shirtings plaid). So I found some other candidates, and I hope those samples will arrive this week. Once I choose the wallpaper, the decorating will commence.

I also managed to fit in three hours of study time at the library this weekend. (Bill watches Katie). I have been giving myself full-length 150 question practice tests during these study hours. It felt good to get one done.

We spent time tidying up the house, as well. Katie loves to help dust/polish---I give her her own rag. We also vacuumed (I wish I had time to vacuum daily, but I don't...however, I just hate messy floors), cleaned the downstairs bathroom, and put some items back into their proper places. I've been feeling like I let the house go the past two weeks and that it is a disaster, but Bill looks like at me like I am pretty crazy. Our house is actually clean and fairly straight, but sometimes it just starts getting to me. I love those fleeting feelings when everything has just been cleaned and the house smells of lemon and pine. It is just that one moment of true cleanliness, so transient but so good-feeling. These days, though, I rarely do the whole house all in one go. I am lucky to accomplish one room at a time!

Yesterday, Sunday, we tried to relax a bit more, but I am so much in the nesting mode right now. We did more organizing, planned our weekly menus for marketing this morning, and worked on our Mother's Day gifts for Amie and Nana. We're painting something... I am really pleased with the idea this year, actually!

We also fit in plenty of time for play and learning. Katie loves for us to role play the characters from Peter Pan everyday. We have been working, too, on our letters. I found some Kumon tracing cards for lowercase letters (they make some for uppercase as well) and for numbers. Katie uses a dry-erase pen to trace the lines, and she really likes it. We've also been playing verbal word games to capitalize on her love for Peter Pan. I will say something like, "Hook hates..." and fill in the blank with different "H" words. Or "Peter Pan prefers..." Or "Wendy wants..." We're working on our letter sounds and alliteration. She hasn't quite caught the hang of it yet.

So we all had a great, albeit very busy, weekend! This week is likewise full!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Music, Birds, and Picnic

Spring is for a beautiful a drive to music class, for dancing and singing, for giving hugs to our teacher.

Spring is for replenishing our peanut butter and birdseed pinecone birdfeeders, for enjoying the birds that have been visiting them all week, and for watching finches wing from tree to tree.

Spring is for a lunchtime picnic on the lawn, for almond butter and strawberry jam sandwiches on sweet wheat oat bread, for talking and picking grass.

Spring is for painting suncatchers, for watching them dazzle in the sunlight, for creating together.

Spring is for making a muddy puddle to splash in, for getting messy, for knowing we can always change clothes later.

Spring is for soaking in the sunshine, listening to birdsong, pretending to be our favorite characters.

Spring is for napping in the cozy chair together, for sorting through magazines, and for favorite movies like Double Indemnity.

Spring is for celebrating, for sharing wonder, for creating awe...


Every night I cuddle close to my little girl and savor the sound of her breath and the pum pum of her heartbeat. Sometimes when she is asleep, I put my ear to her chest and try to impress the sound on my mind forever.

Yesterday we had our monthly OB appointment for Eric. I am feeling great, and his heartbeat was strong and loud...and then Dr. Elfelt said that parts of it were a bit "irregular." Then he said that irregularities in the heartbeat of an unborn baby were quite common at this stage of development and not to worry.

He seemed calm and unworried and ordered no tests, though I think a good doctor is going to seem calm and unworried no matter what news he gives you. He definitely did not belabor the point and said that the heartbeat had a good rate and was strong.

Of course I am trying not to worry, but losing the battle a bit. Research online suggests that most likely I needn't worry. Some information, however, is quite alarming---but only applies to a small number of cases.

I did find, though, that Eric's heartbeat irregularity may be due to my being dehydrated. This would make sense, as two nights ago I experienced about half an hour of heartbeat irregularity myself (which was pretty freaky!) and have had some other signs of not having enough water on board recently. In fact, even before this appointment, I had made plans to be more vigilant about my water intake.

Of course my mind is struggling to stay away from the more frightening possibilities and outcomes I found in my online research. Yet I have had to come to a peace in my mind: I know that whatever is to happen, will happen. My mind knows that very probably, I will have worried for nothing and that all will be well. My mother's heart, though, is a different entity: a mother's heart worries constantly about all the hundreds of thousands of horrors that can befall our children. My greatest fear is something bad happening to my children. Part of being a mother is coming to the realization that we have to live with this fear forever and yet not letting it get in the way of our enjoyment of our time with our children. (And worse, letting them grow up and make their own decisions---even if we think those decisions, as adults, put them in danger).

I woke up this morning knowing that, whatever is to happen in Eric's life, his life has already begun---from the moment we conceived him. I could spend the next month (or even several months, depending on next month's heartbeat monitoring) worrying deeply about what will happen, or I could spend each day with the goal to hold the worry at bay and living the goodness of each day. To give in to the worry would be to deprive him and I of our together-time now: we are together now, no matter what the future holds, and now should therefore be a time of happiness and beauty.

Isn't that the underlying axiom for all time with our children, in the womb or not? We never know what tomorrow brings. We never know how much time we will have with them... If we don't appreciate the time we do have, then we are wasting it. Of course, I will have nagging worry (I still worry constantly about Katie), but I have to compartmentalize it.

Needless to say, I think this will be a long time of waiting until my next OB appointment, in some respects. But I also need not to think of it as "waiting" and just continue to celebrate each day and be thankful.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Loving my Daughter

Katie and I awoke looking forward to our art class! I wish that the art class continued through the summer like our music class does, but I know we'll find plenty of ways to supplement her art education at home with special projects. When we arrived to class, Katie greeted the teacher and the class mascot, Splat. Katie loves loves loves Splat.

Katie says hello to Splat. Dogs are Katie's favorite animal, and she says that she wants to have lots of them when she grows up. We look at different breeds in magazines, and Katie always assesses how the dog is feeling and what he or she might be thinking. I think she has the beautiful Aunt Jenny animal-empathy gene, especially since doggies seem to like Katie in return. She has a really sensitive heart toward animals and doesn't like pictures of animals that seem sad. We learned early on to watch out for that Sarah McLachlan animal shelter ad on TV, because if Katie sees it, she immediately starts to cry.

Katie enjoys helping during "Circle Time" in her art class. The teacher always demonstrates the project for the students so that they know what to do. She will ask for volunteers to help demo different parts, and Katie is always eager to help. I love that she feels empowered to do this, confident in herself and excited to be part of the lesson.

Katie paints red on Miss Clarissa's demo project.

Here is a picture of Katie working on her own project (we made pizzas today). I try to help her as little as possible, except for verbal direction, unless the skill is too technical for her dexterity (like opening the glue). My philosophy is that her art projects are hers---and that they should reflect her 2-year-old abilities.
When we got home, we started prepping for dinner. We made a simple syrup from fresh strawberries for a "colorful cow." We saw them together in the Martha Stewart magazine, and they are drinks based on the old-school "brown cow." We use the simple syrup, add two scoops of vanilla ice cream, and some selzer water. We're going to try Haagen Dazs "5" tonight: ice cream made with just five pure ingredients and nothing else. Katie is excited, and so am I!
It was also the right time to make Uncle Eric's favorite meal, an old family recipe. We made a homemade mac and cheese and on the side, hotdogs covered with onions, brown sugar, and tomato sauce. It is simple comfort food, totally delicious. I haven't made it too much since his death because it makes me sad a little, but it is right to bring it back and pass it on to Katie. We set up his picture on the counter while we worked. Katie laid the sliced hotdogs out in the pan, and she arranged the sliced onions and poured on the tomato soup and sprinkled the brown sugar. For the macaroni, she buttered it, salted it, added the cheeses, etc. Basically, all I do is use the knife and give verbal directions and she does much of our actual cooking. I also do anything on the stove.
I still need to roast some beets to go on the side. Katie chose beets for this dinner (I love beets)! She rightly observed that the leaves look similar to that of swiss chard. I am not looking forward to cutting the beets, so I have put it off today! But Katie is napping (late today) and I guess I will prep the beets after I finish this entry.
After our dinner prep, we decided to work on an Earth Week project outside.

We used food coloring to make some blue water and green water. Katie used the dropper to drip water all over one of my coffee filters. She LOVED this. Because this was my first time facilitating this lesson, I would definitely make the colors deeper next time.

After we covered the filter with the coloring, we let it dry a bit, then glued it to a black "universe." We used glue to make stars (she wanted white glitter stars and blue glitter stars) and we wrote "Earth Week 2010" in glitter at the bottom. We love the way it turned out, but I also think I would maybe use a different glue next time.
I am still trying to think of additional Earth Week/Day projects for this week. Any ideas?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Full Weekend

This weekend is zipping along!

Katie and I started our third Music Together session yesterday, with a focus on the tambourine. She was so excited to see Miss Kara that she ran up and gave her a hug as soon as she saw her. Such a sweetheart! Katie has also made another emotional/intellectual jump. We've been studying and enjoying our new songs so we could know them before the first class, and so Katie was singing along to most of them, playing her percussion instruments in good rhythm, and doing the dance moves. She even offered a suggestion for which kind of animal to put in the oak tree in front of the whole class. I love how focused she is in her classes. She showed the same determination in our Wednesday gymnastics class: no matter what other children are doing, Katie is always doing exactly what she is supposed to be doing and trying her best. I love that. In Tuesday's art class, she volunteered to help demonstrate something with the teacher for the class. She is becoming more and more outgoing with her teachers and more willing to offer answers in class. Bill and I want her to be whomever she is, but we also know that certain extroverted approaches in learning environments tend to be advantageous---whether that is "fair" or not. Regardless, what excites me most is her ability to behave appropriately and with excitement toward her learning despite what others around her are doing (or not doing). As her parents, it is our biggest job to foster this trait.

We love our new tambourine music and this semester is going to be so much fun!

After class, we came home, played and ate lunch outside, did a couple of errands (I had checks to deposit and mailed my app to take my real estate exam), and napped. I watched The Man Who Knew Too Much (second version) while catching up on my Gratitude Journal. I watched the finches eat the seed outside, listened to our burbling waterfall, and enjoyed the spring breeze drifting in our windows. A perfect spring afternoon.

When Katie woke up, we walked with Amie down to the frozen yogurt shop and savored some sweet yumminess altogether.

Today we made a family breakfast (we love to eat breakfast with Daddy). Katie was in charge of setting the table, and she decided she wanted to use pink plastic forks left over from her birthday. She is so sweet. It was a cute touch. She set them on our placemats, and in the right places! She helped make the scrambled eggs, arranged the orange rolls, and asked for me to make a side salad of strawberries and banana (and also asked for turkey bacon). She is such a good eater, and we talk all the time about vitamins and nutrients. I asked her what kind of vitamins are often found in fruit, and she replied, "Vitamin C!" I think the more children know about food, the better choices they can make.

Following breakfast, Bill watched Katie during my three hour study session at the library. I took a second full practice test. I did better than I did on the first one, so I am getting better (slowly), but it still wasn't good enough in my opinion. I have passed both tests, but I need more padding before going into the real thing (like scores in the upper 80% to 90% range). The app I sent in will take the DRE up to 6 weeks to process, at which time I can then go online and schedule myself for my test. I have plenty of time to brush up and practice, but I also have to be more patient with myself right now than I am being. I really dislike missing questions on anything, but I have to remember that it is part of the learning process. It has been so long since I learned something in such a formal way (with tests and finals and so on) that I have to remember that the process can start slow and then gain momentum rapidly the more I immerse myself. I know I will improve... I hope!

Bill was super sweet to watch Katie during that time, but I really missed her. In between taking my practice exam and reviewing the answers and researching the ones I didn't know, I went over to her section and pulled out several good books to bring home. She was so excited when I came home with them! It also so happened that our Amazon shipment of books we ordered ALSO came today, so we have spent most of the afternoon reading and reading and reading all of our treasures.

Tomorrow I have my Thinkers philosophy group meeting and then it is time to start planning this week's menus. I am also trying to think up another creative project for Katie and I to work on tomorrow. She will often ask, "Can we do a project?" Hmmm... Need. To. Lesson. Plan. Maybe I will find inspiration in one of our new/borrowed books... I'll have to think about it.

Our enchanted garden is blooming though! We have fun watering it together and monitoring the progress of the seeds and sprouts everyday.

Oh, I almost forgot: two days ago, Katie counted to 12 all by herself without any prompting or help. Just zoomed right through it without missing a beat. We are continuing our work on letter sounds. If anyone has a good/creative/innovative way to teach this, please let me know!

As for my growing little one: Eric is happily kicking all around! I am so excited to be approaching the third tri... I have felt him kicking for awhile, and I would say he is more of a kicker than Katie was. Or maybe I just feel it more with the second. I love my active baby, and Katie felt him kick today (I think she did---her hand was there and we were talking about it). She likes to pretend to be Dr. Elfelt and examine my belly with her medical kit. We have an actual OB appointment this week, so I can't wait to hear how things are going!

Nursery news: I think I may have FINALLY found wallpaper. I have somethig specific in mind (classic plaid on two walls, accompanied by paint). I sent away for a sample so I can be sure. I have searched high and low online for what I envision. We want a really classic room that will see him through the years. Katie is so excited that she will be inheriting my girlhood bed (from the guest room) and that he will get her crib (which she has never really liked much anyway). As soon as I finalize the wallpaper, it will be time to transform that room. I really love my guest room the way it is, but I have also known that it would be a nursery for quite some time.

Katie and I haven't cooked too much yet this weekend, but on Thursday we made vegetable empanadas in curry dough. Katie loved them (well, the first night)! Filled with swiss chard, corn, tomato, and red bell pepper, they are so delicious and I love that Katie can identify all of those good veggies. She was quite the helper with the rolling of the dough! We got flour everywhere, but she has so much fun! She says, "I'm a chef!" I love cooking from scratch with her and knowing that she is learning a lifelong skill. She makes everything so much fun.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life at Home and Beyond

We are in the midst of a beautiful and busy springtime!

I am now in the home stretch of studying for my real estate exam. Although I completed my coursework a couple of months ago, I have been spending time with a 14-hour long review DVD and workbook. Having watched all of that now and done the review pages, I am moving on to my dad's binder of review notes and practice tests (he has 12 full-length tests and several shorter section quizzes). This weekend I spent several hours reviewing all of the different types of math problems I will be expected to know, and there are many. I love the objectivity of the math problems, because those will be questions out of the 150 I will for sure know to be correct when I sit for the test (I won't have to second guess myself on those). Yet my mind definitely had a workout this weekend, since all of the problems are word problems---some are the length of a paragraph and include multiple steps.

In trying to assess how much study time this test requires, I have been trying to pinpoint where it falls relative to other tests I have taken in my life. Based on what I have seen so far, I would estimate this test to be somewhere around the difficulty of the AP European History or AP Psychology tests: two of the more straightforward Advanced Placement tests. It is not as difficult as AP US History, nor as potentially mentally taxing as the AP English tests. And it is easier than AP Calculus (which was my worst AP score, a 3). I realized when I sat down to take the tests that I had overstudied for AP Euro and AP Psych in high school, so if I can shoot for somewhere just shy of those amount of hours, I might be good to go.

I am on a fairly strict study schedule now, and my goal is to take it extremely soon.

Katie and I have been busy cooking and baking the last few days, as well. She loves to make family breakfasts, so we made popovers one day this weekend and French toast the second day. Katie made the custard for the French toast almost on her own. She invented a way to crack eggs herself (with a spoon), and she knows how to scramble them with milk. I had her add the cinnamon, and she has me grate the nutmeg.

This weekend we also made our favorite ground turkey meatloaf meal, with mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots. On Sunday, she helped me to make a Hawaiian pizza. She has discovered a love for ham, which isn't the best protein---but which isn't the worst, either. She has been trying more and more foods. She picked out a soy black cherry yogurt from Baron's the other day, and she loved it. She usually has a yogurt and string cheese and maybe a piece of whole grain bread with almond butter or natural peanut butter for lunch.

Yesterday we made two kinds of biscotti together: almond oat and peanut butter. We both love biscotti, and they are a bit healthier than other kinds of cookies. She also helped make the cinnamon-crunch sweet potato muffins to go alongside our dinner of chicken friend steak and corn on the cob. She gobbled up her muffin half at dinner, and she discovered that, yes, she does like corn: she just likes it sweet and fresh off the ear.

We also worked more on using the "big girl potty" yesterday. She was on a roll last year before we moved, and then the changes required that we wait a little before making further progress. Katie really did well yesterday. She has been using it every night consistently before bathtime for awhile and has started identifying her "feelings." Daytime use has been more sporadic, but I can tell she is ready to conquer this. She wore her underpants all day, with only two changes, and she used the big girl toilet five times with success. The other two times, she identified the feeling but didn't quite make it to the toilet in time. Today is a busy day, but after gymnastics tomorrow, we'll probably try again.

She has been my little helper: she liked putting in all of the detergent yesterday for our laundry loads of linens. This weekend, she took her little vacuum and vacuumed alongside me downstairs. She loves to run into Bill's office and tell him when our meals are ready, and she helps me to set the table. Katie is such a good girl. I am very lucky that she is my daughter.

Her loves lately continue to be Peter Pan, our new tambourine music for our Music Together class, the soundtrack from South Pacific (she requests it during bathtime sometimes), almond cookie body wash, her red "apple shoes" as she calls them, and Berenstain Bear books.

She also adores the rain and she went outside to play in it a bit yesterday in her raincoat and boots.

I think she is having a growth spurt. She has been consuming lots of protein (cottage cheese, up to 24 ounces of milk, string cheese, yogurt, ham, turkey meatloaf, an occasional turkey hot dog, nut butters, and more). In fact, instead of finding ways to encourage proteins (which is our normal routine), I have been having to find ways to encourage our daily fruits and veggies. She has also been sleeping more and sleeping in a bit (which is why I am writing this blog right now)!

We are starting our art class again today. We took six weeks off (primarily because the second session booked up right away), and we are excited to return. We have been working on our own crafts though. On Sunday we painted rocks and ceramic mushrooms and a little bowl in which to plant an "enchanted garden" full of grass seeds and bean seeds. We let it dry overnight and actually potted it yesterday morning. She loves our paint projects.

I also finished all of the mounts and pages for her Year 3 scrapbook this weekend. That has been a months-long project, one of my hobbies, and now it is all ready for the best pictures of her year. She woke up as I was finishing the penultimate page (and then there was one I wanted to redo), and I let her design her own page---which she loved. (I usually work while she is napping). She chose the paper, the color of the cardstock mounts, where they were placed, some ribbon and where it was placed, and the embellishments. It turned out well and fits in well with the album, and I love that she has her own page in there.

Today will be a busy day: we've got our art class, and then I have my Toastmasters meeting. I gave my 6th speech last week, and I was the designated back-up speaker for this week. I had my 7th speech written and ready, and I found out last night that I do actually need to deliver it today. I rehearsed a little this weekend just in case, so I feel fairly ready---though nervous as always! About a week ago, the vice president of our club (who makes the speaking schedules) contacted me and asked if I would be able and willing to finish all ten speeches from the first manual by June 30th. As you know, my goal was to finish by August before Eric's birth, so agreeing to June 30th does accelerate my goal by about 1.5 months. But if I finish my Competent Communicator designation/award by June 30th, then the club will also meet one of its club goals for the year. (The club has various goals that keep it in good standing as a chapter). After delivering the 7th speech today, I will only need to finish three more speeches before earning my first designation! That is pretty exciting. After Eric is born, when I return eventually, I can start working on my Advanced Communicator Bronze. I have topics in mind for my last three speeches, and generating topics is the hardest part---so I think I can meet the new timeline. I hope so!

So we have definitely been busy! Bill returned to work yesterday after a lovely Spring Break, and we miss having him nearby us at home. However, there is much to be done before summer: our anniversary, David's wedding, taking my real estate test, finishing Eric's nursery---I think I found wallpaper finally---, finishing my speeches, and of course homemaking, growing a baby, and being Mommy to my precious little girl.

Life is full and beautiful!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Katie's Trip to Disneyland!!

With all the magic of childhood surrounding us, Katie experienced her first Disneyland adventure yesterday! Although she technically went with me once while I was pregnant with her, this was her first time seeing, feeling, and being part of Disneyland. She truly loved her experiences, and they have been all she has talked about today. I cannot wait to take her back there... We want to take her again in the fall, after Eric is born so that they can see it together and so that she can have another memory close to her 3rd birthday.

I am so fortunate that the three of us---Bill, Katie, and I---all travel so well together. We get along so compatibly, and we work together to maximize the enjoyment of our experiences. Katie is highly adaptable to new situations, eating well in new places and with new food and very content to go hither and yon. She is an incredibly easy child to take places.

When I woke her up early yesterday morning, I reminded her that it was Disneyland Day, and she leapt out of bed and got dressed with no fuss even though she was still sleepy-eyed. I had packed and put out clothes the night before, and so leaving the house was simple and efficient. We made a quick stop for breakfast items and then arrived in Anaheim fairly early.

At Disneyland, we walked down the middle of Main Street, and she took it all in. Then, Bill pointed out Sleeping Beauty's castle! Katie grabbed my hand and took off at a run! She knows Sleeping Beauty lives there, and she has never seen a castle in person before. By this time, her excitement was quite palpable as she realized that Disneyland was indeed a special place.

Here, we took a quick picture in front of the castle.

Our first ride in Fantasyland was Snow White. The line for this was quick, though many people were already at the park. Bill watched the stroller (although later we would just park it) while Katie and I dashed on. This ride actually scared her in parts, with the dungeon and the evil queen turning into a witch. She put her head, in fact, into my chest.

The next ride therefore was the carousel. I love the carousel, and the line at that time was quick as well. Katie loved riding up and down on the horse and her eyes were growing more and more alive with wonder at this place.

At this point, we took a small break from the rides and went to explore Sleeping Beauty's castle more thoroughly. We wandered out to Snow White's wishing well and watched the fountains and the ducks swimming in the lake. This turned out to be one of Katie's favorite Disneyland spots, and we revisited it later in the day when I took her out for some shopping.

We took this picture in the same spot where I took a picture when I was just a few weeks pregnant with her. I told her this yesterday, and I also reminded her how much I had wanted her and how happy I am that now she is here with me, right in the same spot.

This was one of the pictures from March of 2007, when I was just a handful of weeks pregnant with her. I remember being so worried about her, since she was the first pregnancy I had after the trouble that past November. And now, to have her here with me in that same place...well, it was emotional. Not only that: yesterday I got to bring the growing Eric to Disneyland, too. I will have to tell my children that I went to Disneyland when I was pregnant with both of them.

Exploring more of the castle, we climbed up the steps to Sleeping Beauty's bedroom. Katie loved seeing the fairies and the sleeping princess, but she got a little scared at parts. So much of Disney lore is both enchanting and frightening, and I was really reminded of that yesterday. The Disney versions of the stories are good ways, I think, for children to work out and sublimate insecurities.

Small World was going to be next, and we stopped for churros and icy lemonades first. What is Disneyland without a churro?

Daddy and Katie eat their churros in this photograph. I gave Katie half of mine and she ate about 2/3 of that portion.

Then we all stood in line for Small World. Katie assessed the ride, and she said she wanted to "go in the boats!" We promised her that nothing scary would be in this ride.

On the ride, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. In fact, when we were done, she immediately wanted to go again. We reminded her that we still wanted to take her on Peter Pan and that excited her completely. She has been totally enamored of the Peter Pan tale the past week or so. We found a book in the stack my mom had given us long ago, and she loved the book from the first: the pirate map, Hook, Smee, Peter's secret cave. After reading the book several times, I brought out our copy of the film. Ever since, she has pretended to be either Wendy or Peter Pan himself; Daddy, Amie, or I are Captain Hook; sometimes I get to be Mrs. Darling. We have been role playing and role playing.

The line for Peter Pan was 40 minutes, and Katie did fantastically with the waiting. We talked and looked around. I showed her the Snow White queen who peeps out of the window overlooking the line for Pan. After the queen popped out the first time, Katie very pointedly avoided looking in that direction.

She loved the ride! It all was incredibly real to her. She called out to Captain Hook, "You're a codfish!" and "Get him, Peter!"

After this, we headed to Frontierland and my favorite, New Orleans Square. All rides on the Rivers of America were closed, due to refurbishing. That was a bit of a bummer, though we knew that would be the case before we went. We decided to grab some lunch at The Hungry Bear near the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. I had a delicious veggie burger, Bill had a cheeseburger, and I got Katie the "kid's power pack" which was awesome. Disneyland is offering healthier fare now, and so Katie enjoyed string cheese, fruit yogurt, apple slices, and whole grain fishies and her own small bottled water. Lunch was quite satisfactory, though the line was lengthy.

Following lunch, we went on the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. A few times, Katie wanted to "get out and go see them" (the characters) during the ride. She clapped and squealed during the party scene. She loved it.

Then we got really lucky. Characters at Disneyland can be difficult to catch, but we stood in a small line and met two of them: Pooh and Tigger. For Katie, this was even bigger than the Easter Bunny in some ways.

Hugging and kissing Pooh! She also offered to feed him honey. I love her little personality: she started chatting with both of them like old friends, not the least shy. Even the characters' helpers commented on how cute and friendly she was, especially for being so young.

She was so excited to meet Tigger, even more than meeting Pooh. We have this little thing we do, especially on the way to music class. We imagine all the places Tigger has been bouncing. Anywhere where there are orange flowers is a spot he has bounced. We shout, "Tigger flowers! Tigger flowers!" whenever we pass big patches as a we drive.

Our next desire was to take Katie on Pirates of the Caribbean---an absolute favorite of mine. Approaching it, though, we saw ropes of people several feet away. I have never seen the Pirates line so long. Yesterday was crowded at Disneyland. We thought, therefore, that we would wait it out. (Later, we would come back and get in line more toward the official entrance only to wait 10 minutes before suddenly people started exiting saying that the ride had just broken down---we'll go next time for sure).

So we headed toward some shade and seats at one of the nearby restaurants. Bill had a lemonade, and Katie and I shared a mint julep (non-alcoholic naturally) while we all listened to live performers play some bluesy jazz. This had to be one of my favorite parts of the day. The outdoor patio wasn't too populated, and we all love live music.

Katie loved the mint julep! I think this will be one of our new traditions in New Orleans Square.

When we finished our mint julep, I decided that we would leave Bill to enjoy the music and I would walk Katie until she napped. She must be tired, we thought, and it was the time of day when she usually naps---if she naps. I walked her for a good hour, all around the park. We shopped for a Peter Pan play set and also for a big Disneyland lollipop, and after all that, she was still awake when we returned to Daddy! So much excitement!

We let her enjoy her lollipop for awhile! I think this will be a tradition, too. We have it in the fridge today, and she has licked on it a little bit today. I think it will last for months!

Our next idea was to try the train. We boarded at the New Orleans station and savored the trip around the park.

Katie really loved the train.

We knew that we should grab some dinner, and we all wanted to sit down for awhile. We went to the Carnation Cafe on Main Street---a memory from my childhood. The whole day, it was so wonderful and surreal and magical to have Katie there, showing her these places and things. She was starving and ate some of my chef's salad, a hot dog, and strawberries. She handled herself really well, while I managed to spill my water everywhere. :-) We were all tired, but that girl can keep on going with hardly a pause!

Dinner at Carnation Cafe.
Immediately after dinner, we indulged in ice cream from Gibson Girl Ice Cream next door. Bill had a scoop of strawberry (so disciplined!) and Katie and I shared a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundae. Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo good! We ate our treats sitting on Main Street on the sidewalk, as I have memories doing, as the night began to fall.
Vendors came out with the necklaces and balloons and goodies that shine in the night. After our sundae, we had Bill hold our seats for the fireworks. Katie and I headed back to Fantasyland and she chose a glowing, color-changing rose. The castle gleamed in the distance and Katie waved her rose in delight---this was one of my favorite memories of the whole trip. Back in Fantasyland, we waited in line for the Dumbo ride as Katie played with her rose and everything took on an even more magical feel in the darkness.
Katie loved Dumbo so much! She was grinning from ear to ear, and I let her control the lever. We went up and down, up and down. When I pointed out how high we were relative to Sleeping Beauty's castle, she thought that was so neat... In fact, when we deboarded, she immediately tried to get into the very next empty elephant. I had to explain that others needed their turns, too, and I reminded her about the fireworks. She agreed that we should walk back to Daddy and get ready to see them.
As we sat there waiting for the fireworks, Katie fell asleep! She wanted to see them so much, and we tried to wake her up---but she was completely conked out. Next time. I wished she could have seen them, though! The Disneyland fireworks were amazing. I actually teared up a couple of times, once when they played a snippit of music from the Electric Light Parade---so very much my memory of childhood there, sitting on Main Street with my parents. And now I am there in almost the same spot with Katie.
We waited after the fireworks for the crowd to clear a bit, and we left the park around 10:15 and headed to the parking lot tram. Katie only stirred once but stayed asleep until we got home at 12:30 in the morning. When we got home, I put her on the bed and started drawing water for a quick sponge bath for her. She woke up and said she wanted her full bath. We bathed quickly, got into jammies, and then---to my surprise---she fell back asleep shortly after 1 AM very easily. We slept in until 8:45 this morning, and everyone seems to be back on schedule more or less today. I am pleased with how easily she adapts to different schedules and outings. I was a bit worried on the way home that we would be awake for awhile, so I was pleasantly surprised that it all worked out so well.
We had an amazing day, and I loved sharing those memories with her!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Eggs

Since she got to choose the family breakfast this morning, Katie chose pancakes, scrambled eggs, and turkey bacon. So much my little helper in the kitchen, she measured out all the ingredients for the pancakes, mixed them, cracked eggs for the scrambled eggs, and salted them. In the kitchen I am having her do as much as she possibly can do and letting her experiment a bit.

Tonight we made a chicken-carrot-pea-pearl onion stew with a creamy base and homemade biscuits on top. Katie measured out the ingredients for the biscuits, telling me to get the baking powder from the pantry, and she cut the butter in with a pastry cutter (not a sharp object). We also used our hands, which she loved. Then I had her flour the board for me (this got a bit messy, but oh well---she's learning), and she helped to pat the dough into a ball, and then she even rolled it out. Her face lit up when I brought out one of the biscuit cutters, and she made six circles for the top of our stew. She put the egg wash on them. We talked about how yummy everything looked and how we would gobble it up, the fresh carrots, the healthy chicken, the delicate biscuits. We finished her bath while it all melted together in the oven, and when we came down she was so eager to eat it. I think one of the best gifts we can give to our children is to teach them how to cook and to love good, healthy, homecooked food and to make sure food appealing and delightful. As we ate dinner, I complimented her a few times on her biscuits, and she was beaming with pride. She knew they were good. She loved eating what she had made. Her willingness to try new foods increases tenfold when she is part of making it, I've noticed: broccoli soup, lasagne bolognese, black bean tortilla cassarole, chicken stew, etc. Cooking with, and for her, is so much fun!

After a morning of dancing, singing, and playing Barbies, we got dressed and made our egg dyes for coloring our Easter eggs. Katie loved putting the tablets in the bowls and watching them fizz in the vinegar. She helped me to add the water, and then we were ready to color our eggs. We had so much fun together, listening to our new tambourine-based music for our Music Together class.

Katie chooses the first egg to dye: it will be green!

Basting her pink egg to color it completely.

Katie tends her eggs!
As our eggs dried, Katie took a nap and I worked on our family photo albums while watching a Hitchcock film. I also finished making Katie's Easter basket from the Easter Bunny. He comes tomorrow night! We have a carrot all ready for him!