Monday, September 5, 2011

A Standing Ovation

I received the news this afternoon that my drama coach from middle school through high school passed away. A woman who taught me to just get out there and do it, who gave me confidence and courage. And who put up with a lot of my bull shit, especially when I had Senioritis and a severe case of Divatude (and I'm not entirely sure that went away).

If you know me, you'll know I have a flair, so to speak, for the dramatics. While I hated school for the most part -- hmm, wait that's not totally accurate: I excelled in school academically but I had an extreme dislike for the environment. Picture me: the honor roll girl, who sang in the choir and played in the band, who teachers liked but boys did not, the one with a tight group of close friends and a need to get out of the tiny, rural town she grew up in. If you close your eyes, you might imagine it. This awkward-in-her-skin girl who did everything as best she could just to know she was good enough. All the while praying that it would be good enough for a one-way ticket out of town.

I dreamt about being onstage when I was little. I danced and always loved the costumes we got to wear, but when I saw people act, I decided in my head that I wanted to do that, too. I wanted to be onstage, in front of other people, living a life I didn't have - a magical, fairytale, happily ever after life. If I could be onstage, I could be anyone. That was my utopia, even if I had no idea of how to accomplish this aspiration.

In 7th grade (or was it 6th...) I joined the newly formed drama club at school. We rehearsed and put on a play featuring many different monologues performed by students in a made-up school. My part was a fast-talking, gossip who knew everything about everyone. I practiced so hard at memorizing the words and reciting them at lightning-fast speed. I'd stand in front of a mirror and go over each line, deciding my facial expressions, the exact head and hand movements. We performed the show in front of our peers... a one-night only deal... in the middle of the day. We may have also done it later in the evening, but I don't remember that. I do remember wearing a multi-colored striped shirt. Don't judge, it was the '90s.

I was so nervous.

I'm pretty sure no one cared, but I loved every second of it. I walked off-stage feeling this huge rush.

From then on, whenever there was an audition, I signed up. I was Ouiser in Steel Magnolias and Fairy May in The Curious Savage; my two favorite roles. I can still remember my first line as Ouiser: This is it! I have found it! I am in Hell! I didn't curse much [back then...], so saying "hell" in high school in front of my peers, my teachers, and most of the small town I grew up in, was, well, intimidating. We convinced our school to do musicals, and you'd think my head was gonna explode. My two favorite worlds collided: music and acting. From there, it was summer theater, and in college, I immediately sought out and discovered the acting crowd. In this world, I realized there were others like me: a little nerdy, darkly funny, and extremely tight knit. No one cared about the baggage you brought with you, just that you knew all the words to the current, beloved musical.

I had found my niche.

What I love about acting is the freedom it brings. I can stand up on stage and be anyone. I can memorize lines and portray every emotion imaginable. It's cathartic, really. Under the lights and make-up, I am happy, even if my personal life is crumbling around me. It never matters how bad a day I have had, onstage I am a character. Acting gave me my comedic timing. Or, I guess, allowed me to discover my inner-comedic-timing. It's been years since I've been in a show, something I miss. Recently my audiences have been attendees at the professional development or parent trainings I give. Even more recently, my daughter is the recipient of my rusty acting abilities. It's a good thing that she is so little because it has made her the best audience I've ever had.

So, tonight, I thank you for humoring me and allowing me to muddle through some old memories. No one is perfect, but the woman I remember was wonderful. Once upon a time, she took a chance on me and believed that I could do something great. She introduced me to an amazing world of imagination and creativity. She helped me learn how to be me without shame. And isn't that what a good teacher does?

And somewhere, I hope that she is taking a grand, final bow to a standing room only crowd, one welcoming her with an eternal ovation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's... Alicia?!

Hey, remember my 40 before 40 checklist?

Item #11 was "Run the Disney World Princess Half-Marathon. In a tutu. And a tiara."

After reading the Runner's World article by Amby Burfoot describing his running of the 2500th Athens Marathon... in a Pheidippides costume, I was even more motivated to do something similar. I wanted to run in a costume. Maybe it appealed to my love of theatrics. Maybe it appealed to my dramatic flare. Maybe it appealed to my love of being the center of attention. Who knows? But I needed to check it off my list.

Enter: The Oddyssey Half-Marathon. A Philadelphia half that is touted as being developed by runners and for runners. Oh, and they encourage participants to run in costume.

I'll admit, at first I was intimidated by this race. I had contemplated running it during its inaugural 2010 event but chickened out. This year I felt I was in better shape, AND its beneficiary is Students Run Philly Style, so I took a chill pill and signed up.

A couple of things happened that encouraged me. The first was their campaign strategy. I was drawn to the mid-spring date (there aren't any other spring half-marathons in Philly that I know), and I knew I could hit the distance because of training for Broad St. Then, they marketed with a post card laying out a post-Broad St training plan! Brilliant! I read that thing and thought, "Hell! I can do this!"

Second, I wanted to show my students that I was serious about running enough to do non-SRPS events. Hmmm, there's probably some psychological problem there about needing to prove myself, but on to the next item.

Third, I needed my students to be involved in a fun event as on-lookers, and more importantly, to see running as fun! I convinced another team leader to run, too, and because we were running, our team volunteered to assist at water stations.

And because we committed to running in costume, they committed to volunteering in costume. And most did! Color me proud!

So as you can see I dressed up as Wonder WoMOM (the lesser known counterpart to Wonder Woman, a heroine who stands for last-minute, do-it-yourself-with-love-and-grace mothers everywhere)! I pieced the outfit together very carefully (read: done 2 nights before) using items from Party City & Michael's. I bought the running skirt & tank online; I spent more money than I initially wanted but felt the investment in running clothes as a base would go further than a costume. Note to self: using fabric glitter paint 2 days before event will not guarantee dry paint and will most likely smudge. Wonder WoMOM strikes again!
If I have not already mentioned it, this was the first half-marathon that I would be running completely solo. Sure, I knew other race-goers, and I shot the ish with them before the race started, but I had no buddy to stay the course with, no sidekick, if you will. I knew I could finish, but I won't lie, making this venture alone was mentally tough. Maybe it was a fear of truly going it alone, or perhaps it was my ego, but additionally the weekend coincided with my husband's surprise guy-family-only bachelor trip for his brother which totally bummed me out. I compensated by convincing my mother-in-law to drag my daughter to the finish line earlier than either of them would be coherent on a Sunday... just to see me run 13.1 miles... dressed as a homemade superhero. Selfish, really: I yearned to hear Liv yell, "Go, Mommy!"

Anyway, race day came with perfect running weather at the start: cool with low-ish humidity for Philly in May. It was pretty awesome seeing so many runners in costume. The route was a familiar Philly-route: Please Touch Museum area to West River Dr (Now: Martin Luther King Dr.) to Art Museum, loop back to Falls Bridge, loop back to Sweetbriar & Lemon Hill to Please Touch. The course was hilly at first, and Lemon Hill at the end was killer (thank you to the random runner who cheered me on, correcting my form and aiding my focus!). Internally, I found myself struggling around mile 7. I have a real tough time running loops, and West River Drive is my LEAST favorite Philadelphia running route. It just feels long to me. Thankfully, my students were volunteering, so the thought of seeing them kept me going. I won't lie; when I did finally see them, I got such an incredible swell of pride. The loud burst of cheers for me helped, too. They may never fully grasp how much they really helped me finish this race.

Overall I did well technically: I paced well and timed my sports beans right. I foolishly tied my key to my sneaker incorrectly, so the darn thing kept whacking my ankle, a painful distraction toward the end. I had quite the nasty bruise after that mishap. I didn't have a "lifetime" PR, but I did best my November 2010 Half-Marathon time, so this was, overall, my 2nd best 13.1 mile finish. Also, I realized I did not use nearly enough Body Glide for wearing a skirt. Um, no pictures there. This was the first time post-race that I went home and literally sat in an ice bath. Clothes on. Felt soooo good. Not sure if it was the ice bath or the fact that I was totally prepared for this race, but I did not hurt nearly as bad as the November half afterward. Yay!

The swag for the race was sweet! I enjoy the t-shirt because it doesn't read like a race tee, and it includes the phrase, "Catch Me If You Can! I conquered 13.1." There wasn't much in the packet pick-up (eh), but at the end of the race, I got a medal AND a pint glass. Post-race runners could get a free beer AND a free massage; neither of which I cashed in on so as to give my mother-in-law some reprieve. She did drag my kid out early on a Sunday, so I figured making her stand around while I drank a beer &/or waited for my massage was a bit much. That may have drawn the line -- no, took a running leap over the line of selfish... I'll live. At the end of the day, Liv loved running around in my medal. I got to hear her proclaim that I won (best part of being a running mom!). Frank got to see photos of me dressed as Wonder Woman. Everybody wins!

Official Results: 
Oddyssey Half-Marathon
Philadelphia, PA
May 22, 2011
CHIP: 2:25:53 GUN: 2:26:50

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Looking Younger

You think it's easy being this good-looking? I manage a house, a husband, a 2 year old, and 2 cats. Life gets busy. Either good genes or smart body-care, I get a lot of comments on my age. It used to be that I looked more mature than my real age; recently, it's been on how fabulous I look for my real age. Which by the way, is NOT that old, thank you very much.

How do I do it? Well, there's exercise. And water. And eating well. Sure, sure, all that happy crap. Let's be honest, I don't have the time or the money to get regular spa treatments or lunch botox. I inherited great skin. But I also take care of it. I use lotion & facial cream like it's going outta style, and through all my skin care lessons, I learned the following incredible tips.

ALICIA'S SKIN CARE TIPS:
1. Take off your make-up at the end of the day, no matter what. Ladies, it doesn't matter how tired you are or how inebriated you got at that work party, TAKE IT OFF! Leaving make-up on can age you ten years or more. At least, that's what I heard... hey, I'm not citing this stuff, so believe what you want to believe. Or buy into what I'm saying blindly and look younger.

2. Use eye cream on your mouth laugh lines. Swear to God, this works. The eye cream is formulated to reduce fine lines, so use it where your fine lines are! Dab it on the under-eye area as well as around your mouth.

3. If you are older than 25, use a skincare regime that includes targeting your eyes and moisturizing your skin. Some women swear by a microderm set, and I have one. I use it when I remember... which is usually every 4 - 6 months. I have no idea if it works, but hell, it feels relaxing. And who are we kidding, I'll take relaxation whenever I can get it!

Product endorsement? Sure, I use Mary Kay products. Mostly because I have an inside connection, but I'm also pretty regimented. I have no interest in going out there and shopping around for more product. I also don't have the cash (it's a *good* connection). As long as I keep getting compliments, that's what I will use. Well, unless it starts to smell. Or there's some horrible animal testing, 3rd world child slavery issue. Until then, I'm a happy girl!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Cleaning the Bathroom

Today I've done more housework than in a long time, having no official work to do immediately nor any imminent vacation plans. That being said, my head saw the wrong side of a toilet bowl for a good 20 minutes. This kind of thing gets you thinking about how one goes about making it easier to get the necessary stuff done. I almost used the word "crap" there, instead of the word "stuff," but I figured it would come across as an awful pun.

Why 20 minutes? While we were away Frank told me about this awful "concrete-like dust" that kept building up on the basement toilet, no matter how often he cleaned it. Weird, we both thought, since the bathroom has no windows and is completely redone, as is the rest of the basement. I made a mental note to check it out but honestly, forgot.

Until today. While down in the basement doing laundry, I had to flush some hairballs (hey, this is a post about the bathroom, I'm not sugarcoating anything) courtesy of our younger cat [who manages to do this only on carpet...]. That's when I saw the "concrete-like dust" my husband was talking about. Except it wasn't dust. Nor was it concrete. It was mold. Taking over the inside of the toilet. I almost threw up right there. I thought about telling Frank it was his job, since he's the only one that uses that toilet. Then I realized, it's probably getting so nasty because Frank doesn't know how to actually clean a toilet. This thought led me to the blog post.

ALICIA'S TIPS FOR CLEANING THE BATHROOM:
1. Buy gloves. Not the reusable kind. The ones that once you're done, you can toss them. Let's face it, after those things touch the germs in your bathroom, do you really want to use them again? Nope, didn't think so. The gloves will protect your soft skin, but in reality, this just allows you to keep from touching all the gunk you are cleaning. I would put my hands in poop water with gloves on. Well, that's probably not true, but you get the picture.

2. Use a plastic grocery bag to immediately throw away the gloves & paper towels you are using to clean off the surface (or any garbage: tissues that have fallen outside the trash, clumps of hair, etc). This will keep the germs from sitting around, potentially flying through the air, and it will minimize the exposure your family has to the cleaning products (see the next item). This is probably the most eco-friendly item on this post: reuse your plastic grocery bags.

3. Use bleach-based products. I don't care what you're gonna say about breathing in chemicals or the environment - blah, blah, blah. If you want your bathroom to be free of viruses, bacteria, mold and mildew, use something with bleach. I guess you can also create a white vinegar solution, but why go to all the trouble? Best two products I use: Lysol with Bleach (both the spray & the toilet bowl cleaner) and Comet with Bleach. Make sure to follow the product recommendations for use! If it says, to disinfect leave set for 30 seconds, do it! If it has to set for 10 minutes, find yourself something else to clean and let it set.

4. Scared of the fumes? Buy a mask. And open a window. I also like to do it when the baby is not home, preferably in the morning. This gives it all day to air out before she goes to bed in the room right next to our bathroom.

NEW BLOG ADDRESS!

If all goes well, the new blog address as of Thursday, August 18th, will be:

http://www.andbabymakeschaos.blogspot.com

Thanks for making adjustments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Nothing Personal

Keep an eye out -- the url for the blog will be changing over the next week. If you subscribe via email, you may need to sign up again. When I started this blog, it was meant to be a medium for our family and friends to keep tabs on Olivia's growth. As often happens, it's become much more than that, with many visitors looking for information on Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip & Spica Casts. I am thrilled that this site has become a resource, but from here on out, I will be putting less of our personal information (that goes for our family & friends, too!) on the site. Thanks for your continued support!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Traveling

As those of you who follow me on twitter (@BabyMakesChaos) know, we had quite the adventure coming home from Michigan this past Sunday. This recent travel (9 hours in the car, one way... without stopping) gave me some insight on how to get things to go more smoothly in the future.

ALICIA'S MOMMY TIPS ON TRAVELING
1. When able, travel by night or when your child is most likely to sleep. The red-eye driving out to Michigan was tough the next day [for the adults] but we only had to stop for gas mid-transit. Plus we avoided most of the construction.
2. Bring something that plays movies. Not only is this invaluable on a plane or in a car, it's incredibly helpful if you're in a hotel room and need to get ready for an event but don't want your small child sticking their fingers in the electrical outlet. Dig?
3. Ask for a refrigerator. 99% of the hotels I've stayed at will give you one if you ask. This is clutch for food, medicine, water, and alcohol. 
4. I've discovered the more that I travel with Olivia, the more I need the following tucked away in the luggage: scissors (do NOT put these in carry-on bags!), baggies, plastic [grocery] bags, travel tissues, travel wipes. You'll figure out why in due time.

For those 45 minutes when your child is screaming, "I want my toy back!" at the top of her lungs, do yourself a favor and bring noise-cancelling headphones... or drugs - OTC, of course. :-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Overheard recently in a conversation between my 2 year old and my husband.

Olivia: When I grow up, we catch a wood-pecker.
Frank: When you grow up, we'll catch a wood-pecker?
Olivia: Yeah! Let's do that!


Your guess is as good as mine. 


Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Bookworms

I know this sounds silly, but this insider secret comes from your local librarian: teach your child to love books. Whether they are hard, chunky board books or beautifully illustrated Caldecott Medal award-winning pieces of literature, most of the moms I know have a home filled with children's books. Our own house has baskets and cloth bins overflowing with everything from the classics to the kid's meal under-3 versions. Even my car, purchased new only 6 months ago, is littered with Liv's favorites. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to see the wonders of this skill. I could go on and on about the academic potential of children who love to read or the benefits to society these young ones go one to become, but you know all that!

The real reason: your sanity. Point blank, I said it. When you have a tot that can spend hours (or precious minutes) sitting on the floor (or carseat or doctor's office or church pew...) quietly engaged with a book, you will count your blessings (and the many chores/tasks that you can now accomplish).

Start young. I read daily to pre-natal Olivia. Poor, naive Frank listened graciously each evening as I recited "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" [by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carl] to my belly. It is now, swear on my life, Olivia's favorite book. You can see her "reading" it above with her bestie, T, at the library. Post-birth, it was at least a book a day. When she could hold the books, I gave her board books, not worrying about the drool or excessive bending. She used the soft books as teethers, but by then, the impact was done. She was hooked and still is. We read at home, before nap and bed, as well as the library and church and in the car. She will stare at tween, barely illustrated novelettes in the doctor's office, and once, she demanded to read my Runners' World magazine. In the morning when I want to shower, I set her in the crib with about 15 books and know that I have about 20 minutes. I hear her through the monitor, chatting away - reciting the ones she knows and making up the ones she doesn't.

It is fantastic. Oh and your child will grow up to be a genius.

Alicia's Teach your Child to be a Bookworm Tips
1. Start young, pre-natal if you dare.
2. Be silly when you read and do fun things before and/or after reading.
3. Too many words? Make up a story. Use your child's name and their friends' names.
4. ALWAYS keep a bag of books in the car. This is just as wise as keeping a small box of crayons in every bag. And your fellow worshipers will appreciate this, even if they never say it.
5. Chick-fil-a (I should really be compensated for all the free advertising I give them...) gives fabulous, tiny board books as their "under 3" toy. They are perfect for the car.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Runner Who Mentors

As a Philadelphia runner, I saw them at 80% of the local runs I did: blue shirts. The badge of courage marking a student runner. The organization known as Students Run Philly Style works with youth ages 12 years to 18 years, mentoring and training them over 9 months to run a full marathon (26.2 miles to you non-runners). With every race, they encouraged and inspired me. Each race I ran, I felt more and more compelled to join the organization. Finally, this past February, I joined as a running leader. This is the breakdown of one of our practices.

12:34pm. I text one of the co-leaders to ask about practice. I want to send out a reminder to the students but need to confirm with him that practice is still on as usual. He responds that he cannot make it due to unexpectedly working late. I attempt to contact the other leaders, but no one is available. I am exhausted and have no desire to lead the group run, especially since I cannot run.

Later that afternoon. I suck it up and send out the mass text reminding the runners that there will indeed be a 6pm practice. Still tired, I give myself a pep talk that includes how important it is that the students run. The clinics this week have or are workout clinics, not running ones, so the practice is important. Then I contact Frank to make sure he can still get out on time so that I don't have to tote Olivia along with me.

5pm-ish. Frank arrives home from work. I begrudgingly change and gather my SRPS materials, which I bring to every practice. In this bag are forms, emergency contact information, and anything else relevant to the now. I text the student I am picking up to alert him of my ETA.

5:50pm. We arrive at school. Already 2 or 3 students have gathered. They are chatting energetically. One of our notoriously late students is walking up as we park. Exaggeratedly I note how on time she is as we join the others. Only after 5 minutes of hanging out do I realize she is not dressed in her running gear. Laughing and more teasing ensue as I urge her into the building to change.

When I joined Students Run, I was intimidated and nervous. I had serious concerns about how much of a time commitment it would be and what I would be required to do outside of running a practice. There were 4 other seasoned running leaders on the team I joined, so I figured I would be able to float along, learning as time went by. But since my personality is more bold than docile, more take charge than stand back, it did not take long for me to well, lead.

6:04pm. She has not yet returned. I start announcements as a way to stall. The group has to run 5 miles, and there is one student who averages a 15 minute run/walk pace. We need to get started soon. I alert the students to the upcoming clinics and times. There are two important facts they need to walk away with, and as I know from giving professional development trainings, they will remember only a small percentage of what I say. I will repeat these two items no less than 5 times each before the run begins. After the run, I will echo this about two more times. My general mood is improving as my back-and-forth banter with the students hits its peak. I am happy that I have such a good rapport with this group.

I think, compared to the other leaders, I am the "mom" of this team. It's an easy role for me to identify with: surrogate mother. My tendency to care for others is evident in most of my endeavors. Even my career path has evolved into one of training, guiding, and educating others. More so than the other leaders, I bring the items that the students might need. I know that one of our runners has an incredibly high metabolism and is usually hungry. On long run days, I try to bring something small for him to eat in case he has forgotten. We have a runner who stands off more than the others, and it is him whom I make sure to praise each practice for attending. I give rides, provide water, and for one student, hand-sanitizer... a girl after my own heart.

7 - 10 minutes later. She returns. The announcements commence from the beginning [again]. One of the older students speaks about the upcoming clinic at the Sporting Club, where the group will rotate through circuits with personal trainers. Both leaders and students have told me how fun this clinic is, and I hope that his words will impress that upon the new students. Summer retention is hard in Students Run Philly Style when the kids could be doing anything else with their time besides getting up early on a Saturday or even just running. Because of this my goal with every practice, more than just the miles, is to create a fun environment. When you are young, running is boring and often tedious, especially when friends call with other plans. I want them to walk away a family, dedicated to each other just as much as they are to the run.

Fun can be hard to infuse into running. We are in our 5th month of a 9 month season. Our team has evolved into a group of dedicated runners. More importantly, I have seen many friendships develop. Students who once spoke to no one during practices have become our loudest members. For my part, I have spent the past 2 months making each practice a little different. Currently we are not training for a "big" race. Broad Street [10 miler] is behind us, and the Philadelphia Marathon is still a good 3+ months away. The students have an excellent base and could all run 6 - 8 miles easily (or without complaint). The summer can be tough, even for me. I have brought food, everything from snacks to muffins to cupcakes to pretzels, and water to practices. We have done scavenger hunts and party games. Wanna have fun? Play musical chairs but without music or chairs... in the rain... with my 2 year old chaotically running with you. Over the 4th of July weekend when a good number of our team was at SRPS camp, we did a patriotic run to the Liberty Bell & back. And even though many would think it's cheesy or uncool, all but one of the students listened to my request and showed up in red, white, or blue. Fun.

6:20pm. I go over the run. They will be doing a 5 mile run that they have often done in the past. All of them know the route, which is important because I will not be with them. There are two junior leaders present that will go the distance. I ask all of them to run in pairs; they are not required to talk, just to look out for each other. I also ask any students who are able to carry a cell phone. Generally, this is not allowed, but today, given my absence, I want to make sure they are able to reach me in case of an emergency. All of them have my number, and they are all programmed in my phone. More reminders. Last minute notes about the route to make sure everyone is comfortable.

6:32pm. They are off. Giggling, teasing, & best of all for me, without complaint. I hole up in my car and wait.

Being an injured running leader stinks. Especially since my injury is a broken pinky toe, on the same foot as my sore ankle. I compensated for the pain in the toe by walking mostly on one side. The tendonitis in that ankle resurfaced due to the severe pronation. A recipe for disaster that yielded me in a walking shoe and ankle brace... and limited to exercising on a reclining bike. No running for at least 6 weeks and probable PT after that. The students have been fantastic about it: a mixture of teasing and sympathy.

6:44pm. I receive a phone call from a student who has fallen and skinned both of her knees. She purports to be hobbling and unable to run. Some leaders would tell her to suck it up and run. She is running at the back of the pack tonight, and I don't want the others in this group held up. I have her stay put, tell the others to keep on, and I am off to pick her up. I have no doubt that she is fully capable of finishing the route. However, in this moment, it is easier for me to get her than to worry about her running back on her own or continuing and slowing or furthering her pain. She regales me with the tale; I will hear this about 4 more times over the course of the practice as she shares it with whomever will listen. Like me, she has a flair for the dramatic, and I am amused by how this plays out over the course of the evening.

In the fall my schedule will change. I have taken a full-time position in South Jersey that will not get me back in time for weekday practices. I am anxious about how this will work with Students Run. I cannot imagine my life without it just as I cannot remember what I did before I volunteered. For now, I am blissfully living in the moment, not thinking about what will happen once the school year starts.

7pm-ish. While we wait, another leader happens by after finishing work. As students finish, we all wind down with more jokes and razzing. My mood has drastically improved. How could it not? Watching these students run 5 miles without flinching then come back and laugh at each other is worth it. By 7:40pm everyone has returned safely. More reminders before "props."

"Props" are an opportunity for any student who so wishes to recognize someone else on the team. In college, my all-girls choir called it "warm fuzzies." Restaurants or stores use recognition cards. Some schools do "stars" or "shout outs." Our team does "props." Generally, every prop session starts with acknowledging everyone who came, thanking them for making the trek and for running hard. Tonight is the same. The wonder that ensues is what students say next. I am always impressed by their thoughtfulness. Members are called out for running with someone, for being on time, and for just generally doing a great job without complaining. This is topped off with our Students Run Cheer.

Who are we?
STUDENTS!
What do we do?
RUN!
How do we do it?
PHILLY STYLE!

8pm. Practice is over. I gather my riders, and we make our way back home. My heart is happier. Turns out covering practicing at the last minute was the best thing that happened to me that day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Baking Assistance

Olivia hit this wonderful, help you, independent stage. It's great. No, really... just greaaaat. (Note sarcasm.)

I do enjoy, however, when she wants to help me bake. We go through the hand-washing and necessary sanitary measures, but generally, I limit her helping to dumping ingredients into the mixing bowl. It's great fun for us both, and she loves "cooking" with Mommy.

One of the recipes for cookies involves refrigerating the dough for at least 24 hours, and when I pulled it out, she wanted to help. In a slight predicament, I figured out an easy way that she could help and maintain my sanitary expectations. After all, I wanted to be able to give these to others and not feel guilt over them eating germ-laden, yet delicious (!), baked goods.

These tips are cookie-related only [for now] and mostly applicable to children who don't understand they shouldn't lick their fingers or pick their noses while baking.

ALICIA'S TIPS FOR INCLUDING KIDS DURING COOKIE BAKING:

1. Choose a bake time right before nap or bedtime. This allows your child(ren) to only help with one batch before being swept away.

2. Have them wash their hands and stand in front of the baking sheet.

3. Portion out a ball of cookie, hand it over to your child, and allow them to roll it and put it on the sheet.

4. Slightly overbake this batch. DO NOT BURN!

That last step is most important. This way you will know which cookies your child touched, and because they are slightly overcooked, you will be less likely to give them to your friends. And let's be honest, your friends are less likely to take a slightly overbaked cookie than one that looks deliciously chewy. Just remember not to burn the cookies or your kids won't eat 'em either.

Happy Baking!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Peach Cupcakes with Sangria Berry Icing

I've been baking a lot lately. I'm not sure if it means I am in a creative mood, a cheery mood, or a just plain hungry mood, but it's made for some delighted tummies. The fruit this season has been delicious, probably because of all the heatwaves. Regardless, I've been wanting to bake something new (not the usual chocolate goody), and we had some peaches from the local farmers' market that were about to go bad. I found a super yummy peach cupcake recipe at Smitten Kitchen as well as one for sangria cupcakes [from a different site]. Feeling a little adventurous, I took the sangria syrup from the latter cupcake recipe, which called for adding fresh berries to a red wine, and used it to make a sangria icing. The result was almost too sweet, so I've gotta play around with the icing. The peach cupcakes, however, were perfect - so moist and light! I highly recommend trying it out; you can find the recipe by clicking here.

I took extras into work and received rave reviews from the summer school peeps. Don't worry, the sangria syrup involved boiling the wine, so I'm 99% certain that the alcohol completely burned off. Here is how they looked (I found the cupcake liners on Sweet Estelle's Baking Supply site on Etsy). Once I figure out a better icing recipe, I'll post an update. Until then, enjoy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip: Surviving the Community

Today's mommy tip is brought to you by free stuff and crayola (figuratively):

ALICIA'S COMMUNITY SURVIVAL TIP:

1. Always keep a small pack of crayons in your purse.

2. Keep an extra pack in your gym bag, the diaper bag, and any other heavily used bag.

3. You can get free ones from Korner Bakery, Nordstrom's Cafe, and Outback.

4. Or simply throw a few in a plastic baggy and tuck them away! Be super prepared and keep scrap paper in there, too.

The crayons will become clutch in key wait situations: doctor's office, restaurants, church, etc. I often encourage parents to keep handy toys for all of these places, but when you forget, it's super easy to get out the crayons. Bonus: these aforementioned locations often have scrap paper readily available (church bulletin, back of placemat, & Liv's fave, the paper covering the patient seat in the exam room).

This is not age specific either - Olivia has enjoyed the crayons since she was around 9 months. If she didn't scribble, she loved watching me draw as I sang or spell words that were familiar to her. Now, she colors for a good 10 - 15 minutes independently.

So, go ahead, pocket that handy box of crayons the next time you are at Outback! Your child & your sanity will thank you later!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Mommy Tip (Potty-Training)

I am starting a new feature on the blog: every Monday I will post a Mom's tip. Something that I or my friends' do that I find incredibly helpful in parenting my child. A little lesson or task that makes my life easier. Or just some general wisdom from someone who has come before.

This first installment comes from the realm of potty-training. Having just gone through this with Olivia, I felt this was a good place to start. Whether or not you choose to do the highly intense, boot camp-esque methods I employed is irrelevant. This tip is perfect for anyone trying to teach their child to go in the toilet.

My post about the potty-training experience can be read here. Note that we had quite the first night - 7 accidents in a row! This left me wondering about how I would survive the next day on my own. When Liv had an accident, Frank was essential [in my mind] to getting through it. One of us cleaned up Liv and talked her through practicing, while the other cleaned up the immediate area. It involved getting clean clothes, washing hands, and spraying the area with Lysol (not in that order). So, I figured out a way to make it easier to do everything on my own:

ALICIA'S POTTY-TRAINING TIPS

1. Have a bucket handy filled with water and OxiClean (or any product like OxiClean). The idea is that as soon as clothing becomes soiled, you can immediately throw the garment(s) in the water for soaking until you can wash them. This made my life so much easier! Toss 'em in and forget about 'em.

2. Keep everything within arm's reach. I had her extra underwear & clean clothes, M&Ms, a roll of toilet paper, a roll of paper towels, a thing of wipes, a plastic bag [for garbage], my recording sheet, a stool for me to sit on, and a box of tissues [damn, the allergies!] all in a 4 foot radius of the potty. Nearby, but safely out of reach, was the container of Lysol. I never had to go more than two steps to get anything I needed. It was a thing of beauty; I wish I had taken a picture. There should have been a sign on the door that said: Potty-training in Progress... Don't Touch Anything!

3. I trained her using a tiny potty because our bathrooms are located upstairs and in the basement; nothing is on the first floor, which is where our easy-to-clean laminate flooring is. I didn't want to train her to use the upstairs bathroom because of (1) the carpet, (2) we don't spend a lot of time up there unless we are on the bed, and (3) it would have been a longer travel distance had we been downstairs. The basement was out because of the carpet and the [golf-ball sized] crickets. If you can avoid carpeting, do so. It's much easier to clean a hard surface than to scrub carpets (especially if you are alone).

4. The tiny potty had to be emptied into the flushable toilet, which wasn't an issue... until she pooped and I mistakenly used wipes. We cannot flush wipes at our house, so they had to be thrown in the plastic bag -- kind of smelly and gross in my opinion. I started using the toilet paper to clean her as best I could and finished off with wipes. Much less odor and a little more sanitary.

5. If you do the intense potty-training like I did, don't bother with pants until your child has the concept [and is having zero accidents]. Otherwise, they just get in the way. Liv went 3 1/2 days without pants, and the first day I put them on her, she said, "Where we goin?"

Good luck!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Power of Prayer

When people meet me, they don't look at me and think, "That's one deeply religious woman." I guess my bold personality comes across as fitting a different stereotype. I am not a fall-down-on-your-knees-throw-your-hands-up-and-shout-it-out kind of prayer person, more a "Hey God, It's Me ... [Alicia]" kind of person. Some people may call this meditation. Others simple contemplation in moments of solitude. I call it prayer.

I generally do not ask for specific things. Mostly because of Mark Twain's The War Prayer...
If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time. If you pray for a blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
Instead, I often request the strength to get through a tough time or the courage to accept the outcomes I may encounter. I ask this for others also because as highlighted in Twain's poem, sometimes what we ask for is in complete contradiction to what another asks of God. Who am I to feel more deserving than another?

Recently I found myself in quite a predicament: the eve of an incredibly important presentation, I discovered my jump drive was missing. The jump drive with confidential client files and highly personal information was not where I left it. Initially I panicked, and had this happened about 2 or 3 years ago, I would have melted down... freaked my freak as a friend once said. I'm not sure if it was hitting my 30s and achieving a maturity closer to self-actualization, or perhaps, simply not being knee-deep in the school year's stresses, but within about 10 minutes I had calmed down. I quickly accepted that the jump drive would not be available for the presentation and went about finding another solution. Happily most of the documents I needed were, in some form or another, on my hard drive or other removable disks. I figured out how to proceed, and the meeting went very well.

But... I still did not have a hugely important item. My concern loomed over the information contained on the drive and how potentially harmful it could be in another's hands. When I realized there was no way I had left it outside of my own house, I chalked it up to God or the baby and figured, eventually, it would be found. Still there was this gnawing on my inside: where the hell did that thing go?

After much remembering, I narrowed it down to two locations in my house. Again, I self-soothed: when able, I would do a complete clean sweep of those areas. If it was still MIA, I could safely assume my naively helpful child attempted to clean out Mommy's purse and threw it away. I felt better knowing that some evil superpower was not in possession of my jump drive, using it to accomplish their dirty, dastardly deeds... but still, where the hell was it?

I prayed. Aloud and silently. I began daily prayers to St. Anthony, "St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please look around. Something is lost and cannot be found." I racked my brain, tried new places, and then prayed more.

Nay-sayers will claim I would have found it eventually, but what does it matter? I eventually stopped looking and focused only on my novena, if you would call it that, to St. Anthony. I hoped, if nothing else, for the memory of where I left it. As I was about to sort my laundry... shamefully, the 2nd time in only 10 days... a thought crossed my mind, "Wouldn't it be funny, if it was in my laundry basket?" I shook my head and rolled my eyes and got to sorting. Absurd. With about 2 items left to pull out, there it was: my jump drive. Sitting there as if this was its home. Waiting for me to discover it. Strewn in with my dirty clothing. It either fell off my bedside table and into the basket or was accidentally pulled along with the clothing during a bed sweep.

However it came to be, it was found. Thank you, St. Anthony. And thank you, good Lord in heaven, for keeping me calm and sane... mostly.

So, forgive me, readers, for being soap-boxy. But take a moment when you can for you. Call it prayer or meditation or deep thought or internal discussions with your multiple personalities or just a simple moment of silence. It doesn't matter the title, just do it. You may not realize the full import of this quick pause until you face an adversity so troublesome, you have no idea what to do that it really is easier to not do at all. You will find the strength to continue, whatever its source.

And hopefully, you've realized, it's about more than a jump drive.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Really Good Cause!

Via Twitter I follow a woman who is running 13.1 miles in her combat boots to raise money for the American Cancer Society via Team Determination.

In order to raise a lot of money quickly, she's organized a pretty sweet raffle full of incredibly desirable running goodies. You can get raffle tickets by donating money! Visit her blog for more information and/or to donate. It's an excellent cause by an extraordinary woman.

Her raffle ends July 15, 2011, so do it quickly!

And if you are on twitter, follow her: @amileinmyboots & me:@BabyMakesChaos


Monday, July 4, 2011

Ain't Too Proud

Ok, so I admit it, sometimes I'm all for using this blog as a platform to win free stuff. So, I'm entering a contest on the blog: Endurance Isn't Only Physical. Cross your fingers for me and check it out (after you uncross your fingers!).

A Need to Go the Extra Mile

It's pretty clear that I love running. My t-shirts are 90% race shirts. My walking shoes are old-running shoes. My "sweats" are just loose running apparel. I have a drawer devoted entirely to running gear. I attribute my uh, [cough] svelte look to running... as well as my sanity. I enjoy lacing up the Brooks, turning on the Runtastic app on my Blackberry, bidding adieu to my hubby and child, or just the cats if no one else is home, and escaping my life. At a recent half-marathon I saw a sign that said, 13.1 miles of peace and quiet. Amen. And I'd like to add of no diapers, crying, whining, or general chaos - at least from my child & husband. I may do 3 of those 4 items at any time on a run.

Unfortunately, running has not always loved me back. After I birthed a small child, it took awhile for my 10 month stagnant body to warm up. Postpartum running went as fast as an 80 year old speedwalker, who often beat me [mentally]. And my knee developed this nagging pain that has since been successfully treated with Hyalgan shots.

Feeling like I needed focus, I trained for and ran the November Philadelphia Half-Marathon. It was invigorating to be running a distance again. I felt whole, finally back to me. During the 13.1 mile trek, my friend Amy & I talked about life, our daughters, and running. We wanted them to grow up strong and to see the importance in activity. I felt like I needed to share running with the world. Like I needed to stand on roof-tops calling out its glories. This pull led me to Students Run Philly Style, an organization that mentors youth through long-distance running, and over time, we train the students to run a full marathon. That's 26.2 miles, a distance even I have never beaten.

Running with the students has elevated my running, physically and mentally. It doesn't matter what kind of awful mood I am in; when I run with my students, I am immersed in excitement. Plus, my body has reaped the benefits of this conditioning. My pace has improved, and I found myself capable of quick turnarounds due to improved recovery on challenging runs.

Over the past few months, I was up to running 20 - 25 miles per week - an all-time high, especially as a working mom. I ran Broad Street in early-May, turned around and ran the Oddyssey Half-Marathon in late-May, and then the King of Prussia 10-miler in early-June all without a solid break. My pace has increased to slightly below 11 mins/mile. I was ecstatic.

But, it laid the groundwork for a physically tired anatomical me. During the KOP run, I landed funny coming off a curb. The immediate effects went unnoticed, and I finished the challenging 10 mile race under my goal. For several days, the ankle was sore, and I thought, "It's nothing." When I tried to return to running, it screamed at me. I figured, a minor sprain and took some time off, using a grocery store brace to offer home-made stabilization. Low impact exercise, ice, rest, repeat. After a week or so, I tried treadmill running... still pain. Back to the formula, walked with the students when I could, and this time kept the brace on always. Running with the brace, while it looks ridiculous, goes well with little to no post-run pain... as long as I am on a treadmill. I learned that latter factor when I decided to push my luck and run the Swarthmore Independence Eve 8K - a lovely, local run which usually has no more than 100 - 150 runners. It is also a very challenging 8K.

I ran it, in its entirety. My ankle starting talking to me around 2.5 miles. When I got to mile 4, it was yelling at me, cursing really, but by this point, I was a mile from the finish and determined. The recovery was tough, especially since I turned around and did a 6.6 mile run/walk with the students the following morning. Smart? Probably not. But I have a few students who would have been fine walking with me, and I don't want them to lose their conditioning so we walked a block, ran a block and enjoyed ourselves. Not wanting them to see bad habits, I minimize the effort I put forth around them. They need a role model that listens to their body, rests when rest is needed, and tests their limits cautiously. So while I may not do that in reality, I promise that when I am around the students, I am not reckless. In fact, this was the first time they have seen me run in weeks. Pinky swear.

The frustrating thing is that it only hurts when I run. With the brace on, I can do a stationary bike, the eliptical, walking, and even short-distance treadmill running. But that is not what my body craves. I have a problem: I need to run. I yearn to get out the door and spend hours hovering between 10 & 11 minute miles. It's a strange rush, but it's mine. I already have my sights set on the Baltimore Marathon's Half-Marathon, sponsored by Under Armour & sure to be filled with amazing swag. As fun as cross-training can be, it's not the same. It's not running.

I have a doctor's appointment Thursday and am hoping for the best: minor sprain. At its worst, it could be a stress fracture or even need surgery. Either way, I am developing a mental argument for why the doctor should treat the injury in a non-restrictive way. Maybe I really cannot run, but let me swim, bike, walk, move. Anything. Just let me do.

And when I return, I can continue saving my sanity, one mile at a time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Passing Moment

Olivia has been having some nap troubles. Specifically, I want her to nap, and she feels it's unnecessary. We've gone through this before; the outcome of which was she learned that Mommy is not going to come get me but Daddy might and Mom Mom will. So, if she thinks I am not home, she will cry. Now, over time her cries have become more cunning, more manipulative. Initially, she cried. Then, she screamed hysterically. She started yelling out our names. A few weeks ago, she began loudly calling, "I love you, too!" or "I miss you!" Last week, it became, "Help!" My child needs to use these powers for a greater good...

Then, we potty-trained. And my daughter, the future CIA agent, pulled out her Ace-in-the-hole: "I need to go potty!"

Except she doesn't know what she's dealing with because her mommy is a behavior analyst who deals with cunning & shrewdness everyday. Her mommy puts her on the potty for a minute or two and then puts her right back to bed.

Today, however, in a passing moment of weakness, I sat with her in the glider and rocked her. I cradled her in my arms, told her to close her eyes, and softly counted. As I counted, I realized just how big my baby is with her head and feet over the armrests [laying on my arms]. I thought about how I used to hold her in this very position when she was a newborn and refused to sleep. I listened as her breathing slowed and hit a more rhythmic smoothness. I felt this radiant love - me to her and bouncing back.

She may be shrewd but she is still just perfect. As I shifted to move her into the bed, her eyes opened into tiny slits, and I whispered, "I'm going to lay you in your crib. It's time to take a nap." I softly brushed her hair aside before creeping quietly from the room.

The angel slept for almost 3 glorious hours.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pee Everywhere

Yikes! If I went to confession, this would start with a huge omission of guilt. I have not been posting and have been so busy that I don't feel bad.

You'll live. I'm pretty sure there aren't many out there knocking down the door to check our humble blog each day.

Finally, what has been deemed [by me] as "the worst school year ever" is over. After spending a week enjoying breathing, I hunkered down for POTTY TRAINING!

I have to admit, I am not afraid of toilet-training. Doesn't scare me. Doesn't intimidate me. Doesn't make me wince or cower with fear of ruined clothing, floors or furniture. Why? Because I am a behavior analyst working with children with special needs. Toilet-training is what I do on a regular basis, so I figured I would stick to the plan and do what I normally do.

I don't usually talk about what I do on the blog, which is meant to highlight Olivia and our family, but the wonderful success of toilet-training has inspired me to spread the word. As a behavior analyst, I use the research-based methods put forth by Drs. Foxx & Axrin. It has worked well with all my clients, so I figured it would work with Liv, too.

You can find a short description of their book here, on the Best Nanny Newsletter. Essentially, it's an intense, scheduled system that utilizes reinforcement for success & teaching/practicing when accidents occur. The book is very easy to read and can be purchased on Amazon for relatively little. I've used this many times with my clients, so I did a slightly modified version with Liv, especially after the initial 7 straight accidents in about 20 minutes incident on the first night. I switched to a 5 mins on the toilet/5 minutes off after that and increased by 5 minutes [off] after the 3rd straight success. Instead of "pumping her full of liquids," as I often suggest to clients, I gave her about 1/4 - 1/2 box of juice every hour. And I cut her off about 1 - 1.5 hours before nap/bedtime. She does still sleep in pull-ups. We were at 20 mins off/2 - 5 mins on when she self-initiated for the first time. I waited for a second time and stopped scheduling her all together.

There was some major, hysterical, roof-raising crying every time she wetted herself, which affected her willingness to even sit on the little, green potty conveniently set up in our living room. So I did a little re-pairing and allowed her to watch her most favorite show, Yo Gabba Gabba! I also set aside M&Ms - 2 for pee pees and 4 for poops. Eventually, I faded the TV show to books (see the picture above), so I could also give her Gabba when she successfully used the toilet. In order to keep the allure of Gabba high, we did not watch any TV... this did lead to my temporary insanity and a strong desire to interact with other adults that may have bordered on unhealthy.

Tomorrow I'm letting her wear pants again (she's been running around in her skivvies and a t-shirt), and I'll put the TV on non-child-friendly programs. Over the weekend I'll fade out the use of Yo Gabba Gabba as a reward, and then, I'll start thinning the use of M&Ms.

I began the program after I picked her up from daycare on Monday -- so around 5pm. It's Thursday (4pm-ish), and I can honestly say that she's got it. She may still have an occasional accident, but I'm so proud of her. That first day there were 6 wet accidents in about 4 hours. The second day 1 wet and 1 poop; yesterday, 1 wet accident. So far today, nothing (knock wood...). She is telling us when she has to go, and for the past two naps, she has woken up dry. Maybe I shouldn't count my chickens, but it is, at the very least, exciting.

And for all you fellow behavior analysts: Yes, I took data.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cabin Fever

Liv has been sick all week. All week. All.... Week.

Turns out [during the SECOND trip to the doctor] she has an ear infection AND pneumonia. Awesome.

Good news: she's feeling better already with just 4 doses of antibiotics. Bad news: she's feeling better already and our house looks like a tornado zipped through.

So I have tons of posts to post and pictures to share, but it will have to wait until I can sit and type it all out. Because I also have tons of surfaces to disinfect, laundry to do, groceries to buy, and snotty old tissues to discover and throw out.

But, here's a MOM TIP: buy a special snack to give post-medicine.

Olivia usually doesn't mind taking her medicine, but this time (new pharmacy, maybe?) she really hates the taste. So, we bought some delicious, mini-cupcakes that we present to her for after the medicine. She's super excited about the cupcake, and we just keep saying, "You have to take your medicine first! Then you can eat the cupcake!" We set it out so she can see it, and BAM, the medicine dropper comes out. She hates the meds but it's much smoother with the cupcake.

In the words of the great philosopher, Brobee, "Try it. You'll like it!"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

the JOY of LOVE

It's all about perspective, right? I kept reminding myself of that during the mini-shoot with Li'l Miss Thang tonight. I'm slowly figuring out how to use light better, but it's still frustrating when I don't have the natural light that I need to get a clear shot.

The peanut was her usual boisterous, pre-two self. I took quite a few photos for the JOY of LOVE assignment: what they do. These are my favorites, but I only submitted the last two to the group.


Larger than Life. I love how she looks like she could squash the kitchen set.


Busy Feet.

Paused. A rare moment stopped in her tracks.

Glued. 5pm means Curious George in our house. Jealous? Yeah, you are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where's the Love?

There is no love. I'm in a bad mood. I hate snow. I hate ice. I hate waking up at 5:30am, spending what could be precious sleep time getting my family ready, only to leave late because I have to clean off my car and salt the sidewalk. I hate people. I hate doing work after hours. I hate that my computer has started freezing again. I hate waiting. I hate being tired. I hate plateauing weight loss. I hate that I can't run outside. I hate that it's Tuesday and the only thing on TV is The Biggest Loser: Couples where people live in a magical bubble on a mantra devoid of life's obstacles in order to lose gobs of fat. I hate that my daughter is inching closer to 2 and fulfilling the terrible twos prophecy. I hate time outs. I hate poop.

I am cranky.


So I joined a free photo class on Willette aptly titled The Joy of Love. Today's prompt was "what they do." I still have to upload the photos that I took but will post when I can. Bear with me.


In the meantime, here's a repost of the main picture (hint: it's not going to be the main picture much longer...).




Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Letter to Olivia

To My Peanut,

My first-born,

My Olivia,

You make me smile everyday with your joy and sweetness. I love that you elate when we open your door in the morning and jump up and down in your crib. I especially love that you wake up and lay quietly for a long time before deciding that it's time to start the day. Then you babble or sing before yelling out our names.

I love that you make up songs. I sang to you throughout my pregnancy - at choir, in the car, in the shower, and even during work when I would hum in the rare instances of down time. I sang after your surgery, and I sang during your spica diaperings. I sang when I didn't know what else to do, making up words to the beat of familiar cadences describing the mundane, reliving each moment of the day through song. I sang hymns, anthems, and top 40s. I sang Broadway and Disney, a karaoke wanna-be. And the reward, 21+ months later is that you sing, as I did at a young age, making up songs that list out what you see and love and do. You have a tiny, melodic voice that lifts my heart. I pray that you find solace in music, that it envelops you when you are sad, surrounds you when you are elated, and fills your world in inexplicable ways.

I love the way you smell and feel. When I pick you up in the small room at daycare, I squeeze you tightly and drink you in deeply. You are mine, and I cherish this one action each workday.

I love the way you say Leedo for Vito [the cat] and glubs for gloves. You say so many words with incredible articulation and intelligibility, but it's the imperfections that I delight in. I know it will not last, a stamp of childhood that fades slightly each day. You try to echo so much: okadoke for okey dokey and upadaze for oops-a-daisy, and you smile with my giggles. I find your intonations so full of attitude and drama, and I wish it could last. Or that you could retain the nymph-like shell currently shielding me from the drama sure to come when you shed this outer-layer and develop into a teenager, when the intonations are intentional and the sarcasm mastered. In those future moments, the dead-pan okay won't be a simple imitation of your adult cohorts but a possible dagger, meant to inflict emotional damage. I cling to the knowledge that you are too little for this; you are finding your voice, exploring how words feel and fit and flow.

I love that I am scooonnng [strong] to you because I run. I hope to teach you that women are strong and capable of so much more than before. I hope you love yourself as much as I love you. You have such confidence now. May this asset embed itself in your being but not so much that it edges out your sensitivity. You care so deeply for others and have come home to tell me about being sad when a friend didn't share. You yell kayful! to the TV when peril strikes. You empathize, something I am amazed to see in a person so small.

I love that you pray. For Daddy first, then Mommy. That you know to pray quietly and with your hands together. You know Jesus as a baby in the Nativity, but my heart tells me there is a belief there, too. And you say Amen. For this, I am grateful.

And this is my memory for you. Save it for a time when you need uplifting, when you've had a bad day or wish to hear kind words. Let the words pick you up and carry you through.

And I, baby girl, will do the same.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Simple Things

Frank and I didn't spend a ton of money on Christmas this year. Good thing. She was thrilled with the boxes that everything shipped in.

Lesson learned.



Sunday, January 16, 2011

40 Before 40 Checklist

If you read the post from last year, you'll learn I don't really make resolutions. I set goals, which some people would argue is exactly what a resolution is. However, I'd like to think of a goal as having an end date, a moment in time when you can check the item off the list and say, "Done." Resolutions are often ways people try to make themselves healthier, wealthier, or wiser but tend to be vague, such as "Go to the gym more." Maybe it's my profession, but I want these things to be measurable!

Last year, I put a big priority on weight loss, and I am pleased to say I lost 20 POUNDS! My BMI is slightly above 25%. I finally found my happy pace, and it's about 1 - 1.5 minutes quicker than a year ago. I can fit in almost all of my pre-baby clothes, and what could not be salvaged was donated to my sister-in-law. So, it's time to set my sights on other things. Having crossed the age barrier and entered the 30s, I've decided to make this more of a 40 before 40 list. That means, when next year rolls around, don't complain; some of these items will be checked off in future years.

Here goes:
1. Run Broad Street with Frank.
2. Learn more about my new camera, including reading a book or taking a class, so that I can use the aperture.
3. Bake a flavored cake from scratch (forget vanilla or chocolate, my sights are set on bigger and better things!).
4. Take Liv on a plane.
5. Buy a new-to-me car.
6. Baby numero dos.
7. Lose 10 more pounds and be below 25% BMI.
8. Blog more than 35 times per year (shame on me for 2010!).
9. Buy a new computer (which will help #8).
10. Get my insurance fitness reimbursement AGAIN!
11. Run the Disney World Princess Half-Marathon. In a tutu. And a tiara.
12. Learn to knit. Make a scarf.
13. Renovate our kitchen.
14. Renovate our bathroom.
15. Buy a single family home with 4 bedrooms and a driveway.
16. Unpack the office.
17. Go to San Francisco.
18. Buy a coffee from the first Starbucks in Seattle.
19. Take a piano lesson. Or two.
20. Consign any clothes that our child(ren) have outgrown at least once.
21. Take a baking class.
22. Take another cake decorating class.
23. Repaint the living/dining room.
24. Replace the hardware on all the doors in our entire house.
25. Write a letter to the editor.
26. Grow an herb(s?) which is then used in our family's cooking.
27. Baby numero tres?
28. Move to any of the following towns: HT/HF, Na, or WW.
29. Run a mile with Olivia, who will also be running.
30. Volunteer with Olivia once per year.
31. Run 500 miles in one calendar year.
32. Make a speech at an event.
33. Read a "classic" novel.
34. Learn and then do some DIY home project that would usually involve paying someone.
35. Sew or make a school costume for Olivia (or any other future child).
36. Pay off a credit card or debt (note: just one, not all).
37. Swim for fitness (meaning go to the gym with the sole intent of "swimming laps" or whatever that means).
38. Have dinner at a 5 star restaurant.
39. Go to Europe.
40. Write a chapter of a novel.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Spread the Word!

I just read a brilliant tip for babies in spica casts located on Maggie's blog A One and a Two!!! I'm sharing the idea for anyone who has wandered onto my site because it's so fantastic! She has found success using diaper covers instead of 2 diapers. Sidenote: depending on the type of spica cast, some people use 2 diapers, one smaller and one larger [to cover and act as a catch-all]. You'll note on my site that we used an adult incontinence pad (always fun to buy as a 30 year old...) and a larger, outer diaper.

I find the idea of using a diaper cover extremely economical and earth-friendly, and, and let's be real, more importantly [because spica casts are NOT CUTE], diaper covers are sooooo adorable these days! I won't lie, I'm a little jealous that we didn't come up with it or read about it, but that's why I'm opening my mouth and spreading the word!

Maggie's post on diaper covers is located here. Check out her blog, too, as she manages TWINS (!), one of whom is in a spica. Thanks, Maggie! Stay strong; I'm rooting for you and Charlie! And Davey, too!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I read a "Mom-Tip" once from someone whose child hated having their hands cleaned after meals. This person suggested pouring water on the highchair so that the Clean Hands Hater could play and "wash" their hands simultaneously. Brilliant! We went through this with Olivia so I decided to try it. She loved it. Her hands, however, were no cleaner than when we started, and I had the added bonus of not only cleaning her hands but also removing the now beloved water.

Rating: A+ for creative way to entertain a child; F for cleanliness but also for inducing more tears than the original act would have done...

Recommendation: Sing a song and use baby wipes. Be fast and distract!

video

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Get What You Give

And then there was that time when we had a snow day. Frank cooked chili in the slow cooker. The whole family had cabin fever and went for a joy ride to Dunkin' Donuts. Olivia was so excited that she giggled in the car as we pulled in the lot. We picked up fresh, just-baked French bread from a local market before returning home to enjoy chili.

We gave it to Olivia at 6pm. She loved it.

She gave it back to us around 8:30pm.

Aaaah, memories.

Snow Day

Things are getting better with the computer but still ever so slooooow...

As I sit snowed in for the third time this winter, I have been attempting to patiently update the blog and add some pictures. Included here are pictures I took of Olivia decorating the tree.

For Christmas, Santa gave me a Canon EOS Rebel XS DSLR, which I had been begging for. I was getting annoyed that all my pictures of Olivia were coming out blurry, an unfortunate by-product of having a mobile child. Sidenote: we are incredibly happy to have a mobile child after watching her develop post-DDH surgery & cast. However, my point-and-click was NOT holding up. So Santa did me a solid and Black Friday shopped.

The pictures are coming out amazing, but it's totally accidental. I have no idea what I'm doing. If I see something that I think would look pretty as a photograph, I try to quietly snap the memory. Look for future pictures to come. I will say, I'm deleting more than I did previously and editing as best as possible. I'll be looking for more information on how to use the camera, which is currently set to basic sport mode.

The other delightful outcome of this holiday season was that Olivia completely understood it! Her Christian daycare instilled the idea of Jesus' birth, so she sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus the entire month. On Christmas Eve, she knew that Santa was coming and bringing her presents but only if she was asleep. It was perfect. I have a lot of photos to sort through, so look for those in the, hopefully, near future.

But our holiday cards came out just lovely. So thank you, Santa, for making me quite the happy mommy this winter. And a happy mommy means a happy house!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

We are alive and well.

My computer, however, is not. I type this from a distant land known as "the in-law's."

Please [continue to] be patient as I figure out how to get blog posts up without my computer shutting down.

In the meantime, enjoy any remaining holiday cheer with your family!

PS: Half-marathon completed in 2:34!
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