Wednesday, January 30, 2013

for the romantics

If, like me, you're a sucker for a good romance novel and a happy ending, I have a recommendation for you: Edenbrooke by debut novelist Julianne Donaldson. When I read this review back in August, I knew that this book sounded like one I would enjoy. And I did . . . enough to reread much of it immediately after finishing the book the first time--a sure sign of a worthy read.

This book reminds me a little of Jane Austen's works. Edenbrooke is set in a similar time period and involves a likable, snappy heroine, but the author's writing is less formal than Austin's, so the story is easier to read quickly. (The book is only 264 pages, so that helps for speed reading, too.) Although I enjoyed them, the last two books I have read were such downers and deeply disturbing on multiple levels that a clean, chaste romance with a happy ending was just what I needed to rekindle my joy of reading.

What are you reading these days?

Monday, January 28, 2013

meal wars: dinner drama

For months now, Mason has basically eaten whatever Brad and I do for dinner, which has always been my goal. This mama has no intentions of becoming a short order cook! But one night recently, Mason turned into a little rebel and now peaceful dinners feel like a distant memory.

It's like someone flipped a switch in my boy.

The mere sight of foods that Mason used to eat eagerly and happily now cause him to sob and scream: chicken, potatoes, broccoli, pork chops, rice, pineapple--nothing too crazy. I literally place him in the high chair, he nervously looks at his plate/high chair tray, frowns, starts badgering me for a cracker, and freaks out when I encourage him to eat whatever's for dinner. He has a complete meltdown in the chair, won't take a single bite of anything on his plate, and ends up going to bed without any dinner. This has happened a couple times in the past week.

If I would let him, I'm sure he'd eat a dinner of solely crackers, applesauce, or sweet potatoes, but I put my foot down. Yes, I feel like a horribly cruel mother sending my 16-month-old to bed without any dinner. But my gut tells me that giving in and letting him eat whatever he wants isn't wise for any of us in the long run.

Each time Mason has boycotted dinner, I've wrapped up his untouched plate and placed it in the refrigerator, ready for him should he wake up starving at 3 AM. Although he sleeps somewhat fitfully on an empty stomach, thus far, he's made it through the night. And the next day he's absolutely ravenous, hungry enough, in fact, to wolf down the yucky dinner that he shunned the night before. Go figure.

I barely give Mason an afternoon snack to ensure he's good and hungry for dinner. As much as possible, we try to eat together as a family so that he can see Brad and I eating the same foods he does. I try to mix up the way his food is served to keep him interested and engaged. Any other ideas to ward off the thunderstorm at dinner, Gentle Readers? I've discovered that if I give one of his staple foods--applesauce, sweet potatoes, etc.--too early in the meal, he will simply demand more of it and won't eat anything else, so I tend to use those foods as rewards or to help the green veggies slide down a little easier.

It's no accident that my two siblings and I will eat pretty much anything. Sure, we have our favorite foods, but we're not at all picky eaters. I have no idea how my mom did it with all three of us, and she doesn't remember either, but this is one battle I find worthy of fighting. I need to hunker down because food rebellion, unfortunately, feels like it could be a long war.

What's your version of dinner drama and how do you handle it?

Friday, January 25, 2013

one more year

He's done it again! My man has gone and turned another year older, which means that in 17 days, I'll follow suit--yikes!

We don't go out much anymore, but our birthday tradition remains alive. Brad's choice for steak this year is Capital Grille. For my birthday in a few weeks, we're dining at Corduroy.

Happy, happy birthday (and date night!) to my wonderful husband!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

building a vertical garden

A year ago, when I finally joined Pinterest, one idea stood out to me immediately: a rain gutter garden.

Brilliant, I thought! Especially for city gardeners like me with limited horizontal space. Why spread out when I can garden up?

My handy-dandy parents visited for Christmas, and I put my dad (with assistance from Brad) to work building me a vertical garden--just in time to plant lettuce and other cold-weather crops next month!

This project was easy and Dad claimed that Brad and I could have built it ourselves. At Home Depot, we bought rain gutters, snips (to cut the gutter the appropriate length), end caps for the gutters, three 2x4 boards (not completely necessary, but our fence is a little rickety, so Dad wanted reinforcement for the gutters), and all-weather screws. We used our drill and other tools we already had at home.

And, wala!

It doesn't look like much now, but I will post again when I start planting, and then a third time once the seeds start growing. Gardening season is right around the corner! Who's excited?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

unfinished books

Sadly, I didn't finish Anna Karenina in 2012, as I had resolved to. I didn't even try. In 2010, my last full calendar year without a child at home, I finished 60 books. In 2012, my first full calendar year caring daily for Mason, I finished eight books. Welcome to motherhood.

Yes, I can meet my reading goals and write a dissertation, finish a PhD program, work full-time, be married, run marathons and other races, travel, and spend time with friends and family among many other commitments. But one small child underfoot can disrupt everything--in all the best ways, of course!

As far as I can remember, my list of unfinished books equals two:

I vow to finish both books one day--perhaps that will be a future New Year's resolution--but not this year. Savoring my boy's little years takes precedence over a book that will inevitably be a struggle to finish.

Do you have any unfinished books that haunt you? Think you'll ever finish them?

Friday, January 18, 2013

outsmarting my son

Mason loves bread. Anything bread-based or bread-like--sandwiches, pizza, pasta, tortillas, stuffing, waffles, cake, etc.--is a win. Add cheese and I've hit the jackpot.

Mason eats a slice of whole-wheat toast most mornings with his fruit and yogurt, and he (barely) eats the crusts, but disdains the heel pieces of the loaf. Not one to waste anything, I've finally come up with a way to sneak the heels by him: I turn the heel side inward on grilled sandwiches that I sometimes make him for lunch. He never knows the difference! (I've also started adding spinach or arugula to his grilled turkey and swiss or ham and cheese sandwiches, along with a little honey mustard. Yes,  sneaking things by my boy has begun in earnest.)

If you are also a heel snob, but hate wasting perfectly good food, consider this trick. You really can't tell the difference and grilled sandwiches are yummy!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's January

... but don't tell my roses

or my Gerbera daisies

or my snapdragons.

I don't ever remember a January when the previous summer's flowers were still blooming. I love it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

fictional heroes

Photo credit
Move over, Edward Cullen. Step aside, Rhett Butler. Stand in line, Mr. Darcy. I have a new favorite fictional hero: Jean Valjean.

I saw the musical version of Les Miserables in Chicago on my 24th birthday, nearly 15 years ago. While I walked away from the performance loving the music, some of the plot had escaped me. It wasn't until watching the movie version just a few weeks ago that I truly understood the plot, and the beauty that is Jean Valjean.

Does a better fictional hero exist?

While watching the movie, I was struck by how many similarities there are between The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables. (Just in case anyone else is curious, The Count of Monte Cristo was published first, in 1844. Les Miserables followed in 1862.) Both protagonists serve time in prison. Both make daring escapes from their pursuers. Both men are strong and smart and rebuild their lives after prison. Themes of love and revenge are woven throughout both stories, albeit in different forms. But Jean Valjean, the movie version at least, exudes kindness and compassion that The Count lacked. I enjoyed reading The Count of Monte Cristo and am glad that Brad and I both read it. But my major criticism of that tale is that, in my opinion, The Count didn't seem very human. He was too cold and calculating for me. After reading 1,000+ pages, I wanted to feel connected to the protagonist--or even just like him-- more than I did. I don't have that problem with (the movie version of) Jean Valjean.

A few days after seeing Les Miserables, Brad, Mason and I went to Barnes and Noble. Copies of Les Miserables tempted me from every direction. I now feel an obligation to read the book sometime in my lifetime. But since I failed at my one reading goal of 2012, I believe that 2013 is not the year to take on another 1,200+ page tome. I resisted the urge and saved us $18 on a book that I surely would not finish anytime soon.

Instead, I came home and downloaded the free copy of Les Miserables via my Kindle application on my iPhone 5. How crazy is that? And how many pages would a 1,200-page normal book be on an iPhone? 8,000? 10,000? At least the Kindle version was free!

Who are your favorite fictional heroes? And is anyone else as obsessed with Jean Valjean as I am?

Monday, January 14, 2013

car sickness

The first time Mason threw up in the car, I thought it was a fluke. He didn't have a fever. He wasn't at all sick. He ran around and ate normally within minutes of its occurrence. The second time it happened, only a week or so later, we had just arrived on campus at my former employer. I was giving a presentation in the class I used to teach. Some of my former students had agreed to watch Mason. Of course, as luck would have it, I had no change of clothes or Mason, or even a blanket or rag to use to clean him up. I hauled him to a bathroom in the closest academic building I could find, stripped him, washed his shirt and pants, which were drenched, by the way, in the sink, tried to dry him and his clothes with paper towels the best I could, and took him to the presentation with me, wet and both of us smelling like vomit. My former students were great sports about it, but I'm sure they said to each other, "Rebecca left her amazing job with us for that?!"

I told them that parenthood was far from glamorous, but it's absolutely the best thing in the world. I'm not sure they believed me.

Now, I drive with the windows cracked and the temperature as cool as we can stand, but I'm still paranoid each time Mason and I get into the car. So, with our pediatrician's blessing, we're turning his carseat around, even though he's still eight months from turning two. I hope that facing forward will nix this carsickness, but I'm still nervous about it.

When did you turn your toddler's seat around? Did you make it to the recommended age of two? And does anyone have any tips for dealing with carsickness?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

nap transitions

It began shortly after Mason's first birthday. Running around the crib. Babbling and playing instead of sleeping. Taking longer and longer to fall asleep at his normal nap times. Falling asleep too late in the morning and then boycotting his afternoon nap. Falling asleep too late in the afternoon and then tossing and turning for more than an hour at bedtime. And so it goes on.

Now, nearly four months later, we are still transitioning down to one nap. It's ruthless! While I'm reluctant to give up Mason's morning nap, this time in limbo is killing me. I like a predictable schedule. I don't like having to wait and see if he sleeps in the morning or not, and then that determining our schedule and activities the rest of the day.

Mason's not quite ready--or at least I don't think he is--to give up his morning snooze. When he doesn't take his morning nap, he's an absolute bear by 10:30 AM--whiny, grouchy, and clingy. And even though I put him down an hour early for his afternoon nap, he's overtired by then and doesn't sleep as long as he needs to, making the rest of the day and bedtime rocky. Will he ever take one 3-hour nap a day, as other mothers swear by? That feels like a myth to me right now!

My strategy, which seems to change every couple of weeks, is currently the following:
  • Put Mason down at his normal morning nap time (9 AM). He has 45 minutes to fall asleep. If he falls asleep, don't let him sleep more than 30-45 minutes. If he takes a morning nap, put him down at his normal afternoon nap time (1:30 PM). He can take as long as he needs to in the afternoon to fall asleep, but don't let him sleep past 4:15 PM so he's semi-tired for night-night at 7:30 PM.
  • If Mason boycotts his morning nap, put him down at 12:15-12:30 PM. When this happens, he normally falls asleep pretty quickly, but he often cries out during the nap and sometimes only sleeps 75-90 minutes (and then he walks me over to the stairs and asks for night-night at 5 PM).
Currently, Mason takes a morning nap about every other day. Even though taking a brief morning snooze makes it harder for him to fall asleep in the afternoon, he's in better spirits on days when he gets two naps. He still sleeps great at night.

Another mom told me that I'll "just know" when Mason's ready and it's time to bite the bullet and forgo his morning nap. Is this true? What has your experience been?

Monday, January 7, 2013

perpetual hope

A couple times, I've mentioned Brad's childhood friend and his wife who have suffered repeated pregnancy losses. Well, praise God that their healthy daughter was born on the last day of 2012!

This little miracle was their 11th pregnancy. Yes, that's right. Over five years, they have suffered 10 miscarriages. In fact, just days after 2012 began, they experienced the end of their 10th, and potentially their last, pregnancy. As I understand it, they had gone through comprehensive testing and their doctors proffered few explanations, let alone solutions. With every loss, medically speaking, their chances for success decreased. Their dream of becoming parents seemed hopeless.

Yet, they did not lose hope. I barely know them, but with their working in ministry, I assumed that they have a relationship with the Lord. But the many ways that they have stepped out in faith during these long years of wanting a child have truly humbled me. They courageously announced each pregnancy within days of finding out. They widely shared the good news, after losses, that they could try again. After ectopic and molar pregnancies, and countless D&Cs, they braved the same doctors and examination tables time and time again. They embraced each pregnancy with the intention to enjoy every moment of it. I don't know them well or see them often enough to have witnessed the sad days, tears, fears, anger, questioning, and anxiety, but I'm sure that they experienced at least some of those emotions. However, as an outsider, what I do see is them joyfully trusting in God's sovereign plan and perfect timing. What an encouragement. And praise God for showing himself faithful yet again.

Friday, January 4, 2013

new basil

Have you seen the basil in a bag at your local grocery store? I recently bought one for $2.99 in the produce section at Harris Teeter. It is a live basil plant with dirt and roots. The instructions say to put it in a cup in a windowsill and change the water daily.

It's been two weeks now and my little plant is still fresh and thriving. This solution is much better than buying the tiny, overpriced container of fresh basil that gets moldy in just a few days. And I'm hoping that a few of these darling plants will get me through until my herb garden is up and thriving again in the spring. But it seems too good to be true. How long will this little plant last? Has anyone had luck with them?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

5 years!

Five years ago today, I started Dr. Blondie. Seven hundred sixty posts later, Dr. Blondie's still kicking, thanks to all of you! In five years, I don't think I've gone longer than 10 days or so without posting, even when I had little to say. Thanks for celebrating life's highs with me, encouraging me through life's lows, and walking with me through long stretches of life's in-betweens.

I take great joy in sharing my mundane life with you, Gentle Readers. Thank you for reading!

Happy 2013!