Friday, December 31, 2010

So Long, 2010!

Happy New Year! We have big plans to stay home and maybe watch the ball drop on TV... No promises, though.

Emily has big goals for 2011 (or maybe I made them up for her... Whatever). This year she's going to conquer potty training, move into a big girl bed, and replace "No!" with "No, Thank you." I'm fairly certain I've passed the 500th time of making her say it that way and yet... Perhaps 2011 will be the magic year for that.

Jason likes to stick with the same resolutions each year -- "I will start smoking and gain 50 pounds." At the end of the year he acts disappointed in his inability to keep his resolutions yet AGAIN and says he'll try harder next year.

My only resolution is to NOT gain 50 pounds with this pregnancy. It was kind of a pain to lose last time around. I did it, but it wasn't fun. It would really help if Burgerville didn't put some kind of crack cocaine in their cheeseburgers... I can't seem to get enough of them lately! I blame the baby.

2011 is sure to be an exciting year -- We'll welcome a new baby to the family, Emily will begin preschool, and we may be moving to a single-level home to make things easier. We won't remember months of it due to newborn-induced sleep deprivation, of course. I'll be sure to take pics so I can try to remember later what exactly happened during those first few months -- likely all kinds of things I swore I wouldn't do (again).

Here's wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And Baby Makes Four!

I have a confession to make... I've put on a few pounds. I'm also kind of an emotional roller coaster and frequently ask Jason to stop on his way home for whatever it is I feel like I MUST have that day (e.g., tater tots, peppermint ice cream -- not together). This can only mean one thing, of course. I'm pregnant!

I'm 14 weeks and due July 1st. Jason and I are excited, although there are times when the dog is racing around the house, Emily is throwing a tantrum, and I say, "Hey! Wouldn't it be fun if we also had a newborn?" and then we both laugh because that is just CRAZY! A friend of ours sent a card when Em was born that simply said, "Life gets interesting now." We just signed up for a whole new level of chaos, didn't we?

Luckily, I'm feeling much better as far as my MS symptoms are concerned. Many pregnant women with MS have few (if any) relapses and even notice that symptoms are often alleviated. I'm happy to say I'm one of these women! Unfortunately I traded them for a bad case of morning sickness.

I've been really bad about keeping up with this blog because I've spent most of my time in one of two positions -- lying down or on my knees in the bathroom. Who on earth decided to call it "morning sickness?" It certainly doesn't seem to mind coming around midday or even as late as 11 p.m. I'm told I sound like a cross behind a dying sea lion and a camel being choked to death. Awesome. It does seem to be getting better, though (Thank God!)

We've asked Emily lately if she wants to be a big sister. Some days she says, "Yes" and others she tells us, "No." I'm hoping the baby is born on a "yes" day. We've also asked her for name suggestions. Her vote is with "Pom Peyow" or "Kung-Cha." (?!) She likes to tell me there's a baby in my belly and spent a good 10 minutes staring at my belly button the other day and asking repeatedly, "Where's the baby?" She's done waiting. I have a feeling when the baby comes she's going to ask me to put it back.

My apologies to those of you I haven't seen in a while -- We did the obligatory first three months of hiding and, of course, some of you were on to us right away. I suppose it's not like me to turn down a glass of wine, is it? My abdominal muscles seem to have a great memory because I look about a month ahead of schedule. There's no hiding it now! 6 months to go... Let the countdown begin!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"He knows if you've been bad or good..."

It's no secret my daughter has a flair for the dramatic. I like to pretend she gets that from Jason. We recently caught her practicing her fake cry when she thought we weren't watching. I was thrilled to catch it on video and it's since become her most requested clip ("Can we watch Emily Upset?") She smiles while watching her Oscar-worthy performance. The smallest things are SO exciting / upsetting / shocking that most of her expressions these days involve throwing both hands up to her cheeks. The Elf on the Shelf is no exception to this.

For those not familiar, the Elf on the Shelf is a great little trick that undoubtedly was created by a mom. A little red elf watches the kids to see if they're being good as Christmas nears. At night, he supposedly returns to the North Pole to tell Santa. He returns the next morning in a new hiding spot -- the fun factor of every morning routine. This morning Emily found him atop the refrigerator and shouted (hands on cheeks), "Oh my Goodness! I found him! I found the Elf!" She later informed me that she was eating her sandwich "so the Elf will tell Santa." Awesome. Can I get a Valentine Elf? Then perhaps an Easter Elf? This little guy is truly magical. Even when we're not at home I find myself saying, "I can't wait to tell the Elf about today! Let's use our inside voice in the store so he can tell Santa." She lights up and says, "O.K.!" (hands to cheeks, of course).

My little drama queen has been very, very good. I like to think this can be attributed to her sweet demeanor, loving parents, and consistent discipline, but let's be honest... There's a significant Elf Factor here. I'll take it!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Last Call for Thanksgiving

A small confession: In my excitement for Christmas, I may have sped right past Thanksgiving without feeling very thankful. I didn't host dinner. I brought five side dishes made by a local catering company. They delivered. I literally spent 2 minutes thinking about what I have to be thankful for and used that time to write a quick Facebook status update that included the fact that I'm thankful for wine. At least I'm honest.

I read a book a while back called "29 Gifts." The author, a woman diagnosed with MS, makes an effort to give a gift every day for 29 days. These gifts range from charitable donations to spending time with friends. She journals about her experience and begins each day by writing down something she is thankful for. I began November with high aspirations to do the same -- It seemed appropriate for the month of Thanksgiving. I made it to Day 4. Shoot. Supposedly if you miss a day you're supposed to start over. I hate starting over. Then I got sick. And now there are only a few days left of November and I'm feeling a little guilty about the whole not-feeling-thankful thing.

There are certainly things to be upset about. A teenager was just arrested for plotting to set off a bomb during a crowded holiday ceremony. Houses in our neighborhood are selling at prices that make our house worth less. Bristol Palin made it to the finals on Dancing with the Stars!

There are, however, many more things for me to be thankful for. When I was in the scary early stages of diagnosis, Jason and I went to OHSU for a 2nd opinion. We rode the elevator up to Neurology, but it stopped one floor short -- Oncology. I squeezed his hand while a woman exited. The doors closed and I told him, "I'm lucky. That wasn't my floor." Multiple Sclerosis isn't fun, but it doesn't scare me the way some other diseases do. I'm still able to do a lot of things others with MS can't do and I'm thankful for that.

I have the sweetest, brightest and most lovable little girl I could ever ask for. I'm thankful for her health, her sweet kisses, and the time I get to spend with her. My husband went to four different restaurants today so he could come home with the sandwich I told him I was craving. Not only is he the funniest, smartest, most handsome man I know, he's willing to go out of his way to bring me a turkey sub with guacamole! I struck gold when I met Jason.

I couldn't ask for a more supportive family, I love my job and the fact that it allows me to work as little or as much as I want, my volunteer work is fulfilling, my friends are there for me when I need them and I have a beautiful home on a perfectly landscaped corner of Suburbia. What's not to be thankful for? I hope all of my friends and family are feeling as blessed as I am this holiday season.

P.S. I'm still thankful for wine.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Musical Taste Test

Bedtime song requests are finally becoming more diverse. I've lost count of how many nights I've been asked to sing "Ariel" and "Jasmine." Then there's "Cinderella" followed by "The other Cinderella." (I keep putting that one off since I have NO idea what she's talking about!)

Tonight Emily asked me to sing "Back to Sember" ("Back to December" by Taylor Swift). Really?! I kind of like that song, too! Before I could get too excited about her taste in music, she requested "The Hannah Song" -- The theme song from her potty training video. I'll spare you the lyrics.

At least she's branching out and today she gave us proof that she has an ear for music. Not only can Emily sing on key, she gives decidedly accurate reviews when shown music videos on YouTube.

In response to "Whip My Hair" (Willow Smith), Emily said, "That's not music." So true.

Jason then showed her Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" and how it sounds remarkably similar to "Eye In The Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project. Emily, Is that the same song? Our 2-year old says, "YES."

OK, so we may have asked a leading question on that last one... But how many toddlers do you know who like to sing Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" or belt out, "Blinded By The Light" when she's supposed to be napping? Thank you, Jason, for teaching her those great ballads along with the theme song from "Cheers."

For anyone concerned that we may be robbing her of toddler favorites, you'll be comforted by the fact that we end every night with "Stay Awake" from Mary Poppins and the last of our hugs (bear followed by every other possible animal) is always a Barney Hug. You guessed it... I have to sing that ridiculous "I love you, you love me" song with a very dramatic "great big hug" and kisses "from me to you" all over her face. This gets wild giggles every time. I know, I know... That's not music. But I'll do anything for that laugh!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mind the Memory Gaps

I spent two hours reading a college journal the other day. I didn't do this because I was feeling nostalgic or wanted a reminder of how dramatic I could be (seriously?!) I read it because I wanted to be taken back to a particular time -- a semester I spent studying abroad in London. I remembered the major things, of course, but I knew my journal would have all of the details I might have forgotten. As it turned out, it also had play tickets, pictures, and terrible poetry (ugh).

My friend, Taryn founded a summer travel program for high school and college students interested in traveling to Ireland called the Irish Life Experience. It's an amazing opportunity for young people and Taryn asked me write something for their blog sharing what I gained from traveling at that age. I wasn't sure where to start!

It was the first time I'd traveled that far from home alone and my first experience abroad. It was... incredible. I saw history in a new and exciting light, met truly wonderful people I still call friends, and left with a special place in my heart for London. Everything about it still makes me smile and I loved re-reading all of the experiences I had while I was there.

Interestingly, the things I wanted to write about were the things I already remembered vividly even without opening my journal. The people I spent time with in London shaped my experiences there and made it the great semester that it was. I'm thankful for all of you.

I think all students should study abroad. I've returned to Europe a few times since college, but it's an entirely different experience at that age. I was thrilled when my brother decided to go to Australia for a term and am positive I'll encourage Emily to travel at some point while she's in college.

College! Can you imagine!? At some point this little girl is going to go away to college! This is so surreal to me. I was thinking this while changing her diaper today. She looked up at me and said, "Mommy, poop is brown and pee is yellow." Yup. College-bound. Just not quite yet.

Thank you, Taryn, for letting me relive my study abroad experience by writing about it! It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and a great escape from my usual psych testing, toddler tunes, and diapers. For anyone who may be interested, my guest post is called Trip of a Lifetime. Cheers!

Friday, November 5, 2010

No More Nose Jokes

I'm fairly certain I traumatized my daughter last night. What seemed like a funny joke turned out to be not so funny and I spent the rest of the night wading through Mommy Guilt. Yet again we thought we were hilarious coming up with creative antics to curb Em's habit of putting her finger in her nose. I told her, "That's yucky!" and she found my reaction hilarious enough to repeat the action over and over again. We were sitting at the dinner table, of course, which made the behavior that much more gross.

Daddy: "If you pick your nose, we'll have to take it off!"
Mommy: "That's right!"
(Emily proceeds to smile and dig)
Mommy: "Uh-oh! Look! I've got your nose!"

Emily... freaked... out. You know the joke -- Thumb between index and middle finger, awe-struck child wondering how on earth that's possible... Except that's not what happened. My kid looked up at me with sheer terror in her eyes then immediately touched her face with a deep look of concern regarding her missing nose! I panicked and pretended to put her nose back. "Here! All better! Just pretending!!" Too late. At that point Emily was on the verge of tears repeatedly telling me, "NO! You DON'T take my nose!"

Bad mommy. Apparently 2 is a little young for that joke. Who knew??

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Long Lost Baking BFF

When I was a 2nd grader, my best friend was Sara. We only attended school together that one year as both of our families moved, but we were pen pals for years. This was long before e-mail, of course. We wrote 10-page letters with purple and green pens, photos enclosed, and envelopes decorated with hologram stickers. I loved these letters. Unfortunately, we lost touch when we went away to college. Imagine my excitement when I found Sara online last year! So, our friendship has been resumed and I continue to light up every time I get "mail" (the online variety) from my pen pal.

Sara has this amazing baking aptitude that I just don't have. She makes these incredible cake pops at Sarandipity Sweets that are so good that I'm willing to use a word that has always bugged me... Moist. They're so moist and tasty and I'm pretty sure I won't be using that word again anytime soon because I just used it in two consecutive sentences (ugh). She also writes a hilarious blog, Sweet Somethings and contributes each week to a cooking blog called "From Blah to Ta-Daa!" along with four other wonderful cooks. Why am I telling you this?? Because Sara asked me to do a guest post on her cooking blog. She told me that even her mother had said no, so there was no pressure. I said yes in my e-mail reply followed by, "Yikes... Now what?" out loud. My anxiety stemmed from the fact that I think Sara's competency in the kitchen is in a different league than my own. I'm impressed that I have a Kitchenaid mixer. I'm willing to guess she knows what the heck each of those attachments are for (jury is still out for me on the Captain Hook attachment).

This was the same week as my book club meeting and we needed someone to bring a dessert. I went to a local Applefest with my family and came home with super sweet apples that looked like they'd been injected with steroids. I decided to bite the bullet and bake something (even though I'm SO much better at cooking than baking) and surpisingly, the result was delicious! As if you needed another link, here is my guest post (and recipe) for Fresh Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. YUM!

Thank you, Sara, for the opportunity to feel like a real baker this week! Feel free to give me a Kitchenaid attachment tutorial whenever you have a spare moment. God knows I need it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Testing, testing... 1,2,6!

Today I was a test jockey. I did 6 IQ tests back-to-back with students ranging from 1st to 8th grade. It was draining and terribly busy, although I did take a 5-minute break to inhale my frozen entree while I waited for a kid to return from recess. There's a reason why I've never spent an entire day testing before. I'm fairly certain I'll be dreaming tonight of patterned blocks, stopwatches, scoring templates, and test questions. As a side note: Please stop naming your children with celebrity names. It's silly.

Two experiences stood out today... The first was the 1st grader whose answers had a tendency to include words like "fight," "kill," and "beat." In his 6 years he's reportedly been in several fights with others living in his apartment complex because, "They don't like my skin." Those words shouldn't be a part of his everyday vocabulary and the fact that he's aware of racism at such a young age is heartbreaking.

I was thinking about this when someone walked into the staff bathroom. The one with the door I thought I had locked. So, that was pretty special (sigh). Once the mortified blush left my cheeks, I slithered out with my head down and returned to testing.

Nothing was sweeter than coming home to Emily after a day like today. I had to leave before she got up this morning and I missed her terribly! She was all smiles and bubbly energy (as usual) and seeing her made me instantly happy. I think I'll stick with half-day testing this year. The choice between spending the majority of my day with other people's kids or my own is a no-brainer. Even after an assessment marathon has turned my brain to mush.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Adventures in Potty Training

We're on Day 2 and so far it's a slow process... I've trapped us in the kitchen or bathrooms for portions of the day (new carpet) and am quickly finding there are only so many things to do in those rooms. My friend asked me today, "Are you using rewards?" I told her, "Of course I am... I'm having a margarita right now as my reward for sticking with this!"

All of the readiness signs are there. We have the doll, books, sticker chart, and a cup full of treats (Em had none today, Mommy has lost count). I set the timer on my phone and each time it chimes Em yells, "It's potty time!" I'm modeling whenever possible and she yells, "YAY! Good job, Mommy!!" with roller coaster hands up in the air. When she uses her potty, I promise I'll do the same and will likely roll right into the "cabbage patch."

Today I got a little desperate. Emily was sitting on her potty and I actually encouraged her to dig for some colorful beads I'd dropped into a bowl of lukewarm water. In my defense, I actually read online somewhere that this works for some moms (I'm not one of them). Jason laughed and said, "Let me guess... Later we're going to put shaving cream in her hand while she sleeps and then tickle her nose?" If it would make her use the potty, I'd totally be willing to try it.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Save a Kitten (Use a Kleenex)

Emily brought me a present yesterday. She cupped it in her hand as she walked into the kitchen and said, "Here, Mommy!" Before I could figure out what she had, she had wiped it into my open palm and run off to play again. I looked down and realized she had taken something huge and slimy from her nose and decided I should have it. Ew. What's more, she didn't exactly do a clean job of nose picking. When I stopped her with a Kleenex I realized she had smeared it across her face and into her hair. Good stuff.

About a year ago one of us told Emily, "Every time you pick your nose, a kitten dies." I'm not naming names, but does this sound like MY humor to you!? She was super young and didn't get it (Thank God). However, we still make dying kitten meows every time she starts digging. She has no idea why we do this. We think we're hysterical.

Blowing your nose is one of those basic things that's easy to do, but apparently not so easy to teach. Much like spitting after brushing your teeth. Em is great at putting her nose into a Kleenex or leaning over the sink and making a "Ch!" noise... And that's about it. There's no blowing. No spitting. She's just pretending to do what she's supposed to be doing. It's a start and she'll figure it out eventually. She'd better... Kittens are dropping like flies around here!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Toddler Tunes

The first order of events every time we climb into the car is always the same. What should we listen to?

Emily: "Princess songs! Princess songs! Princess songs!"

Me: "Princess songs, please?"

Emily: "Mama, Thank you for using your magic words."

Me: "Um... You're welcome?"

And then we listened to princess songs. I totally lost control of that teaching moment.

At least we're finally breaking out of the toddler tune rut. Lately I turn the radio on just to see if I can get away with a few minutes of something other than Raffi, Elmo, or Disney.

Emily: "Who is this?"

Me: "This is the radio, Doll. It's Def Leppard. What do you think?"

Emily (looking very serious): " it."

Really?! I'm not exactly a Def Leppard fan, but it's a far cry from the Wiggles and I'll take what I can get. I immediately turned it up and started singing, "Pour some sugar on meeeee!" And with that, I jinxed it.

Emily: "No! No, thank you! Princess songs."

So close... Thank you for using your magic words.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tin Man & Jello Legs

Emily loves watching Sesame Street clips on YouTube. One of her favorites is one she calls "Walk Walk." Elmo, Grover, and Zoe have a new walk worthy of a song. Destiny's Child has just the song, of course. "I've got a new way to walk... walk, walk..."

I'm reminded of this silly video when MS changes the way I walk. Every morning I walk like the Tin Man from Oz. I move in rigid motions trying to get my stiff legs to cooperate. Once I stretch out a bit, it's much better. The one benefit is that this usually gets me out of late night trips down the stairs to let the dog out!

Through most of the day my legs are fine. The only time the Tin Man Walk returns is after I've been in one position for too long (e.g., driving). My new walk turns to something I call Jello Legs in the evening, though. They're exhausted and struggle to hold me up. Unfortunately this is the wobbly walk Emily sees often and I've noticed more than once that she slows down for me and even has her own funny walk she does when I do mine. Copycat.

I've read enough about MS to know that I should be trying to conserve my energy. I should take breaks during the day so I'm not hit by the fatigue bus by 4 p.m. I keep meaning to try yoga in the morning to alleviate the Tin Man stuff, but between feeding the fish, making Em's breakfast, letting the dog out and taking a 10-minute shower I tend to forget. It's on my to do list (the one that tends to spill over into tomorrow and then the next day and the next...) It's just a few lines above "Take a break." Maybe I need a sticker chart. I earn a sticker for each 5-10 minute break. 5 stickers = A glass of wine.

Behavioral modification has never tasted so good!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Computer Woes

I'm back from the land of the disconnected! As it turns out, letting your toddler run around upstairs screaming, "Naked baby!" at bathtime is only funny until she runs into the office and pushes buttons on the computer. Strangely, pushing the power button 50 times did NOT fix whatever she did and it continued to stare at us with a black screen and funny "I'm trying to turn on, but I can't" noises. Geek Squad arrived today to the tune of $130. Apparently that's the cost of having an "agent" (no joke) tell you that he CAN'T fix your computer! Ugh. Perhaps I should be an "agent?" I already know I can't fix computers, so I'd just tell people we can skip the house call. Here's my bill. Thankfully, I got my hands on a laptop I can use until we shop for another home computer.

It's been such a busy week! The highlights included a wine tasting trip to Walla Walla, an incredible birthday dinner with Jason, and Emily's charming nature going into overdrive lately. She wants to "cuddle in mama's bed" (I like to pretend this isn't just a bedtime stalling tactic) and lately she's all about hugs and kisses. I love this. It almost makes up for the whole killing the computer thing. I'd be willing to forgive and forget if she would just go back to taking a nap every day... Hint, hint, Emily.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Random Acts of Kindness

Oregonian's have a reputation for a lot of things and often I feel like I don't quite belong. I don't recycle enough. I don't have a compost pile. I don't eat organic, wear crocs, and I'm not really into hiking / camping / outdoor sports (with the exception of skiing). But the way we treat one another... That's something I LOVE about this place and am glad Emily gets to be a part of it.

I'm convinced I live in one of the nicest cities in the U.S. People are genuinely kind here. Maybe it's because it's so rainy and gloomy for such a large part of the year that we all feel like we need to be nice to one another? Whatever the reason, I like it.

This week alone a stranger in a parking lot took my grocery cart for me after I loaded Emily into the car. She had just arrived and needed one anyway. She saved me from having to haul Emily to / from the nearest cart drop. Then the man walking behind us stopped to pay a compliment to my "darling daughter." Today I groaned in the car seeing the traffic I'd have to battle. Not even two seconds later a woman waved me into her lane. This happens all of the time here.

Emily is picking up on it, too. The baker at Albertson's handed her a cookie and she said, "Thank you! That's a nice lady." She praised a woman's hygiene in a public restroom this morning ("Good job washing your hands!") and has taken lately to spontaneous outbursts of affection ("Mama, I love you!") That's my favorite, of course.

Living in Oregon will undoubtedly help Emily to further develop a strong sense of altruism. I'll show her where our recycling bins are when she's a little older. I might even take her camping one day.... in our backyard. We'll borrow a tent from one of our REAL Oregonian friends!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Silly Mommy

I don't think I realized how much singing the Mommy job requires. I sing constantly. We have a clean up song. A brush your teeth song. There's even a potty training song! Tonight ended with a bedtime request for Beauty and the Beast. Four times. I don't even know the words, so I just sing the chorus over and over and make up the rest along the way.

Then there's the dancing. We do kicks, jazz hands and hair flips. I like to throw in a few 80's classics (sprinkler, anyone?) hoping she'll add them to her routine. Every day Emily asks, "Mommy, Wanna play dress up?" She always wants me to wear the big floppy black hat and doesn't understand why I won't put on the tutu. I tried once. I won't do it again. We have tea parties and I rave about the pretend cupcakes she serves. I ask her doll, Marabelle what she wants to wear / read / eat because lately Emily insists I ask her as well. Marabelle wanted to wear the gold heels today. Good choice, Marabelle. I was cooking dinner when Emily decided she wanted to show us her "bee-bo" (belly button). Then she wanted Daddy to show his. Now Mommy.

I look back on my day of singing, dancing, dress up, flashing my bee-bo, and realize I'm so very thankful for two things....

1) I get to spend my days with my hilarious little girl doing all of the silly things that make her smile and

2) The blinds were closed.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Wears the Pants?

Apparently I don't... Emily made this abundantly clear while Jason was away last weekend. We were running a few errands before heading to a nearby park to feed the ducks (right next to the "Don't feed the ducks" sign, of course).

Emily: "You want to get a balloon today?"

Mommy: "Honey, We're not going anywhere that has balloons."

Emily: "You want to go to Red Robin?" (Red Robin gives balloons to little girls, but only if they eat their dinners. Lie #257.)

Mommy: "No, Sweetheart. We just went there last week."

Emily: "Welllll... Let's ask Daddy."

Seriously!? I don't get any say in this? We didn't go to Red Robin. Partially because we didn't have time and mostly because I was out to prove a point. We did, however, go to the mall. Nordstrom gives out balloons in their children's shoe department. I was Super Cool Mommy AND I wore the pants... for one whole day.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everyone's an Expert

"What is that?"
"What is the boy doing?"
"What is she holding?"
"What are those?"
"What do you have?"

This goes on all day. I'm pretty sure we're a few shorts months away from the "Why?" phase. You know you're jealous! I try to answer most of Emily's questions or ask her to tell me the answer. It's fun in a slowly-losing-my-mind kind of way.

We had someone over last week to get rid of an annoying mole who recently moved into our backyard. I was pointing out the damage when Em's rapid fire questions began. "Shhh... Mommy is talking, Sweetheart. Just a second, OK?" Mr. Mole then said, "You know... You should really answer every one of her questions."

Really?? Thanks... I was hoping you could give me some parenting advice while you were here. Perhaps I can give you some mole trapping suggestions?? Or not... Whatever.

I wish I had the guts to actually say something like this, but I tend to just roll with it when random people give unsolicited parenting advice (why do they do that!?) Mr. Mole went on to tell me about his gifted children and how his 5-year old son once pointed out a cloud shaped like Indonesia. Apparently I should buy Emily a globe for Christmas. Because that's a cool toddler toy.

Back inside, Emily had been saving up all of her questions for me beginning with, "Who is that?"

"That is someone who knows a lot of things... About moles." So there.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Home Sweet Remodeled Home

It's amazing how one little remodeling project can snowball into a major renovation. We needed a new kitchen floor (as it turns out, throwing a large dog bone on kitchen linoleum was a bad idea) and decided to replace it with tile. But you can't have new tile with worn out carpet. So, I guess we need new carpet... Throughout the house. As long as we're doing tile, let's just get an estimate for a granite counter. Now we'll need a new sink. And faucet. A microwave hood would be great, wouldn't it? Hmm... The granite might look funny with this stove. We might as well paint a few rooms and now that we have it looks like we'll need new bedding, bath towels, art, bath rugs... Oh my...

Needless to say the last few weeks have been a little crazy. After this spending spree, we may be eating like college students for a while (Top Ramen, anyone?) but we won't care because we'll be eating in our lovely remodeled home.

This whole process is exciting, but it's also pretty stressful. At this point we're microwaving food in the garage and eating out. A lot. Keeping Em and our neurotic dog out of the house for lengthy periods is a juggling act and the heat is not helping! Too hot for someone with MS to be outside for long and too hot to leave a dog in the car. Blue was forced to listen to Emily and I sing along to Disney Princess Songs all day in the car yesterday. We ran in and out of stores and treated ourselves to a few drive through goodies. Did you know DQ makes a mini blizzard!?! Dangerous discovery on my part.

Emily hasn't napped all week (tough to do away from home) and we're both short on patience these days. I was waist deep in a power struggle when I found myself pinning her to the ground to finish a diaper change tonight. We're both being sent to bed early this evening. Tomorrow night, too.

I'm not sure what I'm more excited for -- the finished project or the project being finished! Either way, I'm counting the days... So close!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mommy Lies

I lie to my daughter on a fairly regular basis. They're harmless, but they're still lies that I feel guilty about. Wait... No, I don't. There I go lying again.

I tell her all of the little girls in the world named Emily Jane have to go to bed now. Yes, Mommy and Daddy are going to sleep, too. We visited a Fancy Nancy playhouse earlier this week and she has asked to return every day since. "It's closed," I told her. I fully understand now why my mom once told me Chuck E. Cheese went out of business or the time she fed me a Certs and called it Dramamine when I complained of feeling carsick.

The bakery is all out of cookies today. Only the big kids get to play on that swing. I can't find the Elmo CD. Ever. Mommy is drinking juice. What are those farm animals doing to each other? They're wrestling, Honey. And the crazy man is yelling because he's just so excited!

I do this without even thinking because it's easier, it's developmentally more appropriate than the truth, or because I'm trying to save the shred of sanity I have left after a crazy day. I think of it as good practice for the bigger, better parenting lies. Santa and I can't wait!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Princess Kisses

We have a new kiss in our house. The aggressive, bruising kisses are long gone and Emily is suddenly interested in open mouth kissing. With her tongue out. I blame Disney.

Albertson's had a display at the end of an aisle featuring all-things-princess this week (it's as if they knew we were coming). Emily just about jumped out of the cart when she saw a whole wall of shiny pink books with Ariel, Cinderella, Snow White, Jasmine, and Sleeping Beauty smiling back at her. I made her choose two from the pile of eight we initially started with.

She can't get enough of them. My daughter can point to each character and tell you their names despite never having seen a Disney movie. She covered the dog in Cinderella stickers yesterday (he was not amused) and insists on singing Once Upon a Dream from Sleeping Beauty every chance she gets. This is shortly followed by, "Now Mommy sing it." She was not pleased when Daddy didn't know the words!

The two princess books are her new favorites. She stares at the pics of Ariel and Eric and tells me what's happening on each page. On the last page, they're kissing. It's a serious smooch and Ariel's mouth is slightly open. Emily immediately wanted to practice... "Mommy, Wanna kiss??"

Suddenly she's pressing her open mouth onto mine and I'm left tight-lipped trying to keep the toddler drool out! Oh, Ariel... What have you done??

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Should Write A Letter...

How many times have you heard this after sharing tales of bad service with others? I actually write them. Probably more than most people.

I've had enough success to motivate me to continue this habit... I received a free hotel stay, for example, after being given a dirty room, then a smoking room, then transported by shuttle (at midnight, no less) to a sister property where a 1st floor room covered in dog hair and a parking lot view awaited me. I've written letters every time I've been cited for speeding and have received at least a partial refund on every occasion (I just admitted to having multiple speeding tickets, didn't I?) TCBY gave me free yogurt after I found curly black hairs in my Very Berry Strawberry (Ew) as if I'd ever eat there again. At least they responded.

My point is that it often works. This is why I just finished a 2-page letter about a recent pony ride Emily had. I'll be honest... I'm angry because my kid was hurt. It was going so well until something startled Patches and he jumped, throwing my little girl into the air. She landed on her back and head dangerously near his hind legs. We're so lucky she wasn't seriously injured.

I've been around horses enough to know that this is always a risk. I was really cool about the whole thing and told the teen employee not to worry about it because Emily would be OK (after she finished crying hysterically, of course). She apologized and then said, "Patches is the skittish one. We just got him and I guess he used to be abused."


This is the point where cool went out the window. You let an abused pony with a history of being nervous and unpredictable give pony rides to toddlers?! The owner later denied this is true at all and became very defensive of her beloved Patches. The contradiction only made me more upset.

So I thought to myself, "You should write a letter..." And an e-mail. With a video attachment. I don't know if Patches will be kicked off of the pony ride circuit or if they'll re-examine the minimum age for rides, but it makes me feel better just knowing I've said what I wanted to say to people who might actually do something other than give me a refund and a popsicle. Although I do like popsicles... Maybe I should have mentioned that in my letter?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Imagination Station

Lately it seems Emily's play is involving more and more pretend play. She stands at her kitchen banging her plastic pots and pans then says, "I'm making muffins" or hands me a tiny teacup and asks, "Would you like some coffee?"

She often uses random objects and pretends they are something else entirely. Lately she talks on the phone. Constantly. She sits at the table with her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pretends to dial on the bread, then holds it to her ear to have an entire conversation that goes something like this...

"Hi! How are you today?"
"Are you having a sandwich?"
"Oh, OK. Bye! See you later!"

I'm dying at this point and could care less about the peanut butter she's smearing into her hair. Once she realizes I'm watching she becomes a little more reserved and starts to giggle. We laugh together and she says, "Mommy is being silly!"

Oh, Sweetheart... I'm not the one talking into my sandwich! I love this little girl.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Dear Jennifer,... "

My gig as a Q&A website expert is hoppin' lately. It's funny because while I feel more qualified answering parenting questions, there are many more questions about relationship issues. Many are fairly easy -- Why hasn't he called? How do I get over her? No sweat.

There are those, however, that stump me. I answer the questions as best I can, but I feel like I'm flailing a little when I give relationship advice to a 40-year old gay man (about his sex life, no less) or the woman coping with heartache after her husband admitted to a 10-year affair (Yikes!)

The questions I find myself thinking about later are the parenting questions, of course. Today a mother explained that her college-aged daughter has informed her she'll be getting a tattoo. A very, very large tattoo from neck to lower back. This mother is adamantly against this decision and wants to know what to do.

Let's see... The objective professional in me thinks she should ask her daughter if she'd like her opinion then offer it as gently as possible along with the reasons she feels this way. Ultimately, it's her body and she has the right to decorate it however she'd like (Is decorate the right word??) The parent in me is envisioning Emily coming to me with this grand idea, my eyes bulging out of my head, and the words, "Over my dead body!" streaming out of my mouth at 200 decibels.

I like to play the "What if..." game and asked Jason about this situation...

Me: "What if Emily came home from college and told you she was going to get a huge... I don't know what... tattooed on her body?"

Jason: "I'd tell her to go talk to her mother."


Thankfully I'm not the mother who has to worry about it today. Maybe she came to terms with the idea and respected her daughter's decision after all. That's certainly what I'd do in her position. Yeah, right!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's In A Name?

My mother came over yesterday to help me reupholster our dining room chairs. Em calls her Mimi and could be heard throughout the day saying her name.

"Mama, Are you talking to Mimi?"
"Where did Mimi go?"
"Mimi, Did you have fun at the fabric store?"

When I talk to my mother, I call her "Mom." Emily must have heard me call her that several times because at the dinner table last night she repeatedly said to me, "Mom? Mom. Hi, Mom."

I hated it!!!

Not only because I adore how it sounds when her sweet little voice says "Mommy" or "Mama," but I think of "Mom" as something reserved for older children. She's 2!!

Remembering how I handled the swear word she said earlier this week, I thought I'd go with the same tactic (why mess with something that works?)

"Mom.... Who is Mom? I don't know Mom..."

Emily looked at me, smiled, and said, "Jenny!"

Ach!!! Forget it. Call me Mom.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Simply Unpredictable

Emily used to love broccoli. It was my "go to" vegetable when I thought she needed something green to counteract the orange hue she so often had from too many carrots and sweet potatoes. I bought and steamed a few crowns feeling smug about the fact that my little girl LIKES a green veggie. She liked them for two weeks. Next it was corn. Couldn't get enough. When I served corn a week later, however, it may as well have been dirt.

It's not just Em's eating habits that are unpredictable. One week she can't bear to leave the house without Peter Rabbit. Suddenly she's lost without (of all things) a yellow plastic fork! Then there's her behavior... Don't even get me started.

My MS brings an even more daunting level of unpredictability to my life. For those of you unfamiliar with the disease, consider this MS 101... Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves). The body’s own defense system attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers. When any part of the myelin sheath or nerve fiber is damaged or destroyed, nerve impulses are distorted or interrupted, producing the variety of symptoms that can occur. Symptoms may be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe, such as paralysis or loss of vision. The progress, severity, and specific symptoms of MS vary from one person to another.

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post that touched on how well-meaning, yet misinformed friends and family often make insensitive statements. So true! Upon diagnosis, reactions from others varied significantly from the friend who became terribly upset at the prospect of my death (MS is not a fatal disease) to the one who shrugged it off and said, "Well, I'm sure you'll be fine. You look great." She can't see my symptoms. I get that.

She's not the only one who assumes I can do things I probably shouldn't. I push the envelope too often and find myself with legs that buckle under me or a body that feels like I just finished a full day of skiing (I wish!) I think I try to do as much as I can before anything new crops up. The thing is, though, it might not! Ever! That's just how unpredictable MS is. More likely, however, I'll be faced with further symptoms that will force me to adapt to a new "normal." I don't know what the future holds, but I'm hoping the new "normal" will at least include a child who eats what I serve for dinner!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Potty Mouth

Yesterday morning began just as any other morning. I turned on some Raffi, gave Emily a few books to read in her crib and she entertained herself while I showered. Then I came back to get her ready for the day -- She's entering a princess phase and insisted on wearing a dress. I was combing her hair singing along to Baby Beluga when it happened.

My sweet little angel looked up at me with her beautiful green eyes and said, "Shit." No mistaking it. I asked, "What, Honey?" (slightly startled) to which she repeated the word even more clearly and smiled as if to say, "This should be good..."

I acted like what she said wasn't really a word and that I was sincerely confused by what she was trying to tell me. "Sit? Sit down? Is that what you mean?" She then laughed and repeated, "Sit down!" Whew! That was close.

I'm amazed at what comes out of my daughter's mouth these days. She's curious, bright, and very chatty (dangerous combination). A few days ago we were in a public restroom -- 3 stalls and nothing you want your toddler to touch -- inside our neighborhood grocery store.

"What are you doing, Mommy? Are you going potty?"

"Yes, Honey. Don't touch anything. Stand right there, okay?"

"What's she doing?" (Pointing to the shoes in the stall beside us)
"Is she going potty?"

And before I could answer she was on her hands and knees, half under the stall and peering up at my neighbor to yell,


Thankfully, the woman laughed. I was embarrassed, but I'm comforted by the fact that my little lurker is eager to praise others and at least it makes for a funny story. If she's going to repeat the things I say, I'll take words of encouragement over profanity any day! Even in the bathroom.

Monday, July 12, 2010

San Francisco Days, San Francisco Nights

We're back! What an amazing trip and a much needed break from toddler tantrums and crazy neighbors setting off illegal fireworks directly over our home. These are the same neighbors, mind you, who burned their house down a few years ago. My pyro neighbors are blasting rap music from their car stereo at this very moment (during Em's naptime, of course). Having had a break from it all, though, I'm only half as annoyed as I would have been last week. It was wonderful to have some alone time with Jason and I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. I also feel 10 pounds heavier, but it was totally worth it.

Friday night we had our anniversary dinner at Acquerello. The highlight of our 4-course meal was a ridged pasta with foie gras, black truffles, and a Marsala wine sauce! They gave us a few complimentary treats and champagne to help us celebrate our special occasion. We brought a bottle of 2004 Archery Summit Estate -- Yes, we're that couple -- and I'm so glad we did since it was incredible with the parmesan budino and Jason's melt-in-your-mouth fillet. Are you drooling yet??

The whole evening was an extravagant and upscale affair right up until I walked out of the bathroom with my cocktail dress tucked into the back of my underwear (sigh). Thankfully I noticed before strutting across the restaurant to our table and at that point I'd had enough wine to find the whole thing hysterical. Almost as amusing as the grown men giving each other long, slow bunny kisses at the table behind us (seriously!)

We packed the days and nights with tourist attractions, amazing dining, a comedy show, and dancing until well past midnight. It was great not having to worry about racing home to the sitter or getting Emily back home for her nap. With that said, I really missed my little girl! I'd see small children at the Ferry Building market or pointing to the sea lions and I'd think how much fun it would be for her. Then again, an occasional break makes us a much better couple and better parents. If we could do it all over, I wouldn't change a thing. That's not true... I wouldn't feel the need to FINISH all four courses. Lesson learned. It's great to be home!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Big Mouth

Remember when make-up artists recommended lining the outside edge of your lips to make them appear fuller? And then that suggestion went away. I'm fairly certain this is largely in part to the fact that WE CAN TELL THOSE AREN'T YOUR LIPS!

This was going through my head while grocery shopping earlier this week. I must have been staring at the woman in the cereal aisle who missed the memo (we'll call her Lips) because she gave me one of those, "What!?" looks. I looked away and quickly turned to face the Rice Chex and Cinnamon Life (as if that's a tough decision).

It must have been the night before inventory was re-stocked because the shelves were practically bare and they were out of everything on my list! I think out loud when I shop with Emily. OK, so I think out loud all of the time when I'm with her, but I like to think it helps her language development. God knows she's as chatty as I am these days. At one point I said, "Sweets, We're having an unlucky shopping trip... This is annoying!"

Two aisles later we met up with Lips again. She was looking at top shelf shampoos and her cart was blocking the aisle (Hello!? I'd like to get to my shampoo, too!) Cue the toddler who repeats something Mommy said not even five minutes earlier.

"This is annoying!"

There haven't been many moments when my little parrot made me want to hide, but this was definitely one of them. What was I supposed to say? She didn't mean you... She's repeating something I said a few aisles ago -- Not when I saw you before, I mean... Forget it. I went with a simple, "I'm sorry." It was awkward and although I felt bad, I still couldn't stop staring at her mouth. Em cracks me up. I couldn't help but giggle as we ducked out of the store and I said, "Shoot! I still need shampoo!" I'll let you guess which part of that sentence Emily is repeating now. When will I learn??

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mileage Maniac

Jason and I did a lot of traveling before Emily was born. We visited New York, San Francisco, San Diego, Birmingham, New Orleans, and St. Lucia. We traveled all over Italy, Scotland and England. Then Emily arrived and our hobby of traveling came to a screeching halt. The two of us have not left the state together since before she was born... until now. In less than two weeks, we're off to San Francisco for the weekend to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!

Planning this trip reminds me how much I love travel and lately I've been daydreaming about big trips again. I hoard frequent flyer miles and actually get many more from dining and shopping than I ever have from flying (enough to send us to Italy for free!) AA once gave 2,500 miles to anyone who would test drive a Lincoln. We stopped at the lot for 5 minutes -- long enough to tell the salesman that we had no intention of buying a car, but we'd be happy to waste his time for a signature. He quickly signed the form for us and we walked away with 5,000 more miles between us. I even entered (and won) an essay contest online once about how I'm a "mileage maniac" -- super corny, but very much worth the 25,000 mile prize!

I've already started calculating... I have enough miles for the three of us to fly to London in Coach. Orrrr Jason and I could fly First Class to Paris! (À tout à l'heure, Emily!) I'm not sure how long I can handle being away from her, though... Our weekend away will be a new record at two nights. The thought of taking her on a long flight, however, is equally as scary. I'm fairly certain we'd be that family on the airplane... The one you hope to God you don't have to sit near. Maybe if I expect the worse for her first flight, I'll be pleasantly surprised when the time comes. Or not.

I don't know if we'll actually do a big trip anytime soon, but it's fun to think about. For now I'll continue daydreaming and racking up miles. We'll talk it over more while doing all things touristy in the Bay Area. I've already looked up where I can dine for miles while we're there.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Shopping Story

I look like a mom, don't I? I like to think that when I'm not towing my 2-year old around people might not know it, but the fact remains that I wear comfortable flats, pony tails and a purse that may actually be too large for an overhead compartment. I may as well be wearing mom jeans.

On a recent shopping spree, I noticed that the trendy boutique salesclerks were noticeably less attentive than they used to be. I understand, of course. We have very little to discuss other than whether you can get me a dressing room. I can't even compliment you on your white denim skinny pants because I honestly don't understand how white denim is in style again. One of them asked me if I was shopping for a gift. Do I really look like I don't belong in here at all?? How does she know I'm not into giant belts and platform heels?!

Alright, fine. I'm not.

But occasionally I like to pretend that I wear something other than T-shirts and Capri pants (I don't) and that I don't find Disney stickers on my clothing at night (I do). While in the dressing room, I did a quick check in the mirror -- No stickers, no chocolate milk stains... What gives? Then I see it... It's a look (right next to the tiny eye wrinkles) that says, "This is my mini-vacation and I'm just here to zone out for a while." I recognize it in other shoppers now, too. That slowly walking, slightly dazed shopper who has no idea what she's shopping for? She's a mom. She left her kids at home and she's reorienting herself with how to shop for fun versus shopping for something she needs in the 15 minutes she has to find it.

I walked in without a shopping list and didn't even know where to start. It was actually kind of nice to be left alone while I wandered aimlessly looking at the trends I've been too busy to pay attention to. I didn't buy anything at the trendy boutique. I did, however, find some cute new Capri pants and T-shirts at the mall. As long as I have the look, I may as well dress the part.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Car Wash Therapy

I'll admit I do bring some of my training into my parenting repertoire (I don't have a lot to work with here, so I'll take what I can get). Emily is terrified of the car wash. I get it... Large spinning, spiky monsters, shaking snakes, gusts of wind and buckets of water being thrown onto the car are more than a little unnerving and overstimulating. I've convinced myself that the appropriate response to this phobia is systematic desensitization. In other words, we'll keep doing it until it's no big deal. Never mind the fact that I have to throw myself onto the console and hold her hands while she repeatedly calls out, "It's OK! You're fine! I'm right here!" My poor little parrot. It's not exactly a fun experience for either of us, but I hate to think that she'll be 25 someday and driving one of those cars with "Wash me!" carved into the dirt because she's too embarrassed to seek help for her car wash phobia. Plus, $6 is a lot cheaper than therapy.

I've even tried to make it fun by singing to her about how we're going to give the car a bath (insert 70's hit tune) "at the car wash! At the car wash, yeah!" You can thank me later for putting that awful song in your head. She's still not a big fan, but it's definitely getting better. My car has never been so clean.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

My Leash Law

Kids are fast... WAY faster than you think they could be and suddenly you're chasing your kid through a shopping mall or into the street while your heart momentarily stops. Never before did I understand the purpose of those funny toddler leashes. I completely get it now. Still, though... It's a leash. I don't care if you put a stuffed monkey on a backpack with a tail handle. It's still a leash. I'm not opposed to other people having kid leashes just as I'm not opposed to other people owning minivans. It's just not for me.

Maybe I feel like tethering my kid is admitting that I can't keep her in one place. I'm not saying I can, of course, but I like to think I can come up with other ways to keep her from taking off. Bribery, for example. I'll do what I need to do to get my daughter to eat her vegetables, hold my hand, and use magic words. The key for me, though, is to look like I have everything under control. I'm fully aware that most of us are making it all up as we go, but something about the pretense makes me feel more competent. If I use a toddler leash, the gig is up.

I'm pretty sure Emily is already on to me... A few days ago I tried to get her to follow me by saying, "Bye! See you later!" and calmly walking away. Emily gave me a sweet smile, a wave, and said, "Buh-bye!" Nice. A 2-year old just called my bluff. She knows I'm not leaving and she's giddy with the prospect of being chased. So, what's worse?? The mom who drags her kid through the mall by a leash or the mom who chases her toddler into a Nordstrom dressing room and pulls her out from under an occupied stall? I'm leaning toward the first and I hope you'll agree. I also owe you an apology if that was you in the last dressing room stall on the left. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Skippity Do Da

I've never shared this part before, but I usually write here when I'm feeling anxious. It helps me to keep a positive perspective on everything that's been going on over the past year with my health and reminds me to focus on the parts of my life I love so much. There are 1,000 daily joys of having a precious toddler, a loving and supportive husband, and a completely neurotic (yet highly entertaining) dog. Is there such a thing as blog therapy?? There should be.

I've had a string of medical appointments and procedures lately that I wouldn't recommend and it's hard for me not to feel angry about it all sometimes. Then today I received the Oregon MS Chapter newsletter in the mail and found a page where they highlighted teams around the state from the April Walk MS. There's Emily and I at the bottom of the page with a caption about being one of the top fundraisers! I don't mean to brag (yes, I do), but my team grew to an unbelievable 98 members and we raised nearly $12,500! That kind of support was wonderful and the fundraising gave me something positive to associate with my MS. The timing of receiving this newsletter was perfect -- I needed to be reminded that I'm certainly not the only one going through this and not all of it has been SNL Debbie Downer material.

I have another appointment next week to go over my latest MRI, so I'm trying to be optimistic. Wouldn't it be great if my neurologist said, "This is incredible... You no longer have MS!" Then we'd high five and skip down the hall of his office together. Or maybe I'd be the only one skipping, but I'd keep going until I got to the gelato shop a few blocks away because that seems like the perfect way to cap off good news. This is a Journey moment, don't you think? Cue "Don't Stop Believing!"

I realize this isn't exactly how all of this will play out. It helps me, though to go into the appointment with cheezy 80's songs in my head and plans for gelato immediately after the appointment. I might skip anyway. After reading the newsletter and seeing photos of others whose MS has affected their mobility, I'm thankful skipping is still an option for me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Not So Gentle Kisses

I have teeth marks on my face. No, she didn't bite me (although I've read that's a common toddler phase -- How scary is that?) Sometime over the last month or so Emily decided that if you really want to show someone you love them, you should kiss them... hard. Her love hurts. She literally presses her mouth onto my face and pushes as hard as she can, holding this "kiss" until I finally pull away whimpering. Last night her little teeth poked between her lips when she smashed her face against mine. Apparently it's hysterical when Mommy cries, "Ouch!" because Emily quickly swooped in for another smooch, laughing as I tried to bob and weave my way out of it. Where does she get this stuff?

She's incredibly gentle with other kids -- never hits or pushes and typically just puts an arm out as if to say, "This is my bubble." She felt crowded at the top of a slide once, turned to the older children behind her, stuck her arm straight out (stop sign) and said, "NO, Big kids!" That's my girl. When it comes to playing with Mommy and Daddy, however, our gentle girly girl can be a little rough. A few days ago I had a swollen and bleeding lip from a snuggle gone awry. We were sitting against the wall when Emily quickly lifted her head straight into my face while trying to wiggle onto my lap. I had the added bonus of slamming the back of my head into the wall at the same time. Good times.

Thankfully there's a nice balance of rough and tumble toddler play and gentle gestures (often mimicking what she sees / hears from us). There's nothing like a tiny hand patting my back or rubbing my arm during a hug. Even better when she says, "Thanks, Baby, I love your hugs." I love this. She may not be this gentle all of the time, but we're working on it. I show her how to give a gentle kiss and she responds with a head butt to my mouth followed by silly giggles. We obviously have some more work to do.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Welcome to TWO!

I get that this is a normal part of child development, but the push for independence is unreal!!! Right on cue, Emily turned two and has developed an attitude. She's still a sweet and precious little girl 80% of the time, but that other 20% is brutal! "NO!" is her new favorite word (despite the fact that I make her say, "No, thank you" every single time) and lately every day is the Emily show. She'll begin singing a song. I'll join in and she'll yell, "Listen to Emily!" Seriously!? We're in the car and she wants to listen to Elmo. Or should I say, "Ellllllll-MO! ELmo! Elmooooooo!" Wow. I've lost count of the times I've had her repeat, "Elmo, please." I have to remind her constantly that only her magic words will get Elmo for her. Don't feed me. Don't dress me. No stroller -- I'll walk. Apparently she'll take it from here.

Sometimes when Emily doesn't get her way she now resorts to a funny screaming / squealing thing. What often begins as a tantrum will then fold into a sort of experiment with different volumes and pitches and I can see her thinking to herself, "Did I make that sound??" before trying another. This scares the dog, of course. She tends to forget she was upset, but only after a minute or so of flailing and yelling. Jason and I go about our business and pretend we don't hear anything. I've even told her on occasion, "I only hear sweet voices." Isn't the lack of attention supposed to make it die down!? Is this a 2-year old thing? I can't wait for her to turn 3. Then again, I've heard 3 can be even worse than 2 when it comes to this stuff. How terrifying is that!?

The bedtime stalling continues...

A few new additions to the bedtime routine... This is after we had already done the bath, books, said goodnight to everything in the room, and a lullaby, of course.

"Bunny kiss?"
"You got it."

"Bear hug?"
"Grr.... Goodnight, Baby."

"Giraffe hug?"
(Apparently giraffes press their cheeks together when they hug?! Whatever.)

"Monkey hug?"
"You're kidding, right?"

"What books should we read?"
"We already did that, Dolly. Time for bed."

"Let's sing a song. Twinkle, Twinkle..."
"Goodnight, Sweet Girl!"


"Say goodnight to Daddy?"

I'm in the process of closing the door, but Daddy heard this request and can't help but go in for one last hug. This kid has us wrapped around her little finger.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Mr. Obviously Annoyed at Barnes and Noble,

Is it really necessary for you to stare while my normally sweet little girl has a full-blown meltdown? You've made it very clear you think I can't control the situation and you're probably right. She's tired and hungry. I'm buying the silly SkippyJon Jones book hoping that will tide her over, but in the meantime I'd like you to look the other way. It's a bookstore, not a library. You have no idea what else I have going on today.

In about two hours I'll be at the hospital trapped inside a loud, scary machine with an IV in my arm so they can take MRI images of my brain and spinal cord. If you knew that, would you be less judgmental? I'm totally stressed about this, but for now I need to focus on shopping for Father's Day gifts with my darling, screaming child.

I read somewhere once that if we all took our problems and put them in a pile in front of us, you'd take one look at everyone else's and quickly grab yours back. I believe it. It seems on my worst days, God has a way of making me see how much I should be thankful for. Sometimes, however, I wish we could all wear little labels just to give a little insight into what we're each dealing with and remind each other to play nicely. Short statements like, "Lost my job," "Car is totaled" or "I have a teenage girl" (YIKES!)

Just so you know, Emily morphed back into her sweet self after lunch and a long nap. I made it through my MRI with the help of the Ativan my doctor prescribed (1 = Relaxed, 2 = Loony Tunes. Now we know). I spent some time thinking about some of the labels my friends and family would wear to remind myself to be supportive, compassionate, and grateful.

Mr. Annoyed, If I ever see you again at the bookstore, I'll try to remind myself that you probably have your own label as well. Slim chance we'll see each other, though... Barnes and Noble is not likely to let us return after that performance.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"Her Dentist Said..."

I know a lot of parents who have brought pediatricians, advocates, and attorneys to special education meetings. I'm not sure if this is an intimidation tactic (aren't we all trying to help your kid?!) or if they really think we MUST do whatever the expert in that field tells us to. Just so you know, we don't. I've always said the same thing in those meetings. "Thank you for your recommendations. We'll take them into consideration." I'm really good at using that line in my professional life, and I wish I could remember it more often as a parent.

Trying to wean Emily from her pacifier has been really stressful on all of us. We tried going cold turkey, but I gave in after she failed to nap for a week. It's been a few months, so now we're trying again. Day 1: She screamed. A lot. It was the cry-it-out stage all over again, but this time it sounded like someone had cut off an arm. Even worse, she's verbal enough now to throw in gems like, "MAMAAAAA!!!! PLEEEEAAAASE!!!" Brutal.

At this point Jason and I asked ourselves why we were doing this. "Her dentist said it will affect her bite, but that problem will correct itself if she stops using it around age 2." The second it came out of my mouth I realized how bad it sounded. I'm letting her dentist make a parenting decision? Ugh. Now I see there's no need to rush this. We've cut off the end of one (now her "big girl beeper") to make it less satisfying for her and she only uses it for naps and bedtime. I figure this is a middle ground that will help us move in the right direction without making me feel like I'm torturing my toddler. Dr. D, Thank you for your recommendation. We'll take that into consideration. I'm sure you can refer me to a good orthodontist when my kid needs braces.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hamster Dance

I've had problems with needles my entire life and have passed out on more than one occasion from a simple flu shot. Waking up on the floor of a public bathroom following a blood draw was not a fun experience (yuck) and I never dreamed I'd be able to give myself injections. I'm now on Rebif, a disease modifying drug that reduces the number of lesions that develop in the Central Nervous System (the cause of MS symptoms) over time. A friend of mine who also has MS is on the same treatment and brought my attention to an interesting detail about this medication... Here's a quote taken from the Rebif package insert:

"Rebif® (interferon beta-1a) is a purified 166 amino acid glycoprotein with a molecular weight of approximately 22,500 daltons. It is produced by recombinant DNA technology using genetically engineered Chinese Hamster Ovary cells into which the human interferon beta gene has been introduced."


Amid all of the science talk, did you catch the part about Chinese Hamster Ovary cells?! Ew. After doing some research, I learned that CHO cells (yes, they have an acronym) are actually widely used in biotech manufacturing. It's pretty bizarre, but I also find it highly amusing. Jason and I now refer to my shots as my "hamster dance." This comes from a ridiculous cartoon of dancing hamsters that circulated via e-mail a few years back. He likes to play it on his iPhone while I do my shot -- The song is beyond irritating, but it makes me smile every time.

I'm not entirely sure how to explain all of this to Emily when the time comes. I do know, however, that I'll tell her all about the hamster dance. She'll like that part.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Welcome to the Club!

From the beginning I've always felt like being a parent has granted admission into a secret society of sorts. While pregnant, I'd commiserate with other pregnant women about cankles and weird cravings. After Em was born, I joined in on conversations with other new moms about the unexpected aspects of labor and delivery (I apologize to those of you we scared). The same was true for the newborn phase. We'd look at other new parents with their sweet bundle of joy and I knew we were all thinking the same thing... What the hell are we doing?! Will we EVER sleep again???

I feel like each stage is like that. If you have a toddler or pre-school kiddo at home, for example, I could say to you, "I know a teacher who looks just like Mr. Noodle" or "This mango is yummy yummy" and you'd get it. Because you're in the club. We understand that when the box says "Some assembly required," it's really code for "Pour yourself a drink... You're going to need it."

My friends without kids are surely reading this and thinking I officially have no life. I never said it was a cool club. Jason and I have gone from quoting Old School to quoting Grover. I spent my Friday night at a tea party with my daughter and Elmo in our family room. This was after we watched Barney clips on YouTube and played with Little People.

Wild, right?

The funny thing is that I'm not complaining. I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be than with my family (I could do without Elmo). I like to think we're cool parents, though. Is there a club for that? Maybe next weekend we'll do something crazy. We have big plans for a pretty nice little Saturday. We're going to go to Home Depot to buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know... I don't know if we'll have enough time.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Procrastinators: Leaders of Tomorrow

I'm raising the ultimate procrastinator. She's truly amazing at stalling when it comes to bedtime or anything that requires her to stop playing (meals, for example). We have a consistent bedtime routine that always ends with the same book (Goodnight Moon) and the same lullaby (Stay Awake from Mary Poppins). Last night we read several books from the library and then I reached for Goodnight Moon. Em quickly grabbed the book and threw it across the room! We retrieved it together and I began reading. She closed the book three times yet when I began to put it away she suddenly wanted to read it. After we finished I turned the light off and began singing. She literally put a hand over my mouth. Does she really think she won't have to go to bed if I can't sing the song?? I laid her in her crib and then the requests began.

"You already had some water."

"Beeper?" (her name for the pacifier)
"It's in the crib."
"Yellow beeper."
"Alright, but then it's bedtime."

"Purple beeper??"
"Seriously!? Goodnight, Emily!"


Here's where she pulls out the big guns. Mommy is a sucker for a hug and she knows this. I gave her one last hug and she immediately said, "No, a bear hug!" Cute. So, one last bear hug.

"Bunny kiss?"

Who is this kid?!? So much for getting to bed on time. I have to admit that I find this routine pretty entertaining. Plus, I get a lot of extra hugs these days.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Feeling Swanky

For the past month or so, I've been on a diet specifically designed for MS patients. It's called the Swank Diet (named after the doctor who designed it, although I like to pretend that Hilary is on it, too). It's basically a really low-fat diet with some insanely restrictive rules that make eating out next to impossible. Do I feel better?? Of course I do... Anyone who eats healthy foods is going to feel better. I have no idea if it will actually do anything to help my MS (and honestly I'm pretty skeptical), but it certainly can't hurt. When I started the diet, I learned very quickly that it's actually the FAT that brings flavor to many meals. Who knew? I was really thankful to find a few websites and blogs by other swanky folks who have figured out how to modify recipes to make them "legal" and found creative ways to make them flavorful. There are so many fat free options out there now that it's actually fairly simple to follow the rules. I wouldn't recommend fat free shredded cheddar, though... I don't trust a cheese that doesn't melt.

One of my favorites lately is a ground turkey meatloaf. I'm all about recipes that are comfort foods turned healthy. Eventually I'll probably go to a modified version of this diet, but for now I'm trying to do it right. If I were to do it long-term, I wouldn't be allowed red meat or pork for a year. Can you imagine?? I haven't started dreaming of bacon wrapped filet mignon quite yet, but I think that will be my cue to call it quits. So far I only miss cheese. A lot. We'll see how long I can take this... I once gave up meat for Lent (trying to fit in with my Catholic friends?!) and binged on more ham than anyone should consume in a single sitting come Easter morning. Let's hope my return to cheese doesn't go the same way.

Here's the turkey loaf recipe in case anyone is interested. Let me know what you think!

Swanky Meat Loaf

1 lb. Extra Lean (98% fat free) ground turkey
1 jalapeno, diced (I remove the seeds first -- Leave them if you enjoy eating fire)
1 small yellow onion, diced or grated
1/4 bell pepper (red or green)
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 egg whites
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs
1/3 c. ketchup

Preheat oven to 375. Combine first seven ingredients in a large bowl. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray then place the mixture into the pan. Spread ketchup on top of mixture and bake 35-40 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"You're My Boy, Blue!"

About a week ago, Emily reached up to the counter and knocked down a bowl of her breakfast food while I was preparing it. Our Weimaraner, Blue raced in to devour the mess and ignored all of my attempts to stop him. What Blue doesn't know is that Emily's doctor has advised us to mix 1/2 teaspoon of Miralax (a laxative) into Emily's breakfast each morning. Not a good day for Blue.

Emily loves our dog. Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. We're pretty sure the only reason Blue tolerates Emily is because he knows he's not the one we'd choose to keep if there were ever a problem. The exception to this is during mealtimes. Blue's not supposed to eat people food. We fork out an absurd amount of money each month for a prescription dog food for protein allergies to avoid the onslaught of hives, hair loss, and digestive issues he experiences when he eats anything else. Tell that to a two year old! One of Emily's favorite pastimes is to sit in her highchair saying, "Don't feed Blue!" as she chucks bits of her meal overboard. Thanks, Honey.

I'll admit I don't try very hard to stop her. So much of what she does to Blue borders on animal abuse that I feel like the forbidden treats make up for it a little. In the last few days alone I heard myself tell her, "Please don't pour chocolate milk on Blue's head," "Baby, don't feed him plastic," and "I don't think Blue wants you to wash his face." He puts up with a lot.

Then again, so do we. Blue is the poster dog for why every pet owner should buy pet health insurance (the vet is on my Christmas card list). Nail trimmings require a prescription sedative, he whines incessantly the moment we put Em to bed (It's MY turn for attention!) and he's the only hunting dog on the planet who is afraid of feathers. What's wrong with this animal?! Looking back, we did tell the breeder we wanted a goofy family dog. We love him despite his needy and neurotic behavior. As long as he doesn't chew on our daughter, he gets to stick around.