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Sunday, February 28, 2010

fevering

update:

Liam is definitely his father's son.

Just the mention of taking him to the doctor seems to have been enough motivation for him to get well. He woke up this morning chipper and bouncy as normal. And no fever. He even ate a whole bowl of oatmeal and has been asking for extra snacks all morning. It seems that his immune system has worked it all out. This Mama sighs with relief.

We almost made it through the winter, and Liam's first 2 years of life, without him suffering through any significant sickness. Until this weekend, that is.

The poor little guy took a 4 1/2 hour nap Friday afternoon.

That's when I knew something was coming.

By Saturday morning he was running a fever that has ebbed and flowed depending on the Tylenol in his system, and the pattern continued through today. He took a 2 hour nap in the morning, and then again in the afternoon, and he was ready for an early bedtime. We put him to bed with a fever of 102.5 and yet another dose of Tylenol. If he is still sick tomorrow, I'll be taking him to the doctor (it will be his first visit that isn't a regular wellness check-up...). He doesn't have any other symptoms besides the fever, but he sure seems miserable.

Here's to wishes of good health.

Friday, February 26, 2010

at the fire station

Today, Liam and I joined Rochelle and Sage for a morning tour of the local fire station with the Mothering Matters crew.

What do you get when you crowd a group of toddlers, their camera-wielding mothers, assorted strollers, and firefighters who want to talk about the details of their work? A little bit of chaos, a few temper tantrums, and lots of happy little boys.

Liam thought all of the trucks were great, all of the kids a bit intimidating, and the noisy gear a little scary. He anxiously clung to another mom's leg at one point, thinking it was me. But all in all, he had a good morning.

Trying to get good pictures was tricky. You could definitely say these boys were a bit distracted.
So many trucks. Where to begin?
Modeling the serious observer look.
Learning about the jaws of life. Sage thought it was a vacuum...
More serious observing while trying out the passenger seat in the big ladder truck.
He especially liked all the tires...
Future firefighter? I'm not sure if the pacifier is standard gear...
Thanks, Rochelle and Sage, for taking us along for the tour.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekending - part 2

I just droppped, shattered, splashed, and spilled a brand new, unopened, bottle of good red wine vinegar.

Grrr...

At least I have my Shark mop to clean it up.

Weekending

We awoke to rain pattering on our roof this morning and a still-sleeping Liam. After taking a long shower, I checked on him downstairs only to discover him sleeping on his stomach in the middle of the rug on his bedroom floor. He's still sleeping that way one hour later.

It has already been a nice weekend.

Friday evening my mom came out to visit and watch Grey's Anatomy, good episode, by the way, and she surprised me with a Shark Steam Mop of my very own. This is unbelievably exciting. You have to understand that our tile floors in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room have been a constant battle that usually ends with me on my hands and kness with a scrub brush, a pail of soapy water, and a back ache every month or so. Between the dog, a messy little boy, a messy big boy, and all the cooking I do, that floor gets gross quick. And I'm not exactly in the get-on-your-hands-and-knees-to-scrub-the-floor-condition these days.

Enter the Shark. I don't usually like gadgety contraptions, but this one is worth every penny. You plug it in and it is ready to go within 30 seconds, and it uses only water to clean the floors. It literally steams them clean. It even cleaned all of those dips and grooves in our natural-look tile floors. And it does the wood floors, too. We, meaning my mom and Gabriel, took turns mopping the entire house yesterday morning.

I'll feel so much better having another little one crawling on the floor in the not-too-distant future without having to worry about the grimy floor.

Hurray!

Last night, Gabriel and I left a sleeping Liam with our neighbor Trish so we could go to see Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the Walton Arts Center. I won tickets from NPR (just call me Miss 25th caller...), and it was so nice to have a date night. The music was amazing. Thanks again, Trish, for being such a great neighbor.

Apparently, listening to the radio really pays off. Look what was in my mailbox a few weeks ago:
That's right, $5 cash. All I had to do was fill out the simple survey about my radio listening habits. Actually, I could have just pocketed the cash and forgotten about the survey. But I didn't, don't worry.

So now I'm off to enjoy the last of our weekend, coffee in hand. We made doughnuts yesterday to satisfy the very unfortunate problem of what to do with leftover pastry cream. Another is calling my name :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The eco-nomical baby guide

When Liam was just a few months old, I stumbled upon The Green Baby Guide. I was new to the blogging world and was just beginning to discover the wonders of finding like-minded mamas all over the world. In my little circle here in Northwest Arkansas, I have many wonderful friends with young children of their own, but I struggled with feelings of isolation. NWA has its own little pockets of crunchy people, but no one I knew (yet) had similar philosophies of child-raising. People who cloth-diapered their babes. People who favored wearing the little ones in wraps and slings instead of carting them around in strollers, lugging them around in car seats, or plopping them in various battery-operated gizmos. People who were concerned about plastics, processed foods, and other toxins. People who cared about all these things but still seemed normal. I found all of these things in Joy and Rebecca's posts.

And so it was with a great deal of anticipation that I dug through their first book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways to Save Money and the Planet.

The main message of the book is simple: buy less, buy used, and buy items with the health of your child and the planet in mind.

Their advice covers the entire spectrum of new parents, from those who are not (yet) concerned about environmental impact to the tofu-eating, prius-driving, straw-bale-home-living greenies. Their recommendations are practical, proving that you don't have to be rich to afford raising baby green.

They give the financial run-down of their own preparing for baby purchases, comparing their own spending with both the national average and the ever-popular Baby Bargains. Together, they saved an average of 85% of what the average American spends on baby gear, and 75% of what the average baby bargain shopper would spend.

Their common-sense approach does away with big-box store baby registry must-haves, and instead focuses on baby's real necessities (page 24):
  • a place for baby to sleep
  • a way to feed baby
  • a way to diaper baby
  • a way to keep baby warm
  • a way to care for baby's health and safety
They go into detail about what this practically looks like, and they acknowledge that this won't look the same for everybody.

My thoughts towards baby necessities were very similar leading up to Liam's birth. We chose to simplify things as much as possible, and I don't regret any of those decisions. In fact, he still has more than he needs, despite our best intentions to make-do with less.

I wish that I would have had this book before he was born almost exclusively for the fantastic chapters on cloth diapering. I knew that I wanted to cloth diaper, but I had no idea what this would look like on a practical level. My online research revealed a bewildering assortment of options, everything from pre-folds to A.I.O.'s (all-in-one diapers).

This book goes through all of the options available today, stressing that cloth-diapering today is not only just as easy as disposables, it's also even enjoyable. They list the pros and cons of the different diapering options as well as the cost factors, including the facts about energy usage and laundering supplies and what to do about smelly diaper issues. They also give the run-down on the "green" disposable diaper options. They even include diagrams of how to actually use pre-fold diapers in a cover without pins or snappis. I had to figure out a lot of this on my own. These chapter's alone make the book a must-read.

That, and the words of wisdom by yours truly on page 72...

All of that said, I think the book is great. It's a great resource to have on hand and to pass along to inquisitive friends. Crystal, this book is coming your way :-)

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down to Earth Ways to Save Money and the Planet is available on Amazon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

rough day

Liam woke up on the wrong side of his big boy bed today.

I felt like I never woke up all the way.

I drank lots of tea.

Liam whined his way through the day.

And he didn't nap.

I drank more tea.

Liam climbed into the open clothes dryer and peed in it.

More tea for me.

But as bad as mine and Liam's day turned out to be, one of our Plymouth Rock chickens (the black and white speckled ones) had a much worse day. It was her last.

I discovered her in our pond this evening not long before Gabriel got home from work. She was floating on the surface, like a duck would, but her eyes were open and cloudy. She must have fallen though the melting ice and slowly froze to death. So, so sad.

Liam noticed her, too. He kept saying chicken fall in pond, sad, chicken died... over and over again.

We watched out the window as Gabriel fished her out and buried her next to the hawthorn tree. Amazingly, the ground was thawed to the point where he could dig a deep enough hole.

We thanked her for our eggs, I shed a few tears, and Liam said bye bye chicken.

Monday, February 15, 2010

this is how chocolate is meant to be savored

video

Valentine's Day

Liam and I have been doing Valentine's related crafts for the past week or so. He really loved potato stamping these sheets of paper (and, yes, he is wearing only a bib).
Those sheets of paper turned into these Valentine's cards. Liam helped me glue them together.
We spent Sunday afternoon preparing all of the makings for our special valentine's family dinner, which, of course, meant a dessert preview. Liam helped me lick the pan clean of all the leftover smears of chocolate ganache that dripped off the boston cream pie.
yummy
Gabriel and Liam worked together to fill and shape our ravioli.
The dinner was awesome:
Heart-Shaped Ricotta and Basil Ravioli
topped with
Hearty Beef Ragu Sauce
served with
Roasted Broccoli
and
Heart-Shaped Biscuits
We overstuffed ourselves, and barely had room for the barest smidgen of a slice of the boston cream pie. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to eat more of the dessert tonight...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Ikea trip

Well, we finally made it to and from Dallas. My mom stayed home with Liam, and it was amazingly wonderful to go on a road trip just Gabriel and I again. Thanks, Mom.

We left early Saturday morning (5 am...) and drove straight to Ikea. Aside from some problems with faulty toll booth bill changers, the drive was a breeze. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that it only took us 4 1/2 hours to get there.

Have I ever mentioned before how much I love Ikea. Sure, some of their stuff is not the best quality, but it's all oh-so-practical and you can't beat the price. We spent a good 4 hours browsing through and loading up a cart with everything on our list. The goal was to get everything we needed to change Liam's nursery into a room for two brothers. We were able to get everything we wanted and even had extra money leftover... Special thanks to everyone who gifted me with spending money for my birthday.
the loot:
  • a big boy bed and mattress for Liam

  • two sets of sheets for his new bed

  • a blanket

  • a pillow and pillowcase

  • coordinating fabric for some sewing projects in their room

  • two small chairs for the craft table

  • organizing tubs for a new storage/diaper changing station we're going to build

  • a Liam-sized mug

  • pots and pans for his play kitchen (birthday gift...)

  • a picture frame

  • a step stool (for the Grays...)
After Ikea, we hopped onto yet another toll road and zipped further down into Dallas. I had a gift card to Teavana that I was itching to spend. The traffic leading up to the mall was bad. Taking over an hour to go 3 blocks bad. At this point, Gabriel had an I-want-to-be-anywhere-but-here meltdown, but I was determined to make this stop. This was the nearest store to our home, and I really wanted that tea. So, we endured and were amazed at the crowds inside the (quite swanky) North Park Center Mall.
I ended up with 2 ounces each of loose leaf Assam Golden Rain, Masala Chai, and English Breakfast, all of which are hearty black teas (it's getting to the point where I need that caffeine fix to get me through the day...). Thank you, Ben and Carolyn, for such a thoughtful gift. I will continue to enjoy it with each and every sip.

After we made it out of the crazy mall madness, we stopped at Toys R Us to buy Liam an Elmo. Yes, an Elmo. I have been letting Liam watch Elmo on the computer, and it has reached the point of infatuation for him. He talks about Elmo all day long, sings with Elmo, and even talks about Elmo in his sleep. We decided he needed an Elmo of his very own. So we got one.

It turns out my mom got him one, too.

Except hers blows kisses and says Elmo loves you. Clearly, her gift trumps our non-automated Elmo... So, the Dallas Elmo will be going back to Toys R Us, and Liam is still loving his verbal Elmo. Thanks, Mom.

After a stop at Whole Foods for some not-so wholesome pizza and gigantic slices of cake, we drove home.
It was a long, but so enjoyable, day.

Liam is a big fan of Ikea, too: everything has to be assembled. He helped Gabriel hammer together his new chairs and kept saying, "Fun!"


The big boy bed

We had planned to buy a twin-sized mattress and just put it on a slatted base directly on the floor, but we were pleasantly surprise to discover that Ikea carries inbetween youth-sized beds. It's bigger than a crib/toddler bed, but smaller than a twin. And less expensive. The mattress and bed, including the slatted base and guard rail, all totaled less than $100! That's an Ikea deal for you.

Liam loves his new bed. Especially the frog blanket. He is sleeping in it as I type. We'll see how the rest of the night goes...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

firewood

The truth about wood stoves:

They gobble up a lot of firewood.

We have had a hard time keeping up with its demands and have already gone through all of the humongous stash we'd accumulated in the carport, along with several "refills."

So we decided it was finally time to purchase our own chain saw for serious cutting action.

Gabriel's carpool buddy, Mark, generously offered us felled trees on his property, and since it was his first go-around with the new chain saw, Gabriel wanted Liam and I to tag along just in case.

It was a balmy 34 degrees here on Saturday, so Liam and I bundled up, packed some extra blankets and hot cocoa, grabbed some books to read, and went to watch Gabe reduce a tree to manageable rounds.

He did great with the chain saw, except he is still learning how to make the cuts without getting the saw pinched. It happened numerous times, leading to the most muttered cursings I have ever heard escape from his mouth...

Liam thought the day was a wonderful adventure. He climbed on the rounds, played with sticks, met the farm dogs, and saw cows in the neighboring pasture. But whenever the chain saw was going, he stayed glued to my legs. The sound was pretty scary.

Going at a big trunk:
Success!
Time for a little exploring.
Happy boy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

mystery book

I received an unexpected package in the mail a few days ago:

A Kid's Herb Book by Lesley Tierra
I have no idea who sent it for me since it came by way of Amazon. I didn't order it, but I don't think I could have chosen a better book. I have been wanting a resource to help me incorporate more natural remedies into our daily life, and this book is full of them. The pages offer kid-friendly uses for a huge assortment of herbs: everything from medicinal balms to fun crafts. I can't wait to start trying them out.
To the mystery giver, thank you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

slightly-healthier popcorn balls

I made popcorn balls for the first time today.

I never liked them as a kid, but last night they were all I could think about. I needed them.

So today I pulled out my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (the only one out of my 2 dozen or so cookbooks to actually have a popcorn ball recipe...), and set about making some modifications:

We buy our organic popcorn kernels from the bulk section at Ozark Natural Foods. I popped them on the stove-top in our hand-cranked kettle corn popper with just enough oil to keep them from burning/sticking.

Instead of refined white sugar, I used Sucanat (dehydrated cane juice...also from the bulk section at our co-op). In recipes it can be used 1:1 for standard granulated sugar. Sucanat gives the candy a lovely caramel flavor and color.

I'd like to try this with agave nectar instead of the corn syrup, but since we were out of the former, and I randomly had some corn syrup, that's what I used.

It's finished with a splash of vanilla extract. I use Frontier's fair trade organic vanilla.

The result is delicious. They are caramelly, not too sweet, and just the right amount of salty. And I made them a more manageable golf-ball-size instead of the baseball-size-monsters I remember from childhood.

Slightly - Healthier Popcorn Balls
ingredients
  • 18 cups popped popcorn (roughly 1 1/2 cups unpopped kernels)
  • 2 cups Sucanat sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup (or agave nectar...there's always next time)
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Softened butter

equipment

  • Roasting pan or other large oven-safe container
  • Large, heavy saucepan
  • Candy thermometer
  • Stirring utensil
  • Parchment-lined (or lightly oiled) baking sheet
instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Pop popcorn and transfer 18 cups of it to a lightly-oiled roasting pan or other oven-safe container. I made a little extra, which Liam and I snacked on while we finished making the popcorn balls. Place pan in the oven to keep the popcorn warm.
  2. Combine Sucanat, water, corn syrup, vinegar, and salt in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil, about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Clip-on candy thermometer and reduce heat to medium (or whichever temperature your stove needs to keep the mixture at a gentle rolling boil...mine was more at medium-low). Stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to 250 degrees, the "hard ball" stage. This takes about 20 minutes.
  4. As soon as it reaches 250 degrees, turn off the heat, remove the thermometer, and stir in the vanilla. Remove the popcorn from the oven and carefully pour the candy mixture over the popcorn, stirring gently to evenly coat.
  5. Allow it to cool just enough so you can handle it. Don't wait too long because the candy hardens as it cools. I took a quick potty break, 2-3 minutes, and it seemed just the right amount of time.
  6. Rub butter on your hands (this mix is sticky...) and quickly form the popcorn mixture into golf-ball sized rounds, placing them on the parchment-lined baking sheet as you go. You have to work quickly to make it through all 18 cups of popcorn before it is too hard to stick to itself. It's not difficult to do, but you can't take a coffee break in the middle of the shaping...
  7. They are ready to eat right away. I put mine in the cookie jar, or you could individually wrap them as treats to share.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Potty training update

Liam has good days and bad days:

On the good days, he goes on the potty every time.

On the bad days, the potty doesn't get a drop, but the floor gets nice and wet.

But we had another potty training first the other day. We were eating out, and Liam was wearing a diaper. When he told me he needed to go, we rushed into the bathroom, took off the dry diaper, and he peed while sitting on the edge of the big potty. Up until that point, he had refused to go on a full-sized toilet. Apparently, he really had to go.

Needless to say, he got a treat from the candy vending machine. Another first for him.