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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Outdoor Cure

My 15-month old got his first cold recently (First? Yes, I consider us lucky). My ordinarily cheerful, active, loving son became a wailing, clingy, unrecognizable mess in a matter of hours. He wouldn't sleep or eat; he didn't want to play; he intermittently wanted to cuddle but continued to wail while doing it. Spoiled by months of serenity, we parents were at a loss.

Finally, one Saturday my husband recommended a bath. My poor little guy had dried snot on his face and his hair was matted from restless nights peppered with eruptions of screaming and cuddle-requiring. I was hesitant because at this point in the cold EVERYTHING made him howl (Bottle?! I want to throw it in your face! Food? Are you out of your mind??? My stuffed dog? Get it away from me!). He fussed through bath time and afterward, desperate and exhausted, I took him outside.

My grandmother famously told her children that if they didn't feel good, the best cure was to get up and do something. I always thought this was her stock comeback to "I don't want to go to school," but in this case, she was 100% right. (Disclaimer: we are blessed not only to live in Arizona where going outside sick is an option in January, but we also have a killer back yard.)

I don't know if it was the change of scenery, the ample running-around space, or some miraculous, seemingly instantaneous injection of Vitamin D that made my little guy feel better, but the wailing stopped, and he was happy.

We spent a good hour and a half out back while he tossed balls around, rode his trike, and played with the dog without so much as a whimper. When we brought him in, of course, it was a different story (Tylenol, cuddling, Vick's Vaporub). But it made him happy for a brief time while he was really sick, and I'm glad.

Now whenever he has an "off" day and all else fails, I take him into the back yard. Jacket, sunhat - whatever the situation requires - "getting up and doing something," as my grandmother suggested, seems to be a cure-all.

Not everyone is blessed with a great, safe back yard and year-long decent weather, but when he was a few months old and couldn't be calmed, a walk around the block in his stroller worked too. If you have to suit up your little guy or gal in snow pants and a parka, they'll still feel the sun on their faces. And for whatever reason, it worked for us and I hope it does for you too.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nighttime for Toddlers (As Best I Know)

Here are two juxtaposed photos of my toddler (15 months) on a not-so-good night. After stand-up crying* for 10-15 minutes and throwing his lovey defiantly onto the floor, he actually fell asleep leaning on the side of the crib and ultimately readjusted to the more appropriate (and comfortable) position seen below the first picture.

As a conscientious parent, you have probably read that for babies, routine is EVERYTHING. Every night after my son eats, I change him into his PJs while audibly mentioning the impending "night-night." I let him turn off all the lights around his bedroom (he would turn them off and on all day and night if I let him), and we read a story. Then we turn on his (fabulous - get one here - just do it) white noise machine/projector, he turns off his bedroom light, and by the time I reach the last verse of his bedtime song he is already reaching longingly for his crib. This starts at 7:30 PM on the dot (most of the time; I'm only human) and he never puts up a fuss.

Tonight, we put a wrench in things. Not only did my husband come home early (he is usually in school until after bedtime), but he also brought a friend with him. This excited and confused my son. Dad was home (WOW!) and there was an intriguing new stranger to stare at/play with/talk to/and, again, play with.

Although I urged Johnny to say "Night-night" to his dad and the intriguing stranger, his routine was disrupted. And because I stopped to exchange pleasantries with the intriguing stranger, it was going on 8:00 before we started our routine. Not to mention, Dad and stranger were still in the house, presumably doing super-exciting things while I was sadistically trying to force my son to leave the fun and go night-night!

The combination of him being over-tired and the presumed excitement going on downstairs was enough to make my son "stand-up cry" for a long time (rough for everyone, especially the single stranger with no kids trying to enjoy some adult interaction).

In conclusion, you can't control everything. Life is crazy: routines get disrupted; naps sometimes don't do the trick and children become over-tired; intriguing strangers stop by unexpectedly. However, if you can maintain a pretty predictable structure for your child, nighttime will be much easier on everyone. Don't believe me? Consult the experts (as far as I'm concerned).

Good night, and good luck!

*As previously discussed, "stand-up crying" in the crib usually means, Forget it, I'm not going to sleep so you better get in here and make it better or lose all hope. "Sit-down" or "lay-down" crying just means I'm so tired I have no idea what's going on but here's a comfy place to lay down and I will probably do just that in a few minutes.

100 Happy Days

I am always looking for ways to stay positive and feel better, so when I saw this project I decided I had to try it. (Don't get me wrong: I spent a whole Sunday debating about it because honestly, it's kind of a big commitment when your free time usually = brushing your teeth before bed.)*

I'm enjoying this project for several reasons. One: I know I will be able to look back on a bunch of happy memories because I committed to posting them on Facebook. Two: I notice things in a different way when I have to document them. (Ordinarily I might not pay much attention when my husband does some small, nice thing, but if I stop, take a picture, and post it, I will.) Three: I am constantly looking for reasons to be happy, because I know I have to produce a picture by the day's end! And looking for reasons to be happy kind of makes me feel happier in general!

Click on the picture to see Day 22:

Check out my ongoing efforts here: #100happydays

*When I make comments about being busy or having very little free time, I am rarely complaining. Everyone is busy. Talking about my busy schedule is just context, unless I admit I am complaining... which I promise I will always do.

The Work Week Should Have to Go By as Fast as the Weekend!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to Care for Fragile Hair

My hair is fine, very delicate, and a whole lot of trouble! Here are some tricks I've learned to take good care of it :)

1. Everyone knows you shouldn't wash it every day, but here are some ways to make that easier (fine hair gets greasier faster, as we all know).

I first discovered Psssst! when studying Jessica Simpson's hairstyle and following her stylist. It disguises dirty hair and gives dull roots a boost.

If you get tired of the Psssst scent, there are alternatives. My favorite is Suave dry shampoo. I've been told it smells great, and also been told it smells like a stripper, but guys seem to universally love it...try it out at Target, where they sell two to a pack at a pretty good price.

And, of course, there's always the old stand-by: baby powder. (Bonus if you have a baby, because it's always on-hand.) You will smell like a baby and I recommend putting it on before your clothes (you think deodorant white spots are annoying?)... but who doesn't love the smell of babies?

2. Sometimes conditioning and rinsing isn't enough if you use heat products on your hair. I rake some Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask through the tips (without washing it out) before I dry it off and blow-dry.

And that's not all...

3. There is even more you can do to protect your rapidly splitting ends. I also smooth John Frieda Frizz-Ease all over my strands (again, before blow-drying). Coat and protect!

There are other things you can do. I've tried egg yolks, olive oil, etc. But as we all know the best way to care for your hair is to prevent breakage. Please, whatever you do, DON'T overuse another John Frieda product, something I abused during pregnancy while trying to save money and prevent salon highlights poisoning my unborn child. It was great at first, but overuse can cause some major damage (I cried, 6 months pregnant, when my hair was breaking off).

Stacy Keibler uses it, but probably only 3 weeks before her scheduled hair appointment. Or 3 days, or however long celebrities have to wait before they get seated in their regaled hairstylist's chair.
Great in moderation, but NOT a substitute if your roots are down to your ears. Let my lesson be your cautionary tale!
If you are truly desperate to disguise your roots (and broke, as I have been), there are much safer alternatives for your fine, delicate baby hair. Post forthcoming. :)


This Pinterest pin describes it perfectly :)

Imperial Chicken Recipe

Okay, I can't promise that my recipes will always be healthy, but they are a hit with my picky (oh, I'm sorry - "particular" husband) so if I post them they are sure to please even the choosiest of eaters. This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks, Savannah Style, which I actually bought in Savannah as a teenager on a family vacation (I was very domestically-minded at 16). It continues to impress me and everyone who eats its recipes 15 years later!


Buy it here.

2 whole chicken breasts, halved an boned (or, if you live near a Wal-Mart, four deboned, already flattened chicken breasts)
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash paprika

Blend bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside. Combine melted butter and garlic. Roll each chicken breast half into a firm roll, skewer with a toothpick. Dip chicken into butter mixture, then roll in bread crumb mixture. Arrange in a baking pan or glass casserole dish. Pour lemon juice over chicken and drizzle with any remaining butter. Sprinkle with paprika. Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 1 hour.

Serves 4.

It's kind of tricky skewering the chicken breasts but completely doable, and if you are serving it to guests I recommend removing the toothpicks before serving - it's a little classier than what I do with my family, which is warn them before they dig in ;)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Baby Registry 911 (Help!)

The other day one of my best friends told me she is pregnant. Not only was I excited for her, but I was also excited because she is the first of my close friends to join me on the crazy path to parenthood (finally, someone to commiserate about heartburn! Teething! Disgusting rivers of baby poop!).

One of the first things she asked me about was help with her baby registry. For any first-time parent, Babies R Us is easily the largest, most overwhelming and frightening store ever. It is like going into a Starbucks never having heard of coffee (if Starbucks were the size of a warehouse). The registry department will give you a categorized list of baby essentials and a little gun to scan everything you want, but I still had no idea what most of the stuff I was looking at was, let alone whether I needed it or not. So this is not a comprehensive list by any means; rather, it's a list of things my son and I loved and things I wish I'd known about sooner.

1. The Snoogle
This isn't something you register for, this is just something you need, plain and simple. Get it as soon as you know you're pregnant so you aren't kicking your husband out of bed when you're five months along and his arm touches you and you dissolve into a snotty hormonal sobbing fit. I was obsessed with the Snoogle while I was pregnant. I needed leg and tummy support and could not tolerate any body heat whatsoever towards the end so this was my husband stand-in (for the record, he was jealous of it and hated it - I think he may have thrown it away after the baby came).

2. A Boppy
See why I was so confused? Listen to these ridiculous names. Regardless, if you are planning to breastfeed, you definitely need a boppy. It also serves as a sweet napping spot for infants anywhere on your bed where they are totally safe and snug while you watch TV or whatever.

3. A Wipe Warmer
When I first saw this at the store I thought: Ridiculous. I am not going to be the type of mother who needs a diaper warmer. didn't have a diaper warmer, as I'm pretty sure they didn't exist in 1983, and I was just fine. But once my baby came and my heart turned to mush I realized that OF COURSE I could not put cold wipes on his precious little behind. It makes life easier for them and it feels nicer :)

4. A Co-Sleeper
This is a MUST. If you are breastfeeding, you will wake up every 2-3 hours to feed the little one, so you will want him close by. says: "Place your baby to sleep in the same room where you sleep but not the same bed. Keep the crib or bassinet within an arm’s reach of your bed. You can easily watch or breastfeed your baby by having your baby nearby. Babies who sleep in the same bed as their parents are at risk of SIDS, suffocation, or strangulation. Parents can roll onto babies during sleep or babies can get tangled in the sheets or blankets." ( 
The co-sleeper puts a wall between you and your little one, so you can't roll over onto him but he is at the same level as your bed. Also, as he gets older and wakes up in the night, you can turn over and stick a pacifier back in his mouth the minute he whimpers, whereas if he has to wait for you to stumble all the way to the nursery he will already be up and wailing. I didn't have this until a friend lent it to me a few months in and let me tell you, I wish I did.

5. At Least One Swing
You need at least one of these to park the baby in so you're able to get anything done (dishes, phone call... peeing...). I had a swing like this and also a little chair that vibrated and he was always really content in them. In the beginning I was super-paranoid so I dragged the swing into the bathroom with me every time I went ;)

6. A Video Monitor
My mom and I both have this and it is AWESOME. Trust me, at first I just had audio monitors but you will want this one. Once baby is sleeping in his own room, you will want to know exactly when he falls asleep in order to time his naps. You will want to know if he is crying because he got his leg stuck in the side of the crib, and want to know if he's standing-up or sitting-down crying (sitting-down crying means "I'm going to give up and sleep eventually;" standing up crying means "Not a chance in hell so just come pick me up and I'll nap later"). Also, if you suspect your child is going to be a climb-out-of-the-crib type (which I do) you can spy to make sure he doesn't get hurt. Practical reasons aside, it is adorable and so entertaining to watch your little one roll around and talk to himself and contort his body in his sleep without risking stepping on a floorboard and waking him up.

7. A Lovey
This weird thing I never heard of until I had a baby, but it's good to have. I only ever give it to my son when it's nighttime or naptime, and if you take one with you in your diaper bag he can virtually fall asleep anywhere because it's comforting to him and signals sleep.

8. A Noise Machine
My sister got us this white noise machine and I swear by it. It has peaceful, non-irritating rain and wave sounds and also signals to baby that it's time to sleep. (You will have so many toys with irritating noises and songs that you will appreciate the white noise.)

9. A Humidifier
I also recommend getting a cool mist humidifier. Depending on the time of year, babies get all kinds of congestion and you'll notice it gets worse when they lie down. My pediatrician said this is totally normal but recommended a humidifier.

10. Nail Clippers
I am fairly confident your baby will have more hair than mine, because I didn't have any use for a comb or brush until fairly recently (he is 15 months old). However, nail clippers are an ESSENTIAL. Newborn fingernails grow freakishly fast and they can cut their precious little faces. Those nail scissors pictured and the nail files, I had no use for, but they might work better for you. I just use the baby clippers. Maybe get a couple pairs because I always forget where I put mine...

11. Diapers
Register for diapers, because you will be shocked and terrified at how expensive they are and how quickly they go. Many people are relieved to buy something so easy.

12. If you are breastfeeding...
Sorry to say it, but you will need this (ouch): 

And you will definitely want these:

Rent a breast pump. They are insanely too expensive to buy and most hospitals (probably including the one where you deliver) rent them for $30-50 a month. Totally worth it. Every once in a while your breastfeeding schedule with baby will get off, and it's really uncomfortable. Also if you're going to go somewhere for a few hours and don't want baby to have formula, you can store it in the fridge (or even in the freezer if you want to keep the breastfeeding thing going after you go back to work).

13. Final Advice
I'm gonna tell you something else. You and your significant other* will both CONSTANTLY run out of storage space on your phones from obsessively taking pictures and videos of the baby. There is nothing more frustrating than getting ready to snap a PERFECT shot of your little one and being told you can't because you don't have enough storage. Then you have to (very quickly) make some heart-wrenching decisions about deleting previous pictures to get the shot. That is why it is essential to have Google+. It was designed to be a social media website like Facebook and never really took off, but if you download it, it automatically backs up ALL your pictures to the website every time you take one. So I still periodically dump all my pictures onto our laptop, but if (God forbid) something happened to that, you would still have all your pictures safely stored on the Internet - and it's not public, so no one else can see them if you don't want them to. Do not bother buying more storage space from Apple; I made this mistake and it only lasted a week. Just get Google+ :)

Don't forget to load up on pacifiers. I didn't use them at first because I didn't want my baby to get confused since I was breastfeeding, but once you do you will find the baby has very strong preferences and you do not want to be running out at 10pm to buy the "right" pacifier or leaving a family party because you lost one and your baby is having a meltdown.

But you really shouldn't stress about any of this. In the very beginning all you will be doing is sleeping and feeding the baby. As long as you have a place to change diapers and a place for him to sleep, you won't miss any of the other stuff. I built my nursery as my baby grew up based on things I thought he would like and things we needed, tailored for our situation.

When you send out your shower invites, tell people gift cards are welcome too because honestly you don't know until your baby is here what you're gonna want/need. As long as you have some swaddling blankets and diapers and nail clippers in those first few weeks, you can send someone out for whatever else you need.

*When you have questions before and after baby you will turn to the Internet, as we all do. There are a host of acronyms that parents use and to save you some head-scratching: "SO" means significant other, "LO" = little one, and "DH" is dear hubby. Annoying, yes, but at 3 in the morning when you're seeking advice about how to soothe your child's cough you're not going to care that the person giving it is annoying enough to call her husband dear hubby in the first place, or that she can't bother to type those extra 7 letters.