Friday, August 22, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 19)

~1~
I've finally had to admit to myself that Isaac is no longer of an age where he can nap anywhere. Now, our days are carefully planned around morning nap and afternoon nap, and do we dare for an early evening nap? My mind is continuously full of contingency-plan schedules. I have to admit, this wasn't really one of the challenges of motherhood I'd considered. We've found a pretty good groove, I'm ready for  more on my plate, and as an extrovert, long to be out and about, but those naps are not to be tampered with. There was a saint who said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "a very great deal depends on whether you live your life as God wants" what I think he meant to say was "a very great deal depends on how nap time goes."

~2~
Has anyone tried out Kindle Unlimited? I signed up for the free 30-day trial because I could get this month's book club pick on it for free. Maybe my interests are too obscure, but I keep finding that "unlimited" is a very loose term.

~3~
This year, I'm turning 30. I have very little wisdom to show for it. But this I do know, I'm kidding my self if I think it'll be ok not to blow-dry my bangs.

~4~
A few weeks ago, we flew to Chicago so the youngest cousins could meet and so I could be there for my god-daughter's baptism. We had one job. One job. Get to the church on time. We were definitely a good 15 minutes late. My brother-in-law was standing outside the church to make sure we got the best parking spot. Every other family, all with many more children than we had to get ready, were all sitting, and waiting, at the front of the church. No sooner than I had sat down in my waiting place in the very first pew, my phone very loudly announced, "you have arrived at your destination." Blush.

~5~
Since the spring, I've been meal planning using Google Calendar. I set up a dedicated calendar just for meals and it's worked great. Moving meals around if something comes up is a cinch and whenever we get into a meal rut, I scroll back a few months to see what we were having for dinner then, and voila! no more rut!

~6~
My first foray into blogging was actually reading infertility blogs. And one infertility blog always stood out head and shoulder above the rest. This particular blogger is kind of like the fairy godmother of other women with IF, she even has a wand. And this week, she shared with the internet the most joyous news of all. Eight years of waiting and suffering and learning acceptance. Eight years.

~7~ 

There's another family I know who isn't having quite so great a year. A mother with a chronic illness, a teenager with severe autism, and now a 3 year old with cancer. You can read more about their challenges on the go fund me page, and even if you can't spare a dime, no prayer is wasted. My faith tells me that God has a plan, and his plans are always good, but my gut says, "couldn't you pick on someone else for a change?"

Jen it's great to have you and your takes back

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Favorites: Kitchen Tools



When it comes to choosing kitchen tools, usually, I am a loyal follower of anything America's Test Kitchen recommends. I love reading about the paces they put blenders through and which food storage systems are shatter proof. Our wedding registry was very literally organized around their suggestions. The tools they recommend have served us well, and I've neither wanted nor needed to replace any of them. But as I look around my kitchen, there are a few loves of mine that aren't straight from the ATK annals, so that's what I'm sharing with you today.

Kitchen Favorites You Won't Hear About on America's Test Kitchen:

1.) Umbra Tub Dish Drying Rack
Our last dish drainer was the pits. When it wasn't collecting water underneath its rubber mat, it was draining onto the floor. Super helpful. Enter the Umbra Tub Dish Drying Rack. The tub's drain is actually set high enough, that it can, you know, drain into the sink. The tub itself is dishwasher safe so if it gets groddy, into the bottom rack it goes. And best of all, it's only one piece, so someday, when it's not perpetually full of bottle parts, it will easily slip into the under sink cabinet when I'm not using it.

2.) Oxo Steel Soap Dispensing Palm Brush
My husband has a soap problem. No amount of referencing my college microbiology class will convince him that more is not always better with soap. He remains convinced that a thick layer is always preferable to a film. But should I really be complaining? After all, this does mean he is doing the dishes. Between the need to curb his soap habit, and my hatred of sponges that always always mildew, this dish scrubber solves most of our problems. If it could solve the problem of dishes all together, it'd probably cost more than $9.99.

3.) Progressive International Stainless Steel Measuring Spoons, Set of 5
Magnetic measuring spoons. Need I say more. No annoying rings that you'll never put the spoons back on anyway and yet they still all stay together. The narrow ends are just the thing for reaching into spice bottles. We used to have a a magnetic set that was plastic, not of the same brand, but the tablespoon melted when I poured hot bacon fat into it. The nerve. Anyway, these metal ones won't melt and they're sleeker too.

4.) Cutco Pizza Cutter
This was a wedding gift. For the first few months, we were convinced that it was broken since the arm kept flipping up. But then, when we discovered that it would flip back down too, we realized it was a feature not a bug. The wheel blade is removable for easy cleaning and sharpening, not that we've needed to sharpen it, but we could if we wanted to I guess.

5.) Zak Designs Melamine Bowls, Set of 6
Best impulse Costco purchase ever. I am absolutely positive these used to be cheaper. Crate & Barrel used to sell them too. Until we amass the inevitable hoard of plastic kids' dishes, these are our only unbreakable dishes besides tupperware, baby bottles, and one cup the previous owners left behind. They're great to use as casual serving pieces, chips and guacamole anyone?, for mixing up cake batter, or for playing. The smallest bowl in our set is purple and it's always the most popular toy if there's a little girl over to play.

Over and out to Heather, for more favorites

Links to Amazon are affiliate links. If you purchase anything, I'll get a small percentage. Thanks!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 18)

~1~

Pardon our dust. If you're reading this on a desktop, I'm really sorry. I was anxious to readjust to some bits of the blog design, and Mark and I were all set to work on them together. His know-how, my opinions, perfect marriage. And then I was at Starbucks, all by myself working on some draft posts, and started looking at the template. Not interesting story short: Drunk on the power of iced coffee, I had a moment of "I wonder what will happen if I press this button" and will be living with the consequences until Mark takes pity on me.

~2~

Isaac and I went and visited my old kindergarten classroom last week. Seeing the kids was great-they haven't changed a bit since September, and yet they have. I definitely spent at least 5 minutes with my eyes darting around the room thinking of all the blood, sweat, toil, tears and masking tape that went into its decoration that I go to enjoy for 3 weeks. At least the teacher next year is keeping the same design. Her summer should be nice and mostly tape free.

~3~
The other day, I left the room and this happened. He's after the network cables, I just know it. Like father, like son, I suppose.
He started out by the bunny

~4~
I made tzatziki sauce for the first time ever. Why hadn't I ever done that before? Perfect summer condiment for everything. I used the Brown Eyed Baker's recipe, except I doubled the garlic. In Kate's much shared cooking post, her only constant mantra (so far!) is when in doubt, triple it...unless it's the Pioneer Woman. The same goes for garlic...when in doubt, double it...unless it's the Pioneer Woman!

~5~

A departure from the light hearted. Could you spare a prayer or two for my mom? She's recovering from having a spinal fusion yesterday to hopefully correct the constant nerve pain she's been having... since her last spinal fusion a year ago. This is the woman who had 11 natural childbirths and 1 emergency c-section, she's been through knee and hip replacements and she doesn't complain. The other day, she said to me on the phone, "I just want to be able to hold my grandchildren and make dinner. I don't think that's too much to ask." Once you get past the fact that that's the most emoting I've ever heard from the woman, you'd have to agree, it's not too much to ask at all. Hopefully, this surgery is the ticket. The surgeon said that it was a success so so far so good.

~6~
We're taking Isaac down to Galveston for the holiday weekend. It'll be his first trip to the beach. I'm looking forward to trading in this youtube video, which moonlights as a noise machine in our house, for the real thing.

We plan on doing a lot of this. (Photo taken from my second blog post of all time)


~7~






He's very excited about the beach. (So am I!)

More Quick Takes here!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Seven Quick Takes (Vol. 17): Memoirs, Scorpions, How to Say Our Name, and Celebrity Resemblances


-1-
We are (still) slowly emptying our storage unit as we move into the new house. Last weekend, we brought over a bookshelf and more books. As I was unloading the bins, I noticed this:

That, right there, pretty much sums up what Mark and I each brought to this relationship.


-2-
I had an epiphany the other day and it was this. I'll bet you read this blog, but if you haven't met us in real life you have no idea how to say our last name! I'm not being presumptuous here, it defies most logic. It may look French, and I'm sure that it is French, but we don't say it like we're French. Are you ready?

buh-ZEEN

Last syllable like magazine. Yup, that's how we say it.


-3-
Springtime here is dying down which is a little bittersweet. Spring is where Texas really outdoes itself, but any allergy sufferer can't help but be relieved when the seasons make the switch to summer because the pollen...goodness the pollen! Everything gets covered in a green film. You can't park your car outside without it changing color. For weeks, our mailbox looked like it was a key piece of evidence in a CSI investigation.

When my nieces were here for Isaac's baptism (which I should probably blog, about, eh?), one of them accidentally sprayed a fire extinguisher on our back porch. Mark hosed it off and the next day it rained. As I drove through our neighborhood, I saw puddles at the end of driveways edged in the same neon green film that was on our porch and started to wonder if everyone had accidentally set off a fire extinguisher. Nope, just pollen. It makes you wonder if maybe the trees were overdoing it just a little, in a teenage boy with a can of Axe sort of way.


-4-
Isaac will be 4 months adjusted on Sunday, and 7 months in actuality a few days after that. People say I'm a mean mom, but I can't help but notice a striking remblance between him and a certain loveable caterpillar.


-5-
He doesn't seem too bothered about it though.



He insists that it's all muscle.




-6-

I've been enjoying the Blog Carnival Posts about moms and social media. I agree with what everyone is saying. BUT! I do need to start using it better. For me personally, that means if I'm to be part of an online community, I should participate in a reciprocal way, i.e. it needs to stop being so much in my imagination.  Right now, it sometimes feels like all these lovely bloggers supply plenty of free content, and then I get to imagine things about them--without ever actually reaching out to the other person. I need to interact more, comment more, not just think up a really nice comment in my head, keep it there, and then imagine the conversation that springs up from it.


-7-
There are lots of people out there with profound thoughts about Jen's book. Something Other Than God was a very enthralling read as evidenced by my Instagram pic and the almost all-nighter I spent reading it cover to cover.  


After finishing it, the main thing I am left wondering about is, why didn't the nice man who sold them his house tell them about the scorpions??? I know, I know, it's Austin, they're everywhere, but remember when Jen had the exterminator out? Yeah, it sounds like they're dealing with more of a situation like their house is built on top of the Scorpionmother's Lair than just your typical geographical scorpion situation. Call me crazy, but I feel like that maybe should have come up in the seller's disclosure.

For more takes of the quick, go see Jen.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 Favorites: Ways to Help You (or a Friend) Survive the NICU



I'm always the person who can't think of a way to help someone without being pushy or awkward until well after the need for help passes. Surely I can't be the only one, so I thought I'd share some of the things that were most helpful during my stint as a NICU mom. Some of them are things you can do to help out and some of them are recommendations that might be helpful if you or a friend find themselves in a similar situation.

~1~
Meals

Let's get the obvious out of the way first, shall we? Meals are the go to for any crisis really. Know someone having a rough go, bring them a dinner. Toddler having a meltdown to end all meltdowns? Chances are a cookie will fix it...unless of course the meltdown was due to a cookie related request.

With a baby to be with in the hospital, I couldn't guarantee if or when I'd be home when people dropped off meals. And even if I was home, chances are, I'd be pumping and unable to answer the door. A cooler by the back door solved that problem. As much as I would have liked to thank the meal-givers face to face, I really appreciated that they understood our circumstances.

The other very helpful meals were a collection of gift cards. The lovely folks at Mark's work gave us a basket filled with restaurant gift cards. They did their homework and all the gift cards were to places either very close to the hospital, or on our way there. They also gave us a nice variety of gift cards some were for grab n go eateries, and others were to more leisurely restaurants so we could mix it up.

It was such a relief that the details of what's for dinner never kept us from spending more time with Isaac.

~2~
Primary Nurses

You're going to want these. A primary nurse is a nurse who basically adopts your family. Every time they have a shift, they will be the nurse to take care of your baby. They'll also hand pick the nurse who takes over you baby's care once their shift ends (unless his other primary will be working that shift) Is there a nurse that clicks with you and has taken a particular shine to your baby? That's who you ask to primary.
Isaac and one of his primary nurses

Neonatology is a highly specialized field, and particularly in larger metropolitan areas it's not always the case that your baby will have the same neonatologist for the entire duration of their hospital stay. For us, Isaac had a new neonatologist every two weeks--at the larger children's hospital in town the turnover is even more often than that. Some of the most frustrating times for us would be when a setback in Isaac's progress would coincide with a new doctor taking over his care. A primary nurse will be a constant for your baby and will guarantee consistency in his care, especially when his latest doctor hasn't gotten to know him yet. Having a primary nurse gives you a peace of mind in those moments when you can't be in the NICU because you know they will be a fierce advocate for your baby. They are your biggest cheerleaders in the NICU, their excitement at each milestone your baby reaches will be second only to yours. It's a relationship that you'll cherish even after you go home. Isaac's primary nurses are like honorary aunts and we still keep in touch.

~3~
My Preemie

There are lots of preemie apps out there, and this one isn't free but it's our favorite. There's a section to record your baby's daily weight and weekly length. It has a glossary of terms with a handy *ask my nurse* feature where you can add anything you have a question about to a growing list the app saves for you. Best of all there is a journaling section. Mark was our primary scribe and I love having a day by day account of the tiny triumphs and setbacks that made up those 10 weeks. And when all is said and done, you can turn your journal into a pdf so it's not stuck on your phone forever. Our nurses thought the app was so cool they recommended it to other NICU families; that's high praise.

~4~
Parking and Transportation

This is a many faceted one.

Isaac was born via c-section, lots of preemies are, and while my doctor finagled 4 days instead of 3 at the hospital for me, Mark still had to go back to work before I was ready to drive. Enter my mom, who flew in the day before Mark returned to work and chauffeured me around until I had healed well enough to manage on my own. Not every mom is able to save the day like that, so maybe you, kind friend, could offer rides to the hospital.

And then there's parking. The parking situations at every hospital, varied though they may be, have one thing in common: they aren't free. We were at a smaller hospital, so luckily it wasn't as exorbitant as it could have been. There was reasonably priced street parking right next to the hospital with lengthy time limits. Houston has adopted an online parking meter system, so all we needed was a Park Mobile app and I was able to park for less than $2 a day. But had we been in the monstrously sized children's hospital in the medical center, we could easily have racked up $30+ a day. Rides would be extremely helpful in that situation, or, some hospitals use pre-paid tokens, that would be a much appreciated gift you could pick up for a friend who is making multiple hospital trips in a day.

~5~
When in doubt, be specific

How many times have things been crashing down around you, say around 5 pm, as dinner burns, the dog yowls, the children scream and your husband wants to know what he can do to help? Offers of "let me know if there's anything I can do..." while genuine and heartfelt are a little bit like this. There are a million things that would help, if only you could collect your thoughts for a tiny bit and actually communicate what would be helpful to another human being. "Can I pick up your dry cleaning?" "Give me your grocery list" things like that are very much appreciated. I think we hesitate about getting too specific in our offers of help because we want our help to be perfectly suited to the tastes of the other person. Trust me. No one's going to complain if the shirts have too much starch or milk is the wrong brand, they'll just be grateful at what loving and thoughtful friends they have.

*there are far more exhaustive lists in the vast expanse of the internet and I didn't even touch on the ways you can help if there are other children at home!

Go visit Hallie for more favorites. But before that let's marvel at the change in Isaac one more time, shall we?

The Cheeks!






























Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Paying it Forward: Liebster Award


Kendra of Catholic All Year, very kindly bestowed upon me the honor of the Liebster Award. And I very graciously decided to follow up on it, only about 5 days after the fact. Oops! How it works: I'm paraphrasing here, but I think the rules are 1. answer the questions 2. tag others as award recipients 3. give them a new batch of questions. 

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?

Houston, Texas. It's where my husband was living when we met, and where he spent a large chunk of growing up, at least when he wasn't in Oklahoma or Norway. I moved here after we were engaged and I've kind of embraced Texas life (see my blog header). And then go read this article about just how big Texas is. 

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?



In recent weeks, I have cut way  back on pumping, so my TV time is much more limited. The two times a day, I do pump, if I'm not catching up on blogs, I watch Julia Child's original PBS show "The French Chef." I love how relaxed she is on camera, picking the food to try it, wiping her eyes if they need it, pouring too much vinegar on accident, but then showing you why that's nothing to fret over. She's the best. If you're more into gritty dramas, before I cut back on my TV watching, I was watching "Justified" on Amazon Prime; it's about US Marshall in backwoods Kentucky. For a stay-at-home date night, I've got the Veronica Mars movie ready to go (also via Amazon). 

As for reading, I'll bashfully admit that I bought "Introduction to the Devout Life" after Kendra talked it up so much and am just putting my toe in the water with that one.


3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle, or convert? (Or considering?)

Cradle

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic? (Or want to be?)

John Paul II came to my hometown when I was in eighth grade. Seeing him there, and at the Rome and Toronto World Youth Days grounded me in my faith and convinced me how much the strength of the Church relies on the fidelity of each of us. I'll ever forget him calling out in St. Louis's hockey arena "Even though you are young [...] Remember, Christ is calling you; the Church needs you; the Pope believes in you, and he expects great things of you!"

*sidenote* when he came to St. Louis in '99, my mom had a sweatshirt made for my youngest brother, who was two at the time, that said "My Name is John Paul Too" Just a little apparel idea for all those JPII namesakes out there for the canonization.  

Please excuse, the photo of a photo. This picture hangs in my mom's living room. Taken during a general audience in December 2004, this was the last time I saw John Paul II before he passed away.

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

If you include the heels I wore at our wedding, that my husband won't let me get rid of, 13. Is that a lot?

6. Are you a good dancer?

Yes, and no. "Dance like no one is watching" dancer?, definitely no. But a dance with a partner, ie. someone leads, someone follows, yes. That talent comes in way less handy.

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?

My husband

8. What's your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

It's a little off the beaten path and even a little somber in memory (for us), but I love Holy Thursday. Growing up, every Holy Thursday, my parents would take the family out to a fancy restaurant after the evening Mass. You don't make it into to many fancy restaurants when you're 11. Mark and I have kept up the tradition. The day also has added significance for us since in 2011, I miscarried our first baby on Holy Thursday. Keeping that tradition has been our way of remembering him. 

9. Which is correct? Left or right? 

Generally, I'd have to say the photo on the left, but I'm not sure I have a horse in this race anymore. Here's what the toilet paper holder looks like in our hall bath.


That is vertical; so really there is not right answer. Our toilet paper holder is a relativist. 

10. Do you have any scars? 

Um, several: one under my chin when I got stitches in kindergarten, 5 from my surgery this past December, including the reconstruction of my belly button, which is where the video camera went. TMI? Basically, my stomach looks like a number 5 domino. And then a seven inch c-section scar across my lower abdomen to round it all out. 2013 put me through the wringer. At least the two scars from my surgery in 2012 have disappeared, or were absorbed by the c-section incision. 


11. What's the most famous thing you've ever done? 

In high school, I had the lead in the musical two years running. I was Maria in The Sound of Music junior year. And Anna in The King and I, senior year. Apparently, I do a really good governess. 

Sharing the love, I'd like to hear from:

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

1. What apps (aside from the defaults) have earned a coveted space on your homescreen? 
2.  Name the meal for which you always have the ingredients on hand?
3. What movie have you seen the most often?
4. What saint do you pray to the most?
5. Is where you live known for anything? Toasted Ravioli? World's Largest Rocking Chair, that sort of thing.
6. Favorite literary heroine and why? 
7. What was your most endearing childhood trait? 
8. What's on your pizza?

Can't wait to hear back!