A Perfect Way to Start the Week

One year during an introductory/get-to-know-you/who-can-share-the-coolest-factoids activity on the first day of school, a student revealed that her parents were friends with Jon Hamm, which is when I stopped the activity and offered her whatever she wanted if she could arrange a meet and greet. This was in the early days of Mad Men. There might have been one and half seasons out, and I'm pretty sure none of the other freshman knew who we were talking about, but I was thoroughly impressed. At lunch with my fellow teachers, when we were engaging in the first day who-has-the-student-with-the-strangest-name/oddest-class-dynamic/already-ran-out-of-desks activity, I was horrified that most of my fellow adults didn't know who Jon Hamm was either, but secretly, I hoped that meant my chances of actually meeting him were higher.  I never got to meet Mr. Hamm, and now, you would have to live under a rock not to know who he is, which is why you have probably already seen this clip. But last week, when this prize of late-night started circulating around the web, I was reminded of my fondness for him...and Imo's

Tall, dark, handsome, bearded, loyal, and funny.  What else could we ask of St. Louis's Favorite Son?

Also, David Freese is fan of Imo's, and I met Phyllis at Pi on the Loop one summer. 

I hope your week is filled with pizza and famous people. Happy Monday!

Back Roads

When I leave my house to go run errands, I have a choice. I can turn right to head off to the highway or turn left to take the back roads. Both directions take about the same amount of time and the same amount of gas. Being my father's daughter, I choose to take the back roads and am constantly amazed by the majesty of where I live. 

I have been driving these same roads since I was 16 and had my first job at the movie theater the next town over, but I just didn't see it back then. 

When I was in high school, I knew that I would live in the city, probably wouldn't get married, and definitely wouldn't have children.  I wanted to go to school and eventually earn a PhD and become a professor and write books. I wanted to be able to walk out my front door and go to coffee shops and boutiques. (Apparently, I wanted to be an amalgamation of the characters from Friends.)

After finishing a study of the first two chapters of Matthew, I just keep seeing how God's plan for my life is so much better than my plan. At this point, I have earned only a bachelor's degree. Now, as a stay at home mom, I am technically unemployed. The nearest coffee shop is a 20 minute drive. I don't have the resources (or the desire) to shop at boutiques. The closest I get to designer clothing is Target.

But now, I don't want for anything, and I have everything I never knew I wanted.  God has sheltered me and cared for me and led me down a path that I couldn't have imagined for myself, a path that is so much better and more fulfilling. I am humbled and thankful and know that whether my day is hard or easy, whether my road is rocky or smooth, I can trust in Him.
Also, an alternate title for this post: "We're from the country, and we like it that way." I sing this to Will pretty much every time we drive down these roads, and as a result, I'm sure he will also go through a phase where he wants nothing more than to move to a big city.

Gourmet Rice Crispy Treats...The New Cupcake?

Gourmet rice crispy treat could slowly start to challenge the ubiquity of the gourmet cupcake.  At first, we would see them popping up in well-established bakeries and restaurants as novelty desserts--key lime treats and red velvet treats and maple bacon treats and caramel turtle treats. Then, entire establishments dedicated to their production and dissemination would pop up in places other than NYC. We would order them for our friend's baby showers and as an alternative to wedding cake. Wedding guests would both marvel and curse them. "I came specifically for the cake," they would hiss to their spouse before scarfing down the treats. Then, on the shelves of grocery stores, we would be able to find crispy treat-pop kits right next those for cake-pops.  All this could happen, except for the facts that: 1. Most college dorm rooms have the necessary appliance to make them. 2. They take about ten minutes to make. 3. The combinations (white chocolate chip and macadamia nut or peanut butter and milk chocolate chip are the ones I want to try next) are all available at every grocery store.

Some of us know the recipe for the basic treat by heart:
6 cups of rice crisp cereal
1 bag of regular size marshmallows
3 tablespoons of butter

All you have to do to make them "gourmet" is add your own favorite ingredients.  
I added:
1/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips 
1/3 cup cranberries
1 more tablespoon of butter 
(I figured if I'm adding other stuff, I probably need a bit more butter. More butter=more gourmet, right?)

Instructions: Microwave the marshmallows and butter for three minutes, stirring after two minutes.  I also added in the coconut at two minutes.  Take out of the microwave and stir in rice cereal.  Add chocolate chips and cranberries and stir.  The chocolate will melt a bit, which will be scrupmtious.  Press into a greased pan and let sit for as long as you can wait. Cut and enjoy!

Also, if there is anything I have learned from eating gourmet cupcakes, you'll need to plan some type of filigree for the top. I just dusted mine with extra coconut flakes.


For a while, Will would only sleep if he was being held. Both Jason and I were petrified of falling asleep with him because of all the terrifying videos they made us watch in the hospital, and therefore, all three of us were sleep-deprived. 

When researching sleep solutions, I read about more and more families who touted co-sleeping or a family bed. I'm not convinced I will try co-sleeping if we are ever blessed with Baby Ted #2, but I never even thought about not doing it with Lola. 

All of these pics were taken at our old house.  After moving, we bought new furniture for our main living room and made it a policy not to let Lola on anything, but if I'm ever sitting on that old couch in the "front room," Lola always tries to get up there and snuggle with me.  I have to admit we had some really great naps together while co-sleeping.

Also, none of these were staged. I found them all on Jason's phone the other day.  His favorite is the last one. And technically, we're co-TV watching in the first pic.

William's Lullaby

Hush Little William. Don't say a word.
Your mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird,

And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Mama's gonna buy you a diamond ring,

And if that diamond ring turns to brass,
Mama's gonna buy you a looking glass,

And if that looking glass don't shine,
Mama's gonna buy your a porc-u-pine.

And if that porc-u-pine is mean,
Mama's gonna buy you some leafy greens,

And if those leafy greens aren't delicious,
Mama's gonna buy you something else nutritious,

And if that something else nutritious sounds yummy,
Your mama's gonna help you fill your tummy,

Hush Little William, our sweet, sweet boy,
We love you. You're our pride and joy.

Hush Little William. Don't say a word.
Your papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird,

And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring,

And if that diamond ring turns to brass,
Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass,

And if that looking glass don't shine,
Papa's gonna buy you a porc-u-pine.

And if that porc-u-pine is mean,
Papa's gonna buy you some leafy greens,

And if those leafy greens aren't delicious,
Papa's gonna buy you something else nutritious,

And if that something else nutritious sounds yummy,
Your papa's gonna help you fill your tummy,

Hush Little William, our sweet, sweet child,
We love you even though you're wild.

I love bedtime. Jason tries to get home every night for dinner, but no matter how busy he is at work, he always makes it home for bedtime.

We start with a bath, lotion, massage, and then, everyone's favorite part, jumping. (The kid has always loved to kick and jump, so we try to get in a few last jumps at the end of the day.) Then, while Jason is feeding Will his bottle, we say prayers and sing Will's lullaby. I came up with the last five verses over the first few weeks of Will's life when we were pretty much always trying to put him to sleep.

You too can come up with your own custom lullaby by following these steps:
  1. Have a baby.  This might seem obvious, but I really think a newborn baby is the only way to ensure you are deprived of enough sleep to get those creative juices flowing in the most deliriously nonsensical ways.
  2. Forget all or most of the words to a classic children's song.  I was born unable to remember words to any song correctly... if at all, but if you don't have this talent, being sleep deprived will also help you forget.  Also, forgetting will allow for easy substitution as you will have no other choice. 
  3. Sing the song over and over and over again. This will not only allow you to try out different variations and rhymes but also help you remember the good ones you have already made up. You probably won't have a free hand to write down your lyrics for another few months, and by that time, they will be cemented in your brain from repetition.
That's it...

Also, that dark blob at the bottom of the second photo is Lola.  She makes it a priority to participate in bedtime every night too.

What to Read: Banned Books Week

Last week, I was perusing the ALA's lists of banned and challenged books, and I wasn't surprised to find books that I have started and chosen not to complete due to explicit scenes as well as some of my all-time favorite books on the lists. 

This week, I celebrate the fact that, to a large extent, I live in a country where I get to choose what I read, what my child reads, and will get to teach him how to choose for himself.  In celebration, check out some of my favorite banned books below.

Favorite Banned/Challenged Children's Book:

Favorite Banned/Challenged Young Adult Book:

Favorite Banned/Challenged Memoir:  

Will and I are going to the library this week to pick up Strega Nona because it's never too early to learn about following directions...and magical crockery. 

Also, check out Jeanette Walls and me in 2010. She's not only an amazing writer but also a great speaker. I'm excited to hear her speak again in October at McKendree University!  The event is sold out, but let me know if you want to go. We might have some extra tickets.

The Rule of Love

You might be familiar with the principle that if you love something set it free.  If it comes back to you, it's yours.  If it doesn't, it never was.  

In my family, we have a different rule: If you love something, it's yours...even if it's someone else's. My mom, sister, and I use this rule frequently with clothing and jewelry items. For example, if I have a blazer that my sister borrows and wears over and over while I just wear it every once in a while and she tells me she loves it, I am more than happy to bequeath to her the blazer. And even if I wasn't happy to give her the blazer, at the next family get-together, she could bring it up, and my entire family would use the rule and familial pressure to commandeer the item for the rightful person.  

Recently, my brother was at my parent's house, looking through the pantry, and wondered where the cookie jar was. The blue Tupperware cookie jar from our childhood that housed so many batches of my mom's delicious cookies... He loved that jar.  But so did my sister, Maggie. And she had already acquired the jar through the rule.  

But then she did something very selfless for Chris's 30th birthday.  She found the exact same jar on e-bay, baked 30 delicious cookies, and bequeathed that to him...because the only thing better than the thing you love is an exact replica of the thing you loved filled with cookies.  Think about it.

Also, tomorrow happens to be the 30th anniversary of Chris's birth. Thanks for coming out 18 months before me and paving the way. Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to My Hero

Stronger than a pipe wrench, more patient than...really patient people, able to cut baby fingernails without any tears. Happy Birthday Superman! Thank you for being the best papa to our super boy. I love you with my life.

The Ultimate Baby Item (that you probably already own)

Even though we had watched Happiest Baby on the Block and practiced with our new nieceJason and I had a lot of trouble soothing Will when he was first born because (1) we were clueless new parents and (2) Will had some medical and dietary issues. We quickly learned that movement was the key to a (somewhat) quiet baby. My husband's best move was speed walking around the house. After a few laps, Will would usually quiet down. I practiced the mommy bounce-shuffle walk at all hours of the day and night, tried the bouncy seat with the vibration thing and all three configurations of our swing over and over again, and rocked until our rocker became squeaky, but nothing really worked consistently. I had read that newborns could be fussy, but I also read that they were supposed to sleep and that wasn't happening.

Then, one night while nursing and scouring the internet for help (because I refused to believe my baby was just "colicky"), I read that sitting on the corner of a bed and bouncing is soothing for many babies.  We tried it the next day and were elated by how well it worked.  Not only did Will seem content, but we could sit and sooth at the same time.  When we mentioned our new discovery to my sister, she said nonchalantly, "Yeah, you can do the same thing with an exercise ball." And then our lives changed.

We had not one but two exercise balls in our garage. Jason brought the one with the sand in it into the living room and placed it in a little nook next to the fireplace, and we sat and bounced for the next three months, first just to sooth Will and then to put him to sleep. The bouncing motion worked so well, that I started timing how long it took me to put Will to sleep. At first it was five to seven minutes, then five flat, then three, and then only two minutes on the ball, and he would fall asleep every time. I felt like we had discovered some type of blue bouncy magic.

No Fair-Weather Fans Here...also, dip recipes.

My NFL team affiliations are diverse. I root equally for the Rams, the Mannings, and all teams whose seasons of Hard Knocks I have seen, so the Bengals, Dolphins, and Jets.  At my sister's house, where we attended our first football soirrĂ©e of the season, there are no such complications. They are Rams fans. And...

...the Rams lost yesterday. But we got to eat chips and dip for lunch, ice cream for dinner, and both babies took over 90 minute naps.  All in all, I think we could consider the day a win.  

Also, Sam Bradford threw for three touchdowns so that Greg the Leg didn't have to carry the team and so that my husband's fantasy football team could stay competitive this week. Thanks, Sam. You have given us hope for this season.

Also, Maggie has the remarkable ability to cull Pinterest and other amazing places where people share dip recipes, pick the best dips, and serve them to us season after season.  My two favorites are after the jump. Enjoy!

Coming Up: St. Louis Design Week...also, FREE fun.

Living just outside of St. Louis, I get to experience many things for FREE that people in other cities have to dole out the dough for. Free Zoo? Free Beer? Free Musicals?  Yes, please and thank you.

Another opportunity for free fun is coming up soon.  On September 23rd, St. Louis Design Week kicks off with seven days of all different types of events (Art! And Speakers! And Happy Hours! Oh my!) for the design inclined:
Monday: OPEN: Architecture for Art, Contemporary Art Museum
Tuesday: DART St. Louis, PK Photo Studio
Wednesday: Creative Happy Hour, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company
Thursday: PechaKucha Night STL #12, Contemporary Art Museum
Friday: Discovered Art Exhibit and Auction – Central Library
Saturday: Eames Presentation – Webster University
Saturday: FUSION Gallery Exhibit and Student Competition – Webster University
Sunday: SPOKE Bike Tour – Beginning and ending in Forest Park
Sunday: Sloup #39 – Atomicdust

I have no background in design, but I'm really excited about SPOKE, a FREE "family-friendly, docent-led bike tour to showcase St. Louis’ architectural landmarks" starting in Forest Park.  If I can rustle up a child bike seat and helmet (Do they make baby helmets?  I'll have to Google that.) in the next week, we might just take the entire family.

Picture Credit: Atomic Dust

Dairy Free is the Way to Be...

...if your baby is "milk protein intolerant" and you are breastfeeding, which is a situation I found myself in during the first week of Will's life.
A dairy-free and smiley Will at three weeks old.
After scouring our pantry, fridge, and the Internet, I discovered milk or whey was in most of the meals our wonderful friends and family had brought over as well as in a lot of processed food, so I survived on Oreos, oatmeal, fruit, and juice for the first few days when I became dairy free. Later, I added Teddy Grahams, a chicken teriyaki meal my husband would make twice a week, and hummus with veggies to my limited dairy-free repertoire. When I saw this article from the Huffington post, I realized that I could have been eating Doritos and pie too!

Also, our experience with Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) after the jump.

What to Do When Your Baby Won't Eat Bananas

My niece Piper, who is about three months older than Will, is a champion eater. The one time that I fed her, she rocked it.  Opened her mouth wide for every bite, kept her hands off to the sides, ate every last drop of her food, and we barely needed her bib. Buoyed by my success with Piper, I was so excited to start solids with Will after his four month check-up.  

A Wish...also, something to look for.

Happy Birthday to the best sister, friend, mama, wife, and pre-preschool teacher ever!  May this day and the coming year be filled with peace, joy, and love!

"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."

What to Read: On Maternity Leave

About a week after my son was born, humorist David Sedaris's new book Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls came out, and a few weeks later, comedian Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat was released. Serendipity?  I think so. 

Those few weeks were harder than I could have ever imagined they would be. My son wasn't gaining weight or sleeping. I wasn't making enough milk...or sleeping. I was exhausted and sad and overwhelmed, and I decided I was going to read. And reading helped. Reading helped me laugh out loud when postpartum hormones and feelings of inadequacy were mostly making me cry. And when I really wanted to go to sleep, reading helped me stay attached to the pump for those extra minutes that would hopefully stimulate my milk production. So if you are a reader, I would suggest downloading some samples onto your iPad or dropping by your library or book store before the big day. You never know when you'll need the company of a good book.
There are two types of books that I believe make great company for new moms who want to read. (If you don't want to read, by all means, now is the time to online shop and watch endless hours of HGTV without feeling the least bit guilty. I did a lot of that too.) 

1. Humor Vignettes 
2. YA Fantasy

Why Humor Vignettes? First of all, I don't believe this is a technical term, but it seems to best categorize the books I am going to recommend. I consider Humor Vignettes those non-fiction books that are written in about 2-5 page chunks. You can easily read for three minutes at a time and still get through a whole chapter/vignette, and they always make you chuckle. All of the titles below rock, but I would have to say as a new parent, Dad is Fat had me laughing and reading out loud to my husband on almost every page.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley

Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Bossypants by Tina Fey 

Also, all of these people are self-deprecating. For some reason, that works for me.

Billy Crystal's Still Foolin' 'Em is next on my list.

After I got through those rough first weeks, I found myself pumping any time that my little man was sleeping.  There's not a whole lot I was able to do while pumping, and I found myself reading a series that my students had been enjoying over the last year, Divergent by Veronica Roth, which falls into the pop-cultural phenom genre of YA Fantasy. And when I thought about it, YA Fantasy seemed like a perfect genre for maternity leave reading.

Why YA Fantasy? Well, the fantasy part will help you escape to worlds where people are taking on tasks almost as magical and terrifying as taking care of a newborn... and possibly make you a bit more excited about waking up in the middle of the night. I read these when I was pumping at 2 am, and I found I would pump those recommended extra minutes after my milk had stopped just to find out what would happen next in the book. I think the YA (young adult) part is important because these aren't as dense as books written with adult vocabulary in mind. Perfect for the middle of the night, sleep-deprived mind!  Also, they are all series, so if you like one, you have your next 2-6 books lined up.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (super cheap, like $3.99, as e-books)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Harry Potter and the... by J. K. Rowling 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Also, I figured the middle of the night is a great time to re-read too.  The Hobbit is one of my all-time favorites, and I had been wanting to re-read the Harry Potter series.

Do you have any other suggestions for maternity leave reading?

Vacation Lust...also, biking in Maui.

I always thought I was the beach lounging type of vacationer, but on our honeymoon in Maui, I realized I also like some adventure mixed in with cocktails and reading on the beach.  And I think I have found our next adventure!  Have you seen this article about the World's largest cave in Vietnam?

Doesn't it look amazing? I want to go!

I realize we probably won't be able to go on any big adventurous vacations for a while, but for now, I can relive my past adventures from last summer.

HoneyCrisp Outing...also, a recipe.

Sun-warmed, personally-picked right off the branch, with a little bit of shirt buffing, that's it. I now know the most delicious way to eat an apple.  Much like the rest of the world, my family LOVES honeycrisp apples, so when I saw that the picking season had just started at our local orchard, we immediately made plans to go.

We had such a great time that we have already made plans to go back. The workers at Eckerts were very accommodating of our stroller toting gang. There was free wagon riding. And Jason estimates that he ate about ten dollars worth of free apples while we were out in the orchard as shown in the photo evidence below.

Also, we (meaning my brother-in-law Alex because I inconveniently/conveniently didn't have my wallet with me at the checkout) purchased some apples to scarf at home.
Later in the week, I harvested some of the apples to make one of my favorite Fall go-to recipes from my friend, Emily. 

Apple Blondies
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 apple (chopped)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
1 stick butter 

Beat egg and butter together. Mix in all the other ingredients. Put in 9x9 greased baking pan. Cook at 350 for about 30 minutes. The top should be just a bit golden brown. 

Because these treats include fruit, they are quite versatile.  I like pass off any leftovers as a balanced breakfast the next day.

Also, they will make your entire house smell scrumptious!

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