Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Surprise. It's a........

Are you  having a boy or girl? This is one of the standard questions people ask a pregnant lady. Everyone asks. It has become a kind of conversation starter. It's not that the stranger in the grocery store really cares, but it just seems like natural thing to say. It's part of the standard questions we ask pregnant women. How far along are you? Is there just one? When are you due? People get excited about pregnancy and want  to share the experience.

So what if you choose not to find out the gender of your baby ?

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Mother’s Love in the Midst of Heartache

As a working mother, sometimes I get so caught up in “keeping my schedule,” I forget to just take time to enjoy all the people in my life. One of the most precious people that God has given me is my daughter. Despite the fact that she is only seven, she seems to have this sense of perception and wisdom that is far beyond her years. She has taught me so much more about life than I ever imagined I could learn on my own.

Recently, I was given a sobering reminder of how precious life truly is and what a gift it is to spend time with our loved ones. Experiencing loss is hard enough, but to have to help a child understand it can seem like an insurmountable task. The fear of her initial reaction almost paralyzed me and yet I found that it was almost exactly the opposite of what I’d expected. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Leaving kids in the car: just don't do it!

Temperatures are rising across North Texas and individuals are preparing for the unofficial start of summer as we head into Memorial Day Weekend. But with the start of the season comes an unfortunate side effect of summer – the news stories about children dying after being left in hot cars. Just this week a one-year-old girl in Austin died after being left in a car.

Everyone thinks that it could never happen to them and we all certainly hope that it never will. To help hopefully make that a reality, we turned to an emergency room physician and a pediatrician to get their tips.

One way to avoid risking a child’s health is to never leave a child in a car unattended for any reason, said Dr. Hoyt Frenzel, director of the emergency department at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “Just don’t do it.”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Losing It

Am I a “Tiger Mom?” Nah. However, when my baby girl sets a goal, I am not above doing what it takes to help her achieve it. Yes, even when it comes to losing teeth, my competitive spirit just cannot be contained. I remember all too well being a late blooming first grader, wishing I could lose my first tooth at school. Ms. Lewis had the greatest “Tooth Fairy Award” there ever was. She lovingly colored it in herself with those magic markers that smelled like fruit. She gave it to all those lucky individuals who lost their teeth at school.  I sat all year watching classmate after classmate collect those wonderful awards with not so much as a hint of a wiggle of my own pearly whites. Robert bit into an apple at lunch and lost his. Someone (I think one of my sisters) punched Michael in the mouth on the playground causing him to lose one. Charla had a tooth just fall out in Math class all on its own. When I finally had my chance, I decided I would save up my one and only loose tooth for a school day. I wiggled it, but not too much. I wanted to lose it in class.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things we take for granted

At 39 weeks pregnant, there’s not much that isn’t a chore. It’s amazing how many little things we take for granted everyday – like the ability to tie your shoes, hoist yourself up from a lying position, grasp something without dropping it, or lift a 24 pack of water.

Nevertheless, with a healthy and mostly uneventful pregnancy, I certainly can’t complain.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy 11th birthday! Here's a cell phone?

For a long time, my husband Brian and I were of the why-does-a-kid-need-a-cell-phone? camp. I mean, we didn’t have cell phones growing up and we survived just fine. We’re among the dwindling number of people still keeping a landline in our home that my stepson Brendan can use whenever he likes, usually just to call his Mom. Of course Brendan broached the cell phone topic with us every once in a while, but never with enough fervor to get us to seriously consider it. It seemed like he just liked it in theory.

Besides, how many kids his age really have cell phones? Not many, we figured. 

Well, it turns out we may have figured wrong. A 2009 study conducted by a media and consumer research company showed one-third of 11-year-olds in the U.S. have cell phones, and I’d venture to guess that number has jumped since then. We also discovered this anecdotally when Brian attended a pizza party for Brendan’s fifth grade class. It was the end of the school day, and the teacher said it was okay for them to get out their cell phones. Nearly everyone in the class pulled out a phone! Brian couldn’t believe it. Brendan gave him a look as if to say, “see Dad, I toooooooold you so!”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mom, can we eat out tonight?

For me, there’s nothing better than a good home-cooked meal and conversation with my family at the dinner table at the end of a very long day. So when my children began to ask me about eating out at restaurants immediately after I picked them up from school, I became a tad bit concerned. But when they started to name a long laundry list of restaurant chains, I became both concerned and annoyed with their request.

“Mom, how about that Mongolian grill restaurant,” my oldest daughter Sierra blurted out one day. And my five-year-old son Nathan, well he prefers rotisserie baked chicken, honey chicken and rice, and let’s not forget the old-time favorite –  chicken nuggets and fries (although I recently found out that he only wants the latter to collect a new toy).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lake fun

Every summer when Memorial Day arrives we make our way to the lake. This is the official first day of lake season. We (mainly my husband) get the boat ready and start looking forward to good times on our boat with our family.

I can’t help but reflect on my oldest stepson Josh this year. He recently turned 14. How did that happened so fast? It seems like just the other day he was this five year old little boy who suddenly appeared in my life with a huge vocabulary and the power to use it. Now all of the sudden he is taller than me, has a very fine mustache across his upper lip and is turning into a wonderful young man right before our eyes.

I laugh when I think back to some of our adventures on the lake. They include the boys going to the hill to explore and returning covered from head to toe in mud. Catching and/or shooting snakes with the BB gun also make the list of lake fun. And of course when the water has gotten low at times the boys would spend hours digging for crawdads or, just digging a hole! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tubes -- and I don't mean for the pool!

Tubes. Not for the pool or on a playground. But for my child’s ears! This is the word our pediatrician uttered a few weeks ago and I shuttered. Really? My little boy is only 8 months old and he can’t possibly be a candidate for tubes in his ears. Can he?

Well, I have been wrestling with this thought for the past several weeks and I have finally decided that if tubes are what is best, then we will do them. After all, Wells’ long-term hearing is most important. Right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthday cake

I have birthdays on the brain (three first birthdays within a week!) lately, so I thought other moms would enjoy my adventures in birthday cake making. Now, I’m not a cook. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Probably my favorite story about my cooking is when Caleb (who was about 4 at the time) tasted some home-made spaghetti sauce I’d made (and I actually do a decent job with spaghetti sauce) and said, “Well, you cooked it better than I thought you would!” That is a very accurate depiction of my cooking. I don’t cook often, and it’s usually nothing to write home about (with the notable exception of my lasagna).

But there’s just something about First Birthdays, isn’t there? I was all set to buy Sam a cake. It would look good and taste great. But then . . . well, the logic-free Mommy-monster invaded my body. I had been looking for a Jack’s Big Music Show (Sam’s favorite Nick Jr. show) cake to buy, but wasn’t having much luck. Then I went to a friend’s daughter’s first birthday party, and my Mommy-friend had made a STUNNING caterpillar cake for her daughter. So of course, I got to thinking, “could I do a cake for Sam?”

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Breaking Promises to Myself

In just one week, I will be forced to break a promise I made to myself several years ago. It’s a vow I had every intention of keeping until my last breath on this earth. And, it’s making me realize just how far I will go to make my children happy.

After college I had a disastrous episode with community theater that I have tried very hard to forget. I was single and working in my first grown-up job in a small Texas town that just happened to be home to more old people than any other county in the entire state (and while I tend to be dramatic at times, that was a statistical fact based off US Census data). Let me suffice it to say, there were not a lot of people my age and not a very active nightlife. Perfect for a person just out of college and ready to take on the world.

Some of the people I worked with, including a few physicians, were acting in an upcoming community theater production and they invited me to join the group. I auditioned won a part and I was off and running. I was playing Florence Nightingale – a fairly meaty role. The rehearsals were boisterous and I met a lot of new people. It was really fun!

Until, on opening night, I tripped over some cords on stage and fell flat on my face. In front of a packed house of people I knew both professionally and personally (like my boss, the hospital president, several physicians and my family who drove in from out of town for the occasion). And, to make matters worse, I injured my knee in the fall, couldn’t stand up and had to crawl off stage. Yes, I said CRAWL. All of this while a particularly foul tempered and extremely prissy otolaryngologist raged at me just off curtain: “DAMN IT -- GET UP! GET UP!”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why so serious?

We’ve been parents for 10 weeks now, and without a doubt one of our favorite pastimes is to look at baby Elliot’s multitude of facial expressions and try to deduce what the heck he’s thinking. Since he can’t talk yet, facial expressions are his main mode of communication …and, boy, it is one expressive face.

Something we noticed early on is that he seemed to, more often than not, have some variation of a concerned expression on his face. As the picture in this blog entry can attest, his brow would be furrowed or his eyes wide open with an expression somewhere between shock and concern.

We’d joke all the time that his concern was clearly justified. … I mean, look who his parents are, right? In fact, now that I think about it, little Elliot’s expressions have given us much to laugh about. Nothing is funnier than lowering him into his little bathtub or changing his diaper and his eyes are wide open looking at you with that “are you sure you know what you’re doing?” expression.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Instilling the love of reading

My husband and I are nerds. We admit it. We love playing with our gadgets, bringing up random trivia facts into conversation, and we both love to read.

When we had children, we both hoped that we would raise little readers. There are books EVERYWHERE in our house. Seriously, stop by our house and see if there isn’t a room with at least one shelf holding some reading material.

We would read to T. & H. before bed every night. Since T. has a regular assignment to read for 20 minutes each night, it’s now his job to read a book to H. every night. (Yes, we multitask when possible.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Making ‘tummy time’ easier

You may have heard that “tummy time” can help build strength and prepare infants to do things like push up on their bellies, sit up, crawl, and eventually stand.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it’s important to play and interact with the baby while he or she is awake and on the tummy two to three times each day for about three to five minutes beginning on their first day home from the hospital. You should add more time as the baby shows he or she enjoys the activity.

But what if your baby acts fussy or isn’t enjoying it?

“Since babies spend so much time on their back, when they get on their tummy they may feel a little bit uncomfortable and out of balance,” said Mary Reid, OTR, developmental and feeding specialist in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “Some babies experience discomfort and increased spitting up if their tummy is full.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Three ways to cut added sugar from your diet

Rise and Shine at 5 a.m.? Not typically my style, so to speak. My attempt to cut Captain Negative dead in his tracks results in my morning Joe ritual--a little sugar, some skim milk, and after a taste (and a slight scald to my upper lip), a little more sugar. I’m replaying this in my mind as I come across and article about increased consumption of added sugars in the American diet by the American Heart Association. This includes me. I, for example, add sugar to my coffee, and there’s already so much sugar in soda and many pre-packaged foods. I’m not the only one eating too much sugar—a recent survey suggests that Americans consume 355 calories, or 22 teaspoons, of added sugar a day! And although there isn’t a direct scientific link, it’s likely that the weight gain in our population is related, in part, to our increased intake of added sugars.

I pose a question to myself: “How much sugar can I eat and how can I try to eat less?”

I pushed my contemplations about sugarless coffee aside and continued with my research to find out just how much sugar I could and should eat.

Here’s what the AHA statement says about how much sugar to eat:

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lost and found

The recent passing of my 96-year-old grandmother has unlocked a flood of memories and emotions that I have held deep in the safety of my heart. My Granny was the most wonderful grandmother in every way. She grew up on a farm in a rural farming community. She graduated a year early from her tiny school because she was very intelligent. She traveled away to college, but promptly returned after only a semester. She had been so consumed with homesickness and longing for her rural farm life that she did not enjoy college life. A proposal from my Pawpaw was all the coaxing she needed to stay.

The two childhood sweethearts married as teenagers and enjoyed over 50 years of marriage together. During that time, they had four girls spanning 16 years in age difference. My mother was the baby. So I was in the last batch of grandbabies to climb the trees and eat veggies fresh from the garden at Granny’s house. By that time, she was an expert on being a grandparent.

The Granny I knew had a loving face, worn deeply with wrinkles and character. She had a prominent Cherokee nose with unexpected ice blue eyes. Her hands were covered with what some refer to as liver spots, but she told us they were, “Good Momma Spots.” She had an angelic laugh and fluffy blonde curls that were set in place once a week at Lola’s Beauty Shop.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pregnancy after miscarriage, learning to exhale

Baby Brooks, last sonogram at 11 weeks and 3 days
We’ve heard the baby’s heartbeat twice and I’m three days away from the second trimester. So I keep telling myself to stop holding my breath. 

But each time I face that dreaded ultrasound machine, the same machine that told us over a year ago that our first baby stopped growing at 6 weeks and 2 days, I think I’m going to hurl. I’m a nervous wreck. I pray, I plead with God, I squirm uncomfortably.

I should look forward to these appointments. I’m fascinated by seeing this baby-like thing swim and flip and make movements I can’t feel or physically realize yet. It makes me feel like a wonderful walking science experiment. But worry tends to take over and spoil this.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Are you ever truly expecting loss?

Mandy and Fiona
Fiona, my family member and cat of nearly 11 years, died unexpectedly this week.

Nothing prepares you for their death. But when I found her, I could not help but think that I failed her.

She was my first baby.

After several years of trying for children with complications, in 2008, we were finally blessed with a baby boy and, a couple of years later, a baby girl.

Think about it - when you’re on your own or you are in a new relationship, you get a pet to keep you company or to see how your new partner reacts to a third-party member. The pet is there for you.

Regardless, they keep you company. Your own personal fan. And then you finally are blessed with the kids you always wanted, and, suddenly - everything changes.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It Couldn't Happen in a Better Place

One of the last times I posted, I was complaining about how much longer I still had to be pregnant. But as fate would have it, I really didn't have much longer at all.

At 35 weeks, 6 days, it was a Friday, about six weeks ago. I had my normal weekly appointment with my doctor, only this time, I'd be seeing her partner, because she was going to be on vacation. No big deal though, right? I still had at least a couple more weeks before we could consider this baby cooked enough. And I had - barring the pernicious morning sickness of the first trimester - a pretty uneventful pregnancy. There was really no reason to think this wouldn't be a fairly routine visit. Sure, I had been feeling more tired that week, and headachey, and lightheaded a couple of times, but I was nine months pregnant. I figured that was probably what nine months pregnant felt like.

I was apparently wrong.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Time Management

Remember those lectures you used to get from your parents and teachers about how important it is to learn how to manage your time wisely? I remember sighing heavily, rolling my eyes, and thinking in my I-know-everything-already teenage way, “I KNOW this stuff, obviously, because I turn in my work on time and get generally good marks on it. DUH.” Ahhh, the arrogance of youth.

Now, as a full-time working wife and mom of three boys, how I wish that I had paid a little more attention to those lessons (yes, I realize now they weren’t lectures, they were valuable lessons). And now that I’ve also started up my own business on the side, it’s even more important that I make sure to make the best use of my time. Don’t get me wrong, our bills are paid on time and I meet deadlines at work. But I’m also, admittedly, a procrastinator. I used to joke that I work better under pressure, so it was GOOD that I procrastinated. But you know what? Now that I’m a grown-up (really and truly), I’ve realized something important. I don’t LIKE pressure and stress. There’s enough stress and pressure in life that I can’t control, so I’m now taking an active role in reducing the stress that I do have control over.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is this the Little Boy I Carried?

The process of moving from parent to mentor began during the 2004 Cleveland Triathlon. At that point, Brandon and I had been racing together for 4 years, and, though I was faster, I always stayed with him. Now that he was 15 and training hard, it was only a matter of time before he would pass his dad. The season prior, I had mentioned to my wife that I was no longer holding back in our races; he was keeping pace with me. In fact, during the last event of 2003, he seemed to wait on me.

After finishing the Lake Eire swim, we climbed out at the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and jumped on our cycles. We stayed together for the 25-mile ride and then transitioned for the run, a fairly flat 10K. I could tell I was holding Brandon back, but he didn’t want to abandon me since I’d always stayed with him. I knew he could likely medal that day if he would drop me, but he was reluctant. With two miles left, the lead woman in his age group passed us in her sleek tri-suit. We both looked at her then looked at each other and then at her again. Without a word, we gave the man nod and he was gone. Brandon was becoming a man. Our relationship shifted.