Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kids and their costumes

When I brought the Halloween box down from the attic a few weeks ago, my daughter Livi  found her big sister Jenna’s old cat costume and said “I want it! Mommy, this is SO me!”

She put it on and wouldn’t take it off all day. She even fell asleep in it! Since then, she has insisted on wearing the gloves to school every single day. I wash the gloves often and hang them up to dry so they’re ready for her to wear the next day.

Needless to say, 4-year-old Livi is going to be a neon pink cat for Halloween. My 8-year-old, Jenna, will be a skeleton princess. Both costumes are glow in the dark so the girls will be easily seen by oncoming cars. Safety is important on Halloween, and so is making sure your kids keep with their nightly routine and get enough sleep after all the trick-or-treating fun! Otherwise they’ll end up like Livi in this picture, fast asleep in their costumes.

What costumes are your kids wearing this year?

Jeanine Andersen is a Marketing Manager for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two daughters who love Halloween.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tricks & Treats for a Healthy Halloween

Every Mom knows that Halloween is all about two things: dressing up and CANDY!  “Knock, knock!  Trick or treat?”  Let the candy feast begin!  Right?  Well, the truth is that Halloween does not have to be all about candy and a sugar-rush for the next month.  It can actually be a time to teach kids moderation, how to choose healthy treat choices and how to enjoy other goodies besides food and candy on Halloween.

Unfortunately we live in a candy-rich society where candy, sweets and high calorie foods are available all the time, not just on Halloween.  In fact, even the snack-size goodies have a good amount of calories, especially when you eat multiples of them!  Check out the “nutrition” of these bite-sized goodies:

Monday, October 29, 2012

What I wish I knew as a pre-teen

Wishing for boobs. Figuring out how and where I wanted to fit in at school. Wanting to be older. Coping with the pressure to do and say the right things when I had no clue what those were. Sound familiar? Ah those pre-teen years. I, for one, don’t miss them and I don’t envy my friends whose daughters are approaching that critical stage of ages 9 to 12 years old.

A friend of mine recently turned 30 and we were talking about how 30 actually can be a blessing. Had you asked me at 12 I would have been HORRIFIED at the thought of being THAT old. But little did I know that 30 actually is a magical age where all that uncertainty seems to fade. Sure the hormones are still a treat occasionally, but it’s not the wild rollercoaster ride of the past, at least on the uncertainty front. Being comfortable in my own skin, for me, that is priceless.

The “30” discussion made me recall those letters to my 16-year-old self that were all the rage online a few years ago. There’s some benefit to that reflection I think. While I’m not going to do a full letter, this is what I would tell myself if I could beam a message back to the late 80s/early 90s.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My year in exclusive pumping

The following are snippets of things that ran through my head during my year of exclusive pumping:

Week 1: Why, oh why, can’t I just get this kid to breastfeed?!? This is not what I thought it would be. I am an inferior Mother! Why am I getting so emotional over breast milk?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Toddler playback

Watching toddlers learn is absolutely amazing.  They are sponges that soak in their surroundings.
Emory just turned two and is a ball full of energy and fun.  She strives to keep up with her big brother, and she repeats everything she hears.   She learns through teaching and through observation.  This video is a prime example of both.

“What’s that all about?” apparently comes out of my mouth more often than I realized.  It’s funny how a toddler can pick up on our interesting phrases.

Another one that Emory has called me on recently is, “Don’t be bossy, Mama.”  I think she must have been told that a few times!

What phrase has your toddler brought to your attention?

Julie Swink is a Sr. Marketing Specialist for Texas Health Resources and Mom of two.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breast Cancer Through the Eyes of a Young Mom

The day after celebrating my son’s first birthday, I went in for surgery to have both of my breasts removed. A month later, the day after my daughter’s third birthday, I had my first round of a chemo cocktail to kill any breast cancer cells that may have remained in my body , despite my surgeon’s best efforts.

As an almost-two-year breast cancer survivor, I don’t pay much attention to the pink that inevitably appears in October.  That said, one message I wish would get more awareness is that young women can get it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eight months old and on the move

When Shelby was a newborn I came up and had lunch with my coworkers while I was on maternity leave. I remember passing her around for everyone to hold while she slept and everyone commented on how sweet she was. I remember someone telling me "just enjoy this because you can put her somewhere and she stays there."

Fast forward to now and that comment is ringing in my ears. Our little bundle is now eight months old, crawling, and pulling up. What a gamechanger this is!! I am thankful that she crawls with zest and force by slapping her hands down on the floor with each move forward-this helps me at least know where she is. Very helpful to hear her because she is quick! Just over the weekend milestones included finding our Roomba vacuum and turning it on, finding the dog food and water bowl and pulling up and standing in front of the dryer while I was hanging up clothes. She "helped" by pulling out some of the dry clothes with a big smile.

Each day brings some new adventures from her and broadens my perspective by seeing my house from the ground level. Now that we are in this phase I have to wonder how I will manage to get ready each morning. Any tips out there on how to occupy a curious crawling baby?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flex time family decisions

For over a year now, my department has had the option of working from home one day each week. It might seem like a small thing, but that one day of working from home has been amazingly helpful. Busy weekend and no time to do laundry? I can get caught up while working in my PJs (trust me, nobody needs to see that). School function in the middle of the day? Work from home and don't miss a minute of it. Did I mention gas savings? I was surprised to see how much further my gas tank went just cutting one day of commute (I have about a 28-mile round-trip commute). Multiply that by at least 2, since my husband and I work for the same company and his department also has the ability to work from home at least once a week.

Recently, it was announced that the one day a week work-from-home policy has been going so well, we get to increase it. Now, we have the option to work from home two days each week! I. Am. ECSTATIC about this. No, really, ask my department manager about the “WOO-HOO!” I shouted out at the announcement. So, between my ability to work from home two days a week, and my husband’s ability to do the same (and often more), we recently discussed the option of pulling Sam out of daycare.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hidden talents

So I’m doing dishes one weeknight, and my four-and-a-half-year-old son, Dylan, enters the kitchen with a kazoo. We strike up a conversation about how he’s going to be a protoceratops for Halloween and how we need to start making his costume. (For those who have never heard of a protoceratops, it’s a dinosaur – that’s his new obsession – that’s similar to the triceratops but much smaller and had fewer horns.)

While visiting, I’m busily loading dishes into the dishwasher and he starts playing the kazoo. When I look over at him to compliment his lovely tune, what I saw was something completely unexpected. I had to drop everything and get my iPhone to snag a video… Arley, my two-year-old daughter, couldn’t resist joining in on the fun.

Enjoy our video…And feel free to share some hidden talents of your kiddos!

Mandy is a Sr. Marketing Specialist for Texas Health Resources and Mom to a daughter and son with many special talents.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Amanda's arrival

We got a call that a 15-month-old little girl, Amanda, was in need of an emergency placement and was being removed by officials quickly and they needed to find her a home.  We were told that if we accepted this little girl, she’d be here in two hours.  All we knew was her age and that she may be developmentally slow.

I made the executive decision on behalf of my husband and I and said yes, we are here for Amanda!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Give me milk!

I took Logan for his 18 month well-child check up and I literally cringed when I heard myself asking our pediatrician the most absurd question. “How do I get Logan to eat? He drinks 3 cups of milk and then he won’t eat his dinner.”

Now I know this sounds crazy and I relate it to working mother’s guilt but when Logan comes home from school he begs for milk or “mick” as he calls it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


A couple weeks ago Lauren and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. The day itself was anticlimactic - I was sick in bed as a victim of the latest germ Elliot had brought home from daycare. But the weekend was going to be great! We were sending Elliot to my parent’s house for 3 whole days. We had big plans. I am talking exciting, edgy plans, like going to movies, sleeping in late and eating in restaurants that don’t have 45 highchairs stacked right by the front door.

The experience, while great, provided some strange emotions. You’ve heard of the the 5-stages of grief, well here are the 4-stages of being away from your first and only child. First was:

Monday, October 15, 2012

The best and worst days of my life

On August 29, 2010, I gave birth to my beautiful triplets.  They were perfect in every way, in the eyes of my husband and me.  We had been so excited, throughout the pregnancy, that we would be adding three babies to our family.  My son (almost 3 years old at the time) was excited that he would be getting siblings to grow and play with.  Throughout the pregnancy we had decided that we did not want to know the gender of the babies as we wanted it to be a surprise at the birth.  So after 2 days of labor, I delivered our sweet baby girl, Angel Michelle, at 12:00pm; Nathaniel James and Matthew Marcus followed at 8:00pm and 8:05pm, respectively.  They were so small and perfect and I could only image what life would be with 4 kids running around.  This was one of the best days of my life.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to make a diaper wreath

Diaper wreaths are a fun baby shower decoration perfect for hanging on the front door, setting on the fireplace mantle or adorning the gift table.

They’re fairly easy to make. Here’s what you’ll need:

•    A plain wreath from a craft store
•    Diapers (I used about 32 size one diapers)
•    Rubber bands, one per diaper
•    Ribbon, decorations, and baby items

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Little people say and do the most interesting things

Every day, as a first-time mother, I reflect and can definitely testify that children do and say some interesting things. My seventeen-month-old daughter keeps me and my husband busy and entertained.

Lately, Nandi has been demonstrating two distinctive personality traits: jealousy and what I call a “diva-like” attitude. For instance, my husband and I have always shown affection, to one another and to our little one as well. It comes natural to me. Growing up with a mother who gave me plenty of hugs and kisses, with “I love you,” sprinkled into daily conversation for as long as I can remember, it became automatic when my baby girl came onto the scene. But it seems that Nandi doesn’t approve of her parents hugging or kissing anyone, except for her, of course.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A day of toddler Montessori

Recently, I took my 10-month-old son Jacob to work with me. Most may think that this is a ludicrous idea, but for me it was quite enjoyable.

You see, I work at a Montessori school, and that makes for a very child-friendly environment. Okay, so my office may not be child-friendly, but the majority of the campus is since children from 14 months all the way up to the 8th grade are on campus. The main reason for Jake's visit was because all of my coworkers were wondering how big he is now and wanted to see him, so I figured I'd bring him in on staff service day.

At home, we have brought a couple of Montessori thoughts into Jake's bedroom: He has a floor bed, and a movement mat. At work, I am able to utilize these aspects of a Montessori environment in the Parent Infant room which makes it very nice come nap time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

'Trying for four, but God figured us for five'

Rachel and Levi, Christopher and Asher
This year has been full of surprises for Rachel and Christopher McDaniel.

When the couple from Rhome, TX tried for a fourth child, they were amazed to learn they were pregnant with twins. Neither have twins in their families and Rachel hadn’t used any fertility drugs.

“We both were just taking it in,” said Christopher of the moment OB/GYN Dr. Gladys Tse delivered the exciting news they were expecting multiples. “The doctor said ‘you’re taking this really well,’ and we said ‘how else can we take it?’ We were trying for four, but it turns out God figured us for five.”

On October 2 at 32 weeks gestation, the couple came in to pre-register for delivery at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance at Dr. Tse’s suggestion. What the McDaniels thought would be a quick in-and-out trip turned out to be much more – Rachel was in labor! “Apparently the boys heard we were here, because when we got to the hospital they were ready!” Christopher said.

Rachel had been feeling uncomfortable and feeling pressure that day, but hadn’t been feeling pain or contractions. Hospital staff suggested she stay to be monitored just in case, and sure enough, the boys were on their way.

Rachel taking Levi's temperature in the NICU
At 8:37 and 8:39 p.m. respectively, Levi Parker and Asher Lane were born both weighing 4 lbs 4 oz. They were Texas Health Alliance’s very first set of twins delivered and first to stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, where they are growing and learning to breathe and eat.

Rachel was discharged from the hospital on Friday, and by Saturday she was “sulking and in pain,” she said. But some skin-to-skin time ("Kangaroo Care") with the twins Saturday evening helped. “Physically I felt better and was in less pain. I even made extra milk. It makes me feel better to be here with them,” she said.

“It’s refreshing for both of us,” Christopher agreed.

Life will be “a little hectic” when the twins come home, Christopher said. Five-year-old Andrew, 6-year-old Caleigh and 7-year-old Jacob already make life interesting – but the McDaniels know how to expect the unexpected.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Healthy Love of Food

When my two-year-old son turned his head toward me while we were eating lunch the other day with a Cheeto stuck up each nostril, I did what any good mother would do. I grabbed my phone and took a picture.

I’m not sure this is normal. Most 2-year-olds play with their food, yes. But shouldn’t I have scolded him for playing with it, and told him, “No, no, Miles. We don’t play with our food at the table”?

I suppose I could have said that. But I would have been lying.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Safe pumpkin carving

What can be more fun than Halloween?  

I grew up in a small town, and remember Halloween being much simpler than it is today.  My costume was always an old sheet that was made into a “ghost costume”…..and it didn’t matter if it was white, striped, or flowered.  I went to each of the neighbor’s houses with my big brother (much to his chagrin), with a brown paper bag in-tow, hoping to get as much chocolate as possible!  It was a time and place where going out after dark was safer.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Waiting on the phone

The day I found out about the girls (Olivia & Claire) leaving, I also learned that we may be receiving a 15-month-old little girl who was coming from an unfortunate situation.

I was cautioned there were grandparents who lived in New York who wanted their granddaughter who was removed by CPS and at the next court hearing, we would know if the grandparents wanted to go through a home study and begin the process of a kinship placement. If the grandparents didn’t voice their desire, she’d be at my front door step in a matter of hours or days after the court hearing.

Sometimes, these kinds of things can drag on forever or you only get a one-hour notice. One thing I have learned, I am not always in control.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What to bring to the hospital

I recently helped host a baby shower. I had an off-the-wall idea for a hostess gift inspired by memories of one of the (many) things I felt clueless about: what do I really need to bring to the hospital when the baby is ready to make his grand entrance? So I got a cute baby bag and filled it with items she might find helpful and may not have thought about packing.

I remember during my third trimester I found a random blog entry on the topic, and the comments section was brimming with tell-alls about what was helpful, sparing no gory detail. I remember thinking, this is gold, I need to print this whole thing and bring it to the store.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking the perfection out of bedtime

Everyone has seen those commercials with a happy mom perfectly perched on the edge of her child’s bed, reading to a precious little one at bedtime. You know, the ones where the mom has a ridiculous amount of energy for it being late in the day and is wearing a coordinating outfit that is devoid of spit-up or a little bit of sweet potatoes from dinner? And I swear the child in the commercial has not one trace of stickiness or attitude.

It’s that picturesque bedtime reading that has caused me much grief over the years. Being an avid reader, I was so excited to start reading more than picture books to my oldest son, Max. I had envisioned sitting at his bedside, reading him books as he drifted off to sleep or asked me questions about the characters. Then I would kiss him goodnight and turn out the lights. Aaaah.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Terrible (and terrific) Twos

The terrible twos are definitely in firm residence at my house. And while it's incredibly challenging at times - my living room is still sans most toys right now, thanks to the last big meltdown - I'm also learning that (like all other developmental stages have been), Sam's a WHOLE lot of fun right now.

Sam loves sports. He loves watching sports on tv, watching his brothers play baseball and basketball, and "playing" them himself.  (Right now, he's running himself ragged bouncing Jacob's basketball all over the downstairs. He probably dribbles better than I do.)

He tells us what he's doing: "I going to baseball practice." or "I go to pay basketball now." (On a related note, he also plays pretend quite a bit now.)