Monday, August 31, 2009

Giveaway at Out by Ten

Have you been reading my not-so-new blog Out by Ten? If not, you're missing out on tons of great ideas for family-friendly activities in Prince George's County and the DC-area.

What? You don't have kids? Well, most of the things I've posted about lately are fantastic for people of all ages, they just happen to also be kid-friendly!

Today there is extra incentive to head over to Out by Ten: I'm reviewing and giving away a copy of the awesome new kids' CD Great Day by Milkshake. You have five chances to win so what are you waiting for?


Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Now Departing Pity City

So after Wednesday's very blue post, I am actually feeling much better. I think this is a combination of putting it all down on paper the computer screen, receiving some very nice e-mails (thank you), the natural ebb and flow of my pregnancy emotions, and most importantly, a triumph of mind over mind.

So, I'm happy to report that I am now departing Pity City (thanks Katie for such a perfect phrase!).

Thursday I had an oral surgery which I was incredibly anxious about. It was to put in an implant for the tooth I had pulled before Easter. The whole process from extraction to final crown is about 9 or 10 months and since I went and got myself knocked up in the middle of the timeline, I was facing this surgery with regular old Novocaine during the surgery and only Tylenol to help with the post-surgery pain. I do have a pretty high pain tolerance and am not someone who hates the dentist BUT the prospect of going through this with no "good" drugs was a little overwhelming.

I'm happy to report that it really wasn't that big of a deal. Yeah, sitting wide awake in the dental chair for an hour-long procedure where they literally screwed something into my jaw bone was not fun. To say the least. But, the pain has been totally bearable, and less than 24 hours later I was feeling only very minor discomfort.

Plus, I had the surgery done in my hometown so got to recover sans son or husband at my parent's house. I ordered a totally bad chick flick (Bride Wars) On Demand and then took up the whole double bed and slept in until 10am. It was like a spa vacation or something!

There are a lot of things *they* don't tell you about pregnancy and childbirth. I think that is probably one of the reasons why pregnancy blogs are so popular. You get the honest truth about the good, the bad and the ugly. For me, one of the uglies is definitely the emotional swings. It is tough and last week was rough. Thanks for sticking through it with me.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Lipton Cold Brew Tea

When I was pregnant with Lucas I gave up all caffeine. I spent 9 months only drinking milk and water with an occasional glass of juice or Sprite. After he was weaned, I became a Diet Coke addict. I hate the taste of coffee so drank several cans or bottles of Diet Coke a day. I started cutting down on the good 'old DC before I got pregnant and have now almost completely cut out the Diet Coke from my life. But, I am willing to still allow myself some caffeine.

The Mayo Clinic website tells me that equal servings of Diet Coke and tea have the same amount of caffeine, but with tea I'm gaining antioxidant benefits and with Diet Coke I'm gaining scary fake sugars.

And, have I mentioned that I'm not a fan of hot beverages?

Enter Lipton Cold Brew iced tea. I love it so much I decided to feature it for this week's edition of Favorite Things Friday. I've been making this at home and bringing one serving of iced tea with me to work each day. If I'm home for lunch I have a glass with lunch. I had a very unfortunate incident with trying to make iced tea with boiling water in a glass pitcher a few years ago and so have been scared to make iced tea at home since. (Imagine a glass pitcher literally exploding in your kitchen sink. Who knew you shouldn't pour the boiling water directly into an old glass pitcher?)

But, this? This I can brew with cold tap water! So easy! Just open up the tea bags, fill up with cold water and let steep. And, by making my tea at home I control the sugar content. I find that 1/4 C of sugar for the whole 2 liter pitcher gives it a nice sweet-but-not-too-sweet taste.


As with all my Favorite Things Friday posts, this is something I purchased with my own money and love so much that I simply wanted to share it with you.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I think I'll go eat worms

Remember this song? Did you sing it on the bus or at camp when you were younger? (If not, it's a great song to teach your kids--they'll be totally impressed that their mom is teaching them a song about sucking out guts.)

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
I think I'll go eat worms!
Big fat juicy ones,
Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm!

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm!
Up comes the first one, up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm!

I bite off the heads, and suck out the juice,
And throw the skins away!
Nobody knows how fat I grow,
On worms three times a day!

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
I think I'll go eat worms!
Big fat juicy ones,
Eensie weensy squeensy ones,
See how they wiggle and squirm!

I'm wallowing and have that song stuck in my head. The first line basically sums up how I'm feeling these days.

I'm trying to keep in mind that my hormones are going crazy right now. Heck, I cried over a football YouTube video yesterday. I cried in the car when I heard on NPR that Senator Kennedy had died. Damn, I'm crying writing this stupid post. To sum up: crying at the drop of the hat.

But last night I just broke down. I am feeling (which I know is different than what is true) like I just don't have any friends right now. I know I do. And I know several of them are reading this blog. But I still feel like I don't. I try so hard to do special things for people. I feel like I really go out of my way for the people in my life. And sometimes I just feel like no one does that for me. I am sure everyone feels that way sometimes. And right now is just one of the times that I feel like that. And I know that some of this stems from middle school friendship (ex-friendship) crap that I clearly never dealt with properly.

And, I'm sure that my lovely pregnancy hormones will be in an up-swing soon.

And, I'm sure I'll get over it.

But, right now? Right now I think I'll just go eat worms.*

*Also feeling grateful that dirt and worms aren't actually one of my pregnancy cravings.

(Sorry, I've disabled comments. This isn't about getting lots of people to write and tell me how great I am. Maybe it's better if I just think to myself that lots of people would have commented to tell me how great I am. And, also, it would absolutely kill me if the only comment is my mom.)

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Morning Person

10 years ago

At some point toward the end of our freshman year of college, my roommate--who was, by then, a very close friend--confided to me that every single morning all year she wracked her brain trying to think of what she did or said the night before to make me so mad at her.

Well, she did row crew so I was none too pleased about the 4:30am alarm every single week day.

But, mostly, I sheepishly explained, I'm just not a morning person.

3 years ago

When Lucas was just a little guy, just a few months old, he'd wake up first thing and I'd hear him cooing next to me in his little bassinet. I'd pull him into bed and take him all in. We'd stare at each other laughing and giggling together for the next 30 minutes.

This morning

The alarm went off and I hit snooze. A few minutes later I heard a loud "yay!" followed by clapping from Lucas's room. That roused me from bed and I went in to see what all the excitement was about. There was my adorable little boy--rosy cheeks, tousled hair--smiling up at the ceiling.

"Why did you clap, Buddy?"

"Because I love you!"

And so I got into bed and snuggled with him. We played silly make believe games for the next 10 minutes. Indeed, that was a much better use of my snooze time.

I'm still not a morning person--far from it. But I certainly have had some wonderful mornings thanks to my darling son who definitely is.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 24, 2009

San Diego

San Diego was wonderful. First. The Weather? Amazing. Seriously. Previously we've visited in April and late September. It was awesome to leave the hot, humid, stifling August weather in DC for the unbelievably clear, sunny and hot-with-a-cool-breeze weather in San Diego.

One of the things I hate most in life is sweating and in DC, in August, I sweat. A lot. In San Diego, we walked around all day in the hot sun and I had my hair down and I swear, not a bead of sweat. It was awesome. My sister says that the weather is what she'll miss most about San Diego when they eventually move on (which is pretty much a certainty with her hubby being a Marine and all). I completely understand why.

Other than enjoying my sweat-free days, we had some lovely adventures. It was a great mix of chilling out and relaxing (I refuse to use the word chillaxing!) at their house with the pool and the dogs and going on fun excursions. We spent a day at Balboa Park, a day at Legoland and a day a Torrey Pines State Park at the beach. We went into Old Town for the evening to walk around and have some amazing Mexican food and took Lucas to the local playgrounds a few times. Sarah even pushed Abel and me out the door for a date night on our last evening!

Because of the time change and the fact that Lucas woke up around 5am the first few days, Abel and I got to bed very early each night--usually hitting the sack by 9:30pm. It was awesome to get so much rest!

Overall, Lucas did a great job for the entire week. The one exception was the flight home. There were moments where I felt like I was dealing with an exorcist child. I had to physically hold his ankles to stop him from flailing around and hitting Abel and me as well as the poor passengers seated in front of us. He didn't sleep. He was hungry but refused the PB&J I had packed. He got bored with the movies. Didn't want to read books. Didn't want to do anything, it seemed, except yell and kick the seat in front of him.

It was rough.

We had a very short layover at JFK and practically ran from one gate to the next. We got there with a few minutes to spare and Lucas just broke down. Not yelling or crying but stomping his feet and generally being upset. There was a very nice grandmotherly lady next to us who looked at me and said, "That's exactly how I feel only I can't express it like he can." It really broke the tension for me. I think every mother knows how much a comment like that or an I've-been-there-smile can just lift the world off your shoulders.

In contrast was the the total richie rich couple pushing a stroller who passed us in La Jolla and gave Lucas (who was playing with a fountain and totally not doing anything bad at all) and me the most disgusted look ever. I interpreted it to mean, "OMG. Our child will never be like that!" And after they passed my sister said, "I think that was a dog in that stroller!"

I burst out laughing.

I'm sure it was a dog. And, I'm sure they were disgusted by Lucas. Let's all just hope they never have real kids!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: South Mountain Creamery

I've mentioned before (and here) that we get our milk delivered--in glass bottles!--from a local dairy. Earlier this week, as I was reading On Milk by Musings of a Housewife, I was thinking about how grateful I am to have hormone free milk from cows that have free range and free choice of feeding, delivered directly to our door each week in reusable glass bottles. That's why I'm featuring South Mountain Creamery today as my Favorite Things Friday.

Since starting with South Mountain Creamery in April 2008, we couldn't be happier. First, the milk is delicious. Second, it is awesome to know exactly where it is coming from. Third, it is a great price. A half gallon of milk is $3.25.* I haven't priced milk at the grocery store in a while but I believe that a half gallon of organic milk is about $3.50 to $4.

And, South Mountain doesn't deliver only milk. Lucas loves their glass-bottled yogurt drink and at $3.75 for a quart it is much cheaper (not to mention less wasteful!) than those individual plastic containers of drinkable yogurt from the grocery store. I love their free-range chicken, eggs and beef. Not to mention their cheese, butter, and all kinds of other delicious goodies.

The process is very easy. Sign up on-line and create a standing order. This can vary by week or month. For example, we get eggs every other week. Then, leave your cooler (with an ice pack, especially during summer) on your front porch or in your garage the night before or morning of your delivery. Leave them your empty containers and they'll take those (and credit them to your account) and leave your milk and other products. You come home to delicious, fresh milk. (Just be careful carrying those glass bottles into the house. I can tell you from experience that it is no fun cleaning up spilled milk and broken glass!)

South Mountain Creamery's delivery areas are listed below. If you live in any of these areas, I suggest that you strongly consider getting your milk (and other great dairy and meat products!) delivered by South Mountain Creamery!

Alexandria, VA
Hampton Roads, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach
Arlington, VA
Falls Church, VA
Vienna, Oakton, McLean, VA
Leesburg, VA
Harpers Ferry, Charles town, Shepherdstown, WV
Mt Washington & Catonsville, MD
NW DC (including Georgetown, Mt Pleasant, Capitol Hill)
NE and SE DC
Hyattsville, Cheverly, Mt Rainier
Potomac, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring
Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville, Olney
Clarksburg, Dickerson, Poolesville
Howard County
Mt Airy, Myersville, Middletown
Walkersville, Frederick

*There is a $3.95 delivery fee per week for your entire order. Also, there is a $1.50 per bottle deposit which you get back when you leave your empty bottle out for pick-up.

Disclaimer: I am a loyal customer of South Mountain Creamery. However, they have no idea that I blog and have provided no incentive or compensation for this post!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Health Care Reform

The DC Metro Moms and all our sister blogs across the country are talking health care. From New York to California, dozens of women (and a few men) have taken the time to submit excellent text and video posts sharing their personal stories, opinions, questions and ideas on health care reform. You know what? If all of the attendees of town hall meetings across the country were being as thoughtful as my fellow bloggers, I think we'd be having a much more productive discussion about health care in this country right now.

Click here to link to all the posts. Click here to read what I have to say about it.

I hope you'll take some time to read through many of the posts and be part of this important discussion via the comments.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Believe We Need Health Care Reform Now

I believe health care reform is the critical issue of our generation. Now is our opportunity to take a stand for ourselves, our parents, our children and their children. I believe our current health system is not sustainable: costs are rising and people are losing their insurance at alarming rates. I believe that we need health care reform and we need it now.

And, guess what? I have great health insurance. Always have.

Growing up, money was tight in my family, but my dad worked for our town and was covered under our school district's health insurance plan. It was a great plan. My parents never had to decide between groceries and a visit to the doctor: when we were sick, we went to the doctor. I got new glasses when I needed them. My siblings and I all saw the dentist on a regular basis.

Other than a few month period when I had to pay the exorbitant COBRA rates to keep my health insurance, I've had jobs which provided good insurance. Since getting married, I've been on my husband's insurance. His company pays 100% of our premiums. I realize how rare this is and how lucky we are.

It really hit home last summer when I was hospitalized and underwent surgery. Bills totaling tens of thousands of dollars started rolling in and we were responsible only for the $75 emergency room co-pay. I can only imagine how that would have been different had we not had health insurance.

Would I have ignored my symptoms and not seen my primary care doctor? Maybe. Would I have not had the complete blood work up done that indicated that something was dangerously wrong? Maybe. My platelets (the body's clotting factor) were 3,000 parts per million instead of 300,000 parts per million. Would I have died from a simple cut or spondaneous internal bleeding? Maybe.

But, this isn't about me.

It is about the 150,000 residents of Prince George's County, MD--my home county and the wealthiest minority majority county in the country--who have no health insurance. It is about the Prince George's Hospital Center, less than 1 mile from my home, that has been struggling for years and has practically collapsed under the weight of the uninsured who use it daily as their primary care facility because they have no other option.

It is about the 47 million Americans who have no health insurance, the millions more who are under-insured, and the millions beyond that who are struggling to afford rising premiums, deductibles and co-payments.

It is about each and every one of us.

And so even though I am pleased with my family's current health insurance. Even though my parents and siblings and best friends are lucky enough to have good health insurance as well, I believe that we need health insurance reform in our country and we need it now.

Because this is about us--ALL of us.

Original post to DC Metro Moms. Aimee Olivo considers political involvement to be her "me time." When she isn't working on issues as co-chair of her local progressive political organization, she's blogging about life as a mama at Smiling Mama and about great family-friendly activities at Out by Ten.

KC said...
I'm with you, sister. I think it's a defining point in our country. For better or worse.

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...
Excellent post!!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pregnant During the Swine Flu Pandemic

We're taking Lucas over to Legoland today. Should be great fun!

In the meantime, I'm over at DC Metro Moms today talking about my concerns about being pregnant during the Swine Flu Pandemic. You can go read it here.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Pregnant During the Swine Flu Pandemic

I’ve been following the news of the Swine Flu (aka H1N1) vaccine with added interest this year. I’m pregnant and therefore am in one of the highest risk factor groups and a priority group for the vaccine.

Last year, I didn’t really buy into the Swine Flu hysteria. I didn’t stay home. I didn’t keep my three year old son home. Yeah, maybe we washed our hands a bit more often (I’m a huge proponent of hand washing anyway. OCD? Just a tad.) but we didn’t vary our routines.

I get the flu shot every year. I’ve made sure my son gets it each year as well. (I encourage my husband, but he’s on his own to actually see the doctor!)

But, I’ll be honest, this year it’s all giving me a bit of pause.

A recent study by the Center for Disease Controls found that once pregnant women get Swine Flu, they are more likely to have severe complications. In fact, we're four times more likely to need hospitalization for swine flu. Well, that tells me that I should get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Yet, NPR, my main source of news, reports that the virus being used to grow the H1N1 vaccine is growing more slowly than expected. That means there may not be enough vaccine to go around by October when the pandemic flu comes back around to the northern hemisphere. And, at the same time, the regular ole seasonal flu will be kicking off around then as well.

And, what about the safety? Again, NPR reports that 10,000 volunteers will be given the vaccine. In fact, those trials have already begun at nearby University of Maryland, but with such a tight turnaround between testing and administering the vaccine to the highest-risk groups (raises hand!) will any severe side effects be discovered?

The bottom line is that I will most likely get the vaccine. I'll talk with my doctor and keep reading and listening to all the related studies, recommendations and news reports, but I am pretty sure that the risks will outweigh the benefits. Because the greatest risk of all is to my developing baby, and that's someone I'm not willing to take any chances with.

Original post to DC Metro Moms. When Aimee Olivo isn't listening to NPR or washing her hands, she's writing at Smiling Mama and Out by Ten.

TK Meyers said...
Thanks for your informative post. I definitely will be paying attention as my husband and I are planning to be pregnant in the near future.

This has been very helpful.

Aimee Olivo said in reply to TK Meyers...
Thanks so much, TK. Best of luck to you!

Kelly said...
I am 5 weeks pregnant. I have a 2 year old. And I am driving myself crazy deciding what is best for us. There seems to be no real answer. My main thought is 1% of the popoulations pregnant which is about 3 million people and so far 15 have died from swine flu, which sucks. But that is a small precent. The questions I have the swine flu going to get worse and is that vaccine safe for me and my unborn baby? And there is no answer nor will there be in time for flu season. It is a gamble one way or the other.

Aimee Olivo said in reply to Kelly...
Thanks for your comment, Kelly. I agree that this is a very difficult decision. Since we're pregnant, we're not just making this decision for ourselves but for our unborn babies as well. Not to mention, we have to keep our the health of our toddlers in mind, too.

The study that has captured my attention most is that the US CDC is analyzing the 34 cases of pregnant women in the US who got swine flu last year. Of those, 6 died. That's a pretty high percentage and all were previously healthy.

Of course this is a very personal decision and I'll continue to read as much as I can before making a final decision. Best of luck to you as you make your decision.

L said...
I just spoke with my OB/GYN about this yesterday. I am 25 weeks (due Nov. 30 - right in flu season). He said he wasn't comfortable recommending the swine flu vaccine to me or any of his patients at this time. He said that right now, there is just not enough testing in pregnant women to alleviate his concerns. He said if more testing is done and results look good, he will re-evaluate, but for now, he wouldn't recommend it and won't stock it. I will still get the regular flu shot, but won't get the H1N1 vaccine until my doctor feels it is safe to do so.

I will speak to our pediatrician about my 17 month old daughter and my husband getting the H1N1 shots though...I think more info will be available on the safety for them than for me. Oh, and we will all get the regular flu shot as we normally do.

Aimee Olivo said in reply to L...
Thanks for your comment, L. That is very interesting and good to keep in mind.

Mom said...
I want to also add that aside from handwashing, the CDC recommends that anyone with an elevated temperature not go out in public until they are fever free for 24 hours (without the aid of fever-reducing medication). I work in a school and we often see both students and teachers coming to school with "slight" fevers. There is no way of knowing whether that fever is nothing or the beginning of something. All schools, daycare centers, and places of employment need to have a zero tolerance for anyone exhibiting even minor flu symptoms. I understand that it can be a burden to miss work for a child who may or may not be getting sick, but it is the #1 way to prevent unnecessary exposure and spreading of the virus. As a parent, I would make sure that your school or daycare center has a zero tolerance policy and plenty of thermometers and handsoap in stock!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Travel Update

  • Have been up since 2:45am.
  • May dislocate jaw due to the size of yawns.
  • Mental capacity limits blogging to bullet form.
  • Lucas did not inherit his parents' non-morning-person gene.
  • He was a delight.
  • Large children's play area in JFK JetBlue terminal a little disappointing.
  • Still, kudos to them for the fact that it exists.
  • More kudos to Abel for loading up two ipods, one iphone and one laptop with tons of kid-friendly media.

  • 7.5 hours to go before reaching destination.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Favorite Things Friday: Sebastian Shaper Plus Hairspray

Based on photos of my middle school years, and clear memories of freaking out in the mornings that my bangs just weren't high enough, I'm certain that there was a time in my life when I used a great deal of hairspray. Later, and perhaps in rebellion to the years of styling my bangs into "the claw" there were many years when I eschewed all hair products for my long straight hair. It wasn't even until college that I understood how to actually dry my hair using a brush!

Over the past decade, however, I've slowly come to realize that hairspray doesn't (always!) = helmet head and that the right products, used in the right way, will help give my hair some nice volume and movement.

Despite trying many different salon and drugstore brands, my absolute favorite hairspray is Sebastian Shaper Plus. I truly love it! That's why it's my feature for this week's Favorite Things Friday.

Just a reminder: all my FTF posts are things I truly love. Sebastian hasn't sent me any samples and they certainly haven't paid me for this post.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Do in San Diego

As our vacation approaches, I'm getting less stressed about our travel and my lack of clothes and more and more excited about the things I want do to in sunny San Diego. Here's a little list, in no particular order.

  • Float in the backyard pool in the early morning and at night after Lucas goes to bed.

  • Take Lucas to LEGOLAND.

  • Swim in the Pacific Ocean (on previous visits, we've only gone in up to our knees because it was so chilly; I'm hopeful that it will be warm enough to actually swim this time!).

  • Eat some fish tacos.

  • Eat some In-n-Out burger.

  • Play at the neighborhood playground--it is really awesome!

  • Of course, enjoy some quality time hanging out with my sister and her hubby.

  • Visit a Trader Joe's (silly, right? Some how TJ's seems even better and more authentic in California!)

  • Spend a day exploring Balboa Park (we haven't had time for this on previous visits).

  • Take Lucas to see some real helicopters and airplanes at Miramir.

  • Strap Lucas (and his car seat!) into Uncle Mike's fast car for a not-too-fast (hear me Uncle Mike?) drive.

  • Enjoy a night out either alone with Abel or with Sarah and Mike (if they can secure a babysitter!) in a swanky neighborhood like the Gaslamp Quarter.

What do you think, Sar, can we fit this all in?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Remembering my moment as a speechwriter for Eunice Kennedy Shriver

This morning I'm fondly remembering Eunice Kennedy Shriver who passed away earlier today at age 88. Below is an entry originally published on May 21, 2008 about the time I met Mrs. Shriver and her husband, Sargent. It was truly a highlight of my life!

It’s Commencement-time across the country and famous and not-so-famous people are addressing the nation’s Class of 2008. This morning as I was driving into work, there was a short story on NPR about Maria Shriver putting an Obama sign on the front lawn of their California home and Arny following suite with a McCain sign.

It reminded me of one of the most exciting experiences of my life.

It was Commencement 2004 and I was working at a local university. My department had the unlucky task of working commencement every year (which also always fell on Mother’s Day), handling the VIPs, press and other behind-the-scenes details. That year my sister was graduating from the same university so I was technically excused from working. However, my boss did offer me one opportunity, for which I will be eternally grateful.

You see, two people receiving honorary degrees that afternoon were Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Two of my heroes. Knowing what it would mean to me to meet them, my boss offered me the opportunity to “staff” them that morning. Of course I jumped on the opportunity.

Mr. Shriver took most of my time and attention. I knew he was suffering from Alzheimer’s but was surprised at its toll. He was amazingly kind, personable, funny and attentive to me, but also asked the same things over and over again and needed constant attention.

Mrs. Shriver was perhaps the most elegant person I’ve ever encountered in real life. She was very kind but also quite reserved.

At one point, however, Mrs. Shriver asked me to go over her speech with her. We sat down and she started reading it quietly to me. She began, “Throughout my life I’ve been known as many things. I’ve been known and John’s sister and Bobby’s sister and Ted’s sister. I’ve been known as Sargent’s wife. Now, I’m best known as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mother-in-law.”

I know it is rude to interrupt. But, I just couldn’t help myself. I quipped, “But you’re still a Democrat!”

Laughing she said, “That’s a great line!” and proceeded to hand-write it into the speech!

Minutes later I was standing back stage as she addressed the crowd and when she got to my line the crowd went wild—laughing and cheering. I was beaming.

Due to the length of the ceremony and their advanced age, Mr. and Mrs. Shriver left the stage immediately after receiving their degrees and giving their remarks. As I escorted them out of the building and into their waiting car, Mrs. Shriver thanked me for the great line.

It really did make the speech.

And, it was one of the best moments of my life.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Summer 'o Travel Part Deux

Alternately titled: In which I freak myself out and calm myself down in 400 words or less.

OMG. Seriously folks. I had just come to peace with the fact that we'll be waking up at ungodly hour o'clock to get to the airport when I decide to search through my e-mail to double triple quadruple check that I had all the times right in my head. Somehow in my freaking out about a 6am flight mania, I had neglected to pay adequate anxiety-inducing attention to the fact that we are at JFK for 4 hours. From 7:14 am until 11:15am. What in the world are two very tired parents going do to with a most likely so-tired-that-he's-overly-hyper-3yo for FOUR hours at an airport?

Let's break this down.

2 exhausted parents + 1 tired 3yo + 4 hours in an airport = TROUBLE.

Join in tomorrow* when I freak out about the fact that none of my clothes fit me. Or, as I quipped to Abel, "It will be easy to pack light when I have nothing that fits." "Perfect!" he enthusiastically replied. Hopefully my sister won't mind two pairs of capris paired with 4 different shirts. At least laundry is free!

*Okay. Just kidding. (Kidding about another complain-ey post tomorrow; not kidding about having no clothes that fit! I'm in that weird stage where my pants are too tight but I'm not big enough to sport maternity wear.) I will quit griping and focus on the fact that once our horrible travel day is over we will be able to relax by Sarah's pool while eating fish tacos. tacos!

Okay, okay, I take this whole thing back. JetBlue claims that their JFK terminal is new and state of the art. Apparently it features, among other amenities, a "large children's area." Let's just say I'm holding them to their word here! They also offer free wi-fi so I will definitely be reporting in.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer 'o Travel

Lucas at Pacific Beach, San Diego, CA last September

Oh my. This has been our summer of travel. First, the beach. Then, the family reunion. Then, Ohio to visit the in-laws. Next up: sunny San Diego. Abel hasn't even unpacked from Ohio. I unpacked but didn't put my suitcase away. With less than a week between trips, why bother?

Don't get me wrong, I am really looking forward to hanging out in sunny San Diego with my sister and brother-in-law, their dogs and their lovely backyard pool for a week. Not to mention the Pacific Ocean, LEGOLAND and Balboa Park. But I am really not looking forward to the effort of getting there.

You see, for the first time ever, we opened up an annual fee airline points card about a year and a half ago. We used it like our debit card and looked for every opportunity to put things on it. For example, the down payment for our mini van and baseball season tickets (which we split with a group of friends who all paid us via check). We pay it off every single month without fail (it also has a wickedly high interest rate). If there was a charge that we knew we couldn't pay off right away (read: unexpected car repairs) that went on a separate, lower interest card. Hard to believe but we earned two round trip flights and were well on our way to a third by earlier this summer. I spent just over $100 to purchase the points needed to get us to our third "free" flight and so between that and various airline fees all three of us are flying to sunny San Diego for under $200!

Of course the free flights were incredibly limited so we're flying out of Dulles at 6am and heading to New York (read: away from California!) to switch planes before the long cross-country flight to sunny San Diego (San Diego always requires the adjective "sunny"!). Please note that Dulles is a solid hour drive from our house. And, if we want to arrive at the actual airport an hour ahead of time, we have to factor in 30 minutes between the long-term parking and the terminal. That will entail leaving our house at 3:30am. If we hope to shower and maybe eat something, the alarm will go off at about 2:45am.

Have I ever mentioned that Abel and I are NOT morning people?

I've gone back and forth a hundred times and have stressed for the past few weeks about how to handle this. My first idea was to drive toward the airport the evening before and spend the night in a nearby hotel. They all have deals where you can leave your car there for free for 7 or 14 nights and take their shuttle to and from the airport. This was initially appealing because neither Abel nor I would have to actually be awake enough to drive at that ridiculous hour. We'd simply get up, shower, wake Lucas, stagger down to the shuttle and get dropped off at the terminal. But, even factoring in the parking expenses we'd incur if not staying at the hotel, this would be a solid $100 extra. And, we'd still have to wake up at approximately 3:45am so we'd only be saving ourselves about an hour of sleep. Now, I do consider sleep to be priceless, in theory, but add in to that the fact that I never sleep well in hotel rooms...and it was looking less and less appealing.

Finally, after much stress, I have decided that we will pay extra to use the airport's valet parking. We'll pay about $70 more than long-term parking but will spend about $50 less than staying at a nearby hotel. Plus, we don't have to factor in the time for the shuttle between the long-term parking and the terminal. We just pull up, unload our suitcases and car seat and we're at the terminal and flying through security. (How busy can it be at 5am?) (Famous last words, right? Knock on wood!)

Let's just pray Lucas sleeps on the flight so he parents can get sure-to-be-needed naps as well!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Favorite Things Friday: Kids' Music

This has been a summer full of travel for us and we're not done yet. We don't (yet) own a portable DVD player and so having several kids' CDs on hand that Lucas enjoys and don't drive Abel and me insane after multiple cries of "again!" has been critical for multiple 8+ hour car trips. For this week's addition of Favorite Things Friday, I thought I'd share a few of our favorites.

Snacktime by the Bare Naked Ladies

Play! by Milkshake

Pink! by Rocknoceras

Full disclosure: Snacktime was purchased by us; I was lucky enough to win the others in blog contests sponsored by Mummy's Product Reviews, A Parent in Silver Spring Reviews and Tech Savvy Mama. However, if we were to lose or scratch any of the three we won, I'd purchase them in a heartbeat!

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reason enough

Three women mocking the "Chinese" woman who had given one of them a pedicure that day and had given her advice for getting rid of her toenail fungus.

A group laughing about the fact that a woman thought that the profile of the man on the card looked similar to her husband. The card was from Hallmark's Mahogany line and so obviously was an African American man. The group thought it was equal parts funny and ridiculous that the woman could have thought he looked like her Caucasian husband.

The addition of the racial descriptor "black man" in the retelling of a story about a jerk driving a BMW.

Over the past few weeks, I've been in group situations where each of these occurred. Over my lifetime, I've been in countless similar situations. Each time, I clam up. I don't smile. I certainly do not laugh. I look away or physically move away.

And later I feel disgusted with myself.

I rationalize that these people are strangers I'll never see again. I rationalize that nothing I could say would change their mindset. I simply rationalize.

But then later, as I replay the situation in my head, I know that those rationalizations are crap. Isn't the fact that I may never see the person again reason enough to speak my mind? Isn't the fact that this person is my relative reason enough to let them know I don't think that is very funny? Isn't the fact that I know it is wrong reason enough?

I hope that next time--and there certainly will be a next time--I have the courage to speak up. Because it is never hard to rationalize doing what I know is right.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life Lesson List

We're in Ohio this week visiting my in-laws. Part of the reason for our visit was to take part in the annual camping trip my in-laws go on with my brother-in-law and niece. I used my pregnancy as an excuse to opt out of actually sleeping in a tent for two nights but spent both days until about 10pm at the campsite with everyone. It really was a lovely time. Lucas got to go fishing, play in a lake, go on a hike, sleep in the tent and otherwise enjoy being outside and in nature.

As dinner approached on the first evening, starting the campfire was in order. We'd purchased a large bundle of wood from a place near the campground and Abel's father proceeded to throw some large logs into the fire pit and light a few paper towels. Needless to say, it burned out in minutes. Abel's brother then jumped in, correctly stacking the wood and adding several more paper towels. It burned for a few minutes longer. I made the announcement that we needed kindling and started collecting it, but no one was really interested in using it. The fire was barely holding on. When I returned the next morning, I learned that they had used an entire bottle of lighter fluid to keep the fire going into the night!

On the second night, I decided to take control of starting the fire. I collected as much kindling as I could, but was unable to gather much after the large pile I had gathered the previous night. I purchased some fire starter sticks from the commissary. They were each about the size of a single twix bar. I used a modified A frame of large logs with the kindling and two fire starter sticks in the middle. The fire started slowly but grew into a very hot, solid burn. It lasted all night and burned through even the largest of the logs. My in-laws did not believe that I didn't use even a drop of lighter fluid. I could not have been more proud.

As I sat around that fire, enjoying some yummy s'mores, I realized that the ability to properly start a campfire is one of those things that I want to make sure Abel and I pass down to our children.

I mean, sure, there are so many intangibles that we hope to instill in our children: a strong sense of right and wrong, compassion, a belief in God, an appreciation for nature, the value of voting and participating in our democracy...I could go on.

But there are also tangible things. Some very practical and some just plain fun. Here's the list I started in my head while enjoying that fire--a list of things I want to make sure our children know.

1. How to start a campfire.
2. The recipe--by heart--for our family's favorite No Bake Cookies and how to make the perfect batch (it's actually a bit tricky!).
3. How to change a tire. (Abel will have to be in charge of this one, he's a true expert! I'm sure I could change one in an absolute emergency but am not confident about it.)
4. At least a basic understanding for the rules of football.
5. The rules of several card games including: poker, canasta, shoot the moon and euchre.

As I said, this is just a start. Now that I've started the list, it will be fun to brainstorm and discuss with Abel what other things we'd like to add. I'm dreaming of creating a family book of these life lessons a la The Dangerous Book for Boys (which I got for Abel for Christmas last year and would highly recommend!).

What would you put on your life lesson list?

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaching Children Manners

My good friend IRL, Dr. Blondie, commented on my post Introductions that she loves kids with good manners. She also asked if we taught Lucas to introduce himself or if he just picked it up on his own.

Rather than write back directly to Dr. Blondie, I thought this topic would make a great post. I do think that Lucas has pretty good manners for a 3.5 year old. And, as with most of our "successes" in parenting, I credit it to a few things.

{Knocking on wood furiously because I am now certain that Lucas will act like a total monster the next time he sees anyone who reads this blog. I also want to make it clear that Lucas, like a typical 3yo, has good days and bad days. Make that good minutes and bad minutes. And, also, we try our best to do everything outlined below. But, like typical parents, we have good minutes and bad minutes ourselves.}

First, set clear expectations.

More than just saying please and thank you, the foundation of good manners is good behavior. When we go places, we almost always discuss the rules on the way there. When going to a friend's house for a play date we talk about sharing. When walking to the park, we talk about sharing the toy we've brought with us and not running over the little kids. (Lucas tends to barrel ahead at full speed and has been known to knock down toddlers less steady on their feet!)

Because I have set clear expectations in the beginning, Lucas (generally) catches on quickly when I have to remind him of the rules. For example, if he does knock into a smaller kid at the park, I am not starting from the beginning explaining why this is not acceptable, I simply have to get his attention and say, "Lucas, remember the rule: careful around little kids." And he understands what I mean. Depending on the infraction, setting the rules in advance also gives you solid ground to leave the park (or restaurant or store) if a rule is broken more than once. Here's the thing: as a parent you must be prepared to leave.

One of our most steadfast rules at the park is that he is not allowed to go past the ring of trees which form a natural boundary between the park and the street. Earlier this summer he went past them once and got a firm reminder. He went past them again and we left immediately. Trust me I didn't want to leave either but that lesson truly stuck in his head and he is much more aware of following (at least!) that rule now!

At dinner (home or at a restaurant), Lucas knows that he has two choices: knees or bottom. This is a long and clearly established rule that he must sit on his knees (he's refused a booster seat for ages so this often helps his reach the table better) or his bottom at the dinner table. All it takes is two words from Abel or me, "knees or bottom" for him to sit back down.

Second, role play. It's a fact that any parent knows well: kids love to role play! And so, it is very easy to incorporate practicing good manners into role play. Lucas loves to pretend to be mama or dada or someone else and "meet" you. I love it, too, because these pretend meetings allow us to practice handshakes, eye contact and introductions. In other role play scenarios, I consciously practice my best manners and find myself speaking in sentences like this: "Excuse me, sir, can you please help me reach that box?" or "Thank you very much. I greatly appreciate you kindness." Yes, I may sound like I'm a character in an olde English novel, but if he incorporates just a fraction of those sentences into his requests or thanks then it is worth it!

Third, set the best example. Although these days it sometimes seems like Lucas is picking up most of his cute phrases from TV, (Or not so cute: apparently Lightening McQueen says shut up in Cars which Lucas informed us when we told him we did not appreciate him saying that.) he really gets the large majority of his language from Abel and me. And so even though we each might get pretty slack in our manners around each other at times, we both do our best to use great manners with Lucas. For example, we use please and thank you and may I to the extreme with Lucas.

I try my best not to take too much credit for the good things Lucas does because that would mean I also have to take lots of credit for the bad, as well! (ha! ha!) But, I will take full credit for the way he introduces himself and others to everyone we meet. He definitely gets that directly from my example. As I've mentioned many a time, a great park is at the end of our block. We're there almost daily and sometimes go twice a day. When we see someone there that I don't know (or who I haven't seen in a while and whose name I forget), I almost always introduce myself and Lucas. This is especially true if they have younger kids because I so keenly remember being a new mom and feeling like I didn't know a soul while everyone else was already best of friends.

In fact, I must do this so regularly that Lucas actually notices if I don't introduce myself to others at the park. One day we were there and I was pushing Lucas on the baby swing (he still begs to swing in it even though he barely fits!). Next to us were three kids who looked like they were about 13. I said hello but didn't introduce myself or Lucas. He was very upset by this and kept saying to me, "Mama, talk to them." "Talk to them, Mama." I kept telling him that I did talk to them, I said hello. But, he kept insisting. Finally, I realized he wanted me to introduce us both and so I did. He got a big grin and cheerfully said hello.

Original post by Smiling Mama. Thanks for reading!