Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankful

We were extremely blessed to find out last minute that we DID have a break for Thanksgiving. One significant enough to allow for a wonderful weekend trip to visit family in Idaho. We had such a great time, I completely didn't even worry about blogging anything. Now that we're safely home, however, I would be remiss not to record some feelings of gratitude.You've all tired of the "thankful lists"... but my posterity needs to see mine (at least, the abridged version). I am grateful for:

Our Savior, Jesus Christ
His Atonement
Our loving Heavenly Father
Prayer
Scriptures
Temples
Living Prophets
Freedom
The ones who sacrifice(d) so we could enjoy that freedom
Our Country
My Eternal Family
My Eternal Companion
My Healthy Baby
Time to be Together
Wonderful Friends
Color
Snow-capped Mountains
Emerald green trees
Autumn leaves
4 Seasons
Sparkling stream (Eric would like to add: and the fat Brookie hiding in it)
Education: Med School, Grad School, and new skills
Teaching Opportunities
Music and Singing
Delicious Food: especially ice cream, pasta, fresh garden produce, raspberries, hot soup with fresh crusty bread, etc, etc.
Nap Time
Opportunity
Indoor Plumbing
Central Heat/Air
Electricity
Dishwasher
Antiperspirant that WORKS
Warm Coats and gloves that don't have holes in the fingertips
Technology that Enables Fast Travel
Generosity of Others
A Comfortable Home

Monday, November 23, 2009

Family Photos

I suppose I should probably wait until after I've mailed Christmas cards this year before posting all these pictures... I'm giving away the element of surprise! Oh well. I can't wait to share them, so I guess you all can count your blessings for a sneak preview. (Plus, let's be honest, many of you who actually check my blog won't be the same ones who want a family photo).

Our good friend, Heather Christensen (this is an unabashed plug for Heather's amazing photography skills! If you want some great photos, she's got the power!), graciously took time out of her Saturday to take our family pics at Antrim Lake. They are amazing! See for yourself...We brought bread to feed the ducks... and Gwen thought it was for her. :)
Which one(s) were your favorites? I had the hardest time choosing for our Christmas cards...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I have a success story so I can divulge a secret!

I received a communication today. It said this:


"Congratulations! Your application for admission to the Humanities Master of Arts degree program has been approved. We are happy to welcome you and wish you the best in your future work."


That's right folks! It is official! I am going back to school for my Masters degree!
I will be studying through the
California State Dominguez Hills
distance learning program (HUX).
Why am I excited about this opportunity?
  • first of all, who ISN'T excited about studying art, music, literature, history, and philosophy? I LOVE the humanities!
  • short term goal: I'll be qualified to teach humanities and art history at a community college
  • the above goal is desirable for both fun/personal fulfillment and for preparedness. It was a harsh reality when I couldn't find ANY full time job 2 years ago despite my 2 majors and years of experience
  • distance learning means I'll be free to set my own hours, my own pace, my own homework schedule.
  • best part is that the coursework isn't online (though resources are if I need to contact anyone quickly). I won't be glued to a computer, with all the eye and back trouble that accompany it. I can sit in a comfortable chair and read.
  • I'll be working from home, around Gwen's nap schedule, with some Saturdays to spend in OSU's library on research.
  • I estimate only 10-12 hours a week for school work.
  • entire program is only 35 credits, about 2 years to a degree (not counting any time I end up taking off for baby #2)
  • The program is very flexible and family-oriented, so deferring or taking breaks for important events like babies or moving won't be a huge paperwork fiasco.
  • interesting coursework with fun classes on Mayan art history, female literature around the world, etc.
  • The program design gives a broad/general base in 5 distinct humanities fields (literature, philosophy, music, art, history) but allows for specific specialization in one or two as well.
  • I can emphasize 18 hours in Art History which more than doubles my chances of being hired as a professor at a community college post graduation
  • I can design some of my own credits/coursework to be Asian specific if I desire (which, of course, I do!)
  • the above bullet helps keep me "in the know" for my long term goal: after the kids are grown, get a PhD in Asian Art History or Asian Humanities with Korean emphasis
  • There are no tests. Every grade is based on essays and papers. Since writing is my strong point, this is a thrilling prospect!
  • entire tuition cost of program: 6,000 dollars! (not counting books or fees, of course) and my Education Grant after my service year in Americorps (at the YWCA) comes to 5,000 dollars... so really, we only have to dish out 500 dollars a year! :)
Well, that is it! Celebrate with me folks! Coursework begins in January!

ps. naturally, there is some apprehension. I will not have as much "free" time to do personal hobbies and projects. I'm sure there will be stressful days. I am trying to think positively, however, and view the blessings and opportunities as what they are: tender mercies from a loving Heavenly Father Who truly answers our prayers.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Sippy Cup Troubles

Can any one explain to me what the big deal is with a bottle versus a sippy cup? I know it can be bad for orthodontic purposes, but that won't really matter since she's going to lose these teeth anyway, right?VS.
Reason for asking: our wonderful pediatrician (whom I wholly trust and absolutely love) said she likes to see kids off bottles by 15 months. Well. Gwen knows how to use a sippy cup. She can. She is just stubborn. Doesn't want to. And she absolutely LOVES her bottle. But, I want to do as recommended.

So. Yesterday and today I've tried to only offer Gwen her sippy cup. She refuses it in the morning (she's just so thirsty when she wakes up that she will start to cry as soon as she sees the sippy coming towards her instead of a bottle) so I let her drink her fill from the bottle. I tried really hard to be tough for the rest of the day. Yesterday she only took a few sips (even though we were outside and I knew she was thirsty) and then would shake her head and push it away. She ended up taking only a 45 minute nap because she was thirsty and uncomfortable (and believe me-- I tried to put her back down to finish but she was through!) and then crying for almost an hour and a half once she woke up, refusing to be distracted by any toys or even favorite foods (I'm talking big alligator tears, hugging me while sobbing into my shoulder and pleading "uh-mah-mah-mah"...exactly how am I supposed to refuse that?)-- til I finally gave in and switched the sippy lid for a bottle lid. Then she was all smiles and chugged that milk right down.

Today I lasted til dinner, then gave in and again offered her the bottle because I knew she was thirsty and since she ate tons of green beans, mashed potatoes and barbeque pheasant-- I figured she sort of earned the bottle.

Okay. I know I need to be tough. If she knows that crying and refusing the sippy is eventually going to earn her the bottle, then she'll do that every time. Guaranteed. She's no dummy. However, I can't help but wonder if there aren't better methods out there.

  • Should we take the bottle away cold turkey? Force her to use the sippy or nothing else? If so, do I really need to do something that drastic NOW since she just barely turned 1 and 15 months is still almost 3 months away?
  • Should we wean her off slowly by only offering the bottle at certain times of day? (if so, when is best? How do I actually do that?)
  • Should we encourage greater proficiency with the sippy by putting delicious drinks ONLY in there like juice so that she will willingly choose the sippy cup over the bottle?

What have you done? What actually WORKS, folks?

and again, back to my original question, why is this a big deal anyway?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

1 year stats

Lil Miss Gwen had her 1 year appointment today! Here are her big girl stats:

Height: 30 inches (75th %tile)
Weight: 20 pounds (25th %tile)
Head: 18 inches (75th %tile)

She also got her immunizations and a flu shot today. Poor thing looked so shocked and betrayed when she got stuck with those needles. She cried and cried. I felt so bad. She didn't stop crying til we got home and gave her goldfish and her smart caterpillar to distract her.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wait, What?? She's 1?!?!?!

Can I believe she is truly an entire year old? No way. Where did the time go? Seriously? Is this what people mean when they say the years will fly by?
Can I believe that my daughter is no longer a baby? Well, she tries hard to convince me. She is one independent lil gal. That "I can do it myself, mom" streak runs big and bold right down the middle of every decision she makes! I present to you as evidence:
  • once she learned how to tip her bottle back to drink, she no longer lets me offer her milk, water, or juice. She will cry immediately until I put the bottle on the floor. Then she will practically dive to pick it up and drink.
  • She won't let me feed her anything either, but will only eat what she can pick up herself (I am pretty stubborn about feeding soup to her). And if she only wants to eat avocado, don't even think about trying to coax a little tortilla, corn, cheese, or whatever else into her mouth. She'll turn her head every which way to avoid you and cry like you really hurt her feelings.
  • If she is reading a book and I try to help her turn pages, she will tolerate it briefly, then will either push my hand away, turn sideways and push her body against mine to "box me out", pull the book away repeatedly, or lose interest completely and crawl away.
Only what she wants, only when she wants it, and only if she can get it herself.
We've got our very own lil independent woman. :) (oh man, just wait til the teenage years!)

Here's what we did to celebrate!
I wanted to try out a traditional Korean activity for celebrating a first birthday. All these objects were placed on the piano bench in front of Gwen. I held her and showed her each one, hoping to get her excited about all of her options. Then we took her across the room and let her go. Of course she bee lined it for the piano bench. The idea is that the first or second object that she grabs "foretells" her future. Not that I actually think it does, but sounds fun, right? So her options were:

The traditional ones:
  • bow&arrow (we used a box of ammo): the child will become a warrior or have a military career
  • needle and thread (we used yarn): the child will have a long life
  • jujube (fruit known as the Chinese date, so we used chopped dates): child will have many descendants
  • book, pencil, brush (we used a book): the child will be a successful scholar
  • ruler, needle, scissors (used bag of sewing accessories): child will be talented with her hands
  • knife (we substituted measuring cups and a bowl): the child will be a good cook
  • money or rice (we used money): the child will be wealthy
  • cakes or other foods (some raisins and goldfish crackers): the child will be a government official

and the Modern ones of our own invention we added for fun:
  • mini soccer ball: she'll be an athlete
  • piano: she'll be a musician
  • plant: she'll be an outdoorsy gal
  • computer mouse: she'll be technology-savvy
(We didn't add scriptures or any other religious things because we certainly hope that she will be strong in faith and testimony regardless of other passions she may choose in her life. Same goes for babies and motherhood.)

So do you want to know what she chose?....

wait for it...

drum roll...


oh, the anticipation is mounting....

she went straight for the soccer ball, next grabbed the measuring cups... and as an afterthought grabbed at the ammo box. Eric says that counts, even though it was 3rd. Apparently she will be warrior enough to fetch her own food for use with her culinary expertise and then work off the results with some athleticism! whew, what a gal!

We also had a delightful monkey cake (I was so excited to see if she would think it was just like a stuffed animal since I used some of my birthday money to purchase this mini stand up pan for this very occasion) which she very fastidiously smeared at first and then eventually got around to eating some. video
and opened so many presents! She loved it! (I, seriously, no joke, was getting quite anxious to open these myself! I was just so excited to see what she was going to get!) I thought she might be more interested in playing with the wrapping paper. She was so funny pulling it off in strips and then trying to get it off her fingertips! I loved the way she wouldn't even look at it as she 'flicked' it away-- already focused on her next move. Sort of with this "talk to the hand" attitude flair that only teenage girls and toddlers pull off so convincingly. (oh, funny side note: she wanted to hold her own cards. Kept taking them from us when we tried to read her the messages on them.)
From Uncle Justin and Aunt Amber: thanks for the thoughtful card!
From Grandma and Grandpa Allan: thanks for the adorable lady bug outfit, the much-needed warm pjs, and the fun books!
From Grandma and Grandpa Hart: thanks for the "smart" caterpillar, the fun dinnerware set, the camo dress, and the lovely black-white-pink dress!
From Mommy and Daddy: thanks for the stacking cups for making bath time fun
(boy our present is kinda lame compared to what everyone else gave her! :)


Happy Birthday, my darling little Gwen! I can't even express how much love and joy you have brought into my life. You are such a huge blessing from our Heavenly Father. I'm so grateful that you are ours for all eternity!



Saturday, November 7, 2009

20 pounds, Good Riddance! and Don't come back!

Losing weight after baby isn't as easy as people make it look sometimes. I honestly thought the pounds would just peel off since I planned to nurse Gwen. So many of my friends actually shrunk because their babies just sucked so much out of them. I thought this would be the case for me. You might be interested to know that by the time I decided I needed to be more aggressive in my weight loss efforts, it had already been 5 months since Gwen was born. I had only lost 10 pounds total in that time, and 7.7 of it was Gwen! That means the first 5 months of 'losing the baby weight' resulted in a dismal 2 1/2 lbs.
Well, at that point I began an active weight loss effort.
(April 15th marks the day I wrote about it here.).

and now...

I'm proud as can be to announce...

That's right, folks! I've finally succeeded in
losing 20 lbs

Sorry, no before and after pics. You'll have to take my word for it.

It took months and months (almost 7 if you start counting from April), slow work, lots of effort, TONS of self control (good thing I'm in charge of the groceries or it would have been even harder... Eric loves to snack! And I love to join him!), and P.A.T.I.E.N.C.E.! Thankfully, I've got a very supportive husband who encourages me daily and tells me I'm beautiful on those "fat" days that make me want to give up and understanding friends who don't get offended when I turn down their delicious desserts. I only count the pounds completely off if I can go 7 days on the scale without "relapsing" to that weight again. Well, today marks the 7th day! So to those 20 lbs I say:

"Good bye and Good Riddance!"

oh, and if you try to come back around these parts, you're really gonna be in trouble!

I'm feeling comfortable with myself again, and I'm thrilled about that! So where to go from here?

I'm still not where I want to be, but my goals are less firm in my mind. I just want to look and feel great. I'm not sure if I should set another weight goal or be more specific with a 'size' goal-- like jean size or something. After all, it isn't the weight itself that bothers me at this point, since I'm in the 'normal' range for my height again. It is the target areas and the lack of fitting into clothes that still gets me. I'd like to have more than 5 shirts other than t-shirts to wear. and I'd really like to get back into my old jeans* (though let's be honest: they are size 6s and it just might not happen. I'd be happy with an 8).

*I was pretty depressed a month ago when I finally went with my birthday money to try on some jeans (since it is getting cold and wearing capris just wasn't going to work much longer) and I couldn't fit into the 10s. For those of you that think that is laughable, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad. I realize there are plenty of gals out there who also wear a size 12 like me, so there is nothing wrong with that. But since I was a size 6... does that mean there is twice as much of me? Even after losing so much weight? I was feeling pretty down. Don't you hate spending money on something that only reminds you how you still have a ways to go in the weight loss department? Anyway, the jeans were only 10 dollars a pair, so it was worth it. But I still have hopes of getting into that 8 by Christmas... or maybe Valentine's Day is more realistic?

So what do you think? How do I set a specific measurable goal? It isn't like I can go try on jeans every Friday and see if I fit into the right size yet... I need something for daily accountability that I can see in order to keep me motivated. Should I just stick to weight and hope it affects everything? I could set an exercise goal that targets specific areas, but that won't tell me my progress or when I've 'arrived'. What have you done? Suggestions anyone? I've got to ride the momentum while I've got it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What do YOU do with Green Tomatoes?

Cold came early to Ohio this year. The garden subsequently met it's demise in the compost pile. Ever the "waste not want not" kind of person, I saved all the green tomatoes before trashing the plants. Now, what to do with all these unripe fruits? (that bowl is bigger than you think...)
Being from Arkansas, my Southern pride dictates that I immediately suggest Fried Green Tomatoes. However, since my waistline currently objects to such a proposal, I've been looking for ideas.

Our first endeavor: Salsa Verde with tomatoes instead of tomatillos
...sorta strange, but tolerable with salty enough chips...

Our next endeavor: enchiladas with green filling (not 'green enchiladas'-- that is different)
...a "gag"able dinner which Gwen absolutely refused to eat...

Our 3rd endeavor: baked green tomatoes with brown sugar and buttery club crackers (steadily becoming more and more unhealthy)
...good enough, better than the salsa, not something you would crave, but a fair use for excess green tomatoes...

and finally, because despite the scale's objections I couldn't NOT make some: Oven Fried green tomatoes (they are easier to keep from falling apart this way rather than pan-fried. Not one bit healthier, though!) are next on the menu!...

Don't even ask about my salvaging efforts with end of the season beet greens (not sweet and tasty like the spring variety)...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Gwen Playing Pics: Random


hey folks. Just had a ton of photos of Gwen that I didn't want to do individual posts about. Here ya go.








Seasonal Pics: Random

hey folks. Just had a ton of photos that I didn't want to do individual posts about. Here ya go.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Neighborhood Halloween Shin-dig with my first Tiered Cake!

Halloween decorations in preparation for festivities. Mostly I just wanted to document how awesome my spiderweb job was.
Last month I started brainstorming about Halloween cake decorating ideas. Such a fun holiday, I couldn't let the creative opportunity pass me by. I decided I wanted to try what is called a topsy-turvy cake or Mad Hatter cake. Tiered. Lots of cake. and I'm only 1.2 lbs away from my current short term weight goal, so there is no way I was going to eat all that cake. I knew Eric, as voracious a junk food consumer as he is, would need help to eat it all. So we decided to invite some neighbors for a lil get together. Perhaps that'a a lil backwards? Don't people normally decide to make a cake because they are throwing a party? Oh well. I digress. So. Just neighbors. Just cake. Just casual. No stress.
I spent the month "researching" how to do the cake, brainstorming ideas, and planning an "attack" on the various steps of the cake making so that it wouldn't become a stressful last minute deal. I got a lot done on Friday during Gwen's naps. That made Saturday's construction both relaxing and fun! I had a blast working on this project!

The cake had 4 "firsts" for me:
  1. first topsy turvy
  2. first tiered construction
  3. first fondant application
  4. first homemade fondant
I learned a ton and had a blast doing it! Don't be honest if you think it looks bad. But other than that, what do you guys think? I was pleased as pie! (or cake!) :)


If you'd like to see the online tutorials I used, follow these links:
how to make a topsy turvy cake
how to make and apply homemade marshmallow fondant (which is way tastier than regular kind)