Thursday, December 23, 2010

Welcome home!

After spending an enjoyable week in Atlanta with my family, we came home to a state that had just been hit by a huge blizzard. "Snowmageddon", "SnOMG", and "Snowpocalypse" were liberally sprinkled among the Facebook updates I saw while checking in on my phone at the airport. We weren't sure what to expect after touching down in the tundra, but braced ourselves for the worst.

Bracing didn't help.

One of Mark's good friends was kind enough to be our personal chauffeur again, so at least we didn't have to deal with airport parking. Mark was sure to jokingly point out that our car parked on his driveway during the blizzard was actually our favor to HIM, seeing as how it was that much less space to shovel. And when you're talking about an average of 2 feet of snow and drifts that were much higher, maybe he's right. Regardless, we appreciated his efforts but the luxury stopped when we dropped him off at his house and headed home. It was about 6:30 pm when we pulled up in front of our house. The sky was dark and the girls were cranky from all of the traveling, and were falling asleep because it was their bedtime. And our driveway was covered in 2 feet of snow, with a nice big drift right down the middle and an icy 3-foot bank at the bottom from the city plow.

We decided to leave the suitcases in the car and bring the girls in first. After getting them to sleep, we'd deal with the driveway and emptying the car. So we each picked up a kid and trudged through thigh-deep snow up to the house. What a sensation cold snow is on warm ankles when it sneaks in through jeans and socks! And what fun it is entering your house for the first time in a week to be met with the chirping of a dead smoke alarm battery and an empty fridge. Even better when you discover that you're out of 9v batteries, and the offending alarm is the one in your bedroom.

Long story short, we unbundled the girls and Mark handled bedtime alone while I handled the battery and driveway issues. Only this time when I went through the snow I was wearing boots. Quite an improvement for my feet and ankles, but the jeans still didn't cut it. I ran to the gas station to get a battery and then returned home to tackle the driveway, cursing as I trudged back up the driveway yet again.

At least we have a snowblower. We have a longer-than-average driveway which is compounded by the fact that it's L-shaped, so I think Mark had wanted one for a while. But I tipped the scale when I was stuck frantically shoveling myself out for work one morning while he was on a business trip in China. This was during the worst of my Rheumatoid Arthritis, so it was more than just a nuisance. And that memory helped to put things into perspective for me on this particular night. Yes, we had just spent the day in airports and on an airplane, traveling with two small children who are not fond of the pressure changes on the descent. And yes, this was an incredibly annoying time for all of these inconveniences to greet us. But I am in a completely different place now than the shoveling incident in 2005; I'm strong, healthy, and mostly free of chronic pain.

First I had to figure out how to turn the snowblower on.  Yes, I was starting from that point! Then when I realized that the snow was a good 6 inches higher than the blower, and it had a 2 inch crust of ice on top, I had to perfect my technique. And then when it took an hour to make a dent I had to ration my energy if I wanted to get the car into the garage and avoid a parking ticket. Oh, and I also had to refill the snowblower when it ran out of gas. Twice.

My body was bruised up by the time I was done, thanks to my having to throw myself against the snowblower just to get it through the snow. And I could barely push a cart at the grocery store the next day because my palms were so sore. It was not a fun experience, but it was a good one. I like feeling self-sufficient, and boy what an accomplishment that was for me.

How fortunate I am that this is my biggest complaint in a long time.

Eating with a toddler

Those with a weak stomach should not eat with a toddler.

This is what was going through my mind while eating breakfast with Claire this morning and, unfortunately, is a regularly occurring thought. I must admit that I love her enthusiasm and zeal for life in general, but especially for food - if anybody enjoys her food, it's Claire. And maybe we adults could learn something from her and her fellow experimenting peers.

One of her favorite things to do is mix things together. If she has a bowl of berries and a glass of milk, the berries are sure to wind up in the milk and her fingers are guaranteed to be covered in milk (as are the table, her chair, and her shirt.) That's not so bad - it's reminiscent of berries and cream, and milk is easy enough to clean up. A more borderline experiment is crackers and olives in her kombucha. But maybe the worst combination to date was this morning.

It started with an innocent glass of milk. She mastered drinking from a glass months, if not a year or two, ago. But she got a huge cheek-filling gulp and had to spit some back into the glass. It happened again so Mark said "watch mama drink from her glass, see how she does it." I slowly brought my glass to my lips and demonstrated a nice, slow sip for her. No drips, no filled cheeks. No spitting. I gently set my glass down on the table again.

"Oh, with ONE hand," she said in all seriousness. Yes, that was the takeaway; that all of her problems would be solved by using only one hand instead of two to hold her glass of milk. Way to nail that lesson, mom and dad!

She went on eating her breakfast of 2 eggs over easy with a piece of toast cut into little pieces so she can get the perfect egg/toast ratio on the fork each time. One of the next bites were apparently too big, so naturally she spit it out. Into her glass of milk. Mark started to say "OK, that's enough," when Claire proceeded to drink the milk, without spilling or filling her cheeks. She followed it up with an emphatic "Mmmm-Mmm!"

I was taking my supplements and had a mouth full of milk myself, and was trying not to laugh when she leaned over as if to tell me a secret. "I have toast in my milk!" And then she took another sip with closed eyes, as if to say "this is divine!" I would have taken and shared pictures of this, as I normally do, but won't for two reasons. 1. it looked pretty gross, and 2. I try not to encourage this sort of behavior and it's already hard enough to hide my smiles and laughter - whipping out the camera would almost certainly make her want do it bigger and better next time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Look what we did today!

And it only took all can see the way the light changes...

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My big girl. She just turned 3. Before the snow came, we went on a series of nature walks to collect leaves for crayon rubbings. She preferred these berries to the leaf project, and they became the perfect "food" to use in her play kitchen. They started shriveling after a few days, so we threw them out the back door for the birds. Whenever we park near one of these trees she is always quick to point the berries out. "Berries for the birds!" She shouts with excitement, even though I'm sitting right in front of her.
I love that whenever she can't open a jar or package in the kitchen, she goes straight to the utensil drawer to retrieve the little round rubber gripper thingy (what the heck are those called?) Even if it's a sealed plastic tub. She's also quick to get her little wooden toolbox whenever she hears the word "project."

I love how she's so inquisitive, and that she always likes to know where everybody is and what they're doing. I also love that she thinks the number 5 is one of the biggest numbers out there. When we asked her how old she thought our preteen mother's helper was, her eyes got big and in a dramatic voice she answered "five." Same thing when we asked her how old her daddy was turning this summer. But my favorite application of this number was when she asked me about something completely unrelated to age. Somebody was in the bathroom and she asked where they were, so I replied "he's going number 2." "No," she said with a know-it-all look, "he's going number 5."

It drives me nuts that one of her favorite games to play is the "I'm going to make you chase me around the house before I'll let you wipe my face" game, which means that more often than not she will have crumbs and/or peanut butter on her cheeks and chin. And these crumbs and smears usually show up in the photos I take of her. And as frustrating as this is to the perfectionist in me, I love that she's so happy and carefree; I love that she gets such joy from getting me to chase after her.

One day while "helping" me with a project, I was in a hurry and got annoyed by constantly tripping over her and the toys she was lining up on the floor around me. "Claire, go play!" I finally snapped at her. She looked at me, confused, and in an innocent voice replied "I AM playing, mommy!"

The student becomes the teacher...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dancing Queen

While checking out a clearance rack one day I found this adorable swimsuit - it seemed awfully cumbersome for swimming, but perfect for playing dress-up. Especially considering the $5 price tag.

Claire refused to even look at it when I first took it home and showed her, back when the weather was a gorgeous and steady 70 degrees. And now that the weather has dipped to the 40s and 50s she is suddenly interested in it. Of course. Oh well, I love her dance moves no matter the weather...

Three of my favorite fruits

A stowaway who made it from the field to the co-op to my refrigerator, and is now somewhere back outside but about 30 miles from home.

Guess who did this?

Yep, guilty as charged :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The fire truck just left...

Our city has some really great EMTs and policemen (which we know from our experience with the ambulance) and now we know that our city also has a great team at the fire department, too.

I was taking a bath before starting bedtime routine with the girls when I heard Mark call my name from downstairs. There was an urgency in his voice that I don't think I've ever heard before. "What's that smell?" He called. "You need to come out!"

I quickly wrapped a towel around myself and opened the door, and was met by a strong odor. Kind of like that plastic/metallic/chemical smell when you buy new electronics, only super strong. Whoah. "Where is that coming from?" I called to Mark, who was on his way up the stairs, trying to follow the scent with his nose.

"I don't know," he said as he shut Claire's bedroom door. "But it's not up here."

I threw on my clothes and joined him in the hunt for the source. We couldn't pinpoint it - our open floorplan had foiled us again! Equally worrisome was the buzzing noise we could hear, a little louder than the furnace, which was also on, and we finally pinpointed it to the wall near our thermostat. The wall was vibrating, and the smell was even stronger near it. It smelled like burnt plastic. "What is that?" Mark handed Arden to me and ran to the basement to check out the furnace, and I started buckling Arden into her carseat. "Do you think we should leave and call the electric company?" I called down to him, but he was already back upstairs by the vibrating wall again.

"It's the doorbell." He announced, grabbing a chair from the kitchen. After removing the cover from the doorbell box, he confirmed "definitely the doorbell. It's shorting out." I stepped outside and rang the bell (with a shoe! I was afraid of getting shocked. lol) and after quietly dinging, the buzzing stopped. Mark said that the little hammer had melted back.

Nervous about how safe it would be to head to bed without resolving this first, we called the fire department and asked if they could send somebody out to verify everything was ok. Mark reiterated that it wasn't an emergency, there was no fire or smoke, and requested no sirens or lights; the dispatcher said she'd make a note of it, but couldn't promise anything.

About 7 minutes later a uniformed cop arrived (standard procedure...lights, but no sound), and within another 2-3 minutes two uniformed firemen and a firewoman, along with a nicely dressed gentleman but I don't know what his role was. The woman used a special camera that displayed the heat inside the wall to make sure there wasn't anything else going on (there wasn't), and we explained what had happened to the mystery man. Turns out we have nothing to worry about, but we will need a new doorbell.

Whew! All of that for a measly doorbell?? But I'm so grateful we were awake to handle this before it turned into something more serious! And happy to know how quickly the fire department can make it out here.

Our neighbors must really wonder what goes on over here...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Marge's big day out

Inspired by these videos:
Marge and Claire 1 (1:08)
Marge and Claire 2 (:50)

Marge took a trip to Stillwater this afternoon
After waiting patiently to cross the street,
she stopped to gaze at the river for a while
but then a big gust of wind came and she fell onto the street. Don't worry, she's ok.
The rain has been so heavy that the sidewalks and stairs near the river are all flooded.
She took a rest by some interesting flowers

And then stopped for a yummy dinner at Domacin - she recommends the tenderloin with fingerling potatoes and asparagus, with one of the nebbiolos. The curried carrot soup is also delicious.
What a great way to wrap up the week!

It's that time of year again!

Cold and flu season has become synonymous with vaccine season (at least in the sense of heavy advertising...unfortunately, vaccine manufacturers and public agencies consider every season to be vaccine season.) Here's a letter I recently wrote and sent to the corporate offices of Lifetime Fitness. If you feel similarly motivated, I would encourage you to do the same thing - to Lifetime, or any other establishment that is promoting vaccines. Let me know if you need contact info.

I joined Lifetime Fitness because I was under the impression that it was a health club, a "healthy way of life company." Imagine my shock and dismay when I passed by the "flu fighters clinic" on the way to drop my kids off at the child center today. As I passed by again I stopped to ask one of the women at the table if they were administering only shots, or if Flu-Mist nasal spray was available as well. She confirmed that both were being given. I told her I was surprised by this, considering the fact that it's a live virus vaccine which can then be spread when recipients cough, sneeze, or breathe. She acknowledged this and shrugged her shoulders.

What is the normal physiological response when an irritant enters the nasal passages? A sneeze. It seems that a large facility filled with people, especially a gym atmosphere where people are exercising and breathing deeply, is not an ideal venue for this sort of risk.

I find it incredibly irresponsible of Lifetime clubs to not only promote flu shots and nasal spray, but also to offer the vaccines in the health club setting. It's not unlike secondhand smoke, in that my family and I could be harmed just by breathing in the vicinity of a Flu-Mist recipient; we pay for membership here and deserve a safe and truly healthy environment. Furthermore, allowing these "clinics" to take place on LTF premises insinuates endorsement by LTF.

Risks aside, efficacy ranges anywhere from 48% to 90% (, depending on whether scientists correctly guess which 3 strains will be in circulation the following year. Increasing the amount of toxins in your body impairs the immune system and actually causes you to become more susceptible to illness. I recommend looking up the ingredients in the influenza vaccines, and reassessing whether this is truly a healthy addition to your event schedule ( For more information regarding the risks, I recommend browsing the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) database. This is a government program run by the CDC and FDA to keep track of, and compensate victims of, vaccine reactions. (

This is a very controversial and political subject, one that Lifetime should not become involved in promoting. I am urging you to shut these clinics down immediately for the safety of your members, and the credibility of your establishment.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I would appreciate somebody following up with me as soon as possible.

(I didn't include this picture, but thought it was an appropriate addition to this post. Click to enlarge it - it's a good one)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pigtails and chocolate

While I was making lunch today, Claire came up to me and announced that she wanted some chocolate. She asked several times while I cut an onion, sliced some cheese, and layered them with tortillas in the cast iron skillet. And she asked again while we were eating our quesadillas for lunch. I distractedly kept telling her no, that after lunch it was time for nap and then she could have some chocolate. A few bites later and she asked yet again, so I decided to explain why.

"Honey, chocolate has caffeine in it...can you say caffeine?" She repeated it perfectly. "Caffeine makes it difficult to sleep, so we don't eat chocolate right before nap. But we can have some after you wake up!" She looked like she was digesting this information along with her food, and let the issue drop.

She took a great nap and I forgot about her request until we were back in the kitchen a few hours later, and she went running toward the cupboard that we keep chocolate in (when we have it). Pumping a fist in the air, she joyfully yelled "I WANT CAFFEINE! I WANT CAFFEINE!" So we enjoyed a few pieces of an organic chocolate bar together and all was well.

A few pics from our chocolate-enhanced afternoon...

I threw my hair into pigtails for my workout, so Claire requested the same for her hair. We couldn't find the other pink rubberband, so we went with one pink and one orange...and she actually kept them in for a while! Notice her entourage: Baby on the left (we recently named her Lucy) and Marge on the right.

A local school supply store is changing locations so everything was on sale; I got Claire a bunch of pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a few blank hard-cover books to color and write in. Later, when I was putting these items away, she got an urgent tone and said "hey, what are you doing with my lessons?!"

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Walk a mile in these

I'll admit it: I've been teased by multiple people about my gym shoes recently. Yes, they're a little ratty, but there's a reason I've been rockin' the Rykas for nearly 10 years. (Yes, the same pair for almost 10 years. You heard me right!)

They are THE most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, hands down. I've worn them for everything from running to weight lifting, a variety of martial arts to running errands and shopping (but not shopping for gym shoes...because why replace perfection?)

Over the years they've gotten a little dingy, and the soles have really worn down. It wasn't until I returned to them after taking a break after Arden's birth that I saw them with new eyes. Yikes. That is one worn out pair of shoes! I was a little embarrassed when I was lying on my new chiropractor's table and he took my shoes in his hands to compare the lengths of my legs. He probably thinks I'm homeless, I thought. "Uh, I know I need new shoes," I said with a little laugh.

"You know you're supposed to replace running shoes every year, right?" He asked me.

After that glorious adjustment I hopped on a treadmill to warm up for my workout; I was walking at a good pace when suddenly one foot felt odd. What is that, I wondered. I stepped onto the siderails and bent my knee to see the bottom of the offending shoe, and to my surprise (!) there was a large chunk of sole missing. I turned around to look behind me, and sure enough - there it was, lying on the ground. It had flown off of the treadmill. How embarrassing! I wondered how many people had seen, and felt like everybody was watching me pick it up.

So, the next day I wore my New Balance gym shoes. Oh, did I not mention that I have a nearly new pair of backup gym shoes? No? Oh, probably because they're the most UNcomfortable shoes ever made. Where the Rykas are soft yet supportive, the New Balances feel as if they're made of metal and molded for somebody else's foot. They press in some spots, and dig in others. My feet actually ached after wearing them for only 2 hours. If my lungs would allow it, I could probably run 50 miles in my Rykas and feel just fine. So that night I hopped online and found a new pair of Rykas. They arrived a few days later and straight out of the box they are just as comfortable as the first pair. I love them so much that I just might be able to throw the old pair away.

When I told Mark this great news, he casually asked, "why don't you save them for mowing the lawn, or something?" We both know full well that I have never mowed the lawn, and probably never will. But he has a point...there may be some outdoor project or a need for ratty shoes in the future, and I might as well be comfortable for this mystery project! So they are resting peacefully on the shoe shelf in our closet. Thanks for your service, Pair Number 1; you should have some company in about a year.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pickl-It party

Have you ever wondered what 25 pounds of tomatoes, 3 pounds of basil, and 10 pounds of beets look like? Wonder no more...

My good friend Susan told me about a great deal her CSA is having right now, and I just had to get in on it with her. So with plans to do some freezing and lacto-fermenting, we signed ourselves up for these insane amounts of produce.

This morning was our Pickl-It party, which is really just a fancy way of saying "hey, let's do this together so that maybe the kids will keep each other occupied long enough for us to make a dent in these huge quantities." The box of tomatoes and the bag of basil are all mine (Susan got her own) and we decided to split the beets between us.

Phase 1 of the plan is to peel and slice/grate the beets and throw them into Pickl-Its for yummy, lacto-fermented pickled beets - they're probiotic! Phase 2 is to process the basil with olive oil and freeze in small portions for quick pesto-making and sauce-seasoning all winter long. And finally, phase 3 of the plan is to core and freeze the tomatoes for use in stews and sauces this winter (because anything in a can is bad, but canned tomatoes are especially unhealthy due to their acidity which leeches even more BPA; jarred tomatoes are really expensive).

Were we insane to think we could plow through 10 pounds of the beets in 3 hours while the 2 toddlers and an almost-1-year-old played, and the baby slept? Maybe. Other than a few scuffles over tinker toys and blocks, and meeting the expected needs of the younger two, we did make some progress. We were able to wash and peel about half of the beets. Don't they look like rubies?

This is my hand - after scrubbing with soap, even.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me this afternoon...the food processor will get a nice workout. It's also a good thing we found a freezer on Craigslist - the basil and tomatoes will be nice and cozy with the 1/4 grass-fed cow and 25 gallons of raw milk we put in it last week. Dreaming of getting a food dehydrator now...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All she needs is a fairy wand

Maybe that will be our next mission at the craft store...

Friday, August 13, 2010

For the birds

We took another field trip to the craft store today, and this time Claire picked out a little wooden birdhouse. (She also picked out a pair of size 15 knitting needles, a knitting frame, a cupcake-making kit, and a bag of tootsie pops, but we only brought the birdhouse home.) It was the perfect painting project for us this afternoon.

Claire also made up her own version of hopscotch to play on the back patio

While I was putting the groceries away she stole a tomato, sprinkled pepper on it, and ate it like an apple

And this is what we saw in the backyard before heading up to bed

Thursday, August 12, 2010


A rare moment where Claire stood still long enough to have her picture taken (as soon as this was snapped, she dove back down onto the bed to snuggle Arden some more)

There's no such thing as Bedhead when your hair is this short (even if there were, who would notice it beyond a smile this bright?)

I love my girls :)

The windows needed washing, anyway

Today we stayed in our pajamas all day. Ok, we've done that a lot this summer, so today wasn't out of the ordinary in that regard. What set today apart was that we painted the windows.

A few days ago we took a field trip to a craft store because the cord cleat for Claire's bedroom blinds snapped in half, and it's been really irritating trying to wind the cord around a tiny little screw each morning. Of course, I can't visit a craft store without walking up and down every single aisle, and while we were doing this Claire happened to find the perfect tube of bright pink paint. It was just the size for her little 2.5 year old hand to grasp, and she was being so patient with my wandering that I told her we could get it. I hesitated at first upon noticing that it was window paint, but then I realized how fun it might be to paint on the windows...and I was right:

Tengo Bingo!

Cleanup wasn't too bad; it came off pretty easily with water and then I followed that up with vinegar to eliminate the water spots. The windows had been covered with sticky little hand prints so they needed a washing, anyway.

I have another project that's calling me back to the craft store tomorrow...I wonder what else we'll find while we're there?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Probiotic Pickles

After reading this post my mouth was watering for pickles. And not only are lacto-fermented pickles tasty, but they are loaded with health benefits.

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.” – Sally Fallon, co-author of Nourishing Traditions (Here is more interesting info if you're interested.)

While picking up groceries at the co-op last night I saw organic pickling cucumbers, so I grabbed some along with the spices called for in the recipe at the link above (so thankful for my new smart phone! It was easy finding this recipe while standing in the produce department.)

After getting the girls down for their afternoon nap I got to work. Maybe "work" isn't the right word, because it was actually super easy and fun - kind of a cross between making a cake from a boxed mix and playing Tetris. Seriously.

I had bought the 10 or so dry spices in bulk, so each was in its own little baggie and required dumping into a bowl (out of the 5+ cups it made, the recipe only calls for 2 Tbs per 4lbs of cukes.) In another bowl I mixed the salt and water together for the brine. And then after washing the pickling cucumbers and cutting up an onion came the fun part: packing them into the Pickl-It jars Tetris-style.

I had enough cucumbers to fill four 1.5 liter jars so I adjusted the rest of the recipe accordingly, and before I knew it the jars were filled.

"Really? That's it?" I thought to myself. "That was sure easy!"

Now for the most difficult part of this whole process...waiting until they're done :)