June 27, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners part 2

I finally followed through on my threat, and went to my first uh... assembly session? at Dream Dinners yesterday afternoon. Two weeks ago, I started an account online and signed up for the intro offer. I picked my appointment and showed up.

The young man who helped me showed me a tray to put my stuff in, the apron I'd wear, and the printout with my selected dinners. Then he mentioned I could enjoy a complimentary wine, beer, or soda. I was enjoying it already.

The setup is kind of like a salad bar, but you assemble ingredients into Ziploc baggies for either 3 or 6 portion sizes. There are several stations arranged in a big rectangle, one station for each dinner. I followed the posted directions, put my baggies in the big cooler where my name was already written, and washed my hands dutifully between assembling most dinners. One thing I like is being able to control ingredients and portions. Extra cheese? No problem. Less chili powder? I'm in control. Plus, there's nothing going into these dinners that I wouldn't put in there if I was making it from home. When I was done, I enjoyed a second glass of wine and ordered the next month's dinners.

The dinners are mostly entrees only, though some come with a side of fries. Examples are marinated chicken breasts, sliders, pasta dishes, and flank steak. Sides and desserts are extra, though reasonably priced. The pricing for the dinners is slightly more than fast food, far cheaper than dining out. As I was selecting my next appointment, the employee noted that I could choose a date where they would assemble my dinners ahead of time for me. The price for that service is a mere $20. But I'm most interested in what I'm saving -- hours of shopping, chopping, marinating, and cleaning (and how much is that time worth?). What I'm gaining is more time to spend with my family on weeknights and less resulting stress.

I had only one question: "Can I still enjoy a glass of wine?"
"Absolutely!" was his reply. Apparently they have several customers who do just that.
I'll definitely be back.

June 26, 2014

3 lessons learned on our first toddler road trip

Sunday we drove to Glenwood Springs -- a mountain town about 2.5 hours away -- to wet our feet in the wonderful world of road tripping with a toddler. I'm sorry, did that sound sarcastic? It's not. Entirely.

This was a test. A test of our ability to get away for a weekend as a family. A test to see how the boy would do in a longer car trip. A warm-up to a much longer car trip coming in August.

The result? Not bad. Plenty of good things. And enough lessons learned to make the next one easier. After all, it was only one night and even if we didn't get 5 minutes of sleep it wouldn't take a week to recover. By the time we got home, we felt closer and more competent as a family. Like, Okay, we can do this!

The drive out was pretty non-eventful. After 1.5 hours of driving (and after the boy napped a little), we stopped for gas and food, and took this to a nearby playground so he could work out some energy. Unfortunately, this was cut short by a lightning storm, so we finished our fries in the car on the way to the hotel.

Once we were checked in, we headed to the indoor pool for recreation. After that, it was showers and relaxing in the room followed by our search for dinner downtown. We found a casual place with a 15-minute wait. I waited with the boy outside so he could run around. But by the time our table was almost ready, we decided it was too raucus and noisy (most were watching the big soccer game) so we walked down to another quieter establishment. The boy was still bursting with toddler energy, so despite the fact that we got seated right away, we decided this place was too quiet for us. What was just right? Getting pizza to go and eating in the hotel room.
  • Toddler road trip lesson #1: if your kid has been in the car for half a day or at least 2 hours, assume you will not be able to sit in a restaurant for dinner.
Our next challenge was getting our son to sleep in a queen bed surrounded by pillows. Until then, he'd never been in anything but a crib or toddler bed, so I was um... panicky skeptical. But I took DH's lead and we followed through with it. Did he fall asleep? Yes -- after an hour of tuck-in time and negotiation and drinks of water until he was too tired to fight it. Did he wake up? Yes. About 1 a.m., DH went into his room and decided to sleep with him so he'd settle down. I dozed in and out until I couldn't take the encroaching daylight at 6:00. The boy got up at nearly 7:00, and DH had the gall to sleep another half hour.
  • Toddler road trip lesson #2: assume it will take you at least one hour to put your kid to bed after a day on the road, because it will not be the same as his bed at home. And don't plan on him staying there.
Despite our poor night's sleep, we were all in a good mood. We ate breakfast in the lobby, then walked around outside so the boy could watch some construction workers and a garbage truck worker. There is no better entertainment! After we checked out, we headed to another playground to give our son plenty of time to get himself worn out before the trip home.

He did reasonably well on the trip home, but for some reason I had neglected to pack any toys for him - just a couple stuffed toys and his favorite blankie. So I bought him a Matchbox food truck at the grocery store before we headed out. Worked like a charm for only 99 cents. We even stopped for ice cream about 30 minutes from home, which was a fun diversion and his first experience with an ice cream cone. That was a sweet moment!
  • Toddler road trip lesson #3: toys. Just bring 'em.
I don't plan on bringing a ton of toys on the next trip, but I will remember the rules of airplane flying with toddlers: new toys, new books, old favorites, and room for more.

June 25, 2014

can children see angels? i sure think so

A few days ago, my son and I were in the master bedroom in the afternoon. He looks over in one corner and says “Hi Daddy! Hi…” I looked at him, looked at the corner, and said “Do you see Daddy? Do you see a man that looks like Daddy?” He said “Yeah” while still gazing in the corner and kind of smiling. I said, “Do you see an angel?” He didn’t respond, just stared into the corner. I wasn't freaked out or anything; in fact, I felt perfectly calm and just smiled.

Got chills?


I'm still reeling from yesterday's report of the toddler who died after being left alone in a cabin for 90 hours. I would like to think that he was in the company of angels in those last hours, and that he was welcomed home early with cheers of joy rather than surviving the hell of an abusive/neglectful parent.

My best friend, knowing that I don't quite understand the depth of my own emotions in this, offered me very good advice: "You are gonna feel towards things you never thought you would before…that is sad. I’m sorry you came across that article. I don’t understand some mental illnesses…but unfortunately it’s part of life... that baby is in heaven with Jesus now…no need to be sorry…think of what his life could have been with that mother had he lived."

Matthew 18:10(NIV) 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

June 24, 2014

i will never understand neglect that ends in death

Someone help me understand how a parent can repeatedly leave a 3 year old child alone for hours -- or days -- at a time. I shouldn't have read the story, but I felt compelled. And I can't stop crying. I know, it happens. It keeps happening. Too often. Drugs? Dementia? Desperation? Delusions? Sometimes I hate this broken, heavy world.

Damnit. Just damnit.

June 21, 2014

what's for dinner - dream dinners

I'm not sure why I've procrastinated for so long. I mean, maybe it's pride. Maybe it's because a box or frozen dinner is cheaper. Maybe I just keep forgetting. But after two solid years of ripping my hair out trying to enjoy cooking when I'm also trying to enjoy my family in the workday evenings, I'm going to give Dream Dinners a try. I just signed up.

Dream Dinners knows my pain. The pain of a working mom who wants to eat real food without the hassle, drama and expense of going out (or the nasty alternative of fast food). The pain of juggling the demands of a working parent who also needs to eat every day and wants to see their kid for more than 5 minutes of said day. Geez, if only we didn't need to eat every day!

It looks like they have locations around the country, and the few friends I know who've tried them practically swear by them for convenience, price, and healthy options. I literally have nothing to lose (I already waste money at the grocery store buying items that I later forget what I was going to use them for -- pathetic, I know!).

Of course, this will only cover three or so meals per week. But I think I can make the rest of it work. Surely.

Here goes nothing.

June 18, 2014

audiobooks for long commutes

Since my commute is so long (30-40 min each way), and because as a working mom I have precious little time for reading books but love learning, listening to audiobooks seems the best way to get in some more reading time.

Total number of books I've listened to so far? 0. Until now.

A few days ago I started listening to the audiobook version of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins. Our pastor cited it a couple months ago, and stated that there is room in some people’s worldview for both creation and evolution. I had intended to read it since then, since I’d like to learn more about the integration of faith and modern scientific discoveries about the universe -- particularly from the perspective of a former atheist.

The book is fascinating. It makes me want to delve deeper into science. I remembered recently that, despite the fact that I'd been kicked out of high school no fewer than three times for lack of attendance and my senior year was defined by an extra-heavy load of day and night classes in order to graduate with my class, astronomy was actually my favorite subject. It was my only B in an ocean of Cs and Ds.

This morning, as I was listening to the fourth chapter which deals with quantum physics, I was reminded of one truth about myself: I have never felt so alive as when I am learning. Case in point: several years ago I attended a six-week lecture course on basic human anatomy and disease at the local natural history museum -- a fun course designed for high school and college students (or anyone else) who wanted a brief overview before making a decision about medical school. Why? Three reasons: I was curious, it was free, and I had time on my hands. I also love being around smart people and gleaning insight from their knowledge.

Sometimes I wish I'd pursued a science career (not med school though -- I like research more than taking care of others). Why pursue such knowledge now? I don't know. No reason not to. I think I will get old when I decide there is nothing worth learning about anymore.

Maybe there’s a good reason I currently work for an aerospace company?

June 17, 2014

potty training fail and random success

Last week I talked about the top 5 signs my son is ready for potty training, and I geared up by reading a highly-rated and seriously detailed book. I honestly thought training the trainer was the way to go. Then reality slapped me back to the ground.

I had the book and the potty training doll and the treats. Then I forgot my precious book at work. In a panic, I downloaded it on Kindle Saturday morning (training day). Then my mind started flooding with endless questions: In what order do I perform all the steps? Do I warn him that we’re starting the half-day marathon called potty training? What if he doesn’t do anything – do I still reward him? What if there are interruptions, or he just keeps asking for treats? My mind was reeling.

By mid-morning I called it quits. Yep, I chickened out of potty training. I felt ill-prepared to take on this momentous task. Monday morning I polled my friends to see what method worked best. And you know what? Most of them had an unorganized, downright lackadaisical way of going about the whole thing. I began to wonder if it was possible that I was overthinking this. Who, me? The one who analyzes processes like a chef hunting down the Perfect Recipe?

Based on my friends’ input, I decided there was one small step I could take: I would begin with one small ritual with rewards. So last night, I excitedly told my son that we would start learning how to use the potty before bathtime. If he went, he could get a special potty treat as a reward. He sat on there for maybe 10 seconds before deciding he needed that treat. My reaction? “Oh well, that’s okay. We’ll try again next time. Let’s take a bath.” I didn’t give him the treat, which he wasn’t happy about, but we moved on.

This morning as I was in the bathroom putting on makeup, he came in and I asked if he’d like to use the potty. He said “Yeah.” I took him through the steps of pulling down his shorts, helped him get into position, and reminded him to point his thingy down so that when pee comes out it will go straight into the toilet (no guard on this seat).

What did he do? He farted. Ha! He looked up at me in surprise, and I exclaimed “Good job! Mommy’s so proud of you.” He decided he was done, and we moved on. There was no mention of a treat.

When I dropped him off at daycare, I mentioned how ready he is and they said that no, he hasn’t gone there yet either. Not 10 minutes later, one of the teachers called me to announce that he pulled off his shorts, marched right into the bathroom, and peed in the toilet. I told her it was okay to give him a gummy bear as a special potty treat.

Can I just tell you how much that made my day?!

I know, this is just the beginning. And complete success could be months away. One small step for (little) man…

So, for now, I think I’ll take my hands off the reins and follow his lead a bit more. I will encourage and praise him for every tiny effort. Maybe, like a fellow mommy blogger, I’ll just say no to potty training.

random thoughts: accept each other to love one another

I have come to understand that it is easier to accept people the way they are when I accept the fact that it's not up to me to change them. That, in turn, makes it easier to love people right where they are.

June 12, 2014

toddler tip - t shirt as pajamas

My son's been pretty cranky about getting dressed for school (or anything else) lately. I decided this week that, especially since he doesn't have many short sleeved pajama shirts, I just put him in tomorrow's t shirt to sleep in. I'd do it with the shorts too, if it weren't for the diaper thing.

One less battle.

June 11, 2014

recovering from family visits and why my husband is father of the year

My MIL stayed with us for two weeks. It was a good visit. We spent time together, she had plenty of quality time with the boy, and we didn't get too worked up over anything. The boy was thrilled to haver her around -- enough so that, toward the end, his sleeping habits became erratic. It would take over an hour of taking him back to bed and getting him to settle down, long after the bedtime stories and lullabies and tuck-in had happened. Naptime started to get just as hard. It ruffled my feathers to say the least.

Once she went back home, it still took a couple days to get back to normal. I think we’ve now recovered from my MIL’s visit. Bedtime is still kind of a battle, but at least he’s going down the first time instead of continually getting up.

Last night I just about blew my top – he didn’t want a bath, wouldn’t let me help him put on his nighttime diaper or jammies, refused tooth brushing completely by screaming at me… I finally yelled "That's it! You're in time out!!" and went into the other room where DH was standing. I walked past him and pounded my fists into the bed to let out some anger while our son continued to scream and cry in his room. It wasn’t a pretty scene. I was so frustrated I wanted to scream and cry myself.

Fortunately for all of us, DH took over. He went into the boy's room and shut the door. I went and sat on the couch with my head in my hands, feeling like an idiot for losing my temper. The boy continued to cry and scream for several minutes, but DH didn't give up. He stayed in there, rocking the boy in the rocking chair and just holding him until he finally settled down. Eventually the boy settled down enough that he let DH tuck him into bed -- something he has demanded exclusively from Mommy for the past two weeks -- and actually went to sleep.

And that is why my imperfect, ever-evolving, back-aching, long-suffering husband of 13 years (as of next week) is Father of the Year. This one's for you, honey.

June 9, 2014

top 5 signs my son is ready for potty training

Yesterday, DH and I decided that this coming Friday is Training Day. We (uh.. that really means me since he's working) are going to potty train the boy. Below is a list of the top 5 signs we know our toddler is ready for potty training.
  1. He wants to help me by being in the room, trying to wipe me with tissue way before I'm ready, and flushing the toilet for me. Hey, I'm not shy about letting him get to know the ropes.
  2. He plays with the integrated toilet seat and enjoys putting little bits of tissue in there, then flushing to watch it go down.
  3. He doesn't want me to change him when he's got a number 2, but then he wants to wipe himself as soon as I get started (I haven't given him the opportunity to play with the contents but I'm sure he would).
  4. He investigates the area with a finger.
  5. The other day, we put him in his room for naptime. According to the evidence, he apparently took off his diaper, peed in front of his bed, then went to sleep naked below the waist on his bed where we found him 2 hours later. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.
I bought a book with over 300 5-star reviews (Toilet Training in Less Than a Day) and am building a short shopping list:
  • A doll that wets
  • An extra stool for the downstairs bathroom
  • A second integrated toilet seat for the downstairs bathroom
  • A variety of tasty drinks, treats, and candies
  • Special stickers
  • Big-boy briefs
  • A special reward for mommy to be enjoyed at the end of the day
I'm totally intimidated. Isn't that silly? It's such a big milestone and I've heard so many stories that I assume it will be difficult and last months. I could be wrong. But I'm more afraid of missing this glaringly obvious window of opportunity. Lord help me. :)

June 5, 2014

remember who is in charge of your child

I just ran across a blog post talking about a mother's experience at a doctor's office, where she encountered a note saying that a doctor or nurse would spend 5 minutes talking to her child alone -- without any parent present. As she later found out, this time would not be to determine if the child has been abused. Oh no. This is to talk to the child about sex and drugs and offer free assistance like abortion counseling and condoms.


Not only this, but apparently in this glorious state, the 12-17 year old children have online access to their medical records which they can block from their parents.

Again. WTF?

I don't remember giving birth to a ward of the state. I'm pretty sure my son is his parents' responsibility and, while a few years ago this would barely have been a blip on my radar, you can bet this mama bear will do everything in her power to keep parental authority where it should be, which is complete and intact.

I cannot tell you how much this angers and deeply disturbs me. I can only imagine what a bleeped-up society my son will encounter when he turns 12 in another decade. Until that happens, I better step up my game and keep tabs on what political people think they should control in my family's life. It's also a strong reminder of how and why it's so critical to continually build a strong, positive, and open connection with my son. You never know who might try to erode it.

June 3, 2014

random thoughts: sick again?

I can’t believe I just did this: shut my office door and laid down under my desk for about 10 minutes where I dozed off and on. I think I have a virus that my son passed on – he was sick from both ends for half a day Sunday. We thought he overate the day before because he was fine the rest of the day. Me? Not so much.

I need to go home.