Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Review

2013 was a beautiful and heartbreaking year for my family. Here are 5 of my favorite moments, plus a few of our sad ones.

5. Making snow! In the two weeks following baby A's birth, it got bitterly cold. I mean, -35 cold. It was insane. But if you throw a pot of boiling water in the air in -35 weather, it turns to snow. So we made snow!

4. Seeing a baby polar bear play in the snow at the Alaska Zoo. While J's mom was helping us with baby A, a baby polar bear was orphaned and living at the Alaska Zoo until a permanent home could be found for him. It was amazing to get to share that experience.

3. Seeing my family meet my son. My Grams, who has been battling cancer, passed away just a few days after meeting him. Both my mom and J's mom were able to come up to Alaska to meet him, which is when we made some of my favorite memories.

2. Seeing my son grow and learn. In the last eleven months, he's gone from a helpless infant to a walking, babbling, dancing fountain of joy. It's amazing. We were so lucky to be able to both witness his first steps, his first words (dada and mama) and to simply be his parents. He's amazing.

1. Of course, this is a given. My favorite moment of 2013 is when I got to first hold my son. His arrival may have been traumatic, but he was worth it. He's forever altered my life and taught me so much already. 

The worst moments are obviously a downer. For these, there is no countdown. After finally getting through all the first holidays and birthdays without my dad, I had to go through them again, but this time without my Grams and my beloved friend and canine companion, Charlie. I'm so glad A got to spend three months with Charlie and meet my Grams, but going forward without them is so difficult. Baby A's first birthday is just around the corner, and I wish he would be able to remember them.

Baby A has given me such joy and so many things to look forward to. I can't wait to see what discoveries and adventures  2014 will bring us. Wht were your favorite moments of 2013? What are you most looking forward to in 2014? 

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Frozen Movie Review

Almost a week after it came out, we worked up the courage to go see Disney's newest animated feauture, Frozen, with a 10 month old baby. Since he has separation anxiety, we couldn't leave him with a sitter; since both J and I wanted to see the movie we opted to take the baby with us. We planned it around his naptime, and it worked like a charm. I went armed with his favorite snacks, just in case, but I needn't have worried. He was rapt during the previews, then started fussing as the movie was about to start. So I nursed him asleep and he napped in my arms the whole movie. We also went in the middle of a school day, so there would be the fewest other movie viewers disturbed if our plan went awry.

The movie itself was amazing. I loved it! I knew while I was watching it that this is one of those movies I'll buy and watch over and over again. J wasn't a fan of the songs, but I still liked them. There wasn't one perfect song, but I found each song enjoyable. I think the reason J wasn't as big a fan of the songs is because they were more Broadway-style and less Disney style. Typically in a Disney movie, the songs further the plot. Not all the songs in Frozen served that purpose. Sometimes a character would break into song as an emotional release or for their own entertainment.

One thing they nailed was the winter atmosphere. From the snow to the aurora, the animation perfectly portrayed winter. The snow was realistic in how it fell, how it looked, and how it would make the characters feel. The most impressive animation to me was the ice and the aurora. Whenever the aurora is portrayed in films or books, they often show it in summer. But the aurora is typically only visible in latitudes where the sun doesn't set during the summer; if the sun doesn't set, you can't see the aurora. But Frozen only showed the aurora in the winter scenes, and they showed it accurately. The didn't go crazy with the colors or make it dance too fast; part of what makes the aurora borealis beautiful is the slow ribbons of light, moving gently.

I love the plot as well; from the focus on sisters to learning to trust yourself. Kirsten Bell and Idina Menzel each did a wonderful job. I had no idea Veronica Mars could sing!

I absolutely loved it and can't wait for it to come out on bluray. I can't imagine how amazing the effects will look in HD after seeing how they looked on the big screen.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dog or baby?

Dog or Baby?

Though having dogs and children are vastly different experiences, I've often come across some similarities. In order to have a little fun, take this little quiz and try to determine which member of my family caused these problems: dog or baby?

  1. No eating shoes!

  2. Baby

  3. Leave the trash can alone!

  4. Baby

  5. Don't eat toilet paper!

  6. Baby

  7. Out of the kitchen!

  8. Baby

  9. No chewing on the furniture!

  10. Baby

  11. Don't destroy books!

  12. Baby

  13. Let ______ eat!

  14. Baby

  15. Don't destroy the tissue box!

  16. Baby

  17. Don't make that noise!

  18. Baby

  19. Don't get paper out of the trash!

  20. Baby

The ones that apply to both earned you a point for either answer. What did you get? Let me know in the comments!

Adventures in coffee making

Two years ago for Christmas, my husband bought be a beautiful, red coffeemaker. There were many reasons I loved it, including the red color that matches my pop-of-red themed kitchen. Since Baby A has arrived, and my sleep schedule has severely suffered due to his 'sleep is for the weak' mindset, and my coffee intake has increased. I used to just be a weekend coffee drinker, and instead am now a daily coffee drinker.

Sadly, two days ago, my beautiful red coffeemaker went to the big kitchen in the sky. Or, in this case, a landfill in Alaska. This left me with a fairly large problem of planning on moving and needing something I use daily replaced. Conundrum. We finally decided it would be better to just buy a cheap-o coffeemaker to tide us over until our move, rather than buy another nice one just to sell it in a couple of months. But that left me without a coffeemaker for two whole mornings.

Rather than be a menace to all who encounter me during these 48 hours, I decided to try two different methods of making coffee without my beloved brewer.

Day 1: Camping Hacks Method
I saw a random camping hacks article on Facebook that I read, despite my inexperience camping. I'm glad I did, since I needed one bit of information I gleaned from that article. The author recommended tying floss around a coffee filter filled with coffee, then steeping it in your cup of hot water like tea.

I did use floss, but forgot that I accidentally bought the short coffee filters last time, thus making tying the floss a little more difficult. Things I didn't take into account:
~coffee grounds absorb water more than tea, so you need more water than you might think.
~If you're used to moderate to strong coffee, this coffee may taste very weak. Especially if you're new to steeping.

Day 2: Release the tea maker
We have a tea maker that includes a basket for loose leaf tea, so I decided to try brewing coffee, in the filter, in that little basket. Since our tea maker is specifically for iced tea and therefore the pitcher can't handle extra-hot items, I put a glass bowl underneath to collect the coffee. After the weak coffee debacle of the prior day, I added extra water to circumvent the coffee grounds absorbtion. Sadly, I doomed my own coffee again. This time, I had too much water. My coffee is still too weak. Thankfully my husband is bringing home our replacement coffeemaker today, so my ventures into the world of coffeemakerless coffee are coming to an end.

I know this post is very first world problem-y. I'm incredibly blessed to have shelter and food, a home with a loving family. I mostly found my coffee-problem plight humorous, and I wanted to share my experiments in coffee. It's also a nice reminder to appreciate the little technologies that make our daily life just a little bit easier each day.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The anti-princess movement

Recently I saw this:

This makes me sad. Why must we, as adults, push anything on little girls? 

It's okay to pretend you're a Princess. It's okay to play with race cars, climb trees, read books, idolize historic figures, and look up to Disney princesses. Before you shove a 'we as a society' rant down my throat, you should realize you're trying to trade one perpetuated stereotype for another. Criminalizing princesses is just as bad as downplaying a woman's achievements due to a perceived societal stance on beauty. I happen to think Jane Goodall is beautiful as she is, thank you very much. 

'Princess' should not be a deragatory word. Do you know what I learned from Disney princesses?
~ I deserve respect, as an individual, and I should give respect to others (The Little Mermaid)
~ Reading is awesome, books are your friend, and anyone who says otherwise deserves to be insulted with vocabulary they can't comprehend (Beauty and the Beast)
~ Stand up for yourself and don't let anyone objectify you (Aladdin)
~ Working hard is a positive asset, and so is making sure your priorities are straight (The Princess and the Frog)
~ Have grace and respond with kindness, even when others are undeserving (Cinderella)
~ Be careful what you wish for (Brave)
~ Treat nature kindly (Pocahontas)
~ Don't let anyone discriminate against you because you're a woman (Mulan)
~ Sometimes tough love is necessary. (The Lion King)
~ Don't celebrate prematurely. It isn't over until it's over. (Sleeping Beauty)
~ Fierceness and compassion each have their time and place (Tangled)

I could go on, but I think my point is clear. Are there flaws with the princess mentality? Yes.  They are always thin, tall and elegant. But they also treat others kindly, follow their hearts, use their brains, have adventures and are open to discovering new things about themselves. Are there flaws with the anti-princess mentality? Yes. Both sides have to work together for the next generation of women to be able to enjoy being intellectual and beautiful-- these aren't all or nothing character traits. 

So why don't we stop critiquing girls for what they like, and just let them play and be imaginative? Let them be princess astronauts and race car drivers and whatever else they like. Let them be.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Reviews

Nothing like crisp air, warm apple cider and a roaring fire to make you want to curl up with a good book. Okay, every season makes me want to read. It's part of being a book addict; I'm constantly wanting to read. Unless, of course, I'm actually reading at the time. Hmm, no, wait. I still want to read while reading. I digress. I've read two exceptionally wonderful books lately that I'd like to share with you. 

First up, Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant. Absolutley excellent. It may be on of the loveliest, sweetest, most darling books I've ever read.

Though aimed at young readers (ages 9-12, roughly), it's characters and story lines are enjoyable at any age. It's tame enough to be read aloud to younger children, but engaging enough for adults. The characters are so interesting, so complex, that you become deeply invested in their fate. 
While leading separate lives, several characters become connected through one simple, magical occurrence. A fortune teller, a boy, a soldier, a police officer, a noble woman, a magician, a servant, another noble woman, a homeless man, a homeless man's dog, an orphan, a carver, and an elephant make up the cast, and they're just as varied and unique as they sound.
Above is just one of the many lovely illustrations that accompany the melodic prose. The primary themes focus on hope and family, with a dash of following your heart. It's a touching story, well written, and not one you'll soon forget.

The House Girl, by Tara Conklin, I happened upon at the library. It deals with heavy materials, stomach dropping tragedies, and weaves time together from pre-Civil War experiences to present.

It does start off a tad slow; I was much more concerned with the slave story line than the modern lawyer's for the first sixty pages or so. Then Conklin reeled me in like a fish, and I didn't want to put the book down. Only a book addict would stay up reading for two hours after both her baby and her husband went to bed. Though I was more tired for a few days, I didn't regret staying up to finish the book.

Conklin's debut novel is well-written, thoroughly researched (or so I assume, as it seems historically accurate and I didn't notice any contradictions). Portraying slavery and racism is always tricky, but Conklin executes it well. We see many unique characters that are not stereotyped, as well as the different issues of house slaves and field slaves. 

Conklin ties everything together nicely, but this is not an easy, happy read. The plights these characters face is not so different than slaves actually did face, and some moments can be hard to get through. We also see a glimpse of the Underground Railroad, and its operators. 

Overall, a good (if tough, emotionally) read.

I hope this helps your fall book hunt. My advice is to grab a book, snuggle under a blanket, and read away these grey days. Happy reading!

I'd love to hear what you've been reading in the comments section!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Spell Block Tango, Remixed

Recently I saw a video making it's way around the internets of Disney villains singing a Disney-fied version of Chicago's Cell Block Tango.

Um, yes please! I eagerly watched it and was thoroughly impressed by the singing, the costumes, make-up and overall production quality. The only thing I found to be lacking was the lyrics. Cruella killing Jasper and Horace? The Evil Queen hooking up with Doc? Ursula and Prince Eric? What Disney movies did they watch--if any?

You can see the original video here: 

In the spirit of Halloween and righting some wrongs, here are my lyrics to the Disney Spell Block Tango:

And now the six merry murderesses of the Captain Hook County Jail
In their rendition of 'The Spell Block Tango'

They had it coming, they had it coming
They only had themselves to blame
If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same


Dalmatians are all I wanted
A simple dog fur coat
I just love furs, I worship furs
Those little white rats are born spotless
Who knew? 

My henchmen failed me
My puppies escaped, ran away
I swear the rascals tried covering their tracks.

So I stole some dogs
Tried to skin them for coats
I just worship furs...

They had it coming, they had it coming
They only had themselves to blame
If you'd have been there, if you'd have heard it
I betcha you would have done the same

(Evil Queen)
I was the fairest in the land
For years and years
No one could hold a candle to me

Then one day my mirror says to me
"Snow White is the fairest"
What am I supposed to do?
Let it go? Lose? No, not me.
Stepdaughter or not, I'd remain
The fairest of them all.

So I hired an assassin
He failed; some things you just gotta do yourself.
I took a corset, a poisoned comb 
But the little wench wouldn't die
But an apple... So sweet.

She had it coming, she had it coming
She took a flower in its prime
And then she used it and she abused it
It was a murder but not a crime

I was fine, just fine
Then the royals treat me wrong?
Exclude me from the party?
I AM the party.

So I go anyway, gift in hand.
The ungrateful wretches don't want my gift
No more crying baby, and they just turn their noses up.
Those 'good' fairies may have changed my curse
But the spindle always turns.

If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same

(Queen of Hearts)
She comes into my land
Destroys my property
Steals my food
Spreads discourse among my people...

But did you do it?
Uh uh: not guilty 

The second brother
Never head of the pride;
Mufasa won it all
Girls, glory, son 

Then I'm 3rd in line for the throne?
I have a following
They want ME to rule

So I set it up. 
Two birds, one stone
And a nice little cover story too.

But one came back
Took me by surprise
But the hyenas, they think
I'm in charge.

Well, I was in such a state of shock
I couldn't stop the hyenas charging.

They had it coming, they had it coming
They had it coming all along
I didn't do it, but if I done it
How could you tell me that I was wrong?

They had it coming, they had it coming
They had it coming all along
I didn't do it, but if I done it
How could you tell me that I was wrong?

I had a contract
Legal and binding
Her voice for human legs
All she had to do was make a prince
Fall in love.

The tramp almost won. 
But she who holds the scroll 
Makes the rules.
Then they killed my pets.
Whose to say what I did next?

The dirty bum, bum, bum, bum, bum
The dirty bum, bum, bum, bum, bum

They had it comin', they had it comin'
They had it comin' all along
'Cause if they used us and they abused us
How could they tell us that we were wrong?

They had it coming, they had it coming
They only had themselves to blame
If you'd have been there, if you'd have seen it
I betcha you would have done the same.

There you have it. Less theatrics, but an obligingly correct story line. What Disney villain would you want to see singing the Cell Block Tango?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Not so scary Halloween

As a giant sissy, Halloween is a holiday of mixed emotions for me. Adorable costumes? Love. Plethora of scary movies? Not so much. Candy? Love. Teens with scary masks knocking on my door demanding food? Eek! I recently saw a poster for Chuckie during a midnight baby feeding; needless to say, my night was not restful. Here are 10 fun Halloween activities that won't give you nightmares!

10. Happy costumes: dress up just to have a dance party at home! No fake blood or scream masks allowed!

9. Dance party music: Pandora has a fun Halloween party station. The free streaming radio lets you thumbs up or down songs, then plays others that you'll like. Monster Mash, Thriller, Ghostbusters, Devil Went Down to Georgia and Mickey's Monster Mash are ones I've been giving the thumbs up to.

8. Trunk or treating: Church and school run events are well-lit, and there tend to be more young kids, meaning a smaller chance of scarier older-kid costumes.

7. Make a yummy snack: Pinterest is set to implode with the ridiculous amounts of adorable, kid friendly Halloween themed treats. Bumps on a log, anyone? My favorite is to pop some popcorn, then toss some candy corn in. Savory and sweet!

6. Throw a  sweet party: the best way to control the scariness level at a Halloween party is to throw one. Provide provisos outlawing anything too scary-- and make sure everyone knows what's too scary.

5. Hand out candy to cute kids! But beware: you have no filter to keep the scary ones away.

4. Watch a not so scary Halloween movie, such as Hocus Pocus; Ghostbusters; It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or Casper.

3. Watch the Halloween episodes of your favorite TV shows. You're familiar enough with the characters and plot arches that you'll know whether or not they'll veer too far towards frightful.

2. Carve a pumpkin. Nothing says Halloween like slimy pumpkin innards drying under your finger nails. But pumpkin carving is super fun, despite (or because of) the mess.

1. Read aloud a poem or story. For kids, this can be anything Halloween themed. For adults, the Raven or, really, anything by Edgar Allen Poe will do.

Halloween can be fun, even if you're a scaredy-cat like me. Have a happy and safe Halloween tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sister Dearest

You may think you have the best sister ever. You'd be wrong. Because I do! And she's turning 30 today! In order to properly celebrate her awesomeness, I'm going to share 30 things that make her the amazing woman she is. Here goes!

30. She's hilarious. Especially in elevators. It's not a story I can share publicly or I'd die mysteriously and probably  embarrassing way. Just trust me. She can do physical humor, and she's witty, and she's not afraid to laugh at herself.

29. She's beautiful, inside and out. I spent half my life praying I'd be half as pretty as my model sister. But once I hit a certain age, I discovered her outer beauty was enhanced by her inner beauty. 

29. She's super smart. High GPA, business school, successful business woman smart. Yet despite that...

28. She's so stinkin' gullible! Perhaps I Gould have been nice and said she's trusting, but honestly, her husband has tricked her into some gullible places. Se once spent a few minutes in a dark bathroom with a flashlight pressed to her ear because he told her the light would come out the other side. But, like my amazing sister, I also believe ridiculous things my husband tells me. Like how I could break my neck and kill myself by popping it. I spent a year not popping my neck in places where it would be dangerous (the car) or embarrassing (the shower) to die. Notice I didn't stop popping it completely.

27. She's sweet. Unless you have to share a bathroom for a decade. Then the claws come out.

26. She forgives you for the crazy bathroom fights you had as teenagers. 

25. She openly ridicules you as payment for the bathroom fights you had as teenagers, but only playfully.

24. She isn't afraid to try new things. Or if she is, she does it anyway. She tried trapeze when I was learning, even though it scared her a little. A few weeks ago, she sent me a photo of her trying aerial yoga. I was seriously impressed. And a little jealous, because it looked crazy fun.

23. She gets me in that unique way that only sisters can. She won't love me any less if I spend half a conversation complaining. And I don't love her any less when she does the same.

22. She LOVES her nephew deeply and truly from the day he was born, even though she didn't get to meet him until he was 5 months old.

21. We share a special sister connection. When we called to tell her I was in labor, she started crying out of excitement. She's the sweetest.

 20. She can weather any storm. In 2012, she lost our dad and both her cats died within a year. It was awful. But she made it.

19. She's faithful. Not in a Lassie way, but unto God. She's a woman of faith. She knows God is always leading her down the right path. 

18. She's courageous; she fearlessly goes where God leads her.

17. She isn't afraid to break the status quo. After graduating college, she bought a Nissan. Our family had been a Ford-only family for decades because our dad worked for Ford,but she wasn't afraid to step out. 

16. She has a potty mouth. No, really. The things she says make me blush for her. But she has a good heart.

15. She has a good heart. 

14. She's empathetic. She can always relate to my situation, such that she actually experiences it with me. When my Charlie died, she was at a destination wedding in Mexico. Not wanting to ruin it, I didn't call her. She called me, told me it counted as an emergency and really, I should've called. Then she cried with me. 

13. My son loves her so much he never even spit up on her!

12. She's very self-aware. She can spot weaknesses or flaws within her character and not only acknowledges them, but either embraces or alters them.

11. She's forgiving. Whether big or small, she's forgiven every trespass I've made.
It's amazing.

10.  She's brave. This is different than being courageous. Having courage is a character attribute. Being brave means stepping up, or down, to best suit the situation. 

9. She's always been my friend. We moved around a lot as kids, and she acclimated faster. But she always made time for me. 

8. She played with me, even though my toys were on a much younger level than she was. She's four years older than me, but she still played with a Barbie even though she was more interested in MTV.

7. She didn't kill me when I loudly spoke on the bus about the boy she liked. Volume control wasn't my strong suit in elementary school.

6.  She helped my parents play Santa to make it even more special for me.

5. She's strong. In both the business world and her personal world, she can be formidable. 

4. She's resilient. She knows God would never give her something she couldn't handle, and nothing has ever broken her.

3. She didn't drown me, even though we had a swimming pool and I gave her a myriad of motives (I could be very, very annoying as a child).

2. She kept my secrets, and I've kept here (despite having this very public forum to tempt me :) ).

1. She's my sister. I'll always be thankful God placed her in my life, to help lead and shape me. With one parent traveling every week, she stepped up to help out. She's a huge part of who I am. Our closeness may have ebbed and flowed over time, but we always make up for it. She's amazing and wonderful and I wish you could all be her friend. She's magnificent, and I'm so blessed to get to share a lineage and a lifetime with her.

Happy birthday, big Sis. You are truly the best. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

10 new mama observations

As someone who had very near zero experience with babies before having one myself, everything baby related is new to me. Diaper genie? Is that some sort of system that changes your baby's diaper for you? Because that would be awesome, and I would actually pay for it. Wipe warmers, strollers, and diapers are all new to me, and I'm finding quite a few laugh worthy moments in my limited time as a parent thus far. For instance, my 7 month old just whined, then simultaneously sneezed and tooted, laughed, and did it again. I didn't even know that was physically possible. There are also differences within myself that are quite unexpected. Here are my Top 10 new parenting observations.

10. I'm not sure when, but I'm fairly certain ninjas are breaking into my home and training my baby in their ancient sneaky ways. Why do I think this, you ask? How else could a little baby know the exact way to pull my hair such that it hurts the worst? Or act all snugly, make me let down my guard, and then kick in the most painful way possible, as though trying to lacerate me with his razor-sharp toenails? Also, how do you cut a baby's toenails?! When he's sleeping, he's in footed pajamas, making his toes inaccessible. When he's awake, his feet are CONSTANTLY moving. Ceaselessly. It's amazing, really. I bet we could generate electricity with those little kickers.

9. Have you ever noticed the things it's okay to do to babies while they're asleep that would be so incredibly creepy to do to adults? I can only cut Little Bear's fingernails when he's asleep. But the thought of someone cutting my nails while I'm asleep is deeply disturbing.

8. While on the topic of disturbing, has no one ever noticed the frightening connection between babies and zombies? Think about it. Both move slowly and can't quite control their bodies, but are also frightening. Babies are frightening because they're constantly trying to commit suicide. Once they can crawl, as soon as you place them on a bed, they crawl to the edge and try to hurl themselves off of it. Or they find tiny things you didn't know existed and try to choke on them. And all that hair pulling-- is he trying to get to my brain? Is my baby a ninja zombie?!

7. Throughout my childhood, and adulthood, now that I think of it, my mom has gotten this nervous look on her face and pulled me back whenever I neared the rail on a balcony. Until Little Bear's arrival, I never understood this. Now I do-- it's basic psychology. For years, my sister and I engaged in typical baby behavior; by that, I mean trying to throw ourselves off surfaces. We each succeeded; she fell out of a second story window and I rocked my carseat so it flipped me off of a dining table. We each survived unscathed, but we inadvertently conditioned our parents to keep us away from elevated edges.

6. Since my baby's arrival, a 6th sense has arrived. Not mine; his. I've had one for years; I have an uncanny ability to know when a baked good is done, even before the timer goes off. But my son knows when I've just snuggled under the covers  and decides I must need to be awoken. It's almost always when I'm right on the verge of sleep, and so comfy that he's the only thing I'd move for.

5. Now that my baby is a speed crawler and trying to destroy my house. In order to circumvent this, I've invented my own baby alarm system. He must be slightly claustrophobic, because he doesn't like the pack-and-play or just hangin out in his crib. So I fashioned a baby alarm system. I place toys that make music in a circle around the baby, so you'll know when he moves because he has to move the musical toy to get to the item he wants to break.

4. There's a National Geographic special available on Netflix Instant called Most Amazing Animal Moments. It's very inappropriately named; a more fitting title would have been baby animal murder. I watched about 15 minutes before seeig too many cute, non-predatory baby animals killed. Now that I'm a parent, my once-normal empathy levels have soared into excess. I can't watch a baby of any species die without actually shedding tears as I think about the poor mother. 

3. I'm finally finishing The Giver series, and the last book is entitled Son. I was worried it would be a doozie since I have a son and the plot centers around a mother separated from her son, and I was right. I even did something highly uncharacteristic: I looked ahead. If a certain outcome that I expected didn't occur, I was actually going to stop reading the book. Before Little Bear came along, I wouldn't have done that. But my elevated empathy levels have shaken me to my core.

2. Even before becoming pregnant, mothers shared their wisdom with me. Some of it was helpful, some of it was not. Because each child is different, the same approach may not work on everyone. I always at least listen for the grain of truth, and have found that friends give much better advice than strangers. Every mother is different as well; a stranger once told me that once you have kids, it's much easier when a pet dies. There is no grain of truth in that for me. Obviously losing my son would destroy my heart, but they aren't comparable losses. Losing Charlie is a lifelong sorrow. It's been six months since he died, and I still yearn to hug that fluffy mane daily. I'm finally not crying daily, but I'm still crying. I miss him every day, think of him every day, and speak of him every day. He was constant companion for a decade, preparing me for motherhood by teaching me how to love selflessly. My son was a source of joy during the dark days immediately following my beloved dog's death, but the pain of losing Charlie was not diminished simply because I had a son now.

1. Every day is new and exciting. This has never been truer. Before Little Bear, I was never so aware of change and advancement. Now I see changes in all of us: Nala's patience has increased day by day, Layla's remarkable tolerance is tested, J's innovative playing changes, my love for my whole family grows, somehow, daily. But most of all, Little Bear changes every day. He learns to pull himself up, or makes a new sound, or alternates crawling and using furniture to practice waking (at less than 9 months!) to get to whatever his little heart desires. While he discovers his world, I see it in a whole new light along with him. 

Mischief? Me? No!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Post traumatic baby disorder

Please note that I am not making light of PTSD; I'm merely using the most well-known and appropriate comparison to illustrate my point.

I've noticed a peculiar shift since little bear's arrival. For one, little things can make me completely tense and freeze as though blinking might make a difference. Another occurrence is the ball of anxiety that now lives in my throat.

Our baby monitor has this handy feature so that you aren't constantly hearing white noise: it simply clicks on when it detects a sound. When little bear is napping or asleep at night and the baby monitor clicks on, I freeze and become as stif as a statue. I hold my breath, not daring to even blink. When it clicks back off without any crying, mostly because it picked up the instrumental music we play  while he's sleeping, I find my heartbeat is so accelerated I must be burning calories while standing still. Before you get jealous, imagine having an elevated heartbeat and tense body at 3 a.m., when you've been peacefully sleeping, and now you can't fall back asleep. 

Other times, I'll be getting ready for bed or prepping for the next day when I swear I hear him crying. I watch the monitor, waiting for the lights to flash as they do when it detects sound, fearing that if I blink he'll wake up. But it's all in my head-- he's silent, sound asleep (for the time being), and my fears are manifesting into phantom baby noises.

Now on to that rubber ball of anxiety that has taken up residence in my throat. As a laid-back person, I never thought I'd be one of those people who check on their baby three times before they can go to sleep. But now I find myself tip-toeing into his room, peering at the crib, and even once putting my hand on his back because it was too dark to see the steady rise and fall of his chest. I hear stories of terrible things happening to other families, car accidents and SIDS and horrors galore. Immediately I place my family in that situation, and I'm absolutely heartbroken. I've always been empathetic, but now I'm too much so to even read the newspaper. 

It isn't just tragedies that strike fear in my heart. Often J and little bear will be playing, and my mind knows that everything is fine, little one is giggling as J  tosses him a little in the air. But I gasp. Audibly. I know if it wasn't safe, J wouldn't do it. I know if little bear was scared of felt endangered, he'd cry. Yet still my heart stops and I see every which way it could go wrong.

This is a side of parenting I wasn't warned about. Even the most innocuous occurrences seem fraught with danger. I worry incessantly, and if it were an Olympic sport I would surely take the gold. But it's a hindrance, and one I'm working to overcome. Yes, the world can be a dangerous and scary place. But I'm an adventurous spirit, and I refuse to let fear rule. I'll still probably gasp too often, but that's OK. Now if only the baby monitor would let me get some sleep.

Friday, August 16, 2013

10 signs you're a Disney kid

We may have all grown up with Disney, but it sticks with us more than we know sometimes. Here are 10 signs you're a Disney kid.

10. When you hear James Earl Jones' voice, your first thought is "Mufasa".

9. Every mermaid reference brings Ariel to mind.

8.  The mere mention of necessities brings to mind a certain tune from "The Jungle Book".

7. If someone suggests you're in danger, you're automatic response is, "Danger? Ha. I laugh in the face of danger. Hahaha!" Then you find yourself scurrying away from angry hyenas. Okay, maybe not the second part.

6. "Part of your world" is still your go-to shower song.

5. When you have a tough decision to make, Pocahontas' song comes to mind, "Do I choose the smoothest course, steady as the beating drum... Or do you still wait for me, dream giver? Just around the river bend..."

4. You often remind your friends they haven't ever had a friend like you, a la the Genie in Aladdin.

3. After an especially good dream, you smile and hum Cinderella's "A dream is a wish your heart makes."

2. Reading makes everything better-- just ask Belle. Reading with the Beast is part of their falling in love sequence.

1. You sing (Disney songs, of course) while you work, just like Rapunzel, Snow White, Giselle, and Cinderella.

There you have it-- proof you're a Disney kid! What do you think sets you apart as a child of Disney's renaissance?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

National make it stop day

Remember the good old days, when stores would annoy you by putting the next season's merchandise out way too early? Back to school would come out in July, Halloween in August and Christmas in September? I'd take that over the latest trend of having every single day be national something day.

For instance, today is national s'mores day. Yesterday was book lovers day. I've also seen sisters day, cousins day, ice cream day, Star Wars day. One day the Internet mistakenly had it be 2 different national days of something on the same day-- the horror!

But really, it has to stop. Can we stop obsessing over every day standing for something? Can today just be Saturday, and if I happen to make s'mores, that's great? Do I have to see every restaurant post a different s'mores recipe? Can I just enjoy a book because I love reading, and not because some random person decided to arbitrarily declare it book lover's day?!

This is really just a plea to stop finding an odd reason to celebrate. If you want to celebrate, why do you need a reason? Do we really need a whole day set aside to celebrate ice cream? Can't we just enjoy a nice ice cream cone just because we feel like it?

By the way, I love my sister. But I don't need a national day to tell her so, because I make sure she already knows. So arbitrary celebratory day deciders,take a break. Maybe tomorrow is even national take a break day. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

No-watch list

It's been 4 months since my Charlie passed away, and I'm still missing him and grieving. Typically when life turns dark, I pop in a Disney movie for a bit of encouragement. But losing Charlie means many Disney films are off limits, for various reasons. Here are the movies I can't watch:

- The Lion King: Charlie was so lion-like because of Simba and the gang. Watching it without him just seems wrong.

- Bolt: The touching story of a girl and her dog, who become separated and go to great lengths to reunite with one another. Charlie and I had that same kind of relationship, so watching Bolt find his girl just serves to remind me that I'm currently a girl without her dog. Side note: we still have two amazing dogs that I love dearly. But my relationship with them is different than my relationship was with Charlie. I cherish them and am so thankful to have them, yet watching them pick up his habits and duties is bittersweet. Layla has started laying in his preferred spots while Nala has started comforting us when we're upset.

- Homeward Bound: Much like Bolt, this follows three pets who leave their pet sitter to find their family. One of the dogs is older, and his kid fears he's too old to make the journey. The ending always makes me cry, but now it's worse, because I don't get to see Charlie in his old age. He was only 10 when he died, robbing me of six Charlie filled years I was expecting to have. For most of his life, I would lay his front paw straight when he would tuck it under him, because that habit gave my other collie, Duke, arthritis. Poor Charlie endured 10 years of paw-fixing and didn't live long enough to avoid arthritis.

-All Dogs Go to Heaven: This is the movie that gave Charlie his name. The story of a bad dog who learns to be good through the love of a sweet little girl. He's her dog and she's his girl. He ultimately sacrifices everything for her; a feat my own Charlie would have done without a moment of hesitation. (Not technically a Disney movie, but it's animated and I love it so I'm counting it).

- Because of Winn-Dixie: Another girl and her dog story, set in Florida. A 20th Century Fox and Walden Media film, I'm including it regardless of the lack of Disney ties. It's a touching story that primarily follows the book, also a great read. 

-Up: Every time I see Dug, I wonder what Charlie would say if he had that collar. Probably, "I love you." And,"I can smell you!" Also: "How do I open the pantry door?"

- 101 Dalmatians: Despite the obvious loving dog-family incomplete without all its members present, there's a collie that comes to Pongo and Perdy's aid. Always helping, collie's are.

- Lassie (television and films): This is the most obvious one. I'd often tease Charlie about Lassie's feats, such as climbing a ladder to rescue Timmy from hornets and an owl protecting her young. But while watching the television show around Christmas, while super pregnant with Little Bear, I looked forward to the baby and Charlie having a close relationship and getting into all kinds of shenanigans together. That is, perhaps, the hardest part of losing Charlie: I still imagine him in my future. When Little Bear throws some of his baby food on the ground, I still expect Charlie to trot over to help him clean it up. I subsequently find my eyes getting overly misty when I imagine the bounty of food my son will throw or knock onto the floor in the coming years, and the big brown eyes that aren't here to light up with joy while licking the carpet.

I've lost many people I love, many in the past two years. The worst part of grieving is letting go of the image of the future you'd held; the pearly dreams of seeing your dad hold his first grandchild, of watching your boy grow up with the dog who had been your faithful companion for a decade, of not having your grandmother witness your son's first Christmas and birthday. These are the moments I hold in my heart, imagining the joy I'd see in their eyes or the softness of his fur under my hand. These are the memories I create in my mind when I linger in the space between asleep and awake, dreaming of a future that isn't possible.

Do you have any films you avoid when grieving? Or any that help get you through it? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Quiet Faith

After church recently, I felt compelled to share my faith. I usually walk quietly in my faith, but God has put this on my heart and I'm trying to obey unquestioningly and listen closely, so here goes.

I wouldn't say my faith has ever been a secret. I teach at a Christian school, I reference heaven when someone dies, I say 'Thank God' and genuinely mean it. But how many may have not realized my faith exists?

I choose to say faith instead of religion, because I see them as vastly different, and thankfully so does my church. I'm service oriented, and try to show my faith through kind words, thoughtful actions, and a deep consideration for my fellow people. But the sermon topic from a recent Sunday has me thinking about speaking my faith instead of just showing it. If I do those things because of my faith, but say nothing, how many will know who leads me? How many will miss an opportunity to hear of the love God has to give? Of the sacrifice that has already been given? 

I love words. I love reading words, thinking words, writing words. Yet I often feel I lack the words to share my faith. I fear judgement and dark looks, when really, I should have no fear of anything in this world. Every tough situation I've encountered, I overcame because God led me through it. No judgement by man should make me ignore the small voice in my heart, telling me to speak up.

So this is step one. I have a heart for Jesus. Don't worry; I won't shove it down your throat. I won't push my faith on you in any way. But every act I do is a reflection of my faith. I pray you see my actions, read my words, and know there would be no me without God. I want to love as God loves, which means I don't judge you. I pray for people I don't know and will never meet. I feel compelled to pray by simple things, like hearing a siren or seeing someone who looks stressed, downtrodden or sad.

I became a Christian while in high school, and it was the actions of one amazing family combined with the words and stories of author Francine Rivers that led me to faith. 

My best friend's family truly lives and breathes faith. It was through spending time with them, seeing their kind hearts through their actions, that I realized I had a misconceived notion of faith. When I received a set of books from them, the Mark of the Lion series, I was a little hesitant to read them. I hadn't read the Bible, I didn't go to church, and I only prayed when I was desperate. I thought the Easter resurrection was a ghost story, meant to frighten like the headless horseman, the first time I heard it. Religion seemed like a web of entrapment and guilt, led by a disconnected and angry God. My friend's family wasn't judgmental, harsh or put a fear of God in me. They showed me God's unconditional love while the Rivers books introduced me to the concept of a personal relationship with a forgiving God. This combination absolutely changed my life. I began going to church, praying and reading the Bible. I saw that I had been judgmental, believing stereotypes in the media instead of taking the time to investigate for myself.

God is forgiving. He has forgiven me so much-- periods of doubt and searching, hurtful words and unkind thoughts. One of the hardest and most important lessons I learned was that if you ask for help and forgiveness with a pure heart, you will be forgiven. He may ask you to forgive others as well, but it's much easier to forgive when you have been forgiven.

I am not a perfect person, but I am loved by a perfect God. He leads my every step and I often pray for Him to guide my thoughts as well. He is the source of my strength, the well from which I draw. Now He is leading me to reach out, declare my faith and offer my words. If there is anything I can pray about for you, or if you just want to talk, I'm only a comment away. 

I know religion and faith are often hot topics, which lead people to attack one another. Please refrain from doing so here. I will be closely monitoring comments, but I would like this to be a judgement free space. My goal is to not judge anyone, and I ask that if you comment here you make that your goal as well. Thank you for your time, and for reading.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A change of plans

Recently, my husband and I took our 5 month old to Oklahoma to meet his great-grandmothers, aunt, uncle, and a myriad of other family members. I was super nervous about flying with him, but he's a rock star and is the poster baby for flying with babies, if that poster shows smiles, sleeping and crazy fun plastic cups. He was a champ.

Being an Alaska baby, he's never encountered heat like we experienced while there. One day, the car's thermometer read 117. As it turns out, he's not a fan of being hot. On the flip side, he adores swimming and is a total water baby.

I was overly excited to have him meet my sister, whom he loves. He didn't even spit up on her! He also met my cousins, my aunts and uncle (one aunt is unmarried, this isn't some sort of Big Love arrangement or anything). He proved himself a Mama's boy by wanting me a lot, but I'm okay with that. I love my snugly boy. 

I've always been incredibly close with my Grams, my dad's mom. She taught me how to bake, which y'all know I cherish and love to do. We've always shared a love of books, and traded and chatted about them frequently. When I was waiting to learn the gender of my baby, she kept saying how sweet little boys are. With my dad's death just four months before our baby's gender was revealed, I knew she was hoping for a great-grandson. She adored my sister, cousins and myself-- her four granddaughters. That was no secret. I knew regardless of the gender, she'd love this baby, too. But boy was she excited to hear that my baby was a boy. He is, after all, the first boy on my side of the family in 50 years. So to say I had been looking forward to her meeting my little bear would be an understatement.

After battling ovarian cancer for two years, I knew she would look different. On the Thursday we arrived, Independence Day, she met my sweet little boy. She pinched his fat little legs, a family joke, and he held onto her now bony finger. Despite being warned in advance, I was unprepared to see her so frail. I set little bear on her lap, but she couldn't hold him herself. 

Two day later, she was in the hospital. J cautioned me to say everything I needed to say, but I still held out hope that she would recover. I followed his advice, going to the hospital and chatting about little bear's swimming adventures, the heat, and other meaningless things while her eyelids grew heavy with fatigue. She fell asleep while my sister was in with her. I returned to her room, held her hand, and cried while telling her how much I love and treasure her, and our relationship. J and little bear were waiting for me in the hall, and I was so thankful for their hugs when I emerged, tear-stained and stuffy nosed.

Our flight was scheduled for the following evening. On Sunday morning, we were informed she had passed away. Delta waived the change fee for our flights, charging us only the difference between the tickets.

In the past two years, my heart has broken three times. Once when my dad died, once when Charlie died, and again when Grams died. She didn't want any speeches at her funeral, so this is what I didn't get to say:

Grams was the type of person who would say life is too short, so eat dessert first. Of course, she'd only say that because she loved chocolate so much. We shared a sweet tooth, a love for baking, and an unstoppable fondness for books. I believe I get my depth of heart from her-- she loved so deeply. She loved spending time with her granddaughters, family dinners, white Christmases and football. She loved all her babies, grand-babies and great-grand-babies.

She was, by far, the most considerate person I've met. We spoke several times a week, we emailed equally as often. She bragged about her roses, we joked about  everything. At the end of my pregnancy, just a week before my due date, I got the worst cold of my life. Every cough and sneeze was agony. All I could do was lay on the couch, read and watch movies. Every single day, my phone rang with her on the other end. She didn't ask that oh so annoying question of, "is there a baby yet?" She simply wanted to check in on me. At my wedding, when some guests made a mess, she helped clean it up before I even saw it. Her actions were dictated not by societal standards, but by her heart.

Before you go thinking she was a saint, you should know she always spoke her mind. She was a sailor's wife and if she didn't like something or thought something wasn't right, she'd let you know in colorful terms. She was riotously funny, tactful, caring, and a little bit of everything that is good. 

I know she's in heaven, enjoying the company and delighting in the calorie-free food. But I also know she'll never be truly gone. She lives in me, my sister, my cousins, my uncle, my son and his cousin. Every cupcake and pie I make will have some of her advice and knowledge in it. Every Christmastime snowflake that gently lands will be reminiscent of her. Every miracle touchdown will echo with her cheers.

Grams will forever live on in the loves she left behind. I, for one, intend to live life as she did: with love, joy, chocolate and honesty.

Dad, Grams and myself at my wedding, between photos in the chilly sunshine.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Film review: Robot and Frank

Since Redbox has put free movie codes inside Dr. Pepper, my favorite soda, we rented Robot and Frank for free. Until, of course, we returned it after 9 p.m. and were charged for an extra day (boo). In any case, the movie was great.

I'd wanted to see it but was a bit hesitant because the previews seemed to give most of the movie away. Although some of the funniest moments were in the preview, there were plenty of great scenes left. 

Robot and Frank is the story of an old and possibly confused man who has a complicated and sordid history. His past transgressions involve high-stakes theft. With a witty librarian (played by Susan Sarandon) and robots to boot, the film is certainly interesting.

Frank's son buys him a health aid that also happens to be a robot. Although Frank is resistant, the robot soon grows on him. He even starts to teach the robot some of his old school ways.

Robot and Frank is a study of friendship, family and sacrifice.  It's set in the near future, giving the plot license to be slightly far-fetched. But the setting and technology only add to the general greatness. What the movie shows are universal truths that could be just as tre in the past as they are in the future. Frank is trying to find balance between his old, law-breaking self and his newer, grumpy self. His son is trying to balance being a father himself while also being the child, forced to care for an elderly parent. And the robot is trying to do his job while also making Frank happier. 

It's amazing that the robot becomes increasingly human-like to the viewer without changing his appearance. His tactics, word choice and sentiment make him a character instead of a prop.

I highly recommend this movie. It's a fun watch with real meaning. I give it 4 paws up :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Puppy Love: Baby Edition

How I know my dogs love my baby, and vice versa, is that moments like this are normal:
Shared tummy time.

She lays completely still while little man plays horse--assisted, of course.

They love to lay near him.

He turns to them-- he cradles their big faces in his tiny hands. 
He reaches out to them when they're near.

Lots of people may caution new moms about having dogs. When Charlie was alive, he loved little man. As a collie, he had the trademark long nose-- which he tried to stick through the slats in the crib the first time we put little man in it.

Of course, we always supervise our dogs when they're around him. We also carefully introduced them when we first brought our son home from the hospital. I came in first with his hat, which we let each dog sniff extensively. Then we brought him into the nursery, and let the dogs in one at a time. He was asleep in his car seat, and each dog sniffed him and then snuggled us. After all, we had been gone three days.

Our baby adores our dogs, and they adore him. He has already tugged on them, and they have zero reaction. Yesterday, he spent five minutes holding Layla's paw. She hates having her paws touched, yet she let him play with her paws without moving.

Each family is different, but at least in our family, I'm thankful we have dogs. The dogs and the baby have already learned so much from each other. Always proceed with caution, but our family is much happier with dogs included. 

How has having dogs and babies in the same house affected your family?