28 December 2012

December Day-By-Day, Week 4

Day 22: Decoration - Benny made an elf for our shelf at school. I like it.
Day 23: Joy Is Family Snuggle Time!
Day 24: Tradition - My sister has been giving everyone matching T-shirts for five or six years. It all started to coincide with a party my parents hosted a few years ago. Since then we've received shirts based on inside family jokes. This year the yellow shirts featured Goofy. My mom tells an amazing joke about Goofy messing around with Minnie Mouse.
Day 25: Lunch - Poor Lila was sick with the stomach flu for about four days. She didn't eat much, but when she did, she got bread and bananas.

Day 26: Mess - Nate gave me a juicer for Christmas. It was really a gift for the whole family. This is only about a quarter of the mess we made.

Day 27: Relax - We're hosting my brother, sister-in-law and baby nephew for the week. Doesn't he look positively relaxed? (Not to mention absolutely adorable!)
Day 28: Cold - Baby, it's cold outside. What to do in this type of weather? Why, eat delicious pho, of course! Lila insisted on using chopsticks with the noodles I gave her - with questionable success.

27 December 2012

Everyday on a Bike // A Challenge

Happy (almost) New Year! Since it's time for resolutions, I have an idea: What if I can gather at least one picture of one person riding a bike for every day in 2013? I know I can take a picture of myself riding my bike most days - but not every day.

So, here's the challenge...

Find me on Instagram (sarastruckman) and post a picture or pictures of yourself or other people riding bike (or any picture of a bike will do so long as you rode on that day) any day of the year. Be sure to label them #everydayonabike. I'll be compiling photos throughout the month and highlight one rider and his/her/their story once a month. Or, if you don't have an Instagram account and still want to participate, email me your photo and story. *Based on the current Instagram "situation," I'll probably create a Flickr account for this challenge as well. Stay tuned.

Some months I'll post specific challenges, like riding to work or riding to school or riding in the snow or riding with kids or group rides, but feel free to post whenever and whatever you want - as long as it's on a bike (and in good taste of course!).

My motivation for this challenge is twofold: 1. I'd like to use it to motivate myself (and, by extension, my family) to ride my bike more and 2. I want to encourage others to consider biking as and easy and fun and empowering way to get around (sort of a mini-bike advocacy/community-building activity).

By December 31, 2013, I want to report that I have collected at least 365 photos of people riding - one for everyday of the year. Are you with me!?!

22 December 2012

Book Review: The Blind Assassin

In the past three weeks, there are many things I could have and should have done in the evenings. But, I could not put The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood down. What a heartbreaking, yet somehow encouraging story.

Iris narrates her "biography" by way of the present and the past intermingled. The Blind Assassin is a novel inside a novel that complicates the story, but ties it together in the end. I don't want to give anything away because Atwood builds and builds and builds this story throughout the book.

I loved all the little details about the book - the time: pre-World War II, the Bolsheviks, industry and women's roles. I love that Atwood writes about strong, flawed female characters in her books.

I checked on a review of the book and ran across this one. Thomas Mallon couldn't be more of a jerk, as far as I'm concerned. I have a very hard time saying that this is my favorite book by Atwood - because I love all of her books. But I really think this is it.

21 December 2012

December Day-By-Day, Week 3

Day 15: Outside - I was still running outside on December 15!
Day 16: Something I made - My mom and I made plum jam this summer with the goal of giving it away to the kids' teachers at Christmas.
Day 17: On the Floor - I once saw this thought about cleaning with kids, "Cleaning with kids in the house is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos." Enough said.
Day 18: Something That Makes Me Merry - I love this time of year: When not every piece of mail is junk or a bill.

Day 19: Starts with 'S' - On Day 19, we finally got some snow!

Day 20: Outside - The day after the snow storm, the temps were back into the high 40s. Perfect running weather!
Day 21: Tree - Benny made me a Christmas card. Love his tree (and smile)!

20 December 2012

Peace, Love & Joy

What an amazing year we've had in Denver. Every year seems like the best year ever, 
but this year definitely ranks as one of the best!

I started the year with a major career change: Teaching part-time at the University of Denver and consulting part-time with Struckman Consulting. The change was motivated by many things, the most important of which was spending more time with the kids - together. We enjoyed many adventures together, including the Butterfly Pavilion, the Museum of Nature & Science, the Botanic Center, weekly library trips, many trips to the park and other adventures around the neighborhood.

Nate embarked on a career change about six months later. He is now happily employed by a large engineering consulting firm in downtown Denver. The decreased commute and the interesting work topics continue to remind him that a change can do one good. 

This year I made a very conscious effort to live a more sustainable life. Benny reached a milestone in the spring that made that effort a little easier - he learned to ride a bike. Since March, the family has put countless miles on our bikes. Nate can commute to work by bike now and does on occasion. If possible, I schedule meetings within a five-mile radius of the house and ride whenever I can. The decision to bike more has made a profoundly positive impact on all of our lives.

The garden in our backyard has grown substantially since we moved into our house four years ago. Nate's strong suit is growing things - and not necessarily using them. By default, I'm the harvester. In past years, much of the produce has gone to waste. This year, I was able to use a vast majority of the produce and make some fantastic new recipes. And I'm still making dishes from the garden with the squash and garlic we have stored in the basement closets!

The kids are at such amazing ages now. Parenting, while still incredibly challenging at times, is also so much fun. Benny started school this fall and is excelling. He can be so mature and thoughtful and hilarious. He enjoys to play with blocks and puzzles and ride his bike and build forts. Lila is a joy. She is expressing so much by speaking now. She enjoys "making" brunch and play with her stuffed animals and watching construction equipment. This year, the two of them seem to have formed a special bond that only a brother and sister can have. They love to cause trouble together. And I'm so thankful that we were able to spend so much time together earlier in the year to help strengthen that bond.

So I close the year 2012 with a lot of peace, love and joy. I can't wait to see what 2013 has in store! Happy holidays!

18 December 2012

On Mental Health

In my previous post, I mentioned that several issues are bound up in mass shootings, including access to mental health services. I'd like to emphasize that I'm not an expert on mental health. However, I've worked in the mental health field long enough to have some educated perspectives on the issue. There are so many aspects packed into the lack of mental health care in this country. I'm going to discuss a few here.

The current mental health system in many states are inadequate to handle mental health crises, as the I Am Adam Lanza's Mother article clearly articulates. Emergency rooms, often individuals' only option when in crisis, are not equipped to deal with most mental health issues. Often, doctors prescribe something and discharge the patient. Or, those who experience serious mental health issues are not addressed properly and they land in prison.

In Colorado, the legislature has considered funding a comprehensive statewide mental health crisis initiative for several years. Metro Crisis Services is the only organization in Colorado providing crisis services. Two years ago, MCS launched a 24/7 crisis hotline and has been experiencing a significant increase in calls. MCS is moving toward creating a crisis system for the metro area and potentially the entire state - depending on funding from the state. This week, Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the Colorado Legislature for $18.5 to establish a crisis system. With a crisis system in place, individuals and families would have the option to access appropriate mental health services in a crisis.

It is so important to note that in a majority of cases, mental health crises involve individuals threatening harm to themselves, not to others. Most violent crimes are committed by individuals who do not have a mental illness. However, part of the stigma associated with mental illness is perpetuated by these high profile murders in which the media and experts suspect that the perpetrators have a mental illness.

Even with a crisis system in place, the stigma associated with mental illness, and especially severe and persistent mental health issues, creates an invisible barrier to treatment. Often when individuals experience a mental health crisis, their support system erodes for a variety of reasons, including erratic behavior, loved ones not knowing how to help, etc. This is the complete opposite of what happens when most people experience a serious physical health problem. Many organizations in Colorado, including Mental Health America of Colorado, offer (often underfunded) programs that train people on how to address a mental health crisis - and where to refer people for appropriate help. It also opens the conversation about stigma.

Additionally, issues of workforce, diagnosis, treatments and drugs are also at the heart of the issue. There are not enough psychiatrists to fill the demand in this country. Often, individuals experiencing persistent mental health issues are not properly diagnosed and diagnoses vary substantially as do treatments. Finally, psychotropic drugs typically do not have the potential to produce much of a profit, so drug companies are cautious about developing new and effective drugs.

In terms of mental health professionals and their responsibility to report past or potential crimes to authorities, it is stated in many codes of ethics that therapists may breach confidentiality if they think their patients may harm themselves or others.

I'm not claiming that if this country addressed mental health in a different way that mass shootings would end. And I'm not trying to minimize the responsibility of the individual shooters. These are heinous crimes. But, if we don't address these issues - along with many others - we will continue to mourn more and more victims without any hope of ending this epidemic of violence.

16 December 2012

The Unthinkable

When I first learned of the news from Connecticut on Friday, I quickly wished to remain ignorant - if only for a day or two. The thought of something like happening to a child - or anyone - breaks my heart and makes me wonder how we've come to this. Then I heard that most of the children who died were in kindergarten and the tragedy struck very close to home. I can't imagine what those parents, those mothers, are going through right now. Why why why?

Sadly, I have a feeling that we're going to talk about this again and again if we don't stand up and do something about this. It started with Columbine and it has become an epidemic. It's not just about the men (yes, mostly men) who perpetrate these mass murders. It's an issue that is bound up in many other issues, including gun control, the media, access to mental health care and the stigma associated with mental illness, as well as our own implications in these issues.

We can throw blame around for what happened in Connecticut (or Aurora or Oregon or ...): It's gun laws ... It's the media ... It's those "crazy" people who carry out these heinous acts. But the sad reality is that it's our fault, collectively. We need to demand that gun control laws protect the people and not individuals' rights to bear arms. We must demand that everyone, everyone has full and comprehensive access to mental health care - just as we do for physical health care. And we need to start focusing on prevention, not just reaction. We can turn off the TV when the news sensationalizes these acts and notarizes the men behind them. And, perhaps most difficulty and most importantly, we have to ask the hard question about gender: Why are young, middle-class white men motivated to commit such crimes. This is a question of gender and violence and we can't ignore it any more.

I've read some interesting and controversial articles in the past few days, one of which is written by a mother of a son with severe mental illness. Perspective is always a good thing to have in situations like these. And there's a link to a petition on Anyways. It's one small, simple first step.

Also, The Secret History of Guns, Fake Tears, Why Is the Shooter Always Male and Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

How much more of this as a society and culture can we take? How did we get here?

14 December 2012

December Day-By-Day, Week 2

Day 8: Love - Wow, what a coincidence that the "love" day was on Nate's birthday. I love this man!
Day 9: Out + About - The weather has finally turned "normal" around here, i.e. cold. I've been taking some time everyday to walk around the neighborhood. One day I found some roses that have refused to die, despite below freezing weather.
Day 10: Under - See above, the part about taking some time to walk. Lila and I had to get all sorts of bundled up under layers for what was a cozy walk.
Day 11: Sweet - Clementines are one of my favorite foods of the season. And good thing ... on this particular day, I was recovery from yet another holiday party. I'm nearly holiday partied out.

Day 12: Hat - The colder weather turned warm for a day. No hats needed in 60 degree weather (coats either, for that matter). P.S. Look at those beautiful blue eyes!

Day 13: Lights - The snowman next door that Lila insists is a dog.
Day 14: Something Green - We have a tiny artificial tree. And our kids love it. They regularly rearrange the ornaments.

13 December 2012

The Potty Chronicles // Regression

Oh, how I wish the title of this post was The Potty Chronicles // No More Diapers, or, at the very least, The Potty Chronicles // Progress. Alas, we are back in diapers full-time again because Lila refuses to sit on the potty. We've taken to bribing her to at least try, but that doesn't even work. I love that my children are obstinate, but in cases like potty training it's not such a great trait.

Mentally, I am over diapers. I am so over them that I rarely use cloth any more. I bought the last box of diapers thinking that it would the the last box of diapers. We are quickly coming to the end of that box. Sigh. Also, Nate and I now routinely forget to bring diapers along on outings. In our minds, Lila is potty trained. In reality, she's not even close. We've had to make several emergency stops to buy diapers because we were going to be out and about for awhile. Sometimes we just chance it and hope that she doesn't poop.

The thing is, Lila knows how to go pee and poop on the potty. Several of her friends are potty trained. We talk a lot about how they are big boys and girls because they use the potty. Benny is a big boy because he uses the potty. Mommy is a big girl, Daddy is a big boy ... you get the point. Lila is perfectly content to be a tiny girl (her words).

Peer pressure isn't working, bribing isn't working, getting stressed out isn't working. At this point, I think Lila needs to decide that she's ready. Until then, we just have to wait and hopelessly day dream that she's potty trained - even if it means dealing with diaper drama when we're out of the house and forget diapers.

10 December 2012

Weekend Recovery

This weekend will probably go down as one of the best weekends in recent memory. My parents were in town to babysit on Saturday night, so we took them to the Colorado Railroad Museum for a fun daytime activity.

This was our first trip to visit Santa (ever). For anyone who knows Benny, you know he can be incredibly shy. When he was younger it seemed like it would be more like torture than fun for him to visit Santa. This year, however, Benny has fully committed to the Santa hoax. For awhile we thought he was going to refuse to talk to Santa, but he followed Lila right up to the big guy, unfolded his list and would have stayed with Santa for 10 minutes. Santa was impressed by his request for an electric guitar. 

On Saturday, Nate's birthday, we rode the bus (public transportation is my new favorite form of transportation) to his company's holiday party. We partied like we were 25 and felt it the next morning. Yikes!

We packed lots of other stuff into the weekend, I'm just too tired to write about it. Luckily, the weather has turned more "normal" and it cold and windy outside. The perfect excuse to stay inside and get caught up on all sorts of stuff.

07 December 2012

December Day-By-Day, Week 1

Turns out taking a picture a day is a really good way to remember small moments.

I missed the first day of the December Photo-A-Day Challenge...

Day 2. Some days peace is little more than a clean house and sleeping children.
Day 3. Benny and I walked to school for the first time. He held my hand the entire way.
Day 4. Black and white and read all over. Currently, I'm reading The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.
Day 5. The day started out cloudy and gloomy. Lila and I went outside for a walk and saw the clouds making way for a brilliant blue sky.

Day 6. This one was tricky. I keep meaning to take this sticker off my fridge - but I'm just too proud of it.
Day 7. I meant to wait until the evening to catch some stars in the sky. I didn't have to - there were on Lila's feet.

06 December 2012

Bad. Ass.

One way to feel like a badass ... Ride to a meeting downtown on December 6. I know, I know, some people do this every day. Just let me feel like a badass for this fleeting moment.

04 December 2012

Three-Shirt Day

Blast from the past! I decided to review my old draft posts and found this one from about three years ago - when Benny was having trouble sleeping (roughly May 2009). I vaguely remember this period - it was tough. But, it's a good reminder that these tough phases don't last forever. They're a blip on the map of life.

It's a three-shirt day at our house. Benny is currently drinking the milk he poured into a bowl of Goldfish. Drinking might be too generous. He's mostly spilling it into his mouth, which means that he's also spilling it onto his shirt and the floor. But, at least he's happy. He's in his second shirt of the day. The first shirt was covered with yogurt and blueberry juice.

Three-shirt days are normally OK. However, Benny has decided to stop sleeping, so this three-shirt day is more exhausting and frustrating than most. As I reported a few days ago, Benny had returned to his normal sleep patterns. About four days ago, he derailed - BIG TIME! He didn't take a nap for three days. He took a nap today because he fell asleep in the car and I carried in to my bed. He slept for an hour, which is better than nothing. He has also taken to crying/talking for two hours before falling asleep at night. This means that he's only getting about 10 hours of sleep a day. That's not enough. That's not nearly enough.

Last night he did cry for about two seconds and then talked for about 45 minutes. He was asleep before 9 for the first time in four days.

02 December 2012


I'm participating in the December Photo A Day (thanks to Simply Bike for the prompt on Instragram).

I missed the first photo yesterday. If nothing else, this challenge makes me take pictures and pause to reflect on what's happening each day of this busy month.

Although I'd love to say that peace for me means world peace, sometimes it means a clean house and a few hours of quiet. That's what I'm getting tonight. The dishes are done, the laundry is washed, the kids are in bed. I'm drinking a beer and getting ready to read The Blind Assassin. Can't think of a more peaceful Sunday night.

Wishing you peace for your week!

Holiday Prep

While walking in the dense crown, dragging two five-year-old boys along, I wondered What are we doing? The three of us tried to keep up with Nate, who was pushing the stroller. But we were slowed by two pairs of short legs and numerous obstacles - mostly young people jockeying to get a better position. And despite having an iPhone with a moving map, we couldn't quite figure out where we were supposed to go. The chorus of Are we there yet This is taking forever When are we going to get there Where are we? wasn't helping.

I finally spotted the building number and we trudged upstairs, greeted by a friend with glow sticks for the kids no less. Things were looking up.

We ditched the stroller and our coats and grabbed some pizza and sodas. Nate spotted the bar and procured two much-needed glasses of wine. The grown-ups were set. The kids wolfed down their dinner in time to catch the first float in the Parade of Lights downtown. And to see the smiles on their faces made the stressful five-block trek worth it.

This season seems a bit like a sham this year. We didn't even have to wear coats last night to the parade because it was still 55 degrees. I hate to complain about the mild weather we've experienced this late fall, but it's a bit disconcerting. I remember living in Austin during the holidays and feeling a bit out of place with the holiday decorations because it was warm and sunny. The upshot is that we continue to ride our bikes nearly every day very comfortably.

I'm planning to write a longer post about this topic some day, but I feel very strongly about not promoting stereotypically gendered toys for Lila (or for Benny, for that matter). I'm a big proponent of learning toys and I don't think that girls need to play with pink things and boys with blue things. We've been intentional with what we buy Benny (kitchen, tool bench, etc.) so that he's exposed to pretending to play with a wide variety of things.

The tree is up and the Santa lists are complete. We have plans to catch a train ride to the North Pole this weekend and see the Blossoms of Light at the Botanic Center sometime before Christmas. That's another thing I feel strongly about - giving our kids experiences as well as gifts.

28 November 2012

Bisque, It's Where It's At

Another butternut squash down, only about 10 to go. At this point, I feel like I'm the only person in the world with a total butternut squash overload. Are you tired of reading about it? Imagine me: I have to live with it. But, after this recipe, I'm cutting the squash some slack. Man, this bisque is where it's at (what does that even mean?)!

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Bisque
(adapted from a recipe on Epicurious)


One butternut squash, roasted
One head of garlic, halved crosswise
1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh sage
1/3 cup whipping cream (milk is fine too)

(I keep Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon Cubes on hand because I don't always have a store of chicken broth in the freezer. Using these bouillon cubes makes the recipe vegetarian and gluten-free, if you're into those sorts of things.)


Roast the butternut squash and scoop the innards into a bowl, set aside. Drizzle olive oil over both halves of the garlic and put it back together. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake for 40 minutes on 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Sautee the onions, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes and then cover with broth. Simmer for about 25 minutes and add the butternut squash puree and sage. Sautee for another 5 minutes. Using a food processor, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add the whipping cream.

Fresh from the garden: Butternut squash, garlic and sage.

27 November 2012

New Habits

As I get older (or as I mature, I guess), I've noticed that I have to change many of my long-established habits. Some of it is health-related, like brushing with a Sonicare toothbrush because my gums are "thin." Some of it is appearance-related, like applying lotion like it's my job if I don't want my skin to look like an elephant's. Much of it is kid-related. And some of it is sheer willpower to positively change my life and my impact in this world.

I've written about my return to biking before. I was inspired by several people last spring to start commuting by bike again, including a former student, a former co-worker and a friend who are all committed to driving less and riding more. However, my biggest motivator was Benny. It's hard to say no to a four and a half year old begging to go for a bike ride - every day.

When Benny was two, Nate and I took a vacation to Sonoma. We spent a day biking to various wineries. That was in 2009. I didn't hop back on a bike until 2012 (seriously).


It's taken nearly nine months, but I have finally reprogrammed my brain to commute by bike rather than by car. For example, a friend and I were going to see an author speak last week. She was driving to south Denver and I was meeting her at her house - a mile away. Despite the chill in the air and early darkness, I traveled by bike.

Last week, on a sunny, gorgeous day, I opted to run errands on my lunch break. Six miles and four stops later, I was back home and ready to work. Not long ago, I would have happily hopped in the car to run those errands.

Old habits die hard. But new habits aren't impossible to cultivate either.

26 November 2012

Book Review: Blindness

The most disturbing part of Blindness by Jose Saramago isn't a society that is struck by an epidemic of "white blindness," but that his description of the unraveling of that society is something that could actually happen.

The story is really about a band of seven - some of the first who were struck by the blindness and how they cope as their country grapples with the epidemic, which includes interning the first group of people at a vacant mental hospital. Six of the people in the group are blind. One is not. Although the entire country (and maybe world) goes blind, one woman maintains her sight and shepherds the group during their time in internment, when they experience indescribable misery, to their "escape" and eventual  quest to survive.

Without giving the ending away, it is interesting to think about how a civilized society would react to something like white blindness - a disease that seems not to have a cause or a cure. And if everyone regained their sight after one such epidemic, how would society re-organize itself. A thought-provoking read.

24 November 2012

Turkey Day and Beyond

A lovely trip to western Colorado is coming to a close. It's been a great trip. The weather: Gorgeous. The food: Delicious. The company: Engaging. The views: Amazing.

We spent a day in Ouray, my favorite mountain town. I finished my Christmas shopping there (on Black Friday no less!) with the pride at shopping at small, local businesses. We capped the day off with a soak in the hot springs. Now that the kids are more active in the water, it was less of a soak and more of a work out, but a great time!

We'll get home just in time to put our Christmas tree up and start preparations for the next holiday. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!

21 November 2012

On the Road

With two kids a five-hour trip turns into an overnighter. Don't ask me how that happens, but somehow three hours is our magic limit. And by magic limit I mean that we are able to avoid major meltdowns by plying our children with food after hour two.

On our way to Montrose for Thanksgiving, we stayed at a cheap motel in Buena Vista. At this point in our lives, luxury isn't a big sell. No, luxury holds nothing to an indoor pool. Lila spent most of the ride last night declaring, "I want to SWIM!" And so swim we did.

Both kids were beat after their time in the water. After about five minutes of cartoons on the TV, they were ready for bed.

And then we were off in the morning. By 10 a.m., both kids passed out in the car. Driving in the mountains is hard.

We stopped at the Black Canyon for a quick hike before continuing on to Montrose. Everyone was ready to see the grandparents and get out of the car.

The weather in Colorado is nothing short of amazing lately. I ran comfortably in shorts and a T-shirt this afternoon. Looking forward another long run tomorrow to make room for some turkey.

Looking forward to filling our bellies tomorrow. Happy Thanksgiving!

20 November 2012

Fall Is ...


A time for dressing up

A time for school

Days getting shorter

Windy days

Jack Frost

Christopher Columbus

A time for turkey and dressing

Putting on our coats

That's what fall is

by Sara Struckman (age 7 or 8)

Now that Benny brings home various projects from school, I can appreciate that my mom saved my projects from school. It's interesting to see how young Sara interpreted fall - especially regarding the weather in western Nebraska (windy). Also, the picture gets a bit ahead of itself. That's Santa flying past the full moon. I think maybe young Sara was excited for another holiday.

This week is a time for turkey and dressing. We're headed out of town. Happy Thanksgiving!

15 November 2012

'No You Won't, I'll Be DEAD!'

The kids say so many funny, thoughtful things these days, I can't keep up.

Benny has become increasingly dramatic about things. He often rolls his eyes at us and sighs in frustration. He isn't doing the best job of eating lunch or dinner and often asks for more to eat before bed. Our philosophy: You eat at meals or you don't eat. We don't want to promote refusing food just because the kids don't like it. The other night, Benny was hungry before bed. I told him that he should have eaten more dinner. He told me that he was dying. I told him that he needed to go to bed and that I would see him in the morning. His response: "No you won't! I'll be DEAD!"

Lila is passionate about many stereotypical girl things: Dolls and strollers, pretending to cook and clean. But she's equally passionate about many stereotypical boy things: Blocks and cars and dinosaurs. We were driving past the Denver Museum of Nature and Science the other day and she yelled, "I want to see dinosaurs!" She has associated the museum almost entirely with its dinosaur exhibit. Since it was Friday and gorgeous out, we biked over to the museum. As we approached the dinosaurs, she squealed with delight.

Scene: In the car.

Benny: I have lots of friends.
Me: Umhmmmm (standard response to Benny when he's jabbering away).
Benny: I even have a baby friend.
Me: (interest is peaked because Benny isn't particularly fond of babies) Oh yeah, who's that?
Benny: Lila!

Last night I was getting ready for a meeting and changed out of my jeans and sweatshirt for the first time that day. When I emerged from my room, Lila said, "You look pretty, Mama." I walked on air all night.

14 November 2012


Or, how to remove Vaseline from hair and get rid of cradle cap.

After a dramatic 48 hours, we were able to remove all of the Vaseline from Lila's hair. I should have consulted internet before washing her hair upwards of seven times with various soaps. Turns out, Palmolive did the trick.

The good news is that the Vaseline did remove all of Lila's cradle cap as well. If it returns, well, I think we'll let it be. Or we'll try another method of removal, including applying any oil (olive, tea tree, coconut) directly to her scalp with a Q-tip. Oh, and Nate is not allowed near our children's hair again. Ever.

Please note the non-greasy hair.
On a completely unrelated note, some days I forget that I'm so fortunate to stay at home with Lila three days a week. I have to wake her up most Mondays and Wednesdays to pick Benny up from school. I love watching her sleep for a few minutes before rousing her.

Today, we were also able to bike to meet a friend's new baby, have coffee with another friend and her daughter, bike to pick Benny up from school and now I get to watch Benny and Lila play together while I do laundry. Pretty happy with my life.

06 November 2012

Cheers America!

Admittedly, I was a bit worried that I'd be drowning my sorrows tonight. Instead, I'm celebrating! Granted, the kids are in bed, Nate is at band practice and I'm folding laundry while streaming election results, so not the most raucous celebration at my house. But a celebration nonetheless.

Four more years!

05 November 2012

The Unfortunate Vaseline Incident

It all started when Nate decided that he wanted to take care of the kids' cradle cap. Personally, cradle cap doesn't bother me. Both kids have enough hair to cover it up and it comes and goes on its own. It bothers Nate though and he decided to take matters into his own hands. He'd heard that Vaseline can help. So, he lathered both scalps (and hair) with Vaseline.

After a bath with two hair washings, it was clear that the Vaseline is not an easy foe. We put the kids to bed with greasy heads and vowed to take up the fight in the morning. A morning bath turned into two hair washings with adult shampoo and two hair washings with dish soap. Much to our dismay, the Vaseline remained in Lila's hair. Benny's hair, on the other hand, cleared up with dish soap.

Lila got another bath after her nap with more dish soap. Still nothing. After that many attempts, it was clear that we didn't know what we were doing. I took to Facebook for advice. From the advice I gathered on Facebook, Dawn is the way to go with Vaseline. We didn't have any Dawn in the house, but we did have Joy. After two rounds of suds, Lila's hair is nominally better. She's not a complete grease ball now - only a partial grease ball. She is also completely opposed to having her hair washed now. After at least seven washings in the past 36 hours, she has a right to be a bit peeved.

Consequently, I also received some good advice about how to get rid of cradle cap - none of which included Vaseline!!!
  1. Apply diluted tea tree oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
  2. Apply baby oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
  3. Apply coconut oil directly to the scalp with a Q-tip and then use a comb to remove the cradle cap.
Lesson learned: Used in moderation, oil will remove cradle cap (probably including Vaseline). Second lesson learned: Never, ever apply Vaseline to hair. Ever.

I'll be experimenting with the Dawn tonight. If that doesn't work, I guess I should be prepared to deal with greasy hair until Christmas or so...

04 November 2012

Biking to a Baby Brunch

Fall has been spectacular this year. Today was no exception. With a high in the mid-60s, I couldn't help but bike to a baby brunch this morning. The only thing that would have made the ride better was a partner. But, I'm not going to complain.

The brunch was in honor of Jamie, the cutest pregnant woman I know! I prefer baby brunches to baby showers very much. Case in point: mimosas!

Congrats to Jamie!

02 November 2012

Batman Lives

It took a whole village to make Benny's costume this year. I consulted the interweb for an appropriate model for Batman. Most of the costumes in stores are based off the new Batman movies. I decided to throw back to the Adam West model.

Plus, the grey, yellow and black seemed like they were the easiest to work with. I started with grey long johns. A mom from school mentioned that she had worked with felt and a hot glue gun for a costume and that seemed like the easiest route for a Batman logo. No sewing required! I traced the bat and cut out a yellow oval and black bat.

A friend kindly sent a black cape my way, but I wanted the logos on the shirt and the cape to match. My good friend Jen suggested that I make a cape out of a shirt. What? Could it really be that easy? It is! I followed these directions.

While the costume looked good, it wasn't very exciting. My neighbor mentioned that she put a light on her son's robot costume and I decided that Benny definitely needed a light on his belt. But, given my uncraftiness, I didn't know how to make that happen. I consulted with another neighbor who has a knack for constructing things. She had everything I needed to make a lighted belt! I used fun foam, leftover felt and a cheap battery-operated light (Benny added the sticker at his class party).

The light definitely made the costume. Benny rocked it!

Old-School Batman - What I Used

Grey long johns - from Hanes.com
Black boxer briefs - on super sale at Target
Felt squares (1 black, 1 yellow) - from Hobby Lobby
Batman mask - from Party City
Yellow fun foam - borrowed mine from a friend, but available at craft stores
Battery powered light - from Target
Hot glue gun - from Hobby Lobby
Men's large black shirt - used one of Nate's old shirts
Velcro - borrowed mine from a friend, but available at craft stores

Since I had over a month to make the costume, I gathered materials as needed. For example, one day I was at Goodwill and there was a Party City right next door. I decided to check it out to see if they carried Batman masks. Sure enough, they did. I made one special trip to Hobby Lobby. Otherwise I just looked for stuff while out and about. 

Lila's costume is a hand-me-down from Benny, which is a hand-me-down from a friend. Halloween wouldn't be the same without my friends helping out with costumes!