Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spearfish Canyon & Roughlock Falls Hike

"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you." 
-Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Some Thoughts on Blogging

I recently heard a story about a woman who was trying to negotiate contracted prices for her wedding and threatened to "take it to the blogosphere." I get it. Weddings are expensive. Craig and I are very fortunate to have had a number of our friends and family members pitch in and help make our wedding great without spending ridiculous amounts of money.  I couldn't help but wonder, though, is this what we've come to? Demanding free things and reduced rates and threatening to "take it to the blogosphere," Twitter, or Facebook if we don't get what we want. The people who are trying to provide us with those goods and services are trying to make a living, too.

I was reminded of this story when I read a post on Elizabeth's blog. She was discussing the quest for followers, comments, and the jealousy that stems from blogging sometimes. Her approach to the whole situation was really refreshing, and led me to think about a few of my current favorite bloggers. It made me remember that there are some really great bloggers out there who should not go unnoticed.

 -Nicole, mama to Henry, shares some great toddler activities.

-Leland's only a few weeks older than Liam, and I love Megan's approach to parenting.

-Nessa's little boys are the greatest. I only hope that Liam grows up to be as funny and imaginative as they are.

-Avery has got to be one of the most adorable preschoolers, and everytime I visit Stephanie's blog, I can't help but be a little bit jealous of her green thumb.

-Lindsey and Ethan love adventures and music as much as Liam and I do. And that farm-themed birthday party? Seriously amazing.

-Who wouldn't be jealous of Nikki and Evie's trip to Spain.

-Kate's post made me nostalgic for D.C. I, too, dreamed of living a Carrie Bradshaw-esque life in a city-- until I spent a summer in D.C. I quickly realized that I kind of like watching the stars and breathing fresh air.

And because this post couldn't go without a cute picture of Liam, here's a shot of him ready to play at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night. I don't know if you guys knew this, but bed times are for sissies.

P.S. Elizabeth's current post definitely led me to Google myself. It's been awhile. Fortunately, there still aren't that many interesting things about me on the Internet-- a few pictures of me being nerdy in high school, a few more items about me being nerdy in college, and some salary data from when I was a "Hill Staffer." Hint: I was an intern. It wasn't much.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

For the Love of Grandparents

I was fortunate enough to have been born with 13 grandparents -- my maternal and paternal grandparents, their parents, and one great great grandma. While Liam only has nine grandparents, he should consider himself lucky.

When I went to the wedding of a very dear friend in southern Illinois a few weeks ago, my dad volunteered to watch Liam, and when harvest started and he wasn't able to watch Liam while I attended some professional development the following week, both of my grandmas took a day and made sure Liam was well taken care of. While we don't get to see Craig's parents often, we send them photos, and his mom sends us finished scrapbook pages in return.

While I was home over the 4th of July, my Grandpa Jerry gave Liam a desk he had played with as a child. (I'm fairly certain that I had to have played with it at some point in time, too, because I found some old New Kids on the Block books inside.)

I really love the desk, and I'm certain that we'll cherish it for many years to come.

Finally, I can't say enough about my parents. Their love and support made me the parent I am today, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Sensory Fun

Update: I realized I didn't go into much detail on this post. I blame it on exhaustion. Liam has decided that bedtimes are for sissies these days. Anyway, I added a few more instructions for those of you who might be interested. 
This weekend was one of those weekends that you don't feel like going outside past 10 a.m. because of the extreme heat. We live at 5315 feet elevation, so I know you're all more familiar with this feeling than I am. Since it was so hot, Liam and I decided to stick to the indoors and try a few of the activities I wanted to try.

First of all, a few weeks ago, I made Liam a robot-themed discovery bottle. He still loves playing with it, shaking it, and trying to find all of the objects inside. (I rinsed out a plastic olive oil bottle, used rice as a filler, along with rubber robots, a few Legos, nuts, bolts, and a spikey ball.) I found that it was easiest to layer the rice and the objects. Once everything was added to the bottle, I hot glued it shut. Hot gluing was probably the most important step-- nobody wants rice all over their floors.

This weekend, I decided to use the rest of the spikey balls to try the ball art. Liam was just my "helper" on this project, dragging out all of the bottles of paint so I could choose colors. He really enjoyed watching the balls roll around mixing the colors. I think this would be a great project to try with older kids, too. It would be great for discussing color theory or texture.

I cut a piece of paper to fit in the bottom of a shoe box-sized Rubbermaid plastic container. I'm sure any size would work, but I wanted to start small. I added one color at a time, and rolled it around for awhile before adding the next color.  Our mess was really minimal, but that may have been attributed to the fact that I was doing most of the rolling. If you let older kids do the rolling on their own, there may be a little more mess.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On this Roller Coaster Ride We Call Parenting

In my early days of parenting, when I was nursing every 2-3 hours, I spent a lot of time watching TED talks and browsing random parenting magazines and articles. One of the TED talks I watched was this one from Babble editors Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman. The part that stood out at the time was Taboo # 4 (about eleven and a half minutes in), when they start talking about moment to moment happiness. At the time, I don't think I really got it-- my parenting lows came when Liam would wake up to eat at 2:00 in the morning, and the highs were the three hours of sleep I got in between feedings.

Tonight, I was reminded of it again, though. I was feeding Liam dinner (black beans and frozen chicken strips), and my little boy, who used to be such a careful eater, started smearing his black beans all over his high chair tray. Just when I started thinking, "Did the terrible twos come ten months early? Because, seriously, it can't get any worse than this," he turned his head and noticed the Chicka Chicka ABC board book sitting on the counter behind him, waiting to be put away; grabbed it; and started "reading," hands still covered in black beans.

"Liam, your hands are dirty," I said, "you should probably put the book away for now."

"Huh? Mama. Huh?" he responded, as he looked up from his book, so shocked that I would ask him to put a book away.

I couldn't resist. I cracked a smile, heart melting.

Then, as we were reading a few books before bedtime, I said, "Liam, do you have kisses for mama?"

He started smacking his lips and leaned in for a big open-mouth kiss.

That's the thing about parenting a toddler. Just when you're ready to throw in the towel, thinking you've exhausted all of your resources, they turn around and do something cute and make it all worth while.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dinosaur Park

I was inspired to take Liam to Dinosaur Park after reading an update to this article in South Dakota Magazine this month. (It was a really sweet article. I really wish it was on their website.)

Liam has been letting out the occasional "roarr" like a dinosaur since we started reading I'm a T. Rex! at bed time. As we walked through the park, Liam would roar when asked what a dinosaur says. Unfortunately, once I tried to catch it on camera, he quit roaring, so a photo of Liam and I posing with South Dakota's state fossil (the Triceratops) will have to do.

P.S. It was recently brought to my attention that the links to the sorbets in the sorbet post just linked back to my blog, so here's the link to the actual sorbet article if you're interested in making some sorbets this summer.

It's Not Quite Ice Cream, But...

This plum sorbet tasted pretty good. It's a sad day when red wine and corn syrup are more readily available in your home than cream and half and half, so when my friend Shannon sent me these recipes, I decided to give the plum sorbet a try.

I showed it off to Craig, so proud of myself, thinking maybe he should hire me to be a pastry chef or something. "Craig, check out this ice cream I made," I said.

"Um, it looks like more of a sorbet," he responded.

Thanks, Craig. I truly appreciate your support.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Currently Reading

When I was still pregnant, a coworker suggested I read The Happiest Baby on the Block. At first, I thought Dr. Karp's ideas were a little out there. A fourth trimester? Really? But then I remembered my mom telling me that when I was little, I was a colicky baby, and she would have to lay me on their water bed to calm me down. So, when Liam was born, we swaddled, and shushed, and swung away, and by eight weeks, Liam was mostly sleeping through the night. While the jury is still out as to whether the credit is all Dr. Karp's, I feel like his methods worked to calm Liam in those first few months.

Recently, Liam's started to get kind of naughty-- not terribly naughty, but he throws little temper tantrums, throws things on the floor, and perhaps, most disturbingly, bangs his head on the floor  when he's tired. (Not just on carpet, either, he'll bang it on whatever is available-- wood, cement, etc.)While I chalk up the little fits in the past week to the fact that we've been away from home for nearly two weeks now, I felt like it was time to finally break out The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

My major takeaway from the book involves two rules for toddler communication:

-The Fast Food Rule: The fast food rule mostly involves repeating your child's feelings. I feel this is pretty good practice in any situation, whether it's dealing with an upset teenager or a toddler. One thing that he suggested that I hadn't thought of before was doing so at about a 1/3 of the intensity. If you react with too little emotion, they think you don't care, and if you react with too much emotion makes them even more upset.

-Speaking in Toddler-ese: This means using shorter, simple phrases. It is our instinct to try to reason with toddlers; however Dr. Karp feels that the best way to speak to a toddler (at least one that's having a temper tantrum) is in short simple phrases. Rather than saying, "I know you feel mad about that." He feels you should say, "You're mad! Mad!" I'm not sure what I think about this. Thus far, I've just tried to reason with Liam, and perhaps that's because I typically deal with older kids. I'm willing to give this a shot, at least for awhile to see if it works.

The other thing that really stuck out to me in this book is that our environment is often either overstimulating or understimulating for toddlers (and sometimes a combination of the two), and toddlers are in their element outside. I've definitely found this to be true for Liam. While he's always loved being outside, I've found that on particularly rough days, going outside for a walk or another activity is really helpful.

What about you? Please tell me I'm not alone. Do you have any suggestions for books, methods, etc?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Because it's surely going to take me more than a year...

Last weekend one of my friends was talking about her list of 28 things to do in her 28th year. As she listed a few of the things she's accomplished and still planning to do, I thought, "Wow, that's really cool." Since I'll be celebrating my golden birthday this year-- 29 on December 29th, I thought I'd start a list of 30 things I'd like to do before I turn 30.

But first, a few thoughts on goals:

+I think goals should be audacious, but they should also be attainable, so unfortunately "Swimming with whale sharks in Donsol" did not make my list.

+I teach goal setting in my class fairly regularly and always emphasize the importance of SMART goals ( I frequently find myself saying, "Is 'Get Healthy' a SMART Goal?"), so I tried to follow those principals for the most part. However, this is my blog, and I can do what I want so there are a few that aren't very specific or measurable.

+I may do some substituting along the way. As the presenter at one of my sessions at the GED Summer Conference said today, "If it's not working, change it."

+I'm sure some of you are thinking "Really, Amber? You don't cook one meal a week?" Unfortunately, no. I have a husband who works a lot and a one-year-old who would prefer frozen chicken strips and pasta with butter and garlic, but I'm going to try to change that. 

30 before 30:

1. Read five more books from the BBC Top 100 Books.
2. Save for a DSLR Camera.
3. Go 30 days without buying any new clothes.
4. Build shelves for Liam's toddler room. (In place of redoing the floors.)
5. Do the Crazy Horse Volksmarch.
6. Take Liam to the Henry Doorly Zoo.
7. Create my living will.
8. Continue to walk/work out four days per week.
9. Choose a charity(ies) and donate (not just at Christmas time).
10. Make a list of home projects and prioritize.
11. Try three more homemade ice cream recipes.
12. Close my account at the large corporate bank and open an account at our local credit union.
13. Eat more pineapple + buy gummy Vitamin D and take daily.
14. Grow an herb garden. (I'm probably going to do this inside since my most recent attempt was thwarted by hail.)
15.  Write a (semi-interesting) Christmas letter. (At the very least, it should not say, "Liam is all boy.")
16. Buy all of my books used or from independent booksellers. (Or check them out from the library whenever possible.)
17. Go an entire month without making one self-conscious comment or apologizing for no reason. (I stole that from this blog. Genius, right?)
18. Cook at least one meal per week (even in the summer). 
19. Try at least one new recipe per month.
20. Purge unnecessary clutter.
21. Slow down.
22. Attempt to redesign the blog.
23. Try something new to me. (Rock climbing? Kayaking? Spelunking?)
24. Revitalize a piece of furniture.
25. Locate a pumpkin patch and take Liam to pick his own pumpkin.
26. Learn to sew and make something useful.
27. Take a pottery class. (In place of a language class.)
28. Pan for gold.
29. Pay it forward.
30. Unplug from technology for a day.

Things that didn't make the list:
+Go an entire week without wearing a cardigan.
+Pose nude for an art class (for so many reasons).
+Take hip hop dance lessons and show my skills off at a club. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shakespeare Garden Photo Shoot

There's an amazing garden in my hometown modeled after Shakespeare Garden. As I was driving through town the other day, I saw a sign pointing toward it. It brought back so many memories of many hours spent posing my brother and sister in front of the sun dial, the pond, and the wishing well, so i decided I needed to take Liam up for a photo shoot. (Unfortunately, I forgot the charger for my camera, so I had to take all of the pictures with my cell phone. Liam wasn't such a willing participant, either, so I also had to break out his dump truck to keep him entertained.)

And, just for fun, Liam eating a rock:

Friday, July 6, 2012

For the Love of Math

My friend Jenny is one of the world's greatest regifters, so when we arrived for her wedding last weekend, I was pretty excited for the regifted presents that were waiting for us.  When I pulled out these flash cards, I had to laugh.

Sometimes in my rush to promote literacy and reading, I forget how important number sense and reasoning skills are to his development, so I set out to find some math activities for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids. Here are a few of my favorites:

-We often think about bedtime stories. What about bedtime math? (I first saw this on Modern Parents Messy Kids.)

-Some of these activities seem so simple and easy, yet I don't think I would have thought about most of them without this site.

-A number safari seems like a great way to keep Liam occupied in the car once he's older.

-I can't wait until Liam's old enough to try guitar string math

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fourth of July Fun

The fourth of July also happens to be my mom's birthday, so it's an extra special holiday around our house. We started out our afternoon with a trip to the local parade. As we walked along the parade route, looking for a place to stand, a Shriner handed Liam this pinwheel which kept him entertained for awhile.

Whenever I go to my bank, one of my favorite bankers always offers Liam a sucker. Whenever I tell her that he's still a little too young, she says, "Oh, you're one of those moms." I figured there was no better time than the fourth of July to break down and let him try a Tootsie Pop. We never found out how many licks it takes to get to the center, though-- Liam threw it on the ground once he was good and sticky.

Turtle racing was a pretty big deal when I was growing up. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a procrastinator and didn't actually attempt to look for a turtle until Tuesday night. It turns out the pickings for turtles were pretty slim this year, so we missed out. We decided to go watch my cousins race, though.

We ended the night with a picnic in the park and fireworks.