Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Joy Project: Week 2

Sunday - I really like standing at the main door of church welcoming people and handing out programs when I usher.

Monday - Bates slept until 7:40 - whaaaaat?  Then he took a 2-hour morning nap!  Wow!

Tuesday - OOOOPS - I forgot to write down a Tuesday joy. :(

Wednesday - We had a really fun play date with my friend Erin and her 9-month old.  It was nice to do some chit chatting.

Thursday - During Bates' morning nap I cleaned up our dining room (which isn't really a "dining room"  for us - we have the baby grand piano in there and now, TONS of toys) and made it 100% baby proof and came up with some storage for the toys.  So it can basically be a "play room" now.  I felt so accomplished after doing this.

Friday - Bates and I had good between-nap playtime (just the two of us) because Jonathan had lunch with a friend instead of coming home.

Saturday - Many joyful moments of the day: so much fun at the Tigers basketball game with Bates; a fun dinner with friends from church; and glorious sleeeeeeep (my in laws overnight babysat).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Should I Feed My Kid??

At Bates' 6-month check up, his weight had dropped to the 7th percentile (most likely due to reflux).  So the doctor said we needed to bring it back up to where it had been pretty consistently since he was born (30%).  Our method to do this?  Feed him a ton!

So even though I would've liked to do baby-led weaning with him (where you give the baby "big people food" from the beginning [instead of purees]), it wasn't really an option for us because we needed him to eat a lot asap.  (With BLW, they say it takes a couple months for the child to really figure out how to eat - he'll still primarily get his nutrition from breastmilk for a bit and will most likely play a lot with the food instead of eating.)

Purees worked for us, though.  Bates loved to eat them.  In fact, there weren't many baby foods we would give him that he didn't like.  And wouldn't you know, at his 9-month check up, his weight was in the 40th percentile!  So all was good there.  We would feed him cereal+fruit+breastmilk for breakfast and a vegetable + fruit puree for his lunch/dinner.  And after every meal I would give him puffs so he could learn to feed himself and chew on things.

As he got older, we gave him more solid "big people foods," as well.  We would let him try almost anything we had (that was healthy & fit into the guidelines for baby eating), but his primary eating was the purees.

Well, starting at the beginning of this year (10 months), anytime we gave him a puree (one he liked or didn't like), he would spit it back out with a big, dramatic blowing of his lips.  Food would go everywhere and he would do it a lot - sometimes as much as one bite in, the next blown out.  We figured he must be telling us he's ready to eat only "big people foods."  So for his meals, we stopped giving him purees.

And here's where I'm starting to get frustrated: he won't eat anything significant!  1) Still, after a month of this, he won't even try to eat anything with a difficult texture, he'll just spit it out.  2) If we put too many items on his plate at once, he'll get all Hulk-like and smash everything around and throw it on the floor.  3) There's no consistency to his eating: one day he'll devour chunks of mango, the next he'll throw them all on the floor.  4) Sometimes he'll get on a roll eating almost everything we put on his plate (last night with chili, for example), and then he'll just quit eating and throw everything on the floor.  But it could not be because of fullness because he hasn't eaten enough to be full.  5) He's lost weight since our last doctor's appointment.

So here's my question: moms, have you been through this?  Is this just a phase??  What should I do?  Any foods to suggest?

We've tried a lot of foods with him...maybe too many to list here?  We've tried many vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, broccoli rabe, sweet potato, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, avocado...maybe others?), many fruits (bananas, apples, pears, mango, peaches, grapes, clementines, melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, etc.), cheese, bread, English muffins, waffles, pancakes, macaroni & cheese, yogurt, chili, lentil soup, penne pasta, salmon, ground turkey meat, pork chop, chicken...maybe other stuff?  This is just off hand.  There isn't really one thing on the list that's a sure-thing.  The most popular things are probably: cheese, banana, cherry tomato, peas, and mango.  But that's not to say he wouldn't just throw all the cheese on the floor one day for no apparent reason.

Help me!!

(Note: we usually give him real food to eat, and then give him purees afterwards to get him to eat something - so we're letting him starve.  And he's definitely more receptive to purees if he's first had some foods to feed himself.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review: The Fault In Our Stars

Our most recent book club read was The Fault in Our Stars by John Greene.  It's a young adult book that I really enjoyed (as did almost everyone in book club).

It's a story about teenagers with cancer.  But that description doesn't quite do it justice.  It's a story about love, friendship, family, and how all those things look through the lens of a terminal illness.

I tried to think of another book I've read that's written in first person where the main character has cancer - but I don't know that I've read a book like that.  And in fact, I'm not sure it would work if the main character was an adult; it might seem too melodramatic.  But this book worked because teenagers are melodramatic.

And I should mention, these are not just any old teenagers.  They are eloquent, well-spoken, Dawson's Creek-type kids.  They're very smart and philosophical, which certainly takes away an element of realism, but also heightens the book's ability to have deeper themes than the average YA novel.

I don't want to spoil any plots points, so I'll just say this book is a good one to pick up.  It's engaging, heartwarming, heartbreaking, fun - and it's really interesting to see cancer from an "insider's" point of view.  In no way is this book a complete downer, which I think is partially because the narrator is a kid.  Kid's seem to have a different internal monologue about dying than an adult would, I imagine.

Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Restaurant Review: Lunchbox Eats

I didn't know this place existed.  It's a block south of the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis.  We went here for my friend Meagan's birthday lunch this past weekend and I really enjoyed it!

It seems a little bit like a dump on the outside (as is the case with many good Memphis spots), but the inside is really cute.  It's sort of arty and funky - think Trolley Stop Market, but a little nicer.

The menu is a bunch of sandwiches, a few salads, and tons of vegetable sides (also a couple daily specials).  There is only one vegetarian sandwich (which didn't sound 100% awesome to me), so I decided to get a salad, a side of mac & cheese, and split french fries with Patti and Emily.  I'm pretty sure this is not a place to order a salad.  The sandwiches are all really fun and unique: one of them is fried chicken with a cheese waffle as the bread; the one Patti got had meatloaf and mashed potatoes on it.  But, even so, my salad was awesome! It was huge and had cheese, corn relish, jalapenos, boiled egg, tomato, corn bread croutons, and fried onion straws on it.  I would definitely order it again.

The mac & cheese and french fries were pretty amazing as well.  And they had tons of sauces/dressings (because I love a good sauce).  I had honey mustard on my salad and got a chipotle sauce for fry dipping - both seemed homemade.  And I think their ketchup might have had a little something special in it.

All in all, I highly recommend this little place.  I will definitely return.  (Another fun aspect was that they were playing the Tigers game on a projection tv screen on the wall.  Can't go wrong with that.)

Side note: while it's really kid-friendly given how noisy it is, they seem to only have one high chair?  A family came in when we were in there and asked for a high chair and the waitress pointed to another table with a kid and said, "they're using it."  Interesting.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Joy Project: Week 1

Sunday - Our ordination at church.  A couple of our clergy members told me they think it's great that I'm serving on the diaconate - that it will be really important to our church.

Monday - We had a really fun dinner: Jonathan was super chatty and Bates was smiley and eating well.

Tuesday - On my run, I listened to a great This American Life titled "Animal Sacrifice."

Wednesday - I read a lot of our book club book, which was really good.

Thursday - This was such a good day all around.  Bates didn't make a peep until 6:40 (I'll let that sink in for a second for people without kids); it was a beautiful day; and we had a fun book club at night.  AND Patti informed me there's a This American Life app you can buy for $2.99 that lets you access every. single. episode.  I bought it and I'm in love.

Friday - Bates and I had a fun grocery store run to both Whole Foods and rich-people Kroger.  It's usually pretty fun to go to the grocery store with him because he smiles a lot and tons of people come over to talk and tell me how cute he is.  At Whole Foods we ran into my friend Erin (and her son) and my friend Troy I used to work with.

Saturday - Such a good day, as well.  I went on a 5-mile run; the weather was beautiful; we had a big birthday lunch for my friend Meagan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Joy Project

One element of the diaconate experience at my church is the "triad" system.  Every deacon is assigned to a group of three (ahem, "triad") consisting of a first year, second year, and third year.  At the beginning of every meeting, you get with your triad for about 15 minutes and talk.  You share joys with each other and also struggles/prayer requests.

At our retreat this past weekend, we grouped up with our triad and were told to share a current joy with them.  A current joy.  So it seemed to be aiming for something more specific than, "I'm joyful for my family."

The third year in my group wasn't there, so the director of children's ministry at our church was grouped up with us.  She went first and shared that she got to play the harp a lot over the holidays and at one point played at a nursing home in town and her 24 year old son sang while she played.  Joyful on many accounts, right?  She loves to play the instrument and doesn't often get the chance; her son (at an age where he could definitely be too cool for school to even go to the nursing home) wanted to attend and sing; she got to do something good in the community; etc.

When it was my turn....I totally clammed up.  I searched my brain and could not think of one thing, of late, that brought me joy.  Of course there are the obvious: my family (including the cutest baby boy alive), my friends, my dog, the fact that we live so much better than so many other people in the World, (and on and on and on), but there wasn't one pointed, specific thing I could think of to share.

I later reflected a lot on this.  Am I depressed?  (Answer: I don't think so.)  Is something else wrong with me?  Am I mentally bogged down in some way that is clouding my vision and taking away my ability to see how good my life is?  Am I too wrapped up in my day-to-day motions that I'm failing to notice how joyful my life is?

Whatever the reason, I want to fix it.  I want to intentionally seek out small joys in my life.  I want to be able to recognize something insignificant (a 70 degree day in January, for example) and allow it to bring me joy.

So - I am creating The Joy Project.  Everyday I'm going to reflect on something (big or small) that brings me joy on that day.  I think the best way to log it might be to have a blog post draft in my queue that I can update every day of the week and then publish on Sunday.  (At least I'm going to try it that way for a week or so and see if it works.)

If you have a blog, I invite you to join along!  Let's all be joyful together.  Because seriously, times are tough and life is difficult out there.  I'll take any extra happiness I can find!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ordained

Yesterday I was ordained as a Deacon at my PCUSA church, Idlewild.  I got the call from the nominating committee at the end of summer, and while I was completely flattered to be chosen, I was really close to turning down the offer.  Our deacons and elders serve 3-year terms and I just felt like the next 3 years are complete unknowns for our family.  Will we have another child in that time?  Will we move (either in Memphis or out)?  Will I go back to school?

But then I thought about it more and realized the rest of my life is basically an unknown.  While the next three years might bring another baby (and newborn madness) into my life, the three after that might bring the weekend madness of having busy young kids.  It felt like God gave me this feeling of indecision to sort of remind me who's in control (answer: not me).

The whole process leading up to the ordination has been really fun.  In November and December after church we had "training" sessions with all the new deacons and elders.  And then this past weekend we had a retreat with a Friday night and all-day Saturday session.  The retreat was really great as we had the president of Columbia Theological Seminary as our keynote speaker both days; he talked about ways the church is dramatically changing (because of changes in our World) and what it might look like moving forward.  One interesting statistic he gave us was about children becoming adult church-members: of kids who were raised in the church from birth through 12th grade ("raised in" defined as attended services at least twice a month), only 45% of them will attend church as adults.  A pretty sad statistic, if you ask me, and one that paints a dramatically different picture of the church in, say, 50 years.

Anyway, through all these sessions, it's been wonderful to get to know all the other deacons and elders.  I'm genuinely excited about the next 3 years!  (And as an added bonus, apparently the diaconate meetings are pretty strict about not going past the time they are supposed to let out [which was Jonathan's biggest complaint during his 3 year term, as he sometimes didn't get home from meetings until 4pm!])  The whole month of January I've been ushering at church, as well, (which is required of deacons for at least two months a year); it's been really fun to go behind the scenes of what's happening at every Sunday during the service.

All in all, good stuff!  I'm excited to serve my church in this new way.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Reviews: Looking for Alaska & Terra

I used to do book reviews on the blog of everything I read.  For whatever reason (life, baby, less reading/writing time, etc.) I stopped.  But I was inspired when I read one of Patti's year in review posts where she listed all the books she read in 2012.  I have no clue what I read in 2012.

So - I'm going to try my best to document every. single. book. I read this year on the blog.  Even if it's only a quick review, I want to have this for my own personal records, but I know a lot of you guys are readers, too, so maybe I can pique your interest in a new book.

I've read two so far in 2013.

1) Looking for Alaska by John Green
Our book club book this month is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  When I was looking at it on amazon, I saw some reviewers say it was as good as his other book Looking for Alaska.  When I then pulled up Alaska, I was immediately interested: kids at a boarding school in Alabama getting into all kinds of trouble - sold!  I think this is young adult fiction, although it's written a lot better than other young adult books I've read - dare I say the line between YA and "adult" fiction is even a little blurry?

Anyway, it's just as I described: a group of kids at a boarding school involved in all kinds of high school shenanigans.  All the main characters are meant to be super smart though, so it almost has the feel of a small liberal arts college instead of high school.  The kids do some funny things but also deal with some rather heavy life events.

I would recommend this book.  It's an engaging, fast read and makes you think a little (which is a nice element if it is, indeed, YA).

2) Terra by Gretchen Powell
I saw this book reviewed on another blog I read.  Apparently the author is also a blogger?  Who knows.  Anyway, this is a young adult dystopia novel.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: I've never met a dystopia I don't like.

So what I was saying about Looking for Alaska (how it could possibly be a novel for adults)?  Yeah - not so much with this one.  It is very clearly a book written for teens.  But I'm cool with that.

The book takes place on a future Earth that is basically a dead planet - natural resources are gone, plants are gone, acid rain falls from the sky, and the UV rays of the sun are so strong you can't be uncovered outside very long.  All the rich people in the World live in awesome, luxurious "sky cities," while the poor people are stuck on crap Earth.  Terra is the main character and she is an Earth dweller.  Her job is as a "scavenger," that is, she ventures into the plains just outside her shantytown to search for scraps of trash that have fallen from the sky cities.  This is how Earth-dwellers make their living (they turn in the trash they find for money).

Well, in the first chapter she uncovers something crazy out in the plains which, when turned in, basically makes her an Earth millionaire.  But with that comes a price (DUN DUN DUN!!!).  She's told by the authorities not to ask any questions, but as you can imagine, she gets in deep with it.  The male main character (come on, you know there's a male main character) is Adam, the super hot/charming/mysterious "sky boy" who becomes entangled in Terra's life.

It's everything you would expect from a YA dystopia novel, but I enjoyed it.  And the whole sky city vs. Earth city felt a little fresh compared to some of the other dystopias out there.  It's going to be a series, apparently, but this is the only one that's been written.  I recommend...as long as you know what you're getting into.  If you're a lover of the dystopia as I am, and you like some good teenage drama/love stories as I do you'll probably enjoy it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

But An Old House Has So Much Character...

And it does.  Many old houses have things you don't always find in newer homes: beautiful molding, original wood floors, weird little nooks and crannies, interesting arches, pretty windows - the list can go on and on.

Old houses also, on the other hand, are old.  And when houses are old, there are often a lot of crappy things that can happen to them: foundation issues, rot, creaky floors, electrical problems, poor insulation - this list can also go on.

Our house was built in the 40s.  It's been updated, of course, and an addition was put on the back of the original.  But there are also a lot of quirks about it.  And this past year, hand's down, has been the year of crappy home improvements for us.  I say crappy because we've spent a lot of money on stuff that needed to be done, but won't really seem all that awesome when we try to resell (ie, we don't have a new kitchen or new bathrooms).

So in 2012 (the year we had our first child [$$$], mind you) we:
-replaced part of the roof
-bought a new water heater
-bought a new air conditioner
-replaced 2 leaky windows in the attic
-replaced some rotting wood on the roof that was leaking into the house

And we need to, asap, re-tile the shower floor.  And it just sucks because these are all just functional/structural things that could not be ignored (even though we hope to move into a bigger house in a couple of years).

When all of this stuff was breaking on the house, I couldn't help but wish we lived in a new house.  Like, straight-up new construction.  A house that is green and has quiet floors and a new kitchen and good insulation and good ventilation and an open floor plan.  Maybe a house with non-squeaky floors and doors that don't stick and new light fixtures?  Or even a new refrigerator with a functioning light - I'd take that!

But alas - we don't really want to live in a suburb, so we might be looking at old houses for awhile.  What about you guys?  Do you prefer old houses or new houses?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

To St. Louis or Not To St. Louis, That is the Question

I definitely didn't get up to St. Louis in 2012 as much as I have in years past.  With Bates it's a lot easier for my mom to visit us instead.  But regardless of how much time we've spent visiting, every time we leave, I get this nagging feeling.  Basically, it's a feeling of I don't want to leave!

And I think part of it is not wanting to leave my childhood house, which in effect, feels a little bit like my childhood.  That is, I had this completely lovely life when I lived in that house, before I got into the "real world," and so when I'm there, I get this carefree feeling like I don't have any worries in the world.

But the feeling is also about the city - a city I love - because I don't want to leave it.  That is, I want us to live in St. Louis and raise our family there.  And this hits me every time we're on the highway getting on I-55 to come back to Memphis.

It's a conversation that has come up between Jonathan and me.  Basically, the great question of where is the best place for us to raise our family?  We love Memphis.  I love Memphis - nearly as much (if not equally as much) as I love St. Louis.  It's a great city and we have so many great things going on in it: Jonathan's parents, good couple friends, good girlfriends (for me) and guy friends (for Jonathan), an awesome church we're really involved in, professional networks for both of us; and then the wonderful things about Memphis in general: great food, fun stuff to do, lots of cool neighborhoods to live in, a nice "small town" effect of basically knowing/knowing of everyone in the city somehow, warm climate, low cost of living, no income tax, many opportunities to get involved in the city, etc.

But then the city has negatives.  All cities have negatives, of course.  But some of the most noticeable related to us in Memphis are the schools (ie, public schools aren't awesome so we will most likely send our kids to private) and crime.

And so St. Louis comes up as an alternative to Memphis because it has many of the same positives, but on the flip side has awesome public schools and noticeably lower crime (in any area we would live).

But it's the schools that really get me.  If cost of living is about the same, we will live a lot more comfortably in a place where we aren't spending $30k/year for private school (assuming we have two kids and we won't even get into how I'd like to have 3).  And Bates & sibling(s) will get an awesome education.  And they'll have the great side effect of public schools, which is that all your friends live near you.

Leaving Memphis would be incredibly hard, though.  Maybe the hardest decision we've had to make as a couple thus far.  I actually wonder if it would be such a tough decision that we would never really go through with it.  And that might be the case.  But I hate the idea that fear of the unknown is keeping us from what could be a really great life opportunity.  So who knows.  I feel pretty confident that our life will go where it's supposed to go regardless of what we think we want.  So I guess we'll all (myself included) see where we end up.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

Happy new year!  I can't believe 2012 is a thing of the past.  What a wonderful, long, short, life-changing, incredible, fun, difficult, easy, sad, happy year it has been!

Somehow my sweet baby went from this:
To this:
And our life has changed so much!  I remember when 2012 started and I thought, "I'm going to have a child this year" and while I didn't really know what that would look like or what it meant to be a "parent," I knew it would be big.  And it was.  It is.  2012 will always be etched in my mind - the year I became a mother.  Arguably, my second most important year (my own birth being the first).

So I don't really know if 2013 will top 2012.  But I hope it has just as many sweet moments.  More laughter, less tears - all the standard hopes.

No real resolutions here, except to try to live in and really enjoy the moment.  I read a quote on parenting one time that said, "the days are long but the years are short" and it really resonated with me.  Even though there are days when Bates and I just hang around the house playing the same old games with the same old toys, in 2 months he's going to be a year old!  Poof - the time has disappeared in a second.  I want to savor these days.

Happy new year to you!  Here's to more blogging in 2013!