Thursday, October 25, 2007

Go Sox!

This place is just nuts about its baseball team -- especially now that the Boston Red Sox are in the world series against the Denver Rockies!
Ever since we moved here in mid-May, it was not uncommon to see people all around town sporting a Sox t-shirt, sweatshirt, baseball cap, tattoos, etc on game day. I remember the first time we were at the library for storytime and half the moms there were in Sox-wear!
I thought Dallas would have been a hotbed for supporters of its home teams, after all, the Cowboys are legendary, too and Texas is certainly a state where towns live & breath by the football season schedule. But, the displays here put those fans to shame!
When we took our Duck Boat tour of the city, our driver/captain could hardly get a sentence or two out before he had to refer to the greatest baseball team - ever. And, anyone who dared to identify themselves as a Yankees fan was offered a special view of the Charles River....a very up close and personal view.
Go Sox!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Temporary Art

Peanut likes to sit out on the balcony with her chalkboard to draw.

But, to see what she's created you have to be quick.
Almost immediately after she's drawn her piece of artwork, she announces "Its old" and wipes it away.

On Falling

I feel like we are living in the middle of a postcard. "Fall in New England" sounds more like an event to me than the autumn season everyone else experiences. Even as I drive Peanut to her playcare, we cruise down a winding community road lined with low walls of stones stacked a foot high to mark yards. The yards behind them now complete for my attention with leaves of all those autumn shades - some which I feel I've never seen before even though I've certainly seen leaves change color all my life!

Indeed, it is a beautiful time.

We took our leaf "peeping" (yes, the official term) tour through New Hampshire and Vermont the other weekend. Our route followed I-93 North cutting through the White Mountains into northern Vermont before heading east towards Lake Champlain. I was stunned by the scenes in the White Mountains. We were dwarfed by the range and in awe of the puffs of trees as far as we could see. As you looked across the evlevations, you could see the various stages of fall all at once. The highest trees were already showing their skeletons while on the lowest level some held on tightly to green leaves.

Vermont seemed to have a ban on roadside billboards and unneccessary signage which all added to its decidely rural appereance. I expected moose, deer (which I spotted several of) and other wildlife to jump across the road at any moment. Many of the northern towns seemed uncomfortable without the blanket of snow soon arriving; kind of like a teenage girl out in her bikini for the first time on a beach. Somehow I sensed that the whiteness and ice would make the places more complete - not neccessarily in a serene, holiday way, but in the way that snow fills in the gaps, covers the unsightly.

We spent the night at the cozy Black Bear Inn where we comfortably settled into a 'superior suite' so Peanut and Tex could go to bed early and sleep peacefully in their own room while mama and papa relaxed in our own space. The restaurant was extra accomodating for the needs of little ones even though we appeared to be the only guests in the 'under 60' demographic. Perhaps Leaf Peeping isn't such an extreme sport and doesn't draw the young crowds? It was a perfect event for us - most of the sights could be enjoyed from our car where everyone was comfortably strapped in :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Aspen Dental - where 4/4 of our patients suffer from periodontal disease


Thank goodness I made my annual check-up and cleaning appointment at my local Aspen Dental clinic and not just at a regular dentists office!

How else would I have known, that I, too, needed a Stage One Deep (not deep, deep) Cleaning Management Plan to cope with my stage of previously undiagnosed periodontal disease?!

I found my way to Aspen Dental from the list of providers my dental insurance plan works with. Evidently Aspen Dental is a hot one for them as I scrolled through page after page of names of dentists associated with the numerous Aspen Dental clinics around us.

OK, that made me a little leery. It already sounded like a quickie lube chain,but I figured all I need is a cleaning to get the tartar scrapped off my teeth, so, it should be alright. Right?

Aspen Dental Woburn sits in a strip mall off the interstate. The interior seemed clinicy enough. I had plenty of time to soak it in as I sat waiting for 45 minutes in the waiting room. Plenty of time to peruse the notice on their new oral cancer screening program which they hope will one day be as common as mammograms, pap smears or PSAs. I agree, early detection of cancers is important, but when the screening is a "TM" and presented on a sheet with statistics obviously intended to frightened you, I begin to wonder.

Finally, in for my X-rays because you see, Aspen Dental requires that you first make an initial appointment for X-rays and a evaluation to determine what level of cleaning you need before you can come in for the actual cleaning. OK, so, my dentist in Coppell did this, too. There I also thought it was a colossal waste of my time and a chance for them to double-bill the insurance, but I supposed this is just the way it works nowadays.

But, these were to be no ordinarily wing-bite X-rays. The technicians announced I will be having 18 x-rays! She claimed it was the normal "FMX" that everyone has every 3 - 5 years (so infrequent due to the large amount of X-raying required!). Its needed to review the health of not just the teeth, but roots as well. OK, fine, let's do it.

Then 15 mins later, I'm being led down the hall past the cubicles of dentist chairs to an empty one for me. In the cube, a wall poster of the stages of periodontal disease. Flyers of periodontal disease. A laminated USA Today story linking periodontal disease and heart disease. A brochure of Arestin (TM) antibiotic used to treat periodontal disease. A sample Rota-dent toothbrush and brochure. Hmmmmm, you think they're trying to tell me something? I suspected periodontal disease must be their speciality.

So, unsurprisingly, the dentist suggests I need a special "Deep, not deep, deep where we have to numb you all up" cleaning for my early stage periodontal disease. I make her explain in detail, point out on the X-rays exactly where this disease is. She fumbles a bit with mentioning the antibiotics and how I probably don't need it, but you never know until they begin to clean. The traditional part about cavities, etc, was quickly dispensed with.

From the dental cube, I'm taking to the "Appointments and Payment Planning" station. I see the lady filling out paper work with number like $800, $500 and $300..... and I'm beginning to get angry. I feel as if I've been set up all along and now comes the closer.

The $800 is the total cost of the Treatment Program Recommended by the Dentist. $500 is what my insurance would cover, leaving me to pay $300 out of pocket. That's outrageous I have to exclaim! Are they crazy, I think? I just want my teeth cleaned.

I'm fed up with it all and make the lady go through it line by line. Oh, what's this - a $150 toothbrush. "Yes, its recommended". I don't want it. "But, its what we suggest." I don't want it. "We recommend an electric toothbrush." I have one, I don't want it. Oh, and the $30 mouthwash - I don't want it. And, the $20, special paste - I don't want it. And the antibiotic which is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women - I don't want it.

And, then the follow up visit in 3-months with more over-priced mouthwash and special paste. Don't want it.

I refuse to sign the form outlining the program and related costs and my obligations to pay them.

I was just steaming as I left this schister scam clinic. My poor husband had to listen to me rant about it for the entire 20 minute drive home -- and many more times that day. And, now you had to suffer through my re-hash of it all. I could barely sleep last night thinking of all the dirty tricks they pulled.

I thought dentistry was an honorable profession! Its scams like this that drive up health care costs for everyone and mess up an already fragile system! Its schisters like this that take people for fools and steal their hard-earned money!!!

And, I'm not the only one to clue into this:
Boston Yelp
Aspen Dental scores single star in reviews
Complaints Board #1
Complaints Board #2

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Pick a pail of apples

Its apple-picking season!

What fun! Some locals think its been a bit too warm to pick apples, but we enjoyed it so much, we've been twice!

Our first visit was to Belkins Farm (aka Lookout Farm), which claims to be the oldest continuously working farm in the US. The grounds were immense, very clean and full of fruit.

It was a cloudy Friday morning when we arrived which helped keep the crowds down. After purchasing our apple bags, we loaded up on the train which circled the massive orchard. At each stop, the conductor called out the apple varieties nearby. We opted for the stop near the playground, but found plenty of perfectly riped apples just a few steps down the aisle.

Peanut easily reached the dwarf apple trees with low hanging fruit. Tugging with all her might, she snatched a few. The books we read at the library about apple picking specifically said not to pull, rather to twist and lift, but we went for it anyway. Baby Tex bumped along in his stroller.

Our bags were quickly filled and we spent some time peeking at the animals and eating a small lunch. There were supposed to be food concessions there, but for some reason they were not open so be sure to bring your own!

Because Papa wanted to pick, too, we drove a bit further on Sunday to Tougas Farm. The weekend brought out the masses and by the time we wandered into the orchard around noon, many rows were picked clean! We still filled up our bags, and sampled some apple cider, apple cider doughnuts and apple crumble pie.

From our bounty of apples, papa and Peanut made two apple pies from scratch. And, last night, I made a batch of applesauce. Many more crispy and extremely flavorful apples await in the fridge. Perhaps next I'll make some oven-baked apples.....

Friday, September 21, 2007

Still waiting for my 400 recipes to come pouring in

I still remember one of the first chain letters I ever received. It was hand-delivered by my friend who had walked across Ilomantsi with her father to bring copies of the letter to me and my sister. I was to copy the letter six times, add my address to the bottom of the list and send a postcard to the name at the top of the list. I would be continuing a chain that had been 'unbroken and traveled around the world many times', and would receive a pile of postcards from across the globe.

I'm not sure if the promised postcards arrived. But, then again, time moved at a different pace back then. Letters had to be hand-written, post-marked and passed along by various postal services at their leisure.

Ah, but the chain letters for the modern mom work much quicker! A baby book exchange (who could resist such a good cause!) encouraged you to photocopy or print out copies of the letter and their were only two other addresses to wait through. Peanut received four books: two from the US, one from Finland and one all the way from New Zealand.

The latest one I pushed ahead came via email. Its the first email chain letter I'd gotten. So quick and easy. Just a click-click copy/paste, delete the first email address, add your own, scroll through the online address book (click, click, click) and SEND!

Please send a recipe to the person whose name is listed in the number 1 position above (even if you don't know them) and it should preferably be something quick, easy, without very rare ingredients. Actually, the best is the one you know in your head, and can type out and send right now. But, feel free to consult your recipe files!

Then, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to the number 1 position, and put your name in the number 2 position.

Only your name and mine should appear in this list when you send out your email.

Send this to 20 friends.

You should receive 36 recipes. It is fun to see where these recipes come from! Seldom does anyone drop out because we can all use new recipes! The turn around is fast because only 2 names are on the list.

Again, the hook was too tempting to resist -- new recipes! Goodness knows, I need inspiration in the kitchen. peanut's papa always laughs at how I make shopping lists. I always start with 'chicken, pork chop or ground beef?' and grab random veg and carb side dishes that kinda go with the protein.

So, within minutes, I had sent a recipe to Name #1 (Salmon Chowder - nice for fall/winter and perhaps a recipe she didn't have). The instructions said to send to 20 friends and you'll get '36 recipes' in exchange. Hmmmm, I thought later that day. I'm no numbers whiz, but that sounds a bit low. I mean if everyone participated, my diligent 20 friends would move me up to position #1 and all send it to 20 of their friends, leaving hundreds out there to zap me their kitchen favorites. We should be in food paradise! I'll be unburdened of having to contrive of some meal plan for weeks, months, possibly the entire year!!!!!

Yet, now almost a week later, my mailbox has yet to receive a single poor family continues to eat pork chops with carrots and couscous or coconut chicken with mixed veg and noodles wondering when -- if ever -- they will get to taste something new......

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Walden Pond

One wonderful thing about living in New England is all the historical and beautiful places we live among.

The Walden Pond of Henry David Thoreau's Walden is just a short drive away and completely open to explore. To limit the impact of visitors on this natural gem, the number of park visitors is capped.

This past Sunday was a glorious day - just like you would imagine early autumn in New England to be - bright sunshine in a brilliant blue sky, cool weather mixed with a hint of warm currents. We headed over to Walden Pond with the intent of strolling around it, but ended up playing and picnicing on its sandy shore.

As we descended down the path toward the pond, I was shocked to see a couple of people swimming in the middle of it! The shock was two-fold: it was quite brisk out and this is a park! Once we reached the waterfront and sampled the water ourselves, it was easy to see why the swimmers were out. The water temperature was very pleasant especially at the lengthy shallows.

Of the paths around the pond, none of the them looked wide enough to accomodate our Mutsy so we went as far as we could and settled on the sand to eat lunch. Peanut could hardly keep herself from the rocks on the water's edge. So, the picnicing was left up to papa, me and Tex, who enjoyed his mushy sweet potatoes.

An older man soon approached us wondering if Peanut might be interested in a shovel, bucket and sieve. He explained that he cleans the beaches everyday and everyday he finds the same types of toys left behind. The rangers usually throw them away, but he likes to disburse them among the children on the beach. However, as a sign of our times, he refused to hand them directly to Peanut saying he only gives toys for children to their parents, never to kids. He didn't even really dare to speak to her.

On our way out, we saw a replica of Thoreau's one-room cabin; next time, we'll have to strap Tex into the baby carrier and walk to the actual site where Thoreau was inspired to start the back to simplicity and nature movement in America. I can't wait to watch the scenery change as we approach winter!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Quack, Quack!

Peanut & Tex's uncle from the Netherlands was here last week for his first visit to the US! He's just headed home last week after a leisurely drive down the coast to NYC with a friend. We think he'll be back.

Peanut certainly hopes so! Mama & Papa were simply swept aside when Peanut realized what a good time she could have with her uncle. At first, she referred to him simply as "This" - as in, "Let's go to the pool." "This come along, too?" with a little finger tapping his shoulder. By the end of his visit, she was very clear on who he was :-)

To get a quick look around Boston with the whole family, we jumped aboard the local Duck Boat Tour ! We arrived a half hour before launch, but it wasn't a minute too early. All the other passengers were also clambering up the ladder-like steps dropped from the back of the amphibious vehicle. The Duck Boats are renovated World War II vehicles made for moving from land to sea and back again. They played a major role in the Normandy landings. It gave me a strange sort of feeling imagining what those original passengers must have felt and now we were just leisurely riding around in the Ducks for fun.

We had a lively operator/captain by the name of "Hardly Davidson" who kept us entertained while also sharing a few stories about the city; the strangest was the tale of the Great Molasses Flood. After a loop on dry-land we headed around to a specially-built launching site on the Charles River for our splash-down. I had imagined a more dramatic race off the edge of the pavement, but it was still a new adventure.

Next time we move (because I just know we will), I'm going to make sure we hop aboard whatever sort of local city tour bus/trolley/boat/tram/amphibious vehicle within the first weeks. The little ones had fun watching the city whirl by and I learned a lot about the history, culture, politics and people of Boston in that short 80 minute tour.

Bye-bye summer

Labor Day seemed to really mark the end of summer - schools opened again, some leaves are already hinting at their fall glamor, our local "beach" was pad-locked and the days are growing shorter.

There was much to enjoy - the New England love for ice cream being one! As you drive along the winding roads, you're certain to run into a local ice cream stand often founded as a corollary to the diary farm. Usually just a small building marked by an over-flowing parking lot and lines of people in front of windows surrounded by huge boards filled with scores of ice cream flavors. Nearby our home, we went to the Bedford Farms Ice Cream stand where Peanut carefully balanced her own cone of "pink ice cream" as it slowly shrank in size. For the record, she nearly finished it all by herself!

The region is dotted with lakes and I was surprised to find so many with beaches -- on the map, at least! It turned out that many beaches are owned by the local community in which they fall and are closed to outside visitors. Only town residents can come splash and play. We were fortunate that down the road from our apartment was a 'pay & play' beach. Its just a small strip of sand on a lake, but when you're Peanut's size, that's all you really need to make it a beach. For $3 (paid to the lifeguards), we all got a spot on the sand. We arrived in the evening so we had the beach all to ourselves.

Little Tex spent his beach days lounging in our portable, pop-up baby cabana to protect him from the sun. I'm pretty fanatical about keeping Peanut coated in sunblock and Tex hidden in the shade since we come from such Northern backgrounds.

One lesson I'll remember for next summer is also about coastal beaches where parking is often limited to residents or priced up to $25/day -- either get there super early or invest in a regional beach parking pass. For example, by joining the Crane Beach Trustees for $150/year, you can get free admission to the beach for 4 family members. Coming from a part of Florida where our beaches were all free, its still a hard nut to swallow. Contrast it even further with Finland's idea of 'Everyman's Right' and it seems down right outrageous to charge such sums for public access!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blind dates

From "You know, there's a collegue of mine who knows someone you should meet....I think you two have a lot in common...." to personal emails with complete strangers from online forums to exchanging phone numbers at the library, I've never been on so many blind dates!

That is, until I became a mama.

You know how it goes, you agree a time & place to get together. That morning, you get yourself showered (not an everyday occurance!), fix your hair (also not everyday), put on some make-up and ironed clothes -- that are clean & match (sadly, definitely not an everyday occurance!). You get the babes into clean clothes, into the mini-van and head out to meet a stranger hoping that you will click so you can have future 'dates'.

I try to learn as much as I can about the blind date before we get there so I can think about some topics to discuss in case things fizzle. Sometimes, you don't have too much to go on.

Depending on who introduced you, we agree to meet in a public location (like the park) or even at one another's homes. You try to suggest a time when the little ones will be on their best behavior. "Oh, 10:00 am is great for us!"

Sometimes you get lucky and there's a sort of mama-magic in the air -- you have similar interests, child-raising perspectives, a sense of humor and the time flies. Its naptime before you know it.

Other times, you know within the first minutes, its going to be a loooonnng playdate. You struggle for what to say. You can't help but think "I would NEVER treat MY children like THAT". You try to keep your little ones away from all the hazards open in their home. You make up excuses "Oh, we have to leave early because she's got a bit of a cold coming on and I wouldn't want your little darlings to catch it ...." "I'll call you to set up another playdate" - but you never call.

Having moved as often as we now have, it takes a lot of energy & effort to find new friends for myself and Peanut & Tex. I find that I'm getting quicker at approaching mamas at the park and library. I've vowed to jump at every chance we get to go on blind dates introduced via friends. I think I've really developed my social abilities with the kids. Before, I've been more shy and content to just focus on the smaller group of friends I already had. I've been almost reluctant to try to meet strangers.

We've been very lucky and have developed several rich relationships from our blind dates. Only very rarely have we hit a dud.

With fall arriving, many local parenting groups are starting up activities and we're filling our calendar with events full of potential future dates. Now, I just need to work on my pick-up lines ;-)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Mainely about vacation

We did it -- our first four-member family vacation is complete! We rented a house on a quiet cove in Surry, Maine, near Acadia National Park. Loaded up the mini-van (again, just an amazing modern invention) and headed up I-95 and down some smaller roads. The landscape was serene and reminded us in many places of Finland.

My favorite sightings were the items for sale along the way. Usually just a handpainted sign (Firewood $3, Cucumbers $2.50, Bathouses $10.00, or just stuff "FREE") marked the opportunity.
My only wishes for the week were:
  • lots of time for Peanut to play outside in the yard and on the beaches

  • time for the four of us just to hang out without moving boxes (to be packed or unpacked) in the background

  • visits to Acadia National Park (notice I didn't actually say 'hike', 'tour' or otherwise deeply engage ourselves -- just visit enough to see it)

  • lobster and blueberries

So, all in all, an excellent week! Well, I suppose I had also imagined quiet days of relaxation,but that was just silly. With two little ones, vacation is just home life, but away from home. So, there are tantrums, cooking, shopping and little voices crying out in the middle of the night.

Maine moves at a leisurely pace and it was a relief to melt into it. Our cove home was off the main drive, down a dirt road and secluded. Ahhhhh...To me, any vacation home that you have to take a dirt road to is just fantastic! We had the cove to ourselves and could wonder how the tides never seemed to rest. As soon as it had risen to the top of the beach, you could almost perceive it starting to go out again until 15 feet of stones, mussel shells, seaweed and granite rocks would be exposed.

Acadia National Park is pretty 'la-de-da' as far as parks go. Rockefeller (The Rockefeller) invested much time and money into it, designing a driving route with stops at the key sights. Perfect for us! We also enjoyed the near mandatory Popovers and Strawberry Jam at the Jordan Pond Lake House, arriving just at opening time to be seated with a view of the mountains.

Our vacation ended abruptly the eve Peanut put on Tex's socks, raced around on the wooden floors and slipped, busting open her lip and injuring her teeth. Calls to the local clinic and seemingly only dentist in town who was booked for the next 4 weeks, left us with an hour drive to Bangor to go to the Penobscot Health Center. There the dentist told us all four top teeth were loose and mentioned such terrible solutions as their removal.

Luckily, a follow up visit here in the area found the teeth more stable. We won't know more until the months pass as Peanut was terrified of the X-ray machine and would not allow it to get close enough to get an image. This made me think, I need to find a good local pediodontist and take Peanut in for check-ups just so she's familiar and we have a doctor who will see us in an emergency because they don't all do that unless you are already a patient! It made me miss Dr. Rozas in Coppell.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Butterfly Place

Peanut being a girl, loves butterflies.

So, earlier this week we went to walk among the fluttering creatures at the Butterfly Place with a friend back from our playgroup in Texas who had moved up here more than a year ago!

The Butterfly Place is a privately owned indoor atrium where hundreds of butterflies float freely through (or sometimes just sleep in the middle of the walkways) their mini tropical forest.

What I didn't count on was how unnerving it could be to have a butterfly with an 8-inch wingspan come diving at you (Ok, it wasn't really diving, just fluttering) so you could really see the legs and fuzzy body. Maybe I hadn't had enough sleep the night before and maybe I'd had one too many cups of coffee that morning, but I was almost ducking and diving my way through the atrium.

Peanut's been talking about the butterflies all week and evidently the man who told us about the caterpillars also made an impression since she often mentions him, too.

Tex also had a good time, gazing up at the skylights on the ceiling and certainly seeing some of the butterflies (they were so big!) especially the one that landed right next to his toes in the stroller.

Did you know that each butterfly species caterpillars can only eat certain types of leaves? I did not! I thought was the flowers that attracted butterflies, but as the Caterpillar Man told us, its the trees.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Alaska Greetings

Earlier this week, Peanut & Tex received an Alaska care package from their Grandy & Nana, who are on their nearly annual adventure to the wilds of Alaska.

From the pictures we've seen, they are enjoying themselves as never before. Grandy is hauling in halibut (see picture) of sea-monster proportions with struggles that sound as if they could be the basis for a good fairy tale.

Whales, sea otters and other wildlife glide past their boat as they explore the coast. Grandy has made connections with one of the only other Finns in the area and his eagle eye spotted the local sauna one evening. They've been offered a turn "whenever they don't see smoke coming out of the chimney".

Even Nana gets a turn at the helm of their craft.

Inside the care packages were three unique tales from that great state. Peanut's already been enjoying the Alaska ABC's book from last summer. She'll often tell us that "D is for dall sheep going down" and "V is for vegetables in the valley".

This time, the little ones received The Alaska Mother Goose, Count Alaska's Colors, and Alaska's Three Pigs.

In the package were 6 cans of fresh caught salmon and two jars of hand-picked and lightly prepared blueberries. Yum! The blueberries tasted like blueberries which is not always the case when you buy a jar of jam from the store.

And for dinner tonight --- Salmon Burgers! Peanut's papa reminded me I couldn't just post the Salmon Burger recipe Nana had sent since she copied from the Alaskan Cooking cookbook, but certainly I can link to an Alaskan Salmon Burger recipe.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dreaming of Rice Cream

Little Tex has a sensitive belly.

Around two weeks of age, we noticed he was very unhappy after milk and if put down on his back the milk would come gurgling back up. He was wriggly, fussy, crying and fighting with large gulps to keep the milk down. I heard the milk as it gurgled and bubbled in his belly. One morning, a large handful of milk came flying out of him. I know babies are different and we couldn't expect him to be as calm as Peanut was, but something off.

I took him in to the see the pediatrician, who after listening to my quick concerns said I had just run down the the checklist for infant reflux without missing a beat. Its a common condition caused by the upper digestive tract not being fully developed. Essentially the valve that should keep stomach contents down, doesn't fully function allowing food back up along with painful stomach acid.

Tex was prescribed Zantac to help reduce the acid production so the reflux wouldn't be so painful. We still had to keep him upright for 30 - 40 minutes after feedings and also tilted his crib so the head end was at around a 30 degree angle. The change in him was phenomenal. We finally had a baby who was happy after meals and much more peaceful.

Around two months, Tex started suffering painful bouts of gas that caused him to cry, again generally be unhappy and produce pure liquid poop (sorry for the image, but this is a mom's blog!). I started evaluating what I was eating and hit the internet for some ideas on what might be causing the discomfort.

I went for an elimination diet to cut out the common offenders: diary, peanut, egg and
soy. Wheat is another big one, but I started with the others. It seemed that diary products were his issue. Nothing scientific, just my own testing. Usually at this age, its not lactose intolerence, but rather the whey protein.

Out went the milk in the morning coffee, in came in Rice Milk. No more chocolate, cheese, butter or ice cream! And careful reading of labels helps me spot whey in many more products from bread and crackers to meats and meals.

Now after several months, its OK. I take a calcium supplement to make up for what I'm not getting. Dropping diary also resulted in a rapid drop of several pounds. I just miss the ice cream during summer -- and there is supposed to be Rice Dream Ice Cream out there, I just can't seem to fine it!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rocking Guns and Roses on the Dark Side

After Tex arrived, it quickly became very crowded in my car, a silver mommy-wagon from Subaru. With two car seats in the back, there was no more space to drop bags, toys or all the what-not that I tend tote with me. Once the "baby truck" (aka Graco Duo-Glider) was placed in the trunk, even groceries required stuffing and scrunching to get home. Peanut's papa was virtually claustrophobic jammed into the front seat.

So, he brought it up, "we need a minivan".

"No way".
"No freakin' way", said I.
The reaction was first just pure emotion. NO, NO, NO. After mulling it over for several days, I came to understand why I was so opposed to minivans. They simply represent the antithesis of what I imagined my life to be. I was raised to believe anything boys can do, girls can do better. Through high school and college, that thought matured into professional ambitions and a life defined by what I did outside of the home.

A minivan. Well, that meant full-time mama, baby-totting, toddler-taming, strollers, diaper bags, visits to the zoo/park/Chuck E Cheese, a woman who has lost her independence and ability to support herself. Really, all those things I never wanted for myself. Until Peanut and Tex came along (except for the independence part which isn't true. Mamas know that child-rearing requires much more independent thought and decision making than most careers!).

I finally came to terms with the fact that what I drove did not change who I am or what I'm schlepping around town. Its our two wonderful babes and all the accouterments. It helped when Peanut's Papa framed it like this: being wise enough to choose the best tools for the job at hand is what makes anyone successful in whatever they do.

It took about two hours of life with the minivan to make me a true believer.
Minivans rock.
Where else can I get the doors that slide open as I'm coming across the parking lot, child seats at a level I can reach without straining, and space enough for our stroller collection AND grandparents/food/beach gear/etc. And, its actually very driveable - I much preferred it to a large truck or SUV. Today's minivans are loaded with all sorts of other goodies from DVD screens to special convex mirrors to better see what's happening in the backseats to third row seats that disappear making for a trunk you could literally sleep in.

The other night I was driving home from my pedicure, shining toenails pushing on my minivan accelerator. I was alone for once. I didn't have to listen to Raffi sing about wheels on a bus, monkeys on a bed or spiders on a water spout. I was having a great time with Axl, Slash and co. singing about Sweet Child O Mine right before grooving along with the Beastie Boys. In high school, these guys were part of our weekend party soundtrack. Now, they're part of my minivan crew -- next thing you know, we'll be sitting in our rocking chairs at the Ye Olde Folkes Home listening to a group of students perform Paradise City for us on Bingo Night.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Prettiest in Pink

I don't know how it has happened, but Peanut has turned into a pink princess fanatic.

The other day, she was pretending to play golf (papa's newest love). When papa asked her if she would like a set of clubs and balls too, she replied "How about pink ones? Pink princess ones?"

On our trip to pick out curtains for Tex's room, Peanut chimes in "I need pink curtains". She already has some cutesy curtains for her room. Granted, they are not just pink.

As we strolled through the toddler clothing department, "How about a dress? A pink one?"

And, it was with the motivation of princess stickers and underwear that Peanut was encouraged to start using the potty (even though its only white!).

Her favorite Disney princess? "The pink one" = Sleeping Beauty.

I had really hoped to keep the princesses out of our lives for another year or more, but somehow their allure is irresistible. In trying to figure out how they slipped in, I think it all started with
Ms. Christie's Dancing DVD where a ballerina dressed as a butterfly first caught Peanut's eye. This then lead to her picking out what she called a "dancing dress" with butterfly wings for her 2nd birthday present. Perhaps princesses just looked like little girls who always got to wear pretty ("plilly") dancing dresses!

But, the PINK!!! Its all Peanut.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

3 Things I Love about the Boston area

1. Peapod! Back in the days of the Internet boom, I tried out the now long-gone Webvan and thought it was a marvelous idea back then. Sit at home, order your groceries online and someone brings them to your kitchen table!

Now, with two little ones and three flights of stairs between my car and the kitchen table, I think Peapod (BTW - a wholly owned subsidiary of international food provider Royal Ahold - the Royal part referring to the Dutch royalty) is absolutely one of greatest ideas of all time. I usually shop after the kids are in bed, pick a delivery time for the next morning and viola -- its as if little elves run up and down the aisles of Stop & Shop for me and magically bring it all home.

love, love, love peapod.

I also love that Trader Joe's and Wholefoods are found in nearly every community. From Coppell it took some work to get them, but now their treats are within easy reach.

2. Being near the water - We've been to the Atlantic shore several times and often stroll around Horn Lake to see the geese, ducks and swans.

3. Scenery & History -- Some places around here are just so beautiful and picturesque it hurts!

And, anyone familiar with American History surely knows places like Lexington & Concord where the Minutemen militia bravely fought the British. Well, I can go to Lexington & Concord any time - they are just around the corner. We've been to the Minuteman National Park - walked the very roads they galloped and seen the very taverns where they conspired!!! I'm a bit of a history nerd, so I think this is all very glamorous :-)

5 Things I Miss about Texas

1. Smooth rides on the roads and highways - Bouncy, bouncy, boom goes the car wherever we drive here! A pothole here, manhole cover there and then just indiscriminate lumps & bumps cover all the roads. Plus, in Texas, it was always pretty easy to tell when you were on an interstate, main highway, larger city street or in a neighborhood: the roads got progressively smaller and the speed limits dropped. Here you can be on a major thoroughfare, yet its path cuts through neighborhoods with cars speeding well past the posted 35 MPH.

2. Mothers Day Out! - No such wonders for moms around here. Really, no one has even heard of an MDO. Childcare centers and preschools abound - most offering full time care. A state guideline age of 2 years 9 months which delineates a preschooler & means a program can have a ratio of 10 children to 1 caregiver also cuts down on the number of programs willing to staff programs that require 1 caregiver to 4 children under 2. 9 months.

The costs have also been a shocker. In Texas, Peanut went to a 2 day/week, 9 am - 2 pm MDO at a church for $180/month and later to a child development center program for around $230/month. Here, roughly equivalent programs of about 4 hours/day range from $440 --- $600/month and up.

3. A friendly chat at check out - I know it sound cliched, but I don't mind a nice little 'hello, how are you? isn't it hot today? how cute your children are!' at the check out line at the store. We usually get a perfunctory 'hi', an occasional 'aw, the baby is sweet' and a rare "Aw, what the hell!? Are they nuts in the deli putting this label here?! Geez!"

4. Wild times at the library - Peanut, Tex and I have been going to the weekly storytime at the local library since we arrived. The first time we went the librarian in charge made a point of telling all the mamas not talk to their friends while in the circle. And, then in the dimly lit room, she began in a very hushed voice to sing slowly "open, shut them". If you listened very closely, you could hear other moms whispering the words to their children. After the song, it was time for a story -- and quietly, obediently the children sat in their mamas laps. The tempo never really picked up and the closing song had me wondering if we'd wandered into a commune. I now know its by Raffi, a beloved children's musician, but at first I didn't know what to think of the swaying and slow spinning.

For those of you who know Peanut, it may mean something to hear that she was the wildest & loudest one in the room racing around me in circles, laughing as she danced.

Back at the Coppell Library, storytime was a social affair for all and sometimes even totally Out of Control when the Kindermusik lady arrived with her instruments and soaring operatic singing!

I appreciate that the library is a quiet place for enjoying books and have come to enjoy the storytime in all its mellowness. It means Tex can come along and not be overwhelmed by the noise and action and that Peanut leaves satisfied for singing, dancing and hearing stories, but not totally wired.

5. Our Friends, Ms. Kim and our little-bitty backyard.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Atlantic Shore

One of things we were most excited by when moving to Boston was the idea of being close to the water again! Peanut's papa & I are both water people so it was hard being land-locked in the heart of Texas.

Over the weekend, we made the 45 min drive out to Hampton Beach, NH, and cruised along Highway 1A to Portsmouth, NH.It was a wonderful feeling to dig my toes into the warm and course sands of Hampton Beach while papa and Peanut walked along the waterline. The beach was ideal for families - still fairly quiet, clean sand, easy access to parking (25 cents/10 minutes!) and a long lazy coastline. Behind the beach stood rows of houses and seashore restaurants, shops, etc. Lifeguards watched over the few brave swimmers.

After playing in the sun, we stopped at Little Jacks for lobster and steamers (steamed mussels). Peanut stayed away from the seafood calling the lobster a "monster" and focused on tucking in all the french fries she could grab.The Highway winds up the coast past mansions, State beaches, a retaining wall which is popular as a sunning alter and salty marshes on the inland side of the road.

Glimpses at a few harbors showed deep gorges that must be filled with the tides. We didn't see it come in, but it must be a sight to see the sea levels rise and fall by several feet.