Friday, August 29, 2014

seven quick takes - ed. 25

1. I'm really terrible at this blogging thing lately. Seriously, these past couple of weeks have flown by.  Plus, Jack was off-island this week (in Japan for a conference), so things were a bit more desperate than usual around here.

2. I'm still way behind on Downton Abbey, but I'm keeping a running list of all the medical problems that could've been fixed with modern medicine (hint: basically all of them) and exactly how. I'm in early Season 3 and I'm up to eight major life-changing medical issues that would be much, much smaller issues nowadays. It makes me ridiculously grateful that we live in the times we do. (Though I imagine 100 years from now, people will look back on diseases today and shake their heads in dismay almost as much.)

3. This is how sweet this baby is. Unless she's tired or hungry, she basically never gets frustrated. She laughs every time she makes a mistake stacking blocks. Every. Time. (She does the same thing when she stands and falls over. She thinks that is freaking hilarious.)

4. Ready for some more baby cuteness? Instead of being mad that Josie's scribbling on her coloring book, Faith says, "You did it!! Good job!! I'm so proud of you!!"

5. And because I'm on a mommy-blogging role, here are a few other memorable quotes from Faith:

"Other girls like kale. I like CHOCOLATE!!!"

Me: "Faith, why haven't you put your jammies on?"
Faith: (stark naked) "I did! They're pretend jammies!"

Me: "Faith, do you know how much I love you?"
Faith: "No!! You not loving me!"
Me: "What?! Why do you say that!"
Faith: "Because I love YOU! You not love ME!"
Me: "Well, we can both love each other."
Faith: "Oh. Okay."

6. This is a pretty good article: Top Ten Misconceptions About Guam.  And, for your viewing enjoyment, a time-lapse tropical Guamanian sunrise:

7. I'm too tired to think of a seventh quick take.

Head back to Conversion Diary for the linkup!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

pediatrician psa: where's baby

As with most summers, there's been a lot of publicity lately about babies and toddlers who are accidentally locked and left in hot cars by their parents-- which is extremely dangerous and a huge tragedy all around.

See here for more info, but here's a clever Car Safety Checklist from

Be safe! Look before you lock!

Monday, August 18, 2014

playroom redux

(I don't know if "redux" is technically the appropriate term if the first mention of it was just yesterday, but I like how it sounds.)

Let's pretend this isn't the exact same picture as yesterday.
A couple of people expressed interest in seeing/reading a little bit more about our playroom... I'm happy to oblige!

Storage Bins:

I love these. They're made out of webbing (like backpack straps) woven into baskets, which I really like because they're not unattractive, but are much sturdier than wicker. (I actually use them all over the house, not just in the playroom.) Each one is labeled with the category of toys that go inside, like "dolls," "vehicles," or "Duplos," and-- more importantly-- a picture illustrating that category. That way my 3-year-old knows what goes in each bin and can get out what she wants, and, more to the point, put them away without assistance. The labels were just made in Word with pictures obtained from Google Images, printed on cardstock, "laminated" with contact paper, and safety-pinned to the bins. That way the labels are sturdy, but I can change them out as necessary. We have one unlabeled bin for miscellaneous toys that don't fit into other categories, too. (I'd give you a link to the bins, but I can't find them online. We get them at the home-improvement store on base.)


We have three sling-style bookshelves that I got on Amazon for picture books, and 4 little wall mounted shelves (actually spice racks from IKEA) for small board books. (The slings are deep enough that very small books disappear into them and are no longer visible, which cancels out the whole point-- hence the separate storage for board books.) We use these types of forward-facing shelves again for the benefit of our pre-readers, who identify books by their covers, not their spines.

Whoops... ignore the outlet... looks like mama needs to do some more baby-proofing.


These are just those generic wire industrial shelves you can get anywhere. I think we got ours at Target. I like them because they're super sturdy (notice a theme?), they're deep enough for the storage bins, they're adjustable, they go high enough that I can put "with permission only" toys (like Play-doh or bubbles) out of reach, and I can clip stuff to the wire shelves (I use clothespins to hang painted masterpieces to dry and briefly display).


We have two low tables from IKEA which are reasonably attractive, a good height for my littles, and lightweight enough for them to move around.

We also have two little yellow ottomans for seating-- which Faith climbs on to reach mid-height shelves-- and one small storage ottoman from Target, which holds our collection of wooden blocks (you can see the edge of it in the above picture, under the table-- it appears that they don't sell it anymore, but it's similar to this one only with no pocket).

If we had more room, I'd love to have a comfy couch in there, but they're little enough that they still prefer standing or sitting on the floor when they play... and the living room isn't far away, so we can sit in there and still be generally supervising them. I also have a separate shelf for my own craft supplies and a small desk for my sewing machine on one side of the playroom. (Josie's hanging out by one of the little yellow ottomans, below. They really are little.)


Most of the framed prints are freebies off the internet, or old embroidery projects of mine. The astronomy ones up near the ceiling used to be an old calendar. The rug and curtains are from IKEA. (The generic wall color, tile floor, ceiling fan, and terrible lighting are courtesy of the US Navy. Thanks, taxpayers!)


Jack tells me that I'm kind of a toy snob. I guess that's sort of true-- not that I go for the most expensive toys, or insist on "organic, natural materials only," but I do try to keep our toys within the following guidelines:
- They are open-ended and stimulate the imagination.
- Ideally they're appropriate for a wide age-range.
- They're reasonably well-made and will last a decently long time.
- I don't hate looking at them (or listening to them).
- There aren't a gajillion-billion of them.

These guidelines generally eliminate most battery-operated toys-- at least those of the flashing-and-beeping variety-- and drastically limit cheapy plastic toys. (I don't have anything against plastic toys as a category, except that most of them are ugly and/or not well-made.) They also tend to minimize the number of licensed-character toys, partly because they tend not to be the best quality (Manufacturer: "Who cares if it's a stupid toy? It has Dora on it; it'll fly off the shelves!") and partly due to my personal taste. And I'm fairly ruthless about purging toys that don't fit my guidelines! 

Types of toys we love include:

- Building toys, like wood blocks and Duplos-- I'd like to get them one of those wood railway sets too (maybe Christmas this year), and others as they get older. There are so many great, classic building toys out there. Legos, Lincoln logs, marble runs, tinker toys, all kinds of good ones. And other stuff too-- look how cool these are! Clics, Magna-Tiles, Gears Gears Gears, Tubation... I kind of want all of them! Building toys are great for fine-motor skills, planning skills, practical physics (really!), cooperation, imagination, etc. And they're one toy that you might actually enjoy playing with too!

- Make-believe toys, like dolls (but the open-ended kind, not the stupid dolls that pee or talk or what-have-you), stuffed animals, cars, dress-up clothes, playsilks (which can be used for dress-up, fort-building, doll-wrapping, scene-setting, and all kinds of stuff). We also have a dollhouse, which lives in Faith's room, and a play kitchen too. Pretending is how kids learn and process things, and is actually super important. 

- Art supplies, like crayons, markers, play-doh, safety scissors, glue, construction paper, and paint. We have an oilcloth tablecloth that I spread out for messy crafts, which is so easy to wipe off that it blows my mind.

- Learning/thinking toys, like ABC magnets, fine-motor activities (lacing beads, shape-sorters, etc), musical instruments, and puzzles.

- Gross motor toys-- if we had more room, we'd have more of these! Great for improving coordination and burning off energy. All we've got right now are a noisemaking push/pull toy (Faith uses it as her vacuum cleaner), a sit-and-spin, a wooden ride-on for Josie, and a balance bike for Faith (they have a slide and a water table, but they live outside). There are all kinds of fun options, like mini-trampolines (the kind with a handle), these "hop-around steps," this awesome-looking thing called a Bilibo... I've even seen mini indoor climbing walls on Pinterest! How cool would that be?

Some specifics below:

Art Supplies:
I used to store them in one of the blue bins, but it was too hard to find things in there. Now I use one of those hanging shoe-racks with the pockets for most stuff, and it works much better. Play-doh still gets its own bin, and I have a bin for larger supplies that won't fit in the pockets, like drawing pads or our big box of crayons. I also use a magazine file for our coloring/activity books (used to use a bin for those too, but it didn't work well).

Note: paint is, happily, well out of reach of tiny hands.

Magnet Board:
We've got a big oil drip tray nailed to the wall which works great as a large magnet board! We use little magnetic bins (like the ones for lockers) to keep the different magnets moderately slightly organized. 

"Organized." With air-quotes.

(PEDIATRICIAN ASIDE: if you use magnets with your littles, make sure they can't swallow them. One magnet swallowed is usually no big deal-- like swallowing a penny-- but two magnets swallowed can stick together inside the body if they're strong enough, across intestinal walls, leading to tissue necrosis and bowel perforation and BADNESS. Click here for more info. End PSA.)

Wood puzzles:
We like this Melissa and Doug puzzle rack to keep puzzles corralled while still being easily accessible.

Right now their dress-up clothes hang on one of those accordion-folding peg racks. It works okay, but stuff tends to slide off it-- I think hooks that tilt upward (like these) would work much better. Dress-up accessories live in a nearby plastic bucket, and there's a mirror hung at preschooler-height.

Play Kitchen:
Our wooden play kitchen is older than I am (it first belonged to my big sisters when they were little) and it is awesome. My parents fixed it up last year and gave it to the girls for Christmas (I added the blue paint and shelf paper). Faith is constantly "making dinner" for us, and Josie has recently gotten super-interested in it too.

Wow, I didn't realize I had so much to say about our playroom. Do I overthink things, or what? So anyway, there you have it! Playroom extraordinaire... or something. Did I miss anything? Want any more info on something I mentioned? Feel free to say so!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

answer me this: media-consuming and hand-shaking edition

1. What is your favorite room in the house?

This might be a little strange, but I really like the girls' playroom. Not that I, personally, love spending time in there (it's not put together with adult comfort in mind), but I'm kind of proud of it. I think it's a good playroom-- pretty cute, reasonably organized, toys that I mostly don't hate looking at, fairly enriching.

2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?

Well, there's Pediatrics. And Pediatrics in Review. And, um, that's it. Just medical journals. I am boring. (Faith gets High Five, but technically we don't subscribe to it; Jack's grandma signed her up.)

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace in Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just right? Some combination of the above?

Well, I grew up in an Evangelical church where we had a "turn and say hello to your neighbor!" segment every church service, so when I first started attending Catholic Mass, the sign of peace seemed totally normal to me. As I've gotten a bit more orthodox/traditional/whatever, I don't love it as much. But I don't really mind it. I like the origins of it-- how you're not supposed to receive communion if you have anything against your brother, you should be at peace with everyone, and all that. (I just learned that apparently that's not the origin of the sign of peace, at least in the Latin rite, according to this article anyway.) It just seems, the way it is now, in most churches, like kind of an interruption of Mass. So I'm ambivalent, I guess.

4. What is your least favorite sound?

Babies screaming when they should be sleeping. *shudder* I did let them "cry it out" when we were sleep training, and it totally worked (eventually... Josie was persistent). But the sound just.... I can literally feel my blood pressure going up and my heart rate quickening when I hear it, and I truly break into a sweat. Even now, as I sit here just thinking about it!

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?

When I was little tiny, it was Sesame Street all the way. When I was a bit older, I liked watching Star Trek (Next Gen, baby!) with my mom. When I was a teenager and college-aged, I liked crime-solving shows like JAG, CSI, Law & Order, and Criminal Minds. (I still like crime-solving shows, actually.)

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?

The Walking Dead, Mad Men, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, Downton Abbey. And Firefly and Breaking Bad, though they're not, y'know, on anymore. That sounds like a lot, I guess, but I generally watch them in Netflix Bursts. A few of them I'm not even "caught up" on, since I started late.

Anyway, head back to Catholic All Year for more folks' answers!

Friday, August 15, 2014

seven quick takes - ed. 24

1. Last week my Facebook feed was full of news stories about Gaza and ISIS. This week, it's full of articles about Robin Williams.  This one, by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, is probably my favorite: Robin Williams, C.S. Lewis and the Demons that Drove Him.

And for what it's worth, it's okay to feel sad about Robin Williams being so depressed he felt suicide was the only option, AND feel sad about the atrocities in Iraq, AND feel sad about the fighting in Gaza. One doesn't negate the others. And we SHOULD be sad about Robin Williams, even if we don't have a tearful emotional response to it, just as we should be sad when anyone commits suicide-- or honestly, when anything bad happens to anyone. All humans are connected in ways we can't understand, and a tragedy that affects one person has ripple effects that touch all of us. It hurts everyone when something bad happens, even if it doesn't happen to us directly.

2. We had an earthquake the other day! It was 5.4, but only lasted a couple of seconds. It was actually over before I even realized what was happening. Not nearly as impressive as the one a few years ago in the DC area-- which I was also there for. Fun stuff!

3. As we sat down to dinner the other day, Faith said, "Daddy, you want a beer?" And then she went and got him one. We've trained her well.

4. This is seriously one of the funniest things I've ever read.

5. Look what we spotted on our way to my workout group yesterday! He (or she?) was actually pretty big-- a good six inches across, I'd say.

6. This is pretty funny: Should you be worried about Ebola? A helpful chart. (Language warning.)

Ha! But, for serious, here's some good info: Ten Things You Really Should Know About Ebola.

7. And finally, I saw this at the hospital (no worries, it was just a checkup for the baby):

At first I was super confused, like, um, is this a common mistake? I feel like if people are drinking from toilets, the lack of water filtration is the least of their problems...

But then an architect friend of mine gave this helpful response: "You are required to post these signs if you have a gray water system. Even as we buy them we think it's ridiculous!!" 


Head back to Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

pediatrician psa: marijuana, childhood obesity, and firearm counseling

Wow, am I the worst blogger in the world, or what? I'm gonna be a bit lazy with the *cough*supposedtobe*cough* weekly PSA as I ease back in to posting regularly.

The American Psychological Association emphasizes that marijuana is not harmless, especially for adolescents and young adults whose brains are still developing. Over 1 in 20 high schoolers report smoking pot daily (!!!), so this is a major problem.

This is a helpful article outlining practical steps to take if you're worried about your child's weight.  Some key points:
- The focus should be on living a healthier life, not on achieving a specific weight.
- Make it a family affair, not singling out the child in question.
- Never mock your child's weight (or allow siblings to do so), even if you think it's just gentle teasing.
- Make it fun-- if you have to force your child to do it, it probably won't work.

There's been a recent ruling in Florida which threatens physician's ability to ask and counsel patients about firearm safety. The American Academy of Pediatrics soundly condemns this decision. Pediatricians are expected to ask and counsel about all kinds of safety issues-- car seats, walkers, pets, medications, window blinds, lead paint. It only makes sense to ask, "Is there a gun in the house? If so, make sure to store it locked and unloaded with the ammunition in a separate location for safety."

I'll try to stop being so lazy about posting!