Sunday, September 30, 2012

Beautiful City

I have never thought of Duluth as a "fall colors" destination. I actually kind of thought the fall colors in Missouri or Ohio would be better then Duluth because there were less pines and more trees that would change to orange and red instead of just yellow. This is the first fall I have spent in Duluth in who knows how long. 6 years? 10 years? And I have to say, I was horribly wrong. Duluth's fall colors far surpass anything I saw in Ohio or Missouri, and I think the real reason they do is the sheer volume of trees here. This is a city of trees. You can hardly tell that my neighborhood is there at all. Over the past week my morning commute has been take-my-breath away beautiful. I mean, my day always includes beauty, but with the fall colors it has just been awe inspiring. Especially since fall colors are my favorite. I am leaning towards decorating our bedroom in fall colors and wish there was a way to just photograph the city and have it turned into fabrics etc. But I digress.

I have been contemplating doing a "day in the life" photo post, with pictures of how my normal day looks and goes. Walking into daycare, the daycare lady holding Benjamin, my morning commute, my desk, the mother's room at work, etc. I still may do this sometime, but for now you just get a couple ideas of how my day has natural beauty in it. I borrowed my father's nice camera so I could stop and take nice pictures on my way to and from work. Here are the results.

My daycare rents its space from a Nursing home (hence the building being so big). I park in the lot and walk down this path, towards Lake Superior, to the Day Care entrance.
I love seeing the lake every morning! It has so many personalities. The day I took these pictures it was glassy, smooth, calm pastels.
I leave daycare right around sunrise. The sun lights up the clouds over the nursing home and pine trees.
This is actually one of my favorite moments of the day lately and this picture does NOT do it justice. After dropping Benjamin off I head up the hill, and this road is approaching the hill. The colors on the hill are just so gorgeously blended, and lit up by the rising sun.

Then I head up the hill! I admit this photo, and the ones like it, are not actually taken from where I drive. Its not the safest place to stop, but this is a close approximation to the view I have as I crest the hill.

If I could look back over my shoulder while I was driving up the hill, I would see the sunrise over the lake. Again, this was not taken from the road I was on, but I cannot resist including it. This is my beautiful city. I could stop at this overlook every morning to take a gander for a couple of minutes and not be late to work. I should to it more often.
After that, my drive is up on top of the hill, more inland. The fall colors are quite beautiful even on the busiest road I take (this is Arrowhead).

So that is how my morning is beautiful. Its pretty great I have to say. I love it. And Autumn is the best season for so many reasons... this being one of them. I also stopped at the overlook on my way home, and here are some of the best pictures:

Orange is approximate location of our house, pink is daycare. This entire area pictured is a residential neighborhood with about typical suburban lot sizes or smaller, yet you hardly see any buildings because of all the trees.

The plant in the foreground is Sumac. You can make wine out of those berries, or eat them straight though they are fuzzy and not very good. They grow along the roads in many places in the city (on the rocky hill) and add a flare of red to the fall colors.

Once again, down at the bottom of the hill is a residential neighborhood... but all you see is trees!
And that is a brief look at the beauty of my city, that I get to breathe in every single day. I probably will have posts like this periodically - about the cities geography and natural beauty, hope you all don't mind!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


We have a few toys for Benjamin, not a ton, but plenty. I tend to get him a new little toy every time I am out shopping.

Right now his favorite toy is a pink plastic mixing bowl I bought for $.50 at Target's dollar spot. We put blocks in it. We turn it over and use it as a drum. We put it on our heads. On the same trip I also bought him a little red bucket, which gets similar usage. The blocks have also served us well. Stack them, hit them together, put them into their tray so he can dump them out. Similarly, we just broke out some wooden puzzles that were a shower gift. We have a set of four but we only put the one out that has farm animals. He loves to take it apart, and if he is in the mood will take the pieces out as fast as you put them in. He chews on the pieces. He hits the pieces together. He puts the pieces in his bucket. Etc. We keep several cheap board books in his toybox. He has some upstairs that we read to him at bedtime, but he has a bunch of $1 books from Target that stay downstairs. I use them for coasters sometimes. LOL. There are some foam Sesame Street Ones. He likes chewing on them, I like the messages (try hard, be good to your friends, be cheerful). He has a bunch of crayola ones that are pretty simplistic, just counting or colors or shapes. And he has one Disney one. I was really disappointed with the Disney options. I was SHOCKED how sexist and materialist they were! For example, "My Favorite Things" featured Minnie talking about shopping and trying on new shoes. I did not buy any of them, but DH picked up "Mickey's Book of Trucks" (notice the sexism again). Its fine, just a truck on each page. Enough on the books though... Benjamin also likes his rolling toys. The big one is a plastic toy that converts from walker to ride-on that we got for $.50 at a garage sale. He likes all the little doohickeys on it, he likes to pull up on it, and he likes to push it from kneeling position. He also likes the smaller rolling toys - a truck that lights up and sings when you role it, a little car that fits perfectly in his hand, and a cheap plastic dump truck. Rollin', rollin', rollin' cross the carpet.... The only other type of toy in their I believe is little "chew" toys as I call them [teething rings etc] and a variety of rattle type toys.  We also give him things like wooden spoons, plastic plates and spoons, soup ladles, etc to play with. Of course despite all of this he is still constantly reach for the remote, cell phones, or any other piece of "adult" goodies he can get his hands on!!

Tonight we discovered a new game - put the baby INTO his toy box. This box is blue plastic Ikea, its probably 10 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 14 inches long. He just fits. He was standing up in it today and kind of resting his calves against the sides to keep his balance. Never knew the way to teach a kid to stand was to put him in a toy box....

ETA: A picture of Benjamin standing proud by his "walker" toy:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Routine Blessed Routine

After three+ nights out of Benjamin's routine I was so looking forward to being back on routine tonight!! Why were we off routine so much?

Sunday - My dad dropped by for a rootbeer float because we needed to get rid of icecream, and we ended up taking one down to our friend that is in a rehab unit after surgery. I did not think this was enough to break our routine as DS was in the car seat at 6:45pm and home by 7:10pm (bedtime is 7ish), but he did NOT want to go to sleep when we got home.

Monday - We celebrated my mom's birthday by going bowling! It was a lot of fun and DS got to "bowl" for the first time. I won the first game and my father won the second. A good time was had by all!

Tuesday - We went to a parent's night at daycare, where the infant parents get together for dinner and chat. I might post more about this group at a later date. While the parents are meeting, the babies are with the normal afternoon caregivers. They put Benjamin down for a nap at 6pm, which pretty much made his normal bedtime irrelevant.

Unfortunately, tonight is not the most routine, as Benjamin has a very snotty runny nose and is sneezing and drooling like crazy. He has been up several times already since going to bed, and that does not bode well for the night... so I guess I better go get the night started! Hopefully tomorrow is even more routine! 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Its in the Air

Autumn that is, Autumn is in the air.

I noticed several weeks ago that the leaves were starting to change. They started very early this year because of the drought. Now they are really going. Oranges and reds lace the neighborhoods and when DH mowed the lawn this morning, likely for the last time this summer, he was chopping up quite a few brown leaves from our birch trees.  We stood out on the porch and watched him mow. As once before, Benjamin was totally fascinated by it!

Fall means football. My fantasy football team is not going great yet but I think it could pick up. One of my problems is not knowing who to play. On my primary team I have Aaron Rodgers and RGIII, as well as way to many Wide Receivers, so its a guessing game who will perform. In terms of real football, well we have been watching a lot, as much as you can without cable plus some, as last weekend we went to my parents house to watch the OSU game. My dad has labelled Benjamin a football orphan. He has probably had more exposure to television (in terms of actually being allowed to watch/look at it) in the last two weekends than he has had in the rest of his life added up. He has adorable OSU and Vikings gear to wear that I expect to have him in pretty much every weekend - I want to get our money out of it!

Fall also means apples. My parents had a bumper crop of apples from their few trees this year, and borrowed a cider press. Delicious.

Fall also means cooler temperatures. We have broken out Benjamin's 12 month wardrobe, which is also his fall/winter wardrobe - long pants, long sleeves. Whole new kinds of adorableness.

Benjamin is doing well. He is changing and learning so fast now. His babbling is really taking off with new letter arriving all the time, most recently additions being D and L. I await the coveted "M" for mama most  anxiously. LOL. He has two bottom teeth now, and I think maybe more are on the way given his oral fixation today.  He kneels, crawls, pulls  up like a champ. He even occasionally lets go and stands for a second before grabbing something else or falling on his butt. He also eats like a champ, you should have seen him digging into the pizza last night! Just chomping away. Must like olives and pineapple :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Benefit of the Doubt

I admit it.  I am a pretty judgmental person. But I have one rule that softens my judgement on pretty much everybody. Its the benefit of the doubt. If I don't have much information, my rule of wrist is to give people the benefit of the doubt. I am well aware that its still pretty judgmental, but it keeps me away from bitterness or anger or thinking less of people for no reason.

What do I mean by this?

Lets say I see someone who is morbidly obese at the office, like 400+ lbs. My first thought is "how can they live like that??". My second thought though is that maybe they have a medical condition, or maybe they are working hard to lose weight. I am still being judgmental because I am putting my values on them (that being fat is bad), but instead of walking away thinking badly of them I don't factor in their weight to my opinion.

When my coworkers complain about something to do with government handouts, especially when its about a specific case, like there is a strange thing with birthdays or a female has pregnancies very close together. I have coworkers who jump to this being fraud or abuse of the system. I always am the one pointing out how coincidences with birthday happen or how sex education and birth control access are cuffed in this country.

I admit it. I do this other mothers a ton. I had a whole post I was working on about the Mommy Wars, but really what I really wanted to say comes down to this benefit of the doubt idea. There are some parenting things that are absolute to me (and many others that are not). I am pretty science driven. If there is scientific evidence about something that shows it is the best course of action, I am not one to say "oh but whatever is easiest for your family".  An example of this is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is absolutely the best way to feed a baby. No ifs, ands, or, buts about it, and I am not going to pretend it isn't just to keep from hurting someone's feelings. That said, if I meet a mother who formula feeds I do not immediately think that they are stupid or that they made the wrong decision, I do not think less of them in any way. I give them the benefit of the doubt. I assume that there is a good reason they cannot breastfeed (there are TONS of entirely valid reasons not to breastfeed). It is judgmental still, because I am assuming they WANTED to breastfeed. I am not being totally accepting or all lifestyle choices, and I don't want to be.

Maybe I will go off on a mommy war tangent. 

I probably can divide parenting questions into three categories.
(1) Things where scientific evidence shows one way is absolutely better. Example: Breastfeeding, smoking, etc.
(2) Things where there is little to no scientific evidence, or the evidence contradicts itself. Examples: methods of introducing food, allergy prevention, sleep methods, etc.
(3) Things where there is clear scientific evidence, but the effect is on the margin (the probability of the event in question happening is very low to being with). Example: car seat positioning (middle is safest but the percentage of accidents it matter in is miniscule), tv (lowers the risk of ADHD, but the risk is low to begin with and how much it lowers that risk is miniscule), SIDS recommendations (risk is tiny to begin with, and reductions in that risk even smaller), etc.

The first category I am going to judge people about, or make assumptions that give people the benefit of the doubt and keep me from judging them.
The second category I have my personal preferences, but I keep an open mind about and try not to assume anything or judge anything.
The third category... I used to be a bit more judgmental about these things, but I have loosened up quite a bit about them because they are so marginal, and parenting is hard enough without thinking you need to try and curb every single risk in life. You can't. So I don't judge which of these things people choose to follow and which they ignore. You have to ignore some of them or you will go insane.

There you go. That is my take on the mommy wars, and my take on judging other moms and people in general. I know that the whole "benefit of the doubt" thing might sound weird, but let me try to put it another way. When I meet someone new, I am bound to form an opinion about them, and any assumptions I am going to make in trying to form that opinion, I try to make them be as much in the new persons favor as possible. 

It might not be ideal, but it works for me, and it is shocking how often it puts me in the position of defending some cause or person I hardly know.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

High School Reunion 2.0

Had a second chance to reunite with some old high school friends this weekend due to a wedding, conveniently right here in town! It was fun seeing people again, and seeing one person I had not seen in a year or two.

We felt really old when the band was too loud for us and when we wanted to leave early. I had an excuse (gotta go pick up the baby!), so that was nice. LOL

DS did great with my parents. I always feel like we are rolling the dice when we ask someone to babysit, especially at bedtime because he has been known to be difficult for people who are not me in going to bed, but he did very well this time and we hope its a sign of good things to come.

And - of course a pic with the blushing bride (and my other friends) - -

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Speaking of Teething...

Of course, right after I say I don't know whether he is teething or not it becomes obvious. Thursday night he was very drooly/bitey and we were making the normal "teething" jokes. Then on Friday morning when I was dropping him off at daycare he was very drooly again, so I pulled down his lower lip and low and behold a tooth is starting to poke through. As of 9/6/2012, my baby is cutting his first tooth!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

8 Months Old!

If you read my other updates on message boards and facebook etc this is all probably old news to you, but I think its needs to make it into my blog as well!

Benjamin is 8 months old!

Mobility: He has been crawling for almost two weeks now! He is pulling up like crazy, he can sit up on his knees without holding onto anything. He has climbed two stairs (and promptly turned around to dive back off them, lucky we watch closely!). He pulls up on the couch (and uses his mouth to help him up?), he pulls up on us, he pulls up on the entertainment center, on the steps, on his toy box. He can stand with one hand on something quite easily. Its crazy!

Food: He continues to eat great for us! He occasionally has an "off" night, but in general is all about the mealtime experience. In the last week or so he has increased the % of food that makes it into his mouth and stomach rather than onto the floor significantly. He really likes meat, we have moved into cutting it into nice big pieces he could mainly chew on into small pieces he can actually gum and eat. He loves strawberries. He likes pancakes and crackers. This evening we tried cottage cheese and plums for the first time and he loved both, especially the cottage cheese. We have tried so many foods I can't even try to list them. If we eat it, he gets to eat it with very few exceptions.

Additionally, the eating has done leaps and bounds for his fine motor skills. He is quite adept now at maneuvering objects, both large and small, into his mouth. He does not have a pincer grip strictly speaking but he has something close enough that he can pick up small objects.

Speech: We have had a veritable explosion of sounds the past week or so. "G" is his new favorite letter. We also hear an occasional B, and a much wider range of vowels, as well as a air rushing noise that I think could turn into "H" eventually

Sleep: Nothing really to report. He started to improve, but the past two nights have been very rough. I am kinda sick of telling people about it because I do not really want advice or pity. It is what it is, and this too shall pass. Tonight is the first night with a noise machine (currently set to rain after wind and ocean failed to do the trick). He is napping better at daycare at least!

Toys: He likes toys that roll, especially if we show him how they roll. He likes books, mostly to chew on, but if you start reading a book he will come over to you and get it. We have made it through 1-2 books recently without him wanting to eat it. These are typically the touch and feel variety. We just got him a Vulli teether (company that does Sophie the Giraffe), and he seems to love it. He loves to pull DVDs off of the entertainment center.

Health: He had a fever over the weekend, but nothing serious. He seems to finally be over the cold that both of us were fighting for most of August, but he still coughs occasionally. He cut his nose with his fingernail but its healing fine. I have given up on guessing when he is teething. It is a running joke between DH and I now that whenever he is fussy or his behavior changes "he must be teething". I have been guessing he was teething since 4m and he still has not cut a single tooth. The biggest health concern at the moment is some increased skin problems, probably eczema. He will go to the doctor later this week to see if there is something we should be doing about it.

Other: He is just a really cheerful baby. In the morning he sleeps in his boppy. When he begins to wake up he whines a little and tries to sit up but his eyes are still closed. I grab his hands and help him into a sitting position. He sits there groggily, maybe flops to the side a bit, looks for his pacifier, and then after 30-60 seconds, gives us a big smile. It is awesome. He likes daycare, he always is scoping out what toys are out or what kids are there when we arrive in the morning now. He likes people in general I would say, watching them in stores, or when we are talking, or whatever. He likes stroller rides. He likes riding in the cart in the store (and watching watching watching!). His eyes are still pretty blue, but greyer than they were when he was born. We love him, a whole lot!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Ok, I lied yesterday when I said that I did "nothing" to lose weight.
I have changed some habits. But they don't feel like I am doing anything. Maybe that is why they say you should change your lifestyle instead of dieting or something. And of course the breastfeeding is a must. LOL.

When I started work I changed my diet as well, and by diet I mean the whole of what I eat, not a temporary change or fad. Being at work limits my access to food, which is great. When I am organized I pack my lunch and snacks. When I am not organized I am stuck with the cafeteria, which has more healthy options than unhealthy ones. And it does not hurt that I enjoy most healthy foods. Here is what my "food" day looks like:

- I eat breakfast everyday. If I am organized, it would be a half bagel w liberal amounts of cream cheese, or multigrain hot cereal mixed with frozen berries. If I am unorganized, yogurt and a "NUTrition" bar, or hummus &pita from the cafeteria, or fresh fruit. I also have coffee or tea.

- Packed lunch and snacks typically includes a sandwhich (on pumpernickel, with meat, cheese and mustard), a salad (or lately, with all the fresh produce available, 2 salads) with liberal amounts of dressing, a piece of fresh fruit, and one or more yogurts.

- I have been trying to drink more water. I was struggling with this so my sister suggested I bribe myself. So at work I have a water bottle and a 12 pack of rootbeer. If I drink enough bottles of water by lunchtime or afternoon, I get a rootbeer.

- I keep fun size m&ms at my desk for that afternoon sweet tooth, no trips to the vending machine

- I don't forgo indulgences. If I feel like getting a cookie from the cafeteria, or my coworker offers to run for starbucks, I do it and don't feel guilty, but it does not happen every day because I have my small sweet stuff and enough yummy food to eat.

- For dinner, if I am organized, I am cooking something healthy for Benjamin, so I am eating healthy too. Also, I find that I actually spend more attention on watching him eat then I do on eating, so I eat less overall.

- For awhile there I had forgone all soda and most sweets in the house except a little something sweet for dessert. I was having that and lots of ice water. The past week or so I have drifted back towards a soda&larger dessert, but I am sure it will swing the other direction when I run out of Soda.

Also, did I mention I really love my cafeteria? It has so many yummy options and so many of them are healthy, and its not too expensive, so even when I am unorganized I might have a salad or a wrap for lunch, or a veggie pasta saute, etc.

I think these things are pretty sustainable because I don't feel like I am giving up anything. I love all of the tomato/basil/mozerella salad I am having this week with the fresh tomatoes from my parents, delicious!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Goal Update

Summer is over. Not officially per the weatherman, but unofficially per the date on the calendar, the long labor day weekend, the kids going back to school, and the leaves changing. Yes, the leaves are changing here. We are not sure if it is indicative of the current dry weather or if it is predictive of a coming harsh winter. Either way, summer is over.

Two thirds of the year are behind us, four months ahead. I thought it would be a good time for a goal update. I have a lot of them. And yes, I think about them even if my progress is slow. So here we go.

New Years Resolutions
1. Read 10 minutes each day and read 24 books over the course of the year. I have read 16 books, good reads tells me this is on pace. If anything my reading is accelerating - finished 3 books in the past week. I do read 10 minutes a day now, but I certainly have not been doing that all year.
2. Post at least 2 blog posts a week - I fell a bit behind on this in August, with only 5 posts total, but for the year total I am still on track, so as long as I pick it back up in September we are good.
3. Take more pictures and keep more records/journaling - another one that I have recently slowed on, but still am doing pretty good for the year as a whole and just need to pick back up a bit.
4. Find a job in Duluth - DONE

Just wanted to tell you which I have completed and get them crossed off on the right column!!
2. Buy our forever home - OK, I am not sure if its our forever home, but I love it. I really like the location, I love how close we are to everything, yet how we look out our windows and see trees mostly (golf course across the street). It feels like home now, though we are still working on unpacking an decorating. We have no plans/intentions of moving again. I am calling this one done.
3. See less than 160 on the scale - I had a doctors appointment on Wednesday and weighed in at 159 lbs, and that was in the late afternoon fully dressed (shoes and all). I am not sure how the 10 lbs came off, but they did and I am glad to see them go. I still would like to lose more weight. My "ideal" weight is still about 10 lbs away, give or take.
4. Learn to Like Mushrooms - I do not like them yet, but I am well on my way as I am pretty ambivalent about them at this point!
7. Do 100 hrs of community service - I have done 2. Its a start I guess? Kinda pathetic...
29. Learn to cook pancakes, poach an egg, make french toast and cook a souffle - I checked off frensh toast a while ago, and pancakes I am half done learning. Still need to work on the others.

Yes. I know, not great progress on the 30x30. Especially since a lot of them are things that need to happen in the summer and I only have one summer left!! Just gotta keep trying I guess :-) Things get busy when you have a baby and a full time job!!