Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The D Word

Daycare has been the elephant in the room all summer.  With only two weeks remaining before Jesse and I go back to work full time, we could no longer postpone the issue.  We had researched the topic and had a guaranteed spot at a daycare we visited in May, but we weren't especially happy.  We decided to visit another location yesterday and fell in love.  Here is why:
  • The daycare is about 5 minutes from our house.
  • They offer web cameras of constant surveillance that parents may login (with a password) to view their child's classroom at any time. 
  • There is a 6:1 child-teacher ratio with a maximum of 12 students per class.
  • A morning snack, hot lunch, and afternoon snack are provided daily.  Seriously, Jackson is going to eat better than we are!
  • The toddler room was full of artwork created by the children.
  • Children have pictures of their family on their cubby.
  • The toddlers have their own playground as well as access to a full-size gym when the weather doesn't permit outdoor play.
  • The tuition was just lowered, making it the least expensive daycare we could find (about $800 a month).
  • There was a warm, nurturing environment.  The hallways were painted with playful characters.  The classroom was stimulating without being overwhelming.
  • The teacher was very professional.  Her little class was so well-behaved and clean!
Here are our concerns:
  • The toddlers only take one nap a day after lunch.  Jackson currently takes two naps a day and is quite grumpy with vigorous eye-rubbing without a morning nap.
  • It is going to be quite difficult for Jesse or I to take off work in the middle of the day if we get a call that Jackson is sick.
  • They don't allow cloth diapers.
  • Jackson communicates frustration by biting and pulling hair.  That's not going to go over well with the other children or teacher.
  • Jackson already has shown signs of separation anxiety when we drop him off at the church nursery crying.  I don't want him to feel betrayed or abandoned by his Mommy and Daddy.
  • We don't want to leave him!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sticky Fingers

This would be the face of one guilty little boy.  Not only has Jackson mastered climbing the oven, he has now learned to open the cabinets to assist him in stepping up to reach the counter.  I had individual layers of  a warm chocolate cake cooling on the counter.  Mr. Glutton helped himself to a layer while I was upstairs and Jesse was in the living room.  After a few minutes of silence, Jesse investigated and found Jack sprinkled in chocolate crumbs with a fistful of cake in each hand.  He had already eaten half of a layer when Jesse yelled for me to come downstairs. 

Every time we think we've toddler-proofed the house, Jackson has learned something new.  How am I always being outsmarted by a 15 month old?  You've got to love this constantly curious kid...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Patient Cats

We have the most patient cats ever.  Jackson frequently harasses our outside cats by emptying their food bowls and scattering food across the porch. 

 Cowbell is a glutton for punishment as she is chased around the house.

The cats claw at Jackson multiple times a week, but he persists on pulling their tails and removing chunks of fur.  Despite being mutual terrors to one another, they also have mutual affection and love for one another. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Boys Are Back Again!

Everything is better when you get to be with your friend!  Jackson got to spend the day with one of his best buddies, Connor. 

 The two enjoyed eating lunch together

and riding one another the lion

before winding down for a nap.

Of course, Connor's nap ended with Jackson shaking the pack-n-play.

Our play day ended before we knew it.  'Til the next time...

New Bike: Take Two

While riding my "new" bike around the neighborhood with the family last Sunday, I felt very off all of a sudden.  I immediately stopped, only to realize that my left pedal had completely fallen off!  Thankfully, we weren't too far from home and I could walk my bike back to the house.  Jesse tried fixing it, but the threading was stripped.  He took it back to Wal Mart the next morning for me while I was at work.  Despite a hesitant manager, he was able to exchange it for a brand new bicycle.  We are convinced that the original bike I brought home had been previously returned because there were no tags, stickers, etc on the bicycle.  The bike Jesse brought home was clearly brand new. 

We have resumed our nightly bike rides.

It used to be a battle to fasten the helmet around Jackson's chin.  Now he loves it!  We all do "helmet checks" and tap our head.  Jack just grins.  Jesse can hear him yawning or humming behind him while riding.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

All Good Things Come to an End

I decided on Day 3 (after Jesse left me high and dry) that I would end the fast after Day 5.  After lots of research, anything past 5 days required medical supervision.  Even the Reboot website that features Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead doesn't promote a juice-only fast beyond 3 days.  All of their plans include juicing along with eating soups, salads, and other meals of fruits and veggies.  I did not consume a single strawberry or grape while fasting.

I broke my fast today (Day 6) with greek yogurt and almonds for breakfast.  I had black beans, brown rice, fresh pico de gallo, and lettuce mixed together for lunch.  I have only eaten small portions when I'm hungry, which hasn't been often.

I'm still not sure I believe in all the detox facts since I couldn't find real scientific articles.  Then again, there must be some truth since people have been fasting in alternative medicine throughout ancient history.  The only thing I can report is that my tongue has become a healthy shade of pink, my digestive system is regulating, and my energy levels are great.  While weight loss was never a goal of mine, I did end up losing 8 pounds.

Both Jesse and I decided to fast in hopes that we would shock our bodies into a healthier diet.  We wanted to listen to our bodies for hunger cues, stay hydrated, and fill ourselves with nutritious food.  Prior to the fast, I probably consumed 2-3 fruits and vegetables per week-either canned or frozen.  Just like in school cafeterias, my vegetables consisted of spaghetti sauce or potatoes and my lean meat was turkey or chicken nuggets.  Most of my diet centered around sugar and processed carbohydrates.  Since the fast, Jesse and I have completed restocked our fridge with fresh produce.  Our pantry is full with healthy staples from Trader Joe's.  We brainstormed a long list of healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. 

In just under a week we have made radical, (hopefully) lasting changes to our lifestyle.  We go for nightly bike rides as a family and are filling our bodies with nutrient-rich foods.  Throughout the past five days, I have quoted 1 Corinthians numerous times.  I am making every effort to treat my body as the temple God created it to be. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Juice Fast: Day 5

My new love is watermelon juice.  YUM!  That was my breakfast this morning.  I threw in a bag of frozen peas in my leaking lunchbox to keep my thermos of green juice cool.  It was a very successful day!  My energy level was by far the highest to date and it was the first day I didn't have any headache or stomach rumblings. 

While I'm still aggravated that Jesse quit the fast so quickly, I am really proud of his new eating habits.  I feel 100% confident that our family will maintain a healthy diet.  Tonight's meal featured fajitas (chicken breast, onion, green pepper, and squash on a whole wheat tortilla) with homemade guacamole.  The boys also had black beans and brown rice.

Can you tell Jesse's tired of me taking pictures of him eating?

Hooray for strides towards good health and general well-being!

Juice Fast: Day 4

I was apprehensive about Day 4 because it was my first day back to work.  (Okay, technically I don't go back until mid-August, but I have a reading workshop all week.)  I was worried since I obviously wouldn't have access to a juicer from 8-4.  My morning was fine.  I made a carrot-apple juice for breakfast and packed a celery-cucumber juice in my 32-oz thermos, thinking that would suffice.  I filled my lunchbag with ice and placed the cooler inside.  I spilled some of my carrot-apple juice and my lunchbag leaked so I had to empty all the melting ice out.  By lunchtime I had a raging headache and dizziness.  Sipping on warm juice wasn't very appealing, especially while my colleagues were eating Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle.  I should also mention that the air conditioning wasn't turned on in the classrooms.  I felt weak and delirious by late afternoon.

Jesse was bright eyed and full of energy after returning to a healthy diet.  He had cleaned the whole house, rearranged furniture upstairs, and ran errands while I was gone.  He also fixed this delicious pizza using whole wheat crust and preservative-free marinara sauce from Trader Joes.  It was topped with low-fat mozzarella and fresh tomatoes and spinach. 

While he and Jack ate pizza, I sipped on hot green tea (caffeine-free sans sugar, of course).

I think I'm going to call it an early night!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Juice Fast: Day 3

Bonnie's perspective: I woke up with my ears ringing and a white coated tongue.  Apparently, these are both signs of detox--something about my body releasing toxins.  I assumed I didn't have any toxins left after spending most of Day 2 in the restroom.  Today has been significantly better with digestion, though I keep burping cabbage juice.  I'm also having hot flashes and sweating a lot, which is strange since I've been freezing the last two days.  On the bright side, I'm not hungry or weak.   

Jesse's perspective: I just had to eat!  I just can't drink a juice for another meal.  I broke my fast by eating a salad with almonds and dressing.  I had an omelet for dinner.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Juice Fast: Day 2

Damn you, day 2.  At least your end is near.

Today Jesse and I discovered that we really dislike tomato juice.

No Bloody Mary for us!

Our taste buds must already be adjusting as the strawberry-grape juice was sickly sweet.  Who would have thought?

Here are our reactions from Day 2:
  • Jesse's perspective: My head didn't hurt as bad today.  I miss eating food and dread having to drink my next meal.  I just want a pizza.
  • Bonnie's perspective: In between bouts of chronic diarrhea, I felt perfectly fine. My bathroom needs take on a sense of urgency with no warning.  I have no appetite, though the juices are fairly refreshing. 
  • We both went for a bike ride late this afternoon and our energy levels have been fine.
Please have mercy, Day 3...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Juice Fast: Day 1

Yesterday, we cleaned and stocked our fridge with fresh produce in preparations for beginning our juice fast.

We also cleared our counter by temporarily retiring the coffee maker and mixer.  We now have a nice space for cutting and juicing our produce.

Here was our breakfast: 2 carrots, an orange, and an apple.

We also made three glasses each of the "Mean Green" and consumed those throughout the day.

Our afternoon concoction was a basic carrot-cucumber juice. 

Here are our reactions to Day 1:
  • Jesse's perspective:  My head hurts.  I'm not as hungry as I thought I'd be.  I ate a banana, drank a lot of water, and had some detox tea.
  • Bonnie's perspective: I am freezing.  I'm wearing pants and a sweatshirt.  I've had a headache off and on throughout the day.  My stomach is grumbling but I have that icky sloshing feeling in my stomach from drinking so much liquid.  We went to the movie theater to see Batman and I could have bathed myself in Cinnabon and movie theater popcorn.
  • We both have very frequent, crystal clear urination.  No digestive problems so far.
Bring on Day 2...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Trouble on the Move

When Jackson isn't pulling his cousin's hair and ripping her tiara out,

or leading his other cousin around the K&W,

 he's climbing the oven and trying to burn himself.

Nothing is safe around this child!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

15 Month Well Check

Here are the latest stats:

8 lb, 15 oz
21.75 in
14 in
1 Month
11 lb, 1 oz
23.25 in
15.25 in
2 Month
12 lbs, 15 oz
25 in
15.75 in
4 Month
14 lbs, 4 oz
25.75 in
16.5 in
6 Month
16 lbs
27 in
17.5 in
9 Month
19 lbs
29 in
18 in
12 Month
21 lbs, 5 oz
30 in
18.5 in
15 Month
23.2 lbs
31.5 in
19 in

Jackson has maintained his measurements in the 25th percentile for weight, 50th percentile for length, and 75th percentile for head circumference.  He had two shots: the Hib and DTaP vaccine.  The doctor wrote another prescription for Prevacid as Jack still suffers from reflux.  The doctor suggested we take him to the dentist, which we will do in September when he is enrolled on Jesse's insurance.  That's about all the updates for this boy.

Investment in Health

While we are a young family, we are far from healthy.  Jesse takes medication for his thyroid and also has high cholesterol and high blood pressure.  I am an obese 26 year old taking medication for anxiety disorder and infertility.  It's too much!  Neither of us feel like a healthy, energetic young adult. 

Last week we sat down together and set attainable goals.  With both of us going back to teaching in August, we know we want to spend as much family time as possible in the evenings.  We decided we would walk or cycle at least 3x a week as a family and drink 2+ vegetable juices per day in addition to a pitcher of water each day.  We made two large financial purchases to reach our goals of better health: a bicycle and a juicer.  (Jesse got a Wal Mart credit card to help us get by this summer.  Both purchases were $150, which we'll be able to pay off with our first pay check.) 

Jesse has always enjoyed cycling, whereas I haven't ridden a bike in 15 years.  I feel very foolish riding my new bicycle up and down the cul-de-sac, but I must practice my balance, turning around, and controlling my speed. I completely ran into a neighbors flowerbed while they were standing in their driveway.  I panic every time a car passes and I come to a complete stop on the side of the road.   Since there are no gears, going uphill is challenging.  It's only been two days, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.   

The second investment we've made is a juicer.  After reading two books about juicing from the library and watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, we've decided to go on a 10-day juice fast with raw food.  This isn't an impulsive decision.  We aren't doing it to lose weight, though hopefully that will be a positive side effect.  We're trying to reboot our body and rid ourselves from the processed foods we've consumed.  We will document our experience on the blog, beginning this Friday.

I am nervous and excited about the experience, but I pray that this will be our first step to a lifestyle change.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday Outtakes

Today's photos were just a second too late from capturing what was a picture perfect moment.

We had a relatively eventful Monday.  As usual, it began with our free Ikea breakfast and stroll around the store.  

While Jackson took his morning nap, Jesse and I enjoyed some quality time together.  When Jack awoke, he decided to have a slumber party with all of his favorite animals.

Monday morning means cleaning out the refrigerator of all leftovers before our weekly grocery shopping trip.  Jesse heated up a tupperware container of old mac-n-cheese and dumped the entire thing on Jack's tray.  He also had fruit and chicken nuggets.  The poor kid looked like he was going to eat himself to death. 

After lunch, Jackson discovered that he can now climb in his toy box.  As always, he clapped with pride at his new discovery.  Unfortunately, he lacks the coordination to gracefully climb out of the box.

Our biggest accomplishment today was purchasing a new bike and child seat.  We spent the better part of the afternoon in the driveway.  Jesse and Jack worked on installing the child's seat to Jesse's bike, while I retaught myself how to ride a bike (more on that later).

Our whole family went for a bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Outdoor Elation

Jackson is happiest when he is outdoors.  He is constantly grinning when he is allowed free play outside.  We spend time playing in the driveway each morning when he gets the paper.  Jackson gets to roam around the backyard when we hang laundry or grill.  He cries ugly tantrum tears each time we go back inside.

The boy is most always barefoot. Even when I put shoes on him, he slips them off or takes the velcro off. Who can resist those sweet baby feet?

Today Jackson discovered the rocking chairs on our deck.  He appeared mighty proud of himself sitting like a big boy.

He was genuinely amazed when the chair rocked forward on his own.  He shifted his weight back and forth repeatedly, delighted each time he moved forward and backward.

It's the simple pleasures in life!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to Make a Guitar Cake

My niece's daunting request to make an electric guitar cake for her birthday resulted in one of my favorite cakes yet. 

My first decision in making the guitar cake was to determine whether to bake it in a sheet pan or two round pans.  I decided that there would be less room for error using two round pans due to the natural curve of a guitar.  (Cake carving is not one of my strengths.)  I baked one vanilla cake using two 8-in round pans.

The next obstacle was how to design the guitar.  After a bit of web surfing, I narrowed my choices down to rice krispie treat, chocolate wafers, or cake for the neck of the guitar.  I decided upon wafers because they were already the dark brown color I wanted and the right shape, which meant less time frosting and no crumbs.  They were also a nice contrast to the actual cake.

While the cakes cooled, I worked on the design of the cake.  I traced the 8-in cardboard cake round on wax paper with a permanent marker and free handed the rest.  Then I was able to cut the wax paper template out.

After leveling the cakes, I placed them on plastic cutting boards and laid my wax paper template on top of the cakes.  Using a paring knife, I trimmed around the outline. 

(No clue why there are weird shadows in this picture...)
I used most of a package of chocolate sugar wafers to make the neck of the guitar.  I then used the excess cake to shape the head of the guitar.  After cutting the cake I placed the individual pieces in the freezer for an hour so they would be very easy to frost.

While the cakes were in the freezer I made a batch of vanilla buttercream frosting. 

I also rummaged through the garage and found an old book shelf from a broken bookcase.  It was the perfect size and sturdiness to display the cake.

Because the cakes were cold and firm, I didn't have any crumbs when frosting them.  I used two more wafers to make the pickups of the guitar and five M&M's for the tuning pegs.  (Side note: I just googled "electric guitar diagram" because I had no clue what either of those things were called.)

The final detail was piping the strings with vanilla buttercream.  In hindsight, I should have used royal icing because the "strings" didn't adhere to the wafers well.  They needed repairs after the 80 mph car ride.

And there you have it--a fun, easy electric guitar cake.

Fun with Candy Clay

I signed up for another Wilton cake decorating course, but the class was canceled the day before due to a lack of interest. (Apparently, I was the only person who registered!)  I've been wanting to add some new techniques to my cake decorating repertoire, so I decided to experiment with candy clay.  My niece was having a guitar themed birthday, which created a perfect opportunity to practice something new.

Candy clay is a quick, easy mixture to make with endless applications.  The only two ingredients are a bag of candy melts and 1/4 cup of light corn syrup.  It literally takes two minutes to melt the candy in the microwave.  Once the corn syrup is added, the candy quickly thickens into a clay like mixture.  It's still soft and pliable, though it hardens after several hours.  (Ideally, it should set overnight.)

I grabbed some chocolate melts from my pantry and went to work.  I placed wax paper underneath and on top of the mixture and rolled it out to about 1/8 inch thickness. (You can also use cocoa powder or corn starch to keep it from sticking.)

To go with the guitar theme, I decided to make guitar picks.  This process was tedious since I had to create a template and cut each pick out by hand.  It would have taken no time at all if I had a cookie cutter.

I placed the picks in the freezer so they would firm up while I whipped up a batch of royal icing.  I piped "A" or "15" on each pick in honor of the birthday girl turning 15.

The custom, edible guitar picks were ready to be inserted into my cupcakes.  Because it was a bit of a drive in a hot car and the candy clay had not yet dried, I stored the picks in a chilled cooler until the cupcakes were ready to be served.

It was such a fun, simple way to add a wow-factor to a basic cupcake.  Candy clay just might become my new favorite thing!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reading Fever

At school we say that our students and staff have "the reading fever".  We use the phrase to hype the kids up about reading and encourage a contagious love of reading.  The reading fever has spread to our household this week.

Jackson has been read to regularly since he was in the womb.  He has recently become more possessive and taken great interest in tearing turning the pages of books.  Jesse and I purchased several board books for Jackson at Goodwill yesterday.  He has been toting around at least one of the books ever since we brought them home.  He's especially fond of Moo Moo, Brown Cow and Are You My Mother?  

I, too, have caught the fever.  I've succumbed to peer pressure and read the first two novels in the Fifty Shades trilogy.  There's really not much of a plot and the writing is extremely redundant, yet I stay awake at night reading them.  They are quick, intoxicating reads.  I feel obligated to read the third one.