Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mom: The Royal Baby (Or that Monday and Tuesday when I didn't get any work done)

I remember when Princess Diana died.  We had just moved to North Carolina and my parents took us to Asheville to see the Biltmore.  We were eating breakfast in the Comfort Inn when the news broke.   I was sad for her sons, especially because Harry was my age (I am five days older).  But I also remember not really understanding why so many people (women), especially here in the United States were fans of Princess Diana.  Probably a lot of it had to do with my age, but I just didn't quite get it.

Well, fast forward a few years, and I get it.  I am definitely "in" to Kate Middleton and Prince William.  I mean a HUGE fan.  I followed all the stories in People when they were dating and was so excited for their engagement.  I recorded and watched both of the cheesy movies on their romance (IMO, the Lifetime movie with the girl who is now on Grey's is the better of the two).  I watched other Royal TV specials in preparation for the Royal Wedding.  And when the big day arrived, I put in my vacation day because I knew what I would be doing that day.  The plan was for my mom to spend the night at my house and we would watch together.  That fell through when a work thing kept her from watching.  So my AMAZING husband woke up with me at 3:30 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding with me. 

So I was very excited when they announced their pregnancy.  You can just tell by looking at them that they really are in love and care for each other.  I don't know why that is exciting or special; one would hope that most married people look at each other like that.  Maybe it's because when you look at Diana and Charles, they never looked like that together. Of course, I was a little jealous of how Kate looked during her pregnancy, and especially how she looked at the steps on the Lindo Wing last week (NOT SWOLLEN AT ALL).  Although I did not envy that terrible morning sickness she went through.  So when the world was on Baby Watch, especially these last few weeks, I was too.

Then last Monday at 2 am, my phone beeped with a Breaking News Alert from both USA Today and People that Kate was in labor and had checked in.  Now, just so you know, I didn't get up and turn on the TV then.  I rolled over and went back to sleep.  But that day at work, I couldn't get anything done.  In hindsight, I should have taken Monday and Tuesday off.  I kept checking the Live Feed outside the Lindo Wing and watching the Live Blog from all the various British Newspapers.  Thankfully, I was watching on NBC when Brian Williams came on with a Special Report!

Now, I was pretty sure the baby was going to be a girl.  Maybe it was because of the change in the succession laws that convinced me that Princess Cambridge was coming.  Oh well.  I was still excited for them.  And then I watched on Tuesday (during my lunch break) when they introduced him to the world.  I am not going to lie, I teared up a little.  I remember that feeling with Susan.  Chris and I looking at each other like "Wow, it is going to be SO different now."  So I was excited and nostalgic.  I even went home and started talking about when we were going to have Baby 2 (not for a couple more years people).

I guess the reason I am writing this blog is to point out that one, Kate was correct when she said that all parents know what that feeling is like.  Your emotions are HIGH those first few days, especially for the new moms because hormones are coming down from an all time high level and you feel both euphoric and weirdly sad for no reason at all.  But there is also adrenaline that makes you feel like super-mom.  And there is just this magical feeling of "OMG we made that."  That feeling goes hand-in-hand with "OMG why are they letting us take it home - we are not qualified AT ALL."

And second, while it is exciting to watch them, one commentator said that all the "mommy bloggers" would be watching and waiting to judge their decisions.  Are you kidding me?  It is none of our business whether or not Kate breastfeeds, if they use cloth or disposable, whether she went Similac or Enfamil.  For anyone to judge her (or any other mom's) parenting choices says a lot about the person doing the judging.  For me, I am just glad Prince George (and I hope they don't really call him Georgie but that is their call) is healthy and hopefully, thriving.  And I can't wait to watch him grow up.  And guess what Kate and William - he is going to teeth too!

Loved when Prince George waved his little hands at the camera - definitely reached for a Kleenex then!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Dad: Parenting milestones to be proud of

I’m tired of babies always getting credit for their milestones. What about parents? Yes, a child’s first smile, words, steps, etc., are all important and should be celebrated appropriately. However, moms and dads do quite a bit of their own development in the first few years, and it goes largely unnoticed, even by the parents themselves.

Infants grow up quickly, but a first-time parent has to grow up even faster. For all the day-to-day development an infant goes through, having to care for a tiny baby human forces a newly-minted parent to make the mom/dad transition faster than you can say “I put the diaper on backwards again.” Of course the transition doesn’t happen overnight. Contrary to what you probably believed growing up, your parents weren’t born knowing how to raise you. They earned their parental know-how through a painful (and in hindsight comical) series of trial and error, just as you, faithful BabyCenter reader, already have or soon will. And just like your baby learned to sit up, drink out of a sippee cup and laugh at you when you stub your toe, there are several milestones you’ll also experience along the way.

The first time you get your child to stop crying without shoving a pacifier in her mouth. Newborns do five things: poop, pee, eat, sleep and cry. Mostly, however, they cry. Sometimes, a child’s crying-for-the-hell-of-it can be curtailed with a pacifier, but it’s a special feeling the first time you pick up your little one and soothe her until she calms down without the aid of a pacey. Maybe you discovered a special way she likes to be bounced or a certain song she likes to hear, but regardless of what you did to calm her down, you just learned a valuable go-to parenting skill.

The first time you take your baby out in public. Prior to the baby’s birth, parents stock up on all the necessary supplies for baby’s first outing: travel system, a pharmacy’s worth of salves and creams, first aid kit, portable bottle bag and a diaper bag that in my wife’s eyes was stylish and practical and to me was just rugged enough to not look like a purse. I remember being excited to use all that stuff before my daughter was born but scared as hell once it came time for her first trip out of the house. After we went through the ordeal of strapping the wiggly newborn into her car seat, navigating three treacherous lanes on I-40 and arriving at our destination with an unspoken desire between us to just go back home and save the outing for another day, we then prepared to fend off all the risks of the outside world that all new parents fear, things like the Ebola virus, Dementors and airplanes falling on babies at random. To our surprise none of those things were an issue, though I was more than ready to dish out a Patronus charm if need be (which is probably a sloth or some form of beached marine animal). After it was all said and done we arrived home with a sleeping baby, no incidents to speak of and a newfound confidence that we might get the hang of this parenting thing after all.

When your child nearly bites your finger off. It’s a rite of passage for any parent of a teething baby. Just don’t bite back. Then your next milestone may be When social services allows you to see your child once a month in a supervised setting.

When you take care of your child by yourself for the first time.
I’m all for teamwork parenting, but there will come a time when your partner needs to run to the store, get out of the house or maybe even go back to work so that your family can stop relying on the “Pet the Baby for $5” racket you’ve been running for the past three months as a source of income. That leaves one parent all alone with the baby, which is a scary proposal for moms and dads alike, even if it’s only for a few hours. It’s like learning to ride a bike with training wheels and getting the hang of it, but then your training wheels run out of paternity leave and have to go back to work, and you really need to get to your friend Johnny’s house so you hop on your two-wheeler, and it’s really wobbly and scary and stressful at first but then you get going and it’s not as hard as you thought and you yell out, “I didn’t need those training wheels, anyway!” and you’re cruising and the wind is blowing your hair back and you feel like a success but then your bike poops itself and it runs down her leg and sticks to the carpet and you realize the changing station is out of diapers, but then thankfully your training wheels get home from work just in time and you hand over the bike and say, “Here, it’s your turn, I’m going to watch Scandal.”

When you really, truly, “hang back.” One of the most difficult parenting instincts to stave off is the urge to rush to your child’s aid at every chance. Maybe he can’t quite reach that hanging lion on the mobile or he’s trying really hard to jam that circle into the square slot on the shape sorter and you just know he could get it if you helped him out just a little bit. There’s a fine line between when your child is trying to figure something out for himself and when he’s asking for help, but most parents — and I’ll refrain from saying just “new” parents — have trouble figuring out when to step in. Contrary to how difficult it is to watch, letting your child fail — and subsequently learn from that failure — is a heck of a lot harder than jumping in at the first sign of struggle. Of course by struggle, I don’t mean toeing the edge of the Grand Canyon or seeing how close he can get to that feral raccoon.

When you decide to have another one.
Because you learn that all the sleepless nights, mind-numbing screaming and crying, constant wiping of bodily fluids and three-year stream of unending anxiety was worth it. Or maybe it’s just because parents have short memories.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mom: Toddler Stats at 16 Months

Man, I have been on the ball these last few weeks!  I don't know why, but it has been fun.  I forgot that I can blog while I try to empty the DVR.  I have finally watched the Scandal finale, but I still have about 9 episodes left to watch in Nashville and we have the entire season saved of the Office. 

Anyway, in the last month, Susan has become extremely busy.  A lot times, the changes and milestones are subtle for us.  But when my parents see her weekly or every two weeks, they always marvel at how much she has changed. Same with Chris' parents. Well, right around the 4th of July, she went through a major Wonder Week. She went from exploring like a normal toddler to what can only be described as a baby on tons of caffeine. Seriously. She could not stop moving. And she wanted to stand or climb everywhere. My parents noticed it at the cook-out, and they had just seen her. We could even tell it was going on, that is how drastic of a difference it was. And she couldn't turn her little brain off at night. Usually, Susan falls asleep within 5-10 minutes of laying down in her crib at night.  Well the first and second week of July (it has leveled off some now), it would take her 30 minutes some nights because she was just so amped up. We knew she was tired but becuase of whatever was going on developmentally, she just couldn't quiet things down. Even my father-in-law, who came the weekend after the 4th, said when we were out to dinner, "I have never seen her with so much energy."

Things have levelled off some, but she is still a true Energizer Bunny.  She just goes and goes.  And we go right along with her.

Weight: 29 pounds

Height: 33 inches

Next Appointment:  Her next Well Child visit is on 9/19 at 18 months. However, on 8/15 she will be getting tubes for her ears.  We have been battling ear infections since the fall, and she has had 4 since Easter.  She even has a little hearing loss because there is still fluid that hasn't drained. No hearing loss behind the fluid - which is good. That means once she gets the tubes and the fluid can drain, everything should sound a lot clearer for her.

Teeth:  16 but she seems to be showing some teething symptoms again. Not sure if it is the eye teeth working their way down more or her two-year molars and at this point, I don't even care. We risk losing a finger when we check so now we have adopted a "Let it Be" attitude.

New Foods:  Peanut butter!  She isn't allergic and loves it!  We have made her PB&J sandwiches (with Penguin cut outs) and she loves them.  I hate peanut butter so I have to try not to make faces when I smell it, but I am glad she likes it. It is a great food and it is a relief that we don't have to worry about that allergy.

Clothing Size:  Still 18 months with some 2T and 24m stuff. I am buying 2T for her fall clothes. I have bought an adorable smocked pumpkin dress and a Monster Mash long bubble. I can't believe we are already thinking about Fall, but it is just around the corner.

Shoe Size:  Seven! I forgot to add this a while back. When she first started wearing shoes in the fall, she started in size 4. In April, her shoe size was a 5 to 5.5. She was in a size 6 for a hot second, but now she is in a 7! So while her overall growth has slowed down, her feet are growing fast!

Sleeping:  She is still sleeping 10.5 to 11 hours every night. And she has officially transitioned to one nap. Her nap starts anywhere from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. (but no later) and she naps until about 3:30. Bedtime is between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. and she sleeps until about 6:30 or 7:00 a.m. the next morning. It is wonderful! She still gets a little sleepy around 10 a.m., so if she dozes in the car or something, no biggie. But we can't let her have a little hour nap in the morning anymore. We learned that she was ready for the one nap switch a few weeks ago when we let her have the morning 1-hour siesta, and then sister did not want to have an afternoon nap. And let me tell you, the MOST IMPORTANT nap is in the afternoon.  So, after that day, we gave up morning nap and never looked back.

Diaper Size:  Size 5. Since her growth has slowed way down, we still might be in this size for a while.

Favorite Toys:  She still loves books, but I am not sure if they are still her number one favorite. She also loves her purse and bracelets. She will put on the bracelets and purse and then walk towards the garage door blowing kisses and saying bye-bye. She also loves her Mega Blocks. She isn't stacking huge towers, but she loves to stack a few together and then pull them apart again. She also loves her stuffed animals - her lemur, her wolf and then the stuffed animals that we keep in her crib (baby, bunny and bear). When we read her a story before nap or bedtime, she always holds her bear. She also loves her wading pool and playing with bubbles outside. She thinks the bubbles are hilarious.

Likes:  She likes pretty much everything. There really isn't a food or activity that she doesn't want to do or try. She really likes to climb on the furniture right now - it's her favorite new trick/skill. She also loves to visit the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. The Museum is by far the coolest thing in Durham. We bought a year pass after our first visit because we knew we would go a lot. We have gone three times and it is just the coolest. It has tons of fun stuff for toddlers up to big kids. And it's huge! 

Dislikes:  She doesn't like being told "No" or when she has to do something she doesn't want to do. For example, if we are outside and its time to come inside, and she knows we are about to pick her up, she will sit down to begin her tantrum. This is kind of when I realized that not all tantrums are avoidable. Some tantrums are caused by a lack of communication and understanding (i.e., she gets frustrated that we don't understand her) and so when we can figure out what she wants, then it is easier. But some tantrums and fits are caused by doing things she doesn't want to do. We know she wants to stay outside but she can't. And it is important for her to learn that she can't always do what she wants. Thankfully, when she is feeling like a tantrum, she is very easy to distract. We don't pick her up or coddle her, we just walk into the den and say "Hey, let's read a book" and start reading or we start sorting blocks or whatever. She almost immediately forgets about whatever upset her and comes running to join us. We are empathetic that coming inside felt like the worse thing in the world -- "We know your upset Susan but let's go read Brown Bear." And we don't ignore the tantrum by saying things like, "You're okay" or "That's not a big deal." And we don't coddle her or pick her up (we do that when she is actually hurt, like she slipped and fell or something). Because to her, it does feel like the end of the world and I get that. And I don't want to tell her that her feelings are wrong (by telling her it's not a big deal). I just want to teach her a better way to deal with those feelings (This all part of Toddler Whispering, lol). It is going petty well and the great thing is, she gets the same treatment whether she is with us or at her grandparents' house or at school. Everything is consistent. She isn't allowed to do things at her grandparents that she can't do at home. Same with daycare, which is very important so that she knows that Mom and Dad are supreme and while her grandparents may spoil her, if her parents say she can't do something, then she can't do it, no matter what. (I write this because apparently, one time when my dad, in his serious voice, told her to stop throwing her food at the Science Center, she cried actual real tears like he broke her heart.  She quickly forgave him two seconds later when she forgot all about it.)

Milestones:  I guess I kind of covered it but she is saying more words and phrases. She says side or outside, bubble, truck, get down, sit down, mine, etc. And she understands even more. She also knows a few of her animal sounds. When we point to the cow and ask what the cow says, she says "moo." She has that one down pat. In a very distant second are pig, horse and dog. If we ask her to bring us something or to help with something, she can do it.  She knows what to do when we say "Let's go wash hands" or we say "Where is your purse?" Everything is changing so fast - I do wish she would slow down.  But it is a lot of fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

16 Months Old - Playing Bye Bye with her baby and purse!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mom: Crock Pot Survival

Right now, our nearly 16 month old is making life hectic.  If she's awake, she's moving.  And now she is climbing on everything, which is fine, but she also stands in the chair. She understands "sit on your bottom," smiles when you give her the first warning and start walking over to her, smiles and sits down as soon as you reach her to move her off the chair, and then stands back up when you walk away.  It's a special age.

No, it really is a special age.  She is saying new words, full-on phrases, she wants to help us around the  house because she likes feeling like a big girl, and she is busy.  Needless to say, when she and I get home around 4:45 p.m. after I have worked all day, I am pretty beat running around after her and don't feel like cooking.

Now, I love good, home-cooked meals.  When I was growing up, my mom cooked supper and we sat down to a family meal at the kitchen table basically every night.  Even when we got older (middle school and high school) and we had afternoon activities, my family still sat down and ate supper together. Before Susan was born, I made dinner for Chris and me, and  sometimes we cooked together (he did it by himself the entire summer I studied for the bar) We are not big fast food people.  In fact, we really don't eat any fast food.  Now, we like to go out to eat on Fridays for Mexican or what not, and occasionally we bring home Chipotle (not fast food and something I could eat every meal), but for the most part, we cook.  I try to cook about 2-3 times a week, and we freeze the leftovers.  I always try to have a decent stash in the freezer so that I don't have to cook every night, because that is tough.

I would really like to get into monthly meal planning.  I am hoping this fall I will have some time to try and get organized and figure out a way to do it.  We grocery shop at Aldi and Wal-Mart (saving us TONS of money) and I think with a little organization, I could do it.  Right now, I weekly meal plan.  I have a menu that I create on Saturday or Sunday (whichever day we are going to the grocery store) and then I make the grocery list accordingly.

Weekly Menu!

Anyway, this is all to say that cooking regular meals after working all day while trying to keep the Energizer Bunny out of mischief is very difficult.  Plus, if I have to spend thirty minutes getting supper together, it's less time I have to spend with Susan.

So...CROCK POT to the rescue!  I have always loved my crock pot and use it frequently, especially in the winter for various soups and stews.  That is always the problem I have had, though - finding things to cook in it besides soups, stews and roasts.  Well, then PINTEREST came to my rescue.  I have found so may wonderful recipes.  We have enjoyed Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Asian Shredded Beef and Buffalo Chicken Lasagna (to name a few)- all made in the Crock Pot.  And there are a ton of others to try.  I found this woman who used her Crock Pot for an entire year.  Now of course, she didn't just make entrees for the entire year; she also made breakfast meals and desserts which are neat but not what I am looking for.  But there are tons for me to try.

I love my Crock Pot.  I registered for it when we got married.  It is a 6qt Round Crock Pot Smart Pot.  The best thing is the digital countdown.  I can set it for however long or short I want and then it switches to Keep Warm.  It is so wonderful to come home at the end of the day and know that supper is basically done.  And while there is a little prep involved in the morning, I have much more energy to do it then.  (My parents also gave me a mega 8qt Crock Pot for Christmas last year that I use when I want to cook a huge roast or double a good recipe, like White Chicken Chili). 

So I would highly recommend to all my friends with children that if you don't have a good Crock Pot or you don't have one at all, INVEST.  It has really been one of my best survival tools these last few weeks.  It allows us to have home cooked family dinners together while preserving my sanity after a long work day and a toddler on the loose.  Of course, this means that some of our favorite recipes that don't involve a Crock Pot will have to be put aside for a while.  But that's okay.  This isn't forever - but for now, we could not survive without our Crock Pot.

And I am pretty sure that the Crock Pot would be a Life Saver if I was a stay-at-home-mom too.  I can imagine (because I do it on the weekends) that running around after the little Energizer Bunnies all day long is very tiring and the last thing a SAHM feels like doing, just like working mom, is figure out how to get supper together.  By getting supper together in the crock pot, whatever down-time a SAHM mom has during naps, etc. can be used for resting and recuperating (and probably laundry but try to resist that urge!)  I guess what I am trying to say  is that regardless of your mom status (working at home by taking care of the kids or away because they are both tough and equally zap the life out of you), a Crock Pot is your best friend.

And by all means, if you have any favorite Crock Pot recipes, please share them in the Comments!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mom and Dad: Happy Two Year Anniversary to "A Thin Red Line"

It’s hard to believe that exactly two years ago, Mary Jane and I decided to write a blog and that two years later, we’re still writing. It’s hard to believe because since our darling Hurricane Susan was born on March 19, 2012, we barely have time to pee, yet we’ve still found a way to write a whopping 82 POSTS here and several more on BabyCenter. We are like the Ernest Hemmingway and James Joyce of baby blogging, minus the rampant alcoholism, staggering vocabulary, symbolism, literary merit and postmortem success (at least we’re still in the running for that one!).

What we do have are lots and lots of poop jokes and (hopefully entertaining) tales of failure and accidental success. We started this blog as a way to chronicle our journey through parenthood, starting from positive pregnancy test – A Thin Red Line! Get it?? How’s THAT for symbolism? Suck on that, Hemmingway. – to just this evening when my Susan threw her fork at her mother and screamed what was the toddler equivalent of “THIS IS SPARTA!”

Mary Jane and I thought it appropriate to celebrate how far we’ve come (as bloggers, not parents) with an anniversary post sharing our favorite “essays.” Essays are what an editor will hopefully call these one day when we publish a book, but for now we’ll continue to call them “things our college English professors would label ‘Let's talk about this after class.’”

So without further ado here are what we, the authors of this wonderful blog that distracts you from your real job once every couple weeks, feel is our best work.


Dad: Buttons, Zippers and Snaps – Oh my.
“Baby clothes are great when they’re on the rack and when they’re on your kid. Putting them on is the problem. My question for the baby clothes makers around the world is WHY DO THE BUTTONS HAVE TO BE SO DAMN SMALL???? Susan isn’t dressing herself. The adults are. So why do they put buttons that only an infant could handle onto baby clothes? Were they outsourced to The Shire? Do you know how hard it is to squeeze a quarter-inch button into a slot that’s half the size of my pinky nail? Maybe it’s not that bad if you’re a representative of the Lollipop Guild, but for those of us NOT from Oz, it’s near impossible.” 

Mom: Priorities 
“Essential to a strong marriage is putting each other first above your children. Sounds radical right? Especially in this day and age where parents' lives literally revolve around their children. My parents were not like that, mostly because their parents weren't like that. I remember the conversation I had with my mom about marriage. Maybe a friend's parents were getting divorced because I don't really remember why or how the topic came up. But I remember my mom telling me that her relationship with my dad came first, before me and Philip. Making time for each other and doing things together – that was a priority. Because like my mom said, without the two of them, there would be no family. The marriage is the glue.” 

Dad: The ALL IS WELL Alarm 
“The Angel Care monitor has a motion sensor that you place under the baby's mattress that responds to the baby's breathing. In theory, if said baby stops breathing, the monitor lets you know. But it doesn't do it calmly, like ‘Oh hey guys, I think your child might have stopped breathing. Probably a false alarm, but you might wanna go check it out. Just a suggestion.’ No, the Angel Care monitor freaks the eff out. It's like the sound of your alarm clock, if your alarm clock were forged in the fires of Mordor.” 


Mom: Creating a Mom Network 
“I am so thankful to have friends and co-workers who have babies and who aren't judgmental when I have questions. So I guess my biggest piece of advice to my friends who are pregnant is, don't be afraid to ask for help or ideas. Yes, you will know what works best for your baby, but hearing war stories from your friends and tips and tricks that they found helpful really is beneficial. And always remember, this too shall pass. Until the next big development. If I have learned anything over the last 7 months it’s NOTHING STAYS THE SAME FOR LONG.” 

Dad: Vacation Part 3: Saving Baby Susan 
Husband: WHERE!? 
Husband: OK LIKE THIS?? 

Dad: The Great Pumpkin 
“So two days before Halloween, we set out to the Pumpkin Headquarters that is Wal-Mart in search of our flawed-but-special pumpkin. Except when we got to Wal-Mart, all they had were those stupid gourds that stores try to pass off as funky, non-conformist, anti-establishment pumpkins that you find on the doorsteps of hipsters who feel the need to push back against the social restrictions placed on Halloween by 'The Man.' Not even Gallagher wants those pumpkins. (I apologize if any of you reading this bought those gourds...I commend you for your non-conformity).”

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mom: Happy 4th of July!

The last few years we have been at the beach during the week of the 4th (always prefer to take 4 days of vacation and use a holiday whenever possible).  But this year, we took Susan to Tupelo in June and Chris and I went to Florida in May so no big beach trip this summer.  One is already planned next year for the 4th and I am sure it will be a blast.

We had a lot of fun this year.  Susan didn't make it to any big firework shows (maybe next year) but she did get to march (stroll) in the Carrboro 4th of July Parade and then had a great rest of the morning playing at the Festival.  There was a costume contest, face painting, games, a baby crawling contest (which we missed so that we could take our baby home for her nap), a toddler obstacle course, kid zone bounce houses, various concerts, and a scrap exchange.  Susan had a really good time.  We did too (although it was so humid - it felt like we were walking around in soup).  After the parade, Susan played in the toddler play area and then we walked around to look at all the other activities.  If we ever get to go again, I think Susan will have even more fun because she will really get to enjoy all the other big kid stuff.

Before the parade - but already a little hot!

She did take a 30 minute power nap before the parade - what you can't tell is that she is surrounded by about 100 people in very close proximity to each other which didn't phase her at all.

Really ready for her to wake up!
Enjoying the Toddler Play Area!

Nothing like playing with Legos in the 95% humidity!

She had a great afternoon nap and woke up refreshed and ready for the Cook Out. My parents and brother came over.  Susan dazzled with some of her new words - she is now saying "side" to go inside or outside - and with all of the energy she has obtained in the last week.  I'll blog about that later this week but just know that during the last week she had a huge milestone week and its has shown.  So she climbed on chairs, played in her sand table (where she ate sand and threw it in her hair) and danced to Pandora's Summer Oldies station.  The grown ups drank beer and watched her.  We cooked out burgers, complete with Southwestern Black Bean Salad and sweet potato fries.  And for dessert, I made festive Red, White and Blueberry Cheesecake Yogurt Cupcakes.  They were delicious and all 12 were enjoyed that evening.

Master of the Steps.

Cool Baby!

These really were delicious and easy to make!

Festive platters and cupcake tins purchased at The Dollar Tree!

It was a great holiday.  I love the 4th of July and always have.  When I was really little and still lived in MS, we would swim and cook out at Papa's and Gig's.  When we moved to North Carolina, in middle school, my friends and I (Allison, Megan and Jennifer) would ride our bikes to the Adams Farm pool approximately 1-2 hours before it opened every 4th of July.  Then we would stand in line (usually at the front) waiting for the pool to open, ensuring a prime pool chair location for the day.  It is such a fun summer holiday and I hope Susan always has great memories of it too!  We definitely made some good ones this year!

Dad's Advice to His Daughter About Beauty

Dear Susan,

Right now your biggest concern in life is figuring out how to get around the child-proof locks on the kitchen cabinets, but one day you will deal with much bigger issues. Being a woman, one of these will be the problem of beauty and the emphasis put on it by nearly everyone in the world.

You will soon learn that the world is obsessed with beauty. Being a woman, you will be bombarded with magazines, ads and commercials full of beautiful people telling you that you’re not pretty enough as you are. I wish I could tell you to ignore all of that, but it’s naïve of me to think you can go the rest of your life immune to the barrage of “beauty tips” thrown out by complete strangers.

There are lots of clichés out there about beauty. “Beauty is only skin deep,” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and so on, but as with most clichés, they say a lot but don’t mean much. So here is some real, practical advice about beauty.

The definition of beauty is intentionally vague. Find your own meaning for it. Don’t let somebody else define it for you.

From the day you were born, your mother and I have tried to tell you how beautiful you are. We have also tried to tell you how kind and caring you are. We value the last two much more than the first one.

One day somebody – it may even be one of your best friends – will tell you that something about you is ugly. Remember that just because one person says something negative about you doesn’t mean everyone in the world feels that way. That works both ways, though. If you think somebody else is ugly, keep your mouth shut. Just because you think so doesn’t mean somebody doesn’t think he or she is the most beautiful person in the world.

Also, whether you tell them to their face or not, calling someone ugly or fat reveals an ugliness in your soul that not even the prettiest smile can erase.

There may come a time when a boy breaks up with you and starts dating a girl you think is prettier than you. Don’t sweat it. People like that are never satisfied with what they have, and there’s no use trying to change them. Let him go chase the next best thing for the rest of his life.

Yes, beauty will get you certain things in life, mostly attention. Sometimes it’s not good attention, and sometimes all it does is call attention to what you glaringly lack in other areas. Like personality.

There has never been a perfect person. NEVER. Everybody has something about their appearance they want to change, and there are lots of people out there who claim to have a way to correct those things. All those people want is your money. Don’t part with your hard-earned cash just to buy a cure for what someone else labels an imperfection.

There’s nothing wrong with throwing on a nice outfit and doing whatever you feel like to make yourself feel pretty. Just make sure that what you see in the mirror is what you like and not what somebody else will like.

When you ask your husband/fiancé/boyfriend the question, “Do I look pretty?” his answer should always be, without hesitation, “Yes” or some form of that. If he says anything else, he probably isn’t right for you.

Do not end or begin a friendship based on that person’s looks or style. Do not think that surrounding yourself with popular, attractive people will make your life any easier. Befriending people of different backgrounds who have a range of outlooks and goals in life, however, will make you a well-rounded person capable of connecting with folks from all walks of life. That’s called a life skill.

Do not choose your role models based on looks, either. Or the fact that they’re on TV all the time. One of your mother’s role models is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She is an amazing lady. Google her.

If you can get up every morning, look in the mirror and be happy with how you look, you will have achieved something that few people in the world ever will. If you can look at your friends and see what makes each of them beautiful, you will wind up with more friends than you can count.

You should also know that your mother and I are not immune to any of these things. We have both broken several of these rules at some point in our lives, and if you ask, we will tell you how stupid we were and how negatively those decisions affected us. Yes, we have learned and grown from those mistakes, but sometimes the lessons are very hard and have irreparable consequences. I have at least one friendship that ended because I was unable to overlook how that person chose to dress.

Our hope is that you never have to experience that. But remember – no matter what you look like, what clothes you wear, what color your hair is, whether you have the expensive new shoes everyone else does or the cheap imitations, we love you.

And for the record, your mom’s Jack Rogers aren’t real. They’re from Payless.