Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to wish everyone a very happy Turkey Day! I hope you'll all be spending it with people who are dear to you.

By the way, I'm thankful for Stefan sleeping through the night last night! He slept from about 9 pm to 4:30 am! I had a feeling it might happen because yesterday evening, he wanted to nurse just about every hour. Nothing like a nice full tummy to get you through the night. Plus, he seems to not have as many wet diapers so he's drier and more comfortable. Hope he can do a repeat at Grandma and Grandpa's tonight.

Love,
Caroline

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maylin can read!!!

Wowsers. Yesterday morning, I went to the Albany Library used book sale and found a complete (and nearly unused) set of Hooked on Phonics. I'll date it to the late 80s or early 90s because it had cassette tapes and a VHS video instead of CDs and DVD. It's an amazing program that gets kids reading right away.

Maylin has known her alphabet for a long time, and has recently learned her letter sounds at school. Perfect timing for this phonics program. From the first page of the level 1 workbook, Maylin started putting together letter sounds to make -at, -an, and -ad. Within 15 minutes, she was reading her first book. Hooked on Phonics includes storybooks for every step of the learning process so the rewards are immediate for both child and parent. The program has five levels, going from kindergarten to second grade. But if Maylin keeps up this frantic pace, she'll be done in maybe a year or less?

Right now it's quite a novelty for her, but she loves books so I don't see her slowing down too much. We worked in the workbook for quite a while and I noticed her fatigue because her concentration was going down. I suggested taking a break but she insisted on going on because she wanted to read the next book and put a sticker on her progress chart. Maylin's motivated!

I was so proud of her when she finished her first book. She just blew me away with how quickly she was able to make words. I'm sure she felt the same way about herself. What a joy to see her excitement in learning. The program requires that the parents guide the lessons and now that she sees me as a teacher, I hope I can carry this on into her violin study which I hope to begin teaching her soon. (No, Maylin doesn't want to learn piano. Just violin right now.)

By the way, I looked online and found that the Hooked on Phonics program is nearly $200. I was lucky enough to find this older version for $30. My lucky day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

New exercise regime

It doesn't take a lot of time and I'm energized afterwards! I walk Maylin and our dog Leo to the bus stop, and after waving goodbye to Maylin, Leo and I take the steep, upward hike home, the long way. And now that Leo is a senior citizen, I used to have to wait for him but I realized I wasn't getting much of a workout that way. So, I keep moving now. When I notice he's not catching up, I just walk back down to him, and then walk back up again, getting more uphill steps in.

Once we're home (in 10-15 minutes), I pop in my New York City Ballet Workout DVD and do four of the floor exercises: stretches, abs, floor barre I (hamstrings and calves), and floor barre II (butt). The ab workout is the best! I'm groaning by the end of it. So that takes about 10-15 minutes. Lastly, I take out my resistance bands (huge rubber bands) and work on my triceps and biceps for about 5-7 minutes.

My workout is about 30-40 minutes and I feel great! Yesterday, I did my workout and felt energized (and crazy enough) to weed my neighbor's yard for a couple hours right after. Yes, I volunteered because I find it fun to clean up other people's homes and yards -- as long as I know I'm going to be making an obvious, huge visual impact after my work is done. So, if you or someone you know has LOTS of weeding to do or LOTS of organizing to do in the home, contact me! Hey, I'm sure I burned a lot of calories weeding, too.

Oops...weight-loss at stand-still

Well, so what happened? Remember I baked that chocolate cake and apple pie? Remember that Halloween candy? I also didn't tell you that I unconsciously switched from brown rice and whole grain pasta to white rice and regular pasta. So, time to switch back to healthier days when I was on my gestational diabetes, low-glycemic meal plan. Brown rice actually tastes pretty good (lots of flavor), but there's something so special about white sushi rice. The texture is so beautiful and the taste is sweet. Maybe we can have white rice once a week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A little homesick for Paris

I got out of bed a few minutes ago (before 4 am) because I can't go back to sleep even though I'm really tired. Decided to do e-mail and started sifting through the inner recesses of my inbox and found some nice holiday e-mails from last year. Memories of fun times with friends started flooding back. I felt like saying, "I wanna go home," but silly me, I AM home. I just wish I could've brought my dear Paris friends back with me. THEN life would be complete.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maylin's mad at me



Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
All I did was ask her to move her hair away from her face. Actually, I asked several times and she refused to listen. That's when she pulled this face. Stefan is oblivious. By the way, there are more Stefan photos online now.

Butterfly cards


Butterfly linocut
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
It was so easy to make those bee cards that I decided last night to do butterfly cards which I finished this morning (once again, carved a stamp and hand-printed them). I also baked two chocolate cakes this morning. My morning productivity is amazing. But by 5 pm, my tank is empty.

Bee cards


Bumblebee linocut
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
Maylin had asked me to make "bee cards," similar to the ones she gets at school for good behavior. I drew my version of a bee, carved it into a stamp, and printed several cards. What a fun day it was yesterday. I made apple pie the same day. Really good day.

Healthy eating

I can't really give breastfeeding all the credit for the weight loss because I have definitely been eating a lot healthier than when Maylin was a newborn. I can thank the people at the John Muir Diabetes Center in Concord for educating me, and I can thank my body for getting gestational diabetes during the end of my pregnancy with Stefan because otherwise, I wouldn't have found myself at that center.

When I had gestational diabetes, I was able to control my blood sugar through my diet. Low carbs, lots of veggies/fiber, some protein. There was a very strict meal plan and I stuck to it. It was tough, and though I don't keep exactly the same regime, I have incorporated the healthier foods into my daily life.

My breakfast hasn't changed too much. Instead of two, I have three slices of yummy Alvarado Street Bakery Essential Flaxseed Bread which has only 6 net carbs per slice (http://www.alvaradostreetbakery.com/) with about 2-3 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (only ingredients: peanuts and salt). I also either have a small banana or fat free yogurt with blueberries and honey. A glass of flash-pasteurized orange juice (Tropicana tastes the best) is my special treat which was entirely off-limits before.

Lunch is oftentimes a two-egg omelette with cheese and veggies, with more veggies or some fruit on the side.

Dinner is some meat (pork chops, roast beef, grilled chicken breast) and veggies (steamed or stir-fried) with brown rice, usually.

Snacks are usually fruit or low-fat string cheese, with an occasional piece of Halloween candy (thanks, Mom).

And as a mommy with little time to cook (plus, I'm exhausted by 5 pm), I find it absolutely necessary to start prepping for dinner IN THE MORNING! Otherwise, you can say "goodbye" to healthy dinners. After I drop off Maylin at the bus stop, I start cleaning and chopping veggies, and marinating meat for a stir-fry or browning meat for the slow-cooker (a.k.a. crockpot). When I realized all my Chinese vegetables (green, leafy type) were slowly rotting in the fridge (no time to rinse those things three times to get all the dirt off), I opted to only buy what I call "easy veggies." These fresh vegetables are perfect for moms who want the lowest prep time possible (quick rinse, quick chop). Here's my shortlist:

(when in season)
- corn on the cob
- asparagus (I can't buy it anymore because Stefan gets horrible gas after I eat it)
- broccoli (Maylin eats this!)
- carrots (Maylin eats this raw with hummus)
- cauliflower (Maylin will eat one piece with coaxing)
- bell peppers (the red ones are delicious raw by themselves or with hummus)
- squash (so many varieties in the winter!)
- tomatoes

(for flavoring, have fresh on hand)
- green onions (scallions)
- cilantro
- onions (yellow and red)
- shallots
- garlic
- ginger

I buy frozen imported French green beans from Trader Joe's because they're cheaper, faster to cook (no cleaning, trimming), delicious, and will be eaten by Maylin (as long as I don't cook them with onion). Frozen peas are good, too.

I don't buy potatoes anymore because they're so starchy (not great for diabetics).

I plan on incorporating some fresh seafood into our diet soon.

I don't have time to plan meals based on recipes, so I've been improvising mostly. It's the most fun to cook creatively anyways.

Maylin and I did have some time yesterday (Stefan was really good) to bake her requested apple pie. I think it was my first crust from scratch and it was easy (1.5 cups flour, .5 cup butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons cold water). Maylin did most of the work, too. How fun for a kid to have permission to get really dirty. She combined the flour/salt and the butter with her fingers until it looked like corn meal. How fun to have permission to get dirty. The filling was very easy, too. Thinly-sliced Granny Smith apples (3 peeled and cored) with fresh lemon juice and sugar. It was a very simple pie, but it was also simply delicious!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Weight loss

I had been steadily losing about half a pound a week, normal for breastfeeding moms, but on Monday, I weighed myself, and discovered I had lost five pounds in less than a week! A little bit scary that it's been so fast, but Stefan has been eating a lot more, so maybe I'm in the negative calories by the end of the day. This may change since Grandma brought up a Costco bag of 150 pieces of chocolate Halloween candy...stay tuned.

Little man

My Stefan is getting so big! He came into this world at 7 lbs. 8 oz, and seven weeks later, he's thirteen pounds! He also grew four inches! 90th percentile for height and 80th percentile for weight. He's got all those beautiful, chubby baby folds to prove it.

At seven weeks, he just started to smile, and now at over eight weeks, he's smiling a lot. And with early training, he's sticking his tongue out at us as some form of communication. I love how he coos. He is actually talking -- "ah goo," but usually does it with his lips together. Funny guy.

He's got these fun moments, but when he's gassy, no one's happy. Two things relieve him -- Mylicon drops (I hate using medication, but it does sometimes work) and butt-bouncing, which is a technique I developed myself. I lay him on his back, put my hands under is butt, and bounce his bottom upward and toward his chest simultaneously, over and over again. Definitely gets results.

Stefan has the same cheeks (I'm not talking about his bottom anymore) that Maylin had when she was a baby. Huge...humongous! I had mugs made with Maylin's huge cheeks on them for family Christmas presents when Maylin was about two months. I bet when she gets to be a teenager, she'll find them and toss the things out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Halloween at school


Maylin and friends
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
Unfortunately, Maylin slept through Halloween (I just couldn't wake her up!), but she wasn't too upset since they did celebrate at school with a costume parade and a little party. Few more photos on my flickr site.

Happy Birthday, Maylin!


Happy Birthday, Maylin!
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
She's five already! Last Saturday was Maylin's birthday. We had a party at home with a few of her friends which I had started planning for a week in advance. It wasn't a fancy party, but I just wanted to make sure we had everything covered. Maylin greeted her guests with foam princess tiaras and star wands which served as party favors also. Her friends decorated those with stickers and then proceeded to her room to just be silly for a little bit. I then offered to do some face painting which was a big hit. Princesses, fairies, and a parrot. They played again (Barbies!) and then I invited them to make some pictures with felt shapes I had cut out by hand(!) to glue onto their felt flags/wall hangings (wooden dowels make the difference). Then it was cake time. I made my gateau chocolat (minus the almond powder in case of nut allergies) and served healthy snacks alongside -- strawberries, melon, and baby bananas. They didn't seem to miss the sweets. Afterwards, the kids went wild, jumping on the beds and hiding in the shower. Maylin was very, very happy and everyone was very good-natured. No tears at the party at all! Maylin opened presents after everyone left -- I thought it would prevent any awkwardness or jealousy. I found that great idea online.

We were supposed to have an origami jumping frog game, but I ran out of time. Next party.

I was exhausted for the next couple of days, recuperating from the party, where there wasn't much of a moment to relax for me. But all that work was worth it, as I'm sure most moms would agree.