Friday, March 28, 2008

Sleeping through the night

Sorry to be such an inconsistent writer this month. We've been trying to get Stefan to sleep in his crib and sleep through the night for the last few weeks. He doesn't like sleeping there much, but he's much better than Maylin was, who unfortunately, had a much more difficult time adjusting since we waited until she was a year old to convert her. She could cry and scream much louder and much longer.

I feel we've been somewhat successful. Stefan will sleep for 6-8 hours straight which is excellent, but since he falls asleep at around 8 pm, this means he wakes me up between 2 and 4 a.m. And you know how I already have my sleeping problems (which have existed for two years now?). I cannot fall back asleep very easily which results in a very sleepy Caroline from the mid-afternoon on. The accumulation of these poor sleepy quality nights are exhausting me!

I can't complain too much though. Stefan's still a dream baby who smiles and laughs a lot, and hardly ever cries. He only cries when he's REALLY hungry and tired.

Okay, time to go back to bed. Can you believe it's 2:44 am for me?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kindergarten love

So far, Maylin has received two love letters from the same cute little boy in her class, but she's in denial. When she got the first one towards the beginning of the school year, she thought nothing of it. She got another one last week, but is convinced it's from a girlfriend, not him. (He didn't hand it to her directly and probably out of shyness, chose a middleman.) He signed it quite clearly, but Maylin says it's from a particular girl because she was told this by the messenger. Definitely some misunderstanding.

Anyway, I was helping out in Maylin's classroom this morning after teaching her classmates music, and as I was walking around, checking how everyone was doing with their writing assignment, I noticed that Maylin's admirer had covered the entire page of his little book with, "I love Maylin." He immediately flung his hand over the words as I came over towards him. Kindergarten love is so cute.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ballerina Maylin


Maylin's already onto her second session of ballet. She's still enjoying it but prefers it to tap dance because even when she's tapping quietly as her teacher asks, her classmates aren't always doing the same -- thus, irritating her sensitive ears.

Psyched about music

I've been teaching music to Maylin's kindergarten class since mid-January. I use the Kodaly method which involves lots of singing and games to help expose children to musical concepts. I bring in puppets, too, for even more fun. The most important thing in music class is to have the children experience the joy of music-making. I only have about fifteen minutes once a week with the kids (they have a pretty packed schedule including art, cooking, gardening, movement, swimming to start soon, and already a weekly Orff music class -- I have no clue what they're learning in there since Maylin seems to always forget what they did), but it's perfect for me since Stefan, who often accompanies me, usually needs to be fed and/or take a nap right afterwards.

So far, the kindergarteners have learned about loud and soft singing, and using high and low voices. Yesterday, I introduced the concept of high and low notes. They've already learned the two note (so-mi) "Bee, Bee" song with me which I used to demonstrate the hi-lo concept. In the past, I've used a chalkboard or a white board helping the kids visualize the notes of the song. But Maylin's classroom doesn't have one. My creative solution (I hope I didn't just borrow this idea from someone and forget that I did) was to use the children's bodies to represent the notes instead. For a twelve-note song, there were twelve children that were called upon to stand up to be a "hi/high" note or to sit down to be a "lo/low" note. They had to decide for themselves and the rest of the class would check their work. I could feel how excited and engaged the children were during this main section of the class. I definitely feed off of this energy.

I opened the class by teaching an upbeat circle game/dance called "All 'Round the Brickyard" and closed with the guessing game, "Who's That Tapping at the Window?" The latter was new to the children, too, but they learned very quickly. The guesser has his/her eyes closed while we all sing, "Who's that tapping at the window? Who's that knocking at the door?" Then a volunteer Mommy sings, "Mommy's tapping at the window," followed by a volunteer Daddy, "Daddy's knocking on the door." I get to listen to solo singers and gauge where they're at musically, the guesser works on his/her listening skills, and we all have a good time.

I felt so great after this especially successful class. I felt I was very effective and I just knew that the kids felt good about what they were learning and were having a lot of fun. Their classroom teacher enjoyed it, too.

It is hard to stay involved in my music with a little baby, but it's possible to do in small doses like this. Maylin's teacher said that Stefan (who was in his stroller near me) was watching me and following my voice the entire time. Maybe Stefan's learning something, too. He's always been a music-lover. Might be innate, might be all the Mozart I was playing on my piano while he was in-utero.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stefan and his new tooth


At six months, Stefan is pushing up on all fours, ready for crawling, and is giving Mommy agony with the new tooth that's coming in on the bottom. But, Stefan did really well sleeping in his crib last night after being in Mommy and Daddy's bed for many months. He woke up several times as usual, but this time, didn't need Mommy's help getting back to sleep too much. Hooray!

Addendum (3/9):
After I posted this, we discovered yet another tooth! My goodness. Also, the night he slept in his crib, he was able to go without a feeding for eight hours (before, he would be fed after four hours, at the most). Last night, what I thought was a nap for him, turned into a ten-hour sleeping marathon. Unfortunately, it wasn't in his crib (I didn't want to wake him by moving him), and I slept on the floor next to the bed so I could keep an eye on him (I have a fear of him rolling off). But I'm still happy.

My first successful banana bread

Often, my banana bread is mysteriously dry despite following directions in several different recipes. Perhaps my bananas were never ripe enough. Well, this time, I had four small bananas with plenty of brown spots -- ready for baking. I pulled out the Kona Inn Banana Bread recipe from "Fanny Farmer's Baking Book," halved the recipe, substituted butter for the shortening, omitted the walnuts, and came out with a really nice moist and sweet banana bread in a little over an hour. Yum!

Try it here:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch loaf pan.

In one bowl, whisk together:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

In a larger bowl, blend with an electric mixer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature or slightly softened
1 cup sugar
4 small ripe bananas, mashed
2 slightly beaten eggs

Add dry ingredients to wet and stir just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 65-70 minutes or until a bamboo skewer or toothpick comes out clean after inserting it into the center of the bread. Turn out onto a cooling rack. Wait a few minutes before digging in.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Stefan models my onesie


I might sell my handprinted onesies on etsy.com at some point or other. If you've never checked out etsy.com, it's really cool. Great place to buy one-of-a-kind handmade gifts by crafters of all levels!

"Costume" changes galore

I was chatting with some other school parents this morning who happened to mention about their preschool girl who would frequently change her clothes in the morning -- often last minute right before going out the door. That definitely rang a bell for me. Maylin's gotten better in the last half year, I'd say. We try whenever we can to ask her to choose her clothes the night before -- this way we often manage to swerve off the path to chaos in the morning.

Maylin's clothing choices are quite limited (so it only takes a couple of minutes to make her selection) because her wardrobe is limited. She has had many opportunities for an expanded collection, but out of Grandma's gifts, unfortunately, only about 1 in 7 is a hit. I'm a little better with 1 in 5. How many times have I had to return clothing? Now it's routine for me. I buy what I think she'd like from the store, keep all the tags on until she's tried the items on, has shown genuine interest in them and has committed to wearing them regularly, and then I return all the clothes she's turned down (no ruffles, no bows, no ribbons, no extraneous pockets...basically, no frivolous decoration -- she's a minimalist like her parents). I hope Stefan will be a little less picky.

I wuv cupcakes


Let's find the ultimate chocolate cupcake recipe. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments section below. I'm looking for something simple, chocolate-y, and moist. That's all I ask!

Jiminy, I mean, Jerusalem Cricket


Look what John found in our yard the other day. He's a very cool-looking fellow. We were quite puzzled as to its identity. John thought potato bug. On Wikipedia, it seems to be considered a Jerusalem cricket. Not a cricket, and doesn't eat potatoes either. Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerusalem_cricket for more info.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Martha Stewart messed up


I hate to admit it, but Martha Stewart may be the high priestess of domesticity with style. Her website and magazines are often full of very useful information for homebound creative moms like me. Her ideas are always tasteful, elegant, and often very simple, too. And don't we love the gorgeous photography that accompanies them?

I often go to marthastewart.com when I need a recipe fast. Usually, her recipes have been very successful for me. But this last time, when I tried the chocolate-buttermilk cupcakes, I was slightly disappointed. They tasted fine, but they lacked the moistness that I was expecting with the buttermilk. Plus, the recipe suggested the light cream cheese frosting recipe to accompany the little cakes. Blech! Yuck! Gross! Maylin had to go rinse her mouth out with water! Did anyone on the Martha Stewart food staff stop to think about this awful pairing of the cream cheese tanginess and the cocoa bitterness? Sweet and bitter, all right. Sour and bitter, no way.

I hardly ever watch any TV these days, so it was a rare moment when I happened upon the live Martha Stewart show. I commend anyone who is brave enough to take on a live TV show, but please, will you prep a little more beforehand? Ms. Stewart has a collection of kitchen gear for sale at Macy's now and on this show, she was obviously trying to promote them by demo-ing some of her "favorite" kitchen tools. But from what I saw, it looked like it was the first time she had ever held a manual citrus squeezer. I sat dumbfounded as she placed a half of a lemon cutside-down (that's upside-down!) into the squeezer. Just follow the shape of the squeezer! It's supposed to cup the lemon, not be at war with it. Martha puzzled why when she squeezed and squeezed it gave such poor results. Of course, she blamed the lemon itself. Next time, Martha, wear an earpiece (if you don't have one already) so you can hear the producers try to save you from embarrassment by telling you the right way to use those things.

Somehow, I'm still in awe of all the things she's accomplished. There's a little Martha Stewart in all of us.

O sweet revenge

I just got home after fighting in a car horn war. No, it wasn't really a war -- there was just some very impatient black BMW-driving female behind me who honked at me twice! I don't think anyone's ever honked at me before to hurry up. The first instance was when I was politely waiting for the pedestrian to safely cross the street. HONK! Gee whiz. Does she want me to run over this poor Cal student? Next intersection...HONK! Okay, I had started moving (feeling the pressure behind me), but hesitated because really, another car had the right of way. Still, that's no reason to rudely honk. At this point, I did feel like flipping off the driver on my tail. Instead, I just started driving slower and slower when in fact, I wanted to come to a full stop in the middle of the road just to tick her off. She cut around me when we came to a stop at the light, so I ended up following her this time. Oh, I was feeling so vengeful, but in a really playful way. I wasn't angry anymore, but thought with a sneaky smile, this could be fun. I had to accelerate to catch up with her and was hoping for an opportunity to honk at her. Two stop signs and no chance. Finally, at the next light going up the top of the hill, I honked at her the second the light turned green. I got my laugh in, she went her way, I went mine, and I'm happy.