Tuesday, May 31, 2011

365 Project - Day 151 - Zzzzzz

So, it is Day 3 of the Get Cadence to Sleep Better Project, and I have to say, we are feeling very encouraged. The first night was awful. Steven and I alternated going in every 5 minutes or so to rub her back and calm her down, but our sweet, stubborn girl just wouldn't give up and go to sleep. Even when she was so tired that she was literally falling asleep standing up, she refused to lie down and stop screeching.

Last night, she yelled for maybe 20 minutes total, and would stop and lie down on her own as soon as we opened the door and approached the crib. Once she fell asleep, she slept soundly all night and woke happy and ready to play this morning.

Today during her nap, she hollered loudly for maybe 5 minutes, talked to herself for about 15 minutes, and then fell right asleep. Tonight at bedtime, it only took 10 minutes. Thank goodness we seem to be moving in the right direction. Now if Steven and I could just get our butts in bed a little earlier, all of us might finally be able to get a good night's sleep.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to tonight being a peaceful night in the Romano household, with only the sounds of Metallica, Guns 'N Roses and Nirvana lullabies playing softly through the baby monitor. Good night all! Zzzzzzzzzz.......

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge - Best Faces From May

This week's photo challenge is the Best Faces From May, and this shot is definitely my favorite. There's nothing quite like watching a child enjoy their very first ice cream sandwich. Mmmm...


To see more amazing Best Faces From May entries, head over to I Heart Faces!

Monday, May 30, 2011

365 Project - Day 150 - Welcome to the Jungle

So, it has been a week since our lawn mower broke, and it was almost a week before that when Steven last mowed. With all the rain we've been getting recently, our yard is beginning to look a bit like the Amazon rain forest. I'm sure our neighbors are wondering what the heck is going on over here. and I have to admit, after the events that have taken place this past week, Steven and I are starting to wonder the same thing.

If you've read a few of my other recent posts, you are likely aware that we have a bit of a rabbit problem. Well, at first, it was just Electra that was having a rabbit problem. They hop through the yard, just fast enough that she can't keep up with them, even sunning themselves in the grass just a few feet from the bottom of the patio stairs when they know she is sitting inside looking out the window. But, when Momma Rabbit decided to give birth in our basement window well and Electra chased a rabbit through the fence and gave it a heart attack, Steven and I suddenly had a rabbit problem of our own.

We were just trying to go with the flow with all the craziness. That is, until the dead rabbit disappeared, and another one (or perhaps even the same one if you believe Steven's theory that our yard is the Pet Sematary) dug a hole and is apparently building herself a nice cozy nest less than five feet from our patio door. Should the new part for the lawnmower not arrive tomorrow so Steven can get it fixed and finally tame the wilderness, we might be faced with yet another litter of rabbits that we have to keep our overly anxious hound from trying to adopt and raise as her own.

There's just never a dull day here in Romanoville.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to our yard, the Wild Kingdom. Anyone want to start placing bets on what we find next?

Enter at your own risk.

Hot on the trail.
It begins again. Gotta give the rabbits credit for their persistence.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

365 Project - Day 149 - Night Night

There are few things in life that can fill you with more self-doubt than becoming a parent. Even the most confident people in the world can find themselves reduced to blithering paranoid idiots the moment they are faced with the prospect of raising a child. There are just so many decisions, so many tough choices to make. And it doesn't help one bit that everyone seems to have an opinion, a piece of advice that they are so willing to share, because the things that worked like magic for them may very well spell instant disaster for your own children. There is no instruction manual, no magic formula, no definite black and white rules when it comes to raising your children. Instead, you just have to try to do the very best you can.

Cadence has never been a great sleeper. She'll have a few really great nights where she goes down easy and sleeps through, but more often we deal with her not wanting to go down easily, and then waking up during the night and not wanting to go back to bed. She is such a light sleeper that we either have to be playing white noise or soft music in her bedroom so that she isn't awakened by even the slightest of sounds, and it's a regular magic act trying to get her into her crib after she's fallen asleep in our arms.

We've tried several different things to try and improve her sleeping habits, but so far, nothing has been able to provide a consistent solution. It's not that she hates her room or her crib. In fact, she will sometimes spend up to an hour playing happily in her crib by herself after she's awakened from her afternoon nap. The issue really just seems to be that she fights naptime and bedtime because she doesn't want to be away from the action and miss anything. I just wish there was some way to explain to our toddler that there is really not anything interesting going on while she's sleeping. With Steven and I, it's usually one of three things--we're either working, hanging out and watching some TV, or sleeping. Really, that's about as exciting as it gets.

Tonight after dinner, a bath, a bottle and some hanging out time with Mom and Dad, I took Cadence in her room to rock for a bit, and then put her down in her crib, told her "Night night. Momma loves you," and left the room. She protested loudly, as if she could not believe that I had the audacity to break the usual routine of rocking her to sleep, ever so carefully placing her in her crib, then tiptoing out of the room and easing the door closed without waking her.

In the living room, Steven and I listened as the decibel levels rose steadily. Had the baby monitor suddenly started to emit black smoke and crumble to a pile of charred plastic, I would not have been surprised. My daughter comes from a very long line of headstrong women, and tonight she proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she certainly inherited those genes. It took nearly three hours of crying, comforting, placing her back in her crib, telling her "Night night", changing her diaper, rubbing her back and wiping her tears, but Cadence finally laid down on her own, gave a deep sigh and fell asleep.

Tonight's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my stubborn little girl. Here's hoping that we all get a good night's sleep, and that someday, perhaps when you have your own children, you will realize how much harder those three hours were for your Momma than they were for you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

365 Project - Day 148 - Monkey See, Monkey Do

One of the best things about having children in the house is watching them learn. Cadence is in the midst of toddlerhood, which means she is in the midst of learning by imitation. Our little monkey spends her days holding our cell phones to her ear and jabbering to some imaginary friend on the other end, sneaking Momma's laptop and pretending to type, picking up the TV remotes and changing the channels (or hitting the Record button so that we have random shows filling up our DVR memory).

She insists upon turning the lights on when we enter a room, and then turning them off when we leave. When I brush my teeth, she asks for her toothbruth. When I dry my hair, she wants to comb hers. When I'm making dinner, she wants to play with the empty butter tub, stirring some invisible concoction and offering me a taste.

Tonight, she picked up one of my sports bras and wanted to wear it. I obliged, and slipped it on over her t-shirt. Steven and I cracked up as she ran around for most of the evening wearing it. She is trying so very hard to be a big girl. Now, if we can just get her interested in learning how to use the toilet  like a big girl, we'll be in business!

Tonight's 365 Project entry is dedicated to our little big girl. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Friday, May 27, 2011

365 Project - Day 147 - Regret

The events that took place in Casa de Romano today inspired me to make my own De-Motivational Poster...

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to sweet Electra. Our stubby-legged hound dog might not ever be able to actually catch a rabbit while chasing it, but damned if she didn't manage to corner one today and scare it to death. Ever since the unfortunate incident occurred early this afternoon, she has been whining inconsolably in front of the patio door. RIP Mr. Bunny. You will be missed.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

365 Project - Day 146 - Dishes

Call me crazy, but I hate dishwashers. Okay, maybe hate is a strong word. And I don't exactly hate the dishwashers themselves, or rather the idea of a dishwasher. I actually think the invention is rather ingenious. A machine specifically designed to wash your dishes for you, theoretically freeing up all that time that you would be spending washing and drying the dishes by hand, so you can go out and do more important things.

I say theoretically freeing time though, because how much time does it really free up when you have to pre-rinse and pre-wash many of the dishes, then load them, then unload them, making sure you set aside the forks and cups and random dishes that somehow still have bits of crusty food stuck to them which forces you to either load them back in the dishwasher to run with the next load or actually wash them by hand yourself? And then there's the fact that a lot of the dishes don't get dry in the dishwasher, and some (like bowls or coffee mugs tipped at just the right angle) actually seem to collect the water and bits debris so that when you pick them up to unload them, they spill their questionable contents all over the rest of the clean dishes, leaving you to wipe off and dry everything as you put it away. Really?

Growing up, the chore I dreaded most was loading and unloading the dishwasher. There were a couple of times I flat out refused to do it, begging Mom to please let me vacuum or dust or clean the bathrooms instead. If she wouldn't budge or if the other chores happened to be done already, I would often resort to washing the dirty dishes by hand and then putting them away, rather than having to use the dishwasher.

It wasn't until I spent a summer sharing an apartment with my friend Jenny in Omaha that I ever willingly used a dishwasher. See, Jenny's rule was that nothing was to be pre-washed, pre-rinsed, or otherwise prepped for the dishwasher. After all, it's job was to clean things. She even yelled at me once to stop rinsing the peanut butter off the bowl and spoon I had just used to make a batch of Puppy Chow. "If it doesn't come clean in the dishwasher, then it's not worth having anyway. Just throw it out!" And I'll be damned if every last plate, cup, bowl, pot, pan and utensil didn't come out sparkling clean. I don't know if Jenny just happened to have the superhero of dishwashers, or if perhaps the dishwasher somehow knew that if it didn't do it's job the way it was supposed to that Jenny was likely to tear it out of the wall with her own bare hands, but that was the first, and last, dishwasher that I can honestly say I ever enjoyed using.

There's just something about doing dishes that is actually kind of relaxing for me. Yes, I'm weird. I know. I've never been able to meditate in the traditional sense. I tried it a few times and it just wasn't for me. I can't sit in a darkened room and chant and clear my head completely. Thoughts just have a way of sneaking in when I try to hard to keep them out. I do find though that I can meditate in my own way though when I practice being mindful, when I allow myself to be completely in the present moment and focus on the task at hand.

Washing dishes is the perfect exercise in mindfulness. You have to be focused on what you're doing--the temperature of the water, scrubbing all of the dishes just so, being careful not to accidentally cut yourself with the knives. About halfway through the day's pile of dirty dishes, I feel any stress and tension and irritation melting into the water and slipping away down the drain. By the time I'm finished drying everything and putting it all back in the cupboards, I am completely at peace. Funny how something so mundane can be so therapeutic.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my dish washing weirdness. And yes, that is an unused dishwasher sitting directly beneath that big pile of dishes I just washed by hand.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

365 Project - Day 145 - Just Keep Swimming...Just Keep Swimming...

During my childhood, my family spent a little over seven years living in Bird City, Kansas, a town so small that the only real entertainment was Friday night football games, Bingo nights at the Senior Citizen Center, and long summer days spent at the local swimming pool. I lived for the opening of the pool every year, and spent darn near every waking moment I could in the cool chlorinated water.

In the mornings I attended swimming lessons and swim team practice. In the afternoons I would beg my babysitters to please please please please please either take me to the pool, or let me go and hang out there for the day with my friends. Some evenings, they even had night swimming, and I would convince Mom to let me go back after dinner until the lifeguards finally kicked me out and said it was time to close up shop for the night. It was always a sad day for me when the summer ended and the pool was drained for another long winter.

After we moved back to Nebraska, I lost touch with swimming. I was getting older, and instead of spending my summer days at the local pool, I spent it working part-time jobs, attending summer band and writing camps, and hanging out with my friends. When I did hit the water, it was usually at the Sand Pits just north of town or to the lake with friends.

Now that Steven and I have joined the YMCA, I am absolutely loving being able to swim again, even though the first day I spent an hour swimming laps and thought I was going into cardiac arrest. Hell, I knew I was out of shape, but that was ridiculous! It has been so long since I have been on a steady exercise routine that I'd forgotten how great it feels to be tired after a good workout, my muscles loose and rubbery and throbbing from the exertion. And I'd forgotten how great it feels to take a hot shower and sleep soundly afterward.

If only Cadence would take the hint and start sleeping through every night too.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to one of my favorite forms of exercise. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

365 Project - Day 144 - There's a Storm in the Heartland

I've always loved thunderstorms. There's just something about the strobing flashes of lightning, the low grumbling of thunder and the insistent tapping of the rain that plays like a flawlessly conducted symphony orchestra. There's just something I've always found very relaxing, very meditative about a good thunderstorm.

Yet this time of year, a thunderstorm can quickly turn from a majestic display into an unimaginable nightmare, as the residents of Joplin, Missouri and Alabama are well aware. It is still early in the season, and there have already been a record number of powerful storms and tornadoes. It makes you wonder what the rest of the season will bring.

There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a storm chaser, but I was never interested enough in math and science to really want to learn the ins and outs of meteorology. In the summer of 1998, I did manage to get a couple of pretty decent photographs a tornado forming, touching down, and then dissapating in a farmer's field a few miles from where I stood on the edge of the highway.

Now that we have moved to Nebraska, Steven has developed quite a curiosity about tornadoes. He was even excited to participate in his very first Tornado Drill at work. After asking me what I remember doing during Tornado Drills in school, Steven was expecting to have to exit his office and quickly proceed to the designated Tornado Shelter in the basement, where he would be instructed to get down on the floor, curl his body into a ball and cover his head with his hands. Instead, when the siren sounded, Steven and his colleagues proceeded calmly to the Tornado Shelter area in the basement of the building and found that a table had been set up with refreshments and cookies. Needless to say, Steven has a bit of a warped view of what might take place should an actual tornado hit.

Neither Steven nor I have ever really been afraid of storms. Instead, we are both quite fasinated by them. Hell, one of our fondest shared memories from college is the day it stormed and we both witnessed a bolt of lightning striking Sieker Hall. We still have a piece of the building we saved as a souvenir and were both quoted in the local newspaper article about the storm. Even better, our fascination seems to have been passed along to our daughter. As soon as she hears the thunder beginning to rumble outside, she wants to go stand out on the porch to watch the storm, and reach her chubby little hand out to touch the rain. I have to admit, I'm proud of her, because I'd much rather she marvel at and appreciate a thunderstorm than be fearful of it.

Tonight's 365 Project entry is dedicated to Nature and all her exquisite fury. I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the big storms this season, and my thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have already lost so much.

Monday, May 23, 2011

365 Project - Day 143 - An Apple A Day...

I don't put much stock in diets anymore. I can't really. After spending much of my adolescence and early adulthood battling an eating disorder and some very detrimental body image and self-esteem issues, I've found that it is much healthier for me to stay away from dieting altogether.

Now, that doesn't mean that I don't try to watch what I eat, I just try to keep myself from going overboard with it. I choose whole grain pasta and bread over the regular stuff. I try to stay away from the super sugary cereals (though I have a definite weakness for Cocoa Puffs and Cinnamon Toast Crunch on occassion). And lately I've been trying to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables I'm eating.

What I don't believe in though, is cutting out or depriving myself of any foods, even the "bad" stuff. Anything can be bad for you if you overindulge, so really, the trick to successfully eating healthier is finding a balance where you can eat well, treat yourself every now and then, and not set yourself up for failure by denying yourself the things you crave and enjoy. Sure, if I sat down and ate 20 Hostess cupcakes every single day, I would likely be paying for it as I watched my waistline expand. But, snacking on one every once in awhile to satisfy a craving for something sweet is certainly not going to kill me. Life is far too short for hardcore deprivation diets, don't you think?

These days, however, both Steven and I are finding that we are increasingly unhappy with our increasingly flabby bodies, and we finally decided we needed to do something more than the occassional walk on the bike path, since the walks always seem rather limited with a dog and a toddler in tow. After looking at a couple of options, we decided to join the YMCA so we could start exercising regularly again, and so far, we are loving it. Not only does it give us a chance to get active again, but we can also get Cadence involved. She's already had a blast swimming in the pool and playing with other kids in the child care center.

One thing I am very conscious of now that I have a daughter myself, is making sure that she is able to grow up having a healthy relationship with food and a healthy body image. Our culture can be very tough on girls, dictating a very warped view of how the female body should look. Fortunately, we seem to be doing pretty well so far. Cadence is super active, and is always game to go running around or head to the Y. And while she does enjoy the occasional treat like chocolate chip cookies or ice cream, Cadence is still much more interested in eating a plate full of veggies, cheese, and whole grain pasta. Her newest favorite food appears to be apples. She loves when we give them to her whole (with the skin removed), and she hold them like a big girl and eats them right down to the core. That's my girl!

Today's 365 Project Entry is dedicated to finding your own healthy balance and making it work for you. Don't go crazy depriving yourself, people! Instead simply try to be a bit more mindful of what you're eating, and then get out there and get active!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

365 Project - Day 142 - Waiting

It is almost sickening how much of our lives we spend waiting--waiting in line, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for the next big thing to come along. In the meantime, the earth keeps right on spinning and life just keeps on passing us by. Maybe if we can learn to focus more of our time and energy in the moment and what is happening right now, we just might be surprised how much we've been missing.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to finding a way to recapture life, one moment at a time.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

365 Project - Day 141 - Keeps on Tickin'...

Well May 21 has officially come and gone and we're still kickin'. This was the closest thing we saw to the end of the world today...

RIP Mr. Worm. You put up a good fight, right until the very end.

Friday, May 20, 2011

365 Project - Day 140 - And I Feel Fine...

According to a man named Harold Camping and his followers, this just might be the end of the world as we know it. Camping has predicted that the world will end May 21, 2011. However, Camping failed specify a time zone. Seeing as he lives in California, I can only assume he is basing his calcuations on Pacific Time, and if that's the case, we Nebraskans have already entered the danger zone.

The countdown is on people. How are you spending your last night on earth?

Me? I'm going to bed a little early, enjoying the sound of the thunderstorm outside my window, and wondering how Mr. Camping is going to explain it if we all make it through tomorrow unscathed. We'll see what happens. Until then, relax and enjoy!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

365 Project - Day 139 - Mmmm...Smoothies!

A few of my friends were recently having a discussion about "hiding" nutritious vegetables in fruit smoothies as a way of getting their kids to eat some healthier foods. Luckily, Cadence is a vegetable addict, so I don't have to get super creative. But, like Steven and I, she is a bit pickier about her fruits. She loves apples, pears, blueberries and strawberries, and that is about it. When it comes to trying other fruits, she is just really not interested.

I have to admit, I am probably partially to blame. I've never been a big fruit eater. I love watermelon, and could probably sit down and eat an entire watermelon by myself. Other than that though, my appetite for fruit is pretty slim. I enjoy apples, but only really Granny Smith and Braeburn. I don't like pears. I hate grapefruit. I like oranges, and blood oranges in particular. I enjoy cantaloupe, but only when it is perfectly ripe--too green and it makes my face pucker, too ripe and it makes me gag. I've never really liked peaches, kiwi, or any other fruit sporting any sort of hair, fur or fuzz. I will eat an occasional strawberry, but again, they have to be perfectly ripe. Mangos are too slimy. And I have a fierce love/hate relationship with bananas--some days I hate them and the mere thought of eating one turns my stomach, other days I actually have a craving for them and can eat two or three in one sitting.

Steven is much the same. I've only really ever seen him eat apples and watermelon, and these days he seems to be developing some sort of strange allergy to apples because his ears start itching and his throat feels tight whenever he eats one. Needless to say, before Cadence came along, we never really kept a whole lot of fruit in the house.

When you have children, little things like eating healthier suddenly become a bit more important. When Cadence was old enough to start solid foods, I decided I was going to make all homemade baby food from fresh fruits and vegetables. It's really not hard--steam or boil everything until it is super soft, puree, and just like that, instant baby food. With our refrigerator suddenly filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, I decided that maybe the answer to Steven and my fruit aversion was to "hide" the fruits in a smoothie. After all, my stepmom Wendy had made us some fruit smoothies when we were in Colorado visiting, and we both loved them, so maybe it was time to give it a try.

Since that first batch, Steven and I have been completely addicted. We've had all sorts of combinations of kiwi, cherries, mango, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, raspberries, etc. We've even had a little banana in our smoothies and still enjoyed the results. I have yet to blend in any vegetables like carrot or spinach, but I am always game to try. And if it means we are all a little healthier, it is soooo worth it!

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to the creative ways we find to eat healthier. Looking for some more fruits and veggies in your (or your children's) diet? Maybe it's time to bust out the blender and try a smoothie.

Sorry I can't give you a recipe. I always just sort of eyeball the ingredients and make our batches to taste. We enjoy frozen smoothies the best, so we use frozen fruit, plain yogurt, a little fruit juice (Cranberry Pomegranate with no added sugar), and some water to thin it out if needed. This is what was on tonight's menu:

After burning out the motor on our last blender, we bought this Waring Pro and I LOVE it! Powerful enough to make frozen smoothies and crush ice, and best of all MADE IN THE USA!
All natural plain yogurt. One of these days, I want to try Greek yogurt too.

Frozen peaches.
Frozen strawberries.

Frozen blackberries.

Frozen raspberries.
Frozen blueberries.

Add fruits one at a time, and add water and/or fruit juice to thin as needed until fully blended. 

Serve and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

365 Project - Day 138 - The First Rule of Fight Club...

One of the things I love most about being back in Nebraska is finally feeling really reconnected with nature. Even living in the middle of Lincoln, our backyard is a playground for the local wildlife. At any point during the day, I can look out the windows and see squirrels, rabbits and dozens of different birds. I've been trying to figure out a way to get some good photos of the animals that frequent our yard, but it seems that every time I grab my camera and open the door, Electra manages to squeeze through and chase everyone away before I get the chance.

Electra's latest obsession is the family of rabbits that hops into our yard six or seven times a day. I'm not sure exactly how many rabbits there are, but I have seen at least four of them in the yard at one time. Electra didn't even know what to do with herself that day. She took off chasing one rabbit, and another one ran right by her, causing her to turn so sharply that she lost her balance and rolled twice before landing back on her feet to continue the chase. By then, all four of the rabbits were sitting safely on the other side of the neighbor's chain link fence, mocking our poor clumsy hound dog.

Tonight, while Electra was locked in the kitchen eating her dinner, I noticed two of the rabbits out in the yard grazing. Figuring this might be my only chance to actually get a few shots without my dog barreling out the door and scaring the rabbits away, I quickly grabbed my camera.

I eased the sliding glass door open just far enough for my camera to fit through, and then stood in front of the opening so Cadence couldn't escape. I zoomed in, focused, and squeezed off a few shots.

As I stood watching, things suddenly took a very strange turn and I found myself in the middle of Rabbit Fight Club, right there in my own backyard.

I barely had time to move my camera and focus as the rabbits jumped and kicked and bounced off each other. I followed the action as best I could, laughing so hard I felt tears beginning to form in my eyes.

Cadence was doing her best to push my leg out of the way so she could squeeze out the door, and poor Electra was still in the kitchen licking her now empty food bowl, completely unaware that her arch rivals were duking it out in the backyard at that very moment. Had she actually been able to tear her attention away from her food bowl, Electra just might have been able to actually catch one of the rabbits while they were busy distracting each other.

Instead, the fight continued.

In the midst of the fray, a robin stood watching like a referee.

Between rounds, the rabbits would stare each other down with their beady brown eyes, sizing each other up before leaping into the air and attacking again.

Finally, after several frenzied attacks and a few rather impressive aerial stunts, the rabbits seemed to have settled whatever disagreement started the whole mess. 

One rabbit hopped away and exited the yard through a hole in the wood fence, while the other meandered slowly, snacking on a few dandelion stems and posing for a few close-up portraits near the bottom of the steps.

Congratulations my furry little friend, for tonight you were victorious.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to some truly hare-raising entertainment. :-) Just remember, the first rule of Rabbit Fight Club is...