May 2, 2016

Date night

A couple months after our youngest was born, my mom offered to watch the kids so we could have a date night.


It seemed like a nice idea, so we decided to do it.

Wednesday night found us in the car: baby in the backseat, baggy-eyed parents in the front.

“So I thought we could go on a dessert tour,” Ben began, as he took off his glasses to rub his tired eyes.

That was nice of him. Because I like desserts. He thought of me. Sweet. But I could read his body language loud and clear.

“We don’t have to do this. You should sleep,” I said.

“No, no, it’s okay… it’s DATE NIGHT!” he said, forcing a smile. He had caught a cold and was still recovering, yet was determined to make this happen.

“Really, it’s okay,” I yawned.

“No, let’s go!” he said, squeezing excitement into his voice. So we went.

I have a semi-candid picture of it.

April 26, 2016

Teaching Magnatiles (8)

Magnatiles are magnetic tiles. They are one of the hottest STEM toys out there!

Last week, I sat my daughter down with her box of Magnatiles. Then I went to go clean up in the kitchen. A few minutes later, she called out, “See, Mama, see! Don’t destroy it!”

I came to see. It. Was. Spectacular.

Suped up crib

I mean, she’s not even 2.5 yet. I’m over 30, and I’m not sure I could make something that cool. Half serious.

To be fair, I don’t think she sat down and thought, Hm, I think I’m going to create an awesome mansion castle building thing. Let me create a solid foundation using a combination of squares and right triangles. Now I will build a spire with these isosceles triangles, and mini decorative towers here with four equilateral triangles… ah. Yes. My vision is complete. Mother, come hither.

I’m pretty sure her thought process was more like, I’m going to build a crib. And when she ran out of squares to build up the sides of the crib, she made some out of right triangles. And when she ran out of those, she started sticking other triangles here and there and then she ran out of tiles and lo and behold… her creation looked cool, and her mouth said, “See, Mama, see! Don’t destroy it!”

If you asked me five months ago if I thought she’d be able to make that, the answer would be a clear, flat, no. Because five months ago, she had just opened this box and could only figure out how to play with it in 2D. I was a little disappointed, because this thing is not cheap and I had been hanging onto it for months in anticipation of the time when she’d be ready for it, and it seemed like she still wasn’t old enough to really make something of it.

But then the teacher in me kicked in, and I decided to give her the tools to do more with it. Of course these are open-ended toys and part of the beauty of it is to not make it too structured and instead allow for open-ended play. There’s a lot to be said for letting her just explore and learn things on her own, too. But I felt like if I didn’t intervene and start giving her some “building blocks” for new ways to use these, she’d lose interest and we’d miss an optimal window of learning and she’d put them aside and forget about them.

Teaching philosophies aside, I figure some of you might have some Magnatiles at home and be thinking, “Okay, my kid’s kind of played out with these. Now what?” So I thought I’d share the steps we took in teaching her ways to play with Magnatiles that led, five months later, to her building this all on her own!

April 20, 2016

tips for really bad morning sickness

Morning sickness is a unique kind of nausea that goes on well past the morning, and is supposed to go away after the first trimester of pregnancy. Unless you’re like me, and you have it for all nine months of pregnancy. Through my last three pregnancies, I have spent about two cumulative years of my life in miserable, gut-wrenching nausea. That’s ~700 days of throwing up and feeling awful all the time.

Morning sickness sucks. I could go into endless detail on just how sucky it is, but if you’re still reading this, I’m guessing you’re here because you already know how awful it is and you just want to know how to make. it. stop. I’ve been there. I’ve read all the websites and tried all the tips, and now I’m here to offer some of my own! Because even though I had a stash of bland crackers at my bedside and tried ginger everything, the nausea prevailed. So here are some tried and true tips (and my weird guesses at why it worked) for you to try!

  1. Get a ton of sleep. For me, that meant 8-10 hours at night, and a 1-1.5 hour nap in the afternoon. I only learned of this during my third pregnancy, when I was a SAHM and could actually nap in the afternoons when my toddler napped. Tiredness = nauseated.
  2. Don’t get hungry. All the websites say to snack frequently, but I needed to give myself a concrete number so I wouldn’t get lost in an activity and forget to snack. That meant no more than 2 hours without food.
  3. Don’t eat too much at one time. Eating up to 60% fullness was just about right for me. More and I’d lose it all.
  4. Proteins as part of breakfast! It will keep you fuller longer.
  5. After eating food, don’t follow with liquids (including water). I think it got all sloshy in there and made me throw up.
  6. If you must have liquids (to take pills, for example), then remember to do it before eating. This goes along with point #5.
  7. Wait 45-60 minutes after your last bite of food before driving anywhere. This is probably why I threw up as soon as I parked the car at work every morning when I was still teaching. I’d eat breakfast, hit the road, and get super queasy all the way to work and then lose it as soon as I parked. I also couldn’t not eat breakfast before driving (see point #2), so the best solution was to get up exxxxtra early, eat first, and then do the rest of my morning routine and make sure it was at least 45 minutes post-breakfast before getting on the road.
  8. Limit smartphone screen time. Looking at my smartphone for too long made me queasy.
  9. Don’t get out of breath. It made me gag and then vomit. Sadly, that meant no walks after meals. #outofshape
  10. Have fizzy drinks (ginger ale, coke) to help you burp (instead of vomit).
  11. The common wisdom about eating bland stuff was not true for me. I liked to eat crunchy and salty things. Think potato chips and a panini with a nice crispy crust. And cheesy bread (like pizza) also worked well for me.

Other things that likely helped:

  1. Taking 25mg vitamin B6 3x/day (talk to your doctor about this).
  2. Taking prenatal vitamins that didn’t have iron in them (talk to your doctor about this).
  3. Avoiding sugar (milk tea, cookies, etc.(SADFACE)).

Of course, talk to your doctor about any big changes you might try. Hopefully you will never need to do the things on this list… but if you do, I hope it brings you comfort to know that it does end, eventually. The day that baby comes out, you don’t have to worry about this discomfort anymore! Yes, you will be sleep-deprived and tired and feel beat up, but man, I’d take that exhaustion over the nausea any day.

Let me know if you have more tips for beating the nausea in the comments below (or if any of my weird tips helped you!).



April 11, 2016

How NOT to teach your kids

This is a basic instructional tip that teachers and parents need to master. NEED. It’s very simple: When instructing your child, frame directions positively. That means tell them what they SHOULD do, not what they shouldn’t do (unlike my image title…). For example, it will be more effective to say, “Keep your food in your mouth!” instead of “Don’t spit out your food!”

Framing things positively helps your child focus on the words and actions they should do. Not only does it keep the image of unwanted actions out of their heads, it replaces them with positive desirable actions. One of my teaching instructors once put it like this: “Okay, I want you guys to do exactly what I tell you. Don’t think of the color blue. NOT blue. NOT BLUE. NOT BLUE. DON’T THINK ABOUT THE COLOR BLUE. ANYTHING BUT BLUE– you’re totally thinking about the color blue, right?”

We laughed. It was true. He kept SAYING blue, so even though we were trying to follow his instructions, the color blue kept cropping up in the visuals of our minds. Even when we had pink or red or yellow passing through our minds, blue kept flashing through as he kept saying it.

That’s what comes to mind when I hear myself say to my child, “Don’t spit! Don’t spit! DON’T SPIT OUT YOUR WATER.” I watch in horror as water, seemingly involuntarily, comes dribbling out her mouth, down her chin, and all over her shirt. Perhaps she’s being disobedient, or perhaps I’m just making it hard for her by using the very verb I’m trying to have her avoid. Instead, I try to remind myself to say, “SWALLOW IT! SWALLOW your water! KEEP IT IN YOUR MOUTH!” I often find that this results in her making a concentrated effort to swallow and keep it in her mouth.

April 6, 2016


Granola: Great on yogurt, with ice cream, or on its own as a snack.

Last week, I made some. Then I put some in a bag for my friend. A couple days later, she texted me:

“Really this is the best granola I have ever had… Makes me want to become a hippie and try my hand at it”

…Need I say more?

So here is the recipe in case you turn up the Beatles and make some groovy granola :].

March 30, 2016

Chinese Steamed Fish (6)

I decided to cook Chinese food this week. My trip to the Asian market was definitely in my Zone of Proximal Development (i.e. a learning stretch for me!) since I decided to wing it with no game plan. I can wing it comfortably at places like Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, but Asian markets are another story.

This produced some anxiety that I haven’t felt about grocery shopping for about half a decade, but I think the stretch was good for me. I generally avoid Asian markets because I can’t speak Chinese very well, and they usually can’t speak English very well, and that makes for a frustrating combination… especially when I look so very Chinese. I can feel the judgment creeping in their voices as they stare intently at me and repeat themselves louder and louder, thinking: She looks Chinese. She knows some Chinese, so she must be Chinese. Why can’t she understand me? SMH.

Sometimes they really do shake their heads at me and look at their coworkers in disbelief. Not exactly a confidence booster.

March 28, 2016

My Fails

The other night, a few of us got together to celebrate A’s birthday. You could tell we were all moms, because as we all gathered at the dessert spot at 9:20pm (after every last child had been put to bed), all we could do was remark at how busy this place was at such an incredibly late hour. I mean 9:20PM. Geez. Party animals.

As we chattered away, someone mentioned that according to my blog, it appears that Ben loves EVVVVVVERYTHING I make. EVERYTHING.

Well of course he does. I’m a perfect wife. Aren’t you?

Yeah, that’s a lie. I mean, I don’t think I would keep many readers if I just kept blogging about all the things I did wrong every day. Maybe that’s fun to read about here and there… but probably not the best long-term strategy. However, in my attempt to share good things with you, I’m afraid I may have given the false impression that everything I do is a win. Hah.

So let’s change it up! Today I thought I’d share some things lately that have been a big fat FAIL.

March 21, 2016

Today, I was randomly thinking about how my dad used to cook dinner for us every night. (Of course, this happened as I was driving to get my free burrito from Chipotle for our lovely family dinner. Hah.). And I thought about how in high school, I used to just watch TV and not even offer to help all those years! I frowned at Younger Me, and thought, Man, if I could have a word with younger JoEllen. I’d have some things to say. 

It got me thinking about a number of things I’d want to tell my younger self. So I thought I’d share with you:

If I could go back and tell younger me a thing or two…

About Family

Eighteen years at home is actually not a lot of time. Especially because during the last four, you will spend most of your waking hours out of the house or busy with homework. And then whoosh. You’re never really coming back. 

So hang out with your parents more. Go take more walks with Mom, and make Dad take you on a few more dates. Show up to more family events, and stop prioritizing your friends over family so much. Trust me, you’ll have PLENTY of time to hang out with friends after this. But being a daughter living at home? Not so much. Milk it while you can. It’s a luxury.

Hang out with Brother more. You don’t realize this now, but when you’re sixteen, he’s leaving for college and you two are never going to live under the same roof again. You’re going to miss him. A lot. And your relationship will never be quite the same after you get married, so enjoy the special friendship you have with your brother while you two are still uniquely brother and sister growing up together in the same house. Not everyone grows up getting along with their siblings. Your friendship with him is superspecial, and you should appreciate it.

March 17, 2016

Cheez It Chicken Recipe

Who doesn’t like fried chicken? It’s salty, it’s crispy, it’s delicious. YUM. We get some serious fried chicken cravings every so often, but I don’t always love the grease, and it’s not something I’d feel awesome about feeding to my family. I did try making some buttermilk fried chicken once, about ten years ago… and there are reasons I haven’t tried again. Not only did I have to waste cups and cups of oil afterward, but it made the house smell like fried food for days! Also all that work and oil didn’t really feel worth it to fry up 4 pieces of chicken.

Sometimes I want that crunchy, salty, tender, chicken fried goodness without the mess and without feeling guilty that I’m feeding my family fried stuff. Enter CHEEZ-IT CHICKEN. It’s really good, and totally hits the salty crunchy chicken spot! Just try it once, and you’ll be sold! Some reasons you will love this recipe:

Chicken coated with sour cream and then crushed cheez its then baked- SO GOODThe chicken before it went into the oven.

So if you’re looking for a way to shake up your chicken routine (literally and figuratively!), try this out sometime!

March 14, 2016

while i still can

The other day, I thought we’d make some memories. The weather forecast promised heavy rains, so on Friday we geared up and got ready to frolic and play in the rain. It was great fun! She splashed and ran in the huge puddle/lake we found, and laughed and screamed and spun around. She even sat in it.

Yes. She sat in the great big lake puddle. Oh dear.

I thought I had planned out the morning so well, packing snacks, a towel, a change of clothes, using the baby carrier, and waterproofing her as well as I could.