about
Alisa. 37. New Hampshire. Married for almost three years to this wonderful, funny, smart guy. Previously married. Went through in-vitro fertilization to have my five year old magical son Keegan. Stepmother to the charming Isabelle (6). Gushingly in love with our baby boy Harper(1). Policy Wonk and dreaded bureaucrat. Lover of fine cuisine, honeybees, truly romantic moments and the underdog.
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Curried Beef Short Ribs

Note: I found this was more realistically four servings.

Finishing this dish with lime zest and juice brightens its rich flavors.

Yield 6 servings (serving size: about 3 ounces ribs, 2/3 cup rice, and about 2 1/2 tablespoons sauce)

2 teaspoons canola oil
2 pounds ...continue reading

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Oh God, Book One

At dinner tonight:

Jeff jumped up to close the windows because we could see rain was coming. Keegan and I started talking about where rain comes from. I was sticking with the Mother Nature story. He states that God has a watering can. This was a surprise because I have had exactly one conversation with him that involved God. Keegan proceeds to tell us all about how God is invisible and how he created everything. Jeff asked him who talks to him about God. He paused and then said, "Everyone else but you two." Keegan told us that God hangs out at cemeteries to keep the people company. And I told Jeff with amusement that it doesn't matter what we do God gets to them all eventually. But Jeff did explain to Keegan that when he grows up he can decide what he wants to believe in. I am still waiting to grow up and figure out what I believe in. Sometimes I do wish I had a nice established religion to fall back on.

Already?

I was talking to Keegan about his friends at his new school. He named all boys so I asked about any girls. He said that they didn't like to play the same. I reminded him about his many close girl friends at his old school and about how much he loves playing with Isabelle. Then he said that girls were hard to talk to and he gets shy.

An Original

On the way home from school:

K: I made up a song today. It's called Hard Knock Life.
M: That is already a song. It's from Annie.
K: Oh yeah, with the orphanage.
M: (Starts singing the chorus.)
K: Mine is about how I don't know how to talk yet.
M: Isn't that what Jeff sang to Harper this morning?
K: Oh yeah.

Nothing About Your Coming Was Accidental

This is an excerpt from a truly beautiful post from a father to his daughter. The whole post is long but worth every minute. A true inspiration to every parent who has wondered if they have what it takes to tackle the hard stuff. And a great way to remember what is important is what you teach your children through your words and actions.

"I know that you fear many things. Fear itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It can teach you caution. It can motivate you. It can make you realize what is most important to you. People who have nothing to fear also have nothing to live for.

But fear can be a handicap when we let it limit us, KatyBeth. And your mother and I promised ourselves, and you, that the only handicaps you'd have would be the ones that absolutely cannot be overcome.

And fear can be overcome.

You master your fear in the same way you have mastered everything else - by facing it, and refusing to quit until you've won. The willpower that helped you to crawl, and walk, and talk, and everything else you do that the odds said you couldn't, is the same willpower that will help you master fear. Trust me when I say this, the things you fear will never hurt you as much as the limitations you accept for yourself by not trying.

There are people, even those who love you, who would encourage you to accept those limitations, because they also fear. They fear you being hurt, or experiencing disappointment. They mean well, and they would protect you if they could.

Don't listen to them. Don't let their fears become yours.

Fear tempered with common sense and discipline equals caution, and caution is a good thing. We want you to be cautious. But unreasoning fear will cause you more harm than snakes, or loud noises, or big dogs, or rambunctious kids ever can.

In your life, you're going to fall down. You're going to be hit. You're going to get bitten. Mean kids will say cruel things. Boyfriends will break your heart.

But those things can never really hurt you unless you allow fear to convince you not to get back up, or defend yourself, or shun every dog you encounter, or refuse to dance because some little punk made fun of your funky moves. And when it comes to heartbreaking boyfriends, you leave them to me. I've got guns, acreage and a backhoe. After the first one disappears mysteriously, every suitor after that will treat you like a queen."

The Story Of Montessori

Keegan began at a Montessori at the beginning of January. I spent last Fall looking at schools. This started when I realized that public kindergarten here (which by the way hasn't even been available statewide until a law was passed making it so Sept 2009) is only 2 1/2 hours long. I just could not see putting Keegan in a short program and then expecting him to be successful in a full day first grade the following year. I feel very strongly about him having a good school experience. He is the kind of kid who doesn't like learning shoved in his face. He likes to choose what he is interested in and have learning be more of an activity. I began my search by talking to other friends who send their kids to private schools. I researched many online and toured three. Jeff came with me for two of them. One of them was a beautiful campus with lots of resources and a well known reputation, another has this amazing community atmosphere and goes all the way through high school. The first one I liked but wasn't crazy about. And for that kind of money you want to be sure. The second one required a time commitment from the whole family that we are not able to give right now and also required everything I packed for his lunch to be vegan. If we were vegan I might have been able to swing it. But I am a confirmed carnivore. I believe strongly that we were built to be omnivores (see also Micheal Pollan). The third school Jeff and I loved right away. We went to an open house without Keegan and were completely impressed with everything. Jeff had been skeptical about the Montessori approach until we saw it in action. The following week I observed the youngest kids classroom for an hour. The following week Keegan spent a half day there and really liked it. They offered us a spot starting in Jan and we decided it was better than waiting until September because it would give him more time to transition.

At the end of December his old school had a going away for him and I brought snacks and the kids gave him a balloon, a teddy bear and a book they made and signed. Keegan did really well his first weeks but has had some incidents, mostly in the form of not wanting to come in from recess. And they are very understanding and I keep reminding myself that he just left the only school he can remember having been there since he was 17 months old. They held a family night a few weeks ago and Keegan was excited about showing us around and showing us the various activities. We find that he willingly tells us about things he has learned and does not bring home pages and pages of busy work like the last place. And every day when I pick him up I am continually impressed by the kids. Self assured, smart, responsible and happy.

I have told Keegan that he can stay there for as long as he wants. It goes until 9th grade but most kids transition after 8th grade. I am still a big believer in public school. But I also believe that the right environment makes all of the difference. And as long as I can get over the hurdles being put up by probate court, his guardianship will cover the costs.

When You Put It That Way...

Keegan on the way home tonight:

K: I am blinded.
M: By what?
K: By the sun, I looked at it today and I was blinded.
M: That is so sad.
K: Yup, blinded for life... At least my heart is still beating.

Good Things

It looks like I will have the townhouse rented in time for the other lease to be up. I was able to work out a split month between the old tenants and the new ones. I just need a signed lease and a check and I will feel less stress.

A miracle happened last night. Keegan willingly ate chicken. Real chicken not processed chicken parts covered in batter. I made him a chicken quesadilla. He has had cheese ones but nothing more. But recently he discovered he likes tacos, which is the only form of beef he will eat. The key is the taco seasoning. So I put taco seasoning on real chicken and stuffed in the middle. And at first he complained but he did try it and then he ate it all. Meanwhile Jeff and I had Chicken Tamale Casserole. I picked the recipe but was a little skeptical of how good it was going to turn out the whole time we made it. It was delicious. I took the reviewers' comments and modified according to their tips. The recipe I post here will be the modified one.

Keegan's new school follows the nearby school district so he had a snow day yesterday. At his old place it would have still been open but delayed. It's a small price to pay for him to be at the new place. Harper's daycare was open. Jeff worked from home and kept Keegan amused. They swung by the library for some books and scored "Martha Speaks" stickers and coloring sheets. That is Keegan's favorite show lately. And it got him to try alphabet soup too.

Gag Me With A Spoon

Mom advice I never want to see again:

1. Eat healthy and diverse foods while pregnant and breastfeeding as this can influence your child's taste. I ate it all and nothing seems to have gotten through.
2. Expose your child to new foods over and over. It can take around 15 exposures before they like something. He has had eggs 300 times and is no closer to liking them.
3. Role model healthy eating for your child so they will be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and new foods. He thinks that when he is a grownup he will magically like food. He also can explain to you how healthy foods help you grow and junk should be eaten in moderation. He can tell you every ingredient we buy and the proper kitchen implement to prepare them but nothing more than a tiny taste gets down his throat.
4. Involve your child in the growing and preparation of healthy foods so they will want to try them. He is the first one to want to pick tomatoes or carrots from the garden. He loves to help cook no matter what we're making.

If these work on your kid it is not because they were a picky eater, they are a cautious eater or exercising some sense of control. Come on over to my house and I will show you pickiness that mirrors anxiety and sensory/texture issues. It is so deeply rooted I believe it might be genetically based.

Oh and internet you can keep your hundreds of picky eater recipes too. I don't want to sneak foods into my kid. It is dishonest and doesn't get them any closer to adapting to the tastes of things. And keep your adding vegetables to common dishes recipes too. They are based on the assumption that my kid likes potatoes, rice, red meat in any form, pork in any form, any deli meat besides bologna, soup and any dish in which several ingredients touch each other.

I may have hit my breaking point the other day on cooking two separate meals. But so far there is no help out there. I am going to end up raising the only gourmet chef who doesn't eat his own food.

Kaleidoscope
I just got home because I had a late meeting up at the medical school.  Nothing makes you feel old and lazy like a room full of med students.

Jeff's birthday is this Thursday so I am going to post each day up to it about him.  Tonight's post is about one of my favorite of his qualities.  He is a wonderful parent.  I remember when we were dating I told him that single dads are hot.  Nothing sexier than seeing the squishy side of guy with his child.  And he loves kids.  You know those people, maybe you're one of them.  Although I have to be away sometimes frequently for work (like tonight) he always enjoys spending that time with one or both kids.  Jeff's specialty?  Craft projects and science experiments.  He makes them up, finds them on the internet or discovers them at craft stores.  We had brought the kids back geodes from Alaska.  After we cracked them open Jeff decided they need special display cases.  So he bought plain wooden boxes which the kids painted, glittered and lacquered.  Then he lined them with black velvet.  Voila, treasure boxes.  He took all of the extra crayons we get from eating out, shaved them down and  had the kids decorate wax paper.  Then he ironed them into sun catchers.  They also did the sun catcher kits I did as a child.  Last weekend they made beaded bracelets with their names in alphabet beads.  And this past weekend he found a kit that compliments their love of super balls.  They made their own power balls in molds out of powder, dipped them in water and after they dried they were off and bouncing.  Sometimes they just all sit at the table and use the box of markers or the barrel of craft supplies.  Either way they love the time together and I get pretty stuff to admire.
He's a keeper for sure.
Hacking
On Sunday night when I was getting Keegan ready for his bath I pulled up his shirt and saw a very angry, large rash all over his torso and down his back.  All kinds of scenarios went through my mind.  I called the doctors' office and gave him his bath waiting for them to call back.  Jeff searched the internet and we ruled things out along the way.  The office called back and also ruled out other viruses.  He has had a cough for over a week that I was actually going to call about but no other symptoms.  So we put him to bed and figured we would regroup in the morning.  He woke up around 3am and called for me and I went to help him and realized that the rash was completely gone.  Not a trace of it.
I had him sleep in and went he got up it was still gone.  I checked with the doctor's and they said it was okay to bring him to school.  I dropped him at school because it was school picture day and then went to do errands because I had an appt at 1pm and there was no point in going into the work.  A couple of hours later school called and his rash was back this time on his face and neck.  They said they wanted to give him lunch and have him take his nap and I could pick him up afterwards.  I couldn't get him seen until last night at 6:30.  It turns out the rash was benign and more an indicator of a primary problem.  His chest was pretty chunky and his oxygen saturation levels were 94%.  (I know what this means because of Sammy.)  At that time they diagnosed him with pneumonia.  They also showed me retraction which is when the skin sucks in between the ribs because breathing is so labored. That was something new to look for in the future.  They sent us over to have two chest x-rays taken.  And then decided it wasn't pneumonia but bronchitis.  He is on an antibiotic and an inhaler.  By the time we did all this and went to the pharmacy it was after 9pm when we got home.  He was so cute putting the pedi mask over his face and carefully breathing six times like I asked him to.  He did get to sleep okay and did not wake until morning.
I gave him the inhaler again first thing this morning because he was coughing like crazy.  He seems to be better now and says he can breathe better.  He is allowed to go back to school because it is not contagious but I want him to get some more rest and meds first.  We have a follow up appt tomorrow morning.  If it wasn't for that rash I would not have known about the infection because he did not run a fever or complain at all.  He had just had his ear tube check up on Friday and that doctor did not notice anything unusual. 
Chicks Dig Scars

Last Friday night Keegan and I reached another milestone. Our first visit to the emergency room. Well more specifically his first and my first as a mother. That's right he is now sporting stitches on his noggin. Inevitable when you have a son I am told. But still really scary and so hard to hear him screaming as they restrained him to put the stitches in. He was so brave the rest of the time. He even helped me hold the towel to his head to stop the bleeding while I put his shoes on. And he was so good while waiting the hours in the ER to be seen. They didn't want me to feed him so he was hungry and up late. But he is on the mend now and due to have them removed Friday morning. And I have stopped obsessively following him around and worrying that he will bump his head again. You give your kids wings and sometimes they don't stick the landing. I remember Tom's family telling me about him needing to be restrained in the ER while he had stitches when he was really young. Like father, like son. They have that same love of adventure.

Sparks

I went to Selfish Mom's Club last night for the first time since August. We cancelled September (because of Tom), I missed in October and we cancelled November. Needless to say there was a lot to catchup on and I didn't arrive home until midnight. There are new homes, my wedding, new babies that have been born and babies on the way. As well as much debate on whether to throw more babies in the oven or wait or stop at the ones everyone has. I can not even put a value on how important these women have been in my life. Having a support structure is so vital and even more so when you are a parent. I can't think of a single subject that is off limits with them. I had a lengthy conversation with several of them on religion/spirituality and holidays and celebrations and pressure from others about religion and what to pass on to your children. It was a great touchpoint for me to clarify my values and practices.

It Was Time

We reached another milestone last night. We used a babysitter for the first time. Up until now Keegan has only been watched by family members. But we really want to be able to make plans and not have to put people out. In particular on week nights. I am lucky in that one of Keegan's teachers was available. I was concerned about confusion of roles but I talked it out with his lead teacher and she assured me that Keegan would be able to handle it. He knows the assistant teacher well and so there was no problem with the transition at home. She arrived in time to play with him and then help with his bedtime routine. She even brought one of his favorite books from school. He went to sleep and we left for the movies. I guess he popped back up about ten minutes later but she had no problem putting him back down. This morning he asked me if she was still there.
Meanwhile I got to snuggle at the movies with my husband and enjoy myself without a worry. We saw Stranger Than Fiction with Will Ferrell. It was excellent. It is now one of my favorite movies. There wasn't one single thing about it I didn't like. I don't know if it is partially because I really connected with the themes or what, but I loved it. It was funny and heartbreaking and moving and all the stuff that makes a great film.

Is Your Mama A Llama?

Gorgeous day, tractor ride, corn maze, pumpkin patch, feeding the animals, wooden pirate ship playground, Keegan onstage with a chicken puppet, his buddies he has known since they were only weeks old. And one very long bath to wash it all off.
He fell asleep on my chest today in my lap on the couch. That is a rare moment in the life of a toddler's mom. Soon he will just be too big.

punkinhead.jpg

Do We Matter?

"Do Parents Matter? Let Us Count the Ways." from Child Trends a non-profit, non-partisan research center.

We all know that peers, the media, early care and education, and schools affect children's development and success. Oftentimes, though, the importance of parents is neglected, or one element of parenting is emphasized to the exclusion of others. How do parents matter?
First is heredity. Scientists and new grandparents alike accept the important role of heredity. Genes have now been confirmed to affect characteristics of children ranging from their eye color and height, to their cognitive abilities and personality. Research hasn't confirmed, though, the notion of a rigid and determined distinction between heredity and environment. Rather, research indicates that genetic dispositions interact continuously with a child's environment to affect his or her development.
Another important role for parents is prenatal care. Proper nutrition, avoiding dangerous substances, rest, and good health and personal care all contribute to a healthy pregnancy. In addition, social support from the father augments the role of economic and health-related influences, and all of these good things are more likely for a planned pregnancy.