Friday, March 30, 2012

Done Nursing. Forever.

I didn't really have a plan for nursing Eleanor.  She is my baby, so there was no urgency to weaning.  There was no swollen belly in the spot she liked to sit to nurse.  So we just kept nursing.  She was down to nights only, occasionally before nap time.  It was obviously no longer for nutrition and only for comfort.  But she is my last baby.  So we nursed.

But I wanted to live too.  I wanted to go away with my husband for the weekend.  I wanted to go away with my mother too.  So I did.  And I figured if nursing survived the separation - Great, if not - then it was okay.  Nursing did survive our first separation in December when Caskey and I were gone for two nights.  I borrowed an electric pump (which was a new experience) and kept up my supply and kept me comfortable.  As soon as I saw her she asked to nurse.  She was 13 months old.

My second overnight away was at 16 months.  My mother and I spent 2 evenings in Anaheim at the Religious Education Congress.  She had a rough few nights.  I pumped to help relieve the pressure.  I got home and she didn't ask to nurse.  I didn't push the issue since I wasn't really sure I wanted to nurse any more.  We were already 3 days into weaning, so I kept it up.  The next day I had to pump again to make myself more comfortable.  She still didn't ask.  I was pretty sad about it - the last sign of her babyhood - but it was good we were moving on to more grown up things.

Then on Thursday morning she squished her finger in a drawer.  Big tears rolled down her cheeks and she asked to nurse!  Um, its a little too late for it now, I thought.  My supply was dwindling and I wasn't going to start it up after 5 days of weaning.  I distracted her.  She forgot about it.

But the real nail in the cross was on Friday when I discovered Eleanor had flushed my lanolin cream.  Apparently, I don't need it anymore if she is done nursing.

Its okay.  She is on to bigger and better things . . . . like the top of the kitchen table.

Our Home

I cried the day we closed escrow on our current home.  I feel badly mentioning it but its the truth.  We rushed into purchasing our home because, quite frankly, we didn't have a choice.  We were living in a hotel for a bit, then an overpriced fully furnished apartment.  We were flushing money down the drain every month.  The market was hot.  Very hot.  We had put in bids on several houses.  We got into a bidding war on a house  that was out of our price range.  We had offered the asking price and they wrote us a letter asking how much more we were willing to spend.  What?!  None, thank you.

There were exactly 3 houses on the market in our price range and location range when we purchased this one.  The only reason we got it is because we knew the previous owners from church; we were not the high bid.  I still cried.  I thought it was an ugly small house.  I thought it was small, too close to a major street and our neighbor was a wash.  I worried about street noise, wash bugs and having one bathroom without a bathtub.  The kitchen was dated and the flooring was peeling.  And I was 7 months pregnant with a 15 month old.  Caskey consoled me by saying it was a temporary home and we could move when the prices came down.  

Within a month of purchasing the house we started making it feel more like home.  We replaced every single doorknob in the house (germ-free) so they were uniform.  The entire interior of the house was repainted loud wonderful colors that I love (Thanks to Papa Tom).  I had a sunshine yellow bathroom and kitchen.  My loving husband installed a white picket fence and tore down the ugly chain link fence.  Over the years we continued to improve the house; new sprinklers and sod, removing a few messy fruit trees to expand our yard, removing a dog run, a new a/c system, a closet in the 2nd bedroom.  Eventually we did bigger projects like a new kitchen and flooring.

Although I started to love our home for what it was I still hated it for what it wasn't.  It wasn't very big.  It didn't have a bathtub or even a second toilet.  It didn't have a garage.  But I think the real problem was what we need.  We are a family of 7, there is no getting around that number.  We are currently squeezed into 1,300 sqare feet of space, no garage (that is important because all of our storage is in the master bedroom).  There are 3 bedrooms with 3 boys in one room.  Did I mention there is only one toilet?  Oh, and we have a cat too, at least he gets his own toilet.

So we have been perpetually house shopping.  Forever.    Thanks to online websites and my extensive must-have list we haven't had to actually hire a realtor.  In the last seven years there have only been 3 houses that had potential.  Did I mention we are picky?  With our large family size and our desire to stay in the area it limits our housing potential to about 100 houses in a 80,000 square foot area.

If I ever do find the perfect house and move I think I will cry.  I have been pregnant in this house with 6 of our children.  We have had baptisms, first birthdays first steps, and First Communion in this house.  We have had water fights and wrestling matches.  We have had stitches and broken arms.  Three of our children have learned to ride a bike in the street in front of our house.  I will mourn our house; our ugly, too small, never-wanted-it house.

Plumbing First

I have five children and quite frankly, I thought I had been through it all.  And the things we hadn't been through yet I was hoping to skip, but Eleanor decided trouble with toilets was not one we would skip.

I have retraced the steps and figured out what happened.  While we were getting ready for school one of the kids (my bet is on Lainy Ann) left the bathroom door open.  Eleanor is pretty smart.  She now goes into the bathroom and closes the door so I won't spot her right away.  Caskey had left already and was actually in the air on the way to San Fran, so it was me, 5 kids, making lunch and getting to school.  As I was doing the mental checklist of who still needed to pack lunch and put on shoes I realized Eleanor was not dressed yet and I set off to find her.  I was dismayed to find her in the bathroom, plunger in hand, soaking wet.  Blech.

No time for a bath, so I stripped her down and washed her off and dressed her for drop offs.  Fast forward a few hours . . . . after I used the restroom the toilet was running slow.    But since we were in a hurry somewhere else I ignored it.  Fast forward another few hours . . . the toilet is still running slow.  I plunge and wait and eventually it drains.  I am now on toilet patrol.  I am the only one in charge of flushing (to prevent over flowing) and everyone has to ask permission to use the restroom.  Fun times.

More plunging by me and Caskey and then plumber was finally called.  I love our plumber.  He comes out whenever I call, even after 5 pm, and then finds a way to charge me the least amount.  Thursday at 5 pm he comes, right in the middle of dinner, bath, etc.  I put Eleanor in the playpen to keep her out of the stinky mess while the plumber uses 2 types of snakes to no avail.  Then he removes the toilet (letting our quite a stench) and snakes it backwards.  Finally!  The stuck item is found.  Its a lotion bottle of lanolin - apparently it was Eleanor's final say that yes she is done with nursing.  The flexibility of it is what made it so difficult to dislodge.  The plumber headed home at nearly 7 pm at night after a lot of hard work.

But this morning the toilet is still running slow!  Ugh!  I am now thinking that there were 2 lotion bottles sitting together and she stuffed them both down the toilet.  I'm going to be pretty cranky if I have to buy a new toilet.  Miss Eleanor is determined to still have "firsts" even though she is the fifth.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Walking Tour of LA River

I first found out about this tour on the Facebook page Hidden Los Angeles.  Its a great page that talks about all the secret beautiful spots in LA that people don't normally go to.  I thought it would be a great way to learn about the history of the LA River, teach the kids a little something about our environment and ecosystems and a fun way to spend the day.  Unfortunately, I built it up too much in my head.

Ideally its a great activity.  Seven stops along the LA River to compare and contrast the ecosystem, estuaries, wildlife, etc.  As a native Angelino I forget the river is a living thing.  As a child I remember it being called a wash or drainage system.  It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I realized there was once a river there so many years ago and it was concreted in and dug down to prevent future floods.  I remember as a child driving up the 5 freeway from Los Feliz to Glendale and seeing the cat face painted on the storm drains, in an effort to brighten up the river.  Now as an adult you can't see those drains anymore because of the enormous trees growing in the middle of the river.  It really is on its way to being a living river once again.

We purchased tickets from Eventbrite to go on an all-day tour of the river.  It would be 7 stops including a lunch stop and raspado stop.  Adult tickets were $25, children 8-12 were $5, children 7 years and under were free.  I thought it was a pretty great deal that we only had to buy 3 tickets.

We met at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens in Los Angeles.  This is a really cute little area that I didn't even know existed.  It has a tiny (minuscule) museum that talks a bit about the history of the river.  There is a tiny river that shows water flow and the ecosystem surrounding the river.  There was also a display of a estuary.  The outside gardens are beautiful as well.  The kids had a great time running around and looking at all the pathways and fountains.  There were several rooms and bar areas that led me to believe you can rent it out for weddings or parties.  I could see us going back there this summer as a mini-field trip and taking a picnic.  Its free, there are clean bathrooms and there is lots of shade.

We met our guide at 9:45.  She told us what to expect for the day, we split up into car pools (15 cars total, since our group already totaled 7 we traveled by ourselves), and exchanged paperwork (waivers/maps).

Our first stop was at Yoga Park, you won't be able to find it on a map.  Not even sure why it is called Yoga Park.  See below for a map of all the stops.  We parked on the street and found a small trail that walked us right into the LA River (well, not the actual water, but on a walking path next to the river).  I had no idea the river was accessible to the public.  NONE.  As a native Angelino I grew up listening to the stories of people swept away in the river during storms.  I have always assumed that the river is off limits and dangerous, so it felt weird to be able to actually walk down the embankment and into the water.  But we did.  The kids and I walked all the way down to the water and looked at all the wildlife, nests, trees, algae, birds (at least a dozen species) and sadly trash.  The guide talked about the different mountain ranges and how the water gets deposited into the LA River.  She talked about how the river was once used as drinking water, but over years it became used as sewage.  The rain water gets caught by all the drains in the city and collected in the various tributaries and basins and then deposited into the ocean.  Non of the rain water goes into the water table or into our ground or even collected and used for secondary water usage (watering of plants and such).  But she works for a group that wants to change all of that.

Our second stop was at Marsh Park.  It is also not on the map.  The closest intersection is Mellon Avenue and Marsh Street.  This is a cute little park with a few animals for the kids to climb on, some benches and one BBQ.  The really neat aspect of this park is that it is access to a bike path right along the river, be careful though.  Bikers have the right of way.  This park has a basin built into it that collects rain water and filters it into the water table.  To prevent flooding there is a drain pipe that does drain into the LA River.  Although there is technically access to the river at this point, I don't advise it since it is steep and there is no flat area near the bottom.  There are also bars to keep people out.  We stopped here and talked about how nifty it would be to cut off storm drains at the end of each street and install these little parks that allow water to be reintroduced to the environment rather than be dumped in the river and shuttled down to the ocean.

Our third stop was at the Arroyo Secco Confluence.  To be honest we arrived a bit late for this part of the tour.  We missed most of the talking.  And this is where things went bad for me.  I completely and 100% acknowledge I hate germs and filth.  I also hate sand.  I am not an outdoorsy person.  So when we walked through an open maintenance gate (with permission) and down a concrete drive intended for maintenance vehicles, into the filth of the drainage, through a homeless camp, to stand in the water (among debris, trash, bird poop, etc) I kind of freaked out.  I further freaked out when the kids decided to sit in the dirty gross sand and play in it.  I absolutely would not let them wade into the water and quite frankly I question the judgement of all those who did.  It was also getting pretty warm at this point.  I missed the educational part of the talk (something about where a tributary joins the LA River), but I was there for her political pitch on what to do with the river and how the whole area should be turned into a public park.  She talked about how much money was needed and about how the city owns 26 miles of the river (there are a total of 51 miles).  She had pictures of what the area would look like when it was revitalized.  I admit I got pretty irritated at this point.  I really was expecting a history tour but the guide kept dropping gems like "I am so glad you all support this project." and I started questioning where my money was going.  We left the presentation early to disinfect after walking the urine stained streets of Los Angeles.

Our fourth and last stop was under the 6th street bridge.  Again I was just amazed we could walk down to the river.  There is a road, through a tunnel so you can actually drive into the river.  This stop was much different than the first stop; a lot less foliage and the water was more calm.  This part of the river is between 2 sets of train tracks and under the 6th Street bridge (which apparently will be undergoing refurbishing in the near future).  But unfortunately this is where things started going bad.  It was 1:30 pm which is nap time for the 3 youngest children, especially after a full day on Saturday.  The only places to stand were severely slopped and each time a child moved around I envisioned a steep tumble into the water (although shallow, still very slippery and filthy).  Eleanor couldn't be put down because she is so unsteady on her feet. The guide delivered her pitch hard at this point.  She again had a huge poster of what the river currently looks like and an image of what her group would like it to look like.    It seemed completely unrealistic and even unneeded.  It would require moving train track and she wanted a coffee shop to be opened up on the river banks, far from other businesses where there is no foot traffic.  She complained about how the city requires her to have a permit to have access to a public space for these tours (well, duh, she is a business) and did too much talking about 'the man' (not using those words).

The next stop was lunch on 1st street.  It was not included in our ticket fee.  My children had already eaten, they were cranky, I was hot and cranky, and I was tired of hearing about how we needed to raise $5.63 trillion dollars to make parks all around LA and provide access to the river.  She talked about how great it would be to have mini-parks like Marsh Park at the end of each and every street to help with drainage and she talked about how it was a shame children couldn't walk all over Los Angeles.  It had become political and that is not what I was there for.  We headed home and the children all took a much needed rest.  I made our apologies (not citing the political tone of the tour) and she said she understood and the children were well-behaved.  She invited us back for the afternoon part of any future tour.

I will go ahead and post the remaining stops, but will not be able to comment on them since I didn't visit them myself.  It does however seem like a neat thing to do with the kids this summer.  We got a lot of value out of just being able to access the river and have conversations with them about trash, ecosystems, water traveling down hill, the wash by our own house, etc.  I don't feel the guide added much to our experience.  Next time I wouldn't dress for hiking.  I wore pants and boots to protect my legs and feet, but it was much more a walk where you drive 10 minutes, get out of the car, listen for 10 minutes and get back in the car.  Some people were wearing flip flops, dress pants and sandals, and some people were actually infirmed.  It was actually very accessible to the children and even the elderly.

Remaining stops
Lunch:  between El Sol and 1st Street and 1949 East 1st Street in Boyle Heights.  This is also Mariachi Plaza which is a neat stop.

Maywood Riverfront Park

Raspado Xpress at 5150 Florence Avenue

Dominguez Gap Wetland

River's mouth

Other links about the Los Angeles River:

History from the Friends of the Los Angeles River, an advocacy group for the revitalization of the LA River.
Concise history of LA River

Website about the Los Angeles River
Government sponsored website

View LA River Tour in a larger map

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dutch Babies

Cultural Feast - this keeps coming up. So I settled on something yummy that includes both of our cultures. Dutch Babies (like oven pancakes) and maple syrup.

Dutch Babies


2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar for dusting

Place a 10 inch cast iron skillet inside oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
In a medium bowl, beat eggs with a whisk until light. Add milk and stir. Gradually whisk in flour, nutmeg and salt.
Remove skillet from oven and reduce oven heat to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Melt butter in hot skillet so that inside of skillet is completely coated with butter. Pour all the batter in the skillet and return skillet to oven.
Bake until puffed and lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Remove promptly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

I used a glass pie dish and in one dish I added thinly sliced apples and some cinnamon.  

Ellie's Cupcakes Recipe

I originally found this recipe online, but then I changed it around a little bit. So I decided to take credit and rename it. I made them for Eleanor's First birthday party, hence . . . .

Ellie’s Cupcakes

These cupcakes are best eaten the day they are made, but unfrosted extras will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 
To double the recipe, use 3 whole eggs and 2 yolks, and double the remaining ingredients.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)
1cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg , room temperature
2 large egg yolks , room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract


1. For Cupcakes: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.
3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin using 2-ounce ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Use skewer or paring knife to lift cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wacky Wednesday

In celebration of Leap Day the school decided the children should have Wacky Wednesday.  Aside from being wacky there were no instructions.  On Wednesday morning 3 children were to be 'wacky'.

Connor decided to wear 3 shirts, one of them backwards.  I suggested he wear hair bows, Lainy Ann's t-shirt (a white screen printed shirt), Lainy Ann's Girl Scout sash, and a variety of other things.  He finally decided he should wear 3 shirts.

Lainy Ann decided that wacky included a party dress, tiara and a different backpack than normal.  She said "[a different backpack] is really wacky".  Yes, my rule follower with order and planning thinks merely changing her bag constitues as wacky.

William embraced wackiness.  He put on a white undershirt with a tank top on top, backwards.  Then he put on blue jeans and red Hawaiian shorts over them.  William likes to stand out and be different.  He is always wacky and the life of the party, surrounded by lots of friends.

It was so telling watching the three personalities play out on Wacky Wednesday.


Its hard to believe it has been 9 years since she made me a mother, since she made us a family, since she said 'hey world, here I am. Ready or not!"

She is still that spunky girl, with her own ideas about things, always trying to balance between her Lainy-Annness and the rest of the world. She sees what the other kids are doing and then forages her own way. She is a leader and fiercely independent. She is bossy and usually right. She is a doer, a planner, an instigator (both in good ways and in bad). I have no worries about her future. I just worry about us getting there together, as mom and daughter, loving each other always. We both tend to be a tad stubborn. And loud. And right.

Tell me your favorite memories or stories of Lainy Ann. I want to save them all and give them to her one day.
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