Monday, January 31, 2011

How Did That Happen?

I was just updating my book list this morning, and I was somewhat shocked to discover that I read NINE books in January.  Wow.  That is about how many I used to read before I had kids to suck up every ounce of spare time from my day.  I guess that's what happens when I support my husband in not drinking for the month of January*.  Oh, and the fact that I read four YA selections (three of which were part of the same series) probably didn't hurt.

Here's the list, with a short review of each and the completion date:

  1. (1/4) Cutting For Stone (Abraham Verghese) - Loved it!  Writing style reminded me of John Irving and the story was riveting.
  2. (1/5) Raising Boys (Steve Biddulph) - This book meant more to me the second time around, now that we have a boy rather than a baby.  I’m sure I’ll come back to it as Jude gets older.
  3. (1/9) The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) - Very fun YA with a great female heroine, quick-paced story, and the promise of more to come.  Can’t wait to read the next installment!
  4. (1/17) Half Baked (Alexa Stevenson) - I’ve been reading Alexa’s blog for a while now and I’ve always appreciated her voice - funny and introspective.  The book was better, in that it’s a more complete story, but I sometimes grew annoyed with the writing - not that it wasn’t good, but it just seemed like every word was too carefully chosen, like she used big words when simpler ones would have done just as well.  Maybe I was annoyed because I write like that sometimes too...
  5. (1/20) Catching Fire (Suzanne Collins) - Not quite as engrossing as the first book in the series, but still fun and a fast read.  Cliffhanger ending makes me want to read the next one as soon as possible!
  6. (1/23) Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins) - And I guess I did read the next one very quickly!  This was a decent ending to the series, but the first one was the best.
  7. (1/25) Princess Academy (Shannon Hale) - We chose this for our book club this month.  It’s a good YA book, with depth and a not-completely-obvious ending, but I’m not sure it’s going to provide enough fodder for discussion next month...
  8. (1/28) Your two-year-old (Louise Bates Ames) - Follow-on to the one-year-old book from Teacher Karen last year.  This one was not quite as good, but there were a few really good sections.  Jude is classic two-and-a-half these days. The seriously outdated Q&A section was good for a laugh as well.
  9. (1/30) The Virgin Suicides (Jeffrey Eugenides) - Did I really read nine books this month?  I’ve had this one on my list for a while, ever since I read Middlesex last year.  I knew the story already from the movie, and the writing style did not disappoint.  Recommended.

* Meaning: "please drink this glass of wine so that I can live vicariously through you."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Art Factory

This morning, we went to CHAP (Children's Healing Art Project) with the kids from Jude's class.  Jude had so much fun painting.  He started out painting on paper, but quickly moved on to painting the fort (made of urns and cardboard).  By the time we left, he was covered with paint from head to toe (literally!).

We will definitely be back to make some more messes!

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Friday, January 28, 2011

The Battle

I'm reading Your Two-Year-Old by Louise Bates Ames, the author of a great parenting book that I read about this time last year (did you guess it was called Your One-Year-Old?).

I was struck by a particular sentence from the chapter on "Help with Routines".  She writes: "In the (unfortunately quite natural) battle for supremacy between parent and child, children are very quick to spot areas in which parents are vulnerable."  She goes on to suggest a casual attitude towards things like mealtimes, dressing, etc., which I have found to be the only way to get Jude to do anything.

My experience with toddlers in general (and my toddler in particular) is that the child is a keen observer of the parent and other adults around him.  When he is in a particularly compliant mood, this works in our favor as he knows just what to do to make us laugh with him and enjoy his company.  However, when he is in a defiant mood (which is often) the very thought that we might like him to do something like eat a well-balanced meal or start using the toilet virtually guarantees that he will do the exact opposite.

If we can convince him that something is his own idea, he will embrace it enthusiastically.  If we offer a suggestion and act as if we couldn't care less whether he follows through, we are often surprised to turn around five minutes later and find him doing what we wanted.  If we act as if it is important to us, it doesn't happen without negotiations or tantrums, and usually a lot of noise.  It is these "areas of vulnerability" which cause the most stress.

At 9:30 pm, when both kids are sleeping and the house is quiet, it's easy to tell myself to "just be casual" and "don't let him know I care", but how do I remember this tomorrow morning when we're late and Jude is refusing to walk out the front door?  Sometimes we do need our kids to do things.  We don't have the time to allow the toddler to want to eat breakfast or put on his shoes.  Instead, we turn the tables and use the child's vulnerable areas, such as his love of Z-bars or desire to go to the park.  And so the battle for supremacy continues...

Happy Ada

Here is the one-handed wave video that I promised in my last post.  You can see a couple of Ada's current habits in this video: waving, tooth-tapping, chewing, and talking.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Little Things: Ada, Nine Months

Ada is nine months old today!  She is changing so quickly these days.  Every day brings new feats of coordination, new foods to enjoy, and new conversations.  It's hard to believe that Ada is three-quarters of the way through her first year.  I won't say it has gone by quickly, but I just know that these next three months are going to fly!

Mobility:  Ada is crawling!  See the video at the bottom of this post for a demonstration.  She's getting very proficient at transitioning between sitting, crawling, lying on her belly, and then getting back to sitting so that she can play with her "prizes" (i.e. whatever she was crawling to get).  She is still quite slow when it comes to actually making progress across a room, but I know it won't be long before she is zipping around.  Ada is also pulling up to standing on anything and everything.  For a few days last week, she would stand up only to be stranded in the standing position, but now she'll very slowly lower herself back down to plop on her bottom.  It gets more and more fluid every day.  She still does not roll from back to belly very easily, so if we want her to stay put we can put her on her back and be pretty sure that she'll still be in the same spot a few minutes later.  She does not enjoy being there, though, so I have a feeling this won't last long.

Personality:  Ada is such a happy baby.  She has a huge smile most of the time, and loves to giggle, make beaming faces, and generally interact with anyone who wants to play.  She is very friendly and loves to be held.  She also laughs at her brother all the time.  He is a comedian and she finds everything that he does hilarious.  Ada does get a little bit fussy sometimes, usually when she is tired, hungry, or has a dirty diaper.  However, in general she is very easy-going and patient.  It's common to see her waiting in her car seat while we convince Jude that it's time to move on to the next activity, like leaving the house or going to bed.  She loves to wave and does this really cute one-handed wave when she's sitting in her eating chair waiting for more food.  I'll have to post that video soon.

Verbalizing:  Ada has a lot to say.  She often says MA-MA-MA, but also DA-DA and BA-BA.  I'm not convinced that she has connected words to meanings yet, but the words definitely happen all the time.  She also shrieks, especially when she's ready for another bite of food or when she doesn't get enough attention.  When she wakes up in the morning, she babbles to herself for quite a while before getting upset that nobody has gotten her out of bed.  We take advantage of this to get a few extra minutes of sleep most mornings...

Eating and Drinking:  Ada is still nursing 2-3 times a day, but she is rapidly losing interest and I think she'll be done in the next few weeks.  As of this week, I'm no longer pumping at work.  I can't complain about that!  Ada just loves to eat, downing three big meals a day and a couple of snacks.  She's enthusiastic about her baby-food purees still, and also loves finger foods.  Meals usually start with some spoon feeding from a bowl, then move on to picking up various bite-sized morsels from the tray.  She has her favorites, but has yet to flat-out refuse anything that we've fed to her.  Ada also loves her bottles - I think it helps that we warm them.  I don't know how enthusiastic she would be about a cold or room-temperature bottle at this point.  She will happily take a bottle from me as well as others, which makes it easier for us to be a little bit more flexible about who cares for her.

Sleeping:  Ada is finally sleeping well at night.  She wakes up once for a bottle, then falls back to sleep after she drinks it.  The bottle feeding has been drifting later and later, and now it's usually after 5am.  I wonder how much longer it will be until she is done with middle-of-the-night feedings altogether?  Jude stopped at about ten months.  Ada typically naps in the morning and afternoon, although she can skip her morning nap from time to time without it seeming to bother her much.  Our day works best when she takes a short morning nap and longer afternoon nap, so we usually try to arrange her schedule so that happens.  Ada is still swaddled at night, although we had to move her up to the size large velcro-swaddle-blanket thing.  She sometimes breaks out of her swaddle in the night, but often she is still tightly wrapped in the morning.  Again, I wonder how much longer this swaddling will last.  With Jude, he was swaddled until 11 months, and I would not be surprised if Ada is the same.  We've changed around the bedtime routine so that I nurse Ada and then Daddy puts her to bed (often with another bottle) so that she no longer associates nursing with going to sleep.  This is working out well as I get to put Jude to bed while Daddy takes care of the last part of getting Ada down.

Growing: Ada is about 18.5 pounds fully clothed (according to our bathroom scale) and still fits well in 9-12 month clothes.  She uses size 3 diapers.  Her third tooth just came in recently, and didn't seem to bother her much.  She now clicks the top and bottom teeth together to make this funny grinding noise.  Jude did the same when he got his first top tooth.

Our girl is happy and healthy and growing well.  Here are a few cute photos from the last week or so.

Using the backgammon board as an obstacle course...

She's obsessed with the phone already.

A rare moment sitting still.

And a short video from the weekend...

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Weaning your almost-nine-month-old: many people have an opinion.  "You're weaning her ALREADY?" or "I'm surprised you waited so long!".  As a result, I'm somewhat hesitant to write about my reasons for choosing to wean Ada at this point, but I'm happy to discuss the process...

We decided that I was going to stop nursing Ada in the middle of the night about two weeks ago, and instead give her a bottle when she woke wanting milk.  We thought this would be a good first step towards getting her weaned, and it was the feeding that was the most difficult for me.  The first few nights, I woke up anyway and found it hard to go back to sleep while E Ben got up to take care of Ada.  Luckily, she was perfectly happy to have a bottle in the night, and after the first few nights I was able to sleep through as well.  There have even been a few nights where I haven't woken up at all!  I think it will probably take a little while longer before I really feel rested, but there's already a big difference.  It seems like I can think more quickly and focus more easily.  I'm also just happier in general and I have more energy.  I get home from work and actually take the kids on missions to do things like buy rain boots and pick up library books.  The other nice thing is that Ada will accept a bottle from me in the middle of the night, so E Ben and I can take turns doing the middle-of-the-night duty, depending on who is more tired/awake each night.

So, weaning has begun, and it's going pretty well so far.  Ada's now nursing 3-4 times a day instead of 5-7, and she has two bottles of extra milk each day (one in the middle of the night, and one in the middle of the day).  As of last week, I'm no longer pumping twice a day at work.  I think I'll pump once a day for a few weeks, then stop pumping entirely.

My guess is that Ada will be done nursing entirely by the end of February or possibly even sooner.  She is eating so much food now, and loves eating so much, that drinking seems less and less important to her.  She's also so interested in what's going on around her, and even when she does nurse it is only for a short time.  Also, when I get home from work, she doesn't seem to need me to hold her for the rest of the evening anymore.  She has other interests besides a single all-consuming one (nursing) and it takes some of the pressure off of me.

Here are a couple of recent photos.  Ada doing push-ups.

And Jude wearing his Alaska hat.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Jude has a new game that he loves: cutting paper with scissors.  He will happily sit and cut for what seems like hours (ok, maybe 20 minutes).  Then he runs over and hands me each piece of paper.  Each one is a dollar, or sometimes if it's a really good cut, it's three dollars.

We had to tie the scissors to the table to prevent accidents related to running.

He concentrates on this more than almost anything else.

Ada had a good time watching the Ducks in the BCS Bowl.

Now we have to put that onesie away...

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

On The Move

Somebody has been teaching herself to crawl.

The game usually starts in the seated position...

Pretty soon, she's leaning forward on hands and knees, trying to get someone or something.

Then we have a long period of rocking on hands and knees, plank and downward dog poses, and general scooting around.

Eventually, she ends up on her belly, tired out from the exertion, expecting rescue.  She asks for Daddy, who usually helps her out.

Here's a little glimpse at the view around our house these days.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 In Books

This is my fourth year of keeping track of the books I read. While my total for 2010 is quite low compared with previous years (only 31 books completed, as opposed to 50-60 before), I have read a number of enjoyable and interesting titles. And, of course, this doesn't include the thousands of books that I've read to Jude and Ada during the past year.

Here's the link to my full list for 2010.

And here are a few words on my favorites for the year...

Best Parenting Book: Your One-Year-Old, by Louise Bates Ames. This book was recommended by Jude's teacher from last year. While somewhat outdated in terms of current cultural norms, this book did an outstanding job of explaining Jude's behavior as he grew up from a fairly docile 12 months to an emotional 18+ months. E Ben and I both got a lot out of it. I just discovered that she has two- and three-year-old books as well, and ordered them from the library. Runner-up: Your Baby and Child, by Penelope Leach.

Best Sci-Fi: The Sparrow and Children of God, by Mary Doria Russell. Although a bit preachy for my taste, these books had it all: great characters, world-building, engrossing plot. I couldn't put them down.

Best Novel (quick read): Room, by Emma Donaghue. I read too many novels to have a single category. I read this book in just a few sittings. It's the kind of book that sounds like it will be horrifying based on the premise, but the way it is told it is actually not. I was most taken by the spot-on understanding of the perspective of a child of five and also the mother's incredible parenting despite the environment.

Best Novel (historical): Tai-Pan, by James Clavell. In 2009, I loved Shogun, and last year I loved Tai-Pan. Clavell's epic tales set in Asia provide a great understanding of culture and history, and they are also a lot of fun.

Best Novel (favorite author): Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving. I've read everything that John Irving has ever written, and own all of his books. I really enjoyed this latest novel by Irving and would rank it among his best. Runner-Up: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Honorable Mention: Private Life, Before I Fall, and Little Bee.

I hope to have more time to read in the next year. My goal is to write a short review for each book that I read. I've tried this in the past, but I think my expectations for myself were too high, and I often fell behind and then failed to keep track. That's why I fell back to the very-easy List. I think I can write a sentence or two about each book I read, though. We'll see if that works out. I'm also planning to re-join my book club this year. I had to drop out for the second half of 2010 because it was just too hard to get out of the house in the evenings.

What were your favorite books of the year?