Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The best part of my day

The house is quiet. I'm just about to go to bed. I turn on the flashlight and creep down the hall towards Jude's room. Very quietly, I open the door to the laundry room, then slide open the door to Jude's room. This one creaks loudly, but I know it won't wake up the boy. He sleeps like the dead.

I never know where I'm going to find Jude. Much of the time, he's sprawled out on his bed, covers kicked off, mouth wide open, clutching his blankies. Sometimes he's asleep on the floor. Sometimes he's on "Daddy's Bed". Once I found him curled up in the closet. No matter. If he's not in his bed, I carry him over to it. I pull up the covers to keep him from getting a chill in the night. I put his binkie within arm's reach. I smooth the hair over his brow. I kiss him goodnight, murmuring "Goodnight Jude. I love you." He never even twitches. As I close the creaky door behind me, I turn off the lights that he has insisted on leaving on as he falls asleep. The humidifier hums in the background.

Ada's room is trickier. I have to open the door without making a sound. The flashlight beam can't wander too close to her head. She curls up in a little ball in her crib, face against the sheet. If I'm not quiet enough, she'll begin to stir, and then I need to make a quick exit before she wakes completely. I probably don't need to check on her. She can't get out of her crib, and she still sleeps in warm jammies. But I like to see my babies sleeping. It's the only time they aren't moving, seeking, doing. I cover her with a blanket and creep out the door.

Now I can go to sleep.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Little Things: Ada, Thirteen Months

Happy Thirteen Months to Ada!  Here is the one great photo that we've taken in the past couple of weeks.

Our little girl never stops moving these days.  The best way to capture Ada is on video, so I've included a few in this post.  Here is Ada's peekaboo trick.

Ada's favorite "toy" these days is a random article of clothing (or several).  She'll pick them up, wave them around, wrap them around her neck, make a pillow and take a nap, and generally just delight in them.  I wonder if this is a harbinger of things to come.  Is Ada going to be very different from her Mom in terms of interest in clothing?

Ada loves to walk and to dance.  The day I took this video, she went back and forth between making the music start and then dancing to the music at least a dozen times.

I think the biggest change in Ada during the past month is her obsession with walking.  She started the month taking a few tentative steps, and now she just wants to be on her feet all day long.  She has also begun to be a bit more daring when it comes to speed and balance.  She's doing more of the "drunken sailor" walking and falling, rather than only taking steps when she feels completely secure.  We do a lot of walking around the house and up and down the street in front of our house while holding one hand.  She likes the little bit of extra help to keep her balance.  Every day she becomes so much more stable on her feet.

Ada is such a joyful child.  She is almost always happy and smiling.  She loves to interact with people, especially other kids.  She laughs all the time and rarely seems to be in a bad mood.  Ada does get a bit frustrated when she wants something and can't have it for some reason.  She'll complain a bit by arching her back and making some noise, but she gives up pretty quickly and finds something else to do.  We haven't seen a true tantrum from her yet, although I am sure we will at some point.

Ada continues to eat and sleep well.  She eats anything and everything, but particularly likes whatever I'm eating.  When she was little, I used to bite her food into small pieces before giving it to her, and she likes to recreate that now, even though she can handle bigger pieces.  Sometimes she'll hand me a piece of her food, and she wants me to take a little bite then hand it back.  Once this has happened, she'll happily eat it.  Ada is down to one afternoon nap a day pretty consistently.  She sleeps well at night and I can't even remember the last time we had to go to her room after she was asleep for the night.  Oh, how I wish I had known she would become such a good nighttime sleeper about six months ago!  It would have made it a lot easier to get through those challenging months.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Little Things: Jude, 2 and 3/4 years

Jude is 33 months old today.  I'm following Amber's lead, and only writing formal updates every three months now that Jude is out of the baby/toddler years.  It feels like a lot has changed since the last time I wrote a long post about Jude.

Jude has entered a "why?" phase.  He asks "Why?" many (many) times a day.  We try to answer with simple but true explanations for everything.  So far, he is pretty accepting of our answers.  This is the usual flow: "Mommy, why do I have to wear a jacket?" "Because you might get cold if you don't wear a jacket." "Oh." There are some things that are harder to answer, though.  "Mommy, why do you call Daddy 'Babe'?".  How do you explain nicknames to a two-year-old?  He was kind and pretended to understand what I was talking about.

Jude gives the best hugs.  When he is happy to see someone, he will give a big hug around the neck, and hold on tight for longer than you would expect from someone who doesn't particularly like affectionate physical contact.  He has also started occasionally responding when I say "I love you" with a hug and a quiet "I love you too, Mommy".

Jude has grown adept at translating Ada's gestures and chirps.  He often says things like "Ada wants a bite of my toast." And he is usually right.  The two of them are still clashing fairly often when it comes to toys and attention, but Jude has begun to believe that Ada is actually a person.  He talks to her and answers her when she tries to communicate with him.  For example, she will hand him a toy, wanting to play the game where she hands you something and then you hand it back.  If he doesn't want to play, he'll say "No thank you, Ada".  Of course, she doesn't know what that means, so she'll try again and again, until eventually he's had enough and bats her hand away or pushes her.

Jude can be very challenging behaviorally.  He has a rigid idea of how the world is supposed to work, and it is very difficult to change his mind.  He is also very strong, and it's no longer possible for us to physically make him do most things, although we can still pick him up and take him to his room if he needs to be removed from a situation.  But things like diaper changes, getting into his car seat, changing clothes, and getting into bed need to be done with his cooperation or they won't happen.  This means that we often have to wait to leave the house until Jude is ready or we have to be willing to force a tantrum that will make him more compliant in the end.  It's a delicate balance between avoiding confrontation (by letting go of the nonessential tasks) and forcing confrontation (for non-negotiables) to keep things moving along so that we can stay on schedule.  I remember in my last update that I was thinking that his tantrums were decreasing, but I don't think that has happened yet.  On good days, we might not have any tears, but on bad days we might have ten full-blown screaming, kicking, throwing fits.

Jude can be very focused when he is interested in an activity.  We have these animal puzzles that Ama bought in Mexico over a year ago.  Jude has always loved playing with them, but only in the past few days has he really had the ability to put them together.  Once he was ready to learn, though, I only had to show him once how to solve each puzzle, and he worked on putting them together and taking them apart for almost an hour.

Jude loves to play computer games and games on my phone.  It can be really difficult to get him to stop playing, though, so we often resort to using a timer and then standing our ground after the timer goes off (this often triggers a tantrum).  In the picture below, he's sitting in front of the Kid Laptop at Nini's house.

Jude does love my bear (see below), although in general he is indifferent to stuffed animals.  He is much more attached to his blankies and binkie.  The other day as I was getting him ready for bed, I had to go upstairs to get his blankies.  He told me to make sure that I got both of them, but to put the other binkies away.  "I don't need two binkies.  I only have one mouth."

This is my first attempt at video editing, so please forgive me for not doing much cutting.  I did manage to merge together two separate videos and a title, though!  Baby steps, right?

We love our little monkey!

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Friday, May 20, 2011


I originally wrote this post about six months ago, when I felt like I was just beginning to emerge from the postpartum period with Ada.  E Ben convinced me to wait to actually post it until I was all the way out, and that was probably a good choice.  It is much easier to look back on this period than to describe it while in the throes.

The postpartum period was hard for me. It was hard with Jude, and it was hard with Ada. I ran across this post recently, and it really struck a chord with me. Especially the part about feeling desperate for more sleep and wanting to escape.  I remember being angry with people who stayed up late even though they didn't have to.  I would have given anything for an early bedtime, and couldn't understand why other people would stay awake voluntarily.  My difficulty  postpartum is one of the main reasons that we're sure that two children is enough for our family. I was more prepared for the realities of postpartum this time, which helped, but having a toddler as well as a newborn makes it more difficult in a lot of ways.

I think that the majority of my problems were related to nursing and the implications of nursing with a borderline milk supply.  With Jude, I constantly felt like he wasn't getting enough to eat and it was my fault.  This really affected my mood.  Although I knew intellectually that I shouldn't blame myself, it's a lot harder to decide how to feel about something like this, especially with all of the physical changes in the postpartum period.  I shed quite a few tears and wondered if I was up to the task of being a parent.

With Ada, she got enough to eat, but there was never any extra milk which would allow me to have a bottle ready so that I could sleep though a night-time feeding or get away for a few hours for some time to myself.  As a result, I was exhausted and felt trapped by her needs.  It also didn't help that she was a comparatively poor sleeper and needed to be fed often throughout the night in the early days.  In both cases, once the kids started sleeping though the night and started taking bottles of formula, my outlook improved almost immediately.

Go read the post. Her words do a great job of describing what it feels like to struggle with adding a baby to a family.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

These Are A Few Of My Oldest Things

One of the (few) ongoing disagreements in our house is about the value of new things vs. old things. My husband likes new things. He enjoys wearing new clothes, purchasing current-year guide books to take on vacation, and riding a brand-new bike. I, on the other hand, would rather not replace something of mine that is still good enough. I prefer to buy something that I will use forever. Part of this stems from the fact that I don't like to spend money. I find it physically painful sometimes to pay more than I think something is worth, or that I think is wasteful. But another part is that I just like old things. I often even like old better than new.

Let me introduce you to a few of my oldest things. In order to qualify for this blog post, the Thing has to be something I've owned since before I went to college and more-or-less in use since that time. So, my wooden rocking horse that I played with as a baby and that my kids now throw around the house doesn't count, because it's been in a closet for most of the past 20 years. Readers who have known me since high school or college will probably recognize one or more of these.

My furry blanket
I don't know how old I was when all of the kids in my family were given a furry blanket. Maybe 10? I remember that my cousin Oliver had the same one pictured below and my brother Duncan had one with some green on it - maybe a monkey on his? This blanket has been everywhere with me. I remember sitting in the grass outside my aunt Paula's house next to Oliver, both of us wrapped in our furry blankets, pretending to meditate (and then fall backwards into the grass, overcome by...something mystical, I guess). It's followed me through all of my dorm rooms, apartments, and rental houses to be the blanket that I used to stay warm while nursing my children. How can I ever give this up?

My Jean Auel Books
I read these for the first time as a teenager - I might have been 15? Actually, I'm surprised that my parents let me read them, with their mature themes (aka graphic sex scenes), but they might not have known, now that I think about it more. These books are old friends; I've visited with them many times over the years. You can see that Valley of the Horses was probably my favorite. The cover hasn't survived. I actually have a lot of books from my childhood, including many children and young adult titles that I hope to read with the kids one day. So this is more of a category than a discussion of any particular book.

Locust Valley Fire Department shirt
I have a LOT of old clothes. E Ben is constantly trying to get me to give away my old clothes and buy new ones, but I resist. Just recently, as I lost a lot of weight after Ada was born, I was able to pull out a bunch of clothes that fit me 5+ years ago and start wearing them again, which really annoys E Ben (he says it gives me justification to never get rid of anything). This shirt is a particular favorite, as I wore it all through high school and college and beyond. It's a bit too threadbare for me now, but E Ben uses it as a race shirt, so it really has been in use for almost 20 years. Not bad for a shirt that my dad bought on a whim at some fire department event in 1993.

My Bear
I'm not much of a stuffed animal person, at least not compared with my sister who always had an army of bears, puppies, and dolls on her bed. Somehow, this bear wormed his way into my life, and has been my companion for as long as I can remember. He's been through a lot with me. He lost his nose a while back and had to be sewn back together (with no replacement button) to avoid losing all of his stuffing. He ended up getting burns across his face and belly from the radiator at my apartment in Hillsboro. I probably should have named him at some point, and maybe now that the kids love him that will happen.

My hairbrush
It is gross that I've been using the same hairbrush for 20+ years? I remember the day that my mom came home with two matching wooden hairbrushes for me and Margaret. I took the lighter one, and she took the darker one. To make sure that I didn't steal her hairbrush, she wrote her name in black indelible ink on the back of hers, and you can still see it today if you look closely (yes, I did end up stealing hers, so her fear was justified). I have no idea what happened to the other one. Maybe Margaret has it?

Do you have any really old Things? What do you think about the old vs. new debate? Do you have any stories about my old things?
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

More Pool Fun

One more post from our Florida trip.  As I said earlier, Jude learned to jump into the pool during our last day of vacation.  Here he is, swimming with his floaty suit.

Jumping in from the side of the pool with Mom.

Hangin' out on the raft, both wearing our goggles.

Another jump.

And a short video of Jude's latest trick.

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Mother's Day

Jude had a very specific idea about how we should celebrate Mother's Day this year.  He brought me "breakfast in bed" (which consisted of a cup of tea and some toast) and then fetched my hairbrush so that he could brush my hair for me.  It is sort of painful to have your hair brushed by a two-year-old, but I couldn't spoil his fun. See below.

The next day, he brought me another cup of tea in bed, informing me "It's still Muhver's Day, Mom".

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Oh, Ada


playing at the beach

sitting in the waves with Ama

swimming with Mom

walking on the boardwalk at Pelican Bay North Beach

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Naples in May

Right after Jude was born, my doctor visited us in our hospital room and we asked her for any parenting advice she'd like to share with us.  "Between the ages of one and three, it's much harder to travel with your kids.  Try to do your travelling before or after that age range."  As we were getting ready to take this trip to Naples last week, I remembered these words of wisdom as I suddenly realized that we were attempting a long airplane trip with not one but TWO of these monsters.  As it turned out, I was right to be concerned.  The travel was much, much harder than we expected, but the beach vacation itself was wonderful!

We went to Naples, Florida to visit my grandmother, Ninette.  We usually make the trip every spring, but couldn't go last year because I was pregnant and then caring for a newborn.  So this was her first time meeting Ada, and the last time she saw Jude he was just a baby and couldn't even sit up on his own.  What a change!  We stayed at my aunt and uncle's condo a short distance from Ninette's house, and this made a big difference in the success of our visit.  It was great to spend a few hours each morning and evening at Ninette's house, but then retreat to the condo for naps and bedtime.  We managed to shield Ninette from the majority of Jude's tantrums and she was able to spend time with the kids at their best.

We went to the beach a few times, and Jude and Ada loved playing in the sand and swimming in the "salty water".  Jude wore his floaty suit in the ocean and was able to be fairly independent in the water.  Ada loved eating sand and sitting in the waves.  Jude insisted on wearing pants for almost our entire trip, even though it was about 90 degrees and humid.  Here he is at the beach wearing his polar bear jammie pants.

Ada made a lot of progress learning to walk on this trip.  At the beginning of the week, she was still pretty tentative on her feet, but by the end she was walking everywhere.  She is still pretty careful, and will take just a few steps before dropping to a crawl to really move across a room (or towards the pool at top speed).  Ninette loved watching her toddling around her house and patio.

We spent a lot of time swimming in Ninette's pool.  Both kids loved being in the water, and by the end of the week Jude taught himself to hold his breath and jump in from the side of the pool.  His head would go completely underwater, he would pop back up to the surface, and then swim over to the steps and do it all over again.  I spent a lot of time in the pool with the kids.  We all loved the white raft.  Here's a cute photo of the kids on the raft together.

One of the highlights of the trip for E Ben was a 45-minute sailing lesson on the catamaran at the beach.  He was out for a long time and Jude kept asking if Daddy was sailing on a pirate ship.  Or maybe the Man with the Lellow Hat was on the catamaran with Daddy?  You can see that we've been watching a lot of Curious George lately.

We're really happy that we made the trip across the country to visit Ninette and spend some time in the sand and water.  We can't wait for our next trip to sunny Florida!

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dr. Jack in May

We took Ada in to see Dr. Jack yesterday for her 12-month checkup.  Here are her stats:
  • Weight: 20 pounds, 9 ounces (41st percentile)
  • Height: 30 inches (77th percentile)
  • Head Circumference: 46 cm (76th percentile)
Both her height and weight are down a bit in terms of percentiles, but still in the right ballpark.  Dr. Jack was very impressed with Ada's verbal and communication skills.  He actually used the word "exceptional", although we try not to let it go to her head.  She had two shots, which didn't bother her at all, and had to give a blood sample to test for anemia and lead.  She didn't like that part AT ALL.  I tried to tell her that I had to do it four times a day while pregnant with her, but it didn't seem to help.

We also had Jude measured and here are his stats:
  • Weight: 38 pounds
  • Height: 39 inches
Dr. Jack was happy with his growth (i.e. his weight gain has slowed) and said we don't need to check him again until his 3Y visit.

I'll leave you with this photo of Jude eating "pigs in a blanket" at the Charburger in Cascade Locks.  Kids eat free on Easter!

Monday, May 2, 2011

April Books

Six books this month, including several long ones.  It helped that I had a weekend retreat mid-month to catch up on my reading, sleep, and yoga.  It's amazing what three days of solitude and relaxation can do for a person!

  1. (4/1) Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It (Gary Taubes) - This is not a diet book, but rather a survey of the science and history behind weight gain and weight loss.  Considering that I heard about this book from a low-carb blog that I read, I should not have been surprised at the eventual conclusion: eating carbs, especially quickly digested carbs, is what makes us gain weight.  The author also had fairly well-substantiated arguments on a few other behaviors that do and don’t help us lose weight and become more healthy (i.e. exercise doesn’t help a person lose weight, low-fat diets aren’t the best choice, dietary fat doesn’t contribute to heart disease).  Personally, I’ve eaten a low-carb diet a few times in my life and found that it’s a good way for me to lose weight, so I’m receptive to his message.  I don’t think that I want to go all the way to no-carb, but if I needed to lose a lot of weight I might consider it.
  2. (4/5) The Land of Painted Caves (Jean Auel) - Oh, the long-awaited conclusion to the Clan of the Cave Bear series.  I very rarely buy books, but this one was pre-ordered and delivered to my doorstep on the day it was released.  I exercised extreme self-control by finishing the book I was reading at the time (see above) before tearing through this one.  I don’t want to give anything away in my review, but I have to say I was unimpressed.  I couldn’t not read this book, after loving the others in the series.  I had to know how the story ended, what became of Ayla and Jondalar, etc.  But this book was very poorly written.  The repetition is sometimes excruciating.  There’s not much of an arc to the story and the plot and dialogue seems very simplistic.  Auel obviously did a lot of research for this book, but I got the feeling that her research guided the storyline, and it’s just not that interesting to read about every detail of every major painted cave in the “Zelandonii region”.  As a parent, I was interested in Auel’s “parenting politics”, as expressed through the parenting choices of her heroine.  She obviously has strong opinions about babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding, swaddling, EC, etc.  As a recent nursing mother, I appreciated the way Ayla’s infant’s feeding needs were at the top of her mind, even when she was pursuing her other interests.  All in all, I would say that if I didn’t already care about the characters and want to know what would happen to them, I would not have finished this book.  In a way, I’m glad this is the last one.
  3. (4/8) The Help (Kathryn Stockett) - I find it hard to believe that I almost returned this book to the library without reading it!  This is one of the best books that I’ve read all year.  It’s the story of black maids and the white women for whom they work in the deep south just before the civil rights movement.  Although it’s fiction, it feels like a true story.  Heartbreaking and uplifting, funny and inspiring.  Highly recommended.
  4. (4/22) East of Eden (John Steinbeck) - I’ve read a lot of Steinbeck in my life, but never picked up this one before this month.  It’s our book club selection for the month, and I’m happy that I was nudged in this direction.  I have to wonder how much of this story is autobiographical, with a sometimes first-person narrator named John Stienbeck.  The parallels to the Cain and Abel story from Genesis are not-at-all subtle, with a long discussion about the story prior to naming a pair of twin boys Cal and Aron.  I loved the development of the house servant Lee, who is one of the most memorable and wise characters in the novel.  There is a strong thread of good-versus-evil, although “good” often equates to naiive and “evil” equates to clever.  And while “evil” can be reformed, “good” rarely becomes smarter...  
  5. (4/26) Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Helen Simonson) - I’m learning to trust my library.  I picked this book up from the “Lucky Day” shelf, which consists of popular books that would usually have a long wait-list, but not this time!  It’s your lucky day!  I have a bad habit of not liking to browse for books; I’d rather read something that was recommended by a friend or blog whose opinions I trust.  But after this book and The Help, I think I need to give my local library more credit.  I read this entire book in one day while recovering from the stomach virus that ran through our household.  It was a light-but-sharp romantic novel featuring an elderly gentleman living in a small village in England.  It touches on many topics such as the clash of cultures and religions, relationships between fathers and sons, the morality of primogeniture, and the love lives of the older generation, all written in sharp prose with a memorable main character.  If you like this sort of thing, then you should by all means read this book.  There is a lot of discussion of tea, as you might expect from a book about an older English gentleman.  
  6. (4/28) Archangel (Sharon Shinn) - Very fun fantasy novel (the first in a series of five) recommended by my friend Sharon.  I read another book by this author last month, and noticed several marked similarities between the two.  Strong female character, the unwilling bride taken from poverty to become a very powerful woman, gradually falling for the “guy” (or in this case angel) who "abducted" her, a personal connection/empathy with the less-well-off classes, unexpected powers or skills on her part.  I was a bit unsure if I could really get into a book about angels and singing, but that turns out to be a fun part of the book, not one that's hard to read about.  I put the second one on hold to read during my vacation next week.