Sleep Training- A Response

I have a good friend that is embroiled in sleep-training her little one. We had our fair share of sleep-training with both Henry and Silas (who were difficult in different ways) and I've managed to become somewhat of an expert on some different techniques for the grueling process. Lots of people don't agree with any version of sleep training but we do. JT and I believe that you're teaching a child how to sleep well for the rest of their lives. Tammy posted some sleep training questions and i thought i would use this post to provide my answers to them. For the record there are two sleep books i would absolutely read: The first is Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child and if you happen to have a non-colicky baby the book 12 Hours Sleep in 12 Weeks.

1. Do we set up our pre-training “bedtime” environment? Do we turn on white noise, let her turn on her crib aquarium, leave music playing, dim lights? Or is now the time to simplify our sleep “crutches”? (we left our set-up the same)

You need a routine for bedtime. It can be very simple. If you already have one continue to do it. If you want to inject one additional thing (i think the white noise would be great especially given question 7) but i wouldn't add any additional steps before you actually put her down to sleep.

2. What if she poops/pees?
I thought she had pooped one night so I changed her. It turned out to just be pee, but it probably was good to wake her up a smidge after the feeding anyway.

If she poops you need to change her. No worries if it's just a wet diaper. It's nice not to have to change her but if you do you do and it's not a deal breaker. Unless you have reason to suspect she's got a dirty diaper after you feed her, i would change her before you feed her so that she's already drowsy and ready to go back to sleep after you feed her.

3. What about naps? Do we do sleep training for her daytime naps? We can NEVER get her to take naps. Still completely unresolved.

If she's having a hard time with naps you will most likely want to sleep train her with naps as well. Speaking from personal experience, i would wait to work on naps until you've got the nighttime ironed out pretty well. Weissbluth offers sleep research to indicate that daytime and nighttime sleep are neurologically different. Therefore using sleep training techniques at night and not during the day isn't actually confusing. Based on some of the same research though, daytime sleep is more difficult to "train." Ideally you will be healthy and have some good nighttime sleep under your belt before you attempt nap training. You must read the Weissbluth book before you get started because you will have many questions about how to do this.

4. Does the method recommend that you go completely cold turkey with no feeding at night? Or do you ease into sleeping through the night?

I've actually not read Ferber's book so i can't attest to his method. Depending on the age of the child and if there are any weight gain issues i think it's a choice about what strategy works best regarding night-time feedings. My personal preference and what i think is easiest to implement is to follow the steps that are outlined in the 12 weeks book and that i shorthanded below to lengthen the times between nighttime feedings and then work on phasing them out all together.

5. How to extend the period of time between feedings? What if she falls sleep during these nighttime feedings?

The 12 hours sleep in 12 weeks book offers step by step guidance for how to lengthen the time between nighttime feedings and eventually work on phasing them out all together. First she tells you to keep a log for a few days of at what times she's eating now and for how long. Then you work on a two-pronged strategy to lengthen the time between the feedings and shorten the feedings until you've eliminated each one.

From your post i think she's eating twice a night roughly around 1 am and 4 am. You set those as your new goalposts and you never feed her earlier than that. If she wakes up earlier you use your toolbox (could be letting her cry, giving her a pacifier, patting her, etc.-- see the book for a complete discussion of different techniques), to get her to the goalposts you set. The idea is to always move the ball forward and not let them creep backwards. If she wakes up and eats at 1:30 am tomorrow that becomes your new goalpost. Basically the idea is if she did it once she can do it again.

You also note how long she's eating. If she eats for 15 minutes at each feeding you start there. Every few days you reduce the amount of time by 2-3 minutes. If at any point she eats for less than that (and doesn't wake up with some gentle prodding) that's your new "time limit." There's something i'm forgetting about the order with which you phase out the feedings. So you're just going to have to read the book!

6. Is it ok if they fall asleep while you’re nursing them, then you wake them back up when they’re in the crib?

Weissbluth argues that it's fine if they fall asleep while they're nursing. It's a normal response to a totally soothing and relaxing ritual. You don't have to undergo any shock treatments to fully wake them up while putting them in the crib. Just lay them down normally so if they wake up they wake up but you're not setting out to arouse them from their peaceful slumber.

7. Should we be “extra quiet” in the rest of the house? We live in a small 1 bedroom floor-thru apartment, and I know Sadie sleeps at daycare when there are toddlers screaming about. So, should we get her to sleep with our standard-noise-level, or do we just need to learn to turn our standard-noise-level down? (we put headphones on to watch tv and tip-toed around the house)

No, you shouldn't be extra quiet. I would recommend the white noise machine (or waves or any other kind of soothing sound machine) to give her some buffer but she needs to be used to sleeping with normal night noises. This will help in the long-run if you ever want her to be able to sleep if it's not perfectly quiet. This won't help if you want to have friends over, and it also won't help if she's at camp sharing bunkbeds and the crickets are too loud.

Finally-- in addition to telling you that you really need to read the books, i'm also going to suggest that you try moving Sadie's bedtime up by 15 minutes and see what happens. Especially if she's struggling with naps i have a feeling she's overtired which makes getting them to sleep that much harder. Reach Weissbluth and we'll talk some more.

Finally, finally from one parent that has gone through this to another: this is hard. It's hard because it's terrible to hear your baby cry, it's terrible to know that the situation before wasn't good and there's no going back, but to not be able to see clear to the other side. It's terrible because as you noted, all the crying and the not knowing and the wondering and the questions sets you on edge, and your partner on edge. Call for support when you need it, read some books so that you've got an expert weighing in with the advantages of a good sleeper, and take breaks from the sleep training. You can take turns walking around the block or running to the drugstore just to get some distance from the crying.


Christmas Prep

From December 2008

We're getting ready to welcome our families for Christmas and involved in prepping for that as well as helping the boys celebrate the season.

Henry has been really into the advent calendar that i made last year. He gets to put up a new felt ornament on the santa calendar every morning. He's been doing a great job remembering and we use it to count down the number of days to Christmas-- which showed me he can reliably count to 15 for example.

Tonight we made snowflakes and this weekend at our friends' annual Christmas party we're going to do a gift exchange and the kids get to make gingerbread houses which we've done most every year since Henry was born. It's fun to have these traditions with friends and family because it's a great way to mark time. When we first started the gingerbread houses i think there was Carys, Henry and Helen. Last year Silas was too little to participate and this year baby Walker will be sleeping nearby if i had to predict.

We've decided the keys to success doing "gingerbread" houses with very little folk is to a) use graham crackers (who has time to bake gingerbread), b) give each kid a baking sheet covered in tin foil, contains mess, is a nice base for the house and enables you to transport them back home when you're done. While Tab and i construct the houses and glue them together with icing we give each child a few graham crackers on their tray to ice and decorate. They can eat what they decorate and when they're done the house is usually dry enough to decorate.

From December 2008

By the way, we made some progress with soccer. Henry is still usually at the back of the class but he's loving it and i saw him make a goal right at the end when they each get to practice kicking the ball into the goal. We staved Silas off from his baby until after class and even though he whined through most of the games he asked for more after each one. I predict he'll tolerate more and more each week until he decides it's actually fun.



Henry and Silas are enrolled in soccer class for the winter and we had our first session on Saturday. I think the highlight for Silas was getting his uniform, although he momentarily put his bunny down long-enough to stack up the cones. As you might guess, the 18-24 month class is less about running and trying to kick the ball and more about playing games that are somehow soccer related. There was a lot of stomping on bubbles, ball play, and the parachute which seemed to scare all but the most dare devilish of the little ones.

Henry had a blast in his class which was his first "independent" class, i.e. Dad sat on the sideline and could have even brought coffee. Whenever i looked over Henry was at the back of the group but he loved it and seemed to have a coach paying him special attention. He's on the youngest end of the 3.5-5 year old class so i figure he's got a long time to get proficient running wind sprints and dribbling the ball.

Back to Silas and his bunny-- he's still very attached to bunny and rubbing it's ears against his nose is his primary means of falling asleep. But, now we've added another friend a little stuffed "baybee" that we're also carting around everywhere. I can't figure out if i've got a soft-spot for lovees or if Henry and Silas were just more attached to their transitional objects. Either way my pockets are overstuffed.

We got the Christmas tree up this weekend as well as the lighted garland we put up outside. When Henry asked about the garland and i told him what we were doing he replied, "garland is my favorite color!" He test-drove his snow pants and coat and was more than thrilled to get to use Dad's snow shovel. When we were decorating the Christmas tree we experimented with me raising him up to put the star on top but alas, he still wasn't tall enough. Henry asked if he could put the star on the tree when he's 14. Next year i'll have to remember to haul up the step ladder for him so he doesn't have to wait that long.


My latest obsessions

So, i've fallen off the posting wagon. I promise to get back on shortly but first i thought i'd tell you what's been keeping me away from the old computer at night. First and foremost there has been the continuing saga of Silas ear infections that won't quite go away (although i think we may have finally found the right antibiotic). Then there's the Christmas decorations to be putting up, the Christmas gifts to be making (i'm getting into needle felting and i'm attempting to make superhero capes for the boys.) Right, of course there's Christmas shopping and then there's www.etsy.com-- my true obsession for the last many weeks.

For those of you that aren't familiar with etsy.com, it's a site similar to Amazon but for the sale of handmade goods. Each seller has their own page or "store" but they're all set up to look the same and navigate the same. You can search in a myriad of ways but one of the best time-wasters i've found yet is the "pounce" feature under by. It shows you a list of 10 items that were just purchased from various stores in the last few minutes as well as several other listings from those stores. Of course you can pop over to the stores to check them out and save stores or specific items to your favorites for later.

It's fun, it's different stuff than you'll see in the mall or a catalog, and did i mention it's addictive. So much so that i have to give myself firm time limits or i'd never get to sleep!


The pox, oh wait, just another ear infection

I'm running out of funny ways to talk about people being sick around these parts. We took Silas into the Ped. today and she asked "have you guys been sick, was he exposed to anything?" and the litany of sicknesses was a little long; double cases of bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections, scarlet fever, etc. He's got an ear infection and a likely case of strep, but thankfully the more powerful antibiotic he's taking this time cures both so we were spared the strep test.

I guess it's a good thing that Henry was sick and got better just in time for me to head out for a week-long trip to NM. Everyone held it together while i was away and Silas started feeling bad late Saturday night.

My trip for work went well but it was a long-one, although to be totally honest i extended it an extra day to make a side-trip to Santa Fe. I started working with Aspen 7 years ago to the week of my NM trip and my first day on the job was in Santa Fe. On the last day of that very first work trip i got to visit the ten thousand waves spa just outside Santa Fe and i've been scheming how to get back ever since. The trip didn't disappoint even after i'd built it up for several years.

On Monday morning when i was saying my goodbyes to the boys they decided it would be fun to snuggle together in Henry's bed. I laid with them for a good 10 minutes and they happily stayed put when i left.


Strep Throat and possibly Scarlet Fever

So Henry woke up in the night on Wednesday night absolutely burning up and drenched with sweat. Over the next 36 hours we proceeded to dose him regularly with motrin which brought the fever down to around 100-101 but it never went away. A rash then developed on his face that looked like he was sunburned across his cheeks. We noticed a rash of light red dots on his chest, back and arms and when he woke up this morning still feverish and with those sad sick eyes, we called the Dr.

We got him in this morning and the Dr. said that it was probably strep and maybe scarlet fever. I'm a little fuzzy on what she said because i associate scarlet fever with an antique childhood disease that used to kill children and necessitated burning the Velveteen rabbit. I had scarlet fever as a child and (correct me if i'm wrong parents) but i stayed in the hospital.

The Dr. today said that pre-antibiotics, scarlet fever was a terrible disease. Now it's not really a big deal and is treated exactly with the same antibiotic that is used to treat strep throat. I believe they both come from the same bacteria and the "strep" just denotes the presence of the bacteria not necessarily if it's scarlet fever or strep. So, that's about as clear as mud but with the fever and the rash i think it's scarlet fever.

Either way we've now given two doses of antibiotics. 24 hours from his first dose he stops being contagious and hopefully by tomorrow morning he'll be feeling better and the rash will subside. In the meantime we're watching Silas for any signs and are comforted that strep is rare in children under 2 and in adults. Although i'm packing my "backup" pack of antibiotics for my work trip next week.


We'd like a side of small mammals with our support for the troops

JT and i both had off today for Veteran's day and the boys were home with us. First thing this morning i headed over to the library to see what museum passes they had available. I decided to go to our "other" library branch (Logan Square) just to see if i had better luck with anything being in. I was lucky enough to be able to pick from three passes to museums that i thought would all be workable for the kiddos. I jumped on the elusive Field museum pass. I'm a little chagrined to say that we've lived in Chicago for wow, 7 years now and this was our first visit. We just tried to focus on a few areas and the boys immensely enjoyed the first exhibit we spent a chunk of time in all about animals-- different shapes, sizes, colors, habitats, skeletons, etc. Henry had several favorites from this part of the museum. From there we went through the more "traditional" mammal exhibits which are pretty awesome-- including three full-size giraffes, a rhino and hyenas which Henry liked immensely.

We took a gander through the Native American section and Henry liked their "fancy boots," the totem poles and the dioramas of life in ancient villages. The area was overrun with school children and Henry's energy was flagging (Silas was happily munching away on crackers from his stroller at that point) so we headed to one last exhibit on the way to out to the car-- Ancient Egypt and mummies. It was really too old for them and a tad gruesome and Henry said he wanted to leave so we did. Both boys conked out in the car which i assume means the trip was successfull. Thankfully they both napped after lunch at home as well.

We hope to make it back and hopefully enjoy some other museum outings on holidays in the new year. I haven't posted pictures yet but when i do i'll include some here. Once we got home and the boys were in bed i headed out for a 4 mile run, in the sleet. So, you could say i'm rightfully tired.


Accomplishments and Phases

From October 2008

I don't think i've given a proper update in awhile about the various stages the boys are in. Silas is 19 months now and Henry is around 3.5 years old. Let's do Silas first.

His funny bone seems to be developing more and more. He has a quick temper and can be loud and irritable when frustrated, but he's just as likely to crack up or do something silly and wait for your reaction-- then crack up. He started this trend during the visit to Oklahoma when he purposely "missed" his seat and fell down-- laughing the whole time. I think he's legitimately ticklish because when you try to trim his toenails he laughs and then squirms uncomfortably while he's laughing.

Speaking of nail trimming. Hallelujah! My least favorite chore seems to have turned a corner. Henry has been very good about having his nails cut for a long time now and will tell you when they need to be done. Until recently trimming Silas' nails was just awful. It didn't matter what you had to distract him he was squirming and screaming and mad and doing nothing to help speed the process along. He doesn't have a bluebird on his shoulder yet, but he generally sits somewhat patiently and just watches as i speedily make my way through all his fingers. This, and sitting in the bath, are pretty huge in my book-- forget about first steps, to me *these* are the real parenting milestones.

Silas' favorite activity at home is pushing his shopping cart back and forth in the house. He enjoys it immensely and if someone else, a visiting friend or say his brother, decides to take the cart for a push, he generally shrieks and then just watches until the unsuspecting shopper abandons the cart for an instant. He throws down whatever he's doing and runs with arms outstretched, toddling back and forth, to recover control.

Henry is getting very good at puzzles. Several of the large floor puzzles he got for Christmas last year (approx. 25 pieces) he can now put together either by himself or with a little support from an adult. He's somewhat obsessed with his letters and can now recognize all of his letters (at least all capital letters and most of the lowercase letters). He can write many of them from memory now and is completely adept at tracing-- stays right on the dotted line. One of his favorite activities is his "homework" which basically means any type of letter or number work.

We're still working on cutting, but he can now move the mouse where he wants and click the correct button. We actually find that we have to actively limit the amount of "screen time" he gets now between his old tivod favorites (Dora and Curious George) and his new computer faves (www.pbskids.org). During the week he's limited to one of either for a total of 30 minutes. On the weekends we've been letting him do closer to an hour spread over the day.

His language continues to develop apace. Recently he's been putting his final understanding on subtle words like "definitely," "similar," and "delicate."



We managed to enjoy Halloween with boy boys even though Henry came home the night before with a high fever and feeling terrible. The poor thing just lay on the couch listless until the motrin took effect. We were worried he'd miss trick-or-treating but by the morning he seemed fine and enjoyed his "sick day" home with us immensely!

Although there was a decent amount of belly-aching by Henry about how far it was to walk and how heavy his candy bag was i think he and Silas had a great time. Silas made a trick or treating buddy with Tiffany who seemed to give him just the right amount of confidence to go up to the houses, hold out his bucket and get the candy. The first couple houses we visited he went through the first couple steps but would then pull his bucket back when they tried to give him candy. I think he thought they were going to take something from him. A few houses let him choose and then he was in the groove and ready for the rest of the night. At this point there's a group of kids that ranges from 19 months to 5 years so we were spread out over a 2-block distance for much of the night. Henry and Silas were generally bringing up the rear-- Silas because he's little and Henry because he was just moving along at his own pace.

Henry was very, very good at making his way up the steps, saying "trick or treat" and always remembering to say thank-you. Both boys, but Silas in particular loved rifling through their candy when we got back home to see what all they've had. Henry has found some new motivation to eat his dinner since then and Silas seems to have forgotten all about his candy.


So that's what it feels like

I'm not really a guilty person. I don't know if it's because i spent my formative years at an Episcopal school populated by Buddhists or what, but guilt is one thing i don't spend a lot of energy wrestling with. Which isn't to say that i lead a perfect life, but i do generally feel good about the decisions i make.

I had hoped that Silas would be feeling good enough today to head back to school. This was key in my strategy to get fully better, and also because now i'm VERY behind at work. His night went great and things were looking good until he just got very cranky and cried a lot while we were getting ready to leave the house. In the car on the way to school i kept going back and forth over whether to drop him off or not. I asked him if he wanted to go to school and he repeatedly used his "yes" grunt. So i hesitantly dropped him off with repeated requests that Brenda call me if he didn't seem like he was feeling well.

I got home and started to work and just had this ill-at-ease feeling invading my stomach and the rest of my body. I was having a hard time concentrating and i just felt... guilty that Silas wasn't home with me. I lasted about an hour and then called Brenda. She laughed and said "Silas is Silas-- he's doing fine." I know that means he's getting into all kinds of trouble, being mischievous, laughing and having fun. End of guilt. But whew, i sure am glad i don't feel that often!


Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bronchitis?

So one of the things i've find most frustrating about being sick* is that i'm held back from all the things that i've planned on doing and really want to do. Sometimes they're fun things like take the boys to our community Halloween party, host my quilting group, or train for my upcoming 8K run. Sometimes they're not fun but necessary like finish bringing in the outside stuff for the winter, rake, clean out the garden, etc. Either way there's something out of my control getting in the way of my plans. I'm not the best at letting go of control but at this point i'm somewhere being accepting and being forced to accept that i have to in order to get better and resume normal operations. So, we're down for the count for a bit. Hopefully the medications will take effect and we'll be back on track in time for Halloween.

*In case we haven't been able to personally tell you we're struggling with the following:
JT: recovering from a two-week cold now in CA for a few days
Silas: home sick with a double ear-infection
Tamra: trying to recuperate from bronchitis and sinusitis while taking care of Silas, parenting solo and trying to crank out some necessary work
Henry: holding up as the healthiest one in the family


Prepping for Cold Season

I started to write this post yesterday and then realized i felt like being more upbeat but it's time to deal with the onslaught of the winter sick season. I feel like i can totally and completely deal with the coming cold and dark, but i'm woefully unready for at least one person to have some sort of sickness for the next 6 months. Rather than despair for the next few paragraphs i'll tell you what i do to get ready.

Sometime in September, i try to take stock of the various sick-related items one needs to have on hand and replenish any we're low on. It's really terrible to get walloped with a head-cold and realize you have no medicine in the house. An added bonus is that several of these count against your Health FSA so if you're staring down some leftover money this helps you spend it.

I make sure we have:
*Humidifier Filters
*Decongestant for adults (day and nighttime formulas)
*Tylenol for the kids
*Saline spray for the kids
*Vicks vaporub for kids and adults
*Oil of Olbas (a new addition this year, potent but less messy then vicks)
*Aquaphor for chapped cheeks and hands
*Mucus Relief Medicine for the adults

I'm also going to stockpile some pedialtye for the kids, gatorade and saltine crackers, plus some cans of chicken soup-- oh and take-out menus. Now if they could just devote some of the world's resources to eradicating the common cold i'd be all set! Until then, at least now i've got my sick kit together.


Preparing for Winter

We're still lodged firmly in Fall and Henry for one is very much looking forward to Halloween. Silas is going to be a bat and Henry seems to have settled on being a monkey like he was last year. Unfortunately i got my dates wrong and was amping everyone up for trick-or-treating this Friday and woops, it's next Friday! We're headed over to Tiffany and Mike's house for our annual Halloween gathering and trick-or-treating (and hopefully some good pictures.)

We headed out to the SW suburbs this weekend to meet up with Genine and Ron and their daughters Maia and Eva that are just about Henry and Silas' age. By the end of the night Maia and Henry were having a great time together. Other highlights of the day included the "punkin chuckker" which shot pumpkins hundreds of feet up in the air to land in the lake. Henry and Silas both liked running around the pumpkin patch and "picking" out a different pumpkin every 2 seconds. Silas would try to lift every one up and they were all at least 10 lb pumpkins so i don't think he was successful. Henry had a blast on the tractor ride and almost wouldn't leave the corn maize.

He was not very excited by the dancing skeletons, the witch that had dry ice come out from under her broom or any of the other "scary" things. So i'll let you know how actual Halloween goes!


Does leaf blowing count as cardio?

So somewhere along the way after working so hard to lose the weight i gained with Silas, an additional 5 lbs. crept up on me. I get why they tell you to weigh yourself a couple times a week because suddenly my pants were feeling tight and the scale was hard to believe. So, i've gone back to not drinking any alcohol during the week and if things don't start to pick up i'll also scale down to the salad plate for dinner.

I also decided that with the luxury of being home at Thanksgiving i would start training for the 8K turkey trot. Of course my first week of training came last week when i was home for 48 hours and traveling to CA and OK for the rest of the week. Honestly i did miss a few workouts but i managed to pretty effectively multitask on Monday by running to the target, picking up my prescriptions and running home. I leveraged my west coast jet lag by getting a morning run in and chalked all the airport and luggage escapades as the remaining cardio and strength workouts.

This week has started off better but i think realistically i'm going to have to substitute the 30 minute cardio sessions for leaf blowing. So, i'm staying flexible and trying to make some progress.



It's not quite the musical you know and love, but Okahopa (H's pronunciation if you couldn't guess) proved to be a great trip for Henry-- and somewhat for Silas. After i returned from CA late Thursday night and had Friday off to unpack and then pack again, we headed out very, very early on Saturday morning.

The flight was thankfully on time and only an hour and a half. There were some seat assignment antics and a very, very unhelpful gate agent to contend with (name Versher-- still need to write a letter to United) but after the help of a fellow passenger and a supervisor we were on our way.

We met-up with my Dad at the Tulsa airport, picked up our rental (H: "are we getting our car fixed?") and then we were off for the approximately 2 hour drive to my grandparents' farm. Midway we stopped, and Henry had his first taste of McDonald's ("is this chuckecheeses?") and was really psyched at the matchbox car that came with his happy meal. Evenmore so that the display car matched the one that came in his bag ("they're similar mommy!")

The rest of the weekend involved me not getting all that much sleep (what with early mornings, some night wakings, and Silas' cold returning). Silas had a particularly rough day on Sunday-- so much so that i worried he was developing an ear infection. But in hindsight i think he was just seriously overtired.

Other than his Sunday hysterical mid-morning meltdown and subsequent fitful nap laying with me on the bed he actually enjoyed himself quite a bit. He really, really dug the cows and also had a lot of fun playing with the cousins. While he was wary with all the new people he eventually warmed up to my grandmother and grandfather in particular and even deigned to sit in my grandmother's lap whenever it was time to put his shoes on. He was exercising his funny bone a bit too by purposefully missing his seat and them cracking up when he fell down-- making sure everyone else was laughing too.

Henry unequivocally had an amazing time. He didn't nap for three days and when he didn't see the cows upon arriving on Saturday afternoon he was concerned, but Sunday's drive in the back of Grandpa's truck out to see all the cows, round two of playing on both the old and new tractors, getting to actually drive the old tractor with Grandpa around the field and then playing for hours on end outside in their yard with his 5 cousins (aged 3 to 9) was possibly one of the most fun weekends of his life.

We got back safe and sound and on time and all managed to catch up on some sleep. I'm looking forward to staying put now for awhile and actually tackling some of the fall chores and projects that i have in no way had time to address recently.


On the Road

I wrote this while traveling and didn't get a chance to post until now that i'm back home; for 12 hours at least:

I think I hinted earlier at how busy things were getting; we’re now in the thick of it. We had a wonderful visit with Oma and Opa this past weekend and enjoyed an outing to the zoo and another to the farmers’ market and many, many books read. The boys both enjoyed having them hear immensely and were happy to hear they’d be back at Christmas.

The day after they left I spent the morning at a meeting downtown and then headed straight to the airport for a flight to CA. I’m doing a site visit to an organization out here in San Jose and had the luck to be able to stay with my friend Kai and her husband Andrey from way back on Guam days. They have a beautiful house and I loved sleeping with the windows open and getting the cool night air, as well as run this morning (got to love jet lag when you travel to the west coast) checking out all the flora and fauna that either died awhile ago, or doesn’t grow in Chicago climate.

Tonight I’m hoping to meet up with my high school friend Tom that lives in this area, and tomorrow Kai and I are headed up to have breakfast with college friends and then explore San Francisco before I fly back home Thursday afternoon.

The fun doesn’t stop there though, as I’ll return to a houseguest who’s splitting his time over the next week between staying with us and our friends Marc and Jessica. I’m taking Friday off (phew) so I can unpack, deal with whatever wreckage has occurred in the house, and repack for Saturdays’ trip with the boys to meet my Dad in OK and drive out to stay with my country grandparents for the weekend.

There’s lots more I want to write about things like what I learned about vegetable gardening this year, how my cabinet refinishing went, what the boys are up to, and more but you’ll just have to wait until I can catch a few minutes with a power source and my computer.


Imaginative Play

At some point or another someone from my family is going to ask about gift ideas for the boys for Christmas this year. I've preemptively been trying to file away ideas Henry suggests or that seem appropriate based on his interest. The other night i stayed up far too late doing "research" on Amazon and a clear trend emerged; make believe. Of course almost all kids play is "pretend play." Except for when they're using the real vacuum, and even that is a form of pretend since they do a sub-par job (but not without enthusiasm!)

When Henry plays with the phone he pretends to be calling 911 and reporting "two fires, on the roof!" Then he's likely to pretend to be the fireman putting out the fires. This weekend he started playing being a "policeman getting the bad guys out of the houses" (i'm not entirely sure what this stems from-- possibly my attempt to explain the paddy wagon.)

He was playing red-light/green-light with all of his bath toys the other night-- deciding which ones could get by him in the tub and flying his hangers around like planes this morning before school. It's a fun, fun time to watch a little person turn just about anything into a wacky made-up escapade.


Conversation Topics

A love of vaccuming now runs in the family.

So i'm leaving the heading alone for now because Silas is still just engaging in the most preliminary of "expressions," but Henry has mostly moved beyond me being able to capture his amusing sentences to raising topics of conversation that are alternately amazing, difficult to answer, or relentless. So, you'll continue to see the funny things i can't help remember, but you'll also see the types of things he's turning over and over in his head. I'm hoping this will help me capture the kinds of thinking he's doing now more than just the speech aspect of things.

Silas seems to be holding steady in the speech department- he's got several two-syllable utterances; wa-wa, c-car, tr-truck, sh-shirt, as well as a handful of signs; where, water, bye-bye, milk, train, plane, etc. I think this is good enough for his 18 month visit (which btw i need to schedule!) and i'm assuming he'll make more progress in good time.


17 Months, 3 Weeks/ 3 Years, 5 Months

Busy, busy, busy which explains why i didn't get a chance to post last week. I was traveling Mon-Wed and the two remaining days didn't leave me much time to catch back up. But, it's about to get crazier. I have at least one trip a month until December and in October i have the craziest 20 days of my work/life balance yet. In 14 days we have two sets of back-to-back houseguests and during that period i have two trips-- one for work to CA and one with the boys to OK. So, if i'm not posting or returning calls, or moving much when i get back, you'll know why.

Here's some updates though to bring you up to speed. Henry's really working on a couple of abstract concepts-- truth and weekends. He gets so excited now when he realizes it's Friday afternoon and it's the weekend! Part of it was just realizing that on Saturday and Sunday he has more time to play around in the morning before we have to get dressed and go to school. Weekends also mean having syrup on your pancakes (we usually have some leftover during the week but JT has a no syrup rule on school mornings), and typically being able to stay up a little bit late.

He's also figuring out what "telling the truth" is, not so much because he's been lying but he'll go to get ready for bed, you'll hear him brushing his teeth, turning off the water, etc, but no toilet flushing. Then he'll run back out, and tell you that "the truth is" he just brushed his teeth and didn't go potty and dawdle a bit and then run back to finish getting ready for bed.

He's also exploring early math concepts. Today he was helping me make a cake and we talked about how we needed to put in 5 eggs. We had already put in four and i asked him how many more we needed to add until we got to 5 eggs. He told me one! It's not like he can do really hard math problems but he's definitely building a relationship to numbers. I had an education-long struggle with math so i'm personally looking forward to starting over with him fresh.

Silas has a little tiny bit of a stuffy nose and some sores in his diaper area. I'm not sure which is the culprit but he's been sleeping terribly. Last night i was up and down with him 4 times over an hour and a half and he only finally went to sleep once we moved him upstairs. Although he has the pain threshold of a linebacker something tiny gets out of whack and his sleeping goes off the rails. We're going to call the Doctor tomorrow to try to get him in-- we're due for his 18 month appointment anyway.


Toy Organization

From September 2008

I think my schooling is coming along as it pertains to toy storage. At first one big bin of soft toys and some baby gear that the baby may or may not agree to rest in is about all you have to struggle with. Then somewhere along the way, Christmas, birthdays and other events for showering your child with gifts emerge. Suddenly the coffers are full and you're struggling to not have your living room look like you're being paid to run a day care.

We've tried many strategies-- large containers, small containers, shelves, toy boxes, bags, etc. My current strategy rests on a couple assumptions--kids only play with 10% of what they own (assuming you have more than a whittled doll) and they get "bored" quickly with that 10%. We're lucky enough to have a basement, so we're fans of the "rotate method." I've been employing the basic method of trying to rotate toys periodically (ideally every 2 weeks, although i shoot for monthly) for awhile but i've now honed my technique.

I store toys to rotate in the basement in approximately one-square foot cubes. This allows for one "big" toy, as well as several small toys to fill the cube up. We've switched to primarily storing toys on open shelves; finding that toy boxes never have more than the initial surface scratched. The most important factor is culling the toys we do have to get rid of those that no one gets excited for-- even when they're just emerging from the basement. I'm particularly doing this now in prep for Christmas, but really i hope to keep it up at least quarterly just to keep toys manageable.

I've been actively selling on Craislist which helps provide some incentive for taking the time to list things. I've been trying to engage Henry on it as well-- asking him if he'd rather have X toy or whatever new item he's putting on his "list" for Christmas.



New parents are like apprentices that got matched without a master. If they're lucky, they band together, tackle the unknown, and build their credentials together. It's pretty amazing to witness-- newbies shoring each other up, learning from one another and building on each others' confidence. But damn if it isn't inefficient.

By the time you've got some parenting notches in your belt, first time parents scream rookie-- they bathe the baby, run errands, and entertain the baby together. They can't fathom life with a baby and a toddler because every task takes both of them at this point.

Parents that have banked some experience can and do tackle kid care separately. Both to make time for individual interests-- you do the morning shift while i get to sleep late, i'll do the late one so you can read; and because each can handle the mundane alone. Some things are certainly easier with two and some are more fun, but by now the more experienced parents know they can tackle most childcare on their own.

This is more efficient and often makes the kids lives happier-- someone runs around town to buy groceries and hit the dry cleaner while someone else stays back to let the kids play around the house or head to the park. In it's efficiency and productivity, it loses a little bit of the connection that new parents can be blessed with. Because not only are they engaging in tasks side by side, they're learning a craft together. It's like going to a pottery painting studio-- but with soul.

In the spirit of thinking i know it all as a parent, i've offered to take my friends' two daughters to the zoo with us this weekend.



One of the bonus benefits of Brenda's daycare is her early childhood interest and experience. It's proven a boon not only for quality childcare but as Henry officially morphs into a preschooler.

Many of Henry's friends are starting preschool in the fall and we looked into enrolling him in the half-day preschool program at the local elementary school-- only 2 blocks away. I've been researching this school since we moved in and have attended all the open houses i could. Everything points to it being a great school with a strong preschool program. As a bonus, it's part of the city's "preschool for all" program so it's free. The downside is that it's only a half-day program which would mean someone would need to meet Henry and take 30 minutes mid-day to take him to Brenda's. Then a few hours later return to pick he and Silas up. It's doable-- but not convenient.

Add to this that Henry already has a strong academic component to his daily play-based schedule. He knows his numbers, letters and colors, and is very interested in measurement, increments of time, etc. He's got a lock on the social skills preschool helps kids develop, having had the chance to move from circle time to free play to big-motor activities ever since he could participate in the least bit as a baby. He interacts with big kids, babies, and teachers all day.

All of this is to say that we decided he *is* in preschool now-- it's just part of his full-day care. So we've convinced ourselves to revisit the issue for next fall and see how the decision matrix falls.



I read an article lately that talked about one of those unspeakable parenthood topics-- favorites. The woman admitted to almost always having a favorite between her kids, but explained the favorite changed based on the phase one was in versus the other. For instance two year-old tantrums versus a six-month old sitting up, clapping and smiling-- but immobile.

This makes sens to me, but i'm also certain that to date my kids phases' have been more complicated than that-- making it less clear who the favorite would be. It's true that Henry is currently experimenting with talking-back, saying no, pretending not to hear you, and otherwise exercising his independent personality. And while Silas doesn't have the verbal prowess to argue with me, he does throw any item that strikes his fancy in the trash can and emits a high pitched wail when he doesn't get his way.

It's a wash really. Maybe because they're so close in age, their strengths and weaknesses seem balanced. It's possible i'll have a favorite at some point, but i'm sure to not write about it here.


Will Summer Come Again?

From August 2008

We wrapped up the official end of summer (while trying to confirm that summer will indeed rise again) with a pretty decent weekend. It was something along "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times," because while i had 5 days off work and home with the boys, one of those was an official sick day and the rest involved a mix of us all being under the weather, being somewhat better, hosting a bbq, and trying to enjoy summers passing. Of course with the weather hotter than it's been all summer, it's been a little hard to get too teary-eyed about the changing seasons.

We didn't make it to the pool again after i took the boys on Friday, but i think i'm going to look into swim lessons for Henry this fall. We haven't completely decided what we're going to do about him and gym class. We're waiting until at least the fall session to enroll because right now he's getting a lot of the same practice and exercise by frequent park visits.

I think because they've been sick, the boys' sleep skills have deteriorated a bit. Each night it's at least one of them up a few times- and sometimes both. Henry was crying out for me the other night and when i went down to figure out what was wrong he was sitting-up in bed saying "let's play" over and over to me. I'm not sure he was awake but after he called out for me an hour later i told him that he needed to remember to just roll over and go back to sleep if he woke up at night. I think he's back on the right path, but in the meantime, Silas has been waking up and when i go down to comfort him at night ... (as he just did with perfect timing) he won't quiet down and points out of his room. He's definitely at the point where everything is more exciting than sleeping even in the middle of the night. So we'll see. When it gets really bad i put him in the pack-n-play upstairs but i'm hoping not to make a habit of that.


Baby and Infant/Pregnancy Books

Pregnancy and Baby Book Reviews

Way before i was pregnant with Henry, and before we were even sure we were going to have children, i was in full research mode. I read everything i could get my hands on related to pregnancy, birth and infants. Of course by the time i was actually pregnant i was done with pregnancy books and focused on more specialized topics-- like child care. I read as many books about babies and sleep as i could get my hands on once Henry was born and found Weissbluth's book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child the most helpful.

I wrote mini-reviews of the books as i finished them and i've since shared this list several times with pregnant friends. So, i'm adding this to my resources section in the hope that it will help others embarking on their own pregnancies or child-rearing. I'd be happy to add some more recent reviews-- so free free to post your own in the comments section or email them to me through my profile.


Family Task Sharing Spreadsheet

Family Task Sharing Spreadsheet

You know how you read those articles about relationships and happiness. Besides money, the hottest-topic in long-term relationships tends to be chores-- or more simply who does what and am i being taken advantage of. I think like 98% of most American families, I do more than JT when it comes down to it. There are some (recently written about in a NY Times article) that absolutely won't stand for any inequality. I'd say honestly the rest of us are just trying to find something that feels "about right" without having to discuss every last detail of cat box duty.

That said, we recently had a conversation about household duties around our homestead and rejiggered our tasks. Of course i made a spreadsheet, and in an attempt to share all of the organizational resources i can't resist building-- i'm adding this task chart to the public domain. It's a simple spreadsheet that one could modify at will in excel. Tasks run down the first column, and the frequency with which each partner performs each task is noted in the subsequent columns. It's only slightly complex in that instead of just checking off who does what, it ask partners to rate the frequency with which they do a task, i.e. multiple times a day, weekly, or just periodically. The idea being that it's not much of a balance if partner one does 10 tasks periodically and partner 2 does 10 tasks multiple times a day. It doesn't get in to assigning hours to tasks because i don't think many couples have two partners that would willingly agree to that exercise.

The formulas give you a quick overview of how many tasks each partner does, as well as the breakdown in task frequency. You can add columns as the number of household members increased that were doing chores, i.e, once the boys can mow the lawn, and you can change/add/delete the actual list of tasks.

Book Review- Jamberry and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

Books have been a favorite in our household for quite awhile and Silas is now starting to get in on the act. He won't sit to listen to any stories that i might read, but he will get a book, hold it up right in front of him, and jabber, jabber, jabber away as if he's doing a perfect imitation of what "reading" sounds like to him. I thought i'd periodically review some favorites in our house and i'm kicking if off with my favorite genre-- short and rhythmic.

We have board book versions of both (Jamberry and Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb) so when bedtime is calling they satisfy a request for a story without risking excessive delays.

Jamberry is like an exquisitely rhythmic poem-- it starts simple and slow
one berry, two berry pick me a shoeberry,

mixes in active, colorful and whimsical illustrations, does rhyming without being syrupy
Quickberry! Quackberry! Pick me a blackberry!,

and concludes with my favorite crescendo:
Moonberry Starberry Cloudberry sky
Boomberry Zoomberry Rockets Shoot by
Mountains and Fountains
Rain down on me
Buried in berries
What a jam jamboree!

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb starts off with a simple beat:
Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, one thumb, one thumb, drumming on a drum

Throws in masses and masses of silly monkeys with
rings on fingers, rings on thumbs

adds in more instruments
hands play banjos, strum strum strum
hands play fiddles, zum zum zum

and continues the forward momentum until the end
many more fingers
many more thumbs
many more monkeys
many more drums
millions of fingers, millions of thumbs
drum drum drum drum drum drum drum


17 Months/ 3 Years, 4 Months

Today Silas' turns 17 months old and unfortunately he's home sick with his first cold of the season. Nothing major we hope but we noticed yesterday evening that his nose seemed pretty stuff. His temperament was normal and he went to bed quietly at 7. Around 9 he woke up crying and couldn't be shushed back to sleep.

I thought maybe his teeth were bothering him because he was sitting up in his crib gnawing on his pacifier with his back teeth and looking like he had buckets of drool running down his face. I'm guessing now that it was actually mucus. I gave him some Tylenol, got him to lay down and covered him up, but within seconds of leaving his room he was moaning/crying again and with Henry being wide-awake it looked like no one would be going to sleep soon.

So we said good night to Henry brought Silas upstairs, set up the humidifier in the closet that doubled as his bedroom for 10+ months, rocked him for a bit and put him down to bed. While we were working on getting Silas settled Henry starts screaming for me-- going from a normal "mommy" call to a hysterical "MOMMEEE" in about 2 iterations. When JT went down to check on him he was upset because the cat was in his room and he didn't want the cat in his room, he wanted the door closed.

I was prepared for a rough night but miraculously they both slept soundlessly once everyone was settled. Silas seems okay today but still very congested so JT kept him home from daycare. He's taking a morning nap now which means he probably is feeling run down.


Parenting Pros*

It's been 4 years since i was last in NYC and my friends' 2 month old was the perfect excuse for a new visit. Pregnant with Henry during my last visit, I was still more or less just imagining life as a parent. I returned to NYC a pro-- at least concerning the parenting stages we've covered to date. I'm hoping that being able to tap a fellow parent for ideas and comfort was helpful to my friends, but i know it was affirming for me.

Seeing Sadie, talking about Sadie, thinking about what Sadie will be learning over the next few months brought back a lot of memories about Henry's infancy and JT and i as new parents. I realized as the stories i told involved crying, colic, surgery, sleep battles, insomnia, depression and being totally overwhelmed, that we did really have a rough start to parenting. Acknowledging that we survived, decided to have a second, and emerged on the other side happy and busy and content with our boys and our parenting skills was affirming, and an important note to a nice social visit.

Henry is going through another testing/behavior phase so the break from wrestling with him all the time was nice. As was knowing with utmost certainty that JT was completely capable of more than just "handling them" for the weekend. They loved the gifts i brought back-- a book about grand central station for Henry and a hat with a spinning top for Silas. Bonus-- i missed the hottest (90 degree) day in over a fortnight.

*Karmic Disclaimer: I am only claiming to be a pro regarding the actual parenting situations we have experienced with our two individual children. I do not claim to have professional status over any parenting situations we have not yet reached, nor with regards to children of other personalities or challenges.


16 Months, 3 Weeks/ 3 Years, 4 Months

By this point, Henry and Silas have developed a robust relationship with one another. It's not always pretty, but they interact all the time and their play is getting more intertwined as well. Favorite games that actually keep them laughing rather than fighting include wrestling, playing a modified version of tag where Silas just runs back and forth across the house and Henry attempts to get Silas to chase him. A recent game involved Henry pretending to be the big bad wolf and jumping out of a tent, trying to scare Silas whenever he came close to the door. Silas laughed and laughed and laughed and i think i read an entire section of the paper.

Of course many other times Silas is still the Goliath tromping through and wrecking Henry's train tracks, and trying to play with whatever Henry was just playing with.

I've been timid to blog on another note but i think all my complaining about the abysmal eating habits paid off. At this point i can think of several actual meals that *both* boys have eaten-- highlights of which include carrot soup, pasta with pesto, mongolian chicken, and cucumbers! This further backs up my recent hypothesis that good parenting of course has something to do with your kids' behavior-- but a good chunk of it is unexplained whimsy, likely to change slightly after you reach the end of your wits!


Wringing what we can from the Pool

The pool by our house is three blocks away, clean, free, and has a lovely baby pool. These are it's upsides. The downsides are that everything that can be outlawed is, and the hours of operation frankly, suck. Upping the ante, the pool is only open from the middle of June until the end of August. By August 11th we're in a fever pitch trying to get as many visits in as possible.

The aforementioned baby pool, nicely shaded in the afternoons and perfect if you're attempting a pool outing as a solo parent with two children that don't swim, closes at 5 pm everyday. This proves challenging for someone that typically works 9-5. So we had come up with a two-pronged strategy-- I start early/work through lunch and head out early on Mondays so I can get the boys to the baby pool for 45 glorious minutes before it closes, and on weekends we all go as a family and enjoy the big pool. This past week both efforts were stymied.

Monday was the storm to end all storms which had already started clouding up the skies by the afternoon. With the flexible schedule i have, i simply swapped our pool day to Tuesday. So far so good.

Tuesday morning i specifically drove by the pool in the am, ensured it was open after the big storm, and made arrangements to pick the kids up at 4 already in their suits. PM came and we blithely headed to the pool. Alas, the baby pool was closed and i was left with two options-- turn around and head home or attempt the big pool with both kids by myself. I (stupidly ?) opted for the second.

Actually it would have been doable if Silas had been in a better mood. Henry happily held on to the side by himself playing with little plastic strainers while i tried to wrangle an increasingly grumpy Silas. He fussed on the pool ledge and pointed at the water, i held him in the water and jumped up and down, and he cried and pointed to the ledge. I put him on the ledge and he pointed to the side of the pool. I put him on the side and he took off away from the pool.

I tried again with him on the ledge and for about .4 seconds he stopped fussing and seemed like maybe just maybe he'd let us enjoy our pool visit. He kicked his feet in the water and showed signs of enjoying the pool as much as he had the previous weekend. I held Henry so he could get a break from the wall and Silas cannon balled into the water.

With the one arm i had free i grabbed the quickly-sinking Silas, pulled him up, put Henry back on the wall, soothed Silas who was now screaming and admitted defeat. So much for getting as much out of summer that day. I felt bad for Henry because he was as happy as a clam and didn't want to leave. I felt bad for myself because why couldn't Silas appreciate the efforts i was making for him!

After heading home and having a glass of wine with dinner i decided all was not lost as we could make sure to get to the pool as a family this weekend. And then the freak 73-for-a-high days started and it was too cold to go to the pool IN AUGUST! So, we're trying again today. Wish us luck please that the baby pool will actually be open.

Oh, and feel free to send suggestions for the letter of complaint/suggestion i plan to lodge with the pool and alderman's office regarding the challenging pool schedule.


Cloth Diapers at Target

This just in.. at least at our Target they are now selling "real" cloth diapers. They don't have a big selection, in fact they just sell one type and one brand-- BumGenius 3.0 which are "all-in-one" (AIO) type diapers. On the messageboards and forums i check these diapers get high marks for the AIO category and they're being sold for the same price they can generally be found online ($17.95) without the shipping.

At our store they're on an internal end-cap next to other cool baby items that typically you could only get online (babylegs, wetbags, no slippy hair clippy, etc.) It's just a small start, but it gives folks who are interested in cloth diapers a chance to open the package, see what an AIO is really all about and buy one without paying shipping to test drive.


Emergency Preparedness

We made it through the severe thunderstorms and tornado warning but not without a rough night. About the time the storms started at 8 we lost power and it was out until sometime between 9:30 and 11:00 this morning. I like thunderstorms, but this was severe earth shaking thunder that just stayed on top of us without quickly moving away-- and that was the third set of storms at that point.

The boys miraculously slept through the first two storms but by the time the third one came along with Zeus camping out on our house, both boys woke up. Henry was freaked out by how dark it was (i by how sweat-soaked his sheet was with no a/c and no fan) but after turning on a battery powered nightlight, he was fine and told us to leave his room so he could go back to sleep.

Silas-- our adventurer was less assured and spent about half an hour supposedly cuddling in bed with us until the thunderstorm had passed. Between the crying and the thunder bolts and the sweating, i didn't sleep soundly.

Today after some coffee shop wifi life got back to normal. But, not without a serious task to prepare an emergency kit. We were woefully unprepared for the loss of power. You'd never know i spent my formative years doing homework by the kerosene lamp. In fact that little led nightlight was about the only thing we had that was helpful. So in goes some matches, a lighter, some candles, led candles, cards, flashlight and batteries, a hand crank radio and a first aid kit. Any other suggestions i'm all ears.


16 Months

I wanted to do a bit of an update on Silas as he's changing pretty rapidly and i really like having these inventory-type posts to look back on. Silas turned 16 months old two days ago and we've recently moved-out of a few phases that i'm not particularly sad to see go.

He no longer spends 98% of his bath time standing up or trying to climb up the walls. While it helped that he found it hysterical when he slid down into the water on his face, it made bath time terrifying (for me) and frustrating because no amount of no, or distraction, or ending the bath made him sit-down; at least not for more than a minute. The best success we had was when he made a game of plopping down into the water and giggling as the water sloshed out from under him.

Similarly the thrill has worn off going up the stairs at any available opportunity. This was particularly fun while on vacation because no one had gates. Gates are very important when you have a willful toddler hell-bent on climbing the stairs and without them we had a two-week long episode of "catch me before i get up the stairs!"

Silas definitely has walking down-- he doesn't lose his balance often, he walks with his hands at his sides and he's getting more adept at trying to climb onto things. He can get on and off his little push bike on his own and he started pushing his bike forward by himself just a week or two ago.

As i inserted with my late breaking news last night, i think that Silas is starting to round the speech corner. He's definitely trying to imitate words now and while his pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired, he's trying and that's a really big step to have taken-- especially before we have to report back to the Dr at 18 months.

The biggest challenge with Silas is discipline. My feeling is that there aren't that many strategies to play with at this age. The thing about Silas is that none of them seem to have any effect. I've tried getting down on his level and making eye contact while saying no, squeezing his hand while saying no, taking the toy/food/weapon away, putting him in his crib for a minute, and at times yelling. Not only do none of these curtail the behavior (which isn't entirely surprising) they don't get ANY reaction.

Silas is a different type of boy than Henry, and it's not surprising to me that his favorite trick is to stick his fingers into the mucky hole left in our front sidewalk from an old sawed off fence pole. No matter how you approach telling him not to he keeps on jamming his fingers in the hold and doesn't raise an eyebrow while you wave your arms and stomp. In fact now he makes the sound for "yucky" *while* he sticks his fingers in the goo.

I was discussing this with a friend while she watched Silas and i battle over taking bunny for a swim in the wading pool. She commented that it will probably take him a little longer for him to actually respond to our tactics, but she guessed he would always have a defiant streak. Don't i know it...


Working on Words

Similar to Henry, Silas is giving us a run for our money in the late-speech department. I need to go back and read my posts from when Henry was 16-17 months but i think we're about at the same place-- behind. At this point he has a few signs (milk, bye bye, fan, please, sometimes light) and fewer words (hot, hat, and buhbuhbuh for his bunny). Really, that's it. Frustratingly he'll seem to get a new word (past ones included, yes, kitty and cheese) and then stop using it after a couple days. I'm not sure if i'm allowed to "count" that in the number of words he should have at this age or if i'm supposed to restrict my list to only those that make it into regular use.


I started this post this morning and while we were at the pool today he started saying truck. The neat thing about it was that he was doing his normal point and grunt and whimper and get worked up routine and i said truck. He clearly was trying to imitate me and i kept saying truck and he kept practicing and now he has a word that at least to a parent clearly sounds like truck.

So maybe we won't panic after all.


New Car!

We have a new (used) car to unveil! After setting up an alert for newer model Mazda5's with less than 10,000 miles on them, we were lucky enough to get a hit at a local CarMax in just a few days.

We're now the proud owners of what we're calling a "micro-minivan." It has sliding doors on both sides-- three rows of seats (although it seats 6 instead of the 7 a traditional minivan would seat), cupholders galore and gets about almost exactly the same gas mileage our Nissan Altima gets. All four back seats fold flat to produce a nice amount of cargo space and with the six seats, when we have visitors we'll all be able to go somewhere together-- without sending an advance party on the bus.

It's dark blue and the boys are excited-- especially Silas who got his seat turned around now that he's over the weight limit for forward-facing.

Field Trip

Today is Silas' first field trip and possibly Henry's-- for the life of me i can't remember if he's been on one already or not. The boys are headed to the zoo with daycare and Henry has been excitedly anticipating the outing for a few days now. I think he's also been having some fears about seeing all the animals because he's asked me several times if the animals can get out of their spaces. I've reassured him that they can't-- that the animals stay in their spaces and people stay in theirs and that seems to have calmed his fears.

When i asked him what animals he was going to see today (as i know they voted on their favorites in advance) he told me to "wait Mommy, i will tell you at the end of the day." That's his new thing-- he seems to enjoy the power of making me wait and then filling me in only after something has happened. I can no longer get him to conjecture on what he'll do that day; whether it be a park outing, puzzles or puppets he wants to wait until it's happened and then let me know. Unfortunately his powers of capturing a full day's events are somewhat limited so at the end of the day i usually get something along the line of "i was running around and around and then NeNe told me to stop and i listened!"

I've tried to break out more creative questions like "what's the silliest thing you did today, or the most fun thing, etc." This strategy worked exactly once for each question-- now no matter what *else* he might have done he reverts back to the first thing he told me when i asked-- usually involving running around in circles and shrieking.


15 Months, 2 Weeks/ 3 Years, 2 Months

I'm not the type of parent that made a lot of bold "i'll never... " statements when Henry was first born. Which isn't to say that i didn't have a lot of internal expectations-- some of which worked out and some of which have been dashed on the rocks of parenthood.

The area in which reality has veered farthest ashore from my aspirations is food. JT takes food seriously; devoting serious time and research to improving his cooking skills, sourcing local fresh ingredients, and building a repetoir of delicious meals for us to eat. And by us i mean he and I, because the boys will have none of it.

Henry and Silas seemed to start out well, as babies they ate everything they were given: vegetable, protein, fruit or starch. They both seemed to love food and although we had to load all of Henry's meals with cream just to keep him on the weight charts-- he wasn't skinny for lack of eating.

Similarly, both of them hit a picky eating phase about the time they entered toddlerdom. Silas' phase seems to be even worse than Henry's. This isn't encouraging as Henry is still a picky eater. He's had more adventurous periods, but generally he likes what he likes and that ain't much.

Because they don't eat at the same time as we do (hallelujah for quiet dinners after bedtime!) we do we fix a seperate meal for them. Because we aspired to the "don't cook seperate meals for your children" theory we have settled into a gray area where they get a different dinner but it's not actually cooked.

Translation-- days and days of fruit, applesauce, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, mac n cheese, and chicken nuggets if we eat out. For the most part the food they get is healthy, but it's not even really a meal, and it certainly isn't what we hoped they'd be eating. As if to taunt us our friend's kids *do* eat what they eat and they're not just making cheesy chicken over there. The last i was over the girls were noshing on oxtail soup and other wonderful "adult" food.

I recently re-seized the reigns of our children's nutrition and am developing my own repetoir of "non-processed but appetizing to suspicious mouths'" meals. I've got some pizza bagels, quesadillas and tortellini lined up. Any other ideas and i'm all ears. I'm rationalizing that if we can expand the options for what they *will* eat, we can start to fashion more and more palatable dishes out of ingredients that are more varied than mild cheese and applesauce.


Vacation Week 2

Before i completely lose track of the details of the second week of our vacation, i'm finding time to post.

We kicked things off by a visit to the local minor league team. We went last year and Henry LOVED the mascot-- Sherman the Shorebird. He called him the "big booboo" last year and raved about him even when we had returned to Chicago. So, i ordered him a small Sherman doll which i remembered to pack this year (pat on the back for that one) and Henry brought it with him to the game. Turned out we were on the away team's side so Sherman only came over once but Henry was so excited to give him a hug and a kiss. When we got up close he wasn't so sure and only let me take a picture with Sherman quite a few yards in the background. Henry did pay a decent amount of attention to the game and was getting really excited by the bigger kids yelling behind us. He also had a ride on the carousel which he was still a little freaked by but mostly enjoyed.

We took the jet skis out again and Henry did great-- loved it and wanted to keep riding. Even Silas got in on the act and wanted to play on the boat when no one else was riding it.

Silas continued to improve his walking technique and within a few days went from having both arms outstretched, a la the mummy, to just one, to walking with his hands at his side. He's pretty quick to master things once he makes that initial progress.

We alternated pool and beach days and on Friday Henry, my parents and I attended the 4th of July parade. Henry and I had made a "spirit stick" the day before and it didn't take long for him to figure out how to shake it and run after thrown candy. At one point he got really serious and said, "there's candy coming!" He jumped up put the piece he was in holding in our stash and ran back around to be all ready. I can only imagine in a few years he'll be like the older kids darting in and out of the parade to get precious bits of candy.

JT and i celebrated our 8th anniversary while on vacation and had an amazing dinner at the Buttery in Lewes. It was a very relaxing afternoon and even sweeter after our same plans last year were curtailed by JT falling ill.

Finally, we capped off our trip with a day spent back at Oma and Opa's house. They got to see Henry and I again and spend some time with Silas and JT who they missed at the front-end. Uncle Eric spent the day with us as well.

The flight home wasn't great-- we spent an extra hour waiting on the plane but it was manageable and with no other flight plans in sight with the boys not a big deal.

This was a truly great vacation. Good for recharging the batteries, having fun, and taking a break from all the stuff that sucks away at least some of the good times once you're back in real life (i.e. the home refinance, parking sticker, finding a babysitter, etc.)


In the spirit of disclosure

I'm sure i'll be posting a recap of our second glorious week of vacation soon-- but in the event of disclosing what the return to real life has been like i thought i'd post a short vignette on my first morning back.

Wake up to neighbor's dogs barking ferociously at everyone that walks by. Stumble out of bed, hear that neither child ate much breakfast. Get ready to take shower but headed off in the bathroom by said boys and the Mister. Am told the Mister needs to get to work early and can i shower after i take the boys to daycare. Most certainly not. Take boys downstairs to get dressed and try to remember our morning routine. While i pour coffee realize the bathroom door has been left open with (close your eyes this is gross) an unflushed toilet. Find Silas stirring the waters. Some blessing-- it was only liquid and he only used one hand. Wash, soap and scrub Silas' hands and arms as if he's to perform baby surgery. Than wash him down with a generous does of hand sanitizer. Return to coffee. Remember that i used to take a shower while Silas bounced in his doorway bouncer. Herd the boys back upstairs, set Henry up on the computer with a document, hook up the bouncer and install Silas-- take a shower. Thankfully the day looked up from here.

There are new pictures up in the June folder, the bethany beach folder (with a slideshow on the left) and pictures of our backyard and garden in the maplewood folder.


Vacation Week 1/ 15 Months

I'm sure i won't be able to catlogue all the events of our first week of vacation, but i thought i'd take the last few minutes of nap time to catch you up on our whereabouts and let you know what the boys are up to.

The biggest news is that Silas is walking! Just a few days shy of turning 15 months, he started walking on his own in long-distance bouts. He started by walking if you stood him up and got his attention with something in front of him a few steps. A day or two later he started walking on his own initiation and at this point he still crawls, but he's walking longer and longer distances on his own and the prospect of being confined in the stroller or carseat is even less appealing. Funny caveat though, we've nicknamed him "zombie baby" because he still walks with his arms right out in front of him.

Henry kicked off his vacation by spending three days solo with his Oma and Opa. By all accounts he had an amazing time, got to spend some quality play time with Coby the dog, and nicknamed the bear he acquired over there Coby Bear. He had unlimited access to running water in the form of their garden fountain which was pretty much bliss for Henry. And he got to ride his tricycle up and down (!) a hill in their neighborhood-- pretty exciting for a Chicago boy! Henry's been amazing at transitioning from all the various parts of the vacation. We said goodbye to Oma and Opa and the next morning he went by himself (with my parents) to the beach. I picked up JT and Silas at the airport and off to the beach we headed that night. The only thing Henry said was when he roused while i was putting Silas to bed at the beach after we arrived late Saturday night-- he asked if i was going to be there in the morning. I told him we were all together now and he's been as happy as a clam since.

Henry is not what i would describe a little fish-- but he's come a long way from last year. He has been routinely swimming in the big pool with Dad, having endless fun jumping in the waves along the shoreline at the beach, and playing in the little pools on the back patio.

Silas has been less interested in the general water-related activities vacationing at the beach has to offer. As soon as you get down near the ocean he whines and cries, tries to jump out of your arms back towards the safety of the sand and beach umbrella. After the first day he gott pretty content playing in the sand and knocking down Henry's sand castles. We've made some progress at the pool-- but he keeps coming back to his favorite activity of opening and closing the gate to the baby pool. I'm hoping that after another few visits that bloom will have wilted.

We just said goodbye to my aunt and grandmother and had a packed three days of pool, beach, jet skiing, and shopping. Henry said he wanted to go on the "boats this year so we got him a life jacket and he went out several times with me, Gran, and Nonna. It all went well until Gran went a little too fast and turned a little too sharply. Still, he didn't freak out-- just talked about being scared by the big wave. We're hoping for another week of hot but good weather and replenishing our sunblock supply every few days!

Few other things-- haircuts for both boys to start the week off, and all the pictures i've downloaded so far (but not culled) are oon picasa-- so help yourself!