Tag Archives: life at home

Penguin coffee mug

Find Your Happy-Makers

It’s been a long month or two around here. And out there. Pretty much everywhere I look, really. Everyone’s spread too thin, not getting enough meaningful sleep, not finding time to recharge. It’s hard to find time for the things that make us happy, and it’s easy to overlook the little happy-makers floating around in our lives when we’re jumping from crisis to crisis.

Today I’ll let someone else write the pep talk and deliver bulleted lists of simple action items to take down the patriarchy and the white supremacy and the authoritarian fog that’s slowly blotting out the sun. Today, I’m going to write about some insignificant little things that help to make me happy.

Lemon Pledge

I can squirt some Lemon Pledge on a paper towel, half-heartedly swipe at a couple of wooden side tables, and my house smells like I’ve somehow managed to squeeze in some housework. Fake it till you eventually have time to make it, right? This also works with lemon Lysol spray and citrus-scented surface-sanitizing wipes.

Outside Teatime

If I can find ten minutes to sit out on the porch with a cup of tea and watch the birds or the rain or the sunset, it does something very good for my brain. Even if it’s freezing out and I need to bundle up. Oddly enough, this only works for me with tea. Coffee doesn’t work. It has to be tea, Earl Grey, hot, with a pinch of sugar and the spoon left in.

Coffee

Speaking of caffeinated beverages, I finally bought a burr-style coffee grinder, after being on the fence about the expense for ages. A month later, I can confirm that it was $45 well spent. I’m not super picky about my coffee, other than a preference for darker roasts, but grinding the beans just before making the coffee makes for better coffee. Friends have been trying to convince me of this fact for ages and now I have been converted. Even when I ran out of my favorite Mayorga Cafe Cubano beans and had to resort to a slightly-past-date bag of whole-bean Starbucks coffee I found in the pantry, the results were noticeably better. Any coffee wakes me up, but good coffee makes me happy to be awake.

Petting a fluffy thing

Preferably with the fluffy thing’s consent. There are studies out there that say petting cats and dogs can reduce your cortisol levels and help to lower blood pressure. This also likely extends to chinchillas, hamsters, ferrets, and rabbits, so please make the attempt to pet and/or snuggle your domesticated fluffy thing ASAP. Please proceed with caution if attempting to pet wild fluffy things, or domesticated non-fluffy things. The author is not legally responsible for her readers’ raccoon bites or hedgehog-quill impalements.

Cat beside shower

Pencils

I’ve recently gone back to making my to-do lists and shopping lists in good old-fashioned pencil instead of in pen. The scratch of the lead dragging on the paper is SO incredibly satisfying, as is the scritch-scritch of the little pencil sharpener. Maybe it’s reviving quietly happy childhood memories? Not sure what it is, but it feels so good to write with pencils right now. If I could write this blog in pencil, I would.

What little things are bringing you joy? Are there any small things you do for yourself to ease your stress? If you look around at your life and habits, can you uncover any small joys hiding underneath your stressors? I’d love to hear about them.




Liam at Two Years Old

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Two years. Twenty-four months of squirming and growing and changing. The changing is both the best and the worst part, because just as I get used to the baby I have, a new one comes along with new words and new skills and new opinions that don’t line up with mine.

Stats

  • Height: 33.5 inches
  • Weight: 27ish lbs
  • Favorite foods: Chicken nuggets, raspberries, muffins, french fries, raisin bread
  • Favorite toys: Weeble-wobbles, toy broom, toy phone (or Mommy’s phone, if he finds it), ukulele, new outdoor slide (thanks, Boobah!)
  • Favorite books: Goodnight Moon, the Mo Willems “Pigeon” books, Zoom City, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Favorite activities: Splashing in water, dumping things out onto the floor (especially Cheerios), reading, sharing things, watching short videos of other kids, going for walks, playing music on anything remotely like an instrument

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Chit-Chat

He’s talking so much that I’ve stopped trying to keep a list of words that he knows. New words come daily – hourly – and even though the conversations get repetitive, we’re talking together. I ask if he wants milk, he says yes. He asks for books, and I read them. He’s old enough now to understand what’s being said around him and we’re going to have to completely shift how we talk in his presence. In the car, when Dave asked what I wanted for dinner, I said “anything but pizza,” and Liam screamed TEETSA!! from the backseat. And he doesn’t even like pizza.

He even tells us stories about his school day, if we prompt him with leading questions. Did you play outside? “Ow-kide, yeah, Au-dee!” You played with Audrey? Did you see Zoe today? “Yeah! Doh-ee go ‘ome!

He is almost constantly chattering at home, even though it’s still toddler-speak that most people can’t quite understand. He says atsoo to us when we sneeze or blow our noses. “Uh-oh Leenum” when he trips. He plays happily with the pots and pans in his new toy kick-in and he draws with his yayons. He yells at “Ahmul” to get off the counter and away from our afternoon hnack of wabeewees and yoguck, and asks politely for me to o-peen my coffee tin in the mornings so he can hmell mommy foffee.

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He likes to hear me laugh – Mommy appy. Liam is NOT appy when I won’t let him watch Elmo wee-ee-yos on YouTube, though, even though he’s earnestly patting my chair, repeating “ere, Mommy. Dit, Mommy, Dit down Mommy.” We stop at the mailbox to check for new meeul every day after school and he always stops dead in his tracks if he sees a murm on the wide-walk. He loves his murms. And nakes, which are really just giant murms, after all. When I say “I love you Liam,” he’ll usually answer with I-lahyoo Daddy but if I’m out of sight he’ll sing-whisper Mommy wheyayoo? Most fruits are “apples”, and most veggies are “no.” He surprised us with plurals last week, telling us he saw “two beeeg deers” outside.

Development

If he sees or hears a thing once, he wants more. Explaining that I can’t make more deer appear in the backyard right now, or ask the garbage truck to drive past the house seventeen more times, leads to plop-down sit-in toddler protests. Protests are getting more frequent in general, and it’s hard to know how to react to some of it. Picking battles only works if you’re pretty sure which ones you can afford to lose without long-term consequences, and we don’t yet have that confidence. He dumps his food out of bowls, holds utensils out and watches them drop to the floor, and smashes crackers into dust and drips milk onto them. That’s when he’s in a good mood. We like to think he’s experimenting with physics and chemistry.

When he’s cranky or doesn’t like what we’re asking of him, he’ll shove whatever he’s holding with a huff and cross his arms. If he’s not holding anything, he’ll look around, find something, and glare at us while deliberately shoving it to the side with the absolute most disdain that a two-year-old can muster. If he doesn’t feel it’s moved far enough away from him, he’ll reach out and shove it again for good measure. Hmph. TAKE THAT.

He has a solid concept of “mine” and applies it often. Labeling things as his, or Mommy’s, or Daddy’s, is a seriously big deal to him. If we sit in the “wrong” chairs at dinner, he’ll tell us.

13483318_1231382123562274_6059097716345640770_oBut he’s also such a loving kid. He’ll run in for a hug anytime, and he’s still asking for “up” a million times a day because he loves to be held. We have snuggle time for a few minutes every night before bed, and he’s just devastated when I end it. Bedtimes are rocky again, with a new emotional attachment causing him a lot of distress when we leave the room. We’re working on it, but it’s been an exhausting few weeks.

Move it move it

Liam’s physical side is developing well, too, and he’s getting so much faster and stronger. He can zoom up the stairs in a flash now, even though he’s still mostly on all fours to do it. He’ll zip up the first three and then turn to yell “c‘mon, mommy!” He can also scoot down stairs on his butt now, but he prefers to do it standing, while holding the railing and saying “Leenum fah-full” with every step (I guess I warn him to be careful too often).

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He’s been more into physical play in general, probably because of his daycare buddies’ influence. He likes to roll around and be tickled, and climb on chairs and boxes. He’s started running, which is amazing to see, when we were so worried about his late walking. He loves to go for walks as often as we can find the time, and he’ll run ahead to make me chase him a lot. But he still tires pretty quickly, and he’s still unsteady with quick changes in direction or wobbly terrain. We’re still working with him to explore new ways to move and get more strength and coordination, and his new bike and new climbing structure/slide will help a ton this summer.

He’s a real kid now, not just a squishy little critter, and that’s just WILD. We’re finally able to share experiences with him and have him share them right back after they’ve been processed by that little toddler brain, and the whole thing is fascinating. I can’t wait to see the changes that are coming over the next few months, even though I’m sure the terrible twos will be rough on all of us. But we’re all still learning, and we’ll get through it all together.

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Love you, little dude.

 




Liam at 21 months

Twenty-one months.*

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It’s weird to keep counting age in months, and I know moms are made fun of for doing it, but it’s such a weird place to be, in between one-and-a-half and two. Neither one of those fits, because he was someone else at 18 months and he’ll be completely different all over again by 2.

So much has changed since my last update. He took his first independent steps at Grandma and Pop’s house, carefully carrying my travel mug full of coffee from one side table to another. He didn’t realize he’d done it, but my mother-in-law and I looked at each other with huge incredulous eyes and then spent the next ten minutes handing him other things to carry around. He toddled happily from one adult to another, carrying balls and books, for an hour. Lots of cheering, a little crying, and a page turned.

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Only a couple weeks later, he figured out how to stand up in the center of the room without pulling up on anything, and he was suddenly excited about walking. We walk into school together from the parking lot in the morning, and back out to the car in the afternoon. I hold his little hand and we move in literal baby steps. If I’m in a hurry and try to scoop him up, he protests, pointing to the floor and thrashing in my arms. He must walk, and stop to point out everything on the way. He bends to point out red squares in the tile floor. He points to the radio on the counter and signs for music. He yells DUCK and SHEESHEE at the seagull and fishies on the school mural, then shows me his fish face, says “mama?” and waits for me to do it back. Once we get outside, it’s CAR! Ight? Udda ight? As he points to a car’s two headlights. And if he turns and catches sight of the school’s name on the wall, he’ll waggle his music finger and say “ee-eh-geeee” to tell me there are letters there and I better start singing about it immediately.

Speaking of singing, every drive turns mama (or daddy) into a music player set on shuffle, as we try to figure out what his song of the day is. Wheels on the bus? No. ABCs? No. Sometimes he helps and gives us a hint – wiggling his fingers for the “shishy bishy” spider, or mumbling “uppabudda (world so high)” for Twinkle Twinkle. But mostly it’s trial and error with a music critic in the back seat yodeling nooOOOoooOOO after the first three notes of every wrong song, and giggling and clapping when we get it right. Then it’s “ah-hehn” because we need to do it again. And again. And again.

We have a similar issue with books, and it’s frustrating to have so many wonderful and beautiful books around that he just yells at and slams shut after the first page. He still loves reading. He races to the book bin to grab a favorite before backing into us to sit in our laps and read. But we’re down to about a dozen that he’ll actually tolerate all the way through. I thought I had the solution when I went to a consignment sale and bought other books in the same series as ones he’s really into, but he’s no idiot. It’s not that easy to trick a toddler, you guys. The first time he opened up a Pigeon book that didn’t start with the driver saying “Hey, Pigeon, why don’t you show me your happy face,” he gave me a withering glare, put his hands on his hips and said “anny” to show me he was just as angry as the pigeon who refuses to take orders from a bus driver.IMG_20160305_093627

His language has absolutely exploded lately. He understands so much that we’ve had to start being careful with important words. If we say “bath,” he’s at the stairs within seconds, yelling FAFF FAFF FAFF and trying to pull his shirt off. He likes repeating the names of family members, and he’s just figured out his own name: L’mm. It’s the cutest. About a week or two ago he started stringing two words together. First “uh-oh duck” to tell us the garden duck had fallen over, but soon after that he was doing “hi Daddy” when Dave walked into a room and “byebye Ah-mull” waving at the cat (Animal) on his way out the door to daycare. He uses “other” to make two-word phrases a whole lot now, too. While putting shoes on: udda feet? Taking his coat off: udda ahmm? Poking mama in the eyes: udda eye?

Taking turns is a huge right now. If I kiss him, he’ll immediately lean over towards Dave and say “Daddy? Daddy? Until Dave kisses him too. Then he’ll grab my shirt and yank me towards Dave saying “Mamadaddy. Mamadaddy,” insisting we kiss too. Same goes for high fives (yeah!) and fist bumps (boom!) – it’s not over until every permutation of the fists or palms present in the room has been tried. This includes self-fives. Toddler self-fives are super cute, folks.

Eating is still a struggle, with a very limited set of acceptable foods that seems to change without any good reason. This week’s huge hit has been pineapple, which he’s hated for months and will probably hate again by next week. I’m trying to be cool about it and not force foods on him, just have things available close by for him to try if he wants to. It’s working fairly well – he’s tasted garlic french fries, a cheeseburger, an italian sub, honey mustard dressing, an egg sandwich with pepperjack cheese, BBQ chicken pizza, and tortilla chips in the past week. And he voluntarily licked a spoon that had been dipped into a Chipotle carnitas burrito bowl. He spit all of it out, and the display of dislike involved weird hissing sounds and dramatic wiping of his tongue with his hand, but he’s at least tasting things.

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This post wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t write about the tantrums. Because those have started. It’s not horrible yet, but he’s definitely developing opinions and he’s sharing them. There’s a lot of general low-level whining when we can’t figure out what he wants when he’s pointing and babbling, but every few days something bigger takes over and he gets mad. He’s started to throw his toys in frustration and anger, and the silliest things set him off. I guess that’s just toddler life, but it’s weird to see our mellow little guy crying in frustration when we won’t let him ride his trike when it’s time to get in the car for daycare. Or when it’s time to go inside after a wagon ride. Or when he can’t play with a knife. Or can’t have a third serving of pound cake. He’s just learned to stomp his feet, too, so it’s about to get even more interesting.

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But it’s mostly still good times, overall. He still loves music and is very gentle when Dave hands him the ukulele to let him try it. He loves the real piano at Grandma and Pop’s, and also loves to take a tour of the wind-up music boxes in their living room so he can dance. He’s getting exposed to lots of different styles of music thanks mostly to Dave’s eclectic tastes, but for now Elmo singing the alphabet is still tops on his list.

As he’s growing up, he’s getting better at understanding instructions and interacting with us in more meaningful ways. He participates in getting dressed and undressed now, putting his arms in sleeves, pulling off socks, and naming body parts as he goes. He climbs the stairs on his own, and he loves throwing trash out (we’re still trying to teach him that not everything is trash). Our conversations actually communicate information in two directions now, and that blows my mind.

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I think the next few months are going to be wild. I’m looking forward to them.

*Originally posted as 22 months because I apparently can’t count. I keep this blog real, folks.

Cupid’s Undie Run – Freezing for a Cause

I don’t run. My attitude towards running is summed up by this Garfield cartoon:

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I also don’t love the cold, as anyone who’s ever been within whining distance of me in the winter will know all too well.

Despite these things, on Saturday, in sub-freezing temperatures, I will be running for charity at the Cupid’s Undie Run in Washington DC. Yes, “Undie Run” means that they encourage runners to brave the cold and run in Valentine’s-themed undies. It’s like a polar bear plunge, but without the frozen lake. Just the same questionable judgment and the same shivering bodies.

Capture

Why run in the cold and risk frostbite patches on my cellulite? Because it’s a challenge. Because I want to stretch myself. And because I’m selfish.

You see, the one-mile run is in support of the Children’s Tumor Foundation, which raises money to fund research into and awareness of Neurofibromatosis, a potentially serious and sometimes fatal genetic disorder that affects up to 1 in every 3000 births.

Liam, my wonderful and adorable toddler, is that one in three thousand.

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He was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 1 (formerly called Von Recklinghausen’s disease) last summer, near his first birthday. He’s already had to go through sedation for three MRIs, and he’s on track for at least two more of those scans before his second birthday. He has tumors in his brain that need to be watched, because if they grow they could affect his eyesight… or worse. So far they’re stable and not causing any trouble, and we’re very, very grateful for that, but we’re doing scans every two months to be able to catch them right away if they change. Liam also gets regular physical therapy to help him catch up with the big physical milestones, because the low tone associated with NF1 means that his muscles have to put in more effort than the average kid to do the same work. He’s working very hard and he’s doing very well and we’re incredibly proud of him. He took his first independent steps just over a week ago, and we all cried a little.

He’s healthy and happy and just as nutty and exhausting as a normal toddler, and if you didn’t know about all this you likely wouldn’t even know there was anything going on under the surface. But this is a condition that will need monitoring for the rest of his life. And because the severity of NF1 varies so much from person to person, we don’t know what his future might hold. Raising money for this research is all I can do to try and improve the chances that even if the worst case scenarios come up, science will have a way to get him through them.

So I’m pulling on some bright underpants and running a mile in DC with a handful of wonderful friends, on a day the temperature won’t even break freezing. 

I’m not raising money for his big medical bills quite yet; so far it’s been expensive but manageable. But there are lots of kids out there who are living with NF1. Neurofibromatosis can cause nerve tumors in the brain or in the body, which can cause blindness or pain or other disability, and require surgery or chemotherapy. Those tumors often include small lumps called neurofibromas that can be seen on the skin, and those bumps can be off-putting to some, leaving people living with NF1 feeling isolated. Kids with NF1 are at greater risk than average for learning and processing disorders like ADHD and dyslexia.  The money I’m raising this week, by running in the cold in a goofy outfit, will help to fund research into these complications, maybe leading to better ways to prevent or manage them.

Please consider a donation to the Children’s Tumor foundation through the CTF website.

Learn more about NF, directly from the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Wish me luck on Saturday. It’s going to be hell, but this little guy is worth it.

Update, February 2017: Thanks to everyone’s generous support, my team met its 2016 fundraising goal of $1500. I won’t be running this year, but I encourage everyone to toss a few dollars towards NF research, if they can spare it. 

Note: The link to the awesome heart-print boxers is an Amazon affiliate link. You can learn more about that here. 




Liam at 18 months

Liam is 18 months old today.

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There are so many new things to talk about, because the past six months have been full of changes for Liam. He’s at a new daycare with a bigger group of kids his own age, and he keeps coming home with new words he’s learned from his friends. The new environment is helping him grow, and his teachers genuinely care about him, nicknaming him “Lima Bean” and arguing over who gets to hold him at the morning drop-off.

He’s wearing 18-month clothes now and it’s so strange to see how grownup he looks when he’s wearing collared shirts and jeans and little sneakers. He just got a haircut and I swear I see a teenager under there. Especially when he’s ignoring me. I’m going to keep him in footie pajamas FOREVER so he’ll at least be my tiny sweet baby at night.

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We have a pretty good eater, who’s eager to master spoons and forks and feed himself without our help. Unfortunately, his picky phase has continued and there’s a lot he won’t touch. Sometimes it’s about taste, sometimes it’s texture, and sometimes it’s that he forgets he loves cheese. Acceptable and unacceptable foods change week to week, so I’ve learned it’s better to go back to the store for more grapes on a grapes-are-good week, rather than buying a huge bag of them and realizing grapes-are-gross week arrived somewhere around Tuesday afternoon. He’s not a fan of veggies at all, and he hates chicken, but I’m hoping it’s just the lack of molars that are making those foods harder to handle. Yet Goldfish crackers somehow go down just fine. Hmmmm.

Also acceptable: Ah-PUUUHs.

I still get some green (and orange) stuff in him by putting it into pancakes or omelets, or taking a hint from the multimillion-dollar snack-pouch industry and mixing veggie purees with a good dose of applesauce. He loves peanut butter (ba-buh!), meatballs (ba-baw!), and waffles (faffle!). Loves to ask for them, anyway, frantically signing “more” only to yell “ah-dah” and shove the highchair tray once I hand them over. Of course, if we take away the tray, he reaches out to stuff one more chunk of waffle in his grinning face. I suspect this is the start of the crazy toddler era. But he’s right in the middle of the chart for height and weight so far: 26 pounds at his last weigh-in. So at least he’s eating enough!

Liam’s favorite toys right now aren’t toys. Sorry, everyone who keeps buying him wonderful toys! I’m sure he’ll come around! For now, though, he’s obsessed with random household objects, going so far as to throw his first tantrum ever over the living room clock, which we refused to take off the wall for him to play with. He calls clocks ney-neys, he spots them everywhere, and he wants them ALL. It would be cute if it wasn’t vaguely unsettling. He can’t have clocks, but we do let him have his next-best love, the kitchen broom, because he yells BWOOO and reaches for it every time we walk past it, and that’s hard to say no to.

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BWOOO being used ow-kai (outside)

His housekeeping training will begin as soon as he’s steady on his feet, because I could use the help sweeping up all the faffle bits on the kitchen floor. He’s also into pots, hats, spoons, and putting things into containers and taking them back out again, over and over and over. He also likes balls (mostly for throwing or for container transfer), and any toy that makes music. Because he was better with signs than words for a while, we taught him a little finger-waggle as a sign for “music.” He uses it to ask for music, but now he also waves both his index fingers around, conducting an invisible orchestra, whenever music is playing.

He plays a lot of music, too, as long as you’re generous in your definition of music. He has a few rattles, some jingle bells, a “piano”, two tambourines, and a xylophone of his own, and he loves making a racket with them. I bought him a plastic recorder to add to his collection after seeing his delighted response to Dave playing the penny whistle and ocarina.

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He’ll sit there and tootle away on it (just the one note) and then hand it off to each of us in turn. He loves the music boxes and the piano at his grandparents’ house, and he’s mesmerized when Dave pulls out the guitar or ukulele. Some of my favorite moments of the past couple of months have been watching my husband and my son play music together.12305755_10156247484120521_2099042422_n

SO MANY BOOKS are being read in this house. We have at least a hundred, and I think we’ve been through them all a dozen times each. “Book” was one of his first words, and he’s constantly yanking books out of the bin in the play room and handing them to us for story time. His current favorites are books with baby pictures in them, and ones with textured illustrations to poke at (or lick, in the case of “smooth shiny water”). He’s starting to copy the hand movements I use when I read stories, like “up” or “pop” or “no-no.” That comes out when I read him his solar system book: he swoops his arms around to show me the rings around Saturn and lifts up his hands to demonstrate how BIIIIG Jupiter is. It’s just the best thing.

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He’s got maybe 25 recognizable words, a half dozen animal sounds, and a few signs, and it’s wonderful to be able to communicate with him. He’s just started to show interest in letters, or at least the ABC’s song, which he demands by tapping any page with an alphabet on it, and saying “aiy-cee! aiy-cee!” He understands a ton, and is starting to make connections on his own, which means we’ve had to start being careful with what we say around him. If we slip up and use the real words instead of “round freezer breads” or “ground meat spheres,” there will be hell to pay if we don’t deliver his beloved foods immediately. He knows what NO means and he delights in wagging his finger at himself and saying nooooo, nooooo, as he’s about to eat cat food, crawl down the stairs, or stuff magnets into the gaps of the baseboard heaters.

He’s a great kid. Learning fast, starting to make his own decisions and put ideas together, and testing his limits. The next few months are going to be exciting and challenging as he gets a handle on walking and learns to communicate, and we find out more about what sort of little person we’re helping through the world. We’re very grateful for the village we have around us: friends and family, near and far, in person and on the phone and on the computer. So many people care about our family and want to see Liam succeed, but also to see us succeed as parents. It means so much to us to have so much support. Thank you.

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Moon

This morning, when we left the house, the crescent moon was bright in the sky. I pointed it out to Liam.

“Moon. That’s the moon. Look. Up.”

And he looked up. And he SAW it. And he stared and stared and stared.

He didn’t try to say “moon,” and he didn’t point. He just stared, absorbing the moonlight through his shining eyes. We stood there for a minute, faces to the sky, and he never moved except for blinking. Looking up. Up up up and so far away.

As I turned around with him to get him into the car, he turned his head so he wouldn’t lose the moon.

Liam at 9ish months

Liam at 9 months:

  • 28 inches
  • 19lb2oz
  • Size: at the gap between 6-9 month and 9-12 month clothes, so he’s wearing a lot of too-short pants until we can bump him up to the bigger size.
  • Teeth: Sharp! Two on the bottom front.
  • Favorite foods: meatballs, sweet potatoes, and Puffs.
  • Favorite toys: “My Pal Scout” puppy, and spoons. Metal kitchen teaspoons. Best things ever.

Liam’s done an awful lot in the two months since my last update post.

Our daycare provider had a baby and took some well-deserved maternity leave, so we had to come up with a six-week backup plan for Liam. Dave’s parents and my mom were total superheroes, swooping in to help us out. Liam definitely enjoyed the extra time with his grandparents, and I know they loved all that quality time with their grandson. The cost of a daycare center for those few weeks would have been astronomical, and we’re just so incredibly grateful that we had access to this wonderful alternative. It was a huge job for them to take on, and we know how lucky we are.

His sleep got progressively worse between 6 and 9 months. First we blamed a cold, then teething, but the real problem was that we’d gotten into a routine of rocking him to sleep every night. Rocking time was sweet and wonderful bonding time, but not a good strategy for teaching him to fall asleep on his own. Eventually, we could only get him into his crib by rocking him all the way to sleep and then inching across the room and putting him down sloooooowly so we wouldn’t wake him. We got really good at it. We could creep silently through the dark like a goddamned panther. But then he started waking every 2 hours during the night needing to be rocked back to sleep. It could take up to an hour of rocking-crib-scream-rocking-crib-scream repetition before he’d finally settle back to sleep. We were all miserable. So we tried sleep training. And it sucked. We used a version of “letting him cry it out” where we sat by his crib until he settled down to asleep. It took almost two hours the first night, with Dave sitting by the crib reassuring him but not picking him up or rocking him. It was so hard to hear him screaming for attention, and it must have been so confusing to the poor little guy, but we just couldn’t keep doing what we’d been doing. The second night was better, and the next one even better. Over the course of a couple of weeks we moved further and further from the crib. Finally, we got to where we could say “night-night” and put him down and leave the room completely. He still fusses a bit – some nights are harder than others – but he’s gotten very good at calming himself down and falling asleep without us. But I don’t think we could have gotten there without his WubbaNub. He used to wake up a few times a night and flap around trying to find his pacifier. Switching the small pacifier for his Wubba at bedtime has made a huge difference. It’s so much bigger and easier for him to find. We bought two more Wubbas as backups.

Wubba Wubba Wubba

Frog WubbaNub (Photo from overstock.com)

New development: he’s waving at everyone. Mommy, Daddy, the cats, his reflection, even the ceiling fan. He’s working on clapping but so far can only do a “gimme five” thing, slapping someone else’s hand over and over. He’s delighted when I hold his hands and make them clap, but when I let them go he flails them up and down instead of towards each other. He’s really all about his hands these days. Wiggling fingers and bending wrists, trying to pick crumbs off the floor and freckles off my arms. He will sit with quiet focus for a full minute trying to get polka dots off my socks. The upside of all this hand-work is that he’s very good at feeding himself now. He’s mastered Cheerios and is getting better at softer and squishier things, although some of those still just get smashed into the highchair tray. Because smashing things is fun.

Still no crawling, but the rolling has gotten faster and more determined. He’ll barrel roll across the floor until he hits an obstacle, at which point he’ll whine as he spins in place trying to get through the immovable object. Or he’ll lie there and kick it to teach it a lesson about getting in his way. He especially loves kicking the filing cabinet.

rollHe still can’t get himself from a lying to a sitting position, and hasn’t tried to pull up from sitting to standing. But while he’s stalled on crawling, he’s getting better on his feet. He can easily bear his weight on his legs and just needs some help with balance. We’ve started showing him how to play with some of the stand-up toys to encourage him, and he can stand there leaning on the play table for a solid couple of minutes with only the slightest support from one of us keeping him from tipping over.

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Standy-uppy baby!

Still talking. SO MUCH TALKING. No real words yet, just chatter, but he really enjoys “talking” to us and the cats. He’s got ba, da, ga, wuh, mmmmuh, tststs, and fff nailed down pretty well by now. He’s fascinated when I show him “bzzzz,” reaching out to feel my lips, so maybe he’s aiming for that one next. He’s paying so much more attention these days when we name things and talk directly to him, so I think the wheels are starting to turn in there. My money’s on “book” or “Animal” for first words, because we say them a lot and they’re sounds he can handle. He did say Ah-MUH once when Animal was around, but I think it was coincidence.

This baby has been the best baby for taking out on adventures. We go out every weekend, whether it’s to breakfast or Home Depot or to visit friends, and he’s such a wonderful easygoing traveler. He loves restaurants (and waving and flirting with our servers) and loves watching people from shopping carts. He sleeps well in the car, and chats with us or stares intently out the window while he’s awake. He hates having the sun in his eyes, and that’s the biggest problem in the car. None of the window shades we’ve tried does a good enough job, and if the sun’s sneaking past it into his face he gets frustrated, flappy, and loud. I’m still looking for the right shade, but I’ll have no problem pinning a big thin blanket over the backseat to make him a sun tent if that’s what I need to do.

Mom came to visit, and we played out in the snow. Auntie Michelle came to visit and we went to DC to see the Air & Space Museum. And lots of other friends came to visit in between. He’s such a friendly kid and loves to see everyone. But I can’t hand him over to anyone right now, because he’s starting to show some social anxiety. He’ll dive and scramble and whine while trying get back to me. It’s age-appropriate but it’s tough to not be able to give my arms a break at parties. And I can tell it makes people feel bad when he bursts into tears as soon as he’s in their lap. He’ll grow out of it soon, I hope.

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Visits with Grandmaman and Auntie Michelle

The thought hadn’t occurred to me until recently that as he’s learning all these new things, there are other things that are being left behind. And not just the teeny tiny PJs that no longer fit. So many adorable things that he’s not doing anymore. He doesn’t bounce his head off my chest like a dippy-bird when he’s hungry. I miss that. Waking up after naps, he used to have the cutest whole-body arched-back stretch, with his little legs folding up fetus-style and his arms reaching way above his head. Now he just flaps around and rubs his eyes. I think those curly legs are gone for good. He’s not a tiny baby anymore.

yard

How was your day?

5:15 – Wake from a nightmare about flipping my car off the highway in the rain. Take a second to make sure I’m in bed and not dead. Roll over, try to doze back off for 15 min until my alarm buzzes.

5:28 – Liam beats the alarm and starts fussing. Dave is already zombie-shuffling to the bedroom door because it was his duty night, so I tell him to just entertain the kid for a second while I pee and brush my teeth.

5:30 – Pee, brush my teeth.

5:33 – Take over so Dave can shower.

5:34 – Nurse hungry baby. Sing him his little morning song. Get him changed, dressed, and bibbed.

5:45 – Carry him downstairs, load a K-cup into my Keurig with the hand that’s not holding a baby.

5:46 – Sit him on the floor in the family room where I can see him from the kitchen, and give him his train to play with. Empty the dishwasher while playing peekaboo with him over the counter to keep him from crying.

5:51 – Feed Mojo, who is howling in the mudroom. Narrate this process VERY LOUDLY AND CHEERFULLY so Liam can hear me in the family room and not freak out because I’ve disappeared.

5:52 – Retrieve freaked-out-and-crying Liam from floor. Bring him upstairs. Carry him into my bedroom and plunk him in the middle of the bed (so grateful he’s not crawling yet) and hand him a bright striped sock to distract him while I retrieve my clothes and get dressed.

6:00 – Remember there’s a coffee waiting for me in the kitchen. Carry Liam back down. Add cream and sugar to the coffee cup, using one hand. Stir. Turn face and coffee cup as far away from little flapping hands as possible. Sip.

6:01 – Give up, give him the spoon.

6:02 – Back upstairs to play.

6:05 – Dave takes over on the floor.

6:06 – Dig through the dryer and find extra bibs for today. He’s drooly.

6:08 – Feed the other two cats since I just let them out of the laundry room anyway.

6:15 – Check that my pump parts and bottles are in my bag by the door. Throw food into my lunch bag for work.

6:18 – Put bottles and meals into his lunch bag for daycare. Put it in his backpack with two of the bibs, leave it with my pump bag by the door.

6:20 – Kiss Dave goodbye; he’s leaving for work. He hands over the baby and then brings all the extra bags to the car for me on his way out.

6:22 – Sit at my computer and have a sip of coffee. Push the button on his Baby Einstein Take-along-Tunes to hear a song. Turn around while kiddo’s distracted, and reply to an email from the pediatrician.

6:25 – Read stories, push the button again for more songs, and submit to being beaten cheerfully with a spoon.

6:40 – Remember that I haven’t brushed my hair since getting up. Leave kiddo on the floor (thank goodness he can’t crawl yet) and head to the bathroom to find a brush.

6:41 – Nope, he’s screaming at being left alone. Go back, pick him up, put him on the bathroom floor with an empty toilet paper tube. He eats it while I get my hair into a ponytail and hum one of the classical Einstein tunes.

6:55 – Put him in the carseat, strap him in, and position the musical elephant and twinkly bird toys where they can be easily thwacked. Tuck a blanket around him and leave his arms out, for thwacking.

7:00 – Drive him to daycare. Play Doubleclicks songs and sing along badly while he practices his da-da-da, ba-ba-ba and bfpfmmmpfpppb in the backseat.

7:15 – Drop him off at daycare, giving a sleep and feeding report.

7:20 – Drive to work. Listen to news radio so I’ll have something to talk about with other adults later.

8:30 – Arrive at work.

8:40 – Realize I forgot deodorant this morning. But it’s ok; I have a spare stick in my purse. Beside a ziplock bag full of Gerber Puffs and a tiny pair of socks.

10:00 – Pump break.

10:30 – Back to work.

1:30 – Lunch; check FB, check Twitter, click “like” a lot.

2:00 – Pump break.

2:30 – Back to work.

4:30 – Leave work. Listen to science podcast to keep my brain from melting from disuse.

5:35 – Arrive home. Dave’s not back with baby yet. Traffic must have been bad.

5:36 – Drag recycling bins back to the garage, because the truck guys left them blocking half the entrance to our driveway.

5:38 – Pick up cat barf in the kitchen, wash that part of the floor. Feed howling kitties. Consider that if they’d stop barfing the food up they wouldn’t be so goddamned hungry all the time.

5:40 – Wash bottles and pump parts. So. Many. Parts.

Bottles

5:55 – Prepare Liam’s dinner for tonight (chopped-up meatball, zucchini bits, and a Gerber chicken-and-apples dinner thickened with oatmeal) and breakfast for tomorrow (oatmeal with banana and plum purees from the freezer).

6:05 – Put on comfy pants and take a few minutes at the computer to work on a blog post.

6:10 – Dave arrives with Liam. I play with him on the floor while Dave puts on his comfy pants and comes back to join us.

6:30 – Get Liam set up in his high chair while Dave gives me the daycare report: timing and quality/quantity of naps, bottles, and poops.

6:35 – Feed Liam dinner. Meatballs are a big hit – none make it to the floor. When he’s done eating, we wipe him and the highchair down.

6:50 – Take Liam upstairs to play for a while. He’s really into his “My Pal Scout” puppy, and is fixated on poking him between the eyes again and again. I read him a couple of 6-page board “books” and Dave tries to coax him to crawl by placing toys out of reach. It just pisses him off.

7:20 – Put him in an overnight diaper, PJ’s and sleep sack. He does not like the sleep sack. There is a whiny protest.

7:25 – Try to nurse. He fights it, not really interested.

7:35 – Dave reads stories and rocks Liam to sleep. I bring a bunch of stray coffee cups downstairs for the dishwasher.

7:40 – Start peeling potatoes for dinner.

7:45 – Dave comes downstairs and we decide we’d prefer fast food tonight, so he heads off to pick something up while I cook the potatoes anyway (they’re peeled, may as well) and put them in the fridge.

8:10 – Eat dinner in front of the TV. Make fun of almost everything Christina Aguilera says on The Voice.

9:45 – Prepare bottles for tomorrow’s daycare.

9:48 – Feed howling kitties.

9:50 – Wipe counters and wash the dishes I dirtied while making the potatoes.

10:00 – Decide we want dessert, search the freezer for ice cream. Eat ice cream.

10:35 – Collect cats and put them in their rooms for the night.

10:40 – Bed.

11:55 – Liam’s awake. I go in and plug his pacifier back in. He’s quiet for 2 minutes and starts up again. Hungry? I make him a bottle, he drinks half an ounce and passes out again. I rock him for a while to be sure he’s out cold.

12:40 – Back to bed.

5:00 – Liam’s hungry. My alarm is set for 5:30 so I just turn it off and decide I’m up for the day.

Five, Six, Seven! Fun fun fun!

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I don’t need to look at the pages any more.

I planned to write a post for each month of Liam’s first year, so I wouldn’t forget anything. Turns out that what you need takes precedence over what you want once a baby shows up, and that need is often sleep or food or quietly thumping your forehead on your desk at 3am as you try to use Jedi mind tricks to stop the crying in the nursery*.

I started this post two months ago, intending to have it up when he turned 5 months old. Then I came back to it last month and went for the 6 month deadline. Third time’s a charm, but I’m not sure how coherent all of this will be, because it was written and edited in bits and pieces, mostly in the very early morning. (TL:DR summary: Liam is 7 months old. He’s a lot of work, but he’s pretty cute. We’ll keep him.)

Liam at 6 months (close enough):

  • 26 inches (22nd percentile)
  • 16lb11oz (33rd percentile)
  • Size 6-9mo clothes and size 3 diapers
  • Teeth: Zero
  • Faking us out to think he’s growing teeth: OFTEN
  • Hair: Kept most of it, still wispy and blond and cowlicked like mad
  • Eating: everything I throw at him
  • Favorite toys: Musical elephant, plastic rings, tupperware lids, Mommy’s feet (especially in striped socks)

He found his own feet somewhere around 5 months and has barely let them go since then. Every diaper change, without fail: pants come off, legs fly up and feet go in mouth. But everything goes in mouth now. Mommy’s hands, Daddy’s collar, toys, remotes, everything within reach. We’re having to watch him a lot more closely.

Not too closely, though, because he’s not rolling or crawling. I know he can roll front-to-back and back-to-front, because I saw him do both around 5 months. But he doesn’t want to do either any more. When he’s on his back he’ll sometimes roll partway over to grab at a toy, but he mostly lies there and kicks like mad. He’s just figured out sitting in the past couple of weeks, and he loves being upright, but he still topples over a lot thanks to his giant melon head.

MELONHEAD

And down he goes.

He loves his jumperoo and would bounce for an hour in that thing if we let him. He’ll bounce in your lap, too – he can be exhausted, whining, and rubbing his eyes, but stand him in your lap and those legs can’t help themselves.

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BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE

As much as he’s stubbornly stalled in some of the physical milestones, this kid is seriously determined to talk. He will flap his arms to get your attention and then tell you stories for half an hour, hardly stopping to breathe. He talks to himself at night, he chatters during car rides, and he gives very long-winded speeches during diaper changes. Don’t you look away or try to interrupt – he’ll just talk louder. He also loves music, singing, and dancing, and will go quiet and listen whenever I put on a Cookie Monster song or a Doubleclicks video.

He’s good at smiling. Also good at whining, which is new and really irritating. He’s starting to get upset if we walk away, which makes my mornings very difficult. I’m getting good at making coffee and brushing my teeth while holding a baby in one arm. Also getting good at drinking coffee at weird angles so he can’t grab the cup.

We’re slowly working towards better nighttime sleep, but every second or third night is still full of wake-ups and feedings and fussiness. The nights in between are wonderful 6-hrs-at-a-stretch nights, though, and I’m hoping those get more frequent. He’s learning. We haven’t tried any real “sleep training” except to try and get a consistent routine going and to leave him in his crib longer when he wakes up, to see if he can get back to sleep on his own. And he sometimes does, so I have hope for our future.

Breastfeeding is still going great, even though I’ve had to start supplementing with formula to keep up with his appetite. I thought it would be hard. I thought it would hurt and I’d hate pumping. When he was born I told myself I owed him the effort, and I’d try for at least a month. And then it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I feared. He latched well (most of the time), and it didn’t hurt after the first couple of weeks. Where I thought I’d resent being needed as a food source 24/7, instead I found that I enjoyed our nursing time together. I decided I’d keep at it until it was time to go back to work, and then maybe I’d try pumping for a week. I did a week. Then a month. And here I am, at 7 months, still doing it. I’m not sure how much longer I want to do it, but I feel like I’ll miss it once we stop.

He started solid food at the 6-month mark, and now he goes at it like he’s training for a competitive eating championship. He’s had rice and oatmeal cereals, peas, green beans, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, sweet potatoes, avocado, banana, apples, peaches, and pears. He’s also making num-num hungry-guppy faces every time he sees us eating, and taking serious swipes at whatever we’re having if it’s within reach. Juice and pretzels fascinate him and he’ll twist all the way around in my lap to watch them go in my mouth. He still can’t grip little bits of food, so for now we’re giving him a mix of jarred/packaged (it comes in little plastic boxes nowadays!) and homemade purees and mashes.

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Homemade mush

I would have liked to do all homemade stuff because it’s so much cheaper, but the prepared stuff is easy and fast. And once we’re into mixing flavors, I’m not going to be putting together my own kale-mango-quinoa blends for him. I’ll let Gerber and BeechNut have fun with that.

He’s adjusted well to being at daycare every day, and I’ve adjusted well to being away from him every day. I still have occasional pangs of guilt about it, especially with my hour-long commute getting me home only an hour before his bedtime, but I’m very happy with the provider we found. She has a small gaggle of other kids under her watch, but she handles them so well and I never worry that Liam’s being left on the floor to cry. She’s much more of a Fräulein Maria than a Captain Von Trapp. I don’t know how she does it. I’m confident he’s in good hands there. And he’s also sort of a big deal at his daycare. As soon as we’re through the door in the morning, we’re greeted by shrieks of “It’s Liam!! Liam Liam!!” from his fan club stampeding towards him. It’s adorable.

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He’s had his first Halloween, his first Christmas, his first snow… My little guy is growing up so fast and I’m afraid to blink.

 HOLIDAYS

*Mind tricks don’t work on him. So either he’s a Hutt or I need to go back to Dagobah for more training. Examination of his leg rolls indicates the former is a strong possibility.

Potato Masher Upgrade

I swear I’ll get back to deep and thoughtful posts soon. But something happened this week and I just couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. It’s important.

I bought a new potato masher.

I already had a potato masher, but it had issues. I’m sure the skill of the operator has something to do with the end product, but the old black plastic masher never did an acceptable job at lump removal. Lumpy mashed potatoes are no fun unless you’re deliberately going for some rustic-looking recipe from a Food Network show where the cook says “y’all” and tells you to leave the skins on and dump in a stick or two of butter. My only reliable technique for obtaining smooth mashed potatoes was to use my hand mixer and whip them up, but that meant digging out the mixer and the beaters, moving to where there’s a free plug, and washing more dishes. Not to mention the racket.

Weeks ago, at Ikea, I cradled a potato ricer in my hands and asked my husband if we could keep it. As usual, he told me to go ahead and get it if I wanted it. I hesitated at such an impulsive purchase, and asked a friend we were shopping with about his experience with potato ricers. He told me he adheres to the Alton Brown philosophy of kitchen gadgets: Don’t buy gadgets that are only good for one thing.

Ikea’s IDEALISK

He was right, of course. Buying a bunch of specialized kitchen implements is really a waste of money and storage space. How often does the average person pit cherries or slice eggs? I’ve been trying to downsize my kitchen junk, and a ricer would take up space much more often than it would be useful. And it sure looks like a pain in the ass to clean.

So little IDEALISK went back into the bin and I moved on to the textiles section without looking back. But my unlumpy mashed potato needs remained unmet, and I was sad.

A week later, I completely caved and bought a new potato masher. Which, if you think about it, is as much a single-purpose item as a potato ricer, making me a liar. But since I already had a masher, I felt like this was somehow a less frivolous purchase. It was a replacement. An upgrade.

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Left: old boring masher. Right: NEW AND SHINY!

I love that the handle is across the top, because you can get more muscle behind your mashing that way. It’s much easier to clean than my old masher, and the potatoes are a lot more smooth. Not perfect, but I guess nothing but a good whipping will ever get all the lumps out.

(Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, and you can read more about them here. I only link to stuff I love and recommend.)