Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year Over

On this last day of 2013, I sit cozily in front of my parent's fireplace in DC. I was going to respond to a pregnant friend's email asking about essential baby supplies, but I've always thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favorites (and least favorites) because it would be fun to look back on or have others add to. The first category was originally labeled "essentials," but I already had things running through my mind that one (or three) could absolutely live without, so I renamed it:


  • NoseFrida snot sucker. Paired with a bottle of saline drops, this clears out stuffy newborn noses
  • For girls clothes, anything Hannah Anderson. Yes, it's expensive, but super cute and high quality.
  • Smartwool infant socks: they stay on, they're cute, and they're pricey enough to make you keep track of them
  • City Mini by Baby Jogger: folds super-easily and is high quality. We don't have one, but my parents do and it's nice to use when we visit
  • Robeez (soft-soled leather slipper shoes): they help socks stay on and are just plain cute. Not sure yet how I feel about Target brand…
  • For walkers: Target brand Crocs: easy on and off, but stay on well too
  • Baby Bjorn potty and this book (which recommends starting at 7-8 months!)
  • Britax Marathon convertible carseat (not needed until ~10-12 months)
  • Bottle drying garden (I never had, but my sister feels it's a must. Probably good for wine glasses too)

Not so much:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Aside from a couple runny noses, we're thankful for health on this white Christmas day! May you feel loved and warm today, and may we see you sooner, rather than later.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Sweet Cora Bean

Here are a few sweet moments from our "quiet" time while Louisa finished up a long nap today. I'm so happy to report that these days, the good moments with these two ladies far outweigh the hard ones. And although life has been busy these past few weeks, things are winding down as our advent calendar empties of it's treats and prayer prompts. I'm hoping next week stays quiet, with lots of room for sewing, wrapping gifts and long walks (or runs)!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Year (almost) Gone By

Wowza. What happened to fall? Tomorrow is December 1st. With good memories from a laid-back, yet packed-full Advent season last year, we look forward to this year's time of waiting. Today I went for a walk with the girls while Nate made jars and jars of applesauce with the apples from our trees. While we were walking, I asked Louisa whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas. She answered, "Ahhhhhh," waiting for me to give her a hint. I gave away the answer right away and she immediately said, "oh! we eat cake with Jesus on his birthday?!" Maybe Loubear. Maybe. We'll probably have pie though.

The past two weeks were lovely. Marcia was visiting for a week, followed by a week-long visit by my parents. The three grandparents overlapped for a little over 24 hours to participate in Cora's baptism. During the entire two weeks, Cora was on cloud-nine, always looking happy and entertained and Louisa basked in the attention from her favorite Oma, Papa and Belle.

Thanksgiving went off without a hitch. My mom and Nate's cooperation in the kitchen was brilliantly choreographed - Nate dirtying every pot, pan and utensil we own as my mom danced behind cleaning up. Occasionally, I came in and put clean dishes away and made apple pie and mashed potatoes. We were sad that my brother Matthew wasn't able to come up from San Diego, but glad to share our meal with Nate's coworker and our friends, Pam and Brian.

On Friday morning after my parents left for the airport, we realized we had the whole day open, so we took off for Monterey to visit the aquarium and the coastline. Louisa is at a perfect age to enjoy an aquarium. We wondered how she would spend her time if given the freedom to wonder without prompts (i.e. okay, let's go see the octopus). A nice scenario was playing through my mind until Nate mentioned the gift shops. So lock the gift shop doors and put a FitBit on that girl! We drove south on highway 1 and watched the sunset on a small, warm beach. What beauty! Here are some of my favorite pictures. Take note of Cora's eye color. I think it's official!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Totally Improved Two's

The other day I told Nate that I've recently been writing a blog post in my head. I told him that it was about how awesome Louisa has been lately. I also told him that I needed to figure out how to make it SO CLEAR that I wasn't bragging. It is mostly for me…so that I can come to appreciate the good times in case the bad times come back. So here goes.

You may remember my miserable posts about our sleep wars. Well, soon after I bought a baby gate, pleaded with God, and bought a book about Positive Discipline, something worked. I'm a new person and so is Louisa. I think God poured a ton of patience into my heart and a bit of maturity/love into Lou's. Nate put it this way the other night: "She's just so much more reasonable now. She's tired and she knows it." Well said.

I bought the gate because I needed to have a way to know for sure that Louisa wasn't going to come walking out of her room long after I thought she was asleep. I hoped that we wouldn't have to use it often, and we haven't. I bought it on Friday, October 4th. I remember because Sunday, September 29 -- my 31st birthday -- was THE WORST mothering day ever.

Nate was out of town and Louisa refused to nap. I dragged a piece of plywood from the backyard to Louisa's doorway, set up a chair against it and sat down on the chair while I nursed Cora. You're probably wondering why I didn't just close the door and lock it. Believe me, I tried that. Louisa interpreted that as an invitation to try on layers and layers of clothes and stand on little wicker doll chairs to reach things that were purposely put out of her reach. Of course the plywood didn't work either, so after two hours of attempting naps, we went for a walk - Lou in the stroller and Cora in the carrier. I thought about who I could call and complain to, but I didn't want to whine about things that later would seem so insignificant. So I walked and I cried and I prayed. I did call Nate and say something like, "I just need you to know that I feel so unloved and alone right now." Poor guy. But I knew I needed to be real so that once I was feeling better I wouldn't just glaze over things and say the my day was fine. It was a very sad walk, yes. But later that night I completely understood why I had to go through it.

That night, the girls were asleep, so I took out my prayer journal and complained to God again. The gist of the conversation was this: mothering an infant was common sense and there was no discipline involved. I could do that (and did that) without asking God for help. Now I was desperate and literally said, "I CAN'T DO THIS." I had been good about asking God for help in other areas of life: whether to move to CA, job searching in CA, healing friends' cancer, but I was too full of pride when it came to parenting. After I prayed that night, I knew that if I would have called someone, I would have temporarily patched a hole while neglecting a conversation I'd been meaning to have with our loving God.

He is good and the past 6 weeks have been infinitely better. May I always ask for help sooner! Here is my sweet two-and-a-half year old. I apologize that it may be a video that only her parents find really cute and funny.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sitting in the grass, eating watermelon?

Two seedlings planted in April = one mini watermelon in October

At least it was pink and healthy inside
Cora sitting up like a pro

Our backyard. Hopefully this is a BEFORE picture. We're interested in removing a few shrubs and laying sod...

The reservoir hike

There is a nice 4-ish mile hike not far from here, and we ventured out on Saturday morning: Lou in the backpack, Cora in the Ergo. Once Cora fell asleep and the morning clouds "burned off" I regretted my choice in clothing - a wool sweater. Thankfully the decent is mostly shaded and without humidity, shade is cool. Ries was excited to be included in this family event!

Camping with Dad

One of my favorite events of the fall: Lou's first father-daughter camping trip. It was my favorite because I know they had fun, plus I had a relaxing evening/morning at home with Cora. Here are some photos to help the trip be a good memory for you, too.

This one's for Loubear

I just realized that I have some great photos to share, so instead of smashing them all onto one post, I'll separate them. Here are some cute pictures of Louisa from a quick visit to Sausalito on October 5, when Uncle Matthew came up from San Diego to run the Rock n' Roll 1/2 Marathon with me. A mother must learn to let go - I know - but still. Putting Lou on a tall wooden post next to water for a photo shoot, Nate? All is well. She didn't fall in.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Filling our bellies. filling our days

In early September, I took on a part-time job totally unrelated to nutrition. One, two or three mornings per week (depending on the week), I'm in charge of childcare for two ministries at a nearby church: MOPs (mothers of preschoolers) and WBS (women's bible study). It's so awesome that this church is big enough to offer childcare during the programming and I've been having fun taking care of all the little details. I plan curriculum (on Thursday the kids glued cotton balls to a picture of a mountain after reading a story about Moses), request/organize/deliver supplies, hire staff to work in the rooms, and make sure the fancy check-in computers are working right. I also get to sign timecards and log staff hours in a Google document. Ah, organization. I love it.

Another great part of the job is that I get to participate in the MOPS meeting and Bible study and Louisa and Cora get to glue cotton balls to mountains. Well, there is actually no craft in the infant room, but you get the idea. Although its challenging to get out of the house with both girls by 8 o'clock, I think I may miss "our" job come December 11. That will be my last day because the programs break for Christmas and when everyone reconvenes in 2014, Cassie, my friend who normally does this job, will return from maternity leave. Thankfully we'll still attend MOPS and WBS, but just won't be in charge of all the little details.

Louisa's exposure to a school-type setting has been so good too. Last year she would start crying when we drove into the church parking lot for MOPS. This year I can motivate her to finish her breakfast and get out of the house by telling her that we're going to MOPS. She loves her "tee-chairs" and likes to bring crafts home to "show daddy." Cora does well too. Although she is only 6-months old, I'm hoping that the lack of stranger-danger thus far is a good sign for the future.

Speaking of 6 months: baby food! Cora has tried sweet potato, banana, applesauce, cream of wheat, plain yogurt and mashed potatoes. The last three in this list were minuscule amounts because I was doubting myself that it's okay to give a 6-month old small amounts of cooked milk or yogurt. Since then, I checked. It is okay as long as you don't have a history of dairy allergies (in which case you need only wait until 12 months). It's not clean nor is it fast, but feeding Cora food is fun and she seems to be interested!

Here mom, let me help

A very serious occasion... 

Until Lou gets involved

Monday, October 7, 2013

A traveling baby

Cora is not crawling yet, but she gets around!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thankfulness & Laughter

It's not quite thanksgiving, but today when I was running, I felt the urge to jot down things I'm thankful for, or at least things that have made me laugh recently. First, the laughables:

  • After facetiming with Nate tonight (who is in AZ for ultimate), Lou asks me, "Daddy playing frisbee in China?"
  • Cora's "smile, then nuzzle" - her favorite way to interact with strangers or friends alike when I'm holding her
  • Bullying (yes, a serious subject) Stops Here! - Cora's first anklet

And the thankfuls:
  • My neighbor Tara and her 8 year-old daughter, who took Lou to their synagogue today while I did my 10.88 mile run with Cora
  • How nicely Cora sat in the stroller for 10.5 mile runs today and last Saturday
  • Friends in VA who sent a birthday card, and, after sending a text to say thank you, announced they're pregnant with their 2nd baby
  • Whole Foods workers who are willing to carry your groceries out and even load them in the car
  • How Lou returned extra Cora clothes and burp rags to Cora's drawers after I told her that Cora was going for a run with Mom while Lou went to synagogue with the neighbors (so Cora's things were not necessary in her backpack). Not only did she put things in the right drawers, she laid the burp rags flat
  • A last minute birthday-eve invitation to 9 wonderful friends resulting in a perfect evening of wine, chocolate decadence and humbolt fog with 3 of them

Friday, September 27, 2013

Learning as we go

For the first, oh, 23 months of Louisa's life, I was very convinced that everyone who said parenting was hard was being dramatic. It wasn't hard at all! Different than being single or married without kids, yes. But hard? No.

Well, now I see what they're talking about. Something about having a two year old or two kids has made things incredibly hard. So hard that I find myself yelling at least once per day. Most often, "it is TIME to go to SLEEP!" or "PLEASE do not GRAB things, Lou!" Last week I told Nelly, our amazing nanny, that she saved Louisa's life. She arrived, carrying a huge load of patience when mine was absolutely depleted. I had been trying to get Lou to stay in bed for her nap and she was NOT taking me seriously. Without the pack n' play, I have no way to make her stay in bed. Our "bedtime rules" don't seem important enough for Louisa, nor the star stickers cool enough. I'm open to suggestions as to how to make bedtime more peaceful! For now, I'm trying to learn about Lou and what motivates and drives her.

At MOPS this week, my table's mentor mom gave out charts from The Child Whisperer that outline personality types for kids. I had never really thought about trying to categorize Louisa, but the minute I read the 4 types, I knew exactly what she was and I was surprised. Here it is:

The Fun Loving Child (Type 1)
Primary connection to the world: social
Primary movement: bouncy and random
Primary need: have fun, happy parents
Described as: friendly, bright, light-hearted
Judged as: flighty, hyperactive, unreliable

I was surprised because neither Nate nor I are that type at all. I'm definitely sensitive and Nate is definitely serious.

The Sensitive Child (Type 2) ME
Primary connection to the world: emotional
Primary movement: subtle and thoughtful
Primary need: feelings heard, connected to family
Described as: gentle, tender, mindful
Judged as: shy, wimpy, hypersensitive

The More Serious Child (Type 4) NATE
Primary connection to the world: intellectual
Primary movement: straightforward and exact
Primary need: respect, given and received
Described as: efficient, analytical, thorough
Judged as: critical, know-it-all

Another reason that I was surprised at Lou's type is that she is just recently becoming this type. When she was younger, I think I would have said she was sensitive. But now, as she enters a stage where more behaviors need to be corrected, her confidence is evident and she can communicate better, I'm learning more about her (and parenting) each day. Although Cora is already 6 months old, which is just crazy to me, she's too young to categorize just yet. I'll get back to you once her type becomes more obvious. Maybe she'll round out the group and be the last one, type 3:

The Determined Child (Type 3)
Primary connection to the world: physical
Primary movement: active and determined
Primary need: new experiences, with parents' support
Described as: busy, persistent, energetic
Judged as: pushy, demanding, loud

I'll also get back to you about what I'm supposed to do once I know my kids' types...

To close, two pictures from our Happy Hollow Park & Zoo visit today:

Cora's first carrousel ride

Looking more sensitive here, huh? 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Wake, Nap, Nap, Nap, Sleep

People like to talk about babies' sleeping habits. I noticed it with Louisa and now with Cora. In a close second to the question, Is she sleeping through the night? comes the question, Is she on a good napping schedule? I know the answer to the first question for Cora, but until now, I didn't have a good grasp on her daytime naps. So I decided to collect some data. Here it is:

Wake: 7:30
Nap: 9:30-11:30
Nap: 1:50-3:20
Sleep: 7:45
Wake: 7:45
Nap: 10:15-11:30
Nap: 2-2:45
Nap: 4:30-5:30
Sleep: 8:00
Wake: 7:30
Nap: 10:00-10:30
Nap: 12:00-12:30
Nap: 2:00-3:30
Sleep: 7:30
Wake: 6:30
Nap: 7:00-10:00
Nap: 11:30-12:15
Nap: 2:30-4:00
Sleep: 8:30
Wake: 7:00
Nap: 9:40-10:20
Nap: 1:00-1:20
Nap: 3:30-5:15
Sleep: 8:30
Wake: 7:00
Nap: 8:30-9:15
Nap: 10:20-10:50
Nap: 1:30-2:00
Nap: 6:00-6:30
Sleep: 8:30
Wake: 6:30
Nap: 7:15-7:55
Nap: 9:30-10:20
Nap: 12:45-2
Nap: 5:15-5:45
Sleep: 8:30

Hopefully you didn't feel compelled to read the data. It's not very interesting. BUT it was a great exercise for me. It confirmed that Cora's daytime sleeping is not awesome. The only sleep book on my shelf is Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. He says that short naps (less than one hour, for a 5 month old, at least) are NOT restorative. Oh boy. Cora's data above shows that 13 out of 22 naps last week were less than 60 minutes. Ugh.

Another thing the author says is that if your baby wakes up once at night to eat or get a new diaper, you can still count it as continuous sleep (i.e., don't consider it a nap if they wake up but then go back to sleep from 4:30 to 6:30 am, for example). So you'll notice that I don't list a break in night-time sleep even though she did wake around 3:30 am three or four times last week.

After asking Nate how to mathematically average time, I did some calculations to arrive at Cora's averages. Here they are:

Average wake time: 7:20 am
Average total nap time: 3 hours, 7 minutes
Average going-to-sleep time: 8:07 pm

So what do I do with this data? Well, it definitely helps me to do my best to put her to bed at 8 pm. She falls asleep amazingly if I put her down when she's tired, but not overtired. So knowing her average helps me to anticipate what she needs. The next step is to figure out how to help her have two 1.5 hour naps each day. I'm afraid that might require letting her cry it out. Hmmph. It's so hard! Here's how I would prefer to let her sleep -- on the go -- but I think that's why her naps aren't restorative. I'll be thinking about how to slow down and make naps more of a priority...

Nice nap during a run in August (I found some free peppers along the way)
**Update on September 18:

I'm sitting in the kitchen thinking of things to do to distract myself. Cora is in her crib screaming and has been for the last 27 minutes. I'm supposed to let her do this for an hour?!? My sense of humor is being challenged because right when I resolved to let her cry, Lou learned how to climb out of her pack n' play. This handy pop-up crib has been our back up for times when she wouldn't stay in bed. Oh boy. What did I sign up for? I'll be okay. I'll be okay. I'll survive. Cora is safe. I love her so much that I'm helping her get the sleep she needs. 31 minutes. She stopped! Started again. I love you Cora babe. Cora Bean. You'll be okay. I'll be okay. In the long run, this is better. Can I just start crying too?

At least Louisa is still in bed. After she climbed out, I folded up the pack n' play and put her in bed. The book I referenced earlier recommends the "silent return to bed" method. Nate and I laughed when we read the case study about a 2 1/2 year old who had to be put back to bed, sans emotion, 69 times the first night, 145 times the second night, but stayed in bed the third night and every night after. We laughed out of nervousness, I think. Would we even have the patience to do it 35 times? I was excited to try it, but after something like 6 times the first night, Cora needed to eat and Nate wasn't home, so I put Lou in the crib. Now that that's no longer an option, I'm not sure what I'll do. Hire a put-the-kids-to-bed nanny when Nate isn't home at bed time?

Yes, Cora is still crying. 37 minutes. I changed her and fed her before I started this, I promise. I've checked in on her to make sure her arm or leg isn't awkwardly stuck in the rungs of the crib. I'll be fine. She'll be fine. Better than fine, right? Well rested, loved, stronger, better at self soothing...

So more about the "silent return to sleep" method for Louisa. Let's call it SRTS. The thinking is that if you show emotion, whether positive (hey babe, it's really time to go to sleep...) or negative (if you get out of your bed one more time, I'll take away your doll...), they learn that coming out of bed earns attention, which is precisely why they come out of bed. The times I have done SRTS with Lou, I've felt calmer and free. Yes, I had to assume I'd be doing it for the next little while, but before adopting the practice, I would get so worked up and angry. (Cora? Yes, still crying. 45 minutes. Going to check those arms and legs again...still okay, still safe). I had forgotten that she's two and not necessarily doing it to be "naughty" but more because she is curious about what's going on outside her room. The author also recommends a SLEEPING RULES sign, designed by the child, framed and hung triumphantly. By the age of 3, they should be able to recite the rules and be proud when they follow them. Here are the rules:

At bedtime we...
1) Stay in bed
2) Close our eyes
3) Stay very quiet
4) Go to sleep

We'll be making our poster soon. WOAH. She's quiet! Cora is quiet. Six minutes shy of one very difficult hour. I love you Cora babe. I love you so much, I let you cry yourself to sleep today.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Terrific Two's

Nate has been gone this week, so Marcia generously rescheduled her week to spend time with Cora, Louisa and me. We've had lots of fun...walks, naps, sharing meals, and taking turns on stay-at-home child duty while the other one worked or ran errands. Today, the first day without work for me, we all went on an outing to the mall. I know. The mall? Why? Well, it's true what they say: it's really fun buying clothes for little girls. And it's easy to justify buying new cloths for the older girl when you know the younger one will get to wear them too. Plus there are some really cute stores that I've never lived near before, like Hannah Anderson and Naartjie.

I've never tried clothes on Louisa in a store, mostly because I try to shop alone. It's much more enjoyable that way. Today Marcia decided it was worth trying things on. It was about 12:30, which is prime nap time for a 2.5 year old whose been up since seven. Tiredness often hides behind silliness, and today was no exception. She was running out of the dressing room, giggling and squealing, in her PANTIES...all the way out the store into the mall. While I was pretty embarrassed, I'm also couldn't help but enjoy the stage Louisa's in: one that knows no embarrassment and comes with seemingly endless amounts of joy and confidence.

Of course there are days where I want to put my face in a pillow and scream because I don't understand this two-year-old-transition we're going through, but generally the rough times are mirrored by sweet or funny times. For example: we're working on staying in bed once you've been put to bed. We have a pack n' play set up in Louisa's room though and if she comes out of her room, she goes in the pack n' play in a "silent return to bed" fashion. I knew Louisa understood the routine, but I was surprised (and wanted to laugh a lot) when she was able to articulate it yesterday. Out of bed one time?...go in pack n' play, is what she told me. I thought for sure her stating the rule meant she'd stay in bed. Not at all.

Another example: using poop as a procrastination tool at bedtime. She has learned that we'll listen if she mentions poop. This is frustrating because I can't think of many things more potentially damaging than telling your newly potty-trained child that they are lying about having to poop (or pee) when they actually have to use the potty. So usually I get her out of bed and let her sit on the potty, only to be disappointed by a teaspoon of pee in the little plastic bowl. But the sweet/funny part of this bed-time evasion is that when she does poop (which she's done in the potty ever since my last blog post) she is so proud and happy.

I'll leave you with one more funny thing Lou said lately and a sweet picture. Without any obvious reminders of her Aunt Georgia, Louisa said, Love Georgia. Love Pat too. Here's a photo from a few weeks ago that I should bring to mind when I want to scream. Who's heart can't be softened by unprompted hand holding?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Photo Overflow

Here are some pictures...each worth at least 2,000 words. :) Love to you, my loyal readers.

Future 1/2 marathoner (and chocolate milk lover)

Sophie, you silly $17 giraffe

Loubear hug is coming

Cora surprises Lou with an open mouth kiss

Not convinced on this whole tummy time thing

Much happier on my back, thank you

A run/walk with all the girls

Because the last picture was Ries' best (worst) "BEFORE" shot

The frisbee fields in Santa Cruz (Nate's team won the tournament!)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hair Cuttin' & Library Scootin'

We recently took a great, girls-only trip back to Wisconsin. I didn't plan on haircuts, but both the girls ended up coming home with less hair than when we left California. I think for the better. No offense, Cora, but your hair, while surprisingly dark and in excess at birth, wasn't looking very good. So with a little electric clipper, I buzzed it. Not that she didn't already look like a baby, but I think she looks even more like a baby-baby now.

The best (worst) BEFORE picture




In contrast, Louisa's haircut makes her look older. She's also seeming older now that she's 70% potty trained. Thanks mostly to Oma and the great book that I mentioned before, we no longer have to worry about buying diapers or getting rash-y in cloth "dipes" (as we call them around here). Okay, yes, I still do have to worry about these things for Cora, but luckily she hasn't developed any rashes with cloth diapers, so I haven't yet been forced to place large, expensive diaper orders on Amazon.

My favorite new picture. Not post-related, except for the view of Lou's hair

I'm calling Louisa's potty training 70% complete because of the poop part. Pee is easy. She knows when she has to go and can hold it (knocking on wood now). She even peed in a big potty at the airport and in the potty on the airplane. But pooping - HELP! For the first two weeks she just went in her panties in order to avoid the potty. Then she held it in for 2-3 days and finally on the third day started to complain that her tummy hurd and that she needed to fro up. I assured her that she would feel better as soon as she pushed it out, but she really didn't want to sit down and do it. Eventually she pooped on the floor. We celebrated because she instantly felt better and I instantly stopped worrying about impacted stool. I think the celebration was a mistake though, because today she definitely was looking forward to pooping on the floor and when she did, she celebrated, saying, daddy happy and yay, Towa! poop came out!  Oh my. Is this really want I want to be blogging about? To wrap things up, a video:

See Where Our Pictures Were Taken