bedtime for two

sisters at play, originally uploaded by kelanew.

how to manage bedtime for two kids on your own, when the elder is not accustomed to falling asleep on her own and the younger is too old to just nurse quietly at any time of your choosing:

night 1: take papa to the airport at the crack of dawn. during the sleepy day that follows, discuss with eva that after pjs/potty/teeth/book/song, you and hazel will go downstairs so hazel doesn't keep her up. feel far too reassured when she agrees to fall asleep on her own. subsequently answer her queries down the stairs every 20 minutes, at first with "iloveyous" and giggles then later with shouting and explanations of consequences. continue in this loop until 11, even though you must wake up early for a daytrip in the morning.

night 2: in an effort to avoid a repeat of night 1, orchestrate your day such that you eat dinner before your drive back into town, planning for the kids to fall asleep in the car. inexplicably, feel far too reassured (once again!) when the plan works. ninety minutes later, start the cycle of the previous night all over again when she wakes up. later, make her cry by shouting up the stairs in frustration "just. go. to sleep!", and nearly cry yourself when she responds through tears, "mama, you're not being very nice to me." go up and sit with her until she falls asleep. fret that she was up until 11:30, knowing the alarm is set for 6:45 to take the rescue puppies to get spayed and neutered.

night 3: get home late when it takes forever to pick up the puppies. mentally check out after the makeshift dinner, mentally check back in to realize your daughters are playing on the floor, giggling hysterically at each other, scoop up your heart from where it melted into a puddle on the floor. decide "screw bedtime" and follow the giggles instead until after 9. be amused rather than frustrated when hazel grabs the bedtime book 42 times and literally crawls back and forth over you and eva over and over as you read. wish you had a video camera handy to record the insanity. go along with eva's request to stay with her. amuse hazel on the floor rather than the bed so that she'll stop crawling on her sister. stare at eva's sleeping face just 7 minutes later. wonder why on earth you bothered with the hours of craziness the previous two nights.

night 4: plan to not bother with bedtime at all, given there's no need to wake up early and that papa will be home tomorrow. surprise yourself by initiating the bedtime routine promptly at bedtime because things seem to be heading that direction with ease. follow the night 3 plan, marred only by papa's phone call home when eva is all but asleep. be amazed when both children are sleeping peacefully by 9:15! get a glass of wine and watch an hour of trashy television. be more than ready to welcome papa back home tomorrow!

ralphie, help!

you will not believe what just happened to me.

i was packing our lunch for our day trip tomorrow, and since my last remaining ice pack leaked yesterday, i was making another tray of ice to use in cooler instead. (our ice maker has been broken for ages, so we put trays in that little bin up top since it's otherwise unused freezer space.) so i filled the tray, spilled a bit, and stuck it in the freezer.

("spilled a bit" is the foreshadow there, but "stuck" is really the key word.)

well, apparently my wet index finger and thumb found a metal bar inside the ice maker, and were instantly and firmly stuck. really stuck. who even knew that metal bar was there, hiding behind the plastic case up high where it can't be seen? uh oh.

i tugged a bit, no luck. i glanced around for some sort of tool... not sure what i was looking for, but in any case, our kitchen is arranged such that the freezer is practically in the hallway, so there's no way i could have reached anything other than a box of oatios. contemplated flinging a foot toward the counter in hopes that my water bottle would roll my way, realized that wasn't going to work. it was my right arm stuck in the left-side freezer, so i couldn't really open the fridge side, let alone reach anything of use in there.

i should point out that i'm alone in the house but for a preschooler and baby (both asleep) and three dogs, two of which are post-surgical and locked in a crate -- in the kitchen no less, watching me with interest. i suppose i could have, in theory, yelled loud enough to wake eva all the way upstairs, but i'd rather rip the skin off my fingers than traumatize both my kids to that degree (nevermind the case of frostbite i'd have by the time she could help).

i was still calm, and remembered what i learned growing up on the tundra, what everyone tells you to do when the predictable happens and you get your tongue stuck to a metal pole -- you wait. wait until your body heat melts the ice and then you will be free. well, i only stuck my tongue to a pole once as a kid and this was before i was offered this sage advice, so i've never personally tested this theory. until now. i don't know if it only works with tongues not fingers, or if the freezer makes it worse than the outdoors somehow, but i waited as long as i could and the stuck-on patches didn't even get smaller.

or, it seemed they didn't anyway. i couldn't see my fingers (or that damn bar!), and it's hard to assess since they were getting so cold. by this time, it was really starting to hurt quite a lot, and i'll admit, the cool-in-a-crisis me was walking out the door, leaving time-to-panic me still stuck in the freezer. sure, it's funny, (i thought), but i've exhausted my options and i can't just live in the freezer from now on. here comes the inevitable -- similar but more dire versions of this thought have gone through the minds of many a hiker trapped under a boulder or logger trapped under a tree -- i'm going to have to just do it. i'm going to have to rip off my finger skin.

oh, but i really, really don't want to! i gave it a tentative little tug. apparently, it's not as easy as you might think to rip off your own flesh. but man, was it starting to hurt... or maybe you have to do it bandaid-style and just go for it? i was thinking this one through when inspiration struck! i had it, i thought of the solution, and it worked! (obviously it did, or i wouldn't be typing this... i'd still be in the freezer or nursing some sizable finger-wounds instead.)

now, let's just pause here for a second. anyone remember "encyclopedia brown"? i used to love those books, and loved that feeling of satisfaction when i could figure out the mystery on my own before checking the back of the book for the answer. so let's all have a little encyclopedia brown moment, shall we? you have all the clues you need to solve this problem (not to mention you have the benefit of it being thusly narrowed for you, rather than having to scan my entire kitchen in a panic as i did).

did you figure it out? probably it's obvious, but no cheating. scroll down after you've made your guess.

















(guess, you smartie-pantses, if only because then you can gloat in the comments section...)

















the ice cube tray! i had just put it into the freezer, so it was filled with water (versus, say, ice). after some maneuvering, i managed to get it out with my free hand and pour the water over my stuck fingers. (there was a momentary panic when i thought all available water was gone and one finger was still stuck, but turns out there was enough to go around after all.) my fingertips were blanched completely white in a weirdly-defined shape on both fingers, which looked pretty freaky, even for someone who grew up routinely dealing with 40 below temperatures. after the painful "thaw" stage was over (yeowch!) things seem fine, though, and i think come morning i won't even know it happened.

except, i will know. i'll not soon forget the time i managed to get stuck in the freezer with no one around to help. though perhaps it was better that way -- remember that woman in the 80s who famously got stuck in her dishwasher? rather than helping, her husband video taped her and laughed his karmically-challenged head off, then sent that into america's funniest home videos. that said, i'm sharing because i don't mind being laughed at, as long as it's happening while all my fingers are a normal temperature and i'm free to move about the cabin.


car rhyme

nurse...?, originally uploaded by kelanew.

eva made up this rhyme in the car, then repeated it three times the exact same way so i knew it was important and had better write it down. fyi, when i asked eva what a "soldier" was when she started saying it a few months ago, she said "someone who guards a castle" (meaning she heard this term at school). okay, good -- glad she didn't learn about soldiers from overhearing too much NPR! (can't remember the last time we read "brown bear, brown bear" but i guess she saw hazel's copy lying around recently?)

soldier, soldier, what do you see?
i see a dragon chasing me.

dragon, dragon, what do you see?
i see a bear eating my tail!

bear, bear, what do you see?
i see an alligator jumping on my head.

yesterday we played all day long at the new braunfels children's museum. she and hazel had a great day, and it was sweet to see them playing alongside each other with eva's friends.


nine in nine out

eat your veggies, originally uploaded by kelanew.

poor, poor, neglected second children. hand-me-downs aren't the half of it -- eva's babyhood was meticulously recorded (at least in contrast!) and hazel's... well, i end up posting every two months or so, and saying everything i can think of all at once. (though, i hear third children are known to pick out their own baby books at the age of four or so, right baby sister?) hazel, as for you, find solace in the fact that i'm playing with you and enjoying you instead of obsessively recording each and every tooth.

well, so far, i'm actually on top of the teeth. two. that's it.

hazel is 9 1/2 months old. she's healthy and happy and growing like crazy. she's smiley and easy-going (but makes her opinions known when she needs to). just by being who she is -- and her hazelness is really starting to make itself known -- several times a day larry and i are required to exchange glances, smile at each other, and say "just look at that baby!" or "can you even believe this baby?" being her parents it's not too surprising, i know, but we're endlessly amazed by her very existence on a daily basis. it can't get better than that.

i should say (and should have said to start out), you can pretty much stop reading unless you're a grandparent or auntie. these "baby book" posts are just that -- intended for hazel herself when she gets older, and for doting family. everyone else can tune in another day if they like.

today i called larry at his conference to say "guess which one of your children just said 'light'?" generally i'm not so bold as to pronounce a word as being an actual word until i hear it in context a few times, but it was just so obvious i called larry. she's already been saying "mama" -- that started as sort of meaning me but sort of meaning "someone bring me comfort!", which is more or less what mama means, anyway. that would be her first official word at 8 mo (eva's was "dog", followed months later by "grandpa", at least as i remember it.) since then,she's been saying "ummuh" for "lemma" (the dog, i'm sure because i'm always shouting the poor dog's name... oops), and a few times i've thought she's said "baba" for papa, but i'm not sure of that one yet.

light, though... that couldn't have been more clear. why? well, as much as i'm a huge proponent of baby signs (i'll tell anyone who'll listen, it's the biggest payback for the least effort of anything i've ever done as a parent), we've been a bit lazy about it with haz. she signed some around christmas, and then dropped down to only signing light. we're really consistent with that one! at every meal, we sign when we turn on the light above the table. so, today i flipped on the light and was about to sign it to her, and she looked at the light, looked at me, and said "ligh" (missing the "t"). cutie.

this photo was taken 6 weeks ago when she was 8 months old, eating various veggies. she's quite the eater (and let's just say, that's in stark contrast to my previous experience). i think she's yet to turn down a food -- maybe zucchini? -- and loves to eat all different kinds of tastes and textures (and rocks too). we've still not given a few things (like dairy), but other than that, she pretty much eats what we eat. i love that, like a few nights ago, sitting at the dinner table with larry and our girls, everyone eating veggie & lentil stew over brown rice. those moments make me wonder where this little family of mine came from. crazy!

hazel's new favorite game is to use the rocking chairs my dad made for eva as climbing gyms. she stands on the seat and holds the back and rocks, or sits on the arm (threatening to tip it over on herself!), crawls off face first, etc. loves it. she gets her leg stuck under the arm, but works out how to disentangle it on her own.

but the biggest news is probably that she's thinking about walking. she took her official first steps this week (or last week,maybe? it's all a blur, honestly). she'll reach out and take three to five steps toward you, with a huge grin on her face. now she'll walk between pieces of furniture, and so i think we could be in trouble very soon. she's been on the go since she was just days old, so once she can walk for real... she'll be off exploring her world with mama trailing behind trying to keep up.

her hair is getting a bit lighter, in that zone between blonde and brown, and the more it stands away from her head, the clearer it becomes that she will have some amount of curl. eva loves that idea, that they'll both have curly hair.

speaking of that... eva loves hazel with the biggest love i've ever seen. it's overpowering, and i just enjoy watching them together. they're getting to the age where they play together -- athough sometimes eva shrieks and tries to hoard her toys when hazel starts plodding over her way, just as often she's trying her best to entice hazel to join her. eva tells us (daily!) that she loves hazel most of all, even more than mama, even more than papa. that she sometimes is sad at school since babies aren't allowed to go there, so she misses her sister. she wants to snuggle with hazel, to touch her, to talk to her, all the time (which sometimes becomes an issue when hazel is trying to sleep). and it's clear already that hazel reciprocates all of this, she seeks out eva and laughs with eva more than with anyone else. if eva is around, hazel feels safe and comforted. i know they'll have to work through their relationship as young kids learning to share space in a family togther and as teenagers/adults as they have to figure out how to relate to each other as people -- and none of that is easy -- but when i see the foundation they have, the love in their eyes... i feel so happy that i get to be a witness to their unfolding relationship. they'll always be sisters, as eva is fond of saying.

off to bed, big adventures in store for tomorrow and i've been behind on sleep this week.


first date

afternoon pick-me-up

[rereading this, it almost sounds like things are Just Plain Awful. and they're not. there are a few more struggles than usual, and eva and i could stand to reconnect a bit, but it's not like we're having a big problem or anything. i just felt compelled to point that out. that, and that she adores her sister like you would not believe... but loving your baby sister doesn't preclude you from missing your mama. --k.]

eva has been a bit out of sorts lately. i know some of it is just the usual stuff -- social learning at school, what seems to be a pretty good growth spurt in the last month or two -- but some of it is coming directly from me. i've been struggling (again!) with this health stuff, whatever it is (we're guessing orthostatic hypotension type stuff, but who the hell knows), so i'm often tired, or cranky with her when i shouldn't be. plus, hazel is requiring more attention these days, and with hazel's tendency to get into eva's stuff, the responsibility of figuring out the early sibling dynamic falls mostly to eva. it's hard being three and a half sometimes. so she's been expressing a lot of frustration and anger, but also a lot of love, sometimes colored with a bit of longing, i think. (and she tells me things like "... and sometimes you're tired and papa has to help me instead" or asks "are you too tired mama? do you have no blood sugar?" which pretty much breaks my heart.)

i decided that maybe what might help would be some one-on-one time with me, which she has had almost zero of in nine months. (our big first date!) so we discussed it, and made a plan to have some "special eva and mama time all by ourselves" at a coffee shop. she planned the activities, and wisely chose things that are made more difficult when hazel is around (books, puzzles).

miss hollywood so after i took the dogs to get their vaccinations (these would be the stray puppies that last week began living in our back yard -- after being tossed over our fence in the middle of the night -- but now due to inclement weather apparently live in our kitchen), and after she selected exactly what she wanted to wear and how she wanted her hair, we headed out to a coffee shop we had never been to before.

from the moment we set out, her mood was completely shifted. we chatted and joked, no crankiness anywhere (from either of us). she ordered a foamy milk and chose a cookie as her treat. she chose a high table and scrambled right up into the chair.

puzzling we finally did the puzzle gram sent. she loves puzzles, but they can be hard at home because hazel can't leave them alone, but hazel also gets upset if we're all somewhere she isn't. i noted that she did this puzzle with zero frustration, when lately even taking off her pants can cause an explosion of frustration. so much of this is about feeling heard and validated (which can't be faked while doing six other things), i'm now realizing the full extent of this need. then we read a chapter in the book she chose. she lounged back in her chair and sipped her milk as i read to her, uninterrupted, until we were done. and no one tried to grab the book out of our hands, or needed to nurse, or bonked her head the whole time. (reading can also be a challenge at home.)

hazel bog hat she wanted to label our cups with our names, which she did, and then she moved that into my writing words for her to sound out, which is one of her favorite games these days. it's fun to watch her start to make all these connections about letters and sounds and words, and the concept that someday she'll be able to put that all together herself and read on her own. she insisted we bring the cups home. i guess once something has your name on it, it becomes more difficult to just toss it mindlessly into the trash.

and then, she had a hard time leaving. i know she didn't want it to end, and promises to do it again soon fell on deaf ears. like a switch, she instantly moved back into that other mode, the "if you say that then you're not my mama anymore!" mode. "if you keep saying we have to leave," she continued, even though we were in the car and halfway home at that point, "then i'm never going to play with you again!" oh, i said, then i would be sad because i like playing you. she replied in true three-and-a-half form (so many conflicting emotions!): "i would be sad too, because i like to play with you, but i still wouldn't play with you because you said that!" all followed by a sigh, sounding just about as exasperated as she could manage.

and true to form, i understood and worked with it at first. i know where she's coming from, i get it. but after being yelled at every-which-way for the entire drive home and into the house and then waking up her sister, i lost my cool and got snappy at her. i always mean to do better, and sometimes i do. or, i do for a while, but i can't quite shake the feeling that i'm failing her at least some. because for two hours on a saturday afternoon, removed from all distractions, we were perfect. and it was lovely. and i miss that.

but i know life is just what it is. we're both doing what we can, and generally it's good and only sometimes it's not... but then sometimes it's amazing. today was amazing in that little pocket of time. and never mind all the rest, we have that. and we can move from there.

learning more about things

all partied out

driving to school the other day discussing her shoes, i sounded like an Official Mom and said "you know eva, when i was your age, they didn't even have velcro on shoes. can you believe that?" this lead to a discussion of other things they did or did not have when i was a kid. she asked:

yes, we had cars, but they didn't have cars when my grandma eva was a kid.
yup. paper is actually really old. like more than a thousand years old!

"but you know what we didn't have? the internet. there was no internet when i was a kid."
"what?! no internet? but then how did you learn more about things?"
"that's a good question, eva. i don't know, i can hardly remember how we did that..."

and honestly, it is all pretty vague. how *did* we learn more about things before the internet? i remember a world with these things called "phone books", which much to my annoyance *still* up on my front step every spring. and i have fuzzy memories of a school trip the library -- the nearest one was 45 minutes away -- so i could use a "card catalogue" (eh?) to find books about laura ingalls wilder for my 4th grade research report.

i'm all for limiting media for young children, but i see little benefit in being dogmatic about it. (that said, i have little patience for dogmatism in general, as it often belies a lack of critical thought and is almost never helpful to one's cause.) opinions vary, but for me, i have no problem using appropriate media to facilitate her desire to investigate a topic of interest. computer, TV, whatever... to me, the content is far more at issue than the particular medium (just because it's in video form doesn't mean it's garbage, and just because it's printed in a book for children doesn't mean it's quality material.) but i digress...

earlier today, we finished reading "clementine", a "young reader" type book (10 chapters, 160 pages of largish font, some pictures, you remember the type) about a precocious eight-year-old girl who tends to find a lot of trouble despite her best intentions. eva loved it -- no surprise, since she is currently *obsessed* with how amazing life will be once she's eight years old. in fact, we were going to save the last chapter for our coffee shop date later that afternoon, but then she decided "just one more page", then maybe one more, and then i just read to the end. i was an avid (obsessive?) reader as a kid (flashlight under the covers on a school night type of thing), and it makes me so happy to see her learning the excitement of sinking into a long story, wanting to know what happens but at the same time, not wanting it to end.

so after the last page she said, "is that the end? is there any more?" i told her i didn't know if there were other books about clementine or not, but that we could find out. i brought up google, and told her she could type the author's name so we could search on the internet. i know she's a fan of copying down words by typing them -- various times recently i have returned to my email to find it says "caps lock" or "backspace", which she carefully copied from the keyboard itself. she carefully typed "s-a-r-a p-e-n-n-y-p-a-c-k-e-r" and hit enter. up popped the author's website, with a familiar picture of clementine right there! one more click and we saw cover images for *two* other clementine books. i navigated us over to the city library site, and we found that one of them is on the shelves at our local branch. yea! she's very excited. we'll have to pick it up next week for extra entertainment when larry's out of town.

i don't really have a grand point here, but yea internet, yea love of learning, and yea reading. and yea for sharing all these amazing things with my very own daughter. that's one of the best things i've ever had the privilege to do.

she just said to me while i was typing, "mama, did you ever have this feeling that you love everything in the whole wide world? i'm having that feeling *right now*!" yes, eva, i do know that feeling.


fun with spatial relations

lately many of my "hmm" moments with eva have related to spatial relations. seems like she's starting to wire up that aspect of her brain. (other fun things include more wacky vocabulary that surprises me, and adding/subtracting, which for whatever reason, happens mostly during dinner, when "subtract" = yum.) so, some spatial relations related (ha) highlights from this week:

eva's been taking a keen interest in left and right. we were driving home from an errand, and she noticed i was going straight instead of turning, so i pointed out there is more than one way to get home: turn right or go straight then turn right. she said, well, if you go straight even longer then turn left instead, you go to jennifer's! [jennifer cuts our hair.] i was surprised, since she was in fact correct, but we'd never gone to jennifer's from there before because it wouldn't make sense based on where our house is. then, she wanted to discuss more about which is her left hand. it's the one closest to the window, this is the left side of the car. she thought about it then replied "but hazel's left hand isn't on the left side because she's backwards. when we turn her car seat around when she's bigger, then her left hand will be to the middle."

last night, larry was reading her some new chapter books we got from the library (she was really excited about this, we even talked to the children's librarian to get suggestions. we've started with a "mrs. piggle wiggle" selection.) he read to her for over an hour, so i guess it went well. i overheard a line stating that mrs. piggle wiggle's house was upside down, and before he could continue with the description of what that would entail, she said "that's silly, then her fan would be on the floor!"

this morning, i found the ticket stubs from the children's theater performance rita treated us to this weekend -- that was eva's first theater experience (a musical, "the and and the elephant"), and she loved it. as distracted as she was by the setting ("we're way up high by the ceiling! those lights are shining from behind a screen!"), she followed the story and enjoyed recounting it later. anyway, i showed her how the tickets told us which seats to sit in, pointing out that we had seats 2, 3, and 4 in row N. eva, who sat between larry and i at the performance, said "oh, that means i was sitting in seat 3!" (she likes 3s. she's three and a half, you know. oh, did you know that she's three and a half? in case you hadn't heard.)

this morning she told me something i'd said was "quite cute". touche, eva.