Sunday, February 28, 2010

Middle Name Trouble

When you're a child, you know you're really in trouble when you hear your mother using both your first and middle names. Even if you don't know what you did, you might as well just start apologizing, because Mom is mad, and she's not going to let you off easily.

I first started using Samantha's middle name when she was around two. I find I use it mostly when I know she knows better. Dumping her snack onto the couch, spilling her juice at breakfast because she's wiggling around in her chair too much, or getting her clothes soaked when she was supposed to be just washing her hands, will all elicit a "Samantha Keiko!" from me.

The kids learn pretty fast the extra significance to the two names usage, too. Whenever I use it, Sammy always stops what she's doing and turns toward me, hands clasped behind her back, head down, looking through her bangs with sheepish eyes.

I didn't realize quite how fast they pick up on the nuance until I started hearing Ella use Keiko. She really can't say Sammy yet, so she generally doesn't address her sister by name. But when she's mad because Samantha took a toy from her, or isn't sharing, or when she sees Samantha do something she knows she shouldn't be doing, I'll hear, "Keiko!" come out of her mouth. It makes me smile every time.

This morning, Ella dumped her cereal bowl full of milk on the table on top of her peanut butter toast after smearing the toast face down on the table while I was helping Sammy go to the potty. When I got back into the kitchen, I scolded her, and for the first time, used her middle name.

"Ella Kameko!" I said.

"Keiko," she corrected.


Friday, February 26, 2010

New Camera Pictures

Here are some pictures from our new camera. It's awesome.

Penny



Ella



Sammy




Missy

And the finale:



Yes, that is a flea on Tut. (He has been treated.)

The Ant

Samantha does not like bugs of any sort, especially red tummy spiders. Any bug she sees she announces by running screaming from the area. She will not return to the area until the offending bug is removed and preferably squashed. Fortunately, ants are not bugs. She likes them and loves to pick them up and let them crawl up and down her arm. She loves it when they crawl upside down, and she twists and contorts to try to see them.

Today, her cousins came over to play. She found an ant and ran to show it off. I watched her carefully squat and place her hand on the ground to allow the ant to crawl off. Then she pointed, following the ant's path with her finger.

"See, Jacob? See my ant?"

Jacob looked down at the ant. Then, because he is a boy, he picked up his foot and stomped the ant and smeared it around and ground it into the pavement. He squished it good, that ant was dead.

Samantha looked up at her cousin in disbelief. Her mouth began to quiver, tears welled up in her eyes. Then she started sobbing, big, gasping, heart-broken wails escaped her throat. I was sitting under the canopy on the back patio. Our eyes met and she came running to me, throwing her shaking body into mine, wrapping her arms tightly around my neck, and buried her face in my neck, sobbing.

Her Auntie Ali asked her to go help find another ant. She shook her head no, looking with pleading eyes into mine.

"You don't want another ant, do you?" I asked.

She shook her head no.

"That was your special ant, wasn't it," I said.

She shook her head yes and began to cry harder. She cried in my arms for a few minutes, mourning her special ant, before getting over it and finding a new ant. I think the same scenario will play out in a few years, with boys instead of ants.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Great Bottle Hunt of 2010


I am on a mission to get Penny to take a bottle. I have decided that as much as I enjoy breastfeeding, it might be nice to get out of the house for more than an hour without the baby in tow in the next year. Not that Sean and I really go anywhere, or have regular babysitters, but just in case.

When Samantha refused the bottle at ten weeks old, despite Sean giving her a bottle every day, I went on a mini bottle hunt. I had the Advent already and I tried a couple of different nipples, but we didn't try that hard. I figured when I went back to work when she was six months old, she would get over it and take milk from a sippy cup instead of starving.

I was wrong. She starved when I worked two days a week, drinking two or less ounces of milk the whole day. I fretted at work, worrying she wasn't getting adequate nutrition and was at home hungry and crying with Daddy, or worse, with a grandparent. I left as soon as I could. When I got home, she went on an eating binge all night long.

When Ella came around we really didn't try very hard when she refused the bottle. That's just what our babies do, I figured, and I was home mostly, so it wasn't that big of a deal. I had been-there-done-that with Samantha. She also went on milk fast when I worked, refusing even a drop of milk. She wouldn't even take it mixed into her rice cereal or other food like Samantha had. When it came time to wean her onto cow's milk she, unlike Samantha, refused that too. She also refused soy milk, goat's milk, and rice milk, even a no go on the chocolate varieties. She still won't take any form of milk, although she does love cheese and yogurt, so she gets a calcium supplement.

Well, now Penny won't take a bottle. I was going to ignore it, but I think I'll give it a try. I would really like her to drink cow's milk at one. I bought a bottle warmer today. I always thought part of Ella's problem was I couldn't get the milk the right temperature. I also bought a bottle that has a harder nipple within a softer nipple that's supposed to mimic breastfeeding better than other kinds of nipples.

A trial run today was a no-go, but the milk was at least the right temperature and she played with the nipple for ten minutes before giving up, so I'm encouraged. Maybe if Sean gives her the bottle she'll go for it. If not, I'm going to try a bunch of different bottles and see if she takes one.

Who knows, maybe we'll actually be able to go out on a date sometime, maybe even at night.

Photo via Flickr: The soft landing's photostream

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The New Camera




For his birthday Sean received a new fancy, schmancy camera complete with a camera that looks like a professional could use it, a couple of big lenses, a lot of instruction manuals, and a huge case with many compartments. Therein lies the problem.

As Sean so aptly put it, "I don't know how to load the case. Where is the instruction manual for the case?"

There seems to be any number of places that all of the components could fit with a lot of extra room. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doll Colors

When I was shopping with Samantha for her Barbie doll this weekend, she initially picked out a bride Barbie that was blue eyed and blonde. My gut response to the blonde Barbie was to find the same Barbie with brown skin and see if she would prefer the brown Barbie to the blonde Barbie. I did find an African American Bride Barbie and she got that one. When I look around our house, I see that most of her dolls are brown skinned: Latina, African American, Asian. The white dolls we have, when I think about it, were mostly given to her by her Japanese relatives, while the brown dolls were given to her mostly by her white relatives.

It got me thinking why it bothered me that she would pick out a blonde Barbie. Is it really a hang up I have? Does the race of the dolls really make a difference? And isn't kind of funny that her white relatives tend to buy her brown dolls and her Asian relatives tend to buy her white dolls? Why is that?

Is it, that when we see her, we pick out the differences from ourselves instead of the similarities. Her skin is darker than mine, so does my mind make her identity more Asian than white? Do her Japanese relatives look at her and see lighter skin than theirs and therefore identify her more with her white heritage? And then we all buy the dolls that we think look the most like her?

Will she, as I've read about people who are half white, half African American, not really be accepted by either race as she grows up? Too white to be Asian, too Asian to be white, and therefore be an outsider her whole life, not really fitting in anywhere?

Am I not as color blind as I thought? I married outside of my race and truly believe skin color is not important and does not make a person who they are anymore than hair color does. Or do I not believe that, deep down. Do I really believe that your identity, who you are, is somehow linked to your skin color?

In actuality, I think the color of the doll's skin bothered me because I know she chose the blonde Bride Barbie because she thought she was prettiest. I know that because that's how I chose my dolls growing up. And the Bride Barbie was pretty. She had a beautiful white gown with ruching on the bodice, spaghetti straps tied halter style around the neck, a flowing skirt with a glittered, lacy overlay, with a hot pink ribbon around her waist and matching, strappy hot pink high heels. She wore a veil over her hair, diamond earrings, and a gigantic diamond ring that gleamed from the box.

But when she came with the blonde doll, I thought, is that Samantha's idea of pretty? Does she think blue-eyed and blonde is the prettiest Barbie? Does she not think the brown Barbie is pretty? The one, that in my mind, looks the most like her. I want her to grow up with a positive self image and feel pretty and I do believe the dolls she chooses can be a reflection of that.

When offered both dolls, she did choose the darker one. But, maybe she only chose it because she knew that was the one I was hoping she would pick. Maybe she only chose the blonde Barbie in the first place because it was displayed along the main aisle at her eye level, while the brown Barbie was in the Barbie aisle, over her head (which is a completely different issue I won't address here). Maybe, she didn't really notice the skin color, and she was just picking the most beautiful dress she saw. I hope so.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Incredible Shrinking Woman

I wish this post was about how easy it is to lose the baby weight and how every time I step on the scale, the pounds are just falling off. Unfortunately, I still have fifteen pounds to go, same as last month.

I got my hair cut a couple weeks ago and dressed for the occasion, wearing a shirt that was not stained and faded, a pair of non-maternity jeans, and a pair of black shoes. I noted the shoes were really too snug and thought, my feet must have grown again during my pregnancy. They grew a half a size with Ella, so I wore size 9 instead of 8 1/2. I must be a 9 1/2 now. That was as far as the thought process went. I'll deal with buying new shoes after I lose the weight and make sure I don't just have fatter feet.

The last few days I've been noticing I'm having a harder time reaching things I used to reach easily. They just seem farther away. Again, blaming it on the pregnancy, I just figured it was a lack of flexibility and I just needed to get back into shape so I could stretch a little farther.

Then, today, I noticed Sean seemed taller than usual. I felt like he was towering over me. I must be slouching or standing downhill or something. He said he had been eating more vegetables and had grown. Then again tonight he seemed taller, so I made him stand next to me. I swear he was taller. I made him measure me.

I am now 5 foot 7 1/2 inches tall. That is a full half inch shorter than I used to be. I knew that your feet don't really grow during pregnancy, your arches fall, making your feet longer in the process. It never occurred to me that also means you lose some height. A half inch for me. I wonder how tall Michelle Duggar used to be?

Well, That Seems To Have Backfired

Ella is a physical child. She always has been. As we approach the terrible two's, this has begun to show up in her communications. Meaning, when she is angry, sad, or sometimes happy, she hits, bites, and pinches. Sammy is the most frequent recipient of Ella's physical love, although Sean, the baby, and I are also on the receiving end.

It's really not okay, and telling her no, showing her the marks she leaves, trying to create empathy by pointing out that her sister is crying and sad, is not working. So, a few weeks ago I decided to try the Time Out Chair. The idea was every time she hurt someone, she would go sit on the chair for two minutes. Then I would ask her what she did to get time out, make her hug her sister, and say she's sorry.

At first she would scream and I would have to put her back in the chair over and over again. Her language skills weren't good enough yet, so I would have to explain what she did wrong and leave the apology to just a hug.

Now, however, she tells me when she needs a time out and willingly goes to the chair to sit. Then she gets up, tells me what she did wrong, says sorry to her sister, and gives her a hug. Sounds pretty good, right?

It's the willingness that bothers me. I think it has become another attention seeking behavior. She does things to get a time out. Samantha also is making it not work as she has started giving Ella time outs when she doesn't want to be bothered or when Ella touches a princess doll. And Ella goes. Willingly.

The biting, pinching, and hitting have not improved. I guess I'll have to try yet another discipline method, but I'm running out of ideas. On the plus side, Ella apologizes for things all the time now, even when it's not needed or wasn't her fault. Plus, the hug at the end of time out is pretty cute.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sleeping Nirvana

nir-va-na: n. a state of freedom from pain, worry, and the external world.

With Penny finally starting to sleep in her own crib and waking only once a night, there is the promise of a decent night's sleep. If only Sammy and Ella were in on the plan. Unfortunately, at least one of them is in our bed every night. Usually it's Ella, who kicks me all night long and hogs the bed, making sure I can never really fall into a deep sleep for fear of falling or being kicked off the bed.

Last night, both girls graced us with their presence by two in the morning. As I lay there, waiting for Penny to wake, I planned my escape. Once I got up, I would head to Sammy's bed and sleep there, leaving the other three to our bed. Maybe, when the girls woke and I wasn't there, Sean would get up and I could sleep in a little. (I was partially asleep, so a little dreaming wound up in the plan.)

Penny woke later than normal, at five a.m. instead of three, and I went to feed her after carefully barricading Ella into the bed with pillows. I then headed to Sammy's bed and laid down on the new, soft, pillow top mattress (we really need a new mattress). I wrapping the covers around me without worrying about covering a child's head or having one of the hot boxes kick them off (the girls are always hot, another Sean trait that apparently gets passed along in a dominant, mega-sized gene).

I laid down for twenty minutes, just about entering a state of blissful, deep sleep, before Ella awoke in our room and began crying for me. I thought Sean might get her back to sleep, assuming I was feeding the baby, but alas, I heard her drop with a thud to the floor, still crying for me, followed by her heavy footsteps searching the house for me.

I got up to get her before she woke everyone else up and brought her to Sammy's bed. She began kicking and complaining.

"No! Me bed! Me bed!"

She wanted to sleep on her bed, which is currently a Dora sleeping bag on the floor. So much for my hopes of a good night's sleep. I laid her down, and to my surprise, she went right to sleep. I crawled back into Sammy's bed, snuggled down, and slept, for almost an entire ninety minutes, before Sammy woke for the day.

My state of sleeping nirvana lasted only a short time, but I will continue to pursue it, hoping to reach the state for a full night sometime soon.

A Family Outing

Last week Sean took Sammy with him when he got a haircut. On the way back to the car, they stopped in a store full of junk. Sammy saw a Tattoo Barbie. She really wanted it. Sean told her no. She persisted. He asked her if she brought any money with her to buy it. She replied that Daddy and Mommy always bring the money. Daddy did not give in, but did tell her if she really wanted it, she would remember it, and ask for it later, and they would get money from her piggy bank and get it.

Well, she has been telling me all week about Daddy taking her to get her Tattoo Barbie. This morning, she asked Sean if they could go get her Tattoo Barbie. He was amazed she had remembered it for a whole week. He told her we could go to Target if she had enough money in her piggy bank. She had a twenty dollar budget: Daddy would put in ten, she had been given a five dollar Target gift card for Valentine's Day, so she needed five dollars. (Ella was given the same deal.) The pig was uncorked. She had three one dollar bills and a lot of coins. She counted out eight quarters and we were off. A little money lesson worked into the outing, nice.

We headed straight to the Barbie dolls. They did not have the Tattoo Barbie, but they had quite a selection. She choose a bride Barbie, complete with what must be a five carat diamond covering three of her fingers on a hand with a movable wrist so she can show off her ring. She opted for the African American Barbie with the dark skin and hair instead of the blonde Barbie.

Ella scanned her options, first she wanted a My Little Pony SUV set, then she wanted a Fawn fairy doll (one of Tinkerbell's friends for anyone not in the know), then she wanted a baby doll, an annoying, noisy one we already had (toys that make noise when you walk by are really a good way to get kids interested). Finally, she was convinced she wanted a nice, quiet, bath time dolly with its own towel and three bath toys and that could actually go in the tub with her.

Both girls carried their toys around Target and begged us to open them as soon as they crossed the scanner. Mission accomplished.

Sean had three See's candies coupons burning a hole in his pocket and since we were at the mall and they have a See's store, we went to get three one pound boxes of chocolate. They were giving out free samples of chocolate covered caramels. Sammy, Ella, and I each got one.

Sean went to Radio Shack for a battery, leaving me with the three girls at a seating area. Sammy and I ate our caramels. Ella was having a harder time figuring it out. Sammy started to run around the seating area. Ella got up to follow, her chocolate in hand. I stopped her and told her to eat it before she ran around.

So smart, I thought, to prevent a big mess with a sticky hand full of chocolate touching everything. As she heads back towards me, she shoves the whole candy into her mouth. Her mouth was as full as could be, cheeks puffed out, slurping the chocolate saliva dribbling out of her mouth. I told her to spit it out, she wouldn't, running away, while I tried to grab our Target bags and chase her. Suddenly, she turned around, panic on her face, too much food in her mouth, she couldn't swallow it, she couldn't chew it, she was stuck. Before I reached her, she spit out the caramel, devoid of chocolate, onto the floor. Gross. No napkins on me, I used the wrappers to pick it up, and quickly emptied one Target bag to put it in as she was now running towards Macy's.

Finally, Sean returned, and we headed to the car, the girls with their new treasures in hand. Pretty good outing. Except, Sammy may have a little buyer's remorse. The doll that can go into the tub is pretty cool.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Penny rolling

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I present, Penny rolling, at 9 1/2 weeks, with the assistance of her own personal cheerleaders. video

Jealousy

Ella has officially become jealous of the attention Penelope receives. As I found out with Samantha, the jealousy doesn't really start until the new baby starts doing things and being awake for more than two minutes at a time. That's when it seems to hit the older sibling that this thing is here to stay, is cute, and takes attention away from them. Not an easy thing for a me centered almost two year old.

It started innocently enough at first. She only wanted Mommy to do things for her: put her shoes on, change her diaper, give her a bath, read her a book, get her a snack, turn off the television. No one else could do anything to help her but me. Now it has progressed to affecting her sleep. Why must it always be the sleeping? It does not bring out the best in my parenting skills.

Yesterday, we had World War III in our house during nap time. I went to lay her down, at her usual time, and the screaming began.

"No! Mommy, NO!" Over and over.

I resolutely laid her down and left the room, putting the baby gate up to keep her in the room. She opened the door and began screaming.

"Mommy! Mommy! MOMMMMEEE! Need you, MOMMY!"

I went back in, laid her down to more screaming and told her I was not coming in again. So, I listened to screaming for twenty minutes. My head was already pounding from the congestion I had due to allergies. After twenty minutes, the pain was shooting behind my eyes. The screaming continued and was accompanied by things being thrown out of her room. I heard the dolls, followed by her Dora cup. Crap. She can't sleep without the cup.

"Mommmeee! Dora! Dora! Dora! Mommy! Need you, Mommy!"

I went back in with the Dora cup, and the Dora blanket I hadn't heard, and the two Dora dolls. Now I was mad. My head was ready to explode, the baby had woken up and was crying to be fed, and she had thrown the damn cup out herself.

I started yelling. I told her I would not get anything else she threw out of her room. It was nap and I needed to feed the baby and she needed to lay down and sleep.
She screamed for a total of an hour and fifteen minutes before I raged into the room, took down the baby gate and told her to get out. No nap for Ella today. And no television and no snack because we were having an early dinner, followed by bath and an early bedtime for Ella. We were going outside to play until dinner. She was not getting anything remotely resembling rest the rest of the day.

She calmed down immediately and I could see the satisfaction on her smug little face. She had won the battle. I was going to win the war.

The girls played very nicely together outside for two hours until dinner at five thirty. Ella was so exhausted, she was falling asleep while eating, her little head lolling back then jerking forward. She even choked a little once because she fell asleep while chewing and woke up quickly with food in her mouth. My plan was working! Bedtime was going to be easy!

Fast forward through bath time to into bed at seven. More and more screaming. I laid her down nicely, I held her down, I spoke softly, I yelled, I stomped my feet, I finally left the room to let her scream herself to sleep. After twenty minutes, my sinus headache could take it no more. I let her out.

I was so angry I couldn't look at her. I tried to read a story to Sammy, but Ella kept trying to listen and I couldn't stand it. I left them on the couch and went to feed the baby on my bed, the only place in the house Ella can't yet climb onto. That is where Sean found us.

He took Ella to bed. She asked for me, and Sean told her no, not tonight. Her face showed her heartbreak and my heart broke for her. She still screamed for me. She screamed so hard she was coughing and she threw up. She finally fell asleep. She woke every twenty to thirty minutes, coughing and calling out for me.

At ten o'clock, when Penny finally went to sleep so I could go to sleep. She woke and called out again. I went in and picked her up, her little body relaxed into me as I carried her to my bed. We both fell asleep, quietly, her head resting in the crook of my arm. She has recently been a frequent nighttime visitor to our bed, thrashing and kicking me all night long. Last night, she slept without moving, the sleep of pure exhaustion.

Today I decided there would be no screaming. Samantha went to school, so I tried to spend some solid quality time with Ella. We ran a couple errands and bought some new clothes, we played together on the slide outside, and I pushed her around in her little car. We had a nice lunch that I packed special in a lunch bag while discussing our morning and then we read some books. I tried to put her down for her nap. I read to her and left the room quietly. She did not scream, but she did not sleep, tooling around her room. After an hour and a half, I gave up and took all three for a walk in the stroller. She slept for the entire forty minute walk.

Tonight, I tried staying in the room with her to let her fall asleep with me there. She would not stop talking, willing herself to stay awake. After thirty minutes, Sean took over and she went to sleep with minimal screaming.

I'm not sure about the plan for tomorrow. Penny needs to learn to sleep not being carried, so going for a walk everyday isn't really an option, and Ella needs a nap. We'll have to see, hopefully the jealousy stops soon and she goes back to only mildly resisting sleep.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time Out, Tut

Last night while I was in the nursery feeding Penny and Sean was getting the older girls ready for be, we heard Missy growling and snapping, and Tut replying with his own growl. Ella walked out to see what the action was all about, and we heard the growling again. Sean went out to see what was going on and make sure Ella was not hurt. Tut was tormenting Missy. He broke it up and we continued our bedtime routines.

I moved out to the couch to finish feeding Penny and keep an eye on the situation. Tut was crouched down, ready to pounce, an evil look in his eye, while Missy sat, looking out of the corner of her eye, exposing her neck submissively toward Tut. I threw a pillow at Tut, twice, to try to get him to back away, but he persisted. Finally, he pounced, growling at Missy, who dove under the coffee table to protect herself. Then Tut started in after Tabby, chasing her around and jumping on her.

When she tired of their game and retreated, Tut turned his attention back to Missy. Crouching, ears back, growling. Missy was beside herself, not sure how to respond to this little terrorist who she could easily kill, but she knew she would get in trouble for that. So instead, she sat submissively, a worried look on her face, awaiting another attack.

Tut would not go away. We threw things at him, stomped around, physically moved him, and yet her persisted. So, into our room behind a closed door he went. Time out, Tut.

A Glimpse into the Future

It's always fun to speculate about what the girls are going to become as adults based on their strengths and interests. Their blank slates right now, open to any possibility. Maybe they'll be doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, actresses, engineers. Only time will tell where their interests lie. In the meantime, I like to imagine. They're still pretty young, so it can be hard to tell what their strengths are at this point.

Penny is definitely a good eater, perhaps she will enter hot dog eating contests when she's older. She also "talks" quite a bit, maybe she'll be a news anchor.

Samantha is starting to show some real strengths and interests. She appears to be somewhat artistic (great, another Sean gene passed on). She is starting to be able to draw realistic pictures of people and she drew a really good fish the other day (almost better than what I can do). She also is choosy about the colors she uses and seems to have an eye for style. She chooses her own outfits every day, with definite ideas of what goes together. In October, a round piece of felt fell off one of my Halloween decorations. I was looking for it to throw away, and she had taken it and placed it under another decoration. It made the other decoration stand out more and worked really nicely. I kept the felt for next year. I'm feeling she may pursue more artistic tracks than Sean or I. Maybe she'll be an artist, a stylist, or an interior designer.

Ella is also pretty young, but we're starting to see some interests. She is a physical girl, liking to be outside and play games. She loves to dance. Her real skill appears to be in electronics. She can change the picture on my phone more quickly than I can, and has almost sent some text messages. She pulls apart our remote controls, and can get the batteries back in. She also manages to get my computer to do some amazing things if I forget to close it, leaving the keyboard exposed.

Yesterday, however, I caught a glimpse into her future. We were at the drive-thru for Del Taco and the employees inside kept calling out order numbers for the diners inside to pick up their food. From the back, after each number, we heard, "Yeah". She said it like a fifty year old diner waitress with a raspy voice from smoking.

"Seventy-three."

"Yeah."

"Seventy-six."

"Yeah."

It appears, with all my hopes for their futures, Ella has a strong inclination to becoming a fast food employee. Hopefully, it will just be in college to help pay for her education.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

We Have Emerged

After Penelope was born, I became a hermit, staying inside with the new baby, keeping her away from germs in dirty places like grocery stores and restaurants, traveling only to Grandma's or my sister-in-laws house. Sean generally ran the errands, making quick trips to the grocery store or convenience store for whatever we needed, while I stayed at home with at least the baby, and usually one or two other children.

Cabin fever set in after three weeks. Recovered from my whole body aches after birth, I started venturing out on walks with the baby, for my own sanity, still staying clear of all public places except preschool on Thursdays, when I both drop-off and pick-up Samantha, Ella and Penny in tow, by myself.

Yesterday, the day I had been both dreading and looking forward to, came. We needed groceries. Sean had appointments both yesterday and today, so I would have to take all three girls to the store by myself if we wanted to eat this week. This was going to be the test, success on this mission determined my future. Would I ever be able to take all three girls anywhere by myself, or was I to be homebound whenever I had all three by myself?

Excitement mounted as I mentally prepared for the venture. Baby in Bjorn, Ella strapped into grocery cart, Samantha walking next to me, it was doable. I made my grocery list, keeping it to only necessities, fruit, meat, milk, juice, cheese, to limit my time in the store and keep us on the periphery, not venturing into the maze of aisles where Samantha could run out of sight too easily. I was pretty sure Samantha would stay close enough for me to see her at all times. Penny would hopefully sleep, but bouncing a crying baby in the Bjorn is second nature, I could handle it. Ella, as usual, was the biggest potential problem. Would she throw a fit about being strapped into the cart? Would she grab food from the cart as I put it in, throwing it on the ground or trying to open boxes and eat the contents?

I physically prepared for the outing: snacks for the car ride, water, fed the baby, made sure Samantha used the potty, shoes for everyone, into car seats. Forty minutes later, we were all in the car ready to go. I advised the girls I expected them to behave in the store. Ella was to sit in the cart and Samantha to stay next to me.

As we drove, the two older girls began to fight. Ella was deliberately annoying her sister by poking her. Whining began. I considered punting the outing, but we needed food or there would be nothing but whining at home. As we pulled into the parking lot, I again reminded the girls of my expectations, and began to unload them from the car.

As I was getting out carrying the Bjorn, the woman in the car next to me smiled, getting her own about one and half year old out of the car. I could see her thinking about having a baby young enough for the Bjorn and all the things she could share with a new mother. Then, as my car began to empty, child after child, like a clown car, her face changed from warm, and inviting, to something between shock and horror at the thought of handling three small children alone.

I had forgotten I needed to carry my cloth bags to this store, so I had to take a minute to adjust everyone: baby in Bjorn, Ella and bags in one hand, Samantha holding my other hand. I got two offers to help carry my bags and get the cart for me in the short walk from the car to the store. I declined, I needed to know I could do this alone.

Into the grocery store we went with no complaints about the seating arrangement from Ella, Penny fast asleep, and Samantha following within arm's reach. Around the store we went, the older girls helping to pick apples and deciding we should try purple potatoes. Around the store we went, no problems. To the check out counter we went. Two people came to help unload the cart for me (I let them, it's there job and the baby was heavy and awkward). Then out to the car we went, back into the car seats without fighting and back home, unscathed from the first Yoshimoto girls outing. I did it! Watch out world, we have emerged.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Craft Time

One of the things I most looked forward to after having Samantha was all the fun arts and crafts we would be able to do together when she got older. I was going to teach her to cross stitch, knit, sew, and latch hook when she was old enough. Before that, I imagined all the cute little kid projects we would make out of egg cartons, pipe cleaners, glue, glitter, and paint. I was so happy to a have a girl. It would be so much easier to keep her occupied on rainy days and have some nice, quiet time where she was busily gluing and I could sit next to her reading or working on my own project.

Well, it turns out, the use of paint, glue, and scissors requires quite a bit of dexterity, that even at almost four, Samantha has not yet mastered. And, crafts are very messy. Instead of a fun thing for us to do, it has become yet another thing we have power struggles over.

I want to paint, Mom, she'll say. No, I don't want to clean it up. When I do relent, more often than not she wants to make hand prints and paints her hands various colors, leaving little colored prints behind.

This last week has been rainy, and in desperation, I broke out the art supplies. I looked online for projects we can do (turns out I don't have a lot of are supplies). I found paper mache Easter eggs to make. Perfect, I could make the glue out of flour and water since we didn't have any real glue, and I had enough tissue paper. We made the eggs (meaning, I made the eggs while the girls wadded up tissue paper and squished it in the glue, smearing it all over the table). They dried and then we painted them (another mess).

I had a lot of left over glue, so the next day I decided to make collages with the girls. I had an old magazine to cut up. It would be great practice for Samantha's cutting skills, and easy enough for Ella to do, too. Samantha didn't quite understand the concept and was more excited about using the glue, so she just took whole pages, print and all, and glued them on her paper. She kept putting the glue directly onto the picture, so she wound up with a bunch of articles face up on her collage.

I cut out pictures for Ella and let her try the glue. She just dunked the pictures in the glue and wadded them up, over and over again. Eventually, hoping Samantha would get the idea by watching me, I took Ella's collage and did it myself.

Ella continued with the glue. Without any pictures to glue, she decided to taste test the glue and found she liked it. (I guess it kind of tastes like koomla, same ingredients.)

At the end of the project, Samantha had a bunch of articles face up with extra glue all over the top, I had a nice collage, and Ella had a full belly.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Family Bed

We are having sleep issues...again. Penelope is not going to bed until eleven o'clock, still waking two to three times a night, Ella is waking in the middle of the night often, and Samantha is having some night accidents. This is leading to us having anywhere from one to three children in the bed at any given time, plus one cat.

When Samantha was born, I had no intention of having children sleep with us. Everything I read said the bed is not a safe place for babies to sleep, but after six months of getting out of bed every one to two hours and trekking across the cold, hardwood floor, I reached my limit of sleep deprivation and Samantha came into our bed.

When it first started, I thought how nice it was to have our baby cuddled up with us, feeling safe and secure, not fighting bedtime, but rather eagerly laying down next to me to sleep a whole night.

Once I regained my mental capacities after recovering from the sleep deprivation, I realized this was not a good idea. She became dependent on one of us being in the bed to sleep, she slept horizontally in the bed, kicking me all night long, so I still wasn't sleeping well. Although we tried to break the habit, the precedent was set, and she continued to share our bed, sometimes just one night at a time, sometimes for weeks at a time.

When Ella came around, I decided I wasn't going to be able to handle the extreme sleeplessness Samantha had brought, so Ella began sleeping in our bed at two weeks old. Since even those that advocate co-sleeping believe it unsafe to have an infant and another child in the same bed, Samantha was booted out. She still needed to sleep with someone, so that meant Sean and she became frequent couch sleepers, much to Sean's back and neck's dismay.

Eventually, we got them both sleeping in their own room for the most part, and then in the same room together for the whole night, with only occasional nighttime visitors.

Now that Penelope is here, we are back to an increase in visitors. Ella is waking, quite possibly a reaction to not being the baby anymore. Instead of bringing her back to her own bed, risking her screaming waking Samantha in their now shared room, I just let her sleep with us, horizontally, kicking me all night long. Samantha also has been waking with more frequency from bed wetting (she's not quite one hundred percent nighttime potty trained). Again, in the middle of the night, instead of waking Ella (if she's still sleeping), or bothering with the trundle bed where the sheets are stored that doesn't move quite right, into our bed she goes. Penelope does not always want to go back to sleep in her bassinet after her two a.m. feeding, so I sleep sitting up with her on the Boppy pillow.

On the nights where everyone wakes the queen size bed situation is this: Sean asleep on one side with Samantha laying on top of him or next to him, his stupid, gigantic body pillow, comfortably tucked in next to them, Ella, horizontally next to them, Tut, burrowed under the covers next to her,Penelope asleep on the Boppy, and me, sitting up, one butt cheek off the bed, steadying myself with one tiptoed leg hanging out of the bed, not sleeping.

I have one thought going through my mind over and over during these sleepless nights: teenagers do not want to sleep with their parents.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Relay Race

Samantha and Ella, inspired by recent commercials they've seen about the Winter Olympics, have decided to train for the Summer Olympics (they realize they're too young for the upcoming winter season). I was unaware how athletic and driven they are until last night, when their plan finally became clear to me.

I had just finished giving them both baths and getting them into their pajamas before bed. Penelope was hungry, so I sat in the rocking chair in the nursery to feed her, giving the girls instructions to pick out one book each to read before bed. They took the opportunity to practice for the relay race instead.

The rocking chair sits against the wall opposite the door that leads to the hallway. At one end of the hallway is our bedroom, at the other end is the girls' room. Samantha had placed her seven Disney princess dolls on our bed earlier that day to prevent Ella from playing with them.

As I sat there, rocking the baby, I heard screaming from both girls. I then saw Ella, running to her room, legs pumping, a determined look on her face, holding Sleeping Beauty in front of her like the Olympic torch. Right behind her, tears from the pain of training streaming down her face, her own arms outstretched, screaming encouragement for Ella, came Samantha, feet pounding the floor as she ran. They disappeared into the room briefly, more screaming, then re-emerged. This time, Samantha was holding the doll with perfect form, running even faster than before, followed closely by Ella, screaming her own words of encouragement for Samantha, tears from the effort running down her face. I missed the actual baton hand off, but it must have been well executed because they were in their room only briefly.

Now, I will know when I am occupied feeding the baby, or changing her diaper, or trying to get two minutes to myself to use the bathroom, and I hear screaming, they are not fighting, but rather practicing for their upcoming showing in the relay race at the Olympics.

There are only two of them, and I believe they need four to qualify for the race. Penelope is coming up. She may be only a novice runner when the time comes, but I bet her sisters can catch her up to speed quickly, and will be able to compensate for their weak link with all the practicing they're doing. As for the fourth, well, they're just going to have to figure something out, because Sean and I will not be providing them with their final teammate.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Power of Words

Words are powerful things. They are the tools we use to connect with each other, a carefully chosen word can make us feel sadness, anger, love, hate. As a parent, I have the joy of watching my children learn words and develop language. Every day, one of them says something that makes me marvel at how a child's brain hears, processes, then creates language.

Penelope is at the very earliest stages of language development. She coos, babbles, and cries, trying to engage her audience. When she is in a talkative mood, babbling away, she looks you right in the eye, and pauses. When you respond to her, as though you were having a conversation, her eyes light up, she smiles, then responds in her own language. She is learning the art of conversation, the give and take, at the young age of eight weeks.

Samantha has a solid grasp on the English language. She is clear, most people can understand most things she says. She has a good vocabulary, but is still acquiring words. It amazes me when she uses a new word. I wonder where she heard it and how she came to know the meaning of the word without being told. The other day, she told me she was just going to ignore Ella so she would go to sleep. She said it as an adult would, ignore just rolling off her tongue as though she used it everyday when in fact, that was the first time that particular word had been incorporated into her vocabulary. She is learning to utilize common expressions. They are a constant source of amusement for us. Seeing my 3 1/2 year old standing in front of me, hands on hips, scowling and saying, "Oh for goodness sake!" makes me laugh inwardly every time.

Ella is at one of my favorite stages, rapid language acquisition. Every day she is using multiple new words and speaking more clearly. She has started saying two to four word sentences and is becoming more expressive. Her tantrums, though still intense, are less frequent now that she can communicate a little better.

Last night, after the eighteenth time I had gone into the girls' room to tuck them in, and take them potty, and sing a song, and say good night to every doll in their beds, and get my orders for checking on the pets, I stepped over the baby gate. As I was closing the door (again), I said my usual, "Love you both", and heard a little "Wuv you, Mommy" in return. It made every trip over that gate worthwhile.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Baby Smells

Like some people love the new car smell, I love the new baby smell. Nothing smells quite like it, so fresh and clean and sweet. I love to lean down and inhale the smell right off a new baby's head. I don't think anyone knows what causes that wonderful smell. And, like many things in early childhood, it fades so fast.

Unfortunately, Penelope does not smell so sweet. One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is virtually odorless poo. It really is nice not to have to smell that telltale stench, letting you know someone needs a diaper change, for the first few months. Also, considering breastfed babies poo six or more times a day, it clearly was Mother Nature's design to prevent us from rejecting our young due to olfactory intolerance. With both Samantha and Ella we saw the benefit. Penelope did not get the memo.

She is the most gaseous, foul smelling baby I have ever encountered. If I wasn't holding the baby emitting obvious noises, I would blame it on the dog, so foul is the odor. If she were an adult, I would wonder what exactly she had eaten to create such a stench. She poos only every other day, filling her diaper so fast and full it explodes, leaving a brown stream running down her legs and requiring rapid wardrobe changes to prevent said liquid from contacting anything else. In between, she passes gas seemingly continually. Something in her intestinal tract changes the sweet, nourishing milk into an eyebrow curling affront to the senses.

Samantha and Ella find the situation highly amusing. "Mommy, the baby farted," followed by a symphony of gaffaws can be heard in our house multiple times a day. Ella can be seen holding her wrinkled nose while saying, "Mommy, baby stinky poop."

My only hope is that like the sweet smell of a newborn, this will fade to a distant memory...soon.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Orthodontia

Samantha and Ella went to the dentist today. It went much better than I had expected. Samantha opened her mouth wide and let them clean her teeth and brush on the fluoride wonderfully. I expected this since she had done so well at the last visit.

Ella, again, was a potential problem. When we brush her teeth at home I literally have to hold her in a head lock and cram the brush into her alternating clenched and screaming mouth. I never do what I would consider a good job, and frequently I only brush lips. She's also teething right now, so I was really just hoping they would be able to look at her chipped tooth (from face planting out of the crib onto the hardwood floor) and that she wouldn't bite anyone. To my surprise, she held still and let them clean every tooth and apply the fluoride. The televisions hanging over the chairs playing cartoons probably had something to do with it.

Unfortunately, it was confirmed that Samantha will be seeing the orthodontist when her adult teeth start to come in. At the last visit the dentist noted some of her lower incisors were behind her upper incisors when she closed her mouth and some were in front. At that time we were told orthodontia was probably in her future, but as she grew they might correct themselves, so nothing until the adult teeth started to come in.

Today, all the lower incisors are in front of the upper ones (bulldog like). Definite orthodontia in the not too distant future. She will likely get a device that will spread her upper jaw so the upper teeth go in front, like they should. It's too early to tell with Ella, she doesn't have all her baby teeth yet, but I'm guessing we'll have three in braces. Time to start saving.