Tag Archives: development

She Says… 7 Months

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My sweet baby-who-is-quickly-feeling-like-not-so-much-of-a-baby,

You are SO MUCH FUN right now. Seriously. You’re the best. Your chubby cheeks and toothless grin and sparkly gray-blue eyes make everyone around you smile right along with you — your joy is contagious. You still have your characteristic easygoing way about you, but recently we’ve seen more and more of another side of your personality. You are driven and focused and determined.

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You practice new skills like rolling (which you rock at) and grabbing (everything) and getting food from your fist into your mouth over and over and over again with the determination of an Olympic athlete. You love to pull hair right now. Especially mine. Especially when I leave it curly and I’m giving you a bottle and you gaze into my eyes so sweetly and dribble a little milk out of your mouth so that I let my guard down, and then BAM! you grab a fist full of what you had been twirling so gently a moment before and PULL. HARD. I wrangle my hair out of your clenched fist, and we start that little dance all over again. You’re sneaky. And strong. And you have hilarious timing.

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Speaking of rolling, you are a rolling machine. You’ve actually developed this amazing ability to maneuver yourself all around a room to get your hands on whatever you want. Most kids do this with crawling, but your preferred method is a carefully planned out series of rolls and pivots. It’s quite impressive and I’m so glad I finally got a video to show you one day. I have to imagine that crawling is just around the corner for you, my active little dude!

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The other day Owen and I ran upstairs to get him a pair of socks and came back down to find that you had rolled yourself right out of the living room and into the kitchen, and you gazed up at us, giggling and proud, with one foot in the dog’s water bowl and gnawing on a magazine. Watch out, Mommy.

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You are growing like a little weed these days. And it’s not a wonder — you down over 35 ounces of formula (that’s a LOT) plus three solid meals of food a day. And recently daycare started asking me to pack snacks because you were hungry. HUNGRY? Must be all that rolling you’re doing. Favorite foods at the moment are peas, corn, sweet potatoes, blueberries and bananas. The only thing I’ve found that you really don’t like is butternut squash. You’ll still eat it, but you make a scrunchy face and spit most of it back out.

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Due to your ongoing tummy issues and some weird rashes and hives, we’re seeing an allergist and a GI specialist. Currently my instructions are to introduce you to as many new foods as possible in the next 4 weeks, so here we go! I’ve been on a baby food making extravaganza and our freezer is filled with different concoctions. I love mixing and matching your meals and I’m excited to branch out into different grains and textures and flavors in the coming months. I’m so glad to see that you seem to like food just as much as your brother and Daddy and I.

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Your brother. Oh, Emmett. I can’t even put into words how much you adore your brother. And how much he adores you. The two of you are obsessed with each other. I can already see the incredible connection that the two of you have that has nothing to do with Daddy or I, and it makes my heart sing.

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At dinner Owen loves to entertain you by making silly faces and shaking his head around. Physical comedy seems to be your thing at the moment and just about anything Owen does that involves climbing/jumping/twirling/dancing/running elicits the most delicious belly laughs from you. You also have the uncanny ability to laugh whenever he says something silly. It’s like you can understand every word he says. He’ll tell us a story and make a joke, and you’re ALWAYS the first one laughing. It is precious.

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He can’t get enough of you either. He asks me to bring you up in his bed so we can all “pretend to sleep” together and he loves to hand you toys and make you put them in your mouth (which you do, every time). He shakes your head around and bobbles you so forcefully I’m still constantly saying, “Gentle hands!” and “Owen, Emmett doesn’t like that, please stop” and you are constantly making a liar out of me by laughing your little butt off at whatever he’s doing.

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Though I know there are wonderful things on the horizon for you, I wish I could bottle this age and keep it in my pocket. You are just… delicious. Jolly. Sweet. Easy.

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Every day I look forward to waking you up just because I get to hold you and squeeze your beautiful baby chub and cover you in kisses. I can’t wait to see more and more of your personality as you grow. What you’ll be like. What you’ll do with your life.

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We’re so lucky to have you, Emmetty. Bonky bonks. Blemett (Owen’s favorite). Chubs.

Couldn’t love you any more if I tried,
Mommy

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She Says… 6 Months

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Oh Emmett. My jolly little dude. My cuddler. My giggler. You, my darling, are the type of baby that makes people want to have a million more babies.

I mean, really. Just look at that smile. The twinkly eyes. The delicious cheeks. The rubberband-like rolls at your wrists, ankles, knees, thighs. It’s literally hard for me to stop kissing you some days. You are just so smooshable. You are calm and content. Chill, to the max.

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On top of that, 6 months is a magical time.

  • You are sleeping through the night. You still cry out once in a while, and since we almost never hear you cry anymore, Daddy and I sit and watch you on the monitor, wringing our hands over if we should go in and hold you. When Owen was your age, if I went in ONE TIME he would expect me to come in EVERY TIME, ALL THE TIME when he cried. Going in once just to check on him made the whole sleeping process take about ten steps back. But you, you, my flexible little friend, you are totally cool if I come in one night and give you time to try to get yourself together the next night. You wake at different times’ always keeping me on my toes. Sometimes you want my help calming you down, sometimes you don’t. You’re flexible, but you’re also confusing. You are helping me to learn how to roll with it and just follow my gut.

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  • You are rolling and sitting like a champ. It seems like all of a sudden you went from laying down all the time to being able to flip/roll both ways, pivot around on your tummy, inch your way towards toys and sit for really long periods of time without falling over backwards. It’s amazing to watch – you are SO strong. I used to joke about how you were so deliciously, perfectly plump that it was harder for you to flip that body over or hold it up for a long time. Boy was I wrong. You are an Olympic sitting champion these days, and believe me, it’s ALL you want to do.

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  • You eat food and it’s super fun. You are loving exploring food these days. Some days you chow down, some days you just want to chew on something “big”, some days you want nothing to do with what I put in front of you. But generally we’re doing 2 “meals” a day, in addition to the millions of ounces of formula you drink every day (seriously, WHERE do you put those 38 ounces?!). As with many things with you, every day is different and we’re learning to follow your cues. You have tried homemade avocado, sweet potato, broccoli, green beans, peas, pears, butternut squash and some red and green pepper sticks (that you like to gum to death). You kind of like everything, except the squash which you only like mixed with apple. Unfortunately we’ve recently noticed the beginning of eczema on your cheeks, just like your big bro, so we’re avoiding rice cereal and other grains at the moment, and also apples. I’m being very cautious with all other allergens as well. As with your brother, I’ll continue my scientific food experiments to see if we can figure out what your triggers are, but we’re not there yet.

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  • You love toys. Everything we hand you goes right in your mouth. I love to see which ones are your favorites (wooden giraffe, banana toothbrush, the twirly corner of a random burp cloth), as you are beginning to develop opinions and show us your personality. It’s so fun to watch you grab things and maneuver them into your mouth. In contrast to your brother’s frenetic, wild motions at this age, you are controlled and steady. Your fine motor skills are quite impressive and you’re already starting to pick up teeny tiny little things between your pudgy fingers.

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The past month has been punctuated by lots of doctor’s appointments. You seem to have inherited your brother’s tendency toward respiratory bugs, and you’ve had a nasty cough for the last couple of weeks. In addition, you also have quite the glass stomach, as you’ve gotten a tummy bug twice and both times the projectile vomiting has persisted for almost a week. Phew! I thought I knew everything about baby illnesses after Owen, but again, I was wrong. Let’s try to keep those appointments to a minimum from now on, mmkay?

You, my precious one, are so. much. fun. You have this new screechy laugh that you do whenever Owen walks in the room, and you seem to be constantly amused with watching the world go by. Owen still delights in contorting your body into hilarious positions and bopping you on the head (he does it out of love, I promise). You guys are two peas in a pod. Watching you interact makes my heart swell to the point of bursting.

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I love you. Times a million.

Love,
Mommy

 

She Says… Hugging it Out

While we’re on the subject of my 3 year old being, well, “particular”, I’m going to let you in on the tug-of-war I’ve been having inside my head for the last few weeks.

Pulling In vs. Pushing Away

Owen is in the midst of a particularly difficult period. The mitten-based tantrums are one part, but he’s also been struggling to express his frustration in other situations. At school this shows up in uncharacteristically aggressive reactions to friends taking a toy from him, or teary meltdowns over things that didn’t use to bother him at all, like any answer to the question, “What are you makin’ for dinner?”. Being around him is a bit like walking a minefield. You never know when you’re going to step on a bomb.

He didn’t used to be like this. It feels like it’s not really “him”, but I can’t get him to snap out of it.

There are a lot of potential reasons why this behavior might be flaring up right now.

1. He’s 3 1/2. I remember reading somewhere that the “half-years” are often far more challenging than the time surrounding actual birthdays due to developmental leaps and struggles. I remember a chart of a spiral of child development that showed common behaviors for each year/half-year and the year behaviors were often “mastered” and the half-years were “developing”. And, on top of that, there’s the omnipresent dichotomy between being a baby and being a big kid — needing your parents while simultaneously wanting to do everything for yourself. Which is stressful for a kid. So there’s that. And to be honest, maybe I could just stop there. Because 3 1/2 is hard, no matter how you slice it.

2. Emmett. I know he’s been around for 5 1/2 months, but now he’s getting bigger, and cuter, and he’s beginning to do things that Owen does too (like eat food), which might make him seem more like a “threat” to Owen. I almost hesitate to add him to this list because Owen has never, not once, showed any frustration or anger or ill will towards him. He is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest big brother. Even more than I ever thought possible. His bad attitude has never been directed at Emmett. Still, I understand that realizing he is not the center of attention in our family all the time is a long and arduous process for Owen.

3. Increasing/high expectations. Owen recently night potty-training himself. His night pull-up had been dry for 5+ months, but I wasn’t going to pull the plug on the pull-ups just yet, as I’ve read that kids (boys especially) aren’t generally physically ready for night training until 5 or even later. I didn’t want to stress him out. As with the rest of our potty training journey, though, Owen was insistent, and once he decided he wanted to be dry all night, he was. So once we finished up the pull-ups we had in our house, we supported his decision to sleep in underwear. Boom. Done. In the mornings when his magic clock turns green, Owen LOVES getting up by himself, going pee, getting dressed for the day and coming in to our room. It’s glorious, and the best part is that he is so proud of himself. The kid can write letters and wipe his own nose and put his dishes in the sink and work the CD player on his own. He is so capable and eager that we just keep teaching and he just keeps learning. Accepting responsibility. Asking for it. But then sometimes he wants to go backwards. And NOT do all of those things. And it’s confusing for us, and sometimes we push him. “You’ve done it before”, “You know how”, “You’re a big boy”.

4. Illness. Acting out on the outside when he’s feeling bad on the inside has always been a common thread for Owen. It’s generally in retrospect that I can identify that an ear infection was to blame for his whiny tantrum or a brewing virus was behind a hitting rampage. Right before Christmas Owen had a nasty respiratory bug that coincided with the stomach bug. Then he seemed to get better. Then a few days later his fever resurfaced. He complained of stomach pains and a headache. I told myself I would take him to the doctor in the morning, but in the morning his temp was normal and he said he felt fine again. Then over the weekend his temp spiked again, all the way up to 102 even after a dose of Ibuprofen. Doc said if it was still high the next morning to come in. Next morning it was back to normal and he said he felt better. Since then no fever, but he’s still acting under the weather and complaining of his stomach. I know illness can’t account for bad behavior for months upon months, but it’s possible that there’s something going on health-wise that I just haven’t identified yet.

And then of course there’s always the theory that bad behavior is a cry for attention. For love. And that’s probably also the case.

Given that it has felt like these behaviors were getting worse recently, Benjamin and I scheduled a meeting with his teacher and the psychologist on staff at his school. She routinely visits the classrooms and knows the kids and I wanted to get her opinion (reassurance?) on if his behavior was normal or if she thought there was something bigger going on. The bottom line is that both his teacher and the psychologist feel that his behavior is well within the range of normal (which we were relieved to hear). He’s 3. It’s hard being 3.

They both offered solutions for dealing with his behavior, many that I had heard before and that we already use on a daily basis (offer choices, give him power when possible, praise good behavior and don’t give attention to bad behavior, help him verbalize his feelings, etc.). The psychologist also talked a bit about hugging it out, or pulling him in rather than pushing him away when he’s acting out.

It feels uncomfortable to say out loud, but that’s not my knee jerk reaction when my kid is acting like a wild animal. My usual response to that behavior is “I can’t hear you when you talk like that” or “I don’t want to listen to you cry. If you need to cry, go do it in the other room” or “Come back and talk to me when you’ve pulled yourself together”. It’s not necessarily pushing him away, but it’s a general avoidance of his emotional outbursts. To be honest, it’s treating him like an adult who has the capability to pull themselves together without help. Which a 3 year old doesn’t necessarily have. And, while we’re being honest… it’s not really helping. While shutting down and closing the door to him might feel like the right thing to do to me (“I’m teaching him a lesson!”), it might not be what he needs to get through it.

The psychologist made a very strong case for the fact that, during these outbursts, Owen probably wants them to stop as much as I do. He wants to pull himself together. He wants to stop crying. He’s not manipulating me; he’s sad. And he needs help. And when she said it like that… well, then I just felt like a jerk.

So we’ve been trying this tactic recently. Instead of walking away from his tantrum, I take a deep breath and hug him. I just hug. Eventually I talk softly and try to put words to what he’s feeling, but it starts with a hug. (Benjamin is way better at this than I am, but I’m working on it). It’s not all rainbows and unicorns — sometimes Owen REALLY doesn’t want to be hugged. Sometimes it backfires. Sometimes, even when it helps, I feel like I’ve giving attention to bad behavior and it will turn him into a spoiled brat.

So I’m still figuring things out, like when and how to use this. And I’m still learning how to reconcile bringing him in vs. pushing him away. And to make it my instinct rather than something that’s difficult for me to do. But it certainly feels nice to have something in my parenting toolbox other than ignoring my kid until he can get his emotions under control.

She Says… A Solid “Meh”.

A few days after Emmett’s 4 month doctor’s appointment we felt ready for one of my favorite baby milestones. Or, rather, something that was one of my favorite milestones for Owen, so it’s all I’ve ever known. In pure 2nd baby fashion, it went completely differently than what I expected.

FOOD.

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We started playing with solid food on the earlier side (a little over 4 months old) with Emmett for many reasons, not the least of which is that now that he is on gross hypoallergenic formula (another story for another blog post!), I feel strongly that introducing him to some better/more interesting flavors and textures is important. Also, it’s REALLY fun. I love introducing my babies to the tastes and smells and experience of enjoying food.

We were in a similar situation with Owen when he turned 4 months. The minute I put that first bite of avocado in his mouth it was like Christmas morning. His eyes lit up, his lips smacked, his toes curled in happiness. The kid ate like a Hoover from the very first day. And pretty much never stopped (save for some picky eating phases along the way, all of which ebbed and flowed and eventually left again).

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Emmett’s verdict?

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MEH.

I started him with avocado just like his big bro. Lord knows I ate enough avocados while pregnant with/breastfeeding him that he’s practically been eating it since the day he was created. However, that familiarity didn’t seem to help much. He just wasn’t into it.

He tolerated the spoon on his lips. He tolerated me dabbing a little avocado mush onto them. He licked. Scowled. Got full-body shivers. Used his tongue to push it right back out.

Given that he’s still so little (5 months yesterday — another blog post in the works!), I’m totally not sweating it. Or pushing it. After the first time I waited a week before trying again. Since then I’ve been offering a few bites every night when we eat dinner as a family. He sits at the table in his high chair and enjoys the company, if not the food so much. I’ve offered avocado and sweet potato.

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The only time he will really open his mouth and eat? When big brother Owen is doing the feeding.

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Which sort of feels like an accident waiting to happen (I heard myself saying, “Oops! Don’t stick the spoon all the way down his throat!”). But honestly? Both boys love it. Owen loves being the big brother (read: IN CHARGE), and Emmett sits there and giggles nonstop at Owen.

Owen’s new favorite game: Will Emmett swallow or spit his food back out?

So although he’s not exactly Hoovering yet, I’m hoping he’ll warm up to food soon. Yet another reminder of how different 2 kids can be!

She Says… Questions and Answers

My preschooler is in that adorable, filterless 3 year old stage where he asks every question that pops into his hardworking little brain. His questions are innocent, completely free of judgement and uncomplicated by the intricacies of political correctness, what is appropriate and what others might think. They can also be unexpectedly, mindblowingly wise.

A few days ago we unintentionally fell down the rabbit hole of discussing death, dying, burial and the afterlife when we drove past a cemetery. We drive by it all the time, but this particular day, Owen decided to ask a question that in his mind was probably quite simple. Surprise! It really wasn’t simple at all.

What are those stones out there?

It was one of those moments I knew that I should give him the straight answer in as few words as possible. My head was swimming with the right words to say. He had no idea that I wanted to tell him about death and religion and my personal philosophy on life after death and souls vs. bodies… all he asked about were those stones. Of course we will have these conversations some day, but right now he is only 3.

And he was only asking about the stones.

Still, I feel compelled to give him the “truth” (well, my version of the truth at least), and perhaps a glimmer of the larger conversation, for when he is ready to talk about the story behind the stones.

I told him the stones were called gravestones. That they marked a place where a person’s body was put in the ground after they died. And then I waited. I waited for the follow-up questions.

Why are they under there? Under the ground?
Can they breathe under there?
Just Mommies and Daddies, right? Not kids?
What about dogs?
How did they GET there?
Can I see them put someone down there?
Why do some people go under the ground and other people don’t?

I answered each one matter-of-factly. You know, after pausing for a moment to let my heart break into a million pieces when he asked if there were kids buried there as well.

And then, as with so many other things at 3 years old, we turned the corner and the conversation was over. We moved on to talking about what kind of yogurt he wanted to pick out at the grocery store.

Phew. I think I avoided totally screwing up our first conversation about death.

But I know it’s not the last. I also know that the conversation about death almost always boils down to a conversation about religion. My own philosophy about religion is that I’m not going to choose it for my kid. He will have to make his own decision. My plan, if you can call it that, since in some ways it is just a very theoretical game of hot potato, is to educate him about what lots of different people believe, and leave it up to him to decide what he believes once he has all of the information. Benjamin and I will tell him what we believe, but I refuse to tell him what is “the truth”, because in my opinion, truth is in the eye of the beholder. This all sounds well and good, except that it makes some of these tricky conversations even trickier. There are a lot of unknowns.

We recently got into a conversation about church when we wanted to Skype with my sister and her kids, but they couldn’t do it on Sunday morning because they were at church.

What is church? Can I go there? Why do some people go there? What is God?

Tricky.

Unfortunately this is one thing I won’t be able to Google my way out of.

Benjamin and I will have to come up with answers to each of these questions that align with our own beliefs and how we want to bring up our boys. While no one can give me those exact answers, and I’m certain we all approach these questions differently, I’m curious: When did your kids start asking about death/religion/sex/other loaded topics? How did you answer them? Are there any resources out there that address what level of an answer to give to your kid at each age/stage of development?

She Says… Four Months

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My sweet baby boy,

This month whizzed by. It flew. You started daycare and I started back at work in the beginning of November and BAM! it’s Thanksgiving already. And judging by the state of our family calendar, it will be Christmas before we know it. The transition back to work could have been devastating. It could have been rough. It could have been rocky. It’s been busy (and still is), for sure, but thanks to you, my little darling, it has been as painless as possible.

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You, sir, rock. You rock at daycare. You rock at sleeping there. You rock at chugging every drop of all of your bottles. You rock at smiling and charming every one of your teachers. You rock at staying pretty calm in the evenings even after super long days so that we can have dinner as a family. You rock at smiling and splashing and making bathtime my favorite time of the whole day. You rock at snuggling into me while I nurse you at bedtime, holding your tiny, pudgy little fingers and wondering how we made such a perfect little dude.

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I’m beginning to worry that you’re going to grow up thinking your name is “cutie pie”. Because that’s what you hear all day long. I’m sure there’s a lot more to you than just your looks, but it’s the truth. You are DAMN cute. People stop me on the street to say one of three things about you:

  1. You have the most perfect, round head. (I had no idea this was a thing people commented on, but it’s true. You do.)
  2. You are SO smiley. (Mmm hmm, that too. Not stingy with the grins!)
  3. You have the most beautiful eyes. (Sparkly. Dancing. Deep blue like the ocean.)

I may be biased, but I wholeheartedly believe that all 3 things are true.

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This month, unfortunately, I’ve discovered something that’s not so easy breezy about you. As much as I tried to avoid going down the road of thinking you have some sort of food allergy/intolerance like your brother and your Daddy, I’m pretty sure you do. At least for now. This past month has been a roller coaster of hypoallergenic formula and me avoiding certain foods to see what the culprit is. Though you’re far from figured out, my best guess and working hypothesis at the moment is that your tummy does not tolerate when I eat milk or eggs. We’ve got a pretty good thing going while I’m off both of those things as far as I can tell, and although it’s hard for me to avoid yummy things like cheese, yogurt and chocolate (and pretty much anything baked now that eggs are off limits), it is worth it for the time being to heal you. Last night was the worst night I’ve seen — arching, crying, poop issues. Nothing helped. You couldn’t sleep and you couldn’t eat, which just left you awake and paralyzed by your own sadness. Which meant I was too. Daddy and I took turns trying to comfort you but all you really wanted was to rock with me, half-nursing, half-pacifying.

We got through it. We’ll get through this patch and we’ll get through the next one and we’ll get through the one after that. I’ll always be here to hold your hand and help you through, whatever comes. I already ache for the day that you come home with a problem I can’t fix, like a broken heart. But trust me, we’ll get through that too.

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Emmett, you fit like a snug little puzzle piece into our family. Daddy and I fight over who gets to hold you and make you smile. Schnitzel is protective of you and bathes you in kisses. Owen, in the midst his totally-age-appropriate-but-nonetheless-incredibly-frustrating 3 year old ‘tude, is totally enamored with you. His normally wild body becomes calm around you. He dotes on you. Sings to you. Contorts your body in hilarious ways that make us all laugh. Sweetly and softly pats your cheek when you’re crying. Gives me the play-by-play of what you’re doing in the car (“He’s sleeping! No! He’s awake! He’s pukin’ up! He’s looking at his toy!”). Though I know there will be times, likely in our not too distant future, when he’s not so kind to you, you must always know that everything he does comes from a place of love.

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Brothers are like that.

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Owen’s new favorite game is to get the whole family under a blanket on the couch and pretend to sleep. He calls it a “love cage” and no one can get out. Guess who he ALWAYS wants in his love cage? You. So far you’re surprisingly tolerant of being smooshed into a pigpile with all of us and covered with a quilt. You’re pretty easygoing about most of the silly games we play with you. You’re the best baby doll.

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I love you, my beautiful boy. We all do. Even in the middle of the night it melts me to see your bright eyes and kicking legs in the dim light. You are one special little guy.

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Couldn’t love you any more if I tried,
Mama

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She Says… Movie Magic

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This weekend was a milestone for my little 3 year old.

His very first movie.

I’m a super stickler (read: mean mom) about tv/screen time, so he usually only gets his tv in 15 or 30 minute chunks. He’s also the type of kid who cannot handle “exceptions” in his schedule. By that I mean that if I just up and said, “Surprise! We’re watching a movie today!” he wouldn’t just enjoy it… he would beg and plead and cry and fuss every day for the next month about “Why one day we watched a movie?”. And that, to me, is just not worth it.

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But as I’ve mentioned, we’ve been having some serious behavior issues lately. Though they are not all gone, he seems to be doing better overall. Most days. As an added incentive to finish up his sticker chart (which includes stickers for listening to his teachers and using gentle hands at school, and also, more recently, staying in his bed all night long and not waking us up), we decided to let him earn the opportunity to watch a movie. On the big tv in the newly renovated basement. Complete WITH POPCORN.

Sold.

Owen finished up his sticker chart and I quickly started Googling what movies are appropriate for the 3 year old set. As usual, my lovely community of Twitter followers had more info for me than any Google site. And, coincidentally, we happened to run into his preschool teacher in the movie aisle of Target and she helped me pick some age-appropriate options as well.

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My qualifications:

  • Not scary. Weird things seem to be making him anxious recently and given that I’ve sheltered him from most tv shows (he only watches Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Little Einsteins, Sid the Science Kid and Curious George), I could totally see him finding a lot of characters in a lot of movies quite scary. Thanks to my Twitter peeps, though, I realized that this is totally subjective (one kid may be totally freaked by Ursula in The Little Mermaid, but someone else might be way more sad/scared by the theme of Nemo being separated from his parents). Still, it had to be SUPER TAME in terms of character and content.
  • Not show him bad examples of behavior in terms of ‘tudes or backtalk. Believe me, we have enough of this as it is. It’s one of the main reasons I have kept him away from mainstream tv and movies so long. Owen has a particularly hilarious (and annoying) ability to imitate characters and people. I don’t need him imitating characters that use bad behavior or nasty words.
  • Be a real movie (not chopped up into small segments like tv), but not too long. I wanted it to feel special without making me feel like we spent the whole day in front of our tv.
  • Enjoyable for me to watch too. I chose the tv shows that I allow him to watch very carefully with similar qualifications, and I must say, I enjoy watching those shows with him. I wouldn’t let him watch a show I didn’t want to watch too (at this age/stage at least).

And so, after much hemming and hawing and giving him a choice between The Lady & the Tramp, Cars and A Bug’s Life, he chose Cars. “I have those guys on my Pull-ups!”. I cringed a little, as it was our first foray into falling in love with commercialized characters. But then I told myself to stop being so scrooge-y and just enjoy this milestone and the joy radiating from my kid’s face.

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He loved it. And so did Benjamin and I.

Since this was all so new to him, he couldn’t stop talking. Like, COULDN’T STOP. He asked questions about every car and truck and line of dialogue. He commented on the action and the motives behind each action and asked about the subtle jokes that are intended for adults. He didn’t miss a thing.

Perhaps our next lesson is how to watch a movie WITHOUT TALKING.

What was your kid’s first movie? What about their favorite one now? I have a feeling we’re going to have another movie afternoon as soon as he can fill up another sticker chart…

She Says… A Rough Patch

I hope those of you with little ones survived the sugar rush of Halloween yesterday. I am excited to share pictures with you from our trick-or-treating escapades, but we’re still in the process of downloading and editing. I’ll post as soon as they’re ready.

In the meantime, though, I need your help.

We’re having a bit of a challenge with Owen that we are struggling to address.

He’s been having a bit of a rough patch with his behavior. Maybe it’s just being 3. Who knows. The so-called “terrible twos” were really not so terrible for Owen. Sure, some frustrating times and a little trouble learning how to use his words instead of his body, but nothing we couldn’t handle. In general he was a gem. Or maybe that’s just the wisdom of retrospection talking. Either way, we’re past those days.

But this almost-3 1/2 stage is a whole different beast.

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I’m sure some of it has to do with Emmett joining our family (the bad behavior has emerged since Emmett turned 3 months, and, though I ignored them at the time, a few friends told me that it takes about 3 months for the “new baby” stuff to set in). But in our day-to-day life Owen ADORES Emmett. None of the bad attitude is directed at Emmett and he’s never verbalized anything about not getting enough attention or wanting to take Emmett back to the baby factory. In fact, Emmett is almost always the key to getting him to snap out of his bad attitude. Owen showers him with love, teaches him, talks to him and is remarkably gentle whenever we’re all together. Still, the psychologist in me knows that this huge shift has to have impacted him in some way.

Some of it likely has to do with just general growing up. He’s in preschool now and he has a lot more “responsibilities”. We expect a lot of him. He’s wearing underwear all the time. He is beginning to question some of the rules he has blindly followed for so long. He is smart enough to see through our language to the truth of what we’re saying even when we sugar coat it. Too smart at times, it seems.

And I think some of it comes from watching (and imitating) his peers like a hawk. Sometimes he’ll come home from school with a new phrase or a not-so-nice name to call someone and I’ll ask him, “Where did you hear that?”. So-and-so said it at school. He’s started getting up out of bed at night since he saw his little buddy doing that on our trip to New Hampshire last weekend. He’s figuring out how to push buttons or get a reaction, and he’ll copy behaviors he sees others doing to a T, for better or for worse.

He’s started talking back in a bratty tone of voice. “Nnnnnno!”, he’ll yell. “STOP IT, MOMMY”, he retorts when I tell him that’s not how we talk in our house. He demands things “now” and throws surprisingly emotional fits when I tell him that’s not a nice way to ask and I’m not going to give it to him until he asks politely in a non-whiny voice. His lifelong issue of “gentle hands” flares up when he’s angry as well. He throws things out of frustration. Pushes. Smacks my body. He’s just not listening the way he used to. He’s testing. ALL THE TIME testing.

Benjamin and I are standing our ground. Not giving in. I feel like we’re reacting the way we “should” but sometimes it feels like it snowballs until we’re all exasperated and angry (not to mention that I would prefer to just be rather than teaching lessons all day long). In general I’m really good at staying quiet and calm while he tornadoes around me, but it’s hard. It’s HARD.

We do give time-outs when warranted, but I try to save them for behavior that could hurt someone’s body (either his or someone else’s). Generally I’m a punishment-fits-the-crime sort of person (oh, you threw a toy? the toy gets taken away) and prefer positive reinforcement and rewards to punishment or taking things away. We’re all learning, right? But I’m at a bit of a loss when it comes to the verbal attacks and general not listening he’s doing now.

Time-outs and rest-your-body times are pretty powerless against vocal infractions or just not following directions. He can still yell and scream and cry even if his body is in time out (that’s why I usually save that tool for when his body needs calming). There isn’t a toy to take away or a logical punishment. I can’t yell back (or of course I shouldn’t), and it wouldn’t help anyway. I just want him to hear my voice (or his teacher’s!) and do what I’m asking him to do without saying “but” or “I don’t want to”.

And it’s not just at home either. His teachers have noticed it at school as well. And while it’s all incredibly, totally, positively age-appropriate, we don’t want to let it spiral out of hand. So we had a meeting yesterday to discuss potential strategies for helping him through this rough patch.

We currently use a sticker chart for “good days” at school. In the past this meant keeping his hands to himself and recently it has been expanded to listening to his teachers as well. Over the last few months this has worked brilliantly. Stickers have amazing powers over the 2-3 year old set. Over the last few weeks, though, he hasn’t gotten very many stickers and it seems like not getting stickers breeds more not getting stickers. We may stick with it or may institute another positive tool like putting pompoms in a jar for good listening or nice words/attitude. Has anyone instituted something like this at home?

One trigger we identified for this bad behavior seems to be his morning routine. Instead of fighting the same fights every morning, we’re going to try using this little chart that Benjamin and I made:

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I put it in a picture frame so he can use a whiteboard marker and check off when he’s done each thing. Each night we’ll wipe it off and start again the next morning. Our intention is that we will essentially leave him alone to do all of the morning steps, and hopefully at night it will help us get from flossing to brushing to bath to pajamas without fussing in between. I’m hoping the physical act of using the marker will help move us between steps and will also act as a little reward (hey, we all like checking things off of our To Do lists, right?).

What are your tricks for helping your little person do the things they need to do without a lot of reprimanding on your part?

Don’t get me wrong, Owen is still SUCH an awesome kid. Most of the time he listens and responds in hilarious and adorable ways. Most of the time he is in control of his body and is so much fun to hang out with. Most of the time he is sweet and funny and precious. It’s just the other times that I’m learning how to react to in the best way.

She Says… 3 Months

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My sweet Emmett (or Emmett-y, as your brother calls you),

Happy 3 month birthday! Three months feels so… significant. The end of the “4th trimester” and into the big, wide world of being a baby. A baby who coos and gurgles and drools and smiles and laughs. A baby who pushes up with all of his might when placed on his tummy and holds his head up high to take in the world. A baby who grabs my finger with such an iron grip that I swear he has adult strength. A baby who smells so gosh darn delicious that I can’t help but bury my face in his neck at every possible opportunity. A baby who is starting to understand subtle changes in facial expressions and gives a shy half-smile to strangers exclaiming over his unbelievable cuteness (and a HUGE! WIDE! OPEN-MOUTH! SPARKLY EYES! smile to Mommy, Daddy and Owen).

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Oh Emmett. If there’s one word I use to describe you the most on a daily basis it is SMILEY. You are one joyful little person. Even when you’re tired or hungry, you often smile through your tears in this adorable I-can’t-decide-if-I’m-happy-or-sad state. I took you into my office last week to visit my coworkers and you charmed every single one of them, smiling and cooing while they oohed and ahhed over you. After a bit of socializing you always look for me, though, and you need some one-on-one time to recharge.

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I get it. I totally do. I’ll always be here to wrap you up in my arms and be your calm. Your home base. Your comfort.

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Usually you are quite the mama’s boy (and I couldn’t be happier about that), but there’s one situation where I always play second fiddle: when Owen is in the room. You are enthralled with him. Totally in love. Entertained. Amused. In the mornings or after naps he climbs onto the side of your crib and opens your swaddle saying, “Good morning cutie pie!” or “Wake up, sleepyhead” or just “Emmett-eeeeeeeeee”. It takes my breath away every time. I love to watch you love each other.

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When we’re playing together Owen is always all up in your business. Patting your head or climbing on your body or making you clap with your feet or do sign language with your hands. Last night he was dead set on feeding you a potato despite my insistence that you are too little to eat food. I constantly hear myself saying, “Owen, please give Emmett space” or “Back up” or “Face away from his face!”, but you wanna know the truth? YOU LOVE IT. You love all of the manhandling and silliness and physical torture. You’re smiling, egging him on. You guys are going to be quite the pair as you grow up together. Partners in crime. I can see it already.

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You and me, though, we’ve got something special too. I know when you’re older you won’t want to hear about how breastfeeding was this special time between us, but it is. It really is. I am so thankful for the quiet times I get to sit with you and rock you and gaze at your beautiful little body. Even amidst the chaos of Owen playing and breakfast making and Schnitzel barking… when I’m nursing you it’s like there’s this force field around us and we’re the only two people inside. (Believe me, sometimes I feel like I need a force field, since Owen always seems to think that nursing time means “let’s climb all over mom and ask her incessant questions”). Every 2-3 hours you get 20 minutes of time with me all to yourself. And I get you. And at night when it’s quiet and you’re swaddled and our bodies are rocking in sync I wish I could freeze time and remember that feeling forever. It’s my happy place (at the same time, I would also LOVE to know what it feels like to sleep for 6+ hours at a time again!).

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You got sick for the first time over the last few days. Daycare germs, no doubt. The raspy, squeaky sound of your “I’m losing my voice” voice just about broke my heart into a million pieces. It was so sad. We’ve been humidifying and nursing around the clock (remember when you used to get up only once a night? Yeah, that was nice…) and I think you’re starting to feel a bit better today. When you had a decent fever the other day I tried to give you some medicine and learned something about you. You are a TRICKSTER when it comes to medicine. You have already perfected the art of spitting out every last drop. I’m going to have to work on my technique. I hope you don’t have the same reaction when we are ready to try solid food in a couple months!

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I’ve started giving you your vitamins and any medicine in the bath so that when you spit it out it doesn’t make a big mess. Owen thinks this is HILARIOUS and loves to watch me. He instructs, “little by little” and asks me if you spit it out after every gulp. Speaking of bath time, you love baths. Love. No matter how tired or hungry or ready for bed you are, you immediately calm when I start running the water. You and Owen splash and play together and I try my best to make sure he doesn’t drown you with his antics.

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I love you so, little one. You are the perfect addition to our family. I can’t wait to watch you grow up and learn more about who you are.

Love,
Mama

She Says… Hangin’ with the big boys

Owen has always loved hanging out with kids older than him. On his end of year evaluation last year, his teachers from school wrote that he often spends his lunches chattering with the teachers (making them laugh with story after story, since the little motor mouth never stops talking) more than with his peers. When he was younger I think it had to do with the fact that he was so verbal so early, and many of his peers didn’t talk back at the same level when he talked to them. Even now when he plays with kids who are not as talkative, he’ll come to me and say things like  “she’s not answering me”. The kid likes feedback. And conversation. And he will talk you under the table if you don’t pipe up. And don’t you DARE try to have an adult conversation without including him. It will backfire. Big time.

Anyway, talking aside, he has always been drawn to older kids. On the playground I love to watch him insert himself into the games other kids are playing (except when they exclude him, like this time) and how he strikes up a conversation with just about anyone. He fearlessly tries to do exactly what the older kids are doing, even if he’s way too small to do it. He’ll follow the big kids around like a puppy dog, doing anything to get their attention.

Last weekend we spent a lovely fall afternoon hanging out in our neighbor’s backyard for their annual Oktoberfest party (we went last year as well). Our neighbor’s brother comes every year and has two boys (7 and 5 years old) who are pretty much the quintessential wild brothers who wrestle each other to the ground and beat each other up constantly. While last year Owen was a bit too little to join their shenanigans, this year he was the perfect age to jump right in.

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The unofficial 3rd brother.

At first I think they were hesitant about him joining in (he didn’t know how to play soccer, for instance, and just wanted to kick the ball when they were actually trying to play), but soon enough they were all three wrestling each other to the ground.

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It was like Benjamin and I were seeing our future. Two rough boys punching each other in the face over and over and over again and laughing hysterically, egging each other on.

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Benjamin was squirming on the sidelines and kept calling out useless things like, “Be careful!”, whereas I was laughing and letting the boys be boys. Can you tell he didn’t have a brother? I think he’d better get used to it.

As is generally the case when you let kids figure things out on their own and interfere as little as possible, despite how rough they were being there were no tears or hurt feelings. Just a lot of pushing and shoving and pile-ups and a whole lot of smiling.

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I loved it. I am not wishing away these sweet baby months, but I do like the looks of what a few years will bring. Brothers. Being brothers. Entertaining each other. Smacking each other one minute and sticking up for each other the next. Partners in crime. Rough on the outside, sweet on the inside.

This year, though, Emmett spent his Oktoberfest doing this:

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Give him another couple years and he’ll be out there wrestling with the best of ’em, I’m sure.