Monday, November 24, 2014

Isaiah 9:2

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness -- on them light has shined."

Advent hasn't even begun, but this verse has taken on a new and quite literal meaning in our household today.  After six months - give or take - with extremely limited electricity upstairs, we now have a working overhead light in Nell's room!

Remember this post demonstrating how decidedly un-pinterest-y our house is?

My poor husband, after having a good laugh with me over the stark reality of it, declared that I ought to blog about the projects we actually get finished and the good work he does on our house and the spaces that actually look presentable.  A reasonable request!

Working electricity in my kids' rooms where clothes are kept, toys are stored, naps and nighttime (for Nell) occur -- this is no small thing, my friends.  I've spent the past six months looking for the right size socks, an outfit, a pair of pajamas, etc. using the flashlight feature on my phone.  To be able to flick on a light switch!  A modern luxury!

With light by which to see, there's no stopping us now: as soon as the lights are working in the second bedroom upstairs, I fully intend to get it fixed up by Christmas as Nell's new "big girl room."  Shh, don't tell her.  It'll be a surprise!

Oh, Sarah, look at you with your perfect life and your perfect house filled with modern amenities like electricity.  It's all too perfect; we can hardly stand it!

I know, I know.  I thought you might say that.  So just to rub our perfection into your face a little bit more, I'll show you this close-up of our really, really nice ceiling tiles.  And that -- shall we call it 'vintage'? -- light fixture.

Nice, am I right?

Friday, November 21, 2014

{Playing Catch-Up}: Ree at Four Months

Memories of Miss Marie at four months old have been taunting me from their various locations: a scrap of paper, a note on my iPhone, a blog draft left unfinished.  Time to remedy that and get caught up on chronicling this girl's growth!

Around three months, this baby girl was taking a nice long nap at least once a day, in addition to a few shorter ones.  Nicely and predictably.  I'm talking 3-4 hours long.  Yesssss.

And then around four months, she wasn't anymore.   Just shorter ones.  Not quite so good in terms of me getting things done.  But we kept loving her anyway.

She was rolling from her tummy to her back lots.

And she finally started taking a pacifier.

Pacifiers!  I go back and forth on whether I think they're awesome or a crutch that will become a difficulty in the long run, but with my work schedule picking up again in September, I figured babysitters and Daddy needed some options at their disposal.  So, enter the pacifier.  Previously disregarded by Ree, she decided it was actually a reasonably nice thing to have.


the swaddle
the ring sling
being held, specifically, facing outwards


being left alone for even a moment


The usual nicknames continue (Ree, Ree-Ree, Riesling, Baby Ree)

And then there's "Murray," which is how Marie comes out when your two-year-old says it continually with the emphasis on the wrong syllable.  So sometimes I like to go with that one.

her personal cheer:

"Ba-by Ree! Ba-by Ree!"  It gets chanted around here a lot - particularly by the enthusiastic and doting big sister - and is always met with a big grin from the recipient.

* * *

And that was our finger-chewing, drool-dribbling, coo-emitting Ree girl at four months of age, more or less.

{I probably wrote down somewhere how much she weighed at her four month checkup, but I don't remember and I can't find it.  Maybe my friend Cara, who remembers such things -- yes, even about other people's kids -- will comment and tell me.  I think it was 14ish pounds!}

{P.S. Previously: Nell at four months}

Friday, November 14, 2014

a little girl and her first violin

Nell has been watching me play and teach the violin since she was a newborn.  As a baby, she sometimes sat in her swing while I taught lessons, until she was old enough {i.e. mobile and / or noisy!} that she really needed to be with a sitter during those times.  Nowadays she often wanders into the music room when I'm teaching, first waiting at the doorway for an approving nod from me that she can come in.  She knows she must sit quietly if she wants to be with me, and she sometimes chooses to do that for a bit before returning to her play with her sitter.

I have a little pencil sharpener shaped like a violin, and for several months now, she has frequently asked to hold it.  She happily exclaims, "wee-wee-wahn!" (violin!), and tucks that tiny little thing under her chin.

So, when I was placing an order of sheet music and teaching supplies and the like from Johnson String Instrument earlier this week, I decided to add on one of their little cardboard violins with bow.  For $10.95, I thought she would get some enjoyment out of it and it would be well worth it.

The package arrived yesterday afternoon, as Nell was just coming out of two days of a high fever and cough.  Poor girlie.  I eagerly opened the box, thinking that little violin might bring her some happiness.  It was easy to assemble, and I presented it to her, explaining, "I got you a special pretend violin to play!"

She was so excited.  She asked me to help her tuck it under her chin, and she quickly moved the wooden bow across the ink-printed "strings."  Her enthusiasm vanished as quickly as it had come, and she gave me the saddest look, and carefully set the "violin" down on the floor.  Silently, she walked into our TV room and climbed into Nathan's recliner, dejected.  I followed her in there and said, "Nell, you don't have to play with the violin if you don't like it.  It's okay."

She looked up at me, and her eyes filled with tears, and she said, "Not workin'!"

Oh my goodness, my heart just about broke.

I guess I should have put a little more emphasis on the "pretend" and a little less on the "violin" when I presented it to her.

We talked about it, and I explained how it was just for pretending, and she could imagine the music or sing it while she held the violin if she wanted to.  In a few minutes, she was ready to give the cardboard violin a second chance -- and this time around, she loved it.  She loved it so much she wanted to wrap it in a blanket with her while we read her bedtime story.

And today, it occupied her for more than an hour!  She played it by herself, then "played" along with me on over a dozen songs, turning pages of sheet music on the music stand in between songs and instructing me "This one, Mama," while pointing with her little bow.  She cried when I told her she couldn't take the violin into her bed for her nap because it might get squashed.  And later in the afternoon, when I ran out to the grocery store, she "played" along with Nathan as he played songs on the piano for her.  And she played it again while I made dinner.  I think she is loving getting to participate in her own small way in the music-making that is so often going on around here.

At one point this afternoon, she started looking down at her right elbow as she played, lifting it a bit higher, and saying, "Elbow up, elbow up."  I guess she's observing more than I realize when she sits in on those violin lessons... I do indeed have a few students with perpetually sagging bow elbows who receive frequent reminders about it!

I caught a few moments of her playing her "violin" on video.  I couldn't help myself.

{She could probably learn to pronounce the word "violin" correctly now, but I still love hearing her say "wee-wee-wahn" the way she has for so long.  I can't quite bring myself to correct her on it just yet.}

Oh, how we love that girl.

P.S. -- Disclaimer for those violinists out there.  Yes, I am aware that she isn't holding either part of the equation properly.  No, I am not yet attempting to teach my 2.5 year old at this time... just letting her have fun with her own version of her mother's much-coveted musical instrument.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Nell-isms vol. 2

Last time I did a post {my first one} of Nell-isms, it was really all about the language development.  But as that keeps growing by leaps and bounds, I'm realizing her wit and humor and personality are shining through more and more now, too.

Nell has an affinity for following me into the bathroom, where she offers commentary and encouragement as {not}needed.  Fun fun.  Recently, I sat down without realizing that her toddler potty seat was still lowered.

[Side note: we have a Bemis Elongated NextStep Slow Closing Potty Seat, which I highly recommend if you have little ones!  It's basically a small seat that folds down from up inside the lid of a regular seat, so everything is attached and all in one place - super convenient and easy to use.]

I laughed out loud and said to her, "I sat down on your little potty seat!  That was a surprise!  It's a seat made for little bums!"

She smiled at me sweetly and replied, "Yeah, Nell have little bum.  Baby Ree have teeny tiny bum.  Mommy have big bum."

Toddlers.  No one ever promised they were good for your self-esteem.

A few days ago I was running the garbage disposal, and Nell kept saying, "No-why.  No-why."

Sarah: I'm not sure what you're saying.  Try again?
Nell: No-why.  No-why.
Sarah: I can't understand you; I'm sure that must be frustrating!  One more time?
Nell: *pointing to garbage disposal area of sink, which was turned off by this point* Noiii!
Sarah: OH! Are you saying 'noise'?  Because of the garbage disposal making noise?
Nell: No, noi.  Just one.

And my mind was pretty much blown with that one, folks.  Because of course, the S makes the word plural!  And my two-and-a-half year old has that all figured out.

I've had a string of bad luck with my health recently, first an injury to my lower back, then sleeping on my neck funny resulted in several days of pretty severe pain, and then my left shoulder succumbed to what I finally diagnosed as "Mom Spine."  It comes from sleeping in strange positions and lugging children around and other such things.  

Anyway, I told Nell I couldn't lift her because my shoulder was hurting, and she said, "Oh I'm so sorry.  I'm so so sorry.  I'm going to bring you a toy to make you feel all dubbuh ("better").  Make you so happy!"

What a sweetie.

* * *

Nell: Bye bye, Mommy.
Sarah: Bye! Where are you going? I'll miss you!
Nell: I'm going to a restaurant with mine friends.
Sarah: ...
Nell: laughs hysterically as though she has made a great joke.

A few weeks ago I said I loved her, and then asked, suddenly curious, "Do you know what love is, Nell?" 

And she just looked clearly into my eyes and answered, "God."

Either she's somehow already aware that "God," "Jesus," and "The Bible" are always considered good answers in certain circles, or it was a coincidence, or... well, "a little child shall lead them."

* * *

She does want to talk about God a lot lately, and she's quite enamored with finding him in her picture books -- even though I've told her we don't have any pictures of God, since the Bible tells us no one has ever seen God, so no one knows what he looks like.  Still, she won't give up, and points to person after person: "That God, Mommy?"  "No, that's Joseph..."  "That God, Mommy?"  "That's Daniel..." etc.

* * *

And last night, after reading her a few sections from her Jesus Storybook Bible (such a wonderful book, and probably still a bit above her head, but she loves reading it with me and sometimes it makes me choke up, I love it that much), Nell said to me, "Mine Jesus book, Mommy.  Jesus loves me."

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Butternut Squash, Arugula, Caramelized Onion, & Feta Quiche

Shortly after Marie was born, a friend from church brought us a delicious meal including a spinach quiche.  Quiche!  Why don't I think to make quiches more often?  Our two-year-old loved the "egg pie" and devoured several pieces over the following days, spinach and all!

I've made quiche a couple of times since then, with a particular fondness for a zucchini and caramelized onion one I made in August.  I tend to approximate my ingredients, based loosely on Julia Child's quiche but with any ingredients I like instead of the bacon (um, I'm a vegetarian).  I also find that I need another egg or two (her recipe calls for just three) to fill up a pie plate!

Earlier this week I made two quiches: a bacon one for my meat-eating, vegetable-hating husband, and a vegetarian one for Nell and myself.  People, it was so good I was literally raving about it to an audience of one: myself.  Yes, it's probably pathetic to compliment one's own cooking, but when your toddler doesn't give you too many kudos and your husband can't quite comprehend why anyone would want to eat something with vegetables in it, sometimes you have to just give yourself a pat on the back.  This quiche required some serious back-patting.

Here's a recipe for you, sort of.  If you make it, tell me what you think!

Butternut Squash, Arugula, Caramelized Onion, & Feta Quiche

1 pie crust, either homemade or store-bought.  I used one from Trader Joe's, because I can't do it all on days when I work right up until dinnertime!

4-5 eggs (I honestly can't remember how many I used.  Ridiculous!  Just see what looks right.)
1 c. cream (or milk, if you want it to be less delicious)
2 c. cubed butternut squash (aim for bite-sized pieces)
1 sweet or yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 handfulls of fresh arugula, either whole or torn into pieces
Approximately 3-4 oz. of crumbled feta (I had a 6 oz. container and put about half in this quiche.  Oh, and I'm sure goat cheese would be delicious, too!)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
dash of nutmeg

First, par-bake your pie crust for 7 or 8 minutes in a 375 degree oven.  (Or make a crustless quiche if you prefer, and omit the crust altogether.)

Caramelize your onion in a bit of butter in a pot or saute pan.  Keep it cooking over low heat until it is nice and brown and the whole house smells lovely.  Set aside.

Cook your squash by sauteing over medium heat (or you could roast it in the oven with a little olive oil!) with a drizzle of olive oil until it is tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Set aside.

Whisk together your eggs, cream, salt, and pepper.  Add crumbled cheese and handfuls of arugula.  Finally, add your caramelized onions and cooked squash, after they have cooled slightly.  Poor mixture into pie crust.

Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes or until center is well set when tested with a knife.  Mine took a bit on the longer side, but I had two quiches in the oven, so your baking time may vary.

Cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving.

It's delicious as leftovers the next morning for breakfast, too!

And I promise -- it's way tastier than my poor iPhone photos can possibly convey.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Elimination Communication Post

We started EC -- Elimination Communication -- with our older daughter, now 2.5, when she was about eight months old.  At that time, I got a lot of questions about it from friends and acquaintances, and I always meant to write about what we were doing, but somehow never managed to do it.

Our second babe is now almost six months old, and while I've been doing a little EC with her from time to time since she was born, I started being more consistent about it this week.  The results are already so noticeable!  I'm sure you can find info about EC all over the vast worldwide web, but I wanted to share our own experiences with this practice.  So here it is: the long-awaited EC blog post.

* * *

I think I first came across the whole concept of EC during my pregnancy with Nell.  It felt, to me, a combination of intriguing and overwhelming.  Then, I distinctly remember a conversation with my husband and my brother-in-law after one of her earliest diaper blow-outs, where I mentioned the practice and tried to explain it to them.  Both of them, grossed-out {to put it indelicately} by the incident they had just witnessed, loudly and enthusiastically endorsed the practice.  "Why wouldn't you try it?  Why on earth not?" and so on and so forth.

{Perhaps this is where I insert a disclaimer about how my children are perfect and delicate little flowers, are infinitely ladylike, and don't actually poop.  Just for posterity, you know.}

Well, as a first-time mom, taking care of a baby in a somewhat mainstream way already seemed overwhelming enough, and somehow the months went by and I never actually tried it.

Fast-forward to when Nell was about eight months old.  My friend Melissa had just had a baby, and was trying EC with her newborn.  She would tell me about their little successes, and within a few days, I was convinced: I had to try it, too.  I suppose that when your friend is doing something and you can hear it from a real live person's mouth instead of a book or website, it seems easier.  And really, it is easy!  So much easier and more normal than I would have thought.

* * *

So, I ordered Nell a little Baby Bjorn Potty Chairand eagerly waited for it to arrive.

Once the potty was established in a place of honor in a corner of our living room, I started by offering her potty opportunities when she first woke in the morning, and when she woke from naps.

"Do you want to go pee in the potty, Nell?", I would ask, and then I would make a "Sssssss" sound.  And if/when she peed, I made the "Ssssss" sound again as she went.

I've forgotten now, but I think she must have peed on her potty the first or second time I offered it.  It was just the encouragement I needed to keep going.

Before long, she was often keeping her {cloth} diapers dry in between using the potty.

And possibly the best benefit for this cloth-diapering mama, by the time she was actually interested in eating solids and had the accompanying change in bowel habits, all her poops were on the potty.  Yep.  I never had to deal with a diaper sprayer or anything like that.  Just wet diapers over here from about nine months onward.  {She was late to the game in having any interest in solids whatsoever.}

We were definitely doing pretty well, often just using one or two diapers during the course of the day, and by the time Nell was eighteen months or a bit younger she would say, "pot" {her word for potty} when she needed to use the potty or wanted her diaper changed.

Unfortunately, having hyperemesis gravidarum again during my pregnancy with Marie derailed the whole EC thing a bit, and during the time that I was too sick to handle cloth diaper laundry there were also days when I was too sick to manage getting her to the potty frequently.  She wore disposables.  And peed in them frequently.  {Poops were still in the potty, though!  Always!}

All was not lost, however.  Once I felt better, we got back to using the potty at least a couple of times a day.  Then, when Ree was two weeks old (and Nell had just turned two), I decided that Nell was probably ready to be fully "potty-trained."

We tried it for a day.  It was not going well.  I was perplexed.  It wasn't what I expected of my EC girlie.  I put it on hold.  After all, having a new baby sister is a pretty big adjustment.

I tried again one week later.  Easy-peasy this time.  Virtually no accidents.  Underwear!  Fun and exciting!  Nell had maybe two accidents in the house over the course of a week, and one while playing outside with the hose water one day.  And that was pretty much it!

* * *

So here we are, doing it again with little miss Marie, who is now almost six months old.  She's sitting with pretty good stability these days, so at the beginning of this week I pulled the Baby Bjorn potty up from the basement and washed it out for her.  Spurred on by a recent bit of information I read about the inherent difficulties of getting solid poops out of cloth diapers, I decided it was time to get serious about doing this again.  Maybe it would work and maybe it wouldn't, but I would offer Ree chances on the potty just as I had done with Nell.

I've been offering her the potty at waking times {not night wakings; please people, I'm not that dedicated!}, at diaper changes, before baths, and occasionally in between if we're home and it's convenient.

The first day, Ree wasn't so sure about sitting on the potty, as she was used to being held over it, her back against my tummy as I held her little legs.  By that afternoon, though, she had the hang of it and peed sitting down.  The following day, she did three pees on the potty.  The third day it was at least four.  Today in addition to success upon wakings, there were a couple of occasions where she seemed a little fussy, I checked her diaper to find it dry, and she then went on the potty.  At diaper changes where her diaper was wet, I offered her the potty and it was clear that she would try to go at those times, even if it was just a small amount.

I can't help adding the completely pointless but utterly charming fact that, after peeing on the potty, "I smile at her and say, "Ree!  Does that feel better than having a wet diaper?" and she grins up at me, oh so pleased with herself.

* * *

Doing EC worked pretty well with Nell.  Nathan quickly became on board with the whole idea, too, and overall we felt it worked really well for our family.  We were glad we gave it a try and stayed with it -- even though we didn't do it "perfectly" or 100% consistently, it made a real difference.  But maybe it was just Nell, a niggling voice in my head said.  Maybe she just took to it well, and other babies wouldn't.

While it's still early to declare any sort of wild success with Babe #2 around here, I think it is fair to say that the principles of EC really do work.  I just think that children - even babies - are quite smart, and can quickly show a preference for using a toilet if it is offered to them rather than wetting or soiling a diaper.  And if you have the kind of lifestyle where you can be home with your babies enough to offer them this chance -- even somewhat infrequently, even just once or twice a day -- you may be surprised by how they respond.

In short -- 

Definite Pros of EC:

I think a big thing in favor of practicing EC, even part-time, is that the toilet will never be something new or scary to an EC baby.  Baby will never remember a time of not using the potty.  Hopefully this eliminates or reduces resistance to the idea, the developing of controlling tendencies in reaction to toilet learning, etc.  Using the potty is just normal.

Fewer diapers.  When baby stays dry, just put the dry diaper back on after using the potty!  {Note: cloth diapers will go off and on endlessly; disposables will lose their stickiness on the tabs after a few times.} Fewer disposable diapers means saving money and the environment.  If you're cloth diapering, you'll extend the life of your diapers with less laundering needed.

A more comfortable baby with less wetness and less opportunity for rash.

A chance to connect with your baby about one of many daily caregiving opportunities.  I am a big believer in giving my kids my full attention as much as possible during bathing, changing, potty, dressing, and feeding times.  At other times I encourage them to engage in independent activities, but caregiving, when I am at my best anyway, gets my undivided attention.  {This is based not only on my intuition, but also influenced by Magda Gerber's approach and by Janet Lansbury, a wonderful parenting resource.}

Potential Cons of EC:

Baby might fuss when wanting to use potty. {Then again, most babies will fuss for a wet diaper, anyway.}

Baby might wake when wanting to use potty?  I was never sure if this was happening with Nell or not, but occasionally had my suspicions.  A legitimate fear for any parent, I get that.  We don't want our babes waking any more than they already do!

If you cloth diaper, you might find yourself with smaller diaper laundry loads.  Don't forget to wash them every 2-3 days anyway.  Don't let them fester for a week just because your pail isn't full and you still have plenty of clean ones in your stash.  Wash them anyway.  And throw in towels to bring your laundry-to-water ratio where you want it.

* * *

I hope my children don't hate me someday for writing this post.  Nell and Marie, I love you girls so, and I came across this method of toilet-learning and thought it just seemed as though it might be a little nicer for all parties concerned than solely using diapers.  And it's worked so well for us that I wanted to share what I know with friends who have asked.

And with the whole internet.

{Interested in learning more about EC?  Comment or email me with questions!  And Diaper Free Baby is a great resource.}