Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Newsflash: Reentry is hard

Hi! We're back from Germany! And actually have been for a few days now. The trip was amazing, and I will post all about it, with photos, and also potentially some thoughts about things that Germany does better and worse than the U.S., once I collect myself, but in the meantime, I'm here to say that hi! Jet lag with kids? SUCKS.

There's an eight-hour time difference between Denver and Germany, and eight hours is a LOT. The jet lag when we got to Germany was actually fine. The trip over was not easy (thanks primarily to Annika's plane barf habit), but both kids did end up sleeping 5-6 hours on the transatlantic flight, and I got a couple hours of sleep as well, so that was good. We landed in the morning, got to Torsten's parents' house at lunchtime, ate lunch, and then all four of us went for a four-hour nap. We set an alarm to not nap too long, woke up shortly before dinner time, powered through the evening, then went to bed at a normal time, got up the next morning, and were pretty much adjusted. This is the strategy we always use when we go to Europe, and it works very well for us.

Returning, though. Well. It's just harder from the start because the flight back is a daytime flight, so no sleep, and then we got home late (10:30 p.m.) and everyone was totally exhausted (Callum literally fell asleep on the floor of the airport waiting for an elevator) and we packed both kids off to bed and had high hopes that they would sleep late the next morning despite the time difference because they were just SO TIRED, having been awake for like 20 hours straight, but no dice.

Callum woke up screaming at 3 a.m. that first night back because we had put him to bed in his clothes and he wanted pajamas. He went right back to sleep, but not before his screaming woke Annika, who took forever to settle and then woke twice more over the next hour. She finally passed out for real at 4:30 a.m., only to be awakened again, and that time for the day, by Callum screaming at 6:45 a.m. These are kids who typically sleep til 8 or 8:30, so 6:45 is early, even before you calculate that it was only about nine hours of sleep for them (compared to their usual 12 hours at night) after being awake for WAY too long.

Torsten and I were both also exhausted from the long travel, our own jet lag, and the multiple overnight wakeups. That first day back was a total blur. We did end up putting both kids down for naps (Callum hasn't napped in over a year) and then having to wake them from dead stupors at 5 p.m. so that they would go to bed normally. Everyone was basically an exhausted zombie the whole day. You know how parents complain about the havoc that Daylight Saving Time wreaks? It was like that, times eight. BLARGH.

Things have been a little better since then... the overnight wakeups have stopped, thank goodness, though the kids have continued to wake up earlier than usually (around 7 most days, though one day at 6, and also, it's only Callum who's woken on his own and then awakened his sister and HEY CALLUM YOU ARE FOUR AND A HALF YEARS OLD PLEASE LEARN TO NOT SHOUT AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS THE SECOND YOUR EYES OPEN).

But the early wakeups and general disaster that is vacation reentry and trying to get back to a normal routine after two and a half weeks of doting grandparents and nonstop Mommy and Daddy time have just meant that we've all been off, and cranky, Callum especially. He's limit testing, overtired, and generally a barrel of laughs right now. Add to that that back to school is looming and he's feeling understandably anxious about his transition to a new school, and things are just... tiring around here right now.

But! Germany was wonderful, and the jet lag will pass eventually, and Torsten and I are legit excited about Callum's new school and I know that Callum will be too once he becomes familiar with it, and at least we're all sleeping through the night now.

So! You see why I need some time to collect myself. But I will! And then there will be photos and anecdotes and hey, I actually really love Germany. And I think we have a solid plan in place with my in-laws where we will visit them every other year and they will visit us at least that often as well, so at least it'll be two more years before we have to deal with this kind of jet lag again.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Off to Germany!

I swear I haven't given up on my rediscovered love of blogging--but we are off to Germany for a couple weeks so it will be quiet around here while Montana and our house sitter mind the fort. I swear I'll pick up where I left off when we get back! In the meantime, please wish us luck as we prepare to transport two small children across the ocean.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jeans! And clothes more generally

So! You know how on that end of year survey most of the Internet does, one of the questions is about describing your personal fashion concept or some such? I always kind of roll my eyes at that question and give some sort of tongue-in-cheek answer (which, I'm sorry, is fully justified by the ridiculous "fashion concept" phrasing), but the thing is, I actually DO try to dress in some sort of vaguely pulled together way, most of the time, and I feel like I've come a long way in doing that over the last couple years.

Now, I'm hardly a fashion plate, uh, at all. But! I shop at places other than Old Navy and Target for my clothing, and this is a big step up, so I'm going with it. Also, I finally got the piercing in my left ear fixed, a solid 25 years after it was first done, so that now it actually functions, and the front and back align, and it doesn't close over constantly so that I have to essentially re-pierce it (and draw blood) every time I put an earring in. So! I obtained a bunch of earrings, and I wear them every day (and night, as mandated by my piercing shop for a full year after the piercing was done), and I also wear necklaces and sometimes even watches and bracelets to match, and Annika is old enough that she no longer tries to strangle me with my own jewelry, and I even got some gold stuff in addition to my safe-staple silver stuff, and so now I can... accessorize? Kind of? I'm still not a crazy over the top accessory type, or even a statement necklace type, but I do try to have at least a necklace and earrings to complement my outfits pretty much every day, and that's a big step up for me.

OK, so, back to the subject at hand, the clothing itself. The vast majority of the clothing that I own and actually like and wear regularly is from Loft, Lands' End, and Boden. You see that I've taken a step forward past Old Navy and Target, but I'm not exactly wearing couture over here. But I love, in particular, tops and dresses from Loft (my hips are too wide to fit into most of their pants), dresses from Lands' End, and pretty much everything from Boden (though they are a more recent discovery for me and I have not yet dared to try pants from them--but I don't even wear their biggest size in most tops and skirts so I'm thinking I need to bite the bullet and at least try some of their pants). In the summer I more or less live in lightweight dresses (the Lands' End fit and flare features heavily) and the occasional maxi skirt. My Olukai flip flops are my most-worn summer shoe (I'm sorry, this whole "polished" look is still a work in progress) but I have obtained a variety of flat sandals that are cute and at least somewhat practical for wearing out and about, and I try to force myself to reach for those more often. (Please note, also, that as I work from home, officewear isn't really an issue for me other than for the occasional business trip, so my wardrobe is by and large very casual.)

You'll notice that what's missing from the above is pants. Jeans, specifically. I... well, even though I kind of feel like today's current fashions are very reminiscent of the eighties in tone, and I suspect that in 10-15 years we will look back at photos of ourselves in these clothes and cringe, I kind of love a lot of the current fashions, particularly in jeans. I have fully embraced the skinny jean (it allows us to show off all our cute shoes and boots! I am on board with this!) and also the colored jean. I had a pair of red jeans from Old Navy about a year ago that are sadly now too big, and since then I have no been able to find a decent-fitting pair of colored jeans. Also, jeans are the only thing that I still buy at Old Navy. I wear their rockstar super skinny jeans and like them a lot, for what they are. They fit well, they are affordable, they are available in lots of washes... and they are cheap, and they start to sag and stretch quite quickly after purchase. Because they are so cheap, this is not a big deal because they can quickly be replaced, but you know what I would really like? Jeans that are actually of decent quality.

I've been holding off on doing this for a couple reasons. One, between my lap-band and two pregnancies, my weight has been quite in flux for the last few years, and it has made me hesitate on investing real money into a pair of jeans that might not fit for all that long. Two, and relatedly, I am very very pear shaped, so while I can usually pull off straight-size tops (see above re my love of Loft) and even skirts if they aren't cut too straight, the same is not true of pants. So I was afraid that even if I decided to invest in a couple pairs of high-quality designer jeans, I wouldn't find any that fit me properly.

But recently, well. I'm pretty close to my pre-pregnancy weight at this point, and while the weight loss continues, it is slow and steady, and also, it takes me a lot of pounds (like, well over 20) to lose a dress size, so even if I shrink out of my jeans eventually, it will be a slow process, and in the meantime I've spent a lot of years wearing crappy cheap jeans while waiting to be a small enough size to justify something nicer, and I'm sick of it. I want good jeans! And damn it, I'm going to invest in some. I did poke around Nordstrom (another newly beloved store for me) and was surprised to find that their plus size jeans selection was sorely (SORELY) lacking--some Not Your Daughter's Jeans and... that's it--so I'm thinking I'm going to need to figure out an alternative. Like, what brand should I be looking for, and where should I be looking for it? Friends have made a few recommendations to start me off (Paige and Kut from the Kloth--though I'm not convinced I'd fit into the size 34 from Paige and also it seems to be rarer than unicorn dust to actually FIND a size 34 from Paige even though it theoretically exists--and Kut from the Kloth has plus sizes but the selection appears quite limited in terms of both color and style) but that is as far as I've gotten.

So! I'm on a mission! Find myself some decent jeans! Just one pair, for now! I'm somewhere in the range of a size 18-20 in pants, which sadly means I'm just slightly sized out of most straight-sized lines of jeans, which typically end at a 16. But if you know of any that, say, run big? Or make plus sizes? Or that you've heard good things about? Or have ideas about stores to look at to find out these things (this is where I thought Nordstrom would come through for me, only to be sadly disappointed)? I am all ears. Tell me about your jeans!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

On asthma. Or pre-asthma. OK, sensitive lungs.

So, Callum has asthma, kind of, maybe. This is something we've known about for a long time... his sensitive lungs first made an appearance right before he turned one with his first case of bronchiolitis, and then again later that same year with his second case of bronchiolitis, which was when we first obtained an inhaler for him. At the time we were only using albuterol, which is acute treatment for asthma symptoms that are currently occurring such as wheezing, coughing, etc. (often called a rescue inhaler), and I actually don't remember at what point we added in the second inhaler, Qvar, which is a daily preventive corticosteroid that helps prevent asthma symptoms from occurring in the first place, but it's been awhile since we first started using it--I'd say at least two years.

(Side note: Callum's official diagnosis is still up in the air. His regular pediatrician, whom we love, calls it "sensitive lungs" and doesn't want to put a diagnosis on it yet because she thinks there's a good chance he'll grow out of it on his own. Another pediatrician at the practice whom we've seen for a couple of bronchiolitis-related sick visits says that the criteria for asthma are that he requires an inhaled corticosteroid--Qvar--as well as a rescue inhaler--albuterol--and as a result he does have it. Another doc at the practice has said that he at the very least is considered to have pre-asthma. It's all semantics, though. The reality doesn't change... he has sensitive lungs that require treatment and vigilance. He may end up with an official asthma diagnosis down the road, but not yet, but in the meantime, that's essentially what we're dealing with and that's how we refer to it ourselves.)

Anyway, neither of us really has experience with asthma and it took us a shamefully long time to realize how important the Qvar really is for Callum. The doctor told us to give it to him once a day, but we weren't great about it. We would forget frequently and not think it was a big deal. The thing about Qvar is that because it's preventive, and because Callum doesn't have asthma symptoms most of the time (only in response to illness, usually), its effect isn't obvious and in your face the way albuterol's is. So we wouldn't use it as often as we should have, nothing would happen, and we would remain lax about it. Then every time Callum got sick he would end up with a case of bronchiolitis, sometimes manageable with his inhaler, sometimes requiring a trip to the pediatrician for a bulk albuterol nebulizer treatment and a prescription for oral steroids, and we still didn't realize the connection to the inconsistent Qvar use.

Then! In August of last year, Callum caught the enterovirus that was going around--the one where the media was full of dire warnings specifically for parents of kids with asthma. It was a particularly nasty cold, and he did need his albuterol inhaler, but the inhaler was sufficient and he did not end up requiring additional meds or treatment. But then, in October, Callum got a pretty hardcore case of bronchiolitis that his albuterol inhaler could barely touch. We brought him into the pediatrician, where he required such a big bulk albuterol treatment that he actually threw up from the amount of albuterol in his system (evidently a common side effect of large amounts but not something we had ever experienced before). At that visit the doctor also told us that this was what they had been seeing with this enterovirus with asthmatic kids--a rebound illness a month or two later with a pretty severe lung reaction that required a lot of albuterol to manage. He sent us home with instructions to administer albuterol round the clock whether he was displaying symptoms or not, and to bump up the Qvar to twice a day and keep it that way for the rest of the winter. We went home and followed his instructions religiously, and have continued to administer the Qvar twice a day since then.

And you guys, it turned out that the Qvar has made a HUGE difference for Callum. Honestly I am embarrassed that we didn't realize before how much it would matter. He had a ton of colds this past winter, but he has hardly needed his albuterol at all, and he did not have a single sick visit to the doctor all winter. Contrast that with the previous winter, where our insurance claims history tells me that he went to the pediatrician to be treated for bronchiolitis four different times over a period of four months.

Qvar! It works! Follow your doctor's instructions, guys! You're welcome!

Seriously, though, this is like a magic drug for us. And actually, we have just sort of inadvertently proven that concept, because I was recently wondering if maybe it wasn't the Qvar, maybe it was a coincidence, maybe he's just outgrowing his asthma like his pediatrician has always said he might, but then, well, we put it to the test. When we got toward the spring, sometime around April I started wondering aloud to Torsten if maybe we should scale down to just one dose of Qvar per day since the doctor had said the two doses was just for the winter. Then Callum caught a cold, I figured it wasn't a good time, and I scrapped the plan.

Except... evidently I didn't adequately express my thought process to my co-parent, because Torsten somehow got the idea that Callum didn't need the Qvar at all anymore, not even once a day, and stopped giving it to him. So, he was still getting some, because I was giving it to him some days, but he wasn't getting nearly enough. And lo and behold, he got a cold, a super mild cold even, one that we barely noticed except that he was a little sniffly and Annika had a runny nose, and... now he has bronchiolitis. A mild-ish case, one that so far his albuterol inhaler can handle, but one that is far worse than anything he has had since before we started giving him Qvar regularly. He's coughing a lot, I can hear a wheeze in his breathing, and he needs his albuterol many times a day, including in the middle of the night. That's a situation that we haven't dealt with since the fallout from his enterovirus in October, and MAN did we ever get spoiled not having to deal with it. Now we're back in that place, and ugh, it sucks. Poor Callum is coughing and wheezing even though he's otherwise feeling fine, and we're both on edge listening out to see if he goes downhill and needs to be seen, and just, UGH. And I was so confused! I said to Torsten with great concern this morning that the Qvar doesn't seem to be doing the trick anymore because he got this bronchiolitis after such a mild cold after not having it all winter! And Torsten was like, "Um, I thought he didn't need the Qvar anymore?" And... LIGHT BULB MOMENT.

At least Torsten's guilt over having inadvertently caused his child to develop bronchiolitis will most certainly prevent him from ever making this mistake again. And I think we'll be sticking with Qvar twice daily year-round from now on. Clearly it helps. And clearly colds happen in the summer too. But it is so so good to know that the Qvar makes such a difference for him. With it, it's almost like has doesn't have asthma/sensitive lungs at all anymore. And that is an amazing feeling, for all of us.

Friday, June 19, 2015

State of the kiddos, volume 1

Now that my kids are a little older, I'm not writing monthly letters to them anymore, which is, well, surprisingly freeing but also means I have much less of a record of what they're like, what they've been doing, how they're changing over time. So... every now and then I'd love to do a little capture of what they're like at that moment in time. This one is long because, well, it's the first one in awhile... hopefully future installments will be a little shorter.

Callum is feeling more and more like he's rounding the corner into the fun part of age four. The behavior chart has helped a lot, and while he definitely engages in some limit testing and gets frustrated sometimes, he's whining much less and is very happy and helpful. It's been fascinating to watch him grow into a real little person and observe more and more about the way his mind works.

The thing that stands out to me the most is that he's just such a kind, thoughtful person. The other day we suggested a special outing to the children's museum, just him, while Annika was at daycare, and he responded that he would rather wait for a day when Annika could come too because she loves the ball room at the children's museum. I mean. Couldn't you just die? It was so sweet and thoughtful, beyond what I would expect from a four-year-old. He runs outside and picks dandelions for us and tells us that he brought us a beautiful flower and it smells so good and carefully puts it into a cup of water for us to keep. He tells me "have fun at work!" when I say goodbye to him in the mornings. He is so loving with Annika (though of course he gets frustrated when she takes his toys) and they play together amazingly well. He pretty much never lies, and if he says he'll do something, we know he will. He's very affectionate, and wants endless numbers of hugs, but he's also very independent, and will happily play on his own for hours.

He notices everything, and has started attempting to negotiate the world with us the way we do with him. For example, if he wants us to do something he will tell us that we should do it so that we can get a sticker for our chart, or that if we don't do it, he won't let us have our favorite food (we actually don't use food as a reward or consequence ever, but he has evidently picked up on that concept anyway). He's extremely observant, and we often hear ourselves reflected in him in the way he talks to us and plays with his toys. He comes up with clever ways to try to get around the things we say. Recently he told me that kids make the rules, and I told him no, grown-ups make the rules, and he thought for a minute and told me that in that case, his stuffed Olaf actually gets to make the rules, because he's 701 years old and that's older than anyone else in the house.

He's very creative. He engages in long, complex imaginative play on his own with fully detailed scenarios and ongoing conversations that he acts out among all the characters. He has started liking to draw and paint and generally do art a lot more than he ever did before. He makes up stories about toys and puzzles and pictures, and will build things like Octonauts out of any toys he has on hand. He still loves cars, both the vehicles and the movie.

He loves numbers and seems to have a natural mind for them. He can count at least to 1,000 and sometimes beyond. He can read three-digit numbers and is starting to be able to read four-digit numbers too. He can compare numbers (a week or so ago in a parking lot he was reading license plates, saw two cars next to each other with an 848 and a 691 on their plates, and said to me, "Eight hundred forty-eight is more than six hundred ninety-one"). He can do simple math if you ask him conceptually (like "if you have five apples and you eat two apples, how many apples do you have left?") and he can envision a mental number line and tell you which number is closer to another (for example, "which number is closer to six--three or eight?"). He can read a digital clock to tell you what time it is and is just starting to grasp what time actually means (rather than thinking that if you say something is happening in three hours, he can just count to three and it will be time). He loves puzzles and can do up to 70-80 pieces entirely independently, and 100 pieces with some assistance. He asks questions about numbers constantly, things like how fast we are going and what the temperature is.

Every now and then he gives a little glimpse into his four-year-old logic, like last week when he asked me how fast we were driving and I told him 30 and he asked with great puzzlement how that could be, because we could only drive 20, 40, 60, 80, 100, or 120. It took me a minute to realize he must have taken a look at the speedometer once and seen that those are the only numbers actually printed on it. Or, once recently he commented that we were driving past a school. I looked around and did not see an obvious school and finally noticed a tiny sign in the distance marking a nearby school. There was no way he could possibly have seen that sign or known what it meant, so I asked him how he knew there was a school nearby, and he said, "Because the sign said 20!" After a moment I realized that he had deduced (correctly) that 20mph speed limit signs almost always denote a school zone.

He's extremely active. He's always on the move and always running. He loves to jump, slide, swing, scoot, bike, swim, hike, roughhouse. He has boundless energy and always wants to be outside. He can walk or scoot surprisingly long distances without complaining. When we went on a hike a couple weeks ago he sat down and complained one time, not because he was tired but rather because he was upset that Torsten had scolded him. Once he got over that, he happily sang to himself the entire rest of the hike.

He is still big, but not off the charts big like he was as a baby. He hovers around 70th-80th percentile. I believe he's about 42 inches and 42 pounds. He remains picky and doesn't eat much, but somehow the situation feels less dire than it used to--with the behavior chart we have at least gotten him to take bites of things that he would previously absolutely reject, like chicken and salami and even a piece of spinach, and he expresses a desire to eat his dinner even if he then falls at the final hurdle of actually eating it, and altogether even though he's not really eating much more than he ever did, I feel like we might be starting to see the slightest sliver of light at the end of this particular tunnel.

He remains, as he has been since babyhood, a happy and laid-back kid. He is still sensitive, and gets hurt feelings if he gets scolded or any kind of negative attention, but he is quickly reassured with hugs and talking it out. He reacts surprisingly well to transitions--when we told him he was going to change schools in the fall he had questions, and still does, but was surprisingly fine with it given how much he loves his old school. It feels like... like he's never really had his trust violated and so he has no awareness that bad things could happen to him. I hope he stays that way for a long time.

He is our sweet, loving, clever boy. We are so lucky.

Annika also feels like she is rounding a corner into a pleasant age. The first half of age one is always challenging (though adorable) because the motor skills are there but the cognitive skills not so much, so you're basically looking at a fetus on feet (TM Jonna). As she gets closer to two she has become better at listening and a little more self-regulated (though, obviously, still a toddler). She is happy and energetic and deeply opinionated.

She is surprisingly good at communicating. I was keeping track of her vocabulary and gave up after about 75 words, but she has to be well over 100 words by now. She puts two and three words together in sentences, and is just beginning to grasp pronouns and verbs (she will say things like "Mommy go" and "me down"). She has also very much mastered the art of the word "no" and will combine it beautifully with other words to very clearly articulate exactly what it is that she does not want ("no night-night!" "no Daddy!"). She is learning sign language at daycare and will add signs to her words for extra emphasis (such as saying and signing "all done" or "more" simultaneously). Her newest phrase is "me too," which just debuted two days ago when Callum asked for some milk and she came racing into the kitchen while I was pouring it yelling "me too!" She says please and thank you quite consistently. She has also started doing an angry clap for emphasis when she is particularly upset, where she will yell what she's upset about and then smack her hands together sharply to make her point even clearer.


She has very strong opinions and isn't afraid to express them. She definitely has quite the feisty personality. If she doesn't want to be carried she will stiffen her whole body in an attempt to cause you to drop her, danger be damned. If she wants a toy from Callum and he won't give it to her she will scream bloody murder as though she'd just sustained a serious bodily injury. When her will is thwarted she can throw the mother of all tantrums. If you try to distract her or calm her down she just gets angrier. The other day Callum gave her the toy she was requesting, then started playing with another toy. When she saw his toy she gave up her own and tried to get it from him. I told her that Callum was having a turn and she could have a turn after he was done. I then tried to get her to play with the first toy. She slammed the toy on the ground, stamped her foot, ran in a screaming/sobbing circle around the room, came back to the toy, picked it up and slammed it on the ground again, did a huge angry clap, and then threw herself on the ground kicking and screaming. She's tenacious, too--she kept it up until Callum finished his turn with the toy she wanted and gave it to her, at which point she was immediately happy again. Given the magnitude of her rages, she gets over them surprisingly quickly--if she has a meltdown because she wants me instead of Torsten, she stops crying and starts acting totally normal the second I pick her up.

I don't mean to make it sound like she is all tantrums, because she absolutely isn't--they aren't even particularly frequent given her age--it's just that when she does have them, they are spectacular. But when she's not angry, she's a delight (OK, her anger is actually kind of delightful too in its hilarity). She's very resilient--runs around, falls down, maybe cries for a second, hops back up. Since she has a big brother she's used to running with the big kids and it's very important to her to keep up. She idolizes Callum and wants to do everything he does. Her gross motor skills are strong--she can jump off the ground from a standing position and does it frequently; she can climb up the slide and ladder on our play structure; she can run and climb stairs and dance. I can only assume that she does all these things because she sees Callum do them, and whatever Callum (or "Cow-cow" as she calls him) does, she believes she can do too.

She continues to be a great eater, though slightly less willing to devour whatever is put in front of her than she was as a baby. She particularly loves all meat and fruit, and can eat endless amounts of lox and tangerines specifically. The only foods we've found that she doesn't like are mushrooms and watermelon. She is also not big on carbs, especially bread. She's basically the opposite of her brother when it comes to solid food, but they share their deep and abiding love of milk, and we've started limiting her intake a bit as well to be sure she continues to consume a variety of solid foods rather than filling up on calories from milk alone.

She's really into dolls, which she calls babies--she owns maybe eight or ten of them and always has to have one of them with her. She will carry armfuls of them around with her and she loves to play pretend with them--she puts them in the baby swing on the swingset in our yard, pushes them around in our toy stroller and shopping cart, puts them to bed under a dishtowel and then tells them "night night" while patting their butts, hugs them, and puts them in her high chair and pretends to feed them. She is big into imitating right now, and will hold a toy phone (or our actual phones, if she manages to grab them) to her ear and say "LO?" She has an independent streak and tries to brush her own teeth and comb her own hair. Speaking of hair, I feel confident enough to say that hers is definitively curly, and, well, I'm delighted.

She loves daycare, and talks about her teacher and all her little friends. She knows the drop-off routine and prompts us through each step of it each morning. Her teachers love her, and talk about how sweet and quiet she is at school, which is hilarious for us to hear because she's so not quiet at all when she's at home (though her teachers say this is very common). Every morning at drop-off she gets a giant smile on her face and gives Callum a huge hug when it's time to say goodbye. She gives me a hug too, but that special hug and smile are reserved entirely for her adored brother.

She loves to be outside. If one of us goes near the backdoor she comes running over asking, "ow-side? Ow-SIDE?" And she will full-on weep if we don't let her go out. She can happily spend all day out there, running around, playing with the water table and the sandbox, climbing the slide, trying to ride the tricycle, and playing with her dolls. If she's upset about something she can almost always be cheered up by being taken outside or for a walk. She is surprisingly good at independent play, and can play on her own with the play kitchen or many of her other toys for extended periods of time. She also loves the toys that are theoretically too old for her, like magformers and legos, and will spend ages playing with them. She sits in a booster at the table almost all of the time now, and pretty much never in her high chair--she desperately wants to be a big kid and man, she is getting close.

She is smart--she understands absolutely everything we say and responds to it, often catching us off-guard. She has very quickly figured out what certain things mean, and surprises us by reacting to things that we didn't even think she knew about. She comes up with clever ideas to try to get what she wants, such as announcing that she's hungry when she knows bedtime is coming in hopes of staving it off.

She is fiercely independent and wants to do everything Cow-cow can do, but she is very big into hugs and kisses (which she delivers with a loud smack), and loves to show us things and check in with us regularly. She is almost always happy and has a giant, room-lighting smile. She laughs constantly, never louder than when she and Callum are playing.

She is our affectionate, clever, feisty girl. We are so lucky.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Swimming, and sibling relationships

Yesterday was the kids' first pool day of the season and it was lovely. The pool is pretty much the hardest place to get photos because, you know, it's best to have your phone out of harm's way where nobody can drip all over it or drop it in the pool, and then there's also the small matter of supervising two active children near a body of water, and, well, the net sum is that photos at the pool are not a thing that happen for us, at least not very often.

So! I don't have visual documentation, but it was delightful. Last summer pool season started when Annika was about seven months old, and we had one of these for her, which was great for an infant but obviously wouldn't be at all useful for her now. We purchased a Puddle Jumper for Callum last year on the recommendation of pretty much the entire Internet, and that was wonderful--I know some people say they aren't helpful in teaching a kid how to swim because they create a false sense of safety and buoyancy, but we actually noticed that it really helped Callum, not to mention that it's pretty much necessary to have a flotation device on each child at the pool if they outnumber the adults. They had Puddle Jumpers at Costco for cheap a month or two back so I snapped one up for Annika and it was great.

Both kids were delighted with the water, and surprisingly fearless. Annika loved the freedom of the Puddle Jumper, and got annoyed when anyone tried to so much as hold her hand in the water. They both wanted the pool toys. And Callum made a friend and spent the whole morning playing with her. He was falling all over himself to tell us about it later, how he made a friend and they jumped into the water off the steps together and they played with diving sticks together and when she was afraid to go underwater to get the stick he went under and got it for her to help her, and oh, my big boy. I mean of course he's been in daycare or preschool for 2.5 years now, he has lots of friends, he gets along with other kids, he's not shy around them, he chats with strange kids at the park, but something about this particular scenario, I don't know, it just kills me. Last summer at the pool he was too young for that kind of instant friendship. He would interact with the other kids a little, but he was more interested in playing on his own or with us, or jumping in or going down the water slide. This year he's such a big, independent KID, making friends with other kids and spending hours playing with them, wholly on their own.

Also, Annika was NOT happy about Callum's new friend--she wanted to play with him herself. That's an interesting new element of their relationship that she's not had to experience before--of course he goes off to preschool without her and she spends time at home without him sometimes, but she hasn't really been in a situation where he was playing with a kid her own age and she couldn't really keep up. Even when he's had friends over for play dates, she's either run around with them or just happily done her own thing. This was the first time where they were participating in the same activity but she was essentially excluded. That is a feeling that I remember well from my own childhood as a younger sibling--my sister having friends over and me wanting to hang out with them but not being allowed, and feeling very wrong-footed about having our usual dynamic interrupted. Not that I blame my sister, or Callum, for that--it's totally normal and within bounds to want to hang out with your friends without your pesky little sister tagging along--but it's just sort of trippy to see a similar scenario playing out with your own kids.

Also, weirdly, it gives me some faith in the balance of the relationship between Annika and Callum. This is something that deserves its own post, and it's one that I am working on finding the right language to articulate, but  in sum: they have a great relationship, truly, to a surprising level, and they care for each other and they play well together and they clearly love each other, but sometimes Annika comes across as a little more dominant, somehow. Just a little feistier, a little less laid back, a little more willing to railroad than he is. And I think that's a good way for the dynamic to play out, that the younger one, the one who doesn't innately have the power of being the cool older bigger funner one, is willing to assert herself, and the older one is gentle and thoughtful--I think that will be good for their relationship in the long run but it was nice to see that sometimes Callum can assert his will too.

All this from a single trip to the pool! But I guess that's really where these moments happen, all the little pieces that make up their childhood and their relationship. There will be lots more pool days for these two this summer... I'm excited for them all.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Big girl room

Recently Torsten has been suggesting that we think about moving Annika out of her crib sooner than later. Since she is very good at independent play, he is thinking that if she can get out of bed by herself in the mornings and is in a childproofed room, she might be happy and play on her own for awhile before disturbing us, which would be lovely on the weekends (and this did happen with Callum so it's not totally unreasonable). However, she's only 19 months old--we moved Callum a couple months after he turned two--and up til now she's been perfectly happy in her crib, so I wasn't in any kind of rush to make the switch.

However, that timeline may have just gotten expedited, because in the last couple days, she's started doing this:

Now, lifting her leg onto the crib rail isn't the same as actual climbing out, which requires significant additional strength and flexibility, BUT I recall distinctly that with Callum it was none too long between when he started doing that with his foot and when we first heard the telltale thud of him landing (on his feet, thankfully) on the floor next to his crib one morning. And Annika is much more nimble and willing to take risks than Callum ever was. We could probably troubleshoot our way around this--Jonna suggested, in a genius manner telling of her own personal experience with this issue, turning our crib around so the high side faces out and putting it in a corner so there's only one short side, and attaching very stiff cardboard to said short side--and if she starts climbing out before we have another bed available for her, we may do that--but I think she has a personality that could handle a big girl bed, so I don't see a reason not to do that instead of trying to thwart her will and keep her in her crib for longer.

So! Unexpectedly, I am thinking about her big girl room. Our plan is, and has been for awhile, to move her into the room that is currently Torsten's office and make that her permanent bedroom. It's bigger than the nursery and offers a lot more options for furniture configuration. That also allows me to start with a clean slate when it comes to decor. Nobody will be surprised to hear that purple will figure heavily--but actually, I am not thinking that we will paint the walls purple. I browsed through a TON of photos of purple rooms online and out of all of them, there were only a couple that hit the sweet spot of a lovely muted pale purple that wasn't overwhelming or excessively childish, and frankly, I don't trust our ability to select a paint color that will give that same feeling. Plus if the walls were purple that would limit my ability to go with purple accessories without creating a bordello feel.

So! I'm thinking light gray walls and then lots of purple accessories--curtains/blinds (conveniently, since we haven't ordered our blinds yet, we can switch one of them from the planned gray to a nice purple), artwork, bedding, rug, even some furniture. Basically a similar concept to Callum's room except a lighter gray on the walls and both light and dark purples instead of blue and orange. I have not been able to find an inspiration photo online that exactly sums up what I'm picturing (though I've started a Pinterest board of photos that have useful elements), but this one comes the closest (as far as color scheme only as it is not at ALL the style I'm envisioning for the room--but it nicely shows off the light gray walls complemented by purple accessories):

One big question we are mulling over is whether to get a bunk bed or not. Annika and Callum have their own rooms and we like it that way and plan to keep it so, but it would be nice if they could share a room if they wanted, or if we needed them to if we had lots of guests (which has happened a couple times), and also it would be convenient for sleepovers when they're older. However, Annika has shown herself to be something of a climber, at least compared to Callum (she's not like Liz's Reagan, though, let's be clear). So, the bunk bed would certainly need to be babyproof, or at least not have a ladder for her to climb up. Right now I'm leaning toward getting a cheap-ish IKEA bed (like this one, the same that Callum has) for now and then switching out to a bunk bed in a few years when she is more rational and less of a menace to herself, or at least getting a bunk bed where you can remove the ladder or potentially hold off on installing the top bunk for awhile. I was looking at the bunk bed that it seems half the internet has, but a) it's out of stock in white and it has to be white to match the furniture we already have, and b) I want the bottom to be a full and I'm dubious about the extension kit this one has to make that happen.

Anyway, we aren't fully decided on this, so please weigh in! Do you have bunk beds for your kids? At what age did you get them? Are there any babyproofing tricks and tips for them? Do you think they're a terrible idea? I want to hear all opinions on this matter, please and thank you.