Friday, September 28, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

After today's 60 degree weather and torrential downpour of rain, it's safe to say that summer has officially come to a close and Fall is in full swing in Fairfield.  I saw the rain this morning and thought, "Ugh...I can't believe we have to leave the house in this weather." and Lilly saw it and said, "Oh Mum, it's raining!!  Can I wear my new raincoat to school?" So I decided to go with Lilly's approach to the morning and we sang songs about rain, that don't really make too much sense when you listen to the words.  They're also not too appropriate for children.  Lilly asked me today, "Why, when the old man bumps his head, doesn't he get up in the morning?"  I wasn't sure whether I should launch into our first discussion about concussions and/or comas but I decided to go for the simpler, less detailed approach saying that his head hurt so he wanted to stay in bed.  Anyway, Lilly went off to school happily, excited because on Fridays she has "creative movement," and although I'm not sure what exactly creative movement entails, I know it involves dancing, playing with scarves, and today, they pretended to be on a beach.  Lilly also knows that "Daddy doesn't have to go to UBS tomorrow!" which I've heard multiple times already today.  Lilly has quickly picked up on Jim and my love of weekends.

Jack enjoyed a great morning nap in the rain--my favorite kind of naps.  This week, I've started to realize more and more that he's leaving his baby days behind him and starting to enter Toddlerville.  Part of me refuses to admit it.  I can't believe that he won't always be this snuggly little baby who crawls around and puts his head on my lap when he's tired, or who just comes over for a cuddle and to put his head on my shoulder while he sucks his thumb.  At the moment, however, he's still as snuggly as ever and just starting to really show his independence.  He found my hair brush the other day and started trying to brush his hair with it--without much luck I might add.  He kept hitting himself on the head with the back of the brush, but still, the fact that he knows what to do with it impressed me.  He had a huge smile on his face the entire time.  Jack loves playing with our house phone and has started sprint crawling over to it, picking it up, putting it in the vicinity of his ear and yelling, "bababababa" or some rendition of whatever babble he's chosen to take up at that time.  Jack also picks up the remote controls and points them at the television, waiting for something to happen.   He loves Lilly's toy Dora microphone (a wonderful present from her godparents--I can't wait for payback one day) and when he finds it, he puts it up to his mouth and again starts these long babbles...his version of singing.

Even on dreary rainy days, these two little ones brighten up the mood.  They're both asleep, once again, which makes them even cuter at this moment.  But Lilly and Jack's outlooks on a day like today are refreshing.  Maybe the rain isn't so bad if you're excited about wearing a new raincoat.  I think I'm going to order myself those rain boots that I've wanted for so long.  I'm sure Jim won't mind.  Especially if they make me happy on rainy days.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For the Love of Food

I started writing this blog when Lilly was the same age that Jack is now--right around 11 months old .  I wanted a way to keep track of milestones and stories and pictures, and all the amazing scrapbook aspirations that I had were building up and looking less likely to take shape anytime in the near future.  So I started writing and when I look back, I love the memories.  I love the pictures and videos and I can't believe that there was a time in my life when Lilly did not talk!  It's fun for me to see that Jack is just as "helpful" now as Lilly was when she was approaching one.  He too follows around the vacuum cleaner and often pushes it across the room while he laughs, making my job all the more difficult.  We currently can't find the cable card that belongs in our cable box.  Unfortunately, without this card, our cable is completely useless and we know exactly who to blame for this.  Lilly used to love pulling out the cable card and now Jack has taken over right where she left of a couple of years ago and we really have no idea where he put it.  It's only been missing for a day so hopefully it will turn up soon.  Lilly is helping us solve this mystery so we're in good hands.

We have stairs in our new house which Jack adores.  He's taken a few falls but now cruises up them given any opportunity.  Unfortunately, his idea of going back down them is to turn around and lean--a method that I know will not end well.  So for the time being, Jack is heavily supervised on the stairs, despite his confidence in handling them. Jack wants to walk everywhere, which still requires two adult fingers to hold onto, so he'll often look around letting out some kind of noise indicating he would like some help.  Jack is very similar to how Lilly was in so many ways that Jim and I have to consciously stop and notice these milestones, as they seem to fly by the second time around.

Jack, however, is making a name for himself when it comes to food.  The boy can't get enough of it!  I thought Lilly loved food but this blows Lilly's love of food right out of the water.  I should have known early on.  Everything you read or hear says that breastfed babies know how to cut themselves off and won't overeat.  Well, that is a big fat lie.  Or at least it was as far as Jack was concerned.  He would never cut himself off.  Apparently, babies "turn their head away" when they're full.  I tested this many times and each time, Jack would eat to the point where he was so full and then he would spit up everything he had just eaten.  He was upset because he'd just lost all his milk.  I was upset because as any breastfeeding mum knows, that seems like such a waste!  From the earliest weeks Jack did this.  So I started cutting him off after about 20 minutes and we seemed to reach a mutual understanding and were both happy.  Cue the introduction of solids at six months.  Exactly the same thing happened!  Even our pediatrician said that you can't give babies too many fruit or veggies, and that they'll stop eating when they're full.  Again, that he would turn his head away or close his mouth.  Not Jack.  He would eat and eat and cry whenever he finished a bowl of veggies or a container of yogurt.  He still does!  Thankfully now you can keep his tray stocked with cheese or cheerios or other nibblers so he has those to turn to when the food I'm feeding him runs out, but you'll know when Jack has finished his yogurt and it's not pretty.  If you happen to be eating something within eyesight of Jack, then he is convinced the food is for him.  He starts flapping his arms and scooting himself up and down in the hope that you'll cave and give him some of whatever you're eating.  I've never seen anything like it.  His love of food reached a new extreme a couple of weeks ago when the egg reaction took place.  He had a plate full of scrambled eggs and was loving every mouthful.  As I watched his little eyes go red and puffy and blotches start to appear on his face, Jack was still shoveling eggs into his mouth as fast as he could.  It didn't seem real!  Mum said that when I had an allergic reaction to egg when I was little, I spit the egg right back out.  It was as if I knew.  Jack devoured every last bite of his, until  I realized what was going on and we called the pediatrician and sprinted out to get Benadryl (which by the way he loved too.  Whenever he has had any medicine--oral vaccines included--he cries when they're finished).

Jack definitely comes from some food loving genes.  There's no shortage of food in either the Stephens or Clark families.  We all love to eat and do it well.  Edward eats Mum's shepherd's pie in one sitting, comprised of 2 pounds of meat and probably another 2 of potatoes.  If there are any leftovers, the rest will be his breakfast.  I've never seen anyone eat a hamburger or a bagel faster than Joseph (and I can picture the look of disgust on Mum's face when she realizes how fast Joseph has just eaten his meal). Jim's Dad, Pop, can eat more food over an extended period of time than I knew was humanly possible.  I think his Thanksgiving dinner lasts approximately four hours.  And then, of course, there's Jim.  I will say that Jack gets some pretty strong food loving genes from his Dad. This is the point in any conversation when the story about Jim's first summer in Singapore comes up--the summer after he lost 20 pounds to row lightweight for the final regatta of the season.  Jim and I went to Singapore to visit my family shortly after and spent the  summer there.  Jim came back 40 pounds heavier than he was in May.  Now, in Jim's defense, I realize that he needed to gain at least 20 of those pounds back.  He was gaunt and unhealthy at that regatta to the point where he couldn't even take off his own t-shirt to weigh in before the race.  But he owes the other 20 pounds almost entirely to Singapore noodles and $1 ice cream sandwiches, fresh from the food hawkers.  Jim can't turn down food.  When we were dating in college, Jim would take me out to Fire and Ice--one of our favorite restaurants in Boston.  It's a Mongolian Grill type place so you pile as much as you want into a bowl and take it up to the grill and they cook it for you so you end up with stir fries of your creation.  I quickly caught on that Jim loved the place so much because you can eat as much as you want and you still pay the same.  When we were going here, Jim would make sure I wouldn't eat all day so we could sit here for hours eating and talking and eating some more.  So, with genes like these, it's not surprising to me that Jack can't turn down food either.  I have yet to find food that Jack doesn't like.  He's a true little boy.


Sunday, September 23, 2012


First Day of School 9/13/12
Lilly has been going to school for just over a week now and everything about her school is exceeding our expectations.  Lilly jumps out of the car in the morning, greets her teachers and skips off holding one of their hands as she walks Lilly down to her classroom.  Lilly says goodbye to me in the car, tells Jack, "Sorry, buddy, but I have to go to school now.  But don't worry, I'll be home for lunch," passes Jack her treasured "towel blanket" to hold and then is happily on her way.  It's such a sweet parting in the mornings and I drive away happy.  Well, except on the first day when she skipped off and I burst into tears and cried the whole way home.  I know I couldn't ask for anything more; the fact that Lilly goes off happily and is excited about school is every parent's dream.  But seeing her walk away on that first day just tugged at my heart.  I came home and put Jack down for his nap.  I sat on the couch with a cup of coffee just thinking and crying, and then smiling and crying.  I called Jim and told him how it all went, and cried a bit more.  I talked to Mum and Dad, who gave me every reason to smile instead of cry.  Mel stopped by after she dropped Margot off, just when I needed a distraction, and we sat and chatted and had our coffees together as I waited for pickup time to approach.  At 10:30, my phone rang and I saw that it was Hunt Ridge calling.  My stomach dropped and I thought the worst.  When I answered, Kathleen (the director) was calling to tell me that Lilly was having a wonderful morning.  Kathleen has an amazing ability to make you feel good about yourself.  She told me that Lilly is a very well adjusted little girl and that Jim and I have a done a wonderful job raising her.  Kathleen made me smile as I pictured our little Lilly having so much fun at school.  After that phone call, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the morning.  Before I knew it, Jack was awake and we were in the car on our way to the pickup line.  We pulled up nice and early and sat there watching the three year olds who walk out holding hands and in line, to the front steps at the end of the morning.  They sit in a line at the top of the steps until a teacher comes up and holds one of their hands, walking them out to their cars.  Lilly saw me and started waving frantically and I waved back.  Her teacher brought her over to the car, buckled her into her car seat, shook her hand and said goodbye and told me that Lilly had a wonderful morning and it was like she'd been there for years!  I had a proud mum moment and we all went home and had lunch.

I wish that the rest of our day went as smoothly.  Lilly's breathing went downhill and we quickly discovered that she had some bug that she passed to the rest of us over the last week.  Then, at dinner, Jack had a reaction to scrambled eggs.  He had eaten eggs at least half a dozen times before and been fine--even in quiche.  But after some Benadryl to reduce his poor face from swelling, a good night sleep and a visit to the doctor for both children the next morning, we learned that Jack currently has an allergy to semi cooked egg.  So he can have egg in everything but not cooked on the stove by itself.  It's apparently pretty common, and this allergy is usually one that they grow out of.  The good news is that if he doesn't, he has a great role model in his Uncle Edward who has quite a bit of experience in this area.

We had a quiet weekend, and then by Monday when Lilly was better, everybody else was getting worse.  Jim and Jack were sick all week.  It hit me by the end of the week.  We've all had lots of sleep and fluids and are on the mend but it was a rough week--for everyone except Lilly!  

One of my favorite parts of every day is picking Lilly up from school.  When her teacher puts her in the car, she often starts laughing.  Miss Reilly is just wonderful.  One day, she told me that Lilly just makes her smile and her stories always make her laugh.  She called her a very spirited little girl (which we know all too well)!  Another day, she relayed to me that she couldn't believe Lilly knows all her letter sounds.  I didn't even know Lilly knows all her letters sounds so that was news to me and I smiled another proud Mum smile.  One day, she told me Lilly painted a picture of Burt from Sesame Street, complete with a head and a face, a body, arms and legs, eyebrows and cheeks, ears and hair...and that the body parts a child draws are very significant in child development.  I'm even learning a lot from Miss Reilly and I see her for just a few minutes every day.

My favorite story from the week was last Thursday.  As Miss Reilly put Lilly in the car, she asked me if I had a few minutes because she had to tell me a story.  She told me that during circle time at the end of the morning, Lilly had the class captivated with a story about going to Stew Leonard's (a grocery store) and everything we bought there and told them all about the giant cow that moos there (it really is a pretty amazing store), and a trip that Lilly and I took to the children's museum where we rode a train and Jack stayed home with a babysitter named Olivia.  Miss Reilly said that Lilly ended the story with a cartwheel!  A cartwheel?  As Mum said, I've always wanted to end stories with a cartwheel and when you're three, you can.  Even the lunch bunchers (the 5 year olds who stay all day) were mesmerized.  Apparently one of the five year olds looked at Miss Reilly and just said, "Wow."  I laughed, knowing all too well that this is well within Lilly's capabilities.  On the drive home, I asked Lilly about the story she told and she relayed it back to me and said, "...and then I did a cartwheel and Miss Reilly said, 'okay Lilly, I think that's enough.  Thank you!'" and again, I just laughed.  What a wonderful way to end your morning at school.  

We're ready for another week--hopefully a healthier one this week.  I can only imagine the stories that come home this week.  School is off to a great start and Lilly is thriving as we had hoped.  Here's to a week full of ending stories with cartwheels.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lilly is ready, but am I?

I don't know if I'll ever be ready for my children to grow up, but I've discovered there is not really a lot I can do about it.  Whether I like it or not, there comes a time when they have to stop sleeping on Jim and me, all scrunched up with their legs tucked under them in a way that only newborns love to snuggle.  Eventually, breastfeeding and the snuggling that comes with it has to come to an end.  Crawling has to progress to walking.  The gummy grins start filling in with teeth--as Dad so eloquently says, turning their smiles into "Nascar smiles".  We have to say goodbye to sweet little white onesies and barefoot babies and dress our little ones in real clothes and shoes.  I was sad to put away Lilly's one and I don't look forward to the day when Jack stops sucking his thumb.  When Lilly started saying "Lilly" instead of "Wiwwy," I wanted to cry.  Just as I'm sure I will be sad when she starts calling her dog "Spot" instead of "Pot."  When I sit and think about it though, it would be pretty ridiculous if these stages of life didn't come to an end.  Adults crawling around barefoot with toothless grins, wearing onesies and sucking their thumbs isn't a very pleasant image.  But for now, all of these phases are too short lived.

Some aspects I'm less nostalgic to see go.  I don't love bottles, so the transition to sippy cups is a welcome one.  The segmented sleep is another thing to which I don't mind saying goodbye.  However short lived it may be, it always feels longer than it is.  Say to any parent of a newborn, "Don't worry, the lack of sleep only lasts three months," and you'll receive a serious death glare in return.  I enjoy the transition from baby food to "real" food, as it's so much easier to feed everyone when we're all eating the same thing.  I don't miss diapers once they're gone, although there's something unbearably cute about newborn diapers.  They're so tiny that they don't even look real.

We are rapidly approaching another milestone that I know Lilly is ready for, but I'm not quite ready yet.  School.  Lilly starts at Hunt Ridge next Thursday.  I love everything about the school.  It's a Montessori school, which is an approach to learning that I wholeheartedly agree with and that I think will agree nicely with Lilly.  The classrooms are mixed ages, with children ages 3-5.  It encourages creativity, independence and free thinking.  It allows children to progress as they are ready, letting those who want to read and write and do math do those things.  Those that want to sort and explore science are encouraged to do so.  There are very few "class lessons" because children vary so much in their interests and abilities at this age.  Of course, there is plenty of structure within the idea of freedom.  Children are directed to different areas of the classroom if they continually choose the same activity.  There is a fantastic balance between play and learning.  When I was researching Montessori schools, a good friend directed me to this video.  While the video is geared more towards older children, the foundation and love of learning is set at an early age.  I look forward to watching Lilly flourish in this environment over the next three years.

With that being said, I have almost burst into tears multiple times in the past week.  On Wednesday, we had a picnic at Hunt Ridge and got to meet Lilly's wonderful teachers afterwards.  That night, we had a parents' orientation meeting.  As one of us had to stay home with Lilly and Jack, Jim willingly volunteered--something about the kickoff of the NFL season--so I attended the first of what I'm sure will be many parents' meetings.  The director of the school, Kathleen, is amazing.  She started the school 30 years ago with 6 students, and today it has 80 students and a fantastic reputation within the community.  We went over all the standard parent things at the meeting, and then Kathleen talked about the drop off and pick up procedures.  Every day, Kathleen and her assistant Karen, greet the cars, help the children out of their carseats and walk them down to their classrooms.  At the end of the day, the reverse is done.  They walk the children out to the cars and help them back in.  This means that next Thursday at 9am,  I'll drop Lilly off and she'll be returned to me at 12.  When I think about it, it's only three hours.  And like I said earlier, boy is she ready.  But it's THREE hours!  Every day.  I'm so used to having my little companion around in the mornings, chattering away and checking in on me every few minutes.  Lilly may be sitting in the kitchen coloring or playing with play doh but the second I get out of the shower, I heard, "Mum...are you out of the shower now?"  I get a play by play of what she's just drawn or the type of bird she sees in our backyard.  I hear her singing her favorite songs and making up new ones.  I'll walk downstairs to see her twirling and dancing around in front of the mirror in the hallway.  When she sees me, I get a,  "Hey Mum, check out my new moves!" and can't help but smile.  It's at those moments that she looks so little to me.

She's been coloring and drawing up a storm lately and is very proud of herself when she writes a letter or draws objects.  These are pretty much my favorite drawings.  Ever.

This picture has everything!  Flowers, people, a "P", the letter "E" that looks more like half a ladder...Lilly worked on this for ages!
A person with lots of arms.
Lilly's very first person, complete with eyebrows, cheeks and "(s)piky hair"
Lilly wrote, "Liy" over and over again and when I hopped out of the shower yesterday, proudly showed me this saying she wrote her name!  
An "A", a sun and a little scribble
Lilly colored this in at the restaurant we were at for dinner last night.  She is very proud of herself when she stays iside the lines!  Jim's compulsive coloring skills have rubbed off on her! After coloring, Jim wrote her name and she copied it.
One morning this week, we pulled in from dropping Jim at the train station and Lilly was thrilled to discover a worm lying innocently in our driveway.  This poor worm picked the wrong place to hang out--right next to Lilly's car door.  Lilly loves worms.  For as much of a girl that she is (you should have heard the conversation Lilly and I had last weekend when I had to convince her to wear shorts and a t-shirt instead of a dress to soccer!) she loves dirt and mud and being outside.  So this worm was her morning entertainment.  Lilly decided that the worm needed water so she made multiple trips inside to fill up her cup with water which she poured on the poor worm in case he was thirsty or needed a bath.  I told her that the worm might need a little break from the water so she sat outside watching him slowly make his way as far away from the water as he could.  After a little while, Lilly came running in and asked me for my phone so she could take a picture of the worm.  The technology that this generation will know is amazing!  So I gave her my phone and she came in a few minutes later with close to 20 pictures of this worm.  She asked to send one to Jim at work and told all her friends at the park that afternoon about her worm at home.  That worm smartened up while we were at the park and must have moved in record worm speed to a new (dry) home so although we keep looking, we haven't found that worm again.

Photograph courtesy of Lilly
I'm going to miss my little one in the mornings.  No matter how big she is, I always think of her as that tiny baby with a head full of hair who forever changed our lives almost three and a half years ago.

Lilly showing off her winking skills