Friday, January 28, 2011

My People

I spent far too much time one day this week reading this blog post from the Motherlode blog at NYTimes.com. Even though our situation when Atticus and Norah came home wasn't as severe as the one described in the post "When a Child Does Not Sleep", the author's struggles, along with the 161 comments left by readers, brought me right back to those torturous nights the first six months of parenthood. The reader comments are primarily helpful and sympathetic and totally would have made me feel a little less alone during nights when we were at the end of our rope.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Report Cards

The comments on the cards:

"Atticus has made a great transition to school and is eager to learn new things! He is a very happy boy and attempts all new things with a great attitude. I am very pleased with the way he is moving toward independence in our class."

"Norah's joyful embrace of life brings us smiles each day. She loves her classmates and is very decisive in her choice of works, often repeating the same works each day. She struggles with concentration, but that will improve with time. She is choosing works that will support her efforts to concentrate and move toward more independence."

The kids' first semester at their Montessori preschool was a great experience for both of them. They both love their teachers, adore their new friends, and are excited to get to school in the morning. Atticus in particular has really flourished in the environment provided at school. He has always craved routine, and the quiet environment with procedures that are demonstrated daily has been a perfect fit for him. Paul and I were nearly in tears of joy the first time we observed his class and saw how peaceful and purposeful he seemed to be there. Over holiday breaks and long weekends it becomes clear that he really misses his school routine. His teacher reported at our conference yesterday that he's never thrown even the tiniest of tantrums and is an incredibly easy-going little guy. If you've been around our family, you know that Atticus can throw epic fits. He is a delightful, verbal, intelligent, and caring son, but "easy-going" is not how we would generally describe him. I'm very glad that he's getting a chance to explore that more controlled side of himself at school and it certainly puts my mind at ease a little bit (because what parent of a tantrum-prone child doesn't sometimes wonder if there's something wrong with their kid?). Paul and I agree that there's not a doubt in our minds that the school is a perfect fit for Atticus.

Norah prefers the social aspect of school and we're fine with that. I think that socialization and learning how to navigate groups of peers without a lot of interference from adults is one of the most important parts of school, especially preschool, and Norah has certainly embraced it. Her class sings frequently and she takes great pride in repeating the songs at home. She also enjoys the sound table at school and is doing a nice job of remembering the sounds that each letter makes. Overall, we're very pleased with the introduction to education that she is receiving.

Review of the Evenflo Titan Sport Car Seat



I don't think I've ever reviewed a commercial product on my blog before, so you can be assured that I have strong feelings about this one: I do NOT like the Evenflo Titan Sport!

We bought a pair of these seats last year to use as our second set in my car. At that point, Paul was usually dropping the kids off and picking them up at his mom's house every day, so we didn't think we would use them very often. The reviews I read online seemed adequate - a few referred to difficulty adjusting straps, but most users seemed to be pleased. We've had a very good experience with the Evenflo Triumph Advance seats that we've had in Paul's car ever since Atticus and Norah came home, so I figured that the Titan model would give us the same easy-to-use quality in a safe seat while being significantly cheaper (the cost really adds up when you're buying two seats at a time!).

WRONG! I hate the Evenflo Titan. The past 17 months have been full of car seat loathing. Shortly after we bought the "extra" seats, Paul's schedule changed and I started picking the kids up every day, which means that I have to deal with the dreaded Titans each afternoon. These seats are so ridiculously difficult to adjust, and never seemed to fit either of the kids just right. Despite many, many attempts, they never seemed to be completely secure and would rock back and forth more than they're supposed to. To clean the covers, you have to un-install the entire seat and undo the buckles where they're held on in back. After I washed the covers once, following the instructions, they looked terrible and had gathered a lot of fuzz. They've faded more than I would consider to be normal in a year and a half. The buckles twist pretty much every single time I put the kids in their seats and then the straps are difficult to untwist. Driving with twisted straps is a safety hazard, and I'm betting a fair number of parents end up doing it because it's so time consuming to fix them every time you have to go somewhere.

The kids are now big enough for booster seats and I bought a set of Graco TurboBoosters today. They've been using a set in my dad's car after preschool each day and it's worked out well (aside from Norah moving around too much before we got her the high-backed version instead of the backless booster). I was loathe to spend the money replacing the Titans that were supposed to last for another couple of years, but I really do hate them that much and have some doubts about how safe they are if they're so difficult to properly adjust. The kiddos were delighted to have their seats indoors and spent most of the evening playing with them and requesting to be strapped in.

Come to think of it, if the Titans provide us with a place indoors that the kids are happy to be confined, they might have been worth the money after all...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shedd Aquarium 2011





The kids have grown so much since our last visit to the Shedd Aquarium. We decided at the spur of the moment to make the trip in today and used our new GPS navigation system to guide us there. Atticus and Norah treated us by repeating everything the navigator said, so we ended up hearing each instruction at least three times. On the bright side, we did not get lost - which is a lot more than can be said when I'm the one in charge of navigating on road trips.
It was a day of free admission, so the entire place was packed. While we were waiting, I started to get nervous about getting separated and decided to write their names and our cellphone number on their arms. In theory they know their own names, but I don't trust any preschooler to be able to give that information out in a decipherable manner when he or she is lost and upset. Quite a while later, Atticus was running ahead of me through dark corridors and I reminded him to stick close so he wouldn't get lost. He responded, "It's okay because I have my tattoo." On our way home when Paul and I were consulting the GPS map and wondering out loud if we were lost, we caught Atticus rolling up his sleeve to prepare to help.
It was a great day and the kiddos behaved beautifully. Their favorite parts of the aquarium this year were the new yellow submarine play area and another interactive station where they could pretend to go camping, cook outdoors, and row a boat. Norah played social director and called out orders to all the nearby kids about what they should imagine to be happening. Interest in the fish was relatively low, but the whales, dolphins, and otters garnered some attention.
On our way home, we had to exit through a parking lot that was hosting a huge congregation of people tailgating for the Bears game. Atticus looked at all the grills setup outside of the line of buses and said, "Oh wow! Those buses must be getting older 'cause they're having a birthday party!"

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Saturday Morning Muffins

Making and consuming fresh blueberry muffins has become something of a Saturday tradition around here. The recipe, which is my own slightly healthier rendition of this one, is so easy and overwhelmingly popular at our house that I figured I would post it.

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups frozen blueberries

Directions

· Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

· Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 2 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to make 1 1/4 cups. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top.

· Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Norah Cooked!

On many school mornings, the kids head downstairs while Paul and I finish getting dressed. They play with their toys or head to the basement to use the swing. Sometimes they get out snacks that I wouldn't have chosen, but they've never gotten into any trouble before. Today, however, Atticus came running upstairs just a minute or two after he and Norah had gone downstairs. He was in quite eager to report, "Norah made a fire on the box!" As you might imagine, I hurried down the stairs myself at that point.

Norah was standing on a chair that she'd pulled over to the microwave. The child has never shown any interest in the microwave, upper cabinets, or the packets of cold medicine stored in an upper cabinet, but somehow she'd gotten the medicine down and put it in the microwave. The microwave doesn't have a quick start option, so she had to have pushed the buttons in exactly the right order to get it started. Inside, there was a smoldering box of aluminum-wrapped cold tablets that let out quite a noxious odor.

Norah confirmed that she was the one who committed the crime and told me about a dozen times, "I'm sorry for breaking your feelings Mama. It was an accident."

...and that was why I was nearly late to work today.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Thanks to the Backyardigans...

Atticus would like to name his new siblings Tuba and Polka.

Norah claims that Uniqua and Tasha would be better choices.

We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wow.





I was trying not to be overly dramatic when I posted that we'd received about 18 inches of snow. However, according to the paper, we've actually gotten 27 inches since yesterday morning and can expect up to another foot. The mayor has declared a snow emergency. Our local news station generally gets dramatic anytime there's going to be more than an inch or two of snow, but they pretty much completely missed the boat on this storm. Wow.

2-4 inches predicted, about 18 received

2-4 inches predicted, about 18 received

Monday, January 3, 2011

Game Night



I've read several reports recently of bloggers whose three-year-olds love board games. The grandma-santas were kind enough to supply us with a few kid-appropriate games, so we've been trying them out. The kids think they're fabulous!*
*I should also add, for full disclosure, that coaching them through a game of Candy Land is a bit of an athletic event. I was envisioning quiet family time where we all sat around the table and moved our own pieces around the board in an orderly fashion. Currently it involves lots of reminders not to eat the cards, not to sit on the board, not to eat the pieces, that you can't switch pieces mid-game, you can't jump your piece ahead forty spaces just because that part of the board is prettier, etc.

Vacation Pictures

I stole this first picture from my friend Kim because it's one of the best I've seen of Norah in quite a while. She moves very quickly these days and has a tendency to squish up her face whenever you ask her to pose for a picture. Seriously, her school pictures (the re-takes, mind you) came home with a note from the teacher that said, "Request a refund!" and after eight failed attempts at getting her citizenship and passport photos taken at Kinkos last month I finally resigned myself to choosing the one that was the least unflattering. When she wonders why her citizenship certificate and passport make her look stoned, she'll have nobody to blame but herself.