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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Here's Your Sign

We went to our first baby sign language play group last week! We are attending these play groups at a local family resource center called Natural Resources and the program is all based on American Sign Language so it's not, like, made-up baby hand motions or anything silly. We went to the intro class about a month ago and I got so excited that I enrolled us in the play group immediately. 

So, experts and advocates of baby signing say that babies can learn to communicate through signing earlier than they can communicate verbally. Lots of pediatricians and speech therapists recommend it, especially for kids who are at risk for delayed language, but really for any baby. Learning signs is supposed to facilitate vocabulary development for when the child does start speaking because they have concrete movements to associate with the words. When you sign to a baby, you also say the words - the point isn't to teach them to communicate with the deaf community, the point is to help them learn how to use language. Communicating with deaf people is just a perk.

It is also said that difficult phases (ahem, "terrible twos") can be mitigated by sign language because a major part of the problem is when kids can't let their adults know what's wrong. So the idea is that babies/toddlers will be able to just tell you through signing that they are hungry/tired/hurt/looking for their blue truck instead of just falling to pieces crying about it. We shall see. 

I've gotten to see baby signing in action by my friends' toddler, Sagan, who is now 18 months old. He has been using signs since 9 or 10 months, gradually increasing the signs he knows and uses. By 13 months he was able to string signs together like phrases, and now he uses lots of spoken words in addition to signing.

Sagan is in the green pants. He wants the other kid's shovel so he keeps pointing at it and then signing "please" by rubbing his hand on his chest. He also signs "help me" by bringing his hands together.

This time my friends are trying to get Sagan to do this cute mouth noise for the camera, but he just keeps signing "all done" with his one hand. :)

I am totally sold on the whole thing. As a literacy teacher, I can see how it will be a great language-building tool. Plus once James and I get the hang of it I'll be able to ask him for a glass of red wine from across a loud party or bar ;) 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Griping and Gratitude

So there I was, stirring a skillet of ground turkey with a supposed-to-be-sleeping baby in a sling across my chest thinking about how irritated I was that James still wasn't home. I turned the heat off, abandoned the ground turkey, and went to try again at putting Calvin to bed. Once he was asleep, I resumed cooking and Calvin slept through the night and we all lived happily ever after.

Oh wait... NOT.

The rest of the story about how I finally got dinner cooked and the baby to sleep is boring. But it inspired me to write a post about my current frustrations with the intention of being honest rather than trying to pretend that everything is peachy keen at our house all day every day. Then I started feeling guilty about all my gripes and I felt that I needed to remind myself of the things that I am grateful for because really, the big picture is pretty darn sweet.

Gripes first:

1. My number one gripe today is feeling like a single mom. Except, a single mom that is still cooking and cleaning for two adults plus baby. James is super busy finishing his PhD like the smarty smart pants that he is. I am so proud of him and I want to do all I can to make things easy for him at home because I know he is under a lot of pressure at school. But man, oh man I did not realize what a big difference it would make not having him home in the evenings! He has been getting home at 10pm or later. It is not easy to get Calvin off to dreamland and get dinner cooked without another adult to help. Not to mention the fact that I just plain miss James' company!

2. Laundry. Dishes. Groceries. Cooking. Laundry. Dishes. Groceries. Cooking. Laundry. Dishes. Groceries. Cooking. Repeat.

3. Calvin crying in his car seat. My parents swear that riding in the car would put me to sleep every time when I was a baby, no matter how upset and inconsolable I seemed. They have even suggested that James try this technique to calm me when I am angry :P Other parents of their generation have said similar things about babies and car trips, but the consensus I am getting from my peers with babies is that their kids hate their car seats too. (If you are my peer and your kids love their car seats, please do not tell me. That would just be mean.) Did years of re-designing car seats in the interest of safety make them hellishly uncomfortable?? I have no idea. But I do know that a car ride will. not. put. Calvin. to sleep. It will definitely not calm him when he is upset - quite the opposite!

4. Pumping. Calvin cannot breastfeed because his palate muscles don't work quite as they should. But it's still important to James and me that he have breastmilk as a significant part of his diet because, well, we believe it's better for him than formula. So in order to keep those bottles filled with the good stuff I have to spend 10-20 minutes at a time, a minimum of 5 times a day attached to that stupid pump. What really kills me is that even after all that pumping I only get enough milk to account for about half of what Calvin eats in a day.

5. Baby weight. I'm working on it, I'm working on it, but it is slooooow going. To all my size 8, 6, and 4 jeans sitting lonely in my dresser drawer: I'm coming back for you! I swear it!

Ok, enough whining. Time to remember all the things I am thankful for.

1. I get to be a SAHM! I get to spend all day with my cutie boy! I get to go to mom and baby groups and go for walks with my friends who are also doing the SAHM thing. If I don't get enough sleep at night? No problem. I get to nap with the baby if I need to! Yes, there are times when I resent feeling like my entire purpose in life is to feed, clothe, and clean up after these two boys of mine (three if you count the cat), but in the end I know it's more than that and I know they need and appreciate me right now.

2. Calvin is really an awesome baby. He is happy and healthy and such a joy to spend time with. He isn't the greatest at napping, but at least his night sleeping is fine for me. (He doesn't sleep through the night, but he wakes only a couple of times and each time, he usually goes back to sleep within a few minutes with a little help from me.) Car trips are really the hardest thing, and even those are getting better because I have figured out that as long as he is not tired or hungry AT ALL, we can make it through a short drive with no crying.

3. James is really an awesome dad. He is crazy busy right now, but he makes a point to spend some time with Calvin whenever he can and he always thanks me for things I do to take care of him and the baby.

4. My Lola helps me fold my laundry. I know, I know, my 91-year-old grandmother shouldn't be heping me,  I should be helping her, but honestly she seems glad to have something to do. Plus it's an excuse for her to come down to the apartment and spend some time with Calvin. She will sit and fold clothes and talk and sing to Calvin and meanwhile I can get the dishes washed or the kitchen mopped or I can just sit and fold clothes with her and visit. It's nice.

5. I have friends with babies and great mom and baby groups to go to. It is often hard to get out of the house on time (what with making sure Calvin is happy, fed, clean, and dressed; making sure the diaper bag is stocked; pumping or packing the breast pump; and making sure I am fed, clean, and dressed!), but it is really nice to spend time with other moms and their babies so I don't feel like I am drowning in the laundry, dishes, groceries, and cooking.

6. Our apartment and our car and motorcycle - without which my rockstar SAHM lifestyle would not be possible.

7. The fact that I am able to give Calvin breastmilk at all.

8. My cousins, aunt, and uncle here. I know any of them would be there to help us in a heartbeat if we really needed it.

9. Family and friends who I know send us their love (and facebook likes :) from afar.

10.  Board games and sci-fi shows to give James a break from work and to give us a chance to relax together.

11. Coffee.

12. Pinterest.

13. The Couch-2-5K running app. This is my golden ticket back into my size 4 jeans. Eventually. Ok, that and breaking up with cupcakes.

14. Living in such an awesome area where I have access to great parenting resources and gorgeous places to go walking/running/hiking.

I could go on and on because really there are so, so many things I am thankful for. But then this post would go on forever, so I'm giving myself one more:

15. Thanks to you if you stuck it out and read this entire ramble :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baby Class Reunion

James and I took a childbirth preparation class back in the early spring to help us get ready for Calvin's big entrance. We really liked the teacher, we enjoyed getting to know the other soon-to-be parents, and we generally felt that the class was really helpful in preparing us for the experience of labor (as much as you can be prepared... LOL!) It was a series of sessions every Monday for 6 weeks, but we didn't make it to the last one because Calvin was born the day before!

This past weekend we had a reunion of all the parents with our teacher and all our new little ones on the outside ;)

The babies! Plus one big brother. Calvin is the one in the plaid shirt.

Proud parents! 

This cracks me up! Babies are hilarious. We've got feet grabbers, head kickers, finger eaters,
 and Calvin's girlfriend Autumn holding hands with another boy! 


Some pics James took of Calvin and me playing around in our jammy-jams...

... That is all :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

As in, "...and Hobbes"

Calvin and Hobbes

Did we name our son after Hobbes' famous BFF? Um, sort of.

The story of our Calvin's name actually starts back when we adopted our cat, Lucas. We were headed for the SPCA and James said that he had always wanted an orange cat named Hobbes. And a son named Calvin. We laughed about how funny that would be because Bill Watterson's comic strip duo is so awesome, of course!

Calvin and Hobbes

But as fate would have it, we adopted our black kitty and kept the name the SPCA had given him. 

Fast forward a couple of years and we find out that we are having a baby boy! And I'm like, "Remember how you said you wanted an orange cat named Hobbes and a son named Calvin? Hahahaha... wait. Calvin... I actually really do like that name. Calvin." And James really did like the name too, all kidding aside. So what had started as kind of a joke turned into a very real contender among the names we considered for our little bundle of boy.


As the weeks and months passed, we wavered between Calvin and Paul for a first name (we ended up making Paul his middle name) and occasionally we talked about other possibilities... Isaac...Frank...even Apollo. But Calvin it is! And while it wasn't exactly deliberate, we are happy for our boy to share his name with Bill Waterson's curious, mischievous and ultimately endearing character.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Just an Old Sweet Song

A couple of weeks ago Calvin went on his first flight! 
Sleepy Calvin at the gate waiting to board

Infant in arms :)

Snuggly boy! You can tell he was about to go right back to sleep!
Calvin was an angel on the flight. He pretty much slept the whole way except for a short awake time during which he flirted with the passengers seated nearby ;) The return flight was pretty much the same, although during the return flight another kid (a toddler) started screaming and woke up Calvin which made him cry for a bit... but luckily that only happened once and it didn't last long!

We have so many special people that we want to see while we're there that our visits end up being pretty busy and we still don't manage to see quite everyone we'd like to. It helps when there's a big event like a wedding that brings a bunch of people we love together in one place.

This trip, we were there to celebrate the marriage of one of our very dear friends, Julie, to her lucky new husband, Bret! It was a gorgeous wedding and I was lucky enough to be a part of the wedding party. Calvin got all spiffed up in his new gingham outfit complete with a polka dot bowtie (handmade by me!) and he mostly slept through the ceremony and reception since it was an evening wedding.

Here's my little sharp-dressed man!

Dancing with a sleeping baby :)
While we were there we spent time with both sets of Calvin's grandparents and we visited his great-grandparents in Athens. Calvin also got to meet some of his aunts and uncles and cousins. Here's a new awkward family pic featuring Calvin's goofy Uncle Alex:

Everybody has a goofy uncle, right?

It's always sad to say goodbye all over again to our friends and family in Georgia! Maybe we'll see y'all at Christmas :)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Birthday Breakfast

The board game party was on a Saturday, but James' real birthday was the following Monday. And no birthday at our house is complete without... Birthday Breakfast!!

This is a tradition was started by my parents when my brother was a kid and I was a teenager. On our birthdays my mom and dad would make a special breakfast for us - complete with birthday candles - and we would take pictures and blow out the candles and eat together. The catch was that everyone in the family had to be there which meant we had to do it before the first person had to leave for school/work/church no matter how early. So these stunning birthday breakfast pictures from my adolescence usually featured rumpled pajamas, tangled bedhead and sleepy eyes. Here is a gem from my 20th birthday:

See how happy my brother is to get up early and celebrate my birth??

These days I am the early riser and I am usually ready for work by the time we do birthday breakfast photos. Here's mine from last year:

Still looking a little sleepy around the eyes.

And here's James' most recent birthday breakfast featuring - what else? - pancakes in bed!

Calvin looks about as excited as his Uncle Alex.

Board Game Birthday

Been out of town, got some catching up to do!

James' birthday was at the end of August. To celebrate, we invited a few friends over to play board games - we love board games :) Not like Monopoly or Taboo, but modern board games of a slightly different, (geekier?) genre. The kind you'd find on the list at Some of our favorites include Pandemic, Space Alert, and Steam. Over the summer we bought Kingdom Builder, which had just won the German Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award. This is apparently the most prestigious award for board and card games in, like, the world. So there. And we love it! It's a great game - easy to learn, fun and competitive,  lots of replay-ability because you can change the game elements each time you play.

So for James' board game birthday party I decided to do a Kingdom Builder theme. It started with an idea for some awesome Kingdom Builder cupcakes... The boards for this game are divided into different types of terrain: desert, grassland, forest, canyon, and flowers are the five terrains you can build on. There are also water and mountain spaces which you generally can't build on (unless you have the ship which lets you build on water :). Behold my Kingdom Builder Cupcakes! Representative of the five terrains on which you can bulid your kingdom...

Grassland, Flowers, Desert, Canyon, Forest
(Sugar sprinkles, Raspberry M&M's, Sugar sprinkles, Heath bits, Mint M&M's)

I thought about how to make the little settlement houses, but ultimately decided not to bother.
The cupcakes were prettier on their own anyway!

Fully committed to the Kingdom Builder theme, I also created a spread of party snacks to match: a broccoli forest with dill dip; a grassland of celery and cucumber sticks with edamame; a cheese, crackers, and hummus desert; a very berry fruit salad for the flowers; and a canyon of pretzels, cookies and chocolate!

Sorry for the blurry pic - this is me not knowing how to use James' fancy pants camera!

We played Kingdom Builder (duh) as well as some new games brought over by friends of ours including Glory to Rome (during which James and I proved to be terrible teammates), Seven Wonders (when James and I got the chance to redeem ourselves as a cooperative couple), and a funny and fast paced card game with numbers and cows called Take 6 (also known by its Chinese translation: Who is the King Cow? lol). The birthday boy got some new games to play: the Kingdom Builder expansion set "Nomads" (of course!), a brand new game called Through the Ages (which is a whole 'nother story), and a neat and nerdy set of math-y playing cards from some friends of ours. 

Fun and delicious snacks were had by all.