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Friday, November 29, 2013


On Thankgiving, I love drinking coffee and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in my jammies. This year, Calvin got to see the parade too! James and my cousin Hartley and I treated ourselves to Krispy Kremes while we watched the marching bands and Broadway performances, the floats and giant balloons with the babies. 

Calvin gets to watch the parade! 

Henry's first Thanksgiving <3

I did a little decorating to make our little place feel festive. Calvin helped :) I took some of his fingerpainting masterpieces and turned them into a banner by cutting them into triangles and attaching them with brads! 

...and after!
My cousins brought over most of the food, but James deep fried the turkey like he does every year.

Honeybaked Ham and a Deep Fried Turkey!

Lumpia, spinach dip, cranberry relish, and an assortment of salads

Dessert station! My absolute fave this year was this cassava cake that my aunt made.
Not your traditional American Thanksgiving dessert, but so so yummy!
Two of my cousins came over with their kids, and of course Hartley and Lola (my grandmother) came down from upstairs. My aunt had to work, but she joined us later in the evening. It really was a great day. Yummy food, and a loving family. 

Henry and Hartley

Calvin had a BLAST playing with his cousins. I think I've never seen him so happy <3

Henry and Mama

Cousins and our Lola Coring <3
We always miss our east coast relatives when we can't be with them for special occasions, especially our parents and grandparents in Georgia. But we are so thankful to have wonderful family and friends out here and we love any excuse to get together with them to eat, and laugh, and celebrate. And our thoughts and prayers continue to be with our relatives in the Philippines as they recover from the devastation of the typhoon. For info on our efforts to send aid to our family and their community in Leyte, please check out our website, YouCaring: Philippine Typhoon Relief

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talking Hands

When Calvin was 6 months old, James and I took him to a series of baby sign language classes. The classes were really more for us than for him. Typically babies who are introduced to signs around that age start using the signs themselves around 10 months. Calvin started using signs right around his first birthday.

A big part of our motivation to teach him baby signs was the fact that 22Q deletion syndrome is typically associated with delayed language development. Somehow the signs are easier for these kiddos to learn and they can use them to communicate when they aren't yet able to use words.

Calvin's very first sign was "more" and the first few signs he used all had to do with food: more, milk, water, cereal, and please. Later he started learning other nouns like animal names, foods, and things around the house like books and toys.

Here are two videos of him at 16 months where you can see him use the signs for "book" and "please." Around that time he was using the sign "please" often to ask for things, and it was great to see him signing, but it was also hard because he didn't always know the sign for the thing he was asking for. That's one of the two big limitations of the baby signing that I've found. The other limitation is that, because of his developing motor skills, the way he does the signs doesn't look like the adult version and some of his signs for different things look identical. We just have to use the context of the situation and do our best to figure it out. For example, the way he signs duck looks just like milk, but if we're playing with toys there's a good chance he wants his toy duck whereas if it's during a meal it's definitely milk. I imagine that it's not that different from interpreting "baby talk."

At his 18 month check up in October, he still was not using any verbal words. He was babbling lots of sounds and had demonstrated about 20 signs, but no words. His use of signing showed that he was able to communicate and that cognitively he is using and understanding language. But it looks like he will need some help developing verbal speech. We started talking about speech therapy with his pediatrician and with our case worker from Golden Gate Regional Center (an organization that will help hook us up with therapy services if/when Calvin needs them). He has an appointment with the speech and language specialists at Stanford (add that department to the team of specialists already following him!) in February, and I think he'll likely start speech therapy after that.

In the month since that appointment, I am very excited to report that he has started saying "mama" and "daddy" consistently enough to be sure that they're real words and not just babbles! It is so wonderful to hear him call me mama for the first time. Feels like it was a long time coming. There are a couple of other words that he sometimes says (or sort of says...), but not as consistently. Those are ball, milk, more, hey, duck, and "all done."

Here's a little video of his few words and a few of the signs he knows. I hate that it's a crappy phone vid, but I am very pleased to share it!

Haha. I blanked on what other signs he knows! I estimate that he uses over 30 signs. Here are all that I could think of :)

more, milk, water, food, bread, banana, grapes, cracker, cereal, please, all done, down, help, toys, play, dance, book, music, mom, dad, Lola (grandmother), Henry, duck, pig, dog, cat, bird, elephant, car, tree, bed, awesome, and (please don't judge me!) Mickey Mouse and  Sesame Street!

We're proud of our little guy, and we're so glad that we decided to teach him sign language! It's a relief to know that he is learning and communicating in his own way.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Aid for Palo

In the wake of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, we are sending throughts and prayers to those affected by this disaster - especially my relatives in Leyte and Samar. I haven't heard much news, but I have heard that most of our family's homes have been destroyed and that my relatives in Palo are staying in the last remaining house. My grandmother's brother is missing, last I heard, as well as other relatives. The people in the affected areas of the Philippines need clean water, food, and supplies to start rebuilding. I have heard that some relief aid has reached those areas and that the people there are working together in recovery efforts, but the situation is still dire.

A distant cousin of mine, Arnold Espino, who is a missionary in Vietnam, is traveling to the Philippines in a few days to deliver water, food, and supplies directly to our relatives there and to aid in the search for missing family members. James has set up a charity website to raise money to help Arnold purchase supplies to distribute.

If you are looking for a way to help the typhoon survivors, this is an opportunity to help send aid directly to the communities in Tacloban and Palo. Click on the link to read more and to donate. Thank you!

Fall Y'all

We love a family photo shoot! 

For our fall pics this year our friends the Hersh family found a nice little park near Stanford called Sharon Park and we met them there to give each other a hand with picture-taking.

It was hard to get the boys to smile, but they are totally adorable anyway :)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

DIY Baby Toys

We've got our fair share of Melissa & Doug gems for Calvin to play with, but to mix things up, I sometimes set him up with some homemade toys made from "upcycled" items and some things from the craft store. First I made him some very fancy looking sensory bottles and shakers. Then I got some inspiration from other "mommy bloggers" via Pinterest. Here are a few other DIY "toys" we've tried out:

Tissue box + Handkerchiefs

I set him up with this when he was around 9 months old. I just saved an empty tissue box and put a couple of handkerchiefs in it that he could pull out and stuff in over and over again (instead of pulling out all the real tissues and throwing them all over the place). 

Can with plastic lid + Milk jug lids

I made this one around the same time, but introduced it after the tissue box. I felt like this was a next step in terms of motor skills. This is an Almond Roca can, but there are lots of foods that come in similar cans (like coffee and oatmeal). I cut an X shape into the plastic lid with a knife. I was worried about the pointy corners left on each triangle flap scratching Calvin's hand so I actually took a nail file and rounded them! Then I realized I could have just used scissors to round the points. I put the milk jug lids inside and voila - a toy that makes nice rattle-y noises and has little things to grab and pull out or grab and push in! It took him a while to figure out how to get them out the first time around, but once he got it he started putting other small toys in and pulling them out too. 

Can with plastic lid + Ribbons

Same can with ribbons instead of milk lids. So many things you can push in and pull out of this can! Hours of entertainment. Ok not hours, his attention span is not that big! Minutes. Minutes of entertainment :) 

Paper towel tube + Milk jug lids

Calvin is about 15 months old here. I set this up, modeled dropping a lid down the tube, and let him at it. He grabbed the tube and ripped it off the wall. Ok. More tape. I set it up again with more tape, and it bought me 10 minutes to wash the dishes. Win. Usually I don't bother taping up the tube anymore, and he can just sit and hold the tube and drop things through it. Besides milk lids, he also does this activity with other little objects like cotton balls or blocks.

Puff Balls + Cups

Another month or two later. Those little "cups" are actually lids from Henry's Avent bottles and the puff balls came from the craft store, but Calvin could easily do the same with small cups and cotton balls. He loves those little puff balls, though. Fun and colorful and fuzzy :)

Cotton Balls + Container

That container was the packaging from some pacifiers I bought for Henry. Just like the puff balls, he likes to stuff the cotton balls into containers (ice cube tray, tupperware, cups) or spread them around the room! But this particular container makes a nice toy because it latches closed which adds a little work for him to do to open and shut it.

Contact Paper + Small Objects

Sorry for the mega-glare on this picture! I taped a piece of contact paper sticky-side out on the side of our bookshelf and gave Calvin some small things to stick to it: puff balls, little plastic jewels, and cardboard die-cuts from my scrapbooking supplies (other ideas: pieces of pipe cleaner, paper clips, paper shapes, cheerios). The first time we did this he was so funny about the contact paper. He just wanted to stick his hand to it and pull it off over and over again and finally he pulled it down entirely and was just playing with the wadded up contact paper! This time he was fascinated by the tiny jewels and I could really see him working hard with those fine motor skills to pick them up, stick them on, and take them off. He also figured out that he could roll the puff balls slowly down the sticky paper. So many fun things to do with sticky paper!

All of these are great for motor skills and hand-eye coordination. I have some other brilliant ideas I want to try out as he gets older, so I'm sure I'll do a follow-up post in the future :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Harry and Hedwig's Halloween

Happy Halloween! Oh wait, Happy All Saints Day!

Harry Potter and his owl Hedwig! 
Our Halloween festivities got a little shaken up by the stomach flu which hit our house last weekend :\ We had plans to go to a couple Halloween events on Saturday, but our kiddo Calvin was sick and the next thing we knew James and I were sick too! So we got our first taste of what it's like to be sick and still be parents (it sucks), but thankfully it only lasted a couple of days and we were all better in time for Halloween. 

I had already made/assembled the boys' costumes. For Calvin's Harry Potter costume, I ordered a hooded cape from an Etsy shop and a Gryffindor hat/scarf combo from Amazon. Then I printed a Gryffindor tie and crest onto sticker paper and stuck the tie onto his shirt and the crest onto his cape. I should have done an iron-on tie because the sticker kept coming off (duh, mom). We went through 3 tie stickers! I really wanted to hand-make (or mostly hand-make) Henry's costume because I made Calvin's chicken costume last year for his first Halloween. So I started with a white pajama outfit that came with a hat and I glued felt feathers onto the pj's and felt eyes and beak onto the hat. The wings were safety-pinned so that I could take them off to put him in his car seat. 

James had to work, of course, but I took the boys out to some baby-friendly Halloween celebrations with our friends and their kids. In the morning, we went to the Tiny Tot Halloween Parade on Chestnut St. in San Francisco which was basically a mass stroller brigade trick-or-treating up and down Chestnut St. where the shop/restaurant owners were handing out candy. Honestly I felt like kind of a jerk taking candy when clearly my babies are too young for sweets! Ha ha. So we actually didn't stay in the "parade" for long. After a couple of blocks we bailed out, bought coffee for us mamas, and took our kids to the playground where the event had started. 

Hedwig (Henry) says that owls are supposed to be nocturnal.

I almost chickened out of drawing the glasses on Calvin's face, but my friend talked me into it and we got so many comments about how cute the glasses were!

Pensive Harry.

Baby Harry Potter was visiting Wonder Woman when a butterfly fluttered by...

Calvin only likes swings for about 30 seconds and the he wants out. 

We had lunch at the park and then went home for a few hours. Later in the afternoon, we went over to our friends' house for a baby Halloween party with some of the same kiddos from last year's Halloween party.

Party foul. 
Sleeping Hedwig... so sweet!

"The Boy Who Lived"

Harry and Hedwig are clearly the life of the party.
With our friends Jaime and Autumn
Heidi and Grandfather; Superwoman and a flower; Harry, Hedwig, and a witch; Supermom and a butterfly; Green Lantern and Wonder Woman! Harry Potter's tie is stuck to my leg! 

The babes were just too wiggly to line them up for a picture by themselves like last year! Plus it was way too close to bedtime. My little Harry Potter was tired and getting mad about how hot his costume was (sorry Calvin!).  It was a bummer that James missed out, but I had a fun Halloween with Calvin and Henry!