Madeleine at Two Years Old

Madeleine Two Years Old

Madeleine’s 2nd Birthday

Madeleine turned two way back in March. The past several months have been so much fun with her, and she is such a joy to our family.

On her birthday in March, I described her on Facebook as follows: These days she loves kittens, princess dresses, the Little Mermaid, saying “NO WAY!” (very dramatically), and dancing any time she hears a song with soul or a catchy beat. She is full of sweetness and has us all charmed!”

Some of her interests and sayings have changed since then, but the spunk and charm are still going strong.

Madeleine-isms

The main memories I want to preserve of Madeleine’s toddler phase are the cute/funny/sweet things that she says on a regular basis. Here’s a list of some of our favorites:

  •  “I miss you, Mom.” – This sweet girl wishes she could be with me all day every day, so any time we have to part ways (the gym, church nursery, etc.), she runs to me and says in a disappointed tone, “I miss you, Mom.” And when we meet up again, she runs toward me shouting “Mom! Mom!” with such excitement, and then says in the same tone, “I missed you, Mom.” I’m not the only one she misses. When Brad goes on a work trip, and when the boys are at school, she frequently tells me she misses them.
  • “I fall upstairs.” – This is her go to phrase any time she gets hurt, whether it was on the stairs, outside, in the kitchen, etc. It basically means “I hurt myself.” She has taken a few tumbles down the stairs, but thankfully she was more scared than hurt on those occasions.
  • “My Mickey house toothbrush!” – Mickey Mouse has been a favorite character of Madeleine’s for the past year. She has a stuffed Mickey that stays in her crib, and a toothbrush in the bathroom, and before she could say Mickey, she used to call it “Mees-ka.” Then it became Mickey house, which is what she usually still says.
  • “You here, Mom?” – If I’ve been away from her for a while (to run an errand, or otherwise out of the house without her), she gets somewhat unsettled, so when I return, she wants to be assured that I’m there to stay. She’ll repeatedly come up to me and ask,”You here, Mom? You here now, Mom?”
  • Scary poo – Somehow this became the name for anything that’s scaring Madeleine in the house. Not sure if it’s an off shoot of Winnie the Pooh or what. But if she’s spooked, Scary Poo is sure to be in the middle of the conversation.
  • “I did it!!” – Her exuberant exclamation for any successful attempt at a challenging task (using the potty, taking off a shirt, going down the slide, etc.)
  • “It’s a long day, Mom.” “All done long days, Mom.” – We recently took a 17 hour, two day road trip to Cleveland, Ohio. When we started the trip, I warned Madeleine that it was going to be a long day in the car. From that moment on on the road, her favorite phrase for times that she was feeling restless was “Long day, Mom.” She would say it in such a sad, resigned tone. Poor girl. But she traveled great. Now that we’ve been home a couple of weeks, she will sometimes remember that road trip when we are driving around town, and when she does, she says in a hopeful and relieved voice, “All done long days, Mom?”
  • “I like your pretty dress, Mom!” – She is full of compliments and kind words. “Oh, Mom! I like your sparkly shirt!” “Oh, Mom! I like your new shoes!””Hey, Mom. You look nice!”
  • “I eat Benjamin crunch.” – I sometimes call Benjamin “cinnamon Bennamin,” so when she took a liking to cinnamon crunch cereal, she started calling it Benjamin crunch!)
  • All things frozen become Let It Go. “I eat Let It Go peas, mom.” Other favorites are Let It Go yogurt squeezers, Let It Go raspberries. She also calls her Frozen-themed clothing and accessories Let It Go shoes and dresses.
  • “No WAY!” – She doesn’t say this one as much any more, but she used to exclaim it with gusto several times a day.
  • Daddy C – My mom’s grandma name is Mama C. My dad is grandad. Madeleine is the first of their grandchildren to come up with her own hybrid of their two names. She started calling him Daddy C this summer.
  • “My waffle pop UP!” – You may have noticed by now that Madeleine is enthusiastic about almost everything, from getting her diaper changed, to going to the park, and even to something as routine as her waffle popping up in the toaster. When she hears that tell tale sound of the toaster popping up, she exclaims, “My waffle pop UP!” with the sort of jubilation you would expect for the arrival of a special guest to the house, or ice cream after dinner. This girl exudes positivity!

Bedtime Routine

Madeleine usually goes down for a nap around 1, and to bed around 8. She often tells me she’s ready to go to sleep. “Put me at bed, Mom.” “My ribbon my bed.” When she lays down, she expects to see kitty, dolly, and Mickey in her crib. She also likes to hold the pink ribbon that is at one corner of her favorite blanket. (A few months ago, she wanted to hold two head bands as she drifted off to sleep, and sometimes she would put one on just for fun.) After she has those items, a couple sips of water, a hug, a kiss, and some tickles on her arms and back, she’s ready to go to sleep. I hope things stay simple when she moves into a big girl bed.

Favorites

  •  Snacks – Goldfish, pea crisps, apple sauce squeezers, yogurt squeezers, nuts
  • Meals – spaghetti, mac n cheese, cheeseburgers
  • Songs – Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Alphabet Song,” “Let It Go.”
  • Books – “Cool Dog, School Dog” (I read this to her before bed every day for about a month!) Any Disney princess books, “Good Night, Moon” (she likes to find the mouse on each page)
  • Movies – She was in a big Disney princess phase in the fall and spring, with favorites being The Little Mermaid, Princess and the Frog, and Snow White. Then she got interested in Pinocchio. Since we moved to Dallas a few months ago and the boys were out of school for summer, she’s been watching more movies on Netflix with them. Her most recent favorites were Hotel Transylvania 2 and Home.
  • Shows – Super Why, Sophia the First
  • Apps – Mickey Mouse Color Play, Interactive “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” Interactive “Wheels on the Bus.” (How crazy is it that a two year old has the ability to easily navigate an iPhone and a Kindle Fire? Different world we are living in.)

Sibling Interaction – Madeleine loves her big brothers so much, and they help out a lot with her these days. They will get her out of her crib when she wakes up, get her a snack, push her on the swing, and most importantly, include her in their games. We call her “gamer baby” when they hand her an xBox controller and she pretends to play video games with them. She is thrilled when she can play in the sprinkler or with the water hose with them. She also loves playing chase around the house with Peter.

The Curls – Madeleine’s perfectly spiraled curls turn a lot of heads, and we are flattered by all the compliments about our sweet girl and her gold-kissed head of curls. She likes to be wild and free, so any time I try to put a head band or barrette in her hair, she immediately takes it off. The boys both lost their curls when they were about four. I’m hoping hers are here to stay!

The Wardrobe – She is much more of a girly girl than I ever was. She has a particular love for sparkly shoes, so we’ve bought her a couple of pairs. She also prefers wearing dresses more than shirts with pants/shorts. Despite her love of all things frilly and shiny, she also has fun dressing up in the boys’ clothes. Spiderman swimwear, tiger pajamas, etc. She appreciates comfy loungewear. Most afternoons she wears a comfy t-shirt for her nap. Smart girl!

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve covered enough ground to paint a good picture of our two year old Madeleine Claire. We still have six months and a few days of her toddler phase, and I’ll be soaking up every hug, giggle, and snuggle that I can.

 

2015: Year in Review

2015 has been a good year for our family. Here’s a month by month look at some of the highlights.

  • January – We started 2015 by finishing up a marathon visit with family. We rang in the new year with fireworks and soul food with Brad’s family in Lake Charles, then spent a few days in Dallas before making the long, cross country drive back to Los Angeles. While the trip was a daunting number of miles (and hours!) on the road, we found it enjoyable. There were so many different landscapes and scenic views along the way, and we had fun listening to audiobooks and surprising the kids with activities from their travel goody bags (thanks Nana!) whenever things got dicey. But we were happy to discover temps near 70 when we got home, considering that the road trip took us through areas where there was snow on the ground and highs in the 30s. Brrrr!
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The boys entertaining themselves on our cross country road trip

  • A couple of weeks after we settled back in at home, Peter ended up in the ER with a nasty mouth injury. He and Benjamin were playing rough, and Benjamin’s head ran into Peter’s mouth, damaging his top front teeth and gum. Poor guy. Thankfully, the injury ended up healing on its own (he had to be on a soft diet for awhile), and we were relieved that he didn’t lose his teeth. At the end of the month, we renewed our Disneyland annual passes. After taking a year off, we were excited to get back to one of our favorite places, and to introduce Madeleine to our favorite attractions.

 

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The boys entertaining themselves on our cross country road trip

  • February – After an eventful January, we were forced to hunker down at home, when we all came down with various ailments. Benjamin had strep, I had the flu, Madeleine had an ear infection and stomach virus… It wasn’t very fun for any of us, but we did manage to fit in a couple more Disneyland trips between illnesses.
  • March – We turned the corner to good health in March, and had two birthdays to celebrate. First, we celebrated Benjamin’s 7th at Disneyland, and then we had a Mardi Gras themed party at home to celebrate Madeleine’s first (gumbo, king cake, beads, good times!). We closed out the month with a family day trip to the Natural History Museum. We all had fun checking out the dinosaur bones and impressive dioramas.
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Madeleine’s birthday party

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Birthday boy at Disneyland

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  • April – Brad’s mom came for a visit during the first half of the month. We enjoyed seeing her and celebrating Easter together. We attended our church’s annual Easter service on a football field – the only time of the year when the entire congregation is in the same place at the same time (as opposed to regular Sundays when there are three services).
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Photo by CLTG Photography

  • The Easter bunny brought some goodies to the kids, and we dyed and decorated eggs for a hunt in the backyard. For my birthday, my request was that I not have to cook all day. So for lunch, we picked up Corner Bakery and had a picnic at the park, and for dinner, Brad made burgers and fresh guacamole, and we had cake from Ralph’s. The next day we continued the celebration at Disneyland.

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  • May – For Mother’s Day, we took a wonderful, memorable day trip to the Santa Ynez Valley with friends: a picnic lunch from a local sandwich shop, wine tasting in and around Los Olivos, and blueberry picking. The weather was perfect, and the grown ups were able to relax and chat while all the kids played together (and the older ones watched out for the little ones). We had such a nice time that I’m hoping to take a similar trip in 2016.
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Picking blueberries

  • Later in the month, our family of five drove down to the IKEA in Burbank in hopes of picking out new beds for the boys. While our quick dinner on the way out was somewhat pleasant (can’t go wrong with those meatballs!), the shopping portion of the trip was so stressful (it was like the employees were following us around just to point out every bad thing the boys were doing), we abandoned the idea of new bedroom furniture altogether! We will never shop at IKEA again with three small children in tow.
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The ill-fated IKEA trip

  • June – As school wound down for the boys, the first grade classes put on a super cute production of The Wizard of Oz. Benjamin was the cyclone. After several days of perfecting his big scene at home, he did a great job twisting and turning around the stage. On June 11, Peter had his last day of preschool. We were sad to say goodbye to his wonderful teachers and the rest of the staff. It’s been strange to not see them this school year! Benjamin finished school the next day, and he was thrilled to say goodbye to first grade and hello to summer! For Father’s Day, Benjamin picked out the recipes and helped me make enchiladas and cheesecake for Brad. We wrapped up June and started July with a staycation at Disneyland. We spent two nights at our favorite Anaheim hotel (kids eat free for every meal, newly renovated suites, views of the fireworks from the hotel, etc.) and had a great time. One night when we didn’t have the energy to deal with the hot weather and the crowds, we took the kids to see Inside Out in Downtown Disney.
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Peter’s last day of preschool – a Pancakes and Pajamas Day

 

  • July – Once we were back home, Brad and I had a rare date night out of SCV – we drove to Ventura to listen to some live big band/jazz music at a wine bar. We loved the music and the refreshing coastal air. On July 4 we joined our neighbors for their annual company party (In n Out truck, games, great view of the city fireworks). The boys had fun hanging out with their former babysitters who were home from college for a visit. I took the kids to the beach a couple of times during the month (so nice to escape the dry heat of Valencia!), and Brad and I took in our first Dodger game of the season on a beautiful, unusually cool July night – and they won!

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  • Mom and Dad drove across the country and arrived for their annual visit in mid July. They brought us a box of sweet, juicy Ruston peaches – the first we’d had in years! After they’d had a few days to rest after the long road trip, we took a day trip up the coast. We stopped for brunch in Santa Barbara, then took in some fascinating history at the La Purisima Mission near Lompoc. It has been restored to look like a working mission from the 1800s. There were almost no visitors there besides us that day, so it was easy to imagine that we had really stepped back in time.
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Mom and Dad at La Purisima Mission

  • We made a quick stop at a winery that Brad and I had wanted to check out, then we ended the day in the picturesque town of Solvang for a late lunch, followed by coffee and dessert at one of the town’s many bakeries. Later during their visit, we enjoyed a beach day, and one night we got a sitter for the kids so we could enjoy a nice dinner out with Mom and Dad at our favorite Italian restaurant.
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Mom and Dad playing cards with the boys

  • August – After Mom and Dad headed back to the South, school was just around the corner! (We have a too short eight week summer break.) The week before school started, Peter turned five, and we celebrated with a night at Chuck-E-Cheese, another day at the beach, and an overnight trip to Disneyland.
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Peter’s birthday

  • The boys started school on August 12, and we were immediately happy with their teachers and classmates. Madeleine and I settled into a new routine while the boys were at school. Brad traveled to Lake Charles for his high school reunion just after the boys started school. He had a fun time reconnecting with old friends. In fact, we ended up meeting up with a couple of his classmates at a Dodger game at the end of the month. Unfortunately, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta pitched a no hitter, but we still had a nice time.
  • September – Early in the month, I took in my third and final Dodger game of the season – this time with a friend. The moms’ group that I’m in started meeting again after the summer break, and the boys settled into school a little more.
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The boys entertaining themselves on our cross country road trip

  • October – October was still dreadfully hot here, but it was all about the fall festivals. So, Peter and Benjamin had to suffer for fun in their Captain America and Harry Potter costumes during not one, not two, but three different occasions. (We spared Madeleine the discomfort, and only dressed her as Minnie Mouse for our Halloween night trick-or-treating.) Brad had his longest work trip of the year this month – a two week European tour that had him spending time in England, Wales, France, and Germany. He even stayed in a French chateau for a few nights, and we had fun FaceTiming him while he was there so he could show us all the interesting things about it. He returned home on the evening of Halloween, just in time to join us for trick-or-treating.

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  • November – To celebrate Brad’s return, we took the boys out of school one day for a family fun day at Disneyland. It was totally worth it to enjoy the smaller crowds and the beautiful fall weather. We love when we can wear jackets at Disneyland, and we even ate clam chowder in a bread bowl while sitting outside. Later in the month, when the boys had a half day of school, we drove down to Anaheim in the afternoon to experience all the Christmas attractions. The week of Thanksgiving, we took a little vacation to the beach in Oxnard. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach resort and had a wonderful time. Some of the highlights: feeding trout at the Fillmore Fish Hatchery, taking a walk on the beach at sunset, going to a small but fun children’s museum (when it was too crazy windy to be outside one day), soaking in the sights and sounds of the ocean on a beautiful Thanksgiving morning, and eating a Thanksgiving feast at a restaurant in Oxnard before heading back home.
  • December – We are only a third of the way through this month, but I’ve been busy getting ready for our annual trip to see family and friends in the South. I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, but still have some Christmas baking to do before moving on to packing for our trip. We will spend time in Dallas, Lake Charles, and Ruston, in order to celebrate Christmas with our parents, and our siblings and their families.

Looking back on 2015, it’s been a year of lots of quality family time at home, as well as some fun adventures both near and far from home. We look forward to what 2016 has in store! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!

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Photo by Sara Weber Photography

 

Peter at Five Years Old

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Five year old Peter (Photo by Sara Weber Photography)

Peter turned five in August, just a week before starting kindergarten. Our family celebrated on his actual birthday at Chuck E Cheese, and the next weekend we continued with an overnight trip to Disneyland (finally experienced the new Paint the Night parade and the new fireworks show). His birthday gifts included a scooter, a soccer ball, a hopping ball, a remote control quadcopter, a new CD player, and the Frozen soundtrack.

Earlier today I was reading through my blog post about Peter at age four, and he seems so much more grown up now! While he still has the joie de vivre that I wrote about in that post, and can still be very quiet and get lost in his own world, two big differences are that he doesn’t nap anymore, and he plays with Benjamin a lot more. He started resisting his nap about halfway through the summer, and since school was only a few weeks away, we just let him stop cold turkey. Now, on the days that he and Benjamin are at home in the afternoon, they either play video games together or go in the backyard together and hang out during “quiet time” (They would be the first to tell you that I’m serious business about not waking Madeleine up from her nap!). Over the summer, Peter developed his video game skills. He keeps up with his brother pretty well on games like Minecraft, Terraria, and Joyride Turbo. He also likes Just Dance and Lego: Harry Potter.

It’s been a few months since his birthday, and Peter is settling in to kindergarten – having fun, making friends, and making progress with his sight words, writing, and math skills. The boys’ school is one of the few that is still holding on to half day kindergarten. While the mid-morning start time makes it difficult to run errands or otherwise be productive, Madeleine and I enjoy having Peter home with us for a leisurely breakfast and play time. The two of them have really bonded due to this extra one on one time – it’s so sweet to see them interact. Some mornings we end up going to the Y or running to Target for a few things, but mostly we just stay home for the couple of hours between Benjamin’s early drop off and Peter’s later drop off.

The weird start time means that Peter has to eat what we’ve dubbed his “early, early lunch.” He usually eats at 10:15, and we drop him off around 10:45. Brad and I finally stopped buying hot dogs and Lunchables after seeing so many articles about how awful they are for you. Now, we have a small rotation of lunch items that Peter enjoys: soup, tuna salad, black bean and cheese taquitos, smoothies, cheesy eggs, etc. One funny highlight of our morning is finding out what the letter of the day is on Sesame Street. All three of us like the catchy song that introduces the segment, and we all guess what the letter will be (and Madeleine and I dance around – Peter is too busy eating his lunch), before it is finally revealed.

Some of Peter’s favorite things:

  • Candy – Our handsome Captain America was thrilled with all the goodies he received for Halloween, both while trick-or-treating and at the several fall festivals we attended.
  • Soccer – He enjoys playing at the park with Brad and Benjamin, and at the Y.
  • Chef’s class – Another class the boys take at the Y is Junior Chefs. Peter’s eyes always light up when I tell him it’s chefs class day.
  • Thai food – We were surprised when he started loving Thai food, but he is always the first to vote for it when we are deciding what to order for delivery. All around, he’s a much more adventurous eater than he was a year ago.
  • Pajamas – The boy loves to be comfy and cozy, just like his mom!
  • Playdates He is our social boy – loves to be in the middle of a group of friends having fun!
  • Getting out of the House – While Benjamin would be happy to stay home most of the time, Peter is always asking where we are going, what we are doing. His favorite destinations are exciting ones like the beach or Disneyland, but he’s also happy with the mall, a restaurant, Target…

So, that’s our Peter at five years old. I can’t believe how much he has changed in the past year. He has left behind his chubby-faced toddler days, and is turning into a tall, skinny, rambunctious boy.

Madeleine at Eighteen Months

Madeleine is now eighteen months old! I can’t get over how sweet, curious, funny, gentle and beautiful she is – she brings so much joy to our family. Here’s a rundown of her current personality, likes, and dislikes.

“Let It Go” – Her most favorite thing in the world for the past couple of months has definitely been Frozen, specifically “Let It Go.” She actually refers to the movie as “Let It Go.” It started during the summer when she caught the Frozen fever from everyone else in our family (well, mostly me). I couldn’t believe it the first time that she picked up the chorus when I was absentmindedly singing it in the kitchen one day. This is the girl who doesn’t say many words yet – she mostly just babbles in her own language. Now, any time she sees or hears a reference to Frozen, she animatedly points and exclaims “let it go!” with a sense of wonder in her voice. A few days ago, she was thrilled to discover a picture of Anna, Elsa, and Olaf on a box of yogurt squeezers. I cut out the picture, and she carries it around the house when she plays. When she’s being difficult while I’m trying to buckle her into her car seat, all I have to say is “Do you want to listen to Frozen?” and she complies immediately. (We have the soundtrack running on a loop many days, but I swap it out with Princess and the Frog and Mary Poppins occasionally.) At the grocery store recently, I told her we needed to find the frozen corn, and she started singing “Let It Go.” That made me laugh. And while she doesn’t have much interest in watching tv/movies yet, she does watch about a half hour of Frozen every day while I am helping the boys with their homework. Watching Frozen started out as a Daddy/daughter activity. One day, she stayed home with Brad while I took the boys to the Y because she was sick. He turned on Frozen to watch with her, and she loved it. Since then, any time we ask her if she wants to watch Frozen, she immediately sits down in the living room and looks at the television expectantly, asking “Let it go?” To sum it all up, the girl loves her some Frozen!

Rough and Tumble – This is a good phrase to describe her approach to life. Madeleine runs more than she walks, she’s a whirl of motion (hard to get a non-blurry picture of her), she’d rather roll around or put her head down on the ground like an ostrich than sit still, and she climbs whenever she has the chance. The sofa, the dining table, the coffee table, boxes, step stools, etc. She scales these several times a day. Because she’s so adventurous, she’s had several bumps and bruises lately. She recovers quickly from most of them, but a couple of the mouth injuries have required some extra TLC. She’s busted her lip a few times from falls, and the worst was a cut above her top teeth that kept bleeding off and on for a couple of days. She keeps us on our toes!

Independent – This girl likes to do things for herself! At meal times, if I try to feed her, she dramatically closes her eyes, turns her head, and complains. But if I hand over the spoon to her, she happily begins eating. She makes a little less of a mess with each passing day, but I still take off everything but her diaper before putting her in the highchair. While she still enjoys being held and cuddled, when it comes to walking in or out of the house/YMCA/church/etc., she wants to walk! She does her best to keep up with her brothers and do what they do. A few days ago, I discovered her sitting on the couch “playing” XBox with Benjamin. (She was pushing buttons on the controller and watching his racing game, as if she were one of the racers.)

Helper – I’m seasoned enough as a parent to know that things will change when she turns two, but for now, Madeleine is the sweetest little helper and good listener that I could ask for. She tells me when she needs her diaper changed, she willingly heads into her room at nap/bedtime, she puts away toys or brings me things when I ask her to, etc. I’m just going to enjoy this easy phase while it lasts!

Friendly – Madeleine almost always has a smile on her face, and is perceptive about people’s personalities. She is partial to people who are warmhearted and nurturing, and gives them the gift of her outreached arms and her head on their shoulder when they pick her up. It’s the sweetest thing to see her run up to someone like this and give them hugs and babble to them in her toddler-speak.

Daily Routine –

  • A note about sleep – A few months ago, Madeleine finally started sleeping through the night consistently. Now, it’s almost unheard of for her to waking during the night, and if she does, she only needs a quick hug from me, and she’s ready to lay back down and go back to sleep. I am happy to put the sleep deprivation phase behind me!
  • Morning – After sleeping all night, Madeleine usually wakes up between 7 and 8 a.m. I weaned her off of breastmilk (except for an after bath wind down feeding each night) during the summer, so now she starts the day with a bowl of dry cereal and a cup of milk. Most days she sits in my lap while she eats, but others she hangs out with her brothers while they watch Odd Squad on PBS Kids. She loves running errands, going to the Y, playing in the yard, playing with Peter (while Benjamin is at school – Peter’s kindergarten is half day, so he’s home in the morning), and following me around the house. When left to her own devices, she usually decides to go through a drawer or cabinet and pull things out to investigate. As long as she doesn’t encounter something dangerous, I encourage her curiosity. Her current favorite spots are Brad’s desk drawers, the boys’ stash of special things, and our bathroom drawers. Our bathroom counter is cluttered with all the items I’ve had to remove from the cabinets and drawers that she shouldn’t get into.
  • Lunch and Nap – We drop Peter at school at 10:40 everyday, and then we have our girl time at home. I enjoy this one on one time with her, most of which is spent having lunch. She eats early and goes down for a nap around noon. (We dropped her morning nap when the boys started school and moved her afternoon nap earlier, to adjust to school pickup time.) The current routine is for us to sit in her glider, cover up with her special blanket, and read a book together. Then I sing her “I Love You,” give her hugs and kisses, and put her in bed. She loves her dolly, and always expects to have her in hand when I cover her up. She falls asleep quickly and easily, and usually sleeps a couple of hours. (During nap time, I’ve been resting, drinking coffee, reading, and catching up on housework.) I’m hoping to do more blogging during this time, too!
  • Afternoon – After we pick the boys up from school, we enjoy some down time at home. Madeleine’s favorite snacks are yogurt, cereal bars, and graham sticks. A few days a week we go to the Y, and she loves it there! She went through a phase where she was disturbed by the wall divider in the kids’ area, and otherwise didn’t like me to leave her in there, but now she is very confident and comfortable hanging out with everyone while I work out or while Benjamin and Peter have classes.
  • Evening – Homework time is when I play my Frozen card. She will sit quietly and watch her favorite movie while I help the boys with their work. Eventually she wanders away from the tv and entertains herself some other way. She is still a great eater, and has graduated to eating almost all the same foods we eat. She still loves avocado, cheese, and yogurt, and some new favorites are watermelon, mac ‘n cheese, and smoothies. She’s very proud that she learned to drink smoothies with a straw!
  • Bath – She finally outgrew her bath seat and the kitchen sink a few months ago, so now I bathe her in the tub. Between the current water restrictions and the fact that there’s so much to do for a night time routine with three kids, she doesn’t have the luxury of a long play time in the bath like Benjamin and Peter did when they were younger. She’s usually in and out in five minutes.
  • Bedtime – Once she’s in her pjs, I nurse her for a few minutes (which also gives me a chance to sit down for the first time in several hours!). The Dodger game is usually on at this point, and the kids humor me by watching some with me. Madeleine’s bedtime routine is much like her naptime routine: glider, book, song, dolly, blanket, bed. She is so busy all day that she falls asleep within a few minutes.

So that’s a wrap on Madeleine at eighteen months! Now for some pictures:

Madeleine at One Year Old

Our baby girl is one! At her one year checkup, she was 28″ tall (23rd%) and 16 lbs 7 oz (<3rd%). Though you wouldn’t know it from her petite size, she loves to eat, and enthusiastically welcomes almost everything we offer her for meals and snacks. We celebrated her actual birthday with just our family of five at home, opening gifts, singing “Happy Birthday,” and eating cupcakes. A few days later, we invited friends over for a New Orleans style party, complete with jazz music, beads, gumbo, and king cake. She got lots of fun gifts, such as new clothes, a shopping cart, a baby doll stroller, and books. Here are some details about Madeleine at age one:

Routine:

  • She wakes up between 7 and 7:30 most mornings. She expects me to nurse her immediately (any divergence from this expectation leads to a very sad meltdown). I nurse her on the living room sofa, and when she finishes she crawls across to where Brad is sitting (this is also our morning coffee time) and snuggles with him for a while. It’s so sweet to watch her face light up when he tells her to come see him. She bounces toward him with such enthusiasm and then puts her head on his shoulder for hugs. After a few minutes of babbles and grins, she’s ready to go play. Usually she ends up playing in our “red sofa room” while the boys eat their breakfast. Her current favorite toys in that area are a pair of Magna Doodles, a “push the button” Dora book, and a sofa pillow that she throws herself down on.
  • Most days (unless we are running errands), she takes a morning nap, around 9:30. I wake her up after about an hour, so that she’ll be ready to nap again at the same time as Peter in the afternoon. So after play time, errands, and lunch, she takes another nap from about 12:45 to 2:30, when I have to wake both of them up to go get Benjamin from school. This is my quiet time for the day, and I usually spend it taking a short nap with Peter, followed by coffee and reading.
  • The rest of the day Madeleine enjoys playing with or observing her brothers. We eat dinner around 6, and I bathe her (still in the kitchen sink!) around 7. She goes to bed between 8 and 8:30. At bedtime, she likes for us to sing to her, and then I spin her key mobile around, and she lays her head on my shoulder while watching it. She’s usually tired enough that she welcomes her crib and blanket and drifts right to sleep. Still working on her staying asleep all night, as she usually wakes up once during the night.

Climbing:

  • This baby may be small, but she’s already a handful. Part girl, part monkey, apparently, because she is already climbing anything she has a mind to. It started with the bean bag, and now she uses that as a launching point to get onto the end table, and from there on to the sofa! She has also figured out how to climb onto the coffee table, and up into the glider in her room.

Exploring the house:

  • Compared to when the boys were her age, Madeleine has a lot of freedom to move around the house. However, we have started to implement some containment strategies, since every room seems to provide her with some potential mischief or danger. If the bathrooms are left open, she will unroll the toilet paper and dig through the trash for things that look interesting to put in her mouth. Yuck! Thankfully, a closed toilet lid has saved us from major disaster thus far. In the boys’ room, she likes to pull all the tissues out of the box on their night stand or chew on the CDs they leave out on the floor. She could also get into numerous choking hazards in Peter’s “special place.” (I’m planning to cover that in another post.) Our room is safe, as long as I remember to unplug my phone charger and close the closet and bathroom doors. The guest bedroom has a bookshelf full of books and magazines that she likes to pull out and make a mess with. Her own room is safe for her (as it should be!) except for her interest in the night light and sound machine plug. Putting a box in front of it used to keep her from noticing them, but now that’s actually an invitation for her to climb onto the box and pull on them. Thankfully, back when she started crawling, we did a thorough job of making the house safer for a curious baby, so we feel pretty good about letting her explore.

Favorite foods:

  • Avocado
  • Yogurt
  • Rice milled with veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower
  • Fruit and veggie melts, sweet potato puffs

Fears:

  • Blender – Ah, the blender: Madeleine’s biggest nemesis. If I even just open the cabinet where we keep it, she starts waving her hands in the air, “all done.” Unfortunately for her, I make smoothies at least a few times a week. She babbles with a concerned look on her face and doesn’t take her eyes off the appliance, and I have to reassure her the whole time I’m assembling ingredients, and when I’m ready to turn it on, I have to hold her. She puts her head down on my shoulder, and when I finally turn the blender off, she again signs “all done,” with a look of relief on her face. But she’s not completely happy until the blender is out of sight. Sweet girl – she’s a sensitive child.
  • Vacuum cleaner – She anticipates having to endure this noisy machine any time someone opens the hall closet. Luckily for her, Mommy rarely gets around to using it.😉
  • RC helicopter/cars – Brad has an assortment of these toys, and the poor girl actually trembles with fright when he flies the little ones in the house. Benjamin has a remote control car that she’s not a fan of either.

I could keep going and going with details about this sweet girl, but I’ll save more for another time. Here are some photos from Madeleine’s first year and her birthday celebration:

Benjamin at Seven Years Old

Our seven year old on a rainy day at Disneyland

Our seven year old on a rainy day at Disneyland

Over the past year, I have mostly focused on Madeleine when it comes to blogging, not wanting to forget any of the highlights of the ever changing first 12 months of her life. However, in the midst of nursing, changing diapers, snuggling, and playing peekaboo, I’ve also been aware of how Benjamin and Peter are busy growing and changing! With that in mind, I want to get back to what used to be a staple of this blog: the annual update. First up, let’s reflect on Benjamin at seven years old.

Benjamin is our introvert and homebody. When given the choice between staying home and any other activity, he almost always chooses to stay home. Hey, wonder where he gets that from? We’ve never had him take the “Five Love Languages” survey, but if he did, I’m pretty sure his top one would be Quality Time (that’s mine, too). While it sometimes seems all he wants to do is play video games, there are plenty of moments where he just wants to hang out. “Hey, Mom, want to go sit on the patio with me while you drink your coffee?” “Mom, do you know how to play Minecraft? I can teach you.” “Mom, can I help you make dinner?” “Daddy, will you take us to the park?” “Daddy, can we watch Indiana Jones with you and eat popcorn?” He loves to snuggle with Brad and read Harry Potter at night (they are currently reading Prisoner of Azkaban). And at bedtime, he chatters away happily when one of us lies down in their room. When he was in kindergarten, there were two days a week (when Peter was at school and before Madeleine was born) that Benjamin and I had some one on one time. We would go to Starbucks, browse the $1 zone at Target, or just hang out at home. I miss those times, and I think he does, too. These days we find quality time in doing homework, cooking dinner, watching baseball, etc.

Given that Benjamin is a homebody, and that he is working through some social anxiety, he’s not a big fan of school, the Y, church – basically all the places we go on a regular basis. So that’s been a big challenge for all of us. But staying home all the time isn’t an option, so we try to be encouraging and to equip him with the tools he needs to successfully interact with his peers and elders.  Like many little boys, he has trouble staying still and keeping his hands to himself in his classroom. He’s a bundle of energy, and his teacher tries various methods to keep his mind and his hands occupied. While this has definitely been a challenge since Benjamin was about three years old, it gets a little easier every year, as he grows more mature.

Before I get too scattered, I’m going to reel myself in with an acrostic. For Valentines’ Day, Benjamin’s teacher asked all the parents to send a special poem/note/message to class that she would then read to the class, so they could all hear how special they are to their families. We decided to write an acrostic poem (pictured below). These few words and phrases will be a good launching off point for further describing Benjamin.

The acrostic poem we wrote for Benjamin as a Valentine surprise in his class

The acrostic poem we wrote for Benjamin as a Valentine surprise in his class

B – An awesome big brother – Benjamin and Peter continue to grow closer, and while they still have their share of scuffles, they are pretty good playmates and pals. Brad and I like to listen to their conversations when they lie in bed at night or in the morning. “Hey Peter, next time we go to Disneyland, let’s ride the Silly Symphony Swings with Daddy.” “Oh, yeah, that will be awesome!” They talk about the dreams they will have that night, or talk about “what if” scenarios. “Peter, what if next time we go to the park, I throw the frisbee so high that it gets stuck in a tree, and I have to climb the tree to get it?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, let’s do that.” Benjamin has been teaching Peter how to play video games, so sometimes they will play Minecraft or Harry Potter Lego together. They are all about fairness, equality, and justice. If Peter has a Lunchable, Benjamin wants one, too. If Benjamin has a piece of cake, there’d better be one for Peter, too! If one of them gets in trouble for making a mess in the kitchen, then I have to distribute an equal consequence when the other one does the same thing. You get the idea. They are two peas in a pod. As for Madeleine, Benjamin is very protective and playful with his little sister. He often will ask, “Where’s Madeleine?”, wanting to make sure she isn’t getting into trouble. He likes to show her toys and make her smile and laugh. She will be in good shape with two big brothers to look after her as she gets older!

Silly brothers playing with boxes in the yard

Silly brothers playing with boxes in the yard

 

E – Enthusiastic – When you stumble upon a topic that Benjamin is interested in, just sit back and enjoy his animated reaction and engaging conversation. Some of his current favorite things: World of Tanks, Harry Potter, telling time, counting coins, eating candy/cake, making forts, etc. He is full of imagination and always has ideas to share/things to say about these topics. He also loves to involve someone else in his favorite things (part of that quality time love language, I think).

N – Has a nice smile – This past Christmas, Benjamin’s sweet grin changed rather drastically when he lost his two front teeth. (Well, he lost one during the last week of school before the break, and the other one came out on Christmas morning.) We had fun singing “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.” For the next two months, he had that gap-in-the-teeth smile that every kid goes through at some point. Charming, nonetheless. This month those big grown-up teeth have started filling in that gap. Our little Benjamin is turning into a gangly boy, all legs, arms, and big-toothed smile.

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!

All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!

J – Tells funny jokes – One of Benjamin’s Christmas gifts was a jokes book. He got a kick out of the silly jokes and riddles in it, and it quickly became one of the things he was enthusiastic about and wanted to share with us. He has since picked up some new jokes at school. His current favorite: Why was the six afraid of the seven? Because seven eight nine.” I remember another little boy who used to love telling jokes when we were growing up – Uncle Chris!

A – Adventurous – While Benjamin is shy when it comes to social situations, he loves to explore the great outdoors and experience thrills. On our fall vacation to San Luis Obispo, the place we stayed was perfect for him. At our mountain top retreat, he was able to feed chickens and chase them back into their coop, play fetch with dogs and reward them with doggie treats, hold a python, observe a tortoise, feed fish in a koi pond, hike down a steep trail, and otherwise run around in an environment totally different from where we live. When it comes to man-made adventure, he loves thrill rides. His current favorites at Disneyland are Indiana Jones and California Screamin’. Going along with his taste for adventure are his love for all things Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter. Whether it’s a book, movie, game, or ride, he is fascinated by all these franchises. And finally, while less exciting than these other examples, he also likes exploring the culinary world (more in terms of preparing the food than in actually eating them!). He helps me rinse fruits and veggies, measure and add ingredients, stir sauces, etc.

Benjamin holding a python. Eek!

Benjamin holding a python. Eek!

M – Minecraft expert – Benjamin lived and breathed Minecraft for several months during 2014. He would ask every day if he could play on the Sandlot server with his cousins in Dallas. They would converse via FaceTime while playing together. It was a nice way for them to hang out, despite the distance between them (California to Texas). Jacob and Joel taught Benjamin a ton about the game, and what info he didn’t garner from them, he gained from watching the countless and incredibly popular Stampy videos that fill YouTube. In case you don’t know Stampy, he has a very high, nasally voice, and a distinctive British accent. Not exactly the most pleasant thing to listen to for video after video. But we got used to it. The Minecraft craze has died down, for now. He still likes to play with his cousins occasionally, but with the time difference and school activities, it doesn’t happen very much anymore.

Playing Minecraft with his cousin Joel in Dallas

Playing Minecraft with his cousin Joel in Dallas

I – Intelligent – Academically, Benjamin does very well at school. He is quick to pick up math concepts, is reading at a third grade level, and even comes home some days with enthusiastic stories about things he learned that day. He asks me questions about how things work that I don’t know how to answer. I’m glad he’s so inquisitive, though!

N – Great with numbers – Math is definitely his strongest subject. Part of his daily homework is to do math flashcards, and he flies through them quickly every day. I mentioned earlier that he has also recently been learning about counting coins and telling time. He even asked for a wall clock for his birthday so he could practice.

So, that’s Benjamin at seven years old. Instead of celebrating his birthday with a party, he wanted to go to Disneyland, including staying a night in a hotel. So that’s what we did, and we all had a fun time. He also requested that we have cheesecake at home, so when we got home from Disneyland we did that and he opened gifts. Having Benjamin in our family is an adventure, and I’m always learning things about myself in parenting him. We love our Benjamin!

Benjamin with his birthday gifts

Benjamin with his birthday gifts

Madeleine’s First Eight Months

I should begin by addressing the obvious fact that it has taken me eight months to post about Madeleine’s growth and development. With Benjamin, I dutifully wrote about his babyhood on a monthly basis, complete with cleverly captioned pictures, run downs of his sleeping and eating patterns, exact dates and vivid descriptions of his milestones.  When Peter came along, I was almost as diligent, at least for the first year. I wrote a monthly post about his development until he was a year old, and quarterly posts until he turned two. I guess I have a good excuse for not writing any growth and development posts about Madeleine for eight months – taking care of three kids is time consuming!

The biggest problem with waiting so long to write about Madeleine is that I have to really test my memory from the several months during which I’ve been sleep deprived and overwhelmed with responsibility. But, here goes. (And I’m using my handy iPhone photos and videos to jog my memory!)

First seven weeks:
Madeleine was so tiny when we brought her home from the hospital – just a peanut! While she weighed 6 lbs 7 oz at birth, she was down to 5 lbs 15 oz when we left the hospital. We had some early struggles with breastfeeding, and unfortunately they continued for weeks! The main problem is that she was so sleepy, she wouldn’t stay awake long enough to nurse. Plus, she had some developmental issues that were making it difficult for her to nurse. Since I had breastfed the boys, I decided to do what was necessary to make it happen. That ended up being the triple plan of nurse/pump/bottle feed for seven weeks. It was an exhausting, around the clock job, but worth it, since she finally got the hang of it. (An added bonus was that I stored up a freezer full of pumped milk that I later donated to Mother’s Milk Bank, a non-profit group that supplies breastmilk to babies who otherwise wouldn’t have access to it.) The most helpful resources during this time were the hospital grade pump that I rented, and a lactation support group that I went to for moral support and advice. Met some wonderful, encouraging people there!

Like I said before, she slept just about all the time in those early weeks. We would wake her up for feedings, and then she’d stay awake a little while before going back to sleep. During her awake periods, she was very alert and interested in the world around her. When she would fret early in the morning (between 5 and 6 a.m.), Brad would put her in bed with me, and she would nuzzle in right next to my neck and immediately fall asleep. So would I! Those are some precious memories.

During this time, we had visits from Mama C and Grandad, Aunt Cara, and Nana. We were so glad they were able to come meet Madeleine while she was tiny, and we were grateful for their help! Benjamin was especially enamored with his baby sister. He loved holding her, and would “babysit” her while I napped with Peter in the afternoon. Particularly during his two week spring break, I would put Madeleine in her bouncy seat during nap time, and put it in the living room or backyard, and Benjamin would play games or swing, and give her a pacifier if she got fussy.

We had to take her to the pediatrician for weight checks occasionally during the early weeks, to make sure she was gaining enough weight amidst her feeding issues. She consistently stayed around the 5th percentile for weight. Like I said, she was a peanut!

  • Two weeks old: 6 lbs 2oz, 19.5″
  • Five weeks old: 7 lbs 8 oz, 21.5″

Two Months Old:

By the middle of May, Madeleine’s weight was 8 lbs. 8 oz, and she was 22″ long. This was 5th% for weight, 40th% for height. From early on, she only woke up once during the night, usually somewhere between 3:30 and 4:30. After her morning feeding, she would happily sit in her bouncy seat and watch whatever we were doing – drinking coffee, getting ready, etc. She continued to be entertained by Benjamin, smiling at him when he’s sit next to her and make silly faces. She took naps in her crib in the morning and afternoon, but later in the day she would fall asleep in her swing, taking naps there while I made dinner and even later, while we put the boys to bed. I wouldn’t put her to bed until around 11:00, which served its purpose of me only having to wake up once to feed her. She noticed her feet and legs around 2 1/2 months. She would study them as she kicked her legs around. She loved bath time. I usually bathed her in her baby tub in the kitchen, so I could keep an eye on the Dodger game. During May, Madeleine experienced her first day trip, when we drove to Santa Barbara for a zoo visit and to see the kids’ babysitter Kathryn, who is in school at UCSB. Madeleine did great, sleeping most of the day.

Three Months Old:

When summer rolled around, Madeleine weighed 9 lbs. 3 oz (3rd%) and was 22 3/4″ long (25th%). Her personality started to shine through, as evidenced by the many cute pictures we took of her, in which she seems proud of her pretty dresses, ability to lift her head up all the way during tummy time, and ability to charm us. She didn’t like to be left alone in a room, and would quickly make her discontent known with grumbling. She started to really enjoy her tummy time, so we set up quilts in the living room and kitchen, and kept a blanket in our room that we would put on our bed for her to hang out on when we were getting ready in the morning. Occasionally, she would fall asleep on our bed while having tummy time, it was so comfy. She discovered her voice, and enjoyed making sing song noises that were very sweet. She also discovered how entertaining her hands and feet could be, and spent a lot of time investigating them. As for sleeping, she usually still woke up once during the night, but had stretched that feeding time to more like 5:00 or 5:30. And there were a handful of nights that she slept all night. She got to meet Uncle Patrick, Aunt Lindsi, and cousin Louisa when they came out for a weekend visit. We enjoyed Pasadena and the beach with them. And at the beginning of July, she experienced her first road trip, as we went to San Diego with Mom and Dad when they visited. She did great on the drive down, and got a little fussy on the way home because she was getting hungry while we were stuck in traffic. This was also when she started joining the boys in the childcare area at the YMCA. She liked being in there from the beginning, and loves it now!

Four Months Old:

We continued her weight checks, and at four months, she finally made it over the 10 lb. mark, weighing 10 lbs. 2 oz (3rd%) and was 23 1/2″ long (25th%). She was still very petite and skinny, but over the next couple of weeks she started to plump up a little. Peter also took more of an interest in her, and spent more time talking to her and wanting to hold her. She further developed her voice, attempting to sing along when we would sing to her. On July 31, she attended her first Dodger game and did great, staying perfectly content except for when the crowd got too loud after a home run. At the beginning of August, we welcomed Uncle Chris and Aunt Karen to our Southern California home for the first time. We enjoyed a trip to Ventura with them, and a Dodger game. It was memorable because not only did it go into extra innings, but it rained – actual, soaking fat drops of rain! Because of the rain, we left in about the 10th inning (Madeleine wasn’t very excited about the precipitation), but we heard Hanley Ramirez’s winning RBI on the radio as we reached our exit in Valencia. A few days later, after Chris and Karen had left, we celebrated Peter’s birthday at Disneyland. Madeleine did well, as usual, and even seemed to enjoy the Winnie the Pooh ride and a couple of others. The next day we headed to Malibu, where she wasn’t very happy about the beach. The sound of the waves overwhelmed her. This month she also said her first word, “mama,” which we happened to catch on video. Good thing, since she hasn’t said it more than a few times since then! She also really started enjoying playing with her feet.

Five Months Old:

I mentioned that after turning four months, Madeleine started to get a little chubbier. By five months, she weighed 11 lbs. 11 oz., her biggest weight gain month to month so far. We weren’t in a rush to start the tedious task of spoon feeding rice cereal, so we didn’t start that yet. She still continued nursing every 3 to 3 1/2 hours during the day, and would usually wake up once during the night, often around 3 a.m. During the day, she was still taking four naps: mid morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and late evening. Bedtime was around 10:00 or 10:30. She discovered how much fun it was to play with water during her baths. We would pour water from a cup, and she’d try to catch it with her hands. She started to become more mobile, so that during tummy time, rather than stay in one place, she would rotate 180 degrees or more to reach toys that we had placed all around her. She continued to grow more socially interactive; she enjoyed a “game” where she would say “aaa!” and we would say it back to her, back and forth… It was around this time that Benjamin started first grade, and Brad went on a two week business trip to Australia, so we had to adjust our schedule. Thankfully, Nana flew out to help me with the kids, so she’d often keep Madeleine and Peter at home while I dropped off and picked up Benjamin. In early September, we took all three kids to a Dodger game and had a great time. Madeleine was once again perfectly content to be there – born a Dodger fan, I guess! We look forward to taking the kids to some of the games every season.

Six Months Old:

She weighed 12 lbs 6 oz (4th%) and was 25 1/4″ long (30th%) at her six month checkup. Because Madeleine continued to grow at the same rate, her doctor said we could discontinue the weight checks. She continued waking up once most nights, either around 3 or around 5:30. She dropped the fourth nap around this time (maybe sooner, who really remembers?), and settled into a nice routine of a morning nap before we went out for errands (or sometimes took this nap on the go), an afternoon nap that coincided with Peter’s (hallelujah!), and a late afternoon/early evening nap that allowed me some freedom to make dinner and help the boys with their projects. Cutting out the last nap also meant an earlier bedtime, so I started putting her to bed between 9:30 and 10. She started to really show an interest in music. If she was fussy in the van, I would just turn on the radio, and she’d quiet down and listen to the music. If we sang to her at home, she would “hum” along. Her favorite sound to make around this time was “na na na na.” We introduced her to the joys of the exersaucer, as well as the wonders of food. She was initially excited about rice cereal – we have a priceless video that shows her with a death grip on the spoon, not wanting to take it out of her mouth. But over the next month or more, she was mostly uninterested in the cereal or anything else we gave her. Still, about once a day, at dinner, we would let her practice eating for a few bites. Around mid September, we had our last visitors (from back “home” in the South) of 2014: Leah and Evan. We went to the beach with them, and Madeleine was much happier with the waves and sand this time. She even got to swing for the first time at the park that overlooked the beach.

Seven Months Old:

At this stage, she got more serious about playtime. She didn’t want to mess around with the bouncy seat and swing anymore; instead, she preferred to be down on the floor interacting with all her toys, or playing in the exciting exersaucer. It was common to find her studying (or chewing on) the tags on her toys, rather than playing with the toys themselves. Very detail oriented! She occasionally slept through the night now, and continued needing her morning, afternoon, and evening naps (with the morning nap still often being on the go). Bedtime continued to gradually move earlier, so that she was usually in bed by 9:30. Her favorite sound to make was “da da da da.” She especially liked to whisper it back to us if we first did it to her. Most significantly, after a couple of weeks of scooting from one end of her play quilts to the other, she officially started crawling around 7 1/2 months! It started out like an inchworm crawl, developed into a standard crawl, then evolved into an army crawl when she realized she could get around faster/easier on our wood floors that way. Now she uses a combination of those three to get around. For the first couple of weeks of crawling, she stayed in about a five foot radius. I was relieved, since this gave me some time to do more baby proofing. She started to develop more of an interest/enthusiasm for food. Her favorites were sweet potatoes and any kind of fruit.

Eight Months Old:

And so here we are, caught up to the present day. Madeleine turned eight months old at the beginning of this week! Her new found ability to crawl has turned her into a little explorer. Although we still put her down on a quilt with toys, she only stays there a couple of minutes before venturing out to investigate the house. Right now we are letting her go where ever she wants to (minus the bathrooms and closets), under supervision. Eventually, when she starts crawling faster, we will probably close doors to keep track of her. She still takes a short nap (about an hour) in the morning, a longer nap (two hours when possible) in the afternoon, and another short nap in the early evening (an hour to hour and a half). I have a feeling she will give up this last nap soon, which will make it more difficult for me to prepare dinner (she’s usually asleep during that time), but it will also mean she will go to bed at the same time as her brothers. She sleeps through the night consistently now, from about 9 or 9:30 to around 7 a.m. Usually she doesn’t wake up at all during the night. Once she started to enthusiastically eat her food, the better sleep followed. Her favorite foods are sweet potatoes, and Greek yogurt mixed with any kind of fruit. I also make her eat vegetables or baby food “dinners,” but mix them with baby oatmeal to disguise the taste a bit. Last weekend she entertained herself by interacting with her reflection in our mirrored closet doors, in our bathroom and the boys’ bedroom. She has continued to enjoy this, and it’s fun to watch. She also loves playing the boys’ keyboard. And the latest development is that Peter loves to “play” with her, mainly by entertaining her in his room. It’s sweet to see them interact.

To Sum It All Up:

I’m sure I have forgotten some significant details from Madeleine’s first eight months. But hopefully I hit the major milestones. We are just enjoying our happy, laid back daughter so much. I often find myself slowing down to really soak in the details and precious moments of her babyhood. One thing I’ve made a point to do from her earliest days is to hold her while she sleeps. I nurse her in the living room every night before bed, while I’m watching tv. Rather than take her straight to her crib after she falls asleep, I just hold her for a while, listening to her breathing, looking at how peaceful she is, relishing my role as her source of comfort and security. I’ve been doing this for months and months, and I’m glad I did, because already now, there are some nights that she won’t actually fall asleep until I put her in bed. She will stop nursing, turn to see what’s on the tv, snuggle, squirm, etc. While I have her attention, I’ll tickle her face, talk to her, hug her. But eventually on those nights, she just wants to be left alone in her crib so she can rest! During the day, I try to see the world through her eyes. Everything is new and interesting! If I’m getting ice in my water cup, I’ll hold a piece and let her touch it, taste it. When I’m drinking coffee, I’ll let her touch the warm mug. In the bathtub, we splash water around or pour it out of a cup. In these moments, she often looks at me as if waiting for permission to explore. I usually tell her to go ahead. In this respect, I’ve changed a lot from when the boys were younger. I was a bit of a control freak and didn’t let them investigate as much. We continue to enjoy all the little moments of her babyhood, and look forward to seeing how she changes in the coming days, weeks, and months.

 

 

 

The Day Madeleine Was Born

After the hectic weeks leading up to Madeleine’s birth day, Brad and I were excited to meet her. We got up early on March 10 and headed to the hospital (which, conveniently, is literally right down the street from our house) for my induction. Things got started around 8 a.m., and were progressing pretty well by 11. I was experiencing those intensely irritating, Pitocin-induced contractions that I’d come to know and dislike in my two previous labors, so I requested my epidural. I’m no superwoman – just give me the drugs so I can get through this labor thing and meet my baby! Unfortunately, despite the nurses assuring me that I’d only have to wait 5 to 15 minutes for the anesthesiologist to arrive, it ended up being an excruciating hour and a half before my epidural was administered. Turns out, they had to summon the on call anesthesiologist, because the other one was held up with another patient. I was so upset and uncomfortable, that I turned into the stereotypical woman in labor: furious, and telling everyone about it, but also in tears. Fortunately, when he finally arrived, he did an excellent job, and I said good riddance to the pain of contractions.

Well, kind of. After a few more hours passed, it was clear that Madeleine was preparing to make her entrance into the world. But it was also becoming clear that my epidural was wearing off on one side of my abdomen. I could feel the contractions again over there, so the nurse told me to push the button that would give my epidural a boost. I ended up pushing the button twice in the next hour or so, providing me with full relief from the contractions again. Other than the epidural frustration, the entire labor went smoothly. It took longer than I’d hoped, about 8 1/2 hours, because they kept turning the pitocin down or off to keep Madeleine’s heart rate steady. She was showing slight signs of stress when they would increase the pitocin. But the nurses did an excellent job keeping me and Madeleine safe, and at 4:18 p.m., we saw Madeleine for the first time, and heard the beautiful sound of her crying. She settled down as soon as they put her in my arms, and she looked up at my face with such a calm, contented expression. We commented on her dimples, how cute they were! She was 6 lbs, 7 oz, and maybe 19.5″ long.

After her birth, Brad and I had plenty of time to spend with her. We had to wait a couple of hours before they moved me out of labor and delivery and into a post partum room. The main hold up was the fact that I couldn’t move my right leg. At all. Now, after I had the boys, I was up and walking around within an hour or two. But that boost button that I pressed for Madeleine took my lack of feeling to a whole other level! I think I rode in a wheelchair to my room. Once there, I was bedridden until the middle of the night, when I awoke and was finally able to lift my right leg on my own. I’d never been so excited to walk to the bathroom and use the bathroom unassisted! The frustrating thing about not being able to stand up is that it was hard for me to take care of Madeleine by myself. Brad wasn’t around to help because I was in one of the semi-private rooms where spouses typically weren’t allowed to stay during the night (even though there wasn’t anyone sharing my room that night). So I had to call a nurse in every time I needed to change Madeleine’s diaper or feed her.

I’m not a big fan of this new “room in” hospital movement. To me, it’s more about the hospital reducing their staff and costs than it is about promoting bonding between mom and baby. I’ll have all the time in the world to bond with my baby for the next 18 years, but after going through hours of labor, I need to get some sleep! I was exhausted the next day. Thankfully, the second night, circumstances allowed Brad to stay with me, so he was there to help, and I requested that the nurses not come in to give me medication during the night. That allowed me to get a couple more hours of sleep.

Backing up a bit in the story, Mom and Dad and the boys came in to meet Madeleine as soon as we got settled in our post partum room. The boys acted shy, but were intrigued by this tiny creature that they’d been hearing so much about and that was finally here! We were thankful that Mom and Dad had flown out to take care of the boys, and that they were in town to meet her when she was brand new.

So, that’s the story of Madeleine’s birth, as well as I can remember it now, seven months later!

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth

Holding Madeleine just minutes after her birth

Chloe Through the Years

Ten years ago, in fall 2004, Brad and I bought our first house, after a year of apartment living in Carrollton, Texas. We had been married three years, and we had a few more kid-free years ahead of us. After a couple of months in our new home, we decided that it was time to add a pet to our family. So we drove over to the local no-kill animal shelter, Operation Kindness, and quickly chose baby Chloe. Her name at the time was Diana, which we felt was a much too serious name for a feisty little curious kitty like her. She was a month or two old when we brought her home. That first day we closed her up in our bathroom while we went to the pet store to buy a litter box, cat food, and toys. As soon as she got the chance, she checked out the whole house to get her bearings. She was so cute and tiny, and had beautiful glossy black and white fur. We loved watching her curiosity. Before long, she wore herself out, and snuggled up on the sofa with us. She was small enough to curl up into a ball and nap in our hands!

For the next few years, she was just about the center of attention at our house. If she wanted to go out in the backyard first thing in the morning, she would cry at the foot of our bed, and we would get up and let her out. When we opened a can of tuna, she would come running and stare at us with pitiful eyes until we gave her a few bites. We raised all the blinds in the house enough for her to sit on the sill and look out. When we traveled to our parents’ houses for holidays or weekend visits, we would bring her along. What else would we do with our baby? And when we went on vacations, we would ask friends to keep Chloe at their house while we were gone. We were serious business about Chloe having all the TLC she needed! Someone coming by to feed her every day wouldn’t cut it.

Fast forward a few years, and Chloe’s world would be turned upside down by Benjamin’s arrival. She was so depressed for the first few weeks after we brought him home from the hospital. She would sleep all day on my side of the bed, conveying her disappointment in this new creature by simple ignoring him. Eventually, she decided she could tolerate him enough to be in the same room where I was nursing him, but she made sure her back was turned when she’d sit on the back of the loveseat in the living room. And finally, at some point she accepted him as part of the family and would come sit right next to me when I was nursing or holding him. For the next few years, most nights after Benjamin was in bed, she would jump up in my lap, relishing in the rare undivided attention. Another difference after Benjamin was born is that we no longer took her along on road trips. Someone to check on her once a day and fill her food bowl seemed to suffice. Chloe didn’t appreciate this new turn of events, though, and she expressed her annoyance by opening every cabinet in the house. Upon returning home from our trip, we could always count on that being the case. Funny protest – glad it wasn’t something more damaging to the house!

Medically speaking, Chloe was always a “sensitive child.” After having extreme allergic reactions to her vaccinations as a kitten, the vet felt it best to no longer give her annual shots. She also had a sensitive stomach. If she ate table food, a leaf, grass, etc., she would vomit. This held true for many years, and cleaning up vomit became part of our regular routine, until the vet prescribed an anti-nausea medication for her. Her first foray into medical procedures was a two-for-one. We had her fixed and declawed (front paws only) all at once. Poor thing. She must have been disturbed when she woke up and discovered those changes, but I’m sure the pain meds helped. She only suffered one major injury over the years: she burned one of her paws when she jumped up onto our electric stovetop (on her way to the kitchen sink to snoop around), which was still hot from me boiling a kettle of water. She limped around for a week or so after that painful injury.

We experienced a more disturbing medical situation from her in spring 2010 when she stopped eating for several days. It was strange behavior. She would sit by her food bowl and stare at me, but when I fed her, she would sniff her food and walk away. We started trying to figure out the cause, and our best guess was that maybe she had eaten some balloon ribbon after Benjamin’s birthday celebration the week before. She had a habit of chewing on balloon strings/ribbons, and the vet was worried that she may have ingested some and caused damage to her intestines. Somehow he talked us into letting him do exploratory surgery to investigate ($$$!), and unfortunately he didn’t end up with any answers after the procedure expect that she had an enlarged gall bladder. So, we brought home some new medicine and Chloe, with a shaved belly and stitches from chest to bottom. Luckily, she started feeling better and eating again. Oddly enough, the same time the following year, she stopped eating again. This time, a new vet believed a food allergy was the culprit, so she prescribed Chloe a new prescription food. That seemed to help. From then on, she always ate prescription food.

In August 2010, Chloe’s world was turned upside down again. We brought home another tiny creature: Peter. This time instead of advertising her depression, she would just disappear and sleep the days away. But, she still had her quiet quality time with me and Brad at night after the kids were in bed. During cold weather, I even started letting her snuggle with me during the night. She seemed to really enjoy these cozy moments.

Chloe became a cross country jet setter at the end of May 2011 when she flew from Texas to our new home in California with us. That was actually the most stressful part of moving to me – figuring out how to get her to California, and how to keep her from freaking out about it. Because it was summer time, animals couldn’t be transported in the cargo area of the plane, so we had to buy a tiny regulation pet carrier that would fit under the seat on the plane. I was sure she would panic about the tight space and altitude changes. Fortunately, her vet gave us a sedative to give her before the flight, so she was happily in la la land from the time we took off until later in the day when we arrived at our new apartment in California. Chloe adjusted to our new place surprisingly easily. And again four months later when we bought and moved into our house.

For the next couple of years, Chloe’s daily life consisted of appearing to eat her food or sit in my lap in the early morning, nap time, and late evening; and in disappearing whenever the boys were around. She hid all the time because if the boys spotted her they were too rough with her, treating her more like a toy than a pet. Her favorite hiding spots were under our bed or nestled down into a pile of clothes on our closet shelves. Her loneliest days were every December, when we would take a 2+ week trip to the South for Christmas. Despite us having a cat sitter come spend time with her and feed her, she was very unhappy about being left along for so long, and unfortunately her protests took on a more damaging form than simply opening cabinets. To make sure we knew she was annoyed, she started urinating on our rugs, bath mats, and carpet while we were out of town. Christmas 2011 she irreparably soiled the guest room carpet (we replaced it with new carpet). Christmas 2012 she did the same to our bathroom vanity area carpet (we replaced it with tile). Some time in 2013 when we went on another trip, she did the same to our bedroom carpet, so we replaced it with wood flooring. And Christmas 2013 we wised up and removed all rugs from the house and closed the doors to carpeted rooms, so she didn’t do any damage. Obviously, she wasn’t the happy, laid back Chloe that she was in those pre-kid years.

And so, it didn’t come as much of a surprise, the week we brought Madeleine home from the hospital, when I caught Chloe urinating on the nursery carpet. I guess she didn’t care much for our new addition. Brad and I were quite angry about this, and didn’t want to deal with any more major flooring expenses due to Chloe’s stress and irritation. We decided it was time to find her a new home, and in the mean time, we moved her out into our garage. For the next several months, she was very content living out there. I think she was actually happier living out there than in the house, because she was able to relax without worrying about where the boys were. We also opened up the side door from the garage to the yard during the day, and she enjoyed lounging around in the backyard.

Finally, earlier this month, circumstances changed, allowing one of our neighbors to adopt Chloe. So, we packed up all of her supplies and waved goodbye as our sweet kitty headed to Santa Barbara and a child-free home where she can relax and enjoy the good life. We will always rememberl the good times (and the challenges) we had with her.

 

Madeleine’s Nursery

My love of reading began at an early age; my mom read me stories at naptime, bedtime, and other times in between. Our family took frequent trips to the library, and I would bring home stacks of books during the summer reading programs. By kindergarten, I was reading books to my classmates. Fast forward 30+ years, and reading is still one of my favorite things to do. So when I found out we were finally having a baby girl, I knew that I wanted to incorporate a literary theme into her nursery. I also knew that I wanted to use the Renoir print “A Girl with a Watering Can” that I still have from my childhood bedroom.

While I hadn’t decorated the boys’ nursery with books in mind, I unknowingly named them after two prominent literary characters: Beatrix Potter’s Benjamin Bunny and Peter Rabbit. I briefly considered purposefully continuing that naming trend, but somehow Beatrice, Lily, or especially Jemima weren’t what we had in mind. Once we decided on the name Madeleine, there were two obvious literary possibilities for the nursery: books by author Madeleine L’Engle, or the book series Madeline. I decided against a nursery decorated with A Wrinkle in Time (my favorite book by L’Engle) decor, and the idea of a nursery decked out in pictures of orphaned school girls just seemed a little sad to me. So, I took to my Kindle to peruse some classic children’s books. I didn’t have to look any further than The Secret Garden. While I never read it as a child, I loved the movie. The idea of a secret, hidden garden with a special key, beautiful flowers, and a mysterious past fascinated me! And so, after reading the book last winter, I planned and decorated Madeleine’s nursery with an understated (read: not frou-frou Victorian) garden theme.

In case you aren’t familiar with The Secret Garden, it’s the story of a little girl named Mary. When the book begins, she is a sickly, unfriendly, lonely child, but when circumstances lead her to her uncle’s house in England, her curiosity about a secret garden leads her on an adventure that transforms her into a blossoming, happy, thriving little girl with new friends. I love how this book shows the importance of friendship and family, and shows how therapeutic it can be to get out into nature and witness the beauty and wonder of creation.

As I read the story, I noted certain aspects that I wanted to incorporate into our nursery. Of course, the obvious one was that of a flower garden. I picked out a whimsical, colorful floral nursery decor on Target’s website. It’s called Layla, by Sweet Jo Jo Designs, and features turquoise and yellow, with bright pink and green accents. The nursery walls were already a cheerful butter yellow, and there were some brown curtains that would work well. We also had never switched out the ceiling fan from the previous owner – multicolored pastels and butterflies – very sweet for a garden theme.

Considering that The Secret Garden is the story of a little girl who becomes absorbed in caring for a garden, my childhood Renoir print of the little girl holding a watering can in a garden was perfect. We found a prominent spot on the wall for it, and ordered a turquoise cast iron wall key on Etsy (representative of the secret key to the garden) to go along with it.

One day I noticed a miniature bird cage in the floral department of our grocery store. It looked like a cute project for the nursery. While my parents were in town for Madeleine’s birth, my dad took on the task of spray painting the bird cage white, and then we purchased silk flowers that matched the nursery colors, and he arranged them in a winding, colorful bouquet in the cage. It’s now a bright spot on the bookshelf, just below the key and Renoir print on the wall.

Speaking of the bookshelf, I’m planning to build up a collection of garden and flower-themed children’s books. We already have a few, including The Tiny Seed, Planting a Rainbow, and In the Garden with Van Gogh. There are so many great possibilities out there, and I’ve built up quite a wishlist on Amazon.😉

One of my favorite scenes in The Secret Garden is toward the end, when Mary and her friends become aware of how healthy working in the garden has made them, and they are overwhelmed by the beauty of the garden, now that all their hard work has transformed the once overgrown and neglected space into a flourishing display of nature. The children, along with Ben Weatherstaff the gardener, are inspired to recite the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye Heavenly Host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.” I discovered several nice Doxology prints on Etsy, and it didn’t take me long to decide which one was perfect for Madeleine’s nursery. The text of the hymn is surrounded by brightly colored flowers, which, as an interior designer would say, provide a “pop” of color in the nursery.

The final touch came when Aunt Cara came for a visit in April. She came up with the idea of making a mobile. We worked together to create it, using ribbon, fabric roses, keys, and paper butterfly cut outs. I love the result, and so does Madeleine.

The floral bedding and decor, the Renoir print, the wall key, the birdcage bouquet, the garden books, the Doxology print, the butterfly ceiling fan, and the mobile all come together to create a sweet, inviting nursery that our baby girl can grow in to.

 

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A cozy, colorful, calming nursery for Madeleine

 

I've been very pleased with the flowery Layla bedding that I picked out on Target's website

I’ve been very pleased with the flowery Layla bedding and decor that I picked out on Target’s website

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A very young (and tiny!) Madeleine in her crib. She has always enjoyed studying the bright colors and patterns.

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Aunt Cara helped design and create this sweet mobile, which includes roses, ribbons, keys, and butterflies.

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Grandad made this by spray painting a bird cage and filling it with silk flowers that matched the color scheme of the room and bedding.

A cute key hanger that I found on Etsy, and which represents the secret key to the garden

A cute wall key with hooks that I found on Etsy, and which represents the secret key to the garden

Renoir's "A Girl with a Watering Can" that was on my bedroom wall growing up

This is the print of Renoir’s “Girl with a Watering Can” that hung in my childhood bedroom. So glad I still have it for Madeleine’s room!

Decorative items above the bookshelf

Decorative items above the bookshelf

A pivotal scene in The Secret Garden involves the children singing the Doxology upon seeing the beauty of God's creation in the garden. I love this Doxology print that I found on Etsy.

I love this Doxology print that I found on Etsy.

A view of the changing table/dresser with Layla decor and the Doxology print

A view of the changing table/dresser with Layla decor and the Doxology print

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