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:

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Looking back at Benjamin’s 4th year

I just finished writing a post about Benjamin at five years old, but in looking back at the blog I see that I never gave an update on him at four years old. So I am going to try my best to remember the highlights of the past year. Here goes…

  • Commercial filming – It would be hard to forget a film crew taking over our yard on Benjamin’s actual birthday. What an adventure that was! They were filming a commercial for Verizon at our neighborhood park – remember the “Good Idea/Bad Idea” ad featuring dorky guys playing basketball? I can’t seem to find a video of the commercial online anymore, but this article talks about it: http://www.mediabistro.com/agencyspy/monday-ad-rip-off-verizon-vs-snl_b30682. Anyway, that morning a couple of catering trucks showed up, and the catering crew set up tables and chairs in our driveway and backyard, and at lunch time the cast and crew hung out in our yard and ate. We were invited to grab some food as well, and it was all very tasty! Benjamin even got to have a slice of cake. The cast and crew were all friendly and respectful of our property. It was fun to get a behind the scenes look at a film crew. We hope to do it again one day.
  • Birthday party – Since Benjamin’s birthday was close to Mardi Gras, we decided to do a Mardi Gras/New Orleans theme. I hit the jackpot on Mardi Gras decorations at World Market, and we gave everyone beads and masks to wear. We cooked up a big pot of gumbo, I made a king cake, and we ordered a festive Mardi Gras cake from the grocery store. Pandora came through, as usual, with a jazz/zydeco inspired station. We gave him a bike with training wheels, some CDs and books, etc. 
  • Local trips – Benjamin (and the rest of us) enjoyed a lot of what Southern California has to offer. Especially during the spring and fall, we were filling up the tank and hitting the road a lot. We drove down to Laguna Beach and spent the night for a quick visit with Uncle Chris, who was in town for a worship conference. We also saw the animals at L.A. Zoo, went to Disneyland more than a dozen times, saw a couple of Dodger games, joined Kidspace Museum, played and had picnics at Ventura beach, and took in the beautiful Santa Barbara zoo.
  • Vacations – We didn’t let all the local sightseeing keep us too busy to venture beyond our region. We had our first official family road trip vacation (other than visiting family) when we drove to Napa and San Francisco. Brad had to be there for a work conference, so we all tagged along. Benjamin was impressed by the tall trees at Muir woods and the hugeness of the Golden Gate bridge. He also liked the boat ride in the bay. In Napa, we enjoyed hiking through the vineyards at our resort, until Benjamin took a nasty tumble. I had to carry him all the way down the hill, with Peter tagging along behind us, and after a lot of TLC, medicine, Band-Aids, and tears, he was better.  We also had a very fun-filled trip at Christmas visiting family and friends in Dallas, Lake Charles, and Ruston. Benjamin is a good traveler, having fun with the touch-screen entertainment on the airplane, adjusting well to time changes, and excited about seeing which bed he will sleep in next!
  • Favorite activities – Some of the things Benjamin liked best during the past year, in no particular order: shelling peas (happened a lot when we were receiving a weekly delivery of fresh produce last summer), helping me cook (he especially loves pouring and mixing ingredients, and making recipes out of his kids’ cookbook), building Domino towers and runs (we had fun discovering YouTube videos of elaborate Domino creations), neighborhood block parties (he loved that the older kids and teenagers played baseball with him at the park), playing in sprinkler or community pool, karate (he now has his blue stripe belt and has improved so much since he started a year ago), listening to music (especially classical music, the Snow White soundtrack, Newsies, and Hap Palmer music and motion), and playing Disneyland and Just Dance on Xbox Kinect.
  • Mono – 2013 started off with a frustrating round of sickness for our family. We all returned from our Christmas trip with colds, then Peter got strep, both boys got ear infections, followed by a stomach virus for Peter… Then one morning Benjamin was sleeping unusually late, and when we went in to wake him he couldn’t even open his eyes. We noticed he looked pale, very thin, and had dark circles under his eyes. After a trip to the doctor and blood work, we discovered that he had mono. Thankfully, he is a resilient guy, and mono only had the upper hand for about five days. He missed about a week and a half of school and slept A LOT. It was probably all that sleep that helped him get better so quickly. Poor Peter missed hanging out with Benjamin during those days, since Benjamin stayed home while Peter and I went to the Y, to church, the park, etc. Brotherly love is a sweet thing.
  • Personality and Behavior – Benjamin’s fourth year was a challenge in many ways. He was full of curiosity and inquisitiveness, and also liked things to be “just so.” If things didn’t go the way he expected them to, or when he couldn’t make something work how he wanted it to, he would get very frustrated, which sometimes led to temper tantrums. Socially, he had to work through issues with keeping his hands to himself, using words instead of actions to communicate, and learning to empathize with others. What finally worked was giving him something to focus on or strive for. For example, at the Y, they started giving him a sticker for every 15 minutes that he kept his hands to himself. If he earned four stickers in the hour he was there, he would get a reward at home. This was usually a quality time activity, such as helping me cook dinner, playing Just Dance with me, going to the park with Brad, etc. After months of him being stir crazy and bored at the Y, and taking it out on the other kids, this plan gave him something to focus on, and he was a totally different child! He started participating in the crafts they were doing, playing board games, etc. A change in preschools in the fall also helped immensely in this transition from the difficult fours to the manageable fives. Age four was the hardest year (so far) for us in parenting Benjamin. We are so proud that he has turned a corner and is doing so well, making new friends, and discovering new things every day!

Benjamin at Five Years Old

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Benjamin turned five years old last month. Where has the time gone? My quiet, mild-mannered baby has turned into a tall, lanky, boisterous preschooler! Here’s the run down on Benjamin at five years old:

  • Height – 44″ (75th%), Weight – 41 lbs. (50th%) – While he’s always been above average for height, it took five years of eating for him to get up to average weight.
  • Appetite – The boy does have a much better appetite now than he did as a toddler. I have a feeling we will be joining Costco soon to keep up with his new eating habits. He will try (almost) anything at meal times now, and eats especially well with the right motivation (ice cream after dinner, a walk to the park, etc.)
  • Current favorite foods – cheese, yogurt squeezers, sugar snap peas, mini Eggo waffles, Nutella on bread, peanut butter and honey sandwiches, monster mix…
  • Favorite places – KidSpace Museum in Pasadena, Disneyland, the YMCA
  • Favorite color – Blue
  • Favorite movie – Newsies
  • Favorite Netflix show – Spiderman and his Amazing Friends
  • Naptime – I know I am very blessed to have a five year old who still naps. Some days he doesn’t need one, but about three or four days a week I lay down with him until he goes to sleep, and he sleeps for about an hour. Since Peter is asleep during this time as well, I am able to have an hour to myself to drink coffee, read, talk on the phone, etc. What a rejuvenating time this is!
  • No-nap afternoons – While it did take some time for me to get used to Benjamin being awake on the days he doesn’t nap, I now enjoy our one on one time together while Peter is asleep. I still have him give me some “Mommy time,” during which he plays outside or watches tv by himself, but we spend a lot of quality time together during this time as well. He likes to sit on the patio with me while I drink my coffee, and sometimes we take care of the plants together or watch baseball/basketball/cooking shows together. When I’m feeling particularly energetic, I’ll do science experiments with him, or let him paint. (These activities require more clean-up and supervision than I can handle some afternoons!)
  • Bedtime – When Peter moved into a big boy bed in November, we moved Benjamin into the top bunk in his room. Until that time, for the previous two years, we had laid down with Benjamin every night for at least 15 minutes to settle him down. We used his move to the bunk as an opportunity to shorten the bedtime ritual. The new process: tuck him in, say a prayer, give a hug and kiss, and blow him a kiss on the way out. There’s a little bit of conversation mixed in, but we are in and out in a couple of minutes. He occasionally still comes out of his room, but it’s no longer the battle that we endured for two years. Bedtime is between 8:30 and 9, and he wakes up between 7 and 7:30 in the morning.
  • Birthday party – We had a very low key party during his birthday weekend. It was Xbox themed, which meant purple/green/gray balloons, a cake with the Xbox logo, and some time playing Just Dance and Disneyland on our Xbox Kinect.
  • Gifts – We gave Benjamin a garden tool set, an herb garden starter kit, a magnet experiment kit, and a Light-up galaxy spinner (from Ca. Adventure, where we went on his actual birthday). Gifts from family and friends included a calendar, a sparkle shapes book, binoculars, a personalized Benjamin plate, a Big Trucks matching game, an Adventure Bible storybook, a Safari motion book, a microscope set, a science experiment kit, and a Spiderman action figure.
  • Disneyland – As I mentioned, all four of us spent Benjamin’s birthday at Disneyland. He wore a birthday pin, and the waiter brought him an ice cream sundae after our lunch at Carnation Cafe. We always have fun at Disneyland, but it was extra special to be their celebrating his birthday, and hearing everyone give him a cheerful birthday greeting as we walked through the park.
  • Favorite rides at Disneyland – Benjamin has bravely tried some of the thrill rides. He likes Space Mountain, but says he will never go on Tower of Terror again! He used to love Pirates of the Caribbean and Soarin’, but now he is hesitant to go on them. He loves the ferris wheel at California Adventure park, Goofy’s Sky School, the Tea Cups, Roger Rabbit’s Cartoon Spin, etc. Basically, he likes any ride involving a boat, water, or a steering wheel.

Here are some pictures of Benjamin around five years old:

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Playing with an elaborate water table at Kidspace Museum

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Cozy on the patio with Chloe and Peter

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Painting with Peter (and being silly!) in the backyard

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Enjoying his ice cream sundae that was a birthday treat at Disneyland’s Carnation Cafe

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Family portrait taken in Ruston in January

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Excavating dinosaur bones – one of the activities that came with a science discovery kit for his birthday

The End of the Potty Training Road

(Big sigh of relief.) I can now safely and confidently say that Benjamin is potty trained! Our long, frustrating road with this process began two years ago (see my initial, overly positive post here), when we bought a tiny Baby Bjorn training potty after then 15 month old Benjamin expressed some interest in using the potty. That was a very short phase, and after that we didn’t try again until he was over two years old.

Just as we started to make some progress, Peter was born, and the upheaval of life as he knew it made Benjamin lose interest yet again (plus we didn’t have the time and energy to devote to the process…) We kept making excuses about being too busy, and kept postponing the “all in” mentality that is necessary to make potty training work, and so for months we gave a half-hearted effort that really wasn’t going anywhere. (We switched completely to pull-ups during the fall, but he still treated them like diapers.) We tried the reward system, giving him a few M&Ms any time he went on the potty, and we even bought him a toy guitar the first time he pooped on the potty, but these rewards didn’t make any long term difference.

Suddenly, Benjamin was a three year old still wearing pull-ups, who could easily pee pee on the potty, but usually chose to go in his pull-up. Meanwhile, he was still scared of pooping on the potty, and so he would go hide in a corner to go. For awhile we tried to “catch” him in the act and transfer him to the potty, but we decided that was unnecessarily cruel. Instead, we persistently talked positively about the idea of using the potty, figuring that one day he would decide on his own that he’d like to try it.

That day came when we were staying at Mama C and Grandad’s house in Ruston. Mama C decided that we should leave his pull-up off for awhile, because we knew he needed to go. We handed over control to him, telling him that when he was ready he could sit on the potty and go. And that’s what he did a few minutes later! It took a couple more weeks of encouragement and praise, but I am thrilled to report that he hasn’t pooped in his pull-up in over three weeks now!

Once we had cleared that major hurdle, all that was left was for Benjamin to learn to always go pee pee on the potty, and to keep his underwear dry. So, we took the leap and put him in underwear! At first, we would only put it on him for short amounts of time, and only when we were at home. And the first few days, he was having accidents within 30 minutes to an hour of putting it on. I decided to persevere, and deal with cleaning up some messes on the floor. I knew he understood, and I knew he had the ability, and so one morning last week I sat down and told him that he was going to wear his underwear all day, and that he was going to keep it dry. And just to give him some extra motivation, I promised a reward if he succeeded:

  • Day One: ice cream from Coldstone Creamery. I forced him to use the bathroom about once an hour, and so at the end of the day he got his ice cream.
  • Day Two: a ride on the mall carousel. Again, I made sure he went to the bathroom frequently, even though that often meant carrying him to the bathroom and making him stand there and go. But the end of the day came and he was dry, so he had a fun, wonder-filled carousel ride.
  • Day Three: a swim in the apartment complex pool. On this day I backed off a little and let him dictate when he went, to a certain extent. A couple of times when I encouraged him to go, he said, “Mommy, I’ll tell you when I need to go, I promise.” That night, we went swimming at the pool.
  • That was Friday, and now it’s Monday. For the past three days I haven’t offered any rewards. We just put his underwear on when he wakes up in the morning, and he goes to the bathroom about every three hours (I’m amazed he can hold it that long!), or any time we are leaving home. He even wears underwear during his nap, but we are still putting him in a pull-up at night. Perhaps we will be finished with that soon, though, because this morning he woke up totally dry.

So here we are. Benjamin is finally potty trained at the late age of three years, three and a half months. It’s been nice to not have two diapers to change every time we leave the house. It will be nice to not shell out money for pull-ups every month. But most of all, I am thrilled that I no longer have to change those stinky, adult sized poops!

I am one of the last people who should give out advice on how to potty train, since it took me two years to get it right with Benjamin. Instead of giving some step by step list that guarantees success (I don’t think such a thing exists), I’ll just share what I’ve learned through this process:

  • You can’t force it to happen.
  • It requires great patience.
  • You can watch for the signs that your child is ready, but even if they are physically ready, it won’t happen until they are mentally ready to handle it.
  • In Benjamin’s case, he didn’t see pull-ups as training pants – he saw them as another form of diapers, the only difference being that he could put them on himself. So for us, the months and months we spent putting him in pull-ups were mostly a waste of time and money.
  • What really worked for us was putting him in underwear (this wouldn’t have worked if he wasn’t ready). Once he felt how comfortable it was to stay dry and not wear a bulky diaper or pull-up, he wanted to do what was necessary to stay that way. The first few days he tested us by peeing in his underwear, but at least he usually went to a tile floor instead of going on the carpet. Once he saw that we weren’t giving up and putting him back in pull-ups, he changed his tune and stopped having “accidents.”
  • Positive reinforcement is important – When Benjamin started pooping on the potty, and when he kept his underwear dry, we were quick to praise him, and did so often. On the other hand, we tried not to complain or criticize him when he had accidents. These positive words gave him some extra confidence to become fully potty trained.

Maybe if the stuff of life hadn’t come along when it did (Peter’s birth, selling the house, moving, etc.), Benjamin would have been potty trained a year ago, but then again, maybe not. If it really is more about him being ready, rather than about what we do to make it happen, then maybe it doesn’t really matter what techniques we use. In the end, it was as if someone flipped a switch in Benjamin’s mind from “totally resistant” to “totally ready.” Basically overnight, he developed the ability to stay dry, hold it in, and go when it was time. So maybe the best advice is to wing it, be encouraging, and wait for the right moment to jump all in!

Benjamin at Three Years Old

Benjamin shows off his mouse ears and birthday badge.

Three years old! I guess this means that, for the moment, we have a toddler-free home. Instead, we are balancing a baby and a preschooler. The twos were quite a challenge (and then some!) with Benjamin, but I’ve heard from several parents that the threes can be even more so. Time to buckle up and hold on for a wild ride! Before looking ahead to this new three year old territory, I’d like to take a look back at the year that was Benjamin’s second.

2010 was a big year for Benjamin. Here are some of the changes he experienced:

  • Started preschool – He has already had three different teachers at two different schools, but he has done a great job of going with the unpredictable flow so far. He loves getting out of the house, going to music class, eating his packed lunch, etc.
  • Transitioned to a new room and big boy bed – A couple of months before Peter was born, we moved Benjamin out of the nursery and into his new room. He had no problems leaving the nursery behind, and quickly took to calling the new room “his.” If only the transition to a big boy bed had been so easy! It took months of different techniques, and lots of patience, but finally the game of coming out of his room over and over again grew old. He still comes out occasionally, but gone are the days when it took 45 minutes to get him to go to sleep at night. Thank goodness!
  • Became a big brother – On August 4, 2010, Benjamin went from being an only child to a big brother. This was a rough transition for him. The first few months were difficult for all of us, as we did our best to survive Benjamin’s screaming, excessive drooling, biting of furniture, hitting/pinching/eye poking, etc. Finally, Benjamin decided that he was okay with Peter being part of the family, and so for the past few months there has been less and less of the negative behavior, and more and more positive big brother actions (being a helper, giving hugs, sharing toys, making Peter laugh, etc.)

And now, a look at what Benjamin is like at three years old:

  • Weight and Height – He weighs about 30 lbs, which puts him in the 50th%, and is 3 feet 2 inches tall, which puts him in the 50-75th% for height. He probably lost a couple of pounds recently when he had the flu, and his appetite is just starting to pick back up. He had an uneventful 3 year checkup with his pediatrician this morning. He’s a healthy, normal little boy!
  • Schedule – He is still very routine-oriented, but the details of the routine change over time. We are grateful that one of his recent changes is a later wake up time. Instead of coming in our room at 6 or 6:30 a.m. (as he did for the first several months he was in his new room), he is now sleeping until after 7 every day. Since Peter wakes up several nights a week, I am thankful for this extra hour of sleep in the morning. We usually enjoy some good snuggle time when he climbs in bed with us in the morning. Occasionally he even falls back asleep! Other details of the current routine: cereal for breakfast while watching tv, a mid morning and mid afternoon snack, watching Caillou while I make dinner, playing Wii with Brad after dinner, reading Bible stories before bed…
  • Potty training – We haven’t had a real break through in this area yet. He wears Pull-Ups now, but I don’t always remember to take him to the bathroom. One area of progress has been that he has pooped on the potty a few times now. I was starting to think that was never going to happen! Between the time consuming nature of taking care of a baby, and now all the work of preparing to move, it will take a miracle for me to find time to encourage Benjamin in this area. At this point, our best hope is that he will just decide he’s ready to do it, and that will be that.
  • Nap Time –Nap time begins between 1:30 and 2:00. I try to make Peter and Benjamin’s afternoon nap coincide. After a quick story and talking about our day, Benjamin usually goes to sleep within a few minutes, and then sleeps for up to two hours. He comes out of his room very groggy, and trudges into the kitchen for a snack.
  • Music Time – A few months ago I taught him how to use my old stereo – the type with a CD player, tape deck, and radio. Since then, he has listened to it every day. He has some kids’ CDs, but he also enjoys listening to Elvis, the Beatles, Billy Joel, my ’80s mix CD, etc. It has been a lot of fun to have good music filtering through the house. Since he loves music so much, my parents gave him a new M&Ms CD player for his birthday. It is very cute and kid friendly.
  • Play Time – He loves anything that makes noise or otherwise has buttons to push: his new guitar (a prize for going poopy on the potty), a Little People tractor and school bus, his Leap Frog learning toy… He also likes doing puzzles, putting magnets on the fridge, and playing Wii with Brad. Mostly he just watches and pretends to be playing, but sometimes they will play two player Super Mario Bros. I am amazed by the level of patience Brad has during these father/son times! Lately he has also enjoying the slides and swing at the park, and his sandbox and new basketball goal in our backyard.
  • Bath Time – He still loves bath time. For his birthday we gave him some bathtub markers and bubble bath. As a result, his nightly baths lately have been very long and fun for him. Before long we will probably start bathing Benjamin and Peter together.

Favorite Things – I was surprised that Benjamin actually sat down and answered these questions when I asked him what some of his favorite things are:

  • Color – Green
  • TV ShowThe Backyardigans
  • MovieThe Goonies
  • Drink – Apple juice
  • Food – Macaroni and cheese
  • Friend – Miss Becky (his preschool teacher)
  • Toy – Tractor (a Little People tractor pulling a trailer full of animals that make noises)
  • Place – Library
  • Book – Bible (his Kids’ Story Bible)
  • Song – “Edelweiss”

We celebrated Benjamin’s birthday a few days early, with a small family party at our house. The theme was Mickey and Friends, including a cake, plates, napkins, and mouse ears and a special badge for the birthday boy. The Mickey balloon only survived for a few minutes before Benjamin accidentally tore a hole in it while trying to pull it off his chair. Oh well… At least I got a picture of it! Benjamin had a great time at his party and loved his gifts, which included: a magna doodle, a cool airplane toy, the M&M CD player, a children’s songbook and CD, a Dora book (with fun sound effect buttons), and an adjustable height basketball goal.

We look forward to seeing how Benjamin will grow and change during the next year. Here’s hoping that the threes are terrific instead of terrible! 🙂

Pictures from Benjamin’s first three years and from his third birthday party:

Benjamin at Two and a Half

My sweet boy at a Tech football game

Benjamin has had quite an eventful first half of his second year: he moved out of his crib and into a big boy bed, he toyed with the idea of potty training, and he welcomed his first sibling into the family. We are currently in the midst of our most challenging phase to date with him, but even at the most infuriating moments, he often finds ways to charm us. Read on for a description of Benjamin at age 2 1/2:

He weighs 30 lbs., which puts him in the 50th percentile for his age. He’s moved up since age two. He’s 36.25″ tall, which is also 50th percentile.

Daily Schedule

  • Gone are the days when Benjamin slept in until 8 a.m. Ever since he moved into his new room, he’s been waking up between 6:30 and 7. There were two glorious mornings when he slept past 7:30! Other days he trots into our room closer to 6 a.m. Yikes! We were certainly spoiled for his first two years. Sometimes we convince him to go back to sleep, but more often we wage a back and forth battle, wearing out the carpet between our room and his.
  • Once Benjamin hears the magic words that it is “morning time” (7 a.m.), it’s time for Dora or Diego, and breakfast. For the past few weeks he hasn’t been as enthusiastic an eater, so we no longer serve up big bowls of oatmeal or cream of wheat. Most days it’s cereal, waffles, or a pop tart. And since I have been pulling night duty with Peter, Brad is usually the one who wakes up with Benjamin and gives him breakfast. (The five days that Brad was in California for work were brutal – it was so hard to get out of bed so early!)
  • After breakfast Benjamin wants to spend time with us. The latest phase of independent play has come and gone. Now he wants our undivided attention, and when he isn’t our focus, the acting out begins (see “Challenges” below). His favorite activities lately have been watching tv (he is learning how to use the remote, an accomplishment which he’s very proud of), playing with Play-Do, assembling and disassembling a container full of old baby bottles, playing his Fisher Price piano (the one we gave him for his first Christmas), going outside, and helping us do chores around the house (especially doing laundry and washing dishes!).
  • Lunch time is still around noon, and he usually still watches Sesame Street. We keep it easy these days: PB&J, spaghettios, mac n cheese, etc.
  • Since he wakes up so early, he’s always ready for his nap by 1:15 or 1:30. After a couple of difficult months (and several weeks of having to sit in his room until he fell asleep), about a month ago we finally found a routine that works for nap and bed time. He still comes out of his room some times, but only once or twice instead of the ridiculous number of times we were dealing with at first. The new routine: one of us goes into his room with him, tucks him in, and tells him a story. The story is one we make up every time, usually about a jungle, mountain, or cave (probably Diego and Dora’s influence) – he requests which type of story he wants. Then if he still needs more settling down, we talk about his day, all the fun things we’ve done. Finally, we tell him it’s night night time, and if he gets out of bed he’ll get a spanking. Sometimes he delays by insisting on a trip to the potty, or by telling us he’s thirsty. He used to almost always test the limits, but now if he’s really tired he doesn’t come out of his room at all.
  • He usually naps for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and comes out of his room ready for a snack and some tv. Lately his snack has been peanuts, raisins, a granola bar, or Goldfish crackers. The rest of the afternoon and early evening I try to balance playing with Benjamin and soothing a fussy Peter (he tends to cry and require a lot of attention and nursing between 4 and 8).
  • I haven’t gotten back into much of a cooking routine yet. We were blessed with several weeks of meals delivered by friends and family, and now I’m relying on pre-assembled meals from The Dinner Station. Usually while I’m throwing together dinner, Brad plays with Benjamin in the living room or outside. Then we all eat dinner together, usually with the tv off. We’re trying to teach Benjamin to value family time. After dinner we sometimes go on a short walk, or hang out together in the living room.
  • One of us bathes Benjamin around 7:30.  He likes for us to give him a little soap, and he lathers it up on his hair and skin. He also still loves pouring water, but we try to keep it in the tub!
  • Since he wakes up early regardless of when he goes to bed, we’ve started putting him in bed closer to 8:00, and he’s usually wiped out enough to appreciate it. Busy toddlers are tired toddlers!

Personality

  • He’s usually confident, happy, and outgoing. He has adjusted very easily to his new preschool (aside from a couple of behavioral problems), loves his classroom and music teacher, and loves getting out of the house in general. But he does have a “dark side” that comes out when he’s either hungry or sleepy. Those two things happen more than we’d like, since he often wakes up too early, and is sometimes a finicky eater. Like most two year olds, he can be stubborn and strong-willed, and has a mean streak when it comes to his little brother. Overall, though, he’s a sweet boy who loves to help others and loves to explore and figure things out.

Quirks

  • Special objects – He still takes special objects to bed at nap and night time, usually in pairs. Currently it’s a remote and a calculator. Before that it was the same remote and an old cell phone, which is currently missing. Other special objects: a baby comb and brush, Mama C’s mouthwash and medicine containers, a reading light, and his bear and kitty. By the way, he is no longer attached to his frog blanket, or any of his animals, so I don’t think we have to worry about him dragging a blanket around at kindergarten like Linus.
  • Trashy trash – If Benjamin drops food on the floor, or sees a crumb or scrap of paper on the floor, he is compelled to throw it away. If you try to do it for him, or otherwise discourage him from his mission, he gets really upset!
  • Drooling – For the past 2 or 3 months, Benjamin has been drooling a lot – to the point that we find wet spots on the carpet where he’s been playing, and that his shirts get drenched in it. I’ve started putting a bib on him at home sometimes to avoid having to change his shirt because of it! We don’t know if it’s teething, congestion, or that he’s simply concentrating so hard on playing that he forgets to swallow. We hope he will grow out of this messy phase soon.
  • Using the potty – Benjamin has been on the cusp of being potty trained for a couple of months, but despite that we are still a long way away from being finished. He knows exactly what to do, and he is fully aware of when he needs to go. At this point it’s just more convenient for him to use his diaper. When he feels like it, he tells us he wants to go potty. Still no #2, though. I figure once I’m sleeping through the night again (meaning, when Peter sleeps through the night), I’ll invest my full energy in this process. Perhaps having him wear real underwear will do the trick of convincing him it’s time to go on the potty ALL the time. Anyway, his quirk is that he has to have everything a certain way when he uses the potty. The light and the vent have to be on, and when he flushes the potty, he has to “watch the pee pee go down.” If I try to close the lid early, he gets upset.

Challenges – Let’s just say there are a lot of them lately, but I won’t go into a lot of detail

  • Biting furniture
  • Hitting/pinching/poking/squeezing/screaming at Peter
  • Occasionally throwing toys at us or the wall
  • Occasionally throwing food
  • Being a picky eater
  • Screaming when he’s stir crazy or frustrated
  • Waking up too early

We have tried a variety of discipline strategies, and have discovered that nothing works all the time. Spanking is only effective if used sparingly (we mainly use that to convince him to stay in bed). We’ve had the most success with removing him from where we are (strapping him into his booster seat in the kitchen to “think about it”), or taking away a special toy when he disobeys. We usually give warnings first, to give him a chance to obey. When he’s being wild but not doing anything wrong in particular, I tell him to go sit on his bean bag (in the play room) and “hit the reset button.” These mini timeouts give him a chance to settle down before things get out of hand. I can often sense his negative energy escalating, and I try to address it before it results in him hitting Peter or breaking something. We have also established certain rules that we review at the start of every day: No hitting, no spitting, no biting furniture, etc. Since he has rules to follow at school, I figured it was good to establish some at home, too. Then he knows what our expectations are.

Quotables

  • “I’m so happy you gave this to me!” (His expression of joy over a favorite food or toy)
  • “Yay! _____! I LOVE it!” (Fill in the blank with any of his favorite things – Dora, a video, peanuts, the park, etc.)
  • “Where’s your Peter boy?”
  • “Let me help you burp that Peter boy.”
  • “That’s not hitting – that’s burping.” (Initially he was concerned that I was hitting Peter, when I was burping him.)
  • “Mommy, where you are?”
  • “Mommy, what you did?” (Obviously, he’s still figuring out English grammar…)
  • “Mommy, are you angry and frusterated?”
  • “Mommy, I make you happy?”
  • “Mommy, are you gonna be nice to me?” (He sometimes says this when he doesn’t want a spanking.)
  • “What’s that sound?”
  • When asked how his flu shot made him feel: “It frustrated me a little bit… It pinched me.”
  • When I told him I was going to a baby shower: “I want to take a baby shower, too. It isn’t scary, no?” (he’s been disturbed by the shower in the tub lately)
  • When I put him to bed one night and he was concerned about the shadows: “Daddy and Jesus will protect me?”
  • About the shadows in his bedroom: “They’re not monsters? No, they’re just our shadows. Hi, shadows.”

Here are some pictures that I’ve managed to catch of Benjamin lately. He’s usually too busy to pause for a photo op, but when he does, I get the best smile by having him say “Dora” or something else he likes. If I say to say “smile,” he squints his eyes.

Benjamin’s New Room

Our Craigslist find: a bunk bed with built in desk, shelves, and drawers, with a matching twin bed on wheels

We are only about five weeks away from my August 4 due date, but only recently have we made real progress in preparing our home for a second child. In addition to sorting through clutter, reorganizing closets, and purchasing a sofa bed, we have now basically completed Benjamin’s “big boy” room. (We’ll be keeping the nursery as is, so we needed a new room for Benjamin.) Read on for more details about how the transition is going.

Setting It Up

  • We originally planned to set up Benjamin’s room in May, and we thought it would be a simple task of going to IKEA and picking out a sturdy but inexpensive bunk bed, with a matching dresser or something. Well, not only did we not make it to IKEA until early June, but when we arrived we were disappointed to discover that the store now offers very few bunk beds. (You have probably guessed that we plan to have Benjamin and his little brother share a room eventually, which is why we are shopping for bunk beds now.)
  • Frustrated, we went back to the drawing board, which included shopping at Rooms to Go and Ashley Furniture, where we discovered how elaborate bunk beds can be. Rooms to Go even featured a bunk bed that has a stairway leading to the top bunk! Since we didn’t really want to spend $1000 plus on a toddler’s bedroom furniture, we started keeping an eye on Craigslist. One of the perks of living in a large city is that there’s always someone nearby selling what you are looking for. Apparently used bunk beds are in high demand, because even though I would email sellers the same day they posted the new listing, in most cases they already had a buyer lined up.
  • After a few dead ends, we finally made contact with a seller in Frisco whose bunk bed set was just what we were looking for. Thankfully, she was a quick communicator via email, so she let us know one Saturday morning that a couple had looked at the furniture but wanted to “think about it” before purchasing. She informed them that someone else was planning to look at it, and they still didn’t commit to buying it. That gave us the opportunity to buy it, which we did! We had thought we would have to rent a U-Haul truck, but the sellers were generous enough to deliver the furniture to our house, even though it took two trips, and nearly two hours of their time (we gave them some extra money for their time and fuel.)
  • The next day, Sunday, we moved our guest room furniture to my brother Patrick’s house (thanks Pete and Lindsi for giving these items a home!) and moved the bunk bed into Benjamin’s new room. It’s not exactly a bunk bed, more of a loft bed with a matching twin bed on wheels. The top bunk is supported on one end by a desk, and on the other end by a shelf/drawer unit. We chose to put the lower twin bed in another corner of the room, rather than sticking out in a t-shape under the top bunk. As a result, Benjamin has a fun little area under the bunk where he can play. Since we won’t be using the top bunk until Benjamin’s little brother moves into his room, we are keeping the ladder in storage right now (in case you wonder why there isn’t one shown in our pictures).
  • We are very happy with our purchase, not only because we spent about 1/3 of what the furniture would have cost us new, but because we didn’t have to worry about matching dressers, desks, bookshelves, etc. All the furniture we need was included!
  • To summarize the whole setting up process: Saturday – purchased furniture; Sunday – moved furniture into room; Monday – trip to IKEA for mattresses, room decor, bedding; Tuesday – trip to Target for lamp, wall art, night light, sheets, etc. We were amazed that it only took us four days to complete a room transformation that we’d been procrastinating for months.

Talking It Up

  • So now we had a big boy room, but were we ready to give up the familiarity and containment of the crib? Not right away. We waited nearly a week, and last night was Benjamin’s first official night in his room. On the days leading up to the big night, we generated a lot of buzz about the room: “Oh, let’s go play in your big boy room!” “Wow, it’s so cool in here!” “Hey, why don’t you show your friends your new room?!” In no time, he loved going in there to play. We avoided the issue of sleeping in there until the night arrived…

The First Night

  • We had no idea what to expect when we tucked Benjamin into his new bed for the first time, and although we had intended to arm ourselves with various strategies for success, we went into it without a real gameplan. Ideally, Benjamin would have treated it like any other night, and simply said “night night” then rolled over and gone right to sleep. Of course, it wasn’t that easy.
  • When Benjamin realized we expected him to lay down and go to sleep in this new bed, his response was, “No, I don’t like this bed!” This was followed by his attempt to wriggle out of our arms and leave the room. When we insisted that he lay down, the tears and anger came. But we stood our ground.
  • I think he came out of the room three times, and while we tried various methods of convincing him to lay down again, the one that worked was for me to lay down with him a few minutes and sing “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music. For whatever reason he loves that song, and he now sings along with me. It’s the sweetest thing. The singing settled him down, and he didn’t get out of bed anymore. All in all, I think 30 minute went by from the time we started his night time routine until he fell asleep. Whew! We were relieved it didn’t take longer than that, and that we didn’t cave in and let him go sleep in his crib.
  • I anticipated that he might wake up and be disturbed during the night, and I was right. He woke up crying around midnight, but I was quickly able to settle him back down since he was still half asleep. The other time was that risky time just before sun rise: 6:30 a.m. It was too early for him to wake up, since he usually sleeps until between 7:30 and 8, but the sun was already starting to shine through his window. Thankfully, he accepted it when I told him it was still night night time. I lay with him a few minutes, and then he turned to me and said “Bye, Mommy,” and went back to sleep until after 8!

Day Two

  • Unfortunately, things didn’t go so smoothly for his first nap in his new bed. We are hoping this was because he slept during rest time at school, and not because he was simply being stubborn. For 45 minutes, I tried various methods for getting him to lay down and go to sleep, but none were successful. So we spent the rest of the day with a very tired boy.
  • I am relieved to report that tonight the whole bedtime process only took 15 minutes. He was still initially resistant to going to bed, but he only got out of bed once, and he only called me back in once. After that, he talked to him animals for a few minutes, and then he was asleep. I hope he sleeps all night, too! I’ll say more about it in another post, but I’ve been having a rough time of it with my pregnancy these last few weeks, and I need some good rest!
  • This process of transitioning Benjamin from his nursery to his big boy room has been bittersweet for me. It’s sad to think that my baby boy has moved beyond his crib, but it’s fun to see him (slowly) adjust to having more freedom, and to see how proud he is. I’m sure we still have a ways to go before he’s completely comfortable in his new bed, but until then we will do our best to be patient and consistent. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Day Three

  • I don’t want to speak too soon, but it seems like we’ve turned a corner. Benjamin only woke up once in the night, and he wasn’t crying. He just called my name, as if to check that I was around. All I had to do was tuck him back in, and he went right back to sleep. And this afternoon at naptime, he didn’t even get out of his bed. He called me back in one time, I gave him a kiss, and then after talking a couple of minutes to himself like he used to do in his crib, he went to sleep! Whew… what a relief that things are going well. Thanks to Becca for suggesting that we tell him he has to stay in bed, but he can call us if he needs something. That reassurance seems to be all he needs at this point to feel comfortable in his bed.

Here are some pictures of Benjamin’s new room:

Benjamin at Two Years Old

Benjamin enjoyed seeing the flowers at the Dallas Arboretum last month.

It took me two months to get around to writing Benjamin’s “two years old” post, but here goes.

The Things He Says

When Benjamin turned two on March 1, it’s almost like someone flipped a switch that sent the vocabulary and verbal skills area of his brain into overdrive. He seems to talk more and more every day. Two months ago he was still mostly talking in two word phrases, but since then he has started repeating just about everything we say, and stringing together longer sentences. Some of our favorite things that he says:

  • “Out-siiiiide?” – Benjamin loves to go outside and play. Often this is the first thing he says when he wakes up in the morning. And every night before bed we open the blinds in his room so he can say “night night” to the outside.
  • “Golllllld-fish!” – For awhile Goldfish crackers were his favorite snack, but he has since moved on.
  • “Daddy Bear” – This is his nickname for Brad. As you might guess, he calls me “Mommy Bear.” It’s very cute. 🙂  Sometimes he sings our nicknames over and over again.
  • “Bugs – they bite you!” – Now that we’re getting outside more, he sometimes ends up with mosquito bites. After I explained to him that they are bug bites, he started saying “Bugs! – they bite you!” any time he sees them flying around. This has also been a useful strategy for convincing him it’s time to go inside. If I inform him that the bugs are around, he will go inside to avoid being bitten.
  • “All better now?” – A few weeks ago I took Benjamin to his pediatrician to see if his ears were finally clear of infection. Thankfully they were, but before we went into the doctor’s office I explained to him why we were there: “The doctor is going to look in your ears and see if they are better now.” So now any time I talk about a doctor or medicine, he asks me, “All better now?”
  • “No wowd” – This is Benjamese for “I don’t like that loud noise.” It all started with lawnmowers, which by the way he calls “lawn murmers,” but he has since started applying the phrase to anything that makes a loud noise, including the blender, the food processor, the leaf blower, the garbage truck, etc. I’ve helped him overcome his concern about these various machines by telling him to cover his ears if it’s too loud. So now even though he’s learned to deal with the noise, he still feels the need to comment by saying “no wowd.”
  • “All done” – He uses this phrase in a number of situations, but the most common ones are when he is finished eating a meal or snack, and when he is ready for something to end, such as the aforementioned loud sounds, or something else that disturbs him. It’s like he’s saying, “Okay, enough of that. It’s time to move on.”
  • “What’s dat?”/”What’s dat SOUND?” – Recently we have entered the questioning phase of toddlerhood. He wants to know what everything is, whether it’s a sight or sound. We do our best to teach him about the details of the world around him without losing our patience.
  • “Sad? Help him?” – We recently started sponsoring a child in Africa through World Vision. We have his picture up on the fridge, and I made a comment in passing one day to Brad that the little boy looks sad in the picture. Well, this idea stuck with Benjamin, so now every time he notices the picture or thinks about the boy, he turns to me and says very concernedly, “Sad? Help him?” It’s nice that he has some idea of what we are doing, even at his young age.
  • “Jack Bob” – This is how he says his oldest cousin, Jacob’s, name. So far it is his funniest name pronunciation.
  • Singing – In addition to all his cute words and phrases, Benjamin has taken up serenading us. He picked up this habit from hanging around his weird parents. We tend to break into song around our house (yes, we sometimes treat life like a musical), and so now he does, too. He sings about his snacks and meals, his favorite people (lately he’s been singing “Aunt Cara” over and over again), and the outside. We will try to capture his singing on video.

Favorite Foods

  • Smoothies – His favorite varieties are strawberry banana and peanut butter banana.
  • Peanut butter pretzel “sandwiches”
  • Pretzel Goldfish
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Raspberries
  • Rice

Notice there are no vegetables or meat on that list. We are finding it challenging to provide him with a balanced diet. If only he was still the undiscerning eater that he was a year ago, when he would eat just about anything we offered him.

Around the Town

  • Mother’s Day Out – Benjamin has attended a Monday/Wednesday program since late January, and he loves it. Now that I’m finished with my semester, I’ll be able to take advantage of those five hour blocks of time to run errands or relax (rather than to teach my class or grade papers…) This summer he’ll switch to Tuesday/Thursdays for five weeks, and after a break in August, he’ll continue a Tuesday/Thursday program at a new location. I think Mother’s Day Out is one of the greatest inventions for moms ever! His time there has really helped him build his vocabulary, and has reinforced his independent and laid back attitude.
  • Kids’ Club at the Gym – I don’t do much in the way of strenuous exercise these days – particularly now that I’m in my third trimester – but I still find time to go to the gym a couple days a week. Benjamin enjoys the Kids’ Club, and I enjoy reading, listening to music, playing on my iPhone, or chatting on the phone while walking or biking.
  • Church Nursery – On Sundays Benjamin goes to a toddler room during our church service. I’m guessing that his favorite thing about it is the snack they provide – Goldfish or Cheerios in a plastic cup. We feel fortunate that he’s never really gone through separation anxiety – yet. Since he was a baby, he has always just settled right in when we drop him off at the nursery.
  • Grocery Store – Whether it’s Target, Walmart, or Albertsons, shopping isn’t exactly at the top of Benjamin’s favorite things list. He has about a 30 to 45 minute tolerance, after which time things get interesting. Because of that, we don’t frequent Walmart Supercenters very often, since those trips usually turn into shopping marathons. At this point I’m willing to spend more at Albertsons to keep my sanity! The one thing that Benjamin does enjoy about our shopping trips are the complimentary shopping cart wipes. When we drive into the parking lot, he shouts out “Wipe!” He usually spends the first 5 or 10 minutes of our shopping excursions “cleaning” the cart with the wipe.
  • In the Car – Benjamin seems to enjoy our drives around town. Sometimes we listen to music (the Glee soundtrack has been our latest choice – every time a song ends he says “Again?”), and other times he points out things he notices. Some common “I Spies”: airplane, mailman, bird, squirrel, red/blue/white car (he sometimes calls them all blue ones – still working on colors), etc. He also recognizes certain routes, so he gets excited when he sees that we’re on our way to his school, to his aunt’s house, or to my friend Natalee’s house. Those happen to be our most common destinations.

Around the House

  • Playing Inside – Benjamin has been playing more independently lately – good news, since he’ll have to do more of that when I’m busy with a newborn. Some of his favorite activities include looking at picture books, playing with his tool truck, putting certain toys in his “special cabinet” (the cabinet in our entertainment center – right now it has Elmo, a comb, a brush, and a musical hippo), and moving large toys and cars back and forth between the playroom and the living room. At least he’s a good helper about it. Before bed every night he puts the toys back where they belong.
  • Playing Outside – He loves to go get the mail with Daddy, but otherwise we try to keep him in the back yard these days. Brad recently built a sandbox, and just this week built a plywood lid for it. Now that it will be easier for us to cover and uncover it, he’ll be spending more time digging and building in it. He also enjoys chasing Chloe around the yard (good exercise for both of them!), picking up leaves in his wheelbarrow, and “helping” Daddy do various yard projects. This summer I’m sure we’ll also spend some time in our kid pool or playing with the water hose to beat the heat.
  • Watching TV – Just about every morning Benjamin watches Dora the Explorer while he eats breakfast. Some days he watches Sesame Street during lunch, although lately he’s been content to just sit and “chat” with me instead of having the tv on. We save Caillou as a last resort if he is particularly grumpy after his nap, or if I am making a time consuming recipe for dinner. And just about the only thing we watch as a family is American Idol, if it happens to be on while we’re eating dinner. He enjoys listening to the band and the singers. Every time “pretty boy” Casey is on the screen, Benjamin asks, “What’s that?” Every single time. I guess he’s not sure what to think of the perfect, long blond hair on a guy.
  • Causing Trouble – Most of the time Benjamin is a sweet, sweet boy. But there are times when he is tired, or hungry, or just feeling mischievous, and it’s at those times that he drives us crazy! Some of his favorite ways to irritate us: slamming the cabinet doors to the living room wet bar, throwing his sippy cup or food on the floor from his high chair, hitting Daddy in the face (this is one of the few things that results in a spanking), repeatedly screaming as loud as he can, hitting plastic toys against tables/door frames/other surfaces that he could damage by doing so, etc.
  • Getting Clean – Since he has taken to kicking the lamp off of his changing table (he only succeeded twice), we usually change his diaper on the floor now. He now tells us when he is “going poopy,” and he is now interested in sitting on the potty before his bath every night. A few times he has succeeded in going pee pee, but we haven’t gotten serious about the potty training yet. He still enjoys bath time every night, and Brad and I have a nice system worked out where we take turns bathing him every other night.
  • Sleeping – We’ve recently hit a nice stretch in which Benjamin is sleeping a lot. He takes a two hour nap (sometimes longer) every afternoon, and is ready for bed by 8:15 every night. Most mornings he wakes up around 8. We usually don’t hear a sound from him all night, but he seems to have had an allergy related cough for the past week that only affects him at night. The times that I’ve taken in water for him to drink he stands up long enough to take a sip and then lays right back down. The boy loves his rest, and we love that he loves it! It will be interesting to see how transitioning to a big boy bed will affect his sleep habits…

Looking Ahead

So that’s our two year old in a nutshell. He is very curious and enthusiastic about the world around him, he loves to help out around the house, and he has seemingly boundless energy. Hopefully he won’t have too much trouble adjusting to the arrival of his baby brother in August. Between now and then we hope to at least attempt potty training, we’ll move him into his big boy room, and we’ll continue to marvel at how quickly he grows and develops new abilities!

Benjamin at 21 Months

Benjamin has enjoyed his kid-sized bean bag that I purchased on Woot.com

We’ve been so caught up in the Christmas season that I haven’t done a single post this month! I’m here to remedy that now, as I take some time to describe Benjamin at his current age, ~21 months.

Playing

  • I’m thrilled that we seem to be moving into a phase where he’s content to play by himself for up to 30 minutes at a time. For the past few months, he had been spending less and less time in his playroom, because he didn’t want to let us out of his sight. Lately, though, if I tell him I need to get some things done and ask him to play by himself for awhile, he wanders off and does just that! I’ve been amazed at this turn of events.
  • One reason he is happy to play alone is that he’s becoming more imaginative. He comes up with all sorts of games and activities. In addition to the usual things, like reading books and working puzzles, some of his favorite activities include:
    • Playing with Legos – Brad’s mom gave him these when she visited at Thanksgiving, and he loves to put them together and take them apart again.
    • Lining up all his talking/singing toys – He has a saxophone playing Santa, a singing Santa, and an Elmo doll, and he now likes to put them together, either standing side by side, or all stashed away in the cabinet under the tv. Once he has them in place, he turns them all on, and we’re so amused by this ritual that we don’t even mind the cacophony of noise.
    • Standing on a box to reach the light switch – I wasn’t very happy when Brad taught him how to do this, but now we are used to him entertaining himself a few minutes at a time by carrying his plastic box around, placing it beneath a light switch, and climbing up to turn it on and off. Thankfully he hasn’t yet figured out that he could climb over safety gates using the box. Certain light switches are off limits, so when he ventures to those we take the box away. We’re giving him a step stool for Christmas, which we hope he’ll use more for hand washing and stepping up to the toilet than for turning on lights.

    Riding in the car – Lately he has wanted to take one of his toys in the car when we “go for a ride.” The past few days it had been his tool truck, and today it was Elmo. Once he’s strapped into his seat, he holds the toy on his lap and happily looks out the window. He likes to take a little piece of home with him when we run errands, I guess.

Eating

  • His breakfast options have expanded a bit. These days he either eats Cream of Wheat, oatmeal (with banana and maple syrup!), or waffles. He’s also had eggs a few times.
  • We’re relying less on the Graduates prepackaged entrees, and offering him a variety of foods everyday. When I have the time, I put up to five different things in the compartments of his cute plastic tray (for example, rice, chicken, peas, cheese, and bread). Other days we keep things simple, and make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Today he had tuna salad for the first time. We usually round out the meal with some sort of fruit.
  • He eats an afternoon snack after he wakes up from his nap, usually juice and some goldfish.
  • At dinner, he usually eats what we eat, which is so much cheaper than opening up various cans of baby food. For a long time, I missed the convenience of baby food, and had a hard time figuring out what to feed him. But it gets a little easier everyday, and so far he’ll eat just about anything.

Napping

  • We went through a shift in Benjamin’s sleep schedule around the time of the time change. The week before we changed our clocks, he had started waking up at 7 instead of 8. So, much to my dismay, when we changed the clocks, he woke up at 6 for a few days in a row. Yikes! But, then we went out of town, and by the time we returned he was so worn out that he started sleeping until after 8 again (hooray!).
  • During all this sleep shifting, Benjamin finally gave up his morning nap. With his confusion over the time change, he was taking a later morning nap, but wouldn’t even go to sleep in the afternoon. So, I just started running errands with him in the morning, and stretching his awake time until after he ate lunch. The one nap a day has since worked pretty well. It ranges from one hour (that’s a bad day) to three hours (that’s a rare day). Usually he sleeps about an hour and 45 minutes.
  • It’s still generally easy to put him down for naps. We sing him his “I Love You” song, and then cover him up with his blanket, once he has positioned his monkey and pillow where he wants them. He sometimes talks to himself for a few minutes, but he likes his crib, and is happy to drift off the sleep.
  • Waking up is another story. Most days he wakes up very groggy and crying. It takes him at least 15 minutes to return to his normal high spirits. Drinking juice and snuggling with Mommy help ease him back into awake time.

Watching TV

  • It used to be that the only tv he watched was one half hour video (Baby Einstein or Baby Songs) a few times a week. He is starting to outgrow his Baby Einstein videos, but still watches Baby Songs pretty regularly. It is a compilation of music videos for Hap Palmer songs, and while it’s very dated (from the looks of the kids and parents I’d say it was made in the mid ’80s!), the songs are cute and he loves them.
  • In addition to this video, his attention span for tv shows has gotten longer. He’ll sit and watch a 30 minute show without losing interest. Some of his favorites at this point include The Wonder Pets, Caillou, Dragon Tales, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Max & Ruby. These are all very sweet shows, and I think he is learning more words by watching them. Just in the past few days he has started pointing at and saying the name of different objects, such as car, bath, ball. He also likes to point at different parts of the body (nose, eye, belly, back) and call them by name. I would like to get him some flashcards to help him learn to recognize and say more words.

Bedtime

  • Since he only takes one nap now, he’s always ready for bed when the time comes. Most nights we get him to bed between 8:15 and 8:30, and he sleeps until between 8 and 8:45 the next morning.
  • He gives us sweet kisses and hugs when we put him to bed, and sometimes after he is lying down covered by his blanket, he’ll reach his little hand out and wave, and sweetly say “bye bye.” 🙂
  • Once every couple of weeks he wakes up during the night crying. We figure this is either teething or bad dream related. After a few minutes of snuggling, he’s ready to get back in bed. This boy loves his sleep.

Those are all the little details I can think of at the moment. I’m planning to come back and add some pictures to this post in the next day or so.

Benjamin Feeds Himself

As the months have continued to pass, and Benjamin has continued to grow and develop by leaps and bounds, it hasn’t occurred to me until recently that now is a good time for him to learn to feed himself. At his 18 month checkup, his doctor asked me if he was self feeding, and I had to answer, “No, except for finger foods.” So, I was delighted to discover today that he is quite adept at feeding himself with a spoon, even though he’s had almost no practice. See below for a few pictures that marked the occasion, followed by a video of him eating a couple of spoonfuls of cranberry apple sauce.

Benjamin psychs himself up (or rather, he laughs at us while we try to psych him up) to take a bite.

Benjamin psychs himself up (or rather, he laughs at us while we try to psych him up) to take a bite.

He successfully delivered the apple sauce from bowl to mouth.

He successfully delivered the apple sauce from bowl to mouth.

He likes it! And he also seems to enjoy feeding himself, which means I'll have more time to eat my own food, once this becomes a regular deal.

He likes it! And he also seems to enjoy feeding himself, which means I'll have more time to eat my own food, once this becomes a regular deal.

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