Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Between this Thanksgiving occurring as early as possible, and our plan to abandon Black Friday shopping in favor of decorating, I’m on track to cross off a substantial portion of my Christmas To Do list before the start of December. Here is all that I’ve accomplished already, ahead of Thanksgiving.

Christmas Cards, (✔)

We took our Christmas Card photo on Sunday, and finished our cards yesterday. I misread a coupon from Shutterfly and was rushing to get it done by Thanksgiving. Turns out I have no shortage of 40% off coupons that don’t expire until the end of December, so I’m sitting on our card until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to see if there’s a better deal coming.

Incidentally, rushing to get a family photo ended up being a good thing as not 24 hours later a cold started to make it’s way through our family bringing with it crusty noses, tired eyes and pale faces.

Black Friday, (✔)

BestBuy’s deal on the iPhone went live somewhere around 10 o’clock my time. Around the same time CamelCamelCamel alerted me to a good deal on the previous Kindle Paperwhite. Neither deal was spectacular, but can’t beat the convenience of shopping in my PJs while sipping my hot chocolate – especially since I’ve been hit by that cold!

While I am content to be finished with Black Friday shopping this year, I am a little disappointed. There didn’t appear to be a deal on the leap pad, either in person or online, and the phone ended up being not as discounted as I previously believed. I miss the spectacular deals.

“Santa’s” Shopping, (Mostly ✔)

Stockings

I’m ridiculously proud of how well Nicole’s and Alexis’ stockings came together. I started planning them back in September as Santa was getting the girls custom name necklaces. I got the idea when Alexis’ started writing her own name. Wouldn’t you know one of the four things Nicole wanted (along with headbands, and nail polish) was a new necklace? Way ahead of you, girlie!

Alexis wants a real life unicorn, so Santa is stuck there, but I think she’ll be happy with what Santa came up with.

That just leaves Dana’s stockings. Her’s was always going to be the most difficult as I like the stockings to be somewhat practical and we have so many hand me downs she is not of want for anything. I’m thinking maybe teethes and bath toys.

Presents

Handled across the board. Domingo and I happened to be in Target the day of the 20% off toys sale, which worked out perfectly.

November 16, 2018

Hazardous


Haze from the Smoke

Last year it was a big deal when the air quality index (AQI) reached 150. Today it topped out around 300, shattering records.

And I still don’t have the air purifiers I talked about getting. [Insert Expletives].

And the air is going to stay this way until Saturday next Tuesday. [Insert More Expletives].

The fire that first got me thinking about purchasing air purifiers was just a little brush fire, easily handled by the fire department and out the same day. No need to rush into a purchase, I told myself, I had time to do research first. Not all purifiers are equally good at handling all particulate matter in all spaces, and if I could fine one that worked well with wild fire smoke and pollen all the better.

When the Camp Fire started last week, the original prediction was the air would start to improve by this past Tuesday, so I didn’t feel pressured to act quickly. AQI was bad, but the standard bad that we’ve grown used to the past couple of years. Instead of improving, however, the air quality worsened. Schools closed in anticipation that the AQI reaching Hazardous levels.

I wasn’t surprised to discover the local big box stores were sold out of purifiers. The air quality had been teetering between “Unhealthy” and “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups” for a week. I was shocked that even online giants are completely sold out. With wild fires burning across the state, however, even Amazon is struggling to keep inventory.

I am so mad at myself, and so worried about our little lungs. I waited to buy and we are all paying the price for it now.

We are doing what we can to lessen the impact of the smoke. Being inside helps, but the particulate matter still works its way inside over time. The smoke is blocking out the sun, keeping the temperature a good ten degrees colder than it would otherwise be. With the lows in the thirties we have no choice but to run the HVAC and I have yet to figure out if or how to use recycled air. We’re running it as little as possible.

Four more days.


Last night I couldn’t sleep. My eyes and throat burned, my head ached. The kids were getting up nearly constantly with similar complaints. I was lying in bed, browsing social media at 2:40am when someone posted that Amazon was selling the Coway air purifier again, one of the most consistently highly rated purifiers. I didn’t wait. I didn’t price check. It won’t ship for another two days, and won’t make it here until after the smoke is supposed to abate. I’m not taking any more chances. Good thing too, by the morning it was sold out again.

November 12, 2018

Dana at Ten Months

Dear Dana,

Shortly after my last letter to you, Daddy took off on travel and you just took off crawling! I texted Daddy as he was in the Taxi on his way to the airport to inform him that you had crawled six steps, the most yet. By the time Daddy was back home, just a few days later, there was no denying it – you were a crawler! You’re still mastering your crawling technique. You crawl on two hands and a flat foot and a knee with your leg turned in wards. It’s surprisingly effective. Sometimes you try crawling on two flat feet. So far you haven’t tried two knees yet, but when you do you’ll really start to take off.


You’re hair is getting so long, I’m going to have to start using barrettes or hair ties.

While Daddy was gone I broke out your play pen. We’ve been affectionately referring to the it as the “baby jail.” So far, you’re a fan. I thought you wouldn’t like being contained now that you can crawl, but you don’t seem to mind. You love when your big sisters make faces at you through the mesh sidings of your play pen. I think you also feel safer in it than on the floor when sisters come home all wound up after school. As much as you love their attention and hugs, the after-school hugs can sometimes be a little intimidating.

Just this week you started pulling up to a stand by your table. You’re still not cruising yet, I think we still have another month to go before we reach that milestone. Instead of going around your activity table when there’s something you want on the other side, you attempt to go over it.

We’re starting to transition away from purees to table food. Spaghetti was a huge hit, chicken was not. You enjoyed beef crumbles one day, but not another. You seem to prefer solid fruit to the mushed variety. You have eaten banana, water mellon and strawberries consistently well.

We’re also starting to hear words from you now. Aside from Mama and Dada, “yeah” and “no” are the words we hear most often. I have video where I’m trying to coax you to crawl for mommy. You’re on all fours, looking like you’re giving crawling some serious consideration before you say “no”, pushing back into a sitting position. Daddy and I both heard you say “more” in reference to cheerios, along with the sign. The girls are convinced you’re saying even more words, but I’m pretty confident that’s just wishful thinking. Truth be told, ‘yeah’ and ‘no’ may be wishful thinking on our part. ‘Yeah’ seems to be the sound you naturally make when excited and smiling, which may be why it seems right in context. As excited as I am to hear you start to talk for real, I’ll miss you’re happy little baby squeals.

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

November 5, 2018

Better Bedtimes

Bedtime for us was a mess. We had three different kids in need of three different bedtimes, with only two adults and two of the kids sharing a bed room. It seemed unlikely.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and try anyway.

Our initial routine had Nicole and Alexis on the same schedule, both going to bed between 7:30 and 8pm. Alexis was always over tired by the time 7:30 rolled around. She’d have a hard time sitting still at the homework table, or playing quietly, and would often inadvertently distract Nicole. The more Nicole lost focus, the longer it took for her to finish her work. The more over tired the girls got, the less cooperative they were getting dressed into PJs or brushing teeth. As a result, we often weren’t going to bed on the best note. While I can’t say for certain, I believe the rocky bedtime was effecting the quality of their sleep, and by transitivity, our sleep.

The first change we made was to move teeth brushing and pajamas to immediately after dinner, before homework. While Domingo helps the girls get ready for bed, I’m giving Dana her bath and putting her down to sleep. Usually Nicole and Alexis finish before I come down stairs, and start homework while waiting for me.

Once I put Dana to bed at 7, it’s Mommy & Alexis time until 7:30. Alexis picks out a chapter book for me to read as a bed time story. The nice thing about our new routine is it lends itself well to natural consequences. If she hasn’t cooperated with Daddy and isn’t in her pajamas with her teeth brushed, we have less reading time. Thus far we have only had to skip bed time story once for the lesson to sink in.

When Nicole finishes her homework she either works on her math game for school, or practices her reading with Domingo until I put Alexis to bed at 7:30. Then it’s Nicole’s turn for individual Mommy time. She goes to bed at 8. By then, Alexis is almost always asleep.

The down side to our new routine is Alexis is getting less “homework” time to practice her letters and numbers. What we’re gaining is the reintroduction of bed time stories, 20-30 minutes of individual mommy time for each girl, additional reading and math practice for Nicole, and a more peaceful bedtime. I’ll call that a win.

Now I need to figure out a way to have better mornings so we’re not always rushing to get out the door on time.

October 12, 2018

Dana at Nine Months

Dear Dana,

And here we are, nine months. Wasn’t it just a few days ago that I was writing your eighth month entry? At least I’m finally starting to think of you more as a baby and less of a newborn. See, mommies can learn too!

This month we decided to work on teaching you to fall asleep on your own, sans rocking and sans nursing. I mentioned previously how good you were at learning to falling back to sleep by yourself after waking up in the middle of the night. You’d also occasionally put yourself to sleep in the rock n’ play for daddy. (What amazes me about that is that you started doing this months after we moved you out of the rock n play for sleeping!) So we felt pretty confident you were ready and just needed a little more encouragement. By October you were doing it consistently. Now you even settle yourself back to sleep after every middle of the night nursing.

You had your second cold this month. You were such a trooper during the day that no one would have ever suspected you were under the whether. It wasn’t until night time that the congestion would become apparent. To help with the congestion we introduced you to your first shower, which is now most definitely one of your favorite things. You squealed with delight when I’d move you through the jet stream, alternately turning your face to the water and away. Oh how you loved to get your face wet! You even put out your tongue to catch the droplets.

Finger food is no longer just for gravity experiments, now it’s an acceptable form of nourishment. You like Cheerios and Puffs, but aren’t really a fan of much else yet. We’re teaching you the sign language for “more” and “done,” although you preferred way to signal the meal is over is by dumping the rest on the floor. Remind me to thank your sisters for encouraging that one.

The big news, though, is that someone is starting to crawl! At the start of October you’d get on your hands and knees, staring longingly at objects in front of you, before diving on your tummy and reaching for them. Then, you’d crawl move forward on your hands, your knees still stationary until you pancaked on your belly. Now your managing to move both your arms and legs, getting some forward propulsion. You don’t seem fully aware of how you’re making yourself move, so you aren’t making it very far yet, but I’m sure you will in no time!

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy

Last year around this time I was feeling completely overwhelmed keeping up with my kindergartener’s school work. I felt like I was perpetually behind, often letting reading and site words fall by the wayside. This year? Total opposite.

We’ve hit our groove early. Nicole’s sight words list has been divided into four lists, one she should know already, and one for each trimester. We’re already mastered the first two lists and we’re just over a month in. Even better, many of the words from the final two lists she can sound out, even if she doesn’t instantly recognize them. She’s been working really hard and it shows!

What’s really making me feel like a rock star is not having one little homework champion, but two.

Alexis is all about getting to do everything big sister Nicole gets to do, and that includes homework. We signed her up for the same extra classes, dubbed Learning Adventures, we signed Nicole up for when she was in pre-kindergarten. Two years ago I signed Nicole up mostly because I felt pressured to keep up with other parents. I knew we were supposed to continue the lessens at home, but I never prioritized them. Since I wasn’t continuing the lessons, we weren’t getting everything out of them.

One of my favorite parts about my three year olds doing “homework”? The way she writes her name. Alexis writes her e’s and x’s a little crooked sometimes so sometimes it looks like ‘Alptis.’ When Nicole was not quite four she used to spell her name ‘Nicon.’ I know I’m done having kids, but if I wasn’t, potential for an adorable misspelling would be a factor in name selection.

Of course we still don’t take pre-k homework too seriously. For Alexis “homework” is tracing letters and identifying sounds in words. Her worksheet will include tracing five p’s, then circling the image of a pickle, pig and pumpkin. One time she insisted on circling the Koala because she loves Koala, even though she acknowledged it doesn’t have a p-sound. I didn’t fight it. She has always had a very strong independent streak. It will serve her well as CEO one day.

September 17, 2018

Costume Overboard

I blew it this year.

We’re a two costume family with separate school and trick-or-treating costumes. School costumes need to be light weight for warm October days (often in the 70s), easy for the kids to play around in during recess, comfortable to sit in and easy for the kids to get in and out of themselves. The only requirement for Trick-or-Treat costumes is that they’re warm enough for cold October nights. Once the sun sets, the temperature drops like a stone. In the past we had saved money by DIYing the school costumes, but after last year store bought seemed the right way to go.

I like to order the customs early, as I’ve had some mishaps in the past. Amazon market place is often the cheapest, but sometimes you don’t get quite what you ordered and I like to have time to get orders corrected. I was mostly worried about getting a cheap knockoff, potentially off brand costume, or the slimmed down non “deluxe” version without the cool accessories of the costume I ordered. As soon as the costumes arrived was I found the UPC number on each package and search the manufacturers website to be sure it was exactly the item I was expecting. No issues there.

What I should have been worried about was sizing.

Alexis’ belt is so lose it hangs off her butt on the tightest setting. On one costume Nicole’s capris pants look full length, which is better than her other costume where pants won’t even stay up. We had no choice but to reorder Nicole’s in the smaller size. Alexis’ costume is the smallest size the manufacture makes so we will have to make do. At least we can make do with it. Alas, we’re likely stuck with the too big versions, as the return is not easy and not really worth it. Something for the dress up corner, I guess.

I knew Dana’s costume was going to be big. It’s a trademarked character and, despite being a popular character, I could only find one costume manufacturing who was licensed to make it. According to that manufacture website the costume comes in 9-12 months, 12 to 24 months, as well as larger sizes. Dana will be 9 months on Halloween, so I needed the smallest possible size. No one was selling the 9-12 month size! Not Amazon, not Target, not Walmart, not the specialty costume stores. I even tried secondary markets like eBay. No dice. Not even used. The smallest size I could find anywhere was 12-24 months. Dana’s head circumference is in the 98th percentile and the costume is basically a headpiece and tunic so I decided to change it. The headpiece is large, but passable. The rest is ridiculous. I found a onesie that sort of mimics the tunic, and basic brown pants to fake it.

That’s three duplicate costumes! On top of our planned five! Shopping fail.

If I had another group costume idea I would be tempted to hold off on this one for another year so everyone’s costume would fit. Maybe we’ll just have a bonus dress up and picture day in the middle of summer next year when everyone’s costume fixes better.

Total Spent: $199.76 (Ouch!)
Nicole – $86.86 (That represents all 4 different costumes, so at least the per costume price isn’t that bad)
Alexis – $44.41
Dana – $36.34
Accessories – $32.15

September 14, 2018

A Very Formal Month

Confession #1: I take a lot of photos. An average of 151 shots per day over the last 302 days that I’ve owned my camera. (45,701 total shutter actions to date on my camera. No regrets.) Last month I actually shot slightly more, averaging 170 shots per day.

Confession #2: I still struggled to find three photos for this months’ letter to Dana.

Why? Because I prefer photo-journalistic style candid photos for the monthly letter, and shot almost exclusively formal staged photos this past month. We did outside photos and inside photos; staged on the bed, next to the bath tub, and surrounded by flowers in the back yard; in costume and out of costume. We even donned our Halloween costume for a few photos.

Shooting mostly formal, especially for so long, is a huge departure for me. Normally I struggle with formal photos, particularly those not shot against a backdrop and have to force myself to do it. Part of that struggle is there’s just no place to do it in our house. With three kids the clutter has gotten insane. Anything formal without a backdrop requires a hefty amount of tidying up first. The bigger mental road block, however, is a lack of practice leading to a lack of confidence.

I have a photography comfort zone: landscape oriented, photo journalistic style child photography. The more practice I get in this niche, the more comfortable I am in it. I have an intuitive feel for these niche photos, whereas just about anything else requires me to stop and think about it. Even just changing camera orientation from landscape to portrait requires me to spend more time considering framing. Sometimes I get it right, other times not. The disparity in results make shooting outside my niche that much more uncomfortable. I can be very critical on myself when I don’t get the shot.

The difference this time was a perfect storm of early success doing formal photos, as well as feeling a lack of inspiration towards the traditional photos I always do. Dana enjoyed playing in the shark robe and gave me a number of funny expressions. Normally I have just one or two top photos, but I found myself with half a dozen. I had a similar experience outside. At the same time, I couldn’t think of a new candid photos to do of Dana. I already have tons of photos of her in the Jumperoo, on her activity mat, with her table. Whenever I picked up my camera to do a more casual style candid photo it felt like more of the same, and certainly nothing to get excited about.

I’m not sure how much longer this formal kick will last – after a month the idea well is starting to run a little dry – but it’s a great feeling to be so comfortable outside my normal comfort zone.

September 10, 2018

Dana at Eight Months

Dear Dana,

And now you’re eight months! That’s two thirds of your first year. It’s still hard to believe so much time has passed. I still feel like my “maternity leave” has just started, how could it possibly be that we’ve already been home together for the better part of a year?

Since transitioning to your own room you’re putting yourself to sleep more and more. I am still not very good at putting you down “drowsy but awake” part, though you’re clearly still learning. I’ve watched you on the baby monitor wake up at night and fall back to sleep by yourself. We’ve also seen you do that in the middle of nap. One minute you’ll be cooing away, playing with your toes, and the next you’ll be quite and still. One time after hearing you chatting away in your crib I decided to fetch you, sure you were awake for good, only to find you had fallen asleep in the time it took me to walk upstairs. You clearly can go to sleep by yourself, you just don’t go to sleep initially by yourself. It’s definitely a different sleep pattern than your sisters. You are intent on keeping me on my toes!

You’re awareness is ever increasing. It makes night time difficult, as you listen for footsteps outside your door (it’s so good we moved you to your own room last month!), and great for peekaboo. You recognize the sound of the garage door, and recognize your family members by name. You even turn to Echo when you hear us give it the voice command. Oh, how you love to dance! You started to head bopping one day while Nicole was singing, and loved the attention both girls showered on you for it. Now you’ll dance to anything, including just the sound of Mommy talking.

In terms of food you still prefer vegetables to fruit, and you’ve started a yogurt in the morning. Yogurt is clearly not your favorite, but you eat it anyway. We started finger foods (puffs and cereal) which we’ve taken to calling “baby cookies” in front of your sisters. You’re unsure what to do with them, other than experiments testing gravity. I am not sure I’ve seen you actually eat any, but you do enjoy dropping them on the floor.

We thought the thumb sucking phase had passed, but now I see you will still suck on your fingers for comfort. We had a visit from family you hadn’t seen in a month, and it’s clear that separation anxiety was starting to get to you. I shall take it as a compliment that you haven’t need to suck on them in my presence for the past couple of months.

We’re also starting to hear some clear first words. You started saying “dada” in Domingo’s presence and then, just two days ago started calling “mama” when waking in the middle of the night. I’ve got my fingers crossed that you learn to say “Nicki” and “Alexis” at the same time. Whichever sister’s name you say second is going to be super jealous.

Love Always,
Mommy & Daddy

August 25, 2018

In Need of Practice Runs

I made a cardinal mistake when photographic my kids with their first day of school signs: no practice run.

The issue this time wasn’t incorrect camera settings, it was all the other things I couldn’t control. I was expecting an overcast sky like last year for a nice soft look, or at least a sun at a favorable angle. Instead I had full sun and harsh light. Lack of solid sleeping combined with over excitement made it difficult for the kids to sit still. The sun wasn’t right, and the mood wasn’t right. As a result, the picture wasn’t right. I do have many funny outtakes, though, including Alexis holding standing in profile with her sign as though it’s a mug shot.

There’s a trade off between the idealized and authentic in photography and I definitely err on the side of idealized.

When I look back at the year’s photos, I’m happier seeing the best ones, than the most authentic ones. It doesn’t bother me if a photo is a staged recreation, or taken a few days early or late. To be honest, I usually don’t remember those details anyway. It does bother me if the photo is technically flawed. It does bother me if, when I see the photo, my first thought is how I should have or wish I had taken it.

What I should have done was taken a few practice photos with our “first day of school” sign the weekend before, when we weren’t under a time constraint. If the lighting was bad that day, or the girls just weren’t in the mood, we’d be no worse off. On the other hand, if we ended up with a great photo I’d have a back-up shot I could potentially use for my highlight reel if need be. True, it wouldn’t be authentic, but it would have taken the pressure off on the actual first day of school.

Rather than practice shots this time, however, I did “retakes” a few days later which ended up much better. It was too late for my highlight reel this time, but at least I have them.

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