Saturday, February 23, 2013

Taking Stock

For Lent this year, Matt is leading our congregation in a series/experience called Taking Stock. Each week, we'll be examining a certain area of our lives, taking stock of what we have, what is excess, and what we can use to help others. While people may still give up something or take on another practice for Lent, we'll be challenging people with a certain week-long practice or focus each week of Lent. I thought I'd try to share a weekly reflection to keep me accountable and process my thoughts.

Last week was the first Sunday of Lent, so Matt introduced our Lenten theme and asked people to take an overall look at their lives (before we got to the specific challenges of coming weeks) just to be aware of how we spend our money, time, and energy, taking stock of any excess we noticed.

My initial thought was the excessive laziness of my evenings. After the kids are in bed, I typically spend a couple hours on the couch or at my kitchen desk, watching TV, reading blogs and Facebook, drinking wine and munching on non-nutritive snacks. It feels pretty slothful, given that I "should" be doing laundry, dishes, working some more, etc. But, I got over that pretty quickly. Yes, I should cut back on the empty calories, but overall, this is my relaxation time that I relish after a day of working and kid-wrangling. So while it isn't an absolute necessity, I don't consider my "me time/couple time" excessive, exactly. Though if I think about people who don't have enough to eat to nourish themselves at all, the fact that we rich folk can basically eat recreationally is quite excessive.

I also thought of things like our energy usage. Leaving lights on accidentally, loading the dishwasher with things that could easily be cleaned by hand, taking two cars to church just so the kids and I don't have to go early or stay late for Matt, etc. are all issues to be examined.

It was when I did our monthly budget assessment this week that the excesses became more apparent. (I have tried Quicken as New Year's resolutions a couple years, but always abandoned it by April. Now, I just keep a simple Excel file to calculate and monitor our spending each month.) It's always amazing to see how much little things add up. Lattes while I work at Starbucks, fast food lunches while Matt's out doing pastoral visits and other errands, the random Groupon or other thing I buy online . . . they add up. I take for granted that we can buy such incidentals without breaking the bank, but if we were just a little more conscientious, how much money could be saved?

I feel like I'm a pretty frugal person. I look for bargains and won't spend much on any one thing, but so many of those little purchases are unnecessary, the impact could be big at the end of a year (or even the end of a liturgical season!)

So that's my first Lenten discipline added. I'm going to try to resist unnecessary purchases and be more aware of the $4 here and $8 there that could make a real difference for someone else.
Valentine dress for Claire, bought at consignment store. She's got a bunch of hand-me-downs, but I so often buy new stuff for her just because it's cute and a "good deal."

This coming week's focus is "Taking Stock of Our Pantry." Our church has a very active food pantry ministry, and the challenge will be to live on the items we give out in our food pantry boxes and becoming more aware of the choices and luxuries we enjoy in our food shopping. I've been wanting to try a challenge like that for months anyway, so I'm looking forward to this!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WMW: Phone v. Email

As I was making my recent job transition and rewriting the automatic signature for my work email, the thought crossed my mind to include a phone number. I'd always listed one because it was an office number and a pretty standard signature to include mailing address, email, and phone number (and, once upon a time not so long ago, fax).

But when faced with the options of including either my cell number or home landline number (which I don't have memorized and is mainly used by my mother and telemarketers), I really didn't want to put either. And then I realized that there's no one implying I should, and that if I didn't, I could be FREE!

You see, I hate the phone. For family and close friends, fine. But for unsolicited business conversation? No way. The thought of leaving my old office with no forwarding telephone number, and thus, no random strangers with bizarre questions (like "where does the guy who wrote that third letter to the editor you printed live?") calling me was too good to pass up.

I'm just not big on small talk and don't like getting trapped by people who want to tell you their life story. Plus, I don't like being put on the spot to give an answer. Chances are, the answer is "I'll need to look into that and get back to you," anyway. "Could I get your email address?"

I like to be able to think about my response, check my facts, articulate things well. It's why I'm a writer and editor and not a speaker or political pundit. It's a classic introvert quality. And in this day and age, when the written word is as close and quick as a phone call, I think email is a considerate way to let people respond at their convenience (which is why I only call a business contact if they are way past deadline and not responding to emails over a week-long period. Somebody's about to get one of those tomorrow. . . dum dum DUM!) It feels like just about anything that needs discussing can be done via email, with no garbled words, dropped calls, or misunderstandings resulting from the lack of a written copy of the conversation. And most things are done via email, making those pesky phone calls all the more out of place in an efficient workplace. (Some companies are even encouraging IM for intra-office discussions, rather than the phone or email.)

So during my first week working from home, I enjoyed my blessed solitude, emailing with potential writers for an upcoming issue of Circuit Rider, content that if the phone rang, it would probably be Matt, my mom, or a telemarketer (or DCS!) and not a random stranger putting me on the spot or talking my ear off.

It was maybe my second day using my phone-numberless email signature that I got the reply, "I think I can meet that deadline. Could you call me to discuss things further?" 

Sigh. Alas, I can't escape the phone altogether, but I can try.

What about you? Do you prefer email or phone? Or texting? Or maybe IM? Personally, IM gives me flashbacks to my freshman year of college, but maybe it's your thing! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bittersweet Back to Normal

We went to court again this morning, and learned that Faith's aunt passed her expedited home study just fine, so the little darling would be going to live with her aunt and cousins. That's a good thing, of course, to be with family, but we were definitely sad to see her go. The aunt came out to our house right after court to collect Faith and her things.

So by a little after 10 this morning, the house was quiet and I was free to get work done more easily than I had for the past week, but I was still pretty blue. I can't imagine how foster parents feel when they hoped to adopt the children in their care, because this was pretty much exactly what we signed up to do—care for kids who need a short-term place to stay until they can be reunited with family or find a permanent adoptive home. It's crazy how one can get attached in one week's time. Faith cried when leaving with her aunt, though not near so much as when I left her with sitters a couple afternoons so I could get some work done. I'm sure she'll settle in just fine and be happy there.

So many people say, "I couldn't foster—I'd get so attached I'd never be able to give them up!" And while, yes, that's not fun, I keep reminding myself that this is not about my feelings. Other people say, "What if you knew they weren't going back into a good situation?" and I'll admit this is my only real qualm today. The aunt seems wonderful, and I'm sure she'll be treated well, but I was definitely surprised and distressed at the car seat situation she had going on. I wish we'd taken action to make it safer, but we didn't want to seem pushy or condescending. I did call the social worker later and ask her to check that out when she visited.

We miss our little sweetie. Kate understands that Faith went to stay with her aunt, so while the girls didn't get to say goodbye, they rolled with it just fine. A few things I'll remember about Faith's time with us:

  • cuddling with her before bedtime and naps (it was a nice change to cuddle with someone who wasn't maneuvering to get to my breast!)
  • learning how to care for African American hair. After the one time I washed it, I let it go natural for a couple days, which was really cute, I think. (Also related to hair: she had the longest, curliest eyelashes. Strangers would comment on them!)
  • her constant messing with the dishwasher latch and knob. She and Claire are both all about getting at stuff when the dishwasher is open, but fortunately Claire didn't learn from Faith how to mess with it when closed!
  • Matt and I wrangling three kids on a Saturday outing to the Opryland Hotel for lunch and exploring. I've heard that the jump from two kids to three kids is huge because you are outnumbered, and that was definitely true, so we felt pretty cool to get through it without spilling drinks all over the table or losing a child in the indoor jungles! 
  • how sweet all three girls were together. They would spontaneously hug one another, and Claire and Faith would reach out to one another when in their high chairs, side-by-side. They all love to randomly take off their shoes; at one point I think they were all running around the house with just one shoe on!
I can't share identifiable photos of her, of course, but here are two glimpses of our antics this past week:
The dishwasher playground!
Valentine's Day, playing with balloons and other loot.
I hugged my forever kids tighter tonight, and said a prayer for sweet Faith, that her future will be bright. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Part of the Village

As I excitedly shared in a brief post on Monday, we got our first foster care placement on Monday! CPS called around 1:00 pm, asking us to take a little 19-month-old girl. We accepted, and I immediately went into nesting mode, sweeping and vacuuming and getting the eat seat and box of 18-24 month clothes out of the attic. I had to get a little more work done that afternoon, but it was very hard to stay in my seat. I was a ball of nervous energy and kept thinking of things I should do before she arrived.

They finally brought her over around 5:00, while Matt was gone to get the girls from school. He told Kate on the way home that our first "guest kid" would be there when they got home, and her immediate response was, "I'm going to share my toys with her!" When they came in the door, Matt knelt down and the little girl came over and hugged Kate, then him. Claire wasn't so sure, sensing a usurper in this little darling who is about her size.

Indeed, our little guest—who I'll call "Faith" here, I suppose (pseudonyms appear to be the standard in foster family blogs, since privacy and confidentiality are important)—got quite attached to me right away, so Claire gets uneasy if my lap is occupied by another baby. Claire found she has the trump card, of course, just leaning back to nurse, which generally forces Faith off my lap.

The house soon got even fuller, as my parents were stopping over that night on their way back from Mardi Gras, but it was fun they could meet her right away. So Faith slept in the pack-n-play in our room that first night, since my parents were in the guest room. We found that she hates to go to sleep, but once asleep, is a great sleeper! She took a three hour nap on Tuesday, and sleeps till after 7 or even 8 in the morning.

We're having a lot of fun in our house full of girls. Kate has enjoyed being big sister to two little ones, and Faith and Claire are now little partners-in-crime, running around and playing together, bonking each other with balloons, eating their body weight in Cheerios and raisins, and taking all the letter magnets off the fridge and throwing them on the floor. Faith loves the cat even more than Claire does, trying to pick her up and hug her, Elmyra-style. Her favorite activity of all, it seems, is messing with the latch and knob on the dishwasher.

It's been harder to get work done, of course, working around her (thankfully long) naps, court time, conversations with social workers, etc. It's interesting to learn how everything works and meet all the many people involved in helping this little girl and her family have a better future. At court yesterday, we met family members, social workers in various roles, and lawyers of all types. I was nervous about meeting Faith's mom, worried she would be resentful of us, taking out her hurt and sorrow over losing her daughter on us, but she was very gracious and appreciative. We made her a valentine card with Faith's handprint on it, and she seemed to cherish it. She told Faith how much she loved her. It was definitely difficult when Faith reached for me many times, rather than her mom. Matt and I just can't imagine the pain of having one's child taken to live with strangers, or the hurt of seeing one's child get so attached to someone else. We really hope and pray she will do whatever needs to be done to reunite with her daughter safely.

We go to court again on Tuesday to see if they're going to let a family member take her. If she's going to be with us for a while, I'll get her into day care and make that part of our family routine, and if she leaves us on Tuesday, I'll just be glad to have known her and gotten to play a part in the village that is raising this child.

It's a shame that so many people only get involved when there is trouble. The "normal" and "healthy" families in our society seem to be so self-sufficient, but we all need support systems. Hopefully not social workers and lawyers, but friends and family. At church on Wednesday night, people held Faith and/or Claire while I got our dinner, went to the bathroom, etc., and I was reminded yet again of the beauty that happens when people come together to help one another and, especially, to nurture the children in our midst. I usually feel a twinge of guilt when someone needs to help me wrangle our kids and their gear, and even more so now that the little ones outnumber Matt and I. A mean voice in my head thinks, "why are you parenting these kids if you can't do it all yourself?" But we're not meant to do it all ourselves. We all need the village.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WMW: Productive Pumping at Work

Did you know that offices of 50 or more are required to provide a private, non-bathroom space for lactating mothers?

I pumped for both my girls from the time I went back from maternity leave until their first birthdays, so for a total of about nineteen months or 380 workdays, I pumped at work. I'd estimate that's upwards of 850 pumping sessions. At 20 minutes per session, that's about 7 1/2 workweeks'-worth of time spent in the pumping room. If I hadn't learned how to be professionally productive during that time, I would have essentially stolen another maternity leave, spread out over two years!

And, if I hadn't learned how to be lactationally productive during that time, I would have been wasting everybody's time and a lot of trouble.

So here are some tips (some I learned personally, some from friends) about being all-around productive while pumping at work.

3 Tips for Being Professionally Productive
  1. Find a good space. If you work alone or have an office with a door on it, you're in luck. You just need to find some desk space with room for your pump in addition to your work, that is close to an outlet. If you have to use a conference room or designated pumping room, you might not have access to a computer, but if there's space to work, you can find other tasks to do while pumping (see item 2). This was the case for me, but both times I had a comfortable space with plenty of table room for my pump, supplies, and work.
  2. Save certain tasks for pumping time. With our dependence on computers these days, there are fewer and fewer work tasks that can be done without them. The iPad helped a little this second time around, but I still needed to plan and save tasks that didn't require my big machine for pumping time. For me, this was things like proofing hard copies of books and magazines, doing research in hard-copy books, brainstorming (I prefer pen and paper for that), or doing small tasks on the iPad. If you're about to do something in your office that doesn't require the computer, stop and set it with your pump so you can take it and do it then.
  3. Go hands-free. Hopefully you've at least figured out how to hold both breast shields with one arm/hand, so you have one hand free while pumping, but if you can have both hands free, you can work that much easier! One friend of mine really recommends a hands-free pumping bra, like a bandeau or bustier with holes in it that you can put on to hold up the shields for you. This second time around, I just left my nursing bra clipped, and the cups held them up for me, but depending on your bra, you might need a special thing for it.
3 Tips for Being Lactationally Productive
  1. Ensure your privacy. Stress is a big milk-buster, so if you're nervous about someone walking in, or otherwise feeling too exposed, it's going to hurt your milk production. If you have a room with a lock on it, use it (duh), but if you don't, make a sign to hang up each time. I've seen cute doorhangers, though I felt safer with something at eye level. I made a sign that said "Privacy Please. Do Not Enter," and had it laminated so it would last. I kept it and a roll of tape in my pumping bag so I could post it every time and it wouldn't get torn up.
  2. Time it right. Keep track of when you pump and how much you make for the first week or so you are back at work. What patterns do you see? Generally, the more often you pump, and the longer the session, the more you will make, but work doesn't always make that easy. I at first wanted to do three sessions for Claire like I did for Kate, but the room this time was so far from my office, I reduced it to two pretty quickly, and had to pump morning and night as well at home, just to get enough for her daily needs. (Four pumping sessions to make the three bottles we sent to school.)
  3. Prepare during maternity leave. With Kate, I was already prepared because she didn't nurse and I started pumping for her from the very first week. By the time I went back to work, it was old hat and I had both a great milk supply and a good frozen stash built up as back up. This was one downside of Claire being such a great nurser. I only pumped a few times over maternity leave, so my body hadn't adjusted to it and was dependent on Claire's 1-2 hour schedule. And I had little to no frozen stash to fall back on. It was day-to-day for the first month or so, sending to school every bit of milk I'd pumped the day before, and my frozen stash was always pretty small. So work ahead to build up a frozen stash to take some of the pressure off those first few weeks back at work.
I hope this is helpful to new working moms. Seasoned moms, what tips can you add that made pumping at work go more smoothly?

Monday, February 11, 2013

We Got a Call!!

Just got a call from Child Services, and it looks like we'll be getting our first placement this afternoon. Pray for us and this sweet child.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Salon Sistahs

Both my girls paid a visit to the salon this evening. Claire, as I mentioned in her 15 month milestones, was much in need of her first haircut, and since tonight was the Valentine's daddy-daughter dance at the Williamson County Rec Center, I thought Kate would enjoy a fancy hairdo as well.

We go to a fun kids' salon called Divas and Dudes, where even ordinary haircuts are accompanied by a special braid, glittery hairspray, and a lollipop, so of course they make a big deal of first haircuts. As we crossed the parking lot and I pointed out the sign, Kate and I had the following conversation:

Kate: "Am I a diva or a dude?"
Me: "You're a dude."
Kate: "What's a dude?"
Me: "A really cool person."
Kate: "Oh!"

I'm glad she didn't ask me what a diva was, since I'm not sure what I would say. I have a complicated relationship with the sparkly pinkification of girlhood these days. (The aforementioned dance was actually called the "Daddy's Lil' Princess Ball," I believe, a fact we made little of.) It's complicated because I enjoy the hairbows and tea parties and other girly stuff (I desperately wanted daughters, after all!) but I don't like this commercialized obsession with princesses and miniature pop stars and pink everything.

Back to the point, though... Kate had a lovely time at our family salon appointment.
Claire. Did. Not.

She's been even more attached than usual lately, and seemed to be having some teething discomfort today. I rarely use the term "hot mess," but that was kind of Claire today. She wanted to comfort-nurse practically every half hour, and had a screaming, snotty fit if I did not oblige immediately.

So as soon as she realized this haircutting procedure could not be done while attached to Mommy, she wanted no part of it. (In retrospect, I should have suggested holding her on my lap while getting the cut, but I didn't think of that. Kate had zero trouble at her own first haircut, so I was really not expecting this. Though I should have, knowing them both.) Matt likes to tell the story of how he wailed so uncontrollably during his first haircut, his mom went into labor, and that's how his brother got here.

Claire was fine once back in my arms, of course, and she got her little tiara and special "first haircut" certificate with lock of hair. Her lock of hair looks as dark as mine, though I generally think of her hair as a bit more like golden-straw. Our family of brunettes gets progressively lighter, the younger we go.

And then there's Kate, who through all the trauma her sister was experiencing in the chair opposite her was quiet and compliant as the hairdresser gave her french braids on the sides, joining in a bun in the back.

With her cute little hairdo, I thought she looked a little like Marta or Gretl from The Sound of Music.

So as to avoid Kate falling asleep in the car during an afternoon car ride (and thus, messing up the hair) we decided to make our salon trip right before the dance. So Daddy in his lavender shirt and purple tie, and Kate in her raspberry dress and raspberry tights, headed off to the dance and Claire and I headed home for... more compulsive nursing.

Matt is such a great dad, and I love how he loves his girls and cherishes time with them. I remember sitting in the pediatrician's office with him when Kate was just a teeny infant, and I saw an ad for a daddy-daughter tea party or some such thing in a local magazine in the waiting room. I pointed it out to him, not sure if he would be into something like that or not. "Oh, hell yeah," he said. He couldn't wait to do stuff like that with his sweet daughter, and that baby—now such a big girl, it seems—absolutely has him wrapped around her little finger. Both these girls are so lucky to have such a devoted daddy.

Oh, and by the way, all the girls at the dance got a little tiara, so this post might also be called, "How an Anti-Princess Mom Allowed Both Daughters to Get Tiaras in One Evening."
via Matt's Facebook, at the dance

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

WMW: Flexible Jobs

As I realized while writing last week's WMW post about taking flextime, etc., when one's child is home sick, many jobs just don't allow the flexibility that office jobs sometimes do. My teacher friends came to mind, not just in regard to the sick child situation, but many aspects of working motherhood. It feels sad and ironic that those women who are so devoted to caring for other people's children might be at a disadvantage when it comes to balancing work and the care of their own children.

Teachers often don't have a paid maternity leave, and so have to try to plan for May/June births to allow a summertime postpartum period. Teachers can't easily take two or three breaks from the classroom each day to pump their breastmilk, and so might abandon breastfeeding when they'd prefer to keep nursing.

Teachers who commented on last week's post and via Facebook confirmed the general inflexibility of teaching. Pastors, on the other hand, and working moms with pastor-husbands, confirmed the flexibility pastors tend to enjoy. There aren't too many perks to a job that requires you to work a lot of evenings and weekends (something pastors have in common with waiters and bartenders, I imagine) but weekday flexibility to care for sick kids and get other personal/family business taken care of is a big one. Until just recently, it was almost always Matt who handled the calls to rescue a sick kid from school, staying home for the repairman to come, running packages to UPS, etc.

I remember when I started my first full-time job, working 8-to-4:15 Monday through Friday. It was a definite adjustment from being in grad school, where my day was a varied combination of classes, part time job, studying at Starbucks, running to Target or the grocery... Suddenly, I was confined to one place for the bulk of the day. I was in an area of the building with no windows, so in winter (when, in Nashville, it gets dark at 4:30) I really felt like I barely saw daylight. If I ran an errand during my lunch break, I remember getting mad at all the traffic, thinking, "Why don't these people have to be at work right now too?!" 

At the time, my awareness of people not working 9-to-5 was probably limited to the aforementioned waiters and bartenders, third-shift factory workers, and ER docs. But obviously, the work world is a lot more diverse than that, and getting more so. I remember a stat my high school geometry teacher used to cite: that 75% (or whatever large percent) of the jobs you'll be competing for don't even exist yet. (Who could have imagined a position called "Social Media Manager" or some such in 1995?) Technology has created many career paths we couldn't have imagined, but also changed the face of many other career fields, allowing many people to work from wherever, whenever.

There is such a diversity from the 9-to-5 concept, but there are trade-offs no matter what kind of position you pursue. Teachers get summers off (to some extent), but seem to have very little freedom over their own schedules and things when school is in session. A friend of mine recently transitioned from a demanding but relatively flexible job to starting an in-home day care, keeping two or three children in addition to her own during the day. She has the pleasure of being home with her kids, which she wanted, but I imagine there is much less flexibility than being a SAHM who is not also in charge of other people's children during the day.

For me, I traded greater security for flexibility, and so far, it's working out pretty well.

What are some of the trade-offs of your job? Where do you rank flexibility in comparison to income, satisfaction, advancement potential, etc?

Friday, February 01, 2013

Kate at 4, and Claire at 15 Months

Two big milestone reports at once, as Kate turns a new year and Claire hits a new segment of toddlerhood...

Kate, of course, turned 4 on Monday, and really has been seeming older. Maybe since she's been sick all week, she hasn't had energy for 3-year-old style tantrums! She grew a few inches this fall, to 41 inches, so her 3T pants were highwaters. Some fun facts about Kate:

  • She wants to wear her leotard all the time at home. She has two and especially loves "the one with the hole in the back" (a circle cutout). I call her my "slippery fish" when she's all spandexed out. 
  • She loves to play games, and we have recently discovered "cooperative games" from Peaceable Kingdom (oh, how that name fills our liberal hearts with joy!) They are so fun because you work together to achieve the goal, rather than each player for him- or herself.
  • She is an interesting combo on the PK-stereotype-spectrum. She can certainly be naughty (even went through a phase of saying a certain four-letter word occasionally!) but also has such a sweet, Christlike heart. She's told me lately how she "loves everyone," not just our family and friends but everyone on earth. The one exception she noted to that was Maleficent, the villain of Sleeping Beauty, because she becomes a dragon. We talked some about loving our enemies.
  • She's more into the "princess" thing than Matt or I would like, but I take heart that she doesn't really even know their names. She got both Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty dolls for her birthday (from school friends--family seem to know we're not into that) and she refers to them as "the blue one" and "the pink one." 
  • She's more or less over Elmo and the Sesame Street gang, and has moved on to Dora. Again, I'm not so into the "character" thing, but compared to princesses, Dora is pretty tolerable. Even the tween-Dora that marketers have developed lately is pretty wholesome, when I stop and think, "Yes, at age 12 or 13, this would be the sort of girl I'd love for her to be." 
  • She has learned some Spanish from Dora and other sources, and some French from Fancy Nancy and another book we have. She can say "un, deux, trois," and a few other words in French, and tries to remember Spanish words she's heard by asking me "How does Jose say ______?" Jose who, you ask? Why, it's No-Way-Jose, of whom she learned at school or someone else who likes to say, "No way, Jose."
  • She loves ice cream and often asks for a Daddy-Daughter-Date at Sweet CeCe's (fro-yo) or McDonald's on the way home from school. Sometimes we eat at Applebee's on gymnastics nights (kids eat free on Tuesdays!) and so she's very fond of them. (Next Tuesday, IHOP is offering a free short stack, so we may go there before gymnastics!)
  • She loves reading Fancy Nancy books, and learning big ("fancy") words from them. She gets four "things" at bedtime (if she doesn't lose a few for disciplinary reasons throughout the day), and while board games are often a few of the four, Fancy Nancy is often the book of choice, at bedtime or earlier in the day.
  • She knows how to write almost all of her letters (still needs help with Ss, Zs, and a couple others) and loves to spell and write all our names, plus her grandparents and classmates.
  • Very new fun fact: when she makes up pretend names (such as, for students in her new schoolhouse playset that she got for her birthday) they sound very Scandinavian: "Inga," "Amba," "Sida," "Poobah," "Buddha," etc. "Alla" has been her imaginary friend for a few weeks now. 
Accessorizing, Fancy Nancy-style, with friend Natalie.

Making a pine cone bird feeder, in her leotard, of course.

At gymnastics one night, stork-stand on the beam.

Claire is 15 months today. She wears a size 3 diaper, size 12-18 mos clothes, and a size 4 shoe. Here are a few of Claire's favorite things:
  • She loves to eat. I say this every time. She's still living up to her "hungry, hungry hippo" nickname. She still nurses during the night (1-2 times) and sometimes in the evening as a pre-dinner appetizer. She especially loves bananas, tomatoes, and lots of other things. There's not much she won't eat. 
  • She also likes to "eat" crayons, so we have to watch her with those. She also likes to stick them (and other stuff) in her ears. We'll have to watch this one. With Kate, we were more worried about her leaping off something and busting her head open. Claire's more subtle. 
  • She loves to close doors. My mom says she needs to follow my dad around to close cabinets and closet doors after him. I enjoy this perk too, except when she closes herself into a place (like my dark closet while I'm in the shower!) and can't get herself out. 
  • She nods yes to just about everything (so agreeable!) and says "Whoa!" to anything interesting. 
  • Her clearest word is "Daddy," but she also says "ball," "kitty," "Kate," "eye," and "cheese!" (not the food, but the smile-for-the-camera). She's getting better with "Mama," but usually it's part of an indecipherable wail for my assistance. Speaking of which...
  • She still wants to nurse a lot, which I'm theoretically fine with, but I'm starting to think it's less about the milk and more about the sucking, which means even weaning might not break her addiction to "the human pacifier," as we call me. We've even tried to give her a regular pacifier, and she won't have it. She goes for the boob when she's distressed about anything, the same way Kate would grab for her paci to calm herself down. 
  • She does fine at school or with other people if I'm not around, but when she realizes I'm in the vicinity, suddenly only I will do, and she cries "the ugly cry" if I can't take her right then. She clings to my legs while I'm making dinner, follows me to the bathroom, etc. 
  • She is due for her first haircut. Her hair is very straight, so it just sticks out all over if not just-washed and carefully combed down. So for school, we generally do two pigtails to keep it tamed. We have an appointment for her first trim tomorrow. No more Rod Stewart hair. Or Dudley Moore--I don't actually remember Dudley Moore with this haircut, but it definitely reminds me of when Monica tells Phoebe,"I said Demi Moore, not Dudley Moore!" 
  • She has the best laugh. It's like this wicked cackle, straight from the gut with a big toothy smile. The other night, she was a complete live wire at bedtime, not even wanting to nurse, just rolling off my lap and running across the room, flapping her arms up and down, laughing maniacally! And with her crazy hair, she looked like a mad scientist! 
Hungry Hippo, covered in spaghetti sauce.

Charging toward the camera when I try to take a picture.

Little piggy-tails. I love them so much!

I love my sweet girls, each so precious in her own way!


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