Monday, October 08, 2012


One night Desmond wanted me to read the Spanish translations of the rules of Candyland to him.  I don't know how we got to that place late in the evening.  I don't know why I agreed, but there I was at the end of a long day, stumbling over Spanish pronunciations.  I don't know Spanish and it was really exhausting.  It gave me great sympathy for how tiring it must be to learn to read.

Pouring over a children's dictionary given to him
by a neighbor.  The kid loves words.

Thursday, October 04, 2012


Walking out the door,
DK: You hit me once, I'll hit you back.
Me: (startled as to where this came from and with a serious voice) That isn't a kind thing to say.
Des: But it's just a song.
Me: No song I've heard of.
Des: Yes you have. It's a Florence and the Machine song.

*crickets*   He was right.

And thus began our censorship a few months ago.  Goodbye Mumford & Son's, "Little Lion Man."  Goodbye Natasha Bedingfield's, "Weightless."  A happy goodbye to Lady Gaga', "Bad Romance."

There's a lot of beauty and truth in music with less-than-innocent themes and language.  Someday I'm sure Desmond will have the maturity and wisdom to enjoy them with us.  Until then, I've begun a game of whack-a-mole in musical censorship.

As an aside, as a kid I used to love "Like a Prayer"  because they were singing about prayer on the radio.  I also thought that "Material Girl" was about a girl who loved sewing projects.  So maybe his own innocence will do the censoring for me.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Aunts

The kids had a lot of fun with their aunts this summer.   You can see who consumes most of the physical activity in the house.

Charlotte got lots of snuggles.

This cheapy beach ball gets more playing time than most of his toys.

Racing on the Wii at Grandma's house.
Charlotte's first dress shoes - snakeskin from Sudan.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Raising children is terrifying. They are so needy. And there never seems to be enough energy, wisdom or patience in me to meet those needs.   Sometimes I wonder who let us do this!?!?

Terrified, but still having fun.
To cope with these feelings, I try to do things like walk in nature and take more deep breaths during the day.  I remind myself that parenting is about the cumulative effect, not a specific instance. I try to focus on my children's lovely smiles and enjoy an extra snuggle.  I remember my own parents' successes and shortcomings and see that I turned out OK.  (Whatever "turned out OK" means!)  And I wake up and start another day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Negotiator

Desmond has avoided the "gimmes" for a long time.  I guess marketing or human nature or something has finally taken hold, because in stores he asks us to buy things more now.  Recently, it was the Hot Wheels Bubble-matic car wash .  We barely made it out of the store without a complete meltdown....but it was very close.

While I didn't like trying coax him away from this toy, I did enjoy his reasons for why we should buy it.  None of these are rocket science, but it's interesting to see his negotiation skill develop.

Reasons to buy the Hot Wheels Carwash-o-matic RIGHT NOW
- We can buy it now and wait to give it to me on my birthday
- What if someone comes and buys it
- What if it's not on sale anymore
- What if you can't find it somewhere else

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Four Years Old

Desmond turned four last weekend.  Despite not being able to have two friends over to play Wii because of our family's shared stomach flu, he still had a special day.  Peter was well enough to take Desmond on a Metro ride.  They even rode the green line, the only color line Desmond had not yet ridden.

I love this photo.  As many wonderful smiles as Desmond gives us, he has just as many contemplative moments.  He has learned so much about life in four years.  He has taught me and Peter even more.  We are so grateful for our little boy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Garden

I took to the garden again this year.  We invested heavily in cucumbers and tomatoes.  I won't give you the blow by blow, but overall it was a great year.  41 pints of cucumbers, over a dozen quarts of pasta sauce, over a dozen pounds of frozen tomatoes.  No pesto this year, nor sun-dried tomatoes though.  Better planning next year.

Anyway, I am gratful I was able to see something through to its end.  I can start strong, but am slow to finish a project.  It's always gratifying when I can say I didn't let the garden be totally consumed by weeds.

Filling the cooler with cucs to make pickles.

Tomatoes and Desmond. 
I sometimes question whether or not the garden is worth the time, energy and money we invest. I'm still putting stock in the fact that it will be good for the kids to see how (some) food is grown - even if Desmond only seems interested in watering.  (Seriously -how is he not interested in picking?!?!)

Despite the bumper crop, the crowning moment was when my city-boy husband looked at our counters filled with produce and said, "Wow, I've never had so much respect for photosynthesis."  Booyah.

This is ONE cherry tomato plant. It grew even bigger throughout the summer.
I wanted Des to be able to pick and  eat something right in the back yard.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Keeping Charlotte Alive

I know this isn't a news flash, but it's much harder to contain the baby dangers after your first child.  At this point, I think I'll consider it a success if we just keep Charlotte alive until her second birthday.

Her bloody noses (from falling when crawling) are the least of my worries.  Desmond proudly told me he was protecting Charlotte on the stairs.  When he found her on the third stair, he put his legs in front of her and tried to push her down the stairs (he then used a rolling head-over-heels gesture) so she would be "safe" at the bottom.  At least he has good intentions?

Then there was the beaded necklace she broke. Not just any beaded necklace, a magnetic beaded necklace.  Yeah, magnetic. You know magnets, the kind of things that could kink your intestines if swallowed.  Thankfully she didn't actually swallow any of the beads.

Yes, I've become that mom who takes photos of her bleeding baby before cleaning her up.

So if someone falls and Desmond runs to them saying, "Oh God, oh God" when someone falls, you know who he's been listening to.  :-(

Thankfully she doesn't seem to be worse for the wear so far.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

It's Chinese

Since I picked up some hot and sour soup for lunch (yum!) one day, Desmond has been obsessed with things being written in Chinese.  It's interesting because I didn't make any observations in the restaurant that Chinese writing is different than English writing.  He noticed it on his own.

Since then anytime Desmond wants to justify doing something his own way instead of the traditional way, he comments, "Oh, it's in Chinese."   Practicing letters and he gets tired of doing it correctly - his are in Chinese.  Drawing a square Easter egg?  It's a Chinese Easter egg.  Typing nonsense words on the computer?  They are in Chinese.

Not related, but apparently styling your own hair requires
a massive amount of Brylcreem.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

An Earful

January and February of this year gave Peter and me a run for our money in the parenting department.  Desmond stopped napping for a while and his behavior reflected the loss.  I'm sure there were a lot of other factors at play (a new sister, being three years old, etc.).  It felt like every turn in the day I was battling with him.  It sounds bad.  Battling with your child?  But it really did feel like a constant test to see who would be dominant that day.  It's no fun to be "the heavy" as my dad would say.  But after a couple of months I feel like we won enough battles to convince Desmond that he really did need to obey us.

Fast forward a few more months.  Our newest parenting challenge is really fun and tough.  Desmond is brash and confident that he has the world figured out.  You've heard of 13 going on 30?  Try 3 going on 30.  If we make a decision he doesn't like, more often than not, instead of throwing a tantrum he will try to endlessly argue his position to convince us we are wrong and he is right.

His confidence and persistence are amazing.  His ability to reason through his position make me proud. At some point though, it becomes disrespectful and argumentative.  It's a delicate balance to encourage independent thinking and yet teach discernment as to when obedience and deference to parental authority is required.

Watching Desmond chafe under taking orders from us - especially when he has to submit and do something he doesn't want to do - is like looking into a mirror.  I see how badly I behave in my clever adult ways when I don't get what I want.  How I get angry and sulky when the world doesn't operate on my terms.  It's quite sobering.  My explanations to Desmond about not always getting what we want are also pep talks for myself.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

American History Museum

During Aunt Katie's visit we went to the American History Museum.  Currently there is an exhibit on the history of transportation.  They have an actual 'L' train from Chicago on display.  You can "ride" in it. (It's pretty slick the way they make you feel like you're actually moving.)

Later at home Desmond realized his elephant Elle and the 'L' share a name.  So a couple of weeks later we went back so Elle could ride The L.

We also discovered that same exhibit has a train named "Charlotte" on display.  Funny coincidence.

As an aside, the restored flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner is now on display as well.  I found it to be incredibly moving - similar to viewing the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives.  I highly recommend seeing it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Great Dad

These kids have a great dad.  Wouldn't these have been nice photos on Fathers' Day?  :-)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Charlotte Crawls

Classic tupperware shot.
In July Charlotte started crawling in earnest.  None of this army-style stuff for her. She rocked on all fours for a couple of weeks then started outright crawling.

I wondered if these milestones would be less moving the second time around.  They aren't.  It's really wonderful to watch your child work so hard to accomplish something.  The determination, perseverance, satisfaction they experience makes my heart sing.

Needless to say, she's into everything.  I'm trying hard to just keep her alive....more on that later.

Catch me if you can!

How did she wedge herself in there?

Maybe Desmond will drop some food for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Human Body

Last month, Des was been fascinated with the human body.  Beneficiaries of my newly retired mother cleaning out her school supplies, we have models of the human body, posters, books, etc.  It's been fun.

Here are some of the resulting discussions:

- (After an encounter with a stomach bug) "Boy Mom, my sphincter is going crazy!"

- "Oh I can't eat anymore, my liver won't let the preservatives through."

- "Are you sure girls don't pee out of their anuses?"

- "I can't eat that.  My esophogus won't let it through."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

To Know and Be Known

I used to slightly resent the fact that my parents assumed they knew me so well.  My reasoning went, how could they "know" me when I was a mystery to myself half the time?

It's true humans are mysterious beings.  But I'm devloping a new appreciation for how intimately a parent knows his or her child.  Desmond can choose to share himself with guests or extended family - sweet or naughty, repetitive or clever - but none of them will see the full scope of his personality like Peter and I do. They won't see the full picture of his life that makes a one sentence comment deeply meaningful and insightful into his life.

It's a great responsibility and privledge to hold such an intimate view into a person.  May we weild it well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Charlotte Eats

In early May we started feeding Charlotte solid foods. I've taken an approach loosely based on baby led weaning.  Basically you are encouraged to give your child food the rest of the family eats and let the baby feed himself/herself.  The idea is that your child will be able to physically feed herself what is age appropriate and better handle a wider variety of foods later.

I'm not as hard-core as they promote.  I feed Charlotte things with a spoon myself (yogurt, soup, etc.)  But I've only made one or two batches of purees for her.  It really has been much easier on me.  I think Charlotte might have less variety than Desmond did as a baby, but she definitely handles chunkier food better than he did.

I wanted to try baby led weaning for two reasons.  First, it just seemed like less work.  :-)  Second, we wanted to try and avoid some of Desmond's eating struggles.  Desmond was a fabulous eater as a baby.  I made all sorts of flavored purees for him with a wide ranges of foods nad spices.  At 14 months he became very rigid in what he would eat.  His list of "yes" foods was healthy, but he never ventured off the list.  While he's slowly becoming more flexible, it's still a struggle for him.

For those of you interested in the details, we started her off with soft foods like avocado and soft banana.  Gradually added foods like heavily steamed broccoli, tomatoes, fish, scrambled eggs, etc.  Before she had many teeth I would give her a stick of bell pepper or cucumber to gnaw on.  Once more teeth came in, she could bite off chunks that she couldn't chew, which was a problem.  Overall, I am amazed at how her gag reflex kicks in and keeps her from choking.  I was *so nervous* about Desmond choking as a baby.  It turns out, babies are pretty good at not choking.

While Charlotte eats almost anything we give her now, I'm sure that will change as she becomes a toddler.  So while I'm hopeful, I'm not counting on anything being easy!
Be warned, baby led weaning is really, really messy.
Thankfully there's usually a sink nearby afterwards!

Friday, August 10, 2012


We've had some fun forts in the past few months, but most of them were parent designed. Finally, Desmond is owning fort construction.  His first fort was also his first foray into the world of exclusive play.  He told us people with long legs were not allowed.  Hence we could not come in his fort.

No long legs allowed

Since then, he's learned he can make almost anything a fort or a nest.  For the particularly "cushy" forts, he likes to play in them naked because, "The cushions feel sooooo good on my body!"
A nest with pillows from all the bedrooms, books from his room and all clothes
 from his dresser.  Naked, of course.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Having a baby to care for slows down my whole world.  You can't rush a baby to eat faster.  Diapers must be changed.  Naps must be taken.  Sleep deprivation sometimes makes the minutes stand still.

I love efficiency and sometimes the slower pace of life is infuriating.  As I sit and nurse Charlotte I make lists of all the things I will do once I can move around again.  I did the same thing when Desmond was a baby.  However, sometimes I'm able to be in the moment.  To notice how the sunlight shines through the window at that particular time of day.  To listen carefully to the birds' songs and hear their variety.  To marvel at an inch worm slowly making its way across a leaf.  Efficiency isn't bad but to miss out on the sacred parts of everyday life robs me of the wonder of being alive.

I'm so grateful for my babies.  I'm grateful for the imposition of inefficiency they bring into my life.  It's good for my soul.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Love Without Reason

A friend recently asked me what I like most about Charlotte. I didn't have a great answer off the cuff. After thinking about it for a while there are two things.  First, I love the person she will somehow become. All the potential and future days that (hopefully) lay ahead of her.  Second, I cherish the love I have for her even though she gives me no reason to love her.  (OK, her cute smiles are starting to be a decent reason.)  It's amazing to me how much you can love a baby just because he or she is yours.  There's nothing else in my life that brings out that kind of selfless, reasonless love in me.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Sparkle Stories

I've found an audio story site for children that I love so much I just have to share.  On our recent trip to North Carolina to visit family (more about that soon), I decided to try out a subscription to Sparkle Stories.   It's a site that has several different story lines for various ages.  They publish one 20 minute episode a week for each story line.

Desmond loved them.  During the trip he begged to listen to more Sparkle Stories.  It made the 25+ hours of driving much more manageable.  His favorites are the Martin and Sylvia stories.  The stories are simple, beautiful, well told and subtly instructive. Even I enjoy listening.

If you'd like to try it out, they've shared a coupon code so it only costs $1 for over 12 hours of fantastic story tellings. You just log in each week and download the mp3 files and can cancel your subscription anytime. Use the info below:

The magic code: SPARKLEFRIENDS
The magic page:

I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Buzz Cut

Mid-March Peter gave Desmond a buzz cut that matches his own. Now everyone in the family has been shaved at one point or another except Charlotte.

I thought Desmond might be disturbed at having all his hair cut off. Definitely not so. The first thing he did was to run his hand over his head. His eyes lit up as he squealed, "My head feels just like Daddy's!" Then he raced over to Peter to rub heads together. The rest of the evening we'd find him in front of the mirror mumuring with approval, "Oh yeah, I like my buzz cut." He was so concerned that bathtime would "wash away his good looking hair cut."

Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Charlotte's first tooth broke through at four months! Desmond was an earlier teether, so I shouldn't be surprised. Its arrival coincided with a cold, so who knows how much of her fussiness is due to teething versus being sick.

I guess I can't let my guard down and doze off during those nighttime feedings anymore.

This one really has nothing to do with teething. I just love the look on Desmond's face.

Monday, April 02, 2012


These first months, my mom's visits have been invaluable. It's been difficult to transition to two children mostly because Desmond has fully embraced being three years old. It's been all out war at times; him constantly testing boundaries while we try to be consistent and firm despite our exhaustion. It's a fine line between shaping a child's will without breaking his spirit. Desmond has such a beautiful spirit. We've learned he has a much stronger will than we realized.

So when my mom comes, it has been nice to have ample attention to give each child and extra energy to invest in consistently disciplining Desmond. Consistency has never really been my strong point. If I survive parenthood, hopefully I will have grown in that area.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Puzzle Expert

During the last quarter of 2011 Desmond's main interests centered around building things. He built with Legos, with wooden block, with his Georello (thanks Janna!), with about anything he could get his hands on.

We've now moved on to puzzles. Desmond excels at geography puzzles. He has several versions of United States puzzles. Recently a neighbor has begun loaning us puzzles of the continents. It has been a ton of fun doing these with him. I'm re-learning a lot of geography (geography Sporcle, here I come!). It also gives us a natural platform to discuss other countries. It's humbling for me. "No Mom, Montenegro touches the Adriatic Sea, not the Aegean Sea!"

He hasn't learned modesty. (Perhaps it's because he doesn't know the bad form of pride yet?) You'll hear him say, "Oh I don't need help. I'm a puzzle expert. I'm really good at puzzles." I have to admit, he's right most of the time.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Once upon a time, long long ago before I had a preschooler, I couldn't understand why parents would get complain about their child asking "why" a lot. I mean, "why" is one of the best questions out there!

I'm really enjoying all of Desmond's "why" questions, but they do get exhausting. For instance at the end of a long day, our conversation ranged across questions like:

- Are people in Afghanistan nice?
- Why do we buy our yogurt? (Grandma makes hers)
- Why would people loan other people their stuff?

At this last question, worn out, I muttered, "I don't know." Desmond stopped everything, glared at me and said, "Mom you DO know. You know everything. Please don't say 'I don't know.' I REALLY need to know the answers."

How can that not warm your heart? I'm trying to suck it up and give thoughtful answers.

His "joking" lecture face.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Angry Bear

Apparently the bear outfit isn't very popular. Can you tell which one is Desmond and which is Charlotte?

Did the old couch probably give it away? Desmond is on top and Charlotte is on the bottom.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Third Month

Sleeping next to my birthday flowers, snuggled under Gran's blanket.

Learning to reach for things with Aunt Meg's "Ms. Whosit" (which reminds me of Wrinkle in Time).

Enjoying the mild winter. I normally love snow and cold temperatures,
but was grateful for a mild winter with a newborn

Thursday, March 22, 2012

2011 - A Year of Questions

2011 has been a year of questioning for me. There have been precious few sacred cows that haven't come under my scrutiny. It's been exhausting and scary. It's difficult to question things well. Deciphering what your true doubts are, seeking real answers, discerning when you must accept uncertainty takes emotional, spiritual and sometimes even physical energy, especially when you're questioning things that are really important to you and your worldview.

Before this year, I viewed myself as having a fairly large gray area of beliefs - at least for a Christian. By "gray area" I mean issues where there isn't a clear answer, even if I have a leaning towards a stance, I can't say for sure it's correct. This year's wandering have forced me to consider that perhaps that area of gray should be even larger. At one point, I realized I should be seeking levels of confidence, not certainty, on a lot of issues. (Spoken like a statistician, right?)

People who are supremely confident in their beliefs have irked me at times. In reality though, I'm mostly just jealous. I miss "knowing what I know." I've had to go through a bit of a grieving period in trying to let it go.

After months of wrestling, I at least know what some of my questions are. It's a little discouraging that's all the progress I've made. With a newborn in the house, I'm in survival mode and don't have the energy to deal with it. I hope this year wasn't in vain. I hope I won't abandon my quest, but will just pause for a while. I hope I'll have the courage to continue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Second Month

I think my relatives just about had a heart attack when we received this dress for Charlotte at Christmas and I exclaimed that this was her first dress. :-) While I don't think we'll have more children, if we did I would remind myself that for the first three months, I prefer to keep babies (at least winter babies) mostly in their PJ's. It's just easier. I had forgotten how stressful it is to pull little arms and legs through all those clothes!

First dress.

I love seeing the difference in head size in this one.

This is the quintessential sibling photo....he begged to hold her
while I took a picture of them, yet they both aren't crazy about the idea.

First smiles

Being the second child didn't diminish the joy of having Charlotte start to smile. Making a baby smile is one of the happiest things in the world. All of my insides just lit up with happiness to watch her begin to smile.