Monday, February 22, 2010

Because I'm a nerd

I had to go back and fix the line breaks in the "Halfway Down the Stairs" poem (observant or, more likely, obsessive readers may also notice that I at one point changed it to "Up", having mis-remembered the words, and then changed it back to "Down").

Here's a fun link to the Muppets' version of this poem set to music - very sweet!

And some random Valerie-isms - she has a new sign but I can't figure out what it means: she brushes the fingertips of one hand against her face, almost like pulling something from her nose/mouth/chin area. I'm still trying to figure that one out. It's similar to the sign for "sleep" but that's not how she's using it.

She also has invented a word, "Hmo," which Terry claims is a rude word in Albanian (but it's not actually), which I figured out means "where is it?" or, more succinctly in Spanish, "dónde?"

Another onomatopoeic word she's come up with is "Tlha," with a sort of aspirated "l", which means click or clap - the sound of two wooden or plastic objects coming together.

And, just for cuteness, here's a picture of her wearing a dress that's really for a bigger child but she pulled it out of a basket and asked me to put it on her.

I should also mention that she is sleeping much better now. Not perfectly - she still sometimes wakes for about 45 minutes during the night - but much, much better. She falls asleep between 8:30 and 9 and wakes up around 6. I've been cutting her naps short at 2 hours, even though it makes her grumpy, and I think that helps. The one time last week I let her sleep 3 hours she did the 2-hour night waking again and I decided I wouldn't do that again.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Valentine's Day

I told Terry that I wanted flowers for Valentine's Day (pretty much joking, since I don't really care and I figured he wouldn't remember or get around to it). Sunday morning he came up with this:

"But you said you wanted FLOURS!"

(just for the record, they are corn, wheat, and self-rising). So pleased with himself! It did crack me up :-)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Halfway Down the Stairs

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where I sit.

There isn't any
other stair

Quite like

I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
I always

~ A. A. Milne

The toothbrush has become a near-constant fixture in her hand or in her mouth. It's her new comfort object; she usually falls asleep clutching it in one hand. It's a bit of a challenge maintaining hygiene but it's also kind of hilarious.

Monday, February 15, 2010

21 Months

Wow, just 3 months to 2 years old!

I've been saving up some cute stories for this post. In the past month, Valerie has learned some key new words and skills.

1) "No." (Nancy Reagan would be proud.) When she first started saying "no," it was more like a game - apropos of nothing, she'd just sort of sing "no no no no no no no," only it was more like "ñoñoñoñoñoño." Now, however, she uses it appropriately and with full meaning. I actually prefer it to her previous method of communicating the same sentiment, which was to wave her hands back and forth, shake her head vigorously, and scream.

2) "House." Suddenly, everything is a house. Of course there's the doll-house, and all the pictures of houses in her books, but one day she surprised me by pointing to the space underneath the belly of a plastic toy sheep and saying "houe" (she doesn't pronounce the "s"). A few days later at a department store, she pointed to a space between several boxes of shoes and said "houe!" It's like pattern recognition on steroids!

3) Drawing. She's getting better at handling crayons, as evidenced by the marks on the walls of the dining room... and the sketchbook we've been keeping around for doodles.

Then there's just a cute story from church yesterday. I took her forward for children's time, even though she usually can't really follow the story, and prefers climbing around on the pew to sitting on the story blanket with the other kids. She was kind of sleepy, and was just sitting on my lap with her snack cup, when the pastor pulled an apple out of his bag (it was part of the story). She immediately jumped off my lap saying "Ap! Ap! Ap!" and ran around the seated kids to the steps where the pastor was sitting. She stood at his elbow signing "eat" over and over again, but unfortunately he didn't see her. Luckily at the end of the story all the kids got a few homemade apple chips to eat so that made her happy. That's really the first time she's ever gotten "involved" in story time so it felt like a bit of a milestone to me :-)

Right now she has a stuffy nose but other than waking up and crying inconsolably for about 20 minutes around midnight, she slept through the night. So we're gettin' by.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I've been meaning to write about this for awhile - over a month, actually - but finally getting around to it now. Life is so full of distractions. I wonder if I could just move into a monastery for a while? (not really)

A lot of people might think we're nuts for planning to move to another country - a country neither of us has ever been to before - just 2 months after having a new baby. Here is some of the backstory - although there is a little more to it that I won't put on a public blog, but if you want to know more you can e-mail me and I'll fill you in privately.

Back about two years ago, when we were expecting Valerie shortly, we started talking about what to do when Terry went on sabbatical. According to our calculations, I would be at the dissertation writing stage at the time when he'd be eligible. Since the writing can be done anywhere - and in my program, it seems like most grads do the writing away from the university, for family or other reasons - I told Terry that we could go wherever he wanted, we'd figure out how to make it work.

So this past fall he started scouting out options for next year. Of all the nibbles he got, the one the appealed to me the most was Albania - probably a romanticized notion of that part of the world - and the position they have for him is a really good fit both in terms of the qualifications they are looking for, his skill set and expertise, and the timing. So even though there were some other options brewing this one sounded really good.

Then we found out that there's another baby on the way... and we had to do some strong thinking and considering. There were two things that really came up for us in this conversation:
1) When we got married, we had the vision of living and working together overseas in some kind of service/development/social justice role. Ten years down the road, we haven't made that happen yet. We've taken a number of students on semester-abroad trips, and Terry has done a TON of consulting work in various parts of the world (including Mongolia!), but really LIVE somewhere? No. How much longer will we keep putting it off?
2) We want to raise our children as global people. Why not start now? What kind of clinched it for me, though, was when Terry said, "who are the people I admire most and want to be like? The ones who say 'oh yeah, we were going to do x and y, but then we had kids, so we never did'? Or the ones who backpacked across Africa with their 6-month-old?"

We did think seriously about taking an opportunity in Colombia, which is closer to my family, and where V. would be able to learn Spanish. But in the end it was going to be too much for me; in that situation, we'd be joining up as a couple and I'd have to work part-time as well as trying to write my dissertation and mother two small ones.

The week that we had to make our decision final, I was able to have a Skype-to-phone conversation with the wife of the program director in Albania and ask her a bunch of questions. They have 3 kids, and moved there when the youngest was 2 months old. She LOVES Albania, says it's a wonderful place to raise children, and answered all my logistical questions such that it all sounds doable.

So now we just have to figure out the logistics of packing up our house and getting it rented out. We're planning to be there for 2 years (actually a leave of absence for T.). It's true that there were some good reasons for postponing this move for a year, but in the balance of things, it felt like defeat to stay here. I think we'll be able to manage it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

One Week

Well, we're 8 days (and nights) into our new schedule, with mixed results. Apart from the first night, when V. went down in 15 minutes and was asleep at 7:30, she's been falling asleep mostly at 8:30 but two nights at 9:30, and one night at almost 10:00. This despite lights-out close to 7 every night. That's a LONG TIME to be lying next to her. Some nights we take shifts. We usually follow the same routine of books, lights-out, lullaby for about 15 minutes, then play possum - but she'll come over and crawl on us, head-butt us, etc. I'm not sure how effective it would be to leave her alone and let her fuss. We did that when she was in a crib, and she NEVER went to sleep without crying - sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for 30 or more, but she ALWAYS cried.

As for the night waking, she's slept through the night 3 nights out of the 7 (tonight I don't know yet what the outcome will be). And two of those nights, she did wake up a couple times but then put herself back to sleep right away, so I'm still counting them - simply because she didn't do the 2-hour waking thing that she did the other 4 nights.

So.... it's somewhat better, but not where I hoped we'd be by now. For now though we're going to keep trying with the dinner at 5 and lights-out at 7, mostly because I have no earthly idea what else to try. I guess the options are 1) put her back in the crib and let her cry it out, or 2) leave her on her little bed but move ourselves into another room. I think with option 2 we worry about her wandering around the room at night on her own.

What IS working better is the earlier mealtime. She is more focused on eating, and eats a good meal in about 45 minutes, when we start dinner close to 5. So this is working well with my having the sitter come every morning and then just caring for her myself in the afternoons.

As of tonight, we've stopped giving her a snack at bedtime, wondering if maybe she's overfull when we put her down, or having heartburn or something.

She's still fighting naps, too. It takes 40 minutes or more to get her to sleep in the afternoon even when she's obviously tired and ready for it. I don't really know what that's about. She usually falls asleep between 1:30 and 2:00 even though I put her down between 12:30 and 1:00. So that's really frustrating too.

The other struggle we're having right now is with bath time. Last Sunday, she was soooo tired from 3 weeks of poor sleep, and Terry thought he'd entertain her with the toddler shower head he bought a long time ago. It's a little dolphin, and you attach it to your own shower head but it comes down closer to toddler level and the water comes out its mouth. We'd never used it before, but it was hanging in the shower and V. always points to it and wants to play with it.

Well, it terrified her. Ever since then she has not wanted to take a bath AT ALL. We've made her bathe twice since then, just because her hair was starting to smell funky, and she fought it crying all the way. So hard. Not sure what to do about that either.

I've been feeling pretty demoralized and discouraged about the sleep issue. She's such a sensitive little thing, it's hard to know sometimes how to help her cope with life. Sometimes I think this time of year is just hard for her - it was precisely at this time last year when we first had our horrendous sleep problems - coming after the holiday travel, into a new schedule with a new babysitter. Hopefully by the end of this week we'll have some better news.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Because I'm late...

Because I missed posting on the actual date, I just put up an anniversary picture for my parents to mark their 39 years of marriage!

Sleep, Eat, Smile

So last night Valerie slept through the night for the FIRST TIME in almost THREE WEEKS. She went down fighting but was asleep by 8:30, which is an improvement on the previous night when she spent 2.5 hours jumping on the bed until 9:30, and woke up at 1:30, 4:30, and 6:00 - although she did fall asleep quickly every time. Well last night she didn't wake up AT ALL until 6:15! And was in a much better mood this morning. With our extra time until 9:00 when the sitter comes, I made this recipe:

Mumologic's Unoffensive Recipe

It smells soooo good. I don't know if V. will eat it, but we still have rice and beans hanging around and she likes that a lot. I add chopped tomato, olive oil, salt, and maybe a little meat and she really enjoys it. I'm trying to teach her to eat with a spoon (I know, recien???) but she still turns it upside down to put in her mouth. We're working on it. She prefers to spoon-feed me pretend food and let me do the shoveling for her.

Also, we got yet more snow last night... and more is predicted for the weekend... I was digging around in a box of stored baby clothes yesterday and found a bag of winter clothes I'd forgotten we had - all size 2T and pink! There may be time to use it yet!