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Drum - 18 months

My baby boy is a year and a half old (well, he will be in 3 days...I'm ahead of the game for once!), and he's been out twice as long as he was in. You guys, I love him so much. Anybody who ever worries they won't have the capacity to love a second child as much as the first, I can assure you, you will. I never worried about that, but I'm still amazed at how much I love him. And it's interesting how in most ways it's the same love I have for Mo, the love of a mother. But it's also different. I don't think because he's a boy and she's a girl, but because they are different children. I should write more about this sometime...

Drum teddy bear

Anyway, the biggest update is that Drum is talking much more! We had our initial assessment two months ago and at that time he had only just started using one word - mama - and he wasn't really imitating words yet, he wasn't signing anymore, and really only used gibberish and screaming to communicate. Last week we had our first in-home appointment with the child development specialist, and he was a different child. I almost felt guilty for having her come to the house because everything she read in the assessment was no longer true. He now has about 10 words (mama, dada, Mo, baby, yeah, no, mine, doggie, uh oh, hi), he'll try to repeat almost any one-syllable word and will often take a stab at more complex words, and he's started using a few signs again (more and all done, and he finally started using milk after a year of trying to teach him). He still gets easily agitated, but I've seen a big difference in that behavior since he's found his words a bit.

Drum horse

The other big news is that we have decided to change daycares. We have used the same in-home daycare since Mo was born, but it no longer feels like the right place for us. Mo had a good experience there for three years before going to preschool, and Drum has done fine there. I've mentioned that there is a caretaker there, Miss K, who Drum loves and who loves him. We adore her and even wish we could afford for her to be our nanny! But other than her, I've lost track of who even works there because there is so much turnover (it's an in-home daycare but the owner employs staff to provide most of the care on the other side of her duplex), and I'd be hard pressed to name more than 2-3 of the children. Communication has declined and we feel disconnected from what Drum does all day. We've wavered on whether or not to stay for about a year, but it's so much more affordable than any other place we've looked, so we just keep staying.

The tipping point, however, came when the owner questioned our approach to his behaviors. I won't go into detail so as not to badmouth someone who has done well by our kids for years, and I believe her intent was good, but it sat uncomfortably with me. She wasn't even talking about his tantrums, it was about typical 1-year old things like hitting, pulling hair, stealing toys. The child development specialist we met with affirmed that our approach is appropriate, so I don't think it's a matter of me being bull-headed about or blind to my child's imperfections. I don't think this daycare is bad for him, I just think he might do well in a different environment.

I explored several ideas - nanny shares, another in-home daycare, even staying at home or working part-time - but nothing was both financially realistic or logistically feasible. So we found a daycare center we like that isn't outrageously expensive. He'll stay where he is until mid-May, then we're going on a small vacation, and he'll start at the new place after Memorial Day. He'll be in a room with 1 to 2 year olds and a 1:8 teacher/child ratio. I hope being surrounded by his peers rather than children ranging from newborn to 5 years old will help. Plus this place has far more flexible hours, which will be helpful in the logistical nightmare our mornings and evenings sometimes are! 

As a result of the increase in cost for Drum's care, we had to make some other changes. We needed to cut other costs and increase our income a bit. So Mike is selling plasma several times a month and I'm looking for any small jobs I could do at odd hours (any ideas, please let me know!). And the bigger impact is that Mo will be staying home with me two days a week to save money on preschool. I telecommute twice a week, and it's not ideal to keep a child home while I do, but I'm fortunate that at the moment I have the ability to do so, and I think Mo will get into a routine on those days. If you have any suggestions for how to help a 4 year old keep herself busy, I'd love to hear them!

Dad and Drum 2017

OK. Enough about child care! In other Drum news, he is still a super sleeper. He rather hates the part about putting on a fresh diaper and some pajamas, but once that's done, he's happy to be laid down and falls asleep easily. It's such a gift to have two good sleepers! He's still nursing, though it's becoming a bit of a problem. He wants to nurse any time he's bored or angry or basically just near me. I was never an on-demand nurser of Mo after infanthood, but it's a different story with Bro. Maybe because he's likely my last kid and I never want to miss a chance to nurse because I know soon he won't anymore, and maybe it's because he gets pissed if I try to say no and easier to just say yes, but I find myself pulling out the boob all the time for what is usually a quick snack. And then another quick snack, and another. But I think that's something we'll work on later!

Drum mad sad cry

We recently started swim class with both kids. We've had two classes and so far Drum seems to like it. He wasn't feeling great during the second class, but he still played along with the activities until the very end. The classes are only 30 minutes and only for six weeks, but we're glad to be able to do them. Most classes are SO expensive, but these are through our city's parks and rec department and much more affordable. Mo is confident in the water if she's in her puddle jumper, but Drum has had very little exposure so want to get him familiar.

Since the weather is warming up, we've been outside a lot and thank god. We were all going a little stir crazy, and fresh air helps everyone's sanity! Bro, like his sister, loves to play outdoors. He's a little more particular about staying tidy than Mo, but still enjoys the dirt and grass. And he loves the water spigot even if he does soak himself every single time. He still adores his mama. His safe space, as always, is in my arms. Lately he'll run up to me while I'm sitting and wrap his arms around my waist, or when I pick him he'll wrap around my neck. He gives the sweetest kisses, and we like to do a silly thing where we rub our foreheads together. 

It has been a really good couple months. Challenging and emotionally draining, but I feel like we're turning a corner - the language breakthrough, a little less drama with the tantrums, a new daycare on the horizon. And this deep love I have for my baby. I feel so lucky to be his mama.

Drum park


Trying to cherish the moment while also drowning in it

This is a difficult stage of life. And it is temporary. I remind myself of that often, and I try daily to remember how precious this time is. I don't for one moment want to wish it away because I want to hold onto my babies as they are forever. In fact, I drive myself a little crazy trying to cherish it all. I recently read Nora McInerny's book It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool too) and this was one of my favorite quotes regarding advice we get as parents:

Savor every moment. Are you savoring the moment? Every. Single. Moment should be savored. Savor it. This moment. The moment that just passed. This upcoming moment. It's going to pass you by before you know it. You missed it. You should have savored it but you were busy reading this book or wondering when the next episode of Property Brothers is going to be on. Property Brothers is always on. 

I'm savoring it OK! I savor so hard that sometimes I think I'm missing it by not just living in the moment. So I am in no hurry to rush through this stage, difficult as it is. But it's hard. It's damn hard.

Our kids need so much from us, and our jobs needs so much from us that there is nothing left for anything else. There is no social life, there is little time for family outside our small unit, there is no time or energy to maintain a house or any other adult responsibilities, and there is never enough money. We are maxed out every day, and it is not a matter of not wanting to ask for help. I ask for help - I shout it from the rooftops! But everyone else is also barely getting by. They can't help us just as we can't help them. 

We all live in our own little boxes - literally and figuratively - and we all struggle to do it all alone. It's senseless, but I haven't been able to figure out a way to change it. 

We have been exploring all kinds of options. One of us working part-time. One of us not working at all. Both of us working multiple jobs. Different child care situations. Living with relatives. Moving relatives in with us. Nothing we've explored is feasible. We just have to plod through each day, stretch every dollar, and wait for the stage where the kids are more independent and they can go to school for free.

It will get better. I know with certainty that when I look back on these years, I won't primarily remember the long, exhausting days, the daily dance to make a paycheck last until the next one, or the constant struggle to do all the things. I will remember fondly, and miss dearly, my sweet chubby-cheeked children, their laughter and their desire to always be close to me, fighting over a spot on my lap. 

I know this is temporary, I know what is important in life, and I very much know how much worse things coulde be. But I can't say it's always easy to enjoy the beautiful things when every day is a battle.

Mo and Drum 2017


How do you choose a kindergarten?

What should one look for in a school, particularly kindergarten? We live in an area where there are many confusing options, and my head hurts trying to sort it all out. 

One of the things I'm stuck on is that I'd like my kids to have the opportunity to be bilingual. There is only one school in our district that offers language (in this case, Spanish) immersion learning, and so I've been fixated on that particular school. But when I take a step back, there are many other things to think about. This particular school is not conveniently located, it has average ratings, and there are other schools that offer some cool things that this one does not.

I then discovered that the school in our neighborhood has a language requirement starting in Kindergarten, meaning that they will learn a language though will not be immersed in it (ie: they won't learn math in Spanish, but they will learn Spanish in a language class). So I started to wonder if that's enough - to expose them to the language but not immerse them in it, and then they can choose if they want to pursue it enough to become truly bilingual.

However, if you don't start in the immersion school in Kindergarten, you can never get in because of how the curriculum is designed. Therefore, is it better to start there and leave if it's not a good fit, rather than realize too late that we should have started there?

I'm worried that I'm so fixated on language learning that I'm overlooking other more important things. 

So questions:

  • Anybody have experience with language immersion? What are your thoughts? Is it so awesome that it's worth making a primary focus of our decision?
  • If you have experience with language learning other than immersion, what do you think? If we want to give our kids the opportunity to learn a second language, is a language requirement starting in Kindergarten a good way to kickstart that?
  • And in general, what are the important things to look for when choosing a school? 

Because of the chaos of our lives, we have to think about things like transportation and before/after school care. There are some great schools in districts surrounding us that we could try to get into, but we don't have the luxury of being able to drive our kids to and from school at 9am and 3pm (or whatever). So those are major considerations from a logistics stand point.

But what else do you recommend we think about? I need help!


Drum - 17 months

On April Fool's Day, Drum turned 17 months old. He has made some impressive leaps in his communication since I wrote his 16 month update. At that time we had just done the assessment where they thought he might benefit from some minor intervention (a monthly home visit to give us the tools to help him along). We haven't even had the first home visit yet, but I've seen some improvements that have helped calm the overall atmosphere of our house and family.

First of all, he started signing again. He only uses signs for milk, more, and occasionally all done. Then he started using some actual words! With meaning! During his initial assessment he had zero words. Well one - he had started saying mama just a few days earlier. Now he can say mama, no (or the more emphatic NO NO accompanied by hand gestures), baby, da (for yes), and Mo. He can also repeat several words, though he doesn't use them independently yet: dada, ya (when we ask him to repeat yes), hi, doggie, and meow. He'll also imitate the "ooh ooh ah ah" sound of a monkey.

Bro eating

So basically I think he's starting to figure out how to produce specific sounds, he's learning to connect some of those sounds to meaning, and he's realizing that signing really does work. None of this means he can tell us exactly what he wants all the time - there is still much screaming - but he's making progress and it has shifted the energy for all of us.

I think the other big difference is that I've intentionally changed my approach. I'm working hard at controlling my own frustration. I try to remember that he is frustrated because he doesn't understand the world and the rules, he can't do many things for himself, and he can't tell us what he wants or needs. So when he screams and flails, I try my hardest to stay calm, to stay with him, and to help him tell me what he needs. It's challenging me in ways I was never challenged with Mo at this age, but it seems to be making a difference.

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Not only is he communicating more and screaming (a little) less, but our relationship has change a bit too. We've always been tight and I've always been his favorite person and his safe space, but lately we've really bonded. My heart has softened to him even more than before, and I think he knows I'm there for him even when he's screaming in my face.

Anyway! Enough about that, he's so much more than his tantrums and his talking. Drum is really fun. He loves to play with his sister (who doesn't always love it as much as him), he loves to hang out with us even if we're just chillin', and he loves to check out anything that's going on. He's curious about whatever project Mo has going on (usually art-related), he likes to help with chores like the dishwasher, sweeping, and vaccuming, and he loves to go wherever we're going. If I say "Bro, want to go upstairs?" he'll hustle off to the stairs without question. 

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He's gained a couple more teeth recently, he's really good at blowing his nose, he likes his stacking game, the wooden blocks, and the jumbo legos, he likes to play dressup with Mo, and he loves to dance. To him, dancing is usually turning in circles, but he really jams. He can point to a few body parts - hair, nose, belly, hands, feet. And he just keeps growing! I recently pulled out the 24 month and 2T clothes. Some are still too big (and some 18 month stuff still fits), but I feel like I just put all that stuff away from Mo! She wore some 2T stuff until after she turned 3, which was only a year ago!

At his recent doctor appointment, he was 33.5 inches tall (94th percentile) and 24 lbs 13 oz (68th percentile). He fell asleep on the way to that appointment, which he rarely does, and even though he normally wakes up as soon as the car stops, he didn't this time. I thought he would be a super grump the whole time, but he did pretty well. However, he was sooooo clingy to me! When I tried to lay him on the baby scale, he desperately held onto me, climbing my torso like a tree. Then he frantically tried to eject himself from the scale. He wouldn't even stand on the upright scale, so I ended up weighing myself on that with and without him to get his weight.

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I knew there was no way he'd lay on the table for his shots, so I sat on the table and held him in my lap while he at a snack. The nurse gave him two pokes and he didn't make a peep. He kind of looked at his leg in boredom and shoved some more cheerios in his mouth. I was amazed.

A couple nights ago, he stayed up past his bed time and when I carried him up, I cradled him in my arms. I stood in his room, holding him, and we just looked at each other while I whispered how much I love him. He played with his hair and sucked his bottom lip, listening to me. Then I said, "Are you ready for nigh-night?" and he subtly nodded his head. I know someday he'll be too big to hold like that, so I locked that moment into my memory to keep forever.

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Drum - 16 months

Today Drum is 16 months old. As I was reading Mo's 16 month post I realized he was probably supposed to have a 15 month appointment, which he never did. Is it my responsiblity to remember that shit or should the doctor's office have reminded me to set one up? Anyway, the appointment is now scheduled...for when he's nearly 17 months.

I'm frustrated to report that at 16 months Drum is still as screamy and screechy as ever. I keep thinking it has to be just a phase, but how long is a phase? When is it just who they are? I love him so much, he's my boo bear, but he is challenging me greatly. This morning, for instance, the simple act of changing his diaper and getting him into clothes gave me so much anxiety (the screaming and writhing!) that I was frazzled all morning. When he's sweet, he's so sweet. When he's pissed, he's SO pissed.

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I think I mentioned last month that I wondered if part of his frustration was because of his lack of ability to communicate his needs. So I arranged through a local organization to have a free in-home assessment. They came last week and spent a couple hours with me and Bro. About an hour into their visit, one of them said, "OK so he's... 25 months right?"

Um no. He's 15 months. Whomever prepared their paperwork wrote 1/1/15 instead of 11/1/15. They were flabbergasted when I corrected them, but also relieved. He's very close to on track for a 15 month old; not so much for a 25 month old. However, they still noted a lack of vocabulary, a lack of interest in nursery games (patty cake, etc.), and a slight delay in verbalization for his age. We'll receive free services that include a monthly in-home visit to observe and work with him, and to primarily give us tools to help him along.

To be honest, I'm not worried at this point. He understands language incredibly well and always seems to know what we're saying or asking him. He knows how to indicate some of his basic needs (point to the pantry for a snack, push my hands toward my chest to pull down my shirt so he can nurse, bring us shoes to put on this feet). He did start saying mama in the last couple weeks, so he does have one word, and I know he'll talk eventually, probably even soon. But like I told the assessment professionals: if I can help him express himself in a way other than screaming and screeching, I really want to do that.

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At 16 months I wrote about Mo that she was easy-going and adaptable, and when I read that just now, I laughed out loud. She was and continues to be just that, but Drum is decidedly not. A couple weeks ago when spring visited in mid-February, I took the kids to the park. Every time I tried to redirect Drum away from something or help him safely up the steps or down a slide, he freaked out. When it was time to leave, I carried him out of there wailing and writhing in my arms. It's exhausting and makes me want to never leave the house with him.

On a lighter note, Drum is a great helper. He loves to help us fold laundry, empty and load the dishwasher (his favorite part is closing the dishwasher when we're done), throw things in the trash, put away groceries, sweep and vacuum. I like to call him Danny Tanner because he's very tidy - his favorite toys are his toy broom and our dust buster, and he's a stickler for putting things in their proper. Part of his assessment included a play cup and spoon, and the only thing he wanted to do with them was put put them in the sink where dishes belong.

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He also still enjoys dragging around large objects and now he's into dress up. Awihle ago, Mo got a box full of dress up clothes from her cousin and she and Bro like to dig through it together. Mo kind of wishes there were more ninja costumes, but Drum really loves the frilly stuff. He's also started to show a small interest in books, which is a nice change. He'll actually grab a book and bring it to us occasionally, and then sit through a page or two before pushing it away. That's a huge improvement.

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He's still a good sleeper. He fights the getting-ready-for-bed part - the diaper changes, the changing into pajamas - but once he's in his crib, he puts himself to sleep and sleeps all night. He also naps pretty well. By this age, Mo was down to one nap in the afternoon, but Bro still requires two. Ideally, like on the weekends when he's home, his schedule goes like this: 7:00-7:30 wake up, breakfast, hang out, 10:00 nap for about 1.5-2 hours, lunch, hang out, snacks, 2:30 nap for 1.5-2 hours, more hanging out, dinner, play, 7:00 bedtime. During the week though, when he's at daycare, it gets a little screwy. Their nap schedule isn't in synch with his circadian rhythms. We start his day at 6:30, and so he's ready for a nap at 9:00, which is fine. But then they want him to nap with the big kids at 1:00 and he's not ready then, so he doesn't often sleep much or well, and then he's SUPER FUSSY when we pick him up and for the rest of the night. 

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This post has had an obvious negative tone. There's a bit of a dark cloud over everything because we're all figuring out how to do the things we need and want to do when there is a ticking time bomb ready to scream at any moment. So let me end this with a fun story. 

A few times in the last month, Drum has asked to sit on the toilet. Sometimes when I ask him if he has peed, he'll pull at his diaper, then walk into the bathroom and point at the toilet. So I put him up there! He doesn't pee, but he thinks it's fun to sit and maybe throw some toilet paper in the bowl. No plans to potty train any time soon, but I can't handle how adorable he is up on that big seat!

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