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Drum - 19 months

My Drummy is so awesome lately! He still has meltdowns, and he still challenges me in ways I continually try to figure out, but he is mostly fun and curious and funny.

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He had his 18 months appointment recently and he's still healthy and tall! They tried to measure him standing up for the first time, but he was not very cooperative. The nurse recorded his numbers, but when the doctor came in she said, "It says he shrunk. I don't believe that." So they measured again the old fashioned way (two marks on the paper that covers the examination bed) and sure enough, he's in the >99th percentile. He got one shot, but for the second time in a row, he didn't shed a tear. He made a "what the hell?" face and then he was fine. Mo came with us, and they had fun goofing around the exam room. 

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We did swim lessons for the kids recently. Just a 6-week class of 30-minute sessions. Drum was fine about it, but I wouldn't say he loved them. The water was really cold though, and twice he didn't feel great, so I consider it a win that he got exposed to the idea and didn't lose his shit.

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He has so many words now, it's incredible. I swear he adds one a day! Maybe not that extreme, but I'm constantly saying, "What did you say??" and sure enough it's something new. He even has a couple two word phrases (did it, no more). I love his little voice, and it's amazing that three months ago he wasn't saying any words.

A couple weeks ago we went to Niagara Falls for a short vacation. It's a 5.5 hour drive (or 8.5 when you have two kids and need to stop a lot), so we had two mostly travel days and two fun-packed days at Niagara. I knew Drum would be fine, but I expected him to be a little bit of a challenge, especially when it came to sleeping in a hotel room with three other people. But he didn't so, so good! He slept (and even napped) like a champ - no issues at all (except in the car, he hardly slept on either long drive), and he was so well-behaved the whole time. We had a really great time, and I'm so thankful we were able to do it.

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The week after we returned, he started at a new daycare. After a lot of thinking and a lot of research, we moved him from an in-home daycare to a daycare center. The in-home was no longer the right fit for him, and our hope is that he thrives in a learning center environment. I dropped him off on this first day, and I was so nervous about how it would go, but he surprised me. He was interested in what was going on and even asked to be put down before I was ready to let go. He beelined for a vaccum and was playing happily when I left. They said his first day went great, but I guess when Mike picked him up he broke down a little. I guess just a release of emotion after a long day. When I dropped him off the next day, he rocked it again. He held on a little tighter this time, but no tears. However, the next two days he cried at drop off, and when I picked him up at the end of his last day he was crying pretty hard. I think it was just a long week of something new, and I think he'll do well there. They have a livestream camera so I've been peeking in on him. He seems fine all day - I see him play and eat and sleep (on a cot, which is amazing since he's only ever slept in a crib or pack 'n play!). I hope this is the right place for him.

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My babe is so sweet with me lately. He is such a snuggler and a hugger, he loves to give me kisses and hold my hand. Today we sat in the rocking chair while he rested on my chest and played with my hair for 15 minutes, and it's one of those moments you try to freeze in your memory so you can go back to it a million times. He's not quite as affectionate with anyone else, but we have a special love for each other.

He's my sweet baby boy!

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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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