Saturday, July 28, 2018

He's Seriously Almost Five

My oldest is now 4 and ¾ years old.

A. His Schedule – We try to get him to go to sleep at 8 p.m., but he’s a night owl, so he could honestly stay up until 10 p.m. if we let him. In the mornings it’s sometimes hard to wake him up. On the rare occasions when he gets up before us, he knows how to use the remote to turn on a show for himself.

B. His Size – He weighs 38 pounds. He seems to be of average height.

C. His Personality – He reminds me of myself – shy, caring, and cautious. He has a lot of affection for his new baby sister and he’s so good with her. He’s definitely more reserved than his younger brother, and also seems to have a powerful imagination – he’ll have sword fights with imaginary bad guys, whereas his brother will focus his play on things that actually exist in the real world.

D. His Favorite Things
  • Colors: Brown and red
  • Shows: He enjoys watching YouTube a lot – his current favorite show is Dino Charge, which is in Japanese; for a while he was really into YouTube Power Rangers toy reviews (World of Ha was his favorite channel), but then that gave way to reviews of Dino Charge toys that then gave way to him watching the actual show; he also enjoys watching Pok√©mon
  • Toys: He doesn’t have a specific favorite toy, although he particularly likes toys that transform – it’s very difficult for him to play without Bear inserting himself and destroying whatever he is trying to create
  • Time of Day: Probably nighttime, especially if we’re doing a movie night
  • Bedding: He usually sleeps with a green fleece blanket, but he is able to fall asleep without it (unlike his brother, who needs his moose blanket to fall asleep)
  • Foods: His favorite food is probably chocolate, and he has a powerful sweet-tooth – he loves desert; as far as regular foods, he likes mac ‘n cheese, and waffles with maple syrup
  • Activities: He’s not a very energetic kid, and is just as happy sitting on the couch watching a show as he is being outside or going somewhere; one of his favorite things to do is to spend time with my mom, who I think has a similar personality to his; he also likes playing puzzles on my phone, and looking at his Amazon Wish List
  • Animals: Cats and dogs, I think
  • Heroes: The Power Ranges, I think

E. Things He Does Not Like
  • Spicy foods
  • When foods are hot
  • When his brother doesn’t play according to the rules he has set, or when Bear throws his stuffed animals off of their bunk bed
  • Wearing socks that match – he’s been wearing deliberately mismatched socks for at least couple of months now

F. What He’s Thinking About
  • He’s looking forward to his brother’s birthday, in part because we’re giving him a couple of Pokemon figures at the same time as his brother's birthday, but he’s also really looking forward to his own birthday already
  • He says he is going to marry his classmate, Sophia – apparently she has accepted his proposal
  • He took a swimming class this spring and loved it – I think he’d really like it if we signed him up for another swim class

G. Surprises – I’m surprised with how well he’s doing with having a younger sister. I’ve heard of sibling jealousy, but he really doesn’t seem jealous of her. He loves lying next to her on the floor, and I think they’ll become close, lifelong friends.

H. The Best Things – Not every day is easy with Serious Kiddo, although usually he’s easier for me to handle than Bear. I think the best thing is just hearing him talk. It’s not just the way he says certain words, like how he says “fing” instead of “thing.” It’s kind of the whole thing – it’s how he’s really thinking carefully about the things in his world.

I. Family and Friends – He’s still very close with my mom. He seems to prefer having a small, close group of friends rather than a larger social circle. He lavishes a lot of attention on his classmate, Sophia. He’ll say things like “Today, I sat next to Sophia, and I only talked to Sophia. Nobody else.” He also is building a strong friendship with the boy who lives across the street. Despite their frequent fights, he also seems to love spending time with Bear. He has luckily been able to stay friends with Kaidyn, a friend from his old daycare.

J. Parenting – It’s definitely been challenging now that we’re a three-kid household, even though he is getting a lot easier to parent, and even though the baby is a pretty good baby. Because frequently I need to pump milk for the baby, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to play with the kids, or to go to interesting places with them.

The Bear is Turning Three!

It's hard to take a photo of him that's not an action shot.
This is him holding a paper dog puppet he made
and saying "Woof woof."

A. His Schedule – We try to put him to bed at 8 a.m., but he has a lot of energy, and it’s doubly hard to get him to fall asleep when he and his brother are sleeping in the same room, because they keep each other up. The boys now share a bedroom, although one of them will sometimes sleep in our room, which is a treat for them, and also helps ensure that they actually do fall asleep at a decent hour. He usually wakes up on his own around 6:30 a.m. Although he takes an afternoon nap at school, it is quite difficult to get him to take one at home, and sometimes we give up. His favorite thing to do when the days are long and bright (yay summer!) is to go across the street and ask if Nina can come play. She’s around six years old, and we think Bear may have a crush on her. Then again, she’s a nice kid, so maybe that’s why he’s so crazy about spending time with her.

B. His Size – He is an even 30 pounds. He’s still pretty skinny (but not un-healthfully so) but he grew around 5 inches taller this past year. He’s now tall enough to ride things at places like county fairs.

C. His Personality – Bear is easy to love but very hard to handle. He’s cuddly and loving and can be so sweet. He’s got a great sense of humor too. He’ll put on a mask to try and get us to laugh, or try to make a joke, etc. However, he’s also very stubborn, and can get very mad at us if we don’t give him what he wants. When he’s upset, he’ll say things like “I’ll never be your friend again!” He’s a difficult kid to watch because he’s always getting into something – something dangerous, or messy, or destructive, or a combination thereof. He’s not completely fearless, but he’s close.

D. His Favorite Things
  • Colors: Red, green, yellow, and pink
  • Shows: He loves watching the movie The Hobbit, especially the part where the dwarves and elves have to fight the spiders – he generally seems to prefer watching movies (like Boss Baby and Lego Batman) to shows
  • Toys: He doesn’t really have a favorite toy although he likes things like swords, his toy broom and mop (which he uses like swords), art stuff (he loves to paint), makeup, Play Doh, and anything that his brother was playing with first
  • Time of Day: Probably the morning
  • Bedding: He still loves his white-and-blue fleece moose blankies, but he also has a multi-colored throw pillow that he exclusively uses as his bed pillow – in the morning, he’ll drag both his blankie and his pillow onto the couch, and he’ll drag them back to bed at nighttime
  • Foods: He claims his favorite food is meat, but he also eats a fair amount of yogurt, be it Danimals yogurt smoothies, or strawberry-flavored yogurt sticks - he also really likes fries and chips
  • Activities: He likes painting, but he also likes roughhousing, playing with his brother, and being outside, such as when he's gardening with his dad – he also still really likes taking a bath – one other thing he’s particularly partial to is sitting in people’s laps, be it mine, my husband’s, or his grandma’s
  • Animals: Dogs and birds – he loves pointing out birds to us, and will literally point and say “Look, a birdie!” outside
  • Heroes: He likes Batman, but he also really looks up to my husband

E. Things He Does Not Like
  • Not getting his own way – I realize this might be true of all kids, but it is powerfully so with Bear
  • When foods are mixed together – he likes things separate and “clean” (for example, he called the meat in Shepherd’s Pie “dirty”)
  • His carseat – he tries to nab a chance to sit in his brother’s instead
  • When we’re in the car and we stop at a red light

F. What He’s Thinking About
  • Currently, he’s really looking forward to his birthday, and he says “My birthday is taking forever”
  • He’s pretty good about being able to express himself in words and sentences
  • He claims that a boy named Nicholas at his school is picking on him – The daycare said they’d keep an eye on it, but given that Bear is sometimes pushy with other kids, I’m not sure if I entirely believe Bear’s side of it, which is that “Nicholas is mean to me, and does this to me,” :: imitates punching himself in the head ::
  • He’s been potty-trained for daytime since February, but he still wears a Pull-Up at night, even though most mornings it’s bone-dry

G. Surprises – I’m somewhat surprised that he’s almost the same size as his older brother, even though they’re 21 months apart. I’m also surprised that there’s so much of my husband in him. The only thing about him that reminds me of myself is that he has pretty good fine motor skills, and has an interest in art.

H. The Best Things – Life with Bear is complicated. Sometimes, he can be so hard to handle, and so indifferent to my feelings or the feelings of others. But other times, he can be phenomenally cute and caring.

I. Family and Friends – Bear had a great time in New England recently playing with his cousins. He also really enjoyed the company of Aunt Denise.

J. What I’m Doing Differently This Time Around – I can’t say that I’m doing anything differently with Bear than I did with his brother, except possibly that I’m putting more effort into allowing both boys’ friendships with other kids to develop. It takes effort to make sure that they’re forming friendships outside of daycare, but it’s worth it.

And Now, A Baby Girl

A New Newborn
This spring, I had a baby girl, Rosiebebe (not her legal name).

Being Pregnant
Unlike my previous pregnancies, I was waddling around for the last couple months of her pregnancy. I thought it was because she’d be heavier than the boys. As it later turned out, she was actually lighter than the boys, although she was the longest. She also was quite forceful with her kicking, which make it difficult for me to sleep. I was very surprised when, at around 22 weeks, we found out that this baby was a girl. I experienced some gender disappointment, although that melted away by the time we left the hospital with her.

Her Birth Story
It went better than I expected it to go. At about 9 p.m., I had my first contraction. I went to bed like usual around 10:30 p.m. but I woke up around 1:30 a.m. with more contractions. I did some freelance writing work while things progressed, and called my mom over around 3:30 a.m. so that she could watch the boys while I’d be at the hospital. At about 5:15 a.m., I put down my computer and decided that it was time to get ready to go to the hospital. A funny thing happened – my husband accidentally parked near the wrong hospital building, so we awkwardly made our way to the correct building while I held my pregnant belly in my arms and lucked out by not having any bad contractions while we scooted over to the right place. At about 6:15 a.m. we checked into the hospital. My contractions were never consistent in terms of duration, severity, or frequency. The nurse asked if I’d like a rocking chair since I was doing natural childbirth, and I found that offer very sweet but also kind of silly. I just couldn’t imagine laboring like that. I noticed that the TV in the room was already on and was playing a rerun of the show The Nanny. I also found that kind of odd, and asked my husband to switch it off so that I could focus. My water broke at the hospital while I was laying down. When the pain of the contractions felt unbearable, I decided it was time to push. At 7:53 a.m., this baby was born. It hurt more than Bear's birth, but at least the labor didn’t last long. For the first few minutes of her life, I was mad at her for causing me so much pain, but by the time we checked out of the hospital two days later, I could not be more smitten with her. It took us more than a day to decide on her name, but in the end, she didn’t look like a “Janet” or an “Ember,” and “Violet” sounded more and more like “violent” to me, and Serious Kiddo preferred the name we actually chose to “Penelope.” Serious Kiddo visited us in the hospital, but Bear had to stay home because he was sick. I like that her name is short and to the point, and sweet but not too sweet. I also like that Serious Kiddo was able to help.

Note the folding hands.
Her Personality
She is what I’d call a “good baby” – she sleeps well throughout the night, she’s very mellow, and very reasonable – she doesn’t cry for no reason, and she’ll generally be patient if she knows you’re trying to fix the problem. She learned how to smile relatively quickly, and she’s more than willing to flash you a cheerful smile. She’s very expressive with her feet – stomping them when she’s upset, or kicking them outward when she’s happy. In new situations, or when people she doesn’t know well are fawning over her, she calmly places her hands together. Her reservedness reminds me of myself.
Smiling at about 10 days old.
I’m exclusively pumping. It’s hard. Renting a hospital-grade pump for home-use has been helpful. I do not enjoy pumping. Because pumping is not as efficient as directly breastfeeding, I’m losing a lot of time during my day to pumping. I pump at least five times a day, and for at least 25 minutes each time, though some of my power-pump sessions last up to 1 hour 10 minutes.

My Parents
They both love holding the baby. My mom says that she thinks the baby looks like me, and I don't disagree.

How I’m Feeling
Overall, I’m feeling pretty good. I’m thankful that my body was able to create this wonderful, healthy baby. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to expand our family to three children. I’m relieved that her labor and delivery went so well. Even though pumping is very unpleasant, I’m thankful that my body is able to make milk for her. I worry about her while she’s in daycare – I wish there was a way to watch her every moment of the day.
The Best Thing About Right Now
One of the best things about right now is that I’m surprised with how much I love having a girl. Having had only boys up to this point, I really didn’t know what to expect. Having boys is great, but it’s a relief to know that having a girl is also great.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

21-Step Organizing Challenge!

My previous post on the 21-day organizing challenge was wildly popular.

The tasks and order specified were as follows:
However, to be completely honest, I never finished the challenge last time, so I'm going back into the ring. I'm going to call it 21 steps, not "days," since it's possible that I might choose to do more or less on a specific day.

I needed to  make some substitutions based on my specific life circumstances, which were:
  • Changed "Handbag" -to-> "Beach/pool supplies" because my purse is tiny and thus already organized, but the kids' pool supplies are in constant use and disarray
  • Changed "Under sinks" -to-> "Art waiting to be hung up" because I actually only have one under-sink cabinet in my home, and the art that's been waiting for me to hang it up for more than six months is a higher priority than that one under-sink area
  • Changed "Linen closet" -to-> "Yoga and weightlifting area" because, since our linen closet is tiny, it's already pretty tidy by necessity, whereas I desperately need to create a private space for me to exercise
  • Changed "Backyard" -to-> "Sheds" because there is nothing in our backyard besides two sheds (this change is more like semantics than substance)
  • Changed "Bedroom dressers" -to-> "Digital photos" because we actually only have one bedroom dresser and it belongs to my husband since we keep all of our clothes in our closets and "Bedroom closets" is already on the list, and since I do need to organize my digital files and hopefully can make a photo book at the same time
  • Changed "Attic/basement" -to-> "Attic" because we don't have a basement (again, this change is more like semantics than substance)
  • Changed "Playroom/den" -to-> "Kids' bedrooms" because the kids don't have a playroom and their toys are in their rooms instead
Now, unlike the original challenge, or frankly most organizing lists, I decided to reorder these items into the ones that are most important for improving my personal quality of life (and my particular family's), rather than abiding by the default order. That way, even if I fall off the wagon, I'll have gotten the most important stuff out of the way. I gave the most important items to me a Number 1, and the least important items a Number 5. Here's the order that will work best for my family and I:

Note: The "Revisit all areas" step will be last, after all of the 5's are done.

Obviously, different items and ordering will work for different folks. So that you can fill out your own items and orders, here's a digital download of a blank system: