Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Short attention span theater

"Read to your child, 15 minutes a day."

PBS Kids taunts me with this line every day. I can't get my child to sit still long enough to change his diaper, let alone read to him for 15 minutes a day.

This is one of the few child-rearing issues that cause me a certain degree of angst. I want Dan to enjoy reading, as his father and I do. For us, reading is the ticket to learning anything we're curious about. We plan on homeschooling and I often fear that he won't learn to read under our guidance. I've wanted to incorporate reading into the bedtime routine for a long time. Early on, we tried reading to him, but it never held his attention, he squirmed in our arms, he grabbed at the pages.

His relationship with books has gone through stages in the past six months. His first interaction with books consisted of knocking them off shelves and crawling all over them. Then, he moved on to chewing the books. Recently he's taken an interest in how the pages turn and sometimes he gives a three-second glance at the pages.

How to get him to the next level, that was the question.

One strategy of the baby marketing machine is to show the same episode of a children's program several days in a row. This builds familiarity with the characters and story. If you don't believe me, watch PBS Kids sometime. By week's end, you'll know the lines by heart.

So, I decided to employ the strategy with a book. I chose The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. It has attractive art work, a recurring verse and a surprise ending that Dan has learned to anticipate. The story is simple and sweet ... a young cricket longs to make a sound by rubbing his wings together as many other crickets do. But, alas, he can't until nightfall and then, as you turn to the last page, you hear the sound of a cricket’s song.

Now, finally, he sits still for five minutes or so while I read to him. Then, when we're done, I go back through the book and point out objects like the sun, the moon, an apple, a luna moth, the grass, etc. He digs it. He even laughs at certain parts when I do different voices for the different insects.

What a relief. There's hope for him after all.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The accidental kitchen renovation

We weren't planning on renovating the kitchen just yet. It just kind of happened. And it all started with the dishwasher.

I went away one weekend with the baby and came back to a new stainless steel dishwasher and a man with a plan. And much to my surprise, the plan included buying two more brand new appliances. The new dishwasher didn't match with the nearly two-year-old stainless steel stove and our old white fridge, so those needed to be replaced. Then, it turned out the new stainless steel fridge wouldn't fit in the allotted space.

No problem, Jim says. We'll just knock out the walls, reroute the plumbing and dryer vent, rebuild a wall and install shelves in the newly opened space. Cool! I'm so glad I have a husband who can do these things. Incidentally, this is the same man who replaced Masonite siding with hardyboard on about 75 percent of the exterior. It took him three years to finish it and paint the entire house. Hopefully, the kitchen renovation won't take that long! He probably saved us $30,000 in the process. Now that he's torn down walls without bringing down the entire house, I have a few more ideas for the kitchen.

When he was done rerouting the plumbing, though, he gave plumbers their props. He acknowledged that they earn every cent of their pay. The plumbing didn't go as smoothly as he'd hoped. Two of the joints had leaks and he wound up having to start over on one of the joints. So now, he's moving on to rebuilding the wall about three or so inches to the right of the old wall.

All the appliances arrived Saturday. The refrigerator is quite luxe, if I may say so. It has ice and water in the door, a water purifying system, pull-out bins in the freezer. Jim calls it a very expensive Brita pitcher. And, no kidding, there is an ice cream shelf where a half gallon of Breyers fits perfectly. The oven is a double convection oven and the stove is smoothtop with four burners that expand into eight.

Here are some photos of the new appliances and some of Jimmy's handywork.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dan's morning in, Mom's morning out

When Danny was about three months old, I got a waiting list for the Parents Morning Out program at our church. The program is for 1 to 5 year olds. It's a once-a-week, parent-run, three-hour quasi-preschool - which, incidentally, is as close to "school" as my children will ever get. Older mommies might recognize this format. It was once called Mothers Morning Out, but we can't call it that anymore (even though there are no father volunteers in the group.)

We were accepted into the program in September and Dan started on Friday. I know two of the women and their sons, who are about Danny's age. On Friday, the nursery was being (wo)manned by one of these women, so he was pretty comfortable there ... maybe too comfortable.

When we arrived, he looked around, took in his surroundings, gave them a thumbs up and he was off. I had planned to stay with for about 15 minutes. He barely noticed when I left, didn't cry while I was gone and barely noticed when I returned. Even his friend Louie greeted me with a "Wow" when I returned. Where's the love, kid?

As for me, I went to get my oil changed and while I sat in the glorious quiet of the mechanic's waiting room, I wrote out a menu and a shopping list for the next two weeks. Then I went to the grocery store, alone. I returned to the church 45 minutes early. The next two sessions, I will be there with him since I'll be working in the nursery.

Here are some photos from his first day at PMO.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dan at work

I caught Dan on video working on his blocks Thursday. Check it out.

The work of childhood

This week, when Dan fought his morning nap, I figured he was just trying to give it up for good. A lot of babies do at his age. He's been sleeping very well at night, but during the day, sleep just wasn't on the agenda. As I watched him play this week, I understood why.

A set of eight soft blocks with removable middle pieces fascinates him. This is the only toy I've bought new and, at $16.00, it's turned out to be a very good investment. Inside the blocks are see-through shaped pieces with objects inside - a key, a ball and tiny beads. Another three pieces are rubbery and textured. Until recently, Dan hasn't noticed the pieces unless I remove them. This past week, he's been intent on removing them himself.

Dan pushes the middle piece, realizes that it comes out the other side, turns the block, tries to grasp the piece and, in the process, pushes the piece back in. He repeats this several times then moves on. He would always come back to it, though.

One day, Jim lined up a few more blocks with removable centers and told him, "I want these done before dinner, kid."

Watching him this week has been a very good illustration of purposeful play, a concept pioneered by Maria Montessori. A little guidance and a lot of free time to discover goes a long way. Come to think of it, I never explicitely showed him how to remove the pieces. He must have seen me do it.

This morning, though, he finally got it. And he went down for his morning nap 45 minutes ago.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hidden motives

Certain foods disappear quickly in this house. Take a box of Triscuits, for example. One family size box will last two days if it's left in the TV room instead of put back in the pantry. So tonight, on a stroll through Target on an ice cream run, I picked up two boxes of Triscuits.

"Why do we need two boxes?" Jim asked.

"Because they'll last longer," I replied. "Maybe I should start buying two and hiding one."

"You already do."

"Where do I hide food?"

"I don't know, because you hide it."

I thought I was just putting the food where it belonged. Maybe I do hide the food, subconsciously. Is it hiding if I put the food in places he'd never think to look? After all, my husband would never look for crackers or chips in the pantry and sugar in the sugar bowl.

Yes, the sugar bowl is still an issue. But now I think he just does it on purpose. The first phrase I uttered one morning this week to my husband upon waking wasn't good morning, but "There's sugar in the sugar bowl, you know."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sickness is NOT the norm

It's been a rough weekend here. Dan has shrieked, fussed, cried and sniffled his way through the past two days. He's eaten very little and slept even less. This is only the second cold he's had since birth. And this time around it's a bit harder on us all because Dan is so mobile and curious. All he wants to do is play, when he really needs to rest.

He finally settled down a bit before bed tonight. Jim asked, "Is he actually playing quietly with his toys?" I responded, "Yes, but be quiet or you'll jinx it."

My doctor's office claims that the average child gets six to eight colds a year that last from seven to 10 days each. Something about this statement just seems off. By this logic, a child will be sick 1.5 to 2.5 months out of the year.

It's sad when being sick nearly 20 percent of the time is considered the norm.

Weekend theater

Scene: Early Saturday morning, mom and dad are just waking up, the baby starts to cry from his crib.
Jim: I think the baby's crying
Josee: We have a baby? When did that happen? Thinking: I really need to go to the bathroom, but if I get up, I'll be obligated to get the baby. If I don't move, maybe he'll go get the baby.
Jim finally gets up. Yes! Seems mommy has won this round!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The baby and the Bob

Bob the dog accidentally threw off the baby this afternoon. Danny was trying to climb over Bob as if he were merely a speed bump on the road to Danny's funtime playland. Bob decided he'd had enough and stood up. Howls ensued, from Danny, not the dog.

It wasn't malicious, and I could tell Bob felt bad. But it was definitely an opportunity to teach Bob and the baby the rules.
  • Rule #1: Don't treat the dog like a speed bump.
  • Rule #2: Don't treat the baby like a rodeo cowboy.

The perils of sleep deprivation

One early morning last week, I sleepwalked down the hall to retrieve one crying babe from his crib. I felt around for him in the dark and pulled him from the crib only to realize I had grasped his thighs and was holding him upside down.


Monday, October 08, 2007

The walking Dan walks

Bowie, Md. - In a surprise move today, Danny Meehan let go of the couch in Nana Meehan's living room and took at least five unassisted steps without falling, according to sources close to the baby.

Previously, a heavy noggin and jelly knees hindered his progress. Today's development comes after more than two months of cruising along furniture and taking several unsteady steps before crash landing in his parents' laps.

Over the past week, he's exhibited signs of readiness to walk, his mother said.

"He's been getting braver lately, and more balanced. We've found him balancing against windows and doors with his head," said his mother, who expects to soon lose 10 pounds just chasing Danny.

Upon hearing the news, Danny's father said he, too, had noticed signs of Danny's imminent mobility.

"I've noticed him trying to decide whether he wants to let go of the sofa," he said.

Learning to balance and to sit from a standing position was key to Danny's success. His breakthrough, however, was not without pain. The past few weeks, Dan has sustained minor injuries - mainly bumps and bruises.

"He's finally learned that sitting feels better than landing on his face," his father noted.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

All caught up now

Dan's been sleeping pretty well lately. Two one- to two-hour naps each day, up to nine hours at night. All weekend, I slept when he slept during the day. Dan turned 10 months old on Monday and I finally caught up on my sleep deficit. Good thing, too. He's a bundle of energy and I've got my hands full trying to keep up with him.

On Tuesdays, I take him to storytime at the library. The group, misnamed Lapsitters, is tailored to six to 18 month old kids. My son hasn't sat on my lap since he was six months old. This morning, he was the loudest, wiggliest babe in the bunch. He shrieked his way through several of the songs, jumped up and down while I grasped his middle, and crawled all over, heading first to the big (covered) electrical socket in the middle of the floor. Actually, that's the first stop for every kid in the group. He also tried to climb on his friends, Carson and Louis, who are not so keen on his advances. Dan also auditioned some new mommies. He crawled up to various mommies and climbed on their lap. Me? I'm just chopped liver, I guess.

He just doesn't ever seem to stop moving. This afternoon, he was on the bed with Jim and I. He lunged back and forth between us, tried to climb the headboard, and tried to climb over us. And the walking ... he's walking farther and farther every day. We prop him up and let him go or he'll walk with us holding on to just one hand. He gets going so fast that I'm afraid he'll break into a run. He's had a few tumbles, but it hasn't deterred him so far.

Later on today, Jim took Dan up to the padded playground at Southpoint. Dan climbed stairs, and slid down and crawled up slides at least a dozen times, according to Jim. He was exhausted and ready for bed when we got home. Dan was actually still when I changed his diaper and didn't protest when I put on his pajamas.

So, now he's fast asleep. And all it took was nonstop activity all day long.