Drop-Down Menu

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Butterfly Kisses

We're on our third container of caterpillars [long story - they all hatched, but we kept receiving adult caterpillars instead of larva (is that right?) (I know I could Google but: lazy)] and Carys has just been having an amazing time watching them transform into chrysalises (chrysali?) and butterflies.

We watch them grow and talk about the process and maybe read a book or two, but don't have a whole curriculum surrounding it or anything. That's for more organized and Pinterest-y parents than me.

Somehow we've ALWAYS missed them "punching out" of the chyrsalises (as Carys says) which disappoints me horribly, but Carys loves waking up to see that they've transformed into butterflies.

The release is by far her favorite part. (Note the ever-present cape, a doll blanket secured with a binder clip. We fancy.)

We get our caterpillars and the habitat from Insect Lore via Amazon. They've had great customer service, and I don't think it's their fault we keep getting 'adult' caterpillars - it's taking a week to ship to us for some reason, so the little dudes are eating and maturing while sitting at the post office. Poor little guys (and gals?) spending most of their caterpillar life in a dark box. Sniff.

I auto-backup my pictures to Google Plus and they have this "Auto-Awesome"...thing...that they do where they make the little GIFs above and sometimes put together a movie for you. They made the movie below and OH MY GOD WHY AM I CRYING?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Kids and Technology

Confession: I let the TV and tablet and my phone babysit my toddler for a little while. And now she's addicted. And I hate myself for it. I'm working on breaking her addiction, but as with all things Toddler, it's easier said than done.

We don't have cable TV anymore. We got rid of it when Carys was maybe six months old and she constantly was trying to crane her head around to watch TV, and I decided that I needed to stop watching it, even in the background, when she was around. From that point until she was around one and a half, we didn't really let her watch much TV, and life was good. She wasn't really interested in it, and we kept busy outside and doing other things.

But I got pregnant with Emmeline right around that time and first trimester exhaustion just completely wiped me out, so I went the easy way out and let her watch a ton of Netflix on TV while I laid on the couch and napped.

BAD idea.

When I eventually got some energy back, trying to wean her of constant TV watching was painful...for both of us. Her because I was removing access to her precious shows, and me because I had to listen to the whining and screaming.

Her whole personality changed on days when she was allowed to watch so much TV. She was meaner and whinier and not nearly as pleasant - and this was with watching "good" shows like Daniel Tiger and Sesame Street. We didn't even watch Calliou because I've heard horror stories about whiny kids stemming from it, so the change in personality was honestly pretty shocking.

Look at that grump face.

She is also obsessed with "her" tablet (actually mine) and will throw a fit if she isn't allowed to use it - which is terrifying, because I don't let her use it that often. We're talking 10-15 minutes here and there. Yet if she isn't allowed it, she has a meltdown. And if she's allowed to use it unchecked, she could literally go three hours straight using it and watching "eggs" on YouTube (people opening KinderSurprise Eggs. It's a thing. Apparently?) without blinking. I know this, because when I was passing kidney stones about a month ago and in agony one day*, I let her use it without a time limit and she didn't set it down for a moment. Like some teenage dude, she even watched it while she was peeing.  The same personality shifts occur when she uses the tablet; going from pleasant and easy-going and a good listener to cranky and whiny and even lashing out more.

*Oh, did I forget to blog about that? Because yeah, I passed a couple kidney stones and had an ambulance ride and hospital negligence and then a different hospital and ER visit and all that. But the fuckers came out and if I ever get them again I think I'll just carve my kidneys out with a plastic spoon, because that would be less painful.

I instituted a system of "TV Tickets" (actually for any screen, but TV tickets flows better than "screen time tickets") where she got four tickets each day. She can use any one ticket for 30 minutes of screen time or all four to watch a movie (this was later cut to 15 minutes, though she could still use all four for a movie). That actually works well - she will even tell us to turn off the TV if we are watching it after her bedtime and she comes out for a glass of water. I stopped letting her watch it within an hour of waking  up, as it seems that screen time in the morning completely throws off her mood the rest of the day. She was still constantly asking for the phone or tablet, so I had to further institute a "one screen at a time" rule (i.e. tablet OR phone OR television), which makes me want to punch myself in the face, because how did I let it get to that point? There were actually times when she was watching TV *and* playing on my phone? WTFFFFFFFFFFF, self???

I know that she wasn't watching that much TV compared to national averages, but it was way more than what a "good" mom - the mom I wanted and want to be - would allow. And I needed to limit it for my personal parenting goals, also - our activities and walks and trips had greatly decreased during that time, too. I was so tired and sick when I was giving into her and using it as a crutch, but it was a hard habit to break even when I started to feel better.

The idea that she's so easily engrossed in my phone and my tablet and the TV, even when only getting to use them briefly, is horribly sad to me.  And Emmeline is beginning already - she reaches for my phone whenever she sees it. I know part of that is because she's a baby and the lights are engrossing to her, but I want to do for her from the start what I did for Carys - only without the backwards slide.

When I look around at my husband and myself, and I can absolutely see from where it comes. I was one my phone and computer all the time. I've gotten a lot better once I was honest with myself and once I made the commitment to cut back. I've made a huge effort to be on my phone or computer only when she's sleeping. But it's stupidly hard. I feel like I'm missing out on some urgent news if I'm not checking Facebook or Instagram throughout the day, and like events aren't happening unless they're documented or shared.

WHICH IS DUMB. My childhood was absolutely amazing, and it only fills like four physical photo albums. It wasn't blogged about (irony/pot/kettle) or posted to social media or shared on Instagram.

I love those connections, though. I love reaching out and connecting with other people, especially other moms of small kids. I don't want to give it all up.  (Sometimes those fifteen minutes on Facebook are the only adult interactions I get all day.) But I can do that during select moments, rather than al day long. So I'm trying so hard to be present and phone-free in my daily interactions with the kids, but I sometimes feel so addicted to my phone and social media. I feel my fingers inching towards the phone or computer and telling myself, "I'll just check it quickly and then log right back off."

I also know we're not a "no TV" or "no tablet" or "no phone" family. We'll always have them around. Realistically, she will get screen time. There will be some times that I need to make dinner and she's nagging me, or some days when I don't feel good, or some days when she doesn't feel good.  There's a time and place for screens, and I need to be better about limiting viewing to those times. I can't and shouldn't and won't beat myself up for the odd show here or tablet time there.  I will be mad at myself, though, if she comes to me and I tell her to "Wait a minute, honey," while I check Twitter one more time.

I'm working on it.

I've stopped taking pictures and immediately uploading them to Instagram - instead, I snap some pics, put the phone away, and upload them to Instagram later, when the kids are sleeping or, let's be honest, when I'm peeing. I love taking pictures of the girls, and I doubt I'll ever cut back on that, but I don't need to take additional time to post the pictures online within seconds. That can wait.

I limit myself to a few minutes of Facebook a day, after I've tucked the girls into bed or, let's be honest again, when I'm peeing. Facebook can wait.

I don't watch television until they're in bed  (which is good, since I doubt the lesbian scenes in Orange is the New Black would be considered toddler-friendly).  Television can wait. (No, I don't watch TV while peeing.)

I love to read, but instead of picking up my Kindle or reading on my phone, I'm picking up real books. I want the girls to read (and thank god they both love books despite their screen love), but they aren't going to pick up good reading habits watching me stare at a screen. They need to see me reading real books, and reading often. (Also, sidenote: If you saw a parent at a park reading a physical book while their child was playing, you probably wouldn't think twice. But if you saw them staring at their phone - even if they were reading War and Peace - you would totally judge. Because you wouldn't know they were reading War and Peace. So. Deep thoughts there.)

It's a work in progress, which seriously makes me heartsick to type. It shouldn't be a work in progress to be completely present to your children. That doesn't mean I need to entertain them every minute. I want them to learn to play independently, and Carys is actually really good at it. But I don't want to be a zoned-out, "hang on a minute," phone-checking zombie when they're playing by themselves, completely engrossed in my computer.  There are so many better things I could be doing with that time.

I know it's only by seeing me (and their dad, but getting him on board is another story) put down our phones that her screen addiction will truly break. Every time I sneak a glance at my phone when Carys is trying to engage me in play, I'm breaking her a little bit.

I need to fix myself before I can fix her.

Screens can wait. Their childhood can't.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Letters to Emmy : Six Months : Half a Year

May 12 to June 12, 2014
Dear Emmy,

GURL. You. YOU YOU YOU. You are such joy and light and happiness. I don't even know what it is about you, other than you're just you.  I was so worried about being able to love and bond with my second baby as much as I did my first, but you took that worry and smashed it to bits. And then tried to eat it, just to really drive home your point. (You try to put everyyyyyyyyything in your mouth.)

You turned six months old on the 12th and my jaw dropped straight off in disbelief that from this day forward, you're closer to being one than you are to being born.

I've gotten to enjoy many outings with you in the last month as the weather's gotten nicer - we hit the Summer Arts Festival, the Children's Museum, the zoo like a million times, we went camping for the first time with you, we rode on a bus to fulfill your sister's bus obsession, we spent countless hours with family (including your great-aunt Nancy from Austin!), we hiked, we walked, we jogged haha yeah right. Most of these, you experience from the perspective of the carrier and I experience with a wonderful little bundle of Emmeline strapped to my front. In other words, perfectly.

You're teething (I think?!?!) and had a raging ear infection and were still just an awesome baby. You were a little fussier and cried a little more at night, but for the most part were still the joyful baby you always are. You still wake up a few times each night - I don't know how many, honestly, but say more than once and less than a hundred - but you go right back to sleep. Yesterday you just wanted to sleep in my arms, and since I've figured out how to do that both safely and comfortably with you (a skill that eluded me with your big sister) I was like, "YEP. OKAY." Because I love it. You're a wonderful little snugglebug when you're sleeping (and not so cuddly when you're awake) so I will soak in every cuddle I can, even if it means doing it while you sleep. And I don't.

Carys is both your idol and your biggest source of aggravation. You pull her hair; she screams. She takes a toy away from you; you scream. She wants to be the only one in my lap; you scream. You grab the pages of the book she's reading; she screams. But then two seconds later, she spontaneously envelopes you in a giant hug and you beam and coo at her. Your face just breaks into the biggest grin when she so much as glances your way, and the laughs you give her when she plays peek-a-boo are second to none. A toy doesn't count if Carys didn't have it first. You don't want a book unless Carys is trying to read it. Food only looks appetizing if it's something Carys is eating. And kid, let me tell you - she adores you, too. Still, six months later, she runs up to total strangers to introduce them to "my baby sister Emmeline!" She is so proud to be your big sister and always wants to cuddle you and make you smile. She shares all of her joys and successes with you first, before telling me or your dad. I've said it before and I know I'll repeat it probably eight thousand times - the relationship developing between you two is one of my favorite things about being a mom.


You got your first injury. You were in your car seat - unstrapped since we were just hanging out on the porch - and either Carys tipped you forward or you rocked yourself forward and fell right out of the seat. I'll leave it to the two of you girls to hash out who was at fault when you're older, but regardless of who did it....you had a big scrape on your face for a couple days.

You have these enormous big blue eyes and amazing cheeks. And your leg chub. It's actually more like Leg Chub. It's amazing. And your hair is getting a little....darker? Redder? Browner? I don't know exactly, but it's not the white-blonde it was for a little while there. You can actually sort of see it now, though it remains a light downy fuzz more than hair.


You started pulling up to a stand, using the same toy [the B Toys activity cube, which is one of my top favorite toys that we own - don't buy from Amazon, it's much cheaper at Target] that Carys started on when she was about the same age. You love to stand on those chubby little thighs. You love your bouncer and will happily fling yourself up and down for ages. You're starting to push off against your legs - the very beginnings of crawling! You reach for things and seem so dexterous. It's probably normal baby dexterity, but it seems impressive to me. I can barely walk in a straight line, and here you are grabbing things out of reach and bringing them to your mouth. You've started blowing raspberries, and you do this sharp intake of breath because you love the sound it makes and then laugh at yourself.

Right around your six month birthday, I tried solids with you. I gave you some big wedges of avocado and....well, you weren't a fan. You see us eating food. You want to eat food. But when you actually GET food, you look up with this betrayed expression and wonder what the eff we just gave you. We went camping with you the weekend you turned six months old, and you were desperately trying to get to the banana that your Nana was eating. You liked that more than the avocado but still had no idea what the hell was going on.

You started swim class a couple weeks ago, and much to my surprise, you seem to enjoy it. Or at least, you don't hate it, which I'll be honest, surprised me a little bit. While you love baths now, you hated them for a few weeks there, and I wasn't sure how much you'd enjoy slightly colder water up to your neck. You haven't cried yet, even when you get dunked underwater, and you seem to like kicking around in the water. It's so hard to believe that you're old enough for swim class already.  It was so hard to take you in the water, though - you still seem like such a little tiny baby to me. Not at all big enough to be taking swim class. Not big enough to be dunked underwater. I don't want to let you go and give you to the teacher when it's time. I feel this urgent need to protect you and keep you with me at all times.

You are your own little baby, so entirely, but the comparisons to Carys are inevitable. It's so strange - you seem so big sometimes, but you seem so much littler and smaller than she did at the same age. She was eating solids at 5.5 months, and seemed totally ready for swim class. But with you, I find myself thinking you aren't ready, even though you probably are. You're physically bigger than she was at the same age (barely, but a few ounces heavier and an inch longer) and you're at the same stage developmentally, but since I have a toddler running around, you seem so tiny in comparison.  Six months seemed so old with her since the only thing I had to compare to was her as smaller baby. But six months seems so tiny with you since the comparison baseline is a giant toddler who talks and runs and has an imagination. And can I be honest? It's wonderful. Carys's babyhood seemed to go in the blink of an eye, and time is flying with you, too...but it's different. You're still my little baby, and I think I'll feel that way about you for a long time. I promise I won't call you "my baby" in front of your high school friends.

I always write these while you're sleeping and I always end with an intense desire to go wake you up to cuddle more.

Oh, well, I know in (checks watch) about an hour you'll wake up to eat and I'll get to cuddle you then.

And I cannot WAIT.

Love you, sweet girl.



P. S. You're adorable.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Brownville Flea Market

So this picture is pretty much my new favorite thing, ever. 

Last weekend, my mom, sister, Carys, Emmeline, and I went to Brownville, Nebraska,* for a flea market. Ostensibly the world's largest, but a quick Google search shows me that at least a dozen other places are also claiming that title, so color me doubtful. Brownville's about an hour due south of Omaha.

*Semi-relevant sidenote: how incredible is it that a town of 132** has a website? I find that so incredibly awesome and humorous and I couldn't begin to tell you why.

** That's ONE HUNDRED THIRTY TWO. As in one less than 133. No commas in that number. That's a small-ass number. Although on the way in, you pass a town of 8. So could be smaller. Although I think the prairie dog population at our local zoo is larger than that. 

I'm really only filling this post in with words and pictures because I wanted to share that picture at the top. The GIF of my mom and Carys blowing dandelions with Emmeline looking on. BECAUSE IT'S WONDERFUL. And obviously I couldn't just post it by itself because god forbid I post without a bunch of supliferous words, right!?!?  The world would END.

We explored each of the vendors, enjoyed some frozen-fruit-lemonade (do you have this where you are?If not - make it! Just dump some frozen fruit into a glass of lemonade. SO GOOD!), some kettle corn, and some BBQ, and bought a few things (including a rusty trike for Carys that was $20 but talked down to $10 and ended up not being an antique, but just a really rusty trike from 2003, ANTIQUING FAIL). We also met my brother and his fiancee and looked at a possibly wedding venue for them for their 2016 wedding. 2016, yeah, I know. I can't even think about it because then I start thinking about how Emmeline will be 2.5 and Carys will be ALMOST FIVE and I die a little inside because time. And it passing and all that. But maybe I'll be hugely pregnant with kid three, huh, Chris? (NO NO NO he shouts in response.)

We tried to find two geocaches and went one for two - I suspect we found the base of one but the actual container was missing. (What, you don't know what a geocache is? You poor thing. It's like a fantastic treasure hunt ALL OVER THE WORLD. Look it up. You'll thank me. And also curse me when you're balls deep in poison ivy and insisting it's probably just Virginia creeper even though you KNOW Virginia creeper has five leaves and poison ivy has three leaves and whatever this is that you're standing in the thick of definitely has three leaves but you have to tell yourself it's harmless because you just KNOW that cache is here SOMEWHERE.)

I promise you Emmeline was there too but she was strapped to me most of the time, so no good pictures of her. I swear I took one of her sleeping in the stroller like a little starfish, but I can't find it. Emmeline, I love you just as much as Carys despite the lack of pictures, I swear. 

Sorry about the quality of these pictures. SOMEONE (cough Carys cough) dropped my phone and I haven't been getting great phone pictures since.

Carys climbing a tree after lunch at the sole bar in town, which is turned BBQ place just for the market. 

I'm sorry for sharing this. It will haunt your dreams. The shop owner caught me crying staring looking at it and said it was his good luck charm. "She" had a name but I can't remember what it was. Which is probably a good thing, since it will be harder to accidentally summon it to life in my dreams nightmares.

Buy your very own GIANT ASS CHAIR. And take it home....in your what exactly? Because ain't no way that thing is fitting in anything you drove to the flea market.

This kid, who looked like he was maybe 14 but probably was actually 20, was dressed in 30s clothing and doing silent vaudville-type acts. It was pretty fantastic, actually. I grabbed his business card just to look him up but can't find it now, which means I can't win the bet about his age. On the other hand, I can't LOSE it either, so we'll call it a win.

She insisted on carrying this giant bag of kettle corn around.

Stormy day out, but beautiful.

Carys was fascinated by this banged-up silo (silo? I should know this, I live in Nebraska, land of 1000 farms). We decided it was damaged in the big floods that came through a few years ago.

Like, I can't even begin to explain the bond Carys and her aunt Kimberly have.

On our short hike to find the second geocache. 

Her face doesn't show it, but she LOVES these pony rides. I give in, but I spend the whole time sad about these ponies strapped to a wheel all day. Also wishing I was little enough to ride them. Also wanting to take one home.

We closed out the day with ice cream. Cookies 'n cream and chocolate chip cookie dough for me, strawberry for her. 

She loves ice cream as much as I do. The silly face is thanks to Kimberly, who told her to make that face to ruin the picture.

See? Emmeline WAS there! My view on the way home - a view I'll never get sick of, despite being totally squashed.