Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our Little Dude

There's no doubt Maddox has gotten short shrift in this blog. I pretty much chronicled Roan's every move as an infant and toddler. So many family members shared with me that it helped them feel connected to us and to her, and part of our lives. Maddox, by contrast, is probably pretty much a stranger to you. I'll do what I can to paint a picture of my little boy with words.

At almost 20 months, there are some aspects to Maddox's personality that I feel have been consistent since he was in utero. He is still bubbly and full of joy so much of the time. It's not unusual for him to start giggling to himself in the backseat about goodness knows what out the window. Recently he's learned the words "fun" and "funny," and they've quickly become two of his favorites. I'm struck with a sense of wonder that a child less than 2 has a concept of humor. Almost every day he points something out that is "funny."

The other personality trait that is true to his embryonic self is that he seems to never stop moving. He jumps and wiggles and squirms and runs all within the first 3 minutes of waking up in the morning. He loves to jump on the bed, especially with Roan. One of his favorite moves is to climb up on to the back of the couch and jump down. When it goes well he catches air and says "Dat fun!" When it goes wrong, he catapults himself onto the floor and bonks his head. Thankfully that's only happened once.

One surprise to me is that he's a total bookworm. Oh, don't roll your eyes at me! While yes, it's true, Roan was read to daily from infancy, I must confess I've been by comparison rather derelict in that duty with Maddox, at least early on. Yet somehow he has acquired - whether by inheritance, by observation, or by some other means - a deep appreciation for the written word. He begs to be read to. He grabs endless stacks of books, one at a time, from the shelves, and presents them insistently. Who knows. Perhaps he'll be a line backer and a poet.

Like Roan and Logan, Maddox starting walking early at nine months. Talking has come a bit more slowly. Maybe it's because he's a boy. Or maybe it's because he can hardly get a word in edgewise with his sister. But now he's built up a good starter vocabulary. He's got about 100 words, and he can strings some together in short sentences. "Want some." "Dat funny." "I got it." He can usually get his point across, although in his own style. He still prefers to call me "Nah-nah" although he's perfectly capable of saying "Mama." His word for "blankie" remains "ba-dit." He says "peace" instead of "please." He says "alligator" pretty well, but his word for elephant is something along the lines of "oh-ga-dee."

Another difference between Roan and Maddox: this boy loves cars, trucks, trains, airplanes and motorcycles ("go gos" he calls them). Really anything that moves. He will point out "big bus!" out the window on the way to school. Heaven forbid a backhoe rolls down the street while I'm trying to hurry him into daycare (as happened this morning). He will just stand there, pointing and grunting, unmoveable. Roan was completely oblivious to such things. He also loves to play with balls. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) He's quite good at kicking a soccer ball and playing catch.

He's a real sweetheart too. He loves to hug and snuggle. He's still working on learning how to kiss. The other day I asked him for a kiss and he gave me a big old lick up one side of my face. Completely took me by surprise! When he blows kisses it sort of looks like he's eating them. But hugs he has down. After he whacks his sister upside the head or rolls over her sore toe with the stroller he just snatched from her, he's quite willing to make amends with a big hug and a "Sah-wee Woan". But then he pretty much thinks the sun rises and sets on her.

Here's another thing that hasn't changed about him since birth: when he's sad, mad or disappointed you will know about it. He has an ear piercing scream-shriek that stuns and stupefies. He can go from giggling to thermonuclear in a split second. I'm not sure if he has a short temper, or if he's just gearing up for the terrible twos. But that is the one thing I feels is my top priority to help him work on. Learning patience. Learning to take a breath. To calm down. To say it with words instead of scream it. To say "Please" instead of "MINE!!!" Given the number of times a day I repeat the same phrases ("We don't say 'Mine.' What do we say?") one might think he's a hopeless case. Good thing rationality is not a requirement for motherhood.

Despite these foibles, he is a lovely human being. And I feel privileged to share this part of his journey with him. In some ways, childhood breezes by so quickly - too quickly. But in other ways, it feels like a very slow unfolding. It takes so long before a clear picture of who this small human really is begins to come into focus. With Roan I had so many thoughts and desires about what I hoped for in a daughter. And she has surpassed each one of those. For Maddox, he is unencumbered by expectation. I never expected to have a son; I had no conception of who I hoped he would be. He is free to be himself, a complete mystery to me.

Here are some more videos.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

18 seconds

Recently I've been working on bringing balance to my life. It all started with this article that got me thinking about today's child-centric culture that seems to produce whiny kids with a sense of entitlement who never move out of their parents' basements. It's hard to fathom how we got here, when this country was built by generation upon generation of self-sufficient, pioneer spirits. People like Arwen's grandfather, who watched over his family's cattle for weeks at a time at the tender age of 10, cooking his supper over a camp fire with no one but his little brother to keep him company. I always marvel at the tales of Arwen's great grandmother, who raised 10 children, built a thriving ranch in the desert and fended off Indians with one hand tied behind her back. How did she manage to do all that, and I can't even weed the garden on a pretty Saturday with just two wee ones running around?

The answer, I've concluded, lies in my view of my children, myself, and our respective roles. Until now, I've viewed my children as essentially helpless beings that must be taught everything - from how to burp to how to poop to how to do calculus. I've viewed myself as Chief Entertainer, Butt Wiper, Taxi Driver and Brain Builder, with a focus on exposing them to a broad array of appropriate enrichment activities in order to stimulate optimal social and cognitive development. Problem is, not only is this take on parenting exhausting, I was starting to see it lead to a feeling of entitlement in my kids and an increasing lack of empathy for those of us running ourselves ragged giving them every advantage in life.

But what if they're not helpless beings? What if my endless drive to do for them is actually harming them? What if they are essentially capable beings, who simply must be taught the building blocks of self sufficiency one step at a time? What if it's possible to sit through a four-course meal with two preschoolers in peace and harmony, and actually enjoy ourselves? I started trying a few things out.

I began by taking an inventory of what was not "working" for me in our day-to-day lives. At the top of my list was our morning routine, which generally involved me running around half dressed, barking at Roan to get her dressed and groomed, while tugging Maddox's shoes on and making her lunch. So I began setting a timer on the kitchen clock, in clear sight of everyone. I let Roan know that since she's going to be a Kindergartener soon, she is now responsible for her things, her body and her lunch. It's her responsibility to have herself and her things ready by the time the timer beeps. Ready or not, we all get into the car on time each morning.

The hardest thing about this for me is keeping my mouth shut and letting her experience the natural consequences of her actions. But if I am operating from the assumption that she's essentially a capable being, giving her the space to make her own choices - and live with them - affords her a certain freedom and respect. Of course, it also demands a level of respect from her for the needs of the family: to leave on schedule so we can be at work and at school on time.

Rest assured, she has put me to the test. One morning she basically refused to make her lunch. True to my word, we piled into the car on schedule. I asked how she felt about not having a lunch for camp that day. She began to get upset. I asked if she'd like some ideas, and she said yes. She had just gotten her allowance the night before and was planning to go to the toy store with her dad that day. I suggested she could use some of her allowance money to buy herself a lunch. "It will make me late to take you to the store, but I'm willing to do that to help you this time." How heartless am I? Even Arwen felt I perhaps went too far. But I wanted her to experience a natural consequence as opposed to a punitive one, like taking away movie day or a favorite toy. She thought about it, and we talked it over. She really did not like the idea of missing out on buying a toy, but ultimately decided she liked the idea of missing lunch even less. I could see the wheels turning in her head. She was taking ownership of her decisions. She didn't whine. She didn't blame me. And I think that lesson stuck. She has taken responsibility for making her own lunch every day since, without complaint.

The next thing on my list of pet peeves was my kids' constant snacking. I could never leave the house without two sippy cups and a bag full of food. Afternoon pickups from school were always stressful because either I had to remember to pack snacks before leaving for work in the morning, or - heaven forbid - endure an hour of endless whining on the way home. Even if I did pack snacks, I often got complaints on the selections I'd made. And for anyone who has had the misfortune of riding in my car, there is the toll all that snacking takes on the backseat. Maddox inevitably would throw his milk each and every day. So I announced to Roan that soon we would have a "no snacking in the car" rule. The first couple of days I offered her a choice: she could either have a single graham cracker now OR if she waited until we got home, she could have that graham cracker plus a sweet treat. The first day she chose instant gratification. The second day she waited until we got home.

The third day I brought no snacks. She began to  cry. Then she began to scream. And then she became totally unhinged. It was so ridiculous that I suggested we have a screaming contest. "Is that as loud as you can scream? Come on!" That stratagem failed utterly. 10 minutes into the car ride and she was still screaming. I felt so powerless. I was yearning for some way to hold onto my sense of calm, composure, and control of the situation. So then I said calmly, "Roan, I'm going to turn on my timer. However many minutes you spend screaming in the car is how long you will have to go to your room when we get home." Guess how long it took her to calm down. Guess. Really. You'll never guess.

18 seconds.

18 seconds, and not only was she not screaming or crying. She was smiling. She let out a little laugh. "Guess what, Mommy! I was only fake crying!" Wow kid. You have been playing me. And I've been falling for it so hard.

I keep thinking about that 18 seconds. It's like a mantra I repeat to myself when I'm feeling particularly challenged by the kids. It reminds me that they're capable of much more than I think they are. If I raise the bar, they will rise to the challenge.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to now. We still have conversations from time to time about snacks. But no meltdowns. Even Maddox will say "Milk. Home. Milk. Home." from the backseat after I pick him up for daycare. And the change in Roan has been remarkable. She's decided she prefers packing her lunch the night before, so she has plenty of time to get ready in the morning. She asked me to wake her up a few minutes early so she has time to make her bed tomorrow (her idea completely). When I pick her up from camp in the afternoons, lo and behold she has pre-filled her water bottle for the ride home (water is allowed in the car). She sets napkins and silverware out at dinner time and clears her plate when she's done. She even pours her own milk sometimes (while I stand by holding my breath). Last weekend she baked her first cake - from measuring to pouring to decorating - with help only getting it into and out of the oven. And I swear, she's walking two inches taller, proud of herself, secure in the knowledge that she is capable of many things.

The change in me is good too. I'm relaxed more. I'm enjoying our time together more. It's creating space for me to take time for myself, and for me to pause and enjoy my wonderful husband. I've realized it's far more important to teach my children to be patient, to persevere, to take responsibility, to put their endless desires within bounds than it is to entertain them, or even to tend to their cognitive development. If they can learn to be calm, confident, and focused, then their internal landscape will allow the rest to follow.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A lot has happened around the Vaughan household since I last updated at Halloween. Thanksgiving, several family visits, a certain munchkin turned 1, Christmas and New Years. But before I touch on all that I thought I'd fill you in on how this week is going.

Today I'm home playing Dr. Mom to Maddox. The poor little guy has an ear infection, a bunch of new teeth coming in, and a 103* fever. He didn't get much sleep last night, and by extension neither did we. He gave us a little scare in fact. He was screaming and inconsolable last night for about an hour, wheezing with congestion while we scrambled around trying to figure out what was wrong. We knew we were in trouble when the kid wouldn't take a bottle. Since when does food not solve all his problems? After a 2 AM steam shower and some ibuprofen kicked in, he was breathing well enough to fall back asleep. Poor guy's had it tough the past couple of months. He's had a couple of back-to-back colds that turned into sinus infections. He had 3 whole healthy days after his last round of antibiotics before this latest fever showed up. I'm not one to go rushing for the antibiotics but I'm not sure what we'd do without them.

So before Maddox's episode last night, we had a little drama with Roan. Her school called yesterday around lunchtime to ask us to pick her up, saying she took a fall on the playground and needed stitches in her chin. I was home with a napping Maddox at the time. Arwen was about to step into an eye appointment. Her doctor's office was on their lunch hour. It was a comical game of phone tag trying to figure out what to do. Daddy to the rescue! He picked her up, wiped her tears and cheered her up with a pink donut with rainbow sprinkles. She was remarkably brave. (The doctor commented to that effect today when I returned with a sick Maddox.) They gave her some topical anesthetic and put in 7 stitches. Arwen said she sat their, stoic, with that needle and thread going in and out of her face. Amazing.

I should probably be napping right now to catch up on sleep after all of this excitement. And to prepare for what will likely be a wakeful night. But I've really been missing the blog. It's been so hard to carve out the time to myself.

I've been noticing something lately. You know that little voice in your head that talks to you all the time? Hopefully you do know what I'm talking about, otherwise I have bigger problems than I thought. Well I noticed that little voice is a whiner. It complains so much all the time, and I'm not sure how long it's been doing that. I remember about a year after Roan was born I noticed that little voice used to say extremely critical things making judgements about every little decision regarding being a mom. When I became aware of it, I made an ironclad pact with myself to completely ban any negative self talk. The job is hard enough without a constant stream of criticism, even if that criticism is coming from between your own two ears. And I've done a pretty great job of sticking to my guns. When the occasional criticism comes up I immediately answer it with statements like "Well I guess that will have to be good enough," or "I'm not going to worry about what other people think." It's really helped me get off the train to Crazy Town.

So now it's time to silence my inner whiner. Now that I've become aware of it I'm dismayed by its seemingly endless ability to find the negative in every situation. To complain about nearly everything under the sun. I've decided that every time I catch it whining about something - that I have to get out of bed and go to work, or go grocery shopping when I'd rather eat out, or put my kids to bed instead of crawling into bed myself - that I'm going to turn it around and find something to be grateful for. Like that I have a job I enjoy to go to, or that I can afford to buy all the things on my grocery list. I can't help but think that it could be a very powerful thing to view every adversity as something to be grateful for. It seemed to work for me last night. I was worried about Maddox, but I wasn't whining about being up in the night. Instead I was thinking how lucky we are that what's wrong with him is temporary and curable. There are lots of parents facing permanent disability or terminal illness in their children. When Josefa was here visiting at Christmas Arwen and I were droning on about the multitude of challenges being a parent. Then Josefa put a question to me that I've been thinking about ever since. "What if you had all of those challenges and also lived in a dangerous neighborhood? Or had violence in your home? Or had to leave the kids with drug addicts so you could go to work?" Those are the kinds of families she works with in her nonprofit ArtSeed.

And then I realized I have completely lost my mind. I have so totally lost perspective that I have become oblivious to how privileged we are. Just to have what The Whiner would consider the basics - good health, enough food to eat, clean water to drink, good schools for the kids, good friends, a safe neighborhood. There are a helluva lot of people in this world that are missing one or more of those things. And what's the point of being in fortunate circumstances if you don't stop to appreciate it? If you just always find one more thing to grumble about. Eventually a real challenge will present itself, and what kind of sorry state will you find yourself in then?

And maybe, just maybe, if I can silence my inner whiner, then I can help my toddlers move beyond whining as well.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Happy Halloween

A little belated, but here's our recap of Halloween. We had a ton of fun this Halloween. Lolli, G-Pop, Grandma and Grandpa were in town (for at least some of it). Arwen, Jen and Micah were out of town, then came back into town. People were coming and going, but suffice it to say we had lots of fun with everyone.

We had 3 different trick or treat outings. Roan (naturally) modified her costume slightly each time. At first she was a princess ballerina. Then she became a rainbow princess kitty. And finally she went as Rapunzel.

On our first outing the Saturday beforehand we headed down to Tennyson St and trick or treated from shop to shop. Roan and Camila...

Roan, Claire and Camila

Roan showcasing her spoils

Roan and McKinna. McKinna is Daphne from Scooby Doo. Love her costume!!!

Lydia, Pascale, Roan and McKinna

We stopped off at the playground before it was all over.

Maddox made it out with us on our second outing. He's a giraffe.

Here Maddox is a sad giraffe. And there's Roan in her rainbow princess kitty getup. I'm still not really clear on where the pink wings come into play.

And the here we are about to head out for nighttime trick or treating.

Here is a video just moments before we stepped out. That wig cracks me up.

Mama & Maddox

Rapunzel skipping down the lane. Literally the second we stepped out of the gate she said, "Daddy, my feet hurt. Can you carry me?"

Logan (Dash from the Incredibles) and Roan

It was such a perfect night. Cool but not cold. Clear. Fall leaves all around.

The Longs

And then after trick or treating, Logan got cozy with a book in Roan's dolly pack & play

Photo slideshows:


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

remember me?

Wow, hi there Blog. Oh how I've missed you. And oh how I've missed you, Dear Reader.

I compose imaginary blog posts in my mind pretty much every day, going about my normal routine and reflecting on the ordinary wonders. But for months on end, these fantasy blog posts are as far as I've gotten. It's just hard to get to the computer and get them in. I'm not going to bore you with the details of my mundane routine, and I'm not complaining about them either. Somewhere along the way I decided it was more important to be with my kiddos than to write about it. I hope the writing will find its way back in, little by little.

There are a zillion other things I should be doing right now. Making Roan's lunch. Organizing my posse of yearbook volunteers (I'm the senior yearbook advisor at Roan's school). Slinging code for the big project at work with the looming deadline. Cleaning up the mess of papers and yarn and odds and ends on my desk. I cringe at the thank you notes that have gone unwritten, the birthday and sympathy cards unsent. And just like on the Appalachian Trail, I keep putting one foot in front of the other, optimistic that somehow it'll all get done if I keep moving forward.

But I just had to pick up the pen, er, keyboard. We are closing in on a year with Maddox now and I am aghast at how the time has gone. I look at him and am in wonder how my helpless little monster baby has grown into a toothy, toddling little bruiser. And I think about where Roan is at now, making sense of the world and her place in it, and how this time with her has raced by so fast. And how I spent most of that time so freaked out about being a first time mom I'm not sure how much I was able to just relax and be in the moment.

That's something I've really been working on. Being in the moment. Being intentional with what I do and say. Surrendering to the overwhelming tide of What Is and letting go of What Should Be. And I think I'm getting better at it. Leave it to me to add "Chill out" to my To Do list, and then strategize about how best to accomplish that.

It amazes me how much kids cause you to reflect on and learn about yourself. Take your kids' nearly constant onslaught of wants and needs and combine that with school's and society's and the Jones' expectations about what you should and should not be doing as a parent. That little pressure cooker is like a crucible burning off all the fluff and distractions and distilling it all down to a core of truths about you as a person. I am relishing this experience.

But we all know you don't come here for my pithy witticisms about the condition of parenthood. You come here for pictures, right?! Here's what the kids are up to.

I guess the big news is Roan learned how to ride a bike, and Maddox is walking. See for yourself!

Roan is in her second year of preschool, in a mixed age classroom with 3, 4 and 5 year olds. (She's 4.) After stunning us by learning to read right off the bat last year as a 3 year old, she has grown progressively more resistant to reading at home. At the end of last school year she declared, "Reading every day is exhausting!" to which I wanted to reply "Good use of vocabulary!" I thought having the summer off would be enough of a break, but this fall she remained recalcitrant. I tried the tough guy approach, and watched it fail utterly. She began saying things like "I hate reading," which totally freaked me out. I unsuccessfully tried to Google a solution. And I was reluctant to talk to anyone about it because I thought people would be like, "Oh poor you, your 4 year old doesn't want to read. Whatever shall you do?!" But when I did finally talk to some other moms, one of them a school psychologist, they basically told me I needed to back off totally. Which is also, for the record, what Arwen told me as well, and naturally I was completely deaf to it coming from him.

So I took this advice. I apologized to Roan and let her know that I don't want her to read to me unless she wants to. And literally THE VERY NEXT DAY she made a total 180. After testing the waters of course. She wanted to see what I'd say when she resisted. And then, spontaneously, she read her book to me because she wanted to. Be tough, go easy on them, geez it's hard to know which card to play when.

She seems to be going through something though, breaking through to a new stage or something. She's very mercurial lately. One minute happy and fun and the next minute falling apart because she can't button her coat. Really. She got so upset about the coat and its nonconforming button that I couldn't drop her off at school this morning. We had to wait a half an hour for her to chill out. And then it was like a cloud had just cleared the sky, and she was herself again. I'm not sure what this is about. But I am noticing she seems to be somehow more mature and more capable, and I am dimly aware of my constant tendency to underestimate her. Periodically a readjustment of expectations is needed, and I think that's where we're at.

As for Maddox, oh my sweet little boy. There I go tearing up again. He is so wonderful. And I feel really badly that I have kept him all to myself, and I haven't shared him with you at all. Because he is a really lovely little person. So funny. So full of joy. He absolutely lights up a room. He's charmed all the gals at his daycare. Ugh, it's hard letting go of him.

I know, it's not exactly like he's headed off to college just yet. But the end of his first year is upon me, and that really is the end of something special. I have so enjoyed cuddling up with him, being close with him. And lord knows we've had a lot of those times, especially at 2, 3 and 4 in the morning. And as much as I do love a full night's sleep, I will miss those times in the night, holding him close.

He is still a big, chubby boy. Still has the double chin and chipmunk cheeks he was born with. And the fat little sausage toes I love so much. Still has his daddy's hairline. That cowlick can look rather dapper though. He's remained in the 95th percentile on height and weight. At 9 months (almost a month ago) he was 25 pounds and 30 inches. So far he's thrown himself at everything in life with all he's got. He's an enthusiastic eater (you knew that), crawler, banger of noisy toys, puller of dangly earrings, and even when he's hungry or sad it doesn't take much to get him to laugh. He's babbling lots of sounds now. A few times he's said "dada" and "mama" and meant it. He is curious about the way things work- likes to open them up, tump them over, make the wheels go. He doesn't like to stay still or be confined. Unless Mama is holding him. And then he doesn't want to be put down.

Ah, I love my little boy so. I look at him and think back to his 20 week ultrasound, when I felt so bewildered at the prospect of being a mother to a boy. Hard to believe I had a care in the world about that, given how natural he's made it all seem.

In other news, fall is beautiful here in Colorado. I'm always a little sad to say goodbye to summer. This was a great one. Camping trips, working in the garden, picnics, pools, even a cross country road trip to visit the Horrocks family farm in Utah.

We've had some lovely visits recently with Lolli & G-Pop, Feefa & Bubby and Gramps & K.

And of course we're looking forward to some spooky Halloween fun right around the corner.

I leave you with a couple more videos of the kids together.

And just one more of Roan on her bike, because I still can't get over it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

we have rolling!

I haven't managed to catch it on video yet, but yesterday Maddox rolled over from back to tummy three times right in front of my eyes. He's quite pleased with himself - it's cute.

So I guess this is the beginning of a new phase. The start of mobility. And I am thrilled but also a little sad. I'm not sure if you can tell, but we are completely smitten by this little boy. He's made for such an adorable baby, I'd kind of like to keep him that way forever. Even if it meant I never returned to normal sleep again. Really. I would make that trade. It's a good thing we're not endowed with the power to choose these things, because there's a chance I would just freeze Maddox right here at this adorable fat-cheeked, butter-skinned stage of his life.

But Mother Nature knows better. And it's a good thing too. As much as I'd like Maddox to stay just as he is right now for always and ever, I can't help but get excited when he learns to do something new. Like roll over. Or try to hold his bottle. Or cluck his tongue. Or make all manner of amusing sounds. One day soon he will be sitting up on his own, crawling, taking his first steps, running around wreaking havoc. All I can do is try to hold on to each precious moment as it slips right out of my hands.

Pictures & videos to come soon.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

happy 4 months Maddox... er, happy 5 months buddy!

... and Happy Mother's Day, and Happy Birthday to G-Pops, and Happy 5th Anniversary to the Longs, and Happy 12th Anniversary to us. Happy happy happy!

[Editor's note: I started this post a few days after Maddox turned 4 months. It's taken me until after he turned 5 months to post it!]

At 4 months old, Maddox is weighing in at a stout 19 pounds. He has dropped to the 95th percentile. (2 months ago he was off the charts.) He is such a happy little boy. Except when he's not happy -- and then he's REALLY not happy. But I think of him as my little Buddha baby. Fat, happy and easy going. He brings joy to me every time I look in his eyes. Except when I'm looking at them for the 2nd or 3rd time in the middle of the night. In all seriousness though, I feel like he has radiated a sense of calm and well being ever since he sprouted in my womb.

He is getting pretty good at holding toys in his hands. He's started to discover his feet. I love watching him. He will grab for and stare at his feet like "Woah man, check out these things. Far out!!!" He often assumes what is referred to as the "happy baby" position in yoga-- one foot in each hand, and a big dopey grin of accomplishment on his face. He hasn't turned all the way over yet, but when he's laying on his back he likes to stick his feet up in the air and flop them over to the side. He's happy for longer and longer stretches playing on his tummy and in the exersaucer. And sleep hasn't been too bad. He usually eats around 8 PM, midnight, 4 am and 7. A few times a week he may go for a 5-6 hour stretch but it's not so consistent.

We started him on cereal this week. His doctor said at this stage of the game it's really just about getting him comfortable with the spoon and working on getting over his gag reflex. His first two tries at cereal were pretty much what I expected: a cute, messy affair in which most of the cereal ended up on his bib, high chair or me. I was quite surprised on Day Three, however, when he ate 6 tiny bowls of the stuff. He would've kept going if I hadn't cut him off. I've set his daily intake at 3 tablespoons of dry cereal mixed with 4 ounces of formula. Sure seems like that should be plenty. And of course I was hoping that the cereal would lead to some longer sleep stretches at night, but I'll give you a guess at how that went. Funny how hope springs eternal, though past experience should dictate otherwise.

Roan is doing great. She remains an awesome big sister. She is learning to practice patience when both she and Maddox need something at the same time. The other day I had to make her wait to get a snack because Maddox was fussy, hungry and tired. She took her crying out in the hallway, helped herself to a graham cracker and cried to herself while she waited for me. It broke my heart and made me proud at the same time. I told her that I know how hard it can be to be the big sister sometimes, since a long, long time ago I was the big sister when Aunt Jen was the baby. We got a nice dose of mother-daughter bonding that day.

Things are starting to wind down at school. When we expressed concern to her teacher that Roan doesn't seem all that into homework and reading lately, she said not to worry about it. "Their brains are full this time of year. They're ready for a break." Roan seems to agree. We've been filling our free time with trips to the park, digging in the front garden, and baking cookies.

Since I've become such an infrequent poster, a lot has happened since my last post. For one thing, Roan celebrated her 4th birthday. Grandma and Lolli came into town to share some time together. We had a lot of fun. We had her party at a bouncy house place called Up Up Jump. She had requested a rainbow cake, so we whipped one up from scratch together. Since all the kids insisted "I want a rainbow on my piece!" for her birthday celebration at school I made rainbow cupcakes, so each kiddo could have their own. Grandma stayed with us for this trip, and she totally spoiled us by keeping Maddox every night. Every SINGLE night. She even taught us a few tricks that have made a big difference in getting him to sleep longer stretches. Thanks Mom!!!

Here's a slideshow of photos from Roan's birthday and the moms' visit.

A couple weeks after that was Easter. Josefa and Charles flew in and spent the weekend with us. The weather wasn't the greatest, but we made the best of things and had an egg hunt in the front yard for Roan and Logan. Here are some more photos.

One last thing. This pic of Logan sporting Roan's chef hat is just too cute not to post! Love my little nephew!