18 months (ish)

I don't remember her "stats" from the appointment. I think she weighs around 23 pounds. What I remember is that the nurse had her stand on the scale in the hallway for the first time and it was funny to give her directions about getting up on it and holding very still and not touching the sides, or the red numbers. She has teeth, incisors are working their way through. Her ears were blessedly clear this time.

What marks this stage for me are the words pouring out of her. We went to the garage to put her rake away and she said "shovel" and pointed to the shovel. How did you know that word, I asked her, and she looked quite pleased and said it again. More, please. Down. Elmo. Sky. Moon. Fire truck. Bus. Flower. Bunny.

She sings the alphabet song...m o p la la la e f g.

Her favorite stories to read are the various versions of Mother Goose rhymes. She asks for "ashes" (ring around the rosie) or "pat pat" (patty cake). She also likes Rain, Rain, Go Away. We read a lot. She brings books to us and puts them into our hands, closing our fingers around them. You, she says, while she sits down in our laps.

She climbs on everything. She gets into everything. Yesterday we were hanging out on the front porch. We went camping this weekend and there was still a bunch of bags laying around, half unpacked. Suddenly, Laurel was playing with a half empty bag of bread, taking slices out, taking one bite from each and putting them down in a stack. She has an uncanny ability to locate batteries. I worry about her getting into something poisonous...we talk a lot about Food/Not Food.

On the occasion that M and I go out and do something that resembles our former lives, I am reminded at how freely we lived before Laurel. Before she arrived, I worried at becoming child-centric, that my relationships with friends would disappear and Mark and I would become Daddy and Mommy. I thought that would be bad because it would be boring.

It turns out that relationships are hard to maintain and there never seems to be enough time and if I get together with someone and Laurel is around, our conversation is clipped to half sentence exchanges. But raising a kid turns out to be anything but boring, and I never had so much fun preparing breakfast or looking at traffic go by or wandering through the woods next to a creek looking at flowers and bugs.


A frog, a blog and a jog...

I went running today, pushing the baby jogger with Laurel twit-twit-twoo-ing to every bird and squealing when we went down a hill. The jogging stroller is heavy now. I don't know how those ladies push the double ones, except maybe they avoid steep inclines out of ravines. It was sunny in the afternoon. Sunny for long enough to visit the playground at the Children's Institute (highly recommend it, handicap accessible and quite a different setup than our usual haunts). Laurel wore herself out chasing after the big kids. And still sunny when we returned home so I could get some exercise as well. Danna - you should have stayed longer! The sun is here!

School is almost over and I wish I could write more about my experiences as a teacher on this blog. I can say that there are many parallels between my interactions with Laurel and my interactions with ninth graders. Or maybe people all behave the same when you are trying to get them to do something they don't want to do, regardless of age. I want to tell you about my constructivist unit on fraction exploration and how I would do math journals in the future, and how very long it takes to rebuild the confidence and curiosity of students broken down by a broken system. (Years, probably.) But anything I could say about teaching is irrelevant without the learners. It makes it hard to tell the real story of M & K (& L) because we are so influenced by this group of people that I spend all day with and can't forget at night. Thirteen days left. Or something like that. It's flying by and I am so ridiculously swamped with end of year IEP paperwork that I fear I will not actually be done in 13 days and will have to spend some of my precious summer vacation in the office finishing it up and hearing the tsk, tsk of my department head.

And finally, the frog. M found a frog, a toad really, hopping around our Airstream when we were getting ready to leave on Sunday. Laurel was already strapped in her car seat, but he wanted to show her, so he brought it over to her and it leapt right out of his hands and onto her, causing quite a fright for all parties involved. That child is not afraid of much, but she does get freaked out by toads, worms and harmonicas.

How do fears come about? And what is it about certain things that bothers her? Will she have them forever? Or will she replace toads with strangers and harmonicas with financial hardship?

Would it be good to be afraid of nothing or does a little fear serve us well?


Best Birthday Ever

There are six happy balloons still cheerily floating in my living room, tied to the banister. Tomorrow, they'll begin to sink, and then I'll throw them away, but for now the party is a fresh memory. These are the images that will stick in my mind...friends trickling in through the front door with beer and food and presents. Toddlers underfoot for the first hour. Raising my beer in a toast to my sister's marathon race last weekend, encircled by our friends and family. Wandering in between conversations. My brother and Stan and Mark playing guitars in the living room. I'm another year older, and maybe a little bit wiser.


Actually, that was good timing...

I've been a whiny little brat about my job on far too many occasions this year. However, since the end of the school year is in sight, with two glorious months off and we have weird short week with Tuesday off for elections, well, I am feeling a little more positive about the whole thing.

During Laurel's first year, her needs were fairly simple. Milk. Sleep. Swaddle. Diaper. Extra loud AM radio static blasting all night long. Any fool can do this if you are up to the challenge of severe sleep deprivation.

The second year is proving to be more challenging, but I think there is no better way to learn to parent a toddler then to spend half your day with teenagers. As we work out what the family rules are for food and play and safety and wearing clothes and hitting and sharing, I have this constant thought in the background...."in twelve years, she'll be one of THEM." Not that I've figured out the perfect way to parent. However, I do tend to think about rules and limits in ways that challenge Laurel to learn how to make decisions and solve her own problems. I try to think of a reasonable and clear explanation for limits before I just say something arbitrary that would shut a one year old up, but isn't really true.

Is 18 months old too young to be be a problem solver?

How can I make sure that Laurel eats healthy food while giving her the freedom to choose when and what she wants to eat? Because frankly, M and I have the freedom as do most adults.

How do I create a bedtime routine that is comforting but allows for flexibility with special occasions or nights when she simply isn't sleepy at 7:00pm?

I think there are some things that you do differently at different stages, and you have to change up over time. But there also seem to be a lot of things that sort of set the tone for how the family will operate, like family meals and going to church and how the dishes get washed.

Laurel is in a seriously obstinate phase. Her first reaction to practically everything seems to be stomping or shrieking or laying on the floor at the most inopportune times. I think I could be more strict with her...more demanding of her actions. I could tell her exactly what to do, and force her into doing it because she's little enough to scoop up, even for as wiggly as she is. But will that really teach her what I want to?


Goodnight, little house...

Changing Laurel's diaper is nothing short of an aerobic workout. She will usually go and lay down on her mat when I ask her to, but keeping her there is another story. Today, I gave her a book and a stuffed animal to occupy her for a moment. My attention was solely on the remove-diaper-wipe-fasten-new-diaper process until I heard "goodnight house, goodnight mouse".

Laurel was reading the book to her stuffed animal.

Now, as a Reading Specialist, I would define the process of reading as something a bit more complex than what Laurel is actually doing. Nonetheless, I was shocked that at 18 months, she would be able to associate words and pictures of a particular page within a book. I guess reading Good Night, Moon every night since she was two months old has paid off. But it made me say "Dang, what was with all those kindergarteners who couldn't even turn the pages in the right direction?"

I worked in the field of literacy for a long time. I always had a lot of those pamphlets lying around. I had a general sense that it was important to read to kids. I told this to parents and community members and big brothers and sisters all the time. As a linguist, it has been very interesting to watch Laurel's oral/aural language development. But somehow I thought the literacy part would come later. However, I am seeing that it is very closely integrated to the initial language acquisition. What will be interesting is to see the effects on school-age reading tasks. Will she be better at them for having had exposure to books early on in her development? Or will she turn out to have dyslexia? I have no idea at this point.

Ok, getting a little geek-y for most of you. But seriously...getting to watch a human being develop in front of your eyes is amazing.

What will she do next?


Mother's Day

Thanks for all the Mother's Day well wishes. I wrote the other day that this is the first year that I really feel like a mom, and it later dawned on me that other people are starting to see me grow into that role and identify me with it. Anyway, I truly appreciate the sentiments. My friend Elaina sent me a link to this article, and it seemed very timely, especially as I've been watching Laurel tantrum her way through life lately. Sometimes I'm fearful that I'll do the wrong thing and she'll turn into one of Those Awful Teens that I spend all day with, until I remember that they're going to turn out just fine too. (Unless they're not, but that's a story for another blog.)

I was going through the few childcare books that I have (you may remember that I already pitched a few of the sleep books that came into my house) and I was trying to decide which ones I would pass on to M's sister, who is expecting a baby in July. I decided that the Happiest Baby on the Block and the American Pediatric Association First Year of Life are the only two that are really worth anything and are not overly dogmatic, as is the problem with most babycare books.

We had a long day yesterday and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of my sister (yay!) who is coming to visit with her boyfriend. Laurel conked out right at 7 after a very late bedtime on Sunday. She's so funny when we put her into her crib now. She'll try to cling to you like a monkey, but if you resist the urge to pick her up, she'll just turn around and curl up in a little ball and wait for you to give her the baby doll, which she tucks under her arm.

Now it's time to get Laurel up and off to daycare so I can go to school. Twenty-one days left!


A New Mode of Transportation

M scored a Burley bike trailer on Craigslist last week and we went out for a little family bike ride fun today.

Nothing about this weekend turned out the way we planned. Laurel was mad about everything and melted into a toddler puddle over the most inexplicable events. We wanted to get some yard work done and do another little mini-camping trip to scout a permanent RV site, but it kept raining. Still, it has not been a bad weekend. We made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I planned to study calculus, but instead went out with Sarah to a real bar, with no children. And of course, there was the bike outing. Ever since last weekend, when M got Laurel her bike helmet (it's yellow with monkeys on it), she has been looking forward to going for a bike ride, or at least the chance to wear her helmet. We decided to stay close to home, both because of Laurel's current combo of wiggliness and tantrums, and because I haven't really ridden my bike in two years. (TWO YEARS!?) We rode through Frick Park and then followed a couple of roads that have bike lanes to get to the library and Commonplace, for coffee. I was fine on my bike, by the way, even though I couldn't remember how to shift gears for the first mile. I am really excited about the bike trailer because it took no time at all to get to the library, so I feel like it really opens up a car-free way to travel again. Laurel seemed to enjoy it but was a little uncomfortable; I think we need to work on adjusting all the straps to make it work for a teeny tiny kid.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. This is the first year that I have really strongly identified as being a mother, as in when someone asks me what I do, I think of my role as a mom. I give hugs and stern warnings, and know that Laurel doesn't like her food served too hot, and I can tell she's getting tired before she gets cranky and I will read Good Night, Moon or Trucks or Big Bird's Birthday Party for the 700th time with the same enthusiasm as the first time. I don't let us run out of milk or clean socks or Cheddar Bunnies. I have a spare diaper and a packet of wipes tucked in my purse. I can function somewhat normally on two hours of sleep. I can recognize my own child's cry even if 5 or 6 other kids are crying or laughing or shouting. My heart jumps and skips and drops when I watch Laurel scampering up the playground equipment, fearlessly. I schedule my day around nap time and bed time. My car is covered in stale Cheerios. I am completely satisfied to sit on the floor and build towers and then knock them down over and over and over again. I remember what life was like before Laurel, but I cannot remember ever being this happy. This satisfied. This joyful. This scared. This complete.


In Search Of....

We're on the hunt for a home for our Airstream. This weekend we went on a scouting trip to Bear Run Campground near Moraine State Park. The front of the park is on some very pretty land adjacent to some horse farms. It is close to I79, but not so close that you can hear the highway traffic. The campground has a lot of amenities...playground, swimming pool, general store, etc. The first thing we noticed was that the permanent RV sites are really stacked on top of each other. Most of the campground land is extremely hilly, with large drop offs. Because we were tent-camping this weekend we ended up at one of the primitive sites (meaning, no hook ups), that was way in the back of the park. This might have been awesome, but the whole back end of the park had a waste land feel to it...a huge swath of clear cut hillside was clearly visible from our camp site. The fishing ponds looked like drain ditches. As soon as we got out of the car we heard ATVs. Not exactly the vibe we were going for.

Then we did something that we normally don't do; we headed back to the camp office, asked for a refund, and hit the road. It was already 3 pm, so instead of driving further to check out another potential RV site, we headed a few miles down the road towards Breakneck Campground, where we stayed with the Butler Outdoors Club last year. They have a few cabins for rent, but most of their sites are primitive and the park was quite empty. We found the least soggy site in the park and unpacked the car. Laurel spent about an hour playing inside the tent, folding and refolding her sleeping bag. M set up his hammock. I lounged by the picnic table. It was rather cloudy and cool, but the birds were still singing. As it got closer to dinner time, I realized I forgot matches. Some nice campers down the lane gave us a lighter and some fire starters and the campground owner came around delivered firewood. We ate mountain pies for dinner. Laurel had a great time running around the field and looking at flowers and collecting sticks. Since, I also forgot to pack flashlights, a coat, shoes and socks (oops!), we made it an early night.

Sleeping in a tiny backpacking tent with a squirmy one year old is not exactly the most relaxing sleep. Around 6:00am it started to get light. M tried to convince Laurel to lay down until the rain slowed up, but she kept saying "breakfast". We also didn't have any clean diapers in the tent. So, we all piled into the car and sat there for a while watching the rain and eating cold cheese sandwiches. It was more fun that it sounds. Eventually, we decided that the rain didn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so we threw all of our soggy stuff into the car and drove home pulling into the driveway a little after 8:00am.

Even though we didn't find an rv site and our camping trip lasted less than 18 hours, it was still nice to get out in the fresh air and sit around a campfire for a little while. Next weekend, we hope to check out Smith Grove Campground.