Posted in family life, Uncategorized

to my sons’ grandmothers

One of the greatest gifts my children have been given is the chance to know both of their grandmothers well and form deep, personal relationships with them. There is something special about the unconditional love and care of a grandma, particularly when coupled with their wisdom, experience, and maturity. When I am concerned about a certain behavior, my mom or my mother-in-law can provide the perspective her own years of child-raising have given her; when my patience has run out or my tank is empty, they can support me with their time and prayers; and when I worry more about my parenting or how people judge our family, they can simply give their love and acceptance to my children.

At family gatherings, I often notice some of our relatives looking askance at Rondel, for his odd physical behaviors (spinning, licking, etc.), or for his intense emotional reactions (especially in the uncomfortable, overstimulating environments that often surround family events), or for his particularity and attention to detail (which he hasn’t yet learned to express gently…). And it hurts me a lot. I want to go into “Mama Bear” mode and totally destroy the people who judge my son poorly, especially when they go beyond glances and start making snide comments. I try not to because that’s not the example I want to set for my children on how to interact with the rudeness and criticism of the world, but that’s my visceral reaction…

And so it means so much to me when my mother-in-law comments on how fascinating Rondel is, how sharp and attentive he is – when she notices his quirks and differences with affection and love instead of judgment. She’s not oblivious to his sensitivities and struggles, but she simply accepts them and loves him not despite them but because of  them, in a way, because they are a part of who he is. I don’t think I can fully express the gratitude I have for her because of that, despite all the differences we have in general about raising children 🙂 And because I’m apparently ridiculously blessed, I know I can count on my mom to have that same attitude and perspective towards my children.

So thank you, wonderful grandmas 🙂 Our little family is so much richer, emotionally and relationally, because of your presence and your love.

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

sensory bedtimes

After a grueling bedtime battle a couple nights ago, I decided our bedtime routine needed some adjustments, for Rondel’s sleep and my sanity.

Rondel has a history of sleep troubles. As a baby, he became overstimulated extremely easily and had difficulty calming his mind and body back down, even when he was very tired. We would mostly just have to pace back and forth holding him to help him slowly ease down into sleep; I could recite poetry to him but singing almost always made him cry. We could snuggle together lying down if he was in just the right mood: otherwise it was either not enough stimulation (and more pacing was needed) or it was too much stimulation (and the end of the world was at hand until exhaustion won out, since he panicked if he was left lying alone on the bed). Despite my personal fondness for co-sleeping, Rondel transitioned to his own bed early on, because any movement or noise during the night would wake him up, which would make him want to nurse, which would make him pee, which would wake him up again in a vicious cycle.

As he got a little older, we had countless tear-filled nights where we tried to separate the bottle from his sleep associations, hoping that it would help him self-settle after a midnight half-waking, and also reduce the peeing problem noted above. It did help – he doesn’t wake at all anymore to pee, and has only had two or three nighttime accidents since he learned to use the potty – but it was a long and painful process. We installed blackout curtains in his room to try to help him stay asleep longer and fall asleep more easily; we have either the ceiling fan or the humidifier on every night to create enough white noise that the sounds of the house or the nearby roads don’t wake him up. I even tried various essential oils, though I didn’t notice that they had any impact.

Lately, he’s been sleeping fairly well, and I had been happy with how things were going. We’d finally established a consistent routine that worked for both boys together without being overly lengthy or complicated, and while Limerick had been waking up with bad dreams or wet diapers, Rondel had mostly been sleeping through the night (a good 10 hours every night at that!). But that bedtime a couple nights ago was an entirely different beast – yelling, roaring, tears, and a very sleepless Rondel until about 3 hours past his typical bedtime. I knew none of us could handle that happening on a regular or even semi-regular basis, so I spent my down time at work the next day researching sensory/Aspergers/ADHD bedtime tips (not that he fits under any of those labels overall, but his sleep issues have some overlap). We already had the basics covered, with the blackout curtains and white noise, but one idea that I found intriguing was using some sort of a nightlight, particularly a non-constant one like a lava lamp, to give the mind something to keep it occupied in a monotonous way until it can wind down into sleep.

Tonight, by somewhat of an accident, we ended up with a flickering electric candle in a cut glass box, up on a shelf where Rondel could see it lying down, and he fell asleep with fewer random sounds/questions/comments/dinosaur roars than he has in weeks. He seriously just lay in bed, watched the candle flicker, and fell asleep in less than 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I’m going to try it again just in case!

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The official beginning of fall has actually coincided with the onset of beautifully cool weather here in the desert, and I’ve been accumulating fall activity ideas to do with the boys. Apples are going to be our loose theme for the next two or three weeks, followed by pumpkins in time for October leading into Halloween. We just picked up a couple apple books from the library on Saturday (and have more on hold since everyone else seems to be into apples right now too!), and Saturday morning we tried out some apple printing.

We cut one apple vertically so the prints would have the recognizable apple shape, and the other one horizontally so the boys could see the star inside (and hopefully get it to show up in the prints too). At first I just gave them the apple halves, but it ended up being difficult to get the apples out of the bowls of paint, so I stuck popsicle sticks in two of them to use as handles. It worked pretty well! I think that brushing the paint onto the apple would allow you to get more even prints; dunking tended to give us an excess of paint for the first stamp or two. The prints would also probably be better – as in, more apple-like – if the boys hadn’t taken bites out of them all 🙂

I made the paints from flour, water, and food coloring (with some salt so the leftovers would last, and some baking powder so we could use it as puffy paint), because I knew the apples would be impossible to resist. If it’s any indication, we’ve gone through 10 apples in the last 5 days… so I needed our paint to be completely edible. I may have done more actual stamping than the boys, but they had a great time – we spent almost an hour and a half on the project, not including all the cleanup, and that’s a long time for a 3 year old and a 1 year old!

And they got into the painting too:

We didn’t microwave the paintings to make the paint puff, and when it dried it really curled the paper up, but the boys are far more interested in the process than the product so I don’t think they cared. Actually, I don’t think they even noticed… I hung the papers to dry on a clothesline in the garage but I probably could have recycled them without triggering any emotional danger zones 🙂 I’m pretty much the same way with my own art, though, so I like it!

All in all, a great start to our fall apple “unit study” and a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning together!

Posted in family life, Uncategorized

more pancakes!

So, I know I’ve posted about pancakes before. What can I say, they’re still a hit around here 🙂

I am on the search for a good pancake mix, though, too simplify the process even more; I’ve tried the recipe from Like Mother, Like Daughter but it wasn’t our favorite, and I’m planning on trying the whole-grain mix from King Arthur Flour next.

In the meantime, however, I used up all my wheat berries and haven’t made it out to east Mesa to buy more… so the other night when I planned on pancakes and hadn’t yet realized my critical shortage, I had to find another recipe ASAP (it was either that or come up with an entirely new dinner plan thirty minutes before everyone was going to need to eat – yeah, not happening).

I ended up using Mark Bittman’s recipe from the New York Times, which is a very basic white flour pancake recipe, but I made it special by adding some small diced pears (which we needed to use up anyway) along with some cinnamon and cardamom. I don’t think anyone else in the family gets bored of eating the same pancakes every time we make them, but I always want to try something new or different, and the King Arthur Flour mix recipe had provided some add-in suggestions that got me thinking. And ever since I discovered Smitten Kitchen’s pear bread recipe I’ve been unable to separate pears and cardamom in my mind, so I added some cinnamon and cardamom to these pancakes as well! (Incidentally, the pear bread recipe doesn’t actually call for cardamom, and I don’t remember why I originally added it – but it makes the bread really stand out from otherwise similar applesauce/spice cakes. What can I say, I modify all the recipes I touch.)


Lightly drizzled with maple syrup (for Limerick and I) or just butter (for Rondel, who thinks he doesn’t like syrup), and accompanied by hash browns and sausages, they made for an incredibly luxurious dinner 🙂 Even my picky eater didn’t seem to notice or mind the small pear chunks scattered throughout, which was my main concern, and the sweet tooth of course thought they were a step above normal pancakes.

So – if you’re looking for a special occasion pancake, that may be more of a treat than a seriously healthy food, I would recommend this one! Once I get more wheat berries we’ll go back to our whole-grain pancakes, but these are quite good and, at least with the add-ins, don’t leave me missing the rich depth of the others. I’m already starting to plan different fruit and spice combinations to play around with – maybe something with cranberries and apples? Any suggestions?

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update on the computer – I lost the internal hard drive as well as the external drive containing my most recent backups (the last two years of data). I’m just glad I didn’t have a book or dissertation in process on either of those drives! 🙂 My kids’ pictures have all, except for the last two weeks of October, been uploaded to either my phone, Facebook, this blog, or my parents’ computer, so I haven’t lost any of those memories, and that’s what was most important to me. I was able to restore the internal hard drive but I haven’t started rebuilding it yet because my dad got me a new SSD internal drive for my birthday! Much gratitude there – and good timing too, for the drives to fail just in time for my birthday. So when that arrives and I get it installed, I’ll reinstall all my software and start rebuilding my photo library and taking care of the new pictures from my camera. And my husband got me a wireless external drive that I’ll be able to use for automatic backups so hopefully this will never happen again!

I am so blessed to have people in my life who help me out with these things… 🙂 Common sense and practicality are not my strengths!

update on the family – Limerick is starting to talk all the time! He has so many words and his favorites are apple and bubble (he gets so excited when he sees an apple or a bubble and I think it’s partly because he can say the words). When I left for work yesterday morning, I heard him say “bye!” after I shut the door, which was really sweet. Rondel didn’t get the concept of saying goodbye until he was over 18 months, which just goes to show how different every baby is, I suppose.

Rondel has been telling me stories about cars, developing opinions about everything, and melting down when he doesn’t get to do something he was hoping to do (like play with cars at the store, or look at cars on the phone, or watch a truck video…). I’m trying to take advantage of those moments to validate his feelings and reconnect with him, and we usually end up playing and laughing together, but it’s hard if Limerick is also falling apart, which he sometimes does just because he hears his brother being so upset. On a lighter note, he’s also been pretending to be sad or upset to get attention, see how we’ll respond, or make Limerick laugh. He can hardly keep a straight face and it cracks me up!

They still love being together and Rondel is becoming a sweet and protective older brother. Limerick hasn’t been feeling well the past few days and Rondel will come over to him and give him a big hug and say, “hug Limerick make him feel better!” He’s navigating the transition from babyhood to boyhood with considerable poise, and sometimes he’ll say to me that he’s a big boy and a little baby, or ask to be held like a little baby, and after a few minutes of snuggling he’ll announce that he’s a big boy again and run off. Limerick just follows him around wherever he goes – that boy adores his brother.

My husband and I are waiting to hear back on something big that could usher in a lot of changes in our lives but that’s all I’ll say until we find out more. I’m thinking about education and the future and trying not to let myself worry about things that are years away – that worry is the best way I’ve found to lose my focus in the present and fail to connect with my family here and now, so it’s something I’d rather avoid.

update on miscellany – the heat finally broke down here in the hot dry desert and we’re enjoying the most beautiful weather: highs in the low 70s and cool nights in the 50s. The windows are open all the time and the AC is off and when I turn the oven on to bake it feels cozy and warm, not stifling and oppressive. Christmas goodies are going to be made and frozen starting this week, people! I’ll try to get some pictures (hard, since I usually cook at night) to taunt you all with holiday goodness 😉

I hope you all are doing well! The blog should be getting back up to speed before too long.

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computer problems

I was totally going to have an awesome post today, with pictures and parenting thoughts and humor – and then my computer’s hard drive failed as I finished choosing the pictures and started writing the post. I’m hoping I’ll be able to resurrect the drive and save the pictures but it’s still up in the air.

It’s kind of a pain to write posts from a mobile device so it might be a little slow around here until I can get the computer working again, and I won’t be able to use any pictures taken on my DSLR so what I do post will probably be more text-heavy (or have phone pictures… haha). Hopefully this brief hiatus will translate into lots of ideas and great posts when my computer is working again!