Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jack's Monthly Newsletter, One Year Eleven Months

Dear Jack,

I'm about to write this newsletter and mention what an amazing turn-around you've made in your sleep habits, and as I'm trying to find the words you're completely resisting your nap for the first time in months. I type a few words, go into your room, give you back your pink doll and paci, tuck you in, come back to the computer, get my thoughts together, and you start yelling "Mom! Mom! Mom!" again.

On the whole, though, you're a sleeping miracle. You go to bed at 7:30 pm and wake up around 7:30 am. We take Nate to school, come home, play for a while, read some books, and you go down for a nap around 11. Most days you wake at 2 or even 2:30! And when you're home, you're easy as pie: you putter, read books, play with the train set, dismantle the kitchen, zoom airplanes around the house. Sometimes I have to intentionally play with you because otherwise it's so easy for me to work the whole time you're awake. You really are the easiest baby.

And I know you're not a baby, Jack. You're turning 2 next month, but I can't process it. When Nate was your age, he seemed like a little boy to me. You still seem like my sweet baby and it's hard for me to switch my thinking around. Your language is coming along now; I think that'll help you seem more like a little boy. (Gratuitous shot of you fingerpainting with chocolate pudding:)

You have your 2-year checkup in a month so I'm making list of your words as I notice them. This morning I added nuts, NOW!, why, and sleeping to the list for a total of 70 words and I'm sure there are a few others I haven't pinned down. You've also started regularly using 2 words together - this morning you asked for "juice please Mom." You've asked me to "open banana" for you, requested the "train book", slid off the carousel with an "all done horsie" and clutched numerous toys to your chest while chanting "mine phone (or mine train or mine whatever)". These days "mine" is ranking as favorite word #1.

You remain the bad influence in this house, Jack. Your poor brother never bit, hit, pushed, or kicked until you came along and started whacking at him all the time. For a while he was hitting (or pushig or biting) you back but now he just calls to me in a resigned voice: "Mom, Jack just hit me one time (or two times or lots of times)" and I come along and sternly tell you "NO HITTING!" at which point you grin at me and take another swing at Nate. I've tried time-out but you truly don't understand it at all so I'm left with getting more and more frustrated and pulling you away and talking sharply which also doesn't seem to be helping at all. Shocking, right?

On the flip side, you're incredibly loving and affectionate. You pull at me to pick you up and then rest your head on my shoulder murmering "Mama...mama...mama". You sigh with love. When Daddy comes home you run to him squealing. You look at Nate with love and hug him tight. During the day you sometimes gather up Pink Doll, paci, and your big yellow blanket and stumble towards me with them all in your arms; I pick you up and we settle in on the green recliner for a little snuggle time. You and Deborah had a good cuddle on the train on the way to Boston:

Last week we were emptying out of the car after picking Nate up at school and I saw Sophia and her Mommy down the street in front of their house. It was almost 2 blocks away and I only knew it was them because 1) it was outside of their house, 2) one was tall and one was short, and 3) they were white. You looked up and saw them and took off running, yelling "Hi!". I got you safely across the street and you ran the rest of the way to them, stopped in front of Sophia, and wrapped your arms around her middle. I could have died of love. I was also astounded at your amazing eyesight - you get that from your Daddy!

You are the sweetest thing going, Jack, and I would happily freeze you in time if I could. You're about as perfect as a boy could be and I don't know what good thing I did in a past life to deserve you, but I'm enjoying every second of it. I'm so glad you're you.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Baking-day round-up

The motivation lasted through 8 pm last night (don't ask me about today) and I was able to finish my baking-day plans (with an extra item thrown in!)

Made a quadruple batch of my favorite peanut noodle sauce and froze it in small plastic cups so I can grab one or two any time I want one. I usually put it on whole wheat noodles with whatever veggies are in the fridge/freezer.

It starts off like this:

then thickens to this:

and then I drink it on the spot. I want to, anyway. Froze it like this (see the one on the right, how easily it pops out of the cup? Plus the cups help protect from freezer burn.)

Froze up the pasta sauce (I blend up cans of beans, pepper slices, and spinach and combine with pre-made jarred pasta sauce):

Then I got inspired and decided we'd make a double-batch of those delicious Fake It Samosas - we had some for dinner and froze the rest after baking. I plan to throw them in the oven as needed.

So anyway, this is what I ended up with at the end:

I think this cold weather is making me "nest." I wonder what I'll make next!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A small "baking day"

I totally admire Crystal for her baking days (especially now that she has three little ones at home!) I came back from our mini-vacation at Bethany with more motivation than I've had in a while and got inspired to do a little freeze-ahead work today.

First, the easy one: a bunch of rice for the freezer for lunches for Stewart and evenings when I don't cook (this is the second batch):

Breakfast is the most annoying meal of the day for me (we normally eat in the car on the way to Nate's school), so I decided to try these muffins that I read about on, where else, Money Saving Mom. I made a double batch and froze them. I tested one by microwaving it for 30 seconds (someone has to do the dirty work) and it heated up beautifully. I love this recipe! Bananas, applesauce, peanut-butter, and only one egg!

Last, I made some refried bean roll-ups - I combined 2 cans of refried beans, a baggie of brown rice, a can of diced tomatoes, and some seasonings, and used half of a whole-wheat tortilla for each one. I did use a tiny sprinkle of cheese on each one (less than a teaspoon on each one) so not a vegan recipe, but a good hand-held size for the boys. Froze them, too!

I don't know if it'll be tomorrow, but this week I plan to make up a batch of healthy pasta sauce and a huge batch of my favorite peanut noodle sauce. I made some last week and tried freezing it in large spoonfuls; it defrosted beautifully - I can throw it on whole wheat noodles with peas and corn and have a really easy good dinner for the boys. If it happens, I'll make sure to photograph it!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parent-teacher conference

This morning I had my first-ever parent-teacher conference. You'd think this, at last, would convince me of my grown-up-ed-ness but, well, no. Still doesn't compute.

Anyway, back to Nate.

Meeting was just me, the lead English teacher (Ms. Amy), and the lead Chinese teacher (Wang Laoshur (teacher)). Stewart wasn't able to make it out of work, unfortunately.

The first question they had for me was if I had any questions for them. I told them that since I drop Nate off out front of the school each morning, and pick him up out front, and aren't really allowed to sit in class (it's so distracting for the kids), we are so curious about what Nate's doing all day! Obviously we know a lot about the schedule of his day, and what they're working on, because they're so good at communicating with us. But in terms of how Nate is specifically doing, the only clues I had were that he doesn't mind going to school, doesn't mind Chinese days, and has made one really good friend named Leo. So my guess was that things are going well for him, but I was really looking forward to the meeting for more details.

Best day ever.

They said that Nate is doing great. They said he's listening well and really participating in class and class projects. That he's doing well socially, getting along with everyone, interacting eagerly, and that he's happy. They thought his grasp of written letters, and school in general, was really "mature" and stressed how unusual that is in a boy his age (they said they rarely get to say that about anyone, especially a boy). They showed me an assessment they do the first day of each month where they give every kid a long piece of paper and ask them to write their Names, write all the letters they know, write all the numbers they know, and draw a pretty picture on the back. They don't give them any guidance with it. Nate's first had his name, ABCDE, scribbles for numbers, and his picture on the front of the page. His second had his name in a little more concise fashion, less letters, but it had 12345 and the picture on the back of the page. Seemed like a wash to me, but they seemed to be pleased with the progress.

The last step was for me to share our goals for Nate (one for each parent) and they would share theirs. They pulled out a totally blank piece of paper and told me that they were having a really hard time figuring out any goals for Nate, that he was already doing everything he was supposed to be doing. The best they could come up with, each of them, was that his fine motor control is okay but not great. My goal is for him to learn to enjoy playing by himself a little: playing with trains or building with blocks or something that doesn't involve direct parental involvement. So we wrote down our goals (Stewart's was just a boost in his reading ability) and the teachers are going to come up with an individual plan for him and then have an official "meeting" alone with Nate to go over the goals and get his thoughts on how he thinks they can work towards meeting the goals. That school kills me, they are so great!

So that was my amazing day. It's weird: I'm so thrilled and proud of him, but I just don't feel really responsible for any of it. Nate is exactly who is because he was born that way. He's been a rule-follower his whole life. He's been really adaptable to new situations since he was 2 years old. He's just who he is.

But I intend to enjoy the feeling. The only other assessments I've ever had have all been on Jack, and talked about what he should be doing that he isn't. It's a real joy to hear that all is well and good with Nate. He's just the best.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Nate's Monthly Newsletter, Four Years One Month

Dear Nate,

I'm here, I promise. I'm sorry I've missed so many newsletters but I'm trying to get back into the swing of things.

So, you're four! You're quite pleased about it, but doing a lot of thinking already about when you're five (and Jack will be three and Leo will be six and Sophia will be seven). You love to play with numbers that way; you're always announcing that there are two boys and two girls in the room (if Deborah is over), or that all three people are wearing flip-flops, or that three people got one thing for dinner and only one person got something different. You remind me of your Grandpa and your cousin Simon with your aptitude. We work on addition when we're driving (if you have two apples and you get one more, how many do you have? I encourage you to use your fingers to help with the concept - I may come to regret that "teaching tool.")

It also gives a glimpse into how incredibly observant (and sweet) you are. I picked you up at school a few days ago and you immediately exclaimed "I like your new necklace!" You don't miss a thing.

You are constantly surprised when I know something you've done (or not done, in the case of washing your hands after you use the bathroom). When I talk to you about it, you're constantly asking me "How do you know that?!" I just tell you how smart I am, and how Mommies know everything.

As an aside, we've taken to telling each other stories at night instead of reading books. The one I tell is always a variation on "Nate was doing something and then he jumped up and he FLEW! and here's all the stuff he saw and did."

So last week I amazed you by knowing what you did at school (there was a note from your teachers about what you did at school that day) and you were, as always, incredulous that I knew about it. This time I explained it with a longer story: the day Nate was born, I became a Mommy and the hospital gave me the big Mommy book that all Mommies have. It tells the Mommies everything about everything, so they can always know all the answers and be able to help their kids.

So this morning we were talking on the way to school and you asked me a question about something inane (superheroes or some other such incredibly boring nonsense). I tried to thoughtfully tell you that I just didn't know the answer to whatever it was, and heard you ask me "What about your book?" My what? You clarified: "Remember your everything book?"

Seriously, how did you remember that? It took me a good 10 seconds for me to just figure out what you were talking about! You have a seriously amazing memory.

Nate, this parenthood thing is tough. I've really worked on how we get along, and learned so much from your Daddy about making you laugh when you get pouty. But it's still so frustrating when we have a really great day, and then right at the end I get snappy or you throw a tantrum or something else that puts a little blight on the day.

But tonight I lay in bed with you and told you stories, and rubbed your back, and kissed you too many times. I hope you remember those things more than the little slips and blips in our days. I promise to do my best to do the same.

Love you like crazy, Natey.