Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Camp


I'm a firm believer that if you put a name on something it becomes a whole lot cooler.  So for our stretch of six days home together as a family, I told Jack and Cora they'd be attending Easter Camp.  This looked different each day: from days fully scheduled out to days that just sort of happened.  Here is some of the fun we had:

A Schedule: I can't resist.  When we had to make a last minute adjustment to our Friday schedule to take Cora in for an ear check, I had to console my little alter ego, Jack. We both don't take well to last minute changes.

Crafts:  I love the concept of Pinterest, but visit only about 3x/year.  I got a great return on my five minutes of craft searching:



Baking: I love how the Waldorf School incorporates baking into the school day, involving the kids in the preparation of their own snack.  So at Easter Camp, we made:
 

Music: This was easy!  As the Director of Vacation Bible School, I have the Music DVD and we popped it in to practice songs.  My kids love these songs!

(We invited good friends Jack & Sam to this day of Easter Camp)


Scavenger Hunt: I wrote out a list of things to find (leaves, sticks, balls, etc.) and things to do (something loving, something silly, etc.)  This turned out to be a lot of fun as Cora followed right along with Jack.



The Great Landry Family Egg Hunt: (Again, just put a cool name on something...)  I like the idea of separating egg-esque activities from Easter Day, so we did an egg hunt a few days before Easter and it helped keep Easter focused on going to church and thinking about what we were celebrating.

For the egg hunt, I hid eggs, some with clues inside, the rest empty.  Jack and Cora found and opened all the eggs and then Jack put the clues in number order.  The clues led J&C around the house to find little surprises. 




We also read bible stories, played outside a lot, went on a bike ride, picnicked in the park, had an awesome crawfish boil with friends and family, and have been enjoying the most beautiful beginning of spring in New Orleans.



Cora HATED her cold outside bath!


We had a good friend watch Jack and Cora so we could go peacefully to the Maundy Thursday service at Rayne Methodist.  This is the most beautiful, moving service.  And we spent an uplifting morning at Rayne, celebrating Easter.  He is risen, indeed!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

She's 22 m....scratch that..."She'll be 2 in June"

At this point, I think it's only for my benefit to count out how many months Cora is....(that would be 22 months).  When you're this close to two, I think it makes the most sense to start referencing that big upcoming milestone.

In some ways, it seems impossible.  And in other ways, it seems like she's already two.  Not that I buy into stereotypes (entirely), but she definitely puts on her big girl shoes (and 'tude) more and more lately.

Cora Awesomeness this past month

- "Bire Truck!" became a frequent part of her vocabulary thus allowing her and Jack to communicate on all kinds of levels.  She'll find a picture of a Bire Truck! (always with that exclamation mark) in a book and turn to show Jack "Jack, bire truck!  Bire truck! Jack!"

 
- "One more mama" with a serious expression and 1 finger held up is also very cute and frequent
- She cackles, chuckles, squints her eyes, throws her head back, and does lots of other dramatic silliness
- She's peed on many public toilets, her own little potty, and was gifted some very cute new undies by her Grammy
- She loves to listen to the Vacation Bible School music DVD (her first real TV experience) and has quickly picked up some of the dance moves as Jack and I are learning them
- She cares for her baby dolls and had a big thrill holding her friend Liam's baby sister and having her own 8 month old cousin Billy visit


Cora Difficulties this past month

- "NO! MINE!" is heard a lot around here
- She is still INTENTIONALLY beating up her brother (with hands, feet, sippy cup, books, toys, etc.) but at least now she's pretty willing to go say "I torry" and show him her "gentle hands" afterward
- She throws mini tantrums when she doesn't get immediate gratification.  Rationalization is not effective in these moments (i.e. explaining that she will get a snack AFTER she puts on her shoes 90% of the time is no motivation/solace to her)
- She's peed on our carpet, in every pair of undies she owns, and refused to pee on many public toilets and her own potty
- We've had several battle of wills this past month with no clear winner at this point

Jacob and I just marvel at how precious, beautiful, personable, joyful, spirited, and hilarious Cora is.  She is winsome and sweet but also at a demanding and stubborn stage.

 
Potty training continues to be interesting.  I'd say we're at a similar spot to last month except now we are very clear that Cora knows how to potty, but just doesn't always feel like participating.  Some days, she's motivated pretty easily to pee and definitely responds well to attention, role models (someone else peeing first) and spectators (she performed happily for visiting Grammy and Aunt Kristen), but more than half the time it's "NO pee-pee poppee NO!"  It seems pretty clear to me that the right path is to not push her when she doesn't want to go .....BUT then there are those times (usually at least once a day) when she is dry after several hours but won't go potty.  Those are the times where I feel it's worth an effort and we've gotten into a few stand-offs when she just wasn't interested in peeing in a potty.  It was helpful to have my mom here for the last few days to get her advice.  She says to just relax and follow Cora's lead.  I'm going to....but I also plan on stringing up those cute new undies (which Cora loves) as motivation to pee.  She's not allowed (for obvious reasons) to wear undies unless she's just peed in the potty.

Nursing is another area where her strong personality has shown through.  Jack followed a really gentle weaning process over his second year and was down to just one feeding at this age without either of us having any difficulty with the process.  With Cora, we've been working on dropping from three to two feedings for several months, but baby girl has fought it hard.  It got to the point of her crying nightly starting at bath time because she knew there was not going to be any "mama mih."  From what I know and have read about toddler weaning, it's best to follow their cues and if they're overly anxious about giving up a certain feeding, then put the pause button on and try again in a few weeks.  We did press pause, but recently tried again and this method seems to have worked because she's only nursed twice a day for the last week or so.

A Nice Array of Cora's Sweet and Sassy Sides!



 






Sunday, April 06, 2014

Mama goes shopping

If you have not tried Stitch Fix, try it now.

The clothes come to you!  A stylist picks them out.  You can set your style and price preferences.  If you need more convincing, see my experiences here and here.

This was my first "fix" in quite some time.  I kept three items.

KUT skinny blue pants and Ritz mixed pattern knit shirt




Callafia short-sleeve blue wrap dress


Like my co-model?  She does a great job at solo shots too!



Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Baby Led Weaning vs. Pureed First Foods


By happenstance, we approached introducing solid foods differently with Jack and Cora.  Jack was fed with our own mortar and pestle purees (joking a little) and Cora was handed ears of corn and mango pits (not joking).  This gives us a fascinating study on what leads to a better eater!

A little background.  Jack was our first baby.  We felt like we were being very avant-garde by making our own baby food.  I fondly remember our little ice cube trays full of homemade apple sauce, oatmeal (no salt - the way he takes it to this day), and lima beans.  Puree, freeze in trays, pop out into Ziplock bags for easy future meal assembly.  "How does pear, barley, and avocado sound tonight, hon?"

Little did we know there was a whole other movement.  Enter Baby Led Weaning.  This child-led approach to eating seemed like the natural progression for a breastfed baby.  (Breastfed babies self-regulate their intake; baby led weaning brings this same approach to solid foods.)  It also seemed easier (no puree-making) and with two children, easier seemed better.  So Cora was our guinea pig.  Here's her having fun.  What a little chunk!

 

I often watch Jack and Cora's eating habits and wonder if it was their first foray into solids that led them to these idiosyncrasies OR whether it's just that Jack is Jack and Cora is Cora.  I imagine it's a bit of both, but do note the control factors we did happen to have in place.
  • Both were exclusively breastfed up to the point they began solids
  • Both started solids right at six months
  • Both had the same first solid food: sweet potatoes - Jack's was pureed and Cora's was roasted in the Baby Led Weaning-suggested stick form
  • Both experienced much of their early eating in the same Craiglist-acquired wooden high chair :)

The Results


Jack is a wonderful eater.  He covets fruit.  (There's no better way to say that.)  Any fruit.  He overindulges on them.  He prefers them to desserts. 

He likes to begin his day with a big bowl of "yum-yum."  I still make our family bowl of old fashioned oats with no salt.  Jack's bowl has no salt (we add sea salt to ours) nor sugar (we add brown sugar to ours.)  He often likes to remind me that he "doesn't like salt or sugar, so don't put any in mine."  His oatmeal also has a scoop of plain, organic, low fat yogurt, cut up fruit, and walnuts.

He adores cheese.  Cheese and fruit are all he'd ever ask for.  He's suspicious of new dishes.  He can spot an onion from a distance.  He will not eat them.  He consistently passes on tomatoes, cauliflower, and cabbage.  (That is top of mind as we had coleslaw tonight.  He sat on the porch and cried because we insisted he give it another try.)  He can be picky about dinner foods.  He doesn't like our homemade cornmeal pizza dough; he doesn't like our veggie burgers (they have onions and green peppers - which he will meticulously weed out); he usually gives us trouble on things like tamales and burritos.  Vegetables are a mixed bag.  He seeks out raw carrots, doesn't mind broccoli, enjoys magic beans (edamame), but there are plenty he complains about.

He is four after all.  He definitely has strong dislikes, but the fact that we can send a salad in his lunch to school?  And some days an apple and an orange?  And he asks for "nuts and raisins" as a snack?  And that he once told us he wasn't going to have birthday cake at a party "because cake hurts my tummy"?  He makes a strong case for starting with purees.

Cora is a wonderful eater too...sometimes. 

She is most different from Jack when it comes to fruits.  She likes apples, pears, melon, grapes, and bananas but will not eat citrus, picks strawberries out of her oatmeal daily (I ascribe to the "you have to try something repeatedly before you can establish a dislike" philosophy), and will not try anything with "berry" on the end of its name. 

Cora also begins her day with a big bowl of "yum-yum," served just like her brother's - no salt, no sugar, plain yogurt, nuts, and fruit.

Cora also adores cheese.  RAISINS and cheese are all Cora could ask for.  Cora tends to be our more adventurous eater at dinnertime.  She has been known to chow down on things like red beans and rice and gumbo, affirming for us that she is our Cajun child.  (She also insists on having some of "dat" whenever her Daddy has a bottle of hot sauce out.)  She loves herself a tamale or a burrito.  And she LOVES meat.  But then again, so does Jack.  She's more adventurous with vegetables, once shoveling a whole bowl of brussel sprouts in her mouth for lunch.  She loves roasted broccoli and cauliflower.  Today she was eating olives.

Edamame and black beans for snack
I can't call this contest now because Miss Cora is QUICKLY approaching two and is a very opinionated child.  I have found that if I'm persistent, she'll come around.  She gave up eating apples a month ago, but I got her back to them after a week.  Cora is too young for me to have many quotes, but she lightens up meals with her favorite game: "Where wa-wa?" as she hides her cup under her napkin and then laughs and laughs and with her silly face games.  We often look over to find her eyes squinted and closed as she eats :)




If we end up with a third baby Landry, we'll have to reevaluate this contest to see which approach should be used next time!

We love the free and healthy Whole Foods kid treats.  Here: matching apples for the ride home.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

21 Months: Ears, Mouth, and a Hiney

Today she is 21 months old!

While her outie belly button is adorable, her curls get cuter by the day, and her "CHEESE!" grin is oh-so-cute, this month has centered on her EARS, MOUTH, and HINEY.

EARS
- Weekend ear pain had me taking off work and taking her to the doctor on a Monday morning only to find out she had two ruptured ear drums :(  This was only Cora's third ear infection (Jack had had at least ten by this age), but was our first experience with a rupture.  We were prescribed antibiotic ear drops and Amoxicillin, but she never seemed fully better so I wasn't surprised to find out that she still had an infection at her 10-day check-up.  After bumping up to Omnicef, she was clear as of last week.  Fingers crossed her ears won't cause us the same drama as Jack's.  His ear tubes just fell out and he immediately got an ear infection :(

MOUTH

Our mute child has really started talking!  She has had a decent vocabulary for a while, but she showed a definite preference for NOT talking.  She wouldn't play the "say..." game and she would generally gesture or make faces rather than say words she knew.  But this past month, she's started babbling, stringing her words together, and adding in lots of new words. 

Our favorite Cora speak:
  •  "wow-wee" for flower
  • "a-yi-yi" for I love you
  • "a-yeyow" for another (she says this one any time she sees more than one of something, so a lot!)  Jack used to say "nummy"
  • "pee-pee-poppee" for pee in the potty (see below!)
 We get a kick out of how she calls herself "baby."  When looking at a family photo, she points out "mama," "dada," "dja" and "baby."  If we ask where Cora is she always points to herself, but when we ask her what her name is, she says "baby."  To which we say, "no your name is Cora - C,C,C-ora"  Tonight, for the first time when we asked her what her name was she said "Tuh-tuh-tuh" :)  She can't make the C sound yet, but it showed she wanted to giver her real name a try.

She loves her Jack-Jack!
HINEY

We brought out the potty at 19 months because we noticed Cora was really aware of our routines and thought she might be interested in trying the potty.  She wasn't.  She only occasionally, by chance, peed on it.  But midway through this month, things clicked and now she pees nearly every time we sit her on the potty and she's pooped several times!

Our experience with potty-training Jack was a long 12 month journey that I was DETERMINED to complete before Cora was born.  We hadn't really been trying with Cora, so to have her all of the sudden peeing and pooping was a very pleasant surprise.

BUT!

Potty training is a double edged sword because it requires a lot of effort from the parent.  We weren't planning to make any effort yet with Cora and now are trying to determine exactly how much energy to invest.  Mardi Gras week was the perfect week to try things out because I had more time off and we were home.

I see POTTY TRAINING as a multi-step process.  I love that we've already gotten started and would love to pack up the diapers, but I expect this will take some time.  I just hope it will be 3 or 4 months rather than the YEAR it was with Jack!

Cora showing off her big girl undies!

The Potty Training Process (as I see it):
  1. Child knows how to make themselves pee.  CHECK
  2. Child can pee both on a little potty AND a big one (because let's be honest, it's not that convenient when your child can only go on a special-only-in-one-room-of-your-house-container-that-must-be-dumped).  CHECK
  3. Child can tell you when they need to pee rather than you suggesting it.  This has happened several times - yeah!
  4. Child is invested enough in peeing in the potty that they don't make it into a will power battle at every sitting. We don't push it when she's just woken up and grumpy and any other time she's not in the mood.  She's on board with "pee-pee-poppee" about 80% of the time.
  5. Child is comfortable enough peeing in the potty that they would do it for others (i.e. at school).  We're not going to push this yet.  We'll give it another week or so and see if we're still making progress before we mention it at school.  Cora's only there two days and we found with Jack that his teachers weren't invested until they felt he was really all about the process. 
    Cora has peed for her baby sitter.
  6. Child CAN poop in the potty.  I have to put this on the list because this was a big obstacle for Jack.  It freaked him out and he resisted for months even while he was easily able to pee in the potty. Cora has nonchalantly pooped several times in her potty.  I was so excited I took a picture and sent it to my mom :)
  7. Child can tell you when they need to poop.  Not yet
  8. Child sends themselves to the bathroom consistently (i.e. you are no longer prompting them throughout the day to safeguard against accidents.) I see this as a ways off

I hope the next month brings more forward progress!  I have to say that it's actually fun to have the whole family (daddy, mommy, and Jack) jumping and cheering every time we have pee-pee action.  It keeps the joy factor up in our house!

Friday, March 07, 2014

4 and a Quarter

Jack was all about being 3 and 3/4s, but  4 1/4 doesn't have quite the same oomph.  Still, he did seem excited when I mentioned Monday was his "4 and a quarter" birthday.

Let me tell you a little about Jack at four and some change:

SCHEDULE/ROUTINE

It's cool to see how his concept of time and its structure has evolved over the past year.  Last year, he associated his days at school with what that day's snack was (Waldorf is a proponent of rhythms and each weekday has a set snack and routine.)  He would talk about how Mr. Ben the music teacher came on rice day.  He never said Monday, but instead said "rice day."  (Which then became quinoa day after the flare up over arsenic in rice.)

Well, the boy is now far beyond this surface level understanding of his weekly schedule.  He knows that Sunday is church day and he talks about the order of his activities (which class first, what floor, and when snack happens.)  "I go to school three days: Monday is the first day, then Tuesday, then Wednesday."  Monday is quinoa day, Tuesday is yum-yum day (we've not graduated past calling oatmeal "yum-yum"), and Wednesday is baking day.  "On Monday, I go to swimming lessons.  Once there was a holiday on Monday and I didn't go to school, but I still went to swimming."

"On Thursday, I stay home with Mommy.  Daddy goes to work."  Fridays are the day with his sitter.  Saturday he knows that we all stay home.  During this past week of Mardi Gras, he would keep checking in on where we were at in the week, confirming that he wasn't going to school on his regular school days and making sure he knew when it was Daddy and Mommy at home vs. just Mommy.

He's also QUITE aware of his TV schedule.  We've kept it to two days a week.  He calls them his "Sam days" and usually wants his second Sam day to be right after his first.  (I try to hold him off.)  He LOVES watching TV and I love being able to line up Cora's nap and Jack's TV time.  Jack's TV repertoire: Fireman Sam, Thomas the Train, Bob the Builder, and he's always happy to watch Barney Visits the Fire Station or any real life fire video/movie. 

TALKING

This would be the most inaccurate update if I didn't mention, emphasize, and underscore that Jack NEVER STOPS TALKING.  I used quotation marks above because he's recounted his schedule to me so many times, I can hear his voice clearly and feel quite comfortable quoting him.  Jack talks to me, then switches midstream to talking to Cora, then segways into his favorite tune:

"F-I-R-E-M-A-N, 
Fireman Sam, he's our friend...
Safest place I know, 
Pontypandy by the sea
Welcome to our town
Where we all live safely
We all live safely.....F-I-R-E-M-A-N..."
 
You have to love a song that segways back into itself endlessly!

Jacob and I crack up at the dinner table as Jack earnestly recounts the happenings of his day, complete with exaggerated facial expressions, interrupting himself with lines like "This certainly is a lot of rice!" and chuckling at his own jokes.  The majority of the time, I love listening to Jack.   Now when Jacob is out of town or after several hours of being alone with Jack...it can become a little bit insane.

QUIRKS

Because Jack never stops talking, it can be hard to get a word in to discipline.  We are hearing a lot of "But I was trying to tell you something!" when we are interrupting to tell him no or to reprimand.  This genuinely frustrates him and he starts to cry.

Every night before bed we have to go through the following before leaving him in his room alone can be considered acceptable:
  1. Switch closet light on.  Leave door generously ajar.
  2. Ask him how many kisses he wants before we go to bed.  (We get numbers like "400 closets full" and "1,000 10-hundred"
  3. Tell him that we promise to leave the closet light on.  All night long.
  4. Promise to tell him when it's morning, even though 99% of the time, he is the one telling us that it's morning.
  5. Promise him that we'll tell the other parent "all of these things" and that "we won't forget any of these things."
  6. Start to leave..."One more thing Mommy!"  Listen.  Say "okay...goodnight" a few more times.  
INCREDIBLE SWEETNESS

He is the most awesome big brother.  If Cora is upset, he always pipes up to advocate that we give her the thing she wants.  "Just give her the snack Mommy."  He gives her hugs and calls her "his baby princess."  She terrorizes him a good bit, smashing LEGO creations he's worked hard on, but he never retaliates.  He's protective, attentive, loving, and despite their 2.5 year age span, they can have quite the good time together with silly little games they create on their own.



He continues to be a voracious reader.  We have 30+ library books checked out at all times.  I'm reading the Little House on the Prairie books aloud to him now and we are both loving them.  (We're on book two.)  His latest interest has been Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggy series.  He continues to adore Berenstain Bears and Jacob and I somehow muster up the energy to keep reading them.  Since he no longer naps, he rests daily for 30-40 minutes just flipping through a stack of his books.  We read to him at least two times a day, but I know there are days I read 20 books.


He can ask some profound questions about death and life after death.  He about broke my mom's heart by saying that he wanted to die before Grammy so that he could be waiting for her at the gates of heaven.





The best thing about Jack is his insatiability about life.  He wakes up every morning full of energy and excited about the day ahead. 

Flowers for Mommy







It's a rare night that I don't wish I could be a better mother, more patient, more in-the-moment, and more worthy of him and Cora.  They can wear me out and wear me down, but when I stop to think, (like by taking the time to write this) I'm just in awe of how awesome they are and what a privilege it is to be their mom :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Kingdom Encounters

I haven't delved much into my faith on this blog, but here is one thing I believe.  I believe that the kingdom of God is not just something that awaits a person after they die.  I believe that the kingdom of God is a place you can dwell on Earth.  I'm not an expert on world religions, but I have a strong sense that this is not a belief unique to Christianity.  (And it's not a belief you always here associated with Christianity.)

In my mind, it's like you can go through your life (or each day) with your sunglasses on or off.  It is a complete perspective shift; a whole new realm.  I believe that we are all beautiful creations of a heavenly father and we can choose to reside in that knowledge, see others as equally beautiful creatures, and experience peace, hope, joy, forgiveness, gentleness, and love.  Or we can live simply "in the world" and judge, fear, worry, and be weighed down by countless other emotions.

The sunglasses analogy is perfect in my mind because it's not just how different your outlook can be, it's also a good fit for how easy it is to go between these two "worlds."  This is my struggle.

Our Sunday School class is reading James Bryan Smith's The Good and Beautiful Community and in this book he writes about the opportunity in our daily "kingdom encounters."  There is no need to go out looking for great opportunities to serve; chances to serve, love, and uplift exist all around us in our daily interactions.

How beautifully did I experience this on my recent travel home from Wyoming.

The Story

Characters:
Me, Jack (4), Cora (20 months) - please note the lack of other adult figures
Setting:
Jackson Hole, WY airport, Denver airport, New Orleans airport and airspace in between

Kingdom Encounters:

#1: The nicest ticket agent I've ever encountered takes a look at my itinerary, notes my tight 30 minute connection, and tells me to come see her at the gate so she can reseat us at the front of the plane.  She also lets my mom come through security with us. Time: 3:45 p.m.

#2: Smiling Jackson Hole Airport TSA agents pay Jack 50 cents for helping stack the bins

#3: My mother - I already know she is an angel, but she reproves this fact consistently.  We quickly learn that our airplane is not yet in route.  My mom entertains Jack and Cora while I wait in line to figure out our plan.

#4: My friendly ticket agent patiently explains our options and backs us up on two different routes, depending on if we do indeed fly to Denver that night.  At 8:00 p.m. (THANK YOU MOM for hanging with us!) we board our plane and head to Denver, knowing we will spend the night there and already having ourselves booked on the 11am New Orleans flight the next day.  We are seated in row 4 so we can quickly get to the customer service line.

Thankfully, I had this little guy helping me
#5: I get off the plane at 9:30 p.m. with two children who haven't slept at all.  I know we must go straight to the customer service counter to get our hotel voucher.  We are flying United.  I see a man with a Sky West lanyard walking so I ask him where the nearest United desk is.  He asks our situation.  I explain that we've missed our connection and need a hotel voucher.  He tells me where the nearest counter is but says "there's a long line."  He looks at us (Cora in Ergo, me holding Jack's hand) and says "why don't you come with me over to this gate and I'll help you there."  He spends 10 minutes confirming our flights and printing us hotel and meal vouchers.  Cora cries the whole time.  I make sure to look him right in the eye (which makes me tear up) and thank him for taking the time to help us.  We then walk to baggage claim passing two United customer service counters.  There are four people working at each and hundreds of people standing in line...

#6: On the ride to the airport, Cora falls asleep in my lap and Jack falls asleep beside me.  This leaves me with two sleeping children and two backpacks when we arrive at the hotel.  A couple offers help and carries our backpacks and holds Jack's hand.

#7: After lots of kind remarks and nice looks from older women (BECAUSE ANOTHER MOTHER KNOWS!!) we get to the front of the check-in line.  The Doubletree clerk gives us extra cookies.  I give one to Jack and a second later I'm being handed the cookie back and he is sobbing.  Did it burn him??  No..."I miss Grammy!" he sobs.

By the morning, Cora and Jack are finding the hotel quite fun
#8: Back at the Denver airport the next morning, we are rerouted to the short family TSA line and then rerouted again out of that line to an empty TSA agent (I guess we looked especially fragile.)  We don't have to take our laptop out or shoes off and Jack earns himself a TSA badge sticker.

#9: Our on-time New Orleans flight has us seated next to lovely Jodie, mother of two girls.  She plays with Cora, talks to Jack, and was another lovely seatmate.

#10: At 3:00 p.m. we are back in New Orleans, have our bag, and are in the taxi line.  (Jacob is in a meeting.)  The sweetest looking woman is our taxi driver.  She is friendly and kind and during the ride both Jack and Cora receive new books which she pulls from the glove compartment box.

24 hours after we arrived at the airport, we are HOME.  Every one of the people I mentioned above chose to show kindness, take time, be joyful and they very much blessed us by choosing to operate by standards of a world better than this one.