Wednesday, November 25, 2015


Much like Audra's August, Josie's August was most memorable because of our trip to Michigan. This was the first plane ride that she remembered (the only other plane trip being to London when she was 14 months), and she did really well on the flights, except for her "tummy feeling funny" a couple of times. We had a barf bag all ready for her anyway, but we were still glad that she didn't actually need to make use of it.

In preparation for the trip to Michigan, Josie and I did a dry-run at the airport as one of our "Mommy/Josie outings". So we wandered around the airport for quite a while as she asked a bunch of questions, and we watched the planes land, talked about where everyone might be going, and looked for their tickets and/or passports. While it seemed like her favorite part was the retractable belt barriers, I think it was still good preparation for her :) She was bitterly disappointed when we left without getting on a plane, but I promised that the next time we went to the airport, we would have our own tickets and would be able to ride on a plane too. And that's what we did :)

So up we flew to Michigan for the first time in over 2 years to spend some time with my dad and stepmom. I decided to approach this trip a little differently from the usual, when I would fly up with the plan to visit family and then just see what other friends I could catch up with. This time, I was going for thoroughness and efficiency ;) So I really tackled this trip back to my hometown the way I would for a trip to a new city: I researched the local attractions (including Dutch food, which I don't think I had ever had in my 17 years of living in Holland), and we put together a list of the people we wanted to see and the things we wanted to do, and I worked out a rough schedule so that we could make sure to fit everything in. This did feel a tiny bit over the top, but even still, we didn't end up making it to the beach for more than just a couple of hours. So I feel a little bad about that, but besides that, we ended up having such a great time :)

First stop was Dutch Village, which, as I mentioned in Audra's post, was SO FUN. Teenage me can't believe these words are even coming out of my mouth, but it was really just a perfect destination for the day. Josie took a picture with the same stork that I have a picture with from ~30 years ago (Audra had already taken off to yell at some ducks), and she just had a great time with all the activities there: slides, plasma cars, animals, swings, giant wooden shoes, etc.

We all went on the Ferris wheel together, which was really fun... except for the fact that I'm apparently afraid of heights now? I've been on some pretty crazy roller coasters, although not for many years, which apparently gave me enough time to get more apprehensive about heights. So under the guise of keeping a hold of the baby, I left a sweaty palm print on poor Audra's shirt as I was gripping onto her for dear life (she was fine).

We even caught the Dutch dance demonstration, which I just love - despite all my childhood hangups regarding the fact that I never got my own wooden shoes (they're expensive and break too easily, per my parents... and me too, since I told Josie the same thing when she asked for some ;) ), and I never got the "pretty" Dutch costume (the purple one that now I can't figure out the name of - but see how pretty?). And yet, and yet... the sound of Klompen dancing is still one of my favorite sounds :) Josie and I even participated in some dancing after the "official" demonstration, and luckily there is no video of that ;)

We had some Dutch food at the cafe on-site (which consisted of pigs in a blanket, pea soup, and Dutch apple pie for me), and we capped off our first full day in Holland with a trip to Meijer, where the girls rode Sandy the pony over and over again. The next day we headed over to the home of one of my old horse riding buddies to visit with her and her kids for a few hours, and that evening, we went out to dinner and wandered around downtown Holland with my dad and stepmom, and then stopped at Captain Sundae on the way home. Josie was so excited at the mere thought of ice cream that she was practically collapsing in my arms, and I dare say it lived up to everything she had hoped for ;)

The third day (Saturday), we did the one thing Ryan had added to the list: we went to Menard's. Menard's, as in a home improvement store with a grocery section. I made fun of him pretty relentlessly, but he swore there were Corian cutting boards available for much cheaper there than we could get elsewhere (and which he needed for a project he was working on), so we went for it. I had to eat my words, though, since I ended up really liking the cutting boards too, so we ended up taking three home (for cheap!), plus sunflower seeds, barrettes, and other things that have little to do with a normal home improvement store. Then we went back downtown to meet up with one of my dear high school friends (and her boyfriend) for dinner and coffee.

We also got stuck waiting for a train. Josie has been on a passenger train before, but this was the first time the girls had seen a freight train. This was a momentous and super exciting occasion... at least, at first, before they realized that 1) it was slow, and 2) it was long. Then the questions started coming: When is this going to end? Why is it so slow? Is it over yet? HA. Story of my childhood. These are the things they don't have much of an opportunity to learn about, since we don't really have trains around us at home, so I regaled them with fascinating, suspenseful stories of us trying to outrun the trains by racing to other intersections to try to cross ahead of it. They were thrilled.

On our last full day in Michigan, we finally made it to the beach, where the girls saw more sand than they ever have in their lives (and I quickly remembered how hard it is to walk through that much sand, since my calves cramped up). They loved the swings, they loved the sand, they loved the water. They just didn't like leaving, but alas, they both still needed a nap.

That evening, we went to the fairgrounds, and the girls got to play on some of the same playground equipment I played on as a kid too. Josie ended up scraping her knee and was crying pretty hard, so as we were wandering around in search of some water to wash off the blood, I tried to distract her with stories of the times I showed there. This backfired a bit, since Josie and I ended up having the saddest conversation ever about my old horse Jane, with both of us nearly in tears all over again as I talked about how much I missed her every day still :(

And then finally, on the last day of our trip, we got to meet my nephew Alex. He had just been born (and was still in the NICU) the last time we were in Michigan, and had been sick most of the time we were in Holland for this trip, so we weren't sure if we'd get to see him this time either. But he came over on Monday, and the kids had a good time playing before we needed to head out to the airport again, where Josie was sad anew that she would miss her grandpa and grandma when we went back home :(

Probably the most exciting thing that happened in August besides the trip to Michigan is that Josie and I saw a double rainbow ;) We were just leaving her school at the tail-end of a rainstorm, and just as I was telling her that this was perfect rainbow weather, I happened to look up and saw a full-on double rainbow, from one end all the way to the other. I am not at all embarrassed to say that we both freaked out and were jumping up and down and squealing about it :) And then, of course, we came home and watched the double rainbow video, and Josie was very perplexed with why the guy was so emotional (I definitely understood it more, though, now that I've seen a double rainbow too - they are pretty glorious).

On the other end of the spectrum, August was a bit rough with Miss Josie as she went through a (thankfully) short-lived regression at school, where she wasn't listening to instructions, and was trying to sneak things by us that she knows are against the rules. We kind of expected that, given that some new kids started in her class for the new school year, but it's still hard and a little disorienting to go through, since that's just not how Josie usually acts and being upset with her is just such an unfamiliar feeling for me. And I got in a couple of other disagreements with her, mainly around her ignoring me or flatout refusing to leave school when I pick her up - since, while I'm happy she likes school so much, I also don't appreciate her refusing to leave.

The garden was still doing all right in August, although really, the okra has been the shining star this summer. It's so pretty, it was a bountiful producer, and the stems grew into quite impressive tree trunks. It's hard to tell from the picture, but these are at least a couple of inches in diameter, and were (apparently) sturdy enough to support the weight of oh, say, an adult woman falling into them (don't ask me how I know this). The cucuzza squash also were quite prolific, although since we didn't really figure out what to do with them, they were a little less useful and a little more of a hassle. I also pruned the fruit trees for the first time, so we'll see if they come back next year or if I've irreparably harmed them, despite my careful research into proper pruning techniques and shapes for each variety. Fingers crossed.


[Okra forest]

[Cucuzza - they just grow until they reach the ground, even if they're starting from 3' up]

[One of the -- pruned -- pear trees]

Miscellaneous cuteness:

[Love this kid]
[Love these kids]

[Audra's chauffeur] 

[Josie's balancing trick]
[Josie's not very accurate (and yet still strangely cute) horse]

Saturday, November 7, 2015

18 Months


Audra's 18th month was most memorable because of her language explosion, and her very first plane ride :)

She learned what seemed to be an absurd number of words - literally picking up several new words a day for a couple of weeks. I started writing a list so that I would remember what words she knew, but since reading a list of words is probably not that exciting, here's Audra saying them instead ;)

Other funny language-related tidbits: Audra arguing with Ryan if his skateboard is a car (Ryan: "skateboard", Audra: "CAH!"), Audra telling Josie "shh, stop!" when Josie cried, Audra yelling "deer!" out the window to all the deer in our yard, Audra identifying animals by their sounds rather than their names ("NEIGH!"), Audra patting Josie's bum and saying "ewwww". Speaking of which (sort of), Audra basically asks for her diaper to be changed now, announcing "poopy!" (regardless of what it is) and running off to her change table as soon as she needs a diaper change. We got out the potty for her to start sitting on too, and while she was initially pretty excited about it, I'm not getting my hopes up too much that she'll actually potty train this early.

Flush with the success of our trip to the lake in July, we decided we should go to Michigan too, particularly while Audra is still under 2 so that we wouldn't have to buy her a separate seat. So that's what we did, going up to see my dad and stepmom in Holland for the first time since Josie was 18 months. Audra did so well on the flights - she was a bit rambunctious on the flight there (getting passed back and forth between Ryan and me, and constantly trying to circumvent me so she could kick the seats in front of us), but did much better on the way back when we were able to make enough space for her so that she could just stand between our legs. That, and I was bribing the girls with food both ways - we went through a ton of grapes on the way there, and sunflower seeds on the way back ;)

We had such a good time doing touristy stuff, with one of the favorites being Dutch Village. It was so much more fun than I remembered it being from when I was growing up, and Audra kept herself pretty well entertained (mostly with all the animals) the whole time we were there, even though she was still too little to go on most of the rides.

[This was the fanciest Dutch-themed throne-like high chair that I've ever seen]

We also went to Captain Sundae, where Audra had fun playing on the boats and we were able to get away with not giving her any ice cream since she is still blissfully unaware of it ;) And Audra went to the beach for the first time in her life. She was a little unsure of the sand at first, and we were being lazy and didn't bother putting a swim diaper on her (so her diaper probably weighed as much as she did after she played in the water), but we had a great time. Audra ran in and out of the water, yelled at the seagulls, and busily moved water and sand from one place to another.

Audra continued the theme of needing to move things from one place to another at my dad and stepmom's house too. She was constantly rearranging the kid table and chairs there, and had her favorite objects (toys and non-toys) that she had an unerring ability to find wherever we put them. She particularly liked a little pull toy dog that she pulled around and hugged.

[Saying good-bye to my dad at the airport]

Unfortunately, I suspect Audra got sick from the lady who was coughing directly in front of us on the plane ride up (Audra kicked her seat, she gave Audra her cold - I guess that makes us pretty much even), so she was fairly sick and coughing a lot for most of our trip. She already seems to sleep worse away from home, and being sick too made it so she slept pretty terribly. There was only one night when she only woke once, and then one horrendous night when she woke about every hour coughing, and then eventually just wouldn't go back to sleep.... so, harkening back to her newborn days, I strapped her into the carrier and went to the recliner to see if being more upright would help her sleep. Except I forgot about the grandfather clock right next to the recliner, so I had to relocate after it started striking the hour. And although she fell asleep fairly quickly after we went down another floor to the recliner in the basement, it still took me a while to fall back asleep, and then it was only for a little while before I woke up from the back pain. So back upstairs I trudged to put her back in bed again, where we luckily were able to sleep the rest of the night without too much more disruption.

Another consequence of our trip to Michigan was that Audra dropped some nursing sessions throughout the day. I think it was primarily due to being so busy and out and about throughout the day, but I didn't offer as much as I usually do, and she didn't ask. So after 18 months of nursing about every couple of hours when we're together during the day, she actually went 4-5 hours before it was either a sleep time or her mood indicated that she really, really needed to nurse (since it still serves as an effective "reset" button for her mood). So we continued this once we got home too, and I was able to drop down to only pumping twice a day and still have enough to send three 4oz bottles to daycare each day with about half of each being cow's milk now. She still doesn't like straight cow's milk, but she seems to be doing fine with it mixed so hopefully she'll get used to it soon enough :)

One big difference from this month is that I'm now able to calm her down (at least, for physical upsets) by just holding and comforting her. Up until this point, the only ways to get her to calm down, period, were 1) nursing, or 2) almonds. So it's nice to have another option now :) She's able to climb into her high chair and up the ladder on the playset by herself now, which I find quite impressive... and nerve-wracking enough that I insist on spotting her even if she doesn't want my help. She also started opening doors consistently enough that we had to put the child-proof (and nearly adult-proof) covers on them to slow her down.

Audra is starting to cooperate more - instead of pretty much everything being a battle, she will now fairly readily put things back when asked without immediately grabbing it back up again. She also likes to fake cough so that I'll pat her back (and she'll pat mine too, if I cough). She loves to carry all the things, and especially loves other people's things, as she routinely pillages my shoe shelves or Josie's underwear drawer for things to wear.

[Carrying my purse]

[Carrying my yoga mat]

[Wearing my heels]

[With a more complete collection of things that aren't hers: Josie's (clean) underwear on her leg, Josie's shoe, and Ryan's speaker]

Audra likes to help with her diaper changes, which entails grabbing every diaper in her reach and shoving them under her back, all with a rather (hilariously) straight-faced expression on her face. She also likes to help gather the crew, so when we ask for her to go get Josie, she'll get her in sight and then yell "JO-JU!" at the top of her lungs at her. Audra still hates brushing her teeth though, although she's somewhat more willing to cooperate so long as I sing to her (immediately signing "more" and opening her mouth when I stop)... but only if I sing the right songs to her. She likes "Rock-a-bye Baby" and "The Ants Go Marching", but does not care for "You Are My Sunshine", as it turns out. She also loves when I put garlic mullein oil in her ear (which we use whenever she has fluid or an infection in her ear), which is a good thing, given how frequently I do it. The routine is that I put a couple of drops in each ear, massage it in, then wipe away the excess. So she'll say "ear!", grab a burp cloth to cover her clothes, point to her ear until I put the oil in, then will squish her ears for me before she rubs them quite vigorously with the burp cloth ;)

She also did what I believe was her first joke (or at least the first thing she did that she seemed to recognize was intentionally silly): she kissed her toothbrush after she had been blowing kisses to me, and immediately burst out laughing :)  And she perhaps is starting to intentionally antagonize Josie more too: she was saying "bye-bye" to Josie one morning, and then continued insistently saying it to her long after Josie made it clear she was done with the interaction. I wasn't entirely sure if Audra was just being very thorough with saying good-bye, or if she was actually messing with Josie. On a related note, if we ask her to say sorry now, she'll gently rub her hand on whoever she offended... very sweet :)

Miscellaneous cuteness:
[Baby bedhead]
[Helping me harvest in the garden]
[Saying hi to cousin Benjamin]

[Always running]

[Navigating the incline/decline of the bridge on her own]

[Dance, dance!]