Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Digital Reproductions of Small Children

My side of the family tends to be especially sentimental about childhood memories. My mom did the usual keepsake thing -- artwork, report cards, toys, shoes, clothes, silver spoon, silver cup, teeth, hair, skin -- but we're really photo obsessed. My brother and I seem to reminisce about the golden days of lives by pouring over our scrapbooks / baby books (remember when the tree house fell down? remember when you had poison oak rash on your birthday? remember when it snowed in Tarzana? and we get out the books) nearly every time I visit LA. I suppose that's pretty normal - we're an image obsessed culture. Danny's family doesn't have the same interest in photographic evidence; they also write captions and dates on top of prints.

The other day as I was telling Elliot a good night story, he wanted to see what I looked like as a kid. I'm such a sucker. I got out the books and we looked at photos for nearly an hour. He asked about mary ann and he thought she looked nice. I've told Elliot many stories about my dad whom he never met, and when he saw his picture he said, "Your dad looks like an architect. He looks like he thinks about space and science and stuff."

Digital Cameras + Photo Books
Since my manual camera broke I haven't taken many pictures of the kids. I'm robbing Asher of his future childhood nostalgia. It doesn't look like I'll come close to achieving the vast library of family photographs that my mother created. My digital photos, just don't come close to being as good as the photos I take on film. Apparently we need a $1000 digital camera to get decent pictures. But Elliot has been using our digital camera lately and he's taking some surprisingly good pictures. From his short perspective he's taken some striking documentary / character studies of his family members in various disgruntled or contemplative states. I'd love to upload them, but they stay on my camera with the rest of asher's childhood. We need a digital film service apparently.

I've been researching digital coffee table photo books lately and I found this review on slate of photo book services:

Top 3 photo book creation sites according to slate:
1. Shutterfly (national geographic quality)

2. Photoworks (very high quality book, but labor intensive)

3. Kodak Easyshare (I have a coworker who raved about it, challenging UI)

Coffee Table Quality Photo Books Review on Slate

Rated on the following criteria:

Print quality (10 possible points): Are the images crisp? Grainy? I uploaded a variety of photographs, from close-ups to wide-angle outdoor shots. I also used different cameras: I took most with my 5-megapixel Sony, but I snapped some with a low-quality, old, 2-megapixel Kodak.

Cover quality (10 possible points): Is it pretty to look at it? Is it made from high-quality material? I designed the books to look like baby albums, choosing white covers over black and linen over leather when available.

Web site/software (10 possible points): All the Web sites promised that the books were easy to make. They lied. The simplest site required two hours of pointing and clicking. Some books took as long as four hours to create. So, I rated the services on ease of use. Can you upload multiple photos? Or does each picture have to be transferred individually? I also rated the sites on their production software. Some allow users to place photos anywhere on the page while others require captions or have restrictive templates. I also penalized sites that were not Mac-compatible.

Service (10 possible points): Did the book arrive on time? Could I call someone if I had problems? Could I return it?

Technorati tags: photo, photos, photography, family

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sybil Gave Me Nightmares for Years

I just read that Sybil, the 1976 TV movie starring Sally Field which gave me post traumatic stress as a child, is now available on DVD. Apparently, I was 5 years old when I saw it on TV. I remember sneaking into the den because I couldn't sleep and crouching next to the door watching the movie. The slacker baby sitter (who was this terrible baby sitter? My dad?) let me watch more than a few scenes. The scene that terrified me most was Sybil's scary grey haired mother locking her in a trunk.

The baby sitter's decision to let me watch that movie ended up giving me nightmares for years. In my dream I would run from the crazy lady who was trying to put me in a trunk. How could I get away? Slow motion molasses legs etc.

I can't imagine ever letting Elliot watch something like that. Disney movies are off limits. Everyone knows about the powerful influence of moving images on the mind, especially when we're passive. Fantasia scared millions of young kids in the 70s. At least I was safe in a theater with my mom. Sybil and child abuse in my living room was far worse.

I read Sybil in high school because I had to come to terms with my fears. I found it fascinating. I saw the movie on video. It wasn't as terrifying I had remembered.

Amazon Plane Crash. Flesh Eating Worm Movie.
Another movie I saw when I was around 5 or 6 that profoundly affected me was about a woman who survives a plane crash in the amazon (I don't know what it's called). It was dubbed in brazilian accented english which added to the strangeness.

A woman is alone, stumbling bloody and hungry in the jungle. She narrowly escapes a piranha attack while she's bathing in a river. My most vivid memory is of this woman squeezing worms out of her wound encrusted arms. I'm starting to think transformer cartoons aren't so bad.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

It Could Happen to You - Rejected from Landscapers' Challenge

I was hoping for a sweet backyard remodel (that's nothing compared to a structural remodel) paid for by HGTV or their affiliates, but we'll have to hold on to our dreams a little longer. We have some friends who recently completed a huge backyard project with one of the landscape architects who is doing one of the Seattle area landscapers' challenge makeovers. I'll try to keep my chin up.

Thank you for writing to us at Landscapers' Challenge. As you already know, we are traveling to your location this year, but we have already chosen our homeowners in the area. We will keep a copy of your application on file for future consideration, please feel free to do so.

Again, thanks for writing. We wish you the best of luck on your landscaping project.

Landscapers' Challenge Staff

Form location: http://www.pietown.tv/shows/lcclientreqs.html
Submitted: Thu Jun 15 22:54:52 PDT 2006 from www.pietownprods.com

AreaSize: 600

LongLived: We've lived in our house since 2000. It was built in 1906.

ElseLives: We have two little boys, Elliot age 5 and Asher age 2. No pets although we might buy a frog soon.

CharacterizeStyle: Our 1906 farmhouse was stripped of any character in the 1950s, but we've slowly injected our own personality into the house. Our style is eclectic and probably in need of reigning in -- a little retro, contemporary asian and a little mid century modern. We like a clean look, but we're not afraid of kitsch.

ProblemsProject: Low functionality for the children. An ugly rectangle of weed infested grass. The yard is broken up and doesn't flow with the rest of the house.

MostLeast: High points: privacy and a chinese maple tree. Low points: weeds, weeds, weeds. No place to sit and eat dinner. The house doesn't integrate with the outdoors as well as it could.

DreamTheme: We'd love to have a place to barbeque and hold dinner parties or just eat dinner outside. A relaxing place to sit and read in the garden. A place for the kids to play. I would like to look out the window from any room in the back of the house and see landscape that's inspiring and tranquil. We'd also like to have drought tolerant, low maintenance plants.

FunFacts: Most people have a preconceived notion of Seattle that includes - the space needle, indie music scene, coffee, rain, microsoft. Seattle has great summers, it's not as rainy or grey as the stereotypes would lead you to believe. Seattle lives it up during the summer with tons of art walks, farmers markets, streets fairs and outdoor music festivals. We live in the north part of Seattle in a neighborhood called Greenlake which is a centered around a lake called..... Greenlake. Our neighborhood wallingford / greenlake has many young families and couples who are omnipresent in the parks, sidewalks, cafes and restaurants. It's a lively, artsy, family centric, fun place to live.

Hobbies: Reading, biking, yoga, martial arts. Right now our main activities involve entertaining and wrangling little kids.

Uniqueness: We're a warm and friendly young family who have recently emerged from remodel hell (a corrupt contractor and a project that took three times longer and twice the budget we expected). Our remodel project (an addition of 1000 square feet) which put out of our house for the last 8 months is near complete. We're thrilled to be back in our house and start living again. We're in dire need of backyard landscaping and would love to spend our summer in a new beautiful backyard.

agreecheck: on

Friday, June 23, 2006

Brothers Grimm + Misogyny. Murderous Bedtime Stories.

Wicked Stepmothers
I've been reading Elliot stories from the Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm. It was illustrated by Maurice Sendak and translated by Lore Segal. It's never his first choice, but because he gets really into them and because I'm interested in them, we read them every night (I selectively edit out anything too horrible).

After reading the title story, a very gruesome tale in which a wicked stepmother becomes jealous of her stepson, chops off his head and then tricks her young daughter to believe that it was her fault because she boxed his ears (I synopsized that paragraph as he died under her watch), I started to worry about the message it sends to him about women. The daughter in the story is sweet and innocent, the father is loving and kind. They are both rewarded by the spirit of the dead son who transformed himself into a beautiful bird. The boy/ bird drops a millers stone on the stepmother in a revenge killing.

Out of Control Women - Greed, Vanity
A story about a very stupid woman. An obstinate little girl disobeys her parents and heads straight to a witches den and dies. The other jealous stepmother in snow white. A good man makes a deal with the devil, his soul is safe and he marries a woman who loves him for who he is, but the devil gets the soul of two sisters who killed themselves for his love. A princess who breaks her promise to the frog who rescues her ball. A stepmother who burns her stepson's new wife to death.

Darkside of the Magic Years
I don't know, is this bad for him to hear? There are positive (non-murderous) female characters whose traits are loyalty, honesty, kindness, innocence, resourcefulness, cleanliness..... The male characters aren't especially virtuous either. Many of them are slight and passive. Why am I reading him these stories? The dark side is a part of childhood. He doesn't need to hear anything gory. But I don't want to shield him from dark things. He loves it. He always asks for scary stories. He loves ghosts, monsters, witches, knights, dragons, halloween. I have a feeling he's going to be a dungeons and dragons nerd or a goth. It's part of childhood to strengthen your psyche by working out fears through symbolic play / dreams / stories. "muscle man" "spiderman" "dragonslayer"

3 is the Magic Number
There are so many fears. Who will take care of me? What happens if I'm left alone? What will happen in the future? Fear of losing your parents. Fear of interruption of the holy trinity - mother, father, child. 3 is the magic number. Fairy tales may be especially important to the first born child. Few stories feature a large family. Singletons are common. One other sibling, usually the opposite sex is standard. Goldilocks and the 3 bears is a perfect example of interruption of the holy trinity. The interloper is the new sibling. 3 little pigs and the big bad wolf. The irritating new sibling? a new parental figure?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Cotton Deodorant - Trader Joe's Brand

I bought "Trader Joe's Unscented Deodorant with Cotton - paraben and aluminum free - skin conditioning for sensitive skin" a few weeks ago because TJs didn't have Tom's. "Trader Joe's Unscented Deodorant contains cotton fibers to help fight wetness by absorbing moisture..."
Cotton is listed in the ingredients as "gossypium herbaceum."

The first day I wore it, I didn't perspire. I liked thinking about the cotton absorbing my sweat naturally, this product is amazing! The magic of cotton. However, after wearing it for a week, I developed a sensitivity to it. My underarms ached and were itchy. I'm very sensitive to anti-perspirant. Too good to be true.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

School of Acrobatics + New Circus Arts - Seattle

I'm signing up Elliot for circus school this summer. Trapeze, trampoline, acrobatics, juggling -- I love it.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fish oil calms children better than Ritalin

I saw this headline on fish oil today and had to comment on it. We've been giving Elliot "Lemon Oil" since he has 2 at the suggestion of our friend who is an acupuncture / massage natural health practitioner. He actually doesn't mind it. We give him a teaspoon of Carlson's brand Norwegian lemon flavored cod liver oil before bed and reward him with a gummy vitamin. He never complains. I'm not sure though that it calms him. He's not a hyperactive kid. We think he might be ADD. He needs to work on his self soothing skills. Maybe he would be the tasmanian devil if he wasn't on it. He's been on and off during vacations etc and I haven't really noticed a difference. He's a good sleeper and he has healthy skin and hair? Fish oil, no?

ADD Cod Liver Oil Article From the London Daily Mail -- A daily dose of fish oil is better at treating hyperactivity than Ritalin - the 'chemical cosh' linked to the deaths of children, stunning research has revealed. Just six capsules a day of the naturally-occurring oil can vastly improve children's behaviour without any of the side-effects of Ritalin and related drugs.

Last year, a study by Durham Local Education Authority showed that omega 3 can improve the brainpower and concentration of hyperactive children.

The latest findings, from the University of Adelaide, are the first to show that omega 3 fish oil may be better than medication at treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day -- What is a dad anyway? A Preschool Transcript

Teacher: What IS a dad anyway?

Cannon: Well it's someone who's a parent and who takes care of you.

Jack: A father! It's a dad

Ronan: They work

Jack: You mean they GO to work

Will: They take care of their kids and they also take care of cats and dogs.

Ronan: They play with their kids

Reyhan: They play monster

Will: They're very helpful. Last night my dad was talking to me about being a good citizen. That means that you're not being bad.

Ben: They hug their kids. I love my dad. He's not dead yet.

Cannon: And dads also play tag!

Jack: Dads eat food.

Teacher: What's your favorite thing about your dad?

Elliot: I like when he tucks me in for night time. I like it when he goes swimming with me.

Cannon: I love my daddy. I love the music that he sings.

Reyhan: I like to play hide and seek with him.

Finn: He plays flying disc with me. They throw REALLY far!

Jack: I love playing Hot Wheels Accelleracers with him.

Ben: What I like doing with my dad is loving him.

Will: Once me and my dad went to the graveyard and we saw my dad's dad's gravestone. We put flowers there and my daddy cried a little bit. I love my dad and I said, "Stop crying!" and cried some more and then he stopped. He stopped crying because I love him.

Sean: I like to play tag with him and I like riding in his van with him.

Jade: I love playing race cars with tracks with him. Also, he earns money. I like that.

Arianna: I like to play ball with him. I love him!

Perri: I love to cuddle with him. And I like to play chase.

Max: He likes to play... well one of his favorite games is chess. He goes to work and he likes that, but sometimes he doesn't because he has to exercise and it's not much fun.

Friday, June 16, 2006

What will I be when I grow up?

I want to be a teacher in a school. I'm gonna teach the kids some stuff. See? (shows his drawing). Here's the little kid and here's the grown up. It's really hard work. You have to teach kids things and look for things that got lost for them and you have to put them in time outs when they are being mean. Teachers teach the kids lots and lots of things. You can wear whatever you want to wear if you're a teacher. When the kids come to school, I can talk to THEM about if THEY want to be a teacher too.

Elliot - 6/16/06

Danny's letter of thanks to Elliot's teachers

Dear Alicia and April, here is a small token of our appreciation. We can't say thanks enough. In the Victorian era, children were viewed as empty vessels. The role of teachers, in a sense, more so than parents, was to fill that vessel with knowledge and matters of comportment. Marika and I take a more Spockian approach to parenting and tend to think of children as already imbued with temperament, personality and ineffable individuality. Rather we think of Elliot (and also all kiddos) as a large bunch of grapes, who will one day become a fine wine. The role of life then, is to bring the sweetness out of them.

We feel Kidlinks, with your efforts did just that. We know that Elliot is ready for this new undertaking (kindergarten) because of your efforts, he is on his way to becoming a fairly decent bottle of Bourdeux.

As for the candle, wasn't it Jolie Holland who sang, "the littlest birds sing the prettiest songs." Thank you for understanding that from the getgo--and for all your efforts. The chocolate, needs no explanation. In 18 years, if you are still at Kidlinks, we will let you know the fair market price of our boy's bottle. Thanks again, Dan and Marika

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Anniversary. Guts + Glory. Shalom in the Home.

I've been feeling very sentimental lately, look how mushy I am posting about my wedding anniversary. My mom sent me this email and I thought it was an inspiring note to archive:
Happy Anniversary Dan and Marika!
Eight years ago you had a beautiful wedding in a beautiful setting on a sunny day in Sausalito. As we've said many times before, it was a special ceremony, a ceremony that reflected your personalities and your love for each other, and it was so much fun. And now you two have built a wonderful life together and brought me the added joy of two darling grandsons. Keep being the good partners you are through the good times and during life's difficulties. Think of all you have done as a couple -- the places you've traveled, the places you've lived, classes taken, degrees earned, jobs taken and left, loved ones lost and babies born...

Life is good!
Happy Anniversary. I love you.

Shalom in the Home
Yep, Dan and I have been married for 8 years, we've known each other for half our lives. After I consulted Danny about whether or not to take the ceramics class we were both checking out, we ran into each other outside my dorm. He was on his skateboard and stopped to chat about the class. He seemed familiar, stable, quirky and kind. Later our paths crossed at party before winter break. When I found out he was from LA, I felt an instant connection and we made plans to meet in LA during vacation. I like to think that we chose each other because we're both idealistic misfits, we have sympathetic and complementary weaknesses.

8 Years Later
Despite our individual neurotic freakiness, assorted ADD issues, and our inability to meal plan /eat well; we have a little family that's actually functional. We're coming up with healthier solutions to our daily obstacles, we're practicing shalom in the home. We laugh together, have our own family jokes and stories, we take family walks and bike rides. I think we're starting to get it. We're slow learners.

After Elliot was born, I remember sitting in the parking lot of Home Depot nursing Elli while Danny was buying paint or something, and thinking I am so happy, I'm married to a great guy and I have this sweet baby, something is going to fall from the sky and crush the car. Needless to say, that didn't happen and what hasn't killed me has made me stronger (I'm still working on it). Incorporating these other people into my life was the healthiest thing I've ever done; the best choice I've ever made. Over time, the idea of being married and having two kids has seemed less absurd. Somewhere I'm still 16, a punk depressive smoking cigarettes, but I like my adult life much better.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Leonard Ziegler Jensen - 11 June 1914 - 8 May 1987

My mom sent out this rememberance of my grandpa on his birthday:

Today Grandpa would have been 92 years old. I've been thinking of him and how much I loved him. He was a super dad, always available with time and attention galore. His family was his priority. His children and grandchildren gave him such joy.

Grandpa was born on June 11, 1914 in Omaha, Nebraska. He had a brother, Charles, who died very young from a bone disease. I think he was around two years old when he died. He went to elementary school and high school in Omaha, but wasn't interested in being much of a student. He left high school and went to work as a chauffeur. He may have had other jobs before this, but this is the one I remember hearing about. We have a photo of him in his uniform looking very young and handsome and happy in front of the automobile.

Grandpa met Grandma when he was visiting his father in the hospital. She was his nurse and Grandpa asked if the nurses would like a ride home. The romance began. They were married in St. Paul, Nebraska at Grandma Ewers' tiny farm house on September 10, 1939. Grandpa Ewers had suffered a stroke several years before and was unable to travel so they had the wedding at home. Money was very tight, so they probably would have had it at home anyway.

Grandma and Grandpa went to California on their honeymoon and went back to Nebraska only to get the rest of their belongings. They were ready to start their life together in Los Angeles. Grandma worked as a nurse at St. Vincent's Hospital located at Sunset and Beaudry. They rented an apartment nearby and Grandpa worked at various jobs until he begin working for North American Aviation as a staff photographer. They saved their pennies and bought a house in Lennox, California when I was just a few months old.

Grandpa rode a bike to work and we ran out to greet him when he came home hoping to find a treat in his big black lunch box. There are so many happy memories to share, I'm sure you all have some, too.

====MK's Memories of Grandpa=====
I adored Grandpa.
When I think of him, I see myself nestling with him in his brown leather chair. He smelled of coffee, shaving cream and warmth. White hair, tanned skin, and pale blue eyes.

Even when he was exasperated by a ridiculous movie on tv or calling a bad driver a nincompoop, he was always laid back and approachable. I think of him driving around in his little Toyota, chatting up his CB radio buddies in the car; he liked people. My brother and I loved to tease him.

He taught me how to draw upside down. He gave me my first camera and inspired my photography obsession. I would spend hours immersed in his photography collection each time I visited.
I felt as if he expected nothing from me (which is next to impossible in human relationships, especially in families), it was easy to be myself around him. He gave me an amazing gift of pure unconditional, unqualified love.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

On Marriage - A preschool discussion transcript

A lot of you have been pretending to be married recently, and a lot of you have been asking questions about weddings. Does anybody have a question to ask today?

Ben: Can olego1.gifne girl marry two boys or can one boy marry two girls?

Elliot: Well, two boys can marry one girl.

Cannon: Well, that's not very fair.

Jade: Girls that marry the boys stay together forever, because they married each other.

Cannon: I think that's not very fair because someone's not marrying me.

Ben: I want to marry Jade but also Cannon and Elliot do so I bet three boys can marry her.

Rey: Well, people like grownups, they marry, or big kids, they marry. I know big kids they KIND of marry - buit I don't know about that.

Elliot: Some boys can marry boys too.

Ben: And some girls can marry a girl

Elliot: but in different cities and countries

Ben: Yeah. And towns.

Elliot: An animal can marry a different animal.

All: laugh

Elliot: Stop laughing everybody! Everybody. I know there's something funny in here, but please stop laughing. Stop laughing please. Attention!

Cannon: No that's not true. Animals don't have any hands.

Teacher: Why do they need hands to get married?

Cannon: They can't dance with no hands.

Teacher: How old do you think you should have to be before you can get married?

Ben: I bet you could have to be 17. Or 19 because that's a lot.

Rey: 18

Jade: 20

Cannon: 20. 18. 190.

Perri: Maybe 11?

Teacher: How can you tell that people are married?

Ronan: You know because they're going around in circles. They go around in circles because they are marriying.

Elliot: Yeah, I know what Ronan is saying.

Cannon: I would wear a dress if I got married.

Rey: If they were married the girl wears a dress and the boy wears...something else. He wears black pants and a black shirt.

Elliot: And a black tie too! A boy tie.

Elliot: Sometimes people get married on an airplane.

Perri: Sometimes people can marry on a boat.

Will: They should climb up to the moon.

Jade: My mommy and daddy got married on a boat. We have pictures.

Perri: They will be married at Chuck E Cheese

Finn: You could get married on a Blue Angel.

Will: Or in a church

Rey: Or a helicopter

Will: You can also drive in a very very long car.

Rey: Like a limo?

Ben: No like a LONG Hummer.

Jade: The prince has to be there.

Ronan: Your grandma and grandpa could be there. Even your cousins.

Elliot: I went to a wedding once and I got to be the ring bearer. There were some serious problems.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Super Bird, Super Mouse + the Ogre

Once upon a time, there was a little bird named Serena and a little mouse named Soleil. They had nowhere to live and they had nothing to eat out of. They didn't even have a refrigerator. They were looking for a house, so they climbed up to the mon. There was a ramp that let them climb up so high. Then on the other side of the moon, they found a house! It was the moon! The moon had turned into a castle! But inside lived a big ugly giant named Abiyoyo who stole treasures. Whoever came into his house he would EAT UP! But the bird and mouse were SO SMALL, he didn't know where they were. They ran away. They jumped out the window. They found some of Abiyoyo's treasure in a trap hole. Serena the bird had lightening bolts in her mouth, and shot them at Abiyoyo. Abiyoyo turned into a giant light, and got trapped inside it, then turned small. Then Abiyoyo was trapped in the light for his life. He was as small as a dust mite. So Soleil and Serena lived in the castle together forever and ever. They found juiceboxes in the cabinet and candy in a big black bowl. They ate and drank every single day. They were happy. The End.

By Elliot and Friends

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sleep Training + Schedules - NPR Report on Pediatrics Study

I heard this report as I was driving home from work and of course listened with great interest. Sleep is a pet issue of mine. I know sleep training is as combustible as politics and religion topics wise. Everyone has an opinion about the cause of troubled sleep and you can't win either way. I've tried the "natural mothering - attachment parenting - co-sleeping" approach with Elliot and the "strict schedule" approach with Asher. Neither of my kids were great sleepers in their first 2 years.

I've known a few babies that have slept well alone since birth. I know it happens. But they're freaks of nature, robot babies. Even before I heard the results of the study I thought, it doesn't make a difference, it's just a fact that babies will wake up multiple times during the night and destroy your sanity and your life no matter what.

Ferber vs. Sears vs. Weissbluth
The Ferber way is totally crazy making. Everyone seemed to tell us this was the only way to go. Our pediatrician. Friends. Family. Short term pain for long term gain. We tried "crying it out" and couldn't handle it after two nights of crying, going in to pat him every 10 minutes (Elliot was 18 months at the time). We gave up. Then we were Sears / Panter "No cry sleep solution" subscribers for a while, but when that dragged on for nearly a year without significant levels improved sleep for any of us, we had to try extreme measures after Asher was born. The Weissbluth healthy sleep habits book which advocates early bedtimes really saved our lives. Downside is that everyone thinks you're a sleep nazi and you can't go out at night as a family anymore. "What?! Your kids go to bed at 6pm?" I got my life back. It was heaven. I didn't care. Now I've relaxed, but I actually think we should go back to earlier bedtimes (elliot goes down at 8 and asher at 7) because the night ritual seems to be taking longer lately.

Elliot had no schedule, he slept with us, nursed on demand and it was fine when he was really little, but after 2 years, it wasn't working for any of us. He wouldn't go to sleep without me, bedtime took 2 or 3 hours. If he woke up and I wasn't there he'd freak out. I was completely chained to him, I had to sleep with him to get him to go to sleep. I was so resentful after a while. Ever since we did the Weissbluth sleep training and early bed time with him at age 3 (6pm), he's been a great sleeper. The biggest thing I learned from sleep training is that if you're firm, in control and you expect them to sleep, that positive thinking goes a long way.

Asher actually has always been a great napper. He's been on a schedule since he was 7 weeks old. I still put him down at 1pm, leave and he's out (nearly 100% of the time). Before we addressed the recurrent ear infections, Asher slept through the night only a handful of times. Now that he's older and isn't dealing with ear infections, he's sleeping better but tends to complain about going to sleep ("I'm hungry"-- "I need water" -- "Medicine"). Then he wakes up at 2am or 3 or 4. We move him into our bed and he sleeps for the rest of the night. Still not perfect. We'll have to wean him out of our bed when we move back into our house.

New Advice for Sleep Deprived Parents
by Allison Aubrey
June 5, 2006

Research published Monday offers some of the first strong evidence-based advice on what approach is best at getting a baby to sleep through the night.

What some baby experts offer up in opinion and theory, psychologist Ian St. James-Roberts has put to the test. In his latest research, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, he recruited three groups of moms-to-be.

The first group was made up of women in Europe and the United States who were aligned with a natural-mothering network: They held their newborns 15 to 16 hours per day, breast-fed on demand, and co-slept with their babies.

The second group, in London, was much more structured in its approach to baby care, setting up schedules for feeding and naps. Overall, the London parents had about 50 percent less contact with the babies than the "natural-network" moms.

The third group, made up of moms in Copenhagen, Denmark, split the difference between the two more extreme approaches. They carried their babies a lot during the day, but typically did not sleep with them.

The researchers compared the habits of all the babies throughout the first 12 weeks of life, and then again at 10 months.

St. James-Roberts says that neither of the extreme methods proved better than the other, although they produced different outcomes with different costs and benefits.

The advantage of the "natural-mothering" technique was that the babies fussed much less in the early weeks of life. They cried half as much as the London babies who had less physical contact. But the drawback is that the "natural-mothering" babies did not sleep well at night. And by 10 months, they were waking and crying much more than the London babies.

The Copenhagen babies, whose parents were taking the moderate approach, fared very well. As a group, they cried little after the first six weeks of life. By three months, their results were similar to the London babies -- they were settled well at night.

St James-Roberts says that some infants -- ones evenly distributed through all three groups -- suffered bouts of colicky crying. He says that this suggests there is a biological nature to colic that parents can't control.

"That's an important message for parents," St. James-Roberts says. "It's not their fault. Within the normal range of baby care, it doesn't make very much difference to these colicky crying bouts."

But when it comes to establishing solid sleep habits, St James-Roberts says that parents can make their mark. Six weeks seems to be the age at which there's a real advantage to putting a baby down and taking a middle ground between the "natural moms" and the "London moms."

"Move over to something that is setting more limits and introducing more routines and that will then help babies learn to sleep through the night from about 12 weeks onward," he advises.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Boyville. Shoot Some Poops.

We had a relaxing weekend in boyville. Our neighbor val watched her sister's 3 boys on saturday, so the sidewalk was overflowing with 9 boys (cooper, my 2 boys, val's 3 boys, visiting boys) racing around throwing balls, riding bikes and digging in the dirt. We sat on the porch watching the controlled pandemonium. Jake reclined on the grass intently cutting up army soldiers with scissors. Elliot tried to lift up 50 pound rocks in his hunt for bugs. Asher tried to pedal his tricycle, but ended up crying in frustration every 2 minutes. Obviously I was meant to learn something about boys in this life.

Shoot Some Poops
On sunday E + A rode around the neighborhood and greenlake on their bikes. The weather was great. It rained once, but the rest of the day was sunny and hot. Later we drove to home depot to pick up a front door entry set. Asher was so tired he kept tripping over himself. He hit his head on the cement floor. On the way home Elliot asked if it was time to go to bed (it was 5:30). Danny said no... (I could have killed dan! Elliot was exhausted from the boyfest -- we should have put him to bed).

Elliot Quotes
I love this one. Elliot said, "Dad, when we get home can we shoot some poops?" Cooper gave us his old basketball hoop. Danny said, "what do you mean? Go to the toilet together?" "No....play basketball." That made my day. danny and I laughed for 15 minutes.

As I was putting elliot to bed he asked me if people come back to life after they're dead. I said no. He said some people do. Like who I asked.... I figured this was inspired by jesus? he said, "John Stevens." Who's he? (ex supreme court justice? led zepplin drummer?) "A singer." Hmm. I've never heard of him. Who told you about him? "Asher." I tried not to laugh. Not coming from a particularly reliable source. "habby daiday to Asher"

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cottage Communities + Cohousing Community by Design

Just as we're in the thick of our housing disaster, we've started fantasizing about a new pared down, simple lifestyle. Escape! Very low mortgage payment. Eveything we want in a beautifully designed house and more. Yesterday V+ R told us that jackson place cohousing has a 3bd unit available. It's only 333K. They're ready to jump on it. We visited last night. There were tons of kids wandering around the courtyard. Elliot and asher got on the big wheels and drove around the cute gardens. Some neighbors were having a party so we mingled and asked questions. The house for sale is cute with 3 levels, wood floors in the common area, updated fully (although it could use newer kitchen appliances). It's definitely enough space for our family with a separate entry downstairs (potential office and guest room) and 2 1/2 bedrooms upstairs. 2 1/2 baths. I could see us living there. It's close to happy medium school and orca alternative public school. Downside, it's close to the freeway and most views from inside the house are of the freeway. It's in the central area, there aren't any really close cafes -- 2 miles away. The development looks a little dated, so I wonder if it will keep it's value as much as the west seattle cohousing community duwamish.

Cohousing is something that V+R have dreamed about for years. I think they should sell their house and go for it. 5 years ago when joel was thinking about moving to portland, we looked at a few cohousing developments with him. I was totally into this one community that was fairly close to downtown and it made me yearn for that kind of lifestyle. It's an idea that has always appealed to me because it seems like a less stressful, fun way to live, especially when you have young kids. Last year I saw that the duwamish west seattle community had a 3bd for sale, but I was too late. Their units are separate cottages centered around a garden courtyard. They do 2 shared meals per week. I wrote to them and asked that they keep me on their list if any 3 bedrooms come available. I never heard back. I guess you have to go there and visit to get on the list. Anyway, then we went ahead and decided to pursue our monsterous construction project instead of moving. I tried to get V+R to build a cottage community, but they weren't into it. What if we combined the first 3 lots on our street and made a small 4 or 5 unit cottage development? danny pointed out that having even closer quarters with v+j probably wouldn't be appealing to anyone.

Cohousing communities combine the advantages of private homes with the benefits of more sustainable living, including shared common facilities and ongoing connections with neighbors. These intentional neighborhoods, created and managed by residents, offer an innovative solution to today's environmental and social challenges

Detached houses, cottages, row houses and a building containing multiple dwellings can be found, along with a "great room" for shared meals, child care and community events. This allows for many types of households to be a part of the community: singles, single-parent families, two-parent families, even seniors whose kids have left home. Co-housing offers something far more sociable than a typical development where different ages and incomes are segregated.


beautiful cottage community in kirkland - danielson grove

cottage community in shoreline - Greenwood Ave

cottage company sunset magazine article

article on ravenna cottages -- I've always loved this little cluster of cottages which is just a few streets away from our house. The garden is lush and well tended at the center, with the cottages lining the courtyard.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Books We Love (even after reading them hundreds of times)

Science + Nature
The Magic School Bus Series - Joanna Cole
The Yucky Reptile Book - Jerry Pallota
The Icky Insect Book - Jerry Pallota
The Holes in Your Nose - Genichiro Yagyu
Eating the Alphabet - Lois Ehlert
The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science Nature - Stan Berenstain
My First Book of Nature
An Octopus is Amazing - Patricia Lauber

Stories 3 + Up
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble - William Steig
The Juniper Tree and other Tales from Grimm - Grimm Brothers
Zeke Pippin - William Steig
Moira's Birthday - Robert Munsch
Love You Forever - Robert Munsch
Murmel, Murmel, Murmel - Robert Munsch
Arnie the Doughnut - Laurie Keller
Martha Speaks - Susan Meddaugh
Martha Blah Blah - Susan Meddaugh
The Picture of Morty and Ray - Daniel Pinkwater
Yoko - Rosemary Wells
Stories for Children - Isaac Bashevis Singer
Fables and Fairy Tales - What your kindergartner needs to know
The Story of Babar
Best Friends for Frances - Russell Hoban
A Baby Sister for Frances - Russell Hoban

Stories for Toddlers
I Love you Good Night - Jon Buller
McDuff Series - Rosemary Wells
My World - Margaret Wise Brown
An Egg is an Egg -
Round is a Mooncake - Roseanne Thong
Hop on Pop - Dr. Seuss
Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?
Go Dog Go - PD Eastman
Over on the Farm
5 Little Ducks
Mary Wore Her Red Dress

History + Culture
Brother Eage, Sister Sky - Susan Jeffers
I Live in Tokyo - Mari Takabayashi

Take me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Songs
Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young
Good for you - Toddler Rhymes for Toddler Times
The Real Mother Goose

Chapter Books
Professor Poopypants - Captain Underpants
Arthur Series

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Tantrum Prevention for Little Monkeys

Thought I would post some of the tips Asher's teacher handed out for squelching tantrums. I need help with curbing whinning more right now. However, it's my feeling that tantrums for 2-3 year olds are just as inevitable interrupted sleep for 0-2 year olds, I'm convinced it's physiological.

2 Main Principles:
  • Maintain a regular schedule and follow established routines.
  • Be consistent about rules and expectations.
Where appropriate, allow your child to do things for him/herself; monitor your child and praise his/her successful efforts at independence.

Give choices wherever possible. LIMIT the choices to two options that you can accept.
Make sure that your choices can’t be answered by a Yes or a No.

Where possible, frame demands as choices. (“Do you want to wear your coat or your sweatshirt?” “Do you want to get in your car seat yourself or have me help you?”)

Give advance warnings when transitioning between activities or stopping an activity.

Limit your use of “no.” Think of alternatives to saying no.

Anticipate difficult situations and talk your child through them in advance. (“We’re going to go in the store and won’t stop at the toys; you can help me find the boots and when we’re done we’ll go home and play in some puddles.”)

Listen to your child, talk WITH your child, and have lots of “floor time.” Make sure that at least some of the time s/he is in charge of what you do together and how you do it.
Follow your child’s lead. If your child is in a “difficult” period (e.g., having frequent tantrums), take this as a sign that your child needs MORE unstructured time with you, even though you may feel less inclined to spend time together, given this phase.

When things begin to escalate, try to head off a tantrum by diversion or a change of scene.

Provide positive reinforcement (praise, a smile, a hug, an enthusiastic comment) for using words to convey what s/he wants and feels, rather than acting out negative emotions.

Provide positive reinforcement when your child calms himself/herself down. (“Wow! You were mad at Jake for pushing you – I would be too – but you found a book to look at to help yourself feel better. I’m proud of you.” “Boy, you were sure upset when you were yelling, but [parent smiles] you calmed yourself down and are feeling better, so now we can play some more!”

Provide positive reinforcement when your child behaves appropriately, especially in challenging situations.

Handling Tantrums When They Occur

Stay calm; take a deep breath; take a personal “Time Out” if necessary (“I’m feeling pretty upset right now; I need to go sit down by myself for a minute; I’ll be back soon”); keep reminding yourself of the developmental significance of tantrums – it’s not really misbehavior, and it’s not about you.

If this is a manipulative tantrum (i.e., designed to get your attention or to get you to do something) ignore if possible. “Ignore” in this case means don’t watch; stay present but turn away or direct your attention to something; look bored.

If it is not a manipulative tantrum, move in close to your child, as close as s/he will allow. (this works for Elliot) Many children will not want you to do this at first; respect that choice and behave accordingly, but as soon as your child begins to seem a little bit calmer, try moving closer and touching her/him gently. If s/he responds positively to this, you might offer a hug. Staying present is important because it communicates that you accept all your child’s feelings and that you will not reject her/him for “bad” feelings. Your presence also helps absorb and contain those out-of-control feelings. (Exception: If YOU are feeling angry, wait until you have calmed down; don’t move in close or touch your child when you are angry or you might frighten your child and escalate the tantrum.)

If the tantrum has not escalated too far, go through the “Emotion Coaching” steps with your child:
label the emotion; BRIEFLY state what the child appears to be feeling and
the apparent cause;
empathize (“I can see why . . .”, “I would be too if . . .”.);
pause and look at your child to see whether s/he feels you “got it”; if not, say more about what you think they might be feeling, in an empathic way;
then, after you think your child feels understood, state the limit (“But I can’t let you . . .”, “But we don’t ______, even when we’re angry”); and finally
offer or suggest an alternative (acceptable behavior, change of scene, substitute object, other outlet for feelings, etc.) (“Would it help to _____?” Would you feel better if __________?” “How about ___or _____instead?”)

Ensure the child’s safety, perhaps even verbalizing this to the child (for reassurance).
Ensure that the child can’t hurt you, other people, or objects in the environment..

When the tantrum is over, comfort your child and reestablish connection as soon as possible. If the tantrum was a reaction to a demand from you, once the tantrum is over repeat the demand and help the child comply.

Afterwards (later that day, or the next day) talk with them about what led up to the tantrum and elicit their ideas about how the tantrum could have been avoided – what they could do in a similar situation, what they could do the next time they’re feeling that way.