Friday, May 29, 2009

7 very quick takes because I lack real content

1. Olivia and I went to a zoo yesterday. We were standing by the baboon cage, which smelled like you might imagine a baboon cage would smell. I said, "They stink." And Olivia said, "Need a diaper change!" Logical connection, I guess.
2. I haven't been keeping up with blogging very well lately. Naptime has been full of other things. Let's just say I'm way behind. WAY behind. I'm digging out, little by little, but some days it seems overwhelming.

3. Olivia has started singing the theme songs for two of the Disney channel's morning shows. She just picks these things up. We need to be VERY careful about what we say or watch around here.

4. She has also learned to count. If you put things in front of her, she can count them (up to 9). And when you ask her what time it is, she'll say, "Four five six!" I need to get her alphabet song on video. She's only missing five or six letters now.

5. I think I have a cold. The first one since winter. For awhile, we were catching something about every three weeks, so I feel incredibly lucky that it's been a couple of months since my last cold.

6. We have become big fans of Nemo, which is the DVD that Olivia watches in the car. Yesterday, she was watching Nemo slide down the drain and said, "Nemo ride da slicky slide!"

7. I'll try to do better with blogging next week. I seriously think of things to write all day long, but when I sit down to the computer, my brain is consumed by my list of things to do. Maybe I should carry a notepad with me.

See ya next week!

Monday, May 25, 2009

In which I get all my exercise for the entire year

As I was pushing Olivia's stroller up some very steep hills today at our Local Theme Park, my husband made a comment about how our season passes may lead us to trim down quite a bit this summer. Local Theme Park is built into a hill. Since the entrance is at the top of the hill and the waterpark is at the bottom, you usually have to use the very last of your strength to get yourself out of the park at the end of a long day of playing.

Late Spring and Summer are when I get 90% of my aerobic exercise for the year. I cannot motivate myself to walk a treadmill or get on the elliptical machine on a regular basis. In my mind, I have a million other productive things I could be doing. But movement to accomplish something...that's another story.

We spent all of Saturday working on the play yard and other landscaping projects. I'm talking eight solid hours of hauling mulch, clearing out beds and transplanting perennials. Back breaking work. I would have quit sooner except that I knew that finishing the project meant that we wouldn't need to do anything on Sunday, and boy was that a motivator! I was close to the end of my strength a few times, but the idea of a finished project kept me going. I can't imagine how many calories I burned (and am still burning, by the way my muscles feel).

Olivia cooperated beautifully. After her nap, she got dressed in swim clothes and played with her water table in the shade. Well, she sat in it for most of the day, but it kept her occupied for three straight hours. And she was so tired from all her outdoor play that she went to bed early and slept late. What else can you ask for?

We are not completely finished. (Are you ever really finished with yard projects?) We still have to haul in truckloads of pea gravel at some point. But the weed blanket is in and the beds are planted and mulched. We're getting there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Progress and conversation

Well, it's after 4 p.m. and my child is still napping. We have a local theme park (rides, games, food, waterpark, etc) for which we have season tickets, and it makes a great way to keep Olivia happy and active before naptime. Except today we ran into some other season-pass-holding friends of ours and ended up staying longer than expected. Nap didn't start until 2:45, so I'll let her sleep a little longer.

I think we'll be spending most of tomorrow at the park again. I spent the first part of naptime putting poison on the grass inside the playset area...just one more step in the preparation-for-playground thing we have going here. As soon as the grass dies, we can cover it with weed blanket and put in the pea gravel. But in the meantime, I have to keep the toddler away from the poisoned area. And since we are expecting several consecutive days of sun and warmth, this may be a problem.

I'll be SOOO happy when this playground project is complete.

In other news, Olivia is fully conversational at 18 months old. At times, she is just a little mimic, and she will seriously repeat anything you say. "Appreciate it, Gamma!" But she also has the ability to make requests and reply intelligently in conversation.

Example: We were watching TV this morning, and one of the characters had popcorn. She turns to me and says, "Cop-orn?" (Her word for popcorn.) Yes, that is popcorn. "I want it." Not right now, sweetie. "Lib-ee-ah want it." (She always calls herself by name if her first request is refused...just so no one is confused about her request.)

And we were at the park this morning. Olivia says, "Ride the sea horsies?" "Get some ice keem?" "Ride the fishies?" "Again?"

It's kind of nice to have a kid who can tell me what she wants. All my friends with not-so-vocal toddlers tell me I'm lucky. I think they are right. Except when she drops her cup on the ground and says, "Dang it!"

We have to be very, very careful about what we say.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A brighter day

I'm feeling much better today. It helped that Olivia slept through the night and woke at a decent hour (6:30). We started our day early with a shopping outing with Grandma. Olivia slept in the car on the way home and then - get this - STAYED ASLEEP FOR TWO MORE HOURS. In that time, I mowed the entire lawn and got started on planting one of my corner beds around the playset.

I'm telling you, that nap made all the difference. She went to bed tonight with little drama, and it only took me a half-hour to get her down. Plus, she was well-rested and agreeable for the whole afternoon, allowing me to finish a lot more planting (with toddler help, of course). Throw in an hour visit by Aunt Lori (who took Olivia off my hands and left me free to plant), and two of my three beds are planted. Yay!

Now, the trick is to find a way to get the well-rested child all the time.

Last week, when we were making the long drive to visit my brother's family, I was thinking that traveling with a little one is kind of like race car driving. A race car driver is always strategizing about how to maximize their speed, position, pit stops and such for the best possible outcome. With toddler travel, you are constantly calculating your moves in your head in order to maximize non-screaming drive time. Maybe she can stay awake until a certain exit and then we can eat at this place and then will fall asleep for the rest of the drive. Oops...looks like she's getting restless and won't make it that far. Stop in five miles, or can we tolerate the screaming for fifteen miles and stop where the gas is cheapest? Your start time for driving can also dramatically effect how well she'll sleep that night. It's all about calculations.

I think it's that way with the day-to-day schedule too. But the day-to-day is so hard to get just right. There are always errands, outings, appointments and things that get in the way. Not to mention the fact that we'd both go insane if we did the exact same thing every day and never went anywhere. She needs a certain amount of activity in order to be properly tired at bedtime. But too much activity makes it difficult for her to settle down.

These tiny people should really come with instructions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

In which I rip my hair out

Oh, internet friends, I need your help. I just put Olivia to bed. It took two hours and included a lot of tears (hers and mine).

I am beside myself.

Since Olivia learned to climb out of her crib, she has refused to go to sleep on her own. We transitioned to a bed (because if she's going to climb out, at least she won't be at risk of hurting herself), and things are pretty much the same as they were two months ago when this all started.

We started out rocking her to sleep. It worked OK...sometimes it took awhile, but it was relatively painless. Then she wised up the the whole rocking-puts-me-to-sleep routine, and now it doesn't work. Her eyes will start to droop, and then she will start kicking one or both of her legs furiously to wake herself up. This will go on until you try something else or until she passes out, and the latter can take HOURS.

Tonight, for instance...I had no doubt that she was exhausted. She behaved VERY badly in church, as a very tired child would, so I assumed that she would nap when we got home. She refused a nap, and then we were pressed into an unexpected errand, which resulted in a short car nap. So, naturally, I thought bedtime would be easier than normal because she was more tired than normal. Oh, so naive.

Tonight was not unique, though. Most nights are like this. MOST. It is getting exhausting. We have tried the following techniques to put her to bed:

  • Lay her down and leave. Results: HA! As if.
  • Rock her until she falls asleep. Results: Works occasionally. Usually results in a lot of "keep myself awake" writhing, swinging legs and efforts to free herself from Mommy's lap.
  • Lay down with her. Results: She uses this as playtime and tries to see how many times she can climb on Mommy or kick Mommy before Mommy gets fed up and takes her back to the rocking chair.
  • Sit next to bed and put her back in bed whenever she gets out. Results: This was a suggestion taken from someone who watches one of those Nanny shows. It does NOT work for us. Olivia thinks it is a game. It gets exhausting after putting her back in bed the 20th time. After about 137 times, I get so frustrated that I start snapping at her and have to resist the urge to yank her back into bed (the not so gentle and Mommy-like way). I hate this.
  • Stand next to the bed and command her to keep her head on her pillow whenever she moves. Results: This was a suggestion from my brother with five kids, and it has actually been the most successful. For the times I've tried it, it usually gets her to fall asleep in about a half-hour, but it can be a LONG half-hour. Plus, I think that my sample is skewed because I had rocked her awhile before and it was a later-than-normal bed time. It gets exhausting because she will do basically the same thing as with rocking. She kicks her legs, changes positions, moves her pillow...and I start to lose my patience. I tried this tonight and had to say a million Hail Mary's to keep myself calm while watching her make a fool out of me by jumping around and climbing out of bed and disobeying. I worked furiously to resist the urge to spank her. I succeeded only by finally returning to the rocker and held her tight while she screamed until she passed out from sheer exhaustion.
I am tired of this. I may be more desperate tonight than usual because my husband just left for a 4-night business trip, so I don't have any back-up today, but still. Does anyone have ANY suggestions? She is not getting enough sleep and I don't get ANYTHING done at all (including blogging...have you noticed?) because I spend all the spare hours of my day trying to put her to bed. I will try just about anything.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Olivia and I just returned from a few days visiting her cousins, including the one who was born on Monday. My brother has dial-up and spotty Wi-Fi, so I haven't been able to write. And at the moment, a tired, sick and grumpy toddler is tugging on my shoulder, so I can't give you a full update today. I'll just say that Olivia really enjoyed spending time with her four older-than-her cousins and her new baby cousin. I think she learned a lot from the constant flow of activity that goes on in a household with four (and now five) little ones running around. It was fun to watch her learn from her cousins and teach them some things too.

And, of course, I got to glimpse how Olivia might interact with an infant. It looked very sweet.Of course, moments after this photo, she tried to shove her off her lap like she was a rag doll, but still.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More on Project Play Yard

The weatherman promised yet ANOTHER round of rain and storms this afternoon, and according to the radar, it will be right on schedule. Knowing that the rain would spoil yet another afternoon of potential progress on "Project Play Yard", I attempted to get something done this morning.

The back yard is a sopping wet mess. I spent an hour outside with Olivia, trying to fill the garden boxes with topsoil. She was entertained as I emptied the first three bags. She stomped around in the loamy dirt and put handfuls of it in her hair. Then she got bored and decided to play on her playset.

I guess I can't blame her. I mean, we DID expect that she would find it to be the main backyard attraction, or we wouldn't have gone through the trouble of putting it up. But having her on it meant that I had to stop what I was doing to make sure she got up the ladder safely and down the slide safely. I would usually have enough time to dump out one more bag or rake one small section of the box before dropping everything to chase after Olivia again.

Needless to say, it was slow going.

After awhile, she got interested in her water table toys, which were temporarily taking up space on our patio while we finish the sand box. Seeing the inch of rainwater that had accumulated in the water table overnight, she decided to take off her shoes and take a swim. I don't know why, but when there is water in the table, she finds the temptation to climb up and sit in the water to be irresistible.

So, the next thing I know, she's running toward the playset in muddy socks with no shoes. I took off her socks, which led to wet and muddy feet, a slip off the ladder and some tears. Somehow, we managed to fill in and rake two of the three boxes before I lost my patience. I hosed Olivia off (literally) before we went in for a bath.

If you saw my shoes and her feet, you would know just how incredibly wet and soppy it is in our backyard. And we're expecting another 2-3 inches of rain before Sunday. Yay, Spring.

I spent twenty minutes trying to wash and then COMB dirt out of Olivia's hair. It's like a net. I expect to be doing the same with sand all summer.

I finished filling the last garden box after Olivia went down for her nap. After emptying twenty-five 40 lb bags of dirt, I'm ready to call it a day.

I guess the rain gives me a good excuse.

And there's the first rumble of thunder...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

We all need community

This morning, Olivia and I attended a mother's group that I've been meaning to attend for over a year. It is a very organized group that has age-group babysitting for the wee ones and a program and social time for the moms. Luckily, my daughter is OK with being left with complete strangers as long as there are toys and other kids, so I enjoyed two child-free hours without interruption.

I think I underestimated the need for community...for me and for Olivia. This morning was SO GOOD for me. I am sure I will be back regularly. Unfortunately, this was their last regular meeting until the next school year, but at least I know what to expect now.

In other news, the morning wore Olivia out, which caused her to drop off as soon as we hit the road for home. And then she woke up when we pulled into the driveway. Forty minute nap...again. And now she's pitching a fit in her high chair, so I anticipate a long afternoon.

But the community thing....SO worth it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Slow day

Project Play Yard Progress Report: dug grass out of one garden box, cut grass low elsewhere inside the perimeter. Killed grass in 1/4 of yard. Bought 25 bags of dirt for garden boxes.

Today has been one of "those days". Olivia's nap lasted long enough for me to get a shower...and that's about it. I'm trying to clean the bathroom so I can feel like I got SOMETHING done today, but it's slow going.

I have a meeting tonight, so I'm working to keep Olivia awake (now that she has refused her regular nap) so that Daddy will have an easy time getting her to bed. And she is working hard to find trouble in every possible place.

Must go. Toddler has opened fridge. No telling what trouble she'll find there.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Project Play Yard is slowly coming together. Between the week-of-constant-rain and the ever-present toddler, we've been taking baby steps in this massive project.

So today, I will remind myself about all the outdoor projects we HAVE completed, even though they all seemed massive and insurmountable at the time.

This is our house in 2006 (I think) before we started our projects but AFTER we had the trees removed. Our house was built on a previously-wooded lot, and the builder had left several mature trees on the lot. We had eleven of them removed, including a gumball tree that used to stand in front of the far-right side window there. Note to builders everywhere: I don't care how pretty they look on the lot. Do NOT leave gumball trees standing when you build. Their droppings (hard, nasty gumballs) are a bane to lawnmowers everywhere.

Lest you think we hate trees, please know that we still have five mature trees standing, including three beautiful dogwoods in the front of the house. I'll have to get a picture with those when it stops raining.

The back of our house looked roughly like this.

In April of 2006, we got all ambitious and decided to put in some landscaping. We did the job ourselves, with the help of my parents and sister. First, we rented a sod cutter and cut out about 700 square feet of wet, soppy sod (it was April, after all). Then we went around the area with that black, plastic edging (which we had to trench in with shovels). That was about all we accomplished in one day, but it was a lot. You can't see it here, but the landscaped area extends around the side of the house and all the way to the back patio. Later, we added the mulch and rock edging (HEAVY rocks).

This is the view from the back yard, taken today. This is how the side looks now after it has evolved through various plantings, splittings, etc.

We also cut out the sod right next to the house in back, and added a rock border and stones instead of mulch. The bricked circle here was added in 2007. There used to be a really big tree here, which was unhealthy and was a threat to our house if it ever decided to get REALLY windy or stormy. So we removed it in 2007 and put this little bed in its place.

Also in 2007, we landscaped on the left side of the driveway and completed the loop around the left side of the house to join up with the back. I don't have a good picture already loaded, so this is all you get.
So to recap...we had eleven trees removed (mostly dead or unhealthy trees, plus two gumball nuisances). I think we did this in 2005. In 2006, we added landscaping to the front, North side and back of the house. In 2007, we added the left side of the driveway and South side of the house, removed the big dangerous tree and added the brick bed in back.

In 2008, we had a baby in the house, so all we managed to do was put new mulch on everything.

Which brings us to 2009, the Year of the Play Yard. And here's the progress we did on day 3, AKA the Day of the Soppy Wet Mess.

We completed the frame of the yard. We also put in my corner flower boxes, which will be filled with dirt and day soon as I get a chance to get dirt and remove the grass.

Here are my other two corner flower boxes.
And here is a view of the whole frame, as seen from our back patio. The tree standing in the way is the only remaining back yard tree. It's healthy and pretty, and even though it sheds a billion of those maple whirlybirds every year, we plan to keep it.

And yes, our yard is relatively big. The play yard occupies most of one quadrant of the back yard. My husband jokes that we are whittling away at the yard bit-by-bit so we have less mowing to do.

It is taking longer than I expected to make real progress on this project, but I have to remind myself that each project has taken time, and having a child underfoot is going to slow progress a little. I'm trying to take it in steps. The part involving dangerous tools (like electric saws and drills) is over. The next step involves removing grass from the garden boxes and killing the grass everywhere else. Then comes dirt and planting in garden boxes, weed blanket and sand in the sandbox under the tower, and weed blanket and pea gravel everywhere else. I see lots of weekends spent running back and forth to the rock yard in our future.

Friday, May 1, 2009

7 quick takes

I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and also I don't have the brainpower to create a whole post on one topic.

1. It's been raining for days, off and on, and even though it stops for PLENTY of time to allow us outside play time, I've been distracting Olivia in order to avoid outside. Normally, I love outside, but combine wet grass and mud with the havoc that pollen has wreaked on my head this week, and I have decided that inside is preferable for the moment.

2. I was just considering allowing Olivia 20 minutes of outside play to keep her from falling asleep, and the sky darkened up. See? I'm SUPPOSED to stay in today.

3. Olivia's nap today lasted exactly 30 minutes, which is the amount of time it takes to get home from the grocery store. Yes, we DO live that far from the Big Department Store. She's been fairly good, but clingy, and I'm determined that she WILL NOT NAP anymore today. I want her to go to bed on time. I don't want to repeat last night's two-hour STAY-IN-YOUR-BED-OR-ELSE routine.

4. It may rain all weekend, further delaying the Great Outdoor Project of 2009. Actually, our calendar is filling up fast, so it may be July before we get even close to being finished. Such is life with a toddler.

5. Tomorrow, my husband is attending a funeral and Olivia and I are attending a wedding. The week after Mother's Day, Olivia and I may be spending most of the week with my brother's kids (5 hours away) while he and his wife are in the hospital birthing baby #5. The following week, my husband will be gone on business most of the week. Our schedules seem to be conspiring against us ever doing anything together again!

6. Have I mentioned Olivia's attachment to pacy? Well, it doesn't bother me much except that she drools so much when she keeps it in all day. My sister-in-law suggested getting a bigger pacifier. She still uses the 0 month size. So we bought the biggest size we could find. She rejected it, saying "No new pacy. Old pacy, please!" We tried the middle size...same thing. So we're back to teeny pacy and lots of drool. Oh, and drool stains on her shirt. I didn't even know that drool would stain. Weird, but she was never a drooler before.

7. We are making tentative vacation plans for late August/early September. We want to do something inexpensive and within driving distance. We are thinking of going to Michigan. We did this a couple summers ago and enjoyed the cooler temps. Any Michiganers out there? Where should we go? What would you recommend?

More quick takes here.