Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

We've been having so much fun with the holidays we've neglected to write about them. 
So for now, while we finish out 2011, we wish you all a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Ever-Expanding Palette

A couple of nights ago we had roasted acorn squash, brown rice, and mofu tofu with mole sauce for dinner, and Holden ate almost everything. This is not unusual for our 2 yr-old, who prefers salsa to ketchup and spicy chili to mashed potatoes. We're constantly amazed and impressed at the kinds of things that Holden will willfully gobble up with glee. This was not always the case; he was an extremely picky eater in the early stages of solid food, making us, his foodie parents, worry they were doomed. But we've been consistent about serving him a range of seasonal foods and spices, of being adventurous ourselves, and of living by the bribing adage of "sure you can have some more of X, as long as you try Y first."

We don't believe in 'sneaking' in healthy foods into bland meals, except on a few choice occasions (if we have to make a quick mac-n-cheese meal because we're in a hurry, we always add in spinach, broccoli, or another leafy vegetable). And we definitely don't believe in becoming short-order cooks. Rather, we've tried to foster the concept that food is important, fun, and something to enjoy discovering. We always show him new foods that we get in our CSA, talk about the vegetables in our garden, and cook and bake with him as much as we can. Everytime we sit down for dinner, we tell him what new foods are on his plate. It took us a long time to get him to try some things that are now among his favorites--like avocado, for instance--but we now see our consistency has paid off.

Here's a list of some of his more adventurous favorites--and some of things he's tried and gone back for seconds:
  • Tofu
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Chili and curried lentil soup
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes (until he ate them too fast and the heat caught up with him_
  • Raw spinach
  • Minestrone
  • Raw tomatoes (one of his favorite vegetables)
  • Dried Apricots
  • Black beans
  • High-end cheeses (he doesn't actually like American cheese, but would prefer the sharper stuff)
  • Salsa

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Quick Update: Photo Edition

One way to catch-up for lost time posting to this blog is to post some photos from the past month. Here are some of the things keeping the H-man busy recently.

Tapping into his artistic side (in memory of Cy Twombly)

Making cookies with grandma, and helping daddy make zucchini bread (which Holden also loves)

And simply enjoying the beautiful fall weather here in St. Louis by taking trips to Tower Grove Park, or even going hiking at Castlewood State Park.
And meet Owen, Holden's new best friend and favorite stuffed animal. He won't go anywhere without Owen, including hiking (see above). You are sure to see Owen pop up in further posts and pictures -- although it may be just a matter of time before he moves on to another favorite toy or animal.

Holden Meets John Deere

Holden's love affair with tractors began early in life, with books such as "My Terrific Tractor Book" inspiring a passion for this agricultural machine. When we went to our CSA farm up in Clarksville, MO, Holden was most excited about an old tractor they had. And while he has not yet ridden in a tractor during our trips up to Iowa, I know he associates tractors with Grandpa C (just as he associates boats with Grandpa M).

So his big birthday party comes along this year, and Holden actually got his own mini John Deere tractor with a trailer attachment. After both his grandpas got the box open, Holden was beside himself with excitement! But that excitement had to stay on hold for a bit while grandpa and grandpa assembled the tractor's parts (never an easy task, but fun to watch). Once the tractor was assembled, Holden loved it! He got the chance to show it off to his friends at his birthday party, and did a pretty good job of letting other kids sit on it or ride it -- only a few minor tantrums. With his little short legs, Holden can only barely reach the peddles, but he scoots along regardless ... and absolutely loves it!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Our Life Gets Hectic...and Holden Turns Two!

Oh...hello there blog! It's been a while. Yes, October was one of those months that went by in a blur of academic deadlines, fellowship applications, chapter writing, and professional conferences.

But enough about that. A lot happened in Holden's world too. He moved to the 'big kids' room at his daycare at the beginning of the month, a full four weeks before he turned two, which he LOVES. He had his big two-year old doctor's appointment, in which we discovered he's actually growing a good pace (getting taller, but skinnier, it seems). And he had a birthday weekend extravaganza with grandparents, friends, and backyard party, and a new toy riding tractor. Pictures will follow soon!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Holden and the Angry Slide

I'm not quite sure what motivates a toddler to take their first trips down the slide at the playground (peer pressure, parental encouragement, sheer curiosity), but none of these have much effect on Holden. He has been taking it nice and slow when it comes to that slippery centerpiece of most playgrounds we visit. Most of the time, he is simply not interested -- even when he sees friends or kids his age having so much fun going down the slide.

Months ago, Holden started gaining some interest, exploring the slide by climbing up from the bottom -- and often blocking other kids attempts to slide down (until we pull him away and unblock the slide). He may have slid down once or twice this summer with both mommy and daddy guiding him slowly down. Nothing to be afraid, of, right? But he still seems very nervous when it comes to the slide.

I do wonder if my own past experiences with the "angry slide" may have an impact on how unconsciously (or perhaps very consciously) nervous I am about slides. When I was a wee toddler (a bit older than Holden), I came barreling down a sliding board, fell off the end, and broke my leg. I had to wear a huge cast, and my parents jerry-rigged a folding chair to use as a makeshift crutch (since they really didn't make crutches for kids that young and small). Most of my memories of this event and injury come from stories that my parents have told me, but I have never forgotten this incident (likely very traumatic at the time -- and enough to linger with me as a parent). It is entirely possible that every time Holden toddles near the top of the sliding board, I run over to make sure he's not going to hurt himself, hence making him much less interested in the adventure of sliding down on his own.

But today, there was some evidence that I'm getting better, and so was Holden. When we were at the playground, he saw a friend of his go down the slide several times, and after deliberation, Holden followed. And I can prove that I wasn't standing there to grab his arm or guide him down since I took these photos (hoping to have proof for myself that he might actually enjoy the slide).
While this may be a long tangent about Holden and slides, I think this is one of those stages of parenting when we over-analyze everything we do (or don't do). And with our little guy on the verge of being a 2-year-old, it's hard not to be worried about all the new things he can do ... including going down the slide.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall Arrives ... FINALLY

After two months of blistering heat and more than 16 days of 100+ temperatures, we've been beside ourselves that it's finally fall here in St. Louis. And most importantly, it means Holden can return to the outdoors for play, walks in the park, playground visits, and digging around in our backyard. This past weekend, we spent lots of time outside after the weather cooled down, including a Labor Day barbeque. Holden had a blast, and I simply wanted to share a couple pics (and perhaps I am still a bit giddy about the cooler weather).

Monday, August 29, 2011

He's on a Boat!

That's right! This past weekend, Holden got to take his second boat ride at Lake of the Ozarks -- which he had been looking forward to for quite some time now. In general, Holden loves boats, but especially grandpa's boat (the only boat he's actually been on). Last time Holden got to ride in the boat, it was associated with a traumatic situation that involved a sudden thunderstorm with hail and strong winds which forced us to take cover in the dock while the storm blew over. We thought Holden would never want to go near a boat again, but that has not been the case. And he was back for more this last weekend.

As you can see in the video below, Holden is very serious about his boat-riding. He also gets this face whenever he is overcome with happiness and truly absorbing every second of the experience (as this is the same face he gets when he's sledding and hiking). On this boat ride, his seriousness was interrupted repeatedly by giggles, and I taught him to say "whoa" as a wave approached the boat and as we bounced over it.

Or perhaps Holden was simply thinking, "I'm on a boat!" Yep, I just couldn't pass up a mention of this infamous SNL digital short ... I know you were thinking the same thing.

A New Look

Please be patient with us. We're currently fiddling with our template to make videos, etc., easier to see. This blog may undergo a few changes over the next few days, while we figure out a look that's to our liking. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toddler Behavior

As we approaching age two, our focus is turning more and more to issues of discipline - and the related struggle of deciding when to discipline, and when to let it go. I have no concrete opinions about all of this yet, except to say that I find it difficult to always be consistent about such things. For example, we used to lay down the law (aka "time outs") whenever H. hit, until we realized that sometimes he was doing it playfully. Now we try to encourage "gentle touches" as much as we can, give time outs when there seems to be cruel intentions, and read such books as "Hands Are Not for Hitting." At this age, in fact, books seem to be the best approach to discipline because they provide opportunities to talk about such concepts as 'feelings' and 'actions.' But the thing is, toddlers change so quickly, their verbal skills continually evolve, and their emotions become increasing complex. So sometimes, you think you understand your toddler, then all the sudden they've found a whole new way to express their frustration.

If you too are thinking about these kinds of issues, has a great set of tips for toddler-related issues. Us? We're currently battling a sudden case of #6.

And if nothing else, there's always this video.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Recently, Holden has been developing an uncanny sense of direction. Last week, we went out for a few walks in the evening (with Holden riding in his stroller), and I would have plans to just walk around our neighborhood for a bit before his bath time. However, as soon as we got to the end of our block and I attempted to cross the street and keep going, Holden began to wave his arms and make the sounds of a frustrated toddler (lots of "no's" mixed with a healthy dose of huffing and puffing). I realized that he didn't want to go this way -- he wanted me to make a left turn and head that way ... to the park! We're several blocks from the park -- did he now know how to get to the park?? Well, we have walked this way a bunch, so I figured he just remembered the buildings or 'landmarks' on that corner. So I thought I would test him out.
We headed toward the park in a slightly different way that we normally do, removing any potentially familiar landmarks, trees, houses, streets, etc. Then, I made a sly turn to head in the opposite direction from the park, and ... ARMS SWAYING and MAJOR FRUSTRATION! As if to say, "Daddy, where are you going! The park is that way!" So we went to the park, and the same thing happened when I tried to use some stealthy maneuvers to get us out of the park -- Holden protested and knew we were headed out of the park. I eventually had to reason with him that we had to go home for his bath, but I was truly impressed with his ability to know exactly where we were headed (esp. in a large, busy urban park like Tower Grove Park).

So I guess Holden has some type of magnetic sense of navigation. You know, like migrating birds, bees, sea turtles, bats, and lots of other animals who rely on the Earth's magnetism to navigate, just like having built-in GPS devices. Except for Holden the magnetic poles are not the North and South Pole, but rather "the park" and "anything not the park." Before we know it, he'll be a little backseat driver ; )

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vacation Pt 3: Hiking Carriers

To begin this post, I give you two more tips for vacationing with toddlers:

1) Check, check, and double check that you have all the major items. Mentally go through your days, thinking about what you'll need.
2) And if you forget something (like your carrier) do what we did: turn your dilemma into an opportunity!

The day before we left for our vacation, we thought we were quite prepared. We had everything packed early (we thought), had carefully picked out music and books for H, and had even gone on some "practice" hikes with our ergo carrier. In order to take those hikes, however, we had to take the ergo out of the trunk of the car, where we typically stored it. We didn't even think about this fact - and didn't realize that we had forgotten the carrier until we arrived at the cabin and began planning out our first full day.

Because we were determined to hike, after much debate we decided to upgrade to the Deuter hiking carrier available in the local stores. This turned out to be a great decision.

In the Ergo, H sat close to our body, against our skin. This was great when he was younger, but more difficult for a toddler who prefers his own breathing space. In the Deuter, by contrast, he is strapped into a device resembles an upright car seat, which is stabilized by an aluminum frame. The parent wears this frame on their back; and the toddler sits at the parent's behind the parent, looking out at the trail over the parent's shoulders.

Although this contraption can get a little heavy, it worked great in a couple of ways. First, because he had space H could hold water, his hat, or another comfort item while hiking. Second, and more important, he could observe the trial and the views the way we do. His view was essentially the same as the carrier's; the two could bond over shared discoveries. This turned out to be an etremely rich experience for all of us, which I'll detail in yet another post.

For now - here's some pictures of the H in the carrier, enjoying the ride.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Vacation Pt 2: Road Tripping 101

As I mentioned in our last post, for our vacation last week we traveled to Gatlinburg, TN, to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trip consisted of a 9-hr drive (including breaks) complete with a time change in the middle. We had made long trips like this when H-man was an infant, but this was the first when he was a full-blown toddler. It went remarkably well, and the 21-mth old was quite the trooper, even managing a construction delay with little major protest.

With the hopes that it might help somebody out there whose thinking about vacationing with their child, this post is devoted to tips and tactics that can make road-tripping easier.

General Thoughts:

When traveling with kids of any age, one of the basic things to recognize is that they thrive on a routine. Each kid has a rhythm, a set of activities they tend to do at certain times everyday, and keeping on a basic schedule tends to make them happier. Infant routines cycle through every few hours--they need 2-3 naps and eat on fairly frequent schedule. Toddler cycles are in some ways more like ours, but they too seem to thrive on a shorter cycle. Or more specifically, they can be prone to boredom, and need to change up their activities or they tend to get fairly grumpy. If you can find a way to follow the child's natural rhythms your trip will certainly go more smoothly.

When Holden was an infant, we tried to time the beginning of our trips around one of his naps to make the most of the most peaceful part of his routine. We used a similar strategy this time, gently pulling him out of bed at about 5 am (aka before his wake time) with the hopes that he'd sleep the first couple hours that we drove. This worked to an extent - he slept about an hour more, and was fairly quiet until approximately the time that we would have eaten breakfast at home. The bigger challenge on this drive was entertaining him when he was awake, since much of the driving time fell between his morning wake up and his afternoon nap. Our strategies for this challenge--and for a few others--are listed below.

Toddler Tips:

1) Bring a mix of old toys and books and new toys, especially the kind with an element of 'spectacle' in them.

Holden is now at an age in which he can enjoy 'pretend' reading his books, so we made sure to have several of his favorites on hand. We also bought him a couple of new ones, and brought along one of the types with buttons and lights that sings songs and asks questions. He particularly like this one because it played his favorite-song-of-the-moment ("Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"), and he would sit in the back "conducting" the imaginary orchestra as it played it.

2) Bring some new children's music, preferably some you can stand to hear again and again and again.

We were largely successful is endeavor, save for the fact that the music he liked sometimes drove us nuts. H-man got hooked on a particularly obnoxious version of the ABC song, which he repeatedly requested. To save our sanity, after we realized he loved bluegrass we bought a CD of it in the park and listened to it much of our way home.

3) Have a consistent nap-time CD.

We used to use a particular lullaby CD during his nap time routine at home. We gave up that part of the routine, but we still keep it in the car for those longer drives when nap time is part of the trip. We also give him his lovey and "blankie," take off his shoes and explain to him that it's nap time. Sometimes he fusses, but it always works.

4) Need to know where the next rest area is? There's an app for that!

If you have a smart phone, consider downloading this free "Rest Area" app. It's not perfect, but it's really quite helpful when you need to plan a break for your little one. And a related tip - bring food and have a picnic at the rest area. An especially good idea for the picky kid!

5) Another smartphone tip: bookmark those DOT websites

After running into a traffic jam on the TN highways, we checked the DOT websites. We learned that an accident had blocked both lanes and it would take an hour or more to remove it. We were lucky enough to be near a turn-off, which we used to backtrack to the closest alternative round. This probably saved us about 1/2 hr of drive time

6) Prepare your child in advance for your travels

I think this was key! The week before the trip we began to talk about our vacation, and the day before we explained that we'd have to take a "very very long drive." During the drive we continued to express our excitement about the vacation, so that he understood that our driving had a purpose. And guess what? He actually said "yay!" when we arrived at the cabin destination. Understanding what's going on is vitally important for a child, it settles them and makes them comfortable.

Oh...and a sense of humor helps.

What about you? Do you have any travel thoughts or tips?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Vacation Pt 1

We're back, after a week away on a glorious, peaceful vacation! For the past 7 days, we've been traveling, relaxing, hiking, and seeing the sights in the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, TN. We had a wonderful time, and are happy to report that we had very few problems with traveling toddler-style. Because we also traveled to the same location last year, we also have a good sense of the differences between vacationing with an infant vs. a toddler.

With so many thoughts to share, and so many great pictures and bits of advice, it seems only best to break up our vacation-related thoughts into different posts. Consider this post, then, to be mere introduction to our adventure.

We decided to travel to Gatlinburg for 4 main reasons: 1) we had been there before, enjoyed it and wanted to see more of it; 2) the driving time is manageable; 3) we could find an affordable cabins; 4) we love visiting national parks.

We also thought the location would offer toddler-friendly attractions, but this wasn't one of primary criteria, because we have a firm belief that you can find something fun for a toddler almost anywhere if you think about it creatively. It was more important that we stayed somewhere that would make all of us happy, and that H could have a chance to experience something new and different. Now 21 months old, he's at a stage in which he picks up on words, concepts, and experiences very quickly - and by going to the mountains he had a chance to experience a very different kind of natural environment than the one we live in here in the Midwest.

Among the words and concepts he learned (and loved) from this trip:
-Streams [and] Rivers - and the sounds they make
-Tunnels - he'd say "more" every time we left one
-Hiking - perhaps his favorite new pastime
-Fallen trees - every time we saw one while hiking, he'd say 'uh oh'
-The sounds bugs make in the forest at night
-"Pace" - as in keeping a good pace with hiking
-Bluegrass - one of his favorite new forms of music
-"Cheers" - clinking glasses/sippy cups in celebration of a good day

And we learned that our son is mesmerized by nature, could sit in front of a stream all day, finds bugs fascinating, and can hike much further than we ever imagined. We also learned that while we are getting better than ever at planning for trips like this, we can still forget certain important travel components (like his carrier, oops!), but more on that in another post.

For now, here are just a few of the pictures from our vacation.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Breastfeeding Week...and Weight Loss

In case you haven't heard, it's International Breastfeeding Week, designated as such, I assume, by lactation organizations. So in its honor, I've decided to post some links and some of my own thoughts about this endlessly contentious issue

First, a couple of great links:
If you want to find a truly hilarious post about the benefits of breastfeeding, see this post at MODG blog, in which this mom of "G" explains how breastfeeding you do such things as catch up on your DVR recordings.

If you are interested in hearing more about breastfeeding from someone who couldn't, read Moosh in Indy's lovely post about her struggles, and her final recognition its what's in the heart that really matters.

Now My Thoughts:
As is the case with almost every mother out there, I have so many thoughts--always evolving, ever changing--about breast feeding. I could probably write a whole memoir devoted to the topic (but who would read it?). Since the MODG post brought it up--and because it's been on mind as of late--I want to focus on just one issue that has always bugged me about the debates on the topic: the oft-quoted correlation between breast-feeding and weight loss.

As MODG quotes, breastfeeding burns something like 500 extra calories a day. At least that's what the experts will tell you, in an apparently anxious effort to get the vainest among us to breastfeed as much as possible. What they don't say: you have to eat a lot of extra food to keep up. If you sign up for weight watchers, for example, you'll find a special category for nursing moms that requires you to eat extra food. And if you try to diet at all, you risk losing that milk supply entirely. Meanwhile, for the first couple of months, you are nursing so often you could hardly find the time to work out; in fact, at first, you're kind of a slug. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from breastfeeding, I just don't think that this should be your reason.

Breastfeeding will help...definitely reduce that post-pregnancy bulge. But often it takes a lot time to drop that final five pounds, and even longer to drop the little bit of post pregnancy-squishiness around the middle that seems to haunt us moms. If you are someone like me, who is not naturally-thin, it means you have to spend some real time working out (here's where an awesome co-parent helps). It took me more than 18-mths to finally fit into the skinnier jeans that I wore before pregnancy. The good news, though, it did happen.

So in honor of International Breastfeeding week, I'm celebrating something a little different. I'm celebrating that nursing is life-changing, and body-altering, but also temporary. Breastfeeding will change you in many ways--and you can sometimes feel like your body is not your own--but there will come a day when you'll feel like your old self again.