Monday, January 31, 2011

More Sleeping, Better Sleeping, Longer Sleeping

Mattias' sleeping hasn't improved (at all) since I vowed to work on his sleeping. I think I'm having the some of the same problems I had with Noah.

(image removed)
First of all, I get this idea in my head that there is a Solution and I simply haven't stumbled across It yet, therefore, I keep trying new things. That's a little spastic, and not so sleep-inducing, don't you think?

Then, I become really obsessed with if only(s). If only Mattias would sleep longer, I could clean the kitchen.  If only Mattias would sleep more, he'd play so much better with Noah. If only Mattias would sleep better, I could carry the ten loads of washed-and-folded laundry up the two flights of stairs! That's the single-minded, goal-oriented, obsessive Ann emerging. She doesn't help relax the situation, either.

Next, I start thinking there must be some undiagnosed medical condition. Way back when, in Munich, I asked Noah's/our (German) pediatrician about this. The pediatrician looked at me carefully and said, "Well, you look okay."

Um. In case you didn't catch that: I! Me! Yours truly! was supposed to LOOK sufficiently tired for Noah's sleeping to be a problem. I was a new mother and I was Outraged! (In retrospect, I find this a lot less offensive and a lot more funny.)

Shortly thereafter, we found a new pediatrician. Because I was Outraged.

And I waited a couple of months before I begged Fritz to ask the new pediatrician about Noah's (still) miserable sleeping.

"You have to ask because if I-the-mother ask, she might not take me seriously."

"You have to ask because if I-the-NON-german-speaker ask, she might not understand."

"You have to ask because if I-the-woman ask, the answer might just be another commentary on my makeup!"

Off went Fritz to the pediatrician with little Noah in tow. And the answer came back that little Noah was just fine. And the pediatrician? Well, she was wise. Here's the message she gave to Fritz:

Parents often believe that how well their child sleeps is a measure of their abilities as parents.
It's not.
It will get better.

And with Noah, it did get better. He's a great sleeper now. And not because I found the Solution, but because it simply, eventually, finally happened.

Well, he could wake up a little later than 6:30 AM, but I'm not really complaining.

So, with Mattias, I'm trying to relax a little bit. It will be okay. It will.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

White Window Treatments

It would be better if this photo was from the exterior.  But I couldn't resist!
And, no, I'm sorry this is NOT our house.  If only I was so brave.

First. Disclosure:  we have ALL of the following:

  • white wood blinds 
  • white plastic blinds 
  • white sheers 
  • white temporary-paper-blind-thingies (what a great invention!) 

Second.  Do white window treatments - viewed from the exterior of a house - remind anyone else of white underwear?

Fritz mentioned it about 6 months ago and I CANNOT shake that thought. We went ahead and treated some of our windows in white - but I've got to tell you, it's bothering me. 

Because it kind of does remind me of white underwear sticking out of somebody's pants. Or worse.

What do you think? Do some window treatments look better than others from the exterior? 

Monday, January 24, 2011

One Photo, Three Thoughts, Two Lessons

Dumb Idea: Giving a 3-year-old a bedroom with it’s own bathroom.  Fortunately, playing with toilet paper is messy, but harmless and relatively cheap (no toys, still). Buys me a few minutes to play on the internet.

Noah’s “making” Radiergummi. Erasers. As in, pencils have erasers on the ends. He got the idea from a Sendung mit der Maus Podcast. (Here's the video online.) Sendung mit der Maus is the best children’s program I’ve ever seen. It’s unfortunately in German, but someone should be translating it. Really. Every week they put together a small documentary for kids on a different topic. We download the podcasts and watch them on our computers. Here's one on YouTube for how they put stripes in toothpaste. It’s one of my favorites; I think you can understand it without understanding the German (rap). Now you can impress your friends with your toothpaste knowledge! The previously mentioned lost socks in a front-loading washer here.  Isn't it great all the stuff you can find on the internet?

Gotta go before Noah adds some real water from his bathroom to the play kitchen sink.  I’m pretty sure that’s part of his own special Radiergummi process. I don’t want to see what that looks like with the toilet paper.  

3. Updated
Noah DID add real water to the Radiergummi.  After carefully explaining how bad it is to spill water all over the wood floors, and hide soaking wet clean-up towels in the play kitchen cupboards, AND showing him how NOT fun it is to clean up wet toilet paper, we decided to lock the door to his bathroom for a week, so that he can't use it. We reviewed our decision with Noah, to make sure he understands why this is happening.  Of course, the decision means all of Noah's bathroom accoutrements are now in OUR bathroom.  

That includes: special toilet seat, normal toothpaste, special toothpaste, toothbrush, toothbrush holder, special flossing devices, hairbrush, small stool for the toilet, big stool for the sink, bubble bath, kids shampoo, and rubber duckies. 

Argh. Isn't that why we just bought a house with more than one bathroom?

Call it whatever you want. Discipline. Consequences. Manipulation. Once again, it appears to be disproportionately affecting me.  

The second lesson?  Get off the internet, Mommy.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Fritz and the piccolini got pendants for the kitchen island for my birthday. Last week, they arrived and Fritz installed them:

(image removed)

They are a Midcentury Modern design from Rejuvenation in Portland, Oregon. The older I get, the more I love Midcentury design. In architecture school, I thought is was really uncool.

Another thing I really like about these particular lights (Astron) is that you can pick the colors of each part of the lamp. Honestly, I'm not sure we picked the right on the canopy. That's the part at the ceiling.  We picked black, but white might have been better. I love the black and white contrast on the lamp shade(s). But at the ceiling. Hmmm. I'm intuitively going with a black and white theme in our new house.  Here are the lamps above the island, plus the dinning table:

(image removed)

I've got some grand plans for reworking that Ikea lamp above the dinning room table. But I think it will take some time until execution.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What to do if you have some extra time on your hands

My cousin is a high school science teacher in Springfield, Minnesota. This year, she and her students entered the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest.  And Hurray! they are one of 10 finalists for big technology grants.

You can view all the videos of all the finalists at the link above. And if you agree with me, you can vote for my cousin's school as many as five times a day until February 18th, because CLEARLY they are the best.

Also, I'm running out of fake email addresses for voting, so I thought maybe y'all could use some of yours.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Noah fractured his upper jaw bone (not sure on the appropriate terminology here?) Monday night.

He was crawling across the floor - I think he was imitating Mattias: gotta do something when there are no toys laying around - and managed to do a face plant.  Apparently, it was more like a teeth plant, because he cried and said his teeth hurt.

There was a little bit of bleeding around the gum. Since the teeth plant occurred from a height of less than 18 inches, I suggested he eat some ice cream for dinner. After the ice cream dinner, his teeth still hurt, so I gave him some pain killer and sent him to bed.

The next morning, he complained twice more. I called the dentist and in we went. Xrays were taken and there it was. A fracture line in the jaw bone.

The dentist assures me that at this age the bone is like swiss cheese that's constantly repairing itself, so it should be just fine without further intervention. The dental assistant thought it was good I brought him in, because now they'll have a baseline for comparison.

In case his teeth turn grey or something.


But it's kind of an odd situation to be in. I guess if I have dreams of a photo of Noah in the next four years with white teeth, I should take that photo now. Just in case.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No toys

I gave up on decorating my house about 2 years ago.  Now I just try to buy beautiful looking toys so that when they are scattered across the floor and covered in gooey-ness, the house still looks good.  Kinda.

(image removed)

Fritz decided that a better strategy might be to make Noah clean up after himself. Can you imagine? Apparently, Noah's very good at cleaning up at school, so he thought it would work at home, too. Need I tell you there was a revolt? The other night, Fritz threatened to take all the toys (that were still laying on the floor at Noah's bedtime) to his office at work.

My mother called in the midst of the cleaning-up revolt, and offered her firm support for taking the toys away.  Need I tell you she thinks the piccolini have too many toys?

That was two days ago.  The decorations toys are gone.

And Noah doesn't seem to miss them one bit.

Maybe he does have too many toys?  Or he's just really into parental manipulation. Need I tell you I miss the toys?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Examples of how I am a Different Mother the Second Time

I recently had two conversations which gave me some pause to consider how differently I am mothering Mattias.

The first regarding was sleeping. Mattias is almost 10 months old. On a good day, he'll take (2) 45 minutes naps.  On a bad day, (3) or (4) 20 minute naps. As I told my friend the other day, I don't really worry about it too much because I feel I can't.  Noah, who no longer takes a nap, is bound to wake up Mattias. Sometimes Noah is being a loud and difficult to control 3 year old. And sometimes he's behaving really well until he need to use the potty and then (still) yells out "I need to potty!  Mommy, potty! Potty!" Or a toy slips out of his hand and falls on the floor. Or he closes a door (BANG).

Mattias almost always wakes up with the slightest noise. Or he inexplicably wakes up all by himself. I guess I can't only blame Noah... And he's so delighted to be awake again - there is no return to slumber.

Noah was a terrible sleeper at this age, too.  The difference is that Noah was a terrible sleeper his whole, entire life until age 2 years and 3 months.  Mattias USED TO BE a good sleeper. I think his recent bad sleeping is the result of our bad habits.

With Noah we tried everything. Swaddling, cotton pajamas, elevate the head of the bed, dress him warmer, dress him cooler, put a fan in the room, put him to bed earlier, put him to bed later, white noise, classical music, change his diet, ask the pediatrician, consult the blogs, consult google, humidifier, and any combination thereof.

With Mattias? Well, if he doesn't want to sleep, I put him in the carseat and run errands. Like I said, bad habits.

So the other day, when my friend recommended I try white noise with Mattias, I stood there in stunned silence. How could I have forgotten? Why haven't I tried that with Mattias?  Is three years really so long ago? Why am I not trying harder to get Mattias to sleep? Shock: I am a lazy mother! No seriously, why aren't I trying harder to get Mattias to sleep?!?

The other conversation regarding mothering revolved around potty training. I must have been really bored living in Germany with Noah, because we started doing potty training at 4 months. At that age, it's not really potty training, it's called EC for elimination communication. I would describe EC as initially the caregiver learns to listen/look for signs that the baby needs to use the toilet and then holds the baby over the toilet and Voila! the baby goes on the potty. Eventually, the baby gets better at communicating as well as controlling his/her own body and then it's more like potty training and less like ECing.

Yes, it works. Noah and I did it between 4 months and about 12 months. You might be getting the idea I'm quite granola. But really, I just like to experiment.

Noah still wasn't fully potty trained until 2 years and 3 months. But I learned a lot with all the ECing. I've been too distracted to do EC with Mattias, but I've been subconsciously operating on a theory that I developed while ECing Noah.

Which brings me to my excuse for all the lazy parenting that's going on around here.

It was Noah's magic number: 2 years, 3 months.

And the subconscious theory that I've been operating on, aka MY EXCUSE: babies often wake because they need to pee. So, even if we get the noise-thing figured out, there's still the peeing-thing. We either train them to sleep through the pee-thing, or we teach them to go back to sleep after they wake up. If you train them to sleep through it, nighttime potty training will be rough. Ideally, you teach them to go back to sleep. But that takes a lot of effort because you want them to wake up (to pee) and then you want them to go back to sleep. Either way, the sleeping and the peeing are tied together and probably can't be separated until the child is old enough to develop strong bladder control.

The result of this theory for me is that Mattias' sleeping can't be improved, so I just need to wait it out.

Is that a crazy theory? Probably. I've never read it anywhere. Or I don't think I've read it anywhere... I'm sure I developed it as an excuse for bad habits and lazy parenting.

I'm going to work harder to get Mattias to sleep better. Really. Because he was born a good sleeper. And I think I tried a lot harder with Noah, so I kind of owe Mattias, right?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Olive oil for diaper changes

In Germany, standard healthcare includes about 6 weeks of in-home midwife visits after the birth of a child. Cool, huh?  It probably comes out to something like 12 visits all together.  First everyday, and then every other day, and then once a week.

Noah was born in Germany.  Since he was a first-born child, and I was a first-time mother without any immediate family living near us, I genuinely appreciated the midwife.

HOWEVER, our midwife was militantly öko (organic).  Fritz and I still laugh about some of the things she forced us to do (um, yeah, we were kind of forced...):

- Babies must be bathed in bathtubs at counter height because nobody should ruin their back giving baby a bath.
- Breast milk can be used in lieu of saline on stuffy noses.  The naturally occurring antibodies will help baby get better faster.  (Even our Noah's our* German pediatrician cringed when he heard that one. I'm pretty sure breast milk doesn't have the same osmolarity as saline, thus it could feel, like, you know, the swimming pool up your nose. Note: Fritz informs me that the osmolarity of milk is twice that of saline - big difference!)
-  Breast milk should also ALWAYS be added to bathwater to help moisturize baby's skin.

Another one of her suggestions was to use water, olive oil (organic olive oil, of course), and disposable cotton pads to clean baby during diaper changes.  When she saw our baby wipes, she threw them away.  Really. She told us that baby wipes are essentially a combination of oil and water with additives to keep the oil and water mixed together. Those additives? Not good for baby's skin. And certainly not organic.

I don't really know if these baby wipe facts are true or not.  But she was TOTALLY right about the olive oil.

I can tell you, by anecdotal experience, that olive oil and water are way better for little butts.  It's also more work and messier. Who wants a messier diaper change? Every now and then, out of laziness, I buy a pack of baby wipes.  Sometimes I even splurge and buy the supposedly really nice organic ones.  And I always regret it after a few days. The olive oil?  It cleans amazingly, and it protects perfectly.

Just use olive oil, my friends. For adorable little diapered butts.

* I think the job of most Pediatricians ends up being anywhere between 25%-75% about helping the parents.  So I'm trying to use language that reflects this subjective opinion, even if it's not objectively correct.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mary, Mary quite contrary

I don't really know where it comes from.  But sometimes, I think I'm still 16 years old.  When someone tells me I shouldn't do something - even when I explicitly asked for advice - I turn right around and do it.  I call myself a Contrarian and I don't know if that's a word, or if I made it up. And I'm too lazy to google it.

Against the advice of wiser, more experienced, and more professional people, I did this to our living room this weekend (it's the rug):

Pooh-pooh, Pottery Barn.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lost in Translation 2.0

We've already indirectly established that I speak English to the piccolini and Fritz speaks German. And whether or not Fritz is eccentric or just German is yet to be determined. Well, this morning Fritz put Mattias in the Käfig (cage) at breakfast - and this time he was not talking about a crib. Instead, he was talking about the highchair. I smiled my Mona Lisa smile.

It's 15°F in Denver. And today Fritz took our (only) car to work. That means I'm pretty much stranded inside all day with the piccolini. Some better moms than me would take their piccolini sledding, but I just can't bring myself to do it.  Some other better moms would not use negative words like "stranded" to describe their situation. I decided to rally the piccolini for a game of urban planning, designing, and critiquing disguised as "playing with trains."

Noah's got the whole train-track-thing (finally) figured out (somewhat). That means his tracks both fit together and go somewhere; not that they make loops yet.  The looping is my responsible.  (That's where the critiquing comes in.)  Mattias?  Well, he mostly chews on the trains.  That's okay, everyone.  Until age 5, piccolini have more developed nerves in their mouths than in their fingertips.  And our trains are clean.  Especially in the planning and designing stage.

The game started to head downhill when Mattias decided to taste some train tracks. And Noah was pretty upset. In fact, Noah, who isn't dealing so well with Mattias exploring his things, started yelling (in English):

"Hey!  Hey!  Mattias! Are you spinning? Are you spinning!?  I think you're spinning!!!"

Um.  "Are you spinning?" That would be a literal translation of "Spinnst du?" Are you crazy?  in German. You might have heard it in the subtitled version of Run, Lola, Run.

I didn't just smile my Mona Lisa smile, I laughed and immediately emailed Fritz to tell him about this funny incident.  And then I had four thoughts:

First, where did he learn that?  Can't be the English-speaking preschool.  Must be Fritz.  In his defense, I think he uses exclamations like "Are you crazy?" right before Noah sticks a fork in the power outlet.

The second thought was me congratulating myself. Oh, Ann, you're such a marvelous mother. Because clearly, Noah didn't have the words to say "Are you crazy?" or some similar sentiment to Mattias in English. Instead, he had to translate (literally) from German. Oh, Ann, you must talk to your piccolini so nicely, ALL THE TIME, you're such a great, patient, loving mother! Hahaha. You know, I'll take all the kudos I can on this motherhood thing, even if it is a little, tiny, itty bit at Fritz's expense.

The third thought was more like a vision.  It was Noah, in his English-speaking preschool asking his classmates if they were spinning.  That's a little amusing, and a little worrying.  Hmmm. Maybe the other kids will decide my son is a trendsetter?  Maybe telling people they are spinning will be the next trend??  I'm an optimist (sometimes).

The fourth thought was that Noah is translating stuff on his own. So the whole Käfig (cage) thing?  Doesn't matter if I translate or not.  And it's going to come out somehow, someway, sometime.  And I have no control over it.  No control.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wherein I sound like an Ikea ad

I love Ikea. There isn't one in Denver. There will be. In fall 2011. But that's a terribly long way away.  Especially when you are as much a devotee as me.

I've moved around a lot. The move to Denver was the first move I've had in 15 years without Ikea. I don't really know how to move anymore without an Ikea. At least twice a day I think to myself, "Oh, if only there was an Ikea:

Expedit shelves could hold these books while similutaneously dividing this space and offering some privacy. Four packages of Lill curtains at a mere $5 a package could cover all these windows. The Melodi lamp would look great over the dining room table. It would be so nice to have an inexpensive comfy sofa in the playroom. I wish I had some undercabinet lights in the kitchen. A large piece of butcher block and some legs would make a great craft table here. How about an inexpensive wool rug for under the dining table? An Alve storage bench for the alcove by the front door? That would be perfect! And perhaps one of the mudroom? Could the piccolini sit on Julius (counter) stools at the island, or would they fall off? Cabinets for the mudroom to hide all this clutter..."

You know what I like best about Ikea? The fact that so many of their products have simple, modern lines at an affordable price. You might be surprised to hear that Denver is a real vacuum when it comes to more modern styles. (It's here a little, but you REALLY have to look.) A store clerk at a large furniture store told me that "people here don't like those modern styles. Those styles are for people on the coasts."

Oh, yeah?  Just wait, Buddy. I really think Ikea is going to change the Colorado furniture market.

Until then, I'm left to grumble about the scant online offerings and 500 mile drive to the nearest Ikea in Salt Lake City.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lost in Translation

Before I spoke or understood German, I used to attribute Fritz's eccentricities to his non-native English.  For example, he called the storage bag for his sleeping bag a condom. And sometimes, he'd even use "condom" when he was talking about a lid! My goodness, how silly!

I use to smile my Mona Lisa smile and file the information in the folder marked Germanisms.  It went right between cherries-have-stones and how-does-it-look-like?  (For any English as a Second Language readers, the correct expressions are cherries-have-pits and what-does-it-look-like?)

The other day, however, I overheard one of the many conversations in German that has caused me to reconsider whether Fritz is truly language handicapped or just plain eccentric.

The conversation was in German.  Fritz was telling Noah that he was going to put Mattias in his Käfig (cage).

"What's a Käfig, Papa?"

Imagine the sounds of Fritz putting Mattias in the crib.

Hmmm... Maybe a native German speaker out there will correct me, but I'm pretty sure this IS NOT the typical use of the word Käfig.  Not even zoo animals in children's books in Germany live in Käfige these days.

And if Noah asks me, I'm not translating Käfig for him.  Thank goodness most bureaucrats don't speak German.  The Department of Youth Services would be starting a file on us.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

When Mommy is a girl

Seven months ago, after having LONG hair for a LONG time, I cut my hair. Mattias was 2 months old, Noah was just 3.  I really needed a change.

I'd read that changing your hair can be traumatic for very young babies. So when I went from very long hair to very short hair, I was prepared for Mattias to "not recognize" me.

Mattias didn't have any problems with the change.  Noah did.  He immediately began asking me why I was a boy now.

"Mommy, I liked you when you were a girl."

We hadn't talked much about differences between boys and girls. Since both the piccolini are boys, the conversation (still) hasn't come up very often.  Also, gender stereotyping is something I've really tried to de-emphasis.  After all, our traditional family with a SAHM and bread-winning father is enough of a stereotype for me.  Why dwell on it anymore?

The only explanation for Noah's reaction was that he had learned girls-have-long-hair and boys-have-short-hair at preschool.

School is ALWAYS the culprit.

Seven months and two haircuts later, Noah continues to ask when I will be a girl again.

I'm still enjoying short hair. I've grown it out just a tad, I've spent some time getting it styled in a way that I like a little better than that first photo above.  I'd like to keep it shorter.  I think.

But Noah's persistance on Mommy "being a girl again" is starting to get to me. I'm just not sure on what level it's bothering me.

Do I need to address the issue of gender more directly with Noah?  Or do I secretly want to grow my hair long again?