Friday, December 25, 2009

Thank You, Santa!

We've had a wonderful Christmas morning - I wanted to share this video of Eli toward the end of opening presents, when there was one more present from Santa left for him to open. Eli was so excited about his new dinosaur, the battery-operated James train, Harold the Helicopter, his new animals, books, etc. but we knew he would be really happy with this last present. If only we could get him interested enough to want to unwrap the paper... he finally did with his kangaroo's help.

My favorite is at the end when he thanks Santa verbally, then picks up his Santa pez dispenser and says thank you directly to that Santa.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Charlie at 11 Months

Charlie turned 11 months this week – I can hardly believe it. With the busy nature of December, I feel like the last few weeks whizzed by and now I’m looking at a nearly 1-year-old little boy!

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Charlie has continued to improve with his walking, and can walk across the room, but often takes some steps and then drops down to crawl fast. Especially if he has a shot at getting near some of the toys Eli loves to play with and tries to keep Charlie away. Like today – Eli had been playing in the living room with the farm set, but heard me and Charlie playing with the Leapfrog table that makes sounds, so he came running in to do it too. Almost as soon as Eli had arrived at the table, Charlie dropped to the floor and crawled as fast as he could (panting) toward the living room and the farm on the radiator. It was so funny. Eli of course got very upset and went running after him, “NOOOOOO CHARLIE!!!”

Thankfully, we still manage to have some moments when they can both be near the farm at the same time, like this one below:

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Here are some facts about Charlie at 11 months old:

  • His favorite book is Ten Little Ladybugs
  • He is THE squirmiest child – if he doesn’t want to sit on your lap (like when we’re at church), he will twist, arch, and slide off
  • He hates getting his diaper or clothes changed and usually flips around in about two seconds, grabbing the changing table and making the whole process very challenging
  • He loves pulling books off the shelves
  • He has four teeth, but the top left fang tooth just came through and it starting to come down (Eli had 8 teeth at this age)
  • Loves playing hide and seek with Eli, especially if Eli is hiding in the curtains – Charlie will laugh and laugh when he pulls the curtain to reveal Eli standing there
  • He says “ma ma ma” when he’s complaining/tired/needs something, “bababa” and “dadada” throughout the day, and will say “hi” if you put the phone up to his mouth.
  • He likes any toy that Eli is playing with, especially cars, guys, farm animals, stuffed animals, trains…
  • Favorite foods include: veggie booty, graham crackers, goldfish, blueberry muffins, apples, pears, and grapes
  • Charlie bumps his forehead at least once a day. The poor kid usually has at least one bruise or bump right in the middle, but luckily these fade pretty fast.

Here are some videos from the last week or so. Excuse the mess in the family room – Eli had dumped out one of the bins and stuff was scattered everywhere. The first video is Ben sliding the kids across the floor:

The second is a video of Eli making Charlie laugh while they played with this toy:

Dec 2009 - Eli and Charlie Playing Nicely Together from Sarah on Vimeo.

Holiday Train Ride

We’ve had a very busy start to this Christmas week. We’ve had some fun, for the most part. But before I get to the pictures, here are a few of the latest things I want to remember about the holidays with 2-year-old Eli:

-When we sing Rudolph, “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say… NO NO NO! (instead of Ho Ho Ho!)” – perfect since NO is often his favorite word :) He says it jokingly in the song though.

-Eli likes to wear his Santa hat and ask us what we want for Christmas. He loves pretending to be Santa and fulfilling our wishes (so we ask for things that are around the room, like a toy car, an Elmo bucket, etc.).

Now for the pictures. On Monday, I took the boys on the train into the city to meet Ben at his office. This was no easy endeavor. I was trying to take a 3:50 p.m. train, which meant leaving the house by 3:30 or a little after since I needed to buy my ticket too. At that point in the afternoon, Eli is never reasonable (since he hasn’t napped) and Monday was no exception. He was crying, throwing himself on the floor, refusing to let me help him get his coat and shoes on… it was not a pretty sight. But somehow, I got my kids out the door, RAN in the freezing cold to the train station five blocks from our house, and missed the train by two minutes.

So we waited 10 more minutes for the next train to arrive.

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When the next train arrived, it was pretty empty. But as we went along, the train filled up and I felt very awkward with my big stroller in the aisle.

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This was Charlie’s face through the entire train ride. He was captivated with the sights out the window as we zoomed past them.

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And about 10 minutes from the stop near Ben’s office, Eli fell asleep. I tried waking him up, but he was totally out. Once we got to the stop, I had to scoop up my dead-weight, sleeping Eli, try to push the stroller around people’s feet and get us out of the doors (that were closing as we walked out – the el is ruthless) as fast as possible. I had called Ben to let him know we were almost there, so he ran out and met us. Which was vital to the plan, because this el stop has no elevator, just long, steep stairs to get down to the street level. Eli slowly woke up and was pretty out of it, and started crying when we first tried having him walk down holding my hand (while I was also holding Charlie) and Ben was carrying the stroller. Ahhh the logistics of it all!

Like I mentioned earlier, I had missed the train I had hoped to catch, so by the time we made it into Ben’s office, most of the guys had left for the day. But I got to meet two of them and see where Ben works, which was fun.


This picture is blurry, but it gives you a better view of his desk – gotta love the five computer screens that are at each person’s space.

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Here are the boys in front of the big Christmas tree in the lobby of Ben’s building:

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This was probably my favorite part of the evening – we were walking toward the large Macy’s on State Street (formerly Marshall Field’s – I hate calling it Macy’s), and Eli was riding in the back of the stroller, looking around as we walked. All of the sudden he said, “It’s nice to see you, art.”

Sure enough, we looked down the street, through some buildings and a few blocks away, was this Picasso, which is featured in the book, Good Night Chicago. Ben and I couldn’t believe that he recognized it and that he said the line just as it is in the book. So funny. We decided to walk over to it and give Eli a better view, which he loved.

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Once we got to Macy’s, we joined the crowds and walked around the building, enjoying the holiday windows. This year’s theme was Santa’s workshop. Eli liked watching the moving parts and seeing Santa in the windows.

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Here’s all the letters sent to Santa:

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We went inside to warm up a little and admired the famous tree in the Walnut Room on the 7th floor. We didn’t have the time or energy to wait for a table at the restaurant, but it was fun to see the huge, beautiful tree.

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Then we raced to the closest el stop to catch the express train home (which really isn’t that express, but it does knock some time off the normal trip). Once again, this el stop did not have an elevator, so we left the stroller at the bottom of the stairs, grabbed the kids and all of our stuff and ran up the stairs, then Ben ran back down and brought the stroller back up. The whole thing was pretty draining and made me realize why I don’t take the el with the kids very often. It takes way too long and is tricky with a stroller.

Eli was pretty wiped out and looked like this as he watched out the window:


Now normally, one el train experience with the kids seems like enough for one week, but we returned the next day to see the Holiday Train, which left around 4:30 p.m. Every year, the CTA decks out one long line of cars to go around on the different lines each day and gives kids the chance to ride the Holiday Train. It was complete with an open air train with Santa, his sleigh, and some reindeer and trees.

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Santa waved at Eli, but that didn’t satisfy this little boy....

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“He didn’t say Ho Ho Ho, Mama!” – Eli said after Santa turned around. It’s okay though, he still had fun seeing him.

Below are some more pictures that show how decked out these train cars were. It’s pretty amazing. I had seen the holiday train in previous years, whizzing by, but I’d never made the effort to ride on it.

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I don’t think I would have had it in me to do this one alone, so thankfully some friends met up with us. Here’s Khania and Evelyn (who was also napless and worn out like Eli).

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Grant and Stacy:

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Leah and Quinton:

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Cindy with her kids Owen and Leah, and Quinton too

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I loved how much tinsel and red/green lights were everywhere. The el employees were walking around handing out candy canes. Every seat was taken, and it got more crowded with each stop.

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Cindy was nice enough to hold Eli for part of the ride. I think he really liked it, despite how his face looks in these pictures :) It was a crazy day because we were having our neighbors over for dinner, so I made the meal before we left for the train, and then came home and tried to finish things up before they arrived. I also had an article due that night, so I ended the day pretty late last night/this morning.

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So today I declared it a recovery day from the craziness of the last week. We didn’t go anywhere today, which was especially nice when it started snowing like crazy later on. And at one point in the afternoon, Eli wasn’t napping and Charlie had taken a 40-minute afternoon nap, then screamed every time I tried putting him back down, and just wanted to chew on the top of the Tylenol bottle because he has a new tooth coming in… so I plopped them both on the couch and turned on Little Einstein’s. I had peace for about 20 minutes, which was a big relief.

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And finally, here is a picture of our sad Christmas tree, that can’t seem to stay standing straight (we need a new tree stand – any suggestions of a good one??) and the tree is pretty much dead, despite the fact that there is water in the stand. Oh well! Just two more days and we can put it outside on the curb.

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My mom has Eli’s stocking because she’s making one for Charlie too (and wanted to make his about the same size as Eli’s). I’m excited to see it tomorrow! Eli is VERY excited about Santa coming – it’s going to be a fun Christmas.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Parenting Skills

I had some good friends from high school over this morning for breakfast. I get together with a few of the girls who still live in the Chicago area a few times each year, and I was excited to see them all again as it had been a while. None of them had been to my house yet either, so I was scrambling late last night and early this morning to try to de-clutter and clean things up before everyone arrived.

We had a great time and had fun catching up over cinnamon rolls, fruit, and juice.

But after all of that, I realized two things about myself today.

1. I don’t parent as well under stress.

Eli did not wake up in the best mood, so he had a frown for the majority of the time everyone was here. He yelled at my friend’s 1-year-old (very similar to how he barks at Charlie) and it wasn’t just one time. It was any time the poor little boy came near him or his stuff.

Ugh. Two-year-olds!

My reactions to Eli behaving badly weren’t the best. Which frustrates me because I’ve recently read two parenting books that I really enjoyed and think they will help me be a good parent and understand my kids better. They are 1) Between Parent and Child and 2) Siblings Without Rivalry. I especially liked the Siblings Without Rivalry book because I was struggling with how to deal with the regular, often difficult, emotional interactions between my boys. While I think the suggestions and principles explained in that book will apply more in a few years when Charlie understands more, it still helped me get an insight of how to talk to your kids so they can have happy sibling relations. Even small stuff like not labeling your kids, like “He’s the musical one” or “She’s the smart one” or whatever can make a difference in how they feel about each other and themselves.

BUT – it’s one thing to read good strategies in a book, and another to react how you’d like to in a situation like this morning. Looking back, I wasn’t being very understanding with Eli, who felt like his space was encroached on and everything felt unpredictable to him since we were with people he doesn’t know very well. I too quick to chastize, yet I just wanted him to be his sweet self.

I am definitely a work in progress. Eli, I promise I’ll try to be better. And Jen, I hope Eli makes it up to you and Brennan the next time we see you. I’m sorry.

2. Eli’s emotions require a lot of patience. And so much is out of my control.

The phase that Eli is in is such an interesting one – he is learning at such a rapid pace, often surprising me with new words or concepts that he understands. He can be so sweet, creative, and smart.

But the exhausted, non-napping side of him is sometimes very draining to be around. He is so quick to say “NO!” or “STOP. STOP.” (He’ll hold his hand up, interrupting something I’m saying – not so respectful). And the screaming at Charlie, even if his little brother is 30 feet away from him, but turns toward him like he may crawl in Eli’s direction… that one tries me too. One sad thing that Eli does now is when I give him a kiss, he immediately wipes the kiss off (though I think he is just trying to be funny because he’s usually laughing when he wipes it off). When he’s tired, he changes his mind constantly and responds to my questions erratically.

On the more positive side, tonight totally on his own volition, Eli walked over to Charlie, lifted his brother’s hand up and said, “I’m going to give Charlie a kiss!” and kissed the top of his hand. It was the sweetest thing, especially since Eli never does stuff like that with Charlie.

AND the other happy thing – Eli ate edamame tonight with his dinner.

As Ben put it, “That was probably the healthiest thing he’s eaten in his entire life.”

It’s a big deal that he ate some vegetables! Hooray!! We hope he’s turning a corner with that. I hope his liking a few veggies trend means he'll turn the corner soon with being nicer to younger kids… and me too.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Holiday Fun

Here are some pictures from the last week or so as we’ve prepared for Christmas. First, I made some holiday cookies with my assistant Eli.

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His specialty is licking the spoon. And disguising himself as a cat.

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Next is Eli’s favorite holiday light spectacular in our neighborhood – every time we drive by this house, Eli yells, “There’s Candyland!”

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And speaking of Candyland, one morning after we had finished playing the game, Eli brought the Candyland guys over to his farm and had fun moving them around. The best was when he put them on the school bus. He thought it was HILARIOUS!

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Here’s a self portrait of the two of us (Charlie was napping):

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And today we picked up Davey and took Eli and Charlie to meet Santa for the first time. Eli was SO excited! It was really, really fun walking in to the mall and watching him notice where the Santa area was set up on the level below - “SANTA!!”

The best part about this particular Santa is that he is at an upscale mall in a town where the majority of the residents are Jewish. This means the mall was NOT CROWDED the Saturday before Christmas! It was so nice. There were tons of parking spaces (while at the mall closer to our house, sometimes you can circle and circle around the lots, not finding an open space around this time of year).

The line for Santa just had a few people, which was great. And each family had only one or two kids, so it went pretty fast.

I deem it a success that Charlie didn’t cry and that Eli was so happy sitting on Santa’s lap. Eli really wants a cash register for Christmas.

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Davey took this picture of the four of us – which is not easy to do since Charlie didn’t want to stand still.

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Ben took Eli up and down the escalators a few times, which was also a highlight for Eli.

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But one of the sweetest moments of the morning was that after Eli and Charlie sat with Santa, Davey wanted to talk to Santa too. He told him what he wanted for Christmas (Playstation 3 and two tickets to Into the Heights musical) and then quickly got up so the next person could go. It was pretty fast and I didn’t snap a picture the first time. But it was almost time for Santa’s lunch break, and Santa snuck over to where we were standing and asked me if Davey might like to get a picture with him for free. You see – it’s free to sit on Santa’s lap, but if you want one of the place’s pictures, the cheapest option is a 5x7 for $16. We didn’t buy any of our kids since I had my camera, but I thought it was really thoughtful of them to offer for Davey.


So after the line of kids had ended and Santa was about to take his break, Davey went back and sat next to Santa for a few pictures.

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Here’s the winning shot! They gave Davey two 5x7s of this picture. I thanked Santa and the photographer about five times and told them how much this meant to him. After all, anytime we try to explain Santa, Davey reminds us that he’s “seen Santa at the mall!” So of course there’s a Santa Claus.


Here we are on the ride home, with Davey squeezed in between Eli and Charlie in our Altima. Eli’s hat is a little large :)

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Davey was a big help because he kept giving Charlie snacks to keep him happy as we drove.

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December is such a fun time of year!