Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Soren: January 2011

Sometimes I start these posts weeks before I actually publish them, jotting down notes so I don't forget things before I get around to the actual writing process. This month, when I opened the draft of Soren's "update" post, I found the following list:

Soren's basic life premises:

1) Mommy can only love one person at a time. I must be that person. If Mommy loves anyone else, I will wish them dead.

2) If Liam has it, I want it, I will take it, and then I will hurt him for having it.

3) (As a corollary to the above) If I can't have it, I will surely die.

4) Sleep is a parental conspiracy to cause me only misery. I must resist it at all cost. I don't need sleep to go on; if I get too tired, my body will continue onward in "auto-defy" mode, effectively resisting all parental requests without my conscious guidance.

5) Food that doesn't contain sugar is bad. Sometimes fat-based foods like peanut butter and Doritos are acceptable, but sugar foods are the preferred source of energy. Fruit is an occasionally acceptable source of sugar.

5) (As a corollary to the above) If it's for dinner, I hate it. I don't care if I've never tried it. I don't care that I ate it before and liked it. I don't care if it's made out of ingredients I generally accept. It's yucky and I won't eat it.

7) Liam's eyes shoot secret laser darts that destroy my belongings and wound my soul. If he looks at me, I must counterattack by yelling at him. Hitting or shoving might also be appropriate, depending on the intensity of the laser eye assault.

Someone must have said that I loved them. My little Oedipus.

But I wrote all that when he was three.

Turning four has made a new child out of Soren. Okay, so not quite, but he does seem to have made significant strides in the right direction since his birthday. Some of the lessons we've been teaching him are finally sinking in and his logic/processing/forward thinking skills are slowly beginning to develop. It's been, to say the least, a joyful thing.

Soren himself is aware of the transition he's been undergoing.

"I'm changing, Grandma," he recently told my mother.

"Oh yeah?" asked Grandma. "What are you changing?"

"I'm nicer to Nyeeum. I let him come to my room sometimes and we share toys with each other."

And it's true! They've been spending more time with each other, engaged in mutually satisfying playtime activities. Soren's become increasingly willing to share. And when he gets angry at Liam and wants to hurt him, he's learning to stop himself and run to another room instead. He's not perfect, but he is getting better.

And he's becoming increasingly open to following directions from Mommy and Daddy as well. Just last week I went to his room, stuck my head in, and, finding him playing happily with duplos, said, "Soren? You left your clothes and wet pull-up on the floor out here. Would you please come take care of them?" And do you know what he did? He got up, picked up his clothes, and put them in the laundry basket. He picked up his pull-up and threw it away. Then he went back to playing. There was no whining, there was no "why?", there was no defiance....there was only cheerful obedience. It was a miracle!

In other news...

Soren's been very interested in phonics as of late. He loves to learn about the sounds the letters make and find words that begin with the letters. "O is for 'on' and 'off,' Mommy," he'll tell me. "'C' is for cookie and for 'cool.'" There's one letter that gives him a bit of a problem, however: the letter "L." One day, quite out of the blue, he remarked to me, "I need to learn how to say the letter 'L.' L says wuh. Wuh, wuh, wuv. Wuh, wuh, witto. Wuh, wuh, Weeum. Wuh, wuh, Wook." I tried to show him how to put his tongue on the roof of his mouth to make the "l" sound, but it didn't make any sense to him. He continued saying "L says wuh." To which I say: no big deal. Nothing makes me happier than hearing him exclaim excitedly, "Oh, I wuv it! I WUV IT!"

Sledding trip! Sliding down the hill at top speeds motivates him to say, "I wuv it! I WUV IT!"

Soren also pronounces other words adorably: two that come to mind are "mikemoremave" (for microwave) and "pajick" for "package."

Our four-year-old is growing increasingly independent and capable. For instance, one day while I was at work, he decided he wanted a little snack. So he went to the pantry, found a package of mikemoremavable popcorn, got out his safety scissors, cut open the plastic, dragged his Lightning McQueen chair over to the microwave, climbed up, put the package in, closed the door, and turned on the microwave, cooking the popcorn for just the right amount of time. Abe didn't know anything about it until he heard a "ding" in the kitchen and a little voice asking, "Daddy? Would you help me get this bag open?"

Soren's interest in imaginary play has increased exponentially during the last couple of months. He turned a box in his room into a magical door that could take you anywhere you wanted to go. He used a laundry basket as a "two-er machine" to replicate things. He makes everything from spoons to toy trucks talk to each other. I explained to him recently that he was once in my belly, so sometimes he likes to climb up in my robe and pretend to be in my belly. Then he'll be "born" and crawl around talking like a baby.

Soren's early experiments with installation art. I think he has a promising artistic future.

Soren playing "Three Blind Mice" on Grandma's piano. Maybe he'll be a musician.

But anyway. It's been a pleasure to observe Soren, offering guidance, direction, and spankings here and there, as he makes this transition from babyhood to childhood. He's such a strong little person. I love him so.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

QIA: Enslaving the toddler

Issue to be addressed: Liam seemed to be a drag on the family economy. We were concerned he wasn't pulling his own weight.

Activity: Forcing him into slavery.

Methodology: Oh, you know, the usual...coercion, severe punishments, ropes, whips, that kind of thing.

Results: Successful. See for yourself!

The slave whipping up a batch of pancakes for the family.

Scrubbing the toilet. Scrub faster, boy!

(Dear CPS, I'm totally kidding. The above activities were completely voluntary; in fact, they were performed without any outside prompting.)

QIA: Toys/Clothes Organization

Issue to be addressed: We had been keeping the bulk our toys in a single large toy box in the front room. It was crammed to the brim with all sorts of toys and when the boys wanted to play with their toys, everything would get strewn across the room and nothing ever really got played with. I also wanted the kids to start understanding and actively implementing the concept of having a place for everything and keeping everything in its place.

Activity: I organized the toys.

Methodology: I sorted all of the toys in the house, ensuring that every type of toy had its own container for storage. (Some toys defy categorization, so there is a "miscellaneous toys" bin I keep behind the couch.) I then found clip-art that matched each item, printed the pictures off, and laminated them. I used them to label each of the containers so that even our little pre-literates can easily determine what goes in which containers.

Results: So far, so good! The principle of entropy ensures that the organization sort of falls apart over a period of days, so each Saturday the kids and I (mostly I) re-sort everything. I've been trying to implement a rule that we play with one toy at a time: get one down, play with it, pick it up, put it away, and then get another toy out. This has had the unexpected benefit of increasing the amount of actual playing that goes on, rather than gratuitous toy scattering. Soren seems interested in the concept of organization. One day he even piled everything he could find on our couch, explaining, "I'm organizing, Mommy!"

A sampling of labeled containers in Soren's closet.

Our changing table has found a new lease on life as a toy truck parking garage

I figured it couldn't hurt to label Soren's clothes, too.


Somebody got into the powdered milk. I've preserved the evidence for the investigation.

Shopping List

Abe added a few essential items.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Liam: January 2011

On January 13, 2011, at 11:15 AM, Liam took his first independent steps. I was at work and Abe was in Billings for his Master's program, so the witnesses were my sister, Collette, and his physical therapist, Lindsey, neither of whom knew he was walking by himself for the first time. Lindsey called me afterward and remarked, "Liam has made a ton of progress! I had no idea he was taking steps on his own!" "Neither did I!" I replied. I was sad to have missed this monumental occasion, but a few days later, at Grandma Hanson's house, he took a few steps for me too. It was beautiful to behold. Even Soren was excited.

Two weeks later he's continuing to perfect the art of walking. He'll hold little practice sessions with himself, pulling himself up to the arm of the loveseat and then walking as far as he can into the family room. He's learning how to stop and stabilize when he starts to lose his balance. He's getting good at moving into a standing position without holding onto anything. He'll be walking like a champ by his second birthday, for sure.

Linguistically, he continues to babble very expressively but doesn't form a lot of recognizable words. He says, as you all know, "Thank you" and "There you go." He also says "There you are!" "Hey!" "Hi!" and "Bye." Grandpa tells me he once heard him say "I did it." Just this evening I realized that his saying "Aaahhheeee" might mean "Mommy." But it's hard to say for sure.

To me his delayed motor and language development point to a probable fluid build-up behind his ears, which would cause both balance and hearing problems, but the wheels of modern medicine turn very slowly and it seems his doctors will never decide. I feel so frustrated and powerless when it comes to Liam's issues. I know something's not quite right, and I feel fairly confident there's a solution, but the answers are not forthcoming and don't know where to look to find them for myself. Which book, which specialist, which website will tell me what I need to know to help my son? We've got another appointment with another ENT, but I worry the outcome of the appointment will be the same: "Hmm. Looks like he's got fluid behind his ears. Spray this nasal steroid up his little nostrils every night and check back with us in six weeks." Or maybe they'll suggest surgery: putting tubes in his ears, removing his adenoids, or both. But will surgery really help? Will it truly be beneficial? Will the benefits outweigh the risks? Would waiting a little longer allow him to grow out of his problems without surgery? Or should we do something now, before he passes a critical point in his language development only half-hearing?
But anyway, Liam's hit this really awkward stage where he still seems totally like a baby but has simultaneously copped a rotten two-year-old toddler 'tude. He throws tantrums, hurls food off his high chair tray, squawks when he doesn't get things he wants fast enough, whacks people just for fun. He recently threw all his bath toys into the toilet. (Soren stomped into the bathroom, said, "NO, LIAM! I'M MAD AT YOU!", fished the toys out of the potty, and washed them off in the sink himself.) I'm so used to thinking of him as an infant whose crying needs to be instantly responded to that I'm having to consciously train myself to not pick him up every time he wants me to (It's starting to cause me a little back pain! Did I mention he weighed in at 33 pounds last month?) and letting him cry when he's mad about not getting his own way. He contines to be my shnuggly wuggly buggly little boy, though, and spends plenty of time riding around on my hip while I cook, dancing with me cheek-to-cheek in the kitchen, and cuddling and rocking with me in the Lazy Boy recliner.

Liam's current favorite hobby is getting into the powdered milk tub in our pantry and very quietly spreading it around, using the powder to create rough mosaics on the kitchen floor until Mommy catches him and cruelly wipes it all away. Collette has referred to his ransacking style as being "gentle," and she's right. He's Liam, and so is inherently sweet, which means even his troublemaking seems a little softer, quieter, even gentler than others'.

It's hard to find Liam in this picture but he's there, sound asleep. I had heard that kids did this sort of thing--falling asleep while playing-- but after Soren I didn't think one of mine ever would. (Look how cute his little bum is!)

Here's another passed-out-on-while-playing moment.

Isn't he a tender little lovey?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Soren's 4th Birthday

My little boy is growing up on me. On January 1st, 2011, he turned four years old. We had our usual family shindig to celebrate. Grandma and Grandpa Hanson, the Smiths ("Clee, Marty, and The Kids"), Uncle Quentin ("Nano"), and Haunties Briar and Merritt came to celebrate.

I know it's hard to believe that I have such mad artistic skillz, but I actually made this poster myself. Freehand.

Soren wanted a "Max" cake. Auntie Merritt did the drawing and I added the worms myself. Freehand.

The thing Soren was looking forward to the most on his birthday this year was the cake candles. He got them out early in the day and spent a good amount of time making them walk around and talk to each other. He inserted them into the unfrosted cake, he pushed them into the frosted-but-undecorated cake, and--at long last--he was able to place them in the finished product.

Auntie Briar lit the candles and everybody sang.

The Birthday Boy blew out the candles while we were singing, so we had to re-light them and try again.

There were balloons everywhere, courtesy of Soren's daddy, who used his manly lung capacity to blow up about thirty of them. Liam LOVED the balloons.

Just thought this pic of Collette, Marty, and Tessa was cute.

Arielle took most of the pictures. She and Abraham decided to put together an avant-garde shot of the streamers. I feel that this shot says a lot about the increasing isolation of the modern man.
(Streamers twisted and strung by Auntie Briar and Uncle Quentin.)

For gifts, Soren pretty much received trucks from everyone. He was delighted. (A little too delighted-- he got a pretty insane during the gift opening and started throwing boxes and gifts around like a rabid monkey.) Cousin Marty--his idol and favorite playmate--gave him one of his own trucks and a toy gun. (Funny story about the gun: Marty called me that morning to ask if it was okay if he gave Soren the gun--isn't that sweet?-- but I thought he said "gum," and so I was like, "Oh yeah! sure! That's great!" But then it was a gun, which I was fairly tranquil about, until Soren started talking about killing people with it. He seemed pretty confused when we tried to talk to him about why that wasn't okay, so we decided to put it away until he can more easily grasp basic moral principles.)

Grandma and Grandpa also gave him a cool rug for his bedroom with streets on it for his trucks to drive on. He's taken to locking himself in his bedroom for long periods of time to play with all his trucks on his new rug.

All in all, it was a pretty happy birthday.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sometimes I'm kinda gross

Soren had his head on my lap in church today when I noticed that his outer ear was shamefully waxy. All logical thought processes were immediately replaced with Mothering Program 5.67, which runs the following persistent message: "Must. Remove. Smudge. With. Spit." So I licked my finger, stuck it in Soren's ear, and rubbed it around. It was only after the poor kid sat up, grabbing at his ear, looking at me as though I had lost my mind, that I realized what I had done: I had given my own child a wet willy. During sacrament meeting.

But at least his ear got clean.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Puff the Magic Dragon Finds a Friend

For Christmas this year my mother gave Soren a book/CD combo entitled "Down By the Bay."
The book illustrates the words to the children's song by the same name. I don't know if ya'll have ever heard this song, but it was a new one for me, and I gotta say, I find the lyrics intriguing. They go like this:

Down by the bay,
Where the watermelons grow,
Back to my home
I dare not go.
For if I do, my mother will say,
"Have you ever seen a snake baking a cake down by the bay?"

The verses repeat pretty much the same (Downbythebaywherethewatermelonsgrowbacktomyhomeidarenotgoforifidomymotherwillsay....), except each time the mother asks a different question. She inquires, for instance, if the singer has seen a cat wearing a hat, a frog walking his dog, a mouse painting his house, and a cow saying bow-wow...all down by the bay.

At first I was quite perplexed by the whole scenario and was slightly annoyed at the fact that "Down by the Bay" seemed to be one of those irritating children's books that was created merely for the loping rhythm and gratuitous rhyme. But the song was catchy, and it got stuck in my head, and one thing led to another and I started to wonder: Why exactly was this mother asking these strange questions? And why is the singer afraid to go home and face her inquiries?

For quite a while I was convinced that the mother had perhaps slipped into madness, and the singer was reluctant to return home and listen to her mother's lunatic ravings. But that still left some unanswered questions, for instance: What does this all have to do with watermelons? And why the word "dare"? What is the singer afraid of?

And then it occurred to me: the song is about drug abuse. Clearly the singer is a rebellious teen spending lots of time down by the bay where the "watermelons" (read: "hallucinogenic mushrooms") grow. She's afraid to go home because her mother, a recovered addict herself, senses something is wrong, and will ask the right questions to unmask her daughter's illicit drug abuse.

Pretty serious stuff for a light-hearted children's song, eh?

P.S. I really wanted to work the phrase "the dark underbelly of children's folk music" into this post somehow, but got tired of trying to wedge it in and decided just to post. I couldn't, however, just let it disappear forever, so there you have it.

P.P.S. Further evidence: The song was popularized in the 1970s by a man named Raffi. Need I say more?

QIA: Kid-level Coat Hanger

I wanted Soren to get into the habit of hanging up his own coat when he comes home from places, so Abe hung this up for us in the hallway at Soren's level. Soren immediately tried it out. Success! Now for the follow-through....

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Possible QIAs

So last night after I posted about doing Quality Improvement Activities in the home, my mind went wildly aswirl with ideas for possible ways to make our home life better. I obviously couldn't sleep until every last idea had been written down, so I popped back out of bed, grabbed the laptop, and made a quick list. And here it is, in no particular order-- the things I'd like to do this year:

1) Create an actual Family Home Evening chart to remind everyone of their weekly assignments.
2) Make an updated chore chart with Soren with two types of chores: expectations and extras. Implement a weekly visit to King's where he can spend earnings from these extra chores on tooth-rotting, immune-suppressing candy.
3) Establish a regular family routine of giving back to the community. Perhaps begin a tradition of shopping for and donating food to the food bank. Possibly talk about giving nice toys to children living in a shelter, etc.
4)Expand our musical repertoire by listening to a variety of music in the morning....explore different genres while we eat breakfast: bluegrass, celtic, spiritual, classical, musicals, jazz, folk, etc.
5) Research charter and private schools in the area to fully understand educational options for the boys.
6) Consistently follow up on Soren's interests (Where do the pipes go? How does grass eat fertilizer? Who makes playdough?) with library visits and youtube videos.
7) Create a chore chart in order to divide the responsibility for a nice, clean home among the four healthy adults and two healthy children who live here.
8) Plan menus every two weeks, file them in a binder for future reference. Make a section in the binder for special holiday treats/meals.
9) Buy a shoe organizer for the front hall.
10) Organize Abe's and my closet.
11) Figure out a good system for organizing the toys and keeping them organized, rather than strewn across the house.
12) Do more crafting/artistic projects with the boys.
13) Establish regular mommy/son dates with each boy.
14) Deal with Soren's eating habits.
15) Get mornings running more smoothly (ie, no more"you'd better get on your coat now, i'm leaving now, i really am, you'd better hurry, here i go, out the door, you'd better come or you'll get left behind, i'm on my way out right now....")
16) Become more organized at creating and maintaining food storage.
17) Establish morning family prayer and scripture study.
18) Buy a little broom for Soren....teach him how to really sweep.
19) Put cute blue-checkered curtains up on the kitchen windows.
20) Look into the whole Green Smoothie situation.

So, yeah, clearly we're in need of a lot of quality improvement.

2011 New Year's Resolutions

This year I've decided I want to focus on two things: my spirituality and my homemaking skills.

I'm super private and protective of my spiritual life, so I think I'll keep the details of that one to myself.

The homemaking skills, on the other hand, I think I'll share with you.

So I'm the office manager at a mental health agency. I love, love, love my job. One of my favorite parts of the position is Quality Assurance. This basically means assessing the way that things are being done, identifying things that need to improve, and finding ways to improve them. Each quarter I gather data from the preceding three months and assess it, looking for ways that we can make everything work better in order to ensure that we're delivering the best services possible to our clients. I also record Quality Improvement Activities (QIAs) that have occurred during that time period.

That's sort of the process I would like to implement with the running of my household. I'm going to periodically assess problems that need to be addressed and find ways to address them. This will be in everything from improving the eating habits of the family to reorganizing the way we do something to implementing a new family tradition to finding solutions to the boys' behavior problems.

And I'll report my activities here. First, I'll report the problem. Then I'll identify possible solutions and implement them. I'll follow-up periodically to let ya'll know how it's going.

(So I kind of cheated and jumped ahead on this one and have already completed a homemaking QIA, which I will post in just a minute. The problem is that my closets and kitchen areas were super cluttered and it was driving me nuts on both a functional and an aesthetic level.)

QIA: Reorganization

This picture doesn't really do it justice, but I must say that I am passionately in love with my newly organized linen closet. There's a clearly labeled container for everything! I've asked Abraham to lead me to the closet and open the door for therapy whenever I seem stressed out or depressed.

I really wish I'd taken a "before" picture of the top of the refrigerator but, alas, I did not. It was probably too shameful anyway. Anyhow, this is the top of the fridge. On the left is a container for my organizing binders. On the right is a container for tape, scissors, and other things that I need regularly but don't necessarily want the boys playing with. In the middle is our battery organizer. AAAs in the top, AAs in the middle, and bigger batteries in the bottom.

When we moved into our house, my dream was to make the under-the-stairs closet into a play area for our kids. This dream was shot down by loads of crap that got shoved under the stairs instead. However, I was able to get rid of some stuff and rearrange other things in order to make it possible to at least walk into the closet. We've even got a spare blanket and pillow down there for the boys to use in their imaginative games.

I organized a couple of other things as well, and all in all was able to fill an entire trunk of the car with DI donations and two garbage bags with junk that could go take up space in a landfill.

Getting rid of extra things is one of my favorite activities.

My next several QIAs are to organize the children's toys, acquire a shoe organizer for our main closet, hang up a coat hook at Soren's level so he can hang up his own coat, and to purchase a binder for storing and organizing menus.

This is going to be the BEST HOMEMAKING YEAR EVER!

Unclad Children

It took me a while to settle on a title for this post that wouldn't promote creeper hits. It is my hope that most pedophilic perverts don't use the word "clad" on a regular basis.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that in reviewing these Christmas pictures, I've realized that it probably looks like I never dress my kids.

Maybe I don't, but it seems like they're usually dressed. I'm pretty sure they wear clothes. At least, it seems like I'm forever washing, folding, and putting away little boy clothes.

But anyway, just wanted to say that they do have clothes. And they do wear them sometimes. Pants, shirts, socks, shoes: the whole kit and caboodle.

Christmas 2010

It all began on November 26th, when Mommy pulled out the Christmas tree and decorations. The boys were relatively unenthused about actually adorning the tree, but thought that the new box of colorful toys was pretty awesome.

That poor tree endured a lot of tugging, rearranging, and even one toppling during the ensuring weeks; ornaments I had imagined to be unbreakable met an untimely demise.

A week before Christmas, Soren and I spent a day making holiday goodies, then dragged Daddy and Liam along with us while we delivered them to a few friends.

I would have taken more pictures of the baking and resulting tastiness, but I managed to coat a few of my fingers with some molten jello (for the popcorn balls) and had to keep one hand in a bowl of cold water for the duration of the cooking/baking event.

Recipes may follow.

Our friend Pam gave the boys a couple of cute Christmas craft kits, so we began Christmas Eve making picture frames for Grandma and Grandpa.

Soren took his crafting quite seriously.

Liam used the frame for a hat and threw the other bits on the floor.

Soren's gift for Grandma and Grandpa Hanson!

Later that afternoon we went sledding, in the proud tradition of Hanson Family Christmas Eves. This is my brother Scott with his one-year-old daughter Charlotte.

Soren and I had LOTS of fun going down the hill at Freeman Park. I'm hoping to take him again sometime before the winter's over.

Liam, a creature of comfort, was NOT pleased with the event. He didn't like the cold and he most certainly did not like riding on the sled. One short trip with Daddy was enough to convince him he didn't want anything at all to do with that orange plastic thing.

Being all chubby and cute.

And then--at last!--Christmas morning.

Which began, of course, with Soren screaming at Liam for looking at his stocking.

And Liam crying after Soren pushed him over.

Things did go uphill from there. Soren looked at his stocking.

As did Liam.

And then it was on to the presents. All Soren wanted was a remote control car. Santa Claus called him two days before Christmas and told him that he'd been a good boy and would probably get a remote control car for Christmas, so Soren was totally primed to get one.
In fact, when he saw all the presents under the tree he got a little distressed: "I don't want for there to be so many presents! I just want my remote control car!"

Fortunately, Mommy was able to pick out the package pretty quickly.

The remote control car was made by very cheap (possibly outsourced) elves, however, and it broke down on Christmas Day.

Nano (Soren's name for Quentin) got some weird computer thing. Maybe a hard drive or something.

Liam got some sweet bathtime fish.

Quentin gave Hillary loads of socks-- and I bought her a princess coloring book, with which she was quite pleased.

Abe got his usual year's supply of Smooth n Melties.

And Briar, the family darling, was showered with presents from all quarters.

My momma gave me a beautiful coat from Old Navy that I'd fallen in love with MONTHS ago but then couldn't find again on subsequent visits. It was a Christmas Miracle!

We spent the rest of the day enjoying our gifts and visiting with my family. All of my siblings were home for Christmas and it was really, really nice to be able to spend time with them, their lovely spouses, and their beautiful children.

It was a merry Christmas.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...