The Month of the Eggplant

I have oodles of pictures from Easter and a little daytrip we took to a famous garden park last weekend, but they require some sorting / editing / clever commentary and I haven't gotten it all together quite yet. Easter was only two weeks ago, though, right? I'll get to it soon...

In the meantime, I've been missing my Pregnancy Week By Week book lately. I groove on knowing what's happening with me and how the baby is developing and growing through pregnancy. Not in an obsessive, worried sort of way - I just like to know. It does make me feel normal and reassured, but mostly involved and fascinated and in awe of the whole process. I like that.

Anyway, without the book, I've been looking around for stuff to tell me about what's going on in this little womb of mine. My favorite find so far is the comparison of baby's size to various fruits and vegetables. It starts out, of course, with a seed and has some weekly progressions to larger and larger fruits. Now me and bebe are just putting on pounds, so it's by the month. Weeks 25 through 28? She's an eggplant. She's 13.6 to 14.8 inches from head to toe and weighs 1.5 to 2.2 pounds.

I've only gained a net three pounds (inadvertently lost 2 in the last couple weeks)since the beginning, so maybe she is being a nice little girl and taking some of my weight with her? I can always hope. Each pregnancy before, I gained a net total of twenty pounds, gave birth to babies who all neared 10 pounds, but still ended up packing an added twenty pounds when everything was back to "normal." I don't get that math at all.


There are three more days for you to vote for Jane or Elizabeth in my sidebar. Of course, we are not necessarily naming her based on what the poll says to name her, we just wanted some feedback or people's impressions of either name. I have thought of using one as a first and one as a middle, but love them both too much to relegate one to middle name status. Plus, we've tried to use a family name for each of our kids, so we're still thinking on that. But anyway, vote on the poll.

I had my blood panel taken this last week. Iron and thyroid and blood sugar levels all functioning normally. When I repeatedly expressed how tired I am, even with sufficient rest, the doctor was very understanding but eventually just said, "I can't see any physioligical reasons for fatigue. But you do have three other children."

Oh. Could that make me feel extra tired?

We've started the State Department paperworking for having a baby at an overseas post and now have a flat in London reserved and my first appointment with a doctor there and know where I'll be delivering. Our medevac / temporary relocation is coming up soon! And there's only a little over three months before we'll have our new addition.

I've started getting a little crazy about the state of our stuff and planning / organizing for a new person in the family. I sorted through the boys' drawers and our winter closets to make a list of shopping to do for back to school and winter while we are in London. Real shopping! I'm not a shopper and usually really appreciate my online options, but the idea of touching and browsing in a familiar store is soooo loverly. I can't wait.

I did already buy a couple teeny tiny girl things online. My friend gave me some super soft little lady bug slippers, and I happened to find a hecka deal at Gymboree for two little outfits to go with the shoes. That's how girls do it, right? Get super cute shoes, then find an outfit to go with them? The outfits came in the mail this week and I can't wait to see the little eggplant in them. They make me giddy - I especially like the black and white stripes. (Click on the picture to see them bigger.)

And I also think it's fun to have a onesie with this embroidered on it:

Finally, on a funny / slightly crude side note: The doctor at the clinic gives me a cup at the end of each visit for me to bring back a urine sample the next visit. It cracks me up, because I could totally substitute any ol' yellow liquid just to make their lab reports interesting. If I wanted to. If my mind thought that way.

But anyway...I try to be pretty inconspicuous at home on the mornings that I have to fill the cup and slip it in my bag to take to the clinic. But Henry happened to be standing around when I came out with it this week. He exclaimed, "How do you do that, Mom?!"

I didn't really answer because I didn't really know what he was talking about, but he continued in his trademark monologue voice, "I mean, I can pee in a cup easy, because I'm a boy. But how does a girl do it? And how does a big girl even sit on a little cup like that?!"

No, I don't think I will be answering any of those questions. They were rhetorical anyway, right?


Something I Love...

about expecting a baby when I've already got babies: Talking to my children about the baby we're waiting for.

Calvin is especially interested in what the baby is doing and how she moves. He likes to lay beside me in the evenings and keep one hand on my belly to see if he can catch a little wiggle. Tonight he and Henry both waited and poked and giggled, thinking of a tiny person in there.

They liked hearing me tell them that when Calvin was inside of me, he liked to wiggle right up under my ribs and tickle me from the inside, and he liked to do somersaults on whatever side I happened to be laying on, pushing against the bed and causing me to jump-roll to my other side.

And Henry in utero didn't like any kind of waist-band around my belly - he punched or kicked along the whole length of any elastic band I ever wore, back and forth until I was sore inside, right where my pants or skirts fit. They thought that was hilarious.

After they stopped laughing at the thought of torturing me from the inside, they quieted down and Calvin said, "Mom, tell me everything the baby already has right now, all the things she can already do, even though she is still very tiny."

"Well, her whole body is already developed. She has everything you have - eyes, ears, nose, fingers, toes. She's can tell when things are light and she can hear sounds, and she even tries sipping things with her tongue and lips. Mostly, now, everything is getting stronger and fatter - her heart is getting stronger and her muscles are growing, and she is getting taller. Her lungs have to get stronger before she is born..."

"Oh, yeah, so she's probably practicing breathing, huh?"

"Well, she's getting ready to breathe, but she doesn't really breathe right now, because she's floating in fluid and she gets all the oxygen that she needs from her umbilical cord. She won't take a real breath until right when she's born - right then she'll breathe in really deep, and then she'll probably cry. That's one of the first things babies do when they are born into the world."

"Really? I'd like to be there for that, Mom. To hear her breathe for the very first time. Even if it's in the middle of the night."

"Yeah? Seeing a baby be born is pretty amazing, but it's a little bit of an unusual thing to watch..."

"But to see a baby take its very first big breath? I really, really want to. Yeah, even if it's in the middle of the night...I don't sleep much anyway."


Still Reading

First, we're trying to make the all-important decision of a name for our girl. I know it's still months away, but I'd love to know your opinion on our two top choices. We all love both of them, although the boys are already referring to her as "Baby Jane" and "Janie." Take the poll in the sidebar. Please! And then maybe we'll be able to start agonizing over a middle name.


My days and the week have gotten away from me...

Calvin has been home from school this whole week and it has gotten somewhat sunny and warm, so it's been a nice week. I'm tired, though. Really, really tired. So much so that there are moments that I feel like if I don't get some rest right NOW, things are going to get very ugly very fast. Or I just start crying. That kind of feeling usually doesn't happen until after the baby is born, so I'm a little concerned.

But then I do really dumb things like stay up way after all the kids are tucked in, chatting with David, watching a movie, or reading. It's just that I revel in the quiet, the lack of demands, the uninterrupted thought processes that can sometimes occur after everyone under six is finally snoozing.

So, even in my exhaustion, I have stayed ahead of my Spring Reading Thing goal. (See my sidebar for links and details.) Some of the books in my original list have now been tossed out because my brain just isn't holding on to things and because I have some other reading needs now, but still, I'm plugging away at some really wonderful reads. Here are my most recent:

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. Lovers of alliteration, here is a tale just for you. It's actually a children's fairy tale, and because it was originally published in 1950, it has that wonderful nostalgic, non-PC flavor to it. The prose slips in and out of a poetic rhhythm, and some of the fairy tale aspects like the duke who murdered time and tears that turn into jewels that dissolve two weeks later are really intriguing. I liked it a lot and read it in about one and a half sittings. It was a little flowery for reading aloud to my boys, but it might really be fun for the 8-12 year old set.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I adored this book. It is not action packed, but the British humor and the pace at which the story trips along, cleverly commenting on the ways reading changes a person's life, is perfect. So many sweet vignettes that, while they happen to the Queen of England, are very representative of other women in less extravagant homes who are similarly overtaken by words and ideas and the desire to never be without a book. Also a very quick and entertaining read, it includes quite a lot to think about when One is not reading.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. I know you all read this one ages ago, so there is not much to review here. But I would just like to say how much I like the things that Dumbledore shows Harry at the end of each of the first two books.

In the Sorcerer's Stone, he explains that love is more powerful than evil: "If there is one thing Voldemort doesn't understand, it is love...Love as powerful as your mother's was for you leaves its own mark...To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." (As a mom, I especially love that thought...)

And in the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore explains to Harry: "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

I think it's part of J.K. Rowling's genius that she can include these insights without coming across as moralistic or trite, and that her tale really does point to them without seeming contrived to do so. And don't tell me, but I hope that there are more of these in each of the next books.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I started reading this with Henry while David was reading Boxcar Children with Calvin and then Calvin got wind of it and has now become my Read Together partner, following Despereaux into the dungeon, while Henry is with David reading story books. Although Henry is still very much interested in what is happening with Despereaux. I think this book is everything a read-aloud chapter book for young readers should be. The tale is written simply enough, but the characters have color and depth, the feeling of adventure is real, and the comments on love and courage and forgiveness are priceless. I couldn't stop reading it after the boys were in bed, so I finished it on my own instead of with the boys. (Incidentally, the chapters are each quite short, so there are very convenient stops for bedtime reading - a definite plus if you have children who cannot fathom stopping in the middle of a chapter, even if you've been reading for an hour already!)

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. If you have a son, you should read this book. It was recommended to me some time ago by a friend who said it presented some very compelling insights, but when I first picked it up, I was reluctant because of the word "epidemic" - I'm not a big fan of doomsdayers and naysayers and often find that these kind of perspectives are reinforced by schewed statistics to support a very anecdotal opinion.

Some of the ideas presented aren't rocket science (overdose on video games is highly detrimental), but the back-up information is empowering, and this book does indeed present what I think is a very accurate look at boys in school and the very real results of some of the practices in modern education that are undermining the potential of boys (and girls, for that matter.)

For one thing, boys and girls do not develop cognitively or physically in the same way or at the same time, and they are not motivated by the same incentives, even beginning from a very early age. Every child development expert knows this, but it is not reflected in the way education is attempted. At all. Among other things, if we can start trying to fit the system to the boys instead of trying to fit (medicate) the boys to the system, we would be amazed at the results.

The final chapter alone is a fabulous guide to raising boys today and helping them become real men. I can't stop thinking or talking about it (my poor husband!). And now I really want to read Sax's first book, Why Gender Matters. Because it really does, people.

Even if you are not inclined to read parenting books or child development studies or whatever, read this one.


Vocab Lessons and Cajones

This morning while I was making oatmeal with raisins the boys were sitting at the table playing with their new little K'Nex robot things and a random four-eyed alien from a McDonald's Happy Meal.

Henry: Calvin, what's that called again, when someone gets their head hurt and then one eye is bigger than the other one?

Calvin: Concussion.

Henry: Yeah, compussion.

Calvin: Con-CUH-ssion. With a 'cuh' sound.

Henry: Oh yeah, concussion. Well, when this guy (holding up the four-eyed alien thing) gets whacked on the head by this guy (holding up the robot), then he will have a concussion, only TWO of his eyes will be bigger than TWO of his other eyes. It's like a double concussion. (He cackles at the thought and Calvin smiles condescendingly.)


So there's been this seven-year-old on the bus this year who decided to hassle Calvin. It was rather heartbreaking when I first found out about it, because Calvin didn't tell us it was happening until a couple months into the year.

And actually how I did find out about it was through Calvin losing his patience with Henry and yelling, "Just go away! You stupid funking* idiot!!!"

Yeah, not a proud moment. I was horrified and stunned because we have been eliminating "freaking" from the household vocab, and I know for a fact that "funking" (or the real word - and I still am not sure if the boy on the bus is saying the real word or if he also uses Calvin's version) has never been uttered in our house, in or out of earshot of our children. We do not use that word. Ever.

So I asked Cal where he heard that and he told me that this boy on the bus calls him that every day. "What? Why?" "I don't know. I get on the bus and say hi to him and he says, 'Hi, s-f-i Calvin.'" After grilling Cal a bit to make sure there wasn't more provocation on his part, I was really angry and upset. David wanted to get on the bus with Calvin the next morning and give the kid a what-for.

I met the kid's mom at a get-together and she laughed off their "being boys" and I didn't push back much. I'm chicken. But I also didn't want to make it worse for Calvin on the bus or undermine his ability to deal with things by rushing in - that can be disastrous, especially for a boy.

We mostly just left it alone after that and told Calvin that he doesn't have to say "hi," and he doesn't have to say anything else to the boy if the boy is going to be rude like that. Well, OK, we told him that if he wanted to, he could tell the boy the shut his filthy mouth. But that it was probably better just not to talk to him at all.

(Cal has gotten really social, and we sent him to school with the thought that he should be polite and talk to people if he wants to make friends. That's what was sad - he's using his hard-won social skills and saying hello and then he gets answered like that, first thing in the morning. Every day.)

Anyway, he stopped talking to the kid and the kid mostly stopped hassling him and we've gone on.

Then Calvin saw the kid's dad at the embassy Easter party on Saturday. He went up to him and said, "I just wanted to tell you that your son has been being a real bully to me." His dad asked, "In what way?" And Calvin told him, "He calls me an s-f-i every time I say 'hi' to him on the bus." So his dad went over right then and talked to his boy and came back and patted Calvin on the head.

We knew nothing of this. Calvin decided to do it on his own, then told David about the conversation with the kid's dad later.

I don't know why, but I get a lump in my throat just thinking about my gutsy little boy, standing up for himself to someone's dad like that. But I think coming from a fresh-faced, serious little boy like Calvin, the dad was more responsive than he would have been to accusations from another parent.

I wish I could say Calvin got his cajones from me, but all the same I am so proud of him for deciding that he wasn't happy with the solution of ignoring, so he talked to someone who would do something about it. He is learning that he doesn't have to like or be friends with everyone and it's OK, but I am also glad that he understands now that if he is uncomfortable in any situation, he can say something about it.

I mean, it's lots better than giving the kid a concussion, right?

*Is it totally bad that "funking" makes me laugh? And we've never corrected Cal or told him what the word really is - he used the wrong word even to tell the kid's dad. It's just so pathetic and tender or something. And somehow very funny to me, especially since Calvin is sooo particular about how things are pronounced and what words really are. But I'm OK if he thinks it's "funking" forever. He does know to never, ever say it.


It's What I've Got

My husband watched me for a few minutes early in the morning and said, "That's a blog post, right there."

"What?" I asked.

"You just swallowed your prenatal vitamin with a big ol' chug of Coke."

I could say a few things like, "What of it?" or "Is that that the kind of thing you think my blog is really about?" or "Be quiet and leave me alone, OK?"

But look, he was right. No sense elaborating.

I'll drink lots of water tomorrow.


Parking in Kiev

I have yet to formulate a post that accurately describes the driving in Kiev. And then, after Cairo and now driving around here myself for a few months, things don't seem as crazy on that front as they once did. Generally, you just have to come to grips with the fact that driving is not a passive activity. It's drive or be driven.

When we first got here, I was MOST annoyed with the parking situations here. Mostly because we were on foot and it was terribly assinine to have to go around cars that were in the middle of the sidewalk, or get honked at by cars who were trying to drive down the sidewalk, looking for a place to park.

I snapped pictures whenever I got annoyed, but now, too, I look at the photos and am not sure that they are as shocking or irritating as I thought they were. But I'm going to post them for your review. I'd love to know if I could now be considered slightly nuts for thinking these parking strategies are normal, even creative.

I did miss one fabulous snapshot of a car driving down the sidewalk in front of us that stopped at the corner and waited for the WALK signal to enter the roadway. That was a highlight.

But anyway...Here's some samples of parking in Kiev:

The best thing about this one is that the building just beyond the group of people is a car dealership - when we first got here, they parked some of the cars they had for sale out on the sidewalk. And other (currently being) used vehicles would park in and around them. The showroom of the dealership is in those big windows, like a store front. Nothing like America's big mega lots and neon-blue lit showrooms. They just pick a piece of sidewalk and call it a car dealership.

Basically, to park you just need to swerve off the roadway at enough speed to make it over the curb and then stop quickly enough so you don't run into a tree.

This next picture shows one of my favorite kinds of drivers. The ones that drive right on a pedestrian's heels and then when the pedestrian doesn't move OFF THE SIDEWALK quickly enough, they honk. And scare the bejeebies out of the children in the pedestrian's double stroller. Then they cruise to the end of the sidewalk only to get stuck waiting for the delivery van that they could have seen all along was going to impede their progress more than the pedestrian ever did.

Next: triple parking, anyone? (The only real rule is not to park where you might obstruct a driveway. But that's only really a rule because if anyone needs to get out or into the driveway, they'll just bash into your car to let you know that you shouldn't have parked there.)

Then there are fun situation caused by a combination of parking and road / plumbing / cable repair. The blue car (top) is parked, mostly on the sidewalk. The repair men borrowed some cones that aren't even theirs to mark off a couple feet around them and the pothole in which they are fishing, and the other blue car (bottom) is squeezing by them. At full speed. Awesome.

Some buildings put out cones like these, attached to wires, and lay out a string of cones to show that no one should park where the cones are. But if you want, you can just run over the cones and park straddling the wire. (The road area on the left is supposed to allow two directions of traffic to pass on this road. Hmmmm.)

Or if you want, you can have your buddy hop out of the van and move a couple cones onto the sidewalk and park there anyway. Those cones were, after all, probably meant for someone else. Definitely not for you.

Lots of businesses, particularly ones in smaller side streets that rely on foot traffic and/or appreciate some sidewalk in front have started putting planters / parking stoppers on the street side of their sidewalk. This deters a lot of sidewalk parking most of the time. But on wider roads even the planters don't work well because people will then just park vertically (nose on the sidewalk, back end protruding on the street) between the planters, instead of parallel parking on the sidewalk.
I liked the planter idea a lot, though. Then my husband went to pull onto the street and ran over one. After parking on the sidewalk. There went the front bumper.

I do like these little posts, though. I cackled when they started installing them because my stroller would no longer be thwarted by cars parked bumper to bumper against the building, causing us to have to walk on the street where cars came careening around the corner on a regular basis. BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
Even though I'm getting used to seeing the lovely parking that goes on here, it still makes me sad. Kiev really could be a beautiful city, and you can tell that a lot of the sidewalks are paved with nice stones and designed for a more pedestrian-oriented population and a culture that, in general, loves to get out and walk and socialize as they stroll. But lack of city planning and too many cars and lots of people who think that rules or courtesy or a small level of decorum or respect don't apply to them are really making a mess of it.


The Potholes Are Killing Me

Today is a pregnancy milestone: Instead of just having people look at me and wonder to themselves if I'm fat, pregnant, or just fluffy, the lady who weighs the veggies at the grocery store asked Henry, "Are you going to have a new brother or a new sister?"

Yay! That means I'm officially pregnant. Or at least look like it to the wider world.

I lost twenty pounds right before I became pregnant (I needed to lose 40 more, but...) and have only gained five back. I'm almost five months along and I've got a soccer ball belly now, so I'm happy to be be round for a good reason.

I have oodles to say about my Ukrainian prenatal care and about expecting a girl (it's oh-fee-shull, from the most recent ultrasound!), but this is a busy week and I can't seem to get ahead.

The main nitty-gritties of gestation this time around?

Little or no morning sickness, but hair falling out and more zits than I've had in my whole life.

I've always enjoyed the burst of energy and feel-good-ness that comes with second trimester, but it hasn't happened this time. I am bone tired. All. The. Time. I'm thinking anemia and I'm not looking forward to iron supplements.

I have a western-trained doctor with spikey orange hair. She's very competent and she speaks mostly English, but it's amusing how many wives tales and herbal remedies are thrown in as legitimate cures or preventative measures, even for things like "traveling by air."

Slavic culture loves suppositories and enemas. I'm not even joking. And I'm sorry, but the last thing I'm going to do while pregnant is put foreign herbal supplements in certain places.

I also go to a fun boutique maternity center for my appointments. It is for the wealthy elite of Kiev. Normal women go to the state hospitals or clinics. So, I'm a bit of an oddball there, not being a wealthy elite but not being a normal Ukrainian either. But I'm certainly glad for the technology and the cleanliness and general ethics of the place. I smile each time I go, though, because the doctor always pushes a different leaflet advertising one of the other services of the hospital: massage, yoga and how to find a nanny classes.

The class that they for sure tell me about every single time I go (in addition to the others) is the hair and make-up for mothers-to-be. Should I be offended? I think they are sad that I don't wear stilettos or make sufficient use of peroxide. I'm totally letting myself go.

Overall, the clinic is great. I have a friend and several acquaintances who have recently given birth there. However, the medical officer at the Embassy highly recommends delivering in a more medically prepared place, particularly because if there was any need for special care, namely for the baby, the clinic would send us to a state (read: Soviet) hospital. While I don't anticipate anything like that, the state hospitals scare the pee out of me, and that's about the last place I'd want to care for my teeny newby.

So, we're spending the summer in London! I'm required by the airlines to fly no later than six weeks before my due date, so at the end of June, we're going. David will be able to fly there with me and the boys, but he will have to come back to Ukraine to work until the baby is born.

We chose London, though, so he can possibly travel for a long weekend or two sometime in between more easily than going all the way back to the States (3 hour flight versus 14+ hours). Plus, the boys will likely start school again before the baby and I are medically and legally cleared to come back to Ukraine, and I could not get my head around my other babies being in a different hemisphere from me at the end of August.

One other thing that I like about London is that they are reportedly less "interventionist" than Northern Virginia when it comes to giving birth. I'm not a big fan of inductions or epidurals, having had some scarey experiences with both, so I will be happy if things are able to take a more natural course.

So that's the next adventure.

In the meantime, I'm having fun telling people that this is my (gasp!) fourth child. Under age 7! That really gets a shock response. Most families here wait until their first is at least seven before they have a second, if they have a second.

I've started perusing softy pinky pretty things online for our "sister baby." Drool all over the place. This could get expensive, couldn't it?

I'm also enjoying groaning for most of every car ride in which I sit in the passenger seat. The potholes are frequent and treacherous, and no one feels them like a pregnant lady in the passenger seat. Trust me.


Filling In the Blanks

I have a first boy who was born more intelligent and inquisitive than anyone I've ever known.

I have a second boy who was born with more sensitivity and imagination than anyone I've ever known.

And I have a third boy who was born with a supernatural ability to wiggle into the most weary part of my heart and warm it and soothe it better than anyone I've ever known.

Each one of them is brilliant.

I have never taken for granted that I could have these boys. I am overwhelmed that they were given to me, and I treasure so many memories with them and value so many lessons they have taught me in my brief stint as a mother so far.

Somehow I entered motherhood with a lot of "I will never"s and a lot of sensitivity to what my children are feeling or thinking or needing, because I know what a difference it made when someone cared what was going on inside of me as a child.

With each birth, my capacity to love and appreciate each of them multiplied, and I find myself often consumed with the desire to mother them the way they deserve to be mothered.

Those are the only tools I came into this with: a few "do not"s, a capacity for empathy, deep mother love, and a desire to nurture and cherish my kids.

The thing is, as my boys grow more independent and more capable, more adventurous and more daring, I'm having a hard time filling in the blanks of my mothering know-how with real solutions.

I'm not sure how to replace the "I will never..." with "Instead, I will..."

I don't know how to feel the empathy but stay firm on principles.

I don't know how to turn the humiliation of certain mothering situations into humbling learning experiences for me and the boys.

I don't know how to know if anything I'm doing is making any difference or if I need to try something different. And what should that something be?

I don't know when to jump on something and nip it in the bud at all costs and when to just relax and wait for the boy to grow out of the habit.

I'm not inclined to hovering, but I wonder if I need to do it more.

I am inclined to bossing, but I don't know if doing it less would be better, seeing as how I am the mom.

I tell myself all the time, "There's no way to be a perfect mom, but there's a million ways to be a good one." (I read that somewhere, but can't remember where...)

But what do I do when I want to be the best one for my children?

It's too personal of an endeavor to believe I can find the answer in books or with experts or even from other moms who I admire and trust.

I try to be prayerful. I try to listen to promptings, and I trust my intuition and my knowledge of my own children a lot.

Sometimes, it's a multiple choice test, and I can choose which option makes the most sense or works the best for us. Other times, it's a matching exercise - different things work for different children, so just draw a line matching the child on the left to the correct solution on the right.

But a lot lately, it's similar to an essay exam, with a big blank sheet of paper waiting for me to fill in the main points.

And it's becoming more and more like one of those bad dreams where I didn't study, I don't remember being in the class at all, and I probably showed up without clothes on, to boot.

I've got to sharpen my pencil and get some stuff figured out, or my GPA is sunk.

Or someone could just pinch me and wake me up? If only...


Charlie Speaks

It seems like it happened overnight: Charlie has gone gangbusters with new words. He fits a lot of things together to convey his point, like telling me, "Moh" when he wants to me to refill his drink bottle and "No muck - boose!" to make sure I give him juice instead of milk.

His two favorite commands are "Look!" (he says it, "yook!") and "Read!" (he says it "Weeeeed!"). These are his most dangerous words, because if we don't look or read soon enough, he screeches the word and / or beans us on the head with the item at which we are to look or the book that we are to read. My earlobe took the corner of his favorite oversized animal picture board book the other day and is still sore.

The sweet thing about him wanting me to "yook," (it's usually at blocks or cars that he stacked or lined up like his brothers do) is that when I do, and when I compliment him or even just smile, he scrunches up his shoulders and grins all proudly.

One other great development in Charlie's talking is that he can now tell on his brothers. I know that eventually that will turn to tattling, but it's wonderful right now. And pretty funny.

Up until now, I could enter the room where the baby suddenly started crying and ask what happened, and the two big brothers would suddenly have amnesia - no one knows, no one remembers, the baby just started crying. Hmmm.

But now, NOW I can go in to the same situation and Charlie will tell me, "Calvie...bonk head!" or "Hehwy...throw it!" Sometimes the interpretation is a little rough, but at least with the name of the prime suspect, we can nail the culprit. The big brothers can run, but they can no longer hide.

Along with identifying his attackers, Charlie can also identify their clothing. He has become very interested in sorting the laundry with me. He doesn't understand my color / texture / type sorting system, though. He stands and watches for a minute, and then starts pulling things out of the piles.

"Daddy," he'll say as he yanks a white shirt out and puts it to the side. "Calvie," he tells me as he puts a pair of jeans in another pile. "Hehwy," and he flings a pair of Shrek underpants to its own pile. Then he starts adding other items to those piles until the laundry is sorted by family member. Very smart, but more than a little frustrating.

So the bulk of laundry sorting now has to take place during Charlie's naptime. There's not a naptime long enough anymore for all the things that have to wait to be done during it. Sigh.

But when naptime is over, one of my favorite things is hearing him yell from his crib, "Mom! MOM! Mooooooooooooom! Out! Mom! Out! Mooooooooom! Out!" It makes me laugh, and when I go get him out, he smiles a big smile and laughs a sheepish little, "Mom!" and jumps into my arms.


Henry on the Inside

You've probably gathered from many of my posts that my Henry is quite a character. And that sometimes I have no idea what to do with / about / for him.

Sometimes his outside behavior and slightly volatile temperament are really hard for me to step back from and respond to in any kind of rational manner. The up side is that if I ever develop true patience, it will be almost all because of him.

There are things about him, too, that keep me in check and help me remember his "insides," reminding me to tread lightly and not assume that tough behavior means he has a tough heart. Maybe just the opposite.

I overheard him talking to Calvin the other night before they fell asleep:

"Hey Calvin? Remember that one time when Lily gave me flowers she picked and told me sorry because you guys were being really, really mean to me?...She could have given you flowers, too, not just only me. I wouldn't care. That would have been good for you to have some, too."


Read Together

Jennifer at Snapshot is sponsoring this wonderful challenge, designed as a way to connect with your children through reading. I've been thinking of this and had some ideas brewing to implement on my own, but setting some goals and linking up with other bloggers and their ideas makes it a little more fun.

We've had bedtime stories since Calvin was an infant, really, and our boys truly enjoy picking their stories and sitting close to us while we read. It is pretty well-established at our house as a quiet together time and we've enjoyed some really great books (some of them over and over and over again, of course) together.

Bedtime stories have kind-of evolved into David's time with the boys, mostly because I'm ready to "check out" by the time arsenic hours are over and also because he is gone all day and story time provides a time for him to just "be" with the boys and do something that they all enjoy together.

This has worked well until the past couple of months, as it has become apparent that Charlie (almost 2) needs a little earlier bedtime than the older boys, and Calvin (6 1/2) has expanded his read-aloud interests into chapter books, but Henry (4 3/4) is still more interested in picture books and simpler stories that can be started and finished in one sitting.

So it often happens that I'm just doing what needs to be done to get the baby settled into bed before story time starts because he is tired, and he usually doesn't get a story or any laptime at that point.

Henry starts out sitting with David and Calvin reading Harry Potter, but even though he is hearing the story and generally follows it, he loses interest long before the chapter is over, but Calvin wants to keep going. So Henry starts wandering or disrupting and doesn't get a story time that fits his reading enjoyment level. And of all my children, he probably needs the one-on-one the most.

SO...my main Read Together goal is to make bedtime stories happen for all three children. This means sacrificing a little of the evening's "my" time (that's big!) to fit a story in with Charlie and a book or two in with Henry while David and Calvin are relishing Harry Potter.

My first step is just get a pattern of reading established that includes each child. Then, as we progress through the year, I will likely develop goals as far as specific books or amounts of time.

With Charlie, I'll start the bedtime process a little sooner so he's not overtired, and I'll be sure to fit at least a board book in, with him snuggling on my lap, before I put him in bed.

As for Henry, I'm going to read with him on my bed (that's a treat for him, to be in Mom's big bed!) while Calvin and David are in the living room. I'm going to let him choose a favorite book each night, and I plan on introducing some wonderful story books along the way.

He has such a fabulous imagination that I think could really be fed through reading, and it would give me a way to connect with him in a kind of common imaginary world. He is also starting to read on his own, so I'm going to look for some good beginning stories that he can attempt with some focused attention and help from me.

I haven't made a list of books for Henry, but I've come across a few that I want to try especially with him, because he loves silliness and fantasy and the absurd. And I love to listen to him giggle. I think this is going to be a really fun time with him.

I'd love to know what your four- or five-year-old's favorites are, and as we continue our reading, I'll post some of our favorites that you might enjoy sharing with your preschooler.

Thanks to Jennifer for hosting Read Together 2009. If you have goals or would like to establish some for reading more with your children, go over to Snapshot today and link up.

Happy Reading!


Psst...while you're here, and since you are probably a book reader...Do you have an Amazon Kindle? I initially was not interested in them at all because I like the tactile part of reading a book and turning pages, but collecting a library at home and having to pack books to move from place to place isn't all that fun. I have one friend who has one and is loving it. If you use one, what's the good and bad about it? Is it worth the money?