Monday, April 23, 2012

Buh-Bye Birch

Dear "Half-dead, Aphid infested, Dropping Sh*t on the Car" Birch Tree,
Meet Mr. Chipper...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pink Martini @ Benaroya Hall

I never really listened to Pink Martini's music but knew many folks who loved them.  I bought tickets for this show when they went on sale (like a year ago) and then last night Ken & I went.  The audience was a definite baby boomer crowd and the show was sold out.  The concert was great and in someways defies description because it was so diverse.  

But it came to me on the drive home that Stefon of Saturday Night Live would be able to boil it down.  I think he'd say something like this:

"Pink Martini has everything: a Japanese guy singing in Spanish, a 94-year-old clarinetist, a Malaysian pop superstar, high school choir kids singing in African languages and doing a conga line, a trumpet player with grunge hair and a virtuoso piano player who looks like Elton John and Patton Oswalt had a baby."

That about sums it up.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dear Intruder-us @ 24 weeks

Hey Intruder-us,

You are 24 weeks and there has been a lot going on.  Sorry it's taken so long to write to you.  As you will discover, the household you are coming into is a busy one.  I think you seem to get that since you have been active on all the sonograms and started kicking up a storm at all hours of the night.  I call it "uterus Zumba."

We're getting your room all ready since we've moved your sister into her Big Girl room next door.  Luckily your room already has a crib, rocking chair and changing table. It also came in blue so we don't even need to paint.  Your dad put in a Custom Closet System last week to optimize the storage situation and I've been sorting all the baby clothes & supplies that we had from your sister.  I am delighted to say that most of the stuff from the first 9 months is all gender neutral so you are set for clothes at least for that long--not that you're going to care about what you're wearing.

We also got you a brand new infant car seat, which your sister didn't even get (hand me down), bought a new car and even technically bought a new house in preparation for your arrival.  I guess I want you to know that because I feel a little guilty that your father and I have not focused on this pregnancy as much as the first.  We just don't play music or talk to the belly like we did before and I don't avidly read my pregnancy books nightly to find out what new development is occurring with you.  It's not that we don't care, because we do.  I eat organic food as much as possible, drink an unconscionable amount of milk for someone who is lactose intolerant and practice prenatal yoga.  But both Mommy and Daddy realize we have a lot to get done in the 16 remaining weeks.  And mostly, I find myself in a constant state of preparation with your sister.  Getting her ready for you.  Because you will be the biggest deal (good and bad) that has happened to her so far.  And I think household harmony is the best gift we could ever give to you, her and ourselves.

You see, as a big sister myself, I remember what a shock it was when they brought your Uncle Austin home from the hospital.  Just so you know, the eldest child goes from being the center of attention to having to yield to a demanding little being who sucks the life out of your parents, just as they start to fire on all cylinders again.  It makes the oldest a little mad because 'who asked for this interloper to come into the house anyway?'  So we're trying to head that off as much as we can.

Sometimes (actually all the time) I wonder what kind of boy you'll be.  I've met a few boys who are like Tasmanian Devils in a China Shop: very high energy, physical, loud and destructive.  And I'll be honest, that scares me a little bit.  Your sister has spoiled us.  I'll just say that because when I compare notes on some of her contemporaries, we've got no room to complain.  None.  And so that makes me realize, we are not that tested.  I believe we have only experienced the tip of the temperament iceberg.  If you turn out to be that kind of boy, I guess we'll fortify the glass curio cabinet and invest in some more padding for every other piece of furniture.  Perhaps we will also fortify our wine collection because we may need a good dose of that too.  But I've also met contemplative, timid and sensitive boys who get toys snatched away from them by clever Sidney.  If that's the kid of boy you turn out to be, we're going to need to work on you standing up for yourself because your sister is one self-assured gal and you will have a childhood of angst if you can't balance that out.  But I get ahead of myself.  Right now it's just you and me floating through life in symbiotic harmony.  One thing: can you please tell me why I have never been more thirsty in my whole life?  I don't remember feeling like this with your sister.  It floors me how much liquid I want to drink all the time.  And as a result of that, I need to go to the bathroom constantly.  It's crazy.

Everyone is excited to meet you and see what you are like.  But there is no need to rush like your sister did.  She surprised us 3 weeks early and had jaundice so that was not optimal.  But she was a very manageable 6 pounds 8 ounces for a vaginal delivery.  So I just want to put in a request that if you'd like to come out slightly ahead of schedule, that's cool as long as you can hold off until July 28 or so which is still 2 weeks early.  That way you let Momma go to her 20th High School reunion which is something I really want to attend.  (I know, you're like "what's a reunion?" and "what's high school?")   Also by skipping over July 26 & 27, you miss landing on the birthday trifecta of your father (26th), Nana (26th) and Ojisan (27th).  That would probably be my luck though: my husband, mother and son would all share the same birthday because the other 364 days just will not do.

But seriously, as long as you can hang out in there to term, we'll be happy whatever day it lands on.  I just had to put in my request though.  You don't get what you don't ask for.  Consider that my first piece of advice...of the millions to come.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Big Kid Transitions: Potty Training and Big Kid Bed -- Products That Might Help

As a parent, you aspire for these moments--when poop goes in the toilet (not on you or in a stinky diaper pail) and when your child can get themselves out of their bed and read books in their room for 15-30 minutes while you eek out a few more moments of morning sleep.  It's the "big kid" transitions that happens between 2-4 years.  Like many families, this transition becomes a bit more important when a younger sibling is on the way.  But like every transition your child makes, it is never up to you and your schedule.

Recommended Potty Training Products:
Here is a list of products that helped us with potty training.  We're still in the middle of it because Sidney is only 2 1/2 so things are still evolving but thus far it feels like we are on a positive trajectory.

  • Books: One of the best things that happened to us was receiving "The Potty Book for Girls" by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.  There is also a Boys version too.  Reading this before potty training gave Sidney an idea of what potty training looked like and set expectations about how it progresses.  It even addresses what happens when you have a setback.  

Baby Bjorn Travel Seat
  • Potties: The more the merrier, I guess.  We have 4: a permanent toilet seat for the big potty that has a smaller seat which nests into the larger seat, a Baby Bjorn chair potty that sits on the floor and a Baby Bjorn travel seat that snaps onto adult toilet seats.  We even have a stand-alone travel potty for road trips or where there were not adequate facilities.  Having options also allows for when Sidney also has friends over who are also potty training and we all have to go together.  This must be where girls going to the bathroom in groups starts.

  • Underwear: The Gerber padded training pants for boys or girls gives you a little more leeway if you have an accident.  It doesn't contain the wetness like a diaper but it gives you a little more absorbency and a few seconds to get them to a bathroom.  I notice that Sidney also notices that disposable training pants (aka the "pull-up") feels different than underwear and will be less cognizant of taking a trip to the potty if she knows she's in a pull-up. 

  • Disposable Training Pants or "Pull-ups": This has become my crutch because I don't want to deal with an accident while running errands.  If we leave the house, I usually put her in one of these unless we go to co-op where they have mini potties and such things.  I am also a mom who used disposable diapers so that is probably why I feel so attached to them.  I need to eventually break the habit but until then... We use the Seventh Generation brand though they are a little narrow in the butt so perhaps jump up a size bigger than you think you need.  We will also be using the Nature Babycare ones on a regular basis too.  We once had to resort to using conventional Pampers Pull Ups that had Disney Princesses all over them.  I just told Sidney they were a bunch a pretty ladies.  Dodging the princess bullet as long as possible.

  • Wipes:  Did you know there are biodegradable, flushable wipes for potty training?  Why aren't all wipes made of this material, I ask?  For baby #2 you better believe we will be using these for him from the beginning.  Anyway, check out Pampers Kandoo Flushable wipes or Earth's Best Flushable Tot Wipes.  Why?  Because dry toilet paper on a wet toddler's butt always results in "hangers."  Every. Time.  Also, what's not to love about a cartoon lizard that can wipe his own behind?

  • Mattress Pads/Flannel Pads: These are for the elite and brave among us.  The risk-takers.  I have accidentally put Sidney to nap in panties and so has Ken.  She is clearly not ready.  Always make sure the bed has a mattress pad.  And flannel pads (which never stop being relevant from birth) for airplane travel, car travel, bed at grandma's or your own lap.  

Recommended Big Kid Bed/Room Transition Products:

As for the big transition to the big kid bed and room, the new found freedom of a bed she can get in and out of is hard to resist. It has been a source of accomplishment and set backs.  For example, Friday we took a major step back during nap when I had to put Sidney in the crib just so she'd sleep but overnights are fine.  The most important thing is to make sure the room is a safe and inviting place but not too stimulating with toys and such.  Here are some other things that may help:

  • Bed Rail: Not even 2 hours after putting the bed in the room, Sidney managed to fall off of it and hit her mouth on the night table.  I think she might have been bouncing on the bed but never the less, it cemented my insistence that we have a bed rail.  This one can actually unlatch and slide under the mattress for easy sheet changing or when you just don't want the rail up.

  • Blackout Shades Roller shades: From the beginning we have endeavored to make Sidney's sleeping quarters as dark as possible to promote good sleep. You can get roller shades anywhere but Home Depot can cut to your specifications and they are not that expensive. 

  • Sleep/Nap Timer: This plush owl in pajamas, known to us as "Owly", helps kids know when it's time to get out of bed. There are many products on the market designed to do this but this one seems to be the simplest: his face turns green at the preset time that you specify and it can be used as a nap timer as well. He also plays music and can light up.

  • Hampers: They're not just for dirty clothes any more.  Given Sidney's vast collection of stuffed animals and her desire to access them, pop-up hampers are a great way to keep them off the floor while allowing her access on her level.  Also great for storing dress-up clothes, blankets, pillows and other soft play items.

  • Closet Organization: Storables has a well-designed, affordable modular custom closet system that can be easily created in-store with a few measurements and option selections. Ken is a big fan of this system and installed these in both kids' closets. Makes the most out of the space.  

  • Bedding/Valances:  Just in case you can't get enough purple and pink butterflies.  This set is nice because all of it is there and coordinated--if you and your kid find that important.

  • Big Kid Bed: There are many different ways you can go with this.  If you don't need your crib immediately and it can transform into a toddler bed, that's a nice way to go.  Also, there are toddler beds that are the intermediate step between a crib and twin bed.  Of course, you can put a twin mattress on the floor, buy the whole twin bed with box spring set or split the difference height-wise with a twin mattress and a Bunkie Board (instead of a box spring) plus a Metal Frame.  We went for the last option since the twin mattress would be something she could use until high school but the box spring put the height of the bed a little too high for her to get into and out of without death-defying feats. 
  • Mattress Pad: All of the beds in this house have them, because you never know.

Hopefully this is helpful to fellow parents to compile all in one place.  If other seasoned parents have other helpful suggestions, please feel free to comment.   And Woohoo! to accomplishing big kid milestones.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

New Red Tricycle Piece: Rhododendron Park

Take a look at my latest contribution to Red Tricycle about the hidden gem of a park in Kenmore, WA at the top of Lake Washington.  It's a fabulous place with something for everyone.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Giving up the Prius Smug

We traded this....

For this....

Back in 2005, Ken and I purchased a new Prius because the Volvo I had been driving since high school had clicked over 222,000 and spending $1000 every year on maintenance was not fun.  We were getting married that year and wanted a reliable car we both could use since Ken only had a motorcycle.  We also wanted to support the efforts of car companies who were trying to do better things for fuel efficiency and so we purchased the conspicuous Toyota Prius.  I won't lie when I say there was some bit of pride and smugness in the first years (especially when there weren't too many on the road) when people would take notice of the car in parking lots or other Prius drivers would give a thumbs up at a stop light.  Not unlike the South Park episode hilarity.

But I certainly wouldn't call it the most comfortable or highest quality car.  The money is in the drive train and the technology that optimizes the gas milage.   As time has worn on, little squeaks, rattles and shortcomings have made themselves known.  But the car suited all our needs even as we transitioned into a 1-kid family.  But as we are poised to add another to our brood, there is no way that the car could accomodate.  First off, Ken can't sit in front of a car seat because of his height.  All this time we've had Sidney perched in the middle of the backseat and in the days of the rear-facing infant bucket, Ken & Sidney's seats would sort of pass each other in the middle.  It was funny.  Also when we traveled to Portland, we'd have gear and luggage piled up on each side of her as well as filling the trunk area.  I lamented if only Toyota would only make a larger Prius, we'd be set.

But Toyota did just release a larger Prius in the form of the Prius V wagon.  Knowing that we'd have some extra funds from the house sale this spring, we decided that we'd get a new car.  Both of us desperately hoped it would be the Prius V since we had been more or less satisfied with our regular Prius and had grown addicted to the insane gas mileage.  We were also considering the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, VW Jetta Sportwagen & Mazda5.  So a wagon or a (shudder) compact SUV.  Our criteria was simple: two carseats fit in backseat, a 6-foot driver/passenger can comfortably ride and room for gear.  Bluetooth, back-up camera and durable interior--all a plus.

It was the Prius V's deal to lose basically.  We looked at the Honda CR-V first and there was nothing bad about that car.  It had decent okay gas mileage for it's class but not as good as you know what.  It was a good price and the salesman did not annoy me.  But it was the first thing we looked at so  we needed more comparison.  We were supposed to look at the Mazda but it's reliability ranking was subpar compared to the others so Ken wanted to drop it.   As for the VW, well, I've never owned a German car but my brother who is intimately familiar with them mentioned that once they start going into the shop like the Volvos do, it gets 'spensive.  We just wanted to see as soon as possible if the Prius V would be the answer to all our hopes and dreams so we moved our appointment at Lake City Toyota up from Sunday to Saturday late morning.

Our change of schedule resulted in not being able to meet with the salesman who was officially designated to deal with Internet inquiries.  Instead he pawned us off on some guy in a pressed shirt who knew nothing about the Toyota cars.  It was jaw-droppingly bad.  We'd ask him what the difference was between the 4 types of trims on the Prius V and he couldn't do it.  Didn't know anything.  Not to mention that he sauntered back and forth to the lot to bring the car up.  Like a stroll in the park.  Hey sir, do you notice that we have a 2-year-old with us?  Time-is-a-ticking.  For these car inspections, we had Sidney's car seat, the new infant car seat and a large stroller to see what the car could accomodate.  I kid you not, as we're trying to get the car seats in the V, "pressed shirt" says to me, "So where is the other baby?"  " my belly," I say pointing.  (I'm 5+ months pregnant and obviously so.)  I hoped he was joking but he was not.  Realizing that I'm probably the rare woman who is angry because someone mistook me for NOT being pregnant, aren't car salesmen supposed to be masters of psychology and observation?  Didn't bode well.  I told Ken that if we decide on the Prius V, we were not buying it at Lake City.

In a nutshell, the V is bigger, but not by much.  We could have made it work but it still would have been cramped.  The kicker was the quality of the interior.  It felt so cheap--like a plastic toy.  The seats were super thin and I just kept wondering what condition this car would be in after two young kids had their way with it.  I just wasn't impressed and for $4K more than the CRV which looked considerably nicer with more room, I began to feel the pull of not sacrificing comfort so much.  Ken did the math to see how long it would take to make up the $4K difference in gas mileage efficiency and he came to the conclusion that it would be 7-8 years to net out.  We would likely not even own the car that long. And suddenly the smug began to dissipate.