My Three-Year-Old

So long, terrible-twos, you weren’t so bad. Hello, temper-tantrum-threes, you are already wearing me out.

Big girl dancing

Big girl dancing

The milestones are coming fewer and farther between. About a month ago, I decided we were going to say sayonara to the bottle, and if that meant Sonja would no longer drink milk, so be it. And so be it was. Although she occasionally expresses desire for a bottle, she finds the idea of milk from a glass particularly heinous. It seems to me she only likes the ritual, not the beverage.

Speaking of rituals, the next thing to go will be the binky. I’m not looking forward to that transition. I’m hoping, like the potty training, it’ll be quick and dirty. It’ll be soon. By the next update, I expect it to be a done deal.

Next stop, binky rehab.

Next stop, binky rehab.

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My Birthday – 2014 Edition

I had another birthday. Can you believe it? (Oh you can? Okay.) Looking back at my previous two birthday posts, I noticed both contained the word “marred.” As in, something went awry. This time, I think the whole year was marred. In the last twelve months, our house was burglarized, my husband was laid off, and surely some other less memorable but still unfortunate shit happened too.

When looked at in that particular light, I am not sorry to see the year go, despite the fact I’m not super fond of the fact I keep getting older. Though smarter people might choose not to define a year by negatives, I’ve decided to see my new year as a gift. A time to take the crap that has happened, crumple it up, throw it away (no recycling here) and move on to better things. Continue reading

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Our Second Family Vacation, Part 3

Imagine if you will, a family of three sitting in a Taco Time at the beach, a restaurant picked precisely for its familiarity and guarantee that the food would be liked by all. After a few jokes wondering if they’d crossed some border because the menu was completely different than what they were expecting, the food is delivered to the table. A tater tot is torn in half and allowed to cool for the little one. Mom takes one bit of her own food and the phone rings. It is 11:20 a.m. The dad’s face is somber. The phrase “yes, this is he,” is uttered. The mother nearly faints.

The 11:00 news of Microsoft’s layoffs was coming directly to us. Shaun and the rest of his team, minus two people, were summarily laid off. The 3 ½ hour drive home from the ocean was quiet and queasy, the fantastic and fresh memories sullied by the news being delivered while we were still making those memories.

Let’s step back. Continue reading

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Our Second Family Vacation, Part 2

Part 2 of our two day vacation starts with an uneventful car trip to Vancouver, WA. It was a two-hour drive and we didn’t stop and we didn’t even get lost. We listened to Caspar Babypants most of the way down, and Sonja was quiet and sleepy, though not sleeping. When we arrived at my friend’s house, Sonja asked, “Is it the beach?”

My friend had prepared a lovely lunch for us, of which Sonja ate nothing. That was expected. We visited for a few hours, during which Sonja got the chance to play with my friend’s daughter, though the 10-month old didn’t hold her attention for very long. When Sonja got whiny, we said our goodbyes and put her in the car. She was asleep by Portland and didn’t wake until just before Seaside, so it was, once again, perfect timing.

Clockwise from top left: Me, Maya, Anna and Sonja. We took several of these shots, this was the best we could get out of the kids.

Clockwise from top left: Me, Maya, Anna and Sonja. We took several of these shots, this was the best we could get out of the kids.

Family Portrait right about nap time.

Family Portrait right about nap time.

We arrived at our hotel about 3:30, which was about the same time we arrived the year before. So my whole reasoning for why we should stay two days was shot, but I was glad that we had the extra time. After reading last year’s blog, I was stunned how much we actually accomplished in our short stay. Continue reading

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Our Second Family Vacation, Part 1

After last year’s successful first family vacation to Seaside, Oregon – about two seconds after – our daughter started asking to go back to the beach. She asked all year long, sometimes at random moments and always when she saw pictures of herself building sandcastles or feeding seals. We had not necessarily intended to go back to Seaside this year, but in addition to the frequent requests from Sonja, we realized it would be a fantastic place to take the new dog we acquired last November. Yes, the dog would love the beach and Sonja would love the beach so we would go back to the beach!

Last Year's Beach Vacation

Last Year’s Beach Vacation

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My 4th of July

010109-1605-nomousefory4.jpg3 years ago, my husband and I took the train to Vancouver and spent America’s birthday as Canadians, eh? Last night I was beginning to think we should make that an annual tradition.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fireworks around this neighborhood as I did last night. We were, to use the term loosely, lit up. Of course, the real commotion started right around my daughter’s bedtime. The previous two years, I worried we’d have trouble getting Sonja to sleep because of the noise, but it turned out to be no trouble at all. Last night, it was trouble.

After sitting with her for about half an hour – she was not scared but she wasn’t able to concentrate on sleeping either – I decided to let her see the product of all that noise. We went to the window and watched the sky for twenty minutes or so. After each firework there’d be a gasp and a question: “Can I have another one?”

Then I realized the local fireworks would be starting on TV, so I let her lay down on the bed with me to watch. I caught about every third firework between her bounces. At this point, I was practically passing out, I was so tired from the previous week. So I put her to bed and, though I was worried I too would be kept awake by the noise, fell asleep probably before she did. I slept right through any noise that may or may not have occurred. Do you think that right after I fell asleep, everybody just stopped shooting off fireworks? No?

I slept well until it got quiet again around 3:30, at which point I couldn’t sleep. I checked on Sonja, who was asleep on her floor mattress. Her body, at least. Her head was actually on the floor. I checked on the cat, who had been outside when the fireworks started and who we brought in covered in stickies from some bush he was hiding under. He was asleep under the papasan chair, one of his favorite spots, and the rug was covered in little balls of sticky black hair. The dog had also seemed to do pretty well with the noise, so I went back to bed. I still couldn’t sleep, so I wrote the speech I have to give for my friend’s wedding tomorrow, and with that off my plate, the house was peaceful and quiet again, save for a few stray *BOOM*s.

So…Canada next year, right?

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My Two-and-Three-Quarters Year Old

I think this quarter felt like the shortest time between updates, either because or in spite of all the things that have happened in the last three months.

Picnic at the Park

Picnic at the Park

The big, huge, hip-hip-hooray news is that about two minutes after I posted the last update, Sonja was potty trained. I go back and forth on whether this is the kind of information I should be making publicly available, but it is the only way I’m going to remember it. So here’s what happened: Buoyed by conversations about potty training with other moms at Sonja’s co-op preschool, I took away the diapers and put her in underwear. The first day she had two accidents and two successful trips to the potty and I thought we were on our way. The second day, she had four accidents and no successful trips to the potty, so I figured I’d jumped the gun and we’d have to start over later. That night I put her in a diaper and put her to bed, and she would not go to sleep. She was stalling and playing and generally frustrating me. Not that this was unusual behavior, but she was really milking it. Around 10 o’clock she started telling me she had to go potty. I thought it was another stalling technique because she knew I wouldn’t say no to that request. However, she went every time she told me she had to, every single time, until she finally fell asleep at 1 a.m. The next day we groggily headed off to preschool in a diaper, and had zero accidents that day and only a few after that. Apparently she was ready to learn and the restless night was just her brain processing the info. The next step was getting her out of the pull-ups and into regular underwear, which seemed like a losing proposition until I found the right, Pixar-themed underwear. She was so pleased with her “pretty Jessie” underwear she insisted on wearing them overnight. I had heard overnight potty training was a different beast entirely, so I resigned myself to changing the sheets every other day for who knew how long. But after a couple of weeks, she got that too. I know the saying goes that the powers that be only give us what we can handle, and though I believe in no such powers, there seems to be an element of truthiness to the sentiment. I did not have the tenacity to work on potty training for more than two days, so lucky me that that was exactly how long it took my kid to figure it out.

Big girl eating popcorn and watching "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

Big girl eating popcorn and watching “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.”

The other big and very recent milestone is Sonja’s move to the big girl bed. This started a couple of months ago when I put her mattress on the floor in an attempt to encourage her to make the switch. She thought this was a great jumping game, but could not calm down enough to go to sleep. Occasionally I’d put it on the floor for her to jump, until one day she asked if she could nap there. I said she could if she actually went to sleep, which she did. She also made it through the night on the floor and the next day’s nap, but the next night she was back in the crib. It continued off and on like this until she decided that under no circumstances was she going back in that crib, and figured out how to stay put at bedtime. Our crib converts into a toddler day bed, so I took the bars off and got a guard rail from a friend so Sonja wouldn’t fall out of bed. The guard rail made it sort of a “crib light,” and after a couple of days she wasn’t interested in that either. The last five nights I’ve been crossing my fingers that she doesn’t fall out of bed. So far so good.

J June 2014 (14)

Jumping and the big girl bed, all in one!

J June 2014 (13)

One satisfied customer

"Crib Light" only lasted a few days.

“Crib Light” only lasted a few days.

Sonja continues to grow her vocabulary and loves to talk,talk, talk. She can recount her day in detail and she’s a really good mimic. Apparently I use the word “stupid” more than I thought, and I often let out an irritated grunt when something isn’t working the way I want it to. I thought for a few days she got this strange noise from Puss in Boots until I caught myself in the act.

She still isn’t super interested in eating, but we get more days where she is hungrier and she seems to be putting on weight. 23 pounds this time. At this rate, she’ll finally have tripled her birth weight by her third birthday. Incidentally, babies typically triple their birth weight by their first birthday.

Silly girl in Pepper's crate. I swear this was entirely her idea. She did it when I turned my back to take Pepper outside.

Silly girl in Pepper’s crate. I swear this was entirely her idea. She did it when I turned my back to take Pepper outside.

Some of her current favorite activities are helping mom bake (especially when there are chocolate chips involved), putting together small puzzles, and jumping. Jumping is the name of the game now that she’s figured out how to do it. She loves to put on a cape and jump off the step from our dining room down into the living room while calling out, “Super Sonja to the rescue!” Moving items from one vessel to another – for instance, from a storage box into a reusable Target bag – continues to be a seemingly endless form of entertainment.

Her favorite "ride" at the Spring Fair

Her other favorite “ride” at the Spring Fair

For anyone that missed it on Facebook, we lost Sonja’s favorite stuffed animal named “Kitty,” and Shaun replaced it with an identical one he found on Facebook. It was a tearful reunion in the USA and a very cute video. The epilogue is that original kitty finally turned up at Grandma’s house, so now she has two. However, unlike her mi-mis, she usually only wants one kitty at a time.

We did some fun projects including dyeing Easter eggs for the first time, making decorative sand bottles, and painting her previously hideous maroon closet doors a simple, bright and cheery white, and then applying zoo decals. (Okay, I painted the doors myself, but Sonja insists she helped.)

Dyeing Easter eggs

Dyeing Easter eggs

We also went to the spring fair. Sadly, because we couldn’t find the kiddie-land with all the kiddie rides, we only managed one ride, the carousel. Sonja ignored my gentle encouragements to try a horse and insisted on sitting in the sleigh (bench) again. However a few weeks later on a weekend trip to the Supermall where there is also a merry-go-round, she decided that it was time to give that horse a try. Hooray!



Hooray for Horsies!

Hooray for Horsies!

I had heard so much about the terrible twos that when Sonja started throwing epic, flailing fits somewhat recently, I became curious. Was she super late to the terrible twos or was something else up? I had never, ever heard of the “temper-tantrum threes,” but according to the interwebs, that’s a thing. Thanks for warning me, other parents!

Pretty closet doors

Sonja helped!

So I found this to be a very interesting span of time. I don’t care what anyone else says about time going too fast, I am always ready for the next milestone, and we hit some big ones this time. It’s not like I won’t look back fondly (with a little memory boost from these posts), but I enjoy moving forward.



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My Girly Girl

Strawberry Dresses Forever

Strawberry Dresses Forever

If you have read any of the previous Sonja updates, you may remember that keeping her clothed through the winter was a real challenge. She wanted to be naked, so that she could see her tummy and her toes, and she was as insistent on this point as a two-year-old can be. To the uninitiated, that is very insistent. Realizing it was not a fight I could win, or at least a battle I could lose without doing too much damage, I turned up the heat a few notches (not that that bothered my popsicle toes any) and let her strip. I figured that by summer, when the weather was appropriate for running around topless, she’d be over the naked phase.

It is now spring and if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you know that the weather likes to tease us by throwing us a couple of hot days, making us think summer is just around the corner, then raining for two more months. Still, I used those few warm spring days to break out Sonja’s summer wardrobe. (She will still fit in much of the same stuff she wore last year, plus I have a gaggle of hand-me-downs.) As I was digging through her closet, she saw what she called “pretty clothes,” that she just had to wear right then.

This is probably the least amount of clothes she has ever owned.

This is probably the least amount of clothes she has ever owned.

I would not say we are out of the naked phase yet. Any time an item of clothing she is wearing gets a droplet of water on it, she insists on putting it in the washing machine, and will not get dressed again. However, she gets excited to wear her summer skirts and dresses, and this – among other things – makes me realize that despite all the railing against princess culture and the “pink aisles,” I am raising a very girly-girl.

I see less harm than I thought I would in my daughter putting on a skirt and twirling around, mostly because it’s her idea and she has so much fun doing it. She also likes to paint, build with blocks and bake with Mama, so there’s plenty of variety, but the specificity with which she chooses clothes surprises me. She’s not always interested in wearing clothes but when she is, she knows what she wants, and she nearly always refers to the skirt or shirt or shorts she has in mind as “pretty.” She steadfastly refuses to wear jeans anymore, and I think that’s because she for most of her life has had to wear leggings out of necessity – jeans just won’t stay put around her tiny waist. But the skirts which she has decided she loves so much have alleviated so much hassle on my part. She can wear a much smaller size – most of the ones hanging in her closet now are 12 months, and they fit her waist and are not too short. We can get away with much smaller sized shorts too. So all in all, summer is going to make things much easier for us.

I have to wonder if I missed the boat somewhere. If I let down my guard and allowed the culture to wash over me without applying enough critical thought. But you know, raising a two-year-old is exhausting. And she has an enormous vocabulary and excellent diction and as a literary person myself, I value these things. I’m sure that when she is capable of applying more critical thought to these subjects, we can have more in-depth discussions of gender, femininity and representations of women in the media. In the meantime, let’s put on a tutu and some dancing shoes, have a tea party and watch those puppets singing All Together Now again.



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My F***ing Darjeeling

I’ll level with you – the last couple of months have been really boring. Not a whole lot to do around here but sneeze through spring, though things are looking up as the weather warms. It even stopped raining long enough to fix (most of) our fence. But if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to since the last time I posted, the answer is tea. Obsessing over tea. OOT.

Fence Accompli

Fence Accompli

I replaced my coveted Mr. Tea Iced Tea maker that my husband just got me for Christmas with an electric tea kettle, after I decided the automated tea maker was over-steeping the tea. As you can see in the video below, the hot water spurts out over the tea leaves, then drips down into the pitcher. The water is always the same temperature, no matter the type of tea, and I would never brew even the strongest of black teas more than three minutes, whereas it takes about ten minutes for the Mr. Tea to finish its job.

In case you’re wondering, and I’m sure many of you are not, my OOT research over the last year or so has led me to the knowledge that some teas (particularly green) are more delicate than others, and brewing them too hot or too long will cause the naturally occurring and otherwise beneficial tea tannins to impart a bitter flavor in your drink.

The space-age electric kettle I bought, complete with alien-blue light, has six temperature buttons for steeping different types of teas. In the short time I’ve owned this device, I’ve developed a fondness for brewing one setting below the recommended temperature.

The Future of Tea

The Future of Tea

Choose Your Own Temperature

Choose Your Own Temperature

So I love my electric kettle, but it has thrown a few new wrenches into my tea making process. First of all, now I need a tea steeper. I ordered two large metal tea steepers online, both of which let tea leaves seep out into the water. That’s a mortal sin in the land of tea snobs. I had better luck with large fillable tea filters, but it seems wasteful. When I found this teapot online, I sent my husband on a Friday night mission to find it for Mother’s day, which was the following Sunday. All credit it to him, he came up with a decent replica, but the plastic tea steeper let loose too many leaves. I realized that the mechanism in the tea kettle was exactly the same as a French Press, and wouldn’t you know it, we already owned a French press. Brewing the tea loose in a French press is really fun to watch and it turns out good too. I’m just not sure that storing it in the fridge with the tea still inside is recommended, and pouring it into a different pitcher creates too many dishes.

I stumbled upon this teapot today for a mere six bucks, and I think I’ll keep it. The metal steeper (not shown) does a decent job of keeping leaves in and the pot itself is glass.


My New Teapot

My New Teapot

As a side note, someone bestowed upon me some darjeeling tea and it quickly became a favorite of mine. It steeps in just about a minute and is nice and smooth. However in my head, whenever I am brewing it, I have to call it “that fucking black darjeeling” which is a line from the wonderfully curse-laden Deadwood.

I must mention one other thing that drove my recent rash of OOT research. Why I asked myself, after the tea spent a day or two in the fridge, did it seemingly turn sweeter? By complete chance I read a Facebook thread that informed me of something called tea mold. Apparently, tea is not meant for long-term storage. It is also sensitive and can pick up odors from the refrigerator. Thus I decided to make half pitchers twice as often. My favorite part of drinking tea is when you pour the boiling (or otherwise appropriately hot) tea over a glass full of ice and the first sip is slightly warm. Mmm. Half the amount means twice the first sips.

Sadly, I’m still not done obsessing. Tea simply lends itself to the fussings of an obsessive personality. It’s hard to get it to come out the exact same way every time – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been served over-brewed tea at restaurants. But hey, if you’re just going to throw a bunch of sugar in there, I guess you don’t have to be quite as picky. Me, I’ll continue striving for perfection. Maybe one day I’ll realize it’s not achievable, throw up my hands in disgust and never drink tea again. In the meantime, I seriously think I’m closing in on the perfect cup of tea.




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My Two-and-a-Half Year Old

Two-and-a-half years have come and gone and on this, the third half-aversary, not a single thought of a cake or celebration crossed my mind. Still, this is an age when “and-a-half” counts as a significant thing. Sonja is so much more than a two-year-old and so far from a three-year old. Continue reading

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