Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Adventures in Parenting: The Importance of Contingency Plans

{Pictures of various shenanigans, January 2014. Counter height table + tile floor = bad news when your toddler figures out how much fun it is to climb}

Contingency plans are an essential part of parenting. They are the reason diaper bags exist, the purpose of Poison Control magnets, the impetus behind first aid kits, the motivation that brought us Tide pens and travel-size Kleenex and outlet safety covers and single serving fruit snack packs. 

{Writing checks}

In my two years of parenting experience, I have learned multiple times that no matter how well-laid my plans are, no matter how many spare outfits or diapers or snacks I carry, there is always something that will catch me unawares. I constantly find myself in situations I'm ill-equipped to deal with. Part of this is because, once I've figured out how to avoid one set of shenanigans, Kate's abilities level up, increasing her disaster-capacity tenfold. It's toddler Darwinism, and her evolutionary leaps leave me swinging in the proverbial tree.

{Flour floor}

Last week, after a Costco/Winco run, Kate was in the house while I toted in loads of groceries from the garage. I had just grabbed the last couple items and saw that the door I had left ajar was shut. Panic mounting, I wrenched the doorknob--it was locked. 

My keys were in the house. Despite my better judgment, we don't have a spare key planted outside. I checked just in case, but both the front and sliding glass doors were locked. 

{On tiptoe, stealing handfuls of cheese}

I knocked on the garage door and wiggled the doorknob. "Kate, can you unlock the door?" I asked. "Can you turn the lock so Mommy can come in?" In response, she rattled the doorknob and banged her small fist on the door. "Outside! Outside!" she demanded.

Now, this situation could have been avoided. Kate had occasionally fiddled with the lock on the garage door before, and I remember commenting recently to Jay that we needed to have a backup key in case, well, in case the situation I was living at that moment ever happened. But like it goes with so many good ideas, I didn't act on it.

{Also note the mess behind her--pulling stuff out of cupboards is a favorite pastime.}

I left a message for Jay at his office ("Please tell him to call me as soon as possible. No one is hurt, but it's kind of an emergency."). I wasn't sure what to do, and I wasn't thinking very clearly. I knew that Kate would be fine in the house by herself, but her little voice was starting to sound panicky as she scrabbled unproductively at the doorknob. 

I ran around again to the sliding glass door and matched my outstretched hand with hers on the glass. "Kate," I said, my voice still very calm, "can you go unlock the door?" And I mimed twisting with my fingers. She ran over and touched the garage door and ran back. 

{September 2013. Buying in bulk is smart, except when you have a toddler who learns to open boxes.}

"Kate," I tried again, suddenly taking a different tack, "can you push up that little lever? Push it up." And I motioned at the locking mechanism for the sliding glass door.

She did it. I threw the door open, scooped her into my arms, and spun her around. I was a bit teary, and she squirmed at the confinement. Jay called just then, so I released my hold on a relieved Kate and grabbed the phone.

{October 2013. This is what it looks like when Kate wants something she can't have.}

I realized (right before Jay said it) that I probably could have gotten in the house through an unlocked window. I felt silly I hadn't thought of it in the moment, but was also grateful that my round pregnant self was spared the indignity of shimmying through a tight, waist-level space. 

All's well that ends well, and we've added another contingency plan to our growing list. I give it about two days before Kate finds another vulnerability in our defenses. 

Friday, April 4, 2014


It's been a no sleep kind of week. A car-breaks-down-on-the-way-to-work, Dad-in-hospital, almost-go-to-hospital-myself kind of week. A slightly-hysterical-laughing-fits-because-it's-been-such-a-week kind of week.

I'm exhausted and sore and so looking forward to a cozy weekend of family and General Conference. I'm not going to lie, my soul's a bit parched and desperately in need of some dew from heaven distilling

Life is still good, and we've had some peaceful lulls this week, too. I feel the thumping of this baby fairly regularly now. Jay and I played a game together for the first time in months on Sunday. Kate's naps were becoming increasingly erratic (last week she only slept two out of seven days), but she has had a good nap every day since Sunday (five in a row now, knock on wood). Most of my pain from yesterday melted away overnight. We have wonderful friends. Other than some uncharacteristic occasional night waking, Kate has been a joy. She has so much to say that she doesn't quite have the words for it. It is fun to see her so excitedly try to cram the big ideas in her head into disjointed two to three word utterances.

So, in that sense, it's been a normal-and-happy kind of week, too. Let's hope next week is blissfully boring.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


It is funny how you can work and plan and try for something for months and months (a year, in fact), and then it finally happens but not when or how you thought it would (you know, because you have PLANS and CHECKLISTS and SCHEDULES and all), and so you're in denial for a long time because even though this whole business was certainly planned, it somehow still wasn't expected. 

Well, that's exactly what happened with this baby. 

We are excited to be having another girl. Admittedly, I was a bit more excited than Jay because A. little boys scare me to death and I have a deep-seated irrational fear (yes, I KNOW it's irrational) that I won't be able to love one, B. I really wanted Kate to have a sister close in age, and C. I just don't have the energy to fight the "Jayson" battle right now (Jay's long-beloved boy name, and you could say I'm not a fan). Jay would have liked a boy, but he's excited, too. Kate, for her part, has been saying "baby sister, baby sister" a lot. Boy, is she in for a rude awakening come August.

It's going to be a long, hot summer.

Monday, March 24, 2014

On Top of the World

On January 24th, my dad, Jay, our brother in law David, and I hiked Observation Point in Zion. The morning was crisp and clear as we set out on the icy trail that switchbacked steeply up the side of the mountain. The ice was intermittent but packed firm in blue white rivulets. My sneakers fought to find purchase on the slick surface. 

The temperature was in the 30's, but our bodies quickly warmed from the strain of climbing in the increasing elevation. Only my lungs burned with cold as I moved upward. My ears, ever sensitive to exertion in chilly climates, began to ache with pressure. 

I've decided that my pashmina scarf (purchased in London for 5 pounds) is the most versatile item in my wardrobe: it's refined enough for formal attire, but it is at once lightweight and warm and perfectly functional. I looped it over my head and across my face, protecting my ears and warming the air I breathed through its filter. On this hike, I would use it as head wrap, scarf, and shawl. I broke several fashion rules, but the scarf was soft, and I was warm.

David had come to town to get some dental work done, and we were able to fit in this hike. We missed seeing his wife and kids but were glad for the excuse to have him visit (Andrea, maybe you should consider getting a few cavities so you can fly out here next...). 

I've only hiked Observation Point once before, a year or two after Jay and I were married. I correctly remembered it being grueling. The hike was definitely strenuous, and I was by far the weakest link in our party, but there's a big difference between hiking in January and hiking in May. Though cold has its own brand of discomfort, it has nothing on heat. The men were patient with me, and we made it to the Point.

The canyon yawned wide below us, the river a silver ribbon snaking through the gorge. We watched people tiny as ants scale the spine of Angels' Landing far below us and gasped with vertigo when we stood too near the sheer edge. 

After eating a lunch of sandwiches and fruit, we set off back down the mountain. Jay and David soon outstripped Dad and I with their long legs on the downhill stretches. We took our time on the descent, babying our knees and quads. Dad could have gone faster, but we savored the trail and the conversation.

At one point during the last quarter of the hike, back on the slick slope, my feet flew out from under me and I landed square on my back (padded, luckily, by my backpack). I was a bit scratched up and acquired a deep bruise on my hip, but I was still able to hike without issue (though I now inched my way down the icy stretches). 

The hike was a grueling eight miles, and maybe my dad and I were a bit slower than usual, but it was still a triumph. All in all, not bad for a guy eight weeks out from quadruple bypass surgery and an 11 weeks pregnant woman.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Kate turned two last month. She is officially no longer a baby. The day before her birthday, we had dinner at Auntie Mar Mar's house. She wanted to make a dinner that Kate would like, so she asked me what Kate's favorite foods are. I felt like a bad mother when I couldn't think of anything besides broccoli and cereal. Marlene suggested we make "kid foods," so I brought hot dogs and she made a delicious homemade mac and cheese. Again with the feeling of parental failure, though, because I think Kate has had those two food items exactly one time each. She's never even had a chicken nugget. I started worrying that I was depriving my child of the rite of passage that is ultra-processed food. 

{Kate loved the birthday hats}

Marlene asked what I was planning on having for Kate's birthday dessert. "Um, a cake?" I said. "Probably a chocolate one in a 9x13 pan that isn't aesthetically pleasing but tastes just fine because she's two and will just be thrilled we're letting her eat sugar?" 

I think I still have a couple years before Kate figures out that there are moms who craft intricate cakes, have legitimate party decorations, and pull off "themed" birthdays. I admire the talents of these women, but I do not find joy in doing any of those things. So when Marlene offered, with excitement in her voice, to make Kate a doll cake, I was more than happy to let her take over.

Kate refused to try a hot dog and spent most of the meal eating hot dog bun, peas, and broccoli. At the very end, she got some mac and cheese on her fork by accident (she'd refused to try it previously) and decided it was pretty good stuff.

Kate had the opportunity to blow out candles on three separate occasions during her birthday week. After a brief demonstration from her daddy, she blew those candles out first try, no problem. She looked more like she was producing a weak whistle attempt than working up a fire-extinguishing gale, but the candles poofed out without even a flicker of resistance.

After dessert (Kate decided ice cream is her favorite), she got to open a couple presents (which she was thrilled with). She ran around the room in a sugar induced mania, her birthday hat perched like a unicorn horn on her head.

The next weekend, we met up with my family at the cabin to celebrate Kate's and Sam's birthdays (Sam turned one a couple days after Kate turned two). A wonderful time was had by all, though Kate decided that the presents were greener on the other side and she wanted what Sam had. Sam was pretty content to play with anything, so it worked out okay this year. 

Kate has become the queen of accessories. She received a couple necklace/bracelet sets from my parents, and she still wears them nearly every day. She'll also add on any spare necklaces of mine she can get her hands on, along with improvised toy-link bangles, watches, hair bows, and sunglasses. She thinks she's pretty hot stuff. Jay asked me the other day, "Where does she get this accessorizing penchant from? Because it certainly didn't come from you." And it's true: I only wear earrings, necklaces, and headbands once or twice a month, and my belt is far more functional than fashionable. Looks like Kate's going to be girly enough for the both of us.

Some thoughts about Kate at age two:
Kate's burgeoning language offers sweet insights into how she views the world. A couple weeks ago after her nap, I opened the door in answer to her psuedo-cries. She brightened as soon as she saw me, and as I picked her up, she said "Baby sad." I thought she meant a baby on our outing that morning, so I asked her about it. She emphatically jabbed her little finger into her sternum and said, "Baby. Baby sad." It makes sense that she views herself as a baby since she labels any child under the age of four "baby" as well, but I didn't realize her self awareness extended that far.

{Playing with a new present}

Kate has spoken in mainly two-word utterances for the past couple months. She often throws in another morpheme (plural or possessive s, an occasional -ing) and sometimes even another word or two. As her vocabulary expands, her utterances become more and more novel, which makes communicating with her more interesting. 

{Sam came over to check out Kate's loot.}

She loves her nursery class at church (after a hot and cold first few months). After we got home a few Sundays ago, I asked her what she did in nursery. "A songs," she said. "You sang songs? What else did you do?" "A snacks. A bubbles." It was the first time she's answered an open-ended question, and since nursery is pretty much the only time I'm away from her, it was sweet that she was able to share that part of her day with me.

{Kate ditches her pile of presents to hijack Sam's new toy}

I'm not sure what's so "magical" about turning two (actually, we just discovered Kate is teething, so that definitely helps explain things), but Kate has started having regular meltdowns, often in response to my suggesting something that she actually wants to do but feels the need to be contrary about because I'm the one who brought it up. Like the other day when we pulled into the garage after a two hour car trip. "Home?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "Should we go inside?" She began whining a string of "no"s that were building up to borderline hysterics, so I quickly said, "It's okay. We can stay in the car." And we just sat there for another couple minutes--tantrum averted--until I asked if she wanted to go inside and find her toys. "House? Toys? Yeah!" she said, and we unloaded.

Her articulation continues to improve, but there are several words she says that sound similar to other words in her lexicon. The other day, she kept saying "jabidge." "Garbage?" I asked. "Drop it?" But she repeated, "jabidge. Jabidge." After a couple more minutes of her persistence, I landed on the answer. "Strawberries?" "Yeah! Jabidge!" she said. So I took her over to the table where she happily ate the strawberries I'd set out for her nearly an hour before. 

{Pyro Uncle Steve. Cake decorated by Aunt Sara}

Jay, being the card-carrying member of the American Dental Association that he is, was determined Kate would be weaned from her pacifier on her second birthday. Kate only used her pacifier for naps and night time, but she loved it. It was part of her routine, and it made me happy to see her happy and comforted by such a simple thing. "You'll have to do it," I told Jay. "I don't think I can bring myself to take it away from her." And the night before her birthday, as he put her to bed, she asked for her comfort objects. "Weopard?" He handed her the little minky leopard she sleeps with. "Bankit?" He covered her up with the blanket I crocheted for her. "Fafier?" "Pacifier is all gone," Jay said. She looked up at him. "Fafier all gone?" "All gone," he repeated firmly. "Night night." "Nigh night," she chirped, and she went to sleep without a fuss. We really haven't had any issues since. She still occasionally asks, "Fafier all gone?" And she seems to accept our affirmative answer without question. I couldn't believe it was so easy.

Jay is still her favorite favorite. We have that in common.

Kate loves story time at the library, singing songs, and reading books. She will sit through stacks upon stacks of them if she can find someone willing to read to her. She loves interacting and playing, but she's also great at entertaining herself.

Kate's stats at two years old:

  • Height: 32.8 inches; 21st percentile
  • Weight: 29 lbs; 78th percentile
  • Head circumference: 49.8 cm; 95th percentile
  • Body Mass Index: 19; 95th percentile

Basically, she's a little tank. Gone are the days of below 10th percentile weight. She loves food, and her smooth little body is strong and sturdy. Happy Birthday, Kate!