A whole table of weirdos

If you weren't at McDonald's on Saturday, Dec. 20 - you missed a fantastic 8th birthday party for a fantastic little boy. Javi didn't officially turn 8 until the 23rd, but his buddies helped him celebrate early. How cute are these kids?!

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What day is it?

Is it really Christmas eve? I feel like I went to sleep on Thanksgiving/my birthday and woke up today. Luckily, we have bought and wrapped all our gifts and now only have to suffer through getting the children appropriately dressed and transported to the three different Christmas gatherings we're attending.

But I promise an update from Javi's birthday (!) party this past weekend. And the sweetest little photo of my Bella with the best gift she could've received - a shimmery and glittery scarf that belongs to my sister but that Bella has claimed as her own.

All to come sweeties. All to come.

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Christmas tip

When your child must be removed 8 million times from the cords hanging by the Christmas tree and you resort to lightly popping her hand which means she walks around writhing in torturous pain and demonstrating how to pop hands and then promptly runs right back over to the Christmas tree cords ... you might just lose your ever-lovin' mind.

I mean, sure, you could leave her to the cords and cables and electricity until she learns her lesson. You could allow her to pull the tree down on herself and gnaw on the plugs. You could throw your hands up when clutches the cords with both hands and tries to drag them across the room.

Or, you could just plug the damn things in. Because, apparently, that's all she wanted. And once you plug the lights in? She could care less about the Christmas tree and its cords. I mean, cheese and crackers, Mama, just give the tree some breathing room already!

Just a little heads up for those of you still fighting the battle. ;)

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Letter to Bella: month nineteen

Dear Bella,

Another month has flown by, hurtling you closer and closer to big kid status. Every morning before I get you out of bed I stop to wonder: Which Bella will we have today - the roly-poly baby girl or the demanding I-kn0w-exactly-what-I-want big girl.

Though it has taken several months, I think I'm resolved to the fact that the baby girl is not long for this world. You will always be my baby, but you're growing up so fast. You can go up and down the stairs without holding onto anything, you jump with both feet off the floor, and you are full of curiosity and wonder - noticing small details that you used to overlook.

Your body looks more kid-like these days, too. You've thinned out and now weigh 23.2 lbs and stand 32 inches tall, putting you in the 25th percentile for weight and height. That makes you a small girl, but one whose face has become more angular and whose legs are longer. Your hair may be responsible for some of those inches and pounds - it's the biggest thing about you. I saw your shadow the other day and you looked just like a lollipop!

This month marked a sad, but exciting milestone in your life. You now sleep in a toddler bed! You finally decided that climbing out of the crib was fun, so to keep you safe, your Daddy and I converted your crib to a baby bed. Of course the transition wasn't smooth. The first few nights we tried to the stay-in-bed technique, but that traumatized everyone, so we switched to the "just shut the door and ignore the screams" technique.

The first few nights, you would immediately pop out of bed and move to the glider with a toy or stuffed animal, where you'd fall asleep. Your Daddy would sneak in before he went to bed and move you to the bed. It took about a week, but eventually you got used to the idea of a bed and began staying there. We tuck you in with your "babies" (a couple bears and a kitty), kiss you good night, and then shut the door behind us. I'm pretty amazed how quickly you went from screaming mess to serene sleeper!

But as if sleeping all by yourself in a toddler bed wasn't enough of a big-girl rite of passage - you've started showing an interest in potty training! As I noted in your last letter, you'd gotten in the habit of pooping in the tub. To combat that problem, your Daddy bought you a Dora potty ring that we now sit you on before you get in the tub. For the first week or so, you simply tolertated the ring because you were so excited to get in the tub.

However, one day you tinkled in it! We all clapped and danced and sang together - and though you had no clue what was so wonderful, you clapped and danced right along with us. Now you like to sit on the potty seat just because and often a tiny little stream of pee will come out. We don't think you'll be trained in the next few months, but we've definitely begun that journey.

These are the signals that we will soon have a full-fledged little girl on our hands - one with her own opinions and desires. I can already tell that you will be stubborn and demanding. But I can also tell that you will be sweet and compassionate. You can't stand to see someone cry and often try to comfort your brother or the other kids at daycare when they are upset. You love on your babies when they fall or after you've thrown them around.

You are an exciting, complicated little person. Every day, I am reminded how lucky we are to be your family and how much we'll learn by being in your life. As Christmas approaches and we watch you stare in awe at the wonders of the season, I will continue to count my blessings - of which you are one of the most spectacular.

Love, Mama

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Merry Christmas!

We took the kids to get their photo with Santa today. Javi was fine with it, thankfully, though we spent his first 5 Christmases getting him accustomed to Santa. Bella was okay with it as long as her brother was with her and we were close.

I wish you could've seen the panic in her eyes, though. You just see her thought process: "Um, my mom and dad are here and my brother's here but I'm sitting in some strange bearded man's lap and he's TOUCHING me and there are dogs and everyone's staring and I think this isn't a good thing and maybe I'm going to cry and OH THANK GOD IT'S OVER!"

But don't let her smile fool you. There was a whole bunch of shucking and jiving going on behind the camera. We WORKED for it. (My scanner's broken, so enjoy this picture of a picture.)

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Message from God

Today, Bella and I met up with Abbey and her little ones at McDonald's for lunch, chatting, and playplace-ing. While we were there, a lady walked in who I first met last summer when she brought her kids to the summer reading program.

I knew she was a childcare worker of some type but I wasn't sure where she worked. However, I knew that her kids loved her and that she is always taking them to educational and entertaining places around our town. I could also tell that she genuinely loves kids and that they love her back - rather than just working for the money.

So, of course, I tapped her shoulder, asked her where she works and told her that I wanted her to watch my kid. She didn't have a card, but gave me the address for her at-home center along with her phone number.

You will not believe where she lives. AROUND THE CORNER FROM ME. I'm serious. I used to walk past her house all the time. I really believe this is a sign that I should call her and get Bella in over there. I've hated that her current sitter doesn't take her to the library for story hour or out to the fun free stuff for kids around town...

So I'm going to call this lady tomorrow and see if we can come visit next week. Doesn't it seem like God sent me a message today? I'm listening!

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So the tour of the potential new daycare was ... informative. Here's the scoop:

#1: The building interior looks crazy old. As in, peach sponge-painted walls and brown trim. Also, everything has that old look - like when you go into a paper-based office and there are yellowing papers tacked on the walls everywhere.

#2: The "teacher" was outside with the children in their tiny playground. The 1 and 2 yos play outside together so there were a LOT of kids out there at one time. We went into the 1 yo/2 yo split room through the back door and I was immediately hit with the stench of NASTY A$$ DIAPER. OMGosh it was nauseating! I couldn't believe the teacher neither mentioned it or apologized for it.

#3: The "teacher" talked about how she doesn't focus on the "art stuff" or "learning stuff" and it's mostly free play until they move to the 3 yo room. She said she does redirection and timeout for misbehavior and mostly instructs on boundaries. She said for language, she does repeat what the children say and ask them to communicate with words. However, her country accent was so thick that I could barely understand what she was saying. Um, yeah.

#4: The room was dirty and the fabric on the naptime cots was both stained and torn in many places. The "teacher" talked about how she does work with them on picking up after themselves, etc but that the room pretty much stays destroyed. About that time, all the kids came in from the playground and at least 75% of them had big green ropes of mucus steaking their faces. Nice. Oh, and the "teacher" was wearing a gray hoodie covered in stains and spills. I suppose that's to be expected, but it looked as though she hadn't washed it in weeks.

On the plus side, when we were leaving to meet with the director about the possibility of speech focus, one of the little boys yelled "bye bye pretty!" to Bella and she blew him a kiss. It was very sweet! All the little boys (98% of the class) rushed up to touch and love on her. Of course, I promptly picked her up - no mucus ropes for us, thankyouverymuch.

So, in case you couldn't tell, we won't be going to that center. Esp when you consider all the above and then I tell you that the price is the same as my at-home sitter who keeps a spotless house, cooks with the children, and does learning play even though she relies on the tv a lot and is tacky as hell.

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Our morning

Here's what we did this morning. Nothing too exciting, some reading to get the day started.


We're off to meet the possible new daycare teacher. I took Bella over to Javi's old center yesterday and she LOVED it. She had to touch and sit on every toy, surface, and seat in the toddler room. Then she flipped the eff out when we left. I had to drag her kicking and screaming to the car.

I think she's going to love the daycare center environment. Will report back later!

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My expressive reader

Back to regularly scheduled programming:

Javi has a weekly paragraph in his homework agenda that he is supposed to read every night. Most weeks, he reads the paragraph without much gusto. And then there was this week:

You see that facial contortion at the end? We videotaped him reading at least 4 times and each time he ended immediately with the facial tics/muscle impulses. He does that all the time and is something his Concerta is supposed to help control.

However, instead of being embarrassed by it (the way grown ups would be), Javi thinks it's hilarious. He watched the videos over and over again and just cackled at himself. I love it!

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Off Topic: The Perfect Body

I normally keep my personal opinions to myself (um, except for the oodles of Obama videos - a girl can't help her excitement), but I have to unload today.

I saw a commercial this morning during my Dr. Phil fix (don't judge me) that really made me shake my head. In the commercial, perfectly sculpted, beautiful, white people are rolling off an assembly line. Two "non-conformists" break free from the pack and run off to lead non-conforming lives. However those free-thinking radicals are just as beautiful, white, and perfectly sculpted as those on the assembly line -- they're just wearing better clothes.

My brain screamed at the TV: THEY ARE STILL PERFECT. They probably spend a lot of time and money to keep their lithe frames, perfect hair, and gleaming complexions. They may suffer from eating disorders, body hatred or dysmorphia, or drug addictions -- or maybe they were born (not blessed) with great metabolisms. But here we are, using them to symbolize what I guess is an ideal.

Just thinking of the commercial raises my blood pressure a little bit because these marketers are sending the message that people should embrace their individuality and take comfort in how they are different from everyone else. Yet the visual message is insidiously opposite: Yes, you should embrace differences, as long as you're skinny and beautiful. Because being skinny and beautiful is normal, of course.

With this on my mind, I heard about Amanda Palmer's fight with her record label because the label refused to release her video due to what they considered her too-fat belly was exposed. Yes, that sucks and it's ridiculous, but what's really great is that Amanda tells us on her blog that HELL NO she isn't fat and if she were there's NO WAY she'd be proud of or show off her belly and that she hates how she looks when she's pregnant.

Dub Tee Eff, people. So you're mad at them for calling you fat, not because they are making a judgement call about what will sell your records? You're mad because NO YOU ARE NOT FAT! And then your fans post their bellies and in 15 or so pages of belly photos, I see no fat bellies. What I see is a whole bunch of defensiveness about how Amanda is not fat and that "fatties don't have cheekbones like that."

Then there's a new book on Feminism for young women and what image graces the cover? A young, trim belly. Why the belly? Why are girls supposed to see in that body that will bring them to buy the book or heed its message? That feminists aren't all old and fat? That you can be a feminist and still be attractive? Because attractive = thin and young, you know.

I think my biggest problem with this whole mess is that I am raising a daughter. A daughter who may grow up with a slow metabolism or an aversion to sports and who may grow a belly much bigger than Amanda Palmer's. And where does she fit? Where in the hell do fat bodies fit in our culture? And going back to the commercial, where do bodies of color fit in? Where were the latino, black, or Asian bodies on that assembly line?


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The Tinkler

I'm sure y'all remember that we were having a problem with Bella pooping the tub or peeing on the bathroom floor right before getting in the tub...

We started a new bathtime routine where immediately after dinner, we head to the bathroom and she sits on the ring while we run her bathwater. She picked up the new routine very quickly and now puts the ring on herself and tries to get her diaper off - basically she'll do anything to get into the bath!

Well, all this prep work and she stopped pooping in the tub (tho she may be peeing in there - you never know) and peeing on the floor - but she NEVER tinkled in the potty. Rather, she sat there impatiently and signed please over and over while staring longingly at the tub.

UNTIL TWO NIGHTS AGO!!! She let out a teeny tiny little stream of pee and DH and I reacted like it was New Years Eve. There was much clapping and jumping and the distributing of candy. Bella was super excited, too, though you could tell she wasn't quite sure what happened.

Now, she hasn't done it again, but I just wanted to share this little milestone. I know she's no where near ready to train, but she's starting to get the idea! By this time next year, diapers will be a distant memory in our home!

Also! This morning she fought me for her own wipe while I was changing her diaper. Normally she just likes to throw wipes around the room, but this time ... THIS TIME ... she wanted the wipe so she could CLEAN HER OWN CHINA.

Ohmalord! I was so proud of her because this is really the first time she's shown any interest in what goes on during diapering or demonstrated that she is connecting elimination with the diaper. I'm really thinking this is another sign that diapers are not long for this world!

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Cuddles from Home

If you're in need of a baby gift or want something super cute for your little one, you have to shop Cuddles from Home. I ordered some cuddlies for a few of the new moms in my life (there are FIVE of them!!!), and the cutest head wrap for Bella. Everything arrived quickly, wrapped beautifully for gifting, and is so soft and ... well ... cuddly!

Here's Bella wearing her fancy new hair accessory. Unfortunately, we're still working on getting her to wear things in her hair again. Though she used to leave hair clips and bows alone, she now pulls everything out or off as quickly as she can. So we're all lucky I snapped these shots.

This one was the wrap fresh from the box. I call it her 40s broadway look:

And here is my favorite. You can see the wrap, but you can also see The Look my child gives me when she's not happy with me. Which happened a lot today, thanks to Sassypants' refusal to take a nap.

So please do keep Cuddles from Home in your memory bank for the next time you want something hand made, high quality, and made with love. You won't be disappointed!

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