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Monday, February 27, 2012


So I found myself-- last night-- torn between: 1) watching the Oscars (which ended up being a bit of a snooze fest- not the most exciting ceremony I've seen since I started watching almost 20 years ago now) and 2) baking a cake for Sophie for breakfast. Yes, that's the kind of mother I am, the kind who feeds her toddler dessert at 8.00 in the morning. Well, if your toddler had pooped in the potty the night before (to much fanfare, no less), you would be baking up a buffet of treats too :)

Chocolate cake for breakfast
Chocolate cake for breakfast, as promised

Yup- so it would seem that it wasn't a fluke after all- Sophie had her first (almost) diaper-free weekend, and I'm happy to say that it went really well. We did everything we'd normally do-- went to the library, ran errands, sledded, did a Target run-- all without diapers and happily, there were no accidents. The whole constantly asking if she needed to potty thing took some getting used to but after a while, we learned to trust her to tell us when she needs to go. She still wears her diapers during nap and bedtime and we're still working on her going diaper-free at daycare, but it's nice to know she's on her way.

To add to an already exciting weekend, we also decided to introduce Sophie to the wonderful world of chopsticks. She's always curious when she watches us eat with them and since she was feeling so proud of herself for accomplishing so much this weekend, we thought to just throw something else into the mix. We had bought a pair of training chopsticks from Singapore and I have to say, these are rather well designed. There's a training bridge to help the child hold the chopsticks properly by using the thumb and eventually, when he/she is ready, you can then remove the support. I actually don't think either Jude or I hold chopsticks "properly"- my grandma used to tell me off when I was a kid. Hopefully, Sophie will have better chopstick manners, although looking at her first attempt, I'm not holding my breath (not in the near future anyway...)

[Watch how by the end, she settles on a more efficient means of delivering food into her mouth. Nothing-- eating implements included-- must get in between Sophie Yew and her food :)]

Friday, February 24, 2012

Little victories

Jude is convinced that Sophie has actually been holding out on us with this potty training business and that this whole time, she's just been waiting until a reasonable reward presented itself. Which in this case appears to be... Haribo peach-flavored gummies.

SO (drumroll please...)- this evening, as we were all just lounging around the house, Sophie declares that she needs to go sit on her potty. We haven't had much success since the last time we made a concerted effort to "train" her, but since then, every time she says she wants/needs to, we put her on the potty even though she almost never actually pees in it.

But then this evening, we heard it.

The undeniable trickle of pee in the potty.

A glorious sound, the first time your child voluntarily and consciously pees in the potty. A sound that should be accompanied by a heavenly choir, by angels trumpeting.


I look at her and she peers back at me in amazement. Her face blooms with a wide adorable smile and she beams with pride.

"I peed in the potty! I peed in the potty, Mama! Listen, my pee is so noisy!" she shouts.

So I think our reaction was a little over the top for a successful pee attempt but basically, we celebrated-  two-gold stars! the Potty Dance! hugs all round! kisses! applause! and most importantly, CANDY!!! If we could, we would have declared tomorrow a public holiday! (although I suspect the snow storm we're having right now might take care of that)

And then, she goes on to do it two more times! Each time, she just told us that she needed to go and she did :) I almost had to slap myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming this all up...

Granted, I wouldn't say that she's entirely potty trained-- it was just tonight and we still have some ways to go-- but after the semi-fiasco that was our last attempt, I'll take any small victory. At least we now know she recognizes what the sensation feels like and can tell us before it needs to happen.

Still, this just reminds me once again that maybe I really should just trust our daughter more when it comes to these milestones, and that when she's good and ready, she'll reach them just fine. I was convinced she would NEVER roll over, walk, drink out of a sippy cup, or sleep through the night, and she's now gone and done all those things and more. When we dedicated an entire weekend to potty-training her, that sort of fell apart; but when we pulled back a little and gave her some space, she came to it when her little wonderful, precious, amazing mind decided it was time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Old friends, new favorites

I love watching Sophie discover new books, that rapt wonder on her face as we're reading to her, her bubbling giggles when something funny comes up, and her ernest pleading for us to read the book again and again, and again (sometimes on the same night). And even better than that, I love discovering these new books with her, especially books from authors we've already come to love dearly, like this family's favorites, Eric Carle and Mo Willems.

Every child I know owns one copy (if not more) of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and we are no exception. But Sophie also loves The Very Busy Spider, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, and From Head to Toe. So imagine her delight when we picked up another Eric Carle book from the library this weekend. Mister Seahorse is gorgeously illustrated (as one would expect from Mr. Carle) and a "hide and seek" feature with acetate overlays adds that extra something that Sophie really enjoys. It's also the perfect book for her because of her particular obsession with all sea creatures- who knew a two-year-old could get so excited by tilapia and kurtus? More importantly though, Jude and I like it because it's so rare to find good books about dads and fathering. With so many books out there about mothers' love, it's been nice to spend some time (or in the case of tonight, three readings of the book back-to-back) talking about the role of daddies in taking care of babies. It doesn't hurt, of course, that the book is helping Sophie learn a little more about fish reproduction and care-giving... :)

Another current favorite from an old friend is Mo Willems' I Broke My Trunk. We are huge fans of Willems' Knuffle Bunny and Pigeon books, but we've only just recently discovered the Elephant and Piggie books. And I Broke My Trunk is a particular delight. Jude and I actually fight to see who gets to read it out loud because it is HILARIOUS. It doesn't matter how many times we've read it, all three of us laugh uncontrollably every. single. time. In his customary spare prose and expressive illustrations, Willems' has created a wonderfully sweet and silly story about Piggie, her best friend, Gerald, and the "crazy long story" about how Gerald broke his trunk. Sophie has already committed parts of the story to memory and will "read" it to us while laughing uproariously at the same time. In her words, "Is Mo Willems silly, Mama? He so funny! Hahahahahaha..."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Such a chore

One of the things that's really important to Jude and I is that Sophie learns to help out around the house. With both of us working full-time, chores are pretty much left to nights and weekends and we've decided that we should slowly involve Sophie in small ways. She already knows to clean up her toys after she's done and to return her books to the shelf. It doesn't always get done efficiently or gets done every time we ask her, but when we show that we're helping her in some way, she'll almost always do her own little part.

Lately, she's become really interested in helping out in the kitchen- maybe it's because we baked bread together last weekend or the fact that she's been playing with the toy kitchen in her play yard for months. Whatever the case may be, when I asked if she wanted to help me with dinner last night, she was so enthused, you'd think I had asked her if she wanted to go to the circus! And so I set a tray of asparagus on the floor and taught her how to snap them at their ends to trim off the hard inedible stalks. It took only a few tries before she became a pro.

My happy sous chef
My happy sous chef

Sophie's also been helping us with the laundry-- transferring the wet clothes into the dryer and emptying the dry clothes into the laundry basket-- and she absolutely loves it :) I think a lot of it has to do with being allowed in the basement, which for the longest time has been The Place Into Which You Shall Not Descend, so there's that element of mystery and excitement. But I also think that Sophie genuinely enjoys doing these chores because it makes her feel valued and important. We always pile on the praise when she does her part and tell her what a good job she's done. We've also been using her potty training chart as a general chore chart so every time she does a task well-- like puts her books away or helps with the laundry-- we give her a gold star :)

We're still working on small chores so no folding laundry (too tricky) or any actually cleaning (too daunting) any time soon. It's not like we're depending on Sophie to get housework done but it's a good start. She's learning what it's like to be part of a team — in this case, family — that relies on and values her contributions and hopefully, she'll pick up some good habits along the way too :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We made bread

It started out with wanting to do some kind of Valentine's Day project with Sophie. Jude was going to be away for most of the weekend at a workshop on campus so I thought it would be kind of fun for us to make something that we could then share with him when he was done on Sunday. And of course, being who I am, all the different ideas invariably involved food of some sort. But I didn't want to make candy or chocolate since Sophie can't have most of the ingredients. Then I chanced upon this recipe from the New York Times for No-Knead Bread. Sophie loves bread and I couldn't think of anything more perfectly soulful and heartwarming than baking our own bread for Valentine's Day :)

I've actually never made bread-- something about the whole intricate measuring and complicated kneading intimidated me (and still does, to some degree). But this recipe is brilliant and so fuss-free and easy, a two-year can do it... And so ours did (with some help, of course).

I let Sophie mix all the ingredients together on Saturday:

In goes the yeast
In goes the yeast and salt

Mixing like a champion
Mixing like a champion

I told her we had to wait a day for the dough to rise before we could bake it and she insisted on watching the rising in action. She stared at the bowl for five intense minutes. It was very cute :)

The next day, I folded the risen dough on itself (which took all of ten seconds- I'm not kidding), let it rise one more time under a kitchen towel, then literally threw it into a heated Dutch oven, and into the oven. And the results: thin, crunchy brown crust, large, open holes. The bread is slightly chewy, flavorful and with absolutely perfect texture.

Fresh out of the oven
Quite a thing of beauty

When it came out of the oven, Sophie wanted to cut into it immediately. She was so adorably excited about the bread that "she" had made, she could barely sit or stand still in her play yard as she waited for it to cool. And when I did cut into it, I knew without tasting it that Sophie and I had made a delicious loaf of bread-  the snap and crunch of the crust gave way to tender, spongy body. We sat together at the table, my hands still with traces of flour, and had a wonderful moment of just enjoying the bread that we made together. I had bought some good butter in anticipation of our homemade bread and slathered my slices with it. Perfection. Sophie-- the bread fiend-- had three thick slices. One after another, she asked for more. Plain and unadorned, just as it was. "My bread is delicious, Mama. It's so fluffy!" she declared happily.

So there- Valentine's Day weekend and my daughter and I baked together for the first time. And it was great :)

Bread fiend
Our little bread fiend on her third slice of bread

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Duck tales

This morning , as we were driving across Huron River/Gallup Park where we were at last week, Sophie noticed that the river is now frozen. Which then motivated this conversation:

Sophie: Mama, look- the river is frozen!
Me: Yes it is Sophie. Because it's really cold.
Sophie: Where did the ducks go?
Me: Where do you think they went? Do you think they're still in the river?
Sophie: No, it's too cold for them. They went somewhere where it's warmer.
Me: That's right. Maybe somewhere down south.

(after a couple of minutes of silence...)

Sophie: Our car is warmer. The ducks can fly here. One duck can sit here, and one can sit in front with you. And one duck can sit on Dada's lap. And one can sit here with me. Ok? That's a very special idea I think.

Feeding the ducks and geese
Feeding the ducks, geese, and swans last week

Friday, February 10, 2012

So tight

Chatting with Mama mid-upswing
At Gallup Park last weekend

[As I was putting her to bed tonight]

Sophie: Mama, do you love me?
Me: Of course I do, silly goose.
Sophie: How much?
Me: Mama loves you very very much. How much do you love me?
Sophie: So tight. So so tight...

Thursday, February 09, 2012

I can't read!

As I was getting ready the other morning, I asked Sophie to pick a book to read while she waited for me. These days, this is our go-to thing for her to do whenever we need a small window of time to do something. She's always more than happy to spend time with her books and is usually happy looking through the pictures by herself. But that day, after a couple of minutes, she got upset and almost started to cry, and then she whined-- almost helplessly-- "I can't read the words, Mama. I can't read the words!"

I wasn't quite sure what to do or say- I was pleasantly surprised at her self-awareness and understanding of what it means to read (i.e. we read the words and not just the pictures) and sort of amused at how genuinely sad she was that she can't make out the words. So I asked if she wanted to learn how to read the letters and words and she nodded. And so begins Project Read in our house :)

Jude and I are both big readers and we've read to Sophie constantly since the day she was born. As a result, she really loves her books. And I'm not just saying that in a "I have to tell people this so they'll think I'm a good parent" way- Sophie honestly adores her books and loves to read (there have been times when she'd rather read than eat). And for that, I'm thankful. If I could choose one trait of mine that she would take with her to adulthood it would be this one. You cannot overestimate how a love for reading can change a life.

[Click for more photos of Sophie with her books]

1. Reading on the way to Costco, 2. Reading at Target, 3. At the orthotics clinic, 4. Early morning book with Grandpa, 5. Child-sized chintz reading armchair!, 6. Open flap, 7. Spending the morning with books from the library, 8. At Barnes and Noble, 9. I can read a book that's bigger than my face!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sounds of laughter, shades of life

Sometimes, I look at Sophie and I think, I can't possibly love this child anymore than I do right now.

And then, the next moment I realize, I can.

We will laugh together like this until I'm an old, old woman.