Saturday, December 25, 2010

Snow building fun

After sledding yesterday, the Whomptons set out to play in the snow today. We spent quite a while collecting up snow for the eventual construction. Everyone helped gather up the large pile of snow even Lola (between pulled toboggan rides). There was some disagreement about what to eventually make. Raina wanted an igloo, Krystal wanted a castle, Eric just wanted to make a snowman because he knew how to. Finally we settled on a big snow head looking thing.
Snow pictures never turn out very well, so you have to look closely. Notice the eyebrows, nose, and the booger hanging out of his right nostril.

Originally it was sort of looking like a gorilla, but fangs are always a nice touch. This probably explains why the snow people at the Whompton household tend to look evil. We playfully call it "Satan Claus".

You can just barely make out in these pictures the arms stretching out along the ground so that he can hold his "Scepter of Power" and wave to passers by. These are reoccurring themes.

Raina really wanted an igloo, so we sort of compromised and made a hole on the backside that went all the way through to the front connecting up to the mouth.

Sledding in a Winter Wonderland

Daddy, Raina, and Lola try out the toboggan.

Mommy and Lola go for a little spin.

Mommy flips the toboggan on the first hill, and then dumps out all occupants on the second hill.  She is no longer qualified to sled with children.

Raina sleds by herself for the very first time.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An exploration of Raina

Raina and her best friend Isabel.

Raina terrifying Mama Jo.

Raina's hijinx cause fits of laughter.

Our little princess.

Raina debates knocking over the little kids to be a musical chairs master.

All bundled and braided and ready to start the day.

Her new jack-o-lantern smile.

Revealing her inner demon.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fall Semester, In Review

Krystal, Raina, and Samantha begin school year 2010-2011.  Raina is in Senior Kindergarten with Ms. Neary and her best friend Isabel.

The Whomptons head to the STL Zoo about once a month and get there in the opening hour when everything is free.  Yes, the zoo is free all the time, but some specialty things cost.  And we're cheapskates.  The Children's Zoo (seen below), the Carousel, and the Stingray exhibit are places we hit from 8 - 9 a.m.!

Lola delights in playing peekaboo at every opportune moment.  We're seated at a restaurant here, patiently waiting for food, and Lola made her own entertainment.  She also charmed the male couple next to us, and did numerous loops around the restaurant. 

When the kids are good, we take them to the Big Kids Playground (a.k.a. Faust Park) to play and then visit the ducks.  On this occasion the ducks swarmed us ... mostly because we fed them all of Lola's cheerios snack.  The girls were exceedingly popular among the waterfowl population.

The Whomptons gathered with Mini and kids to celebrate Mini's birthday and watch the Balloon Race.  We claimed our traditional spot on the WashU Brookings lawn and had a lovely, lazy afternoon.

Raina made her own costume for Halloween.  Notice the bejeweled hearts, the multicolor ribbon, and the pipe cleaner antennae.  She was incredibly proud of herself.  She also slammed her costume into doorways, desks, etc., because my klutzy daughter couldn't handle being significantly wider than she normally was.  She ripped off the butterfly a few times (just in the process of maneuvering her around to take this picture) so I carried it from then on. 
When we made it to her classroom, I tied the wings back on and carefully situated her on the corner so she woudn't hurt herself or anyone nearby.  Here is Raina's SK class in their Halloween gear.

And here are the Whomptons on Halloween night.  Lola's initial costume wasn't good enough for Lola, but she was satisfied to be a Titans fan.  She hated the flag though and this is the only time she held it all night.

The Great Pumpkin brought Lola a baby stroller.  Once she figured out that the stroller was hers and that she could push it around, she was beyond thrilled.

Raina received her own hidey-hole and the girls delighted in together for a while.  Lola started rolling it around while she was inside and flipping the tent into walls and furniture; now the tent is situated in Raina's room.

Lola went through a significant clothes phase.  She learned how to take off her shirt and she did it.  Repeatedly. 

Then she realized she could play dress-up with other people's clothes.  She claimed Raina's zip-up sweater, pulled it on over her own pink striped jacket, zipped it up, and then paraded around saying "Raina sweater!" 

Yes, those are tighty-whities around her neck.  She has no shame.  (Neither do we.)

The Compton parents are terrible at taking pictures.  Their hearts are in the right places, but their eyes are never open.  I like that Mama Jo and Lola have the same expression.

Much better!

The Whomptons believe in a hot, hot house in the summer and a cold, cold house in the winter.  Lola is appropriately layered!

She stacked up a block tower as tall as she was.  She was beaming each time she finished the series.

I already have on a short sleeved shirt, a jacket, and a long sleeved shirt.  Maybe I need another pair of pants too?

The cuddle bug and her blanket lovey.  She has begun ripping out the individual threads of this blanket.  I don't know how much longer it can take that kind of abuse.

The Lower School performs a Winter Concert each year and it is a precious experience to witness.  Raina was never nervous about getting up on stage and performing in front of 450 people; in fact, she kept inviting more and more of my teacher friends to come!  She's in the front row, second from left.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Krystal v. Scam Artists

I know that the Whompton blog is mostly dedicated to kid stories, but I was so flabbergasted by this experience that I had to share it. 

Saturday we received a phone call with an automated statement:  "This is an important message about your credit card.  Nothing is wrong.  You have an opportunity to lower your interest rate but you must act now!  Press 9 to speak with a customer service representative."

Eric and I have no credit card debt to speak of, but I am immensely curious in finding out more information (like who these people are, which credit card company they're affiliated with, etc.) so, of course, I press 9.  I am transferred to an individual with a very distinctive accent in a raucously loud call center.  He immediately starts his spiel and tries to convince me to give him my credit card number.

KSW:  "Sir, what is the name of your company?" 
He responds with the exact same scripted spiel.  I ask my question again; he responds with the same script; I ask, he recites.  Finally he responds with "Why does it matter?" 
This question stuns me and I give him honesty, "I have no proof that you are reputable!" 
His reply:  "We are a very reputable company!  We have a Chief Financial Officer!"
KSW:  "But you don't have a company name?"
He transfers me to his manager.

The manager opens with "I understand that you have a problem with my representative."  I admit, my only problem is that he refuses to share the company name.  The manager volunteers it readily; the company is called "Financial Services of Visa and Mastercard."  Of course, this is preposterous.  He swears that it's authentic but admits there's no website or anything that I can check.  I thank him for his time and the manager, believing me to be appeased, inquires whether I am interested in lowering my interest rate.  I confess to being satisfied with my interest rate and the manager, now, is confused as to why I'm still talking with him.

KSW:  I'm on the Do Not Call List.
Manager:  So what?
KSW:  I needed your company's name so that I can report you to my state's Attorney General. 
Manager:  (immediately backtracking)  Oh, I see.  Ma'am, I'm not supposed to give out this phone number, but you can call it and talk with our local company and verify this information.  They may not be willing to talk with you because I'm not supposed to give out the number, but I will give it to you anyway.  It's 314-576-2663.
KSW:  Sir, that's MY phone number.
Manager:  Uh, uh, I meant this is the number ....
And then he hung up the phone. 

Do I declare this a righteous victory?  Unfortunately not.  Those guys were ready to pounce on anyone who pressed 9 and had a credit card number.  I hope that no one fell victim to them.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kids say the darndest things ...

Lola woke up from her nap early and asked for some books.  A while later, Deanna, her primary caregiver came by and the two had this conversation:
Deanna:  Lola, are you poopy?
Lola:  Yes.
Deanna:  Why didn't you tell me you were poopy?  I would have changed your diaper.
Lola:  (hanging her head)  I forgot.

Deanna laughed when she told me the story.  She's still in shock that a toddler was self-aware enough to realize that she knew something and then forgot it. 

Raina remarked on the ride home today:  "Can you imagine a world where all we had to eat was cookies and ice cream and chocolate?  Ugh.  My belly would hurt so bad.  I'm glad we have healthy food instead!"  Most kids would answer their own question with "wow, cookies all day, awesome!"  I'm proud to say that I have brainwashed my child. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The sickness season begins.

The Whompton adults have felt rather lucky.  It's December and we had not experienced a single sick day since March.  And, I tell you, it is marvelous to have healthy kids and healthy adults.  But, of course, we couldn't keep the viruses away, and one by one we started getting sick with the stomach flu.

Last Tuesday Samantha felt queasy, very tired, and a little off.  By Tuesday afternoon she felt fine.  Last Thursday Lola went past the "queasy stage" and thus began the negotiation of "who goes home with the kid?"  I took her home from school, she promptly slept for three hours, and then she was raring to go.  Eric fell victim Saturday night and was unsettled all Sunday.  Raina woke up Wednesday night feeling terrible and she had a bad hour or so, but has been perfectly normal ever since. 

I'm staying home with Raina today and, since she's feeling fine, I envisioned a mommy-daughter day in pjs.  We were going to paint a suncatcher that she had and watch a movie and read books and I, of course, would clean.  I told her the plan, she seemed incredibly excited, and I jumped into the shower.

Eric and Lola were back in the house when I finished my shower.  Apparently Lola's daycare is closed today due to "icy conditions" and so I had both kids for the day.  All my original plans for the day went out the window, as I envisioned trying to paint with Lola around (disaster) or watch a movie (she's never done it, and she wouldn't have the patience).  She's game on for books but my reading to them for 8 hours today would stretch my sanity to the breaking point.

So what did I do?  I ignored them.  And, miraculously, they started to play with each other.  Raina and Lola played catch, rolled a big ball around, chased, climbed up and down from the furniture, and played with the train set.  They played with each other for a good 3 hours straight!  That's never really happened before and I made good use of their preoccupation.  I cleaned the kitchen, living room, and dining room.  I scoured the bathrooms.  I used an incredible amount of bleaching agents on our surfaces, etc., in a valiant attempt to rid our home of pathogens.  I washed an insane amount of laundry.  I made dinner.  I made thank-you gifts for the wonderful people covering my classes today.  And it's only 1 p.m.! 

Normally weekends are not this productive because the kids bicker semi-constantly.  I wonder what is magical about the "sick and snow day" that has my kids liking each other so much?!?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tooth Fairy Strikes Again!

Raina kept complaining during dinner last night about a tooth; after every bite or chew she would gasp, howl in pain, and cup her mouth.  Granted, the kid is overly dramatic about pain -- you should see us as I brush her hair each morning, she starts flinching and saying OW! before I pick up the brush -- but this seemed over the top.  She then shared she had an apple for snack earlier in the day ...  Yep, it was time to lose a tooth.  She finished dinner and then we yanked that tooth right out.

There is something immensely satisfying about pulling teeth and hearing them pop out.  I recognize that is a gross statement to make, but it's still true.  And the big smiles and celebratory hugs I get from Raina just add to the joy.

We stuffed the tooth in a ziploc bag, labeled it, and, for the first time ever, put the tooth under the pillow.  I've done a good job of convincing Raina that the tooth can be stored in other places than the pillow (the table next to her bed, the chair, hanging from her bed post) but she was adamant about the pillow.  She told me that she wanted to wake up and see the Tooth Fairy, so the tooth needed to be under the pillow.  The little rapscallion!  The Tooth Fairy does NOT want to be seen!

Of course, the Tooth Fairy forgot about the tooth-present swap and then groaned audibly when her helpful spouse reminded her to get out of the warm bed and do the exchange.  The Tooth Fairy tip-toed in, quietly dug under the pillow for the baggie (how does the Tooth Fairy find an itty-bitty tooth by itself???), and deposited the gift.  Raina did not stir. 

This morning Raina was overjoyed with her Tooth Fairy gift but she expressed remorse that she didn't see the Tooth Fairy.  It would be just like her to dream up even more locations for future teeth to reside overnight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Santa Claus comes to the Teddy Bear Tea Party.

LaVerne, Raina's adopted grandmother, and Raina trekked out to the Teddy Bear Tea Party yesterday to eat finger sandwiches, play bingo, and learn proper tea-time etiquette.  Raina now knows to pinky-up her tea cup, to dap delicately with her napkin, and to ask politely before having thirds and fourths and then eating off the neighbor's plate. 

Each kid received a teddy bear and the chance to visit with Santa.  We don't do the Santa thing in our house, so I was interested to hear Raina's stories when she got back.  She did not disappoint. 

Raina:  I met Santa today!
KSW:  Really?  What did you do?
Raina:  I sat on his lap.  That was weird.  (And she scrunched up her face as she wondered whether that was a polite thing to say.)
KSW:  (Nods, because having little girls sitting on some random guy's lap is REALLY weird.)  Anything else?
Raina:  I asked for a baby stroller for my baby doll.  And he said he'd bring me one for Christmas.
KSW:  Hmmm.  Well, Raina, I don't think that's going to happen.  We don't celebrate Christmas.  And Santa has never been to our house before, so I don't think he'll start now.  But we're celebrating the new year with a gift; if you want, Daddy and I can get you a baby stroller.
Raina:  (Thinking hard as she decides a good plan.)  Okay, let's do this.  If Santa doesn't bring me a baby stroller on Christmas, then we can go shopping for one together.

Awesome.  And I mean it.  I fully expected the Santa conversation to be a knock-down drag-out battle over "presents, presents, presents!"  Raina wants one thing and, when asked later, she said she wanted it because "Lola has one and this way there will be two and we won't fight about it."

It occurred to me on the drive home that I have never purchased a gift for my daughter and presented it to her all wrapped up.  She has never received a holiday or birthday gift from us, so she's never had the surprise of guessing what a gift is from her parents.  She's so incredibly excited to receive goodies of any sort -- getting a sticker puts her sky-high for hours -- so I'm interested to see if her face is all happy when she unwraps it or if she'll have a blase "I already know what this is" expression.  Does the surprise and anticipation make the gift?

Hi Daddy!

Lola offers a running verbal commentary on everything she sees or experiences.  "Look!  Pretty!"  she exclaims as we pass by holiday lights.  "Hello bus!" and "Goodbye bus!" are stated about 20 times per car trip.  (Lola thinks anything larger than a car is a bus and she gets excited about each one she sees.)  "Hi Daddy!  Hi Gandma!  Hi Mini!  Hi Jo!" she chants each time someone picks up the telephone.  (If your name is not on that list, she won't talk to you on the phone.  Seriously.)

She also calls every adult female "Mommy" and every adult male "Daddy"  I think she does it because she doesn't have the words "woman and man" in her vocabulary and she wants to identify people in pictures and whatnot.  And, usually, all the people she sees are with their children so saying Mommy and Daddy is an accurate statement.  Unfortunately, it backfired on us this weekend.

The Whompton family went to the grocery store and the girls happily were playing in their car cart as I investigated produce.  I heard Lola shout out happily "Hi Daddy!"  Then I felt someone's eyes on me and I looked up.  The man at the end of the aisle was a tall African-American in full military fatigues.  He clearly was not Lola's daddy and he was looking at me quite strangely as he tried to piece together why this little white girl was calling him Daddy.  So I explained half-heartedly, "Oh, I'm so sorry!  She calls every man Daddy!"  I then received a pitying look, and he paused to determine the best thing to say, and then came up with "That's bizarre."  He gave me another strange look, shook his head, and walked away.  I, of course, started laughing hysterically and I ran throughout the store to find Eric so I could 1) tell the story and 2) show the other man that I already have a baby daddy. 

Time to add to Lola's vocabulary!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pictures from Daycare

We have not blogged in ages ... but we were just sent these pictures from daycare and I immediately had stories to share.
Here are Lola and her best friend Evan.  He was the only person she didn't bite, so they were partnered together for a while, and then they became inseparable.  Evan moved up to the Two's room back in early October and it was crushing to Lola.  She spent a goodly part of each morning and drive home saying "Evy, Evy, Evy!"  Luckily for all of us, Lola is being moved into the Two's room after winter break and she'll be with Evan again.

Our pigtailed angel tackles play-doh.  We rarely do play doh at home anymore (Lola loves to throw things and shout "I throw!" as she does it AND red play doh is hard to get out of the carpet) so she delights in all the artsy projects at school.  In fact, Lola brings home two copies of every project, because she was never satisfied by doing it just once.  She'll need an incredibly large art box if she keeps producing at this rate.

The fire department came to school one day and the kids got to clamor all over the fire truck.  Lola, our brave and bossy little girl, climbed up on the stretcher and relaxed.  If you look closely in the top right corner you can see the feet of her classmates who are doing exactly what they were told to do.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ever since Raina has been sentient regarding Halloween, she has picked her costume.  She was a pink snake, she was a princess, and this year she was a butterfly.  She's an advance planner (like her mother, thank goodness!) so she lets her parents know weeks in advance what she'll need for her costume.  In early October, Raina settled on her butterfly idea.  She and I hashed out what that would look like, and she decided that she needed wings and antenna and that she'd wear a solid colored shirt as the butterfly abdomen.  I grabbed thick poster board, sketched out the outline of wings and then set her loose.  She chose the pattern for the wings (hearts on one side, circles on the other), the color arrangement (blue and purple accents on a yellow background), and then spent an entire afternoon coloring her costume with markers.  We grabbed some pipe cleaners, some beads, and a headband and made her antenna too. 

A week or so later she decided her wings needed jewels.  Off we traveled to Michael's, in the pursuit of stick-on sparklies and some strong ribbon to hold the wings in place.  $5 later, Raina was in stick-on-jewel heaven and she finalized her costume. 

The Whompton girls celebrated Halloween twice this week.  Raina (and Krystal and Samantha) all dressed up in costume on Friday; Raina participated in a Halloween parade and sang a wonderfully adorable song.  When we arrived at school, Raina noticed that very few people had made their own costumes; instead, most people had purchased their costumes.  She then noticed how much positive attention she received; many of her friends wanted the process explained and Raina thrilled in saying "I made my costume all by myself!"  The same thing happened tonight on our block.  Raina exhibited pride at every turn as each set of adults marveled at the effort she (not we) put into her costume.  I'm glad she's seeing that effort and creativity are rewarded.

Little Lola was more reticient about costumes.  Since Raina was dressing up as a butterfly, Lola felt she should be a butterfly too, and there really was little budging her.  She absolutely refused to wear the original costume we picked out, so we audibled to being a Titans fan.  (We had purchased a Lola-sized Titans sweatsuit the year before, and we certainly had plenty of extra Titans gear around the house.)  She grabbed her little pumpkin bucket and was off!

For the first time in Raina's five years, Raina walked up to each house by herself, rang the doorbell by herself, and needed no coaxing to go to the next house.  Lola, in her first true outing, needed one house as an introduction (They're giving me candy?  Okay, I'll just keep it in this hand and hold my bucket in the other hand.  They're giving me more candy?  What am I supposed to do with that?!?) and then she was a trick-or-treat professional.  She ran up each driveway, waited patiently for Raina to ring the doorbell, grabbed massive handfuls of candy, put them in her bucket, occasionally said thank you, and always said bye-bye when we left.  She "wow!"ed appropriately at the cool decorations and pumpkin carvings and was saddened when the night came to close. 

Raina's real wish was to give out candy to trick-or-treaters herself, and I promised her that she could do that until it was bedtime.  Our neighborhood doesn't get much traffic and it was 30 minutes past her bedtime when our first set of trick-or-treaters arrived.  Beyond excited, she grabbed the candy bucket, politely offered each person his choice of two pieces of candy, and (with a little prompting) remembered to compliment their costumes.  She literally was jumping with joy as they left, and she gave me the biggest celebratory hug. 

All in all, we had a rather wonderful Halloween.  Now on to this week's other holidays:  Day of the Dead and Diwali!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Raina came home last week just thrilled that she had yoga class.  She pulled out our yoga mat and demonstrated each position she knew.  And then Lola joined in the fun.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gratitude Journal

Raising children into good people is difficult work.  It requires a lot of intentional thought and planning, for parents to be proactive rather than reactive, and for everyone to seize upon a teachable moment if it arrives. 

I want my children to spend their lives being grateful for what they have, rather than being upset and disappointed by what they lack.  Eric and I occasionally have conversations about gratitude, but those conversations are after the kids go to bed and / or are out of earshot.  For our kids to learn gratitude, we need to model it for them.  So, today, the Whomptons started a Gratitude Journal.  Each person gets a page in it and will add to his/her "I'm grateful for ..." list each day.

When I explained gratitude to Raina, she changed the concept to be "things that are important to me" and once she got started with her list she didn't want to stop.  We continued our conversation about gratitude in bed (instead of a bedtime story!) and she ended the conversation with "I'm very lucky."  She's exactly right.

Here are the kids' entries.
Raina:  Momma cow, my family, learning, my comforter, love, milk and water, meals, clean rivers, and clean water that comes out of the sink that we can drink
Lola:  Daddy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Philosopher Queen

Trapping Raina in the car results in 1) immediate sleep or 2) deep ponderings about her world.  The most recent questions:

- What does the Tooth Fairy do with all those teeth?
We brainstormed:  eat them, trade them, sell them to get cash to give to kids, make art, make Haunted Houses, make lawn decorations.  Her favorite (and her suggestion) was that the Tooth Fairy made clunky necklaces.  I liked the thought of their being one tooth fair per city or state so that the work was divided evenly, and they had to trade in their teeth for a living wage.

- Some people in India speak English.  How did that happen?
We talked about what happens when people move, what people do to stay comfortable, what information gets passed along to children, and how/why some people learn another language that their family may not speak.  The migratory patterns of humans tell an interesting story if you leave out all the death and carnage.

- How come I only see the moon in the morning and at nighttime? Where does it go during the day?

We had a great conversation about rotations, solar systems, sunrise/sunset, other stars, size of the sun, galaxies, and then spent a lot of time looking at the Hubble Telescope pictures. She was fascinated to hear different stories of how people explained the sunrise/sunset.  Her favorite was praying to the Sun God that the sun would come back each day and then celebrating when it did!  I was so proud of her for using the word "evidence" in our conversation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Premonitions of the Teenage Years

Raina attended a birthday party last Friday and it was a totally traumatic experience for her.  The reason?  The first seven people at the party were in super hero costumes and Raina was not.  Even though she knew this would be the situation going into the party, the reality of being so visibly different from the other kids just undid her.  She immediately clutched a parent, refused to interact with the other kids, physically removed herself to the outskirts of the party, and cried.  In the end, there were plenty of kids who were costume-less at the party, and later on one of the kids volunteered her costume so Raina could wear it ... nothing helped.  Raina stayed on the edges of the party space and literally moved even farther away when the "costumed" kids approached.

We really didn't know what to do in this situation.  We tried rationalizing with her, bargaining with her, bribing her ... nothing worked.  She just shut down because she looked different than the others.  She said that since she didn't have a costume, she didn't belong at a superhero party.  This line from my daughter's mouth terrified me:  "I don't belong."

It was crushing and emotionally draining for all of us, and really pushed to the forefront all sorts of things for me.  As a kid, I never minded being different and I was never bothered by other kids because of it (or if they tried to bother me I never noticed it).  Raina clearly is cut from another cloth so we have to make a decision.  In our house, we celebrate differences because they are interesting and make everyone special.  Do we keep pushing the statement that "difference is good" while making her identical to everyone else (therefore she won't feel different as often) or do we endure possibly dozens more experiences like this one until Raina realizes that everyone is different and that's just how life is?

Because, admittedly, the Whompton household has a few attributes that make us different than the kids she'll be schooling with at MICDS.  While our income is comfortably upper middle class, we're also financial aid recipients.  We cannot compete with many of the monied families at school, which will matter to her very soon when she clues in to more aspects of clothes than their colors and that all her friends have the latest gadget when she doesn't have any.  We're also environmentally conscious (which means 90% of her clothing is second-hand among other things), we're not avid consumers of anything except local food and books which makes us quite frugal, we're raising our children in a secular humanist way, and we have an in-house auntie.  Our family is different -- in ways that may or may not matter to Raina or her classmates -- and I wonder if our internal loving community will be enough support for her as she navigates these tough roads ahead.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thank You, Sleep Gods!

Back in July, we Whomptons made a journey to Nashville, TN, and our sleep schedules have been a wreck since then.  Add in other fun elements (Lola climbs out of the crib!  Lola climbs over the baby gate!  Lola has hysterical night terrors!  Lola refuses to sleep past 4 a.m.!) and the result is a grumpy, sleep deprived set of parents.  We survived a week of Lola and the crib mattress on the floor, but it was an unmitigated disaster because she didn't understand that the new physical set-up meant the same rules apply:  baby in bed, stay in bed, go to sleep!

I did a fair amount of online research and turned to two tried-and-true books:  The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers and Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child.  The second book, while better known, provided far fewer useful tips in regard to getting our kid to sleep.  The author advocated 1) earlier bed time and 2) crying it out for as long as needed.  That's not our style -- an earlier bedtime would mean no dinner, and we've tried crying it out without limit and Lola pushed well past 2 hours.  So those strategies were a no-go for us.  The No Cry Sleep Solution reminded us of the importance of routine, previewing the next few actions, light and other stimulation, and sleep.  Neither book had strategies for the 4 a.m. early wake-up call, except to say that maybe that was the best time for Lola due to circadian rhythms and we should put her to bed even earlier!  Yeah right.

So the Whomptons took drastic measures.  We purchased a crib tent.  Amazon was our marketplace and we happily paid the $50 for it.  It arrived nine days ago, and we immediately reconstructed the crib and installed the crib tent.  Lola enthusiastically returned to her crib and went right to sleep that night.  Bless her.

We also contacted the St. Luke's Sleep Clinic and made an appointment with the pediatric sleep guru, Nancy Birkenmeier.  We kept a sleep log for over a week and then met with Nancy for 2.5 hours as she made an action plan to eliminate Lola's nighttime wakings and to cease her early morning wakings as well.  The disclaimer is hilarious:  "DO NOT attempt to carry out this program without the planning and committment necessary.  This is a difficult program and when instructions are not followed it can fail miserably."  Awesome.

But Nancy Birkenmeier really is the sleep guru.  She had a thoughtful response to every question and an action for every possible thing Lola might do.  Krystal was appointed "bad news parent" and Eric was appointed "yay, it's time to get up!" parent and we've fulfilled our duties admirably.  Krystal's job came with more responsibilities -- the time of night (either before or after 3:40 a.m.) dictates different responsibilities and those are, admittedly, hard to remember when I'm waking up at 3:40 in the morning but we're doing okay.  

I'm here to claim partial success, even though that may tempt the fates.  Lola no longer needs parental help to go back to sleep in the middle of the night AND she has only gotten up at 4 a.m. once in the past week!  I cannot explain why Eric and I are still SO TIRED all the time, unless it's to account for the months of no-sleep we've experienced.

Lola is supposed to get somewhere between 12.75 and 14 hours of sleep each day.  She was averaging 10.5-11 hours before this week, which certainly explains some biting behavior, but that was the only sign of insufficient sleep that she exhibited.  Raina, on the other hand, demonstrates six of the seven "insufficient sleep" characteristics on a daily basis, so we've now started putting her to bed earlier as well.

The afternoon routine works like this:  come home, dinner on table at 4:45 p.m., bath for Lola, bath for Raina, bedtime for both at 6:30, and then lots of quiet productivity for the adults.  We're not really certain what to do with the free time we've returned to ourselves, but I'm sure we'll manage to think something up.  Maybe we'll sleep!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lola's Expanding Vocabulary

The Whomptons and Strictly Pediatrics steadily have worked with Lola in 1) increasing her vocabulary and 2) making her use her words to communicate meaning.  Today we were asked to guess how many words she knew.  We guessed 50-100 and I mentally started listing them while rocking Lola to sleep tonight.  Here's her speaking vocabulary thus far:
mama, daddy, Raina, baby, dog, cat, kitty, my, moo, cluck, cock-a-doo, hoot, owl, neigh, pony, duck, bird, fish, frog, shark, bear, bunny, turn, chair, dino, cracker, cook (cookie), gum (gummi), milk, water, cup, uh-oh, cheese, apple, banana, car, bus, choo-choo, choo (also what she calls a plane, although she points to the sky for this one), chalk, bubble, boat, bike, walk, run, jump, rock (she understands and uses both the verb and noun meanings), ball, girl, book, help, up, down, open, close, crayon, shirt, sock, shoe, jacket (it doesn't sound like jacket, but it is what she means), diaper, pee, poop, wet, keys, I, bite, one, two, blue, yellow, block, "Good call Bob" (she actually says this phrase, which is hysterical), tickle, belly, mine, head, eyes, ear, nose, tongue, foot, feet, toe, where, go, boo!, zoo, dust, Elmo, and dunno (which she says when she doesn't know).

We're still waiting on the word Samantha or some adaptation of it. 
Daycare was right.  The more words she has in her arsenal, the less likely she is to use her teeth as her communication mechanism.  Her biting is down significantly, hooray!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Long Line of Expletives ...

Lola is head-strong, in addition to being body strong, so when she declares NO! she means it. And that declaration has emerged at bedtime. Twice in the past four days, Lola has refused to let her parent go when we went through the bedtime routine. No amount of consoling worked and both times resulted in Lola's climbing / falling out of her bed. Insert loud and forceful expletives here. Tonight's incident was much worse than the previous one. Not only did she get out of her crib, but she came into the living room twice. We audibled to setting up a cot in her room and she happily laid down on it, but if we left the room then so did she. Eventually we just shut the door on her. She opened it and came out, we caught her and returned her to her cot, calmed her down and walked away, only to repeat the same process two more times. The final action was to have Eric barricade the door while Krystal sat next to the cot and tried to convince Lola to lie down on it. Then I sat next to her for 10 minutes until she was goodly asleep.

Lola's night terrors make this situation even worse. Lola screams out -- terrified, horrible screams, sometimes also shouting "NO! NO!" -- each night. She calms down immediately if a parent comes in and tells her everything's okay and to go back to sleep; she promptly lies down, is covered up, and that's that. Those parent-child interactions last about 10 seconds, but each one leaves me jarred and anxious. Last night saw five separate incidents, plus a very early morning wake-up call from Lola as well.

We put in an order for toddler sleep books from Amazon; here's hoping that at least one useful idea comes from them. Poor Lola, and poor Lola's parents.

Our Little Athlete

Of our two children, Lola is by far the more active one and she grabs (or makes) any chance to run, climb, jump, etc. Her favorite work is GO and she embodies the word. At this point, she can do all the climbing structures at three separate playgrounds (excluding the climbing walls, because we yank her from those each time she tries). She sees Raina climb something and then says "my turn!" and goes right at it. Right now she is practicing her jumps and forward rolls in addition to climbing up and down the stairs like a big girl and without assistance. She delights in throwing and kicking balls and running all over the place. Eventually we'll enroll her in some sort of baby athletics but right now it's tremendously fun to watch her make her own activity at every turn.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Raina's Stories

One day I was downstairs playing with my dollhouse. I had a new place for it. I liked it there until Lola went in. And then I said "No, Lola!"

One time I was at school and I asked Ms. Neary if she wanted to know how to make eggplant parmesan. And she said she did not know how to make it. I told her that I would ask my mommy if she can write it down on a piece of paper.

One time I was in P.E. and I roller skated. I roller skated off of the carpet on to the wood and my teachers roller skated too. It was new so I was a little scared but it was okay. If I fell down, I could get back up again! I fell down a lot. It was lots of fun.

One time I was playing hide-and-go-seek with Mommy and Lola. I found a hiding spot under the couch, and a place in the closet that Mommy had, and in the bathtub, and in the pantry. Well, Mommy and Lola thought I was downstairs but I was in the pantry! And they looked for me for a long time, and then they found me. I went under Daddy's pillow, pretended I was a turtle. Daddy doesn't like to have his head on a pillow, so he doesn't really use it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Raina is becoming a full-fledged reader!

Raina is an avid lover of books, and she has migrated into the world of studying books on her own. Matching up with that, I wondered how she might do with the BOB Books, which is a collection of incremental beginner readers. In March, Raina and I breezed through a few books, worked through a few more, and then struggled to finish the first set. Each book required a significant amount of mental energy and focus, and by the end of the first 12 books, she needed a serious break.

We picked up the 2nd set this summer and read maybe 5 of the books. Through the five, she needed a lot of assistance, and I worried about her 1) feeling unsuccessful and 2) giving up. So we took another break until this past week.

We pulled the 2nd set of books out on Thursday and she read four straight without a mistake! Each time she arrived at a word she didn't immediately recognize, she sounded it out and pieced it together without my prompting her to do so. The triumph on her face at the conclusion of each book was priceless. We read all 12 books this weekend, and sent off for the last three sets from Amazon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the transition into set 3 goes smoothly.

What's fascinating to watch is the concentration she shows when reading. She requires the ideal learning environment to perform: quiet, well lit space, no distractions (no talking, no Lola), and one-on-one attention. Without that set-up, she struggles and makes mistakes, but as soon as we return to quiet (and Lola is abducted by Eric) Raina zooms through the words without pause.

A few times this weekend Raina volunteered to read books to Lola. What wondrous moments those were!

Lola Bites, Round Four

Lola bites. This is nothing new, and I think we've been dealing with Lola's biting for well over 6 months at this point. Daycare and we had taken certain measures to extinguish the behaviour, and we thought success was ours when she went three whole weeks without biting someone. It was glorious and, unfortunately, short-lived because then she started biting again.

Then we received the much dreaded phone call from the daycare director: "Please come in for a meeting so we can discuss your child's biting." Eric and I were certain that the meeting was the prerequisite conversation before kicking out our child, and we were very nervous. Instead, the director wanted us to know all the new things they were going to try to extinguish the behavior. Daycare is adamant that once her ability to communicate improves, then she'll stop biting altogether.

So, to prevent Lola's biting nature,
- she is always in a group of no more than 3 other children
- she is grouped with kids who she tends not to bite
- she receives behavioral therapy each day
- and she has one-on-one work to increase her speaking vocabulary.

And on the home front
- we are forcing her to sleep more hours each day
- we are drugging her with an allergy nasal spray
- we are working continuously on her speaking vocabulary
- and we drop her off later and pick her up earlier from school.

The days on the new system have been wonderful for Lola, and the daycare workers have reported that she seems like a totally different kid. Yesterday, someone was blocking her favorite toy. Her traditional response has been to get frustrated and then bite, but instead she said "Move please." And today someone tried to take her book, and she said "NO! My book!" and then she moved away from the situation.

She is thrilled that her words can be understood by others and that actions occur as a result. Earlier this week, she walked to the fridge and said "Milk, milk, milk!" When I opened up the fridge and gave her the cup, she literally did a happy dance of joy. She wandered off with her milk glass, and then a few minutes later we heard her crying. She had lain down on her diaper changing station because she was ready to go to bed, she needed someone to change her diaper and put her in the crib, and she upset we hadn't followed through on the "milk" command with a "put me to sleep" action. Lola has never put herself to bed before, and maybe now that she has the words, she'll tell us she wants to go to sleep earlier.

We are incredibly proud of her for 1) not biting, 2) for using her words, and 3) problem solving.

What Raina Knows ...

The information that Raina randomly inserts into conversations often surprises me. Today's two examples:

Before school, she draws this incredibly elaborate full-white-board sized picture, which seems like a mountain landscape scene. Here's a transcript of the morning's converation.

KSW: Wow, what a lovely picture! What did you draw?
Raina: It's Mount Fuji. Did you know that Mount Fuji is a mountain AND a volcano? It's in Japan!
KSW: That's great, Raina! Are you studying about this in school?
Raina: Nope, I just knew it.
KSW: Oh.

Later this evening, Raina appears before me, contorts her body into a very distinctive yoga position, promptly wobbles, and proclaims "This is Tree Pose!" It certainly was and she was so proud to show me. But that's not what they're doing in PE, so who knows from where she picked up that piece of information! (The adult image was marred slightly when I noticed this huge amount of toothpaste on her upper arm. When I asked her, she said, "Oh, yeah. I spilled." And even though my brain replied "You 'spilled' a significant amount of toothpaste on your bicep?! How in the world?" my mouth replied "Oh, okay. Clean it up kiddo.")

Raina is always good for a surprise.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Owensboro Bound

The Whompton clan traveled to Owensboro and had a whirlwind day.  Raina summed the day up nicely:  "We got in the car and then out of the car, in the car and out of the car."  We drove in from Nashville, went to my parents' house, then on to Grandma Lillie's farm, then back to my parents', then onto Grandpa Don's house, then to a playground, then to Moon-Lite BBQ with Debra, and then back to Nashville.  It was a long and fun day. 
A collection of photos from the farm

I admit it, I love this photo.  "A multi-generational picture with my great-grandmother?!  Who cares?  I'm so sick of pictures!" says Lola.

These shots are from my Legion Park, one of my favorite places in Owensboro. 

.... And then we were home in Saint Louis.  We had depleted all food stores in the house before we traveled to Nashville, so our first action upon returning to STL was to get back in the car and go to Schnucks.  For the first time, Lola chose to ride in the car part of the cart with Raina.  Raina taught her how to use the steering wheel and honk the horn.  The giggling coming from the car was intense.

Schnucks allows each child a free cookie.  We started allowing Raina her cookie last year and she always volunteers to go to the grocery store as a result.  Lola never had a free cookie before, but since she was a "big girl in the big car cart" she expressed indignation that she was passed over for the cookie.  We caved and Lola had her first Schnucks cookie.  On our trips since, both Raina and Lola race to the car carts and ride in the front together.