Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Minivan

I can't believe it, but I LOVE our minivan. It is a life changer. I had no idea.

The week we moved back to the US we did some test driving and lots of research, and we decided on the Nissan Rogue. We wanted a small SUV that would fit two car seats comfortably (and possibly a third child down the road), space for strollers and groceries, all wheel drive and good gas milage. We LOVED that Rogue. For about a month. Then we found out we would need to fit THREE car seats in our car soon. Shit. Back to the drawing board.

We did a lot of research. I really did not want a minivan. I didn't feel like a minivan mom. Am I old enough? It just felt so suburban and so MOM-my, and I didn't feel it yet. I was sure it wasn't my thing. There are a few big SUVs that fit three car seats, two rear-facing, but none that would not make me twist and turn to buckle everyone in, and I couldn't imagine Samara climbing under seats to reach her own while managing boots, a winter jacket and her school bag. There are also huge SUVs that have back rows, so someone can enter through the trunk (and a few SUVs with "captains chairs" so people can climb in through the doors and go to the back row), and you can put the other two car seats in the second row...but again, it was a lot of twisting and turning (I was pregnant while shopping and not super mobile, so this seemed pretty challenging), and Samara would be only four and a half for a half year after the baby would come, not buckling herself, in a 5-pt harness for many months (years...) to come. Fitting a double stroller, a single stroller, groceries...it all just seemed like it was going to be a LOT of work, and my life already pushes me to my physical limits everyday.

Many people on my mommy's facebook groups suggested the minivan. Many friends suggested the minivan. Matt LOVED the minivan (we rented one last fall). I just didn't feel it. Then it was March. Baby was coming, and I didn't have a better solution. I gave up and realized we were going to get a minivan, and we just had to decide which one. Minivan research pushes one towards the Sienna and the Odyssey. We test drove each one. The Odyssey drove a bit nicer and smoother to us, but the Sienna had all wheel drive. We decided that there would probably be a few days a year I would wish I had all wheel drive (though we still can fit everyone in the Rogue, just not comfortably...), but we went for the Odyssey. And I really wanted to be able to open and close the doors from afar and the driver's seat, so we splurged for the key-less entry, sun-roof, push-a-button-for -anything-you-want model. Within a day, I absolutely loved it. I didn't know if I could live without it in Michigan in July (we did). It's amazing.

We took out the seat behind the driver's seat, so we have the big seat and the middle seat in the middle row, and we have the whole back row. Koby sits behind the passenger seat, Elie in the middle in the second row, and Sam behind the driver in the third row. This way I can get Koby's infant seat in and out easily, I can lean in (or get in) behind the driver to buckle Elie and Samara. Samara can see both babies. Unfortunately I can only pass things to Elie. In the back we have a double city mini, a single city mini and a snap n'go. The seats next to Samara go up and down easily, so if we need more room for groceries or something we can put them down. I have extra clothes for each kid (and me) plus extra diapers for everyone and blankets in the very back compartments (they don't even take up space in those things!).

The minivan is completely designed for my family (ok - all families). The windows in the back are low so the kids can see out. Even Elie, who is rear-facing and seems to be looking at the back of a seat can see all construction vehicles we pass ("whoa, mommy"). The venting systems are amazing, so there is air con throughout the car. There is a crazy little mirror in the sunglasses holder thing that enables me to see every seat in the car - so if Sam wants me to see something, I can see it. There is latch in EVERY seat other than the middle in the back (I believe). There are so many spots for my diaper bag or purse that I can barely decide a consistent place to keep it. There is a spot for my water bottle, my ice coffee, my hot coffee and each kid's water bottle - with like seven cup holders to spare. I can open the car doors before I have even left the house, so the kids can start to climb in while I'm struggling with the door lock, and we waste little time (how does getting in the car take SO long?!).

I get my stubbornness - but it was wrong. It was the best decision. Life changing. It only makes EVERYTHING easier, like multiple times per day. Thank the lordy for the minivan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Photos from our visit with cousins on Cape Cod

Clearly our kids need cousins who pay more attention to them. :)

We had a GREAT day with cousins last weekend. And they took amazing photos too!












Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Baby Sleep, n=3

When you get pregnant, everyone says "Congratulations!" and lots of lovely things about how cute babies are and how amazing the experience will be. No one tells you that your life will all be about sleeping and eating until about age 1.5 or even more.

Eating we are still working on - but trying to not super stress about it. I wrote about that two years ago here. My sample size for eating is still n=2, since Koby can't eat yet, and Elie is at an annoying age no matter what...

But sleeping...this I have new ideas about. Samara was the easiest sleeper. She just fell asleep. When she was tired, we put her down, she closed her eyes, she slept for a few hours, and then she woke up. She was happy. She liked sleeping. It was not a problem for any of us. I was sure we did it right. We read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child, and we did it. Done. My friends who had babies who didn't sleep clearly did it wrong.

Then I learned. Elie was a different story. I wrote about it here, but it was AWFUL. He really didn't sleep until he was 13 months. I bounced him to sleep. There were days that I spent more than FOUR hours trying to get him to sleep, and he would constantly wake up after about 15 minutes. Any noise and he was up. I hated life. He hated life. It sucked. Luckily it passed, but at the time I didn't know it would. I learned that different kids are different (magic, right?). It had SOMETHING to do with what we did, but we could not get him to sleep no matter what we tried. He slept when he was ready.

Now that my sample size is 3, I am even more sure of that. To each his own. Koby was crying all the time for his first few weeks. Evenings were rough. Then I got a whole week alone with him at my parents' house, and I got to pay attention to him and what he needed. I learned he needed to be put to sleep after one yawn. He likes to be swaddled. He likes to be left alone in bed. He coos, he smiles, even a few laughs, and he falls asleep. He also needs to go to sleep for the night by 7. I am SOOOO thankful that I spend nearly NO part of my day getting him to sleep. When he is tired, I immediately swaddle him up and throw him in bed. Done. He has been sleeping for full afternoons when allowed (this afternoon I will have to swipe him from his coziness to go get Samara from Chinese camp...). He sleeps for about 6 or 7 hours at night, then 3 and then 3 again.

So...my advice to people who have babies who are looking for sleep advice -

1) READ Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Baby. I still think it's amazing. I also found the Happiest Baby on the Block to be helpful with Elie, since he was actually not the happiest baby on the block. Not necessary for the other two, but Koby does like a pacifier sometimes, and they all loved to be swaddled, and they all liked to bounce on a ball when they were newborns. Those 5 "S"s are good to know.

2) Try to do as little as possible - don't pick up the baby unless he really needs to be picked up. Try to rock. Try a heavy hand on his chest. Try "ssshhhh"ing. Don't run to the baby when you hear a sound. Some whining or grunting doesn't necessarily mean that the baby needs anything. Wait until the baby is crying to do something. If the baby makes a little noise in the middle of the night and you rush in to pick up the baby you could totally wake them up. Also don't engage them in the middle of the night or when they're going to sleep (i.e. don't talk to them, tickle them, coo at them...just do what they need quietly and put them to sleep).

3) Catch the baby before he is tired. One yawn, one kvetch, wrap up that baby (if they like to be swaddled - all of mine did/do) and put him in a quiet space. Koby can be awake for an hour, and that's all. That's not a long time. I have to watch the clock.

I'm still struggling with white noise / sound blocking stuff. For Sam we didn't put anything in her room, but she also lived with only adults (and a cat). We were mostly quiet when she was sleeping. We had dinner parties, but she was usually in deep sleep by then. For Elie we used white noise because he woke up if someone flushed a toilet, or if the cat meowed. He is probably able to fall asleep without it, but we still use it. For Koby we have been using a fan because it's the summer, but his room is also right at the top of the stairs in a all-wood-floors house and two older siblings who are under 5...realistically he might need something, but I think we will probably try to not do it consistently.

So that's where we're at. Some kids sleep. Some sleep a lot. Some don't. Do what you need to get by, because it will pass (thank god!).
We put together Koby's room this weekend. IKEA and Craig's List :)

And there is the sleeping burrito himself.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Boring Update - with a bit of a thankful tone

I am so thankful to have my healthy body back. Each time I have been pregnant and had a c-section, I have been very aware of what it must be like for people with disabilities. I am an extremely healthy person - strong, active, I eat healthy, and I am pushed to the physical limits when I take care of my kids for a day. This afternoon I was carrying Koby in his car seat (MAN, those are heavy!), Elie in my other arm (he was tired and didn't want to walk to go pick up Samara, where there is a ramp to the entrance, but the door is almost never open, forcing me to leave at least one child out of sight in a parking lot for about a minute if I want to bring a stroller), plus two bags. It was HARD. I was tired. But I am still so thankful to be able to do it now. Who cares that I go to bed at 8:30 each night!

Separately...we have been doing great. We had a fantastic 3.5 weeks in Michigan. One week we were at Michigania with my family, which was magical. I didn't have to cook, clean up from meals, I barely had to take care of my kids - MAGICAL! Samara absolutely loved Kids Camp. Elie did not so much love the 0-2 nursery (they had a lot of babies - it was kinda like cry-control that week...I don't blame him), but he went. Matt and I hiked, played tennis, we went to the beach a lot (Elie loved that!), hung out a lot, took a few sailing lessons and generally enjoyed being there. My parents and brother were so incredibly helpful and they had fun with the kids. Elie was a bit confused and thought that we were all staying at Uncle Mark's house (that's what he called the cabin)...but spending the week with Mark and Paula and the cousins was also so much fun. We also had one of my favorite friends from camp and school/Ann Arbor, Daniel and his wife, Annie and their two little guys with us. What a treat.

I also had a whole week just with Koby, and that was so helpful. He had cried a lot before then. When I was with him I realized it was because he only wanted to be awake for an hour at a time. If you catch him before that hour is up (usually there is a yawn or perhaps a little kvetch) and swaddle him up and put him on a flat surface, he will smile at you, coo a little bit and pretty immediately fall asleep. That helped IMMENSELY in taking care of him. Plus I had a vacation from the other kids - it was luxurious to only be with the baby. I didn't have to get out of bed and ready for the day at 6:45. I didn't have to worry about meals. I didn't do baths. No bedtimes. I kinda missed them - and I saw them a whole lot - but I LOVED the time away. I read a lot. I went to sleep at 8 (rather than 8:30). I went for quiet walks. Luxury.

Since we have come back, the kids are doing great. Sam has been in dance camp for the last two weeks - one pirate themed week and one beach theme. Elie has gone to his first camp/school experience (other than Michigania, which again didn't go well), and he absolutely loves it. He barely says goodbye to me. We can't really figure out what he does, but he wants to go everyday (he's going three mornings a week) and talks about it all day. He is going to LOVE Temple Shalom when he starts in the fall. Sam starts Mandarin immersion camp next week for three weeks, and Elie will continue his camp for the next few weeks.

We live about a five minute walk from Crystal Lake, where we can go swim every day. It's been super hot, so we have gone there just to cool off. It's very hard for me to take all of the kids (it would be fine if it weren't for that pesky baby - I have left him sleeping in a stroller, but that may be illegal...), but it's been fun for the kids to play around in the water and sand.

We felt like super champs last weekend as we went on our first day trip. We got up and out of the house by 7:30 to get to Wingaersheek Beach, in Gloucester, near Maine. There was already a queue of cars at 8:30! But it was great! It was sooooo busy and crowded...but there were loads of fantastic kids for our kids to watch, there were wading pools (so we don't have to super watch them as we would in the ocean), there were huge rocks to climb on, plus it's all perfect sand, and the water has super slow entry, so the kids could go far-ish and it was still shallow. They absolutely loved the waves. We left around noon and had lunch in Essex, which was a beautiful little town. Then we headed up to Newburyport, where there was a big festival (Yankee Homecoming - how New England is that?), so there was lots of live music, sidewalk sales, ice cream trucks, etc. Plus it's super cute buildings with a huge marina and loads of boats to watch. We loved that too.

Overall, we're doing great. Not doing much. No real social life. But we're good.

first bottle

first kayak (kaki as pronounced by Elie)

Sam on Pumba

Elie on Astro

Walloon. Elie driving.







the diag

Nursing #3 on the diag. Couldn't have pictured that 15 (!!!) years ago.

Sam and our new cousin-dog, Alpha