(no subject)

Life is going well, but I'm feeling tired and burnt out. I think the latter boils down to not getting nearly enough sleep (this having a baby AND a toddler thing is hard), and selfishly wanting a break from caring for my family. That said, I know that if I start writing about the negative stuff, I'm just going to feel sad. So here's a bit about all the GOOD stuff that's going on...Collapse )
There's cinnamon bread in the oven for tomorrow morning, which will be here all too soon. Good night!

Kid updates

Rigel has been growing like crazy. He's up over 16 lbs and in the 99th percentile for length - seems to be taking after my side of the family. :-) The minute he got to be 4 months old, he realized that THERE ARE THINGS TO LOOK AT and he's been too busy looking at them to bother nursing unless he's in a dark, quiet room. When we had our CT meeting last week, he just wanted to sit in my lap and look at Michelle (our CT) for the whole hour. He finally nodded off sitting up in my lap. I haven't actually seen him roll over, but the circumstantial evidence suggests that he rolls from front to back. He laughs and seems to be a pretty happy, laid-back guy.

Wendell is going be 2 soon! His vocabulary is growing by the day. Right now, his favorite word is "bun" or occasionally "bay bun," meaning his belly button. For most of the past year, his comfort thing has been to suck on one thumb and hold his belly button with the other hand. When he's not tired, he has become our class clown - he loves making people laugh. I'm not sure he really knows what coffee is, but he knows he gets big smiles when he comes up to me and crows, "Coffeeee!", even if it's before I've had my first cup. He makes Rigel smile by kissing his belly button. He now has most of his 2-year molars - the last one is just starting to poke through. Maybe once that's over with, he'll go back to sleeping better.

When Neil grows up, he wants to be "a scientist who studies everything." He's still quite interested in dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and he makes his hands into little pterosaurs by bending down the pointer and ring fingers and sticking the other fingers out to be the wings and neck. The pterosaur hands sometimes talk for Neil - "Pterosaur says, 'I want a cookie!'" He makes up nature trivia about animals that exist only in his head, like "snapper spiders". He told me all about how there were 10 different species of snapper spiders, each a different size, and some are venomous, but others aren't.

Zinnia has renounced most girly things and decided that she wants to be a boy. When I asked her about this, her reason was so that she could grow up to be a man and not have to take care of anything. Ouch! She's been drawing a lot - filling up multiple sketchbooks - and every picture has a story. I've been trying to write some of them down, but I know I'm missing out on many.

More to come, but for now I'm getting too sleepy to write much more...

A typical week

~14 loads of laundry
~20 loads of dishes
>100 diaper changes
28 meals
96 nails clipped (this includes the cats' claws - they each have only 4 on their hind paws)


Baby and other news

Rigel Almon Wiley Sittler was born almost 3 weeks ago (and I'm just now getting around to writing about it here). Like his big brother Wendell, he was born a couple of days after his due date, labor was quick after an earlier false alarm, and he came out healthy and weighing 8 lbs, 15 oz.

Unlike with any of my previous birth experiences, I felt scared and unready this time, and I had a panic attack when I went into labor the first time (the false alarm on Tuesday 9/10). I was mostly dreading the pain but also partly feeling unready to have another baby. I finally ended up deciding that I wanted to get the epidural this time around because I didn't feel like I could really handle labor on my own.

After a few more days with no real signs of labor, I started having some bloody show on Friday, but I had hardly any contractions until the evening. After getting the kids to bed, I was feeling pretty tired and took a shower, hoping it would slow things down so I could get some rest. Once I got out of the shower and lay down, I started having frequent contractions again, so we went into the hospital.

I got to the hospital dilated to 3-4 cm and having contractions every 4-5 minutes. The triage nurse spoke to my doctor on the phone and then told me to go walk around the halls for an hour. Afterwards, I was still about the same, but I got sent to a labor and delivery room anyhow. IV fluids, lots of questions, and then finally the question about what my pain level was on a scale of 1-10. Oh, and did I want medication? Yes! So the nurse gave me some Fentanyl and it did take the edge off. I felt a bit dizzy, but it was much easier to relax. After about 20 minutes, it no longer felt like it was doing much - the contractions were getting really intense, and I mentioned that I thought I was going to have this baby really soon.

My doctor hadn't gotten to the hospital yet, so the nurse was trying to find someone to deliver the baby. She called in another nurse, and then a doctor came in a few minutes later. And everything suddenly went from being, "Don't push yet! Just breathe. Try not to push." to "Push, push, push! Don't breathe, push! Harder! That baby needs to come out! Give another good push, right now!" Grrrr!!! At the time, I was terrified that there was something wrong with the baby, and after he was out, I kept asking if he was okay and what happened and was he all right and what was going on. In hindsight, what was going on was that 17 babies were born that night and the doctor was probably just in a hurry. But still, being in horrible pain and hearing that you're not doing it right, so something terrible is going to happen to your baby and it's all your fault is AWFUL.

Rigel's face was bruised and both of his eyes had broken blood vessels because he came out so fast.

Ben stayed the night with us in the hospital and then went home to be with the kids (and his mom) the next day. They all came in to visit, which was very nice. Wendell had suddenly gotten HUGE! He has actually taken very well to having a new brother. What surprised me though was how sad and clingy he got this week, when Iris, Zinnia, and Neil were gone for a few days. I couldn't believe how happy he was to see them again. I think I had been feeling bad that he didn't get nearly as much one-on-one time with me as Iris had when she was a toddler without realizing how much he benefited from having older siblings.

I spent 1 day in the hospital plus 2.5 more days at home in bed. After that, I was going to go crazy if I spent any more time resting, so I've been up doing the usual since then.

The contractors finally finished up at our house earlier this week. Hooray for having a second bathroom! Yay for grounded 3-prong outlets in our living room! Three cheers for a working microwave/hood above our stove! Huzzah for a back door that actually closes! I got one more wall of the living room painted, and we got our electronics all hooked up and mounted on the wall. I also painted the ceiling, walls, and floor of the basement room. Once the floor paint finishes drying, we're moving Iris down there into her own room. The plan is that in about a year, Zinnia will join her downstairs and Rigel will move into the kids' bedroom with Neil and Wendell.

(no subject)

Neil was telling us his life plans the other day.
N: "When I'm an adult I want to live with you."
Me: "Oh. Maybe when you're an adult you'll find someone you'd like to live with even more."
N: "No, I just want to live with you sometimes."
Me: "You mean you'd like to visit? I'd like that very much!"
N: "But first I'm going to go to a studying place in South England, and then I'm going to be a paleontologist and find fossils of Edmontosaurus."

In other news, Neil continues to be obsessed with pterosaurs and all sorts of dinosaurs, particularly Microraptor.

Our basement is all torn up, and all of the plumbing, gas lines, and electrical work has been done to move our laundry area into the garage and add a new bathroom. The bathroom is framed, and I think they're putting up the sheetrock tomorrow. I found out that we all have enough clothes for about a week without laundry, but everyone was starting to run out of a few things by the end of the week. Fortunately, there's a laundromat very close by and it's open late so I could go with a good book and not have to drag the kids along.

Wendell is walking more often than crawling now. He's talking a bit, although there aren't all that many words I recognize. The other day at lunch, I asked who wanted more grilled cheese sandwich because I'd made an extra, anticipating that someone would like seconds. Wendell shouted out "Meee!" and was delighted when this resulted in another piece of sandwich on his tray.

The kids just finished 3 consecutive weeks of swim lessons. Zinnia did really well and passed level 1. She seemed to be having so much fun in the water and gets her head fully underwater. She's comfortable doing a back float as well as a front float ("starfish"), which I remember being terrified of as a kid. And she's not at all afraid to jump into the water. It was pretty awesome watching her do something that came really easily to her and seeing her encourage Neil, who has only gradually tolerated putting his head underwater.

Homeschooling is continuing to go well with Iris. I was afraid to do it a few years ago because it seemed like she'd get so frustrated when I'd try to work with her. There's still some of the frustration from time to time, but it feels like it's lessening as she's starting to see that I'm going to make her push through it before we have free time in the afternoon, and that I'm really not trying to get her to do stuff that's way too difficult. We're both enjoying the science labs and lots of good books. I've been learning lots of new things as I've looked through different curricula and decided on approaches to take this year. For example, I don't think I ever learned many of the rules of spelling as a kid - it was mostly just memorizing word lists. It surprised me to learn that c is soft before i, e, and y and hard before other letters. (Not that I had it wrong - I just had never noticed that pattern.)

It's also nice that we're generally done with the main school stuff by lunchtime (1:30 or so because we generally eat 2 breakfasts and then have a late lunch) and have the afternoons free for art and going to parks.

It's a little strange using the charter school because they (specifically the teacher we meet with once per month) have to show that what we're doing conforms to state standards. For math and language, that's pretty straightforward. But for science and social studies, there are lists of topics to cover. For example, second grade science is supposed to cover animals, gravity and magnets, health, investigation, motion, plants, earth materials, and sound. I chose to use a curriculum that takes the approach of covering elementary life science one year, geology and astronomy the next, chemistry after that, and then physics. (The same publisher also provides middle-school level texts for these subjects as well.) The idea is that with multiple children of different ages, you can do science as a group and have all of them study the same subject at different levels as needed. We're taking a similar approach with social studies - going through different time periods (ancients, medieval, early modern, and recent) one year at a time. It sounds like the same topics are covered over a 4-year period using either approach, so I hope there isn't any trouble.

I'm curious how I'll feel about homeschooling in a year or two. Right now, I'm pretty excited about it, but it's easy to imagine feeling burned out after a while. Weirdly, I'm feeling burned out on gardening at the moment, and I decided not to plant a fall garden this year for the first time since I've had a backyard (6 years). I figure with a baby due real soon now, I probably wouldn't get all that much done anyhow, and it's a good time to take a break. Hopefully, I'll be all excited about it again in the spring. (Iris will be studying plants then, so that should work well. I said that if she wanted to and is willing to take care of it, she could have one of our garden beds to plant with whatever she likes. She's looking forward to it, and I'm curious what she will choose.)

(no subject)

We're having a patch of blah, grey weather here (highs in the low 60s, cloudy until about 1 pm and then again after 4 or 5pm), and I'm having a hard time coping with the lack of sunshine during "summer". So I've been a bit down lately and having a hard time getting going in the mornings.

Lots of big changes coming up soon:

1. We have a contractor, and he's getting permits to remodel our basement. We'll be gaining a bathroom, moving the laundry into the garage, and making a few changes to the remaining portion of the basement to make it a decent bedroom. In preparation for work starting, I have been getting rid of a bunch of our stuff via Craigslist, and there's now quite a bit of space freed up.

2. There's going to be a new baby in approximately 6 weeks. He's head down now - yay! I've never had this close spacing between children before, and Wendell is still more of a baby than a toddler, so I'm feeling a bit nervous about having a big baby and a little baby at the same time. We moved Wendell into the kids' room, and he's been sleeping through the night more often than not lately.

3. We decided, for a variety of reasons, to take Neil and Zinnia out of preschool for next year and to homeschool Iris through a charter school program. Iris has made really great progress doing just 1-2 hours per day of reading, writing, and math at home this summer (plus I spend another hour or so reading aloud). I'm going to have to figure out what's required as far as science and social studies and how to incorporate those into our day, but I'm feeling good about what we've been doing so far. Zinnia has been especially interested in keeping a journal this summer (just a daily drawing and then telling me a little bit to write down about her picture). Her drawings have gotten much more detailed and recognizable over the course of the summer, and she's just started wanting to write her name on everything this past week. Neil has next to no interest in drawing, and he's been busy building pterosaurs, microraptors, and sauropod dinosaurs out of Legos. Neil and Zinnia both are doing well with recognizing numbers and letters, making sounds for the different letters, and counting objects. Zinnia was asking me if she could read me a book, so I decided they might be ready to try the Bob books and pulled out the first couple of those. Neil completely blew me away by sounding out the words and even reading a whole sentence, "Sam sat on Mat". I'm not sure why, but putting the letter sounds together into words seems easy for Neil and difficult for Zinnia (difficult for Iris too, but in a different way - Iris says the sounds but often won't put them in the right order or will add or skip a sound, especially if it's not a c-v-c word. Zinnia just hasn't made the connection that Ssss-aaa-Mmm can be put together to make "Sam" - she'll often just guess a word that begins with the same first sound.)

Two Iris stories

1. At 31 weeks, the upcoming baby is breech. I was explaining to Iris where the baby's head is and how I hope he gets turned around soon. She asked, "Would the baby be okay if he came out here (pointing just below my left ribcage)?"

2. We went to see a reptile show at the library earlier this week. The presenter brought out a California king snake and asked if anyone would like to hold a snake. Iris volunteered and was picked (probably because she seemed to be one of the older, calmer kids there). She did a great job following directions and holding the snake with both hands. The presenter then put the king snake away and brought out a large python. He had Iris hold the tail end while he held the head end, and they took the snake around for kids to pet. Afterwards, they came back up to the front of the room, and the presenter explained to Iris that really the best way to hold a large snake was around your neck and shoulders. Iris's eyes got real big, and she said, "No, thank you!". The guy started to drape the snake around her anyhow, and she ducked her head and stepped away, repeating loudly, "No, thank you!" The guy responded with, "Oh, he's not going to hurt you. It's okay.", but Iris just shook her head and said "No, thank you" one more time. The guy stopped pressing the issue and demonstrated with the snake around his own neck and shoulders.
As we were walking home, Iris asked me if I would've put the snake around my neck. I said that I would never put a big snake around my neck, but if I'd been standing up there in the front of the room, I would've been too scared to tell the guy "No, thank you" and I would've let him put the snake around me even though I wouldn't have liked that. I was really proud of her for being able to say No to something she was uncomfortable with and for doing so firmly and politely.

Summer so far...

is going very well, except that Wendell and I are a bit sick at the moment.

We've settled into a routine of cereal, morning chores / play outside time, 2nd breakfast, school time while Wendell naps, a late lunch, afternoon outing (errands about 2x per week, a couple of fun outings, and sometimes playtime at home), cleanup, movie / dinner prep time, baths, toothbrushing, and bedtime stories. It is very helpful to plan out either the night before or first thing in the morning what all of the meals will be, what special chore we'll be doing in the morning, what the school activities will be, and what we'll do in the afternoon. Iris is especially interested in hearing the plan for each day. I'm pretty amazed at how much more smoothly the days go when they're planned out and when I'm committed to having meals ready at particular times.

The garden is going pretty well - we're getting a big handfull of berries every day, plus plenty of cucumbers, zucchinis, eggplants, onions, and a few green beans. Oh, and the kale is still going strong. We got a couple of figs this week, plus the tree seems to be setting a nice second crop. One of the plum trees has a couple dozen unripe plums on it, one of the apple trees has about a dozen small apples, and one of the grape vines has a few clusters of green grapes, so hopefully there will be more fruit for us soon.

The kids are signed up for the summer reading program at both of the libraries in walking distance of our house. The prizes include passes to go swimming at the Plunge and passes for two different science museums. We're looking forward to a few exciting days. :-)

I noticed a rough spot and a hole on one of my molars last weekend and thought I had lost a filling. When I went to the dentist, it turned out that I had actually lost a bit of tooth next to an old filling. Since I'm pregnant, the dentist just cleaned up the spot and put in a temporary filling. No painkillers were offered, but thankfully I had no pain. I need to go back and get the whole shebang (temporary filling + old filling) replaced with a new permanent filling sometime in the fall. I really try hard to take good care of my teeth and eat healthy food, although I know I have too much sugar. I wonder how much the tooth breakage was caused by just having crappy teeth, and how much all the pregnancies and nursing have been taking a toll on my body.

I finally bought a sewing machine (from IKEA of all places) a couple weeks ago and made a bunch of wipes out of some flannel blankets. We'd been given a bunch of flannel blankets that were just a little too small for swaddling babies, so we hadn't used them very much. Meanwhile, most of our flannel baby wipes had gotten pretty threadbare and were starting to develop holes, so it was nice to be able to turn something we hadn't gotten much use out of into something we will use a lot. I was also able to replace the elastic in half a dozen diapers that Wendell had been peeing out the legs of. They seemed to be in good shape other than the worn-out elastic, which is great, considering that they've been in use for almost 4 years now.

Ben and I have been spending way too much time on ancestry.com lately. About a month ago, a woman contacted me on 23andme because we were predicted to be 3rd cousins and she was curious how we were related. Because she mentioned German and Irish ancestry and most of her family having been in the Philadelphia area for several generations back, I thought the connection was likely to be on my mom's side. Unfortunately, all I really knew was my mom's maiden name and the area she'd grown up in. The woman messaged me back with, "Oh, is your mom [name]? And was her father [name]? If so, I think you're a Tricebock." And she linked me to the whole Tricebock genealogy. My great-grandmother (whose maiden name was Tricebock) had 10 siblings. I traced out a lot of their descendants, mostly wondering how large this family had gotten and wondering if I had any semi-famous 3rd cousins. I didn't find anyone famous, but I did find 3 sets of fraternal twins (not counting Neil & Zinnia), and all of their mothers are Tricebock descendants rather than the wives of Tricebock descendants. So I guess twins do run in my family. :-) Also, our combined tree is huge - most of Ben's and my great-grandparents had 6+ siblings, and several had 10+ siblings. I'm curious how common that was back in the day.

Finally, here are a couple of anecdotes about Iris and Neil...
Iris loves to look through the recycling basket in our kitchen for things to use for projects. The other day, she found a paper towel tube and an empty can that had previously contained tomatoes. She put the can over the tube and proudly showed her creation to Ben, saying, "Potato dickhead!" "What???!!!" "Potato dicked. See - it says on the can." Sure enough, the can said "Petite diced".
While we were at story time last week, the librarian read a book about a desert toad who encounters other desert animals while looking for water. The toad met a scorpion. Lots of kids were chiming in with their comments about the various animals, and Neil was trying to as well. He got frustrated that nobody was listening and said loudly, "Excuse me, I'm trying to tell you something!" The room got quiet as he went on, very earnestly, "Did you know that scorpions were prehistoric animals?" Afterwards, he came and sat quietly right next to me for the rest of the story time.

And now, it is long past my bedtime. Goodnight!

(no subject)

School's out! Yay! I realized a while ago that, due to inconvenient start and end times, I was spending about 3 hours on school drop-off and pick-up on the days when all 3 bigger kids had school/preschool and that I was getting pretty burned out on both that and the constant stream of "extra" things that the schools were asking me to do. So, I'm very happy to put that behind me for the next couple of months. :-)

We're doing a trial run of homeschooling this summer, just to see what that's like. Iris managed to finish first grade reading on grade level, but it still feels like she's got a ways to go before becoming a fluent reader. (Right now, she can stumble through a Frog and Toad story, but it's rough and not something she chooses to do for fun.) We've been doing afterschool math with her since Christmas break because the math curriculum her school was using (TERC investigations) was NOT working for her. Neil and Zinnia often ask to "do math too" when I sit down to work with Iris, so I'm going to try doing a bit more school-ish stuff with them too. They know some but not all of the letters of the alphabet and mostly don't know their sounds. They can "count" by reciting numbers, Neil is doing pretty well with counting objects (Zinnia not so much), and they both recognize a few numerals but not all of the digits. Zinnia likes to color and draws some representative images; Neil doesn't.

I managed to paint some of the inside of our house. The parts I have done look brighter and less grimy (and are done in paint that doesn't wash off when you try to scrub it). It was quite helpful to realize that I didn't have to clear out a whole room at a time and find an entire day to get it prepped and painted. One wall at a time is more manageable, even though it does look a little strange when I've only done 1-2 sides of a room.

Wendell had a pediatrician appointment earlier this week and has only managed to gain 3 oz in the past 3 months. He grew half an inch or so in length as well, but he keeps dropping on both percentile charts. I was pretty surprised because he eats SO MUCH; he'll often consume more than Neil & Zinnia at dinnertime. He's still a very happy baby (not quite a toddler yet since no actual walking has happened), very communicative, and not in the least intimidated by 13 first graders wanting to pet him all at once when we joined Iris's class for her "live share".

Neil is obsessed with pterosaurs and other prehistoric animals and loves chasing and wrestling games until he suddenly doesn't. He loves building "Quetzalcoatlus, the biggest pterosaur ever" out of Legos (usually with Ben), and will talk your ear off about prehistoric animals if you show the slightest bit of interest. He's also been playing "Spy Puppies" with big groups of kids at preschool.

I've been a bit worried about Zinnia lately. She gets sad a lot. Not so much in the usual melty toddler/preschooler way (see http://reasonsmysoniscrying.tumblr.com/ ), although she does that at times too. She'll just have a sad look to her and be on the edge of quiet tears, and it seems to be over big stuff, like her best friend not wanting to play with her or feeling like Ben and I don't love her enough. For example, she was very upset that I dropped her off at preschool on Monday instead of bringing her along to my OB appointment, for which there is usually >1 hour waiting time. She seems to be getting less self-confident, hangs back and looks lost during group play, and is reluctant to talk to other adults.

Iris is still beautifully sweet and innocent, and it makes me sad to think that she may grow out of that soon. The other day at lunchtime, most of the first-grade girls were doing this thing where they'd run up and talk to three first-grade boys (who were busy making balls out of clay-ey dirt) and then run away and whisper amongst themselves. I finally got an idea of what was up when the girls wrote on a piece of cardboard, "Which girl do you love the most?" followed by their names and handed it to one of the boys. In the meantime, Iris came up to the boys with a green bug (a really neat-looking one that I'd never seen before) perched on her finger, and they followed her off to go look at the tree where she'd found it. On the one hand, I think it's pretty awesome that she looks for insects during recess (rather than gossiping) and that she has friends to share with when she finds something cool. And on the other hand, I hate seeing that all of the other girls seem to be doing "girl things" that she's not part of and doesn't seem to get - not that it's a problem so much now, but just because I remember being on the outside of it and wishing I could be one of the kids the popular kids liked.

The fetus still seems to be doing well. If you ask Zinnia how many children are in our family, she'll hold up 3 fingers and say, "This many." "Three? What about Wendell?" "He's a baby." "Oh, so 3 children and 1 baby?" "No, 2 babies - you forgot the one in your belly!" I think this might be the opposite of "counting Catholically".

Another brother

We're expecting a baby boy sometime right around (but hopefully not on) September 11, 2013.

Guido seems to be healing up well, and he's able to eat some on his own now. We're all looking forward to him being back to normal in a few more weeks.

Iris has been finger-knitting a lot and making lots of scarves and necklaces out of yarn. She's "superstar" this week in 1st grade, which involves filling out a little survey about herself. One of the questions was "How many people live in your household, and what are their names?" She chose 7 as her answer, and one of the people was listed as "new baby" because she didn't know his name yet.

Zinnia has been uncharacteristically clingy lately. She comes up to me and says, "I love you, Becca" several times a day. She's looking forward to a trip to IKEA to get a new bed for her (she and Neil have been sharing a full bed for the past couple of years).

Neil is obsessed with prehistoric animals. He's made up several of his own (including Iphodonius, the giant caterpillar, Iphomemus, the biggest pterosaur that ever existed, and Strobimemus, a pterosaur with a big horn on the back of its head). He also decided this week that he didn't want overnight diapers anymore, and so far, so good.

Wendell is starting to stand up on his own but not taking steps yet. He is remarkably content to be on his own, just doing his own thing in another corner of the same room as me. He loves to eat and is mostly self-feeding at this stage, but he still hasn't figured out how to drink from a sippy cup unless someone else is holding it. Fortunately for him, there's always someone around who is happy to do so. :-)