we found an au pair!

22 Apr

We could not be happier to welcome Jéssica to our family in less than two months!  Since Match Day, we had been searching au pairs through Au Pair Care (chosen mostly because it is the agency one of my mentors uses).  There were many people who looked kind, responsible, and capable.  But when Jéssica’s profile popped up in my search, something clicked.  Her photographs looked not just friendly but genuine.  Her profile description didn’t seem canned.

Jéssica is from Santa Catarina, a state in southern Brazil.  I have vague memories of my girl scout troop representing Brazil for World Thinking Day when I was in second or third grade.  I think I attempted to make a mosaic out of poster board; we might have cooked good food.  Clearly we know not nearly enough about Brazilian culture and stand to learn a huge amount from Jéssica.  Although she would like to practice her English (which, we learned from our interviews with her, is already excellent), it will be wonderful for John’s grandparents to be able to speak Portuguese with her.

There are certain details about her personality–her likes include cooking, hiking, dogs (she has one named Marley), and of course children–that resonate with the jive of our family.  Per her own admission, she talks a lot (she will fit right in!).  She has a degree in nursing and experience driving in New York City!  She has two older sisters.  And her family is very important to her.

“On paper” she looked awesome.  But it was our interview with her that did it.  We skyped with her twice, but I think John and I both knew it was her (if she would have us) within a few minutes.  She is warm, playful, thoughtful, and sincere.  And she won several smiles and giggles out of both girls–rare feats when so close to nap time.

We received her travel itinerary today–it all feels very real!  I admit, a little bittersweet.  While there is nothing wrong with more people loving on my daughters (thanks for the reminder, Mama Mills!), and I am sure she’ll quickly become part of the family…my transition from being full-time mom to working 60-80 hours a week will take some adjustment.  I want my girls to love Jéssica (I’m sure they will), and I hope she loves them.  But it’s gonna sting the first time I see Ari run to her after she falls down, or Evie reach for her when she’s hungry.

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And, again, 80 degrees but insists on a wool cap.  Oh, my heart.

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play

19 Apr

One of my favorite moms often listens to NPR in the background throughout the day.  While wrangling several small kids, she likes hearing news and stories told by other adults.  And, as she explains, it gives her something to talk about (other than her kids) at dinner parties.  I could never do that.  NOT because I would be concerned about distraction from my kids…but I hate missing words or fragments of stories.  Ask John.  I am the worst person with whom to see a movie, always frustrated and fixated on the word I didn’t get from the last dialogue.

But I have been trying to get in the rhythm of turning on podcasts while cleaning up after the kids are asleep.  I stumbled upon a TED Radio Hour from a few weeks ago that felt oddly applicable to life.  In “Press Play,” the speakers describe how all different forms of entertainment–spontaneous play, sports, video games–can make us “smarter, saner, and more collaborative.”  I was particularly taken by the work of Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute of Play.  He was one of the experts charged with examining Charles Whitman’s motives to commit the murders from the Tower of the University of Texas, Austin.  Brown discovered a disturbing lack of spontaneous, free play in Whitman’s history.  Any natural playfulness was suppressed by an overbearing and abusive father.  Anyone who knew him growing up admitted that they never saw him engage in play.  Brown’s “research of other violent individuals concludes that play can act as a powerful deterrent, even an antidote to prevent violence.  Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization.”

I mentioned I thought this was applicable to life.  There are two main reasons.  First of all, I have recently had some guilt over not having enough planned activities for my kids, or not engaging with them enough so I can clean, make a phone call, cook dinner, etc.  While I never thought I was doing my kids any lasting damage by letting them figure out their own fun using toys/books/crafts/coasters/paper bags/whatever-other-household-item-that-strikes-their-fancy (all of which I maybe ought to swamp out every now and then), I’m a little relieved that this kind of play (seemingly mundane when Evie studies a green plastic ball for 5 minutes :) ) is good for their development.

Secondly, we are in the midst of signing up for preschool for Ari in the fall, and I am blown away by how much they vary.  One our close friends, who is also an educator, mentioned to me something about the importance of “play-based” learning for her kids.  What in the what now?  After poking a little bit around on preschools’ websites, I am onboard with this teaching/learning style–giving small toddlers extra freedom, allowing for self-discovery and self-guided play in the school (not that I really know anything about anything yet).

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15 to 20! (alternative title: all about that bass)

16 Apr

As of about 10:30am today, there are only 15-20 pages of writing between me and the M.D.!  And yet I feel like I know nothing and have to study ALL THE THINGS before July 1.  My friend recently posted this article about some of the problems (and impact) of resident work hours restrictions.  Any other rising interns out there starting to sweat a little?  Yet, graduating from medical school, that is going to feel good (at least the day of).

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My little firecracker is going to be 30 months old tomorrow.  I sometimes take pause when, intertwined with the songs about Frozen or the weather or magical eggs, I hear her call “I’m bringing booty back” and something about “all the right junk.”  Maybe we should listen to more Putumayo.

Still young enough to insist on sandals and a winter hat when it’s 65 degrees:

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happy birthday, john!

11 Apr

Ah, it’s a big one this year!  But in the mess of getting everything organized for the move (and so many life changes), we have only had little celebrations here and there (like some close friends over for a simple meal last week)–and I think this guy deserves a little more fanfare.  I’ll be brainstorming, but suggestions are welcome!

Happy birthday, love!  Your girls and I adore you!

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supertaster

10 Apr

By 6 months, Ari was chewing on lemons.  Evie, well…fruit (save really ripe bananas) might as well be Warheads.

this way!

8 Apr

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I. Just. Can’t.

The girl loves a good tutu, what can I say?  I wish I got a good picture of her in her tutu while playing construction site or ooohing and ahhing over a real life-sized excavator.

Last night, she insisted on wearing her fleece footsie froggie pajamas.  After realizing that it was, in fact, really freaking hot, she demanded to wear her tutu.  Only her tutu.  I forgot where I first read that one secret to parenting toddlers is to just say yes, whenever possible.  The sight of her opening the door to her bedroom at 6:30 this morning, rubbing her eyes, in nothing more than a tutu…the sweetness almost made up for next moment, when she first saw me on the other side of the door, slammed the door in my face and screamed, “NOOOOO!!!!  Want DADDY!!!”  Nevermind that she had been calling for me for the last 5 minutes.

screen time

7 Apr

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It’s a sensitive subject.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that television and other entertainment media be avoided in children under 2 years, but recent evidence suggests that it’s use might be appropriate if used judiciously.

I’m not going to lie.  We first reverted to the use of an iPad when Ari was 13 months old, during a flight home–the dizzyingly repetitive song “Ten Little Numbers.”  Now that she’s nearly 2-and-a-half, we often watch 2 episodes of Daniel Tiger a day, plus FaceTime with Dad or cousins right before bedtime.  Maybe 70 minutes a day?  And it’s not like I have some power to avert Evie’s eyes during that time.

So, not a ton of TV, but not minimal.  And definitely not the the most interactive form of media.  I feel concerned when we reach for the remote for a third episode.  I feel proud during the days I’ve kept them so busy that Ari never asked for her beloved furry friend.  I have three main fears: 1) Screen time will negatively affect their development and attention.  2) I’ll use the screen as a babysitter.  3) They’ll become as addicted to the use of TV and other media for relaxation as I sometimes fear I am.

Right now it’s fear #2 that’s at the forefront in our household.  John’s been working strings of 3p-11p shifts, leaving me for solo dinner, bath-book-bed routine.  I know tons of parents do it, all the time.  Still, after a while I felt like all the joy was sapped out of bedtime as an exhausted Evie wailed on the ground as Ari and I brushed teeth, or as she tried to turn the page of a favorite book prematurely (much to the annoyance of her older sister) and Ari would finally aggressively claw at her hand.  Bedtime became more about alternating tantrums and timeouts rather than stories, songs, and cuddling.  And the entire process would take me 90+ minutes.  Success was never guaranteed.

Then the other night, after the girls had their bath and were in pajamas, I let Ari watch an episode.  I then gave Evie 20 minutes, just her and me–she fell asleep on my chest and transferred peacefully to the pack-n-play (poor girl still doesn’t have a crib…a project for the new house).  And after that I had my time alone with Ari, reading about the dot or a giraffe and a half without tantrum or really any argument about bedtime.  I’m not saying that a little television is a silver bullet, or that it’s appropriate long term, but in that moment it gave us a breather I felt we all needed.  (This could also be an argument that my kids need to learn how to play independently better.  That might be true.  However, I do think that their normal abilities and coping mechanisms seem to unravel at the end of the day.)

Full disclosure: I absolutely resorted to Daniel Tiger this weekend.  I threw out my back (damn awkward car seat!), John was working, and it’s nearly impossible to find a babysitter on Easter weekend.  I took a dose of Motrin and Flexeril, and lay down for a blissful/still painful 30 minutes on my kids’ play mat as Evie cruised over me and Ari sat perched on the couch above, tucked with three blankets.  I am feeling loads better today, and so thankful for the spring breeze!

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