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The Gunden Kauffmans

Updated: 2018-03-05T22:50:37.070-08:00


Hola, como estas?


When Norah started at our zoned public school last year we were uncertain about how it would go. The school had gone downhill over the years and then, after a number of years with a great Principal, and just when they started getting our neighborhood to start attending again, it went through another rough patch - three Principals in just 5 years. Norah's first year was the same year a new Principal started, so we just weren't sure how things were going to go. Plus, we heard of several neighborhood families who were leaving, which wasn't a good sign. Norah had an amazing pre-k teacher, and we all had a great experience her first year. The Principal has turned out to be awesome. Seriously awesome. Several months ago at a PTA board meeting she started talking about bringing a dual language program (Spanish) to the school next year. We were very excited for Macy who will be starting in Pre-k, but unfortunately it would only start with Pre-k and Kinder, so Norah would miss out. One of the great things about our Principal is she isn't quick to take "no" for an answer and is always thinking outside of the box. While the district's model for dual language is to start with only Pre-k and Kinder, she decided to figure out a way to include First grade after receiving a lot of requests. The primary issue with First grade is that they don't have the language background. The way she is dealing with this is to hold mandatory Spanish classes for half days, four days a week throughout the month of June. They will also provide the families with resources and tools to use over the summer months. Back to the awesomeness of our Principal, she knows our school has perfect demographics for dual language (bi-lingual classes through second grade already, which also means bi-lingual teachers) and also that dual language will be a huge draw. As soon as they made it public that they would have a dual language program they starting receiving a lot of calls from people asking for more information. She was definitely right - dual language, in addition to all of the great things happening at the school has resulted in significant increases in applications, for both zoned and non-zoned kids. In pre-k alone they received more than 70 applications compared with 10 last year. There will be additional First grade and Pre-K classes next year. So next year both of our kids will be in the dual language program. The classes will be made up of 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. Half of the day they will be instructed in one language and the second half in the other language. I have been reading about all of the benefits of dual language programs (it's hard to find any negatives), and we are just very excited that our kids will be able to participate. The main hurdle for us in the meantime is figuring out how to get Norah from language class in the morning to her summer program in the afternoon when both of us are 30-45 minutes away. I figure it is a short period of time and a relatively small sacrifice compared to what she will gain in the long run. Hasta luego! [...]

Spring Soccer


Since we live in Texas we decided to sign the girls up for Spring soccer while the weather is decent and save dance, gymnastics or music for the summer. Norah played two seasons when she was 3 1/2 and 4 (but not since then), and this is Macy's first time. For whatever reason they are in the same division this season. The age spread should be interesting, but we are already enjoying the convenience of them being on the same team. Norah's friend Caroline is on the team as well.  They were more than ready and excited for their first practice. With only one practice under our belts we expected the first game to be pretty interesting, but everyone caught on surprisingly well. Our team is a bit heavy with kids on the older end, which quickly proved to be helpful. I told Norah ahead of time I expected her be able to get into the pack, get the ball, and try to score since she is one of the older ones. As for Macy, we basically just encouraged her to see how often she can touch the ball. They both did a good job. In the end, both girls managed to score goals. Macy's celebration consisted of jumping up and down with her arms in the air and tongue sticking out (no photo, unfortunately). Macy got bumped a few times which resulted in tears. I told her that was part of soccer and she quickly responded, "No it's not."  I believe the ball is actually in play in this picture. There are probably at least 20 parents standing on the sidelines yelling "go get the ball" (with a cup of coffee in their hands, of course). I remember many times during practice in years past we had no option but to stop because of the distraction caused by a train passing by. This time it was in the middle of the game when one kid decided he had to run over to the fence to see it up close and personal. One by one the kids from both teams left the field and ran over. The refs just sort of stood there and laughed. Not much you can do, I guess. Wait for the train to pass, then game on!For almost a year we have been in a good rhythm with just swim on Wednesday nights. Adding soccer to the mix means we also have practice on Tuesdays and games on Saturdays. It's taking a bit to adjust and I anticipate two late nights in a row to result in at least one tired girl late in the week, but we'll figure it out. Go Dallas! [...]

Big Woofie & Spotty


For Christmas of 2013 Macy asked for a "woofie" (dog). We think she may have meant a real dog, but instead she got what quickly--and accurately--became referred to as "Big Woofie."

Big Woofie was a hit from the minute she pulled him out of the box. A year and a half later he still gets dragged all around the house and is consistently incorporated into pretend play or used as a pillow. He is also super cuddly when sleeping.

Forward to Christmas 2014 and Norah decided she wanted a big cuddly dog, too. Her school mascot is a Dalmatian, so when she saw a black and white spotted "Big Woofie" at the store she promptly added it to her Christmas list. This one became known as "Spotty" and is also very cuddly. 

Almost every night before Seth and I go to bed we peek in on the girls. (MAYBE sometimes I really need to end the day with a sweet, cuddly image of a certain 3.5 year old than whatever image from the evening would have otherwise been in my mind.)

Sometimes when we do that I can't resist pulling out my phone to snap a picture or two...

Quite Possibly the Slowest Eater in the World


It only took a handful of birthday parties for us to notice a trend: 

Literally...the party people clean up as much as they possibly can around her. Most of the other kids are already on their way home. The parents of the party kids have already started packing up. 

And there sits Macy, slowly enjoying every bit of her cupcake. 

It starts with the food - she typically isn't done with her plate before they start serving cupcakes - and just continues from there. We have even learned to try to move her along to prevent this from happening, but for some reason this is always how it ends. 

I can't help but be reminded of when I was nursing her and she never quite seemed ready to stop. I finally ended up cutting her off, even though it is not recommended since it can affect production. (I think she turned out okay.) 

We anticipate a struggle next year in pre-k when she has 25 minutes to eat at a table full of distractions and no one to remind her to continue eating. But we figure it won't take her long to learn her lesson...

The Toothless Grin Chapter Begins


A few weeks ago, after months of anticipation to even get a loose tooth, and several more weeks of having a loose tooth, it finally happened. When I picked her up from school that day she pushed it out with her tongue and it was practically perpendicular to the tooth beside it. After going through our typical evening routine, I asked Norah if she wanted me to try to pull it. She was hesitant, but I told her (and myself - gross) that I wouldn't pull it very hard at all. If it was ready it would come. Let's just say it was ready. It must have been barely hanging on, as it popped right out. Norah was a bit freaked out at first, I think because there was a tiny bit of blood. Plus it just feels weird to suddenly have a big hole. But then she was super excited and finally let me take a picture to send to Daddy who just happened to be working late that night. And of course she requested that I text her cousins and the Moms of two of her friends. I didn't really know writing notes to the Tooth Fairy was a thing, but that's what she wanted to do next.  And this is how she went to bed that night. She was super excited to find $5 under her pillow in the morning, but a tad disappointed that the Tooth Fairy didn't write a note back (oops). Everybody (I mean EVERYBODY) we have encountered since has been made aware that she lost a tooth. Number two is loose now as well, and I think it is a matter of days...[...]

Black History Month Lesson


Norah's school had a Black History Month program last Tuesday. I reminded her about it that morning and asked whether they had been talking in class about the fact that it is Black History Month

She said yes, paused, then looked at me quizzically and asked, "But Mommy, where would you go?" 

"What do you mean?"

"I mean your skin isn't brown, but it isn't really white either. So where would you go?"

Let's break this down: 

1. Well aren't you sweet. This shirt must be a good color for me since you don't think my skin is white. 

2. Clearly you are talking about segregation in class. 

3. Thank you for creating a perfect opportunity for us to discuss how there are all kinds of visible differences among people, like skin tone, hair color, and height, and how none of that really matters. 

That evening Norah proudly stood on stage with other Kindergarteners and sang "Sing about Martin." 

Here is a link to a video:

Sweet and Spicy


When people ask me about Macy, my answer these days is that she is VERY three and a half. If they have parented kids that age--even if it was a long time ago--they seem to know exactly what I mean. We have this rub that we use on salmon sometimes. It is a delicious blend of sweet brown sugar with a bit of a bite from cumin, cayenne pepper and chili powder. A delicious blend of sweet and spicy - that's our Macy girl!A long time ago some friends termed her irresistible hugs "Macy Melts." It's like she sort of just lets herself go and melts into every corner that she can. It reminds me of when they put that heavy cover on your chest when you get x-rays at the dentist. Macy Melts are simply awesome. Macy has generally always had a nice temperament, and has a giant smile that can light up a room. From a very young age we noticed that she sometimes smiles so big that her eyes are reduced to small slits. She often gently rubs my arm when we cuddle. And, oh my, the cuddling. Morning and after-nap cuddles are two of my favorite times of the day.Macy is often the first one to share, and is quick to check on her sister when she is hurt. It is not uncommon for her to offer a hug and rub on the back as I am consoling Norah.But then there's the cayenne-pepper-like spice. Oh my. Frowny face, arms crossed, with a little "I'm not going to be your best sissy" thrown in for good measure. The whining, the obstinence...OH the obstinence. I read an article recently about dealing with toddlers. The author noted that toddlers are simply required to say/do/think the opposite of what you say/do/think. If you say "green" they will say "blue" even if their all-time favorite color in the whole world is green. I shared this with Seth, and now we frequently reference the article in the middle of Macy situations. Especially since it often coincides with when she is tired, it is completely unpredictable. Norah even sometimes looks at us when a protest begins and shrugs her shoulders.  A while back I started asking Macy whether she needs some love (cuddles) in order to move on from a fit. Now she often asks for love from a time-out in her room, at which point we know she is ready.I'm okay with a little spice. I think it could serve her well in long as it is balanced with PLENTY of sweet. So far so good![...]

Sister Relationship at 6 and 3.5


For the most part, Norah and Macy are good friends and seem to genuinely enjoy each others company.We have always encouraged them to look out for each other and they really do. Particularly Norah, as the older one, just seems to always have her eye on Macy. Norah is usually awake first in the morning and often says, "Ohhhh, I just can't wait for my sissy to wake up." I pick Macy up first after school and on the way to get Norah (which is about 4 minutes) it is not uncommon for her to say, "I just really want to see my sissy." They typically run to greet each other with a big hug. And I could count on one hand the number of times they have gone to bed without hugs. Norah is very helpful with Macy--staying in the bathroom when Macy wants company, getting shoes and socks on, buckling the carseat, etc. MOST of the time, it feels like this: And then there are the foot stomping, arms crossed, pouty face, "I'm not going to be your best sissy" moments. Oh yeah, we definitely have those, too. (And yes, Macy really does say that.)Norah's pouty face is dominated by a wrinkly nose, with a little lip thrown in for good measure. Macy's pouty face is 99% "duck" lip, and usually includes a downward chin tilt.They both definitely have their moods, often associated with being tired, and it is during these moods that their sister can't do anything right. There is no telling what will result in a pouty face, but examples I can think of off the top include: - One of them is not doing what the other one wants them to do while playing pretend school.- They are arguing over who gets to push the button/open the gate/hold the door/go potty first/put Mommy's fork on the table/sit on my lap/wear the last clean pair of underwear with both Elsa AND Anna/push the hang-up button on the phone/use the pink marker/have a certain cup/walk down the sidewalk first/[insert hundreds of more seemingly ridiculous things here]. There have been times when they argue about who HAS to go first to do something. - I ask them to wash hands and Macy gets mad because Norah beats her down the hall. "Norah it's NOT a race!" "I didn't race you, I just got here first!" "But I wanted to get here firrrrrsssst."- Something is not fair - she got a longer turn on the iPAD, she always gets to use THAT trapeze bar first, she got longer stories than me, I always have to get out of the bath first, I wanted THAT spoon...- They can't agree on an activity. One morning Norah asked Macy if she wanted to play a game. Macy answered with a definite "No." Norah asked Macy if she wanted to do something else. Macy answered with a definite "No." Norah came in complaining to us that Macy didn't want to play the game or do the other thing, so Macy announced, "Well I don't want to do anything that Norah wants to do." Right, so basically you're telling us straight up that if Norah suggests something--no matter what it is--you're not going to want to do it? Gotcha.But luckily there seems to be a foundation of genuine love and enjoyment of each others company. In between the arguments and pouty faces there is a whole lot of giggling, cuddling and love. [...]

You Are My Best Friend Cus...


The mom of a friend of Norah's from school texted me two photos a few weeks ago. She sent no no words along with the photos - it just wasn't necessary. 

Apparently during "Children's Choice" Norah decided to make something for her friend. Here is the front: 

Aww, how sweet, right? Here is the back (translation below): 

Dear Tracey I love you very much and I also like to have a sleep over and I like when you tell me when you fart. 

Like I said, no words necessary.

January Round Up


I am going to ignore that my last post was in September. And that the topic of the post was our summer vacation in July. On to 2015…We had a pretty relaxing holidays since we didn't travel this year, but toward the end I felt ready to get back into the routine. Right now it goes something like this: - Girls are up between 6-6:30. They color or work in their Brainquest workbooks in our room while we get ready. I leave around 7:30 and Seth and the girls soon after. (Seth does drop off.) - Macy is at the same school all day. Norah attends her school's after-school program for two hours, during which there is homework time, outside play, a variety of games and activities. As part of the program she also participates in Let's Dance, Artsy yet Crafty, and Drama Club--each one day per week. - I pick them both up by 5:30-5:45 and we start the dinner, bath (every other night) and bedtime routine. - Tuesdays is meeting night for me. Once a month I have PTA board, PTA general, Plaza Tots (babysitting co-op) and Plaza Moms meetings. The PTA board meetings are early enough that I catch bedtime and the others are late enough that I only miss the end of bedtime. - Wednesdays are swim night. The girls LOVE swim lessons and have progressed significantly in the past year. We don't plan to stop these anytime soon. - Bedtime is around 7:30. Norah tends to fall asleep really quickly, while we suspect Macy spends some time playing with and arranging the 20+ stuffed animal friends she insists on having in her bed. She also often comes back out to go potty. Overall bedtime is great these days, particularly compared to some phases we have had in the past. - Seth and I then have 1 to 1.5 hours before heading off to bed. ___We were proud of Norah for receiving the Student of the Month in her class for demonstrating the International Baccalaureate (IB) profile of Principled. The IB approach includes a focus on 10 profiles, such as Caring, Knowledgeable, Inquirer, Thinker, Open-Minded, and Principled. Each Student of the Month is chosen based on one of these profiles. She stood proudly with her Principal: In other Norah news, she has her first loose tooth. Since many of her friends and classmates started loosing teeth already, she has been waiting for this to happen. Let the toothless grin phase begin! By FAR, the activity that the girls do the most at home is play school. To us it appears to be the same thing over and over again, but they can literally spend hours doing it on the weekends. One is the teacher and the other is the student--typically the teacher's helper for the day--and it is nap time. Other students are played by stuffed animals, and the teacher tells them all where to lay. Then various students do things that result in the teacher moving them to a new nap location. Occasionally there are threats of sending a note home to mom and dad. And that's it! Doesn't that sound like a blast? We have started having family movie nights lately. Especially since the girls don't watch a lot of TV (none at all during the week), they love it. We most recently watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original). We typically make popcorn and they get to eat it on the couch while watching.Hopefully there will be another blog entry soon...[...]

First Vacay of the Summer - Goshen/Chicago


Our first of two vacations for the summer was to Goshen/Chicago over the Fourth of July. The girls were super excited for the plane and did a great job with the travel.  Upon landing we headed straight to Goshen. During our stay we caught up with lots of family and friends. We visited a local farm, went to Goshen's First Friday, played at the park, and attended the wedding of Seth's cousin, Chase (to Emily). What made the trip extra interesting was a storm that came through the night before we arrived and left much of the city without power. We ended up being without power for four days. Luckily the water heater and stove were both gas and the unseasonably cool weather made it tolerable. Here are some pictures of our visit to the local farm. The girls especially loved feeding the goats. Norah wasn't sure at first, but ended up doing it after watching Macy for a while. We happened to catch Carol, Andrea and Ally for a quick visit one morning. This picture was taken out on a walk around Great Grandpa & Grandma's place. We met up with Anne Gerber, Deana Landis and her kids - Annie, Mikie, Eli and Josie - at a park one morning.Saturday we attended Chase and Emily's wedding, which was at a cottage on the lake. All of the Alderfers were in town for the wedding, so we were able to catch up with everyone. After five days in Goshen we headed to Chicago to spend some time with Mimi and Papa. We took the train downtown to visit Millennium Park - plenty of activities to occupy a 3 and 5 year old. Otherwise we hung out at their place before heading back to Houston Tuesday morning.Playing in the fountains at Millennium Park. The "Chicago Bean."Of course the train ride is a fun experience in itself. Overall we had a great trip! [...]

Macy Girl


I am trying hard not to feel guilty about my lack of blogging. And I do realize that it is mid August and Macy's birthday was in June, but she still deserves an entry. Macy is quite the 3 year old. Memories of Norah at this age starting coming back to us in detail a few months before Macy turned 3. It started around the time I picked her up from school and her sweet, sweet teacher asked, " is Macy doing at home these days?" There is only one direction in which this conversation was headed. (Me): Uh, well, she's a bit of a challenge. How's she doing here? (Sweet teacher): Well, she roared at me today.(Me): Roared? (Sweet teacher): Yes, roared. (She demonstrated by putting her hands up in the air like paws.)Nice.  We're definitely experiencing the so-called "terrible threes." Call them meltdowns, tantrums, "totally loosing it," or whatever you want. It definitely happens and it's not pretty. But there is also a completely lovable, totally sweet, irresistible side of Macy, which helps make up for the rest of it. My day does not feel right if it doesn't start out with one of her morning hugs. It's like she gives you everything she's got in that moment. And her hugs are often accompanied with, "I really do love you, Mommy." And her smile--it can light up a room. When she smiles extra big her cheeks push up so much that her eyes are barely open. This is especially pronounced in the morning when her eyes are still a bit swollen from sleeping.  We have noticed lately that Macy can be quite sensitive. Sometimes when we tell her "no" or ask her not to do something--even if it isn't very harsh--she slowly starts to frown and she breaks down in tears. Another sign that we know we have a three-year old is her insistence on doing things, and doing them her way. This has also been a bit of an adjustment for Norah, as she doesn't get to control their play and make all of the decisions anymore. Generally, however, Macy and Norah are very sweet sisters. They genuinely enjoy each others company, look out for each other and giggle a lot together. One of my favorite things is hearing them refer to each other as, "Sister." "Hey Sister, do you want to color?" "Look at this, Sister!" "Sister, come with me." One morning last week Norah and I walked down the hallway past Macy's room. Macy wasn't up yet, but just as we passed her door we heard it open. Norah excitedly said, "Ah - Sister!" I kept walking but Norah turned around to get Macy. When I came back into the hallway a few moments later, I found the two of them just standing there hugging. Of course there is the other side of the sister relationship as well, which includes pretty intense competition. For everything. Most kids fight over who gets to go first, but somehow ours have turned it into who has to go first. And who gets to open the door and who gets in the car first and who holds Mommy's hand and who pushes the cart and who carries the bag and who gets the purple bowl...and the green spoon...and the pink cup. And on, and on, and on. Some typical developmental topics: Macy is fully potty trained, and was pretty easy with only a handful of accidents. Unfortunately her biggest one was quite costly, as it happened on our couch cushion which resulted in a couch purchase since it soaked all the way through. She continues to be a great eater, though is painfully slow. I mean, painfully. We have had some sleep issues, mainly getting her to stay in her bed at night, but it has gotten better since she turned three. We have been emphasizing the difference between how a baby goes to bed and how a three-year old goes to bed, and it seems to have an impact. She still naps everyday. Most weeke[...]

Good-bye Pre-K, Hello Kinder


I'm having a hard time believing that school is over and summer has officially begun. The year went by so quickly and it seems like just yesterday that we were sending our little 4 year old off to the big school for pre-k. 

Norah on her first day of pre-k (August 2013)

We all had a lot of adjustments. Our morning schedule needed modifying since the girls were at different schools. We had to start packing a lunch and snack every day (which, truthfully, continued to feel like a chore throughout the whole year). We had to learn the system at new school, and for the first time a public school. The homework, school events, after school care, uniform, PTA, dance class, Tuesday folders, holiday schedule, field trips, teacher communication, fundraising--everything was new. 

Norah seemed to make the adjustment with ease. She had an amazing teacher, Mrs. Lillich, and we were pleased with her progress throughout the year. She never complained about going to school and, in fact, received an award for perfect attendance. 

Norah on her last day of pre-k (May 2013)

Seth and I survived as well. Our biggest struggle was figuring out how to feel connected to the school without being on campus during school hours. But with a year under our belt I feel much more prepared to handle that next year (PTA board, here I come). 

Overall we had a great year and are looking forward to what Kindergarden has to offer. 

Now…let the summer begin!

Macy Talk


Macy is very communicative, and just generally at a really cute verbal stage:

When we got in my car to go to swim lessons Macy announced, "Mommy, you have a HEB car like Mimi's." She meant an SUV. (HEB is a grocery store.)

When getting ready for swim lessons Macy told Mimi, "I have a swim suit with strawberries and a swim suit with a fish, and those are my options." Guess she's been told about her options a few times. 

I asked Macy if she had to go potty. She said she didn't, so I told her she needed to go in two minutes. After a few minutes I said, "Okay, time to go potty," and she said, "No, Mommy, it's in two more minutes. I messed you up." 

Macy doesn't seem to know that the words "he" and "she" exist - it's always "him" and "her." "Her isn't eating because her isn't hungry." 

She also says, "do's" instead of "does." "My baby "do's" this with her hands." 

One morning this week she ran out to Seth in the kitchen and said, "Daddy - I have this really cute dress!"

For whatever reason the last part of the bedtime routine is for us to say "gaga" to each other (whether it is me or Seth putting her to bed). We have no idea where it came from, but we agree that if she willingly says it back it is a sign that she is truly ready to go to sleep and we won't hear another peep. 

She frequently tells me things like, "Mommy, I like your head and your ears." Or, "Mommy, I like your hands and your belly and your skin." 

I didn't teach her to say it, but I highly recommend it to other moms. It's good for the soul. 

This Little Place We Call Home


I frequently tell people how much I love our neighborhood, but here are some specific examples of why: I love that I got a text one random Tuesday morning from a woman who is in the moms group and the babysitting co-op, suggesting we surprise another friend who is also in both groups by gathering a few people for her birthday. So that evening at 8:30 six of us gathered at a neighbor's house across the street from the birthday girl, figured out an excuse to get her to come over, and surprised her. We sat outside, munched on crackers and cheese and coconut cream pie, and enjoyed some time together away from the daily grind.I love that when picking Macy up from school there is a good chance I will run into multiple people that I will see later than night at a neighborhood meeting or event. I love that last Friday when we pulled into our driveway Norah saw a bunch of kids on bikes at the end of the street by her friend Caroline's house. She asked if we could get on our bikes and head down, so we did. We hung out for about an hour and a half, at which point Norah came running up asking whether she could stay overnight at Caroline's. Her mom and I looked at each other and said, "Sure, why not?" I love that I can go to the local Krogers, library, Walgreens, LA Fitness and any park or restaurant within 2 miles and the chances are very high that I will run into someone I know. I love that six of the twelve families in our babysitting co-op have kids in the same class at Macy's school, and two other families also have kids at the school (but in different classes). I love that when we go on bike rides Norah likes to ring her bell whenever she passes a friend's house, and that the result is a lot of bell ringing. Between both schools, the babysitting co-op, mom's group and Civic Club we know a lot of families scattered throughout the neighborhood. I love that I can ride bikes with a friend down the street (Caroline's mom) to monthly mom's and babysitting co-op meetings.  I love that the husbands of the moms in the mom's group started a Dad's Beer Club. A few of them decided they were tired of attending family neighborhood events at which the moms all know each other and the dads barely know anyone. I love that on Saturday morning we can go from a "campus beautification" day at Norah's school, just 3 blocks away, to a neighborhood Easter event at the park adjacent to the school and the school principal is at both events. At the school she was working hard hanging flags and at the Easter event she took a picture of some kids with the Easter Bunny and Tweeted it.Today is Good Friday, which is a holiday for my company and Macy's school, but was a make-up day for Norah's school. I love that this resulted in riding bikes to school with Norah's friend, Caroline. The girls were thrilled. Caroline's mom, her brother, Macy, and I hopped back on bikes to pick the girls up at the end of the day. They were smiling just as big when we rode home. I. Love. Our. Neighborhood. [...]

Wacky Wednesdays


For several reasons, Wednesdays have quickly become the girls favorite day of the week. First, Norah has dance class immediately after early release at 1:30. The class has been going on since the beginning of the school year and she really seems to enjoy it. We send a leotard, tights, tap and ballet shoes every week. The class includes jazz as well. Apparently there will be a program of some sort at the end of the year, so we'll see what Norah has learned. The girls sometimes like to put on music and dance around at our house. When doing this, Norah occasionally does some sort of semi-awkward movement across the floor and I remind Seth that's what a couple hundred dollars gets us. Mimi has made it a regular part of her week to pick the girls up early on Wednesdays and spend the afternoon with them. Papa has done it a few times as well. Either way the afternoons seem to frequently involve ice cream and lots of fun for everyone. We appreciate that between dance and Mimi/Papa Norah doesn't have such a long afternoon with YMCA after-school care. As if that isn't enough, we started weekly swim lessons in February for both girls on Wednesdays. We go to a new place really close to our house that was opened specifically for this purpose. It's a really nice facility and the instructors seem great. We have been pretty impressed with the girl's progression. After about 3-4 lessons, Macy's instructor started helping her go all the way down to the bottom of the pool to retrieve a ring. Check out this video: is learning front and back stroke, and seems to swim farther and farther by herself underwater each week. Another video: lessons are at 6:30, so Wednesday evenings are a tad hectic and usually end in a late bedtime, but so far it's worth it. The girls LOVE swim and typically squeal with delight when I tell them it is time to get ready to go. One time on the way home Norah said, "Mommy, I really do wish we could just stay there all night." Last week when we were walking out Macy announced, "That was fun." Perhaps part of the enjoyment comes from the fact that we signed up with good friends. [...]

Check and Check


We have hit a few major milestones in this house that are worthy of note and perhaps even minor celebration. First, Norah is reading! Her pre-k teacher told us at the beginning of the year that her goal was to have at least 18 of her 23 students reading by the end of the year. At that point Norah seemed sort of far off, but when school started up again in January we started to see significant progress. Several weeks ago everything seemed to click. We have always tried to emphasize reading. It is a part of our bedtime routine and books are typically something we stick in an activity bag. Both girls often want books in the car and will spend time sitting around the house "reading." Most weeks, as part of her homework, Norah has a book to read and an accompanying book report. The book report consists of five questions for which she is to provide complete-sentence answers. We have several level 1 and 2 readers around the house that she enjoys reading, and she often encourages Macy to choose one of them at bedtime so she can read to her. I decided it was time to hit the library again to find more early reader books, and we came home with about 10 (plus three Curious George books picked out by Macy). Though admittedly painful at times to listen to her work her way through each page, it is absolutely thrilling to see Norah learn to read. As for Macy, the big news is that she is fully potty trained! The last time I posted about this she was only a week in, but she really never looked back. We still ask whether she needs to go before we leave the house and before nap, but otherwise she initiates it on her own. The only exception is nighttime, for which she still wears a diaper or pull-up. Norah was potty trained for months, but held out on going number two (she would wait every day until we put her to bed with a diaper then call us back within 5 minutes to tell us she needed a diaper change). Macy hasn't had any problems with this, either, and in fact she makes some really entertaining faces sometimes while sitting on the potty. The nice thing is that due to the (ah hem) difference in their body shapes they are wearing the same underwear. What is it about a little toddler bottom in underwear, by the way? Love. As a result of Macy's recent developments, the changing pad is out and I also realized that I I haven't been to Target in three weeks. Seth and I are very excited to be done with daytime diapers. [...]

Coversations with a 5-Year Old


Mommy, when I get older I want to be a mommy like you. (Woah, there. Slow down.)Well that may be something you choose and are able to do when you get much older. Big smile and wide eyes. Yay!Later that evening, while cuddling with Macy on her lap. Mommy, maybe when Macy and I get bigger we can hold babies like this. You mean when you have your own babies you might want to hold each others? Big smile and wide eyes. You mean when we get bigger we can grow our own babies in our bellies? Yes, it's a possibility. Well then I want to have three of my own babies! Mommy, what did people do before they had Siri (on iphones) to tell them where to go? We had paper maps.What about before there were paper maps? (This led to a long conversation about the "old days.")Daddy, do you buy cats and dogs or do you make them in your belly? (Seth explained that dogs and cats grow babies in their bellies like mommies.) I guess we better be prepared at all times - you never know what is going on in a 5-year old's head! [...]

Definitely Two


Macy really is "something," as my mom would say. It doesn't say much yet somehow it says everything. She's two. That probably sums it up for a lot of parents of two year olds. She wants to be very independent and often has to put things back in place for a split second so she can get it herself. Or walk back to whatever she considered the starting point of any given moment so she can walk herself or carry something herself. When this stage started we heard "No, MY do it!" over and over and over. She has since corrected herself and uses "I." We also frequently hear, "No, no, no, no, no" when she wants something done differently. Macy has strong opinions. Period. On a lot of things. Sometimes she insists on her "sissy." Other times she most definitely does not want her "sissy." Sometimes she wants a pink bowl and other time it's blue. Both girls are somewhat obsessed with choosing their plates/bowls/cups. I've started using the same ones whenever possible so there is not a choice. One time when I used matching cups Norah announced that she wanted the one on my right hand. I didn't acknowledge the statement, but simply placed the cups in front of them. Macy had a fit. She said "I wanted the one in your right hand," over and over again as if she had a clue which one that actually was. She insisted on wearing a tutu around the clock for about two weeks. The nighttime hours were covered by a pair of pajamas that came with a red tutu. This tutu went over the top of any pajamas she wore--picture pink, fleece, footed, monkey pajamas…with a red tutu. One day she had on a self-chosen outfit that included loose fitting patterned pants, a tutu and  a clashing patterned shirt. When she held up two different socks for Seth to put on he suggested that they find a matching pair. I said, "Seth, really. Look at her. Do you think matching socks will be noticed?" He quickly realized it was far from important and put on the socks Macy chose. Luckily, the super sweet and cuddly side of Macy remains, scattered amongst the demanding, opinionated moments. She gives awesome hugs and tells us she loves us. One night when I was telling her good night she said, "I love you…a lot of times." This has become the new standard for the whole family. Another sign of a two year old, Macy suddenly became interested in the potty. She was with Mimi at swim lessons one Wednesday a few weeks ago and since they were early she didn't have on a swim diaper. Mimi explained that she should to tell her when she needed to go potty. A few minutes later Macy said she needed to and off they went. She was mildly interested in the potty until the following Wednesday when Mimi was with them out in public again. Macy had to go potty so Mimi took off her diaper but didn't have another one so Macy just wore her leggings. Since then, for the past two weeks she has primarily been in underwear (except at night) and is doing great. I'm sure it will only be a matter of time until we are out of this phase. Until then, I'll be sure and get my fill of those awesome hugs to make up for the typical two-year old bits. [...]

New Car and a Bead in a Nostril


Monday evening (the week before last) on the way home from work I noticed a slight hesitation with the car when I tried to accelerate a few times on the highway. On my way to a conference the next morning, it was noticeably worse. I drove straight from the conference to the Honda dealer and they took me to work. Later that afternoon the guy from Honda called to inform me that the transmission needed to be replaced. I knew that we weren't about to put $5,000 into the car (we were planning on buying a new car later this year anyway) and that his news meant we would be making a very quick car purchase. Ten minutes after hanging up the phone I got a call from the school nurse telling me that Norah was in her office with a bead stuck up her nose. They tried to get it out but were unsuccessful, so she recommended that we take her to the doctor.So there I was at work, no car, the fresh news that we needed to buy a new car, and my child 20 minutes away with a bead stuck up her nose. Oh wait…did I forget to mention that Seth was in a meeting with a new client and therefore unreachable? I made a quick decision to call Enterprise since they "pick you up." I called a friend to see if she could get Norah from school. And I texted Seth, "She is okay but I have to take Norah to the doctor." About an later I had my rental and got to Norah. There was definitely a bead in her nose, but otherwise she seemed fine. While waiting to get in to see the doctor I looked up her nostril one more time and thought it looked like the bead had slipped down a bit. I asked Norah to try blowing her nose again and out came the bead. With that behind us, Seth and I went into planning and researching mode for the car purchase. Mom came down Wednesday night to be with the kids so we could test drive a few cars. We also made arrangements for mom and dad to come down Saturday so we could have to day to make a purchase. Saturday morning we had a 9:30am appointment at CarMax to sell our Accord. I still really loved that car! From there we drove 30 minutes to an Acura dealership that had one of the very few pre-owned RDX's within a 50 mile radius of Houston. It just happened to fit most of our criteria, including 2013, the amount of mileage (25,000), and both interior and exterior color preferences. By 1:00 negotiations were over and and were ready to buy! We are now the proud new owners of this:The girls love playing in the back:It has a lot of bells and whistles, especially compared to a 2004 Accord. I particularly like the memorized settings for two drivers that include seat position, mirror position, temperature and audio settings. Also, the navigation system, rear camera, voice recognition and bluetooth. Considering the fact that my Honda had some pretty new and exciting features when we bought it 7 years ago, it will be interesting to see what develops for cars between now and our next purchase. Not that I am at all in a hurry to go through that process again. I'd be okay without any more beads in nostrils, too. [...]

Sleepy Time Struggles and Cuddles


We have reached a point of consistency with Norah's sleep. Bedtime battles are rare, as are midnight wakings, and she is working hard at staying quiet and in her room on weekend mornings if she wakes up and we are still sleeping. Macy, on the other hand…oh, Macy. She rarely wakes in the middle of the night and typically sleeps until about 6:30 in the morning (which is actually respectable for our household), but bedtime is…less than desirable. Rarely do we simply say "goodnight" and that's the end of it. Most often she leaves her bed and lays down on the floor by the door. She typically cries, and after trying the ignoring route for a while with zero success we have learned that if we go right back and ask if she is ready for us to put her in bed she'll answer "yes." We put her back in bed and while we usually don't hear anything more out of her she goes back to laying on the floor by the door and that's where she falls asleep. One night she fell asleep like this: And another night in her chair!Why? JUST WHY?But where she sleeps isn't that big of a deal -- we assume she'll eventually figure out that a bed is way more comfortable. We also find it ironic that once we are in our bed there is very little that could be done to get us back out again. And none of this is anywhere close to as bad as it was with Norah when she chased us to the door and screamed for 30-45 minutes before falling asleep on the floor.  While we were in Goshen over the holidays, the girls shared a bed. All in all they did a really good job. We had some early morning wakings (usually Macy was the first), but considering they were sleeping in a different place, and together, we thought they did great. We enjoyed peeking in on them every night. Here is some of what we found:  During the Gunden family Christmas the first weekend we were home they napped together at Lisa and Scott's. They fell asleep like this, holding hands: Ever since then they have taken naps together in Macy's bed. We lay with them until they fall asleep, which typically requires around 15 minutes of giggling and cuddling. They are usually either holding hands or Norah has her arm around Macy. They usually sleep for between 1 1/2 and 2 hours, and eventually emerge from Macy's room hand-in-hand. We have always talked about moving Macy into Norah's room, but would like to get Macy in a better routine before doing that. On the other hand, I wonder if she would do fine if she was in the room with Norah. We just might have to give it a try one of these weekends...[...]

Catch up in Pictures


Hello. Long time no chat. So much to catch up on, and so little time. How about we do it in pictures?First…a visit from Annie and Angie in early November.Family pictures mid November.Matching in stripes!Thanksgiving at Lisa and Scott's. Thanksgiving lunch at Norah's school.Norah and her good friend Caroline. We had breakfast with Santa at a neighborhood event, and a week later another breakfast with Santa at Macy's school (picture below). When Norah got a glimpse of Santa the second time she said, "Mommy, is there only one Santa?" I answered yes and quickly moved on to something else. Luckily it never came up again. Norah asked for a remote controlled car and a pencil sharpener (no lie.) Macy asked for a "woofie" (dog) and a ball. Norah also asked him to come early since we would be traveling to Goshen on Christmas Eve. Norah participated in her school program with both her after-school dance class (first two pictures) and her school class (reindeer picture). Norah and I joined friends Lisa, Sarah and Jessica to see the Nutcracker. It was so fun, and something I hope becomes a tradition. After the performance kids can go up on stage to meet the dancers and get signatures. Norah loved the whole thing!We celebrated our family Christmas on the morning of the 23rd. We got this face from Macy whether she was opening bandaids or a gigantic stuffed dog. Macy is enjoying  few Christmas presents (stuffed dog, flashlight, and hat) while they watch a movie. We traveled to Goshen on Christmas Eve and discovered that another good reason to limit iPad use on a regular basis is so it is more novel for situations like airplanes. The girls were great travelers. Goshen for a week!The girls got to play in the snow a few times with grandpa and Greta. And enjoyed some hot chocolate after coming in from the cold!The girls also  did a lot of the usual, like reading and cooking with grandma.We got to see great grandma and grandpa several times, and even Von and Dave for a few hours on the one day we overlapped in Goshen. It was fun to see great grandma and grandpa in their new place (how cozy)!We drove back to Chicago on New Years Eve and stayed overnight at Mimi and Papa's (though unfortunately they were in Texas at the time) to make it easier to catch an 8:30am flight in the morning. Once home we unpacked and repacked the girls so that they could spend the next two days with Mimi and Papa while we worked. Then Saturday and Sunday we had the Gunden family Christmas. We started it off with some "Rudolph" drinks - a very special treat for the kids. Mikayla wanted to put on a "fancy" dress, and Aunt Li happened to have another very similar dress for Macy in a hand-me-down stash. After hanging out for the afternoon and opening gifts, Mimi and Papa helped the kids put on the 4th annual Gunden Cousin Christmas program. It included a reading by TJ, piano music from Luka, a song and dance from Norah and Jingle Bells from the two wee ones. Then they all changed costumes to sing "We Three Kings" and at the end of the song delivered gifts to their parents. It was super cute and the kids really got into it!So that takes us through the first of the year, which only puts me about three weeks "behind." Hopefully more to come soon![...]

Sleepy Time Changes


Macy has been a dream to put to bed for over two years. A short routine, stick her in her crib, and that's it. Especially based on the struggles we had with Norah, we were dreading the day that we had to transition Macy to a bed, potentially messing up such a good thing.About a month ago she started getting out of her crib. It was infrequent at first, but then became more regular, including in the middle of the night. Seth was in her room one day and asked her if she could climb in and out of her crib. She did it, but it was far from graceful, which confirmed that we had a safety issue on our hands. Time for the crib to go! We asked Macy several times over the next few days whether she was all done with her crib and she always said, "My sleep in my big girl bed!"Right before we took the crib down I suggested that she say goodbye. She stretched her arms out around the crib and said, "Bye bye crib. My love you!"We started the transition on a Friday. As predicted she spent two hours getting in and out of her bed and opening the door. By 9pm, after returning her to bed many, many times we put a childproof lock on her door. I really hated to do it, but by this point she just needed to get to sleep. A few minutes after we closed her door we heard her trying to open it, and then the crying began. We expected it to last a while, but surprisingly it was only a few minutes. About 10 minutes later I got up to do something and this is what I found:(Note that she tore the lock off and has one piece in each hand.) Take that Mommy and Daddy! We're not sure why she decided to lay down. Tired, perhaps? Seth ended up laying with her that night to get her to sleep. Over the next several weeks we tried multiple things, while staying conscious of not starting anything that we didn't want to become routine. We attempted to avoid putting the lock back on, but even if she fell sleep okay she frequently came into our room between 4 and 6am. Last weekend we went back to the lock. Most nights since then she has fallen asleep on the floor at the door. One night we peeked under the door and saw her sweet face pressed right up against it. We typically end up putting her back into her bed at some point. The other thing we have added to the mix is a clock that turns green when it is time to wake up. Norah also has one, so both clocks are set for 6:15. Macy seems to understand the concept and proudly shows us her clock when we come in to get her. We're not sure exactly when she is waking up, but when we hear her knocking on her door from the inside we know she's awake and ready to come out. So while her falling asleep on the floor by the door isn't ideal, thankfully the combination of the lock and clock seem to be getting us into a routine - one that is allowing all of us to get the sleep that we need. [...]

Happy Halloween!


Yes, I do realize Halloween has been over for several weeks and that everyone (including me!) has moved on to Thanksgiving. I completely forgot that I hadn't posted this, so travel back in time with me for just a few minutes. This year we had Strawberry Shortcake and Minnie Mouse. Macy insisted that she was Mickey ("Micka") Mouse, and leading up to Halloween whenever she put on her Minnie ears and we called her Minnie she quickly corrected us."My not Minnie Mouse, my MICKA Mouse!" Since she isn't super familiar with the characters (obviously) I'm not sure she ever really understood. And  yes, we do realize that her dress is slightly inappropriately short, but we borrowed both costumes and I didn't think it was worth spending money on another one. We just had to ask her to pull her dress down every once in a while. By the end of night two her dress was busting at the seams...literally. What can I say? She's a small giant. For the third year in a row we went trick or treating the night before Halloween with Courtney, Orlando, Connor and AJ in the neighborhood just north of ours. It's pretty much part of our neighborhood (the moms group combines the two), so it is fun since we know so many people. No picture of the kids, but here are the moms!We randomly ran into Henry, one of Macy's friends from school who just happened to be Mickey. Minnie and Mickey decided to hold hands up and down every sidewalk.At one point they lost each other and from halfway up the sidewalk (Macy was already back on the street), Henry yelled, "Hey Macy! Hold my hand!" Macy turned around and said, "Oh yeah!" and ran/waddled back up the sidewalk to find him .On the night of Halloween we trick or treated with Chloe and Olivia, just like last year. Caroline joined the group as well.  This is the same group last year, except Sarah instead of Caroline. Now out with the pumpkins and in with the cornucopia. [...]

Happy 5th Birthday, Norah!


We had a great rainbow birthday party for Norah this year. It was the first time that we only invited girlfriends. While we missed having some of our close family and friends as part of the celebration it was nice to be able to focus on her a bit more. A lot more, actually. All but one family dropped their kids off (at my suggestion) so it was literally just the girls.There were 8 in total, including Macy and Mikayla. While a few years younger these two were more than willing to be a part of the celebration. After a bit of playing on the play set everyone was thirsty: Then more playing on the play set, definitely not without plenty of, "But I wanted the swing," "It's my turn," "She won't get off," but overall it was still fine. Then it was inside to color rainbow pictures and get tattoos. And now for cupcakes!Then back outside for more fun and a group picture!Norah with two of her besties, Caroline (a current classmate) and Chloe (bestie from school since she was about 6 months old). Admittedly, I had a ton of fun with the rainbow theme. Mom and dad would attest to the fact that I LOVED rainbows growing up. When given the chance, that's what I drew. Apparently that has filtered down to Norah since whenever we color together I tend to draw rainbows. When I suggested the theme for her party she was quickly on board! Though I was really the only one who appreciated it, I had fun with the theme.I think  I will write my usual note to Norah later, though another day would be better since we have had a relatively rough 24 hours. Nonetheless, I love my Norah and we had a great birthday celebration that was worth capturing.[...]