Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's Christmas Time!

That means you should be aware of the following links:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Theo's Two Year Photos

I updated Sarah's recent post on Theo turning two with photos (well, one photo, plus links to many, many more). In case you missed it, that post is definitely worth reading! (And if you want, here are all the photos.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Theo at Two Years

I wrote this on October 22nd thinking I would get photos uploaded to share with it. Clearly that's not going to happen anytime soon. Instead I am posting the text now and will share photos at a later time.

Theo celebrated his second birthday in great style last weekend. He woke up to four new balloons (a firetruck, one with a dog, a basketball which is his current favorite type of ball, and a happy birthday balloon) as well as one smilely face one for Vivian. He had a huge stack of presents, including several planes, a fishing game, a play kitchen complete with pots and utensils, puzzles, books, clothes, a balance bike, a Curious George lunch box, a magnetic doodle pad, a train track expansion set, a fish sticker poster, and some new blocks. He was so excited he went more than two hours without a drop of milk, and didn't eat breakfast until well past nine. We got an assortment of baked goods from the local deli and he selected and chocolate covered eclair for himself although he also sampled some of everyone else's choices. We attended a local fall festival complete with firetruck although Theo seemed more interested in the playground that's always there than the one day event. In the afternoon we offered to go to the pumpkin farm but Theo wanted to stay home and enjoy his new toys with his grandparents which was fine by us. To finish the day we hit Red Robin at the waterfront, where he had unlimited strawberries and feasted on other tasty things like fruit and fries with ketchup as well as some milkshake and he scored another balloon.

On Monday he had his two year appointment at the pediatrician. He was not sold on the doctor's office at all, perhaps because we'd been to the new office two weeks earlier when both kids had developed a cough to have them tested for whooping cough. As a sick kid he had to wear a mask. And by had, I mean we struggled to keep it over his mouth and he fought and screamed. He also objected quite obviously to our wearing masks. (Vivian, as an infant, escaped the mask curse as she was covered with a blanket over her car seat.) He wanted to see the fish in the waiting room but couldn't keep his mask on.

With that in recent memory, he was in no mood to put up with the doctor or nurse. He did not want to get dressed or weighed, and he objected to us doing those things with Vivian as well. He also had a terrible runny nose, which was unfortunate because it meant he had to get the flu shot instead of the flu nasal spray at the end of the visit. He did score a lollipop and a sticker as well as quality time at the fish tank afterwards, so I think he ended up on the positive side.

Theo weighed 27 lbs and 9 oz, which places him in the 45th percentile on the CDC (ie American) scale and in the 59th percentile on the WHO scale. He is 37 inches tall, which translates to 98th CDC and 99th WHO percentiles. His head is 19.09 inches, or 45th CDC and 57th WHO percentiles. He met all the development questions (and exceeded several) except that he has not really started combining his words.

He has quite the vocabulary in single words but rarely puts two spoken words together. Most of his words tend to sound similar, and you really have to know him or the context to decipher them. For example, jez (pronounced yesh), fish, dish, and George (as in Curious George, a current favorite in reading material) all sound similar. He can say Grandma, but tends to use mama for both Grandma and Mama, and dada or daddy for both Daddy and Granddaddy. He says kitty and meow, woof for all dogs, and everything that ends in g gets an extra "ie" tacked onto the end: pig becomes piggy, bag is baggie (both of those make sense to me) and as of today, egg seems to be eggie. He can't really pronounce "s" or "r" sounds but makes reasonable attempts. He can identify most body parts by pointing (head, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, tongue, chin, shoulders, belly, back, knees, feet, toes, fingers, hands, etc.) and has no trouble following directions and finding objects (handing over the blue block, locating jez, finding his socks or shoes or hat, etc.). He also can find anything of interest in books and identify it. Recently he's been enjoying the hidden objects type books, both the smaller board book versions as well as the full on large paper kind.

Theo recognizes quite a few letters. His favorite seems to be G (for grandma), but he can also pick out O, T, E, V, D, M, A, I, R, and probably some others I've forgotten about. He knows some of his colors, most recently adding orange to the collection, when he came out of his room after napping prior to the orange party and all the furniture had been converted to orange. All he said was "orange." He definitely knows blue and black and green and yellow and red and purple, which seems to be his favorite of late.

He is still obsessed with fish and airplanes. Helicopters are also very good, and trains are a close second. He has a new obsession with both bridges and tunnels, perhaps as a result of multiple 10 plus hour car trips in Europe. As for animals he loves dogs and cats.  And piggies, which has to be the cutest word since velcro and trash.

His favorite books are still Lift and Look Planes, Airport (with more than 80 flaps), and Choo Choo, as well as anything with Curious George. That's probably the result of him watching one episode of Curious George on the Kindle to exhaustion during our recent travels.

Theo is an excellent climber, having recently mastered the ladders at the playground. He loves slides and really any type of adrenalin rush, like being swung around or turned upside down and especially anything that involves getting dizzy. Theo also jumps fairly well. He has no trouble jumping to a lower height (off a step or something similar) and can often get some air just jumping in place. He loves to do housework, especially cooking and sweeping, hence the kitchen he got for his birthday. He has excellent aim with both arms. As a case in point, he recently picked up a small stuffed bird (golf ball sized), one in each hand, and chucked both of them at the same time at the dog. He scored direct hits with both of them as well. He kicks a ball with incredible aim, possibly even better than mine. And he has long since mastered going both up and down the stairs although I'm still too paranoid to let him do either alone or unassisted.

He draws quite well, actually reproducing something that looks like a fish, and he loves art. Some days we use the markers or crayons three to four times daily. He likes to have things (fish are the most popular, followed by airplanes) drawn for him, and he also enjoys sidewalk chalk. He finally clued into stickers in early September. Before that, he was horrified by the fact that they stuck to him and didn't come off. Now he seems to realize he can stick them to something besides himself and he really enjoys it. In some of his sticker books he likes to stick them all one on top of the other, but of course if it's something (a window, furniture, car, etc.) he will distribute them over a large surface area.

He can now both blow and catch bubbles. He also likes to catch them in his mouth and get down on his hands and knees to get the ones on the floor in his mouth. He can stack all sixteen cube blocks and most of his set of 25 (some in irregular shapes) in one tower. He also enjoys his Legos and has a great imagination with his magnetic wooden blocks, linking them together to create trains and building structures to serve as bridges and tunnels.

He is super good with a spoon, having recently discovered the wonder of adding milk to his cereal in the morning, and as a result of all the soups we ate in Poland where he got lots of practice. He drinks from an open cup without a problem but also likes to pour it down his front just for giggles. He has a distinct preference for his Nuk sippy cups with the soft spouts, and in particular for the one with the orange and blue dot design. He prefers it so much that in Europe we had to buy him a Nuk cup as we didn't pack any. (We took the insulated Playtex cups instead since he drank fine from them at home and they keep milk colder longer during travel.) He likes to eat from our plates still, and has no trouble eating as long as he is entertained, which generally isn't very long. He still isn't terribly into meats, but we can get him to eat hot dog with ketchup and sometimes deli meats. He loves his veggies, particularly the small frozen kinds but also fresh ones, with bell peppers often topping the list. He drinks about two gallons of whole milk a week - so much that I got sick of hauling it home and we have it delivered to our house weekly now. He has discovered sweets, and just recently cupcakes, which are extremely desirable even though he generally licks the frosting off without consuming much of the cake itself. He also loves the candy he received from his great grandfather. He still likes fruit, particularly strawberries, and generally prefers those over chocolate if the two items are identical except for flavor.

Theo is down to one nap since early July, at 1:00 in the afternoon. Except for a week in Poland where it lasted three or more hours, it's rarely more than an hour, and occasionally up to an hour and twenty minutes, which is a very good nap for him. We start the bedtime routine of changing, reading, and drinking milk at 7 or a little before and he's generally in bed no later than 7:30 and asleep anytime after that up until about 8. He gets up slightly earlier now, almost always before 7 a.m. but rarely before 6:15. He will sometimes stir in his sleep and say things like "no" or call out for mama but he goes back to sleep with no intervention.

He still adores Wheels on the Bus but in the past two weeks has added "Run Baby Run" by Caspar Babypants to his favorite songs.

Wlodek Meets Vivian

My dad came to visit for a long weekend recently. See all the photos. (I also spent some time recording videos on a new service, but I haven't yet figured out how to actually share those videos. So there may be a new update in the future on this same subject!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Great Trip to Europe 2012 (Post 3 of 3)

Monday, September 24

My grandfather invited us to join him and his step-grandson at the Lublin Farm Museum.

Right inside the museum entrance hall, there was a display with a map of Poland and various crests.

Theo at a cemetery gate inside the museum. (It was unclear to me whether to cemetery was real, or a replica.)

Theo with a working sundial.

Theo enjoyed feeding the tied-up goats apples, but was very nervous around the goats, despite his desire to see them up close.

A group shot on the way out of the museum.

At the car on the parking lot, saying goodbye for the last time.

We ended up staying at the farm museum until 1pm, and that pushed Theo just a bit too long on his nap. He ended up falling asleep in the car for five minutes, despite our best efforts at prodding him to keep him awake. Unfortunately that meant he didn't end up taking a proper nap, so we ended up going to Babyfant, another children's store (which mixed toys and clothing and strollers and the like).

Back at my aunt's flat for supper and more farewells.

Men's portrait, crashed by Vivian.

Theo raced his elephant away from Ola's animal.

Walking (jumping!) back to the car.

Tuesday, September 25

Today we drove to Rzeszow, to visit my dad's aunt, and her children. (Her grandchildren were all at work!)
But first, a quick photo of the main living room of our rented flat.

My great aunt with Vivian.

Not only did Theo get a box of legos as a present from my great aunt's children (would that make them my "cousins once removed"? I don't know!), but they also brought their dog Daisy over for a visit!

Much to Theo's delight, there was a playground just outside the flat. (And you had to ride an elevator to get there, making it doubly awesome!).

A group photo with everyone. Apologies for the slightly awkward camera angle, but there just wasn't a great place to put the camera.

Both Sarah and I were delighted to discover what a minibeast is, in this Polish-English dictionary.

Wednesday, September 26

Saying our final goodbyes in Rzeszow as we prepare for the long drive back to Kassel, Germany. Our original plan had called for a day trip to Rzeszow but we decided to make it an overnight as it shortened the distance we had to drive on non-highway roads to Krakow (and the highway) to just 2-2.5 hours.

Random church along the drive.

Once on the highway, most of the rest areas had full services, often including a playground. We spent quite a while at this one, which doubled as our lunch stop.

A wildlife crossing bridge. I've only seen these elsewhere in Canada.

Back in Germany!

We took one brief rest stop in Poland after lunch, and then took this one final stop in Germany for dinner. All told, we stopped only three times: an hour for lunch, a half-hour break, and an hour for dinner.

Thursday, September 27

Riding the elevator at Saskia and Thomas' flat in Kassel.

Marla and Vivian.

We went out to a super-awesome playground. It was empty because of the rainy day, but it was a lot of fun! The swing was scary to me, even.

Theo preferred to hang out in the train in the humongous sandbox.

Friday, September 28

We set out to see Hercules today. The journey started with a tram ride, at the end of which we transferred to a bus and kept going.

Hercules looms over the town in the distance. The Hercules monument was built by a rich prince in the late 1600s, and is basically a giant water fountain that is spring-fed and gravity powered. The water builds up in some hidden pool at the top, and is released twice a week on Wednesdays and Sundays.

The cascades, even while dry, are impressive.

Family portrait with two completely disinterested children. (Though admittedly Theo loved going down all the stairs, and walked almost the entire route back to the tram by himself.)

At the bottom of the first set of cascades.

Theo looks out from a bridge over the water channel.

Having walked down all the steps of the cascades, we were still following the course of the water but rather than something of continuous interest, there were pools here and there. Theo got slightly bored and slightly tired, and ended up trying to push Arne's toy truck down the hill. (Sadly the truck rolled for a bit, but the hill wasn't steep enough to overcome the gravel.)

An aqueduct which carries the water.

This is the view from the final pool back up to the top. This pool is particularly impressive as the water ends up spraying 20 meters into the air, from gravity alone!

Walking back to the tram.

In the afternoon we went downtown to the center of Kassel. Special festivities were underway for a twice-a-year "shop until midnight" event where stores would stay open until midnight. To Theo's delight, there was a tractor display where you could climb into any one of eight different tractors.

Some of the modern tractors were really impressive (and comfortable). Here, Theo is gesturing that he would like me to close the door. Presumably so he could start the tractor and drive over everyone.

There was also a carousel set up. Theo got the hang of giving the man a ride ticket very quickly, and strongly preferred to ride in the train with a button you could push to make a train horn sound.

Saturday, September 29

Theo ransacks Arne's room (where we stayed) for books and toys.

Theo was particularly fond of a wooden circus set. I lined up all the pieces into "trains". (Well, all the pieces except for the trees.)

Back at the playground, only on a sunny (and much busier) day.

Vivian turned four months old today.

Sunday, September 30

We had a bit of a snafu -- the 8 of us had 4 tickets to take the train to stay with Saskia's parents in Frankfurt prior to our departure on Monday, but her parents got sick, so we ended up staying in Kassel an extra day.
Thomas, Arne, and I went to see the water on the Hercules cascades. (Theo was napping). There were many, many people unlike the previous day.

It's hard to believe the final fountain could shoot so high without anything besides gravity pushing the water out.

Marla and Vivian laying around.

Just before bedtime I took Theo to another nearby playground, lured by the promise of a ship. I think the other playground was better, but we had a good time anyway. We played a really fun game where I would touch the pointy chestnut shell and say "oww" and kick it away. Theo would laugh and laugh. (I though I had a video of this, but couldn't find it!)

Monday, October 1

Well, it turned out the new train we had booked to take us to the airport the day of our flight was cancelled entirely. We had some last minute juggling wherein we tought we could take a different train and make a connection, but then that train was delayed. In the end, we had Thomas drive us to the airport.

Walking through the airport. Frankfurt airport supposedly has two playgrounds, but the unfortunate reality of the US' incredibly stupid security policies is that flights to the US need additional security measures, which means that pretty much all airports outside the US stick their US-bound flights into a secondary more-secure area -- in Frankfurt we were in a tiny area of just three gates, and unfortunately that meant there would be no playground (nor restaurant, nor any comfort beyond seats and a ball for Theo to play with).

On the plane, saying goodbye to Germany and Europe.

Back home at last, saying hi to all of our toys we'd missed over the past three weeks!