Friday, December 21, 2012

30 Days of Thanks

30 days of Thanksgiving: 

Day # 1: I'm thankful for children, old souls & new souls, what's happened already &what is yet to pass. I'm thankful that when Hartly wants me to pick him up he says, "I need some up Mama". I'm also thankful for pistachios.

Day # 2: I'm thankful for husbands that let you sleep an extra 30 minutes some mornings. I'm thankful for very productive days. Mostly I'm thankful today for children NOT censoring themselves... Listening to song on radio about girl who wants guy back that was mean to her... Me: Hart, you are always going to be nice to girls, right? Hart: Yeah Mama. Don't touch their vaginas. Lol! I'm thankful for laughter!!

Day # 3:(I'm a few hours late bc of last part in this gratitude) I'm thankful for random acts if kindness, children's hysterical fits of laughter, date night, delicious vegan food and falling asleep in my husband's arms.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hart in Langauge Star classes. Video practicing Chinese

(Post by Frank)

Hart (now 26 months) has been taking both Chinese and French at Language Stars  foreign language classes in Northern Virginia.

He has gone to maybe 7 classes in Chinese. He will frequently ask me to read the Chinese book. Also he picked up some words from some swim class friends that speak mainly Chinese. Nothing beats putting language in context.

I love that he can not only converse with kids that speak another language, but that he understands the concept of different languages.

I actually speak to him exclusively in Spanish at home. It isn't easy since I didn't grow up speaking much Spanish, even though my parents were both Cuban (long story).
And I ask that he respond in Spanish, because I have this fear that he will be one of those "well he understands it perfectly, but can't speak it well" kids, like I was.
So this video is a typical practice session we might do before going to bed. Minus the running around. We practice with me talking only in Spanish, asking him for the words in Chinese.

Don't be fooled, he acts differently when he knows he is on camera. Shy at times, more likely to freeze up, or run away. Trust me, Language Stars is much better at keeping him focused on the task versus daddy with a camera in his face.

Written by Frank

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Thoughts and words to my baby as he a month shy of turning 2!!

My 23 month old naked baby playing at our beach in freezing water

I don't want to forget.  It is going by so fast.  Slow down already!!

You are a month shy of turning 2.  Two!  Can you believe it!?!  (you say that phrase... it is so cute... I am learning a lot about certain things I say because I hear them coming straight out of your mouth).  Where were you before you were here?  What was I doing?  I can't seem to remember.  It feels like ages ago and in a different world.  Oh how my heart soars with so many things you do and say.  I feel as though I could bust open at the seams and all that would pour out would be millions and trillions of tiny sparkly pieces that make up joyful mommy me.

Your list of words is no longer possible to keep.  You are full up to the brim with language.  You even say full sentences!  Almost every other phrase is, "name that Mommy" meaning you want to know what something is called.  Oh how I was never aware that there were so many things that had names before you toddled into my world.  And I am perplexed and embarrassed at how there are so many things which I have no idea what the proper name is.  You are not satisfied knowing that it is a plane, you want to know what all of the pieces of the plane are called.  Not only do you want to know the name of foods but you want to know the names of different parts of foods.  You are not satisfied that the shopping cart is just a shopping cart.  You have this need to know the name of the handle bar and seat and wheels and the material from which it is made.  In addition, you want to then know all of the names in Spanish... Chinese, French and don't forget German!  But we are not done yet.  You want to know every person's name - teachers, friends, family and people in the Starbucks and even in cars that pass us on the street, "Man name car Mommy?".  Once you learn their name you want to know their last name.  After all, you know your first, middle, and last name.  You know your family member's whole names.  Why not the barista at our coffee house?

You still demand and request and plead that we sing to you all the time.  You especially need songs for when you get an owey or when you are about to go to sleep.  But you also like to be sung to when you are on the potty, when you are about to eat, and for just about any activity.  And now you sing.  Oh man it is delicious and beyond adorable how cute it is when you sing!  And mostly you know the words but occasionally you get stuck and man do you say, "no mommy sing!" with an air of authority if I jump in to "save you".  Some of your favorite songs to sing are, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Ball Game, Rock uh bye baby, and your ABCs (below video Hartly is 22 months old).

One of Papi's and my favorite thing that happened recently is you created your 1st imaginary friend.

We were in your playroom (the one Mommy just converted from a guestroom to a PAHM room) and there are vehicle decals all over the walls.  You particularly like the red school bus sticker by your desk.  You point it out a lot.  Well, one day, you were pointing to it and just staring for a bit when you turned to me and said, "bus driver mommy?".  Through many back and forths it became clear that you were wondering where the bus driver was. You wanted to see him.  After all, in order for the bus to work, it needs a driver.  And you wanted your precious red bus on the wall to work.  I told you that I couldn't see him.  You said, "hiding?", and I smiled and agreed he must be hiding since we couldn't see him.  Then, before you knew it, you said, "Jose see him Mommy!" in an excited voice.  I said, "you see him?" and you excitedly shouted with glee, "YYYAHHH!!".  You then reached your plump little toddler hand out and touched the red bus making a scooping motion with your hand and said, "got him!" as you grabbed gently at "nothing" on the wall.  You brought him over in your little cupped hand and showed him to me.  You then looked up into my eyes and said, "name?  name bus driver mommy?"  I told you that I didn't know his name.  I asked you what you thought.  This is a hard one.  But you then said, "Captain".  And for the rest of the evening you carefully carried Captain, the red school bus driver, everywhere with you.

And what so amazed me was that you made him almost come alive in your hand for me.  You didn't forget about him.  When you put him down on the ground, you walked around him.  When you placed him to the side to get a toy or turn the page of a book, you would return to the exact spot you put him down.  In fact, once you put him in the book to get a closer look at a picture and then you turned the page but remembered right away, turned back, scooped him up and then continued forward in the book.  You even put him back in his school bus when it was dinnertime.  Half way out the door I told you Captain could come to dinner with you if you wanted and instead of just having him materialize in your hand, you stopped, went back into the room and scooped him out of the bus you had put him away in moments before.  When you went to climb onto your chair you had trouble because your hand was curled up in a half fist holding Captain.  I had to tell you to put him down so that you had two hands to climb.  It was so sweet and so real.

It has been a few days since this all occurred.  You have played with Captain a number of times since then.  He does not go everywhere with you and he can be forgotten for many hours.  But when you do decide to play with him, you continue to have that same careful and very real care of him.  It is incredible to behold.

You are still an amazing sleeper.  You go to bed at 8pm and, usually, wake up a little before 9am.  An "early" day means you wake at 8am.  When you are super lazy, like your mom and dad, you have been known to sleep till 10am (excluding the period of about 6-8 weeks after Puerto Rico from 18months-20 months when you were sleeping 8pm till noon the following day!!!).    Your naps are spotty.  Sometimes you crash out and sometimes you play nicely for a couple hours in your crib.  Occasionally you complain and knock or do your fake cry calling my name (always my name).  I go in and say, "What are you supposed to be doing?"  You reply, "sleeping".  I say, " you can play with toys or sleep but this is your time to be quiet by yourself in your room".  You say, "play mommy?" or something of the sort.  You try to get me to sing more.  Most days you talk to your animals or play hiding or humpty dumpty with them if you are not sleeping.

Mommy has made up many different types of hugs and kisses to try and coerce more snuggles from you.  We not only have regular pop kisses, eskimo kisses and butterfly kisses but we also have penguin kisses, fish kisses, choo-choo train kisses (you, much to my delight, made that one up recently) and doggy kisses.  In addition to regular hugs we have hand hugs, forehead hugs and cheek hugs.  I take all I can get.

You have not yet learned to jump, but that does not stop your desire or your continuing efforts.  It used to be (around 16 months when you first took on this challenge) you would stand still and try to become as tall as you could with your neck stretched obscenely long and your shoulders pushed way down, which exaggerated the effect.  You would strain, for many seconds, willing your head to pop right off... and that was your jump.  It then progressed to the above combined with tippy toes.  Now, at 23 months, you squat way low and then stand randomly and suddenly... all the while, your feet stay planted in the ground.  Keep trying kid :)  You will get it one of these days.

23 months old
Papi and you speak Spanish to each other.  You know that Mommy speaks English and Papi speaks spanish.  Your English vocabulary is much bigger but you still know a lot of Spanish.  You even, often, prefer daddy's Spanish nightime lullaby that he made up.  I love watching the two of you together.  i especially like when you all run in wide circles over and over downstairs, one of you chasing the other.  papi also does hallway running with you on nights that he puts you to sleep.  You all like to rough-house and tackle each other and you love being thrown up in the air and shouting in pure bliss.  You always say, "Mas! Mas Papi, porfavor" before you are even safely back in his arms.  It makes me so happy to watch you two together.  Don't be fooled though.  You often say, "no daddy.  Mommy."  "Mommy rock-rock"  "Mommy hold Jo Jo"  "Mommy do it"  "No Papi."  "Papi go"... you are in the middle of a Mommy obsession phase.  Like everything else, I try not to be too protective of daddy or sad for him.  I know it is just a phase and very normal.  When I am not around you all have a blast.  It is just that you often like me all to yourself.  I try to remind myself these days of adoring me over all others will soon enough be in the past and I hug you a little closer and breathe you in as much as I can.  There is nothing I enjoy better these days than my Hartly time.

"Buy it!" is another phrase you have learned.  I suppose it occured because you always wanted to open things in the cart before we left the store.  I had explained to you, a number of times, we had to finish shopping and buy it before we were allowed to open it.  One day, in annoyance and frustration, after I said, "we can't open that yet", you said exasperatedly, "BUY IT!".  Duh!  :)  Now when we try new foods at parties or see somebody else toy, you turn to me and request, "buy it mommy".  Man how it starts young.

You asked for this photo to be taken with Ba-Pa
You adore your Ba-Pa and Jinky.  It often surprises me.  Clearly, I adore my parents.  I love and appreciate and cherish them.  They were and are incredible parents.  I have been very fortunate in life, largely because I started life in the arms of two wonderful souls who have always given me unconditional love.  I expected you would love them as well.  I did not know just how deep this adoration and love of them would run.  I had no idea it would be so much so young.  You bring them up often and in conversations that I did not know they had a place in.  If a couple weeks have elapsed without you having seen them, you do your sad face and say, "play Ba-Pa-Jinky".  You miss them.  When you are around them you want to be in Jinky's arms and you climb into Ba-pa's lap.  You request that they read to you and play with you and "rock-rock" you before bed.  While you are, most of the day, attached to me and want nothing more than, "play mommy", I am all but forgotten when either of them are nearby.  When you get dressed and choose your tie, you mention Ba-Pa.  When you see the color orange, you mention Jinky.  When you come across a yellow bracelet from a waiter at Red Lobster from February (3 months ago), you mention Ba-Pa and Jinky, because they were there.  You love them!  Lucky for you, I know the feeling is mutual!   
wading in the cold April lake water with Jinky
Your hair is getting super long.  It is auburn with ringlets and so stinkin' adorable.  Many people are frustrated that I haven't cut it yet.  it is getting close to time.  Today you said, "Jose ponytail like Mommy, yeah".  I try very hard to allow you to be you, regardless society's comfort in gender roles and separation of the sexes.  But I feel like enough people already think you are a girl when you where jeans, sneakers and a blue t-shirt with a baseball cap.  I don't need to add to it with having my 2 year old son sport a ponytail.  Still, you like it long and that is how it shall stay for a just a little while longer.  

One of your many outfits that you chose 
You are very opinionated and you have definite likes and dislikes.  You lover your bow ties and your tie that is "like Ba-Pa".  You like to choose your own outfits although, truth be told, you would always choose being naked over wearing clothes.  Who wouldn't!?  It makes me smile.  Nothing cuter than your little toddler bum and your absolutely joy in being completely naked and just being. 

You are amazing at how you are so dependent and independent all at once.  You want me close but you want to do it yourself.  And you are a little climber.  I have to remind myself, many times a day, to "spot" you but not interfere.  You are extremely capable.  Part of the reason why is because I try to step back and not rush to your side at every stumble, frustration or obstacle.  I would never dream of putting you in harms way but I believe it can be just as dangerous to hover as it is for you to fall.  I want you to trust yourself and your own judgement.  I want these mistakes and steps taken now, when you are little and I am close by.  How will you know how far to risk going if you don't, occasionally, go too far.  I work very hard at not saying no often.  When I do say no, there is a good reason for it.  I find so many caretakers say no so often.  It has almost become a knee-jerk reaction.  All too often there is no good reason.  People say no to certain things because that is what everybody does and always has.  I try and stop and think of why I am about to say no before I say no.  For instance, you may absolutely climb up the slide at the playground... as long as there is no child at the top.  You want to be naked outside at the beach before there are lifeguards and clothing rules, yes you can.  You are 23 months.  Play in the lake and sand and get wet in your birthday suit.  Absolutely.  You want a braid in your hair like mommy, or a ponytail (contrary to earlier statements), yes you can.  Who cares, when you are 23 months old, if people think you are a girl!?  You want to take 2 baby dolls with you to the store, absolutely.  Why not?  You like to turn on light switches and push buttons and unlock doors - we bought you your own stepping stools to foster this.  You are mostly diaper-free (you take long naps and sleep long nights so you will have sleeptime diapers for awhile) and if you have an accident, you have an accident...

I have lost my focus, and so I shall end, for now, here.  If ever, when you are a teenager, and you wonder how we could possibly be your parents or feel that we don't love you or understand you, read this.  If, when you are an adult, and you wonder how we treated you as a  little toddler, read this.  If you have kids of your own and are feeling nostalgic, read this.  Know that you are a shining little soul that at, not even quite yet two years of age, bring magic into your mom and dad's hearts daily... hourly.  You are a true wonder, miracle and delight.  We love you.  Noses Hartly.  We can't wait to see what this next year of wonder with you will bring!!  


Monday, March 26, 2012

Splish, Splash - the awesomeness of David and ISR swim classes

Hartly & David 2012
My Background:  I am the youngest of four and I come from a swimming family.  By the time I was born, all of my older siblings were very good swimmers (My oldest brother, Tony, still has many national records from when he was a kid.  He placed at NCAA and missed Olympic Trials by 1/100th of a second (literally - this was before inhalers were allowed and he has exercise induced asthma... but that is another blog) and had a full swimming scholarship at Auburn, a Division 1 swim university. He currently is the Aquatic Director at The Lab School of Washington, DC.  My sister, Abby, was also an accomplished swimmer and received a swimming scholarship at Southern Illinois University, another Division 1 swim school.  She also met her husband, Tim, there.  He was the swim team captain her Freshmen year. Tim is currently a swim coach at Curl Burke, one of the leading swim clubs in the nation. And my other brother, Micheal, was also a great swimmer, although he chose to do other things once he got in High School.) It was only natural that I would be around water a lot from a young age.  

Having fun with Hart in ocean
Papi having fun in pool Hart
My mom recalls that when I was little she just played, played, played with me in the water.  She never put floaties on any of us (in fact, oftentimes, floaties can do more damage than good because it gives children a false sense of security and doesn't teach them at all what their body feels like naturally in water).  She said she just threw us around and delighted in our giggles and that we enjoyed the water.  I was put into swimming lessons when I was 4.  I don't ever remember not being able to swim.

The Barnetts 1978 (L-R Mike, Abby, Baby Carrie, Mom Jinky, Tony, Cat Stella, Dog Shirley, Dad Robert)
Frank and I live on the water.  Our backyard was a creek that later was man-made into a Lake.  We decided early on that Water Survival was very important to teach all of our children at a very young age.  There are so many drowning deaths a year of which many can be avoided with some skills given to babies early on.  These are accidents.  While we never intend on Hartly being near the water when we aren't around, this is why it is called an accident.  In addition, the lake is pitch black. We could be standing right next to him and see him fall in, dive in right after him and have trouble finding him and getting him to the surface in time.  Scary.  We decided to do some research on how to give Hartly the tools to help increase his chances of survival if an accident ever did/does occur.  By, "we did research", I mean FRANK!  This was important to both of us and both of us, luckily, have been able to attend almost every lesson.  ISR, Infant Survival Resource (click on ISR to get redirected to their website), made sense to us.  We contacted via email one of the local instructors, David Worrell (click on David's name to go to his page), and we liked him right away.  We signed Hart up and January 24th, 2011, at 7 months of age, he had his 1st lesson! 

I can't speak as an expert for ISR, but I can speak as an expert for our experience with Hartly and with our experience with David.  I truly believe in the ISR method but I think that the instructor is equally as important.
A little bit about our experience with ISR:
If you do not read about ISR or see any DVD or hear any explanations about the method it can be scary and seem quite horrible.  Almost all the little babies cry during their lessons. Many of them cry the whole entire time.  This is not a Mommy and me class.  It is not about being held and bounced around and being sung to in the water.  This is a 1:1 ten minute lesson everyday, 5 days a week, to teach your child what to do in case of an emergency.  This is a class that could save your child's life if, God forbid, there is ever an accident.  In a matter of months (depends on child and illnesses, teething etc), a small baby can and does learn how to roll over onto their back (in the majority of accidents where children fall into the water, they land face down) and they learn how to float for a number of minutes crying out (giving them time for an adult to come to their aid).  In fact the crying in class can actually be good and helpful.  The crying helps David know when they take a breath in to help in the teaching of them rolling/flipping onto their backs.  The crying is also helpful because in case of a real emergency, you are going to want your child to scream or cry out so you are alerted to them and their situation.

Another word about crying.  As a new mother or parent you learn within the first few weeks or months a lot about crying.  There are many different cries.  The cry that most babies do during ISR class is a complaining type cry.  Babies can't yet talk so crying is their way of communicating.  In class they are communicating that they really would rather not work their little bodies so hard.  It is a lot of hard physical and mental work to learn how to roll over in the water and to learn how to balance and float.  This is not easy.  But they are very capable.  And almost all of the children stop crying once David picks them up and gives them breaks snuggling in his arms... But that is about David...

David and Baby Hartly ~ 7 months old

A little bit about our experience with David:

reaching for David for class
David is truly gifted with children.  David grew up in a swimming family in St. Lucia where is family is quite well known for opening famous swim facilities and for coaching many top swimmers. He had a lot of swimming knowledge and experience before he even took ISR courses.  David has a very calm and temperament.  He is incredibly humble and while he is an expert at what he does, he will tell you he doesn't have a lot of background in child care.  This is hard to believe when you see him with the babies and children he works with.  As mentioned before, almost all the little ones cry during class.  Yet almost all of them smile when they first see David.  They often even reach for him when getting in the pool.    When he gives them break times they lean into him and when it is over they stop crying, usually, immediately.

David gives children a gift that many kids do not receive until they are much older, if ever.  He gives them the gift of believing in them.  David trusts them.  He knows they can do it.  Babies are very needy and very dependent on adults.  We do everything for them.  Mothers and Fathers stand watch and are often so nervous and fearful for their baby (quite normal).  Some parents get to the point where David has to ask them to leave (because the parent getting upset causes more stress on the baby).  I myself decided a couple times to excuse myself because I didn't want Hart to see me getting emotional (and David will tell you, Hart rarely cried and never too hard or for too long). But it is hard to watch your child upset.  And we, as parents aren't even confident in what our wee little ones can do.  David is, often I would guess, the first person that lets a child know that they are separate from us grown-ups and that they have skills to take care of themselves.  This is a gift that far exceeds the physical life-saving lesson of rolling or floating (because, hopefully, none of these kids will ever need to actually use what they are taught as far as in an emergency situation).
Happy Baby
This belief in the baby is something that will get hard-wired into a little ones growing brain and will stay with them indefinitely.  The first few years of life are so key in everything else thereafter.  To have an experience as a baby that something is really, really hard but that with a lot of work and someone by your side that believes in you and gives you appropriate tools to succeed, no matter how long it takes you, but you can do it, is awesome.  This lesson is one that can be conjured up, subconsciously or otherwise, the rest of this child's life.  The confidence that, even when things are extremely physically challenging and even when things seem terrible or hopeless, they can do it! How amazing is that!?  What a truly wonderful lesson to learn when you are so little.

How it works schedule-wise:
A baby can begin learning the rolling and floating sequence as young as 6 months.
learning how to float
This takes anywhere from 3-5 months before they usually are ready to "graduate".  This is a slow gradual process.  These are tiny little babies and there are often milestone interruptions (teething, crawling, standing, illnesses...) that may slow the process down.  In addition, it is NOT a 'just throw the baby in the water' class.  Many of the same exact things are repeated day in and day out, over and over again.  A lot of muscle memory and confidence is being built along with each new skill.  David makes sure that he does not introduce anything new on Mondays or Fridays.  He wants the child to start and end each week getting out of the pool feeling good and confident in the lesson that just occurred.  Graduation is pretty amazing and mind blowing.  The baby is in full clothes and, at this point, while the baby isn't thrown into the water, the instructor does try to reenact as realistically as possible, what could/would happen in case of an emergency.  The baby falls in from off the ledge and sinks halfway down into the water before they come to the surface, flip over and float.  David will somersault them in the air to disorient them (which, again, would happen in real emergency) and the child is able to get to the surface, roll over and float.  He moves the water around while they are floating so that they constantly have to readjust for the motion.  And the baby answers to each request and it is amazing to watch.  It makes your heart swell and your eyes fill up with tears because you see this gift you have given this child in case anything ever happens.  It is awesome.

Then, every few months for just a couple of weeks, there is a refresher of the rolling/floating sequence.
We had a refresher lesson in our lake last summer

Little babies grow a lot and fast and it is important to get back in the water every few months for them to adjust to the weight and body changes because they need to figure out how to adjust for balance.  Around 1 1/2 is when they can move onto phase 2: swim-flip onto back-float, float, float-flip onto front-swim-grab the wall/ladder/steps sequence.  This  is where the child learns to "swim" (it is more of a wiggle that propels them forward, form is not what is being worked on here) and then they learn after a few seconds to roll onto their back and float to catch their breath before flipping back over and continuing their swim/wiggle to the wall/steps/ladder/edge.  When they reach their destination they have to reach up and grab on and hold on until help arrives...  I don't know what comes after this or what "graduation" of this phase entails because we are currently in the middle of it...
Hartly's experience:
Hartly started ISR classes with David when he was 7 months old and he took about 4-5 months to graduate from phase one.  I believe he was around  11 or 12 months when he graduated (I don't recall exactly).  Hart was teething a lot during this time and when a baby is teething badly, swimming is halted (because ISR instructors are taught that teething takes a lot out of a child physically and that they need a lot of rest during this time and swim classes are counterproductive).  Also, Hartly was a rare case in that, initially, he didn't cry at all.  I think that this may have thrown David for a loop.  It was hard to know when to roll him and it is also important for a child to cry some because while they can float a long time, they can't float indefinitely.  The crying alerts people to a problem. Hartly never has never been a big cryer.  He cries.  He just doesn't cry a lot or often.

From Hart's 1st class at 7 months old until currently (he is 21 months), he has adored David.

Hart saw David everyday during the week from 7 months until almost a year, when he "graduated".  Then Hart had 2 refresher sessions, spaced a few months apart, that lasted just a few weeks.  Hart then went for almost 5 months without seeing David or being in the water at all.

In January we went to Puerto Rico to avoid the cold.  Hartly was hesitant at first with the water.  He was happy to wade in the baby pool but didn't want much to do with the big pool or ocean.  He was a little timid and I did not push or encourage him but let him watch and observe.  And I waited.  It was so hard but I just talked about what people were doing and discussed that it looked like fun.  I asked him if he wanted to try and when he said no I dropped it and didn't push him.  I had fun in the water and we watched other kids and people splashing around.  A few days in and Hartly decided he wanted to play in the water too.  I was so glad I hadn't tried to talk him into it because he came around in his own time.  I think if I had pushed it (which I was tempted because I love playing in the water), it would have only made him push back and he would not have had same internal pleasure and joy.

pure joy
By the end of our trip Hartly was madly in love with anything water.  He loved sitting in the sand and having the waves come up to him and pull him into the ocean - a little freaky to watch but also hysterical because he was so happy getting sucked into the waves.  He would roll around and be submerged under the water and       he would come up, hair full of sand and he would say "more! more!" laughing hysterically.  
enjoying the ocean
He wanted to go in the big pool and he would ask to be thrown or ask to go under.  He was also very good about never going near the water unless Frank or I was right with him  He was cautious but also adventurous.  And David's name came up a few times.  "Who taught you how to swim?", "David"... although I was not too confident he truly remembered who David was.  One day I did find an old photo from the summer with Hart and David and I asked Hartly who it was.  Without hesitating he said, with a huge grin, "David!".  We had a great time and played a lot in the water.  It was a wonderful trip!!  

NOTE: A few days into our trip in Puerto Rico, Hart fell face first while walking around in the baby pool.  I was an arms length away.  Before I could even react, his little arm shot up into the air and his whole big toddler self rolled over onto his back.  It was the coolest thing and an amazing example of muscle memory and how ingrained David's and the ISR Method truly is.  A few more times throughout our 5 weeks there, Hart tripped or went in the water over his head.  Each time I was there but each time he also, automatically, shot his little arm up behind him and flipped his body over onto his back.  I never tested if he was able to float.  I always picked him up right away because I didn't want to scare him or discourage him if he had not been able to float.  At any rate, while a couple of times this frightened him and he cried a little, a few other times he went right back to playing without missing a beat.  What was crazy fascinating to me was that here is a 19 month old who has not been in the water or had a lesson in over 5 months!! (one fourth his life) and his body reacted and remembered what he had been taught months before.  It was just so satisfying and cool to witness.

As soon as we returned from Puerto Rico we started right back in with the swimming.  As I mentioned, it had been months and I was a little nervous because Hart could now walk and talk and I did not know how he was going to react to being forced to work hard in the water everyday.  I braced myself the first day back...

Hart and David
Getting a high-five from David
There was no need to.  Although I can't imagine how, it seemed as though Hartly remembered David and when the first lesson was over, Hart was asking for more.  This is how it has been for the last 2 months.  Hartly wakes up in the morning and often the first word out of his mouth is, "David?".  Hart will randomly lie down on the ground with his arms out and legs straight and say, "floating. David.".  He will be sitting and start kicking his legs and say, "Swimming.  David."  Frank recently bought Hartly a chin up bar that we installed low and Hartly loves to hang on it(one of our best purchases ever!  Hartly is obsessed with hanging.  Nothing makes him happier than this hanging bar.).  He will say, "Reach up" when he grabs for it (because David says to him, reach up, for when Hart gets to the wall and has to hold on).  He thinks about David and about the lessons in the water he is learning. 

Most recently Hart wanted to make a painting for David.  He wanted it blue, like "blue pool" he swims in with David.  After his painting had dried and glitter and fish stickers had been added, I suggested we write something to David.  Hartly said, "Yes".  I wish I had recorded the following, but I remember it pretty well:

Me: "What do you want to say to David?"
Hartly:  "David."
Me: "We should put his name on the picture?"
Hartly:  "Yes."
Me:  "Ok. What else?  Do you want to thank him for teaching you how to swim?"
Hartly:  "Yes."
Me:  "Ok. Well, tell me what words I should write."
Hartly:  "Thank you."
Me:  "Ok.  Anything else?"
Hartly:  (thinking) Pause. Pause. Pause. "Love you!!!"
Me:  "You want me to write Love you to David?"
Hartly:  "Yes."
Me:  "Anything else?"
Hartly:  "Read it."
Me:  "You want me to read to you what I wrote?"
Hartly:  "Yes."
Me:  "David - Thank you. Love you.  Are you done or do you want to add more?
Hartly:  "More Thank you."
Me:  "You want me to write thank you again?"
Hartly:  "Yes."
Me:  "Ok.  Anything else?"
Hartly:  "Swimming."
Me:  "You want me to write swimming on it?"
Hartly:  "Yes.(pause)  Hartly."
Me:  "I should put your name on it so he knows who it is from?"
Hartly:  "Yes. (pause)  Read it."
Me:  "David - Thank you.  Love you. Thank you. Swimming. Hartly."
Hartly:  "All done."                                             
Hartly said it better than I ever could!      

Hart with painting, David coaching background





Tuesday, March 6, 2012

20 months - Hartly Jose having fun and saying his whole name

Hartly Jose is obsessed with hanging and spinning and climbing and talking.  He talks a LOT!  Frank and I are continuously amazed and entertained by him.  He is a ton of fun to be around!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Elimination Communication update (20 months old)

Hartly a couple weeks old
Background:  When Hartly was just a few weeks old, Frank said to me that he wanted to put Hart on the potty. I laughed and rolled my eyes.  Frank brought this subject up many times.  He argued that in other countries they do not use disposable diapers and that children are in underwear much earlier...  I was a new mom and had a lot going on.  I told Frank that I would as long as - 1.) Frank did all the research, 2.) He had to tell me exactly what to do AND, most importantly, 3.) As long as it didn't stress out the baby and it doesn't stress out me. For more details, refer to my February 9th, 2011 post. For Update, keep reading...

Hartly, 20 months, planting seeds
Naked in the Ocean!
Update:  Hartly is now 20 months old.  He is walking and running and climbing.  He talks a ton, is learning to dress and undress himself.  He loves airplanes, swimming and hanging.  He helps around the house and is learning to feed himself independently.  And Hartly pees and poos in a potty.  

Is he completely Diaper-Free?  No.  

Does he understand when he needs to go to the bathroom? Absolutely.  

Does he always make it on time?  Does he always tell me when he has to go?  No.  

Does he often not want to stop playing to use the bathroom? Does traveling make it harder?  Is it sometimes confusing (I can pee in the shower and in the ocean but not in the pool or on the floor?)? Yes.

Hartly hanging
Hartly in undies in our tent with ballpit balls
For the past couple of weeks Hart has been interested in wearing underwear exclusively.  He wants to wear it all the time.  If he wants to wear underwear and we are at home, I let him wear underwear. I have explained that he can't pee when the underwear is on or else it will mess all over him.  He nods and looks at me and says, "hooollldddd it".  Yes, I say.  When you wear underwear, you have to hold your pee until you can get to a potty.  "Ohhh Kay" he says.  And, for the most part, he does.  

Whenever I have to use the bathroom I tell him he needs to try too, so I am reminding him.  And he, occasionally, tells me, "potty" too when he has to go.  But more often than not he tells me he has to go by saying, "Hhhooollllddd it!" and that means he has to go but is holding it. I then ask if he needs the potty and he says, " Yes" and proceeds to tell me if he wants the big potty or little potty.

But, as I mentioned, he is not completely Diaper-Free.  And he has had "accidents".  

I have been feeling slightly guilty because, when we are out and about, I put him in a diaper.  He will sometimes tell me when we are out, "pee pee" and if it is not convenient or easy to find or we are in the car or I am in a rush... I say, "It's okay.  Just go in your diaper." UGH! Bad Mommy!  

And there have been 3 times over the past 5 days that he has been playing all day, dry, in his underwear when, toward evening, he stood right next to me and said, "peeing" and he was right. He was standing there looking down and peeing...

We brought our own potty to PR
And it can be frustrating that he is not completely Diaper-Free because I know he understands... but.... I have to remind myself about the goal of EC.  

The goal is: 

1.) for the baby to have body awareness from an early age - Hart has been pooing on a potty since he was 4 months old!  We have changed VERY few poopy diapers since birth.  Only if he is teething, sick or if he goes during nap or sleeptime has he had BMs in his diaper and not on the potty.  Hart, for many, many months has told us, when he is in a diaper, "peeing".  Even when we travel he uses the potty! 
In Spain Hart used adult toilets

He has signed for the potty since he was under a year.  He definitely has body awareness!  

2.) for the baby to be healthy and clean - Hartly has never had a diaper rash.  Never. 

3.) To use less diapers and be better to our environment - We do GDiapers AND disposable.  And, on average, Hartly only uses 2-3 diapers per day (including nap and bedtime). So, we have, at least a little, lessened our carbon print on the world. AND he is still just a baby!

Painting in his Baby Gs
A few people have asked me what my reaction is when he has "misses" or "accidents".  My reaction is very matter-of-fact.  I do not get upset at him!  I simply comment on what has occurred.  If he is underwear and has made a little mess I say, "You went pee-pee on yourself.  Oh no.  Now we have to clean up.  Next time tell Mama if you need the bathroom or go get a potty." Then he has to take his wet underwear off and we put it in the sink and we wash it together.  He also gets wiped down and then he takes towels and goes and cleans where he left a puddle.  It is not a punishment. I always help him. It is just a consequence.  When Hart has an accident at the table and spills his water, he cleans it up.  He doesn't get in trouble or yelled at but he knows that if he makes a mess, he has to clean it up.  When he dumps out his toys, he cleans them up when he is done playing with them.  He is used to cleaning up after himself and he often sings to himself, "Clean up. Clean up." while he does it.  If Hart goes in his diaper, I just mention it when taking it off for him to use bathroom, "Oh look.  Hartly went pee pee in his diaper.  Next time, try and hold it and tell Mommy if you need the potty".

Hartly helping keep hotel room tidy

For anyone who thinks all of this is pushing a child or asking too much, I might have thought the same thing in the past. But Hartly, actually, really likes being independent.  Even when he was very little, he enjoyed sitting on the little potty (and it really helped strengthen his core and helped him with his balance).  He feels pride when he uses the bathroom and he enjoys the one-to-one time he gets with me or with his dad when he is sitting on the potty.  He enjoys learning how to do things.  Kids are capable of so much!  It's nice to give them opportunities to display their knowledge and enjoy doing things.  Ask anyone who knows him.  Hartly is a VERY happy baby!

Happy Boy in PR

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sign Language Update - Hartly at 19 months old

A good friend of my sister's is a Sign Language Teacher at a public High School in Maryland.  She is always looking for ways to motivate her students so she recruited us to help her out.  She sent me a bunch of questions that I answered on paper and she also asked us to video tape the answers and Hartly.

Below is the videos we made in response to her request (and the email is also included because it has more detail than the videos... Keep in mind we only did one take and Hart was due a nap).

1.) How did you hear about using sign language with your baby?

--- it is pretty popular these days to do 5-10 signs with babies so I just kinda knew about it. In addition, my sister is fluent in sign language so she did a little with her oldest when he was small. My sister is where I first became aware of Signing as an option.

2.) What made you want to teach sign language to your baby?

--- My husband and I believe very strongly that babies, even newborns, are much more aware of what is going on around them than adults acknowledge. Any chance for communication and connection with our son was very appealing to us.

3.) Did you know any sign language before you started signing with him?

--- No. Not really. Maybe 5 or 6 signs?...

4.) What resources have you used to help you sign with him?

--- We actually hired a lady to come and give a class at our house with a few friends. She actually was not that great but a few things she said stuck out ---> there is a delayed reaction so keep doing sign. Don't give up. She also said to work off of his interests.  We bought a few baby sign books but, honestly, once Hart started signing and showing interest (he would point to a picture in a book and then turn and look at me... Waiting for me to tell him sign. If I didn't he would point/jab excitedly repeatedly at picture and turn back to me) the easiest was to just look up on my phone online.

5.) How old was he when you started signing to him?

--- we probably started fairly consistently using 4-5 signs (a sign we made up for potty, more, eat, bottle, all done...) when he was around 4 or 5 months old.

6.) What and when was his first sign?

--- just shy of 9 months he signed fan.

7.) What kinds of words do you choose to sign with him?

--- As previously stated, mainly we have followed his lead (with exception of manners; please, thank you, wait, sorry...)

8.) Do you think signing has made a difference in him (linguistically) already or will it in the future?

--- Hart is 19 months and, I'm told, the average 19 month old speaks 10-50 words a stranger could recognize. Hart has, at least, 75 spoken words a stranger could understand.  I probably understand well over 100 of his spoken words. ( when I don't understand him I ask him if there is a sign for it and he will sign, clearing up confusion if it's a sign he knows). In addition, my husband speaks Spanish to him. We were told bilingual households usually mean a child speaking later. Not true at all in our case.

9.) Does anyone else in your family sign with him?

--- Not really besides my husband and myself. My mom understands a few. My sister, who is fluent, I had thought would a lot but, interestingly enough she doesn't. I think it is bc he has a lot of baby signs and he has made up quite a few of his own (before he could sign his name he made up his own sign for it, he made up a sign for bat and swing and a few others as well) so she doesn't know them. We don't care about them being correct. We just wanted/want to communicate with him.

10.) Will you use sign with your other children?

--- Absolutely. If anything, even more and earlier. No pressure but understanding that he understood well before he could demonstrate.

11.) When do you think you will stop signing with your baby?

--- At 16 months, when he started verbalizing a lot, signing slowed down a lot. At one point he was learning 2-3 signs a day. Now maybe we add 1 a week. Especially if there is a word he has trouble saying or we have trouble understanding (most recently iguana). I would imagine we will still be using sign language for a while. Often if he's drinking his bottle or playing he will sign rather than speak. And as soon as we have another child we will be using all the time so it will probably be for years to come.

12.) What is your favorite thing about using sign language with your baby?

--- But the very best thing that has come out of all of this occured when... (this is from an excerpt in my blog... when story occurred, Hartly was 11 months old)

Little Man was going through a rough patch with his teething. He was just not his usually self and his hand was in his mouth pressing up on his gums one morning with silent tears rolling down his face. Our boy rarely cries so this was a rare and such a sad sight to see. I tried giving him teething toys and every trick I knew. I even put baby homeremedy medicine on his gum but he was not feeling any better. I finally, in desperation more than actually expecting and answer, said, "Hart, what do you need? What will make you feel better?" Without missing a beat, he signed, "bath!"

It was not our usually bath time but who am I to argue with a sad baby in pain asking for a bath. I didn't know if it would help but I decided to try. As I started filling the tub he become more frantic, madly signing "bath" over and over as his quiet tears now became sobs.

I hurried up and we climbed in. His sobs started to subside. He snuggled close to me and sunk low in the warm water. Minutes later he was smiling again.

It was amazing!

As I was sitting in the tub with my sweet teething baby a conversation with his pediatrician (Dr. Razi - she is the BEST!) came rushing back to me!! At around 6 months when Hart got his first (and so far only) fever and was crying nonstop, I (new mother here) called his Doctor in a panic, wondering if I needed to bring him to see her. She told me a bunch of different things to do for him. She said, if those didn't work, to climb into the tub with him. She said that it helps with aches and pains and can soothe a miserable baby. I only now, as we sat in the bath, was reminded of this conversation. How Hartly knew that this is what he needed to help make him feel better, I will never know.

What I do know is this: Without sign language I don't know how long he would have been in pain and sad and crying. He was able to communicate his needs to me - a need that had not even crossed my mind as helping his teething. This alone makes me grateful we sign. But, as I stated before, on a daily bases I communicate and talk with my son and we all three (husband is definitely on board too) have so much fun and joy talking together!!