Make It Two

As it turns out, 2-year-olds are kind of awesome. Nearly every day, at some point in the day, I think, “This is SO fun.” WAY better than the newborn phase. And even more exciting than the just-crawling and starting-to-walk and first-few-words phases.

I wish I could freeze time throughout the day to properly document every time I laugh my head off at something funny Soren does or when something happens that reminds me how crazy I am about him. I’ll log here a few notes I took right around his birthday when I realized I need to better archive this fun, fun stage.

– Soren loves holding my hand (most of the time). Sometimes in the car he’ll yell, “HAND,” and wait for me to reach my hand back. We don’t usually hold hands while we’re walking, but he knows it’s mandatory for crossing the street. If he’s ahead of me, he’ll stop when he gets to the edge of the sidewalk and wait with his hand out.

– When he was first starting to talk, he would often mumble something unintelligible (sounded like “HEH-eh”) when handing me something. As his words became a little more clear I figured out he was saying, “thank you” every time. Kind of backwards to say thank you when you’re giving and not receiving, but cute, nonetheless.

– Soren is more than obsessed with construction equipment. A few months ago we were outside and saw that a house on our street was about to be demolished. I was thrilled that we were at the right place at the right time. The excavator (or whatever) doing the work was enormous. We had a grand time watching it tear apart the house until Soren started getting really mad that there was no dump truck. All his books have taught him that the backhoe is supposed to put the rubble into a dump truck to be hauled away. He got to the point of tears that there was no dump truck. For days after, he would ask to go to the site to see if the dump truck was there.

– Soren LOVES Thursdays. His affinity for the day began when he realized the trash and recycling trucks come EVERY Thursday. It’s an extra special day on the occasions that Tim stays home until 8:30 or 9 and can take Soren out to go chase the trash truck around the neighborhood. Then Soren realized that Alyssa, his beloved friend and Early Intervention specialist, also comes every Thursday. He talks all day about “Ayissa” and wakes up from his nap thrilled to play with her. One Monday I got Soren out of his crib at nap time and he scampered off to the front room without even thinking about his usual post-nap milk session. He whimpered, “Ayissa,” and then burst into tears. He cried, while pointing at the front door, for a good five minutes. I don’t know why he thought she might come that day, but he was crushed to learn it wasn’t an Alyssa day.

– Soren seems to have a strangely great understanding of pronouns. I like to think he has impeccable grammar for a 24-month-old. I’m continually surprised at his properly formed sentences (like this morning when Tim was trying to find Soren’s clothes and Soren yelled, “AGHHHH. I HAVE NO PANTS.” But he consistently gets one phrase wrong and I hope it never changes: When he wants to be picked up he says, “hold you.” Melts my heart every time.

– Speaking of talking, Soren is a motor mouth (when we’re at home — he generally turns mute when we’re with other people). Just like he was slow to crawl and slow to walk, this kid was sloooow to talk. At 18 months his vocabulary consisted of only a couple of words. (The weekly BabyCenter emails I receive let me know that at 18 months most babies are learning 10 new words a day. Yikes.) At 20 months he could say about 10 words. And then, about a month before his birthday Soren suddenly had a vocabulary of what seemed like hundreds of words. And a few days before his birthday he launched into full-on complete sentences. At least once a day I ask him where in the world he learned this word or that word (like this morning when he said something about a “telescopic boom” and pointed to the correct picture in his book). It’s the best.

– His vocab may be excellent, but his ability to pronounce words correctly is horrendous (but cute). He doesn’t say his Rs, Fs, Ts, Ls, Ws, etc. very well and can rarely blend consonants. He still calls himself “Norin.” When counting, four is “door” and five is “dive.” Water is “yaduh.” His favorite book is known as “yode yuk” instead of Roadwork. One of his favorite machines is the dullbozer, not the bulldozer. And the best is how he says, “I wuv woo” for I love you.

– Once every few weeks I remind myself that I meant to start, around his first birthday, some sort of Soren School to work on letters, numbers, colors, etc. I pictured myself getting Pinterest crazy and working on a letter/number/color of the week to have him reading chapter books by the time he’s three. But, as it turns out, I have done absolutely nothing to further that effort. And he’s picking it all up on his own. He nailed red, orange, yellow, green, and blue before he could actually say the words (and now he’s added purple, black, and white to the list). I about fell down the stairs the other day when he counted to 11 on his own (we often count the stairs while going up and down, but I’d never heard him do it without me leading the way). And he knows about half the letters in the alphabet. The cutest is when he sees letters on a sign or on the tag on his car seat or something and thinks it spells his name — he knows to say “S-O-R-E-N.” So… good thing my minimal efforts have been sufficient.

– Soren is starting to show evidence of all the classic toddler behaviors. He HAS to get in the car by himself and climb into his seat without help. If I ever dare to pick him up and put him in the car, he quickly scrambles out to start all over. Soren loathes having his diaper changed and occasionally cries dramatically when he’s forced into it. (If only I felt like I had the energy and time to potty train him.) The other day, at a friend’s house, of course, he screamed his head off when I wouldn’t let him have a second cookie after dinner. Luckily, tantrums are few and far between at our house (it helps when you don’t have older siblings to show you the way), and most issues are resolved fairly quickly.

For Soren’s actual birthday, we followed last year’s approach and kept it simple. We did unintentionally stretch the celebration over a few days, though.

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The night before Soren’s birthday, we went to Regina’s for pizza. I wanted to make lasagna for his actual birthday dinner, and kids eat free at Regina’s on Tuesdays, so having a pre-birthday celebration seemed like the perfect solution.

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Since when does a 2-year-old get his own pizza? Spoiled little thing.

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Tuesday night at Regina’s also includes a balloon man. Crowd pleaser.

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Our server brought the kids ice cream push-up pops. I didn’t have the heart to tell him no, so the sugar ban was lifted temporarily.

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When we wondered if we should invite any of Soren’s friends to join us for dinner, the first person we thought of was not a peer, but the lovely Brenda. Definitely one of Soren’s BFFs.

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An early birthday celebration called for early present-opening. This five-pack of Caterpillar construction mini-machines was $6 and probably the best purchase I’ve ever made. They’re the perfect toy for taking in the car or the stroller or to church. And they get lots of use at home as well.

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Parallel play at its best.

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Another reason Regina’s is a favorite — trains! The restaurant is housed in a former train depot (built in 1893) and it sits right on the commuter rail tracks. So while you’re eating your pizza, a train charges by every so often. Little boy heaven.

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Outside of library events and community playgroups, Soren rarely gets together with friends (and by friends, I guess I mean my friends’ kids). So we were so glad Ari and Wes were free to celebrate with Soren!

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And then, the birthday morning!

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He really would’ve been fine without any other presents. Especially when we supplied some rocks to put in the dump truck and loader!

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Birthday pancakes! He did not appreciate the candle, so we quickly ditched it and offered the blueberry pancake plain.

He only ended up opening half of these on his birthday. And I now have a few items tucked away for future celebrations.

He only ended up opening half of his presents on his birthday. And I now have a few items tucked away for future celebrations.

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This Duplo train set (from Tim’s parents) is pretty wonderful. It’s the first thing Soren runs to in the morning, and he’s showing no signs of getting tired of it.

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We spent the morning at the park for playgroup.

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Always digging.

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Can’t be late for circle time! (And can’t put the sticks down.)

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Plans got thrown off slightly when baby Elowen came over to play. Her dad got in a bike accident in the morning, so we watched Elowen while her mom spent time at the hospital. I wanted to use Soren’s nap time to make dinner, so I threw Elowen in the Ergo and got down to business. She took a great nap, and I made the entire dinner without disturbing her slumber!

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And then more friends came over to play! McKenna and Charlotte stopped in to drop off a treat, so we invited them to stay for dinner. We really aren’t normally party people, but it was fun to liven up the celebration.

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I found a half-price scooter on Craigslist and decided to go for it. He can’t quite manage it on his own, but it works pretty well when he’s on the slight incline of the driveway. He’ll be all over it in a few months (when the ground is covered in snow, of course).

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Trying it out at the park.

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Soren loves a good ladder climb.

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Don’t be fooled by the stone face. I promise he’s a happy child.

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Our back yard.

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We had just enough time after dinner (note the lasagna-covered face) for one more present — a wood tool set from Grandmama and Pappy. Every now and then when we talk about needing to fix something, Soren runs to grab his tools. Very helpful.

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And then a quick treat. No cake this year. Nothing actually planned in advance, in fact. I threw some frozen bananas in the Blendtec to make “ice cream,” and I even let Soren have a few chocolate chips on his! He’s a chocolate lover — like mother, like son.

Cape Cod

There is surely no better place in the world to live than New England. After our August week at the Cape, Tim and I are certain we couldn’t love a state more than Massachusetts. This trip came together thanks to diligent planning on the part of three good friends who traveled — with husbands and children — to our state from New York and Texas.

We left Boston Saturday morning, anticipating loads of Cape Cod traffic, but we were pleasantly surprised to have no more than 15 minutes of stop and go on the bridge. Soren played with his new construction felt board for nearly the whole drive (thanks Lauren!), but we did catch a little bit of talking on video.

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Once across the bridge, we stopped for breakfast then found our friends at the local Trader Joe’s. We all ventured together to our neighborhood-for-the-week to await check in at our house-for-the-week. It just so happened that our house was next door to a great wildlife sanctuary where we picnicked for the afternoon.

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Once we got into the house, we put Soren down for a nap, unpacked, and then found that our sweet, lovable, even-tempered baby had turned into a monster during his slumber. No joke — he had been acting completely regular all day then woke up as the saddest, crankiest, and craziest boy alive. And it lasted for two days. After the first four hours of crying (from nap wake-up to bedtime that night) I thought I was going to lose it. I hoped and prayed he’d wake up on Sunday and be back to his usual self. No go — Sunday was the same story. We lasted an hour at church, which I spent on my phone Googling his symptoms — excessive drool (which used to be regular for Soren but had resurfaced in the previous weeks), screaming each time he yawned, fingers in his mouth non-stop, and crying every time he attempted to eat or drink. My conclusion was teething — two-year molars to be exact. I’ve never noticed any change in temperament with the other 16 teeth he’s acquired. When other parents blame their babies’ fussiness on teething I’m usually rolling my eyes. But the two-year molar thing is REAL. And it’s AWFUL. I called the doctor 24 hours in to our disaster and he suggested either teething or hand, foot, and mouth disease. My mother’s intuition felt it was teething, and it turns out I was right. The pain and misery (for Soren, me, and Tim) lasted about 48 hours, and then life was good. I mainly document this so if I have other children who turn into demons for seemingly no reason, I can refer back to this and remember that teething is a real thing.

But back to our trip. Sunday was a wash, between church and crying and our family’s dinner night. We did squeeze in a visit to CVS for baby Tylenol and teething tablets (both of which seemed to do nothing) and Trader Joe’s for applesauce pouches (which he declined to eat, for the first time in his life). But thanks to the mini shopping carts at TJ’s, we had a few minutes of no crying!

The next day we stayed mostly close to home since we’d been awake a lot the night before and Soren was still a sad little hellion. We spent the morning at Gray’s Beach, near Yarmouth Port and about 15 minutes from our house. It’s a pretty, sort of marshy little spot, but great for kids.

The sand proved to be enough of a distraction that Soren forgot about his woes for a little while.

The sand proved to be enough of a distraction that Soren forgot about his woes for a little while.

His ghostly sunscreened face kind of creeps me out a little bit. That's zinc oxide for ya.

His ghostly sunscreened face kind of creeps me out a little bit. That’s zinc oxide for ya.

The sand at Gray's is a little rocky, but Soren didn't seem to mind.

The sand at Gray’s is a little rocky, but the lovely vistas and free parking made it a great spot for a half day.

Tim and Soren caught lots of "big guys" (Soren's term). Tim dug many holes and tunnels for his finds.

Tim and Soren caught lots of “big guys” (Soren’s term). Tim dug many holes and tunnels for his finds.

After the first poop in his swim diaper, we decided to turn Gray's into a nude beach.

After pooping in his swimsuit, we decided to turn Gray’s into a nude beach. Cutest cheeks ever.

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After naps (for all), Tim and Soren rode bikes to the end of our street, and I met them at the lovely Bone Hill Beach, which is part of the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary. Like Gray’s Beach, this one isn’t exactly a real beach, but it did have sand and it did have water, so Soren was OK with it. And the miles of tidal flats were a sight to behold.

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The tide was low, which made for yards and yards of wet sand and puddles to tromp in to get to the shallow water. It also meant that each time Soren wanted to fill his bucket he and Tim had to make a ten-minute trek.

And then Soren would dump the precious water.

And then Soren would dump the precious water.

And then Soren would dump the water and ask for more.

And then ask for more.

On Tuesday morning Soren woke up cured and ate plate after plate of eggs courtesy of Lucas. He had been feeling pretty light after two days of no food, so I was thrilled to get my good-eater boy back. We celebrated with a trip to Corporation Beach in Dennis.

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Corporation Beach is a bay-side beach, so no big waves here. Perfect for tiny wading children.

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It couldn’t get any more perfect!

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Tim and Soren.

Hiking the dunes.

Hiking the dunes.

Sand castles require water. Off we go to load up.

Sand castles require water. Off we go to load up.

Soren shows me how it's done.

Soren shows me how it’s done.

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After lunch and naps at home, we spent the evening hours at Gray’s Beach again, this time to partake of the low tide perks:

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Wet sand for digging and building.

Shallow water for treasure-finding.

Shallow water for treasure-finding.

On the hunt for a crab.

On the hunt for a crab.

And plenty of crab catching.

Found some!

And an incredible adventure through the cold, cold water (couldn’t bring my camera, since we were immersed above our waists) out to the sand bars. So neat.

Wednesday was our one not-sunny day, so we spent the morning exploring the trails at the nature preserve.IMG_9897

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The paths took us to the beach, where we inspected the oyster beds.

The paths took us to the beach, where we inspected the oyster beds.

And ran and ran.

And ran in the sand.

This kid loves a good beach run.

This kid loves a good beach run.

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Our walk home took us to the visitor's center, where we watched baby turtles in a tank and checked out other local wildlife. And then we stumbled upon an apple tree that was begging for little hands to pick the fruit.

Our walk home took us to the visitor’s center, where we watched baby turtles in a tank and checked out other local wildlife. And then we stumbled upon an apple tree that was begging for little hands to pick the fruit.

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Then Cynthia, who uses part of the sanctuary's land for farming, brought us and a bucket of apples over to the animals. Time to feed the pigs! (Don't worry, the electric fence was off!)

Then Cynthia, who uses part of the sanctuary’s land for farming, brought us and a bucket of apples over to the animals. Time to feed the pigs! (Don’t worry, the electric fence was off!)

Those piggies were fed well that day.

Those piggies were fed well that day.

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And then back to the house, just before the rain drops began to fall.

And then back to the house, just before the rain drops began to fall.

What a sight — fresh laundry and two boys getting themselves ready for nap time.

What a sight — freshly folded laundry, and two boys getting themselves ready for nap time.

We made our way to Barnes & Noble during the afternoon hours to find some rainy day fun. The place was packed, but Soren knew just which nook to hide out in.

We made our way to Barnes & Noble that afternoon to find some rainy day fun. The place was packed, but Soren knew just which nook to hide out in.

And a train table! The only way we were able to get Soren to leave was by promising him a pizza for dinner.

And a train table! The only way we were able to get Soren to leave was by promising him a pizza for dinner.

Thursday was one of my favorite beach days. Cold Storage Beach was the spot of choice, and it was the first day our entire crew ended up at the same place at the same time.

Surveying the surroundings.

Surveying the surroundings.

Buddies. (Soren still mentions Ruby, or "Yoobee," every now and then.)

Buddies. (Soren still mentions Ruby, or “Yoobee,” every now and then.)

Time for a swim.

Time for a swim.

Look at these BFFs!

Look at these BFFs!

Soren looks like he's ready to dive right in.

Soren looks like he’s ready to dive right in.

And then the trench-digging began.

And then the trench-digging began.

And then, the trench-digging began.

Soren got stuck a few times.

 

Planking.

Planking.

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Maybe this meal is the reason I loved this beach day the most. Lobster roll, clam cakes, fries, and cole slaw from Captain Frosty's.

Maybe this meal is the reason I loved this beach day the most. Lobster roll, clam cakes, fries, and cole slaw from Captain Frosty’s.

A few minutes of peace for the shaded ladies.

A few minutes of peace for the shaded ladies.

We ALMOST got a group shot. The idiot teenager who took this photo chopped half the group off in most of the pictures he took. In this one, everyone made it in but Ruby.

We ALMOST got a full group shot. The kind teenager who took this photo chopped half the group off in most of the pictures he took. In this one, everyone made it in but Ruby.

Airing out.

Airing out.

And then a little swimming before Soren expired for nap time.

And then a little swimming before Soren expired for nap time. Tim went to go fetch the car while I got Soren ready to go. Soren asked for milk; I started nursing him, then looked down to find him asleep! Guess the beach really takes it out of you.

On our last full day we ventured to Mayflower Beach, which might have been my favorite if not for the tricky parking situation (we made it into the lot, but the others in our group had to wait in a long line for a spot to open up), the wind, and the cool temps (low 70s should be nothing to complain about, but it was chilly in the shade!).

This beach was another dream spot for kids — awesome tidal pools and sand bars, plus perfect sand for digging.

This beach was another dream spot for kids — awesome tidal pools and sand bars.

Beach and pool, all in one.

Beach and wading pool, all in one spot.

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The last beach day is always a very hard thing for me. I’ll be looking at these pictures throughout the winter to remind myself that there will be warmth and swimsuits again.

Other highlights from the trip include:

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A beautiful back yard for playing, eating, reading, art projects, and napping.

The backyard was also the perfect spot for the blow-up pool we brought. Unfortunately, the water from the hose was freezing, so Brian rigged up a hot shower solution.

The backyard was also the perfect spot for the blow-up pool we brought. Unfortunately, the water from the hose was freezing, but Brian rigged up a hot shower solution.

Visits to the Cape Cod Creamery. The Dennis Double Chocolate (with a hint of cinnamon!) is still in my dreams.

And a few visits to the Cape Cod Creamery. The Dennis Double Chocolate (with a hint of cinnamon!) is still in my dreams. Other foodie fun to remember: The Common Ground Cafe, which was the most bizarre restaurant experience ever , and Pain D’Avignon, a lovely French spot with amazing breads and baked oysters (with bacon, leeks, and Parm).

Until next year, Cape Cod. Who’s in this time?

July 2014

Oh, summer. What would we do without you?

On the first of the month, Tim sneakily recorded a little video of Soren reading his favorite book (“Things That Go” — a thrift store treasure). If you can’t tell, the words he’s saying include Bobcat, roller (yoyuh), dump truck, and forklift.

Next up was a much-anticipated trip to Virginia. Soren talked about airplanes and airports for days leading up to his seventh and final flight as a lap child. Lucky for him, our flight was delayed and he got to spend extra time in the terminal.

We started our July with a much anticipated trip to Virginia. Soren talked about airplanes and airports for days leading up to his seventh and final flight as a lap child. The usually quick trip turned disastrous when we got stuck on the runway for 2.5 hours, but Soren handled it better than I did. Thank goodness for JetBlue's unlimited snacks!

And then the usually quick trip turned disastrous when we got stuck on the runway for 2.5 hours. Not surprisingly, Soren handled it better than I did. Thank goodness for JetBlue’s unlimited snacks!

He did start to get impatient toward the end, though. Every few minutes he would yell and sign “GO GO” (which mostly sounds like “doh-doh”). Not quite the same when he’s prompted for a video, but here it is nonetheless.

The cousins came to play on our first day in Ashburn. We love cousins!

Taking turns with Truman.

Taking turns with Truman.

Soren talked about this firetruck A LOT while we were in VA.

Soren talked about this firetruck A LOT while we were in VA. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s diaper-less here. Tim might have been trying to teach Soren to pee in the woods.

The girls begged to watch a movie, so Grandmama sat with them for "The Wizard of Oz." Soren followed the crowd and scrambled onto the couch, and I debated about removing him from the room (we still haven't done any screen time with him). Fortunately, he was more interested in the kids than the movie, and he wandered off to play after a couple of minutes.

The girls begged to watch a movie, so Grandmama sat with them for “The Wizard of Oz.” Soren followed the crowd and scrambled onto the couch. I thought about removing him from the room, since we still don’t do any screen time. Fortunately, he was more interested in the kids than the movie, and he wandered off to play after a couple of minutes.

Uncle Ben (aka "Uh Ben") showed up too!

Uncle Ben (aka “Uh Ben”) showed up too!

We celebrated the 4th of July at the National Zoo. I’ve been to plenty of zoos in my day, and this is surely the best (and it’s free!).

Pappy and Grandmama swung Soren along.

Pappy and Grandmama swung Soren along as we walked to the zoo (we declined the $22 parking option).

The cutest lion cubs wrestled and romped around all morning.

The cutest lion cubs wrestled and romped around all morning. (Side note: I fall more and more in love with Soren’s curls every day.)

The kids went nuts for the fountain-filled tide pool by the seal exhibit. Every few minutes a giant gush of water poured down the rocks for the littles to splash in.

The kids went nuts for the tide pool by the seal exhibit. Every few minutes a giant gush of water poured down the rocks for the littles to splash in.

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And then, nap time.

And then, nap time.

Tim and Uncle Ben played with the nieces atop the giant pizza playground.

Tim and Ben played with the nieces atop the giant pizza playground.

We hung out at Reagan’s all afternoon, enjoying Cafe Rio, a backyard, the neighborhood pool, and a few daytime fireworks.

We kept the animal theme going the next day by visiting Frying Pan Park — a Dickson family favorite. We went as kids, and Soren has been there a few times now.

No hesitation about petting any of the animals.

No hesitation about petting any of the animals. Tim and I dream of having a farm that our kids run so we can enjoy the eggs and goat cheese and honey without having to do any work. We’re well on our way here.

The afternoon brought us backyard heaven -- an empty pool, perfect for throwing rocks.

The afternoon brought us backyard heaven and solo pool time for splashing and throwing rocks.

Topless gardening.

Topless gardening.

Uncle Ben (aka"Uh Ben") gave Soren a lesson in scootering.

Uncle Ben gave Soren a lesson in scootering.

The trip was too short,  especially since we thought we were flying home Tuesday and found out at the last minute our flight was actually on Monday.

All my snuggle dreams came true when Soren fell asleep while nursing on the plane. He hasn't fallen asleep during milk time since he was teeny tiny!

All my snuggle dreams came true when Soren fell asleep while nursing on the plane. He hasn’t fallen asleep during milk time since he was teeny tiny!

My calendar for the next week shows we packed in the fun but took few pictures — five different playgrounds in five days, a trip to the pool, a successful day at Soren’s school, a friend over for dinner one night, and one evening with lobster rolls and fountain fun in the North End.

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Plus, a Friday evening train ride with Dada while I got my gym on.

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On Sunday evenings we usually go for a little spin around the neighborhood. Soren is always up for a stop at the pond to throw rocks. The slope into the water is a little steep at the edge, so I feel the need to steady him by the shirt collar. I’m certain he’ll run right in one of these days.

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Street find! One of the houses by the lake had a few children’s items out for giveaway. We snagged this great Melissa & Doug easel for future use. It was a bit cumbersome to carry, so Tim set it down for a few minutes while we played.

The following week Soren and I visited our Boston zoo. It wasn't much compared to DC's, but we did have a great time watching the gorillas.

The following week Soren and I visited our Boston zoo, thanks to free tickets from the Allston-Brighton Family Network. It wasn’t much compared to DC’s, but we did have a great time watching the gorillas.

I promise he was having fun.

I promise he was having fun.

Soren likes to help me water our herbs, and I like to record our conversations (even though our conversations are often nearly identical from day to day).

We ventured to a new beach the next Saturday, and now we can’t figure out why we’d never been to Nahant before.

Easy parking, great sand, and typical New England freezing cold water.

Easy parking, great sand, and typical New England freezing cold water.

This was our first real beach day of the year, and Soren quickly learned to love the sand.

This was our first real beach day of the year, and we were relieved that Soren quickly learned to love the sand.

Tim is really good at digging and building, and I'm really good at sitting in my chair and reading or taking pictures.

Tim is really good at digging and building, and I’m really good at sitting in my chair and reading.

Buried alive.

Buried alive.

That night, we discovered a scary bullseye on Soren’s leg and had to start antibiotics for Lyme disease. I had ambitions of keeping antibiotics out of my baby’s system for his whole life, but we decided it was a better alternative than an actual disease. We killed some time at the park while walking to CVS to get his prescription filled, and Soren taught me all about picking up trash at the park.

Another day, another video. Conversations about gooses and popcorn and Wild Things and so on.

Uncle Ben came up for yet another visit toward the end of the month, so Tim took a little time off work for some play time. Our first stop was Walden Pond.

The parking lot was full and wouldn't open again for two hours. So Soren and I hopped out of the car and snuck in the old fashioned way.

The parking lot was full and wouldn’t open again for two hours. So Soren and I hopped out of the car and snuck in the old fashioned way.

The best water in the world with the best scenery. That Thoreau knew what he was doing.

The best water in the world with the best scenery.

Channeling his inner Thoreau.

Channeling his inner Thoreau.

We had more water fun the next day at the Frog Pond (after a quick stop at the courtyard story time at the BPL).

Soren was the first one in the water, and he was clearly thrilled about it.

Soren was the first one in the water, and he was clearly thrilled about it.

Back and forth from the playground to the pond.

Back and forth from the playground to the pond.

Shoulda brought my suit.

Shoulda brought my suit.

I never knew Soren had these moves in him.

Next we took Ben to Giacomo’s, our tried and true favorite for pumpkin tortellini, lobster ravioli, butternut squash ravioli, and more.

The line was as long as ever, but Soren kept busy by wandering the Freedom Trail and taking rests to read.

The line was as long as ever, but Soren kept busy by wandering the Freedom Trail and taking breaks to read.

And of course we had to also pick up pastries and stop by the fountains while in the North End.

On Saturday we were off to Castle Island.

First, some playground fun.

First, some playground fun.

Playgrounds should always be right on the beach.

Playgrounds should always be right on the beach.

Tricky bridge.

Tricky bridge.

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Perfect day.

Sandy train tracks.

Sandy train tracks.

My dreams of cultivating a beach bum are definitely coming true.

My dreams of cultivating a beach bum are definitely coming true.

And to finish the month off, I tried to capture on video some of the funny things Soren knows/says. It never works out quite as well when he’s on camera. He likes to talk about our respective workplaces (Harvard for Tim, “office” for me), a few numbers, some letters, and so on.

Oh, and one more random from the last of the month.

I'm not sure how this started, but Soren really likes to fill the bottom of the slide with woodchips, walk around to climb the ladder, then crash down into his pile.

I’m not sure how this started, but Soren really likes to fill the bottom of the slide with woodchips, walk around to climb the ladder, then crash down into his pile. Also, note his pocket full of Trader Joe’s stickers. Always good to keep those close to the heart.

June 2014

June must have been a very quiet month — I didn’t take a single picture on my “real” camera, and the photos on my phone and Tim’s don’t show much action. Or maybe it was a really busy month, so we didn’t have time for photo/video shoots? I can’t remember. Here is the update from our June journal.

In a matter of days, it seems, Soren went from having a vocabulary of about three words (mama, dada, yeah) to now knowing every word in the dictionary. It’s so fun to hear him say words I had no idea he was aware of. Note that he typically turns mute if I try to get him to perform on video. (He still signs here and there — in this video he does “love” and “rock.”)

Sunday afternoon walk. I tucked his shirt in for the first time and he turned from baby to big boy right in front of my eyes.

Sunday afternoon walk. I tucked his shirt in for the first time and he turned from baby to big boy right in front of my eyes.

Despite my best efforts to keep the word “no” out of our house, Soren came home from Minnesota in May with some interest in the word. It took a couple of weeks, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve eliminated it from our family’s vocab again. He had taken to growling the word (as seen at the start of this video), so I would ask him to try again with a nice word; in response he’d say, “yeah.” And now we’re back to a no-free household.

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If there is one Boston event I crave every year, it’s the Scooper Bowl — unlimited ice cream, froyo, and gelato from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Breyer’s, and Garelick Farms. Soren was so distracted by all the action that he hardly noticed the ice cream binge Tim and I were engaging in. Thank goodness for the nearby garbage trucks and construction site that aided me in keeping my child mostly sugar free.

As usual, we spent a good part of each day at the parks near our house. Some days we don’t even make it to the actual playground because he spends so much time wandering around the park gathering rocks and sticks.

Now let me talk for a minute about something that changed my life. (I’m mainly telling this long story for anyone who could benefit from the program but may not know about it… so all others should feel free to skip right ahead.) A couple of months ago, I had a few different friends from community playgroups tell me about the services they’d used from the Massachusetts Early Intervention program. I’d heard of EI before but didn’t think much about it since I knew it was a service we didn’t need. But the friends who told me about it weren’t the types who “needed” assistance either. One friend’s daughter qualified for the program because she wasn’t talking much at 18 months. Most kids I know aren’t talking much at 18 months. Soren certainly wasn’t, but I wasn’t worried about it. He crawled “late,” he walked “late,” and he was right on track to talk “late.” But his comprehension and communication skills (I mean, he had a signing vocabulary of 40+ words) were excellent. He was perfectly healthy, very happy (even if he wouldn’t crack a smile or show emotion to strangers), and was (and still is) such a good listener and direction-follower. So again, I wasn’t the least bit worried. But when my friends talked about how neat it was to have an early childhood educator come to their homes for an hour each week simply to play with their kids, I was intrigued.

So I had Soren tested. The evaluators came to our home and asked me various questions while playing with Soren to determine his cognitive function, fine motor and gross motor skills, his ability to communicate, etc. Thanks to his non-verbal communication, he qualified! (Their development checklist suggests 15-18-month-olds should be repeating two-word phrases — Soren definitely wasn’t interested in that.) They had me outline a couple of goals we would work on, and it was then that I learned they were perfectly trained to help Soren’s inability to separate from me. I threw out the goal to work on his language (since I knew that would come in its own time) and decided we should work toward getting Soren comfortable with other adults and helping him learn to be happy without me in the room.

So Soren’s “development specialist” started coming over once a week, and we LOVE her. Her degree is in psychology and child development, and she and Soren are a lovely match. She brings fun toys and games along, and I’ve learned a lot from her about new ways to play with Soren. And since she’s over for an hour, I can usually get dinner prepped and the kitchen cleaned while watching my baby learn and grow and have a grand time.

He also got a spot in one of the toddler groups (like a mini preschool) at Thom Boston Metro. It’s one day a week for two hours, and the parents don’t attend. The kids are in small groups, and there is generally a 2:1 ratio of kids to teachers. I had mixed emotions about this. Based on how he’d done with our church’s nursery (or rather, how he had not been able to attend nursery on his own) I was expecting to stay by his side at this group and for the rest of his life. The head teacher of the class recommended staying with him the first session, staying just an hour the second time, and only 15 minutes the third time. I assured her Soren would need much more time than that. But, to my absolute shock, Soren did OK without me for about 45 minutes during his second session (pacifier required)!And by his fourth time, I played with him for 15 minutes, asked for a kiss goodbye, and walked out of the room without him minding one bit (and no pacifier this time!). I was glued to the two-way mirrors the entire hour and 45 minutes, certain he was going to break down at any moment and need me. But he was happy! He played with the train table and the sand table and the kitchen and the farm. He did an art project and went to the gym to play on the slides and in the ball pit and on the trampoline. And he had snack time and circle time and didn’t appear to miss me once. And after singing the goodbye song, he came out the door to find me and had the biggest, proudest smile on his face — like he knew he had just accomplished something totally awesome.

So, long story short, if your kid can qualify for your state’s Early Intervention program, USE IT. We’ve had only the most positive experiences with Thom Boston. And Soren’s successes have translated to other areas of his life. He’s now a pro at nursery at church, he can finally handle the child care at my gym, and he has a grand time with his babysitter a couple mornings a week while I work. I love knowing that he’s learning and playing in different ways from the methods I provide him. And that is my testimony of Early Intervention.

Soren started "school." And now he's cured of his inability to leave my side. It has been absolutely magical for us. I get a huge kick out of watching his every move through the two-way mirrors.

I don’t think I could’ve done this without two-way mirrors. Greatest invention ever.

One Sunday morning we went to church an hour early for one of Tim's meetings. Soren and I took a walk around the block knowing we would find plenty to see at all the construction sites. He was pretty happy about fitting perfectly inside the backhoe's scooper.

One Sunday morning we went to church an hour early for one of Tim’s meetings. Soren and I took a walk around the block knowing we would find plenty to see at all the construction sites. He was pretty happy about fitting perfectly inside the backhoe’s scooper.

Sometimes when I’m posting all these photos and videos, I wonder if anyone is judging Soren’s wardrobe. Is it normal that I change him into pajama pants for his naps?

One Saturday I told Tim I’d had a brainstorm about creating my perfect storage solution. We have a huge storage area in our apartment and it had been the largest disaster of my life for most of the time we’ve lived in this house. Picture storage bins and cardboard boxes and suitcases and food storage and baby chairs and bassinets and wrapping paper and craft supplies and more and more and more — all strewn about haphazardly. And of course it costs one million dollars to buy shelving systems that are sturdy and just the right size and shape. So off to Home Depot we went, with Tim grumbling all the while.

Soren begs to watch the forklift at Home Depot. Sometimes I'm tempted to ask for products on the top shelves, just so he can have his wish come true.

Soren begs to watch the forklift at Home Depot. Sometimes I’m tempted to ask for products on the top shelves, just so he can have his wish come true.

Tim and I aren’t the handiest with tools and building stuff, but look what we (mostly he) did! I couldn’t be happier.

I can now fit 12 storage bins and a whole lot of junk on these shelves.

I can now fit 12 storage bins and a whole lot of junk on these beautiful shelves.

We found yet another awesome park in walking distance of our house. This one is right next to the T, so we get the added bonus of being able to sit on cool chairs and watch the trains go by.

We found yet another awesome park in walking distance of our house. This one is right next to the T, so we have the added bonus of being able to sit on cool chairs and watch the trains go by.

One Saturday Tim took Soren to the grocery store and on a nature walk. Soren is a lover of sticks of all sizes, and he took a particular liking to this one.

One Saturday Tim took Soren to the grocery store and on a nature walk. Soren is a lover of sticks of all sizes, and he took a particular liking to this one.

When he discovers a stick or rock he wants but finds it's too cumbersome to carry, he demands that we do it. And since we're suckers, we usually oblige.

When he discovers a stick or rock he wants but finds it’s too cumbersome to carry, he demands that we do it. And since we’re suckers, we usually oblige.

And this was the day Soren discovered rock climbing (also known as "yock yiming").

And this was the day Soren discovered rock climbing (also known as “yock yiming”).

Soren falls more in love with pizza as he ages. We couldn't be more proud that he's adopted our favorite food as his own. He's no respecter of toppings or restaurant. The only downside of this beloved meal of his is that we don't have enough for leftovers when we buy just one pizza.

Soren falls more in love with pizza as he ages. We couldn’t be more proud that he’s adopted our favorite food as his own. He’s no respecter of toppings or restaurant. The only downside of this newly beloved meal of his is that we don’t have enough for leftovers when we buy just one pizza.

It’s really fun to watch this kid eat. Any food that doesn’t get eaten quickly turns into a train or a truck or a tower.

Our first pool day of the summer was on the last day of June. I was wondering what had taken us so long until I realized the pools had only opened a few days before.

Our first pool day of the summer was on the last day of June. I was wondering what had taken us so long until I realized the pools had only opened a few days before!

May 2014

Ahhhh, May. One of my most favorite months. There’s always a little extra excitement in the air with special dates like my birthday and Mother’s Day. The weather is generally wonderful. And this year our May included two out-of-state adventures.

Soren loooves bubbles. And he fearlessly hunts down the geese and ducks by the pond, so we combined it all one afternoon.

Soren loves bubbles and fearlessly hunting down the geese and ducks by the pond, so we combined the two one afternoon.

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I got almost a foot of hair cut off! I did it on a bit of a whim, and I haven't looked back. It was either going to be messy ponytail every day or messy short hair, and the latter is a little more presentable.

I got almost a foot of hair cut off! I did it on a bit of a whim, and I haven’t looked back. I realized I had to live with either a long, tangly ponytail every day or messy short hair, and the latter is a little more presentable. I sent my lovely locks to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program.

And then we were off to Minnesota for a week with the Laytons and Hepps. We left chilly Boston for even chillier Wayzata, MN.

Since Tim and Soren and I were up a few hours before everyone else, we did lots of morning exploring.

Since Tim and Soren and I were up a few hours before everyone else, we did lots of morning exploring.

Soren learned the fine art of throwing rocks in the water.

Soren learned the fine art of throwing rocks in the water, which launched a full-on rock obsession. I can’t count how many times a day I find random rocks throughout the house that he’s snuck in somehow.

First zoo trip! Soren would look at each animal for about three seconds then sign/say "more more" and walk away to find something else. I'm trying to teach him to live in the moment.

First zoo trip! Soren would look at each animal for about three seconds then sign/say “more more” and walk away to find something else. I’m trying to teach him to live in the moment.

Three generations clip-clopping on the bridge.

Three generations clip-clopping on the bridge.

Gorilla love.

Gorilla love.

And a smooch for good measure.

And a smooch for good measure.

The Como Park Zoo has a really fun children's gallery with lots of hands-on activities. Soren is never one to turn down a place to splash.

The Como Park Zoo has a really fun children’s gallery with lots of hands-on activities. Soren is never one to turn down an opportunity to splash.

We also loved the gardens.

We also loved the gardens.

Does it get any cuter?

Does it get any cuter?

After the zoo and gardens, Soren didn't think it was possible that his day could get any better. And then Aunt Rita took us to see trains!

After the zoo and gardens, Soren didn’t think it was possible that his day could get any better. And then Aunt Rita took us to see trains!

Back at the house, Soren tried to teach cousin London about stomping on bubbles.

Back at the house, Soren tried to teach cousin London about stomping on bubbles.

Not the cutest face here, but I had to document what Soren does when he hears something interesting. I guess I was in the habit of pointing to my ear when I would ask him if he heard an airplane, truck, bird, etc. So he started pointing to his cheek when he wanted to note an intriguing sound.

Not the cutest face here, but I had to document what Soren does when he hears something interesting. I guess I was in the habit of pointing to my ear when I would ask him if he heard an airplane, truck, bird, etc. So he started pointing to his cheek when he wanted to note an intriguing sound. He’s been doing it for a few months now and I kind of hope he never stops.

Watching the boats on the bay.

Watching the train in the distance.

Soren had his socks knocked off again when we visited the Mall of America. We started out at the aquarium, which involved a lot of crying until we figured out Soren was not feeling great. When I would ask him if something hurt he would point to his stomach. So we had a miserable time until we got to the end and I changed the most disgusting diaper in the history of the world. And then life was grand and we walked through the aquarium again and Soren suddenly thought it was the best day ever.

The LEGO store was pretty great, too.

The LEGO store was pretty great, too.

And then, the rides! Taking Soren on the amusement park rides made me want to spoil him like crazy and give him every thing he ever asks for. The first ride we tried was the mini semi-trucks, and Soren was absolutely enthralled. I had a hunch he would be sad when it was over, so as it was winding down I let him know we would go on more rides. When the trucks stopped and I reached to get Soren out, he burst into tears and started signing “red” — he wanted to go on the red truck! I promised him we would go find another fun ride, but he was pretty sad until he realized what I meant. Our next stop was the roller coaster. In typical Soren fashion, he didn’t crack a smile, but he showed how he felt about it by bursting into tears when it ended. And that’s what happened on every ride we went on. Total despair when each one would end. I wanted to take him on a billion rides.

And then it was Saturday and the worst day of Soren’s life when he woke up with a burning fever. As soon as Tim put Soren in our bed and I felt the heat emanating from his little body, I knew we were going to have a rough day. For practically the first time in his life he wasn’t interested in food, and all he wanted to do was lay in our bed. We got him started on baby ibuprofen to bring the 103 fever down, but he was in sad shape all day.

Tim was secretly thrilled to finally experience Soren in a cuddly state.

Tim was secretly thrilled to finally experience Soren in a cuddly state.

Not a bad place to be sick.

Not a bad place to be sick.

And of course Soren's sick day landed on the day of the family party. You know how you always want your kid to perform well in front of family and friends who don't see him often? Soren totally failed.

And of course Soren’s sick day landed on the day of the family party. You know how you always want your kid to perform well in front of family and friends who don’t see him often? Soren totally failed.

The next day was a real letdown of a Mother’s Day. I woke up to a diarrhea-soaked baby next to me in bed (but the fever was mostly gone!). We spent the morning packing and cleaning up the house. And then we killed a few hours before our flight at Tim’s grandparents’ house. I attempted to give Soren a nap on a mattress on the floor, and he was all over the place. He’s definitely not moving out of his crib anytime soon. He eventually fell asleep with his head hanging off of the bed. About 30 minutes later, he woke up and had a major freak out when he realized he was half on the floor, not in a pack-and-play, and in a strange room (I was sleeping next to him the whole time, but that was not at all reassuring). He screamed for the next 15 minutes while Tim and I frantically tried to calm him down and simultaneously get ready to leave for the airport (and again, I was feeling 100% embarrassed thinking Tim’s relatives must see me as a totally incompetent mother). Soren finally succumbed to the breastmilk, and I started changing his diaper. And then he peed ALL OVER ME. My pants were soaked (it totally looked like I was the one who had the accident), and all our suitcases were packed away in the car. And we were late for our flight. So I strategically held my purse in front of me as we said our goodbyes to the family. The flight back to Boston was uneventful, although keeping Soren both entertained and contained for three hours is no small feat. And then we were home and all was well and I demanded a do-over Mother’s Day.

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The best family photo we could get.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

We came home to two normal days of work and library trips and playground adventures. And, of course, playtime with the doggies.

And then it was my birthday! I think I’m 32 now; I usually have to do the math to figure out my age. Soren and I got lunch downtown then fed the ducks and rode the swan boats. We wandered the Public Garden then moseyed back down Newbury Street to play on the playground, where Tim met up with us to join the fun. After Soren went to bed, Brenda brought me flowers, cheesecake, and her exceptional babysitting services. Tim and I got dinner at Toscano and felt like normal people who go out after 8 p.m.

I took a whopping one picture on my day. Soren and I got lunch downtown then took a ride on the swan boats. I had to wrestle Soren to keep him on the boat (the baguette helped).

I took a whopping one picture on my day. I had to wrestle Soren to keep him on the swan boat (the baguette helped).

Tim took off for a conference in Chicago for a few days then came back to take us on a Saturday bike ride. Soren sometimes carries his helmet around the house asking for a ride in the bike trailer.

Tim took off for a conference in Chicago for a few days then came back to take us on a Saturday bike ride. Soren sometimes carries his helmet around the house asking for a ride in the bike trailer.

Soren has a newfound love of sticks. He insisted on bringing this one in the car. Is that a safety hazard?

Soren has a newfound love of sticks. He insisted on bringing this one in the car. Is that a safety hazard?

Soren has been helping me with the dishwasher for a few months now, but he's finally become (mostly) independent with the flatware.

Soren has been helping me with the dishwasher for a few months now, but he’s finally become (mostly) independent with the flatware.

We've learned to always sit by the windows when we eat out. After dinner we let Soren roam free so we could eat dessert. He had no idea what he was missing.

We’ve learned to always sit by the windows when we eat out. After dinner we let Soren roam free so we could eat dessert. He had no idea what he was missing.

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We love to stop by this park and sand hill on our way home from Costco.

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It doesn't hurt that it's right on the river.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s right on the river.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlBjG0ltLgo

For Memorial Day weekend, we took our maiden journey to Butterhill, a pre-1800s 10-bedroom house in Franconia, New Hampshire. Gram’s cousins own the house, and family members are welcome to come stay anytime. So now we know where we’ll be all summer.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVa4mdlhucA

We took a Sunday evening hike to Bald Knob.

We took a Sunday evening hike to Bald Knob.

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On Memorial Day we did a slightly more serious hike at the Basin in Franconia Notch State Park.

Grandmama and Pappy and a crazy tree.

Grandmama and Pappy and a crazy tree.

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And then obviously we spent lots of time throwing rocks in the water.

And then obviously we spent lots of time throwing rocks in the water (we had time to kill while John and Shauna searched high and low for their fifth child, the AT).

These are the curls that melt my heart.

These are the curls that melt my heart. We’re seeing no haircuts in the near future.

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After lunch and nap we spent a relaxing afternoon at Butterhill.

Tire swings and za'atar crackers -- two of Shauna's favorite things.

Tire swings and za’atar crackers — two of Shauna’s favorite things.

Soren fell in love with the vintage toys.

Soren fell in love with the house’s abundant toy collection.

More hummingbird watching.

More hummingbird watching.

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Toddler rock climbing.

Toddler rock climbing.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFyjyLBOEIg

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And then back home to Boston. We read A LOT of books on the 2-hour drive. This is when Grandmama helped us discover that Soren really has been paying attention for the last 20+ months. She tried leaving words out of the story here and there to see if Soren could fill them in. Turns out he practically has “Hop on Pop” memorized! Since then, we’ve done the fill-in-the-blank game with lots of other books at home, and he knows way more than I ever would have guessed. He didn’t inherit any memorization skills from me.

We finally got back into our normal life routine at the end of the month. Soren is becoming a lot more independent at home, and it’s really fun to sneak around and watch him playing solo.

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One day I discovered a trio of animals staring out the window. I figured Tim had done it while playing with Soren in the morning. I put the toys away and then noticed they were back in position a few hours later. Must’ve been Soren!

April 2014

My plan to post quarterly updates in this journal of ours has been foiled. April, May, and June have all brought extra exciting, picture-worthy events, so it’s time to move to a monthly blogging schedule. Here is our April report!

Our month started with three out-of-town guests who came to celebrate the close of Tim’s 22 years of schooling. Jim and Cindy arrived first, and we kicked off their visit with a Saturday morning trip to the park.

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And then some inside playtime in the afternoon.

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Soren loves his made-by-Grandma bean bags.

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Soren likes to sit on toy animals (the giant stuffed puppy at the library, for example) and pretend to go for a ride. In this instance he’s preparing to sit on a tiny pig.

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We also checked out the SoWa Winter Market in the afternoon and had an Ethiopian dinner at Addis Red Sea in the South End. Soren felt a little confused about the situation, since all the food was served in one giant wicker bowl/table. So he roamed the place while we dined, checking in occasionally to eat a handful of diced tomatoes.

While Tim made last-minute preparations on Monday for his dissertation defense, the rest of us went to the Boston Children’s Museum.

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The construction zone was a hit — no surprise there.

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And the water play was fun, even if Soren wasn’t quite tall enough to see what he was doing. At least he liked the taste of the germ-filled water.

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Trains are the latest obsession.

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Back at the home front, Soren was won over when the grandparents bought him red grapes.

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When the morning’s rain and hail cleared, we made it out for a little walk.

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And then it was Tuesday — Tim’s big day! During the months (years, I suppose) leading up to Tim’s dissertation defense, he worked tirelessly to complete the 196-page document. I spent those months preparing myself to leave Soren with a babysitter. Luckily, our dear friend Brenda — who was the only non-parent in Soren’s life he was OK being with — agreed to sneak out of work for a few hours to take care of Soren. She texted me pictures throughout the defense, and I was so relieved to see she was working her magic so effectively with Soren. Lots of smiles and no need for a pacifier (or a mama).

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Brenda even bought Soren a celebratory BU shirt!

Tim passed his defense (phew) after wowing the panel. He wasn’t even asked to make any edits! He’s a smartie pants. And a really hard worker. And handsome on top of all that!

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The distinguished panel. And the only people in the room who had any idea what Tim was talking about. My dad did jot down notes and about 32 questions to ask Tim later.

Presenting Dr. Layton!

Presenting Dr. Layton!

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Later in the day, Soren continued to impress us when he let Pappy carry him away from the house. I guess a giant truck is a pretty good incentive.

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The next day, it was back to normal life for us. For a few days, normal included Soren sitting on the potty and having successes his first two tries! We’ve since put the whole thing on the back burner due partially to a lack of interest on Soren’s part and mostly to a lack of desire to go through with it on my part.

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This is Soren’s “thumbs up.”

Most days include a walk (or two) to the park. I usually let Soren wander to his heart’s content, which usually means we pay a visit to the dogs.

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Sometimes this is Soren’s face after Costco samples. I don’t know what it is about that place, but Soren will eat absolutely anything that’s offered to him. He doesn’t like avocados at home, but when it’s Costco guacamole he’ll beg for seconds (and thirds).

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Soren’s cute friend Ella had a Zumba-themed birthday party at the YMCA. He didn’t know what to make of the room full of people jumping around like crazies, but he quickly loosened up.

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On Soren’s first Easter (2013) we were flying back from a week in Texas, so he missed out on egg hunts and Easter baskets and candy (OK, that’s not why he missed out on candy). This year, he made up for it by going to two egg hunts. On Good Friday we met up with church friends at a Cambridge park.

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Soren is clearly a novice here. Also, who ever heard of winter coats at Easter time?

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I really had to coax Soren into the egg-finding. I would plant his basket down near an egg and wait for him to go get it. He got into it eventually.

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Don’t expect this stone-face to show excitement over a basket full of eggs.

The next day Soren did it all over again, this time with about a million other kids. Brighton Main Streets hosted the hunt on BC’s lovely campus, and the eggs were plentiful.

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Thankfully, there was a separate area for the older kids.

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Game face.

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Look at all those eggs!

Actual Easter was one of my greatest ever. Some of our favorite extended family members were in town for the Boston marathon, so we invited all 18 of them (plus one in utero) to dinner. Everyone came over soon after church to help cook and set up, and I was surprised and pleased that eight little kids (ages 1-8) were happy to play with Soren’s toys for more than an hour (though they also killed some time at the park). I was mostly excited that Soren was so entertained by the cousins that he forgot I existed. And I got to spend great quality time in the kitchen with some of my favorite ladies. We ended up with deviled eggs and spinach/artichoke dip for hors d’oeuvres, roasted leg of lamb and grilled pork tenderloin for the meat eaters, rosemary roasted potatoes, asparagus tart, spinach and Gruyère strata, beet and goat cheese salad, and boring Costco rolls (because I knew I would be crazy to make my own on top of everything else we were doing).

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As it turns out, hosting dinner for 21 people is a cinch when other people do the cleaning up. I loved seeing this giant stack of clean dishes and knowing I hadn’t touched one!

We reconvened the next day — Patriot’s Day — on Comm Ave. for a few hours of marathon watching. We found the Joneses in a great little spot near our house and just after Heartbreak Hill.

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Soren waved his little cowbell each time a racer passed. He strongly preferred the push-rim wheelchairs to the actual runners.

While we debated whether we should go back home to put Soren down for a nap, we looked down to see he was fast asleep. So Tim watched the race while pacing.

While we debated whether we should go back home to put Soren down for a nap, we looked down to see he was fast asleep. So Tim watched the race while pacing.

And then, after all the anticipation, Tristram finally showed up! With 21 miles down, he looked like he was having the time of his life. But he didn’t see us or hear our shouting. And his wife, Emily, didn’t see him at all! Within seconds, we had formulated a plan to go catch him before the finish line. Six of us sprinted the .8 miles back to our house (although halfway there I realized I didn’t have my keys and had to run back to Tim to get them), jumped in the car, and sped off. I’ll take any chance I can get to pretend I’m a race car driver. During the journey we all attempted to calculate how long it would take him to hit each mile marker, and we had no idea if I could get them there in time to get a glimpse of him running. They hopped out of the car at Kenmore Square, and within minutes I received this picture on my phone. Success!

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Our long weekend of fun continued with a visit from Tim’s brother, Ben. We visited Gloucester, spent some time in the Public Garden and the North End, and ate a lot (Regina’s, Bartley’s, Causeway). We’re doing our best to woo him to Boston for grad school.

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We love Manchester-by-the-Sea, but this day was just too cold and windy. The presence of geese was enough for Soren, though.

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The rest of our month was more typical. Here are the randoms:

I popped into a thrift store one day to see if there were any gems for Soren. I scored a Fisher Price popper, a Melissa & Doug train, and this book -- Soren's favorite of all the books in the world -- for $5.

I stopped at a thrift store on a whim one day to see if there were any gems for Soren. I scored a Fisher Price popper, a Melissa & Doug train, and this book — now Soren’s favorite of all the books in the world — for about $5.

I was surprised he became so absorbed in a book that doesn't have a story for me to read to him. So we just look at the pictures and I tell him what each thing is. He can correctly identify about 55 of the "things that go," including favorites like the rickshaw, street sweeper, high-speed train, and the Chinese junk.

I was surprised he became so absorbed in a book that doesn’t have a story for me to read to him. So we just look at the pictures and I tell him what each thing is. He can correctly identify about 55 of the “things that go,” including favorites like the rickshaw, street sweeper, high-speed train, and the Chinese junk.

After reading the Atlantic cover story about overprotected kids, I've been pining for an "adventure playground." When I saw this giant pile of sticks at our park, I steered Soren in that direction hoping it would be the equivalent of the "junk" play areas in the UK.

After reading the Atlantic cover story about overprotected kids, I’ve been pining for an “adventure playground.” When I saw this giant pile of sticks at our park, I steered Soren in that direction hoping it would be the equivalent of the “junk” play areas in the UK.

And this is how Soren feels about nursery. He hit our church's nursery age in February, and he has yet to make it more than 10 minutes in there alone. He likes the toys, he likes the lessons, he likes the songs, and he loves the snack. But all those things are only good if mama or dada is nearby. One Sunday I had to leave for a meeting, so I left a crying Soren and the pacifier in Emily's capable hands. And I came back to find him conked out in her lap. I think falling asleep was his coping mechanism.

And this is how Soren feels about nursery. He hit our church’s nursery age in February, and he has yet to make it more than 10 minutes in there alone. He likes the toys, he likes the lessons, he likes the songs, and he loves the snack. But all those things are only good if mama or dada is nearby. One Sunday I had to leave for a meeting, so I left a crying Soren and the pacifier in Emily’s capable hands. And I came back to find him conked out in her lap. I think falling asleep was his coping mechanism.

1Q14

I’ve found that I often measure time in increments determined by my job. When I worked at the magazine, I thought of life as pairs of months since we published bi-monthly (the January/February issue, the March/April issue, etc.). Since starting my current job four years ago with a financial research firm, I segment my life into quarters. And since we’ve just wrapped up the first quarter of the year (known as 1Q14 in my research reports), I figured it was a good time to post an update of our goings on since 2014 rolled around.

January

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We were in Virginia for the holidays, so we spent the first day of the new year downtown. The US Botanic Garden puts together a fantastic train exhibit each year, so we took Soren and met up with four of his cousins there.

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Soren is such a pointer. When he’s not eating or sleeping, he’s pointing at something (usually airplanes, trucks, buses, or, in this case, trains).

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We enjoyed a freezing cold picnic on the steps by the Capitol reflecting pool (Soren loved the seagulls that tried to eat our lunch). We made sure to save room for our Cafe Rio dinner that would come later that evening. I’m thrilled Cafe Rio is all over VA/MD/DC now, but I’m wondering when Boston will get a turn?

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We got a little dusting of snow in Ashburn the next day. Soren begged to go outside, so Pappy won him over for a minute by offering a ride on a little tricycle.

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The next day we made our way to Pennsylvania, where Tim had a conference to attend. Soren and I thought Philadelphia sounded fun, so we offered to tag along. We were very wrong — it was a miserable place. We pulled into the city after the three-hour drive just in time to drop Tim off for one of the sessions. Apparently Philadelphia doesn’t believe in snow plows, because the roads downtown were practically impassable. I’m a very competent city driver, but this place was a mess. But even though it was 15 degrees and crazy windy (that polar vortex was no joke), I figured it would be lame of me to go straight to the hotel and not see the place. So Soren and I drove around downtown Philly until we found the Liberty Bell. Of course Soren’s pants were soaked and of course I couldn’t find extra clothes or our hats and mittens. So I threw him in the Ergo and we sprinted to the building to warm up and do a quick diaper change. And of course there are no bathrooms in the Liberty Bell building — why would there be? So I laid my already frozen baby on the cold, hard concrete floor for a little diaper change, then put his wet pants right back on him. I let him wander around the bell for awhile, and he was photoed by many Asian tourists.

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Soren was a little annoyed he couldn’t get closer to the spots where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed.

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And then, the worst night of our lives. It started off only sort of badly, when the hotel’s promised crib was nowhere to be found. I demanded that someone go find one, and within 30 minutes someone showed up with a brand new pack and play from Target. But our adventure turned really crazy around 2 a.m. when a team of firefighters required us to evacuate the building because of a suspicious package in the lobby. I was ready to risk my life in order to keep my baby asleep, but the evacuation was mandatory — they went room to room to make sure we were all out. We spent a few miserable hours in the hallway of a neighboring hotel. Tim and I could barely keep our eyes open; Soren didn’t seem to mind being awake in the middle of the night. After going back to bed around 4:30 a.m. (back in our bomb-free hotel), Soren somehow felt ready to wake up for the day at 5 a.m. I literally cannot remember ever being so tired. I hate Philadelphia. We were so delirious and sleep deprived that we decided Tim would skip the Saturday sessions and we would instead drive back to Boston — a really smart choice when you’re super drowsy. But pizza in New Haven solved all our problems. And being home in Boston felt really, really good.

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We came back from Virginia with Gram’s stool, and Soren spends a lot of time on it. When there are so many trucks and buses and people and dogs passing by, why wouldn’t you stay glued to the window?

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Soren enjoys spreading our pots and pans and lids all over the kitchen floor, so I was really pleased when I walked into the kitchen one day to see he had tidied up and placed them all inside a laundry basket.

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Happy 17-month birthday!

February

I already documented the heck out of one week in February (see here, here, here, here, here, and here), but here are a handful of other February pics.

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We got to playgroup on time one day and Soren loved having the place practically to himself.

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Soren has really come to love personal reading time. He chooses a chair then does the sign for “book.” Then, like any spoiled only child, he waits for me to bring him books, one by one, until he deems one acceptable. Once he finishes that book, he throws it to the ground and demands another.

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At the end of the month Soren and I made our second-annual journey to the Lone Star state. Soren loved watching the planes from the airport, but I’m not sure if he understood he was inside one. Watching the luggage carts drive all around was pretty exciting, however.

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We spent our first few days in Austin, visiting Camilla and her three littles. Soren and Ruby had a grand time at the Austin children’s museum.

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The weather was strangely cold in Texas, but we got a few days of sunshine and warmth. Soren had forgotten all about playgrounds since everything in Boston had been buried under snow for months. It was extra exciting for Soren to experience the playground as a walker — no more crawling through woodchips!

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And then it was off to San Antonio to visit Page and the nieces and nephews. This is Soren’s “get me outta the car” face.

March

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I wouldn’t normally call Soren adventurous, as he prefers to stick by my side until he’s comfortable with his surroundings. But once he stepped foot on Page’s trampoline he was done with me. I couldn’t even bribe him to get off for pizza — his favorite.

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We relished our outdoor meals (in short sleeves!) knowing it was snowing in Boston.

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It’s SO nice to not have to help him get around on the playground anymore. Hooray for growing up!

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Soren plays with other kids regularly, but he definitely isn’t accustomed to sharing his space. He was not happy about Isla enjoying the slide with him.

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He makes this grumpy face intentionally, and I kind of love it.

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Carson and Everett

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Little Isla

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Not so happy about being captured by Faye.

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“Let me go!”

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Of course it was 30 degrees in Austin, so Soren and I had to sit on the runway for an hour so the plane could be de-iced. And Southwest wouldn’t dream of holding our connection for an extra 10 minutes, even though there were a dozen of us hoping to make the flight. So we killed a few spare hours in the Atlanta airport. I think I was more bothered than Soren.

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One day Soren turned into a monster and I almost ran away from home. He woke up 15 minutes into his nap, which is extremely unusual, and he wasn’t interested in going back to sleep. But he was also exhausted and not happy about being awake. So he cried and whined for an hour and we had a miserable time that ended in him falling asleep next to me in my bed.

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New England’s maple farms took a hit this year because of the looney weather. On the first good sugaring weekend we visited Turtle Lane Maple Farm to see how it all works. Their maple candies and maple cream (we dip pretzels in it for a salty/sweet post-dinner snack) are to die for.

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Soren’s favorite part was the tractor out front.

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Train ride! Sometimes we ride the T, just for fun.

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Back in Boston, we never really saw spring in March, but we did have a couple of days that weren’t freezing. Soren knows his way to the park by now, and sometimes I’m tempted to send him there solo.

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Soren’s first aquarium trip. He was enamored with the penguins and loved splashing in the shark and ray touch tank.

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One day we found a $5 bill at Home Depot and I was pretty sure that was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. Soren didn’t think it was as cool as the fact that he got to drive the cart.

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I think Soren has great potential as a Target employee. I usually let him wander the aisles while I browse, and one afternoon I looked over to see him taking items off the shelves, one by one, and storing them on this neat cart. I’m not sure what his plans were for the giant cupcakes, but he was determined.

Now we can move on to 2Q14…

All in a Week’s Work: Saturday and Sunday

Continuing with our week of documentation (following our MondayTuesdayWednesday, Thursday, and Friday recaps)…

Soren hasn’t quite grasped the concept of sleeping in on the weekends, so our Saturday started as early as ever. Tim often plays with Soren for a little while after he’s had his milk, so I get to snooze a bit longer. After breakfast and a quick morning nap for Soren, our busy Saturday began with swimming lessons at the Y.

8:55 a.m.

8:55 a.m. Soren’s lessons are in the warm, zero-entry therapy pool. He marches into the water each Saturday and keeps on walking until the water reaches his mouth.

8:55 a.m.

8:55 a.m. Still going.

8:57 a.m. And then off to the deep end for some real swimming.

8:57 a.m. And then off to the deep end for some real swimming.

9:15 a.m.

9:15 a.m. Soren’s lessons include lots of games and songs. Here he was practicing his back float, using the duck as his motivation to put his head back and look to the ceiling.

9:16 a.m. Don't let this face fool you -- Soren only mildly enjoys his lessons.

9:16 a.m. Don’t let this face fool you — Soren only mildly enjoys his lessons.

From the Y, we drove straight to the church in Cambridge for a Relief Society meeting. Tim and Soren dropped me off and went on to Costco for some Saturday shopping. Two hours later, they picked me up and we headed back home for lunch and a long nap for Soren. I snuck off to the gym, Tim got some work done, and then we reconvened for an hour of afternoon playtime around the house.

We tried a new local restaurant for our Saturday night out — Taqueria El Carrizal. Good Mexican food is a little hard to come by in Boston, but this one was a definite winner. The added bonus was that Soren adored the waitresses. He is rarely friendly to strangers, but these ladies won him over in seconds. I guess he’s a lover of the Latinas.

5:31 p.m.

5:31 p.m. Soren is begging for more chips and salsa.

5:33 p.m.

5:33 p.m. This is when he realized he could get way more salsa if he used his straw instead of a chip.

We feel really proud of Soren’s restaurant proficiency. He plays until the food arrives, eats a fair amount, then plays a little longer until we finish. Let’s hope he can keep this up so we can continue to bring him along on our eating adventures.

6:54 p.m.

6:54 p.m. We stopped to visit some friends on the way home from dinner, so bedtime was pushed back a bit. Here Soren is prepping for sleep by searching under the bed for runaway pacifiers.

And then, just like that, it was Sunday. Our Sundays are often as busy as Saturdays — they’re generally not the day of “rest” we sometimes long for. But the switch to 9 a.m. church has helped things somewhat. Every other Sunday, Tim is at the church by 6:30 a.m. for meetings, and then Soren and I make our way there by 8 a.m. for ward council, which Tim and I are both supposed to attend. Soren either plays during the meeting (books, snacks, and a few toys keep him mostly quiet) or takes a nap in the stroller with Tim’s help. It’s a little bit exhausting, especially with the thought of three more hours of church to make it through. But Soren does surprisingly well, even on the days we have to stay late in addition to coming early. I think our record is somewhere around six hours. Anyway, I forgot about taking pictures of Soren’s church shenanigans until we were getting ready to go home (at 12:30 p.m. that day — hallelujah!).

12:31 p.m.

12:31 p.m. Soren is right at home in the clerks’ office, where he spends about an hour each Sunday while I’m in Relief Society. The vacuum always provides a little entertainment.

I have no idea where the rest of the day went, since I had mostly forgotten about my camera at this point. Sometimes it seems like the day is already over once we get through the afternoon nap and then dinner making and eating. I do remember that we had mushroom and sun dried tomato farrotto that night, and it was divine. Soren ate about three servings and was still asking for more.

6:04 p.m.

6:04 p.m. Just playing the old “chase” game in the kitchen.

6:09 p.m.

6:09 p.m. Another favorite game of Soren’s: He “hides” behind me while I ask out loud, “has anyone seen Soren? Soren, where are you?” Then he pops out to the side and “surprises” me. What a riot.

6:15 p.m.

6:15 p.m. When Soren gets tired of the library books on the bottom shelf, he goes for the novels that are at eye level. Sometimes he’ll let me get through a full paragraph before he takes it out of my hands and throws it to the ground.

6:35 p.m.

6:35 p.m. A little more pre-bedtime reading. This is one of Soren’s favorite positions for storytime. I sit or kneel on the ground, and he stands next to me with his hand on my shoulder.

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6:35 p.m. Eventually he makes his way into my lap, though. Once his foot is on my leg, I know he’ll soon be wriggling his little body in between me and the book.

Once Soren is in bed, I feel like we have just enough time to pick up around the house, clean up dinner, prepare ourselves for Monday morning, and get in bed. I love the weekends, and I especially love having Tim around full time, but a little piece of me is always ready to get back to our weekday routine of work and playgroups and storytimes and visits to the park. I guess that means we have a good thing going!

All in a Week’s Work: Friday

Continuing with our week of documentation (following our MondayTuesdayWednesday, and Thursday recaps)…

Happy Friday! Oh, how we love Fridays. After our morning of work, breakfast, nap, etc., we began to get ready for the day. Soren and I had a funny moment when he surprised me with a new and important skill he’d obtained. Every now and then, Soren does something that has us scratching our heads trying to figure out where/how/when he would’ve picked it up.

10:31 a.m.

10:31 a.m. I was, uh, going to the bathroom when I realized Tim had left me without even a scrap of toilet paper. (Please note these pictures are a re-creation of the incident.) So I called Soren over and asked if he could find me some more toilet paper. Keep in mind I’ve never told him or showed him where we keep the spare rolls. They’re in a nearby closet, hidden behind some cleaning supplies that he maybe shouldn’t have access to.

10:31 a.m.

10:31 a.m. Without any hesitation, Soren trotted out the door and over to the closet. He came back a moment later with this bag of TP in hand. What a kid!

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10:31 a.m. I LOVE how helpful Soren is becoming. It’s quite a dream to have a mini slave around.

Next up was our fantastic Friday playgroup — another favorite of Soren’s.

11:22 a.m.

11:22 a.m. Soren loves to help me set up the bowling pins, but he’s not wild about knocking them down. I guess he doesn’t take after Grandmama, a former BYU bowling team member.

11:24 a.m. Soren's kind of into the older ladies. This is one of his BFFs.

11:24 a.m. Soren’s kind of into the older ladies. This is one of his BFFs.

11:33 a.m. This playgroup is loaded with trucks and cars and all sorts of wheeled items. Soren's heaven.

11:33 a.m. This playgroup is loaded with trucks and cars and all sorts of wheeled items. Soren’s heaven.

11:34 a.m.

11:34 a.m. Trains and tractors and backhoes, oh my.

11:41 a.m. Soren enjoys the tents most when I'm pelting balls at him from above.

11:41 a.m. Soren enjoys the tent most when we’re playing peek-a-boo through the flaps or when I’m pelting balls at him from above.

11:57 a.m. During the first 45 minutes of playgroup, Soren regularly asks (by plopping down on the floor and clapping) when it's circle time (which is the last 10 minutes or so). He loves the songs and, most especially, the parachute. But every now and then, he starts wandering when the parachute comes out.

11:57 a.m. During the first 45 minutes of playgroup, Soren frequently asks (by plopping down on the floor and clapping) if it’s circle time yet (which is the last 10 minutes or so). He loves the songs and, most especially, the parachute. But every now and then, he starts wandering when the parachute comes out. I think he doesn’t like being underneath when it’s overcrowded. You can see him over on the left, observing from afar.

And then back home again for lunch and nap. Friday afternoons are my reward for making it through the week without killing anyone — Tim quits work at 4 p.m. and relieves me so I can go to my favorite gym class. He and Soren usually walk over to meet me, having some fun along the way at Trader Joe’s, Magic Beans (a baby supplies/toy store), or the library. That night we had a quick dinner of chipotle bean burritos, then bedtime — glorious bedtime. And I guess I quit taking pictures after playgroup, because I have nothing to show for the rest of the day. Now on to the weekend.

All in a Week’s Work: Thursday

Continuing with our week of documentation (following our MondayTuesday, and Wednesday recaps)…

Thursday: In true Soren fashion, he continued to bump up his wake-up time — 4:50 a.m. on this Thursday. I didn’t have the heart to leave him in his bed to whine since he was a little sick. So milk and cuddles and then playtime and breakfast with dad.

6:34 a.m. I came out of the office to get my breakfast and snap a quick pic of this sleepy-head. Also, I'm noticing a container of leftover pasta on the counter -- Tim says Soren picked it out from the fridge and requested it with his oatmeal. It's usually best if I just leave the two of them alone in the mornings and don't ask questions.

6:34 a.m. I came out of the office to get my breakfast and snap a quick pic of this sleepy-head. Also, I’m noticing a container of leftover pasta on the counter — Tim says Soren picked it out from the fridge and requested it with his oatmeal. It’s usually best if I just leave the two of them alone in the mornings and don’t ask questions. I’m also noticing that Soren slept in the shirt he was wearing on Wednesday. Sometimes we do that. Don’t judge.

Since Soren’s morning nap was fairly early, he woke up in time to make it to his favorite Thursday show — the garbage and recycling trucks.

9:14 a.m. Soren's greatest wish would be to have trash day every day. At least we live right next to a school, so there is a steady stream of school buses twice a day. Almost as good.

9:14 a.m. Soren’s greatest wish would be to have trash day every day. We do live right next to a school, so at least we get a steady stream of school buses twice a day. Almost as good.

On Thursdays we have a tough decision to make — baby lapsit at the library or playgroup at the Y? On this Thursday, we chose the library since our singalong the day before had been cancelled. I need to mention how much we love the Faneuil library branch. We have two great libraries within a 10-minute walk of our house, plus another that’s a 10-minute drive away (and about a dozen others within 20 minutes of our place). Pre-Soren, I always went to the Brighton branch because it was newer and bigger and just seemed nicer. But after just one visit to Faneuil with Soren, I was sold. It brought back great memories of going to the tiny Herndon Fortnightly branch (in Virginia) when I was little. So cozy and so welcoming. The librarians know and love Soren, and he regularly wanders away from the children’s room to play peekaboo with the ladies at the circulation desk. (He’s also started taking books from the shelf and bringing them to the librarians, expecting to be able to check them out on his own or something.) It’s things like this that make me never want to leave our neighborhood.

10:28 a.m. Soren snuck in a few minutes of playtime on the stage before the program began.

10:28 a.m. Soren snuck in a few minutes of playtime on the stage before the program began. I think he’s eyeing Ms. Anne here to see if it’s time to start.

10:34 a.m. Waiting patiently for the songs and stories to begin. This patient waiting probably lasted for about 60 seconds.

10:34 a.m. Waiting patiently for the songs and stories to begin. This patient waiting probably lasted for about 90 seconds.

10:48 a.m. Soren's turn to flip a page in the book.

10:48 a.m. Soren’s turn to flip a page in the book.

10:53 a.m. Never-ending fun with the shakers.

10:53 a.m. Never-ending fun with the shakers.

11:01 a.m. And then the ants in Soren's pants get the best of him and he begins to run free.

11:01 a.m. And then the ants in Soren’s pants got the best of him and he began to run free.

11:07 a.m. Soren's preferred book-choosing position. We've mostly mastered the no-standing-on-the-chairs idea.

11:07 a.m. This is Soren’s preferred book-selecting position. We’ve mostly mastered the no-standing-on-the-chairs rule.

11:21 a.m. Soren relishes the quiet time after the other kids have gone home for lunch.

11:21 a.m. Soren relishes the quiet time after the other kids have left.

After choosing yet another pile of new books (I think we have somewhere around 50 items checked out right now — yikes), we made our way home for lunch and nap. That afternoon nap (for Soren, not me) is one of my favorite times of day. What would I do without it?

3:28 p.m. After nap time we had a little fun with truck magnets. Soren is still trying to figure out where the magnets will stick, but I think he's finally realized they won't stick to my clothes, despite his best efforts.

3:28 p.m. After nap time we had a little fun with machine magnets. Soren is still trying to figure out where the magnets will stick, but I think he’s finally realized they won’t stay attached to my clothes or skin, despite his best efforts.

3:44 p.m. Don't worry -- I only put this pajama shirt on Soren for his nap. I don't usually take him out looking quite so mismatched (but actually sometimes I do).

3:44 p.m. He’s definitely running now. It seems so strange that he was still crawling just two months ago. Oh, and don’t worry — I only put this pajama shirt on Soren for his nap. I don’t usually take him out looking quite so mismatched (but sometimes I do).

After spending too much time researching homemade baby chest rub recipes and local spots to buy beeswax, I figured out that CVS carries Maty’s, so we left the house for an afternoon errands walk. We stopped by CVS, the bank, and Johnny’s for some bananas and plums and blackberries.

4:27 p.m. Heading out for errands.

4:27 p.m. Soren stays so cozy in his stroller sleeping bag. Sometimes I wish someone would bundle me up and push me around town.

For dinner we made mango fried rice, and then sent Soren off to bed for another night of coughs and a runny nose. But who can complain when Friday is on the horizon?