Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween party!

Last night, we went off to the Gymboree Halloween costume party, with Sofie showing her best and most ferocious lion self:

Ok, not so ferocious. But she did seem to like the costume and get the joke, and she spent a lot of the evening roaring.

Molly (and Kate) came with us, which was a joyful reunion for Sofie, who really missed her little buddies while we were out of town. Below, she and Molly-the-Shark explore the pumpkin patch while potential shark attack victims look on.

There's no law that says a predator can't have a pacifier now and then.

Daddy showed up partway through and got to take part in the fun and games.

One of my favorite costumes at the event was this little guy - between his slicked back hair and the maniacal grin on his face the whole time, he was one heck of a dracula:

And another favorite - little Yoda, with a pink ribbon on her ear.

Sofie tries to catch bubbles during the festivities.

You can see the full picture set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettmegan/sets/72157602801280381/


Sofie is pretty sure REAL lions don't have to wait in the car for their MOTHERS to drive them to a party. How embarrassing.

Monday, October 29, 2007


We're home. Although none of us wanted to leave Hawaii, there's something so great about returning home after vacation. Especially fun was watching Sofie tool around the house on her little ride-on car, smiling at each and every thing she'd missed - her picture up on the mantel, her duck quilt, her various beloved toys, her high chair, etc.

She did terrific on vacation, but we noticed that after about the first four days she seemed to get a little more stressed every day we were there. I thinkt he novelty of being somewhere unfamiliar, having naps and meals slightly outside the usual times and routines, going to the beach every other day, and visiting a lot of restaurants was really diverting for the first few days but then got confusing. By day five she was reverting to some of her former seperation anxiety, clinging to me as much as she could and protesting if Brett or Zoe wanted to hold her.

We understood - it must be hard to understand vacation when you're that little. Are we ever going back home? What happened to our cats? Where's all my stuff? Imagine how bewildering it must seem.

All of that said, she was a champ. She slept through the night every night after the first one, swam in the ocean with great delight, played in the sand, danced in her high chair to a Jimmy Buffet cover band during dinner one night, got to wear a lot of sundresses and tank tops that she never got to wear in our chilly Seattle summer, put up with a couple of long car trips, and all around did as well as anyone could expect.

And now we're back right in time for Halloween and the beginning of my favorite couple of months of the year - costumes! Thanksgiving turkeys! Decorating the house! What could be better?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hawaiian fabric shops

Went a little nuts with the fabric shopping - my one real expenditure on this trip. Hawaii has amazing quilting traditions and beautiful fabrics, and I just couldn't resist the chance to delve into it a little further. I went to two great quilting stores and ended up with quite a stash. For my quilting readers, here follows a bunch of fabric-y stuff that the rest of you won't care about.

First of all, I'm going to make this pattern - although I may expand on it and make three turtles in a longer wallhanging.

Here's the stash of fat quarters that will make that. Most of it's for the water background, which is pieced from seven different strips of blue, to give it a really interesting layered appearance:

Don't know what I'll do with these, but I fell in love with this dark blue turtle print (which is tiny - this is a pretty magnified pic) and picked up a little bit of the red as an accent:

Two kid's prints I'll use sometime in crib quilts - one sweet little sandy beach print, and one really odd little gnome print on bright green fabric:

And finally, a set of batiks for a Hawaiian applique I'm going to do. This picture doesn't really do them justice because the subtleties of the prints wash out here:

Anyways, here's the whole stash - lots of fun:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mom and Sofie in the water

Sofie loves to swim...

More on sleep

I read a really interesting NY Magazine article on sleep while we were here – mostly focused on older kids but I think it’s fascinating. It talks about the effect of as little as a half hour deprivation in sleep on elementary-school kids. A few quotes pulled out from different parts of the article:

The performance gap caused by an hour’s difference in sleep was bigger than the normal gap between a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader. Which is another way of saying that a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. “A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development,” Sadeh explains.


Sadeh’s findings are consistent with other researchers’ work, all of which points to the large academic consequences of small sleep differences. Dr. Monique LeBourgeois of Brown University studies how sleep affects pre-kindergartners. Virtually all young children are allowed to stay up late on Fridays and Saturdays. Yet she’s discovered that the sleep-shift factor alone is correlated with performance on a standardized school-readiness test. Every hour of weekend shift costs students seven points on the test.

Dr. Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia studied the impact of sleep problems
on vocabulary-test scores of elementary-school students. He also found a seven-point reduction in scores. Seven points, Suratt notes, is significant: “Sleep disorders can impair children’s I.Q.’s as much as lead exposure.”

It also went on to talk about how early schools start now, and how school districts that have moved their start times later have seen a dramatic rise in their test score results. This is something I'm really curious about; I see the kids on our block leaving for school at 6:30 a.m., and it seems so early. School for us started at 8:30 and got out at 3:30. Why so early now? Would kids learn better if it just started an hour later?

Anyways, if you're interested, you can read the whole article here. Very thought-provoking.


On the more personal front, last night we went out to a romantic dinner, alone, while Sofie threw her food around the dining room for a half hour in protest and then went to bed for Zoe like a little angel (no crying!) and proceeded to sleep all night for the third night in a row. I really do think she's got this. She stirs a couple times in the middle of the night, cries for a second or two half-heartedly, finds her glow-worm and presses his music button, and goes back to sleep. And she's now sleeping all the way until 6:30 or 7:00 too. Yay!

Note to self: must buy an extra glow-worm in case this one is ever lost.

What's interesting to me about this is the almost palpable sense of relief I feel like I'm seeing from her about all of this. The book, which I'm beginning to mentally refer to as "the book that saved our lives," talks about how babies can actually be really angry when they can't sleep - that they wake up in the night and really, really WANT to get back to sleep and get ticked off when you can't help them figure out how to do it in an effective way. That makes sense, looking back; there's been many times that she's seemed angry in the middle of the night.

We've read many, many sleep books and given this a half-hearted try on occasion before - so why now? Well, partly it's that we were just ready. I used to love snuggling her to sleep at night and resisted giving that up for a while. Partly it's that we finally did things in the right order - I tried to train her to go down for naps by herself a month or so ago, which failed miserably; this book says that bedtime is a much easier place to start than naps, so begin there. Correct again. And also - we've read a lot of really helpful sleep books, but this one was different somehow in that it seemed a lot simpler and more straightforward. Nothing much to figure out -- is your kid doing this? Then go to chapter eight. Is your kid doing this? Then go to chapter ten. And when I got to chapter ten? We were the case study. It described us to a tee.

Anyhow, peace and sleep continues, as does the utter relaxation which is Hawaii, and we're all doing great. More soon!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sofie surfs

Sofie surfs, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Cuz everybody goes surfing
Surfing USA


Marilyn Monroe in one of her more famous poses:

Courtesy of AllPosters.com

Sofie, just now, striking a pose in her new dress:

Hawaii report

I've been wanting to write something longer about the trip we're in the midst of, but for now I'll just note that Hawaii is wonderful, as always. It's warm - 85 degrees, every day - and it's sunny and clear, and our condo is gorgeous and so close to the water that we could fish from our balcony and we fall asleep to the pounding of the surf every night.

Here's the view from our living room balcony:

Looking south:

Looking north:

This is Zoe, who flew out from Maine to be our travel nanny and is proving a delightful companion and, perhaps, someone who is even more cat-obsessed than we are - she has so far made friends with nearly every feral cat on the island:

And as you can see she's utterly charmed Sofie too.

Our typical vacation cat showed up quickly - the second night he showed up at our door and came on in to have a look around the condo. Sofie spooked him, though, and we haven't seen him since. But here's Andre:

We hope he'll be back.

Having Zoe along has meant that Brett and I can sneak out by ourselves once in a while. We did so yesterday, taking a long, leisurely afternoon at one of our favorite beaches, Beach 69. I don't have a picture of that yet but will get one when we go back tomorrow.

Sofie has taken to Hawaiian life like a champ. She LOVES the ocean, both standing along the edges of the surf and letting it wash over her legs and wading in a bit with Mom to jump up and down in the waves. Here she is at a black sand beach we visited today at the far south end of the island:

We've seen lots and lots of turtles - I snorkeled for all of ten seconds the first day before running into my first one, munching away near shore, then found two gigantic ones a little further out. Today we saw a whole crew of them on the black sand beach - here's one in the water having a snack.

On the parenting front, we decided kind of on the spur of the moment to do some sleep training on vacation, after she woke up nine times the first night. I brought along a book called "Sleeping Through The Night" that I was reading the next morning, which points out over and over that the answer to night wakings is to PUT YOUR BABY DOWN FOR THE NIGHT STILL AWAKE. We've heard this before but never quite got around to implementing it, but after the last month and the sleep issues we've gone through, we finally decided to give it a try.

The book told us to expect about three nights of 20-60 minutes of crying, during which we go in to reassure her at five minute intervals but don't take her out of her crib. Once she learns to fall asleep on her own at bedtime, it postulates, she'll be able to do so when she wakes up in the middle of the night. And even though it said starting something like this on vacation was not a good idea, we were ready to try anything after the first night.

And you know what? She totally was ready for it and picked up the whole concept in a single night. The first night she cried for about twenty minutes, then fell asleep and stayed down for seven hours straight. The second night, which the book said would be the worst and longest fuss, she cried for about two minutes and fell right asleep. Tonight, she didn't cry at all.

She still wakes up around five and won't go back to sleep, but still! What progress! We're soooo happy to be getting a little bit of sleep on vacation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Why I don't always love the web

Hawaiian Air, on which we're flying out Saturday morning, has so far distinguished itself by having the most retarded Web checkin service I've ever seen. Oh, except, sorry - calling the service retarded is an insult to the retarded. Let's just say it's one of the worst designed Web services I've ever seen.

On their site, you're supposed to be able to check in any time during the 24 hours before your flight leaves, by simply entering your name, departure city, and one of a variety of identifiers - a confirmation number, a ticket number, the credit card number you used to buy the tickets, etc. In theory, sounds simple enough.

But just go ahead and try. Bwahahahahaha. Foolish mortal. Web checkin is not for the likes of you.

First of all, they leave you to guess just what time zone the 24-hours-before restriction is based on. Say you're leave at 9 a.m. Seattle time. Should you be able to check in any time after 9 a.m. the day before? Apparently not. After you try, the site helpfully tells you that it's not yet 24 hours before your departure time because local time in Hawaii is only 6 a.m. So come back later, ok? Okay.

Next you'll notice that if you actually fill in your departure city (Seattle), it can't find your record. Fill it in incorrectly - Oahu, Honolulu, Kona - and presto, it pulls up your ticket info! Hrm. This does not build confidence.

Wait three hours and try again. Still the helpful chirpy message says, "You can only check in between 24 hours and 90 minutes of your departure. Try again later!" Doh. Except even by Hawaii time you're now well within the 24 hour mark. Maybe they're going by your arrival time rather than departure. So you decide to try this again in another three hours.

Repeat ad nauseum all day long. "You can only check in between 24 hours and 90 minutes of your departure. Try again later!" Chirp chirp chirp. Well listen folks, I'm leaving in eight hours. I'm not sure what the problem is.

It's not really that big of a deal, except that we're traveling with an infant and I really want to get seats together on the plane, so that both Brett and I can deal with her during the flight. Early checkin would help for that, especially since Hawaiian doesn't let you select seats when you purchase.

But it is not to be. So I avenged myself by sending a snarky mail to their customer service center about how their freaking Web site needs to give a useful error message about what's really wrong or learn to read a clock. We'll see if I get any response.

They could at least comp me a drink or something. Mama could use a little vodka at this point.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Five days from now...

In just a few days, we'll be here:

Sofie's first trip to Hawaii and our fourth, I think. Could be fifth. I can't quite get straight how many times we've been to the Big Island now. But as I sit here on another 47 degree, rainy, windy Seattle fall morning I just can't wait to wake up and go to the beach.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Next quilt 2

IMG_0707, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

An alternate layout from this morning - I'm surprised to find I like this better than yesterday's more random one. Usually I like things a little more chaotic. Must be the fabrics.

Anyone want to vote?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Next quilt

As I said, I've been on something of a tear lately with the quilting. And a few days ago, I saw this fantastic little idea on Snippets of a Quilter, and thought a) the construction of that looks re-e-e-e-ally easy, without the end result looking easy and b) that's what I should do with those holiday charm squares that I haven't been able to figure out what to do with.

Charms, for those of you wondering, are pre-cut 5" blocks fabric manufacturers offer to introduce all of the patterns in a new line - can be lots of fun for a quilter if you just want to play around with something new without buying a bunch of larger pieces of fabric.

So I made 40 or so little charm blocks, which are here laid out on the dining room table as I try to get the "random" layout to be balanced.

What do you think?

My method, as always, is pretty unscientific -- mainly I made sure all the small squares were red, to give it some unity, then laid it out and looked at it all squinty-eyed trying to make sure the big red blocks were evenly distributed, first, and then that other leap-out-at-you colors weren't all clumped together, and then just made sure I didn't screw up the one-up-one-down-one-up-one-down order I was laying them out in.

But I like it, I think! I'll probably lay it out one more time in the next few days and then start sewing rows. Already, just looking at this, I see a few I'd like to move around s'more.

Oh for a design wall. Not that I have anywhere to put one. But it'd be nice to be able to leave this kind of stuff sitting around for a while so I can wander away and wander back and look at it in different lights for a few days. Instead of, yknow, having to pick it up as soon as I'm going to walk away so that the cat won't puke on my squares.

Oy vey.

PS: This charm pack is supposed to be christmas fabrics, but I really don't see it - except for a couple tiny holly leafs in about two of the fabrics, I just don't think this set if very holiday-ish at all. You can get another good view of the fabrics here, and you can buy the charm squares here should you be so inclined.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Also finished...

Also recently finished adding the binding to the second ducks quilt - you've probably seen this before if you're a frequent reader, since I finished an almost-identical one months ago for Sofie.

What's different about this one is it has this wonderful, soft flannel back and beautiful little daisies in the quilting:

I can't seem to get the quilting to come out in the pictures. Must find out how other quilt bloggers do it, because I've seen lots of great pictures in which you can see the detail of the stitches. Some trick of angles or lighting?

This one designed and pieced/bound by me, and machine quilted by Alayne Pettyjohn at City Quilting, who I highly recommend.

I'm on a quilting tear right now - finished these two in the same week, and have almost all the blocks for another crib-sized quilt all put together. And another one sitting around that must be finished before Christmas. Photos of that soon. So it'll be a busy couple of months here!

New quilt finished!

pastels, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

I just finished this baby quilt on Monday - made from a set of charm squares that I got for free as a result of an order mixup, so I decided to do something simple and straightforward with them. I don't normally go for pastels, but I think it came out very nice! The quilting is a simple one-inch diamond grid that went like a flash on the machine.

A quick shot showing the backing fabric:

This is for Sofie, and is now functioning as her new stroller quilt. Just in time for nippy fall weather!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Working hard at this

IMG_0679, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Noodles take concentration


IMG_0676, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Post Spaghetti

IMG_0690, originally uploaded by Brett&MeganZalkan.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The wrath of Sofie

A friend of ours told me yesterday that her daughter, the same age as Sofie, reached up and smacked her for the first time yesterday. This gave me pause, not because I was shocked at this turn of events but because I was shocked at how different this is from our household.

Sofie has been hitting me nearly every day for months now. Months! This kid, she has a temper.

Is this not normal? I thought all babies did this. But apparently some of her little friends do not, or are just starting to. Hrm.

Sofie is a sweetheart, a funny, goofy girl who loves to cuddle and kiss and sing and play. But when she gets mad, watch out. She hits, kicks, punches, and pushes. She takes my chin in her hand and physically turns my face away so I can't look at her when she's mad at me. (That one almost hurts my feelings, except it's just so funny, too.) She arches her back and tries to throw herself headfirst to the floor.

She's always had a temper - we first saw it when she was much younger and would get upset when we offered her a doll or a stuffed toy when she was crying. Instead of hugging it for comfort, she'd get mad and fling it away, like she was wondering how we could trivialize her pain so much as to assume a stuffed TOY would make it better. Respect my issues!

About three months ago, when the striking out was first starting, I struggled for a while. Because honestly? It's kind of annoying to get punched in the face by your one year old because she doesn't want to go to sleep. And it took me a while to get the hang of managing that irritation and not getting upset.

But I guess I've gotten used to it because I hardly notice anymore. I do what I can - taking her little fists in my hands and saying "No hitting!" Which is like throwing water on an oil fire. Kaboom. But I do it nonetheless. And I otherwise try not to react too much, because the reaction might be half the fun.

But still. It makes me wonder what we're in for when she gets a little older.

One of our neighbors told us her little girl was like this as a baby. Her daughter, who's just a cutie and probably one of our favorite kids ever, is famous for her temper to this day. Her parents do a great job helping her manage it, though. I think maybe I need to sit down with her mom and get some advice.

The good side of all of this -- and Sofie's obsession with the word no -- is that it seems to me like this has to indicate pretty good self esteem. Not the hitting, per se, but the ability to respect her own emotional space enough that she can say "No, I don't want you to look at me right now" or "No, I do NOT want a toy, I want to cry." We want very much to raise a kid who has some emotional intelligence and is allowed to feel what she feels. And maybe weathering these early storms is the first step towards that.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Month thirteen

I haven't been writing monthly newsletters to Sofie, but if I had this would've been a big one. Month thirteen has been momentous. In this month, she:
  • Learned to walk
  • Learned to whistle
  • Learned to say the letter f
  • Learned to make the sign for "fish" - kind of. You do the wrong sign for it, but you consistently do it, so I think it's deliberate.
  • Learned to drink whole milk and eat snow peas, carrots, spaghetti, and birthday cake
  • Learned to grind your teeth, much to our chagrin, and to do so constantly
  • Learned to say no, both in word and gesture
  • Decided to say nothing but no
  • Decided anyone you don't know must be sternly rebuked if trying to speak to you. No no no.
  • Learned that you can possess a toy and try to prevent another child from taking said toy from you - which sounds basic but is a pretty huge step forwards from the peaceable kingdom which has been baby playdates up until now. Now there's shoving. Oh joy.
  • Attended about six birthday parties and had a good time at all of them but your own. We're discovering that you're not exactly shy, but you're definitely a little bit of a sensitive girl. As were both your parents when we were little, so this is too be expected.

Wow! I hope you're pacing yourself, because month 14 is looming large - starting tomorrow you've got a whole new month to fill with accomplishments.


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