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Oct 31, 2009


Today we celebrated the first Halloween where Daniel participated to the whole experience. Last year, Daniel was 9-months old. While we put him in a costume for a few good photos, we didn't do any of the trick or treat activities, pumpkin carving, parade, etc...
This year, at 21 months, Daniel got the full flavor of Halloween. First, his teachers at daycare started introducing Halloween a few weeks ago already. There was all kinds of activities around pumpkins and reading Halloween books. He has become an expert at saying "pumpkin" and "Halloween" by now! We also visited a pumpkin patch last week, and Daniel had a lot of fun carrying pumpkins into a wagon, riding poneys and "driving" a tractor.

Finally, today was the big day.

Daniel's costume this year was a firefighter uniform. It had taken me a while to find a good uniform for him. The typical baby costumes for boys are either too bulky or they represent super-heroes Daniel doesn't know yet. At the end, I thought a firefighter uniform would be perfect for him, since he loves firetrucks. Interestingly enough, Daniel didn't show any interest in the costume, neither when I brought it home a few weeks ago nor on Halloween day (actually he was interested right when he woke up - in his pajamas. But by the time I had managed to dress him the interest had gone).

However, he was very interested in the pumpkin carving competition that was taking place at the corner of our street. That these pumpkins could be turned into faces ("monsieur") was fascinating.

We finally managed to dress him for the neighborhood Halloween parade, and he was actually quite happy to walk with everyone else. It was probably about 3/4 mile long and he held the pace really well.

Trick or treat was also interesting for him. At first, he was confused: I usually have to remind him not to walk on people's yards when we play on the street. Daniel didn't understand why today he was allowed to walk in, and then why he had to stay at the door. After all, when you knock on someone's door, you usually expect to come in! After a few houses, though, Daniel figured it out. He was still shy and didn't say much of a "trick or treat", but he loved getting candy. He was also fascinated by some of the decorations in our neighbors' houses: flying bats, hanging skeletons... He didn't know this should be scary. He just thought it was interesting and kept watching over and over.

We only visited a few houses and went back to our own home to welcome more trick or treaters. Daniel happily distributed candy to the visitors, which was surprising given that he usually wants to keep everything for himself. Since today was completely different, he must have forgotten his usual behavior!

Overall, it was a good day, even though Daniel is still a little bit young to understand what this is all about. He probably will be asking for candy and pumpkin for the next several days now, or he might just completely forgot that this ever happened... Next year should be even more fun. He should definitely understand better by then. Wondering if he will be able to decide what he wants his costume to be by himself?

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Oct 21, 2009

Tinyprints Holiday cards are here

The Holiday season is quickly approaching and I wanted to write a quick article about what Tinyprints has to offer in terms of Holiday cards and gifts.

This year, Tinyprints really offers a lot of unique and exciting products, from custom photo cards to pop-up cards or even photo montage cards. And since Holiday is also about gathering and parties, this discount can also be used for Holiday party invitations, and many more great products.

All these cards, whether standard or more innovative formats, go through the same level of internal review before they are printed and shipped, to ensure the highest satisfaction.

I encourage you to browse Tinyprints to find out for yourselves which card or which collection will work for you this Holiday season.

Tinyprints ships to the US and Europe too. If you are interested for a 30% coupon code, email me at isabelle AT isabelles DOT net for specific information.

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Oct 19, 2009

Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument

My in-laws visited us from Germany for about a week, which was great. We hadn't seen them since May, and we enjoyed catching up. Plus, they took good care of Daniel, introducing him to new places, bringing a lot of toys (probably not necessary, though) and teaching him a lot of new German words. They also did the shopping for us and cooked dinner every night... It felt like a vacation!
As a result, we felt well rested over the weekend to do a "big" excursion, to Pinnacles National Monument. The park is well know for the rock formations and cliffs (very popular with climbers) and some caves. We decided to take the short trail (about 1 mile each way) to visit Bear Gulch cave, which is one of the biggest caves in the park.

Due to a misunderstanding with my husband, we had forgotten the baby backpack at home. At 21 months, Daniel is actually a good walker, and he didn't seem to mind hiking, even as we climbed up the mountain. The issue, though, is that he loves to explore everything he sees on the way, from stones to flowers to water puddles. A great thing in general, but we were going soooo slow! My husband ended up having to carry him on his shoulders for most of the climb. It was probably a good thing, though, because by the time we arrived in the cave, we needed Daniel to be fit and walk by himself. The cave is very narrow and steep, and it could have made it difficult to carry Daniel.

Daniel did great for the most part: very excited to get into the dark tunnel at first (he is currently fascinated by tunnels). He was also very intrigued by the water falls in the cave. He walked for about 3/4 of the cave and climbed 30-40 steps in the dark without complaining.

But then, he hit the point where he started to be very uncomfortable in the dark, tired and fussy. These few minutes of meltdown weren't fun. Taking a rest in a corner of the cave with a patch of light helped calm him down. But he didn't want to walk any further in the cave after that, and we had to carry him crying through the exit.

The big reward at the end of the cave is a nice lake surrounded by some of the cliffs. We took a nice break there, having snacks, laying on the grass, watching climbers go up and down, and things went back to normal pretty quickly. Daniel even walked a good part of the way back, until we decided that his constant distractions made us much too slow again... and he finished on my husband's shoulders again.

Overall, it was great to have a good excuse to get away from the day-to-day at home. Our weekends are usually very quiet and somewhat repetitive. We enjoy them like this most of the time. But this short trip was a good reminder of things we used to be passionate about, pre-baby: hiking, outdoors, spending time with friends, eating fast-food on the way to the countryside! Part of me had missed all of these things even if I didn't realize this until now.

We are considering joining friends for a weekend in a cabin in the Mount Shasta area in a few weeks. I look forward to having the chance to have a different type of weekend, and to start sharing with Daniel our passion for the outdoors.

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Oct 16, 2009

Successful transition to toddler bed

This time has come: Daniel had to move out of his crib into a new toddler bed. We knew this was coming: he is a very active - and somewhat impatient- 21-month old, and he had started to try to climb out of his crib last week. We were hoping that it would take him at least until this weekend to perfect his technique, and we were planning to take advantage of the weekend to make some arrangements in the room to avoid a major fall.
Well, Daniel was quicker than we thought: on Wednesday he climbed out of his crib and fell off.

Fortunately, he didn't have any major injury. But he had gotten so scared that he didn't want to get into his crib any more. He ended up taking his nap in our bed.
So, we took the opportunity to rush to Ikea and buy him a toddler bed. How excited he was when he saw the red bed and red comforter with animal patterns! I think he realized that he now had a bed like mom and dad, and loved it. He couldn't stop climbing in and out of the bed, rolling on the comforter and talking very excitedly about the new bed. The old crib was definitely a thing of the past!

Daniel chilling in his new bed

Our main concern was whether Daniel would want to stay in bed once we put him to bed at night. He had been pretty good with going to sleep by himself once in the crib. But we were wondering if he would want to take advantage of the fact that he can now climb out of the bed by himself. We had heard a lot of stories of kids constantly getting out of bed once given the opportunity.

It's been 3 evenings now, and Daniel has continued to fall asleep by himself. Granted, he complains for a few seconds when we put him to bed, trying to get us to read just one more book or play with the trains for a few more minutes. But so far, once he understood that it was bedtime, he stayed in bed... and slept well all night.
We hope this pattern is going to continue. Or did I just jinx it by claiming success too soon?

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Oct 5, 2009

Of "cou" and "kuh"

So, we have reached an interesting milestone in Daniel's language development. For the first time, at 20 months, he has learned 2 words in 2 different languages that sound exactly the same and have very different meanings. And yes, you guessed right, it's "cou" (neck in French) and "Kuh"(cow in German). It didn't occurred to me first, as I usually never use "Kuh" with Daniel when I talk to him in French. I was just very happy he had learned a new French word. But then, I noticed that he started showing cow pictures to my husband, calling them "Kuh" and showing his neck at the same time. Or, he would show me his neck and imitate the cow sound at the same time. He is probably very confused right now about what to do... And I am not sure what to do except to just use the right word in the right context over and over until this sinks in.

I guess confusion can happen in every language, even for monolingual kids. There are words that sound the same and have different meanings in every language (e.g. "marche" in French can mean "walk" or "function"- btw, this is another challenge I came across with Daniel recently). Monolingual kids eventually manage to master the complexity and understand how to assign meaning to words. They just have to be patient and practice.

I am just wondering if the issue with words from different languages is the same or if it adds another layer of complexity that might be more difficult to navigate. Does anyone have experience with this type of situation? Should we just consider it business-as-usual when raising a tri-lingual kid or should we do something specific to help?

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Oct 4, 2009

14 days of Gratitude Challenge and...

... I love it! It hasn't completely changed my world, and I haven't discovered a completely new wisdom for my life. But I like having the daily reminders to see the positive in all situations, good or bad, and appreciate what I have. It's so refreshing.
What has become clear is that I cherish the time with my family and friends more than anything else.
Even when I complain about Daniel starting to show signs of the Terrible 2 phase, or when I think my husband could do more to help, I know this is nothing against the joy I have to spend my life with them. And when I get distracted from calling my friends because of some trivial reason, I am reminded that they are important too, and that I should keep in touch. Everything else can wait.
So, here is to 2 weeks of Gratitude Challenge. I look forward to week 3 and what I will discover/be reminded off in the last stretch.
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Oct 2, 2009

Seeing the glass half full

Today's focus for the Gratitude Challenge was to see the glass half full, and be kind to others. This was a good task for a Friday: last day of a busy week at work (with a lot still to do!), and a week where my husband had been traveling (i.e. I was by myself with Daniel).
It would have been easy to find things to complain about: too much work, computer too slow, co-workers not responding fast enough, time going by too fast, my husband's job that includes a significant amount of traveling, and why not even complain about the colder weather, because now I can't take Daniel to the park in the evening any more?
But the challenge allowed me to see things from a different perspective, and helped me make the most out of my not-so-good-sounding Friday.

First, regarding work. I should be lucky to have a job, and not only that, an exciting and rewarding job. Yes, it's a lot of work, but I usually like being busy and doing things. Plus, we are getting into the Holiday season, which I love (call me crazy!). Yes, it has its difficult moments, but usually, I like the action and I am OK with the workload that comes with it.

My team is great, and very performance-driven. Everyone tries to do their best to support each other. Yes, sometimes, things go slower than what I would like, but it's because there is a lot going on. It's not that people are not doing their part. So I should also return the support and help them as much as I can.

Finally, my new work is closer to Daniel's daycare, which makes my commute much easier, even when my husband isn't here.

As for my time alone with Daniel, it turned out to be very good. We couldn't spend much time at the park, but Daniel enjoyed reading a lot of books with me. Long time ago, Daniel decided my husband is the designated reader (he is more lively than me when telling stories, and it makes a difference), so it was good not to have "competition" and to let Daniel catch up with French. At 20 months, Daniel also started to be able to play by himself very well (especially with trains and puzzles), so he required less exclusive focus than a few months ago. It made it easier for me.

And when my husband comes back from his trip tomorrow, he will be energized to play with Daniel, so that I might be able to have some more time for myself this weekend.

Does my Friday really sound so bad now? I don't think so. It was actually a good Friday. And I am thankful for having these types of days from time to time.

Want to get inspired? Learn more about the Gratitude Challenge.

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Oct 1, 2009

Seeing life through the eyes of a child

A few days ago, the Gratitude Challenge task was to see life through the eyes of a child. I thought this was a neat exercise. Every now and then, I am reminded by my own 20-month old son how refreshing it can be to see life from his perspective. He finds fascination in by every little thing, from a ball rolling across our backyard to the games he plays in water or even to a garbage truck passing by the house. He can be so happy with these little things that represent new experiences for him. Also, he tends to be a little explorer and is not afraid to try new things... sometimes to my consternation when it's about climbing a tall play structure or exploring a new house by himself (we have been checking houses for rent lately, and Daniel seems to be more excited to visit these houses than we are! He hides in the closets and lets us find him... Fun for him, not so much for us).

In comparison, my adult life feels a lot more serious and straight-forward. I could definitely benefit from trying to be more excited about the little things or more spontaneous when embracing new situations.

However, I have to say that I don't envy Daniel for being a child. Not everything is that simple. First, he is still very dependent on adults. He usually wakes up very hungry - and fussy- in the morning (he doesn't eat much dinner these days, but that's ok, though... He has reserves). He must feel very helpless to have to wait for us to prepare breakfast before he can have anything. From his behavior when waiting (like trying to open the fridge), I can tell that he wishes he could do more to help himself.
Also, the other day, our fire alarm went off after we turned on the heat for the first time in 6 months (there was just a little bit of smoke at the beginning and the alarm picked it up - nothing serious). Daniel completely panicked, and he must have been quite traumatized: after 4 days, he is still pointing at the alarm on a regular basis and explaining how scared he was when it happened. I am glad that, as an adult, I have enough experience to not be afraid when it's not necessary. There are benefits of being a grown-up after all.

If only I could remember to still enjoy the little things as Daniel does. So here is my list of little things I am grateful for today.
- the fact that my husband and I are able to provide for Daniel, in terms of spending both money and time for/with him.
- the fact that the weather is less cold than earlier in the week, so that we can go out and play in the park.
- the fact that we have a very supportive family. Although they are far away, we know they are here for us... and we will see some of them next week (I can't wait)
- etc, etc... The list is definitely getting longer as I think about it. Isn't it the exact point of the Gratitude Challenge?

Want to get inspired? Learn more about the Gratitude Challenge.

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Grateful for all 5 senses

Today's Gratitude Challenge task is to focus on one of the 5 senses and be grateful for it. I thought it would be an easy task. I am so happy to be able to see the world, and witness beautiful things with my own eyes: sunset by the beach, the fall colors on the trees, beautiful card designs from Tinyprints, my son smiling and happy, etc...
However, upon further thought, I realized that I appreciate all my senses equally, and I can't really isolate one from the others. They are all so important to me, and I am so grateful to be able to enjoy them all.

Take hearing for example. I enjoy listening to music a lot and I definitely think music enriches my life. As my readers already know, I am so excited to witness my son's language development. And then, there are the random sounds of the rain falling on trees, waves by the ocean, birds singing in the early morning, laughter of friends, etc... I can't imagine what life could be without hearing. So here, I am grateful for hearing too.

And now, on to taste. This one is obviously important too. I was raised in France, so I have come to appreciate food. This passion only got stronger when I traveled internationally and discovered many other foods... and I liked them all. Yes, I am thankful for taste. And by the same token, I am thankful for smell, as all good foods also smell wonderful. Not to mention the smell of flowers and woods, fresh laundry, and many other things.

Finally, what would be life without the sense of touch? Without the hugs and kisses from my son? Without being able to feel the coziness of a warm blanket or the softness of flowers?

Really, all these senses are important to me, and I am so grateful to be able to enjoy them all. Some people have to go through life with a limited ability for one sense or the other, and I know that they are missing a lot. I am so glad I can appreciate my life through all my senses.

Want to get inspired? Learn more about the Gratitude Challenge.

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