Thursday, June 18, 2009

Talking up a storm

Kiefer's vocabulary is exploding! He can say his friends names: Auggie (August), Cedar, Nate, Jackie (Jackson), Yuuki, Maggie. For the past week or so, whenever we get in the car, he says, "Auggie's house!" He's hoping we're going to visit August's house. He lives on a farm with tractors, chickens, and a dog. Very cool for a little boy. When Cedar and her parents went away for a few days, we watched their 3 week old chickens. Kiefer said, "bawk, bawk, bawk" whenever he saw the chickens. When he helped me feed them, he said, "eat!"

Today we went to the doctor for his 2-year well visit. I didn't tell him since he freaked out at the doctor's the past couple of times. I was driving toward UMass and as soon as it was in sight, he immediately said, "doctor." I was amazed! He associates UMass with the doctor! Well, before we went to the doctor, I dropped by my office so my colleagues could see Kiefer. He played shy at first, but eventually warmed up. He made good friends with Kate, who gave him an "I Spy" book to read. He also went up and down the long hallways and decided we needed to go down four flights of stairs, too. When we got downstairs, we saw Craig, the professor who taught Statistics II when I took it in Spring 2007. I was in the last months of my pregnancy back then and Kiefer spent almost every class kicking me, so I would say to Craig, "I think the baby is going to be a statistician." When we saw him today, I told him he should talk statistics to Kiefer. He said, "Central Limit Theory," which made Kiefer laugh. It was pretty funny.

Kiefer was fine when we got to the doctor's office. He was quite happy to sit at the little table and read in the waiting room. The freak out didn't happen until we were called in to nurse's room for Kiefer to be weighed and get some vitals taken. Screaming and crying with no tears. We then went back to the waiting room and he was just fine. He was also OK when we went into Dr. Schmitt's office. That is, until she needed to listen to his chest and back and look at his ears and throat. You would have thought by listening to his screams that she was murdering him. He also needed two shots today. That prompted the best screams. Luckily, it was over quickly. On his way out he cheerfully said to the Dr. and the nurse, "Bye bye!"

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been practicing counting 1 to 10 with Kiefer. At first he would only say 2 and 9. This morning, he actually did all of the numbers! I was so excited! I really can't work on the alphabet with him because he hates the alphabet song. If I start singing it, he shakes his head and says, "No. No. No!" I guess we won't be learning the alphabet through song!

Last weekend, our friends from the Netherlands, stopped by for a couple of days during a 2 week RV vacation through New England. It was fun to see Jeroen, Chantal and their adorable 9 month old daughter, Yasmijn. We mostly hung out at home and took it easy, but we did manage to get to Shelburne Falls for a lovely morning. Chantal got some excellent footage of Kiefer and Yasmijn having a conversation over dinner. Yasmijn likes to say, "Ya ya ya ya." Kiefer would echo it back. He also shared his cars with Yasmijn and she seemed to enjoy playing with them. It was very sweet.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kiefer's 2nd Birthday

It has been a long time since my last post but I've had a good excuse! I was busy writing my comprehensive exam (comps) paper. I finished my coursework in the fall and during the spring I had to write a 60 page paper. Now the comps process for Higher Education at UMass Amherst is different from most other departments. Usually, it involves writing a number of papers on various topics to demonstrate your knowledge in your area of study and you usually have a week to write them. I actually had the whole semester to write one 60 page paper on a topic of my choice (related to my field of study, of course). Most people write the comps paper as if they're writing the first three chapters of their dissertation. This means that people can get some great feedback before their dissertation proposal defense and they can get through their dissertation more quickly. This is the approach I took. For the past few months, I have spent most weekends behind the computer writing. Sadly, this meant I didn't have much time for Roel and Kiefer. Roel was great taking care of Kiefer all by himself while I toiled away.

My paper focuses on the factors (social, financial, academic, demographic) that influence participation in study abroad among students who formally express intent to study abroad. My graduate assistantship at the International Programs Office enables me to easily collect data. The office just implemented an on-line student management software and I got to create the survey students who wish to study abroad must complete. The survey is providing me with my data! Smart, huh?

On May 19, I had to defend my comps paper. I'd been to a few of these before so I felt that I knew what to expect. I have only ever been to defenses attended by one or two students in addition to the 3 committee members. How many people attended my defense? Seven! 7 people along with my 3 committee members. When I learned that quite a few people were planning to attend, I had to change the location because the room I originally selected would have been way too small. It was great to have the support, especially since the IPO laptop I was using for my PowerPoint presentation was temperamental and kept shutting off. I ended up not being able to do my PowerPoint, but luckily, I had plenty of handouts so people could follow the slides on paper. Not perfect, but it worked. After a 15 minute presentation and many, many questions and suggestions, I passed! Whew! What a relief.

I didn’t have much time to rest after the defense because we had to prepare for my 10 year Mount Holyoke College reunion that weekend. On Friday, 4 of my MHC friends and their families arrived to stay at our place. Well, actually not everyone would fit in our house, so some stayed in a condo next door that is currently empty. I made a deal with the owner to clean it before and after in exchange for letting us have it for the weekend. It worked out pretty well and we were only a 40 minute drive to the college. We barbecued on Friday and on Saturday morning we headed to MHC for the laurel parade. Alumnae and the current graduating class wear white and march along the parade route on campus. Our class color was yellow, so we dressed the kids in yellow. Kiefer was so excited when we got to campus, but waiting for the parade to begin, he got rather impatient and had a toddler meltdown. You know… the lay down in the middle of the street and cry type of meltdown. So, for the first half of the parade, I had to carry a very squirmy and angry toddler. Halfway through the parade route, there were bagpipers, which Kiefer found fascinating. He was very excited and for the last half of the parade he was clapping and waving to the people along the parade route as if the parade were just for him. Then, when it was the class of 1999’s turn to stand along the side of the parade route and make way for the class of 2009, Kiefer had a meltdown again. He didn’t want to stop and wait so we headed to Papa and the bag of snacks. He was happy to eat and calmed down.

After a walk around campus and lunch, Roel and Kiefer headed back home. I stayed at MHC and because I am such a nerd, I attended the English and German Studies departmental open houses, since those were my majors. It was fun to see my professors again. In the middle of the German Studies open house, I got a call from my friend Bonnie who told me that our friend Cindy had rolled her foot and passed out while walking around campus. She had to go the hospital and it turns out that she broke her foot! She’s going to be out of commission for 6 weeks and she has a 16 month old. Not fun! I was sad not only that she broke her foot and couldn’t attend the dinner, but that I no longer had a drinking buddy. Bonnie and Laura are pregnant so Cindy and I were going to drink for them.

Everyone left on Sunday at around noon and Monday afternoon, Oma & Opa (Roel’s parents) arrived from the Netherlands. They were able to celebrate Kiefer’s 2nd birthday with us on May 26. On the morning of his birthday, Kiefer woke up to the house decorated with streamers. He loved it and spotted the cake I had baked for him after he had gone to bed. He pointed to it and said, “Cake! Cake!” We think he wanted cake for breakfast, but we made him wait until the afternoon. He was very excited to open his presents. He couldn’t wait for Papa to get home and opened one or two before Roel was able to get home from work. He got a Kettler push trike from Oma and Opa along with some little cars and a truck to load the cars. He got a sandbox from Grandma and Grandpa. It is shaped like a crab and Kiefer calls it, “Crabbie.” He also got a play rug and his very own kid-sized set of garden tools. He does love to help! Even though Kiefer was very excited about the cake, he didn’t eat it. As soon as he got some of the (homemade) frosting on his fingers, that was it. Kiefer doesn’t like to get his hands dirty. In the future, I will not frost his cakes!

Roel’s parents rented a house in Hyannis for a week and we went for 4 days. It was so nice to get away from things and decompress from all the excitement. I definitely needed it because I was so tired. The house had a private beach and a nice big deck. Of course, the water was way too cold for swimming at this time of year, but Kiefer enjoyed using a bulldozer in the sand. When the tide went out, there were nice tidal pools that warmed up quickly and were fun for Kiefer to explore. He wasn’t too keen about the seaweed and would point to it and say, “Blech.”

In March and April, Kiefer’s vocabulary was limited to words like, “car,” “house,” “egg,” “ice” for ice cream, “hi” and “Nijn-ah” for “Nijntje.” Over the past couple of weeks, his vocabulary has exploded. He repeats just about everything. He also loves anything having to do with transportation and says, “bulldoze” (without the r), “tractor,” “choo-choo,” “truck,” “bike” and “taxi.” His favorite books are therefore transportation related and he adores Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go.” There is so much to see on every page, including the gold bug hiding on every page. Kiefer calls the gold bug “bee bug” and that’s what he calls the book.

In March, I went to London for 4 days to check out one of the study abroad programs I advise on. I have been advising students about the program for 4 years and it was very helpful to meet some of the staff, see the classroom facilities and housing facilities. It is going to make my job a bit easier! I missed Kiefer a lot, but he did really well with Roel and only said, “Mama” before bedtime and when he woke up in the morning.

At the end of March, on a sunny Saturday Roel and I put started to put together our raised bed garden. We went to the Home Depot and got the lumber, posts and deck screws we needed and assembled three 4’ X 8’ boxes. Kiefer was outdoors with us and helped by handing us screws and once the boxes were assembled, he climbed in and out of them. While Kiefer was napping, we put down landscaping fabric where we were going to place them to keep the weeds down, pounded the posts into the ground and screwed the boxes to the posts. We were just finished with that when Kiefer woke up from his nap and he was able to help us fill them with Martin’s farm loam/compost mix. Kiefer was very patient because the boxes took quite a while to fill. A few days later, I planted some peas, carrots, lettuce, spinach a radishes… veggies that germinate best in cool weather.

We realized that 4 cubic yards of dirt goes a long way and so a couple of weeks later we built two 4’ x 4’ boxes and put a fence up around the boxes so hungry ground hogs and rabbits would stay out. We STILL had lots of dirt and in early May we built one more 4’ x 4’ box. It is a good thing we built more boxes because I got a little carried away buying tomato plants. I dream about garden-ripened tomatoes, so I ended up with 10 tomato plants, when I probably should have only bought 5. After hardening them off for a week, I planted them on May 16th along with two zucchini plants, 2 yellow summer squash, 2 cucumber and 3 bell peppers. It was a little on the early side, so we did have to cover them up once when there was a frost advisory, but they’ve done well and are quite happy in the ground. When we returned from Hyannis, I was shocked to see the zucchini plants had almost tripled in size and were already setting fruit! The tomatoes and cucumbers are flowering, too. We’ve been eating salad almost daily for the past couple of weeks because we have tons of lettuce.