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Letter to Jude: Months 31 and 32

Dear Jude,

You’re growing up too fast. Please slow down.

These past two months have been really amazing, Jude. Every day I find myself wishing I had a little notebook and pen on hand to make note of the new things you’re doing and saying.


You eat with regular-sized forks and spoons. You’ve been doing this for a while, but it was just a week or two ago that it really struck me. If Papa or I forget to give you a napkin, you ask for one, and then you use it of your own accord. Somehow you’ve figured out how to eat your soup, cereal, and oatmeal over the bowl, and if you happen to make a mess, you promptly tell us “I spill!” so we can clean it up. Immediately.

You’ve discovered the joy of playing in the snow. Grandma Rose sent you a wooden sled as a surprise (the surprise is, we live in Chicago! It’s flat here!), and a few weeks before Christmas, we got to take it out for a spin. That day, Papa and I took turns pulling you all around the (very flat) park. You call it your “plane” and you ask to take it out even when the ground is dry.

I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention how your use of the English language is growing by leaps and bounds these days. You’re speaking in full (or nearly fully) sentences. You sing along to Weezer and the Alkaline Trio. Before bed we sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or O Christmas Tree! (even though Christmas is over). You wouldn’t believe the amount of joy Papa and I feel whenever we hear you sing.


Since Christmas you’ve become a one-man-band. During the early morning hours, you like to strum your guitar or play your harmonica or sing. Once 9am rolls around and your drumsticks wake up, it’s a constant clanging of sticks together and the shouts of “One, Two, Three, Four!” coming from your lips. Papa and I love listening to you make music, and luckily, none of the neighbors have complained!


Sometime over the past two months you’ve cut way back on nursing… so far, in fact, that I can probably say that you’ve self-weaned and are done. So! Instead of nursing to sleep, during Advent we adopted a new bedtime routine. Each night we lit the candle(s) on our Advent wreath and read a prayer from the Celtic Daily Prayer book, got changed into jammies, brushed your teeth, and snuggled down into bed to listen to Papa read a story. After that you and I would lie down to talk about our day and go to sleep. We’re still following that same routine, though we’ve replaced the Advent wreath with a simple candle from Grandma Rhonda.


Recently, I spent three days in the hospital. Away from you. Oh, Monkey. I know it sounds melodramatic, but JesusChristAlmighty I missed you. I didn’t want to stay. I didn’t want to be admitted, but I had no choice–I couldn’t walk. While I was at the hospital, your new friend Erin helped you make a card for me. I was so excited to get it. I put it on my bedside table and looked at it whenever I felt sad. When I got home on Tuesday night, you were so happy! You gave me some great (and gentle) hugs and showed me the paintings you had created with our friend Sarah. Maybe I’m making it up Jude, but you seem to have grown so much in those three days we were apart. You seem to be speaking so much more clearly now than you were before I went away. We’re having real conversations… you’re able to tell me about all the things you did and all the toys you played with during the day. Could all of that really have happened over a three-day span? And if so, why did it happen during the three days we were apart?

Witnessing how much you’ve grown over the past two months has me thinking about what life with you will be like tomorrow, next week, next month… I feel so very ready for you to grow up and so very sad that there’s no avoiding it. Sometimes I look at you and wonder where my baby boy has gone. Other times I get caught up in a daydream of what you might be like when you get older. I love you, Jude.



This is the first year since Jude’s birth that Josh and I are celebrating Advent in any real sort of way. I got the idea to make an Advent calendar out of mini (homemade!) envelopes from a 2007 post by Andrea over at a peek inside the fishbowl. The idea is to stuff the envelopes with a piece of paper upon which is written a special activity. Each day during Advent, you open the corresponding envelope to find out what the day’s activity is going to be. When I saw Andrea’s finished product (and list of activities she was planning to do with her family), I got so excited that I made Josh take me shopping supplies that night.

Here’s a list of the activities we’re planning for this wonderful season of Advent. I’m a few short at the moment, so I’ll update this list as I think of more fun things to do!

Light Advent Candle 11/29 — Done!
Make paper snowflakes and decorate windows 11/30 — Done!
Make pumpkin cranberry bread for COS college freshmen 12/1 — Done!
Read lots of Christmas-themed books 12/2
Bake cookies 12/3
Movie Night-Claymation Movie(s) 12/4
Get/Decorate Christmas Tree 12/5
Celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day/Light Advent Candle 12/6
Make Christmas cards for family and friends 12/7
Make Styrofoam snowmen 12/9
Zoo Lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo 12/10
Movie Night-How the Grinch Stole Christmas 12/11
Make cinnamon rolls 12/12
Light Advent Candle 12/13
Go to Charmers for a sweet treat and a hot drink 12/14
COS Christmas Pageant 12/17
Movie Night-Charlie Brown Christmas 12/18
Go downtown and look at all the window displays 12/19
Light Advent Candle 12/20
Ride the CTA Holiday Train 12/22
Wrap presents 12/23
Unwrap “Christmas Eve gifts” 12/24

***Christmas celebration w/friends (not sure of a date, yet).

Here are some pictures of the finished Advent calendar, our Advent wreath, and the activities we’ve completed! (Sorry for the poor photo quality. I’m having a tough time with our fancy camera. I think it’s time to admit that I just don’t have a knack for photography.)

Our completed Advent calendar:

Advent Calendar

First Day of Advent:

1st Day of Advent 2009

Second Day of Advent:

Second Day of Advent 2009

Third Day of Advent:

Third Day of Advent, 2009

I’m going to try to post a picture from each of our daily Advent activities. If you have any suggestions for fun thing we can do on our “empty” days, feel free to leave a comment on this post!

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Sweet Things

I think one of the sweetest things Jude does is say “Bless you, Mama” when I sneeze. It’s a little thing; a small nicety, but it melts my heart every time.

Jude will also repeatedly ask “OKAY? OKAY?” if he sees someone who is upset. If he’s the cause of the hurt, he’ll often say “Sorry” without prompting. (What is it with prompting or requiring kids to apologize anyway? Seems kind of worthless if it isn’t said of their own volition. I digress.)

Oh! And anytime Jude is on the phone, talking to someone who’s real or someone who’s pretend, he ends the calls by saying, “Okay. Bye,” and giving the person on the other end a big smooch.

These sweet things are what get me through the rough days. Also, chocolate, coffee, and alcohol. (I kid! I kid!… kind of.)

It Used to Be a Five-Minute Walk

A few months ago, walking to one of the nearby L stations would have taken five minutes, top. A trip to the library, maybe fifteen. Now these trips take a lot longer.

Jude used to ride on my belly or my back in our Ergo Baby Carrier. Now, most of the time, he prefers to walk. This new bit of independence has done more than drive me batty (because, honestly, walking to the L should not take as long as it does some days); it has left me utterly speechless.

Have you ever seen the world through the eyes of a toddler? I have, and those eyes see everything: There’s a squirrel, and another and another. Now they’re chasing each other. What do you think they’re doing? Looking for something to eat? Look! There’s a bunch of birds. And yes, there’s a leaf and there’s a leaf, and well, Jude-there are lots of leaves on the ground. Ahhh! a stick! Right! We can pretend to play the drums using large twigs as drums sticks. And then there are rocks… there are lots of rocks on the ground. Flowers, they smell good, and green leafy plants? Right, might as well smell them too. And, “Mama! Cars! Cars! Cars!” Oh yes, that’s a man, uh huh, and a baby, and right, a girl. And there are some more rocks. Oh! A dog. TWO dogs! Wow! There’s a door and a window and yes, Jude, the bricks feel rough. Trees! Yes, I see the trees! Uh huh, there’s an airplane in the sky, and yes, Monkey, I see the cars.

This happens day after day, walk after walk. And, you might not believe me, but I find Jude’s exploration and his commentary exhilarating! Before these shared walks, I hadn’t “stopped to smell the roses.” Ever. I didn’t notice the antics of the neighborhood squirrels or birds, and I paid no attention to the butterflies. Now when we walk, well, I allow a lot more time for each errand–that’s a given, but I also slow down. Jude and I have long, thoughtful conversations. He and I… we enjoy living.


Wishing it Was Mischief Night

I recently realized that I could buy various household items on This was a timely epiphany; we were down to four rolls of toilet paper and didn’t have time to make the trip to Target. It requires the better part of three hours to get to Target, do our shopping, and get back home. Additionally, our personal shopping cart (that I love so much) doesn’t hold much more than one large pack of toilet paper and is a bit of a pain to push while leading an uncooperative 2-year-old around by the hand.

So, 40 (FORTY!) rolls of toilet paper were just delivered to my door, and for a fantastic price and no shipping charge, I might add.

Anyone want to go TPing?

Next week, my shipment of Seventh Generation laundry detergent and Ecover laundry powder is scheduled to arrive. I’m also hoping to order our saline solution through amazon, because the price they’re offering is a lot better than what I can get in-store.

Do you shop online for household items? What websites do you use?

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Yesterday I clung to the 59-degree’d weather harder than all those Chicagoans I wrote about on Wednesday. Hypocrite, I know. Guilty as charged.

Josh left for a weekend retreat yesterday evening, and being that he is going to be gone all weekend, he took the day off from the office. We decided to go to Charmer’s Cafe for breakfast–a newly begun weekly tradition that usually occurs on Saturday mornings. After hopping online to check the weather (hello 43 degrees at 8am!), we got ready to make the two block walk to the closest of our favorite local coffeehouses.

I buckled my Ergo carrier firmly around my waste and turned to the boy and let him know that we were going outside and it was time to ride on mama’s back. He looked me square in the eyes and said, “No.” Okay then… well…”Do you want to try walking, Monkey?” His reply, “Yeah!” And off we went.

Is it odd that Jude is 21 months old and that yesterday was the first time he has ever walked to somewhere in his life? He runs around outside all the time, but normally, I wear him to wherever it is we’re going, and then I get him down and let him do his thing. Anyway. Yesterday was the day. He walked the two blocks to and from Charmers; later in the day he walked one block to and from the local fruit market; and even later in the day he walked about three blocks to our local chain grocery store with me (I wore him on the way home… he was wicked tired). So, all in all, he walked about eight-tenths of a mile yesterday. Hasn’t anyone ever told this kid about starting out slow?

As we walked to breakfast, Jude holding my left hand and Josh’s right, I really had to work at holding back the tears. Lame, right? I just can’t believe how much he has grown up since last spring…hell, I can’t believe how much he has grown up since last week! This time last year he was crawling and cruising…not even walking yet. Yesterday, he had command of his mobility (well, except when he tripped over his feet at the cafe and went face first into a table…he didn’t have much command of himself at all at that point). He walked along, wearing his navy hoodie and his Cubs hat, stopping occasionally to point out a tree or a car or some grass, and he was a real little boy. Not (entirely) a baby anymore, but a true toddler with autonomy…

And it made this mama’s heart break–just a little.

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Product Review: The Learning Tower (by Little Partners)

About two weeks ago, Jude’s recently-purchased Learning Tower arrived via UPS delivery. It stayed in the entrance to our apartment for a few days until I was able to find the time to attempt assembly on my own.


For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Learning Tower, allow me to take a brief moment to describe the apparatus. The Learning Tower, at it’s root, is a glorified step stool for toddlers and young children. Please don’t let that kind of harsh description soil your opinion of it: it’s an awesome piece of furniture! It has an adjustable platform for the kids to stand on, a wide base to prevent tipping, and is semi-enclosed on all four sides so that little ones have less of a chance of falling off/out. Plus (plus!) it can support up to 500 pounds, so it doubles as a safe step stool for mom and/or dad!

So, what good is a Learning Tower? Well, let me tell you–it allows children to (safely!) be at counter height in the kitchen, which in turn affords them the opportunity to watch or engage in what mom or dad is doing. For me, this was the number one reason for purchasing. Most kids, and Jude is certainly no exception, love to take part in the world around them. It’s how they learn. Since acquiring our Learning Tower, Jude has ‘helped’ me make dough for bread, chop veggies for meal time, assemble sandwiches for lunch, and wash dishes! He has learned (or is on his way to learning) that half of one cup is 1/2 cup, that there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, and that mama curses when she forgets to mix cold water with the hot water while washing dishes. Hooray for learning!

The Learning Tower can also be used as a stage for puppet/pretend play or as a place to sit and eat snacks. Little Partners are nice enough to send along a cloth drape to cover the Learning Tower and to assist with play time. (Note: Drape doubles as a cape.)


So, onto my (well, our) experience with assembly through playtime. I was amazed as how easy the Learning Tower was to put together. It would have been even easier if I had had some (adult) help (and if someone hadn’t hidden two pieces on me!), but I was able to put it together, fairly quickly, and with only stripping four screws (a personal best!). The instructions were clear, and the pieces were well-labeled.

The unit is very, very sturdy. It is also on the heavy side (though Jude can push it around at will *sigh*), and definitely on the bulky side (read: not fantastic for small kitchens). The platform adjusts to four different heights. In other words, it grows with your kids! As your child gets taller, you simply lower the platform. You should note that the Learning Tower is available in a number of different colors/finishes, so you can (with any luck) match it to your kitchen space.


Our Learning Tower has, honestly, changed Jude’s and my day-to-day lives. He loves playing at the kitchen counter while I work in the kitchen. Tupperware and measuring cups have never been as much fun (or gotten so much use!) as they are now. And, the truly amazing part of all of this is that Jude will actually play by himself a little bit if he has access to the Learning Tower! He will happily allow me to fold clothes, so long as I bring them into the kitchen and hang out with him while he stacks his blocks or pours raisins from one container to the other and all over the kitchen floor.


In short, we LOVE the Learning Tower. If you’re looking for a way to include you child in your day-to-day tasks, don’t hesitate to purchase one. It is well worth the investment.

Finally, here’s a video of Jude playing on his Learning Tower.

Check out my other Product Reviews.

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I Wish I Had a Medal to Give Him

Today was a long, long day for the Frank family. Jude was up before 7am, we had to travel to the heart of downtown Chicago for our chiropractor’s appointment, and as if that wasn’t enough to qualify today as being a “long” day, we extended our downtown trip by about three hours by heading over to the Chicago Children’s Museum for an afternoon of fun. Jude, despite having woken up early and only napping for about 40 minutes, was in fantastic spirits, so we even had time to have a yummy lunch at a brew pub at Navy Pier. He had an awesome time playing at the museum… I think he liked the Snow Much Fun exhibit best.

So, although it was a (very) tiring day, it was also a pretty fantastic day for my family.

The highlight of the trip (for me at least), came during lunch. Jude was sitting in his highchair, eating and talking to everyone around him, when the manager of the place came over, smiled and said, “How old is he?”

Did you catch that, people of the internets? The manager said, “How old is he?

Finally! Someone in this godforsaken city recognized my son as being male!

It’s not that I’m offended when people tell me my little girl is beautiful. I get it. His hair is on the long side and it’s a bit curly. He’s really adorable…really beautiful. I just find it funny that person after person after person can somehow ignore the stereotypical “boy” colors he wears and the little boy shoes he has on. God forbid I put the little guy in red! That confuses them to the point of arguing with me over his sex. That being said, having to continually correct people (“He. He’s a little boy.” *insert smile*) has worn me down a bit. And, to be completely honest, when Mr. Manager Guy recognized that the child sitting next to me in the highchair was indeed a boy, I could have kissed him…or at least given him a medal.

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Library Card

It’s sad, really. I’ve lived in this city for more than five months now, and I *just* got a library card yesterday. I wasn’t sure I would be able to get one at all since I haven’t yet switched my license over and therefore don’t have an in-state picture ID. Luckily, a cell phone bill with my name on it and a local address along with my old PA driver’s license was enough.

I spend a lot of my online time over at the Mothering forums. I especially like reading the SAHP section, the Gentle Discipline section, and the Vaccinations section. From my daily perusal, I’ve compiled a fairly long a list of books I want to read-hence the need for a library card.

As soon as we returned home from our outing yesterday, I hopped on line to reserve a few (greatly coveted) books. The first is Sarah Napthali’s book Buddhism for Mothers: A Calm Approach to Caring for Yourself and Your Children. The second book I placed on hold is Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn. The last book I’m (not so) patiently awaiting is Aviva Jill Romm’s book Naturally Healthy Babies and Children…

I’m excited about these books. I’m excited to read and to learn. I’m hopeful that these books will help me become a better parent and homemaker. I’m not sure how quickly the books will become available to me, but I’m really looking forward to sharing their insights with you, the people of the internets.

Hey moms (and dads!)! Do you have a favorite parenting book you’d like to recommend?

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Letter to Jude: Months 18-20

Dear Jude,

Today is your 20-month birthday. I was too sick to write to you when you turned 18 months old, and we didn’t have an internet connection at home when you turned 19 months old, so today I write to you in honor of those months as well as this month of your life.


November was a tough month for all of us. You, Papa, and I were all sick at various times. The weather turned cold that month, and we started having to dress you in layers upon layers of clothing every time we wanted to leave the house. For Thanksgiving we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Galesburg. You had a lot of fun playing with Aunt Kenzie, Aunt Erin, and Uncle Grant, and you had a blast playing with Daizy. However, our trip got cut short by a day because you and I were feeling pretty terrible.


December was colder and snowier than November. We spent a good portion of our playtime in the church nursery playing with your friend Annabel and her mom Helen. One cold, snowy night in December, you, Papa, and I and Helen and Annabel walked to the Lincoln Park Zoo and took in their display of Christmas lights. You seemed to really enjoy our time there, despite the icicles that were forming on your eyelashes. During Advent you made your theatrical debut in the annual Church of Our Saviour Christmas Pageant. You were a sheep, and everyone was impressed by how well you wandered around during the play.


On December 20th we moved into our new apartment in Rogers Park. Though it was a tough move to accomplish because of its timing, Papa and I really wanted to be in our new home in time for Christmas…even if it meant we wouldn’t have time to put up tree. On Christmas Eve you opened your special gift from Papa-a new pair of pajamas! Normally you would have also received an ornament to hang on the tree, but this year we didn’t find one for you until after the holiday. On Christmas morning you opened gifts from Mama and Papa; Grandma Rose and Grandpa Mike; Great Grandpa; and Aunt Jennifer and Uncle Troy. You received blocks and books and clothes and a puzzle…a good haul, indeed!


Early in January, we traveled back to Galesburg to celebrate (Orthodox!) Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and all your aunts and uncles on Papa’s side. Not only did you receive some pretty awesome clothes, books, and toys, but you were also gifted (well, we all were!) the news that you’re going to have a baby cousin later this year! How exciting!

Last night I went to an inauguration party with Dr. Meggie. I was only gone for about four hours, but I missed you terribly. When I got home, you gave me so. many. hugs. It was incredible. I don’t like being away from you, Monkey, but I do love it when we reunite.

Since my last letter to you, you’ve grown by leaps and bounds. You can actually get your feet off the ground a bit when you jump. You can say “ball” and “shoe” and “bye-bye” now, and you’re learning how to sign “book.” You’re even more willful today than you were yesterday, and that’s saying something. You like to pretend that your Larry the Cucumber magnet is a phone…actually, you like pretending that most of your toys are phones. When you wake up in the morning, you like to get your slippers off of Papa’s night stand and say “shoe, shoe” until either he or I puts them on your feet. You sing and dance along to The Terrible Twos. You’ve nearly grown out of your size medium Fuzzi Bunz. Your hair is getting so, so long.


This winter has been tough for us, Jude…we’ve been stuck inside a lot. It’s hard getting bundled up and it’s hard facing the subzero temperatures Chicago has been experiencing over the past few weeks. I’ve lost my temper more than I would like to admit, and I worry that you’re bored having to play with the same old toys day after day. I long for spring and for the chance to play outdoors with you without having to dress you in 15 layers of clothes plus a snowsuit. Soon though, Monkey. Soon we’ll be visiting the local parks and going for daily walks just like we did when we first moved to the city. Before you know it, the sun won’t be setting until 8pm, and I’ll be struggling to convince you that it’s night time. I promise. It’s right around the corner. Until then, I’ll do my best to make the rest of the winter more bearable than the first part of it has been. Do you think you hang on until the cold weather breaks, Jude? Can we try… together?