Our Summer Sun is 1

We like to spread out the birthday celebrations around here, so Summer's big cake-smashing event was actually 2 weeks ago when we celebrated all the Duffin-side July/August birthdays. My mom's birthday desire was an over-nighter in Brighton. Here are some pics from that fun event:


Austin and Summer enjoyed lots of spoiling from grandma (and grandma enjoyed lots of family together time). We had a blast walking through nature, playing card games, doing scavenger and arrow hunts and the kids played "spy" with Austin's bday spy gadgets for several hours.

Summer got some adorable gifts from Oma and Opa - these cute books and stuffed animal. Perfect for my explorative baby!

Summer's big present from Grandma was this super fun indoor slide. I love that Summer still gets her full measure of spoiling even if she is grandkid #6. She's seems to be such big stuff as she scales the slide all by herself.

Yesterday was the actual big day. We celebrated with a little (very little) family party. We played ring around the rosies, duck-duck-goose and had crawling/walking races. Summer "opened" her "gifts". Ok, I confess, it was a bucket of 1-year-old appropriate toys that I hid in the basement when she was born and waited for a year before we opened them again. It was all Anthony's idea and it worked out great.

And to top it all off, Summer got to eat as much ice cream as she wanted. We discovered Summer's ice cream passion about a month ago when Ruthie was eating an ice cream sandwich at grandma and grandpa's house. Summer was strapped in her highchair and Ruthie was giving Summer bites. She got distracted talking to grandma and was holding the sandwich just a few inches from Summer's face and she couldn't reach it. After a few minutes our little bear cub let out the loudest "RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRR!!!!!!" we'd ever heard her make! She quickly got her ice cream and she apparently learned that a good "Rar" will always buy her some ice cream bites.

And now for my favorite part. The personality snapshot of my baby:
  • Her only "word" so far is "mamamamamama" which I think she associates with me. She makes lots of other cute sounds. Her most frequent sounds are "Uh! Uh!" which either means "give me" or "pick me up", "Ach!" which is her happy squeal, and "Roar" which gets a lot of surprised looks from non-family members.
  • We're working on the signs for "milk" and "more". She's really good at the sign for milk, but she also uses it for "bye-bye" and for "give me that thing I'm looking at."
  • At this age she is the most stranger-shy of my 3 kids. It's been tough to get babysitters because Summer will just whimper and cry the entire time we're away, even if her siblings are around.
  • At this age she has the blondest hair of my 3 kids.
  • Currently the song I most often associate with her is "It's A Sunshine Day" by The Brady Bunch. "I think i'll go for a walk outside now, the summer sun's callin' my name..."
  • When she "dances" she doesn't bob up and down like most babies, instead she crosses her arms back and forth in front of her.
  • She has 7 1/2 teeth.
  • When she "kisses" she bites, but (most of the time) it doesn't hurt.
  • All the food restrictions were lifted by 11 months old for this kid (those teeth help a lot!), yet ironically she is the least weaned of my kids by this age (I have to work on that).
  • She sucks the two middle fingers of her right hand. I wonder if she'll turn out to be left handed because of it.
  • She is a great sleeper. We have a fan in her room to create white noise and she has definitely developed an association with the sound of the fan. As soon as I turn in on, she tilts her body to the side like she's ready to lay down and starts sucking her fingers. She currently sleeps from 6pm to 5 or 6am, gets a bottle and goes back to sleep until about 8am.  Anthony is still my hero and is still in charge of that early morning feeding. She takes 1 nap in the afternoon around 11 or 12 for 2-3 hours. 
  • Summer loves her daddy. It's so cute to see her giggle and waddle/run to him as soon as he gets home from work.
  • She's a climber. She loves to climb up on our kid-size chairs, stand up while holding onto the back and shake her little booty. She also climbs up on our craft table whenever a chair is close enough to give her access. 
  • One of her nicknames is "The Marker Sucker" because if she gets a hold of a marker she immediately pulls off the lid and sucks it dry.
  • In our nightly Kid's Club stories, Summer's character has a comedic role. In the stories if I make Summer attack villains or talk about her diaper it is hilarious to Austin and Ruthie.
  • She likes swinging in her baby swing outside (great gift from aunt Debbie).

  • She loves splashing in the bathtub, especially if Ruthie is with her. She giggles and kicks up a storm.
  • As of last week walking is definitely the preferred way to get around.


Penguin Party

Austin is now Mr. 6. It's a big year as he enters the world of real school next week! As always seems to happen for this boy, we celebrated his birthday with an entire week of celebrating and gift-receiving.

Opa was in town a few days before Austin's birthday. Summer got to meet him for the first time! Ruthie, as usual, crawled right into his lap and stayed there for 3 straight days (not really, but she loves her Opa).

The first round of gifts came from Opa. The most exciting one was this lego space shuttle. Austin stayed up until 11pm building this and then he played with it non-stop for 5 days (until the next wave of gifts).

The space shuttle doors open to reveal an arm and satellite.

On August 1st we held the big party. Can you guess the theme?
Club Penguin, of course! Austin helped or even created most of the game ideas.
Arriving guests created their own penguins.
Next we played "Pin the beak on the Penguin" in order to earn "memberships."
Next it was time to adopt a puffle. (The membership was necessary so the kids could adopt any color puffle).

Guests: Austin, Mathew Springer, Ethan Sorro, Nathan Perkins, Emma Smalley (Ruthie's invite), David Smalley, Joseph Craner, Ruthie, Corbin and Calvin Montier
Game: Gone Fishin'. The kids caught yellow fish (peppridge farm goldfish) and red mullets (swedish fish).
Game: Aqua Grabber. Using the robot arm, the kids had to capture as many barrels of cream soda as  they could in 1 minute.
Other games included: Jet-Pack Adventure (jumping off the stairs), Puffle Rescue (crossing the multi-colored carpet), and Sled Racing (relay races outside).
Cake Time. 6 candles!
Puffle cupcakes! I'm proud of myself for even trying to make creative cake. 
More gifts! Of the this lot this helicopter was a fav, as was the Cars headlamp.
Since Austin was inundated with gifts, we held our presents for another 2 days. We stuck with the Club Penguin theme and got him and Ruthie puffles, a puffle play set, and card jitsu cards.

Another 2 days later the cousins came to visit from Idaho. Since these guys are Club Penguin experts, we rehashed the entire birthday party just for them.

And this still wasn't the end of it! Austin had one more family party to come... but that's next blog post.
Now my favorite part - a little bit about Austin. With some suggestions from me, here's the interview I conducted with him:

How is being 6 different from being 5? Bigger. One more number. A little bit taller.
What special things will you do this year? Go to kindergarten.
What was the best thing about being 5? Mrs. Bailey (his preschool teacher).
What are you proud of yourself for learning this past year? Doing circles on the tricky bar (meaning he can flip himself over a horizontal bar), reading (I love this! He's so good!), swinging by myself, riding my balance bike, being good at math (he can do any addition or subtraction under the number 10!)
What makes you happy? Wrestling with daddy, playing with mommy's hair, back scratches, invisible stories, Disneyland

  • Color: green
  • TV show: Wild Kratts (though we hardly watch it anymore)
  • Movie: Incredibles
  • Computer Game: Club Penguin
  • Food: Pizza
  • Breakfast: Frosted Mini-Spooners
  • Dessert: Oreo cookies
  • Toy: green puffle, legos
  • Shirt: Super-A shirt
  • Story: Kids' club stories (the ones I tell him at night)
  • Story that's a book: Wonder Woman books, Calvin and Hobbes
  • Thing to do: Play with my sisters
  • Best friend: Kalyana


Welcome to the Club

Or... Club Penguin, Potty Training II and Good Behavior Incentives

Austin's and Ruthie's penguins all dressed up.
Austin has been obsessed with Club Penguin since his 9-year-old cousin, Kalyana, introduced it to him. Club Penguin is an early social networking site for kids (typically age 8-10). Austin isn't too into the social aspect, but he loves the games. For the past 5 months his whole world has revolved around this website.

At first we played only the free games. One of the games was a lengthy puzzle-solving mystery. I really got into this one with him and we had a blast working on this game together for a couple weeks. (It took me back to my childhood. When I was about 8 my dad and I played those old school computer mysteries together - the kind that say: "You walk into a dim room. There is a small window on the east wall. On the floor you see a flashlight. What do you want to do?" We played several of those games together over the course of a year. Then as a teenager my entire family played similar games together (with graphics) such as Myst, The 7th Guest, and Shivers. Those games are a huge reason why I went into Computer Science as a profession).

The control room for the Penguin Security Agency.
Scene from our favorite mission "Clockwork Repairs."
In the game we were secret agents trying to track down the notorious polar bear Herbert P. Esquire with the help of G's cool spy gadgets. There were 10 mini-games that combined to make the whole. After we solved that game, there were still dozens of other video games on the site where he could earn coins to buy items for his penguin. He also created a penguin for every member of our family and earned several items for all of us. Ruthie soon got in on the act too and plays almost as much as he does. (I chuckle to think of all those 10-year-olds unknowingly networking with a 3-year-old).

This was all back in May. When school ended in June, the kids were anxious to do more with their penguins and wanted to have memberships (at $8/month). I was simultaneously anxious to take advantage of the summer-time to wean them off of night-time pull-ups. So we struck a deal. A week without bed-wetting would earn them each a membership. Best $16 I ever spent! Night-time potty-training turned out to be a breeze. After 2 weeks they were both doing great. (FYI, I tried last year with Austin, while I was pregnant with Summer and it was a miserable week of no-sleep for both of us. Hence I decided to put it off until the next summer when I wouldn't have to worry about poor sleep affecting his school behavior or my tired pregnant body. By the time we finally got around to it, my little deep sleeper's brain was far more ready to deal with night-time disturbances. Ruthie, on the other hand, is a much lighter sleeper and had been taking naps in her underwear for several months. Even at the age of 3, she actually picked it up much faster).

Of course, now that the kids have their memberships, we're entrenched. The kids love their $16/month penguins. So we've struck another deal. They have to earn their memberships each month with good behavior points. This is an idea I got from someone else and it has worked extremely well for my kids - especially Austin.

Here's the system we currently have in place. We have a set of poker-chip "tokens". I set out a few tokens every day before dinner. They can earn more by: cleaning up after themselves, doing their assigned chores with a good attitude, doing extra chores, keeping their night-time underwear dry, staying in their chairs during dinner and being reverent during prayers. They can also loose tokens. Austin looses tokens if he touches Ruthie's hair (hair is his comfort item, but it often leads to him pulling Ruthie's hair). Ruthie looses tokens if she talks in a whiny voice (since she's only 3 she first gets one or two warnings to "talk like a big girl"). They both loose tokens if they don't go to timeout when told to. Token loss sometimes results in a melt-down, which is painful to deal with, but they actually don't loose tokens all that often. And it has been very rewarding to have Austin spitefully tell me, after loosing a token, "Fine! Then I'm going to stay in my chair at dinner and put my plate away and keep my underwear dry and get lots of tokens back!" That'll show me.

Between lunch time and dinner time the kids can spend their tokens. Each token is worth 10 minutes of computer or TV time. Or they can turn in some tokens toward earning their club penguin membership for the next month. Sneaky Mr. Austin has figured out that he can piggy-back off of Ruthie's screen time by watching TV with her and then playing computer games afterwards. Oh well. This system is still far better than having an all-day TV free-for-all. Screen-time is typically close to 2 hours a day these days (what a reduction from our 8 hour days when I was pregnant!)

So it's not like this system makes my kids perfect, and you kind of have to have an OCD personality to maintain it, but what I like about this is 1) it has helped me be less dependent on TV, 2) it has given me a way to give positive feedback to my kids that matters to them and 3) it encourages chores which I think is good for kids. I don't know if this will last forever, but it's certainly an idea worth sharing.


Guess What I Saw?

WICKED. And it totally lived up to the hype. Our Glinda was hilarious and the music and story were so inviting and intriguing. Thanks to my fabulous parents for this amazing evening!! When can we go again?


Look Who's Walking

At 11 months old Summer still hadn't taken her first steps. She had shown a few signs of preparation - such as standing for longer and longer periods of time and cruising along the furniture. But a few of the big signs were missing - she didn't "step" between furniture items and she was reticent to holding our hands to help her walk. I figured she wouldn't be walking until sometime after her first birthday.

She was holding out on us.

About a week ago she was standing up (as she's done many times in the past few months) and suddenly took one unassisted step to Austin. We cheered. The next night she decided the time had come. She stood up on her own, took two steps and fell, stood again and took a few more steps. She spent about an hour that evening practicing. She walked back and forth between Anthony and I a few times, but often if we tried to stand her up she would go slack in the legs. She preferred to stand up on her own and try over and over again while we cheered her on. I seem to have a very independent girl on my hands here.

A week into this walking business, Summer has taken up to 30 tenuous steps before falling. She now likes to start toward her destination in walking mode, but after she falls she crawls the rest of the way. Walking is not quite yet the preferred mode of transportation, but it looks like it will be by the time she hits her first birthday.

A few other cute pics...
Mimicking mom. She "combs" her hair and "talks" on the phone.

Dressing herself. She loves to try to put on clothes and shoes.