Big Bear was our third camping trip in three weeks – which was pretty ambitious for camping with a 2-month old, but somehow worked out with the help of a supportive Ganma and Gampy.

The youngest in our group, Lili, was well-adjusted to being in the great outdoors.

We camped at Serrano Campground in Fawnskin, which is just across the lake from Big Bear. The campground itself is pleasant with lots of shade from the pine forest, but it is important to get a good site, because some sites were very exposed.

Leela is so expressive!

Our site was on the very sunny side, so we spent most of our day across the road at Sweet Meadow, which was free with an adventure pass. There were lakeside picnic tables and BBQ grills, flush bathrooms, water, and plenty of shade in this day-use park.

Asleep in Grampy's arms (who says he's not that good at baby-holding - whatever that means).

At Serrano, in general, the sites on the outside of the Lake View loop are better than the ones inside. Almost all of the Evening Star loop is in the shade. Double campsites are popular at this campground. Sites 116, 117, 118, 119, 101, 95, 83, 88, 89, 91, 94, 71, or 72 would be ideal, especially if you wanted to stay a week. We highlighted the good sites on a campground map if you want to borrow it from me.

We spent both afternoons splashing and swimming in the lake.

Besides the requisite lake time (water was great!), we also enjoyed the zoo, which is mostly rehabilitated mountain animals, and then stopping to eat yummy reubens at a local deli (I want to say it was called Grizzly Bear Deli??)

Christian and Noi naa had fun digging, digging, and getting very very dirty. Here, they are in their "foxhole."

Serrano Campground is a good choice for Big Bear camping if you want to be walking distance of the lake. And it was less than two hours from Laguna Niguel.
P.S. Bathrooms were flush and well-tended, but the showers were what my b-i-l called “cruel” – you had to push a button continuously for a terrible spray of water. Luckily, I only bothered once. Better to bring a swim suit and take regular dips in the lake.

P.P.S. Joss’s photos of the same trip


Sometimes we are unpleasantly startled by a reflection of our own behavior in our children (like when they repeat a cuss word! at the appropriate moment!) and other times we have to give ourselves a pat on the back for passing along exemplary behavior.

A couple days ago, I caught Christian and Noi naa in the middle of a very serious nursing session. They were each nursing their respective “babies.”

Noi naa is letting Christian nurse her prize doll Annabelle, while she nurses Minnie Mouse.

I like how Noi naa is resting back on a triangle pillow and how her feet are up.

Christian nursing lying down, except instead of reading like I do, he's playing with a matchbox car.

They were at it for a while - SO CUTE!!

Here’s a video of Leela at a big fifteen days old today.
Leela is her Thai nickname and is short for the Thai word “leelawatdi” which means frangipani flower. The word “leela” by itself actually means “gesture.” “Nong” means “baby” and is frequently used in front of names of people and children younger than you.
The adorable-ness factor should offset the grossness of the previously posted millipede video.

Penelope "Leela" Dimock

If it hadn’t been for the curfew, the baby would have been born in the back seat of a truck cab.
We arrived at the hospital at 8:59 pm (one minute to spare) and the sweetest little girl rushed out of Sue at 9:21 pm.
It’s hard to fathom that we were considering staying at home because we thought Sue would make it to the 5 am curfew break.
But consider this:
Sue woke up to gentle contractions every hour or so Friday morning.
We went ahead with our pool playdate and had a family of four over from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm. Sue said that the contractions had backed off. Another friend dropped by to offer support, play with Noi naa, and to meet our brother who’s in town from Kyrgizstan. Then Songbae’s German friend from Bishtek came by also. Joss, Noi naa, Christian, and I headed to the park.
When we got back from the park to eat pasta and pizza, Sue had her feet up in front of the TV, and she and Ekua were hooting it up watching The Hangover. Sue said her contractions had come back – but were still at least 1/2 hour apart.
By 8pm, we were all chewing over the big decision: go to the hospital now before the 9 pm curfew? stay home and then call an ambulance? try and wait until 5 am? Her contractions were ten minutes apart and still (apparently) manageable.
After a brief cell phone conversation with the doctor, we decided to head in and starting milling around the apartment the way a mass of people do when they’re headed out for an indefinite amount of time: “Have you fed the cat?!” “Who’s got the toys and snacks?!” “Should we bring a stroller?!” “Hurry! It’s almost 8:30 – the curfew!!”
Then there was a frozen moment. The door to the kitchen swung open and shut, and briefly I saw Sue in the kitchen. Her back was to me, her legs were open, and she was looking at the ground. I knew right away, even before I heard her yelling “JOOOOO-OOOOOSS!!!!!!!!” that her water had broken.
Then, everything sped up: kids were swooped up, doors flung open, and bags grabbed and hooked on every arm and finger.
We packed everything into the truck that work had insisted Sue take home – packing around Noi naa’s bicycle – and started driving. Never mind that nobody in the car had ever driven to this hospital before.
But here, the looming 9 pm curfew worked very much in our favor: besides the military vehicles and fatigue-clad teenagers with machine guns, the roads were pretty clear and we made it to the hospital (Bumrungrad, a fancy private hospital) in record time.
We handed the keys over to a valet attendant. Joss went straight through with Sue in a wheelchair. Songbae and I followed with Noi naa, Christian, the stroller, and what looked like a week’s worth of luggage for a family of five.
When we arrived in the delivery ward, we could hear Sue’s rebel yells echoing through the halls. Noi naa was cowed, and with her face buried in Songbae’s neck she kept repeating, “If I’m scared I’m going to go out with Songbae.” Christian was tired and dazed and looking around.
The doctor came strolling in, in his jeans and sandals, and a backpack slung over his shoulder. He waved briefly, and disappeared into the locker room. He reappeared in scrubs and went to see Sue.
After just a few minutes, Joss rushed out – “Jeannie! Want to come in and coach Sue a bit?!?”
Sue still hadn’t made it into the natural delivery room and was on a gurney in the fetal monitoring room. The doctor was flushed and I don’t even know if Sue registered that I was there. The doctor very clearly wanted Sue to lean back on the pillows and said she was close to pushing.
Sue said in a gasp, “I KNOW! BUT…. I CAN’T MOVE FROM THIS POSITION!!!” or something to that effect.
She was sitting up, leaning against the wall in the middle of the gurney bed.
I said, “Okay, just throw your arm around my neck…”
and BOOM – her arm wrapped around my neck in a very intense nelson lock and Sue was up on her knees and one hand. I was bent double, holding her up.
She yelled, “I CAN FEEL THE HEAD!!”
I yelled, “JOSS! COME BACK!!!!”
and then I looked and there was the beautiful Leela sprawled out on the bed behind Sue.
A GIRL!!!!
Despite our best efforts, we all missed the baby’s actual entrance. No matter…
At that moment, Joss ran up with Christian, Songbae ran up with Noi naa, and everybody was cheering, gasping, and yelling various exclamations of disbelief. This was 9:21.
The baby was born completely naturally, even though we never made it to the “natural” delivery room.
The doctor, though, was stoked – he would have to stay at the hospital all night because of the curfew and he was the lucky bastard who got to watch cable all night in a very clean, unused natural delivery room – the only one at the hospital! He said there were doctors stranded all over the hospital, fighting over rooms to sleep in.
Sue, Leela, Joss, Noi naa, Songbae, Christian, and I slowly made our way to Sue’s private deluxe hospital room. (The VIP rooms were booked). We made our respective beds on the sofa and floor, and by midnight we were more or less asleep.
It was a very exciting arrival – and we are grateful to have been a part of it!

A very pleased older sister.

P.S. If this puts you in the mood for more birth stories, here’s a link to Noi naa’s birth three years ago, and Christian’s birth two years ago: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.
P.P.S. Leela at birth: 3040 grams and 50 centimeters long and cute as a button. Nursing like a champ.

One might think that since I played games with names like Who Can Go the Longest Without Brushing Their Teeth as a child that I might not be a good source of information on this particular topic.

Public opinion has never stopped me before though.

Chad and I have made a dedicated effort to brush Christian’s teeth twice a day now for about six months. When people ask what we do when Christian resists – I answer that I do what Dr. Bob Sears recommended: Pin him down. He’ll stop fighting it after a night or two.

Granted, we use all the regular parental wiles first: we have a regular routine, we brush our teeth at the same time, we use a (fluoride-free) vanilla ice cream-flavored toothpaste, a tooth-brushing walrus finger puppet comes to sing, and we like to use a couple of teeth-brushing songs (Brush, brush, brush your teeth, Brush them everyday! First you brush the top, Then you brush the bottom, Keeps the cavities away – to the tune of Row Row Row Your Boat)

Christian rarely eats candy or drinks juice (we don’t buy it, but it still falls into our path). We do occasionally indulge in chocolate, and he gets a piece. He also likes raisins in his morning oatmeal, and sometimes I give him a fruit leather in the car for long drives.

Still, Christian got a cavity. We noticed a brown spot between two of his upper teeth and  a couple days later it was a full-fledged hole.

We visited an excellent pediatric dentist yesterday, Dr. Leslie Aspis. Her office is right across the way from Fashion Island. She is supportive of breastfeeding and attachment parenting. Christian’s teeth were cleaned and examined with his head resting in the doctor’s lap. Her gloves were bubble gum flavored.

It has been determined that she’ll probably be able to fill it without sedating him in six months or so. In the meantime, we’re keeping an eye on it, building comfort with the dentist’s office, and sticking to our teeth brushing routine with zeal. We’ll also start flossing every day.

What I know so far:

Brush baby teeth twice a day as soon as they appear.

Floss once a day.

You can start using fluoridated toothpaste when they know how to spit it out – around 2 years.

Despite the popular belief that breastmilk causes tooth decay, studies show that breastmilk can only cause decay if there is already tartar on the tooth. This means the dentist will recommend that you wipe your baby’s teeth with a damp washcloth after s/he is done nursing especially if s/he has fallen asleep.

If you would rather risk tooth decay than wake your baby on a nightly basis by sticking a wet cloth into your slumbering baby’s mouth, then make sure you are brushing those teeth with zeal. Pay close attention to the gum line.

Some dentists recommend using xylitol (via gum and toothpaste or sugar replacement) 5-6 a day to change the pH of the mouth, which studies have shown to reduce cavities. I get gum online at

More not-chocolate-cake. Because I never think to take out my camera at bedtime...

No joke, instituting a rather strict bedtime routine has been like MAGIC.

All those nights when I knew Christian was exhausted we just couldn’t get him to tip over into slumberland – are in the past. Christian is often EAGER for bedtime now, and frequently shoos his daddy out of the room, so we can get going with our “candle bright” as Christian calls it.

It’s going on three weeks and now I’m eye-ing other troublesome spots in our day, and even our week, that might benefit from the addition of more thought and routine.

Although I don’t really keep track of the time, except as a general starting point, I am listing times here, so you can see about how much time everything takes. We start no later than 8 pm. I’m two ways about getting Christian to bed any earlier, because he only ever sleeps for 10 hours at night with a good nap every afternoon. If he’s asleep by nine, then we get up together about 7 am.

The whole routine is intended to wind down the day and to foster a sense of calm peacefulness before going to sleep.

7 pm Dinner (we sit and eat all together at the table – I don’t say a blessing,  I merely say “bon appètit” before we dig in)

7:30 pm Chad does the dishes. Baby likes to help. (I finish my dinner!) Then there’s usually a bit of playing on the living room floor between Daddy and Baby. I slip into the shower myself.

8 pm Chad and Baby shower together.

8:15 Pyjamas (his t-shirt for the next day) and diaper (cloth without a cover). We sing “Where is Ti-ti? Where is Ti-ti? There he is! There he is!” while getting dressed if he is resistant.

8:20 Teeth Brushing (“Brush, brush, brush your teeth! Brush them everyday! First you brush the top, then you brush the bottom. Keeps the cavities away” to the tune of “Row, Row Your Boat”.) If Baby resists, Chad pins him down to the bed to brush the teeth properly. Christian thinks it’s funny and I figure the physical “force” now is better than anesthesia for filling a cavity later.)

8:25 Goodnight kiss to Daddy. Prepare the bed. Christian sleeps on a lambskin between me and a king-size pillow on the side of the bed. He naps on the same lambskin.

8:30 Light the beeswax story candle on my dresser singing “Candle light! Candle bright! Shine your glowing candle light!” Christian blows out the match, and I carry him and the burnt match to the sink to wet it before throwing it away. If I miss ANY of this, Christian prompts me. I even have to put the box of matches in the same place each evening.

8:32 A calm sweet read-aloud story. Like Mother’s Lap or I am a Bunny.

8:35 Christian is carried to the candle and blows it out while I sing “Candle light, Candle bright, Thank you for your shining light.”

8:37 Christian turns off the bedroom lights while I sing, “The sun has gone to bed and so must I. Doot-doot-a doot-doot doot doot-doot -dooo.”

8:38 Christian nurses while I tell him a story: Once upon a time, not too far away, and not too long ago, there lived a little boy named Ti-ti who loved adventure. One day… [insert activities of the day told in simple, pleasant detail]… and if things haven’t changed, they are still the same today.”

Then I sing,

“All is silent in the forest, as through the night.

A night owl is winging her way through the air.

And the moon her watch is keeping, as through the trees,

That stand in the forest, as sentinels there.”

8:45 Christian is snoring and I ease myself out of the bed to watch very un-Waldorf movies with my husband until about 10 or 10:30 pm.


I’d like to sing a nicer song for turning off the light. I like this one, but haven’t learned it all yet. I’m just making up a tune for it.

“Now the day is over,

Night is drawing nigh,

Shadows of the evening,

Steal across the sky.

Now the darkness gathers,

Stars begin to peep.

Birds and beasts and flowers

Soon will be asleep.”

Also, instead of telling Christian a story about himself, I like the idea Devana suggests of telling a story from my own youth.

This post will be randomly interspersed of pictures of me, Christian, and Ellen looking at art in Culver City last week.

Have I not yet recommended you read Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer? It is a excellent parenting resource and I recommend it HIGHLY.

It is the book that we are reading book club-style in my Waldorf in the Woods playgroup (one chapter a week).

Not only do I think it’s done more to deepen the level of understanding of how we want to parent in our group than any other single event or action I’ve taken, but I actually think it is meaningfully changing all our lives.

Take, for instance, the chapter on rhythm, “The World of Rhythm.”

“Rhythm is the magic word for parents and educators of young children. Young children thrive on a simple, flexible rhythm that carries them through their day, through each week, and through the slowly unfolding years of their lives. Rhythm lays a strong foundation, not only in our children’s lives but also in our own. We humans have been shaped over the millennia by the rhythmic rotation of the earth, by the diurnal dance of day and night…

Our children, who live closer to basics than we do, are profoundly affected by the life rhythms we determine for them. Many problems we experience with our children can be addressed by setting a simple daily rhythm that allows their needs to be met in a timely way.” [italics mine]

I am convinced that the last sentence in that quote is absolutely correct.

Inspired by it, I decided to tighten up our bedtime routine. I mean, we all have some semblance of routine at night – but ours was loose, very loose. Meaning, sometimes, instead of turning off the light to nurse him down, I would keep the light on so I could read my book, while Christian nursed. It seemed to me that whether or not the light was on or off made little difference to Christian, who sometimes fell asleep nursing while I tap out one-handed email responses on my laptop. Sometimes we bathed early and sometimes late. I had half-heartedly started a candle lighting routine, but then stopped because I was waiting to learn that perfect candle-lighting song. Our bedtime routine never seemed to be a problem, because Christian didn’t seem to have THAT much difficulty going to sleep, especially if he’d had enough outdoors playtime that day.

Then we started having trouble putting Christian to bed. Sometimes it would take me several hours to get him asleep. SEVERAL HOURS. Not okay in my book, because not only didn’t I feel irritable in general and specifically towards Christian, but also, Christina seemed to want to be asleep – and he just couldn’t get there.

So, I drafted a very specific bedtime routine (in my head) and put it into effect ten days ago.

It was like magic. And the first night it wasn’t even a routine yet, so how could it be so wildly successful?!? But there you were – the first night, and every subsequent night, Christian has fallen asleep on schedule, in about a half hour of starting the bedtime routine. (Well, the last nights it has been a bit longer, but nothing like the nightmares we were dealing with the previous week.)

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