Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hockey and Life

A few years ago when I left my job at the Amerks, I often compared the sports world to a drug addiction. It's not good for you and it drains your wallet, but in the end it brings you some sort of pleasure that just sucks you int0 submission. You love the rush, love the concept of working in a "fun" business, but at the end of the day you end up exhausted with a small bank account, wondering where the last few years of your life went. I had very little freetime and my job was quite stressful at times. It became almost all Craig and I talked about at home, and ultimately I realized that my inability to do what I realized was an impossible job was just beating my self-esteem to bits. I used to be smart (academically, at least), and realized that my job made me feel like a moron a lot of the time. In the end it was just too much for one person to do well, and as a perfectionist on at least some level, that made me nuts. And of course, I knew Craig and I wanted to have kids at some point, and that absolutely couldn't happen with both of us there. For a while I insisted it couldn't happen even with just him there, but eventually I relented. We do ok nowadays, but another hockey season is starting, and I've been spoiled all summer with Craig being game-free all summer for the first time since our early dating days. Should be an interesting fall/winter/spring with an abundance of Mama-Jacob time for the first time in a while.

Sunday night was the Amerks' first and only home preseason game this season. Opening night is this Saturday. It was at the team's practice rink in Henrietta, and I wanted to take Jacob. He's really gotten into sports a lot over the past month or two, so I was eager to see how he'd respond to seeing one in person. We went to a handful of hockey games last year, of course, but he was a lot less aware of his surroundings back then and we rarely spent much time watching the games. Jacob liked to move even then (while in the Baby Bjorn), and we spent a lot of time visiting my former co-workers. As we headed into this year, given Jacob's current obsession with all things sports (at least, on TV), I figured we might be spending a little more time watching the game this year. Of course, that's assuming we go to games, since Jacob's a little more entrenched in his 9-ish bedtime this year. If we do go, I still have a feeling we'll be spending a lot of time running around the arena, this time because Jacob will want to run free. I'm hoping he miraculously begins walking this week so when I put him on the ground he won't immediately feel the need to crawl on dirty arena floors. Wishful thinking since we've probably only gotten about 3 or 4 steps in a row, but he's doing it more on his own now and I think once he gets it, he's really going to get it.

Anyway, he was a little thrown off when we first got there. I'm not sure what did it. It could have been having to bundle up to go in the rink. It could have been that the Amerks mascot, the Moose, tried to play peek-a-boo with him. It could have been that it was a new place, and a loud one at that. The pouty lip came out and he cried a little bit. Craig was standing with us at that point and picked Jacob up, and Jacob clung to him like crazy. He did the same with me when I took over. Eventually I got him to turn around and look at the hockey game, and slowly but surely he seemed to settle in. He did pretty well the rest of the evening, but really liked when we stopped in a meeting room to visit some people and he got to crawl around.

On the way out of the arena, we stopped to chat with a few Amerks staff members, a couple of whom I worked with back in my days there. That population, by the way, is dwindling. There's literally only a handful of people that I know anymore. Crazy stuff. I talked to them about the craziness that accompanies the week before the season and some of the usual behind-the-scenes frustrations that they're going through these days. On the way home, with Jacob sleeping in the backseat, I realized that my "drug addiction" comparison wasn't a complete one...and instead, working in sports is like having a child. Both experiences are something you dream about when you're younger, but inevitably the real experience isn't quite what you expected. Not that it's all bad, but it's harder. And there are so many ups and downs that make it so emotionally draining. Both take up an immense chunk of your time, deprive you of sleep and relaxation time, and give you more headaches than you care to count. You wonder how you're going to survive months (years) of it all. You put your heart and soul into it because it's something you're passionate about, which makes the down times that much harder to deal with. On the plus side, though, it can be so much fun. Sports and child rearing both have times of high adrenaline excitement (when your team wins or your child walks), and can bring a lot of satisfaction when you see all your hard work turn into something great. And yet, no matter how much hard work you do, sometimes things are going to end up completely out of your control, and you have to figure out how to deal with those times, too. Both allow you to extend your childhood a bit. While sports lets you live out your dream of getting paid to watch games and meet professional athletes, parenthood makes it okay to play with toys, go to the zoo, and rediscover childhood staples like Sesame Street and Chuck E. Cheese. But neither experience is all fun and games, and at the end of the day you're left wondering if the ups and downs are all worth it. This is where the similarities end, in my opinion (though Craig might beg to differ, considering he's still working in sports after all these years). With sports, it's all very fleeting. You do something great, and the next day the game is over and you're faced with another day, another game, and another challenge. It's a usually a thankless job. And while parenting may seem much the same, at the end of the day you still have something so amazing and so precious. Maybe some days it doesn't seem that way, but each and every day that you get to see your child and watch them grow and learn, it's a blessing. Whenever I have a bad day with Jacob I always try to remind myself that there are thousands of people out there who would give anything for even my worst day--parents who have lost children due to illness or injury, or people who can't have kids at all. Incidentally, has anyone seen the new season of the Biggest Loser, where one of the contestants lost her husband, five year old daughter and two week old son in a car accident? I can't even imagine. So when I think of stuff like that, I feel lucky no matter how bad of a day I had. Having a child is the hardest thing in the world sometimes, but the payback can be fantastic. Just this morning Jacob gave me a real, puckered kiss on the cheek...which was the first time he'd done one that nice. It was so great and made my morning. Just the little things can work wonders.

So anyway, how's that for a sports metaphor? :)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Odds and Ends...

Not much to report this week, apparently, so I figured I'd report on a few random things...

- Jacob loves ice cream cones. Not necessarily the ice cream in them, but the cones themselves. He does enjoy ice cream a lot of the time when a cone isn't an option, but he will gladly eat an empty ice cream cone. After the tiny cone he ate at the gelato place, I had been thinking how fun it would be to get him cones like that, and one day at Wegmans I happened to look at the cone selections, almost on accident, and noticed that they had tiny cones. There are 60 in a standard sized cone box. I'll admit I've been enjoying them as well, but with ice cream. Jacob will take an empty one and immediately crunch into it, nearly destroying it completely with one bite. It's pretty funny. I hope to get video of it some day...once I clear off my memory card or get a new one!

- Still no progress on the walking front. He will definitely walk when he's ready. And right now he gets around better crawling. He has no problem climbing and standing, so I know it's not a physical issue. I just think he knows that crawling serves him best at this point. I keep encouraging him, trying to get him to stand and take a couple steps, then cheering him on and hugging him when he does it (though usually the couple steps are just part of a lunge forward at me), but so far he's just not interested in doing it more often or on his own. Even spending all day with a half dozen little walkers hasn't convinced him yet. Just more evidence that he definitely has a mind of his own...

- His new favorite activity is using me as a jungle gym. Once in a while when I'm trying to get a laugh out of him I will roll on to my back and lift him up above me, sometimes with his belly resting on my feet. He loves it. One day he was standing behind me while I sat on the floor and I grabbed his hands over my shoulders and bent over, basically lifting his feet off the floor. He loved it and I did it over and over, with him giggling hysterically the whole time. So now when I'm on the floor with him, he either comes up in front of me and pushes me back, practically strangling me in the process, or comes up behind me and pushes me forward. It took me a couple times of this to realize what he was doing, but now I know it's his not-so-subtle hint!

- He's still not eating that great, but once in a while he'll do a great job. I suppose he'd do a great job if I just fed him stuff I know he likes, but I don't want him to get in a rut so I'd rather keep getting him to try new things here and there. This week I heated up some Asian-style vegetables (the Steamfresh kind) and he really seemed to like those. They're pretty much the same veggies he's given normally (carrots, peas (except these are in pods), baby corn, broccoli) but I guess the subtle sauce they're in worked for him. And there are things he likes but has a hard time eating, like corn and rice. He enjoys them but since he still eats with his hands he ends up making a mess. I keep trying to help him with silverware, but it's not going too well. Like the walking/crawling thing, he takes the easy way out and will eat with his fingers with the hand that isn't holding the spoon or fork. Doh!

- He really loves his milk and now delights in signing it for us. The sign for milk is simply squeezing your hand into a fist--think milking a cow. He uses that sign, along with "more", a lot. He also knows "please" and I think he knows "done", which I think is moving your hands back and forth, though I think that one usually just dissolves into moving his hands back and forth on his placemat and brushing food off the table. Ugh. He's also figured out how the velcro on his placemat works, so that's been a little annoying, but still, I don't miss the high chair tray.

- We're still having trouble getting him to kick his second nap. If he happens to take a three hour nap after his lunch, he's fine for the rest of the day. But if his nap is any shorter than two hours, he just can't seem to make it. If he takes a cat nap before leaving day care, that seems to do the trick. But if he happens to fall asleep on the way home (a five minute drive!) and sleep until shortly before dinner, he's a mess. It takes him a while to snap out of his post-nap funk. He'll cry and fight us, usually until we can convince him to take a bite of his dinner, at which point he decides it's pretty good and will keep going. The napping thing was less of an issue in his old room at daycare, but in the new one he's in, they try to stick to a schedule, and that schedule only includes one nap. He does revert back to the other room at the end of the day and can easily sleep then, but sometimes it's hard to tell if he's tired. He gets punchy when he's sleepy, and it can easily be misinterpreted as just being in a really silly mood. So what seems like a good mood at the end of the day is really discovered to be sleepiness when he falls asleep on the way home. So not only does he sleep through some of the little time he has with us, but he wakes up cranky. Ugh.

He's definitely keeping us laughing these days, though. This morning when he woke up he stood there in his crib pointing to the polka dots on my shirt, one at a time, saying "ball" to each one. What a goof ball :) He's got good comedic timing with his playing of peek-a-boo, and loves being chased around the house. The chasing can be fun but it's bad when he's going somewhere he shouldn't and thinks it's fun to crawl away. Like I said, hopefully I will clear off my memory card soon and will have more opportunities for fun pictures and video. My apologies for the lack of those things lately. Hopefully soon!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

15 Months

Jacob turned 15 months yesterday. Every time he hits a milestone, it amazes me how far we've come. He's gone from the helpless little baby whose picture I stare at on my wall at work to this little boy with a mind of his own who tears around the house on all fours or on two feet with his walking toy. Yesterday I looked at the boppy pillow still sitting on the end of the couch. We spent many long hours with that thing every time I nursed, and now it just sits there as not much more than another thing to play with. We've come a long way, but still have a ways to go, obviously. These days I find myself looking forward to future stages, when Jacob understands what we are saying and can respond coherently to us as well. I know that those stages come with their own problems, but right now he's getting in the habit of doing this annoying, droning whine every time he wants something and can't get it that instant. And if he doesn't get it a few instants after that, he goes into full-fledged meltdown mode--screaming, arching his back, stiffening up--it's brutal. He must have done the whine a couple dozen times yesterday and it was starting to make me crazy. He'll do it when he can see but can't get to something that's in his pack-n-play, when he sees a sippy cup and wants a drink (even if he sees us getting him a drink, he'll do it until the moment it's in his hands), or when he just wants to do something else. The other night he wanted the lemon in my water at dinner. Apparently he remembered he liked it the last time I let him have one. Go figure. Hardly a sour face at all. He was having a full blown tantrum but I couldn't give it to him at that moment--I think I was cutting his food or had messy hands or something. Craig just wanted me to give it to him so he'd chill, but I said that Jacob has to learn he can't have everything he wants. Sure enough, once he calmed himself down I gave him the lemon and he was a happy camper. Discipline is a scary world but we're really going to have to work on it in the coming months.

Yesterday we were supposed to go to a Bills party at another couple's house. Shortly before we were going to leave, the cold I'd been battling all week hit me. I was super tired and congested all of a sudden, and I just couldn't bring myself to get up and go. I think the cold and a combination of other factors just got to me and I just sort of shut down for a bit. I felt bad that I couldn't go because I know Jacob's whining was getting to Craig, too, but at the same time I just didn't feel well enough to be social and be a good mom. So off the boys went without me. If nothing else I figured it would be an interesting experience for Craig because it's not often that he's out and about with Jacob alone, particularly when there's a meal involved. Turned out that Jacob spent most of the party glued to Craig but still managed to discover a love for Cheetos. And he didn't come home orange...bonus.

Back at home I finally felt good enough to get out of bed and get some things done amidst the solitude. It was actually a funny little throwback to the days before Jacob was around, when I had countless weekend days home alone while Craig was working. It almost felt like a time warp. It's not too often I'm home alone anymore, so it felt funny to have a chunk of time at home, without Craig or Jacob, undistracted and able to just get things done or relax as I pleased. Would have been a little more fun had I been feeling better, but it was nice nonetheless. No matter how I was feeling, the opportunity to take care of some nagging tasks was too much to resist. I did some laundry, put up some fall decorations, and sorted through a bunch of clothes--new, old and hand-me-downs--to pack some away and pull some out. It was stuff that I knew I had to do, but had a hard time taking the time to do any other time.

I guess I was also a little beat down by a lot of stuff that's been passing through my head lately. First in line is the car seat decision. We're fortunate that we picked an infant car seat that has a higher weight and height limit than most, so technically Jacob would be fine in it for another 10 pounds and six inches. However, we can't comfortably carry him in the carrier anymore and it's actually sort of a pain to have to leave it at day care when Craig is picking him up. If we're going to have to buy new car seats at some point soon, why not just get it out of the way now and avoid that problem? Well, the decision is brutal. First of all, they're not cheap...and if they're too cheap you wonder how safe they are. I'm looking for a happy medium, I guess...the safest seat you can get without spending $300...because we have to buy two and $600 seems ridiculous. Obviously if it's a life and death thing it's worth it, but if it's just a small difference, then really, I'd rather spend less. People swear by the Britax seats, which are certainly nice and generally rate well, but they are so expensive. Not to mention that we could either get a convertible seat that can be placed backwards for a bit longer (which is way safer...less risk of spinal cord breakage that way) or a 3-in-1 seat that can be used as a car seat with the harness, a high back booster with the seat belt, and a booster seat later on. But supposedly car seats "expire" after six years, and Jacob may still need a seat for longer than that. It's such a tough decision. It's Jacob's safety, after all.

On top of that, I'm just generally concerned about him. While I know that he's probably fine, I have moments of concern when I think about how skinny he still is, how little he eats, the fact that he's still not walking, and that his vocabulary doesn't go much past Mama, Dada, and Ball. I know he understands some things (he's so cute when he uses sign language for a couple things), but sometimes he doesn't seem to get things he should and it makes me wonder if he's doing it on purpose or if he just doesn't get it. The other day I got a 15-month email from one of the mailing lists I'm on and they said that 90% of babies are walking by now. Great, thanks. I think about how little food he eats at a sitting, and think about the massive amount and variety of foods I see other kids eating, and I worry. I don't want him to be the skinny kid or be malnourished. I want him to be a good eater, strong and healthy. And again, while I know that he's probably somewhere on the scale of normal, I'm still longing for his next trip to the doctor next month, just in case. And of course, he had another rough visit to church yesterday morning, so that didn't help either.

So with all of that in mind, it made for a rough day. Jacob just seemed out of sync with us this weekend and with my cold and all of these issues running around in my brain, I think my body just said that enough was enough. I feel better today but I know a lot of the issues are still there. Another work week is upon us and I have even more to add to my brain. And yeah, the working mom thing is a tough gig too. But still...I push through as always. Sometimes those breaks are needed, and I probably should do more of them. I hate relying on other people to allow those to happen, but I guess I don't have a choice and it's vital that I get what I need so I can be a better mom and give Jacob what he needs. And right now, Mama needs sleep. Have a good night, everyone...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Steps!

Well, Jacob's definitely not "walking" yet, but he finally pulled off a couple actual steps that didn't immediately end in a dive into my lap! Lately we've been encouraging Jacob to stand on his own, which he's been getting good at. He still doesn't do it a lot, at least not voluntarily, but if I happen to put him on the ground, he's less likely to immediately get on all fours than he was a week or two ago. Since he's been getting better at that, I've been trying to get him to take steps. As I've been saying for a while, I think he's ready to walk but just doesn't have the confidence to pick up his feet and go. We've been cheering him on a lot, just trying to get him to move his feet, but it's not always easy. If you try to use a toy to entice him, he just drops down and crawls to get it...but then again, if given the choice I guess we all probably revert to what's easier and what we're better at in life, right? Still, here and there we've gotten a couple attempted steps from him. He'll lift his foot and try to move forward, only to end up diving in my lap or launching forward to grab my outstretched arms. I think once last weekend we did get a couple steps together, but both were in the midst of forward momentum as he was launching himself at me, so I don't think they really counted. But last night he actually managed to take a couple steps and stay standing. He didn't get far and was quite wobbly in between, they were actual steps nonetheless. He'd move his foot, wobble, move the other foot, wobble, and then usually try for a third step but end up in my lap or grabbing my hands. But still, it's progress! Hopefully we'll have plenty of time this weekend to keep working on it. And I think once he gets the idea and enjoys the praise he gets for doing it, he'll want to keep doing it! And hopefully something video-worthy will happen sometime soon!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting back to normal...

I've had some funny little moments over the past few weeks since I finished up nursing. As I'm sure I've mentioned, I was looking forward to having my body back and not worrying about every little thing I was doing that could in some way negatively impact Jacob. From nuts to albacore tuna (mercury) to alcohol to dairy, I was constantly thinking about what was transferring through my milk and what it might do. Even artificial sweeteners and "safe" medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen made me a little nervous. From allergy concerns to toxins, many things kept me wondering right through pregnancy and into breastfeeding. And really, things like medications and alcohol had only been used in moderation since before I was pregnant, as I was trying to keep myself as "clean" as possible when I was trying to get pregnant, just in case I didn't find out right away.

Well, since I gave up breastfeeding I've been having these revelations here and there, realizing that certain things are okay again. One day it was nuts, another day it was allergy medication. Then this week I started to get a cold. I could tell the other night that my throat was sore, and I was so bummed because I've been sick a lot since Jacob's been in day care. And usually when I'm sick, he'll get sick. And God knows either of those scenarios is bad for both of us, not to mention Craig. And while I'm still nervous about passing this along, I had a revelation the other night while I was sitting on the couch. Holy cow, I can take cold medication again! After a year of suffering through countless colds without more than a pain reliever to reduce sinus pain, I can actually take whatever I want to ward off symptoms. YES!! Well, I looked in the medicine cabinet the next morning to see if anything in there would work and was still good, and I found an unopened pack of Cold-Eze. I don't know if they were just old or if I bought them for Craig at some point, but they're supposed to cut down a cold's symptoms and duration. I felt like I had success with them in the past so I decided I'd try it again. I took them 3 or so times a day the last couple days, and really, I feel pretty good. I'm tired, but other than a scratchy throat and some post-nasal drip, it really hasn't been too bad. As a result I haven't even needed to hit up the cold medicine aisle yet...which is fine with me.

But all along I just couldn't help but laugh every time it hit me that something was now safe for me to consume. I guess two years of screening everything I consumed for baby safety really became a habit! Breastfeeding was still worth it, but I don't miss it (I really thought I would!) and I'm happy to be back to my old self for a while!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What is "Too Much" vs. "Not Enough"?

Frequently I find myself stuck in a quandary between not wanting to spoil Jacob, but not wanting to miss out either. He's only going to be this size for so long, so I don't want to put something off thinking it's too much money or too much work, only to have him grow up and realize how much we missed out on. I know that he's just a baby and in most cases won't know the difference either way, but still...I will know. And in some cases there may be photographic evidence. Take Jacob's first birthday, for example. We kept things pretty low key...basic cake, not a ton of decorations, modest gifts. He's only one and can't really appreciate it all, so why go over the top and spend a ton of money when it won't really mean anything to him? At the same time, he's only one once. When I look back at the pictures from his birthday, I'll admit I'm a little underwhelmed. His cake was a disaster (for a few reasons), but it's downright embarrassing compared to pictures I see online of cakes that other people created for their child's first birthday. Egg or no egg, maybe I should have sought out a cake maker that could do a great job despite the dietary restrictions. Maybe we should have bought Jacob better gifts (still useful, but better, like a walk & ride type toy). We can always get him stuff, of course, but again...considering he rarely spends more than five minutes with any given toy at any time, is it worth it? Would he be just as happy playing with a box? In truth...happy, sure...stimulated, not so sure.

I think a lot about this with clothes, as well. I know that Jacob won't fit in clothes for that long, and there's always a risk for stains, so I'm hesitant to go out and spend a bunch of money on clothes when I can go to Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl's or any variety of other places and get reasonably priced basic clothes. But then I look at some of the cute nicer stuff out there and wonder if I should dress him a little cooler from time to time. It's obviously less of an issue now than when he's older and there's peer pressure to dress a certain way, but still...will I look back at pictures and think that he looks like we shopped at Wal-Mart? Does it matter? Probably not. With nice clothes it'll be that much more painful when he grows out of them...but still, he's an incredibly cute kid that probably needs at least a small part of his wardrobe to match that.

But there are times I look back and think, yeah, probably should have done a little more there. Even when it comes to professional pictures...I've only done one set. In this day of digital photography, is it that important? The one time we did it I didn't love the pictures, and you're just hoping that when you schedule it you happen to have a happy kid who's not freaked out by the stranger with the camera. It's a risk and a lot of coordination for what may be a minimal payout. But maybe it's important to have those pictures...I don't know.

As we gradually pass through the phases of baby buying and can skip entire sections of baby stores now, sometimes I wonder if we missed anything completely that someday we'll feel bad about. Maybe it's something we'll fall into with child #2 and go, "Oh crap...is that bad that Jacob didn't do that?" Sometimes it's not going to make the most financial sense, but it's hard to know if ultimately it'd be worth it, be it for our memories or Jacob's enrichment. Sure, in theory it may be something that he won't entirely "get", but who knows? Maybe that one thing would end up resonating with him. For example, I hope to do a visit to a pumpkin patch this fall. Most of them aren't that cheap and Jacob may not really be able to grasp it all, but I think it's probably still worth doing because he may end up getting something out of it, be it the petting zoo or the pumpkin patch. His little brain is a sponge these days. Even if he's not using more words or hitting any obvious milestones, you can tell at certain moments that he's getting ever more aware of things and is on the cusp of big changes. And it's hard to know what's going to be worth doing or what's just foolish spending/effort at this stage.

Long story short, I have a hard time making decisions so I tend to put them off. But when you have a child that grows up so fast, it's easy to miss your window. And again, in most cases it probably doesn't matter, but my fear is that there will be a whole lot of "it doesn't matters" that could add up to one big "oops". I just don't want financial prudence or a "we'll do it next year" philosophy to turn into what appears to be a chronic lack of effort. I know the answer is somewhere in between--to stay conservative but make wise choices about the special stuff--but it's hard to know what's what sometimes. I know this is a bit of an abstract topic, but I just wanted to get it out there because sometimes it helps me figure things out. Hopefully I'll have something more fun to talk about next time...

Monday, September 14, 2009

One half step for baby...one giant sprint down the hall...

No, Jacob isn't walking quite yet, but he's getting there. Over the weekend he got the guts to actually pick up his feet while standing, and that's a big step for him. As I've mentioned (or at least told everyone who asks if he's walking yet), Jacob probably could be walking, but he's just sort of lazy. Or perhaps his laziness is just a lack of confidence masquerading as laziness. Ever since he started standing unassisted a few weeks back, we've been encouraging him to stand up on his own. But whenever we'd try to get him to do it, he'd squat back down right away. The only way he'd stand up on his own is if he was too distracted to notice!

Over the weekend he really started standing up more, probably in part due to the abundance of carpeting at Craig's parents' house. We have area rugs and one room with carpet, but I can't imagine either is quite as cushy. Once he would get up, we'd encourage him to walk. It was progress in itself that Jacob would stand when we helped him up to a standing position. And eventually we got him to move his feet. Usually he'd move one and then dive forward, but I think there was one time where he moved both but was pretty much diving the whole time so I don't think that counts. But he's been getting in some good half steps, which is progress! In the meantime he's tearing around the house with his little walking toy, practically sprinting down the hall on the hardwoods and tearing across the kitchen floor. He's so close!

Then today he took another big step--up to the next room at daycare! He's been in the same room for a long time now, since November, I think. Originally there were three infant rooms. They're all connected but each had their own teachers and activities. About six months after Jacob moved up, the tiniest infant room sort of moved up together and never got replenished with new babies. As a result, the room he was in had quite the mix--from Jacob who was born in June down to babies born in December. And once his teacher came back from maternity leave, she brought back with her her daughter, who was a full year younger than Jacob. At the same time, that room was doing a lot of activites with the older kids, who Jacob had spent a lot of time with before they moved up. They've been going back and forth for quite a while, and Jacob has really enjoyed his time with the big kids. Lately they've been getting some new babies in, so he was next in line to move up. And today he officially did! Moving up means that he'll be getting in more of a schedule, with a set lunch time and nap time, and more cool activities. He'll still spend a lot of time with the younger kids when they mix, and at the end of the day he'll be back with his old teacher for a half hour or so until we get there. But it's a big step and it's so hard to believe he's turning into such a big boy.

One funny story for the weekend before I watch the Bills lose another close one...Due to a lack of communication and planning, we ended up with no pack-n-play for Jacob this weekend. We got to Buffalo late on Friday night so we didn't have many options, and we ended up all sharing a double bed that night. That was truly horrible and none of us slept too great. On Saturday we headed to Target. Craig wanted to buy a pack-n-play for Saturday night, but even though we found one as cheap as $45, I was hesitant since it was just one night and it wouldn't happen again. If we would have been sleeping in a completely childproof room, some blankets on the floor may have been sufficient. But since the room we were in doubles as a playroom for our niece and nephews, there were a lot of small toys...army guys, Barbie accessories, etc., and if Jacob woke up and decided to go for a crawl, it would be a dicey situation. So, I at least wanted something that would contain him to the point that he'd have to make noise to do anything, which would wake us up in time to watch him. At one point while we were looking for sleeping bags or sleep tents (or anything in that genre) we wandered past the summer clearance, and I had an idea...how about a kiddie pool? I had been wanting to buy Jacob one all summer, but the weather and our schedule never worked out so we never got one. Well, now they were discounted by a ton, and we got one that's 5' x 5' and will be plenty big for all three of us next summer for just $6. We put a bunch of blankets in the bottom and it worked out perfectly for a temporary bed. It was a little scary letting him sleep in something like that because it's not exactly breathable, but he's old enough to control his body pretty well while sleeping, and it was better than all of us being so uncomfortable on the bed. I guess Jacob likes his own sleeping space as much as the rest of us! It was quite the mess but it all turned out ok, thankfully!

Yup, the Bills blew another Monday night game. At least I didn't have to stay up past my bedtime to watch this one. Ugh. We're trying to teach Jacob to throw his arms up for a touchdown, but right now our cheering is only scaring him. Hmmm. We'll have to work on that... :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

History

Today is September 11th. Eight years ago life as we knew it changed forever. I still remember little details of that day quite well. I was still working for the Amerks at the time, and I first heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center right when I got into work. I was a little late that day. The previous day had been our sponsor golf tournament, and I was no doubt exhausted from that. Ironically, when we printed pictures that we took of the foursomes at the golf tournament, we found out that the date on the camera was set wrong...to September 11th. Yikes...talk about awkward when we had to send them out!

Anyway, the first thing I think most people thought when they heard the news was that it was a small private plane. It was pretty evident that it was a little more than that once we headed back to the locker room to watch the footage on TV. By then the second plane may have hit, but I'm not sure. It was shocking to say the least. And I'm pretty sure I saw one of the buildings fall live, but I can't remember if it was the first or second. But I do remember thinking it was almost unfathomable that an entire gigantic skyscraper (let alone two) that was such an iconic part of the NYC skyline just wasn't there anymore. And obviously the thought of people being stuck in there was just horrifying. September was a busy time for me, so I think in between news reports I kept trying to get some work done. The internet was completely jammed up, making it almost impossible to get good updates from anywhere except TV. My boss had a little black and white TV at his desk so we could keep abreast of what was going on, and then head back to the locker room when there was something worth watching. I remember watching footage of a reporter giving a live update from the Pentagon, and that reporter saying that he heard a loud noise...which, of course, ended up being the plane that hit the Pentagon. And when the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, right about then it seemed like the world was coming to an end. There was a total lack of control. Where would a plane crash next? What, if anything, could stop these psychos? The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. Supposedly we got let out early that day, but I don't remember leaving early. I do remember driving home listening to the radio and hearing that WTC 7 collapsed. It was an emotionally exhausting day, and quite the contrast to the absolutely lovely day--warm and abundant blue skies. On a personal note I was a little bummed because I heard on the radio during my drive home that the Stevie Nicks concert that was coming to the Blue Cross Arena a couple days later (that my college roommate Mary and I had tickets for) was canceled. I think there were some issues with them getting into town, along with some personal connections that band members had with people affected by the attacks. Small beans compared to the larger picture that day, but it was still a bummer.

Back then Craig and I had only been dating for about a month and a half. That night we went to dinner at the new Ruby Tuesday's near my apartment. It actually opened the day before. I just couldn't bring myself to cook that night. Of course, we spent all of dinner staring at the TVs, just marveling at what had transpired that day. It was surreal. Incredibly sad and truly unbelievable. I think in the weeks that followed I had to forcibly turn off the near-constant coverage. It was just too depressing.

Eight years later it's still incredibly sad. The knot-in-my-stomach feeling whenever it comes up has subsided a bit. I probably try not to think about it too deeply, particularly now as a parent, because it's just too emotionally exhausting. I feel fortunate that I have that option, as there are 3,000 other families out there that don't.

How does this all relate to Jacob? Well, being a parent obviously brings a new dimension to the thought of kids who lost parents, pregnant women who lost husbands, parents who lost kids, etc. Putting myself in those scenarios is just agonizing. And then I wonder how Jacob will view September 11th. It seems to me that it's pretty similar to Pearl Harbor Day. It was a major attack with huge historical implications. It will be talked about in history books, and maybe Jacob will ask about our experience someday. I don't know if I ever asked my grandparents about Pearl Harbor, but I think I asked my parents about the JFK assassination once. So maybe it'll be the same thing. But it will certainly be interesting when he's in school and it's part of his history book. It will never be something he experienced personally (and I hope he never experiences anything similar), but it's something that his parents will remember for years to come. It shaped the world we live in today and in at least some small way will shape the world that Jacob grows up in. Amazing stuff to ponder on this historical day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Rest of the Weekend...and Other Stuff...

We had a pretty good Labor Day weekend. I always look forward to weekends just because it's nice to have some uninterrupted time with Jacob. Of course, there's always the risk of getting tired out by our active little man, but the fun that goes along with it is usually worth it. Unfortunately, I actually sort of pooped out on Monday, which left Craig to do a lot of stuff with Jacob while I rested. I think it was the lack of sleep after our trip to the drive-in combined with a very busy day on Sunday. Once in a while, it just happens. It was a bummer to not feel great on a day off, and I felt bad that it prevented me from maximizing my time with Jacob. But the Friday trip to the drive-in, a pleasant day on Saturday, and a ton of fun on Sunday made up for it.

As I mentioned in my last post, Craig and I went to a wedding on Sunday. The happy couple is another Amerks love connection--two kids that basically grew up around the team (her dad is an off-ice official, and his dad is the play-by-play guy) and officially met when they were both interning for Craig. It was a Sunday morning wedding, which was unique, but it was such a great event. Outdoor ceremony in perfect weather, brunch food (yum!), and a lovely setting. My parents were on their way back from a wedding near Syracuse, so they met us at this wedding and we made the Jacob hand-off so they could come back to our house and watch him for the day. It worked out really well and Jacob was a very good boy. He spent a lot of time outside and I think it wiped him out! Here he is on the front lawn getting a good look at the camera..."What you lookin' at?"

He also spent some time with one of the neighborhood cats. There are a few that wander around the neighborhood and get taken care of by a few neighbors. They still make me a little nervous but they've been pretty good all this time. Jacob had fun with this one until he pulled its tail a little too hard and it scratched his arm a bit. Ugh.
We even got to go out for dinner and gelato with my parents, and all in all it was a great day.

So let's see...what else is new? Jacob still isn't walking, and really isn't even standing up that much. He really doesn't get that he can do it. He seems to do better on grass, so whether a few hard falls on other surfaces has made him not want to stand up indoors, I don't know. He's one stubborn little boy, though. He will not put his feet down if you try to get him to stand! He is doing a lot more climbing, though, and it's been fun having him climb up on the couch to play with us. He seems to like hiding his face in the cushions, among other slightly disconcerting habits of his. He also likes covering his head with things (more on that below) and wrapping things around his neck. Great. Lately he's been digging the corner of the kitchen cabinets. He will crawl in there and stand up, just facing in and periodically pulling on the cabinets. It's sort of cute, though I wish he would have picked a section of cabinets that wasn't right next to the stove.

His eating habits are still quite frustrating. Sometimes he'll eat great and there will be minimal food throwing. But more often he just refuses to eat. I'm at a bit of a loss. I know that he'll usually eat chicken nuggets (particularly with ketchup), veggie dogs, mac and cheese, french fries, pizza, those Gerber ravioli things, and a handful of snack foods. He adores those organic veggie stix that look like colored french fries, and he'll usually eat various cereals like Chex and Cheerios. He's hit or miss on his breakfast foods...he likes his blueberry waffles and pancakes most of the time, but often gets antsy before he's done. He'll eat oatmeal no problem and seems to enjoy Cheerios in milk, but he won't touch eggs or cereal bars. He doesn't seem to like beef and very rarely will eat vegetables, no matter how much butter I put on them. He will eat fruit like crazy, though. Peaches, pears, nectarines, kiwi, grapes, watermelon, strawberries...he loves them. He likes yogurt a lot but went through a phase of even refusing that. He loves cheese, particularly string cheese. Ultimately my problem is that I don't want to keep feeding him just the stuff he likes, because he needs to keep trying things. But I hate wasting food and I know that the stuff he likes isn't always the healthiest. The fruit thing is great but the no veggies thing is tough. I don't want to stop trying, but it's so annoying to make it and then have to throw all of it out. I'm worried he doesn't eat enough, and I know he's not getting enough vegetables. He seems to be getting heavier but he's so skinny! Must be all that whole milk he's drinking! I know all of the adages like he'll eat when he's hungry, but I just want to make sure he's not nutritionally deficient or shaping up to be a long-term picky eater.

We have changed up his mealtime setting once again in hopes of a better experience for all of us. A while back we started sitting him in his booster seat full time, since he seemed to find the high chair confining or otherwise unenjoyable. The straps on the booster seem to be getting tight, and in general it was just a pain to deal with sometimes. We were also having a problem with Jacob pushing off on the underside of the table and tipping his chair back. And finally, when he'd get cranky in his seat he'd throw his head back and bang it on the top of the chair. Lovely. One day I was looking in the clearance section at Wegmans and got a laminated Sesame Street activity placemat for 72 cents. One side has pictures of a bunch of characters and shapes, and the other side has actual activities that you could use a dry erase marker to do. I decided to get some velcro to stick the placemat to the table so Jacob couldn't lift it or throw it, but I could still take it off to clean it. We also ditched the booster in favor of his high chair (again), this time lowered to table level and minus the tray. We just scoot him right up to the table. He still can push off a bit but the high chair won't tip, and he can't bang his head anymore. None of the changes have really helped his eating habits, but it's made my life a little more pleasant.

Other than that, the only news this week is that Jacob is getting his eighth tooth! I couldn't even see it the other day, and then yesterday while he was screaming I saw it! I felt it and it was just through the gums! So, that should be in soon....which is nice because the matching tooth on the other side is pretty much in and it looks funny...both because it doesn't have a mirror image and because it's spaced out from the two center teeth on the bottom. Jacob's been pretty chewy lately again, so we'll see if it's just for this one or if he's got more coming!

I'll leave you with a quickie video of Jacob's favorite game, peek-a-boo. As I mentioned earlier, he likes covering his head. He loves getting totally under a blanket and then finding his way back out. He likes when we do it too. He will laugh hysterically. I haven't been able to get good video of him doing it over and over, but he does...and it's hilarious. This one is quick but the smile at the end is so cute!


video

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Skip over the first paragraph if you're anti-bodily function...

I decided this morning that you haven't lived until you've helped your child poop. Yep. We woke up this morning to the sound of Jacob crying and straining. It's rare that pooping is a major issue for him. He makes the same face every time and may turn beet red, but for the most part it all comes out pretty easily, and sometimes probably even too soft. As a result, this morning the whole pooping thing didn't really occur to me right away. While that was my first thought with how it sounded like he was straining, I barely considered it because he's rarely like that. When I went into his room, he didn't stop whining like he usually would. I decided to change his diaper, and when I did I noticed that he had, ummm, a turtle head poking out. And that's when it hit me that all the straining was, in fact, a BM. When it appeared that it really wasn't going well, I decided to grab a wipe and take advantage of each push to try to pull it out. Yes, this is something only a parent would do. In the end I helped him get rid of three turds, each about the size of a walnut. They were pretty solid and he had a heck of a time, but it was all worth it when he immediately calmed down after the third one. As a parent you just want your child comfortable and happy, so you do what you have to do. Crazy stuff.

It's been a nice weekend so far. I got out of work a little early yesterday and we all headed out to Perry (about an hour south) to go to our favorite drive-in. We got a great parking spot and grabbed three slices of pizza (so good!), which we all shared while sitting on a blanket on the grass in front of the screen. Jacob got a little fussy in the middle of it all because he wanted to go play like so many other kids were doing. Eventually we had to relent because he just wouldn't eat, and after a little time among the swings and slides, he was downing bites of pizza like it was the best thing ever. After that we grabbed some pre-movie ice cream. We've decided that Jacob is a bigger fan of ice cream cones than the ice cream itself. He loves crunching into them! As for the movies, it was a triple feature last night - Ice Age 3, Up, and G.I. Joe. Jacob was actually pretty good for most of Ice Age 3. He watched a lot of it right from my lap. I got him in his PJs in the car about halfway through, and we let him watch the movie and explore the front seat for a bit before finally trying to get him to sleep in his car seat. It took a while, but finally he drifted off. Ice Age was probably our favorite of the three. Up was interesting...great animation from Pixar as usual, but such an odd storyline. Not that talking toys or fish are more believable than an old guy setting his house aloft with thousands of helium balloons, but I think the fact that the movie was based in "reality" with humans as characters created a strange juxtaposition with the far-fetched storyline. Still, some of the writing was cute, and I loved the "talking" dogs and the cool bird. Craig really wanted to see G.I. Joe, despite how late it would be starting, so I decided to try to take a nap in the backseat. I was only moderately successful, but the rest probably helped me stay awake on the way home. It was late by the time we left, but all things considered Jacob did really well. I am looking forward to taking him next summer when he's a little older and can enjoy all it has to offer, movies included. It was pretty priceless this time to see his face when the movie started. He was definitely more aware of it than when we took him earlier in the summer.

Today has been a usual Saturday of playing, napping and errands. I think we're going to grill tonight and probably fit in an evening walk or swing after dinner. Tomorrow we're off to a wedding on the other side of town and we're meeting my parents there to make the Jacob switch--they're coming back from a wedding near Syracuse and are meeting us along the way to pick up Jacob and watch him for the day at our house while we're at the wedding. No plans for Monday right now, but that's a good thing! Gotta love long weekends!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Great Expectations

Fall is coming. Much to my dismay, it is now September and our already short summer (particularly weather-wise) is coming to an end. I'm a bit bummed that I've already seen leaves changing and the days are getting noticeably shorter. Still, we accomplished a lot this summer. We went to the beach, the playground, and Pittsburgh. We took many walks and played outside. We went to the drive-in and spent a lot of time with family. We went to a few baseball games and a soccer game. We really crammed in quite a bit considering our schedules, but you can always think of more fun things to do when the weather is nice and you have the time to fill. Fall is great, but it's just not the same. The weather is even sketchier than during a rainy, cool summer like this, and bundling up is an extra step I'm not looking forward to. And I always know in the back of my mind that after fall comes winter, and winter can be torture.

Despite my reluctance to get into fall, there are great things about it. For many years, I entered this time of year with mixed emotions, and I guess I still do. My birthday was always the first step, and when it hit I knew that other things weren't far behind. When I was younger, school was right around the corner. When I was older and working in sports, it signaled the official start of the busy season. While both school and hockey season brought with them a lot of stress, there was still a fun newness to it all that piqued my curiosity and got me at least a little excited about what was to come--new classes, new clothes, new dorm room, new friends, new challenges, new hockey season, etc. Nowadays I don't have any significant shifts, but fall still provides some fun activities. I enjoy decorating for fall because the colors look nice in my red and gold living room. I like the feeling of putting on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt, and re-exploring the other half of my wardrobe (though the novelty here wears off fast!). I like the thought of pumpkin-hunting and going to fall craft shows and bazaars. I like fall foliage and fall foods. There's just a nice aura that surrounds the season, as long as I can keep the looming winter out of my head. I think I just try to draw out as many positives as possible so I don't miss summer as much.

Anyway, the point to all of this is what this fall will be like with Jacob. Last year I knew not to expect much--just finding him a little pumpkin and dressing him up for Halloween. I hoped to get a picture of him sitting in fall leaves, but thanks to the weather and other things, that never happened. But really, I didn't have a lot I felt we should accomplish. This year I think we can do a lot of those same things, but hopefully do them a little better now that Jacob is a little more aware of his surroundings. For example, last year we just got our pumpkins at a farmer's market, but this year it may be worth taking Jacob to a pumpkin patch that offers a lot of other activities - live animals, hayrides, etc. We can dress him up and hopefully even take him out trick or treating a bit. Still, I don't want to get my hopes up too much. Early in the summer when we were planning our activities, I figured Jacob would be walking and maybe even talking by, say, our trip to Pittsburgh in August. Maybe not great in either case, but enough that he might be an easier traveler than he was in, say, May. From eating to packing, I really had no idea where he'd be with any of it, but imagined that by then things would be getting easier on all counts. In reality, by early August he was saying a few words, but walking wasn't even remotely close. Eating was still a bit of a challenge. My expectations of a 13 month old (or our 13 month old, at least) were a bit off. Bummer.

Long story short, whenever I try to plan ahead I often wonder how Jacob will have changed by then. What new talents will he have? How much more self-sufficient will he be? Will he have exited this phase and entered another one? I've been learning that I shouldn't assume anything or take anything for granted because you just never know. Based on how early Jacob liked standing up, I figured he'd be an early walker...but not so much. We're here at 14-1/2 months and Jacob is hesitant to even stand, let alone walk. So who am I to assume that he'll be walking by trick-or-treating time? Heck, I was assuming he'd be walking by the beginning of hockey season (he's too heavy to carry around the arena in the Baby Bjorn anymore, so it's either walking/carrying or the stroller...ugh), but now I'm not so sure.

The point to all of this is that each season brings with it new opportunities and adventures. We should be excited about every single season for so many reasons for years to come, as we watch Jacob and any future children discover all that life has to offer. In our excitement it's easy to think that we'll be able to enjoy it in a certain way, but kids always have something up their sleeves to change things up, and we need to be prepared for that. Fall is coming and we're looking forward to it, but I'm trying not to plan it all now because Jacob has a mind of his own and things may not go as planned. Hopefully I can keep the expectations to a minimum and just enjoy life as it happens...because there's so much there to enjoy regardless.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kicked the Habit...

Well, I've finally done it. I'm done breastfeeding. Fourteen months and nearly two weeks under my belt, it's over. We'd been cutting down gradually, from 2-3 feedings and two pumpings a day, down to one feeding and two pumpings, to one feeding and one pumping, and finally to one feeding that I've stuck with for a while now. The evening feeding was always a nice way to end the day, just me and Jacob on the couch. No matter how restless and busy he was, most of the time he was more than happy to curl up and nurse for a while. The way he'd latch on almost instinctively and eat contentedly was a glimpse back at my sweet, innocent little baby. Lately I'd been cutting down the feedings gradually, from 15 minutes per side, to 10, to five. Over the past few days he'd actually been stopping himself after five minutes or so on each side, and then the other night he barely lasted five minutes total. I'd been preparing myself to mentally acknowledge that any given feeding might be the last one, and that night it just seemed like it was time to end it. Jacob seemed over it, and perhaps I should be too.

Admittedly, it had become a bit of a habit in recent weeks. Jacob's dinner is usually late enough that he shouldn't need a night feeding (though the calories never hurt considering how skinny he is), but since that was the way things always were and it was comforting to both of us, I kept it going. And truthfully, once he was down to one feeding, it was so low maintenance that I probably could have kept it that way for longer. Anything I wanted to eat or drink I could usually do in time for it get out of my system before nursing. I didn't have any engorgement issues at any point in this stepping-down process, and I didn't mind that I could still rationalize a few extra calories since breastfeeding needs them (though how much this amount of breastfeeding needed is up for debate). Once in a while it was inconvenient, like when I wanted to do something around Jacob's bedtime or when we were on the go, but for the most part it's been fine. Once in a while Jacob would rather go play or would lose his concentration and bite me a bit, but for the most part it's been a pretty uneventful and even pleasant couple months since I started weaning him.

Originally my goal was to make it a month, then three months, then six, then a year. And I made it beyond that. My secondary goal was to stop before Jacob knew enough to ask for it, with words or actions. In my opinion, any kid that can speak or knows enough to lift the shirt is probably too old to breastfeed. Of course, I may change my mind if baby #2 ends up being a genius and is talking in full sentences by their first birthday, but for now I'll stick with this theory. I think it's easier for everyone concerned if it's cut off before anyone is too attached. Sure, Jacob's done it nearly every day for his entire life, but it doesn't appear to be at the point where he can't go to sleep without it. He was a little off last night when we didn't do it, but I couldn't tell if it was the lack of nursing or another culprit--gas, exhaustion, general crankiness. He wasn't grabbing at my shirt, though he did give me a pretty good bite to the face. Even still, he had a couple fussy moments in his crib, but all things considered he went down reasonably well.

In the end I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad, proud I lasted this long, or a little guilty that I'm giving it up before I needed to. I know I did a great thing for Jacob and I was happy to do it. I only hope I can do the same thing next time around, both for the baby's benefit and for mine. My body seemed to like breastfeeding. I credit it with the major weight loss I experienced post-pregnancy, to the point that I was a good 6-8 pounds lighter at Jacob's first birthday than I was before I got pregnant, and I was already in great shape pre-pregnancy. But as I've been winding down nursing, I've been getting a glimpse at my official post-baby, post-nursing body. I'm not thrilled with it, but I'm guessing most women are in the same boat unless they're a celebrity with a nanny and a personal trainer (and even then...). I've officially got a pouch that won't go away, and my chest is smaller than it was when this all began--definitely a far cry from my early nursing days when my chest was so big that none of my clothes fit. I really didn't want to have my chest get any smaller because it wasn't that big to begin with, but what can you do? I have a heck of a time sucking in my stomach after so many months of not needing to, and now I'm officially trying to retrain myself to do it as automatically as I did before I got pregnant. It's becoming increasingly important because in the last week or so I've noticed my weight slowly creeping back up. Whether that's the result of reduced breastfeeding or just indulging for my birthday (cake, cupcakes, and meals out with all of the free birthday coupons I got from subscribing to restaurant mailing lists), I'm not sure. I am currently in the process of trying to stop snacking at work during the day. I got so used to it for nearly two years that it's a tough habit to break, particularly on painfully boring days. I'll also have to get back to watching what I eat a little more carefully because I'm not working out like I used to...still only once a week since I've been back at it in the past year. But the biggest question yet to be answered? When will my cycle get back on track? Two years and a month without a period...crazy stuff.

It was a little sad putting Jacob to bed without his bedtime feeding, pretty much for the first time ever. But I won't be sad to pack away my pump...though speaking of which, I still need to clear some frozen breastmilk out of the freezer. Hmmm...gotta put that on the to do list. It was a great run but I think for the most part I will be happy it's over. We'll see how Jacob does the next few nights, but one way or another, he'll adjust. Mama's Milk Factory is closed!