Saturday, March 31, 2012

Once in a while I do something right...

Based on Jacob's behavior for, oh, the last two years, there are many moments when I doubt my parenting abilities.  Jacob's a pretty good kid for the most part, but there are times when I wonder what on earth we did to deserve a particularly difficult and ill-timed tantrum.  I wonder if we discipline too much or too little, or focus on the wrong stuff.  I wonder if we respond too rapidly to his freak-outs, or not quickly enough to make him feel cared for.  The parenting blogosphere can make you question things forever, because everyone has an opinion and every experience is different.  There are an infinite number of parent and child behavior/response combinations (in both directions, no less), so just because kid behavior + parent response = kid response in one scenario, it doesn't mean it'll work the same way in our house.  You just never know.  And just when you think you've figured it out, your kid enters a new developmental phase and you're back at square one.  Making it through these phases usually takes an intimate knowledge of your child and an abundance of creativity.  Getting those two things to work together, particularly at the right time, often takes a miracle.  And when it happens, it's nice.

Yesterday, I'm pretty sure I did something right.  I got a random call from daycare mid-afternoon.  I dread seeing those calls come in, because inevitably it's something negative.  Generally it's a sick or injured kid call, and neither of those things are particularly great...or at best, it makes you momentarily worry far more than was necessary.  On this particular day, the assistant director told me that Jacob was fine, that it wasn't an emergency...but Jacob certainly thought it was.  He was in hysterics on the other end because his beloved eagle/hawk, his stuffed Knighthawk birdie, had a hole in him.  Jacob was inconsolable and crying so hard I couldn't understand a word he was saying on the phone when she put him on to talk to me. 

When I posted this story on Facebook, most people expressed surprise that daycare couldn't handle this themselves.  Admittedly, I thought the same thing, but I also know my child and am well aware of his persistence.  The kid doesn't stop until he gets his way or you can convince him that there's another acceptable solution that skirts his plans just enough.  Perhaps they tried everything and he wouldn't calm down, or perhaps his freak-out was making his friends nervous and they figured a phone call might distract him.  Maybe they figured the pure logic of me saying that I couldn't come right then, but would be there at the end of the day and take the bird right home to fix him, would be enough. 

Well...after telling him repeatedly that I couldn't come just then but that we'd get him all fixed up, he was still inconsolable.  And then, it came to me.  When the assistant director came back on the phone, I suggested a band-aid.  The second she relayed my suggestion, Jacob smiled and laughed.  And that was that.  He was done crying and his bird was going to be fine.  Crisis averted.

I picked him up in the evening, got dinner started, and immediately started "surgery".  I peeled off the band-aid, threw a couple stitches around the hole, and the bird was good as new...or at least, good as he was a few hours earlier--well loved but hole-less. 

So, for one day, I know I at least had one good idea.  It averted a "crisis" and made my child happy.  Those days don't happen too often, so when they do, it's worth reporting.  And if you can't immortalize stuff like that on your blog, what good is it?  Once in a while, we all need proof that even once, something went right.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

While spring had sprung...

A couple weeks ago, the weather changed.  All of a sudden we had over a week and a half of amazing weather.  It was more like summer than spring, all in mid-March.  St. Patrick's Day was around 70, and by mid-week it was close to 80.  The weather was outstanding, and it gave spring a head start around here.  Of course, the price we're probably going to pay for it is high produce prices, as freezing temps overnight will probably kill off a number of delicate fruit tree blossoms, but it's nice to see so much green this early, even if it was only in the 30s today.  Going back to this weather was more of a bummer than I expected, but at least we're at the time of year where the weather will do a lot of ups and downs and winter weather shouldn't stick around for long...although summer weather shouldn't have either, and it did.

Anyway, the nice weather was a godsend because Jacob has been dying to play outside for months.  He's getting bigger and stronger so it's getting harder to have him play sports in the house.  Most of the indoor playing his limited to our spare room now, where Jacob has a basketball hoop on the wall and his big hoop standing at the other end of the room.  He usually puts his little hockey nets up there for lacrosse and soccer, and periodically the boys will go up there and make a lot of noise for a few minutes while they play a "game".  I know at some point they're going to start doing some damage, so being able to send them outside is huge.  While he's out there, Jacob has been enjoying drawing with chalk, too.  It's been interesting watching his drawings take shape and see what he's thinking.

The other night I got him on his big wheel.  Last year he was just a tiny bit short for the pedals.  Knowing how crazy tall he's getting, I figured he'd have to reach the pedals this year.  He did, though he still wasn't completely clear on using them.  He sort of got it, but then when he had to pedal back up the driveway, he was having a harder time.  Here's my happy boy testing it out...

While he played, I marveled at the explosion of color in the flower bed.  Check out this cluster of daffodils!

I can't get over how things just sprang to life last week, from the grass to the trees to the flowers.  The weeds have already taken over, but at least we get some extra green ahead of time and we'll be able to start enjoying it now even though it's back to wintertime for a bit.  It boggles my mind to think about how early the season began this year, considering two years ago it was way early, too, and this year was earlier.  The downside, of course, is that now it's cold and we can't really go out there and enjoy the foliage.  Hopefully the cold preserves it a bit, though, so it hangs out until the weather improves. 

By Saturday the weather started returning to normal, and we headed off to the Knighthawks game.  I managed to get Jacob to smile enough to snap a few pictures of us.  I look like crap in this one, but he looks adorable...

And here's Jacob playing "wall ball".  This is all he really wants to do when we're at games these days.  He lives for this. 

Unfortunately, this round was short lived due to a potty stop, immediately followed by a bit of an accident.  In the wake of his ear infection, he was on a pretty powerful antibiotic, and despite our best efforts with lots of yogurt, Jacob was having some poop problems.  Unlike last time, it wasn't as soft, but it seemed like it came on suddenly and he had less control over it.  He had three accidents in one day last week, and the one at the game was a major bummer because I'm out of the habit of bringing spares.  We'd had a great day, really, but that sort of started things downhill and it seemed like a good idea to get out of there ASAP.  Earlier night than usual, but at least we got this in. 

Now we're back to the grind for another week.  I'm spending this week living for Easter weekend, when we have Good Friday off and will have some time to hang out with my family before spending time with Craig's family on Easter.  Easter is one of my favorite holidays just because spring is on the way and it's less hectic than Christmas, but it still has some fun traditions.  Just seven more work days...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two years ago...

Two years ago today, on a sunny Friday afternoon, we closed on our new house.  It set off one of the craziest weekends of my life.  There was actually a good, solid week of insanity surrounding it...and that's being conservative.  I know I was nuts for a good couple months leading up to it, but the actual end of the packing and the move itself were overwhelming.  The aftermath wasn't particularly fun, either, but the exciting "newness" and being in a house we loved helped a lot with that part. 

I thought I was pacing okay on packing, and then the night before I totally panicked, even with my mom there to help.  Craig was working that night and the next day, which didn't help, and keeping Jacob occupied during waking hours was no picnic, either.  I knew that in the end it would all get done one way or another, but there's no denying that moving is incredibly stressful regardless.  I freaked out when my super-fragile boxes ended up on the moving truck, and probably swore up a storm while trying to take apart our giant desk while movers buzzed around me.  Jacob had a meltdown mid-morning, and I was barely capable of spending a precious few minutes with him to chill him out. 

I despise living out of boxes, hate all of the awkward, last minute stuff that can't really be boxed up, and abhor the post-move cleaning.  Once my stuff is gone, the last thing I want to do is clean up the remaining mess that was left behind.  I remember being practically in tears cleaning each of my old apartments (which needed to be considerably cleaner than a "broom-swept" house), knowing that I just wanted to be done and go start unpacking the pile of stuff in the new place.  Our last move was no exception.  A big difference was that someone else moved our stuff this time (well worth every penny, by the way), and yet I was still so stressed out by the end of the day that I refused the suggestion of our helpers (some members of my family) to leave the house for the night and come back in the morning.  No, I wanted to get it done NOW.  I wanted to be able to walk in the next day, do one last check, and leave the keys.  And so we did.

Two years later I think we're quite pleased with the decision.  Not having to worry about the many improvement projects we had lined up at the old house has been a godsend.  The thought of redoing the insulation, re-roofing, fixing up that ugly kitchen, replacing the ancient shed, or figuring out how to reorganize to cram another person into that house make me shudder.  Yes, we're paying a bit more each month, but I feel much better doing that knowing we're in a house that should fit us for years to come.  And what's better, we haven't been spending that money on endless stressful projects.  God forbid this post jinxes us, but in the two years we've been there, our emergency expenses have been minimal.  We do have to deal with the pool, of course, but not having a bunch of problems to worry about all the time has been nice.

I think the house fits us well.  The living room is perfect for Jacob, and I still love the soaring ceiling and the look of the fireplace, open stairs and landing.  The kitchen, despite being a little tight on floor space, has a ton of storage and plenty of natural light.  The bedroom sizes are much better than the old house.  The upstairs bath is a little small and probably the biggest downside, but we've made it work and IT'S NOT PURPLE.  The basement is turning into a solid alternate play area for Jacob (a.k.a., where the Legos live), and while the purchase of a laptop has left the office less used than expected, I'm still happy it's there.  And oh, the crawl space...how I love thee.  And no, it's not even close to full yet.  Perhaps I don't gush as much in my head as I should, but I do still love the house and feel lucky to live there.

In spite of the fact that I still drive by our old house periodically, I don't really miss it.  I miss the idea of it, perhaps, as the first house we ever owned and the one we brought Jacob home to.  Once in a while I miss some of the projects we did.  I miss the little things I did, like the entryway I retiled with Dollar Tree tiles or the bathroom border I did myself.  I miss a lot of what we did that's possibly nicer than we have now, like a new front door, garage door opener with motion sensor (so you're never in a dark garage), new hot water heater, new stationary tub.  I wish we would have gotten more use for our money with other things we did--windows, garage door, central air, glass block basement windows.  But ultimately, I don't really miss the house itself.  I have some good memories, and it will always be our first house.  But I know what we have now is better.

But now that we've been there for two years, I am really starting to amass a list of things I'd like to do.  First and foremost is the carpeting in our bedroom and Jacob's future room.  They desperately need to be replaced, and I'm having a bit of a mental hurdle figuring out how we'll deconstruct both rooms at the same time, considering we don't have a lot of room upstairs to move things...and I don't really want to carry it all downstairs!  I would like to replace the sink in the bathroom, as it is the same pain-in-the-butt-to-clean old-style sink we replaced in our old house before we moved.  I'd like to replace the light fixture in the dining room to something a little more modern (the brass just doesn't fit).  The front storm door is old and doesn't seem particularly childproof, so I'd like to replace that.  I'm really tempted to bring in a contractor to see how much it would cost to tear out the paneling in our basement.  It would update the space considerably and make it feel less like a basement...perhaps because I still have visions of our old 70s era basement, which was cool in its own way, but far from modern.  I think there's a chance there's already drywall behind the paneling, but even still, I have no idea what that might cost.  In my ultimate dreams I think about pulling down most of the wallpaper (kitchen and bathroom, mostly) and replacing it with something more my style--even if it's just updated paint.  Small parts of it are peeling or ripped, so at some point that may have to happen.  Most immediately, I can start small and refresh our landscaping mulch.

These projects were all the driving force behind the "discussion" Craig and I were sort-of having yesterday when Jacob sensed that I was going to yell at Craig.  When Craig works every weekend and needs a day to recover when he's not, it makes it hard to get a little support for things like this.  We'll get there, I hope, and I look forward to the day when the projects start making the house feel a little bit more like our own.  We're at home, of course, but instead of just feeling lucky we found a house we could live with as is, I want to live in a house that we made our own.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Uniquely Jacob

Jacob is a truly unique kid.  I suppose he's just like any other little boy out there, but there are moments I'm pretty sure he's one-of-a-kind. 

Take for example, the fact that he's been sleeping on the floor for a couple weeks now.  He did it for a while a couple months ago until we casually convinced him to move back to bed.  But then he started up again.  It sort of kills me to have his bed just sitting there next to him empty, but hey, as long as he's sleeping, I guess I can't say much.  It still seems weird and I can't help but wonder (in the overly obsessive ways only parents can) if it could cause any physical issues.  But so far it's fine, even if it leaves an inevitable mess on the floor since the animals rarely all make it back into the bed each day.  I figure at worst it will only last as long as it will take to get him into his own room someday, hopefully when he's got a sibling on the way.  He's got his crew of animals to keep him company and keep him somewhat corralled in his spot on the floor, and he often seems more willing to dive on that pile than he ever was to crawl into bed. 

I think he asks about a thousand questions a day.  It wears on you.  I'd probably not mind it quite as much if he didn't repeat the same questions over and over.  I haven't figured out why.  I can't tell if it's a test to see if he gets a different answer, or if he forgot the previous answer, or if there's something else going on.  He seems to remember things when pressed about knowing the answer, so maybe he just likes to hear himself and us talk.  The questions also aren't the easiest to answer, either.  I find myself torn between giving a three year old only the information he needs vs. possibly insulting his intelligence.  There are certainly concepts he's not going to understand, but I also think he's smarter than we sometimes give him credit for.  I try to talk to him like a big boy most of the time, since they say it enhances kids' vocabulary.  But try explaining for the tenth time why referees might wear watches during games but lacrosse players don't.  Or why criminals can't stick their arms out barred windows in jail.  Or why he's not allowed to wear shorts outside when it's cold but a whole bunch of idiots out in the world do it anyway.  Sometimes it's cute, and I want to try to answer everything honestly, but sometimes I know I'm being played and other times he gets downright cranky if I can't get him a good answer.  I don't want to beat down his inquisitiveness, since it's a good trait to have (once controlled, anyway), but there are times when it's like, can we just hold off on questions for a while while Mommy regains her sanity?

As I mentioned, his one teacher couldn't stop gushing during our parent-teacher conference about how smart he was.  And indeed, even in that time he's gotten even better with his letters and is constantly spelling things out when he sees a word somewhere.  A couple of his plates have words on them, and he's always asking what the letters are, then going through and spelling them.  He counts a lot now, too.  He still isn't fantastic at writing them, but they're working on it at daycare and I'm trying not to push it on him in the meantime.  Most of his drawings are still glorified scribbles, but some of them are starting to take on actual shape, even if it doesn't actually represent something.  He did do a chalk drawing the other day that he called a rocket, and it did have the right shape, but I don't know if he drew something like that once and was asked if it was a rocket, and took note.  Still, even if that was the case, he remembered and reproduced it. 

He's great at puzzles, though.  He got one as a friend's birthday treat (from the dollar store, along with a Spider-man watch--beats a bag of crap and candy!) that had 25 nice-sized pieces.  He did it in about five minutes or less.  He loves doing them at daycare and seems to pick up on it very quickly every time.  He loves Legos (big and small) and is still into his action figures.  I think he loves Daddy's old G.I. Joe's and Star Wars guys more than his own Batcave inhabitants, but it always amazes me to see his imagination come out. 

I think it's safe to say that this first real phase of his true personality is well underway.  You think your baby has personality...and then they get a personality.  And that's when you start to realize you might be overmatched.  It'll go through countless changes between now and adulthood, no doubt, but it's amazing to start seeing the foundation of what's to come.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Super St. Patty's Day

Three months from today, Jacob turns four.  That seems crazy, almost impossible.  On one hand he is such a little boy.  He plays every sport in some way, runs all over the house, can dress himself, tell stories, have real conversations, and use silverware appropriately.  He knows what he likes, recognizes songs on the radio, and definitely makes his opinions known.  But on the other hand, he's still not that far removed from the baby era.  He still takes a lot of attention, cries quite a bit, and has issues with potty training.  But he's come a long way from the tiny baby I see in pictures, and it blows my mind at how far we've come as parents.  Still, we're struggling through this latest bout of anti-listening, potty-talking, strong-willed, smart-talking behavior.  It stinks.  He's said some hurtful things lately and it's a far-too-early preview of his teenage years, I'm sure.  Not cool.  Someday logic will work with him...right?

Anyway...what's new here?  Well, the weather the last couple weeks has been amazing.  Like 20-30 degrees above normal amazing.  Mostly 60s last week, and 70s this week.  Back to a gentler version of reality this weekend, but for now it's so nice.  The daffodils are already out, nearly a month earlier than last year.  Two years ago we had crazy hot weather Easter weekend (early April) and stuff popped out then, which seemed so early.  This mild winter and amazing spring have really spoiled us.  Jacob has been waiting to play sports outside all winter, and he's obsessed with playing lacrosse outside with Craig right now.  Every night, that's all he wants.  They've also been playing some baseball, and between the chalk baseball diamond and goal creases, our driveway is quite the canvas.  Here's Jacob standing on the pitcher's mound, though notice his addition...
He added the lines around the circle all by himself.  It actually looked super cool, and he did it on the bases, too.
Saturday morning, while I was doing the baby registry, Craig and Jacob went to the St. Patrick's Day parade.  It was a last minute decision to go and ride with the Knighthawks' Krew (a.k.a the booster club) in the parade.  Here are some highlights of the day...
Jacob and our friends' son, Dylan--two lacrosse-crazed little boys!  Dylan is a couple years older but they battle it out regardless.

A local high school mascot, but considering Jacob's love for all hawk/eagle-like birds (given the Knighthawks and their eagle-ish mascot), this was perfectly acceptable.

As usual, wearing some sort of sports equipment, this time a Rattlers' helmet

One of Craig's favorite pics of the day, looking at the caravan of Knighthawks-wrapped cars and the mob of parade watchers enjoying the 70 degree weather

So much for waving to the spectators...
They had a blast, but Jacob's behavior for the rest of the day was so horrible that we skipped a trip to Toys 'R' Us to use a 20% off coupon and a gift card Jacob got last year, as well as an ice cream run.  Somehow I feel like we were more bummed than he was, despite his anger when we told him we weren't going. 

Sunday we went to church and Jacob enjoyed Sunday School as usual.  He sometimes protests, but always comes out liking it.  I took advantage of my second straight gorgeous afternoon to work on yard work, and we went out to dinner.  I signed Jacob up for a local restaurant's "Little Leaguers" club, which got him a free soft hockey puck (which he picked from an assortment of sports balls) that he can bring in each time for free ice cream.  And what an ice cream it was! 

So...back to another week.  At least the weather is good.  Jacob had some accident issues today at daycare, which I'm hoping has to do with the antibiotics he's on.  Did I mention that he has another ear infection?  He woke up Wednesday night around 10:30 complaining his head hurt, which eventually morphed into his ear hurting.  Sure enough, ear infection.  He never really had poop issues with amoxicillin, but the last couple stronger ones he's been on have given him trouble.  Let's hope this was just an exception, because I just got the OK from his teacher today to stop buying pullups for naptime.  Slowly but surely...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Helping Out

I spent this morning at Babies 'R' Us.  The other night my cousin Lori asked if I might be interested in helping her good friend Mandy populate her baby registry.  She wanted the experience of a real mom.  God knows I would have loved that when I did it.  My registry experience was less than blissful.  You can read the post on it here.  I remember two other shopping trips--one with my mom early on, during which she marveled at the insane amount of stuff available these days, and another with Lori which may have been a refinement trip.  That trip with Craig was pretty awful because it was so overwhelming.  I had a list of advice from my cousin's wife to help me, along with Babies 'R' Us' list of suggestions.  It's hard to know what you'll really need, what will work for your baby, and how many you might need.  I think some of my panic came from a concern about how able I'd be to go pick up things we needed once the baby arrived.  I didn't want to be trapped at home and have to send Craig to pick up something, as he doesn't always have the best instincts with things like that...judging, at least, by the multiple phone calls I get when he does a rare grocery run for me.  He tries, but...yeah.

I pretty much felt like I was going to have a nervous breakdown in the middle of the store.  I'm not a decisive person as it is, so putting me in a situation like that (particularly while hormonal) was a recipe for disaster.  At the time I compared the experience of a wedding registry vs. a baby registry.  For a wedding registry, you're just getting stuff that you want.  For a baby registry, you're getting stuff that will provide your baby a comfortable existence in the world.  Maybe it's partly to make the parents' life a little more comfortable, too, but it's certainly a different vibe.  I wanted to make the right decisions to ensure we had what we needed and guided people in the right direction to make sure they spent their gift-buying money on the important stuff.  Not that we weren't grateful for everything, but I wanted to make sure we weren't going to be running out at the last minute picking up sheets or bottles or onesies because we didn't get them at any of our showers.  It took a lot of planning and coordination, but it all worked out in the end.  We were still running to the store for various items and exchanging duplicates for months, but we had the vast majority of what we needed by the time Jacob came.

Anyway, this time around it was definitely different.  I was the one "in the know", offering up advice and recalling my experiences.  Some memories came flying back, while others were harder to recall (when did we have to start giving Jacob vitamins, anyway?).  It was interesting to see how the product selection differed.  In some cases there were cool new offerings, like a diaper bag with direct wipes access, 5-second rectal thermometer, car seat handle cushion, a standard high chair that converts to a travel seat and booster, a baby tub with a base that converts to a stool, or a bathtub spout guard with storage on either side.  In other cases there were improvements in the offerings, like better variety packs of feeding products, better prints on linens, or more compact pack-n-plays.  In some cases, the offerings weren't as good.  They didn't have the burp cloths I liked, and the Diaper Champ was nowhere to be found.

It was an interesting throwback to my experience, but it felt good to have a little more knowledge this time around.  It actually excites me for when we have another, to be able to upgrade some items and buy a few key things to enhance what we already have.  Of course, things could be seriously different next time around, but at least we'll have the option of trying what we have and narrowing down the selections if we need something different. 

I was a little nervous about how it might feel to be among a large number of pregnant women, but it wasn't bad.  I mean, I definitely had moments where I was longing to be one of them.  There was a grandma there holding her seven-week-old granddaughter, who was SO tiny despite the fact that she was over nine pounds at birth!  That baby was so sweet and it made me wistful for the tiny baby stage.  I know it's not easy, but oh, is it ever special.  I thought back to my little basketball belly and all the excitement it created.  I was so happy for all of those mamas-to-be, though, and perhaps the jealousy was tempered by the fact that we're not officially trying right now (Disney hiatus is still on until at least June, I think), so I'm not in the throes of frustration with my cycle and negative pregnancy tests.  I'm in a weird limbo where there may be a problem but there's no mounting evidence so it's just staying out of sight, out of mind for now.  Most of the time. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Missing the Moments

Lately I've been really bummed because, as I mentioned the other day, Jacob isn't very photogenic these days.  I pull out the camera and he immediately turns into a sourpuss.  He won't smile for me, won't look cute, and pretty much runs the other way.  Once in a while if he's doing something he's really into, like the drum picture from Sunday, he'll at least give me a cheesy smile...though he knows that's not the kind of smile I prefer.  The squinty, exaggerated grin makes me crazy, especially when I know how adorable he can be with a genuine, open-eyed, dimple-displaying smile! 

When he's doing something cute, it's rare that it will last long enough for me to run and get my camera.  The other morning Jacob was singing the "Party Rock" song and it was totally cracking us up.  But by the time I got the camera out (even though it was right there), he was already starting to trail off and then effectively ended the show by falling backward into some toys.  That's pretty much been my luck.

Knowing his usual reaction to the camera, sometimes I hesitate to grab it because I don't want him to stop what he's doing.  It's cute and I'd like to enjoy it while it's happening, which means no running off to get the camera for fear I'll miss something or the camera's presence will make Jacob stop.  But it's a bummer, because I know I'm missing sweet little moments I'd like to remember. 

I look back at some of the little video snippets I've taken over the years, ranging from 10 second newborn clips to older baby giggles, from big boy baseball to Christmas present opening, and I crave seeing more of those old clips.  I know I'm going to want to remember how Jacob looked and sounded at this age, because there are subtle little things I'm already forgetting about his earlier stages.  All the photos in the world don't capture it entirely, and while video sometimes does, it's hard to find the right moments to take.  Looking back, even the random moments are precious, but it's hard to pinpoint big kid moments that will mean something down the road.  They all will mean something, I know, but I'd rather get the good ones because they're far more fun to watch.

So, at this point I just feel like I've missed so much of Jacob's personality over these past months, just because he hasn't been very forthcoming when the camera's out.  I should be more proactive about trying, but I don't want to make matters worse, either.  I know time is just passing us by, and so many sweet, awesome moments have gone uncaptured.  And in this era of ever-present technology, that seems like a travesty, doesn't it?  I'm stuck between trying to hard to capture the perfect moment and not seeing any moments worth capturing.  I know there's a happy medium and I'm trying not to get discouraged in the meantime, but I may spend the rest of my life mourning the lack of video footage from this part of Jacob's life, at a time where his personality was really starting to shine.  Even the variety of photos isn't particularly impressive right now, and for someone who desperately wants to capture photographs that will make me swoon for years to come, that is a bit of a bummer.  I'm hoping this current dry spell is a phase for both of us--that Jacob will become a master smiler and I will regain my good luck behind the lens.  Hopefully this good weather will help and fun, photogenic activities will be coming soon to a blog post near you.  Time is a wastin', and I don't want to miss a thing. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

BUT...

There are so many things I miss about the baby stage.  Hence why I'm probably ready to have another one, though that might just mean that I've blocked out all of the horrible, difficult parts of that stage instead, leaving only the rose-colored-glasses version of life with Jacob as a baby.  I know for a fact that there was so much hard stuff to go through, but there's something special about a child that does not talk back or run off or say "no" to everything you ask of them.  And from this perspective of a parent that's now seen what that tiny baby can become, it's exciting to think about watching that amazing transformation all over again.  However, there are some days when I wonder if it will ever happen. 

So, in an effort to embrace my current circumstances, I decided to write out a list of great stuff about babies...and why big kids are just as awesome.

1) I miss the tiny baby cuddles when Jacob would sleep on my chest...BUT...I love how easily he can put himself to sleep most of the time, alone in his room.  And I most certainly appreciate the fact that he sleeps through the night.  Nothing's like new baby snuggles, but I sneak my cuddles other ways and appreciate being well-rested in the meantime.

2) I miss how Jacob would give me the biggest smile ever at the mere sight of my face.  It was the best form of communication he could offer, and it was awesome...BUT...now I get hugs and kisses (once in a while, at least), and on a very rare occasion I'll even get an "I love you" out of him.  That's pretty awesome, too.

3) I miss being able to pick out anything for Jacob to wear, and having him wear it without complaint...BUT...once we get past his pickiness, the fact that he can dress himself most of the time is a pretty big bonus.  And a huge time saver, at least when he actually does it without extra prodding.

4) I miss the chubby little legs, soft little head of hair, and gummy smile...BUT...his belly is still just as cute as it used to be (and his little butt cuter--nothing more adorable than watching it run down the hall from the bathroom to his bedroom after bathtime!) and he's such a handsome little boy overall.  It's also amazing to look at those gangly legs and big feet and know that we helped grow this big boy.  His smile now is still such a joy, though I swoon at the sight of pictures from the various stages of teeth growth because I loved each version!

5) I miss the sweet little baby sounds and the excitement of hearing him finally say his first words...BUT...admittedly, it's cool to have conversations with your child, know what they're thinking, get their take on the world, or have a little insight into what they want or what's bothering them when they're sick.  God knows I would have given almost anything for many of those opportunities early on!

6) I miss the simplicity of baby toys.  We had a couple key pieces (jumperoo, swing, tummy time mat) and then a handful of stuffed animals, rattles, or other things for stimulation.  Now we have a living room overtaken by tiny pieces of action figures, only half of whose names I actually know...BUT...I love listening to Jacob's imagination go to work.  The other morning he was planning a birthday party for one of his stuffed animals, and lately he's been using a tiny baseball from a set of Peanuts figures as a soccer ball for Craig's old G.I. Joe guys...with MegaBlok-built goals, too!  I allow the mess most of the time because I know it's creative genius at work. 

7) I miss that stage where Jacob was aware and happy and playful, but couldn't get around yet.  Leaving him on the living room floor playing with hanging toys on his play mat, or even popping him in the playpen while I ran to do something quickly, was so nice...BUT...inevitably I suppose he lost interest quickly enough and then he was generally pretty needy.  Now he's needy in a different way (as my ears will attest), but I can fairly confidently leave him alone to play now without assuming he'll get into trouble.  Maybe I'll find out that's risky, but he's been really good until now.  And he can play alone for extended periods most of the time, which is pretty stinkin' great.



9) I miss the sweet, quiet bonding of breastfeeding...BUT...I don't miss it that much.  I don't miss being chained to the couch, being up at night, pumping, engorgement, or having to carefully watch my diet.  Watching the pleased satisfaction on his face while he ate was awesome, but I also like the joy on his face when he gets a food he loves now, and I can do that minus all of the dedication that went along with breastfeeding.  I'd do it all again, though.

10) I miss the anticipation of so many milestones--rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, talking--and the major celebration that accompanied each one...BUT...if you look hard enough there are plenty of things to celebrate at this stage as well.  Potty training, writing, and drawing are notable, and there's always the transition to a big boy bed or a new classroom.  There are tons of little moments as well, like when your child says something interesting, achieves a physical milestone in sports or another activity, or learns a new fact.  They're more subtle milestones, but they're there if you look hard enough.  And while the early ones are special, the later ones are cool simply because they're such visible building blocks of the person your child is going to become.  It's amazing to see the pieces come together, and while the baby stage is so fleeting and precious, the kid stage is one heck of a ride.  Amidst the craziness, I'm trying to enjoy every minute. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend and Stuff...

Gosh, I feel like it's been so long since I've had anything to report on in the "News" department.  Posts themselves have been fewer and farther between as it is.  I guess it's partly the time of year (we're short on interesting activities), partly an effort to get myself to bed earlier (so late-night blogging is a no-no), and partly less angst about parenthood in general, if that's possible.  I suppose it's not that I'm not agonizing over parenting as much as I used to, but perhaps I've just come to accept it and figure that complaining about Jacob's behavior for the 1000th time on this blog is probably just overkill.  He's three, it's annoying, but we'll figure it out.  And really, aside from the annoying behavior, he's a pretty great kid, albeit one that isn't particularly photogenic when the camera comes out.  I mean, I can only take so many pictures of him playing sports, and any other photo-worthy moments tend to be over before I can get the camera out (or because I got the camera out).  Hopefully I'll expound on that point in a blog post soon.

Anyway, I guess I just haven't had a lot to say.  I'm hoping the pleasant weather starts improving my mood a bit (both for being active and writing) and gets us motivated to go do more things on weekends.  This coming weekend is Craig's only weekend off within a good four-plus month span, so hopefully we think of something decent to do--even if it's just Jacob and me venturing out and leaving Craig home to sleep!  The weather this week is enticing and I hope it sticks around through the weekend so we can at least go to the zoo or do something outdoorsy.  I've been meaning to go to the zoo all winter, but either the weather or our schedule didn't cooperate, which seems funny considering what a mild winter it has been. 

This past weekend was a busy one, though I only have a few pictures to show for it.  Thursday night I did snap a picture of Jacob, who's back to sleeping on his floor again.  I don't know why this is such a fun thing for him, but as long as he actually sleeps, it's one battle I'm not going to pick...for now.
He's buried in there somewhere...
Friday night we stuck close to home and I ended up making homemade beer bread so I could make homemade French toast for breakfast in the morning.  Jacob loves French toast and I'd been meaning to make the bread anyway because it's so good, and the bread turned out even better than it did when I made it last year.  So easy, too.

Saturday morning Craig was up and out early for the Knighthawks' afternoon game, and Jacob and I enjoyed our French toast (which went well considering I'd never made it before, let alone with fancy bread) and had a lazy morning.  So lazy, in fact, that we were still in our pajamas when my parents arrived to hang out and go to the game with us (and their Rochester friends).  We headed out for a quick, early lunch, which Jacob devoured despite already eating a big breakfast, and went off to the game.

I don't really like afternoon games and think the "family friendly" nature of them is overrated.  Why?  Well, because anyone with napping children is pretty much excluded from going to them.  Jacob normally sleeps from about 1pm to 3pm on weekends, and gametime falls right into that window.  We ran into this problem a few weeks back at the Lancers' game, and we'll run into it again in a few weeks with another Knighthawks' game.  As with the Lancers' game, Jacob conked out on my lap around the second quarter.  His 20-minute catnap was enough to energize him, though, and he was eager to run off and play lacrosse at halftime, as usual. 
Grandpa played goalie!

Happy boy when he gets to play at halftime!
The bad news this time, however, is that an early bedtime would be impossible--more on that in a minute.  Anyway, the game was great and the Knighthawks pretty much dominated their biggest rival, the Buffalo Bandits.  Jacob was a very good boy and we enjoyed our time with my parents, who left right after a dinner of pizza back at home.  Jacob had 2-1/2 pieces, continuing his growth-spurt-worthy eating habits for the day.

We pretty much followed them back down the thruway shortly thereafter, once Craig was home and we packed up for a 24-hour visit to his family, for his mom's birthday.  We didn't leave quite late enough for Jacob to fall asleep and stay asleep, and despite putting on a movie for him, he conked out rather quickly.  Crap.  As if the lack of an afternoon nap and now a pre-bedtime nap weren't enough of an issue, we had the time change to deal with.  Lovely.  He woke up when we were nearly there, and despite my best efforts to get him changed and in bed the second we got there, he was still wide awake until sometime after 10pm (or 11pm if you're counting what time it would be post-change).  He did sleep in until after 8am, so that was good.  We still had a busy day ahead, but I was hopeful.

We ended up going to a pancake breakfast, where Jacob downed about three pancakes and three sausages.  That kid loves his breakfast foods.  We went to noon mass, where he was actually very well behaved, although probably a little tired.  We came back and forced an hour nap or so before heading off to the birthday party.  Jacob loves going to his cousins' house, because there's lots of toys to discover.  One of the first ones he gravitated to was this: 
One of the boys got a drum set for Christmas.  Jacob was loving it.

Who is this big boy?
Later on Jacob and his cousin Grant changed into costumes--Grant a ninja, Jacob a Power Ranger--and Jacob kept talking over and over again about taking off his clothes (ugh) and putting on the costumes.  Here he is, part Green Ranger, part Red Ranger, and part Spider-man...oh, and I think that's Captain Jack Sparrow's sword.
He finally had an iffy meal, probably thanks to a boatload of Chex Mix beforehand, but he was ready to go at cake time.  I snapped this picture of him while we were waiting to sing.  Look at that sweet face.

We headed out around 7pm just as the sun was setting (ah, the bright side of the time change), and ushered Jacob off to bed ASAP.  Busy weekend, but it was great.  Never long enough, though.

At some point in the last day or so he picked up a nasty cold.  There's a chance it's allergies, since we ran out of his medicine right in the midst of what must be a brutal allergy time right now with the crazy weather.  I picked up more tonight but didn't want to get him off his morning dose schedule so I'm waiting...and feeling beyond guilty right now because he was a MESS tonight.  He's choking on mucus, has a nose like a faucet, and is simply miserable.  It came on pretty quickly, but we'll have to see how he's feeling in the morning.  We gave him a precautionary dose of albuterol in case it was trying to work into his lungs (and we felt like we had to do something).  We'll see how things go tomorrow.  With any luck this will be one of the last bad colds of the year.  At least, I suppose I hope it's a cold, because if this is what happens when he's off his allergy meds, we're in trouble.

On to a busy week of random, premature spring...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Parent-Teacher Conference, Take 2

Last year I went into Jacob's parent-teacher conference unsure about what to expect.  I mean, I knew his behavior was a problem but I wasn't sure if it was a problem or a PROBLEM.  Obviously it's not ideal to have a difficult child, particularly when you're dealing with nine other children at the same time, but there's a difference between a child with problems and a normal child dealing with age-appropriate issues.  You can read about the conference here, but in general it was more or less a non-event.  Jacob was difficult, yes, but most of what he was dealing with was normal enough.  I was a little annoyed that they were trying to put him into a "box" where he played just like the other kids, but I appreciated their plight of having to deal with a kid who didn't always conform.  Of course, at some point after that he was the main inspiration for the sticker chart in the two-year-old room, so obviously it was more than just a passing issue.  And a year later, we're still dealing with a lot of the same issues.  He still doesn't listen very well--and as an added bonus, he can be that much more independent--and he still doesn't express himself particularly well when he's angry or upset.  However, he does have slightly more diverse interests now (sports AND superheroes, at minimum...and a willingness to look into other things, too). 

This year, things pretty much couldn't have been more different.  Pretty much from the moment we walked in, his teacher couldn't stop gushing about him.  She talked about how SMART he is, the smartest in the class possibly.  She talked about how funny he is, and how his biggest problem is probably his reluctance to clean up...which we deal with all the time at home, too.  She said he's great with all his letters, numbers, colors, motor skills, and that he's very talkative.  She told us about the bug flash cards they've been doing this week, and how he was the first one to memorize them all.  He's great during circle time.  His behavior's been much better, and they're pretty much thrilled with him. 

Well...huh.

I'm obviously thrilled to hear it all.  I'm happy to hear he's smart.  I knew that already, of course, based on things I see from him, but to hear that when looked at among his peers he's doing well, that's comforting.  He's got a good memory, though I wish he'd remember the stuff we tell him all the time about his behavior and all that, rather than some random, insignificant moment from six months ago.  I know he's smart because he knows how to be silly in "smart" ways, like rhyming words to be goofy or telling stories.  I can tell when he's testing us and pushing buttons, so it just shows how much he takes in and files away for future use.  He's probably not as clever as he thinks he is, since I do catch on, and he thinks he's hilarious.  He would be as funny as he thinks he is if he wasn't being defiant or stalling in the process.  Anyway, it's good to know the building blocks are there for a smart child.

It's good to know his behavior is good at daycare, but I wish it was more like that at home.  I know he trusts us more and he's just testing his boundaries, but at a time when I feel like most of what comes out of my mouth is some sort of instruction, reprimand, or flat-out yell at Jacob, I really wish some of that would spill over to his home life.  I try not to let him get away with things too much at home, and yet he still pushes constantly.  It's tiring.  I guess I'm glad no one else has to deal with it, but it'd be nice to get a little more of that at home.  Heck, some of the stuff he did to show his aptitude in preparation for this evaluation, he'd never do at home for us when prompted.  I can't even get the kid to smile for a picture, for goodness sakes, let alone a good chunk of the skills checked off on that report.

Knowing that he may be extra smart (seriously, his teacher couldn't stop gushing), I can't help but wonder if we'll have a challenge ahead of us to keep him engaged.  The knock on a lot of naturally smart kids is that they get bored easily in school and tend to act out.  Smart kids figure out more quickly how to work the system, and take advantage of it.  Are we facing a future of having to keep him focused on his tasks and avoiding the pitfalls that come with an energetic yet intelligent kid?  Good problem to have, I know.

I'm just shocked at the contrast between this year's conference and last year's.  I'm so glad he's fitting in better and he seems to be near the top of his class in skills, since last year there seemed to be a lot of areas where he was lacking.  This year he seems to have things down pat, and yet I don't feel any more confident in my parenting beyond having some indication, based on how he acts at daycare, that we must be doing something right.  He's growing, he's learning, and he's turning into quite the little person.  Nice to get a little validation, but there's still a lot of work to do.      

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Healthy Fear

Lately we've had to walk a bit of a fine line when it comes to Jacob's fears.  I've come to realize that kids are only as frightened as your cues suggest they should be.  I suppose there's sometimes initial fear of something completely unknown, but again, once they take a minute to notice that grown-up cues indicate all is well, usually their fears subside. 

The other day I retweeted a quote from someone else (yep, follow me--@rybismama) that said something to the effect of, "Kids are happy because they don't have a file in their minds called 'All the things that could go wrong'."  And it's so true!  So many kids are fearless until they have input otherwise. 

Lately we've had quite a few strong windstorms.  During one of them we lost power.  Right at this moment the winds are very strong, gusting up to 60mph.  The house is creaking a bit and the windows are rattling.  There's a constant dull roar outside as the wind blows through the big trees in our neighborhood.  It's a little unnerving at times, but I'm doing my best poker face in Jacob's presence.  I don't want him to see that it bothers me, for fear he'll have an ongoing phobia of windstorms from here on out.  I have to do the same thing with thunderstorms, as he hasn't really noticed those yet either, but I can't help but wonder if this will be the year he acquires that fear. 

Lately he's shown fear of "bad guys".  Obviously he knows that his "good guy" action figures play against bad guys, and he's aware of policemen and the "bad guys" they chase after.  He asks if there are bad guys in our city.  He wants to know if they'll come into our house.  On one hand I think it's important for him to know that there are bad people out there.  How many parents have told their kids to stay close to them out in public so no bad people take them away?  I know we have.  You don't want to alarm your child, really, but you need to give them a good reason to follow the rules sometimes.  The downside is that it can plant the seeds of fear down the road.  If there are people that could snatch him, what other bad things can those people do? 

The tough thing is finding that fine line where you acknowledge that there's something to fear out there in the world, but help your child understand that they're safe.  Of course, we can't protect them from everything, so it's hard to explain the reality of things.  For example, when Jacob asked if the bad guys would come into our house, of course I wanted to say that, no, bad guys wouldn't come into our house.  But, God forbid, what happens if someone does break into our house?  Will he think I lied?  Will I lose his trust?  How do you answer complex questions on a three-year-old level without bending the truth too far? 

The same thing goes for talks about death and sickness.  He has some understanding of death and sickness, but what's too much information for a three year old?  He knows that people die, and while we explain that we won't die for a long time, I suppose there's always that chance.  Does he really need to know that?  There have been situations (like the young lacrosse player here that tragically died not too long ago) that he's vaguely aware of, and it's hard to explain the truth without scaring him.  Heck, it scares me thinking of him playing lacrosse after what happened to that boy, but again, I don't want to instill unreasonable fears in him just because of one freak accident. 

Many days when I pick Jacob up from daycare, he's hesitant to leave.  He's usually engrossed in a puzzle or game when I get there, and I suppose it's hard to stop it instantly when I arrive.  One day the teachers told him that the boogeyman comes out afterhours and he needed to leave before that happened.  He's convinced that the boogeyman eats kids, and he asks a lot of questions about it.  I don't want to lie to him, but I need all the help I can get to get him out of there on time.  Someday he'll know it's all a ruse, but for now I'm hoping it's a harmless enough fear that serves a purpose.  Of course, when he's afraid that boogeyman-style monsters are lurking in his room, I'm sure I'll regret it.

How and when do you start working on instilling healthy fear into your child?  Do you do it proactively so you're ready when something happens?  Do you wait as long as possible and hope they're old enough to understand once they need to?  I'm not sure there's any good answer, so I guess we'll just continue to do what parents tend to do best--go with our gut and see how it goes.