Monday, August 27, 2012

Mr. Personality

Sure - my little man hasn't even been alive as long as this season of True Blood. But that doesn't mean that he's not already showing off his unique little personality. (I was seeing glimpses of that before he was even born!) He's two months old now and is developing quicker than I thought possible (despite the fact that while I was pregnant strangers seemed to stop me on the street just to tell me how quickly my bundle of joy would grow).

*To see how he's physically changing, check out the "Growing Boy" tab above!

I was talking to a friend of mine a week ago and was telling her how amazing it is to watch someone who is brand new on this planet. Everything he experiences is a "first" and we get to see him learning things that we can't even remember not knowing how to do. Focusing on faces? Following items across your line of sight? Rolling over? We forget that we weren't just born able to do those things. One of the most wonderful unexpected benefit of being a parent has been Brayden's ability to allow us to appreciate all the smallest things of life.

And while our son is bite-sized himself, the personality that is developing is larger than life. Even at nine weeks of age, he's showing off who he is. So what's the personality he's been showing off?

"Take that mom!"

Active. Pretty much everyone who meets Brayden says something about how active and alert he is. You can just see the gears moving with him. Put a picture in front of him and he immediately focuses on it and gets the furrowed brow that seems to say "alright... what's this thing all about?" His physical activity is even more intense. I think he was taking kickboxing lessons when he was in the womb just so he'd have a headstart on coordination once he got out. We put him in the middle of the crib at night and when we wake up, he's turned himself 180 degrees and is pressed up against the furthest possible corner. One morning, I actually caught him moving himself around. He was shimmy-ing his whole body like an uncoordinated dancer doing the worm. It was great. He also moves himself around by kicking his feet off the ground to lift his butt and ricochet backwards. His arms are always moving. His legs are always moving. HE is always moving and grooving. Brayden just has to be doing something (Lauren even says he has a "war on comfort" since Brayden doesn't let anyone holding him sit still for more than a minute before complaining about it). He's not going to be one for sitting on the couch relaxing, that's for sure. He's going to need about eight after school activities to channel all the energy he has. I absolutely love how active he is and am looking forward to going crazy trying to keep up with him. :)

Charming. What a freaking ham this little guy is! He gives all the ladies these adorable gummy smiles already (and even showed his astonished 11-year old cousin that his little boy parts work just fine thankyouverymuch). He's such a flirt. Even with himself. Yes, with himself. One of his favorite toys in the world is the mirror part of his activity mat. He'll lay on the mat for 30 minutes staring and smiling at himself. He gives the mirror these coy looks, practices his "come hither" glance and coos at the handsome baby staring back. We're going to have to keep an eye on him for sure!

Opinionated. Some of my friends who recently have had children tell me how "easy" they are. They sleep wherever, whenever and however. They use their pacifiers and quietly play by themselves. Ha! There is no such thing as "mom's way" or "dad's way" in our house right now (nor do I see that happening in the future). Brayden makes his desires very clear to us. He has this hilarious on-off switch that takes less than a second to activate. He's calm... he's calm... he's calm... he's pissed! Immediately stop doing whatever it is that you're doing because he's simply not going to put up with it. When he's done playing, you'll know. When he's hungry or tired, you'll know. He gives these great "complaint-cries." He doesn't just sound the alarm and start yelling. They really sound like he's complaining and yelling for mom or dad. He is so vocal that Lauren and I can't help but laugh at him. Brayden makes his likes and dislikes very clear. He hates wet diapers (according to multiple people, he fusses more than most babies do about sitting in a damp diaper). He dislikes nipple substitutes. If it's not an authentic, he just doesn't want it. He's screamed and spit out the pacifier every time we tried to give it to him (we've officially given up that offering). He likes music, mommy, daddy and his puppy blanket. The list keeps growing... and every time it does, he makes the new addition very clear. It's very unlikely that Brayden is going to be the kind of guy who holds his tongue and keeps quiet. He makes his opinion known and speaks up for himself. :)

Happy. Just yesterday, Lauren told me that seeing Brayden smile is literally his favorite thing in the world right now. You just can NOT help but smile back when you see this little guy light up his eyes and show off that gummy grin. And thankfully for us, Brayden smiles SO often. He is such a happy little boy. He might be opinionated and tell us when he's not happy about something, but that doesn't happen nearly as often as Brayden laughing and showing off his smile-inducing grin. He lays on his changing table and laughs at us. He lays on the floor and laughs at himself (in the mirror). He lays in his pack-and-play and smiles at anyone walking by. He plays with his toys and has a ball. He cuddles on mama's shoulder and smiles to himself. He dances with daddy with glee. He is just so freaking happy. With everything inside me, I hope that never goes away for him. He's going to be an optimist who just loves life.

He's just always smiling! :)

Maybe it's because his personality is so vibrant and dynamic... but Brayden is really making it clear to everyone who meets him exactly who he is. I love watching him grow and seeing all the new facets of his personality. It's crazy it's only been two months. I can't even imagine what will happen in the next two.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Spitting Images and Crafty Creations

We're creeping up on the eight week mark with our little man. He's doing just awesome and is really keeping us on our toes. Brayden has been kind enough to make a breast-milk conditioner for me, and to give Lauren regular concerts each week (his voice is just superb!). He is such a happy baby - which makes for a happy mommy and daddy. I can't really ask for more than that (although admittedly, a little bit sleep sure would be nice!).

The Spitting Image Part

Over the last few weeks, we've had an influx of people (strangers, neighbors and friends, oh my!) tell us who Brayden looks like. Some tell me he looks "just like" me while others say he's the spitting image of his handsome  daddy. My own father recently told me a great story about when he was first a parent. Evidently, he and my mother were walking down the street with their first born when some lady approached them and said "Wow! Your baby is just beautiful! ... Is she adopted?" Ouch. Very, very ouch. Hopefully, no one will send those types of comments our way, but if you feel the urge, please direct them to Lauren.

Thus, the question of the day is: Who does our little man resemble more? I've heard that it changes over time, and one month a baby will look like one parent, while the next month he or she may look like the other. Since I'm new to the parenting game, I have no frame of reference. But I'd love to hear who our adorable baby looks like. A whole new game of bragging rights will thus ensue between Lauren and I.

Below, you're looking at baby Krystin and really young baby Lauren. Any striking similarities?

The Crafty Creations Part
Since I'm one of those artsy-type people, I've had way more baby project ideas than a person could  complete in his or her lifetime. I did finish two smaller things, however, and they will most likely end up in a scrapbook for the little guy.

The first is a "hopes for baby" card from both me and Lauren. We're completing sentences that tell Brayden what we hope for him in the future ("I hope you learn..., I hope you find joy..., I hope you become..., I hope you laugh..., I hope you aren't afraid of...", etc.). It'll be interesting to see how our answers compare!

Since I still have the image I created on my computer for this, any moms who want me to sub in their child's name and email them a printable image of it, just send me a note and I'll be happy to do so!

The other thing I wanted to do was track some fun information about Brayden for his first year. I made these monthly cards that ask about things like nicknames (those seem to change pretty frequently around these parts), and favorite books and activities. There are also places for size and development notes. Since down the road I may not remember that Lauren called Brayden "tree frog" or that at the one month mark, he had  started showing off his irresistible smile, the cards were a concise (and colorful!) way of tracking some of those fun notes.

What were some of the fun baby projects you've seen or done? I hear there's a plethora of ideas on Pinterest, but my boycott of the site forbids me to check it out.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Our Shelves

One of the things I've always looked forward to doing with my future children was reading. I'm a book-lover and am so excited to instill a love of literature in my little ones. I figure if I can get my left-brained, math-only husband to read books (it usually happens a few times a year!), then I can truly get anyone to.

Our little guy has had books read to him since my third trimester (much like the U of M spirit, we've started early on this one with him!). It's given me a great excuse to order a whole mess of books. probably thinks my address is a public library by now. With the onset of reading children's books, I've had to put my reading queue on hold. I certainly have some (adult) books I'm looking forward to reading, but in the meantime, I've found some treasures in the children's genre. So here are the munchkin books that are worth a read (even if you don't have kids!) and the adult ones that are awaiting my attention.

*Little Reads*

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
It's no secret that my husband gets a bit teary eyed at fictional stories (his claim to fame is crying while watching the cartoon movie Chicken Little -- which he defends by explaining that the chicken "had no friends at the beginning and now everyone likes him!"). So hearing that Lauren sprung a leak after reading this to Brayden might not mean too much. BUT... even I thought it was a great story. (Not great enough to cry over, perhaps... but still!) It's a unique story that doesn't rely on cartoon animals to tell the same love-yourself-for-who-you-are tale. It's a very different (and interesting) story about a man whose beloved books fly away. He then begins taking care of books in a library while he ages. No spoilers here about how the story ends, but it's a great message about how books can touch and change you. It also doesn't speak down to the audience, which I love. It's full of allusions and slightly-sophisticated-for-its-age vocabulary. The pictures are spectacular and from what I hear, there's now an interactive iPhone app to go along with the story.

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
This one had me chuckling aloud. The book starts off like most "A is for..." books do. A letter of the alphabet accompanied by something that brilliantly starts with that same letter. However, the moose is pretty antsy to make his way into the story. He starts creeping onto the pages, trying to steal the spotlight. Zebra, who is more or less the referee directing the tale, gets a bit irked with the malicious moose (see what I did there?). The alphabet continues and reaches a boiling point when "M" turns out to be for "mouse." Moose isn't so happy with that and commandeers the rest of the book. Again, a great ending. I love the traditional story turned upside down. Not your normal ABC book. This one has a lot of silly mixed in.

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
Another tale with a great message. A sweet little truck is friendly with all of the wild animals, unlike the bigger, meaner truck counterpart. But when the big truck gets stuck, no one wants to help him. Now obviously, a kids book wouldn't just leave the guy SOL. The truck gets rescued and has a great ephiphany reminiscent of those jazz-music-filled sitcom lessons where someone explains what they learned from the episode (think "Full House"). The book is written in an effective sing-songy rhythm that kids will love and includes a variety of animals and the noises they make.

Press Here by Herve Tullet
This is one of those "smart" books. It's not just a book; it's interactive. Written almost completely with commands to the readers, the author invites you to do things like press a button, to tip the book, to clap and blow on the pages. Each action that the reader does is reflected on the next page. So when your little one tips the book, the next page has all of the dots on one side of the page. When your tot blows on the black background, the next page shows the color started to fly away. I'm really excited for Brayden to be old enough to appreciate this so I can stop reading it to Lauren.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
Evidently, I like books about books. This one is about an adorable dog named Rocket who learns to read from a sweet little yellow bird. This one incorporates spelling, so would be particularly good for kids just learning to read on their own. The story itself is adorable; the teacher/bird reads a story aloud everyday while Rocket eavesdrops. He thought he didn't care about reading, but gets immersed in the story and returns every day to see what happens. Eventually, he wants to read on his own and does so. When the bird has to migrate for the winter, he continues learning on his own (but is ecstatic when the bird comes back!). The author has another book out (where Rocket writes a story), so I wonder if this is the start of a series about the little pup.

*Big Reads*

When I was at Oxford, some of the students were going through the BBC "Big Read" list - a list of the top 100 books ever written. I made it a goal of mine to read all of the books on the list. Most of them are what you might deem "classics" and take some time to get through, so I tend to alternate those with other genres. I love reading Young Adult Literature, contemporary fiction and non-fiction (so, pretty much anything). The next book I tagged on the BBC list to read is Love in a Time of Cholera. I've never read it but haven't been able to start it because it seems like a "heavy" book. (Anyone who has read it before, please chime in and tell me what I'm missing so I'll pick it up soon!) The fiction books in my queue before that one include:

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
This book had some intense success. Enough that it is being turned into an HBO television series. The blurb says it's about an aging rock music executive and his assistant. The self-destructive cast is followed as they grow older and life sends them in directions they didn't intend on going. On the surface, it might seem just "fine," but I've had this book recommended to me by more than one person.

Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Speaking of recommendations, this book has been tossed my way by probably six or seven people. No one will tell me exactly what it's about - and neither will blurbs. Most blurbs start out the same way: "We don't want to tell you much about this book." The mystery (and volume of recommendations) has me intrigued. All I've been able to discern about it is that it's about a Nigerian orphan and a wealthy British couple trying to reconnect within their marriage.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Having been around for ages - and having one a Pulitzer Prize - this one has been on my list for a while and is finally near the top. The description of it is as follows:

A “towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book” (Newsweek), hailed as Chabon’s “magnum opus” (The New York Review of Books), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age. 

Has anyone read any of the "Big Reads" above? Any opinions on them are welcome! I'm not sure which of the three I'll pick up next.