Wednesday, August 28, 2013

17 Weeks!

17 weeks down, 23 to go!

Baby: Our growing baby is about the size of an onion or pear. His or her cartilage is turning to bone and the tiny body is starting to gain fat. Pretty soon, the baby will be able to hear things. (Hopefully I can convince daddy to read to the little one again!)

Me: I'm doing great! ♥ I've had a few more of those nasty tension headaches, but am overall doing well. I think I might be headed into that wonderful fatigue-phase of the pregnancy (all I want to do is sleep!) so that should be fun. I've only gained a pound or two so far, which feels crazy considering how much I popped this week. In general, my bump still isn't too noticeable unless I show it off or have just eaten (both occurring in the photo above...). I think I'm about a week or two ahead of where I was with Brayden at this time (size-wise). I'm still not in maternity clothes, but now have a couple pairs of jeans that don't fit too well (bummer!). I expected to show a lot sooner with baby number two, but I anticipate things will pick up the pace over the next couple weeks (especially with the growth spurt baby is in).

I've had a few food aversions, but not too many intense cravings. I'm still jogging with Brayden several times a week and even took him to a (somewhat out there) Kid Yoga class on Monday. The exciting thing for this week is that I've been feeling those wonderful little baby flutters now and then! I've mostly been feeling movements (rather than kicks), but I love knowing that as the baby grows, they'll get even stronger.

Daddy: Busy at work, but doing well. :) Since I still don't have a big baby belly, I don't think he really feels like I'm pregnant yet.

Next Up:We have a double dose of doctors next week! A regular monthly appointment and our ultrasound. Excited for Daddy to finally hear baby's heartbeat and for us to see if this little one is as active and crazy as Brayden was in the womb. The ultrasound was also the time when both Lauren and I really got the feeling that Brayden was a boy. I'm interested to see if we have any hunches after next week.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Interactive Tot Books

At least a dozen times a day, Brayden brings me a book to read. He adores reading... as long as the books are interactive. With how active my little guy is, he doesn't like to sit passively by and just listen to me read  (because, you know, that's boring). I do that anyway while he's playing in the same room - just to expose him to new words. But Brayden isn't really into the pictures yet, and since he can't understand the story, the thing that keeps him interested in books is being able to interact with them somehow. Lifting flaps, touching fabrics, pushing buttons, etc. Occasionally, I can trick him and sing the book's words (if it's short with a nice cadence) and that keeps him interested long enough.

Exposing Brayden to interactive books was my way of getting him interested in reading (since up to that point, he had zero interest in books). So far, it's worked great. He loves reading interactive books. The same ones. Over. And over. And over again. I just hope that he'll learn to enjoy the pictures and stories sooner rather than later. In the meantime, here are the books my little guy most commonly brings me (if you need me to recite any of them by heart, I'm embarrassed to say I can... and will occasionally correct Lauren from the kitchen while he's reading them to Brayden and gets it wrong. That's what makes me such a great wife, in case you're wondering).

If anyone has any recommendations for other interactive books, I'd love for you to leave a comment! (not that I don't love reading the same 20-30 books over and over again...)

1. Alpha Bugs by David A. Carter. One of my favorites that he has. Each letter of the alphabet has an imaginary bug that pops up, moves around, is fun to touch, etc. Brayden knows what to do for every letter (which is pretty cute) and loves it. We also have the Touchy Feely bugs book by Carter and the mini-four pack. This one is by far the best.
2. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell. An early favorite. A lift the flap book with animals hiding under cages and in boxes. We taught Brayden how to do different animal sounds with this book, which was pretty cool (so he can now add squealing like a monkey and hissing like a snake to his repertoire of tricks).
3. Playtime Peekaboo (and several others in this series) by DK Publishing. A combo lift the flap and touch & feel book. The Farm Peekaboo is pretty good, too. 
4. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt. This one is a classic for a reason. Brayden really likes doing all the tasks in the book - looking in the mirror, smelling the flowers, touching "daddy's scratchy face." And I always get a kick out of the noises and faces he makes when he sees himself in the little mirror in the book. A win-win, really.
5. Amazing Animals by Mark Radar. A book with ten buttons that make animal noises when you press them (though Lauren would claim there are only nine since it really bothers him that the have a kangaroo making a springy noise). Good for motor skills (they're a bit tough to press for really little babies, though) and matching (I try to get Brayden to press the button of the animal that matches the page we're on).
6. Flip-Up Counting by Chuck Murphy. Brayden's current favorite. There are animals on each page and a tab that makes the book flip up with the correct number of animals on the page. This should be great for when he's actually learning how to count. For now, after counting the animals, I push the flaps up and then Brayden pushes the flaps down.
7. What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz. A unique book with ribbons stretching across the crease. Each page adds a different color ribbon to the rainbow. 
8. Colors and Shapes by DK Publishing. A touch & feel book with basic colors and shapes. I'm pretty sure it's part of a series, because we have the same book with animals. Not sure if it's helping Brayden learn his colors, but he enjoys it. 
9. This Little Piggy by Parragon Books. This one is a puppet book - there's a cloth piggy that goes through the middle of the book and a spot on the back for you to put your finger. The text is just the "this little piggy" nursery rhyme, but I always use the puppet to grab Brayden's fingers and make him laugh. The first few times we read it, he was literally squealing with delight.
10. Monster Munch by Matt Mitter. I have to hide this book from Brayden because I just can't take reading it to him anymore. There's a zipper on the page for a pocket that's the monster's "mouth." Readers are supposed to feed the monsters little cardboard pictures based on what they like to eat. Brayden LOVES putting the pieces in the pouch and would probably have me read this to him for hours on end if I didn't hide it. 
11. Where is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz. Another classic - and book that helped Brayden learn his body parts. Brayden loves lifting the flaps, pointing to the body part on the baby and then pointing to that same body part on himself.
12. Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth. This was the very first book Brayden liked. The ladybugs are tactile, so he enjoys touching them. And the holes on the facing pages are great for playing whack-a-mole with Mommy's fingers.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Who You Are vs. What You Do

Dear Brayden,

The world is a beautiful place. There is so much goodness to see around you. People will touch you with their love and kindness (if you let them). But society is not without its imperfections. People have misguided values and practices that can cause much hurt and confusion.

When adults converse in social settings, or meet each other for the first time, one of the first three questions asked is inevitably, "So what do you do?" People always ask about your profession. And while it can be a conversation builder (a lot of follow up questions can potentially stem from the answer), too often it is used as a measuring device. Too often, people judge you based solely on the answer to that question. They make an immediate decision about your worth and your character based on how you make a living. Society has prescribed arbitrary "values" to different professions - primarily stemming from either how much income the profession makes or how exclusive it is. What this does is relay the message that what you do is a reflection of your worth. And that's simply not true.

Unfortunately, this mentality stretches further than just the job you hold. It's about your achievements. Society has fallen into the sad trap of judging people not based on who they are, but based on what they have achieved. And that's a really dangerous thing. It can make people feel the need to have a "life resume" full of exciting and interesting successes rather than feeling that their character makes them unique and valuable to the world around them.

I will be the first to admit that even I'm susceptible to that feeling. People I meet always ask me what I do. And since right now I'm staying home to take care of our family, I often feel the need to explain. Instead of answering what I do now, I typically tell them how I used to be a political journalist, then taught high school English for a while, and am now taking a break to spend time with my baby. I'm proud of my achievements, but often put too much stock in their importance. Because the funny thing is, if you asked any one of my friends what they value most about me, they won't say my three degrees. They won't say my years spent as a sports reporter. They won't say my time spent at Oxford. They'll tell you they value my kind heart, my optimistic outlook on the world, and my cheerful nature. None of those things are accomplishments; they are just part of who I am.

The strange thing is, it's not always like that. You're almost 14 months old right now. No one cares about what you can do. People aren't judging you based on how developed your motor skills are or what milestones you've reached. In general, people know that babies develop along their own timeline. Instead, they notice how happy you are. They notice how much you enjoy having fun, exploring and interacting with other people. They notice your character.

So when does that change? When do some people start focusing more on what you do than who you are? I'm not really sure. In college, people ask you your major and often assign a value based on your answer (because of that arbitrary rule that makes engineering more "valuable" than theater). In high school, people look to your extra-curricular activities and grades (and often other artificial things that belong in an entirely different rant). But does it happen sooner than that? I already hear moms around me getting caught up in the achievement-race. "My son was walking when he was seven months old." "Well, my daughter is eleven months old and can already recite the alphabet." I know that children are sources of pride for parents. And I will inevitably be proud of your achievements someday. But putting so much focus on what people do instead of who they are just sends the mistaken message that that is what's important. I don't love you because you know your body parts or can imitate animal noises. And I'm not disappointed in you because you can't recite Shakespeare yet. I love you because of you.

As you grow up, I hope you'll see the fallacy in that line of thinking. Some of the most amazing individuals you meet will inevitably hold jobs that society does not deem as "worthy." Some of the people with the most strength of character you know will be people who do not carry a long list of achievements. Not only do I not want you to judge others based on what they do, but I don't want you to judge yourself that way either. Please know -- no matter what -- that although I will always be proud of what you do, I love you because of who you are. What you do doesn't make you special. Who you are does.

Love always,


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Life Therapy

I love those unexpected moments in life that give you the gift of serenity and joy. Because you weren't expecting it, they have this authenticity that just seems to hit you in the deepest and most lasting way.

My moment came this morning.

I did something I haven't done in probably six to eight months. I went for a jog by myself. No baby stroller. No dogs. No hubby. No iPod. And really - it was amazing. Almost like "life therapy." Life can get so chaotic, so busy, so frantic and full of obligations and to-do lists. It can be difficult to slow down amid all that -- to ground yourself and to really connect to a place of joy and peace. 

Everyone has different things that ground them, that help them live more authentically, more peacefully. For me, it can be yoga; it can be writing; it can be art; it can be jogging. But because jogging has turned into something I do with my little guy (or pups or hubby), I rarely find that kind of peace with it anymore. Which is why this morning's run was the biggest blessing ever. 

My running path (a few weeks ago, while on a walk with my little man)

I was able to just be. I wasn't thinking about the things I had to do today. I wasn't worrying, wasn't preoccupied with a baby who was being fussy. I was just enjoying being outside in the beautiful morning weather. And it reminded me why I love mornings so much. It's that feeling of newness... of possibility. The idea that the day can still be anything. It's the quietness of people at peace - the world hasn't started to frantically tackle their to-do list yet. People aren't having bad days. People aren't angry. People are just at peace. It's the morning air - that still has the warmth of summer, but that cool crispness that tells you the sun hasn't quite woken up yet. 

I have always loved the mornings. And I realize that I haven't been taking advantage of the time of day I feel most at peace; I've just been sleeping through it. (Funny how you end up not doing the things that will help you out the most.) So not only was it a peaceful run that started my day off in such a great way that I'm still in a peaceful mood (despite today's amount of chaos), but it reminded me to take care of myself. It's something I too often forget to do. It doesn't take much to wake up and write, or to go for a jog by myself. The effects are always so beautiful and seem to have such an impact on my life and those around me, so I'm not sure why it's so hard to make that space in my life for my own time. But I need to do more of it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We Did It Again!

With our absolutely adorable first-born, we just couldn't resist. (Can you blame us?) Lauren and I are expecting baby #2 this winter and are thrilled beyond words. Since the same line of questions usually gets tossed to every pregnant woman out there, I'll just answer them in one shot.

When are you due?
February 5.

So that makes you...?
14 weeks pregnant.

And that will make your kids...?
About 20 months apart.

Are you finding out the sex of the baby?
Nope. We didn't do it with Brayden and will be keeping it a surprise again. There aren't enough surprises in adulthood, and for us, it made the day even more special not knowing.

Are you going to do another drug-free, natural birth?
That's the plan. Obviously, things can happen beyond our control (and our baby's safety and well-being is our number one priority), but assuming everyone is healthy and everything is going smoothly, I wouldn't have it any other way. It was such an amazing experience the first time around.

How are you feeling?
Good! I had some killer migraines for a few weeks, but now that the first trimester is over, they've subsided for the most part. It is a bit exhausting being pregnant and caring for a one-year-old, though.

So there's our wonderful news. Three months down... six more to go!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ten Things Tuesday: Randomness

A completely random list of ten things.

1. I made it on my first solo trip with  Brayden. And no, it was not easy. My darling boy decided to be extra clingy over the weekend and cried (literally) every time I left the room. I came back from vacation needing, well, a vacation. (He more than made up for it though by being extra affectionate and donning me with all those sweet and gooey baby-kisses ♥)

Well, aren't you cute? Who would guess that when I leave the room in three
seconds you're going to have a major meltdown?

2. Grateful to be back in Virginia where walking outside isn't like walking into a sauna. You can tell it's been a while since I lived in Florida.

3. Feeling particularly motivated right now and hoping to work on some of those projects that have been on the back-burner for months.

4. Thinking about the "delightful" flight back from Florida. My always-on-the-go toddler just does not like to be constrained for a 2-2.5 hour flight. And as luck would have it (because mothers traveling alone are always  so lucky), we sat next to a man who clearly did not have -- nor want -- children. This made it easier for me not to feel bad when Brayden threw a piece of watermelon at him.

Big field > Small airplane

5. Lately, I've been doing yoga in the morning around Brayden. He's turned into quite the little yogi. When I ask him if he wants to do yoga, he gets all excited (sometimes putting his hands on the floor in a downward dog position) and then proceeds to run back and forth under me when I'm in the position. It's also pretty darn cute when he puts his hands in prayer pose in front of his chest whenever I do.

6. Hubby has started watching Breaking Bad on Netflix and is now trying to recruit me to join him. I think there are only three or four shows we watch on TV so we have a pretty severe screening process for new ones. He tells me it's worth it though...

7. Loving the language development my little guy is in the midst of. He answers every question you ask with a wispy "yeah...", says "hi," "that," "da-da" and "ma-ma," He has also combined his two favorite words: "milk" and "up." So now he walks around saying "mop" all day.

8. I updated my blog banner with a new picture of me and my boys. Which made me realize that my first picture had me as a blond and now I'm brunette. Not sure which I like more...

9. Unpacking from vacation stinks. Which is why I still haven't done it yet. But probably need to do so before our next trip in two weeks.

10. Only 25 more days until Michigan football season officially kicks off! Go Blue!