Friday, April 25, 2014

A Walk in the Park

Every day, I look forward to a special time with my little guy.

It started as a way of getting him outside while Elissa naps, but has turned into one of my favorite daily activities. Without fail, around 4:00, I put my sweet little girl in a sling or carrier and take Brayden outside for a walk. We stay outside until 5:30 - and even then, he cries when it's time to come in.

At first, I just enjoyed spending the time outside and watching Brayden have fun. But over the weeks, I've grown to really appreciate this time for so many deeper reasons.

Sometimes it really saddens me to think about how things have changed over the years. When I was a kid, we'd go outside to play with friends and simply be back before dinner. It's amazing that in just a few decades things could change so substantially. We're living in a time when it's no longer safe for children to roam around outside by themselves - to be outside of parental supervision. It's also increasingly common for kids to have nearly all of their time and activities planned out for them (sports teams, music lessons, art classes, etc...). Even at this young age, there are so many structured activities to keep toddlers busy. These packed schedules leave no time for them to simply be kids - to explore the world, to engage their curiosities, to discover new things and to just be part of the world around them.

When Brayden and I go on these "walks," I let him lead. When we get to a crossroad, I ask him where he wants to go and he points in a direction. (Thankfully, he hasn't gotten me lost yet!) He goes wherever he wants and stops along the way to explore. And he loves it. He learns about so many things while we're out - experimenting with sticks, rocks and dirt, watching strangers interact, following cars (or more likely, service vehicles or fire trucks) around the neighborhood, chasing birds, dropping pebbles in puddles, observing animals around the pond, watching kids fly kites. He discovers new interests and experiences (recently, the nearby baseball field started hosting games and practices and Brayden just can not get enough. I've never seen a two-year-old's attention so raptly held for such a long time). The list goes on.

He also comes up with his own games. He found a area full of rocks and decided to try to throw them a certain distance. He finds a large stick and tests the sound it makes out on different surfaces. He counts ducks (or turtles or birds). He repeatedly walks along a track that I assume used to be for a trolley. He searches out every airplane, helicopter or garbage truck he hears.

He has time to just be a kid. To explore the world, to observe real life and to interact with everything and anything he wants. He loves it. And therefore, I love it.

Some of my husband's favorite memories from his own childhood are when he and his best friend were just goofing off together - coming up with silly games and activities of their own (I think I recall one about them racing bottle caps down the water leading to a sewer). Some of the best parts of life happen in those spaces not reserved for anything. The spaces between planned activities or events that allow imagination, curiosity and exploration to fill them.

I love that Brayden is getting this kind of time every day. And I truly hope it never stops. ♥

Monday, April 21, 2014

Dear Mom & Dad: I Win

Dear Mom and Dad,

So you finally took a stand, huh? You decided you'd had enough with my anti-bottle warfare and went all "let's play chicken" on your 10-week-old daughter. (Classy, by the way) I know that charlatan you call a "pediatrician" said this was a mandatory step... but I think she drinks. Regardless, you guys listened to her and started a showdown.

How did it feel to lose to a baby?

Personally, I enjoyed the little game. I enjoyed listening to your confidence at the beginning of the day and seeing it slowly but surely fade into maddening anguish. I enjoyed how Dad said he could "do this for hours" and then broke down like a middle school girl. I'll admit it took me off guard. I woke up (early, of course, just to keep you guys on your toes) and expected to snuggle up with mom for some nice relaxing breakfast. But you shoved that stupid plastic thing in my face again. What the heck guys??? I know you thought you had a chance - since I hadn't eaten since 2 a.m. - but have you any idea what it's like? To expect a nice, warm breakfast and to get a frozen meal equivalent? Ick.

I'm not impressed.

Normally, when I remind you of my controlled distribution center, I get my breastfeeding. But when Mom looked at me and just shook her head, I couldn't believe it! I was upset, sure. But not upset enough to allow these terrorist antics to be rewarded. Once I understood the game, I accepted the challenge with pleasure.

You must have thought that as the hours ticked by, my hunger would get the best of me and I'd finally succumb to drinking from that glorified bucket. No such luck 'rents. Perhaps you noticed that every so often at one of these attempted feedings, I'd eat a just a little bit - no more than half an ounce. That was tactical - to take the edge off my hunger. I ate just enough to continue this little game and continue driving you to the nuthouse (they're expecting you, by the way).

Let this be a lesson to you. Stop trying to give me bottles. In fact, stop trying to get me to do anything I don't want to do (I've been hearing some chatter in the hallways about getting me to sleep later... don't even try it). Have you not realized that I'm a determined and feisty little girl? Have you not realized that I have the stubbornness of my godmother (shoutout to Auntie Cole!). You took me to the doctor again today since I haven't pooped in 9 days. Even that doctor quack said I'm stubborn. At least she got something right.

Good game, though, guys. It made for an amusing weekend.


P.S. I knew you'd cave first, Mom. What a softy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to survive having two kids...

At some point, you have Baby #1. At first it's a bit challenging getting used to caring for another human being, but after a while, you think you've got it down. You're so impressed with your amzing parenting skills that you decide to go ahead and add another tot to the mix. 

Pretty darn cute, right?

Baby #2 comes along and you're thrilled beyond words. After the first month or two though, you realize that there are certain logistical difficulties with taking care of two children at once. Especially when one of them is a toddler and still needs constant attention. So how do you survive two kids? Let's go through a few sticky situations, shall we?

1. Your infant needs to be soothed to sleep (read: walked and bounced without stopping for 15-20 minutes). Your toddler repeatedly tries bringing you books to read him right now, and screams if you even hint that you can't give him your undivided attention. Solutions?
  • Reason with your infant that you just need a few minutes to read to her brother and she should wait quietly while you do so (insert belly laugh here).
  • Immediately throw on your SuperMom cape, walk with your infant at warp speed and put that sucker to sleep in just 30 seconds -- leaving plenty of time before toddler meltdown time.
  • Have your toddler put the baby to sleep and go take a bath.

Changing diapers works, too.

2. Your infant needs to be soothed to sleep (hmm... this seems to happen a lot) while your toddler is eating lunch. Once he finishes eating, he simply cannot wait another moment to get out of his high chair and must be taken out. Your baby is almost asleep though, and putting her down will just reset the whole process. Solutions?
  • Levitate that little boy with your mind. Moms were given powers for a reason.
  • Toss the baby as high into the air as you can, grab your toddler out of his seat and put him down in time to get some great receiving yards added to your stats.
  • Play "Monkey" and have the kiddo climb out of his seat, across the kitchen table, onto the walls and over the couch himself.

Bonus points if done without couch cushions actually on the fixture.

3. Your husband has to work late and will miss the whole bedtime process. You usually play zone-defense and put the kids to sleep simultaneously. You're on your own tonight. Solution?
  • Jump into your cloning machine, double yourself and allow your twin to take one of the kids. (Alternatively, as long as you've got the machine warmed up, you may as well triple yourself, have the other two ladies take the kids and go up for that bath again).
  • Call up a friend and tell her you have chocolate and movies for the two of you. When she arrives, try not to laugh too much.
  • Have a few glasses of wine and let things work themselves out.

Hmm... I think there's a bit of confusion going on here.

4. Your toddler thinks it's funny to stand on the side of his sister's face. Solution?
  • Make sure he stands on both sides equally so she doesn't get lopsided.
  • Teach the little girl some kung-fu so she can go all air-kicking-Keanu-Reeves on him.
  • Hop on your circus ball, start juggling some chainsaws and create a diversion.

5. Both kids are screaming and crying. You have no idea why. Solution?
  • This is a trick question. There is no solution. Game over.

Reason this toddler is crying: he put stickers on his own face.

Disclaimers: My children are angels and never do any of the above mentioned. Furthermore, for anyone thinking of having two children, rest assured that it is always easy and joyful. The above is merely hypothetical.

Kisses for 'Sa-Sa'

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Two by Two

I guess this is the month of twos. I have a two-month-old and a toddler who is two months away from being two years old. My kiddies are pretty darn amazing (believe me, I know how blessed I am) and are doing quite well at their respective ages.

The Two-Month Old

Elissa is such a sweetheart. She's so smiley (especially in the morning!), doesn't cry too much, and there's just something about her that's soft and sweet. She's definitely a social bug like her brother -- if she has someone nearby paying her attention, she's ecstatic. She's also laid back though. When her brother demands attention from the only adult around, she's (usually) perfectly content just playing on her activity mat by herself. She's a bit independent and quite a bit adaptable.

Loving: Swaddles, her activity mat (and giggling at her reflection in the mirror), her stuffed giraffe, and her brother. She absolutely adores Brayden. Every time he's around, she's all smiles. Thankfully, he seems quite interested in her as well. He loves trying to help - to swaddle her, to change her diaper, to tuck her in. He actually tries to imitate just about everything Lauren or I do with her (as is evidenced below)...

Learning: To find her own schedule. She's been very adaptable so far - we're already on a pretty good daily routine with three regular naps. The end of the night gets a bit shaky, but overall, she's doing amazing adapting so quickly to a regular rhythm.
Struggling With: Her car seat (she despises that thing!) and staying asleep once she goes down for naps. Once I put her in her crib, she usually wakes up once or twice (and needs to be soothed back down) before getting a solid, long block of rest. And although she does very well at night (usually only waking up once or twice), occasionally she'll wake up a third time -- a time so close to her morning wake up that it's too early to start the day but fairly difficult to get her to go back down.

Staring at her brother

The (Almost) Two-Year Old

Man, this kid is just larger than life. He is active, curious, observant and joyful beyond belief. He loves to laugh, loves running around and just has to be doing something. He's had quite the developmental spurt recently and is suddenly talking more and more. He's putting together simple two-word sentences (he loves saying "thank you Mommy" when I give him something or "night night Daddy"). He says "bye bye" to his sister on his own when he leaves the room (so adorable!) and is just such a hilarious and sweet little boy.

He loves drawing shapes and saying what they are. For some reason, his favorite is the oval. He'll draw it over and over again and say the word repeatedly.

Loving: Art of any kind! This kind has quite the creative streak. He absolutely eats up any kind of artistic endeavor and is constantly asking me to draw, color or paint. He also loves being outdoors - and usually cries when we finally have to come in. Like his canine sister, he has quite the affinity for chasing squirrels. Other current favorite things include: reading, dancing, playing with his train and applesauce.
Learning: Brayden is just insatiable when it comes to learning. He already knows all of his shapes, colors, and alphabet letters and loves identifying them in the world (he constantly points to colors and shapes around him and identifies them). He knows numbers one through ten and understands the concept of counting (when I ask him to tell me how many dogs there are or to bring me three books, he typically can). Because this kid just wants to use his noggin, I had to move on to something else. So I bought a placemat of the United States and am teaching him the states. He already can point to a handful of them accurately, and is trying to say the names of states (though Michigan is the only one he's remotely good at -- which is more a product of the university than this last week of learning). Since I'm not sure what I'm going to do next with him, I'm glad there are so many states. It should keep him busy for a little while. :)
Struggling With: The word "no." Not a big surprise for his age, but for being so joyful, this kid knows how to throw a fit. And it's that cry -- that anguished, pained, "the-world-is-over" cry that just echoes throughout the house. He's also having a bit of difficulty keeping busy when I'm nursing or trying to soothe Elissa to sleep. He just isn't a fan of not getting the attention he wants.