Friday, September 23, 2011

Caleb: 15 Months

Keeping up with a toddler can be challenging to say the least. In one 10 minute period this week, Caleb learned how to open the refrigerator door (#herecomestrouble), tried to take off his shirt and practiced walking backward, grinning like crazy the entire time. Notice how none of those things seem related?

You really never know what they're going to think of next. They might do something adorable, like give their teddy bear a big slobbery kiss or the might decide to experiment with the lock on their bedroom door, resulting in a frantic call to the fire department. Not that either of those things happened this month also...

Speaking of trouble...Mr. Adventurous learned to climb this past week. He's been trying for a while, but had yet to make it more than a few inches off the ground. I discovered his success when I found him teetering on the arm rest of the rocking chair in his nursery, attempting to reach the light switch...By that afternoon he was on top of the coffee table. I've decided resistance is futile.

There will be things that are "no climb" but I'm going to let him climb into the chair and on to the coffee table. My rule is: He must sit and stay seated. So far it's going well. He needs lots of reminders, but already I'm able to back away and use my words instead of actually repositioning him.

Along that line, my motherhood life lesson for the month is this: The things that drive you bonkers, may not bother another mom and vise-versa. And that's ok. Sometimes I feel like such a permissive parent. I let my child splash buckets of water out of the tub and climb on the furniture. I don't mind mopping up water, and I know C has (mostly) learned how to get down from a high place safely. However, I can't stand for him to take the tupperware out of the cabinets and get it on the floor (I hate dishes, remember?), which most of my mom friends are fine with. I'm realizing it doesn't matter (within reason) what I'm setting limits about as long as the limits are age appropriate and consistent.

Another adorable milestone- we're starting to see his sense of humor develop. Our little comedian already knows that any object is more funny if it's placed on your head. He loves to throw his lovie on top of his head and run around the house grinning.

This month has been a language explosion. He is trying to repeat everything we say. David was reading him "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and he repeated "Brown Bear" and "Red Bird" pretty clearly for a kid who wasn't repeating "dada" for us a month ago! He is also generating some words (not just immediately repeating. He clearly says "baw" (ball), "ba-oo" (book), "ba-uh" (bear) and "ba-bos" (bubbles). He has a thing with the "ba" sound...He also knows which one of us is mama and which is dada, though he still calls us both names. He is also consistently signing "all done", which means less food on the floor. Yay!

Going along with that, Caleb has developed a greater interest in books. He's always loved turning the pages and as long as I could read as fast as he turned the page he would listen to the story. Suddenly however, he seems to realize those things on the page mean something. He has several "favorite" pages he'll turn to and then look at me expectantly. Sometimes he'll even crawl into my lap. Right now his favorite are the Black sheep in "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" because he knows I'll sing the BaBa Black Sheep song, the 3 singing pigs in "Moo, Baa, Lalala" (he loves to say the "lalala" part, and the dog in his "D" book. He calls it woo-woo (woof, woof).

Have I mentioned this kid loves dogs? Our neighbors behind us have one of the loudest, barkiest dogs I've ever met. When she see's Caleb she comes tearing up to the fence like she's going to eat him. He squeals in delight and runs to meet her. Fortunately, she is all bark, with a good heart and her owners have been awesome about helping her and their other dog get to know Caleb through the fence. Nothing makes his day more than having one of them lick his hand. If the dogs don't notice him standing at the fence, he'll yell, "DADADADADA!" (dog?) to call them over. Time to end our doggie visits almost always results in tears.

His play time has really developed this month too. He has started some of the precursors of pretend play and it's soooo stinkin' adorable! He holds any toy phone he sees to his ear, he stirs his pot with a spatula like mommy does, and he loves to push his car around going "mmm mmm" (vroom vroom).
Anything we do, he wants to do too. He loooves the salad spinner!

Speaking of sound effects...this is kind of random, but, our son definitely purrs. Like a cat. Whenever he is really happy about something (usually food, but sometimes a snuggle) he starts making this purring noise. It just started this month and it's completely priceless! I hope it lasts a while : )

Teeth #'s 9, 10 and 11 appeared this month and they are all molars! We are so blessed to have a son who doesn't seem bothered by teething...or we are so immune to fussing after the colic days that we don't notice...definitely one of the two! I can see why they only get one set at a time though. I feel like that one tooth is taking up the whole back of his mouth!

Caleb has decided Daddy is not to be shared. If I'm giving David and hug and Caleb wants a hug too, he pushes me away and then hugs daddy. I'm not sure this is the best behavior, but for the moment, it's pretty darn cute.

His food intake has increased to the point we are beginning to wonder if it's a growth spurt of he's just grown an extra stomach. Lately, he's been devouring a banana, 8oz of yogurt/fruit/grain-mix, and some puffs after a gigantic nursing session. Then he's proceeded to polish off an adult size bowl of stew between lunch and dinner. We stand in awe.

Another big jump has been in the self awareness department. He's gotten even better at telling us he's hungry by running to the high chair. He'll also occasionally walk to the bathroom door to show us it's bath time (ie: the start of his bed time routine). Now, he's even letting me know when it's time for a nap by grabbing his lovies out of his crib, putting them on our nursing chair and laying his head down. It's a good thing too, because this kid is definitely confusing me with his nap schedule right now.

We don't tend to have a scheduled nap time, but rather a range of time where I watch for drowsy cues (ie: from 9-10 I watch for crankiness, eye rubbing, ear pulling, etc. and lay him down accordingly). Some days, he is happy as a clam during this time and then wants one giant nap from 11-2. Other times, he is still on the old schedule and takes a morning and afternoon nap. The transition times are always the hardest. Just when I get used to one rhythm, his growth and development time line seems ready for another!

Other fun happenings this month:

You may have seen photos of Caleb's little friend, Braydon, who is about 5 weeks younger than him. They are going to get to see a bit more of each other because Braydon's parents and David and I have set up a system to trade babysitting so we can all get one date night each month. This has been such a blessing to our family already and so much fun for the boys, who are both super active and play very well together.

Caleb and Braydon also got a chance to hang out at the employee appreciation picnic. Their friend Christopher, who is several months younger, was there too. Having 3 boys born within a year means they entertain each other! Caleb enjoyed running all over the park, tried to go careening off the dock into the lake at warp speed, and was limp from exhaustion by the time I finally loaded him into the car seat. It was lots of fun to get to spend time with daddy during the work day.
Attempting a family photo

And the winner for this month's most adorable story is:
David sat Caleb down on top of the foot rest on my nursery glider. Caleb loved the feeling of sitting up on a "chair" and getting to dangle his feet and kept wanting to do it over and over again. He would try to crawl onto the stool, but then couldn't get into the right position to sit so we taught him how to "back into" the stool. Once he figured it out, he'd sit down, grin, stand back up with "jazz hands" to balance himself and then sit back down over and over again.

Eventually, he got brave and started moving around a little after he stood up. The first time he remembered to back up to the seat before sitting (bravo!). By the second time, he'd completely forgotten that step and plopped himself right down on the floor. He never really did recover from that disappointment. As all this was going on, I couldn't help but wish we had some paparazzi following us around because leaving to get a video camera would have broken the moment, but it was the most adorable thing to watch.

Caleb's Jazz Hands

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going off the Grid

As you may have read in my post a few weeks ago, I've been taking steps to spend less time online. Recently, I've realized that none of these steps have changed the root problem, my heart. I may (or may not...) be able to shut the computer while Caleb is awake or David is home, but even when I'm following my own rules, I find my heart is just waiting for the next opportunity to sit down and zone out.

"Really?" I think to myself. How is it possible that I'd rather escape to the world of blogs, news articles and social media than engage my family, who I love dearly? I can make lots of excuses: It keeps me in touch with the outside world, I've always loved learning new things, Haven't the articles I've read even made me a better wife/homemaker/mother? And there is a seed of truth in all those things, but it can't change the underlying reality that my addiction to surfing the internet is hurting our family.

So, beginning this weekend, I'll be fasting from the internet. I'll post Caleb's 15 month update, and recent photos onto facebook over the next 2 days and then it will be a total fast for at least a week. I will still check my email before bed each night since I have 2 commitments who contact me via that route and that's it.

David asked me how long I plan to fast. I've committed to a week as a short term goal, but in reality, I plan to fast until that twitch in my brain to gravitate to the computer the second I have a little time to myself is gone. I know fasting alone can't change my heart, but I've seen it's effectiveness in getting a barrier out of the way for the One who can change it.

Please do pray for me. Pray for a genuine reorientation of my heart away from selfish escapism and into glad service to my king. I'm painfully aware that the root problem at the heart of this is that I look to a source other than God for fulfillment, guidance, peace, rest etc.

I'm so thankful for David's support in all this. He has asked me hard questions, nudged me, encouraged me, but never forced his way or told me what I "need to do".

Please feel free to contact me via email or phone. I have no desire to become hermit, simply to be free from the tyranny of the question: "How can I entertain myself next?" I don't want to waste my life.

"America is the world's first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death" -Neil Postman

Monday, September 19, 2011

Our Little Chef

This has been the kind of week that makes a great story, but isn't much fun to actually live through. It kicked off last weekend with a stomach bug for me while David was out of town for work. Just as I recovered from that (special thanks to my amazing church family for babysitting when needed!) I came down with a terrible cold, which Caleb and David (now home) also proceeded to catch.

David and I have had all the symptoms of a flu (chills, aches, exhaustion, vicious sore throats, tissue massacres) except the actual fever. Poor Caleb, who seemed to get little more than a runny nose, has been left to amuse himself most days as we croaked our praise or instructions from the couch. Thankfully, in the midst of all this, David was already scheduled to take a day or two off work so I could have a suspicious looking mole taken off my back. The irony that all this happened in a single week was not lost on me.

Trying to warm up during an episode of the chills

So that was our week. Despite having debilitated parents, Caleb proceeded to hit milestones and be adorable as usual. I'll save most of the news for his 15 month update, but I just had to share what he did tonight...

Caleb has always been fascinated with watching me cook, but it has been bordering on an obsession lately to watch people stir and prepare food. So tonight we plopped him on top of the counter to play "Chef" and this is what happened:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Earthquake, Hurricane, Houseguests. Oh My!

Two weeks ago our house was a flurry of activity. Was it the earthquake? No. The hurricane? No. Those were barely a blip on our radar compared to the excitement of having some of our dearest friends, and family-by-love, the Tews visit for a week.

It all began about a month ago, when I mentioned to Sarah that the next time Eric had time off work, we'd love to see them. To my surprise, she asked about some dates less than 3 weeks away. I haven't had a chance to spend longer than a few hours here and there with their family since around the time David and I were married so this was exciting news. I later found out this was going to be their beach trip vacation. I can't tell you how blessed I feel that their family made this time to come and see us.

Even before I knew that we replaced fun in the sun, I wanted their visit to be special so I began meal planning, sprucing up the house and thinking of fun things for the kids to do. About the time I'd gotten the house under control and thought of meals that were easy to make double batches of, David's brother called. His birthday was that weekend, and he wanted to make the 5 hour drive down from New York to spend it with us. Well, once you've got 8 people in one house, what's one more? Plus we always love our visits from Josh.

The Tews arrived first. They drove up on Tuesday. I had just sat down from doing laundry in the basement and line drying towels in the back yard to eat some lunch. I opened up facebook and found out that everyone in our area (except for Caleb and I, apparently) had felt an earthquake. A quick google search confirmed that in my busyness, I had indeed missed feeling "the big one" least by East Coast standards ; )

Wednesday we took all 4 kiddos to the park. Caleb basically ignored all the playground equipment and spent 98% of the time throwing mulch into the air and watching it rain down onto his head. I had been so worried about how well he would nap with 3 kids in the house. I should have known that 3 kids in the house makes 1 exhausted baby. He wasn't a light sleeper this week!

Sarah and Caleb at the park. You can see how exhausted he is!

Thursday the Tews went to Gettysburg. Caleb and I caught up on some chores and grocery shopping. David was teleworking so we got to eat lunch together. That afternoon we broke out the (kid friendly) Bocce ball set and had fun playing in the back yard.

Sadly, during a later game of bocce that week, we found this victim of the hurricane. He'd obviously had a very unfortunate head-to-tree meeting take place, probably from all the wind. He didn't seem to be in any pain so we gave him some water and he'd passed away by the next morning.

Friday the Tews headed out early to Hershey park and to visit friends of theirs from the Navy days. David and I packed up Caleb into the car after work at took a mini date to Starbucks and Lowes. My how the standards for what makes a "date" changes after children. Still, Caleb was in a good mood and we enjoyed having a little time to ourselves after such a busy week.

Saturday was busy busy busy. The Tews and Josh would both be arriving in time for dinner and Josh's one request was a homemade cake. Insert *gulp* here. I rarely make new recipes for guests and, with the exception of Caleb's birthday carrot cake, had never tried to make a cake from scratch.

It took a good part of the morning, but fortunately I had a great article from Real Simple magazine (a publication that I am not otherwise impressed with, to be honest) all about making cake, frosting and fillings from scratch, complete with recipes. I wish I'd had time to get a bit more creative with fillings, but for a basic chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, it turned out wonderfully.

While the cake cooled I took a quick break from the kitchen and we all went outside and let Caleb run around the driveway with a vacuum cleaner. Why? What do you do with your kids on a lazy Saturday? It's been sitting in our garage since we tried to sell it at our (failed) garage sale and Caleb has formed the same approach/avoid relationship with it as he has with the vacuum we use all the time despite the fact we've never turned it on around him. Toddlers have strange obsessions...
First he loves it

Then it's time to run away!

Then it was time to return to the kitchen again. My friend Jen had given me some oregano and sage from her garden so I figured it was time to turn it into a marinade for the roast chicken. With Sarah's help, we made a birthday feast of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and some Al Dente green beans. Apparently I am making a tradition of under-cooking a vegetable when Josh comes for a visit. At least it wasn't the mashed potatoes this time!

As we sat around the table feasting, Eric told us stories about their time in Hershey that made us laugh until we cried. Apparently if you put 7 children in a room with two hamsters and a large maze, you get very tired hamsters. Eric said that one feel asleep after only a few seconds in his hands and you could almost hear it saying "Find your happy place, find your happy place!".

After dinner we sung happy birthday to Josh, dug into some cake and played several rounds of The Great Dalmuti. It was so wonderful to have everyone over, if only for an evening. Sadly, Josh had to leave after church to be back in New York in time for work the next day. Somehow he escaped his entire visit without a single photo. I'll have to work on that next time!

Monday Sarah and I took a road trip to Pittsburg to a see a massage therapist who pointed me in the direction of a clinic in Baltimore that may be able to treat my pain. My appointment is at the end of this month...the adventure continues! The drive to Pittsburg was incredible. We passed 4-5 state parks, a herd of buffalo, a Fort, and the Flight 93 Memorial, which we spent some time at on the way home. It was great to have some kid free time with Sarah. Special thanks to David and Eric who kept the kids entertained all day.

I'm so thankful we had this week of making great memories with family by blood and by love. Time passes so quickly. I clearly remember their 12 year old at Caleb's age. I was in middle school then...and now I'm a mom. It's surreal at times for sure and it reminds me to savor each season.
PS. Yes, I know I look like a giant in this photo. It's nice to be the tall one sometimes : )

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Favorites: Sweet Potato Muffins

Wednesday was one of those rare nights I find myself with no inspiration what-so-ever for dinner. These nights often happen after family or friends leave to go back home and this week was no exception. The Tews headed back to South Carolina Tuesday morning and I was in a rut. I didn't want to plan dinner, or cook, or do house work. I wanted to pout. And I did for about an hour.

Then my sweet boy woke up from his nap and we played in the yard, walked across the street to visit our neighbor, I got a phone call from Jen during his nap and that afternoon our back-yard neighbor stopped for a chat and to let Caleb pet their two dogs. God is so gracious to provide such wonderful friends and neighbors when I'm in a funk! Still, I found myself dragging a little bit on Wednesday and asking one of my least favorite questions to leave unanswered, "What's for dinner?"

I noticed 3 neglected sweet potatoes in the pantry and decided to make sweet potato fries. I didn't really have anything to go with them, so in a few minutes I found myself turning to my husband and asking how he felt about PB&J and sweet potato fries for dinner. Fortunately, I'm married to a very laid back guy who was actually enthusiastic about this plan. So I chopped up one for fries and baked the other two.

It was about this time I realized I had no plan for breakfast in the morning. I've been trying to feed us a warm breakfast each day. It doesn't always happen, but I love starting our day that way when we can. I remembered a sweet potato muffin recipe our friend Melissa had passed along to us and decided to try it. Here's the link: Whole Grain Sweet Potato Muffins

Not only did Caleb give them his enthusiastic approval, I really like them too. David says the texture is weird to him so he's been letting Caleb and I have the bulk. I omitted the dried fruit which would have probably put a more "grown up" spin on them. They are very easy to make and will definitely be a repeat recipe around here!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Caleb: 14 Months

I'm in such awe of this little person God has blessed us with. The pace at which he is changing still catches me by surprise. A month ago, he started walking, now he is trying to run everywhere! The adorable way he pokes out his belly and sticks his arms out to his sides always makes me smile.

This month, he went from only being able to put the circle in his shapes puzzle, to being able to do them all (most of the time).

David has taught him how to give hugs and I seem to have taught him how to give kisses. We've even gone several days without being bitten! The times where he stops playing to flop into our laps and snuggle close are the most precious of all.

This has been an absolutely wonderful month. Here's a list of a few of our favorite things to do during the day:

Around the House

Babyzilla Did you know I'm a part-time architect? It's true, I spend the better part of most afternoons building cities full of houses just waiting to meet their doom.

Out and In This works with almost everything and Caleb usually begins it completely spontaneously. First he dumps everything out of a (cabinet, box, container, etc.) and then he puts about 3 things back in. Ta-da!

Lid on, Lid off This game is the frustrating older brother of "Out and In". Caleb finds a top and bottom to a piece of tupperware and becomes obsessed with putting the lid on correctly and then taking it off again. Since his ambition outpaces his skills by a wide margin, this game usually requires lots of modeling and help from mommy and generally ends when the angry screams out number the giggles and mommy hides the offending container.

Ball Roll it, bounce it, throw it, hide it...Caleb loves it all! His collection now includes a basketball, a volleyball, a tennis ball, a ball with a bell inside, a ball with a light inside and the ever popular dryer ball.

Books These are still a favorite around here. He loves to turn pages and be read to. His favorites are books that rhyme. He has begun an unfortunate habit of bending the spines backwards...we're working on that...

Bubbles Who doesn't love trying to pop bubbles in the back yard?

Leaves and Sticks I have to watch him like a hawk because he tries to put everything in his mouth eventually, but he enjoys just crunching, tearing and looking at whatever is on the ground for quite a while.

Out and About

Library Caleb loves visiting the library and has recently begun having a mini tantrum when it's time to go (hey, at least it's a good reason!) Our library is so amazingly kid friendly. The baby books are shelved low and in no order. He loves pulling out and looking at books. There's also a bin full of toys to play with, puzzles, a play kitchen, bean bag chairs, and other kids. What could be better? We've really enjoyed checking out books on CD. So far we've done the Amelia Bedelia series and are now working on James Harriot's Treasury for children. It's enjoyable for me and him on those long afternoons!

Skating Rink We're blessed to have a roller rink that does toddler time every Wednesday. For $2, Caleb has an hour of fun pushing all sorts of fun riding toys, giant balls and pool noodles all over the rink. It's a great opportunity for him to socialize as well.

Farmer's Market Caleb has a bit of a fan club at the farmer's market. One of the little girls who comes with her mom will sometimes show him something interesting like a bouncing ball. Even just having an older child talk to him is such a treat to a one-year old. All the Mennonite ladies love to grab his "piggies". He seems to like it, but he's usually a little zoned out because it's right before morning nap time. Still, he gives our favorite farmer a big smile each week, which is priceless!

The Park Now that he's walking (and spending a little less time eating everything in sight) we've taken a few outings to various parks in our area. I'm quickly learning that our son is fearless! We took him to a splash pool and he ran straight in. Even when he fell face first into the water, or backwards (hitting his head on the cement) he just jumped up and kept going. On the play ground he is much more interested in throwing the mulch and dirt than the play equipment so he comes home nice and dirty.

He is such a treasure and even in the times he's licking the floor, testing the boundaries, having a fit because he doesn't know what he wants (or because I don't know what he wants), tossing his food on the floor or other wise acting like a one year old, I am so so so thankful that I get to be his mom!