Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Caleb: 19 Months

I think I already covered my "welcome" to 19-months in my post about the best and worst of times : ) Besides a growing sense of independence (also known as stubbornness) there has been a lot to love about this month.

Caleb is very much becoming my little helper. Anytime I can find a way to involve him in helping out around the house his face lights up with delight. It's as if he can think of no joy greater than bringing me the dishtowel so I can dry his bib or moving the laundry from the basket to the couch for me to fold. I am, of course, enchanted by this behavior and find my eyes misting up as I watch these seeds of independence grow.

My little helper also loves to give hugs and to share, especially with small babies. He recently tried to feed my bestfriend's 4 month old a cherrio in nursery. With kids his own age...hmm, not so much. While he plays nicely for the most part, they better not try to share his mommy or daddy's attention. My lap has an occupancy rating of one according to Caleb. Still, it is sweet to see the affection he pours out over our friend's babies and definitely makes me yearn to give him a little brother or sister even more!

Another adorable new development this month is his growing engagement in story time. He loves his animal books and is now starting to make other animal sounds besides "Moo". He does a great chicken impression (boc boc!!!), but his cock-a-doodle-do is the most endearing thing ever. "What does a rooster say Caleb?" "DOE-dee-DOE-DOE-DOE!!!!" Love it! Even if he doesn't know what an animal says, he will make up a sound and say it so enthusiastically it's impossible not to laugh.

Books with numbers and counting are also getting some special attention. He loves pretending to count the items on the page by touching each object 5 or 6 times. It doesn't sound that exciting on paper, but it's sooo cute to watch.

Caleb's love of all things round continues and "ball" is still his favorite word. A ball is anything circular so our daily conversations go something like this:

Caleb: "Ball?" (pointing to clock)
Mommy: "Clock"
Caleb: "BALL!!!"
Mommy: *shrug*

Rinse and repeat. Lol. He'll get it eventually : )

Last, but not least, we finally had our 18-month well baby visit this month. He's grown a whopping 1.5 inches in 4 months, keeping him in the 50th percentile. I forgot to ask what he weighed last time, but at 23lbs, 10oz he is holding steady at the 20th percentile still. I'm thankful because he definitely dropped about a pound due to the prolific number of stomach bugs our family has attracted over the past 3 months.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this month:

Jungle animals are taking center stage at our house this month

Caleb in his "tiger" outfit

Spending some quality time with his BFF, giraffe

Pretending to be an elephant. I may or may not have started this when I convinced him that elephants wear socks...and if he wants to be an elephant, he has to wear socks too...

My little tiger on his slide. I love that he can burn so much energy indoors and that it brings him so much delight!

On Giving Thanks

Did you guys see all the "Thankful November" status updates on facebook? I loved reading them. One, however, made my stomach sink a little every time I read it.

I'm thankful for my health

Over the past few months, my doctors have been able to rule out just about everything that could possibly be giving me the horrible pelvic and abdominal pain I've been in for almost 2 years. Which has left us with the dual diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Accute Myofacial Pain Syndrome.

Unpacked, those terms basically mean that I have a hypersensitized central nervous system that causes me to feel pain from everyday stimuli. My husbands hug and my son's snuggle bring me both joy and pain. The fibro is an all over ache that you can find quite easily by gently squeezing any of my muscles. The myofascial pain manifests itself in knots of hyper-tender points throughout my abdomen that cause me constant pain (and are what sent me to the doctor in the first place).

Myofascial pain syndrome isn't recognized by a lot of doctors. In fact, I probably would have said it sounded like a fake disease myself, until I became the one whose life was being turned upside down by it and no other plausible explanation can be found. The great news is, it's not fatal and there is a wonderful pain clinic in DC where I'm receiving treatment under a neurologist and physical therapist for a disease most doctors don't even know about.

Coming to grips with this diagnosis has been my battle these past few months. At first I went back and forth between self pity and rationalizing why "it's not so bad". I struggled with seeing so many healthy 25 year old friends of mine who don't spend 1 day every 2 weeks getting poked with needles to help tense muscles release. However, I also have a 25 year old friend who has battled leukemia for several years and recently had to have both hips replaced because of a side effect from her treatment. Who am I to complain? I am thankful for my health.

Slowly, God convicted me that playing the "who has it worse/better than me" game is asking the wrong question. The answer is always "yes, someone does have life harder/easier than I do." The question God wants me to be concerned with is, "Am I willing to glorify and praise him in the circumstances I've been given?" Or, will I waste my life waiting for the way I thought he was going to use me to take place?

Life is not how we imagined it would be before we said "I do". After a day of running after our very active toddler, I struggle against crabbiness in the evenings. David does quite a bit of the housework in addition to being the bread winner. Sometimes I have to go lie down for an hour or two the pain gets so bad. Our house is often messy. Not just a little bit. We definitely never thought we'd be delaying having a second child or wondering if I'd ever be physically able to carry another. We don't answer phone calls, have people over for dinner or keep in touch with family as well as we should because we are so exhausted from trying to cope with the pain and it's effects on our family.

Watching our dreams being deferred month after month has been painful. Slowly though, we are learning to trust that God is offering us something better.

The catalyst for beginning to understand this was a sermon our friend, and church elder, preached about the Israelites coming out of Egypt. Apparently there were two roads to the promised land (check out Exodus 13:17-14:4). A nice, short, easy one and the way God actually took them, through a barren desert. Had they been given the choice, I'm sure the Israelites would have picked the short road. Wasn't God's plan for them the promised land? He'd said it himself.

However, although God had taken the Israelites out of Egypt, he still needed to take the love of Egypt out of their hearts so that they wouldn't be led astray once they reached their destination. Before marriage we had our eyes on the promised land of a large family and thriving marriage. We've found ourselves in the desert. And it's taken me about a year to realize it's not a mistake or a detour.

We're here because of the things we can only learn when all of our dreams seem to be crashing down around us. We're learning to love one another, not because it's easy, but because it's what we've been called to. I'm no longer the bouncy, joyful wife David used to come home to. Even when I'm able to avoid outright crankiness and harsh words, I tend to be more subdued. It hasn't stopped him from being the most amazing husband and father I could ever imagine. It's made me love him even more for all the responsibilities he has so willingly taken on. I'm learning to parent, not in my own strength and wisdom, but on my knees, because I know I am unable to meet my son's needs on my own. We're both learning to trust God to write our future, rather than dictate our dreams to him.

I am thankful. Not just for the level of health I do experience, but for this refining fire that has come into our lives and shaped us in ways we could never have imagined when our eyes were looking at the promised land. We are in the desert and our eyes are on God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It was the worst of times, Until it became the best of times

Remember that sweet, compliant 18 month old I wrote about? Yeah...that's not how 19 months is going. And definitely not how today was going.

Lately, everything is a power struggle. I know, I know, welcome to toddlerhood. It's not that I didn't see this coming, but now that it's here I'm wondering how we will both survive until age 3.

He wants to put his own shoes on, but he can't so he's upset. Mommy tries to help, which triggers fresh (piercing) screams of frustration. This scene replays as he tries to:

-Climb into the highchair
-Buckle the high chair
-Put together a puzzle
-Play with mega blocks
-Add a second pair of shoes to the shoes he's already wearing

He keeps signing eat, but doesn't want anything I feed him. Old favorites, new temptations, food served on a banana spoon, food off mommy's plate. None of my tricks are working these days. I wonder if he somehow knows he is getting a well baby check up tomorrow and is trying to drop any ounces he may have actually gained since the last one.

By one o'clock I'm gazing longingly at the clock counting down the minutes until David gets off work. By two o'clock I decide Mr. Cranky is taking a nap. Mommy needs him too. Which of course nap. I eat lunch anyway, take several deep breaths, and get him up after about an hour (he is mostly quiet during this time).

And that's when everything changes. Apparently refreshed by the solitude, he starts chatting with me, "nananana?" Sure son, anything you say with a smile. He actually eats a decent meal. Life is going great. And then it gets even better.

Caleb asks to look out the window. I pick him up and he starts saying "Bobobobobo" and laughing hysterically. I put my lips against his forehead and drag out the "BO" noise, ending it in a kiss. He thinks this is the best game ever and laughs and laughs. After several minutes, instead of saying "bobobo" back to me, he gets super still, says "Ma ma" in the sweetest little voice and hugs me. A big bear hug that lasted minutes and not seconds. Something my little ball of energy rarely slows down for.

Instantly it became the Best. Day. Ever. I love being a mom.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Caleb: 18 Months

18 months, otherwise known as when life begins to return to normal, or so I was told by one of my most encouraging mom friends. And, with 5 kids under age 8, she knows what she's talking about. Both she and her husband affirmed to David and I that life would seem a lot more similar to life "before baby" around 18 months. They were so right!

I think, at some point, every mom probably feels like their pre-baby self is gone forever. No matter how hard I worked to make David and I's marriage a high priority...mostly, I just wanted some extra sleep and to feel less overwhelmed. Over the past year-and-a-half, I've often wondered...will life ever go back to "normal" again? The answer, finally, is "Yes!" This past month has brought many new joys with Caleb and the return of more time for David and I to spend together.

Caleb is getting easier and easier to leave with a sitter, especially if they have kids of their own for him to play with. Caleb is able to understand most of what we tell him now, which means we can work on tasks as a family or even *gasp* sit next to one another on the couch as long as we can see Caleb : )He still loves to climb, put things in his mouth and do all the other toddler things that required us to be within 6 inches of him at all times, but now, he knows and (mostly) listens when we say things like "gentle", "sit", "put that down" or "no eat!".

Clearly, we're still working on "no climb"

As Caleb's understanding of the world grows, so does his self control. One of Caleb's favorite games is to shut David or I in his nursery and run into the living room to jump out and surprise us. He will wait almost indefinitely. In fact, thus far, we always break first! It's amazing to me that our 18 month old can be so still and silent while waiting to pounce.

Along the same lines, a source of pride for me this season has been Caleb's great Christmas tree etiquette. After a few days of reminding him not to yank the ornaments and praising him for pointing at them instead, Caleb is safe to be around any Christmas tree, which has been a huge blessing as we have traveled to hotels, homes without toddlers and other public places with Christmas trees laden with breakable ornaments. He is so quick to learn and eager to please!

Caleb brought more even more joy to the Christmas season than I could have imagined. Seeing him begin to understand that "the star" and "the angels" on the tree all have something to do with the tiny baby in the nativity has been so powerful.

There have been so many moments to treasure. The way he asked for Christmas carols to be turned on every morning and reminded me to put a new CD in whenever the music stopped. The look on his face as he ate his first Christmas cookie, and second, and third...

This month we also had the pleasure of spending a week in DC while David took a reverse engineering class nearby. Our hotel was 2 metro stops from both the National Zoo and the National Mall. Caleb and I had a blast strollering all around DC and I felt super-buff when a scale at the zoo informed me that stroller, baby and diaper bag combined added up to a whopping 50lbs.

Caleb at the national mall. Did I mention the highs were in the 40's during our stay?

Caleb and I in front of the Christmas tree at the Smithsonian

Invesitgating rocks at the Smithsonian with his buddy Christopher

Completely conked out at the Metro station

Caleb has also discovered the joy of hugging his friends this month. Unfortunately, not all of his friends appreciate his affection : )

Giving his DC travel buddy Christopher some love

Caleb added a new word to his vocabulary this month, for his very favorite food, "Broc!" (broccoli). For reasons beyond our comprehension, the green leafy veggie is the one thing I can always count on him to slurp down like it's chocolate. Well, besides Christmas cookies, of course.

Caleb is such a joy to us and we feel so blessed to be his parents. David is especially enjoying being the "favorite" parent at the moment. Caleb loooves his daddy and stays firmly attached to David's hip when he's at home. I love watching their relationship grow each day and seeing Caleb's face light up whenever he can do something "just like daddy".

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Thanksgiving 2011- Part II

Since we celebrated our extended family Thanksgiving early, David and I thought it would be fun to try having our own little celebration for the first time on the actual day. Well mostly, David thought it would be fun and I was really intimidated by the whole idea, but enthusiasm is catching and soon I found myself in full menu planning mode.

Our biggest hurdle in planning the meal was our teeny Euro-sized oven. Imagine two toaster ovens stacked on top of one another. I knew ONLY the turkey would fit, and a small bird at that. After picking out my 12lb bird, I began planning my battle strategy menu around how much I could reasonably cook in the oven and still serve everything warm.

After some feedback from David, we settled on the big bird, sweet potato casserole (to bake while the turkey rested), stuffing cooked in the crockpot, fruit salad (a specialty of his moms) and cranberry sauce (from a can). We focused mostly on favorite dishes from his family since we'd just gotten to eat my childhood favorites a few weeks before. I also opted not to make dessert this year since it would keep things even more simple and we'd be too full to eat it after sharing a feast like that between just two people!

To make life easier, David and I prepped everything we could the night before. While David single-handedly washed and chopped all the fruit for fruit salad, I whipped up the sweet potato casserole and placed it in in it's pan in the fridge and chopped and measured the ingredients for the crock pot stuffing to be dumped in after our morning coffee. We decided not to set an alarm and Caleb surprised us by letting us sleep until 8am. Perfect start.

The big bird- Before

After the turkey was popped in the oven and the crock pot was simmering we decided to let Caleb watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. He was totally entranced for about 20 minutes, especially by the Sesame Street float (he gets to watch Elmo when I cut his nails). After that, he resumed typical Caleb all-go-no-stop mode and we ended up just turning it off after about an hour, but it was fun while it lasted!

Totatally enchanted to see big bird on the big screen

Lunch was ready around 1pm and, much to my surprise, it all turned out wonderfully. The crockpot stuffing turned brown and crisp at the edges and stayed moist in the center, the turkey absorbed the flavor of the herbed butter I rubbed all over it and actually cooked more quickly than expected, the sweet potatoes didn't suffer for having to substitute large marshmallows in place of the usual small ones. Things went almost perfectly. Almost.

No Thanksgiving would be complete without a moment of total panic on the part of the chef, right? Rewind to Weds night. Before we chopped and prepped anything, I unwrapped the turkey...and the smell of eggs filled the air. It wasn't terrible, but it just didn't smell right. I was sure we had a bad bird. However, after scouring the internet and consulting my mom I was assured that if the poultry was truly bad, not only I, but the neighbors, would know about it too. It would be that bad.

So, despite my trepidation, I sprinkled it inside and out with salt and left it to "dry brine" in the fridge overnight. In the morning, it smelled perfectly normal (just as my mom predicted...and of course, moms are always right). Apparently birds can acquire strange smells from being trapped in the plastic wrap. Crisis averted.

Big Bird- After

I set the table with china from my Grandparents, David arranged the centerpeice and Caleb even joined us in his high chair. It felt a little surreal to be the one in charge at Thanksgiving, yet another milestone into adulthood. It felt even more surreal when I realized that last Thanksgiving my little turkey hadn't even taken his first bite of rice cereal yet, but now was devouring his own plate full of food from the meal.

Table Before

Table After

Table After After

After Caleb was settled in for the night our friend Denise came over with her brother and we played a game of Dominion, one of our new favorites. Denise also brought over a pan of Bailey's Brownies for dessert which we all somehow found room for before the night was over.


It was a wonderful day that made me thankful for the families that have prepared us for adulthood and our friends who share these special moments with us when our families aren't able to. We are so blessed.