Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Channing lately

I happened to get some new pictures of Channing the other night so he's up next. I still need to get some new ones of Dawson.

Well, gone are the days of my super laid-back, barely ever cries, and stays in one spot baby. When we're at home he cries. A lot. :( I had him all to myself on Bennett's first day of school when Jon took Dawson to an amusement park all day and we had the loveliest day together. I enjoyed him so much. Mostly because I could actually sit down with him and give him my full attention when he got fussy, rather than ignoring him while I'm doing three other things at once as he crawls after me, grasping at my pant legs.

Oh, and yes. You read that right. I said, crawls after me. He is 17 months old. He'll be 18 months on the 28th. And he's not even close to walking. Like, hasn't even taken one step. The Dr. said if he's not walking by 18 months they'll send a therapist over to evaluate him. Am I worried? Not really. Am I slightly annoyed and impatient? Yes. People always say, "Oh, but once he's walking, look out. Just enjoy it now while he's not so mobile." But that's so not true. Once babies can climb up and down stairs and stand up to reach into drawers and cupboards, that's when things get crazy. Walking means I don't have to carry him everywhere. Walking means we could go to a park or a field or anywhere outdoors without him scraping his little hands and knees through dirt and rocks and woodchips and rough cement and sand. Its gross. I can't even picture him doing it though. He definitely seems way younger than other babies his age because of it. Which I suppose is kinda nice. Prolonging this baby thing...
He sleeps great at night. He's usually in bed by 7:30pm. Some days he sleeps straight through til 8:30. Some days he wakes up around 6:45 and I give him a bottle (Yes, a bottle. Don't judge until you're on your last baby. And he still crawls and tricks you into thinking he's not even one yet.) and then he goes back to sleep til at least 9. He generally takes a nap every day around 12:30 for about two hours but twice already this week he completely refused it. Just cried in there forever until I went and got him up. And today he only slept for an hour. He dropped down to one nap at 10 months (my other two had two naps until 15 months) so I shouldn't really be surprised that soon he'll probably stop napping completely. Lord, help me.

I'm trying to figure out his personality. He was the sweetest baby who hardly ever fussed. But now he certainly has opinions. About a month ago he sprouted a temper. (Wow, right about the time Bennett grew an attitude. Fancy that. Lots of moody boys around this house.) He figured out how to scream when he's mad, usually relating to some food I'm not willing to give him, with clenched fists and everything. He hates having his diaper changed and yells and squirms unless I find him something to eat while I'm doing it. So I'm not sure if he'll end up laid back and sweet once he can communicate a bit better or if he'll end up spunky. Bennett was the easiest to parent at this age because he was speaking so early and because he had my undivided attention. It makes my heart ache to watch old videos of him and realize how simple and sweet (and relatively stress-free) life was then. Makes me wish I could raise one child up all the way and then start over with another one. But then of course we'd miss out on all that sweet sibling love. And we certainly wouldn't be forced down on our knees daily, crying out for strength and patience from a gracious God who's ready and waiting to provide it. And we'd keep on judging those mamas out and about who snap at their screaming children impatiently, at the end of their rope. Now I'm that mama. And when I'm out alone, I sorta want to give all those other mamas a hug and just say in solidarity, "I understand your frustration. I'm right there with ya. And I'm not going to tell you to enjoy every moment because it goes so fast. Cause there are a lot of moments that just aren't that enjoyable. You'll make it til bedtime. I promise. It might not be pretty. But you'll make it."

Other notables-

  • His vocabulary started exploding the last few weeks. He's catching on to different sounds more quickly now. He'll say 4 or 5 animal sounds, 'mama', GG (his great-grandma), 'ball', 'baby', 'bebe' for blankie, 'book', 'down', 'more', 'uh oh', 'hi', 'wow', he's been signing 'please' for a couple weeks and said the word today...I'm sure there are a few others I can't think of. He's currently sitting at my feet pretending to talk into a calculator like it's a cell phone. And it just dawned on me that phones look a lot like calculators now. Funny. 
  • He's now obsessed with books and loves to be read to and spends a lot of time looking at them by himself.
  • He gets super excited when he sees dogs outside and any other picture of any animal. The other day in our backyard, he waved at every single car that drove past and every dog that walked by.
  • He's an expert mess-maker. Just like his older brothers, his favorite activity is unloading the contents of a cupboard or drawer. Actually, Channing's more of a rearranger. Bennett and Dawson would throw everything out. Channing's always moving things from one little spot to another. Mommy's bathroom has been a favorite with all three of them. 
  • We figured out he has a wheat allergy. He's had the worst eczema of any of my boys. Bennett's and Dawson's cleared up immediately when we eliminated dairy but Channing's didn't. This summer, the tops of his feet were constantly scabbed over and bleeding from the irritation of all that crawling. He also had pretty bad diarrhea every day. When I finally got the nerve to cut out wheat (the boy wanted to eat bread and crackers all day long), his eczema cleared up and his poop went back to normal. This would have been a lot more intimidating but I've been on a gluten sensitive diet for at least a year now (for my complexion, energy level and I don't have sensitive, blood-shot eyes all the time anymore) so thankfully I'm sorta used to it. It'll be weird once he starts preschool to make other people work around it. Hopefully he'll start outgrowing it by then. We'll see. 
  • He still sleeps with his little blankie and sucks his thumb at night. 
  • He is such a mama's boy but thankfully he'll let me leave him with Nana and Poppy or a babysitter. He just wants to be with me if he sees me. When I pick him up from church nursery, he usually bursts into tears and starts to crawl towards the door so fast and furiously, as if I'd left him with complete strangers for days on end. 

Here's a video I took a couple of days ago. He wasn't even saying mama consistently then so it surprised me when he said it. (And yes, I'm aware that his doggy noise sounds more like a monkey. I think he has a chihuahua in mind when he makes it.) Also, forgive the awful lighting. I don't have a reversible camera on my phone so I was recording it blindly. I wish you could watch Channing watching it. He's watched it 20 times since I recorded it and its hilarious to hear him say all the words right along with the recording.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bennett lately

Last year...
This year....

What? No! He barely changed at all! I have no idea what you're talking about. (*sigh*)

Its painful trying to get a natural smile out of this boy lately. Every time Jon would make him laugh he'd bend over. 
 Sheesh. He looks 12 here.

We had his "meet the teacher" time the day before. When we walked into his new classroom, he had his arms around me and was hiding behind me a little bit. That was the only time I got a little choked up. It was so nice to feel like he really needed his mama still. But as soon as he saw all the familiar names on his class list, he warmed up right away.
I wrote about sending him off to Kindergarten here. I am SO thankful we have that behind us. This year was about 1000 times easier. I was definitely sad to see him go back since he wasn't too excited about it. But I know he'll be just fine. I now know that he can take care of himself at lunch. And no, he doesn't always get his mouth wiped off but that's ok. And he's such a friendly kid, nobody's picking on him....yet. I know he'll tell me if something happened at school that upset him or made him uncomfortable....if I lay down with him at night and ask him. And some day I hope to hear about him sticking up for some other kid being picked on.

They do pretty well out there without us, mamas.

Some other updates about my oldest:

  • When he turned 6, he grew an attitude. He's really good at huffing and puffing and being disgruntled about things. Its not a pretty picture we're painting for the teenage years.
  • Jon's working with him on tying his shoes. He likes things that come easy for him and doesn't like things that don't. So we're taking it slow. He still can't ride a two-wheeler but that's mostly our fault since we don't get it out much. (Our driveway and street are pretty sloped so we have to go with him down the block to ride it.)
  • We've gone on a video game fast with him (iPad, smartphones, etc.). The boy is addicted and often copped some serious attitude (or completely blew a fuse) when we told him it was time to turn it off. So for the time being, his only "screen time" is TV. Not sure when we'll reinstate the iPad but life's more peaceful without it. Maybe we'll save it just for car trips.
  • He loves reading chapter books with me at night (I read to him and every now and then will make him read a page). We've read through quite a few together. We started Wayside School is Falling Down last night and he loves it. I think these are going to be a favorite. 
  • The boy is still fearless. He loves to see how high he can climb anything. But if there's not some serious adventure involved, he'd rather be inside. 
  • He does, however, play outside with the neighbor kids constantly. There are usually 5 or 6 of them that end up on our trampoline every single night. They have so many made up games and stories. I hope we always have the house that all of his friends want to congregate at :) 
  • He's always sort of been in his own little world. He's an internal thinker and processor and absolutely an introvert. He's extremely forgetful and quite sloppy. He wears his meal on his shirt every time. He only cleans when he's highly motivated to so I've gotten better at making sure they clean up before dinner or TV time so it doesn't get completely neglected. 
  • However, when there's a job to be done for someone else, he can be such a hard worker. Jon's taken him along a couple different times when he had to go help someone move or clean something up and Bennett won't stop working the whole time. 
  • He still has the tendency to destroy things constantly. He can't sit on the couch without knocking all the pillows off. He takes pillowcases off his pillows before he falls asleep at night. He knocks things off tables just for the heck of it. When he was younger, every time he'd walk past the hand towel in the kitchen, he'd throw it on the floor. He breaks things in half or tears things up without thinking twice. Thankfully he at least knows not to tear or break valuables now. Most of the time. This has to be the most frustrating and mind-boggling aspect of raising a boy.
  • He has such an intense bond with Channing. He absolutely adores him. He was so sad to go to school last Friday because Channing hadn't woken up yet. Every single morning that I bring him downstairs, Bennett yells his name and runs over to hug and kiss him. (And Dawson follows suit so we get mauled.) He plays with him and reads to him constantly. 
  • He's such a bright kid, and at the risk of sounding like "that mom", I often worry that a public school can't challenge him enough or meet him where he's at. He'll start some extended learning for a couple hours each week at school this year but its hard to know if that's enough. I know a blogger who's son is in a French Immersion school in Kansas City. I wish we had options like that here. I'm open to homeschooling down the road but not yet. It would be a total disservice to my children to homeschool right now. There's only so much I can handle as a mom and that is certainly beyond it. If you're a parent of a gifted child and have any advice, throw it my way! 
  • For the last year or so, every time all five of us are in the same room, he'll comment that "our whole family is here!". I love that he loves to be together. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

our trip to "AZ" (warning: long post)

So last I left off here, I was getting ready for our trip to Arizona. Jon told me months ago (like...around end of April, maybe?) that we got asked to go to Arizona for his work. Last year we went to OKC on a work trip. He had to give some seminars and our (very nice) hotel and food was provided. I thought it was pretty weird that they asked him to go to AZ this year (since he sells to Edward Jones agents in SW Iowa and Kansas) but I generally take people at their word without any question. Yeah...you can say I'm gullible.
We left Iowa around 7:30am on Tuesday, July 30th. We decided to drive straight through on the way there to save time. My in-laws were watching Channing for the week so we had to keep the travel time brief. I offered to drive a couple of times but Jon said he didn't need me to. He pulled over once around 1:30am and slept for half an hour. I had only gotten about 5 hrs of sleep the night before at best, getting everything ready, so I was exhausted. I can't fight through it when I'm driving so I wouldn't have been much help anyway. I slept (if you can call it that....I think I got one hour-long stretch and the rest was 20 or 30 minutes at a time) and the boys and I woke up for good around 5:30am. I was transfixed on the sunrise over the "Arizona" mountains to my left and was trying to take a picture but couldn't get a good one. I saw one sign for San Bernardino National Forest or something and one for Sun City Storage but I thought there could easily be those places in Arizona. I almost texted my best friend joking that I was in her town (she lives in Menifee, formally Sun City.) I had my nose in my phone and didn't see any other signs.
We pulled into a neighborhood around 6:30am and I thought, this is weird. There's not going to be a big resort in a place like this. Jon and I were both making comments that this didn't seem right. He kept driving, looking at the GPS and looking at the street signs and house numbers. We were both confused and he was saying the GPS must be wrong. We stopped in front of a house and he started looking something up on his phone. I looked around and all of a sudden noticed all the license plates. They said California. It was seriously like a twilight zone moment. I said it out loud to Jon and I can't even remember what he said. He was just as shocked. I seriously thought Jon somehow missed a highway and he accidentally drove us to California. I pictured us turning around and backtracking several hours. I felt almost sick to my stomach.

Just then, someone is walking down the driveway to my left and my brain is telling me one thing and my eyes are telling me another. Its my best friend, Candy. I sat there in utter silence for several minutes with a blank expression on my face while she has a huge grin on hers. I didn't know what to do or say. Jon completely tricked me. The entire Arizona trip was a cover. We were just there to stay the week with Candy! That has to be some kind of record for the greatest trick anyone has ever pulled. I mean, he deserves an Oscar for all of that acting. Jon LOVES to surprise me. He's constantly concealing information or trying to surprise me with stuff but most of the time I either suggest we do the very thing he was going to surprise me with or guess it before it happens. He rarely pulls off a big one. Well, he was absolutely successful and he was so proud of himself!! It took me several minutes to recover (and wrap my mind around the fact that there was no trip to Arizona) but I was thrilled we would have a week with almost our whole families together! He knew the only way he could pull it off is if he drove straight through and he hoped I'd sleep until we got there. He was also too afraid to let me drive in case I saw the destination on the GPS.

The last few times Candy and I have seen each other have been with no kids (this one was a surprise too! & in 2011) or with just her oldest daughter, Ava (2010 2012). I had never even met her five year old son, Ricky, or her 11 month old baby, Roman! We packed the kids together in my van and headed off to breakfast at IHOP and left Jon at her house to take a nap.
That afternoon at a park was a hit when the ice cream truck showed up:

So Roman is the easiest baby I've ever been around. I'm wracking my brain trying to remember if I heard him cry once all week. Nope. He didn't. He melted us all with his blue eyes and giant grin where he shows all his teeth at once. He wears the windblown look pretty darn good:

The next morning we planned on going to an aquatic center but when we left Candy's house at 9:30, it was barely over 70 degrees! The weather was unbelievable out there. Amazing how cool it got at night. And it never got too hot the whole time we were there. It was far too cold to swim right away so we stopped and hiked around this boulder field that was really close to her house. Jon and I agreed this was our favorite part of the week. I'd much rather be out in nature where my kids are free to explore than anything else. It makes us all so darn happy.
The lichen on the dead branches was beautiful.
Jon spotted some animal bones. Candy's husband figured they were probably a baby coyote. Bennett thought Tasmanian Devil. We'll go with that.
Candy's kids call this Eagle McGeagle rock. So every time we drove past it for the rest of the week, they yelled out "Eagle McGeagle!"
Ava and Bennett get along amazingly well. They absolutely adore each other and play off of each other's strengths and weaknesses wonderfully. They were off together making up stories about being orphans and setting up their home with random pieces of wood they found. See how hazy it is in the background? It was so beautiful. It stayed really cool until the sun burned through that haze and then it immediately warmed up.
 I think this one's my favorite from this day:
 Stop being so dang cute, you two. Seriously.

 Can you spot those little explorers?
 Boys paradise:
 I love these next two, both unedited:
Jon joked about camping out under this rock but of course they all believed him and were seriously disappointed when they realized he was kidding:
 Awkward senior picture pose, anyone??
After the aquatic center, we drove to Riverside to hunt down Casey's cupcakes. Candy had a gift certificate and we were more than happy to help her use it. We wandered around the block where the 100 year old Mission Inn was located and I drove my husband nuts by snapping pictures nonstop. I mean....could you help yourself at a place this beautiful?? I'm sure there have been a few thousand couples snapped in this doorway on their wedding day.

 This boy's got the pouty lip down pat:
 I asked them to hold hands here for a picture and they didn't let go until we reached the cupcake shop:
 Decisions, decisions....
I sincerely apologize if you follow me on Instagram and I'm torturing you with this picture again. Really, truly, I am. (And yes....they were every bit as good as they look. I just wished I could have had a sample of every one in the shop.) I had coconut on the top left, Candy had orange creamsicle and Jon had red velvet.
Ava didn't care what flavor it was....as long as it was PINK!! 
Candy and I left Jon with the zoo and ran across the street to quickly browse through an antique shop and get our first Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It was goo-oood. (phone pic)
When we left them, the kiddos were dipping their feet in this fountain. It wasn't a shock to come back to this: 
The next day we went on a HOT hike at the Santa Rosa Plateau. Evidently in the spring its a marsh. But it was dry as a desert while we were there. (Oh wait...it is a desert.) Forgot my camera on this outing so these are just phone pics.
 We had the most fun under this giant shade tree. We played and climbed under here on our way out and our way back.
 The kids were being whiny so we cut it pretty short.
This was the next day, at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. This is a terrible picture (didn't bring my real camera in) but we watched a little show about dinosaurs and that T-Rex was a huge puppet! Someone was inside operating it and it was really amazing. That's the back of Bennett and Ava's heads. Since they were in the front row, they were the only kids who got to interact with the actors during the show and Ava got to go up there when they asked for a volunteer. They were so excited and Bennett would yell out and warn Ava when the T-Rex got too close.
I took this picture because as soon as we walked into this room Bennett said, "Dad! Look at all these ducks we can shoot!" (Tiffany, you're not the only one who's boys want to shoot all the animals they see!)

I kind of want to smack whoever thought it would be a great idea to have touch screen computers in front of all the exhibits. If you asked Bennett what his favorite thing was at the museum he said, "that video game where I got to move the animals around!" S e r i o u s l y...
Our last day there was Ava's birthday. We drove out to Candy's brothers' house in Costa Mesa and went to Huntington Beach. I was sorta obsessed with their avocado tree and all the fruit trees behind their fence. (phone pic)

 Isn't the color combination in this picture beautiful?
 A pomegranate tree! These two were both behind their fence.
 I was dreaming about bowls full of guacamole...
 The beach!
The water was freezing and the air was pretty chilly too. I actually kept a lightweight hoodie on the whole time we were there and was still chilly. But kids are somehow immune to cold temperatures and they had a blast.
This is the last picture I took before my camera died (and I thought our charger was at home in Iowa. I found out about two days after our trip that it was in the camera bag the whole time. Grrrr....)
Candy's cousin and younger brother, Jonathan, took Jon out surfing for his first time. It wasn't great conditions so he only got up to his knees but you know I took the chance to brag about the first time I tried surfing, (also with Jonathan) and made it up to my feet ;) I know I can't officially claim to be better than him until we go together sometime under the same conditions. But I'll rub it in while I can. He's good at everything.
I saw this painting hanging up in Mark and Jonathan's garage and fell in love with everything about it. I asked Jonathan about it and he said he found it by someone's trash can on the side of the road!! Talk about one man's trash is another man's treasure! I joked with him about selling it me and showed it to Jon and told him how much I loved it. Well, unbeknownst to me, Jon talked Jonathan into selling it to us and put it in our van without me seeing it. I saw it when we got back to our hotel that night and was so shocked and excited! I can't wait to hang up a piece of California in our house. 

I think I'm going to leave the frame as is. It's nice and rustic looking. But let me know if you think something else would look better. I also love the crackled paint. It's so perfectly imperfect.
We left first thing the next morning (on Monday) and took two days coming home. We considered the Grand Canyon but decided to stop at Arches National Park in Utah instead. It was a 10 hr drive from where we were in California. I'm so glad we drove that way. Utah is utterly amazing to drive through. I wanted to stop at every scenic lookout and take it all in but we were trying hard to make it to Arches before nightfall. I snapped this picture really quickly of this train riding through the desert. I loved the colors and the lettering. Seriously...the photographer in me was dying that I couldn't photograph every bit of it. But alas, my camera was dead anyway. SO heartbreaking. 
  We made it into Arches as the sun was quickly dropping.
 Last golden light on top of the ridge
  We did one hike around Balancing Rock until the sun was down.
 My boys are never out at sunset so it was fun to play with silhouettes for the first time.

And this was our lunch pitstop the next day in Colorado. A gas station with views like this?? Not in Iowa, that's for sure. I always wish the creeks we play in at home looked like this instead of broken pieces of concrete and muddy water.
Dawson picked this daisy for me and in his serious little voice said, "Happy Valentine's Day, Mom". Oh, that boy. His love runs deep.
So that was our trip! Completely exhausting, but well worth the memories and time spent together. It was nice for Jon and Candy's husband, Richard, to get to know each other better. The sweetest thing was how much Bennett and Dawson talked about Channing. I'm not even kidding when I say they missed him more than I did. It was so cute how much they wanted to snuggle baby Roman. He was a good substitute for the week. Channing did so well at Nana's house (better for her than he is at home lately!) It's always so comforting to know my boys feel just as at home over there. 
Back to the grind this week and nearly back to school!! It's so bittersweet. Exciting to think about a calmer routine but that also means the end of summer and my heart can hardly take it. I'll hold on as long as I can.