Sunday, March 28, 2010

For the record...

...the kitchen is spotless (for now) and I am headed to bed. This small miracle was made possible by the help of J, trusty husband and dish washing champ.

New art space

The kitchen needs some serious attention tonight but I am avoiding it through blogging. As soon as I write this post I am off to clean dishes and scrub the floor, I promise. I figure blogging is for a good cause, right? Saving memories? Maybe telling a few people about a fun thing you can do with your kids? Helping remind myself of fun ideas for future brown trout babies?

Today we set up an art table for H. In keeping with the Montessori method I tried to keep the space simple so as to not overwhelm H. The idea is if you give a young child too much, i.e. 50 crayons, they won't be able to focus because the choice of colors are too overwhelming. So, I found a little box that I have had for at least a decade and placed in on his art table. Inside there are three crayons, purple, orange, and green. (I can be very OCD with these things, so I will rotate out the colors initially in groups of primary, secondary, or tertiary colors to help H begin to organize information (colors) in meaningful groupings.) Also, on the table is a pad of sketch paper from my art days long gone.

Once the table was set up, I showed H how to take out a crayon, draw on the paper, and then put the crayon back in the box. He was thrilled and spent the next ten minutes taking the crayons in and out of the box. It was only at the end of the ten minutes that he made some marks on the paper.

Now the challenge will be switching out the art materials every couple of weeks. Ideally, I will have a few different art activities for H and I will rotate them out so that he does not get bored. Now I just need to come up with a few more art activities...

We helped H right the box of crayons after his excitement in the video
and then he was ready to make some marks on the page.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

All smiles...

No matter what I am feeling or how my day is going, H's smiles melt my heart. His joy and happiness are just so pure and sincere. That is one thing that I love (and miss) about working in a classroom, experiencing the sincerity of emotion in young children every day.


This week H went from crawling around home to walking around home. In fact, it has been just over the past few days that we have seen the transition from one to the other. At the beginning of the week it H would take a few steps and then sit down and now he prefers to walk around and crawl occasionally. Just another milestone in the life of H.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


For a while now H has playing with the sounds "dada" and "mama" when referrring to J and I. It is really sweet to here him babbling "mamamama" as he searches for me at home. But, I am not sure if "dada" and "mama" count as first words because he is still not consistent in his usage. So, more on this front later.

About a month ago H started nodding "yes" and "no" in response to certain questions (all pertaining to food, of course). This was very exciting to us on a number of levels. Most exciting was the idea that we were at the beginning of having to guess less with H. The head nodding eventually had sounds associated with it and now we are at the point that H will answers questions with the word "more" and "done" and is consistently repeating sounds that we make when we ask him questions, i.e. "Are you ready to get out of the car?" Response: "Dedy." It really sounds like the word "ready"! (I know that I sound like a gushing new parent when I say this, but I have decided to embrace it as opposed to worrying about looking "cool".)

So, as we look back on the last few weeks I guess this means that H's first word was "more", which is generally pronounced as a breathy "mawh". It is so cute to ask him if he wants more food and have him pause, look intently at the food, and say, "mawh". If he doesn't want more of a particular food he will shake his head "no". I am excited for H to start using more words outside of the context of food but for now the whole thing is pretty amazing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Moment in Review

Year Moment in Review

At 3:15am, Hendrick was at the gate, whimpering. I sat up, slipped out of bed, and headed to his room to help him back to sleep. I put my hands beneath his arms and lifted him up to my chest, right hand beneath his bottom, left on his back and neck. We went over to his bed. I knelt down, rotated him counter-clockwise till his back was upon the bed, and covered him with his softest blanket. But the unhappy cries did not cease. Even as I was stepping over the gate, I knew he was after my heels.

Once out, in our bedroom, I went for the bathroom to give Hendrick a few minutes to figure out that he would rather get back into bed on his own than stand at the gate crying (at some point I am confident he will come to this conclusion, too). Admittedly, this break was also intended to relax myself in every way possible—to give myself the best shot at patient parenting at that challenging hour. When I returned, I walked in again to place him back in bed, trying to balance warmth, comfort, and reassurance with a sure firmness that it was time to sleep. I laid him back down and again made an exit. Hendrick indignantly got back up and headed for the gate.

At this point, I realized I had missed a key step in my own patented, ideal, early-morning Hendrick protocol: 1) put Hendrick back to bed; if no effect, 2) CHANGE DIAPER; if no effect, 3) comfort and/or put Hendrick back to bed, depending on circumstances; if absolutely desperate, 4) send in big guns: nursing time (but I prefer this only after 5am). Yes, I had forgot the diaper change. So I returned, removed a sopping wet diaper, which, when balled up, was the size of a small softball, and applied a dry one.

Hendrick was then really angry, face wet, breathing uneven. So I picked him up and walked him, back and forth, back and forth, across the open eight-foot stretch of floor in his room. I gently bounced him and shooshed him all the while. With the bounce, my shooshing sounded not unlike a rotating water sprinkler. Finally Hendrick settled down, laid his head on my chest, and tucked his hands under his belly. He was clearly ready. I placed him in bed and covered him up.

Three more trips to the gate later, I went in again and stepped over the gate and the little head cocked up at a 90-degree angle to watch me pass. I went over to his bed, made straight and pulled back his covers, and then patted the bed as I looked at him and said, “Come on, sweetie.” Hendrick crawled over and sat beside me. I placed him once more on the mattress, and he finally cuddled his favorite blanket warmly.

I entered our bedroom and sat on the couch, not knowing in the moment whether he was going to get up again. So I took the opportunity to do something I haven’t done in a very long time: close my eyes, sit, and just be. I let myself relax and just experience whatever was there to experience. I listened to myself breathe. I listened to Katrina breathe. I listened to Hendrick sigh. I listened to the refrigerator buzz. I listened to a train coming and going in the distance, its sound reaching for and then running away from me. I listened to a haunting wind blow in and out of the chimney. I listened to the outside hum that is the sound of nothing and everything all at once. I sat, just being, just experiencing, knowing that moment was only for a time and would never exist again. Moments move. They are born, grow, change, and pass.

I pondered my experience of Hendrick’s first year of life. I found myself thinking about how earlier in the day I had said to Hendrick, as if joking, “Don’t worry, Hen, I promise I’ll be a better Daddy in your second year,” knowing all the while that I didn’t intend it completely in jest, knowing that in my heart there was grief that I had let the first year with my baby pass so fast and had let so many opportunities to be a good Dad go by. This day I had to work, that day I was busy applying for more work. Meanwhile, Hendrick was becoming a new person everyday. Where did all the time go? So much of it was now lost, not to be recovered. Yes, I had to be a better Dad.

But joined for a moment with the moment, surrounded with the sound of nothing and everything, I knew that it was okay. I could do a better job; we all can. Yet I also understood that this was the way of it. This was what it meant to be a parent. They say the first year goes fast, because it does, and none of us are ready for it. And the rest of the experience of parenthood will no doubt prove the same. Every moment will be different. One of laughter. One of joy. One of disappointment. One of sorrow. One of pain. Every moment is special because it cannot be forever. All we can do is embrace it, feel it, and then let it go, sometimes with patience, sometimes with gratitude, sometimes willingly, even happily, sometimes only with visceral sadness and clinging reluctance. But however the moment comes and goes, we must know that movement is its very nature. And if anything, at least this recognition may allow us to be okay.

At 3:50am, okay, I slipped back into bed and found quiet sleep.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting rid of dead weight

So, every some number of years I get tired of long hair. I feel like it is just weighing me down. Like all of the history that goes along with that hair is too heavy and I need to get rid of it and start fresh. This past weekend was it. I haven't had a hair cut in about 18 months and now was the time.

My hair is now so short I can't even bobby pin it in the back. The cut is very similar to what I was sporting at the end of college and that is exactly what J said when I came home. For me, I am just happy to have my long hair gone and feel ready for a fresh start. A start to what I am not sure, but I am ready.

As for H, he gave me a big smile when I got home from my hair cut and enjoys touching the newfound hair. It used to always be up and now there are all these interesting tendrils to touch and pull on.

Rockin' it

H loves to dance. You give him a simple beat, even just clapping your hands, and he instantly starts grooving. I am sure a lot of this comes from the fact that there is a lot of music being played or sung at our home. And we love to dance and so H is just absorbing the family culture but it is so funny to watch. There are three distinct dance moves that are almost too much.

1. The Head Bop: When we have a CD on of particularly great tunes, his current favorite is "African Playground", H will begin bopping his head instantly. Sometimes he feels the need to really break it down and then he will grip the couch or table or whatever he is standing at, bow his head and just start boppin' his head to the beat. When the music stops he will look up, ready for the next beat.

2. The Squat: When H is really dancing it often involvs lots of deep squats. He will bounce up and down over and over and sometimes he feels the need to do a side-step and bounce, side-step bounce.

3. The Butt Wiggle: If H is crawling along and we start singing or put some music on he will stop crawling, extend his right leg and start wiggling his butt. Often this leads to the need to find something to stand up by so that he can really dance. But sometimes it will just be a pause in his crawling. He will break it out for a minute and then keep going to wherever he meant to go.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to you....

H turned one year old today! This concept is simply unbelievable! None-the-less we celebrated. After we all got home from our respective schools, I set to work at getting dinner ready for the small group of friends who were able to join us for H's first birthday. The apartment had already been decorated with some fabulous dollar store finds to make the atmosphere as festive as possible so all that was left was the food and celebration.

The evening was a glorious mess of food, playing, and laughter. H was a champ and ate his fill of Mediterranean cuisine. He dined on olives, tomotaoes, cucumber, hummus, pita, and falafel. I was really impressed that he ate it all. Then he got down and played with the two D's that were visiting. Our living room floor became an sea of blocks and other toys in one state of use or another.

The cupcakes were done just before H was ready for bed. Everyone sang happy birthday and H looked around beaming with happiness, swaying to the song. Somehow we thought that we would be able to put a cupcake in front of him, sing, and then not have him eat the cupcake. It became clear from the deeply concerned look on H's face when Jason went to remove the cupcake that we should just let him have it. It is his birthday afterall.

If it is possible to describe H's cupcake eating style as carefully messy then that is what you should imagine. He takes the cupcake and crams it into his mouth and uses both of his little hands to keep shoving more and more slowly into his mouth not letting a crumb escape, if he can help it. And his expression is super focused. You can just imagine him thinking, "This is so good and such a rare occurance that I am not letting it go, no matter what."

After all of the fun H went to bed happily. I laid him down and he rolled to his side waiting for his blanket to suck on as he difted off to sleep.

Looking back...

At this time last year, Hendrick was two hours old. We had just finished eighteen and a half hours of labor and were settling into our room at the hospital with this tiny, beautiful little baby who was perfect in every way. He was tired, we were tired, and the hugeness of our lives together was incomprehensible. It felt like time had stopped and we were going to be living in that moment forever. But of course time went on and we left the hospital a day later and went home to our apartment to began our life with H.

Those first few weeks were an emotional roller coaster. I would look at H and cry because he was so beautiful. I would look at H and cry because I was so tired. With the help of good friends and family we made it through the beginning of H's life surrounded by love, laughter, and support.

We figured out all sorts of interesting things this year, such as how far away from the computer to change a newborn, how loud a tiny human can be, how little sleep one really needs, and how to communicate again as a couple (with less sleep and a baby in the mix) among many other things.

There have been many moments that were far from perfect. There were days when I spent too much time preparing in the hopes that everything would run "perfectly" only to have it all implode. I learned how to adjust my expectations so that I was able to enjoy the imperfection of it all and lo and behold things began to feel easier.

This year has been full of wonderful moments. To be there to witness H as he discovered his hands, feet, us... has been a gift I will be forever grateful for. As a teacher I always felt lucky to be a part of the lives of my students and now I feel lucky to be a part of H's life. It is such a blessing to get to experience the wonder of each new discovery with a child. The shrieks of joy at each new moment. "Aha! Look at this! Isn't it fabulous!"

And as we close this first year of minutes, hours, and days, another one has already begun full of its own discoveries. I cannot wait to find out what we will discover about ourselves this year. What joys will we have? What struggles? What else will we get to learn about H? What other magic will we get to see? One thing is for certain, I will no doubt be surprised and humbled over and over as we keep ambling down this little dirt road that is our path.