Friday, July 31, 2009

You know, we say we're done, that we're happy with two, especially these two. But, as my mother-in-law said, "you guys make such cute kids...don't you ever wonder?"
Well, no. But she has a point.

I mean, look at them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sam at seven months. What can I say? He's a dream baby, the baby I always hoped I would get after Charlotte, to help balance out the things that made her babyhood stressful. In a word: sleep.

Sam sleeps well. And I cannot tell you what a huge difference that has made. I look back on some of the things I wrote when Charlotte was this age, and remember what it was like--the nightly stress of not knowing when she'd finally fall asleep, and then for how long. In addition to that stresser was the fact that Charlotte had to be fully, complete conked out asleep before we could lay her down in her crib and tiptoe ever-so-quietly out of her room. The bedtime routine for Charlotte was so long and involved that frequently it would take well over an hour to get her to sleep. And that routine would have to be repeated if she woke up, of course.
I now realize that the difficulty we had with Charlotte was likely only partially her own tendency to sleep poorly, and was probably compounded by the fact that we really didn't know what we were doing. We did things very differently with Sam, and it's helped--coupled with the fact that I think he's just, by nature, a better sleeper.

Sam naps twice a day, usually at least an hour-and-a-half each time. On occasion he's take a nap of less than an hour, but then the second nap of the day will be a long one, more like two or three hours. Sam sleeps through the night, and has been doing so for the last couple of weeks. We've had a night or two when he's woken up (once after he got his shots) and needed nursing to get back to sleep, but that's been the exception.

But the big HUGE thing is that Sam can be put down in his crib WIDE AWAKE and will go to sleep ALL BY HIMSELF. He'll usually make a little noise for some time (more than once it's taken him a half-hour to settle down) but that noise is generally not unpleasant...never full-out crying. This noise, however, will invariably stress me out, so that I typically have to go outside and check on my garden or something while he works himself to sleep. We put Sam to sleep usually between 6:30 and 7 p.m., and he sleeps until 5:30 or 6 a.m. (oh, what I wouldn't give for another half-hour on that morning end...but I'm not complaining!).

It's wonderful. I am a different woman than I was when Charlotte was this age. I am more relaxed, less high-strung, better rested. I can enjoy my time with the kids during the day, and get genuine work done in the evenings, because I know I can rely on my kids' schedules.

When Sam's not sleeping, he's so much fun to be around. He's started sitting unsupported for longer stretches of time, and only occasionally pitches forward onto his face, which I consider major progress. This weekend he really started rolling from back to front, to the point where if I put him down on his back, if he's not distracted by his delectable toes, he'll immediately flip onto his stomach. He's been rolling from front to back for a few weeks now, but hasn't really figured out yet that he could string the two motions together to get someplace.

Speaking of mobility, I noticed from Charlotte's baby book that she was crawling at this age--only backwards, but still. Sam hasn't yet made that move. He seems uninterested in getting onto his knees when he's in the stomach-down position. I know that frequently kids skip crawling altogether, and I wouldn't be surprised if Sam's one of those. Because he seems more interested in standing--he spends a lot of time in his exersaucer, kicking his fat little legs, and often likes to be held in a standing-up position.

He likes to make noise, particularly certain noises: high-pitched shrieks, coos, raspberries, "ah-boo" and "ah-mah" sounds. He has a throaty, gutteral laugh that is contagious, and he's ticklish under his arms, so it's easy to call the laugh forth.

He's taken to solid food like an absolute champ. He eats three times a day, and hasn't diminished his milk intake by much, so I'm sure his thighs and cheeks will hang around for a while. We've tried: sweet potatoes, winter squash, green beans, pears, applesauce, blueberry/apple, apricot/raspberry, banana, oatmeal, rice, and prunes, all with success. I'll be trying carrots and peas this week. It's fun to feed him, because he's almost always (unless he's overly tired) really excited to eat. He leans forward, opening his mouth eagerly like a little bird, lunging at the spoon.

I don't have updated height/weight info as we don't have an official doctor's appointment until he's nine months, but he's almost too big for most of the twelve months size clothing we have for him. In the above picture, he's wearing an eighteen-month t-shirt (one I bought thinking he'd wear it next spring and summer). I'm trying not to worry about all the twelve-to-eighteen month size clothing I bought him to wear in the fall and winter.

I will risk sounding cheesy and say that I am so happy to have this family. I love my kids, my husband, I love the dynamic we have when we're all together. I love that Charlotte draws pictures of us and has stories about our family already. I can't wait to do all sorts of fantastic things with these cool people.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You guys had some good suggestions, and I'll probably glean from them over the coming weeks. My summer class started today, which means my summer essentially ended. I'm on campus every afternoon for the next two weeks (well, M-F), and then we're off to Michigan for a week, and then my TA training starts, and then the maelstrom that will be my fall semester begins churning and spinning, with me inside. I feel like I'm in that first car of the roller coaster, chugging jerkily up the first big incline, getting ready for that teetering moment on the apex of the hill where you can see just how distant the ground has become, before momentum takes over and down we plunge. This next academic year is going to be one heck of a ride, but there's a reason I got in line for this coaster--I love the thrill. Have I stretched the metaphor too far? Maybe. But I do love what I do, and find academic work and teaching to be: stressful, insane-making, challenging, but yes, thrilling.

In other "news," I'm trying to become more fashionable. I usually find myself standing in front of my closet, surveying the contents with dismay and confusion. I mean, I don't understand where my good clothes go! I shop on occasion, I buy things that I think will look good, and then (inevitably) I get home and they have morphed into something unbecoming, frumpy, ill-fitting.

I have friends who always seem so stylish and put-together, professional and appropriate for every occasion. I have tried to study what they do that looks good, to potentially emulate in my own wardrobe. I've also started checking out a couple fashion blogs: Cardigan Empire and You Look Fab. These blogs each have advice based on your body type/shape. Typically this involves comparing yourself to fruit. Am I a pear? An apple? A banana? A (god forbid!) pineapple? Okay, I made that last one up. Anyway, I don't know what item of produce best describes me because I'm too chicken to pick up the measuring tape and find out. That's what having children does to you.

One thing I can do without measuring myself is learn to accessorize. I'm not good at this. I wear my wedding and engagement rings every day. Before cell phones took over the world, I used to wear a watch. At one time I wore little earrings, the same pair every day. In fact, I didn't take them out. Now I rarely wear earrings...if there's a wedding or special event I might play a fun game I like to call "Have my piercings grown over?" Sometimes there's blood! Woo!

But most of the time I haven't a clue how to accessorize. Purses? Bracelets? BELTS?! Nope.

So this weekend, Jeff and I and the kids headed out to The Legends near Kansas City to meet up with my aunt and uncle, cousin Amy and her husband John and their kids. I didn't really know what The Legends was (were?). Turns out, it's a big posh outdoor outlet mall place. It's very fancy, well-landscaped and lovely. After we had lunch, we all strolled around, admiring the fountains and hitting a few stores. I got a couple things for the kids, but I also bought something for myself, something that wasn't a college t-shirt or a plain colored tank top! I bought necklaces! Two of them!

Today I wore one to class*. When I came downstairs wearing it, Jeff started laughing at me. "Nice bling," he said, laughing and laughing. This, as you can imagine, didn't do much to help my confidence. In his defense, it is gold, and I never wear gold. I wore a gold necklace. Ugh, even typing that sounds gross. It wasn't like a gold CHAIN or anything. It's a longish necklace with little gold...uh, leafy things? Dangly bits? At intervals around the chain? I don't know. I'm bad at this. Anyway, I wore it, and I felt weird and awkward and conspicuous.

See, in reality, I would buy this necklace. That's the kind of stuff I gravitate toward: snarky, faux-hipstery geek stuff, like t-shirts with messages about grammar on them. Worn with the same two pairs of boring old blue jeans. Yawn.

But now I'm in my thirties, and I'm teaching students who pull off the whole hipster-college-student wardrobe thing much better than I do. I feel like I need to look professional, and polished, and not so much like my entire wardrobe consists of t-shirts and jeans, and that I'm secretly glad that I have to do laundry all the time due to Sam's cloth diapers because not only do I only wear t-shirts and jeans, I also only ever wear the same two or three t-shirts.

Wow, this post is long! And potentially boring! I promise to return soon with stories about Charlotte's crush on the keyboard player at our church, Sam's voracious eating habits, and Jeff's gigantic hair (I keep clipping coupons for local barber shops, but to no avail!).

*In addition to my clothing. I did not JUST wear the necklace. Even I know better than that.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I've lost it. And by "it," I mean, of course, any semblence of an interesting idea, one about which I might post on my blog.

So, I'm asking you: What do you want me to write about? Leave suggestions in the comments.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I've been longing to travel quite a bit lately. I've always loved traveling. Some of my fondest memories are the annual summer vacations my family would take when I was younger. We rarely went anywhere too far from Iowa, so our destinations were typically Midwestern cities like St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, or spots like the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, the Lake of the Ozarks region in Missouri, or the northern Minnesota shoreline of Lake Superior. We would always drive, and I would read in the back seat and inevitably begin to feel carsick. I remember staying in roadside motels, falling asleep to the dulcet tones of my parents' tandem snoring, trying to stay out of the radius of my brother's thrashing limbs (until we were old enough and my parents got a roll-away bed for Scott, hallelujah). In the cities, we'd go to a major league baseball game if possible, visit an amusement park, walk through the downtown. Some of the memorable highlights were originally experienced as lowlights (passion play, anyone?) but always, always the vacation seemed magical, a time out of time and routine.

My more adventurous travels began when I was in college--mission trips to Honduras and the Philippines, a semester overseas in Oxford, a brief tour of Northwestern Europe following. Lots of road trips (particularly back and forth between Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Iowa). Our big prize trip to the West Coast (I won a photo contest; the prize was a flying/driving trip complete with airfare, car rental, hotel and spending cash). Jeff and I managed to get back to Ireland and visit NYC before I started grad school, despite not having much money saved up or a lot of vacation time. I now wish we had done more.

Having young kids makes travel inconvenient, to say the least. Charlotte was always such an atrocious sleeper that any kind of disruption to her "routine" would throw off any progress we had made. So I was reluctant to do much traveling when she was a baby, plus, of course, the limitations imposed by a graduate student budget dictated that our trips were few and far between, and typically just to visit family. We did make it to western Massachusetts and Athens, Georgia in our last six months in Ohio, to visit universities.

Now, with Sam, we're even more hesitant to hit the road. He's not as apt to sleep peacefully in his car seat as Charlotte was, so any road trip longer than a few hours can quickly devolve into a horrible nightmare of squalling baby, whining toddler, white-knuckled driver and stressed-out spouse. Not the relaxing vacation I'm dreaming of, that's for sure.

So I spend a lot of time making lists--lists of places I want to visit with the kids when they're older and we have more disposable income. Places to go just with Jeff after depositing the kids at the grandparents house (right guys?). Places to hit up with my friends. Places to go with the whole extended family.

Where would you go right now if money and time were no object? Why? And what's your favorite vacation memory, and why? Leave the details in the comments.

For me, if I could go anywhere at all, I think I'd go to South America (Buenos Aires, perhaps), Spain, or New Zealand, for at least two weeks. I've never been to any of those places, and they are each suitably "exotic" enough to feel like a real leave-taking.

It's hard to narrow down my very favorite vacation memory, but I think my week-long trip with Jeff to Ireland in 2003, hot on the tail of my unexpected firing from my first job, was pretty amazing. And our road trip from Seattle to San Francisco was really memorable--we stayed at some fantastic places that we would never have been able to afford if it weren't for the contest.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Happy fourth of July, everyone!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Some recent Charlotte-isms:

Jeff: How'd you know that, Charlotte?
Charlotte: I just learned it up! Learned it up.

Charlotte explaining how the seashells came to us: They flew up out of the water and glugged onto the sand and then Nana got them and gave them to us.

I'm changing Sam's diaper, and Charlotte is watching.
Charlotte: whispers something
Jana: What's that, honey?
Charlotte: I said, such precious buns.

Charlotte and I are dining outdoors at a local restaurant, and a man nearby steps out with a cigarette and begins to smoke.
Charlotte: What's that man doing, mama?
Jana: Oh, he's having a smoke.
Charlotte: What's a smoke?
Jana: It's a cigarette. It's something some grown-up people do sometimes.
Charlotte: Oh. When I get grown-up, I'm gonna blow a smoke.
(Don't worry, a brief lecture about health followed.)