Friday, May 30, 2008

Mine!!! and other such new concepts

I never realized that the stages of childhood development were so universal among children. Sure, we have all heard a preschooler in the midst of a toy battle yell out "mine!!!", but those of us in our first round of parenting might have mistaken that for a poorly behaved child that hasn't yet been taught to share.

Well, I guess it can be said that parenting is teaching me many things....and humility is one of them. Yesterday, as I reached out for something Caleb had (I believe it was my water), he jerks it away from me and firmly says, "Mine!!!". I believe I may have heard this 100 times since that late afternoon exclamation regarding various things from toys and food to anything he may have in his hand or sights. And, I guarantee you that we work on sharing, obedience, and all of those things an aspiring young parent hopes to impart.

I have noticed that these new developments tend to come in batches, so the next "first" we experienced was at bedtime last night. Jason had tucked Caleb into bed as usual and had left the room. Most of the time, Caleb will sing and talk for up to 1/2 hour until sleep finally overcomes him. (Sometimes he is still tucked in as originally placed, other times we have to completely rearrange his bed to get him settled when we go in to check on him.) This night, however, Caleb started crying out "Papa, close the door!!! Close the door!!" in a state of sheer panic. Mind you, a couple of months back, we had to change from closing the door to leaving it partially open because he didn't like it closed, so we both sort of looked at each other strangely that he would request it to be closed. Then we heard him explaining why.... "Papa, Papa, close the door because [sob, sob] the lions will get my toes!!! Close the door...the lions will get my toes [whine, sob, sob]" Both Jason and I smiled as we realized we had just witnessed the awakening of his little imagination in combination with his ability to communicate his thoughts and fears.

Today, then, as if to cement his newfound communication skills, I was getting the boys set up in their stroller for our normal weekday walk up at the Battle Ground Villiage construction site. It was a sunny late morning, so I asked Caleb if he wanted his sun hat. He says to me, "No, I'm just fine". A few seconds went by and he then said, "Thank you, though". Now, of course, that Mama just worried about the "mine" stage is feeling very gratified indeed, though I believe our next "mine" incident was only a few minutes later!

In the past few days, we have witnessed a new dawn in the life and development of our little Caleb. He is an infant no longer, and barely even a toddler. He is quickly becoming a little boy. We are now trying very hard to savor the last few rays from the sunset we are simultaneously experiencing from days past.

"Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"No way, Jose"

They call them the terrible twos....whoever they are. As we entered this season of “2”, I thought to myself, “What a pessimistic view of such a precious stage! I mean, sure, it has its challenges, but terrible? No”. I still consider it a precious stage. However, I am beginning to understand the attachment to the word “terrible”. One of the American Heritage Dictionary definitions of this word is “Extreme in extent or degree. Intense.” Yup – that’s it. By this definition, we have the TERRIBLE twos!!!! The past couple of weeks have seen an elevation in sheer will and obstinacy. Caleb’s favorite time to act up is when I am on the phone. Here is an example. Jumping on the couch is forbidden. In fact, standing on the couch is forbidden. However, as soon as Caleb sees I am on the phone – bam. I look over and he is bouncing as high and buoyantly as possible on the couch. When I sign a firm “no” to him, giving him the evilest eye possible....he looks at me, smiles and bounces even higher. He knows that his actions will result in a time out at the very least, spanking and losing privilege at the most...but....he jumps on.

His favorite phrase, hence the title of this blog, is “No way, Jose”. He uses it in joy, in anger, and in sadness and frustration. Commonly in the middle of a tantrum, while crying and sucking in deep breaths you will here him say, over and over, “No way, Jose....No way, Jose”. It is as if he is rebelling even against himself.

I hear that all children test their boundaries in some way, shape, or form. Well, I’m pretty convinced that Caleb’s preferred method of boundary testing, is taking a running jump and leaping at the boundary, testing it again and again to make sure it is still there. The good news is, my parent’s say I was also a strong willed child. I’ve been there, done that. Jason also is a rock. The wall cannot be moved. He has encountered a formidable boundary indeed. (Woe to the parent who is not likewise strong willed!!!)

Meanwhile, boundary testing aside, Caleb is developing in leaps and bounds. It is amazing to think that just 7 months ago or so, he was only saying a few words. He is now talking in complete sentences and beginning to use logic in his thought processes and communications. For example, if you ask him if he wants a spanking or time out, he will say “nothing”. He is frequently pointing to things and saying “Mama (Papa), what’s this?”. A favorite game of his is to listen to your answer, then tell you “No!”. When then asked what it is, or what it is doing, he will create a rather humorous answer. He is beginning to get jokes and laugh heartily at silliness in books and stories, even anticipating consequences, saying “Uh oh”.

He is mimicking like crazy. Every word out of your mouth must be measured, for it will be coming out of his the next minute. But outside of instant replay, we are seeing evidence that our daily lives and decisions really do matter as he puts together the pieces of his life puzzle. For months now, Caleb has ended all of our family prayers by saying and enthusiastic "Amen". Very recently, in the past few weeks, he has begun charging into saying the prayer himself. It goes something like this: "Dear God, Watch over Papa. Keep his [him] safe. Let our lil light shine. In Jesus name, Amen." A few days back, when an ambulance went by our house, I remained quiet instead of asking Caleb if we should pray for the people. Sure enough, I hear him in the living room say "Dear God, Watch over the people. In Jesus name, Amen" I can't begin to describe the joy that brought to a mother's heart. My mom says that we used to do that when I was little. Honestly, I don't remember it. But I do know that I have always done it. I just didn't remember starting the habit. I hope it is the same for him.

Little Emet, meanwhile, grows brighter in countenance each day. Just looking at him produces a smile so happy and wide that one could burst with joy. His chubby cheeks, and pudgy legs and arms make for such a sweet picture. He is an incredibly happy baby, though going down for naps or being ignored for too long can definitely bring on some whining. I definitely understand all of what is said about second children not getting as much attention, especially when you have another toddler. Caleb is so demanding of my attention and Emet so patient that he often ends up stuck in his jumper or excer-saucer for up to an hour until he starts whining. He does seem to be endlessly entertained, however, with what his big brother is doing, and when taken out in the yard (again, usually parked in his exer-saucer), he watches us all run around doing our various tasks. He does indeed have is own unique personality though. It is easy to get him to laugh – best by putting your chin into his tummy – you get a literal belly laugh! When laid down in his bed, he starts kicking his legs, both at once in leg-lift fashion up and down, pounding on the bed. His little eyebrow twitches when he is curious about something or initiating play. Recently, he has also begun drinking water out of a cup (we hold it) and grabbing the spoon as we feed him solids. 2 oz per half hour is the rule of the day!

Well, off to shower and bed for this Mama.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A few more lasts

Sharing a bowl of popcorn with a 2 ½ year old is a joy in and of itself. I was sitting on the floor feeding Emet as he sat in his “activity station”, and Caleb walked over with his bowl of popcorn saying “eat with you? Eat with you?”. Never mind I had told him moving the bowl off of the coffee table would result in losing his popcorn privilege. He seemed to forget that in the moment of needing to be with Mama, Greta, and Baby Emet. I overlooked the mistake. There we sat, Caleb doling out pieces of popcorn between himself, Greta, and me. I would say, “Thank you, Caleb”, and he, in his sweet animated voice, with head cocked to the side, eyes alight say “You’re welcome, Mama!” Over and over the scenario repeated – piece after piece of popcorn shared. Finally, the bowl came to and end. Caleb asked for more. When I explained it was all gone, he looked troubled and asked where it went. An explanation of “in our tummies” seemed to suffice. Then, Caleb picked himself up off of the floor, bent over to get his bowl, and walked to the dishwasher. He then proceeded to open it, pull out the lower tray, stick his bowl in, and almost got to closing it before he was sidetracked into playing with the door (a definite no-no). Aside from this, I realized how big he had become, how much he mimicked us. This was the first time he had tried this, and I had given him no instruction. Oh the sparkle of pride in his eyes.

Tonight before bed, Caleb asked for milk. This may be the first time he has not asked for “nolt”, one of those priceless words that only a parent would understand. Again, he running forward in leaps and bounds – “look at me” he cries, if only in the proud twinkle of his eye. We look at him with joy in our hearts, praise him as if he had climbed a mountain, and turn our eyes to each other with tears of sadness as we both recognize another precious last.

Hours later, I am upstairs with Emet, rocking back and forth in the squeaky, but faithful blue rocking chair. He rests his head on my chest as I sing to him.....”Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly....” I look down to see his eyes wide open, staring into the distance. What goes on in that little mind, I wonder? What does a sweet baby of 6 ½ months think as he rests his head on his Mama? I have been here before with Caleb, yet now I hear him downstairs going through the bedtime routine with Papa......I hear a big boy, one who seldom stops to rest his head. I hear him say, “I love you, Papa” and hear Jason respond in kind, chuckling with deep emotion. Emet will be there in the blink of an eye, yet here we sit....Mama and baby, rocking back and forth, back and forth. As his eyes begin to close, I briefly consider my childhood development manuals, all of which recommend not rocking the child to sleep in order to avoid the creation of bad sleep habits. Yet, I remain. What a wonder this time. How many more times will I rock him, I wonder, before he too is onto another of a restless struggler, breaking free from his bonds of babyhood? Again, I feel as if time is slipping through the hourglass and I am watching it go. Can I grasp this moment? Can I hold it somehow forever? I hold onto my baby, savoring the moment, treasuring each rise and fall of his chest on mine. There must be a purpose for all of this. There must be....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Capturing Life as the Train Speeds By

This is supposed to be a hand-written journal. However, as the days and weeks pass without any entries into Caleb's childhood journal, I have sought another medium. Daily, I hear myself "reading" my own entries in my mind......Panic seizes me as I realize I am missing my chance to capture this precious time due to my stubbornness of having to have a particular format in which to do so – the here I begin, relinquishing that struggle in hopes that a blog will help me in my journey to hold on to as many memories as I can.

"Today, you said blanket for the first time instead of 'dop dop'", or
"Today, you said 'I love you, Mama'" and it made my heart melt.”

The trouble with trying to capture life is that you can’t. I guess if one had no other priorities, stresses, obligations, could devote a large amount of time each day to capturing what one could via the written word and/or video. However, this stage of life – that of a 2-3 year old – is like riding on a speed train. Before you have a chance to look out the window, you have passed the landmark and are moving on to something else. Generalizations might encompass going from “you are learning new words” “you are speaking in full sentences”. Having missed the middle means having missed so many nuances and lasts....the last time you said “sha shas” for raisins.....the last time ‘thank you’ sounded like ‘tae you’. .....The journal entries would have to read “today is the day – the last time.....we are leaving this precious stage’.

Childhood is a miracle – a time when time stands still for the child, yet flies more rapidly than water for the parents. To me, becoming a parent meant fully realizing that oft repeated statement you hear over and over from every ‘older’ person......”they’ll be grown before you know it.....cherish this time”. Day after day appears the same for the adult, with general changes coming only often enough to chronicle in an annual Christmas letter. Yet, the life of a child is like watching a metamorphosis unfolding before your very eyes. It drives you to your knees in search of life’s purpose.