Friday, November 29, 2013

Halloween and other fall festivities

Happy Thanksgiving! How about some Halloween pictures???

In the interest of time, I've consolidated all of our fall festivities pictures into one post.

First there was scarecrow stuffing. We did this the last weekend in September because Eric thought he was going be gone for all of October.

It's so cold here now that just looking at this picture of Jacob outside wearing only a onesie makes me shiver.

Hannah cuddled up with her assembled scarecrow for a photo shoot.

A few days later, Eric slipped a gorilla mask over the scarecrow's face. It was a huge hit with people passing by on the street.

Hannah had her annual field trip to Rodger's Farm in mid-October. The nice thing about a corn box is that you can make sprawl out and make angels without getting a head full of sand. Corn is easier to pick out of your boots too.

Clay's birthday is always part of our fall festivities. This year Hannah spent most of her outdoor time in the giant leaf pile. We had a lot of leaves (and TONS of ginko stinko berries) to rake in the city, but since the piles were on the sidewalk, jumping in them wasn't an ideal option.

Hannah picked out this sweet three-headed dragon costume this year, and she carried Longfellow (her stuffed dragon) to the Montessori Halloween party as her baby. Jacob squished into this reindeer coat and then it went into the giveaway box.

We drove to the Rodger's Forge neighborhood on Halloween this year to trick-or-treat with Brody and Addison. Their new neighborhood is probably the best neighborhood to be in on Halloween if you have kids. There were kids everywhere! Hannah had a blast. We all did.

I'd promise you Thanksgiving pictures for Christmas, but as I was going to bed last night, I realized that I never took out the camera yesterday so Jacob's first Thanksgiving will have to go undocumented. Sad face.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jacob's maiden camping voyage

I'm backlogged by about a month and a half which means you'll be seeing pictures of Hannah in her three-headed dragon Halloween costume at the height of the Christmas season unless I kick it into gear.

Eric was supposed to be gone for the month of October so I spent September filling the calendar with activities. The first weekend was going to be a ladies and babies camping extravaganza with the us, Mary Cate, and Amy, Zoey, and Nelso. I was terrified of taking Hannah camping for her first 2 years of life given how prone she was to choosing screams over sleep (I wasn't willing to do anything that might make life any more stressful or sleepless than it already was), but when we finally did take her on her first trip, she did great. Eric took her a couple more times last summer while I graded papers for a class I was teaching, but having a new baby this summer meant the tent stayed folded up in the garage.

I didn't want to have another 2 years pass before we dusted off the tent. Like going to the grocery store, once you've done it a few times with kids, you figure out your routine and it stops being daunting. The trick is to get the first few times over with as quickly as possible so you can figure out what to never do again. That's how you earn your mama badges; you just screw up royally a few times until you figure out and graduate into "seasoned" status.

Unfortunately, it wasn't just that I had to learn how to camp with kids. I had to re-learn how to camp. Eric and I camped in Zion for close to a week shortly before we got pregnant, and I'd like to add that this trip included a 2-day backpacking adventure in The Narrows. This is my one and only hardcore camping moment, but aside from the fact that I hiked that river for 2 days in spite of the knife stabbing pain in my severely infected toe, I was not at all hardcore. In fact, I was the anti-hardcore. This is my second-most embarrassing lifetime moment: when it got dark, I was afraid to leave the tent. I huddled up in the sleeping bag with my infected toe and my fatigued body and let my mind imagine wild animals with sharp teeth and no one around for miles and miles and miles and this city girl pretty much freaked out. Yes, I am afraid of the real dark. Sure, I keep my bedroom as dark as possible with as many shades drawn as I can fit on the window, but that's because no matter what you do, real dark does not exist in the city. 

Other than Zion, the vast majority of the camping I have done in my life was at music festivals throughout my teen years and early to mid 20s, and although I had my own tent and gear and could set up and tear down and fend for myself, that was a lifetime ago and my trusty tent is MIA.

So not only do I not have a parent-child camping routine, but I also don't have my own individual routine as a starting base. Therein was the reason for my apprehension.

Eric has two tents. One is a two-person tent that fits me and Hannah fine but not the baby (we set it up in the dining room to check), and the other is this enormous 15-person castle that is totally intimidating, and that I am totally not interested in learning to set up.

The thing about me is that I don't like to be intimidated and apprehensive. The ideal me takes the kids camping on the regular and is an EXPERT, so when my neighbors suggested a camping trip, I jumped at the opportunity to start establishing my parent-child camping routine. I blocked off that weekend on the calendar and started shopping for a more manageable tent, one I could have ownership of and could confidently set up and tear down by myself like I did in my 20s. I loved that sense of independence, and I want it back.

I never found the tent though. Eric wanted me to get something that the whole family could still use for years to come and all of those are big and expensive which totally defeated the purpose of getting a new one, and then Eric's trip ended up being postponed so we invited the guys on our ladies and babies camping trip, and he set up the castle. And also the "kitchen" (aka, the screen tent). And voila: our Gucci campsite.

The neighbors usually go to Green Ridge, but I wasn't feeling that brave. It's 2 hours from here (127 miles), and although Jacob does pretty well in the car, that's a lot of time to spend in the car for 1 night. Plus, I needed to know that if it got crazy, I could bail and just go home easily enough. I wanted to leave myself that out. Also, and I'm a little ashamed to admit this, though no more so than admitting that I'm afraid of the dark and spent my night in the Narrows hiding in a tent instead of looking at the stars, but I'm on a roll so I'll also admit that I am just not in a place in my life right now where I'm okay with willingly walking into a situation in which I have to poop in the woods. If it has to be done, fine, but I don't want to sign up for it. I need to build back up to that status. In the meantime, I want to cheat and camp at places that have bath houses. I wanted to know that running water was an option should anyone decide to roll in mud or have the kind of explosive poop that finds its way out of all diapers.

As it turns out, there are a ton of state parks within an hour of our house, all of which I intend to explore. It'd be cool if as a teenager, Hannah knew all the area state parks like the back of her hand, like they were her neighborhood her something. For our maiden voyage, we ended up at Elk Neck State Park which is on the water just south of the Delaware line about an hour and 15 minutes from here.

Our campsites were perfect because they were right next to each other and not separated by trees or anything. It would have sucked if we didn't know each other, but it was perfect for our purposes.

We got all set up and then Eric and Hannah chilled by the fire while Amy and I took the little ones on a hike.

Night with Hannah was awesome. We hung out by the bath house for a while watching the billions of tiny frogs jumping around and caught a few to bring back to the campsite. We watched a little reptile of some sort peek his head out of a crack in the sidewalk there and smell the air with his tongue. We turned off our flashlights on the darkest part of the trail where we couldn't see either the bath house or our camp site and spooked ourselves. We counted stars and taught her how to wish on them. We watched the fire flicker and licked s'mores from our fingers. I got lots of much needed quality time with her.

She played with her brother in the hammock the next morning.

And drank blueberry Odwalla by the morning fire. 

And shared sparklers with Zoey until the campsite was full of smoke and smelled terrible.

I hung out in my pjs while the baby took his morning nap and got in some much-need laughter with MC.

When the baby woke up, we started breaking down and packing up. Hannah entertained herself by hopping on this pair of trees like they were a pair of skies.

We pulled out lunch before leaving. I spent a lot of time cooking before our trip to Assateague, and it was great, but I didn't want to do that again, so I cheated and went to Whole Foods to stock up on sandwiches and snacks and even some superfood instant oatmeal. It was great. I'm not usually one to cut corners, but I've been trying it out lately, and as it turns out, it hasn't killed me to lower the expectations I have of myself a little bit.

After lunch, we packed up the cars and headed to the trail that circled the pond. The write-up in the brochure made it sound scenic, and it was only supposed to be about a mile loop. I'm pretty sure it was a lot farther than that, and the pond was hidden behind trees and foliage pretty much the whole time, but it was nice anyway. Amy had lost her keys so we took Nelson and our kids and got a head start on the trail while her and MC and John returned to the campsite to dig around. We took a turn off the path at one point, walking toward the pond, and I let out the slack on Nelson's leash so he could run. When I caught up to him, he was swimming. Moments like that make me look forward to the day that we have a dog and can take him hiking.

These next two top my favorites list. I love it when I capture my crazy family being crazy.

Jacob passed out in what could not have been a comfortable position. I feel bad for not protecting his sleep as much as I protected Hannah's, especially since he actually likes to sleep and really loves to lay down in his bed and snooze away....

John worked up a sweat practicing his soon-to-be daddy skills by toting Zoey around.

After our hike, I insisted on seeing the beach before heading back to the city. I waded in mid-thigh, but Hannah and Eric put on their suits and swam out, rinsing off the sweat and dirt from our must have been so refreshing...I should have put on my suit...

We drove home feeling a billion times better. Eric said he'd heard a show on the radio about how there is a science behind needing to be outside in nature. I can't remember what he said, but it was something about a charge, a positive charge that you get only by being in nature, and you really get off kilter without it. I think that's obvious based on my own personal experiences and on how much better I feel after getting outside and away from the concrete jungle for a while, and I'm guessing that it's something the majority of the world agrees with, but even with that common sense knowledge, I still learning the science behind it is fascinating. Eric said that someone made a bracelet that is purported to provide that same positive charge (or whatever--I can't remember his terminology), and if that's the case, I think they should pass them out like candy on Halloween to all city dwellers, especially those who don't have the means to escape.

I'm so grateful that we have the means to to escape. We love walking around our 'hood, but it is critical to our mental health to get out of there on a regular basis. Our maiden camping voyage with Jacob was a success, and I'm looking forward to the next trip! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy (belated) half year!

Jacob crawled into his 7-month birthday! It was just a few little knee nudges, but I'm counting it! Since he's 7 months today, I should probably finish his 6-month birthday post, right...this blog is still stuck in September, and Jacob is definitely getting the short end of the stick when it comes to documenting his milestones. I don't even have pictures of him eating for the first time! Of course, that's partly because it wasn't planned. It was summer, and he was a few days shy of 5 months, and he definitely didn't need to start eating regular food that soon, but we were all chowing down on some juicy cantaloupe that we'd picked up at the farmer's market that morning and he was reaching for it, so I let him suck on it, which he did with a frantic-ness that was absolutely hysterical. It was love at first taste!

We didn't start feeding him with any regularity until he was closer to 6 months. I'm not concerned with food allergies this time around, so I don't bother with that whole business of introducing a food and feeding it to them once a day every day for 4-7 days before introducing a new one. He eats butternut squash, sweet potato, avocado, prunes (the only baby food I'll buy, and a necessity because he is not a good pooper), peas, carrots, green beans, apples, pears, rice, and oats. I have freezer bags full of cubes of all those foods in the freezer so I can easily mix and match his meals. When his days without pooping start nearing a week, I cut the solid foods, and the increased nursing usually moves the clog along. This kid has a weaker digestive system than Hannah, and although his gas pains have been far fewer since I eased up on the raw leafy greens, he is still throwing up pretty frequently.

It won't be long before we're giving him little chunks of food to break down with the teeth that are now filling up his mouth. His first teeth (front bottom two) broke gum the day before he turned 6 months. In the last week and a half, four more have broken through across the top. There were a lot of sleepless nights as a result of that, but since he has yet to stop constantly waking up at night, it wasn't anything I'm not already used to.

Because of Hannah's refusal to sleep, I have been hyper aware of Jacob's sleep and have tried to instill good patterns from the very beginning, including laying him down drowsy but awake, watching for his sleepy cues, making sure not to over exhaust him, sticking to a schedule, etc. Somehow, we still got off track...

When it comes to napping, he's usually a breeze. I can lay him down awake and he'll pop his fingers in his mouth and pass out. Hannah hated being left alone in her room, hated sleeping, hated missing out on whatever was going on....She still does. Bedtime with Hannah is still a lengthy process; she'd stay up all night if we let her and still be going long into the next day. She's so active that she's always masked her sleepy signs, so if it weren't for the Sleep Lady, I'd have never known how much sleep she needed. With her, I had to watch the clock and lay her down when I knew she should be tired. Sometimes she passed out, sometimes she stripped herself of clothes and diaper and threw them out of the crib along with everything else in the crib and the crib sheet.

Jacob's eyes get all red when he's tired and he gets crazy cranky. He's an easy read.

So he's easy to get to sleep, but once asleep, he doesn't stay that way long. Hannah might have screamed for 2 hours each night, but once she finally passed out, she was usually out for the count, and she was sleeping through the night by about 6 or 7 months. As soon as I read that babies should be able to go 12 hours without eating, I stopped feeding her at night, and I don't remember it being a painful experience. Jacob still wants to eat every 2 hours. I realize now that I should have started curbing the night time nursing a while ago. I kept thinking he'd stop himself, but since he refuses to nurse anywhere other than laying down in bed with me, and since we aren't home all day to accommodate that kind of picky eating, he's adjusted by starving himself during the day and then eating all night.

Then last week he pulled a page from his sister's playbook and stayed up until after 10 for three nights in a row. The first night, I brought him back downstairs and plopped him on the floor while I got on my computer to work so he wouldn't wake up Hannah. The second night I alternated between laying in my bed with him and rocking him. The third night I told Eric he was up to bat; he brought him downstairs and watched TV with Jacob beside him on the couch. By the fourth night, I'd had enough and knew that the developing pattern needed to be broken immediately.

Sleep training is a bit trickier when your kids share a room. I carried Hannah into our bed to sleep, dragged one of her chairs up to the crib, laid Jacob down, and braced myself for day 1 of the Sleep Lady's shuffle. He cried and fussed, but only for about 12 minutes, which is not bad considering his sister could go for hours. He then slept until 2ish (AWESOME). I nursed him and laid him back down, and he cried. I sat by his bed from 2:30 a.m. until 4 a.m. that night when he finally passed back out. That was excruciating, but the nights since then have been easier. He is consistently waking up between 12-2 to nurse and then not again until around 6 and then he goes back to sleep until 7:30. Next step is to remove one of those night time feedings....

In spite of keeping me up all night, Jacob gives babies a good name. Hannah, not so much. I have a lot of fond memories of snuggling baby Hannah, but I also remember a lot of screaming. Baby Hannah made me earn my mama badge. She kept me on my toes, always reading and researching, desperately trying to figure out what she needed and how I could provide it. When Jacob was in utero, I frequently (and only half jokingly) retorted that babies are for the birds and that I'd love to skip it all and move straight to the toddler phase.

Well, I'm singing a different song now. I get it, I get why people love babies. This baby is why.

This is not a knock against Hannah. She is so spirited and kind and compassionate and has such a big, fun personality. Everything that can be challenging about her is also something that I admire. It's amazing to me how different they are though and how different this parenting experience is.

When Hannah was a baby my mom once said, "She's so serious; not at all like you when you were a baby. You were always smiling." I had no idea what she was talking about, and at the time I was a bit offended. My interpretation was "your child is not happy. You fail." Us mamas can be so sensitive!! Now that I have Jacob, I understand what she meant. Hannah was definitely a more serious baby. She was happy, but serious happy. Jacob is always smiling. Always. He hands out smiles like candy on Halloween.

He is so happy that he almost makes us want another baby someday. ALMOST. But no. I've read that each baby you have is usually bigger than the one that came before, and I assure you that I will not risk having a baby any bigger than this little giant. Also, although a big family sounds really fun, especially when the kids are grown, I would rather focus all of our resources and love on the two that we have. I'm finding it hard enough to give them both the quality time they deserve now that there are two; I don't want to have to spread my time even more thinly.

Also, the bad sleeper DNA is too prevalent in our gene pool, and I'm too tired to have another non-sleeper.

Now for the statistics! Last month, at his 6 month checkup, Jacob weighed 20 lbs, 3 oz (90th percentile), was 27 1/2 in. long (85th percentile), and had a head circumference of 45.4 cm (95th percentile). Hannah was only 15 pounds at her half-year birthday. She was 18 lbs at 12 months...I don't have records of anything after that, so I have no clue when she hit 20 pounds, but she was more than twice as old as Jacob when it happened.

Time now for a family montage of baby pictures.  Here we all are at 6-7 months of age, starting with Hannah.

Hannah at 6 months
I'm not sure of Eric's age in this picture, but he looks about 6 months. Hopefully Grannah will correct me if I'm wrong!

And here's baby me
We definitely look related, especially Hannah and Jacob, but there are no spitting images in this family: the kids took their gene pool and made it their own!