Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Life of Joy

Early on in our relationship, Jen and I would send each other letters and packages in the mail. In one of those early letters, she included the poem, To a Stranger by Walt Whitman. It will always make me think of us, and remember those early days where everything was so unclear, yet I knew deep in my gut that the two of us were connected. That I was to see to it that I would not lose her.   

Passing stranger!  you do not know how longingly I look upon you.
You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking, (it comes to me, as of a dream,)
I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall'd as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,
You grew yo with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you --your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only,
You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass --you take of my beard, breast, hands, in return,
I am not to speak to you --I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait --I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Today we acknowledged the anniversary of our fourteenth year as a couple (since our first kiss) and our ninth year of being married. 

The past few years have found our relationship with each other taking a backseat to parenting. I know we still both love each other deeply. And are in love with each other deeply. But I also know that we need to start nurturing our relationship again. I hope that we're able to make that more of a priority this coming year.    

Happy Anniversary, Jen.  I love you.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Accepting Challenges

Aside from The Bean fighting a bit of stomach bug, the past few weeks have been good.  For the first time since September I've felt relaxed.  My new half-time schedule seems to be an ideal balance between being home and spending time with the kids and teaching which fulfills me in a way that is hard to describe.  Not that I've been completely on top of things at work, or that our home is now immaculate, or that I've been doing Pinterest-worthy activities with the kids everyday.  Those things will never happen, but it has been better.  

Which is why I'm a bit worried.  It's been about a week now since I was presented with an opportunity.  In many ways it is a great opportunity --something I think I'm well-suited for and which I will enjoy.  But it's also going to disrupt the balance that I've achieved for the first time in months largely because of my decreased work schedule.

The school that I am currently teaching at is affiliated with a school in China that wants to open four new classrooms for children ages 2, 3, 4 and 5 I have been asked to design the curriculum for the four grades. Only, it's the kind of being asked that doesn't really feel like you're being given a choice. Both my vice-principal and principal independently told the owner of the school that they think I am the ideal candidate for this job, which is flattering, but also overwhelming.  

I have passed up opportunities for job growth/change in the past because I was afraid of the challenge and regretted it so I have committed to "doing my best" which is a pretty big commitment given that I'm a perfectionist.  In fact, when I told the owner of the school that I would do my best, he said, "From what I've heard, your best should be more than acceptable."  

(Fortunately my VP told the owner of the school that there would be no way he could convince me to go to China and train the teachers there, so I don't have to worry about saying no to that one.)

So, here we go...

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Bean is Four Years Old!

So, let's talk about this four year old we have, shall we?

It's hard to even know where to begin.  The past six months with The Bean have been good ones.

The Bean, like his mommy, is a bit of a homebody.  He's usually quite content to spend the day at home playing with toys, reading books, and watching (a limited amount of) shows (Octonauts and Berenstain Bears are his current favourites).  That said, he loves to go outdoors, but it is sometimes a bit of a struggle to get him out the door, particularly if it's not to go to a park.  (It's also much harder getting him out the door in winter weather than in the summer.)

This might sound a bit contradictory, but he is incredibly active.  I know from experience that most parents seem to think this about their four-year-olds, but he honestly is one of the most active kids I've come across.  He loves throwing and catching and hitting and kicking balls of all sorts. He would happily spend all day climbing, sliding, swinging, etc.  Jen and I joke that he doesn't walk anywhere, he dances.  He moves in skips and jumps and twirls.  He loved his gymnastic class this fall and has a new-found (refound?) love for swimming, though he still doesn't like getting his face wet.  We're trying to figure out what programs he might enjoy the most this spring.  Likely swimming and/or gymnastics, but maybe dance or soccer... it's still undecided.

We recently went ice skating with him for the first time.  He was very excited about the idea of skating, but mostly just liked hanging out in his gear.  He did let us push him around the rink a few times.

We are not really a professional-sports watching family, but if you're from Pittsburgh it's a given that you will be a Steelers fan, so we've been training the kids accordingly.  The Bean gets super excited when he sees a game and will chant "Here we go Steelers!" with the best of them.

He has started to really engage in pretend play with figures.  He has been using the doll house more and got a toy castle for Christmas from my mom that he has been playing with daily. He continues role playing in our play kitchen, as a Mommy to his babies (white blanket, pumpkin man and his "big boy" Rajah the tiger), and with dress up costumes.

He got  Magnatiles for Christmas from Santa (Grandma and Grandpa) and has gotten into building with those too.  He also plays with his wooden blocks in combination with his Bruder trucks and Hotwheels cars, and has started building really tall towers ("apartments") with Duplo.  He'll occasionally ask us to build him train tracks, doesn't seem to love the trains the way some kids do.

He's started doing more artwork, which I adore.  He can draw figures now (a face with legs and sometimes arms), though most of his art is still very free-form  with deeply involved stories to go along with it.  He likes to paint (mostly with black), he has gotten much better with scissors and enjoys working in his tracing books.  He can write his name, though I must admit, he has regressed a bit with this from the time he was in daycare until now.  He also really likes playing with Playdoh.

He LOVES books.  His current favourites are some beautiful fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast and Rapunzel) we got the kids for Christmas.  He's also been loving This is New York.  Prior to these, he was asking for Little Critter, Berenstain Bears, and/or Curious George daily (ugh).  He has many books memorized, but prefers to be read to.  He got something called a SparkUp from my sister for Christmas which you can record books into.  It's been getting a lot of use.

He recognizes all his letters and knows their sounds.  He hasn't started reading yet, though he has asked several times that I start teaching him.  It's something I need to make more of a point of.  Maybe print up a few CVC word cards and matching pictures or something.  He is ready.

He's also been asking to "learn about the world," meaning geography.  We got him a wall map and have been pointing out places and talking about what you can find there, the langues that are spoken, etc.  I'm not really a geography buff, but again, I am hoping to get around to putting together a few little packages for him about different continents and countries.

There is no doubt about it, this kids' forte is language.  He is incredibly articulate.  He also loves learning new words and trying them out and will make up his own words, then explain what they mean to us.  The one that comes to mind most easily is "chucking," which means hitting something with a stick.

With him being at home now, I feel like his social circle is quite small.  Basically family and a few good friends.  Sometimes I think he needs more than this small world, but at other times I worry about what the influence of others will do to his polite, (mostly) well-behaved, kind, playful, creative, innocent self.  It's not that he's perfect 100% of the time, but he is free to do the things he enjoys, isn't overly rough, is very protected from media --commercials, violence, etc.  He is a nice kid.  A good kid.  I don't want that to change. But he is also a kid who is curious to experiment, that takes in what is going on around him and who tests limits, so I expect that we will have some conflict over what is and isn't appropriate or acceptable once he is exposed to other kiddos.

Though he is a good kid, he does have his moments.  We've been using a "1, 2, 3" timeout approach that seems to work pretty effectively.

Lately he has been saying that he wants to be a girl.  Related to that he has been saying he wants to grow his hair long.  We're not sure if he wants to be a girl so that he can have long hair, or if he wants to have long hair so that he can be a girl, or if both have to do with something else all together.  He has no other requests to make himself more girl-like.  I trimmed his hair the other week to give it some shape (mullets are not acceptable on boys or girls), but he's got a good shag going.

He has started to have a bit of an opinion about his clothing.  Basically he wants to live in his pajamas.  We make him get dressed everyday, but have conceded to it mostly being in "comfy" (elastic-waisted) pants and long-sleeved t-shirts.  Every once in a while I can get him into skinny jeans and a polo or sweater.  As soon as I get home after work he is allowed to change back into his pajamas and he usually rushes into his bedroom after giving me a super-fast hug and kiss hello.

His sleep continues to be pretty good.  Its been about 6 weeks since he stopped napping.  Prior to that we were struggling to get him down at night, but since the switch its been much easier.  There are still days, particularly days where we are active in the morning, that he will fall asleep during "quiet time," but they are more the exception than the rule at this point.  He's often sort of grumpy by the time we're home in the evening, but I think it's a worthwhile trade off to have him sleeping well overnight.  Unfortunately he has been having some nightmares lately.  We've been talking to him about how he can control things in his dreams, and it seems to be helping.  Hopefully this stage is short-lived.

His lovely is "white blanket," she is a tan blanket with white polk-a-dots, who he will also refer to as his baby.  He's also rather attached to "pumpkin man" which is a little orange kitted doll that my Nana made several years ago but gave to him a couple of Halloweens ago.  Rajah, his stuffed tiger, also is usually in his bed.  His hippo Owen has been relegated to the basket of stuffies on top of the bookshelf.

Not a lovey, but an often-talked about companion, is his son. (Who is nameless.)  His son is quite naughty and does many things that The Bean is not allowed to do.

Food is about the same as it has been, I think.  He eats a few things from the various food groups, but is definitely reluctant to stray away from the foods he knows and likes.  He sometimes declares that he doesn't like something, often an old favourite, anymore, which is frustrating. We insist on him trying things, and sometimes he decides he likes it, but often he spits it out.  I look forward to him becoming a more adventurous eater again.  (He liked nearly everything we put in front of him from the time he started solids until he was two.)

His stomach issues are far from resolved, but on the advice of a pediatric specialist we have introduced a daily dose of fibre into his diet, which seems to be helping with some of the constipation issues he was having.

He is still a peanut.  He is now in size 3 clothes, both on the top and the bottom and size 7 shoes.  I have no idea how tall he is and I think he weighs somewhere around 34lbs.  We have his four year check up on Wednesday, so I'll be able to update his stats then.

The Bean is a true free spirit.  He lives in the moment and wears his heart on his sleeve.  We love him with all our hearts and couldn't ask for a sweeter son.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Birthday Bean!

Today was The Bean's birthday.  It was almost exactly four years ago that we welcomed this little person into our lives.  I'll never forget watching him be born, or our first night as a family of three --all of us squished into a hospital bed because there wasn't a spare bed for me and we couldn't bear to leave him in the bassinet beside us when he was so very new.  I was deeply in love with him from the very beginning.  Our baby.

Today was filled with cuddles and kisses. Yeses to most of his requests. Playing. Treats. Conversations with those who love him most, both near and far.

This morning, when I asked him how it felt to be four, he said it felt like his heart was full of love. I have no doubt that it is. It is filled with love from and for all the people in his life. He is loved and loving little boy.  

There is a four year post in the works. There are photos of this no longer baby or even toddler, but child. But they will wait.  Right now I'm going to go give the birthday boy an extra little kiss while he sleeps.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bringing Things Up to Date (Project 52 Catch Up, Part 849) +Reflection

Week 46

The Bean: Dressed up for "tablet time."
Sprout: Just playing.  (Forgive me for this one, I took no actual photos of her this week, only a quick photo on my phone to show off the cute dress that was passed along to us.)

Week 47

The Bean: Baker's helper.
Sprout: Cutting cookies.

Week 48

The Bean: Eyeing up the big guy.
Sprout: She's been good.

Week 49

The Bean: A boy.  A book.  A blanket.
Sprout: St. Nicolas visited.

Week 50

The Bean: Checking out the Christmas windows.
Sprout: Second birthday celebrations!

Week 51 

The Bean: Couch gymnastics.
Sprout: "Rudolph" nose.

Week 52

The Bean: Picking out books to bring to PA with us.
Sprout: Ice skating for the first time.  "Me zoom fast!"

Week 53

The Bean: Wood working with 'pa.
Sprout: Laying around with Mommy.

A year!  It's sort of hard to believe that a entire year has come and gone, though here are the photos to prove it.  This hasn't been the easiest project.  I've fallen behind more times than I care to admit.  I dropped my camera at the end of June and haven't been as dedicated since then as I haven't been happy with the focus I've been getting.  (I will get it fixed, I just haven't yet.)  Still, I am glad to have this record.  To have captured my children as they are at this point in time.  I'm not sure what this new year holds for us in any capacity, but I hope to be able to capture many more ordinary, special moments.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Sprout is Two Years Old!

Today Sprout is two years old!

Guys, Sprout is two!  Along with wishing people a "happy day!" she has been proudly holding up her thumb and index finger and announcing "Me two!" to anyone who asks.

-I know I've said this the past few months at least, but LANGUAGE EXPLOSION.  She is talking so much now.  My favourite phrase she is now saying is "Luf you Mama."  She is saying many other phrases such as, "May I (be) 'cused?" at the dinner table and usually "Time for a baff?" shortly after that.  She often says "Tanks, Mama" (or whoever) after she has been helped with something, which is so sweet.  And while she has the usual toddler stubborn streak, she is mostly sweet, sweet, sweet.

-I'm pretty sure I've also said this before, but she is funny.  She is a joker and likes to get a laugh out of people.  Her big thing the past little bit has been fake burping and then saying "'Cuse me!"  I don't know where she learned it or how she decided  it was funny, but it obvious she does it to get a laugh/reaction from us.  Her brother, of course, thinks it's hilarious.  Sometimes we can't help but chuckle.

-She's pretty opinionated about her clothing and will go into her drawer to pick out what she wants to wear.  She has many cute outfits, but seems to prefer a mismatched look.  She loves "Anna" dresses and spinning around in them.  She's also got at thing for shoes.  I think we're in for it. ;)

-She is solidly in 2T tops and somewhere between 18m and 24m/2T pants.  Shoe size is a 6.  (Her feet are enormous!)

-Her hair is getting long, but does not like having it fussed with.  Most days I try to brush it so it's not to tangly or crunchy from food that gets stuck in there and just let it be.  She will occasionally put up with my sticking it in her signature side half-pony.

-This month she has LOVED playing with peg puzzles.  We have one in particular where the pictures are drawn under where the pieces fit which she will do almost daily.

-The Bean likes building tall towers out of various types of blocks and Sprout likes knocking them down.  Understandably, he's not thrilled with this.  We're trying teacher her that she has to ask before knocking his towers down and that she can build her own to knock down.  You can imagine how successful we've been, but still we try.  (We often remind The Bean that he did the same at her age, and tell him that we used to feel the same way he does now when he knocked down our towers.)

-She still loves playing with her "babies."  She has a few of her own, a few that she shares with her brother, and one that are his that she seems to have adopted from The Bean.  She got two strollers, one baby carrier, three sets of dolly diaper bags, a feeding set and an adorable high chair for her birthday/Christmas.  Yes, she is spoiled, and yes, people who know her know that she loves her babies.

-Art continues to be a huge draw (no pun intended) for her.  She will happily colour, paint, or do Playdoh for extended periods of time.

-Other loved activities include dancing, spinning, splashing (in puddles and the bathtub), ice skating(!), jumping off of something and being caught mid-air, playing on the tablet/watching The Bean play on the tablet, and reading books/having books read to her.

-Eating has been going really well.  Breakfasts aren't big, but otherwise she eats a good variety of foods in reasonable quantities.  Cheese is probably her favourite food.

-Sleep... well... it is what it is.  She seems to be falling asleep around 8ish.  Usually fusses, but puts herself back down around midnight, and ends up in our room anywhere between 2:30 and 4:30am.  Most days she's up for the day around 6:30am.  She was napping well (2+ hours) for my sister, but the past week with me at home she has been really fighting going down.

-She is definitely very attached to me, but loves Mommy, The Bean, and other family members.  Lately she has been all about my cousin, Paul.

It's definitely hard for us to wrap our heads around the fact that our daughter is two.  Older than The Bean was when she was born.  Still our baby, but not a baby anymore.  A little person growing into herself more and more each day.  It's such a privilege to be her parent.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Crafty Goodness!

On Tuesday evening I was super-excited to open our mailbox and see a package inside.  Even before seeing the return address I knew what it was!  Our craft exchange!  

Mama et Maman sent the sweetest wooly crafts for us to enjoy.  

The three ornaments are hanging on our tree and the little toy owl, who I've named Eggnog, is being given lots of affection from the two littles.

Thank you Mama et Maman!

Hope everyone else receives their packages soon and shares them on their blogs.  I'll try to do a "round up" post here over the holidays.

Now off to bed!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Slowly But Surely (Project 52 Catch Up)

This'll be an incredibly photo-heavy post.  Not entirely caught up yet, but getting there.  Some of these feel like such a long time ago already.

Week 37

The Bean: In the playground with a stick.  This is serious business.
Sprout: Climbing and posing.

Week 38

The Bean: First shaved ice of the season.
Sprout: In the woods.

Week 39

The Bean: Busy building.
Sprout: Artist at work.

Week 40

The Bean: He wanted a jet pack.
Sprout: Doll baby.

Week 41

The Bean: Hauling water at the Brickworks.
Sprout: Fall hiking.

Week 42

The Bean: Picking the perfect pumpkin.
Sprout: Made it her mission to finish this apple.

Week 43

The Bean: The Bean and Merrylegs meet again.
Sprout: Enjoying her favourite food: hotdogs. 

Week 44 

The Bean: Decorating the pumpkin the day after Halloween.  Because some years are like that.
Sprout: Cutest kitty on the block.

Week 45

The Bean: Leaf pile giggles.
Sprout: Leaf thrower.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Comparing Kids

Sprout is 18 days away from her second birthday.  This is exactly how old The Bean was on the day she was born.  This "milestone" has been on my mind for quite a while now.  What would it be like if we were bring another baby home now?  (For the record: There will be no more babies.) How have the past two years gone by so quickly?  And how is our baby girl possibly the same age as her big brother was when she was born.  She is our baby.  He was so big.

The Bean (with Grandma and Grandpa) meeting Sprout for the first time.
Looking back, he really wasn't so big.  I suppose when comparing him to a newborn he was, but he really was just a little guy still.  Maybe because we have him now to compare her to, but Sprout just seems younger than he was at this same age.  Looking back he was doing a lot of the same things that she does now.  Hitting similar milestones.  It just felt so different.

I'm an identical twin.  I've always been sensitive to sibling comparisons.  Still, I find it nearly impossible not to compare our two.  I mean right from the get go we compared them in terms of their size.  (The Bean's 5lbs 10oz to Sprout's 9lbs.)  We compared their sleep.  We compared their eating patterns.  How do you not?  The Bean is our frame of reference.

That's not to say we compare one as "better" and one as "worse"  (though the Bean was a better sleeper ;) ) but we do compare.

I think that for all their differences we're fortunate that our kids are both loving and kind and affectionate and interactive and smart and active and funny and silly.  Similar, yet both so full of their very own unique personalities.  It is such a privilege to be witness to who they are and how they've grown.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sprout is Twenty-Three Months Old

Today Sprout is twenty-three months old.

This little bug is only a month away from her second birthday!  Only days away from being the same age The Bean was when she was born.  It's unbelievable to me how quickly the time is passing.  One of my students asked how old she was and I said, "She'll be two in December."  My student responded, "So, she's one?"  It took me a beat, but I told her, yes, Sprout is one.  She said, "I thought she was a kid."  I said, "Well, she kind of is a kid." because at almost-two she is certainly not a baby anymore, though she will always be our baby.

So, this kid...

She is a very sweet little one.  She likes to cuddle and be held, but only on her own terms.  She's taken to telling me "Go away, Mama!" when I'm lying beside her at night but usually as soon as move into the chair across the room she runs over to me.  She still loves to nurse.  At times she demands it.  Other times she sweetly asks "Nurse please." She sometimes unlatches to say "thank you, Mama" or "milk good" or just "happy" all of which I think are incredibly sweet.  She is a true co-sleeper and cries when she wakes up and I am not in the bed with her.

Sleep continues to be an issue.  Maybe it's because she nurses.  Maybe it's because we co-sleep most nights.  I don't know.  She takes a long time to settle in the evenings.  She wakes up several times through the night.  I feel like it's gotten better, but it's more likely that we've just be that we've resigned ourselves to the situation.  She usually is down between 8 and 9pm (after a 7:30pm "bedtime") and wakes up between 5:30am (weekends) and 7:00am (weekdays).  Naturally.  Naps are mid-day and seem to last about 1-2 hours.  I'm usually at work.  On the weekends she'll sometimes go longer since I'm around to settle her back down.

Food is about the same as it has been.  She eats a fair balance of things, but not a super-wide variety.  Sometimes she'll surprise us by gobbling up something she's refused before (e.g. broccoli stems) , only to refuse it again the next time we serve it.  She loves hot dogs and sausages.  Usually likes fish.  Won't touch chicken or most other meats unless they're somehow mixed in to other food.  Soft veggies are the way to go with her.  She likes a good variety of fruits, but not usually berries.  She just started eating pears, so we'll see if that lasts.  Vanilla yogurt and she LOVES cheese... but who doesn't?  ;)

Her top left and bottom right canines came through late into her 22nd month or early into her 23rd
the top right and bottom left ones just broke last week.  She seems to be working on molars as she is constantly chomping on her fingers.  I'll be very happy to have a bit of a reprieve from teething once they come in.  I'm sure she will too.

Her hair is getting long.  No plans to cut it anytime soon.

She is mostly in 2T clothing now.  2T pants are still a bit long and need to be cinched at the waist, but they work.  She loves wearing dresses and calls herself "Anna" (from Frozen) when she wears one and will spin around.  Actually, we can convince her to wear many things by telling her they're "Anna" things... Anna socks, Anna shirts, etc.  She is in a size 6 shoe and size 5 diapers.

She loves music.  The Wheels on the Bus is still a favourite and often-requested song.  She also likes all the songs from Frozen.  She likes to dance and will do crazy downward dog-type moves, somersaults, etc.

She enjoys other gross-motor activities.  She's a good climber.  She's also pretty decent kicking a ball.  Swim class is over now, but she did enjoy it as long as her head didn't get wet.

Maybe I'm seeing this through a Mama's eyes, but I think she's got quite amazing fine motor skills.  She loves to draw and paint and will happily do so for extended periods of time.  She blew me away earlier this week by putting glue dots on Xs I'd drawn on a paper for a cutting/pasting activity  I didn't think she'd be able to do it, but she did it really well.

She's starting to say the names of more and more colours.  Actual recognition of colours seems to be getting better, but is still sort of hit or miss.  Most colours are "green" though occassionally they are "blue."

If you ask her how old she is going to be she will say "Two!"  But then again, if you ask her anything where she recognizes that there should be a number answer she says two.  (She can count to two and has counted all the way to ten alternating with me i.e. I say one, she says two etc.)

Word count, in general, is increasing.  Lots of short sentences now.  She regularly tells me "Love nurse" but hasn't yet said an unprompted "Love you."  Sigh.

She still loves being read to and will also look at books independently.  She definitely knows bits and pieces of books we read often and will "read" them to herself.  Just yesterday she read me bits of Farmyard Beat.  It was pretty cute.

We did a bit of a reorganization of our living room and she's started to use the play kitchen and play food a lot more.  She loves putting on the oven mitts and chef's hat and feeding us things.

I love spending time with this girl and seeing her personality continue to develop.  She is such a character.  I look forward to seeing what she's like as a two year old and all the other ages after that.