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.