Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Trips Around the Sun

Two years ago today, my husband and I brought a gorgeous little blue eyed baby into this world.  Although, as his mother, I am biased, I really do think he was one of the more beautiful newborns I've ever seen.  He had perfect complexion, soft bright eyes, and (once his cone head receded a bit) the sweetest little bit of fuzz for hair. 

He was named immediately--after his two grandfathers (Charles Steven).   I love his name; it's so strong and traditional and kind of simple in a way.  Unlike many of his peers' names, I believe his name will remain age-appropriate throughout his lifetime.

When we first brought home Charlie, I remember thinking, "You do not look like a Charlie".  I'm not sure what I thought a "Charlie" looked like, but I didn't think it was this tiny little 100% dependent thing that I held for hours.  But now, two years later, and I think his picture should be next to the name "Charlie" on every baby name website.  Because, well..... that is exactly who he is!

So after two trips around the sun, who is Charlie?  While we're still getting to know him, I'll try to give you a glimpse:

* LOVES music.  Will "dance" at random by twisting his hips, sticking out his belly, and often lifting up his shirt.  Sometimes, he'll even wow his audience with his impressive "fire hydrant" move, where he balances on one leg and sticks the other up and out to the side.

* Is incredibly inquisitive.  His new favorite phrases are:  "What's this?" "What's this mama?" (today, the answer was "water tower")

* Has one speed: running.  The best part is that he hunches his shoulders, looks at his "really fast" feet, and just takes off.

* Loves to jump.  On the couch.  On the bed.  From the rug to the floor.  From the step to the floor.  From the changing table to Mama.  (C's bday gift is a trampoline!)

* Is always "owie".  We have started to ignore every time he says "OW!" because it's constant.

* May have some tactile issues.  And some OCD issues?  He hates dog hair.  (Tough to avoid in our house) He hates lint.  He hates fuzz.  He hates dust, scraps of paper, dirt, and crumbs.  Apparently, all of these things are "Really Acky".

* Loves going "Way High".  This is a game that I have delegated to his father.  It involves C sitting in a laundry basket and his daddy becoming a machine that turns the basket into something resembling the Swings and a Tilt-a-Whirl at a county fair.

* Has a "sensitive time" from about 5:00- 6:30.  His mother usually reaches for a glass of wine during this hour.

* Can count to 10.  We are proud and yes, I'm bragging.  My kid is obviously the most awesome toddler ever.

* Has some 'crooked' (?) front teeth.  They may or may not be the result of binkie use, but I am not too concerned.  However, as both of us are "teeth people",  I think it's secretly bothering us both a little.  (But really, who doesn't wear braces at some point?)

* Drives us crazy with his preferences.  For example, which color cup his milk is in.  We have actually stopped mentioning things like, "in your pink cup" because he will inevitably say, "no pink cup!" but not actually pick another color. At that point, no cup is the right cup. Crazy maddening.

* Loves books.  Most parents worry when they "hear" a quiet room but 9 out of 10 times, he is looking through books, reading them to himself.

* Is crazy about balls.  Kick balls. Soccer balls.  Golf balls.  Basketballs.  Footballs.  Nerf balls.   He loves to throw, catch, and kick balls all over the house.

* Loves to help cook and frequently drives me crazy with whines of "Up Mommy!" while I'm making dinner.  He wants to see the water boil, or sauce simmering, and is not okay with us telling him to back up a little.

* Spends a lot of time around girls (at daycare) and is well-versed in purses, necklaces, princesses, make up, and the colors pink and purple.

* Has taken to practicing Yoga with Mama in the evenings.  Usually only lasts a few minutes, but it's a few minutes of calm before bedtime.  He is especially good at "deep breath",  "look way high", and "down doggie".

* Lately loves to walk around in Mama's shoes.  Typically he will only wear one, as it's a little harder to walk in both.  The other night, he wore one of his snow boots for over an hour.

* Is very hard to photograph as he's constantly saying, "Arlie look?" and peering at the screen.

* Happens to be obsessed with the moon.  Almost every night he asks about the moon, and is extremely disappointed if it's already nigh-night, or hiding under the clouds.  It is one of the last things he looks for at night and always the first thing he looks for on the way to daycare. 

* Probably is left handed. (Supposedly this is not determined until age 5 so we'll wait and see....)

* Likes to "toast" his milk during supper.  Cheers to you birthday boy!

While all of these things are true, I think the biggest thing about Charlie is that he is such a gentle soul.  He is amazingly kind and caring for a toddler.  He seems to have genuine emotions of joy, sadness, and concern for others.  He is gentle and giving and more than a handful of people have referred to him as having an "old soul".  Don't worry-- he of course gets frustrated (and frustrates us), has meltdowns, whines, and cries.  But overall, he's just a really sweet little guy.  I admit that he's not perfect, nor should he be, but I'm quite proud of and enamored with the little person he is at two years old. 

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Do I Have to Prove?

Somedays, when the stars have aligned, the sun is shining, and C has had a full 11 hours of sleep, our day goes amazingly well.  We play, we run errands, we deal with minor calamities and I find myself thinking, "I'm a good mom....."

Then, there are days like today where my little cherub wakes up at 4:50 am (FOR THE DAY, PEOPLE!), has a decent but shaky early morning, and I find myself thinking "At least it's a work day and he's not my problem for five hours" as I drive to our *****AMAZING***** daycare provider.  And after thinking that, I found myself thinking, "That makes me kinda a $hitty mom....."

Then there are days like two weeks ago.  When nothing in the world would make my son happy.  (Except maybe if I had somehow been able to harness the moon and let him touch it--but currently, thank god, I haven't been able to figure out how to cater to that obsession yet) And as he whipped his body around the basement in full-blown tantrum, I sat on the couch, watching-- yet doing nothing (there was nothing to be done at this point) and I thought, "I'm definitely a $hitty mom...."

But here's my question:  Where does this self deprecation come from?  Really?  I'm a $hitty mom?  Really?  My kid is well fed, well dressed, (mostly) clean, given plenty of opportunities for outdoor play and recreation, has a basement full of toys,  has more books than some small town libraries, and gets to spend about 5-6 hours a day with his parents--who eat dinner with him each night, play "soccer game" and "football game" and "baseball game" before a very entertaining game of "hide and seek".  He helps cook meals, he helps change beds, he dances and sings.  He goes on 'discovery walks' where he searches for birds, sticks, rocks, and the ever rare "Frosty the Snowman".   He is bathed regularly and has cozy flannel crib sheets to rest his head each night.  And my friends, he's not even two!

Wow, after I typed that, I read it and you know what?  That's pretty awesome. 

So wtf?  Why am I so hard on myself?

Here's my hypothesis:  The Internet   

Here's Why:
Before the Internet,  I'm guessing people didn't have this sense of "look at what I did!" that we seem to now.  With blogs and Pinterest and Facebook, everyone is constantly posting the clever and cute ideas that they did for their darlings.  We're always looking for ways to do something cuter and more clever than the mom next door.   But really, what do we have to prove?

Here are some examples:

"Fun and Healthy Lunches!"-- look at the presentation of these.  C would be lucky to have crackers stuffed in a ziploc and thrown in a Target sack let alone a cute lunch box like this!

Oh, where do I start with this? 

And this one?  If it's for a tv food show contest, it's fine.  But something to throw in a lunchbox?  Or gobble up in two seconds at snack?  Um, I'll stick to slicing up strawberries. 

Now, I will admit that I have a strong crafty-gene that runs deep.  And I love a good art project as much as the next blogging mommy.  But seriously, color coordinating lunches in fun shapes and cute holders?  Sandwiches inspired from books?  Mice made from strawberries?  I have to say that I thought I was pretty damn clever to put strawberry flavored cream cheese on bread and present it as a sandwich to Charlie one afternoon.  This idea ranks right up there with adding raisins to Special K, making heart shaped pancakes (which ticked him off), putting a chair in my closet to make a "fort", and wrapping ourselves in blankets and pretending to be tacos. 

But while my little guy most likely won't have lunches shaped like Disney characters, or homemade stickers made from photos of his personal stuffed animals, or strawberry mice.....he will have me, my lap, and a weary left shoulder to always rest his head.  And you know what folks?  I have got to start being okay with that. 

PS:  I secretly love the ideas mentioned above.... but realistically know that I'll never ever accomplish adorable things like that.

Friday, February 10, 2012

One Hand in my Pocket

So don't you love when you put on a coat or jacket that you haven't worn in awhile, stick your hand in the pocket, only to find that great unexpected soft crinkled up $10 bill?  (Or more often in my case, maybe a couple of bucks)  It's like a mini-Christmas!  It's one of my favorite things about fall/ jacket season and one of the (really stupid) reasons why I never check my coat pockets before storing them in the summer.  (Now, this isn't the best idea as one fall I discovered two pairs of sunglasses that were "lost" all summer--only to actually be hiding in my winter coats)

Anyway, back to the pockets.  Before becoming a mother, I would find the occasional dollar, hair tie, stale cough-drop, crinkled up "to do" list, paper clip, lip gloss, or nail file in my pockets.  The other day, I stuffed my hands in pockets (as I froze outside during recess duty) and this is what I felt:

Yes, it's a pig.
So it got me thinking.  Hmmmm..... I wonder what is in my other pockets.  So I did the unthinkable-- I checked them.  Here is what I found (enjoy the photos-- I'm still learning how to use my camera on Manual.  And please excuse the random dog hair and dust bunnies on the floor):

And then, just when I was thinking I would only keep finding "mom things", I found this!

Maybe finding hair ties, cough drops, and paper clips will happen again someday.  But for now, I'm kinda enjoying these little surprises.  Happy Friday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Great (Vacation) Expectations

Earlier this week, my sweet family of three returned from our very first real family vacation.  We went to Arizona for five days to escape the cold, dark, harsh Iowa winter.  (However, when we booked the flight, we had no idea this year would turn out to be one of the mildest winters we've ever seen!)

Arizona is one of my favorite places to visit-- mostly because my best friend in the whole wide world lives there-- but also because of the climate, the scenery, the people, and the endless possibilities when it comes to dining and outdoor recreation.  When I have traveled to Arizona in the past, it has truly been a vacation.  I have never slept in (due to that nasty time change) but always find myself relaxing and just soaking up the sun.

So as we planned our vacation with a 23 month old in tow, I was envisioning this trip to be quite different.  I can't say that I was dreading it (who in their right mind would dread going somewhere sunny and warm in January!?) but I honestly wasn't expecting it to feel like a vacation.  Deep down in my heart of hearts, I knew it would be fun in that "parenting" way  (like when it's "fun" to play with your kid at 6:30 on Saturday morning--- but you also honestly know that it's really more "fun" to sleep in... all by yourself... in another lifetime).   We were lucky enough to stay at my relative's beautiful house and I thought it might be hard to entertain C in a non-baby-proof home with only a few toys.  I had no idea if he would nap, sleep, eat, cry, whine, etc. etc. so I pretty much expected no napping/ sleeping/ eating, and lots of random whining and crying.

.....And it is my belief that these low expectations resulted in a fantastic trip.  C was an amazing little traveler.  Our flights out were delayed and he handled everything great.  We didn't even get settled in to our "home" until close to 10:00 (Iowa time) and he still managed to get a 'decent' sleep in the Queen bed with me.  (Unfortunately, my sleep could not really be described as decent)  When we woke up on Thursday morning, it was the beginning of an amazing trip.  Each day was sunny and gorgeous and filled with a perfect mix of activity and relaxation.  We had such a great time as a family-- I think we truly enjoyed each others' company and had so much fun spending time together.

As I reflect on this, it's strange to me how a vacation can feel so different from daily life.  My family is so fortunate to have many opportunities to spend a lot of time together as a family on a regular basis, but it never feels so relaxed, carefree, and fun.  We head to the park for a picnic, or the hill for sledding, or the children's museum.... and while we have fun, it's as if those thoughts of work, laundry, home improvements, returning calls/ emails, dinner plans, grocery lists, appointments, and errands are always lingering just below the surface.  I find myself being torn-- I want to enjoy playing with C but I equally want to have all the laundry finished before I'm too tired to even start it.  When you're on vacation, I guess the playtime always wins-- and it's all good.

Now that we have returned, my heart has filed away those amazing vacation feelings and is slightly aching for them right now.  And while we can't run back to Arizona anytime soon, and will never be able to duplicate this particular trip, I hope that we have many more family vacations to look back on with such fond memories.  The only problem, of course, is that it's going to be awfully hard to duplicate those low expectations again after having such a fantastic trip.

I love how Charlie is hugging me in this pic... and it looks like we're in Hawaii not necessarily Arizona.  

Want to know what we did?  Check out our recap here!

Arizona Recap

I am terrible about forgetting the details.  Mason, on the other hand, is great about "keeping things in the vault" as he likes to say.  So, to assist my memory, I'm going to blog the Reader's Digest version of our Arizona trip.  I'm hoping this will come in as a handy reference guide when I'm ready to scrapbook this trip five years from now.  (Please, feel free to enjoy the photos and do not feel obligated to read the boring details.)

Wednesday, January 25
  *Flew from Cedar Rapids to Mesa, AZ.  Our flight out was delayed 2 hours because President Obama was actually flying into Cedar Rapids.  After we swallowed that news, we learned that he was also flying in to Mesa so our flight to Arizona was also delayed.  (What are the chances!?)

  *We killed time by checking in, then heading to Target and BK for lunch with plenty of time to spare.

  *Arrived in Mesa, picked up at the airport by Scotty, headed back to Kelly & Scotty's house, played with sweet little Turner, visited with Kelly's parents, ate pizza, then headed up to Scottsdale where we were staying.

  * Got situated at our "Arizona Home" and basically crashed!

Thursday, January 26
  *Ate a quick breakfast then headed to Target in Fountain Hills.  The lady at the checkout suggested we head to "the fountain" when we asked for a children's park-- so we did.  Little did we know it was such an amazing fountain!  C loved the fountain, ducks, and kicking his new ball all over the park.

Watching the fountain from the best view: Daddy's Shoulders

World Famous Fountain in Fountain Hills.  Fountain is approximately 330 feet!

 * Still had time to play at the park!

* Then headed home to set up the crib.  C had a great time "helping" his daddy put it together.

Daddy had the big drill, C had the little one. 

* Of course, there was no napping on the first day, so C & I thought it would be the perfect time to test the water!  (It was a tad chilly and pretty deep for this short mama but we still loved it)

Say "Ducky!" 

* Sara, Matt, and Vincent arrived!  We picked up their rental crib and ordered Chinese for dinner.  (YUM) We were exhausted that night!

Friday, January 27 
* ZOO DAY!!  We met Kelly & Turner at the zoo and had a blast.  The boys loved the monkeys, giraffes, zebras, ducks, warthogs, peacocks, camel, and elephant.  But I honestly think the favorite thing at the zoo was the lunch break and the big tunnel slide.  And they seemed to love the petting zoo with goats a lot too.  (we travel to Arizona a C gets super excited about a cow and goat.... ???)

Checking out the monkeys

Lunch break! (I need to work on focusing the camera more)

* C fell asleep on the way home from the zoo and took an awesome nap.  Vincent wasn't as sleepy and was very anxious for C to wake up.

"Wake up Charlie!" said Vincent

* That night we headed down the 101 to a cool little area to eat.  (Sara knew all the good spots) We had a good dinner and then C and I walked around the plaza.  A girl was playing live music and Charlie stole the show by dancing and clapping for almost ten minutes.  Of course, I didn't have any kind of camera on me-- but in a way I think that I'll better preserve the memory in my head.  It was probably one of the cutest things I've seen in my life.  (And I'm so objective about my own kid, right?)

* Although we were exhausted that night, I sat outside with the guys enjoying a fire and some vino.  It was super windy by Arizona standards but enjoying a little fire was one of my goals for the day so I wasn't going to let a little breeze ruin it!  

Saturday, January 28
* We started off the weekend with a quick Skype session to the Spencer grands.  It was cut short though because the guys were ready to take a dip in the pool and the moms had to be on camera patrol since it was so stinking cute.

Nothing better than a little Daddy pool time.  (Haven't things have changed since Jamaica?)
* Unfortunately, Mr. Vincent's ear was bothering him so Sara & Matt took him to Urgent Care only to learn that he had an infection.  The poor guy had to put up with ouchy ears the whole trip.  What a trooper. :(

* While the Flynns were seeking medical attention, Mason headed to Target to pick up a few essentials (like light weight socks for our sensitive little toddler who was bothered by the "grippyness" of the grippy socks) and C and I took advantage of the public library right across the street.  I know, how dorky to go on vacation and go to the library, but hey-- the kid is mine and he had a great time.

* That afternoon, our cherubs took a sweet nap and the mamas got a little down time.  We headed into Fountain hills for a little stroll and then stopped for a sweet little drink.  I swear that this was possibly the most delicious Sangria I have ever tasted in my life.  Berry flavored.  YUM.

* Later in the afternoon, Mason was able to get in contact with his cousin who lives in Arizona.  She and her family took a day trip to our area so we could meet-- how sweet is that?  We ended up meeting at Papago Park, which was a perfect little surprise.  C had a GREAT time and loved loved loved "climbing the big mountain".  It was pretty darn cute.  (Like everything, it seems.)

Looks like he'll be using ropes and clips and chalk next year......

But this gives you a better idea of what he accomplished-- he climbed up the area on the left and crawled over to me in the photo.  He we sooooo proud of his big accomplishment!

* Although it was our last night together, the four of us crashed almost as hard as the little guys did.  We were exhausted after another big day.

Sunday, January 29

* The weather was once again, beautiful, so we decided to check out the trails just North of Scott's house.  My cousin had mentioned that they were worth checking out--I only wish we hadn't waited until our last morning to do so.  We didn't know what to expect, so threw the little guys in the stroller and headed the few blocks to the trail head.  Once we got there, we hiked a short little path and checked out a bunch of "pricklies".   I wish we had brought a carrier for C, because I would have loved to see more of the trail.  However, our little hike gave me a quick fix and reaffirmed my need to "get out there" as much as I can.

This is one of my favorite trip photos.  Love love love our AZ vacation. :)

* The rest of our Sunday was spent packing up and trying to get things organized.  Flynn's left a bit before we did, and Kelly came to pick us up shortly after 5:00.  (We stayed with Pearsons to be closer to the airport for our early Monday flight) 

* Before saying our goodbyes, we all met at Oregano's for some delicious garlic bread, bruschetta, pizza, and of course... their famous pizza cookie.  (Charlie & Vincent had the most fun playing with their dough-ball before the food arrived)

* Sunday night, we stayed with the Pearsons. (I need to get Kelly's pics of our little cherubs) Turner was kind enough to let C sleep in his crib-- which he apparently thought was very nice.  As we settled in to sleep, we heard a huge boom-- like an explosion.  Of course, being the country mice that we are, we kind of figured it was just a "city life" noise.  Turns out it was a huge house explosion that destroyed two houses-- not too far away.  So, I guess you could say our vacation ended with a "bang".  (Bad joke, I know.)

Monday, January 30

*Scotty was kind enough to drop us off at the airport in Mesa.  Thankfully, I had flown out of there before and knew the line was loooooong and required getting there as early as possible.  M stood in line while C and I walked around the tiny airport for what seemed like hours.  After getting through security (M had to endure a pat-down thanks to the 4.2 oz. Elmo juiceboxes we were carrying along-- they do look mighty suspicious) we had just enough time to grab breakfast to eat on the plane.  Fortunately, we all sat next to each other-- and C had his own seat since the flight was not full.  In retrospect, we wish we had brought his carseat along-- as he was soooo tired and had could not fall asleep without it.  (Until we landed--then he fell asleep in my arms)  As a result, M & I put on quite the circus trying to keep him entertained and occupied.  I'm sure the people around us loved the songs, finger plays, peek-a-boo games, play-doh, markers, books, matchbox cars, slinky tossing, and animal sounds that went on endlessly for three hours. 

* As we landed, C fell asleep  in my arms.  He slept until M pulled the car up, and then chattered with us all the way home.  I think he was excited about our vacation as we were.  As we pulled into our driveway, C said, "Arlie's house! We're back!" and while I loved almost every second of our vacation, it felt good to be home.  But mark my words, the Spahn family will be visiting our beloved Arizona again in the future.