Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dear Jack: One Year, Eight Months

Dear Jack,

At one year and eight months, you finally had your second year's worth of snow. And, man, we have had more snow in the past few weeks than I'd care to even think about! It started with just a dusting. We played in the snow, and your dad pulled you and Eliot on the sled. It was a really silly sight because he was pretty much just pulling you through mud. Then about a week later, we actually got a few inches. You enjoyed sliding down the pindo mound in the yard--and later would try it when the snow melted and get all dirty. After a few slides, we realized that you just really don't like snow. You were excited to go play in it, but, boy, you got over it fast and just threw yourself on the ground pouting. We even took you and Eliot to the golf course by our house to go sledding. You would scream in fear at first, but you were smiling by the end of the hill. However, we only forced you to try it a few times because you just were not a fan. I don't like the cold either. I was just trying to take advantage of it all, so I don't blame you.

We've tried to keep busy despite the cold. A dinosaur exhibit came to Hampton, so we went and had fun looking at all of the animatronics. They were pretty loud and moved, but you were brave and wanted to explore. Then you'd come to your senses and backtrack a little. We even got to "ride" a t-rex together. I was just short enough for them to let me go on with you.

During the day, I try to keep you and Eliot entertained. He has missed a lot of school due to the snow--and I also got to cancel classes for my new job teaching at the community college. I've really enjoyed being able to stay home with you guys, and I can't wait for summer.
We did sneak in a beach trip, and I loved running along the shore with you and building sandcastles. We met a chocolate lab there. Whenever you see a big dog, you run to meet him, and this was no exception. Lucky for you, he was a service dog in training, so his owners were happy to let you play with him. Despite your love for dogs, you still call them all "ball". One day you will say "dog". One day.

Lately, your love for books has really taken off. You've always like them, but now you have clear favorites and pick them off the shelf. Your favorites include Goodnight Moon, The Very Busy Spider, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. You like our rituals that we go through, such as pretending the fireplace in Goodnight Moon is hot and "petting" the kitties and "eating" the mush and finding the mouse. You seem to really love farm animals, so you like making all of the animal sounds in The Very Busy Spider. Your dad and I both love reading to you, and I hope that you always love books.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sickness and Re-connecting Despite the Collective Roar

It has been such a long time since I have written consistently on here. So much of it has been this relentless sickness that has been following our family.

In the beginning of January, Eliot developed a typical cold. We had finally come out of our stomach virus issue that plagued the whole family over Christmas, but I was hopeful that it would pass. At the same time, Jack was teething pretty bad and constantly crying. Well, it didn't pass. Instead, Jack and Eliot both developed sinus infections. With the weather being cold, we couldn't go out to play much, and I really didn't want to take them to our usual indoor fun places (like the aquarium) to avoid spreading our germs. However, the boys were both on antibiotics, so I was, once again, hopeful that we'd all be better soon and the weather might warm up.

In the mean time, we tried to keep busy with trips to the beach whenever it was warm, outings to get icecream, and we even went to Build-A-Bear to make Ninja Turtles. We were all feeling so incredibly cooped up, and Eliot was bouncing off the walls all the time and not listening when I tried to calm him down. Who could blame him, though? Things started to feel tense constantly because I felt a total lack of control. I absolutely adore my boys, and I love their bond, but, man, they can form quite the team of insanity when they work together. At the end of the day, I felt so fried and expected better behavior since I had been reminding and arguing with the boys alllll day, but the evening is when their behavior is the worst.

"Don't push your brother. I said, 'Don't push your brother!' Oh my gosh. Don't grab him by the arm! Stop pulling himmm!"
"But he's laughing! He's having fun!"
"I know, but you're going to hurt him!"

I felt like we never were going to get along again until the weather would warm up so they could run outside.

And then, one week after starting the antibiotics, the rash started. It was a Wednesday. I was getting ready for work when I noticed that Eliot had some marks on the back of his neck. He had been complaining about feeling itchy in the morning.... And it kept spreading. I made him a doctor's appointment right away, which Chris took him to. They concluded that it was an allergic reaction to the antibiotics. So, Benadryl it was.

The next afternoon, it spread onto his face. He suddenly had a fever of 101. His ankle also started to swell, which the doctor said to look out for as a problem. I took him into urgent care that night, which I kind of felt like maybe it wasn't completely necessary, but the nurse said I should. Also, they gave him a steroid to help him fight the allergy since the antibiotics would still be in his system for a number of days (even though I stopped giving it to him). As Eliot lay his head on my lap on the examining table, wearing only a hospital gown, he looked up at me and said, "You're my special girl." In that moment, after weeks of frustration and feeling like the worst disciplinary, I felt close to my son again. I felt bad that it took that--a trip to urgent care--for us to get some one-on-one time and re-connect.

We came home and I jokingly posted this cheetah-face picture of Eliot

In the morning, I couldn't believe it. His rash was almost completely cleared up. He wasn't itching at all. He excitedly talked about going to school and wrote his name on all of his Valentines for his classmates--a new accomplishment for us. I thought we had beat it, but then more trouble came after school. Since he was doing so much better, we were supposed to meet friends at an indoor play place, but about an hour after getting home from school, he started to say he couldn't walk. Both of his knees and his left ankle were super swollen; he didn't even have a clear ankle. Whenever he stood or tried to walk, he would cry. Instead, our friends came over to play, which really worked out well and he was able to play while sitting down. He did manage to walk eventually without bending his knees. I was really getting worried even more, but there seems to be a lot of cases of swollen joints with an amoxicillin allergy. I planned to take him to the doctor again in the morning if the swelling was still there, but it was completely gone and he acted normal the next day.

So now that both of the boys are over their sinus infections and Eliot has beat this allergy, I noticed that Eliot's nose is running again. Sigh. It is just a little bit and it is clear, so maybe it won't become something worse.

Out of this whole experience, though, I have recognized that I need to set aside some one-on-one time with each of the boys. When Jack was born, I tried to make a point to go off with Eliot alone to make sure he knew he was still important, but each time Eliot wanted Jack to come too. And as Jack got older, he'd cry at the door if I tried to take Eliot somewhere alone. They love being with each other that much--they didn't want to leave the other one behind, so I kind of stopped trying. Even if I'm just taking Eliot to the grocery store with me while Jack naps at home with Chris or quietly reading books to Jack in his room, I need that time to re-connect with them. I love taking them on adventures, and they love experiencing everything together, but the two together around the house can get overwhelming (they feed off one another), so I need that time for it to be less chaotic and to hear my boys' voices individually instead of a collective roar.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Eliot Thomas at Four Years Old

Every six months of so, I try to write up how Eliot is growing and developing. And, here, at four years old, it is time for another update.

It jarred me at first as I tried to accept that Eliot is in fact four years old. It sounds so much older than three, but Eliot has seemed like a five-year-old for so long that it is easy to see him as four--well, he'd be a kind of badly behaved five-year-old, but the things he says and does are so big.

On his birthday, I took cupcakes in to his school to share with his friends. Then that weekend, we celebrated with a Godzilla birthday party. Godzilla and Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles are currently his two favorites.

Eliot loves to build, explore, discover, and do things his way. He has become particular in many things. Chris pushes him on the swing the best. I put him to bed the best. His diet is crazy and the "crust" has to be cut off his pop tarts, and his food must be warm (not hot and not cold). I gotta say, it can be frustrating, but he knows what he wants.

He can do all kinds of news things (as of a few months ago), like riding his bike, swimming, riding a scooter, and so on. He had a great season of soccer and is looking forward to the spring season.

His favorite adventures include going to the aquarium, the zoo, for bike rides, to get icecream, and shopping. Dude loves to shop, but we rarely take him to Target with us anymore because he wants all the toys. He thinks we owe him a toy each trip, so I try to avoid that conflict. Eliot's favorite place in whole world might be the beach, even when it is cold. He likes to chase the waves, play in the sand, and feed the seagulls.

I'm happy to say that all of the issues with not wanting to go to preschool are prettyyyy much resolved. He never complains and never, ever cries about going to school. I'm so glad, and it did take a couple of months, but I think he needed to get settled in with a group of friends. And his teachers are just awesome, which makes a world of difference. For their Christmas program, he eagerly sang along and could barely stand still from all of the excitement. I was super proud of him because I really worried that he would just stand there and cry (or run off the stage or something). Christmas was a whole different world for us this year. I never wanted to push Santa, but he learned about Santa at school, so the whole month of December was littered with questions about Christmas and Santa and Baby Jesus. It was really exciting for him, and I felt like this year, he had built up the anticipation of Christmas morning coming whereas before, he just saw it as it came.

Eliot is such a sweet, affectionate boy. He constantly tells us how much he loves us. He loves animals and babies like crazy. He assigns family roles to his toys by making them parents with babies all the time. He asks frequently when I'm going to have a baby for Jack, but that isn't quite in the plans.

I love watching his creativity grow. He draws and colors so well. Sometimes his drawings don't make sense at first, but he explains it all so well and it comes together. He is also crazy good at mazes. I once bought him a tracing and maze activity book with at least 100 mazes. He did the entire book in one sitting. His creativity does get him in trouble, though, because he is always "designing" things that don't exist and then demanding them. I'm the same way--I'll make up a shirt or a piece of furniture or anything, really, and then get mad if I can't find it in stores just the way I envisioned it. Eliot is this way with toys. He makes up elaborate toys and describes how the toys would look, work, and function. Then he gets mad that I can't find him a "bones dragon". No worries: He asked Santa for the bones dragon, so he got around the fact that I couldn't find one on Amazon for him. Unfortunately, Santa didn't bring a bones dragon, and Eliot didn't complain.

One of the sweetest things about Eliot right now (to me, at least) is how incredibly concerned is about everyone, especially me. He loves to push my buttons and I think he tries to frustrate me sometimes, but at other points, he wants to take care of me. When I take him grocery shopping, he tries to get me to buy myself make-up. If I mention that I have a headache starting, he tells me that I should eat something. Whenever a commercial comes on tv targeted to women--whether it's glitter for my hair or footcare--he asks me if I'd like it and then goes on to try to convince me that I need it.

Eliot is an amazing big brother and has a better relationship with Jack than I had ever expected. Eliot has never shown an ounce of jealousy and is always concerned with how Jack is doing (and what Jack is doing wrong). I do have to remind Eliot that I am Jack's parent (not him), so I do the disciplining; however, their conflicts aren't as big, bad, or frequent as I had feared. If anything, they build off eachother and play together too well. Jack will growl at Eliot and Eliot will chase him, and before I know it, they're both rolling around on the floor laughing and roaring. Oh, goodness. I have yet to determine the proper balance between "boys will be boys" and avoiding Emergency Room visits (none so far).

Eliot's language and speech has really developed quite well. He uses big words, and I think, generally, most everyone can understand him (sometimes with some small translations by me). He definitely has some deep, abstract, even metaphysical questions. He wants to know how everything works and why things are the way they are. He asks how all of our food is made. He asks questions like why we have legs or why birds have wings and so on. He asks why God lives in outer space (and insists that this is the case even when I try to explain it).

Eliot isn't a baby anymore. No, far, far from a baby. When schooltime approached in the fall, I worried if he'd have accidents or be able to pull up his pants after using the bathroom. That thought seems ridiculous now. He doesn't have any accidents anymore (even on road trips), and he dresses himself every day. He may be a "big kid" now, but he always makes me feel like I am special, important to, and needed by him. I hope he always has room for me in his heart.