Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dear Jack: Two Years, Two Months

Dear Jack,

I knew it would come to this. I knew you would grow up fast after turning two--faster than your brother did. He held onto many "baby" habits, but you have always been in a hurry to catch up with him. You've always been more independent and more grown in that way.

I feel like you have checked most "big boy" tasks off the list other than starting school, which won't be for another year. I am happy, though, that you still are so very sweet to me and love to cuddle, especially in the morning. While we call you Bam-bam since you are a little wild one, you have picked up saying "sorry" whenever I tell you that you have hurt me, which is mostly on accident. I can't stay mad. And when I begin to fuss at you to correct you, you have started blowing kisses.

For a while, I was unsure of what to say were your favorite things because you go with the flow and love whatever your brother loves. As you have grown more vocal, I can say for certain what you love now. You are absolutely nuts for the tv show Wild Kratts in which the Kratt brothers activate their creature power suits to save animals. When I turn on the tv, you point and say "that" until their show is on the menu, and then you yell, "Rat rat rat!" You try to sing the theme song and hit your chest to activate your creature power. You are so enthusiastic about it. Fortunately, your brother loves the show too, so you guys could watch it all day. Also, you and Eliot have recently started loving Shaun the Sheep. You picked it out randomly because you saw it and love farm animals. And somehow we ended up watching it over and over for three days. You love to "cock-a-doodle-doo" with the rooster as the show begins and ask for it by saying, "Baaa!"

I've been working with you on swimming and holding your breath underwater. I'm sure you won't be swimming fully any time soon, but I am trying to help you not be afraid of holding your breath and putting your face in the water. You don't quite seem to like it (I know I don't without a mask), but you are doing it.

You have always seemed to be in a hurry to grow up, and I suppose I will have to let your baby side go. I will have to accept that I cannot (and will not) hold you as the baby forever. However, for now, you are still a child. You are still a boy. Your eyes are still filled with wonder. You are still bright and happy almost all of the time. You still hold my hand happily. You're still mine, and I will cherish this time for all that it is.

Dear Jack: Two Years, One Month

Dear Jack,

After you turned two last month, you suddenly decided that you were a big boy. Out of nowhere, you started climbing out of your crib. At first, it was your portacrib on vacation. You were so proud to show us how you put your foot up on the ledge and pulled yourself out. I knew we only had a matter of time before you moved this over to your regular crib. Sure enough, a couple of days later, we had to convert your crib to a toddler bed. Getting you to sleep just got a lot more complicated. You think it is so cool to get out of bed. It takes about an hour to get you to sleep.

You're growing into quite our little adventurer. You love playing in the water at the beach, especially when Daddy helps you "swim" over the crashing waves. We tried kayaking with you, and you sat so still and great. Sometimes you go in the garage and just sit in the kayak because you want to go paddling.

I'm holding tight onto these baby months. Every morning, you wake up and come looking for me. I get you a yogurt smoothie for breakfast and we settle into the couch to watch Wild Kratts, your favorite show. Then you are up and ready to tear apart the house. I treasure our mornings together, just you and me. I keep reminding myself that we just have maybe five more months left of you being a baby. You will turn into a boy right before our eyes and much less "baby" once you are two and a half months. And I bet the seasons changing and the simple act of putting jeans on you will make you seem to grow a year. It's hard to let go of you as a baby sometimes, but I just try to look at all of the fun new stages we will go through and all of the "big kid" activities you will enjoy.

Speaking of Wild Kratts, I am thankful that you and Eliot currently share one favorite show instead of having to argue about what we watch. Whenever I turn on the TV, you point and say, "Rat-rat!" for Wild Kratts. If I take too long putting it on, you say, "No. That." Eliot has decided that you two are going to be the Kratt brothers for Halloween and I guess that works. I am just glad that you will be matching--I think that is so cute--even if no one will know who you are.

This month, you had your second trip "away" from us. Your Mawmaw and Elizabeth were heading home from a visit when your brother said he wanted to go home with them. You were not about to be left behind and really wanted to go too. So, we quickly packed you a bag and you spent a couple of nights at your grandparents' house. I always feel so nervous with you away, but you love your grandparents and I know you have your brother with you too. I'm glad that you are so independent. It makes me feel like maybe I did something right, although it is probably just your personality type. I was so happy to get you back home!

We love you, Jack. I love experiencing life with you and through your eyes. From peach picking to blowing bubbles to building forts, you show me the wonder of our world.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eliot at Four and a Half

There's so much to say about Eliot at four and a half! He's always saying something hilarious or crazy or sassy or sweet.

He's grown into such a big boy lately. Sometimes when I hold him or pick him up, he feels so large in my arms and nearly the same size as me. I find the whole situation absurd. With his "big boy"-ness, he has become more capable. He swims and flips underwater. He does cannon balls. He retrieves toys from the bottom. He swims through people's legs and hoops in the pool. He can touch the bottom of the deep end. Once with Chris's help, Eliot touched the bottom of my parents' deep end, which is eight feet. I wrote about before how he did an awesome job in spring soccer, especially compared to last fall.

With sports, he has gotten to be quite competitive. He wants to win all the time, so I am trying to teach him to lose gracefully or to accept that he is not always the best, but he did well for himself. In the spring, he ran a kids' 1k race with Chris where they finished on the football field. It really was a beautiful moment to see them running together and finishing up. He was pretty convinced that he "won," so he was happy with himself.

Eliot's favorite shows include Wild Kratts and Jurassic Park. He really wanted to see Jurassic World in theaters, but loud noises bother him a great deal, so we will wait until it comes out on DVD. He frequently asks when Jurassic World is coming to our TV. Since we couldn't see JW in theaters, I bought him a Lego Jurassic Park game for the Wii. It plays out all four of the Jurassic movies. I fully expected that I would have to play it for him and he would watch as if it were a movie, but he picked up quickly how to play. And he beat the whole game--all four movies. I couldn't believe it. This kid had played on the iPad, but never on a game system.

Eliot also loves going to the beach and exploring in the woods. He loves to pretend he is a dinosaur or is hunting dinosaurs all the time. Even when I'm driving down the road, he pretends that raptors are attacking our car. We are always pretending something. He is growing in his creativity by writing stories. He comes up with the story, I write the words, and then he illustrates the books.

Looking back on how he has grown and changed over time, I have to say that we are making progress. He generally listens pretty well and only whines or throws fits if things aren't going according to his plan or if I tell him he can't have something, like a new toy or game on the iPad. To help with this, we set up a sticker and chore system in which he can earn money by helping out around the house. At the same time, if he throws a fit, he will lose a sticker (or dollar).

Eliot makes for an amazing big brother. He wants to be with Jack all the time. Most of their conflicts are limited to when Jack wants to destroy something Eliot is building or when Jack decides to start wrestling when Eliot doesn't want to. General little bro v. big bro stuff. They really do love playing together, though, and it is a beautiful (and hilarious) relationship to watch.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dear Jack: Two Years

Dear Jack,

Two years ago, you came into the world and our life just after lunchtime following about four and half hours of labor. You brought so much to our family, more than I thought you could. It is hard for me to believe that you have already been with us for two years--you are "the" baby of the family--but you have seemed to be two for so long.

To celebrate your birthday, we took you to the zoo where you loved the peacocks the most. You have this thing about ducks lately. You love ducks, so you chased this one peacock all around the zoo. The next day, we went to the Hunt Club to pet the goats, chickens, and go for a pony ride. I think you love horses even more than ducks. You are always looking out for "neighs," as you call them. You sleep with two stuffed horses, your stuffed dog (like our dachshund), and blanket. After the petting zoo, we had cupcakes, and just like last year, you went face-forward into the cupcake instead of using your hands. You may be a year older, but your cupcake-eating strategy is the same.

This year, you have grown even more independent. You're a very good sleeper and nap once a day for a couple of hours usually. You are as picky as they come regarding food, but you love to drink yogurt smoothies and you use silverware great. If you see a pizza or donut box, you run to get your own plate.

As strange as it sounds, you are very interested in good hygiene. If someone so much as mentions a "bath," you get excited and run to the bathroom. You love brushing your hair and letting me wet it with a spray bottle. You love having lotion and sunscreen put on you. You're crazy about brushing your teeth and sometimes hide in your room to brush them alone. You don't even mind getting haircuts, really.

You are our wild child, our feral boy. Your roar. You run. You kick and punch and wrestle everyone. I have bruises from you--many bruises. You do your own thing playing independently, but you also want to be involved in everything and always happily take my hand when I ask you to. I am thankful for how much you love to cuddle me and give me kisses.

Your language continues to develop and change every day. It is nice being able to ask you a question and get a clear "yes" or "no" to help understand what you want. It is hard to keep track of all you say because your favored words constantly shift, but here is basically what you say.
Directions: no, uh-uh, hi, hello, bye, outside, inside, garage (weird, huh?), there, that, up, eat, haaaailp (help), go, down, sit.
Animals and sounds: ball for dog (still), bat, moo, neigh, cat, baa, maa, whoo-whoo, arhoo (for wolf), growl (for dinosaurs, bears, lion, tigers, and so on), wrorw (dinosaur), bug, ant, fly, duck, quack, bird.
Objects: juice (for all liquids), pad (for iPad), evee (for tv), 'one (phone), bath, pool, d'nut (donut), boat, ball, book, slide, tree, stick, rock, shoes.
Body parts: teeth, eye, back, mouth, nose.
People: mom, dad, Tinky (my mom's dog).
Questions: What's that? Where's Mom? Where's Dad? Where's neigh (horse)? You want it off? (You say this when you want something off) See it? Want to go for a walk? Want to go for a ride?

I love watching you interact with the world. Your eyes are so full of wonder. You catch the rain. You chase fireflies in the grass at night and crabs on the summer beaches during the day. You tug at my hand and ask, "What's that? See it?" You are always ready to get dirty and then happy to take a bath. Whenever someone goes somewhere, you are ready to come too. You grab shoes for yourself, Eliot, your dad, and me--you make sure we are all taken care of. Happy birthday, Jack.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Turning Two and the Outer Banks and Summer Running

I love summer. I love the heat, the water, the traditions.... It goes too fast. As we are now in July, we are about half-way through the season, and we have enjoyed a lot of sunshine.

Recently, Jack turned two. To celebrate, we took him to the zoo on his birthday. The next day, we went to the Hunt Club and then had cupcakes. Jack has been really into horses for a few months, so we made sure he got a pony ride in to celebrate his second birthday.

Almost every year, Chris's parents rent a beach house in the Outer Banks, and this year we had two weeks. Eliot had been asking ever since last year to go back to "Mawmaw's beach house". He didn't quite get that she does not own it, and when we finally explained it, Eliot was amazed that the owners like to share so much. Err... Not quite. Anyway, I have been hearing for MONTHS about all the food he was going to eat with Mawmaw and Granddad. He went down without us for about five days and then we went down for another five days the second week. Jack also stayed with them without us for two nights, which was our first night away from Jack ever. I know it is special for them all to have some one-on-one time, but, man, my heart was breaking without those boys around.

We all had a good time swimming in the sound, playing on the beach, fishing, and boating. Every year, we take similar photos (all the way back to before Chris and I got married), and I love watching our family grow over the years.
The first "family portrait" I took for us in 2007. Flared jeans and white tees.

Elizabeth and me in the sound in 2008. I think.

We had a few very hot weeks, and I'm glad to say that I have been able to keep up the running anyway. It was really taking it out of me and my pace suffered (a lot), but I pushed through by getting up early and running in high 80s/low 90s instead of 100+ degrees. I hit 200 miles today on my Nike app, which I have been using since November. The month of June contributed 53 miles to my total.... I've been going for slower, shorter, more frequent runs than the winter, and have been able to increase my weekly mileage without injuries whereas before I could only run every other day. It seems to be working for me. I generally do three miles (generally four times a week) and work in a long run (five miles) every other week. That is the plan for now, at least. I feel like these are pretty big milestones, and I can't help but question if this means that I can consider myself to be "a runner" yet. I have trouble figuring out how to quantify this and always am reluctant to assign titles to myself. I guess I always worry that someone will say, "You're not really a runner until you run at a nine-minute pace," or "You're not really a runner until you run a half marathon," or "You're not really a runner until you have done it consistently for a year." The truth is, though, we're all coming at different places. Some weeks I run faster or longer or more frequently. It's never the same, and hopefully I am always working at improving. If you run, you're a runner. So, yeah. I guess that makes me a "runner".

I'm not ready to accept that summer is halfway over yet, so to keep it here, I'm setting some goals for myself.
-Go to the beach more (once a week at least)
-Kayak new places (once a week-ish)
-Take photos of the gardens
-Go to a water park (at least once)
-Go to the splashground at the Botanical Gardens
-Get Italian ice with the boys
-Get my hair cut (not reliant on the summer, but it needs to happen)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

New Adventures: Kayaking

When I was a kid, my family used to camp a bit. We loved exploring new places and hiking. A few times we had a chance to go tubing, canoeing, and kayaking. I loved it--although, I was always a little worried about snakes when tubing. Those adventures were always reserved for when we'd go camp in the mountains in the spring or summer, which only happened a few times.

Then when Chris and I got married and moved to Lynchburg, we really wanted to get a kayak or a canoe. My dad would tell us stories of canoeing trips to the boundary waters up in Minnesota, and we wanted to make our adventures on the water, but the logistics (and money in general) were enough to hold us back. Instead, we focused on hiking and backpacking. We had a lot of great experiences and took some awesome photos, so I'm glad that we did.

Still, the thought of getting a kayak lingered. We had Eliot. We moved back to Chesapeake when I was pregnant with Jack. It wasn't good timing. Each summer, we thought about it, but the kids seemed too small.

This summer while at the Outer Banks with Chris's family, we took a kayak out into the sound. Eliot was nervous about the waves, but he was fine. Jack just sat there so happy and didn't want to get out. In fact, Jack spent about thirty minutes sitting in the kayak in the garage asking, "Do you want to go for a ride?"

Even though Jack just turned two, it seemed like we could pull it off. So we did. We went to a local outfitters store and bought a tandem, sit-on-top, sea kayak. This way, we have room for all four of us and a good amount of stability. We might even get brave and take it on the bay sometime. Maybe. The next day, we packed everything up and went to Stumpy Lake. Chris and I paddled with the boys for about an hour. We saw cranes, seagulls, and a lot of turtles. The weather was perfect with a little breeze too.

I was really glad that Chris and I were able to load and unload the kayak ourselves because, let's face it, that was a pretty big concern of mine. There's so many places I want to check out around here.