Monday, December 31, 2007

Caution: brain under construction

We are noticing many dramatic developmental changes in the past week, almost as if switches have been flipped in Jack's brain.

Jack can repeat just about anything he hears, even if he only hears it once. We get greatly amused by having him sing snatches of songs -- last night he nailed "throw your weapons down," a lyric from a Neil Young song.

When we read books together, Hans or I often omit key words and have Jack say them. He has a great memory.

The biggest new thing is probably a marked improvement in his motor skills. This happily coincided with a big tub of Christmas duplo, so Jack's been building and stacking for days. He makes tall duplo trains, stacks wood blocks, and lines up and arranges objects in specific ways.

It's been a bit tough getting Jack out of his room and outside these days. Luckily Acrosports starts back up this week -- he always wants to go swing on the trapeze, so I know he'll get lots of exercise at least one day a week!

The monkey way

It's a sure thing: if you want Jack to listen, laugh, or stop crying, just mention monkey. His little stuffed monkey friend delights Jack to no end, and monkey gets incorporated into all kinds of fun activities. He goes to the playground, plays hide and find, helps build duplo houses, and rides on the train. He kisses away owies and snuggles in Jack's pillow nest.

Monkey also worms his way into stories and songs. Thus we have new and improved versions of:
Beatles songs, including Yellow Monkey Train, All You Need is Monkey, and Me and My Monkey (well, the latter is perfect as is)
Books that he particularly loves, such as Baby Blue Cat and the Whole Batch of Cookies, now known as Baby Blue Monkey Cat, etc.
Hotel Monkey Cat California sung at nappytime

Jack's also very likely to reply to any question with monkey for an answer. Anything from what do you want for breakfast to what day is today. Monkey, monkey, monkey!

New phrases and words

no mommy sing song
monkeyroni and cheese

It's the end of the nap as we know it...

and we feel not so fine.

We had a great nappytime (Jack's word) routine going -- right after lunch Jack would run back to his room and get into bed. A little reading, a little singing, and it was lights out for him and some rest for me. Last week, everything started to shift. Now Jack doesn't want to take a nap. He still likes the reading and singing and snuggling, but then he wants to get up and play, even though he's tired and needs a nap. He skipped his nap altogether once, and was a wreck by dinner time. The mixed blessing that day was a very early bedtime -- he was asleep by 7:30. So we see the future and it looks not so nappy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sleeping 9 to 5...

what a way to make the whole family crazy!

The past week was a rough one. I got smacked with the nasty ear/nose/throat/chest virus that's been rampaging through SF, and Jack turned 2. I don't know if it was the excitement of his birthday or just that big brain of his churning, but he was a bear all week long, and I was in poor form to cope.

He slept badly (either only 8-9 hours a night) and/or woke up in the night nearly every night. In his waking hours he was alternately needy or defiant and challenging. By Friday I was fantasizing about dumping him in day care (or a toddler military school) until he starts preschool. Hans didn't escape the trials of this week either -- Jack was challenging at bedtime too.

Things are better now. Hans took Jack to the zoo on Saturday, and I got some rest. On Sunday afternoon we all had a great time at Fairyland, then came home and had a homemade pizza dinner with lots of laughter.

Jack sings more and more each day. Yesterday he sang a bit of "Let it Be," and that brought tears to my eyes.

And even during a week of turmoil, we've still had very enjoyable nap time. As soon as his lunch is over, he heads straight for his room and gets into bed. I gather up his books, bring him a cup of milk, and we snuggle and read. After a few books, I sing him the "nappytime" song (a variation of the nap time song from Yo Gabba Gabba) and then "Hotel California" and he falls asleep.

I've come to realize that parenting a toddler is a series of frequent peaks and valleys, with a few straight plains every now and then. I try to enjoy the good days, endure the bad ones, and remember that these particular challenges are only temporary.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Jack's phrase of the day

Happy birthday to me!

Jack's song of the day

"Ring around rosie
ahi ahi all fall down!"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Conversation of the day

(at bedtime)
"Good night Jack... I love you bunny."
"night night mommy... I love you mommy."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Too much is never enough

Sleep. We never get enough sleep. Well, not true exactly -- one of us (Jack) sleeps as much as he wants, but that's only 9 hours a night. Jack goes to sleep around 8:30 and gets up at 6 (sometimes 5:30).

Or course, we are much better rested than we were as "young" (ha) parents. I remember our first pediatrician appointment when Jack was 3 days old or so. Hans and I were both so tired that we couldn't fill out the forms correctly. We dissolved into a fit of laughing until tears streamed down our faces. There would be more tears later in Jack's babyhood, and not always the happy kind. When Jack was just over a month old, I called Hans at work (on his birthday no less) in tears, pleading with him to come home -- Jack would not stop crying and I was exhausted.

In his second year, Jack slept better until his teeth came in, and then it was 6 months of agony for the whole family. He woke up crying almost every night, sometimes more than once a night. I can remember reading to him during the day and being so tired that I could not decode the words. I would stop, stuck on a simple, everyday word, and think for 5 seconds or so, until I could recall that word.

Now Jack is 6 days from his second birthday. He sleeps through the night and takes a nap for about 1 1/2 hours every day. Some time in the next year he will most likely drop that nap, which will be a mixed blessing for me. I cherish that 90 minute nap in the middle of the day. It gives me a break, a chance to rest, catch up on email, write, and relax. However, we are told that when toddlers stop taking naps they go to bed earlier, so it'll be nice to have a bit of time to ourselves in the evening.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Jack's phrase of the day

I know rhino
I know pine cone

One of life's mysteries explained

I always wondered why there are so many shoes and stuffed animals littering bay area interstates. Now I have a toddler. I know.

Jack throws and flings things. Chalk off the deck. Rice from the table. Water out of the tub. His hat off the Little Puffer train at the SF Zoo (after the second time we gained a new appreciation for coats with hoods). So far, he's refrained from tossing anything out of the car. Just to be sure, I'm keeping the windows up!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Quiet Day and Very Good Dinner

Yesterday was wonderful; quiet, calm, and fun. Since the painters are done and the paint is dry, we didn't have to juggle the cars around so they could park their truck in the driveway, or worry about rain washing the paint off the house (it happened the other day).

We had a very good dinner of roast, rice, and gravy, one of Hans' favorites. I cooked the roast according to the cheap beef recipe in the latest (Jan/Feb '08) Cook's Illustrated, and it was very tasty and easy. The gravy was tricky, since this technique does not render any meat drippings. I cooked an onion in some butter until it was golden, then built the gravy on that. Luckily we have turkey stock from our deep fried Thanksgiving turkeys, so that helped a lot. The collard greens benefited from the stock as well, and although I cut back on the pepper vinegar, they were still quite sharply flavored from a good dose of cider vinegar. The greens were Jack's favorite part of dinner, and he ate a lot of them.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Jack's phrase of the day (yesterday)

I am a big boy!

Good Nights, Bad Nights You Know We've Had Our Share

Jack has a cold, and Thursday night he was up in the night 2 or 3 times (we couldn't remember the next day). His schedule for Friday:

5:20 -- up for the day
11:20 -- nap
12:50 -- up from nap (painters were scrapping the windows outside his room)
8:30 -- to bed

Hans and I were dragging all day (and I caught Jack's cold), but Jack was pretty much bouncing off the walls as usual, until we lured him to bed with his train stories. Being sick or lacking sleep does not seem to affect him. He doesn't "catch up" at all.

Thankfully, last night he slept from 8:30 to 6:15. His nose is still runny, but he's not coughing or feverish. And the painters are done with our house!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Testing the limits

Since our neighborhood playground reopened recently, we've been walking there and back nearly every day. While I'm very glad to be able to stroll there instead of drive, it's become a walk for which I must steel myself -- as Jack tests his limits and mine.

Jack doesn't like his stroller. It's been sitting in our dining room for a few months now, completely unused. We can sometimes lure Jack onto his push-tricycle, but mostly he wants to walk. Unfortunately, he has become reluctant to hold my hand, and a few times he has darted away into the street. We talk about this over and over, but he hasn't stopped doing it, so every time we set out on the 8 block walk, I will myself into hyper-vigilance mode.

After a few weeks of his occasional running offs, I noticed that Jack pauses while walking before he darts away, as if considering which way leads to the nearest train display. Now if he stops and I'm not holding his hand, I quietly grab him before he can take any action.

I know this is just a stage he'll move through, but wow, does it wear me out.

And he's also getting rather particular about things -- he only wants to hold my right (no ring) hand. When I hold him with my left hand he says "no ring no ring no ring" over and over.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Monkey do

Jack's new best friend is monkey, a small stuffed animal that was a gift from Hans' parents. He likes to take him to the playground, color with him, and build train tracks with him. Jack holds monkey's hand and monkey picks up toys and puts them in a bin. Monkey also wears a diaper. Jack likes to hide monkey and then ask me to look for him. While I poke around his room, Jack squeals in delight. When I hide monkey, Jack comes back into the room singing "monkey, where are you?"

Old paint away

This is the second day of our exterior house painting project. By "our" I mean the crew we hired to scrape and paint about 1/2 the house, including the back and south side.

I'm so excited to get this done -- it's been on our "to do" list since we moved in. Sanders are buzzing like frantic bees, and scrapers are chipping away at the old paint, and Jack is napping. Most of the work is being done literally right outside his windows, and on the other side of the wall from his bed. Yesterday when I was reading to him after lunch I thought the work noise couldn't get any louder than it was at that moment, and then someone started pounding on the wall (or so it sounded). I stopped and looked at Jack and thought, "this will never work; he can't sleep through this." But he seemed nonplussed by it all, so I finished the book, snuggled up to him and sang "Hotel California," our naptime song. I hadn't even finished the second verse and he blinked once, twice, and then was asleep. The work went on, and Jack slept and slept, for 2 hours!

So maybe next week we should refinish the floors or hammer all day....