Monday, November 29, 2010

Goodbye Training Wheels

We spent Thanksgiving with my parents in Searcy, Arkansas.  I'll post more about that later, but I promised Caleb that today's post would be entirely dedicated to his latest accomplishment.  The first morning we were in Searcy, Marcus and Papa took the boys down to the elementary school by my parents' house to ride bikes.  We'd decided the night before to try taking Caleb's training wheels off for the first time during this trip, so Marcus went ahead and removed them when they all got to the park.  I wasn't there for the teaching session (I was out shopping for baby girl clothes with my mom), but I saw the video.  Marcus gave Caleb a couple of tips like starting out by putting his foot on the higher petal and trying to go faster to help stay balanced, and then he let Caleb take off.  Amazingly, it took him less than 20 minutes to get the hang of it.  In the video I saw, he was riding all over the paved area of the school like a pro before they even headed home from the park.

This new development sort of turned our weekend into a bike-riding marathon.  We rode bikes all over Searcy.  A couple of days, the boys rode (we jogged along) to the high school football stadium near my parents house and then rode laps around the track.  Caleb went all the way around the track four times right in a row one morning.  He was very proud that he had ridden a whole mile :)  Another day, we took the boys and the bikes to our alma mater and let them ride all over the university (which was vacated because of the holidays).  The ante was upped for Caleb at the university because he went from riding in more open, flat spaces to sidewalks, sharp turns, slopes and curbs.  He wiped out twice during the two hours we were riding at Harding, but both times he immediately got back on the bike and continued his ride.  (This is very un-Caleb-like, and I was amazed that he hardly fussed over his scrapes and scratches at bath time that night.)  At the university, I was most impressed by him riding up and down curbs several times without stopping or tipping over.  We did a lot of practicing good "traffic" habits like stopping at every street, looking both ways and walking our bikes across, as well as veering well away from any pedestrians or other bikers.  (But don't worry, it will still be a very long time before any of my kids are allowed to ride bikes unaccompanied.)

We had a lot of great options for places to ride in Searcy, and now the challenge will be finding similar places around here.  Oh yeah...I forgot to mention one detail about this whole thing.  Knowing how easily discouraged and frustrated Caleb often gets when learning something new, I (rather flippantly) offered him a big motivational reward if he learned how to ride his bike without training wheels this weekend.  To be perfectly honest, I had no idea he would learn so quickly and did not think that I would need to follow through with my offer.  So, to make a long story short, I will now be using all of my birthday and Christmas money to buy Caleb a new Spiderman bike for Christmas.  He was going to get one for his birthday anyway, since he's had his current bike for almost two years and he really has outgrown it, but his precociousness on wheels has enabled him to earn that Spiderman bike three months early :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Marcus!

Marcus turned 31-years-old on Monday.  (Caleb, who is in a stage where he thinks that the older you are, the better, was quite impressed by such a high number.)  Unfortunately for Marcus, he had a big test on the morning of his birthday, so the weekend was too packed with studying to do anything celebratory.  Fortunately for him, he has a couple of good friends at church who were free to hang out with him after work on Monday.  The original plan was to play laser tag and then go to Dairy Queen for ice cream cake, but the guys ended up deciding to start the party with the ice cream cake and then go see Inception at a nearby movie theater instead.   Marcus had a fun evening out with the guys, and that's what counts :)  Happy 31st birthday, Marcus!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vitamins & Colds

So I've given up on taking prenatal vitamins with this pregnancy.  Marcus wonders why it has taken me this long to give up, but I just kept hoping that my stomach would toughen up enough to be able to handle it.  A few days ago, I cut my vitamin up into four pieces and took it over a period of two hours, methodically interspersing each quarter with food.  Unfortunately, I still puked up everything I'd eaten in the past twelve hours within an hour of downing the vitamin.  So, I am finally conceding to what Marcus and my doctor have maintained: if the vitamins are causing you to lose nutrients then they're not beneficial.  Unfortunately, vitamins are also my best defense against winter colds and other viruses, especially when my immunities are weakened by pregnancy.  Ethan has had a nighttime cough & a little congestion (no fever) for more than a week, and I finally caught it this weekend, I was congested and achy all day Saturday and Sunday morning.  Thankfully, it didn't turn into a full-blown respiratory bug and I'm feeling almost as good as new today, but I am nervous about the planned travels to Arkansas and Florida in the next few weeks without my body having the immuno-benefit of vitamins.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Phase Two

I'm so grateful for this pregnancy, that both the baby and I are healthy, that the morning sickness is over, and that we are having a little girl.  I'm very, very excited about meeting the little person who is growing inside of me.  But at the same time, I am SO TIRED.  I do not remember being this tired with the boys.  My BFF and my doctor just laugh at me and say "Welcome to pregnancy in your 30's!"  I'm sure there is some truth to that, but it is a drag (literally) to have such a low energy level.  Some days, I fall asleep on the floor in the play room and the boys just play around me.  Most of the time, though, I just drag myself through everything planned for the day.  I know part of the problem is that I've tried to jump back into life-as-usual, complete with a full-scale homeschooling routine, cooking / baking every day, resuming my whole house-cleaning schedule and participating in lots of weekend activities, and it's really wearing me out.  It's just so hard for me to give up the things that I love doing just because I am tired.  Sick/nauseated seems like a much better excuse :).  Well, regardless of how tired I feel all day, it is TONS better than feeling nauseated.  So I'll just keep counting my blessings and get used to being thirty :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's a Girl!!!!!!

We had our 18-week ultrasound yesterday and received the green light to start collecting pink!  We are both very happy and very excited.  I've never been big on ultrasound pictures, but this one was 3D and I could see a little more than I have been able to in the past.  Too bad Marcus and I both forgot to bring our thumb drive to the appointment, or I could post one or two of the pics here.  In our defense, if you read my account of the odyssey involved in getting to my OB clinic, you realize that we did well to arrive on time (with sufficient entertainment for the boys, so that they would sit quietly during the ultrasound).  Two new Disney coloring books did the trick: they were both perfect little angels :)

Both boys seem excited about having a little sister.  Caleb has been praying for twin girls (his idea, not ours) since I told him I was pregnant, his logic being that we have two boys, so we need two girls.  We've told him for six weeks that there is only one baby, and he didn't seem at all disappointed today by the idea of just one little sister.  He did think the baby looked a little bit like an alien on the ultrasound screen, and we assured him that she would look just like other babies after she was born.  Ethan just kept laughing and saying that the baby was going to poop and pee in her diaper, which seems to be the epitome of babydom in his little head.

I am so excited!  It's probably good that I'm not allowed to spend any extra money in November and December (it's an annual budget thing) least that will keep me from doing any shopping until January :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ethan's Christmas Box

This past Saturday night, we took the boys to Walmart to buy the stuff for this year's Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes.  Before we left for the store, Marcus showed the boys several videos from the Operation Christmas Child website of children (from past years) happily receiving the shoe boxes; so Caleb and Ethan understood that the toys we picked out at the store would not be for them to keep.  At Walmart, the boys had a lot of fun sitting in the cart as we piled in all kinds of toys and knick knacks, some of their choosing and some of ours.  For obvious reasons, we had elected to fill boxes for two boys ages 2-4, and our boys talked happily about the "other" boys who would enjoy the toys we were choosing.  We finished up at the store, drove home to stuff the boxes, and then put the boys to bed.

Sunday morning, the boys laboriously toted their boxes full of toys from the car all the way into the church building.  It took Marcus and Ethan more than five minutes to get inside, but Ethan carried it all the way.  When Ethan walked in, I directed him to put his box against the wall with Caleb's.  He balked.  I gently told him where to put it and started to guide him in that direction.  He looked kind of dumbstruck when I took the box from his hands and put it next to Caleb's.

Just then, Miss Nina, the lady in charge of Operation Christmas Child, came up to take the boxes.  She thanked the boys for bringing them and then asked if it was okay for her to take them to the children who were waiting for them.  Ethan finally erupted in the tears that had been building since I took the box.  Through his wails, I caught something like, "I want to give my box to a little boy!"  After talking to him for a couple minutes, I realized that he had imagined that the children in need of Christmas boxes would be lined up at our church like they were lined up in the videos he'd seen.  He had it firmly planted in his head that he would get to hand his box to a happy little boy.  He was sorely disappointed by the reality of the situation, and it took him a good five minutes to calm down enough to go to class.  Poor little guy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Best Buddies

There have been times over the past few months when I have wondered if I did the right thing keeping Caleb out of preschool this year, especially while I was sick.  But then I see what great buddies the boys are right now, and I know it was a good call.  Because we spent so much time housebound this fall, the boys have been on a bit of a social island.  But being on that island has forged their relationship into what it is.  If Caleb had had a lot of older friends to play with, he definitely would not have spent nearly as much time with his brother, nor had nearly as much patience with the inevitable challenges of a two-year age difference.

As it is, they are the best of playmates and fiercely loyal to each other. If I come across a "forbidden" item in the house that has obviously been tampered with, I call the boys in the room and ask, "Who did this?"  They look at each other nervously and then beg grace for each other: "Ethan did it but I told him to...please give him grace!"  "Caleb did it but it was just a little tiny bad choice...please give him grace!"

We were at the park the other day, and some older boys called Ethan a baby.  Caleb stood up for him (a little too vehemently), shouting, "He is NOT a baby!  Babies can't walk or talk and he is walking and talking so he is NOT a baby!"  Ethan, feeling something was still missing, followed Caleb's speech up with his two cents, "Yeah!  And dat's my big brudder!"  Caleb and Ethan make silly faces and noises to each other all day and laugh hysterically at themselves.  They tickle each other, wrestle, play chase, ride their bikes in circles, and on and on the play goes.  Every time I watch them enjoying something together, I'm just so grateful that they have each other.

Of course, they do get frustrated with each other at times as well.  Usually it happens like this: Caleb wants the play to go a certain way and Ethan doesn't understand what Caleb wants (if he understood, he would do it), so Ethan just decides to be deliberately annoying since he can't figure out how to please Caleb.  If I don't stop things here and intervene, Caleb gets really mad and things get physical.  If I come in after one of them has hit, pinched or pushed the other, I ask the boys what happened.  If I can determine who was more in the wrong, I send the guilty party to his room.  This causes the "victim" to immediately erupt in tears and start begging for his brother to be given grace and be allowed to stay.  If I relent, they happily resume their play.  If I do not, the "incarcerated" brother is usually the immediate recipient of some prized booty (often the very toy they were fighting over), which is snuck up from the play room by his sympathetic brother.

They are best friends right now, and I don't think there is anything Caleb could have learned in preschool four days a week this year that would have been more valuable than this.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bunk Beds

Ever since we went to the beach this spring and stayed in a condo with a bunk room, our boys have been crazy about bunk beds.  A few weeks ago, in anticipation of the annual request for a Christmas List, I asked Caleb what he wanted Nanna and Papa to get him for Christmas.  His response was immediate: bunk beds.  Ethan agreed excitedly, and they haven't stopped talking about it since.  I've asked them lots of times, in different ways and in different contexts, if they would rather have (1) a lot of new toys or (2) a bunk bed for Christmas, and they have both always answered "BUNK BEDS!"  Since I was pretty sure bunk beds were going to be outside of Nanna and Papa's Christmas toy budget, I even (this is so bad), gave the kids toy magazines and showed them pictures on the computer of the new toys they could have, just in case they were having trouble visualizing this choice.  But, no dice: they want bunk beds.

So, I started doing some online and phone shopping (the only kind of shopping I do since the kids are always with me).  Unfortunately, the lowest-end wooden bunk beds with steps were going to cost $750 to $800, and that's without the mattresses.  Add two twin mattresses and two sets of twin bedding, and the total cost was above $1,000.  Not looking good...  Fortunately, Craig's List came to our rescue (yet again).  I found the exact bunk bed we wanted from Rooms To Go, two years old and in excellent condition.  The seller was asking $550 (about $200 less than the new retail price), but I bargained her down to $350 (woo-hoo!).  At that excellent price, Nanna and Papa happily bought the bunk beds.

To my surprise, I was even able to sell the boys' current queen-sized bed on Craig's List for $100, which should cover the cost of the new bedding (just sheets, mattress covers and cotton blankets).  To preserve the surprise, the bunk beds will stay hidden and the boys will "camp out" in their sleeping bags until Christmas.  On Christmas Eve, we'll move the kids out of their bedrooms after they fall asleep and then set everything up.  Maybe we'll even do a scavenger hunt in the morning (like Mimi always does with their stockings) that ends with them discovering their remodeled room.  We still need two twin mattresses to complete the package, but I have no doubt that there are going to be two very, very happy little boys on Christmas morning!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Prenatal Check-Up Strike

On Thursday, I had my second routine prenatal visit. It was probably also my last routine prenatal visit until I hit the last trimester because it was a giant headache. I know I am more than slightly spoiled by my previous OB practice in Florida: the office was 3 minutes from my house, I parked ten feet from the front door, and I never waited for more than 5 minutes to see Dr. Duff. Almost all prenatal visits took me 30 minutes from the time I left my house to the time I got back home. I know that is ridiculously convenient, but, alas, that is what I am used to. Now, my OB practice is 30 minutes from my house, I have to park in an 8-story parking garage (on the 6th level), and then walk 15-20 minutes through the airport that is UAB Hospital. (Seriously, there are signs everywhere for different terminals!) And all of this with my poor little boys in tow!

When we finally make our way through three sets of elevators, two inter-building walkovers, and innumerable hallways to find ourselves on the tenth floor of yet another building, we sign in and wait in Waiting Room #1. I get out the coloring books and snacks just as we are called in to Waiting Room #2. A little while later, we are ushered into Exam Room #1, where my weight and blood pressure are recorded. Next, I herd the boys into Exam Room #2, where we wait for the doctor. Two different nurses come in and out, asking a few questions each time. Then a medical student comes in. He asks me distractedly if I have been having any contractions, and then looks very surprised when I say no (I'm only 17-weeks-pregnant, for crying out loud!). He jots something down on his little clip board and leaves. He's back a few minutes later, asks me if I am feeling the baby move, jots down my "yes," and then leaves again (maybe he looked at the wrong chart before coming in the first time?).

Finally, the doctor comes into the exam room (just as the boys are done with their snacks and tired of their coloring books). She checks the baby's heart beat, asks me if I have any questions (which I do not), and then leaves. I glance at my watch to see that she was in the room for just under six minutes. We pack up our stuff and make our way back through the maze of hallways, elevators and walkways until we get to the parking garage. At this point, I am utterly exhausted. To top off a stellar morning, I can't find my car on level six, where I am sure I parked it. The boys and I walk back to the parking garage elevator, and proceed to search for our car on levels five and seven, to no avail. Finally, we go back to level six and find the car, exactly where I'd looked for it the first time, and (of course) there it was. I was so frustrated and so tired, but I couldn't help but smile when Caleb looked at me with serious concern in his eyes and said, "Mommy, I t'ink you should put your hand on my shoulder while we walk to the car so you don't fall down." I guess I looked about ready to collapse :)

All that to say, I have not yet made my next appointment, and I don't plan on going back until sometime in January :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ethan (Monthly Update)

Poor Ethan hasn't had an update in three months! I even missed his half-birthday last month :( Ah well, it won't be his last sacrifice for the newest addition to our family :)

On to the update: Ethan was 2-years-and-7-months-old yesterday! The last three months have brought much more independence in Ethan's world. He still does his best to keep up with Caleb in every way. Caleb is buckling and unbuckling his booster seat harness now, so Ethan insists on latching the top of his harness by himself. Caleb is bathing himself and brushing his teeth independently now, so Ethan insists on doing the same. And, my absolute favorite of the new independent activities: Ethan can take himself potty completely on his own now! He's been potty trained for more than six months, but he has not been tall enough to pee standing up without help (and has staunchly refused to pee sitting down). So, for the past six months, somebody (usually me), has had to take him upstairs, help him get his pants up and down, and let him stand on my feet to give him the extra inch he needed. Thankfully, about two weeks ago, he mastered getting his pants & underwear up and down alone. He also figured out how to stand on his tippy toes and lean over the toilet so that everything goes where it is supposed to. Since then, the shout of "MY PEE-PEE IS COMING!!" is no longer the trump card that forces me to drop what I am doing and rush to the bathroom with Ethan. Now he just goes on his own and comes to me to get his pants re-snapped or re-buttoned. HOORAY!!

Another change since my last Ethan update is that Ethan does not spend nearly as much time at the craft table as he used to. All the dry erase markers dried out from so much use, so I bought another package. When those too dried out, I was too sick to go to the store for more, so the writing letters kind of died out. Both boys lost interest in coloring around the same time, and I just didn't feel well enough to get the paints and scissors and glue out. Since I've been feeling better, painting and play dough have made a big comeback with Ethan, but not so with writing, drawing and coloring. He and Caleb spend most of their play time at home having elaborate adventures, mostly centered around their superheroes and Disney figurines.

Another change is that Ethan got over the orange Tinker Toy stick that he was so attached to. He always has some favorite toy, and the next toy in line was a little plastic Superman. (I bought an extra one to help us through the endless searches of that phase.) Superman phased out just a couple of weeks ago, and his successor was a little 4-inch LED flashlight that we bought for camping, but Ethan is IN LOVE with it. Just like the other toys, he carries it around everywhere, sleeps with it under his blanket at night, and searches for it frantically if it goes missing. Thankfully, we have three identical flashlights in the camping bin (one for each of us), should an emergency arise :)

One of my favorite things about Ethan at this stage is the way he substitutes every initial "kuh" sound with a "tuh" sound. When he wakes up in the morning, the house is "so TOLD!" When he is hungry, he wants me to open "a tan of torn". Mommy's "toffee is yucky," and my personal favorite: "Dis is my brudder, TA-LUB." The reason I love these little substitutions so much is that the majority of his articulation is so accurate that he often doesn't even sound like a 2-year-old. I never correct his "kuh" sounds because this aspect of his speech is a pleasant reminder to me that he is still a very little guy :)

Ethan is still generous and loyal to a fault. If he and Caleb have some conflict and Caleb does something to him, he is often still crying at the offense while begging me to give Caleb grace and not send him to his room. He almost always shares his treats with Caleb and anyone else who is around. The other day at the barber shop, Ethan had just gotten his hair cut and he was eating his treat from Mr. Mickey while Caleb got his haircut. I had been chatting with a friendly older lady in the chair next to Caleb, and she teasingly asked Ethan if he would share his lollipop with her. I know she was certain that he would say no and hide the treat. I laughed out loud when he said "Yes I will!" and immediately came over with an outstretched hand. She was startled and had to back down, since she really didn't want any part of his sticky lollipop, but her face was hilarious!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Soccer Season

A year and a half after our previous less-than-successful soccer endeavor, Marcus decided it was time to give it another try. Thankfully, the results have been much better with a 4-and-half-year-old Caleb than they were with a just-turned-3-year-old Caleb :)
The season started in early September and wrapped up this week. When we were filling out the registration paperwork, Marcus checked a box to indicate that he was willing to be an assistant coach. I guess they were a little short on volunteers because when we went to the soccer meeting, he was listed as the one and only coach of Caleb's team :) Over the past two months, there have been a total of eight practices and eight games scheduled (two practices were rained out). Even though I was sick most of the season, I made it to at least part of every game. (Getting a shower and putting on make-up beforehand rarely happened, but at least I got to see him play :)
At the U5 level (U5 = Under 5), games are played in four 6-minute quarters. (You'd think that would equal a 36-minute game, but the games were usually just over an hour from start to finish.) There are six players on a team and three of them are on the field at a time. We had a bit of a hodge-podge team this year. Some never showed up to practice and only made it to some games. Some were very, very distracted on the field and never seemed to quite figure out what was going on. The others developed well over the season and play pretty well together now. Regardless, despite the best efforts of coach and players, we have been soundly defeated in every game. They don't keep score at this young of an age, but the kids all realize that they get scored on a lot more than they score. On the positive side, you should see our parents go wild every time one of our kiddos gets that ball in the goal! Caleb scored more than anyone this season, and even Ethan would jump up from his little game chair and yell when he saw his brother get the ball in the goal.
Overall, I'd say this season has been a success for Caleb. He enjoyed himself, he got better at soccer, and he made some friends. I don't know if we'll play again in the spring or if we will wait until next fall, but I definitely see more soccer on the horizon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween (and Fall Festival)

The boys and I had to do Halloween on our own this year, since the most important annual radiation oncology conference took place over Halloween (again). Last year, he skipped the first day or so of the conference so he could do Halloween with us, but this year is job-hunting year and he really needed to be there the whole time. So Marcus departed for sunny California before sunrise on Saturday morning. That morning, the kids and I went to Caleb's soccer game and that afternoon we attended a Halloween party hosted by some church friends. The kids had fun playing with their friends and painting pumpkins in the thoroughly-bedecked and very spooky basement of our host's home.

On Sunday afternoon, the kids got their costumes on again and we went trick-or-treating at the Hoover Library and then to a Trunk-or-Treat at the Riverchase United Methodist Church. The Trunk-or-Treat was great: the boys loved looking at the other kids costumes, and especially enjoyed the adults dressed up as Snow White, Bert & Ernie, and a few others. The highlight for Caleb was a HUGE blow-up slide that made me nervous just to look at. At first, I didn't think I was going to let Caleb do it, but I watched lots of kids younger than him shimmy up that huge ladder and fly down, so I let him go a few times. (In the picture, he is the little red speck in the bottom left corner.) Ethan was very disappointed that he couldn't go on the huge slide, too, but he was easily consoled with a little bag of Skittles from his candy bucket. For Ethan, the highlight of the evening was petting and talking to a big Labradoodle: Ethan can never get enough of the animal kingdom.

(We did go to our church's Fall Festival last weekend, but we were so busy following the kids around that we forgot to take any pictures.)