Sunday, March 30, 2008

Month 13: That Blasted Clock

No matter how much I try to enjoy each moment and focus on "the now" and whatever else everyone tells me, it doesn't help. The clock keeps moving forward, and Daniel keeps growing up. This picture blew me away, as suddenly and unexpectedly, he's big enough to play at the park with his friends.

This is his buddy Ava - they've been together since day one for him and week six for her - and until they're old enough to understand it, we consider them betrothed. Daniel followed her all over the park last week, tromping in his new kicks through grass, mulch, blacktop, and a few games of basketball. They played in the swings, with balls, in bubbles, and while eating hot dogs that we grilled with Ava's parents. Spring is here, and Summer is closing in fast - these beautiful evenings don't last long in Phoenix.

This week will be a big one for both Daniel and Ava - they're moving to the next classroom at preschool. It's a big change - naps on mats, eating at a table, playing outside on the playground - but their teachers think they're ready. Last week they visited a few times, checking out the surroundings and meeting his new classmates. I'm convinced the change is harder for the parents than the kids, but something about Daniel being in his first "big kid" environment is hard for me to swallow.

It's just confirms my theory that time is, in fact, speeding up.

Month 13: Nine, Nine, Nine, Nine...

... said the electronic book all the way home from Wal-Mart. We took a quick trip to buy him some more of his favorite things (books!) and Fernando decided to help Daniel learn his numbers. The book he selected has a page for each number, and a button that, when pressed, emits a lovely, soothing, sweet woman's voice saying that number. Daniel loves her already.

About a month ago, he developed an obsession with books. He'll walk straight past all of his toys and dive into his pile of books, either reading to himself as he turns pages, or fishing for a book to bring to us. He'll trek across the house to bring us books, one by one, or climb in our laps until we've read the whole pile. More than once, Fernando has laid down on the living room floor to rest, closed his eyes, and opened them to find Daniel squatting by his side, placing a book in his outstretched hand.

Speaking of squatting, Daniel has become a master-squatter. Those little thunder thighs are incredibly strong, and he'll hold the squatting position for an impressive amount of time - while reading an entire book, splashing in the tub, to pick up a snack on the floor (I know, I know...) or any other activity.

The squat combined with a few other trademark moves have developed into Daniel's dancing routine - most often performed while listening to Crazy Frog's "I Like To Move It, Move It!" Remix. He does the "bounce squat" usually, sometimes clapping or waving his hands. Our favorite is the "hump squat" where he grabs the side of the couch and, well, let's just say we hope he grows out of that dance move before his first high school dance.

Daniel's eating mostly adult food now, with a milk bottle twice a day. And as he discovers more and more wonderful foods, it's getting harder to get those veggies down with a smile. It's like, "Mom - I know that things like chocolate cake and cookies exist... why would I eat that piece of broccoli?!" But we are sneaky parents, and two days ago we discovered that adding lemon juice to any veggie (baby food or finger food) will trick our sweet baby boy into eating said vegetable. Tonight's veggies - lima beans - were a raving success.

I know this posting is already long, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other two milestones of this week: door knobs and jealousy. I was photographing my friend's twin babies, and Daniel was in the bedroom with Fernando to keep him out of the way. All of a sudden, the bedroom door opens, and his little head popped out, beaming with pride. As you can imagine, we'll need to get a baby gate or two soon... just "closing the door" is no longer enough of a barrier! The other milestone immediately followed the door opening. I was holding one of the two-month-old twins, and Daniel came closer to see. He looked at me, and at at the baby, and completely broke down crying. It was a different cry than I have heard before, and there was no question that he was upset at the sight of me holding a baby. I held the baby towards him so he could see and he (no kidding) smacked her in the face. Luckily, she has a two-year-old older brother, so she's used to rough play and her mom didn't freak out. But it was the first time I have seen Daniel react like that regarding me and another child. Of course it made me feel loved, but also a little nervous, as I'd prefer if he didn't get in the habit of smacking babies on the face.

Last thing... (promise!)... the photo I posted is from this week, while Daniel was taking a nap in Fernando's arms. We took him to the Science Center downtown, and while he's too young for the majority of it, there were quite a few areas that Daniel seemed to love. We explored the whole museum, then sat on the grass outside sharing a raspberry and vanilla sorbet, then Daniel crashed for a quick nap in Daddy's arms on a nearby bench. It was one of those perfect moments - a warm breeze, the air heavy with sweet spring, and a quiet minute to admire our angelic baby and his perfect little features. It's been a good month already.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Month 13: That Kind of Mom

Not sure when it happened, but we have crossed that invisible line from having a baby to having a toddler. Daniel has become a fun, interactive being - he questions, tests, experiments, seeks praise, explores, and seems to have a grand ole time doing all of it.

We've been spending more time at the park recently - letting him play with trees, grass, plants - yesterday, he noticed an ant for the first time. Bubbles have become a favorite - outside or inside. Daniel loves climbing anything, sliding, and swinging in the baby swings. We ran into a friend at the park and put our babies in the same baby swing, back to back. Pretty darn cute. (This pic is from a few weeks ago... but too cute not to post.)

Daniel has mastered the art of pointing to let us know what he wants, or just to hear us say it's name. Sometimes we'll go around an entire room, Daniel pointing at something, we'll say it's name, and he'll move on to another item. He's learning words too - in English and Spanish. Two weeks ago I said "Daniel, donde esta la luz?" and he pointed (repeatedly) to the lamp. He's almost got "cielo", "casa", and "zona" perfected too. HIs default word is always "otro" (it sounds more like "oto" when he says it) which means "other" in Spanish. This all started at his birthday party, when Fernando's mom carried him from balloon to balloon, saying "otro globo". From that day on, I was amazed at how quickly he picked up the concept of "another".

The kid is sprouting teeth like nobody's business - the past two days have been full of drooling and gum pain - poor little guy. I think he's working on #10 and #11. He does enjoy having his teeth brushed - we try to do it in the morning and last thing at night.

Easter passed in a blur - both Fernando and I were working all weekend, so Daniel spent some time during each day with his aunts. I love that they get time with him, and even more, I love that they enjoy it so much. It's funny how he seems to know his family. He's nervous with new people at church - adults that he rarely sees. He turns into a clingy little monkey. But with family - any family - he practically throws himself right at them. My parents came by earlier this month for a quick trip, and Daniel immediately latched onto them. It's been three months since he's even seen their faces, but you would have thought they lived next door. Especially my dad - Daniel claimed him as his own personal toy, and sought him out just to sit in his lap and rest on his chest. Heck - it melted MY heart - I can't imagine what Dad was feeling.

The most recent word du jour has been "ma ma", and while I'm not sure he totally grasps the label, it's nice to hear those little syllables fall out of his mouth on a more regular basis. I feel more connected to him than ever - more wanted and needed. I want to be the kind of mom he'll always need and want to be around. The kind that's good for advice in a tough situation, and good for a long hug after a bad day at school. The kind of mom that can "fix" his ailment, even when it's imaginary. I want him to learn from me that life can be fun, and to always look for the good in each situation - that humor is more than entertainment - it's a way of life. I want to be the kind of mom who won't car when grape juice spills on the carpet, who participates in food fights, and who laughs when she gets mooned by a passing car (which, consequently, happened yesterday. And I did laugh - all the way home). Above all, I want to be the kind of mom who sets an example of faith, of trusting God in every situation, and of always valuing people more than things.

This parenting gig is tough stuff - but I feel up for the challenge. Someone vented to me this week about how irritating it is when parents can't stop talking about their kids. How utterly boring it is to hear. How it's pointless to pour your life into your kids, as they're just going to grow up to be "more of us". After restraining myself from punching his lights out, I just said to call me after he was married with a child... that I wanted to hear him say the same thing then. It's just not possible to imagine before you've experienced it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Month 12: A Billion Pennies

If I had a penny for every time I thought to myself "I couldn't possibly love Daniel more than I do in this moment", I'd be rich. I am absolutely blown away at what having a kid has done to me, and my ability to focus on something besides myself.

Fernando and I were talking about this last night - how as a person grows up, layers of selfishness get stripped away. (It's just a theory... humor me...) As babies and young kids, we are 100% focused on ourselves. As teenagers we're still selfish, but we've started to notice the world around us more - friends, love interests, maybe even family. As single adults, we might not realize it, but we're still very self-focused in that everything revolves around our plans, our schedule, our life. Once we're married, we learn to put another human before ourseleves, but even that doesn't compare to what happens after a baby is born.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that parents are better people than non-parents, I'm just saying that by necessity, your life is turned upside down in the pursuit of completely caring for another human being. It's fun and exciting and I wouldn't change a minute of it, but that kind of constant unwavering devotion is just not something that's asked of you before having a child. And surprisingly, I don't feel like I have lost any of myself in the process. If anything, I feel more myself than I ever have before - more at home in this role than any prior role.

Daniel's walking, by the way. Started a week after he turned one - he just decided it was time and took off across the room. Within two days he was very confident, and now strongly prefers walking to crawling. Sometimes he still gets excited and those little legs gain a little too much momentum, but I think that will happen for a while still.

Fernando's birthday was last weekend and we got him a giant camping tent (for 7 people so Daniel's pack-n-play fits!). We're going on our first family camping trip this Summer. I couldn't be more excited - Daniel loves the outdoors, sleeps very well in his travel crib, and is obsessed with the pet door on the tent. In and out, in and out.

Even more fun than watching Daniel's physical development is watching his mental growth - his personality is budding before our eyes. He has a great sense of humor - and has started doing things with the sole purpose of making us laugh: funny faces while eating, putting our mixing bowls on as hats, splashing huge in the tub. He is also extremely polite. If he drops something, he picks it up. If we ask him to bring us something and point to it, he goes and gets it and hands it over without question. He seems to derive a lot of joy from making us happy - helps us unload the dishwasher by handing us one plate at a time - will go through his entire lego bucket, handing us one lego at a time just to hear us say "thank you". His teachers at school say he's extremely polite - always shares - and never throws a fit if a toy gets taken away from him.

It's an amazing feeling - pride in your child - because of who they're becoming. My friend had his son's parent teacher conference yesterday, and the teacher had no complaints or corrections - just praises for a well-behaved little boy who was quickly becoming a class leader. Naturally, my friend was extremely proud of his son, and I can only imagine how that kind of praise makes a parent feel.

Fernando and I constantly pray for Daniel's character - that we are able to provide a strong foundation for him to be a man of God from an early age. That no matter what trials he comes up against in life, he will not waiver in his faith, and his character will be unshaken. Like the prophet he was named for - clear in his priorities, respectful to everyone, talented in his profession ... "This man Daniel ... has exceptional ability and is filled with divine knowledge and understanding. He can interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means."


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Month 12: Rhinos, Pinatas, and Birthday Cake

Well, he's one. Against all odds, we survived, and I think I speak for the three of us when I say that it's been way more fun than any of us anticipated. (Well, assuming Daniel's wasn't anticipating anything fancy...)

I am the exact opposite of a party-planning person. Parties kind of stress me out, actually. So my loving husband took the reigns and put together what turned out to be a really fun 1st birthday party for Daniel. It was rhino-themed, in honor of Zona, Daniel's stuffed buddy (with an identical twin in the closet for when Zona #1 needs to be washed).

Daniel's great-grandmother made him a rhino-shaped pinata (no joke!), and we put little plastic rhinos on Daniel's cake. The family all met at a local park - we at hot dogs and hamburgers, played on the playground, blew bubbles, played games, opened a mountain of cool presents, and ate lots of chocolate cake.

Not coincidentally, Daniel's newest favorite food is... chocolate cake. He went hog wild when we gave him a piece - stuffed it into his chipmunked cheeks, two fistfuls at a time. I honestly don't know how he didn't end up sick to his stomach - it was an impressive amount of cake for any adult, let alone a one-year-old.

The whole family turned up for the event - aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, family friends, and more cousins than you can imagine. It was a blast, and Daniel really seemed to enjoy having everyone there.

He had a big day with tons of excitement and zero naps, so he conked out on the way home (3:30 ish) and pretty much stayed down for the night. He probably dreamt of cake, hot dogs and candy falling from the sky from the belly of a giant colorful rhinoceros. Who could ask for more?