Monday, September 29, 2014

These are a few of his favorite things

I was re-reading old posts the other day, and really enjoying the fact that I recorded some of the things Kailey really liked when she was Alden's age.  I never would remember those little details if I had not wrote it down (patting myself on the back for keeping a blog all these years, nothing like a little self-congratulation now and then!)  So, in that spirit, I thought I'd do another one of those posts for Alden.  I'm going to interview Kailey later on and have her complete the list herself -- since, she's old enough to tell me her own favorite things! 

But, here are the categories I jotted down for Kai when she was six months old -- now updated for Alden!

Book: Little Blue Truck (although, he really seems to like all his books)

Color: I haven't noticed him gravitating towards a particular color

Real Animal: Alden hasn't really taken to real animals much.  I think Abby is too old and lays around too much -- he may not realize she's real.  He doesn't react much when other animals cross our path.  Maybe soon.

Stuffed Animal: Octopus (Katie gave him a toy octopus that he really digs)

Hold: Alden doesn't like to be held in one position for very long. He likes to move.  He certainly wants to see out while being held -- but, he's rarely content to stay in any one hold for very long and he likes to be on his belly the most of all.  Alden learned to roll onto his belly when he was just 2.5 months old and he's been doing that ever since. Now that he can commando crawl, he really wants to get on his belly so he can move around.

Song: Let It Go.  Alden has been listening to Let It Go since he was in utero.  And, man, he LOVES that song.  I've reported on how much he HATES the car.  The one thing that can get him to stop screaming in the car is to play Let It Go on loop.  He stops crying immediately and tilts his head to the side as if to say, "oh! It's my song!"  He loves that song. 

Outfit: Alden has the BEST clothes (thanks to the hand-me-downs from my friend Leecia).  They are all super soft and comfortable.  Alden seems to love them all. 

Activities: Crawling (commando crawling), going on walks in the stroller, laying on his belly on a blanket in the grass, tasting ever object that comes into his orbit, talking to/looking at/playing with his sister (Alden's favorite activities by far involve Kailey -- he LOVES being around Kailey), sitting in on meetings (OK -- maybe that's not his favorite activity, but he is quite good at it and has spent a LOT of time in meetings.  I had him at a 3 hour meeting the other day and he was sitting on my lap, holding onto the table in front of him, and staring intently at whoever was talking.  It was SO distracting for everyone else in the meeting.  He wasn't crying of fussing -- people just aren't used to having this little baby staring at them as if to say, "is that so?"  It was so funny), jumping and spinning in his Johnny Jumper (you know those things that you put in a doorway that they can jump up and down in), standing and playing in his play saucer, eating (oh my!  We just started him on rice cereal and he lunges at the spoon as if he hasn't seen food in a week.  He has downed 3 bowls in the last 12 hours!  We're excited to start trying new foods), smiling at people (he has the BEST smile and flashes it wherever we go -- so many people stop and comment on his brilliant smile!)

Toys: spoons, spatulas, balls with rattles inside them, his teething ring (especially when it's icy), the whinnie-the-pooh toys that surround his play saucer, his toy monkey (it has a crinkly ear that he loves), mirrors (real mirrors -- he likes looking at himself).

So, those are a few of his favorite things.  I'll have to do these posts more often -- it's fun to really think about what it is that Alden is into these days. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Look Back on the Last Six Months

Alden had his 6 month check-up yesterday!  How is it possible that a half a year has gone by already?  In that half a year, we've been through a lot:
  • Packed up and moved to Sacramento (with a lot of help from my sister, Katie)
  • Got settled into temporary housing  in Sacramento (thanks to our friend Susanna who let us live in her house the last several months)

  • Wrapped up a trying Kindergarten year -- although, it must be said, Kai did so triumphantly overcoming much adversity.  I'm so proud of her
  • Sold our Oakland house (a home sale that involved much drama and consternation; although, it would turn out, not nearly as much drama and consternation as we endured buying our new house)
  • Got Kai settled into summer camp at the place she would be for the 1st grade
  • Chaperoned many of the field trips held during camp over the summer (we went to Art Beast, the park, IMAX theater twice, and Fairytale Town)
  • Spent a lovely week with my mom and got to go to the CA State Fair for the first time (it was such fun!)
  • Passed a major budget item through the budget process (my work -- and with the help of my dear friend Susanna)
  • Dealt with major work issues on Eric's side (including the water bond, drought, staff turnover, hiring, and more)
  • Toured dozens and dozens of homes in Sacramento -- Kai will be happy to never go to an open house again until she is well into adulthood
  • Spent a lot of time at the pool where Kai took her swimming skills to the next level -- she can skin dive under the water and do somersaults -- it's enchanting to watch her swim
  • Found a house we loved and made a bid, but we lost out to another couple
  • Found another house we loved even more and made a crazy bid waiving our appraisal and loan contingencies in order to get our bid accepted (we were assured by our loan officer that we'd know if the house appraised before our inspection contingency ran... turns out, that was not the case.  Much drama ensued.)
  • Somehow wrangled a way to still buy the house despite a TON of drama with the purchase (thank you Eric's mom and sister and our friend Deb!)
  • Got Kai settled into 1st grade
  • Went "back" to work -- adding traveling into my life once more (it was nice being home for 5 months -- even if I was working, the break from airports and travel days was good).  Traveled to LA twice, Denver, and New Orleans (all with Alden in tow) in one month's time
  • Traveled to LA for work without Alden
  • Drove to Oregon to visit my mom after she took a terrible, terrible fall and broke her left femur, left shoulder, right thumb and right foot (my poor mom!!) -- somehow Alden did great during the 22 hours in the car (11 hours each way).  Kai always does great traveling - and this trip was no exception. 
  • Hired a nanny and figured out all the nuances of taxes, payroll, domestic worker laws, etc (well, to be honest, I'm still trying to figure that all out)
  • Packed up again (thanks, again, to my awesome friend Susanna)
  • Moved into a new house (which will hopefully be the last move for a very long time)... well, that is technically happening tomorrow, but Alden doesn't turn 6 months officially until Sunday. 
  • Watched Alden and Kailey develop the sweetest relationship -- they LOVE each other
  • Watched Alden learn how to commando crawl, start solid foods, and be a generally joyous little guy


What the last six months have proven to me is that we can handle a tremendous amount of change -- although, truly, I wouldn't advise taking on this many transitions at once and I am in desperate need of a vacation to recover from everything.  I also am acutely aware that the only thing that got us through the last six months is the help of amazing friends and family.  We've been so lucky to have people helping us through each step of this process. 

And, here we are, on the cusp of settling down (not that I'm trying to tempt fate here -- really, I just want things to settle down).  Somehow, our resilient, beautiful children seem to have survived all the chaos mostly unscathed.  Kai is doing absolutely amazing at her new school.  They have a behavior chart at school that they use to encourage listening and following directions -- Kai has only move UP the chart.  She's never been asked to move her peg down for acting out or misbehaving.  I should be clear -- this doesn't surprise me.  Kai has always been a joyful person who is eager to please and intent on doing things correctly.  What surprised me is that her teacher last year couldn't figure out how to tap into her amazing qualities and her vast reserves of positive energy.  Instead, he brought out her stubborn and defiant side -- which is also definitely there - but, can be positively channeled with just the teensiest bit of skill and know-how of childhood development.  But, Kai is thriving now.  She loves school and is excited to share her work with us each day and tell us all about what's been going on.  It's a total transformation from last year. 

And, Alden has also thrived despite being dragged from meeting to meeting, driven to and fro from Oakland to Sacramento and back again a ridiculous number of times, and generally been expected to be the go-along baby.  He has risen to the challenge.  And, he's the happiest baby I've ever met.  He rarely cries, preferring to grumble a bit when things aren't going his way.  He's mellow and happy and sweet.  He's doing all the baby things he's expected to do -- commando crawling, teething (he has TWO teeth now!), eating, growing, sleeping, babbling, laughing hysterically (especially when his sister is involved), grabbing at any little object that comes into his orbit, putting everything in his mouth.  He brightens up every day -- I'm so glad he's part of our little family.

After this weekend, we'll be moved into the new house.  Hopefully I can post a six month update six months from now that says, "we relaxed.  We settled into our new home.  We watched the days go by.  We played."  I know there is always an endless list of tasks, that we will dig into home projects again now that we have a home again, that Kai and Alden will both have big milestones and accomplishments, and that our list will never be so simple.  And, maybe, that's OK.  I look back at the list and the photos from the last six months and I see more than silver linings and way more than drudgery and despair.  In the wise words of Kai, "good things happen, bad things happen, then good things happen again."  So true.  So, here's to the next six months and the good, the bad, and the good that is sure to come our way.

Friday, September 5, 2014

First Tooth!

Alden has been really fussy lately, especially at night (fussy is an understatement -- he wakes up screaming and it's hard to console him... even feeding him hasn't always worked).  And the drool.  Ohhh... the drool.  Every day, he goes through multiple onesies.  A friend of mine told me about teething bibs -- which have been great at saving us multiple outfit changes throughout the day.  He's also been gnawing away at his hands, my hands, his toys, blankets -- anything to relieve the pain.  So, teething.  Obviously, he's been teething.  He hasn't spiked a fever the way Kai did with every. single. tooth.  So, that's good.  But, I don't remember Kailey being quite so upset and drooly.  Trade-offs, I suppose.

But, all the pain seems to have paid off.  I was examining Alden's gums today and noticed a bit of white peeking through his most swollen area on his lower gum.  And so I felt it and - yup! - it's his first tooth, just starting to poke through.  His top gum and the area right next to where the new tooth has appeared are also really swollen... so, I don't think the fussy nights or the drool are behind us yet.  But, he's got a tooth! 

Once it pokes through a bit more, I'll get a picture. 

First Week of First Grade

Kai has finished her first week of first grade.  And it was a good first week.  She describes her teacher as "magical", which seems like a great thing for a 1st grade teacher to be.  Every day, Kai has been excited to share about how her classroom works.  It's all about the positive discipline (duh! I feel like sending a note to her kindergarten teacher and letting him know that letting students hand out discipline and rewards and using an authoritarian classroom style are not the ingredients for a successful year).  Anyway, her new teacher has a jar that collects "warm fuzzies" which she hands out to the kids when they do something kind for one another.  When the jar is full, they get to have a class party.  Then there is a ladder for the kids to climb -- everyone starts off in the green (aka "ready to learn"), and they move their clothes pin up or down depending on their behavior in class.  They can go up to "engaged learner" and then to "star student".  Or, if they are acting out, they might end up in "teacher's choice" or "contact parents".  Kai has already moved up to engaged student in just a couple of days.

These classroom practices encourage teamwork, community involvement, participation, good behavior, and kindness.  And, Kai is extremely motivated by the structure and the opportunity for reward.  Her kindergarten classroom was so haphazard.  Mr. Thompson had the idea of some of these practices, but he completely fell down in their implementation.  It turns out an idea is only as good as its implementation -- a mantra I often repeat to my colleagues at work, too (so many people work to pass legislation and never bother to work on the implementation of those bills -- only to find that a few years later, the problems persist).  I am so happy that it appears that this teacher understands how to use positive discipline techniques in a consistent and structured way. 

Kai has also been really excited about the clubs after school.  So far, she has done drama, building blocks, sports, and science.  Today she has cooking club.  It's a good mix of activities. 

Personally, I am also feeling more connected to this school.  It helps so much that ALL of the kids participate in the after school program.  It's not for the kids whose parents can't get them at 3.  It's a central part of the environment.  Yesterday, we went to pick Kai up early to give her a bit of a break and she told us to come back at the end of the day.  After all, she had science club to get to!  And, it also means that it's a school that attracts a lot more working parents. I've really enjoyed the folks I've met so far.

Selecting a school for Kailey was a major project this spring.  We visited about a dozen schools.  Interviewed principals and staff.  Met with parents.  Had Kai sit in on classes.  It was really stressful and I'm so glad that her first week has gone smoothly.  Fingers crossed for the remainder of the year!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

1st Grader and 5 Months Old

Kai is a 1st Grader today!!  She was excited to start school.  I'm glad we had her spend the summer at Courtyard, so she started the year with friends already in place and a teacher she knows.  Her teacher seems great.  She sent Kailey a postcard about a week ago that said how excited she was to have Kai in her class.  She signed it "xoxo, Ms. Peters."  Kailey thought that was HILARIOUS and also a little embarrassing.  She kept saying, "I CAN'T believe she signed it XOXO."  We asked her why and she'd yell, "that means HUGS and KISSES!!"  But, I could tell how pleased she was to have a teacher who sent her a postcard full of love.  Hopefully this year will be better than last.

This morning before we left for school, I asked Kai what her goals for the year were.  The first thing she said was, "no hitting" -- clearly remembering the list that she made last year that we'd go over every day before school to make sure she avoided any more conflicts.  It was heartbreaking.  We told her we weren't worried about that.  We knew she had learned how to deal with conflict -- and she'd done wonderfully all summer.  We asked her to think about the things she wanted to have happen during the year.  She wrote out a list.  It included:

  1. have fun
  2. listen to her teacher
  3. remember to stop an activity when her teacher says stop
  4. be kind
She is an amazing kid.  I hope she has an amazing 1st grade year. 

Not only has Kai now started FIRST GRADE, but somehow, Alden is 5 months old.  He's such a sweet baby.  He grouses more than he did in his first months, but it is clear that it is due to his desire to get MOVING.  He is frustrated that his constant leg kicks don't propel him across the room.  He lays on his belly kicking and kicking and kicking and then - when nothing happens after many minutes of vigorous kicking - he starts to grumble.  And the grumble becomes a complaint of some volume before finally elevating to a full on cry.  He wants to move.  We got him a new toy that supports him while he "stands" up and he can spin in a circle to play with various toys.  He LOVES being able to be upright and move around. 
He also tried sitting in a real high chair at a restaurant recently.  So funny to see him sitting at the table. 

He's doing better with the carseat these days.  It helps that now he is fully aware of Kailey.  He enjoys her so much.  He'll coo at her and she'll coo back.  She can mimic him so well that I can never tell who is doing the cooing.  But, it keeps him entertained for the car ride.  Kai also has many other tricks up her sleeve to comfort him.  She is such an attentive and caring sister.
It's strange to me that Alden's been here 5 months.  I'm ramping up my hours at work.  We have a nanny starting one day a week this month and she'll be ramping up to 3 days a week over the coming months.  My travel schedule is about to get hectic again. 
In some ways, that's all good.  It's been such a crazy year of transitions -- I'm really looking forward to settling back into a routine.  But, there have been so many changes happening at the same time, that my brain and emotions have not caught up.  I feel caught in limbo.  I know we live in Sacramento now, but I don't feel it.  My life feels foreign to me -- like it's happening to someone else. So, I'm hoping this fall, it starts to feel like it's mine again.  I need to feel connected to my place and myself. 
Fall is always more like the beginning of the year than January.  It is the start of something new.  And this fall, more than usual, marks new beginnings.  The summer was the transition to these beginnings -- but, now they are here.  Kai is at her new school.  We should be moving into our new house soon.  Alden will start with his new caregiver.  We're settling down and into our life together as a family of four in a new city.  I'm hoping this school year brings us much joy and a fuller, richer community in this new place that we're learning to call home.