Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Updates galore

I feel like it's been a while, but I think it has just been a busy week. So, what's new?

Joris has mostly been sleeping better and is easier to put down. He falls asleep in his bed without being held, although he does sometimes still wants his back rubbed. We still can't leave his room to let him fall asleep on his own, which is something that really needs to change. I've been working on creating a "how big boys go to sleep" photo book on iphoto since he is pretty aware of the difference between a baby and a big boy and I'm hoping to exploit that. I have the text written and some pictures are in place, but I'm having trouble finding enough good resolution pictures because apparently everything on the internet is slashed to minimal pixelage. Though progress is slowly being made on the going to bed front, Joris makes sure to throw in the occasional let's-all-be-awake-from-midnight-to-almost-two-for-no-apparent-reason, just to keep us on our toes.

We've been to the zoo four times this past week. The weather has been gorgeous and we just always have a good time. In fact, I feel like I'm having a kind of love affair with the zoo. Where else can your kid be so entertained AND you get see otters frolic in the water and ocelot kittens clamber up and down branches? Joris loves animals and I fully credit our visits to the Woodland Park Zoo for his ability to differentiate between a lion, tiger, jaguar, snow leopard and ocelot and having the knowledge that an ostrich is a "bii vogel" (big bird). The exhibits are mostly all designed so that the animals can move away from the public, if they don't feel like being stared at, and they have taken great effort to replicate the animals' natural habitats. (There are some exceptions; the main one, for me, being the tiger enclosure, which is this horrible concrete relic from the '50s, but it seems that they update one or two exhibits each year, which is nice.) Plus, habitat and conservation information is always available and the staff and volunteers are super friendly. It is my fervent hope that Joris will not end up blurting out statements like "That poor monkey. He just wants to be back in Africa." while looking at a female orangutan, like the high school student standing next to us did.

Last week, I took Joris and Madeline to the store to pick out some vegetable seed packets for the seed starting kit that's been stashed upstairs for the last few years. Joris was very excited about the tomato and pepper seeds and agreed we should try our hand at broccoli as well, but he kept tossing the bag of zucchini seeds on the floor. We got them anyway. At home, I had Maddy and Joris help me put the dirt in the trays, poke holes for the seeds, put the seeds in and cover them with more dirt. But the best part by far, in their opinion, was pouring water over the seeds. There were also a couple of incidents of handfuls of dirt with seeds already planted in them being transferred from one tray to the next, so I'm pretty sure there will be some broccoli living among the bell peppers. Seeds from the cherry tomatoes have already started sprouting up, which is exciting.

Maddy's parents have given me two weeks notice. Maddy had been on a waiting list for a daycare to which they did not expect to get in until at least this summer or later, but a spot opened up and with their situation changing as well, it was the best option for them. So I'm trying to decide what to do. I've applied for a couple of part-time non-profit jobs that I would be excited about if they hired me and I'm looking through the childcare ads again. With our situation, there just doesn't really seem to be the perfect solution - or at lest, I haven't thought of it yet.

Something that has really tickled me pink this week has been getting in touch with some of my and Jacob's former students from Jaluit. In addition to finally joining the world of Facebook a month or two ago, I now have an account on Bebo, which is like Facebook's ugly, white trash cousin, but for some unknown reason, the social network of choice in the Pacific Islands. I'm now in touch with about 14 former students and even live chatted online with one of our drama club kids, who is now studying in the Philippines! It's impossible to accurately describe the joy and wonder I felt at that.

Joris has fully entered the "me do it!" phase, which is both cute and annoying at times. It's great because we can pretend to try to eat a bite of his food and he'll immediately yell "Dootah doen!" and often actually try the food himself. It's not so great when you are trying to get ready to go and he insists to be the one to turn off the lights, etc.

While we're on the subject of food, Joris has had a great week eating. He enjoys burritos now and has recently been on a bit of a veggie kick; broccoli is being eaten instead of ignored, seconds are requested for bell peppers again and this afternoon, while doing our grocery shopping for the week he just HAD TO, ABSOLUTELY eat some tomato. He was really whiny about it at first and I kept telling him that he could have some tomato when we get home because we have to pay for it first. The whining continued "Tomaat, Mama, tomaat!" until he suddenly stopped, looked me in the eyes and said "ahs-beef" (asjeblieft - please) in the nicest voice. And so, I disregarded all parenting advice and got the boy some slices of tomato from the deli because, really, it wasn't like he was asking for a snickers bar and most moms would probably be thrilled to have their toddlers demand a nutritious fruit snack like that. Right? Yeah...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The case for and against travel

I didn't have to work last Thursday and Friday, so I decided to take advantage of the additional free time to go visit my college friends in Oregon. Torey was my roommate at UofO and lives in Eugene again and Yuko is my first and oldest (longest, not age-wise) friend in the States. We met at Warner Pacific College, a small Christian college in Portland where we both felt completely out of place.

With work and having family in the Portland area, we almost never have time to make it any further down I-5 to the Corvallis or Eugene area. So on Thursday I packed up the car early and after dropping Jacob off to work at Peet's, Joris and I first drove down to Lake Oswego where we had lunch with my mom (a.k.a. Moma). I was afraid that it was going to be a loooooong trek when Joris started saying "All done. Out auto" at Peets - 10 minutes from our house. But, he was pretty good for the three hours it took us to drive to the Applebees just off the freeway. I had a small mountain of toys and books on the passenger seat and presented him with something else to hold whenever he got fussy. He did a good job just kind of spacing out at times, too.

Lunch was mediocre at best and possibly gave me intestinal problems at worst, but the company was good and we followed up with a scenic walk around the various buildings' parking lots. As planned, Joris fell asleep on the drive to Eugene and woke up in a good mood, happy to finally get out of the car.

Joris took about 10 minutes to warm up to Torey (she easily won him over by playing ball and showing him her very cool lizards) and his new vocabulary includes:

Tody (Torey)
Wahcoe (Rosco - Torey's cat)
Ha-dis (hagedis / lizard)
Mini-Koos (Rosco's stuffed animal kitten, named after our very own big Koos).

On Friday we visited Villard Hall, the Theatre department's building at UO. They recently (finally!) received updated facilities, after years and years of waiting on funding. It looks very nice, albeit a bit sterile in places. Luckily, parts of the building are still exactly the same as when Jacob, Torey and I were there, which was oddly comforting to see.

We were talking about how it will be nine years ago this spring that we graduated, then we looked at each other and realized we have known each other for 12 years! That and the high school age looking students that are passing as college students these days made me feel rather old.

Late Friday afternoon we bid our farewells to Torey and Eugene and drove to Philomath, where Yuko lives. Yuko and her husband Matt have two daughters; Madeline (5) and Sierra (4 months) - the latter of which I met for the first time. It also was the first time seeing their new house, which they had built on a piece of property. It was well designed and surprisingly small (I often think of new construction on acreage to be upward of 3000 sq. ft). Madeline played very sweetly with Joris (with some small balls and princess wands - Joris was visibly thrilled that such a big girl would play with him) and Yuko had cooked a lovely meal (which Joris ate!). I seriously don't understand how she can find time to cook with a kindergartner and an infant around and being a full time veterinary student! It was really nice to catch up and hang out and I wish we could have stayed longer than we did, but we had to drive back up to Damascus.

We left a little after 7:00pm and Joris fell asleep, without a fuss, in the car around 9:00pm, just half an hour before arriving at my parents' place.

Which brings me to the con of traveling and the bane of my existence: sleep. Or rather, the lack of sleep.

At Torey's house, Joris took a good while to fall asleep, then woke up at 11:15-ish and I was unable to get him back down until, after 12:30 or so, I asked him if he wanted to sleep in bed with me, which he said he did. This was the very first instance of co-sleeping we have ever done. He of course has slept in my arms as an infant and on flights or something, but never, ever in my bed at night. For good reason, 'cause the kid is a restless sleeper. About every 20 minutes or so he will violently flip his entire body around while waving and kicking and, the first few times, saying "mama!?". So even though he slept through the night until 6:30 the next morning, I unfortunately did not.

He woke up at my parents' place when I tried to lay him down in the bed and was unable to get back to sleep until 11:30pm that night.

The following night when Jacob, who took the train down to come join us, tried to put him down for the night it took 2 hours and involved him laying next to Joris on the bed until he was asleep, which of course is utterly ridiculous.

On Sunday, my parents were going to babysit Joris while Jacob and I were going out for a belated Valentines date. Unfortunately, just as we were discussing the asinine movie trivia, they called to let us know Joris had been crying for half an hour and they were unable to calm him down. So, back we went. Unable to face another epic battle of trying to get the boy to sleep in a place other than his own bed, we decided to drive home to Seattle that night instead of the next morning.

My parents were disappointed and I felt like a failure for being unable to have my toddler stay with anyone besides myself, his dad or auntie Chris and for disappointing the 'rents.

So, I don't know if I'll decide to travel with Joris anytime soon. Either people will have to come see us, or I'll leave him with his dad or something. :)
It's sad because except for the sleep issues, Joris always has a great time seeing new things, meeting new people and he adjusts quickly and happily to new situations.

In the meantime, I need another decent night sleep and a cup of coffee before I'm caught up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Big butt ha-ha

This morning when he got up I took Joris and an armload of stuffed animals to bed with me to cuddle for a few minutes. After a little bit, Joris thoughtfully said "bii butt" and patted the sheets.

"Big butt?"


"Bee but?"

"Noooo. Bii butt!" (pats the sheets again)

"Do you have a big butt, Joris?"


"Does Mama have a big butt?"
"What's a big butt?"

(Joris started making seriously frustrated noises.)

"Bee but,.. big butt?... Babet?..."

"Big bed?" Jacob finally ventured.

"Jaaa! Doota bii but!"

"Joris is in the big bed!"

"Ja. Mama ook. Daddy ook. Bii but."

"Mama and daddy are also in the big bed."

Yesterday, Joris and I were playing soccer at the Pinehurst park. There still was some snow on the ground which had started turning to a nice crispy sort of ice layer which made this satisfying crunchy sound when walking on it. Joris made his longest, most complicated statement yet:

"Doota walk hone. Mama ook."

Joris is walking in the snow. Mama also.

One of my favorite Joris-isms is "ha-ha". In Dutch, the verb for to retrieve, go get, pick up is "halen". One day, a month or two ago we were on our way from Avery's house to pick up Jacob from work and Joris repeated "daddy ha-ha" after I told him we were going to pick up daddy. The verb stuck and now, whenever he goes and gets something, he'll use "ha-ha"

"Coco ha-ha"

"Doota milk ha-ha"

Etc. It still makes me smile.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Twenty-two months or so...

I'm glad I started this blog, because were it not for the few memories I occasionally put in writing here, I'm afraid that I would forget most specific things that happened in Joris' development and be left with just a vague idea of what occurred in his early life.

In fact, thinking back of Joris's first year of life (pre-blog, if you will), which in reality started less than two years ago, it already feels like an eternity ago and I mostly just remember the emotions, the feelings of that year and not so much specific incidents, unless they stood out tremendously (seeing Joris's skin blister and peel off in front of my eyes when he got burned comes to mind). Not that that's necessarily a bad thing; the year did exist mostly out of diaper changes, feedings and a whole lot of rocking, but I can't help but think that if I had taken the time to write some things down, I would remember it better.

Like all toddlers, Joris has hit an acceleration of development and is making connections, remembering things and coming up with ideas at an alarmingly fast rate. There are so many new things that he does or comes up with every day that I find myself actually not being able to remember all of it to recount to Jacob at the end of the day.

He is getting more and more creative and loves pretend play, especially with his stuffed animals. I realized that his animal entourage is starting to get a little out of control when he tried picking up Coco, George, Aap, Brown Bear and Talking Lion at the same time and got frustrated when it proved impossible. The plus side of his enjoyment of talking to stuffed animals is that they often can get him to do things that Jacob and I cannot (even though he fully understands that it is us who make them talk) but the flip-side, of course, is that I spent a whole lot of time each day speaking in squeaky and gruff voices and Joris will often toss an animal at me after I tell him something, meaning I need to repeat the comment in the animal voice.

For example:
Joris kicks a ball.

Me: Good kick, Joris!

J: Coco? Mama, Coco!

Me: Coco thinks that was a good kick, too.

J: Coco! Coco! (tosses Coco into my lap)

Me (In Coco's voice): Good kick, Joris!

J: Yay! Doota kick!

Joris has been able to grasp the idea of representation and symbols from a young age. He was less than a year old when he would look at drawn pictures of say, a ball, and understood that it was representing a real ball, even though it was not a picture of the object or anywhere near its real size. (Probably all babies can do this, but I still think it's amazing!) Since this summer, he knows what letters are and, for most letters, knows several words that start with that letter.

When we draw, he asks me to write letters or words and he likes drawing the letter O himself (Obaba! O. Obaba, Mama!) and he can now identify the written names of Joris, Mama, Daddy, Coco, George, Koos, Oskar and Avery. The other day when he was taking a bath I asked him to find the letter J among the floating foam letters, which he did, and he stuck it on the side of the tub. I next asked him to find the O and the R, which he also did and stuck them (on the left side) next to the J. He then found the I without me prompting him and started looking around for the S. It wasn't in the tub, so I told him I'd go find it, which I did. In the meantime he had settled on the K and added it to the row, pointed at all the letters and said "Doota. Doota."

A few days ago I drew a picture of a tree on his chalkboard wall and wrote "boom" (tree) next to it. He then tried to imitate writing boom, which looked like a series of vertical lines. When I asked him what letters were in the word boom, he looked and recited "B. O....O...M!" If you ask the same question without him looking at the word, he'll get B & O.

A few weeks ago, when out thrift shopping, I came across several bags of Legos for $2.99 a piece. Two were from Harry Potter sets (one bag had, among other things, about 30 Harry Potter Lego people, of which I sold 12 - mostly doubles - on Ebay for over $20!) and one was a soccer set that came with the building instructions. My plan was to just hang on to the sets until Joris gets to be of Lego playing age, but he spotted the Harry Potter figures on the shelf, waiting to be shipped, and really wanted to investigate them. So I pulled out "his" HP people from the bag and he spent many, long, wonderfully occupied minutes just looking at the figures, taking them off and and placing them back on the little Lego platform. There was no tearing off of heads, trying to rip the capes off trying to ingest any parts of them. I'd put them out of reach when he wasn't playing with them, but he would keep asking "pay (play) people?". So last weekend, I thought it would be fun to try to put the soccer set together to see if it actually was complete - which it was. The set lets you actually play soccer with the little Lego guys; they're all up on small pedestals that have a spring, allowing you to kick the small, awesome choking hazard little balls from one guy to the next. Joris absolutely loves it and we've been leaving it out on his play table. He will kick the ball with one of the Lego guys and then say "Daddy (or Mama) turn". No destruction of the set or little people has occurred (yet).

I've been holding off on publishing this blog post because I realize that it really just sounds like I'm bragging. Which I totally am. But then I thought, so what? With the continued sleep challenges, emerging dictator behavior and a recent comeback of some sort of separation anxiety, there is plenty to grumble about, so why not remind myself and my five readers, that Joris is mostly a joy to be around - a sweet, smart, sensitive and funny little kid who really seems to know what he wants and lights up my world every single day.