Boy Story

Twenty one (and almost a half) months!

While it’s been a few months since my last blog, these weeks in between posts have been anything but dull. Watching Will develop has been quite the site, as he’s a walking, running, toddling babbler. He doesn’t really speak much yet, although he’s starting to mimic certain sounds (“Up” and “Bob” — as in the Tomato — are his most common ones. But it sounds like I might be “Gah-gah” to him 🙂 ). It’s funny to watch him conduct his learning in a manner that’s … very much on his own terms. It’s almost as though he knows how to say certain words… he just doesn’t feellike it!

And that personality development has certainly been an interesting one to experience. Little tantrums are “fun” to endure and try to learn how to subdue. But we know the importance of getting the little booger to calm down and learn that smacking anything within his proximity (from people to objects) is unacceptable.

At an acoustic concert 6.4.12

Almost everyday reveals something new with him. Today, it was watching him grab a Buzz Lightyear figure (which is… *ahem* mine….) and pretend that Buzz was flying! I’d yet to see him play like that. He loves watching the Toy Story trilogy, so it’s great to see him gravitate toward the characters. When he got his mitts on both Buzz and Woody figures, he carried them around for quite a while — like little trophies! Sometimes he still gets into these fits of throwing things — even things he really likes — so he’s still learning what it means to take care of peoples’ things. I know this stuff takes time.

But it’s also just AMAZING how fast he’s growing! It doesn’t seem long ago that he couldn’t roll over… then couldn’t crawl… then couldn’t walk… I’m sure, once he starts really talking, I’ll feel the same way about this season when he couldn’t!

So until the next adventure…

7.12.12 – running around the kitchen with a Firehouse Subs hat on

"Happy Valentine's D—Hey! Come Back Here!"

So it’s been a couple months of adjusting to life with a growing, fully mobile little boy running around. Will is now 16 and a half months, and this two-legged freedom he’s now experiencing has brought new joys AND challenges our way.

I’m definitely enjoying having a walking toddler around instead of a crawling, or immobile little bean. Although the little guy hasn’t spoken a real word just yet, he’s having a blast zipping from room to room in our home, sometimes making the most adorable nonsensical sounds along the way (my favorite is when he sees his reflection, wrinkles his nose and declares, “Yah yah yah!” in a hushed voice. Love it!).

This year was our second Valentine’s Day since Will’s birth and, to be honest, I don’t even remember what we did last year, but we decided it would be cool to go out as the three of us. Will had a pretty chill day earlier, so we figured it’d be safe to take him out.

We were wrong.

When we arrived at our local T.G.I. Friday’s, Will was asleep in his car seat, so we plopped it in his stroller and wheeled him inside. He didn’t last long in there though. The bright lights and noise were enough to wrench him out of any kind of peaceful rest, so I plucked him from the carriage and sat him on my lap for us to feed him. He was good for a while; I’ve found it fun to balance the little fella on one knee and feed us both, but tonight he could only sit for a short time. Soon, he was reaching for his mom and getting into her diaper bags and purse. After some fussy minutes, Amy declared that it was time for me to walk him around. With only one a few other couples left dining nearby, I paced the walkways around our table, following our little wobbler. I tried holding his hand so he could be more controlled (who wants to be eating out and seeing a toddler running around off the leash?? I didn’t want to be THAT parent), but since he’s allowed to roam free at home, he wouldn’t have it. In outdoor situations, I force it — tears and all (usually his, not mine) — but in a less life-threatening environment as a Friday’s, I figured it was OK to just follow him around.

And it was fine, but there seemed to be no end to the constant walking, about-face, walking, about-face, walk… it was endless. And of course, Will kept wanting to go further each time. Before long, I was yanking him by the arm backward away from the kitchen or bar area… again and again. We tried to get him to eat his kids meal that we ordered for him, but he was fussy (over-tired, really) and just wanted to own the floor of Fridays. By the end of our Valentine’s Day evening, I sat in the booth alone, eating dessert, while she tended to his restroom needs. Once we had Mr. Grumpy Pants back in his car seat (in which he went kicking and screaming), we drove home — exhausted and not feeling all that lovey dovey. Still, it’s a snapshot of where this road of adulthood has taken us. He won’t be a little, speedy toddler forever, so we have to take the good with the not-so…

Look Who's Walking Now

Just in time for Christmas, Amy and I got our wish when Will took his first couple daring steps on his own. For weeks leading up to this momentous event, he had enjoyed being lead around by the hands or shimmying himself along counter tops and other edges while standing. However, he hadn’t yet taken those grand steps on his own. Around December 18th (Amy claims she saw a few steps the day before, but her idea of him walking on his own seemed different than mine), Will took a couple cautious steps on his own. Usually it was a couple little steps and then he flopped to all fours or backwards onto his little rump. But as the days went on that week, he seemed relentless — nothing really deterred him from getting up and trying again.

I was shocked by how quickly Will picked up walking, and how determined he seemed to be once he got a taste for it (and I’m sure our enthusiastic responses to his achievement helped).

In just a few days, Will had almost completely converted over from being a full-time crawler to being pretty strong on those two feet. He still reverts to crawling on occasion, but it’s been really awesome to see him trekking around, wobbling to and fro, on those chubby little legs.

And so has begun the next stage of parenthood with a baby — walking! Will’s 15 months now and had started walking at just over 14 and a half months. Here’s to a new year of parenting!

Learning To Walk

It’s been several weeks since I last wrote about our adventures in parenting, but it’s really been just several weeks of a waiting game: when will the little beastie learn to walk?

While we wait for Will to take the leap of faith, so to speak, it’s still pretty amusing to watch him shimmy his way around objects while holding on to walls, corners, rails, and the like. He does enjoy being held by the hand and walked around the room, but he hasn’t mustered up enough courage to really step out on his own.

In some ways, I guess adults are still learning to walk on our own — still learning to take little leaps of faith and trust that God will be there to catch us if we trip up and fall. No matter how many times we try to encourage our little 14.5 month old to take steps in our direction without holding on to something, he has yet to make the jump… and I think that’s a problem that still dogs me to this day as an adult believer.

I guess, in the end, Will’s dad needs to learn to walk just as badly as he does. 🙂

Amy beaming as Will stands on his own for just a moment before sitting down… successfully distracted by some VeggieTales on screen.

Full-Contact Birthday Cake

So, this past Saturday, we celebrated our little guy’s very first birthday! (well….. technically, last year was his “birth day”… but he would have died if we tried to give him birthday cake as soon as he emerged into the world) On his actual day, we gave the little guy his own vanilla cupcake to attack, but he didn’t really know what to do with it… on top of being completely exhausted. Because we waited too late in the day to celebrate, he ended up crying and fussing through almost all of his presents and cake. It was memorable. (Below is one of the few smiles we captured 🙂 )

The next day, we celebrated again with another set of grandparents. This time, he was given a full vanilla cake. Scratch that – he was given a DOUBLE LAYER vanilla cake. Before I knew it, Amy was setting the double-layer vanilla cake in front of the little man and allowing him to have his way with it.

At first, Will dragged his little fingers across the white and blue icing to see what it was. Then he dragged his frosting-covered digits across the high chair tray and discovered what finger paints must be like. Before we knew it, we had a regular Jackson Pollock in our midst. He began by wiping more and more icing across the table and then grabbing chunks of cake. He brought the icing and cake bits up to his mouth, but he didn’t really eat it. I tried then to put a small piece of cake in his mouth and that seemed to make something click. He didn’t exactly shovel handfuls of the stuff into his mouth, but he did taste some of it himself after that.

Before long, the little artist was flinging cake and icing E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E. This was when we realized it would have been in our best interest to have put some kind of plastic down on the floor or something, for icing and cake innards were littering our faux-hardwood floor. What resulted was a sight that would have given Adrian Monk a massive heart attack. Once shoes of mine nearby and the carpet that lined the stairs climbing to our second floor were hit with small fragments of cake shrapnel, I knew it was time to pop the proverbial birthday balloon. What ensued was a cleaning session that I don’t want to relive.

So, what do YOU need to throw the proper birthday celebrating for your 1-year-old?

1. 1 one-year old baby (boy or girl)
2. 1 cake (preferably NOT double-layer)
3. 1 birthday candle (preferably in the shape of the number 1)
4. 1 big, wide open room with NO carpet — or, better yet… do this all outdoors!
5. 1 video camera
6. 1 photo camera
7. Clothes you wouldn’t mind never seeing again.

Babies and Hotels Don't Mix

It’s been awhile since my last entry, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been several new adventures for us.

First, Amy and I finally got away for a weekend this month to Orlando. I mixed business with vacation, but it worked well to get us some time to just “us” again. We surprisingly snapped right back into how it felt to be just the two of us again, and it reminded me how much I’ve missed that. When you’re married for seven years before a baby is born — not to mention have been “together” for five years before tying the knot (that’s 12 years total for those keeping track) — it’s tough to add a third party and adjust to that. Frankly, I’ve learned just how terrible I am with change and I’ve found myself clinging to my favorite things more. However, I think that’s when God decides we need to let go and cling to Him. To say I need help adjusting to change is an understatement. Prayers are welcome. 🙂

We did miss Will while we were away, but I coveted those hours as just the two of us. It’s tough to juggle spouse time, parenthood time, and our respective jobs; I find that the one that suffers most is the spousal time. So if you’re entering into the parenthood adventure, make sure you two make plenty of time for yourselves, too. 🙂 It’s important for your individual sanities (and hearts) and it’s good for your marriage.

So the week after our Orlando trip, we ran a merch table for JFH at a music festival in PA called Uprise. I was also working as media, so it was a super hectic weekend, but still quite enjoyable. Amy came along for the whole weekend and decided to bring Will along too. It was nice to have the whole trio intact, but it’s not easy to take care of a 11.5-month old while manning a merch table at a fairgrounds.

On Friday night, we stayed over at a hotel nearby and thus marked our first hotel experience with an infant. Mind you, I had feared this could be a disaster, and in my eyes, it was.

At first, it was neat. We settled in, got a complimentary crib delivered to our room and let Will chill on our bed to watch VeggieTales as we got ready for bed (and I had some work to take care of first). It was a challenge getting him to fall asleep, and keeping him from wailing in protest was part of that challenge. Finally, though, he was asleep, then Amy was asleep, and when I finished my work, we were all able to get some rest.

This was probably around 2 or 3am by the time I tucked myself in.

At roughly 6am, we awoke to the blood-curdling cries of our darling baby boy. Amy tried to calm him (he always prefers her over me… I don’t have the magical touch and if Amy’s there, he wants her over me, which is fine), but could barely get him to stop freaking out. After about 20 minutes or so, Amy frustratingly took him to the bathroom and started the tub water. Here, I assumed she’s planning on giving him a bath to calm him. I hear the bottle warmer beep on, so I knew she was about to give that a shot. All the while, Will continued to scream and cry. I knew I could try to go in there and offer assistance, but Heaven knows I’d just be in the way (and the decibels would do me in). Meanwhile, I’m trying desperately to relax and finding myself just getting jittery as I listen to his nonsensical screams of discontent (I was about ready to join him). Things only worsened, so I took the liberty of dressing and retreating to the hotel lobby. I was bleary-eyed and afraid the day ahead would be unkind with the lack of sleep I would be having. I was able to calm myself while slouching in a lobby armchair and listening to some worship music, but I wasn’t able to fall back to sleep. About an hour or so later, I got a text from Amy that he was asleep in his crib and that I could come back upstairs. I did, and I was able to sleep a tiny bit longer before we had to get up and get ready to go back to the festival.

I know I don’t win any husband-of-the-year awards with that story, but we’ve learned over the past year what I can handle and what Amy can handle is vastly different. She’s considerably stronger than I am when it comes to patience with a baby whose screams can strip the flesh off your ear drums (or… seemingly mine, at least).

Lesson learned? Infants and hotels don’t mix. Write that down.

I Hate (Most) Talking Childrens' Toys.

One thing I’ve noticed as my 10 month old is growing is just how obnoxious his toys can be. Of course, I’m not saying the toys themselves have their own pesky attitude (That would be silly, wouldn’t it?). However, the voices recorded for the children are some of the most irritating and obnoxious sounds to have ever reached my ear canal (and I review music full-time, so you can imagine just how bad these toys can be).

The most common offender is a woman’s voice on various singing or talking plastic “books” that consist of just a couple pages and are made to be durable. They exist in this universe because, unfortunately, children love them. Granted, the discernment of little ones is very weak at such a young age, but the patronizing tone and elated sounds of these voices capture the hearts of babies everywhere (As I type this, I hear a painful rendition of “The Farmer int he Dell” playing in the background. Save me, please).

But while children love these toys, there’s something about a flighty-sounding woman blissfully exclaiming “Let’s sing a song!” or “Let’s have fun!” and breaking into a chorus of “The Cow Jumped Over The Moon” that boils my blood. Perhaps there’s a time and place for these things, but for me, the time isn’t “any time” and the place certainly isn’t ever “here.”

If you’re actually still reading my tirade, I have some positive words for you.

I was shopping in Target one day when I came across the pleasant face of a stuffed green dog (yes… I just used “green” to describe a “dog”). Made by the brand LeapFrog, this puffy plush little pooch is programmable. He comes with a box in his velcro-enclosed back that allows you to connect this little dude to your computer. There, you can program Scout to know your child’s name and repeat it for them, to use their name in a song, and to customize it to sing songs about your child’s favorite food, color and animal. What’s more, you can choose from quite a few different jingles — from upbeat party type children songs to Christmas songs and even the birthday song. I actually loaded this puppy up with four lullabies and you can program it to play up to 10 minutes straight of bedtime tunes for your little one.

Best of all? His voice. His voice is that of a real little boy… not some woman who sounds like she sniffed a mess of Sharpies before recording her songs. While I only know Scout, I did see that there’s a purple pooch for girls called Violet. In addition to the main Scout and Violet plushes, there appear to be some additional themed LeapFrog toys for these two. While I haven’t checked them out yet, you can bet I will.

So if you’re like me and can’t stand the more whimsical toys, perhaps Scout or Violet may be of service to you and your child.



Princess Genius needs a new laboratory

The problem with having a young genius and future Ivy leaguer and Nobel Prize recipient on your hands is that, for now, your house is the laboratory.

Adventure is out there...

My youngest daughter, Princess Genius, who turned three-years-old last week, is as bright a child as you are likely to meet, and for a few more years, at least, our home will be the subject of many more tests, experiments, trial runs and undertakings of every kind.

Our family friend Paul uttered a surprisingly accurate prophesy about Princess Genius just after she turned a year old.

“She seems quietly curious about everything.”

“Quiet” and “curious.”

These two words, if said separately to describe your child, would be just fine. There is nothing wrong with “quiet.” The world needs quiet people as much as it needs loud folks.

Her sister, Princess Supergirl, is perhaps the loudest curious child you will ever meet. Her personal philosophy about getting needed information on a subject is to bludgeon the nearest adult into submission with a broadside of questions that makes me think that she has a future as a trial lawyer who specializes in the cross examination. (“Dad, you claim that we should not eat ice cream before bedtime, yet I distinctly heard you and Mom talk about eating a bowl of cookies and cream and watching a movie after Princess Genius and I go to bed. Is that the truth or isn’t it? Is that ice cream on your breath? I think the jury, made up of my stuffed animals, would like to hear about this!”)

Neither is “curious” a bad word. I was so curious about the world that my wonderful mother, who was no doubt tired of answering questions, simply handed me the “A” encyclopedia and sent me off to read the entire set. This has made me a killer Trivial Pursuit player, though my cannon of knowledge stops at the year 1970. (What ever happened to that President Richard Nixon guy?)

Quiet and content about life? Fine. Loud and curious? Also fine.

No, it’s the combination of quiet and curious that is such a deadly gumbo. Add in a pinch of self-motivation and a touch of sense of humor and you have the quietly orchestrated home experiments like the Caldwell household has been subject to recently.

It is a common thought when it comes to children that, if they are “playing quietly” somewhere, then everything is fine. For some reason I still battle this faulty logic when it comes to Princess Genius.

A few weeks ago, I was working diligently at my computer in our upstairs office while Princess Genius was entertaining herself with her dolls and other toys in her room.

Then I heard her dash to her sister’s room and back again several times, and then to the bathroom for just a second and then back into her room. She repeated this pattern in a quiet and no doubt determined way while I blissfully typed away.

Now, for a writer, any peaceful moment in a house with children is worth a bag of gold, and, since Princess Genius was being quiet and seemed to be occupied, I continued to work away. I should have known better, but sometimes you make that quiet wager with yourself that everything is fine and just as it should be.

And then a bit later, after an extended period of quiet, I heard the multiple flushes of the toilet and then listened to Princess Genius run into her room, slam her door and run into her closet. (Where she is known to hide when an experiment goes awry.)

As I sat at my keyboard, the clouds in my brain finally parted and I put the two actions together.

Multiple toilet flushes plus running and hiding in your closet equals something bad!

Indeed, it was bad.

From what I can deduce from the carnage at hand, she was attempting to flush the entire contents of the upstairs of our house in a bold experiment of “what goes down and what does not.” (The official results are that small toys and paper towels will go down while bigger objects like dad’s electric razor and a tube of toothpaste will simple twirl around and around the bowl in a hypnotic fashion.)

I have also learned (the hard way, naturally) that we should get her a drink when she requests one, lest she should attempt to tussle with a gallon of milk at 5 a.m. … (don’t ask).

So, happy birthday, Princess Genius; may you someday grow up to be the girl who finds a cure for cancer or a true green energy alternative.

In the meantime, would you like to go outside?

Hide the China! He's on the Loose!

In the several weeks that have passed since I last wrote on our bouncing baby boy, quite a few things have transpired. The biggest of such transpirations, however, is that my clumsy left foot discovered just how horrifically evil a children’s crib can be… When my foot casually-yet-unintentionally-forcefully connected with the edge of said crib one fateful afternoon, I was rendered seeing stars and clutching the appendage as I apparently broke my pinkie toe by stubbing in on the confounded bed. BEWARE of baby furniture! Ye been warned.

But in other baby news, wee Will, who is now 8 and a half months, has begun to crawl… forward! Of course he’s no ace at it yet, but he discovered that crawling forward is a possibility now. As of this past Tuesday, June 14, the little peanut was playing on our living room floor in a designated crawling area his mother had set up for him. He was doing his usual swimming in place and crawling backwards, but Amy reportedly had seen him make a few moves forward for the very first time. When I entered the room, we shared some concern over the sharp corners on some furniture, so I put some blankets over our TV stand’s base….. which attracted Will’s attention… and the Garfield figurine on its base.

As his eyes targeted the colorful item that Amy gave me as a gift a few moons ago, he crawled like a thirsty man through a desert to a newly discovered oasis… and I had to be the meanie to pull him away from the life giving waters!

The good days with taking care of a sometimes fussy baby and the bad days are beginning to even out  a little (instead of just one fussy day after another), but it’s amazing and cool to see Will growing so fast into a little dude. July 1st will be 9 months and it’s just been much more fun lately to see the various little new things he keeps learning and doing — from finding amusement in the flick of a towel in his direction to finding a plush Stay Puft marshmallow man to be quite entertaining, this boy is hardly dull to be around.

And have I mentioned yet that he’s a VeggieTales junkie?! If he needs calming, there’s a very, very good chance a VeggieTales video will do the trick. Can’t sleep? No worries, flip on the Veggies and it calms him down better than a warm bottle of milk. In fact, yesterday he wouldn’t take a nap, so we put him in his Jumperoo in front of The Ballad of Little Joe and the results were quite satisfying!