Friday, August 29, 2008

Only from a Second Child . . .

For a few days, Matthew has been repeating "GOOO GIIIII" and "BAAA GIIII" as he roams the house. I had no idea what he was saying until this morning. It was a familiar scene in our house -- Cameron instructing me in my role for our morning-long play.

Cameron: Okay, Mommy, me and you are good guys.
Cameron: And Matthew is the bad guy.
Matthew: BAAA GIII.
Cameron: And the good guys . . .
Cameron: have to find the secret lair of the bad guy.
Matthew: BAAA GIII!

Comprehension dawned, and then incredulity. Are these normal first words? "Good guy" and "bad guy?" But, come to think of it, living with Cameron means that Matthew hears these words day in and day out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

So Much to Say

Matthew is quite a chatterbox. At just one year, he is already saying about a dozen words including "Good job" (usually a self-congratulatory "Good job!"), "Thank you" and "All done." I love hearing what my kids have to say, so in addition to learning to talk Matthew is also learning American Sign Language (ASL). I taught Cameron ASL when he was a baby and loved getting to know him before he could communicate verbally. By the time Cameron was two years old he knew hundreds of signs. Matthew is following in Cameron's footsteps and is already signing up a storm. Like most babies, his first signs have been directed towards the most important activities in his life -- eating and drinking. "Milk," "more," "eat" and "all done" are used daily, but he's also picked up "read," "thank you" and a few others. This morning I got a very pleasant reminder of why I love signing with my kids.

It was early (too early) in the morning, but Matthew was wide awake and ready to play. Teasing him, I said, "I'm going to eat you all up!" as I signed eat. I grabbed his foot and took a playful nibble of his toes. Matthew giggled and I continued, "I'm going to munch on this little belly!" When I kissed his belly, Matthew laughed louder and signed, "More, more, more!" "Oooh, these fingers look delicious!" I enthused, putting his fingers to my lips and "Mmmm"ing appreciatively. "More!" signed Matthew. Finally, I smacked my lips against his pudgy cheeks, saying, "I'm going to gobble up these little cheeks!" Matthew fell to the floor, gasping with laughter. When he had calmed down enough to catch his breath he smiled up at me and signed, "Thank you!"

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back to School

Today is Cameron's first day of school and he could hardly wait to be back in the classroom. A full three hours before school starts he announced, "Mommy! I'm all dressed! Let's go to school." This repeated approximately every 20 minutes until finally, finally, FINALLY it was time to go.

On the drive we continued our tradition of listening to an audio book. Our first selection of the year is "Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The "Little House" series was a childhood favorite of mine and, so far, Cameron is enthralled. I, however, am finding that there are certain events in the book that, as an adult, I find disturbing. This is likely compounded by my recent reading of "Lies My Teacher Told Me," a fascinating look at the difference between what we are taught in high school history and what actually happened. As a result, I'm driving Cameron crazy. Our drive went something like this:

Narrator: "Pa," said Laura, "why do the Indians go west?"
"Well, Laura, when the white people come the Indians must go west."
"As they should," said Ma. "The land should belong to people who will farm it, not to savage men. That only makes sense."

Me: (hitting pause button) Did you hear that Cameron? Ma didn't like the Native Americans. She thought they were mean. I think she was afraid of them because they looked different and acted different. But different isn't bad, right? The Native Americans weren't bad or mean. And, actually, when Ma says that the land should belong to people who will farm it, well, there were many Native Americans who did farm until the white settlers pushed them off of the land! So that's not really fair. And . . .

Cameron: Uh huh. OK Mommy. Sooooo, can we listen to the CD now?

I know. I'm a barrel full of laughs, aren't I?

When we arrived at school, I walked Cameron to his classroom where he excitedly hung up his backpack, greeted his teacher and selected a work.

"Are you ready to say good-bye?" I asked.

Without looking up from his work, Cameron gave a cheerful, "Bye!" while I stood, like a fool, arms outstretched for a hug. You know that move where you hold out your hand, realize the other person isn't going to shake your hand, and you disguise the effort by slicking back your hair? Yeah, well, there is no cool move for disguising a hug that isn't returned!

Monday, August 25, 2008

This Boring American Life

Not only is my writing group so, so awesome (I know . . . my talent for writing is so, so unbearably obvious when I use really creative expressions like "so, so awesome."), but each week I download Chicago Public Radio's podcast of "This American Life" and listen to it on my drive there and back. The writing group has been between semesters for the past few weeks, and I was craving some Ira Glass. So, while Matthew was napping today and Cameron was occupied with his Legos, I listened to the recent "Breakup" episode of "This American Life." I was really enjoying it, and Acts 1 and 4 actually had me laughing out loud. Cameron got curious and began to pester me. "What Mommy? What? What are you laughing at? What?"

"It's just this radio show I like," I wheezed. "It's really funny!"

"Let me listen too!" he pleaded. So we shared a set of headphones between us. I continued to gasp and wipe my eyes while Cameron's eyes narrowed into suspicious little slits. Finally, he took off his half of the headphones and handed them back to me.

"Sorry Mommy," he said. "But that's not funny."

Stay Away from MY Mama

For Christmas, we gave Matthew a cute little baby doll. Here he is with his doll, back when they were still pals. Lately, Baby Doll and Matthew are not getting along. If I hold Baby Doll and say, "Oh, look at this baby!" Matthew promptly toddles over, grabs and tosses Baby Doll aside and crawls into my arms. Seems Matthew does not want to share his mama with anyone, even Baby Doll.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Our New Dog, Shadow

Is this wrong? Will Matthew grow up distrustful and disillusioned because we convinced him that David's shadow puppet magic is a real doggie? Should we NOT have laughed and taken pictures while encouraging, "Where's the doggie? Matthew, show us the doggie!"

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Compliment from My Preschooler

Yesterday, feeling a bit put out by the demands of parenting, I muttered to myself, "Sometimes I feel like a servant."

Cameron, with his healthy young ears, piped up, "What's a servant?"

"Someone who does everyone else's work," I griped.

"Ohhhhh," Cameron replied thoughtfully. And then, with a warm smile, he patted my hand and said, "Mommy, you're a good servant."

The Girl Smurf

In a pathetic attempt to relive my childhood, I bought Cameron "The Smurfs: Season One" on DVD for our car trip to MI. He loved it, watching it over and over and never even requesting "Rescue Heroes: The Movie." This morning he wanted to play "Name That Smurf" in which we imitate a smurf and he guesses which one. After he correctly identified Brainy, Jokey and Grouchy, I did my best Smurfette impression. "Oh boys!" I rasped in a high, hoarse voice.

"Oh, I know this one!" said Cameron. "It's the girl smurf -- Smurf Ed!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brothers Having Fun

As Matthew gets more mobile, more verbal and more interactive, he and Cameron have much more fun (as well as much more conflict!) Let's conveniently ignore the conflict (which I do not typically document on film) and instead enjoy some of the fun.
Here, Cameron and Matthew compete in a new Olympic sport created by none other than Cameron. It is called "Cargo Cart," or more specifically "Men's Doubles Cargo Cart." Basically, one member sits in a small wagon meant for toys, not people. The other member pulls the wagon around and around and around a chair.

During the above race, Matthew was actually laughing and yelling "Go go go!" (Not as impressive as it sounds. He yells "Go go go!" alot. Always three "go's.") After several break-neck spins around the chair, Cameron shouted "And the Americans WIN!" and Matthew clapped his hands appreciatively.

Next, I share a photo of Cameron and Matthew playing Star Wars. For the more observant readers, let me address a few issues. 1) Yes, they are McDonald's Happy Meal toys. 2) Yes, there are three of them. Give me a break! We spent HOURS in the car driving to and from MI for our vacation. If a Happy Meal will buy me a little peace and quiet, I'm pulling up to the drive through. 3) Yes, they are for the 3+ crowd. The baby was closely supervised at all times during the filming.

What cracks me up here is that both boys are making flying sounds with their lips. How cute is that?!?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Wonderful Year

Today is the one year anniversary of Matthew's homecoming! On the one hand, I can hardly remember life without him. On the other, it seems impossible that a year has passed. Matthew has brought so much joy to our lives. We feel so lucky and blessed to be his parents! Here are a few shots that show Matthew as he really is:
Full of laughter,
constantly exploring,
and always, always on the go!

Today Cameron said, "Matthew's first mommy probably thinks about him alot. I bet she misses him." I don't write much about Matthew's first family, but I think of them every day and I think Cameron is right. Matthew's birthmom must have loved him a whole lot to make the decision she did and I hope that when she thinks of him she is comforted to know how loved he is.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Vacation Memories: Our family

Last year, we had so much fun spending part of our vacation with family and part of it at a cottage. We decided to stick with that winning combo: we began the vacation visiting our families and celebrating Matthew's birthday. Here are the boys with Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Bryan.And here are the three grandmas!Then, we headed to Holland, MI, where we rented a cottage and spent a week exploring the west coast of Michigan. We spent a lot of time at the beaches, walking along boardwalks and to lighthouses and just enjoying being outside. We especially enjoyed watching the sun set over Lake Michigan -- it was gorgeous!
When not at the beach, we had fun grilling and roasting marshmallows at the cottage.
The lakeside towns offered many delicious restaurants, a real soda fountain, museums and parks.

We also had a great time when Stephanie visited us and I'm hoping to convince her and Bryan to vacation with us in a few years when hopefully we can exchange babysitting duties! We gave her plenty of opportunities to see what having kids is really like.
And, what trip would be complete without a funny story about David? One evening we went to downtown Holland where we could watch a wide variety of street performers. We saw a yo-yo man, a belly dancer, a live statue and many musicians. In a courtyard, we sat and watched a show featuring a man who performed such feats as walking on glass and a woman who swallowed fire. The very first time they needed an assistant, who should they pick but David! You see, they said they needed a big, brave, strong man and that is OBVIOUSLY David. David used his big strong muscles to pull a small sword out of the man's nose -- yuck! Sadly, the photo is a little blurry but nonetheless a priceless memory.

Vacation Highlights: Cameron

During Matthew's birthday party, Cameron spent most of his time in the basement playing and watching others play with the Nintendo Wii. He and Alex enthusiastically cheered each other on.Cameron's favorite part of our vacation on the west coast of MI was Lake Michigan. He was awed by its size and the sandy beaches. On the beach, Cameron braved the chilly water briefly but spent most of his time building elaborate sand structures including a really cool tunnel (with some help from Daddy).
Cameron also buried his feet in the sand, posed for this photo, then discovered that he could not extract his feet and began screaming for help. At the cottage, we spent nearly every evening in the yard -- grilling, roasting marshmallows or, best of all, playing a game created just by Cameron. It's called "Bulls and Unicorns." "OK, me and Daddy are the Bulls and we go like this. Places hands on forehead like horns and makes a snorting sound. And Mommy, you and Matthew are the Unicorns."

To which I reply, "OK, so we go like this." Placing an outstretched finger on forehead like a horn and whinnying.

"Right. Now, listen everybody. The Bulls try to hit the Unicorns with this ball. And Unicorns, you try to hit us with the ball."

It was great.
We also discovered that Cameron, like his father, has a penchant for gag photos. Here he is in his "old fashioned Crocs."
And while eating lunch at The Good Earth, he had us all in hysterics -- especially his baby brother who thought this was the funniest thing he had ever seen.
At the park, he posed for this photo "in jail." "Let's send it to Grandpa Frank and we'll say that I got put in jail!" he suggested. "Wait. Maybe instead we should say, 'This is Cameron at the park. He's pretending he's in jail.' Because we don't want Grandpa to get too scared that I'm really in jail!"Cameron was really well-behaved the whole trip, aside from a meltdown when he really, REALLY didn't want to go to Windmill Island. He was so awful that he lost his beloved Smurfs DVD for two days. When we finally went to Windmill Island, lo and behold, he discovered that it was tons of fun. Huh! Who would've guessed?

Also on this trip, Cameron developed a passion for photography. He seems to be a natural. Who's this a photo of, you ask? No idea.

Vacation Highlights: Matthew

Before heading to the west coast of Michigan, Matthew had fun visiting with family. He loved playing peek-a-boo with Aunt Ellen.
As always, Matthew took every opportunity he got to grab a handful of Cheerios, which cracked Grandma Linda up.
Once we had reached the west side of the state, we hit the beaches. Matthew quite literally hit the beach. That sand is hard to walk in!
Also on the beach, Matthew discovered his mission in life: Point out each and every bird in sight and try, try, TRY to catch one! Alas, catching a bird is easier said than done.
When not at the beach, Matthew spent a great deal of time riding in the mei tai. He rarely complained about the free ride, finding that the view is quite good from five feet off the ground (OK, so maybe five feet is a bit generous, but I am WAY taller than Matthew so it probably FELT like five feet to him!)At the cottage, Matthew discovered a little spot that seemed to be created just for him.Forget all those birthday toys, this basket is GREAT!And, of course, a highlight of the vacation for Matthew was his FIRST BIRTHDAY! He started out the day with his very favorite meal of dairy and egg-free pancakes. This kid can pack away the pancakes -- his current record is four full-sized pancakes in one sitting!
We made sure everyone knew that Matthew was one year old that day by dressing him in a special onesie. We finished out Matthew's birthday (and our last day of vacation) by letting both kids run wild at a playground in Saugatuck, where Matthew did his very best to keep up with the big kids. "Just wait 'til I'm two," you could almost see him thinking.

Matthew's party

We celebrated Matthew's first birthday a few days early. As is our family tradition, Matthew was sleep-deprived, clingy and overwhelmed for much of the celebration. (Although I greatly enjoyed catching up with many friends and family!) Mid-party, Matthew fell asleep and woke after most of the guests had departed. Thus, his first taste of birthday cake and the excitement of first birthday gifts was shared with a small contingent of family.
Since Matthew has so many food allergies, I baked his first birthday cake. Here he takes a taste of the dairy, egg and nut-free creation. He liked it! He really liked it!When Cameron celebrated his first birthday, I don't recall him showing much interest in opening his gifts. Matthew caught on right away.
He was spoiled rotten and loved every minute of it.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Day at the Lake

Ahhhh, summer time! We began our vacation by visiting Granma, Granpa, Aunt Beth and Uncle Steve at the lakehouse. Uncle Steve treated us to a boat ride on the lake and offered to take Cameron tubing. I was sure that when the boat pulled away and Cameron was by himself, yards and yards away from us, he would panic. I steeled myself as we got further and further from him but, to my amazement, he did fantastic. He was so proud of himself when we towed him back in, although he did say, "I was SO ready to come back on the boat!"

Cameron also drove the boat ALL by himself! (Thanks, Uncle Steve, for taking over when we careened towards shore!)
It was wonderfully relaxing to sit on the boat, surrounded by blue water and blue skies. It was also so much fun to see my grandparents -- a rare treat!
Towards the end of the boat ride, Uncle Steve asked David if he'd like to go tubing and he accepted. This may seem like no big deal, but here is the back (tee hee!) story:

Earlier in the week, David hurt his back. He claimed to be completely incapacitated and lay on the floor moaning while I took care of the kids, cleaned the house, packed up four suitcases and loaded all of our earthly belongings in the car. He then sat reclined in the passenger seat, moaning, while I drove five hours to Michigan. He hobbled into my parents' house, where my mother refused to let him lift a finger as he was injured. Everyone then took turns sympathizing with poor, brave David.

So, when poor, brave David hopped merrily on the tube and laughed as he bounced crazily behind a speeding boat I quickly lost sympathy for him and started feeling sorry for poor, brave little me. Thanks, Uncle Steve, for revealing the true extent of David's injury.