Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Becoming a Mom

I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mom and how you actually become one. I know I officially became a mom the moment Topher was born, but that moment was so surreal and I was so insanely drunk with pain and relief that I couldn't possibly have consciously become a mom at that time. Then I held him and all I could think was Well, who are you? Was it really you in there that whole time? I don't recognize you. Somehow I thought I would recognize you. Even now I find myself looking at him and I feel like I'm staring at someone else's baby, a stranger almost. Maybe it's those bright blue eyes that startle me every single time they look right at me, making me feel like I'm drowning in a stormy Caribbean sea. Or maybe it's the way Topher is so much his own little person, not an extension of either of us but just a completely unique individual. Or maybe I just don't feel like any of this comes naturally to me. I know people who are mothers even before they have children. I know people who thought they would make terrible mothers, but ended up being incredible. I was neither one of these. In fact, I was incredibly naive. I suppose I had one too many daydreams about having a fat, happy baby who would sleep well and who would make this experience easy for me. Then I came home and tried to change Topher's diaper and he screamed so hard that he stopped breathing and his face turned purple. And he was so, so tiny. So small that we were afraid to change his clothes (which also made him scream) or give him a bath (which really made him scream). And as for sleeping, he didn't. Not much anyway, and only if someone was physically holding him. And when I wanted to lay down, it had to be flat on my back with the baby draped over me like a bumpy little heating pad. In fact, with the sheet draped over him, sometimes I felt like I was still pregnant. For a while, I thought that my ability to feed him made me more of a mother, or a better mother, which is why it took me so long to finally give up breastfeeding even though I was very miserable and growing more and more depressed. And I was scared that if I switched him to formula, he would be less mine somehow. But on one particularly awful evening of feeding, I finally gave in and gave him a bottle and he loved it. And for the first time, I was watching him eat and it wasn't stressing me out. I still felt horribly guilty, but that faded as my depression started to lift. So if feeding him doesn't make me his mom, what does? I guess I haven't figured that out completely. I have a feeling it has to do with the fact that I can never stop kissing him. And the fact that I look at him and I'm amazed that this little stranger is actually, truly my baby. And the fact that I find every tiny little thing he does incredible and indicative of his emerging brilliance. And the fact that when he smiles, I feel like the heavens have opened up on me. TJ might think that he's not a natural dad, either, but he's wrong. When he talks to Topher and carries him around teaching him things, I think I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life. And when Topher is sleeping on his chest I look at them and think I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I get to be a family with these two boys--one I know backwards and one I'm just meeting--for always. I don't know if anyone reads this blog, but if they do, I hope they know that I'm grateful for this opportunity to become Topher's mom, even when I'm a little too quick to hand him over to TJ as soon as he walks in the door from work. I think it's really the tiniest things that make me a mom. Like the way I'm the only one who can give Topher a bath. Or the way I'll look in Topher's palm and find a strand of my hair that he pulled out of my head earlier and he's been hanging onto for hours. Or the way I'll ask for a kiss and he'll drool all over me. I guess he's not such a stranger after all. And I guess if loving him this much makes me a mom, I've always been that. --KC

Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Rolling Boy

He did it, Topher rolled over this morning! Incidentally, today is also his 17-week birthday. He had a little bit of a rough night last night (wiggled out of his blankets, got too cold, and was wide awake by 3am and didn't get back to sleep until 4:30am) but maybe he was just gearing up for his amazing feat this morning. I had him on a blanket in the living room, giving him "tummy time" like usual (if you don't have a baby, tummy time is just that...you put the baby on his belly so he can practice lifting up his head and building his muscles) and for some reason I got out the digital camera and started filming him using the camcorder function. At some point we will actually need a camcorder, but this works for now. Anyway, I started filming him and before I knew it he was rolling over for the first time. It was very exciting, but I don't think he realized what he had done. His expression was pretty blank, but after I stopped the film, he finally broke out into a smile, probably because I was telling him how proud I was of him. Here's the momentous video:
He's done it one more time today, which I also caught on film. It might not be that big of a deal in and of itself, but it feels like the doorway to more exciting events: crawling, for one. We should probably think about child-proofing the house soon, come to think of it.
TJ has also found an interesting way to entertain Topher in the afternoons. He takes Topher downstairs and lays him on a blanket so Topher can watch him workout. I wouldn't think it would be that interesting for a baby to watch someone weight lift, but he seems to enjoy it. We've also discovered that in addition to floating on his back in the tub, he loves to flip over and float on his belly. All we do is hold his head out of the water and he kicks his little legs. It's pretty funny to watch. Plus his little tush-tush is way cute.
Other than that, it's life as usual in the Clark household. We have a blissfully blank canvas of a weekend stretched out in front of us, and it feels good. Happy weekend to all!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Little Buddha

Monday we had to take Topher in for his 4-month vaccinations. Poor little guy, it's hard to watch him get poked and see the pain flood into his features right before he starts screaming. But before the trauma (he only cried for about 30 seconds, by the way), he was stripped down to his diaper and weighed. Normally that would have made him cry, too, just being naked, but since he's gotten chubbier he just loves it. Maybe it reminds him of bath time, his favorite time of the entire day. Any guesses? He was born 6 lbs 11 oz. and now, at 16 weeks old, he weighs 15 lbs 9 oz! He's enormous. The doctor kept saying what a big belly he had and that we had a little Buddha on our hands. And when the doctor said, "Any bigger and we'll have a football player," Topher broke into a huge grin and made us all laugh. Here are a few pics from the doctor's office:
The bigger he gets the stranger I think it is that he grew in me. It's been 16 whole weeks since he was born...I cannot tell you how many people said that this time with Topher would fly by and that if we blinked it would be over. Sometimes it seems like the only advice we ever hear, even though it's not really advice at all. But I disagree. I think those first 12 weeks were the slowest weeks of our lives. And I don't mean that in a negative way, just factual. We feel like he's been here for years already. I'm convinced people say that it goes by so quickly because one day they see their child graduating and they're suddenly without a baby anymore and they can't seem to find a place to put the last 18 years. And yes, on Topher's graduation day I'm sure I will be tempted to say how quickly he grew up, too. In theory, though, everyone's life passes in a flash, but the reality is that each of us survives through some very long days, weeks, and months.
But like I said, things are getting better. Topher still doesn't "do" anything, but he does a lot more than he ever could as a newborn. He can hold his head up, pull my hair, and break into a smile that splits his whole face in half. He sleeps quite a bit, usually 10-11 hours at night and a few random naps during the day. But when he's awake, it's constant work trying to keep him entertained and happy. But since this is my new "job" I have all the time in the world to devote to him. The biggest challenge to me is just feeling unproductive. I like to accomplish specific tasks, and being a mom you end up doing the same things over and over, and nothing is ever really done because it will just need to be done again soon. Plus there's no time limit on this job...no clocking out for lunch, or looking forward to closing time. But on the up-side, I get to live in my PJ's and watch the miracle of a little boy discovering his world. It's a good job. It kills my back, but it's a good job.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back from "Vacation"

I think they really need to think of a new word for "vacation" when you take a baby. Vacation really has a lot of positive connotations that don't accurately describe all the little... feelings that come with taking a baby along.
We really did enjoy our time out of town and in the Twin Cities though. New experiences, especially with Topher, just add to the amount of memories we have collected in our young family.
We left Cambridge early Saturday morning, having left Sassy with Mom and Dad the night before. Topher did well on the way up, although a three hour ride in the car is a little longer than he wants to be in his car seat, so we've made a habit of taking a break to get him out and change him. If nothing less, it allows him to stretch out a bit and avoid the in-car meltdown. Topher happened to be needing a break at the Minnesota welcome station, so we took a picture or two.
We went straight to the Mall of America after arriving at the Twin Cities, both Macie and I had been there while we were in high school, or younger, but we'd obviously forgotten the immenseness and the sheer number of people there. We walked around for a while and attempted to get our bearings.

We eventually found the Mall's underground aquarium.

Macie and I actually enjoyed all of the underwater tubes, it seemed like an unlikely place to see some pretty cool sharks. The line was a bit long and so there was a lot of waiting involved (like just about everything else at the mall). Anyhow, after being awake for the whole waiting in line experience, here is a picture of Topher enjoying all the sharks and rays.
Another first for Topher was the next stop after the mall, his first time in a restaurant. Topher did pretty good, but it was clear to me in watching some of the other young couples enjoying their Valentine's Day dinners, just how far we've come in the last year. In fact, Macie and I had just realized while eating that one year ago (nearly to the day) Topher was just in the making. Sure we've given up the ability to have a normal conversation with each other throughout dinner, but we did have the the cutest little baby in the restaurant, so that's gotta count for something.
Finally, after dinner, we checked into our hotel and tried to give Topher one last first... his first traumatizing experience in a swimming pool. We were so excited to put him in his little floatie and let him just go to town in the water. Unfortunately we didn't realize that unless the water is bathwater warm, he completely freaks out. Here's a before picture of Topher in his swim pants... Unfortunately we can't post the video of what happened after he went in the water because then we think DHS would take our baby away.

Well, it was a long and rewarding weekend for all. I'll be going back to work tomorrow so I guess I'll be able to start resting up for our next vacation together.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Getting Ready to Go!

We leave tomorrow morning for Minneapolis, and it's funny how much luggage a tiny little baby can add! We have to take his car seat, stroller, bath seat, flotation device, diaper bag...let's just say it's a good thing we have a bigger car now.
We stopped at the dollar store last night to load up on treats for the car ride. I love that store. Even though I know most things in there are "junk", I can't help it...I just love that everything is only $1. Really, if you gave me $10 for my birthday and sent me to the dollar store, I would have so much fun, it's almost sad. It's the one place where all my money sense goes out the window and I consider buying things I would never normally buy. Like that little device that rolls up my tube of toothpaste as I use it (I love that thing!). Or that nightlight shaped like a bug for Topher's room. Or the find of a century--a universal remote control. Our remote works fine except for the "volume down" button, which is very annoying when a loud commercial comes on and the baby is sleeping. So even though TJ thought I was insane for buying a remote control for $1, I couldn't stop myself. And even though it looks nice, like a regular remote, it's so light that it feels like it is completely empty inside. I mean 100% empty. But anyway...I brought it home and fiddled with it for awhile and you'll never believe it, but it started working (using the dollar store batteries I bought at the checkout counter last minute, haha). It turns the TV on and off, changes the channel, switches to DVD function, and turns the volume up and down. I'm utterly amazed. I really cannot believe that it works. Here it is, the amazing lightweight champ:
So tonight we're dropping Sassy off at the farm and loading up the car. Then tomorrow we hope to be on the road by 7am, well on our way to Minnesota. I'm sure one day is not enough to see the Mall of America properly, but we'll do our best. We haven't decided yet if we want to go to the shark aquarium there...it's supposed to be the "best shark exhibit on the planet" according to Animal Planet, but it's $19/person, so we're trying to decide if it's worth it. At least we won't be trying to hit the amusement park rides since Topher is way too small for all that. We will be there for the 2009 knit & crochet fair, though (Angie, that totally made me think of you!) Legoland is a must, pretzels are a must, and other than that we'll just try not to spend too much of our tax refund, lol. And there's sure to be a ton of pictures. Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, and especially to the little man who has stolen both of our hearts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Giddey Up!

For Christmas, we got a bouncy horse for Topher from Aimee and Dale, and I just recently decided that Topher might have enough neck control to be able to use it. After all, he can sit on my lap now, as long as I hold onto his hands for balance. So I put the horse together (with Squash close at hand, "helping" by batting at all the packaging) and I have to admit, it's pretty cute. It's the fun that bouncy horses from my childhood offered, but with some modern twists: it folds, for one, and it has an actual seat that the baby sits in, instead of a saddle that the baby sits on. Strangely enough, there is no age recommendation on the box, but I'm pretty sure Topher's not quite old enough to really use it, because he feet don't even touch the floor. We tried to rectify this by stacking up some books under his feet and it worked okay. One time he even bounced himself enough to start the cowboy music playing. Even so, it still seems like the toy is swallowing him up a bit. I think in another month he'll be a little bucking bronco, but until then, here's a first glance at the beginning of his cowboy career: I can't really explain how different our lives are now that we have Topher here, but the change is vast. Instead of settling down to a movie with a pizza, I'm singing impromptu songs about bubbles while bathing my little mister mister. But I love it. We can always make the pizza after he goes to bed, anyway. We are so blessed to have him, we love him, and I think it will keep getting better and better and better. --KC

Monday, February 9, 2009

V-Day Family Getaway

It's been a crazy and bumpy week, but everything seems to be a lot better now. TJ, with the help of his dad and his cousin Stuart, started work on tiling the downstairs bathroom this weekend. It looks so easy on HGTV, but it turns out that it's quite a pain to do, even though it's a small enough room. We've learned that if we're ever to do this again, it's worth the money to hire someone. He's over halfway done, and tonight he will finish laying the tile so we can grout tomorrow. Once that is done, we just have to put the toilet back in and attach our new pedestal sink (we got a complete sink-in-a-box!) Then we'll have our second bathroom back, except it will need a door before we can call it completely functional. Here it is before they started and after they stopped for the night:
And we know our tile layout is a little different, but the edge with the shorter pieces will be hidden by the toilet and the sink. It will be nice and neutral when it's done, and a perfect compliment to the new carpet downstairs (and much nicer than the linoleum that was originally down before the flood.)
But back to the title of this post. We have decided that we need to get away for a mini vacation this weekend in honor of Valentine's Day. We needed a day trip that we could take as a family and our first thought was to take Topher to the Omaha zoo. Unfortunately, the weather was going to be in the 20's and snowy/rainy. Next we considered KC, but that's not really a getaway since we go there all the time to visit my family, plus the weather is again going to be too terrible to go to the zoo or do anything outdoors. So where could we go that was within driving distance and where we could stay indoors the whole time but still have fun? We decided on the Mall of America in Minneapolis! It's about 3 hours away, we can be indoors the whole time and still be entertained, and it's a new adventure for us since we've never been there together.
TJ hopped on hotels.com (our favorite hotel booking site) and found us a very fancy hotel for very cheap. We're staying at a Hyatt, and the pictures of the hotel remind us of our very fancy honeymoon suite we had in San Diego. Plus it has an indoor pool, and we thought that would be the perfect opportunity to take Topher swimming for the first time. He loves his baths so much now, we have no doubt that he will take to the water like a fish to...well, water. So we ordered him a little baby float and we'll buy him some of those swimming diapers and we can't wait to videotape his reaction to the pool. We're leaving early Saturday morning (V-day) and coming home sometime Sunday afternoon. Sassy will be staying on the farm with TJ's parents. Here's a picture of the hotel's lobby and one of the rooms:
And I think this is more than a little vacation on a whim. This is our family's first getaway, and something that we really need right now. TJ had a fortune cookie on Friday that said something like Forget the stock market, invest in your family and I think this vacation really is an investment in our family. I think that both TJ and I have recently realized just how lucky we are to have each other, and to have our little boy, and we can't wait to make so many fun memories together. Just 5 days to go until our very happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Little Big Milestones

There are the "traditional" milestones that babies hit: holding head up, rolling over, sitting up, walking, etc. But then there are a thousand little tiny milestones that might not seem like anything to anyone other than a baby's parents. For us, we have hit several of those. There was Topher's first "happy bath" (where he didn't cry at all), his first time sleeping through the night, his first walk in his stroller, his first Super Bowl, etc.
Yesterday morning, while I was sitting on the couch with him, I noticed another one. There was a green blanket draped over the back of the couch and I noticed him looking at it intently. Soon, he was reaching his hand towards it and trying to grab at it. Several times, he did get a handful of it and he seemed pretty pleased with himself. I know it doesn't sound like anything at all, but we've never seen him reach for anything before.
At one point he even pulled the blanket towards his mouth. Again, it probably doesn't sound like a big deal but it just seems like he's figuring out his world and exploring it for the very first time.
Later, Sassy was sitting by us and sniffing Topher all over and Topher reached out and grabbed her coat. He came away with a handful of white hair and smiled. It just seemed so amazing that one day he was just staring at the world and the next day he was touching it.
After TJ came home from work, we were all standing in the kitchen when Topher starting leaning out of my arms towards the refrigerator. I stepped a little closer and he started touching all the magnets, so I told TJ to run and get the camera. Here's the video we took:
I'll be honest: we're still trying to find our footing as parents. We still feel sometimes like Topher is maybe a different species, but that he will probably turn into a little human someday. We get frustrated and impatient because we don't always know what we're doing and it feels like we're walking into a blind fog. But it's getting better, in tiny little ways. We're becoming a little more sure of ourselves. We can make Topher smile, and we can see him growing in ways that are huge for him. More than anything, we feel blessed to be his parents, even if we're still figuring out exactly what that means.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Stupor Bowl

Wow, what a disappointment! As a football fan, and a sports fan in general, I can't help but feel cheated after Macie and I just finished watching what was supposed to be the NFL championship game. Let me just list some of the things I found wrong with this particular telecast that has always been known as one of the biggest television events of the year, every year (even if you aren't a sports fan, you cannot deny it from the top 5 just based on hype alone): * Too much camera time for the refs... There was a total of 1,015 penalties called in this game, costing both teams a combined 1,290,000 yards (or enough penalty yardage to circle the Earth 15 times!). Ok, bit of an exaggeration, but still... there seemed to be a penalty on almost every play. In addition to that, there seemed to be countless reviews, both as challenges and from the booth anytime there was a major play or turnover. That leads me to my biggest complaint, but I'll save that point till last. * Halftime "Entertainment"... Springstein and the E-Street Band?... Really? Was this year's Super Bowl played in 1987? I'm sorry, I know that the Timberlake/Janet Jackson nipple-gate halftime show was a crushing blow to American values... but at least people talked about halftime back then, or maybe watched part of the show instead of using halftime for a national potty break. Ever since then, as a result of a widespread agenda to censor anything and everything remotely interesting on network television, we now are treated to an annual crap-tacular halftime show that features the likes of Paul McCartney... mmm k, the Rolling Stones... or the remaining living members, Tom Petty and the... Oh forget it, nobody is watching this crap. So after another forgetful performance by the Boss, who are they going to roll out for us next year... I'm putting 3:1 odds on a Beegees reunion at Super Bowl XLIV today! Maybe 18:1 odds to see Jem and the Holigrams, animated on stage as the lead-in just to keep things interesting. * The commercials. Ok, I know as a sports fan, you lose all credibility when you complain about (or emphasize the importance of) commercials during the super bowl. But this year's crop was pretty bad. I think the amount of funny commercials could be counted on two of my fingers. In addition, there was a number of pretty risque (sp?) commercials, even by my standards... oh Danica, how far you've fallen. Seriously though... has there ever been more commercials, consecutively, that completely pander sex? I felt a little dirty watching them with my parents in the room, even dirtier after Macie and I excused ourselves from the room shortly afterwards. Just kidding :) Also, I'm a St. Louis guy, I enjoy the history of Anheuser-Busch and the importance the company has had with the city and the state of Missouri... But I'm getting pretty tired of, and I assume most other Americans would agree with me on this one, those Clydesdales are a little played out. They are beautiful horses, and their commercials can be sentimental favorites... the first dozen times or so. I think the whole "big-horse-that-could" story has been done to death. * Finally, my biggest reason for even posting a blog tonight was to voice my admonishment that the last play of the game, a "fumble" that Kurt Warner threw into the ground 5 yards in front of him, which Pittsburgh recovered, was never even looked at by the upstairs review booth. Yes, the same booth that reviewed every other turnover and a number of important and inconsequential plays earlier in the game. Here's a play that basically decided the result of the 3.5 hours of game-playing that preceded it, a called fumble that was at the very least... questionable, and the very most... an incomplete pass, and the officials never deemed it necessary to look at a second time. I don't know if I was looking through Cardinal-shaded glasses, but it seemed to me that Warner continued to move the ball forward, through the Pittsburgh defender's hands, and eventually released the ball where it landed harmlessly past the offensive line. Although the ball came out wobbly, the "fumble" looked much like most of the other "fumbles" that Warner managed to complete to Arizona receivers much of the night. Instead of getting a second look at the play, before I knew it... Roethlisberger (who played terrible much of the night by the way) was kneeling on the ball and confetti was flying from the sky. Congrats Stealers... Outplayed throughout the game and still wind up on top. You'd like to think the championship game would feature two teams playing their best possible A games. Instead we were treated to a penalty-filled fiasco, where fluke interceptions and non-fumbles decided the game. Ahh, now I feel better. -T.J.