Thursday, April 30, 2009

Laughing on Tape

Okay, so I just got out a roll of tape to cover up a sharp little bent nail under our couch (since Topher is rolling all around now and likes to reach under there). When I pulled the tape off the roll, the funniest thing happened:

I'm so glad our camera captures video because this one is priceless. My mom said she saw a video of a baby once who cracked up whenever his dad would rip a piece of paper...I don't know what it is about the "ripping" noise that's so hilarious, but I'm glad our baby has such a great laugh. :)


Nervous Nellies

Last weekend we had our first real thunderstorms of the season, and it made us realize just how NERVOUS we are living in this house. I mean, when it's sunny out and the ground is dry, it's easy to think that maybe we could go on living here, it's a nice house after all. But when the rain is coming down in sheets and the neighbor's yard is forming a small lake and TJ is up half the night tracking the storm and checking on our sump pump, we realize we can't do this. No one should have to live this way. Before the storms started, we realized that there was quite a lot of stuff, trim, doors that haven't been installed, dehumidifiers, just projects in general that we're in the middle of working on. So we hauled everything up to the attic that hasn't already been permanently installed and we fought the knots in our stomachs the rest of the night. I also took pictures and video of the downstairs just in case all our hard work was about to go down the drain (I suddenly understand that phrase on a whole new level.) The heavens were kind. We stayed dry. However, our sump pump was running for a few days and we came to the conclusion that we need out. I don't care if we make a profit on this house (I would prefer not to LOSE money, but I'm open to anything.) If we can price it low enough and have a really good open house, who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and get an offer. We're headed to KC this weekend but hope to be done with the house in another weekend or two after that. The city's new drains seemed to help during the storms, but it's not enough. This house might not flood this year (please not this year!!!) or next year or in 5 years or in 10 years, but I feel pretty certain that the day will come when it WILL flood again. And that might just be my uneasiness talking since we've seen the worst that can happen, but it's a good enough reason for us to want out. I can't wait for the day when we can just watch the rain without wanting to throw up. I hope we never have a basement again. Ever. I used to think that slab foundations were inferior to I can't wait to have zero part of my living structure under ground level. We could always build a safe room or a bomb shelter in the backyard for tornadoes. We're leaving tonight for KC, and we can't wait for a few days of fun. My family hasn't seen Topher since Christmas, so they're in for a big surprise. :) Adios! --KC

Friday, April 24, 2009

Running Wild

We've only been in Spring Training mode for about a week, but it's amazing how much more active we feel already. My first day of running, I only made it through a single song on the ipod before stopping to walk. Now, I can go over a mile before walking a short way and then jogging the rest of the way home. The loop I run is just over 2 miles and I run 6 days a week. Some days I positively do NOT want to go (especially that day when the wind chill was in the 40's), but I keep running and the better I get at it, the more I want to go the next day. It's also the only time during the day when I am well and truly alone. As much as I love my family, it's very nice to be able to live up in my own head for awhile, to blast the music as loud as I want, to twirl and wave my arms around, and to relish in the fact that my body is all mine again. I'm terrible at sharing--must have missed that episode on Sesame Street--and being pregnant was like being forced to share myself for 8 months. (To be fair, I didn't know it was little Tophie in there!) So to be able to go running just feels so liberating. Sometimes it's fun to live in a small town, because every time I'm out running and I pass a car, the driver waves, or if I pass a person, they smile and say hello. And neighbors spontaneously gather out in the street to visit. Little kids are always cutting across our yard, and even though we have a "Beware of Dog" sign up on our fence, everyone in town knows that Sassymuffin is a big lovebug. People don't know our names, but they know we're the couple with the big friendly dog. "Oh, you're Sassy's parents!" We hear that all the time and I'm just thinking, how does Sassy manage to make more friends than us? She can't even leave the backyard! Today the high is 86 degrees. It looks like we passed through Spring in about a week and moved right on to summer. The warmer weather has also led us to a new discovery about Topher. Usually he tosses and turns at night, and we'll have to go in and put him back in the middle of his bed several times because he has scooted so far forward and is banging his head on the bars. But the other night we skipped his pj's and just let him sleep in a diaper and a t-shirt. He slept all night without moving a muscle. He did it again last night, and this morning he has been napping now for 2 straight hours, and he NEVER naps that long. Apparently he has just been too hot to get comfortable all this time! (That makes me feel pretty bad, actually.) It makes sense, though...he has so much baby chub now that he doesn't need the layers of clothes. I know it's taken me a long time--probably way too long--to get to this point, but last night I was thinking that I'm really really glad that Topher is here. He was laughing and making me laugh and his bright blue eyes were flashing with humor and I just thought, wow...this is good stuff. He's a really fun little boy. I used to be so relieved when he would fall asleep but now I'm surprised to find myself a little bored, and wondering when he might wake up so we can go for a walk together. I guess in short I'm getting less scared of him. That's what it really comes down to. I used to be scared that he would cry and I would have no solution, but now I can usually figure out what he wants. I used to be scared that he would never sleep long enough, and now I take for granted that he'll go to bed at 9pm and wake up just before 6am. I used to be scared that he would be terrified of our animals or wouldn't care about them, but it turns out that he loves them enthusiastically and it's the animals who are nonchalant about him. I used to be scared that TJ and I would never again be able to be alone, but TJ's parents babysit about once a week and Topher loves it over there (thank you, Terry and Kathy, you guys are wonderful grandparents!) I used to be more anxious in general around him, but now I can feel myself becoming more relaxed. I used to be scared that he would never really know us, but you should see the smile he saves just for his daddy, or the way he adjusts his eyes to me when he wakes up and breaks into a grin. He knows us. I'm running out of things to be afraid of. So instead I just run. --KC

Monday, April 20, 2009

Outnumbered 2:1

I realize that now I am outnumbered. There are 2 boys in this house and only one of me. There are going to be days, especially when Topher gets older, when I cannot escape ESPN and Batman, when I'm tripping over baseball gloves and soccer balls. My sister, who has 2 girls, asked if I minded being the only girl. She thought she wouldn't like it very much (and I don't think that she would.) But I think this is my ideal life. I have always had more male friends than female...I just understand guys better and I don't feel as self-conscious around them. As girly as it sounds, I feel like a princess in my house now. I'll always be the one who is softest, and who smells the nicest. I won't have to share my hair dryer with anyone, and I won't have to learn how to style French braids. Instead, I'll be forever playing tag and football, forever watching my little baby turning into a man. When I was pregnant, I worried about having a girl. I was scared to have a girl because, as odd as it sounds because I am one myself, I felt like I wouldn't know what do with one and that I would worry about her constantly as she got older. But TJ and I both wanted a boy so badly that we figured Murphy's Law would undoubtedly hand us a little girl, so we started preparing for one just in case. We chose a name and started thinking that it wouldn't be the end of the world...the little pink outfits are pretty cute and I love when little girls have a sprout of a ponytail right on top of their head. She'd definitely be a tomboy, we decided (as if you can just "decide" what your kids will be like), and she would reject ballet classes in favor joining a soccer team. We lied to ourselves that our girl would be so into sports that she would hardly notice boys (ha!) and she wouldn't bother herself with trivial things like clothes and makeup (double ha!) So when we went in for that 20-week sonogram, we were honestly prepped to hear, "It's a girl!" and I think by that time my genuine reaction would have been one of joy. I was really ready to accept my fate of fairy wings and plastic tiaras, and I was just the tiniest bit excited about a room littered with Barbie dolls and My Little Ponies. So when the sonographer rolled the wand around and stopped at a particular spot, clicked a few buttons on her keyboard to freeze the picture, and asked if we could tell what it was, I was still mentally lost wondering whether or not our little girl might have freckles like me. I looked at the screen and had no idea what I was looking at or even from what angle the picture had been taken. I hazarded a guess and said, "A girl?" and TJ said, "No, I think it's a boy." The woman said, "Dad's right. It's a boy." Oh. A boy. That's what I wanted...wasn't it? I had to hear it a few more times to let it sink in...I'm having a boy, I'm having a boy. How could my body possibly be growing a boy, how did I even know how to do that?? Was it relief or disappointment that I was feeling? A little boy...I rolled the idea around in my brain for awhile as I allowed the dinosaurs and astronauts to crowd out the horses and wands, the trucks and action figures to push aside the tu-tus and and tights. And there it was, hiding behind all that relief, my overwhelming happiness at getting exactly the thing I had wanted the most. I know that I would have been happy, overjoyed, with a girl. I know that little girls are so special and so cute they melt hearts. But there is something about little boys that is very special too. There's something about a sweaty little head and grass-stained jeans that just makes me want to be a mommy. I can't wait for Topher to go through whatever stages he obsesses over...sea creatures, space exploration, sports. I can't wait to buy him a poster of a rocket launch, or a humpback whale, or a T-Rex. I can't wait to watch him play soccer with his daddy while Sassy runs around attempting to herd them both. My boys are my life. TJ is my everything, and Topher has crowded his way into being the center of attention in this family and our proclaimed pride and joy. I don't think I could have dreamed up a more perfect family. I took this picture yesterday and it's now my favorite one. My little boy, and behind him the man he would be lucky to become someday. I may be outnumbered. I may always be living in a boy's world, absorbing more sports and dragon facts than I ever cared to know. But I wouldn't want it any other way. --KC

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Green Beans and Greener Days

I think we wore Topher out this weekend. Thursday he had his 6-month shots, which already promises to make him sleepy for a few days. When the nurses poked him with the needles, he was SO brave and only cried for about 10 seconds. His head circumference was 17" (50th percentile), he's 26" long (50th percentile), and he weighs 18 lbs, 13.5 oz (80th percentile). Friday I took him out on a long walk around the neighborhood, and he slept through most of it. Later, after TJ came home, we took him to the ISU campus and walked around as everyone was setting up booths for Veishea (an annual campus celebration). He slept through most of that, too. Today he has also been sleeping more than normal...all this fresh air must be wearing him out. Now that Topher is starting to eat solids, I've been on a hunt to find a good highchair, but I've been having a hard time choosing one. I finally found one on Amazon that I liked, so I ordered it. It has the slimmest folding capacity in its class (did you know that highchairs have classes??) It came today just in time to accommodate Topher as he tried to eat green beans for the first time. Did he enjoy this first taste of "real" food? I think his face says it all. I'm sure it's strange to experience new foods when all you have ever had is milk and oatmeal. He made that same face the first time we tried the oatmeal, and now he positively shoves it in his mouth, so I'm sure it's all just a matter of getting used to it. For the first time this year, I feel that the warm weather is here to stay. The 10-day forecast predicts 60's and 70's consistently, and our trees are budding with tiny leaves. I feel so much more free when I don't have to bundle up before heading out, when I can linger getting Topher in and out of the car, and when I realize that we can leave the house in the middle of the day just to walk around the block. I'm so grateful that this never-ending winter has finally run its course and that we can now look forward to greener days. --KC

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Training

Well, spring has officially arrived. It's hard to get used to temperatures in the 60's, but we're loving it. Not only can we take Topher outside more, but we can start to get ourselves back in shape as well. Every day after work, TJ takes Topher downstairs and they weight-lift together, and now that it's warm it gives me a chance to go jogging. Too bad I'm so out of shape, I can barely run for an entire song on the i-pod before stopping to walk and letting my burning lungs cool down a little. (In my defense, however, Barenaked Ladies songs are really quite long...they're practically ballads. And I've been pretty dormant for the whole of winter so my body is resistant to any form of exercise.) But I am bound and determined to lose all the "baby weight" that I put on with Topher. He's 6 months old now, and it feels really lame to still be using him as an excuse for my excess "softness". Thank goodness for the i-pod, though, because I can't run without it. If I don't have upbeat music blasting in my ears, all I can hear is my out-of-shape self huffing and puffing and then I worry that I'm going to die and I stop a lot sooner than if I can't hear anything but the rhythm. My favorite things to run to, besides BNL, is probably rap or hip-hop. Anything with a relentless beat and tons of bass always encourages me to pound the pavement. It's probably funny to watch me run because I often get lost in the song and I'll start playing air guitar or start beating an imaginary drum with my invisible drumsticks. Plus I sing along. Good thing the Cambridge nature trails are usually traffic-less. I'm too embarrassed to post my weight here on the blog, but let's just say that I'm aiming to lose 15 lbs this year (I gained 36 lbs total with Topher, can you believe that??) I don't know where it's all hiding, but I know that I have a lot of toning up to do. TJ's goal is just to be hugely muscular (which he already is) and to get tan and I think he wants to try running a 5k this summer, too. (For all you Office fans: "Michael, 5k means five kilometers, not five thousand miles.") Of course, losing weight means I have to ignore all that Easter candy in the kitchen, which is easier said than done. But with Topher as my motivation to get healthy, I think I can do this. --KC

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

We had a 2-day Easter celebration extravaganza here in the heart of Iowa. Saturday morning Topher and I woke up to candy everywhere...on top of fixtures, lining the windowsills, and going down each stair on the stairwell. We went on a house-wide candy hunt, and filled an entire bag with sweets. Eventually the candy led downstairs and down the hallway to a brand new Nintendo DSi, the newest console in handheld gaming. Although I have been hankering for one since they were released earlier this month, I didn't think I would actually get one until my birthday, so it was a great surprise, and it's even cooler in person than I imagined. Our treasure hunt also unveiled a Mario Brothers game to go with the DSi and the movie Marley & Me. It was like Christmas. TJ--umm, I mean the Easter Bunny--did a great job of making it a very special day for all of us.
Topher was not left out in all the fun. He received his brand new alligator and the coolest little magnetic kid's calendar for his room. He seemed pretty excited about all of it...
until that darn alligator attempted to eat him!
He made a narrow escape by biting the alligator...
only to have it chase him right into his crib!
Haha, so after our sugar-filled morning, we took a walk to the Cambridge Park, which is just down the street. It was sunny and fairly warm, but too early in the season for bugs, and we decided to introduce Topher to grass for the first time. He loved it! He wanted to eat it, and by the time it was time to go, he had two fistfuls of the stuff.
Today we went to church, where we were able to watch an Easter broadcast from Salt Lake, and then it was on to Mom & Dad Clark's for lunch. It was a great Easter meal, done only the way Kathy can do it. Topher tried on his new John Deere polo onesie, looked like a tiny golfer, tolerated some Easter photos, and finally changed into comfier clothes for a nap. He also got another Easter basket from Grandma & Grandpa full of clothes, a book, and a peeping chick.
All in all, a great weekend full of festivities and smiles. Happy Easter to all our friends and loved ones!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Awaiting Easter

I am so excited for Easter. TJ and I were comparing Easter traditions and it seems that while he was out "hunting" for candy and tediously gathering it piece by piece like a caveman, I would wake up to the most beautiful basket of candy, right beside my bed. I told him my Easter Bunny must have been much nicer than his. :) It's kind of fun knowing that we get to start traditions of our own. Even though he's only 6 months old, Topher is getting quite a few little presents. I can't wait to see his face when we give him our favorite present...a near life-saved stuffed animal alligator from Sam's Club. Hopefully he won't cry. It's adorable. It's exactly the sort of thing I pictured when I envisioned having a little boy. That, and Spiderman tightie-whities. But more than the excitement of the basket beside the bed, I love the real reason for Easter. I can't wait to tell Topher all about how Jesus came and stood beside a weeping Mary at the empty sepulchre, and asked her why she wept and whom she was seeking. How her heart was physically aching and how she, assuming him to be the gardener, begged him to tell her where they had moved her Lord and the way Jesus' answer was simply, "Mary." Then how she must have recognized him from his voice and inflection because she looked up at him and said, "Rabboni." And finally how, after that beautiful morning, the world would never be the same again. --KC

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Animal Riot

Getting this child to laugh is like pulling teeth. Really, he's a tough egg to crack. I do some crazy dances (I'm talking Irish foot-stomping followed by hip-hop followed by cheesy-musical-inspired steps) and even though Topher will smile at me the whole time, when I finish with my grand "Ta-da!" he'll just give the smallest little "huh huh." I mean, I'm sitting here with my heart racing, panting and feeling like a fool and all I get is a polite chuckle?? (P.S. There is a reason I only dance in the privacy of my home.)
So my sister Regina said I should hold his arm up and kiss my way towards his little armpit because that gets my niece Juliette laughing hysterically every time. Well, we tried it last night and it got the strangest response...plenty of talking and noises in general but nothing that I would classify as a laugh. See here for yourself:
Well then just as I was about to give up on making Topher laugh, Sassy walked into the room and grumbled at me to let her out and guess who happened to think that was hilarious? So I told Sassy to speak and every time she barked Topher just started laughing and laughing. Then while Sassy was outside I noticed the cat sleeping on the kitchen table and I took Topher over to her and helped him sit up beside her. He started reaching for her and grabbing her fur (a little vigorously but she was tolerant). Then he put out his hand to her and she batted it with her paw (she's declawed, and it was a playful gesture) and there he went, laughing again.
So apparently you have to walk on all fours to get a laugh in this house. I'm just happy to see that Topher is already falling in love with his pets, and we hope this means he'll love animals in general as much as we do. The point is that I don't really care who makes him laugh as long as I get to witness it. It saves me the energy of cutting Footloose, anyway.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Me Plus One

Wow, I think I'm starting to understand why people with kids tend to run late...travelling with a baby is hard! Our trip to the Ozarks was about 6 hours, but Topher only made it about 2 hours before realizing that he was buckled down into his seat. I sat beside him, handing him the same toys one by one in a round so that he would stay distracted as long as possible. I don't think our parents realize how easy they had it, just holding us on their laps in the front seat or whatever (although I'm glad babies are a lot safer now in their 5-point harnesses yada yada yada.) Seriously, though, there were so many times I wanted to just scoop him up and release him from his constricted state. He would arch his little back and twist from side to side and then look at me and cry. No fun at all. But, considering his longest trip before this was only 3 hours, the little man deserves some credit. We all managed to make it in one piece, which I think says a lot.
I think I'm starting to realize how fundamentally different my life is now that Topher is here. There were so many things I would have loved to do this past weekend at the lake that I just didn't even think to do because I was concentrating on Topher. If it was still Just Me, I would have walked down to the water and looked at the rocks and fish. If it was Just Me, I would have climbed every step going up the bluffs at the state park. If it was Just Me, I would have gone outlet shopping, and stopped for an ice cream cone. And I would have slept in. But it's not Just Me. It's Me Plus One, and my Plus One didn't want to linger at the park, or go shopping, or dip his feet in the lake. Or sleep in, come to think of it.
It's true what TJ's easy to be jealous of our friends who still have all the freedom that comes with having no children. But jealous in a very detached way, because I would never choose to go back and wait longer to have Topher, even if I was promised that it would be the exact same boy no matter how long I prolonged having him. The truth is I love that I'm a young(ish) mother, and that I honestly don't know if I would have the energy for any of this in X amount of years. My mom had 5 kids by the time she was 29 (unbelievable, I know), but I can't compare myself to her because she has more natural energy than any human I have ever met (I met a terrier that came close once.)
Me Plus One is a lot like Just Me. She's maybe a little more constantly tired, and one portion of her brain has been permanently reassigned to zone in like a hawk to Plus One's every need. How could I be the same person and yet know that I will never be the same simultaneously? I still wake up some days feeling like I'm way too young to be a mommy. But then scooping Topher's heavy body up and covering him with kisses feels like the most natural thing in the world. Maybe you never feel old enough to be a parent. Or maybe a baby reminds you just how old you really are. At times I feel like a child, trying to play the role of an adult. Then some days my arms and back get so sore I feel about eighty. Back and forth, back and forth. Just like the way I rock my Plus One to sleep.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Too Much is Not Enough

We spent this weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks with our friends Ryan, Katie, Andy, Anne, Phil and Kate. Eight friends and one baby all under one roof together on the lake. We had a great time enjoying laughs, good food, and of course beautiful scenery.
Topher did pretty well for how much we asked of him, the trip down there was easily twice as long as his previous longest trip to Minneapolis. It was somewhat rough which unfortunately turned him off of being in the car for much of the rest of the weekend. We left mid-morning on Friday which we expected would give us time to make ample stops to allow Topher to stretch. The problem is, at some point after those stretches, he has to go back into the car seat, which he is not at all happy about. It feels terrible to have to confine him for so long and not be able to explain to him how close we are getting to our destination. Just another thing we are looking forward to his future development on.
The lake house was awesome, everything you'd expect a lake house to be as Macie put it. Plenty of comfy beds for everybody, and Topher slept pretty well in his new baby tent. Ryan, Phil and Andy enjoyed some fishing, Phil caught a crappie... but much of the weekend was about relaxing and site-seeing.
Saturday we ventured out to Ha Ha Tonka State Park which is about 5 miles west of Camdenton (the lake house was outside of Osage Beach if you're familiar with the area). The hills and valleys and natural spring were all gorgeous, made even better by the perfect weather for the day (clear and 70 degrees). There was also the ruins of a burned-down castle on the very top of the bluffs that we took many pictures of. It was all so much to take in with the eyes, the type of scenery we really don't get to experience much of here in Iowa, tear. I'd recommend the trip to the park for anybody that is visiting the Lake of the Ozarks, I forgot to check to see if camping is available, but I'm sure it is.
After visiting the park, some of us went into Osage Beach to do some outlet mall shopping. Macie and I took Topher back to the cabin for a much needed rest. As much as you'd like to experience everything on a vacation, a baby definitely will not allow it. I think we're gaining a true understanding of just how much a baby can slow a young couple down. To some extent, it's easy to be jealous of our other friends who just have each other and the unlimited freedom that we were enjoying up through last summer, but at the same time we can't imagine our lives without Topher's presence. Just when we feel we are to the point of endless frustration, he can simply smile and that goofy face will wipe away whatever stress you are feeling. All the sun and outdoors that we got this weekend was more fresh air and sun than he's experienced in his lifetime, so we have to remember how much that can tire him out.
Sadly, we felt we had to cut our trip short. A looming winter storm warning back at home (a grim reminder of how far away from pristine central Missouri we live), and our own anxiety of how Topher would fare on another 6 hours of cooped up driving on Sunday, pushed our departure time up to 7pm Saturday evening. We planned that once Topher had his bath and had fallen asleep, it might be the perfect time to hit the road and hopefully he would just sleep through the night like he always does, except in his car seat. The plan actually worked very well, Topher was a little fussy and awake for only a short part of the trip (probably less than an hour total and too tired to actually cry). We made near record time, arriving home shortly before 1am and before all the sleet and snow that is currently falling outside of our home began falling.
Although the trip was very awesome and we had the opportunity to see our good friends (always a blessing since we usually only get to see everybody once a year), we still find ourselves depressed whenever Columbia is in the rear view mirror. Macie teared up a little as we drove past the lights of our favorite city at dusk. More than anything, I wish I could have exited our car onto Stadium Blvd. and taken her to a little house somewhere between the campus we met at, and the movie theater where we enjoyed so many dates together. Although our house is currently in Cambridge Iowa, our home will always be in Columbia and I don't think we'll be completely satisfied till we can figure out how to move back there.
Closing comments: Thanks again to our friends Ryan and Katie for hosting the weekend, we had a great time. Lots of driving always teaches us something new about Topher. It's good to be back at home and in our own bed.