Monday, April 14, 2008

Who's so big?

I love this stage of Adam's development. He's not high-maintenance (meaning he still immobile so I don't have to worry about bumps and falls), he wakes up with a huge smile on his face and keeps smiling throughout the day, he still likes traveling and going places and meeting new people (not that he has a choice), he makes us laugh with his animated expressions and his funny faces, and he still likes to cuddle, especially right before bed.
I know some day he'll push away from me when I try to hug him, so I constantly smother him with hugs and kisses and take advantage of the fact that he can't roll his eyes and tell me to "STOP IT MOM."
He does "So big" now (on cue), and babbles all the time and sings along to the radio (in his own language), and sits without support, and rolls both ways, but doesn't scoot or creep or crawl just yet. Aaron has tried to "teach" Adam to crawl by putting him on his stomach, propping him up in the crawling "stance," then holding onto his chubby little thighs and imitating the back-and-forth crawling motion, but Adam isn't really into the lessons. After about 15 seconds, he does a face plant and cries out in frustration and immediately rolls onto his back. We've tried putting toys just out of his reach and he'll ignore the toys and play with his toes instead. I'm not too worried. I figure he'll start crawling when he's ready.
His favorite book is a dog book from Tonya that has soft fuzzy pages he can pet, and now he thinks every book is like this and tries to pet them all.
He loves my mom & dad's cat, Pip, and his face lights up when we say "Where's the kitty?" We do this sometimes when the cat is nowhere near us, and now that I think of it, that's probably kind of mean, like asking a kid "When is Santa coming?" when it's only June. He also loves his Aunt Trish and Uncle Shawn's dog Bella, who is extremely good with him. (Can't say the same for Pip, who is always a split second away from attacking.)
Adam's talent is how fast he can suck down an 8 oz. bottle. He can down a bottle in less than five minutes. I am not surprised. His dad won a beer-drinking contest in college.
He loves eating Stage 1 vegetables, but doesn't like any of the Stage 2 fruits. Isn't that weird? He'd rather eat squash, peas, or carrots than bananas, peaches, or applesauce. I was so excited to give him applesauce for the first time and his face was a look of pure agony. I laughed so hard I cried.
He sleeps through the night, in his own crib. He doesn't always like to go to bed (Ok, almost never) but once he does fall asleep, he (usually) stays asleep from around 8 p.m. to around 6 a.m.
We're finally going to finally have him baptized at St. Mark's. We looked into it after Sunday's service. Better late than never.
Oh yeah, we also had our first Water Babies class through community ed. So far he has learned the backstroke, butterfly, and crawl stroke. He will learn diaphragmatic breathing techniques next week. (If you think I'm serious, I also have some prime Florida swampland to sell you.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sometimes you have to sink before you swim

I love our friends, and I love watching our friends become parents. And now that I am also a parent, I love watching HOW my friends parent. Obviously, everyone adapts to his or her new role (because really, what’s the alternative?), but some adapt more effortlessly than others.
Take, for instance, our friends Holly & Kevin out in Green Bay. They have four kids under the age of five (on purpose!) and they make it seem so easy. First came Chloe, then 14 months later came Autumn, then along came Lilly, and most recently Quinn arrived to help balance out all that estrogen. We try to visit our friends at least once a year, and we’re always amazed at how ridiculously well behaved their kids are. I suppose some of this could be luck, or genetics, but I attribute it mostly to Holly & Kevin’s awesome parenting.

A little background:
When Holly was in high school her dad committed suicide. I don’t know all of the details, but I do know he was depressed over the prospect of Holly’s mom leaving him. I don’t know why she threatened to leave, and I don’t know if he had some sort of genetic chemical imbalance that could’ve been helped with antidepressants. I don’t even know the kind of relationship Holly had with her dad. Regardless, I have to imagine that losing your dad in such a tragic way has to affect your personality and your outlook on life, and I wonder if that’s part of the reason Holly is so good (and timely) about telling her friends and family how much she loves and cares about them. She understands better than many the fragility of life—and how fleeting it can be—and therefore takes absolutely nothing for granted.
Holly is also one of the hardest workers I know (and I know some hard workers). She got where she is today by working 60-hour weeks during college summers off—I don’t think she took out a single student loan—and once we were back in those little dorm rooms, she regularly skipped out on house parties in order to study. She never lost sight of her long-term goal to become a pharmacist. She worked harder than any other 18-year-old I had ever met, and still has that strong work ethic today as a night shift pharmacist at a GB hospital.
Kevin was a police officer before an on-the-job accident abruptly ended his career. He was responding to a high priority call when his squad car was hit on the passenger side, flipping the car onto its roof. Kevin, trapped in the car, suffered from head trauma (thankfully it was mild), lacerations, and a fractured rib and pelvis—which are all bad enough—but the worst injury was to his left hand, which was pinned under the car. Surgeons had to reattach a tendon and perform skin grafts in order to get his hand (somewhat) functional again. He needed several months of occupational therapy, but—being a leftie—could no longer shoot his gun, sadly putting an end to his days on the “force.” I think he refers to it as being “medically retired” from his police position. His friends may refer to it as “Lucky SOB gets to collect a disability paycheck without punching a time clock.” He still works, though, just not in uniform. He’s now his own boss as a stay-at-home dad. The setup works for now, but once Quinn heads off to school, Kevin has mentioned trying to get a teaching degree.
Holly and Kevin have been married for almost ten years and their relationship is rock solid. I know they have disagreements about how to spend their money, and I know they argue about stupid shit just like any other normal couple, but there's a certain chemistry there and a certain cohesiveness. They remind me of two perfectly matched puzzle pieces. They just fit.
Holly is extremely book smart (the girl retains everything, she’s like a sponge), naturally pretty (and modest, too, which makes her even more pretty), kind, outgoing, thoughtful, laidback, and just a little bit on the quirky side. I love her sense of humor.
Kevin is equally smart—though just in different subjects—and handsome, athletic, down-to-earth, likable, social, kind, funny, nonjudgmental (unless you’re a Vikings fan), and always willing to lend a hand. The guy has tons of creative ideas on how to save a buck, whether through conventional means (eBay, discount retailers, coupons, sales racks, cashing in his kid’s pop can tabs) or unconventional means.
Once, when he was going considerably faster than the posted speed limit—with Aaron in the car—they passed a police officer and Kevin smiled and waved enthusiastically.
“Who was that?” Aaron asked.
Kevin shrugged his shoulders. “I just waved like I knew him so he wouldn’t pull me over.”
And it actually worked.
Kevin also shamelessly flirted with the maternity ward nurses in order to get extra formula samples after his kids were born.
And that worked, too.
We love them and we love their kids. Chloe is articulate and bright and funny and sweet and the spitting image of her mom. She radiates energy and confidence, and seems to be strong-willed and independent like Holly, too.
When my good friend Jodi babysat for the girls (while Kevin was recovering from his accident and Holly had to return to work), Chloe insisted on putting on her two-piece swimsuit without Jodi's help. When she joined the group outside by the plastic pool, her suit appeared to have a huge hole in the butt. Weird, Jodi thought, she must’ve ripped it somehow. Since they were in the backyard of a residential area, she didn’t ask her to change. Only later, when Jodi was helping Chloe take off her wet suit, did she realize that Chloe had worn the bottom of her two-piece as the top half, and the top part of the two-piece as the bottom, thus explaining the perfectly circular hole.
Autumn is a total and complete sweetheart. Unlike her go-go-go big sister, she’s about as laidback as they come (the first time she met my parents, she plopped herself down on my mom’s kitchen rug as a signal that she wanted her diaper changed. She didn’t care who changed her and she didn’t care that she was in a strange house. I think she was two at the time). Her charming personality instantly catapults her from a cute kid to the CUTEST KID EVER. She won me over, at the age of 3, when she asked me to paint her toes. She climbed up onto my lap (I was sitting outside at a patio table) and propped her chubby little foot up on the table, liking me enough to:
A) Voluntarily sit on my lap
B) Try to make her toes actually look pretty (anyone who knows me knows I’m not very good with nail polish. Or hair braids. Or makeup, come to think of it.)
Every time I brushed one of Autumn’s miniature toenails with the purple polish, she’d giggle and say, “Tickles!” before nuzzling her head into my neck. Maybe it tickled because I was getting most of the polish on her toes rather than her toenails.
The last time we visited, soft-spoken Autumn took to Aaron. Before he got up one morning, she showed me a Valentine she had made at school, and in a semi-whisper, said to me, “We HAVE to show this to Aaron. He is going to freak out.
Thankfully Aaron played along, feigning shock and surprise when she approached him with the googley-eyed paper heart with pipe cleaner arms and legs.
Delicate little Lilly is absolutely adorable, with pinchable chipmunk cheeks and big round eyes. I don't really know her personality (yet), if only because the last few times we’ve been to visit she was just a baby, doing typical baby things. It seems, though, that she marches to the beat of her own drummer. And I know she really likes to eat. She even ate a worm once.
Sadly enough, we have yet to meet Quinn. He arrived March 1, 2007, five months before Adam’s rent was up on his temporary home, and we just haven’t found the time, or made the time, to head out there for a weekend.
We miss our friends.
I love how Holly & Kevin parent their kids. They have the financial means to spoil them rotten, but they don’t. (I have seen some spoiled kids, and these kids are far from it.) They don’t use control tactics, but rather serve as role models of respect—being firm, setting appropriate limits, and establishing consequences. They know when to step in and when to step back. They don’t always rescue their kids, which, in my opinion, make them better parents than those who constantly interfere and, ultimately, become enablers. Their kids learn independence. They learn, at a young age, that their parents will always be there for moral support, holding their hand and encouraging them, praising them and kissing them, but they have to take responsibility for their actions.
Once in awhile, when the girls don’t listen, Holly & Kevin let them learn on their own. In my opinion, sometimes that’s the most effective method. (Depending on the situation, of course.)
Here’s an example: When one of the girls tried to pick a rose from the thorny rose bush in their sprawling backyard, despite Holly & Kevin’s well-intentioned warnings to STAY AWAY FROM THE ROSE BUSH, THOSE THORNS ARE SHARP AND YOU’LL HURT YOUR FINGER, sure enough, she pricked her finger. And she cried. And you know what? She recovered. Her finger healed just fine. And she stayed away from the rose bush after that incident.

I wonder how people would describe my parenting style. Aaron is a natural with Adam, but I feel like I have to work at it. And while I might not be one of those naturally maternal types—like Holly, Karla, Kay, Mollie, AJ, Amy or April (my sisters)—I love that little butterball with every ounce of my soul. It’s different than the love I feel toward my immediate or extended family, friends, in-laws, or even Aaron. It’s a type of love I’ve never experienced before, so fierce and intense it feels like I won some kind of lottery. (I guess, in many ways, I have.)
Having a son does limit me from buying cute little girl outfits, and I know I won’t be able to counsel him in the same way I could a daughter (with the whole “I know, honey, I’ve been there” speech) but I also realize having a son gives me an opportunity to instill in him the types of values and morals I appreciate when I meet a decent man—respect, kindness, honesty, courage, perseverance, self-discipline, compassion, generosity, and dependability. Good men don’t just “happen,” they’re raised that way.
I hope to teach Adam to respect his elders, women, and anyone “different” from himself (he’ll grow up with a cousin raised by two daddies, a Korean “auntie,” and friends adopted from Africa & South America, so that’s gotta make some kind of impact, right?) I hope that he learns to love the great outdoors, whether through our examples of camping, snowboarding, softball, kickball, distance running, and long walks around the lake, or through fishing and hunting (following in the footsteps of Grandpa Sarinske & Uncles Shawn & Nick), or, heaven forbid, cruising around on a snowmobile or motorcycle like Grandpa Sorenson & Uncle Josh (only if he obeys the speed limit and wears a helmet). I want him to understand how crucial it is to be good to the environment. I want him to grow up thinking smoking is disgusting. I want him to avoid: that group of mean kids in school, loose girls, religious cults, driving while under the influence, growing a pencil thin mustache, beard, or mullet, derogatory rap music, the close-minded “philosophy” of Ann Coulter, vanity, greed, and sloth. Not necessarily in that order. I want him to be a sweet, affectionate boy who loves getting and giving hugs and kisses (hey, it’s my blog, let me have my dreams). I want him to remember to say “please” and “thank you,” wash his hands after using the bathroom, and cover his nose/mouth when he sneezes (and say “Bless you” to those around him after they sneeze). I want him to be focused and motivated in school, the kind of student who studies and tries his best, even when the subject material seems useless or complicated. I want him to be a thoughtful boy who understands the importance of having a little but giving much more; a generous son, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend who shovels his elderly neighbor’s sidewalk, pulls over to help stranded motorists, and sends his grandparents birthday cards without being reminded. I want him to be like his daddy. I want him to avoid trouble (please, God, let him be a lover and not a fighter). I want him to remember what’s important in life (friends and family, the blessing of good health, a job that makes him smile in the morning, a genuine appreciation for the simple things, and a never-ending supply of faith and hope). I want him to have the courage to follows his dreams, whatever that means to him. I want him to be happy. And I want him to always remember just how much he’s loved.

After having him a part of me felt, as goofy as it sounds, complete. I mean, I actually relate to this beautifully written quote in the book Eat, Pray, Love:

“To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in America (or any) society. I rediscover this every time I go to a big reunion of my mother’s family in Minnesota and I see how everyone is held so reassuringly in their positions over the years. First you are a child, then you are a teenager, then you are a young married person, then you are a parent, then you are retired, then you are a grandparent—at every stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion. You sit with the other children, or teenagers, or young parents, or retirees. Until at last you are sitting with the 90-year-olds in the shade, watching over your progeny with satisfaction. Who are you? No problem—you’re the person who created all this. The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it’s universally recognized. How many people have I heard claim their children as the greatest accomplishment and comfort of their lives? It’s the thing they can always lean on during a crisis, or a moment of doubt about their relevancy—If I have done nothing else in this life, than at least I have raised my children well.