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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Charles - Nineteen Months

Charles turned 19 months old on Monday, and I have been remiss in posting about his growth for a while now. A lot of things I’ll post about he’s been able to do for a while, I just want them to be recorded somewhere.

The biggest area of development for Charles these past months has been physical: the kid who lost his balance while walking in grass last time I posted is long gone, and in his place is some kind of toddler trail runner and mountain climber. He loves to run to “get” someone (chase) or to run away from us as we pretend to “get” him. I’ve kept him out of all kinds of trouble and tantrums by distracting him with a little game of chase. We’ve walked into a room (or just turned around) to see him standing on top of the kitchen table, the coffee table, and the couch, or to be all the way up the stairs way faster than we thought he was capable of moving.  He's also super strong.  Charles can lift a heavy bag of wooden blocks to the table and attempts and succeeds at picking up bulky, heavy things that we didn't expect he could handle.

Thanks to this new physical prowess, he’s had his fair share of tumbles, but this kid is TOUGH. He’s walked right into table edges or face-planted while running on hard floors and just bounced back like nothing happened. We usually try not to react to a fall or potential ouchie (except to go, “Boom! You fell down! You’re okay! Way to go!” as enthusiastically as we can), and if he does burst into tears (which is rarely), we calmly pick him up and pat his back, reassuring him all is well rather than feeding his tears with too much coddling. I’d like to think that’s one reason he handles uh-ohs as well as he does, but maybe he’s just been that cool from birth.

Charles can also interact with objects much more physically than before as well. He really does get into everything, checks it out, and uses it to imitate what we do or does something new and creative with it.  He’s gotten to be a pro at propelling himself (see what I did there?) on riding toys. The one we have here is actually a little wooden Radio Flyer that I had when I was a toddler. (He's also attempted to use it, among other things, as a step stool, which didn't end so well.)  He loves to throw, roll, bounce, and kick balls of all sizes, but especially Trevvor’s full-size soccer ball. He’s learning how to hold out his hands to play “catch” (though he doesn’t really catch it well yet) and is pretty good at throwing it back in our general direction when we open up our hands to do the same. He’s always loved balls and handled them well, but recently it’s gone from merely a fascinating activity to a more competitive game.

I’m starting to see a glimmer of competition in a lot of areas with Charles now--he is DEFINITELY all boy. I can sometimes motivate him to do/eat things by seeing who can do it faster/first. The other times, well, that’s just his super-strong independent streak showing (which I guess I had coming to me). This kid… this kid has a mind of his own. I thought (hoped) maybe it was just normal, but my mom and grandmother have commented on it too, and my grandmother raised and kept a LOT of little ones. Charles always prefers to do things himself, often forcibly removing our hands from his desired object of control. It’s been neat, though, to see him reach a point where he realizes his own limitations and knows how and when to ask for help.

Charles has never been a risk-taker and has always been a more cautious baby (and now full-fledged toddler). He doesn’t dash headlong into anything, which is nice. We don’t have a gate at the top of our stairs, and whenever he gets to the top he will wait for however long it takes for us to get to him to hold his hand coming down. In crowds, he explores, but not too far. He has always been respectful of hot things, whether it’s food or the oven or sun-baked pavement.

Charles loves movement, and he loves things that move. I’ve already mentioned his riding toys, but he’s also a huge fan of swings, and if you turn on some fun music, he is more than likely to move to the rhythm. He is just always on-the-go and moving his whole body at every opportunity. His boyish nature is also coming out in his excitement over cars, trucks, trains, planes, boats, and bicycles. He can identify them all in books, among his toys, and when we’re out and about, and loves either naming them or making their sound.

So vehicles are some of Charles’ favorite words and sounds, but some of his other favorite words are “buuhhhhh” (bug), “raahhhhh” (rock), “suuuuuu” (shoe, to mean he wants to go outside), “nunuhh” (thunder), and “BUUMM” (boom). Again, all boy. He is a fantastic onomotopeaia-maker and can imitate almost any sound, animal or mechanical (like the vaccuum-cleaner or the water-hose). When Trevvor was grilling last week he told Charles, "Careful!  The fire is hot!" and Charles made the sound of a fireman's water-hose like he'd seen in his book!  The mental connections he's able to make astound us all the time. Charles isn’t really into coloring or puzzles yet; he mostly loves to “buhhh” (book) and “baaa” (bath), representing two of his favorite activities, reading (Curious George is his favorite) and water-play. (We just got him a sand-and-water table for the back-yard that he would spend all day at if we let him. The messes are so worth it.) So he enjoys grander play than the kind that requires fine-motor skills, but he did surprise me the other day by threading a wooden bead onto a string! I’d bought the toy earlier and figured it would be a while before he figured it out, but he proved me wrong!

Charles hasn’t started making sentences yet, or even having very many two distinct syllable words, but he signs for his basic needs (for “eat,” “drink,” “more,” “nurse,” and “down,” “diaper”), and uses grunting, tone of voice, pointing, and other body language to express everything else. We’re trying to encourage him to use more spoken words, but we know he will when he’s ready. The kid understands seriously EVERY CONCRETE (as in, non-abstract) THING WE SAY. We have taken to spelling all the content words in a sentence on a regular basis, which is confusing for all of us. It’s really holding us accountable about our speech and our tendency towards couple-gossip (you know, because when you gossip about someone to your spouse, it doesn’t really count… right?). When I’m on the phone and start to wrap up the conversation, he waves “bye-bye” to the person before I’ve even said good-bye! He can just tell from our tone. Isn’t it incredible what a one-year-old has already absorbed in his short life??

Ever since he was eight or nine months, Charles has had a signature wave. It’s just been his thing, and it still is. He loves to blow kisses, give high-fives, and participate in fist-bumps. He’s a very social kid, but he definitely likes to be the approacher rather than the approached. He’ll observe you (and wave at you) for a while before cracking a smile. We’ve noticed that when other little kids stare at him, he gets a bit defensive and barks at them (not like a dog, just like a highly displeased, disgruntled sound in their direction). He doesn’t do that with adults, just other littles. With the lucky few, he is very quick to give kisses (right on the mouth--all or nothing kid), hugs, snuggles, and just generally “gives love.” When he’s feeling rather pitiful, he’ll snuggle on my shoulder and then rub and pat my arm with his hand, just like I pat and rub his back when he’s needing some TLC.

Behaviorally, my serious baby has turned into a super silly toddler, if at times prone to throwing screaming fits, whether at home or walking through Target. (Yep--I was that mom with that tantrum-throwing toddler walking through the supermarket.) He cracks up at a game of peek-a-boo, chase, “creepy mousie,” pokes and tickles, silly sounds, or silly faces. Sometimes he’ll be laughing and kind of lean forward and put his face in his hands, like it’s just too funny to handle. His eyes get all crinkly and he goes from a deep chuckle to a delighted shrieking cackle in an instant. Charles loves to play games and has even started initiating play, like running a ways and turning to wait for us to chase him, or taking us by the hand and leading us to blocks or a ball.

He also leads us to the refrigerator. One of us, possibly me, made the mistake of letting him pick his own snack from the fridge one time, and that was it. Charles used to eat every vegetable we put in front of him, now every meal is something of a battle as his preferences change bite-to-bite. After picking what to eat, he sometimes wants it in his chair, sometimes not (though I try to enforce the chair), with or without bib, with spoon or with fingers, in bowl or on table or from my bowl, or from my spoon. And after all this, he decides he really wants something ELSE from the fridge. I shoot for consistency, but at the end of the day the most important food-thing is that he ate healthy food, and if he wants to eat healthy food standing on his head rather than something not so healthy in his seat with his bib out of his bowl with his spoon, I’m going to focus on getting him to eat the healthy. The past several weeks have been tough because we are doing a family Whole30, so all his (non-gluten) grain snacks that filled him up are off the menu. So he wants to eat every half hour on average. Which is fairly typical toddler behavior, but it gets exhausting. I’m on the hunt for a nibble tray that I can set on a chair and let him much a few things whenever he gets the urge between meals. I’m also more conscientious now of what I keep in the fridge. Fruit is fine, but when we have it available that is ALL he wants to eat, so now we buy very little fruit. And success! He’s staying fuller longer because he’s eating more fats, proteins, and veggies. Baby steps…. 

We’re also taking baby steps in teaching him responsibility and how to help. At this age, he naturally wants to do exactly what Mama and Papa are doing, so that makes it easy to get him involved if we can frame it the right way. We have a few little songs we sing for tidying-up, and he’s responsible for helping us pick up his toys before bed and wipe off the table after a meal. I feel like I’m getting my first glimpses of character training in these moments, and it’s humbling and terrifying. It is at those times I am teaching him how to be a little adult (or at least a little kid on track to becoming a big adult). As we train him to be responsible, to be helpful, to be kind, to be loving, to be grateful, we are more and more aware of our responsibility to train him up in the way he should go, that he is not just a toddler but a future man, husband, father, and warrior for Christ.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Airstream Dreams: Part II

The Airstream is home.  We think we're going to call her "The Silver TARDIS," but that's still up for debate.  I love catching a glimpse of her out the kitchen window and remembering how we found her and made her ours.

As we've gone through all of our plans and dreams the past few years, one of the people we've talked with a lot has been Trevvor's mom, who is beginning her own adventure now too.*  We were all in this unsettled place, knowing we needed to do something different but not sure what that something looked like.  During our "whirlwind trip to everywhere" at the end of May, we had the chance to talk through these ideas again in person.  "Well you know," she said, "I'm going to need a place to live when I come back to the States in a few years."  That changed everything, because now we were looking at Airstreams as co-owners with her: Trevvor, Charles and I living it in now, and Leslee living in it later on.

One evening early in the last week of the trip, Leslee and I were looking at, just casually, you know, to see what was out there.  I had pulled up all the Airstreams that were in the states we'd be traveling home through (there aren't many Airstreams in Alabama).
One ad really jumped out:  It was 31 ft, perfect for full-time living; a 1975 model (our favorite decade of Airstreams); a center bath, which meant we wouldn't have to walk through Charles' room to use the bathroom at night and also avoided the problem of the heavy rear-bath separating from the frame; they had installed a composting toilet like we wanted, opening up our parking options since we won't need a black-water connection; the floors had been redone with a lovely pine board, exactly what we wanted; there was already a large fridge for all the produce we buy; and all the built-in furniture had been removed, so now we could include exactly and only what we needed.  AND it was only 20 minutes off our route through Virginia.  AND it was under $10,000 (a very reasonable price for such a find). Ummm, yes please!

So we emailed the owners and arranged to see her on Friday as we traveled south.  Our last few days were very full--both packing up Leslee for her big trip and preparing ourselves for a possible very big purchase.  They sent us the link to their blog they'd used while they renovated it the previous year, and it was really neat finding so many similarities between them and us and so many parallels in our journeys.

When we arrived at their farm Friday afternoon, I was trying not to be too excited.  We explored the Airstream thoroughly.  We discussed its purchase rationally.  And then, we told her we'd take it.  On the condition that we could find a way to haul it down.

So we put the word out on Facebook.  By the next day, we had a two different trucks we could borrow.  (Our friends are so generous!  Seriously.)  Our plan was to make the trip back to Virginia two weeks later to bring her home.

But that's a whole 'nother chapter.

*Leslee is moving to Australia, ultimately to teach, and has sold her house, her car, and her possessions (less a very small storage unit) for an undetermined period of time.  Helping her give away and pack up and throw out all her stuff during our trip really got us excited about doing the same thing at our house.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Airstream Dreams: Part I

It started with heavy doses of reading Little House on the Prairie and The Boxcar Children in elementary school.  I remember thinking how incredible Ma Ingalls was, keeping a such a small, basic home so well and cheerfully.  How creative oldest sister Jessie was in transforming an abandoned boxcar into a comfortable escape for her and her siblings.

All children love small spaces.  We all loved making blanket forts, sitting under tables, cozying up in a closet, setting up in play-houses, sleeping in lofts or tents.  (Well, at least I did.  But maybe I was just as weird then as I am now.)  My reading about families making homes of small spaces just encouraged this enjoyment.

As I grew up, my expectations of comfort changed from closets to over-sized houses.  When Trevvor and I got married and I saw our apartment for the first time, I cried.  How could I set up house in only 450 square feet??  But I did, and when we moved out, I cried again.

After several more moves and a house-purchase later, we were all set up in our current home: a three-bed, two-bath, modest 1200 square foot split-level in a 1970s Birmingham suburb.  It was a good "starter-home," I figured, and that summer we settled in for a least five or ten years.

But after a few months, the moving itch started.  The maintenance and constant grass-mowing was getting tiresome.  We hadn't known how great we had it when we were living smaller!

About that time, we discovered the Tiny House Movement, as it's known.  Here were people choosing to live in less than 200 square feet!  Every inch of these homes was filled with both beauty and purpose.  "Wow," we said.  "That's what we want."  The THM was like a gateway, and one of the worlds it opened up was that of the shiny Airstream.  Simplicity and flexibility.  Way too cool.

But we'd just bought this house, and we wanted to start a family, so we kept chugging away at the American Dream, accepting the status quo, albeit in a rather grumbly way.  We didn't want to be discontent, so we tried to bloom where we were planted, yet every few months, some new hippie scheme would surface, only to be covered up again by the reality of those devilish details.

That was nearly three years ago.

When Charles was born last January, we said, "We're staying put!  We have the baby to think of!"  We also had four cats and a dog.  We would never fit in a tiny house of any kind, especially since we wanted more kids!

But once we settled into life with a baby (sometime around his six month birthday), the itch started itching again.  "We could do this with a baby," we thought, looking around at all of the space and stuff in our house we barely used and thinking of all the time and money we spent keeping up a house and yard we didn't even want.

So we started looking into selling our house.  We listed lots of stuff for sale on Craigslist and eBay.  I spent probably untold hours looking at used Airstreams online and reading tiny-house/minimalism blogs.  Because by now, we'd narrowed our small-living dream down to Airstreams.

During the last nine months, this dream has come on and off, as those details would surface again and we would decide it was impossible.  As some of you know, our plans have changed quite a lot.  We looked at selling our house with a realtor, selling our house ourselves, renting our house ourselves.  Buying a smaller house, renting a smaller house, renting an apartment.  Staying in Birmingham, moving to Huntsville, moving to Georgia.

But the Airstream kept "shining through our murky plans," as it were.  For a while, we even thought we'd be out of our house and full-timing it by April 19.  Obviously that date came and went, and still no firm timeline of what we wanted to do and when.  We just knew why.

And last week, the "why," apparently, proved to be enough.

...TBC :)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Our Love Story, as told four years ago, in honor of our sixth anniversary

Today is our sixth wedding anniversary.  Seems a little crazy writing that.  It's neat because today is Saturday, just like the day we got married.  Six years ago at about this time I was leaving my parents' house for the church building, preparing to sit in a chair for several hours getting my hair curled!

Four years ago today, I wrote the following post on my old blog.  It's basically our love story up until our wedding.  I'd like to add to it, because so much has changed in the last four years, the biggest change being Charles' arrival into our family!  But for now, this will have to do.  :)


Two years ago today, Trevvor and I were joined together in front of witnesses as man and wife, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

We had met almost two years before that, on June 7, 2006, at freshmen orientation for the University of Alabama.  He sat behind me and my future roomie in the first session with another guy (his future roomie also), and they thought we were pretty so they introduced themselves.

My future roomie and I... with Trevvor in the background.  
We hadn't even introduced ourselves yet!

Trevvor and I were in the same small-group for orientation since our last names both started with a "C."  We found out we'd both been home-schooled and that we were both Christians, and hung out for much of orientation together.  A few days later he befriended me on Facebook, and we kept up throughout the summer.

Trevvor, me, and his future roomie on the last day of orientation.

In August, we arrived on campus a week before classes started to participate in a service-learning project called Outdoor Action.  There were only about 20 students participating, and we quickly became part of the same little group of freshmen.  From the start I admired Trevvor's work-ethic and friendly nature (not to mention his handsome visage).

Chilling together early one morning during Outdoor Action.

The OA group stayed together during the first semester of college, and our numbers ebbed and flowed, but Trevvor and I constantly found ourselves together socially.  We mutually enjoyed each other's company, and soon realized that we had much in common that set us apart from the other students around us.  By the end of that first semester, we were beginning to pair off, and subsequently hear the following question almost daily:  "Are y'all dating yet?"

Fall Break 2006 Road Trip to my grandparents' house

He came home with me for Christmas Break as his flight for PA left from my home-town the following day.  It just so happened that this was the weekend all my family was there for our "Christmas weekend," and we discovered that Trevvor had something in common with five of my close relatives:  their names began with a "Tr-" (Troy, Truitt, Travis, & Tracy) and they shared the last name of "Clark"--my mother's maiden name was "Clark," you see.  I liked to read more into this than I probably should have, haha.
We wrote friendly letters during those weeks apart, and I picked him up from the airport at the end of the break.  He told me later that when he saw me waiting to greet him, he knew at that moment he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

Soon after we started dating.

On February 11, 2007, after several serious discussions about our pasts, our present and our future, we entered into a committed relationship.  We knew that (as far as we knew) we were headed towards marriage, and if we realized after prayer and discussion that we were not "meant to be," then we would break things off.  Of course, that never happened.  :)

On his 19th birthday with the soccer Build-a-Bear I made him.  :)

We enjoyed several happy months around campus, loving each other more each day, before we had to go our separate ways for the summer.  I was able to visit him in PA over Memorial Day week, but after that it was three months apart.  On our last day together, he gave me a letter stating his desire to marry me "someday."  I was ecstatic, and all summer we talked about our lives together.

Holding baby bunnies during my PA visit in 2007.

I studied abroad in England during July and part of August, and he was with my family to pick me up when I landed state-side.  That night, he was baptized by my grandfather, surrounded by my mother's family.  The next evening, he asked my parents for permission to marry me "someday."  After much deliberating, they agreed, and the next morning he proposed.

The weekend after our engagement!

Our announcement of engagement wasn't met with happy faces all around:  at the time we were only 19, and our families had their [reasonable] doubts as to our preparedness for marriage.  We assured them that we would wait at least two years before tying the knot, but as the semester progressed, we realized that waiting was simply not necessary nor beneficial.  Our families began to see this too, so by December 2007 we were planning the wedding for the following May.

At a formal soon before our wedding!

It was a hectic semester that almost couldn't go fast enough as we made the reservations, bought the dress, and sent the invitations (not to mention taking classes).  We continued to talk about our future.  We talked about everything:  our opinions, expectations, desires, reservations, doubts... religion, children, finances, houses, cars, media, education, gender roles... everything.

Finally, the day arrived:  May 10, 2008.  It passed in a flurry of excitement and joy. Thanks to the planning and preparation of my dear mother, it was more beautiful than I'd ever imagined.  And at the end of the day, I was Mrs. Trevvor Clark.

I had a lot to learn about marriage and being a wife--and I still have most of it to learn two years later--but those first weeks were so sweet and lovely as we gracefully fumbled our way into married life, united before God and man.

And that's the first few chapters of our love story.  I'm amazed every day that each page just keeps getting better.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Mother's Heart

While we were playing with Charles Friday evening at about 7:30, he hurt his wrist.  We had been swinging him and he was loving it!  Laughing, cackling, holding his hands up for more.  And then... he wasn't.  He made a pitiful little "ouch" cry, and toddled over to me.  He sat in my lap holding his arms stiffly, fussing pitifully, for about 20 minutes.  I texted our chiropractor and he agreed to meet us to check him out.  Thank goodness it turned out to be just a little out-of-whack wrist, and with a quick "thump" of the activator, Charles was as good as new.

But during those 45 minutes, my heart ached for my little boy, who was hurting and didn't know why.  He didn't even seem to know what was hurting, exactly, just that something was wrong, and he didn't want to move anything in case the thing that was wrong happened to be what he was moving.  He never screamed, he was really quite calm, just obviously uncomfortable.  I felt it odd that I myself was not hurting too.  My heart hurt for him, but surely our connection was so strong that I would feel his pain in my own body.  But it was just an echo of his hurt, made worse by the fact that I couldn't just kiss it and make it better.

After visiting Doc, we returned home and put Charles straight to bed as it was already well after his bedtime.  I came back down from his room, opened up my Chromebook, and got on Facebook as I chatted with Trevvor.  When I looked back at the screen, at my news-feed, my heart sank.  The first post was the brother of a childhood friend of mine, Rebecca.  He had written that his sister, my friend, had gone to be with the Lord at about 7:30 PM, the same time Charles hurt his wrist.

Rebecca had fought a long, hard battle with cancer--Hodgkins Lymphoma--for over five years.  We saw each other several times over those years, and I kept up with her on Facebook.  I'm sure she had her moments, but when I saw her, she always stayed positive.  She kept joy.  She maintained hope.  She praised God.  She inspired me.

As I wept for her Friday night, I knew that my heart-hurt for Charles' pain was a mere shadow of what Rebecca's mother had experienced these five years and was experiencing right then.  The pain of watching your precious child suffer, fight, and then pass on to the Lord before you, is something I cannot begin to fathom.

Praise God for Rebecca's life, for her testimony during her sickness, and for the hope that we have that we will see her again in God's kingdom.  Such hope is the only thing that can soften the pain of a mother's heart.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fifteen Month Word List

Now that he's steady on his feet, Charles' vocabulary has continued to explode.
Here's a word list so far (though keep in mind a lot of these words sound about the same):

- Mama
- Papa
- Nana (my mom)
- Grandpa (my dad)
- Uncle (Chris)
- Laurrel (Trevvor's sister)
- Pop (my grandfather)

- box
- ball
- bath
- outside
- shirt
- shoe
- diaper
- nose
- toe
- more: ma
- water: dada
- bottle: bata
- avocado: cada
- dog
- cat
- bird

- woof
- moo
- neigh
- baa
- elephant sound
- monkey sound
- tweet tweet
- honk honk / beep beep

I think there are more, but this is LONG past due as he's almost *17* months now (it's actually June--I'm just back-dating this haha), so I'll finally go ahead and post!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fifteen Months and Walking Like a Pro

Charles is just over fifteen months already!  Biggest news of the month:  he is WALKING.  He started walking within days of my post a month ago, and now it seems like he's about ready to run.  He never crawls anymore, even at times when it almost makes more sense to do so (like when the object he wants is only just out of reach).  He's quite proud of himself.

The Crestline Park mulch is so fascinating! 

I love being able to take him out in the yard or to play at a park and just let him loose now.  He loves smelling flowers, carrying little rocks, and eating sticks.  The other day he found a pile of dirt and just grabbed handfuls of it, letting it sift back out of his fists.  Shortly thereafter he discovered his first "real" bug:  a big beetle.  He was fascinated, but wasn't a fan of the way it pinched his hand as it held on for dear life.  Trevvor was a proud papa of his bug-hunting son.  We've been trying to go on stroller walks every day it's been pretty and then go back outside for some wandering time in the afternoon.  Gotta get our vitamin D!

Charles has TONS of words now--well over a couple dozen--but I'll make a separate post for that so I can include a list for my own sake of nostalgia and pride.  ;)  He can also identify lots of body parts--nose, mouth, eyes, ears, hair, hands, feet, toes, and belly-button.  It's presh.

Swinging at Avondale Park with Papa on his lunch break

Last week Charles had his first real illness.  He started getting cranky on Trevvor's birthday (Saturday), and by Monday night he had a temperature.  I assumed it was just teething, as he's had fevers associated with previous teeth coming in, but by Wednesday he just did not feel well at all, and I could tell it was more than that.  On Thursday, Doc Charles confirmed it was a virus.  He pretty much spent all of Wednesday and Thursday nursing (and sleeping) like an infant.  He was in a decent mood as long as he was in my lap.  Though it was exhausting and I felt sorry for the poor chap, I have to admit I really enjoyed all the extra cuddles.  We didn't "treat" the fever, I just watched his behavior for any warning signs, remembering to treat the child, not the symptoms.  I did use some essential oils to boost his immune system and help his body fight off the virus on its own.  As he was continuing to nurse well and have plenty of diapers (though he did reject solids for several days), I wasn't concerned.  His fever broke sometime Thursday night.

Not really feeling the family "groupie" shot at Pepper Place Market

His 15 month well-baby check-up happened to be on Friday, so our pediatrician was able to check him over and confirm both that he was fine and we'd followed a good course of action, which was gratifying.  She, as usual, seemed to be super pleased with his growth and development, commenting that he sure did have a lot of words!  *proud*  His measurements are 21.5 pounds, 31.5 inches long, and his head is 18.75 cm around.  He's grown exactly 10 inches since he was born!  Whoa!

While Charles was sick, he had pretty much zero interest in solids, even his favorite treats like rice crackers and fruit bits.  (Thankfully he asked for and drank lots of water.)  Even though it's been about a week since he got better, and he's definitely eating more again, he's gotten quite "picky."  He likes egg whites, but not the yolks, and if he sees or tastes even the TINIEST bit of yellow, he rejects the bite.  He'll still eat avocado, but not if it has a stringy bit in it.    He'll only suck on pouches that are on the sweeter side--no more green peas in a pouch for Charles!  He'll try new things, but if he doesn't like it, he'll push it right back out of his mouth, and he's become much more demanding about holding the spoon himself or finger-feeding.  Phew!  Mealtimes have been a challenge, both in satisfying his palate and not caving to bad behavior.  Dr. Albert (our ped) did mention last week that toddlers about his age really slow down their eating because their growth has really slowed down, and not to get desperate and give him junk food just to get him to eat "something."  So we've just been offering food at mealtimes and when he seems hungry, and trying not to worry too much if he doesn't eat but a few bites.

Since he started walking, we've been putting on shoes consistently for really the first time ever.  And we discovered that Charles loves shoes.  He loves our shoes.  He loves his shoes.  He loves other kids' shoes.  He loves putting shoes on his feet.  He loves putting shoes on our feet.  It's hilarious.  We went to a consignment shop a few weeks ago and tried some on, and he got super mad when I put his original ones back on and left the "new" ones there at the store.  We're trying to keep things simple and so just have two pairs in his current size--play shoes and "for-good" shoes.

As I'm typing, Charles is in the middle of what will probably be another three-hour nap.  Yep, you heard me:  for the majority of the past week Charles has given me three "mommy hours" all at once from about noon to 3:00!  Enough time for a solo lunch, devotionals, exercise, a few chores, and just time to BREATHE for a while (without wondering why my little guy is being so quiet or was that BOOM a toy or his head???).  And it hasn't made him start night-waking again either!  He regularly sleeps from 8:00 straight through to 6:00 the next morning!  So much excitement.  For more than a year, I could be heard saying, "If he'd just SLEEP he'd be the perfect baby!" but no longer!  Ladies and gentlemen, I now have the perfect baby.  (Well, not really, but close enough!)

Check out this fussy kid!  And the awesome Chaco tan on Papa's feet :P

On the "not actually perfect" note, as Charles has gotten more fun, he's also gotten more challenging in the discipline arena.  We're really working on sitting still for church, not hitting or biting, not throwing unwanted food on the floor, etc.  But he is the eldest of two eldests, so I know we're in for a major ride with this guy, especially if he's anywhere near as independent and self-willed as I was... am....  :P

If you've seen Master Charles lately, you might be wondering if his name is really Miss Charlene!  I know, I know--he REALLY needs a hair-cut!  But-- but-- those curls!  How can I lop off those incredible ringlets??  Folks keep saying he has Trevvor's hair, but I firmly believe it's mine.  I had curls as a toddler, after all, and Papa didn't.  ;)  (Charles definitely has Trevvor's eyes, though.  Mama's hair, Papa's eyes.  Can't deny this kid!)

CURLS!!!!!!! Post-bath-time :)

Charles enjoys interacting with non-family members more and more.  He gets to go to Bible class on Sundays and Wednesdays, and even though right now he's the only
kiddo in there, he seems to really love it.  How do I know?  Well Trevvor and I got to teach him last week!  Charles loved us singing together; he even applauded for us!  The best part is when he sings along.  I can't even handle the cuteness.

He does get to interact with about eight other toddlers at the Waldorf School's Morning Garden program each week, and each time we go, he gets more comfortable and sure of himself in a crowd.  This week will be our last week for the spring, sadly.  Last time I really had to keep my eye on him.  Whereas in previous weeks he would stick pretty close, wanting to be held or nurse on and off almost the whole time, last week he was all over the place!  He even gave several other moms "some love" (i.e., hugging their legs or laying his head on their shoulder).  Way to branch out, son!

I guess that's enough random Charles-ness for this month.  He changes in such little ways a little every day, I know I forget things, or I hardly realize there's even something different.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fourteen Months

Charles turned 14 months old yesterday!  This last month has been full of changes, as usual.  The most exciting one is that he has begun taking steps!  Not "walking" yet, he still crawls for the majority of his mobility, but he can definitely take steps unsupported.  The record so far is about 25 at a time.  He took a few last week while at my parents' house, three on the first day.  The next he took seven, the next 13, and then finally 25!  We got home to Papa Monday night, and so far he hasn't really walked at all here.  I think he's readjusting to his surroundings; we had been gone seven days.

I haven't wanted to rush him into walking, but it is pretty cool now that it's happening.  My favorite thing, though, is how proud he is of himself when he does it!  His whole body shows his delight at his accomplishment; he even claps for himself.  :)  And I am looking forward to him being able to walk as the weather gets nicer:  parks and playgrounds are so much more fun when one is vertically mobile!

This month his language skills have exploded!  While we were at Pop and Mimi's a few weeks ago, he began learning animals' names and sounds, and now he LOVES spotting animals and pictures of animals while we're out and about!  It's a great way to keep him entertained at the grocery store.  His favorites are dogs and bears.  For dogs (and most other animals that make two-syllable sounds) he can go "uff uff" and cows (and other drawn-out sounds) he can go "vvvvvvvvv," which, apparently, to a 14 month old, sounds like "moo."

Some of Charles' favorite activities are playing ball, stacking blocks, playing with puzzles and shape-sorters, banging/shaking musical instruments, and--most of all--READING BOOKS.  Our time together is passing so much more quickly now that he's bringing me books to read, and actually more or less sits still for me to read them!  He loves Brown Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, as well as But Not the Hippopotamus and any other story featuring animals.  He LOVES Clifford the Big Red Dog and can identify pictures of trains and say "ch! ch!" ("choo choo," of course).

The past month or so Charles has also begun "singing" little songs.  Sometimes he'll sing "with" me, sometimes with the radio, and sometimes just because he feels like it.  As a music-lover, I hope his new-found enjoyment of song lasts a lifetime.

I think we're finally over the hump sleep-wise.  Most nights he'll sleep from around 8:00 PM to somewhere between 6:00 and 7:30 AM.  It's fantastic!  I feel like a new woman.  He's making up for missing his night-time nursings by still nursing around five times during the day, which I love.  I read on a blog somewhere that most 13-month-olds nurse 2-3 times a day and just chuckled.  I hope the day when he only nurses twice is still a long, long way off!

As you can see, Charles is really growing from a baby into a little boy.  This all really happened after he was mostly done with cutting all four of his one-year molars at once (which of course has expanded his menu options as well).  The molars have been accompanied with a prodigious amount of snot and congestion, but he's handled it well and hasn't seemed too uncomfortable.

Another contributing factor to his development might be the time we've been spending with other toddlers at the Morning Garden program at our local Waldorf School.  He's the youngest there, with most of the other nine children around two years of age (the range is one to two-and-a-half).  We really enjoy our time spent with other "green" moms and toddlers--it's nice being a part of a group where I'm not the weird one!  I also love seeing the other moms close-up in action:  loving on their toddlers, teaching them, disciplining when necessary.  And since most of them have slightly older kiddos, they're able to assure me that whatever phase Charles is in that's not so happy will pass, that we're not the only ones.

Overall, the past few months have been awesome.  Each stage so far has been my favorite!

*Photos by Rachel Stricklin, taken at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Friday, March 7, 2014

We have a Stander!

Charles is 13.5 months old now, and yesterday he really discovered he could stand on his own!  A couple weeks ago at my parents' house he stood unsupported several times in a row, but he hadn't done it since.  Now I think he's really got it down, and he is SO proud of himself.  He claps and laughs the whole time, giving us that, "Yeah, I'm good!" look.

I've been in no rush for him to stand or walk (I know he will when he's ready, and I don't want to push him!), but I'm super proud too.  I love seeing his excitement.  :)

Charles is also learning how to climb, which is exciting for all of us, I'm sure.  The other day I barely caught him from toppling the high chair over on himself because he'd climbed halfway up it!  He'll use anything for a stool--even toys.  Let the real exploring begin!


In verbal news, Charles is a huge fan of the onomatopoeia, specifically animal sounds.  While we were at Pop & Mimi's house last week he really began trying to connect animals with their names and sounds (with varying degrees of success).  His attempts don't always sound just like grown-up ones, but that's okay--they're cuter.  He can "baa" and "neigh" (though those two sound about the same), "moo" (sort of), and does a rockin' impression of a dog:  the cutest "uff uff" sound you've ever heard!

Also cool is that he recognizes animals as animals even though they may look really different from others we've identified for him--one cartoon chicken does not look like another!  After learning about dogs and their sound at Pop & Mimi's, when he came home he identified a stuffed dog as an "uff uff" and got super excited when he saw his little Clifford book, pointing and going "uff uff uff!!!"  Now that's his favorite thing for me to read to him.  (I wish it were longer.  The same five board pages over and over get old pretty quick, but his excitement keeps me going.)  His most used words are "ball," "book," and, as of a couple days ago, "dog."  "Mama" and "Papa" don't happen much--at his age he still doesn't completely realize he's separate from us.

Speaking of Clifford, I bought him a Clifford coloring book and some "My First Crayons" today.  He colored for the first time on a kids' menu at a restaurant (Folks) in Georgia last weekend and seemed to like it.  I just bought some Crayolas, but I'm keeping my eye out for some "green" crayons too.


On the food front, Charles is still nursing an average of five times a day, which is a bit more than a lot of babies his age but just right for us.  I'm planning on letting him wean when he's ready and no sooner; I have no aversion to letting him nurse past two years:  the worldwide average is more than four!

He still loves eggs and avocados, as well as those organic food pouches while we're on the go.  He pretty much eats whatever we're eating unless it's something he's unable to chew, like carrot sticks or nuts.  I'm trying to make it a policy not to eat something myself I won't allow him to eat for health reasons; so if I splurge, he gets some too (if he wants some).  The idea is that it'll make me think more about my own food choices and splurge less!  So far it's working.


My favorite thing right now is that Charles has gotten to a point where we can really do things together.  I can finally read to him and he'll pay attention.  Now he can build block towers with me rather than just knock mine over.  He's learning how to put shapes in a shape sorter (with a little help from one of us).  When I sing to him, he sings back to me.  If I hug him, he hugs me back.  (He blows kisses too.)  He can really understand so much more of what we're saying than even a month ago, and I love love love being able to talk to him!

Charles is also learning to manipulate his environment, pointing, grunting, and otherwise directing us in what he wants us to do.  He knows what he wants--sometimes he points to a spot with several things and he will shake his head "no" until you pick up what he was pointing at, whether it is a specific book or a type of food.  I'm trying to be more conscientious about labeling things for him so that one day (hopefully sooner rather than later) his grunts will turn into attempts at words.

It's pitiful and adorable when he gets frustrated by not being able to get his message across.  Unfortunately, his frustration right now comes out as hitting, which I understand but obviously don't condone.  So we're encountering our first real discipline area and praying for wisdom in how best to handle how to teach our son not to hit without "hitting" (as he would perceive it) him.


In sum, we're having a blast.  It's not always easy:  there are multiple times every single day where I sit back and wonder, "What in the world am I doing???"  But it is SO worth it.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Becoming All Boy

Charles is 12.5 months old now, and the past week or so I've really started to see his "boy" side come out.  The shift from baby to little boy has been both gradual and sudden, exciting and sad and hilarious and terrifying all at once.

Like when he's on the changing table and he just can't contain his rambunctious energy, kicking and wiggling and waving and jabbering all through the change.

Or when he reaches for the forbidden cabinet or shelf and peeks around at me with this little impish look in his eye.

And the mischievous way he hides behind furniture or curtains and giggles each time you "find" him.

Or when he can't sit still long enough to read more than a page or two of his board book, but heads off to climb and conquer some little mountain instead.

Also how much he is wanting to go where he wants to go, do what he wants to do, on his own.  He wanted to climb the stairs by himself earlier, and kept waving (and saying) bye-bye to me as I followed him, clearly wanting me to go away and leave him to it.  He is also insisting more and more on feeding himself, even when he's really hungry.  And he knows now when you're about to pick him up and carry him off, because he'll turn and crawl away as quickly as possible when you head towards him, laughing all the way.

The energy and independence he's displaying both delight and exhaust me in advance.  I'm going to have my hands full, but really, I wouldn't have it any other way!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Whole30: Week 1

Last week I began the Whole30 program, a Paleo-based dietary re-set.  I found out about it at the beginning of November from some good friends of ours, and since checking it out was determined to do at least one.  I poured over their book, It Starts With Food, in just a few days.  But the timing just wasn't right, considering that it would overlap Thanksgiving, then Clark Family Christmas, then Christmas, then a two-week visit from Trevvor's family... so FINALLY here in the middle of January I began.

I'm a week in.  And I haven't cheated.  Not even when I went to Mason-Dixon Gluten Free Bakery.  Not even when I went to the mall.  Not even when I went to a vegan meet-up with my parents (rice and honey in ALL the things).  And not even when I got mastitis and felt queasy and just wanted some saltine crackers, for cryin' out loud.

Unless you know me really well, you don't understand how big of a deal that is.  I've started ways of eating, some more drastic than others, for years, only to slip a few days in.  It's a vicious cycle, cliche as that is, and each failure convinces me that I just don't have will-power or self-control, I'm just bound to fail, I'll never be able to consistently eat like I know I should, etc.

So this is big.  This whole cheat-less week.

I've really enjoyed eating this way.  I feel good, I'm sleeping better, I'm not as moody or lethargic, the food is delicious and filling, and my jeans are getting slightly too big (which is just a bonus, not a goal).  Plus I know that my milk is healthier for Charles and that, since he eats off our plates, his solid food is healthier too.

So what is the Whole30?  What exactly can I eat, and what have I eliminated for this period?

Well, my breakfasts have included eggs, avocados, berries, coconut milk, and fresh veggie juice (though not all on the same morning).  Lunches are often a whole chicken that I crock-potted (like that verb there?) the night before and eat for several lunches in a row, plus a veggie-stir fry or a salad.  Dinners I've been alternating between red meat (roast, steak) and fish (salmon, mahi mahi, tilapia), and usually include some combination of sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.  Snacking usually means some nuts, coconut milk, or fruit.

Basically, you can eat eggs, meat, all vegetables, and fruits and nuts (the latter two in moderation).
You CAN'T eat:
- dairy
- grains or corn
- legumes
- soy
- sugar: natural or artificial (including honey, syrup, molassas)
- artificial colors/flavors/preservatives
- alcohol
- white potatoes

They encourage you to have three meals a day with a protein, some veggies, and a fat source at each one.  Nursing/pregnant moms or folks who do some extreme exercises may need more meals or altered ratios.  The hardest part for me isn't food cravings for bread or sugar; it's trying to get all three meal components at the same time--with Charles around, I'm used to just munching throughout the day!

The program may sound extreme, but when you prepare food at home, it's not that difficult.  It's going out to eat that's the hard part!  But they don't expect you to eat like this forever--just the 30 days (or however much longer you think you need to detox).  Then you have a period where you re-introduce foods every few days to see how your body reacts.  (I plan to reintroduce corn and oatmeal pretty quick!)  But obviously sticking to a diet as close to this as possible long-term is ideal, and that's what I plan to do.

There's a lot more info at the links in the first paragraph, and at Whole9 Life.  I've loved the forums there when I've gotten stuck a couple times.  I love how great I'm feeling even more!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charles is One!

This is a picture of my first glimpse of Charles, and his first glimpse of me.  He looks slightly concerned, but it's one of my favorite pictures of all time.  That tiny, not-so-sure face belongs to a boy who is now one year old.  My boy.  

Charles has changed so much these past weeks.  Right before his birthday, he had a super rough week with sleep and wanting momma.  He went from waking up once a night to waking up like a newborn, not wanting to go down for any naps unless I was holding him, and not even wanting to be left with Trevvor or a grandmother when I walked out of the room.  In hindsight, I think that's when he hit a big developmental jump, because he seems to have shifted from baby to toddler in just that week.  He was also cutting a tooth, which I'm sure didn't help.

Charles at his newborn well-baby check-up

Charles isn't walking yet, but he's getting more adept at cruising around furniture and along walls.  He's learned how to "steer" us when we're walking him holding his hands (and he's quite proud of it).  Trevvor taught him how to swing his legs around to get down off a bed or sofa or lap, and he's really quick at getting up the stairs (even the big flights at Nana & Grandpa's), but isn't sure enough to get back down.  He loves climbing and navigating through small spaces while crawling.

The past couple weeks he's starting scrunching up his nose into the most adorable face, and he tilts his head to one side and grins when he's being impish.  He also has a face for when you ask him to do something he knows how to do (like stick out his tongue), but he doesn't feel like doing it--I wish I could describe it.  He loves playing peekaboo around furniture or curtains, and often initiates it.  When he wants me to stick out my tongue, he pokes at my lips until I get it.  He can wave bye-bye and has a different wave for "hi," usually accompanied by a wide-mouth grin.  He shakes his head for "no," and has really learned to push things (or people) away when he doesn't want them near him.  (The other day he climbed from my arms to Trevvor's then looked at me and pushed my face away with his hand.  Forcefully.  It was like he was saying, "Okay, it's my turn with Papa!")

Charles at his One-Year well-baby check-up

Charles is still nursing throughout the day and once or twice at night.  I love it.  He's quite the acrobatic nursling, so we're trying to teach him nursing "etiquette" without much success.  (He is getting better at lying still on the changing table though.)  His most common solid foods are egg, avocado, meat (salmon, chicken, beef), and whatever veggies we're eating.  He likes sipping coconut milk and he LOVES rice crackers and rice puffs.  Trying to keep grains to a minimum, but it's hard to find healthy non-squishable finger-foods for a one-year-old!  He's started sharing my apples with me after I eat the peel off--his eight little teeth are helping with that!

Charles isn't super independent yet, which I'm not rushing.  He's usually playing right at my feet or I'm wearing him on my back while doing housework.  He loves things with wheels, which is good because he got lots of cars for Christmas and birthday!  He is getting better and better at throwing that ball back and forth and really seems to delight in his skill.  I've loved watching him discover relationships between objects, like that a smaller cup can fit in a bigger one, or this toy can roll through the tube or fit in the hole.  When he figures something like that out, he'll sit and do it over and over and over again, very studiously as if it's the most serious business in the world.  And rightly so:  learning like that is his job right now!

His FAVORITE toys are some little animals.  When he was born, his Uncle Chris gave him a little toy tiger.  It's been sitting on his chest-of-drawers all this time until recently we handed it to him during a diaper change.  He carries that thing everywhere and can even say roar when asked what the tiger says.  So of course Nana got him three more little animals for his birthday last weekend--they're in the picture below.  Tiger is still his favorite, followed by the panda bear.

Playing with his favorite toys:  tiny animals

Charles loves music.  Several months ago he started "dancing" to music when he heard it, and he just keeps adding to his moves!  He dances in his car-seat, while nursing, while eating, while sitting, while standing... Now he's added his arms to the mix and likes to "conduct" the music.  It's. So. Cute.  He got a xylophone for his birthday and he's enjoying making a little music of his own.  I see violin lessons in his future... ;)

Verbally, he's gotten much more chattery with still very few words.  He's had "mama" for a while, and sometimes we'll hear a "baba" (papa), and my mom said last night that he said "nana."  As an English major, I was very excited and proud that his third spontaneous word was "book!"  That was just yesterday.  He's very good at imitating sounds, especially nonsense sounds or animal noises.  He's also repeated "ball" a few times, said "pot" clear as day when I pointed one out to him, as well as some other things once or twice.  Most impressive was when he parroted "danger" back to me--the "d" and the "g" were there at least! ;)  The past few days he's exploded in sounds and parroting skills. He's just soaking it all in.  I'm trying to do better about labeling things now that I know he understands.  He often amazes me with his comprehension.  He has his toy tiger and a stuffed tiger, and earlier today we were standing in front of my parents' fridge and I asked him, "Where's the tiger?" and he pointed to a tiger magnet (that really looks very different from his toys) from the zoo!

Hmm.. other random tidbits... We're still cloth diapering with pre-folds and covers and loving it.  The few times we use disposables I can't wait to get him back in cloth!  Charles has had two fevers, both in December, both were treated very successfully at home.  He's never had any ear infections.  He's had a little bit of a rash on his cheeks and nose and chin at times, usually when he's teething and/or snotty (which often occur together).  His hair is so long now that it really needs a trim, but I can't bear to think of it!  Poor guy... it's in his eyes more often than not.  Charles loves rough-and-tumbling with us on the bed--it's one of his favorite places to play... which, now that I think about it, may not be creating the best association for when he has a "big boy bed" of his own.... Oh well.

Our family, Fall 2013

I just love being Charles' mom.  I have so much fun with my little buddy, and Trevvor does too.  It's not always easy, but thanks to him, each day is the best day of my life.

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