1. He’s a chatterbox. He has over 30 words, and his pronunciation is getting more and more clear every day. He clearly says “milk” now instead of “muh,” for example. In fact, he’s so proud of having acquired that “k” sound at the end of words that he often repeats it several times. So “milk” turns in to “milk-ilk-ilk-ilk” and “bike” is “bike-ike-ike-ike.” He also says “deet deet” (his version of thank you) whenever you give him something.
2. When he’s not using actual words, he babbles, but the way he does it, the combination of sounds and the rhythmic cadence in his voice, makes it almost musical. Like he’s singing his conversation at us, or scatting, jazz-style. It’s adorable.
3. He’s trying to learn to jump, and there are few things that make me laugh harder than a “jumping” toddler. He bends his knees, then throws his weight upward with all his might. The result is a chaotic upward flail that often throws him off balance, sending him stumbling to one side or another, giggling uncontrollably, only to do it all over again. His feet never leave the ground.
4. He’s going through a bit of a Daddy’s Boy phase right now, usually when he’s grumpy. When he’s in a good mood (which is most of the time), he’s happy as can be to play with either parent (though if he’s playing with just me he does ask for “Daddy?” every 10 minutes or so). But if something has his diaper in a twist, he wants absolutely nothing to do with Mama. I try to pick him up, read a book with him, play with his trucks, and he screams, sheds giant crocodile tears, and lunges for Daddy. Last week he actually ripped a book I was trying to read with him out of my hands and marched it over to Tim. Point taken, kiddo.
5. He still dances every time he hears music. And his rhythm is usually spot-on. Definitely Mama’s little boy in that respect.
6. We bought him a tricycle last weekend, and the boy is in love. He knows about bikes from some of his books, and when we asked him if he wanted a bike, he got really excited. We brought it home from the store, and it sat in the box for the better part of the next day while Tim slept in. All morning long, Alexander walked over to the box, pointed at it, and asked “Bike? Bike?” (Everything is a question, asked at least twice. Always.) While Tim was assembling the bike, Alexander kept grabbing the seat, setting it on the floor, and sitting on it, then getting up and stealing whatever tools Tim wasn’t currently using. All the while asking “Bike? Bike?” Finally, when assembly was complete and we put the bike on the floor for him, he could not contain his excitement. He raced over to the bike, shouting excitedly “Biiike!!!” It was a very Kid-like moment. This wasn’t a “I’m a baby and you showed me something new and I don’t really understand it but I think it’s neat because it’s new” moment. He fully understood exactly what was in that box, exactly what Tim was assembling, and exactly what an awesome present we had just given him, so much so that he was bursting with excitement about it. The Kid-ness with which he exclaimed “BIKE!” just about knocked me over. He’s not a baby anymore.
7. He loves being tickled. The other day I Tickle Tackled him, and he giggled and squirmed until I stopped, at which point he immediately asked “More? More?” So I tickled him more. Giggle, squirm, stop, “More? More?” Over and over again, until he had laughed so hard he gave himself the hiccups.
8. He wants to be just like us and imitates everything we do. On a recent trip to my parents’ house, my dad, who is recovering from knee surgery, spent most of the weekend with his leg propped up. Alexander, who loves his “Ba Ba” a great deal, carefully arranged a stool so he could sit on it, then placed a soup can on the floor in front of the stool. He plopped down on the stool and put his foot up on his little soup-can ottoman, just like Bab Ba. This kid, man. He SLAYS me.
9. He’s starting to pretend and use his imagination. A few weeks ago he snagged some measuring cups and spoons out of the kitchen and stirred up some pretend soup, then fed it to us and himself, complete with satisfied slurping noises. Just last week he laid two of his favorite stuffed dogs on the coffee table, patted them gently, and said “Night night!” Then he leaned over and gave one of them a big kiss — “MWAH!” Meanwhile, I melted into a big puddle on the couch, completely overcome by the adorableness.
10. He’s formed attachments to a couple of stuffed animals. He loves his stuffed Clifford (the Big Red Dog), but his absolute favorite is the Cat in the Hat. I spotted this one at Khol’s recently and showed it to Alexander, since the boy loves to point out hats. “Look, Alexander, this cat’s wearing a hat!” Alexander immediately grabbed the toy, hugged it close, and absolutely refused to let go. Not in a “it’s MINE I don’t want anyone else to have it!” way, but more in a “Yes, I love this very much” way. It was only $5, so I took it to the register and pried one arm of the cat out of A’s grip so the cashier could scan the tag, and we brought it home. The Cat in the Hat is a very well-loved friend, who gets lots of hugs, rides on the bike, and snuggles in bed every night. The other night I forgot to bring the Cat in the Hat upstairs at bedtime, but Alexander didn’t fuss about it, so I figured it was no big deal. I realized the error of my ways at midnight when A woke up crying, and over the monitor I heard distressed cries of “Haaat? Haaat?” We don’t forget the Cat at bedtime anymore.
After Alexander was born, I thought I’d just wait to lose the baby weight until I was done having babies. Makes sense, right? I mean, why work hard to lose all that weight just in time to gain it all back? But that was when I thought I might be wanting another baby around now-ish. And now that it’s now-ish? I’m not ready for baby number 2 at all. Which is fine, except there goes my excuse about not bothering to lose the baby weight. I don’t know when I’ll be ready for another baby, but I do know that I was really unhappy with my post-pregnancy body. So after more than a year of feeling fat and frumpy, I decided to take action and work toward feeling good about my body again.
The latest round of Biggest Blogging Loser (BBL) came around at exactly the right time. Since it started at the beginning of January, I used the holiday season to get all my overeating out of my system. I ate whatever and as much as I felt like eating, and, honestly, by the end of December all I wanted in the whole world was a salad. But! I was about to start a weight loss competition! It certainly wouldn’t do to lose weight before the initial weigh-in. When I contemplated just one little salad to relieve the bloating and feel better, my inner competitor countered with HERE HAVE MORE QUESO. And so I did.
The first day of BBL, though, it was game-on. I was prepared with a Pinterest board full of of healthy recipes and a solid workout plan. I did my initial weigh-in, took my full body pic, cringed at both the number on the scale and the shape of my midsection, and got to work.
In addition to my usual once-a-week, 2-hour dance class, I started going to the neighborhood rec center after putting the baby to bed and running on the treadmill three nights per week. I decided to do the Couch to 5k program, mostly because (1) it was free, and (2) it was something I could do without sacrificing time with my son.
It worked. The pounds started coming off, and for several weeks I was at the front of the competition. But then a wine-filled weekend with my parents that resulted in a gain happened to coincide with other participants making major progress with their losses, and I fell to 5th place.(Look, some things are more important than winning weight-loss competitions, and enjoying a few glasses of wine with my parents is one of those things.)
I never managed to claw my way back to the top, but you know what? It’s cool. At first, I really wanted to win, and the cash prize motivated the hell out of me. But then I started seeing results. People complimented me at work and at the dance studio. I rescued multiple pairs of pants from the stack of pre-pregnancy clothes I’d resigned myself to donating because they’d probably never fit again. Instead of choosing to spend a day at the spa as my 30th birthday present to myself, I signed up for a 5k race. (What better way to celebrate being in great shape when I turn 30? Plus, it’s a mud run, so it’s kind of like a spa day.)
And now, for the first time in a long time, I feel good about my body. I’m not embarrassed if Tim’s around when I’m getting dressed. I don’t spend my 2 hours at dance trying to avoid the mirror, to avoid comparing myself to the skinnier girls in class. I think maybe — just maybe — I might be able to go to the pool this summer in a swim suit that doesn’t scream “I’m ashamed of my body.”
I have an arsenal of delicious healthy recipes to cook for my family. Every weekend, I sit down and choose 5-6 meals to cook for the week and make a grocery list. I never thought I’d be the type to meal plan, grocery shop, and do almost all the cooking, but here I am. And I kind of love it. (Mostly because Tim does all the dishes. If I had to cook and do the dishes, my enjoyment level would decrease drastically.) Most weeks I choose a few tried-and-true recipes with one or two new ones thrown in to the mix so we don’t get bored. Now that BBL is over, I’ll probably start rotating in some of our old favorites occasionally (spicy macaroni and cheese, I’m looking at you). But for the most part, I think we’ll be sticking with the new stuff.
I didn’t win the cash prize. Hell, I didn’t even finish in the top five. (And that says less about my accomplishments and more about those of the winners — those ladies did some amazing work!) But BBL was just the kick in the butt I needed to get back to my goal weight. It’s gotten me to a place where I won’t need to participate in the next round, because I don’t need to lose any more weight, just maintain my current weight. It’s gotten me to a place where I feel damn proud of my body. And in that sense, I won. Big time.
In the spirit of being proud of my accomplishments, here are my before and after pictures. Between January 7 and March 31, I lost 17.2 pounds.
Damn, it feels good to have my body back!
I introduced Alexander to the concept of jumping, picking him up a few inches and putting him back down a couple times. Then, holding his hands, I say, “Like this!” And I jump. And he reacts: Peals of laughter, endless giggles as I jump over and over again, and he laughs harder and harder, gasping for breath between guffaws. Pure astonishment and glee plastered on his face.
. . .
Tim’s at parent-teacher conferences, so I’m solo parenting for the evening. The oven timer beeps, signaling that my dinner is ready. I ignore it for several minutes until I can peel myself away from Alexander and his pile of toys, reassuring him all the while that I’ll be right back. Dinner’s out of the oven, but Alexander is unhappy about the 15-foot distance between us, so I leave my food to cool for a bit and return to my son. He picks up his current favorite book and marches over to the couch, signalling that he wants up. We sit, snuggling, reading books, him pointing to every “Dog!” (That’s a sheep. Baaaa!), laying his head in my lap, helping me turn the pages, backwards, forwards, several at a time, savoring every page just long enough. My dinner remains on the stove, long-since forgotten. And, oh, my heart. It is positively bursting with joy.
So, I tried to download the audio book of Ready Player One recently, becuase I’d heard great things from people whose opinions are often in line with my own and assumed I would enjoy it. Unfortunately, the library’s audio version didn’t work on my phone, so I read it the old-fashioned way (on my eReader, obvs.), and I loved it. LOVED. IT. You guys should all read this book. Seriously. It’s great.
I raved about it to Tim, who then listened to the audio book (his phone, it turns out, is better than mine). I overherad some of it, and, you guys, I’m sorry, but it was awful. I know, I know. You are all gaping at your screens right now saying “But it’s read by Wil Wheaton!” (I know!) “Who is awesome!” (I agree!) “And what could be better than a geeky book read by him?” Let me tell you what’s better than a geeky book ready by him — a geeky book NOT read by him. It was sooooo slow. Agonizingly so. When I read the book, I found it to be an exciting, fast-paced adventure story. But then Tim put it on for the drive home from my parents’ house one weekend, I fell asleep, and when I woke up two hours later, I couldn’t believe how little progress we’d made into the book. Nothing had really happened yet. After TWO HOURS.
(Also, W.W.’s voiceing of the main character/narrator was a little too smug and, well, icky for my liking. So much so that it made me kind of dislike the narrator, a character I’d liked quite a bit when I read the book myeslf. But that could be 100% a result of my having already read the book and given the narrator a voice in my mind. and therefore no matter who gave him a voice in real life, if it didn’t sound exactly like it sounded in my mind, it was going to be All Wrong.)
The worst part, though, hands down, was the list reading. See, in the book, there’s a scoreboard, with players’ rankings changing somewhat frequently throughout the plot. When reading the book in print, it was easy to skim the list of players/scores, get the relevant information, and move on. On the audiobook, you have no choice but to listen to W.W. slowly (SO SLOWLY) read every player’s name and score every. single. time. the scoreboard makes an appearance. It’s a LIST, you guys. A list of names and numbers that he had to read outloud, which, okay, I get it, becaues it’s not like you can skim when you’re reading an audio book, but still, he was reading a list. And it was painful.
Tim finally finished reading/listening and agreed that it was a good book. However, he alternated between listening to it while watching the baby over his Christmas break and reading the print version when he wasn’t otherwise occupied, and he told me that without a doubt, the book was MUCH better in print than in audio format. And based on what I heard, I wholeheartedly agree.
(Although ever since he finished, Tim has been on the lookout for The Big Book of Lists read by Wil Wheaton. He’s gotta have more lists!)
(FeverGate 2012 Update: After 6 days on antibiotics with virtually no improvement, we went back to the doctor and got a new antibiotic. The improvement was almost immediate. His fever stopped spiking, his lips stopped turning blue, and he felt good enough to return to daycare the very next day. A week after switching antibiotics, he’s completely back to normal. It’s so great to have our happy boy back!)
Alexander has a few words in his vocabulary that he uses somewhat consistently. He’ll say “DaDa” to Tim and “Dah” to the dogs (though, to be fair, he says “Dah” about a lot of things…he’ll say it when pointing to the door, he’ll say it when he’s done eating, and he’ll say it when pointing to the dogs. Basically, there are lots of things in his life that start with a “D” sound, and he’s mastered it). But more than any other “D” word, the one word he uses most consistently and most accurately is “No.” I used to think it was just a sound he made, and it was nothing more than a funny coincidence when he would answer questions with his “no” sound. But as time goes on, we’re begrudgingly starting to get the impression that we’re going to have to write “No” down in the theoretical baby book as the official First Word.
Lately, Alexander’s been playing a fun game where he likes to dangle himself head-first over the side of the couch and have us pull him back to safety by his feet. We try very hard not to encourage this behavior since it’s obviously dangerous, but the kid is determined to do a nose dive off the side of the couch and onto the hardwood floor. The other day, as luck would have it, I was half a second too slow in grabbing his feet to pull him back from the edge, and he finally succeeded in throwing himself to the floor face first. Much wailing (Alexander) and frantic checking for massive head wounds (Tim and me) ensued, but he calmed down after a few minutes and only had a small scratch on his forehead to show for his tumble.
Tim tried to use reason (as you do with a 13-month-old) to explain to Alexander that this is why we don’t do nose dives off the couch and asked, “Did you learn a lesson?”
“No,” was the child’s prompt reply.
“Are you going to stop playing that dangerous game?”
And then, trying a different tactic: “Are you going to do that again?”
This kid has learned the word “no,” and I’m beginning to think we’re in for quite the wild ride raising our mischievous little monkey.
(Sure enough, less than an hour later, Alexander was crawling back to the arm of the couch, dangling over the edge head first all over again. At least he didn’t lie to us about whether or not he learned anything.)