Friday, December 30

Friday Photos - First Christmas

This week is a special edition of the Friday photo because you get two for the price of one - pictures and a video. Since I already uploaded our Christmas pictures of Brock on Facebook, I figured I needed to add something extra to the blog, so I'm including the video of him opening some of his gifts. You'll have to ignore all the silly adults making ridiculous noises in the background.

I really loved seeing him experience Christmas this year. I know he didn't totally have a clue what was going on and why we were throwing all these boxes with paper at him to tear up (when for the past week he had been told no when he tried to touch those same boxes). And other than a few rips here and there he didn't actually open any of his gifts, but he did seem to appreciate the new toys and things he received, and I liked that he actually looked excited about all of it.

For the record, most of the gifts in the pictures were not for him, and most of the ones that were for him came from grandparents and great grandparents; Blaine and I stuck to the Three Gifts practice we had decided on (but with all the excitement, we forgot to even give him our presents until he'd gone to bed that night so he opened those the morning after Christmas). I would also like to state for the record (not sure why I'm acting like I'm on trial here) that we put up in storage a lot of the gifts he received, to bring out later after he gets tired or bored with some of the others we kept out. I got this idea from my sister-in-law, Erica, and thought it was a great method because it helps to prevent them from getting completely overwhelmed with toys, and they can really appreciate a few at a time. (I'm starting to think I may have a little bit of a hangup about trying to keep Brock from becoming overly materialistic?)

Anyway, we had a great holiday this year, and Brock was so much fun for his first Christmas! I really look forward to seeing him appreciate and enjoy it more and more every year (until he becomes a teenager and has to act cool).

Friday, December 23

Friday Photos - Special Delivery

Did anyone order a baby in a box? I know I've been on a lot lately this past month buying Christmas gifts, but I don't remember purchasing this item and I've yet to find a return slip in the package:

This is what happens when Blaine is home on Christmas break and taking care of Brock for me while I'm working. Blaine's thought process probably went something like this: Empty box + Baby that looks like he'd fit inside box = Great idea! I must admit, Brock really did seem to enjoy being in the box and Blaine even sliced one of the flaps on the side of the box into cardboard fringe so Brock can play with them and chew on them. It doubles as a train when you pull it around the room saying "Choo-Choo," and there was even talk of expanding this idea into a "Box Kingdom" with forts and crawl spaces and such. It was just funny to me when I saw Brock in there because I don't know that I would have ever viewed that empty diaper box as a source of entertainment. I guess maybe I just need to learn to think outside the box (pun intended).

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

"When [the wise men] saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh."  ~Matthew 2:10-11 (ESV)

What is Christmas all about? No doubt, we get asked that question or hear it tossed around a lot this time of year. At Thanksgiving everyone discusses why they are thankful and what they are thankful for, and then we don't really think or talk too much about thankfulness until November rolls around again the next year. When Christmas comes along, we're all primed with hearts of thankfulness to talk about joy and giving and love and family. The holiday means different things to different people, and some even get downright hostile about it, one side refusing to acknowledge or allow any religious significance and denying the biblical story completely, and the other side forcefully declaring that everyone say "Merry Christmas" instead of "Happy Holidays" or they won't get our business. It's interesting to me how we can turn everything into a war.

I know why I celebrate Christmas, but I'm not going to force that down anyone else's throat. Each person has the right to choose what he wants to believe, and while I would love for everyone to know and experience the peace and the joy that I have personally found in Christ, it's not my place to try to make anyone else's choice for them. I can (and ought to) tell you why I believe what I believe, but I can't make you believe what I believe.

I'm a little sidetracked though because that wasn't exactly where I was going with this post. Over the past few Christmases I have thought a lot about what Christmas should mean to me and what I should take away from the holiday. And every year I'm slightly disappointed with myself because I get so caught up in the gifts and what I will get and what I'm going to give my family and friends, and then after all the giving and getting is over on Christmas day, I just feel a little empty inside, just a little unfulfilled. Even if I give and receive great gifts, there's still that slight hollowness that indicates I missed something. And I think the problem is my focus and the perspective of Christmas that has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a child.

I remember the night before Christmas always being such an exciting evening. My sister and I would be too wound up to get to sleep, but we wanted to go to bed early so "Santa" could hurry up and come. When we were younger and shared a bedroom, I remember us laying in our beds talking and guessing what our gifts might be until we'd both fall asleep. I remember waking up every year on Christmas morning earlier than I would wake up any other day of the year. If I woke up first, I'd go get Shanna out of bed and vice versa. The very first thing we did was run to the living room where the Christmas tree would be lit up with piles and piles of beautifully wrapped presents just begging us to tear into them. After surveying our awaiting treasures, we'd go get my mom out of bed (who was probably exhausted from staying up all night wrapping those gifts and arranging them neatly under the tree). I can just remember the giddiness and the excitement and the thrill of it all. It was so much fun. After it was all over, we'd be swimming in a sea of wrapping paper, tossing new clothes to the side and searching for batteries to put in our new toys. We'd then go to my dad's house and start the gift-getting all over again (I always said that was the one benefit of having divorced parents, TWO Christmases). Then after every box had been opened, I'd call whoever my best friend was that year and we'd spell out in detail what we each received, one of us inevitably getting jealous because the other got something better.

That's what Christmas was to me for many years. When I was in high school, I had to be a little cooler than that so I didn't display as much excitement and didn't get up quite as early, and then Christmas started to change. The older we get, the fewer gifts we get (even if they're more expensive gifts, it's still a smaller pile and doesn't look as impressive under the tree), and then we move out and start our own families and the gift pile definitely pales in comparison. I think part of that lacking feeling I get now after Christmas is over is because I know it will never again be like those younger years for me. It's a little sad to look back on those nostalgic times and realize that you can't go back to that. But the other part of the emptiness I think is because all those years of gifts and excitement about new toys and competing with my brother and sister to see if one of us got more than the other or got better gifts than the other, kind of created this self-seeking attitude and expectation about Christmas that hasn't quite ever gone away. Even after I put my faith in Christ in the 11th grade and came to realize the true significance of Christmas, I could never really turn off what I'd always thought it to be.

Enter Brock. There's a part of me that wants to buy tons and tons of gifts for my child and let him experience the excitement and fun that I had on Christmas morning seeing and opening all those presents under the tree. Then there's another part of me that wants to not do gifts at all so he never grows up expecting things from people and never gets spoiled or ungrateful and so he values Christmas for its biblical meaning and nothing else. But thankfully, I don't have to choose one extreme or the other and the rational side of me has decided to take a balanced approach.

A few years ago, after Blaine and I had been married a couple of years, I read an article in a magazine or online or somewhere about an idea of how to make Christmas affordable, practical, and maybe a little more spiritual than material and I really liked it. The suggestion was rather than buy a bazillion gifts, to pick out only three things: Something they need, Something they want, and Something educational. The premise behind this idea is that the biblical story of Jesus' birth records the wise men bringing him three gifts: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Blaine and I started putting this into practice with each other because I thought it was a really great way to keep our spending in check (I really love to give gifts and that's probably the one area in our budget that I generally overspend because I can always justify in my head buying something to give to someone else), but it also ties the gift-giving at Christmas back in with the story of Christianity, which is the reason that Blaine and I celebrate this season.

So now that Brock is in the picture and this is his first Christmas, our goal has been to start the 3 Gifts from the beginning and continue on with that each year. I want Brock to learn that the part of Christmas that brings the real happiness and joy is not what Santa Claus brings or what's under the tree on Christmas morning, but rather it is what Jesus brought 2000 years ago and the gift that he offers freely to all of us. It's not about new toys or new clothes. It's about the opportunity to receive a new heart, a new spirit, a new life, an opportunity that Christ gave us when he came to this earth, being born as a human and later dying a cruel and unjust death so that we might live. It may sound like fiction or fairytale to some, and it doesn't seem like a logical story, the God of the universe comes as a baby to live as we live on this earth and to walk among us only to be killed and rise again after three days. Even as I write these things I understand how someone can have a hard time believing a story like this, but the Bible also addresses that fact:
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  (1 Corinthians 1:18-21, ΝΑSB)
So this is why we celebrate Christmas and this is what I want to teach our children. I want to give them gifts and I want it to be a fun time of year where we put up Christmas trees and lights and we make cookies and take pictures with Santa, and I don't want to remove any of those great traditions from the picture, but I want it to be clear that those are not what it's all about. Those things are not WHY we celebrate, they are just a part of the celebration. We don't celebrate our own birthdays because of the balloons and streamers and cake and gifts - those are things that we do to celebrate our coming into the world. Similarly, the celebration at Christmas is about Jesus coming into the world and those other things should help us reflect on him and remind us of him, not distract us from the truth. This is what we want to teach Brock, and this is what we hope he will eventually believe for himself, not because that's what he grew up hearing but because it hopefully will make a profound and meaningful impact in his heart one day.

Merry Christmas!
"The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”” Luke 2:11-14, NLT

Monday, December 19

Nine Months

Brock is nine months old today, which is weird because at some point my brain stopped allowing him to get older and I keep thinking he is only six months old. He has started outgrowing his 6-9 month clothing and every time I have to put something away, the thought goes through my head, "Why is he already outgrowing this size? He's only 6 months old!" Then I remember he's not and feel a little crazy. Anyway, he is actually nine months so hopefully it will stick in my brain now.

We had a checkup at the doctor today, which I always look forward to for some reason. No shots this time, just a little toe prick to check his hemoglobin, but I'm pretty sure he reacted worse to that than he ever has to the shots. He's a little dramatic in my opinion. He still weighs 20 pounds exactly, which puts him around the 50th percentile and means he hasn't really gained any weight since his 6-month appointment (tell that to my biceps though). And he is now 29 inches long, which is about the 75th percentile, so he's getting tall and thinning out (maybe he'll have more of his daddy's body type). Other than the weird man in the elevator who stayed standing right next to us after the other people got off (hello, unspoken elevator rules!) and who kept talking baby talk to Brock, I would say it was a good visit to the doctor.

Here are some of Brock's accomplishments and patterns for the time between the eighth and ninth months:
  • At 35 weeks, he started pull-crawling on his belly, also known as the army or combat crawl. He was inspired by the Christmas lights (in case you missed the video, here it is). Now he can really move himself around and can scoot across the floor pretty quickly.
  • He started waving bye-bye at 35 weeks, sort of. He does it randomly and doesn't always do it when someone is actually going bye-bye, but I'm still going to let it count.
  • We moved his crib mattress down to the lowest setting at 36 weeks. He's still not pulling himself up or pulling himself to sitting, but since he started "crawling" we assumed it would only be a matter of time before those other things take place and better to be safe than sorry.
  • He's eating all kinds of finger foods now: animal crackers, cheese, small pieces of our meals (which I keep accidentally referring to as "people food," as if what he's been eating until now was for something other than people). He really got the hang of the chewing motion this month and figured out that he shouldn't just immediately swallow everything that goes in his mouth so I've been a lot more confident about feeding him table foods.
  • He has gotten really interested in Piper, especially her tail. Every time she comes in sight he looks down at her and smiles really big. He laughs at her all the time and tries to grab her tail and eat it when it's within reach. He's gotten a lot more aware of and interested in his surroundings, in general, but I like how amused he is by Piper, in particular. She is not quite as enthused about him, unless he is in his high chair dropping his new finger foods.
  • We've started experiencing some separation anxiety this month, which is apparently right on track according to the What to Expect book. I read that it's just a phase and that he'll probably get over it within the next couple of months, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed because I don't want a clingy baby who will hardly let anyone else hold him and who always needs me in his sight (which is how he has occasionally been acting lately). He even had a couple of meltdowns in the church nursery and we had to go down because they couldn't calm him. Not cool.
  • As I mentioned before, he's now outgrowing some 6-9 month pajamas and pants and is moving toward the 9-12 month sizes. He is still in size 3 diapers though (size 4 at night).
  • He can pull from sitting to standing if something is directly in front of him and if we're behind him as a safety net, but other than that he doesn't even really show much interest in pulling himself up. I guess it's too much work.
  • This month, he started turning the pages of books himself while I'm reading to him. I loved it at first and thought it was so cute, but now I have to speed read to get all the words in before he flips to the next page. We can go through a 10 page board book in about 5 seconds.
  • Blaine and I are starting to see little flickers of understanding and comprehension when we talk to Brock. He doesn't really fully comprehend anything yet, but you can tell something is starting to stir in his little brain. He's also connecting things, like he knows what certain sounds mean. When we turn the water on in the bathtub, he looks into the bathroom from his room, or when he hears Piper shake her ears or scratch, he'll look for her.
  • He kind of moved back to a 3 or 3.5 hour eating schedule. According to his age, he should be able to go 4 hours between feedings, but I haven't really pushed it because I've noticed he spits up less if he eats smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Maybe we'll shift toward the 4 hours this next month.
  • He goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:00 at night and sleeps til 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. He takes two or three naps during the day, but I think he's probably about ready to drop that third nap now because it always seems to make him crankier when he wakes up from it.
  • We've started working on discipline this month because he's starting to get into things that are not for him and I can tell he's beginning to test boundaries to see how much he can have or do. I'm a little concerned about what discipline is going to be like for him though because as of now, when I tell him "No" he just smiles and thinks it's hilarious. Sometimes he'll pull my hair (really hard!) and I take his hand in mine and remove it from my hair and say, "No, no, Brock. That hurts Mommy." His reply is not, "Oh I'm sorry Mommy. I'll stop." It's, "Ha ha." This is going to be fun.
  • He might be learning his name, but I'm not convinced yet. Sometimes he looks when we say Brock and doesn't look when we call him other names, but then sometimes he responds to any word, so who knows? I'm not surprised he doesn't know it yet though because really we call him all kinds of nicknames, and this month I've had to intentionally make myself start calling him by his name so that eventually he knows what it is.
  • He's still trying to cut those top teeth. Ugh, and they are killers. Again with the dramatic thing. I'm pretty sure it can't hurt as bad as he lets on sometimes, but who am I to say really? I wish they'd all just come in though and we could be done with this teething madness.
My Milestones
I thought I'd end with a few of my own personal milestones that I've noticed this month:
  • I'm not googling as many things in an attempt to make sure he's normal anymore. I spent a good portion of my days on the internet the first several months, concerned about every little thing, and this month when I went to google whether Brock should know his name by now, it occurred to me that I've only searched for a couple of things in the past month: The name thing, whether he should be able to pull himself to sitting, and whether it's safe to eat Honey Nut Cheerios (babies aren't supposed to eat honey until after age 1, but apparently it's safe if it's been cooked - in case anyone else wanted to know). Only three searches in an entire month is really quite an achievement for myself. Yaay me!
  • This second milestone is not such a good one though. I've realized this month that I have forgotten A LOT about the past nine months. My friend Kerri (remember her baby shower I blogged about) had her baby November 18 and since then she has occasionally called or texted me with a question. Almost every time it takes me a while to stop and think about what Brock was doing in that first month and what things were like back then and at what point he started doing what. Even with my ridiculously detailed monthly updates in the blog, there are so many things I didn't write down that I'm afraid I have forgotten or glossed over. This is scary for two reasons: (1.) I'm much more likely to want another baby soon if I don't remember everything from the beginning, and (2.) I'm much more likely to have no idea what to do with another baby if I don't remember what I did with Brock.
  • The final milestone is probably the one that does the most for my sanity. I'm starting to realize the truth to the motto, "This too shall pass." In previous months, I can remember Brock going through a phase of some sort that was really rough and tiring and difficult to deal with and I would always get kind of bent out of shape because I would be afraid that this new thing was going to last forever. Now that I've been through several different phases and rough patches and we've all come out alive on the other side of them (me, more than anyone else... I'm not homicidal or anything), it's sinking in that they are just temporary difficulties and that they will pass. There's always something with an infant - teething, sickness, schedule changes, growth spurts, and just learning new skills in general - so there are always going to be ups and downs, and I'm just figuring out that if I roll with them instead of freaking out and thinking the world is turning upside down, then life is going to be a lot easier for me. It only took nine months for me to come to this conclusion. Sheesh.

Friday, December 16

Friday Photos - O Christmas Tree

Brock is really scooting around now with his army crawl and can get from point A to point B pretty quickly. Sometimes when I turn the lights of the Christmas tree on, he gets really curious and makes a beeline to investigate the strange green thing with balls and lights on it in the middle of our living room. I've had to move all the ornaments off of the lowest branches since we've already lost a couple to the hardwood floor. You'll notice I've delayed putting any gifts under the tree yet, mostly because I don't want to have to worry about wrapping them multiple times. But I do like seeing his fascination and interest and watching him try to figure out what he's looking at. It's fun to see things through a child's eyes.

I just liked how his little hands were folded over each other in this picture. He seems so content to be there.

Brock is the only human that Piper unwillingly cuddles with. She's still not sure about him, but he's really starting to love her.

Dear Santa, if this is my Christmas present, I hope you included the gift receipt. Nah, just kidding... I wouldn't take this gift back (well, depending on which day you ask me).

Friday, December 9

Friday Photos - See Rock City

As I've mentioned before, Brock loves lights. Lights and ceiling fans. These things have always captivated him since he could first focus and see them. Because of his fascination with lights, I've been excited to see how he would react to all the Christmas decorations up during this time of year. Unfortunately, he doesn't really notice them in the car because his carseat doesn't have a great vantage point. He likes the ones on our Christmas tree and on the outside of our house, but that's about all he's gotten to experience so far. So we thought it would be a fun outing to take him to see the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City. We got together with Brock's cousins, Anna and Taylor, and Uncle Casey and Aunt "LaLa" (Lee) and took a trip to Lookout Mountain last night to see Rock City.

All bundled up and ready for the adventure

His first view of all the lights. He was pretty amazed!

He wanted to touch every tree we walked past.

This face pretty much sums up how much fun he was having

Starting to get a little sleepy toward the end of the walk

Annndddd... this is around the time the babies reached their breaking point. Taylor was still enjoying himself though.

We did get a quick picture with Santa before the breakdown though. Anna wasn't too fond of him, and I think Brock just hadn't realized yet that some strange man was holding him. I do love that these two are so close in age. I think they'll have lots of fun growing up together.

Overall the trip was a success, and Brock really seemed to enjoy seeing all the different colored lights. I'd like to make it a yearly tradition to take them and see the lights, but maybe we'll just find some neighborhood that has a lot of houses lit up because it was pretty cold on the top of the mountain and Rock City is kind of crazy expensive! It was fun though, and I'm sure it's something Brock will remember forever ;)

Missing Friday Photo - Peppermint Sticks

Oops, I missed last week's picture again. I had already taken the pictures, and I even typed out the little paragraph below, but I never got around to actually loading the pictures or putting them on the blog. So here they are now from last week. Life is getting a little busier around here, but hopefully I can stay on track from now on.

There is Christmas candy all around my house, and Blaine has been enjoying it lately. With Brock's current "You've got something; I want it" mentality, Blaine couldn't just enjoy a peppermint stick this week without some curious hands (and a mouth) joining in. Luckily, Daddy shares well with others (now, Mommy, on the other hand...). Something about these pictures remind me of the movie Lady & The Tramp.