Friday, September 25, 2009

It was the naughtiest of times, it was the nicest of times...

The week has been full of ups and downs for Jacob.

On Thursday, we went to the playground at the Mall in Columbia so he could get out and run around (it's been rainy here for the past couple of nights, so neighborhood parks have been pretty wet in the mornings). He, Lucy and I went almost right at 10 a.m. when the mall opens, thus there weren't many other children when we got there. Jacob was ecstatic to climb and run all over. I kept Lucy in her car seat (which detaches from the stroller) and I sat on the perimeter bench and cheered on Jacob. He was enjoying himself a little too much on the fruit slide. The slide is a large vinyl slide made to look like a pile of large pieces of fruit. It's about four feet tall and I became really nervous when he started climbing over the top to the steep side where he could fall and hurt himself. Coming to encourage him to get down, Jacob kept telling me to stay with Lucy, i.e. leave him alone. Alas, Lucy did start to get upset, so I went to check on her. After a minute of calming her, I turned around and he was not on the fruit slide anymore.

I looked around and didn't spot him until I saw him climbing the stairs outside of the play area up to the mall's second level. I ran and got him and dragged him back, ignoring his protests. We got back to Lucy and I put him down. He wanted to go back to the stairs, so I grabbed the car seat. Lucy and I followed him, leaving the stroller behind. We walked up the stairs, which I thought was his final destination. Then he started off down the hall, passing store after store. I was afraid he remembered either the pet store (about two thirds of the way down the mall) or the carousel (all the way down the mall). He stopped about half way and decided he was done walking. Which meant that daddy had to carry him in one arm and Lucy in her car seat with the other arm. It was a long walk back.

He made up for his naughtiness at Friday's library story time. Jacob was rather sedate during songs and such as usual. When the scarves came out for peek-a-boo, he actually waited for the lady to come and then get his scarf. He even played peek-a-boo with it just like the lady showed us. When it was time to give them back, he walked up and put it back in the basket. Later, little egg shakers were handed out. Jacob was extra cooperative with that as well. He was even quite polite during the play time with the toys. While he didn't really share any of his toys, he was willing to trade or get a new toy.

After story time was over, Jacob wanted to go upstairs. I told him we couldn't take the stairs because of Lucy's stroller so we'd have to take the elevator. He made a beeline for elevator. We went up and walked around for a bit and then came back downstairs. As we left, Jacob asked for a puzzle. So we walked back in and got a puzzle. He waited patiently on the checkout line. It was a very satisfying trip to the library.

I hope there's more library trips and better mall trips in our future.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book overload!!!

I was reading Joseph Campbell's "The Hero With a Thousand Faces" and as I finished the first part, I came to a hard realization. I am in the middle of too many books right now. As in, I haven't been reading this many book simultaneously since grad school. Full-time grad school. What am I reading?
  1. The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell. I started reading this because I was interested in reading it in the future and there were three people who had requested the book before me at the library (the library has only two copies; compare to the 131 copies of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, a count which doesn't include the audio book versions and large print editions). Apparently those other people are speed readers because my reserve showed up in less than a month. Since it is from the library, naturally I needed to read it right away before returning it.
  2. Grimm's Fairy Tales, Grimm Brothers. I started reading this over a year ago. It's my bedside reading book. Starting and stopping with this book is pretty easy since it is a compilation of unrelated short stories. I usually read it if I need something during a daytime nap and nothing else is lying around in the bedroom.
  3. Don't Know Much About (R) Mythology, Kenneth C. Davis. This book is an anniversary present from my wife and I'm interested because I'm thinking of starting a mythology podcast (which is also the inspiration for reading Campbell and Grimm Bros.). Since I own the book, reading it has been off and on. And yes, there is a copyright symbol in the middle of the title. The author has written a string of similarly titled books about history, the Bible, science, etc.
  4. Fathering Your Toddler, Armin A. Brott. I've been reading this one for a while too, though I haven't picked it up for a couple of months. I'm trying to stay informed about what to expect with Jacob. Unfortunately, this volume has been taking a back seat lately.
  5. The Thought of Saint Paul, William Most. A book from my Christendom days that I started reading for the year of St. Paul (which ended in June, now we're onto the year of the Priest). The writing is a little dry and academic. He repeats himself a lot. I lost count of how many times he referred to Luther's "Sin boldly but believe more boldly" line from Epistle 501 to Melanchthon.
  6. Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahahaha!, Daniel Wilson. I started this book last week when I was playing with Jacob in the living room. He started playing by himself but didn't want me to leave, so I grabbed something off the shelf. The book has short biographies of real and fictional scientists who were crazy with varying levels of genius. The first bio was of Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, followed by a crazy but scientifically idiotic Soviet named Trofim Lysenko.
  7. I'm also reading a couple of different monthly comic books (Hellboy and his spin offs and some Green Lantern stuff).
I also have Steven King's On Writing (recommended by Grammar Girl for anyone who is a writer) from the library. This book is waiting for me to finish J. Campbell. It also was a requested book that I expected not to come for a month or two at the earliest. And Angie has a parenting book from the library she wants me to read but I haven't had the chance to start yet because of all the other demands.

Finishing Part One of Hero Has a Thousand Faces, I've come to the conclusion that I need to finish up some of these books before starting any new ones. To make this easier, I am going to return Campbell and King to the library and put the books on a "too read someday" list. Then I can focus on getting these other books read without the guilt of seeing all the little stacks that are forming all over the house. Wish me luck!

Four shirt day

Yesterday Jacob, Lucy and I went to Columbia Gym for a play date with Jacob's playgroup. It was a lot of fun, but the day was costly with regard to laundry. Specifically, I went through 4 shirts that day. Or more accurately, Lucy went through four of my shirts.

I got up early and showered while Angie was still playing with the children in the pre-dawn hours. I put on a red polo shirt figuring it would be good for the day. After joining the family for breakfast and other fun, I wound up carrying Lucy on my shoulder whose nose has been running on and off for the past couple of days. She ran on my shirt, so before we even left the house, I had to change into another shirt.

We drove off to the gym, which was difficult to find. Columbia is famous for hiding its businesses behind little hills or in office parks. The gym followed this model. Located in a business park, no signs on the street or on the building indicated where the gym is located. So we circled around a little till we were sure we were at the right spot.

Jacob had a grand time at the gym. The toddler program has an obstacle course for the young ones. A couple of balance beams, some padded ramps, a mini-trampoline, some crawling tunnels were arranged on the floor. The children tore through the course, and I mean that literally. The balance beams had little plastic disks to step on which were picked up and scattered. The crawling tunnels were large. light-weight and collapsible. I know because Jacob collapsed one of them. A couple of little traffic cones lined the final stretch of the course, but only for the first couple of course runners. Jacob found a bucket of chalk (the kind gymnasts use to keep their hands dry) and kept trying (and occasionally succeeding) in dunking the cones in the chalk. He also loved the long trampoline which he would just run down again and again. I tried to take some pictures with the cell phone camera. The action was too quick; every picture came out blurry.

Lucy was very patient waiting in her car seat while Jacob played and played. I had to run back and forth between her and Jacob a couple of times when she got a little antsy. So by the time we left I was more than a little moist. I changed into shirt number three when we got home. I downgraded to a t-shirt at this point.

They both went down for naps at the same time. I was quite happy about that. I completed a bunch of chores and was able to take a little nap too. I woke up with a start because I heard one of the children crying out. But then I checked on them and they were still down. I must have had a bad dream.

Eventually they did wake up and Lucy managed to drool and run her nose on my t-shirt. So I had to change shirts again for dinner time. Tomorrow, I'll have to do laundry.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jacob plays at the park

Columbia is blessed with many park areas for children's amusement. Some are pretty simple with just some swings and a sand box. Others are more elaborate. Over near Savage Mill is the Savage Park, which is entirely unlike its name. You'd expect gladiator arenas and pig-roasting spits. In stead, the park has nice baseball fields, tennis courts, grills, restrooms, and, best of all, a children's playing area. We went on Thursday after dropping off Aunt Rosemary to work. Jacob had a blast, but he definitely showed that he is his father's son.

The play area has plenty of slides to go on:

But after he discovered what he thought was the best slide, he showed no interest at all in the other slides. Even when I tried to encourage him to try the others, he would just go back to the tallest, steepest one he could find. And ride it again and again and again. Here's one of the trips, caught on my cell phone:

So how does this make him like me? Every time we go out for Chinese food or order take out, I almost invariably order cashew chicken, since it is my favorite dish and there was one really good takeout place that had the best cashew chicken I've ever had. So I am pretty loyal and very decisive (which is atypical for Reningers ordering food). Jacob is the same way with his slides. We'll have to go back to the park and see if he still sticks with the same one.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fun and Games at Autumn's Birthday Party

We had great fun last weekend at Autumn's birthday party at her house in West Virginia. One of fun games that we played (actually, all the games were fun, I don't wish to imply there were unfun games) was breaking open a pinata. The pinata was shaped like Spongebob Squarepants, popular kids' TV figure. Personally, I wish they had bashed on Barney, but that's another story. Watching the kids take a whack at the little yellow man made me think of some sage advice to pass on to others.

Typically, when we Americans go after a pinata, we use a baseball bat and we immediately try to port over the associated skills to win victory over our paper mache opponents. Look at this picture as Autumn prepares to take her first swing at Spongebob:

She's ready to start playing for the Yankees, if only they could afford her. So she took a horizontal swing at the cartoon icon and he just went spinning in the air. The rest of the kids all took turns using the same technique with the same results.

I've seen this pretty much every time a pinata is brought out: people pretend it is a baseball and try to knock the cover off the ball. At work once we spent quite a time trying to knock one out of the conference room. Invariably this doesn't work until someone starts to think outside the box. The new inspiration is usually some memory of a samurai flick or Indiana Jones cutting down the rope bridge at the end of Temple of Doom. The over the head chop takes place of the horizontal hammer. Results come up quite quickly, as we can see in this next picture:

I do wish I had pictures from the work pinata, it was truly priceless to see a supervisor's tie swinging in the wind along with the bat. Anyway, Spongebob dropped his load to the delight of the kids. See:

You can insert your own bad joke here. Just in case you were wondering, Jacob did have a crack at the pinata. He needed daddy's help. He also needs to learn the right end of the bat to use. Great way to train your son...where's Uncle Nate when you need him?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Worst of times, best of times

This morning was pretty rough. Jacob woke up early as usual (about 5:15). He stayed lying down for 20-30 minutes when I joined him in his room, but by 5:45 the lights were on in his room and reading had begun. We typically read until he comes to some passage or picture with food or drink in it. This triggers his desire to go downstairs and get some milk or a snack to start the morning right.

Things were going fairly normally until he finished eating as much of his oatmeal as he wanted at 6:30. For some unfathomable reason, he decided to be cranky and whine his way through the morning. No amount of playing with toys or puzzles, reading, having fun with Aunt Rosemary, etc., improved the situation. We finally went grocery shopping and he switched from whiny to hyperactive, which lasted till we got home.

He was still pretty hyper at home even after having some muffin and orange for a snack. Nothing seemed to placate him. Finally, Rosemary got him to go down for his nap around 11:30. It only lasted till 12:15 or 12:30, when Angie came home for lunch from work. Jacob was cranky again and it lasted for quite a while. Angie and I think his moodiness is because he is not getting enough sleep. It is certainly driving us crazy and causing us to lose sleep.

After Angie went back to work, Jacob and Lucy and I were hanging out. Lucy drifted off to sleep in the swing in the living room, so I decided to give Jacob a try at a nap around 2:15. We read some stories, laid down and I was singing to him. He had his foot up on the wall while he lay there, which was not a good sign at all. Finally, Lucy started fussing and waking up. Yikes!!! So I told Jacob that I was going to take care of Lucy and he should stay in bed and go to sleep. He always wants us to stay with him to fall asleep, so I thought there was little hope of this working, but Lucy needed me.

I left his room and closed the door. After getting down stairs and starting to soothe Lucy, I waited for Jacob to come out of his room. Ten minutes went by. Fifteen. Twenty. By this time, I accepted that a miracle happened and that Jacob drifted off to sleep on his own! In spite of a really terrible morning, this is a great sign that things may improve. Hopefully Jacob can get himself to sleep more often. Say a prayer.