Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Month Nine Musings

It’s amazing how much Jackson has changed over the course of the first nine months of his life. Sure, there are the obvious things – he’s much bigger, can do more things, and is much closer to a miniature person than when he was first born – but it’s crazy how much his personality and preferences over such a short period of time. You wouldn’t think that someone’s likes and dislikes would change so dramatically over nine mere months – but apparently with babies, today’s cat water is tomorrow’s car seat.

Balls. Take balls for example. Even two months ago, balls were pretty low on Jackson’s list of favorite toys in the house (obviously behind cat water, and definitely behind electrical cords). But today? They are second only to me as his favorite thing in the world. Part of me wonders if we subconsciously ingrained a love of round things at a very early age by bouncing Jackson on a giant exercise ball whenever he would cry. This may also explain why he loves to bounce up and down and exercises all day by crawling all over the house. But it wasn’t until this past Father’s Day when he first started paying attention to balls in earnest – when I got a football as a Father’s Day present from him.

Although it was far too big for him to actually play with at the time, I began getting it out at the start of this year’s football season as something to toss and hold with while watching football on TV (since I can’t just sit still… more on this later). At some point, I decided to play “catch” with him where I would pretend to throw the football to him. What did he do when the ball approached? The same thing any top NFL wide receiver would do – he smiled and tried to eat the ball. Accidentally, I may have taught my son that the best way for him to catch a football is with his mouth. There’s a pretty good chance this is going to end poorly with a handful of bloody Jackson teeth someday. Oops.

But the thing is, he absolutely loves the football now. You get it out, toss it in the air, he smiles and gets excited. You roll it on the ground, he crawls over to it and tries to stand himself up on it, even though it’s super wobbly (at which point I promptly tackle him and say “fumble!” to try and teach him the importance of ball control. Win the turnover battle!). When we were getting his nine month pictures taken last weekend, the number one thing that caused him to smile was pump faking the football at him and pretending like you are going to throw it at him. The nice thing about this? A football is pretty much the coolest possible “toy” for a nine month old baby. You don’t feel completely ridiculous carrying it around, it’s in no way girly, and it can be enjoyed by people of all ages, not just babies… that is, if I ever actually took it outside to toss it around. Unfortunately, given how often Jackson chews on the football, it’s basically become an “inside football”… since there’s a zero percent chance it wouldn’t end up in mud / weeds / dog poop within five minutes of throwing it around outside. I guess it’s time we become a two-football household.

Yet as much as he loves the football, it doesn’t hold a candle to these small balls that he’s had ever since he was born:

When he was younger, the only reason why he would pay attention to them was if you were making a clicking sound with one of them? But now, they’re his #1 toy. They ‘re small enough that he can pick them up and entertaining enough that they can keep him entertained for hours on end.

Remember when I compared my son to a dog a few months back? Well, there are now two additions to the list. Here’s the current tally:

·         They love people and want to be friends with everyone.
·         They spend their lives on the floor.
·         They eat food designed for them, but long for regular people food.
·         They will put anything they find in their mouths.
·         They require you to put nice things on higher shelves.
·         They are equally fawned over by the general public.
·         They both come home from day care exhausted from playing with the other babies / dogs.
·         Their owners spend their time cleaning up their poop.
·         They hang out under tables and eat food that drops on the ground (at least my child does at school – we’re very proud).
·         They both chase balls around the house for hours on end without getting bored.

Here’s the normal routine. Jackson crawls (scootches) over to the ball, picks it up, looks at it, tries to eat it, shakes it, loses it, it goes rolling across the floor, he races after it, picks it up, and the process starts over. We’ve received reports that our soon spends every waking moment at school doing laps around the room chasing a ladybug shaped like a ball. Again, very proud.

He couldn’t be happier. Well, almost – because much like his father (who must be multi-tasking at all times – reading the paper while eating, playing on the iPhone while watching TV, listening to music while working) and mother (who must try to accomplish at least 100 tasks on a never-ending “To Do” list every weekend), Jackson isn’t satisfied with just playing with his balls all day long... he wants to combine his two favorite things.

(Note: yes, there are about 1000 “that’s what she said” jokes in the previous few paragraphs, and the amount of times I willingly wrote about my son liking balls felt very wrong – but what other word could I have used? There was no other way to phrase it!)

Multi-Tasking. Remember last month when I mentioned how much Jackson likes to pull himself up on things? That hasn't changed – in fact, now he’s cruising around the perimeter of the couch, or from chair to chair under the table (and dreaming). Only now, he’s not content with only pulling himself up on things with two hands. That’s boring amateur hour stuff. Instead, in an effort to both maximize his fun in every moment through multi-tasking (or just to show off that he doesn’t need to use two hands anymore to support him), he will now pull himself up with one hand, while continuing to hold something in the other hand… preferably one of his balls (again with the way too obvious jokes! Come on!)

This has led to some interesting problems for his little head to solve. Early on, he would primarily do this with his blanket, which was a bit easier. If the going got rough and he needed to use both hands, he would simply throw the blanket in his mouth, hold on with his teeth, and safely use both hands for stability. No big deal. 

However, with his balls, this is not an option, which has forced him to do a lot of fancy hand-work, transferring the ball from one hand to the other while pulling himself up. Once up, he stands triumphant, usually shakes the hell out of the ball… and then inevitably drops it. This introduces a whole new set of problems, since Jackson doesn’t want to have to start from scratch sitting on the ground. Instead, the unintended side effect of all of this is that he’s now mastered the art of “taking a knee” – keeping one hand firmly gripped up high, then bending down with his other hand and dropping to one knee to pick up the dropped ball before quickly standing back up, returning to his happy place – standing up holding his recovered toy.

Of course, this isn’t to say that this still doesn’t lead to a good number of falls for the little Monkey. He’s just too damn confident in himself, getting too excited with the fun of standing up with a ball, which periodically leads to a backwards tumble onto the ground. The difficult thing for a parent is to decide what to do in these situations. If you stay close by to catch the baby, then they don’t get hurt, they don’t cry, and you don’t potentially get accused of child abuse when your baby is covered in bruises. However, this doesn’t teach them any consequences for their actions. Part of me wants him to fall, get hurt, and realize “hey, maybe it’s not such a good idea to stand up and hold toys until I’m a little more stable.” I guess hopefully this is a life lesson he’s picking up at school when I’m not around to catch him.

Holidays. This past month started a three month stretch of important holidays for Jackson – Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. From the point when we found out that Kate was pregnant, I’ve been excited about the prospect of Christmas being focused on toys again rather than sweaters and socks – but I didn’t really think about the effect that babies have on Halloween. It was Jackson’s first Halloween, so we had to do all the traditional stuff to ensure that we’re building a tradition (and that he will have photos to look back on and confirm that we didn’t cheat him out of his first Halloween).

Up first was carving a pumpkin… which ended up being just cutting two holes in a pumpkin for the sake of torturing our child for a photo op. Still, it’s a Halloween tradition that we successfully checked off the list.

Up next was getting Jackson a costume. We decided long ago that he had to be a Monkey – since that’s what we call him every day anyways – but didn’t really factor in that he would absolutely hate wearing the costume. I think he kept the full outfit on for a total of three minutes on Halloween day… but that was more than enough time to get about 100 pictures of him wearing his monkey suit. The good news was that we were able to repurpose this outfit on the following weekend, when it was super cold and we were going to the zoo. Turns out, a monkey Halloween costume is basically a snowsuit with fur on the outside, and by far the warmest article of clothing that Jackson owns. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll be wearing it again to play in the snow this winter. I should also note that the day he wore this to the zoo, he was by far the most popular exhibit in the entire place. Everyone absolutely loved it.

The one thing that Jackson didn’t get to partake in this Halloween? Eating candy. At this point in his life, we’re feeding the Monkey a ton of different things – but it’s all pretty much healthy whole foods. Fruits. Vegetables. Cheese. Yogurt. Cheerios. While he absolutely loves pretty much all food items (especially Cheerios – we’re fairly certain that left to his own devices, he would sit and eat an entire box one Cheerio at a time over the course of a 24 hour period without stopping), none of them are really candy or special treats. So in honor of Halloween, we busted out Avocado.

If I went trick or treating today and someone gave me an avocado instead of candy, I would give them a hug. Granted, I’m a boy and don’t get worked up over sweets like every female I know, but I’d take a nice bowl of guacamole over pretty much any food in the world. Much like a football being the best possible toy for a baby (for me), Jackson’s love of avocados also works out very nicely in my favor.

First off, they’re the world’s most perfect baby food. You don’t need to keep them cold. You don’t need to defrost or warm them up before eating them. They don’t easily smash. When you cut them in half, it basically becomes a bowl to serve from… and whatever Jackson doesn’t finish, I get to eat. Everyone wins! Next time we go on a trip with Jackson, I’m leaving the jars of baby food at home and brining a bag of avocados.

Speaking of which…

Cruisin’. Against all logic and common sense, in two weeks we embark on a family cruise… with Jackson coming along. His inclusion on the trip was a topic of much debate and consternation in our household over the past few months. After all, he is a member of the family… but given the choice between a Caribbean cruise and chasing a ball around our living room, it would be no contest as to which he would prefer. Leaving the Monkey at home would be infinitely easier, we’d be more able to cut loose and have fun all day every day, and it would be considerably cheaper (they charge full price for a baby to go on a cruise! Are you kidding me!?).  On the other hand, the wife would probably be in tears missing him every day and in intense physical pain since she’s still breast feeding him… which would pretty much counteract any potential fun to be had on the cruise.

So in the end, we decided that our first family vacation is going to be a week long cruise of the warm waters of the Caribbean. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

·         Jackson hates airplane rides like he hates car rides.
·         Jackson screams the entire plane ride, causing people to throw things at me.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump on the flight, forcing us to perform a tricky mid-air change maneuver.
·         Jackson gets sea-sick on the cruise.
·         Jackson falls overboard.
·         Jackson screams during every two-hour dinner.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump during a fancy dinner, forcing us to change a diaper mid-meal (yummy!)
·         Jackson stains all his (and my) clothes within the first two days.
·         Jackson doesn’t sleep for seven straight days in a foreign crib.
·         Jackson eats two pounds of sand on the beach.
·         Jackson is afraid of the beach, like he is afraid of grass.
·         Jackson is afraid of the ocean.
·         Jackson gets eaten by a shark.
·         Jackson gets stung by a sting-ray.
·         Jackson gets sunburn.
·         Jackson takes a huge dump on the beach, forcing us to perform a tricky beach change attempting to avoid getting sand in his diaper.

Like I said, there’s almost nothing that can go wrong.

The good news is, this is a win-win situation.

If Jackson is well-behaved and loves the beach, it’s going to be a great time where we make a ton of memories and he’ll be able to go back to school afterwards and brag to his classmates about how awesome his parents are (“Oh, your mom and dad took you to the aquarium this weekend? That’s cool. I went to the f-ing ocean!”)

If Jackson starts checking off the “what could possibly go wrong list” above like his mommy on a To Do List, next month’s blog could be the greatest of all-time and approach old Lost-blog lengths.

To be continued!