Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Nature vs. Nurture

There's a longstanding debate about the relative importance of "nature" - an individual's innate qualities - and "nurture" - an individual's environment - in determining or causing personal traits. Watching Connor change has me fascinated in this debate. Some things, seem very clear. For example, when he wants to know where his dog is, he holds his hands out in front of him, palms up, with a quizzical look on his face and says "Dodo?". This very clearly comes from his second nanny, Emma, who used to do this. And, when I ask him if he wants to do something, of late, he's taken to saying "shu", which makes sense to me as I often say "sure" in response to Ed's queries. Both of these habits seem firmly entrenched in the nurture side of the debate.

There are other things about Connor that can just as easily be attributed to nature. For example, he's incredibly stubborn, just like his dad (and me, I suppose). Ed and I both feel like this is not his most endearing trait, but it's hardly his fault, so we try to cope with the force he is as best we can. He also seems very smart to us, just like me (and Ed, I suppose). We're a little more proud of passing this on.

But one thing in particular has me troubled. I am much more sensitive than Ed. When it's cold, I seem to be colder than him; when I stub my toe, it seems to hurt me more (of course, I did give birth with NO pain medicine, but that's another story). When Ed and I first met, he thought I was his brother, apparently. He would occasionally try and roughhouse around, to which - in classic wimp style - I would say "ow". Ed would then look at me and say "that couldn't possibly have hurt you" and then he would inflict the same pain on himself, "proving" that it didn't hurt. I had to explain to him that when you do something to yourself, you're expecting it, and it cannot possibly be the same. So now Ed treats me more like the princess I am.

A couple of nights ago, Connor bonked me on the head with his Little People lion. It was some sort of game that Connor made up, to which I told Connor "Mommy doesn't like to play that game. Please don't bonk me with the lion." He then went over and nailed Ed - right in the glasses. Ed also told him it hurt and asked him not to do that. Connor then took a step back, looked right at Ed, and hit himself with the lion, as if to say "that couldn't possibly hurt you". I would've thought a behavior such as this could be squarely attributed to "nurture", but Connor has never seen Ed do this. Apparently, "nature" runs deeper than I ever suspected possible. I'm very scared.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Squirt bottle

Connor learned the joy of the squirt bottle today. After a while, I told him he could practice his new skill with Dad when he took a bath tonight. Seems like a good idea to me!


Sunday, January 28, 2007


A local rec center has a fabulous swimming pool. It has a gentle slope in, much like a beach, which means that Connor can approach the water on his terms, rather than having to get in all at once.

Connor loves this pool. When we tell him we're going to go swimming, he starts talking about water [wahwahwah], and is very happy to put his toys in the swim bag in preparation. Typically, we stay a couple of hours, and usually he would gladly stay longer. Trouble is, after about that length of time, he is thoroughly chilled. That, and all of his fingers and toes look like prunes. Ed purchased Connor a wetsuit after our first visit, just to increase the chance that Connor had of staying warm.

Sadly, on Sunday, the water was colder than normal. This didn’t slow him down at first, but it certainly slowed Ed and me down. And, though we tried to take him out more often than normal, we had a tough time really warming him back up. This meant we had to cut our visit a bit shorter than usual.

Afterwards, Connor was completely exhausted – though that didn’t stop him from playing his new game of “uh-oh” with Ed in the backseat of the car. I think Connor enjoyed it more than Ed, which makes sense since Ed is the retriever of all things “accidentally” dropped.

Connor said his name for the first time this weekend - or at least something that resembles his name. He also decided that along with "dodo" and "bubba" [translation: doggie and bunny] he needs to sleep with "duh" [duck] as well. All I can say is, it's getting pretty crowded in that bed, but he sleeps through the night and is a breeze to put into bed.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

All things are possible

Yesterday, I forgot to bring my lunch with me to work, so I went across the street to get some Chinese food for lunch. The fortune in my cookie said "all things are possible". And today, at least, it seems that might be true.

This morning, Connor did not wake up until 7 AM. That is nothing short of a miracle.

I am giddy with excitement.

I am certain he is growing because he's also been eating like a trucker, at least at lunch - though dinners, even the ones not consisting of popcorn, have also been going pretty well.
But, lest you get the impression my little man is getting too big, as you can see, he can still fit inside my bathroom sink - and he seems to enjoy it. He can only go in there right before bath because he's likely to douse himself with water, a skill he seems quite proud of.

This morning, Connor learned the lesson that you should push tall towers of blocks away from your body rather than towards your body. Apparently a couple landed on his head - ouch!

Who knew TV could be so great?

For Christmas this year, I made a video compilation of photos from Connor's first 16 months. It's a project I hope to repeat each year, not only because it took me a while to learn to use the software, but it's sort of a nice look back at the year. At first, the video could only be played on computer, but thanks to some work Ed did, it can now also be played on a DVD player. Some odd things happened in the conversion, but it's certainly of suitable quality.

To our knowledge, Connor has never seen anything on TV that actually interested him (though we suspect there was a period of about a week where his last nanny let him watch PBS - he busted her one day by pointing to the remote and saying her name). He's been privvy to a few football games, but after the excitement of seeing a ball wears off, he's likely to just go back to doing something that in his mind is much more fun - like coloring, or reading, or running around wildly. All of this has changed. Ed popped in the DVD of Connor and Connor was completely impressed with himself. Anytime a photo of Ed or I came on, he would identify "mama" or "dada". And, with each new photo, he would light up and say "da" pointing to the screen. That's about 500 utterances of "da".

The best part of the movie was when it got to one of only three live action shots in the movie (I had trouble getting the movie from the camcorder to the computer, sigh). There is a little clip of Connor when he was just starting to walk. He was holding on to Ed's hands, getting ready to walk to me. Connor let go, waved his arms back and forth to steady himself, and then fell right at my feet. Connor laughed. If only Ed and I could go inside Connor's head and know what he was thinking. Was he thinking "Wow, that kid on the screen sure looks funny when he walks" or was he thinking "Wow, I used to walk like that? It's amazing I didn't break my neck." I guess we'll never know.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Snow Day!

There are few things Ed loves more than snow. So when we went all of December without even a hint of the fluffy stuff, Ed was starting to get nervous. But, to Ed’s great excitement, on Sunday, it finally snowed. I was happy for the sole reason that it meant the snowsuit I had purchased for Connor at a consignment sale earlier in the year would actually be used. Connor thought the snow was OK, but nothing all that special. It is, after all, cold and wet. But, it also made the playground equipment very slippery. Connor started to enjoy the snow a bit more when Ed brought us a big container full and we could play with it in our warm kitchen. It ended up being quite a project.


I’m not tired!

There’s a poem by Sandra Boynton where the mama bear is trying to get the young bear to go to sleep. Eventually, after hiding in many places around the house, the young bear drops.

Last Saturday, I went to a workshop on how to fire a gas kiln, and Connor and Ed did their very best reenactment of this little verse. Ed tried to get Connor to take a nap, but Connor was having none of it. Connor even went so far as to climb into a clothes basket and cover up, but at the moment he was about to fall asleep, he bolted up. In the end, Ed won the battle when he went to pick me up. After being in the car for approximately 30 seconds, Connor dropped. He was sleeping soundly enough that when we got back home, Ed was able to toss Connor into his crib where he slept for almost 2 hours. That’s one tired toddler.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Where's Connor, Take 2

I’ve been looking for Connor everywhere. Has anybody seen him?

Oh right…I left him with the freshly popped popcorn. That plus some french fries should make a nice dinner. No…I’m not kidding about that. Well, I guess there was some ketchup involved as well (and at least some idiots think that counts as a vegetable). Oh well…at least I got to eat a hot dinner – without a kid on my lap or standing by my chair saying “mama, mama, mama…”.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Red Pants and Mom's Coming!

Last year, my friend Kellee was posted in China. Upon Connor’s birth, she sent us some bright red pants, that presumably children in China wear. Connor loves these pants, ridiculous as they may be. In fact, he has loved them to death. Today, Ed tossed them in the trash. The seams were ripped, the embroidery was coming out, and they no longer reach Connor's ankles. Connor will miss his beloved "Chinese pants". They were always his first choice if they were hanging in his closet.

And, in case you ever wondered what Connor and Ed look like when I'm approaching, here's a good example.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Dear Mims,

Please send more cookies. I only have FOUR left from Christmas.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy 17 month birthday

Dear Connor,

This month, I think your dad and I finally breathed a sigh of relief. It’s as if we have finally figured out how to parent you – or at least we’re no longer worried about how much we’re screwing up. We have this very odd feeling that our lives are under control and we’re not under constant watch for whatever is going to go wrong or throw us a curve ball. Yeah, I know we’re totally going to pay for no longer being on constant watch, but hopefully we’ll always remember what a great month this was.

For starters, we traveled over Christmas and you slept…in your own bed…every night! The first night was a little rough getting to bed, in fact your cousins were hoping that you wouldn’t scare Santa off, but after that you and doggie and bunny hopped in bed and went to sleep. You seemed to enjoy hanging out with your cousins and, as always, you were a champ on the airplane (though I might suggest SLEEPING the next time our flight is delayed and it’s LATE).

You’ve become a master at opening and closing doors. When your dad comes barreling down the hall after you, you’ve been known to slip in the door and shove it in his face. He totally deserves this.

You have also learned that you can take advantage of the fact that your bedroom door is almost always slightly ajar. A few nights ago, you discovered that your skinny little arm can fit between the slats in your crib with ease. You can then play with the door a bit and it will open – tahdah! You’ve shown a clear understanding of your newfound power. For example, if you would like to get our attention, you now stand up in bed, open the door, and let out a wallop of a holler. It’s quite impressive. You also use the skill to check out things throughout the night, on occasion. Last night, you opened your door about every 3 hours, looked around and decided nothing good was going on, closed it and went back to sleep. Sometimes in the morning I hear you open and close your door a few times before summoning me to your bed with that sweet, sweet “mama” (which is a lot sweeter when it comes AFTER 6:15!).

When once the jokes were typically on you, now you’re playing them on others. The classic is getting a Cheerio or blueberry in your hand, holding your hand out to someone as you put on an extra sweet smile, and then after the person thanks you and tries to actually claim the item you are offering, you shove it in your mouth and laugh. You’ll also tell your dad a cow says “bah” and other things that crack you up.

I won’t go so far as to say you’ve become a “good eater”, but when you do decide to eat, it can be quite impressive. You might be testing out a career path at some meals, because you’ve been known to shove half a pear in your mouth – in one bite – and somehow you manage to swallow it. Oh baby, this could be big some day. Showing that you may not be my child after all, you started eating raisins. I think these are disgusting, even more so when you decide to spit them out. I’m grateful you seem to be done with the spitting out phase. Ick!

You’ve shown you have a real grip these days. I think your dad is never going to give you another cereal bar since the first thing you like to do when you’re handed one is squish it. But on occasion, you put that grip to good use. We went on a bike ride and you carried a toy giraffe for the whole ride. This morning at gymnastics you brought a little monkey with you, and though your dad assured you it would be easier to climb if you didn’t have something in your hand, you weren’t going to test that theory. Besides, Monkey probably wanted to play on the equipment too!

Although I have always been fairly convinced that you have a lot going on in your mind, it’s become very clear to others as well. You’ve started to play pretend with your toys and this is so fun to watch. Most of your stuffed animals and Little People have bathed, eaten supper, hidden, or participated in other activities. One of your favorite games to play with them is “ring around the rosie”. You say “ashes, ashes” and knock them all down. You have also shown that you might make an excellent only child because now not only will you kick the ball and chase it by yourself, you will also twirl around if someone sings “ring around the rosie” and then fall down. It’s sort of cute and sad at the same time. You also show that you know what’s going on by being able to follow all sorts of commands but this afternoon, Connor, you showed that you can solve problems too. I asked you to get me a tissue so I could blow my nose (I was folding laundry, trying to keep you busy so you wouldn’t be “folding” as well, which to most people looks more like “unfolding”). You went into the bathroom, but I could see that you couldn’t quite reach the box of tissues. So you unwound a reasonable amount of toilet paper, tore a piece off, and brought it to me. You also have an amazing ability to generalize. If you see a bird in a book, you will point to our pet birds. If you see a dog in a book, you will point to a dog toy as well. Tonight, we were flipping through a book and when it got to the “goose”, you bopped me on the head, as if we were playing “duck, duck, goose”, which is something we play frequently. Very impressive.

Your projects continue to keep you busy. Above, you're building a drumset. At the Building Museum, you were playing a typical game of "containers" where you dump the contents of one container into another. Only trouble was, the contents of your container were fish crackers, and the other toddler watching the game didn't seem to get the game and kept EATING the crackers. I got the feeling she was looking at you saying "no wonder you're so skinny kid, you have to EAT food, not dump it back and forth, geez". When the crackers were gone, you went to do some other important activity, and I'm sure you were thinking "what the heck happened to all those crackers?".

Ball has turned into a one syllable word most days, and I do miss the “bawa” days, but I’m getting used to the “baaaw” days as well. Some nights you’re like a zombie chanting “moooore” and I only hope it’s never in the context of wanting to suck my brains out.

This month, your dad made three attempts on your life, and you came out unscathed. First, he left the gate at the top of the stairs open. You and I were alone in the house, and I noticed you had been in the kitchen for quite some time – not making a sound. Because you are my child, I knew this could be cause for concern, so I peeked in to see what was going on. There you were, standing at the top of the stairs, looking down – but not daring to take a step. I didn’t know you could show that sort of restraint. Then, your dad left us alone in the house when he ran to the grocery store. He left a pot on the stove and the contents CAUGHT ON FIRE. The fire was contained in the pot, but let me tell you, waking up to the smoke detector from a nap is not fun. You correctly described the situation when you waved your hands frantically and said “hot”. No damage done. Finally, today we were driving in a strange neighborhood and your dad said to me “look at that house” and I did, and then I guess your dad had a change of heart at the last minute because he shouted “car” or “watch out” or something else, because as it turns out, another car was running though a stop sign, about to t-bone us. Because of your dad’s alert, I swerved out of the way. At first, I was totally grateful to your dad for noticing the car, but then he reminded me that if he hadn’t told me to look at this strange house, I might have seen it coming myself.

Before I started writing this post, your dad looked at me and said “you know, he brings a lot of joy into our lives”, and Connor, that pretty much sums it up.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Tools around the house

On occasion, Connor prefers to sit across the table from me at Isabella’s chair rather than his own chair. This is fine, except it means that Ed or I have to either keep reaching over to refill Connor’s area with food if he has finger food, or we need to move our chair so we can help him with the spoon. This evening, Connor found a very long spoon amongst Ed’s beer equipment. We’re thinking it just might work…

And, in case you wondered what Connor looked like when he saw the fire in the pan a few days ago, here it is. He’s practicing saying “hot” and waving his hands up and down. Hopefully he won’t need to use the word in relation to fire anytime soon.

Connor doesn't have pants on, because it's after the second diaper change since my arrival home. Given that there's little chance we'll go outside after dark, I figure it's not worth it to try and keep him contained on the changing table long enough to get his pants back on. Unlike me, he seems to actually produce body heat, so running around without pants doesn't bother him. To the contrary, he enjoys it.


Unseasonably warm weather

Are you kidding me? Is it really 70 degrees Fahrenheit - in January?!? If things keep heating up like this, we may be screwed come summer, but I'm loving it now. It's meant extra bike rides for the three of us and a great trip to the zoo. It's as if all of the animals knew they were on borrowed time as well. The Orangutan was climbing overhead - something I've longed to see at the zoo but never witnessed, the tiger cubs were scrambling all over, and the panda made an impressive sound as she snapped a large piece of bamboo in half. After a while, we were reminded why we should bring the stroller with us. Connor is getting a bit heavy to carry around and he's not always interested in walking.

While we were on the bike path, we stopped at a creek so Ed and Connor could share the age-old enjoyment of throwing rocks in the creek. We thought the giraffe that Connor had diligently carried throughout the bike ride was done for, but Connor held on. I'm staring to wonder if our scheduled ski trip is a good idea. I hear there's going to be SNOW there!


Monday, January 8, 2007

More Christmas...and burning down the house

On Christmas morning, Anna and Emily bounded downstairs to where Ed and I were sleeping to see if Santa had paid them a second visit. It was, after all, shortly after 7AM. (Connor had awakened at 5:30, but my dad rocked him back to sleep so the two of them hung out until about 7:30 or so.) Santa had already dropped quite a load of loot at their house, but I guess he figured he could pony up a little more at Grandma's. Each of the grandchildren received a pre-assembled gingerbread house. Lucky for me, Connor decided he wasn't into frosting and candy, so I got to assemble his! After putting him down for his nap, Anna and Emily helped put the finishing touches on the house. Can you see how relaxed I look? I'm not sure if it's the Midwestern air or having my parents around - or sleeping so late! - but looking at this picture makes me feel younger than many of the photos taken in the past year.

In between opening more presents, Connor hung out with his little people. Ed was able to combine the little people and a toy where you push buttons to make characters pop up into quite a game, sending little people flying all over the place. I guess this is what happens when boys play with toys. My mom reports that in all the years of the girls playing with this toy, a spectacle like this was never created. All I can say is - watch out! I have a feeling Connor and Ed have many more tricks up their sleeves.

Although Ed appears to really like Connor and me in this photo, yesterday's actions bring this into question. I put Connor down for a nap, and decided I would nap with him. I heard Ed moving about in the kitchen, but didn't think much of it. He headed out to the grocery store, and then about a half hour later, Connor and I were greeted with the smoke detector going off. Turns out, Ed had put some chick peas on the stove and left - forgetting to turn them off. This caused them to catch on fire - which caused enough smoke to send the detector into action. Luckily, the fire was very small and contained to the pot. Imagine - smoke detector wailing, Connor initially crying but then sort of getting into the excitement, and me grabbing the pan with my sleeve wrapped around the handle a few times and putting it outside. (The same hand, by the way, that sent me to the ER with burns a few weeks ago!) As soon as Connor saw the pot, he started waiving his hand up and down saying "hot, hot". "Yes Connor, very hot. Please do not touch." I think Connor enjoyed the dousing with water that came next. No damage done - except a nap interrupted. I told Ed he'd have to be more clever about attempting to do us in the next time. Thankfully, our smoke detector had a battery in it. I can name at least a few times in the past year when this wasn't true - because it had gone off during some regular use of the oven (probably me burning cookies) and not been replaced right away. Guess we'll be very diligent about that now!

We celebrated my mom's birthday with a trip to an old train station that has a science center for kids and a few Christmas displays. Amazing us yet again, Connor took a spin on a train with my sister's children. I didn't think he would go for being separated from me, but he seemed to enjoy is moderately - even when I let him get out of my sight as he rounded the track behind the tree. The conductor kindly let me hang out right by the track so that I could snag Connor from the train if he found it unpleasant.

All in all, it's hard to keep up with those girls!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Lost! One Siamese Cat...Answers to the Name of Doggie

Last Christmas, Connor received a stuffed animal from his Uncle Mike. Later that day, Ed and I pondered whether the animal was a cat or dog, with input from both Mike and Ed's mom. In the end, no one was truly confident, but we decided to call it a dog. Since then, I've been trying to get Connor to like "doggie", because every sleep book I read suggested that bonding with a stuffed animal could help a kid sleep. The theory is that they wake up, see their good friend stuffed animal, and fall back to sleep. I was certainly skeptical - because Connor is not often impressed with anything other than the real thing. After all, Connor has probably spent all of 60 minutes - in his full 16 months of life - sucking on a pacifier (and looking back, I think I recorded every one of those moments with excitement in this blog) but is quite fond of his human pacifier, me. But, in the end, I figured it couldn't hurt. Ed, also skeptical, correctly pointed out that the trouble with having a favorite stuffed animal is that if it gets lost, we could be screwed. happened. Connor finally started liking doggie, only to have doggie get lost somewhere between my parent's home and ours. So, we did what any good parents would do. We checked all the lost and founds at the two airports, begged the airline to search the plane just one more time, and then turned to eBay. Thankfully, Ed was able to locate the stuffed animal (the man can't remember his phone number but remembered the brand of stuffed toy his son had received a year ago). In doing so, he learned that our beloved doggie is actually a cat. A siamese cat. This is even more funny to us because when Anna and Emily (ages 9 and 7.5) first met doggie, they looked at us confused and said "that's not a dog, it's a cat!". To which I replied - in very undiplomatic fashion - "well, we're calling it a dog".

When doggie arrived from the nice eBay store, I opened the package, tore the tag off, put doggie back in the package and then brought it out to Connor. I told him doggie got lost at Mims' house and she mailed him back to us. Connor wore a really huge grin when he saw doggie. Ed's comment "and the lies begin". I am now bidding on two more "doggies" on eBay, just in case this doggie gets lost. Connor now loves doggie even more, so I guess it's true... absence makes the heart grow fonder.

When Ed first learned doggie was a cat he told me that I would have to break the news to Connor. For now, I'm sticking with the story that it's a dog.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Merry Christmas!

After a brief hiatus from blogging, I am now back in action. The excuses for the delay are numerous - the biggies being that today I was on a televised panel discussion. It was only CSPAN2 (reaired on CSPAN 3x so far!) - nothing exciting like ESPN or Lifetime - but I was very nervous about it and needed lots of time to think about it. Nothing embarrassing happened and a few folks have e-mailed to say it actually went well. Naturally, we traveled for Christmas, which accounts for a few more of the lapsed days, and then there's been a general lack of creative energy as I battle a cold for what seems like the millionth time this year.

Over Christmas, we were at my parent's and sister's homes, and it was really quite fun. One day, we were going to go to a mall that has a train that delivers your food - but the line was way too long, so we opted for the food court. My sister had already scouted the area out by the time we arrived and found a play area sponsored by Crayola. Connor jumped right into the area though it was filled with kids that resembled banshees. Much to our amazement, Connor didn't seem phased in the least, and actually went around the play area several times.

He also learned to say "Anna" at just the right time. While I believe he does know which one of his cousins is named "Anna", he was known to call both of them by that name. He also substituted "Emma" for "Emily" a few days. I guess if he doesn't figure out the "lee" part at some point, perhaps she'll consider changing her name. What do you think, Emily? My dad, Ed, and I chased the three of them around a playground that my sister and I used to play at. It was fun to see the cousins climbing around. Connor had to be taken to the car earlier than the bigger girls because I was worried about his un-mittened hands.

While vacationing, Connor took care a lot of projects, including stirring and sorting Cheerios for Aunt Linda. Her Tupperware and her dog were both big hits. Those, and the ten million varietes of cookies she plied us with on Christmas Eve day.

Connor napped through the wild part of present opening on Christmas Eve, but everyone saved a few presents to open with him when he got up from his nap. He seemed to enjoy tearing the paper off packages, but was more interested in playing with whatever toy was inside than he was in opening the next gift. He was able to make it through all the presents in a few days. By the time my mom's birthday came around a few days later, he was certainly willing to help her open more stuff - and he was very impressed that she got a whole bunch of fancy golf balls. The next morning, he kept talking about "ba-was" until finally, he found the package and showed me he was not talking about his "ba-was", he was talking about Mims's "ba-was".

Connor's bike seat was installed and since we are experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures, we've been able to take him on a few rides. Woohoo!