Friday, December 30, 2011

Dawn of a new year

Well, a new year is just about upon us. That means a time to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be.

First off, we are blessed and have much to be thankful for. We have two great, healthy and growing boys, we have loving families and friends, we own a house that is not underwater, we are never in want for food, and although there is inevitably something we'd like to have or somewhere we'd like to go, we have so much already. We have our faith, thanks to a neat church with fun, caring people. We have much to sustain us. Life, on balance, is good.

Not that there aren't trying moments. If you ask me without thinking to come up with two words to describe 2011, I would probably say fatigue and patience. Fatigue, and I mean the overwhelming kind, is a direct result of overseeing, guiding, managing, teaching, loving, nurturing, counseling, disciplining, nursing, shushing, bathing, picking up after, cleaning up after, running after, and repeating many of the same steps over and over and over again. It is nonstop, and it is taxing.

Hence, the fatigue. Yet in this fog of too little sleep and too much stress is a bounty of rewarding moments, small and large. In Nathaniel's world, the changes in 2011 have come fast and furious: New words and phrases – "That's disgusting," "You're silly," "Santa Claus" and the consequences of being naughty. New songs, many of them learned at school – "the clean up song," which goes: "Clean it up, (cluck tongue twice), clean it up/ you can make it fun to do, and your friends can help you, too/ clean it up, clean it up." A new way to sit, "Crisscross, applesauce," to deter him from squatting in the inverted "W" position, which is supposedly bad for hip development. New books – The "Little Critter" series, Dr. Seuss and others. Increased coordination: Shooting a basketball by holding the ball over his head and aiming it for the hoop, learned after watching one of Uncle Matt's players shoot a free throw in a game. New dance moves: from pirouettes learned by watching dancers at a downtown holiday festival to break dance moves learned from who knows where. This is just a taste of all that our 3-year-old picked up in 2011. I can only imagine that the learning will only accelerate in 2012.

As for Isaiah, the list may not be as long, but the advances are equally noteworthy. He can bounce a ball and corral it with admirable coordination. He can "sprint crawl," meaning that he can hustle floor bound nearly as quickly as some can walk. He can take a few halting, wobbly steps at a time. He can eat – boy, can he eat! Isaiah packs away as much as Nathaniel and frequently, even more. He stuffs so much into that little mouth of his that his cheeks bulge like a chipmunk's. Sometimes, he packs food in so rapidly that he chokes himself. I'm not kidding. With the synchronized rhythm of both hands moving food to mouth, it's like watching an assembly line of eating. The kid packs it away, and he has the belly to show for it. And, when the feeding has ended, Isaiah is always the most content person in the room. He beams, he laughs, he coos. Like his daddy, few things make him happier than having conquered a good meal. At 1, I would imagine that the appetite will remain in high gear in 2012. We can expect a slew of other milestones from our youngest in the new year.

I am glad to be a witness to it.

Happy new year, everyone!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in Iowa

Merry Christmas, everyone, from Iowa. We're in the Hawkeye State yet again for this special time, celebrating a very important birth with Michelle's family, Midwesterners through and through. Like many other parts of the northern United States, this Christmas seemed to sneak up on us, fooled by a stretch of unseasonably warm weather in December. Even here in Cedar Rapids, there is no snow on the ground on Christmas in as long as many can recall, which has underscored the oddity of it all. Despite the relative warmth, it's always great to know there's a time when family travel home to reconnect and enjoy each other's company.

This Christmas has been especially gratifying, because our boys are having a ball with their cousin, Kenley, who comes courtesy of one of Michelle's brothers and our sister-in-law. Kenley is about a year and a half, between Nathaniel (3) and Isaiah (14 mos.). She and Nathaniel have just reached the ages where they recognize each other and play together, albeit intermittently and with regular bouts over each other's toys. Still, it's a start to a beautiful friendship, and by next year, Isaiah also will be in the thick of it. Watching the cousins is clearly a highlight of visiting.

So, while it may not feel necessarily like Christmas, I would suggest that the warmth of family and the joy of cousins frolicking to and fro are largely what Christmas is all about. And we have that in spades.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Two Birthdays

Well, that was quite a break. Not really sure what happened there. There was Thanksgiving, then my birthday (on a Wednesday ... ugh) and who knows what else. Life intervenes, like a sodden guest who staggers into your home each night. Oh yeah, and the whole family is sick. What fun!

Yes, the sickness bug has the Lewises in its clutches. These times are trials, really: The children unable to understand why they feel so crappy. The parents gnash their teeth as the little ones spin out of control, trying to keep themselves composed amidst grand, theatrical and emotional unraveling. It's a tightrope.

I think we've negotiated that thin line pretty well in previous episodes. Or, perhaps my memory is blocking out the unpleasantness of it all. Anyway, this wave has seemed particularly intense. As evidence, I offer my wife.

For the past two days, when I have arrived home from work, Michelle has bolted from the house. The first time, she took off to the grocery store. The second time, she took off early to her job, which normally she would wait until the last possible moment to go in. The reason? The children, sick and cranky, are driving her mad.

It's uncharacteristic behavior from Michelle, who is as stalwart and stoic as they come. So, Nathaniel and Isaiah really must be doing a number on her. The thing is, it just seems as if they have colds, no fever for either at any point. But they've been miserable, and for the days that Michelle has been home alone with them, they've made things miserable for her, too. Isaiah has been clutchy, wailing if he is not being held at all times. Nathaniel is wrapped in this death spiral in which the worse he feels, the more he resists sleeping. Remember my point about not being able to understand that you're sick? Natty doesn't get it that the best thing he can do for himself is rest. So, you have little mister cling-on and little mister hyper-erratic. Take your pick. Better, take 'em both.

Compounding all this, we're desperately trying to get them better (and ourselves, too) before we make our annual, Christmastime road trip to Iowa. That's 22 hours in the vehicle, folks. We don't want crying children.

Well, that was a lot of pissing and moaning. Let's end this post on a happier note, shall we? With that, here are some oh-so-fun pictures from Nathaniel's oh-so-fun outdoor birthday party with a bounce house that we bought at discount. Isaiah also had a fine birthday, feted with cake and ice cream and family. His bounce house birthdays are to come.

Natty bouncing

Bouncing with neighborhood friends

Let him eat cake

Isaiah at one