They Grow Up Too Fast!

Gianna in the Sunroom

It may surprise you, but I’m too damn sentimental.

Gianna and Clyde Looking into the Sunroom
Gianna and Clyde looking into the sunroom before she could get in there on her own.

I am. I may not tell everyone about it all the time, or show it, but I choke up way too often for my liking. All sort of things make me do it, but one of them is seeing Gianna reach milestones.

She’s growing up way too fast.

I took this shot a weeks ago when Gianna first figured out how to climb down the couple steps into the sunroom. She has been going up and down carpeted steps for months, but up until the moment I took this picture, she hadn’t tried to go down these ones. It was always a safe haven for the dogs and their loot.

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Her first time climbing down the steps took about 30 seconds–and once she got down there, she was so damn happy that I had to laugh out loud with her. The second time took about 20 seconds (which occurred immediately after she explored the entire room as if she had never seen it before).

By the end of the day, she could climb down the steps in about 1.5 seconds.

Now her new pastime is recapturing her socks and wash rags (which Gretel has been stealing for months and taking in there to lick and bite).

Of course now Gianna is in the sunroom all the time, looking out the windows, licking the glass, harassing Clyde (apparently it’s a very fun room to spend time in). This morning I caught her pulling handfuls of dirt from a planter and feeding it to Gretel. At least she didn’t eat any.

I took this picture through Clyde’s legs (he walked into my shot).

Gianna in the Sunroom

It’s fun to see her reaching milestones right before my eyes. I never thought I’d be doing this or that it would be so much fun. She is certainly growing up too fast. I can see how people feel bittersweet about their kids growing up.

Time freaking flies! I have to say that nothing has ever really brought it home to me every day so much as watching Gianna grow, especially this winter. I have been home a lot since Christmas, so we’ve been spending the days together. I think that has really accelerated  how much I notice her changing. With spring coming, that will change. We’ll get back to work outside every day, and she will go back to my mom’s all the time. I’m curious whether I’ll notice the changes more or less.

We’ll see, I guess.

Check out my follow-up post here: They Grow Up Too Fast! Part 2

Gianna Loves to Take Naps

I have said it a million times in the last year, but we are extremely lucky parents (thus far).

Most of the time these last few months, as she becomes more alert and more independent, she is actually often excited to get into her crib and take a nap.

This probably won’t sound like something important to most non-parents, but it really has been nice, especially compared to the months when she refused to nap at all some days. On no-nap days, she gets so damn tired that everything makes her sad, upset, needy, whiny, fragile, you name it. Usually this kind of thing ruins your evening more than anything, but still, to put it bluntly, tired babies suck to be around.

But lately, Gianna has been excited to take naps, and even hurries into her bedroom to do so:

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I tell you what. I sure hope this continues. Melissa says that since I took this video and posted it on here that she is never going to take a nap again. I sure as hell hope this isn’t the case.

*fingers crossed*

Feeling Bad For Telling Baby “No.”

Gianna Sad Face

Last night I made a nice Jasmine Rice Pudding for dessert. Gianna loved it (recipe to follow).

After giving her about 15 or 20 bites, I figured she had eaten enough. I mean, this was just dessert and she’s only 11-months-old. She doesn’t need dessert at all, and she certainly doesn’t need too much. Well, she didn’t agree.  She pointed at the bowl and gave a soft grunt, which is her caveman-babyspeak for “gimme.”

When I didn’t give her any more and told her she had already eaten enough, she threw her hands in the air and screeched. Again, I told her no. Then she wrinkled up her nose, leaned down closer to the bowl, and sort of growled. Yep, Gianna growled–she lives her life among dogs, after all.

When I said “no” and didn’t move to give her any more, she snapped back up and sort of swiped both hands at my face (as if that would get her any more pudding, right?). I could see that she was on the edge of a sudden outburst, which is a new thing for her (she’s just starting to explore asserting herself).

At this point, I’d had enough, so I gave her a very firm “no,” and drew her away. She reached for the bowl with such a desperate expression that I immediately felt terrible. Still, I pulled her back, deepened my voice, and told her she had eaten enough. Her face crumpled up, turned red, and she started to cry. For a second I wondered if she would try to actually hit my face (she considered it, I think).

You know what? I felt just about as bad about it as she did. I didn’t want to deny her something that would make her feel good. And here I was being the Big Meany who for no obvious reason (to her) insisted on preventing her from getting more tasty rice and raisins (and sugar). I wanted her to have more, to feel good, to make happy sounds.

This was a first for me, really.

For a second, I considered giving her more since it would make her happy, but reason and good parenting won out and I instantly knew she was done for the night. She didn’t need more, and I wasn’t going to tolerate her micro-tantrum by giving in. She didn’t cry long (about a minute) since I diverted her attention, and pretty quickly, the world was good again.

The moral of the story: I had to tell Gianna “no” and let her feel bad so she’ll become a better kid. She needs to learn that tantrums get her nowhere. And if that requires me to feel bad for her, well, so be it. As a parent it’s my job to do what’s right for her development, whether I like it or not.

What about you? How do you handle tantrums? Did I screw up? Did I do the right thing? What do you think?

Jasmine Rice Pudding:

This is so easy you don’t even need a recipe, really.
1 cup Jasmine Rice (you could use whole grain or Minute Rice, but Jasmine becomes creamy when you cook it).
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Skim Milk (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2-1 cup Raisins
Optional: add a bit of half and half to thicken it. I did tonight, but I don’t think it needs it.
It’s simple: just cook the rice until it’s tender (about 15 minutes), then add the other ingredients and cook on low heat for a few minutes (until the mixture thickens). It makes about 4 servings.
My grandma used to make “raisins and rice” all the time. It was good, but the Jasmine Rice makes this a lot better. It’s creamier and smells good, so that’s all I use for this and stir fry, which I have been making a lot lately).

 

Something Out of Nothing

Gianna in Her Yoda Hat

I like making something out of nothing.

Creating stuff feels good. It’s meaningful. It’s productive.

But despite all that, it’s just so easy to procrastinate. In this age of constant stimulation from tv, the internet, video games, Facebook, you name it, it’s simple to just plunk down on the couch and soak in other people’s ideas. I love wasting time just as much as the next guy–in fact, I waste way too much time playing Skyrim, checking my news feed for status updates, and watching Chopped.

In fact, I’m addicted to Foodtv and have been for years. Sometimes it’s just background noise, a backdrop to writing or working on MisCon stuff. But more often, it’s just a fun distraction that derails me from getting things done. Guy’s Big Bite is on right now, but I’m not really watching it.

My friend Amy made Gianna's fantastic Yoda hat so she could wear it to MisCon 25!

One tip that works for me: decide to spend 5 minutes doing nothing except brainstorming. Being a writer, it’s easy enough for me to take a break from my day and just start writing. You never know what might bubble to the surface in that 5 minutes. And if you’re lucky enough to hit on some good story ideas or figure out where your story should go next,  you’ll feel like you did something meaningful.

It’s like building a wall one brick at a time.

So today, I’m not going to play Skyrim, and I’m not going to have the tv on all day. Nope. I’m going to listen to Pandora while I get some business paperwork done this morning, and I’ll work on my novel this afternoon.

What about you? Do something creative today and you’ll probably feel good. You might nudge yourself into feeling so good that you get back to work on a project you’ve been putting off. You might build the motivation to make something out of nothing.

Then once you’ve done that, go kill some bandits in Skyrim!

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Hey! Gimme That Camera!

Kids want what they want, and they want it now. Should we just give in? Sometimes. Maybe. Maybe not.

Have you experienced other people’s kids running all over the place, grabbing your stuff, throwing it around, treating your house like a playground? Maybe you’ve seen kids doing the same thing in the mall or grocery store, wherever. I expect most people have dealt with these little “cuties” at one time or another.

I can’t claim to have all the answers. I sure as hell don’t! But I have observed one reason I think increasingly more parents let their kids run amok: FEAR.

I have seen a lot of parents who are afraid that if they don’t indulge their kids’ every whim, they might somehow screw them up for life. They think their kids need to run around without boundaries so they can develop creativity, independence, individuality. They’re afraid to assume a leadership position and tell their kids “no.”

I call bullshit on this “parenting method.” These parents are misguided as hell (and it drives me crazy).

These people fail to recognize that if you indulge your kid too much, give them everything they want, even babies (especially babies!), you make them the boss. You let them choose what’s good for them. If I handed Gianna my new camera, what would she do with it? Plop it in her mouth, bang it against something hard, then toss it on the ground, of course. That’s not good for anyone, since it might screw up my camera, and it teaches her that it’s okay to grab other people’s stuff. And where’s the creativity in that? There’s nothing creative or educational about grabbing whatever gadget you come across and “exploring” it by smashing it against stuff.

That’s what baby toys are for.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Kids need to make their own choices. If they don’t, they’ll become wishy-washy, indecisive adults. Nobody wants that for their kids. I knew a kid growing up whose parents ruled with an iron fist and never let him make a decision of his own. They second-guessed his every move, criticizing him all the time, cracking the proverbial whip over just about everything he did. As a result, he is one of the most indecisive, hesitant people on the planet.

I don’t want Gianna to end up like him.

And really, seeing the result of their dictatorial parenting method, I wouldn’t ever do that to my kid. I want her to make decisions. Even now, at 11-months-old, Gianna gets to make some. They don’t include just seizing the tv remote or screaming in the grocery store, but as much as she can, she gets to choose which toys she plays with, some of the food she eats, and even when she’s going to take a nap (if you can believe that, although it’s true).

So in all my infinite wisdom, (yeah right–what the hell do I know?) what’s my answer to all this?

Balance. Like everything else in life, it comes down to balance.

Too much free-roaming playtime and your baby might become a monster. Too much playpen lockdown and your kid might be stunted. You need to constantly monitor what you’re doing as a parent. Are you giving the kid the right amount of free roaming playtime? How about the right amount of playpen time? We often realize we haven’t had Gianna in the playpen for a day or so and have just been letting her roam free, so we put her in there for a while.

It’s your job as a parent to determine when your kid is ready to make certain choices. As they get older, they should gradually be given more responsibility, which allows them to make more choices. It’s your job to prepare them for adulthood.

In Gianna’s case, I want her to become a responsible member of society, someone who contributes to the good of everyone. I know, I know, she’s going to have a green mohawk, wear anarchy shirts, pierce weird body parts, maybe snort coke off mirrors, all that crap. I’m preparing for that eventuality too (boy, I hope that doesn’t come to pass). In order to make this happen, we’re striving for a balanced parenting approach. So far, so good.

Did I just piss you off? Do you agree/disagree? Thoughts? Please rip me apart now! Let’s get the discussion going. I’m ready.

Feeding the Baby: Boring Task or Fun Stuff?

Before having Gianna, I would have thought doing daily kid-related chores (changing diapers, dressing her, feeding her, etc) would be boring, humdrum tasks I wouldn’t want to do. I figured it would be like my own mind-numbing morning ritual of showering, shaving, and putting in my contacts. If you had asked me if I thought feeding her would be fun, I would have said no. I would expect it to be just like changing a diaper.

But you know what?

I get a huge kick out of feeding her.

Feeding the baby
Gianna loves applesauce

I probably love feeding her as much as she loves applesauce.

After doing a bit of thinking about it, I realized that I like it for many reasons:

1. She gets a lot of satisfaction out of eating adult food.

2. It’s a great way to take time out of my day to connect with her on a very personal level.

3. I like introducing her to new foods and seeing her reaction.

4. I love to hear her say “mmmm.” if she finds something particularly tasty.

5. It’s gratifying to see her not touch the spoon or bowl or anything except her water bottle when she wants a drink. (We have taught her when to touch things and when to leave them alone during mealtime. When I feed her breakfast, I like to set my coffee on the tray right on front of her, well within her reach. And you know how many times she has knocked it over? Zero. Of course I don’t walk off very far and allow her the chance to spill it.) There is just something about seeing her become well-mannered that makes me feel good.

I guess there’s also the fact that this stage won’t last forever–she’s 11-months-old, after all, and pretty soon, she’ll be using her own silverware and feeding herself more than just finger food. A friend recently told me that the first few years are a golden age and that I should really try to savor it. I have been thinking about that a lot lately, especially as I watch her make such huge leaps weekly.

Every time I feed her, I am reminded that she will be a big kid soon enough.