My Latest Obsession
As you may have noticed, photography has become my latest obsession. I've been doing a ton of reading on photographic technique and composition, submitting photos to online communities for critique and publication (so far, none have been up to snuff), and taking a ton of pictures. The question that's come to my mind a lot, though, has been "How long will this last?"
I tend to be very single-minded in terms of what I'm passionate about. A year or two ago, all I wanted to do was play poker, and while I still enjoy it, both my interest and my skill have waned considerably since Jason was born. Before that, it was web design. Before that, movies. All of these things still have a place in my heart, but in terms of active pursuits, I've moved on.
Will I stick with photography? It's hard to say. Based on my track record with hobbies, it looks like I'll probably cool again some time in the next four or five years. On the other hand, although I've only recently taken it up again, I've had an interest in photography since I started high school, which is coming up on 17 years ago now. Too, as long as I have kids in the house, I'll probably have at least a little motivation to document their time with me.
The fact that my skill seems to be growing pretty rapidly (in my somewhat self-congratulatory opinion) helps, too. It's gratifying to be able to see the progress in my work over a very short time. On the other hand, it's also been frustrating since I can see how much more I have to learn. Some of the critiques I've gotten have been difficult to take, even though they were both spot-on and quite civilly delivered. I know: this is how you grow, you have to start somewhere, etc. And I do enjoy the process. But sometimes the gap between where I am and where I want to be seems insurmountable.
Usually around that point I have to remind myself to stop being so melodramatic and self-absorbed.
I think I had a point somewhere in there that I was swirling toward, but I seem to have lost the track. Anyway, here are my favorites from the trip home this past weekend:
And the rest of the set:
Where Did Jay Jay Go?
We drove up to the Monterey Peninsula for the holiday weekend in order to visit family. As with any long car trip (this one took about 9 hours, including stops), we tried to schedule things to maximize Jason's sleeping time. We also mentally prepared ourselves for his inevitable crankiness. But, as it turned out, the ride went pretty smoothly in both directions.
In fact, Jason was surprisingly playful on the drive up. He'd do something cute, then laugh and declare "Jay Jay funny!" My favorite was when he started playing "peek-a-boo" with us. It went pretty normally at first--he'd lift his blanket over his head and Juliette or I would gasp in mock confusion. "Where'd Jason go?" we'd ask incredulously. Then down the blanket would come, and we'd start in surprise. "There he is!" we'd shout, and Jason would laugh uproariously.
This time, though, the hilarity of it all became too much for Jason to keep it together, and he'd start giggling while he was still under the blanket. He started prompting us when it was time to play, too. "Wheh dih Jay Jay go?" we'd hear, followed by a conspiratorial titter, and, sure enough, when we looked back he was covered.
"Oh no!" we'd exclaim. "Is Jason gone?"
A muffled "Yeah!" would sound from under the blanket.
"Is he in the car?" we'd ask.
"No!" he'd laugh.
Finally, he couldn't keep it in anymore, and he'd burst out from under the blanket with a happy cry.
He kept that up for a good half hour, all the while giggling at how he'd pulled one over on his old mom and dad.
No Shoes, No Shirt
We've reached a somewhat inconvenient stage in the development of Jason's fine motor coordination. His skill at using spoons and forks to eat is progressing steadily, to the point where he enjoys using them and even refuses to eat sometimes if we don't provide him with utensils. He's still not all the way there, though. Sometimes he has trouble spearing or scooping up a piece of food, his usual solution for which is to take the food off of his plate and put it on the table. That gives him a better angle, but also means the mess is spread in a wider area.
Jason also still has problems keeping food on the utensil while he brings it to his mouth. He does a pretty good job for being 22 months old--I'd say he gets there about 60 to 70% of the time--but that still means a fair amount of food ends up on his chest and lap. And it's been many moons since he's let us put a bib on him, consequently we usually have to completely strip him down after meals.
The upside, though, is that since we usually finish dinner less than half an hour before he gets in the tub, he just runs around in his diaper while he plays and we clean up, and, man, if that isn't cute, I don't know what is.
Picnic Tables and Parks
The Terrible... Ones?
One of the funny and wonderful--and sometimes maddening--things about small children is that they are completely incapable of hiding their feelings. Whatever they feel at any particular moment is completely apparent on their little faces. Now, as a parent, I'd love it if Jason's face always looked like this:
Even this would be fine:
Unfortunately, more and more often lately, Juliette and I have been seeing this:
And, worse for us, that face is frequently followed by a full-on, heels-kicking-on-the-floor tantrum.
He gets this face pretty much any time we tell him he can't have something or can't do something. "No, sweetie, that's not your toy, that's the dog's toy." Or, "Jason, you can't go outside and play with your water table right now, it's too cold." Or, "Mommy's in the bathroom right now, can you play with Daddy instead?"
Unfortunately for Juliette and me, Jason has fully inherited both of our stubborn streaks. Once he sets his mind on something, it can be very difficult to pull him onto a different track. He'll even throw his whole body weight into pushing one of us away if we try to thwart him. Sometimes he even hits us.
We're dealing with it the best way we can. Juliette and I have discussed and decided on our guidelines for what is and isn't acceptable behavior, and give him instruction on that every day. We require that he say "Please" and "Thank you." We praise and reward good behavior, and we've introduced "time-out" for when he breaks the rules, or doesn't listen, or gets too out of hand. We try to be consistent.
It's been kind of a mixed bag in terms of results, so far. On the one hand, he has gotten better about listening when we tell him to do something--the threat of a "time-out" is a pretty good motivator, especially because he knows we'll follow through on it. On the other hand, he still has breakdowns pretty frequently, and sometimes it feels like they're only becoming more common. The problem is that he's such an inquisitive and active kid. He always wants to be doing something or touching something, getting into new places and seeing new things. And when he wants something, that desire is both strong and untempered by the maturity required to delay gratification.
It's been a tough time, and both Juliette and I have been feeling our patience wearing thin. Sometimes we wonder what's wrong with him or with the way we've been raising him, since it seems like he acts out more than any of the other kids we know. We just have to tell ourselves that we're doing the best we can, that we don't know what any of those other kids are like when we're not around, and that this is just a phase that he'll grow out of.
It's not like he's completely awful, either. On the contrary, Jason is often sweet and smart and funny and fun to be around. I particularly love how generous he is with his things when his friend Amalea comes to visit--he's constantly showing her books and giving her toys, and generally trying to make sure she's having a good time. He also spontaneously gives hugs to me and Juliette, or to his friends.
It's things like that that keep me going when Jason falls apart and screams "No Daddy!" over and over. I just close my eyes, take a breath, and remember the feeling of his little hand patting me on the shoulder when he gives me a hug.
One night last week, I came home from work to find Jason already at the table, eating his dinner. That's not particularly unusual, especially when things get busy at the office, but what caught my eye was the teddy bear that was sitting on the table looking at him. He's had that bear for most of his life, having received it from Juliette's mom not too long after he was born. Up until fairly recently, though, he didn't show much interest in it; it just sat on a little Jason-sized chair in his room. So I wasn't expecting to see it anywhere else.
"Are you eating with your bear?" I asked him.
"Yeah," he said with a smile and a big nod. He then proceeded to hold up a handful of food to the bear's mouth and make chewing noises.
"Oh," I said. "Is the bear eating?"
"Yeah!" he replied. "Yeah, yeah! Bear! Hungry." The bear continued chewing his food. (The bear still hasn't quite mastered the whole swallowing thing, though--most of the food ended up on the table between his legs.) I smiled and set my bag down. I was just turning to say something to Juliette when I heard Jason tell his bear "I love you!" (Or, rather, "I yuh you!") Juliette and I just about died from cute overload.
For the past few weeks, Jason's interest in the bear has been growing. Every night when I run his bath, Jason runs straight to the bear's chair when I tell him it's time to take his clothes off. He grabs the bear and hugs it ("Hug. Bear.") and pouts a little when I tell him he can't take the bear into the bath with him. He throws it sometimes, or tries to take off it's red-and-white maple leaf sweater.
Of course, being the age he is, Jason's attention does wander. He hasn't played with the bear much over the past week, instead constantly asking for his tunnel and his soccer ball. Still, I have a feeling that the bear is going to be a consistent favorite.
After dinner that night, Jason wanted to watch The Little Mermaid. Moreover, he wanted both me and the bear to watch with him. He was very particular about where each of us sat: Jason against the left armrest, I on the middle cushion, and the bear between us. The three of us had a pretty good, cozy time.
Mother's Day Weekend
Mother's Day weekend was a little up and down for us.
Saturday morning we spent some time playing in the yard. Jason can't get enough of his water table, which is great since summer is rapidly approaching.
We went to Lake Miramar later, and decided on the spur of the moment to walk the entire 5-mile loop.
After dinner, because I am awesome, I volunteered to drive down to Mission Valley and pick up dessert from our favorite deli. The folks behind the counter were nice enough to let me take some pictures. (I should probably note that I didn't actually get one of these little pies. I don't know why. But the bread pudding and custard I did get were good.)
We had big plans for Sunday, involving Juliette sleeping in, then going out for breakfast and dinner. Unfortunately, Jason's stomach had other ideas--he woke up at about two in the morning and threw up nine times over the next eight hours. None of us got much sleep, though, as you can see, Jason did manage to catch a late morning nap on the couch. Just so you don't worry, he was feeling much better by dinner time and slept fine last night.
In an unrelated note, I'm trying to be a little more disciplined about which photos I keep, so this week's set is a much more manageable size:
I just wanted to take a moment, here where everybody can see it, to tell you that I love you and I'm glad you're the one I get to partner with in raising our son. I couldn't do any of this without you. Happy Mother's Day.
Jason has something he wants to say, too:
The Yard, The Friend's House, The Pool
A day late again, but here are my favorite pictures from this weekend:
The Mexican sage in our back yard started blooming recently. All in all the yard is looking pretty nice right now.
Juliette and Jason played with the water table on Saturday morning. I love the look on his face here.
Saturday afternoon we went and visited some friends and their daughter, Lilliana. This picture was pretty representative of their interaction--she kept wanting to hug and kiss him and he was like "Why are you doing that?"
Lilliana had these little boxes that I think are meant to teach colors since each one was full of toys that were the same color as the box. Jason was less interested in the boxes' educational value, though, than he was in wearing them as hats. (I don't know why, but he loves hats right now, and tries to turn just about everything into a hat.) Unfortunately, the boxes were a little snug on his head and he had trouble getting them off on his own.
I'm not totally thrilled with how enthralled Jason can be by the TV sometimes, but it does make it a lot easier to get a few things done in the morning. In case you're wondering, that's Ricky Gervais singing Elmo a "celebrity lullaby" on Sesame Street.
On Sunday we went to the pool for the first time in almost a year. Jason had unfortunately forgotten most of what he learned in his infant swimming classes and was kind of apprehensive about the toddler pool at first, even though it's shallow enough for him to stand up along its entire length. But he loosened up eventually and had a good time.
I had trouble winnowing down the full set this week, but here are some highlights from the rest of the set:
Next Stop, Vaudeville
Yesterday morning, Jason and I were sitting at the table, as usual, eating our breakfast. I was just finishing my English muffin, pondering the improbability of the silence of the last several minutes, when Jason came up with a request.
Me: Yeah, buddy?
Me: You want water?
Jason: (points) Doggy water!
Me: That's right, the dog has water. Do you want water, too?
Me: OK, I'll get you some water, but you have to say please, first.
Jason: Please. First.