Thursday, October 25, 2007

Milestones, pt VI

Justin turned 4 months old yesterday, which means it's time for the next milestone check.

4 months
• Smiles, laughs
• Can bear weight on legs
• Coos when you talk to him

(1) seems like he's been smiling forever, but he is just starting to consistently make noises that resemble a laugh (2) for sure, he's got legs like a tank (3) I'd say he's a little past cooing... and he does it whether you talk to him or not!


5 months
• Distinguishes between bold colors
• Plays with his hands and feet

(1) Seems to do so based on what catches his attention, but of course we can't know for sure, (2) Started this a couple of weeks ago. He says his feet taste like chicken.


6 months
• Turns toward sounds and voices
• Imitates sounds
• Rolls over in both directions

(1) Yes, (2) No, and (3) No. The turning towards sounds is totally cool... but even cooler is that he seems to be getting familiar with his name. Say Justin and his head will swivel more so than with any other word. I guess it helps that he's hearing it twice as often now that 2 outta 3 kids in daycare are named Justin. As for "imitates sounds", I don't think he's there yet... but the coincidence of his "words" sounding like what you just said seems to be slightly increasing every day. It also amazes me how much he studies your eyes and mouth when you talk to him. It's like he's really trying to pick up the pattern.

Other than those milestones, he is still working towards standing and sitting. The two newest "toys" we bought last week should help towards both of those goals. He's not too fond of the Bumbo, but he'll tolerate it if you hang out with him. For the most part, the problem is that (just like with everything else) he tries to stand up in it rather than stay seated. On the other hand, he seems to be having a blast with the Baby Einsteen Jumper. The sunflower teether on there is his new best friend, and the range of movement it allows is really forcing hiim to learn to stabilize / balance on his own way more than his walker was (which he hasn't used in weeks).

The two "Emerging Skills" listed for 4 months (i.e., "1/2 of kids can do") are grasping toys, and rolling over from tummy to back. As I mentioned before, he is grasping pretty much EVERYTHING. It started two weeks ago while my parents where here when he grabbed the hanging keys on the activity mat and wouldn't let go (that was a first). And at this point, I'd wish you good luck if you were trying to unravel his monster grip from anything he gets a hold of.

On the other hand, rolling over from tummy to back does not seem to interest him at all. But then again, I've definitely stunk lately when it comes to giving him consistent tummy time. We'll have to put that back in his busy schedule somehow... I'll see if we can squeeze it in somewhere betweem his bath time, photo shoots, movie roles and interviews. Hey, the boy is a superstar. What can I say?

No autographs please.

Justin practicing his "no comment" face for the press

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Inside Out

We took Justin to the beach for the second time. It was a little chilly, but he had a lot of fun. He said it was a lot brighter and way more spacious than he remembered from his first trip to the beach. After another look at the photos from his first trip there, I'd imagine that he was right.

Justin's Crew

Here are some photos from Justin's first week of childcare at Sharita's ("Mrs. Rita's") house. In all, the week went great and it seemed like Justin enjoyed himself while spending time with his new buddies. From youngest to oldest, the clan consisted of Aurora (6 weeks), Justin Alexander aka Baby Justin (3 months), Big Justin (11 months), and DJ (23 months). Aurora was only hanging out with them while her childcare provider was on vacation, so usually it will be just the three boys.

As you can see from the fourth photo, Justin has switched his hobby from blanket wrestling to feet grabbing. That's pretty much all he wanted to do over the past week. V says I cheated on this one since I've been trying to give him his feet for about a month now. But of course it wasn't until I left him alone and forgot about the feet thing that he started to show interest and began perpetually swiping at his limbs. It started with the knees on Monday, and it seemed like he got stronger and more flexible each day. By Wednesday he was grabbing his toes consistently, and by Friday (unfortunately I missed it but) V witnessed what was probably the first dip of a toe in his mouth. With all the constant grunts, strain and struggle it was pretty comical how hard he had been working all week to get one of his feet in his month. If nothing else, he was determined! So now that he has accomplished his goal and knows what they taste like, we'll have to wait and see if his interest wanes or not (I doubt it).

Watching DJ and Big Justin motor around still hasn't inspired him to crawl yet, but he is enjoying his tummy time way more than usual and is also propping himself up higher than before. It also seems like the consistency of a daycare schedule has improved his sleeping patterns. Granted, he stopped waking up for a middle-of-the-night (i.e., around 2am) feeding at least a month ago (yes!)... but he's never been this accurate. He's asleep for the night by 8pm as usual, and sometimes as early as 6 or 7. But this past week he was unbelievably precise about waking up for his AM feeding at 4:30AM on the dot. I told V that I think we should check underneath his bed... "I think the boy has an alarm clock in there." He is still getting his 8-hours-plus, but the weekend has thrown him off a bit. We'll see what happens once Monday rolls back around.

In other news, Justin's teething process is becoming more obvious. Still everything goes to the mouth, and now he has started biting down on the nipple of his bottle to try soothing the pain. The only thing that has struck us as odd throughout this whole process is that it seems like his BACK teeth are the ones that are coming in. The gums there are white, and if given a finger to chew on, this is the only area where he likes to smash down for comfort. Of course it would be absolutely bizarre and against all logic for his back choppers to surface first. But as I told V, nothing surprises me with this boy. He's so unusual that it would almost make sense if his wisdom teeth came in first.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Say What?

Here's Justin @ about 3 months old. His latest movie answers the question, "When Does Justin Talk?"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Blog... What Blog?

Who's got time to keep up with a blog?! The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind for me and V... which of course now puts me in the dreaded position of trying to figure out how to best summarize 17 days of break-neck-speed activity in a way that is actually intelligible and reader-friendly. Aside from the three entries that I planted just before this one, it seems like it's been forever since the last post was published.

Things actually slowed down a couple of days ago. It has just taken me that long to figure out what in the world I was going to write. Well, I never did figured that out, but figured that I better just jump in with the highlights and let the details sort themselves out. Otherwise I'd wait forever and the blog would never get updated again.

Justin Alexander
I'm happy to announce that we have not broken our new toy yet; Justin is still alive and well. Most notably, he endured his first "common cold" about 10 days ago. Coughing, congestion, snot nose... the whole nine yards. The boy was a mess! But he handled it well and I think he looked and sounded more miserable than he really was. Never really got fussy, and fortunately never broke much of a fever. Of course mommy got sick too since she couldn't stop kissing on him... But then again, it is still debatable as to who got who sick. It was all the same to me though; double doctor duty until everyone was back up to par. And if nothing else, at least we now know that his immune system passed it's first test with flying colors.

No More Novelas
Probably the biggest news over the past two weeks... Millie is no longer our baby sitter. As it turns out, she only took the job in order to save up enough money to pay her bills and get her water and lights turned back on. She also needed a place to bathe while her water was shut off (which explains the wet towels and wash clothes tucked in the back of the closet)... And so once she made enough money to pay her bill collectors, she simply left and never came back.

Okay... that's not exactly true... but honestly speaking, to me the truth sounds just as ridiculous and so I figured I'd spare you the details and make up my own story. In the end, Millie did indeed leave unexpectedly over some foolishness; leaving V and I scrambling to find a new childcare provider dead smack in the middle of the semester. It was kind of crazy around here for about 10 days as we zigzagged between work, child care interviews and temporary sitters (much love to Yanna, Tanya, Cuadra, Mimi and my student "Ms. Britt" for coming thru in a pinch). On a day when back-up plans A, B, C, D, E, F, AND G all fell through at the same time (Good Ol' Murphy's Law), Justin actually ended up in class with me at the University. Talk about adventure. That was definitely one for memory lane.

In the end, our patience (and hustle) paid off as I don't think we could've landed in a better situation when it was all said and done. As of this coming Monday, Justin will start his term as president of what seems like a phenomenal home childcare program (okay, so he won't be president... but if the other kids could vote I'm sure he'd be elected). In terms of available hours, price, convenience of location, qualifications, and the amount of developmental care that he'll be getting; it's hard to imagine that we could have found anyplace better... and trust me, we saw a lot of daycare programs over the past few weeks. I feel like an expert now.

In all honesty, even though I'm happy to be done with the "Millie era", I still have to (grudgingly) admit that everything has its season. My guess is that she was exactly what we needed for that particular time. But now Justin is definitely at a point in his activity level and mental development to where he doesn't need a "babysitter" anymore (i.e., feed, hold, and watch tv)... but he needs more structure than what we had set up for him in our absence... Or as Mrs. Rita put it, at this point he needs every opportunity possible to "stimulate his physical, intellectual, social and emotional growth in a comfortable environment." For me, the biggest thing I'm looking forward to is more constructive interaction for him with both adults and (especially) children. In fact, I've told V for a while now that I think he is "so ready" for some interaction with other little people. This was quickly confirmed during our interview process and trips to the different daycare centers. It was his first time around other people his size and he seemed totally confused, interested and enthused at the same time... totally amused by the presence of dozens of other little people that talked, walked and looked just like him. He was totally beside himself, and you could almost smell the smoke as the gears in his head turned at lightning speed trying to process it all. I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Back to the daycare though... There are only 4 kids total, including Justin. And the hours are great, too. To be honest, it was nice having him with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays (Millie only worked MWF)... but I'd be lying if I said that trying to juggle my "real job" and Justin's ever changing needs and temperament wasn't wearing on me during those "work from home" days. Something had to give, and of course it was my job every time. In addition to that, I also didn't realize until it was all said and done how much the lack of flexible hours on MWF (late start time, early completion time) was wearing on me in the previous situation... leaving me either hustling to get to work ontime, or hustling back home to relieve her of her duties. Again everything has it's season, and it definitely served it's purpose (I cannot deny that she took great care of Justin). But in hindsight, I sure am glad that seasons do change.

Anyway, I'm probably have plenty more to say about this next stage as it progresses. But for now, I should start wrapping up this entry.

The Grandparent Joneses
In other news, my parents came to visit from PA for what was an extended Columbus day weekend for them (although V and I both still worked on Monday). To no surprise, Justin amazed them and had them trying to figure out every which way to see him more often. Maybe I can get grandma to write her own blog entry about it. I don't think my attempt to describe their excitement would do it any justice. I can only say that they were true-to-form grandparents and celebrated every breath, sound, and bowel movement that Justin made while they were here. And speaking of bowel movements... let it be officially known and documented that my dad is not allowed to spend time with Justin again until he is willing to change at least one dirty diaper. Hey... You've gotta take the good with the bad.

So aside from the usual mayhem (V still pumping milk around the clock, umpteen meetings at work, church obligations, 12 million midterm papers to grade, grass to mow, unsold houses, and sprouting business ventures, to name a few)... that's our last 3 weeks in a nutshell.

I'm sure I've forgotten 1/2 dozen things... but if I think of 'em and they seem worth documenting, then I'll get to them in due time. And as usual I'll do what I can to not fall so far behind in my account of our lives.

But as always... I make no promises!!!

Two Feet and Rising


At about three months Justin officially broke the 24 inch mark and was proud to be able to tell everyone that he was two feet tall. The trouble is, no one can understand him just yet; but that doesn't stop him from talking up a storm.

In fact, his talking has become kind of comical, and once he gets started it is pretty much impossible to get him to be quiet. And as I'm reminded of every Tuesday and Thursday when he comes to my independent study class with me: Don't try to talk over him. If you get louder... he gets louder. You ignore him... and he still gets louder. The only surefire why to get him it clam up is to grab the video camera. It never fails. It's like he smells the thing or something. As soon as he see's it coming... BAM. Instant silence, which is why it has taken me forever to get good footage of his monologue. And so already, at only 15 weeks old, my son has already found a way to make a mockery of my efforts. I guess some things are innate afterall. Nonetheless, I've remained determined to catch his babbling on tape while he and his mom just laugh at me.

As of sometime this week, V and I also agreed that he seems to be starting the teething process. Except for the irritability that is supposed to come with it, all of the other symptoms seem to be there (mostly profuse drooling and a constant desire to put EVERYTHING in his mouth and gnaw on it). What's neat is that his desire to find something good to gnaw and scratch his gums with has given him a newfound motivation to seek out new things to grab and hold onto. It's cool to watch him discover, especially since he clearly amazes his own self with his ability to grab and hold onto new objects... but of course it has its downside... like yesterday at Outback Steakhouse when he swiped a bowl right off the table and was about a half second away from dropping it on the floor before V and I caught wind of what he was doing. It's "first time" moments like that that really remind us how much he changes from one day to the next. One second he's an invalid with no ability to grab, and before you know it you've gotta watch him like a hawk to make sure he's not smacking himself in the head with some metal object that you didn't even know was in reach.

Geez... what happens when he can walk?

And speaking of which... Justin is still as adament as ever about standing up and trying to walk. He still has zero interest in crawling but instead will pull himself up to his feet at every single opportunity that you give him. Even throughout the day, more often than not, if he starts to cry or get fussy it's probably because he wants to stand up. And don't try to sit him in your lap because he we just pop right up to his feet at the first chance he gets. But give him two fingers to hold onto and the boy is as happy as a lark. I don't know why that excites him so... but hey, whatever works.

We also didn't have a clue as to how unusual this was for his age until about 8 different people brought it to our attention over the past couple of weeks. But hey, we're new parents; what do we know? Either way, I'm still skeptical as to if this will really translate to him walking anytime soon. It's just way too early, and the balancing part of it is still eluding him... but at this point I have to honestly say that few things surprise me with this kid. So we'll see. If he got up and walked tomorrow, I can't say I'd be shocked.

Last but not least, with a little help from Dad, Justin also took his first shower last week. V was inspired by her co-workers who had grandchildren already in swimming lessons at 3 months old (wow)... and so we decided to at least work on his level of comfort and affinity for water just to see where it landed us. And so we started with the shower. Long story short, he did phenomenally well and has come a loooooong way from the absolute panic and terror he exhibited at 1 month old. At that point, a single drop of water in his eye, mouth or nose would send him into a tailspin between holding his breathe and screaming histerically (I'm sure that was a sight that neither V nor her mom will ever forget... talk about scary). Now, two months later, he's in the shower dipping his head back into the water stream like some kind of Paul Mitchell commericial.

Give him another week and he'll be taking a Calgon bubble bath.

Or maybe not.

Deal or No Deal

To keep the real estate category up to date, I should also mention that V and I still own one house too many. Some weeks ago, we were certain that we had a buyer for our PA flip property, but they turned out to be wayyy more trouble than good.

So here we stand, 8 months down the line... two price reductions later (a $12000 total slash) and holding on to the break-even line by a thread. I'm still optimistic that we won't have to take a loss on the property; so my level of anxiety is still miniscule, at best... But it still might take a while to adjust to going from a $20K paper profit to a $2000 reality. The profit might've been paper... but man oh man was I making room for it in our bank account. When you get into things like this, you start off by staying things like, "worse case scenario we'll break even"... but gee whiz, nobody really wants to see that happen.

But what can you say... The market has been an absolute beast this year for sellers (neither of our neighbor's houses never sold either). And for us it has brought very close to home the terribly trite proverb of winning some and losing some. The inventory of homes on the market right now is simply saturated beyond belief. Last year this time there were about a 1000 houses on the market where our flip property is located. This year I think the number is over 4000.

With any luck (i.e., by the grace of God) we certainly hope to do our part to reduce that number by one.

Oh happy day.