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So, we’re trying to fine-tune Justin’s sleep before baby comes since he’s been waking 2-3 times a night, and sleeping so restlessly (like rolling on to the floor a few times a night even), and then being a total bear the next day. So, at the advice of Justin’s Developmental Pediatrician at Children’s, we tried last night to just use one of his 2 sleep meds (with the thinking being that he was losing sensitivity to the other – so take him off for a week, add it back…). He slept maybe 1.5-2hrs at regular time, then woke up and was up playing until 4am! Whooo boy! I’m thinking the other med is still working! At least somewhat!

Random story: Last night, Justin was NOT interested in sleep or anything related to resting at 11pm. He WAS interested in playing with his talking Spiderman toy.

I told him that in 5 minutes, it would be Spiderman’s bedtime. So I got a pillow, and a towel as a blanket, and told him that Spiderman would sleep there (of course, Justin found this whole idea offensive since towels only have one purpose – thanks, Autism). So, with that idea out the window, I asked him to help get Spiderman ready for sleep. I expected Justin to ignore me. He didn’t. He decided that cuddling spiderman and “give Spiderman yummies” was how to do it. Except, Justin wasn’t giving him food. Nope. My 3-year-old had puffed out his chest and put Spiderman’s face to his breast over his shirt. Yup. Justin “nursed” Spiderman to help him to sleep.

This is despite him not having nursed since he was 25-months-old, and having had little exposure to it since.

Justin is 3-years-old.  He has Autism.

Some folks I’ve met have a hard time with me saying that – that he has Autism.

Very early on in our journey with Justin, we had to make a family decision: do we keep his diagnosis private, or do we make it a part of our lives, accepting it as matter-of-factly as the fact that we all wear clothes?

Our decision was the latter, and this is why:

Our world is full of labels.  Some labels are useful, helpful even.  Others are not, and may even be harmful.  We decided that with Justin’s diagnosis, “Autism” was a useful and helpful label.  Some might think, “Well, that’s a good crutch!” or “Wow, so, um, you use that whenever you want sympathy then, right?”  and I’m sure some people might use it that way.  That has never been our intention.  Early on, the label validated our concerns.  It gave evidence to our assertions that Justin, our first and only child, is not easy to manage – that our struggles were more than that of most first time parents adjusting to a new role in life.  In that regard, the label of “Autism” was a breath of fresh air.  It meant that others knew we weren’t crazy for being tired all the time – because their Autistic children didn’t sleep either and it had nothing to do with “sleep training”.

My husbands assertion was that we could make use of a label that meant something – that actually gives information – or we can let the world label our son.   Having attended public school ourselves, we could think of some of the labels he’d get that would be far worse than “Autism” – you know, like “retard”, “spaz”, “loner”, “jerk”, “creep”, and “weirdo” to name a few.

We are fortunate that Justin is as high-functioning as he is.  He has words even if he doesn’t always use them properly, or for the same reasons as us “neurotypicals”.  But unlike our friends with physical disabilities, you can’t see Justin’s label on his face.

I’ll never forget the first time I told a stranger that Justin had Autism.  We were at the soft play area at our mall and it was time to go.  I called for Justin, counted down “5 minutes” as always (we learned early on that giving him a count down provides a consistent and non-negotiable endpoint), and called for him again.  He almost never responds to his name being called.  It’s not personal.  He just can’t filter out my calling his name from the other noise and commotion – not to mention, in Justin’s world, words are used for describing objects, not for more complex meanings like “come here”.  Justin was running around the play area, feeding off the energy of the other kids playing chase (he gets excited and runs, but does not ‘get’ that they are playing a game with any structure – to him, they’re just enjoying running for running’s sake).  When I called again, then approached him, squeezed his shoulder and got down on his level and told him for the 2nd time that it was “time for socks and boots” and he ran away again, a woman I’d been shooting the breeze with said to Justin, “You need to listen to your mommy.”

Now, I totally understand that fear of strangers can be used to a correctional capacity in toddlers, and I definitely appreciate that.  In this case, she had no idea why I was just letting it go every time he’d rebuff my request.  For myself, I was using it to gauge the best way to get Justin into his socks and boots.  I told her that it was okay and that he wasn’t trying to be rude.  I went, got on Justin’s level (though not looking him in the eye), and told him, “Justin, it is time for socks and boots” and I picked him up and calmly sat him in the seat at the edge of the play area next to the woman and before putting on socks grabbed Justin’s shins and pushed his knees hard into his chest, repeating it several times.  With each compression Justin calmed, and after 3-4 compressions, he was able to sit still long enough for me to put on his socks and boots.  The woman just sat there aghast.  I could see in her face, “she’s not going to reprimand him?  what the heck is she doing?  How is that going to help him comply?!”.  When it worked, I just smiled and said, “My son has Autism.  It means it’s very hard for him to listen and understand my words, and when he’s excited like this, these ‘squishes’ help him calm and focus.”  What did this accomplish?  Well, Justin let me carry him peacefully from the play area; the woman was clearly in shock that I hadn’t lost my cool, that I wasn’t afraid of looking crazy with my odd approach to the situation, plus, I taught her something new about Autism; and I felt good knowing that I’d appropriately managed my son’s needs AND accomplished the task at hand.

Wha-bam!

There are tons of reasons to share about Autism to people.  Awareness is a faculty of advocacy.  Some studies show that as many as 1 in 148 children have some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder.   Socially, Autism is characterized by behaviors that often look like defiance, rudeness, being aloof, or just plain naughty.  I feel that the more aware people are that Autism is in their midst, the more patient and understanding we can be with one another.  Yes, there are crappy parents out there, but we all need to bear in mind that there is often more than meets the eye in our casual observance of other people’s children.

Whoa whoa whoa!  “Autism” is an excuse for poor manners?  Certainly not.  BUT.  Teaching social niceties, like not screaming in a restaurant (especially when screaming outside is okay), to a child with Autism is VERY difficult and not an exact science.  They often lack the ability to generalize or categorize when it is okay vs. when it isn’t so you have to teach it anew in EVERY situation – over and over again.  This of course means that there will be moments where, for example, “breakthrough screaming” may occur with little or no warning.   It’s a lot like lion taming.  For all the training in the world, a lion is still a lion and a wild animal.  An Autistic child will, despite all the coaching in the world, have meltdowns from time to time (and, per Murphy’s Law, these meltdowns WILL occur at the least appropriate moment).  And since we don’t keep Autistic children in cages in this country, there will occasionally be casualties.  But I digress…

Other useful labels:

“Biohazard”

“Women’s Restroom”

“Cinnamon”

“Hospital”

“Expires 12-24-2006”

Hi everyone!  I had intended to complete this post the day after Pascha, but as luck would have it life took  off and ran away with my time and energy. 

The last thing I posted was Justin, at dawn (the calm before the storm) being held by his dad and nearly falling asleep despite the repeated shouts of “Christ is Risen!!  Indeed He is Risen!!”  and the joyous singing of “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life!”.  With the change to daylight came Justin’s change to wild, woodland creature and soon he was back to his antics: running toward the altar, trying to go outside, and refusing to be confined.  He might be 2. 

Needless to say, we survived.  The service was lovely, though a little less crazy this year.  Instead of the usual gallons of confetti tossed each time we cried “Christ is Risen!” we got ribbon streamers that were much more difficult to wield, and therefore fewer people used them.  I usually go home after Pascha services itchy with the amount of confetti in my clothes.  Justin didn’t seem to much care either way.  After Communion and the blessing, it was time for our annual St. Innocent Pascha breakfast.  For those who have fasted during Lent, this is a great treat: eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, and homemade biscuits and gravy.  Due to the overflow of people indoors, our family opted to sit outdoors where Justin could run in the grass and occasionally come steal some food (since the distraction of being outdoors is too great compared to a plate of food).  Our dear friend, Brooksana brought little gifts for many of the kids:

These little wind-up hopping critters have been a hit at our house ever since.  My favorite is the Chickie but Justin LOVES the Bunny – which he calls “Bunnn!” as he chases it around the kitchen.

After a warm breakfast outdoors on a cool morning, Justin happily running around in the grass and the dirt and the mud in his dress clothes, we headed for home and prayed for a great nap the whole way. 

I have to say that this, what I’m about to tell you, is the most shocking thing about our Pascha:

wait for it…

wait…

JUSTIN SLEPT!

He fell asleep in the car on the way home, stayed asleep as I moved him from the car to his bed and then… THEN we had to wake HIM at 12pm!  That’s a nearly 4 hour nap!  He slept even through his soiled diaper, Matt and I moving about in the apartment (mostly Matt, I was sleeping too).  Truly AMAZING!!  God is SO good!

At around noon, we decided it was time to get moving again since we needed to be back at Church at 1pm for Agape Vespers and the Annual Church Picnic directly following.  Justin was almost as difficult to wake from this nap as he was getting him up earlier that morning.  After about 20 minutes of gentle waking, tickling, offers of food, toys, etc. we finally managed to get our little slug out of bed.  It took another 15 minutes to get diaper changed and clothes changed before we could make it to the car.  The ride back to Church was uneventful, other than that we were late (not surprising at the rate Justin was moving).  

Matt enjoyed the service while I chased Justin around the Church, as usual.  I love that our little Church has adequate sound set up to where you can hear the whole service no matter where you are in the building.  At the close of the service, we were quite promptly outdoors again.  This time, Justin saw the horses Fr. Mel had brought over for the kids to ride for the picnic.  Justin stopped, pointed, looked at me then back at the horses, then back again.  The conversation went like this:

Justin: “Ooose?!”

Momma: “Yes, Justin, those are horses.  How many horses do you see?”

Justin: “Tooo…” (Two is pretty much his favorite number, though five is gaining some popularity)

Momma: “What color are those horses?  Is one white and one brown?”

Justin:  “Bess you, Ooose!”

Then he took off running toward the horses, and since I didn’t feel the need to have my kid inadvertently trampled by said horses, I chased after him.  I caught him, told him not to get close to the horses without Momma, and then we approached the white one slowly.  I introduced us to the horse by coming up along side her, and stroking her neck while Justin happily petted her side (really more her belly at his height).  He happily cheered, “Bess you, Ooose!”  I let Justin hear me tell the horse, “Thank you for letting us pet you, horse”.   Then Justin said, “Denk oo!” and ran off toward the play equipment on the Church grounds.

Once the picnic was underway, Matt and I got to enjoy some good, non-lenten food (fried chicken, steak, cheesy potatoes).  Justin pretty much went for the Doritos.  In social situations, it’s very difficult to get Justin to eat much of anything – he’s too distracted, too picky – even rejecting foods he would normally wolf down (like mac n’ cheese).  So if you were wondering when we’d feed our kid on this feast day, we’d been stuffing him with Erin Baker breakfast cookies in transit – not optimal nutrition, but provided some balance to the orange-handed Dorito monster.

Now, on to the real kid-stuff of the Pascha picnic:  The Egg Hunt.

First off, let me tell you that Justin is one goofy little guy.  And he’s definitely getting the reputation for being a “straight man”.  He does something innocent, his friend Magnolia (“De-doh-ah!”) laughs, thinking he’s being silly, and Justin doesn’t quite get why it’s funny, but eventually laughs anyway – laughing is fun anyway, right?  Eventually, he starts playing into it.  The two kids are really pretty funny to watch together for this reason. 

So at the commencement of the Egg Hunt, Justin with his plush turtle basket, and Magnolia with her bag set out basically together in the quest for brightly colored eggs.  Well, sort of.  Neither kid really got it.  Magnolia looked around a bit, would find an egg when it was pointed out to her and then didn’t want to part with the egg to put it in her bag.  Justin just watched, kinda goin’ “what are we doing now?  why?”  So I showed him:  I put an egg in his basket, took it out, handed it to him to put in his basket.  Magnolia watched and studied, both what we were doing and what her Papa was trying to get her to do.  Justin, after a while of watching looked up at me with this look that said, “Oh!  I get it!” then ran down the gravel path, stopped, bent over and selected a rock which he proudly brought back to me to put in his basket.

5 very proud rocks later…

Now you might have noticed a plastic bin with empty, open eggs in it in one of the above pictures.  This was Justin’s next discovery.  Our church reuses the plastic eggs year to year, so the kids, once they’ve all made their collections, come over to this bin and empty their candy back into their baskets and deposit the eggs into the bin.  Justin felt it was necessary to properly investigate each returned egg:

Naturally, other kids joined in.  Miss Emily (3) definitely prefers the pink to Justin’s orange:

After about 20 minutes of playing in the egg bin, Justin was back to running around, checking in by dropping his arm into the Dorito bowl from time to time.  But as the day wore on, Justin decided that naughty was the best way to tell us that it was time to go.  And by naughty I mean darting terrifyingly into the parking lot and running for the street.  We call this method “cry for help”.  So, after a couple timeouts, we got the message and headed for home.

All slept well that night.  Full-bellied and thankful.

Christ is Risen!  Indeed, He is Risen!

Hi everyone.  I know you’re all anxiously awaiting the tale of Justin’s 3rd Pascha!

I’ll be up front: Holy week was a little rough. 

Matt attempted to take Justin on his own to Church on Holy Monday.  Matt and Justin spent the whole service outside in the mud so Justin wouldn’t keep freaking out  because Momma wasn’t there (I had to work).  Needless to say, Holy Tuesday was a bust.  I worked, so Justin stayed home with Matt.  I grieved missing the beautiful Bridegroom Matins.

Holy Wednesday I was off early from work, so we went to services.  Evening services are always tough on little guys since they generally fall during the 6pm hour (dinner time).  Matt got to enjoy the bulk of the beautiful Holy Unction service, while Justin and I hung out in the reception hall.  I sang along as best I could out there, Justin ran around and ate half a box of Bunny Grahams.

Holy Thursday was a bit easier.  We stayed through the Liturgy and had soup with the rest of the Church then hit the road before the 12 Gospel Readings.  This is a service I LOVE as it goes through all the events leading up to the crucifixion.  It’s not unusual for several people – including myself- to weep through it.  I hate to miss it, since it really puts your heart in the right place for both Holy Friday and Holy Pascha.

Holy Friday was a bit different.  Services started at 2pm, we made it there around 3:30pm since we made sure to wait until Justin got up from his nap to head out.  Justin got lots of time to play outside until the weather turned and got very rainy and windy.  Inside is okay too, except that for some reason Justin’s diapers just weren’t doing their job.  Or rather we were asking the impossible of them.  By 6 he’d had a very slight diaper leak, pants had one tiny damp spot.  Diaper changed, spot dried, off we go.  No biggie.  1.5 hours later, Justin was sliding down the wood stairs with his other toddler friends when I noticed a wet streak behind him.  Oh, for pete’s sake!  yup, he had totally saturated his diaper, and now his pants.  And I had no other pants to change him into.  Naturally, Justin is in the one size that none of the other kids in attendance were that would carry a spare pair of pants (Justin fills out a 4T very well, and can easily get away with a 5 in some brands – which means any other kids wearing that size are potty trained and not needing a spare pair).  As a result, we had the Pants-less-Wonder.  Naturally, all this happened moments before the outdoor procession around the church in the stormy weather.  So not only am I faced with the unthinkable: having my ALWAYS perfectly dressed and coordinated son sans pants in God’s Holy Temple, but now I have to figure out how to carry him outside without freezing to death.  Matt came to my rescue before I could decide.  He sent me outside for the procession, and wrapped Justin’s legs up in his (Matt’s) own coat and carried all 32+ wiggling pounds of him all the way.  Brooksana lent her knitted shawl to keep him warm for the trip home.

Holy Saturday was the evening of the bloody nose.  I’ll explain in a moment.  Holy Saturday is, in our house, generally spent baking, cooking and preparing food for Pascha.  This means those of us who are fasting and cannot eat meat are forced to endure the smell of italian sausage and bacon cooking, without tasting.  This all pays off of course, since this means that the following day we can munch on all this wonderful previously prepared food the whole day.  Today was also the day that we had to go to the Church early so I could help set up the tables for the Pascha breakfast and afternoon picnic.  So as soon as Justin was up from his nap, we loaded up a spare pair of pants, jammies, and 3 double-stuffed cloth diapers and headed out.  Justin played outside for nearly 2 hours before the service- our hope being to wear him out enough that he could reasonably stand still during the Liturgy.  It didn’t work.  He tried so hard.  The squirrel within just cannot be contained and before we even made it to Cherubic Hymn (about 35 minutes into the service), Justin had gone Super-Nova.  Oh yeah, we’re talking a 6 on the “Rolls of Duct Tape Required to Maintain a Moment of Stillness” meter.  He kept charging up toward the altar.  He was biting my skirt hem.  He was ducking between old ladies and over other children.  He was stomping and singing “C is for Cookie!”.  After a few foiled attempts at getting through the Royal Doors (leading to the altar), I grabbed him and tossed him onto my shoulders thinking that he’d enjoy the change in vantage p9int.  Nope.  He freaked out since I don’t normally do that sort of thing.  As soon as he was seated on my shoulders, I had at least 3 fingers up my nose, 2 in each of my eyes, and probably looked like I was the victim of a Xenomorph from Alien – at least that’s what it felt like.  I promptly pulled him down and in the process I got bumped.  The three of us stepped out from the service, I reached up to what felt like a runny nose (my allergies have been fun the last two weeks), only to discover that I was bleeding all over.  On my clothes, on my hands… yup.  I haven’t had a bloody nose this good since I was like, 8.  I spent the next 10 minutes in the bathroom with kleenex up my nose and my head tipped back.  Sweet.  Holy Friday relives the Crucifixion, but it’s not generally the beating that we re-enact.

Fortunately bedtime came easily Saturday night, since Pascha services start at 5am Sunday morning.  At 3:15am I was up getting ready.  Ironing my hair, getting dressed, and getting everything together.  After I was ready, I got Matt up, he got ready, and then we attempted to wake Justin.  I say attempted because he was so fast asleep when we needed him to wake up that I gave up and just started dressing him in his sleep.  I had his diaper changed, his pants and socks on before he was ready to so much as roll over.  I got him dressed, little-boy-tie clipped on and his shoes tied.  We drove to Church in the dark, Justin enjoyed a bottle on the way (much better than screaming, for sure).  About 30 minutes in, Justin had soaked his diaper and required a change of both diaper and pants.  So much for cute navy slacks.  Jeans it is.  Apparently, 5:30am is when he actually does his overnight half-gallon dump.  Who knew?  Eh, worse things have happened – he could have been pants-less or vomiting like one of the other kids.   Not surprisingly, for most of the first half of the nearly 2 hour service, Justin looked like this:

Then, with the break of dawn came his inner squirrel. 

To be continued…

In an effort to get Justin interested in even sitting on potty, we’ve resorted to keeping a small container of mini chips ahoy cookies in our bathroom. He only gets one, and only when he sits on the potty.

Now, at least, he’ll allow you to put him on the potty. Then he’ll sit and cry there chewing on his “bat-oom cook-ay”. Sigh. We want to make potty training a positive experience, but how do we get him even interested in putting his excrement in the dang toilet? We’re hoping that “Bathroom cookies” at least take the “why would I do that when I could just go in my diaper?” out of the equation. When he sits on the potty we congratulate him and cheer, and tell him what a wonderful big boy he is… lots of positive reinforcement.

Any ideas?

Before I get too far, I promised pictures of Justin’s Castle Grayskull birthday cake, and of him at his own birthday party:

  Justin LOVES his kitty keyboard!

While I covered Justin’s current stats (now including the offical update where we found out that Justin is closer to 37 inches tall than 36), I haven’t gotten to fill y’all in on what he’s been up to. 

Over the last few months, Justin has started making sentences, making clear choices, and has coped VERY well with our moving to a larger apartment.  Speaking of the move, I have to take a moment to thank our friends for coming and helping out.  Brooksana, you’re amazing.  The way you kept Justin entertained and not bolting down the stairs or stabbing himself with screwdrivers while Matt and I were moving boxes was nothing short of incredible.  Thank you.  Then I have to thank those who helped us muscle through too: Subdeacon Michael and Marilynn, you made it all possible. 

Once we were into our new place, Justin had his own room complete with his big-boy-bed on a bedframe (not just the mattress on the floor anymore) with a safety bedrail.  Since the first night (excepting only a couple of exceptional teething nights) he has consistently slept through the night.  Sweet Mercy!  I am so incredibly thankful to God for that one.  I haven’t slept in more than two years, to now know that there will be a few hours of the day or night that he will be asleep without my direct assistance is amazing. 

As you can see, Justin has been very helpful in getting our apartment put together.  What you’re looking at above is Justin sitting IN the 9-cube organizer I got for his room.  Very helpful indeed!  🙂

Justin has been really into “pretend play” lately.  Not as much as some kids I’ve known, but it’s so sweet when he does it.  He does impersonations of people.  He has a “Cookie Monster” voice, and a “Pappa’s Laugh” among other things.  One day he threw a fit as I was pruning/watering our basil plant.  Apparently it was his turn to try.  He had found a small can of V8 juice and he decided that the “Bazzoo” needed a drink:

Now, since his birthday we’ve been working on a few things.  One of which is a normal bedtime.  Up until very recently, the nigh-night routine involved Matt holding Justin on his lap until he fell asleep, then moving him to his bed.  The last two nights we’ve been successful letting Justin watch one cartoon cuddled up with Matt and then I take Justin to his room, put him in bed and sit in the room until he falls alseep by himself in his own bed (it only takes maybe 15-20 minutes).  It may not seem like much of an improvement, but if you figure that until now it has taken 2-3 hours for him to go to sleep with LOTS of help, bottle/nursing, etc.  it’s pretty dramatic.  Speaking of nursing, our “Big boys no nerr” thing has been working.  Justin’s down to only nursing maybe once every other day.  Wooohoo!  Go big boy Justin! 

Counting.  Justin has decided that “2” is the best number there is.  We’ve all been telling Justin for weeks that “soon,  you’ll be 2!  Now you’re 1 and then you’ll be 2!”  He never seemed to be paying much attention.  Then on the Sunday after his birthday, someone at church asked him how old he was.  And he responded: “Tooo!”  Now, when we count, if you say “one”, “two”, Justin says “Tooo!” as soon as you start to say “two”, then waits for you to remind him of the next number.  He’ll get there.  It’s awfully cute though.

Justin Elias Owen Status Update:

On 3/19/2008, his birth day, Justin was 21 inches long, weighed 9lbs 2oz, and frequently pooped himself.  He wore newborn sized clothes and a size 1 shoe.  0 teeth.

On 3/19/2009, his first birthday, Justin was 32 inches tall, weighed 26lbs 1oz, and slightly less frequently, pooped himself.  He wore size 2T clothing and a size 5 shoe.  4 teeth.

Now, on 3/19/2010, his second birthday, Justin is 36.75 inches tall, and weighs right around 32lbs, and despite our efforts at encouraging potty time, still poops himself twice a day.  He wears a size 4T (a little long in the pantlegs yet, but fits everywhere else), and is at the ends of his size 8 shoes!  >18 confirmed teeth (he tries to bite me when I check for those two last 2-year molars).

I’ve been telling Justin for a few weeks now that soon, he’ll be a “big boy”.  “Big boys” get to do lots of things: they get to make choices, they get to help get dressed and put shoes on.  But “big boys” also “no nerr”** (meaning “no nurse”), and they put their poop and pee in the potty instead of a diaper. 

** The first time I told Justin, “Big boys no nerr” he looked at me like I’d just told him the sky was green and asked very inquisitively, “No nerr?!” “Nope, no nerr.  Dadda no nerr, He-Man no nerr, big boys no nerr.” I said.  Justin then looked at the floor and shook his head from side to side saying, “no nerr. No nerr…”

Today we’ll be having a little family birthday party at Nanna and Poppa’s house (“PoppaNanna House!” as Justin calls it).  Since the cakepan didn’t come in time, the He-Man cake will have to wait, so Momma is crafting a Castle Grayskull cake from a sheet cake.

Hello everyone!!   A lot has been going on in our tiny little apartment this past month or so.   Mostly Justin is the busy one – though he keeps us busier than ever too. 

Justin has had two colds and a sinus infection since Christmas and is working (very painfully) on his last 4 baby teeth: the dreaded 2-year-molars.  Yes, it’s “molar-mania” at the Owen household.  We’ve had a few rough nights, and Dadda has been quite frazzled at the end of some of those tough days.  We’ve gotten to the point with the teeth that we just let him roam the house with a bottle of cold milk to help keep him calm and give him something to chew on (this is favorable to chewing on Momma’s nipples).  I, for one, cannot wait for Justin to be done teething.  The drama ends sometime, right?

Besides everything I’ve already mentioned, Justin is growing like a weed.  And not one of those puny dandelions.  I’m thinking more the bamboo type.  Strong, wild, and makes lots of noise in the wind.  He’s nearly outgrown his size 3T clothes (he still has 2 months to go before he’s 2 years old!), and at this rate we’ll need a hammer to tap on his size 8 shoes.  His hair is growing so fast, sometimes I think I’m raising a sheepdog (this is especially pronounced because he won’t let me cut his hair – I have to sneak in when he’s sleeping or catch him unawares).   Plus, he’s got anywhere from 2-3 new words a day.  My current favorite is “All gone!” which he happily pronounces when anything is empty.   He does, however, get very angry when I tell him that “nerrs” are all gone (meaning momma is out of milk and he needs to go play/sleep/whatever). 

That kid. 

I think sometimes I’ll be nursing him until he’s 30.  I just have to remind myself that most of his want to nurse all the time is because he’s teething – not because I’m an avoidant parent.  I wonder sometimes though, when he wants to keep nursing after being latched on for more than 30 minutes.  Seriously, I’m NOT a pacifier, and I’d really rather cuddle and I know he’d get as much or more out of that than just interacting with the boob.  For now my plan is to start weaning as soon as he’s done teething.  I’m just getting too worn of it and have started resenting it to a certain degree.  I’m actually jealous of Matt’s ability to just cuddle up with Justin and take naps, watch tv, whatever.  With me, it’s just nurse nurse nurse.  We can tickle and wrestle and read books, but if I’m sitting down (ie. not a moving target), he wants to nurse. 

In other news, after months of sleeping on, and then half-on his crib mattress on the floor, we finally got Justin his very own big boy bed.  It’s really just a twin-size mattress laid on the floor in the same place as his old bed. 

He’s got his own pillow, and we used his old familiar crib bumper around the edge and added his fluffy “binkit” and he’s quite comfy.  The first night he was up 4-5 times, but the next night and every night since (with the exception of maybe two bad teething nights) Justin has slept through the night for the first time since he was 4 months and one week old.  He’s down between 8-10pm (when mommy works late, his bedtime is later ’cause he can’t fall asleep until Momma gets home), and doesn’t so much as stir until at least 5:30 or 6 am.  And then, if he wants to cuddle in our bed with his dad (as he frequently does), I can climb into Justin’s bed and sleep better than on the couch!  It’s AWESOME!!!!  I’ll admit though, when I’m getting ready for work at 5am, I like our little “Cindy Lou Who” moments: I’ll be making my lunch and suddenly hear the soft tapping of the bedroom door being pushed open and the shuffle of footie pajamas coming down the hallway to the kitchen.  I turn and there in the doorway is my little Justin, rubbing his eyes and creakily saying, “Momma?” 

Justin’s favorite toys are his toy vacuum, Dusty the Talking Vacuum (which he calls, “Vack-ooom!” –

 

And his Play-Doh.  Not so much the dough itself (which he pretty much just wants to put in his mouth – and really, who wouldn’t?), just the colorful jars.  He stacks them, rolls them, tries to fit them all back in the box.  He will spend a good 10 minutes of every hour sitting at the kitchen table organizing his Play-Doh.  Then, of course, there’s He-man.  There’s ALWAYS He-man.  A Masters of the Universe toy goes with us everywhere we go.  He knows more characters than most geeks, and can recognize them faster.  And yes, he not only knows the difference between Battle-Cat (“Cat!”) and Cringer (“ckeegoo”), but the difference between Teela (“Tetta”) and the Sorceress (“So-ses”).  Sad, but I knew before he was born that my little guy would be Geekimus-Maximus.  I seriously considered buying the maternity tee I found that read in dot-matrix style text over the belly, “Geek Incubator”. 

At the same time, Justin absolutely adores Church.  He’s a BUSY boy, so it’s VERY hard for him to be still in Church.  He prefers to move around, watching the service from many different angles.  He’s started singing along with the Liturgy.  If you’re ever in Church with us and hear Justin yell, “Loo!” he doesn’t have to go potty, he’s singing “Lord, Have Mercy!”.  If you see/hear him say, “Fah-wah” and tap his chest with his fingertips, he’s actually trying to cross himself and say “In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost”.  If you see him touch the floor and say, “eh-Gott!” he’s actually doing a metanya while saying, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”.  Justin lights up when he is taken up to the chalice to take Communion.  He opens his mouth wide, receives the Host, and proudly kisses the chalice.  His current favorite Icon is the Icon of the Guardian Angel (“Angoh”) which he climbs up to at our Icon corner at home, points to and says, “Bess you, Angoh”, then kisses the icon “Pmwah!”.  He also loves the Icon of the Theotokos (“Toekoke”).

One of my most favorite things that Justin does now is what I call the “Roll Call”.  He will bounce around the house, run as fast as he can right into my legs and shout, “Momma!”, then turn and run as fast as he can right into Matt’s legs and shout, “Dadda!”.  When we’re at Nanna and Poppa’s, he’ll do the same to them.  When he’s really wound up, he’ll include his favorite familiar objects like the computer (“Pedoo”),  the recliner (“Chayoh!”), or the bathtub (“Baff!”).  He’ll also catch you in the shower, run up and point at the shower curtain and say, “Momma!  Baff!  Showw!”

He could give a rat’s patoot about numbers or counting, but has started showing some limited interest in letters.  He recognizes some words and logos (the Target bullseye and the Mattel burst, for example).  The Haggen grocery store sign, for Justin at least, means “Bagoo!” since we frequently get him a cheese bagel from there as a treat for behaving at the library.

Next on the agenda:

1. Potty training.  A friend gave us an awesome potty chair a while back but Justin won’t let us put him on it without his diaper on, and he prefers to remove the little chamber pot in it since it’s apparently “not supposed to be there”.  He hangs out on it while Matt or I are in the shower and plays with his bath toys.  We just got him a Ducka potty seat that goes on the toilet itself to try, we’ll see how that goes.  When it came I showed it to him, he pointed to the duck’s nose and said, “nose!”, pointed to the eyes and said, “Dats yo eye!”.  Then I asked him, “Justin, what is this?!” and he looked at me and then at the seat and said very assuredly, “Hat!”  At the same time, when he’s so much as wet he’ll retrieve a new diaper and tell you “AhWow” (meaning: water, “I’m wet”).  So he’s aware, and he knows we go potty and we talk to him about it.  I know he’ll get there eventually, but advice is always welcome.

2.  Weaning.  I’d love to throw an “All done nursing” party around his 2nd birthday. 

3.  Moving.  Yup, as soon as we get our tax return, we’re packing our bags and getting a 2 bedroom apartment so Justin can have his own room (for his stuff, and soon after, his bed too).  Part of the reason we got his big boy bed now was so he could get attached to it before we move.  We’ll keep him in our room for the first month or two after the move and then hopefully start working him into his own room at night.

I would apologize for the delay in a Christmas post, BUT we’re still celebrating Christmas!  As Orthodox Christians, the “first day of Christmas” is Christmas Day, Christmas continues until January 6th (Theophany) which is actually an even bigger holiday for us. 

This year, our little family spent Christmas Eve through Sunday with my parents and enjoyed the visit by my brother, Ryan.  As with any family holiday event, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little fruit and nuts.  Yes there was food (and it was wonderful after our 40 day fast), but also a little craziness, it’s just part of the fun!

As the craziness goes, we got to enjoy a number of fun occurences:

1.  All three of us being sick (Justin on antibiotics) so ultimately, we were all exhausted and had difficulty sleeping due to stuffy noses and sore throats.

2.  Justin is fully into the “terrible twos”.  Justin sees danger, i.e. a busy parking lot immediately prompts Justin to not only bolt out as fast as he can, but to look back and laugh a malicious laugh.  He also uses words like “no! no!”, and “stop!” on a VERY regular basis.  He’s also begun to stage “sit-ins” where he, rather than comply, just sits down (little does he know that this is actually a happily accepted arrest to whatever unnacceptable behavior he was previously engaging in).  Full tantrums are generally reserved for crowded places when we follow through on our promise to follow through with discipline (generally buckling him in a cart or stroller as a consequence for darting off away from us, or not stopping when we tell him to stop).  For good or ill though, he does usually respond to bribes, and doesn’t fight his monkey leash (named “Buckles”) since it’s recent reinstitution.

3.  We brought all of our gifts for Justin with us to Nanna and Poppa’s house.  In retrospect, I don’t think we’ll do that again.  I had hoped to let Justin open one gift every few hours – spreading it out over the day.  Sadly, all of us adults got excited and pushed Justin through all his gifts in the course of maybe an hour and a half as we all enjoyed the giving and receiving of our own gifts.  Next year, I think we’ll do our own gifts at home, and just enjoy the ones to other family members on Christmas day. 

As far as all the joys and wonderfulness of Christmas itself though we got to do a lot of things we don’t always get to do.  We went to Church at St. Paul’s on Christmas Day.  The service was wonderful, and the people were warm and accepting of us and our rascaly hooligan.  We got to see my brother for the first time in months (I generally am lucky to see him even once a year, so twice in one year is particularly awesome).  I got to take my niece, Madysen to a movie, just the two of us; and got to enjoy seeing my mom open and love her new plush flamingo slippers. 

I’ll admit though, my favorite part was seeing Justin open a gift from my parents.  It was the last gift for him to open.  A large-ish, odd-shaped, paper loosely-wrapped box, Justin eyed it longer than others eventually poking one little finger through the paper.  He then tore a little hole in it so he could just barely look inside.  His eyes got big and he exclaimed proudly, “Vacuum!?!”.  With a little help from Momma and Dadda, he opened it up and waited with ill-moderated patience as we assembled his new toy vacuum.  The next 4-5 hours were spent with Justin happily “vacuuming” the whole house. 

Pictures to follow!

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