Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sleep, you elude us no more!

I hereby interrupt this, uh, interruption in internet service (what did we do to anger the 2Wire Modem gods?) to bring you a big announcement…

Young Master Benjamin Jay Rivera





Man, did that feel good to type.

Yes, he is a two-fisted thumb-sucker, just like his mother was

I am not a superstitious person and I do understand that just because he slept from 7pm to 6am doesn’t mean that this is necessarily going to happen every night. After all, he’s only 4 months. But a mom can dream (literally), right?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

For the record

We have a rolling boy!

Ben rolled from his back to his stomach today for the first time, and if you don't believe me, you'll have to ask Grammy Ronna--she was the only one to witness it!

We were out to dinner when the main event happened.

Way to go Mr. Cheeks!

Friday, April 24, 2009


The mission: see if we can manage a 4 month old on a tropical “vacation”
The participants: Emily, Jonathan, Ben, Grammy (Ronna) and Pops (Les)
The location: Hollywood, Florida
The timing: just when Mommy was about to lose her mind from the nasty Chicago weather—also known as April 18th through the 21st

Jonathan was supposed to be travelling to Seattle, a place I (Emily) have always wanted to visit, for work this quarter. I felt brave and suggested that we all go—all, as in the “let’s bring the baby!” After a few days of deliberating, we decided to take the plunge. Then Jonathan’s work plans changed and he wasn’t needed in Seattle this quarter. Oh well. But Jonathan, the travel enthusiast, had the bug. He suggested that we take our travel bravery and transfer it to another location. I wanted a relaxing, beach-y type of place and we decided on Florida. After an aptly timed New York Times article extolled the virtues of Hollywood, we decided this was the place. Flight: booked. Hotel: booked. It’s a go!
Uh, but what if we BOTH wanted to frolic in the ocean together or go out for a quiet dinner? Guess those days are long gone, we thought. Unless…we called up the Jacobson grandparents and pitched our idea to them. Would they care to join us and spend oodles of quality time with their most favorite (and only) grandchild? There was hemming and hawing, to be sure, but the ultimate answer was yes! Hooray! All of a sudden it seemed exponentially easier to hatch this plan with four adults rather than two. We might actually have some fun on this trip!

The days leading up to our departure were a mix of excitement (Jonathan) and anxiety (Emily—is anyone surprised?). Gosh, a 16 pound baby sure requires a lot of stuff! We packed and unpacked, made lists and crossed items off lists until the very last second when it was off to the airport. Note: great time to fly out of Midway Airport = early on a Saturday morning. No traffic and happy airport security people.

How would Ben do on his first flight? Would his ears bother him? Would he sleep? Forget that—how would Emily do on the flight? Would she panic or would her peaceful Buddha baby son inspire her to calm down? I’m sure (insert sarcasm) Jonathan was eager to find out.

Suffice it to say both Ben and Emily were VERY well behaved on the flight, and there were no less than 15 babies under the age of 4 flying with us. No snotty business-people’s delicate ears to worry about offending. Flight went off without a hitch, although it was packed to the gills and Ben had to ride on our laps. Not too bad now but I can’t imagine doing it when he gets bigger.

After we landed, we collected our gear and rental mini-van (question: since we were just renting the van and don’t actually own one, can we escape the inevitable labeling that goes along with said van?) and headed off to find our hotel.

Wow. This is becoming long. To speed things up, here is how we spent the next few days, in pictures:

Walked (and slept) along the wonderful Broadwalk

Went for a (windy) canal cruise in Ft. Lauderdale

Spent quality time with the grandparents
Sat up in a big bed
Hung out at the beach
Got the chicken pox
Flew home

All in all, a very successful trip. It was wonderful to spend so much time with the grandparents and it was also nice to get a good airing out in such great weather after the harsh Chicago winter.

Ben was a stellar traveler, even through his illness, which is a good thing because Jonathan’s already talking about the next trip…

Can’t wait!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This just in...

Post recapping our Florida trip is in the works. For now we are consumed with...

Yes, The Boychick has the chicken pox. Guess he won't need that vaccine!

4 month check up

Weight: 16lbs 8oz, 79th percentile
Length: 2ft 1.5 inches, 70th percentile

No wonder my back hurts. This kid's huge!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

4 Months

Boy oh boy does time fly. We actually left for Florida on the day of your 4 month birthday, hence the late post (Florida post coming soon).

We had a busy month—guests, events, holidays, and all the while you continue to grow and change before our very eyes.

Your physical development has been remarkable. You are rolling onto your side and are starting to grab objects held above you. You can push up pretty well when on your stomach, although it seems you’d rather suck your hands instead of doing the hard work of lifting up that large noggin of yours. Your grasp is very strong and sometimes when we’re feeding you, you grip our fingers so hard. As you become more full, you relax and the feel of your sweet, soft hand on mind is quite welcome.
You continue to be a sweet, smiley boy, although recently you have been starting to “voice” your likes and dislikes. For instance, we had you on the floor of the dining room at Grandma and Grandpa Rivera’s house during a meal and you complained until we took you out and held you at table level—you loved being a part of the action.
You celebrated Passover and Easter and were a total hit at the Seders and at church. It’s amazing to see how people are drawn to you and you can ham it up (bad Easter pun!) just at the right times.
You have started to giggle and although it is still hard to elicit, it’s worth the work! It’s the sweetest sound and when I tickle you in your special spots (neck, sides) your eyes get as big as saucers as you wiggle around.
Your vocalizations are hilarious and you have a lot to say! You are using consonant-vowel combinations, just as you should. We have the best conversations!

You are still a big boy and fit easily into 6 month and some 9 month clothing. I predict you are will be 16 pounds by the time your 4 month doctor appointment rolls around. Speaking of rolls…you still have the meatiest thighs! You probably don’t want this leaked to the internet but they are just so delicious. I’m sure one day you’ll be tall and lean like your daddy (we hope, anyway!) but for now, I love to see all this meat on your bones.

Daddy and I had our first evening out this month and you were in great hands (thanks Grandma and Grandpa Rivera). I have continued to go to choir rehearsal every Tuesday night and although it is getting a little easier to leave you, it still feels a little unnatural to me. I’d better get used to it because we only have one more month left on our “vacation” together before I go back to work. I know it will be great for us both but it’s a little hard to imagine being away from you all day.

Playgroup, music class and walks with friends are still some of our favorite things to do together. It’s great that we live in such a family friendly neighborhood. I dream of letting you run around the beach on warm summer nights…soon enough.

I love you, my big boy. Keep up the good growth and development and Daddy and I will continue trying to do our very best to nurture you.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

See, my math isn't too bad

Two blowout poops + one squirmy almost four month old = unplanned mid-afternoon bath.

Enough said.

Tax day makes Ben giggle

…literally, and figuratively.

Today marks the first day that I have been able to elicit true giggles from Bennie Boy. The mere act of tapping on his chin while uttering some high-pitched nonsensical word is enough for this young lad. And the sound of it absolutely makes his mother melt. Yes, you can have the car keys. And a pony. And you can stay up past your bedtime.

Today is also tax day and Ben giggled all the way to the bank this year by being born (unexpectedly) before his January 5th due date, thus helping us reap a tax return. Don’t get too excited Mr. Cheeks, the money is already in your college account.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Pass-Ster

Happy Holidays!
Another busy week for Mr. Cheeks. The religious calendars matched up this year and Ben got to celebrate both his first Passover and his first Easter this week.
We kicked off the celebrating with an afternoon of egg dyeing at the Koops' house. Mommy had fun dyeing eggs and Auntie Leah had fun with Ben!

Tradionally, the Begoun family (Emily’s maternal side) gets together at Cousin Marcy and Harry’s house for the seders and this year was no different—well, except for the presence of the newest member of the family.
Ben was quite well behaved and mellow, as he almost always is, but did seem a tad overwhelmed at all the noise (or maybe it's because his pants were hiked up to his arm pits!). Welcome to the family, Kid!

Today is Easter and we celebrated with Grandma and Grandpa Rivera. We made it to the 8:30 service at Trinity Lutheran Church (the Riveras' home church) where Ben slept through most of the service—remarkable because of all of the loud congregational hymns accompanied by the brass ensemble!

We then went home for a short siesta and headed back over to the Riveras for Easter lunch. Ben was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents present, but he was a tad out of sorts from all the schlepping around today. Plus he seems to be battling his first real cold. Poor dude.

Jonathan and I feel very strongly about exposing Ben to both his Jewish and his Lutheran roots, as well as to his Russian, German, Polish and Filipino heritage. He’s a human melting pot!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why blog?

Some of you fair readers (Hello? Is this thing on? Anyone reading this thing aside from Ben’s grandparents and Liz from the good old days in Evanston—hi Liz!) might wonder why I blog, as most of what I write is very focused on Ben.

The truth of the matter is, I have only one creative gene in my body and that is used purely for my photography. Therefore, trying to make a cute baby book to document all of Ben’s milestones and big adventures would probably turn into a stressful mess. Not interested!

I look back at my baby book, with its impeccably written notes (my mother was a school teacher and has absolutely perfect handwriting), and realize that I don’t have the skill to put together something even half as nice, but documentation is still very important. Hence, The Chicago Riveras blog was, uh, born, if you will.

Someday I plan on printing this thing out and binding it--maybe I’ll do that each year. I sometimes peruse the first few entries and marvel at how big Ben has gotten. I can picture Jonathan and Ben sitting in the living room reading over the entries, laughing at how his hair used to stick straight up (Ben’s, not Jonathan’s!) or how he used to sleep swaddled. Things that seem so important now are just going to be fleeting memories in a few short weeks.

I guess, as with most baby books, I am really only documenting the “good” stuff that Ben does, probably because nobody wants to read about the long, sleepless nights or the trouble with breastfeeding. Or maybe you do, since that’s also very much the reality of raising a child.

So, Ben, this is your life, on screen, as it happens. Through the marvel of modern technology, we can share these great events with our family and friends far and near, who don’t get to see you as often as we’d all like.

*Note to Ben: thanks for sleeping from 8:30-3:30 last night. Mommy was wide awake at 1am, waiting for you, but that’s okay. Keep it up!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Busy weekend!

Ben had a very busy and fun-filled weekend.
Auntie Heather was in visiting from Mason, Ohio and Ben enjoyed seeing her!
Aside from meeting Heather, Ben also had several other "firsts."
We met Daddy at work on Friday and took a very speedy elevator up to the Hancock Observatory.
The views were spectacular and The Chitownhommie showed off his Chicago knowledge by pointing out the important city landmarks. It was a perfect day to be high above the city.
Saturday we went to Lincoln Park Zoo--Ben's first time there. He was very into the fish and some of the reptiles. Other than that, he mostly slept. Someday we think he'll love it!

We are already dreaming about not only our next trip to the zoo, but also the next time we get to see Auntie Heather and her family. Hopefully we'll be able to bring Ben to Ohio in the fall. Looking forward to it already!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Playgroup=sanity saver

Ever since Ben was about 5 weeks old we have been going to a twice-weekly neighborhood infant playgroup.
I was lucky enough to happen upon this group months before Ben was born, by searching the internet for things to do with babies in Rogers Park. Happily, I came upon the Rogers Park Parents Group and from there found many local playgroups, organized by parents.
The infant playgroup is Mondays and Wednesdays and the location rotates from house/condo to house/condo depending on who volunteers to host.
So far the experience has been a great one for both Ben and for me. Ben now loves to watch the older (he's one of the youngest in the group) kids roll/crawl/walk around, and I enjoy the conversation with the parents.
Some of the moms have organized with-kid and without-kid excursions, all in the name of keeping their sanity during this yucky Chicago winter.
We've hosted three times so far and it's literally as simple as throwing a sheet over our living room rug and putting some washable toys down. The kids and adults start on the rug, chatting and checking in, and will frequently break away to chase a kiddo, change a diaper, or grab a snack. There's no set discussion topic but converstations revolve around all things baby. I have asked a ton of questions and have gotten great advice so far. It's a very supportive group--
I have found this group to be indespensible as a first time parent.
I look forward to the fun adventures that this summer will bring with our playgroup buddies!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No FOOL-ing!

Happy April 1st! Ben celebrated by accomplishing two major gross motor milestones...
Pardon Mommy's terrible photographs. The Model doesn't yet understand backlighting!
Notice the hands never leave the mouth...guess he just needed to learn to heave his large thighs around in order to get on to his side.
Didn't flip all the way over today but I predict full rolling can't be too far away.

Oh yeah--Ben also did this today for the first time...

Looking a little perplexed.
Notice Eddy decided to come and check out the action.
All in all, a great day for Mr. Cheeks. We also hosted playgroup today (more on that in another post) and had a great group of kids and parents.