Sunday, June 28, 2015

Baby James: 3 Months

The Bear Series: Three Months

My darling boy,

You are three months old little man, and as expected, with your fourth trimester completed you have become a proper little baby. You weigh about 13 pounds, moving up to around the 20th percentile curve, and nurse like a pro.  It still astounds me that I've nurtured your development from two tiny cells to this amazing little person.  I carried you for nine months and now, solely on the nutrition I have been able to provide, you have grown into this lovely plump baby with cute little fat rolls on your legs and dimples on your hands.  After the difficulties nursing your sister, I never thought that I could be comfortable and confident simply nursing without being able to count ounces.  But you've grown so well that clearly we must be doing something right, you and I.

You are so much happier now, as predicted by all, and I no longer feel like I am missing out by wishing away the days of your babyhood.  You wake up in a good mood and are happy to kick and play while watching me get your sister and myself ready for the day.  Your thousand watt smile could melt a glacier and charms all that you bestow it upon.  It's the best thing, when I say "hello, little man," and your eyes lock onto mine and that gorgeous smile spreads across your face, then you coyly turn your head and kick your feet as your grin gets even bigger.  It looks for all the world as if your main crush has deigned to notice you and that it has made your week... every time.

You are a champion sleeper as well, and I can count less than a handful of times when you've fussed overnight.  It's lovely to awake refreshed each morning with you snuggled up tight next to me.  Now that you've reconciled yourself to your arrival in the cold, bright world and are willing to be parted from me by more than 10 inches for more than a few minutes, you also nap often and well.  You've even logged a few naps that are hours long - a blessing as your sister never napped for more than 45 minutes umtil she was about 15 months old.  What you can't see at this moment is I'm desperately trying to find some wood to knock on, because there is one thing that remains unchanged about babies, and that's the fact that nothing ever stays the same.

You have become obsessed with your hands and spend a lot of time trying to figure out how much of them you can fit in your mouth. Your eyes are so expressive, easily conveying consternation, surprise, interest or delight.  You've also recently started to coo and chat, especially when I'm reading books to you and your sister. You lay next to me and chatter along.  You've even started to giggle a bit... well, they are nothing more than little titters at the moment as you grin and chatter, but they are adorable all the same.  You love your sister and are fascinated by watching her play, and she loves you too - last week, she even spontaneously told me, "and I love... James!" as she made a list of her passions.  I'm so looking forward to watching your relationship develop with her, even if it will sometimes be fraught with the usual sibling rivalry and squabbles.  Although it may seem that I often compare your infancy to Katherine's, you must understand that frame of reference is the only one I have, and I'm endlessly fascinated by both the differences and the similarities between the pair of you.

While we haven't yet developed anything that could reliably be called a routine, there is a certain rhythm to our days now.  I start the day, generally with two content children, and end it with varying degrees of success - sometimes with cuddles and calm, sometimes with tears and wailing from both of you.  At those tough times, I tell myself that it may feel that I'm losing the battle, but overall I'm winning the war.

The very best moments are when I wake up before Katherine does and you are snuggled up tight to me.  There is nothing more innocent and peaceful than a sleeping baby and those quiet early moments with no other demands on my time are blissful.  I drink in your lovely calm baby face, my eyes tracing the sweet curves of your tiny little features and my love for you swells until my heart bursts wide open, because, my son...

I love you with all my heart,

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Baby James: Two Months

My little sweet-pea,

I read a quote on Facebook the other day that went something like: "Labour is the only blind date where you know you will meet the love of your life."  It's been two months since we met, my littlest love, and already I'm beginning to forget how tiny you were when we did.  It catches me off-guard, when I look at photos from a few short weeks ago and see how much you've grown.  You are deliciously round now and weigh in a little over 10 lbs.  You are stronger and longer and spend much more time looking around and watching what is going in your world.

Your temperament continued to challenge me this month, little man.  For much of it you refused to be content if I put you down - not when you're awake, not when you're asleep. Since you're still in your fourth trimester and I understand your need to be close to Mummy, I've carried and cuddled you nearly 24-7.  It's felt claustraphobic sometimes, and I've gone to bed many nights with every muscle aching... not from exertion - just purely from tension... the tension of holding you, bouncing you, jostling you in pursuit of keeping your cries at bay in the evening.  I'm mostly successful.  This is a good thing, because when I'm not successful, it's tough on all of us.

But on the other hand, you sleep well in your car seat when we're out and about, and naps together are lovely, as you're happy to sleep for hours as long as you and I are cuddled up. And you sleep so well at night, tucked in next to me, that I can deal with pretty much anything you throw at me during the day.  Please don't give that up, little one.

Things are getting better though.  In the past week you've started your days content to watch the merry chase of getting your sister ready for nursery from the comfort of your swing or your playmat. You've become engaged and engaging when alert.  You love it when Mummy sings to you, beaming a great big grin at me and you're a sociable little thing, with a ready smile for any and all who say hello.  

Those moments when it's just you and me, and I can relax into the space where we are right now - this mandate to cuddle you - it's sublime.  I look at your peaceful sleeping face or your wide-eyed nursing gaze.  I hear the soft whisper of your breath.  I breathe in your lovely baby smell.  I feel the warmth of your compact little curves pressed to my chest, and I'm wistful for these moments before they've even gone.  Because I know, I know, that each one is fleeting and slips through my grasp like mercury, bright and shining and impossible to capture and keep.

I love you with all my heart,

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Katherine at 2 1/2

My darling girl,

You are 2 1/2 years old, my sweet, and the light of my life. Each morning you come bounding into our bedroom, generally not long after 6 am, announcing quite loudly "I'm HERE!" (you certainly are) or "I'm AWAKE!" (and now so are the rest of us).  You greet the day full of sunshine, even on the grayest of days.  This is in direct contrast to how you usually wake from your 2-hour afternoon nap, when you are decidedly grumpy, but sometimes also drowsy and cuddly, melting into me in that delicious way of a child.  On the other hand, you might wake up and melt down over a minute detail of your existence that isn't to your liking... one never knows.

A full 1/5 of your life has passed since I wrote your 2-year letter, and when I think about the math on that, I shouldn't be surprised how much you've changed.  But it feels like you turned two just yesterday and when I look back on the past 6 months, I'm astounded by how grown up you've become.  You weigh a sturdy 29 pounds, and no longer seem small for your age.  Your chameleon eyes skew more towards brown these days, and the untameable curls and waves of your hair sport gorgeous honey-gold highlights.  Although you have at least one of your last four molars through, possibly more (you refuse to open your mouth for me to look), I know that you have at least one more to go.  But teething has never been an issue for you, so I'm sure that will sneak in there with as little drama as the rest.

You are now quite articulate and continually surprise me with the words and concepts you understand, especially since you absorb so much at nursery that your world-view extends far beyond what I expect.  You are developing a sense of humour, and are tickled by absurdity.  The other day, Daddy was explaining to you that the tall bamboo in our garden is actually a type of grass, and you giggled mightily that he could say something so ridiculous.  I'm amused by the courage of your convictions.  "What colour is the sky?" Daddy asks on murky, rainy day.  "Blue!" you exclaim confidently. "That's not blue, that's gray," we assert.  "No," you say seriously, "That's blue," and dare us to disagree.

You are independent and fearless at nursery, standing your ground in the minor disputes that occur among children but rarely, if ever, acting the aggressor.  You simply won't stand for interference.  Speaking of nursery, I'm pleased that you enjoy your time there so much.  Each morning when we arrive you shrug off your jacket and throw yourself into a cuddle with one or another of the staff that are so charmed by you, or run off to play with your friends, all without a backwards glance for me.  "Say good-bye to Mummy," the staff entreat, but you never do because you are already absorbed in your world there, which doesn't include me.  On the other hand, your enthusiastic greeting of "MUMMY!!" when I arrive to pick you up warms my heart, and you're so excited to share with me what you are doing at the time.

Although you have your share of tantrums, transitions such as the school run, home time, leaving the playground or going to bed are surprisingly free of drama.  I'm often grateful, when I stop to appreciate it, for the composed approach you have to moving through the routine of your days.  That composure served you well when your world was blown apart 8 weeks ago by the arrival of your little brother.  You had an emotional few weeks as you adjusted to this change in our family, but you deserve a medal for the way you've adapted.  You largely ignore James, but when you do deign to notice him, you are ever so sweet and gentle.  "He's smiling at me!" you exclaim, even if it's only that he's awake and not crying.  You insist on placing the blanket on his car seat before we go out to keep him "warm and cozy." Once he was crying as we left for nursery and I explained that he was hungry for milk.  "I know, I know!" you said, running off and returning with your toy milk bottle and placing it in James' car seat.  You were so proud to help, and I'm so proud of you.

You are sometimes a bossy little thing.  "Sit down, Mummy." "Cross your legs, Mummy." "Like this, Mummy." "You don't go get it, Mummy.  I'm going to get it!"  You are stern and serious in these commands and sometimes it is deeply important that you are obeyed.  Perhaps I haven't done you any favours by acquiescing when it matters little to me to do so as that does mean that you can be terribly offended at the times I refuse to comply with your orders.  Sometimes I simply get a strict, "I'm. Not. Happy." Sometimes you cry like I've broken your heart, and it breaks mine a little too.

Other times you are deliciously sweet. We play a game where you stand in a corner, lining up a run like a gymnast.  Then I throw my arms wide and you charge across the room toward me, collapsing into my arms and laying your head on my shoulder. Then I stroke your back and you stroke mine too.  Sometimes you murmur into my neck, "I love you mummy" and I'm reminded that I can't and don't tell you often enough how very much I love you.  And I do, baby girl; I love you with the heat of a thousand suns...

...And with all my heart,

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baby James: One month

My dear James,

It was, as the sports commentators say, a game of two halves, your first month.  You arrived about a week and half early, after a short and easy labor, and we were able to go home less than 12 hours later.  You were calm as they placed you on my chest right after you were born.  You pretty much slept through your first night home, and your first few weeks slipped by in serenity as you mostly slept off your jaundice.

You've been nursing like a champ, and had gained nearly 1.5 pounds in a little over 3 weeks.  After the difficult nursing journey that I experienced with your sister, caring for you in the newborn days seemed easy in comparison.  No pumping, no sterilisation, no muss, no fuss.  We evolved into full-time co-sleeping because it is just so easy for those night feeds.  Life was good, my son.

Notice a use of the past tense there? Yes, so that was the first three weeks or so.  Then you figured out that you were no longer tucked up warm and cosy in my tummy and boy, are you ticked.  For the past week or so, if you are awake, you're probably fussing.  When it comes to it, you aren't necessarily that content when you're napping either.  I can't yet call it colic, because I have an arsenal of tricks to use which do actually help you settle down.  You generally aren't totally inconsolable, and for that I am grateful, but it takes up all my time.  You've got baby radar which goes off every time you and I are separated by more than about 10 inches, even if you're peacefully asleep.  So we spend a lot of time with you curled up against my chest in the sling or on the sofa.  It's lovely, it really is... unless I want to get something done which involves much bending and moving around, or chasing after that chatty tornado you'll come to know as your big sister.

You do sleep well at night, and for that I am really, really grateful.  You wake every few hours to latch on and feed for who-knows-how-long, because I usually drift off to sleep before you finish and you slip peacefully back to sleep as well.  As a result, I've felt only marginally sleep deprived since you were born, which is helpful since your sister wakes me without fail at around 6 am and I spend the rest of the day balancing my efforts to care for her and keep you from melting down completely.  By the end of the day I'm exhausted and need every bit of sleep I can get, so thank you for that and long may it continue.

I don't want to wish away these fleeting squishy newborn days, when you're all curled up so tiny and adorable.  We will never be here again.  This morning for the first time you looked directly at me and beamed the sweetest smile, and that makes it worth every exhausting minute.  This journey through the newborn phase is both much easier and much more difficult than what I experienced with your sister - the challenges are there, they are just a different sort. But one thing remains the same: I love you truly, madly, deeply.

And it's a good thing you're so darn cute.

I love you with all my heart,

The Bear Series: 3 weeks

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Two Years Old: My Name is Baffrin!



You are two years old, my little love.  I often wonder how it's possible that time seems to have passed so quickly when I can also barely remember not having you in our lives.  You weigh 27 pounds and stand right about 3 feet tall.  I have to guesstimate that height because it's not like you ever stand still long enough for me to measure properly.

Your sport adorable curls that resist all attempts to tame them, and it gives you an air of permanent bedhead.  You love your "bunkie" - any one of a number of muslin cloths that function as a cuddle blanket - along with your Bear and Hare and Tigger (who you only recently stopped calling by an "ooh-ohh-ah-ah" sound because you think he looks like a monkey) and Pooh.  You like to throw your bunkie over Mummy or Daddy to make us "go to sleep" and then proudly announce that "Mummy/Daddy is peeping" before yanking the bunkie away to wake us up and then laugh and laugh.

It's been ages since I've written your last letter at 18 months, and the biggest development is that you are now properly talking.  I wish that I had documented the progression in real time, but this summary will have to do.

By around 19-20 months, you had developed a litany of animal sounds, along with a short list of words that included: Mama, Daddy, night-night (used for bye-bye), up, flower, bubble, whisper, shhh, row-row (a request for row-row-row your boat), and most impressively at the time, glitter and triangle.  Your range of vocabulary comprehension was wide, as it was clear that you understood the names of parts of your body, foods, animals and words from songs, but you weren't really one for copying what we said, so it was always a delightful surprise when you came out with a new word.  You remained at this stage of verbal development for quite a while, adding a few words here and there like milk, juice, cheese, shoes, Bear, Hare, balloon... you know, the important ones.

You absolutely love counting, bringing Daddy or me books or counting toys and listening raptly while we counted out loud for you.  For a long while you would "count" by saying "three-two-three-two" while you ticked items off, and soon you developed your own sequence that went, "two-three-four-five-eight-BALL!" and you were so proud of yourself.  Then one night when you didn't want to sleep, you sat up and counted out from one to ten perfectly, and there you are.  We could hardly believe it.

Something happened around 22-23 months, all of a sudden you were talking up a storm, and there's no stopping you now.  You started copying all the words we say, speaking in sentences, using please, thank you and your welcome (coo-celcomb!), naming shapes, colours, days of the week, foods, places.  You've even become quite conversational, once saying "I am a cat.  Meow!"  When I responded, "Are you being a cat?" you patiently said, "Yes, Mummy, I'm a cat."  It charmed me completely that you weren't just using words for critical communication, but adding the social niceties too.  "Oh, dear," you say when something seems amiss... and much to my shame, the occasional "dammit" has slipped out as well. 

I'm very pleased that you finally say your own name, too, because for a long time you were chatting away about all the other children and teachers at nursery, but hadn't attempted your own name - preferring the more proper use of the pronoun "I" to the odd construct of referring to yourself in the third person.  Then one day I coaxed you to say "my name is Katherine," and you finally claimed it as your own...  with an adorable version that sounds something like "Baffrin."
I have nursery to thank for a lot of your progress.  The other day, you pooped on the potty there, when I had no idea you might be gearing up for potty training.  They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I don't have a village here, so although I pay dearly for your care, nursery is my village and I feel very, very lucky that you are so content there.

You've learned so much at nursery...this morning we were playing with your Winnie-the-Pooh number puzzles and you showed me that you can identify the numbers 3, 4 and 6.  When you did that with my phone the other day,  I thought it might be a coincidence, but to my surprise you actually know this stuff!  You also know the letters Z, K, and H.  With your love of music, you really enjoy song time at nursery, learning your own versions of "twinkle-twinkle," "happy birthday," "itsty-bitsy spider," "baa-baa black sheep," and with the coming of Christmas, "little donkey" all of which you sing to me in the car on the way home. 

You've got a mind like a steel trap and I'm often surprised at the things you remember and repeat back to me out of the blue.  Listening to you "read" all the crucial points of "Are You My Mother?" based on the countless times you've heard it from us is truly one of the most heart-warming moments of my parenthood journey so far, along with the time you threw your bunkie over both of our heads and planted a kiss on my nose, and the time you hid in a play tent and then called out in your sweet little voice "Mummy.... I miiiissss youuuuuu."

While it's been two or ten or twenty steps forward with your language, it's also been a few steps back in the parenting journey because about a month ago, your nighttime sleep patterns fell apart completely.  Although you still sleep through 40-50% of the nights, when you do wake up, it's no longer a simple matter of five minutes or so to get you back to sleep.  No, it can be an hour or two, and on a particularly horrible night last week it was 3.5 hours before you slept again.  Since you've always been a fairly good sleeper, this is totally new to me (well, since your newborn days) and I'm not going to lie - it has been terribly difficult.  They don't use sleep deprivation as a torture technique for no reason.  I can't figure out the pattern leading to the good nights and the bad nights, but I'm hoping desperately that this phase, too, shall pass... and soon.  When you are awake you like it best if I curl up around you and you can shove your feet in the crease between my thighs... and if you can't get your feet comfy that way you get quite cross, my adorable little weirdo.
You are fiercely determined and independent and sometimes this is frustrating for both of us, as you try unsuccessfully to dress yourself, while I try to negotiate giving you some help so that we can get underway within a reasonable time frame in the mornings.  You refuse to be transported in the pram, preferring to walk yourself and last week you walked nearly a mile and a half when we were on a "Christmas Tree Adventure" to view the lights at Windsor Castle. 

You know your own mind, and are surprisingly adamant about certain things - approaching them in your own time, like refusing to wear your wellies (rain boots) despite frequently trying to get them on yourself.  You just don't like the way they feel.  But then one day at nursery, while all the other children were putting on their boots, you put yours on and went outside to play like it was no big deal.  Or when you received a birthday present all wrapped up and couldn't believe my audacity at trying to show you how to unwrap it.  You were so distraught at my wanton destruction of your pretty package that I had to tape the torn corner back up again.  Then two days later you just decided it was time to open it and did so like you'd been opening presents all your life.

On the other hand, on most issues you are reasonable when reasoned with, provided I am patient and give you long enough to either decide that your desires converge with mine or process the fact that it is inevitable I will get my way, because after all, I'm the mum.

Huh, that still surprises me now and then... I'm a mum!  But I am so very, very lucky that I get to be mum to you.

I love you with all my heart.



Wednesday, May 21, 2014

18 months: She's a Soul Girl

Dear Katherine,

You are 18 months old, my little love, and you have grown and changed so much.  Often when I look back over the past weeks while writing these letters, I’m surprised how much you’ve changed when I wasn’t looking.  But in the past two months, it feels like I can see you getting bigger right before my eyes.  When I took you into nursery after a four-day break at Easter, the ladies there swear that they could tell you’d grown over the weekend! You weigh about 24 pounds and sport an impressive little pot belly (your “tickly cheese belly”) that you pull your top up to expose and pat like someone that’s finished a particularly satisfying meal.  You’ve just recently cut your incisors, so that makes 16 teeth.  And bless you, my sweet child, for in the past month you’ve drifted into the lovely habit of sleeping straight through the night.

The big news is that you’re officially a toddler now.  Although you’ve been taking steps since about about 17 months old, it was exactly 10 days ago that you decided walking is your preferred method of getting around, even though crawling is faster for you.  The experience is still novel to me, watching you stagger about with your hands curled up to your shoulders for balance.  For a long time, you wouldn’t walk if you thought anybody was watching you, but now you are so clearly proud of your new-found locomotion that I find myself beaming right back at you.

Your verbal vocabulary hasn't really expanded significantly, though you now readily say Daddy and Mum-ma and there’s no question that you mean us when you say it.  You understand so much, though, and are surprisingly easy to reason with.  The first, and only, proper word that you spontaneously use in proper context is “up!”  When you say it comes out with a forceful “UH!” followed a beat later by a precisely breathed “puh” which I find adorable.  You point to noses and ears and eyes and feet.  You also love books, especially the one with lots of pictures to help you learn words.  You point and point and point to hear me say the words, and make the sounds for the animals you know (duck and fish).  A couple of days ago you delighted us by making a monkey sound, which you must have learned at nursery since you didn’t hear it from us.  Then you delighted us even further by making that sound while pointing to your stuffed Tigger.  It was only when we looked with fresh eyes we realized that he does rather look like a monkey.  Another charming habit is when you get to the end of a book and close the cover, you wave bye-bye to it, usually a split second before you open it up to “read” it again.

In addition to books, which you generally prefer to toys, you also love music.  At nursery, one of the staff plays a guitar, and the first day she played when you were there, you weren't content to sit in a circle with the rest of the children.  No, you charged up to her, pulled yourself up and stood there right next to the guitar, held to rapt attention, dancing away.  You absolutely loved it.  We experienced something similar here at home.  Although we noticed you always seem to enjoy music, when Daddy put on the album Soul by Seal, and you were completely captivated.  You dropped what you were doing, walked up to the hi-fi, pointed at it, then started grinning and grooving and didn't stop through at least three songs.  We’d never seen such an intense reaction from you – well, except once when you saw some people rock climbing on TV.  It was a strange thing, that rock climbing thing – almost like you recognized it.
Speaking of nursery, you love it there and they love you.  It has been a pleasure watching you grow into yourself as your world has expanded.  One of the strangest adjustments for me, after the 15 months that you and I were practically inseparable, is to know that you now have a whole set of life experiences that I know almost nothing about and you can’t yet share with me.  But I feel so fortunate that you have settled in so well that you usually smile and blow kisses as I walk out the door and you sit down for breakfast with your little best friend.
The most amusing development is that you have become a precise little mimic.  You play peekaboo behind your little muslin like I've always done, or even more adorably, by covering up your mouth (but never your eyes) with two little hands.  The first time I noticed how intently you try to emulate me is when you got a hold of my moisturizer, then swiped your finger across the top of the lid and began to stroke your face in a nearly perfect imitation of my application technique.  A few days later, you watched your daddy polish off the last of the milk straight from the jug, then picked it up and spent the next 15 minutes pretending to take swigs of it yourself and making daddy do the same, and you laughed and laughed and laughed.  This is when the rubber hits the road, in parenting terms.  Never has it been clearer that I must now model the behaviour that I wish to teach you, because you are watching every move and taking it all in.  You continually surprise me with what you absorb, learn and reflect back to us and I can’t wait, my little love, to see what you’ll show me next.

I love you with all my heart,