Monday, September 28, 2015

Baby James: Six Months

Dearest Baby Boy,

You are six months old, darling boy, and I can't believe that we are halfway through.  Halfway through your babyhood, halfway through our year off together.  Six months that you and I have been absolutely inseparable.  Well, except for that late-night 10-minute run to the shop a few months ago, where I must confess I felt light as air, but also, eerily like I was missing a limb.  Where did that six months go?  It seems to have passed in a blink, but I can barely remember what it was like when you weren't a part of us.  You weighed in at 16 lbs 4 oz. this week and feel dense as a concrete block.  In fact "breeze-block" is Daddy's little nickname for you now.

A friend recently remarked how strong and stable you felt while being held, in comparison to other babies your age, and I thought "well, you'd be good at something too if you'd been doing it ALL YOUR DAMN LIFE."  I say that with a smile, and with the knowledge that - though you prefer to experience your days in the comfort of someone's arms - little by little you are developing some independence.  There is a golden hour after you wake in the morning when I can set you down on a blanket and expect peace for the duration of a shower and getting your sister and I ready for the day.  You can be left sitting on the sofa with a few toys and be happy for a decent interval.  You enjoy spending time in the doorway bouncer each day while I get some chores done.  You like laying on your toy mat, batting at the toys and doing your best to alternately shove them in your mouth, or disconnect them from the structure.  You don't like doing any one of these things for very long, and I remember on a particularly fractious afternoon I had to relocate you no less than five times during the time I was trying to wash the dishes in order to stave off boredom and tears.  However the intervals of time you are happy to spend on your own are extending.  You often chill out alone and content for a bit after you wake up.  During the past week you've fully woken and resettled yourself to sleep twice and even shocked me by putting yourself to sleep at bedtime once when I left you to tend to your sister.  So you'll get there, my son, you will get there.  Your bedtime has moved up to the 7 o'clock hour and overnights are still much the same - you always sleep and sleep well, but often stir a handful of times in the night seeking the comfort of a cuddle and a bit of nursing.

You are a dedicated finger chewer and this month you've discovered your feet, which have become a bit of an obsession.  You can right your listing ship in a sitting position, though I still don't trust you not to fall over within 10 seconds to a minute.  You've become a little chatter box, engaging in dialogue with conversational coos.  You have a ready laugh, especially when I sing to you, and you are extremely ticklish - neck, ears, shoulders, tummy, back... so bath time is a cascade of giggles.  You whinge a lot but don't seriously cry often, though this week you were on my lap and dropped a toy, then cried like your heart was broken when I didn't pick it up immediately. Caught me a bit off guard, that, now you're developing an opinion on things.  However, those moments are fleeting because no matter how upset you are, that million-watt grin is always lurking, making a quick appearance as long as someone comes by to chat or pick you up.  Tears can turn into giggles and back again in quick succession.  And to make it all the more charming, I've even spied a hint of a dimple in those adorable chubby cheeks.  You approach life with an expectant look on your face, your eyes wide, brows lifted, lips parted and a hint of the smile hiding there, like you can't wait to see what happens next.  Me neither, my boy, me neither.

I love you with all my heart,

Friday, August 28, 2015

Baby James: Five Months

The Bear Series: Five Months

My darling boy,

You are five months old, my son, and we've finally turned a corner.  In the past month, you've grown into yourself a bit and are happier in those moments when you aren't being carried or entertained.  Mind you, you're still a demanding little soul.  You're happiest in arms, but there will be no relaxing cuddles on a lap for you, my boy.  No - you must be held in a standing position, as you bend and flex your little legs over and over.  Frankly, it's exhausting as you weigh somewhere north of 15 pounds now.

Despite what I think is best for you, you have insisted that I bow to your wishes to be up and about in the world, and if that means a bit of time in the bumbo seat or the door bouncer or propped into a sitting position on the sofa, then so be it.  Although there was that one day when you used the sofa cushion you were propped up against to "stand" and then did a face plant on the sofa.  We were very lucky it wasn't a face plant off the sofa, so there's that.  I really must be more careful.  What with your refusal to spend much time playing on your back, you haven't yet figured out how to roll over, except that you can do it from your tummy.  You've spent about 5 minutes on your tummy since you were born, but this week when I put you down on your front you rolled over like you'd been doing it all your life.  So I really mustn't get too complacent about this staying in one place thing.

I had new mummy friends after your sister was born tell me that they had to get out and about with their bubs every day, and really I couldn't relate at the time.  But you've educated me, my boy, because you are much happier when we're out and about.  This effectively disguises your tyrannical nature and you become a smiling, happy baby.  That's one thing that everyone who meets you comments on - your gorgeous, ready smile.  It's transformative, that grin, and I often turn in a queue to find that you've charmed yet another person with the power of that smile.  You still seem to consider every stranger a friend you haven't met yet, though I suppose there may come a time when that might change.

You've developed a few consistent habits that are uniquely you.  You like to grab at the clothing on your thighs and although you're not a thumb sucker, you spend a lot of time chewing on the thumb and index finger of your right hand.  You've started to laugh, and are particularly prone to it when your neck is tickled.  You've also taken to sucking or chewing your bottom lip - something your sister did when she was teething - but you also try to chat when you do this, which means your communication comes out as this delightful little hum backed by a cheeky smile.  Then there's your reaction when you know you're about to be freed from the car seat and picked up.  You crack a smile as I approach you, then draw your little arms into your chest and kick your legs, grinning widely, practically vibrating with excitement while you do baby sit ups to try to levitate yourself.

The best thing, the very best thing, about this stage of your babyhood is cosleeping with you.  You haven't once given me trouble sleeping at night, though you may still wake up several times overnight to latch on.  You may not be eating much each time... who even knows - I fall asleep almost immediately anyway.  There's been a few times when I've scooted away from you to get more comfy and then you've fidgeted and squirmed and I think the best way to keep you (and me!) sleeping is to move back to you and offer the breast.  But you just curl into me, turning your head to shove a nipple squarely in your eye then go back to sleep.  You're happy as long as we're cuddled up close, and your beaming, grinning face in the morning is priceless.  I'm just as charmed as one of those strangers you try to make friends with, and like them, I can't help grinning back.  I do hope that you keep this habit of sleeping, and sleeping well.  It's one of your best features, second only to that gorgeous smile.

I love you with all my heart,

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Baby James: 4 months

My wee little man,

You are 4 months old, my son, and we seem to have landed smack in the middle of a growth spurt or developmental leap or something and, my goodness, you are not a happy camper at the moment.  Or, as Katherine puts it, “you are a little bit very fussy.”  After a period of relative peace as you outgrew the colicky stage, in the past week we have reverted to cuddles in the sling and a rather cantankerous mood for much of your waking hours. It’s not all bad – you are a very social baby and quite the charmer.  There are moments when you are absolutely delightful; you are mercurial, as you go from complaint to flashing an adorable grin in a heartbeat if anyone says hello.  But you detest being left alone and won’t stand for it for very long, even when the household is bustling about around you.  No – you must be up and about and right in the middle of things.  I’m not sure when you’ll learn to roll over or practice other gross motor skills as you don’t really like to spend much of your waking hours on your back or your tummy, or really anywhere that isn’t in someone’s arms.  Ah well, I suppose we all get there in the end, and if I’m honest I quite like knowing you stay where I leave you… at least for now.

This month you’ve dialed in that hand-to-mouth thing and also reaching out to grab toys, which you inevitably aim for your mouth with varying degrees of success.  You spend a lot of time chewing on your fingers and sometimes I laugh when it seems you’ve got one or two in your mouth but can’t for the life of you figure out what to do with the rest of them, so you twist and turn and splay them across your face and then give up and shove your whole fist in your mouth.  You’ve turned into quite the dribble monster – maybe you’re already teething? I have little experience in that department as your sister never really let me know.  I’ve seen real tears – once, just once – but it is heart-breaking all the same.  I've also heard you emit a proper little laugh exactly twice - once in your sleep and once laughing at me, but those giggles are still few and far between.

I’m guessing you weigh a bit more than 14 pounds now – you still just about fit into your 0-3 month wardrobe.  I’m not faithfully getting you weighed every month, but it’s certain that you are growing well and strong.  Sometimes I’m surprised because nursing isn’t really one of your hobbies, so I’m not sure where these plump little fat rolls have come from.  During the day you nurse for a frantic few minutes every couple of hours but you often make it clear that you neither want nor need to be fed more than that.  You latch and pull off, latch and pull off, then lay in my lap flashing a cheeky grin.  Overnight, you wake two or three times and we do the roll over, latch and drift back to sleep routine.  In fact, if you do have a hobby I’d say it’s sleep, which you do for hours and hours each day.  Considering how cranky you can be when you’re awake, this is a bit of a blessing for now.  And although I’m often in fear of how your naptime might impact your overnight sleep, we haven’t (knock on wood) yet encountered any problems in that department.  Sleepy times are some of my favourite moments, my little cuddle-bug, as you tuck your plump little body in tight to mine and we drift in dreamland together.

It’s a rough time for you, little one, and sometimes neither of us is having much fun, but although you are a tyrant, you are an adorable, charming tyrant and I will always, always be here to cuddle you through the bumps and scrapes of life.

I love you with all my heart,

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