Saturday, May 28, 2016

Baby James: 14 months

My dear little boy,

You are 14 months old now and quite a little character.  You weigh a little over 20 pounds, by my rough estimate, and you now have 8 teeth - with two on the bottom just having come through in the past week. Although you haven't gained much weight in the past few months, you have grown a few inches taller and I figure you are around 2 ft, 2 inches tall.

You cruise confidently and crawl like there is a firecracker up your bottom.  You have tentatively stood on your own for a few seconds, but not very often.  One time I turned away from you in the bath only to find you stood up on your own two feet sporting a very cheeky grin, because you know you aren't supposed to stand up in the bath. You would climb anything and everything if I let you, but you have no understanding of what it means to potentially fall so unfortunately you must remain earthbound.

You've learned to clap and blow kisses with a big, exaggerated "mmmmmm-wah" sound.  You've become an artful little mimic.  Like the time that daddy stubbed his toe and heard you echoing "ow-ow-ow," or when your sister coughs and you put on a little fake one too.  Once when I lifted your dense little body out of the car, exhaling forcefully with a groan, you tried a passable imitation of that sound too which made me laugh out loud and feel really old at the same time.  You say "Mama," "Daddy," "Uh-oh" and say something that sounds a bit like "Hello" when you pretend things are a telephone.  We think you have a sound that means "Thanks" but my personal favourite word is "Bubbles" which I didn't believe you actually knew until you pointed and said it out loud spontaneously last time we played with them in the garden.

You are an astute observer of what goes on around you and often surprise me by attempting to do things you've seen us do around you, but not necessarily to or for you.  Like when you got a hold of your sister's little frozen windmill toy and started trying to blow on it.  We never showed you that, but you don't miss a trick.  You've tried to put your own shoes on, and are actually quite handy at helping me dress and undress you.  You once even started "weeding" bits of grass and putting them in the wheel barrow when you watched daddy pottering around out in the garden.

You love pushing toy cars around, and playing with shape sorters and stacking rings and you just interact with the world so much more physically than I am used to.  You are obsessed with opening drawers and cupboards and pulling things out, but you also have the endearing habit of tidying them away again, albeit in the wrong places - which does make things difficult if not impossible to find sometimes.

We played a game with your sister the other day where she and I tried to build a block tower as fast as we could while you repeatedly knocked it over.  Each time you did, she squealed, then you squealed and you laughed so hard you fell over.  She is one of your absolute favourite people in the world, and you are one of hers, even if you do drive each other a little insane sometimes.

Sometimes you have little tantrums and this past weekend you would throw yourself backwards onto the floor for effect, narrowly missing the toy shelves a few times.  I hope when you do eventually crash into them, it doesn't hurt too bad and you learn from it because in this case I am going with the "if you're going to be dumb, you've got to be tough" school of parenting.  And Miss Elle at nursery told me about an incident last week where you crawled off in a snit, pitched yourself to the floor theatrically while howling out your frustrations, but then kept stopping to check for her reaction.  So you're no dummy.  You know exactly what the score is.

Nursery has been brilliant for you.  Each day you confidently lunge out of my arms towards one of the waiting nursery staff.  I've not yet seen you upset about being left there even though you hate it if I leave you alone to play at home.  You are happiest where you can play and explore at will and your confidence in doing so makes me so proud.  You are about the most sociable, charming, adorable, cheeky little thing I know and you keep me smiling and laughing so much.

Now if we could only sort out this sleeping through the night thing.  But even with all that, my son...

I love you with all my heart,

Monday, March 28, 2016

Baby James: One Year

The Bear Series: 12 months
My precious boy,

One! You are one year old, a proper little man.  You might weigh 19 pounds by now but it's not likely.  You still have only 5 teeth as no new ones have come through in the past month, but the 6th one is just about there to make 4 on the top.  You are nicely filling out your 6-9 month clothes and just starting to wear some 9-12 month items.  Although you don't seem to have grown physically much bigger, your verbal, social and motor skills are expanding loads.  You definitely say mama now, so I'm claiming that one - your first word in month 12.  You can make kissing sounds and click your tongue.  Although your specific babbling sounds haven't increased much in variety, you are getting quite good at trying to imitate sounds you do hear.  The other day, we were looking at a farm animals book and you offered a passable imitation of my quack and the buck-buck sound for a chicken.

You still love dismantling the toy shelf organisation, but now you've added the charming habit of deliberately rearranging the toys, or pieces of them, back onto the shelves.  When you decide where something should go, you are determined in your effort to place it there, even if it's a bit out of reach and the item falls down.  While you don't have a system that is consistent from day to day, you definitely have your ideas about where things should go.  I put things back in the same place each day and it makes me smile when I see random items carefully placed on the shelves.  It's clear your ideas of organisation don't mesh with mine, and I'm trying to be okay with that.

You've also started throwing proper little temper tantrums.  They are often triggered by frustration or tiredness and usually short lived, but comical in their determined intensity.  You've become obsessed with your stacking ring toy, but sometimes the ability to place the ring on the unstable, rocking stacker eludes you and you throw the ring in frustration or beat it on the floor, barking your disapproval of the situation with an odd, sharp little sound.

Your motor skills are improving all the time.  You've developed the leg strength to stand up from your knees without hauling yourself up with your arms, and to squat up and down rather than simply fall to your bum.  You've even cruised along furniture for a few steps now and then.  I was amazed one day at the library when you were moving along a low window sill under a library table, thinking this will all end in tears, then you casually stepped first one foot and the other over the table base so you wouldn't trip like you'd been doing it your whole life.  I find it amazing to watch you learn and grow, figuring out so much for yourself.

You are, as ever, a social little thing, and now you've started playing interactive games.  One that you invented during grandma's visit and love to play all the time is the mouth game.  You like to carry a toy in your mouth while you play, and now you want to put one in other people's mouths as well.  Bonus points if we can pass the toy from mouth to mouth.  But separation anxiety, as it were, seems to have set in, and the golden period when I could leave you in your room to play went as quickly as it came.  Now you loudly voice your disapproval when we walk out of the room you are in.  The irony is, the more you develop the ability to engage with the people and objects around you, the more exhausting I find it to keep up with you and your sister together.  So although spending time with you is more and more fun, and I miss you like crazy when I go to work, there's a part of me that is relieved someone else is on duty for a bit.

It is fortunate that your desire for company is still relatively indiscriminate.  Since I went back to work the day after your birthday, you've settled in beautifully at nursery and transition easily into the care of the lovely ladies each morning.  There you've been more willing to explore different foods and started to accept milk from a sippy cup, and these are big steps forward.  You've always napped well at home, and this adjustment has been rough on your daytime sleep schedule, so you arrive home exhausted and ready to nurse and get to bed.  I'm sure this will get better as you transition to one nap, and I'm hoping that you will finally grow out of your restless night-time sleep because mummy's a bit tired too you see.

This past year has flown by, accelerating even as the days pass inexorably until the sweet relief of bedtime when, watching you sleep, one could be forgiven for believing you an angel.  It seems only a moment ago that you were placed squirming and blinking onto my chest - a squishy newborn piece of loveliness - now here you are a grinning, babbling, crawling, opinionated package of delight and exasperation all rolled into one and as ever, my son... I love you with all my heart.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Baby James: 11 Months

The Bear Series: 11 months

My dear little boy,

You are 11 months old, my son, and seem to be developing now at breakneck speed.  You still weigh a little over 18 pounds, and now sport 5 teeth.  Thankfully, the sleep regression that I found so taxing last month seems to have ended, and you have slipped back into your normal habit of several brief night wakings that rarely last more than a few minutes.  In desperation as we rode out those nights of broken sleep, I tried putting you in a crib, but we were both miserable and have reverted to a mattress on the floor.  This is brilliant because sometimes you wake from a nap, crawl off your bed and spend 20-30 happy minutes playing completely independently.  I love watching you play in the video monitor, guided by nothing more than your own curiosity.

This month you dialed in the pulling to stand thing, though you still use your upper body strength to haul yourself up from your knees, leveraging yourself off the top of your feet.  It doesn't seem the most efficient of methods, but you're getting along quite well.  We recently installed some toy cubby shelves in your room and you love pulling up on these and emptying the entire contents onto the floor.  If I try to restore a sense of order whilst you are still in the room, it's like some kind of comedy sketch where I'm working as fast as possible to stay ahead of your unstoppable drive to recreate the chaos.

You've developed some really adorable little habits that seem uniquely your own.  When you head over to the toy shelves, your first stop is usually the puzzle cube, and you choose a piece to put in your mouth, not because you want to chew on it, but simply because you want to carry it around like a little puppy dog as you crawl about.  When you're sat in your feeding chair, you flirt and play coy, deeply tilting your head to the side - always to the right - and grinning widely when we imitate you.  You recently learned to wave as you and I played facing a mirror, and though you don't consistently deploy that gesture for other people, you simply cannot resist waving when you catch sight of your own reflection on any surface.

The last ever pacifier photo
Part of the reason that you didn't gain much weight this month is because you, along with all the rest of the family except (fortunately) mummy, came down with a doozy of bout of flu which knocked out your appetite for nearly a week.  You have never looked more pathetic and have never been more cuddly.  The lasting impact of this illness, and its attendant stuffy nose, is that you gave up your pacifier suddenly and completely, to the extent that if I offered it to you in an unsettled moment, it would do nothing more than enrage you.

I mourn the passing of the pacifier, as it is a clear indicator that you are growing out of your infancy and my last baby is properly becoming a little boy.  We've got one more month together before I go back to work, and spending time with you is getting to be really fun.  So I'm going make the most of it baby boy, before you aren't my little baby anymore.

I love you with all my heart,

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Baby James: 10 Months

My darling little buddy,

You are 10 months old, little man, and weigh 18 lb, 5 oz, with your weight gain having slowed dramatically in recent months.  You've got three teeth, with nos. 4 and 5 just about to come through. This month has been a big one for your motor skills development.  There are the little things, like learning you need to tip your cup up to drink, which you now do with comical enthusiasm.  Or knowing you need to remove your pacifier from your mouth to nurse, or eat, or chew on some other interesting item.  Now you efficiently eject the pacifier, sometimes a surprising distance, but I confess I'll kind of miss your little routine of trying to put something in your mouth while the pacifier was in place and looking confused when it wasn't working out so well.  Then there are the big things... you figured out how to move yourself into a sitting position mid-way through the month.  You started properly crawling on your knees the day before you turned 10 months old, and just a few days after that you were regularly pulling yourself to stand.  

Actually, the very first time you pulled yourself to a standing position was a day or two after you first sat yourself up on your own.  You were making a keen effort to pull up on the toilet and I thought, "Knock yourself out; that's never gonna happen."  Then you only went and did it like it was no big deal.  You promptly fell over and went back for another go, bumping your head on the bowl as you did so which made you cry.  You left off trying for another couple of weeks and when you managed it again - much more sensibly using the stair gate - you laughed and laughed because you were so proud of yourself.

A wise friend predicted that once you were mobile you'd probably be a much happier little soul, and she was entirely correct.  You are now quite happy to play independently for significant stretches of time, and as your daddy points out you are almost always on a mission of some sort.  I could say that your new-found motor skills have made my life easier, but I would be lying.  In fact, you are a bit of a terror and looking after both your sister and yourself in the same room has become like some kind of aptitude test, "Are you smarter than a 10 month old?"  Sadly, I fear the answer is often no.  There isn't a toy in the world that could hold your attention if your sister is involved in playing within your field of vision, and bless her, she loves you so much that she wants to play where you are but then expects me to run interference.  It's exhausting trying to stay one step ahead of you.  Sometimes when we get back home in the car, I just rest there a bit before extricating you from the car seat, savouring a few minutes of peace when I don't have to worry about what sort of trouble you are going to get into next.

Speaking of exhausting, any hope I had that you would have simply grown into reasonable overnight sleep habits by now was entirely in vain.  I'm not sure if it's developmental, or teething or what, but in the past few weeks you not only wake frequently in the night, you've sometimes stayed awake and you expect me to do so as well.  Even worse, after a period of charming grins and coos, you start to get just about as irritated as I am that you are up.  This is not a welcome development, so if you could sort it out that'd be great, mm-kay?

This month you added "Mum-mum-mum" to your babbling repertoire and it is adorable.  I could listen to you chat and babble endlessly.  You've become much more conversational, and are happy to imitate and repeat the sounds I make, so long as they're in your current "vocabulary."  In the past couple evenings before bedtime, though, you have deployed an open-mouthed yell with both impressive volume and longevity, not unlike Jim Carrey's most-annoying-sound-in-the-world in Dumb and Dumber. You can stop that anytime.

You're changing so quickly now, stacking up milestones one by one and the days of your infancy are inexorably slipping by.  I should be proud and excited for these developments, and I promise I am.  But don't be in too much of a hurry, my child, and forgive me if I wish you'd stay a baby just a little bit longer.

I love you with all my heart,

Monday, December 28, 2015

Baby James: Nine Months

My darling boy,

You are nine months old little man, and weigh about 18 pounds.  We've just put you into your 6-9 month wardrobe as you're a wee thing for your age.  You're sporting two bottom teeth now, the second one having arrived quickly after your first a month ago but no sign of your next ones yet.

On Christmas Eve you made your first forays into belly creeping.  Motivated by Christmas presents, the next morning you properly dialed in the skill and were well and truly mobile, and surprisingly quick.  The disadvantages to this development were immediately clear, as you make a beeline directly for anything we'd rather you not have.  You are particularly fond of your sister's puzzles, or pretty much any of her toys, and anything to do with fire preparation for the woodstove.  There are certain of Katherine's toys, age-appropriate to you, which your sister would rather not surrender to your care. There's a particular shape sorting bus that is high on your target list - much to her chagrin.  But if I give it to you on the sly when she's not around, you could not be less interested.  Funnily, one of your own toys - an activity cube - happened to get tucked away behind a basket, and when you found this on an exploratory mission of the sitting room you thought it was the coolest thing ever and couldn't get enough of it.  However, if I leave it out for you to play with, your opinion is that its mere availability clearly indicates a sub-par plaything.

Speaking of opinions, boy do you have them.  You let us have it if I'm giving you the wrong food, taking away a contraband plaything, not getting you latched to nurse fast enough.  When you get mad, you blow raspberries as your face turns red, which is kinda funny so forgive us for laughing.  You hate being left alone and howl and whine to make sure we know about it.  But, capricious little thing that you are, as soon as we say hello or pick you up, you are all charming grins.  You flirt and play coy, smiling widely and then burying your face in your hands or a shoulder.  You seem to get bored easily, but when we are out and about you are generally an angel, happily taking it all in, content for hours on my back in the carrier.

You still don't sleep anything like through the night, generally waking several times.  But you nap wonderfully, which your sister never did at this age.  Sometimes we nap together and your smile when you wake and discover me next to you is just about the most heart-melting thing I've ever seen.  Then you try to rip my chin off and this is not so endearing.

There are moments, which are becoming more frequent, when you explore your world with determination, or you emit delightful babbling sounds - currently bah-bah-bah-bah, gah-guh-gah-guh, or the one that makes me smile the most, goya-goya-goya-goya from behind your soother.  These are the moments that pass too soon, consigned too quickly to mere memories and, if I'm lucky, as an instance captured in a photo or video so I can easily look back and remember just how adorable you were as a baby.

I love you with all my heart,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Baby James: Eight months

The Bear Series: Eight Months

My dear boy,

You are eight months old, little man, and time seems to be accelerating away from me.  Wasn't it just last week that I wrote one of these messages?  Ah well, here we are again.

So what have you been up to? You've figured out how to roll here, there and everywhere.  You have also pretty much figured out how to remain sat up, though you are just as likely as not to decide you no longer wish to and tip yourself over on purpose.  The new mobility and motor skill has generally improved your mood.  You also decided you would take a pacifier - MAM soothers - about 6 weeks ago, and as a result you're practically a different baby.  Except when you're not; you're still a demanding little thing, particularly in the evenings.  You seem to be a morning person like mummy, and are quite happy to play independently for a decent stretch of time after you wake for the day.

Your fine motor skills are progressing well too.  You've become quite coordinated picking your soother up and working it properly into your mouth.  You have a fairly decent pincer grip, honed on Cheerios, which you're getting better at letting go of once you pop them into your mouth.  Your relationship with food is coming along - you've become less resistant to new flavours and much better at coordinating chewing and swallowing finger foods.  I was surprised to find after dinner the other night that you had legitimately ingested three mini rice cakes, rather than simply rendering them a pile of drool-soaked crumbs or squirreling large pieces away in the depths of your feeding seat. When I do give you food on spoons, which you dutifully grab and shove into your mouth yourself, I have to work three spoons at once through a rotation - one for each of your hands and another one for me for the next mouthful of food.

Verbally, you've started to coo and gurgle with much more definition, primarily ah-goo-goo, and often do this when you're gnawing on a bit of food or your pacifier.  You figured out how to blow raspberries a few days ago and undertook it diligently, with impressive and copious amounts of dribble.

Sleepwise, you're still happily taking three naps during the day, so long as our day is sufficiently unscheduled to accommodate this.  Your bedtime is between 7-8 and I think both of us are glad when that time arrives.  Recently you've started falling asleep without needing to nurse until you're completely out.  Sometimes you unlatch and turn your back on me.  A few times you've even drifted off left on your own with the soothing sounds and colours of a YouTube lullaby track.  Overnight, you still wake a handful of times to nurse briefly.  I'm not sleep deprived at all, but when I was tracking your sleep patterns for a while I found it discouraging, as I envisioned having to cosleep until you're four in order to avoid numerous trips from my bed to yours.  I'm sure you'll get there eventually, and if I'm honest I'm far too lazy to rock the boat and try to force you to sleep longer, or on your own.  And anyway, if we weren't cosleeping, I wouldn't get to wake up to this adorable mug:

Breaking news: you cut your first tooth the day before you turned 8 months.  I noticed this when you chomped on my finger a few hours after having told some friends that we might have 4-6 weeks to wait if you followed your sister's pattern.  I was dreading the arrival of this tooth, as it marks the beginning of the end of the gummy grin I adore so much.  People ask me if teething was bothering you, but honestly you're often such a fussy little thing, who could tell?  I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's a good thing you're so damn cute.

I love you with all my heart,


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Baby James: Seven Months

My darling boy,

You are seven months old little man, and you are a delightful, challenging bundle of mercurial moods.  You weigh in at 17 lb, 3 oz. and are cruising the 25th percentile line nicely. This past week has been especially challenging as you've picked up a doozy of a cold.  You spent a few days emitting a piercing squeal that would put the shrieking eels to shame, and then suddenly all that came out of your mouth in that register was a breathy kind of squeak.  I was relieved at the respite until I realised that you may simply have lost your voice and these squeals could return at any moment.  I live in fear, my boy, because those shrieks are truly horrible.  The one thing that staved them off was putting you in the carrier, calling to mind your early months when I held you pretty much all your waking moments.  Fortunately, given your growing weight, we have perfected the back carry and you are remarkably content back there while I get on with my day, doing household chores and chasing after your sister.

The illness messed with your sleep as well, causing you to wake about once every 60-90 minutes and sometimes you won't even be pacified by the magic boobs.  This is a new and disturbing pattern for a boy that has always liked his sleep and hardly ever kept me awake in the night for more than a few minutes, even if you have always woken several times overnight.

But as ever, your charming grin is always lurking, ready to appear for anyone stopping by to say hello.  And I can pretty much forgive you anything when you flash that smile.  You reserve your best giggles for your sister, whom you adore and find hilarious. She comes up to you and places her face inches from yours, then says your name over and over in as many different tones and volumes as she can think of and you laugh and laugh.  Sometimes she combines this little trick with a cuddle that looks an awful lot like squashing, and yet you chuckle away, endlessly amused and not at all bothered.  There is nothing funnier to you than watching your sister walk down the stairs behind us, but pretty much any attention she pays you absolutely makes your day.

This month you began your adventure with food, as per the guidelines of those in the know. I was not looking forward to this, though having already raised one extremely picky eater, I thought I knew the pitfalls and hoped to have a more adventurous gastrophile this time.  Boy, was I wrong.  After the first couple days it was clear you had no interest and so we left it for another 10 days or so and tried again.  This time you were quite happy to chomp on toast, breadsticks, rice cakes, or french fries and either just about tolerate or gobble up baby cereal and apple and pear puree, depending on your mood.  But you do. not. like. vegetables.  You make this abundantly clear by puking up anything you don't like the taste of.  I steamed some carrots for you to try and feed yourself, and you visibly flinched each time you brought one to your lips, and thereon it will not pass. Sigh.

Your other big accomplishment this month, by the skin of your not-yet-visible teeth, was rolling over back to front.  You managed it for the first time the day before you turned seven months.  I put you on your play mat and left the room, so I wasn't even there to see it.  The next day you dialed in the rolling thing and did it like you've been rolling your whole life.  I put you on your change mat and left the room for a new nappy, returning not 30 seconds later to find you were completely missing.  It was utterly disconcerting.  Turns out you had rolled across the floor and tucked yourself up by the sofa.  Oh well, we had a nice long run of time when I could put you down and expect you to stay where I left you.  But in the entire parenting journey, nothing stays the same but change and it is my job to celebrate these accomplishments that represent the steps you will constantly, incrementally, inexorably take to move away from me over the next couple of decades, even if each one breaks my heart a little.

These days are flying by, and I reach the end of them absolutely exhausted, breathing a sigh of relief that we have all made it through another one largely intact.  However, I have realised that nothing quite crystalises how quickly these baby days pass than experiencing them for the final time.  You will always be my baby, little one, but you won't be a baby for much longer.  Your infancy will pass in the space of a breath, in the moment of a sigh, and it's the quiet moments that I try hardest to capture and keep in my heart forever.  Because when you're sleeping, one could be forgiven for believing you an angel.

I love you with all my heart,