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 30 inches 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,

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sixteen Months: Dance Like No One is Watching

Darling Katherine,

You are 16 months old, my little love.  You are growing up so much, but it is almost imperceptible to me until I look back to photos or videos from the last letter I wrote and realize you have changed immensely in the past two months.

There have been big changes in our daily routine as I went back to work about a month ago.  Because you had been unwell for quite some time before you started nursery school, you had developed some separation anxiety and I was anxious in turn about leaving you in the care of strangers.  But I needn't have worried, you love it there and you've settled in so well.  Your health issues were resolved and within two weeks you've even stopped crying, usually, when I have to leave you in the morning.  When we come to pick you up in the evening, you are always happily playing but when you realize Daddy or I are there you come steaming over as fast as your little limbs will move, beaming all the way.  This warms my heart, my love, and it's the highlight of my day seeing you again at the end of it.

You're little personality is emerging more and more, and your new environment is giving you an opportunity to show your colours.  You know your will and won't be pushed around by anyone.  There's no drama - you just calmly push away the hand you don't want there or take back the book or toy that's been pulled from your grasp by another child.  I'm so proud of your calm assertiveness and I admire it - for I don't think that you've inherited it from me.  If I can nurture that in you, then I will be doing well as a parent.

At home, you've become fascinated with fitting shapes together after months of always pulling your nesting toys and shape sorting puzzles apart.  You discovered a shape sorting bus toy at a friend's house and thought it was amazing.  I found that toy and brought it home for you to discover one evening after nursery school.  That's a sensitive time for you because you are generally exhausted after a long day at play, and it was that exhaustion that I credit with your reaction when you successfully fit a shape into its hole in the bus roof and dropped it through.  You immediately started to cry, distressed that you no longer had the shape in your hand.  I laughed to myself and showed you how to access the shapes inside and now you are so proud when you figure out how to fit the pieces correctly.  You also have a wooden puzzle that you only ever take apart, though once (only once) last week you spontaneously gathered all the puzzle pieces scattered about and stacked them carefully on top of the puzzle base.  You were tidying up!!  Tidying up your room with you in it is usually a race against your efforts to undo my work as each new item I turn my attention to suddenly becomes the most fascinating thing in the room for you.  So I hope to encourage a desire to keep things organised but I think that is still a long time coming.

Books remain a favorite with you, though you mainly want to point at items on the pages and have us name them.  You babble delightfully more and more, though real words are few and far between.  We think you've said "daddy" on request once and you say "mum, mum, mum" all the time, but I've never been certain you actually meant me.  I'm also pretty sure you quack like a duck with real purpose.  I'm not worried though, because you understand so much and follow instructions well.  You've learned the sign for "milk" and that was useful for a while, but now you make that sign to mean "milk," "drink," "I'm hungry" and "hey look, I can make the 'milk' sign!"  So its utility has been somewhat diminished.

You love, love, love the mirror which Daddy recently installed in your room.  It was a surprise to show you one evening after nursery school and your reaction when you saw it was absolutely priceless.  You giggled and posed and grinned up at our reflections.  You also love music and it cracks me up when a song comes on and you stop what you're doing, look up at me and then slowly start to bop along with the tune, getting more enthusiastic as you go.  It's almost like you can't help yourself... and dancing while posing in the mirror?  Well, it just doesn't get better than that, does it, my love?

In the past week or so, you've slept through a few nights for 10-11 hours without waking for milk, something you've done exactly once before - and that was months ago.  It isn't every night, but you've strung a couple of good nights together and, fingers crossed, it might become a pattern.  We recently moved you out of your crib and now you sleep on a mattress on the floor.  You like this because you can wake up and play in the morning, sweetly babbling away, and I like this because you wake up and play independently - affording me with some precious moments of peace, if not actually more sleep.

The biggest challenge in parenting you is definitely food.  You are a ridiculously picky eater, and the list of items you will accept is limited, somewhat unpredictable and definitely not the healthiest menu.  But it is a battle I refuse to engage in, and given the state of your impressive little pot belly and your continued growth, I trust you are getting what you need and someday your tastes will expand.

You are my sunshine, my darling, and even as I have endured the saddest thing that has ever happened to me, or leave work in the blackest mood I can imagine, your smile heals my soul.  When you abandon your play and make a bee-line for my lap, then tuck your head onto my shoulder, I kiss you and cuddle you and nuzzle your soft, unspoilt, deliciously baby-scented little neck and the depth and breadth and weight of my love for you brings tears to my eyes.

I love you with all my heart,

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

14 Months: Two Feet High and Rising

Dear Katherine,

You're 14 months old, my dearest, and I haven't written one of these letters since you turned one.  You haven't recently conquered any of the major milestones such as talking or walking, though you've just started cruising along the furniture in earnest.  So things seem much the same from day to day, but the fact is that there have been many, many little changes that have added up to quite a big difference since I last wrote.  

You now weigh in at a whopping 20 lbs, which puts you around the 40% percentile - pretty good for a young lady who spent most of her infancy not even on the scale.  You've got a big pot belly and chunky little thighs.  You're are sporting 11 teeth, including four molars.  I measured your height when you first stood up nice and tall at 12 months and you were exactly two feet tall, and I'd guess you've grown an inch or more since then.

Just after your birthday, we took a family holiday and celebrated it a couple of days late in a charming stone cottage in North Wales.  We had a little cake for your birthday; it was Christmas cake (aka fruitcake).  You much prefer it to the sweetness of regular cake, and since mummy thinks it's vile stuff, that has cemented your status as a proper little Brit.  We were anticipating much enjoyment, ours and yours, of the wanton paper destruction that comes with opening birthday presents.  Daddy was keen that you do it yourself, and given your tendency to happily muss any sort of paper you come across, that seemed a reasonable expectation.  But you were. not. interested.  Not even providing tantalizing open bits of wrapping paper could entice you.  In the end it took several days for your birthday presents to be opened and that was only because your momma finally caved and mostly did it for you.

Your favorite toys are still books - you absolutely love turning the pages.  Recently you've started to enjoy being read to as well.  There is a book that has farm animals in it and when I make the animal sounds you laugh and laugh - you know what's coming now and start smiling broadly even before I launch into my impressions.  You also have a set of nesting cardboard boxes that is endlessly fascinating, and a play mobile phone that is nearly as interesting as mummy's real one.

Unencumbered by safety gates, in the holiday cottage you discovered an enduring passion for climbing stairs, and ever since then you practically throw yourself out of my arms whenever I approach the stairs in our home.  Initially we had to watch you carefully since you only knew one way down: head first.  It was the same when you approached the edge of a bed or sofa.  We had to move quickly to avert dangerous diving maneuvers.  But then suddenly several weeks ago you just knew how to turn around and slide down backwards safely.  How did you learn that? We never showed you; it was something you discovered for yourself.

There are many cute little things you've learned all on your own.  One day you clapped your hands - another thing I never showed you - but when I applauded back, you were delighted and now love to clap, clap, clap all the time.  You throw your hands up in the air to express surprise or delight.  After months of having us place your cuddly toys next to your face for a little kiss (which is generally an open-mouthed gnaw on the nose) you've started to shove them back at us for a kiss and a cuddle as well.  This afternoon Daddy peeped in to watch you wake from your nap and witnessed a priceless moment.  You picked up Pooh Bear and collapsed over in a hug, then popped up and shoved him at Bear Teddington for a cuddle, just like you do to us.

The last binky photo
You aren't talking yet, but you understand so much.  If I'm playing with you and start a sentence with "I'm going to go..." you immediately throw yourself head-long into my arms to beg me to stay.  If I tell you "don't touch..." you know exactly what I'm saying.  You've grown cheeky as well.  If I say "don't touch" when you know I really mean, "please don't pick that up, throw it around and endanger it or yourself," you place a tentative finger on the object for a second and then turn to me to test the consequences.  You'll do this over and over while I laugh inwardly, watching for what you'll do next and wondering if I should be holding the discipline lines more strongly.

Ever since you've started standing, you've seemed to also develop a much stronger will.  You no longer hesitate to express your opinion by wailing a protest, and I've even seen you break out into a proper little temper tantrum now and then.  Usually these moments are mercifully short-lived, though you've been suffering with your first cold in the past week and have been much higher-maintenance than usual.  It makes me appreciate just how easy-going you usually are.

You spontaneously gave up your pacifier shortly after your birthday. One day you just decided you wouldn't have it anymore, even when you were upset.  It was yet another sign that you're no longer a baby.  I can't believe how quickly these past months have passed and what a little young lady you've become.  This is the enduring theme of parenthood for me - days are both endless and fleeting and I wish I could capture precious moments to be revisited at will, but unfortunately these letters are the best I can do.

I love you with all my heart,