Monday, November 28, 2016

James: Twenty Months

My darling boy,

You are twenty months old, my son, and you now weigh about 23 pounds.  You are still a wee thing, comfortably wearing your 9-12 month wardrobe. You just cut your 13th tooth last week - your first incisor - after months of no teething at all.  You've recently learned to run, and your attempts to "jump!" are adorable, if ineffective.

The biggest development in the past four months is definitely on the language front.  You've recently hit that explosion point where you seem to add a word or two to your vocabulary each day. You comprehend so much and are happy to repeat pretty much any word you hear.  You often employ your astute skills as a mimic to comic effect.  Sometimes when I bend over to lift up your chunky little weight out of the car seat, you drive home how old and exhausted I feel by executing a perfectly pitched imitation of the "oof" or groan I emit involuntarily, but it always makes me laugh. You take pride in your new-found ability to communicate and although your diction often leaves me slightly confused, your sense of accomplishment when you manage to convey your meaning is palpable.  The sweet wide-eyed little expression on your face as you ask for something and will me to understand you is indelibly marked on my soul.

You have developed other unique and endearing little habits. You can recognise the sisters from Frozen, but you think they are both called "Anna." You put together block towers and then applaud yourself and say "Well done!"  You lay down on your back, scratching at your tummy, and invite us to "tickle?"  You think your sister's belly button is hilarious, and if you glimpse it, you'll drop everything and come charging over giggling and pointing at her tummy.  Sometimes you crawl up on my lap and put your nose one inch away from mine and just sit there, staring and grinning.  You've recently discovered the power of a cuddle, and you wrap your little arms around my head and rock back and forth, crooning "aaaawww."  And if your sister says, "James, do you want a cuddle?" you will literally rugby tackle her to the ground.  This has evolved into this funny sort of WWF move where anything you'd like to snuggle gets pinned right to the floor under your little tummy.

Being the second child, your taste in toys is rather more sophisticated than some toddlers... It can broadly be described as "anything your sister has."  Her recent birthday was an exercise in frustration as you just didn't understand why she had all these fun new playthings which you weren't supposed to grab.  It's a measure of just how much she loves you that within minutes of receiving her presents she generously agreed to let you examine them, and even abscond with one of them.  In addition to Katherine's toys, you've recently discovered two particular favourites of your own: a tower of stacking cardboard boxes as tall as you are, and of course the best part is knocking it down. You are also quite partial to carrying the smallest block around, and when that went missing you adopted the second smallest as your new companion.  We have a set of foam tiles that form a hopscotch game counting to 10.  You refer to it as "Blast Off" and love to run up and down it, then plop down on your padded little bum, shouting "boom!"

While thankfully you've largely given up your klepto-tidying tendencies (there are things we still haven't found) you've moved on to an obsession with deliberately placing things in inaccessible places then expecting me to sort you out.  The sooner you figure out how to retrieve things from under the sofa, the better, eh?

This age can be a difficult are easily transferred at nursery drop-off (though you suspiciously eye up anyone who isn't your favourite - Miss Dominka - if she's not there to receive you), but the time you spend away from me makes you clingy and demanding when we are together. You have had a few epic tantrums and countless meltdowns, and that sleep thing is still an issue.  But nature gets it right, and your little toddler grin is so darn adorable I can forgive you pretty much anything.  And those moments when you wrap your arms around my head in your own special brand of cuddle melt my heart into a puddle and make this all worthwhile.

I love you with all my heart,

Thursday, July 28, 2016

James: Sixteen Months

My sweet little man,

You are 16 months old, my wee boy, and definitely no longer a baby.  You've got 12 teeth now and weigh only slightly more than two months ago - just over 20 pounds - but have grown a couple of inches and so have lost lots of your baby fat.

You are officially a toddler now and started walking about 6 weeks ago. A few weeks after you turned 14 months, rumour had it you were taking a few steps here and there. But I didn't see any steps until about a week before you were 15 months old, and within the week you were a proper toddler, choosing to walk more often than you crawled.  It was so strange to turn and find you standing and following me around, but now it's hard to remember what it was like when you weren't toddling after me as a near-constant little shadow.

You have added a few more words to your lexicon, and sometimes surprise me with the new ones. One morning you started tapping my face and saying "no" and then I realised that you were saying nose. To the short list of mamma, daddy, no-no-no and bubbles, you've also added shoe, buh-bye, the occasional he-roh (hello), choo-choo, vroom (car), baby, chicken and perhaps pizza (some of the few foods which you love to eat) and a couple of times, you've quacked like a duck.  Inexplicably, though
you've called me "mummy" for months, you've recently started to greet any member of your immediate family with an enthusiastic "Daddy!"  Your non-vocabulary sounds are extremely expressive, with my particular favourite being the ooh-OOO-ooh sound you make when you find something especially interesting or impressive.  You also quite effectively use the incessant and somewhat annoying "eyuh-eyuh-eyuh" to attempt to obtain the objects of your desire.

Even if you're not speaking loads, you've recently started to exhibit a significant range of verbal comprehension.  I was reading a book to your sister the other day about a dinosaur stomping around and I noticed you were off in the corner stomping your little feet, and so I asked you to do it again and, to my delight, you did.  After that I started asking you to follow all sorts of instructions, with varying degrees of success.  You're quite good at closing doors and drawers upon command... and there are a lot of those commands, because your absolute favourite thing to do is open cupboards and drawers and begin to empty them.  You do this mainly because you enjoy tidying things away, but only within your own completely random system. As a result, I can't find much of anything anymore and sometimes have to resort to following you around to discover your hiding spot du jour so I can find missing items.  Due to your penchant for throwing things away, we had to move the trash bin completely out of reach before you got rid of something really important like, say, the house keys or my phone.

Now, we really need to talk about sleep, son.  There was one magical night when you slept from 7:30-5:00 (though in retrospect you might have been fighting off a virus), but every other night you are generally up at least twice.  Add since you now wake up, without fail, between 5 and 5:30, I could really do with some uninterrupted sleep during the night.  You are also seriously flirting with dropping to one nap, but as a result frequently fall deeply asleep on the 5 minute drive from nursery.  This catnap gives you a second wind that pushes bedtime ridiculously late, and momma needs some downtime, yo.  This is not an ideal situation to say the least, so if we could sort it out that'd be grand, mmm-kay?

One of the most delightful things is to watch the relationship deepen between you and your sister.  You have that intrinsic ability of siblings to irritate each other no end.  You find anything she's playing with the most interesting thing in the world, and likewise when you discover one of her long-ignored baby toys, suddenly it's her absolute favourite toy in the world and she simply must have it back from you. Tantrums often ensue, and I must add yours are quite theatrical and impressive.  If you are left alone to scream out your frustration, you will quite deliberately relocate your performance to ensure you have an audience.   But in one of many touching moments, I heard Katherine singing the evening "cuddle-time" lullaby along with children's telly when you two were left alone together and came around the corner to find her arms wrapped around you, and it melted my heart.  "Mummy," she says, "I love you and Daddy with my big heart and I love James with my baby heart." And you love her with your baby heart right back.

As for me, my son, I love you with all of my hearts...


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,