Big Boy

Dear Love Bug,

We sold your last (other) Pack N Play yesterday. That feels like a big step forward, and a part of me is sobbing over the piece of your infancy that was just given away. The woman who bought it sent us a photo of her tiny 9-week-old sleeping in the bassinet, and oh, how my heart twinged. This particular Pack N Play has been at Nonna and Opa’s, welcoming you for naps and an occasional overnight, for two and a half years. You’ve cuddled up in it with your Heehee and your friends for endless hours. 

Thank goodness you’re still in your crib and I can pretend you’re a baby (“No, I’m a big boy!” you say.) just a little bit longer. 

Maybe we’ll leave you in there until you’re 18. With the video monitor–ha!

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

self-aware

20 months

We’ve rounded the corner into the final third of your second year. This seems momentous, for some reason–more momentous even than hitting a  year and a half–and all of a sudden you seem to have sprouted into a little boy. You’re less roly poly and much more dexterous, your hair is fuller, your little face is becoming more defined. You just don’t quite look like a baby anymore.

And you know who you are: you’re “Eefan.” You refer to yourself nearly constantly in the third person, and you narrate your own life. “Eefan does X,” you say, or “Eefan doing Y.” Last week, Daddy texted me a conversation you had with him one morning after I’d left the house:

Daddy: Are you ready?
You: No.
Daddy: Time to go to Ms. Gina’s.
You: Eefan reading.

You point to yourself in pictures and cheerily call out your own name. If we ask you to whom something belongs, you’ll say “Eefan’s ball” or “Eefan’s book,” complete with the possessive S! You also talk to yourself a lot, especially in the mornings before I come into your room to pluck you from your crib or at night when you’re lulling yourself to sleep. Eefan is clearly your best friend, and I think that’s great.

Your self-awareness has expanded to your physical well-being, and your vocabulary is now allowing you to tell us if something’s bothering you. You’re beginning to use the word “hurt,” and you’re pretty good with identifying various body parts. Last week–I remember it was Tuesday morning–you woke up crying, which is unusual. Early in our morning routine, you said “boo boo kitty,” letting us know that something hurt. (You use this to mean “boo boo” rather than the cat-shaped ice pack we use when you have a boo boo.) “Where does it hurt?” I asked. You said, “belly.” I was surprised; I hadn’t actually ever heard you use that term before. I thought maybe you were hungry, so we offered you your usual cup of milk and Cheerios. You chugged the milk and left the Cheerios–a bit unusual but nothing we thought much about.

Later, as I was on my way to the dentist, I got a call from Daddy. You’d thrown up all over the back seat of his car on your way to daycare. I took a sick day and spent the day with you. You never threw up again, and by the time you woke up from a marathon nap, you seemed more or less back to normal. Seventy-two hours later, the stomach bug hit me, and by the time I was recovering after a full day spent completely helpless in the face of the most violent digestive illness I’ve ever experienced, Daddy got it. Repeat. All I could think was how thankful I was that Daddy and I hadn’t both gotten it at the same time; it was so debilitating, there was no way we’d have been able to take care of you. But by Sunday morning, we’d both bounced back to functioning if not normal.

And so that milestone, too, had passed: We got our first family stomach flu–not the last, I’m sure–and lived to tell the tale (although it was touch and go there for a while).

The milestones are coming nearly faster than I keep track of. On Monday, your 20th monthday on the dot, you tried out your new nap mat at daycare for the first time and took to it beautifully: no fussing, no rolling about, nothing. Apparently, you simply crawled in, put your head on the pillow and went to sleep. So now you’re napping on the floor like the big kids and you never even looked back at your Pack N Play.

Part of me is just a smidge sad, just slightly grieving the baby that was, the baby who needed me desperately. You’re so independent now, so aware of who you are and what you want; lately, that’s Daddy more than me (another blog post to come on that, perhaps), pancakes, cookies, tunnels, Elmo, downstairs and bubbles. Every once in a while, a book is thrown in there, too.

I’m so very, very proud of the little boy you’re becoming. But it’s also OK if Eefan wants to climb into my lap and be a baby for a little bit longer.

  
  
  
  
  

aye yuv yoo

19 months

I can only imagine you’ve gone through some major cognitive leap recently. Your understanding of the world and how it works grows exponentially on a daily basis, and your ability to express yourself is mesmerizing.

Daddy and I like to play a game with you where we ask you who says what. It goes like this:

“What does the cow say?” we ask.
“Moo,” you say.

“What does the sheep say?”
“Baa.”

“What does the duck say?”
“Quack quack.”

The other day, Daddy asked you what Opa says. At one point when you were very young, Opa started saying “heh heh” to you, and you’d say it back. In fact, before you learned to say “Opa” you called him “Heh Heh.”

So when Daddy asked you what Opa says, you responded “heh heh.” Not surprising.

Then Daddy mixed it up a bit and said, “What does Daddy say?”

You responded: “Aye yuv yoo.” We were floored.

Daddy then asked, “What does Mamma say?” And you answered the same way: “Aye yuv yoo.”

My heart nearly burst from the joy! I think maybe we’re doing something right? (Thank goodness you didn’t say “Ethan, no!” which you may hear nearly as frequently as “I love you.” Toddlerhood is in full swing.)

You’ve just become much more affectionate, coming to us for hugs and cuddles, running up to us (Daddy especially) and throwing your arms around our legs while burying your face in a thigh, and giving kisses when requested. You make a “mwah” noise when  you do it, too, which just about kills me. And it’s not just for us! You kiss photos of people like your grandparents, and you kiss yourself in the mirror. You’ve also become lovey-dovey with your favorite toys, giving Simba, Heehee (your blankie), Lamby (a relatively new fave) and Max kisses just because. But it doesn’t stop there; you have your toys kiss each other, going “mwah mwah” as they do. This holds true for your Disney characters and rubber duckies, puzzle pieces, Little People and anything with a mouth, really. I love that you do this, and I love that you’re kissed so often it seems natural to you to make your toys give kisses, too.

Lest you read this at some point in the future and think you were the most perfectly charming toddler ever, let me assure you that all of this cerebral development has come with its fair share of downsides. You’ve become majorly, heels-dug-in willful, insistently demanding and, quite frankly, pretty bossy. “Daddy, fix it.” “Mamma, hold it.” Or, even more frequently: “Cookies!” or “Pancakes!” Over and over and over. You’ve also recently begun saying “I want,” which allows for some impressive sentence construction: “I want s’more mango.” “I wanna play.” If you don’t get what you want, you will often throw stuff, push things over, swing your arms around to hit something or completely melt down into a mini-tantrum. Not your finer side.

You’ve also started waking up in the middle of the night again. It’s not every night, but it’s more often than not, and it’s always weirdly in the 2 a.m. hour. I thought it might be the 18(ish)-month sleep regression, but tonight I spotted that first lower molar breaking through your raw, angry gum, and I have a feeling that’s the culprit. We’ve been plying you with Hyland’s Teething Tablets, which generally help you drift back to sleep pretty quickly.

The teething doesn’t seem to have affected your appetite, though. You must be going through a growth spurt. How else can I explain the two-hot-dog lunch? Or the entire-whole-banana-plus-blackberries dessert? Tonight, you kept asking for “more broccoli” so I’m not complaining. I’m thrilled you’re eating as well as you are, especially after a period of extreme pickiness that seemed to accompany your most recent illness (and amoxicillin treatment). We thought it was just that you weren’t feeling well, but one night you kept saying “that” and pointing to your plate. We’d given you everything on it, and you’d turned your nose up to all of it. Somehow, we realized you were talking about the plate itself. We put it on your tray and handed you your fork and spoon, and you left not a crumb. Apparently, you were on a hunger strike because we were still portioning out your food rather than allowing you to eat like a big boy off your plate.

Aye yuv yoo, Munchkin.


  
  
  
  
 

the importance of being selfish

29 weeks

My birthday is next week. I’ll be 36 years old. Right now, after a night that ended abruptly at 4:15 (deep, dark 4:15 seen through the tiniest slits of my eyes because I just couldn’t pry them open) when you woke screaming (again), I feel like I’m going on 65. Actually, I’ll probably be better rested at 65.

Anyway, people (meaning Daddy and Nonna) have been asking me what I might want for my birthday, and the only things that come to mind are intangible. I have no need for anything other than: Sleep. Quiet. Time for myself.

This makes me feel selfish, of course. I’m not even seven months into this mom thing, and I’m already feeling like I need a break. A serious one. Perhaps a days-long one. I want to get my hair cut. I want to do my nails. I want to go shopping, once, for myself. And without you strapped to me.

I must have zero stamina. I must be weak. I must not really love you as much as other moms love their babies.

This makes me feel horribly, terribly guilty. After all, I wanted this. I wanted you. So not only am I selfish, I’m an ingrate.

And as I stood over you, then paced with you, then sat with you grappling at my neck and hair and drooling all over me at 4:15 a.m., feeling like I could cry but knowing that adding my tears to yours would do absolutely nothing to help the situation, I realized that I am grieving. I miss my old life desperately sometimes (mostly at 4:15 a.m.). More guilt.

But really, I think it’s natural for new parents to grieve their former lives, and it’s something–much like postpartum depression or sleep deprivation (both of which are no joke)–that we need to talk about more openly rather than in hushed tones, as if they’re something to be ashamed of, and setting up unrealistic expectations for storybook lives in which baby is the end all, be all, bestowing such joy upon the new family that nothing else matters anymore. I will say it: I miss my old life.

I miss the impromptu dinner dates with Daddy, the evenings at the theater, my after-work runs, my lazy weekend mornings idling hours away over the crossword puzzle, no more than two loads of laundry, evenings in front of the TV doing my nails, baking for no reason other than the joy of baking, reading for fun and time, time, time galore. I had so much time, I don’t even know how I spent it all. I miss the freedom. And I miss my relationship with Daddy and with my body, both of which have been neglected more than not.

So as I start a brand-new year of my life (which happens to coincide with the beginning of your eighth month, unbelievably), I’m telling myself not to look back but I’m gifting myself the freedom to be selfish every once in a while and not to feel bad about it. I know that taking care of me–whether it’s physically (I need to get back into the gym or at least go for a run before everything turns irrevocably to jelly) or emotionally (I will make arrangements so that Daddy and I can have us time every once in a while)–will ultimately allow me to take care of you more effectively and more willingly. Sleep would help, too.

There is courage and strength in being selfish, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that. Nonna sent me a piece about this with a note that it’s important. It is important. Nonna has taught me my whole life how to advocate for myself, and it’s critical now more than ever. If I allow my life to be consumed by yours or by our family’s, without thought to my own well-being, I will have failed her and myself.

While I will do everything in my power to teach you to be generous and big hearted and charitable and to do unto others as you’d have done to you, I will also teach you to be selfish when appropriate. Love love love with all your heart, but remember to love yourself most. I will try to do the same.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You tried pancakes for the first time, and toasted coconut ones at that. You are a fiend. I had to cut you off. (You also tried zucchini and didn’t hate it.)
  • You sat in a restaurant high chair for the first time and ate off the table when you and Daddy came to have lunch with me at work.

sunrise and sweet potatoes

23 weeks

These days, “sleeping in” means getting up when the alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Since we eliminated your dream feed about 10 days ago, you’ve decided that your alarm goes off at 5:30. I know I shouldn’t complain about this given that by 5:30, you’ve slept for at least nine and a half hours. Sometimes it’s more like 10 hours or more. But 5:30 just feels so early.

Interestingly, you don’t really cry when you wake up from your overnight sleep (as you do when you wake up from naps during daylight hours) so much as “eh-eh-eh” to let us know you’re awake. Sometimes, the “eh-eh-eh”-ing is more you babbling to yourself. We try to ignore it for as long as we can, as you don’t seem to be in any distress, but at a certain point, we cut our losses.

It’s still dark when I feel my way into your room to turn off your nightlight and turn on your orange and blue lamps. Lately, as soon as I open the door, you’ve been turning your head toward the wall and squeezing your eyes shut as if you’re pretending to still be asleep. Then I lean over you to whisper “good morning, sunshine,” and you turn your face toward me, open your eyes and flash me your huge, gummy grin. All of a sudden, 5:30 isn’t so bad after all.

When you’re done eating, all three of us–Daddy, you and I–sit in bed and talk about your day ahead. And this time of year, when we pull up the shades on the windows above the bed, we are treated to some of the most spectacular sunrises. You like to look at them over our shoulders as we burp you. I guess that’s another not-so-terrible part of being up as early as we are.


UPDATE: Last night, you had your worst night ever since your first week (and excluding the 10 days you were dealing with your first cold). You were up at 12:30, sometime in the 1 o’clock hour, 2:30, 4 and 6. Somehow, you managed to fall back asleep between 6 and 6:05 and proceeded to make it hard for me to wake you. WHY??? Was it the full moon?


Last weekend, you got to eat something new (in sticking with our one-food-per-week plan), although we haven’t quite moved on from the “orange” food group. You didn’t seem too hot on carrots, so we thought you might appreciate something sweeter and less fibrous like sweet potato. We cooked one up for you, let it cool and cut it into chunks, which we skinned. You definitely seem more interested, especially in playing with it. You brought the chunk to your mouth right away and sucked on it, and you managed to get it all over your face (much to our delight; why is it so adorable when babies make a mess of their food?). You also loved mashing the potato in your hands until it squeezed out between your fingers. We got smart fast and strapped a bib on you, but we’re still having to wipe you down with a washcloth post meals.

You and Daddy also got to visit with your Gammi and Granddad last weekend while I enjoyed some adult time away at a birthday luncheon. Oh, how I envy you knowing your great-grandparents–and, lucky you, you’ve got three of them to dote on you. You hadn’t seen Gammi and Granddad since you were about a week old, but they follow you very closely on Facebook. Apparently, you showed off quite a bit for them, laughing and rolling over and smiling at them. You left with a pile o’ gifts, including a stuffed lamby that you adore (especially since its little legs fit perfectly into your mouth) and a St. Patrick’s Day outfit that is very apropos coming from the Irish side of your family.

After your visit, we all went shopping to stock up on nine-month clothes for you, as we are literally still squeezing you, sausage-like, into your six-month clothes. We got you the cutest pair of skinny hipster jeans and a puffy down vest with corduroy and sherpa trim; I squealed with glee when I tried them on you.

And, thanks to Nonna, who made the effort to pull it out and sit you in it, you have officially graduated to your big-boy stroller, the City Versa, which has been sitting in the basement waiting for you to grow into the harness. We’ve been using a Snap N Go frame with your car seat until now, but you are getting way too heavy to lug around in that bucket seat. So whee! Here we go on our next adventure!


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • Rumor has it you actually army crawled while at Gammi and Granddad’s. Since I haven’t seen it and there’s no video to prove it, I have no way of knowing if it actually happened. I have, however, watched you turn yourself around 360 degrees while on your tummy.
  • You are endlessly entertained (and you entertain us) by blowing raspberries while your pacifier is in your mouth, launching it in a beautiful arc several inches into the air and landing who knows where.
  • Tonight, while sitting on my lap, you pulled yourself up to standing (kinda–you were wearing socks on the hardwood floor, so your legs splayed out underneath you) by grabbing onto the handle of your toy basket.

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goodbye dream feed, hello food-food

22 weeks

I don’t want to brag or anything but you are amazing.

Last week, as you we struggled with some nighttime waking magically reversed by Baby Merlin’s Magic (they don’t call it that for nothing) Sleepsuit, we also were working to wean you from your “dream feed.”

Since you were born, we’ve been giving you a late-night feed to help get you through the night. Once we had you on something resembling a regular schedule, you were feeding at 11 (pretty miserable for all of us, especially since it was followed by feedings at 3 and 7 a.m.). When your pediatrician gave us the green light to stop waking you throughout the night to feed you and you showed us you were able to sleep more than four hours without waking, we moved that late feeding to 10 (better, not great). Eventually, we settled on a feeding at 9:30; this worked out pretty well, as it allowed us to eat dinner, clean up, shower, get ready for bed and tuck into the couch for some TV before we needed to wake you for that “dream feed.”

But eventually, we realized, you’d have to be weaned from that feeding and start going to sleep at a normal baby hour and not at 11 when we were going to bed. Interestingly, you started weaning yourself. You became more and more difficult to wake at 9:30 (after going down for your after-dinner nap between 7 and 8), and you’d take less and less food. Sometimes, you’d only make it through one breast’s worth of milk or sometimes you wouldn’t want to eat at all. But we were reluctant to give up the dream feed out of fear you wouldn’t make it through the night.

Last Friday, after prepping you all week by giving you half an ounce less of formula each night at your dream feed and by moving your “dinner” slowly back from 5:30 to 6:30, we put you down in your crib and in your MMSS at 7:45 and, holding our breath, we bid you an official goodnight. There’d be no seeing you at 9:30. Or rather, you wouldn’t see us. We checked on you before we tucked into bed, of course. You were still beautifully, blissfully sound asleep.

Much to our surprise–especially given your recent stint of night wakings–the next thing we knew, our 6 a.m. alarm was sounding. You hadn’t made a peep. I rolled out of bed and did a little jig. I woke you up and kissed you a million times. I’m so, so, so proud of you. Nothing, not since being cleared after your first month to stop waking you multiple times a night to get your weight up, has revolutionized our lives like bidding adieu to the dream feed. It’s like we’re normal adults again.

We’re going on a full week of dream feed-less evenings, and other than minor hiccups (a brief crying stint one night at 3:30 that was quickly fixed by popping in your paci), you’re sleeping straight through for 10-11 hours. And you’re going a full 11.5 hours between feedings. You. Are. Amazing.

Last weekend, we also attempted something else for the first time: We strapped you into your high chair (which I love; it sits on top of one of our dining room chairs and occupies hardly any room at all), and we let you try a carrot.

We’d done some research on introducing solid foods, and we really like the philosophy behind Baby-Led Weaning, which has made its way across the pond from the U.K. and, contrary to the American English interpretation, has nothing to do with weaning babies from, say, nursing. It’s about weaning them onto solid foods, and the beauty of it is that it involves no purees or single-grain cereals that have to be spoon fed to you. Instead, through Baby-Led Weaning, we’re letting you feed yourself with “normal” (non-mush) foods that you can pick up and put in your mouth yourself.

So that’s how we found ourselves staring at you as you reached for a boiled carrot and efficiently popped one end into your mouth. You seemed to like it at first–you kind of sucked on it–and then I think you couldn’t figure out how to get it out of your mouth. You made a stink face and started fussing. That was with a warm carrot.

We tried giving you a cold carrot–one that had been chilled in the fridge–and you seemed to like that more. I think it felt good on your gums, much like your chilled teething rings do.

We’ve tried giving you carrots several more times, and your reaction is always lukewarm. You tolerate sucking on it for a few minutes once you manage to get it into your mouth, you slam it down onto your high chair tray a few times and then you get tired of it. But the important part is that you’re learning how to feed yourself through hand-mouth coordination, and you’re starting to try out new flavors and textures. You’re getting zero calories from this food (which is fine–you’re still getting four-plus breast milk/formula feedings a day), but you’re having some fun with it. This weekend, sweet potatoes are on tap.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You’re starting to tuck your knees under you while you’re on your tummy in a kind-of early attempt to crawl (maybe).
  • You’re really starting to be entertained by your kitties (you study them intently), but nothing has made you squeal with joy like Roxy, your friend Anthony’s dog.
  • Mamma’s starting to wash your 9-month clothes because your 6-month stuff (footies especially) is getting pretty snug on you.

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chasing sleep

21 weeks

Here’s a life lesson for you: Don’t be smug. Or: Don’t count your chickens.

Daddy and I had gotten so blissfully used to your herculean sleep patterns. With very few exceptions, you’d slept through the night since you were four weeks old when we stopped waking you to feed you. You weren’t a half-bad napper, either, often giving us a break of a couple of hours, even a couple of times a day, to get things done while we were home with you.

When others would ask us how you were sleeping, we’d puff up our chests and proclaim with great pride that you’d been sleeping through the night since you were a month old. We knew how fortunate we were, how rare it was to have such a cooperative newborn. We were so pleased with ourselves. Clearly were were doing something right.

Then, right around the December holidays, you got a cold and you had trouble sleeping because you couldn’t breathe. Totally understandable.

But your naps never recovered; we’re lucky now if we get 45 minutes out of you. This didn’t bother me much, though, because you were sleeping through the night. And I’d gladly trade marathon naps for a solid night’s sleep.

But then, about 10 days ago, the nights went out the window, too. You started waking consistently at 1 a.m. and then again toward morning: somewhere in the 3 o’clock hour, somewhere in the 5 o’clock hour, definitely before the alarm went off. And we, so used to having to wake you once we were up ourselves, started panicking.

I got through nearly a solid week of this before the lack of sleep–on Saturday night, you were up at 1, 4:30 (after which I never fell back to sleep), 5:30, 5:45 and finally 6:15–reduced me to a crying, sputtering mess. Mamma needs her sleep, perhaps more than your average bear; she’s always been an excellent sleeper (perhaps you got those genes?), and she loves sleeping. So it takes very little lost sleep to wreak havoc on her system.

In addition, you were very fussy this weekend. It’s probably related to your not sleeping, but since we can’t ask you what’s going on, it’s a bit of an enigma. You are an adorable (mostly) puzzle that we have to solve. We ran through some hypotheses:

  • teething (possible, although we haven’t seen anything erupt; still, you seemed to respond positively to the Hyland’s teething tablets we tried on Monday morning, and you went to town on the teething rings we introduced you to)
  • growth spurt (definite; I tried to put you into 6-month footies the other night, and they were a full 2 inches too short–and you’d just worn them last week!)
  • overtiredness (duh)

There’s also this pesky “4-month sleep regression” that we’ve heard so much about. Apparently, you’re undergoing a huge cognitive and developmental leap this month, and it’s throwing your whole world into disarray.

Your sleep cycles are maturing, meaning you’re spending more time in REM (as opposed to the lovely deep sleep you enjoyed as a newborn), and when you surface from a sleep cycle, you’re not quite sure how to self-soothe back into restfulness. That would explain the 1 a.m. wakeups; all it takes is us popping your paci into your mouth (if we have to get up at all; sometimes you cry for a minute and then put yourself back to sleep), and you drift off again. But the later wakeups are trickier; you might fall back to sleep, but you don’t stay down as long.

We’ve also been planning for some time to begin weaning you off of your “dream feed,” your last meal of the day, served promptly at 9:30 p.m. Until now we’ve been too scared to do it, as it’s always been our insurance in support of a full night’s sleep. But we have to wake you specifically to feed you (a travesty), and it’s getting to be time to transition you to an appropriate bedtime for a baby, sometime in the 7 o’clock hour. The thing about weaning from a dream feed, though, is you have to be confident in your baby sleeping through the night. Because if your baby isn’t doing so, you have no way of knowing what’s causing your baby to wake if, after eliminating the dream feed, you’re faced with middle-of-the-night wakings. And you definitely don’t want to start reintroducing night feedings. That’s a whole other nasty can of worms.

If you’re not sleeping through the night consistently–so consistently we’d be shocked if you weren’t–the dream feed needs to stick around. Sad for you and sad for us.

Luckily for all of us, Daddy and I got a little bit smart Tuesday night, despite our sleep-deprived states. You’ve been using a Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (or the MMSS, as we call it) since you were three months old to help you nap, as it keeps you from doing that typical baby flailing that inevitably wakes you up once you’ve drifted off. We’d never put you in it for your overnight sleep, primarily because you’ve never really had trouble sleeping through and also because we’ve been wary of encouraging sleep crutches. But you know what they say about desperate times. So in you went, and through you slept–all the way to 5:50 a.m., just 10 minutes before the alarm went off, without so much as a peep. Night Two of our experiment confirmed the results; we had to wake you at 6 a.m. We are converts–and if this is what it takes, so be it; we’ll just have to wean you off the MMSS eventually. For now, three uninterrupted nights’ sleep in, we’re enjoying the rejuvenating rest.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You’re now blowing raspberries, which is the cutest thing ever. You smush your lips together, motorboat them and spit everywhere.
  • You’re supporting a lot of weight on your legs and can push up to stand if we’re holding your hands. Still no sitting by yourself yet, but your core is extraordinarily strong. My guess is that within two weeks, you’ll be sitting unsupported.
  • You’re even more obsessed with your feet than ever.
  • You talk. A lot. It’s a lot of hard G sounds right now, but I’m training you on those M’s. (Can you say Mamma?) Daddy is doing the same with D’s. You also squeal, squawk, grunt, roar and generally sound like a baby dinosaur.
  • You had your first ride in a real swing–not just your little baby swing at home–and on a carousel!

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