When I was your age …

Dear Love Bug,

The weather these past few days has been phenomenal. Yesterday, after a day that went like this–blueberry pancakes, Nonna and Opa’s pool, three-hour nap, Rita’s, PerSmart (one of your favorite places)–we cleaned off the deck table and hauled up the market umbrella and had an incredibly civilized dinner on the deck. Daddy grilled up bacon cheeseburgers. You had already bathed and were in pajamas and wearing flip-flops and you sat in one of the folding deck chairs like a big boy. You plowed through the watermelon feta salad and asked for more. 

I took a look around and realized how charming that moment was. There was no yelling or throwing of food, no crying or whining. We were sitting outside with nothing to see but the tops of the trees that line our backyard. There were cold drinks in bottles and delicious food. It doesn’t happen often, but boy, when it happens, I feel like I can accomplish anything. It was nearly perfect. 

While we were sitting there, you were having a conversation with Daddy about Star Wars, and you said, “Dad, when I was your age, we didn’t even have Star Destroyers.” I nearly choked on my delicious burger.

It all went so well that we decided to try it again this evening. This time we had Trader Joe’s pizza, and you gobbled it up and asked for more. You talked about your day at camp; it sounded awful. You got to wear PJs all day and make your own pineapple pizza for lunch. You were bummed you didn’t get to play in the “wrecker” room, but you spent a lot of time on the playground, and you wanted to give me a tour of it before we headed home. At a certain point, you said, “I love you, Mom and Dad.” Daddy and I both turned into big puddles of mush. 

You’ve been so sweet and so kind lately, sharing your toys and your food, thanking us, saying you love us–I’m not sure what to make of it. But instead of spending my time trying to figure it out, I think I’ll just enjoy it. 

Love you like crazy, kiddo,

Mamma

So Long, Daycare

Dear Love Bug,

Happy graduation! Today was your last day at Ms. G’s, where you’ve been in daycare since April 1, 2015, when you were seven months old. You’ve spent a lot of time there and did a lot of growing up. You made friends, had fights, learned to share, probably learned some not-so-great-stuff, got potty trained, learned your ABCs and your phone number, and loved Ms. G hard. You’ve been very attached to her–and to your daycare buddies–for most of your life. It’s been your home and your family when we couldn’t be. 

Now you’re on your way to preschool by way of summer camp (after a week at the beach and a week home with Nonna, Daddy, and me). We’re all super excited for you and super hoping that you’re excited too. We really don’t know what to expect. You’re so ready for this; you’re smart and you’re social; inquisitive and extroverted. I know you’ll thrive off of the structure and stimulation and you’ll learn a million new things. But I’m a bit nervous that despite us talking to you over and over about these upcoming changes, they’re going to take you by surprise, and you’re going to be sad and missing the only daycare you’ve ever known.  

When we left Ms. G’s today, you had one foot out the door and barely batted an eyelash. Despite the graduation balloon and the bag full of gifts, including a beautiful Dr. Seuss frame with a photo of you and Ms. G together and another print of the whole gang, I’m not sure it registered with you that today was any different from any other Friday. I had to remind you to give Ms. G a hug and say goodbye. And who knows when it will hit, if it will hit? Monday? Probably not, since you’ll be distracted with the beach. The following Monday, when we’re back home and you stay home with Nonna rather than heading to daycare? I doubt it. Maybe the first day of summer camp?

In some ways, this feels like the real end of your babyhood. You’re starting school. You’ll be in a classroom with a teacher, and you’ll do that for the next 16-20 (or more!) years of your life. This is it, kiddo. Welcome to the System. 

But also, this is just the end of the beginning. You have so much growing and learning and living to do. At summer camp, you’ll try karate, cook your own lunch, have water play days and field trips (on a bus!), work with computers, sleep on a cot, bring a lunch box and book bag, and make new friends. There’s a whole new world there to be discovered, and perhaps by the time you’re ready to start preschool at the local Y after Labor Day, you’ll really be ready for it. 

Something tells me you’ll be just fine. 

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.

  
  
  
  
  

what a long, strange week it’s been

35 weeks

I have started to post several times and abandoned it. I’m feeling out of sorts, and the more time I let go by, the more I feel like I need to write to make sure I don’t leave anything out.

This has been a strange week. When you’re old enough to read and understand this, the world will no longer really remember who Freddie Gray was. But they’ll talk about the Baltimore Riots of ’15, like they still talk about the Baltimore Riots of ’68. I hope, when they talk about the ones of ’15, they’ll talk about how they made a lasting, positive change in this city where you were born, the city I’ve grown to love. That is not the case with the riots of ’68; unfortunately, those always seem to be associated with the Beginning of the End, the line between how Baltimore used to be and how it now is, which is to say terribly divided: decaying on one end and overly gentrified on the other. I’m not sure it’s any different from any other city; it just seems much more, well, black and white.

I don’t want to get too much into this, because it’s depressing. But yesterday, when you fell blissfully asleep below your new bucket cap in your jogging stroller in the most glorious weather anyone could dream up, I took a look at you and thought that if I could capture the peace you clearly felt and somehow preserve it for you, I would. Of all the things I want for you–happiness and success and courage and honesty and compassion (I could go on and on)–what I want most is peace, a life unmarred by anxiety or animosity. Right now, I’m doing everything in my power to ensure you have that for the very, very short time that the world grants it to you.

To keep this post from getting altogether bleak, I’ll talk about how spring has arrived, full blown, aflower and sneezy. The days are long and, for the most part, glorious. The sun gains strength every day, and all sorts of green babies are popping their heads up through the fresh, meaty dirt. You love sitting in the grass and ripping it up and battling me in an attempt to deliver it to your mouth. I like taking your socks off so you can wiggle your feet in it.

We’ve been making some major improvements to the back yard, and we’ve been spending quite a bit of time back there with you. The mosquitoes haven’t yet taken over, so it’s wonderful to sit and enjoy our immense maple tree and the white noise of the creek and our garden. It astounds me how much I’ve gotten done back there. Last fall, when you’d first joined us, I couldn’t even get my act together to water the plants, and they all promptly died. Just half a year later, I’m able to get major gardening and planting done with you keeping me company. Once, we dragged your corral out back and set it up with a blanket and a tarp beneath. Mostly, we plop you in a Fisher Price swing that our wonderfully thoughtful neighbor Martina gave you, a hand-me-down from her own kids who have outgrown it. Daddy attached it to the underside of the top deck, so you can swing out over the yard. You love it so much, you giggle and squeal with delight whenever we put you in it.

A few weekends ago (already!) when we’d just arrived on the very cusp of spring with a day that was bright and warm, we decided it was time for you to experience a larger body of water than your bathtub. Since even before you were born, I’ve been saying that I want you to be water savvy and swimming early. We opted not to do swim lessons, primarily because we don’t want to have somewhere to be at a certain time every weekend, but we wanted to get you into the pool as soon as the weather warmed up enough not to be torturous upon exiting the water. So we pulled all of our swim gear out of hiding, packed up towels and headed over to the beautiful, new Roger Carter Community Center in Ellicott City.

The indoor pool there is spectacular; it has a graduated (what they call “beach”) entry, it’s light and airy, and it offers family locker rooms along a corridor lined with changing tables. At $5/person per entry, it’s a no-brainer. We got you suited up in your Bummis Swimmi diaper, pulled on your adorable miniature trunks and threw you in. Just kidding. We waded in with you in our arms, and you took to the pool like, well, a fish to water. You LOVED it. You splashed and played and smiled and laughed the whole time. Your friend Claire, who’s just 10 days older than you, joined us with her mom and dad. You two didn’t pay much attention to each other, but at least you shared toys nicely.

We stayed in the water for 45 minutes, and if it had been up to you, you probably would’ve stayed longer. We can’t wait to go back with you; we’re thinking we might celebrate Mother’s Day by heading over there with Nonna.

Tomorrow, we have our second full Friday together, and what a treat it is to be able to take the time off work to be with you on a regular basis. I’m glad about the timing, too, since Daddy and I will be away from you overnight for the first time this weekend (riot allowing). Nonna gifted us an overnight stay in a B&B in the city for our birthdays, and we’re planning to go out to a fancy dinner and, perhaps best of all, sleep. And sleep in.

Nonna and Opa will be staying with you, so of course I’m not worried about your well-being. I’m a little worried about how much we’ll miss each other (me more than you, for sure), but this is a great thrown-into-the-deep-end test and good practice, if a slightly different scenario, for when we go to the beach with Nonna and Opa in June and to Italy in October. It’s a change of routine for all of us, and it’ll be interesting to see how we all cope.

You continue to love daycare, and daycare loves you back, mostly. The older kids there adore you, especially one little 2-year-old boy named Elliott. He waits by the front window for you to arrive, then rushes to your side and holds your hand while Daddy extracts you from the car seat. Ms. Gina, your daycare provider, is smitten. She loves you like you’re her own, and she sends us lots of photos of you while we’re at work. You get excited to see me when I come pick you up at the end of the day–even waving hello when I walk through the door–but you’re more than happy to be there, playing with your friends, all day. Recently, you’ve been ousted from your “youngest” spot by a 9-week-old baby girl. Nine weeks! I can’t even imagine. I’m so, so, so thankful that we were able to keep you at home until you were seven months old.

Especially since the Daycare Runny Nose has begun. A couple of weekends ago, you had an extremely cranky couple of days that marked the start of your third illness in four months. While it began with a fever, your temperature normalized quickly (we kept you home from daycare only for a day) but you’ve continued to have congestion and a slow but constant trickle from your nose. You seem to be improving over the past couple of days, now that it’s been fully two weeks that you’ve been dealing with it. I noticed the 9-week-old’s nose was running, too.

Here’s to a healthy ramp-up to summer!


This Week in Guppy Growth

It’s been well more than a week, so we’ve got quite a few new things going on …

  • You’ve begun to wave hello and goodbye, thanks in large part to daycare, where you watch the other kids come and go. It’s kind of a whole-arm flapping, but it gets the job done.
  • You’re still not crawling on all fours, except for maybe a few paces here and there. You prefer to be on your tummy and drag yourself about. That being said, I’ve watched you transition from sitting to all fours and just this morning, with the tiniest bit of help from me, you pulled yourself up to your knees from crawling and played with the activities on the top of your cube for several minutes, balancing yourself completely upright on your knees.
  • You “sing along” to some of your favorite songs, like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” and “You Are My Sunshine.” You love to play Pat-a-Cake, clapping your hands, and This Little Piggy.
  • You’re babbling constantly. So far, you’ve mastered “baba,” “gaga” and “mama.” No real words yet, of course.
  • You got your first real boo-boo last weekend, when you rolled and flipped yourself out of the hammock we’d just set up out back. Luckily, you fell only a couple of inches; still you landed face first and got a huge, egg-shaped welt on your forehead. You cried, but I think you scared yourself more than it hurt. You’re such a tough cookie. (Daddy and I cried for you, don’t worry.)
  • Your solid-food repertoire is impressive. Recently, you’ve tasted (and liked): salmon, shrimp, hard-boiled egg, kiwi, cheese, pasta with ricotta, yogurt (you fiend) and, perhaps most exciting, Osem Bamba, an Israeli puff snack made from peanut flour. I had to buy it on Amazon (although Nonna found it later at Harris Teeter), but our intention with this is to ward off any nut allergies, per recent research.
  • No teeth yet. This doesn’t surprise me, as I didn’t get my teeth until quite late (around a year), but you’re drooling like crazy. We’ve started dressing you daily in bandana bibs.

  

                

the daycare diaries

32 weeks

You’ve started your first full week of daycare, and my heart is a little bit heavy. We had such a great weekend together, the three of us. With the glorious, sweet-smelling weather of nascent spring infusing us with Vitamin D and the longer days allowing us more time to play, it seems like every weekend is intent on outdoing the last. And our little trio is really, really starting to feel like a family; we’ve settled into our routines, and we all seem to know what to expect of each other. You’re interactive and independent, and the difficulties that seemed so insurmountable seven months ago have, for the most part, faded into memories. Life is so sweet.

And then I think about how you’ll spend the  week at daycare, and I’ll spend it cooped up in my office, and I am terribly, terribly sad. Even though rationally, I know that daycare is good for you and work is good for me. I know that I could never be a full-time stay-at-home mom and truly be happy. I know that work time is my adult time; it’s my creative outlet and it is intrinsic to who I am. I actually love my job (if I don’t always love work).

And your daycare is where you’ll grow; it’s so important for you to have that time with your new friends, watching them and learning from them and spending time with people who aren’t Daddy or me or Nonna or Mimi. You’re growing immensely just by adapting to a new environment and doing things differently from the way we do them at home. Ms. Gina, your daycare provider, says you’ve integrated yourself remarkably well for having been with her just three days last week, and even then, you only did one full day, since Daddy picked you up after half a day on Wednesday and I did the same on Friday.

I think my real emotional hangup with daycare is that it feels like it’s marking the beginning of the rest of your life, in which you have to Be Somewhere every day–with routines and schedules and rushing. Here you are, seven months old, being funneled through the system like everyone else. I wish the sweet freedom of having nowhere to be and nothing in particular to do could’ve lasted a little bit longer for you.

The good news is you seem to love daycare. Ms. Gina sends us lots of pictures of you throughout the day, and you are smiling (or sleeping) in every single one of them. The older kids there (you are the only infant, for now) adore you and come running when you get there (says Daddy, who does drop-off) and kind of bounce around us, waiting to say goodbye when you leave. You’ve even already brought home your first arts and crafts project, an Easter bunny made out of paper plates. I took a photo of it to commemorate it.

The other upside is that daycare exhausts you. You could probably easily go down for the night at 5, when we get home. (We wouldn’t dare do this for fear of what might happen on the other side of your full night’s sleep, which would inevitably be at 2 or 3 a.m.) But since you started, you haven’t been giving us any trouble whatsoever about going down for the night, and (fingerscrossedpleasedon’tjinxus) you’ve been sleeping straight through. At least until 5:30. I would do (almost) anything to recoup that half-hour of sleep before the alarm goes off at 6, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right?

The downside is our morning schedule, which in turn defines our evening schedule. I have precisely half an hour to get myself washed, dressed, OJed and out of the house once you’ve been fed and I’ve pumped. I have not a spare second in my schedule for something to go off course if I’m to make it to work by 8 a.m. This is so I can finish at the office at 4 p.m. to come pick you up, which is somewhere around 4:45. Getting out of the house by 7:30 requires me to have prepped and packed everything possible the night before, including my clothes, your clothes, my lunch, your food (which often requires chopping, peeling and steaming), pumping equipment, coffee-making supplies, etc. I also have to shower. This leaves very little time, once we’ve put you to bed and eaten dinner, to do anything else (hence, the inconsistent blogging). We’ve even started running the dishwasher nightly (and if you know me, you know that this means desperate times).

But it’s so worth it. I love having the extra time in the late afternoon with you. Yesterday, with temperatures near 80 and that lazy sun warming our skin from low in the sky, I pulled out our new jogging stroller and off we went. You actually squealed with delight when we started moving; you’d never been in a stroller going that fast before. We jogged for the better part of an hour, just around the neighborhood. I felt like a million bucks (less so today); it was the first time in at least 17 months that I’d hit the pavement like that. It must’ve been a sweet ride for you, as you fell fast asleep.

I’m also going to be taking every other Friday off, just to have a full day to spend with you. This won’t last indefinitely, as eventually I’ll use up my leave, but I’ll take advantage of it while I can. I’ll plan something special for us to do on these days–outings to places we can enjoy together. As the weather gets nicer, our options will expand. I can’t wait.


This Week in Guppy Growth

  • You are so close to crawling on all fours (rather than army crawling, which you’ve been doing for what seems like forever). Any day now, I know.
  • You’ve learned how to clap your hands, and you do it so appropriately when you’re particularly happy. You even clap for Daddy and me when we change your diaper.
  • You’ve transitioned to riding in shopping carts (and more often than not, falling asleep in them).
  • During her last full days babysitting you, Nonna took you back to Storyville and to Gymboree for the first time.
  • You eat so many different foods now, I can’t even keep track. This past weekend, you tried Passover matzoh and Easter ham like the good little religious mutt you are.
  • You also went on an Easter egg hunt, met the Easter Bunny (no tears!) and received your first Easter basket from Mimi and Beebee, lucky boy.

                 IMG_4463

asking uncomfortable questions

25 weeks

From the moment we knew you were in my belly, Daddy and I have focused all of our energies on keeping you safe. I spent those 10 months being extra-careful so that you could have the best possible chance of growing up strong and healthy. I washed all of my fruits and vegetables with a totally organic anti-pesticide rinse; I stopped drinking coffee and eating sushi; I took my steaks well done (blech) and my tuna chunk light; I downed prenatal vitamins religiously; and Daddy cleaned the kitty litters day in and day out so you wouldn’t be exposed to the germs that can grow there.

In these past five and a half almost six months, we’ve been known to check the video monitor obsessively and even stand over your crib to make sure you’re still breathing. We’ve insisted on giving you as much breast milk as possible to help your growth and development. We’re so careful about strapping you into your car seat, your stroller, your high chair and your swing exactly right. And you’ve been vaccinated from the get-go: I got a Tdap vaccine when I was 36 weeks’ pregnant so you could benefit from some of my immunity. All four of your grandparents and Daddy got theirs, too, so there was no risk of the adults in your life passing along whooping cough. And we all got the flu shot as soon as it was available because you aren’t old enough to get your own. I think you’ve gotten more shots in your short life than I can count on both hands, and it’s all to be sure you stay healthy.

We know that this is our job–to keep you safe until the time that you can manage your own well being, and that’s still a very, very long way off.

What’s just around the corner, though, is your introduction to daycare. We’ve been so very, very blessed to be able to keep you home all this time, thanks to Nonna and Mimi, and if all goes according to plan, you won’t need to start daycare until you’re seven months old and we’re beyond flu season. You’ll be going to see Miss Gina full time, Monday-Friday, at her home; we chose it last May after multiple visits and about 1,000 questions asked. We liked her immediately; she is warm and open and adores children. We also liked the space she offers to the kids she cares for: It’s clean, well organized and bathed in natural light. And it doesn’t smell like a daycare center (yuck).

Her daycare is governed by the Maryland Department of Education, so she follows the same rules the schools do; the meals and snacks she offers conform to the Maryland Food Program, and she’s required to collect the same health inventory that schools must. Looking through the packet of information we received from Miss Gina the other day, we noticed an exemption clause in the health inventory related to vaccinations: “Exemptions … are permitted if the family has an objection based on their religious beliefs and practices.” There’s also an exemption for children who may have a medical reason that they cannot be vaccinated.

For some vaccines, that includes you. You’re just not old enough yet to be vaccinated. So you’ll rely on the other children at daycare to be vaccinated so that you are protected (what they call “herd immunity”) from some of the diseases you cannot yet be medically protected from: chicken pox, mumps, rubella and … measles. This is a touchy subject these days. This past winter, while we were counting your age in months on a single hand, the United States experienced its worst measles outbreak of the century.

Let me say right now that this blog’s intent is by no means political but archival. I’m simply keeping track of your world, measles and all, so that I’ll remember what to tell you when, some day, you ask me questions about what life was like when you were born. And part of that life is, unfortunately, navigating a new era in which many, many children are going unvaccinated. This scares the crap out of Daddy and me, as we work so hard to keep you safe.

So we have to ask questions, perhaps somewhat uncomfortable ones, of the other people who take care of you. Are there children at your daycare who are unvaccinated because of religious reasons? If so, we need to know. And what would we do then? (Thankfully, we don’t live in a state in which “personal beliefs”–other than religious ones–constitute a valid exemption from vaccination.)

We know your pediatrician requires patients to be vaccinated, but has she had to treat anyone recently for one of the diseases that you’re not yet vaccinated against? What about these religious beliefs that people can claim?

When you were born, the Ebola outbreak was the big story in the news, but let me tell you: Measles is way scarier. Still, somehow I think that if there were a vaccine for Ebola (or for AIDS, say), I bet the people who are so vehemently refusing to vaccinate their children against the more “traditional” diseases would be first in line to get their kids inoculated. Maybe in your lifetime …

As Daddy and I have fretted away (which we’ll never, ever outgrow) over these grownup concerns, you’ve focused your energies on major breakthroughs: trying banana (woohoo!), apple (meh) and parsnip (spit out and thrown on the floor); playing, for the few minutes you lasted before you completely passed out, with your friend Claire, just 11 days older than you; drinking from a cup; practicing standing; and bringing your knees up under you and using your forehead, of all things, to inch yourself forward. Crawling may be just around the corner.

You had a delightful first Valentine’s Day, which involved no fewer than three costume changes, a visit from your Aunt Audra and tons of cards and gifts showered upon you. Nonna treated you to a new Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit, the 6- to 9-month size in a lighter-weight fabric. You’re back to sleeping through the night without it, but it does seem to make a difference in your napping.

We love you so much, Love Bug. Wish I could put in words how big a love it is. Suffice it to say that it’s so big we’ll spend the rest of our lives making sure you’re safe–and happy.

IMG_4006

IMG_4009

IMG_4010

IMG_4038

IMG_4040

IMG_4045

IMG_4042

IMG_4050

IMG_4077

IMG_4053