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.


  
  
  
  
 

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slippery slopes

18 months

A year and a half in and deep, deep in the toddler weeds. I love this age except for when you’re exerting your healthy will (pretty much always) to the point of frustrating all three of us.

I have come to the realization that I’m not a baby person, meaning I’m not a baby-baby person. I’m not nostalgic for your infancy nor do I feel driven to have another baby so I can relive those newborn months that pass so quickly. I mean, I loved the cuddles. I loved (mostly) that you stayed where I put you. I loved that you needed me desperately. But the rest of it didn’t necessarily enthrall me.

What I love now is that you are you. You’ve become your own person with your own preferences and desires; you know what you like and what you don’t, and you can express that. I love that we can play, sing and dance together. I love that you can make believe, and you take me with you. I love that I can ask you questions and you respond. And I love that every day, you surprise me with something new that you can say or do.

You’re beginning to string words together into short sentences, and you’re able to use words and phrases absolutely appropriately. You’ve learned that if you say please (“peas”), you get what you want much more quickly. You’ve recently started saying “you’re welcome” when we say “thank you.” You do funny things like mimic Darth Vader and say “pew pew pew” (as in what a shooting laser sounds like) whenever you pick up any sort of stick. You’re getting really good at certain gross-motor things like getting on and off your push toys, walking up and down stairs, balancing precariously on the arm of your armchair (I wish you wouldn’t do that) and going down slides by yourself.

You’re also terribly possessive, incredibly stubborn and given to bursting into tears at the slightest hint of the word “no.” If we try to take something away from you that you shouldn’t have, it’s like your world is coming to an end. Daddy read to me tonight from the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ Caring for Your Baby and Young Child about toddler behavior, and it could have been written about you: Doesn’t play well with others. Doesn’t share. Offers things to others only to snatch them back. It said we shouldn’t expect anything different.

And that’s the fine line we’ve been walking. We feel like we have to set boundaries and to begin teaching you what’s right and wrong. But sometimes we feel like we’re saying “no” more than anything else. And if you’re incapable–like actually cognitively incapable–of processing the limits we’re setting, how do we even begin? Sometimes, I’ll admit, I give you a cookie just to keep you from harassing me. And that is not the only one of my parenting vices.

I try to remind myself, during these particularly trying moments, that it’s really, really hard to be a toddler. You’re not in control of anything: not your emotions, not your environment, not your schedule, not what you eat or who you play with or where you go. You can express yourself only in limited terms. (I think about how I felt when I first moved to Italy and couldn’t really communicate with people on any sort of adult level–frustrating!) Sometimes, it’s enough to make you cry. I get that.

So we’ll continue to bumble through this, which is, I suppose, what everyone does, perhaps some more gracefully than others. I’m going to work really hard on not getting frustrated, and I hope you can, too.

This is all compounded, of course, when you’re not feeling well. And we’ve all had some sort of upper-respiratory/sinus infection for what seems like months. You were out of daycare all last week because you were running a consistently high fever (up to 104!), and Daddy and I were struggling with all sorts of congestion and other nasty cold symptoms. Finally, finally, we were all feeling better this weekend only for me to come down with a case of pinkeye (of all things!). I’m terrorized by the idea of you getting it, too. I’ve been avoiding snuggles to keep you healthy, and it makes me sad. Also, you’re teething–one of those first molars on the top–and it’s making you cranky.

But through it all, we’ve been having some pretty exceptional adventures together, the kind that are so awesome they immediately become a memory. Two weekends ago, we went up to State College to be with your Aunt Becky and Uncle Greg, cousin Olivia and Mimi and Beebee. We had so much fun! On Sunday, Daddy, Beebee and I hauled you up to Tussey Mountain and got you on skis for the first time for a whopping 30 seconds. The rest of the time you played in the snow and giddily watched Daddy ride the ski lift. It made me so excited for winters to come when (hopefully) we can all hit the slopes together, slippery as they may be.


  
  
  
  

turn, turn, turn

50 weeks

It’s been a bit of an emotional week for me.

Early in the week, I learned a former colleague of mine–someone with whom I’d worked closely on specific projects but had left the university several years ago–died suddenly. She’d just turned 40 and leaves behind a little girl who’s getting ready to enter kindergarten.

Nothing hits me in the gut anymore like hearing about a child who’s lost a parent or a parent who’s lost a child. And when it’s someone I know, well, it feels like I might literally double over from the impact of it. I try not to generalize these things–not to think that because it’s happened to someone else, it will necessarily happen to us. But it’s hard to put it out of my mind. So I squeezed you a little bit tighter this week, slowed down to appreciate fully the moments we’ve spent together, especially the quiet, cuddly ones right before you go to bed when you allow me to tuck you into the crook of my arm, still, and rock you in the glider and Eskimo kiss you.

This death has also reminded me, once again, that Daddy and I really need to secure life insurance and draw up a will. I hate thinking about these things in the same way that I hate financial planning. I’d much rather just pay someone else to do it for me, but it will require some level of input from me, one way or the other, and I need to stop procrastinating to ensure you’re protected.

While I was processing the systemic shock of learning that someone I’d known relatively well had died, I got the news that your Aunt Danielle delivered a gorgeous, 6-pound-5-ounce, healthy baby girl on Wednesday. And so while the world lost a wonderful, kind, gentle human, it has gained one as well. Her name is Elisa, and I know you and she and her big brother Anthony will spend many afternoons playing together. I haven’t had a chance to meet this newest peanut yet, but I’m hoping to get over to see her and her mama this week. You’ll have to stay home, unfortunately, but you’ll get to know her soon enough.

I’m thinking a lot about your Aunt Danielle and how she now has two kids where once there was one. I can’t imagine this. I mean, not only can I not imagine having another baby, transforming our family of three into a family of four with an entirely different dynamic, I can’t imagine starting from scratch at this point. Here, on the eve of the very last week of your first year, it feels like we’ve come an exceptionally long way from where we were a year ago, battling to keep it together through murky, sleep-deprived weeks and struggling to get anything done between feedings. I quite like where we are now–it seems to me like a giant prize for sticking it out through the early months–and I’d be so reluctant to upset the beautiful balance we’ve achieved. (I’m pretty psyched to report that I’ve gone out for girls’ nights two weekends in a row! Daddy very graciously stayed home to take care of you, and you didn’t miss me at all.) I guess I’m not ready for another baby. And maybe I never will be.

In the meantime, your strength and independence continue to barrel forward as you check developmental milestones off your list. I’m attempting to catalog them here, but they’re coming almost too quickly for me to stay on top of them.

  • In addition to saying “mamma” and “dada” quite proficiently and appropriately now (my favorite is when Daddy or I walk into the room, and you spin around to greet us and say, “Mamma!” or “Dada!” as if you haven’t seen us in months), you’ve got a small vocabulary that we are able to decipher but may not be entirely comprehensible to the rest of the world. This includes saying “round and round and round” while pointing to the ceiling fan; making “eee-eee-eee” noises when seeing or pointing to a picture of a monkey; saying “one” and holding up your index finger when asked how old you are; saying “no no no” and wagging that same finger; saying “bye bye” (I heard this crystal clearly the other day when we left daycare) while waving; saying “quack quack” (but really it’s more like “ka ka” when playing with your toy duck); roaring when seeing any other animal, whether it roars in actuality or not.
  • You’ve got a second tooth! It just barely appeared a few days after the first did, but it’s completely caught up, and now you’ve got two nice, consistent central bottom teeth.
  • You’re cruising like a champ, and you’ve begun climbing. At some point, I’m sure you’re going to figure out how to climb out of your crib or over the gate. But for now, you satisfy yourself by climbing over low objects that are anywhere in your way, and you treat the living room like your own personal obstacle course. You also let go occasionally while holding onto a toy to stand on your own. We’re waiting for you to begin walking, which may be any day now or perhaps a couple of months down the road.
  • You climb the stairs like a little wind-up toy–you’re so fast! And you giggle like a maniac the whole way.
  • You can put the shapes in your shape-sorting toy, trying each shape in various different shaped holes until you get the right one. I am beyond impressed.
  • You’ve gotten to be somewhat pickier about your food, showing real preferences for carbs (shocker) and sweets (double shocker). You also love your steak grilled and slightly pink. You’ve started turning your head if we offer food you’re not interested in, and you’ll also shake your head and wave your arms to indicate you don’t want to do something or you don’t want to play with a certain toy.
  • We’ve finally said goodbye to your baby bathtub and have started bathing you in the big tub. You love it! You have so much more room to splash and play with toys, and you like swirling the bubble-bath foam around.

Next weekend is your much anticipated (by us–you have no clue) first birthday party, and the planning has hit a fever pitch. I’m both excited and nervous, since we brilliantly planned it right during your afternoon nap time. But the big cake and your little smash cake are ordered, and I’m dying with anticipation of you going face first. (I hope you do!)


  
  

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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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