Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dear E.J. - Three Months

My dear E.J.,

Look at you, my big three-month-old boy! I can't believe another month has passed us by in what seemed like only an instant, bringing us to the end of the so-called fourth trimester - those first few months of a newborn's life that are often the most challenging as baby adjusts to life earthside.

I will risk the jinx here and just say that if these three months were your most troubling, we've got it made with you, because if I had to choose only one word to describe you this month, it would be "happy," without question. You hand out smiles like candy, to anybody and everybody who wants one. Not to toot my own horn, but in particular, you seem to always have a smile for your mama. When I approach you, your face lights up with that happy, gummy grin and my heart swells with joy and pride. My most favorite smiles are those in which you stick your little tiny tongue out just a smidge, as if there is so much happiness inside of you that you just cannot keep it all in your mouth. (Your daddy also sometimes sticks his tongue forward when he smiles, which makes your doing so even more endearing to me.)

Really, your entire sweet baby face bears mentioning because I cannot get enough of it. You are simply the cutest little baby boy I've ever seen. You seem to have three primary expressions: worried, featuring an adorably furrowed brow; inquisitive, complete with raised eyebrows and forehead wrinkles (that's what really does me in); and your trademark grin. Your face is so expressive and if only time would allow, I could stare at it all day. This month we also continued to get the barrage of "he looks like a clone of his father!" comments, so judging by that, your precious baby face will age well into a handsome fellow someday, rest assured!

This month was another busy one. You found your hands and have become rather adept at getting them up into your mouth to suck on when you need soothing or, well, just feel like sucking on something (a couple of times you were even able to separate your thumb from the pack, leaving me wondering if you'll be a thumb-sucker like your sister!). You spotted your feet, and you love to lift them straight into the air in front of you so you can get a better look. You also just recently seem to have discovered your head and/or hair, and you like to reach back and give it a rub while nursing. It's so cute I could die.

You continue to get stronger and now hold yourself up on your elbows during tummy time with ease, and are generally quite agreeable to doing so. Admittedly, you have had some angrier tummy time moments, but at those times you seem to be getting very close to propelling yourself over, and I wonder if your cries are really those of frustration at sensing something you want to do but just can't quite yet. You'll get it, buddy! You'll be rolling circles around us before we know it! You've also started to be able to grasp things in your hands, most regularly the elephant with the hanging rings on your play mat. You grab a hold of those rings and hang on for dear life - I'm not sure if you just don't really know what to do next, or if you don't want to risk any further action lest you lose your hard-earned grip. You've also started to grab hold of my shirt sometimes while you're nursing, which I love so much.

You've taken a liking to being held facing out, so you can observe your world while we tote you around. (In fairness, this may actually be a self-preservation tactic, inhibiting Ellie's ability to sneak up on you! Smart, buddy.) Your little head turns from side to side, your eyebrows raise and your forehead wrinkles, and you take it all in. When something pleases you, those eyebrows drop and the forehead smooths in one seamless shift as you break out into your smile. You also particularly enjoy laying on your back on my lap while I wiggle your legs and arms around, and even if you are starting to fuss, playing that game turns your expression to sheer joy almost instantly.

In the spirit of full disclosure, although you are happy way more often than not, you have decided to make it more well known when you aren't happy these days. Most notably, you've decided that rides in the car are not really your jam, and you make sure we're aware of that with constant fussing and complaining at best, and loud, heartwrenching cries at worst. I can't say that I love that, but I suppose you are allowed to find some things in life displeasing.

You're also still very good at letting me know when you're tired or ready to be done with an activity. When you start to fuss, you simply need to be given the opportunity to sleep/rest and then you'll be fine, usually falling asleep on your own within a few minutes. On more than a handful of occasions now you have also used a pacifier to help you out, but the jury is still out as to whether that will stick.

You nap in your swing these days, for an hour or two in the morning and for several hours in the afternoon. You still sleep in a bassinet in our room at night, with bedtime remaining at 8:00 p.m. However, you have started waking up a little more overnight - up to three times a night. I can't say I love the interrupted sleep, but it's usually a quick and easy process to give you a little midnight snack and get you right back to bed, so I can't complain too much.

You also continue to be very vocal, cooing and babbling at every opportunity...well, except when I try to record a video of it! I continue to cherish our morning "chats" on your changing table or after nursing on the couch, when it's just you and me before Ellie wakes up. Those smiles and sweet baby noises are the perfect start to my day.

This month was also special because we traveled to St. Petersburg again - my first time making the drive there and back with both you and Ellie by myself (on the whole, you really did pretty well!). This visit was for a much happier occasion: your baptism! You were able to meet more family members, including Aunt Heather who was visiting from Japan, and Aunt Molly who flew in from Illinois to take on the role of your godmother, alongside your godfather John. (You were also a huge hit with cousin Santiago!) Your baptism was a beautiful event, with a lovely service at the church where your father and I were married (and Ellie was baptized, too!), followed by a great party at Papa's house with all your friends and family in attendance. You were such an angel through the whole thing! It meant the world to me to give you back to God in such a beautiful ceremony surrounded by so many people who love you. I am so humbled that God has chosen me to be your mama, and I only pray that I will be able to do my part in raising you to be the man He has planned for you to be. I pray that as you grow, you will learn to love Him, follow Him faithfully and share His word.

E.J., I just feel like it's all going so fast. How has it really been three months already? I continue to be painfully aware of how fleeting your babyhood really is, that I will wake up tomorrow and much of it will be little more than a foggy memory. I look at you in my arms every day and I am so filled with love for you that it aches down to my core, and I want to freeze those moments and live in them forever. I know that I can't, so instead I just stare at you, trying desperately to memorize every detail of you - your soft skin, your round cheeks, the feel of your weight in my arms, the sounds you make, the very smell of you. It blows my mind that in no time at all, your baby-soft skin will change to the rough skin of a man. Your smooth face will be prickly with stubble. Your tiny hands, now clasped so innocently around my finger, will be large and powerful. Your tiny body will no longer fit in the nook of my arm but will grow to be taller than me. Your soft, sweet voice will become deep and strong. I know you will grow to be an extraordinary man, and I can't wait to see you become who you are meant to be. But at the same time, I want to keep you as you are now forever, safe in my lap, with your tiny body snuggled against mine. This part will be behind us far too soon.

Happy three months, baby. I love you more than I can say.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Congratulations on completing a third month! In recognition of such an accomplishment, I wanted to use a few words to mark your progress and my thoughts like I did the last two months and like I will do for the next several. This month, though, I wasn't sure I had much to say other than to give my general impression of you as my little guy.

Before I started writing, I read through the previous letter and am very glad I did. Had I not, I would have neglected to apologize for saying the exact same thing. You see, at the risk of belying an erudite vocabulary, the most obvious word that comes to mind when I describe you is still "pleasant." However, this month it's not so much because you are rather agreeable, but because you smile all the time. Seriously. So long as you are not overtired or over hungry (and even then, sometimes), I'm fairly certain that every single interaction with you involves a good gum flashing. And not just a hint of a pleased expression, or a modest lip curl, but the full face, squinty-eyed, tongue-peeking-out variety.

Speaking of which, I should apologize for the bird-like-tongue-sticking-out-during-smiles thing, since there's a decent chance it comes from me. Fortunately, you are going to have teeth someday, which will help, not to mention the wherewithal to act purposefully. This seems like a good time to discuss how often I hear that you look like me, which is cool since we do share two out of three names. However, it is also a bit awkward because people almost always preface it or follow it up with how cute you are. And they are definitely right. But do you see how that can be a bit awkward for me? If I agree or say thank you, am I admitting that I think I am cute also? Additionally, I am fairly confident that no one would ever actually think to say that to me by myself, which makes me wonder about the relationship between gender and compliments. Essentially, I expect that eventually people are going to stop saying you are adorable no matter what you look like, while their first inclination will always be to say that to your sister. I don't really have an answer to this, but I don't like it and wonder what things will be like when you can make sense of this letter. But I digress.

At three months, you are still talking a lot and mixing volumes as well, and it still makes me smile or laugh whenever you do it. You have already mastered the back-and-forth nature of conversation (more so than I remember with your sister at this point) and are so much fun to talk to that I sometimes think about our chats when I am having less entertaining exchanges with adults. This month, you have also started to put yourself to sleep (without any teaching or trying on our part!), found your hands (which you are diligently working on figuring out how to get in your mouth on command), and thinking about rolling over (which you actually did for the first time from an advantageous position while I was typing this letter in front of you). You are a very busy guy. Still a long way from a legitimate golf swing, but even "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (Lao Tzu).

In closing, I want to reiterate how bad I feel about repeating my conclusion from last month, but can't really get past how appropriate it is. Suffice it to say that if you end up being a middle child, it will be entirely your own fault for being so very sweet. I guess I could have just used that word, but then this letter would have been even shorter. Keep up the good work.

All my love,

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