Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dear E.J. - Four Months

My dear E.J.,

Here we are again, marking the end of yet another month in your first year of life. Four of them down already! How does this keep happening?

This month has brought some developmental firsts for you, as well as improvements to the skills you were working on last month. For instance, you are becoming much more skilled with your grasp and one of your favorite games right now is reaching up to grab a finger we hold just in your reach above your face. When you grab hold and pull our hands to your mouth, we cheer and praise you and you beam with pride. Your arms still seem so jerky as you reach for things but you have much greater success at actually grabbing onto whatever has captured your attention! Just a couple of days ago you even grabbed my glasses on my face for the first time. That was a favorite activity for your sister as a baby, so it made me smile to know that it is coming back for an encore with you. I've never been so happy to wipe smudges off my lenses.

You also rolled over for the first time this month, in a very impressive demonstration of problem-solving! I put you on your mat on your tummy, and when traditional rolling wasn't working out for you, you pulled your arms up and got yourself propped up on your elbows, then leaned to the side and toppled over. I know this was purposeful because you did it several times in a row, and your daddy and I were quite impressed! This skill has sort of stalled now, but I realize that is also at least partly my fault because we spend so much of our time out doing things that your floor time is limited. I'm trying to work on that! As much as I want to take you to do fun things all the time, I also want to make sure you have ample time to explore your immediate surroundings and figure out what your little body is capable of.

In other very exciting "firsts," you laughed for the first time this month, during a game of pat-a-cake with me! It was just the sweetest sound. I expected to have to wait a long time to capture it on video, but that was a silly worry. I should know by now that you are the sweetest, happiest little thing and if you have figured out how to laugh, then by golly, laughing is just what you're going to do. You started laughing every morning when I changed your clothes (I've never known a baby to find putting arms in and out of sleeves to be so humorous), and now you particularly love when I tickle your belly and neck and kiss your cheeks. The giggles flow freely and my heart nearly explodes.

I just love that almost every time you smile, it is with your biggest, happiest, gummiest smile. I remember liking this with your sister, too - the fact that as a little baby, your emotions are entirely uncensored. You express what you feel to the greatest extreme at all times. It's refreshing and exhilarating and will be gone all too soon, falling victim to the pressures of societal opinion. But for now, you're just you, and you feel what you feel, to the fullest extent, each and every moment. Of course, this means we also take the extremes of bad along with good, and the slightest complaint (such as riding in the car) will be voiced with loud, heart-wrenching cries, as if your little heart is just broken beyond repair. But then when something makes you happy, even something so simple as me softly saying, "Hi, E.J.!" you smile as if all your dreams just came true, as if this was the very best thing that has ever happened to a person, as if no moment will ever be greater than this moment. It is utterly impossible not to return your grins and giggles with unbridled joy of my own.

One thing that I have marveled at this month is how quickly you can go from incredibly upset to extremely joyful. We often go out in the mornings, coming home just in time to get Ellie some lunch before I feed you and put you down for your long afternoon nap. By this point you're generally pretty ready for both those things and you don't love having to wait until your sister is settled for those needs to be met. I make a lot of Ellie lunches with your unhappy wailing as the soundtrack, unfortunately. But even though you're crying your hardest, loudest, saddest cries, as soon as I come near you, your tears cease. Then I pick you up, and you smile. I carry you into your room and put you on your changing pad and kiss your cheeks, and you giggle. Within 30 seconds you have gone from your most miserable to your most happy! I am so glad that your unhappy moments are not only so few and far between, but are also so short-lived. You are just a happy little thing and let me tell you, it is contagious.

As for other milestones, your nighttime sleep has seen some changes this month. You started regularly breaking out of your swaddle, so we did away with it at night (you still use it for naps, though I suspect not for long). You were still sleeping in your bassinet in our bedroom at the beginning of the month but then started waking up every three hours most nights, so just last week we moved you into your crib in your own room, in the hopes that having your own quiet, undisturbed space would improve your sleep. The first night was rough (you woke every two hours instead of every three), but it has gotten better and a couple of nights ago you only woke up once, at 4:30 a.m.! I can work with that! Although, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss having you so close to me all night long at least a little bit. With you both ditching the swaddle and moving to your own room all in one month, I've spent a decent bit of time fighting off that little nagging sadness at the reminder that those phases of your babyhood are already behind us. It just goes so quickly.

It seems you are learning to soothe yourself and I have caught you sucking your thumb overnight and as of yesterday, occasionally during the day, too. You also willingly take a pacifier when you're upset, so we'll see which one wins out. For naps, you're still sleeping swaddled in a swing with your pacifier, but I'm trying to get up my nerve to cut out at least two of those three sleeping crutches soon. I just hate to mess with a good thing, because you're still napping one or two hours in the morning and about three hours in the afternoon! If it ain't broke, you know?

This month was a very busy one for you, activity-wise. In addition to adding regular storytimes into our weekly routine, we did a number of other fun things as a family. You made your first trip to Gainesville for the UF Homecoming Parade, you sat among the pumpkins at a local farm and pumpkin patch, you helped us carve our Halloween pumpkin, you dressed up as Peter Pan for your first Halloween (the cutest Peter Pan there ever was, of course) and we went to two trick-or-treating events as well as the Zoo Spooktacular, all of which you were so good for. You're just such a laid back little guy, which I appreciate so much. Your good nature allows us to do all these fun things as a family and you are perfectly content to come along for the ride. I can hardly wait to share the upcoming holiday season with you! Having you here is just going to make everything even more magical, and I'm so excited.

E.J., I just love being your mama so, so much. I'm not sure I could ever really put into words how proud I am to be your mother. Not a day passes by that I don't take a moment to look at you, to soak you in, to admire every little detail of you and marvel at the fact that you're mine. How did I ever get so lucky?

Happy four months, little man. I love you so.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Happy four months and happy Election Day! How All-American are you with a Fourth of July birthday and your November birth anniversary falling on the day of the mid-term elections? I really hope I don't ruin the coolness of your birthday by reaching for too many patriotic connections, dressing you in too much red, white and blue, or being fairly certain you will hold public office someday. First of all these things were probably going to happen anyway. You see, I read Presidential biographies for fun and have a red, white and blue bald eagle headcover and American flag golf shoes that pre-date you. I love this country and can most easily justify going to work every day by believing I am doing something that can help make it even better. Cliché? Sure, but no more so than having a son born on the Fourth of July, which, if I haven't mentioned yet, is pretty awesome. This is essentially my second point. All that said, my honest hope is that you will hold informed beliefs, whether or not they coincide with mine, that you never stop challenging and that are clearly evidenced in the actions you take.

My customary aside aside, I want you to know that at four months old, you are very fun to hang out with. Though you are still primarily an observer, you are working hard on getting control of your hands. One of my favorite games to play with you involves holding a finger or toy in front of you and encouraging you while you concentrate and swing your hands around until you grab hold of it (and then pull it into your mouth). You really seem to like this game, too, because you are always up for a few rounds and you definitely like all the enthusiastic cheering that comes each time you succeed. Besides enjoying this game, and some other specific things your mama will probably enumerate, you really seem to enjoy simply being alive. You are such a happy little guy. Most of the day, you are pretty content to talk and smile wherever you are and no matter what you are doing, whether laying on your play mat, sitting with someone or going for a walk in the stroller. However, you are a baby and do get fussy around nap time (which is actually far more predictable than it's supposed to be), but then all it really takes is an outward-facing walk around the house, with periodic stops in front of the mirrors, to cheer you up. Even when you are really upset, like when we drive places, you are ready to start smiling again within minutes of being removed from the horrible situation. It's crazy, but much appreciated.

Lots of other good things happened this month. You celebrated your first Halloween, lived through your first World Series, made your first visit to the University of Florida(!), started sleeping in your own room, wore a lot of adorable clothes and took many more adorable pictures. All very exciting, and all summed up with a positive feeling of how good you are at everything. I think we'll keep you! I'm not sure how well my sense of humor will translate into writing or across decades, so I will clarify that this is a joke. A hilarious one. Trust me.

Keep up the good work, big guy.

All my love,

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