Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Six Months

My dear E.J.,

You are already halfway through your first year of life! It is hard to believe six months have already passed and in the blink of an eye, we will be celebrating your first birthday. I can't believe so much time has passed so quickly but then I stop and really look at you, and I realize how far you've come from that tiny little newborn that once snuggled into the nook of my arm. You've already grown up so much!

One of the things that stands out most for me from this past month is how active you have become. In last month's letter, I was bemoaning the fact that although you had mastered rolling back to belly, you were still unable to go in reverse with any regularity. Well, all that has changed, and now you will roll clear across the floor with ease. You also started scooting while laying on your belly (propped up on your elbows), pushing with your legs and pulling with your arms to propel yourself forward in quick, purposeful motions, so you can get yourself within reach of whatever object currently strikes your fancy. Gone are the days when I could lay you down on your play mat and take care of a quick task with the expectation that I would return to find you where I left you. Now, if I lay you down and look away for a moment, when I check back in on you, you will inevitably have moved a great distance. You have even found yourself trapped under the coffee table once or twice. Oops! Lesson learned!

You are also getting much better at sitting on your own, although you often require a spotter because after sitting for a minute or two, you will almost always fling your body in any number of directions in pursuit of an interesting object to grab or better view of nearby happenings. Thankfully, we also have a foam mat on the floor in case your spotter is sleeping on the job. You're just so active, it's hard to keep up with you!

Speaking of your spotter sleeping on the job, that is a real possibility because your nighttime sleep is still a bit rough on your poor mama. I had hoped that mastering rolling in both directions would improve the situation, but alas, it did not. Despite your greatly improved mobility you still wake up every two hours, laying on your belly and fussing in frustration until I come pick you up and nurse you back to sleep. There have been a few nights when you have slept most of the night through, so I know you can do it, but I could count those nights on one hand and still have a couple of fingers left over. Needless to say, I'm tired. Very, very tired. However, I haven't actually taken steps to (hopefully) improve the situation because although you wake up often, it is easy to get you back to sleep and I just haven't had the motivation or energy to change things up and deal with the angry, tearful consequences. That may change this month, but for now, we're just maintaining the status quo.

Your naps are another area that I know I need to address but can't bring myself to do it. You're still napping swaddled in your swing. Our reliance on the swing even went so far as us buying a portable swing from a consignment shop for use during holiday travels. Hey, it worked, so I feel no shame. You napped well enough while we were away from home that it was totally worth it. And at home, you'll nap like that for hours in the morning and afternoon. Why would I want to mess with that?! But, I know you can't sleep in that swing forever so maybe we'll finally tackle that issue this month, too.

I'm proud to say that we have made it through six months of exclusive breastfeeding! I was thrilled to reach this milestone with your sister and I'm so excited to have done so again with you. You're still nursing regularly (every 2-3 hours), and obviously, that includes overnight. Nursing has become a bit treacherous for me with your increased physical activity, as you spend much of our nursing time flailing and kicking and arching and lurching. It's a far cry from the quiet, peaceful, relaxing nursing moments of your newborn days, but I know that's just a part of growing up. I still cherish that time together! This month we'll be starting solid foods with you, which is both exciting and breaks my heart a little bit. It's just another step on the path to you not needing me so much anymore, to growing from my little baby into a big boy. It is both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch. Such is motherhood, I suppose.

You still continue to "be E.J." in that you are the world's happiest baby. You have a smile for just about everyone and everything. Even when you are at your most tired/hungry/over it, you will still consider anything we present you with and, if it's funny, you'll laugh. You really only cry when hungry or sleepy and the rest of the time you are inquisitive, happy and sweet. One of my favorite things is cuddling you in close to me when you finish nursing but are still awake and happy. You nestle against my chest and give that E.J. smile, and I can't help but lean down and kiss your cheeks, which throws you into a fit of giggles. So of course, we do it over and over again. Sometimes this is a terrible idea on my part because I know I should be trying to settle you for a nap, but I still can't help myself. Often, you'll laugh so hard, you'll laugh yourself into a fit of hiccups which really complicates naptime! What a ridiculous problem to have - my baby often has trouble napping because he gave himself hiccups by laughing too hard. You're too much!

You're very interested in toys this month and some of your favorites include your seahorse, your triangle tag toy, your O-Ball, your music box, your stuffed Rudolph and your Jumperoo. You also like to chew on our fingers, and sometimes you like to pull off your own socks and chew on those. You also took a major liking to cousin Santiago's toy cars this Christmas! You love to play games with Daddy, including being tossed up into the air and dipped backwards upside down. You love when I pretend to eat your hand and when I tickle your torso. I just love your little laugh (it has the sweetest muted little sound!) and the way you look up and to the side as you giggle!

As for what you don't like? Well, that list is much shorter! I would say being overtired or hungry (but who doesn't dislike those things?) and sometimes riding in the car. You do have more opinions now about what you'd like to be doing, and if we've been holding you for too long you'll sometimes fuss until we let you down so you can move. Probably your least favorite thing is having your diaper/clothes changed when you are ready to eat and/or sleep, especially in the middle of the night. You very rarely cry your fullest, saddest cry, but that is one occasion that warrants it. The rest of the time, you mostly whine, complain, and blow angry raspberries. (In a true testament to your easy-going, willing-to-evaluate-everything-and-laugh-when-appropriate nature, there have been a couple of instances when you were unhappily crying and blowing raspberries, and after a few minutes of this you decided the sad raspberries were actually pretty funny and started laughing at yourself. You turned your cry into a laugh completely on your own. Precious!)

In other big news for this month, we celebrated your first Christmas, which was really wonderful. We spent the actual holiday in St. Petersburg with family, and everyone loved being a part of your first Christmas. You were an absolute angel in church on Christmas Eve, received some very nice gifts, and handled overwhelming visits with family in stride (well, aside from a few sporadic tears!). After the initial holiday, you and I flew to Cleveland for Christmas with the Hestermans - your first flight! You were a little fussy on the flight there but slept the entire return flight (after a minor diaper incident in the security line). In Cleveland, you met your Great-Gramps for the first time, along with many other family members. Everyone just adored you, of course, and you especially bonded with cousin Santiago. I really loved being able to show you a Christmas at Gramps's house, which was such a big part of my childhood. You even went to your first (non-holiday, non-baptism) church service at Divinity Lutheran, my home church, which was very special to me. And after all that, we came back to Jacksonville, where we celebrated your (belated) first Christmas with our family. Santa brought you and Ellie a play kitchen, and you also received a lot of gifts geared towards starting solid food this month (high chair, bibs, bowls, etc.), plus your Declaration of Independence Christmas ornament! That same day, we bid farewell to the year of your birth and welcomed in 2015. What a whirlwind of fun! It was so magical to watch you experience all this for the first time.

E.J., the last six months have really been something special for me. I will admit that before you were born, I was worried about how you would fit into our family. Your daddy, Ellie and I had a really good thing going as a family of three. I was concerned that we would upset the balance and it would be difficult to adjust to our fourth family member. But all of those worries were completely unfounded. Not only has the transition been smooth, not only do you fit into our family, but you make us better. We are all so smitten with you, there is no possible way I could say who loves you most. Ellie loves you so much, sometimes she looks at you and just sort of tenses up and shakes and squawks at you - I think she physically cannot handle how much she adores you. And in turn, I love her even more than before and in different ways now that she is your (incredibly doting) big sister. I am more in love with Daddy than ever as I watch him once again care for our sweet baby, and listen to him talk about his hopes and dreams and plans for you. He loves both you and Ellie so much. And as for me, you are giving me the opportunity to feel the joy of mothering a new baby all over again - to watch my little one grow before my very eyes for the second time, reaching milestone after milestone - while somehow simultaneously allowing me to experience motherhood in completely new ways that I didn't with Ellie. You teach me things, you brighten my day, you warm my heart, you inspire me. I don't even have words for the love and pride that swells in my heart when I realize that I am the one God chose to be your mama. I am the luckiest mama in the world.

I love you so much, sweet boy. Happy half birthday.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

You are officially halfway to your first birthday! There are even some people that will celebrate today as a "half birthday." I am torn because I know very well that by the time you actually read this letter, six months (or any of the individual months, really) are not going to seem like a big deal. Over the course of your lifetime, there are only a handful of things that are actually going to approach monumental status, such as a personal decision to believe in Jesus Christ, who to marry and whether to go to UF or an ivy league school. That said, six months seems impressive because you have only had six of them (so each is still a double-digit percentage of your life) and by the time you celebrate an actual birthday, this point in time will bring the most obvious comparisons, being halfway and all.

At six months old, you are super fun to hang out with. We often refer to you as "the world's happiest baby," and if you know me, you know I don't take superlatives lightly. E.J., you smile and cheer for everything. Seriously, you are almost always happy to try out: laying on your front or back, being carried facing in or out or upside down, being throw up or flipped around, looking at any variety of stuffed animals, sitting up practice, jumping in the Jumperoo, funny faces, funny noises, Ellie, your mama, me, and generally all other people who show interest in you. Of course, you are a baby and get tired of these things and/or hungry or sleepy, but assuming the last two items are okay, you are up for almost anything. If I had to pick your favorite thing right now, it would probably be grabbing and chomping, both of which you do incessantly and ferociously. I also like that your face is very expressive in terms of your opinions of the things you taste, and also that when you do not like something, you almost always try it again to make sure. I'm sure this says something cool about you, like maybe you are willing to look past a bad first impression or that you are a perpetual optimist. As I type this, I believe your sister may have done something similar in the context of trying solid food. To preserve the integrity of this letter, I am not going to look up my interpretation and just hope that my thoughts here end up doing you justice and my thoughts there do the same for her.

This actually reminds me of something else I wanted to mention/apologize for. Other than your delightfulness, which by now stands pretty firmly on its own, none of your developments are noticed without comparison to your sister at the same point in time. I know it is not a contest and that chances are great you will do some things earlier than she did (like scooting yourself and rolling both ways like a boss) and some things later than she did (like sitting up in earnest and making consonant sounds). Since I know you will end up doing all the things anyway, the only real downside is that your milestones don't get quite the appreciation they deserve given where you started six months ago (to be clear, I just mean that you were a newly born baby, not that you were especially fragile or anything). It's less "I can't believe this thing that once had no functional muscle is able to move around a room on purpose" and more, "Hey, look, he's pulling himself toward that ball! Did Ellie ever do that?" I don't think it's quite as bad in practice as it sounds, but it's a real thing and I wanted you to know that I am aware it is happening and trying my best to give you the credit you deserve while suppressing the natural instinct of a parent of two. E.J., I am so happy that you are my baby, whether you were here first or second or whenever. I love you so much and am so excited about the friends we are going to be.

In reading past letters, I realized that I managed to mention golf in each one until now. Therefore, I will acknowledge here that we have so far watched the British Open at Royal Liverpool while you were in the hospital and the Ryder Cup from Papa's house around the time of your baptism. Hopefully, we have a lot more watching to come and even more playing. Regardless, happy six months. Keep up the good work! Very impressive stuff so far, not that any of it will mean much by the time you read this, but hopefully you will get some good idea from it.

All my love,

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