Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Seven Months

My dear E.J.,

Today you are seven months old, and time is marching on through your first year of life at an uncomfortably rapid pace. I am starting to make plans for a birthday party for your sister next month, and while doing so I cannot help but think that the next party I plan after hers will be for your very first birthday. It hardly seems possible, yet at the same time, I already feel that every day you look less and less like a little baby and more and more like a little boy. Like it or not, you are growing up on me.

Last month I spoke about how active you were becoming, and I mentioned that if left on the floor you would scoot yourself "great distances." I should clarify that by that I meant, essentially, the distance from our foam play mat to the coffee table, which is only a couple of feet. And now? Well, let's just say you have long since shattered that record for distance traveled! Since last month, you have started "creeping" as if it is your life's one true calling. You are quick, you are purposeful, and you are all over the place. These days, you will get on a roll and creep your way clear out of the living room and to the far ends of the house (often all the way out to Achilles' water/food dish in the kitchen—yay!). You have also discovered that Ellie's room is an untapped gold mine of new and interesting toys, and if you catch sight of her open bedroom door your life is given new purpose and off you go. You are still largely using your arms to pull yourself around (sometimes with both arms simultaneously, and sometimes army-crawl style), though as of late you have begun to add more legwork into the mix. You have also started raising yourself up onto your hands and knees and rocking back and forth, sometimes also moving a knee forward here and there before sliding back down. I can't imagine that actual crawling is too far off for you!

You have also started pulling yourself up a bit, mostly into my lap. It seems that your ability to travel great distances has brought to light that the distance between you and me can increase and decrease, and you seem to have realized that you have some control over that. I have seen some hints of separation anxiety lately, including some heartbreaking cries when I put you in your Pack 'N Play in the living room (affectionately called your "baby jail," and intended to keep you safe if I have to step out of the room) and walk away. So long as you can get yourself to me, you're okay, and I have been lucky enough to see lots of excited baby movement in my direction. Sometimes you'll be playing in the living room while I work at my computer in the dining room, and when I look down, there you are rounding the corner to pull yourself up at my feet. What a sweetheart!

I fear this newfound realization that I can walk away from you is contributing to the continuation and, unfortunately, the worsening of our sleep issues. With the exception of one random night this month when you slept 12 hours straight (WHAT), you're still waking up every two hours overnight. We spent a couple of days trying to sleep-train you using a method recommended by our pediatrician, but it just wasn't right for us and we abandoned ship for a bit. I have done more reading on the subject and am planning to start working on this again in the next week or so, which I am both dreading and looking forward to, because Buddy, I love you, but this cannot last. Your sleep has never been great but since my last letter it has gotten even worse. Gone are the long initial stretches of sleep that once allowed me to relax through the evening, replaced with several wakeups for you before I even get to bed. Where once you were able to put yourself to sleep in your crib at bedtime with ease, now you will cry as if I have ripped your heart out if I lay you down drowsy but awake and leave the room (thanks, separation anxiety!). You are no longer easy to get back to sleep at night, either. It used to be that a quick 10-minute nursing and cuddle session was all it took to get you peacefully back to bed, but for the past few nights I have been required to spend much greater lengths of time in your room, holding you close until you are dead to the world before I can lay you back down without instant tears. And don't get me wrong, I love cuddling you and I love that I am able to comfort you so. But something has to give, because I am so tired. And you are tired, too. I just hope that I have the strength to do what needs to be done to ultimately help us both get the rest we need.

In the past week or so you have started showing some progress in your verbal development, becoming a good bit more vocal as you scoot around on the floor. You've started making some consonant sounds, some of which have even sounded almost "mama"-like. I keep encouraging you to say "mama," which then leads to Daddy chiming in, "Say, DADA!," to which Ellie replies, "NO! He wants to say ELLIE! Say ELLIE, E.J.!" So needless to say, you have a lot of people vying for your first word! Keep up the good work and one of us will win out soon enough!

This month we attempted the introduction of solid foods, but it has not exactly been a rousing success. We started with some pureed avocado, which you allowed us to feed to you despite your looks of disgust following each bite. We moved on then to pureed sweet potato, for which you refused to even open your mouth. I then decided to simplify and we tried rice cereal (that was really mostly breastmilk with a touch of cereal added in), but that didn't really go any better. You just refused to open your mouth for the spoon, which meant mealtime was a frustrating endeavor for all involved. That was when the idea struck me to ditch the purees and give you large, grabbable pieces of soft foods. You love to pick up anything and everything and put it directly in your mouth, so I thought that if maybe you were running the show, you would end up with more of the food actually making its way to the desired target. Of course, as these things go, it didn't quite go as planned and we spent a few days just basically mashing and smearing sweet potato chunks all over the place. (Never mind, of course, that you'll go back for second and third helpings of Daddy's running shoes if we let you, but sweet potatoes are wholly inedible.) Just in the last couple of days, however, some pieces of avocado have actually ended up in your mouth! You then give a look of confusion mixed with displeasure and spit it out, but hey, baby steps. We'll get there!

I wanted to list your favorite toys these days, but really your favorite things to play with are ANYTHING YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON. Again, that mobility works to your advantage, and in all your exploring of our home, you stop to inspect anything that catches your eye. I suppose some particular favorites are Ellie's toy computer, your music box, your stacking blocks, Ellie's dog pull-toy, any and all shoes, anything resembling a power cord, the lower bars of the coffee table, and Achilles' tail. You also enjoy being tickled, playing peek-a-boo, and "flying" up over our heads. Other favorite pastimes include pulling the hair at the base of Mama's neck and trying to roll over and climb off the changing table as if you are hellbent on your own destruction.

In other fun news of the month, we went on our first vacation as a family of four: to Disney World, for Marathon Weekend. We got to see your Daddy run the Disney Marathon (go, Daddy!), and Ellie ran a 100m Kids' Race. Next year, maybe you'll be racing, too! We also spent five nights in a hotel, went to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and had breakfast with Mickey and pals at Chef Mickey's. Naps were a struggle for you on this trip, but you really were so good the whole time. You dozed in the stroller when you really needed to, and the rest of the time you were content to be worn by me in the little Mickey carrier I fixed up for you. You looked just as cute as a button in that thing, with your little mouse ears and your trademark E.J. smile. You especially loved meeting Mickey Mouse (he autographed a baseball for you!), but you were so content to come along for the ride the whole weekend. Even on our last day, at Chef Mickey's, when I thought you were overtired and fussy, people came up to me to comment on how happy and smiley you are. You've still got it, kid. World's happiest baby!

E.J., it is a real honor and a pleasure to watch you growing up right before my eyes. These days I feel as if each morning we wake up and you can do something today that you couldn't yesterday, and I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow will bring. Yes, I am still heartbroken when I let myself recognize that each new achievement signals the end of another piece of your babyhood, but you're just so much fun to watch that it does lessen the blow quite a bit. You are one cool kid—happy, friendly, sweet, determined—and I am so excited to continue to get to know you and figure out just who you really are. I love you so much, little man, and I'm so happy that you're my boy.

Happy seven months, buddy.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

How is it February already? Are you actually seven months old? I'm not sure what it is, but this month has passed by way too fast. We had tons of fun together, and you did a decent bit of growing yourself, but I am definitely not ready for the time to start flying. You are simply the cutest and happiest little baby, and I forgot how awesome it is to watch someone experience so many things for the first time with such intense curiosity. You are so interested in things that you have gotten really good at propelling yourself across the house and are even starting to pull up onto things (especially Mama).

The curiosity thing actually reminds me of a thought that is far more pragmatic than the typical parenthood-as-puppies-and-rainbows transformational experience description you usually find in these kinds of letters. Essentially, I want to admit that I typically view most of these early parenthood days as being composed of shifts. These are the two- to three-hour stretches between naps that need to be filled with enough entertainment to keep you from crying. This does not mean I don't absolutely treasure a lot of this time, including the hairiest of stretches towards the end of some shifts when the number of acceptable distractions shrinks and the most popular remaining option is to walk you around. This could be due to the fact that you are E.J. and you always reserve the right to break into a big smile. You really are such a happy baby! Anyway, your supreme curiosity and ever-growing mobile independence make these shifts high on enjoyment and low on actual labor. To be fair, at seven months, the "work" is primarily placing toys where we want you to go and making sure you don't hurt yourself, an important consideration that seems to play absolutely no part in your moment-to-moment cost-benefit analyses. For the record, some of your favorite things to inspect right now include music players, small balls, shoes, Achilles, and spots of light on the floor, but you will generally consider anything else you can (or can at least attempt to) grab with your hands.

As month seven draws to a close, you are on the verge of making consonant sounds, pulling yourself up, mastering sitting without toppling, eating actual foods and sleeping through the night. I add the last one as wishful thinking for the well-being of you and your Mama. Depending on how old you are when you get around to skimming through this tome, I hope it seems silly how difficult it was for you to consistently fall and stay asleep. I know things can always be worse, but it still feels pretty ridiculous sometimes. Putting that aside, I can't believe how intensely you are staring down the barrel of a year. All of these big boy things and all of this progress means that we will soon be out of the perfect baby era and firmly in the I-hope-he's-still-all-world-cool-(and really smart and good at golf)-but-even-if-he's-not-that's-okay-too era. No matter what happens, I will always cherish the time I spent with my little buddy, and hope the older you is half as excited to spend some time with older me.

All my love,

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