Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Eight Months

My dear E.J.,

Today you are eight months old! Your daddy and I selected this month's picture because in it you look so much like a little boy—not the teeny baby you have always been. Of course, I recognize that in a few months' time, I will look back at this picture and marvel at what a baby you were, and in a few years I will hardly remember when you were this small. Such is life. But as of today, I think you are very grown up!

The major theme of my letter last month was your ever-increasing mobility, and you have not slowed down in the slightest since then. Your "creeping" is now a very rapid army crawl, which quickly propels you the entire length of the house. We bought a couple of baby gates and instituted "baby jail" (because we can only chase after you to keep you out of the dog bowl so many times), and Ellie has learned to keep her bedroom door shut if she doesn't want you to crawl on in there and help yourself to her toys. (All this has led to many a forlorn look on your little face as you realize you are unable to reach your desired target!) The bars underneath our coffee table that were once a roadblock to you are now nothing but a speed bump, and you quickly go up and over and on your merry way. Basically, you are unstoppable. Last night, you also crawled a short distance on your hands and knees, up off your belly, so you may still be perfecting your craft. I have wondered if you would, considering there's not much need—you get where you are going (and fast) just fine army-style! We'll just have to wait and see!

In addition to improving on your forward motion, you have mastered sitting up at last. I no longer have to worry so much about you toppling over from a sitting position, as you are both more steady while seated and have figured out how to ease yourself down to your crawling position rather than just lurching abruptly in the direction you want to go. You have also figured out how to get yourself up to sitting and do so with ease. I love to see you just sitting there playing with your toys! You're just so cute.

This month you also started pulling yourself up to standing, both on stationary objects and, preferably, while holding our hands. You figured that out and that has been pretty much all you've wanted to do all month long. Often I'll be trying to do something while you play on the floor, only to have you start fussing at my feet until I sit down with you and extend my hands so you can pull yourself up, all while sporting your most pleased little smile and looking around to make sure anyone else who may be in the room is sufficiently impressed by you. Of course, the problems we formerly had with your sitting technique have now transferred to standing: all you want to do once you get up is let go and reach for things, but you are far too unsteady for any of that so whoever is on "baby duty" at the moment has to be pretty vigilant to keep you from hitting the floor with a "thud" that I have become all too familiar with. You really have very little regard for your own life.

All this activity sure can be exhausting for your mama, but luckily, you are finally sleeping through the night! After last month's failed sleep training experiment, I did some more research and reading and this month we tried again, armed with a more familiar method and renewed determination. The first night was rough, but the second night was already much, much better, and by the third night, you had it down. You now sleep from roughly 7:00 p.m. until somewhere between 5:00-7:00 a.m. straight. It is fabulous. Your wake-up time still fluctuates a bit and is often far earlier than we would like (5:00 a.m. is just rude), but we'll get that figured out, too. Doing this parenting thing for the second time has given me the wisdom that no phase is forever, and I'm sure before we know it, I'll have trouble rousing your teenage self by noon.

We also bid farewell to your baby swing and started working on getting you to nap in your crib this month, but that has brought more mixed results. Morning naps are generally great (with the exception of a rough couple of days this weekend), but afternoon naps are spotty at best. So that's still a work in progress, but I know we will get there. In the meantime, your daddy and I are just trying to adjust to a severe decrease in kid-free-time in the afternoons!

Speaking of daddy, your verbal skills have continued to progress this month. You still do a lot of screeching but have started making some more consonant sounds, including a few rounds of "dada" a couple weeks ago. You made his day!

I suppose I could be bitter that "dada" came before "mama" (Ellie did that to me too, for the record), but I can't be mad because you make it very clear how much you like me in other ways. In particular, the cuddles! So many times when I pick you up, you wrap your little arms around me in a tiny baby hug and nestle your head onto my shoulder, or bury your face into my neck. You are content to just be held and cuddled like that for some time, and if you are upset, it is the quickest way to calm you. I cherish those snuggly moments so, so much.

In other news, I think we have made some progress with solid food this month. You like to gnaw on some finger foods, though the only one you seem to actually ingest is wheat toast. You will at least try others, though, so I suppose that's something. You are still refusing to open your mouth for a spoonful of pureed food, though if we are able to trick you into allowing it in, you do actually swallow it and almost never make faces or give a full-body shudder anymore. So, success? I do have to be pretty tricky to get that spoon in your mouth, though, and I have tried a number of strategies, including feeding contraptions like a silicon feeder and squeezable spoon. The most successful technique has been to swoop in and stuff some food in your mouth when you open up for another purpose—usually, to gnaw on your water cup. I do worry a little that you probably think water actually tastes like pureed carrots, but we'll deal with that later.

I did try another tactic to get you to open your mouth one evening this month, and that turned into one of my most favorite E.J. moments of all time. You had eyes on Achilles, and were just staring at him staring back at you (waiting for you to inevitably throw some food to the floor, of course). I thought perhaps I could use the dog to my advantage so I asked him to speak. He let out a little yap and sure enough, you broke into a big grin. Achilles kept going and your grin turned to giggles, which very quickly escalated to utter hysterics. I have never seen a baby laugh like that and to my great delight, I captured the whole thing on video. Since that night I have watched it over and over and over again, and I expect to do so for the rest of my days, because I cannot get enough of that uproarious baby laugh. It just makes me feel happiness down to my very core.

Of course, that is not rare with you. E.J., every single day I am struck by just how lucky I am to have you as my son. You are sweet and joyful and adventurous and persistent and curious and perfect. You are such a special, wonderful little boy and I could not possibly love you more. I am just so, so thankful for you.

I love you so much, little man.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Happy eight months, little buddy!

At this age, you are still adorably miniature, but have been moving at a feverish pace that belies your age. Except for when you are sleeping, eating or getting ready to sleep, you are in motion. This month, you mastered pulling yourself to a stand and getting from your belly to sitting up and back down without any sort of learning curve. The day after I noticed you could do it, you seemed to have it down. As for your crawling, there is actually a funny story. You see, I kind of loved Ellie's scoot-crawl thing and always hoped you would follow the well-worn path of hands and knees when the time came. I was sure that I didn't want you to be an army crawler. I don't think I had any reason in particular other than I thought it looked funny or maybe even lazy. But in reality, it's pretty cute. You are just so intent on getting places that you have no patience for testing other ways to do it or time to worry about the way it looks. You are all about results and have obviously settled on the quickest way to get moving. It actually looks like you are swimming without the water, reaching one arm at a time with a synchronized leg kick. Given this turn of events, I should probably also mention that I hope you never out-drive me.

All of this movement even caused me to briefly reconsider my strongest impression of you. However, E.J., you are still just the sweetest. You have smiles for everything, laugh almost daily (and even hysterically at the dog) and legitimately cuddle your mama before and after naps. I really hope you stay as good-natured as you seem. I can't imagine you having as spirited of a go at toddler/preschooler-hood as your big sister or ever being a regular, cynical adult. Whatever happens, I am trying to remember to enjoy each day with baby you as much as I can.

Speaking of enjoying these days, you started saying "DA DA" this month! As if you weren't already such an angel, these new words in your very own voice bring the biggest smile to my face. It is so awesome. Don't ever let me say you never did anything for me.

Before I get to my final thought, I feel like I would be remiss to not mention your newfound night sleeping, post-bath fluffy hair, solid food eating/refusing and the funny faces that accompany it or the distinctive and truly awful smell you manage to produce about once each day. Good times.

In writing this letter, it occurred to me how crazy it is to mark so many of the things new parents mark. Just about everything that has been highlighted in these month-to-month letters is something you will take entirely for granted by the time you read them. And yet, each of these eating, sleeping, vocalizing and movement milestones genuinely seems to require the kind of formal acknowledgement ordinarily reserved for the kinds of things we may have thought you would never accomplish. Do I think you are going to read this someday and be impressed that you crawled at the age you did or that you have been referring to me by name as long as you have? Nope, but it doesn't persuade me to leave everything out. Maybe because it wouldn't leave much else to write or maybe it's not even crazy at all. At eight months old, all of these things and so many more are literally happening for the first time in your life. Firsts are typically the moments that can be the most precious as you get older. So even if you don't appreciate the milestones for their own sake, I mark them to let you know how much they mean to me as first-time experiences with my very own son.

All my love,

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