Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dear E.J. - Eleven Months

My dear E.J.,

Eleven months! I just can't understand how the time is passing so quickly. It hardly feels like a year has passed since I was waddling around town with an enormous, wiggly, hiccup-y belly, hot and irritable and equal parts excited and anxious about the impending delivering of my baby boy. Wasn't that just yesterday? How is that little wiggle worm in my belly now less than a month from his first birthday already? I can already feel the tears in my eyes when I think that next month's letter will be the last in my monthly series to you. Brace yourself, little man: Mama is not going to handle this gracefully.

Last month, I chose "crazy" as my one word to describe you, and that is not inaccurate this month, either. However, I might change it now to "busy." You still like to climb though a little of the novelty seems to have worn off (thank heavens), so now you have shifted your focus to mess-making, and you have mastered your craft. When left to your own devices at home, you spend your time scoot-crawling all over the house, not resting until every item within E.J. reach is on the floor. And I mean EVERY ITEM. Your favorite tasks: pulling the DVDs off the shelves and out of the T.V. stand drawers; pulling the photo albums off their shelf; emptying the toy box; removing all the books from your bookshelf; throwing everything from the coffee table onto the floor; and pulling down/out all the puzzles and blocks from the kids' corner in the dining room (bonus points, apparently, if you can open the puzzle or block bags and scatter pieces all over the house). I'm going to need you to develop an interest in putting things in and away next because goodness gracious, there is a lot of picking up to be done around here.

Whatever you may be doing, you just almost never stop moving. You are content to crawl around on your own and explore (destroy) your surroundings for hours on end. Your scoot-crawl continues to serve you well, with the added modification of often being one-handed so you can carry a toy around with you in the other hand (hence, the scattering of various things all over the house). You do still like to pull up on whatever you can, and cruise along the furniture with ease. You have taken a big interest in Achilles (much to his dismay) and chase him around a few times a day. You still use your walker toy here and there (or will swap it out for anything that you can push, such as Ellie's Doc McStuffins Mobile Clinic or, to my chagrin, her standalone Elmo potty), and you are getting pretty good at maneuvering it out of corners so you can keep moving. You still try to climb, though mostly just up my legs when you are itching for some Mama cuddle time.

Oh, and am I ever happy to indulge you in those cuddles. When you're tired you just snuggle right up into my shoulder, often with arms hanging straight down at your sides so your whole body weight just leans into me. Sometimes you still wrap one arm around my neck or arm and squeeze—the very best baby hugs!

Before we go any further, let's just get the other two big topics out of the way: eating and sleeping. Your sleep hasn't changed much from last month; you still nap twice a day and wake up two or three times a night. Some mornings lately you have been sleeping in until 8:00 a.m., which is great for my sleep but throws off our daily schedule (for storytime and that sort of thing). So, I guess it's a trade-off.

As for eating, it just really seemed to click for you this month. You will still eat your puree if we feed it to you along with finger foods, and you've tried a great number of new foods now that have become part of the regular rotation (such as eggs for breakfast). Your absolute favorite, however, is cheese, either shredded or cottage. You have started doing baby signs this month (more on that momentarily) and from the moment you see me start prepping your meal, you are signing enthusiastically for cheese. Sometimes you will refuse to eat anything until it is accompanied by cheese. I mean, I get it. Cheese is pretty great. But let's not become a one-trick pony, here.

Regardless of what you are eating, it seems you have been eating enough of it to see some improvement in the weight department. We had another check-up with your doctor at the end of the month and you have risen to the seventh percentile for weight! She was pleased with your progress and thinks we are finally getting enough calories in you to keep up with your activity level. So, onward! More cheese for the big guy!

As I mentioned, another big thing for you this month has been baby signs. We had such success with baby sign language with Ellie that we started trying it earlier with you, and it has paid off. You can do probably five signs or so already: "cheese" (your favorite), "more," "all done," "dog," "milk" and "fan" (you like the ceiling fans!). It is so cool to be able to communicate with you in this way already, and you seem to be so pleased when we are able to understand what you want!

One of my most favorite E.J. "things" this month is your dancing and clapping. You love music generally, and will dance along as it plays and clap when it ends. Your absolute favorite, however, is the "Letter of the Day" song from "Sesame Street." That is your jam. As soon as you hear it playing, your little head whips around and you scoot-crawl faster than a speeding bullet over to the source, shrieking happily and pausing to clap as you go. You bounce and dance so vigorously you nearly fall over, clapping and grinning the whole time. IT IS ADORABLE. I cannot get enough. Seeing you so delighted—there is nothing better!

In other news, you now have a total of three teeth (two top, one bottom, with the other bottom on the way), had your first lick of ice cream, "voted" for the first time (or rather, accompanied me while I voted), and visited with some family this month during a trip down to St. Pete. Your hair is getting long and will probably need a cut soon, if I will allow it. You talk and babble constantly, and you love to point at things and give them what-for (you especially like to talk to the T.V. and the baseball pictures above your crib). The intonation of your speech sounds like you are trying to have a real conversation, and I only wish I could decipher your meaning. Your favorite toys right now are your O-Ball car (but you also enjoy just about anything can push around in front of you), blocks, and the musical instrument puzzle (you like to carry the pieces around and sit on the board to make the sounds play!). You love to crawl up onto Ellie's bed (especially in the mornings), and she nearly smothers you with hugs when you do so. You like to swing at the park and climb into the library stacks. You give big, wet sloppy kisses and raise your arms when you want to be picked up. You love to be worn. You had your first real active beach outing this month and could have crawled all over that sand until the end of time, but you didn't love the (cold, wave-y) water. In short: you are one cool little boy overall.

I just can't believe that a year ago at this time, I still didn't even know you. I knew your movements in my belly and now in retrospect I can see how they fit with your personality, but I didn't really know my E.J. I didn't even know what I was missing! You have brought so much joy to our home in these eleven months. You laugh a lot and we laugh with you. You are such a treasured addition to our family, E.J.

As we prepare for your first birthday this coming month, I know I'm going to struggle as I have struggled every month since your birth. With newborn Ellie, my days were spent much more focused on survival. She was our first, it was all new, and well...she was Ellie. (Suffice it to say, she was not as easy-going as you are.) But you, my boy, are so happy, so adaptable, so sweet that I am left with far too much time to contemplate how quickly time is passing and I am left feeling desperate to hold on to every moment. I think some of that comes from you being my second child, too, because wasn't Ellie just as small as you are today? And now she is a full-blown kid. She is a constant reminder that your baby days are numbered and that number is dwindling far too quickly. Already you are constantly on the go and our cuddly moments, though sweet and treasured when they happen, are fewer in number than they were just months ago.

When we were in St. Petersburg this month you had trouble napping the first day of our trip. You cried and cried in your Pack-N-Play until I finally gave up on the nap idea and went to get you. I sat on the bed and held you and cuddled you and I as you lay still in my arms, I saw your eyes grow heavy and soon close as you finally gave in to sleep. It had been months since you last fell asleep in my arms, and even in your newborn days it was a rare occurrence. I chose not to try to put you back in your crib but instead to carefully lie down on the bed with you, and we napped there together with you in my arms for over an hour. When you woke up, you looked up at me and got the biggest smile on your face, then threw yourself back down with your head on my chest and one arm wrapped around me, as if in a grateful hug, and went back to sleep. That little nap with you was one of my most treasured E.J. moments to date, buddy. I know that opportunities like those are rare enough as it is, and will only become more so as time passes. Thank you so much for giving me that afternoon of cuddling my little baby while he is still a little baby.

I love you so much, baby boy. I can't even tell you how much. Happy eleven months.

All my love,

* * * * *

Dear E.J.,

Two more letters until you are one year old. I can't believe we are here already even though, technically, we aren't actually here yet. Your mama and I were talking and realize that, based on our experience with your sister, we should be able to look back on this age and recognize things about your real-life personality that you are already demonstrating. Physical appearance similarities often work from an earlier age, but I have no real ability to project any resemblance, not that I could draw it out for you or otherwise prove it in a meaningful way. I feel like I have said it before, but suffice it to say your ever-so-sweet face works really well in baby form, so here's hoping that continues to work in your favor. More importantly, I want to take a shot at guessing some of the ways people might describe future (Present? Past?) you.

First, but in no particular order, you are very independent. Right now, you travel throughout the entire boundary of any area you find yourself in and speed up when a door opens to a new space like Ellie's room or the front porch. You can spend over an hour exploring and make quite the mess to prove it. That said, you are the good kind of independent in that you can handle playing with others just fine and even like interacting with them, especially indulging big sister Ellie and sharing food with Mama. You give things to people and laugh at many of them. I hope this means you will be a self-starter who can function just as well in group situations.

Second, you are very interested in communication. At eleven months old, you still chat all the time and yell often. You are really varying your sounds, though it is not obvious that you are trying to say specific things. It's pretty fun to listen to either way, though I should apologize if you have been trying to talk to me because I have absolutely no idea what you are saying. In addition, you have added baby sign language to the mix! In a very short time, you have begun using hand motions for (in order of importance to you): cheese, milk, dog, fan, more and "all done." You even use a compound sign for "more cheese!" It's possible this means you will "wear your heart on your sleeve," for lack of a better way to say it, and/or you will be willing and able to discuss a variety of issues with a variety of people.

Finally, you are adventurous. You love to climb things, even though you have adorably not learned to judge ahead of time what things are even possible to climb in light of your stature. You love to ride on my shoulders, swing (carefully, of course) by your arms and hang upside down. I hope this means you will be open to new and diverse experiences and that fear will not keep you from enjoying the unique things life has to offer.

We'll see about all of these. For now, you are just the coolest little guy. I hope you stay as happy as you are forever.

All my love,

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