Friday, December 31, 2010

On The Last Day Of The Year

I have had a perfect day-the perfect way to end what was probably the best year of my life.

You know how sometimes you plan to do something, and your plans don't work out? If you're me, you then try not to get annoyed, while desperately trying to salvage something of the day. So Christmas Eve afternoon turned into one of THOSE days. We were on a street corner in the city, plans dashed. We had just visited a large and lovely church, and although I am not religious and this church was not my own religion, there was a quiet spirituality in the air, and I lit a candle in thanks for the wonderful year we have had. While I did it, I also said a short prayer for a man sitting in a nearby chapel by himself. He looked so alone, so sad. Anyway, shortly after that, we were outside, plans in disarray, when all of a sudden this bus went by.

The bus was headed in the direction of a neighbourhood near ours, and there was a stop right in front of us. We were a long way from my neighbourhood, but inspiration struck, and I checked the sign at the bus stop. Sure enough, the bus route wound it's way past some of the most impressive sights in the city, before heading toward our neck of the woods. We hopped on the next bus, and for about a buck, we got a delightful tour of the best parts of the city. It was an amazing find. Equally as good was the discovery that the bus dropped us right near this cozy little restaurant we've been meaning to try, where we had a charming Christmas Eve dinner.

So this morning, we rolled out of bed early to go collect a fresh houseguest from the airport. After leaving her luggage at the house, we wandered our neighbourhood and picked up supplies for tonight. Then we hopped on the bus, our new scenic tour bus, and took her around the city. We had planned to go to this restaurant I've wanted to try, but when we got there it was closed. It was in a neighbourhood we used to live in, so we wandered for a bit. We ended up at this gorgeous dim sum place that was incredibly inexpensive, delicious, and beautifully decorated, with kind staff to boot (Miss M threw her spoon from home on the floor, and the waiter thoughtfully brought her another one AND RAN HER SPOON THROUGH THE DISHWASHER!). At the end of dinner, instead of regular shaped fortune cookies, they had long round ones with hollow centres, and the fortune was rolled up like a scroll inside. Mine reads:

Happiness is a healthy mental attitude, a grateful spirit, a clear conscience, and a heart full of

Happy new year. May 2011 bring much happiness for each and every one of us, and a magic scenic bus on those days when it feels like we could use a little help.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Miss M at 9 Months, and at 11 Months and Change

Dear Miss M,

I wrote this first bit a few months ago, intending to finish it later, and well. . .you are a busy baby, and time flies! So without further ado, here is a snippet of your life at nine months:

I have slacked off a bit in writing you these monthly updates--hopefully, you won't mind. With life being as full as it has been these recent months, I have chosen to spend every spare second with you, rather than in documenting your progress. It has been a delight to spend time with you, and by taking this new, crazy job, I have had more time than I ever imagined to enjoy our life together. But first, let's talk about what we've done together in recent months:

First, we moved out of our beautiful, newly renovated house. You had the most perfect nursery there. It was simply gorgeous. But we decided that you would have so many exciting and wonderful opportunities if we moved, and after all, it was just a room. So we packed it up, and we moved to a big city a few hundred miles from our home.

When we got to our first new city, we went to the zoo right away. You had a nice time, even though it was very hot in the city. We soon discovered that it was going to be that hot EVERY DAY, which was something new for all of us. We were lucky, though, because our new building had a swimming pool. When we first took you in to swim, you weren't so sure about it, but you soon took to the water like a little duck. You LOVED the pool, and we tried to take you swimming in your little reusable swim diapers as often as possible. You weren't afraid to get your head wet, and often dunked your own face in the water. You kicked your legs mightily, splashed and played like you had been swimming for years. You absolutely loved "motorboat, motorboat," and would giggle hysterically as we went faster and faster. You made friends with a little girl just a couple of months younger than you, too, and we'd all go to the pool together. One day, the two of you even showed up in the same swimsuit!!! We have the pictures to prove it.

You soon adapted to a new routine in our new city--you loved to be out and about, and we could take you just about anywhere. You just love to people watch, and see what's going on in the big world around you. Unfortunately, that natural curiousity about the world also meant that you didn't love to sleep. Naps were a rarity, and although you'd slept through the night for two whole months before we moved, once we did move, you stopped sleeping well. It happened at the same time that you learned to roll over, which was right after we moved. Coincidentally, this is also when we transferred you from the bassinet to your beautiful crib. But, you were having none of it. I was in training all day every day, in a packed classroom for hours on end with few breaks, and I really needed to pay attention. So, we brought you into bed with us in the hopes that you would sleep better. It worked! You've been in our bed ever since. . .and you are something of a bed-hog.

While we were still in the U.S., you progressed very rapidly. You learned to sit up one day, and literally a few days later, you learned to crawl. As soon as you figured out crawling just a little bit, you'd mastered it. A few days after that, you were crawling in textbook perfect fashion, and you are FAST!!! We have to keep an eye on you, because you are independent and fearless. It seems like you've been trying to crawl since you were born, and just waiting for the moment you got strong enough.

Shortly after we moved to Europe, you got a bit stronger, and were finally able to stand. You've been standing for weeks, and you are now starting to let go of whatever you have pulled up on. You are quite pleased with yourself when you let go and are able to remain standing for a few seconds before you fall. You seem to know that it's an accomplishment. I have read in my books that the hardest part for babies when they learn to pull themselves up is getting back down on the ground, but not you. As soon as you learned to pull up, you figured out how to get down right away. You push off from whatever you are holding and pop down on your bottom into a sitting position. It is a riot to watch. I MUST get some video of your technique!!! You are getting good at taking a few steps to get closer to whatever you are holding onto, but you are not yet cruising around holding on to the furniture. We know it is just a matter of time, however.

A few days ago, you learned how to clap. It is a delight to watch, especially because you are so pleased with yourself when you do it. You laugh and smile so much, and are such a happy child. I feel so lucky, so blessed, to be your mother.

You are sleeping particularly poorly of late, and I think it must be related to learning to stand, and your first attempts at walking. You have been having screaming fits in the middle of the night, which do not wake you up. I am the only one who can comfort you--you want no part of daddy when this happens. If I comfort you, you settle back into sleep within a few seconds, but if daddy tries to comfort you, you wail on and on and on until I come running. It is the only time you are like this, and we are a bit perplexed by it. Some nights, we wake countless times, while others, it happens only two or three times. It is very odd, and my mother says that I did not do this as a child. She also has noted that you are very loved and very well taken care of, such that she cannot imagine what is troubling you in your sleep!

You have gotten to be a good little eater. We are getting about 25 ounces of breastmilk into you a day (we are still nursing mornings and evenings, and I pump at works so that you can have bottles while I am gone). You have never had a drop of formula, and have never been sick, which I am very proud of. It's been a lot of work to keep up my milk supply for you, with all of the moves and new jobs and changes, but I like to think you are worth the hassle of it. I won't even whine to you about all of the time I've had to spend pumping in bathroom stalls when there has been no other option, or pumping for five minutes on a break from the classroom, because I've been given no more time than that. It's been crazy, but we've made it work. You hate rice cereal, by the way--oatmeal was a big hit, but you would never eat the rice. We haven't given you rice in months, you hate it so much. Daddy opened a new box of cereal the other day, only to find that you were refusing to eat. He couldn't figure out what was wrong, until I got home from work and looked at the box--it was rice! Unfortunately, we've had trouble finding baby oatmeal here. Hopefully we will track some down! You also love applesauce, but your most favorite food of all is pears. You adore pears, and will eat giant tubs of them. You like all other fruits, and pretty much hate all vegetables. We are still trying, though. Chicken, sweet potatoes, avocado, and pasta stars are all up next. It's a bit difficult, though, because you like routine, and you aren't all that interested in finger foods yet--you prefer your meals pureed and on a spoon, thank you very much! Still, we are slowly trying to get you to put cubes of banana and little baby rice cakes into your mouth yourself. You DO need to learn to feed yourself, after all!

You are starting to amass a stockpile of toys. You have a talking Elmo (from my mom, your grammy), a talking frog (from grammy), and assorted musical toys (also from grammy--are you sensing a theme? Grammy must be trying to get back at mommy for something!). I just gave you a set of blocks, and you are particularly enamored with those. You especially like knocking them down when I build towers for you. You constantly crawl around with a block or two in your hands. You also constantly fall on them, and since they are large and plastic, it must hurt, because you sure do howl when you do so.

And now, at 11 months and change:

We just had a magical first Christmas with you. Your Grammy and Grampa came over to spend it with you. Grammy mailed box after box in advance of the holiday--a Radio Flyer horse, a basketball hoop, a stuffed ladybug, a ride on trike, and blocks, just to name a few of your gifts. Santa brought you a musical instrument set, a toy that uses air to blow balls up and around a track while it plays music, a musical workbench complete with drillpress and hammer (Santa knew daddy would love that!), blocks, books, and a toy house front with a little talking door, mailslot and more! You haven't stopped playing since then. We clearly needed more toys for you, but we were waiting for Christmas, and it is fun to watch you play with all of them. It was delightful to watch you try to open things--you love paper, and would rip off small pieces, then hand them to me. Eventually, we'd get the package open, and then you'd play with whatever it was. It took us two days to open all of the presents, and there was one left over for yesterday. The aunties were all very generous, as well, and sent you more wonderful toys and beautiful clothes. You will be the best dressed baby this season (as you always are--the aunties love to shop, as does grammy!). You got the cutest little red peacoat, among other things. Santa knew that your family was going to be very generous this Christmas, so he donated in your name to charity, through your local newspaper at home. The newspaper published a little poem Santa wrote to you, along with the amount of his donation in your name. Mommy will preserve that for you. Santa left a copy of the poem in your stocking, as well.

You have grown by leaps and bounds over the last two months. We realized that you were sleeping poorly because at around 10 months, you finally got your first tooth--a center bottom one. A short time later, the second one came in. They are a bit crooked, but you are very cute with them. You only nipped me a few times with them as you nursed, before learning that I don't want you to do that. Of course, you continued to do it for a bit, smirking and giggling as I told you no--clearly indicating that you knew better! But you've stopped, thankfully.

You also started walking at about 10 months. At first, you cruised the furniture, but within a few weeks, you were letting go, and now you are very steady on your feet. At 11 months, you started running, even. You can bend down and pick something up, then stand and walk, without holding on to anything. You are fast, fast, fast! We have to be careful to latch the baby gate, because when you see it open, you are like a flash, and it's right near the stairs. You are also learning to go down those, on your belly, and up them, as well. You are quite good at that, but lose interest after about four stairs.

Since getting your teeth, you have finally learned to nibble on rice cakes, and you'll eat a little bit of them. You still have little interest in feeding yourself--you'd much rather play with the food. We struggle to get enough into you, as you are so busy and interested in the world around you that you'd rather than stop to eat. For a long while, it was breastmilk, oatmeal, apple and pear sauce for you. But, we've finally struck upon some other foods that you like--yogurt, cottage cheese, pretty much any fruit (peaches, bananas, blueberries, etc.--even pumpkin and sweet potato, mixed with other things!). You don't like pasta much--you eat whatever it is mixed with, and spit out the pasta. I think it is a texture thing. You are no longer drinking so many bottles--if we get 15 ounces into you, we are doing well. You still nurse morning and night, although that is tapering off, too.

You've grown to love bathtime. You started standing in the tub, which scared me, but also made me realize that it was time for tub toys. Thankfully, I thought ahead and bought a supply before we left the US. Once we brought those out, you focused on playing, and stopped trying to stand up.

You hate sitting still to have your diaper changed, and fuss when we make you hold still. Ditto for being put in your snowsuit, although you love to be put in the Baby Bjorn and taken out for a walk. You are incredibly well behaved when we take you out and about, and everyone comments on that. Since you were born, you have loved to be on the move. It doesn't matter how late we have you out, either--you remain good natured. You are very social, and love engaging with people. When we are on the subway or in restaurants, you always try to catch someone's eye and smile at them. They can't help but smile back, and you love it when they do.

You are still a peanut. You are in 9 months sized clothing, but we still have some 6-9 month, and even some 3-6 month items that fit you, depending on the brand. We try to get as much food into you as we can, but you are just not a big eater, and it makes me worry about your weight. I finally packed away the smallest baby clothes in your wardrobe, even thought some of them technically still fit, simply because I was tired of the labels reprimanding me! I know that you are hitting all of your developmental milestones and hitting them early at that, and you are happy and pleasant almost all of the time, so there is nothing to worry about. But still, as your mother, I can't help fret over your weight.

You have a few words--mama, dada, and hi. Daddy taught you to shake your head "no," as well, and you do it indiscriminately, mostly to make us laugh. If I shake my head "yes," you respond by shaking your head "no." It is quite funny, and you do it with a big smile. You also wave "hello," and "goodbye," including to yourself in the mirror in the morning when you first wake up. It is hilarious. You started waving weeks ago, but have gotten really good about it in the last week, responding to anyone who says "hi," "bye," or waves at you. You love to wave at strangers, too. It is just adorable. You've also learned this week how to cluck your tongue. I'm not sure how or when this came about--grammy did it to you, and you did it back, so it's possible you learned it from her. That's certainly where you learned to blow raspberries! Which, I should mention, you do when you are finished eating. You refuse to eat any more, and blow raspberries so we can't possibly get another bit in you. You do it at two points in the meal--when we finish up with the "main course"--ie, oatmeal, signaling that you are ready for fruit, and then when you are done with your fruit.

Grammy enjoyed every minute of you while she was here, and took piles of pictures of you. We are going to make her a book full of photos of her trip. She left this morning, and was quite sad to go. She said she doesn't get enough time with you, and she is right. You adore playing with her. Although, you clearly have a preference for mommy at certain times, which was a bit of a surprise to us. Since you have been just with daddy and I for the last few months, we didn't realize that was the case. It is lovely to have you reach out for me, and lay your head on my shoulder when I pick you up. You fell asleep in Grammy's arms a few days ago, though, and I think she was in heaven.

While she was here, we did a bus tour of the city. You slept through the entire thing. You just love white noise, and were oblivious to the city traffic and the woman providing live commentary throughout the trip. I kept checking on you, laying there in your Baby Bjorn on daddy's chest, to make sure you were okay. You still are not the greatest napper in the world, taking two short naps if we are lucky, so I was surprised to see you sleep for so long. Grammy clearly tired you out, because you are taking another long nap right now. You also fell asleep yesterday for a second time while we did a tour of one of the city's big sites. You were a delight in the restaurant at lunch, waving and smiling at another family across the restaurant who had a baby the same size as you. It turned out that their daughter was just six months old, although the same size as you!

You usually don't go to bed until after nine, and sometimes it's after ten. We try to get you in bed before then, but you are too active, and crawl around instead of falling asleep. It just doesn't work. It makes it hard for me to get anything done at night, because I play with you until bedtime, and by the time you fall asleep, I am exhausted and go to bed, too! You sleep fairly well, though, and don't wake up until 7:30-8am. You still sleep in bed with us. We think about transitioning you back to your crib, but you completely freak out when you wake up alone in it, and right now we are taking the path of least resistance. We know you will sleep by yourself eventually, and right now, we are all getting plenty of sleep, so we aren't messing with a good thing. You love to snuggle with me in the night, and when you do awaken, I can quickly get you back to sleep within minutes. You are lovely when you wake up in the morning--all smiles when you see us. You just have the best little personality. We enjoy every minute with you.

For your first birthday, Auntie R is coming to visit, and we are planning a big trip to another city. It is going to be spectacular, I think. It's a little over the top, actually, and I can't promise that all of your birthdays will be like this, but perhaps!

I love you fiercely, my dear child. You are such a gift, and I am so thankful for you. I think back to last Christmas, when I was massively pregnant and uncomfortable, the house unfinished, the future uncertain, and I can't believe how much has changed for all of us. It's hard for me to imagine my life without you--that it has been such a short time is unconceivable. You are just SUCH a gift, a dream realized and luxuriated in every minute of every day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hello Again

Has it really been two months since I posted? It doesn't seem like it's been that long, but I guess it has been. I haven't been writing, I haven't been reading, I haven't been anywhere near the computer. I must say, I've missed this--all of it. I've been busy living, though, and something had to go, and it was the internet. But I'm back. I need the outlet!

Life is busy. Miss M is fabulous, and I spend every spare minute with her, just soaking up her supreme babyliciousness. Every day, she grows and changes and expands her world. It is just tremendously satisfying to experience. Being her mother has satisfied something deep in my soul. But more about her and all of that in another post. I need to get other stuff down today--so much other stuff that I don't even know where to begin!

The job alternates between being utterly cool and making me feel like a huge loser. I guess that's to be expected--I completely changed fields, and there is obviously a learning curve. Some days I am on top of the world, and things just snap into place. But some days I just feel so irrelevant. I spent a decade working on important stuff, and could easily find ways to make myself needed. The work I'm doing now is important, but not in quite the same way, and I am not yet the one people turn to when they need someone for the tough stuff. It's weird. Growing pains, I guess. I know I'll get there--I remember it was like this a decade ago, and I know I'll work my way through it.

And it's not all bad, not by a long shot. There are days, hours, moments of bad, but there is plenty of good, and a pile of cool in between those. And did I mention the amazing baby? Even if work totally sucked, I do have her. It doesn't suck. For instance, last week I went to a cocktail party after work, one that I wasn't particularly interested in attending. I had a bit of trouble finding it; it was in a quiet building lacking signage, behind an anonymous door featuring a man with a clipboard and a guest list, and up three flights of stairs. It turned out to be an intimate affair featuring free-flowing alcohol and fancy finger food. I barely looked around upon entering, so disinterested was I in attending. So much so, in fact, that I nearly smacked into Kevin Spacey, who was immaculately dressed and as charming as you might imagine. But then, actors are generally on, aren't they?

But that wasn't my only brush with fame this week. I'm currently sitting here watching a movie as I write this, and as it turns out, I ran into one of the movie's actors in my neighborhood grocery store today. He apparently couldn't find the bread product he was looking for. I would tell you who he is, but you know how crazy I am about security, and you'd know where I lived if I mentioned it. Suffice it to say that makeup helps men out on camera as much as it does women. He looked thin and pasty and old today. It's funny living in a big city, as opposed to our former little town. These are just the sorts of things that happen--famous people are out, living their lives.

I don't have a good seque into breastfeeding from there, so let's just jump, shall we? I am still breastfeeding. Miss M will be a year old in a few short weeks, and that was my goal in the beginning. Anything more than that is gold. I am so proud of myself that we made it thus far, despite the moves and the career change and the utter chaos. That said, I can't wait to stop pumping at work. When I started the job, I realized that pumping in my office would be impossible (glass walls). The bathrooms are cold and feature multiple stalls--no privacy. They ended up building a "lactation room," but it's a single bathroom that they put some chairs in, and worse, men use it to go to the bathroom. There are a few men who clearly don't like to poop in stalls, and go out of their way to seek out this location to use it for that purpose. So gross. And it's near the garage, so it's totally freezing. I hate it, but there is NO good place to pump in our building. I am down to pumping twice a day at work. Oh, I can't wait to not have to pump at work! Miss M still is very attached to nursing in the morning, at night just before bed, and while she sleeps, if she wakes up. I think it will be hard for her to let go of, but we won't do anything cold turkey. I'm going to stop pumping at work in a few weeks; we'll see what happens with my milk supply after that.

Although I am not pumping as much as I once was, my period has not yet returned. T. has started talking about #2, but I am not there yet. I'm clearly not there physically yet. But I'm not there yet mentally ,either. I'm physically just wrung out. Between the year plus that I spent eating well and taking care of myself while I was pregnant or trying to get pregnant, and then the last year of breastfeeding, I'm just exhausted. I want my body back to myself for a bit. I want to be free for a little bit. I just need a time out. And I'm not sure about juggling with a second child. We are managing with one, but two feels like it might be chaos. T. is home with Miss M full time, but it's still not easy--I'm still washing plenty of dishes and doing laundry and errands, errands, errands, and working and playing with baby, and shopping for gifts, and preparing for visitors and. . .it just feels chaotic now, and I worry about handling it all with one more.

That said, I certainly want another child. Our family doesn't feel finished. I don't really want Miss M to be an only child. We are tabling the discussion for now. We'll see how I feel in a few months.

Miss M is sleeping fairly well. However, she is in our bed still. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it is completely and totally working for us. We're all getting sleep. She settles really fast when she wakes in the middle of the night, if she wakes at all, that is. She goes to be between 8 and 10 (depending on whether she's taken 2 or 3 naps during the day--three results in bunny Miss M!), and sleeps until 7:30-8am. But, she also likes to snuggle close to me all night, and she is a little furnace. Or, she lays perpendicular, and I get kicked in the face. I love that our nights involve actual sleep, but I would also like to reclaim my acreage. Or at least stop getting kicked in the head.

I know there are people who have sex all of the time, and are parents to small children. Those people are not me. I know it's from the breastfeeding, but sex remains fairly uncomfortable, even when I'm not so exhausted that I actually am up for it. The body really is miraculous in the way that it manages resources. Mine clearly does not want to be pregnant again right now! I am hoping that my hormones bounce back to normal when breastfeeding slows further in a few weeks.

I am super excited about Christmas, because we have company coming. It's going to be an over-the-top affair, I'm afraid, because everyone has been sending enormous boxes of presents. More on that later.

For Miss M's birthday, I also have an over-the-top celebration planned. I will tell you all about it, but probably after the fact, because I am exhausted, and going to bed.

Seriously, I am so tired.