The twenty-third month

Dearest E.,

I cannot believe that this is the last monthly letter I will write before your second birthday.  Where did that year go?! I remember when we took your official birthday picture last May. Your father and I both thought you looked so big and so grown up. Now when I look back at those pictures I still see so much of the baby you had been, especially when compared with the handsome little boy you are today.

This month feels like it absolutely flew by. You changed so much, often overnight. I should have realized that there were big cognitive and developmental leaps coming when right at the start of the month you woke up after your nap and suddenly had the concept of “three” when before your nap you’d only been able to recognize when there were “two” of something (usually people or animals in a car). At the beginning of the month you also suddenly grasped the idea of counting and could count to ten with a bit of prompting. A day or so later you didn’t need any prompting at all, and now you can count to twelve. You also recognize quite a few letters.

This month we had our second big Mummy and E. adventure when I took you to California to visit your aunties and uncle. To be honest, I was a bit overwhelmed before we left at the thought of taking you on two five-hour flights by myself. But I’m so glad we went! We had such a great time, and you are really turning into an incredible traveller. On our outbound journey the U.S. customs agents were protesting layoffs which meant that the line was incredibly long. You stood/walked next to me with no complaints for well over an hour even before we saw an agent. It probably helped that I just kept feeding you. You ate an entire goose sausage, a Lara bar, crackers, and most of an apple while we waited. I should have fed you the apple first as the customs agent freaked out when she saw that you had it (apparently we’re not meant to take apples into the U.S.), so I had to go into a second room and dispose of my contraband fruit (we also had to say goodbye to two oranges). After that wait security was a breeze. We got to our gate, I changed you into your pajamas, we boarded right on time, and then we waited…and waited…and waited for the other 98 passengers who were still trapped in customs. We only made it through because I was able to convince an agent to let us in early so I would have time to feed you dinner (and then it took so long I had to feed you dinner in the line). Almost everyone else was refused entry into the lineup until after the time their plane was meant to have departed.

We were lucky enough to end up with a row all to ourselves, and you spent a happy two hours looking out the window and watching the hustle and bustle in the airport, eating more food, and occasionally changing seats with me. We finally took off two hours and fifteen minutes later than scheduled. You stayed awake for a while but eventually fell asleep while reading the safety card that was in the seat pocket of the seat in front of us. You liked looking at the pictures of the airplanes, even the ones crashing into the mountains and the ocean! You slept for a couple of hours while I watched most of a film so there wasn’t much of the flight left by the time you woke up. This was a good thing as by that point it was very late and you were not pleased about being awake, but you managed to hold yourself together. Once we landed we were met by Aunties L. and C., we grabbed our bags, and then it was off in the Zipcar. It was well after midnight, California time, when we finally got you to bed, as when we first got back to the apartment you needed some time to explore and relax before you were willing to consider going to sleep (and even then you were only willing to sleep on the futon- you were not willing to sleep in the travel crib under any circumstances!).

The next couple of days were spent exploring the city. We went for some long walks with you happily checking out the scenery from the Ergo. You spent a lot of time in the Ergo on this trip and you loved it. I mastered the art of getting you on my back without any help, and you would happily chant “Er-GO!” when you knew we were about to head out the door. We spent a lot of time at a smallish park near where Auntie L. and Uncle A. live, and we visited your Auntie C’s workplace (you thought the shuffleboard table was the most fun). We saw sea lions (you LOVED them) and rode on a carousel. We ate fresh bread and cheese outside the market building while you watched all the street cars and light rail trains and cement mixers drive past. We took a ferry around the bay, although you didn’t find that as interesting as we had hoped. I think it was hard for you to realize that you were actually on the boat on the water; you preferred watching the boats from the dock. Generally in the late afternoons you were often pretty fragile since you hadn’t napped, or had only had a short catnap, so we’d spend them drawing (colouring pencils were a big hit) or reading (the same books over and over and over again). You loved getting your Auntie C. to draw you double decker buses with you in the window waving.

On the weekend we went to a farmer’s market where I bought you a balloon bunny. At first you were not at all impressed by this, but eventually you warmed to it and would happily carry it around. You were a big fan of the blueberry scones at the farmer’s market. In general you were a big fan of eating on this trip. You didn’t really want to sit still or eat big meals (I think  you were jetlagged for most of it so you weren’t hungry at your usual times), but you would eat almost non-stop when we were out. It was a constant stream of Lara bars, crackers, apples and other fruit, Cheerios and anything else easily portable. At times your aunties would get a bit worried about what you were (or weren’t) eating, and that was usually right around the time you’d start devouring cheese, or eat hummous by the spoonful, if they thought you weren’t getting enough protein, or you would eat an entire apple if they were commenting that you’d only eaten dairy or bread products that day. I’m not going to say you ate your usual balanced diet, but you certainly weren’t going hungry!

We did some driving down the coast to see the scenery (although you napped through most of it). Saturday night we had dinner out at a local spot that always has food trucks. We ordered you chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, and they were a huge hit! You ate all seven and probably would have eaten more had they been available. Sunday we saw some more sights (you were very tolerant of this) and then went to see the redwoods. This was my favourite part of the trip and you had a great time too, running around along the paths telling me that we were there to “See big trees!” and then eventually falling asleep in the Ergo. There was still time in the late afternoon for a stop at the cafe, with tea and a scone for the adults and yet another apple for you. You loved all the statues of bears, especially the one that also had a big stick next to it. On the way home we made our only serious error in judgment the whole trip when we decided to queue up to drive down a really steep street. There was a bit of a line on the ascent, which meant we had to spend some time with our car on quite a steep angle. In retrospect, we really shouldn’t have done this with a toddler who was in a rear-facing carseat, as we were just about at the top when you were carsick. We think you must have been pressed up against your straps as a result of the angle of the car and given the size of your lunch and your snack there was just too much pressure. You were understandably very upset about this, but when we explained that we couldn’t change you that instant but we had to drive home first you were willing to be cheered up and you sat without complaint (other than occasionally bursting out with “Wet! WET!”) for the rest of the drive. You didn’t like being stripped off or having a bath but once you were dry and dressed again all was well.

On our last day your Auntie L. and I decided to take you to the zoo. This entailed a long train ride, which you loved. You also loved the zoo, although you and your auntie and I had quite different ideas about what was the most fun. “This isn’t exactly toddler-led learning” I said to your auntie as we dragged you away from running in and out of the pedestrian tunnels to go and see such boring things as giraffes and gorillas. We couldn’t help ourselves- we were excited to be at the zoo too! Your favourite parts of the zoo were the pedestrian tunnels, the wooden ramps leading up the lemur observation area, and the ride-on green tractor in the children’s farm area.  Fair enough: a lot of the animals were either  hiding or sleeping while we were there and I can see how that would be pretty boring for a toddler. You were a big fan of the otter, the snow leopard and the grizzly bears.

We had to wake you up very early to get to the airport on time the day we flew home. I suppose this was the start of getting you back onto Eastern Time, but you’d only just switched properly to Pacific Time a day or so earlier, and you hadn’t napped at the zoo the day before, so you were definitely not impressed. It didn’t take long before you were back to being your usual cheerful self, especially once I produced a sippy of milk. Once again you were a superstar in the airport and we spent the time before boarding watching other airplanes take off and land. The flight home was much busier so you were on my lap for the entire trip. I was so proud of you. You didn’t fuss or try to get down and run off once. You took a nap right after takeoff, and then once you’d woken up you were happy to spend the rest of the flight playing with your toys, eating, reading Go (yes, I packed it for the trip!), and looking at all the pictures we’d taken on my camera. Everyone around us commented on how relaxed and well behaved a traveller you were. Maybe you realize, just like your Daddy and I do, that nothing compares to the epic journey that is flying to see your Daddy’s relatives!

At the start of the month I was still keeping track of your new words.  They were still coming thick and fast, with at least two or three every day but often more. They were the usual eclectic mix of very common and highly useful words (“sleep”, “stair”, sad”, “cold”, “house”, “spoon”, “knife”, “hot”, “cook”), some rather specialized vocabulary (“carseat”, “sunbeam”, “rainbow”, “garbage”, “caboose”, “inukshuk”), plenty of food (“pineapple”, “dough”, “oil”, “pasta”, “cucumber”, “mayonnaise”, “avocado”, “cornbread”, “butter”, “almond”, “carrot”, “bean”, “omlette”, “food”, “egg”, “oatmeal”, “celery”, “ice cream”), and lots of different animals (“polar bear”, “wombat”, “cougar”, “baboon”, “boar”, “mole”). You were occasionally putting together a two-word phrase (“bubble bath”, “Hi Daddy”, “Old Bear”, “Goodnight Moon”, “clean up”), and you were trying to say your own name (“Heee” or “Eeee”).

About halfway through the month I wrote in my journal that I was just on the edge of no longer being able to keep track of all of your words.  Your vocabulary at that point was probably up around 160 words, and I kept finding myself having to add notes saying that you’d mastered a word a few days ago and I’d forgotten to write it down.  I also was struggling to remember all of your new words to tell your Daddy each night at supper. And then we went to visit your aunties and uncle and your language just exploded.  I think it was on the cusp of doing so anyway, but being surrounded by some very chatty relatives, having lots of stimulation, and hearing lots of adult conversation throughout your day probably helped encourage the leap. All of a sudden there was simply no way I could keep track of your words, let alone your two and three word phrases (“build tower”, “shut door”, “bus inside, truck outside”, “see big trees”). I swear your vocabulary must have doubled in the six days we were away. And then we came home again and you made another huge leap.  It was as if you suddenly realized that any sound we were making you could make too, as you started repeating back to us the last word or two in our sentences.  Your vocabulary exploded again.  You were coming out with words unprompted that we hadn’t even known you knew (“swan” is one that stands out). You understood that Mummy and Daddy used different words sometimes for the same things, and you could call them “rubber boots” and “gum boots”, and “teeter-totter” and “see-saw”, and “slide” and “slippery dip”. It is no exaggeration to say that you must have well over 400 words in your vocabulary now. One of them, finally, is “cat” rather than just “meow” (although your “meow” is now letter perfect). I’ve also graduated to being called “Mama” most of the time rather than just “Ma!” but I’m still waiting for “Mummy”.

All of this chatting has certainly made you seem older, but there have been other changes as well.  Your Daddy and I have both noticed significant improvements in your dexterity.  You use your spoon with flair, and you’re very competent with a fork (although you still prefer to eat with your hands and tend to reserve your fork for banging on the table when you’ve finished eating). We switched you over to using cups at the dinner table (we’d been a bit lazy about doing this earlier) and you took no time at all to become confident and skilled.  You’ve actually become a bit too confident now and we’re getting more spills than we did at the start of the month when the novelty of it meant you took each sip very seriously (although you do still tell me with great concentration “Two hands!” before you pick up your cup). You walk backwards and climb stairs with more confidence.  You’re still not much of a climber, but you’re becoming a bit more adventurous. You’re also showing a lot more awareness about bodily functions. You wake up dry most mornings, you tend to hold on and keep your diaper dry if we’re out and about for a couple of hours, and you want to have a dry diaper as soon as the one you’re wearing is even a little bit wet. I’m hoping we’re not going to miss this window of opportunity, since we don’t think it would be fair to try to introduce the potty right before we go overseas, but we’ll definitely be giving it a try over the summer.

Food-wise you’ve been in and out of growth spurts this month. You now regularly eat more Cheerios at breakfast than I do. Breakfast is still your favourite meal of the day, and absolutely nothing makes you happier than being offered pancakes. We’ve discovered you love pesto pizza. Hold the cheese, hold the toppings- just keep the dough spread with kale or basil pesto coming! That’s about the only green thing you’ll eat these days, so I see a lot of pesto in our future. You’ve become very fond of raw carrot and I’ll often catch you taking a bite out of one if you’re standing on your chair in the kitchen helping me make dinner. It’s still a mystery each day what you’ll feel like eating- you’ll eat two apples a day for a week or so and then refuse them point blank- but you’re certainly still growing and you seem  happy and healthy so we trust you know what you’re doing. You’ve been absolutely devouring meat in the last week since we’ve been back home, maybe making up for the fact that you didn’t eat a lot of meat while we were away.

Your sleep for the first half of the month was amazing. The time change to daylight savings made all the difference. We let your bedtime slide a little bit later to 7:30 and suddenly you were sleeping until 7 or 7:30 every morning instead of waking up at 5:30 or even earlier. And you were still taking a great nap of two hours or more. It was utter bliss. Taking you to California definitely stirred things up. You decided on our first day there that under no circumstances were you willing to sleep in our travel crib. I really couldn’t argue with you-  you are too big for it. You were too big for it at Christmas, but you were happy enough to sleep in it then, so I figured it was worth another shot. Given we weren’t staying in a totally child-safe room, I didn’t feel I could leave you on the futon to fall asleep on your own, so we ended up getting into a routine where I lay next to you and sang lullabies while you rolled around and eventually fell asleep, usually holding on to my arm. You loved co-sleeping and the new routine. I missed having enough room in the bed as you seemed to manage to take up almost the entire bed every night. I never attempted to put you down for a nap the same way, so they were a bit hit and miss while we were travelling. You’d either grab a catnap in the Ergo or the car or power through and skip your nap entirely if the day was proving to be extra exciting (such as when we were at the zoo). By far the most interesting part of watching you fall asleep was learning that you put yourself to sleep every night by draping your bunny across your entire face so you can’t see anything. Apparently she is the ultimate eye mask! Coming home proved that yes, six nights of new behaviour was plenty of time to completely disrupt a routine that had worked for well over a year. You were not pleased at being expected to fall asleep on your own in a dark room with no lullabies or ever-present Mummy.  It didn’t take too long, however, before we were mostly back to the usual routine, although we’re still putting you in your crib with the promise that we’ll pop back in again in a minute or so to check on you. Once we’ve reappeared, checked in and then stepped out again you’re then happy enough to fall asleep on your own.

Your Grandma and Grandpa were visiting one weekend, so we seized the opportunity to go out for dinner. After we went out for dinner in January for your Daddy’s birthday we decided we should always take you to a restaurant if grandparents were in town, as that way there would be four people to entertain you, and if one parent had to take you for a walk the other parent wouldn’t be left alone at the table! You were so well behaved. We had a great table near the front windows and we set up the high chair so you could watch all the traffic passing by. You loved pointing out the buses and streetcars. You did some colouring, played with your little cars, and ate a substantial amount of dinner. I think you were in your high chair for well over an hour without getting the least bit antsy. It was an unqualified success! We also took you to one of the major museums in our city for the first time. You got tired and bored after an hour and a half or so but before that you’d been quite taken by the dinosaurs and you liked the bat cave so much we had to walk through it twice.

Your favourite books this month included Cars and Trucks and Things that Go (yet again- this month you’ve loved counting people, identifying all the exotic animals, finding double decker buses and so on- it’s been the best.book.purchase.ever), Peter Rabbit (an abridged board book version that you wanted read to you at naps and at night every single day this month), and the collected Adventures of Little Wombat, which is a book that drives both your Mummy and your Daddy crazy because a) the stories aren’t very good and b) the illustrations make it clear that the illustrator has never, ever been to Australia. While we were away you were absolutely obsessed with a library book called Wombat Walkabout your auntie picked out (which at least was illustrated in a believable fashion) but luckily it didn’t come home with us, as your Mummy didn’t like the fact that two of the pages didn’t scan properly (metre in children’s books is quite important to your parents- it is surprising how many bad children’s books are out there once you start reading them).

Your favourite things to do this month have included playing with your Playmobil bus and your ride-on fire/dump truck (usually at the same time), and getting us to build things out of your Megabloks, like a garage for your trucks or a house for the little wooden cat that belongs to your farm. Most of our mornings, after breakfast but before cleaning up the kitchen we read Go until you decide I need to build a house for the cat. Once I’ve built it to your exacting specifications (it needs a door and a window), the cat then goes in. “Seep”, you’ll tell me, as you lie the cat down. When the cat wakes up, if I ask you what he’s going to do next, he either jumps “Up up!” onto the top of the house, or he starts eating with a voracious “Num num!” Then it’s usually time for another sleep, and then another snack. I think you must be modelling the wooden cat’s behaviour after our cats!

At the end of the month we gave you a very special present- your first bike. Your great-grandfather and great-aunt had been giving you money for a “bike fund” at Christmas and on your first birthday, so we felt we could buy it whenever we thought you were ready- we didn’t think we had to wait until your birthday. We’ve bought you a Stri.der balance bike (in red, of course), and you have a blue and white helmet with airplanes on it. Your Daddy picked up the bike while we were away, assembled it, and hid it in a closet until your helmet arrived. We’d been talking about bikes for a while now, and you’ve loved seeing other children on bikes at the park. Whenever I asked you if you wanted a bike, you always said yes, and then said you wanted a red one. When the helmet arrived I opened the box up and tried to get you to try it on, but you wouldn’t go near it. That night after supper we got the bike out. The moment you saw it, you literally ran to where the helmet was, picked it up, and brought it over so we could put it on your head and adjust it. “Makes sense,” said your Daddy. “You knew there was no reason to wear it until the bike appeared.” That night you were so excited that right when  you were about to fall asleep you suddenly said, “Outside, bike, helmet, E., drive, bike, outside”, and then fell asleep! The next morning the first thing you said to me was, “Outside, bike”, and it was a struggle to convince you that you  had to get dressed and have breakfast first. I think you would have ridden it in your sleepsack if I’d let you! It’ll be a while yet before you’re really tearing up the sidewalks, but you’re already comfortable climbing on, steering, and backing up, and you’ve started to actually sit on the seat rather than just straddling the frame and walking.

I’m not going to lie- seeing you riding around the neighbourhood on your bike, pointing out everything you could see and telling me (in no uncertain terms) that you were not ready to go back to the house yet made me a little emotional. You seem to have become so big so fast this month.  I suppose that is how it ought to be since your second birthday really is just around the corner now, and your birthday party is even sooner. The weather is finally getting warmer, which means we’re spending more and more of our days outside at the park or just tootling around the neighbourhood. I’m trying to enjoy each and every minute, since this next month will see me heading overseas two weeks before you and your Daddy come to join me. And we’ll be celebrating your actual birthday in our rental home for the summer in the U.K.

Love you ever so much,
Mummy

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2 Comments

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the second year, Letters to E., What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

2 responses to “The twenty-third month

  1. His vocabulary is amazing!!!

  2. Sarah

    This last month seems to be going faster than the last 6 combined! So much happens, it’s absolutely stunning. I love all of E.’s new words, and how he uses his bunny as a face mask – precious!

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