Category Archives: E.- the second year

The twenty-fourth month

E’s two-year post is below this one, and will soon be password-protected. E-mail me if you missed it and would like access to see his pictures.

Dearest E.,

I’m a bit late with this letter, but I wanted to make sure that I wrote it to capture all the excitement of your final month before you turned two! You had your official two-year appointment early this month because you were going to be overseas by the time of your birthday. You were 35″ tall (75th percentile) and 25.5 lb (25th percentile). This was the first time you were measured standing up, which accounts for the fact that your official measurements show you haven’t grown since 18 months (and indeed, might have even gone backwards by half an inch). You’re still a long and lean toddler, and I think you had a growth spurt after the appointment, so you might still be closer to the 90th percentile in height which is where you’ve normally been. This was the month where you had your first haircut! It was really only a trim to tidy up around your ears and to deal with the cowlick and would-be mullet at the back, but I had no intention of trying to do it myself. Given we were about to go away and you had a birthday party coming up, we figured it was a good time. I got my hair cut at the same time, and you were very interested in sitting up in the chair next to me. You took it all in your stride and didn’t mind the scissors or being sprayed with the water bottle. “We have eight year olds who can’t behave that well!” said the hairdresser to me when you were finished. Because we didn’t touch the front at all the haircut didn’t make a huge difference to how you looked, but your Daddy and I are both convinced that your hair is already growing in thicker as a result.

The biggest change this month was in your speech. You already had a large vocabulary, but this was the month where you really started to make full sentences with verbs and even some pronouns. By the end of the month you were coming out with some great sentences: “Grandpa play with big train and Ee-mi play with little train”; “Daddy come outside now too”; “Two people are on couch having seep [sleep]”. When you refer to yourself your name now has two syllables. You can count to fourteen, although you need me to repeat each  number after you say it to act as a prompt for the next one. You can sing “Itsy-bitsy spider” and “Head and Shoulders”, as well as do the actions.  And I am finally, finally “Mummy”, rather than “Mama” or just “Ma!”.

This month had one big difference in it from all of the others: about halfway through I got on a plane to fly to the UK where we’ll be spending the rest of the spring and the summer, and you stayed at home with your Daddy. I’m not going to lie- I think this separation was much harder on me than it was on you! I was absolutely dreading it, and the night I put you to bed after your birthday party and had to kiss you for the last time and walk out of your room was one of my worst nights as a parent. I cried a lot. Your Daddy told me that when you woke up you wanted to see me, like you usually do if Daddy is the one to go into your room first, but he was able to distract you by saying that Grannie was waiting downstairs to play with you. And that was it- you were fine! You had your Grannie and your Grandpa with you for the first couple of days, then two days just with Daddy, and then your other Grandpa arrived and he stayed with you and Daddy until it was time for you to go to the airport.

You and Grandpa had a blast! You’ve always, always loved him and thought he was great fun, and he thinks you are quite possibly the best thing on the planet, so I expected it would work out well. We spent a fair amount of time skyping in my evenings (your late afternoons after your nap), and I could see how much fun you and Grandpa were having and how silly you were being. Your Grandpa would tell me all the things you had been up to that day, and what you’d eaten, and how well you’d napped. You’d hang out for around five or ten minutes before you would start asking to say “Bye-bye, Mummy” so you and Grandpa could go play some more or go back to the park! You were given some more train pieces for your set (tracks and cars) at your birthday party, and you and Grandpa played with those every single day. Grandpa is quite a fan of trains, so he was very impressed with your new additions. I was so glad your Grandpa was able to come and stay. It meant your Daddy could get all the work done that he needed to do for the end of the academic year. Plus I think it was very special for you to have that chance to spend all that time with your Grandpa.

I missed you very very much, however, and I was so excited on the day you were going to arrive that I woke up twenty minutes before my alarm (and my alarm was set for 4 a.m.!). It seemed to take forever before you and your Daddy appeared at the airport, partly because I’d taken a very early bus in case something went wrong, and partly because your plane was delayed. I cried as soon as I saw you in the airport, and when your Daddy gave you to me, you just went limp and curled up on my shoulder like you never wanted to let me go.

You had a slightly rough introduction to our life in the UK. Not only was your plane delayed, but our bus took an hour longer than expected from the airport because an accident had closed the motorway and we had a new driver who kept loudly announcing to everyone, “This is my first time driving this route. I normally go to Gatwick. I don’t know these roads at all.” To make matters worse, about halfway through the bus ride you got motion sick. We think it was because you were happily engaged in drawing with your markers at the time, or that’s what your Daddy suspects given he used to get motion sick when he was a little guy. We managed to keep the bus clean and get you tidied up and into some spare clothes. You were so tired by that point (you hadn’t slept very well on the plane) that you passed out in my lap. But then we only had another fifteen minutes to go before it was time to get off the bus. Once we managed to get you home you had a nice time exploring the flat, right up until dinner when you tried to get down from the chair by yourself and face-planted right onto the floor because you were so clumsy from being over-tired and jet-lagged. You cut your lips and gums and were bleeding profusely. Your Daddy and I both felt terrible, especially the next day when you had a huge fat lip, but you were fine and before too long you were back to your normal cheerful self. That first night you went to sleep at 7:30 and woke up at 10 thinking you’d had a lovely nap, and it was well past 2 a.m. before we got you asleep again. But that was the worst of the jet lag and things have been getting progressively better.

You’ve adjusted fairly well to being over in the UK. We still haven’t quite managed to get you back on to your old routine – you’re sleeping later in the mornings and going to bed later at night – but that works for us, since there’s no rush to get out the door at any particular point and it’s probably unrealistic to expect you to go to bed any earlier given how long the days are here. There’s a blind for your room, but it doesn’t keep all the light out. We have had some problems at bedtime. It’s not surprising you’re experiencing some separation anxiety, given all the changes you’ve been through in such a short time. We’ve managed to avoid having to start sitting in your room while you fall asleep (we did that for two nights before deciding it was a habit we just weren’t willing to allow), and we’re able to just stick our heads in to say hello a few times, and tell you that we’re just in the next room if you call out. We’re leaving your door part-way open, and you have your new Schleich crocodile who sits on your chair to “keep Ee-mi comp-ny!” while you’re falling asleep. It is taking you a LONG time to fall asleep, which I think means you probably need a shorter nap, but your Daddy really needs that nap time to get some work done. Right now his strategy is to keep you super busy running around in the morning to make sure you’re ready for a nap. We also wake you up by 8 a.m., although the last few days you’ve been waking on your own around 7:30. I’m really hoping you can avoid making any major sleep changes while we’re in the UK, but we’ll roll with whatever you throw at us. Just please don’t drop your nap yet!

The day I left to fly to the UK we had your birthday party. Although this made organizing everything a bit hectic (this is a huge understatement), it worked out well on the day because it gave me something to focus on rather than just worrying about the flight and leaving you. Most of your toddler friends were able to come and lots of your relatives as well. You had a great time! We set up all of your toys, including your sand/water table filled with lentils that had been in the basement- it was a huge hit with the entire toddler set. We had your party in the morning (complete with the same chocolate and orange cupcakes I made last year given they were so tasty), and then after your nap you opened your presents. I think it’s safe to say that your absolute favourite present was the Bruder recycling truck from one of your little friends. You spent the entire rest of the day putting everything you could in there (including Berenice Bunny).

Your actual birthday was much quieter since it was just us three. I blew up some balloons, and put out your presents on the coffee table the night before. This turned out to be quite the miscalculation because as soon as you saw them you wanted to open them- you wouldn’t even take your sleepsack off first- and this meant your poor Daddy missed you opening them because he was in the kitchen making pancakes. I was really happy that you loved at first sight the wooden double-decker bus I’d found- I’d been sure it was the perfect present (and the perfect souvenir of our time in the UK) since I’d first seen it online a few months ago. After a pancake and sausage breakfast I went off to work. You and Daddy had a fun day, and then we all had a birthday dinner of schnitzel, which is still your favourite food, and brownies and ice cream for dessert.

Being apart meant that you bonded more with your Daddy. You’ve been pretty much in a consistent Mummy phase since you were old enough to express a preference, and I know it’s been hard on your Daddy to have you burst into tears if I leave the house, or to have you order him back out of the house whenever he came in after doing the shopping or when coming home from work. It’s definitely been easier on him to have things more balanced and to have you simply say “Bye-bye, Mummy! Go work library! Bike bike! Need heh-met!” when I get ready to go in the morning. But it was hard for me the first night you were here in the UK when you didn’t want me to sing you your lullabies but asked for Daddy to put you to bed instead. You seem to have evened everything out now and are very happy to just be with whichever parent is around.You were in the UK for less than a week when your birthday came around, but I think it was already clear you’re going to have a good time. You absolutely love the huge park with all the playground equipment, and you love riding around on your Daddy’s bike in your special seat (and you are very good to tell us that we all need our helmets if we’re riding our bikes). The patio and back garden of our flat is proving to be as popular as I had hoped, although the spring has been colder than expected. You like helping to feed the birds and visiting the farm in the next village. The next few months are going to be a big adventure, and your Daddy and I are so excited to share them with you.

Love you, my darling son, today and always,


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On the other side (mostly)

I’m here now.

Things did get easier once I’d actually left. Having the birthday party the day I left turned out to be a good idea as we were so busy in the morning prepping food, and then having a blast at the party, and then watching E. open his presents after his nap, that before I knew it we’d eaten dinner and it was time for me to get E. ready for bed. I spent a long time telling him again about what would happen- how he would play with Daddy and the cats and his grandparents, how Mummy was going on an airplane, how in a few days he and Daddy would come on an airplane too. When I left the room, the last thing he said to me was, “Mummy, airplane. E., airplane!”

The worst point was just then- when I’d said goodbye, but the journey hadn’t started yet. I don’t think I can put into words what it felt like. I cried a lot.

Q. took me to the airport while the grandparents stayed at home to listen to E. sleeping. The flight was uneventful and very quick (nearly an hour early- we must have picked up a crazy tail wind). I knocked back a bottle of red wine as soon as it was offered to me (that is a flight-sized bottle, not an actual bottle) which had the desired effect of causing me to no longer care all that much about turbulence. I watched three movies without being interrupted (I don’t sleep on planes). I was aware as I did this that this was now an almost unimaginable luxury whereas the last time I moved to the U.K. I would have taken it completely for granted.

I got myself and my ridiculously large bag onto a bus and settled in for the ride to my new city (more of a university town). It was on the bus ride that, for the first time, I really began to think this had been a good idea. It was bright and sunny outside. We drove past verdant pastures and through quaint towns. The daffodils and cherry blossoms were out. I saw cattle and horses and sheep. I began to get excited at the thought of spending a summer away from our big city. I am a country girl at heart. I need green spaces and open fields and I don’t get a lot of that where we live.

The flat we’ve rented is perfect. There is a back garden with a patio and a low long wall along which E. will (I am certain) spend many happy hours driving his cars and trucks. There is a tree in which English robins sit in the morning while the rising sun cascades in through the wide glass doors that we’ll be able to open wide come the summer months. When I step outside my front door I can hear roosters and cattle. On the bus ride back from town the first day the number of rabbits I spotted in the fields (ten) was almost outnumbered by the number of pheasants (seven). In our village there is a duck pond and a pub and a butcher that sells British meat. There are public footpaths and cottages with thatched roofs.

Taking all of this in I had the chance to remember that this really is an adventure, a new opportunity, an escape from our ordinary lives, rather than just one enormous organizational hurdle that eats away my time and separates me from my son (as it had seemed to be for much of the last couple of months).

Yesterday I went into the university town and explored it. I took the day for myself- I didn’t try to get any work done. I had no one to look after other than myself. No responsibilities. I can’t think of the last time this was the case. It certainly would have been pre-E.

The day was brisk, downright cold by the late afternoon, with largely overcast skies- no rain though. I wandered the streets with my map, intrigued by how a place which I had only ever visited once before for an afternoon could both somehow seem so familiar (because it is much like that Other Place, where I spent two years as a graduate student, and because I already know the U.K. shops) and yet be so different and utterly disorienting.

It seemed to be utterly full of strollers and babies and toddlers. I can’t say I ever remembered noticing small children when I last lived in the U.K. Is my new town that much more child-friendly than my old, or is it simply that I have changed and now see things through different eyes? (I did, after all, end up in a toyshop at one point yesterday, and my eagle eyes spotted a fabulous park area filled with play structures while on the bus. Even though I was enjoying my rare freedom E. was never far from my thoughts.)

My new town seems to be astonishingly undiverse. Again, I don’t remember being shocked at the whiteness of the Other Place, but again I had come to it from a relatively small (and undiverse) Canadian city. I probably didn’t notice that everyone pretty much looked like me because that had been the case where I was an undergraduate as well. Five and a half years in a truly cosmopolitan city has changed my perspective.

I’d forgotten how much the English like their sweets. Everywhere you look there are cafes serving bits of cake, or sweet shops, or chocolate biscuits and lollies in corner stores. On my tour of my new faculty today the secretary took me around and showed me all the various places that served food and drink, ranking them all on the basis of whether or not they served good cakes, before looking at me and saying, a touch mournfully, “But you don’t look like you eat all that much cake”.

I’d forgotten how ridiculously small the English like their produce to be. The apples are literally half the size of the ones we grow. Everything’s packaged to the nth degree, and I try very hard not to think too much about the price. I used an online grocery service for the first time and it was brilliant. Did all the shopping from the comfort of my own home back in Canada, booked in a delivery date for the day after I arrived in the U.K., and had all my groceries delivered by a chatty driver named Michael who explained how their delivery vans work (separate fridge and freezer compartments- the frozen food packed in dry ice!), the colour coding system on their bags (to identify whether the contents need to go into the fridge, the freezer, or the cupboard), and how to arrange for a refund (which I had cause to do once I discovered three of the eggs had been cracked). It would never work in Canada- the economies of population and geography simply don’t allow for it. But it’s a superb idea here and I’m loving the convenience.

Today I sorted out a mobile phone and got access to my faculty and the university libraries, so tomorrow I’ll be able to start work in earnest.  Q. has been doing a good job of keeping me updated on E. Apparently he woke up on Sunday asking to see Mummy like he normally does, but Q. was able to distract him by telling him that Grannie was downstairs waiting for him. When asked if he remembered where I was, he told Q. that I was on an airplane and that he would be going on an airplane too, so something of the itinerary has sunk in. We skyped last night and E. seemed mainly confused as to why I wasn’t on an airplane, although he became quite upset when I took the computer on a tour of the flat to show Q. and I wasn’t on the screen any more. He’s doing really well, but I’m a little worried about how he will go as the days continue to pass and there’s still no Mummy. My Mum and stepfather left yesterday morning, so today Q. was on his own. Late tomorrow afternoon my Dad will arrive and he’ll be there until Q. and E. leave for the airport. I think my Dad is more excited to play with E’s new train pieces than E. is!

I’m still enjoying my solitude (waking up when I want to and not because E. is chirping in his crib! Reading in bed before getting up in the morning! Not having to rush through breakfast so I can read Cars and Trucks and Things that Go!), but I can tell already that it will wear on me before too long. Once I’m into a routine at the library the flat will feel empty and lonely when I come home at night, mentally exhausted (and physically tired once I get a bike organized). But for now I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I can.

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Filed under Adventures across the pond, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the second year, Emotions, PhD, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Almost time

Yesterday I sent my dissertation chapters to my supervisor.

Today I packed my bag.

In 48 hours I will be at the airport, heading across the pond, and leaving E., my most beloved son, on the other side of an OCEAN for two weeks.

I am, not to put too fine a point on it, losing my SHIT over this.

Logically, rationally, I know that E. will be fine. He will get some extra one-on-one time with his Daddy. He will have myriad grandparents all eager to take him to the park, or build towers with his blocks, or flatten him like a pancake.

He will be, in all likelihood, spoiled rotten.

I know this.

But, as I keep trying to explain to Q., who is, I suspect, a bit hurt that my leaving is causing me so much stress and anxiety and misery, how I am feeling has nothing to do with whether or not I trust him to look after E. (of course I do), and only a little to do with whether or not E. will miss me (although I must say the toddler development books I’ve read which advocate not separating from your child at this age for more than a night are not helping).

It’s really about me.

Even thinking about getting on that airplane makes me feel like my heart is being ripped out of my body.

The best way I can think of to describe it is to say that it feels like I imagine it felt like for Lyra and Will when they visited the Land of the Dead and had to leave their daemons behind (if anyone who reads this is also a Philip Pullman fan).

Rationally, of course, I know that E. is not truly part of me but is his own autonomous (adorable) person.

The way I’m feeling right now doesn’t have a whole lot to do with reason and being rational.

Irrationally I worry that either my plane or theirs will plunge out of the sky in a giant ball of flame.

Irrationally I worry that I will scar E. for life by leaving him, that he will hate me for doing so.

Irrationally I worry that he will change and grow so much in those two weeks that we are apart that I will feel like I no longer know him.

It is the mama bear instinct rising to the fore, awakening and grumbling and growling. Stumbling out of hibernation. It is my deepest, most instinctive, primeval self that is speaking when I try to explain to Q. how I feel and I can’t get the words out before I start to cry.

This child, my child, is most precious to me.

Leaving him, getting in an airplane and flying away from him, crossing a fucking ocean while he sleeps in his crib, with his bunny draped over his face in the ultimate lovey-eye-mask combination?

I can’t say it ever struck me like a great idea, but now that the reality of it is very much almost here?


It is killing me. My anxiety is through the roof.

I’ve started telling E. about what will happen. We’ve got the globe down to look at where we live and where we were visiting Auntie L. and Auntie C. and where Q’s family lives, and we’ve looked at where Mummy is going. We’ve talked about how I’m going to get on an airplane (E. quite likes that bit) and his Grannie and Grandpa and then his other Grandpa are going to come and stay with him and Daddy. And about how a few days after that he and Daddy will get on another airplane (E. quite likes that part too) and come to another airport and I’ll be waiting for them.

I’m making some videos of me- reading a story, singing his favourite songs- so he can watch them if he needs some Mummy time while I’m away. We’ll plan to skype unless that makes things more difficult for him.

I have been obsessively planning the packing for months now. I packed E’s bag two days ago (yes, the bag that he won’t be needing until next month). When I asked Q. if he would mind if I left him a list of what needed to be added to the bag and what needed to be done with the house and the cats before they left (all things that I’m quite sure Q. would have been more than capable of handling himself even if he probably wouldn’t have picked quite the same clothes for E. that I would have), he said he’d be worried I wasn’t myself if I didn’t.

Nothing’s helping much. I’ll at least be keeping busy over the next couple of days since in a fit of genius insanity I decided to have E.’s birthday party the day of my flight. It’s in the morning and my flight is very late at night- so late that I won’t have to leave to go to the airport until after E.’s asleep. Even so, I’ve belatedly realized that this probably wasn’t my smartest plan. (The alternatives, however, were to make Q. organize the party after I’d left, and I was SO not ok with missing my son’s second birthday party, or to have had it last weekend, which would have been almost a month early, which I thought was too much.)

I know we’ll survive. It will either work well, or it won’t. We’ll get through the days, and eventually I’ll be back at the airport waiting outside of customs to pick up my boys.

But on the edge of it, right now, I just wish it wasn’t happening.

There is no way out but through.


Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the second year, Emotions, PhD

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, 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,


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

The twenty-second month

Dearest E.,

You, my darling son, are never at a loss for words these days! The language explosion that started last month has kept right on going.  According to my notes you added another 42 words to your vocabulary this month, again with some really interesting choices.  You now call both the cats by name.  You have also started saying “please”, although you usually need some prompting as to when it is most appropriate.  You’ve added a few more words that start with ‘b’ (book, baby, bang bang, bubble), some useful concepts (opposite, neat, new, dead, roll, home, light), some generally handy words (purple, rain, eye, nose, star), some favourite breakfasts (Cheerio, peanut butter), some more vehicle identifications (tow, double decker, cement mixer), and a whole slew of animals (octopus, zebra, crocodile, Peter (Rabbit), emu, goat, platypus, dog and “ribbet ribbet” for a frog).  If I wanted any further evidence that Cars and Trucks and Things that Go remained a truly essential part of your daily life, I need only look at you pointing out Goldbug on every page and saying “Gol-gol” every time you find him.

You’ve also started participating when I’m singing to you. If I sing “Old MacDonald” or “The Wheels on the Bus” and we come to a verse with an animal you know, you’ll make the noise when I get to the appropriate point in the song. This is especially fun when you’re in the bath. You also like to sing “Old MacDonald” when playing with your farm (which you still call E-I-E-I). You’ll line up the animals to make a train (complete with “choo-choo” noises) and then you’ll get me to sing the verses in the order of the animals with you making the sounds.

By far the neatest thing that happened this month with your language concerned numbers. Around the middle of the month you suddenly started to become interested in looking at the numbers found on the page in Cars and Trucks and Things that Go with the fire trucks and having me identify them. Then one day you were recognizing (and saying) “zero”. Then you wanted me to identify ALL of the numbers in the entire book. Then suddenly it clicked and you could identify 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9. 1 came a couple of days later. 8 remains an issue, partly because there aren’t any examples in Richard Scarry and you’re still not all that interested in looking at numbers in other books. And before the month was out you could say all of the numbers as well except for 8 and 5 (you often say four instead).

But it didn’t stop there. At a drop-in at the end of the month it became clear to me that you understood the concept of “two” when you went and found two forks from the toy kitchen, told me one was “yeh” (yellow) and the other one was “reh” (red) and then told me there were two of them! You repeated this with two knives, and when we were home that afternoon you spent a lot of time (completely without prompting) pointing out to me the examples where there were only two bunnies (or cats or dogs or groundhogs) in a vehicle in Richard Scarry. You will also tell me if there is only “wah” (one) bunny. And, since I’m writing this letter a couple of days late, I can add that you woke up from your afternoon nap today in a terrible state- crying inconsolably. When eventually you calmed down (after a snack and a trip outside to watch Daddy shovel snow on to the road so it could melt) you got out Richard Scarry (yet again) and then proceeded to show me that you now understand the concept of “three”. We spent a good solid ten minutes or so flipping through the book with me pointing to various cars and asking you how many animals were inside. If the answer was one, two, or three, you were letter perfect every time. This just blows my mind that these concepts could solidify so quickly. It certainly helps to explain why your sleep has been so disruptive this week!

Ah yes, sleep. I’m afraid your early rising continued this month, which has meant your Mummy and Daddy are feeling pretty worn out. We’re hoping the switch to daylight savings time might help us encourage you to sleep a bit longer in the mornings again. I think your record was getting up for the day at 4:53 one morning this week. But then you also have days where you sleep until well past 7:00. You also have a tendency to fall asleep almost as soon as we leave your room, only to wake up again twenty or thirty minutes later. Normally you’ll just talk to yourself for a while before going back to sleep but one night this month you woke up and started clapping. You applauded yourself for two or three minutes, then did a convincing R2D2 impression with lots of “Wah-ooo!” noises, and then immediately fell asleep again. I was laughing my head off downstairs listening to this.

Naps are equally hard to predict. Some days you only nap for ninety minutes, others you go down for a full three hours or even a little bit more. And the length of your nap doesn’t seem to reflect how much sleep you got (or didn’t get) the night before. You’ve also had the occasional night waking where you’ve needed us to come in and give you a cuddle and help you get resettled. All of this is quite unusual for you, and I would bet money it’s related to the leaps and bounds you’re making in your language. At least there has been absolutely no sign that you are thinking about dropping your nap, for which your Mummy and Daddy are truly grateful.

We had a rough patch in the middle of the month when you had your first bout of croup. It started in the wee hours on a Sunday morning, and listening to you cough in your crib I thought it could be croup. You ended up spending the last few hours of the night sleeping propped up on my chest as I sat upright (and awake) in bed, just like we used to do when you were really tiny before we realized you had MSPI. But you were better in the morning and we consulted Dr. Google and Dr. Youtube and convinced ourselves it wasn’t croup. Wednesday I took you in to your paediatrician’s walk-in hours. We saw a medical student first and you were so outraged at being at the doctor’s that you worked yourself up into a frenzy. This made it incredibly easy for the doctor to diagnose you with croup when he arrived as your breathing had become laboured and strained for the first time since Monday morning from being so upset.  Your Mummy was mostly upset that she had been right but had allowed doubts to creep in from watching videos online. You didn’t need any further medical treatment, but it took well over a week before you were back to being your usual cheerful self.  You didn’t eat much for a few days and since you’ve always been a slender little guy I was a bit taken aback by just how skinny you’d become when we were getting you ready for your bath once you were recovering. Luckily you’ve been eating like it’s about to go out of style in the last week or so; I expect you’ll put all the weight you lost back on and then some.

Eating continues to be an adventure with you. We’re never entirely sure from one day to the next what you’ll want to eat. You’ve recently started eating plain cooked chicken again, which you haven’t touched for ages, and you are currently absolutely obsessed with tuna, demanding tuna sandwiches for lunch nearly every day. There was even a point where I didn’t bother with the bread but would just give you a bowl of tuna salad and a spoon before sitting back to watch you devour it. You love eating Cheerios for breakfast and occasionally have been known to eat more than I do. You still love pasta and most fruit; your favourites this month were oranges and green grapes along with that trusty standby: apples.  We had quite a funny encounter one morning when Daddy said he was going to make pancakes for breakfast and then he decided to make potato pancakes to use up a couple of cooked potatoes left over from dinner the night before. You were so excited to sit up in your chair since pancakes remain one of your all-time favourites. You speared a piece with your fork, stuck it in your mouth, started chewing, and then burst into tears and spat it out. It took us quite some time to figure out that you didn’t want anything else for breakfast, you wanted pancakes, but you didn’t want these weird pancakes. Eventually your Daddy made you your own normal pancake and you wolfed that down. We normally don’t cater to your whims- you just eat what we eat- but we both felt  you believed you’d been blindsided by what had ended up on your plate, and we were so impressed that you had a firm idea about what “pancakes” meant and would taste like that we were happy to comply.

We have one fewer companion at the table these days because you’ve stopped sitting your bunny up on her own chair at every meal.  You’ve also more or less stopped insisting on taking her with us when we leave the house (although she did come grocery shopping last week). She’s still very important to you though. I wouldn’t want to try to get you to go to sleep without her, and she still has many adventures every day. When we come downstairs in the morning you throw her down the stairs (or over the bannister) with a gleeful “Whee!”. Before breakfast she usually ends up taking a ride in the back of your big red ride-on fire/dump truck, sometimes with you climbing into the back as well. If we’re reading stories on the couch you always need to have her nearby and to be cuddling under a red blanket (luckily we have two so if the cats are using one there’s another one available for us). If we’re reading Richard Scarry your bunny loves to pretend to eat the carrot car whenever we see it. If we’re listening to music and I pick you up to dance with you, you’ll make sure to grab your bunny so you can make her dance (this consists of you holding on to her by her ears and then shaking her up and down). And if we’re all having a cuddle in the big bed on a weekend morning, you’ll hold your bunny up so we can give her a good morning kiss.

The cats still need some convincing, but they’re getting closer to agreeing that you’re an ok person to have around.  They no longer made a mad dash for the door if you come into our bed for a cuddle on the weekends, and they’ve even been known to sit still and purr when you pet them. In the middle of the month the three of you had a lot of fun with a ribbon that came from my box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. You really got the idea of dangling the ribbon and dragging it around to entice them to play with you, and you giggled the whole time they were chasing you.

The days are getting longer, the temperature is getting warmer, and the snow is starting to melt.  The snowmen that you built with your Daddy a couple of weeks ago (with the first truly sticky snow we’ve had all winter) are all looking rather bedraggled. Spring, I sincerely hope, is just around the corner. And that means it’s almost time for your birthday. This really does not seem possible. I’m glad we still have a couple of months before your third year begins. This month has been just fantastic. We’re really starting to have conversations now, and your Daddy and I love how chatty you’re becoming. It’s a wonderful age, and we look forward to each and every day (even if sometimes we wish you would sleep a little bit longer!).

Love you ever so much, my son.

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Filed under E.- the second year, Letters to E.

The twenty-first month

Dearest E.,

I have just one word for you this month. No, wait, make that fifty-three. Because that’s how many new words you came up with this month! It was an incredible language explosion, especially when you consider that before this month started your entire vocabulary consisted of fifteen words, twelve animal and vehicle noises and eleven signs. It’s been so exciting for all three of us. Your Daddy and I love hearing the new words you come up almost every day, and you clearly are so proud of yourself and so pleased to be able to make yourself understood more easily. We were just starting to get some minor meltdowns related to you not being able to communicate to us what you wanted, and I suspect that gave you the impetus to start bringing out the words.

Your choices have been equally interesting. The first four words that appeared this month were all colours: “red”, “green”, “blue”, “yellow” and “orange” came a couple of days later. There was also a whole slew of words that start with ‘b’: “broom”, “bee”, “bunny”, “bus”, “ball”, “bag”, “brush”, “bread”, “bear”, “bath”, “bird”, “black” and “brown”. And you also came up with words for some of your favourite things: “sweep”, “sausage”, “tuna”, “snow”, “puffs”, “wheel”, “read”, “toast”, “airplane”.  Some new words have proved very useful: “wet”, “uh-oh”, “yummy”, “pull”, “dark”, “bye-bye”, “little” (especially when paired with “big”), “pants”, “shoes”, “night-night”. But some new words surprised us: “juice” (from a picture in a book as it’s almost never in the house), “umbrella”, “rock”, “tea”, “duck”, and “door”, especially since you still don’t have words, noises or signs for some things you love, like bananas, crackers, or hat. It has been a truly fascinating process watching what you’ve come up with. On days where you burst out with four or five new words by lunchtime I can’t wait for your Daddy to get home to tell him.

You also have some truly fantastic noises and expressions these days. In addition to “uh-oh”, “bye-bye” and “night-night”, this month you mastered “whee!” to express glee (usually accompanied by you pitching your bunny down the stairs in imitation of when Daddy has her slide down the bannister). You use “awww” if you agree wholeheartedly with what we’re saying, and you have an “oooohh!” if something particularly tasty appears at the dinner table that never fails to make your Daddy and I start laughing. This month you learned to hoot like an owl, whinny like a horse, and tick-tock for a clock. You call your farm “E-i-e-i”. You had a song you liked to sing at the end of the month. It sounded like “Walky walky, up, up, up” and your father and I remain at a total loss to explain what it is that you’re saying. The closest match I can think of is a line from the “Sleeping Bunnies” song we learned at the drop-ins (“Wake up, sleeping bunnies, hop hop hop!”), but if I ask you if that’s what you are saying, you are very quick to tell me “no” (which still sounds like “ah!”).  You’re using “out” with enormous confidence, and some mornings if you feel we’ve been too slow to come and get you we’ll hear a chant of “Out out out. Up up up. Out out out. Up up up.” coming from your crib.

Ah yes, mornings. The one negative side to this explosion of language is it seems to coincide with some very early wakeups (sometimes even pre-5 a.m.). You’ve tended to be a child whose sleep gets disrupted by big developmental leaps. It doesn’t seem to affect your naps, which for the most part have been rock solid this month, lasting anywhere from two to over three hours. But it does mean you occasionally wake up in the night and can’t resettle, and more often than not you’re up for the day at a time when we’d really rather get a bit more shuteye. There was a week in the middle of the month where you stopped coming out with new words (probably because you were consolidating what you’d already learned), and  you did sleep later. Then the new words started up again, and so did the early mornings. “Dark! Dark!” you tell us when we come into your room and pull open the curtains.

This month also brought some real consolidation of your physical skills and some increased confidence. You can put together your Brio train track without assistance (although you do tend to get a bit frustrated around the fifth piece of track so we usually work as a team), and you’ve mastered the art of turning the train cars around to make sure the magnets line up. You’ve become much more confident on stairs. Early in the month you started crawling backwards down the big flight of stairs from the top floor, whereas before you used to ask to be picked up, and by the end of the month you were happy to go down them sitting down on your bum. Likewise with going up: as the month progressed you moved away from crawling up them to walking up them, and now you can climb the entire flight holding on to the bannister or to my hand. At the park you now walk up the stairs to the slide rather than crawl, and you’ve regained your confidence with the bigger curly slides. You love turning off light switches, and you’ll help me at night to switch off the light in your room, and to switch on your heater and your white noise machine. You’re really interacting with your relatives when we Skype, and you know who everyone is and what you normally do with them. If it’s your Australian Granny, you immediately start asking her to do the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Round and Round the Garden”, whereas if it’s your Canadian Grannie you start playing peek-a-boo.

You are very, very fond of your routines. For months now we’ve been tidying up your toys after dinner and before your bath and this month you’ve started putting them away unprompted once you’ve finished eating but your Daddy and I are still at the table. The first time you did this you busied yourself putting away every single Megablok, every truck, and every book. Then you put away the DVDs you’d been sorting into a big pile, and then you came over, signed that you were tired, and said “bath”. You then went and stood by the gate at the stairs! Your father and I just watched in amazement. Since then you’ve decided that we should also tidy up the toys before your nap. You make sure to put away everyone’s hats and mitts after we come in from an outing, and if we leave our coats on a chair you’ll drag them over to the closet and make it clear in no uncertain terms that we’re letting standards slip. I have a great video taken one Saturday morning where you unpacked a bag from the farmer’s market and sorted all of the potatoes and onions into two separate containers without me once suggesting you do so.

You have a great sense of humour. You absolutely love to hurl your bunny down the stairs shrieking “whee!”, although this does get a bit tiresome for Daddy and I when we’re trying to get you ready for bed and someone has to rescue the bunny. At mealtimes you’ll put your bunny on your chair and have her pretend to eat your dinner, then on my chair, and then finally sit her up on her chair. One day we were in the downstairs bathroom. You looked at the tub, looked at me, and signed “water”. “That’s right,” I said. “We put water in the tub. Can you say water?” You looked right at me, grinned, and said, “Bath”. I couldn’t argue with that!

Your all-time favourite toy right now is your train set. You absolutely love it and it comes out every day. We build Megablok towers and tunnels and overpasses for the trains. We had to get out the extra Megabloks we brought back from your Grannie and Grandpa’s house because we kept running out of materials. I think more track and more train cars will be an ideal birthday present (hard to believe it’s almost time to start thinking about that!). You also love your new xylophone and your farm. Everything else tends to get rotated around, but you usually have a couple of puzzles, an assortment of vehicles, some sort of building blocks (other than the Megabloks which are always out), and some sort of stacking/threading toy on your shelves. You love some of your books so much that this month I had to start enforcing the “we read a book five times and then you need to choose a new book” rule for my own sanity. You have some new favourites, particularly Dr. Seuss’ Amazing Alphabet Book. You have the board book and the ‘real’ book, and you’re definitely now more interested in the full version. You’ve also been very keen on books involving outer space. Whatever Next and The Way Back Home have been getting a lot of attention lately. You also love any books with counting in them, so Ten Little Ladybugs, Curious George’s One to Ten and Back Again, and Doggies have been selected quite regularly. Plus there are some old favourites that you are never tired of hearing: Llama llama Red Pajama, Cars and Trucks and Things that Go, Tons of Trucks, Fingers and Toes, The Greedy Python, I Went Walking,  and Goodnight Moon.  You love nursery rhymes too. We always sit on the couch under a blanket when we read, and if we start without your bunny you will hop down and run off to get her before we continue.  You are very busy these days so it is a lovely chance to get a cuddle.

This has been a great month. We’ve always loved seeing the new things you can do, and it’s been so interesting to watch how you develop, but the language jump has just been fantastic. We can’t wait to see what new words you’ll come up with next month!



Filed under E.- the second year, Letters to E.

It’s not really working

This whole “let’s share E.’s care between us while Q. keeps his full-time academic position and I finish my PhD” thing.

It did work, mostly, when Q. was on sabbatical.

It did work, mostly, last semester when Q. was on a reduced teaching load.

It is clearly not working this semester now that Q. is on a normal teaching load (albeit the heavier side of normal).

Q. is beyond stressed. It’s not helping that he keeps taking on things. He agreed to be the keynote speaker for a graduate conference at the last minute because they must have had someone cancel on them and they were in a tight spot and he wants to look like a team player if he (or I) is ever looking for another job in the area (Canada’s academic community in our field is small. Reputations get around.). He at some point in the past decided it would be a good idea to rejig his section of a big survey course, which means he has to write new lectures this semester. This, in retrospect, was a very bad idea. He’s got committee work. He’s got page proofs.

He is, I keep thinking, JUST on this side of sanity.

I can think of no better indicator of the seriousness of the situation than the fact that he has become a bit teary talking about it all twice in the last month. This, from a man who I have seen cry exactly three times in the ten years that I’ve known him. Once when his father died, once when we first talked about what would happen when he moved back home three months after we started dating, and once, when we were pregnant with E., when I gave him the “tenure baby” onesie I’d ordered.

Q. is a bottler. He really takes to heart the idea that you just have to “be a man” and get on with things. As a result it is excruciatingly hard to get him to open up and tell me what he is thinking.

I, meanwhile, sit and watch and fret.

I think we will just about manage to get to the end of the semester. Just. Reading week is coming, which will help. When I head over to the UK two weeks before E. and Q. fly (a fact which is causing me some insane anxiety right now, which is another post), my Mum is going to come and stay with them so Q. can tie up his loose ends for the academic year.

I think I have managed to get Q. to agree to me looking after E. one day a week while we are in the UK so he can do his own work. He won’t get any serious research done but it would be some time for admin or course prep. He says that he is planning to just relax and catch up on his sleep. I would love it if he actually did this. I will believe it when I see it.

But we can’t do this again next academic year. Next year I am hoping to finish and defend. Next year I may well have a course directorship that will give me sole responsibility for a fourth-year course.

Q. and I have talked a LOT about this. It is the right thing to do for my CV- go for the course directorship.

It is an insane thing to do from a family perspective. It would make much more sense to try to get a completion scholarship that would get me out of teaching for the year. Or even just TA in a course I’ve done before and put minimal effort into it, like I did this year.

But the job market is so terrible right now, we both know I can’t afford to pass up any chance to improve my CV. And Q. is 100% supportive of my taking the course directorship, if I am offered it (which is a relatively big if at this stage).

So. If I am going to finish next year, and especially if I am going to finish while teaching a new course, I cannot have less than three full days a week to work on the PhD.

And Q., it has become clear to me this semester, cannot function trying to squeeze his full-time job into part-time hours. Even though he’s not doing any research at the moment, the admin and teaching commitments just seem to expand ever outwards.

This is changing how I am thinking about daycare options for E. come September. We are supposed to hear at the end of the month or the start of March whether there is a space for him at the co-op nursery school in our neighbourhood. Originally we were just going to take anything they could give us, even if it was just three mornings, in anticipation of holding his place to go full-time the following year.

But three mornings isn’t going to cut it, especially not if one of those mornings is a duty day where I’m in at the school. And if we’re pregnant and we have a baby in summer 2014, E. won’t be going to full-time nursery school that year because we won’t be able to afford it. We’ll be lucky to be able to keep him in for a couple of mornings so that I can have a bit of one-on-one time with 2.0.

So I’ve come to the conclusion (I have yet to broach all of this with Q.) that I need to find some other options so that if the nursery school cannot offer us three full days (or two full days plus one morning, which is, I think, the minimum we can cope with), we can turn down the place they have for E. and go elsewhere.

Yep. Right after sorting out the major issues for the UK (flights, accommodation there, house/cat sitter here, holiday travelling), I’ve plunged into the world of daycare.

I could probably leave it until we hear from the nursery school, but I’d like to know that there are other options before we say no to them. I’m still really hoping they will have the right space for E. We are first on the waiting list, but it will all depend on what age group they decide he fits into (toddler group or younger preschool group- as a May baby by September he’s right on the line between the two), and what space is available after their current and alumni families have been slotted in, as they get priority.

I don’t know that I want to put E. in a big daycare, not least because I think part-time spaces are few and far between. But the idea of evaluating home daycares is stressful too. And my scholarship ends in August, which means we’ll be facing all of this at a time when our income will have suddenly dropped. We can manage it, but we certainly won’t be able to afford full-time care, even if I were comfortable sending E. to daycare five days a week (which I am most certainly not).

Add to all of this my inner doubts, which are wondering what on earth we are doing thinking about trying for a 2.0 given that will mean I will pop out another baby right after defending, so I will have at least a year with no mat leave and no income at all and no way to ask Q. to help shoulder the burden, since I cannot, will not, ask him to take more time from his job. His mental and physical health simply would not be able to cope. He’s put as much as possible on hold for two years now. If we have a 2.0, I am staying home with him/her. And when 2.0 is a year, we’ll have to revisit the daycare options since even if I’m just doing some contract teaching one or two days a week, Q. can’t be asked to pick up those days.

There are a lot of days I wonder if we’re crazy to even think about a 2.0. Things are still so hectic around here, and Q. is so stressed all the time. Adding a 2.0 would just add at least another two, if not three, years of total chaos. I know I want the family of four. I know I want E. to have a sibling. I know I want the years to come with two of them. But I’m scared of the newborn/infant phase again, because I hated so much of it for so long with E. I wish there was a way to have a 2.0 that didn’t mean JUST when we were getting E. into some care and we both had more time for our jobs we had a second baby, but I am ever mindful of the age gap. If we have a 2.0 when we first go back to the clinic, E. will already be more than three years older. But having a baby right after defending the PhD isn’t great either as it puts a bad gap on the resume at a time when to be competitive you really need to be doing everything you can.

The vast, vast majority of female academics who have children (most are childless) only have one. I’m really starting to see why that happens. The timings just never add up.

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the second year, Emotions, Family, Second Thoughts

The twentieth month

Dear E.,

I must admit I took another look at the title of this post when I finally sat down to write it. Twenty months! Not only are we now closer to your second birthday than your first, we are out of the ‘teens. You seem to have done a lot of growing up this month. I think you’ve probably shot up, as I’ve pulled out a bunch of pants in 2T and put away the last of the 12-18 months that were still (just) fitting, and even some of the straight 18 months as well. But more than that, it’s your face that looks different. At the very end of this month I was away for a couple of days helping a friend move, and I couldn’t believe it the afternoon I arrived home when I climbed the stairs to our porch and saw the little boy standing on the couch looking out the window at me! It lifted my heart to hear you shout, “Mama!” and then to see you scramble down from the couch and make a beeline for the front door, calling out my name as you ran.

Speaking of running, my son, have you ever become FAST this month. You are so confident on your feet, and you’ll sprint around the top floor of the house when we’re getting your bath ready, giggling wildly and encouraging me to chase you. When there’s no snow on the sidewalks (which has happened more often than not thus far this winter) we’ll go out for a walk in the neighbourhood, and while I don’t yet have to break into a run to keep up with you when you take off, I’m definitely having to stretch out my walking stride to its maximum.

This month marked your second Christmas, and you definitely took a lot more notice of it than last year. You loved the Christmas lights in our neighbourhood, and the ones we strung up on our tree and around our living room. Your favourite part of the afternoon was coming down from your nap and asking me to plug the lights in. You also loved our Christmas tree. We just have a little artificial one that we’ve had since I first moved in with your Daddy, but it was the perfect size for you. You helped me to decorate it, and once it was up, we only had to ask you once not to touch the ornaments or take them off the tree, and you treated it so nicely and with so much respect all month. You and your Daddy both got a new ornament in your stockings on Christmas morning and you knew immediately where they were supposed to go- nothing else would do until you put them both on the tree! And when it was finally time to take the tree down you helped me take the ornaments off and put them in their boxes.

You also really got the hang of opening presents. We spent Christmas in our own house, so it was just you and Mummy and Daddy and the cats, but even so there were enough gifts under the tree that you came close to getting present fatigure (your Daddy’s family had sent you quite a few). But you managed to power on through and open all of them. You were also happy to take each present from under the tree and hand it to me or to Daddy depending on what we told you the tag said. And you were an expert at opening presents by the time we travelled after Christmas Day to see your grandparents and aunts and uncle. You had new Christmas pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve, and while you may have been a bit confused as to why we were leaving out cookies and beer for Santa, and carrots for his reindeer, on Christmas morning you knew you were supposed to stay in your pjs and you became most distraught when I took off your pj pants to change your diaper.

It was a wonderful Christmas. After your nap we went out for a walk in the ravine near our house to watch the skaters at the open-air rink (which is your all-time favourite activity right now), and we were so proud of you as you trundled along next to us for well over a kilometre. You certainly had adjusted quickly to your snow boots (when we’d put them on you the day before for the very first time you were horrified to find such heavy bulky things on your feet and you spent quite a long time trying to convince us you couldn’t possibly walk in them). We had pork schnitzel for Christmas dinner because we knew you would love it, and you ate almost as much as your father. You also enjoyed the self-saucing chocolate pudding we had for dessert.

While we were visiting our relatives you got to really play in the snow for the first time. You went tobogganing and LOVED it, and built a snowfort with your Daddy and your Grandpa. You loved walking on the snow and hearing it squeak under your boots, and you were so patient every time we had to get you into all of your winter weather gear before heading out the door. You were also incredibly patient with the long drives. You didn’t even want to read your books- most of the time you just looked out the back window and sang to yourself. Occasionally you’d fall asleep for a short time, or you’d chat to us, but for the most part you were happy to just watch the kilometres roll by, and your Daddy and I were so appreciative of this, especially when he had to do the final leg of the journey back home without me. You have become such a good traveller- we’re both so impressed by how well you adapt to being in a new environment, and how happy you are in the car. We kept reminding ourselves of the first long drive we did with you to a friend’s wedding when  you were not quite two months old, and you just screamed and cried for most of the way, especially when we got caught in a traffic jam.

We’ve started going to some of the other drop-in programs during the week in our neighbourhood, and you really like them. You don’t enjoy circle time very much, especially if there are too many other kids and it gets too chaotic, but you love exploring the rooms and seeing what new toys are available. The craft table and the toy kitchen at one location are your favourites. You don’t take much notice of the other kids yet, and you don’t stand up for yourself if they take your toys away- you tend to just look at me with an outraged expression on your face, or you just get a different toy, depending on how attached you were to whatever they grabbed. The facilitators often comment on how mellow and laid back you are. On the days when I’ve been at the library and you’ve been with your Daddy, the moment I get home you start telling me about your day by pointing at the towers you’ve built with your Megabloks, imitating sweeping and dancing, and chatting up a storm. I love that you want me to feel included in what’s happened while I’ve been gone. When we go for walks in the neighbourhood you point out all the mail boxes, fire hydrants and stop signs that we see. Now I find myself noticing them when I’m out by myself, and realizing that they turn up in all sorts of places! You still love vehicles of all sorts, and if we ask you “What does green mean?” when we see a traffic light you will gleefully shout out “Go!”.

You really are such a happy, easy going little guy these days. Very little seems to bother you, and I don’t know that I’d say we’ve had even one outburst that could classify as a tantrum in the last month. Right at the very end of the month you started to show increasing frustration when you wanted to communicate something that was more complicated than your limited vocabulary would allow, but for the most part we understand each other and we can usually figure out what it is that you’d like. You will get out your hat and mittens before a walk, choose your own socks from your closet, find your boots and try to put them on your feet, take off your own shirt if I’ve pulled your arms through the sleeves, put your dirty washing in the laundry basket, offer arms and legs to help me get you dressed, put away hat, mitts, boots, and socks after a walk and take your own shoes and socks off if I help you get started by undoing the velcro. You always brush your own teeth first at night and then I finish up. You will carry your own snack plate so carefully to your table. You ask for your washcloth at the table so you can clean up your spills and wipe your hands if you feel they’ve become too messy. You still love sweeping and vacuuming and helping me clean the house.  You continue to put your toys away, often without even being asked, and you will place all your books back on your shelves. You love emptying out your entire container of Megabloks all over the floor, but you’re also happy to pick them all up again once you’re finished playing with them. One night at supper you had got down from your chair and became very agitated when you found a lone Megablok lurking under the couch that hadn’t been put away. You weren’t satisfied until I helped you open the lid to put it where it belonged.

Christmas meant you now have a new selection of toys to play with. I’m still rotating your toys around every week (or twice a week if I get organized), and it’s fun to see what you first choose when a new group appears. You love the wooden farm and animals that Santa brought as well as the three pocket-sized cars. You love your new xylophone and your wooden train set. You love trains so much you tend to line up your cars, your blocks, or anything else you can find into a line and then proudly announce to us “deet deet”, which is your way of saying “choo choo”. You have adored the ride-on fire/dump truck your Granny bought you from the moment you first laid eyes on it on Christmas morning. You are still very fond of your Megabloks and your books. I’ve recently rearranged your shelves and brought out your “real” books and you are always so careful when turning the pages. In the Town All Year Round is proving to be as big of a hit as I was hoping for, and has given us all a break from Cars and Trucks and Things that Go.  You’re also now interested in the text on the pages, and not just the illustrations and you’ll often point to particular words or sentences and ask me to read them out again. You are becoming much more interested in crafts- earlier in the month it was crayons and colouring but at the end of the month you were showing more interest in Playdoh. And you still love dancing to music, looking at your photos on the fridge, and helping us in the kitchen. You love rough housing with your Daddy or your Grandpa. This month you also learned how to pet the cats ever so gently rather than grab their fur, which has meant they aren’t quite as quick to vanish when you appear.

Routine wise we had a worrying two days at the start of the month where you went on a nap strike and your Daddy and I feared for our (much needed) work time. Luckily you seem to have decided that wasn’t a good idea, and you’ve been napping pretty well ever since. You did go through a phase of getting up for the day much much too early, but that has settled down again. I suspect it’s been related to the changes in your speech- the sleep disruptions were a result of your brain working on solidifying the changes right before you started coming out with new words. It is funny to think about how much I stressed about your routine (or lack thereof) when you were younger. We’re in such a good groove now. Even if you don’t go to sleep right away, we have no problems putting you in your crib somewhere between 7 and 7:30, and you’ll eventually just drift off. Sometimes you’ll be chatting away to yourself really loudly and then you will suddenly fall silent- we think you must fall asleep mid-sentence! Meals are always unpredictable: you were in a growth spurt earlier in the month when we couldn’t seem to produce enough food, but you’re out of that now, so we’re having to adjust our expectations yet again as to how much you’re likely to eat at any one meal. You have developed an intense love for vanilla ice cream, and it was a bit of a shock to be home again after our travelling and discover that daily cookies were no longer on offer.

You’ve been quietly coming out with the occasional new word all month. It started with “out” (ouw), and then you came out with a whole series that sound like “I did it”, “I see”, and “I do”. You use them in the right context, and if we ask you a question that you think deserves a negative answer, you’ll always answer with the sharp “ah!” you use to mean “no”, so we’re pretty sure you’re not just parroting us. You also now have a word for cheese (“dee”). If I ask you if you’re cold, you’ll say “brrm brrm”, which I think has come from my saying “brr” for being cold, and you love calling out “boo!” (boom) if something has fallen over. You now make an elephant noise as well as raising your arm to be its trunk (which you’ve been doing for months).  And right at the very end of the month you came out with teeth (“teef”) and big (“bee”), which I suspect means we might be on the cusp of a language explosion.

It’s hard to put into words just how much of a joy you have become. I feel grateful each and every day that this funny, happy, kind, calm, quiet, self-assured, mellow, easy going, contented toddler who gives beautiful kisses and hugs is my son.  We have so much fun together.

Love you ever so much,

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Filed under E.- the second year, Letters to E.

The nineteenth month

Dearest E.,

This month seemed to go by in the blink of an eye, I think because we had visitors for most of it. I’m not sure where all the days went, but I seem to have barely taken any pictures of you, and my notes in your journal are quite sparse as well.  You did love having all the visitors, and I think you were a bit disappointed at the end of the month when your auntie and uncle left and it was just Mummy and Daddy again. Your favourite thing to do, no matter who was staying with us, was to ask them to read Cars and Trucks and Things that Go with you. It made me laugh whenever I heard someone say, “Ok. E., I’ve got time to read you one more story”, because I knew which book you would invariably then choose. After all, you only have one book that offers sixty-nine pages of vehicles and thirty-five (or thereabouts) opportunities to find Goldbug.

Your love for dump trucks, school buses, cement mixers, and other vehicles continued unabated this month. One of your new favourite activities is to lie flat on the floor next to your ride-on car, pushing it around the room and examining the wheels with great intent. You do this with some of your smaller trucks as well, and your Daddy and I have decided that our best guess is you’re quite keen to figure out exactly how the wheels work. At your favourite park someone has recently donated/abandoned some giant Tonka trucks, and given the weather has stayed relatively warm and entirely snow-free, you’ve spent quite a few mornings pushing them around the swings and climbing structure. You love building Megablok towers on top of your tractor, although you will complain quite persistently if your tower’s inherent lack of structural integrity causes it to become unstable and we don’t appear to lend it a steadying hand to allow you to build it even higher. I’m afraid, my son, that as long as you insist on building towers that consist of stacking one single blok on top of another, they are always going to become too tall and skinny to be able to stand on their own once you hit sixteen or seventeen bloks (I think seventeen is your record for a tower of single bloks with no help from either of us).

Your favourite day of the week in the neighbourhood is garbage day, and you’ll stand on our couch waiting for the truck to appear.  We had some men come to cut down the big tree in our backyard last week, and while at first you were very excited about watching them, when they actually started to take down branches you found the whole process a little overwhelming. You don’t seem to mind that the view from your window has changed significantly, and your Mummy and Daddy are very excited about how we’ll be able to rehabilitate our grounds now that we’re getting more light and we’re not in danger of having a branch fall on our heads!

We’ve been going to the drop-in at the library pretty much every Monday for a few weeks now, and it’s been interesting watching you become ever more comfortable in the space. At first you used to stick right next to me, or, at best, explore while clutching Berenice Bunny tightly, and you only liked circle time if you could climb up to the back of the room and watch from a safe distance. Now, although we still bring your bunny, she’s usually abandoned on the floor as soon as you spy something of interest, and during circle time you’ll run up to the leader and ask for “more” trips to the moon. We tried out a new location this week now that your Mummy has finished teaching for the semester, and it is a wonderful room with lots of space and great new toys, including a toy kitchen, complete with shopping cart that you took an instant shine to. We’ll definitely be going back in the new year on a regular basis. It’s fun watching what you choose to play with when we’re at the drop-in locations. You don’t have very many toys at home, and even though I rotate them around every week, they’re all pretty simple. I like seeing what catches your attention- I file away ideas for future Christmas and birthday presents! You’re pretty much equally disinterested in arts and crafts at home or at the drop-in. You’ll colour for a minute or two, and you don’t mind play-doh, but you’d rather be building with your Megabloks or pushing around your cars, or helping me clean or cook.

We bought you your own broom and dustpan and brush, and you love them. You’ll help me sweep up the kitchen, and you’ve started trying to clean up your own messes from snack as well. At the table you’ll grab the washcloth we use for your hands and mop up any milk that gets spilt. You still help put your toys away at night, and you make sure we don’t miss even one piece from your Megabloks. One new activity this month was I finally got organized and put together the sand/water table your Grannie and Grandpa bought you for your birthday. We never set it up in the summer because the yard wasn’t safe for you. But now it’s in our basement, filled with lentils and split peas, and it is a great source of entertainment after your nap when we don’t have enough time to go back outside. You are very careful not to pour the lentils and split peas onto the carpet, but some always end up on the floor while you play, and I have to tell you that it is ok to leave them there until you are finished, as you’re ready to start picking them up and putting them back in one by one. You still absolutely love dancing and will request that we put music on as soon as we come downstairs in the morning. Your favourite cds this month have been the soundtrack from Forrest Gump and a collection of James Bond themes.

Your routine is still the same, although we had a few weeks right after the time changed where you were waking up very early and, since we had people staying with us, we’d take you into bed with us to try to keep you quiet and happy until it became a more reasonable hour. You’ve obviously decided being in bed with Mummy and Daddy is far too much fun for sleeping, as the little guy who used to snooze with us for a couple of hours when we were travelling in the summer has been replaced by a very long and boisterous toddler who tosses and turns and flips around and kicks us and giggles pretty much non-stop until we give up and get up, or until you decide you’re hungry and start demanding your puffs and milk. Occasionally you are becoming more difficult to get down for a nap, although you’ve always eventually given up and taken one. I think one day you were up there chatting to yourself for almost two hours before you finally gave up and went to sleep. Most days the nap is still two and a half or three hours, and you usually sleep 11 or 12 at night as well, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the nap started to shorten over the next few months. We’re just hoping you don’t drop it anytime soon!

This month was the first time we’ve ever left you overnight. Your Grannie came to stay so your Mummy and Daddy could go out to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their first date. We had a great night- we saw the new James Bond film, went out to dinner, took some glorious long walks on a warm November afternoon, and then stayed in a hotel (where the alarm in the room and the one next door woke us up at 6 a.m.- just when you had started sleeping later too!). You had a wonderful time with your Grannie and didn’t cry at all, except for a very brief moment at bedtime when Grannie cuddled you for so long you fell asleep. When she went to put you in your crib you startled awake and then cried for a couple of seconds asking for “Mum-mee”, but then you went right back to sleep. We were very proud of you for doing so well.

You’re still somewhat fussy with what you will eat, and your tastes and preferences fluctuate from day to day and week to week. Your Daddy and I are getting pretty good at just rolling with what you give us, although I keep making three eggs for us for lunch expecting you to only eat one or none at all only to find you eating two eggs and demanding part of the third! You’ve mastered the use of a spoon and love having cheerios and milk for breakfast. You still prefer to eat your yoghurt with your hands, and you’re not very interested in using your fork. You tend to sweep everything you can reach off the table the moment you decide you’re “all done”, so it is a challenge for your Daddy and I some meals to get to your plate before you do. You will never say no to pancakes, goose sausage, pasta, cheerios, tuna or egg salad sandwiches, apple, pear, banana, crackers and hummous or peanut butter or cream cheese, yoghurt, and schnitzel. Your favourite way to eat veggies continues to be raw, while helping me cook dinner. This month you’ve been especially fond of carrots and mushrooms and less keen on red pepper, which had been a favourite.

We decorated the house for Christmas this month, and you absolutely love the Christmas lights that are on our tree and hung up around the living and dining rooms. If you get up before it’s light we’ll put them on, and then once I unplug them you ask again and again for them to be turned on, even though I always tell you that we have to wait until after nap when it gets dark again. You’ve been so good with the tree. We don’t have many ornaments that could break, and I’ve kept them off the tree in any case, but you haven’t pulled off a single one since we first put the tree up and I explained that the ornaments go on the tree and we have to be gentle with them. I cannot wait to see your face on Christmas morning! Your Grannie made you a felt Christmas tree which is on our fridge door and you love taking the felt ornaments out of the basket in the kitchen and decorating it each morning. We’ve gone for a few walks before dinner when it’s already dark, and you get so excited to see the lights on the houses in the neighbourhood. About the only thing you like better is walking past the new outdoor skating rink they’ve built in the ravine near our house. I have never seen such a look of pure joy on your face to compare with your expression when you watch the hockey players practice. You smile non-stop and laugh with glee. Looks like we might end up being a hockey household after all, despite all of my intentions to the contrary.

I remember this time last year, when you were sitting up but not yet crawling, and decorating the tree and the house with you, and seeing you smile when I first plugged in the lights. I remember thinking how full my heart was, how happy you had made us, how grateful I was for that moment. I couldn’t have ever anticipated how it could just keep getting better.

I love you so very much, my son.



Filed under E.- the second year, Letters to E.