Jul 30, 2012

Dear Daughter: 12 - 16 Months

Dear Vivienne,

It's been four months since I wrote you a letter. It's been a busy third of a year, and you have been learning a lot in that time. I am so proud of my smart, sweet, beautiful little girl.

March 20th - April 20th
Since your first birthday, you have mastered walking. Your first steps occurred a couple of days after your first birthday, and you didn't take long to become a pro. The only time I see you crawling now is when you are completely exhausted. It's so much fun to walk with you, though you rarely want to hold my hand as you prefer to shoot off to see the world. We have an Elmo harness to put on you in public to keep you safe when we are out in public; you're so intrepid and run off with no apparent concern for where your father or I are. Speaking of motility, you have become really good at climbing steps. You love any opportunity to climb steps, and insist on limiting all our time outdoors to going up and down the steps to the backdoor. It can be slow-going with you on the stairs, as you have an adorable habit of hitting each new step with an open palm multiple times, as if checking for terra firma. In a similar development, you have learned that objects can be used to stand upon. You love stacking up toys to look over the safety gate we have around the TV. I am a little nervous that you might get over it someday!

As of this month, you have five teeth. As always, you were a trooper with teething, and you didn't seem bothered at all. In fact, you have so few symptoms that I never really know when one is about to come in. The only possible sign of your teething is a recent spate of night awakenings. You have had some liquid in your ear which I think may be becoming an earache, so that may be the culprit. You might also be wanting to be fed. In other health-related news, you finally got your MMR shot this month. As much as I have been looking forward to not having to worry whenever I read about measles breakouts, I'll admit I did have some anxiety. I was reassured by our decision to use the Dr. Sears Alternative Vaccination Schedule, and you did so great that I was sure there wouldn't be any longterm side effects. 

Since mid-February, your Dad has been working in Nashua, which means that you and I have been on our own during the week. You are such great company, and we've had a lot of fun, but you are always so happy to see your Dad on Skype or on the weekends. Your father and you love playing together. On a recent evening when he was at home, he taught you to play ball. He threw it to you (sitting in my lap, so I helped catch the ball), and you threw it back, which basically consisted of dropping it in his direction, and saying "aah". It was adorable. You and I are looking forward to him being home for good in May!

You are so responsive now, and clued in to what's going on around you. When I drop you off at daycare, you smile and give me a big wave goodbye. It's such a nice image to keep as I miss you during the hours I am at work. Your greater comprehension shows in other areas too. When we are reading your word book, when we get to the goose, you start making a "honk" sound, and poking yourself lightly in the stomach like I usually do. When we read your "Peek-a-boo" book, you now say boo as we turn each page. 

April 20th - May 20th
This month, you have been adding to your words. Your two favorites are "Whoa" and "Uh-oh", which can be used to categorize most anything. You are so eager to use them that you have taken to dropping things on purpose just to say "uh-oh", notably food from your high chair.

This month, you gained more teeth. I always say this because it impresses me so much -given my own horrendous memories of gaining my adult teeth -that I never know when you are getting new teeth because you never fuss at all.

It wasn't only teeth growing in your mouth this month. Lots of words appeared too! By far the cutest was the fact that you have started "reading". You and I were in the sitting room together, and I heard you saying "ooo" over and over. I looked to see what you were up to (I was reading my own book) and I saw you were reading your Peek-a-Boo book. Since then, you have done the same with your "Where's Spot?" book, but in this case, you were saying the word "No".

You had another ear infection this month. It sadly has become a familiar routine of noticing you have a fever, taking you to the doctor, and getting you diagnosed with an earache. You do not care for antibiotics one little bit! As always, you were not bothered in the slightest by it.

We discovered your love of being photographed this month. One morning when you were a little cranky from being tired and suffering the effects of your ear infection, we put you in the red chair to take your monthly photo, and you started fussing and wanting to be held. As soon as the camera came out, you immediately stopped crying, and started smiling and posing instead. You're such a little ham! This love of posing really paid off when we had another photo session with our friend Kristin, and we got some really great pictures. One of you and your Dad is my particular favourite.

The best thing this month was a visit from your Nana. She was here for two weeks, and spent the first week at home with you while I was at work. You didn't do much as you were still sick, and I was a lot happier that you were able to recover from your earache with Nana, rather than at daycare. The next week you were better, I was off work, and we had an amazing time together. We went to Janel's BBQ, the mall, cafe's, a petting zoo/farm (where you stole Cheeze-its out of a rabbit hutch!), the Yankee Candle store, Magic Wings butterfly farm, and the Cheesecake factory on the way to the airport. We had so much fun with Nana here, and we were very sad to see her leave.

May 20th - June 20th
This month, you did some great reading. I was sitting with you as you were reading "Brown Bear", and you read it with the same tempo that I read it to you. I love how much you love books; they are by far your favourite toys!

One evening this month, your father, you and I went on a walk through the nature preserve (the place you took your first ever outing). We walked through the elementary school playground, and your father decided to play on the Monkey Bars. He hung motionless from the bars, which is a reference to an episode of a show called Arrested Development. You looked at him and started screaming with laughter. It was very adorable.

You have now learned what a cell or mobile phone is. You held a phone up to your head and started saying "Hi", and "Bye" and chatting away to the imaginary person on the other end of the phone. You have been doing the same thing with my iPod. I don't know where you picked up this habit; I never use my phone!

Finally, this month, you had yet another earache. In fact it is likely the same earache from last month that was resistant to Amoxicillin. We got yet more antibiotics, this time with a beta-lactamase inhibitor. You were so upset every time we had to give you antibiotics, and I felt awful, but we managed to finish the course. As we have had a recent run of earaches, we decided that it was time to say goodbye to your pacifiers. You are such a happy baby that you don't really need to be "pacified"! Indeed, you didn't seem at all perturbed by their abrupt departure.

June 20th - July 20th
This month, we have been using the methods in The Happiest Toddler on the Block. We had been already doing most of the recommendations such as spending lots of time with you, not letting you watch TV or eat junk, etc. However, despite all the positive reinforcement and affection we were giving you, your toddler ways started to come out. The positive of this is that you are becoming adventurous, and developing a love of learning and exploring, but the negative is that you can sometimes be a bit temperamental and defiant. One technique the book suggests is the "clap growl". Instead of spanking a child, which is barbaric, you clap loudly and growl. If the toddler still does whatever you are trying to stop, you turn away for a few seconds as if to say "I'm not engaging with you while you are doing this". Instead of learning not to do things that I attempt to discipline you about (screeching, throwing, biting), you instead have learned the clap growl, which you have applied when I haven't given you more grapes, attempted to make you sit down on a chair, or changed your diaper. In related news, you have definitely figured out what the word "No" means. It's usually accompanied by a hand swiping whatever you don't want (clothing, non-strawberry food stuffs).

The other words you have learned are "ball". "treat" and "cheese", among others. Your Dad took you to your fifteen month appointment, and the doctor said that four to six words is good for your age, and he prefers to see eight. We wrote up a list of your words that we were both in agreement you were using right, and you have 20! You're so smart. Even Lilly, the lady who runs your daycare commented to me that you have an amazing vocabulary. You have even started putting words together like "up and down" when we sing "Wheels on the Bus", and "up above" in "Twinkle, Twinkle". Your understanding of what we are saying is also amazing. Whenever I say to you, "Hey, let's put your books away!" you stop what you are doing, and help me put them away. It's really impressive, and also very sweet that you are so helpful.

You and took up swimming this month too. The first week, you cried and wanted to get out, until the teacher had us sing "Wheels on the Bus"; you thought jumping up and down was a lot of fun (plus you enjoyed singing along)! The second week, you still kept a pretty tight hold on me, but you used the noodle, swam on your back with your head on my shoulder, and had no tears.

This month you have been climbing everywhere. Every object is a potential stepping tool for you, including - much to my terror - anything with wheels. We have had to start watching you like a hawk. It is exciting to see that you are so smart, but it's exhausting too! You have also started reaching for anything you can get your hands on too. The funniest example of this was when I was feeding you the other day. I had you yoghurt and spoon ready on the counter, and I was collecting other things to feed you. You obviously weren't happy with how long I was taking, so you reached up to the counter, opened the yoghurt and stood in the middle of the kitchen feeding to yourself. We have been letting you eat with a spoon and you are doing really well with it.

This will be the last of the monthly letters, and instead I will email you updates of your development. The reason for this switch is that a monthly letters were appropriate when you were an infant, and only accomplishing one or two things a month. Now that your learning has picked up such a fast pace, you are learning new things daily, and it's hard to remember them all by the end of the month. To ensure that you get everything, I have been writing you emails as things happen, so that information is becoming redundant.

These last four months have been such a joy. I am so in love with you, and I am so proud of all the things you have been accomplishing. It is such a pleasure to be your Mum, and I am so grateful that I get to see you grow up and discover the world.

I love you, Sweetheart,

Mum xxx

May 28, 2012

Numistatism III

I've had this post sitting in my drafts for about 3 months. I've decided to go ahead and publish the ones I have written in the hopes I will become motivated to write up more coins!

49. Alaska
The second to last state to be admitted to the Union came aboard on January 3, 1959. Alaska's coin features a Grizzly Bear emerging from a waterfall with a salmon in its mouth, and the words "Great Land". The word great could be correctly interpreted in one of two ways when referring to Number 49. Alaska has the largest surface area of any state, and is also considered to be one of the most scenic states in the USA (65% of Alaskan land is federally classified as national forests, national parks, or national wildlife refuges). Alaska is the northernmost State and sits between the Pacific and Arctic Oceans, with its neighbour, Russia, across the Bering Strait (visible from at least one house, I hear). You'd be right to assume the local weather channels don't pull out the smiling sun animation too often; Juneau and the southeast panhandle are the only areas in Alaska to breach freezing temperatures in winter daytime hours. In fact, the word Alaska means, "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed". When that sea is the Arctic Ocean, you've got to expect a nippy wind chill. Not a population to be scared off by facial-feature-necrotising breezes, a whopping 4,078 of the denizens of Alaska live in Barrow, located a chilly 330 miles above the arctic circle.

Historically, native peoples such as the Aluet, Haida, Tlinglit, Tsimshian and Yup'ik lived happily in Alaska until boatfuls of smallpox-addled Europeans graced their shores. If you have a monthly EFT going to PETA, you may want to skip ahead a sentence or two. The region was originally a Russian territory, colonized somewhere in the 17th century. The "ruskies" prized the land for their thriving fur trade, until 1867 when America picked up the territory for an Everything-Must-Go-esque two cents per acre. A couple of pelts notwithstanding, this likely seemed like a fair trade at the time. However, caveat venditor, it turned out the whole area was basically a bit of icy soil floating about on a massive oil field punctuated by lumps of gold. Good news local wildlife, you can keep your pelts. Bad news, it might get coated in hydrocarbonic goo every now and then. State Capital: Juneau

50. Hawaii
Correctly spelt "Hawai'i" (I told you Hallowe'en wasn't the only word that has an apostrophe in it), the Aloha State was the last* horse across the finish line on August 21, 1959. The State coin features a map of the Islands, the State motto "Ua Mau Ke Ea O Ka 'Āina I Ka Pono," (translation: try fitting this onto a license plate), and King Kamehameha reaching out his hand, presumably for a can of Spam, of which Hawaiians consume more per capita than people in any other State. The State coin may need updating someday, as the main island of Hawaii contains three active shield volcanoes all depositing heavy basalt, which causes the earth's crust to bend beneath it, and someday may lead to catastrophic detachment. On the plus side, this means Hawaii is still growing, so yay for real estate!

I really thought that if any State's history didn't follow the happy-natives-lived-here-until-the-Europeans-came storyline, it would be Hawaii. You can imagine my disappointment to learn that while James Cook was a little man-who-came-to-dinner in 1778 when he renamed the territory the Sandwich Islands, he really committed a faux pas on his return in 1779 when he attempted to abduct King Kalaniʻōpuʻu. On the heels of Cook's interest in the region, several European groups arrived to the islands, showering the inhabitants with bounties of smallpox, measles and the flu. Hawaii remained a kingdom until 1887, when a constitution stripping the king of much of his power was signed. Under McKinley, Hawaii was annexed by the US and gained statehood in 1959. Since then Hawaii has run the gamut of conservative (1993 ban on same-sex marriage) to progressive (Hawaii Prepaid Healthcare act). State Capital: Honolulu

*as of 2011; every so often you hear rumblings about Puerto Rico.

Apr 10, 2012

Dear Daughter: 1 Year

Dear Vivienne,

You are now one year old! It's amazing to look back at all the things you have done in that time, and how much you have grown and changed. It really has been the most perfect and fun year of my life. You are the perfect daughter, and it is a pleasure and an honour to be your Mum. This letter is the final in a year of letters. I will continue to write to you, and document your achievements, just not in a rigid monthly fashion. The main reason is that you are so active now, and I don't want to miss time with you because I am behind a computer trying to fulfill some self-imposed task.

Early this month, you were starting to learn how to walk. The first thing you mastered was standing. We noticed this month that you had gone from leaning against the coffee table when you were playing at it, to standing away from it while you slammed your toys into it (luckily, your Dad had the foresight to switch out the glass insert with some plywood when you were born). For ambulation, you very quickly learned that you could get around using your Winnie the Pooh car as walker, or holding our hands. However, if there was something you really needed to get to quickly, it was time to drop to the floor and crawl there. As with all milestones, there were a few nights of disrupted sleep involved. Unfortunately, there was a perfect storm of learning how to walk, getting your two front teeth, and developing a bit of separation anxiety. A few cuddles and a little nursing in the glider got you back to sleep pretty reliably. By the end of the month, you had taken a few steps, and you also were the proud owner of two new teeth!

This month, you have really enjoyed being with your friends at daycare.  Every morning, you jump up and down in my arms with excitement as we get out of the car. Your minders are always telling me what a smart and friendly little girl you are. You have been busy making lots of art projects this month. I have two hanging at my desk at work, and I keep the rest safe in a box that I will ensure the cats don't pee into, again!  At home, you and I have been fostering your creativity by drawing with crayons, bubbles, and soapy water. Our fun with crayons tends to end in a bit of a temper as you tend to attempt to eat the crayons and you don’t like being corrected on their proper usage. We have also been having dance parties to bad 90’s music because Mum knows the words, and we sing along. I love that you have begun singing along when I play music. The first real song that you ever sang was “Mmm Bop” by Hanson. I sing it to you every evening as we get out of the bath because you seem to think songs with the word “bop” in them are amusing.

Everyone knows about the “Terrible Two’s”.  In addition, so many parents gripe that no one warned them about the “Terrible Three’s”, that we are now aware of that phase.  However, I was never once warned of the “Terrible Ones”. I should point out that I am saying this in good humour, because you are generally a very sweet and happy little girl. You are also very bright, and with that intelligence comes a little bit of a temper. You threw a pretty good tantrum one evening because I wouldn’t let you take your pyjamas into the bathtub with us! In addition to becoming assertive, you are also becoming quite the intrepid little explorer, which sometimes conflicts with your ability to be obedient. For instance, while you understand what the word “no” means, you love standing at the top of the stairs to the basement shaking the safety gate. As you can imagine, this makes me quite nervous so I have been preventing you from crawling to the basement stairs. When I say “no”, you often look at me, pause for a while, but then continue on toward your destination!

Your motor skills really took off this month. At the start of the month, you mastered your shape sorter, and you were so pleased with yourself that you would put the circles and squares through the sorter over and over again. As a indicator of how advanced you are, at your 1-year check up, your nurse asked if you were putting objects into containers. I started explaining that you were good at the square, triangle, and circle, but not so much with the more complicated star. She looked confused, and it turned out that she meant simply putting anything into a container like a bucket. She also asked if you turned pages on books. I let her know that you’ve been doing that since you were about 5 months old!!

This month, you also loved playing with blocks. I would stack a few off them up, and you would quickly knock them down. We would make a game of it, whereby I would try and stack as many as I could before you came and smashed them over. I rarely got past two or three. One time you were giggling with your Dad so I managed to stack about twelve. When you turned around and saw the tower of blocks, you gave a gasp of delight, and then you knocked them all down! It was so cute that your Dad tried to get it on video, but subsequent 12-block towers were not as surprising to you. Later in the month, you learned how to stack the blocks yourself, but again, your desire to knock them down gets the better of you before you get too far past two blocks.

This month, you have been way to busy to sit still for reading time. In past months, I could read up to 12 books, or more, with you sitting on my lap turning the pages as we went. This month, depending on how tired you are, you don’t sit still to get through even one book. That’s not to say that you don’t like reading. You spend a lot of time going through your book collection, selecting one of your favorites and bringing it to the coffee table to read aloud (which I could listen to all day). Your daycare minder told me that one day when you were put in a different room due to a flood in your normal room, and the very first thing you scooted over to was the books. In the evening when you are a little less energetic, you love to sit on my lap and enjoy story-time. Unless you have brought a book to me, I hold up three and let you pick which one we should read first. You still have specific books that you love that will always be picked first, and books that you can't stand that will cause you to end story-time if I attempt to read them to you, and I love seeing that you are being selective and forming your own opinions about literature! 

The weather has gotten a little nicer this month, and we have enjoyed more and more evenings outside together. We play with bubbles that we were given at your friend Riley’s birthday, as well as running around with your Winnie the Pooh car. We also brought out your tricycle that is for a slightly older child, but you seem to know to hold onto the handles and we hold onto you as we scoot around. You love it so much that you smile and giggle as we go around. You and your Dad had a lot of fun on your tricycle at your birthday party. More recently, I think you have taken to “ghost-riding” as you often try to stand up on your seat while we are in motion!  

This month has seen you become even more expressive than before. You chat and tell stories all the time. We frequently wake to the sound of you telling yourself a long, involved story over the baby monitor in the mornings. You have being saying some distinct words like “Hi”, “Hi-ya”, and “Bop” (the last being reserved for singing). More recently, when you are done eating your dinner, you sit in your high chair shaking your arms above your head. I use the baby signing classes we attended, and point my finger upwards saying, “Do you want up, up, up?” In response, you point your finger upward and respond “up, up!” The irony of you learning both the sign and the spoken word at the exact same time is not lost on me!

This month obviously ended with your first birthday! It was on a Tuesday, and I was able to take the afternoon off work to spend it with you. I picked you up from daycare and you were very happy to see me. We sang Happy Birthday (a song you heard numerous times that day). We first went to the local Bank of America to open a bank account, and deposit the $40 your Granddad sent from Ireland for your birthday. We bought you some organic food that we needed for your lunches at the River Valley market, and then headed to the mall to buy you a present. I wanted to get you some Duplo (lego for toddlers), and “Mega Bloks” (a similar toy) had a two-for-one offer, so I bought you a bag with fun, bright, primary colours, and another bag with pinks and purples for my beautiful little girl. I was so impressed that you figured out that the blocks could be put together and taken apart within minutes of opening the bag. Needless to say, you also loved knocking over anything I made with them. I also bought you a puzzle board with wooden numbers with little pegs. You love biting the little pegs and carrying the numbers around like a pacifier. You also think it’s hilarious when I do it.

We had your birthday the following Saturday on March 24th. While it technically took place during your 13th month, it seems germane to this letter. We had a barbeque in our back garden. You wore a beautiful little dress that Nana Mary sent over from England. I had been knitting a dress that I wanted you to wear, but it ended up being way to small, so luckily Nana had sent the beautiful -and quite expensive- little dress. The guests were Riley, Sean & Connor with their parents Yael, John, Sabrina, Brendan, Aimee, Michelle, Micah, Ian; Baby Isadora and her parents, Brie and Johan; Janel & Mike; Daddy’s colleagues, Kristen with her husband and two children, Amy and her son, April and her stepdaughter, and Jolie and her daughters; our neighbours, The Cox’s and The Browns; and your Grandmother and Great-grandmother. You took a nap so you were in a good mood by the time people started arriving. We played with our friends while we ate burgers and hotdogs. Then it was time to eat cake. We had two cakes: your Grandmother brought a Winnie the Pooh cake, which all the guests ate, and I made a special sugar-free, nut-free, oil-free, egg-free carrot cake with vanilla-ricotta “icing” that you and I ate. We had test-run it the week before, and I knew that you loved it. When we came out of the house singing Happy Birthday, you had your back turned to us, and you were more involved in playing with a toy. However, you loved everyone singing to you, and once you got into the icing, you delighted in smearing it into my cardigan. Then it was time to open your gifts, and we had a wonderful bounty of toys, books, and adorable clothes from all our generous friends. My personal favourites were the hand-knitted dress from Connor’s Mommy, and the hand-sewn toy from Janel. We have had a great time reading all the books you were given and playing with all your new toys.

This month, like every month before it, has been the happiest of my life. I can’t believe how much you have grown in the year since your amazing entry to our lives. Your birth was at the time the most happy and love-filled moment of my life, but seeing you smile for the first time, hearing you laugh at This Little Piggy, feeling your arms suddenly clinging around my neck when you were scared of the vacuum cleaner, watching you grow and learn, or the many nights I simply watched you sleeping, have all been moments that are happier than the one before it. I am just blessed with how much love, smiles, and giggles we have enjoyed with you. You are the sweetest, brightest, and most beautiful little girl I have ever met, and I have treasured each and every one of the 527,040 minutes that you have been my daughter.

Happy birthday to my most precious little girl,

I love you,

Mum xxx

Feb 27, 2012

Dear Daughter: Month 11

Dear Vivienne,

It's now less than a month to your first birthday. To me it feels like only yesterday that you were born. However, looking at pictures of your early days serves to remind me of just how far you have come. This month, you have been particularly busy in your progress.

You are now a professional finger food eater! Realistically, you were ready to try finger foods months ago, you were able to grasp things between your thumb and index finger, you showed interest (grabbed at) our foods, etc. The only issue was that your Mum is a Nervous Nelly, and I was terrified of something choking you. As soon as I let you try to feed yourself you got it straight away. Last month, we started on puffs and rice rusks, which you adore. This month, we tried more exciting things like cheese, avocado, banana, pasta. You demolish any avocado I put in front of you, and as for cheese, it disappears as soon as I put it in front of you. You love feeding yourself so much that it has become increasingly difficult to feed you cereal and pureed vegetables at dinner time. Unfortunately, you can't quite spoon-feed yourself yet, so I have to chase you around trying to feed you your cereal.

This month, we had our first Parent-Teacher conference at your daycare. When I was a child, your Nana used to dread going to PTA meetings because she was usually confronted with a laundry list of my misbehaving. While I knew I wasn't going to hear anything like that, I have to admit I was a little nervous going in! However, I was told only wonderful things about you. You are up-to-date with, or ahead on all the milestones for a baby your age. In fact, you were graduated to the toddler's room at your daycare this month (normally babies are 1 year old before leaving the infant room). You love being around the bigger children, and you are learning so much since you got there. I particularly love the different activities you do in the toddler room. You have brought home art projects which I adore, and I am going to keep for you. You also get a lot of outdoor time, and you particularly love the sandbox.

You have learned a lot of new things this month. You went from being able to stand, to cruising (walking around using furniture to hold yourself up). Later in the month you got even closer to walking. You are able to take steps while holding our hands. Your favourite walking activity is using your Winnie the Pooh car to run around. We have taken a few videos of you doing so, and emailed them to all your relatives. Everyone is so proud of how advanced you are. You love your new motility and you are using your new skills to explore the house, and point out what a poor job we've been doing on the baby-proofing front! You are also getting very fast. One day I was changing you and looked away for a second. When I turned back, you had a piece of poop in your hand, which you were holding right by your mouth. You did not look pleased at all. As you are so active now, diaper changing has become quite tricky. We have a very limited time to get you cleaned, and re-diapered before you roll over and crawl away. If we make the mistake of not having wipes, or diaper cream ready ahead of time, we will invariably have to retrieve you from clear across the room. Luckily, we can distract you by making sure you have a toy or a book to read, but this doesn't always work.

This month you meet a few new characters. Early in the month, we went to the Yankee Candle store with your Grandma. We had gone with her in December in an attempt to see Santa, but the queue was 2 hours long, so we went home. That was the day I got your tummy bug! Your Grandma really wanted a good picture of you with Santa, so we returned, this time with your Dad. I should point out that you are a very personable little girl, and you love meeting new friends, so it came as quite a surprise to us all that you immediately burst into tears as soon as we handed you to Santa. You and I went for a walk, and you were happy as usual quite quickly. The other new friend you met was a huge golden retriever. We were at Sean's (one of the Little Peeps) house to meet up with everyone. His Daddy took their dog out while we were there, because she is large and excitable. However, we stayed longer than expected and were still there when the dog arrived home. One of the other babies who is older than you was very afraid of the dog, so I was concerned that you would be too. You really wanted to see the dog, so I held you and slowly brought you to her. She licked your hands, and you screamed laughing. Once I was happy that you weren't frightened, I let you crawl up to her on your own, which you did with glee. She licked your face, and you thought it was hilarious. I was so proud of what a brave and fun-loving daughter I have! I warned your father that you will most likely want a dog when you get older.

Your playtime has progressed quite a bit this month. The cutest thing you learned how to do is playing "where's baby?" You pick up blankets and hold them in front of your face. Then you quickly drop it to reveal your face. While you are doing this, I ask "where's baby", and when you reveal yourself, I say "there she is!" You laugh, as do I , and we play the game again. It's the most fun game I have ever played. We discovered this game one evening when you were doing your other new activity. You love playing with clothes. When I leave you in your room to get your bath ready, I generally come back to an emptied changing table, and you sitting in a pile of clothes, diapers, and blankets. One evening, I took a blanket, and put it on my own head and asked "where's Mummy?" You pulled it off my head, and decided to return the amusement! You have also become suddenly interested in playing independently. In previous months, you generally wanted to sit on my lap while you played. This month you are quite content to play on your own. The sweetest thing you do is to "read" yourself books. You are a chatty little girl, but when you are reading, you make this specific "tukka, tukka, tukka" sound. It's adorable. I love that you are turning into such a bookworm! As you were getting a little bored with the books we had, I decided to buy you some more at the Salvation Army store. We managed to find a number of children's books, and best of all, we found a few that have little flaps to open. You have gotten really good at opening flaps, and you are really good about not ripping them.

For the past two months or so, you have had four upper teeth that looked like they were going to come in any day. In fact, I think I may have predicted their imminent arrival in a previous letter. However, as of the end of this month, there is still no sign of them. (This letter was written after the 20th of the month, so I can tell you that next month's letter will have a more exciting dental update!). While there may not be any new teeth in your mouth, there may be some new words there! One Saturday this month, you looked at your Dad and said "Dada". You haven't done it since, but it sent your father and I into a frenzy of saying "there's Dada" and "I'm Mama" over and over to see if you will say it again. You have said "Mama" a number of times. You definitely know that we love hearing you say "Dada" and "Mama", but I'm not sure you are using them as monikers for us (the biggest clue here is that the number of syllables can vary quite a bit).

This month started out with you sleeping very well. You were sleeping all the way from 7pm until at least 6am. However, you developed a nasty cold this month, which -needless to say- spread to me, and then on to your father, though he got a much milder bout. You and I had quite a few long nights of coughing so much that we woke up. You also developed an ear infection and conjunctivitis as a result of the cold. As usual, you were a real trooper, and you weren't bothered at all by any of your afflictions. Unfortunately, your lack of suffering meant you were completely opposed to our attempts to give you antibiotics and eyedrops, and it was a long 10 days of trying to administer them to you. Thankfully, we are all now back to great health, and we've had some great fun playing together in the last week or so.

This month has been such a pleasure, and it really seems like each month is better than the last. You are the very best thing that has ever happened to me, and I am so lucky to be your mother. Thank you for another month of cuddles and smiles. I love you with all my heart.

I love you Mung Bean,

Mum xxx

Jan 27, 2012

Dear Daughter: Month 10

Dear Vivienne,

Happy New Year to my 10 month old little girl! You and I have had a fun month full of travel, friends, family, and adventures. Again, we've been so busy that I didn't get this month's letter written on time!

This month started out in England. We had arrived to Nana Mary and Grandpa Nick's house three days before you hit the big ONE-OH! Your Nana was delighted to see you. She missed you so much after she left from taking care of you when you were little. You delighted everyone with your sweet nature, and Nana Mary really enjoyed showing you to her friends. She also enjoyed taking care of you, which allowed your Dad and I to spend the day sightseeing in London. Don't worry, we didn't dump you off with Nana for the entire trip. We traveled with Nana Mary to Bognor Regis and Chichester, and you rode your first bus. You really enjoyed the trips we took on the bus. We also took nice walks out to the beach near Nana's house. You really enjoyed seeing the sea.

Your first Christmas ever was spent in Nana's house. Like every night we were in Europe, you were terribly jetlagged. Although you were very tired by bedtime, some part of you felt like it was 2pm! Needless to say you weren't very happy about being put to bed. As a result, large amounts of my evenings were spent nursing you in a dark room while everyone else was downstairs playing games or watching TV. It sounds tedious, but I really love every minute I get to spend with you, and our night time cuddles and nursing are the most perfect times.

In case you were worried, Santa knew you had relocated for Christmas, so brought your presents to the correct address. He got you a finger puppet glove with a book attached. All the fingers were different animals, and the book was "Old McDonald". Santa also brought you some reading books (he obviously knows what a great reader you are).

You got many other gifts, which somehow we managed to get home. Your favorite was a copy of Bambi that Uncle Ben gave you. We watched it together on Christmas evening, and you really enjoyed it. I loved seeing you giggle when you saw one of the animals jump and burrow into the ground (the scene is early in the movie in case you want to find it).

On boxing day, we flew with Uncle Ben to visit Grandad and Mo-mo in Dublin. You were great on the plane as usual. Grandad and Mo-mo were thrilled to see you, as was your Uncle Sam. They couldn't get over how much you had grown and how alert you had become. We were all very impressed when we put you down to play in Grandad's living room. There were two steps leading into the dining room, and despite having never had access to steps, you climbed up them like an old pro! Your Grandad is an avid photographer, and took some lovely pictures of us. Grandad and Mo-mo were happy to spend time with you, and that allowed your Dad and I to travel to the Dublin's city centre to get some shopping done. We also went out for a lovely meal with your Uncle Ben.

We all spent New Year's Eve at home with Grandad and Mo-mo's house (except for Uncle Ben who was out with friends). You went to bed before midnight as you were getting acclimated to the timezone by that point. Your Uncle Sam, Grandad and I were all in the kitchen getting a snack and goofing around when it struck midnight, so we missed the countdown! I gave you a New Year's kiss on your cheek when I went up to check on you.

The next day we headed back to the US. You were perfect on the flight in the sense that you didn't scream crying like other children. However, you did do something a little bit naughty. You had ripped a page out of the Sky Mall magazine and I was letting you play with it. However, you started to eat it, and I didn't want you to ingest the ink, so I took it away from you. You opened your mouth and landed it on my cheek as if you were going to give me a kiss. However, instead of making the "mwah" sound that you usually do, you dig your two little teeth into my face. You then pulled away and gave me a look that said "that was a warning!" You have bitten me once or twice since then, but I have been sure to tell you "no", and you haven't done it more recently.

Don't worry, you are still as sweet as ever. Nighttime has become a real joy. You are now sleeping through the night. You are also the best sleeper in the house. When I put you into your crib, you look around a little. Then you raise your arm to your head, cradle your head into your elbow, and you are fast asleep. As someone who does not go asleep very easily, I find it very impressive. Before you go asleep, we generally read your nighttime books (Dinosaur's Binkit, Time for Bed, and How Do I Love You?). I hold all three up and let you choose which one to read first. No matter the order I present them, you always choose Dinosaur's Binkit first (you like all the flaps in it), then Time for Bed, and finally How Do I Love You, which is your least favourite. I love that you have preferences, and are learning how to express them. We read How Do I Love You because it's my favourite; I always cry at the final verse (I love all that you will be and everything you are) because it describes perfectly how I feel about you.

You are also enjoying your crib while you are awake. I put you in it when I am getting your bath ready each night. Recently, you have discovered that you can stand up, hold the rails and bounce up and down. It is so sweet to see you smiling as you bounce. We also play peekaboo as you are in your crib and I am getting the bath ready. Speaking of your bath, the other night after we got out of the bath, we were wrapped up in towels and dancing in front of the mirror (as we often do). I was singing the Hanson song, Mmm-Bop to you. Suddenly, you started singing "bop, bop, bop" back to me. It was such fun.

You have really started learning how to imitate other people. Your daycare principal, Lilly, told me that she came into the baby room and said "hi" to you. She was really impressed that you said "hi" right back to her. We have heard you say "hi" too. One of the sweetest things you do is say hi to the babies in Where is Baby's Belly Button? when we pull down the flaps. What's really interesting is that you only say hi when the baby's face had been hidden by the flap. On the pages where the baby's feet or hands had been hidden, but we could see the faces the whole time, you don't say hi.

This month, you started developing fears. We were in the bath at Nana's house, and I was about to wash my hair with the hand-held shower attachment. As soon as I turned the water on, you looked terrified and clung to my neck. I turned it off straight away, and submerged my hair into the bath water to rinse the shampoo out. Luckily, you thought my hair sloshing about in the bath water was hilarious. Another thing you have become afraid of is the vacuum cleaner. You never had a problem with it before, but now you don't like it. You are okay with it if you are being held by the person who is doing the vacuuming, but when your Dad was vacuuming one day, you shouted and clung to me. I don't like you being scared, but I love that you turn to me when you are. I promise that I will always be there for you, and that you will always be safe with me.

This month, we switched from having you at daycare all 5 days of the week to having you there only 3 days a week, because your Dad was able to stay home with you two days a week. I miss you terribly when I am at work, and I am so jealous that I don't get that time with you. However, I love that you two are spending time together and developing a great bond. It really warms my heart when I come home to find you on your Dad's lap reading a book, or sitting together eating dinner.

Thank you for being such a perfect little daughter,

I love you Monkey!

Mum xxx

Nov 24, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 9

Dear Vivienne,

You are now three quarters of a year old, and you are at such a fun age. You are full of smiles, kisses, and giggles. You are now more infatuated than ever with your father; no one gets the same smiles out of you like he does. When ever he walks across a room, you stare at him, and crane your neck to see where he's gone when he leaves the room. The other morning, you leaned over to him, slapped his face to wake him up, and said what sounded to both of us like "Hi Dad". We don't know that you were actually taking, so we haven't put it in the baby book as your first recorded word, but your father was thrilled.

This month hasn't been entirely happy for you. You had your first cough this month. You had a few coughing fits, and you sounded a little hoarse, but for the most part it didn't bother you. However, as is often the case, it led to you developing an ear infection. I arrived to pick you up from daycare just as one of your minders was trying to call me to let me know that you had a fever. As it was the evening, I had to take you to the doctor's office after normal hours. When we arrived to the doctor's office, you were smiling and shouting "dadadadada" gleefully, when I was trying to convince them you were sick enough to make them stay late at work! Once they took your temperature, they were convinced that you were in fact unwell. One course of antibiotics later, your ears were totally fine. I will mention that you did not care for the antibiotics, and you were not afraid to show your displeasure.

Not to belabour the topic of illness, but later in the month I got a call from your daycare to come collect you on a Thursday afternoon because you had vomited. You got sick a couple of times after we got home, but once we figured out how to nurse you with only small amounts, you started to hold everything down. As of dinnertime you had stopped getting sick entirely, but as your daycare has a strict rule that babies can't come back until they have gone a full 24 hours without vomiting, you and I had to stay home the next day, which essentially meant we had a nice three day weekend together. The next weekend I got the same stomach virus, and felt like I was going to die! Unfortunately, we had already planned to take you to see Santa with your Grandma, and she was on the road from New Hampshire when I started feeling ill, so I felt I couldn't cancel. However, it really cheered me up when we put you in the elf suit she bought you. Everyone commented on how cute you looked. One person even asked to take a picture of you! Having the stomach virus myself showed me what a trooper you are, because you never complained once, and in fact you were happy and smiling all through your bout with it.

When I had the stomach bug, your father was at a wedding in Kansas, so it was just us girls fending for ourselves. I just about made it through the day looking after you, longing to get to bed as soon as I got you down. However, it was not to be. You started making a very scary gasping noise when you cried, and I was convinced that you had managed to choke on something. So instead of going to bed, we took a trip to the emergency room. It turned out that you had a mild case of croup. By the next day we were both much better, and your Dad arrived home once we didn't need any help. What great timing! I only tell you all this drab sickness news, because through everything, I was so impressed by how happy and unperturbed you were by these various afflictions, especially the ones that knocked me out for the count.

We had been working on sleep training with you, as per the No Cry Sleep Solution, prior to your bouts of illness. However, it seemed pointless to try and teach you to fall asleep on your own in your crib while you were getting sick every hour, so we put in on hiatus until you got better. However, when we returned to getting you to sleep once you were well, you were on to us, having been introduced previously to all our tricks. Much to my chagrin, we had to resort to an intermediate between “crying it out” and the “no cry” approaches, whereby we come to soothe you every five minutes so you know that we are there and that you are loved, but we do not take you out of your crib. Much to my relief, you figured it out pretty quickly, although in an effort to not have to fall asleep in your crib, you have been falling asleep in record time while I nurse you before I put you to bed.

This month you figured out how to crawl! You’ve definitely known what crawling is for a few months, which means you got extremely frustrated by your inability to do it. You had all the different parts of crawling figured out, but just weren’t putting them together in the correct order. This lead to you ending up in funny downward-facing-dog-like positions when you moved your legs but not your arms. We joked that this was because I did prenatal yoga. In keeping with the yogic quality to your crawling, your first crawling movements involved you keeping one leg crossed in front of you, as if you were crossing your legs, and moving the other three limbs around it. We called in portable pigeon pose. You have since started a more regular crawling pattern.

Your milestones have come fast and furious since you learned how to crawl. The crawling felt like it took a few months to happen, but since then you have learned how to pull yourself to standing, clap your hands, and throw temper tantrums when I won’t let you play with dangerous objects like power cords, remote controls, etc. As I have said before, you are not a fussy baby at all. The exception to this is when you are angered by having something taken away. You not only cry, but you sometimes fling yourself backwards in protest. I am dreading the terrible twos! Speaking of lunging, you have reached the age where you now launch yourself like a projectile at things that catch your interest. We have to make sure we have a good hold on you! We are currently working on waving hello/goodbye and how to put shapes into their corresponding holes in your shape sorter toy. In other development news, you are so close to getting your front top teeth. I can see them under the gum, but they haven’t broken through yet. So far, they haven’t bothered you. I bet they will be here next month.

As you are half American, this month marked your first every Thanksgiving. Your Grandpa arrived to spend the day with your father, and after we spent some time with them, we went to our friend Sara’s house. You wore a little pink dress, the poofy cardigan I knitted you and tight with ruffles on the butt. You were definitely the hit of the party. I barely saw you because everyone wanted to spend time with you, and the whole time we were there I was told how beautiful you were, and what a wonderful little personality you had. Everyone was very impressed how personable you were, and how you didn’t fuss or get scared by all the new people. In particular, people noted that at the end of the day, you were exhausted, but were smiling and interacting without fussing. I was told that you were so beautiful that you could make people believe in God, star in films or advertising, or just be stared at all day long. You definitely loved all the attention!

I am again sorry that this letter is being written later than it should have been. Not only have I had my hands full with such a bright and lively little girl, but we also had a lot of packing and travelling to do. Three days before you turned 9 months old, we got on a plane and headed to England to spend Christmas with your Nana. So the first half of this letter was written while we were on vacation. I’ll write about the trip next month as the bulk of the visit happened during your tenth month.

I say it every month, but I am so in love with my darling little daughter. Your smiles and happiness have brought the truest type of joy to my life. I am so fascinated to watch your development. You are simply the best thing that's every happened to me, and I treasure every fun moment I have with you.

I love you Peek-a-boo,

Mum xxx

Oct 25, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 8

Dear Vivienne,

Today you are 8 months old and *ahem* a couple of days. It's getting harder and harder to get to these letters because you are so busy theses days, and I need to show you all the things you want to see. You are still as sweet as ever. This month has been filled with lots of smiles and giggles.

I've always wanted to expose you to books, and start you on the right path of learning. Since you were born, I've sat down with you to read a book or two whenever I get the chance. However, when you were younger, you didn't care for this activity too much so I had to make sure you were in a good mood before attempting to sit you down for reading time, and you would invariably start fussing after one or two books. This month, your opinion of this pastime has completely changed. Now you love reading time. In fact, when you start getting fussy in the evening I know it's time to sit down to read, which cheers you up. You also sit on my lap for long stretches of time; we usually read 11 or 12 of your books each evening. Then we read a little bath-time book, and we have two bedtime books to finish the day. I forgot to mention in previous letters that you have known what "turn the page" means for a few months now, and you do so when I ask you to. The most interesting thing for me is that you have books you love (Mr. Brown Can Moo; Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See; The "That's Not My Monster/Tractor/Puppy" series; Dinosaur's Binkit), but also that you have books you do not care for (The Napping House, We're Going on a Bear Hunt).

You also have music you like to hear. Shake the Sillies Out and The Wheels on the Bus bring an instant smile to your face. We sing these songs on the car ride home each evening, to distract you long enough from the fact that you are getting hungry for oatmeal so that I can get home and make you some (you are not the most patient child I have ever met). We have improvised a few new verses for The Wheels on the Bus. By far, your favorite is "The farts on the bus go...". I'll let you figure out how that verse continues. I sang Dream a Little Dream to you when I was pregnant and as a newborn, and of all songs, this one definitely has the greatest calming effect on you.

The funniest thing that you did this month was laughing hysterically at a ball I was bouncing. I was trying to show you that a ball I had bought for you that day lit up when it was hit hard enough. However, after I few bounces, I realized that you were cracking up laughing each time I bounced the ball. It had nothing to do with the lights in that ball; I switched to another ball that doesn't light up, and you found it equally amusing. I managed to get a video of it, but when I played it back, there was a very loud hissing noise (I had radio playing in the background). Thankfully, I was able to fix it with software, and I have watched it about a thousand times since. I sent it to your father, grandparents, and great-grandmother, all of whom agree that it is adorable. Your laugh is truly the greatest sound I have ever heard.

You have eaten lots of different fruits, vegetables and cereals this month. You really love solids, and try to help me feed you. Alas, that invariably results in you flinging entire bowls of food all over the room. So far you have coated me, yourself, the sofa, my laptop, and my desk at work in Oatmeal or vegetables. I've been making all your foods myself from organic vegetables, because we realized Gerber "organic" bananas contained things like tuna oil, gelatin and several chemicals I can't pronounce (thankfully you won't eat Gerber foods). However, we discovered Earth's Best foods which don't have strange additives, and you like the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon a lot, so I have been experimenting with cinnamon in the foods I make for you. In other food news, we went with the Little Peeps to an apple-picking farm. You and Riley had a great time sitting in your strollers. Unfortunately, the organic apple farm wasn't open for picking, so instead we went to a different farm. That meant you couldn't try any of the apples we bought, so I used them to make your father some apple sauce. I did get you some apples at Atkins Farm, and made you a veggie mix with them.

The biggest event this month was a huge, and unexpected snow storm at the end of October. You were in bed, and your father and I were watching a movie together when the lights started to flicker. Then they were out. We left you in your room as it was nice and toasty, periodically checking your thermometer. However, the electricity didn't come on after a few hours, and the house was starting to get cold, so we lit a fire and camped out as a family in the sitting room. Your father and I were quite uncomfortable, but you thought the fire was fascinating and loved that we were all together. The next day we found out that there was no chance we were getting power back any time soon, so we headed to your Grandmother's house in New Hampshire. We spent two nights there, and she was so happy to get to spend time with you that she sent your father and I out to have a meal by ourselves so that you girls could get some quality time. We had your first Hallowe'en at your Grandmother's house, and you dressed like a little lamb in a costume that I knit for you. Of course you were adorable. The night itself was so low-key, you wouldn't know it was Hallowe'en. We didn't have any other costumes or decorations, and Grandma's house was too remotely located to get any Trick-or-Treaters. However, in the areas affected by the snow, Hallowe'en was cancelled altogether!

You now have two teeth! You weren't very fussy before your teeth came in, just a little restless the night before they arrived. Since then, we keep thinking that you have more teeth on the way. The biggest clue is the fact that you butt-scoot over to furniture so that you can gnaw on them like an otter. I say butt-scoot, because you haven't quite mastered crawling yet. You have all the components, but you're not putting them together in the right order. And, a little like your mother, when you don't get it right the first time you try, you go straight to being totally frustrated. At this point, I usually intervene and carry you to whatever you were trying to get to. I am trying to get better at letting you be frustrated in order to learn from it.

One thing that is not causing you any frustration is learning how to talk. You love chatting away, and I often wake up to the sound of you telling yourself stories over the monitor. Your favourite sound is "dadadadada", which your father has decided means you know how to say his name. Between you and me, I have seen you call your foot, a book, the cat, and bubbles in the bathtub "dada", so if you are communicating that word, you have serious paternal identification issues. Whether or not you know his name, you are the apple of his eye. He asked me to capture you saying "dada" with my iPod, and when I sent him the video, he watched it over and over. You adore him too, you gaze at him as he walks across the room, and whenever he looks at you, your face lights up with the biggest smile I've ever seen you make. Don't worry, I know you love me too.

Thank you for another perfect month,

I love you, sweetie,

Mum xxx

10 Things in 1000 days

I decided to rationalize my impulse purchasing of knitting books by setting myself a personal challenge.
Here's how long I have left:

Is There Anybody Out There?

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