Sep 16, 2011

Dear Daughter: Month 6

Dear Vivienne,

You're half a year old now! In milestones and clothing size, you're closer to a year. I have yet again filled a box with clothing sized for children older than you into a box for storage for your future sibling. At your most recent check-up, you weighed 19 lb 7 oz, and when we weighed you more recently using your bouncer and the luggage scale (your father's idea, not mine), you weighed 22 lb.

Your reaching 22 lbs meant an emergency trip to Babies 'R Us to get you a new car seat. You seem to really like your ultra-luxurious convertible car seat, and I enjoy all the modern safety features on it. On the day of writing this section of the letter, you and I went to Deerfield to meet up with the Peeps and the Little Peeps at the Yankee Candle Flagship store. You did really well on the 30 minute car ride despite having no one in the back with you to keep you company. You napped on the way out, and we both sang along to Lady Gaga on the way home. I am so relieved that the days of you screaming in the car seem to have come to an end.

At the Yankee Candle store, we smelled all the exciting scents of candles. You really enjoyed smelling the different aromas, and invariably, you would try to eat the candle lids. You loved the different Halloween and Christmas rooms, and I thought you would really enjoy the large pumpkin but you were asleep by the time we made it outside to where it was kept.

The biggest vehicular achievement this month was our drive to New York. You always had someone to keep you company, but it was a long drive and you didn't cry once. Nana and Grandpa Nick had gone to New York ahead of us to spend a couple of days sightseeing, and we met up with them to spend a night at the historic Algonquin hotel. We took a lovely trip around Central Park, and walked along Fifth Avenue, stopping off for coffee at the Rockefeller Center. Nana, Grandpa Nick and your Dad went to Little Italy for dinner while you and I hung out in the hotel. Nana was worried that I was missing out on going to dinner, but I really enjoy spending time with you, and there was no feeling of being "cooped up" anywhere. The next day we went gift shopping for Nana's friends back in the UK, and then headed home. You didn't cry, but Nana and I nearly wore out our vocal cords keeping you amused. Of note was a rendition of Old MacDonald, in which the farm comprised cows, pigs, dogs, horses, donkeys, cats, mice, owls, butterflies and one bee (to name a few.... it was a long drive).

In terms of milestones, you have had quite the month. First, you are now sitting. Earlier in the month, you were a little like a learner driver, in that you could sit until you turned to look at something, or became distracted, at which time you would invariably topple over. Now you can reliably sit up on your own, without the boppy pillow, and I've been enjoying facing you to read books, teach you how to clap, or roll a ball to you. Now that you can sit, you are getting really good at amusing yourself with toys while I get my coffee or prepare my lunch.

The biggest achievement this month was your motility. You have been so eager to go exploring, and I can see a real determination in your eyes when you are looking at something you want to play with. Now finally you can move. There's a slight drawback; your crawling is in reverse. As a result, the more you want to get a hold of something, the further away from it you move. You find this extremely frustrating, and as much as it makes me a terrible parent to Say this, I find it a little amusing. Don't worry, I help you out long before your frustration turns to tears.

Another big milestone this month was the introduction of solids. I had wanted to make it to 6 months before giving you solid food, but Nana would have been gone by then, so we gave you your first solids at just over 5 and a half months of age. We (meaning I) decided upon giving you organic bananas as your first solids. We had prepared a mix of bananas and milk for you, and you were eager to be fed, but Nana took so long to get downstairs that you were quite cranky by the time we started feeding you. However, one mouthful of bananas was all it took for your mood to change. You very quickly figured out how to eat from a spoon and wolfed down 2 oz of bananas. Since then, you have cheerfully eaten a portion of solids each day with no problems at all. Although, I was a little scared by the black squiggles in your poop, but some googling reassured me that it was completely normal.

You have been extremely chatty this month. My favorite thing you've been doing is this extremely high pitched screaming noise. Your Dad calls you his little pterodactyl! I love that you are so verbose. Sometimes, you start talking about something, and you are very focused on your narrative and don't like being interrupted. Other times, you are happier to have others join in on the conversation. It's clear that (like your mother), you are enamored with your own voice. Luckily, so is everyone around you.

We went swimming again at the Chicopee State Park, this time with Nana and Grandpa Nick. It was a nice day, but as it was the first sun we had seen in a week, the water was cooler than before. You and I stayed in the shallower water which was a bit warmer, and you were delighted because this made it easier for you to shovel sand into your mouth. You managed to get a few handfuls, but I am sorry to say your killjoy mother scooped most of it back out.

While this month has been yet another great month with you, there was a little sadness in that it was time for Nana to go home. I really miss having her around, and I am sure you miss her too. You two spent every week day together with no one else to spoil your bonding time. I was surprised and relieved that you recognized Nana on Skype. I had been worried that you wouldn't be able to identify people on a screen. However, once she started singing the silly "Suco Suco" song that she had been singing all summer, you beamed a big smile at her. To alleviate our missing of her, we have booked our flights home to Ireland and England for Christmas, so you will get to see your grandparents in person again soon.

There is so much more I could add. You are developing so fast, and so much of your personality is coming through. When I look back at the pictures of your newborn days, it's really striking how much progression you have made. No wonder everyone comments on how bright and alert you are. I am also glad that your sweet affection has also grown with you. I am so blessed to have such a happy and loving child.

I love you, darling,

Mom xxx

Sep 5, 2011

Crunchy Granola.... Less Work than You Might Expect!

My husband calls me a hippie. I did the whole homebirth by hypnosis thing, I'm a vegetarian (worse, a vegan for a year), and we've been using reusable diapers upon my insistence.

He may have a point.

I just can't see myself as a hippie, because I remember the city-dwelling, cigarettes, vodka and nightclubs me that I was as a teen and an undergrad. But, I guess I am at a minimum on the National Hippie Association's mailing list these days.

Tipping the scales in favour of my husband's argument, I've switched to reusable wipes. Yes, yes, the environment played a pretty good role in this decision. But there were some other factors too.

1) I was becoming increasingly concerned about what chemicals I was exposing my daughter to. We were buying the most granola of the disposable wipes that we could find, but they always felt chemical-y. I was also concerned about what pesticides and fertilizers were used to grow the cotton used to make the wipes, that would not need to be listed in the ingredients.

2) Farmer's ran a commercial warning of the dangers of lint fires. In all the excitement of keeping flailing feet away from a butt coated in poop, we were frequently throwing the disposable wipes into the laundry with the reusable diapers, thus sending them through a washing/drying cycle. The disposable wipes aren't designed for much other than disposing, so frequently disintegrated in the drier. This made me worry about how much lint was building up somewhere in the bowels of our drier.

3) Economics. Pretty much the same argument as given for reusable diapers, so I'll let Google fill in this one!

Off I went to make me some reusable wipes. If you want to really hit the economic gain, you can cut up old t-shirts, flannel sheets, or receiving blankets. However, we didn't really have any of these to spare, so I opted to buy reusable wipes from Amazon. After all, Amazon supplied me with the Bummis diapers that were far cheaper than other reusable diaper sets. I guess I could have bought old t-shirts from Goodwill, but who has the time?

I looked online for wipes recipes. Most called for a mixture of water, baby oil and baby soap. The suggestion was to make this up in a spray bottle and spritz individual wipes as needed.

Are you mental?

I have a newborn. Haute couture spritzed wipes are for people who have lots of free time on their hands. I folded 20 or so wipes into a tuperware container, dumped the mixture on them, and looked forward to the smug satisfaction that comes with doing hippie things like reusing baby wipes. All was well until the third day of using the wipes. During a change, I opened the tupperware wipes container, and the smell competed with the one in my daughter's diaper. Evidently, the recipe I was using did not afford me any antibacterial protection for my wipes.

I visited the hippie mecca of baby stores, Cradle in Northampton, and picked up a bottle of "MotherHerb Make Your Own Wipes Solution Concentrate" (basically a blend of Tea Tree and Lavender oils). It calls for 20 drops to a couple of cups of water, and does prevent anything from getting stinky. However, I didn't feel it had the same cleaning power than my previous mixture had. So, I have come up with my hybrid recipe.

My Reusable Wipes Recipe
To a flat sandwich tupperware, I add about 3 cups of water.
Then I squirt in about 2 tablespoons each of Johnson's Baby Oil and Johnson's baby bath.
I add 20 drops/1 ml of baby wipe solution.
I shut the container tightly, shake it about until all is mixed and the soap is bubbly.
I add 20-30 folded wipes slowly until all the mixture is absorbed, et voila, enough wipes to last about 3 days... and no stinkiness!

Sep 3, 2011

Dear Daughter: Five Months

Dear Vivienne,

I can't believe my little girl is already five months old. It doesn't seem like a big age, but looking back at your earlier photos, your newborn days seem an eon ago. This month it has been evident that you are definitely not a newborn anymore! You are so active and alert, and you have been extremely interested in the world around you. It's amazing how much you have changed in this relatively short time. So many of the things you found comforting, interesting or funny no longer work anymore. For instance, you used to think it was hilarious to have me tease you with your pacifier, now you look at me with confusion and ennui when I do that.

That's not to say that you don't find things funny. I am so happy that my little girl is filled with mirth. You find fart noise hilarious, you respond to being tickled or repetitively kissed on your tummy with loud bouts of laughter. You are also such a smiley and generally happy girl. When you wake up at night, you rarely let me know you're awake or hungry by crying. Instead you trust that I will awaken of my own accord, and keep yourself amused in the meantime. When I come over to the bassinet to pick you up, I am greeted by a huge smile. Coming home in the evenings is also a huge pleasure. You had been giving me huge smiles in previous months, which you still do. But now, it's even sweeter, because you reach out to me, and give me a big kiss on my cheek. Your method of kissing is to open your mouth wide and deposit saliva onto my face, but it's adorable, and I love how affectionate you are becoming.

Your sweetness has now extended into your nightly routine. You were never a "fussy" baby, but recently, putting you to bed has become my favourite part of the day. After I change you, read you a story, and perhaps nurse you, we lie on my bed holding hands and smiling at each other until you fall asleep. It's such a peaceful and beautiful bonding experience for us at the end of each day. I know it's not healthy to believe one's child is truly perfect, but as I gaze at you after you have just fallen asleep, I am at a loss to find anything imperfect about you. However, ask and ye shall receive, as they say. We've had a definite roller-coaster with your sleeping this month. Earlier in the month, you hit the "4 month regression". Nana Mary says there is no such thing, but as I am walking you around the bedroom at 5am for the third straight hour, I would beg to differ. Thankfully, while stubbornly refusing to sleep, you are happy and playful, just at a terrible time of the day. Whoever said of parenting "The days are long but the years are short", neglected to mention that the nights can be long too!

This month, we have had a lot of outings. We have twice gone swimming with the "Peeps and the Little Peeps" (Riley's Mommy's name for our pregnancy group). We went to the Ludlow pond with Sean and his parents. I managed to get your toes into the water before you protested enough that I took you back to the beach. Our second swimming trip, this time to the Chicopee State Park, was much more of a success. In between the two trips I had found a inflatable car with matching canopy for you to paddle in. You were so busy gnawing at the handle like a beaver that you didn't seem to mind being in the water! We also played in the shallow water together (without floating distractions), and you managed to get a fistful of sand into your mouth.

We also have taken a lot of trips with Nana Mary. I think her favourite has been to the Bridge of Flowers. I was thrilled to discover that you will now let me carry you in a wrap. I was able to do so when you were tiny, but as you became more alert, you hated facing inward. Now you are big and strong enough to turn yourself and look outwards. That said, your interest in the Bridge of Flowers was nothing compared to how much you enjoyed the next day's outing to the mall. Let me tell you now, I will not allow you to be some loitering mall rat in your teen years, so I suggest you learn to love the outdoors.

Up until recently, you and the cats enjoyed a mutual disinterest in one another. However, you are now fascinated by them, and seem hellbent on grabbing them by the fur, something I doubt they will enjoy. I've been trying to teach you how to pet a cat, but that involves watching both your little hands like a hawk for signs of a fist-forming motion. The lessons are usually curtailed by the cats excusing themselves.

I think babies are meant to double their weight in six months, but always advanced you did it in five! You now weigh 19lbs and 7 oz; no wonder Nana's back is giving out. As you have been nursed exclusively until very recently, I am not concerned that their is any obesity in that weight, just proof of what a healthy girl you are. I say recently, because now that I am back at work, I have to pump milk to bring home to you. Expressing milk has been very successful, however, I am not able to keep up with your appetite. With Mommy;s milk alone, you were eating up to 30 ounces while I was at work, whereas I was happy to express 20! So, much to my chagrin, we have supplemented you with formula! Speaking of nursing, you are breaking your Mama's heart (a claim I will no doubt make numerous times throughout your life). As part of your desire to explore the world and see all their is to see, you refuse to nurse during the day anymore. You also refuse to be held while being bottle-fed, so we sit you in a chair and feed you like a hamster. It's pretty cute, actually. And thankfully, you cheerfully nurse at night, so we still have our time to bond.

As Nana spends such a large amount of time with you during the weekdays, I thought you'd like to hear from her this month too:

Dear Vivienne Marie

I have deferred writing this letter because you have kept me so busy
looking after you - a total joy for me, I might add - but also because
writing it meant that I was coming near the end of my stay with you.
You are now five months and almost three weeks old! I shall be going
back to England with Grandpa Nick on Monday and my heart breaks at the
thought of leaving you.

But what a month it was! When I arrived you were just three months
and 13 days old; an infant really and I was almost scared of holding
you in case you would break! You were a fine, healthy baby but a baby
nonethless and it had been some time since I had cared for such a
little creature.

At four months, however, you seemed to take a leap forward, almost
literally. You were already rolling over from back to tummy but now I
saw this done vice versa (I think you'd done it for Mom already) and
still more exciting, you began to try to crawl. Each day we had
'tummy time' where you would go on your tummy and I would hold you up
to help you get the idea of crawling. Although you never quite made
it forwards in this month, you did manage to move backwards;
frustratingly for you, this meant moving AWAY from whatever toy I had
put out for you as an enticement.

You also moved about much more in my arms, on the floor, in your
rocker, in your pushchair. Indeed, such was your movement in your
pushchair that I was scared you could propel yourself out the front of
the stroller if I didn' take good care to watch you! As the month
progressed, you became able to sit on your own on the floor (though I
was ready to support you, if needs be). You loved your new Dr Death
chair because it allowed you to swivel about to play with your toys
and towards the end of the month you also sat in your little suspended
chair which allowed you to turn about and view what was going on in
the kitchen AND the playroom. You allowed me to prepare some meals
for your mom and dad and you were never unhappy. If you got a little
fed up with something, a cuddle from me always fixed it. I can
honestly say (without offending your mom or your Uncle Ben) that I
have never met such a pleasant and happy little baby.

You developed your other motor skills too. The xylophone was a daily
pleasure for us and you played it lustily on one occasion banging out
doh ray me (or it may have been me ray doh). Whatever, it was a huge
pleasure for me to hear you play. You also turned the pages of your
books with great facility (something your darling Mom taught you) and
you were now able to take off each one of your stacking rings and
often to replace one or two of them on the stacker too!

You showed huge interest in everything; from the little mobile above
your swing (and the musical one in your crib) to the smell of herbs
which we nose tested together, to the feel of cold water on your hand
from the tap to the sights and sounds in the garden and on our
increasingly longer walks. One thing you didn't bother with however,
except when you were bored and/or sated, was holding your bottle. Why
bother when you had a willing slave (two when grandpa Nick arrived) to
do it for you? Together we survived an earthquake and later (with Mom
Dad and Grandpa Nick) a hurricane.

The development that was perhaps most exciting for me was your newly
discovered love of 'language'. Despite my persistent inability to
remember the sign language we learnt for you last month, you seemed
really to understand when I offered more bottle or told you I was
going to change your nappy. And the 'words' you spoke were like the
sweetest symphony to my ears. There was one day when we went to
Walmart with your Dad and you made loud 'AAAAAHHHH; sounds all the way
around. These were perhaps a comment on Walmart? Then another day
you would say 'bub' or 'ba' and one magical day it seemed to me that
you were repeating the A and B and even M sounds I made to you. How I
loved talking to you. We could spend half an hour or more at a time
repeating sounds to each other and I know you are going to be an early
talker - another sign of what I think will be your formidable
intelligence. Keep talking my darling and as long as I am around I
will always listen. Your voice is one of the sweetest memories I will
bring back to England with me. Yes, including the screaming sounds
you learnt to make at around five months!

Your Mom has written about our trip to the Bridge of Flowers and the
lake at Chicopee, and I will always treasure those memories, but for
me, the sweetest times were when it was just you and me. Your ready
smile when you woke from your sleeps; the kisses you began to give me,
the foot massages I gave you, yourlaughter when I sang 'Ai ai the beat
is crazy/Zucko, zucko is everywhere....' I love that you love and are
amused by words and songs.

When Grandpa Nick arrived you were five months old and the dynamic
between us changed as you welcomed another man into your life. You
took to Grandpa Nick as he did to you. Our walks became longer (he
could carry the stroller over rugged terrain on the way to Big Y) and
you laughed at the silly faces he made and the silly voices he put on
for your entertainment. It was a great help to me too, because by now
you were 20 lbs and VERY heavy to carry. But you know what? I didn't
care that my back was sore and my knees didn't allow me to get up so
quickly from the floor when I changed your diaper. The bond you have
allowed me to make with you my most precious granddaughter is one that
will never be broken and if, when I return, you don't quite remember
me, still there will always be an invisible bond between us because of
the time I was privileged to spend with you when you were growing
faster than perhaps you ever will; and learning faster too.

You are now longer an infant; you are a five (and a half) month old
baby girl now and you are lucky to have such a wonderful mom and dad
to take care of you. But even they haven't shared what we have had
and the memory of our time together will live with me (and yes, wilth
you too, even if only as a kind of body memory). For me, it has been
one of the most precious times of my life and I will never forget it
or stop loving you, my most beloved granddaughter. May you continue to
journey happily and safely through life.

With all my love, always,

Nana xxxxx
PS you started not to want to sleep in your swing and the second pic
shows us both taking a nap together on the bed in the basement (after
grandpa Nick's arrival)

I love you Princess,

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:

Quotation of the Day

This Day in History

Is There Anybody Out There?

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