I mentioned it briefly in an earlier post, but I have to say that even today, one day into your second year of life, you still feel tiny and light in my arms as we rock to sleep. You lie there with your relaxed little angel face and seem so fragile still. You’re not, of course. Not like you were a year ago. Not at all like that small bundle we brought home last year. It’s raining the same as it did while we spent our day in the hospital, then. The leaves had just started to change on the branches by the time I went into labor, and by the time we brought you home, the branches were already bare from the weather.
This month you have learned a number of tricks. You make the most adorable muscles. Every night as I am getting you ready for bed, I slather you up with Aquaphor from head to toe, and as we rub the salve into your arms, I talk about your muscles and help you flex them in various muscleman poses. One night a few weeks ago, you flexed your muscles without any help, just the mention of the word. And it’s hard to describe the extent of the cuteness of your muscle pose, so here’s a picture:
You have also learned an “I don’t know” shrug, with your elbows bent and your palms up in the air. When we ask you where your food goes, and answer “in my belly,” you point with both fingers to that general area, which has become so round and plump, just like a baby’s belly should be. You know where your own eyes are, your nose, your hair, your tongue and ears. You can “wink” in that way that babies do, squeezing both eyes shut, opening them back up and smiling like you’re the greatest. And of course, you are. When I tell you that you are a little stinky and say “P-U” you reach up and pinch my nose. Sometimes it’s not the most gentle pinch, but we’re still working on “gentle,” though I have to say, you seem to automatically understand how to be gentle as you learn about my eyes, which I appreciate.
Speaking of automatic understanding, you have led the way in a number of ways that I probably shouldn’t spend too much time bragging about so as to protect myself from the wrath of more frustrated mothers in these certain areas. You poop on the potty about 80% of the time now. And truly, you’re so darned regular that the only reason I still have to change any poopy diapers is because I’m the one who’s not 100% trained here. But I do have to say that early last week, you crawled into the dark and open bathroom all on your own, and said, “eh.” When I followed you in there, I checked your diaper, which was still dry. So we bared your bottom and sat you on the toilet, and you immediately peed. You did the same thing a few hours later. And this has occurred a few times in the days since. So maybe it’s not a fluke, and you are starting to really understand when you need to do your business and the proper place in which to conduct it.
You have been sleeping. The “bad” nights these days mean that you wake up twice. It used to be twice was “good.” Now, once is normal and zero is good. And usually if we have a “once” night, that one wake up tends to happen before Mom and Dad are in bed, which means that we’re not groggy and frustrated at you for dragging us out of our warm bed and a deep cozy sleep. Which is to say that we don’t mind so much. I’ve never really minded your night wakings, actually, because most of the time you’re pretty easy to get resettled. You mostly seem to cry and yell while you’re still essentially sleeping, and you just can’t figure out how to get comfortable again after you’ve managed to sleep sit or sleep stand in your crib. I’m glad that you never drove me to making a difficult attempt at one of the various regimens of sleep training, because I’m not sure that either of us would have been happy with any of those.
You are constantly learning, figuring things out, busy. You have figured out how all the shapes fit in their holes in the plastic drum. You constantly test gravity by placing one of your many toys and various kitchen utensils on a surface and smacking it around to see what happens. If it rolls, if it falls off, where it lands and what sound it makes when it does. You throw balls and blocks and cups. And one Cheerio at a time off your high chair. Your new favorite spot in the house is the entrance hallway with the laminate floor. Because plastic makes an echoing sound over there. So does your voice. You even kicked a ball this very afternoon.
You are walking so well these days. And just in the last few days your preference has switched from crawling to walking. You are getting faster, but you’re not quite steady enough to run. You still fall. But it doesn’t bother you. You either pick yourself right back up to your feet or change gears and crawl on your merry way.
You have started to eat more foods. And maybe it’s because I’ve gotten lazy with the prep work, or maybe something you did inspired me to take your food to the next level, but either way, you have become an excellent biter. You eat bananas right from the peel. You love bananas and you take big eager bites, but when you first see me retrieve one, usually at breakfast time, you can hardly contain your excitement. Your legs go and go, and you raise your arms up in the air, and you open your mouth, and your tongue pours out, and it’s all you can do to keep from trembling. You have eaten whole peas and pretzels. You enjoy pancakes and rice cakes. I have even made you your own sandwich some days for lunch because I was making my own and that way, I don’t have to share. Lately, you’ve been a little more interested in the bite after it’s in your mouth, which often means it gets to make a second appearance on your face, tray or palm, but for the most part, you are still just as eager an eater as you’ve been from the start.
This weekend, your grandma and grandpa M came to town. We went to pick them up at the airport, and as soon as Grandma got in the back seat with you, you two were cracking up just like old friends who had never been apart. You look at pictures of your relatives every day, and I’m pretty sure that you are starting to recognize them in a way. You might not completely understand how someone can be both in the room with you and on a picture you are looking at, but you’re beginning to realize that those images somehow apply to real life, which is fascinating to watch as you try to put it all together in that brain of yours.
You can carry on a conversation that actually resembles those exchanges that English-speaking people have with actual words. Usually, your sounds are pleasant and thoughtful, but sometimes, you get irritated and have started talking back, such as when Daddy tells you “no” and you happen to disagree. On top of that, when I tell you “no,” which to be honest, isn’t all that often, you burst into tears and cry for a good five minutes until you either forget what I wasn’t letting you do or find something that will be a suitable substitute. Unfortunately for you, as much as I understand how upset you are and as much as I hate to make my baby cry, I’m not one to give in to such dramatics, so eventually, you’ll have to find another way to play this mommy.
And speaking of conversation, yesterday, your grandma and grandpa D called to wish you a happy birthday, and as usual, we turned on the speaker phone. Grandpa was talking to you first, and you just stood there, in the living room with all of us (me, Daddy, grandma and grandpa M), not saying a word, just kind of reaching for the phone until Dad let you have it. When Grandma came on the line, you took the phone and headed on down the hall to your bedroom, where we all heard Grandma on the phone and your responses to her questions and comments. It was the craziest thing, and something that I would have never expected to have happen for, I don’t know, another decade at least. You were all like, “Excuse me, guys, this is a private conversation between me and Grandma. I’m going to take this in my room.” When your dad walked back to see what was going on, you were just sitting in the middle of the floor back there with the phone in your lap, talking right to it.
You are doing so much, I can’t possibly include each and every little thing, even in an insanely long letter like this one has already become. You laugh at your own jokes. You say “da-da,” “ma-ma,” and “na-na,” which either means banana or night-night. You repeat actions that get laughter out of your audience, even if it was something like smacking yourself in the face with a hard object. You fake cough for attention or so someone will give you a sip of their water. You fake laugh. You even fake cry. You love books. You give hugs, but yours are not the traditional open-armed embrace. Instead, you tuck your arms straight down against your chest and lean your body in, resting your head on our shoulder. It is similar to the way you still sleep, arms tucked in, knees bent, face pressed into the bed and butt up in the air. I love spending my days with you, watching you learn and grow, popping bubble wrap, going to the playground or to our play group, taking you to get groceries, playing peek-a-boo with you hiding and jumping out from behind the couches or under a blanket, or crawling in and out of that big box that held your new car seat, which was so much fun I hated that we finally had to throw it away. It may not be a glamorous day-to-day, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Michael, one year ago, you came into our lives after great anticipation. You have made everything better than it would have been for us without you. And I can’t wait to see where you’ll lead us next.