Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dear Jack: Six Months

Dear Jack,

There seems to be something that happens around six months with babies as they grow.  Suddenly, there is a change.  And you have hit that place.

You are bubbling over with so much more personality.  You are so happy all the time (unless you are hungry) and laugh at everything.  It is so easy to get you to smile, even at a camera.

You are intrigued by everything around you.  You can sit up now on your own, and we have started giving you regular baths without your whale for support.  You just tried to sit up and lean forward in it anyway.  This has made bathtime enjoyable for you and more of "splash zone" at Sea World for me.  We had some unusually warm weather and took advantage of the beach.  You had so much fun eating sand and laughing at the wind.  I can't wait for the summer when we'll spend lots of time at the beach.

Your speech is developing well.  You have been babbling for a while, and your first word was "dada".  You have tried to say "mom," but instead it comes out "ba mommmm-ba".  You say "ba" a lot too.

We're still working on food and bottles with you.  You hate bottles (and sippy cups).  You will not drink from anyone but me.  You are taking your time with food too, which was the same with Eliot.
You are growing all the time.  You are wearing size six month clothes at some stores and also nine month sleepers.  You weigh over seventeen pounds!  Your fuzzy hair continues to grow longer, but it isn't filling out much more.  You look like a baby bird with soft, down feather.  I think your blue eyes are officially here to stay.  When you were born, I figured your blue eyes would change and your dark hair would stay; it ended up being the complete opposite!

You and I have had some trouble with sleep lately.  Your sleep kept getting worse and worse until you were awake almost constantly all night.  Then I managed to get you to sleep in your crib.  You still get up every couple of hours usually, but I keep you in your room until morning (usually about 6:00 am) when you will be waking up every thirty minutes anyway until you are up for the day.  Your brother never slept in his crib (not one night) even when I would climb in there with him, so while it is rough with you waking up so often, it is refreshing that I don't have to fight to keep you in your own space.  And you roll around so much that I think you appreciate NOT co-sleeping!

We just finished up celebrating Christmas with you and Eliot.  While you didn't understand what was going on, it was fun to watch you unwrap presents (with a little help) and get excited about new toys.  You also are very interested in your brother's toys--maybe moreso than your own.  You love to hold things and they go straight into your mouth.  Eliot, of course, is not excited about you eating his toys.

Jack, we are half-way to a year.  I know everything is going to be different when we get to a year, and everything keeps on changing now as it is.  I'm trying to enjoy this time even though it is flying by and I am honestly so excited for warmer weather.  This is a special time with you as my baby, my littlest one.  So sweet and precious, you always make me feel important and happy.  I love you, Jack.  I am so thankful that you came into our lives.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dear Eliot: Two Years, Eleven Months

Dear Eliot,

You are getting so close to three....  Just one more month.  When I hold your brother and then look over at you, I cannot believe that you were once a little baby too.  You have seemed like such a big boy for so long, and you are always doing or saying something outrageously funny and full of personality.

This might not make any sense at all to you, but I hope that I never forget it.  You are so into the ending scene of Jurassic Park.  Like, it's ridiculous.  In case no one cares about Jurassic Park in the future, let me explain that the movie ends with the people about to be eaten by raptors.  These guys have been terrorizing everyone the whole movie.  Then, out of nowhere, the t-rex eats the raptors, which allows the people to escape just in time.  You get so stoked on it.  You watch it on our laptops and phones all the time and scream, "The t-rex rescues them!"  When we see someone that you haven't seen in a while, you asked to show them the clip.  You impersonate it with growls and snarls.  You love Jurassic Park.  You love t-rexes.  And I love how you say "raptors"--it always comes out as "rappers".  So good!

You love to play dinosaurs too.  You ask me to pretend to be a t-rex so that you can hide.  Sometimes I am a "mad" t-rex.  Other times I am a "nice" t-rex.  You love to stomp around the house and roar.  It's so fun to watch your imagination grow.

I've spent a bit of time lately thinking back to a year ago and about how much has changed.  We've come a long way, kid, you and me.  I remember last year, we took you to see the lights at the Botantical Gardens for Christmas.  You loved them, but when it was time to go, you cried the whole way home--and it is not a short drive.  This year, you loved them again, but when it was over, you asked why and then accepted it.  You didn't cry at all.  We're making it through this thing called growing up, and I think we're doing OK between the two of us. 

I'm always worried that I am scarring you or failing miserably, but the thing is, I know we're fine when I tuck you in at night.  You say the sweetest things to me.  You tell me that you love me "so much," that I am "so special to [you]," and that I am pretty.  I don't think you would say such sweet things if I were doing the worst job ever as your parent.  You're such a big kid these days.

Every day, I am so thankful and proud of you as a big brother.  Jack is learning to take your toys, which is hard on you at times, but you are working through it.  You are gentle and share on your terms.  When it isn't your idea, you are a bit taken back at first, yet you come around.  You love taking care of Jack and reading to him.  And my favorite part of seeing you two together is when you don't know I'm looking.  Sometimes Jack will be crying in his crib, and I might run to grab something real quick.  Often, you sneak into his room, turn on his light, hold his hand through the slats in the crib, and assure him, "Jacky, it's OK.  It's all right.  I'm here."  These are the things I say to him, too.  And you know what?  He stops crying.  You comfort him so well, and seeing your relationship grow just makes my heart explode.

I love watching you grown and how observant you are.  So often, you want to bring the world along with you.  Even if we are going for a short car ride, you want to bring more toys than is reasonable.  And when we go outside, you want to collect the sticks, gumballs,stray feathers, and leaves.  On the beach, you collect shells.  You find the tiniest shell and give it to me to put in my pocket for you, entrusting me to keep it safe.  You are amazing, Eliot Thomas.  I want to live up to the image you have of me.  I want to give you all the best.  I want to see the world the way you do.  You're so smart, funny, beautiful, and wise.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Watching the Trees in Three Seasons At Once

It feels like we are all over the place with seasons here in Virginia.  One day it feels like winter, then fall, and then we're at the beach wishing we had our suits.  It was that warm today.  And though it gives me headaches sometimes, I am so thankful for the sunshine, warmth, and sand on my feet.

I haven't been uploading many photos lately, but this isn't necessarily because I haven't been taking them.  No, instead I had some issues with the software on my computer, so I'm trying to catch up.  Also, knowing that I couldn't edit photos kind of put a damper on my photo-taking mood.

I am taking more photos again, though, enjoying life and trying to capture every detail.  Here is Eliot drawing waves in the sand.  I love how observant he is.  I love how he finds the tiniest whole shell and gives it to me to keep safe in my pocket.  I put it away, worrying that it will be lost in my pockets, but reflecting on his trust and confidence that mommies can protect all things.

These nights, I have been having a bit of a rough time with Jack.  I am unsure of what to do with him....  He wakes frequently and wants to nurse to go back to sleep.  By "frequently," I mean as often as every thirty minutes, and never sleeping more than every two hours.  I've tried putting him in his crib, letting him co-sleep a little, keeping him in the portacrib, and everything in between.  There are some nights that I sleep with him on the couch in the den because he is just waking everyone else up.  I honestly think he is hungry in the night (or just using me as a paci).  I try feeding him food (he rejects it) and also giving him a bottle.  He still won't drink out of a bottle....  And that worries me.  There isn't much to do other than to keep trying.  We give him a bottle at least once a day and try various bottles and nipples.  He'll get it eventually, I'm sure.  He doesn't like pacis either, so the bottle is similar, I guess.  Other than nighttime, he is usually pretty happy, so I don't think he is going around hungry all day or anything.  It's hard, but it is just a season.  We'll be moving into the next before I know it.

I spent a good amount of time today looking up at the sky and swaying trees with my boys.  I set out a blanket on the grass in the backyard and I tried to just be with them--to just be in this moment when Jack is five months old and amazed by the sky and when Eliot is almost three and wants to throw leaves in the air (and coax his brother into eating leaves too).  It is these quiet moments with my boys that I cherish more than anything.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanksgiving This Year

I feel like I am just now getting back to normal after Thanksgiving.  It was our first Thanksgiving in the new house and our second time hosting.  However, it was the first time we hosted with this many people and also the first time both Chris's family and my family had Thanksgiving together.  I think I felt a little more pressure because of that (but not in a bad way--just hoping that everything went smooth).

And everything was going well.  The day before, we picked up our fancy free-range, humane turkey from Whole Foods.  I baked three dozen rolls.  I prepped what dishes I could.  In the morning, though, Chris was sick.  Very sick.  His sister (who had spent about a week with us) was throwing up.  It was not going as planned and I needed extra hands to help clean.  Chris's parents hit traffic on the way down, so they were a little later than planned....  And my parents' electricity went out so they couldn't cook the dishes they planned to bring.  Goodness!  Fortunately, my parents were able to help me clean some and took Eliot for the day.  After all of the complications, dinner was just an hour late (oops...) and I think everyone had a good time.  Since Chris's sister was feeling so bad, his family left that night, which was really, well, sad, but we'll be seeing them again quite soon for Christmas.  And we did get to see a lot of Elizabeth!

The next day, Chris was feeling quite a bit better.  He and my dad worked on our Christmas lights some and then later on we got our tree.  I like a more classic and "cottage-y" look with white lights, candles in the windows, and wreaths, but Chris really wanted to do colored lights.  Well, if that's the case, I said we should go all out tacky and get the big colored lights.  Ha.  After about six hours of work (spread out over three days or so), our house is bright.

We did a bit of grading over the weekend, and Chris helped my dad with his lights.  Suddenly, I felt a little off.  Before I knew it, I was super sick and throwing up.  I don't know if I caught Chris's bug (which I thought was food poisoning) or what, but it was awful.  And I still had deadlines to meet.  My mom took Eliot for the day and I managed to get my work done somehow.  So, in some ways, I feel like I'm still trying to catch up from Thanksgiving as we move forward to Christmas, but I'm OK with that.

Because even when we're sick, I'm thankful that we're not MORE sick.
Because even when the house is messy, I'm thankful we have these little boys to make the mess.
Because even when I need to empty the dishwasher, I'm thankful that we have food.
Because even when I feel overwhelmed, I'm thankful for my supportive family--both immediate and extended.
Because even when I feel so tired from lack of sleep, I'm thankful that I'm waking up to my little Jack.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dear Jack: Five Months

Dear Jack,

You are sleeping quietly next to me in bed.  I watch you softly breathing and listen to muffled raindrops hitting my bedroom window.  You are so calm and peaceful.  You fall asleep on me often while nursing, but I love these moments when you sleep in my bed before I move you to your crib--these times when I can watch you without the usual noise of the rest of the house.

You are five months old today.  What changes!  All of the time, always changes.  I took you to the doctor today for two vaccines.  There in the waiting room, a new mom held her two-week-old baby boy.  I couldn't believe how small he was.  And then I couldn't believe that you were once that little too.  You have changed so much.  Today you sat straight up in my lap, looked around the room, smiled at strangers, chewed on your fingers, and let out a few loud music notes as you sang.  You are growing!

This month, you've accomplished a few big things.  You can roll over both ways now.  You can pull your toys down yourself to make them create noise.  You are still working on those bottom teeth (they seem so close!).  You don't sit up on your own, but you're getting there.  When you roll on your tummy, you push up and almost seem like you are trying to army crawl.

It is fun to watch you play with toys now.  I think your favorite toy right now, though, is your feet.  You love to roll from side to side and pull on your toes.

I tried offering you some solids, but you aren't interested.  Just like with your brother, I gave you mushed avocado.  You didn't get it at all.  I don't think you are ready yet, and I'm really not stressing about it.  You'll get there when you are ready.  We are still exclusively breastfeeding, but I thought it would be a good idea to try to get you used to a bottle.  You hated that idea, so that is what my next project will be:  teaching you to use a bottle.  I just want you to have that "skill" of sorts in case I have to be away from you.

Jack, you are sweet, soft, affectionate, and happy.  It is SO easy to make you laugh.  You love peek-a-boo, airplane, tickles (and you are ridiculously ticklish), and standing up.  You still hate car rides, being in the dark, and being hungry.  Your teeth or SOMETHING is bothering you lately, so you are either always super happy or quite fussy.  Usually, though, you are happiest in the morning.  And, honestly, you are quite easy-going.  We have taken you to a couple early morning races to watch your dad run, and you just smile, giggle, and endure the cold.  You stick your tongue out trying to catch the wind.  As long as you aren't in the car, you're doing well.

You experienced your first snow for about three seconds this month.  There were just flurries, but your brother wanted to go outside, so we all bundled up for a few photos.

In a couple of days it will be Thanksgiving--our first one with you.  I don't have to be reminded by a holiday, though, to be thankful for all of the blessings we have.  Every single day, I look at you and hold back the tears of gratefulness that I feel.  We prayed for you, baby, and our hearts hurt while we struggled to understand loss.  And all while I was pregnant with you, I was overjoyed yet also overcome by fear--the fear of losing you.  But then you came.  Healthy, beautiful, perfect--complementing our family and bringing us into a new dynamic.  You are perfect for us and I hope that I can be close to perfect for you.  I thank God for you every day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dear Eliot: Two Years, Ten Months

Dear Eliot,

I have recently stopped telling people that you are "two and a half".  Instead, I say that you are almost three.  You are, you know, much closer to three than two these days.  I can hardly believe how fast you have grown, but you act like such a big kid.

You let me know that you are big, too.  Sometimes I accidentally call you "my baby," but you smile and say, "noooo," like I said something so silly, like I called you a dog or something as a joke.  You don't see yourself as a baby at all.  However, you still are so sweet to me.  You love to be held and cuddled.  I still tuck you in at night, and you give me Eskimo kisses and tell me that you love me unprompted.  I think that is one of my favorite parts of the day.  No matter if we've had a rough day or a great one, you always make me feel like I'm doing a good job since you always tell me that you love me without me even asking or saying it first.

You had your first trick-or-treating experience this Halloween.  You have been going on and on about wanting to "go to Halloween" and be Buzz Lightyear.  We finally did it!  You were so stoked to say "trick or treat" and kept saying it before people would open the door all of the way to hear you.  It was so funny.  You had a great time, and I worried that you might not understand why we couldn't do it again another day, but things settled out and you accepted that Halloween is over.

We enrolled you in soccer classes.  I am hoping to sign you up for soccer in the spring, and I wanted to get you started in a group activity to prepare you.  Once a week, you play soccer and other games with a group of kids.  At first, you were shy and didn't want to stretch, but within a handful of minutes, you were running and playing with all of the other kids.  I was so proud!  You keep growing socially.

The funniest thing with you and other kids is the way you get started talking to them....  We might be at the park and you'll find some kids your age.  And then you start talking about your shirt or their shirt, and then you and the other kids automatically set up a game of chase.  Instant friends!

I am so thankful that you and your brother are continuing to get along well.  You try to take care of him and play with him.  Almost every night, you drag your blanket from your room into the den and set up pillow so you two can cuddle.  It's so cute and pulls at my heart every time.

You're definitely stepping it up in "big boy" status.  After sleeping on a mattress on the floor in your room for a while, your Robinson grandparents gave you their bunk beds for your room!  Your granddad slept in those beds with his brother when he was a boy.  Now I suppose you and Jack will share them when Jack grows big enough.  You think the bunk beds are the coolest toy.  We play ship, house, fort, and so many games with them.  Not to mention that you have gotten really good at climbing ladders....

I love your creativity and your imagination.  I love how you always want to play, jump off of every surface, pet every cat, collect every fallen leaf, test out every pen by drawing pictures, and kick every ball.  You make me so proud and thankful every day.  I love watching you grow, little guy.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Mothering Two

I'm no expert on mothering two babies at this point, but I have been at it for about four and a half months now.  When I was pregnant with Jack, I was taken back by the number of negative comments I received, especially when people heard I was having a second boy.  Another boy? Oh, well, maybe next time.  Maybe next time what?!  Two boys?  You're really in for it.  Yes, in awesomeness.  You're really going to have your hands full--more than you realize.  Talk about doom and gloom...  Complete strangers would say these things, and some of those people worked in my OB office.  Goodness!  As if I weren't nervous enough about handling two without emotionally damaging them.

However, it has been four and a half months, and all is going just fine!

Some nights, Christopher and I will sit on different couches.  One of us holds, loves on, and tickles one son while the other plays with the other.  Life sure is different with kids, especially with two, and our hands are full, yet I never feel sad on these nights.  Instead, I feel so thankful.  I'm thankful for both of our boys and that my husband so freely loves on them with me.  We might be sitting across the room from one another, but I certainly do not feel distant from him.

Maybe we just got lucky with Eliot and Jack since there don't seem to be any jealousy issues.  I know I might still "have it coming" later when Jack is able to knock down Eliot's block towers (and we'll deal with that when we get there), yet Eliot just adores Jack.  And Jack seems so intrigued by Eliot.  Every night, Eliot brings out a blanket, throws two pillows on the floor, and sets up a little snugglefest for himself and Jack.  It's so cute.  And it takes everything in me to stop myself from saying, "Stopppp pulling Jack!  Don't put so much blanket on himmm!"  Because  He smiles so big and laughs on and on.

I do worry about balancing the two in the right way.  Jack relies on me for so much more than Eliot, so I have to juggle who gets their needs met first.  There are times when I nurse Jack and tell Eliot that he will have to wait.  When Eliot started asking, "You have to feed Jack first?" after making most requests, I felt guilty at first.  He must feel like he never comes first.  He must feel unimportant....  Then I realized no, that isn't necessarily the case.  He is realizing that sometimes he has to wait because his "wants" and minor "needs" aren't always the first priority.  He accepts that and has never thrown a fit over having to wait for Jack to eat.  He is learning to be patient.  And then there are times when I allow Jack to grumble or fuss for a little bit longer than I want to because I'm getting something for Eliot.  I might be getting snack for Eliot while Jack wants to be re-positioned, but Jack can wait just a moment.

I might have a lot to do between the two--twice the diapers, twice the feedings, twice the laundry--but they often entertain each other and give me a break.  Jack is so incredibly fascinated by Eliot.  He watches his every move.  And Eliot loves to sit on the floor and talk to Jack.  Before Jack came along, it would be hard to find a distraction for Eliot if I needed to tidy up or something, but now I just tell Eliot to talk to Jack.  Everyone is happy.

The sweetest thing of all, I think, is stepping back and watching Eliot try to take care of Jack.  When Jack cries, Eliot assures him that it is OK and sings "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star".  Eliot brings him blankets when he thinks Jack is cold.  Eliot tries to help me give Jack a bath.  It's not always easy.  It is sometimes hard.  But isn't everything worth having just a little hard sometimes?  I have loved having one boy for two and a half years before Jack came, but, you know what? I love having two boys even more.
When I was pregnant, I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to do it with two.  I tend to ignore negativity when it comes my way, yet with this, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe they would be right.  Two boys at two very different places could be so rough.  And life with a newborn?  It's hard, right?  But you choose what you focus on.  I can't even remember what it was like without Jack--and I don't want to necessarily.  I love these two boys together.  They'll have ups and downs, but if now is any indication of the future, they're going to be best friends.  I can't wait to watch them grow together.