Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Letter to My Daughter Brennan: Four Years Old

Note: this was originally drafted six months ago in September even though it's just now being posted, so I'm back-dating it. The delay was in hopes I would gather pictures, but that will have to happen sometime later.

Dear Brennan,

You are now FOUR years old.

Since I last wrote, you became a big sister. You once told me that “everything” would be your favorite when you became a big sister, and I admit I doubted you. However, I couldn’t have guessed how much you would love your sister. Once in a while you might ask, “Mommy, why do you have to do so much for Gretchen?” or “Why do you have to hold her so much?” I answer the questions, often asking for your help to do so, and you end up giggling by the end.

You started school. As expected, you love it. In fact, when I pick you up at lunchtime, you regularly want to continue playing school. The advantage of this is that you don’t ever try to argue with your teacher!

Your adored baby, Close-and-Open-Eyes Baby, has become a frequent topic of conversation. Much like an invisible friend, she has an active life. She’s constantly having birthdays, and you will soberly tell me of when she’s naughty and we are equally mortified by her actions.

You still mispronounce words or have amusing turns of phrase. When you have a cold you regularly search out ‘neenex.’ And you will tell me, “Mommy, we never went for a bike ride in a long time.”

You continue to be creatively driven. You can – and sometimes do – color for hours. You love to roleplay.

Books sometimes keep you distracted for long stretches. We recently gave you one of Daddy’s books from childhood, The Way Things Work. It is a bit beyond you, but it hasn’t been unusual for you to request us to read a couple sections as your bedtime story (I recently read about zippers and planes before tucking you in). I love reading chapter books with you. We only have one chapter left to go in The Little House in the Big Woods, and I can’t wait to move on to the other books in the series that I remember more.

While you are quite artistic and bookish, the athletic gene seems to be missing (don’t worry – you’ve come by this absence honestly!). And during summer swim lessons, while I would try to encourage you to do everything the teacher asked of you, it wasn’t unusual for you to tell me, “I just didn’t want to, Mommy. Maybe tomorrow.”

Daddy and I really wrestled with whether or not to start you in school early. But when we weighed all the factors, it seemed you were more than ready, and the school, as well with many friends or family that knew you, agreed with us. I admit my hesitation was emotional. You have a tender heart and are easily wounded when we have to be firm with you. Add your imaginative streak, and I wondered how you would adjust to a more rigid school day. And I don’t know how you will react to a harsh word from a classmate, or correction from a teacher.

However, these concerns were unfounded. You blossomed at school. You quickly made friends with several of the girls. You are a huge rule follower, so the teacher’s word is law. If she says that when you walk in the halls, you need to pretend to put a bubble in your mouth and give yourself a hug until back in the classroom or outside, you will do it very seriously and be the best at it. You are very empathetic. Some days I would pick you up, and you would be sad. As I would draw you out, you’d admit it was because someone had a necklace break: “Isn’t that sad, Mommy? It was her favorite.”

And now I’m returning to this letter six months later. I’ll end it here for now, as I hope to add an updated one. Just know that, as always, I’m so happy to be your mommy.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Letter to My Daughter Gretchen: Five Months Old

Note: this was originally drafted six months ago in September even though it's just now being posted, so I'm back-dating it. The delay was in hopes I would gather pictures, but that will have to happen sometime later. 


You’re now five months old. It’s been a busy last month.

For a couple weeks now you’ve been quite steady sitting on your own. Whereas I used to sit behind you to catch you as you would suddenly list to the side, I don’t hesitate to leave you playing on a blanket if I need to make your sister a quick lunch, aid her in play, etc.

Napping has improved insofar as location is concerned. I made a concerted effort to transition you to your bed instead of serving as your sleeping surface, and it was a clear success. Sometimes you’ll just coo yourself to sleep, other times I may be needed to rub your back for a couple minutes, but rarely do I have to take you down to the recliner. This has been HUGE for me. I was feeling constricted, limited by what I could do during the day since I was so often holding you and yet feeling overwhelmed by all that I couldn’t do while a baby was in my arms. Now that you nap in the crib, I can wash dishes, do laundry, clean litter, and – probably the biggest for me – get back into my loft. Yes, I am retreating to my loft again, after a very long hiatus, and I’m slowly ramping up production and inventory for my Etsy shop. All of these things combined help me to feel very settled.

A friend asked me last week how I was doing with two, and I honestly answered that it was great, that I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I think much of that has to do with more normalcy and routine to our days.

I remember, with your big sister, hearing how people recommended setting the child in the crib and rubbing their back. This never worked for her. I’ve long wondered if it worked on any babies. Turns out you are the sort of baby that responds to this.  So not only do you transfer relatively well once asleep, if you do come to and start to fuss, I can usually still leave your room baby-free after a couple minutes of rubbing your back.

Of course, all of this can be quite fluid. This week I’ve felt less awesome in the mothering department, seeming to just get by. I started the week with a couple days of illness. I suspect back-to-school germs, although I’ve been the only one to succumb. Then there is that fact that you haven’t napped more than thirty minutes in a stretch since Tuesday. You had been treating me to two long naps a day (around 1.5 - 2.5 hours each), along with a couple thirty-minute naps. Now you barely reach the thirty-minute mark. And instead of only waking once a night (sometimes not until five or six am, like the week previous), you were suddenly waking up to three times a night. I’m not exactly sure why the sudden change, although cognitive leaps and mastery of new skills can often impact sleep. I’m certainly hoping the end is in sight, as I’ve resembled a zombie more than I prefer these recent days.

Speaking of new skills, you are quite the accomplished baby. In addition to your awesome sitting skills, you’re starting to scoot onto your knees when on your belly (note: feel free to delay the whole crawling thing – trust me, it’s overrated. Plus, your big sister loves to feel useful). You are alert when awake and love to return smiles and giggles. This makes you quite popular with strangers, particularly the under-three crowd at school pickup. You are able to grab toys, often preferring to rank them on chewability and gnawability, as you now boast two teeth. You love to bounce in your jumperoo and swivel in your exersaucer.

I really appreciate how mellow you are. It is easy to have you tag along to events. Rarely do you cry, even when due for a nap, particularly if you are snuggled up in a wrap.  We had several new-semester events, and you could just sleep in the carrier whenever you needed to, and watch attentively otherwise.  You were usually riveted with all the people, making your naps much later than normal, but, again, this didn’t impact your happy demeanor.

The one exception has been a couple days we attended evening church. We tried you in the nursery, but you didn’t last long either time. You were nearly inconsolable when Mommy or Daddy retrieved you, so separation anxiety seems to have set in a little early.  We’ve had one babysitter, where you did fine, so I’m hoping it’s not a guarantee every time we need to be gone.

Again, this letter has sat dormant for six months, so I’ll end here and let you wait in anticipation as to all that has transpired since September.

Love you,