29 June 2016

dear finley: six months.

hi little chunker.

it's playtime here, our nice, quiet time together.  your brother is napping.  some days you nap when he does.  other days the stars just don't align, so you and i have some nice one-on-one time.  we rarely get that anymore, and i kind of love it when we do.  i stretch out a big blanket on the living room floor, and we roll around together.  or we get some toys out on my bed and just play.  you are playing so much these days.  anything your brother has, you want to play with.  anything

you've gotten so big in the last month.  so many changes.  you're sleeping in your own crib now, in your room.  and i have to say, you're loving it.  you can roll as much as you want, talk to yourself when you wake up in the mornings (still the happiest i've ever seen!), and play with your pacis.  you are still waking up at night to eat, but it's so much better than it was last month.  if you roll onto your belly, you'll sleep anywhere from six to eight hours at a time.  on your back you do a little less, but still not too bad.  sometimes i'm up twice a night, but when i'm lucky it's only once.  your naps are starting to break into a solid three a day -- one morning and two afternoon.  sometimes it's two mornings if you get up too early.

it's so funny to see you and your brother sync up your schedules.  you almost always wake up within half an hour of each other, as if you know the other is up and you can't wait to play.  three times now julian has woken up and gone right into your bedroom to see you -- i've had to stop him from waking you up in the mornings.  but sometimes i let him 'get you' from your nap, and he runs up the stairs, calling 'baby! baby! up! up!' and climbs right into your crib.  i'll watch you on the monitor, and a big grin stretches over your face as he swings his legs up and plops down next to you on your crib mattress.  you two are bonding, and it's the most amazing thing to watch.  the other day i was struggling to put groceries away and entertain you.  julian grabbed one of his animal books and brought it over to you on the floor, pointing out the different animals and colors to you.  you both laid on your bellies, looking at the page for a solid five minutes.  it was a small miracle to me.

you can roll over in both directions now.  it was a welcome development, because now you don't just scream on your belly, like you did last month.  you can push all your weight up (no easy feat) and kick that leg back over, landing you on your back.  you've learned that this new front-to-back-to-front roll can get you just about anywhere you want to go.  no more leaving you on the bed for a minute while i wash my hands.  if i lie you down on the floor in the living room to play for a minute, it's only moments before you roll over onto the hardwood floor where you can see me.  it's hilariously adorable.

another new feat is sitting up.  you've got a bit of a tripod sit going on, but your balance still needs a little work.  you can balance for a minute or so before topping over, and looking at me confused as to what just happened to you.  and, of course, you have continued to pack on the rolls of fat.  this is just so fantastic to me.  your rolls are one of the cutest things about you -- we're still calling you fat & happy.  but as big as you are, you haven't made the jump to solid food yet.  you're interested in things we eat, but just as you are interested in anything else we have in our hands that you could possibly fit into your mouth.  i gave you a small spoon full of mushed avocado last week when your brother and i were having avocado toast, and you were unimpressed.  you pushed it out of your mouth and turned your rubbery spoon around, chewing on the handle instead.  you seem to growing just fine, though -- so we're not really worried about it.

at six months, your eyes are still blue.  your hair is still brown peach fuzz.  you are still the easiest boy to make laugh, and your laugh is just like mine -- i'm sorry about that.  fins, you are still the happiest little guy i've ever met.  you smile constantly.  you've become *slightly* less of a velcro baby now that you can roll around and play, but the only whining you do is when you want to be held.  pick you up and you're the happiest fatty on the block.  keep it up, please.  your joy is contagious.  you bring us all so much happiness, and we are all so much better off with you around to make us smile.

i love you so much, little monkey.  SO much.

your mama.

31 May 2016

dear finley: five months.

hi fins.

you are asleep in your little bed next to me, silent.  i can't even hear you breathing, actually.  but i can see your little chest rising and falling, rising and falling.  this has been our greatest struggle this month.  sleep.

you will do it when your dad is holding you.  you will do it in the car seat [sometimes].  you will do it wrapped up in the moby.  you will do it attached to my breast.  but in your crib? or in our bed? or anywhere else?  not so much.  those lovely seven to even seven-and-a-half our stretches of last month are long time.  the four month sleep regression hit here and hit h a r d.  you've had nights where you are up eating every 2 hours.  sometimes i'll get lucky and get a 4 hour stretch before you are up every 2 and a half to 3 hours.  that's newborn sleep patterns right there, dude.  not cool.

my body has become an all-night buffet for you.  i'm the human waffle house.  and i'm exhausted.  and conflicted.  it was at about this age with your brother when i was sick of being tired and declared at 4am one morning that WE WERE ABSOLUTELY SLEEP TRAINING THIS BABY.  but now you're here, and maybe you're my last.  and at night, we sleep together.  one and the same.  you attached to my body, fitting into the soft grooves of my body.  i can feel your breath on my arm, on my chest, on my breast.  and i'm exhausted, yes, but part of me aches for those baby cuddles.  when your brother was this age, i couldn't possibly fathom why he wasn't sleeping on a schedule yet.  i was anxious for it to happen.  it seemed like all other babies had naptimes and bedtimes and cribs and parents that could occasionally drink a glass of wine in the evening.  but now, i look at you, and you're still so little.  [i mean, you're actually huge, but you're still so young.]  maybe you aren't ready to sleep away from me.  maybe you aren't ready for your crib for such long stretches.  who knows.

in this past month, you've also become my velcro baby.  you are stuck to me all. of. the. time.  i've become an expert in baby wraps and carriers, and can do just about anything in the world with my right arm while i hold you close in my left.  this past week i made a cake, muffins, and two quiches all with you tied up tight against my chest.  it's your comfort place.  i kind of like that.

this all might seem like i'm complaining, but really, you're an easy baby.  you're still so much fun, and so jolly.  you like to roll and play.  you are so in love with your big brother, it's completely endearing.  you lie on your belly and watch him roll his trains on the tracks, or go down the slide, or play with puzzles.  you laugh and grab onto his hair when he hugs you or lies his head on your big round belly.  you are content to lie on your crib, or on our bed, while i do various small tasks.  you have started to play with toys and will put everything in your mouth, like a typical 5 month old.  you're still working on rolling from your belly onto your back, and working on sitting up.  you're getting there.  it's such a wonderful privilege to watch you learn and grow.  i'm so happy about it all.

we celebrated your 5 month birthday in the best of ways, fins, which is why this letter to you is a couple days late.  it was your blessing day.  i had been looking forward to that day with more excitement than i'd had in a long time.  see, people are always saying that second babies get the shaft.  hand-me-down clothes, fewer photos, less attention and fussing.  and i wanted a day to celebrate YOU.  and celebrate we did.  we passed you around, you slept through your ceremony, and hardly let out a wail.  you napped in the shade and gave out little open-mouthed smiles for photos.  people flew from both coasts to snuggle and hold you, to bless you and keep you.  it was the best kind of way to celebrate you.

finley, you are the puzzle piece i never knew our family was missing.  you are the one who turned us into a family, from just a couple that had a kid.  you have brought so much joy and laughter to our home, and taught us to slow down and appreciate little things.  it's just so unbelievably pleasant to have you around.

even if we are both a little surprised at how quickly it's all going.

i think it's safe to say this past month was our best one yet.  and we're still just getting started.

i love you to the moon and back little fins.

your mama.

19 May 2016

the train ride.

we used to travel spontaneously.  a cheap fare alert would pop up on my phone, like an invitation from the universe to come and play.  i’d pack my well-traveled carry-on roller, a gift from my parents for my high school graduation, and stash some books in my purse.  grab my passport.  make a playlist for the plane.  we’d take red eyes to maximize the amount of time we’d have in our city of choice.  new york.  paris.  santa monica.  boston.  crash with family and eat out for every meal.  stroll the beach.  drink the evenings away.  talk late into the night with friends and family.  take our time.

but this trip is different.  now, it takes days to pack and plan.  nothing is spontaneous with two kids.  there is adventure of a much, much different sort.  days of laundry.  packing for every eventuality.  there could be a fever.  a stomach bug.  constipation.  a fire.  no eventuality is not accounted for, no horrifying possibility left unimagined.  not traveling is not an option for us.  to sit in our house, wait to be visited, every day and weekend the same would be a death, of sorts.  we pack up the kids and go.  take advantage of the rule of lap infants and sign the older one up for frequent flyer miles the day after his second birthday.  he already has his own backpack and pulls his roller through the airport.  he insists on doing itself.  fellow travelers think it’s all very adorable.  until we sit next to them.

today we are taking a train ride.  along the eastern coast, we will be heading south by the shore.  it’s not more than five hours, but it’s over nap time.  i’m armed with a fully charged ipad and every single sort of snack my toddler will eat.  

it feels like my journey through parenthood, this train ride.  it starts out easy enough.  one baby is sleeping so i only have to worry about the other.  there is some frustration early on, but we get past it.  it almost feels like it’s going to be easy, this four-hour train ride with two littles.  and then the other wakes up.  they’re hungry at the same time.  i throw cheddar bunnies and an apple juice box at one and my boob at the other.  but despite our best efforts, before long we’ve descended into utter chaos.  the baby is screaming out of tired frustration, and the toddler is eerily quiet.  moments later, we learn he apparently gets motion sickness.  this fact is now all over him, me, my phone, and the train seats around us.

life has not always been like this.  there was once more romantic train rides.  through the hills of tuscany and along the bosphorus.  playing cards and reading books.  sneaking wine on board.  long and late nights in exotic sleeper cars. laughing and flirting and flipping my hair.  backpacking and drinking and ordering one of each of the tapas. today is not like the train rides of my past life. today looks different.  today i am covered in throw up, spit up, poop from a diaper blow out.  from time to time, i notice looks of pity thrown my way.  looks of frustration.  looks of annoyance.  please don’t let her sit next to me, they seem to say with their eyes as i carry my sick toddler to the bathroom.  

i remind myself it will all be ok.  like everything in life, this train ride will not last forever.  we have a destination.  as the train rocks back and forth, our circumstances change.  

when we finally reach penn station, the struggle is almost over.  i stand with the kids as my husband pulls every piece of luggage off the train.  and unbelievably, i feel grateful.  every simple thing felt like a small miracle, a sign that things could always be more difficult.  

i’m thankful for amtrak workers who assure me they clean up toddler vomit all the time, and train cars with bathrooms that are semi-clean.  for taxi cab vans that fit the stroller, traffic jams long enough to nurse a baby in and hotel bellmen to carry our bags.  for toddlers fresh out of the shower and laundry bags that tie up tight, keep the smell of sick inside. and especially for the kindness of strangers on the street who grab your arm and whisper, “you’re doing a good job, mama.” 

when we finally arrive, we discover a small sliver of our previous lives before all these things, travel cribs and diaper bags.  we’ll drink wine out of juice glasses and put on the fluffy robes.  order room service.  the babies will sleep when they’re tired enough.  we’ll binge watch our favorite show, sharing one set of earbuds between us, and sneak glances across the bed in the flickering light of the laptop.  it will all be ok.  

i’ll go to sleep and dream of a surprise train ticket, where i pack my suitcase and board the train and don’t find out where we are going until the train leaves the station.  life will once again be lived spontaneously and filled with the unknown.

until i wake up.