Friday, August 31, 2012

Nine Months: Athlete in Action

Nine months.  Wow.  This year is going by so fast.  But, as much as I try to cling to all of my precious lasts with you, you entice me on to the next step with your sparkling smile and exuberance.

I think my favorite part of this stage is seeing you crawl from point A to point B, with a focused look of determination on your face.  There is always an object you are aiming for, frequently to insert directly into your mouth!  If we distract you for your attention, you will sit and turn to us, happily flapping your arms at your if you anticipate it might help you to fly...making the sound Aah...Aah...Aah.  Then, back to business you return.

You have officially transitioned from pulling yourself along the floor to crawling on hands and knees.  I remember thinking that the day Papa and I were leaving for our anniversary trip might be the last time I could get a video of your doing your army crawl.  Yesterday I had a brief glimpse as you and Anna Ruth (who was being silly of course) pulled along for a few paces.

You are like an Olympic athlete in training, crawling with focus, pulling up, creeping along the side of the table, and as of yesterday, attempting to take a step or two along the coffee table holding on with only one hand!  That part panicked you though, and after your three consecutive steps, you looked at me with a panic stricken face and cried until I came to rescue you.  (I love to rescue you, by the way, and I love that I'm the one you want to do it!)

You've also had your first tumble down the stairs....the inevitable, but much feared fall, for which we are very grateful you suffered nothing but a fright.  And considering your new found delight in pulling up, you've been experiencing several hard bonks to the head from slamming into things as well.  Poor baby!  I wish I could put padding around everything. 

Everything is going in your mouth these days.....even food sometimes.  :-) Crayons, bits of paper, sticks, dirt, shoes, and toys. We are all trying our best to stay two steps ahead of you, picking up what may have been dropped by the many little hands that live here.  Despite my tendency to cling to your baby stages, this is one stage I will be relieved to pass through!

This month saw your first pancake breakfast with the family. And...heard your first words?!  We could have sworn we heard you say "Nana" (banana), "Eme" (Emet), and "Bye Bye" in addition to, of course, "Mama"...which you say ALOT....especially when hungry or in distress. 

Your voice is much more full and rounded out now, and you certainly put it to good use!  You also seem to be doing the "more" sign, even though we haven't worked very much at all with you to do it.

Laying you down in your crib results in you immediately turning back over and sitting up, often crawling to the edge of the crib and pulling up on the railing......especially if your big sister is over in her bed (not) sleeping!  Then, you two will smile and giggle at each other long past when nap time should have commenced.

And speaking of giggles, yesterday I put the two of you girls into the bath together.....I think for the first time.  Anna Ruth continually dumped water on her head, and oh how you two giggled! Which...of course made Emet and I, who were watching, laugh all the harder!

Another good way to get you to smile and giggle is by playing Pat-a-Cake.  I can't quite tell if you enjoy it yourself, or if you simply love to watch us being silly.  

Due to our busy summer schedule, you have been missing your morning nap, so the afternoon nap has been a long one, frequently accompanied by a great deal of fussing as you cross past the point of exhaustion.  In these moments, though, you are so much more likely to simply want to be held and snuggled by Mama....something I don't take lightly.  I'll take all the snuggles I can get.

Your hair is continuing to fill in, and do I see a little curl at the ends of your hair?  The twelve month clothes we moved into just last month are starting to be a little snug.  You must be growing like a weed!  I'm starting to believe that the little pumpkin costume all three of your siblings have worn for their first Halloween will either have to be skipped by you, or worn as a shirt.  It was a little small for them too!

I love to watch you interact with your sister as you both stand or sit in front of the doll house or toy kitchen, grabbing at toys.  If you have infringed upon Anna Ruth's property at all, we will hear her burst of crying and her haughtily proclaim..."Naughty Gwacie!"  Oh boy....  :-)

When Papa comes home at night, your little face lights up to see him and hear his voice.  And, as he takes you upstairs to rock you and put you to bed, you wave bye bye from the stairs to the rest of us. 

Grow on, little Gracie...Grow on!  We love you so. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Caleb & Mama's First Date

It's funny how things occur to you as a fresh idea, as from no where.  I'd like to think it has something to do with the many requests for wisdom I send up to the Almighty.  In any case, this "date night" idea was one such of these ideas.  I presented the idea to Jason, and we both agreed that we wanted to give each of our four children some one-on-one time to look forward to that is planned and controlled entirely by them.  There are no distractions or unplanned holdups due to the wants and needs of their siblings.  The general plan is for Papa or Mama to take out one child per month on a mid week, evening date with a budget of around $25. 

Caleb, being ready to start school next week, was chosen to be first....and he chose me!!!  For several days he pondered his choice for our date - bouncing back and forth between the Jungle at Kids Club and the G6 Airpark - a trampoline extravaganza.  Meanwhile, the other children plotted their upcoming dates as well.  Emet has a fairly good grasp that he has another month to wait, while Anna Ruth asks every day, several times, if it is time to go see the princesses.  (She and I will be going to see the Disney Princesses on Ice in October.  It may be a long two months until then! :-) )

The big day arrived, and after Papa arrived home and we had finished dinner, we headed out for our big date!  Caleb brought along two of his stuffed friends, one for each of us.  (I had Toto the bear, and he had Monkey.)

I asked him if he wanted to swing by Costco first to pick up some construction paper for school.  He was quiet for a minute, so I assured him that it was completely up to him.  After thinking for a bit, he said "Well....I think I'll pass on that tonight."  "Ok" I said, "this is your night, so you decide where we go."  As I glanced in the rear view mirror, the sparkle in his eyes and the slightly turned up lips told me he was pleased of this fact.....and enjoying the freedom of being in charge and in command of Mama's attentions.

I think both of us were a bit intimidated on entering the G6 Airpark.  Other than the check in area, a snack bar, and some places to sit down....the entire warehouse was filled, wall to wall (in fact - up the walls!) with connecting trampolines!  We paid and ventured in.

You know that feeling you used to have as a child where you are overcome with delight and joy? I'm sure my expression matched Caleb's in that we were both almost giddy with the pleasure of this new, fun experience.  It was the kind of thing one might anticipate in a strange dream, being able to run all over a sea of giant trampolines, bouncing and flinging yourself about.  Caleb and I mostly stayed near each other, bouncing on connecting trampolines.  For the longest time, we bounced and grinned at each other, full of exuberance.  I was taken back to those first dates with Jason, once we were past the awkward first few, and we could really just let loose and have fun together....before the realities of life played into our time thoughts....when our relationship was all about dating and building the foundation of a lifelong friendship.

And then it struck me.  I may have day to day, even minute to minute, interactions with Caleb at this point in time, but to build a long and lasting connection will take effort and focus.....just like it does with Jason.  And, it's never a job to be "checked off", for all relationships take ongoing effort.  I don't get an automatic "in" just because I'm his mom.  As we continued to bounce, smiling at each other, my mind was filled with thoughts.  A time will come when outside influences will begin to take a larger piece of his thinking.  I want to be a primary influence in his that he trusts to come to for advice and discussion....but I'll have to earn that spot.  And nights like this one, I believe, are the building blocks for such a relationship.  I found myself hoping that we could repeat this night sometime.  I know he'll probably alternate back and forth between Jason and I, knowing Caleb and his caring, sensitive spirit, but I'd love to be his date a couple of times a year.  What?!  That's it?  Only a handful of dates before he's a teenager?!

We left the main bounce area and headed into the foam pits.  More trampolines from which you could launch into giant foam blocks supported by, of course, more trampolines!  We would insert little breaks every now and then during which we would sit on the couches and review our pictures and videos from the night so far...him catching his breath and me resting my rapidly weakening knees.

Finally, we figured we'd had enough, picked up a tall extra caramel, Caramel and Cream Frappuccino from the Starbucks drive through for Caleb and sneaked into our house.  Papa and the other kids were still watching a movie, so Caleb and I climbed up on top of Mama and Papa's bed with a stack of Origami paper and an instruction book I've had since I was a little girl that my own dad had brought back from Japan for me. Mind you, when I was a little girl, the instructions were intimidating to me, so I never attempted it.  However, I'm so glad I've kept it all of these years!  Caleb has been so fascinated with building complex paper airplanes as of late, I just knew he would be fascinated with Origami.  And he was.  I was amazed by his ability to read the folding diagrams and make sense of them. 

Sure enough, one lantern, one fox puppet, a You Tube instructional video, and a paper crane later....we felt quite accomplished, changed into our pjs and were ready to head up to his bed for a story and snuggles. 

I read I Love You the Purplest to him, and he loved that the Mom in the story was called Mama....just like me.  After that, Caleb asked if I would tell him the story of Hansel and Gretel....not Papa's version, Hansel and Gretel the Two Cows...but the real version.

Then, as we turned out the light, Caleb said, "Mama, what was your favorite part of our date night?  Mine was jumping on the trampolines."

"Mine was just being with you, Caleb" I said "...just being with you." 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sweet Summer Moments

This lazy late summer day lent me the privilege of cuddling with my little Anna Ruth to put her down for a nap.  Oftentimes, I will stay with her for a bit, but with thoughts of the many to-dos on my list. 

Today, as nap time approached, she asked her most recent daily question, "Will you scratch me?" with that winning smile on her face.  I smiled and nodded, slowly following her to her room....collecting bunnies, bears, and other stuffed friends I knew would be requested the minute she crawled into her big brother Emet's bed.  (This has been another special treat for Ru Bear.  I've been reticent to bring the boys in to nap from their summer play, knowing soon enough Caleb will be back in school. And, knowing Anna Ruth is also quite the distraction for her little sister Grace, I have let Anna Ruth nap  on the bottom bunk of the boys' room.  That has been a very big deal for her, for as much as they all squabble and squawk, she thinks her big brothers are pretty special.)

I climbed onto the bed beside her and snuggled her close, chatting of princesses and our upcoming date as I stroked her hair and scratched her little back.  Slowly her squirming and chirping subsided and I drifted off to sleep as well....waking with a strong breeze through the window to find her sound asleep beside me.

I didn't immediately get up, but rather soaked up the quiet looking at my little girl.....not my baby anymore...but still my tiny girl. 

Wisdom of experience has taught me that this stage of her life is fleeting.  I have long ceased to wish away the stages, even the troublesome ones, for they will pass soon enough.  Time marches on. 

So, there we lay in our small upstairs room, curled up on the bunk bed with the Cars themed sheets, pink bunnies, bears and blankets laying about, Ru Bear sleeping soundly snuggled next to me, and me just living that moment.  The thought came to mind:  Life is in the moments.  To truly live is to truly live the moments.  And so I did.  I tried to soak up every one of those moments - fully and deeply.

Eventually, I rose to the clanks and clatters downstairs, knowing the two young boys were getting restless and would bound upstairs anytime, waking their sisters.  I checked on sweet Grace, also down for her afternoon nap, and took two pictures......ones I hope will help me to capture this afternoon's sweet moments for a long time to come.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

8 Months: On the Move

You continue to delight us, Little One.  Your Papa, Mama, two brothers, and sister all smile from ear to ear when you smile or sing your sweet songs to us.  In fact, your siblings are frequently arguing over who gets to hold you.  You seem to show no preference as to who holds you, except when you are hungry......then only Mama will do.  Sometimes if I'm busy, I'll keep hidden from you for a few minutes until I'm ready to sit down to nurse you, for if you catch a glimpse of me - a little panicked look comes over your face, and you begin to cry.  Other than those times, and the occasional "accidental" drop or bump from a well meaning sibling, you really don't cry often at all.
Your biggest delight seems to be for someone to catch your eye and talk to you.  Then, your eyes sparkle and your dimples pop right out.

You are now exploring with your little voice and will frequently slide the scales or simply say "Ahhhhhhhhhh" for extended breaths.  Your giggle is becoming a little louder and longer, and Caleb, Emet, and Anna Ruth delight in making you laugh.  Adults and children alike raise their voices several octaves when talking to you, and make their own silly sounds.  Peek-a-boo is a favorite with you, almost always eliciting an "ah heh heh"....but sometimes a longer chuckle.

Your soft, plump little arms extend straight out at your sides and you flap them up and down when excited.....sometimes grasping a toy, other times flapping in the air.

The swing, the bouncer, and your bumbo seat are now things of the past.  And we probably haven't used the hanging bouncer since Emet cut one of the ropes last month.  We do entertain you in the activity station, that Papa has dubbed the baby trap.  (True enough, there is no escaping this little play station!)

The little hanging high chair by the sliding door that belonged to your big sister only months ago, now belongs to you.  These transitions between toddlers and babies happen so very quickly. I remember the same transition with the big high chair from Caleb to Emet.  Now I am seeing the same transition between Anna Ruth and you.  And with the high chair transition came the cheerios which you took to immediately. In a moment of desperation, four children crying "hungry" at once, I plunked some down in front of you, certain the only negative outcome would be frustration on your part.  But no, in they went, one at a time, and your pincher grasp immediately went to work, though the first few cheerios entered via your entire fist.  :-)

You are not only sitting with confidence, but a couple of weeks after sitting on your own, you began pulling yourself along the floor with your arms!  I have always loved the sitting stage, where babies sit on the floor, happily playing with toys, yet unable to move from place to place.  In my memory, this lasted for a couple of months.  In your world, it lasted for about two weeks!

On our visit to Grandpa and Grandma B's house for the Stolberg Family Reunion, we sat you in the middle of the floor with toys to play while we sat down to chat with Grandpa and Grandma.  Apparently, the fern in the fire place was too much of an enticement for you, as you reached and grabbed until your entire little body began moving along the carpet to grab at the fern.  You seemed to be so pleased with your new accomplishment, and you've been on the move ever since!

You will get up on your hands and knees, rocking back and forth.  Then you will arch your back up and balance on hands and toes, but when it is time to move - back onto your belly you go, pulling with little hands, and pushing with little toes.  Before we know it, you will be scampering across the floor on hands on knees, but it's so fun to celebrate with you in the little stages in between.

Mornings have been coming early again for you lately.  I'm not sure if you're waking hungry or cold, but your little cry calls us from our bed to bring you down to nurse in the early morning.  When you see me, you become frantic until you have settled into the comfort of nursing and snuggling next to Mama.  Suddenly, your world is secure again.  This is probably my favorite time of day....snuggled next to you, knowing my body continues to provide you nourishment and comfort.  These are the times when I know that I am your Mama, and you are my baby.  Suddenly, my world, too, is secure and happy, and I feel so very blessed.

You continue to grow like a weed and are moving rapidly into your twelve month clothes.  Your shiny blonde hair is thickening and growing bit by bit.  You are my tall, beautiful, baby girl....charging ahead in all of your early pursuits, much like your big brother Emet did before you. It doesn't give a Mama much time to absorb the memories of each stage, but the pride of seeing you charge ahead is a worthy trade.

We love you, sweet Gracie Noelle!!!  Grow on, Baby Girl!