M is Four

My wild, wonderful, big-hearted, strong willed girl,

Yesterday you turned four. You looked at your hands with disappointment when you woke up, looked at me, and said, “They’re still little.”

And you are still little, in many ways. You’re bigger than you realize, though. There is no baby left in you anymore, not even when you sleep at night. You had told us all year that you would stop sucking your thumb when you started kindergarten, and you did just that. Now, when I peek in on you, wrapped up in the blankets on your loft bed, your hands stay off to the side and you sleep without that crutch that carried you through babyhood and toddlerhood. Your body is strong and lean and fast and your brain, and your mouth, and your ideas are strong and fast too.

Your personality is also big. It always has been, but in the past year it has exploded off the pages of your book of life, and you are a wonder to behold. When I go out without you and people recognize me as your mom I hear stories about you, all about the stories you tell people, the quotable phrases that sprout from your vivid imagination. “You could make a book from what she says” is something I hear often.

Amidst your vivaciousness there is tenderness. When you aren’t whaling on your brother you’re hugging him and telling him knock knock jokes to make him laugh, because when you laugh, he laughs. Picking you up from school is one of the best parts of both of your days, I think, because you’re reunited and that makes both of you happy.

From a three year old to a four year old you’ve done and said a lot but I think the biggest shift has been to your role as big sister. You love to take care of A and are quite insistent that you can do things for him yourself (you’ve tried to change his diaper on your own!). You two have forged your own friendship, and your own Baby Band, and I hope you always love each other this much, because it’s where you truly shine.

You are a delight. And you are going to harness the world.

Love always,

Mama

M is Three

My little big girl,

I’m not allowed to call you my baby anymore, according to you. “I’m a BIG GIRL, Mama” is the response, and when I try to explain that you’re still my baby you firmly disagree, aided by the fact that there is an actual baby waiting in my belly. Maybe a month ago you came and laid down beside me after your bath and I marvelled at just how physically big you actually are, all legs stretching out and a body that never stills itself until you are completely locked into sleep. That’s the only time that you still look like my baby, actually, when you are snuggled up, quiet, breathing deeply with your thumb half in your mouth.

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All those glimpses of personality we saw emerging, almost from day one, are real parts of a real person, now. As a tiny baby you were frustrated when you couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t get to where you wanted to go and tell us what you wanted to say. Now you are able to express those opinions in great, loud detail, and you make sure we know exactly what you want to do, how you feel, and how much you want to do things by yourself. Every weekday when you come in from school I laugh at how you fling your boots off of your feet, madly kicking at the air until they go flying.

At the same time you love to be a helper. It’s one of your favourite roles to take, at home and at preschool. You help your teachers with the younger kids, you pick up messes, you are utterly enamoured with Kii-go the fish. At home you want to fold laundry, cook dinner, build things and decorate things and get the woodstove going. You’re intensely proud of your accomplishments, and have mastered the art of being proud of yourself. I’m glad you’re proud, because we are, too. And you’ve been telling me that you are going to be the one to change baby brother’s diapers, so…

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On Mondays and Wednesdays I watch you trying to skate. The program doesn’t give the kids any aids to get up on the ice and you’ve been at it for a month, still trying to get your feet under you. You had one terribly frustrated day, but other than that, you’re content to keep trying, and when that doesn’t work, you’re just as content to make snow angels on the ice and try to entice the other kids to join you in your knee-scooting away from the teachers. When you toddle out into the stands you always want to know what sticker you got on your helmet, and to tell us that you “skated really, really hard today!”

At 2, 3, 4 a.m., I often hear your little feet hit the floor, running toward my room. You climb into bed with me and say, “I’m just bisiting you, Mommy.” And then you kick your freezing cold feet into me, snore in my ear, and gradually take over the entire bed until I lift you up and out to your own bedroom again. It drives me nuts but at the same time I love those quiet, dark moments, knowing that when you need comfort and warmth, you are secure in the knowledge of where to find it.

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Three years ago today we were all waking up out of a trying several days, and seeing your face made it all worthwhile. I cried a lot in those early days, not out of sadness, but because I loved you so much that my heart couldn’t bear it. Now we’re getting ready to do it all again with your brother, and I am so grateful to you for making me a mama, for showing me my own bravery, for teaching me the ways of motherhood so that I can do it all over again.

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At age three you love dinosaurs, mothering your stuffies, noodles, raiding the snack drawer I put in the fridge for you, NOT wearing jeans, stickers, a whole range of terrible children’s TV, babies, taking care of the cats, birthdays… and we love you. So much.

Always,

Mama

Threenagers and Big Girls

I first heard the “threenager” term when M was about two years old, from an acquaintance we ran into while shopping. We were talking about the challenges of parenting older kids — when I mentioned M was starting to have some fairly staunchly-held opinions, she told me all about threenagers. I still didn’t really know what we were in for, but now that M is rounding the corner on age three, I get it.

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Case in point, a conversation we had last week, verbatim:

Me: It makes me sad when M doesn’t listen.

Matt: Me too.

M: … You guys, I don’t care.

Is my child turning three in November, or thirteen?! It seems to be a matter of burgeoning independence mixed with the limitations of being a toddler, still — the combination that has led to a lot of meltdowns over the years, just coming out in different forms. She used to get frustrated when she was a baby and wanted to move but couldn’t make her body go; she wanted to feed herself and still had to learn; she wanted to communicate with us but we didn’t always understand her words. Now she can communicate clearly but the answer is often no and that triggers the threenager reaction.

She is very much wanting to be a big girl, though. There is a lot of talk about how big she’s going to get (“bigger than YOU!”) and all of the things she can do. We are at the stage where we have to stop and let her put on her own clothes, pour her own milk, put her own dishes in the dishwasher, because she’s a big girl and she can do it. And she can, it just means slowing our usual rush and expecting to mop up a few spills, correct a few shoes on the wrong feet, and accept that one sock is green and one is orange.

There are times, though, when I am reminded of just how small she still is, even if she doesn’t believe it. A few nights ago she came tiptoeing into my bed at three in the morning. At bedtime she had refused to wear pants, and now she was cold. She is normally impossible to share a bed with — even in her sleep she’s constantly moving — but this time she tucked herself under my blanket, curled into my arms, and relaxed. She was asleep in minutes, thumb hanging out of her mouth, and in the little bit of light coming in through the window she looked so much like she did when she was a baby.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that once we have a newborn again, our older kid is going to seem that much older. I already can’t believe that she’s almost three — when she stretches out next to me she’s half my height — and it’s hard to fathom her being even older and bigger, as much as she’s excited to grow up.

M at 2.5 Years

This kid is already two and a half! If you ask her she’ll tell you she’s six, though. Or “a little adult.” When I look back, it’s impressive how much she’s already changed since age two.

Stats:

I don’t think she’s cracked 30 pounds, yet. She’s creeped up a few pounds, based on the random scale-stepping she does at home, but she can still fit into even 18-24 month clothes so I think we’re nearing the leveling-out stage.

Nicknames:

The most I can really get away with is Boo, or Buddy. She’s quite insistent that people use her full name (to much daycare hilarity).

Temperament:

She’s opinionated, that’s for sure. Matt and I were recently talking about how we’re getting a bit of a preview of the ‘threenager’ personality. She knows what she wants, knows how she expects things to go, and if it deviates, she’s upset. I understand it — there’s not much you can control as a two and a half year old. She’s generally quick to rebound, though.

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Some might call her bossy — I say she has early leadership skills — and is often the ringleader at daycare, whether it’s good ideas or less-than-good ones. She’s stubborn as can be, which is not surprising given her genetics; but she’s also quite nurturing and imaginative.

Skills:

The biggest deal is that she’s (mostly) potty-trained! After a brief foray into pull-ups to let her have the independence she so very much desires, Matt decided to go big or go home a month or two ago, and sent her to daycare in underwear. After about a week of hits and misses she got into the idea and lately it’s been going very well, with minimal issues. She’s in diapers for overnights, still, but has managed several long trips without problems.

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She’s getting to be able to dress herself, or at least deal with the accessories — she puts on her own shoes, her coat and her hat. Her speech has come along fantastically and she’s saying complex things (“Today Tracey read us the spider book for circle time at my daycare!”). She’s getting better at drawing, and can handle a lot of physical things — climbing, running, jumping. She says she wants to join hockey and figure skating this year.

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Sleep:

Daycare still gets her down for an afternoon nap — at home on weekends it’s negligible but she usually passes out mid-afternoon. Unfortunately she seems to still have her dad’s sleep needs, and wants to stay up late and get up early. She’s in a crib with the side off, now, so she can move around when she wants, and a few times a week I wake up at an ungodly hour to “HEYYO, MUMMY!” and a toddler climbing into the bed (and she gets quite angry when Matt returns her to her own room).

Eating:

We have some strong opinions over here (are you surprised?). She doesn’t like tomatoes or beans. “I only yike french fry potatoes and potato soup.” She does not like chocolate milk; “only white milk.” Still loves yogurt and breakfast foods in general, and bread, plus cheese and pasta of course. I’m hoping a vegetable garden will encourage her to try some fresher things again, but she’s good about taking a bite of each thing in a dish before moving on, which is our dinner time requirement.

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Clothing:

She’s in an array of clothes — some 2T, some 3T, and some smaller stuff that she can still fit into/wear as a shirt instead of a dress. She loves the colour orange, so if we can put her in something orange she’s happy. She’s choosy about her shoes, and understands the correlation between the weather outside and what she should be wearing (though she will occasionally insist “it’s NOT raining” even though it’s pouring, because she doesn’t want a coat).

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Loves:

M is really into her creative play toys, right now. Her kitchen and the play food within it are always popular, and she takes time out to ‘feed’ all of her various babies and stuffed animals. She likes to pretend that she’s a doctor who is taking her charges to the ‘hossi-bill’ and also loves to pretend to play golf, skate, and water the garden. Orange and blue are her favourite colours, and she is still obsessed with Curious George. She’s finally interested in the bath tub again after a vacation and shared baths with her cousin, plus a new tub with a covered drain.

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Doesn’t Love:

Showers in the morning — that’s a battle. She always says she doesn’t want to go to daycare, too. She doesn’t love having to go to sleep, and still hates having her hair brushed. She hates when Matt says no to something in particular, and will run to me with “MUMMY! MUMMMMMYYYYY!” DADDY TOOK MY ____/DADDY SAID NOOOOOOO/DADDY IS _____!!!”

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Mom & Dad:

With Matt working regular daytime hours things are sooooo much easier, parenting-wise. We all see a lot more of one another, and things feel balanced again (mostly — I’ve been feeling under the weather and hitting bed before everyone else, which has left more on Matt’s plate, but M is a surprisingly flexible kid who is fine with going out tP the garage or working on indoor projects with him).

Things to Remember:

We went to the zoo a few weekends ago and I think it will be something she actually remembers for awhile. It was probably our most successful trip away from home, still with a few hiccups, but proof that we’re capable of switching things up even with a kid in tow. Same with our family trip to South Carolina — with an older, more interactive M, we had a lot of fun. It’s really just been a fun six months of watching her learn and grow even more!

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Dear M,

When we’re running a bit late for daycare, we usually step out of the door to see a parade of school buses going by, down the road. You always, always start singing The Wheels on the Bus, then ask me when you can go to school. Today I told you that it would probably be next year — already, so soon, you’ll be out of daycare and into kindergarten! That’s just one way that time is, as always, going by so quickly. I don’t know how much of this age you’ll remember, if any, but I can tell you that it’s a lot of fun.

I love the way you interact with your friends, both the stuffed animals and the daycare classmates. You get really excited about spending time with the people and things you love. Sometimes you try to take charge of everyone and everything, and sometimes your classmates eagerly follow you — I’m always wondering how that will translate when you’re older. I bet you’re going to be a magnet, because you already are.

You have such a personality, that is coming out more and more every month. Keep that curiosity, and that joy, and yes, that stubbornness and dedication to your own desires. You’re going to do big things — and you already have, in our family.

I love you,

Mama

Growing Up: Cloth Diapers and Breastfeeding

I know my topics are all over the place, here. Part of my do what you’re gonna do and be yourself idea for 2016 includes blogging about whatever strikes my fancy on whatever schedule/non-schedule is feasible. So we’re jumping into some parenting stuff!

M seems to be growing up so very fast. She is definitely a little girl now, not a baby. Part of our transition into toddlerhood was also a transition to the town daycare, where disposable diapers are used for diaper-wearing kids. We provide our own, as well as wipes. We moved her there from a home daycare that accommodated our cloth diapering, so we entered into new-ish territory. We had always used disposables overnight and quite a bit during travel, but since the daycare switch we’ve had to buy disposables on a regular basis (so expensive!).

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For a while, we kept up with cloth on weekends and when M came home from daycare, but the infrequency with which she wore cloth (a handful on the weekend and maybe one a day on weekdays) meant that the diapers sat in the laundry bag for far too long, because we kept forgetting we needed to wash them. And more often than not, we were reaching for a disposable when she came home out of habit, so gradually we kind of accidentally phased out cloth.

I finally decided, last month, that we were done — it wasn’t worth the effort for so few diapers, and she is making progress towards potty training anyway. It’s expensive to use disposables, and we aren’t really set up as a disposable using family — we just have a regular garbage can in her room — so I’m hoping we’ll be totally done with diapers sometime soon.

Our transition away from breastfeeding happened in a similar manner. I didn’t really mean to wean M, but we had a lot going on in the latter half of 2015. Matt did a lot of bedtimes while I dealt with other things, and frankly, with all the fluctuating hormones happening for me, even the sporadic bedtime nursing sessions became a bit physically uncomfortable. The few times she asked, I gently deflected. When I felt like I was maybe ready to accommodate it again, she had mostly lost interest — she’d ask, but then lay her head down on me immediately after asking and nestle into sleep, with no attempt to convince me. And I wasn’t going to offer, so we just skipped over it. She was just asking out of routine, I think. Now I can’t remember the last time she asked.

It’s kind of bittersweet to me how that particular relationship ended, because it had a lot to do with the sadness and trauma of loss last year. I’m trying to remind myself that it likely would have happened anyway, and to let go of the cloud of bad feelings around it, because there have already been enough bad feelings surrounding that time. She is happy and healthy, and not scarred for life — and I managed to breastfeed for two years, which is about a year and six months longer than I thought I would have been able to, in the beginning.

I can’t remember the last time I nursed her, but that’s okay. It’s all a part of growing up, and I am so grateful for all that we have accomplished together.