Mara at 6 months

My baby girl is six months old today! In my mind she’s still fresh and tiny and helpless, but in reality she’s a solid little snuggler who loves two activities more than anything: grabbing and bouncing. Mara could spend all day and night in the Jumperoo and be content. Or so it seems.

I want to say these past six months have gone by so fast, but they haven’t really. Warm fall days seem so distant from where we sit now in this never-ending winter. The truth is Corban is so demanding (and deserving) of my attention right now that I don’t notice the little changes in Mara as much. She’s just my happy little baby sidekick, and I half expected her to stay a little baby forever.

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Mara is so easy. She is just happy. Like, all the time. I feel so in tune with her needs (I think paying attention to how long she has been awake is the biggest key to this) and that just makes everything a lot less stressful.

A bit has changed since my last Mara update (at two months!). Here’s the rundown.

Sleep

She started developing more of a routine around two or three months old, and as long as we don’t keep her awake longer than her maximum, she’s (usually) a cinch to put down for a nap. We’re up to around two hours of awake time between naps. Mara naps three times a day – the first is always around 9 a.m., then after that the schedule changes a bit each day depending on how long her naps are. Usually she’ll take two 45- to 50-minute naps and one longer nap that can be 2+ hours. We still swear by the swaddle for naps and nighttime.

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She was close to overstaying her welcome in the baby bunk in our room when we finally moved Corban into his big boy bed and let Mara take over the nursery. That was around 4 months old. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), her nighttime sleep habits haven’t changed much since two months. We’ve had some better and worse patches, but she always levels out to about two wakings/feedings a night. We’ve had a few unexpected full nights of sleep (6:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. for first waking, or something similar) but based on how long it took Corban to sleep through the night I don’t get my hopes up. Mara likes her 6:30 bedtime and has been extremely consistent with that, which I’m thankful for, though a little sad if I get home from work late and have to put her straight to bed.

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Speaking of work, I went back when Mara was four months old. I am so grateful for such flexibility with my maternity leave. Four months didn’t seem long enough, but it was the right time for me to return. We had to find a new nanny, and Mara and Corban have adjusted quite well to her. I’ve been working three days a week, so it’s nice to still have a couple weekdays with them. It was much, much harder going back to work this time – not really because of Mara, but because Corban is at such a vibrant stage. He’s exhausting, but so much fun.

Eating

Mara still is on a 100% breast milk diet. She nurses (or has a bottle) after each nap or about every three hours. She’s still a fast eater – five minutes on one side and we’re done. Since she moved into the nursery, I now feed her in our new glider (yeah, it took us 2 years, but we finally got one) with the Boppy pillow instead of lying down in our bed.

Now that she’s at the 6-month mark we should be starting solids, but I’m not exactly in a rush. It’s just… more work, ha. We unofficially did baby-led weaning with Corban, and I’d like to do it again and maybe learn a bit more about the official method this time. From what I remember, they recommend you start when your baby can sit up, and Mara’s not at that point yet so I’m okay with not rushing into solids.

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Milestones

Let’s see… laugh, vocalize, grab… check. Roll over? Sort of. She has rolled front to back a time or two, but I’ve never seen her go back to front. She really wanted to at one point and got close, but recently she hasn’t seemed to be as interested in rolling.

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Play

Mara is very social – we look at her or talk to her and she smiles. Laughing comes easy too.

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I mentioned her love for the Jumperoo – just being in that thing and bouncing makes her smile and laugh, and those little legs just can’t stop jumping once they start. For a while she just loved hanging out on her play mat and grabbing at her “friends,” as I call them (little birds and toys hanging from it). But now she’s all about the bouncing.

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I love giving her new toys and textures to grab. She has pet Biggles a few times and (bless his heart) he hasn’t seemed to mind.

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She grabbed my glasses off my face today and tried to eat them. That is, of course, the next step after grabbing – tasting. We read cloth books so much more with Mara than I remember with Corban because she is so happy to grab and touch the pages.

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She’s still very easy to take along on whatever adventures our days hold.

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Sibling love

Mara will smile and laugh if Corban and I are doing something silly, and Corban just gets a huge kick out of her reaction. While most of the time he is still self-absorbed, he has started to interact with her more. Every night he says, “Night night, Mara,” and gives her a kiss on the head. He loves to give her kisses and involve her in his play. Except when she’s interfering with his fun, of course.

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One of my favorite moments was lying in Corban’s bed reading with the two of them, and they just turned to one another and started giggling. It was one of the first true one-on-one interactions I’d seen between them, meaning I wasn’t the one facilitating it. I almost felt left out for a second, which is silly, and something I’d better get used to since I’m sure it won’t be long before they’re plotting together without me.

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It’s pretty much impossible not to love this little bundle with all my heart.

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Stats

Height and weight: To come after her 6-month checkup
Hair: Finally starting to grow! Her fuzz is getting fuzzier.
Clothes: Size 6 month, but moving quickly into 9 month
Diapers: Cloth snapped at maximum tightness, but size 2 disposables at night (which leak often enough that it’s time to move up to size 3)
Nicknames: Marabelle, Mariella, Marzipan, Ladybug, Miss Mara Mack (love it when Corban calls her by her nicknames)

Mara at 2 months

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Two months old already!

I sat down thinking that not much has changed in the past month – Mara is still sleepy, sweet, snuggly and overall a great baby – but she has hit a few exciting new milestones since my last update.

Most notably: smiling!

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And also cooing!

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We finally started offering the pacifier, around 6 weeks. It took her a few days to learn how to keep it in her mouth, but now that she’s got the hang of it the pacifier really helps during her evening fussy time. Before, she would act hungry then cry when I would try to feed her, then pass out for a few minutes, repeat. All during dinnertime and bedtime for Corban… so evenings were rough. The paci has helped a bit with that.

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Speaking of eating, Mara is the opposite of Corban – she eats super fast and doesn’t like to linger and suck for comfort. 5 minutes is an average nursing session. We have had some issues this month as my milk supply regulates and found that nursing lying down works best for us so the flow isn’t as fast.

It’s hard to believe, but until last night I hadn’t been apart from Mara for more than an hour (to run an errand once or twice). Last night Peter and I went out for the first time without her, so she had her first bottle (no major issues). It was nice to have a tiny bit of freedom! We were only gone for two hours, though. Baby steps.

As my dad put it, she’s like an appendage.

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Mara goes where I go, and I don’t hesitate to get out and about. The Moby wrap has been essential!

Top of the tower at Holy Hill:

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At the park with my mom:

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Bundled up at the park with Corban (we’ve had a drastic shift in weather this month, as these photos demonstrate!):

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Pumpkin farm:

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She has now graduated past the newborn hold in the Moby, so her little legs dangle out. This helps me look like I’m actually carrying a child and I’m not just an oddly shaped person.

We switched fully to cloth diapers around 6 or 7 weeks. They fit her much better now. She’s growing so fast!

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I’ll write an update on cloth diapering soon! Quite a bit has changed since my initial posts.

I love that Mara still will sleep anywhere. I know those days are probably numbered and am taking advantage of it before we have to start planning outings around her naps.

Nothing better than a baby snuggled on your chest!

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I still sometimes pause and marvel at the fact that I have a daughter. Two months later, it still seems surreal. Two kids. A boy and a girl. Whoa. (In the best sense of the word!)

One thing is certain: baby girl outfits are irresistible! Mara has been outfitted quite well with gifts from family and friends.

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Baby leopard?!

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She has outgrown this outfit since the beginning of the month. She seems so small here!

Tummy time has become a fun game for Corban, and Mara has become quite advanced at it. She actually loves being on her stomach.

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And although most of the time he’s doing his own thing, Corban has melted my heart with some tender moments with Mara. There have been a few times when he’s been touching her head and talking to her, and she just looks up and smiles at him. I am looking forward to seeing their relationship grow.

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The stats:

Height: 22.75 inches (62nd percentile)
Weight: 11 pounds 14 ounces (62nd percentile)
Clothes: Size 3 month
Naps: All the time, no regular schedule
Night: Sleeps in our room; wakes twice to eat
Diapers: Cloth, or disposable size 2

Mara’s birth story

I am so happy to share Mara’s birth story with you – a story that didn’t unfold exactly as I expected (how could it?), but ended up even better than I could have imagined.

While my two childbirth experiences share a lot in common (both babies arrived two or three days shy of 37 weeks in labors that were five hours or less), I’m more struck by the differences between them. Corban’s birth story was somewhat dramatic. Mara’s definitely had its moments, but overall it was more like an episode of “Touched by an Angel” than “ER.” I think I prefer it that way!

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The story begins Saturday night, August 31. It was the day after our five-year wedding anniversary. We took advantage of the fact that Peter’s parents were in town and went out to the movies while they put Corban to bed.

At my 36-week doctor’s appointment earlier that week, my doctor had told me the baby’s head was lower than the week before and asked if I could feel the pressure in my pelvis. The answer then was “no,” but as I munched on buttered popcorn and sipped Cherry Coke during “The World’s End,” I definitely noticed it. On the drive home I told Peter I didn’t know how I could handle being pregnant for another three weeks if that were in store. I was just so uncomfortable.

We got home early enough to watch some “House Hunters” with Peter’s parents before retiring to bed. I had been bugging Peter to read a particular section of the Bradley Method book I was reading, so he finally read it while I perused another childbirth book and pointed out that I wanted to write down a birth plan in the next day or two.

At 2:20 a.m., Corban woke us up with a piercing cry. Peter attended to him while I lay in bed and started noticing some pretty strong contractions. I had felt similar contractions over the past several weeks, and thought if I could fall back asleep they would stop. As I dozed in and out of a light sleep for the next hour, never really falling back into slumber, I realized they were consistent, and they weren’t going away.

At that point, I told Peter what was happening. He tried to convince me I was just dehydrated from all the popcorn, and had me drink water and take some Tylenol. My doctor had said Tylenol “won’t touch” labor contractions, so if the pain didn’t go away I’d know it’s real labor. Peter also started Googling how to stop labor and suggested I drink a glass of wine. I did not indulge.

Another hour went by. This entire time, I was focused on remaining relaxed and comfortable through each contraction. I lay on my side on our bed with a pillow between my knees and consciously released tension, muscle by muscle, as each contraction hit. They were strong, and felt like deep cramps. I pictured what my body was doing — the cervix opening up for the baby — and tried to let it do just that.

This whole time Peter was timing the contractions using a phone app. At a consistent 40 seconds long and seven minutes apart, I knew there was no turning back and I needed to call my doctor.

I told myself I’d call at 5 a.m. Then as 5 a.m. approached, I started feeling like I had to use the bathroom. Between contractions and bathroom breaks, it was 5:15 a.m. when I finally made the call. The on-call doctor said it sounded like early labor and instructed me to come on in to the hospital. “Yay!” she groggily squealed to me.

I was excited, but not quite “yay” excited. This wasn’t exactly the timing we had planned on. I left work Friday after telling a colleague I hoped I had a good couple weeks left to iron things out there before maternity leave. And I was a bit nervous about what was coming in the hospital. I wanted a medication-free birth, and now was the time to put everything I’d learned and hoped for into action.

Peter admitted he was nervous — nervous that he wouldn’t be able to remember everything he’d read and be a supportive coach to me. We momentarily reversed roles and I assured him that he had nothing to worry about and had already been a great help.

At this point, contractions were more intense, and getting out of bed seemed to further intensify and encourage them. My hospital bag was packed except for a few last-minute items, so I lay in bed while Peter gathered things together and woke his parents to tell them what was going on (yay for not having to worry about childcare for Corban). I tried to get up to brush my teeth, change into the nightgown I had planned on wearing in the hospital, wash my face, find my glasses, etc., but each time I got out of bed a contraction would take me down or I’d need to use the bathroom. I wished I could just lie there. I finally understood the appeal of a home birth — if the doctor came here I wouldn’t have to pack up and ride to the hospital.

I had Peter take this as we headed out the door because he had refused to take a belly pic of me earlier that day and now this was our last chance. And I'm crazy.

I had Peter take this as we headed out the door because he had refused to take a belly pic of me earlier that day and now this was our last chance. And I’m crazy.

Finally, just before 6 a.m., we were in the car. Rick Jackson’s Country Countdown was on the radio — a show we listen to on Sunday mornings on the way to church. Peter sang along to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons” (which always reminds me of this South Park scene in the episode from which our cat Biggles got his name) while I timed the increasingly close and long contractions. They were now more like four minutes apart, and seemed to ebb and flow in longer waves. A wave would wash over me, and just when I’d think it was peaking, another would crash in and prolong it. Peter slowed down at a stop sign and it felt like the longest deceleration in history as the seat belt pressed into my uterus.

The hospital parking lot was hugged in a pre-dawn fog that gave our walk inside from the car a dream-like air. I wished for a wheelchair to carry me down the endless empty hallway from the entrance to our elevator, but powered onward rather than asking for one.

We arrived at the administration desk on the labor and delivery floor around 6:20 a.m., and as I stood there to sign papers, a strong contraction doubled me over. Before I could put pen to paper, my water broke in an unmistakeable gush. “Clean up in aisle four,” Peter joked.

There was no laughing for me though. I needed to get checked into our room so I could lie down. A nurse quickly led us to a room and helped me get cleaned up in the bathroom. I struggled to get the words out to decline the hospital gown she offered while trying unsuccessfully to relax through a contraction that felt different than the others. I was starting to feel the urge to push.

I collapsed on the bed and attempted to resume the comfortable position I used at home. Hospital beds just can’t compare to your own king-size bed, though. Peter filled the nurse in on my desires — no IV, no meds, no interventions, etc. Apparently she had already been preparing whatever initial steps are necessary for an epidural, since (I was told later) about 95% of their patients ask for one. Suddenly her job got a lot easier.

I asked to have my cervix checked, knowing that I had to be frightfully dilated if I was feeling “pushy,” as they say. I asked Peter to get me some water. Then I realized the lights were shining full force and asked to have them dimmed. Anything to bring a bit of comfort. A nurse continued to question us while setting things up around the room and I became annoyed as my requests went unfulfilled, another contraction left me speechless and everyone seemed to be (from my perspective) pointlessly flitting around.

Finally I gathered the strength to insist someone check my cervix. The nurse did, and urgently told another nurse I had “nothing there,” aka 9 and 3/4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. “Is my doctor on her way?” I asked, only to learn she was just now being paged. At least they now understood how urgent the situation was becoming!

Meanwhile, the resident on the floor, Dr. M (in fact, the same resident who was there for Corban’s birth), came in and we went over some more details with him. I asked if it was bad to hold back on pushing if I felt the urge. He assured me it was actually good to let the baby engage as much as possible before starting to push, but if I couldn’t resist any longer he was there to deliver the baby. I requested a crash course on how to push, and Dr. M obliged.

I really wanted to wait until my doctor, Dr. L, arrived to start pushing, so each contraction I told myself I could wait one more. It was like having to hold it when you really, really have to pee. Not easy! When I finally decided this was it — I couldn’t wait any longer — Dr. L burst into the room (or at least that’s how it seemed to me) and I had a minute or two break in contractions to say hi.

This is the part of the story that seemed the most drastically different from Corban’s birth. During the pushing stage with Corban, I felt like a machine struggling to keep up. When I was told his heart rate was dropping and I needed to push harder, do better and get him out immediately I was (obviously) terrified. My role was to follow directions — when to push, how to push, when to stop.

With Mara’s birth, I felt completely in control. I had no contraction monitor dictating to the nurse when to dictate to me to push. Everyone around me appeared relaxed and no one told me to start or stop pushing. I just pushed when I felt like I needed to and stopped when it didn’t feel right. Peter stood on my right and a nurse on my left, holding my legs, counting through each contraction, dabbing my forehead with a cool cloth and encouraging me. Outside the room’s large windows I could see that the fog had lifted and the sun was turning the sky pink, and I for a split second I felt almost calm.

I focused all of my mind and strength on each push, relaxing my legs, holding my breath, bearing down in the right spot. Delivering a baby is most definitely an athletic endeavor! I knew the harder I worked with each contraction, the sooner it would be over.

I had read that you get about eight-minute breaks between contractions during the pushing phase, but experienced no such thing. After each push/contraction I had to will myself to relax as quickly and completely as possible, because it would only be a minute or less before I’d feel the overwhelming urge to push again. Apparently even this part of my labor experience happens in hyper-speed.

I can’t complain though. It was intense, with hardly a break, but after just 10 or 15 minutes, I was told this was it! Last push!

Of course the last one seemed the longest. After eight months of wondering whether our baby is a boy or girl, with just seconds to go before finding out, time seemed to slow down. The anticipation of knowing was at the forefront of my mind even through the pain, exhaustion and relief of knowing the end was imminent.

At 6:57 a.m., about 40 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, Mara entered the world and Dr. M held her up. “What is it, Dad?” he asked Peter.

Before Peter could reply, I saw the answer and cried, “It’s a girl!” Over and over, through tears, I repeated that joyous phrase. Dr. L made sure Mara came straight into my arms. Her slimy, white, alien body lay on me as Peter and I admired our daughter.

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After a few minutes, the nurses took Mara to be cleaned up and weighed at a station next to my bed. My work wasn’t over, as the doctors delivered the placenta, gave me a shot of Pitocin to jump start my uterus contracting back to its normal size and began to stitch up my minor tear. Mara came back to my arms to nurse while they worked, and continued long after they finished.

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I could have held her like that for hours more. The fact that we have a daughter still felt so novel and unexpected. I couldn’t quite believe it. The concept seemed so foreign.

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When compared to Corban’s first hours of life… talk about night and day (literally and figuratively). Corban was born at the end of the day and whisked off to the NICU, where I had to be pushed in a wheelchair to visit and nurse him every three hours throughout the night. Mara arrived at the dawn of a new day, which we spent in our room snuggling her close and admiring her perfect features in the bright natural light of a beautiful late summer day.

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Of course, there was nothing wrong with Corban, and after he was released from the NICU we enjoyed the same endless snuggles and bliss that a baby’s first day of life brings. But we are so grateful that Mara was healthy and her birth was completely natural and free of complications and interventions. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience and we count it as a huge blessing that it happened as it did.

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I know it may seem easy now for me to be an advocate of natural, medication- and intervention-free childbirth since my labor and delivery experiences have both been very fast, so I don’t feel like I’m in a place to preach. But I do want to encourage anyone who desires to go the natural route. It is so doable if you go in with knowledge, preparation and confidence. I am fully confident that even if my labor was twice as long and even more intense, the methods I learned from reading (no, skimming) one Bradley Method book along with the support of my wonderful husband would have still been all I needed to manage the pain. With my first pregnancy, I went into labor without enough knowledge of the birth process nor confidence in my own ability to effectively cope with the discomfort and unknowns of childbirth. This time I knew what to expect — and not even just from having experienced it once before. Truly, my reading during this pregnancy informed me on what I had experienced with Corban’s birth, and that’s when things started to click. I also owe a lot to my friend Litzy, who has been incredibly supportive and shared a lot of her knowledge to encourage me along this path.

Here is the book that helped me: “Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon. It’s not perfect and I don’t agree with every word in it, but it really was what equipped me the best for a natural birth.

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As with any baby, in the end it really doesn’t matter how she made her debut. As happy as I am with how her birth happened, the true joy is in Mara’s mere existence as my daughter.

Corban at 21 months

Corban turned 21 months old on the same day Mara turned one week old. It’s crazy looking at her, and then looking at him, and remembering that he used to be that tiny (even tinier!) just 21 months ago.

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These past two weeks have been such a blessing for many reasons, but one big one is that I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Corban. Being home and being around him all the time has helped me get to know him better as a little person. I’ve come to better appreciate what a smart, funny, sweet little boy he is. He keeps me laughing every day. As exhausting as it can be taking care of a toddler, I try not to wish time away because it truly is a blast having little 21-month-old Corban in my life.

So, what’s new in Corban’s world?

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Talking

The biggest change from my last Corban update is his language development. He is saying lots of words now! And he even started stringing a select few nouns and verbs together. This came at the perfect time. I think juggling a newborn and a toddler would be much more difficult without the added clarity that language brings to communication.

It’s so much fun hearing the new words Corban picks up on – one of my favorites is smoothie (one of his favorite things to eat/drink), which he pronounces “moo-ee” (see video here). I’ve also been impressed a few times by the connections he makes and then articulates. For example, he heard a neighbor’s lawnmower the other evening and started pointing and saying, “Dada?” Or at the store the other day he saw a picture of a baby on a box, then pointed to my chest and said “baby.” Yup, baby Mara does nurse a lot…

Seemingly overnight he started recognizing and saying the names of people he sees most often. He has been saying Mama and Dada for a while, but while looking through pictures on my phone one day (one of his absolute favorite activities) he pointed at a picture of my mom and said “Dee Dee” (his name for her), then a picture of my dad and said “Papa.” When Peter’s parents came to visit, he immediately started calling Peter’s dad “Papa” even though we haven’t really referred to him that way. I told him I was calling our nanny one afternoon, and when he realized I had hung up and he hadn’t talked to her, he came running over repeating her name frantically.

It’s also funny the connections he makes with people and certain objects. He pulled out coffee filters this weekend and said “Dee Dee,” which makes sense since we rarely make coffee, but she does every time she visits.

Singing

It melts my heart when Corban sings, and, much to my delight, his repertoire is growing. When he was a few months younger, he would make feeble attempts at The Itsy Bitsy Spider, but the first song he really learned to sing was Ring Around the Rosie (he sings “Ashes, ashes” over and over). He is also obsessed with playing Ring Around the Rosie with us or with his stuffed animals.

Next, he started singing The Wheels on the Bus, or, more accurately, the line “all through the town.” He also does all the hand motions and some sounds for the verses. Then one day I heard him singing “ee-i-ee-i-o,” and an approximation of “row row row your boat,” then Patty Cake, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star… it’s so exciting when I actually recognize what he’s singing! Needless to say, we do lots of singing around here, with hand motions for everything.

Big brother

One of Corban’s favorite words, and one that sounds the cutest coming out of his mouth, is “baby.” Ever since Mara entered our family, he has been saying it all the time. (See video of him saying it here.)

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He is still very interested in Mara when she is brought to his attention. She is pretty inoffensive to him right now, since she sleeps almost all the time, so he doesn’t seem to have any hard feelings toward her. He likes to touch her head and look at her. He is also really into being a helper. He loves to hand us a diaper or get a wipe wet for us. He gets upset if we don’t pick him up and let him attempt to wipe her (basically, place the wipe on the changing table). He loves some of the baby equipment we have out now – cradle, nursing pillow, co-sleeper – and we have to keep an eye on him so he doesn’t dump Mara right out so he can play with it. He hasn’t displayed any malice toward her, but he just isn’t quite capable of being gentle or careful around her so we have to watch him anytime they are in the same room. He has been known to happily attempt to throw her a soccer ball…

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Discipline

Over the past two weeks the concept of “time out” has really started to sink in with Corban. If he doesn’t listen to us, we ask him, “Do you want to go on time out?” About two-thirds of the time he will shake his head and immediately do what we’re asking him to do. The other third of the time, he will continue to disobey us and we will immediately carry him into his crib, tell him he gets a one-minute time out for not listening to us, and then leave him in there alone for a minute. I’m pleasantly surprised by how successful this has been in getting him to obey us. I think the key is to only threaten time out if you’re willing to follow through.

OCD toddler

One thing that has become very apparent to me in recent weeks is that Corban is very orderly. He has always been really into picking up miniscule pieces of fuzz or trash off the floor and throwing it in the garbage, but now he has a whole collection of quirky OCD preferences. He will not sit in his high chair without washing his hands — in fact, if he hears water running, he will want to wash his hands. He asks for his pacifier to be washed, and he asks to help wash dishes. “Wash” is definitely a favorite word. And yet he still loves getting dirty outside, whether it’s in dirt, sand or rocks.

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When it comes to his toys, he is happy to leave them strewn around the family room unless we prompt him to pick them up, but certain other things he is meticulous about putting in their place. We had a bunch of blocks stored in a tupperware container on a shelf, and without us even realizing it, one night he dumped the blocks out and put the container back in the cabinet with the rest of the tupperware. He also loves to help sweep, Swiffer and mop the floors. He’s afraid of the vacuum, though.

Favorites:

Elmo. We let Corban watch Sesame Street in bed with us every morning (our guilty way of getting some extra sleep) and like every toddler before him, he now has a strong affinity for the red, fuzzy muppet with a high-pitched, baby voice. He likes to feed his new Elmo stuffed animal snacks and let him drink from his milk cup.

Kissing his stuffed animals goodbye.

Smoothies.

Drinking from our water glasses.

Helping – everything from putting fruit into the blender for his smoothies to watering the garden.

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Baths.

Playing ball. Corban now knows how to kick a soccer ball, but his favorite is asking us to throw his beach ball really high up in the air — either to hit a tree branch outside or the high ceilings in our family room.

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Nursery Treasury. We flip through this thick book for about 10 minutes at least once or twice a day. It’s filled with tons of songs, nursery rhymes, bizarre folk rhymes and longer fairy tales (that we skip over for now). I think Corban first started requesting it because it’s long enough to significantly prolong his bedtime or naptime routine, but we’ve all grown attached to the ritual of singing the songs and silly rhymes in it before bed. He especially loves the ones with hand motions.

Rhymes and songs in general.

His blanket. He is more attached than ever.

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Dada. He has always been obsessed with Peter, and it continues. Now that I’m more occupied with Mara in the evenings, Peter has started putting Corban to bed some nights and now Corban pretty much demands Peter at bedtime (which makes me a little sad). He also mimics Peter’s body language at times… attempting to cross his arms if he notices Peter’s arms are crossed, etc.

Slides.

Being carried. “Up up up” is a common request, and one that’s hard to resist.

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Hats.

Swiping rapidly through the photos on my iPhone and watching videos of himself and people he knows. (He’s obsessed.)

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Stats

Weight: ~30 pounds
Height: 34 inches
Clothes size: 24 months
Shoe size: 6
Teeth: Possibly teething right now for two-year molars.

It’s a…

…girl!

Mara June was born Sunday, Sept. 1 at 6:57 a.m.

marajune

7 pounds and 20 inches despite arriving three weeks and two days before her due date. Apparently that’s the magic point in pregnancy where my body evicts the baby. Corban was born at almost the exact same point (one day earlier).

Mara is an absolute joy! Healthy, snuggly, sleepy. She nurses well (although I’m still in a good deal of pain from breastfeeding, but that’s for another post) and has spent almost her entire first week of life eating and sleeping (mostly sleeping).

I’m feeling well after a completely natural labor and delivery. Full birth story to come in a separate post, but I’ll tell you this right now: it was fast.

We are still adjusting to life as a family of four. My mom was here to help until Friday, and I don’t know how we would have managed without her here cooking, cleaning and – most importantly – taking care of Corban. Peter was able to work most of last week so he can take time off in the coming weeks as needed.

I was alone with the two little ones for the first time this evening for about 40 minutes while Peter ran to Home Depot. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but Corban had a major dinnertime meltdown possibly induced by the fact that I was wearing Mara in the Moby wrap, so it felt like hours.

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Corban is a little bit unpredictable around Mara. He is definitely interested in her and will touch her, give her kisses and ask to hold her (we have held her in his lap a few times while he pointed out her facial features and pet her head), but when he’s done, he’s done, and he doesn’t quite understand how small and fragile she is. He has been enjoying the fact that Peter and I (and Grandma Dee Dee) have been around all the time for the past week, but will at times get extra clingy, particularly when Peter holds Mara. I don’t know exactly what his comprehension level of the situation is at this point, but overall I think he is handling the new addition to our family really well.

This first week with Mara has been wonderful. Compared to our first week with Corban, I feel much more confident and relaxed as a mom. I’ve been trying to take it easy and enjoy this special time with my snuggly newborn and entertaining toddler. It still seems surreal that we now have a daughter! We feel so blessed!

7 thoughts at 7 months pregnant

My due date is two months from yesterday. That seems like both a very short time and a very long time.

Here’s what’s on my mind:

1) I actually went through the entire day yesterday thinking today was July 24 and telling people my due date was two months from today. I was in serious shock and disbelief to learn that today is in fact July 25. It’s cool to just blame pregnancy brain for being a day behind, right?

2) My excitement to meet this child is growing – a lot. I just want to know – boy or girl? And I want to hold my dear baby and see him or her, and enjoy a sweet, tiny newborn.

3) My fear of being a mom of two babies is also growing. At this point, I just do not have the emotional or physical energy to keep up with Corban after working all day, and I know waking up six times a night with a newborn is 10 times harder than being pregnant. So I’m sure everything will be a bit challenging at first, although I won’t be working… which brings me to my next thought…

4) I keep thinking once I’m on maternity leave I’ll have time to do all the junk around the house that is currently neglected because I have no energy beyond working 40 hours a week and scraping by as a mom. Am I crazy? I also have this idea that I will be able to attend playdates and go out and do typical mom things that happen during working hours. I probably am crazy.

5) I joined a fitness challenge with a few other moms (basically we just set goals for ourselves each week and then get points for meeting them) and it has been really motivating for me to be consistent with what I know I should be doing to prepare for labor and the end of pregnancy. My goals seem really silly compared to my pre-motherhood athletic endeavors, but they are important and make me feel healthier. I’m focusing on walking, squats, pelvic floor exercises, sitting on an exercise ball (yes, sitting is considered exercise for me at this point, haha), drinking water, eating vegetables and getting enough protein in my diet.

6) I really desire to have a natural labor and delivery this time. I almost did with Corban (had a tiny bit of painkiller in the IV at the end), but I didn’t really have any intentions one way or another regarding meds (other than let’s see how I feel and then decide). But now I’m feeling more drawn to do it the old-fashioned way and do whatever I can to prepare myself for that. That means it’s time to check out some natural childbirth books from the library. Any recommendations?

7) I drank a beer tonight. This beer, specifically, and I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t had a beer in roughly six months, but it tasted amazing. [And no, it will not give my child fetal alcohol syndrome. My doctor has sanctioned an occasional alcoholic beverage in the third trimester.]

Corban at 19 months

I intended to write an 18-month update, but kept putting it off and now Corban is 19 months old! Where to begin?

 

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Corban is definitely a toddler now. He has distinct likes and dislikes, and is so much fun to play and engage with. He throws fits when he doesn’t get his way, but we can usually distract him to end the tears. It’s fascinating to see him experience the world. Everything is so interesting and exciting to him! When he finds a game he likes, he wants to repeat it over and over. Even something simple like me looking away and then snapping my face towards him and grinning can provide prolonged entertainment. Anything can be a game.

Talking

The past couple months have been all about language and communication. After he mastered all the animal noises I mentioned in his 16-month update, Corban started waving and saying “bah-bah” whenever we would leave somewhere or prompt him to say bye. Now, he says bye (in his little Southern-sounding voice) to everything — animals at the petting zoo, toys we’re putting away, his car seat. My favorite was after I washed his hands last week and he waved and said “baahh” to the bar of soap.

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His other favorite word is “yes,” which sounds like “yeths” or “ess.” Though his speech is still limited, he understands quite a lot, so we often ask him yes or no questions about his preferences and he’ll either say yes and smile or shake his head no.

Probably his third most solid word is ball (“bah”), which he says unprompted whenever he sees one (including the big red spheres on the sidewalk in front of Target — know what I’m talking about?)

If prompted, Corban will say bubble, blueberry, banana, please (just the p sound so far), mama, dada, more and, my absolute favorite, avocado.

Here he is tonight saying his version of avocado, his favorite food.

While I was shooting this video, Biggles jumped on the counter and started munching on my dinner, so I told Corban to say “bad cat” and he surprisingly picked up on the sounds right away. I think we’re on the verge of a language explosion.

Language Comprehension

We have a new favorite game as of the past month or two — identifying objects in picture books. This Sesame Street look and find book is the best for this. It’s huge, colorful and filled with pictures of fun, everyday things (plus some silly things) to identify. He’s learned so many words from this and other books with big illustrated scenes — clowns, fire hydrant, mittens, grasshopper, bench, the list goes on. And it amazes me how quickly he learns and memorizes the names for new objects we teach him from pictures. When I first discovered that Corban could point out specific animals I asked him about in books, it was one of the most exciting parenting moments so far. Now it’s part of our daily routine and can keep Corban engaged for a long time.

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Sleeping

Our bedtime routine has become something I cherish (most) every night. It starts between 7:20 and 7:30 and goes something like this: diaper change, PJs on, read in my lap while drinking milk, pray, sing or hum my made-up snuggle puppy song while he rests his head on my shoulder, then rest him in the crib with his blanket and say goodnight. I’m out of the room by 7:40 most nights, and Corban either goes right to sleep or talks and sings to himself for a few minutes before drifting off. He usually gets a solid 11 hours of sleep and wakes between 6:30 and 7 a.m.

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This sweet time of the evening turned into a warzone right around 18 months. Our consistent, great sleeper totally went through an 18-month sleep regression. For about two weeks, he just would not go to bed at bedtime. He’d fight his diaper change, fight his pajamas, refuse his milk, squirm out of my lap and do everything he could to reverse the progression of our routine — run around, escape out of his room, grab book after book to restlessly read, scream and cry. When I would finally get him into his crib, usually around 8, he would cry sometimes until 8:30 before passing out. Any contact during that time would just prolong the misery — of course if we picked him up and held him he would calm down, only to cry again the instant we made a move toward the crib. Our pediatrician said this was totally normal, and that we have to resist Corban’s trickery and stick to his bedtime. Thankfully, it got better and we’re back to a pleasant routine.

Even during the regression, naptime remained a consistent 1.5- to 2.5-hour affair every afternoon from about noon to 2 p.m.

While we were on vacation in Branson, Mo., this past week, we learned just how valuable an early bedtime and sufficient sleep is. He stayed up late several nights and the next day was a different kid — totally crabby and frustrating. Not worth it!

Favorites

Doing this cheesy grin to make people laugh:

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Throwing things (usually balls).

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Sitting in the driver’s seat of cars (or boats).

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Playing ring around the rosie.

Singing songs with hand motions, like Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus.

Sesame Street or Curious George in the morning (Daddy’s guilty pleasure so he can snooze while I’m in the shower).

Avocado.

Stuffed animals (he’ll hug every single one in a store).

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Blowing bubbles.

Giving kisses (nothing better than receiving a sweet Corban kiss!)

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Sweeping or playing with anything that has a long stick (like any cleaning tool — mop, pool cleaner, Swiffer, etc.)

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Our poor cats.

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Eating with utensils.

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Ketchup.

Rocks.

Pushing his stroller.

Pressing his mouth against glass doors.

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The two rides he could go on at Silver Dollar City.

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Stats

Weight: ~27 pounds
Height: 34 inches
Clothes size: 18 months
Diaper size: Size 4, but we switched to cloth a few weeks ago! So third or fourth snap in on BumGenius 4.0s. Separate post to come on that.
Shoe size: 5 or 6
Teeth: Aside from his last set of molars, two more teeth are coming in right now and that just about completes the set.

One more video – Corban doing the hand motions to the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

9 things I learned as a (temporary) single mom

Peter was out of town for work 5 days last week and another night this week, so I had to hold down the homestead on my own (well, almost) for a while. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad, and I actually got more than usual done during that time. Being on my own forced me to buckle down. Here’s what I learned in my week as a single mom.

Morning smiles to text to Daddy.

Morning smiles to text to Daddy.

1) Don’t think about your chores; just do them. When you think about them, you realize how unappealing it is to empty all the trash cans in the house and gather up the recycling. When you don’t have someone else nagging reminding you to do something (or helping you out) it’s easy to put it off. That’s why you just have to do it – no room for reflection.

2) Showering before getting Corban up makes mornings go much more smoothly.

3) Normal rush hour traffic is abominable! I am used to leaving slightly after peak commuting times, but when Peter was gone I had to shift my schedule up by a half hour or an hour so I could be home in time for our nanny to get to her night classes. That 30 minutes or so makes a huge difference in travel times. (And yes, I know I live in Milwaukee, which has relatively light traffic compared to many large cities, and I am thankful for that. But I’m not used to my morning drive being more than 20 minutes!)

4) It’s nice to get into work a little earlier. I’m not sure if it’s worth the trade-off of a longer commute — there has to be a happy medium somewhere — but starting the day early makes me feel more productive.

5) Life without TV is much more peaceful. I am not a TV person, but Peter is one who always has it on in the background. I actually didn’t even think about TV while he was gone, but I did notice how much calmer the house seemed with the silence.

6) Packing lunch the night before is the way to go. I always intend to do this, but never was consistent until last week when I knew my mornings would have to be extra efficient. It is definitely worth the extra 10 minutes (max) after dinner.

7) The mail is overrated. Um, yeah, I forgot to get the mail all week. It’s one of those things that Peter always does and I just don’t think about. Oops.

8) It’s a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning when there isn’t someone snoozing peacefully next to you. I get up and shower before Peter does, and always have a hard time dragging myself out of bed while he is snugly cuddled in. When a vacant pillow is your bedmate, it’s easier to just roll out without looking back.

9) Real single moms have it way harder than I do. A lot of the reason it wasn’t too rough for me taking care of Corban, the house and general life affairs by myself is because Corban’s nanny was taking care of him 9 hours a day and helping with housework during that time too. Those are the challenging hours of the day. Peter also was home in time for the weekend, so I don’t think I even really got a taste of what it’s like to raise a child on your own. Real single moms have it way harder because they don’t get a break.

It was actually really good for me to be forced to tighten up my routine and add a little more discipline into my weekday evenings and mornings. Hopefully I’ll have the willpower to continue some of these things even when I can afford to be a little lazy. What are your tips for living and taking care of kids solo?

Halfway through pregnancy #2

Tuesday marks 20 weeks – the halfway point – of this pregnancy! (Or, if the baby comes early, like Corban did, we’re already more than halfway there. Eek.)

While the first trimester seemed to drag on and on (feeling sick all the time seems to have that effect), the second trimester has sped by so far.

I jumped right into wearing maternity clothes at the start of the second trimester. I still wear some non-maternity tops (some maternity shirts look pretty baggy on me still) but maternity is a must for pants now.

Physically, I’ve felt pretty normal for the second trimester thus far. My appetite came back as soon as I hit 13 weeks and I enjoyed tons of great food while on vacation in Charleston, SC. Since then, appetite, cravings and aversions have slowly become more hit or miss. I’ve started to notice, like during my last pregnancy, that some of my favorite foods just don’t taste as great as they normally do. I think my taste buds are just a little off. Bummer.

I’m just starting to notice more aches and pains that come with a growing belly. New to the list this time is an intense pain in my groin and inner left thigh whenever I move my legs to get out of bed or lift my left leg (like to put pants on or sometimes even to walk). I Google-diagnosed myself with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction, which essentially is pain associated with a joint in your pelvis widening more than it should during pregnancy. It doesn’t seem serious, but I am not looking forward to spending the next 20 weeks with it. Has anyone else dealt with this? Don’t worry – I will be asking my doctor about it at my next appointment.

On to the fun part…  here’s a peek at the growing bump, and the growing big brother alongside it.

8weeks

11weeks

19weeks

Note Corban’s changes from pre-first haircut to post-haircut to the present, with his shagginess back again (I love it).

We got to see the little one this past week via ultrasound. That, plus my growing belly, makes this all seem a bit more real.

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The day before the ultrasound, I realized I really want to find out whether this baby is a boy or a girl. We didn’t find out with Corban, and I loved every minute of the suspense and surprise. But this time, it’s different. We are pretty much ready for the baby as far as gear is concerned (we just did this, after all) and we know generally what to expect (although every child is different, yada yada yada). So finding out the sex is just more at the forefront of my mind this time. I want to imagine the sibling dynamic, to shop for baby girl clothes if it’s a girl, to go through all of Corban’s old clothes if it’s a boy. I just have a stronger desire to immediately satisfy my curiosity this time.

Alas, since I came to this realization a mere 24 hours before the ultrasound, I was not able to convince Peter or myself to change the game plan and find out. So another surprise it is. (Unless we have another ultrasound at some point :))

Emotionally, I am just starting to really think about this baby and the changes that will come to our family. I am so excited to once again experience the joy of bringing a new life into the world. I love that our family is growing, and I can’t wait to see Corban interact with the new baby.

At the same time, I’m overwhelmed by the thought of having another child. In my mom’s words, “One is like none and two is like ten.” So far, Corban really has felt as close to “none” as possible. He was such an easygoing infant and continues to have an easy demeanor. But even if we are blessed with two Corbans, our world will be significantly more complicated. Just leaving the house will be much more challenging. Parents of two or more kids, how scared should we be?

It’s also starting to hit me that we actually do have some major things to do before the baby arrives. Like move our super messy, cluttered office into the basement and set up Corban’s new big boy room. The weeks just keep coming and going, but in the next month or so we’ll need to schedule some significant time to focus on those tasks. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

4.5 months down. 4.5 months to go. Time to get moving!

Corban’s 15- and 16-month update

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I started writing this about a month ago, as a 15-month update, but never finished or posted it. Such is life. That update was written while I was in the throes of morning sickness and emotional stress/sadness while Pa was sick, so it started like this:

This past month or so has been a challenge for all sorts of reasons. But through the ups and downs Corban continues to be a bright, beaming light to me every day. And even though I’ve felt at times like I’m coasting through as a mom and not giving him 100%, he continues to learn, grow, impress us and make us smile.

Thankfully, I am feeling much more like myself now, so I’ve been able to enjoy the fun of having a sweet toddler this month. He has changed so much since the last update I wrote, at 13.5 months! Here are some of the adventures and milestones he’s experienced in that time:

  • Started walking
  • Said his first word (well, sort of…)
  • Started understanding and following directions
  • Weaned completely from breastmilk/nursing
  • Switched to a convertible car seat
  • Had his first haircut
  • Learned how to open doors
  • Learned to walk (not crawl) up very small steps
  • Flew on an airplane for the second time in his life

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Busy few months, I guess. Each new skill so naturally builds upon every other that these milestones just keep creeping up on us.

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Walking

C took his first steps at almost 14 months, and now he walks all over like a pro. When he’s tired or overexcited he might get clumsy and falls on his big diapered butt, but he gets right back up again like nothing happened. He tries to run if you pretend to chase him, but usually gets too giggly and trips. It still makes me smile to see him toddling all over the house like a little busybody.

Talking

He has absolutely mastered the point, gesture and grunt to communicate his desires to us. He used to consistently sign things like all done, more and eat, and he sometimes does that still, but now is more apt to use sounds and facial expressions to communicate. He is surprisingly effective at telling us what he wants – but without using real words.

I have been eagerly awaiting a “mama” or “dada” (which we reinforce constantly to him), but instead I think Corban’s first official word is “dog.”

No, we don’t have a dog. We have cats. But Corban still thinks almost every four-legged creature says “woof woof” and, starting about three weeks ago, will point at them and bark and occasionally say “dah,” which I interpret as dog.

For a while he would constantly point at things and says “dis,” but I think “dog” is more of a real first word than “this” since “this” can refer to anything.

Over the past few days he has been saying “bah,” a lot, sometimes possibly in reference to a banana, but several times when I pointed to a picture of a sheep and asked him what sound it makes. Another new one is “aaarrr,” like a lion roaring. Yes, our child makes lots of animal noises (see video at end of post).

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Listening

Although he hasn’t done much talking yet, it’s been amazing to see Corban’s language comprehension really take off these past couple months. He understands and obeys when we ask him to go get a book off the shelf, put something away, go give something to mama or dada, find a diaper, go get his blocks, throw something in the garbage, go find Biggles/Basil, get his blanket and various other simple instructions. Every time he hears a phone ring, he puts his hand to his ear like he is holding a phone. It’s so much fun seeing the things he picks up just by observation.

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Eating

Corban is generally a good eater, but I feel like I bore him with the same rotation of foods in his diet. His nanny and I try to ensure he gets a good balance of grains, fruits, veggies, protein and dairy, but because of a combination of his preferences and my shopping habits, that means he eats some combination of eggs, plain yogurt, peanut butter, toast, bananas, cooked carrots, cheese, hummus and a few other fruits and veggies almost every day. It’s easy, healthy and he likes it, so I guess I shouldn’t worry, but other ideas would be welcome. He rejects most meat I have tried to feed him recently. Green smoothies are my new favorite way to get some extra veggies in him.

He went through a phase where he was obsessed with eating whole apples. He would spend a good 45 minutes working his way (partially) through one in tiny bites, with a huge grin on his face the entire time.

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Sleeping

Happy to report we are at a REALLY good place with sleeping! Corban naps for usually 1.5 to 2 hours right after lunch (usually asleep around noon). Bedtime is 7:30 p.m. He goes down without a problem and sleeps until the early morning, when Peter may go in and replace his pacifier to get him to go back to sleep. Up for the day between 7 and 7:30 a.m.*  I’d better hurry up and enjoy this before we start all over with #2!

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He has become attached to a blanket my friend Jess crocheted for him last Easter. He threads his fingers through the holes and picks fuzz off of it for comfort.

*Of course… I typed this two days ago and the past two mornings he has woken up in the 6 a.m. hour. Grr!

Fun

Current obsessions:

Being outside. This really took off when we were on vacation in South Carolina two weeks ago. He was fascinated by the snowless ground, filled with sticks, leaves, pine cones and other exciting things to pick up and carry around.

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But even before that, he enjoyed playing in the snow.

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He loves walking around outside and going to the park.

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This past week has been cold and rainy almost every day, and Corban doesn’t understand why we aren’t taking him outside. A few times he carried his and Peter’s coats over to Peter, his way of asking to go out. One time he even carried both of Peter’s big shoes over to him. Don’t worry, C, we aren’t fans of this weather either.

Balls. Corban loves to play catch (though he can’t catch yet) with tennis balls, a beach ball or balloons.

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Climbing. We are his human jungle gym and climbing on us while we’re lying down can entertain him for a long time.

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When Peter and I hug or kiss. This is highly amusing to Corban. He grins and laughs hysterically. I’m sure someday he will have the opposite reaction…

Jumperoo. We still have the Jumperoo out (even though I am sick of seeing it in our family room) because our nanny’s son uses it while she is putting Corban down for naps. Surprisingly, Corban still asks to go in it sometimes and has an absolute ball bouncing around. I never would have guessed he would still be into that thing at 16 months.

Stairs. Ugh. He doesn’t get to climb stairs very often because we have a one-story house, so you bet that the first thing he runs for at church or someone else’s house is the staircase. He has never fallen, but still needs supervision, which is the inconvenient part because he would be happy climbing up and down stairs for hours.

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Touch screens. He thinks every screen is a touch screen, and tried swiping at a friend’s TV the other weekend. I let him hold my phone and play with it, usually only while it’s locked, and he is usually sufficiently entertained by pressing the home button to reveal a photo of himself at one day old. A couple months ago I showed him the Gangnam Style music video on my phone and he was riveted. Eventually he started dancing, and then bent down to kiss the screen and put his face/ear on it.

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Humidifiers. This love has subsided quite a bit, but for a long time he was really into playing with humidifiers. We turn one on at night in his room, for white noise and to keep the air from getting too dry in the winter, and he used to freak out over it — squealing, clapping, putting his face over the vent.

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Stickers. A cheap thrill, but now I find them in unexpected places all over the house.

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“Cooking.” I designated a plastic spatula for him to play with and he likes to get a mixing bowl out of the cabinet and sit and stir the bowl while I’m cooking. It will be fun to try actual cooking with him when he’s a little older!

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“Helping.” Unloading the dishwasher, sweeping, doing laundry… these are all exciting activities in Corban’s world. He loved the Swiffer in the house we rented in South Carolina, so I’m thinking we should get one. Productive playtime!

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Brushing his teeth. If he sees you brushing his teeth, he tries to grab your toothbrush and put it in his mouth. He smiles while I brush his teeth with his apparently very yummy toddler toothpaste.

Whew. It’s daunting catching up on 2.5 months of changes. And these are just the highlights. I keep thinking I’ll focus these updates more on my thoughts as a parent, but I like recording the details of Corban’s development (with photos) for both myself and far-away family and friends. I’ll leave you with some quick stats:

Height: 32 inches at 15-month appointment (80th percentile)
Weight: 24 pounds 4 ounces at 15-month appointment (75th percentile)
Clothes size: 18 months
Diaper size: 3 during the day, 4 at night (in Target brand — other brands tend to run smaller)
Shoe size: 5
Teeth: 14, I think, including 4 molars
Words: Woof woof, baah, dah (dog), aaarrr (roar)

And here he is yesterday showing off some of his animal noises. All but woof woof are recent developments within the past week.