two and a half years old

Dear Beatrice,

What can I say? You have once again fallen victim to Mommy being too busy and disorganized to write your letters. And it is such a shame, because since I wrote to you about 4 and a half months ago everything has changed, evolved, grown, improved–you’re becoming a little girl right before our eyes, and it’s happening so fast right at a time when I am too frazzled to write about it properly.

I don’t even think about tracking speech development with you anymore.  Now we just have conversations, where you order us around and we largely comply!  However, when I was making notes for your 26-month milestones, here is a paragraph I wrote which I still think shows that your language was pretty remarkable for a 26mo: “When we were Skyping to Granny Cloahe and Granny Cathy, you used the word ‘otherwise’ correctly in a sentence, which surprised all of us. You also know the word ‘frustrated.’ You like to wrinkle up your face and puff air out your nose to demonstrate. This one you got from a book about emotions; I’m not sure you’ve yet connected it to any actual emotion that you personally feel.”

Well, we’re long beyond being surprised by your vocabulary now.  These days we have entered the world of complex negotiations. So, today, when you were trying to delay your nap, I traded your demand that I read you one more story for three sparkly star stickers (you specified pink, green, and blue) and an audiobook instead. Or if I want you to get into your car seat without fuss, all I have to do is provide one of your various favorite packaged processed fruit snacks. No, I am not above bribery. At least it’s fruit, of a sort.  And the way I get you to brush your teeth is to allow you to do yelling indoors while I brush.  Fun for everyone! Except maybe the neighbors. And me. And your brother if he is trying to sleep.

Oh yes, that’s the other tiny thing I should mention. You’ve got a little brother! More specifically, you’ve got a little brother whom you utterly adore, named Arthur (occasionally aka Archie). Since you have always been so attached to me, I was really worried about how you would react to a tiny interloper. But from the very moment we brought him home, you have hugged and kissed him, worried about him if he cries, read him books, tried to soothe him, and demanded nothing more from me than equal cuddles during the times you’re feeling a little displaced.  I said in your last letter that you are caring and careful–this continues to be absolutely true.  Never was a little brother loved more.

At nursery they say they can tell you love having a new brother, because apparently you have started playing with the baby dolls very carefully.  You pick one out in the morning, carry it around with you, and give it to one of the staff if you have to put it down.  You say “Would you hold my baby?” and you go get it from them later. The other children are not allowed to touch your baby, and it seems you are adamant about that!  (Also, on a slightly different note, while you are apparently very popular at nursery, at the same time they say you don’t let anyone pick on you–it seems if anyone annoys you, you say “No, that is not nice! Don’t [hit/kick/whatever] me. It is naughty. You say sorry to me!”  It turns out that has worked out well for you, incredibly, and now nobody bothers you but you still have lots of friends. Good skills.)

You are really into imaginative play now.  So you narrate what we are “doing”–usually we are taking a taxi to the shops and then to a cafe where we will have a coffee (honestly, is this really what you think we do all the time?! If only!), and then we spill the coffee so we have to wipe it all up.  Or this from the other day: “Hmm, I’ll do the pancenta [this is a go-carting medal that you are pretending is a stethoscope, and you are holding it on Arthur]. He’s all sick. He did a cough. He’s all right! I’m a doctor.” (You also state that you are going to be a doctor when you grow up. I’ve got it on video so there’s no argument later!)

You’ve started ballet and football.  Daddy takes you to football on Saturday mornings, and he says you are by far the fastest runner and the most coordinated (this could be  because you are among the oldest in the class), but you aren’t particularly interested in the technical ball skills.  So he thinks your next course should be something different–probably swimming again, since we haven’t done that with you since you were a very small baby.  You love ballet (you even go up quickly and quietly for a nap on the days you know you are going to go to ballet) but you have been too shy to participate by yourself until recently–I have had to do it with you.  Naturally I am the star pupil.

You have been halfheartedly learning your letters; I’m not actively trying to teach you, but somehow you have now picked up (in addition to O) i, e, and s.  I think that’s it.  There is very little I can spell out for you using just o, i, e, and s, so I’m sure this reading lark would be all a bit boring for you if I pushed it right now.

By far the biggest change you’ve made without any pushing on my part is that you decided to potty train yourself. I tried about 5 months ago (as noted in the last letter I wrote), but you didn’t seem totally ready, and I didn’t want to push it right before Arthur was born, so I left it.  Then I could see that you were probably ready right after he was born, but at that point I wasn’t ready because it’s pretty impossible to potty train a toddler while breastfeeding ceaselessly (top tips for any future mothers there). So again I left it.  But then one day you said “I don’t want to wear a nappy,” and I said, “Ok, but if you don’t wear a nappy you have to go in the potty all day long,” and you said “Ok!” and that was that.  Since then we have had our share of accidents, but I really do think it is fair to say you are potty trained (during waking hours).

In things I have pushed, though: I think we have finally cracked bedtime.  Last August, while we were in France, you suddenly stopped being able to go to bed as delightfully easily as you always had.  I think you got scared when I put you down to sleep in what to you was a strange room, and every night since then was a bit of a struggle.  We tried putting you down and leaving you to cry, which was painful because I had never done that to you before, putting you down and coming back in every few minutes, which seemed to prolong the crying, putting you in bed earlier, putting you in bed later, having music, having more light in the room (which you categorically told me to turn off)–it seemed like we tried everything.

Then I tried the magic combination of leaving the door open while you listened to an an audiobook–we started with Stick Man.  From that night, bedtime became a lot easier.  Then, once you were largely calm every night, but sometimes just decided to yell that you wanted to get up, I started telling you that you could have your bedroom door open only as long as there was no yelling, because yelling is too noisy for your brother. So now I read you a few stories, I put your chosen audiobook on (we have a few now), and I give you a hug and kiss and say “Goodnight–I will leave the door open as long as there is no yelling,” and you say “Goodnight mommy! I won’t do any lelling!”
(yes, “lelling” <3 )

Finally, and can I just say I have been waiting a long time for this day to come, you now allow me to leave the room without taking you with me! Hip hip hooray! Just today I was allowed to go have a shower while your brother was having a nap and you were watching Bubble Guppies. This is freedom I have not known for nearly two years. And I can leave the room for 108 minutes if I want (of course I never do) if Frozen is playing. Oh, Frozen. I think I could now have Frozen as my specialist subject on Mastermind.

I love you,

P.S. By around 26-27 months, all of your molars were finally through!


three months old

Dear Archie,

I think you are technically not a newborn now that you are three months old, but is that really the case given you came along so early?  It’s a tricky one.  To be fair, you seem gigantic now, especially compared to how tiny you were when you were first born, but then again you also appear to be just right on track to be the average weight of a child at your adjusted age (that is, the age you are calculated gestationally, not the age you are from your birth date).  So I don’t know.

You’ve grown at an awesome rate. You were so tiny. So so tiny. Just a few weeks ago I remember looking at you thinking your legs were so skinny, your body was so scrawny, your little bottom and thighs would never have any chub–I worried about my poor little guy.  But now you’re about 12 and a half pounds! Yesterday I held a 3-week-old baby who is bigger than you were when you were born, of course, and she was such a tiny little sweeting, while you were a massive chubby chunk next to her.  I know, I know, babies grow.  But I was so happy to see definitive proof of that in you.

You’ve been up to some super tricks. You’ve been doing some excellent smiling, cooing, concentrating on things, tracking things with your eyes and head (usually your sister), tentatively batting at things, and some really superb sleeping, my little love.  I know things can change overnight, but right now you are usually happy to sleep from about 7pm to around 4am, with some food sometime between 10-11pm.  Sometimes you do wake twice, but not usually.  In the day you have settled quite well into three naps (short ones in the morning and late afternoon, a long one at lunchtime), but if we get in the car you always fall asleep then too.  But I don’t care when you sleep in the day as long as you sleep at night–and right now, you pretty much do. (It’s great when you and Beatrice are both home at the same time having a lunchtime nap, though.  It’s those moments when I can pretend I’m a reasonably good parent.)

The 4am point is interesting. I once read a definition of “sleeping through the night” that was “sleeping for the 5-hour stretch between midnight and 5am.” By that definition, you have only got close to that (you went to 4:50am) once. But you do regularly sleep 5-hour stretches, and when you eat at 4am you go right back to sleep until 7-8am. So I’d say you’re doing a decent effort toward sleeping through the night, even though you haven’t really done it yet.  That is fine!  I’m plenty amazed that you do what you do already.

Finally, you are so desperate to suck your thumb.  Much of your time right now is spent trying to figure out the coordination required to get that thumb in your mouth.  No, of course you don’t want a pacifier–THAT gets spit right out.  Silly me!

I love you,

one month old

Dear Archie,

UntitledYou are one month old!  But really you aren’t due to be out at all, and if you had stayed inside as long as Beatrice did, you wouldn’t have joined us until 7 May. (I’ll try to make that the last comparison with your sister–we’ll see how well I do.)

Your first month has seen improvements every week.  On the day you were born you were whisked away to the Special Care unit and I didn’t get to see you after our first 5 minutes together.  Then you were in the hospital for 9 days, even though that was mainly cautious observation, no actual treatment per se, not counting the feeding tube. Then when you came home I was still in terrible pain, so we went to stay with your grandparents for a few days so they could look after Beatrice while I looked after you.  And now we are finally home and into our mostly normal routine, though your sister has a few extra days at nursery to give me some resting time.

UntitledYou have changed from being a very sleepy, very quiet little elf into a big, demanding, loud boy who really wants to eat, and thank goodness breastfeeding has proved to be easy with you.  You gained 13 ounces in one week, and I haven’t weighed you this week, but I bet you are now around 7lbs, if not more.  When I took your two-week photograph with your milestone cards and teddy bear for size reference, you were only just larger than the bear, and still curled up.  Now you are much bigger than the bear and more stretched out every day.  Daddy reckons your success is down to your own tenacity; through all of your challenges–being born early, being separated from us, staying in the hospital for so long–you have at every turn, even at this early age, shown strength.

UntitledWhen you are fed to your satisfaction, though, you are currently an easy baby.  When full, you don’t cry (except when I change your nappy, which you hate), and you happily peer around at everything for a couple of hours a day. You spend the rest of your time sleeping.  You especially like sleeping on me or Daddy, and often after your 4am-ish feeding you refuse to go back into your Moses basket, instead demanding to curl up on my chest until it’s time for me to wake up.  This doesn’t exactly give me the restful sleep I ideally would have, but I don’t mind.  You will never be this little again, and I don’t have any plans to have any more little babies who will want to sleep on my chest.  So this demand is, to me, a tiny gift.

UntitledBeatrice adores you.  She wants to cuddle you all the time, and at nursery she won’t stop talking about you.  She has taken to saying “This is my family!” and then naming the members of her family: Beatrice, Daddy, Mommy, Daisy, Anya, and of course Arthur.  She is ever so gentle with you, at least right now.  I hope she will always be an adoring big sister to you.  Daisy is also very gentle with you (even as I type this, she is snuggled up next to you on Daddy’s lap), and even Anya will spend time in the same room with you.  All in all, you have been a hit.

I am so lucky to have such a beautiful, perfect son.

I love you,

Welcome to the world, Archie!

Dear Archie,

On the day you were born at 35 weeks and 2 days, I woke up, stood up, and found that I had blood all down my legs to my ankles.  The night before, I had contractions for around 2 hours, but they subsided, so though Daddy and I made tentative plans for your coming early, we had given up on the idea.

So Daddy called an ambulance and then took your sister into nursery, and then we found ourselves in the delivery suite in Homerton, where the consultant, Chris, told us that he strongly recommeded that we deliver you right away.  This was not because you were in any danger, but rather because you weren’t.

Your placenta was a placenta previa, the exact location of which was never determined, but it was either right next to or on my cervix. Because I had previously had a small bleed at 33 weeks, they had given us a steroid shot that aimed to help develop your lungs in case you had to come early. The consultant felt that you were probably well-cooked enough to come out straight away, rather than waiting for the next bleed, which was likely to be a big bleed that was dangerous for both of us–that is apparently the pattern with placenta previa.

I wasn’t particularly keen on the idea of pulling you out 5 weeks early, but Chris convinced both me and Daddy that the benefits outweighed the risks, and then we were immediately in the operating theatre.  Someone had tried 6 times to give me a cannula; in the end a consultant named Sade, who was amazing and looked after me the whole time during the c-section, inserted two cannulas without any apparent effort or drama, which I imagine was pretty embarrassing to the guy who had botched it 6 times in a row.

On the operating table I realized I could see everything that was happening reflected in the big light above me, which triggered a panic attack at the same time as Sade had given me the spinal block, which of course itself meant I couldn’t breathe very well, panic attack aside.  Fortunately she explained to me that when the light came on I wouldn’t be able to see the reflections!

In the end they took a long time to get you out–you came into the world bottom first.  Daddy saw you emerge and could see that you were a little bit floppy.  Your heart was beating but you weren’t breathing at first, but they took you to the resucitaire and you started breathing very quickly; fortunately you were never deprived of oxygen.  Then I got to hold you on my chest for about 5 minutes before you had to be whisked away to the SBCU–they were worried about your grunty breathing.

I went onto the c-section ward while you were in Special Care.  You were found to have good oxygen levels but high CO2 levels and were intitally diagnosed with mild Respiratory Distress Syndrome. You went into NICU for a few hours of very close observation, but fortunately you never had to have your breathing assisted, and over time they found that you simply cleared the CO2 on your own and also cleared your lungs of the extra fluid you had (which was a result of never experiencing labor).  They also gave you a glucose drip, and then started you on the colostrum I was expressing plus a small amount of formula.

Meanwhile, while I was on the ward, I found that all I *could* do for you was express colostrum–I wasn’t well enough to come see you that first day.  In my first 12 hours I attempted three times to get into a wheelchair to come visit you.  Each time I became so dizzy and faint that I couldn’t continue.  The 4th time, around 4am the day after you were born, I got into the wheelchair and actually managed to get into your room, but I felt faint while I was holding you, then gave you back to the nurse on duty, then actually lost consciousness in the wheelchair.

That day they found my iron levels were low and continuing to drop, so they gave me a blood transfusion (2 units) and then I found I could immediately walk to you.  Since then, I have stayed with you for as long as I can, and have found that you are both interested in breastfeeding and calm and strong enough to do it!

Unfortunately that isn’t the end; I have been found to have a heart murmur, which may be down to my continued anemia and lack of enough fluids, or may be indicative of a significant larger problem–I have to have an echocardiogram and potentially a 24-hour heart trace to find out.  And you are still in SCBU because they want to make sure you can eat effectively before you leave, which is of course important since you only weigh 5lbs, 7oz and you are a sleepy little thing.  So what happens now, at this very moment in fact, is that I am off to have an echocardiogram while Daddy finds out what you need to get out of SCBU.

This isn’t the relaxed, beautiful birth story some mommies and babies get. But I am ok with that and you, little sleepyhead, are too really.  That’s because what we have got, together, is a living mommy and a living baby, both of whom are recovering well.  All the other stuff is secondary.

I love you,

two years and one month old

Dear Beatrice,

dog and childUntil recently, our focus on watching your development has been to a large extent on seeing how your speech was coming along.  Now, though, you have a large vocabulary, you’re attempting to use the past tense (you said you “finded” something a few weeks ago, which I thought was impressive), and you understand and act on anything we say.

For example, about two weeks ago you found Baby Fox in your toybox in the living room and asked me where Mommy Fox was.  I said, “I don’t know–maybe Mommy Fox is in your tent in your bedroom. Do you want to go look for her?” You said yes and trotted upstairs, then reappeared shortly thereafter with Mommy Fox in tow.  I realized about 10 minutes later that upstairs was nearly pitch black and you happily did all of that on your own anyway.  Similarly, I asked you at bathtime to take your dirty clothes upstairs and put them in your laundry basket, which you happily did.

"We going on da traiiin!"So I think your verbal abilities are well and truly established.  Now your development is more sophisticated: so, for example, speaking of Mommy and Baby Fox, sometimes you pretend that one or the other of them is crying for some reason, maybe because of a banged head, and so you fix it by making sure the crying party gets kisses.  You can sing your favorite songs pretty much in tune (these are Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle, Wind The Bobbin Up, and Baa Baa Black Sheep off the top of my head.) And you have learned to tell knock-knock jokes–well, almost.  You have one knock-knock joke and it goes like this:

Knock knock!
(Who’s there?)
A tiger!
(A tiger who?)

For tiger you occasionally substitute polar bear.  I believe you have also branched out into snake once or twice, and ticklemonster on occasion.

UntitledYou’ve also got particularly good at memorizing books.  If I stop at any point in one of your favorites, you can almost always finish the line.  You can recite Aliens Love Underpants and Each Peach Pear Plum from beginning to end with very little prompting, if any.

AND . . . AND . . . you know the letter O!  Your drawing easel has a magnetic board on one side, and I have got you a load of magnetic letters.  You keep bringing them to me saying “what’s THIS? what’s THIS?”–and then out of nowhere you came up to me and said “Mommy, I got Os.” I looked, and sure enough you had three Os in your hand. 25 to go.

UntitledI measured you on your 2nd birthday to predict your height.  On your birthday itself you appeared to measure 34 inches tall, which apparently means you will be 5’8″.  If this is the case you will dwarf me.  However, I also measured you on the 2nd anniversary of your due date, and then you were 33 inches tall (predicting 5’6″).  I have to say that the latter seems more likely, but then again you have a possibility of inheriting height from Daddy’s side.  I hope you do–the world is made for tall people.

UntitledFor your 2nd birthday your major presents were a shiny red Radio Flyer tricycle (you haven’t quite got the hang of pedalling yet) and a toy kitchen.  I also took you to the bike shop to let you pick out your own helmet.  Helpfully, you picked out a shiny red helmet–technically a boy’s helmet apparently, but I can’t blame you since the “girl” options were incredibly boring in comparison.  Yours is vaguely in the shape of a fireman’s hat and has a fireman badge on it, and you love it.  I haven’t told you that you must wear a helmet to ride your scooter, but you insist on it.  In fact, when a nice man passing you on the pavement asked if he could ride your scooter, you asked him “Where is your helmet?”  They must have taught you this at nursery!

UntitledSpeaking of your scooter, you are more than happy to go on long scoots and walks these days, without getting toooo tired, unless the walk involves an uphill slope.  Now that you have the taller scooter handlebars, though, pulling you along is a lot easier, and I think the scooter will be a good option for transportation when the new baby comes, if we are going out at a time when you won’t need to nap.  You are excellent on your scooter; you always stop when I tell you to, and you are careful of pedestrians and of places where we need to cross the road.  I am proud of your scooting.

UntitledIn general you are a careful and caring little girl, in fact. If I get up with bleary eyes in the morning and have a little yawn that makes my eyes water, you will study my face and assert that I am crying.  If I say that I am not crying, you say “Mommy is better.”  You ask “Is Mommy ok? Is Daddy ok? Is Daisy ok?”–and on Daisy, you are now entirely gentle with her, without having to be reminded.  At nursery they say that you are very good with the younger children who have just joined (at around a year old) and that you are friendly with older children who are new and haven’t yet made friends.  Indeed, when we take you in and pick you up, you are usually surrounded by a gaggle of children who apparently love spending time with you.

UntitledSo you are good with younger children, but you really love spending time with older children.  At Christmas you had the most fantastic time with your cousin Francesca, who is nearly 4.  The two of you ran around with very little supervision needed; Francesca is a very sweet girl who likes looking after you, and you clearly admire her a great deal.

However, Francesca accidentally sparked a sort of mania in you–for ballet.  Since Christmas, you haven’t stopped doing ballet.  You dance on your tiptoes, put your hands over your head and turn around in circles, and lean forward and lift up one leg.  Also, you prefer to pick your own clothes now, and they have to be “ballet” clothes.  So you have ballet dresses and ballet tights, but you also have ballet jumpers and ballet trousers.  I have not yet been able to determine the precise quality of a given article of clothing that elevates it to “ballet” status, but you have some method, and you are quite clear about what does and what does not pass muster on the ballet front.

UntitledOn the back of this, I have been looking for ballet classes for you to join, but in our area they don’t seem to start for little girls until age 3, nor do gymnastics classes.  Never fear, though–what you ARE going to start in April is football classes with Daddy.  You love football, and your balance and core muscles are really very good now, so we have signed you up with Kiddikicks.  I am hoping with all my might that there will be other little girls there, or that you will love it enough that even if it is all boys, that won’t put you off it.  You’re young enough now that you probably won’t notice, but I know that all changes very soon.

B and Daisy did some hanging out today.I’m coming to the end of my list of things I wanted to write regarding the past 3 months, and there are a few miscellaneous items left, as follows:  You now give proper kisses, with little pursed lips and a *smack* sound.  You enjoy sitting on your potty, but with very little actual result (we have seen success on each front once).  You now enjoy bathtime–even asking for baths–and I seem to have cracked whatever issue it was where you wouldn’t let me wash your hair for fear of water in your face, I guess through sheer persistence. I wouldn’t say that tantrums don’t exist for you now, but really-truly tantrumy tantrums are pretty rare.  You do generally get in an almighty grump once or twice a day, especially after waking up, but that’s fair enough, really–and it doesn’t take much to get you back on track.  And Daddy and I have gone on a little holiday before the baby comes, while you stayed with Grandma and Grandpa.  You had the best time with them, visiting animal parks and soft play and having long walks with Grandpa and Nelson and Uncle John, and you told Grandma that you were on holiday too.

UntitledFinally, you are about to experience a lot of change over the next few months.  Your key worker at nursery, the lovely, vibrant, friendly, loving Ruby, has left to start a new job, which is great for her but sad for us.  You are moving down from 4 days at nursery to 2, now that I am on maternity leave, and your little brother is going to join us on 22 April. And Daddy’s colleague and our friend James (who you call Uncle James!), who has been staying with us, is about to move out so that I can get the spare room ready as the baby’s nursery.  So there is a lot for you to adjust to, but I think you will be a little star about everything.  I personally am looking forward to the next two months where you and I get to spend a lot of time together.  I think we will have a lot of fun!

I love you,

twenty-two months old

Dear Beatrice,

2013-06-18 23.37.08Three months have passed since I wrote to you last, bad mommy! I kept notes for you becoming 20 months, but I thought I was going to write to you at 21 months so I didn’t for then–and now we’re at 22, so I’d better get going before I find you are suddenly going off to university.

20 months

B, Lassay les ChateauxAt 20 months you were starting to get really cute. I mean, you’ve always been cute, but you really started ratcheting it up. Your nursery must have been working on Please and Thank You with you, because we weren’t, at least not consistently, and then suddenly you were saying “TAE KEW!” when I would hand you a yoget. You also seemed to get suddenly competent at running, jumping, and riding your scooter, all of which I believe must have come from the wolf pack of older boys you seem to hang out with most at nursery.

Aug 18 2013When we sing Old McDonald with you, often we will pause and let you choose the animal, then sing the noise the animal makes together. You made a couple of jokes this month: namely following “And on that farm he had a . . .” with “Camel!” (that one stumping Daddy) and “Ice cream!” (that one stumping me). You knew you were making a joke, because you giggled at it both times. You’ve also started hiding things, then saying “Where did it go?!” while holding your palms up like “I don’t know!” You really are a confident little performer.

TEEFWe’ve noticed your tantrums happen mainly when you are tired or hungry, so we try to anticipate those situations and keep them from getting too severe. This month you’ve really embraced the word NO, despite the fact that I have always tried to use words other than that to direct you elsewhere. NO has also been combined with your new “thank you” and often comes out “no THANK you” as if we have offered you something that offends your moral core.

You really like lying down, saying “good night!” and then pretending to sleep, complete with squeezed up eyes and a fake snore. Where did you get that?! Conversely, when you recently had to sleep in a travel cot at the end of Daddy’s bed, you got him up in the morning by tickling his feet and yelling “Wake up, Daddy!” Again, no idea where that came from.

pensive with cabbageThis month we took you to France for a quiet family holiday. You loved the big house and the gigantic garden (and happily went very far without us, without even a second thought it seemed), and you really adored walking up and down the hedgerow stuffing yourself with blackberries. You were less keen on swimming, and you didn’t want to get in the pool without clutching me tightly, but every day you requested that we got into the water together, so something about it was interesting to you.

UntitledFinally, this month we finally saw you take an interest in puzzles, and also suddenly you could do them with very little guidance. Again, this is probably your nursery’s influence: at home, until now, you’ve not shown the slightest bit of interest in your puzzles, but suddenly in France you could do one that your Aunt Cecilia gave you.

21 and 22 months

UntitledFor the past two months, we have watched your range of conversation and your terms of reference increase dramatically. You now speak in sentences, not just individual words. Your sentences go something like this:

“Beatrice hold it the yogurt.”
(in response to “Can Mommy have a bite of your cookie?”) “No, *mine* bite Beatrice cookie!”
“Mommy open the apple.”

So they’re not perfect (and you don’t only talk about food), but you’ve moved well beyond noun-based conversation.

Child Adores DogYour language development also means you finally understand me a lot better than before. I can tell you about consequences: say you are throwing your toy on the bus floor for the fun of having me retrieve it. I can say to you “Beatrice, if you throw the toy on the floor, Mommy will take it away. Mommy doesn’t want to take it away, so don’t throw it.” And you don’t. Also, it seems the most effective discipline (say if you are pulling Daisy’s tail or hitting me in the face) is to tell you to say sorry. It really gets to you: you say sorry, you have a brief moment of upset, and you give me a big hug and stop whatever it is that you were doing.

UntitledYou’ve somehow learned your shapes (I know that you know circle, triangle, square, rectangle, and I’d say thank you Mister Maker for that, except that you also know heart), and you have just started saying ALL your colors. (That video shows you also understand if I question the accuracy of something you have said. “IS it yellow?” “Noooo! It’s orange!”)

Your memory seems to be improving, in that you seem to know the lyrics and (roughly) the tunes of a lot of songs now, and you like talking about things you have done in the day, things you’ve recently read about or seen. You can also now recite entire passages from your favorite books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Each Peach Pear Plum, and Monkey Puzzle, and you can finish sentences throughout most of your other books too if I prompt you.

UntitledFavorite activities at the moment include helping with just about any task, from unloading the dishwasher to tidying up your toys, pretending things are different things (a bucket is your current favorite hat; yesterday you rolled up a piece of paper into a cylinder and thought it was hilarious to act like it was a cup), and cuddling, kissing, and playing with Daisy.

Over the last two months your tantrums have really decreased. I think this is down to your increased range of communication, but I know you are not 2 yet, so I fully expect to start to see more tantrums that are not based in a frustrated ability to tell me what you want, but instead annoyance that you I’m not letting you have what you want (for example, like the big tantrum you had the other day when I wouldn’t let you sleep in your extremely hot fleece dressing gown). You also don’t want to share anything (even Daddy gets the evil eye when he dares to touch your favorite chair), so I suspect you’re not going to cope well with having to share Mommy, Daddy, and all your toys with your new brother or sister, who is coming at the end of April next year.

I love you,

nineteen months old

Dear Beatrice,

2013-08-04 15.49.17You are 19 months old! Your little personality has developed enormously in the last month. Now you and I can have conversations like this one:

YOU: [brandishing a sticky spoon] Yoget!
ME: Yes, you are enjoying your yogurt, aren’t you?
YOU: More?
ME: You want more yogurt?
YOU: More yoget.
ME: Ok, Mommy will go get you more yogurt.
YOU: Yeah. More yoget. HUG!

That last part where you demand a hug isn’t really you asking for a hug, though. You are telling me that you know I am going to go downstairs, you don’t want me to leave you alone while I go, and you want me to carry you as we go. Right now you want a “hug” a lot–this means I have to do a lot of things (like picking up the milk from the doorstep in the morning, carrying it downstairs, opening it, finding a cup for you, and getting your cereal ready) entirely one-handed with you on my hip.

See also:
[Daddy leaves the room]
YOU: [runs to follow] Daddy pee pee! [rattles the handle of the bathroom door]

2013-07-24 16.08.55You still really don’t like people leaving the room. When there are two of us we can usually distract you, but if I am alone with you and need to leave you to get something done, like prepare your dinner while you are in the playroom, there is still a lot of wailing. Fortunately, though, you don’t do that for naptime and bedtime, and I can often head it off if I put on some children’s music.

As mentioned above, you are putting more than one word together now, often really successfully. Daddy and I heard you say “You doing that?” after I had asked him to feed the cat and he had obliged while I was carrying you downstairs. That was a complicated sentence, but I think it’s related to my saying to you “What are you doing?” quite a lot. I am not sure you really understand pronouns and deixis. But I guess you have to learn sometime–so maybe you do, more than I would think.

B and LegoThis month has been quite hard with regard to teething: three of your four canine teeth came through, and the fourth one really should have been through by now (I can feel it under the gum) but it hasn’t quite emerged. I think it has been painful for you; we do get a lot of random crying and your hand shoved entirely in your mouth. Once that last canine is through, you will be lacking only your backmost molars, and my hope for those is that you will be a little older before they start bothering you.

We have seen a lot more tantrums this month, again related to your increasing sense of self-determination moving slightly faster than your ability to tell us what you want. For example, you are desperate to drink from the rim of a cup rather than from a sippy cup (and you are reasonably good at it with close supervision). This means my preparing and giving you your milk as normal can result (and has resulted) in an instantaneous tantrum without my having any clue what I’ve done wrong. Come to think of it, I’m not really sure how I managed to work that one out. But I do try to listen to what you’re asking for, and I’m pretty good at working it out (I think).

2013-08-03 08.23.12I always thought the hard part of having a child who doesn’t yet have much language would be not being able to understand what it is you want. But the problem really is that I can’t make you understand why you can’t have something you want, if that is the case. I can’t make you understand that I just need to put you down for a brief moment while I pick up the chair that you’ve asked me to move, and that I can’t do it while holding you. In those moments, I can’t win.

Your favorite thing–well, you have a lot of those. Yoget, and singing, and hugs are all up there. This month you have become obsessed with plums and nectarines, and you would eat them at every meal if I could stand the diapers. But I think the thing you like most of all is moving around.

2013-07-28 10.37.19You love see-saws especially, and when there is no see-saw available, the next best thing is to sit on Daddy’s foot while he is sitting on the sofa, and to let him do leg lifts in the air with you on his foot as you chant “see saw! see saw!” until his leg gets tired (then you sit on the other foot). You have a scooter and you can actually use it a little bit. You never tire of dancing with Daddy in the kitchen. You love getting out of your buggy and walking alongside it, though I make you hold onto it (otherwise you do have a habit of running ahead). When we go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house you run around their whole garden playing football–and I may have said this before, but you are surprisingly good at kicking and throwing a ball already. Daddy’s family is quite sporty, and I think you have inherited a lot of that.

2013-07-24 15.55.41Other miscellaneous news: I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but you are now entirely competent at feeding yourself, and you don’t really let us feed you at all nowadays (unless it is something you find utterly delicious but can’t shovel into your mouth as fast as you would like). Your main tools are spoons and your hands, though you can use a fork. Also, you had your first real cup of tea this month and pronounced it “yummy.” (I made it with the teabag I had used for my own cup of tea, which I dunked only briefly and topped up with lots of milk, but now I have bought some decaf teabags, which I will use if you ask for it again.)

I love you,

eighteen months old

Dear Beatrice,

2013-05-27 16.27.50When you are an adult, a week or a month or a year doesn’t really make all that much difference to the way that you are. I would be lucky to have any sort of personal development in any given 6 months. By extension, then, I know that writing to you monthly about the ways you have changed will eventually no longer be appropriate.

When you were 16.5 months old, I hadn’t yet written a single note regarding a change in your development. You still seemed much the same as you had for the few weeks before, so I thought maybe monthly changes were at an end, as I knew they would be one day. “I’ll write to her at 18 months, then,” I thought.

2013-06-04 17.23.19This was the wrong choice. Just as you were on the cusp of turning 17 months, when I had decided not to take notes, everything started happening at once. At 16 months you enjoyed toddling around and you were frustrated at not being able to say much. It was the same two weeks later. But then suddenly at 17 months you repeated anything you heard, and now at 18 months you say over 100 words on your own*, either correctly identified without prompting in pictures, or spontaneously in your environment.

2013-06-06 10.32.22Relatedly, you sing. You started right at 17 months; now you do it all the time. You sing Twinkle Twinkle, the alphabet song, Row Row Row Your Boat, Wind The Bobbin Up, parts of Wheels on the Bus, parts of Old Macdonald, and probably more.

At 16 months I wouldn’t have said you had much interest in numbers or counting, though naturally I did count things in front of you because that’s just what mommies do; I wasn’t thinking about it too much. At 17 months you were making “counting” intonation noises along with me. At 18 months you count to 13, on your own, as you walk up the steps on your own. (Here is a video of you counting to 10 along with me. Even then, just the other day, I thought you didn’t know what you were doing, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that you do.)

2013-06-15 17.54.58Speaking of steps: at 16 months you were still getting your feet. Now you walk up the steps on your own, standing upright (though you still must hold my hand or the spindles on the staircase). You don’t crawl up steps any longer. You also want to walk down the steps, but you really aren’t able to do that, even when you hold on to me. You think you can, though, which is probably my biggest fright right now.

You also like running, which often involves going flying and then doing a bit of crying. Your legs are never free of bruises now. I am not sure how much I am supposed to protect you from yourself (apart from the aforementioned stairs, of course). When you stay more or less in one place, you’re still not still: one of your favorite activities is opening, shutting, taking out, putting in, making a mess, tidying up. You are an unbelievably active child.

2013-05-23 18.09.17What Daddy and I have noticed the most with all of this is your personality becoming more and more well-defined. You can and do tell us what you want and what you are thinking about. A lot of the time you seem to be thinking about us. You come up to me and demand hugs and kisses. You seem extremely happy.

You are enormously personable, and the shyness you appeared to be developing seems to be dropping away again. A few days ago we took you to a barbecue where there were no other children, but there were two dogs. You cuddled the dogs, walked around charming people, sang songs, made animal noises, and were generally a complete delight, continuing well past your bedtime. At nursery they keep telling me what a lovely little girl you are, and recently they have started saying you have a brilliant sense of humor, and that you laugh long and loud at things you find funny. They say you never cry there. (You most assuredly do a normal amount of whinging at home.)

2013-07-06 10.13.07Finally, I swear I didn’t do this to you, at least not on purpose, but you often won’t leave a room unless you have a hat, a bag, and your shoes. It is astonishing. Aren’t toddlers supposed to be hat-shy? On the other hand, though, you’re obsessed with spotting cars (fairly easy pickings, to be sure), you love trains, and there’s not a lot better in your eyes than kicking a ball around. So I think your influences are currently still well-balanced.

I would say you have probably changed more in the past 6 weeks than in months 13-16. It is truly amazing. We are so proud of you, and really in awe of everything you have mastered all at once.

I love you,

2013-06-04 17.44.49 *We have attempted to make a list of the words you know. Here are 108 of them, dumped on the page at random; I am positive that there are words we have forgotten. Fingers crossed (but no promises) there are no duplications. You may be closer to 120 words or even more. I have included a couple of utterances that aren’t really words, like uh-oh, because they have meaning. Oddly, there are some words you’d think you’d say, like arm, leg, and horse, but you don’t say them spontaneously, so they’re not in this list.

2013-06-24 18.46.49Butterfly
2013-05-29 15.38.28Back
Ice cream
2013-06-02 14.42.46Daisy
Muzzie [muslin]
2013-05-25 16.20.17Walk
“High Five”
“Stick Man” (thank you Julia Donaldson)

sixteen months old

Dear Beatrice,

2013-04-16 12.25.36Congratulations on being 16 months old! I would say one of the major themes for this month has been “frustration.” I suspect and hope there is some sort of language explosion about to happen, but without words you have still developed all kinds of signals that tell me you are frustrated about something.

The first sign was when you started throwing things in anger (then sometimes picking them up just to throw them again!). Daddy and I can see you scanning your immediate area for a likely candidate for throwing, then the deliberation with which you grab it; it’s a very grown-up thing to do and, unfortunately, very funny, though we try not to dismiss your feelings by laughing at you. Then came the advent of the full-blown proper tantrum, where you throw yourself to the ground, roll around, and wail. Then, while we were away on holiday, you started banging your head on the walls or floor (never very hard!) and biting me on the backs of my legs if I wasn’t giving you 100% attention constantly–but the banging and biting seems to be part of a specific kind of frustration related to boredom, so I think I can keep them at bay.

2013-05-05 16.33.36The thing about biting, though, is that Daddy and I are pretty sure it’s not always because you are frustrated or angry. It’s very close to kissing, and sometimes you lean in toward my face, then say “bite!” and nip my lips or cheek, sometimes while pinching my face, when in fact I think you intend for both the pinch and the bite to be nice. It is also a thing you can both do and name–most of your words up to now have been nouns, so I think things like “bite” and “walk” are both exciting concepts to you.

But to return to a point up there: yes, we went on holiday this month. You visited your Granny Cloahe and Granny Cathy in Arkansas for a week (where you also saw Auntie Kim and your BFF Eleanor), and then we met your Gran (who you called Nana) in Destin, Florida, for the next week. You did extremely well on the airplanes. Going out, you charmed everyone around you. There was a young man of about 25 sitting across from us who said you were the cutest child he had ever seen, and one of the flight attendants came and sat with you in the floor (we were on the bulkhead) and played with you for a long time. Coming back, you again charmed everyone around you–that is, except for the slightly unfortunate half hour where you screamed uncontrollably because you couldn’t get to sleep. After that, though, you slept and then woke up happy, so I think all was forgiven.

2013-04-21 16.28.02During the holiday you got on well with all your grandmothers and the new people you got to meet, and you seemed content. Everything was low-key in Arkansas, so all you needed to do was run around outside on the grass, eat at regular intervals, play with all of my old toys, and sleep, and you managed all of that pretty well–though you did end up sleeping with Mommy and Daddy every single night, because you kept waking at 2am due to jetlag, seeing us in the same room, and insisting on crawling in with us.

2013-04-14 13.40.47In Florida you had your own bedroom, where you slept very well, and we had a huge suite to run around and play in, PLUS a pool that was perfect for you, PLUS a private beach connected with our hotel. We went to the beach one day. It was beautiful. The only problem was . . . you apparently hate sand. We put you down to walk on the sand and you wailed. Then unfortunately you then plopped down to sit in the sand, whereupon you lifted your hands and feet up and balanced on your bottom as if to say “GET THIS STUFF OFF ME!” We put you on a towel then (which effectively imprisoned you), and you were ok then as long as at least one of us sat next to you (and you enjoyed watching us make sand castles). You loved paddling in the sea, but unfortunately that also involves walking on sand, so you kept alternately shrieking with delight and dismay. By the time we left, everyone else around us had cleared out and you started laughing. Was that your plan all along? to make the private beach truly private?

2013-05-05 17.32.54By the time we left Florida, you looked a little battered, with a skinned knee, bruised shins, a skinned elbow, a blister on your foot, and a small graze on your back. I hadn’t considered what the combination of a toddler who has just learned to run but is wearing shorts, short sleeves, and new sandals might mean. None of these things seem to bother you, but they do bother me! But at least you are finally starting to get some hair, which does improve the overall look.

This month you have also started pointing decisively at things that aren’t in books. You’ve been pointing things out for a while, but I was beginning to think you would never point to actual stuff in the world (I was imagining it was out of politeness, of course). I think your favorite thing to do is to point at whatever I am eating and say “What’s THAT?” Naturally I always end up giving at least a little bit of it to you. It’s usually something you shouldn’t really have (and by extension neither should I!).

2013-04-13 14.17.55Speaking of pointing at things, you also now happily show the world your belly when we ask you where it is, and you bend over and touch your toes when I ask where they are. You’ve had your head, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth down for a while. Maybe by this time next month you’ll know your philtrum, gnathion, and opisthenar?!

The best and funniest thing you have started doing is announcing a decisive and enthusiastic “YEAH!” in answer to most questions. (You’re still not in love with “no” yet.)
“Beatrice, do you want a banana?” “YEAH!”
“Do you want to get your nappy changed?” “YEAH!”
“Do you want to go for a nap?” “YEAH!” *runs to the door, then crawls up the stairs to the bedroom*

2013-05-05 18.21.20That last part is absolutely true. At the moment you are more than happy to go to bed at naptime/bedtime and you know exactly where to go to get there. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I am just enjoying it while it lasts.

Daddy and I are enjoying our little toddler, and I think we are meeting your growing demands for playing, running around outside, and reading. Fingers crossed for a dry and warm summer, and also for our garden to get sorted out soon.

I love you,

PS This post features your friend Alice at the beginning and your friend Rafu at the end. You and Rafu spend most of your time together chasing each other and kissing.

fifteen months old

As I write this, you are actually 16 months and 2 days old. I am going to write the 16 month letter directly afterward! But never fear, I keep good notes about what you do from day to day.

2013-04-03 13.22.32Dear Beatrice,

You are 15 months old! This month you have had your biggest teething challenge yet: all four of your front molars emerged at once. This wasn’t much fun for you, though fortunately we didn’t suffer with much sleeplessness thanks to Calpol. In the day, though, you have been grumpy and crying randomly, and directly after you started crying one time, I saw that the gum above one molar was bleeding a little bit. So I think it has been a painful time for you, poor thing.

2013-04-02 15.10.27You have decided to set yourself some physical challenges this month, such as walking backward and walking around with a muslin over your head (which sometimes you wear like a hat–hats being another new obsession for you). I’ve been surprised at how good you are at both of those things. Sometimes you still crawl (especially right after you have crawled up or down some stairs), but if I say to you “stand up and walk for Mommy” you do it straight away. You also say “Walk! Walk!” when you are walking and when I put your shoes on you. (Speaking of shoes, you are in your second pair already!)

B in her Easter fascinator and new 60s-style dress.You enjoy dancing, and I know you know the word “dance” because you will dance on command. You really enjoy the Sleeping Bunnies game, which you must have learned at nursery. You also appeared to do an accidental front somersault this month, but I think what must have happened (as I only saw the first part out of the corner of my eye) was that you were doing your usual downward dog yoga pose, you decided to walk forward a little too far, and you fell over your own shoulder. You looked a little surprised afterward and you didn’t try to repeat it.

2013-03-29 11.14.44Your language ability is growing to the point that it now seems impossible to document which new words you are saying. Part of this is because you repeat most things we say to you, but it is hard to know how many of the things you repeat will become new words that you will actually say on your own later. For example, you repeat “shoes” after me a lot, but you never say it on your own, whereas I said “cereal bar” to you probably once, but you now know the term and request a “cece bot” when sitting down in your high chair. But words you have definitely added this month include “book!” (usually shouted while thrusting a book at me to get me to read it to you), “bubbles,” and “cuddle.” You can say “no” and shake your head, but you don’t really say it a lot (yet?!). You have also FINALLY learned how to say “meow” for a cat (even though “cat” was your first word and you did animal noises shortly thereafter).

2013-04-04 13.50.54I’m not sure if it is possible for you to make jokes yet, but you have started telling Daddy that cows say “baa”–but in front of other people you say cows say “moo.” I think you must have got it wrong one day and enjoyed Daddy’s reaction. Now we make a game of it, but I do worry that you are going to start really believing that cows say “baa.”

This month we have also seen a big improvement in your separation anxiety. While you still don’t like it if we get up and leave the room suddenly, you can usually be distracted if one of us is remains in the room with you, and if we do leave you alone in your playroom (which is in sight of the kitchen), you don’t have the same hysterical reaction that you have been having that made it impossible to get anything done. Perhaps relatedly, you have also let go of your attachment to your pacifier, and you have slept for a couple of weeks without it at all, which pleases both Daddy and me very much.

19 March 2013In short, it’s been a fun month, with lots of laughter and lots of running around! I am looking forward to the end of the long cold winter, because I think you will really love going wild in the park.

I love you,