16 months

At 16 months, Jimmy understands almost everything we talk to him about. He can say these words (some more intelligibly than others, but all in a way we can understand):

  • Mama
  • Dada
  • ball
  • baby
  • no
  • coat
  • book
  • yogurt
  • Yoda
  • milk
  • juice
  • shoes
  • fish
  • Elmo
  • nose
  • turtle
  • rabbit
  • cat
  • dog
  • Dodger
  • Nathan (Ne-Ne)
  • Kayla
  • Josh
  • spoon
  • corn
  • shower
  • bath, bathtub, bathmat
  • pine cone
  • wagon
  • bowl
  • paper
  • puppet
  • lotion
  • cracker
  • bye-bye
  • chalk
  • car
  • garage
  • go
  • window
  • bubble
  • sunshine
  • moon
  • two
  • oh no
  • quack quack
  • tweet tweet
  • moo
  • pee pee
  • poo poo
  • diaper
  • shoot!

Jimmy can point to almost all body parts on himself and others (e.g., Jimmy’s feet, Kayla’s hair, Mama’s nose). He can also climb like crazy, moving boxes or chairs around to get where he wants to go. He loves looking out the window for squirrels and birds. He can take off his coat, shoes, and socks all by himself. He can climb the stairs but is still too nervous to practice going down. He loves to be chased, caught, tickled, and set free to repeat. He loves trucks, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, stuffed animals, and books. And eating. He gives wonderful hugs and kisses.

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Things about Jimmy at one year old

It astonishes me that Jimmy is already one year old. Even if I am a terribly negligent blogger, I felt the need to create a record of Jimmy’s one-year-old world.

Jimmy loves to eat/drink:

  • canned pears
  • canteloupe
  • pasta!
  • orange juice
  • yogurt
  • bananas
  • french fries
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Doritos
  • Cheerios
  • Goldfish
  • Nonna’s pizzelles
  • Poppy’s cream cheese and chive scrambled eggs
  • sips of mama’s water
  • lemons
  • He does not like meat.

Jimmy knows what these words mean:

  • shoes
  • duck
  • dog
  • what’s that?
  • hat
  • dad
  • mama
  • Josh
  • ears
  • no and yes

Jimmy can:

  • wave goodbye
  • crawl and cruise like a maniac
  • stand by himself
  • climb up onto tiny chairs
  • sing “Row Row Row Your Boat” (“rah rah rah”) and rock back and forth
  • answer “How big is Jimmy” — “so big!” with his arms up
  • tell you what a duck says (“wha wha”)
  • point to his siblings when named in person and in photos
  • dance to music
  • crawl up the steps
  • get off the bed feet first
  • hand mama tiny pieces of trash he finds on the floor
  • shake his head no and yes

Jimmy likes to:

  • snuggle stuffed animals to his face
  • give mama kisses
  • play with Kayla
  • practice walking with Cameron
  • play with his racetrack
  • look at books, especially Hush!, What’s Wrong Little Pookie?, and Five Little Pumpkins
  • look at photographs of himself and his family
  • explore machines — like the vacuum, stereo, dishwasher, dryer, air purifier, humidifier, laptops, remote controls
  • talk to Nonna and Poppy on Skype
  • play peek-a-boo
  • take off his shoes and socks in the car
  • chew on shoes
  • talk on his play phones
  • take showers with Dad

Jimmy’s favorite things:

  • trucks
  • hats
  • ducks and birds
  • dinosaurs
  • yellow quilt Nonna made for him
  • fuzzy blanket Dad bought before he was born
  • Waffles the pig
  • womb-sounds bear
  • Little People racetrack
  • pots, pans, and other cooking utensils

Jimmy is fearless and highly inquisitive. He points to just about everything and asks “what’s that? (uh da?!)” His eye is especially attracted to artwork and photographs. He has a winning smile with fantastic dimples that absolutely lights up the room. He makes friends with strangers while we are shopping and plays peek-a-boo with people at restaurants. He loves to make people laugh. To get someone’s attention, he will wildly smile in their general direction until they notice him. He typically only lets mom, dad, Kayla, and sometimes his brothers hold him (in that order of preference), unless they are unavailable. He is learning animal noises. He is very purposeful in choosing books and will request to read the same book several times in a row, especially Hush!. When he is sleepy, he rubs mama’s ear and sings while he rests his head on my shoulder. He does not like sleeping under covers and will fight his way out quickly.

Jimmy’s eyes are a fascinating mix of blue, brown, and green. His right eye is noticeably bluer than his left. He just got his first freckle on his left bicep. He looks very much like his Poppy, especially while he is sleeping.

Two Month Gap

So I was reminded that I had a blog today by my good friend RWT, who just launched Unexpected Smiles, with its companion Twitter @providingsmiles. She lovingly mentioned the Minivan Diaries there and prophesized about my world takeover, something I fantasize about while I’m at work — though less frequently than I did before Jimmy entered the world. More often than not, in the office, I am thinking about getting to Jimmy’s school to pick him up at 5:15. Seeing him turn toward the door, light up when he recognizes my face, and start shuffling toward me like a manic hermit crab is truly the highlight of my day.

At home these days I don’t plot world domination because I am too busy trying to pay attention as Jimmy becomes a more mobile, more vocal, and more dynamic part of our bustling family. Jimmy is currently “cruising,” using our furniture and a now-beloved cardboard box to practice walking while holding on. He has this crazy hair that sticks straight up in the air like a feathery mohawk, and he is working on learning through a little painful trial and error how not to pinch his fingers in drawers. He can also stealthily climb into cabinets and the undersides of tables. Getting out of them is a little less graceful. He ate real (well, Velveeta) macaroni and cheese for dinner.

We are having some transitional sleep issues (i.e., I let Jimmy sleep in our bed a few times and now that’s the only way he will roll). We are in a constant state of babyproofing. We are always on the chase. And we are happy. All of us, really. Everyone enjoys pointing out the new things Jimmy can do; everyone enjoys watching him grow. He has truly bonded our family together.

Not only is Jimmy is a perpetual source of unexpected smiles, so are the other kids’ creative ways to play, make him laugh, and understand his language.

Status Report

So it’s been awhile. Let’s get you up to date.

Jimmy has taken his first shuffles as he learns to crawl.

He is also starting to wave goodbye, say Mama and Dada, and generally terrorize everything lower than three feet off the ground. His clinginess to me has been exacerbated lately (I’m guessing) by teething — he cut one bottom tooth and is working on pushing out it’s next-door neighbor. You can see his first tooth in the photo at right.

toothWe took him to his first baseball game — Orioles v. Tigers — and he had a blast watching all the people and chewing on the seats. Currently, his favorite things to do include playing with his stacking rings and cups, banging on daddy’s laptop, and grabbing the dogs’ faces.

He is not so excited about sleeping on his own or being more than six inches away from his mama. We are working on these things. I am ready, at this point, to lengthen the tether, especially because I can’t take a three-minute shower without him screaming bloody murder while trying to claw his way out of his play pen or away from his poor heartbroken daddy to get to me. First of all, my legs are getting really hairy. More importantly, it’s not good for Jimmy to unravel every time I walk out of the room.

The interesting part is that Jimmy does fabulously when I am not home. He is overwhelmingly happy and playful when I’m not around. But as soon as I walk in the door, both at home and at school, it’s tears and furious scrambling  — by all his limited means — toward me. I don’t know if I’ve somehow created this (admittedly very lovable) monster or if it’s just a phase. If it is a phase, I’m wondering if my attempts to ameliorate the behavior (distracting him with a toy rather than picking him up, comforting him in his crib rather than on my chest) are totally pointless or if we can still chalk them up as “character building.”

It all feels like a giant experiment. I just hope the all the parental fumbling I’m doing doesn’t err on the side of emotional scarring. As I write that I realize it sounds ridiculous and I’m probably doing alright.

Deductions

Have just returned from a lovely family vacation to the beach, via a packed-to-the-gills minivan rocking a turtle top. Lots of togetherness. Lots of sand. And lots of tears from Mr. James every time I walked out of the room. The most heartwrenching episode occurred the night we left him with his Granny up on the balcony to take a ten-minute walk on the beach; we could hear him screaming bloody murder even above the crashing of black waves and the roar of traffic on Coastal Highway. When we walked back in, he reached out his arms for me and, red and bleary and covered in snot, smiled.

I have come to believe that Jimmy is screaming for me, at least lately, not out of some overwhelming needy love but rather simply because he is hungry. Last night, he ate a remarkable seven times between his 5 p.m. school pick-up and 1 a.m., when he finally fell asleep for the night. As 5 p.m. approaches again, I am preparing myself for another long night pinned in a chair by a ravenous (and luckily still toothless) suckerfish.

My late bedtime transpired into an inordinate proportion of today being spent spacing out on Internet news, and it seems to me that some remarkable scientific developments have come to the foreground in the past day or so. First, they think they’ve found a way to activate the endurance gene, which has the potential to make svelteness a human standard — without the need for abhorrent exercise. If it weren’t for the fact that they’ll have to inject something into your brain that literally alters your genetic patterns, I’d be signing up for the clinical trials. Also, they discovered a crazy new pot-bellied dinosaur while excavating in Utah, are finding evidence linking nitrites in processed meats to Alzheimer’s, and have made amazing progress in the development of an actual cloak of invisibility.

All this, and Walmart has the front of their store stocked with school supplies already. Utter insanity.

Tears

Well, it finally happened. Today when I left Jimmy at school (i.e., daycare; I just feel better about leaving him there for nine hours a day when I call it “school”), he cried for me.

When we walked in he was all smiles for his teacher — as usual — and he acknowledged the other little babies with a glance each, as if he were taking roll. As usual, he began chewing on everything he could get his hands on as soon as I placed him in the play area. He continued to amuse himself as I meandered through the room, putting his bottles in the fridge, his diapers in the bin, his binky and sunscreen in his cubby. When I kissed him goodbye, he gave me a big bashful smile, all par for the course.

Today, however — and perhaps for the first time — he followed me with his eyes as I walked away, breaking his typical concentration on the piles of brightly colored toys that surround him. I could hear him wail as the door closed behind me. It was devastating.

During the two or three seconds I remained in the hallway, I changed my mind a thousand times about what to do. Go back in was my first and most pressing thought, and it bounced repeatedly off of He’ll be fine (the eventual winner). I glanced through the window to see him screaming and tears burned in my eyes.

I walked away. It was the most difficult thing I have done so far as a parent — leaving him to the comfort of strangers — and it has been haunting me all day. I know he is fine. I know his teacher picked him up immediately and rocked him into peace. I know this. I know this but it doesn’t help.

Hours later, I still feel like I should have gone back in. You read these books and articles about babies manipulating their parents, and how you mustn’t give in lest they control you. But why not? If Jimmy has found a way to communicate his needs to me, why should I refuse to listen? Am I then teaching him that his needs are invalid, or that his communication methods are inappropriate? He is six months old.

Some might say that by giving in I am paving the way to an incorrigible two-year-old who will throw himself on the ground at Target, screaming and flailing for a candy bar. But in my mind, that’s truly inappropriate behavior. Crying for the comfort of your mama — that’s just a primitive attempt to fulfill a basic human need, no different than crying when hungry or tired.

Sleepless

We’ve been experiencing sleeping issues, which — by the looks of a quick Google search — appears to be one of the most angst inducing conditions in early parenthood. It’s not the getting up at 2 a.m. that bothers me. My eagerness to make Jimmy feel loved makes every one of our interactions oddly cheerful, no matter the hour. It’s the 3 p.m. slump that is getting to me. Heavy eyelids, a general sense of confusion at work, misguided ideas about dinner (don’t maraschino cherries count as a vegetable?).

Getting Jimmy to sleep is easy enough. Laying him in his crib is touch and go. Keeping him there for the duration of the night has become impossible. He wakes around 2, sometimes again around 5, and seems to want nothing more than to be held. He falls asleep almost instantly in my (and only my) arms, but maneuvering him back into his crib has become a painstaking process. If you could be cradled by a warm, familiar body while you slept, wouldn’t you prefer it to the cold solitude of an empty bed — a bed that, due to current safety practices, is devoid of any blankets or even stuffed animal  friends?

We tried letting Jimmy cry it out. He is persistent. He goes berserk. It seems clear that he does not have any self-calming skills. This is my fault, probably, as I’ve given him only small opportunities to learn them. He flips, he flails, he turns himself purple. We’ve learned that he can sustain this for at least an hour. An hour is too long.

At this point, I don’t know how to backtrack, and I’m torn as to whether I even need to. He’s a baby, and aren’t we just here as mothers to meet our baby’s needs, especially in the first year? I truly don’t believe you can really spoil a baby. A toddler maybe. But a baby? Can a baby’s habits really be classified as “bad”? I don’t believe so.

So I will continue to zombie through my days as long as it takes Jimmy to go through this new phase. I don’t feel it’s my right as a new mother to a decent night’s sleep, every night. Maybe once in a while, but not every night, or even every other night. This is exactly what I signed up for when I decided to have a child.