Two is…

I don’t know quite how it happened (well, I suppose I do, but time is weird), but here we are, nearly a month into life with a two year old. Her birthday was a casual family day, but it was also fun and adorable. The Engineer’s Two Year Old is proving a pretty fun person to get to know.

So far, Two is up and down and a bit all over the place, especially because it coincides with having a month to pack up all our stuff and move halfway across the world.

Two is also:

  • Pleading eyes and “Watch videos now, please?”
  • Long bedtimes and early early mornings (we’re talking 5am, or even earlier!)
  • Lots and lots of stories, again and again and again.
  • Picnics (or NICNICS!) on the floor in the lounge with all her friends.
  • Copying everything we do, with sometimes hilarious consequences.
  • Counting “1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10”
  • Stripping down for “nudie” time whenever she gets the chance.
  • Possessives: “Elsie’s friends” “Elsie’s Papa” “Elsie’s snot”
  • Feeding the fish one tiny piece of food at a time, so it takes forever.
  • Reading her animal books to me from the back seat. “Ox bellows. Mama make noise!”
  • Running away as fast as she can to show us she is done.
  • Showing us just how much she remembers from a surprisingly long time ago.
  • Snapchat. So much Snapchat. (She calls it “masks”)
  • A quite sudden ability to complete more complicated puzzles.
  • A whole new level of communication. “Spicy! Spicy mouth! Milk helps…” and “Kiss knee, Mama. Ouchie Elsie”
  • Inventing names for things. Flavoured crackers are “messy crackers”.
  • Telling us a story over and over until we figure it out.
  • Meltdowns over stopping her using our phones.

Two is hard. Two is messy. Two is a whole lotta fun.

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Two is two candles on a birthday cake and one birthday girl enthusiastically blowing them out.

Moments

So often, I open this blog up, and think about writing a post. Often I start a paragraph or two, and then delete it all because it just isn’t coming together. I think I know why this is: it’s because I like to write stories, and life with a toddler is not lived in stories.  Life with a toddler is lived in moments.  I know that with some time and space, those moments will come together into stories. But life with a toddler is also not lived with a lot of time and space. So today, rather than give up before I even begin, I’m going to embrace the randomness of toddler life, and talk about some of those moments.

Like the moment this afternoon when The Engineer’s Toddler tried to copy me saying hippopotamus. She ended up with popom and a big grin, and we moved on.

Or the moment yesterday when she figured out how to get the roundabout at the playground moving and then stepped on for a (very slow) ride.

Or the moment this morning when she sat on the big blue mat at our swimming class, crawled towards me, and pushed herself into the pool for the first time since we joined the group several months ago.

Or the many many moments that she spends saying Ehss (her version of her name) and pointing to her chest proudly.

Or the moment, while on holiday in Mulu, where she put on her adorable little lifejacket, and held my hand with a huge grin while we waited for our boa’ (that’s boat, with a glottal stop instead of the t. Trust me, it’s cute.)

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Even the moment yesterday when she woke up early from her nap and wouldn’t go back to sleep and screamed and signed all done madly and shouted Moose and noi until I turned off the white noise and opened the curtains.

There’s also that moment when she got nearly to her bedroom before running back to me for one last kiss.

And the moment today when she asked me to put a dress on her, then on all her toys, and then her dolls, and wouldn’t take no for an answer when I told her that my big ol’ body wouldn’t fit into her size 1 dresses.

And the moment a couple of weeks ago when we had a big proper tropical downpour and I let her run in the rain at the playground after our toddler tumble session. She definitely liked that moment.

She also liked the moment a couple of days before that when she found a big pile of dry leaves to jump in at the park.

And the moment when I gave her her first ice block. That was a surprisingly short moment, because the afternoon sun is relentless some days, and an iceblock is no match for that heat.

So many of these moments are fleeting, unrepeatable. And that’s part of the wonder of the individual moments and part of the wonder of life with a toddler.  They’re changing, growing, learning at a crazy pace, and it’s amazing to see. Even when it’s sometimes not that much fun.

But among the weird and wonderful flyaway moments, there are those moments I’m so glad to get to repeat over and over.

Like the moment each night when she lies down next to me, requests Baby (that’s Hush, the Kiwi version of Hush Little Baby by Joy Cowley and Andrew Burdan, for those unfamiliar with The-Engineer’s-Toddler-speak), and cuddles in as I sing.

I know that moment won’t be a part of our routine forever, but sometimes I certainly wish it would be.

 

 

 

 

Toddler Talk

In the last few days, at 19 months, The Engineer’s Baby has finally started to say Papa. For the last two months, she has called us both Mama. And before that, she just got our attention with grunts and screams, and didn’t really see the need for names. It has been a surprising wait (she has been babbling up a storm since 6 months old, and she LOVES her papa), but watching her learn to communicate has been one of the absolute joys of parenting so far. She took a while to get started (she said her first word, bowl, around 16 months, which isn’t all that late but was late enough for this perfectionist to get a little bit caught up in comparing and worrying), but she soon got the hang of it, and is now going along great guns (although she’s definitely still not the most verbal kid!)

Papa is the latest in a list of maybe fifty or so words that she says (we haven’t kept track very well!) Her favourite words are more and teddy and no, and now Papa.  Many of the others are variations of the syllables ma and ba, making it pretty difficult for others to understand her, although I’m getting pretty good at spotting the differences. But even if people don’t understand every word, she’s a great communicator. She uses signs. We taught her water and all done, and she invented several more (including pepper, which came into play around 17 months when she was only just starting to speak and sign, and was an adorably weird view into her priorities). And when she doesn’t have a word or a sign, she uses gestures and/or drags people across the room to show them what she wants.

Interspersed with the meaningful communication is a whole lot of toddler babble, which is totally adorable. She chats to her teddy and her moose. She talks to herself as she works on things. She sometimes talks herself to sleep. A personal favourite is a little “oh dear/ooh ooh” sound that she makes when she is looking for something. It’s impossible to describe, and impossibly cute.

Which brings us to the biggest problem with writing a blog post about toddler talk: It’s completely impossible to convey in words how cute the communication is, and she clams up as soon as a video camera comes out. If you know a toddler of your own, I’m sure you’ll understand exactly where I’m coming from. If you have a baby and are waiting on this stage, you have so very much to look forward to.  And I guess everyone else will have to just take my word for the fact that kids are amazing and adorable, and my kid is no exception.

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The Engineer’s Baby with Moose (mah), and Teddy (teh-deeee)

 

Choose Joy

I half drafted a post about how it’s been a rough time in the Engineer’s household, and some of the lessons I’ve learned. It wasn’t really a negative post by the end, but I got halfway through, and realised that I’m sick of only writing here in the hard times. I think it’s important to share those hard times, and will continue to do so, but at this rate everyone is going to think it’s all hard times here, and that I’m not enjoying this parenting thing. That is definitely not the truth, so today I’m going to focus on some of my favourite things about life with The Engineer’s Baby.

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This age (nearly 15 months if you’ve lost track, which wouldn’t be surprising with my posting (in)frequency) is so much fun, but my favourite thing is the babble. She doesn’t really speak any English yet, but her babble is fairly communicative and totally adorable. She adds sounds and syllables and babbly-phrases every day, it seems, and I love it.

We get on just fine, her and I, but she is absolutely crazy about her Papa. When she hears his car roll up, she gets the biggest grin on her face, and rushes to climb her chair and look out the window. It’s the cutest.

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Every so often she completely surprises me with what she understands. I’ll say “I’ve got a sore head”, and she’ll point to her head (and it’s repeated, so I don’t think it’s coincidence). Or I’ll ask her to get a cloth, and she actually does it. The other day she cleaned up her own spill with only instructions from me. It’s pretty astounding to me that babies can go from little newborn blobby cuteness to following verbal instructions in just over a year.

I love watching her play. She’s all over the place, of course, but every so often she’ll really focus in on one thing. Opening a container, getting a shoe onto her foot, pulling her buzzy be around, stacking her stacking rings. Her little focus face is adorable.

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She’s gone from a barely-cuddly baby to a really great hugger. Big around the neck cuddles, head resting on chest, the whole nine yards. Each night before The Engineer takes her through to bed, we have a last snuggle, and it’s just lovely.

This isn’t even the half of it really. There is so much joy in parenting a toddler. Sometimes it’s a little hidden behind some very real challenges, some not quite so real challenges magnified by sleep deprivation, and a whole lot of mess. But it’s there. And today, at least, I’m choosing to shine a light on it.

A first birthday letter

The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday was more than two weeks ago now, but we’ve been busy with various things, and I’ve been struggling to process all the feelings, so this letter is happening now. Better late than never, I say.

Dear E,

You are now officially one year old. And what a year it has been. It has been joyful, and hard, and surprising, and amazing, and tiring. We are both learning about each other, about the world. Of course, we haven’t always been right in sync. There are times where our needs have butted heads like I never imagined. But we’ve both come out the other end relatively healthy and happy, so I’m calling it a success.

When you were born, you were big and cuddly, and strong. You took a little time and encouragement, but then came rushing into the world with gusto. And these patterns from your earliest days have continued to appear again and again throughout the year.

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At one month you were smiling and staring and loved nothing more than your parents. We hadn’t yet figured out what you needed to ease into sleep, and the evenings were fairly loud and uncomfortable. But during the night and day you were a curious wee dot who wowed everyone with those strong legs.

At two months you worked out how to roll yourself over so you could see the world from a new angle. You spent most of the time on your tummy (or cuddled into a parent) from then on.

At three months you were growing and growing. You were moving through clothing sizes rapidly, were figuring out new things all the time and were starting to move around a little. We were still struggling with sleep, but the evenings were a lot calmer.

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At four months you figured out forward momentum and could commando crawl to what interested you, which revolutionised your play time. I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, and you showed me that I didn’t really (and probably never truly will).

At five months you worked out hands and knees crawling and how to get to a sitting position. You got your first teeth and tried your first foods. We were in New Zealand for most of the month, and came back with a completely different baby.

At six months it was hard to keep up with the changes. You were babbling, pulling up to standing, and going through your first bout of separation anxiety and we all caught more than one virus. I was tired and overwhelmed and it was a rough month. But we survived.

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At seven months we made some changes to your sleep habits, and we all got a bit more sleep, at least temporarily. You took your first cruising steps, and continued to surprise everyone with your movement.

At eight months you finally gave up the carrier for your naps (with a little bit of encouragement from us. Or quite a lot of encouragement…) You continued to get faster at cruising around, started to let go a little, and got a whole lot more teeth.

At nine months you could stand on your own. You also started to clap and wave, and were losing some of your babyness. It was amazing to watch, but we definitely had mixed emotions about how very fast you were growing.

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At ten months you took your first wee steps. We were so excited and proud, and you seemed to think it was no big deal at all. You slowly grew in confidence and walked further and further.

At eleven months you were walking more than crawling, and were starting to talk. Your words weren’t English, but were adorable. Combined with a lot more pointing, you were able to communicate more and more every day. Your favourite thing was to stare out the window and watch the birds.

And now, at twelve months you are just starting to run (or at least you want to!) You’re a real little kid, and an amazing kid at that. You love to wander around outside, and are very good at letting us know when you want a cuddle. You are very serious about your playing, and when we’re out and about. But for your favourite people you always have a smile (and often a present).

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I share these milestones not because the actual milestones or their timing is important, but to show just how far you have come. But with all that growth and change, you remain the same E underneath. You take a while to warm up to situations, but once you’re confident you go for it. You’re a bold little explorer, but like to have the safety of a parent watching out for you. You’re a scientist, running experiments all the time to figure out the world and your place in it. You’ve got your opinions, and you’re not afraid to show them (loudly if necessary). You are cuddly when you want to be, but are first and foremost an independent wee soul who needs to work everything out for yourself.

This has been the most amazing year of my life so far, and I can’t wait to see how you take these things and build on them in the years to come. I haven’t always found it easy to keep up, but together we made it.

Happy birthday E. I love you.

Mama

Happy Birthday Baby!

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On Saturday, we celebrated The Engineer’s Baby’s first birthday in Penang.  We got up nice and early, and opened some Penang presents. She visited a soft play in the mall while we took turns for coffee and shopping. We came back to our resort for a nice long nap. She ate some lunch (although she threw most of it into the sea before we could save it). We had some cake, which she mostly smashed. We went for a swim and an explore. She found a box of tissues and emptied them all over our room. And we finished off with a sushi picnic at that same orange table.

(I can’t really say finished – turns out we were up half the night feeding, because this baby decided her birthday was too exciting for sleeping!)

All in all, it was a lovely way to finish her first year.

A couple of days later, we are home again. And I still don’t really know what to say or what to feel. It’s overwhelming to think that the first year is truly done and dusted. It’s crazy to think she’s a toddler (officially, she will obviously always be our baby). It’s lovely to look back and see how much she’s grown. It’s sad to think we might not get to do it all again. It’s exciting to see how much she is learning.

I have a natural desire to figure things out, to craft a story and decide what it all means. But if there’s anything that this year has taught me, it’s that figuring out is impossible, and not particularly useful in many situations. So instead of dwelling on this first birthday and trying to say something profound, I’m enjoying this awesome kid. And planning her party. And recovering from the whirlwind that is a holiday with a baby/toddler/kid.

Happy birthday, baby, and here’s to many more!