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.

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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)

 

Lately, in the life of The Engineer’s Baby

There have been naps in her bed, and cautious celebration of that fact.

There has been a lot of standing, and one nearly-attempted step.

The basket of blankets has been repeatedly tipped over and emptied, resulting in blanket forts and peekaboo galore.

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There has been drawer opening, and finger slamming, and installation of a drawer latch.

There has been a lot more video, because I want to remember it all.

The trips to the pool have been few and far between because of “the haze”, and I’ve been a little stir crazy.

There has been climbing and clambering and more and more “games”.

There has been more and more eating, especially when it’s watermelon.

The tooth hasn’t popped through yet, but it has got to be close.

The Engineer’s Baby has been growing and changing at a rate of knots. It’s crazy, it’s exciting, it’s a little bit sad. And it’s these little things that I want to remember. First steps, first words, they’re all well and good. But they’re just the milestones. The rest is life, and it’s amazing.

Eight months of parenting

1-DSC_0410Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby lying on her sheepskin alongside her moose.  As the months go by, it’s getting harder and harder to keep her on the mat, and there are more and more outtakes (like the one above).  This month, the eighth, I had to rope in The Engineer if we wanted any hope of a good picture.

Taking the picture was an exercise in baby wrangling, which is appropriate, because this eighth month has involved a lot of baby wrangling.  She is getting more and more mobile and capable.  She crawls quick as a flash when the door to a “forbidden room” is opened.  She stands anywhere and everywhere (although just the one time without pulling up on something first).  She cruises around furniture and can easily transfer between objects. Most of these things she did a little at 7 months, but the change in her speed and coordination is clear.

As well as getting more mobile, she is getting cleverer by the day.  Hiding something away will no longer convince her that it is gone.  She is starting to understand words and gestures.  She makes more sounds (a recent favourite is tssssssss).

And as she moves closer to toddlerhood (eek!), the parenting experience is changing. Gone are the days when play group was Mums drinking coffees while the babies snoozed or lay on floor mats. Gone are the days when I could leave things on tables and not have her find them.  Gone are the days when she could just play with a few plastic things in the kitchen while I cooked.

But with those days leaving, I can see other days arriving.  Days where she starts to talk. Where she can really enjoy a playground.  Days where her amazing little personality starts to shine through even more.  And at least as much as I miss the days that are passing, I am excited about the days that are to come.

This balance between past and future is a pivotal part of parenthood for me.  But the more we get into it, the more I see that the solution (insomuch as a solution is required) is not finding the right balance between past and future.  The solution is finding space in the present moment.  The solution is enjoying the baby wrangling, the serious face she gets as she eats, the back-and-forth grabbing of babies playing “together”.  To be honest, it’s probably even enjoying the middle of the night waking and sleep struggles.  But let’s not get too crazy here – that part sucks!

Growing and changing

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Every month we take a picture of The Engineer’s Baby with her moose and her sheepskin. And every month I think about how much she has grown and changed.  This month she has:

  • grown 3 cm
  • gained 400 g
  • seriously increased the speed at which she can stand
  • improved her eating in leaps and bounds
  • added lots of new consonants to her babbling
  • “grown up” in that intangible way

This month she has also challenged more than any month previously.  In my last post, I talked about all the things that have been going on since we came home.  The couple of weeks since have added even more to the mess in the form of terrible sleep, a first cold, and a not-so-fun Valentine’s trip away.

But as I look back on the month, I actually look at it as one of my most positive months of parenthood.  Because here’s the thing: it’s through the challenges that you grow and learn.   I’ve had some moments, for sure, but this month I’ve also learned so much about who I am and the parent I want to be.  I’ve thought about my own childhood.  I’ve thought about our relationship.  I’ve written and made lists and read and thought and meditated.  And at the end of that, I feel so much more confident.

I don’t know everything, but I know that rather than teaching her, I want to provide an environment in which she can learn.  I know that I want to meet all of her needs, but that I don’t necessarily want to meet all of her wants.  I know that I want to set a positive example, and be a person she would want to emulate.  I know that she needs challenges and frustration to grow and change, even though it’s not easy for me to watch her struggle.  I know that in allowing and encouraging her big feelings, I am setting good foundations for her.  I know that as the person she trusts the most, I will bear the brunt of most of those big feelings.  And I know that although that is hard (hard hard hard), that is also love.  Love isn’t just the easy, the warm and fuzzy, the adorable.  Love is the struggle, the acceptance, the working through.

I know, of course, that these will be lessons I will learn over and over as a parent.  I know that her big feelings now have NOTHING on the big feelings of a toddler.  I don’t anticipate this making me a perfect parent (or even close).  But for now, these are the lessons I needed to learn, and I like to think they will stand me in good stead for the craziness that is parenting.

Hot Mess

Life in our house has been messy lately.  Since we got home from our trip to New Zealand really.

With a newly eating baby, and no cleaner, it has been literally messy.

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But it has also been figuratively messy.  The Engineer’s Baby had jet lag.  Then due to her newfound crawling and standing skills, she got a little separation anxiety.  Then we had a few days where her sleeps meant we missed some of our favourite activities.  She got her immunisations. Aforementioned new skills led to a few bumps and bruises.  Then she got a sunburn.  A mild fever.  A biting habit.  Possibly a new tooth about to emerge.  She hates medicine, and the ensuing screaming is not fun either (though it does seem to help).  Basically, we’ve been struggling to find our rhythm again at home.

I would like to say that I have dealt with it all calmly and gracefully.  But if I said that, it would be a bald faced lie.  There have been tears and tantrums (not just the baby’s).  There have been desperate phone calls to my Mum and The Engineer.  There have been worries and doubts and negative feelings.  It has been hard.

But in amongst the mess, there have been lovely moments.  There have been loooong naps (a revelation in this house).  There have been new clothes, new toys, and new skills.  There have been smiles and giggles.  There has been a whole lot of attention from the public (people here LOVE babies).  There have been relaxing coffee mornings.  There have been swims and walks.

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And these are the things I want to focus on.  I want to focus on her learning to use her teeth, and the fact that she tries everything we offer.  I want to focus on her determination to pull up on anything and everything.  I want to focus on her snuggling in when I carry her in the sling.  I don’t want to ignore the challenges, but I don’t want to let them take over.

It bums me out that at least half my posts are this way – having to try so hard to find and focus on the good.  I really wish I could post more positively about this amazing baby.  I really wish I could talk about how well I roll with the punches.  But it’s more important to me to be honest, and for now this is the reality of my parenting journey.  At times, it’s really fucking hard.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not amazing. It’s both. SO both. And I’m going to embrace that (or at least try to…)