Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 23 Months Old

Dear Anabella,

Yesterday you turned 23 months old. And so, on this final day of the decade, we are into the final stretch of your 'ones'! Can't deal. Can. Not. Deal.

As always, I could sit here and write a novella about all the developments this month delivered. All the good times (Christmas! Santa! Family and friends!) and all the not so good (Hunger strike! Sleepless nights! TANTRUMS!) but alas, today is a busy day as we are preparing to leave on our very first international family vacation (read: airplane) early tomorrow morning.

Am in a FULL panic.

Instead, I'll leave you with just our 23 month pictures. As a side note, I think it's worth noting that this month, for the first time, when I asked you to get into your chair for the photos, you said, "OK Mommy," and just climbed on up. Just look, JUST LOOK, at how you are filling in that chair!

Can't deal.

I love you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Last year was Bella's first Christmas and I so badly wanted to freeze it in time with a traditional mall-Santa photo that we could laugh at for decades to come, but the protector in me kicked in and I didn't take her, knowing full well that placing her on that strange man's knee in the middle of that strange place would instantly send her into full cardiac arrest and probably scar her for life.

You see, my daughter, though charming, outgoing and funny as hell in private, suffers from more than her fair share of acute social anxiety. If she is placed in the vicinity of anyone that she has not known for her ENTIRE life she immediately retreats into herself, clutches onto my neck, and acts as if the world will end should this/these strange people so much as glance in her direction.

I always tell our guests, or any newish people who come near her, that it's best to avoid eye contact for at least one full hour and for GOD'S SAKE do NOT speak directly to her. Truly it's best to pretend as if she does not exist, until she's ready to come to you. This might take an hour, or it might take 3 days. Deal. With. It.

Last month, my employer had a company-wide children's Christmas party. It was technically for kids a little older than Bella, but they rented out an entire amusement park, and had gifts and of course, the Big Guy himself would be there, posing for pictures with the kids that would tolerate them. I so wanted her to go and though I didn't expect that she'd actually sit on his knee for a photo, this year she knows who Santa is and I secretly hoped that she'd be so awed in his presence that I could sneak her up there for a quick snap before all hell broke loose.

Well, hell broke loose at our house before we even left for the party. It started too late and her nap schedule was off and yadda yadda yadda a major meltdown/tantrum ensued. Plug was pulled on the mission and I resigned myself to another Santaless Christmas. Unlike last year, I was actually really disappointed this time around. I felt like she would have had a really good time at the party and even if she didn't get a photo with Santa, she would have loved to see him and to run around the park with the other little elves from the office.

Imagine my delight then when I realized that we'd get another chance!

Yesterday morning Bella's daycare had their annual Christmas sing-a-long. I think it used to be an actual concert until the caregivers realized that they were pretty much the only people doing any singing, while the all kids cried or stood frozen in stage-frightened silence.

The sing-a-long was fun, or would have been if it weren't for my anxiety-riddled child clinging to my neck and chest so tightly that I'm covered in claw marks today. There were moments, during her very favourite songs (Twinkle, Twinkle and Jingle Bells), where she loosed her grip on my throat a little and sang along, and in those moments I died and went to heaven. I'll never survive an actual school choir performance. Never.

But then, near the end of our sing-a-long, a tremor of excitement rippled through the room. A tremor that could only be caused by one man... that's right... tapping at the window with his candy cane cane and a full-on teen-aged, angst-ridden elf at his side. Santa. The kids went off like tweens at a Jonas Brothers concert, and my Bella? Oh my sweet, sweet little Bella. She looked up at me and took my cheeks in her little hands. Her eyes were wide as saucers and little body was literally reverberating with the sheer amazement of it all as she looked right into my eyes and whispered, "Mommy, it's Santa Clause." (Note, there's a video coming but I don't have time to upload it right now).

Of course I cried. I couldn't contain it. It was the magic of Christmas. The way that it should be. The pure, unadulterated, unspoiled, unrestrained joy of a child seeing Santa for the first time and not just believing it was him, but knowing it was him. It was a moment that I will remember and cherish for the rest of time.

Of course, Santa and his elf settled into pose with the children for pictures. Most kids were dragged over there against their will kicking and screaming all the way. The protector in me reared her head yet again and though I asked Bella several times if she wanted to go sit with Santa, she answered no each time and I didn't press the issue. She was happyish to watch from a distance, in the safety of my arms, as other kids sat on his knee for photos. Finally, once almost all the kids had their turns, I said to her, "Last chance Kiddo, do you want to go and see Santa?" And she, leaned into to me and in her breathy little voice said, "Yes."

So over we went, Cairn standing by with the camera at the ready. I stood with her for a minute or so while we said hi to Santa and she gave him a high five (super-cute) and then we went for it. Attempt one went something like this. I sat her down on his jolly old knee. She lasted a quarter of a section before she launched herself up into the air as if his leg was composed entirely of red hot coals, screaming and flailing all the while. It was quite the feat of strength and acrobatics, actually:

I think attempt number two wraps up this holiday post about as perfectly as anything ever could. It speaks volumes about how sometimes we think we want things for our kids, we think it's going to make the season special, or memorable, we think we're forging lifelong family traditions. But really? For the kids a chorus of jingle bells and that first glance of Santa Clause can make all their dreams come true. The rest of it? The dresses and the shopping and the pictures taken on Santa's knee? Well that stuff is mostly for us. And that's okay! We deserve to be happy too.

From my crazy little family to yours - a heartfelt Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Happy Birthday to You: 22 Months Old

Dear Anabella.

It's probably because of that protective hormone that makes mothers forget all about the horrors of labour and the newborn months 1 - 3 so that they will continue to reproduce and the world will not fall into barren ruins, but I am almost willing to say that your 22nd month has been one of our most challenging months yet.

It's difficult to explain exactly why this is, accept to say that you are developing quickly into exactly the kind of person I want you to be: independent, intelligent, hilarious... and it's killing me!

You've become tremendously independent this month preferring to feed yourself or dress yourself without help and choosing to walk places rather than have me carry you or push you in the stroller. If anything, you are adopting these habits quite late compared to most babies, and given that up 'til now you've preferred to be waited on and lugged about, you'd think I'd be thrilled at this new found ambition.

The thing is though? Not always that helpful.

For instance when you feed yourself yogurt and blueberries in the morning, it takes me twice as long to clean you and your high chair up before we can leave for daycare. Sometimes it requires a complete outfit change by the time you are done.

And now that you like to walk yourself into daycare, you'd think I'd be thrilled! No more dirty shoes brushing up on my dress coat. No more juggling gym bag and daycare stuff, plus a 30 lbs child and trying to open doors and get you inside.

The problem here? You are SLOW. You are as slow as a one-legged turtle. With a brick tied to his leg. You take these ity bitty shuffle steps and I swear you are practically going backwards and you look at me and laugh because you know you're being a brat but you also know that it's funny as hell and that I can't help but laugh with you! Do I dare try to pick you up to get you in before I miss my bus? OH NO. Because I am afraid of you and your explosive tantrums. They come on like a tsunami in the mornings - not a moment of notice and BAM! you've wiped out an entire village with your wrath.

There are other things that have made this a challenging month. You were sick with Roseola just after Halloween. There was the H1N1 madness to contend with (you got both your shots this month and while you weren't too happy about it, you weren't to awful about it either). It's getting colder, despite being blessed with an amazingly warm November, but you refuse to wear mittens or boots. You won't even let us put your blanket on you in the stroller anymore.

I could continue this list, it goes on and on, each little thing more bizarre and unexplainable that the next. Like why don't you like towels? Why to you insist on drying off after a bath like a little puppy dog, running naked and wet around the room? But you know what? I don't want to talk about all the things that made month 22 a challenge. I can't possibly complain about these little idiosyncrasies that make you so innately you. Because the fact remains (and I suspect it always will) that to me you are just amazingly, ridiculously, immaculately perfect.

And also, if I complain about your behaviour now, what will I have left when you turn fifteen? Just look at you... tell me this look isn't coming back to haunt me in your early teens:

Or this one:

Therefore, rather than whine for things I have no right to whine about, I give you 10 Reasons I Absolutely Loved Month 22:

1. "I love you Mommy." While you've been repeating this for a few months now, this month you started saying it without being prompted? Hello! Pinnacle of motherhood. Check.

2. Speaking in the first person.
For some time now it's been all about, "Bella's bottle." "Bella's Nana." "Bella's toys." All of a sudden, and completely out of nowhere, this month you started to say, "I." One of the cutest examples is "I can DO it." But you also gave me a doozy the other day when you woke up early and started calling me from your bed. You started out like normal with the basic, "Mommy? MOMMY? Mommmeeeee?" but you quickly realized that I was going to ignore you and try to steal a few more minutes of sleep so you went silent for a moment (I can only assume you were plotting) and then in the sweetest voice ever you called out to me with, "I need you Mommy." Um? I'm SCREWED. At 22 months old you have already learned the one phrase that I will never, ever be able to ignore.

3. The letter L. Suddenly you can insert into words where you never could before. You used to say "Pease!" and now you say, "PuhLease." You used to say, "Bankie" and now you say, "BahLanket." It's freakin' adorable because you over-pronounce the "L" sound now, as if you're making up for lost time.

4. You're funny and you know it. You've always been funny in your own way. A quiet, smart kind of funny that probably most people wouldn't notice. But I'm your mom and so I know. Remember that. I'll always know. Suddenly you're turning into a little ham. You'll do something really funny and say to me, "I silly, Mommy. I SILLY."

5. "Some mo'Wah." For months now you've been saying, "mo'" when you want more. "Mo'" was actually one of your very first words, you signed it for a long time, along with simple works like milk and help. But as soon as you started to speak, you gave up the sign and started saying "Mo'." "Mo' milk." "Mo' tickles." "Mo' bubbles." Suddenly this month you've changed it to, "Some mo'Wah." Essentially you have adopted a strong southern accent.

6. Little Miss Bossy. You know what you want and you're not afraid to make other people do it for you. You boss around Moet like crazy. "Moet, in your bed!" And me like crazy, "Mommy DO IT." I love it because I want you to grow up knowing that if you don't ask for what you want, you'll never get it.

7. Your teeth. You finally have a full set, minus your 2 year molars (not looking forward to those). They are beautiful. You are so beautiful.

8. That Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago that you came to my bed at 7a.m. and after you finished a bottle of milk the two of us fell back to sleep, snuggled together, until 9:30a.m. Need I say more?

9. Your brain and how it totally works. Sometimes even more than I give it credit for. One morning this month I was dressing you in a track suit and so I pulled out a t-shirt that you haven't worn in a couple of months so that you could use it as an undershirt. You looked at the shirt, which you hadn't seen since early fall, and said to me, "Uncle Philip's shirt." And you were right. It was a gift from your Uncle Philip, who you also haven't seen for a couple of month. Memory. Recognition. Comprehension. HOLY CRAP.

10. Kisses and snuggles and hugs. Oh my. While you've always been decent at giving up smooches and hugs on demand, albeit often begrudgingly, this month you started doling them out on your own terms. Like when I come home from work, usually at least half an hour after you and Daddy get home, and you'll run to the top of the stairs and call to me. "Hi Mommy!" Then, when I get up the stairs there you are, smiling, arms outstretched, waiting for me to scoop you up and you'll pull back just a little to you can look into my eyes, and then smiling, you'll lean in and kiss me gently on my mouth. I don't think that anything in my life has ever made me more joyful.

I love you,