Dear Jensen Matthew,
My sweet, darling little boy, you are now
eight nine months old (it’s taken a month to finish this) and I feel like I have failed in chronicling your achievements. My hope is that, one day when you discover your mother’s old blog posts, you are gracious and forgiving when you realize that your monthly updates are not as consistent. Part of the reason is that this is a different world and I have been able to capture and share things along the way using social media – we didn’t have smartphones or Facebook when they were your age, so everything went on the blog – and part of it is because you are the fourth of four children and were born to a single working mother who cannot even find time to shower alone if it’s not on her lunch break.
If you’re anything like your older brother, you probably won’t care. If you’re anything like your little big sister, this discovery will turn you into a puddle of tears instantly. Please understand either way.
With my plea for future forgiveness out of the way, I want to tell you how much happiness you bring to our family. If I could describe you in one word, it’d be JOYFUL. You’re a happy baby, plain and simple. You smile at everyone, you love to entertain, and laughing and smiling are your favorites.Your sweet smile, which has been sporting two tiny teeth for only two weeks now, can turn the worst days around and we cannot help but be happy in your presence.
You bring out the best in each of us. Your sisters no longer argue over who is lucky enough to change your diaper, but I love seeing them and your brother fawn over you. Jaiden is very worried that you’ll choke on solid foods. Jenna loves to carry you around. Jaylen loves to show you different things, usually video games, or read books to you. And you light up when you notice me, one of them, or even one of our dogs.
I don’t know if there is a way to adequately describe your personality. You’re a people person and if there are things you dislike, they are being left alone to play with your toys without other people in the room, though you’re getting better about this, and not being fed quickly enough. People always comment about your happiness, your smile, and what a good baby you seem to be. I’ve never met a bad baby, but you’re usually a pretty agreeable guy and not very fussy, though you’ve started fussing in public when you’re sleepy. New lately has been your fussiness when your diaper is dirty; that’s only a recent reason for crying.
You still enjoy being worn in a Moby Wrap. Usually you sleep when being worn, which is exactly why I wear you in some situations. You used to sleep through church this way, but your nap schedule has changed a little bit and you usually sleep while the rest of us are having breakfast and getting dressed, so by the time we get to church (which has been happening a half-hour late) you’re reading to nurse and play (by this I mean shriek through prayers and communion) before being ready for a nap again while we’re having coffee hour after services. A lot of times, these days, when you’re being worn you like to lean back, which is hard on my back and loosens the wrap. (Picture me jokingly shaking my fists at you right now.)
Speaking of your schedule, if we didn’t have to go to work and school, I think you’d sleep in every day. During the week, my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and I usually lie in bed with you until 6:30 or 6:45, cuddling with you and nursing you. You usually continue to sleep while I wake the older three up, though sometimes you don’t, and your siblings help me get you dressed and ready for the day. You stopped screaming in the carseat around Thanksgiving (hallelujah!) and you now fall asleep during the morning drop-off routine, which takes us from home, to the big kids’ school, then to your new daycare. When you were going to a different caregiver, you used to fall asleep and nap for about 10 minutes on the drive to her house.
I’m not exactly sure of your schedule while I’m at work, but I usually get back to pick you up around 5:15 or 5:30 and you’ve had 4-5 bottles (usually two formula, two breastmilk and the third is one or the other depending upon my pumping output from the day before) with the last one coming right before I pick you up. You nap again on the way home, play during dinner, nurse right after, have a little sleep (20-30 minutes or so) and repeat another time before bed at night. We usually get into bed – we’re still bedsharing – when the older children do at 9-9:30 p.m. You’re usually down for the night around 10:30 p.m. and you dream feed at various points through the night. You don’t spend any considerable amount of time conscious overnight, so we’ll go with you sleeping through the night at this point (and for awhile). There are regression periods and there have been times where you’ve not felt well and were restless, but those times are not very often. (Also, I wake every time you need to be rolled over to the other side to be latched on, so Mama isn’t sleeping through the night and hasn’t since before you arrived.) On the weekends, you go back to sleep after your 6 a.m. nursing wake-up and stay asleep until about 8:30 or 9. I’m a lucky mama, for sure.
You are eating solids. I wanted to try Baby Led Weaning, and we have dabbled in it, but I’m still pretty nervous about you eating various things after seeing you choke on a piece of french toast a few weeks ago. I had to do the baby Heimlich maneuver, which was scary. In August and September I roasted and pureed several different types of fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market, then froze them in cubes; you’ve been eating plums, Jones Orchard peaches with ground cloves, chunky pears and cinnamon, and sweet potatoes with nutmeg and you also love avocado slices, orange sections, and Cream of Wheat with a fruit puree added for sweetener. You like to gnaw on celery and pickles, too, and you have rice rusks, Tiny Fruits (dried organic fruit cubes), halved blueberries and yogurt melts for snacks. You prefer drinking from open cups to sippies or straw cups.
Just before you turned 7 months, you were tested for allergies and you’re allergic to oats, cats, and cockroaches. I felt especially horrible because I ate oatmeal for breakfast nearly every single day to keep my milk supply up. So sorry! You don’t realize how often oats appear in different foods, so I’ve had to avoid things like cereals (Lucky Charms!), granola bars, etc. You can’t eat oatmeal, the puffs that are intended as snacks for babies, or Cheerios. We had a follow-up with the allergist and he’s recommending we wait for awhile to test for the environmental allergens your brother has such a hard time with (he’s allergic to, basically, anything green, dust, and cockroaches).
8 9 months old, you’re a pro at going to city council meetings with me, seeing plays at The Ruffin (your sister just finished a role in Tom Sawyer and is preparing to play Cousin Itt in The Addams Family in April), and just going wherever the rest of us go. You’re portable and adaptable and generally pretty content. You fit right in with us and we don’t usually have to worry about you being disruptive, though now you’re becoming more and more vocal so your visits at various city meetings will be coming to an end. As for other recent firsts, at the new year, we traveled to Birmingham to pick your brother and sisters up from their dad and you saw snow in January (you weren’t sure about either one).
We’re getting to the age where you will be really crawling, cruising, standing, and walking. You’re still just army crawling, but in the last couple of weeks you’ve picked up speed, and you’ll cruise around your crib and cautiously around other furniture. You can stand for about .125 seconds unassisted and you’re getting to the point where you’ll take assisted steps. Everyone says, “It won’t be much longer!” before you’re walking. We’ll see, won’t see?
You have a cold now and a week ago you were so congested you had to have breathing treatments. You hate putting the mask on your face, by the way, and I can’t say I blame you, but anyway you’re feeling better now and you can breathe, so you’re welcome.
You love going on walks and studying the world around you. You’re so very observant and you’re trying your best to imitate it, even the words you hear every day. You started saying “mamamama” last week and it is glorious! The next day you started with “nananana” and I’m not sure if you’re just practicing sounds and that was next in your list, if you’re referring to Jenna’s nickname (Nenna), or if you’re trying to say “nurse.” You can clap and high-five and sometimes you wave, but mostly you stare at people when they wave to you.
I miss you terribly while I work and I wish, almost every day, that I could spend my days watching you grow and develop, playing with you, taking you to the park and on walks and waving to the big kids when they get off of the school bus. It’s not because I don’t trust your caregiver or that I don’t want to work, it’s because I just miss you so much, know how quickly you’re going to grow, and wish I could see every single minute. A couple of weeks ago, Jenna asked me, “Do you know what the sucky part of sending him to daycare is? That we could miss him walking!” She’s right. That’s the gamble you take when you’re a working parent and when you know it could happen, you dread it. Does it make a difference? Not in the grand scheme of things, but witnessing those first steps and crawls and such are amazing.
And you, my sweet little baby, are amazing.
I’m not sure we could love more if we tried.